The Value of Divination, or Just Do Something

I’m editing a (fascinating) book about the evolutionary roots of schizophrenia at the moment, and one of the chapters is on the evolution of religion. The author submits that one of the evolutionary benefits of religion is divination: attempting to see the future.

At first I though, what the hell use is some fraud who tries to tell everyone he knows which hunting area is best or where water is going to be found?

This is what the author says: “The power of divination allows an entire tribe to back an arbitrary decision — it is better to roll the dice and do something than not do anything at all.”

You see? Having a shaman cast some stones or burn a shoulder blade, and then point in an (as it turns out) arbitrary direction gives the tribe a decision to get behind, instead of everyone spending days and days arguing (without evidence) in favour of their own pet ideas.  The randomness of the divining techniques might even send the tribe off in a fruitful direction they would never have chosen using reason.

This is a great lesson: sometimes it’s better to just make a decision — any decision — and then pursue it with all your resources than to sit around and waffle about what might happen if you make the wrong choice.

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LaTeX to Lulu, the Making of AOSA: Pulling It All Together

The two volumes of The Architecture of Open Source Applications were typeset with LaTeX and printed through Lulu. I couldn’t have finished the AOSA books without the generosity of people all over the world who posted their LaTeX tips to forums and blogs. This series of posts pays some of that back by sharing what I learned.

This is the fourth post in the series.

LaTeX to Lulu

  1. Headers and Footers
  2. Fonts and Captions
  3. Table of Contents and Chapter Title Pages
  4. Custom Commands and Environments
  5. Other Useful Packages and Settings
  6. Pulling It All Together

This post is about the LaTeX that pulls the whole book together. Continue reading

LaTeX to Lulu, the Making of AOSA: Other Useful Packages and Settings

The two volumes of The Architecture of Open Source Applications were typeset with LaTeX and printed through Lulu. I couldn’t have finished the AOSA books without the generosity of people all over the world who posted their LaTeX tips to forums and blogs. This series of posts pays some of that back by sharing what I learned.

This is the fourth post in the series.

LaTeX to Lulu

  1. Headers and Footers
  2. Fonts and Captions
  3. Table of Contents and Chapter Title Pages
  4. Custom Commands and Environments
  5. Other Useful Packages and Settings
  6. Pulling It All Together

This post rounds up some of the packages and settings I haven’t talked about yet.

Continue reading

LaTeX to Lulu, the Making of AOSA: Custom Commands and Environments

The two volumes of The Architecture of Open Source Applications were typeset with LaTeX and printed through Lulu. I couldn’t have finished the AOSA books without the generosity of people all over the world who posted their LaTeX tips to forums and blogs. This series of posts pays some of that back by sharing what I learned.

This is the fourth post in the series.

LaTeX to Lulu

  1. Headers and Footers
  2. Fonts and Captions
  3. Table of Contents and Chapter Title Pages
  4. Custom Commands and Environments
  5. Other Useful Packages and Settings
  6. Pulling It All Together

Today’s post is about the custom LaTeX commands and environments we created for the AOSA books.

Continue reading