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GNU is Not Unix

Journal: BASH SCRIPTING: My Crude Function 'resleep' 6

Journal by eno2001

How many times have you used the 'sleep' command interactively only to realize that the amount of time you initially specified wasn't enough and you wanted to reset it? Or how many times have you had something sleeping for quite a while but you wanted to know where it was in the sleep countdown? Never? Good you can ignore this. I've found myself in these situations quite a few times when recording a TV show or ripping a live stream from the web. So I wrote the 'resleep' functions (which wrap around 'sleep') below which can then either be included in scripts where you'd normally use sleep by itself, or dotted into your environment and run as commands. It's not polished and I'm sure the logic isn't clean, but it's working for me so far. One thing I still need to add is the ability to pass a time reference to the wrapped 'sleep' command itself so that the "time units" can be something other than "1 second". For example it would be nice to be able to set it to 30 minutes and then three time units would be 90 minutes. But that will come later... For now, enjoy, pick it apart, call me an idiot or tell me how this could be accomplished with 'sleep' if I'd RTFM ( I did).

# 'resleep' is a resettable sleep countdown timer. You specify the initial
# count of time units (in this case seconds). Then if you need more time
# you echo the new time unit count to /tmp/.dtime which resets the count
# to whatever you specify.

function resleep()
{
echo $1 > /tmp/.dtime
dur=$1

while ((dur > 0))
do
# cat /tmp/.dtime
    sleep 1
    dur=`cat /tmp/.dtime`
    countdown=$(($dur-1))
    echo $countdown > /tmp/.dtime
done

rm /tmp/.dtime
}

# The 'setsleep' function is used to reset your time unit count. Example:
# 'setsleep 30' will reset the count to 30 seconds.
# If the countdown is over an error message is presented.
function setsleep()
{
if ! [ -e /tmp/.dtime ]
then
    echo "No countdown file present"
    return
fi

echo "Current countdown: `cat /tmp/.dtime`"
echo $1 > /tmp/.dtime
echo "Reset countdown: `cat /tmp/.dtime`"
}

# The 'getsleep' function is used to see where you are in the countdown.
# If the countdown is over an error message is presented.
function getsleep()
{
if ! [ -e /tmp/.dtime ]
then
    echo "No countdown file present"
    return
fi

echo "Current countdown: `cat /tmp/.dtime`"
}

Anime

Journal: Warner Media Group butchers audio from AMVs on youtube

Journal by Spy der Mann

if you're a fan of the AMV Hell series, here's another reason for you to hate the RIAA:

They subpoenaed youtube to remove the audio from the AMV Hell 3 deleted scenes 2 clip. Currently we get a message:

NOTICE
This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG. The audio has been disabled.

Really, what's the limit to the stupidity of these guys?

User Journal

Journal: I'm ashamed of myself... sayonara? 4

Journal by Spy der Mann

Sigh. Today I feel like an idiot. I screwed up in this thread, not knowing exactly what I was talking about.

The worst part is that I really tried to help. I really was convinced I had found a solution, but it was the wrong solution. So now I'm ashamed of myself and I don't know what to do.

I'm sincerely sorry. Maybe I won't post again on slashdot... it's no use, karma is useless if you get praised for the wrong things and then end up looking like an idiot.

Am I being a coward? I really don't know. But it makes me wonder... what was my reason for joining slashdot? To find other people's approval? To find a place to be with other people like myself? To find a refuge from my loneliness? Or just to try to help people with the little knowledge I might have?

Frankly, I don't know, and I really don't know if I care anymore. It feels like a lot of wasted energy.

Maybe I'll come back here posting one or two jokes - that's what I'm really good at... sometimes. It's just really hard to lose a reputation based on one single post. I know I shouldn't think that way... but it still hurts. Maybe it's because I'm really an antisocial type and I really have no real world friends.

Sucks, isn't it? Well, maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and realize it wasn't that bad after all. Because that's how humans are. Fragile and stupid.

Whatever happens, just be careful what you say in front of others. I guess that's what karma really is.

Music

Journal: Pastafarians were right: More pirates = less global warming!

Journal by Spy der Mann

In a recent blog by ecogeek, we have seen that music devices consume 25% more energy when playing DRM-ed music than when playing non-managed music. And then he makes an interesting observation:

The real problem here is that the easiest way to get an MP3 that isn't crippled by some kind of DRM is still to buy the physical CD. What's worse, when DRM systems go offline (as they are at Wal-Mart) people are going to be extremely hesitant to go digital again. Basically, Wal-Mart's servers going offline is like saying "Oh, that song you bought, well, you didn't actually own it because it wasn't really real...sorry."

Wal-Mart's suggestion? Burn it to a CD, that way you'll have it even if after we take your official ownership away. BURN IT TO A CD! I thought the whole point was that we weren't using those clunky petro-disks anymore!

So what's the solution for this? PIRACY!

If you pirate your music over the internet, people will download them instead of having to purchase more environmental garbage called "CD".

So, if you become a pirate, you're really helping the planet, yarrrrrr!

Or alternatively, you could purchase the original songs via itunes or whatever, AND THEN pirate them. In any case, the planet still needs a pirate who can distribute the original, non-DRM-encumbered music.

Or alternatively, the RIAA could stop playing stupid and simply get rid of DRM (so we DON'T have to ACTUALLY pirate the music). ... yeah, right.

User Journal

Journal: Most hilarious 419 scam I've received. 1

Journal by Spy der Mann

Dear Sir/Madam.This is for your attention We wish to notify you again that you were listed as a beneficiary to the total sum of £5,600,000.00GBP (Five Million Six Hundred Thousand British Pounds) in the intent of the deceased (name now withheld since this is our second letter to you)It is like this because bad people in the internet this time arround. We contacted you because you bear the same Surname Identity [ emphasis mine ] and therefore can present you as the Beneficiary to the Inheritance since there is no written Will. Our legal services aim to provide our private clients...

Just so you know, my e-mail account ends up in "dermann.slashdot". I wonder who was the idiot who named his kid that way... :)

And maybe the boy died in embarrassment, and left no will, hoping for someone bearing also his unfortunate name to claim his fortune.

Funny fact:

from Mr Ahmed M*** <mrahmedm***x1@yahoo.com>
reply-to mr_ahmed_m***2@hotmail.com

Wow. PRETTY legitimate :P (note: Asterisks were put in there to protect the scammer's fake identity)

Thank you Mr. Ahmed Musa, your 419 scam just made my day.

User Journal

Journal: Web Apps Without the Browser Interfering

Journal by eno2001
I should have done this initially, but yesterday afternoon I decided to post my question about launching a web mail app without toolbars and other browser junk marring the app feel to the Zimbra forum itself. I got what appears to be the best tip so far. It basically involves making a bookmark with the Javascript itself in it. It works well... I'll have to try it with other web apps too. Maybe I can finally rid the web apps of the browser feel and actually start enjoying things a bit. Damn navigation bars...
User Journal

Journal: ASK [/.]: Launching Firefox (2.0) with No Toolbars + URL? 2

Journal by eno2001

I am going to be making a change here at work so that I no longer use a mail client, but use our web mail system. It may not be ideal compared to running Thunderbird, but I need to learn the web app enough to train users on more advanced features. The only way to do that is to live with the web app every day. My main annoyance with running most web apps (AJAX, Flash, what have you...) is that the browser always has the navigation toolbar, and the bookmarks toolbar at the top which makes any of these things feel less like an app and more like a web page. This is especially fruitless when you're not supposed to use the navigation bar to move around the app.

So what I'd like to do is launch Firefox pointed specifically at the web mail app's URL where it will open in a window with only the bottom status bar showing and nothing else. Ideally, even the menu should be gone. I've seen people do this with pop-up ads, and I imagine that's done on the web server side. But is there any other way to do it? I looked through the firefox command line options and nothing seems to touch on this. I suppose even a local HTML file that is opened by the browser would be good enough, but where do I even start with that? I imagine that would be fairly simple. Any suggestions?

User Journal

Journal: BOOK REVIEW: The Origin of Consciousness (pt. 3)...

Journal by eno2001

I finally got the time to finish reading this large tome. It was worth it. While Jaynes ends the book with no real startling conclusions, he really opens a lot of doors across a lot of subject areas that really do need more exploration. As someone told me in the review of the first book, Daniel Dennet was certainly warranted in calling this book and the theory of the Bicameral mind, "fertile ground".

This last "book" is called Vestiges of the Bicameral Mind in the Modern World. He starts the book off by saying that the shift in the bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament is the reinvention of the beliefs to work with the now more dominant conscious mind. In fact he says, "A full discussion here would specify how the attempted reformation of Judaism by Jesus can be construed as a necessarily new religion for conscious men rather than bicameral men. Behavior now must be changed from within the new consciousness rather than from Mosaic laws carving behavior from without". However, for most of the book Jaynes most obviously avoids touching much on Christianity likely to avoid the controversy. One can extrapolate their own understanding from the bible after having read about the bicameral mind. As I said in my previous review, I don't think any of this is counter to the Christian (or other) faith.

Next he ponders the origins of nearly all developments of post-bicameral human civilizations and how it is possible that they are all the outcome of this new way of the mind: consciousness. He acknowledges that this is out of the scope of his book, but an interesting thought nonetheless. What I found particularly interesting was his one example of how computer science is an extension of greek Logos, or logic. I will pursue this a little further in my next writeup regarding my thoughts on the book overall. He begins to extrapolate from past bicameral echoes in civilization to the last remnants of the bicameral mind today. Prophets, oracles, possession cults, glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and generally any form of entering the unconscious (in a Jaynsian sense) mind.

Another interesting point that he brings up is that when it comes to the separation of the left and the right halves of the brain, women are less lateralized than men. This means that either side of the female brain can perform the processing functions of what would traditionally be done by the opposite side. He notes: "Mental abilities in women are more spread over both hemispheres. Even by age six, for example, a boy can recognize objects in his left hand by feel alone better than his right hand. In girls, both hands are equal. ... And it is common knowledge that elderly men with a stroke or hemorrhage in the left hemisphere are more speechless than elderly women with a similar diagnosis". He suggests that this is why in many cultures figures like the Greek oracles, for example, tend to be female. They are more likely to be able to go into unconscious mental states and communicate with the "god" side of their minds and give voice to that.

For these states of mind to be achieved, unusual surroundings and circumstances are required. The Greek oracles were usually placed in awe inspiring settings and there was an expectation from the people who would approach them asking for wisdom of the gods. The environment and expectations play an important part in attaining the unconscious state. Similarly, with people speaking in tongues, there is the mass belief in the group that is present, that someone amongst them will be given the words from god combined with the spiritual feeling of being in a holy place. You take away the expectations and the environment and these phenomena are much harder to obtain. Another excerpt:

"Since this (unconscious states of mind) is the learning of a now difficult neurological state, so different from ordinary life, it is not surprising that the cues of the induction had to be wildly distinctive and have an extreme difference from ordinary life.

And they certainly were different: anything odd, anything strange: bathing in smoke or sacred water, dressing in enchanted chitons with magical girdles, wearing weird garlands or mysterious symbols, standing in a charmed magic circle as medieval magicians did, or upon charakteres as Faust did to hallucinate Mephistopheles, or smearing eyes with strychnine to procure visions as was done in Egypt, or washing in brimstone (sulphur) and seawater, a very old method which began in Greece, as Porphyry said in the second century A.D., to prepare the anima spiritalis for the reception of a higher being. All of these of course did nothing excpet as they were believed to do something -- just as we in this latter age have no 'free will' unless we believe we have".

By chapter three we are now looking at music and poetry as remnants of the bicameral mind. His opening questions are quite interesting in the context of the rest of his book:

"... And why, particularly in times of stress, have a huge proportion of the readers of this page written poems? What unseen light leads us to such dark practice? And why does poetry flash with recognitions of thoughts we did not know we had, finding its unsure way to something in us that knows and has known all the time, something, I think, older than the present organization of our nature? ... I shall state my thesis plain. The first poets were gods. Poetry began with the (gods of) the bicameral mind. The god-side of our ancient mentality, at least in a certain period of history, usually or perhaps always spoke in verse".

We are then informed of the connection between poetry, music and the ancient sacred reading of poems. Ancient poetry was read in a more musical way. Not sung, but certainly with a maintained rather than random inflection. To try and make a more scientific connection of poetry and song to the bicameral mind, he goes back to the established point that speech (for most right handed people) is a function of the left hemisphere of the brain. Song, however is a function of the right hemisphere. He cites some interesting examples such as:

"It is common medical knowledge that many elderly patients who have suffered cerebral hemorrhages on the left hemisphere such that they cannot speak, can still sing.

The so-called Wada Test is sometimes performed in hospitals to find out a person's cerebral dominance. Sodium amytal is injected into the carotid artery on one side, putting the corresponding hemisphere under heavy sedation but leaving the other awake and alert. When the injection is made on the left side so that only the left side is sedated and only the right hemisphere is active, the person is unable to speak but can still sing. When the injection is on the right so that only the left hemisphere is active the person can speak but not sing".

He cites quite a few examples beyond this, but I am only quoting the two above for brevity. He uses these examples, the fact that ancient poetry was closer to singing than speaking to support his notion that the inner voices of the "gods" of the bicameral mind were largely a right brain activity.

Another notable statement of his in the third chapter is that humans are mentally predisposed to focus intently on things that stimulate Wernicke's area on the right hemisphere of the brain:

"...children who were fidgeting or crying stop doing so at the sound of music, but also they smiled and looked straight ahead, turning away from the mother's gaze, even acting as we do when we are trying to avoid distraction. This finding has immense significance for the possibility that the brain is organized at birth to 'obey' stimulation that corressponds to Wernicke's area on the right hemisphere, namely the music, and not be distracted from it, even as earlier I have said that bicameral men had to obey hallucinations from the same area". One of my personal beliefs after reading this book is that the "ear wig" (ie. the song you can't get out of your head no matter how much you want to) is another aspect of this. Or, at the very least, it's a potential way to explain the phenomena. It also makes me wonder whether or not people who don't experience "ear wigs" are "more conscious that those who do? I've certainly noted a correlation between people who are more intellectually conservative and the specific statement saying, "That never happens to me. I have no idea what you're talking about". But that's more topic of discussion for my follow-up...

Near the end of chapter three he makes another interesting statement regarding consciousness which I think explains the tendency towards intellectual arrogance in people:

"Consciousness imitates the gods and is a jealous consciousness and will have no other executives before it".

Pointing to the many facets of civilization that he mentioned in the earlier parts of the book, he provides a few examples of consciousness as expressed within literature, laws, conventions, etc... all strive to eliminate any other form of authorization of action. That is to say, that as humans attempt to find authorization for their actions (since there is no longer a voice in their head telling them what to do) any deviation to something that is the opposite of modern consciousness is disparaged and abandoned.

In chapter four he discusses hypnosis as another vestigial expression of the bicameral mind. His thought is that in order for hypnosis to work, it is necessary to enter an unconscious (again in Jaynes' terms) state of mind. This, he believes, is one of the major components of the bicameral mind, accepting authorization of action without question. Combine this with the internal directives being issued by hallucinated voices and you have the ideal situation for bicameral humans. He notes the hypnosis is the "black sheep" of psychology since it is quite difficult to quantify exactly what is happening. However, in the context of the bicameral mind theory, hypnosis is much more easily explained when it's seen as a vestige of that ancient mentality. In the relationship between the hypnotist and the subject, the hypnotist is taking the place of the bicameral gods. And while under hypnosis, the subject appears to give over complete control to the hypnotist. Of course, there are many anecdotal discrepancies which indicate that the state of mind in hypnosis is not purely unconscious. It is certainly a willing submission to the state.

In this chapter is also becomes a lot clearer that much of what Jaynes has been attempting to explain is the quest for "authorization". The answer to "why" it is that we do what we do in every facet of life. A big question really, and Jaynes' explanation seems to be that when humans were bicameral, the "why" was given to them by the voices of their gods. Once that was lost (and in nearly every kind of religious literature there are lamentations of the loss of hearing god) and consciousness took the place of the internal directives, humans started on their quest for an authority who would tell them how and why they must do things.

In chapter five he finally returns to schizophrenia as another possible vestige of the bicameral mind. In short he believes that the brain is still hardwired in many of us for the bicameral mentality, but that culturally, such behavior is discouraged. For one example, imaginary friends that children experience, are largely put aside by our culture as childish and unproductive. So, when someone falls victim to schizophrenia, it's obvious why this is such a huge problem. To be clear, he really isn't saying that there's anything about schizophrenia that can be taken lightly. Early in the chapter, he tries to explain what he believes is happening when someone has schizophrenia in terms of a framework. He talks about the loss of the analog "I" that we all have (that is, how you imagine yourself within your mind) when a schizophrenic has an episode. Accompanying this is the loss of the mind-space in which your analog "I" exists. And there is also the loss of the spatialization of time. The entire world, for a schizophrenic, ceases to be distinguishable from internal hallucination. So why would these traits still occur in an individual from time to time? Here is a bit of what he has to say on the matter (in the section called "The Advantages of Schizophrenia"):

"A curious heading, certainly for how can we say there are advantages of so terrifying an illness? But, I mean advantages in the light of human history. Very clearly, there is a genetic basis to the biochemistry underlying this radically different reaction to stress. ... What biological advantage did it once have? ... The answer, of course, is one of the themes I have stated so often before in this essay. The selective advantage of such genes was the bicameral mind evolved by nature and human selection over the millennia of our early civilizations. The genes involved... are the genes that were in the background of the prophets and the 'sons of the nabiim' (mentioned in the second part of the book as recorded in the bible) and bicameral man before them".

Two other "advantages" are tirelessness and much more acute sensory perception: "...they show less fatigue then normal persons and are capable of tremendous feats of endurance". And. "Indeed, schizophrenics are almost drowning in sensory data. They seem to have a more immediate and absolute involvement in their physical environment, a greater in-the-world-ness. Schizophrenics fitted with prism glasses that deform visual perception learn to adjust more easily than the rest of us, since they do not overcompensate much".

As a final note in the chapter he warns that there are many many competing theories about schizophrenia and all of them are self-defeating once you step into the realm of a competing theory. He then admits that he is merely adding another theory to the large pile of theories that have come before. And he makes it clear that bicameral humans were not schizophrenics, they merely had some traits in common.

In the final chapter of the third book, called "The Augeries of Science" he starts off by summing up and recounting the most important points of his theory and then ends by applying somewhat of a light hearted attack on the methods of science itself, based on it's shared origins with what many today see as it's rival, religion. My favorite section in this chapter is the following (long quote follows) on politics, science and superstition and the origins of beliefs. He calls this solidification of concept, "scientisms":

"That nutrition can improve health both of mind and body is true. The class struggle as Marx studied it in the France of Louis Napoleon was a fact. The relief of hysterical symptoms in a few patients by analysis of sexual memories probably happened. And hungry animals or anxious men certainly will learn instrumental responses for food or approbation. These are true facts. But so is the shape of a liver of a sacrificed animal a true fact (to divine a secret knowledge within it's context). And so the Ascendants and Midheavens of astroologers, or the shape of oil on water. Applied to the world as representative of all the world, tacts become superstitions. A superstition is after all only a metaphier grown wild to serve a need to know. ...

Science then, for all it's pomp of factness, is not unlike some of the more easily disparages outbreaks of pseudoreligions. In this period of transition from it's religious basis, science often shares with the celestial maps of astrology, or a hundred other irrationalisms, the same nostalgia for the Final Answer, the One Truth, the Single Cause. In the frustrations and sweat of laboratories, it feels the same temptations to swarm into sects, even as did the Khabiru refugees, and set out here and there through the dry Sinais of parched fact for some rich and brave significance flowing with trust and exaltation. And all of this, my metaphor and all, is a part of this transitional period after the breakdown of the bicameral mind.

And this essay is no exception.

* * *
"

His final closing statement of the last book in the set is that ever since the definitive switch from bicameral to conscious minds (which didn't happen overnight) humans have had a longing for a lost "golden age". Looking back to a time when things were better. He, again, suggests that this longing is an echo of the transition from bicameral to conscious humans. A time when authorization of action was not a constant pursuit. A time when all was clear simply because man had no internal motivation. His final analysis applies this idea to much of what has motivated humankind for many millennia. Our quest for betterment, knowledge and mastery of our environment is simply the desire to return to a mythical time when things were perfect. (The Garden of Eden is one of the strongest representation of this sort of perfection)

My overall impression of the book is that it's well worth the effort to read if you are interested in this sort of thing. It's also given me some more ways of looking at things which makes life a bit more interesting. Especially in the way that the bicameral theory is quite easy to fit as an explanation for many human behaviors. Again, if you're the sort of person who people watches and likes to introspect as the reason people behave as they do, this book is your ideal companion. As I mentioned in the review of book two, I liked this book so much that I wound up buying my own copy. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone interested by the review to try and locate a copy to read. Fun book! :)

User Journal

Journal: BOOK REVIEW: The Origin of Consciousness (pt. 2)...

Journal by eno2001

(NOTE: I started writing this review about two weeks ago and it was written in short spurts while on my bus ride to work. So if it's a bit disjointed that's why. Hopefully, I'll get a bit more time when I write the review on book three.)

Where to start? This second part of the book was a lot harder for me to get through. It was densely packed with history, which I must admit to always having found a bit dull. That's just a personal quirk of mine. Still, I love the book thus far. I can't wait to finish book three so that I will have taken the whole thing in. Part of the reason I haven't been able to go though book two (The Witness of History) as quickly is that I had to prep for part of last month for a public speaking engagement. That took more time than I expected. Nevertheless, I just finished book 2 on the way home tonight. For the purposes of review, let's simply accept what Jaynes is proposing about bicamerality as a known fact. I'm not saying I believe his ideas 100%, I'm just saying it's easier for me to write the review from that perspective simply to get the information across. On with the review...

In the first chapter of book two, we start with a focus on the origins (graves and the dead) and importance of idols in bicameral civilizations. Jaynes suggests that idols were triggers for the bicameral human hallucinations, which is why they were so prevalent. In many early human civilizations, the idols are everywhere. In homes, architecture and even hidden in the construction of the homes. Most of book two's focus is on Mesopotamia and Egypt as the primary examples of bicameral civilizations and their shift to conscious civilizations. But he does touch on other civilizations as well.

To explain a little bit about where Jaynes believes that idols came from, I'll need to mention that he believed that bicameral humans heard and saw hallucinations that they believed were gods. Many times the appearance or voice of these gods looked or sounded like friends, relatives, or even dead people that the person knew well. He also states that if there were similarities between schizophrenia and bicamerality, that the hallucinations would have occurred mostly during stressful times. What could be more stressful than the death of someone close to you? So he believes that people who had a recent experience of losing loved one would likely be more prone to hallucinate the voices and images of those loved ones.

Throughout the later portion of book one, he explains that many early writings have the gods taking on the appearance of dead relatives and friends. So in this occurrence, many ancient cultures believed that the dead become like gods. As an example he talks about the burial houses of Eynan. One of the earlier examples of this shift to burial within a building. It is at this point that the dead are transformed from mere corpses into the proto-idols that lead to the development of intricate idolatry. The pervasive presence of these idols in the bicameral civilizations leads us to the notion that they served a much more important purpose than religious statuary. Jaynes believes the idols were instrumental in the encouragement of bicameral hallucinations. They were reminders of the authority of the god hallucinations and gave bicameral humans a motivation that they otherwise lacked.

Jaynes discusses early formal human graves (Eynan was discussed in the last few pages of book one in detail) and how they were usually a building in which the dead were propped up and taken care of. The dead would be given all the comforts of the living. Jaynes surmises that this was done by bicameral humans because they still experienced visions and voices of the dead. Indeed the dead had become godlike. Initially this type of burial was performed as a standard for anyone. However when they experienced the hallucinations of their dead which led them to believe that their dead had become gods, the nature of the buildings changed over a few generations. These burial houses became the "house of god". Today those words are still used to describe places of worship. Thus the rise of early religions were closely tied in with proto-idols and bicameral hallucinations. (NOTE: I realize this is quite controversial for people who are religious. It does not have to be mutually exclusive to faith.)

One of the more interesting excerpts from book two in the early portion was the potential explanation of how a strong and dominant culture like the Incas, who had conquered and ruled their land to great effect could be easily overtaken by a small group of men from a different culture. He suggests that this was a meeting between bicameral and conscious civilizations:

"It is possible that it was one of the few confrontations between subjective and bicameral minds, that for things as unfamiliar as Inca Atahualpa was confronted with -- these rough, milk-skinned men with their hair drooling from their chins instead of from their scalps so that their heads looked upside down, clothed in metal, with avertive eyes, riding strange Llamalike creatures with silver hoofs, having arrived like gods in gigantic huampus tiered like mohican temples over the sea which to the Inca was unsailable -- that for all this there were no bicameral voices coming from the sun, or from the golden statues of Cuzco in their dazzling towers. Not subjectively conscious, unable to deceive or narratize out the deception of others, the Inca and his lords were captured like helpless automatons. And as it's people mechanically watched, this shipload of subjective men stripped the gold sheathing from the holy city, melted down its golden images and all the treasures of the Golden Enclosure, it's fields of golden corn with stems and leaves all cunningly wrought in gold, murdered it's living god and his princes, raped its unprotesting women, and, narratizing Spanish futures, sailed away with the yellow metal into the subjective conscious value system from which they had come. It was a long way from Eynan".

Another interesting comment on the Incas and Spaniards later in book two is a quote from something written by one of the Spaniards in a book about the conquest. He wrote of their idols and how they listened to their voices. He claimed it was the work of the devil as that was the only way he could interpret these indigenous people who paid great attention to their idols. Here is the quote that he included from "The Conquest of Peru":

"... it was a thing very common and approved at the Indies, that the Devill spake and answered in these false sanctuaries ... It was commonly in the night they entered backward to their idoll and so went bending their bodies and head, after an uglie manner, and so they consulted with him. The answer he made, was commonly like unto a fearefull hissing, or to a gnashing which did terrifie them; and all that he did advertise or comment them, was but the way to their perdition and ruine".

Introduced in the second chapter of book two and probably the most interesting portion of book two for me is the origins of written language. As we progress through different bicameral civilizations, he returns to his original statement that written language was the catalyst that resulted in the breakdown of the bicameral mind. No longer was it necessary to have these voices in their heads to tell them what to do and how to do it. They now had pictograms in uruk, hieroglyphics in Egypt, cuneiform in Mesopotamia. The progression from the initial representation of visual events to symbols that represent phonetic events is a very very important development. He points to the fact that picture based languages can only tell someone of something they already know (think about the standard icons for play, pause and stop on VCRs, media players and the like. If you don't know what they mean, they mean nothing). When we get to real written languages however, it is now possible to communicate information to the reader that he doesn't know. This shift to written language now gives humans a place to put down the processes, rules and laws that they need to guide them. Many of the earliest writing turn out to be very detailed manifests of who is responsible for what in a city, or inventories of resources. And of course the earliest human laws, the Code of Hammurabi. Jaynes suggests at one point that the reason that the word for "speak" is used in the Code is that these laws came from bicameral voices that were originally perceived as spoken. As such, it is likely in Jaynes' opinion that the written language still triggered auditory hallucinations in the bicameral humans of the time.

Slowly through book two we are taken from the state of bicamerality to a short period of people who were somewhere in between, and eventually to subjective consciousness. Along the way, there is much lamenting in all of these civilizations of their gods abandoning them. They no longer see or hear from their gods. There is also intimation of the the possible "generation gap" between those who are still bicameral and those who are becoming conscious. To illustrate this point he refers to Hesiod. He complains about his foolish brother Perses who refuses to do the will of the gods. Why would he if he does not hear the voices but instead has an internal motivation that doesn't need to follow any imagined gods?

As consciousness in humans develops along with written language, the tone of the writing changes from mere directions, lists and procedures, to that of more complex thought. Those changes are evidences by expressions that start to value the character and trustworthiness of an individual being written about. Something that would not be possible to even contemplate in a bicameral mind. And with these changes, the passage of time also begins to be recognized. Time becomes "spatialized" as humans begin to see the importance in documenting past events. This is the dawn of written history. As one can see, written language is the epicenter for many of humanity's developments. While that's pretty obvious on the surface, the effects on how humans think is far more subtle.

He spends the majority of chapter five focusing on words used in the Illiad which were interpreted by scholars to mean things similar to various emotions or feelings. However, Jaynes outspokenly indulges in re-interpretations of the meaning of these words in the context of bicamerality. In redefining these words, he redefines the culture that the Illiad arose from to be in line with his theory. This might be why his theory was not so well accepted by academia (among other reasons). However, if you keep your mind open to the possibility of his theory being correct it gives you a whole new starting point to look at Illiad, Odyssey, Hesiod and others.

I won't go into much more detail about book two other than to say it was essential to understanding the breakdown of the bicameral mind. We learn of the invention of written language (which I must admit is more fascinating than I would have suspected), the discovery of introspection, the creation of the concept of love, the invention of the soul and many other more esoteric and lofty ideas about what makes us ourselves. I apologize for this rather quirky review, but time was short and I promised myself I wouldn't read book three until I finished this review. Since I'm itching to finish the book, I'm itching to finish this review too! :) I hope that I will be able to do book three a bit more justice. As an aside, I should note that I loved the book enough so far to purchase my own copy from Amazon. I think it's a book I will probably return to for some ideas in the future.

Once I'm done reviewing the third book, I plan on possibly writing up something about the thoughts it inspired in me regarding further possible changes in the way humans think and what that means for humanity in future generations.

Censorship

Journal: MSN censoring youtube links over IM? 1

Journal by Spy der Mann

Recently i've been experiencing problems with Pidgin over MSN. If I post a link of google, or any other website (including msn or microsoft.com), the link gets passed without problems.

However, if I post *ANY* link to youtube (including videos of course), I get this message:

Message may have not been sent because an unknown error occurred:
http://www.youtube.com/

The curious thing is that if i change *any* leter in the domain, the problem doesn't appear. It only happens when the domain is www.youtube.com .

Update: I talked to a friend using aMSN, and he's experiencing the same problems.

Has this happened to you?

Portables (Games)

Journal: My disappointment with Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Journal by Spy der Mann

I've always been a Castlevania fan. Last week I had the opportunity to play (and complete) Dawn of sorrow, the sequel to Aria of Sorrow.

Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed. Here's why.

For starters, the trailer shows some very interesting scenes. At 00:15 we see Soma being invaded by the darkness. This was just like the beginning of the second part of the AoS game, where Soma realizes that he *is* Dracula. Then, at 00:35 we see Julius using the Cross ability. Does this mean we'll get Soma and Julius to duel again?

Don't count on it. They don't. This was a major disappointment for me. Come on! The Belmont vs. You battle had become a classical element of Castlevania series: Symphony of the Night, Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance (if my memory doesn't fail me), and finally Aria of Sorrow (IMO with the best battle). So what about now? Well, there's a Soma vs. some hero battle, but you play the other hero and it's not quite as entertaining (you play Alucard). It's just the typical Giant Dracula shoots things at you then teleports kind of battle. Where's the melee, the jumps, the subweapons? I had expected Soma to battle Julius but this time with Julius being more dexter at dodging your attacks (i.e. having a more advanced AI).

But Dawn of Sorrow failed at this - and miserably.

What other disappointments did I have? Secret areas. Yes, there is a secret area of the castle that is only accessible if you manage to get the "good" ending. OK, two areas, but one is the Abyss and we saw something like that already in Aria of Sorrow (the chaos realm). The other area well, it wasn't really a deep area.

Perhaps you haven't noticed, but something really bothered me in Dawn of Sorrow. The areas are in the majority, corridors with at most two levels. This is PLAIN BORING. A very good joke is the abandoned town, there is a part where you have to move in a zigzag-like sequence to reach the other room. But that doesn't add any more fun of it, only more boring gametime.

This wasn't the case with classics like Symphony of the Night - where the Ice caves (I forgot their name) were deep, and if you weren't careful, you could die because of the water (unless you got the Holy Scuba - er, symbol). But this meant that you could explore a second part of it and keep exploring. The most interesting part was when you reached the abandoned mines, and then the catacombs. This was really an exploring adventure.

Something similar happened with Aria of Sorrow. The watery area was big - no, it was HUGE. You would need the giant bat soul to keep exploring some parts of it - what I liked was that a part of this area was like some underwater roman city, and the other was completely wild. The background with the fossils near the waterfalls captured my imagination.

With Dawn of Sorrow the hidden areas were a disappointment. Yes, I know that there's a hidden area that connects the town with the alchemy lab, but that was still disappointing, very boring (more straight passageways).

Seriously, what happened with the level designer? Did he quit or what? When I finished the game I felt so... underwhelmed. Is that it? Is that all you got?

OK, I haven't played the game in the Julius mode, but a very important part for me is the exploration. If there were areas that were only accessible with the Julius mode, I'd love it. But man, the map is so messed up. There were many areas, but all of them short.

I miss the mystery and secrecy atmosphere of Symphony of the Night, in the abandoned mines. There was this huge snake pillar that made me imagine that this part of the castle was built by some ancient egyptian cult adepts or something. What mysteries did those mines kept hidden from outsiders' eyes? I wanted to go to those mines and start exploring them room by room. And don't forget the lizard sounds in the background. It was so captivating. Dawn of Sorrow just... failed.

Another disappointment was the easiness of winning the game. It wasn't as challenging as Aria or Symphony. Oh yes, except for the annoyance of the darn magic seals. I would have preferred the seals to do some magic spells like Alucard had in Symphony (i.e. Soul Steal!). That would have been much more entertaining. The seals are either boring or frustrating, depending on your dexterity with the stylus (or with the mouse if you're using an emulator - I don't recommend it tho).

So, In terms of replayability, I still prefer Aria over Dawn.

Your thoughts?

Programming

Journal: 10 years ago... wxWidgets and the QT vs. GTK division.

Journal by Spy der Mann

I stumbled upon this gem that was written almost 10 years ago. It's a plea from the wxWidgets developers to start a QT port of wxWidgets (then wxWindows).

The following is a proposal by the wxWindows developers. We hope to
attract some interest and help for this project, to ease the situation
for application developers who are currently in the difficult decision
to chose whether to support KDE or GNOME.

Please understand that we do not favour either of them, nor do we want
to get involved in a discussion about the pros and cons of KDE vs
Gnome. We are simply interested in helping application developers
(such as ourselves) to live with the existing situation. If you are
not interested in that, just ignore this post.

        Proposal for a port of wxWindows to Qt - wxQt

            Following the recent discussions
            and flamewars about KDE vs Gnome, we got worried that we'll see a
            repetition of the same damaging infighting from which Unix has
            suffered before. Competition is a good thing, but the current
            situation leaves application developers with a difficult decision to
            make: Write for KDE, using qt/harmony or write for Gnome, using GTK?
            Whatever happens to these projects, we will end up with a lot of
            duplicated efforts and a mix of applications written for either of the
            two environments. The result will not be the consistent look and feel
            that both projects aim for.

            The people on the wxWindows developers team thought that we might have
            a solution for this problem, if we can get some outside help to get it
            done. Let us explain: wxWindows is a cross-platform development
            toolkit, a library of C++ classes which provide GUI concepts as well
            as other cross-platform issues such as container classes, debug
            features or configuration management. It has been around since 1992
            and started by supporting Motif, XView and MS-Windows, with a direct
            X11/Xt port added later. Last year, a major rewrite was started and we
            now have a much advanced library, available for MS Windows, with a
            Motif port under construction. Later last year, Robert Roebling set
            out on a one-man project to build wxGTK, a gtk-based implementation of
            wxWindows which in less than a year has become sufficiently stable to
            use it as the main development platform of rather large
            applications. The wxWindows license is a variant of the LGPL,
            which should meet no objections from the free software community. In
            fact, this has been an open source project long before the term became
            commonly used.

            Our idea is, that if this is good enough to work across different
            operating systems (a MacOS port is under construction, too), it could
            easily bridge the gap between KDE and Gnome. The quick evolution of
            wxGTK has shown that a new port based on an existing widget set or
            toolkit can easily be created by a small team within a few
            months. Therefore, we would like to start a project for a Qt/Harmony
            based wxWindow library, wxQt. It would then be possible for
            application developers to write the same source and compile it either
            for KDE, Gnome or even any of the other supported systems.

            But for this we need help. The core developers are all pretty busy on
            the existing ports, but we could provide significant help and support
            for any such effort. A wxQt port could also recycle lots of existing
            code from the other ports.

            Please, join us in this effort and, if you feel that you could
            contribute, join the wxWindows developers mailing list for further
            discussions. Just send a mail containing "subscribe" to

                              wxwin-developers-request _at_ x.dent.med.uni-muenchen.de

And 10 years later, due to licensing issues (the wxWindows license is a derivative of LGPL, while QT is GPL licensed, so the "L" is clearly a limitation here) and software complications (nobody has dared), there still isn't a common widget platform/wrapper for Linux. Wow... ten years. Imagine that. Personally, I would enjoy having such a wrapper, this way we could write cross-platform apps that would run on Windows, GTK or QT and adapt to our favorite Window manager.

So, what do you think? Would it be possible to do this with Qt 4.4? Would it be healthy to have such a wrapper? Or actually... is it even relevant?

User Journal

Journal: Direct Note Access + Compression = Super compression!

Journal by Spy der Mann

I just read this digg article ((original source) and I realized how easy it would be to compress music digitally with this baby.

You only need to find similar samples and sort out the differences with the originals. Then the whole melody is translated to a MIDI score, and maybe even use transformations for individual note compression (i.e. this note sounds like this one but amplified twice).

I'm sure that if this system was implemented, we could achieve a compression ratio 10 times better than MP3.

User Journal

Journal: BOOK REVIEW: The Origin of Consciousness... 7

Journal by eno2001

Title: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Genre: Nonfiction
Author: Julian Jaynes

This book is a big one for me... literally (446 pages excluding the after word). It's actually comprised of three books in one. Jaynes had intended on writing four separate books, but wound up putting three of them together into one. He was to write the fourth book later, but never got around to it before passing away, which is a shame since I think he's onto something. Seeing that the book is pretty big, I'll be reviewing the three sections he called "books" in three individual reviews. This review will be about Book 1: "The Mind of Man".

I found a reference to this book while reading an interesting article on languages. It was written in 1976 and originally quite controversial. Jaynes posited that human consciousness is a relatively recent trait of humans. As recent as 3000 to 3500 years ago. This book was not well received by academia mainly because he touches on subjects that are far outside of his native discipline (psychology). Origin (as I will refer to it henceforth) touches on history, philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and anthropology. A few other "ologies" are thrown in for good measure too.

He starts off with the introduction which is called "The Problem of Consciousness". In this part of the book he takes on all the theories which mankind has worked through to ascribe consciousness as an innate part of man and to try and say what consciousness actually is: consciousness as a property of matter, consciousness as a property of protoplasm, consciousness as the natural outcome of learning, and consciousness as a metaphysical imposition just to name a few. With each of these, he meticulously explains why these views may not be or possibly are not true. Just for an example (a weak one to start off with), he states, regarding consciousness as learning: "And hence a third solution, which states that consciousness began not with matter, nor at the beginning of animal life, but at some specific time after life had evolved. It seemed obvious to all the active investigators of the subject that the criterion of when and where in evolution consciousness began was the appearance of associative memory or learning. If an animal could modify its behavior on the basis of its experience, it must be having an experience; it must be conscious". He then recounts his experiments as a student (and the works of others) with signal learning when he worked with plants and then later protozoa to try and train them with stimuli. He believed at the time that if he could induce learning in these simple organisms, that would prove they were capable of consciousness.

Regarding this he says, "Ridiculous! It was, I fear, several years before I realized that this assumption makes no sense at all. When we introspect, it is not upon any bundle of learning processes, and particularly not the types of learning denoted by conditioning and T-mazes..." Why is this an incorrect assumption? The error "...was, and still is, that consciousness is an actual space inhabited by elements called sensations and ideas, and the association of these elements because they are like each other, or because they have been made by the external world to occur together, is indeed what learning is and the the mind is all about. So learning and consciousness are confused and muddled up with that vaguest of terms, experience".

In spite of a few parts that may seem weak, he persists in the remainder of the introduction and if you keep your mind open to it, you can see where he's coming from. A lot of it makes sense. His end goal with me was accomplished and is summed up by the closing words of the introduction, "We must therefore try to make new beginning by stating what consciousness is. We have already seen that this is no easy matter, and that the history of the subject is an enormous confusion of metaphor with designation. In any such situation, where something is so resistant to even the beginnings of clarity, it is wisdom to begin by determining what something is not. And that is the task of the next chapter.

At this point I was hooked and went onto the first chapter of Book 1 called "The Consciousness of Consciousness". This chapter is quite like the introduction, but instead of trying to work through all the things that people have used to describe consciousness as an unquestionable requirement in humans, he takes the reader on a quest to discover just how many of the things we do day-to-day are not conscious activities no matter how mentally involved they may be. Just as the introduction did he has sections such as: "Consciousness Not Necessary for Concepts", "Consciousness Not Necessary for Learning", "Consciousness Not Necessary for Thinking" and my personal favorite "Consciousness Not Necessary for Reasoning".

A few small excerpts from, Consciousness Not Necessary for Reasoning: "Reasoning and logic are to each other as health is to medicine, or --- better --- as conduct is to morality..." "...Logic is how we ought to think if objective truth is our goal --- and the everyday world is very little concerned with objective truth..." "...My point here is that for such natural reasoning to occur, consciousness is not necessary. The very reason we need logic at all is because most reasoning is not conscious at all".

Then he presents an example: "A boy having observed on one or more past occasions that a particular piece of wood floats on a particular pond, will conclude directly in a new instance that another piece of wood will float on another pond. There is no collecting together of past instances in consciousness, and no necessary conscious process whatever when the new piece of wood is seen directly as floating on a new pond. This is sometimes called reasoning from particulars, and is simply expectation based on generalization..." "...Such reasoning is the structure of the nervous system, not the structure of consciousness".

As a juxtaposition against the introduction where we were told what consciousness is not a property of, this section gets you prepared to accept that many of the things that we view as indicators of consciousness are in fact completely non-conscious activities. My favorite quote from this chapter is regarding reason and logic: "Surely, we exclaim, this cannot be true of the highest processes of intellectual thought! Surely there at last we will come to the very empire of consciousness, where all is spread out in a golden clarity and all the orderly processes of reason go on in a full publicity of awareness. But the truth has no such grandeur. The picture of the scientist sitting down with his problems and using conscious induction and deduction is as mythical as a unicorn".

Chapter 2 is called "Consciousness" and he begins to focus on language, specifically written language, as being a requirement for the the start of consciousness in humans. The very first section of this chapter is about metaphor and how most of the words in any language, if you dig far back enough started out as metaphors. Essentially, when new concepts are introduced, the best way to convey the new concepts is via metaphor. He provides a series of examples and then works up to the idea that metaphor is really the "language of the mind". As he progresses he becomes more specific about language and how the concepts of "I" and "me" fit into our existing experience with consciousness. There is a lot of bouncing back and forth between the history of languages and human consciousness today with the linking entity being metaphors. This chapter is certainly even more information dense than the introduction or the first chapter.

It is in the third chapter that we start getting to why he supposes that consciousness arose in humans 3000 to 3500 years ago when written language first began to appear. He starts by using Homer's The Illiad as some of his supporting evidence: "There is in general no consciousness in the Illiad. I am saying 'in general' because I shall mention some exceptions later. And in general therefore, no words for consciousness or mental acts". He uses the lack of internal motivation in all characters as another piece of evidence. The characters are only made to do things at the whim of the gods: "When, toward the end of the war, Achilles reminds Agamemnon of how he robbed him of his mistress, the king of men declares, 'Not I was the cause of this act, but Zeus, and my portion, and the Erinyes who walk in darkness: they it was in the assembly put wild ate upon me on that day when I arbitrarily took Achilles' prize from him, so what could I do? Gods always have their way.' (19:86-90). And that this was no particular fiction of Agamemnon's to evade responsibility is clear in that this explanation is fully accepted by Achilles, for Achilles is also obedient to the gods".

Just after this point, Jaynes finally gets to the meat of the theory behind Origin. He suggests that the point of view that all men in the Illiad are driven by "the gods" and no sense of individual motive at all was not a mere poetic device. Instead he suggests that at this point in human development most humans were in fact experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations which they perceived as gods. These hallucinations were essential to humans at this time to allow them to function day to day. To give them guidance and structure. This is what he calls the Bicameral mind: "In distinction to our own subjective conscious minds, we can call the mentality of the Myceneans a bicameral mind. Volition, planning, initiative is organized with no consciousness whatever and then 'told' to the individual in his familiar language, sometimes with the visual aura of a familiar friend of authority figure or 'god', or sometimes as a voice alone. The individual obeyed these voices because he could not 'see' what to do by himself".

The purpose of the auditory and visual hallucinations, according to Jaynes, has a physiological basis. He describes the physical structures of the brain and how the left and right hemispheres are joined together by the central commisures. His point is that the vastly larger number of neurons firing on either side of the brain need some efficient way to communicate information to the other hemisphere. After explaining the power of auditory stimuli and how it cannot be shut out, especially if emanating from within and then moving onto auditory and visual hallucinations, he suggests that these experiences are the communications protocol between both halves of the brain.

In a sense, if you look at it from today's computer science and telecommunication fields, hallucinations (if Jaynes is correct) are a form of data compression for both halves of the brain to exchange information. Or at least they were, for the bicameral man. The need for these hallucinations to provide structure and organization in humans went away when consciousness began and humans could begin to function as individuals. Of course, he doesn't believe this happened right away and suddenly everyone was conscious. He believes that this happened over a long period of time and that there are still lingering elements of bicameralism in humans today. He looks at the limited studies of the day on schizophrenics and the voices and visions they experience.

After making this bold statement, he then walks through a few assumed counter-responses and provides his answer why he believes these arguments against him are incorrect. At one point in the chapter he also points to the greek gods in the Illiad and their limitations. They are not supernatural. They are limited by the laws of the natural world. They cannot create anything out of nothingness. They are not at all like the Hebrew god.

The remaining three chapters in Book 1 flesh out the rest of his reasoning as to why he came to his conclusion about humans living without consciousness. He writes more on the origins of language, the experience of modern day schizophrenics (and even a controversial statement that their voices may not be a negative in some cases), his views on how and when language arose, the development from crude burial rituals to religions and then eventually when and why consciousness happened in humans. This all leads up to Book 2 which I will be reviewing when I finish it.

So far, I've enjoyed this book quite a bit. Partially because it pokes holes in well established and very sound beliefs, but also because it's a fascinating prospect and fairly well thought out. Sadly, even with it's current length just for Book 1, my review really can't convey the huge amount of information that is in the book. This is why I decided to break the review up into three parts as I complete each Book. I felt that this would be the only way to even partially express what he does in the book and give it fair shot.

The book was apparently a pretty big hit when it was released originally. I was too young to have known or cared so I'm coming to the party a bit late. When I looked it up on Wikipedia, apparently the book is quite popular with a few people I respect. The most notable being the cyberpunk author, Neal Stephenson. Supposedly a few ideas from Jaynes pop up in Stephenson's "Snow Crash". It's been over a decade since I read that so I can't say I remember any of that, but it wouldn't surprise me. Jaynes' book is really very information dense. It's not a light read either, but it's compelling one.

Up Next: "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Book 2)"

Music

Journal: Online mp3 stores: No wonder there's so much piracy. 4

Journal by Spy der Mann

I finally decided to purchase a piece of music (an OLD piece of music from an OLD 60's movie). First I tried Amazon. Is the song there? Check.
99 cents pers song - check.
Requires a VISA account - check.
Secure - check.
International orders - FAIL.

Yahoo! music store.
Requires Microsoft Windows - FAIL.

Apple iTunes.
Requires itunes for Windows. FAIL!

OK so where the heck can I purchase a song online if I don't live in the US? This is nuts. It was going to be my FIRST FRIGGIN' PURCHASE. Screw you, RIAA, Amazon, Yahoo, and Apple. I'm going to remain a pirate again and it's YOUR FAULT.

Oh, look, there's this music store called Magnatune (supported by Amarok!). Let's see if they have the song I'm looking for...

NOT FOUND.

Alright... we can't do it the legal way, we do it ... the only way.
www.google.com...

voila.

Downloading torrent file... done.

Downloading file... aw crap, tracker not available. Let's try youtube now.

SUCCESS!

Any questions?

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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