Archive for April 2010

The Self

April 29th, 2010 — 8:49pm

In Objective C, the functions that objects perform are called methods. And when you ask an object to do something, you are ‘calling’ a method. However, when you call a method there is a hidden parameter that is transmitted to the object, known as SELF.  You would think that self would be some innate quality that each object would just automatically know, but in fact it doesn’t know, or need to know, that information until a method is called. At that point you are, in a sense, bestowing it with selfhood, or identity.

The interplay of SELF calls being made in a given program is a map of its consciousness.  My studying is going to have to take a backseat in the near future however, as the Austrian doctors are excited about this new test they’ve been working on. Apparently the big holdup was the strobe rate that they had to nail down.

Comment » | C

C’s the day

April 28th, 2010 — 11:44am

The C programming language is like Latin: no one actually uses it, but it forms the foundation for more popular languages that evolved out of it. Knowing Latin roots is helpful when confronted with new English words. Similarly, C is a great foundation for learning Objective C, which is the offshoot that allows Object Oriented Programming.

Object Oriented programming takes all the functions and variables from old-fashioned procedural-type programming and wraps them into semi-autonomous objects, which are pretty much just little entities that run around serving the needs of the larger program. The code is compartmentalized so there’s less alteration of existing text when making changes or additions. This is a big deal because any time you rewrite something you might introduce an error. Object Oriented Programming limits those errors.

Which is the same solution life came up with billions of years ago. If your genetic code addressed you in a procedural manner, as a single, multifunctional, inter-related blob, then tiny errors in coding (which in the physical world are called mutations and which lead to evolution) might easily make some fundamental, creepy and unpleasant changes in the functioning of the program (which is you).

If every organ in your body were dependent on the viability of every line of code in your DNA, you would essentially be screwed. Actually, considering that mating fitness is a prerequisite to attraction, the chances are that you would not be screwed at all. Or reproduce; or probably be alive. The answer to this problem of complexity is Object Oriented Programming.

The genes for the organs of the body are, generally speaking, units that are somewhat self contained. That way the stomach can evolve into a better stomach without having to worry about the code integrity of your white blood cell body wall instructions, or the code relating to the permeability of the blood brain barrier. You are an example of Object Oriented Programming at its most successful.

So my body does it without thinking. Somehow I still have to learn it.

Comment » | C, science

Concept Battle April 28

April 28th, 2010 — 1:04am

Having a Concept Battle with another guy.
Winners of Concept Battles shall be self-determined.

An unexploded land mine from world war II blowing up as they begin to dig the grave for the last remaining Nazi war criminal, killing the grave digger, who is jewish.

Hair dye in beakers in a room full of prisms.

The parallel universe that ostriches are looking at when they stick their heads in the sand.

A swirling of gas and particles begun as a minor fart gradually growing into an intense tropical storm wiping out a majority of homes in a medium-sized coastal community.

The melodious tinkling sound of a cat peeing on a chandelier.

The most embarrassing moment of your life, tattooed on your own ass by the first girl you ever loved.

Vibrations of the waves, heard as the song of the moon by the beach.

An elephant with Alzheimer’s trying to remember what it is that elephants can never do…

Sinister right-handed people who are ambidextrous.

The icecicle beard underneath the statue of liberty’s chin…

The tank where the government holds all the unicorn blood it is saving to help re-virginify all American women after the apocalypse.

The sadness of the world’s only conch bearing a counter-clockwise turning shell, trying in vain to mate…

Internal Air Embolisms in tantric nuns who perform Hail Marys with cunnilingus.

A girl named x4&jeez$#@! walking down x5&jeez$#@? Boulevard.

The word that is never printed in the dictionary because its definition is ‘a word that when defined in a dictionary ceases to have meaning’.

An iron baseball, a bat made out of frozen mashed potatoes, and a baseball glove sewn from the cowardice of the aristocracy.

The first antarctic research scientist to fuck a penguin.

The guilt god feels for having made christians.

The birth canal of the mother of Jesus Christ inverted and wrapped around the entire world in a single all encompassing warm hug of love.

Changes in the rates of vibration between two mating lemurs as an indication of changes in the perceived social status of the male.

A telegram sent in braille to a deaf chinese dwarf from a mahogany chest of drawers, thinking in rebus on linoleum plate.

Twinkies filled with hate.

1 comment » | random crap

SideEffects May Include:

April 25th, 2010 — 10:58am

I wanted to write this down while I could still remember how strange it was.

My wife was in the other room watching “Housewives of Orange County” or some similarly named thing, which I absolutely refuse to do. I was working in the living room with a mixed drink, having just taken one of the Aricept that Dr. Pierley gave me. These things supposedly have no psychoactive qualities at all, and so I really didn’t expect any problems. In fact, the Dr. told me it was best to take these pills at night. So far nothing out of the ordinary.

But then a remix of a song by ‘The Faint’ came on and this song repeated the word ‘Control’ in an authoritative and hypnotic fashion for quite a long time, possibly a minute and a half, maybe longer, it is hard to tell, because at a certain point into the music I realized that I had no free will or ability to think apart from that refrain. It had literally taken control of my conscious thought.

But then the song ended. I would describe the ensuing experience as what happens when you are on your computer and accidentally quit out of the “finder” (on a macintosh). Essentially, you have well functioning programs that are still running, (say Photoshop or whatever), but the most fundamental operations of the computer have been shut down.

The next song came on, and because my ability to use language out of a free-floating volition had ceased, this song became my conscious thought. I remember “wondering” in a non-verbal, base-animal sense, what would happen when this song ended, because I would then cease to have any consciousness. I wondered if my own consciousness would be returned to me after the song ended. I also wondered if this “taking over of one’s mind” was simply something that humans did when music was being played.

These thoughts were murky and inchoate because they could not be formed with the assistance of language. I knew that something was wrong once the third song came on and my brain had not recovered, so I went to go get a drink of water. Emmeline who is very sensitive about these things expressed concern and asked if everything was okay. I had a very strong sense that I could not let on that my brain had melted down, because that would possibly mean her calling for a paramedic, something which would be humiliating, unproductive, and expensive.

I felt another part of my body responding with “It’s okay, I’m fine.” But then those words, “It’s. Okay. I’m & Fine.  filled the whole of the cognitive vacuum where my consciousness had been.

It is hard to explain, but it was as if my entire identity, the scaffolding and understructure of the sense of self, which for me is composed of an interconnected web of language and metaphor, had been replaced in its entirety with a rapidly and virally expanding combination of those four words. So that when I went to lay down, hoping to avoid Emmeline’s growing concern, “it’s okay I’m fine.” was my entire universe. I was already panicking at this point, because I didn’t know if I had reached some sort of metaphysical nirvana state or if I had just burned out the reasoning portion of my brain, so I went to the bathroom to calm down.

Here, I looked at the stool full of the usual magazines, including WIRED and MACADDICT and SMITHSONIAN, but then I realized that literally ALL the words that were in front of me, in their myriad different layouts, fonts and graphical arrangements were the same words. Not figuratively; they were the actual same words, providing much the same sense of dread and terror that the wife feels in the SHINING when she finally looks at the pages that her husband had been working on all winter and realizes that they are nothing but “all work and no play makes jack a dull boy” written in endlessly different formats.

It was as if those words in the magazines were there to alert me to something that I had to, in a supra-physical non-corporeal way, deal with –as if this entire veneer of humanity and existence were just a shell for the underlying true experience which was trying desperately to become manifest by extruding pieces of itself into the fabric of the world around me. I turned from the magazines and grabbed a box of hair conditioner or something. The ingredients: “it’s okay I’m fine. It’s okay, I’m fine. IT’S OKAY, I’m fine… over and over.

This was a little scary, and I had to get away from that, so I went to lay down. But whatever thought I was able to muster with my malfunctioning volition, whatever words I could get to appear in my head, they would repeat and expand in rapid sequence, like a skipping cd, endlessly re-spawning themselves.

And yet, oddly, I was still functioning in a human fashion, able to smile at Emmeline with a simulation of reassurance, hoping that she wouldn’t deduce that I had no human consciousness.

She gave me a xanax and after a period of time I began to get sanity back. One of the interesting things I came away with from this trippy thing was how I was still able to function on one level without language. The other was that language seems to be as William S. Burroughs said, a virus that gives rise to consciousness. Without the words that I use to think, I cease to exist as a complex object. So it isn’t that words are the expression of what we feel –the end product– so much as the architects of the self in its entirety.

This morning I called Dr. Pierley and she assured me that the problem wasn’t with the alzheimer’s drug, but I am not going to take THAT stuff anymore. Won’t tell her though; she seemed a little hurt.

Comment » | random crap

Let the Concept Battles Begin

April 24th, 2010 — 5:15pm

Having a Concept Battle with another guy.
Winners of Concept Battles shall be self-determined.
Back and forth, once a day:

The sound of arguing parents in the head of a child who does not yet understand english.

A turtle that rather than hides when a predator comes around, jumps out of its shell and hits the predator with it.

A sculpture made out of vacuum.

The oregano on every pizza in new york, plotted on a colorized map of the city.

A blueprint for a sculpture of an origami crane folded into a rose.

A blind worm remembering that for some reason it should not bite upon sampling the flavor of its own hindquarters.

A praying mantis riding in a saddle on a walking stick

The entire genetic code of a salamander played on a four note zylophone by a child with down’s syndrome.

A penguin inside a mickey mouse balloon

An open jar of mayonnaise on a windowsill, in the last rays of the midnight sun in iceland.

A case of the hiccups where the person experiences a spasm every n seconds following the fibonacci sequence

A sound that only spreads in two dimensions so that it can only be heard at a specific height above the ground.

The vibrations of a vast army on the march as they jiggle the pen of a poet writing about love.

Tin soldiers arrayed in a perfect grid of twelve by twelve floating in space, completely still, surrounded by light years of emptiness.

All of the female animals from noah’s ark struggling to refrain from drowning in a whirlpool in a vat of nacho cheese;

A baseball umpire with amnesia stepping onto a football field to the uproarious laughter of the masses

A tiny mummy in high heels tightrope walking on a thread on a loom being woven into a poisonous cloak by a wicked seamstress.

All of the rubble including body parts and melted planes from 911 crammed into a giant pita bread being snacked on by allah.

The center of a tootsie pop that no one will ever eat.

Comment » | random crap

Not Thinking About That Thing

April 24th, 2010 — 4:15pm

Learning C is like reading one of the ancient philosophy books I ignored back in college. Now I’m reading about Pointers. Pointers are interesting because they are not concepts (variables/functions/things) but locations where those concepts may be found. By switching back and forth between a manipulation of the thing and the location where that thing may be found, you can work on data without having to ‘know’ the data. It’s abstraction at its most basic.

But even abstractions have a location. There is nothing you can think, no matter how removed from the physical world, that itself does not have a mental footprint. And so functions (which are like verbs that act upon the undefined nouns of variables), themselves have pointers. A pointer to a function will tell you the point in memory at which you can begin the operation of a function, but without having to ‘know’ what the function is.

The first thing that occurred to me when reading about function pointers is that this means we do not have to be enslaved to our unwanted thoughts. The phrase ‘don’t think about snakes’ is self defeating. You can’t help thinking about snakes. But “don’t think about the function beginning at…” is safe.  This would have been helpful to know as a kid when I would wake up sweaty and anxious after another dream of trying unsuccessfully to avoid thinking the thought that would drive me insane…

Comment » | C, consciousness

Countdown to senility.

April 23rd, 2010 — 1:12am

I fear that I might be developing early-onset Alzheimer’s (or else I’m just getting lazy). Ever since I came back from my trip to Indonesia I have to say that I find myself drifting off now and then, occasionally even holding a phone to my ear and not remembering who it was that I had just been talking to.

My wife doesn’t seem that concerned, but I mentioned it to Dr. Pierley (more tests finally, after a couple of months of stringing me along…) and she gave me some pills that she said would probably help. It is a generic form of the Alzheimer’s medication Aricept and she told me that it can help form new memories or strengthen neuro linkages, whatever. And considering how much this stuff costs I am pretty grateful she is handing it over at no charge.

These people are legitimate doctors doing valuable work.

1 comment » | C

Learning the language C

April 22nd, 2010 — 10:09pm

The difficult thing about learning this new computer language, C (which is actually a very old language that is new to me), is that it deals with the computer in a more direct and fundamental manner than the scripting languages I’m familiar with, like Actionscript 3.0 or Javascript. With C, when you declare a variable you actually have to tell the computer how much memory it’s going to take up on the hard drive, which seemed really old fashioned and annoying at first. It seemed as if that could be handled in the background somewhere so I could concentrate on the algorithm, which is the point of the computer program. The algorithm IS the computer program, not all this bookkeeping of memory addresses.

But then I realized that all this had to go on in the background all along, no matter what scripting layer was placed atop the underlying code. There would always have to be some space set aside for new variables when a new variable was required. Which seems obvious but is actually somewhat amazing, because I had always thought about the creation of variables in this ‘Platonic Ideal’ sense, as if they were merely abstractions that had to be filled in later.

But when you are forced to make space for everything you create, even the abstract as-yet-undefined-variables, you confront the point at which the real world strata of the computer directly connects to the abstract nature of thought. Information cannot exist in a netherworld of incorporeal immanence; it has to always be marks on a page or atomic dots or something that is the equivalent of chalk on a blackboard.

The ‘Platonic Ideal’ is bullshit, because the ideal is a thing and a thing has to be registered in some fashion. When you instantiate an object in object-oriented programming, you might think of this as the Platonic Ideal being made concrete, but that is a faulty metaphor because even that supposed Platonic Ideal is a series of zeroes and ones that are taking up length and width on a tiny spinning disk…

Comment » | Whining


April 18th, 2010 — 8:10pm

I met Eric and Phil in Sumba, Indonesia for this trippy festival.

I had a little extra time and went there a week early, which was a bit of a bust. Didn’t do much; in fact, looking through my journal I don’t think I made a single entry before I met up with the guys. It’s like that first week was just snipped out of my life…


“Every good Pasola begins and ends with a rock fight. At least that was what we gathered from the smiles on the faces of the men and women who were only reluctantly climbing onto the ramshackle open-topped vehicles. Police armed with rifles pushed the crowd of two thousand off the playing field. Storm clouds towered over the volcanic landscape and soon we would find ourselves crammed under a plastic tarp as our drenched pickup truck careened over the mountainous trail back to Waitabula, a small untouristed town on the Indonesian island of Sumba.

Months of preparation, thousands of miles of travel, and we almost missed it. Attending the Festival of Pasola had been a longtime dream of mine, and for once I had both time and money enough to make the trip. The tribes of this small, tropical backwater used to engage in vicious wars on horseback, a religious obligation to spill blood before planting season began. Today the spears are blunt, bamboo poles, more likely to put out an eye than tear open a chest. But the aggression is still there and the hundreds of brightly decked-out riders and their muscular horses were ready to prove to the world and their fellow tribesmen that they were still ready and able to fight a calvary war should the need arise.

Unfortunately, knowledge of modern marketing has yet to reach Sumba. Details on these intense equine battles are only determined a week or so ahead of time. This makes attendence a very difficult prospect for a tourist without months to kill. Because these festivals are religious in nature, the dates are determined by ancient priests based on a lunar calendar and the arrival of a migratory worm-like fish called the Nyale. We landed in Bali expecting to travel across the archepelago in a leisurely fashion, taking a slow boat south after a few weeks of diving. But the Nyale had beaten us to Sumba! We had a day and a half to find our way there. Pasola was ready to begin.

Because of the scheduling, there were only a handful of western faces on the field when we arrived. Various tribes had begun to gather on the low rising hills that ringed the perimeter. Gradually men began to taunt each other as their beloved warriors arrived on horseback, spears in hand, the bells attached to their sprightly horses ringing with each step. Soon however those taunts became yelling and then people began to assault motorbikes with sticks, and finally the entire hillside in front of me erupted in a flood of screaming people as someone from a distant hill began to lob fist-sized blocks of coral into the air. They landed like warheads in the crowd, and one poor child was taken away covered in blood before the police arrived, shooting into the air and driving back the more aggressive groups of tribesmen. The looks on my neighbor’s faces clearly said: This would be a good Pasola.

After an hour, tempers relaxed and the fighting began in earnest. Each group had a safe area from which riders emerged, spears in hand. Each warrior would race out in turn, flinging his spear at the opposing group. If he scored a direct hit on a rider or a horse the crowd erupted in a wash of emotion that travelled from hillside to hillside as supporters began to taunt each other and mock players from the other teams.

After a few hours the taunting became ever less jocular until rocks once again began to fly. Police pulled into the middle of the field and forced everyone back to their vehicles. It was just as well; the sky was overcast and soon it began to pour. As we huddled in the back of a pickup truck full of wet Sumbanese, guided by the cops away from the field, we realized that even police were happy with this day. Afterall, it had served its purpose. Planting would begin in earnest. Blood was shed and the sky was full of rain.”

Comment » | Uncategorized

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