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December 28, 2000

Time inside of time. Have you ever thought about adding time to time? Sort of sitting there, and instead of experiencing a second as taking a second, experiencing it as having extra worlds of time inside it, not exactly just lengthening the second (like slowing down the clock), but rather, finding much, much more in the way of actual phenomena in each moment. Going into each fragment of time and finding more and more in it.

When I was much younger it occurred to me that I could lengthen my life considerably by simply paying much more attention to each moment, and more importantly, to approach each moment as though it were new. It is always novel situations, I realized, that seem to have the most phenomena to offer. How can one keep things new?

On a similar though different subject: it occurs to me that there is something slightly odd about the idea of the end or the goal --- I was watching my cousin's young son trying to climb a flight of stairs, and he would get higher and higher, but he never reached the top of the stairs on any attempt --- but he didn't care, that wasn't what he was trying to do. He was utterly unconcerned about whether or not he was going to reach "the top" --- it wasn't clear that he really conceived of the stairs as necessarily having a top. At first one was kind of rooting for him to make it all the way --- but in retrospect, maybe he was lucky.

Bulbous Bouffant.

December 24, 2000

From Science News: studies show that Lithium increases brain grey matter by a few percent in most people after only four weeks of use.

When I was a kid, we didn't have a Slip 'N Slide, but we used to arrange the gardenSlip 'N Slide hose on the concrete patio in a long narrow loop, forming a channel into which we directed the flow of water from the end of the hose --- a simple homemade maneuver that provided us with hours of entertainment. Similarly, inside our house we used to set up these blankets at the end of the hall where there was some tile, and we'd run from one end to the other, jump on the blankets, and slide into the front door of the house. I'm not entirely sure what was so fantastic about the act of sliding like that, although I guess the more adult activities of snowboarding and skiing are basically the same thing on a larger scale.

I'm not really anal retentive about spelling (her December 24 entry). In fact, I used to be terrible at spelling myself, but somehow, over time, I got a feel for it (despite being horrible at anything requiring rote memorization). I didn't mean to spark a giant introspection on S.'s part --- and in my opinion I don't think it's worth the bother of spell checks except perhaps on nav pages.

December 23, 2000

S. was here for a couple of weeks. We talked about a lot of different things: her artwork, intuition, choice, the role of role models, weblogs, cities (Portland, New York, Olympia, Boston, San Francisco), mutual friends, life, and other things. She told me how angry she was at me for not updating for a while --- and to make things worse, Heather Anne also wasn't updating. It's nice to feel needed, I guess, and I think it will encourage me to update more often. I encouraged her to start her own weblog, meanwhile, and she's decided to finally make one: Ruthie's Double. Also on her site you can find such things as samples of her visual artwork, a list of art ideas that she has, as she has them, but which she is unlikely to have time to actually make, scenes in an unmade movie without a plot, and what she loves about Justin Ross.

December 21, 2000

A thought about intuition. When a computer plays chess, it has to evaluate millions of positions in order to come up with a good move (Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov while considering 200 million positions per second.) Chess grandmasters, however, only consider on the order of 100 positions per move, and yet they can keep up with the likes of a machine that can handle an astronomically greater amount of search. In games like Go, with a search complexity far surpassing that of chess, however, even the best computer Go programs can only play around the level of 8-13 kyu. Since Go rankings start at a low of 30 kyu and rise to 1 kyu, then go from 1 dan to 6 dan (amateur), and finally 1 dan to 9 dan (professional), one can see that Go programs aren't even remotely close to human professional play.

We human beings use a faculty that is outside of perfectly explicable, rational thought process in order to evaluate our decisions. This faculty has the potential to vastly outperform the process of methodically searching through alternatives.

Yet --- strangely, I think many of us approach our lives as though the way to solve problems was to blindly search through a thicket of potential "choices," evaluating them one at a time, like a computer chess program. Sometimes we end up in infinite loops of thoughts --- hmm, choice A, but then there's problem A' with that, so what about B, but there's problem B', so then let's look at C, but what about C', well, let's think about A again, but there's problem A' ... etc. There's no doubt that this sort of thought process is inefficient, but there's something worse about it, which is that it gives the false sense that we're really thinking carefully about our choice. But what about all of the spaces that we're ignoring? Getting into a sort of rut of thoughts can make it impossible for real inspiration to arrive ... coming in from the outside of the characterization we have made of our life, the story we have told about ourselves.

Sometimes it is better to step back and let the space in our minds relax and expand, to make room for that mysterious faculty that isn't involved in just going from choice to choice, consideration to consideration ... so we can operate more freely. That's how we can beat the computer.

December 20, 2000

The FDA has been dangerously lax in its review of drugs in recent years. Seven drugs with deadly side effects were approved despite stern warnings from the FDA's own medical reviewers. Some of these drugs are still on the market today.

December 17, 2000

Via Lemonyellow, The Journal of Social and Political Thought.

Toadex Hobogrammathon, mysterious and poetic author of Dagmar Chili sends me this illegitimate link to Hart Crane's poem, Cape Hatteras. Toadex, like Heather Anne, is partial to paper.

December 14, 2000

My friend John Pang, a graduate student in the philosophy department at UCSD, sent me the following quote:

...I have heard from friends in the last few days who say that the court's behavior in this matter has been the most shattering public event they have seen since the Kennedy assassination. I don't see this moment as comparable to that great national trauma. Nor is it as damaging an event as the court's explosive Dred Scott decision in 1857 or its abhorrent (but at the time relatively uncontroversial) Plessy decision in 1896. But this does indeed seem to me to be the most dismaying and shocking public event of our time. In an era when respect for the political system and the legitimacy of public institutions has already suffered terrible blows, the U.S. Supreme Court has violated all the norms of behavior that the judiciary has carefully created for itself, shattered its own image in the process, and undoubtedly confirmed the unwarranted belief among many Americans that our political system is hopelessly flawed and corrupt. That is not, I suspect, what Chief Justice Rehnquist and his colleagues had hoped history would remember them for.
Alan Brinkley
Professor of History at Columbia University
author of Liberalism and Its Discontents (2000)
from Slate, here

My friend Doug Cutrell sent me email recommending that I install the Google toolbar. So I did, and it has a number of nice features; including things like quickly seeing the back-links to the site you're viewing, searching within a site, the current Google rank of the page you're viewing, and other whiz-bang gizmos. There is an important disclaimer that comes with the toolbar --- if you install it with the "page rank" feature, the toolbar does send the URL of the page you're viewing to Google, in order to get the page rank back from them. If you're paranoid about Google getting this info, then don't install it with that feature activated. They warn you about this potential privacy hole, and they say they don't get any personal information about you, and they will not resell this information or provide any personal information about your web browsing habits to any third parties, but if you're a privacy freak then you might want to disable the page rank feature. I, however, just went ahead and installed that feature. I like to live on the edge.

Found when I perused my reverse links list: Toothpick Girl 2K - L/noleum.

December 12, 2000

A day that will live in infamy.

Justice John Paul Stevens, from his dissent:

It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.

It's strange, and others I have spoken with feel this too, it is as though the country we once thought we lived in, America, has been replaced by a new country: "America". The mythology that has always seemed to be there, in the background --- that mythology, which we always knew was fragile, has been ripped apart --- and now things feel strangely hollow. Something that was always there, lingering in the background: this is America, we can have at least a modicum of confidence in some of our institutions, however flawed --- that is gone, wiped away. And all that is left are the buildings. It's disturbingly empty, insubstantial, dark.

December 11, 2000

alternate reality

Good day for blog finding. Got an email from a fellow Portlander who goes by the blog identity Joseph Gurl --- he has an excellent blog, Melting Object. He recommends another interesting site, Dagmar Chili (which reminded me of a crush I had in the first grade, on a girl named Dagmar ... then I moved away for three years. When I came back, she was gone, and no one remembered her. So I have sometimes wondered if I just imagined her... but I digress.) He also references Doxo Wox.

Via Melting Object: an article on Steve Grand, artificial life and robotics researcher.

And I can't help mentioning but the incomparable Heather Anne Halpert of Lemonyellow has started updating again, to the delight of a great many.

December 10, 2000

The system has failed --- the intricate constitutional machinery that has kept this United States together for over 200 years. Surprising and sad.

December 4, 2000

Don't believe everything you think. We tend to believe somewhat naively that the chief source of deception arises from other people --- lies told by enemies, associates, even friends. But actually the most insidious deception of all comes from the place we least expect: our own thoughts --- the way in which we characterize the world, our situation, our condition. It is so difficult to see past these deceptions, because they do not present themselves to us as hypotheses that we can investigate, but rather as simply "the way things are." But the way things really are is beyond anything we can think. It behooves us to try to find ways to return to that actual truth as often as we can.

Went to see the Peripheral Produce show last night. Peripheral Produce promotes home made alternative media --- film, multimedia, music. They put on one of their best shows so far, I thought, including some interesting minimalist films from Holland ("#11 marey < - > moire", by Joost Rekveld, and "city at night" by Gerard Holthuis), some very funny video work by Bryan Boyce, a hilarious mock documentary by Matt McCormick of Peripheral Produce called "The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal" (cataloguing the various styles of "graffiti removal art" --- the unintentional rectangular and other shapes left behind after the city removal squads have attempted to efface the graffiti tags), narrated by Miranda July, and other work. Stylistically a mixed bag, but that's kind of what I like about their shows.