Random photos from Barbados

Splashing down at the Boat Yard.

I tested out some new software and made a fun collage. These are some photos of people hitting the water after launching themselves from a swing at the Boat Yard, a beach bar in Barbados. None of the photos are strong enough in their own right to post, but collected together like this, I think they are worth sharing.


The Art of Guruism (comment conversation)


I wrote a blog post about The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris, the owner of the website, obviously found out about it due to Google Alerts or something, and posted a comment.

I emailed a response, but thought I’d post it here too.

Hi Chris,

Just some points on your comment on my blog:
“I have tried very hard, numerous times in the blog and the book, to explain that I have an anti-guru philosophy. The core message of AONC is “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.” That would certainly include me as well, but thankfully I don’t expect anyone to make the same choices I have.”

No offense intended, but your website comes off as very guru-like. There is loads of great content on there, like I said in my original blog post, but your tone is very guru. Some of the articles, which I thought might contain helpful advice, turn out to be purely feel-good inspirational passages. For example, the post about dangerous places to visit in the world. This could be a no-nonsense post about real dangers you’ve faced, like “avoid narrow passages in Morocco”. But instead it was a “go get ‘em” blurb.

People come to your website for an inspirational, feel-good hit. In most case there is nothing wrong with this. I personally think most people should spend more time traveling!

But the danger I see is when you portray your life journey and philosophy as something that is suitable for other people, or can be attained by them.

You are in a position to effect people’s lives, and you have a responsibility not to short-change them on the truth:

“I think we agree on “overnight success” as something that takes a long time — that’s exactly the same concept I was illustrating with the title “279 Days to Overnight Success.” Perhaps I should have called it “Ten Years” but that didn’t seem as interesting. :)”

For the sake of a catchy marketing slogan, or to seem more interesting, you miss the real lesson of your success (many skills in many areas accruing over many years of hard work) and undermine all the good advice about blogging for a living which could be applicable to everyone (answering every email, not chasing stats, hyping new projects, etc).

In another post you ask for contributions to your new book. It was weeks ago when I read it, but to paraphrase:

You say you are going to do a scientific study of non-conforming businesses. Then you list criteria for entry.

Oh, I think you also say “Not those who went to business school and borrowed lots of money.”

As far as I know, those who go to business school very rarely borrow money and start a business. It’s not what they do, and certainly not what they are qualified to do. Instead they go work for those people who started a business without going to business school, but who now need business managers.

But back to the “scientific” study, as misguided it is in its faulty premise. You really need to study the scientific method before using words like “scientific”.

1. Self-selection in a scientific study leads to only those who are successful reporting. This is called anecdotal evidence, and is useless as data. With it you can prove that ANY preposterous notion is valid, like Power Balance bracelets give you better balance.

2. You set the bar for entry to those who already earn 50,000 a year, or something. This is called “cherry picking the data”. It’s when you discard any results of a test that you don’t like.

3. You want stories that are as unusual as possible. This is pure sensationalizing. It’s tabloid newspaper level fare.

And then you collect your “data” into a book, and then people read it. In scientific papers you outline your processes. Will you do this for your readers? Will you tell them that you discarded all the people who failed, and went back to working 9 to 5? Will you tell them that you only picked those who were already successful?

Because this is serious. You have this responsibility.

Get enough people flipping coins, and plenty will flip 10 heads in a row. If they do, does that make their stories helpful or applicable to anyone? No. No it doesn’t.

A true scientific study would look like this:

1. Look for people who are thinking about giving up their job to start their own business based on an unconventional idea. Asking might be the best you can do, but you really need to find the people who wouldn’t self-report.

2. Ask them to outline their plans to you in advance.

3. Follow up on each of them one year later. How many actually quit their jobs for their new business?

4. Follow up on each of them two years later. How many are still in business?

5. After four years, the ones who are going to make it have a 50% chance of making money by now. I know it took me three or four years to make as much money as a juggler as I did in my last real job.

6. Write up all of your results. All of them. Include all the failures, and ask for the reasons for the failures.

I think only then will we learn anything of value. If you give your readers less, you are nothing but a feel-good guru.

I don’t think I’m being harsh here, but if I come across like that, I’m sorry. A friend of mine recommended your site to me, and I had to write me blog post for him. He might be my ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, but I don’t want him to be suckered by business guru types like you. He’s about ten years younger than me, and is trying to make a living by all kinds of different online projects. He’s always got loads on the go, loads of online businesses and social media adventures, and one day one of them might really take off.

But you know what? It might not happen. He might end up like the majority of people, who pursue a dream job and lifestyle, and end up compromising their dreams just to make ends meet. You won’t meet those people though, because when they fail they won’t come back to your blog, and they won’t buy your next ebook.

You have a lot of good advice to offer, but you know that isn’t enough, don’t you? People don’t want to buy advice on blogging, they want to buy into the dream of one day becoming a professional blogger. Buy selling them that, you become a guru.

Finally.

“The U.N. list is just a list. I’ve been to Easter Island. I’ve also been to Taiwan, Kosovo, the Faroes, the Canaries, and many other places that aren’t technically countries. But when you set a goal, you have to have a way to define success toward that goal — therefore the list.”

I said this was a minor point, and down to a practicality.

Catch you later,

Luke B.


Nigel Green vs Jesus (comment conversation)

Here on my blog I shared a podcast I recorded with Rym and Scott of the Geeknights podcast. In it we talk about the Jesus Myth Hypothesis, which looks at the character of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible, and questions whether it is based on a real, historical figure.

I got an interesting comment from a listener, which you can read in full here.

I emailed Endre a response, but I thought I’d share it here too…

Hi Endre,

Thanks for listening to my rambling podcasts. The Geeknights one was especially jumbled because I hadn’t actually planned to go into any specific details, and instead we just had a conversation.

“I recently listened to your Geeknights podcast about the historicity of the bible. It is a bit jumbled, and a great deal of it I don’t have any issue with, but I think I would recommend you to reconsider your position on the historicity of Jesus (as a historical person, not a magical saviour that can turn water into wine).”

I think I made it quite clear in the podcast that I’m not convinced either way about the historicity of Jesus. If pushed, I would say he probably didn’t exist, but it’s always a question of probabilities, right? And my main point that is even if the very first story of Jesus, however far back you can take it, was based on a real person, there is no evidence at all that all anything we know about the “character” of Jesus could apply to him at all. The things he said? To me it looks like collections of sayings from the various sects and philosophies of the first century. The things he did? Well, either he did miraculous things, or he did nothing. And if miracles don’t exist, he was nothing but a faker or magician. Or, more likely, the stories told about other characters were applied to him.

So at the root of all the made up stories (which isn’t a pejorative accusation, by the way) what do we have? Some guy, who probably didn’t do anything credited to Jesus, and probably didn’t say anything credited to Jesus. What is the point of even valuing him at that point?

Also, you say:

“My main problem with this issue is that if the stringency and hyper-critical evaluation of sources in examining the historicity of Jesus was to be applied broadly to ancient history, we would pretty much wipe it out as a field of study – our sources on a lot of the ancient world are extremely sparse.”

Here I completely disagree, but in a subtle two-fold way.

First, I think that every claim and story and character should be looked at in a hyper-critical way. And, if it seems there isn’t enough evidence to support their existence without any doubt, what should we do? We should doubt. Doubt is good. Especially with sparse sources. Some characters are more probable more truly historic (Socrates) and some are less probable (Hercules). As a quick side note, I see Jesus much more in the vein of Hercules than Socrates.

And I have good reason to doubt EVERY source, and EVERY claim. You know why? Every time a newspaper reporter has written about me, they have made three or four major mistakes. And every time I ever read any newspaper story about a subject or incident I know a lot about, I see loads of mistakes. So everything I read in the media is through a lens of doubt, because just because I don’t know enough to know WHAT the reporter is getting wrong, I know they are getting SOMETHING wrong.

Also, back in 2001 I created a character on a newgroup called rec.juggling. I think it took just 12 posts under the name of Nigel J. Green, and he was one of the most famous and controversial characters in the online juggling community. At the British Juggling Convention in the spring of 2001, I had Nigel Green write that he would be there, but only during the day as he was staying with a friend in Cardiff (the city where the convention was held). During and after the convention, I heard many people talking about him, and some said they saw someone that was probably him.

Even after I exposed the entire hoax, Nigel Green kept popping up in other situations. And now, 10 years later, in every show I do I talk about “My first juggling teacher when I was a young boy, who was much better than me at juggling at the time, called Nigel Green.” That means every year thousands of people hear about Nigel Green, and they have no reason to presume I’m lying. Why should they? I use the name Nigel Green because the real name of my first juggling teacher was Daniel Cock, and I don’t want to say Cock on stage.

Second, I don’t think holding every element of ancient history to critical evaluation would wipe it out as a field of study. In fact, I think the opposite. Or at least, I think that tracing the ideas and elements and memes of the stories about the characters is just as important and interesting as the historical figures themselves.

As I hinted before, the true Jesus, if he really existed, was probably way more boring than the Jesus we know and understand today. But what I find so fascinating about history is how we’ve come to have the Jesus we know today.

Because the conflicting reports in the gospels doesn’t mean we know less about Jesus, it instead means we know more about the different religions and sects and philosophies and movements of the first and second century. Just using the gospels we can track different formulations of divinity, and see the modes of thought as they developed. Each of the Gospels comments on the others, either directly or by talking about the kind of people who would later compile other gospels.

So we give up Jesus, but we gain people like Polykarp, Simon Magus, James the Just, John the Baptist, Marcione, and so many others. It’s the same with the old testament writings too. We give up pretty much everything before about 700 BC, but we gain new understanding about the true people and religions that developed in Canaan in that time.

And it’s the same with Nigel Green. We give up some guy who bullied other jugglers online, and we gain a new understanding about the story of online and real-life juggling subcultures.

I’m not going to read your sources, as I’ve no intention of delving into online discussion forums. I already know all the problems with the Christ Myth Hypothesis. I have problems with it myself. But I have problems with the wholesale acceptance of him as “probably historical” and then letting that frame any debate from then on. I want people to be honest about this. I don’t have a dog in the fight, you know. I’ve not written books about the subject arguing either way, nor am I religious, nor do I have anything against people with religious beliefs.

I hope you don’t mind such a response to your blog comment! Thanks for letting me clarify my position.


Juggling in Brazil

Here are some clips from my latest trip, sailing up the Amazon. First, I juggled on either side of the equator, near the city of Macapa.

The middle part is from a stop at a small village, and I put on an impromptu show for all the kids, which lasted way longer than I show here. If I’d have known all the kids were there I’d have taken my diabolo and done more of a street show.

The last part is from a piranha fishing trip I took with the crew of the Prinsendam. It’s not actually on the Amazon proper, but a small tributary near Santarem.


At the equator.

Macapa, Brazil is almost directly on the Equator. A 5 minute taxi ride from the city center is a monument on the Equator. There is also a football stadium with each half of the field in either hemisphere.
I’ve crossed the Equator many times, but only on planes and ships. Stepping across it, or even juggling directly on it, is a long term “unticked box”.

Tick!

The Marco Zero monument.
The Marco Zero monument.

For some reason, the locals were balancing eggs on the equator line. I never worked out why.
For some reason, the locals were balancing eggs on the equator line. I never worked out why.

Here’s a quick experiment with double exposure self portrait. My wide angle lens is broken, so I had to keep returning to reset the camera between exposures, even though I have a wireless remote control. The result? I’m not actually looking at myself across the equator!
Here's a quick experiment with double exposure self portrait. My wide angle lens is broken, so I had to keep returning to reset the camera between exposures, even though I have a wireless remote control. The result? I'm not actually looking at myself across the equator!

This road runs exactly along the equator. I wish I took a photo back along the road towards the monument.
This road runs exactly along the equator. I wish I took a photo back along the road towards the monument.

A dog relaxing in the shade of a bank.
A dog relaxing in the shade of a bank.

I got some fun videos in Brazil. I’ll share that in another post.