A TCS Blog
Saturday, September 27, 2003
i don't pay attention for a while and suddenly there's lots of good posts. so i wrote comments on a bunch of them. don't miss those :)

and umm, so my post has some content, ummmmmmm, uhhhhhh, ohhhh, i know, i'll steal someone's content. and i know just the thing. virtuepure posted this new coercion definition to the TCS list:

Coercion is the state of two or more personality strands being expressed in different options of a single choice so that one cannot see a way to choose without forsaking some part of his personality.

Also, David Deutsch posted this clarification:

I think that by 'personality' Virtue Pure meant the totality of all of a person's theories, including intellectual ideas and knowledge and hopes and fears and attitudes and preconceptions and values and impulses and so on.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

In the course of reading this piece on the Blowhards about rich people (quite interesting, I think), I found this:

"part of what drives economic progress is envy".

I think it's true. In relationships, one might call it (possibly inaccurately, that's not the point) "good jealousy": the ability to know and possibly sense inexplicitly what one wants but hasn't got, that someone else has got. The thing is to experience this in the right, non-coercive, way, as an inspiration to solve some kind of problem (either work out how to get the thing, or work out why one doesn't/ shouldn't want it anyway). Trying to squash it altogether is counterproductive, and leads to complete envy and jealousy armageddon, aka idiotarianism, the phenomenon whereby people try so hard to be nice they end up promoting evil.

(If you criticise this blog in comments, please take into account its slightly flippant tone and unscientifically loose linguistic style. They made it fun to write, and without the fun, I never would have written. Also, they contain meaning. Thank you.)

More about Knowing Things

As I still can't blog on my own blog because of it being broken, I thought I would blog some more here, again on the subject of Knowing Things.

As I often mention, I tend to admire people who know lots of things, because I don't think I know lots of things. To me, the idea of being a medical student is nightmarish purely because of the volume of factual information medical students have to commit to memory, for example. I don't like trying or having to remember things (you can see the coercion-damage in that very sentence: medical students don't actually coerce themselves into learning, as my sentence implied: well, not if they are good medical students anyway- otherwise, they would do really badly! But I can barely think of the idea of committing volumes of facts to memory, without perceiving it as coercive.)

However, presumably my hangup is not about remembering things per se so much as about remembering certain kinds of things which I tend to associate with coercion. I tend to think of medical school as a horrific experience for all but people with special kinds of really strange minds which actually enjoy that Sort Of Thing. Whereas, I think of music college as being a place where people hang around having fun. Or rather, I think of music college as a hellish place where people get their love of music coerced out of them very likely: but that's not because playing and learning music is inherenty unpleasant: it's because people tack on unpleasantness to the music college institutional experience.

IE, in my mind, medical school can never be fun, whereas music college would be if it was run properly (which rarely happens).

So, why does my mind think like this, and what are the implications?

Well, I think it boils down to two things. The first one is, because my mind associates certain kinds of information with coercion, it tends not to be inclined to explore those subject areas. Molecular biology doesn't turn me on, and nor does computer programming. But the second point is, because I am not interested in certain areas of information but have somehow adopted the idea that I should be, I am prone to feeling coerced when I go anywhere near those subjects. Which of course puts me off them all the more.

In other words, thinking that I ought to know more about X when I have no active interest in it carries a high risk of coercion. We cannot learn things without any active interest in them. It is simply impossible. Unless we are genuinely convinced that a subject is interesting, there is no way we will succeed in learning about it. The result of trying to will generally be a horrible mess, whereby one ends up with a lifelong terror of basic maths, or whatever.

Now, when I said this earlier- I don't like trying or having to remember things - I didn't actually say that I didn't like remembering things. Some things are fun and easy to remember. Some things I will remember forever (or as long as I live, whichever happens first). By many people's standards, I do actually know quite a lot. And the world isn't depending on Alice Bachini to invent its next space-shuttle, or come up with a new theory of quantum gravity which unites quantum physics and general relativity. Although, obviously, I could do those. No problem. Just don't want to. So, you lot can get on with it instead.

OK, rather feeble wordy conclusion coming up: people should identify and pursue their own real interests. They should consider whether these interests are a good use of their time, and try to do good things and not bad ones, but within the range of knowledge out there there are infinite ways of learning that are good, so it's pretty pointless always wondering if yours is The Best- everyone can't specialise in everything. Not knowing about something is always a handcap in the area of knowing that thing, by definition, but unless it's causing real trouble elsewhere too, there's no imperative to change your preference.

One of the things I do know about is how to end a piece of writing effectively. Not that I get it unfailingly right, of course.

Today's homily

Theory: the really good ideas are the ones that seem completely self-evident to everyone, including yourself, as soon as you've had them. They are better explanations of those bits of reality than anyone has thought of before.

This does not make such ideas unworthy of communication - on the contrary.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003
"Unexpected Liberation"

I'm very pleased that the home -educating house dad is blogging again. There aren't a lot of people like him around. Read what he says about Lileks:

Well I say to Mr. Lileks "Step over here and feel the full force of the HEHD's retribution. Come and pick on someone your own size mate. Not only are you a f*****g idiot for writing it but you are a f*****g idiot for doing it.

Whew, we are not alone! *big grin*

Tuesday, September 23, 2003
TCS and Privacy

TCS is based on an acknowledgement of the autonomy of other people, with an emphasis on children, since it's Taking Children Seriously rather than Taking Grannies Seriously.

This means that TCS-interested people are likely to be wary of posting anecdotes on blogs in which friends and family can be identified.

The experience of almost every day must furnish an anecdote or two which illustrates how our knowledge is growing. These are the things we tell our mothers on the phone, or tell our co-habitees about at length over the fishfingers ("yes... no... did you really?... and then what happened?... pass the ketchup..."). The chances are that they won't be fit for blogland consumption.

So it is only when we've digested what happened in a day or a week or a month (when we've turned the implicit learning into explicit learning, and formed general theories rather than washing around in anecdotal 'this is how it seems to me') that we'll be ready to put something up on this blog.

I mostly turn the implicit learning into explicit through maundering anecdotal posts, but the posts I most enjoy reading here are the general ideas that have evolved over time out of conjecture and refutation, and which continue to evolve as they are written and commented on. And if we don't have much small talk in between? Well stick up a link to alicebachini.com and we'll go and socialise over there.

[ps will someone send me an email telling me how to get blogger to let me put in italics and links and things? It used to work fine but the format seems to have changed :( ]

Monday, September 22, 2003
A confession

It's really hard to write lots and lots of blogs about/around TCS. After writing lots here and a small amount over there, I find myself more or less out of steam. I conjecture that one reason why it is difficult to chuck out endless new TCS-type tidbits is, well, most of the knowledge has been created already. OTOH, that kind of sounds like a pathetic excuse.

Still, I posted...

Friday, September 19, 2003

I posted on this, also.

Yes, Alice, you told me so. You were right.


Lord of the Rings: A response to Alice.

Alice blogged a review of The Two Towers HERE

I recently read this bit in the chapter "The Riders of Rohan" (√Čomer is talking):
"... you speak the truth, that is plain: the Men of the Mark do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived".

This got me thinking about the article I just read HERE

Emma's hypothesis about lying:
The detectable lies are those in which the liar is aware that (s)he is acting in a morally wrong way.

√Čomer is wrong, I think. It isn't the people who don't tell lies who find out the liars, it's the people who are aware of internal moral conflict in the liars.


I can stand it no longer. I am emailing James Lileks to tell him he doesn't have to treat his daughter like that. Wonder if he'll reply. This is what I said:

Dear Mr Lileks,

You will probably not be interested in this point I'm going to make, but I had to make it. Some people might consider it too personal and therefore rude, but as you write about this subject where people can read it, I hope you don't mind. You don't have to "discipline" your daughter in the way you describe. I personally run my family on discipline-free, moral grounds, and it can actually work fine. The idea that parents have to use force on their kids (including upsetting them) is baloney. The alternative is not necessarily permissiveness and anarchy. It can be intense, detailed, respectful parenting where people solve problems in force-free ways.

Many (not necessarily all) of the ideas here are good:


...but even if you yourself don't agree with them, some of us who are enacting them in our real lives do find that they are wonderfully liberating, and have no way turned our kids into antisocial immoral people. So there really is an alternative to the "discipline" you describe.

Best wishes,

Alice Bachini

UPDATE: I haven't sent it, because I can't get the email address given on his website to work. Suggestions?

Thursday, September 18, 2003
Go and read this excellent article about the joys of the major supermarkets.

As well as applauding the way supermarkets offer high-quality products plus stocking exotic things which expand our culinary horizons (anyone else remember the Delia-does-a-recipe-with-blueberries supermarket stockcheck crisis?), Alice Thomson points out that supermarkets are a major reason why women can do things apart from boring shopping all day (e.g. play with their children/ go to work etc etc).

I love the way that the feminist agenda has begun to be nuanced in recent years. The aggressive end of feminism, with its demonstrations, bra burnings and all-men-are-rapists rhetoric seems to have achieved less than the creativity of the (mostly male at that point) executives who mass-produced washing machines, vacuum cleaners, supermarkets, disposable nappies and all the other things that have revolutionised life in the west.

CONJECTURE: It's creativity and problem solving that change the way we live and think, not standing around with a placard shouting slogans.

REFUTATIONS welcomed in comments...

Monday, September 15, 2003
Here are two TCS-relevant posts by virtue pure. One and two. They're meant to be read in order, btw.

also, Alice of Libertarian Parent in the Countryside moved her blog to http://www.alicebachini.com/. You may know her as our highest volume poster here... :-) (Erm, I think Elliot means "one of our most brilliant genius posters" or something, rather- Ed)

also, here's the results of the New Blog Showcase this week. It's a contest for new blogs to get some extra publicity and worth checking out. btw virtue pure won this week :-D

Sunday, September 14, 2003
How Never to be Bored Again

I wrote this kind of thing ages ago, somewhere else, but Blogger doesn't have search engines and maybe it was even in a comment somewhere. Anyway, I thought I'd chuck it out again, as it's related to the blog I wrote below about organising time with fun activities.

My all-time multi-purpose winning money-back-guaranteed boredom-busting failsafe plan for conquering the dreaded lack of fun:

1. Every time you find anything you like, whatever it is, make a note. "Birds, buses, the letter P, Terminator, felt-tipped pens, Ker-Plunk"
2. Brainstorm each of these things for potential interesting related activities. "Bird-watching: evening class? Library books? Drawing/ photography? Evolution of? Skeleton-collecting? Bus-spotting, transport museum, careers in bus-driving, other large-vehicle driving, model-collecting..." etc. I know those aren't very good suggestions. That's not the point. Bear with me.
3. Experiment. Try things out: if you don't like them, you'll have gone down some route-to-fun that might throw up something else unexpectedly good. Whereas, sticking to your usual paths simply won't.

That's basically it, but it works. Identifying and pursuing preferences is not an automatic easy thing to do. We're brain-damaged into being extremely bad at it. Often the tiny details that catch our eye momentarily are the clues we should follow but disregard before realising it. Spend a day doing nothing but following your nose better and more sensitively and carefully than you've ever followed it before. You can spare a day for an interesting experiment that might provide the cure for boredom.

Plan Your Day

I've noticed lately that a good thing to do is have a conversation sometime in the morning about what folk want to do that day, and find a generally agreed plan that suits everyone.

OK, it sounds obvious. However, some extra suggestions:

1. "Who wants to be 'in charge' of the planning today? Tiny? Cool, what do you think we should do today, Tiny?"
2. "I don't know what we should do today, but I've got six things I'd like to do sometime, maybe some could happen today..."
3. "You're out of ideas? Cool, let's have a fun-brainstorming session!"

Usually about two-thirds of my plans get done, the rest being carried over for another time. I think this is good. People should always have an excess of fun things to do, not a lack.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003
I just noticed this slogan on the sidebar:

TCS: it makes sense, if you pay enough attention.

I quite like it, and thought if I blogged it more people would notice.

Good on you!

How many people in the world try to treat their kids like real human-beings, rather than half-idiot, half-puppy-dog imbeciles who don't understand their own native language and were born about as morally decent as the story of the Fall From Grace in the Garden of Eden would have us believe?

How many people don't try to impose TV-viewing hours, dietary restrictions, bathing rules, sleeping regulations and computer-game-limitations on their kids' lives, as if they were prisoners at Her Majesty's Pleasure rather than free and innocent human beings? How many people don't send them to perform forced labour every day, supervised by guards who punish them with sanctions, humiliation and loss of already-pathetic privileges if they try to refuse?

How many people try consistently to help their kids learn about the world, and about how to treat other people, and about how to succeed and do and get what you want and live a wonderful life and be happy and fulfilled and moral and good and loved and significant and adventurous and amazing and creative and innovatory and fascinating; how many people share such knowledge as they have on these things, not by bashing or harrassing or forcing it into them, but simply by communicating their ideas in ways that kids want to listen to, because they are humane, and respectful, and interesting and therefore appealing?

How many people don't routinely put down and dismiss and attack and sneer at their and other people's kids, apparently oblivious or unaware of the brutalising results of this prejudice, and the fact that such shit leads to more shit, and the evidence of the irrationality and evil that treating our kids like irrational and evil people has created, all around us, everywhere we look?

How many parents meet their children's distresses with a deep desire and a will to help, their children's passions and fascinations with a deep desire and a will to help, their children's ideas and experiments with a deep desire and a will to help?

Do you want to be one of these parents? Are you one already?

Good on you. Give yourself a pat on the back.

You're a pioneer.

Try this one on your critics: You see things; and you say "Why?" But I dream things that never were; and I say "Why not?" - George Bernard Shaw

(I'm changing the title back for now: hope you don't mind, Emma :-) )

Monday, September 08, 2003
Outnumbered 15 to 1

Scenario: you are at a dinner party with several friends with whom you enjoy discussing all sorts of things NOT including politics.

One friend, in passing, drops in a little "it's all about the oil" or [with sarcasm] "well, the french were just cowardy custards, that's why all good patriots hate them", or [in tones of deepest contempt] "it's just finishing off what Daddy left undone".

Do you
A) Remove the rather good bottle of Australian wine that you brought, leaving them to drink some French blanc de plonk that one of the Guardian readers brought along, and never darken their doors again.

B) Reply "were the Normandy landings an equally unjustified completion of unfinished business?" (or equivalent riposte, depending on the precise nature of the comment), segueing neatly into a heated discussion in which no one will listen to anything anyone else says and everyone will go home riled up.

C) Change the subject to more neutral ground through whatever means necessary. "Oops, I seem to have spilt red wine on your yellow dress" would serve a dual function of diversion and oblique admonition.

What is the best strategy when talking to people about matters on which they disagree with you? - child rearing, say, to pick an example at random. Persuasion? Leading by example? Dropping in odd hints to indicate that there is an alternative and viable point of view? Careful avoidance of tension filled areas?


sorry about the naff title. I'm so excited that I found out how to change it that my mind went completely blank when the question of what to change it to arose. Sigh.

go read this super duper brilliant post about roleplaying. heheh, actually who am I kidding? links count for votes not hits, so whatever, don't read it for all i care ;p

Thursday, September 04, 2003
Introverted parent with young children seeks friends

...for the children and maybe her/himself too. One can never be too rich or have too many friends, as they say. Here are my practical ideas on tackling this problem, as requested by Anne below.

First of all, a few points:
1. The conventional social expectation is for children to have lots of friends exactly their own age, because that's how nursery/ kindgerten/ school functions. Actually, friends can be any age, from newborn to adult.
2. Friends are multiply various. They are simply people with whom one can do something enjoyable. There are no limits to what one can share with friends. Depending on the activity, the personal qualities of the friend can vary.
3. There is no such thing (as far as I can tell- maybe someone will think of some extraordinary example) as a person who rationally exclusively enjoys lone activities. Ditto a person who only likes one or two or three particular people and has no interest in any other human beings ever. Certainly not a 2 year old: 2 year olds enjoy playing marbles or whatever with anyone who is kind and enjoys it too, once they know they can trust them to have around.

So, the parent of young kids seeking social contact...

1. Where to go?
A basic rule of meeting people is, you need to get yourself into spaces/ environments/ institutions where there are potential friends with the right characteristics. You won't find a toddler playmate in a casino. Work out what kinds of places have the right kind of people. (Ideas: post-natal group, local playgroups and toddler activity groups, playgrounds, La Leche League meetings, home ed groups, kids' clubs, contact lists for people with relevant shared interests, eg Education Otherwise).

2. "But I hate groups!"
Most people hate groups, in the sense that they don't 100% actively immediately enjoy walking into a roomful of strangers and trying to make contact with some while surrounded by loud kids' games, or whatever. And most adults probably enjoy playgroups less than a) cinemas, b) pubs, or c) holidays in the Bahamas. However, there are ways of solving that problem other than rejecting the entire parenting culture and isolating oneself and ones children totally from society.

a) If your child enjoys the group, then it shouldn't be too hard for you to get into it as well for the duration of the session. Play with her, sit and listen/ knit/ drink your coffee and daydream.
b) If you talk to people, you will either enjoy that or feel a sense of achievement for having done it (which is in itself enjoyable).
c) Help your child solve problems actively, so he can get something out of the group activity, but if he can't be happy there, do leave. Some groups are just no fun for kids at all.
d) Be sensitive to your child: does she want to join in, but feel wary? Help her by staying close and being a support-person without being interfering.

3. Non-group ways to meet people.
Many adults have children. Very few of those children have too many friends. Anywhere you meet adults may yield family/ child contacts as well. Doing things you enjoy in learning ways with other human beings is very important. Find out how to grow your own learning and friendships, and you will grow your children's too.

4. How to talk to people
If you talk to people, the talking can grow, and turn into the discovery of shared interests and preferences, which can lead to friendship. This is what happens when kids get together in the playground, when parents share trauma-stories in the playgroup and when teenagers get off with each other at parties (by "talk" I really mean "communicate"; some communication is non-verbal).

a) Look up, look around, don't stare at the floor/ your newspaper the whole time.
b) Smile at people, on principle.
c) Make generalised comments and ask generalised questions: "That's a beautiful hat you're wearing!" "Can I help?" "Nice weather for the time of year." If you get no response, it doesn't matter. You're spreading friendliness around the world, which is a damned good thing to do.
d) Sometimes generalised comments lead to conversations. Sometimes conversations lead to interesting shared discoveries. One day when I was feeling blase about extended breastfeeding, I told a woman at the playgroup that X was the case with my child because she was still nursing. So was her child, who was even older than mine. I haven't seen that family for years now, but the other mother she introduced me to is a great friend.

Actually, I could write a whole book just about this subject, but this is already far too long. A couple of other thoughts: nobody just is "introverted". Everyone talks and socialises sometimes, when they want to talk and socialise. Everyone is both inward-looking and outward-looking whenever either need arises. But many of us lack confidence and knowledge due to having been mistread or un-helped in social ways as children. That's exactly why we should make a conscious effort to ensure that our own children do get the support they need, and learn the social skills they want, and gain the confidence and assurance they can enjoy, which we didn't necessarily have. It means learning alongside them; and that's the cool thing about being a parent.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003
if you screw a palestinian, you risk the screw killing a jew as shrapnel later

Tuesday, September 02, 2003
What makes for good parenting?

Just some random generalised thoughts. Generalisations are important and good, as long as we bear in mind that they are generalisations: they give us a resource-saving first place to look, when we're searching for ideas to test.

1. Helping your kids find friends to play and interact with. Not many people have too many friends- never mind too many good friends.
2. Providing access to knowledge and learning: books, adult attention and informative conversation, hands-on time learning useful skills (reading, writing, number games, pottery, all sorts of things).
3. Showing them the world: taking them to interesting places, people (of all ages- including, of course, their own), museums, activities, social meetings, institutions, countries, events.
4. Offering gentle, kind, sensitive help in solving problems (learning stuff) and finding out new areas of learning and research; suggesting new things they might want to get involved with, potential interests, sharing your knowledge, ideas and inspiration.
5. Being active, helpful, positive, supportive, loving, affectionate, sensible, rational, moral, moral, moral, moral and moral. Looking after yourself, so you don't become an embittered disillusioned misery-guts who is no fun to be around.

Good parenting: if you're good enough at it, then coercion just won't come up. The kind of problems that lead to it don't happen anymore. Small people happily occupied with useful interesting things are nice to be around, and they behave morally.

The Secret Of TCS is a bit like the Secret Of Passing Exams I used to share with the kids I taught in a school. Work hard, revise thoroughly, and do your best on the day. There's no magic potion.

Monday, September 01, 2003

A subject close to all our hearts, I'm sure. Saw this in the Telegraph today.

I've been puzzling for months and months how to make more money (ever since discovering that I wanted it). I've read books about How To Be A Success, thought of every easy-earning option you can think of (some of them were even legal**), and tracked down as many ideas as I could from clever people who might have something to say.

Here are some of the ideas I have collected. They may not all be right, but I think they all contain some practical truth:

1. Love money, for its own sake. Want not just what you can get for it, but the money itself.
2. Making money at what you enjoy is about carefully merging the two fields (preferred activity/ money-earning) by gradually building mutually profitable relationships with those who can pay you for what you offer them. First do the fun thing, then look around for ways of making money at it that are close-ish to what you do. Then alchemically make them come together.
3. Work flat out, at just about anything that comes your way, until you've got somewhere. Then work at that.
4. Combine reckless lying with forthright honesty, to get round the ridiculous conventions that hold back normal people.
5. Start off incredibly poor. People who have been at the bottom often seem to find their way up much more effectively than people born halfway up or higher.
6. Hang around rich people and find out what they know. Offer to do anything for them.

I have also come to the conclusion that people who are the main caregivers for small children basically can't very easily earn vast amounts of cash because they don't have enough free hours to compete effectively in any money-making market. Part time won't get you very far in anything, although it can earn you some all-the-more-valuable (because of the extra playstations to feed) extra money to whatever you're living on already.

So, now all I have to do is put some of this theory into practice! The hard part.

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