More on Wieseltier on Dennett

Today’s NYT Book Review includes more letters criticising Wieseltier’s review of Dan Dennett’s book. I particularly enjoyed this contribution by the composer Scott Johnson:

In his review of “Breaking the Spell,” Leon Wieseltier couldn’t resist the reflexive accusation that building a worldview on a scientific base is reductive, and as is often the case, he trotted out the existence of art to capture our sympathies. As a composer, I am weary of being commandeered as evidence of supernatural forces. Unlike Wieseltier, I do not find it difficult to “envisage the biological utilities” of the “Missa Solemnis”; it merely requires a chain with more than one link. Art, particularly religious and nationalistic art, has powerful social effects. Human beings have achieved their stunning success by becoming master cooperators, and emotions that drive us toward shared experience are prominent among the inspirations and outcomes of everything from grand public art to intimate love songs. Our emotion-filled social lives are the direct result of biologically endowed capacities for communication, from language to the delicate network of expressive muscles in our faces, and even our private imaginations bear the imprint. Awareness that I’m participating in this chain of capabilities in no way deprives music of its wonder; it enhances it.

Random 10

Here we go:

  • “Una Musica Brutal” by Gotan Project (from Buddha Bar 4)
  • “Always On My Mind” by the Pet Shop Boys
  • “Observations From A Hill” by Family
  • “The Light In My Little Girl’s Eyes” by the Legendary Pink Dots
  • “Mekkanikk” by the Legendary Pink Dots
  • “Charmless Man” by Blur
  • “Sylvie” by Bert Jansch
  • “Bleed” by No-Man
  • “Network Twenty Three” by Tangerine Dream (from Back To Mine: Orbital)
  • “Railway Jam” by Saint Etienne

The multiple appearances by the Legendary Pink Dots shouldn’t be a surprise. My iTunes library presently contains 387 tracks by the LPD, with a total playing time of 1 day, 10 hours, 15 minutes and 21 seconds. No other artist breaks the 300 track barrier. And I’ve only ripped 33 of their albums; there are more. (Plus all of the side projects….)


I’ve posted my new PGP key on the Contact me page. I also uploaded it to (I tried to add it to, but it wouldn’t accept the keyblock.)

Thanks for all the kind comments

I’m overwhelmed at all the kind comments from people about my RIF. I’m not the only one: there are lots of really good, smart people leaving Sun in this process, and the company will be the poorer for their departure. Look for them on LinkedIn, please.
As I mentioned, I was due to host the Thursday afternoon SunLabs tea, and I decided to turn it into a celebration. After all, how often does someone get to spent 20 years with so many creative, imaginative, dedicated people? I picked up some champagne and pastries, threw together a few slides*, and we had a really good time. Thank you all. And best wishes to the other RIFfed folks that joined us.
I’ve amended the info in the sidebar to include my new email address. (It’s going to be interesting to hunt down all of the places which have my Sun address – airlines, iTunes, etc. etc.)

* The slides are here – PDF, about 975KB. I don’t think there’s anything proprietary. For those who were at the tea today, I’ve added a footnote with the punch-line to that joke.

Posted in 1K


Well, after 20.63 years at Sun, I have been caught up in today’s RIF (Reduction In Force). As of 5pm today, I’m out of here.* So far the most common reaction is “You’re kidding!!!” Sadly, no.
However between now and then I’m hosting the regular Thursday afternoon SunLabs tea, so I’d better get on with the arrangements.

* Of course over that period you accumulate a lot of stuff, and there’s no way that I can clear my office today. No matter.

Posted in 1K

And a dark cloud of secrecy settled upon the land….

A piece in Capitol Hill Blue begins as follows:

On an unspecified day last week an employee of a federal agency that cannot be revealed delivered a document that cannot be identified to a company that cannot be named seeking information that cannot be discussed.

And the depressing thing is, it‘s true. Or I think it is. But since all of the facts are secret, we’ll never know. And that’s the whole point.

Delayed random 10

Didn’t want to try doing this through my Treo….

  • “Jennifer’s Rabbit” by Tom Paxton
  • “Even Less” by Porcupine Tree
  • “Post Punk Progression” by Snow Patrol
  • “The Shock Of Contact” by the Legendary Pink Dots
  • “Who Am I” by Country Joe and the Fish
  • “A New England” by Kirsty MacColl
  • “Messages” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • “Outside My Window” by Peter Buffett
  • “Time” by Pink Floyd
  • “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by Jimmy Somerville

A really nice (and very representative) collection this time.

Photos from England

I’ve posted a selection of photos from last week’s trip to England. Among the highlights:

  • A BA 767 1,000 ft. below us in the stack at Ockham
  • Rabbits (or are they hares?) outside a butcher’s shop in the Covered Market in Oxford
  • The Varsity (Oxford vs. Cambridge) ice hockey match
  • The “Alison Lapper: Pregnant” sculpture in Trafalgar Square
  • Somerset House
  • The Millennium Bridge over the Thames
  • The Thames as a working river