... Another dredge from the past

I never titled this one. I don't think I need to.

I tried to run from 'neath the clouds,
but all I found was rain
It wasn't until I drank the drops
I found the sun again.

I tried to sheld from the wind
but wound up tossed and blown
Not til I could ride the breeze
Did I find the calm had grown.

I tried to hide away from cold
but ice was everywhere
As soon as I played in the snow
I found the warmth in there.

I tried to turn from darkness
but no light would shine so far
And then, one day, I faced the night
and finally saw a star.


Digging around in my room, I found some of my old notebooks - and, thus, some of my old writings. Most are just stream-of-consciousness - blogging for an audience of zero - but there are a few pieces that are interesting.

This one I wrote at an airport - I believe I was travelling to New York in December of 1998.


Nothing ever changes
At least, not in the end
Whatever life engages
The tears usually mend
And the past is nothing
But to where we go
And hope only a bluffing
Of what future will show
Yet somewhere in the middle
Of where we start and stop
Amidst the jump to nowhere
At the apex of the hop
Lies something very different
From where we've been and seen,
And regardless of where we're sent
We know it's there we've been.

Odds and ends

There are changes in the wind. Ignati naturae renovateur integra and all that. I don't really want to talk about them in specific, yet, but things could get entertaining here in the next month or two.

(Random thought: there's a computer in the room here that, periodically, has its fans spin up to such enormous speed/volume that it quite literally sounds like a plane engine.)

I bought a new camera lens the other day. Even though it's kind of a basic lens (a 35 mm f1.8), this is semi-significant in that it's the first lens I've bought since the one that came with the camera. I am now, officially, polylensic. Or something.

I actually got it to test out night shooting; I've always loved the idea of taking pictures of the stars, but my current lens can't get enough light in to make them stand out without getting trace lines from the rotation of the earth (even at like 1600 ISO). This one shouldn't have that problem. Now all I need to do is get somewhere that doesn't have light pollution and take some test shots. It should also be decent for indoor lowlight shots, like at Blizzcon. All wide-angle, though, so I'll need to be pretty close.

Summer finally got here. It'll be in the 90's this weekend and all next week, and maybe dropping back down to the 80's next weekend. Which, of course, means I'm not going hiking again any time soon, since all the trails around here are in hot areas. Beach'll be nice, though, so might head that way (if I can tear myself away from FFXIV for a weekend).

If you get a chance and like silly movies, go see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Also saw a cute Swedish film called "Patrik, age 1.5". It was apparently done in 2008, but Here!'s releasing it in the US now.

Anyway, time for lunch (mmm, salad!).

The bad side of good

This may surprise people, but I'm generally an optimist - a fact that occasionally results in frustration. That's not to say I'm not frustrated - a lot - by other things or in other methods. Probably half the time (or more) the frustration is caused, directly or indirectly, by my optimism.

One example: I don't consider myself extraordinarily intelligent. I know I'm better at pattern recognition that pretty much anyone I know, but while that certainly has broad-scale implications, it feels more like a quirk than anything major. Regardless, my default assumption - and this is done subconsciously - is that everyone I meet is as capable as I am when it comes to understanding concepts: that most people have had a similar background to information (I'm a college drop-out, so it's not like I've had excessive trianing) and can extrapolate similarly from given information.

If I'm discussing something which I don't consider to be my specialization (namely computer technology) - say, philosophy - I expect the other person to have a similar background level of information on the subject; perhaps the known facts are different, but the overall level of competence should be similar (unless it's someone with a degree or advanced training, when I expect to get trounced).

For example, if I'm discussing population (or overpopulation) with someone, I expect them to know: the general rate of increase in world population, the relative rates in industrialized and nonindustrialized areas, the factors that led to such growth (improvements in grain harvests through breeding and genetic engineering, technological improvements for housing, medical breakthroughs for longevity, etc.), the problems inherent in it (resource scarcity, pollution, social destabilization, etc.)... All of this is stuff I've picked up from random reading and logical deduction; I assume anyone else with any casual interest in the topic could easily gather the same information and (especially if they're pontificating on the subject) probably has. I'm by no means an expert on the subject, but to me this all constitutes entry-level "generalist knowledge".

... which is, of course, where I run into the problem. Most people, it seems, are far less informed (by my reckoning) than they "should" be about almost every topic. Furthermore, most people don't seem to understand the basic concepts of logical deduction, rational approach, or even practical extrapolation. I don't think it's necessarily the educational system itself, since many people obviously apply these concepts in specialized areas of their lives: they have the knowledge. They just don't apply it to a wider set of situations.

Despite running up against this wall time and again, I'm constantly surprised by the - "ignorance" isn't necessarily correct; how about "informational blindspots" - of the general population. There are exceptions, of course: exceptions who seem to gravitate together, raising a tendancy for those-who-know to isolate themselves from those-who-don't. I can't completely condone (or condemn) that, but I also don't seem to make much headway on the other side.

I guess one fundamental difference is that I like information, and most people seem anxious about (or even antithetical to) anything they don't already know. Again, I don't think it's a reflection of intelligence: I think it's something else, an attitude or something.


... something tangentally related to some of the comments in the last post. Frank Herbert had his litany against fear. This is my litany. I wrote this originally a year or so ago, trying to encapsulate in language an impression that always bounces around my head; to this day, I'll find myself randomly reciting it in my head just to remind myself.

I am the purpose.
I am the sum of all that has come before me.
I am the cause of all that will come after me.
I am equal to all who stand with me,
And I am greater than any who stand against me.
To me, the history of the universe has led.
Through me, the future of the universe shall be set.
Here, now, in this moment of moments,
I am the method and the reason of creation.

Life, or something like it

As I said in an earlier post, I tend to see things in probabilities - potential outcomes for the future based on various measures of likelihood. There are a number of side-effects of this that are sometimes beneficial and sometimes detrimental.

One, however, tends to be harder for most people to grasp: I don't believe in anything.

I mean that pretty literally, and not just in relation to faiths. I don't believe in anything, including the laws of physics or my own existence. And this isn't just semantics of "belief" versus "knowledge": I don't, for example, think that the law of gravity is true in any real sense.

And yet, I don't except to fly out of my chair any time soon. How to reconcile that? Fairly easily, actually, if you remember that I started this talking about probability.

In the absence of absolute fact, the only criteria we have for judgment is a preponderance of evidence. This is, in itself, a judgment based on probability: the evidence we have points to xx as being more likely to be true than yy. This doesn't mean that xx is true, just that it's more likely to be true, or more true if we allow for approximations.

As I said, the law of gravity isn't true. We can pretty much guarantee that - after all, Archimedes was "proven wrong" by Newton, Newton by Einstein, Einstein by quantum theory... It'd be irresponsible - and pretty naive - to assume that this time we've got it right. We likely don't. However, the current description of gravity fits observation to a pretty high degree, so even while it's not true, it's useful. This is heuristic: the map is not the territory. It's functional and practical, just not factual. As a more primitive example, the notion that the sun rises in the east is also heuristic.

In life, I'm willing to accept a large number of things as being potentially true. It's a kind of reserved judgment ackowledging that we really don't know that we know anything about anything: we must assume we just have approximations to various degrees. So, I'm willing to accept something as potentially true until further data presents itself. Often I can work with two completely contradictary models at the same time because both are accepted in potentia and neither has proven unreliable.

To a lot of people - especially to friends I have who are determinists - this kind of "wishy washy" approach ranges from unnerving to downright threatening. "You can't make decisions if you don't know anything," I've been told on numerous occasions, a statement which is, of course, false as evidentiated by pretty much everything.

This kind of thinking goes all they way down to my own existence: I have no evidence to support my own existence. I can come up with multiple potential situations where I could perceive that I'm having experiences without actually having them - "Matrix"-type simulations, brain hallucinations, even being a character in someone else's dream. I can't rule any of these out objectively, but my behavior isn't terribly affected by the lack of knowledge: whether I'm really living or just hallucinating life, I have to act as if it's real simply because the experience includes triggers that at least simulate biological imperatives (like hunger and exhaustion).

The whole approach is a kind of "willing suspension of disbelief", similar to what we do when we watch movies. Only, for me, it's my entire life. Perhaps that's why I mostly dream in movies.

I also tend to annoy friends by answering "probably" instead of "yes" most times. It's not a conscious thing, it's simply the truth - or as close to it as I know.

Dreamers of dreams

The subject comes up once in a while with a friend of mine; he had a pretty bad childhood and, to this day, has mostly bad dreams (or at least says he does) that generally result in him waking up in a panic state. The first time he mentioned it, he was talking about hating that feeling and added, "Well, you know what it's like."

I replied, "Actually, I don't. I don't have nightmares." "Oh, come on. Never?" "Never."

See, I do this thing called "lucid dreaming": I'm aware that I'm dreaming during the dream. Theoretically, it has something to do with consciousness being more alert during the dream state; I know that I'll wake up to unexpected sounds but be able to sleep through loud noises I expect, so there's obviously a level of awareness going on there.

(Random note: something - like a mouse - is eating a hole through the ceiling of my room. I get to try to stop it tonight. Yay me.)

In my dreams, if something starts to go bad, I can change it. One example that I remember really clearly: I'm running through a redwood forest, and I can hear a pack of wolves chasing me. Typical bad dream, right? Well, after a few minutes, as I hear them getting closer, the "lucid" part kicks in and I remember thinking, "Screw this - I'm not running any more." And so, passing the next few trees, I came to one with a ladder leading up to a platform about 20 feet up. I climb up and am helped the last few feet by a fully-armed squad of military personnel - who then close the hatch I crawled through and proceed to mow down the wolves as they come into sight. I ended up climbing further up into the tree into a kind of geek treehouse where someone was working on an AI, and the dream went off onto tangents.

But that's the sort of thing I do: if I don't like my dreams, I change them. I've done it all my life. And this is just conjecture, but I think it's had an effect on my waking life as well: I tend to be pretty calm and contented, almost never panicking, and rarely getting angry (frustration is far more common). Obviously I can't just change existence at will like I can in my dreams, but I think there may be part of me that still manipulates life - or at least my perceptions of it - to make things better.

It's a lot easier to feel mentally and emotionally secure when, on a subconscious level, you're used to things always going your way.