Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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.


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