Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lunatic at the supermarket

As I'm sure you have heard by now, Gabrielle Giffords and 17 others were shot at a Safeway supermarket. This actually happened about 10 minutes from where I live, and is in fact just north of a drug store I have worked at.

I looked at the shooter's youtube accounts, along with some other things he has written that were dug up by the media. I've come to the conclusion that he is a complete lunatic. I know what you're thinking, that you have to be crazy to do such a thing, but I've heard many mass murderers and perpetrators of horrendous crimes offer up about as rational of an explanation for their actions as could be done. Not the case for Mr. Loughner who is makes no sense of any kind.

First of all, he talks about "conscience dreaming" as a hobby of his. There really is no such thing as "conscience dreaming". "Conscious dreaming" maybe, "Lucid dreaming" certainly, but as far as I know Loughner is the only one to use this term with the exception of people using "conscience" in place of "conscious" by mistake and are unfamiliar with the proper term. Ironic that "conscience" refers to the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, something that apparently did not have a say in Loughner's waking life!

The other thing he talks about is grammar. He insists that grammar is extremely important, yet he has very poor grammar himself. He even talks about inventing his own grammar, one that differs from the grammar "invented" by the government. Maybe he thinks the government is trying to control our minds with some kind of special grammar they made up. Perhaps I could as a stretch consider that he's talking about "legalese". This really isn't a different "grammar" though, and inventing a new grammar wouldn't help the problem of the average person not completely understanding the law as it is written.

He also speaks of inventing a new currency. I suppose he doesn't trust any of the currencies that are currently used. However, it's not a currency unless it is exchanged between more than one entity, and he never elaborates on what he means exactly. Maybe he was mad because Safeway wouldn't accept rocks in exchange for groceries.

Oh well, trying to make sense of the opinions of a mad man is never an easy task, if their opinions made sense they wouldn't be crazy right? I am pretty sure he will be found competent to stand trial, but he's crazy enough to raise some doubt about it.

My heart goes out to all those that were hurt by this loony.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Questions, questions

This post is a bit of a rant about a disturbing phenomenon that seems to have cropped up without my knowing, and that is this mysterious issue of when asking questions became tantamount to bad manners.

If you read my previous post about the Lorfa, I mentioned the problem of human ignorance and how it is a major source of conflict, and that communication is an essential tool in not just eliminating this conflict, but furthering our understanding of the world. I'm a curious person, and I ask plenty of questions. In the past couple of years though a lot of my questions have been met with "dirty looks", as if I had committed some kind of faux pas.

Now I can understand how questions could be insulting, especially some rhetorical questions such as "Are you crazy?", "Are you dumb?", "Why don't you shove this up your rear end?" etc. Common sense will tell you that these questions will often not be received well. However questions that are designed to simply understand the world around me are often received badly nowadays.

I asked a software engineer who was on a development team, how large his staff was and he got extremely insulted. I did not ask in any way that I would find rude; I always try to put myself in the shoes of the person receiving the questions to check and see how I come off, and I do this even more if someone received a question badly. I think he interpreted my question a long the lines of "you guys don't do any work you lazy slobs". However nothing in my question indicated this.

Normally I would just chalk this up to a unique event involving one particular individual who may have been having a bad day or is actually just a jerk, but it happened again numerous times with different persons over different mediums. The majority of them were american though, so hopefully it is only an american phenomenon.

I believe it is a problem of reading into a question too deeply. A lack of objectivity I suppose, and this relates to my previous post as well. Personally I wouldn't mind seeing the day when a question such as "Are you stupid?" could be taken at face value and answered yes or no, even though that particular question is a bit problematic (if the answer is yes, are you qualified to answer?).

The way I see it close-ended questions have six possible answers: Yes, No, I don't know, Maybe (it depends), Mu, and I can't tell you. I suspect that a lot of folks would find that last answer a bit unsettling, but I do recognize that there are many situations in which it applies. Of course, often times when a person wishes to conceal information they will use the "I don't know" instead of the "I can't tell you", which makes it even more secretive. This wouldn't be acceptable in all circumstances however as in some cases it is obvious that the person does have the information.

In case you aren't familiar with Mu, it means "void" or absolute negation. This applies to questions such as "Do you still beat your wife?", Assuming that either you have never had a wife, or do but have never beaten your wife, neither "Yes" or "No" would be acceptable. Unacceptable as well would be "I don't know", presupposing the person would remember taking such an action, and if they wouldn't they are probably too crazy to be having such a conversation with.

"Maybe" would be bad as well, as would be "It depends", because this would indicate that with some minor clarifications the answer would be "Yes" or "No", and we established our scenario as this not being the case. The "I can't tell you" answer would be rather difficult to apply here, as again the same problem exists in that it indicates a "Yes" or a "No" being the correct answer, even if there is a barrier of secrecy in the way.

So, the appropriate answer here is "Mu", meaning that the question is inherently flawed and cannot be answered with any of the typical answers applied to close-ended questions. A lot of folks will just say "I don't beat my wife, and have never done so", or "I have never taken a wife" to take care of the prankster asking the question. However, this is an open-ended answer to a close-ended question, something I find inaccurate even though it is acceptable and used in many cases (and abused by politicians). It is probably polite to include an explanation after you answer "Mu", as this might perplex many.

With these six answers at your disposal, I don't see any reason to take offense to a close-ended question, barring obvious rhetoricals that are designed to insult. I'd say that you can even answer "I don't want to talk about it", after all the person asking the question is asking you for a kind of favor, to answer their question. I would be happier to hear this answer than a lot of the negative responses I get.

Perhaps it is a matter of ego, if you ever saw Star Trek V where spock's brother and the crew meet who is supposed to be god. "God" asks to be taken away from there on the Enterprise, which provokes Kirk to ask "What does god need with a starship?", and bones eventually says "Jim, you don't ask the almighty for his I.D.":

Of course the entity refuses to answer Kirk's question, instead opting to shoot at him with some kind of lightning. Maybe people feel intimidated by skepticism, and would prefer some kind of absolute faith. I'm opposed to faith in cases in which it fuels ignorance though, if for no other reason than because ignorance gives rise to conflict.

I guess I'll just keep asking questions and hope that the trend disappears, and that most will understand that I do not have malicious or dishonest motives. Someone told me that perhaps I am not asking such questions as diplomatically as I could, but you can only be so diplomatic before you aren't asking the question at all. Then there's the other issue where excessive diplomacy becomes dishonest/phony, as you will know if you have seen just about any sitcom. The eightfold path of Buddhism includes a category called "Right speech" which explains this quite well:

"The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary."

I have also seen it phrased as "speak from the heart", which could also be extended to questions. "Question from the heart" I suppose.

So, if it will please your majesty, and if it's not too much trouble, please leave a comment for this blog entry. Thank you for your time. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's a Lorfa?

A "Lorfa" is a nonsense word that I use to name the life form that is to be the successor to humans. It also happens to make a good nickname and is often not taken, so I use it just about everywhere.

I see human beings as a kind of half breed, half non-human primate and half something else. George Carlin said "we're barely out of the jungle" and I agree. The hope is that if someday we become 100 % something else instead of only ~50 %, that the disappearance of our more primitive side will take with it the more troubling aspects of human nature, such as greed, ill-will, violence and impulsiveness.

I often like to speculate about what this next evolution might be like, be it brought on by nature or engineered by us (transhumanism). I've come up with some attributes that I find interesting:

1. Nonduality comes naturally.

2. Greater objectivity.

3. Greater average intelligence, especially spatial.

4. Smaller average ego.

5. Assertiveness, instead of passivity and/or aggression.

6. Less bacterial, less viral in nature.

7. Greater sphere of understanding.*

8. More powerful communication, that also comes with greater ease.**

9. Substantially stronger memory

Some Physical Ideas:

1. Greater myelination up through adulthood.

2. Acquire nourishment from surroundings (energy everywhere).

3. Waste in the form of heat.

* Human individuals have what I would describe as two mental 'spheres' of information: knowledge and understanding. The sphere of knowledge is larger than the sphere of understanding, since we understand only a percentage of what we know. The problem is that in both cases these spheres are too small. With intelligence, maturity, and study one can widen these spheres but only to a certain extent.

The result of this is that human progress is slow in many areas. It often takes teams of persons throughout long stretches of time to make scientific and civil progress, and often only after much conflict. In fact many human conflicts begin on exactly this lack of knowledge and understanding.

Although it would be great to improve both of these, simply improving our understanding of what we already know would help considerably.

** Communication is one of the only resources humans have to combat the small size of our information spheres. It is only natural that a successor would possess substantially stronger communication abilities.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Here I am again

I actually considered naming this a "journal" instead of a blog, although as it turns out a journal can indicate a daily entry, and I did not want to commit to daily entries. It looks like it might be going that way so far though. We'll see.

Anyways, I've recently come to the conclusion that my mind operates in 3.25 channels. The 0.25 because one of them is comparatively narrow in its capacity, closer to a "quarter channel".

These channels do not simply contain/process mental information, but can also be used by the body. Here's an explanation of what each channel is typically used for.

One channel is what I would consider "main", and includes what I'm focusing on doing at the moment. For example writing this post. This is where the "personification of my own intuition" makes its voice heard.

The second (auxiliary?) channel can be used for just about anything, but often it is a source of distraction. So, what I often do when I am focusing on something is move my body a bit. I shake my leg, or make some other simple motion that kind of "silences" it. That way my main channel can go about doing what it is doing without having "noise" on the line. I've found that typing satisfies this minor kinetic operation, which allows my intuition to flow on to the page naturally.

The third (tertiary?) channel, and what it is often used for may surprise you. It plays music. Almost omnipresently some song is playing in my head and it is often on this channel. Often the same tune remains in my head for 1-2 days, and it's not even the complete tune. It's usually 1-4 parts of a tune played over and over again. Right now it is playing parts from "Love sic pt. 2" by Nujabes ft. Shing02. You might think this would drive a person insane, but as far as I can tell I've been like this for my entire life, and unlike the second channel, the third has the peculiar property of not interfering with the first two. Of course the song can be changed by simply listening to music, but it usually takes listening to two different tracks to change the song, and I have to enjoy the song sufficiently for it to take hold. It has to at least be "catchy".

Which brings me to the last channel, the fourth, or quaternary channel. This seems to be a narrow one, as it is seemingly overshadowed by the first three. In times of great focus I no longer have music in head, as the third channel's tunes get pushed into the 4th and their mental volume gets turned down greatly. When I'm not focused this channel contains information that kind of exists at the border, or "periphery" of my awareness.

Right now, my fourth channel appears to be concerned with the person whose computer I'm using at the moment coming home and wanting me to sign off. Part of this last channel's information seems to go into my unconscious mind where such information is manifested in all sorts of ways in dreams. Certainly "back of the mind" anxieties have a way of finding themselves into my dreams.

Having realized this I wonder what I can do with it. Certainly an improved understanding of one's own mind is bound to have some value.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I find myself staring at a blank window.

Too depressed to write much of anything at the moment I suppose. I'm curious to see how this system works though.