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Sci-Fi

Journal Journal: Greg Bear's Slant

I was reminded of this book by a story about toilets with microchips in them.

While looking up the book, I came across this excerpt, which describes memetics as sex with ideas:

We'll begin with words, words only. Imagine you're in a library walking through stacks of books. Let's say you're in the Library of Congress, walking in a pressure suit through the helium-filled chambers, between miles of shelves, just staring at the millions upon billions of publications, periodicals, books, cubes...every single one of those books begins, of course, with an act of sex. Are you offended by the old sexual words? Then use the euphemisms. Men and women, getting together - and exchanging ideas.

Sex is often confused with reproduction. But bacteria engage in sex for the sheer desperate necessary joy of it - sex is their visit to the community library, the communal cookbook. They wriggle themselves through seas of recipes, little circular bits of DNA called plasmids. When they absorb a plasmid they don't necessarily reproduce, buy they still swap genetic material, and that's what bacteriologists call sex. Unlike us, however, bacterial sex - this kind of swap - can even occur between totally different kinds, what we once regarded as different species. But there are no true species in bacteria. We know now that bacteria are not grouped into species, as such, but evanescent communities we call microgens or even, more currently, ecobacters.

The plasmids contain helpful hints on how to survive, how to make this or that new defense against an antibiotic, how to rise up as a community against tailored phages flooding in to eradicate.

In the very beginning, for bacteria, this was sex. This was how sex began, as a visit to the great extended library. I call this data sex. No bacterium can exist for long without touching base with its colleagues, its peers. So how do we differ from bacteria?

Not much. You come to this group, you exchange greetings, arrange meetings, sometimes you exchange recipes. Sometimes we - and here I don't mean the members of this club, necessarily - get together, conjugate, to exchange genetic material, either in a pleasant social jest or joust with biology, or sometimes in earnest, because it's really time to reproduce.

[...]

In the Library of Congress, every single book, every item, began with an act of reproductive sex, allowing the author to get born and eventually to write a book. That book now acts as a kind of plasmid, reaching into your mind to alter your memory, which is the con-template -- my word: the template, through cognition , of behavior. The medium of course is language. Sex is language, and language is sex, whatever form it takes. Changes in anatomy and behavior are the ultimate results -and sometimes, coincidentally, reproduction.

[...]

The shape of our society relies on spoken and written language, the language of signs, the next level of language above the molecular. Some insert another level between these two, that of instinctual behavior, but I believe that's really just another kind of language of signs.

Culture from very early times was as much a factor in human survival as biology, and today, culture has subsumed biology. The language of signs inherent in science and mathematics has co-opted the power of molecular language. We begin with molecules and molecular instructions, but now the instructions feed back upon themselves, and we govern the molecules.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I'm beginning to understand why Goedel went crazy

Working on the Liar's paradox. I've done some work on it before. Reading Beyond AI, I decided to try it again with a slightly different approach: adding "modus ponens", so that I can say (to give a simple example): "if A is true, then B is true" and "A is true" and the program will automatically add "B is true" to its database of stored factoids.

What I want to do is tell my program:

A is "B is false"
B is "A is true"

then deduce from that that both A and B are both true and false.

Since the statements are self-referential, it is a real challenge to get my programs to deal with them without going into infinite loops.

The main problem I'm having right now is asking "is A true?" I can get the responses I want if I delineate "A" and "true", as in: 'is "A" "true"?'
But I can't yet get it to respond correctly when I drop the quotation marks...

My latest attempt (I'm getting tired, I'm going to leave it here and come back to it tomorrow, or sometime :):

---

C:\trane\liar>startliar

C:\trane\liar>cd logicagent

C:\trane\liar\logicagent>start ruby logicbotd.rb

C:\trane\liar\logicagent>cd ..

C:\trane\liar>cd ifagent

C:\trane\liar\ifagent>start ruby ifbotd.rb

C:\trane\liar\ifagent>cd ..

C:\trane\liar>ruby controlbot.rb

Reading remember.txt...

Hello
Reading rules.txt...
Dir = C:/trane/liar

> A is "B is false"

Okay, A is B is false.

> B is "A is true"

Okay, B is A is true.

> if "B is false", then "A is true" is false

Okay, B is false -> A is true is false.

> if "A is true" is false, then A is false

Okay, A is true is false -> A is false.

> if A is false, then "B is false" is false

Okay, A is false -> B is false is false.

> if "B is false" is false, then B is true

Okay, B is false is false -> B is true.

> is A true?

> logicagent: turn on debug mode

I have turned on debug output.

> is A true?

> is B true?

> logicagent: print graph

b is false is false
if b is false is false, then b is true
a is b is false
a is false
b is a is true
b is false
if a is false, then b is false is false
if b is false, then "a is true is false
if a is true is false, then a is false
a is true is false

> A is true

> B is false

> is A true?

> is "A" "true"?

Yes, A is true.

> is "B" "true"?

I have no knowledge that B is true.

> is B false?

Yes, B is false.

> is A false?

Yes, A is false.

> B is false

> is "B" "false"?

Yes, B is false.

>

User Journal

Journal Journal: More dreams

Sitting around a table, a formal business dinner. A finance expert sitting across from me and one place to my left. the atmosphere is very tense, no one is talking except to ask others to pass things. The food is kept warm under silver platters. The tablecloth is bright white.

Suddenly out of the blue? I say, "I don't like you people." The finance expert across the table and one seat to my left bends his head forward slightly and puts his hand to its balding surface. He is wearing glasses.

There is a woman to my left.

There is an uproar? I feel good because I have spoken the truth. They are in commotion, upset.

---

(Text within square brackets, "[]", is analysis added after writing the dream down.)

Tracie and I at a hotel room. We go outside to meet some friend of hers. I feel manipulated into it, I want no part of meeting the guy but somehow Tracie maneuvers me into accompanying her; I feel like I have to help her.

I'm waiting for her on a corner. A guy calls to me. It's the guy she was talking about, some kind of finance guy. He is thin, with thinning brown hair. A little like Earl from "My Name is Earl", but without the mustache. He is confident. We talk, I feel okay. He asks about Tracie, makes smalltalk easily. I feel confident. It is like back in my druggie days when I felt "cool" to have dropped out of mainstream society.

Gradually he brings the conversation around to finances. He casually brings out an envelope and gives it to me. It is addressed to me, from Texaco. It is a bill for a charge card that I don't remember getting. The bill is for several hundred dollars. There is one item for a $5 charge for getting the card itself.

[How did he get the bill? Through Tracie? Did Tracie get the card in my name without telling me?]

I am taken aback; suddenly I don't feel so confident and cool anymore. When did I get this card? Why haven't I paid it?

[It's as if my confidence was based on not being responsible for anything, but here was evidence that I was responsible for this debt. This charge made me less cool, less confident. So - if Tracie had gotten the card through fraud, then SHE had made me less confident!]

The guy is acting a little condescending towards me. I don't feel so good anymore., He is still polite, kind, but it is patronizing, the kindness you show someone whom you know to be much worse off than you are. He gives me something, folded paper towels or napkins; when I unfold them there is part of a chocolate pastry, which I eat thankfully.

We part. I go back to the hotel room. I'm in the bathroom looking down into a green marble sink. The tap extends to the bottom of the sink. Part of the tap's length must be a hose, must be flexible, because I turn the bottom part upwards to look down into it. It is metal, rigid, with bolts or something sticking out on each side as I look down into it.

[The man is a hustler, a trickster, someone very well aware of applied psychology and applying it to me to destroy the happiness I have, for what reason I can only guess because I don't understand it. He uses finances to get to me because he knows that I want society's approval and society values those who are not deadbeats who don't pay their debts. He himself might be a thief who owes money but he is able to distance himself from society's approval in a way I can't, so he takes advantage of owing money to bring me down, without it affecting him even though he's in the same position as (or a worse position than) I am...]

[Is the tap, the hose, a symbol? Phallic? But the picture I retain as I looked down into it in the dream is one of a clearly metal, unnatural, hollow pipe, with two clearly manufactured appendages like bolts attached an the outside and in a perfect line. Am I looking down into my unconscious or something...]

User Journal

Journal Journal: Nostalgia, a feeling of loss 1

Every so often in my life, I've come across internet forums where absolute freedom rings, where anyone can say anything. In the BBS days, there was Chat! Chat! Chat!. On AOL there was the Programming chat room, where I learned a lot. Branford Marsalis had a forum for a while that was like storyville, anything was permitted. And freenode #politics had a no ban policy for a couple years.

I enjoyed those forums where I was able to say whatever was on my mind, to rail unmolested against the ills society was perpetrating on me, to speak in my own voice without having to make any concessions to arbitrary social rules. It was like being a kid, no responsibillities, no consequences. The discussions would often get very emotionally intense, leaving me laughing, crying, sitting there tingling all over, as we insulted each other, delved deep into each other's psyches, explored all manner of political, social, psychological, sexual, etc. issues with no censorship ...

Occasionally it was dangerous since hackers could knock you offline or even exploit your computer...so it wasn't completely without consequences. But the consequences were (for the most part) not officially sanctioned by anyone running the room...there were emotional consequences, but (mostly) you couldn't get banned.

Now occasionally I run into a room that reminds me of those forums, and the old juices begin to flow, and I start feeling good again :) For example ##economics on freenode, I ran into some of the people from the old #politics and the same spirit triumphed for a while and I felt right at home and started letting myself go ... then, of course, some guy comes around and wants to ban me.

And it all came crashing down and I realized that I wasn't in those old forums and that this forum had ban rules in effect and I was probably about to activate them. And an upwelling of emotion took me over, anger and frustration and a desire to be gone. So I bid my goodbye and left the room ...

My body was tense and tingling all over, because I had once again confronted what I see as unreasonable, arbitrary authority, and my only response is to get away from it. And I miss the free, unfettered chat so much ...

In hierarchical situations, I get so tense and nervous that I can no longer perform, I just want to leave. Over and over again throughout my life this pattern has been repeated ... grad school, the business world, the underworld, friendships, online forums ...

How can I deal with this sense of loss in me, that hinders my intellectual and career advancement, prevents me from thriving? How can I stop cutting my nose to spite my face?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Dream 4

Dream about Raquel

She's the same, beautiful waif. We're driving around the country. We stop in a store, she buys sheets that are attached at the end, like a sleeping bag but just connected along one side and partly across the bottom and with no zipper. They have frilly edges, like little squares attached with ribbons, along the bottom.

She goes to a doctor to get medications for her teeth.

We're not having sex but I'm okay with that, not anxious. Also I'm not smoking crack (she is). I just drive, maybe I read. I'm calm, unconcerned.

Scene in a motel or bed'n'breakfast of some kind. We go in, she talks to the proprietors as I wait, I don't see them. I'm calm, devoid of desire.

She appears, we go through a passage into a back room, past the entrance to the proprietors' quarters, but I don't see them. I'm a little surprised we're so close to them, but don't feel ruffled.

Our room is very long and bigger than I expected. A couch-bed, sort of a wide cot made up to function as a sofa with cushions to lean on, is against the wall on one side.

We are tired from driving. I begin to make up the bed, pulling off the covering and removing the cushions.

We spread the sheets she bought, which are connected at the bottom, with frills. I'm not nervous, not thinking about sex. She's talking to me, sitting up at the head of the bed. She isn't flirtatious just matter-of-fact, normal. Talking about her teeth, her medication. I'm happy, in love, not addicted. Does she smoke crack? I watch, no desire to do it myself. We are going to settle inside the sheets...

---

Maybe that's the way it should have been? Oh well, raquel!

User Journal

Journal Journal: John McCormick Reifel, 1966-2010

John Reifel, 1967-2010

(started 2010-09-19)

---

His death is an argument for drug legalization. If drugs had been legal, 1) he wouldn't have been as attracted to the "forbidden fruit", 2) he would have had knowledge of the quantity and quality of the substances, giving him more control over his doses, 3) I could have been doing them with him, serving as a check on his usage, or getting him to hospital sooner! When he was with me he didn't need as many drugs because his real high came from manipulating me psychologically...

He was a talented, but lazy, musician who didn't pursue music because it wasn't financially rewarding, even though he didn't need to work for a living. Still, he took temp jobs because he felt he fit in better that way.

---

Memories:

John looking at me with an expression of real sympathy on his face as I told him how difficult it was for me to live in the mess that Tracie's apartment was...

John and I at a Branford Marsalis concert, we headed to the exit before the encore and so were standing at the back when the band came back on, I hid behind him and danced a little as they played "It don't mean a thing"

John driving, me in the passenger seat, both high as fuck. He says something and I experience a leap of thought, jumping from what he said to an inference, then to another, and another, with lightning speed, until I come to a conclusion that I present to him. He hasn't followed the inferences though and is sure in his doubt of my conclusion. Defeated by his confidence, I don't even try to explain the chain of inferences I had traversed so quickly, and let it go...

Him stealing money from his Mom's purse, then I'd buy the drugs. The high began when he'd call and say "I got $60" or whatever.

Renting a motel room and buying several hundred dollars' worth of crack. Him asking me to leave for 20 minutes so he could masturbate.

The Lusty Lady...

John putting music on Tracie's Ipod, because I didn't know how. "I can't believe you don't know how to do this!" he says in surprise to me. But he was the expert, always collecting music from the library and burning CDs for me.

Second-last time I saw him we went to a jazz show, Jay Thomas and a big band, downtown on 2nd Avenue, right where I used to buy crack. The band was good, he told me the name of a tune he knew because he'd played it: Moten's Swing. He hummed along with the signature trombone riff of the song ... I left a $20 to pay for my coffee, he was shocked! "How can you leave such a big tip?" But I used to waste $20s by the handful when I was buying crack right outside the door so I didn't care. But that was John, always trying to make me think of how I was poor and needed to save money - at least, that's my interpretation :)

---

In my opinion, John didn't have a strong-enough purpose to his life; his main purpose seemed to be trying to fit in with his Mom's view of society, to feel like he was one of the "in" group when he was walking around Bellevue. He wanted the approval of my Mom: for example, once when he came over and was introduced to her friend, my Mom said "he's a handsome boy"; his purpose in life seemed to be to fulfill that role defined for him by the old women in the neighborhood, whose "divine right" to social power he chose not to question.

Society creates an environment of competition where none need exist, where food and resources are plentiful because of technology but artificially restricted by old women and their puppets, who believe it is their job to weed out the weak; they use psychological manipulation to exert mental pressure on ppl like John, subtly constraining him, making him think he has to work to fit in when his parents are millionaires and could easily let him pursue music instead of construction clean-up. Then when he dies from the strain, they write him off as a "misfit" anyway!

---

Instead of the life that society choose for him, I would have chosen for John to be free to do what he wanted without thinking about what others thought of his choices. Maybe then we could have played together more.

---

Memory: Driving around Bellevue with John, he tells me how his Dad drives these days, so slowly, leaving his turn signals on, etc. John says he looks at his Dad and thinks, "That's how I'll drive one day", as if it's inevitable, he can't escape it! He sounds disapproving, as if he doesn't want to end up that way, it's a bad thing, the weakness of age and all that, but there's nothing he can do to stop it. His tone contains all these inferences, the emotion in it is so expressive of the negative judgment on old people driving around with their turn signals on, and yet also expressive of the powerlessness of preventing it happening to him. I want to say No! You can avoid it! You can be anything you want, you don't have to follow right along in others' footsteps! But I can't somehow, the emotion in his voice has exhausted me, I can't summon the emotion in my voice necessary to counteract his...

---

2010-11-22

Dear John,

I went to Robinswood Park today and thought about you. We went there once, not long before you died. I got high, you didn't. I thought about that day today as I tramped around the same trails we'd been on...

It was snowing. There weren't very many people there. I ran on some of the trails, it felt good and got me warm. I stopped by a pond with ducks on it and said Namokar Mantra while standing in the kayotsarga pose (straight, legs just slightly apart, hands hanging down at the sides, trying to keep all muscles relaxed and breathing deeply and slowly). There was a duck with a lot of white feathers who quacked as I came up, then put its head in its back but kept looking at me for the whole time I stood there. I slowly closed my eyes at him to indicate calmness and friendship.

I thought about when we were there, how nervous I always was in your presence, how I never would have felt I could just stop and meditate by a pond; you would have acted nervous and made me nervous and I would have deferred to you. You had a way of saying things sharply with a tone that seemed to deflate whatever emotions I was trying to experience, instead making me feel small and deferential to you. I was always thinking that you were with me out of some act of kindness, if I didn't please you you wouldn't want to go anywhere with me next time, and that would be a bad thing, would make me depressed. But today I was alone and felt exhilerated, great, sticking my tongue out to catch snowflakes, running on the paths, whistling, stopping to observe and listen to and talk with all kinds of birds ... I don't think I would have been able to do any of those things if you had been there ...

I remember when we were there I did one rep of 10 pullups, and you were gracious enough to watch me and ask with a tone I took to be approval "was that 10?" after I'd finished. (It was.) Today I was thinking of that as I did 3 reps of 10 :)

I'm thankful we went there and that i was able to return there today; I'm sorry and a little sad that I'll never go there with you again. But even if you were still alive, would I have felt comfortable calling you if I was headed there? Probably not, I would have been too afraid that you would blow me off, say "Nah" in a derisive tone and wound me psychologically for having put myself in a position to be rejected by asking you.

I didn't smoke any pot today. The feeling of being free from that habit got me as high as the drug!

Music

Journal Journal: Birthday

Returning a porno. A Cobain song playing on the boom box behind the counter.

"He's... the one, who likes all our pretty songs, and he likes to sing along, and he likes to shoot his gun, but he don't know what it means..."

  Should I get another? I walk over to the magazine rack, still interested in the song. And I stood there half-pretending to look at the girls, but focusing attention on the music. The drum breaks, with a heavy swing component (punk has always had a strong underpinning of swing). Cobain's ageless voice, so rough, vibrato-less, authentic - truly, he lived his lyrics!

"...and I say..."

What does he say? What's his message to me, standing there on my XXth birthday in a dingy old porn shop? The words "and I say" are followed by a riff, strong, portentious, deliberate, considered. What are those notes, those chords, I wonder? They sound close together, almost chromatic; my ear is still not good enough to pick out the intervals, but my guess is that the first two are something close to a third, going downwards, then it drops another third? second? and comes back up something that sounds like a minor third? I won't be able to test my hypothesis until I get to a piano ...

"Na...ture is...a whore..." Haha, ironic, I look at the covers in front of me and smile inwardly :) Damn I love nature, earlier that day I was tramping around in the trees, following a dry stream bed, climbing over logs ... talking to the birds ... but it's all about procreation, messy biology, spider webs sticking to my hair and skin, tree sap staining my fingers and clothes. Ultimately, I want to be free of nature too ...

Guitar solo. Count through it, keep him honest? Hmm, that's an interesting SOUND, like he's swinging his guitar as he plays, really bending those waves, trying to tap into something way beyond himself that I can't (yet) describe, but feel...8 bars of solo, then back into the song's chorus. (The rhythmic characteristics of the song I'll have to explore further at another time.)

I make a decision; no more porn today. I need to get back to the ancient Jain technique of brahmacharya. Song'll be ending soon. I can feel the guy at the counter's eyes on me, I'm nervous; I try to stand in the kayotsarga pose (kayotsarga means abandonment of the body): spine upright, arms hanging beside the torso, legs slightly apart, every muscle as relaxed as possible, breathing as slow as I can. I'm excited though, I can feel others' attention turned towards me (a weird old guy standing in a porn shop not looking at the merchandise!), so my breathing is not as controlled as I can get it when I'm meditating. But I do my best.

Oh, it'll be cool if I time it so I walk out the door just as the song ends. I start walking, slowly, trying to step with the beats of the song. I know this song, this is the last chorus. Left foot ... right foot ... and push the handle! Just as the final guitar riff whines to a close :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Notes on genericizing logicagent

My logic agent can handle "is" and "has" relations but I have to add others manually by writing new methods in the code file. I want to generalize this procedure, as it seems fairly mechanical.

Basically I want to be able to tell the bot: add pattern /(.*) loves (.*)/. Then the bot will create the methods that I'm now writing manually (mostly copy and paste then some substitutions) and write them to the code file (as well as introducing them into the class at runtime so I don't need to restart).

The problems I'm running into are: the verb "loves" can have different forms, i.e. I love, he loves, I loved, I am loving, etc. Also, when I add the pattern, it often needs to be moved up above more general patterns in the logicagent-api.yaml file.

For the second problem, I think I can search for the method name in logicagent-api.yaml and add the new pattern before the first occurrence. That seems to be the method I'm using as I do it manually.

For the second problem, I think I have to use different methods for verbs like "hit" and relations like "is greater than". For example:

> add pattern /(.*) (hit) (.*)/, generic_a_r_b
Okay I have added pattern....

> John hit Bill.
Okay, John hit Bill.

> did John hit Bill?
Yes, John hit Bill.

needs a different method from:

> add pattern /(.*) (is heavier than) (.*)/, generic_a_r_b2
Okay I have added that pattern....

> 10g is heavier than 5g.
Okay, 10g is heavier than 5g.

> is 10g heavier than 5g?
Yes, 10g is heavier than 5g.

The reason I need two methods is to ask a question for a verb like hit, I use the auxiliary verb "did", but to ask a question for a relation like "is heavier than", I use "is".

User Journal

Journal Journal: I don't get the mods 1

I post a comment I think is good and it gets modded down. So I post as AC comments I'm afraid to post because I think it will get modded down, and it gets modded up. I guess I should just not worry about it!

User Journal

Journal Journal: IRC problem 2

In freenode ##physics, a guy was asking about dimensions. Is 0 dimensions a point, etc. Another guy says: "This is a 0 dimensional set: {0}." So this piques my curiosity: how would you represent more than one dimension with a set? I ask, "Is a 4 dimension set {(0,0,0,0)}?" Then sqrt2 replies: "No. And this isn't the place to talk about elementary linear algebra."

Why would he say that? He creates an atmosphere where genuine inquiry is discouraged. It's like being in class and being afraid to ask a question because the teacher will call it stupid. That kind of attitude does not foster learning!

Why do we put up with that kind of attitude? Where does it come from, why does it persist?

My hypothesis is that such mean-spiritedness, such narrow-minded focus on blind adherence to a limited topic, will eventually disappear due to evolutionary pressures - places where such individuals do not rule and hold power (sqrt2 holds the position of operator, with the power to kick and ban) will become more popular because they are more fun, ppl can learn more in such non-restrictive places, and therefore they will contribute more to the advance of knowledge and technological innovation.

User Journal

Journal Journal: St Louis Boogie 1

St Louis Boogie by Count Basie and his Orchestra

This is an up-tempo tune.

The first chorus is an intro by the rhythm section.

The second chorus (0:19) has the "theme" stated by the band. The bass is playing a standard boogie-woogie pattern, but in quarter notes. Basie provides right-hand fills.

The third chorus (0:34) - Basie's left hand starts a boogie-woogie pattern with an eighth-note feel. Very simple, short, two-note phrase repeated unchanged by the band over the entire chorus. Basie seems to flub a little bit in the ninth bar.

Fourth chorus (0:49) - Band plays the standard boogie-woogie riff in the first three bars (the last bar is cut to just the first note), then they lay out when the change to the subdominant comes, then come back in on the turnaround. When the band lays out Basie's left hand is left to play the riff alone, with complementary right-hand heavily-syncopated fills.

Fifth chorus (1:03) - Band plays a "building" pattern, holding one note for an entire bar four times, then on the turnaround executing a strongly-syncopated riff that leads in perfectly to the trumpet solo.

Sixth chorus (1:18) - Climax of the swing occurs when the trumpet hits the one. You can faintly hear someone groan or growl at the 1:19 or so point. Drums are loud and swinging. Basie's back to the full boogie-woogie in his left hand. His right hand is silent.

Seventh chorus (1:33) - Sax solo. Basie abandons his boogie-woogie left hand in favor of comping. The swing intensity starts to come down.

Eighth chorus (1:48) - 16 bars of the root chord. The volume is brought down.

Ninth chorus (2:09) - Just the rhythm section. Piano is very quiet and spare. Bass is still playing in quarter notes, mostly, but with a "twang" that gives it sort of an eighth-note boogie-woogie feel.

Tenth chorus (2:24) - Same. Bass is carrying the swing, trying to get back to the level in the sixth chorus...this time at much lower volume.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Redcap

I'm in the middle of reading "Snow Crash".

Impressions so far:

Why do you have to spend time commuting in the Metaverse? Why not just have instant teleportation? Stephenson's Metaverse is too similar to reality, I think part of the appeal of cyberspace to me is its differences from physical reality.

The powers of two limitations built into the Metaverse (128 ports on the tramway for instance) are silly.

The little demons carrying away bits of hacked up avatar is hokey.

The "pay to play" philosophy of the Metaverse is not the predominant philosophy on the World Wide Web, at least not yet. For example: In the book they have to buy plots for their Metaverse houses; we pay a yearly fee for domain name registration. There's a difference of philosophy there.

In software matters, the Open Source/Free Software movement is completely ignored.

Things I liked:

The way he tries to apply the theory of memetics to real and hypothetical phenomena, i.e.: laying out the "religion as virus" hypothesis.

The Librarian AI - but why can't he handle analogies? This article indicates we now have that capability.

The widely varied writing styles - "Deliverator"-style action sequences to stream-of-consciousness of a 15-year old girl to informative, speculative discussions of history, biology, computer science, virtual reality.

---

The (physical) society described by Stephenson would likely result if we gave Libertarianism free reign. Vote accordingly...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Dream

Dream last night, about being among the crackheads again. They have been resurfacing in my dreams lately. In this one, the parts I remember are: hanging out with Cali (the dealer, not the ho), asking him about raquel, getting the feeling that he didn't see it as a total impossibility that we would one day see each other again. Talking to him almost as an equal, it seemed. Then another part: Some guy (white) had just bought some heroin, and he was walking down a crowded street, with me near him (did I help him cop?) and some junkie crackwhore-type girls around us (not raquel though), and some straight business-type or tourist-type people coming up behind us; he was like i used to be, real anxious, and was trying to hit while walking, tying a rubber tourniquet around his upper right forearm, holding the end in his mouth, trying to find a vein in the crook of his arm, all the while walking, and me beside him looking around to see how close the straight people were, and worrying a bit and telling him he could wait. It was a different feeling than i usually have in my drug dreams: usually i'm the one wanting to hit immediately, not being able to wait; this time i was actually advising someone to wait. I felt almost like i was one of the druggies who hang out downtown and help you cop and then hang out with you maybe while you do a hit, and then you leave and they go back to their little social circle of fellow druggie hustlers. It almost seemed as if i was maturing as a drug user. I woke up feeling, would that help me in raquel's eyes any?

Probably not.

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Journal Journal: The Castle

The Castle give me the feeling of being much more complete and thought-out than The Trial. Kafka makes a very noble attempt to pursue little trains of thought to their utmost conclusions, in the long monologues of Olga, Pepi, etc.

The situation is similar to The Trial. K. (no first name this time) arrives at the Village, ostensibly having been sent for to do work as a Land Surveyor by the Castle. K. is treated with suspicion by the Village people, and reacts with characteristic insolence and arrogance. More than once he is compared to a child, his ignorance and lack of common sense pushing him to do things that offend conventional wisdom and the norms of behavior of the community. He seems to see himself as above the Villagers, he truly belongs in the Castle, and spends most of his time in the book thinking about it and how to get to it, become acknowledged by its officials. Slowly as the book progresses, K. gets dragged down by the weight of things (much as in The Trial), until at the end, it seems to me, he has become very much like the Villagers in the way he thinks and speaks and argues...

Once again the question is raised: why doesn't K. just leave? Why does he subject himself to this ridiculous system imposed by the Castle, which involves much of the same ambiguities, reliance on social networking over explicit rules, influence-peddling, shadowy decisions made with no explicit reasoning presented, etc., as in The Trial? Frieda (whom he meets and falls in love with, then she leaves him - but he never expresses very much dismay or heartache over her leaving him) tells him a couple times: they should have gone away, outside of the Village, where they could have been happy. The Mayor asks why he chooses to stay (he replies because - at that time - he's engaged to Frieda, and because he is without means). Yet K. never considers leaving as an option. He is firmly caught up in the struggle to make the Castle recognize him and doesn't want to leave.

What does the Castle represent? To me, it is whatever you want from society. My Castle might be raquel, or fitting in enough with the crackheads to get good crack. K.'s Castle is not a woman (he doesn't seem to be that interested in Frieda, he's far more interested in getting to the Castle; and when she leaves him, he has Olga, and Pepi, and the Herrenhof landlady who approach him and offer him a place to stay); it is more along the lines of 'fitting in' or getting the respect he feels he deserves. Yet it is out of reach, or to get to it he has to undergo innumerable hardships and indignities.

He chooses to stay and fight the intolerable social system, rather than leave (and be happy?). Yet in the course of his fight, he becomes worn down, and starts to become like the system he was at first so much against...

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Journal Journal: The Trial

I reread this book. I remember first reading it in high school. I think I may have learned its lesson.

What is its lesson? That society will try to use implicit, unwritten, non-verbalized "laws" against people. The charges against Joseph K. are never formalized, never written down, never shown to him or explained to him. The courts and warders who summon him and harass him have no legitimate written-down authority to back them up. Yet everyone he meets or knows seems to give them authority, acknowledge the power of the shadow courts and their illegitimate enforcers, lawyers, painters, chaplains, etc. We are told repeatedly that these "shadow courts" function by personal connections and favors rather than by public and open proceedings. Facts are much less important than who you know, who has a favorable disposition towards you.

But throughout the novel, we get the impression that there might be a way out. Joseph K. suggests it at the beginning: refuse to acknowledge the courts. Demand written proof of authority for any action required of him. Challenge each and every infringement upon his personal life that the courts or their agents carry out. In the language of the story told by the chaplain towards the end, refuse to wait at the gate: go off and live your life without letting the shadowy existence of the courts affect you. If they wish to affect you, make them state their reasons and authority explicitly.

Joseph K. starts out trying this tack; he is very indignant and affronted at first by the courts' actions. But slowly as the book progresses we see him get worn down. He never quite reaches the level of Block or the subservient conduct of the accused in the waiting lobbies of the courts; but we watch as he slowly begins to give up his early indignation and becomes resigned to the fact of his case - even though he never sees any explicit document with charges.

Another answer or way out may be hinted at in the novel's portrayal of women. He gets sidetracked by them, pays attention to them and tries to get them on his side - but by doing so, he implicitly acknowledges and acquiesces to the power of the courts. The women who help him are connected with the courts in some way (the washerwoman, Leni). Fraulein Burstner doesn't seem to be connected with the courts; however she ignores him. Maybe she knows about his case and considers it a hopeless cause from the start. Or maybe he should have pursued her more than the others, as she was the only one "outside" the courts.

At any rate, i think I empathized much more with Joseph K. when I read this before. Now I can still see his point of view; but I don't think I would have acted the same way as he did. (After all, I'm not a Chief Clerk in a Bank.)

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"Any excuse will serve a tyrant." -- Aesop

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