June 22nd, 2007

Semiformalishmaybe

The Cult of Unending Poems

The German word for poetry is Poesie. It's one of the least .. "german" sounding words I've heard in the language. As I was leaving the shower this morning, I parsed my face in a different way, seeing for a moment how the bone structure resembles one of my sisters -- I don't often spot the resemblance and it's usually a bit weird when I do.

Last night was another DnD night - it was mostly mopping up after some nastiness that almost killed the party at the previous session, combined with a heavier introduction of two themes I'm experimenting with in this campaign. The second theme, political intrigue, is going to be difficult to get a good balance - DnD is much like a cross between storytelling and being a simulator, and my earlier campaigns (many years ago) were more drawn from the flash and substance of standard faire lousy fantasy books (these things became amusingly circular when TSR started to publish endless streams of awful-but-somehow-entertaining Dragonlance and other novels). I'm not the same person I was back then, but neither is this small group the same as me in interests. Making something that has substance for me as well as them is an interesting challenge. I probably don't need to worry too much though - the more life people give to their characters, the less they need the story to be interesting - being a good DM in such cases, I think, just requires a bare minimum of being decent as a simulator (although having ideas about story never hurt). I do wish we had 1-3 additional players, it's just difficult to go hunting for people. Readers: if you're in town and possibly interested, drop me a note.

As much as I'd prefer they dry up, I find the struggle of Hamas for some kind of political legitimacy to be very interesting. Both Hamas and Fatah are in a very ugly position right now, Hamas because international support is rallying around Fatah, that their neighbours are not happy about their seizure of Gaza, and because they lost democratic representation in the PA, and Fatah because it dismantled its democratic ends and is seeing its secular societal base disintegrate. I wonder whether its theocratic ends or unwillingness to take steps towards peace with Israel are a bigger put-off for international acceptance -- I suspect the theocratic ends are a bigger barrier for the Middle East (as it's part of a general populism that might topple almost every Middle Eastern government, as dangerous to the states of Saudi Arabia and Egypt as it is to Israel) than to Europe/America (which has an interest in protecting Israel for a number of reasons, from cultural similarity and theological reasons to advancing liberal progess or business interests). As an aside, I wonder if it would be a nice, neat solution for Israel to "give" Gaza "back" to Egypt. It might've been neater yet to have done so at the start of disengagement - Egypt has both the force and the will to handle theocratic forces appropriately, and Hamas may have been eliminated (one hopes - perhaps they would've folded back into the Muslim Brotherhood) in the region.

I thought this post regarding Second Life and Google Earth was interesting.

Semiformalishmaybe

Exploring Platonic Ideals

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I had that basic conversation in my head many years ago (albeit with more than two people, and with much more branching off for other topics). The first time I mentioned the broadest intuitions of it to someone was with a coworker back in Robotics who surprised the heck out of me by being able to think deeply about philosophy (my first impression of him was to suppose that he was a Mormon). It led to a very good conversation that hopped all around this and other topics. Somehow, the mood never felt right again to go back over this ground and cover it more carefully, and a few weeks later I quit that job and came over to Psychology. I've always felt it hard to start conversations like this, partly because for some reason it feels like a guilty pleasure (It feels a bit like inappropriate intimacy? There's a lot of complexity here that I might write about later... in brief, I almost ever talk to people about philosophy unless I'm willing to feel pretty close to them on some level, and similarly I don't think it's possible to know me on the deepest level without exploring my philosophy and sharing one's own) and partly because I have a tough time talking to other people in general beyond a shallow level. There are other things that make it hard too.. Anyhow, the intuitions behind this have felt like an interesting challenge to standard materialism (although they coexist so far in my Weltanschauung - there's little reason not to keep multiple lenses that still work in a philosophy, and to see how things look differently through them). Recently I've been thinking more about what it would look like to realign one's emotional self based on accepting (or adopting -- maybe a less misleading word) this philosophical shift as well as exploring some of the areas of consideration I've laid out for further exploration here. Amusement: Philosophy as a set of caves to explore.

I've been dreaming of Cellos. Of all the instruments in a standard string orchestra, the Cello is the only instrument I never learned to any degree - in the many years I played in school, subgroups of us would often go off to practice together and try new things, so I did learn some of the basics, but I regret never taking it any further. I love the sound of cello. I think I went with the String Bass as my last main stringed instrument because I liked how it often would be played in so many different ways, and how its sounds often stood apart frolm the rest of the orchestra, but for the potential for raw sound quality, I like the sound of the Cello more (For those of you who haven't heard his work, check out Yo-yo Ma's CDs - they're beautiful)

Working my way through Kafka on the Shore.. I think this post has passed it's sappiness quotient, so I'll leave out the further observations and just leave two sections that left an impression on me..

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Semiformalishmaybe

From Persia, with Love

It's here!

(click for larger version)

How many times do you all imagine a package with this source and this destination has been opened after shipment? By which countries?

Anyone who can actually read Parsi would be welcome to make a go at translating the handwriting on the package.