Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tourons, light-colored clothing, and predator behavior.

In DC, it's touron season (I will leave that neologism to the student). It occurred to me just now, from the bar of Hill Country on 7th in Penn Quarter, that tourists dress in light clothing more often than not because the new environment reduces their situational awareness, and that's why they are easy marks. Discuss.

Why, again, are we not building a moon base?

PC Magazine et al have articles today about how our Russian friends are going to scuttle the ISS in 2020. So why aren't we planning a moon base? If we need something to fire human imagination, I can"t think of anything better.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PonPonPon (or maybe you can explain it better).

Two things.

1. David Lynch and Eraserhead. The emotion in the performance struck me as being something like joy squeezed through a toothpaste tube.
2. Remix not of remix culture. It's overlay, not appropriation and revision.

I found the urgency unsettling at times. I know I'm a weirdo at times with some pop culture stuff (I think Disney is like The Prisoner, for instance), but this was one of the most stressed-out attempts at happiness I've seen. Did someone have a gun on her off camera?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rabbit holes.

I stumbled upon The Labyrinth of Genre just now, thinking it'd be about literary genres. Not only is it about music, which is awesome, it plays an example of the genre you just clicked and expands the genre tree with related genres, both of which make it awesomesauce.

They even have mathcore as a genre. Who's not going to love that? Other than my mom. And your mom.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

November 11, 1997 -- July 15, 2011

I'm posting this while I still have the resolve to do so. I can't write about her yet here on the blog. I've started a remembrance book, though, and I did want to mark it in some way online. I can't deal with posting it on Facebook or anywhere else just now.

She was the sunshine in my life, the most wonderful companion I could have asked for. Sweet baby girl, I did everything I could for you at the end, and so did the doctors, but it wasn't enough. I'll always love you, Maggie.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The strategic importance of Afghanistan.

Nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism (at least on the part of the United States), the Taliban, or terrorism. This article makes more sense:

The development of the Russian oil industry in Salkhallin, an island almost the size of Japan and other areas of the Russian Far East, combined with Central Asia's oil reserves, will be more than sufficient to replace Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the other OPEC producers of the Middle East in their entirety as far as future U.S. strategic energy requirements are concerned.

 I knew that Afghanistan was more important as a site for crossroads than as a thing-in-itself. What I didn't realize was the size of the strategic reserves in the 'Stans. Yes, Iran has interests in keeping a front going against Sunni Islam (yawn), but this is bigger than that, given that, as I understand it, Sunni Islam controls more oil production than Shiite Islam does. With controlling interest in the country that is a key crossroads for all those pipelines, Iran would become a kingmaker in global terms.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is there such thing as a reliable narrator?

And if not, if the words of a narrator cannot be trusted because they are too "subjective" (difficult to reconcile how a nonexistent being can be subjective), then can the words of the author be trusted? Part of the conventions of reading is to ignore the author when the author is not being deliberately intrusive. One of the signs of a conventionally "good" author is self-obliteration (thus the death of the author, much discussed in the early 90s lit crit circles). How can we trust a figure whose goal is to efface himself and replace his voice with one that is inherently untrustworthy?

Can any narrative be trusted?

Must we be condemned to nothing more than subjectivity?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hamlet: An interesting take on epistemology and the soul.

Robots and humans in mutual need.

NYT: In Robotics, Human-Style Perce

Why don't we figure out a way to interface these robots with people who are in near-vegetative states--the ones whom we know are locked inside their bodies yet likely conscious? They regain the ability to act in some ways, not to mention communicating again, and we learn from them about both their condition and the robot interface.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Brain on Trial.

Still reading this (longish) article, but I can tell already that there's lots to pull from it. The responses on the  Gen-X list are both predictable in some instances, which is fascinating within the context of the article, and helpful in formulating counterarguments.

Here's to brain chemistry.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Solitude beyond the life of the mind.

Something I found today and am musing about:

What happens when busyness and sociability leave no room for solitude? The ability to engage in introspection, I put it to my students that day, is the essential precondition for living an intellectual life, and the essential precondition for introspection is solitude. They took this in for a second, and then one of them said, with a dawning sense of self-awareness, “So are you saying that we’re all just, like, really excellent sheep?” Well, I don’t know. But I do know that the life of the mind is lived one mind at a time: one solitary, skeptical, resistant mind at a time.

This is from an otherwise white liberal guilt-ridden article on class distinctions and Ivy League education. Don't get me wrong, the article is well written, but it's transparent in its disingenuousness. Surely no one can be that callow.

Anyway, I'm thinking about this now. I think about solitude a lot because, one, I'm an only child and have been alone all my life, and two, I know how important solitude is for my own well-being. More on this as I muse on it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Weak ties, strong passions.

I frequently tell people who don't live in the District that it's easy to meet people here, but it's not a good place to make friends. There are easy-to-list reasons for that: a transitory population, people devoted to a cause rather than to a community, and neighbors who are high IQ and high income.

I think there's more to it than that. My sense is that people who do well in DC are those who prefer weak ties to strong ones. A recent article in Wired by Jonah Lehrer discussed weak versus strong ties and community activism, noting that "weak ties play a seminal role in building trust among a large group of loosely affiliated members, which is essential for rallying behind a cause." Life in DC is all about being affiliated with some kind of cause, some passion. Nobody comes here just to hang out. (The people who hang out and do nothing else--the street-pacing idle--are largely natives who fall within the poverty demographic. I don't mean to sound dismissive about poverty, but that'll have to be another blog post.) People work, and work hard, at something they believe in. To gather a group together for a common cause, you need to focus on the work, not on the relationships. It's one of those commitment to truth things. Focusing on the higher ideal will carry you through the human messiness that comes from working with others.

No wonder I found DC to be an easy place to assimilate. I've spent my life making weak ties rather than strong ones. Anyone else do this?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Hung Far Low: Welcome to Chinatown, honey.

Many thanks to Ryan Barrett for taking this pic for me last night on the way back to the Hilton Portland from Ping. Yes, the sign really says that.

The food at Ping is awesome--Asian small plates. I had a lamb skewer, two Kobe beef skewers over which I nearly wept, and a pork shank. One of my dining companions had a vinegar soda (really kind of a vinegar Rickey, but without alcohol). It wasn't bad, I have to say. Another companion had a tamarind soda that was really good, and yes, you need to like the flavor of tamarind first.