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Semiformalishmaybe

Philosophy without grandiosity is like art without deception

A fullness, a curledness, the sensation of being fries in a carton. The feeling as procrastination shifts into reluctant action. A vague sense of unease. The feeling of purring and warmth - hands move, body shifts, reluctant cats, fearful of being squished, stretch while body language hints that they would prefer a more leisurely version, and move away. Couch cushion is abandoned, the less-elegant human body tosses covers aside and rolls from the floor into a crouch, stumbles towards the restroom with a feeling of dryness in the head. Memory, personality begin to filter into the head as state begins to merit the term 「awake」 - ugh, what did I eat yesterday to merit this headache? Vision of chocolate truffle, tried for the first time, wafts out of the clouds of memory onto a wanted poster.. the words "for questioning" are penned on as an afterthought. Dryness suggests that it will get worse later, and a slightly smoother stagger with less bladder and more wakefulness brings the laptop on the desk into focus. Email - problems with systems at work - a few minutes mostly-solves one problem, second is noted for attention later today. Depression and lonliness filter in, sigh, put into the mental background. Shower, towel on head, feeding of cats stops cats from cheerleading any movement that hints at kitchenward movement, fingers rip a piece of bread from a loaf while in there. Hasty shave, getting dressed, staring at design notes for things I was working on yesterday at work, a few exchanges of emails with workfolk, packing of main laptop into computer bag, shift a book I've finished reading out of bag, replacing with another book I've been thinking about rereading for awhile. A sharp burst of pain as I move my head a certain way - as sure as dark clouds in the sky would tell, this will be bad, but hopefully will wait until I make it home. Giant bag is slung over shoulder, customary self-quip of this being my best exercise for the day (possibly deferred with wednesday jog?), out the rear door of the house. Toys of children scattered in the yard, the blue of the sky and the clouds almost make it look as if someone were doing advertising for nature - looks better-than-reality like the plastic foods used in commercials, but a good glance shows all the details are there. Body moves, up the hill to the synagogue bus stop, the scent of the people on this bus being more a mix of sensible deodorants and clean people. Work - swing by CMUTDO but they are out of materials for my STDSNDWCH, so I drop my stuff off in my office, do a bit of work, and head out to the Indian grocer for a vegetarian boxed lunch. Alas, they are out - I get two samosa instead, move onwards for Crêpes (chopsticks are with me as I have anticipated this possibility), enjoying my usual spinach-béchamel concoction and trying to ignore that my migraine is beginning to pound - switching between book and notepad to sketch ideas. A former co-worker that I loathe walks in, I speed out and head back to my office as I begin to feel the dizziness and squeezing sensation of a worsening migraine. Back to work - restroom, where I see red eyes with purple rings - I see my father in my face, an odd juxtaposition - my hair is not grey, but I look older and much more weary. Office, start to work again but find my blinks grow increasingly long, sigh. Pillow behind the back is tossed on the floor, faint scent of being too near the running clothes in my office ignored as glasses, wallet, and other accompaniments of modern life are shed, screens are turned off, and suddenly heavy-but-fragile body is lowered to the floor. Absent the anchor of technology, time passes as I attempt to meditate the feelings of the migraine away, dissociate with the body, not have it thrash or make noise as the pain washes over. Bitter coldness of lying down without a blanket - hands and feet develop a chill, but that is easy to ignore given the context. Time passes, unconsciousness comes - last thought of "I'm glad I negotiated for an office of my own".

Discontinuity.

Another feeling of urgency, mixed with light dizziness but less pain. Body hauls itself grumblingly to feet, shoes slide on, keys grabbed, a dash to the restroom - after relief, another glance in the mirror - eyes no longer look as haunted or as red-and-purple, matches the diminshed headache. A confirmation of no running - disappointment in not even the semblance of social contact today, but probably for the best given residual dizziness and pain. A bit of work to dispel the guilt over not getting much done today (might need to visit a troubled server in-person tomorrow and oh goodness big programming projects really need to get done and people really need to be harassed to get back to me on some design documents I wrote). Giant laptop is packed back into Sisyphus's boulder (as I think I shall name my laptop bag), reluctant and headachy return into the frigid air to wait for the bus back to SqHill. I shall have frozen joghurt and then some tea, I think, in hopes that the extreme temperatures of one or the other will help clear the diminishing tendrils of migraine that sit in the room like thick smoke in a still room.

And so I do, and the brief hellos and food orderings constitute my human interaction for the day, although the observations extend far further, from the shallow and cruel amusement at the horse-toothed girl at the bus stop, the unpleasant stink of the underbathed on the trip back, and the endless observations of people interacting at the coffeeshop - conversations, instinctual motion to convey affection between cute couples, memory-ties between someone chalking sidewalks at CMU with my own having done so, for organisations and for more ironic and satirical purposes 「Ban Ugly Sidewalk Chalkings!」 「Aligning Idiots with Megaphones for 50 years - UCL」, people I half-know doing things I quarter-understand. Listening to someone talking to a group here in a way here that's more convincing because of their phrasing and body language than their points - I hear the echoes of the public communication materials that I read at some point on the past when I was curious about this - am reminded of the most important conclusion - that given two people with the very same set of facts, both of them might communicate all of them earnestly but there is a lot of manipulation that happens in the voice, gestures, interjections, mannerisms that can make a huge difference, words-aside. It's almost hypnosis, and most people do some small subset of it by instinct. Integrating this knowledge empowers the shameless or shackles those with conscience. And so go the regular thoughts which remain in my head as I have nobody to share them with. Sigh.

A typical sort of day.

Yesterday: Made a visit to the old workplace to put together a barebones system - Asked by a former coworker what I'm interested in studying in psychology - while the answer was kind of off the top of my head, it rang true as I said it. Situational learning/memory - learning actions, type of reasoning, physics of a type of situation. I think I'm interested in (1) the process of construction of those types of frames (their differentiation from general learning), and (2) how we selectively import and adapt strategies, domain knowledge, and other things from other frames into the newly constructed one. I'm more interested in the first part. I understand that 「Transformative Learning」 is a term that might be worth looking into - it kind-of captures some of the interesting stuff. I think the topic is what makes possible the analogues to expert systems that we build in our heads for various domains - there's got to be a moment as we face problems in our general life mindset that we recognise "aha! Some of the problems I face in my life have some commonalities that suggest that a special frame of mind can be constructed to productively deal with them, let's declare them to be a domain and begin to organise their common traits as domain knowledge, seeking common approaches that allow me to productively exploit their regularities"

I was chewing on a parallel to this a few days ago by musing on how edge-cases in algorithms often tell us things about our perception of a problem domain that we might not see directly, but I don't think I ended up posting that entry - got distracted. I might flatter myself by saying that I'm particularly good at patching together ideas that are so far apart that other people have to squint really really hard to see that there's a big picture at all there, and that the constant wordplay gibberish that I seem to generate as well as a tendency to speak in metaphor and other layered communications are part and parcel of this tendency. But maybe that's arrogant self-aggrandizing fluff designed to keep my battered ego afloat absent any real human connections and the emotional nutrition they provide. Or maybe both.

And a bit more - another poll PZ is arranging for crashitude is held by one of the far-right evangelical microchurches on the topic of Tea Partiers.

The options on the poll are:

  • Believe they are white racists
  • Believe they are ignorant-uneducated people
  • Believe they are true American patriots
  • Frustrated with government-just as they are
  • Considering joining the Tea Party
As noted, I don't think they are white racists, nor do I think that "true American patriot" is a meaningful phrase - it's as empty a canvas as "true Scotsman" and usually only sought by people with the most ignorant and ugly personalities (patriotism is a very serious character flaw). However, a more sensible revision of that might be "they're good, reasonable people trying for some notion of the public good". I sometimes join PZ's pollcrashing (as much as I'm skeptical of PZ himself) - I went with "they are ignorant/uneducated people", but there's some truth in being frustrated with government as much as they are. It'd be nice to be able to know how much of it is necessary frustration in a democracy (which we conveniently deflect away from being frustrated with our fellow citizenry towards frustration with the scapegoat of the state) and how much of it is frustration with the form of our government being such that it often fails to serve anyplace real on that political spectrum and instead serves special interests. Yeah, mandatory Lawrence Lessig mention (again, drinking game - anytime I mention Freud or Lessig, you take a swig). I .. am not entirely certain how much is each with the Tea Partiers - some of the things they joined together to be mad about was calling liberals socialists and hating on them, some of it was railing against corporations (in an incredibly nuanced fashion that was weird to see - in a waltz written by Rupert Murdoch himself, I'd wager), and a lot of it reminiscing about an idealised past. From my perspective, the anti-corporate position was where they had most teeth, but it felt alien to the rest of their complaints - as alien an element as my own hard-green positions were in my earlier Libertarian worldview - it didn't really fit. Žižek wrote a bit about this, noting how in democratic societies the people and parties who are percieved as a threat to an idea often have a harder time changing or fixing it than the people and parties that are more traditionally percieved as its defenders - liberals acting to dismantle or weaken their own institutions, conservatives acting to limit the free market - both are trusted to do so because their supporters will grudgingly believe they'll do it in a way that doesn't sacrifice their values too much while their opponents wanted it all along. To many socialists, the dance between the Democrats and Republicans is a rigged game designed to keep people from substantial change that would actually serve their interests - there's at least something to that idea. The fun part about it is that to whatever extent it's true, the puppetmasters are not the politicians, with a large subset of them being relatively uneducated puppets running for their lives on a cruel treadmill. To the extent that we can reinforce social ties and empathy between people, and crush the more direct and harmful libertarian trend in american politics, society could be salvaged.





Beginning to reread N's 「Also Sprach Zarathustra」 auf Deutsch. I'm sometimes surprised that there are no nice online annotated, bilingual versions of the work - as literature, as poetry, as philosophy it's a masterpiece. I was inspired to reread it because of that - there are some quotes I rather like that I don't recall quite the location, and the "I guess I could just read the whole thing again in German to find those bits" gave a nice emotional chord. Might try to do exhaustive research on Dr. Sun Yat-Sen next - I've been meaning to do so for awhile. Not being able to read Mandarin is sadly a limitation, but there's only so many languages I can learn well enough to stumble through original sources. Mandarin would likely be more difficult than most (and Parsi is ahead of it on the list).

The ties between philosophies and nations are often much more intricate than we can see naïvely - Sun Yat-Sen was as influenced by a selection of American thought as the Liberians were (I'm sure it must be disappointing to Liberian intellectuals that practically no Americans are aware of the ties between our nations) by the US, as Mossadeqh was by his studies of political philosophy in the west, as the west was when it emerged from the dark ages and drank deeply of Arab philosophy.

Hooray, over the half-distracted hour it took to write this, my migraine has retreated back to a dim presence in my head and a faint feeling of overwarmth in my eyes. Looking forward to the next stage before it disappears completely - the feeling of a fresh coolness in the mind and that feeling that my brain is working more sharply and smoothly than ever.

Oh hey I ordered this thing - a replacement for the smaller Cintiq that I passed to more creative hands a few months ago. According to UPS, it is somewhere between here and the wonderful city of Portland right now on its way to me. Yeah, maybe it's a bit silly to be spending money on this when I'm both crushingly depressed and hoping to move sometime this summer, but I imagine I'll enjoy it and I usually seem to feel uncomfortable spending money on things that'll make me happy. I imagine it'll probably actually arrive before the end of the week. I wonder if all the crazy new magicality that went into recent versions of X11 will make it 「just work」™, or if I'll be using the GIMP-Windows port on my gaming computer again.





I rather like the Mozilla Labs Testpilot programme - I don't mind being a guinea pig (even as I am unashamedly a browser poweruser), and I really like being able to see the neat visualisations of the data that are visible with some studies. Maybe a bit of it is exhibitionism - just as I would not mind posing for sketches/paintings (even nude) for art, I don't mind baring a reasonable amount of stuff FOR SCIENCE!™ (or reasonable fascimile). Maybe it's a way to feel real and connected to people/a community - if I get reflective, I might worry about it being similar to how people do various slightly shady things in order to compensate for parental neglect (can't provide many details on this because every time I've spoken with people on the matter it was provided in confidence), but I think it's probably less pointedly problematic here.

Anyhow, going to drink another pot of tea and head home, I think.

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