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Against the Vile Maxim

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sorry guys May. 18th, 2009 @ 01:51 am
funny pictures

Nine May. 15th, 2009 @ 05:56 pm
One of the routines that had been characterizing my somatico-emotional life lately was having some awful conversation with Ashley over the phone, then going out and doing windsprints for a few miles, stopping at the playground on the way home to do chin-ups and dips until my arms melt. Between that, biking again, and my bodyweight sliding since I haven't really been eating anything this last month, my chin-up score has been doing alright for itself. Nine is less than half of the goal, but I've put three on this week.

carlitabonita left this in the comments: May. 11th, 2009 @ 09:22 pm

Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.
En la próxima trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido, de hecho
tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
Sería menos higiénico.
Correría más riesgos, haría más viajes, contemplaría
más atardeceres, subiría más montañas, nadaría más ríos.
Iría a más lugares adonde nunca he ido, comería
más helados y menos habas, tendría más problemas
reales y menos imaginarios.
Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata y prolíficamente
cada minuto de su vida; claro que tuve momentos de alegría.
Pero si pudiera volver atrás trataría de tener
solamente buenos momentos.
Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida, sólo de momentos;
no te pierdas el ahora.
Yo era uno de esos que nunca iban a ninguna parte sin termómetro,
una bolsa de agua caliente, un paraguas y un paracaídas;
Si pudiera volver a vivir, viajaría más liviano.
Si pudiera volver a vivir comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios
de la primavera y seguiría así hasta concluir el otoño.
Daría más vueltas en calesita, contemplaría más amaneceres
y jugaría con más niños, si tuviera otra vez la vida por delante.
Pero ya tengo 85 años y sé que me estoy muriendo.

If I could live my life anew,
In the next I would try to commit more errors.
I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more.
I would be more silly about what I have been, what I have done,
I would take very few things with seriousness.
I would be less hygenic.
I would run more risks, make more travels, I would contemplate
more sunsets, climb more mountains, swim more rivers.
I would go to more places where never I have been, I would eat
more ice cream and less beans, I would have more real
problems and fewer imaginary.
I was one of those people who lived prudently and prolifically
every minute of their life; clearly I've had moments of joy.
But if I were able to retern from beyond I would try to have
only good moments.
For even if they don't know it, life is made of this, only of moments;
do not lose the present.
I was one of those who never went anywhere without a thermometer,
a container of hot water, an umbrella and a parachute.
If I were able to return to live, I would travel more lightly.
If I were able to return to live I would commence to walk barefoot from the first days
of spring and I would continue thus until the conclusion of autumn.
I would give more turns in the carousel, I would contemplate more dawns
and I would play more with children, if I could have life again afterwards.
But already I am 85 and know that I am dying.

Again, all infelicities my own.

Borges May. 9th, 2009 @ 02:34 am


Entre mi amor y yo han de levantarse
trescientas noches como trescientas paredes
y el mar será una magia entre nosotros.

No habrá sino recuerdos.
Oh tardes merecidas por la pena
noches esparanzadas de mirarte
campos de mi camino, firmamento
que estoy viendo y perdiendo...
Definitiva como un mármol
entristecerá tu ausencia otras tardes.


Between my love and me must rise
three hundred nights like three hundred walls
and the sea will be a conjuration between us.

There will be nothing but memories.
O afternoons won with suffering,
nights full with the hope of seeing you,
fields of my way, firmament
that I am seeing and losing...
Definite as marble
your absence will sadden other afternoons.

All errors in translation my own.

I Never Wanted You May. 4th, 2009 @ 02:55 am

David Bazan: putting the passion back into passive-aggression.
Other entries
» Biofeedback as a data point
paulhope points out a fascinating example of theory choice in the philosophy of mind being implicitly brought to bear on clinical practice for a friend of his who suffered from OCD:

I was also happy to see such a potent vindication of the reductionist program in psychology. Any misgivings about the pollution of psychological discourse and methodology has to answer to the efficacy of intervention on the neural level for causing psychological change. Pharmaceutical therapy has always been a little sketchy for a lot of reasons, but this is a case of an agent being empowered to literally transform themselves through a technical understanding of their own mind. That is awesome.

Against the argument that the framework of folk psychology might not reduce cleanly to what neuroscience discovers, one of the more common replies is a lament that something essential about our moral and perhaps aesthetic self-regard will be left out of the picture. How grim life would be without souls, selves, and the that like which it is to be, and so on. Now, as an aside, I suspect this view is driven by a basically mistaken belief that our experience of neural activity is much richer in content and discrimination than it actually is. But what rarely receives mention is how better and more we might perceive, understand and self-govern our minds when we command a better theory of it.
» Experimental philosophy and gender essentialism
Via the X-Phi Blog, a small survey by Kevin Timpe about whether male and female students believe their genders to be essentially or accidentally attributed to them. Here are the results:

Leaving the sample size alone for a minute, three comments about this:

1. In one way, the survey confirms a claim about the nature and operating scope of male privilege: that men are valued primarily with respect to what they do, and women, what they are. (A vivid illustration of this point is found in the respective slogans of the Hitler Youth boys' and girls' groups: "Live Faithfully, Fight Bravely, and Die Laughing!" and "Be Faithful, Be Pure, Be German.") If women assay their sources of power and advantage as consisting in properties directly consequential of gender, then it follows that gender is (ceteris paribus) more directly involved in the constitution of identity, ergo more likely to be judged essential. So that makes sense.

2. What would it mean for men to judge their gender to be an accidental property? I take this to be well-explained in part by a liberty of male privilege—the very freedom from awareness of unearned inequalities. That is to say, not a few men perhaps attempted to imagine a counterpart of themselves with circumstances held constant except for their gender. Believing themselves to have imagined that state of affairs successfully, they concluded "things aren't so different; gender must be accidental." Women undertaking this exercise might have been better equipped to think through the concomitants of the imaginary gender assignment, and so more likely to conclude that the differences in experience would be radical, and thus that gender is essential.

But in order for men to conclude, on whatever basis, that living as a woman would not have shaped their lives so differently as to determine a different set of essential properties for them, they must have thought through the counterfactual in at least partial detail. This put me in mind of a point by David Graeber:
[The male perspective as neutral] is presumably the reason why in so many societies with a pronounced gendered division of labor (that is, most societies), women know a great deal about men do every day, and men have next to no idea about women’s occupations. Faced with the prospect of even trying to imagine a women’s perspective, many recoil in horror. In the US, one popular trick among High School creative writing teachers is to assign students to write an essay imagining that they were to switch genders, and describe what it would be like to live for one day as a member of the opposite sex. The results are almost always exactly the same: all the girls in class write long and detailed essays demonstrating that they have spent a great deal of time thinking about such questions; roughly half the boys refuse to write the essay entirely. Almost invariably they express profound resentment about having to imagine what it might be like to be a woman.

It would have been extremely interesting to have included in the survey a space for a brief explanation of one's conclusion about the essentiality of gender, and whether respondents came to it by counterfactual reasoning.

3. Since respondents were only questioned about their own gender, perhaps men are just more prone to denying essences in general? I mean, we already have one data point.
» (No Subject)
* Grab the nearest book.
* Open the book to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions if you want to.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

"The primary tool for these investigations has been a large electrode placed outside the eye."
» The Palin Hoax?
[M]y article is a mélange of truths, half-truths, quarter-truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs, and syntactically correct sentences that have no meaning whatsoever. (Sadly, there are only a handful of the latter: I tried hard to produce them, but I found that, save for rare bursts of inspiration, I just didn't have the knack.) I also employed some other strategies that are well-established (albeit sometimes inadvertently) in the genre: appeals to authority in lieu of logic; speculative theories passed off as established science; strained and even absurd analogies; rhetoric that sounds good but whose meaning is ambiguous; and confusion between the technical and everyday senses of English words.

-Alan Sokal.

Couric: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but …

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of … any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

» Spivak
Spivak's Calculus is a real treat, especially the exercises. Here's one from a problem set last night:
Let f be continuous on R. Show that f is the sum of two continuous functions, one even and one odd.
It just seems outrageous at first that this could be true since evenness and oddness are so stringent, but the proof is a one liner: f(x) = 1/2(f(x)+f(x))+f(-x)-f(-x) = (f(x)+(f-x))/2 + (f(x)-(f-x))/2, where the first term is even and the second term odd. Here's e^x along with its even and odd functions:

That's pretty neat if you haven't seen it before.
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