Archive for January, 2006

Monkey cops keep the peace among groups – LiveScience – MSNBC.com

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27, 2006 by P. Dunn

Monkey cops keep the peace among groups – LiveScience – MSNBC.com

One way to interpret this is to argue that it shows that humans needs hierarchy because we’re primates.

Another way is to argue that it illustrates what anarchists have been saying for a century: that we are biologically predisposed to create order from below and maintain laws without central authority.

Overcoming Lethargy

Posted in Techniques on January 7, 2006 by P. Dunn

I’ve got a problem with inertia.  Once I start working, I’m fine — I’ll keep working.  But once I quit, I stay quit.  The fact that I have to sleep makes it inevitable that I wake up, every morning, not wanting to work.  So I’ve come up with some techniques that help me get to the keyboard (and also help me do my practical magical work).

  • Small steps.  Pathetically, incredibly small steps.  My current one is for every active writing project, every day I must turn on the computer, boot up the wordprocessor, and load the documents.  That’s all.  After that, I give myself permission to shut it all down again, and sometimes I do.  But usually I manage three to five pages a day that way.  If I had set myself the goal of three to five pages a day, however, I’d never accomplish it — it’s too big.
  • Rewards first.  Rewards are dangerous, but sometimes useful.  However, most people reward themselves by telling themselves they can have the reward when they finish.  I offer the reward first.  “I’ll have Chinese buffet today, and then I’ll sit down to write.”  It seems odd, but for some reason, reversing the order of the reward and the task makes the task easier and maintains my intrinsic motivation.
  • Slacker time.  No more guilt.  Part of the process of creative work, and probably noncreative work as well, is the downtime.  I need time to play computer games, watch Jackass, and read science fiction.  So now, as long as I’ve fulfilled my first requirement, the debt of honor that says I open the wordprocessor and the document I’m working on, then I feel free to slack without guilt.
  • Rule Zero.  If some requirement is preventing you from working, if you’ve got to look up some article or need some particular magical tool or something, then throw away that requirement.  It is better to begin imperfectly than never begin at all.  Or as we say in academia, “a finished dissertation is the best dissertation.”  (Thanks, Ed)

This is my program for getting out of the armchair and getting to work, whether that work be writing or magic.

Language, Friend or Foe?

Posted in Language, Speculation on January 1, 2006 by P. Dunn

I’m working on my next book, an exploration of the use of language in or as magic. Last night I had one of “those” dreams. It was presented in the form of a fairy-tale or teaching story.

Originally, the dream said, we all spoke the same language, and got whatever we wanted, because that language completely and perfectly reflected reality. (This bit, of course, sounds like the Babel story) At some point, however, we realized that getting everything we wanted or spoke about was often a bad thing. Just imagine how often you’ve said something you’ve regretted. So we decided, mutually, to change language so that it didn’t always reflect ultimate reality. We put little traps in language to prevent it from being used for magic acccidentally.

Neat, eh? Well, I thought so. Might run with the idea, turn it into a chapter if it seems to hold water. It adds some interesting ambiguity to the book, anyway, if I can explore the ways language can do magic as well as the ways it can derail it.

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