Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Well, I'm impressed.

I felt I had to mention that Dolph Lundgren, the 6'6" muscular martial artist who starred as Drago in RockyIV, He-Man and in the movies Showdown in Little Tokyo and Universal Soldier, was offered a fullbright scholarship to MIT for a Masters in Engineering. Whaaaa...? (While he did not accept, he did eventually get a Masters somewhere). Additionally, he received his 3rd Dan (a black belt is first dan, then upgraded) in 1998.
Good on ya, Dolph. Most would just coast.

Nature, it is just so....uh... natural

A tired Darren made his way to work this morning, with thoughs of "Ughhhhhh...." because he would rather be at home finishing the Futurama episode he taped last night or trying to sleep. Near the destination, he noticed water droplets on the leaves of little plants and flowers, for it had been raining mistily. The experience was delightful, the memory wonderful, and his global perspective shifted to 'hidden worlds of beauty.' The best part though, is that you don't have to look too far.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I don't even know why I still watch movies under these conditions

I was watching a DVD the other day and wanted to fast forward between chapters. The player that I was using would only fast forward at 16 times the normal playing speed. What is going on?! Only 16 times! I know of other DVD players that can go 32 times! Shouldn’t 32x fast forward be standard on all DVD players by now? When I was born the video cassette recorder was several years old and not very popular. Now we have machines that can only advance a digital video disc at 32 times normal pace!?!?
With a sloppy work ethic like this, it really isn’t a wonder why our society still has a homelessness problem.

Adams and Reductionism

I am currently reading "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency," by Douglas Adams (of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame). Once again, he weaves an interesting story with wonderful characters, amusing perspectives and thought-provoking passages. I came across this one and though 17 years old, it is still quite relevant today.

"The things by which our emotions can be moved - the shape of a flower or a Grecian urn, the way a baby grows, the way the wind brushes across your face, the way clouds move, their shapes, the way light dances on the water, or daffodils flutter in the breeze, the way in which the person you love moves their head, the way their hair follows that movement, the curve described by the dying fall of the last chord of a piece of music - all these things can be described by the complex flow of numbers.
That's not a reduction of it, that's the beauty of it."

It would seem that a great number of people have a seemingly visceral disdain for those who would 'reduce' various phenomena to their constituent parts.I think their feelings must be based on some degree of confusion of what is trying to be achieved by understanding how things are or how they work. A rainbow is beautiful. A rainbow is not less beautiful because one learns that it is the reflection, refraction and absorption of photons of light of molecules in the air that causes the effect. To think that there are a mind-boggingly large number of molecules that interact in ways that most can barely imagine, which then creates the glorious phenomena of a rainbow just because that is what naturally happens. I think that is amazing!
For those that use reductionism in a pejorative way, please explain what you actually mean and why this is so. I can only think it might be fear of losing something sacred, but I believe that most people ‘reduce’ things all the time. Maybe a couple examples will help illustrate my thought processes.

Example 1: “My car is in the shop,” I said. My friend replies, “Oh, what’s wrong with it?” To which I said, “Hey, lets not ‘reduce’ the car to parts, of which they are actually made. The car just is, and thinking about what it is made of just ruins some magic”
Example 2: I asked my friend, “Do you like green apples?” He said, “Yes, they’re great!” I then asked, “Oh, why’s that?” He then answered, “I don’t know. I just like them, there really isn’t any reason or anything.”

Of course a car has parts and of course there are reasons for liking green apples. We are all made or organs, tissues, cells, molecules and atoms. (For those that deny this claim, you must still concede great dependence on the physical body. Think of being injected with cocaine.) Seeing a different perspective does not ruin things, it enables one to take more of the world inside.

If you carry the reduction of things far enough, you wind up with the answer to every question being: that is the way of our universe. I’ve nothing wrong with that, there’s still a heck of gap and a lot of edumancation to be experienced.
Try to see all the levels.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

You know what? They are special!

"[The United States] now stands as the only state on record which has both been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism and has vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on states to observe international law." - Noam Chomsky, "The New War Against Terror"

Good enough for the Brits....

The US has been all too happy to mention Britain joining them in their 'Collalition of the Deluded,'but I wonder how much will be made of the fallout in Britain concerning Blair's actions in the US media. Hmmm... haven't heard anything on the news networks yet.

"To dust off Victorian constitutional histories and examine precedents from the time of Charles I and Chaucer may seem bizarre. But the conduct of the prime minister has left people and parliament with no alternative if we are to preserve the very basis of democracy." - Adam Price, MP (seeking impeachment of Tony Blair)

Oh, and an Iraqi police chief is willing to temporarily kidnap journalists at gunpoint. Sounds bad, but he says it is because "You are brought here because I want to tell you that you never publish the truth." (of course, I cannot help but be amused at the paradox now created. If they never publish the truth, then the story is false. If the story is true, then his words are false. Well, enough philosophical musings, I think you get the point)

The Ties that Snap

Last night I was shocked and disgusted as I watched excerpts from a video coming out in which homeless people perform various acts such as fighting each other, exposing each other and engaging in other demeaning activities. What kind of world do we live in!!?!?
I guess this is next in line after ‘Bumfights.’ *Ugh* The producers of the film say that this will not hurt the perception of the homeless. Honestly! Hundreds of thousands of copies of ‘Bumfights’ have been sold and the newer one is up to about 10,000. Apparently, it is not illegal to film someone fighting, nor is it to make a profit of them, yet it is illegal to do this with animals.
When I think about the person who would watch this for enjoyment I feel life is not so sacred and that our society might benefit from a culling.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Good science writing!

I came across this passage in The Mind's I, but it is originally from Richard Dawkin's The Selfish Gene. After experiencing such wonderful writing, one can understand why Dawkins receives the many accolades lauded upon him.

Four thousand million years on, what was to be the fate fo the ancient replicators? they did not die out, for they are pst masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating losse in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, sage inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and they are in me; they created us, body and mine; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

What is your Law? (Part II)

Once again, these are taken from the Edge site:
On any important topic, we tend to have a dim idea of what we hope to be true, and when an author writes the words we want to read, we tend to fall for it, no matter how shoddy the arguments. Needy readers have an asymptote at illiteracy; if a text doesn't say the one thing they need to read, it might as well be in a foreign language. To be open-minded, you have to recognize, and counteract, your own doxastic hungers. – Dan Dennett

Science is the discovery of ignorance. It is not a catalog of facts.
Experience affects an organism largely by switching genes on and off. (Nurture works through nature.) – Matt Ridley

Frames trump facts. - George Lakoff

Moderation in levels of partnered sex activity is the mode for the bulk of humankind and is consistent with high levels of subjective well-being. - Edward O. Laumann

Be wary of scientific dualisms. - Nancy Etcoff

In every period and every community there is something that everybody believes, but cannot justify. If you want to understand anything, you have to start by ignoring what everyone believes, and thinking for yourself. - Lee Smolin
Time does exist. – Lee Smolin

The anthropic principle in cosmology is just a (silly) corollary of the anthropic principle in religion: We are, therefore god is.
We are not the source of the laws of nature. Nature is, whether we are or not. - Maria Spiropulu

The change of a physical field at a given point is not measured by time but by the changes of all the other physical fields at the same point. To determine a rate of change, one does not divide an infinitesimal change by an infinitesimal time interval but by the weighted average of all the other changes at the same point. This ensures that an invisible time can play no role in the dynamics of the universe.[time does not exist] - Julian Barbour

If you find that most other people, upon closer inspection, seem to be somewhat comical or ludicrous, it is highly probable that most other people find that you are in fact comical or ludicrous. So you don't have to hide it, they already know. - Tor Nørretranders
The difficulty in understanding new ideas originating from science or art is not intellectual, but emotional; good ideas are simple and clear, but if they are truly new, they will be hard to swallow. It is not difficult to understand that the Earth is not at the center of the Universe, but it is hard to believe it. Science is simple, simply strange. - Tor Nørretranders

In everyday life, one's anticipated emotions regarding a decision is a better guide than rational deliberation. Brain science is increasingly appreciating the centrality of emotions as guides to life, and emotions are typically more in line with one's wishes than rational deliberation, which can be easily disconnected from one's desires and goals. The upshot: deliberation is cheap, emotions are honest. - Steve Quartz

We have the tools for the first time in the history of humanity to answer virtually any question about biology and our own evolution. - J. Craig Venter

God cannot lose.
Lemma 1
When comprehension expands, gods contract—but then redefine themselves to restore the status quo.
Lemma 2
When things go right, God will be thanked. When things go wrong, he will be thanked that they are not worse.
Lemma 3
Belief in the afterlife can only be proved right, never wrong.
Lemma 4
The fury with which untenable beliefs are defended is inversely proportional to their defensibility
– Richard Dawkins

Everything is relative.
Everything (which is relative). - David Finkelstein

Time does not pass. – Paul Davies

Nature and nurture are not in opposition; nature is what makes nurture possible. - Gary Marcus

Life's unfolding is a tapestry in which every new thread is contingent upon the nature, timing, and interweaving of virtually all previous threads. - Scott Sampson
Any sufficiently advanced extra-terrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God. - Michael Shermer

We take life 3 seconds at a time. Human experience and behaviour is characterized by temporal segmentation. Successive segments or "time windows" have a duration of approx. 3 seconds. - Ernst Pöppel

Human life is unique in being the result of three coevolving information inheritance systems: genes, minds and technology. - Robert Aunger

The universe is a quantum computer: life, sex, the brain, and human society all arise out of the ability of the universe to process information at the level of atoms, photons and elementary particles. - Seth Lloyd

Even though human nature is dynamic, you must find a way to think of it as being distinct from the rest of nature. - Jaron Lanier
You can't have a categorical imperative without categories. Or, You can't have a golden rule without gold. You have to draw a Circle of Empathy around yourself and others in order to be moral. If you include too much in the circle, you become incompetent, while if you include too little you become cruel. This is the "Normal form" of the eternal liberal/conservative dichotomy. - Jaron Lanier
You can't rely completely on the level of rationality humans are able to achieve to decide what to put inside the circle. People are demonstrably insane when it comes to attributing nonhuman sentience, as can be seen at any dog show. - Jaron Lanier

Everything leaks.
There are no clear-cut level distinctions in nature. Neural software bleeds into neural firmware, neural firmware bleeds into neural hardware, psychology bleeds into biology and biology bleeds into physics. Body bleeds into mind and mind bleeds into world. Philosophy bleeds into science and science bleeds back. The idea of levels is a useful fiction, great for hygienic text-book writing and quick answers that defend our local turf but seldom advance scientific understanding. - Andy Clark

Humans are engineered to seek for laws, whether or not they're actually there. - Chris Anderson

No language spoken by fewer than 100,000 people survives contact with the outside world, while no language spoken by more than one million people can be eliminated by such contact. - Stuart Pimm

The future is over-forecasted and underpredicted. - Art De Vany

The ability to learn is inversely proportional to years of school, adjusted for hormones. - Alison Gopnik

Try to know where and how your thoughts arise and always give credit to your teachers. - Raphael Kasper

People's desire to believe in the paranormal is stronger than all the evidence that it does not exist. – Susan Blackmore
Humans are not in control of the web; the memes are. - Susan Blackmore

We don't learn that we don't learn. - Nassim Taleb

To understand any apparently baffling behavior by another human, ask: what status game is this individual playing, to show off which heritable traits, in which mating market? – Geoffrey Miller
People who don't understand genetics attribute their personal failings to the inane role models offered by their parents.
People who do understand genetics attribute their personal failings to the inane mate-choice decisions made by their parents. - Geoffrey Miller

The past can only be known, not changed. The future can only be changed, not known. - Stewart Brand

The individual and the group are not as separate as they appear to be. A part of each mind spills over into the minds of other people, who help us think and regulate our emotions. - Steven Kosslyn

For religion (i.e., for most humans in all human societies), the more costly one's commitment to some factually absurd but barely counterintuitive world (e.g., afterlife), the more others believe that person to be sincere and trustworthy. - Scott Atran

A linear projection into the future of any science or technology is like a form of propaganda — often persuasive, almost always wrong. - Pamela McCorduck

Buyer beware: in the hands of a charlatan, mathematics can be used to make a vacuous argument look impressive. (So can PowerPoint.) - Keith Devlin

For any experience, thought, question, or solution there is a corresponding analog in the biophysical state of the brain. - Arnold Trehub

The Universe includes no contrary laws. - Michael Nesmith

The surest truth is that some of our beliefs err. - David G. Myers
Most people see themselves as better than average. - David G. Myers

The brain is what the brain creates. Its workings reflect the workings of everything it creates. - Todd Siler

Words should be your servants, not your masters. - Marvin Minsky
Don't just do something. Stand there. - Marvin Minsky

Any Universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind able to understand it. - John Barrow

Power, understanding, control. Pick any two. - Kevin Kelly
Nobody is as smart as everybody. - Kevin Kelly

People often note some unlikely conjunction of events and marvel at the coincidence. Could anything be more wonderfully improbable, they wonder. The answer is Yes. The most amazing coincidence of all would be the complete absence of coincidence. - John Allen Paulos

Time Does Not Exist
Contrary to what generally assumed, the physical world does not exist "in time". At the basic microscopic level, the world is better described in terms of a a-temporal theory, where physical laws do not express time evolution of physical variables, but just relations between variables. Time emerges only thermodynamically when describing macroscopic variables. Therefore time is only a side effect of our ignorance of the microscopic state of the world. "Time is a side effect of ignorance."
Space Does Not Exist
The physical world does not exist "in space". The physical world is made by an ensemble of particles and fields, which do not live in an external space, but rather live "on each other", and which can be in a relation of contiguity with respect to one another. "Space" is the order implied by this relation. These two principles are implied by what we have learned about the physical world with general relativity and with quantum mechanics. The second principle is largely a return to the Pre-Newtonian relational understanding of space, while the first has few antecendents in our culture. - Carlo Rovelli

The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred. - Alan Mulally

Because people understand by finding in their memories the closest possible match to what they are hearing and use that match as the basis of comprehension, any new idea will be treated as a variant of something the listener has already thought of or heard. Agreement with a new idea means a listener has already had a similar thought and well appreciates that the speaker has recognized his idea. Disagreement means the opposite. Really new ideas are incomprehensible. The good news is that for some people, failure to comprehend is the beginning of understanding. For most, of course, it is the beginning of dismissal. - Roger Schank

Happy people are those who do not pass up an opportunity to laugh at themselves or to make love with someone else. Unhappy people are those who get this backwards. - Daniel Gilbert

The mind consists of genetically-determined hardware and experientially-determined software. The hardware components are not constructed by genes working either individually or additively but, rather, by groups of genes working sequentially and configurally. Each human mating produces at least some gene configurations that are unique, having never occurred previously. This is why, among other things, human genius often occurs uniquely in an otherwise undistinguished family line. - David Lykken

There are no true stories. - James J. O'Donnell
Pecca fortiter.
Literally, "Sin bravely." [Luther’s] idea was that you're going to make a mess of things anyway, so you might as well do so boldly, confidently, with a little energy and imagination, rather than timidly, fearfully, half-heartedly. - James J. O'Donnell

When things "all hang together," you have either gotten the joke, solved the puzzle, argued in a circle, focused your chain of logic so narrowly that you will be blindsided—or discovered a hidden pattern in nature. Science, in large part, consists of imagining coherent solutions and then making sure that you weren't fooled by a false coherence as in astrology. - William H. Calvin

Monday, August 23, 2004

El Presidente... no, wait... Governor

Have a look at the real site, then have a look at the spoof. I only hope someone looking for the former finds the latter and doesn't know.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


I'm a happy man! I just had some food and watched a replay of the Canadian winning the gold in gymnastics. Now I am sitting outside looking at the oranging moon whilst reading a Dennett essay. Life is pretty good. I hope you are having a wonderful night as well.

Must see!... should see... could see? (+2)

In what could be one of the biggest innovations of our lives, a company has develped a way of turning WASTE (all kinds but nuclear) INTO OIL, among other things. This would be a new level of recycling! Also, why haven't you heard about this yet? http://www.changingworldtech.com/home.html

There is a Canadian hip-hop artist that actually has thought-provoking content (who would've thought) and he has done an amazing spoken word about racism. I think everyone should hear this, but make sure to listen to the whole thing! Kyprios rocks! The site has become less easy to navigate, but if you go to http://www.kyprios.com/home.html and then click on the album "say something," then click on track #14 "hate" and click on "watch the video." We need more of this stuff.

Oneway Bulletproof Glass! Isn't that wild!!! Good thing we have so many guns!

This is sickening. I'd guess he has some reasoning, but I can't imagine it being very tenable. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3585132.stm

The Bush team has released a terrible ad mentioning 'two fewer terrorist regimes' while captilizing on the olympics. Additionally, Bush has started to exploit the success of the Iraqi soccer team. They seem to feel displeased. "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes." - Ahmed Manajid, Iraqi Olympic Soccer Team. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0819-05.htm

I think text is not used nearly enough in music videos. If you'd like to see how it should be done click on Weapon and The Future is X-Rated.

Why does popular science always have to mislead people. How on earth could giving the Higgs-Boson particle a religious association help anyone? http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1287710,00.html

On the lighter side,
I got a chance to play with one of these last week. I was delighted! Not only from a sheerly fun pov, but also as a way of visualizing how air would propagate. It is afterall how we hear things. http://www.airzooka.net/shop/default.aspx

Friday, August 20, 2004

What is your Law? (click)

John Brockman asked his Edge members to "Send me two laws based on your empirical work and observations you would not mind having tagged with your name." Below is a list of my favourites thus far. Please go to the website for greater context and content. Which ones do you like? (and bravo if you understand what some of these mean upon first reading)

A scientist who can speak without jargon is either an idiot or a genius. -Alun Anderson

Scientists don't always know best about matters of science-but they're more likely to be right than the critics who make that argument.- John Rennie

The defining characteristic of science—the one that gives sciences its extraordinary explanatory power—is the objective use of evidence to distinguish between alternative guesses. - Paul Ewald

The body precedes the mind. - Antonio Damasio

Culture is everything we don't have to do – Brian Eno

Science is the conversation about how the world is. Culture is the conversation about how else the world could be, and how else we could experience it. - Brian Eno

Any sufficiently advanced system of magic would be indistinguishable from a technology. - Eric S. Raymond

The road to hell has often been paved with good intentions. Therefore, evil is best recognized not by its motives but by its methods. - Eric S. Raymond

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. - Mike Godwin

Non-existence "theorems", which state something cannot happen, are untrustworthy; they are only statements about what we have seen or thought of so far. - Lisa Randall

The representation becomes the reality. - W. Daniel Hillis

Human kinds exist only in human minds. - David Berreby

The Law of Indispensable Ignorance… says that complete information is neither realistic nor generally desirable. What is desirable are partially (not totally) ignorant people. - Gerd Gigerenzer

As cosmological theories advance, they will draw more concepts from biology. - Martin Rees

In a dangerous world there will always be more people around whose prayers for their own safety have been answered than those whose prayers have not. - Nicholas Humphrey

Any unbounded bitstream tends to irrelevance. - Mark Hurst

Physical technology evolves toward limits set by physical law. - K. Eric Drexler

Visual Perception is Essentially an Ambiguity Solving Process. – Al Seckel

There are three sides to every story. – Delta Willis

If fully conscious, don´t trust your brain. - Eduard Punset

No matter how good or bad things are at any given point in time (in science as in life), remember that "this too shall pass." - Leo Chalupa

Numbers are everything. - Gino Segre

Art tells the jokes that science insists on explaining. - Henry Warwick

Every technology has an instrumental side, what the technology does for us and a subjective side, what the technology does to us, to our ways of seeing the world, including to our ways of thinking about ourselves. - Sherry Turkle

Transcending our own sensory limitations with technological tools of observation, a relentless theme of the history of science, enhances the experience of awe itself because it expands the variety of attributes of the universe that we can know about. Therein lies one of the most underrated values of science. - Ivan Amato

Think logically, but orthogonally.
It's okay to think about nonsense, as long as you don't believe in it.
Often, the biggest impediment to scientific progress is not what we don't know, but what we know. - Robert Sapolsky

For every intelligent agent, there is a Turing-machine that provides an exhaustive description of its mind. - Dylan Evans

A good analogy is like a diagonal frog. - Kai Krause

I love the last one!

On the Hairy side of things (click)

Wow... to think of the lives other people have

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Oh, Canada?

I was walking to work this morning, enjoying the cool wind and patterns of clouds, and once again came upon a Canadian flag flying in the wind. There was enough force for that wonderful rippling sound to occur, so I stood there enjoying the texture of our flag undulating in the sky. I love our flag in flight, but I'm not entirely sure why this is. I think it is the cultural conditioning of belonging to a (developed?) country, despite some of my feelings to the contrary. I like Canada and think it is a great place to live, but I have some issues with the whole thing.

I am not a fan of nationalism, even under the guise of patriotism. When I think about saying one country is better than another, the whole thought structure seems wrong. It must be remember that the borders between countries are made by humans. Astronauts often say one of the most amazing things about seeing the Earth from space is that it has no lines on it. It seems kind of flawed that my quality of life will be better than hundreds of millions of others because I was born in one place and not another. We all think about this in terms of families, communities and cities from time to time. Try adding countries. Then the discrepancies between standards of living become vast and more and more one might realize how good they have it.

If you are reading this, you have first world problems.

First world problems can be quite severe, don't get me wrong. Additionally, depending where you are in the developed world, you might not be better off than those in developing nations. For the most part though, we've got it good. Whenever I see a puddle of water I don't think about drinking from it. Do you?

Greedy? (click me)

There seems to be a current trend of rejecting captialism, being wary of the media, and not buying into the desires of coporations. Yet, there hasn't been great change. I came across this essay, and though a little long, is worth at least 3% of the 1440 minutes you have today. Even if you do not entirely agree, it'll make your 'thinking' part of the brain happy.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Ten to the negative six

Earlier today, while I was watching TV, I saw a man speaking to an audience about various things. One of the topics he touched upon was the “microscopic dot” which contains all the information necessary for one’s journey in the physical world. It was clear that he was referencing the minute collection of cells soon created soon after conception. He then proceeded to describe just how small this “microscopic dot” was: “…you can’t even see it with a microscope….”
Hmmm…microscope…microscopic…maybe these words are related.
Do people even know what the words they use mean?

Saturday, August 14, 2004

A more accurate thought? (please read previous post first)

If you are unable to transcend the conditioning that has occurred throughout the entirety of your existence you are in a very valid, tenable place. Most likely, you have not yet received the proper stimuli, either in kind or saliency, which would enable a more empathetic perspective with others as well as a reduction in the perceived severity of your own problems. Therefore, with proper presentation contextualizing your life, its relation to how others survive in the world, and potentially some direct deprivation, I believe that you will be more likely to realize how lucky you are to be alive.

Friday, August 13, 2004

A good thought

If we do not exist under oppression or in famine and yet cannot convince ourselves how lucky we are to be alive, perhaps we are not trying hard enough. - Antonio Damasio

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Cranes (not the various large wading birds of the family Gruidae)

On my way to and from work I pass by a construction site where a medium sized crane is being utilized. I want you to think of the last time you saw a crane. How big was it? Have you ever seen a crane being built? If not, the situation can lead to the thought "how did it get there?" To give a general answer, I will assume that we all believe people constructed and erected the crane. As well, I assume we would all likely understand the steps to build a crane if someone cared to explain it in a patient manner. So what we have here is a product of push-pull causation, but the end result is quite amazing. Additionally, you have probably realized, or seen, that cranes can be used to create larger cranes.
The same can be said about computers. I think most people are impressed by computers and everyone thinks they work by electricity moving around, even if they cannot give specifics. Computers have been wonderfully useful as a tool to help make newer computers. I think it is also interesting that initially the crane or the computer was the end goal of production; its use was intended for tasks other than those involved in the replication of different versions of itself. Things sure have changed.

As you sit at your computer reading this, try to realize the complexity of how the computer works, but also the simplicity of what are ultimately the instructions to make said computer operate. Very simple things can lead to great complexity, and sometimes to things that were not specifically in the development specifications.
Can you think of any other examples of simple, small processes that lead to complex, large entities?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Night, egos and names

Last night I went to a park near the water. It was absolutely beautiful! It has been a long time since I have seen so many stars, what with the light pollution (or actual pollution) of cities nowadays. While enjoying the gentle sound of waves lapping and discussing the few constellations I know, I mentioned how I've loved seeing satellites in the past. Shortly thereafter, my good friend who accompanied me on this attempted excursion to nature, commented, "Look! There's a satellite!" Upon closer inspection, it was revealed to be a low-flying bird. Such is the nature that good friendship that we both had a great laugh.

This situation also brings to mind the idea of letting go of one's ego. All too often in this competitive world the notion of providing a "strong front" takes precendence over simply admitting a mistake and saying "I guess I just learned something." I think everyone appreciates humility, especailly when it is accurate. [Musing: I think if we all presented who we really were, the world would be an more truthful place. I haven't fully thought this out, so I'm not sure if it would be better. My current thougths are that we are probably happy some people fake it (plus there is a big difference between thinking something and acting it). As well, we respect certain traits like confidence in others, but what if the person is really anxious, but just seems confident? I'll get back to this another time.] Concisely, we all make mistakes and everyone has their "cognitively empty" moments. I prize the ability to laugh at oneself and think more people should do so. Just so you'll see that I am sincere I will give you a personal example:
Scene: Home Depot. I couldn't find what I was looking for at all, so I went up to a sales attendant and asked "Hey, where are all your papers and pens and stuff." To which he kindly replied, "There in the Business Depot, across the street." I said, "Thanks," and laughed the whole walk over. :)

Lastly, someone looked up the supposed meaning of my full name: Great Black Crooked Nose Son of a Dog
I took it in stride and now prefer to think of myself as a dark Great Dane that was in a fight.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Day Moon

As I was walking to work today, observing the beautiful blue sky and verdancy of the trees, I happened to notice the moon above me. It was higher than any day moon I have seen, almost being at the zenith. It was crescent in shape, but with the circumferential outline to half-moon still visible. I love day moons. I feel it makes earth seem other worldly. As well, I try to picture the representation of the earth, sun and moon as they would be in space. Kinda blows your mind.

ps: Light from the Sun takes 8.3 minutes, while the light reflected off the moon takes about 1.5 seconds

Letterman’s “Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About 'Fahrenheit 9/11'"

10. That actor who played the President was totally unconvincing

9. It oversimplified the way I stole the election

8. Too many of them fancy college-boy words

7. If Michael Moore had waited a few months, he could have included the part where I get him deported

6. Didn't have one of them hilarious monkeys who smoke cigarettes and gives people the finger

5. Of all Michael Moore's accusations, only 97% are true

4. Not sure - - I passed out after a piece of popcorn lodged in my windpipe

3. Where the hell was Spider-man?

2. Couldn't hear most of the movie over Cheney's foul mouth

1. I thought this was supposed to be about dodgeball

Still funny... but why is number one never that funny? (10s my fav)

In love with a bad idea

What is worse: a drug dealer or a weapons dealer? (also, what does the media focus on?). Seems there is more of a war on drugs than a war on war.
I was just checking out Matt Good's blog (http://www.matthewgood.net/web/mblog/) and found somethings quite interesting:
1)The US military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world's.
2)The United Nations and all its agencies and funds spend about $10 billion each year (and are owed $762 million by the US)
3) (two years ago) Two key Defense Department funding allocations were made - $390 million to reimburse nations providing support to U.S. operations in the war on terror and $120 million “for certain classified activities” - can now be delivered “notwithstanding any other provision of the law.” This means there will be none of the normal restrictions placed on this large sum of military aid.
4) Canada – 9.1 billion (My goal is find out specifics)
Lastly, a quotation back when someone in power had some perspective (don't know if he did anything about it though)

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

-- Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a speech on April 16, 1953

Monday, August 09, 2004

Warning – reality check.

You are going to die. You will not get today back. This isn’t a seminar, this isn’t a weekend retreat. You will die.

I don’t believe in “living each like it’s your last” because that is illogical based on the probability that you won’t die tomorrow (and I’m a bit of a literalist). But if you can realize that it is only a matter of time before you or someone you care about will die, you may be able to improve the quality of your existence. Imagine you had a fight with a loved one and stormed off. Now imagine never seeing them again.

How did that feel? I would guess that after a brief pondering, if you really thought about it, you would not only want to resolve the issue immediately but give your loved one a hug as well. It is true disputes need to be resolved, but the bigger picture can help put things in perspective. The goal here is to have enough realization to be motivated towards peace and actualization, but not so much that you are consumed by anxiety. Just think about it, you affect people’s lives and they affect yours, but there is a great deal of unnecessary strife and miscommunication in the world. Realizing your eventual death can bring you greater peace in both your personal interactions and the utilization of your life/time.

Regarding how you spend your time, you may want to know that if you spend 30 minutes each day doing something, that will equal 7 full days of your life each year ((.5h x 365d)/24h = 7.6 d). Is what you are doing worth it?

This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time. The clock’s ticking, get going!

Links to experience

Something for your occipital lobe:

Somethings for your political humourist:

Somethings to ponder. Try to believe in the reality of what you are seeing:


Over the past year or so I have been thinking a great deal about altruism. Mainly, does it exist, is it the correct term, and are there other terms which would better describe certain behaviours? My current thoughts are that if altruism is defined as "Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness," which it usualy is, then it is a term does not seem to have enough specificity. As well, if you look up selfish it will likely be defined as something like "Concerned chiefly or only with oneself." This too also lacks the precision necessary to describe the complexity and possible events and situations to which we would want to use such a word.

The problem lies in the fact that people engage in behaviours and practices which bring them some sort of positivity- which can come from things, feelings, social rewards..etc. If someone feels good by doing something to help others, it makes sense to think that they may only be doing the action to feel better about themselves. Could it be otherwise? You might ask about the person who likes to donate to charities anonymously because they like to help others but don't want the publicity. Why do they do it if it doesn't make them feel good? Isn't it really the positive feeling of helping others that makes them donate? (Moreso, they are even happier not recieving the publicity because that is an admired trait in our society.) Another example is that Steve works at a homeless shelter to serve breakfast to those in need. He does this because helping others makes him feel good. So.. is he selfish or altruistic? One could say his altruism in this sense is really selfishness, but is there anything wrong with that? I say no, but more on this later.

What about the claim that people only(!) do what is in their best interests? For the most part I agree, but with the caveats that how you define a person and the timeline of their interests is important. The benefactor can be more than the person's conscious experience and the best interests are usually those that are immediate and not long-term. Imagine Steve also works 9-5 in an office and because of his position at the shelter he is occasionally late for work and feels less focused on his job from time to time. Consequently, he has been warned about these issues and is in danger of losing his job. It would seem that to continue to function in this way may be detrimental for Steve's paying job, yet he continues to do so. I would say that the situation (potential job loss vs. helping homeless people) brings an overall amount of positivity to Steve and that is why he continues to do it. Steve might think that the positive feelings he receives is better than the job he has and is willing to lose it. Alternatively, he could be unable to fully predict how he would feel and the ramifications throughout his life if he were unemployed. Potentially, this is an issue of immediacy and an inability to accurately predict long term situations and their effects. The salient aspects of Steve's life are that he feels good after helping people, and this happens everyday, while being unemployed is a situation that only exists in theory.
Most people have people or things in their life which are very important to them. If there best friend wins the lottery they will feel happy, but if the friend is in a car accident they will feel badly. A person commits actions in the best interest of themselves, but this can also be in the best interests of their loved ones, friends, community, country or planet. How far it goes depends on how exended your sense of self is. Consequently, I think altruism would be better thought of as extended self-interest, and then try to specify the degree of extension appropriate for the behaviour. What do you think?

Note: Who's best interests are being served when someone commits suicide?

Testing 'er out

Hi everyone (or more accurately at this point-no one). I guess this is where I say "This is my first posting... blah blah." I guess I will try to put something worth pondering...like... What would have to happen for you to change your metaphysical/ideological stance(s)?
That's all for now