synthetic zero


June 27, 2005

Last night I had some quirky dreams; one involved these big cardboard boxes that served as teleportation devices that my dad and I made in the garage. But the one that stands out: I was a secret agent in a time-travelling organization; we had these special watches that let us travel to other places and times. One agent went bad, however, and he was pursuing me, trying to stop me from saving a large number of people; I was trying to get away from him, and all I needed to do was activate my trusty time-travel watch, which had a large touchscreen interface on which I was furiously typing commands --- but I was thwarted by a terrible user interface! Yes, an overly-complicated and clumsy user interface, and I kept trying to get the damn watch to just activate and send me there --- but no, I had to enter this or that additional setting, tweak this control, etc., etc., meanwhile the bad guy is turning into some sort of possessed creature and he's nearly got me... sigh. I'd almost gotten get the damn thing working when I woke up.

Meanwhile: the New York Times covers the fact that physicists don't understand time. I think I know at least one crucial insight they need to include; as I've written before, the architectural structure of perception itself. The perceiver must become an integral part of physics, I suspect. Also, I don't think there need be any time-travel paradoxes from a quantum perspective: though one might perceive what appears to be time travel, you would only perceive one consistent "outcome" from a certain perspective (i.e., a perspective would determine one moment in time which would appear consistent from its point of view --- there wouldn't be an issue with consistency with going back in time, because the past only exists to the extent that one perceives it or observes it.) I.e., if you perceive time travel, it would be just the precise sort of time travel to make things come out exactly as they already have.

June 26, 2005

I am very excited about this meta-programming system from JetBrains. I've been thinking about meta-programming for many years now, and I've even sketched out designs for such a system at various times, based partly on thinking from integrated development environments that I had built when I was in my 20's, mostly for my own interest. Interestingly, most of the features of the JetBrains system are things I had concluded, over the years, were necessary; it's difficult to design a meta-programming system but I think the JetBrains design is flexible and in the right direction --- at least they've come to similar conclusions as I had been leaning towards --- and I'm glad they've built this because I've been wanting such a tool to do a number of personal projects. Their design is still in early stages and needs to be streamlined quite a bit, but it's encouraging to see somebody building something like this.

June 23, 2005

Here in Canada at a meditation retreat on an idyllic island in the strait between Vancouver and Victoria, BC.

Sitting in my bed I smell what seems like chlorine, but couldn't be so I think --- am I really drowning in some pool when I was 13 years old taking swimming lessons, and I've just dreamed the last 26 years of my life --- it explains a lot, why it all seems so improbable and magical, why I am now lying in a bed with a 5 pound laptop faster than a Cray supercomputer when I was that age, looking out over a still shimmering ocean/bay near sunset, in a Canada I can only imagine. Why is life so much like a dream?

June 21, 2005

Watching the terrible deterioration of the situation in Iraq is heartbreaking even as it was utterly predictable ... this being perhaps the most bungled attempt at foreign manipulation we have ever engaged in. Makes one long for the "good old days" of CIA covert operations and good old ordinary blowback... we've gotten ourselves and the Iraqis into the worst intermixed mess of blowback one might have feared. It's hard to imagine a more poorly executed foreign policy misadventure.

But what really brings tears to my eyes are the words of the Iraqis themselves. Of course there are weblogs like Baghdad Burning which have been critical of our occupation from the beginning, which provide a very personal look at the terrible situation there. But what's really sad is reading the words of a formerly pro-occupation blogger like Iraq at a Glance --- described last year by rc3.org as "The most reliably pro-occupation weblog I've found", who writes:

First of all, I am so sorry for this long absence, I can't explain everything now, but let's say I was trying to reorganize my life, or in a better way, begin a new life after realizing new facts or the same facts that I couldn't or didn't want to realize.

I'm still out of my country living a peaceful and quiet life like any other human being, which is the simplest thing, and this simple thing has not been achieved until now in Iraq.

I lost nearly all the optimism I had regarding the future of Iraq, it's now a battle zone, everybody wants to try his arms or see the 'paradise' comes to Iraq with a welcome on the borders and a push behind the borders.

....Iraq scene is so complicated to the extent that nobody can put an end to this case, and may be this is the end? I am writing now what I feel and what I am thinking of, and I'm sorry for this sudden change in my thoughts and enthusiasm but I think it is enough...

I see everybody is dying ..losing friends..losing hope..and I would lose myself if I stayed there..


June 20, 2005

In Canada at a meditation retreat on Pender Island. Breathtakingly beautiful here.

Reading Collapse by Jared Diamond. Fascinating account of the collapse of a large variety of different civilizations, large and small, throughout history, and the relevance to today's environmental and economic situation. One haunting fact emerges: many of these societies seemed very stable and prosperous for a long time, and when they were at their peaks, it must have seemed inconceivable to them that their societies were headed for collapse; yet some of them disintegrated right after reaching their apex, sometimes within decades. A particular quote which stands out for me:

..the values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity.
In other words, nothing fails like success (there is a saying "nothing succeeds like success"; i.e., just do the same things that worked the last time you succeeded. That has got to be one of the dumbest sayings I have ever heard. What traps people is repeating the same strategies that worked for them before, not recognizing that circumstances have changed.)

June 16, 2005

Went to see the official premiere of Miranda's movie, Me and You and Everyone We Know ... which I've already seen twice before (at Sundance and at MOMA)... but it was nice to see people again (Emily Bulfin, Jalal Jemison, Suzi Yoonessi, Miles Thompson, and Miranda herself). I went with Rosalee Shim, who seemed to enjoy the film a great deal; she was sparkling afterwards in a way that I haven't seen in a while; she said that it was good for her soul. Please do see the movie this weekend at the premiere at the IFC Center in New York, and in LA and Chicago next weekend, if you can. Good attendance these weekends will help the movie a lot.

It's a lovely and delicate film. I am proud of the little bit of work I did on it, the instant messaging scenes, which came out very well indeed, I think. However --- I hope Miranda does another art piece, a performance piece or something, next, as she said she was planning to in an interview the other day. Much as I like the film I think I get more from her art pieces (though of course, for a film to work as a film with a wider audience it has to be more narrative --- despite this constraint the film nevertheless stretches the boundaries, but not as much as her performance pieces and other artwork does.)

June 8, 2005

Sorry for the long hiatus --- had a few problems, including laptop power supply failure and wireless card configuration issues with the replacement laptop and then I threw my back out, which thankfully appears to be a temporary problem (feels better already after 1 day).

I was thinking about math, today. On the one hand you create these arbitrary worlds that have a dubious relationship to "reality" --- but on the other hand, if you're really rigorous, you can gain insight into the sorts of assumptions that you have to make when thinking about seemingly obvious, common-sensical things. It's incredible how many assumptions go into "1 + 1 = 2", for example, or how many notions about space, time, and locality we make when we think about the world. The interesting thing about that, however, is that you begin to imagine --- what if space and time weren't given?

A beautiful quote I read recently, courtesy of Steve Silberman:

In music, as in everything, the disappearing moment of experience is the firmest reality; but the fictions of permanence, invented for the benefit of discourse and contemplation, are so much more firmly graspable by the conscious minds whose invention they are, that they, rather than the vanished traces of elusive experience, are the referents on which the firmest conceptions -- intuitions, even -- of reality are built."

     Benjamin Boretz, Perspectives on Musical Aesthetics