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Thursday, February 17, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

Flickr tags for pictures of that "Gates" thing in NYC: thegates, gates, jeanneclaude, christo (although of course those last two are likely to get some other stuff as well; as are they all for that matter; that's the fun of tags).

Also Flickr tags for infrared (ir) pictures, some of which are Way Cool.

Spam subject line o' the day (surrealist):

Subject: Electronic School Sun - expose exposing modern life

Just to give you a taste for some of what I've been doing while neglecting my weblogging, here's a recent posting of mine to alt.zen (and some other unfortunate groups included on the thread). This started out with a discussion of whether and in what sense various things are "really out there in the world", which sprung from some discussion of the Diamond Sutra. Note the raw confidence with which I completely misinterpret modern physics, and also seriously abuse my degree in Philosophy...

Subject: Re: Idolatry of words and sounds (Re: Diamond Sutra)
Date: 17 Feb 2005 18:57:27 -0800

Jonathan Jennings wrote:
> <dmchess@gmail.com> wrote
> ...
> > I wouldn't say "it's hard to tell what the real
> > 'things' are"; that suggests that there's some
> > right answer if only we were smart enough to see
> > it. It's more that no particular carving-up
> > of the Whole Thing into 'things' (or into
> > phenomena, or into dharmas) is righter than
> > any other. One carving-up may be better for
> > some purposes than others, but it's not something
> > one should (or could justifiably) get hung up on.
> OK. I'll stick with the Whole 'Thing' :)

Like we have a choice. *8)

> ...
> > That's possible. And if there were some really
> > good theory of physics that in fact involved
> > pretty much discrete 'things' I'd have to find
> > some other support structure for my preconceived
> > ideas about the optionality of 'things'. *8)
> > But at the moment I see no likely prospect of
> > that happening.
> To me, for the word/concept 'things' to have any meaning, there has to be a
> comparator (e.g. 'not thing' or 'the absence of things' or somesuch). And
> some criteria for 'qualification'/'disqualification' from 'thing' status.
> (And vice-vera for 'the absence of things' to have any meaning.) The two
> concepts arise together and imply each other. "It's all... physical...
> spiritual... things... thing-less etc." are equally meaningless. They mean even
> less than "It's all like it all is" (if it was possible). And voting for one
> of the 'discrete things' / 'no discrete things' pair is like trying to have
> sex with one conjoined twin hoping the other will die quietly or at least
> turn away and read a book. (Or something :)

Well, I can imagine universes in which there were discrete things woven into the physical laws; where, that is, the simplest and most accurate / useful descriptions of the behavior of the universe involved discrete and identifiable objects with properties. Our current universe doesn't seem to be that way; the best descriptions involve discrete things only as approximations of an underlying continuum. Some of the properties are quantized (can't have spin 0.27 anywhere), but they aren't properties of discrete objects so much as they are properties of a particular point on the wave (not a point in 3-space or 4-space exactly, since there's no absolute frame, but something close enough to that for this sentence anyway).

Which is to say that my natural inclination (to advocate the view that the universe is really just One Big Thing and that our cutting it up conceptually into littler things is essentially arbitrary and optional) seems to be supported by how this universe actually is (or, if you prefer, how it actually looks to us). Which may have something to do with the universe in which I grew up. *8)

Usual disclaimer: I don't know nearly as much modern physics as I'm trying to sound like I do.

> ...
> > Maybe I just like the idea of alternative
> > universes constantly forking off ("fork off"!).
> > For whatever reason, of the various interpretations
> > of QM, only the non-collapsing ones have ever
> > sounded right to me. Of course I was also
> > convinced that neutrinos *must* have exactly
> > zero mass, so what do I know! *8)
> >
> > I'm sure the universe is stranger than I can
> > imagine. So why shouldn't it be at least as
> > strange as Everett thought? (That which we
> > call quantum decoherence is not really such;
> > "quantum decoherence" is just a term we use.)
> (I haven't come across Everett but I'm assuming he was "Mr.Fork Off!"?)
> Since you're only ever going to experience one 'track' amid all of this
> putative forking, there's never going to be any experience you could have
> which could confirm (or deny) the existence of the putative alternative
> universes. (i.e. it's a literally 'inconsequential' theory/belief). Maybe
> this was the kind of thing which spurred the Buddha to redirect people's
> attention back to their own experience.

I'm sure it was. And all them Zen masters to get out their sticks. *8) But once you've been up the mountain, you're allowed to be silly again once you come back down. At least in my sect!

But anyway. Two responses to the above: first, it's not necessarily the case that there can never be any interaction between two forks. (Which is why it's safer to call them "worlds" or something rather than "universes", but I get sloppy.) I dunno how there could be, but the cosmos does not seem to be constrained by the boundaries of my imagination. *8) And second, even if there never can be any interaction, if the best physics that we can come up with involves this forking, even if we can never experience it directly, I'm willing to say that (as far as I know) it does happen. There's only a difference in degree between believing that something is true because you remember seeing it happen yesterday, and believing it's true because it makes the math come out pretty.

> > ...they're uncertainties
> > inherent in the 'out there' to just as great an
> > extent as anything else can be inherent in the
> > 'out there'.
> What kind of future experience could you have which would ever confirm or
> deny that? (and thus potentially save it from being an 'inconsequential'
> belief).

The EPR experiment, for example. Any confirmation of a physical theory that involves inherent (not merely human-reflecting) uncertainties. This is on exactly the same level as "electrons exist", which is arguably "inconsequential", but not imho in a terribly interesting sense.

(Note to Ch'an Fu: this *will* be on the midterm!)


Utter bullshit, eh? But lots of fun! Makes me feel like an undergrad again... *8)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

On Saturday, on the way home from an early-morning trip into Mount Kisco to sign up the little boy for a summer program (a friendly hour or so sitting in a room with a bunch of moms and a few dads also waiting to sign up their kids, drinking coffee and eating donuts and reading Thich Nhat Hanh's commentaries on the Diamond Sutra), I stopped on a whim at a North County Trailway parking place by the side of the road, and walked down the path and out onto the old bridge that used to carry the Putnam Division and now carries bikers and joggers and people standing on the bridge looking down at the ice and thinking about consciousness and the nature of the subjective.

And that was very nice.

Iris Chacon:

for President!

's appearance in "Desperately Seeking Susan" is for me one of the defining moments of Western Cinema (talkies era). Eclipsing even such luminaries as Rockets Redglare and John Lurie, her iconic screen presence lifts the work well above its fellow er, chick caper movies. Richard Hell was good too.


has some explaining to do.

isn't leia organa. she might be nude though.

Iris Chacon, nude? *8)

I'll have to ask M to put "Desperately Seeking Susan" on our NetFlix queue. I've always had it in the back of my mind, but a defining moment involving Iris Chacon definitely puts it over the threshold.

More subtly, Iris Chacon:

I am the terror that quacks in the night.

What's your best minsweeper score?

I'm not a big minesweeper player, or at least I don't pay much attention to my score. Let's see; on this here computer the only recorded "best time" is 120 seconds on Beginner, attributed to "Fred". Which was probably me.

(Ha! Now the best Beginner time is 43 seconds. Still "Fred".)

- 33 for "helen naked pitures"
- 11 for "helen naked pitures of mole rats"
- 1 for "caffeine"
- 1 for "cam viewer"
- 1 for "feet photos"
- 1 for "helen naked pictures"
- 1 for "ibook"
- 1 for "manipulate"
- 1 for "mia"
- 1 for "organization"

Helen naked pitures of mole rats? I think someone's pulling our leg here, readers!

Salon points out that the Library of America is doing H. P. Lovecraft. Cool!

Salon also has a piece about the recent Bush class action "reform". (Apologies if these are Premium-only articles or anything; here's another source for this one.)

"Reform" is such a funny word. By now it just means "messing about with", but it has magical connotations of "making better". So of course politicians love it.

Someone named "stew" thinks that we're the best. Woo woo! (The Hellovetica weblog gets my nomination for least self-absorbed weblog of the week; no about page, no biography, no nothin'. But some good links. I wonder who Stew is.)

Likelihood of Confusion: a weblog about trademark law and stuff, if you're into that stuff. (Looking at it this morning I find the current entry slightly odd, at least if it's suggesting that the mainstream media is in some sense supporting recent attempts to regulate political speech, in order to prevent competition from "new media, including blogs". Woo! Or maybe he's saying something else.)

Sunday, February 13, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

"'...so numerous and so gentle, and can be kept waiting round us all day long (kings and statesmen lingering patiently, not to grant audience, but to gain it), in those plainly furnished and narrow anterooms, our bookcase shelves...'"

"Heh, yeah."

"That's Ruskin. I think it's great! The Great Conversation, the flow of words down the centuries, the deepest thoughts of the wise."

"Or the sick wise, anyway."

"What do you mean?"

"Writing is a pathology of the great."

"What does that mean?"

"The fraction of the great and wise that bother to write down their thoughts is tiny, and includes only those at the low end of the scale, not wise enough to have stopped caring what posterity thinks of them."

"That's a horrible thought!"


When I come out of the Club, having lifted heavy things and pretended to ski for forty-five minutes or so, I often observe a dialogue within myself, on the subject of whether or not to get a bagel and coffee.

"We've already had breakfast," one of the Inner Voices says, "and we're not hungry, and bagels with cream cheese (even 'light' cream cheese) are bad for our cholesterol, and coffee's not recommended either. We should just drive straight to work; we'll live longer."

But another Inner Voice suggests, just as distinctly, that driving to work with a bagel and cream cheese and a cup of hot coffee is what life's about in the first place, and avoiding that in order to increase the count of days lived is defeating the whole purpose.

That voice wins out relatively often. It can't explain why a bagel and a cup of coffee should be ends in themselves, but apparently it doesn't have to.

The Bovine Illuminati.

Small World Department: someone on LiveJournal posted about yoga, and someone in the comment thread pointed to our recent koan. The LiveJournaller replied wondering if I was the same David Chess that e used to know. (And I am.)

What are the odds?

Ming the Merciless

Various security sources note that Microsoft the other day issued sixteen security updates, half of them "critical". I must say it's a good thing that Microsoft has been putting so much effort into making their products secure; think how bad things would be if they hadn't! My, my.

I watched a movie and I read a book.

A spammer, apparently targetting electricians, writes:

Re: Beautiful Housewires waiting for you

At lunch the other day the subject came up of copyrighted buildings, of which (so the story goes) it's illegal to take pictures. Ed did some post-lunch research and found some relevant links. It's not entirely clear to me when it's trademark that's involved and when it's copyright. Interesting subject, though. If anyone really presses the question, we might get some clarification on what intellectual property is really about, and really for.

Or we might get another layer of hacks on top of the present ones. *8)

I don't remember if I've talked about this one before, but anyway here's a technique for serendipity: take one of the identifiers that some digital camera uses to identify pictures, and search in Google Images. Thousands of random photographs!

I'm not sure why I find that so gratifying...


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