on malice, predictable stupidity, and chess

King and Queen together on Chess Board

King and Queen stand together on the playing field, outnumbered by their opponent.

Malice breeds predictable stupidity. Humans will do and say ridiculous things to protect pride and power. When gossip and anonymous animosity pervade a political power structure, surrendering all desire to succeed within said power structure becomes an enlightened advantage, resulting in candid lucidity and articulated observation against which those who remain within the structure, constrained by their fear of exposure, must regularly defend and duplicitously connive. The rest is just playing chess… patient, calculating chess, because malice, pride, and self-doubt cripple an opponent into a predictable stupidity, and predictable stupidity is the one weakness that consistently leads to one’s demise.

three thoughts on egypt for 2/11/11


2-11-11 - Egyptian Democracy Day (image by Dr. Robert R. Cargill)

2-11-11 - Egyptian Democracy Day (image by Dr. Robert R. Cargill)

Here are three thoughts on Egypt for 2/11/11, the day Hosni Mubarak resigned the presidency:

  1. 2/11 did what 9/11 couldn’t: it showed that nonviolent Arab dissent can defeat what militant Arab dissent desired: a nation ruled by autocratic force.
  2. 2/11 used to be Islamic Revolution Day in Iran (here and here and here), establishing the present Islamic regime in Iran.
    Today, 2/11 becomes Democracy Day in Egypt.
  3. Less than two months ago, Egyptian Coptic Christians were massacred in a New Year’s mass in Alexandria (here and here and here). Today, the Egyptian President, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, is gone. It was only when the people of Egypt – both Muslim and Christian together – rallied in a secular, nonviolent protest, that the people of Egypt united as one to take back control of their country.

Follow the celebration at UCLA’s Hypercities Egypt Digital Humanities project.

a biblical solution to the bedbug infestation terrorizing america from ‘the acts of john’

BedbugWith all of the news surrounding the apparent bedbug infestation spreading across America, from the United Nations and the Waldorf Astoria in New York to out here in Los Angeles, I was reminded that despite how much this menace sucks (literally), this is no new problem. Actually, the problem of bedbug annoyance has been around since biblical days. In fact, one of the more humorous (albeit implausible) stories from the earliest moments in Christianity is a story from a pseudepigraphal gnostic document called the Acts of John.

At one point in the Acts of John, we have the story of “The Miracle of the Bedbugs”:

Now on the first day we arrived at a deserted inn, and when we were at a loss for a bed for John, we saw a droll matter. There was one bedstead lying somewhere there without coverings, whereon we spread the cloaks which we were wearing, and we prayed him to lie down upon it and rest, while the rest of us all slept upon the floor. But when he lay down, he was troubled by the bugs, and as they continued to become yet more troublesome to him, when it was now about the middle of the night, in the hearing of us all he said to them: “I say unto you, O bugs, behave yourselves, one and all, and leave your abode for this night and remain quiet in one place, and keep your distance from the servants of God.” And as we laughed, and went on talking for some time, John addressed himself to sleep; and we, talking low, gave him no disturbance (or, thanks to him we were not disturbed).

But when the day was now dawning I arose first, and with me Verus and Andronicus, and we saw at the door of the house which we had taken a great number of bugs standing, and while we wondered at the great sight of them, and all the brethren were roused up because of them, John continued sleeping. And when he was awakened, we declared to him what we had seen. And he sat up on the bed and looked at them and said: “Since ye have well behaved yourselves in hearkening to my rebuke, come unto your place.” And when he had said this, and risen from the bed, the bugs running from the door hasted to the bed and climbed up by the legs thereof and disappeared into the joints. And John said again: “This creature hearkened unto the voice of a man, and abode by itself and was quiet and trespassed not; but we which hear the voice and commandments of God disobey and are light-minded: and for how long?” (60-61)

Thus, the solution to the bedbug problem: get an apostle to order the bugs out of the bed before you go to sleep every night. It’s an almost biblical solution to the bedbug infestation terrorizing America. (And don’t talk while John’s trying to sleep!)

thought for the day: on the tension between experience and innovation

Old vs. Newi give tremendous respect and deference to individuals with experience and longevity in a particular discipline. those who do things for a long time are, on average, far better equipped and knowledgeable about a particular subject than those who are newcomers to a particular discipline. as a scholar, i respect experience and precedent.

that said, just because someone has been doing something or arguing the same thing for a very long time doesn’t make that person’s technique or theory correct. tradition is not truth, and ‘proof’ is never the last word, it is only the best word thus far.

i am always surprised to hear that classic line, ‘i’ve been doing this since before you were born.’ such a comment is the banter of the uneducated. claiming that experience trumps all new research is a desperate grasp at authority, and reeks of pride disguising insecurity.

the last time i heard the line ‘i’ve been doing this since before you were born’ was in my blue collar home town of fresno, ca, where two shop workers were arguing over the proper way to change the oil. it is not an effective line because it betrays the possibility that someone has been doing or thinking about something incorrectly for a long, long time.

if an established technique or theory is correct, it will easily withstand new and innovative approaches. if it is not, it will gradually erode and be replaced by the new theory or the more efficient technique. simply arguing that the way we’ve always done or understood something is better because those doing or thinking it have done so ‘since before you were born’ may be worthy of acknowledgment, but certainly does not make it the best.

have a nice day.

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