Friday, September 17, 2004

The unbearable dampness of shoes.

I've been crabby lately.

And I'm not very good at it. It's like I've had no practice or something.

If I was more astrologically inclined, I'd say that it was because my rising sign was Cancer. And you know, cancer cells are made of little clams. Well, they're shaped like clams? They hook and pinch like them? Really, why the frell is this sign called Cancer? I should google it, but boy, then I'd be that bit more astrologically inclined.

Maybe I Was Just Cold...
The other day I was walking to work in the fog. A chilly fog, but it put me in a pleasant mood. I like being slightly cold: if I could pick any temperature for my outdoor environment, it would be 15 celsius, and indoors about 18; I generate alot of heat, which makes me a wise choice to snuggle up to (in winter I say that I am half-malamute). Normally I do not notice anything on my half hour walk to work. I've walked it hundreds of times, over the last decade, I know every leaf, I know where all the different birds are, ya da ya do; in addition, i'm walking at 8 in the morning, and I am not a morning person. I'm just no good at waking up.
Well, it was about 3 degrees out, and I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, shoes but no socks, and a fleece vest. This definitely woke me up (I really hate that "ennervated" means the opposite of what it sounds like it should mean. I ascertain that my co-worker just learned the word, as he uses it about twice a week), and I actually paid attention to things. Do you remember the fog? Well, it evoked all these memories of childhood fog, or rather, the mood of being in fog when I was young. I love this sort of thing, when childhood states of mind are grafted on to current experiences.* I felt small and isolated, like I was alone on a soundstage. Plus everything seemed strange, unknown, like something does when you have had no experience with it. I didn't feel like I was outdoors, but rather in some impossibly huge indoor space. There was a black cat sitting (no, do not say "on the shadow of a gatepost", because it was...) on a doorstep, and he spooked me a little. Weird, because I love cats, and one of my favourite ones is black with orange eyes and I call her Ghost.
I shivered. looked to my right, and saw a big fluffy grey tabby looking at me from behind a picture window, and she wanted outside (I am randomly assigning these cats sexes, but for some bizarro land reason I feel like I am 100% correct). I laughed a bit, out loud, which I hope the fog swallowed up, or maybe it carried all spooky through the vapour, becoming distorted with the weird echoes of water, and frightened a small child blocks away. I laughed, for I thought that the cat, if outside, would probably just be sitting on her step, not six feet away, sitting beside those shoes, looking just as bored as the black cat did, and not be all imaginatively longing as she was.
This thought ended my childhood mood grafting experience, but as that mood left it said "shoes", which echoed in my head for a few blocks.
shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes,...

*My favourite? One day, in the morning while walking (hmmm), I saw colours as I did when I was ten. Everthing was more vibrant, more there, but lacked nuance, epsecially of shade, but also of detail: it was like being in primary colour land. Plus, I also felt like I was ten. Boy did I have energy. Everything was just so immediate and vital. After about 15 minutes this slowly faded.

Remember My Crabbiness?
The echo of the childhood mood lasted until about noon, at which point I became the crabby person that I have been lately. Irritable, not nearly as jokey as I like to be. I take things too seriously, realize too late the opportunities for playful banter, become massively enraged when some asshat broke the photocopier (trying to "fix" it, when all it needed was new toner. fuckhead. grrr. wasted half an hour of my time undoing what he did, getting toner all over everything. guess this still means i'm a bit peaved). I definitely needed that martini at lunch, and Amanda was a perk me up. Work brought me down again.
I feel dull these last few days. Like i'm wrapped in plastic. My affect wires intermittently short, giving me slo-mo emotional white noise. It may be due to my recent discovery that I am flat broke. Impecunious. In the infra-red. I discovered that Visa let me go way over my limit, meaning that I couldn't afford at all that trip to V that i took last month. I have to live like an ascetic for the next few months, or at least learn how to be social while broke. Relearn, as I used to always be broke but very social. What this really means is that I have effectively stopped drinking. One or two pints once or twice a week does not my meds comprise. I often joked that alcohol was my meds, that I was born three jokes shy of dealing with the world, but now it feels true.
Not that I think that i am boring if I don't drink. good god no. but I am definitely feeling some sort of withdrawal. I'm sure my liver is thanking me, but my brain is wondering what it did so horribly wrong as to deserve this punishment.

I really hope the rumor is true that Schmutzie is coming into town tonight. It seems I need excuses (I think others call these "reasons") to go drinking lately, and she is one of the best.

-starcat carefully avoids going all "Office-Space" while the owner is in town.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Encryption key dazed and confused

This will be making the rounds of the web, and quickly: your u-lock is now worthless. It can be opened with a bic pen(.mov). From the lovely folks at Metafilter.
My roommate and I just spent about twenty minutes or so trying to jam the only bic pen we had in the house over the centre pin, and he finally got it on (heat the end, slide it on, let it cool, voila). A few seconds later with some jiggling and a twist, unlocked! Since bic pen tubes are not standardized to any finessable degree*, yours may easily slip on. Ten seconds for the lucky. Lucky for me I don't ride a bike. Or a pop machine. Or anything else with a cylindrical lock.

*why didn't I write "since they make the tubes in different sizes", or how about "Since the standard tube is actually not very standard in size"? stafd. wtf?

Oh yeah, it must be due to reading Penrose's new, 1000 page book on why the Universe likes math. ouch. If you like, no, scratch that, all the "fun" sentences require a really special mathy font that I don't want to learn right now. I do have some major problems with this book, though. In the past I have come to expect fine writing (if you do click on the link, please note that although P calls himself a realist, he is also a neo-Platonist, believing that Math really exists independent from us thinking about it) from Penrose on matters of math, consciousness, and physics, but this is, well, muddled.
Penrose wants to write about "the complete guide to the Laws of the Universe", and to do so you need to know Math. 16 chapters of Math. 380 pages. I've taken 3rd year University Math, and I am getting bogged down in the middle of it. Oh, hmmm: the part he "wants" (as he clearly did write the book) is for the book to be readable by practically everyone. He describes in the intro 4 layers of reading. For the novice math person, including those who are scared of the math: no need to understand the formulas, you should be able to gloss and get the ideas. This is laughably not demonstrated; the concepts clearly require an understanding that can only be gained by following the math, as well as understanding math-speak. This is where the muddling enters the picture: his attempt to, and failure at, writing the book at this "low" level destroys the normal clarity of his writing. Or, maybe he just needed a courageous editor, as there is way too much, umm, dis-clarity.
The second group include people like me, people who know a bit of higher math, and can actually learn from the book (this is hard, I have to treat it like a text, and it's exhausting, but I did remember, aw screw it, I need the font. err, "e to the pi i, plus one, equals zero" wacked out stuff). There are math problems at the bottom of most pages, rated easy, middling, and hard: I can do most of the easy ones, some of the hard ones; the third group of people should be able to learn and work through most of the hard ones (the answers are online. Hey, cool! there are corrections! good, as I've found a few mathy mistakes). The fourth group know most of the math, and this book is written to show them how Penrose thinks the Universe works. 600 pages of it. and this is the part that everyone should be able to follow, at some degree of ability, and attain deep understanding of modern physics.

The weird thing is that I disagree with his world view, and I know I do for simple (well, maybe not-so) reasons that come prior to the mathy part. Yet I am reading the mathy part, to truly know my opposition. Also, I like reading ideas contrary to mine own. I have a deep desire to be right, not in the sense that I have to make others believe what I believe, but I need what I believe to agree with big-T Truth, that-which-actually-is. I read deeply in all sorts of philomosophical things, I'm highly rational, I strive to not lie to myself, I'm growing my emotions (that hurts, but it comes close to what I think I mean). Yet I am all too aware that, like everyone, I stop my inquiry into Truth when I am content with what I have found. The final arbiter in my delve for rational knowledge is my mammalian emotional core. And if I stop when I am content, maybe I also have abandoned mainstream ideas just as non-rationally. Maybe I have given up on the Big Bang too early, maybe the concept of God does make sense, maybe there is some ethical ground to stand on for meat-eaters, and a host of other things.
This bothers me, but what can I do? I'm only human. I can't always doubt. I have built in comfort parameters that require stability and coherence but not much more (outside of beer and cheese). So occasionally I mix it all up by reading wacky stuff, mainstream stuff I disagree with, problems in the fields I do study, etc. I no longer try to fit all my knowledge into one tidy package, not because I am extremely messy (which I am), not because I don't trust metanarratives (I think they're sexy!), not because I am avoiding God by refusing to look at inconsistency (has anyone ever pulled this on you?), but because I am lazy. LAZY (such a shock to my regular readers!). oh, and fallible, and also: remember all those philosophers I've pretended to have read? they couldn't do it either.

Apparently I'm also too lazy to wrap up my thoughts. Not that they were very wrap-uppable anyways. Wrapping up is soo five minutes ago.

Friday, September 10, 2004

slow bus to nowhere

Today driving home from work I almost got stuck behind a bus. Fucking buses.
Why can't there be a light on the back of the bus that lights up whenever someone pulls the cord inside? Simple, driver-friendly stuff that will never happen. Like fuel-efficiency. (yes, I realize that this is about a train, albeit with a cool name, and I really wanted the story on the buses in Denmark that use the same principle. But if I've been too lazy to post for weeks, I am certainly too lazy to be all properly linky right off the bat. This is my search, if you are so inclined.)