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Monday, August 11, 2008

Time for reflection

I have just returned from holiday in the mountains of Serbia with my family where I successfully avoided the information age for a week, read books, went for walks, played with my daughter and had time to think.

On my way to Serbia I stopped in Germany to go to a friend's 50th birthday party which was a delightful affair at a schloss on the Rhine. This made me wonder about what are the measures or values that matter in life. How can you say you have lived a good life? The only obvious measure left in today's post nationalist world is money. Yes I know there is a nationalist war going on in South Ossetia and the Olympics are on (which might give the lie to this thought). But I think that nationalism is on the wane and the rising religiosity and conflict in the world is partly driven by a lack of identity. Unfortunately, business and large supra-national organisations have not in the past been very good at filling this vacuum as values are things that companies tend only to pay lip service to. But I wonder if the rise in interest in CSR and Environmental issues may herald and end to this?

So what does matter? I think positive choice and responsibility. I suppose that is what the existentialists meant by acting in "good fath". Which is annoying because I've never liked Nietzsche and find Keirkegaard depressing. Why aren't there any decent philosphers anymore? Is it because there is too much reality television?

On micro-economic level, during my holiday, I rediscovered the pleasure of reading. Like the slow food movement, there is much to be said for slow information. I am a relative newcomer to cloud computing but am already needing new strategies to stop my RSS feeds from getting on top of me.

So if you haven't had your holiday yet (and inspired by Kevin who liked my last post [incidentally Kevin you can call me Hugh]) here are a couple of recommended reads:

Dan Ariely, "Predicatably Irrational" - similiar to "Freakonomics "and the "Undercover Economist" this a a wonderfully readable book for those interested in how people actually make decisions

Louis de Bernieres, "The Partisan's Daughter" - a great tale from the author of Captain Corellis Mandolin that examines story telling and truth, read it in a day it was that good

Wilf Self, "The Book of Dave" - hard work to begin with but brilliant and dark reflection on society set up by the conceit of a mad London cabbie accidentally founding a religion

Irvin Yalom, "The Schopenhauer Cure" - a dying therapist re-examines his life and tries to help his biggest failure

And for those of you who think this looks like a politician's summer reading list compiled by his/her publicist

Ian Rankin - any Inspector Rebus novel
Janet Evanonvic - any Stephanie Plum novel, v funny
and for cry laughing cynicism anything by Christopher Brookmyre

Time to think is good... Maybe I'll switch off the Crackberry more often.

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