May 7th, 2004


Learning from Static

He was in a committee meeting, arguing for more funding for hisdepartment. A lifetime of work, precious research. Alan, themanager for the larger college of engineering at the university,was trying to find a way to make his dollars stretch further..and then.. he wasn't... the lighting seemed a little bit different,and Alan was frozen in mid-gesture, mid-speak. Simon was confused, andactually felt a little drunk -- tried to remember if he had had anyalcohol today. After a moment of watching the frozen features of hiscolleagues, he got up and walked out of the room, out of thebuilding. He wandered out of the campus, to the street, past thecoffeeshops, to the river. The people out here were moving, but thingswere strangely quiet, no horns on the road, people walking with a calm,measured step instead of the mix of people in a hurry and people resting.He felt a mild headache, but tried to ignore it as he sat on the bench."Hello", he heard from his left.. a woman, whom he had not seen when sittingdown... he turned to her. She was clothed in thick white robes, lookingvery out of place, here in Oxford. He nodded back, and turned towards theriver again.. things wern't flowing the way he thought they would -- thewater seemed somehow more surreal. She made a little noise to get hisattention, and asked "What do you see, Dr. Clyffe?". He turned back at her,surprised, but at the same time, distracted by his headache. "Who are you?""What do you see, Dr Clyffe?", this time, a bit more insistant. "I seethe river, but things seem a bit odd. Everything's a bit odd.. the colours,the feel of the wind on my face... I feel like I've been here before.."

It was always a nostalgic feeling, saying goodbye for the last time, especiallywhen the person you're saying goodbye to doesn't even know you yet. The lastbreath from a decommissioned power supply, the final askeance for a long-dormantcomputer.. "Remember to bring the subject back in the last memory recorded intheir image, so they can hold things together long enough" .. One of the thingsthat had been learned about sanity in the painstaking decades was that it was alot stronger (and different) than they had thought. Sanity grabs on to thestimuli one is exposed to and violently forces it into existing paradigms,holding itself together like a pair of skis. Absent stimuli, or givennonsensical stimuli, the brain will still coerce things into something thatmakes sense, instilling with absolute certainty that things do makesense. "Subjects will continue to stitch things from their memory together tocontinue their subjective experience, with the strength of their models ofreality then beginning a slow race with their ability to learn from thefeedback this provides them. Eventually, the feedback destroys their coherency."And so the research teams spent years finding ways to slow the feedback, toallow such lost visits. She never thought she would use it for this purpose,to say goodbye to her husband and fellow researcher, especially before heever met her. The brilliant research that allowed the injectee to see thesubject's world, perspective, while this happened had been his, and shelooked around, seeing the little aspects of his reality, his signature touch.Another way to know a person, entirely different than sharing a bed, sharing alife. Alien, and yet so suggestive of his being.. She sat with him, mourninghis long-past death with a familiar stranger as the world slowly dissolvedaround them.

He dimly sensed that something was wrong with him.. not just alcohol, he thought..a cancer? A stroke? He slowly began to sweat, feeling odd,and yet the woman sitting next to him seemed such good company.. almostas if she knew him. He felt his heart fill with sad hope.. Am I dying?Why is it that now, of all times, I feel likeI'm finally meeting someone I could imagine being with forever?

" Up on a mountain
Encased in solar rays
Beyond electric dreams
Of inarticulate passion plays
Coming down a mountain
Eons of a human rain
The conversation of impassive planets
Intercepted by a human being "
-- Bad Religion, "Beyond Electric Dreams"

Yesterday, I had my Cognitive Neuropsychology final, and while I think it wasa really good class, I think I did very poorly on the final -- I studied thewrong material, and most of it was on Neurology and Linguistics while I studiedother topics. Damn! Of all the classes that were important to do well on, thiswas a really big one. At least I'm done with classes for this semester, andwill have a bit of a break (just work, no classes) for awhile. I might use avacation day sometime soon just to enjoy nature and wind down a bit. I havemany saved up, having carried over well over half from last year. The semester,for better or worse, is over. Unrelated to scholastics/work, I've learned 2things about 2 pieces of software recently while doing classwork. First,Microsoft Excel is pretty clever. It's notion of cut'n'paste is prettyimpressive -- it really has a good notion of 'do what I mean'. I don't havemuch to compare it to -- I haven't tried making gnumeric or starcalc do thesame thing. I don't use spreadsheets regularly, but was using it to managedata that I was going to import into SPSS to do ANOVA tests. Secondly, Ilearned that SPSS is a pain in the butt to use. It's pretty buggy, quirky,and many dialogues are really nonintuitive. Oh well -- I've seen much worsesoftware for that kinda thing. Its interface reminds me a lot of excel, butmore restrictive. As a side note, I'd like to learn the theory and mathematicsbehind Analysis of Covariance (ANOVA being analysis of variance) -- I thinkit'll be quite useful.


Review May 2004

I feel that this is another time to make touch with my long-term self andtell the world what's going on in my life in a larger scale. Since I lastwrote like this, a lot has changed. I steadily have added good music tomy life, with one recent acquisition from Bad Religion being something I'mlistening to now, and another from the Plaid Tongued Devils due to arrivesoon. Academically, I'm a bit disappointed in myself -- the professors hereare really great, and the classes are well taught, I just seem not to beabsorbing the material as well as I want. I might not be studying effectively,or perhaps it really is just hard to balance work, school, and sanity, ormaybe I'm still not putting enough effort in. I'm going to keep working onthis -- I'm serious about wanting to build a new career out of this, and Ireally want to do interesting research... perhaps on Acalculia and itsneurological foundations. I just hope I haven't shot myself in the foot bynot putting enough effort in this semester. In other ways, these times arethe best I've felt -- I think I'm having a lot of interesting philosophicalideas (sorry for not sharing -- I will, sometime soon), and for some reasonI feel deeply excited about Wikis. In a lot of other ways in life, particularlypersonality, I think I'm maturing, understanding better why I have problemsdealing with most people, and learning to be more assertive to correctsituations that suck. Politically, I'm becoming more comfortable with being anontraditional liberal, with my libertarian baggage being mostly ditched now.Healthwise, well, I just don't know how I'm doing. I'll wait until my nextcheckup with my doctor to find out. Rock climbing has done a lot of good forme though, I think, but, on the other hand, Debb thinks I'm getting a bit ofa belly. I can't really tell the difference, but I don't want that to happen,so I'm trying, in my own way, to improve my diet -- for the first time I'mgoing to actually start eating diet foods when I think the taste of the dietstuff isn't very different from the nondiet stuff. Moneywise.. well, I'm notdoing great. I still don't have nearly as much money saved as I wish I did,but my car continues to be a financial disaster. I still want to find a wayto get back into making music in some way, even if it's just singing moreoften to myself. It's also nice that summer is back in a big way now --I'm going to start taking evening walks again, I think (hopefully with company,at least some of the time).

"And everything is barely missed,but relations and predicts my expression,my confession, add it up, extract a lesson" -- Bad Religion, "All there Is"

Yes, that's my life, in sum (well, mostly). There are things I really likeabout it, there are some things that are good that could/should get better,there are some things I'm not sure about, and there are some things thatarn't very good.

Oh, some time back, I mentioned a movie that's good for demonstratingattentional blindness. I finally found it on the web.