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(no subject) [Feb. 1st, 2015|04:18 am]
I'm fascinated by the concept of origins. Many ideas flow out of this: where did we come from, for what purpose, did we have multiple points or origin, and so on. There is also a theory of sorts that we start out with a blank slate and become corrupted somewhere along the way. It's where the notion for coming of age films comes from, that we have this period of innocence, that's rudely interrupted by puberty, and it's all downhill from there.

Ethically we can try to address this by asking when a society loses its sense of justice. Morally we can ask whether we were born with an inherent understanding of good and evil (ala Chomsky's poverty of stimulus). And empirically we can look at ideas like the big bang, and wonder if, somewhere along the way, a sunspot took a wrong turn and created life.

One of my long term projects is to understand as much about Western Culture as I can, from the ground up. The idea was, if I started at the earliest point of origin, by tracing literature and philosophy to the present I would be able to figure out where things went wrong. I started out with the earliest known writing in western culture, Homer's Iliad. While reading it, the first thing I learned was that there's a difference between when something was written, and the era to which it refers.

For example, the Iliad begins quite literally with the Rage of Agammemnon, which is the end result of a series of actions prompted by the Judgement of Paris, which in itself was prompted by Eris taking offense she wasn't invited to the party. However, the details of this are only mentioned in pieces which were written later than Homer, although they refer to works that were written before Homer and lost. And beyond that, we have multiple viewpoints of the Gods themselves: take Prometheus, who stole fire from Zeus and brought it to the world. In Hesiod's Theogyny Prometheus is cast as a villain rightfully bound to his fate, whereas in Aschylus's "Prometheus Bound" he is seen as a savior to mankind.

So not only do we have the texts, but the contexts that surround them. Further, beyond the context, we have references to works which have been lost, and places like Troy whose very existence is questioned. Thus it seems, approaching from a rationalist perspective ends in failure.

We're inherently beings of pattern recognition. The classic example from Illuminatus Trilogy is that if you are searching for the number 23, you will find it all over nature. Does that mean it is there and you've now noticed it, or does that mean it is there *because* you've noticed it?

We're also beings of emphathy, albeit sometimes limited. We relate to and learn better from stories which have a moral. I could hand someone a stack of books with rules and regulations with exceptions and contexts, such as "you cannot kill a man except in these wartime circumstances, or when his death will save 100 lives". Or I could tell them a story which involves someone in a dilemma they can understand, and through intuition they'll be able to figure out the rest. At least, in theory.

I suppose if I had to report on any conclusion I have drawn from this so far, it's that the initial approach I took was misleading. While you could look at all history as a massive tree branching out into different disciplines, when you trace it back to the very beginning, it's not the singular trunk you find, but the pluralist set of roots, which are connected to other plants, influenced by the soil, etc. As a result, rather than having a lot of answers, I am left with more questions than before.
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(no subject) [Dec. 18th, 2014|10:37 pm]
What were the 60s really all about?

So many tensions. More tensions than there were 10 years ago. I keep waking up every morning to helicopters out the window. That video on the internet. "I can't breathe." The events we read about and watch videos of from back then, they feel exciting and fun because we already know the ending.

Has it really already been four years? It was so scary, waking up every morning, looking at the news, and wondering which of your friends would be subpoenaed next. Living it is so different from reading about it. Operation SunDevil reads as exciting, but it sure didn't live that way. Just like WW2 and the Enigma. All this glory for Alan Turing now, but he must have carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. How long has the Aussie been in asylum now?

These structures we live with, depend upon. Faith provides a certain floor to the uncertainty. Where do we get our sense of trust? How do we know anything? LSD removes our relations with those structures, just like it did with Vietnam. The American public took a strong dose of Daniel Ellsberg and it broke something. Were we better off before we ate the apple?

Experience creates a gap. Assumptions are shattered, and we can either cling to superstitions or embrace age. It's a printing press every generation, and Martin Luther was the 1960s to the Catholic Church. Why does it have to be so scary?
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A letter to myself ten years ago. [Jul. 25th, 2012|10:22 am]
Hey there,

I know it didn't work out the way you thought it would. This winds up being a good thing. It's not that they all lied to you, it's more that none of them had a clue. They will start to admit this more as you get older. Consider it a sign of respect.

Right now, you have no clue who you are, or what you will become. This doesn't change. You will just start to accept it, and eventually you'll even be ok with it. At some points, it will guide you through some difficult challenges.

And if you think you've seen challenges, just wait. You know that friend you were trying to save? They'll be fine. They'll find their own way, and be either happy, sad, or whatever they choose. You can't change that. Also, you'll eventually learn you're not the only one there for them.

That's another thing that comes with age: the world doesn't revolve around you. You won't really get this until you're older, but don't worry, neither will anyone else your own age.

Keep good company. I don't have to tell you this, you're already quite good at it, but you don't realize it yet. It will take years, until you're surrounded by your idols, and they start calling you "friend", when you begin to understand what this means. This is what you get when you keep at something and grow with it.

One big thing you'll see is that words take on a new meaning. Those adults you thought were slow and stupid? It turns out they are actually pretty clever, and just because they treat you like you haven't seen anything doesn't mean they haven't. Just beware of the people who don't seem genuine, no matter where you think society places them. You'll figure it out.

I know that your life right now is full of anticipation, dread, and a hell of a lot of uncertainty. I suggest to keep in that way, it keeps things fun :)

Yourself in ten years
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(no subject) [Nov. 11th, 2011|11:11 am]
Leave a message after the EOL.

blog counter

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(no subject) [Jun. 14th, 2011|01:47 am]
An interesting rumination.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the nature of law, at its most minute point. At its very base, I feel that a law is something which expands or contracts freedoms or abilities. For example, you can pass a law against murder, or a law allowing gay marriage. This carries the subtle implication defining what a freedom or ability is. If you have an expansion or contraction, it implies an action from a point to a point. Therefore, if you pass a law against murder, outlawing murder is a final point, and there must be a beginning point. We could easily confuse this with the opposite polarity, which is that there needs to be a law allowing murder. Rather, I feel like there is a societal presumption of how things ought to be, and the law is put in place to help cushion the disparity between what might happen versus what we think should happen.

There is also the balancing effect where passing a law in one place may cause an implication that another place which does not have the law is somehow lacking the effect the law has. If I pass a law banning handguns in one city, it may cast the impression that handguns in another city are legal, and therefore if you are in the other city you are more likely to be shot. The underlying notion here is that when you pass a law, you are not only changing something, but you are putting that concept into the mind of those are are paying attention, and thus they may think about that concept when they otherwise wouldn't.

Another element that comes into play here is personal bias. If someone who is a lawmaker has a vested interest in something, they may support a law enabling their viewpoint on that notion. They may also likely juggle their support based on both what they think their fellow lawmakers will support, and what they think the general public will support. If a lawmaker is in power, they usually have two options: support policies which they personally like, and support policies which they feel will cast them well in the public eye. In some situations, both options apply to a decision. In many situations, the lawmaker must choose between their own instincts and what will keep them in office.

When most people vote, they either vote for politicians who serve their party line, or politicians whose name they recognize. People also usually vote on their biases, considering what they want to have governing their own lives. When you bring a group of people together, inevitably personal interests and biases will clash, and often a "societal" standard is composed of what a person thinks other people want them to think, rather than what they themselves actually think. To me, this ultimately means that a general societal presumption is a mirror of the actual desires, at best. In theory, we can use laws to balance this out, to use laws to close the gap between what we want and what we think other people want us to want.

Will probably brainstorm this more in a while.
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(no subject) [Jun. 1st, 2011|08:21 am]
I had a dream last night where I ran into Shock-a-lock again, purely by accident. Right after I'd taken back up the stretches.

When you have someone external to yourself motivating you constantly, it's much easier to keep up with something. I was doing so well with the stretches, albeit running into my own limitations with what locking permitted me. Like the jumping, like the splits, etc. When I got out to San Francisco, I mostly kept it up. And then I got a job, and most of it stopped. The fake societal pressures, the judging eyes of coworkers, etc.

Recently I brought myself back into it. I decided it was worth another shot. Maybe because things have changed a lot for me? Maybe because I've learned how to deal with a lot of my stresses, and found that the stretching is a good thing, and maybe some (but not all) of my goals are attainable? Or maybe because it's just that much fun.

So in my dream, there I was, randomly stretching and prancing about in a parking lot, and Shock walks by. He comes straight up to me, and has the look of an elder, what those in computers would call a "greybeard", because he already knows what's up. I see him, light up, give him a hug, and give him the old hereswhathappened. He nods, and every word he responds carries the sense that he sees the persistence and knows the next steps. Just like before.

God he was a good teacher.
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(no subject) [May. 17th, 2011|09:11 am]
I got a ticket today.

I was walking through the Mission with a friend in a deep conversation, and we were trying to find a bench. Further, he was feeling anxious, so I decided to find a place to sit around a police station, as in general they are pretty safe places. We sat down on a bench thing next to a tree in the parking lot, and within a minute a police officer comes out. I figured he was just going on duty until I noticed he was coming towards us looking angry. A few more officers followed behind him.

It turned out that we'd accidentally entered a "secure" area. Although there was no physical barrier (we walked in right from the sidewalk), we'd been so deep in conversation we'd missed seeing the red "Do not enter" sign. They were very polite, but demanded our IDs, and proceeded to give us tickets. The point that actually upset me was that one of the officers said "we can't have this in a post 9/11 society."

So keep in mind, we posed no threat, and in my opinion, because my tax dollars pay for their salaries, there's a certain amount of grace that should be taken here. I can fully understand why some areas of a police station need to be cautioned off: for example, if there is a crime lab, or a room where they keep evidence, or a place where they hold arrestees, it makes total sense not to let the general public go there. On the other hand, having a clear pathway that is directly open to the public with inviting looking trees and benches seems.... odd, at best.

The best part was that they had to bring like five police officers out to make sure we weren't a threat, although someone could tell within a minute of talking to us we weren't. I'm sure there is some stupid post 9/11 law that requires them to bring all those officers out to make sure we don't do anything bad, or violate some bullshit behavior pattern they'd decided is threatening. It's kind of sad they had to basically waste 20 minutes (times five, an hour of the officers' time) filling out needless paperwork and effectively handling a non-threat.

A single officer could have handled this on his own (or two, if the officer decided he needed backup), and common sense would say: "ok, we've never seen these guys before, they have no prior record, they seem genuinely confused, let's just show them the door." Instead, they had to do some work. If an "infraction" on that level causes that much hassle, I can't imagine how annoying it is for the officers at airports who have to basically shut down terminals and bring out bomb squads whenever and absent-minded passenger accidentally leaves one of their suitcases at a restaurant or seating area.

But this is what our society has turned into. A far-reaching paranoia that is so severe that people are forced to throw common sense out the window. I mean, I could see alternate viewpoints to everything (what if my friend and I had guns or knives, for example), but you can morph any situation into an alternate viewpoint like that, and it's kind of taxing after a while.
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(no subject) [May. 7th, 2011|07:22 am]
Here's a fun mental exercise: watch a movie, then every year out, try to remember as much about the movie as you can.

I've been doing this over the last 8-9 years with a movie I watched in a film class in 2002, called "It Happened One Night." After seeing it, I was able to vividly recall entirely phrases of dialogue, scenes, elements and motifs within the movie, continuity, etc. I had many parts of the movie basically memorized.

Each year, I remembered less and less. Now when I look back upon it, I remember tiny bits and pieces. Mostly images, maybe a second or two of video scattered about the movie, etc. The interesting thing is, these images are all points within the film narrative, and when I focus on a specific image, I can actually slowly recall other parts of it. As I do that, so comes globules of ideas which may have been dialogue, and the general points created by each image. As I recall these points, other elements open up, and I'm able to recall more images, and connect them together. They are all sort of references points for each other working together to pull together the whole of the film.

Pieces that I am almost entirely unable to remember, unless there are hints: names, exact words (as opposed to paraphase) used in dialogue, the order in which certain scenes occur, unless they are important (such as the first and last scenes), or unless there is some detail which obviously must come before another.

Pieces that I can quite vividly remember after a bit of reflection: frames of objects, whether it be the makeup of a scene (there was a room with a window, a bed, and .... oh wait, it was a hotel room, and there were in the hotel because...), and what people were doing within that scene. Maybe after a bit, I will be able to recall some kind of inside joke or pun on a character's name, which lets me remember what the person's name *was*.

I'm actually pretty sure all human memory works like this, to some extent. Has anyone else played with experiments like this?
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(no subject) [Apr. 24th, 2011|06:43 pm]

I've been relatively unhappy for the last month or so. I pit 99% of the blame on the following: fundraising and kickstarter.

Let me draw a quick parallel.

As a young writer starting out, it's common to get dozens, if not hundreds of rejections. Let's say you have completed your first novelette, and are now courting a publisher, or a magazine of some sort. The first few times you submit, it's a rejection. Maybe after 50 or 100 times, you'll get a response that's not an outright rejection, and something you can work with. Maybe. But this is the life of a writer.

Now, let's step into a tech project. Someone approaches you, someone you have worked with before, and says "we should do this cool project, a bunch of people love it, and we have all but one piece covered. Would you be willing to figure out how to cover that one piece?" It's tech, so there is an instant reward, and it's a project that's been done before, so people know it works, at least to some extent. It's open source, which means you can get community involvement, etc. Seems like it should be a pretty straight shot, right?

Until you step into the 2011 world economy and realize just how uptight everyone is about money. You try going for sponsorships, but the 5 places which respond (out of the 150 or so) give rejections, and maybe a polite reason why they reject it. Every answer is tied in some way to a crappy financial situation. Everyone is pulled super tight right now. Nobody really has anything to spare, even though they think the project is really cool.

Then you start looking at this thing called kickstarter. It's a crowd-sourcing system, giving people the ability to contribute a small amounts and ultimately pull together funds to launch the project. After a ton of debate, you decide "eh, what the hell" and go for it. Well, that's when you start learning even more. See, even after you've gone through the 10 minute pitch and convinced someone they should drop their hard earned cash on your project, they then discover the multistep barrier to signing up and then pledging. It turns out kickstarter is poorly designed, limit users in really annoying ways, and in the end, 90% of the people you bring to your site wind up giving up out of frustration.

So while you've been focusing on this (and keeping a day job on the side), an entire month (or two!) has passed by, and all your friends are hanging out doing fun activities together. Meanwhile, you're cooped up in a room, pissed off that you have to put all this constant effort into something which really should not be consuming this much time or effort. The best part is, your entire team is now focused on the kickstarter, and when it begins to stutter a bit, they all begin to fear the project won't happen. Which means in addition to supporting the kickstarter, you have to go to all of them, calm them down, and explain all the other stuff you have going on to try bringing in funds and sponsors.

Which leaves you stuck in bed and sick on Easter, while a bunch of friends are having a fun looking brunch. Trying to get you to come out, but sadly, this is the day your body has decided to give out, and any movement you make towards doing anything besides laying in bed being sickly is rewarded with sharp pains and a few kleenex full of fail.

Oh joy.
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(no subject) [Apr. 19th, 2011|03:53 am]
Up late again.

The last two months have been among the most difficult I've had in a while. Basically, because I've done so much work as a promoter, I figured that it was a natural step to be able to quickly pick up fundraising. Life has proven otherwise.

I've learned very quickly that people behave really strangely when money enters the equation. They support your project all the way, until the minute you ask them for some. At that point, suddenly, any nagging, seeded doubt they had, often when they weren't even aware of it, pops up and disrupts any kind of "deal." This happens whether it's for $1 or $100. I never quite realized how possessed by their money many people are.

In doing all of this, I've found that I don't actually care about money, provided that my basic needs (rent, food, etc) are covered. After that point, for me, cash becomes something I can sort of toss around. I generally use it to buy books, travel to events (like conferences), and donate to organizations like the EFF.

If nothing else, this has been a good experience in learning that not everyone operates like me. In fact, very few people do. It's been a big challenge, but I'm slowly learning to ask "when they look at this, what do they see?" I'm hoping that I'm picking it up quickly enough to be able to pull off the kickstarter, but if we don't meet the goal, I'll try to have something else set up.

Hurrah for gray hairs?
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