Mumbo jumbo

by Chris Bertram on February 7, 2004

Today’s Guardian has a review of Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions. There are also extracts “here”:,6761,1131153,00.html and “here”:,6761,1131917,00.html . Crystals, astrology, rebirthing etc all get explored, as well as management guruism. Philosophers and civil servants both have reason to enjoy Wheen’s acccount of Edward de Bono (from the 2nd extract):

bq. In the autumn of 1998 more than 200 officials from the Department of Education were treated to a lecture from De Bono on his “Six Thinking Hats system” of decision-making. The idea, he explained, was that civil servants should put on a red hat when they wanted to talk about hunches and instincts, a yellow hat if they were listing the advantages of a project, a black hat while playing devil’s advocate, and so on. “Without wishing to boast,” he added, “this is the first new way of thinking to be developed for 2,400 years since the days of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle.” So far as can be discovered, the education department has yet to order those coloured hats, but no doubt it benefited from his other creative insights: “You can’t dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper”; “With a problem, you look for a solution”; “A bird is different from an aeroplane, although both fly through the air.”

How will history judge?

by Micah on February 7, 2004

“Unlearned Hand”: wonders what we’ll think about America in a hundred years:

bq. Here’s the game I’d like to play, if you’d all be so obliged: name the one thing about America as it is now that the America (if it exists as such) of 2104 will look back on with the most admiration/envy/nostalgia, and the one thing the America of 2104 will look back on with the most disgust/pity.

I’d like to say that we’ll be disgusted by the amount of poverty in the 21st century–and how little Americans did to alleviate it. But that’s probably too optimistic. We’ll pity our inability to cure diseases that will have been eradicated over the next century. Much harder, I think, to decide what we’ll admire. Maybe we’ll be nostalgic for the days before our permanent attachment to computers.

Women politicians

by Eszter Hargittai on February 7, 2004

This makes so much more sense to me than this. I certainly appreciate the goal of getting more women in the White House and other political positions, but I think it’s a stretch to suggest that the gender of a candidate trumps all other factors including a candidate’s position on all issues. (I came across the EMILY’s List Web site by clicking on this ad in the NYTimes.)

Some consequences of bad spelling

by Eszter Hargittai on February 7, 2004

Last week, the New York Times had a piece about the potential monetary losses resulting from bad spelling. The author discusses how some misspelled auction items on eBay sell for very little because few bidders find them.

Reading about the frequency of spelling mistakes on the Web was no shock to me. In fact, the geek that I am, I even ran analyses [pdf] in my dissertation to see what explains whether and how often people misspell words during their online actions.

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