2010-12-09

from a sick day, and a rug

And so King Goat and the two Dancers
set out from the Center of Things.
The Center of Things: that wheel
of creation and destruction
perfection of balance and symmetry and harmony



"We are here!" spoke King Goat.
"Dance my lovelies, among flower and bush!"
And so they leap'd and flowed all about the gardens
protected by the safety of the Wall.

Now at that time there were two walls
for the Designer felt that two
were safer than one.
And beyond the second wall was the Void
that great expanse of nothingness and Chaos.



And so it was between the two walls that evil lurked.
With bright red eyes and a black cloak
the falconriders awoke
and let loose a great pealing scream
for they were hungry
and the music from across the wall was pure beauty
which they despised.



"Let us fly across the wall," one hissed.
"And feast on Goat and Dancer."
And so with a great beating of wings
they rose above the inner Wall and descended
towards garden, Goat, and Center of Things.


TO BE CONTINUED!

2010-11-27

how we know what isn't so -- reflections

Excerpts from How We Know What Isn't So, with commentary.

seeing what we expect to see:

Much of the scientific enterprise can be construed as the use of formal procedures for determining when to throw out bad ideas, a set of procedures that we might be well advised to adopt in our everyday lives. We humans seem to be extremely good at generating ideas, theories, and explanations that have the ring of plausibility. We may be relatively deficient, however, in evaluating and testing our ideas once they are formed.

-- page 58

If I want to get ahead in life, it's not a matter of generating good ideas; everyone can do that. It's a matter of developing solid processes for evaluating my ideas and disposing of the bad ones. And then following through on the survivors, with the confidence and conviction that comes from having given them such a critical evaluation.

hedonic asymmetries:

Certain kinds of negative events can accumulate in ways that positive events cannot. I can become convinced that all the buses are headed in the wrong direction by observing quite a number headed the wrong way before I encounter one going in my direction.. Note that the opposite cannot happen: Unless I have difficulty boarding, I never observe several going my way before I discover one headed in the opposite direction [...] because of this asymmetry, we can experience a certain kind of "bad streak," but not a complementary streak of good fortune.


-- page 68

This is the curse of the system administrator. We are responsible for keeping the systems running. When everything is going smoothly, we don't hear anything. Yet we are succeeding with flying colors. When things fall apart, we hear all about it. Thusly, we can become convinced that the systems are always broken. Thusly, my first question when I get in to work in the morning: "what's broken?"


seeing what we want to see:

In numerous studies across a wide range of situations, people have been found to attribute their successes to themselves, and their failures to external circumstances.

-- page 78

Attribute my successes to myself? Well, with a little luck thrown in, yes. Attribute my failures to external circumstances? Not at all. I really can't trick myself into having it both ways like that. I'm completely free, which means I get to enjoy both the pure powerful joy of relishing in my own successes, and total responsibility for my many failures. Hmm.. am I actually unusual, or have I just tricked myself into thinking I'm different?



Indeed, some evidence has accumulated that people who habitually fail to put the most favorable cast on their circumstances run the risk of depression.

-- page 85

Aha! Perhaps I am different, and this is how. I'm realistic and tend to get depressed by the irrational state of things. I've experienced this deeply.

So we can relish in our inner knowledge that we're right, but it's best to learn how to protect our mood and well being in this crazy world.

I would pay a lot to be able to find and hire people who have this tendency and have learned to maintain balance and well being in spite of it.



[...] people generally think of themselves as objective. People rarely think that hey hold a particular belief simply because they want to hold it, the evidence be damned. This sense of objectivity can nevertheless be illusory: Although people consider their beliefs to be closely tied to relevant evidence, they are generally unaware that the same evidence could be looked at differently, or that there is other, equally pertinent evidence to consider.


-- page 80

Objectivists have a tendency to think "others aren't objective, but I am". This can be construed as true by fiat: they call themselves "objectivist", and others don't. There might be something enlightening to the objectivist in this paragraph.

After talking at great length with an objectivist about the notion of objectivity, I arrived at the conclusion that I think the whole notion of an objective reality is an overcomplicated explanation for the way of things. It's simpler that we each experience our own reality---even simpler that I experience my own reality and that's all that matters.


Beliefs are like posessions [...] the metaphor also applies to how our beliefs fit together. We carefully choose furniture and works of art that do not clash, just as we try to avoid the dissonance produced by incompatible beliefs.


-- page 86

As the world grows better connected, can we find the ground that is truly common; the beliefs that are harmonious with all cultures and backgrounds? That would be neat.

While the first part of this book was nicely evidence-driven, the second part was more like an op-ed and started to get pretty out there. For example, in chapter 8 (Belief in Ineffective "Alternative" Health Practices), the author attempts to dispel the idea that our nervous systems and immune systems are fully integrated:


An immune system that is easily influenced by various mental states might provide certain benefits such as the ability to lessen the symptoms of disease by mental imagery. But there would also be severe costs to such a system. It is at least as easy to imagine bad things happening as it is to imagine good; it is at least as easy to picture diseases as it is to picture health.


Suddenly we're in the land of no citations. The author's own bias has come in here; for him, apparently, it's much easier to think negatively than positively, and so he's afraid of a world in which his mental states affect his health, and therefore he doesn't think the world works that way. Hmm..

questionable interpersonal strategies

[...] people who believe that "the only way to get anywhere in this world is to push, push, push." [...] The occasional success will "prove" the wisdom of the chosen course of action, and the individual will never learn how effective he might have been had a different strategy been employed." In addition, the person's aggressiveness may very well foster resistance in other people, and thus unintentionally ,create a hostile world in which it really is true that the only way to get anywhere is to push, push push.


Careful! This could be you. It has been me at times.

I'll throw another irrational tendency into the mix. When I bought my house, my realtor came over to talk about it. There had been some high-strung negotiations with the previous owners, which I'd long since let go of. But the realtor came over and started to blast the previous owners in some sort of ineffective bonding attempt. I call this tendency "us & them", and it's the rare gem that doesn't abide by it. It gets stronger in larger group settings, such as a church (we have to convert them all to our correct faith), or the corporate setting (our company is good, and all those guys out there are scumbags). These viewpoints may help us boost our egos but they don't serve us in the long run, because they blind us to our own (our church's, our company's) fallibility.

2010-11-04

I would buy a yoga car

It would be cool if yoga got popular enough to where somebody designed a car (in particular, the interior seats) with body alignment in mind. I would be first in line to buy the yoga car! Let's see..

It could have a driver's seat that supports tilting the pelvis forward, and sitting up straight. Sitting up straight would require a greater distance between chair and ceiling than my prius has -- I'm much longer when I'm straight!

It could support symmetric driving: driving with either foot, so that the legs and feet get a balanced experience.

The passenger seat could fold back to totally flat, so you can practice yoga postures in there when you're parked and it's too cold to be outside.

And just in case any car manufacturers out there are listening--I'll invest!

2010-06-26

saturdays

thoughts are deep on Saturdays
reaching far and wide
some bring pain and suffering
and some bring the divine

when I sit to breathe with them
and watch them whizzing by
I ask whoever's driving them
"Who taught YOU how to fly!?"

I spend some time wrestling myself
until I learn at last
that I can just let them run wild
while I enjoy breakfast!

2010-06-18

happiness is

happiness is!

2010-06-15

the Chinese man

the Chinese man
has a pleasant
round face
and he smiles in the sun
as he explains the tensions
between China
and Tiawan

2010-06-14

the German man

the German man
is certain that
the answers are in the details

FHA Reform Act of 2010


=================================================================
Recent House Votes:
-----------------------------------------------------------------
FHA Reform Act of 2010
http://capwiz.com/congressorg/issues/votes/?votenum=353&chamber=H&congress=1112
Vote Passed (406-4, 21 Not Voting)

The House passed this bill that would allow the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to
raise premiums for mortgage insurance, with the intent of boosting its dwindling reserves.
The bill now goes to the Senate.

Rep. Albio Sires voted
YES


It sounds like the government is running a business, and whenever they want to make a business decision (like raising prices to increase reserves), they have to take a vote!

2010-06-13

the woman leading the meditation

the woman leading the meditation
speaks with sadness
about happy things

2010-06-10

freedom fighter?

freedom fighter?
only do it
if you can smile
--if it brings a smile!
any other way is a contradiction in terms

2010-06-09

can you point to the spot?

when I have a thought
to move my toe

where does it end existence as a thought
and become reborn as an action?

can you point to the spot?

so what's the difference between thought and action?

If there is none, then my actions are only limited by my thoughts. And I sure do have a wild imagination! So look out, world!

2010-06-01

"happiness is not my goal"

It appears to be commonplace among the do-gooders of the world to think this. But I'm unable to make this pass basic sanity checks. Check my reasoning?

Premise: happiness is not my goal.
Assumption: I have some goals. Let's simplify and talk about only one of them.

Why reach for my non-happiness goal? When I am working towards my non-happiness goal, I feel _____. When I am not, I feel _______. Therefore, the reason I have my non-happiness goal is because I want to feel ______.

Am I missing something here?

2010-05-29

hold on to your turban, it's gonna get sunny

tumbling universes

swirling spiral globes

spinning, unhinged

superior camel-riders

collapsing the desert into a thin horizon of sun and dust and hillsides filled with grain

cabbage and red cream atop the waterfall of pleasure

I sit. And ride. and wow what a spectacular judgement of self-controlling werebats!

how atrociously flamebait! she said. are you afraid? of what?! dying is a maze of confusing lies, with a golden cicada at the top-center.

and four corners define the cube of the universe

underneath the chicken barn.

2010-05-28

when I hold on

when I hold on tightly, day after day
I start to forget
that I'm holding on

2010-05-26

my love, why

my love, why
do you cling so tightly
to these things that pain you so?

my love, what
are you?
are you not me?

then my love, why
do I cling so tightly
to these things that pain me so?

2010-05-25

fall off the horse?

fall off the horse?
only thing to do is
climb back on!

2010-05-24

learners

learners are those interested in ever-expanding horizons

they seem to have one thing in common: an open mind!

want to be one?

try wearing a bit more "I don't know"!

2010-05-23

join me!

You believe in what you read in the newspapers
I believe in magic

You're sad about the tragic bombing in kazmuchnistahn
I'm excited about breakfast

You listen to the TV, the radio, the academics, and the teachers
who tell you what's impossible.
I know nothing is!

Wouldn't you like to join me
in wonderland?

All you have to do is
the hardest/easiest thing:
let go!

2010-05-16

the game of life

Have you ever been addicted to a video game?

A role playing game, perhaps? Or a difficult action game? You want to
solve it perfectly, play it perfectly. Get the best score, get the
strongest item, complete the hardest quest, maximize your experience
points.

How many hours of concentration have you put in? How massively much
positive energy have you poured in? Honing your brain solving puzzles,
sacrificing dinner to play an extra 30 minutes..

Your energy for the game is nearly boundless. It is monumental,
admirable.

Yet outside the game, ordinary life, reality, sets in and disappoints.
Real life sucks, you say. Perhaps there's too much irrationality,
arbitrary rules, pain, or emotions. Perhaps you're broke and working a
dead-end job. Perhaps your girlfriend is ugly.

All the while, inside the game you're able to push, in a massively
positive way, for perfection.

What if..

You found a way to harness that inner energy you have for the game,
change the energy not at all, but simply slightly change it's
direction, it's focal point. What if you found a way to turn your life
into a game? You start by figuring out how to score the game: more
pleasure and happy feelings = positive points, more pain and sadness =
negative points. Now your task is simply to maximize your score.

Impossible, you say? Too many things are out of your control?

But isn't your own happiness is in your control? After all, people have learned to find happiness in much more dire circumstances than yours.

Maybe being unhappy simply means you need to go back and work on your game-of-life technique some more.

I challenge you to a game of have-a-kick-ass-lifetime!

2010-05-13

what's next?

what is your wish for the world?

peace on earth?

a comfortable, free life for all?

respect for all sentient beings?

(plain old world domination?)

now

imagine the world is as you want it to be.

what now?

what's next?

2010-05-11

the flight home

I streak across the sky
spreading my love out
like specks of dust
glittering in the sun
of the neverending afternoon

dispelling a few myths

I found this in a comment on youtube:


One negative of capitalism is it requires cyclical consumption, corps have to reproduce the same junk over and over with minor changes just to keep it going.
Another is 'technological unemployment', meaning machines take jobs and there are NO replacements. So everyone without work is just supposed to die.
The[se] are INHERENT problems that can not be fixed by changing the curency or controlling the government.


On cyclical consumption: while it does often seem as though this is what's happening, it doesn't have to be this way. If we the consumers want a washing machine that just does the job without all the bells and whistles, and lasts a long time, then there's a market for it and a smart company will produce it -- and in so doing outsell the company that's producing the overfancy hunk of junk. True, there are certain kinds of products -- trendy clothing, for example -- that do seem to go around and around in circles. But it's optional to participate in these markets. You can opt out and wear whatever you find at the local rummage sale for 2 bucks, or for Spitalfields Market in London for 2 pounds, like me! The option to not participate in ridiculousness is one part of the wonders of a free society.

On technological unemployment: this reminds me very much of Manna by Marshall Brain. The robots are taking all of our jobs! It does seem plausible on the surface -- if all the jobs are done by robots than what's left for us to do to earn money?

There's actually nothing to be afraid of; technological unemployment is actually a wonderful thing! It's one of myavorite things to think about because I get all warm and fuzzy inside. One way to approach this is to look at history. How about the washing machine? At some point in history, it was somebody's job to wash the clothes. Nowadays it only takes a few minutes to throw them in the washer; so that job is now gone, replaced by laundromat tycoons and good old GE. And yet disaster was averted and those people put out of work have managed to find other jobs. And now everyone's standard of living has gone up because we are free to, if we wish, use the laundry machine instead of washing by hand. (It's important that it's optional to use the laundry machine -- to satisfy those that long for a simpler life, of which there are many, we must allow for the fact that sometimes simple manual labor tasks provide for deeply satisfying work. This is part of the argument for low taxes, but I digress.)

How does this work? The reason you're getting confused is because you're looking at the economy in a static fashion. As if the demand for goods and services today is roughly the same as what it'll be in 50 years. However, these things change over time; how many people in the 1890s were employed by Hollywood? What was at that time a futuristic technological luxury is now a commonplace commodity with an entire industry to support it which employs thousands if not millions of people.

Another way to think about it: forget about jobs and money. Just think about a bunch of humans milling about the earth trying to have a good time. In one scenario, some of the humans spend day in and day out as bank tellers: handing people cash and punching some buttons on a computer. Then someone invents the ATM and those humans no longer have to hand people the cash, they are free to do other things (like invent new ATM-like devices! Or take up cricket.) Net, the world is surely better off with the ATM than without, all other things equal.

So fear not! There will be new opportunities for all; and they'll be more and more creative as technological improvements take care of the less-fun jobs.

(cross-posted at freedomislove.org)

2010-05-10

smile

smile to God
and God smiles back
twice as brightly

2010-05-09

save my portfolio

Will somebody please tell me why this guy is wrong?



Whenever I hear him talk about the fiat monetary system heading for the tubes, I get this incredibly strong urge to go buy more gold. I think I could use some balance in my perspective! What's the best fundamental, rational argument for why we're not headed for rampant hyperinflation?

2010-05-08

we are all traders

I was listening to Principles of Economics on Librivox recently and was delighted to hear this little gem:


Man cannot create material things. In the mental and moral world indeed he may produce new ideas; but when he is said to produce material things, he really only produces utilities; or in other words, his efforts and sacrifices result in changing the form or arrangement of matter to adapt it better for the satisfaction of wants. All that he can do in the physical world is either to readjust matter so as to make it more useful, as when he makes a log of wood into a table; or to put it in the way of being made more useful by nature, as when he puts seed where the forces of nature will make it burst out into life.

It is sometimes said that traders do not produce: that while the cabinet-maker produces furniture, the furniture-dealer merely sells what is already produced. But there is no scientific foundation for this distinction. They both produce utilities, and neither of them can do more: the furniture-dealer moves and rearranges matter so as to make it more serviceable than it was before, and the carpenter does nothing more. The sailor or the railway-man who carries coal above ground produces it, just as much as the miner who carries it underground; the dealer in fish helps to move on fish from where it is of comparatively little use to where it is of greater use, and the fisherman does no more.

- Principles of Economics, by Alfred Marshall (public domain)

The full text is available here.

(cross-posted at freedom is love -- crazy new blog idea?)

civilized war

In Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon, the crew of the enterprise find themselves on a planet which claims to be in a state of war, but there are no clear signs of it. No explosions, no battered bodies, nothing.

As it turns out, the "war" is taking place on computer systems a la war games. When the computer simulation deems that an area has been "hit", all inhabitants of that area report to disintegration chambers to meet their fate.

The local inhabitants claim that this is much more civilized than the wars that used to take place, and they accept it as a part of life in their modern society. However, the war has been going on for a very long time and it continues to take millions of lives.

Captain Kirk, being an outsider, has a different perspective. He notes that the bombs of war, the destructive power of all-out real war, the fear induced by the pain and the threat of pain; these things are what make it real, and make it worth avoiding. When it's whitewashed, it's too easy to just continue on with the war.

Rewind a couple of centuries, and bop out of fiction. 21st century America has been at war for years now. It sure doesn't feel like it to me. Sure, I pay some taxes, and once in a while when I check the news I hear some vague things about US drones flying over Afghanistan or Iraq.

Drones. This is war at it's cleanest so far, at least for us Americans. We don't even have to send a real person anywhere near the place we want to bomb now. War is so cheap, so easy that we hardly even notice it happening.

How many armchair fox-news watching neocons do you think would still be pro-war if the abstraction was removed? If our guys were going over there and dying in the same numbers as we're killing with our drones?

Or God forbid if we were being bombed by Afghani drones? How long would that situation last?

Perhaps we need some visitors from outer space to come break their prime directive and set us straight :).

2010-05-04

sometimes I dream of dying

sometimes I dream of dying
a fearsome situation
running away, falling, drowning
only to wake up at just the critical moment

is this what it is to die?
simply to wake up and remember that I was just dreaming?

how lovely!

can I turn it around, too?
can I simply let go of the dream
die to this reality
and wake up?

2010-05-03

the unknown

I revel in the unknown
I seek it out
because infinity lives there
and she takes me for a ride

up! like on a rocket!

then whizzing by the marketplace
I barely notice
the people tiny like ants
hanging out in the known

boring! I think
until I lose focus and start to fall
and catch myself, grinning
at my contradictions

2010-05-02

test

testing out wordbook plugin

hungry

i eat
until my belly is full
but my spirit
is still hungry

2010-05-01

the brazilian soccer player

the brazilian soccer player
wears his youth
on his face

2010-04-30

the korean girls

the korean girls
are stylish
and confident

2010-04-29

the woman with the iPhone

the woman with the iPhone
wears a tired sadness
that her makeup does not conceal
as
with a worried look
she gropes for her phone

again

2010-01-03

life lessons learned playing video games

An interesting conversation with a friend in which I find myself defending the position of video-games-are-ok has prompted me to reflect on the question of what video games have done for me.


  • lesson 1: practice makes perfect. This is a lesson I've learned/had reinforced doing lots of things, among them playing video games. For certain types of games, I can really see a difference from day to day in how well I do. One example is Ikaruga, a space shooter that's both super awesome and super hard. I've also learned that sometimes it takes a while for the learning to sink in. Play for an hour, then stop, get a good night's sleep and come back the next day and I'm better at it, guaranteed. This is true for many things in my life.


  • lesson 2: persistence pays off. This is a bit of a variation on lesson 1. If I make a goal, say, finishing a game, or beating it on hard, or whatever; if I persist I will attain my goal. Depending on how far I am from the goal, it make take more or less time. Persistence works, and works well, in many areas of life; it works better, I think, than most people realize!


  • lesson 3: A is A. More specifically, games are programmed to operate according to rules, and their programming is what it is. There's no point in arguing about whether it should or should not operate the way it does (except maybe for game designers!). And the computer can't "cheat", it's just doing what it was programmed to do! A is A, take it or leave it! I find this especially valuable to remember when I'm faced with a truth that's difficult to face.


  • lesson 4: fun is only fun when it's fun! When I find myself beating my head against the wall trying to get past a certain level, or just go a little further, it's time to stop. Usually there's a limit to how much progress I can make or how long I can enjoy a given game. This is true of many things I do for pleasure (i.e. just about everything!).


  • lesson 5: participation is more fun than just watching. Watching video games is ok, but playing is more fun! Watching sports is ok, but playing sports is more fun! Watching TV is ok, but living my own life is more fun! Participation is harder, but I get more out of it. There's a limit to how far this goes, but the relative value generally holds for me.




That's just a few, and there are other ways to learn all of these. I just happened to experience these lessons playing video games.

2010-01-02

merry snowy xmas NYSE!

ipod prescience

What's that shiny thing in the street?



Could it be an iPod?



Indeed I think it is!



Prescience or just common sense?: