Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You're So Smart!

I have a very bad habit of indulging obsolete equipment. I rooted the Kindle Fire I bought my daughter the day before it was obsolete, which was the day after it was launched and orphaned. She couldn't figure out what to do with it other than to read books and watch videos which she has plenty of other ways to do. For me, as long as I don't visit tech stores very often it seems fine. I have to resist that lust for speed, since as regards functionality, my rooted Kindle is more up to date than the ones in the stores - thanks free and open sourcerers!!

Before that I ran old small laptops, although to be quite honest my now newish Windows laptop can bog down like a champ against the ebola plague of constant updates. This new champ reminds me of myself, struggling to wake up or stay asleep, and never quite in its moment. Meanwhile, Apple is the champ with profits - more than all other PC makers combined nevermind market-share - which just goes to show that controlling the overall experience is where it's really at. If you have the money to support the habit - theirs or yours!

For some reason, the Yudkowsky Kurtzweil krewe is in my face again with their brand of clever to beat all clever, which always seems functionally identical to extinction to me, the way they put it. I know I'm smarter than they are, since I ran a school for kids with IQs higher than theirs if you want to measure things that way, and by definition my numbers had to be better or I wouldn't have survived. I certainly deployed no power! I was dispositionally oppositional to lording it over anyone I think.

I could be wrong.

It's natural that these guys get the attention since we're all geeked up and excited about Internet of Thinginess constant calibrations for our lives. It's harder than ever to trust in luck anymore since you have so much choice against it, even while the world melts down around us or, per Kurtzweil, it only seems to do so since really it's just getting more intelligent and the rescue will be as surprising and instantaneous as Christ's return. Within the margin of error of megavitamins, really, if they don't kill you first. I guess you have to pick your God and go with it.

But there sure is something funny in our read of evolution. To me, the main import of various recent discoverings seems opposite to what they otherwise seem (hmmmm). So we catalogued the human genome and mainly discovered that we're mostly populated by alien DNA in the form of bacteria and other goodies. And that this collection of not-us can be more instructive of our dispositions than the us-stuff.

The other thing is that we've learned more about epigenetics, which should have been obvious if we were to think about it, which we never did. Our time-scales are way off. I mean when you breed goldfish or dogs or people for that matter, you aren't moving along the evolutionary processes. For the most part, we're removing choice individuals to meet some determination of cute, which probably makes those choice individuals less survivable without us. And it turns out, duh, that these choices are heritable but not in the sense of genetically different. It's all in the expression! Dead higher ends for Jesus and for me!

So the other thing which my technological devices bring to my front and center are endless stupid discussions about how less than super intelligent people can contribute to society's advance, and I'd thought we'd gotten rid of those questions along with Hitler. (Humble smart people always say it's hard work and not clever that gets things done, but you don't really believe that, do you?)

But no, it seems that intelligence is fairly automatically thought to accompany evolution as in that's why humans are so ascendant, and if you're unclever or ugly or as in my case just obsolete, then you're pretty much a footnote to the process and not central. This happens via Quora, by the way in case you're interested in the technology, which seems to translate as "magnet for people who think they're so smart."

The thing is really that it's luck which determines survivability on the evolutionary scale. The main thing about humans qua humanity is that we've shifted the environment. Those well-bred are just those who have adopted to the new environs, mostly because they're cute and breedable, which is sometimes internalized as intelligence. You know, those with the choice not to suffer any more slings and arrows than they, ahem, choose.

Like jumping out into the muck would be just crazy, man!! All praise wealth to whatever dead-end it leads us, because at least I get my shower!

But the muck is where it happens, rock and rollers, and that's where most of humanity lives and breeds if never prospers. So here's my root question to myself at least since by now I've lost you for sure: are the lucky the survivors or have they - the lucky - been shunted off onto a breeding dead-end, like breath-challenged pugish dogs? I mean one way to define the lucky is in relation to this clearly unsustainable "artificial" environment at whose end these inbreds mostly perish one would think and mostly instantly if they don't beat the suck me up to the eternal machine-mind endgame of Yudkowski and his ilk.

What would evolved humanity look like if it's to be founded in the muck? Viz the singularity types, I also think humanity is defined beyond the flesh, but unlike the Abrahamic religionists the singulars ape so well, I'm not so interested in that kind of soul. My humanity, if I can be so bold, is the civilization riding on social being which ultimately seems to depend on something rather more than clever or virtuous individuals. I guess it's all about where the boundaries get drawn, and I'm not a fan of ethnic or racial definitions either. Which leaves me rather primitive, like, back in the realm of the Golden Rule or its negative Chinese better.

So, luck is what you make of it most say, and if you're tied to the world as we've created it your luck is about to run out, right? Whether or no some soul-analog gets sucked into eternity. These nutty singularists even have their own version of taboo now, as in you don't want to offend the great AI in the sky.

Cheeesh. It's always seemed clear to me that religion is a manly patent on God, which is just plain wrong! Dinosaurs also must have felt proud before their end, if we want to project pride. Perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to patent our conclusions. What's cute to us is bound never to be cute to eternity.

So, in my humble judgement as we Internet poser falsies like to say, IHMO, INRI, whatever, it's about the civilization we choose to inhabit, inherit, promulgate and propagate, which is surely not the one we celebrate now. The one we have is running on automatic, just the way we would have it do since we're so damned afraid of choice that we've left the kids in charge.

(I just read Tim Geithner on crisis management, which is a seriously good book though wordier than the Bible by far. It's a nice corrective against the notion that you knew anything at all about what was happening when it was happening by a decent guy with normal intelligence. Just in case you want to know where I'm coming from.)

But then I have no breeding either.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Is the Big O really a Big Zero?

As usual, I have to bury an embarrassing post - with another embarrassing post!

But like a lot of us out here among the  populist reality fringe, I've lost enthusiasm for our president. It's the extrajudicial killings. It's the huge and increasing numbers of Americans - just as authentically so as you and me - who have been exiled to parts South just because they lack papers. It's the fracking orgy, and the loss of net neutrality and the campaign finance limit dams all broken. Obama administration policies on education are nightmarish from an educator's perspective. But mainly it's because I've had cause to examine Obamacare up close and personal, and there's almost nothing there to like unless you're an insurance company.

In simple terms, the "markets" do nothing for someone who's not a corporate person. It could be that there's no price transparency in medicine, it could be that just like Chinese restaurants, there's a kind of sliding scale according to how well initiated you are, or it could be just plain rot at the neoliberal core.

I remain confident that President Obama is a nicer fellow than GWB, and I hear his lament that without pressure from the electorate there's very little he can do. But I have removed myself a few times over now from all the incessant mailing lists trying to get me riled up about this or that atrocity committed by the far right. It's certainly not that I don't agree with most or even all of the positions. It's just that the money seems to make everything worse. And I agree a lot of the time with the far right wingers that I know and love.

So, let's say that the moneyed right wing really does have a strangle-hold on our political system, which of course it does. We then have this awfully perverse situation where a bespoke President like GWB can actually be milder in his policies and especially in their implementation than an honest to goodness person like Barack Obama.

It seems that this is because of the compromises which must be made just to be in his position, and a kind of honorable logic which says that we must actually attempt to do whatever it is that we set out to do. So that if we say that we will enforce the borders, then that's exactly what we will do and without all the small time wheeling and dealing which must have gone on under various Republican administrations to preserve the difference between what they say they want and what they actually want. In the case of immigrant labor, they want it abundant and cheap while still needing to maintain the quasi-populist outrage at the illegal entrance.

But in the case of anything at all - education for instance - there simply isn't time and space to get down to anything like real research-based knowledge, and so we get the foul sausage which results from politicking the solution. Bullshit by any other name.

For so long as the electorate is divided, money wins. That's true if you're getting the big money now let loose by SCOTUS, or if you're Organizing for America making your appeals for micro-cash through Twitter.

As anyone knows who's been shopping lately, there's very little difference among ticket-size for items as they get bigger. We buy cars "below invoice" and cheaper than they were a decade ago, and it's apparently worth chasing all over town for pennies on the dollar for whatever tech device du jour we crave.

But when we're buying dongles and breakage insurance and cables and stuff from the drugstore, we hardly notice that the markup may be several hundred percent. It's beneath our notice, even though the same amount of money would have sent us scurrying across town or to the Internet to get a better deal if it were, say, $10 discount on a tablet computer, versus the $20 markup for a USB charger.

As anyone knows who's watched the Wolf of Wallstreet, or has been paying attention however slightly to the news for the past few decades, it's the junk bonds where the real money is to be made and the manipulations to be amplified. It's the velocity of transaction which leaves the rest of us out of the game.

The big stuff which we actually spend time to research comes cheap! As in I sure do wish they had Chinese-made power tools for carpentry when I was rehabbing my old sailboat. But in just the way that our trade deficit gets filled in by Chinese investments in our economy, the "cost of living" (by which I mean how about rent and gasoline and insurance and food) fills in any and all gaps created by the incredible dropping prices for goodies. Mind the income gap, please!

But along with paying for the privilege now of letting banks use our money (if we're not filthy rich) comes the ultimate insult that somehow Twitter can actually make an amazing amount of money on each of our tweets which we think we get for free! Ariana Huffington did the same thing with bloggers. We provide content and market share and someone else owns the title to it because of some language we thoughtlessly clicked our assent to.

When did we go through that looking glass? At what point did each of us stop being responsible for what gets carried out in our names?

These days I can still barely reconstruct myself, though I’m old enough that I can’t remember what I wrote down when. Does that mean absolution? Like on that DVD they granted me of my CAT-scan once because it would be more likely to show up where it’s needed in my hands than if they tried to keep it and file it, I still mostly recognize myself in that ghostly picture inside my head. Like who wouldn't know their own signature?

(But I have no device that can read that DVD anymore, so I left it behind somewhere like DNA on a doorknob. Uh, fingerprints.)

Who knows how many narratives I've cast out, but I can see they’re me. It’s not just the shape of the skull, but even maybe the vague weight of the flesh which surrounds it, the vessels in their squiggles, bloodshot through with tracer fluid. It just looks like me is all. But you wouldn't recognize your own fingerprints, would you? 

There must be some peccadillo there somewhere I’m not thinking about now, though it’s hard to shake the vague certainty of guilt, even when it might only be a dream. 

The normal wear and tear out along the peripheral capillaries that the Doc told me about isn’t where the flaws will be; you don't even need those for recognizance. Just ordinary memory loss.

But you know, when my government does extrajudicial killing in ways secret not just from the people, but from our representatives and when the intelligence committee members are themselves sworn to secrecy about it, what are we out in the capillaries supposed to do?

I feel complicit to any extent that I want some new gadget when the rest of world wants food. What would I do if only God were watching?

What if everyone in the country had the courage not to work for anyone who wasn't interested in their opinion? That would surely break the regime of terror, except that we're all too terrified to try it. Union!

I am winding back to where I must have started. Zero. Mom calls each day now to worry that it’s been a long time since we caught up, and she understands that she must no longer drive. Too sad really that I have no place to house her, though she spends more in a year to be maintained in style sufficient to her expectations than I have or ever will earn. So it must be just desserts.

OK, so turning outward where will I go, and not to end up that way. When will there be a zero at my center? And can I buy some kind of insurance to be certain that some simulacrum of me won't persist after the responsible me is no longer? Who will be making use of me after I'm not?

Doubtful about the insurance. The increments are too small. The progression not smooth. The very moment when Zeno passes my Zenith is harder to track than the price of the latest gizmo. Somebody will have made an awful lot more money on my soul than I was ever willing to sell it for, that much I know for certain.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Newsflash! iFixit Sells Out

Not exactly news, unless you think it's news that, hello, blond babes driving expensive leather upholstered SUVs with snorkels for underwater driving didn't marry for love. But it's still a heart breaker. At least the guy cashing out told it like it is; "everyone has his number." He didn't think anyone could go that high, but Apple did. Apple has no limit, and iFixit was spit in their iPhone.

The story is so purely Orwellian though, and if it's a wink out to those of us who still read actual books, I still wanna puke.
Apple made a commitment to produce the most replaceable electronic devices and personal computers on the market. This is a clear win for the whole iFixit community.
Sure, well they've got a point, right? I kept my workplace iPhone for three full years almost, though the upgrades made it feel older than that. My little bit for the environment, like driving cars into the ground - my specialty.

Work phone. Funny, when my computer shut down at the very moment that I thought I was going to have a discussion about some difference of opinion, that exactly how I felt when I read this news. Thank goodness for the Apple find-your-phone remote wipe feature. When the end comes, there's no dignity to it.

Not too long ago, at the inception of this Catalytic Narrative name-space, I thought it would be a good idea to lose my inhibition for a while. That can be a bracing experience, mostly because if you don't make it to the ranks of people whose voice is heard, you must endure the stultifying experience of being quietly ignored. Hey, what's your number, babe?

It's not that you're standing naked in public, which you are of course though who should be embarrassed by that, Adam? We all look the same underneath except for Noah who didn't want even his sons to see him naked. That was before locker rooms, though somehow there was already steel and brawn, according to Aronofsky. Anyhow, it's more like you're busking on some streetcorner and you're trying to stay secure in your sense that you have anything to share at all. Do I have on the wrong clothes?

But along comes the Oculus Rift (really?!), more news of quantum computing, following on the heels of gravitons detected while waiting for the next round of God Particle higher energy precision. Autism spikes and we don't know whether that's a measurement effect either.

Epigenetics messes with our Bell Curve certainty that you can't inherit earned enhancements; that only reproductive sexual proficiency gets passed along. And just what do you think will be the first real money-making with those VR Goggles? Holy criminy, and the global warming announcements proliferate!

The reality which grandma likes inside the CGI world is clean and pure and airbrushed beyond, um, actual reality. Here in SoCal, we get a reasonable facsimile, so long as we stay higher than the valleys and don't require public transportation.

Plus we get all the cool movies first, and now that it's all digital everywhere, it doesn't even matter where you go to get them! Stay home, stay put, and bask! You could die on the highways, especially if it ever rains! (It's raining!!!) They say the big one is coming.

David Brooks now confidently asserts that people getting filthy rich has nothing to do with the masses dropping ever lower into abject poverty within our very own boundaries, and so I suppose this VR world into which we'd all apparently like to crawl has nothing to do with the devastation we impose on our actual planet, right???

And we thought Brooks was the good guy conservative, just like Bill Gates looks relatively OK now after the new boys took over town. I mean, who is Jaron Lanier working for now, huh?? How many dollars equals a soul exactly?

Yes, OK, I'm unemployed again, which makes it a lot easier to stand on street corners and croon since it's all relative, man, it's all relative. My daughter shortly (that's not her name, stupid! Pay attention to the caps.) will graduate from the world's best law school, and I have to find some words to stand in for the gift I suddenly can't afford. That's hard!!

Yeah yeah, I know get a job asshole! I owe on the premise of what I should be making. I'm free, white and twenty one or more, so what's my excuse?

Well, I'm a stickler - three finger salute and no reading between the lines - and there are limits to what I'll pledge or do for money. Circle Jerk.

Lately, since we can now understand that Animal Farm (which I just re-read, not incidentally), is not about Chairman Mao's China, nor Stalin's Russia, nor even Putin's New Russia, but is a rather precise recitation of the terms in place in the New American Workplace place, I count being out of work as a kind of badge of honor. Well, I mean I'd like to.

(Together with a Party Executive from China - the actual one in charge of political rectitude among the Chinese athletes during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, no shit! -  together with her fellow elementary school teachers, I did witness fifth graders reading and discussing Orwell's Animal Farm in Rafe Esquith's classroom, so I assure you that there is hope, Pandora! I hope I don't get him fired for that, but I think folks know that his breaking the rules has something to do with his students' incredible accomplishment . . . anyhow, that's my proximate cause for the re-reading, as I recently gave a talk on the topic of US/China classroom comparisons and remarked the wonders of classroom 56, replicated precisely in China as a kind of totem of no reality whatsoevermore since they also ape his teaching and miss its essence  . . .)

I feel your pain, bro, but can you feel mine? I've been struggling across at least 31 years now to tell a simple story, and I ask you how would you feel if you discovered something as Big as the God Particle (see, like that's a really funny line right there) and you can't figure out how to tell anyone about it? I know how those end of the worlders pandering Jesus on some campus must feel, I really do.

Except that when you see earnest scholars now hunched over in conversation, they're much much more likely to be studying the Bible than Sartre, which is pretty sad if you ask me. But that's just me, since I'm not jaded. Which is the most amazing thing in the world if you were really to look at it. OK, so I don't know how they feel, since they are part of a really big success story, which I'm not.

And I, quite apparently, can't tell a story to save my life!

But if you are still mystified about what to believe and what not to believe, have I ever got a tale for you! You don't have to do higher maths, and you don't have to read everything under the sun and you don't have to suspend judgment or relinquish skepticism or (does a "relinquish" belong here??) trust in the machines they use to true the world out there. Honest!! You don't even have to buy in to Jesus, although I've been told as a last ditch pitch that it makes a good insurance policy . . .

Once not so very long ago nor far away, we could actually trust one another, not because we were better people really, but more because there were rules in society which people weren't very likely to break. These rules, like the laws of physics, didn't say anything about how people would have to behave, but they did describe the vast majority of perceived social reality. Like if you were married, and you kept your family secrets secreted you would stay married, for example.

But now, I think, you constantly evaluate your partners in every plane of your existence in case maybe they're not the best or the brightest or the most internally airbrushed for your perpetual satisfaction, and so naturally we want to disappear from time to time into some virtual reality. (Myself, I decided to pick up the latest Pynchon novel, since Amazon refunded me the cost for it upon losing some price-fixing lawsuit I had no time to participate in or even to know about if you want the truth of the matter)

People think it's funny to let you know that the NSA might be snooping the emails they send you if you check out the most popular signature line now, and I don't find it funny at all. It's probably about the only thing we can be certain of!

That and what I'm about to tell you for the trillionth time. Trust, faith, God - these are all things beyond the reach of metric reality. They can't be touched or proven or reliably depended on. In their essence, the words "refer" to emotional reality.

If you've ever tried to read me it's perfectly clear that words confuse as much as they clarify! Most of the time, unless you watch The Cove which I actually did the other night (you won't be surprised to learn), we think of emotion as a purely human quality. Or at least we suppose that it doesn't make its appearance in the cosmos until pretty far down along the evolutionary line after the advent of life.

But apart from the fact that action at a distance without the mediation of time and particles remains an impossibility, I think it's really hard to talk about time's progression, and quantum computing be damned!! (So far as I can tell, the only really useful thing to come from quantum computing is the possibility for eternally secure communications, which is why the NSA funds it I think (but cannot know!).

In every real sense, Goldilocks, we were already present at the Big Bang, and now we have the measurements to prove it. Of course, as with any big explosion, we had to be pretty far away in space-time or, well, um, we'd, yeah . . .

But if emotion is that which isn't mediated by particles nor forced, and if it doesn't even depend so much on time's progression, then it too was already a function of the cosmos at inception. We simply have to define it properly as the virtual-reality observation in mind alone of eventual contact between perceptual objects moving toward one another but not yet in, um, perceptual contact with one another.

Of course the difference from virtual reality is that there is no control; no CGI scripting. Emotion depends on real reality, no matter how much we bawl at the movies.

But mind and emotion are and always have been and always will be part and parcel of reality "out there." Which is to say that there is no ultimate reality "out there," since there's always something which we project and impose and pay attention to specifically. It's that which causes the directionality of history, if history has any such thing, and it's that which defines the shape of fate, which is never accidental in the first place and certainly not in retrospect!

I know the only compelling narrative is a delineation of the first person, from whatever remove. First person shooter narratives being apparently the most compelling! Except that we're about to end all it by virtue simply of our inability to trust. It's our control which will do us in.

Power is not a virtue, to make another nice contradiction in terms.

Well, back to Pynchon. At least he knows how to be clear!!! I wonder if he looks like Aronofsky; if he wears a moustache sometimes??? Nah, I'm probably just being punked. Let's see what the New Yawk Times has for April 1 . . . .

Sunday, November 24, 2013

All is Lost

This is not narrative. You have to watch it hard to make poesis happen. You will feel it near to happening to you. It will not carry you along to its conclusion.

Like I am sick. Very very sick. My disease will kill me, but not tomorrow or the next day. These are emotional illnesses, in the plural which all now have physiological solutions for the hulk of me. I eat too much, and it's not a matter of my appetite. There is some emotional lack; some craving. I drink too much, especially when up against it and in need of my full wits. I am self-indulgent. I stop at 35 pushups now. Schlump. It will be sad to watch me sink were I the one doing it.

Not so sick, at least not anymore, that I need some Prozac-descended magic, but you know I'm sick the way that the earth is sick. Not twelve-step program sick, but moving in that direction. We all know what we should do, but we can't do it. Walking out of the United Nations talks on global warming because nobody will make a decision and we're too powerless to make a decision. All of us, even collectively or especially collectively. Our leader is a disappointment. So was Lincoln (I watched that film again last night with malice aforethought).

Certainties fall like the price for computing cycles per nano-second. I'm so certain that Google is brain-dead fixated on an old Platonic dream of virtual reality made real, just like Richard Swinburne who I saw the other day. Some supposed brilliant analytical philosopher who's still wondering if God is necessary. Innocent of all physics which solves Zeno in a much more clever way and not as Swinburne had to suppose since logic dictates ever more minuscule divisions of time or space. Reality denied. There is no perfect conveyance for our soul.

Innocent of anything Eastern, and so just rehearsing one among infinities of mental chess matches which can be deployed by the adept. But I was just too certain that Google was truly pursuing a self-driving car because we just can't let go of our individualistic personal God cares for me individually drive which will destroy the earth, most especially if we find some really cheap form of heat-energy.

But I read this New Yorker article about the Googleplex (just how do they keep their peculiar tone across so much time and so many different authors?) and it seems maybe they do have a vision, Google. That we won't need individually to own cars when they can drive themselves and we can just use them when we want to and fly in flocks to advantage the drafting the way bicyclists do while racing. I'd thought they weren't even working on networking the cars, but of course, duh, cars are merest analog for smart network packets.

But these dreams are of what? Sure I always want some newer and better gadget, but isn't there so much noise that my actual being can't hold that proverbial candle to off-the-grid? Or afloat alone beyond the horizon? How can they double my internet bill for loyalty! I was a sucker in the beginning and now they own me.

The geneticists were certain too until they took a good look at dog and goldfish breeding and had to wake up to the evident fact that these massive phenotypic variations were taking place in time slices far shorter than evolutionary. And that even certain acquired or learned changes can be inherited by mechanisms of enfolding.

And surprisingly enough again once we start cataloging the human genome, we get symbiotic parasites along for that ride too when we start checking out the bacteria inside us and then discover, say, that the contents of our stomachs might have something to do with our personalities, and so God sure is a trickster when he cares for each of us, soul-wise, if we can be so different according to what we eat or maybe how our emotions change the chemistry of our stomachs. You get the point.

And how can post-post critical theorists go gunning for the Nobel prize, I really want to know. Because, I mean the anti-prior-knowledge anti-privileging of point of view goes so anti-individualistically against the grain for prizes. But the world is mostly irony, and so I suppose must God be. Still.

My problem is that I'm just not sufficiently money-motivated, or else I'd have some. I'd still have my boat afloat. But really you know I have enough, and too bad if I go and make crazy decisions like going back to make another attempt at a Ph.D. at my advanced age, as though it could do me any good. But I don't do it for me, I do it for you, you know, which is pretty damned cheeky of me if you were to ask me. As though the certificate actually means something as sound as a dollar.

Money is a life-force, at least as much as bacteria in our guts, the way it manipulates hormones and mediates so much that no matter how much style we have we still all look the same and will never be so bold as to look the way that indigenous people can without the imperial us behind borders that individualize even as they homogenize. Ironic, no?

Well, and my abstracted memory sucks too. I hardly ever remember if I saw that movie before, and which of my loves among the spectrum of children through friends and lovers I saw it with. Or visited which place, though if I un-abstract my memory by travelling the literal memory lane it's all still there. I've tried it. It's true!

And still I throw things out, which is pretty much the same then as discarding myself or allowing those digital photos to continue to pile up though I never ever look at them. Do you?

I mean, if there isn't something at my core and center then there is no I there, but still I can lay no real claim to genetic ownership of the family tree if its all mitigated by freaks of accident. And why choose this narrative over some other? It's the bugs talking. Listening in.

At the core of humanity, there would be God, analog to Chinese heart-mind though that particular locution is a radially humanistic one and not divine. You have to work for it. Which is back to my disease of self-indulgence; a treat for the fictional "I" that has no right and plenty of work to do now. But I'm really smart and so entitled and why should I have to earn my keep when looks alone suffice? If you're Robert Redford, maybe.

But we don't even allow for the existence of emotion apart from some human birthright, and how ironic that I do, cosmically, acknowledge the primordial existence of emotion even apart from humans right alongside fundamental particles which aren't even particles or even strings so much as they remain projections of conceptual certainty no matter how complicated and outered the machines for their detection since we can't quite disimplicate our selves. Nor draw a boundary where we end.

We are infiltrated, and pure full-blooded Americans are exiled away to Mexico because they don't hold patent papers on their precincts and are supposed to belong there, just like the criminals in my genetic past. Right?

I did watch, and oh how self-indulgent or maybe it's just my age cohort now since it was before 11 AM, that new Robert Redford film of the old Robert Redford. All is Lost, right?

I've seen that movie before. It's my life. I've drowned. I've died. It's your life if you're still alive because there have been so many close calls. But the sailboat, not quite up to perfect snuff and Redford old and tired, and you really can't tell if he just doesn't care to live or if he's too tired in a physical way.

My absolute favorite scene is when he shaved. Like at least you don't have to wonder the way that I always do how come the desperate guy hasn't grown a beard after so many days. And it explains why his manual bilge pump has lost its lever, or he just hasn't gotten around to replacing it.

None of it matters until it does, and boy let me tell you I did things a lot stupider on my old boat than Redford did on his there, no matter that shore was just over the horizon for me it was still to far to swim for. Or cold, he was never cold.

But we will all get to that point soon, and I don't suppose the Googleplex will clever us out of it, since they're not really all that clever. They can't be. They're too young and have spent too much time on things that aren't quite real. And then there's the money. A drug which prevents real search. Research. Which is why you hire youngsters in the first place. Callow cleverness is so cheap.

I mostly hear Johnny Cash on his final cut. Standing in for beauty. We have to feel and want our future if it is to become real. And I'm still too damned lazy to ride a bike to work. No time to train. I startle myself awake, like Ambien against thought-coma. And so attenuated from what I never was again. Give me a hand.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Not for Want of Love

No longer willing or able even to aspire
To make connection
Across years through text
Not with their author, purported only
But together with that end toward which
We two yearn
But for the long unregarded stacks
Or clicked on legalese which
Were it read
Would count to hundreds of actual meaningless pages
Of words never read even by their writer
Were there one
The flesh withers and retreats even from climax
How can one care anymore
Never achieved, as though that were the right term
Hallelujah approximately
There is never any want for meaningless flesh
Who wrote those words?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Windows 8 Hate or How I Learned to Love the Bomb

I just have to take a (long) moment here to comment on Microsoft's new operating system. Just like I finally did buy a new car (and still regret it) I'm going back to school and so I decided to buy a new computer.

Before abandoning my old laptop, I had to make one more attempt to convince myself that it really couldn't be salvaged. You see, I'm driven by abhorrence of waste, by frugality and by the mandate to be self-made. I mean really driven, like my car had 333,333 miles on it (I made up the number because it was easier to type, but it's true in round terms) and I seemed also to hold a rough estimate in my head of how many dollars that saved me and how much easier on the environment than to buy a new Prius too frequently - I tally the total of resources and energy used, including in the manufacture.

This is a dangerous compulsion. I have to fix what's broken and I feel nearly sick spending money on frivolous returns. This doesn't help my own bottom line, you can be sure of that, maybe since I'm equally frugal on demanding returns for my own investments in my work, but that's another story.

Combined with this brand of eco-frugality is just plain old frugality, and so when Microsoft was offering me a $40 upgrade to Windows 8, I thought I could do a test drive on my really old and really wimpy little laptop before making my decision to buy a new one. I wanted to be sure I was going to like the new OS which would come with the new PC. 

Plus, I surely didn't want to spend good money on something basically identical to what I had except shinier and newer and speedier. You can see how that goes for me with cars and boats and things - I get attached. New to me has to be new, like getting a computer after no computer. I spent $5,000 on that once. Or getting a color monitor, or moving from ascii command-line DOS to graphics and Windows. I wasn't going to buy a new laptop unless it was substantially different from the old one.

Like a lot of people without much cash or with a pathological trash-conservation mentality, I'd harbored some iPad envy rather than to indulge it. So I wasn't sure I shouldn't shift to a Mac plus iPad strategy. Say the lightweight Air - the one about the same size as my little old laptop. I like the form factor and the weight, but what I really like about my old one is that I'd only paid $333 for it maybe 4 years ago. And like my car it is still perfectly serviceable. (Also like my car, I'll probably foist it on my sister who's even more frugal than I am, once I do manage to pry it from my own grip).

I've had the chance to slake my iPad envy with a little Kindle Fire, which I justify because of my fairly voracious reading appetite (It's hard to keep at bay the nearly panicked knowledge that it cost fully half of my full-blown computer budget - but I carry an iPhone, which costs more and so there really is no accounting for one's predilections . . . except that work paid for the iPhone).

Well, much to my amazement and contrary to my jaded certainties, the new OS actually did give new life to the old laptop! I deployed some of my lingering techie muscle to trim things running in the background, and I also know that a new installation to replace a never-refreshed 4-year old OEM installation of Windows 7 didn't hurt. But I was frankly astounded that the old machine worked better and more smoothly with the new OS. That simply never happens.

Apart from the strange pricing of IT machinery these days, here's what confuses us all: Why does a tablet or even a smartphone seem to have so much more immediacy in response as compared to a full computer OS?

Sure there's the fact that the more compact form-factors are always on and don't seem to require that incessant mind-erasing updating. But even when the laptop is up and up-dated and running and even though it has a way more powerful processor, what gives? Why does the tablet seem to render things more quickly? Why is it so much less burdensome to go to when you don't want or need to get down to work?

Of course I get that there's more going on in the background and during startup and that the video expectations are richer and more elaborate, but still it's annoying.

So with my old laptop and without touch and after the cheap loss-leader upgrade, I learned to master the new Windows 8 keystrokes which - though they're almost Mac-like in their arcane resistance to remembering - can replace the gestures you could if you did have touch. and decided I really really did like Windows 8.

The thing that Apple did with its mini-devices is to foreground what you're doing, and effectively prevent things in the background from detracting from that. They weren't focused on the geeky elegance of their OS so much as on the styling experience of it.

So I like what Microsoft did with memory - during startup they pull a cached rendition now of all that time-consuming hardware abstraction which has to happen before the OS loads. You know, the boot-up; first you have to shim the BIOS between the physical hardware and the more uniform hardware model, and then you load drivers and so on until you finally get your "desktop." Well, indeed why not assume that the hardware across those two levels hasn't changed since the last time you booted. One wants to say duh! right?

(oddly, they reserve the full legacy startup for a "restart" which might seem odd, but it makes sense in the same way that the now gone cntl-alt-delete made sense)

And the other thing they did - with their new app model - is to allow a (once again iOS-like) background suspend, to forestall those mysterious goings-on which have always made the foreground in Windows frustratingly subject to mysterious trudging. (And so the relentless hardware arms-race to keep ahead of the terminal frustration - see there's the "bomb" in my title).

Anyhow, refreshing my old laptop both brought it back to life and made me lust for speed. I was too tantalized on the old hardware by what the new software could do on an up-to-date machine. I figured that the sometimes unconscionably slow slog-to-readiness of the new apps and the occasional dysfunctional background seeming-death of what I'd left running would be solved by new hardware. Mostly, I was right.

Of course I wanted it all, so I opted for big-time compromise. I wanted touch and I wanted compact and I wanted tablet all in one. I wanted something substantially different in more than just speed. So I got a marginally bigger-than-the-Air, marginally heavier, and marginally too-big-to-be-a-tablet Lenovo Twist. Cheap enough (at $750 -  sale-priced because maybe no-one else thinks like I do, gracefully) considering I got touch and a few other bells and whistles I'd been missing.

It feels durable, and you already know that's my number one requirement.

Mostly I'm pleased, but here follows the substance of my review of Windows 8, and I can preface it by saying that while writing this I had a kind of virtual hang. Upon restart I discovered that indeed there were latent Windows updates chomping against my work. Nothing's poifect!

I'd been treating my computer like a tablet, leaving it suspended for the sake of instant return to where I was and that seems to create a kind of metaphor for all the compromises. The thing is neither here not there, quite.

So, you don't really have to leave it suspended since a start from shutdown is nearly as fast as a wake-up from sleep. Plus, as bonus, many of the apps, including IE 10 go right back to where you left them, even though you shut-down in between! Anyhow, tablet or smartphone-style always-on doesn't quite work. Maybe shut down at the end of each work session, but you're back to that burdensome cost of entry.

As regards the good stuff Microsoft cooked in, there's always a flip-side, and in this case it's the evident fact that sometimes IE 10, for instance, goes into suspend in the background and you lose your authentication which might matter if you're doing banking or email or social networking (which I never do!). If you didn't lose your authentication, that would be cause for a bigger sort of worry.

Some of the apps are seamless, and the background suspend is transparent the way it is in iOS.

But some really do need to run on the legacy desktop. I think that's why my new Office 2013 or 365 or whatever they call it still runs on the desktop. You'll think I've totally bent over for M$, but I actually do like the subscription model. I'm all in - it's cheap enough and perpetually updated and even the install was seamless. I could start using it while all sorts of detail was happening in the background and rest relatively confident that it would all work out and it has! No disks, no clicks beyond the initial ones nor pause between my credit card and up and running.

But it has to run on the [legacy] desktop (meaning that it doesn't run as a Windows 8 App) for the same reason that you should do your banking and blogging from the desktop (even though I don't) because for critical work you really do want to know that it's actually still running in the background and not subject to some foregrounding pre-emption. You need to know it will still be there when you get back around to it, and not have to wonder which of the now many states of save you left it in. Suspend? Autosave? How many caches?

OK, so onto the touch side, I confess I do convert my little twisty laptop into a way-heavy tablet and I like it. I really do. But it's not quite as responsive overall as my little Kindle Fire. The combination among the position sensor and the multi-direction hinge on the screen and the sheer bulk of the OS destroys just a tad of the immediacy I'm looking for.

And really the bulk of the laptop at 3.5 pounds pretty much destroys the pleasant reading/browsing experience of the iPad. But I can put it behind my cereal bowl in the morning with the keyboard as either tent-back or reversed behind the screen, and it's better than a tablet. Honest! I don't have to fumble, I just eat and poke and read.

My bottom line is that I think they're on to something. In laptop mode, this machine is nearly perfect for me (I actually bought it for the keyboard, plus I've already memorized the many new keystroke combos so I do fine on Windows 8 without the touch* which would require awkward reaching over the keyboard - the reason I didn't buy a touch-enabled non-convertible laptop) The tablet mode is enough of a bonus that I find it far preferable for reading/browsing, even when I'm lounging in a chair. Having the keyboard out of the way makes it so much more like reading a book or a paper. and bending it under means you can get the angle right while the machine is sitting on your lap.

But mostly what I really love is the disappearing windows. Gone are the buttons and controls and taskbar. You get the whole screen! All on all the time.

(Granted, you have to know some keystrokes or gestures to find out what time it is [which has made me late on more than one occasion, and I haven't either looked for or found a transparent hovering clock which might or might not be possible with the new OS model . . .] )

The big question is whether this all promises something that's less of a compromise at some unknown future date. Whether the "desktop" can and will morph to the Google Earth kind of geographic metaphor or, say Prezi-style where you can keep in your head where things are floating and what to foreground and they come wheeling in from some definite direction so you can retrace it. I want to zoom in zoom out and have my foreground click into position with some satisfying detent.

Can't you guys just do that!!?? Hello! Apple? Microsoft?

Of course this is where the patent process has become so dysfunctional. Or is it just that Microsoft is too stodgy in precisely the way that they are locked into the slide-model of PowerPoint and so all the incredible bells and whistles just beg the question of how and why not just get rid of the basic metaphor so you don't need all those bells and whistles. Because PowerPoint destroys rather than enhances face-on presentations no matter how clever you make it. It's too linear.

And Windows 8 is still too boxy. I think I should be able to lay-out my apps in some virtual space. I don't miss the start button and the hierarchal list of programs, but I still need some way to find them. I think I want thesaurus.com style relational bubbles, and I want them more near or more far from my focal point according to how often I use them, with perhaps some automated and dynamic reconfiguration. And I want to be able to draw some kind of circle around the ones I need to stay awake and multitask with me without having to worry about them suspending in the background if I do too many other things.

But you will know that the metaphor I've now slid back into involves cars again.  It becomes political somehow, just in the sense that no-one knows how to solve our transportation issues. For me here in SoCal a car is an incredibly massive and expensive inconvenience because it's virtually impossible to get around with all the traffic and you spend all your time in the car instead of where you want to be.

No matter how incredibly comfortable and connected your car is it's just miserable. And I mean miserable, and scary to boot. How much more pleasant is Manhattan, and how much more pleasant would it be here if you really require the weather and the views and the now-mostly-clear air to breath if there were frequent fast trains and no traffic? How about monorails, if you need them both? Get on the train and then move to the car which will detach to your home destination and then relax. Hint: self-driving cars are the wrong metaphor too! They solve the traffic problem, maybe, but not so much the energy and cost problems.

Man, do I get distracted. But back to the main point, it's almost here, the perfect OS is. I think that Mac has been left behind unless they have the perfect machine I just described in the near-term works. Who knows whose patents I've been guessing at, or if someone will steal my idea and get rich off it because I'm too lazy to think it through myself.

I think I've described what I have going on in my own mind up against the reality of what Microsoft delivers. Name-based search is marginally better than hierarchal lists if the PC is quick enough. The tiles on the new start screen can approximate a mental geography. And the distinction between the legacy desktop and the new App model can draw a virtual line around those app(lication)s you want Windows to handle for you, and the ones you want control of.

And I can still hope that Microsoft will perpetually update what I have until it really does work. They only need to change the wrapper and expand the zoom metaphor for the start screen to something less boxy and more fluid. To where I have a near-bodily understanding of how distant I left that app - where the foreground is a zoom function and everything really does stay where I can find it easily and off is just a state of mind. We need to sleep and we need to be away from our devices, which is why I can't quite get into social networking . . . .

So I have a virtual machine in my mind against which the hardware reality falls slightly short. But it's not bad. I see the vision. It changes the way I use the machine. Let's see what Apple comes up with and when I get rich I'll think about it, but for now I'd say advantage Microsoft.

*  a side note on the keystroke combos - they are a massive kludge between preservation of legacy Windows keystrokes and new approximations of what you can do with the touch-screen. That, combined with a touchpad which wants to emulate touching the screen can lead to some mis-cues which can become almost terminally distracting. The touch-pad is infinitely configurable, so that you can do away with the touch-screen emulation, but that particular kind of infinite makes it a perfect toss-up as to whether you want to devote your time to practicing keystrokes and padstrokes the way you might practice the piano, or whether you want to invest the time in testing all the configuration options. For instance, I swipe in from the left a lot, and am annoyed, distracted and surprised by the scroll-through of running apps when all I wanted was to get the cursor back from over there. And scrolling does a back and forth kind of dance between pulling down the way you would touching the screen and mousing down to make the screen move up. You can actually do both or either depending on two fingers or one along the edge, and in almost precise analog with the control key versus the Windows key and the combinations to go with it - for my mind at least - there's a near guarantee of miscue. But I guess solving that problem is like getting rid of the QWERTY keyboard, or the automobile. There's nothing quite attractive enough as an alternative to let go of what works and satisfies well-enough and what the body remembers.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Re-membering Me on Easter, as always, anon

I do wish I knew how to tell a good story. I don't. I fail in its elements.

My own life's story seems interesting, apparently, sometimes to some people, but then I'm not much better at living it than I am at spinning a good yarn. Imagine a protagonist dogged by hard luck and no resolution beyond simple finality. There would be no moral to it, and no reason to turn the dull pages.

And what if the bulk of the actual narrative as trued to the normative history outside it consisted of the man turning pages in books? Or staring at screens?

In ways that show up in the life as lived, and beyond the simple aging which we still honor sometimes? Would that change him? I have a very hard time remember the books I've read, what they were and when I read them. I always have, but still it may or may not relate to age.

I have a hard time with history too, though at least that's out there to be reconstructed, improved with age sometimes as scholars sift through the predations of previous generations of motivated researchers privileging their local slant. Our time finally is without agendas other than for truth. And utter science-mediated technological annihilation. Ommmmmmm.

Yet I do live on. I know that my consciousness excludes most of the facts of my life, perhaps especially to myself. I know this first-hand from various near death or after death or return from death experiences (depending on ones point of view), but I also know it from glancing reads of  neurological studies. I know it sometimes from the way that others seem to see me.

Death is a catalytic happening. At once it collapses all the things you might have been and puts an end to all that you were. (drowning once I really was present in the replete presentation of all that I had lived until then, it's true!) To the extent that there remains consciousness, it becomes summative, and  present to the you that might yet be gone are seemingly all the memories; the facts about what had happened to the you which until that moment was still conjectural.

I know from travel into the geography of my own past, including collections I've made of things of words of petty accomplishments that my memories reside outside of myself, or at least of that self on which I can assert conscious control. Meaning that I can't remember these things until I quite literally find them, seemingly attached in my mind as triggered by the artifact, but as much therefore in the artifact as in my mind.

All that I can do is to direct not my attention which seems to have insufficient power, but my actual physical meanderings, even if and when these involve motions of my eyes only. I seem able to decide which way to turn, but as often in remembering of myself as in forgetting and moving on to something new.

There is a toward and from in love with oneself, and yet the pages, sorry, of my life do keep turning or have so far. The book randomly composed, although - more apologies - it does become me.

These memories must recompose themselves each time I sleep for there are also inward motions confirmed by direct readings of the brain, I hear. These are only as-if motions, what is now termed virtual. And don't we all worry about the self that we might have been or become once the tracings themselves require the as-if-alive energizing of some circuits. I mean electricity is all. In constant motion, or the facts stay dormant. Reassuring just to be there. Eventually waxy bloated and no different from a carved statue, cinnabar infused. Worship the baby, Jesus it's Easter and I forgot!

Who keeps albums of pictures anymore, themselves virtual enough from about the time of our civil war when war was first brought home to roost. The cost of their taking is so reduced that we compile indecipherable troves and neglect, perhaps forever, to organize them into albums. Indexed only by dates and more recently places if you use a phone which enables GPS meta-data. Isn't it all meta, really?

But the meaning captured therein or thereupon is buried in the noise of just too many un-culled images and so I don't really take pictures anymore.

I suppose I once did start memorializing them on Facebook, as I did my reads on Goodeads (which now returns to the jungle of Amazon, and perhaps darekest oblivion of another sort). And yet my attenuated-by-migration bookshelves by their actual presence provide more solace. Though as often as I scour them for that book I thought I'd remarked as valuable I find a gap and it troubles me the way that memory loss must. (I did find a book on memory - No, I mean the book is about memory - which was listed on Amazon for almost the price of this laptop, which I've been fretting about paying for. Hmmmmmmm. I don't always know how to balance those values.)

As money is evermore the scorecard, my worth, on balance, is depleting. I have nothing to show for myself, although I could now cash in some of that life-insurance which was required by children now grown. I hate to rob the grave that way though; the discount for actual life so severe!

When I said valuable, there above, I meant as books to me for reading. I was shocked to find a gap filled by a book worth actual money. Those collectibles I've had over the years seem always to disappear when they're worth money. Or I give them away in squander. Neglect. I forget about them.

There is no geography of virtual space yet, Neil Stephenson. There are file-names and computer names and archival excursions which would require more intrepid resolve than mounting Everest or travelling again to the South Pole. The landscape along the way would be as bleak.

But this is boring now.

What choice is there, really, about which way I might turn, which path I might take? And when I do make those choices now there is that much uncertainly to accomplish whatever objective I set for myself as there might be going backwards.

I cannot recover myself any longer, for I have been and the being was never so bright!

For me the turning forward proves the moral equivalent of turning back. Once again, my love, I would plant a tree though it be the end of the world because how would one know? Were planting a tree worthwhile in the first place.

No, I mean really, I'm heading back to school to complete a Ph.D. which can not possibly be worth anything to me at my highly advanced age if not accomplishement, and still I'm confident that the directed actual study will bring me - my boring un-narrative mind, doncha know - into some actual resolution. Some catalysis not yet death.

And I am sure, gentle reader, that you are just dying for that! Some conclusion, finally to endless ramblings on increasing nothingness without time, especially, to edit. Without narrative shape - a story - it is just random troves of meaningless words; the swirl of memories in my brain without likelihood of conscious retrieval. Of ordering into something worth following!

And so I wander and meander seeming random in the paths I take. Is there choice in them or remembering, because sometimes I do remember myself where I'd thought I might be breaking new ground. And if remembering can also lead toward the future then what is it or who? it I could remember but the one I love, or left in his true season?

There is a terrible discomfort with paradox, I discover, among almost everyone with a scientific bent. As though it is the burden of science to remove such things. I know for a fact that there is not room in my mind at once for even two competing thoughts, let alone two incommensurate ones, but that thing which I call my mind is never just one thing either. It scintillates, the way you can when gazing at some gestaltish shifting shape which might be a woman young or old, but never both at once. You hold them in your mind as it were as promise that the shifting can be accomplished near at will.

Each time I coalesce from the seeming swirling mass of facts competing for my attention (as if the facts themselves might have compulsion?!) I collapse the myriad other narratives which would construe them. Those might-have-beens move, rather, to my peripheral attention. Not gone, perhaps, but attenuated and eventually lost to a geography which may or may not persist beyond the geography of my own mind.

The world will end along with me surely if I don't do something about it. That would be the moral of any story well-writ.

I do know that if I don't do it myself, there will be nothing left of me among the digital repositories of those words and pictures I have taken. Which matters not a whit but that they compose me and therefore I must be letting myself be subsumed into someone else's data whose prominence will render my presence, well, peripheral.

Unless I make connection, which is why the story counts.

And so it begins.