how to use conscious purpose without wrecking everything

is the title of the truly fantastic talk John Gall gave at Tom Gilb's annual Gilbfest a few weeks ago. You can read the whole thing here. Here's a small selection of the many snippets that spoke to me:
Maximizing efficiency is the error of having a single goal, what William Blake once called “Newton’s sleep.”
Always the more beautiful answer who asks the more difficult question [e.e.cummings]
Evolution always means Co-evolution. The horse eats the grass, the grass grows stronger roots, the horse grows stronger jaws.
What is involved is not simply survival of the fittest, but survival of the fitting-in-est.
The amount of feedback that is built into living organisms differs by many orders of magnitude from the amount that we build into manmade systems.
Flexibility means the willingness to act in response to the feedback message by actually changing how the system works.
There are many Potemkin Villages in operation today, hiding and distracting us from awareness of what’s really going on.
Ignoring feedback merely means that the system will eventually experience a massive unpleasant surprise rather than a small unpleasant surprise.
As Bradford Keeney pointed out, stability is not homeostasis, it’s homeodynamics.
Once you get above that first level, the level of material things and forces, you are dealing with abstractions. In place of physical forces, you have communication—messages, signals. And in place of material things, you have relationships—which are abstractions.
Once we get above the level of physical objects and forces, we are dealing with patterns of interaction, that is, with abstractions.
Abstractions — that is, ideas — don’t die. They can’t be killed. They can’t be exterminated. They just keep coming back, over and over and over. This problem can never be solved if one continues to believe that the so-called "real" world of physical objects and forces is all there is. The Chinese have a word for this. They call it "being stuck in the ten thousand things."
In order to become birds, dinosaurs had to give up being dinosaurs.
If I design a system with no regard for the universe that surrounds it, I will have scanty knowledge of what can impact it.

barbel fishing

My latest Barbel fishing trip was to the River Wye on the Middle Hill Court beat. I caught this 10lb 1oz beauty (that's 4.5kg in old money). My first double!


is an excellent book by A.A.Milne (isbn 978-1405223980). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.
He was getting rather tired by this time, so that is why he sang a Complaining Song.
"What do you want a balloon for?" you said.
Winnie-the-Pooh looked round to see that nobody was listening, put his paw to his mouth, and said in a deep whisper: "Honey!"
"But you don't get honey with balloons!"
"I do," said Pooh.
"I have just been thinking, and I have come to a very important decision. These are the wrong sort of bees."
"I mean," said Rabbit, "that having got so far, it seems a pity to waste it."
Christopher Robin nodded
"Then there's only one thing to be done," he said. "We shall have to wait for you to get thin again."
"How long does getting thin take?" asked Pooh anxiously.
"About a week, I should think."
He sat down and thought, in the most thoughtful way he could think. Then he fitted his paw into one of the Tracks … and then he scratched his nose twice, and stood up.
"Yes," said Winnie-the-Pooh.
"I see now," said Winnie-the-Pooh.
"I have been Foolish and Deluded," said he, "and I am a Bear of No Brain at All."
"You're the Best Bear in All the World," said Christopher Robin soothingly.
"Am I?" said Pooh hopefully. And then he brightened up suddenly.
"Anyhow," he said, "it is nearly Luncheon Time."
So he went home for it.
Pooh felt that he ought to say something helpful about it, but didn't quite know what. So he decided to do something helpful instead.
But Owl went on and on, using longer and longer words, until at last he came back to where he started...
"You don't often see them," said Christopher Robin.
"Not now," said Piglet.
"Not at this time of year," said Pooh.
Owl was explaining that in a case of Sudden and Temporary Immersion the Important Thing was to keep the Head Above Water.
Owl hasn't exactly got Brain, but he Knows Things.
It wasn't what Christopher Robin expected, and the more he looked at it, the more he thought what a Brave and Clever Bear Pooh was.