March 25th, 2008

Semiformalishmaybe

Humanum Genesis Delio

Title: terrible (and very obscure) wordplay.

Resent musings: possible repeat - idea that it is a virtue to confront people when they're being "difficult", rather than to avoid such confrontation, in order to act as a guardian of society's values. Criticism(?): by so acting, one isn't guarding values, one is promoting certain ones. Reply: While that is true, that is not a criticism, as they are the same thing. Collapse )

Hoping for a nibble on the job fishing line. Ideally soon - while I'm feeling better, I still need to get out of Pittsburgh as soon as I can, both to avoid destroying my savings and to avoid the risk of things getting really bad again. In the meantime, Collapse )

"Lost in Translation" and the ending of "Serial Experiments: Lain" both still feel very relevant.

Semiformalishmaybe

Polka and Sauberkeit

Cleaning the apartment/packing things up to move/discard (no, no offer yet, but I'll want to be getting ready) stuff, and giving a good listen to a CD I got on a lark as part of an Amazon order (I try to always order enough for free shipping). Polka always struck me as wonderful music to clean to (maybe the rapid beats help avoid the temptation to read a book I'm moving, or reminisce over an old photo instead of storing it), and "Polkas for a Gloomy World" is amazing.

Incidentally, I have come to think of music CDs as being install CDs to put music on a computer. It's kind of silly to have them on display. If only I could easily get all my books into a nice, annotatable computer format, I could imagine having an apartment with very little in it, which sounds kinda nice. Reflecting on having pets - they are why I can't have a nice couch or nice chairs or similar. Occasionally I resent that a bit, even though I love them.

  • Current Music
    Polkas for a Gloomy World
Semiformalishmaybe

Cleaning givaways

People,

I have too much old computer stuff (and other stuff), and you don't have enough. Please make arrangements to come to my apartment in the next 2 days to rectify this. I have lots of cables, but that's not all - there's a KVM (that may or may not work), a usb hard drive enclosure (that I *might* have the power adapter to), my NeXTStation (which might or might not boot and may be missing some important components) and various other miscellany. There are also a bunch of old movies on videocasette, a few books, and similar. Some of it is separated from the stuff I'm keeping, some is not. While you're here, if you like we can play a bit of Smash Brothers (the Wii one). Let me know.

Semiformalishmaybe

Sentences and propositions

Pondering: language, full sentences in English. Are full sentences really the best way to express ideas? There is an art to producing paragraphs and works of prose that flow well (not to demean poetry), but is considering that the most proper form of language unduly restraining? Note that this is not meant to justify people who are poor wordsmiths, but to suggest that in addition to mastering wordsmithery, other forms of presentation might be considered appropriate. In particular, tabular data (and listing of things with attributes/commentary in bullet points) is something that tends to be considered, at best, an addendum or "figure" in most kinds of work. Although movies and audiobooks present such information in different ways, non-story presentation of information seems like it would often benefit from the option of saying things in other ways... e.g. scientific papers, which seem to have a very wordy default form. If we imagined trying to intelligently tokenise/compress scientific papers, that might be an amusing way to start to think about how these things might be better parsed. There is, of course, risk both in disrupting the existing standard formats (that presumably make for very rapid reading of papers as people are used to the standard language) and in losing expressive power if one becomes too standardised on some reduced (rather than expanded) form - there's an interesting tension there between the two kinds of expressive readability that has light parallels in more formal types of encoding.

One thing I really wish english had more of a tradition of is something I tend to use anyhow - sentences of the form:

context: content, where content may or may not be a full sentence of its own, and in many cases is just a noun. I'd like to think that it expands in the listener's mind as follows:

  • context: sentence - In the context $context, consider: $sentence
  • context: noun phrase - We're about to talk about $noun in the context $context
  • attribute: value - more general form of the C:NP above, distinguished by context

There are a number of other constructs (and traditions) I wish English had, like capitalising all nouns (a la German), tagging all parts of speech (like Japanese), block quotes (also like Japanese), a syllabary (like Japanese or kind of like Korean), as well as more organisational stuff like the above. I wonder if there are languages that have structures like what I elaborated above or similar... See also: Chomsky's Universal Grammar, Broca and Wernicke's areas in the brain, conlangs

Semiformalishmaybe

Linguistic Absolutism

Resolved: Will use the way words/languages evolve over time as analogy in future arguments with people who are moral absolutists. We can easily imagine linguistic absolutists who use arguments that are perfect mirrors of moral absolutists, e.g. "how will we know that Apple really means an apple unless there is an absolute language?", and perhaps seeing the arguments in that context will help moral absolutists see how ridiculous they are. Changing values on topics such as gender, slavery, etc. deserve explicit mention.