Making sense of irrationality

I’ve always thought that irrationality is a bad thing and something to avoid with determination. However I was quite surprised to discover that we all think and behave irrationally without quite realizing it, and that there may in fact be an upside to it.

Recently I listened to a fascinating interview with Dan Ariely a researcher in behavioural economics, on the Skepticality podcast. Dan speaks at length about his latest book The Upside of Irrationality, where he “examine[s] some of the positive effects irrationality have on our lives and offer a new look on the irrational decisions that influence our personal lives and our workplace experiences.”

If you have just under an hour spare, prepare to test and challenge your beliefs by tuning in to the podcast on the link below. The actual interview starts around 4:26 into the recording. I guarantee it will be time well spent

The Upside of Irrationality

If you’d like to know a bit more about how and why Dan Ariely got involved in this field of research, check out the humorous TED video below. It’s just under 17 minutes, but again, well worth watching.

The interview and video have been so engrossing, I just have to add two more books to my reading list.

The party that erected the least number of open toilets stinks the least…

The saga of the open toilets continues…

Seems like politics in South Africa has finally found a home where it belongs…in the toilet. The recent revelation of an ANC administered local council erecting open toilets in informal settlements [exceeding the number revealed as erected by the DA in the Western Cape] was compounded by the revelation that the Mayor of the district was the Director of the company awarded the contract for the construction. Let’s forget for a minute about this whole situation being immoral, illegal and dishonest, but the fact the ANC top brass were aware of the irregular tender makes the situation monumentally disgusting.

It indicates the absolute and utter disdain that the ruling ANC has for the population at large.

Popular cartoonist Zapiro made a commendable effort to sum up this pile of steaming manure:

M&G Online, May 13, 2011

But, this editorial in the Mail & Guardian Online sums things up nicely too:

Put party poopers on the spot

Since this local government election has been reduced to voting for the party that stinks the least, it follows that the votes should go to the one that erected the least number of open toilets.

What Freedom of Speech Means to Christopher Hitchens

From Vanity Fair article

Whatever your feelings about the robust atheist beliefs of Christopher Hitchens, you will eventually admit that he was a marvellous orator, and an incredibly good writer too.

So it’s rather sad that he is currently fighting cancer, which is now laying claim to his vocal chords as well. However his mind is as strong as ever and it’s unlikely that the dastardly disease will make any inroads there.

It’s therefore a pleasure to be able to continue reading his work, the most recent of which is an article in Vanity Fair where he shares some thoughts on the loss of his voice and what it means to him. It begins so:

Like so many of life’s varieties of experience, the novelty of a diagnosis of malignant cancer has a tendency to wear off. The thing begins to pall, even to become banal. One can become quite used to the specter of the eternal Footman, like some lethal old bore lurking in the hallway at the end of the evening, hoping for the chance to have a word. And I don’t so much object to his holding my coat in that marked manner, as if mutely reminding me that it’s time to be on my way. No, it’s the snickering that gets me down.

Catch the rest of his thoughts here:

Christopher Hitchens: Unspoken Truths Culture:

Photo #15: Two beautiful birds

I took another one of those little breaks last week to visit the family in Durban. It was also nice to actually be around for Mother’s Day after many, many years.

While taking some shots of my niece [brother’s teenage daughter] and her new pet bird, I accidentally managed to capture this one below. There’s probably more than a few things WRONG with this photograph, but I’m quite chuffed with it, and you’ll see why.

First, I was using a speedlight [flash] for the shots indoors, and for some reason it did not go off when I captured this one – probably wasn’t charged up right. But I did manage to hold the camera relatively steady for all of three seconds while the shutter was open. I had also forgotten to change the white balance from my last photo shoot, and it was still set to CLOUDY.

But off course I’m really chuffed at what a beautiful bubbly little bird my niece is.

Shooting Data:

Camera: Nikon D40

Lens: Nikon VR 55-200mm F/4-5.6 G

Focal Length: 66mm

Exposure: 3 sec – F/4.5

White Balance: Cloudy

Real Toilet Politics

Lavatorial politics is common all over the world; politicians are compared to the stuff found in diapers, for good reason after all. But you can’t beat South African politicians for talking crap, especially the stinkers who belong to the ANC.

Recently the Democratic Alliance (DA) controlled local government in the Western Cape came under heavy fire from the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) for constructing toilets without enclosures in an informal settlement. The ANCYL went on to take the DA-led council to court to demand that the offending structures more commonly referred to as open toilets, be enclosed. However, they did manage to first organise some of the thugs that belong to their shady organization into destructive gangs who set about demolishing some of the structures, quite a while before dreaming up the court action.

Although there was what seemed an amicable agreement in place between the council and the locals over the construction of the toilets whereby the residents would self-enclose once the council provided the plumbing, the ANCYL won the case, citing a great victory for human rights and dignity.

Off course anyone with an ounce of intelligence in one hand, balanced with an ounce of decency in the other knows quite well that the ANCYL were merely taking advantage of a stupid lapse on the part of the DA, and were milking the situation thoroughly to score political points for the upcoming local government elections. Human rights and the dignity of the people have not exactly been the focus of the ANC since taking over power from the previous apartheid government; looting, hoarding, lying, cheating and generally fucking up, has.

Barely a few weeks passed, when the ANC-led council in a Free State Municipality were literally caught with their pants down in the same toilet scene. They had constructed open toilets for an informal settlement there, more than 7 years ago. Yesterday the ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, told reporters that the ANC “didn’t know” about the toilets, notwithstanding the fact that a local newspaper broke the story nearly a year ago.

You’ve got to give credit to this bunch of so-called public servants. They’re consistent, very consistent – in denying and lying. They’re very good at it too. Perhaps they practice, while riding about in their chauffeur driven flashy expensive cars bought with taxpayers money, or while lazing on their fat arses, doing NOTHING for the people.

Today, Julius Malema, leader of the ANCYL commented that “heads must roll,” and that someone must take responsibility, most probably without realising the pun in his statement. Will he even admit that his own ANC are now the culprits, with the shoe now being on the other foot?

And will Julius really take the scumbags in his own organization to court to demand the open toilets be closed as in the Western Cape, or will he make good on his threat to knock down some of the heads that have been left un-enclosed for nearly 8 years?

Past experience with these immoral cretins tells me that they will just let this one slide until the stink is over, just as they do with everything else they screw up.

How about a Spokespersons handbook?

Take a bow Dumisani Nkwamba. You’ve just joined a long-lost of ANC government spokespersons who are absolute masters at scoring own goals.

There must be a school somewhere in South Africa that’s churning out these idiots by the dozen. Every government department seems to have one or two of them. I’m beginning to wonder if that hare-brained political school that Malema so proudly launched a few years ago, has anything to do with the current crop of foot-in-mouth-diseased spokespersons who have been let loose in the halls of power.

Dumisani happens to be the spokesperson for the Minister of Public Service and Administration. Yes, the self-same bureaucrats who saw fit to keep the Ministerial Handbook secret for the four years since its approval by Cabinet; a document that governs Ministerial expenditure and that should have been rightfully in the public domain.

Needless to say, the only reason the Ministerial Handbook is such hot property right now is because of highly questionable and extravagant expenditure by the members of the ANC government.

The esteemed spokesperson thinks that it was illegal for the Mail & Guardian to publish the Handbook. How strange for a spokesperson of the party governing (or so it seems) this country to accuse someone else of undermining the Constitution? Presumably the ruling Party think they have sole rights to undermining the Constitution?

Dumisani’s hissy-fit about the Mail & Guardian jumping the gun in publishing the document is probably justified seeing as how the remarkably efficient Ministry of Public Service and Administration have been hard at work “in the process of declassifying the document”…for the last four years.

But seriously, these idiots in government are clueless about how the South African public and the world is laughing at their every act of utter stupidity.

Perhaps it’s time they published a Handbook for Spokespersons. They can keep this handbook SECRET as long as they abide by the rules and we are spared their silly statements.

It’s either that or STFU. Somehow I can’t picture them keeping their lips sealed for too long; that much inanity can’t be kept in.