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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The REN Program (2)

The REN program is not the only one running in the System, of course, but it has become a bit ubiquitous of late. More copies are circulating around and processing the endless streams of data.

One day, a copy of the REN absorbed a big chunk of data input that was rather hard to digest. While trying to process and break down the data into useful pieces that could be absorbed into its own construct and the System, this chunk grew into a tumor-like piece that insinuated itself into the copy. It could not live independently, but it also did not fully integrate itself with the rest of the data and processes in the copy. It was a parasite.

This tumor was especially powerful. One day it became sentient. An awareness sprouted out of it. From then on it is an "intelligent" being.

Rather than making an accurate assessment on its situation, the awareness interprets reality with a systematic distortion. It sees the rest of the copy as part of itself --- in fact, it seems itself as the master of the copy. The rest of the copy merely exist to serve it, the tumor, the parasite, the alien substance, which calls itself, "the mind."

The mind believes it is in full control of the rest of the copy --- data uptake, calculation, incorporation of results, etc. Completely delusional of course. The mind does not even know what is going on within 99% of the copy at any given time. Conveniently, the rest of the copy does not "think" and therefore cannot argue with the mind and dispel its delusions. So the mind goes on with the game it plays with itself. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The REN Program (1) (short fiction)

There are many copies of the REN program running in the System. There are also many copies of other programs running in the system, but we are not concerned about them at the moment.

The copies are identical upon release into the system and immediately begin to absorb and process data that are constantly streaming into the System from the Outside. The data gobbled up by each copy are different, and the calculations run within each copy on these data are random, so the results generated, which become a part of the copy itself and shape future calculations every second and every minute, cause the copy to evolve and change. Therefore, copies become more unlike its original shape and different from each other as time passes.

The processing and computation of Outside data also bring about errors and noise and contamination as results get incorporated into the copy. Over time errors accumulate within each copy. No copy can stay as pristine as it is in the first second of birth. The errors slows down the processing, first by a tiny bit, barely noticeable, but as they accumulate, the copy's computing speed slows down. This happens at a different rate for each copy, some faster and some slower, and some copies can go on like new for a long time.


It is obvious when a copy is riddled with errors --- It gets stuck in the same computing process. It would take in new data but run the same process over and over, even though the results are completely wrong. Occasionally it would grind around a bit trying to correct itself, but soon it would go back to the old and incorrect process. In other words, the copy has lost its ability to adapt to the new data coming in and run on the same process it has used before. The more it repeats the same calculation, the more it is unable to correct itself, and the more errors it produces, thus hastening its own demise. Near the end it becomes a broken record, with the needle running round and round on the same track, producing the same sound, until it stops altogether.

Eventually, every copy stops. It is simply too full of errors to go on. The "dead" copies float around for a while, until copies of another program, known as the "sweepers," scurry up to them and chop them up into 0's and 1's, which then disappear into the vast space that is the System, perhaps becoming building blocks of all the new programs and copies that are born every day. Although copies of the REN program die every day, new copies are released every day as well. Sometimes there are more copies buzzing around for a while, other times the copies dwindle, but they never go away completely.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A New Restaurant

Today we decided to try the newly opened Copperwood Tavern in Shirlington. The place is lavishly decorated to appear rustic, with copper tubes running overhead and wooden benches and tables polished like metal. It is rather impressive.

An extremely petite young woman with a head half of the size of mine and weighing about 75 pounds greeted us and took us to a table. Dark hair, dark eye shadow, pale skin. Then came our waitress, who looked like a taller and less emaciated copy of the first one. I looked around and spotted a third waitress with the same style of hair and makeup, also in her early to mid 20s. Hmm, I thought, has the manager hired an army of young women and groomed them in the same way?

On the table were two glass jars that pretended to be rustic cups. I wondered whether rural people really do drink water out of glass jars. A couple of waitstaff, obviously lower than the army dark-haired petite young women, were walking around pouring water from a glass bottle with a wooden stopper, like one of those restaurants that are too fancy for an ordinary pitcher, as if the water was not collected from a tap.

"What would you like to drink?"

The hubby got iced tea and I got hot tea. He ordered biscuit with gravy and I ordered a burger.

"With fries or salad?" The girl with dark hair and dark eye shadow asked.

"Salad, please." I said without hesitation.

Some minutes later, she came back with our beverages. Some further minutes later, she came with the food. On my plate was a pile of soggy and lukewarm fries. I sighed but was not in the mood to get it changed.

"Anything else?" She asked.

The hubby wanted more ice tea and I asked her to add some hot water to my cup.

In no more than three minutes she came back with another glass of iced tea and asked me with all seriousness: "Do you mind if I just add hot water to your tea?"

I stared at her, tongue tied, and nodded.

Five minutes later she was standing at the two-person table next to me, apologizing to the gray-haired couple. With a pair of reading glasses on his nose, the husband was pointing at the check, noting that the record contained an incorrect entry. I could only vaguely make out that they were charged something they did not order. The young waitress nodded and apologized again and took the check back for correction.

I made a face to the hubby, "There's something wrong with her. Would it be rude if I suggested she see a neurologist?"

The burger was too dry, and the beacon on top interfered with the flavor. I pulled it out.

The hubby is an aficionado of grits so he ordered one. It came in a fancy little iron pot. "How was it?" The waitress asked.

"Can you tell the chef it is way too salty?" He said mildly. He almost never complains about anything and is usually horrified when I make a fuss about some inadequate service in public. It is a rare occasion that he would lodge a complaint.

The girl apologized and went back to the kitchen. Soon after she came back and whispered something with a red-headed young man hardly older than herself. She then leaned over and told hubby that the chef couldn't make him a new order of less salty grits, but the manager would take it off our bill.

Throughout the meal she had been unwaveringly polite, but we left with a bad taste in our mouth. If only they had put half of the money on decoration into better food, I'd be a lot happier. All the wooden counters and copper faucets are nice, but they are not edible.

Ripping Apart Teleology

Saw an article by Steven Poole about Nagel and teleology, which is basically in agreement with what I wrote a few days ago.

Science can’t stop talking in terms of ‘purposes’, but if the universe cares about us, it has a funny way of showing it.

Well, I don't think it's "science" that can't stop talking about 'purpose' but rather philosophers.

The impenetrable mystery to me is why or how some people seem to be physiologically unable to imagine a universe in which his own consciousness is not at the center and everything else revolves around it. The answer might have nothing to do with cosmology or philosophy, but psychology --- as in the incurable narcissism some people are afflicted with. But then follows another impenetrable mystery: Why isn't the incurable narcissist's ranting immediately dismissed? Why are the nonnarcissists of the world still talking about it as if it's worth the paper it's printed on? 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Affable Young Men

I have had two jobs in which the boss was a domineering bitch. Coincidentally, each of these bitches had a young man as her assistant to push around from time to time. The young men are so affable that they routinely obeyed the bitches idiotic and impulsive whims without complaint, running around wasting time and energy trying to fulfill their wishes. They are universally liked by everyone, me included, for their niceness and mild manners, especially their tenderness and lack of domination or aggression toward women. They inspire female colleagues' motherly instinct, yet they always run back to the domineering bitches and obeyed their orders. I often wondered why they are so willing to take so much crap, even more than us culturally brain-washed women. The similarity is striking, which convinces me again that there are only a limited number of personality types and people are not as unique as they'd like to believe --- but that's another story. These young men, it turned out, both had very domineering mothers. Hahahaha. How predictable we all are!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Again, Something versus Nothing

Perhaps this is what Jung referred to as synchronicity. A few days after I wrote the blog entry about what I think about the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?", Oliver Burkeman published a rather amusing feature in Guardian on an amateur philosopher who claims to have solved the mystery of universe. This jewelry dealer and philosopher's answer is --- potential.

Whatever. I don't intend to discuss this philosophy. I just remembered a radio interview I heard some time ago with a female physics professor and researcher. She said something to the effect of "Yes there is a defined size to our universe and it is approximately 13.6 billion years old." Her point was that our universe is an enclosed system, like the inside of a ball. Also she said that it was pointless to ask what was there BEFORE the Big Bang, because "before" is a concept of time, and time did not exist outside of our universe, which was created by the Big Bang. If I understand correctly, she meant that time in itself is a product of the Big Bang, just like the 3 dimensional space itself, which is expanding as we speak. Time as we know it is just like space that exists only within the confines of our universe. Therefore there is no BEFORE the Big Bang because there was no TIME outside of the Big Bang.

Imagine a supernatural being who exists outside of our universe looking in, the same way as we, creatures of 3 dimensions, looking at an ant who lives in a 2-dimensional world. It seems obvious, isn't it, that time does not have to be infinite. It can be a line and a creature not actually ON the line can see any point on the line, but a creature living on the line can only see that particular point he is standing on? It is only the human memory that allows us to see a minute distance behind us on this line but not most of it. To organisms without memory, they live on a point, although not the same point from one instance to another, on this line.

But memory is but an illusion, not reality. It's a recording of the moment "then," which stands at some point behind "now" but it is not really "then." An analogy is that a photograph is merely a picture that depicts the image of a moment in the past, but what you are seeing now (when you look at the photograph) is the photograph, not the past itself. There is no contradiction of past and present existing together.

Anyway, so, what I'm trying to say is that humans often fall into the trap of being unable to distinguish the self, in the form of consciousness, and everything else that is not the self, including the molecular and chemical processes that enable consciousness. It is incredibly self-centered and grandiose and delusional, yes, but what else would you expect from the consciousness, especially that of men and especially that of men like Thomas Nagel (who believes that consciousness is the basis for the existence of the universe)? People do believe they are the center of the universe and they can't be reasoned out of it.

Imagine though that you were a supernatural being living outside of this 4-dimensional universe and time is but a thread laid out in front of you and means no mystery to you. You watch the little creatures crawling on the thread, blind to what lies before or behind them, yet, against all reality, they believe the electrochemical flutters in their head causes the universe to exist. Wouldn't you laugh your ass off, assuming you laugh? I vaguely remember Chuang Tzu saying something to this effect. Hmm, why do you need Nagel when you already have Chuang Tzu?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Demise of Bill Evans

I swear I had no idea before hearing about Bill Evans' addiction and death. It was shocking. Why? Because I would never have thought a man so thoughtful, rational (as much as an artist can be), introverted, and gentle of nature, and smart, would fall victim to impulses and destroy his life in this way. Like Bix Biederbacke, it was a way of self-destruction, perhaps in order to escape psychological pain, but before their deaths they coped with music.

His father was an alcoholic. How much that contributed to his own depression and addiction I don't know, but it had to have some effect. Evans was enormously successful after he was hired by Miles Davis into his band. They were very different in personality but understood and appreciated each other. America's racial conflicts in the 50s was one of the main factors that split them up. Evans went on to become the preeminent jazz pianists of all time.

He was very intellectual, and that also made his addiction a surprise. He was not one of those instinct-driven, impulsive artists who operate on pure emotions. I have seen some videos of his interviews and he talked about jazz music like an academic, minus the snobbery. So analytical. So cool and articulate. So ... normal and sane.

It's heartbreaking. This biography recounts how, when he was addicted to heroin in the 1960s and broke and starving, he regularly called his friends begging for money. When he later got a big advance on a contract, he meticulously paid each one back. A man like this shouldn't be an addict. What contradiction. What nonsense.

He eventually quit heroin for a while, but then his wife committed suicide, and he went back on dope. Then he got himself into methadone treatment and stayed clean and productive for another decade. Then in 1980 he got hooked on cocaine and died quickly. It was over, just like that.

A Dream

Every so often I would have a recurrent dream. I was walking in a stretch of grassland, with home behind me --- not far away --- and some destination ahead of me within walking distance. Lately the destination has been a grand and magnificent palace with a golden tower or dome. Like many palaces in Europe, it is possibly a museum, because in one of the dreams I was taking a group of people to on a tour.

Last night the journey was unusually vivid. The trail was surrounded by green and delicate ferns as high as my knees, gently swaying in the wind, and the prairie spread to as far as the eye could see. I was convinced I could get there very soon, perhaps in half an hour. The vision was so sharp that I could count the number of ridges on the leaves.

This is home, I thought. I have lived here all my life and know every path and every turn in the grass. Everything felt familiar. I had taken the road from the home behind me to the tower before me a thousand times. How fortunate that glamor and beauty are so close to home. The sweet anticipation before I get to the happy destination.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Horror of the Sun

The first two days in LA were a bit overcast, cool and pleasant. Then it turned hot. For the past few days the blaring sun has become increasingly unbearable. I have forgotten how much I dislike days like these.

A darkness hides in too much light. It springs on you when you leave a dark room. For a split second the brightness dims your eyes and you feel oozy and lost. This feeling lurks constantly under the blinding desert sun. Yesterday I was stuck on the freeway for two hours --- I had forgotten how much I hate this too --- and even with the sunglasses on, the effect persisted. An invisible monstrosity lurks in the inescapable light.

The effect is hypnotic. The sunlight numbs and makes the mind sluggish. The eye sees more sharply but discerns less clearly. Thoughts are muffled. Time loses its edge. The brain is suppressed and submerged so that nothing floats to the surface. 

In the bleaching light nothing looks real, including the senses. The world is plastic and fake and horrible.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

扮鬼脸

很厚的一本小说被我两天半看完,情节实在抓人。人物繁多剧情复杂令人叹为观止。每个人物能看见不同的鬼,有人能看见所有的鬼,有人能看见某个鬼,有人能看见两个鬼,有人完全看不见鬼,谁能看见哪个鬼的原因还都不一样,而且还有几场大家“欢聚一堂”的高潮戏,鬼看鬼,鬼看人,人看鬼,人看人,必须搞清楚谁能看见谁。每个怨鬼的纠结历史在每个活人眼前的矛盾身上都有呼应,同时还有 serial killer 的背景,还有经营料理店的情节。我脑子都晕了,而作者写得严谨缜密,找不出漏洞错误,这都是技术活啊!读者一般很少会注意到这些地方对功力的考验,我自己写一篇只有六七千字儿的短篇,改过几遍,还被人指出:同学你有好几处前后矛盾逻辑错乱 ...

大结局非常精彩,层层揭密,如一场高潮迭起的盛宴,令人十分满意,最后还把我看哭了,余味无穷。

Friday, October 11, 2013

宫部美幸

在图书馆借了本她的中文版 period novel 《扮鬼脸》。有点类似于 GRRM 大叔(最近还同时在重读冰火第四部),她也很喜欢玩 mixed genre 混合型故事,这里包含了近代历史细节,儿童小说视角,悬疑成分,鬼故事成分,世情成分,最后还少不了...料理!剧情设定在一家刚开张的料理屋,充满了街坊邻居的生活和关系。虽然我不是日式料理的粉丝,但还是很爱看的,而且她的描写注重勤劳工作人民的日常细节,很家常又很真实。整体格调是明亮的,但也并不刻意粉饰美化现实中的冲突和矛盾,人性的弱点。跟 GRRM 大叔类似的地方还有她对人物的细心刻画,即使是很小的配角也栩栩如生,历历在目,无比精致。GRRM 大叔也很爱吃,写到宴席之处必不放过,每道菜都详细描述,可惜建立在中世纪欧洲历史上的菜谱,再怎么描写也引不起胃口,他应该去成都拜访一下!

这种故事很容易落入节奏缓慢戏剧性弱的trap,但宫部有写推理小说的功底,节奏和悬念非常工整有序,人物与情节与环境样样不落下,每章结尾必留悬念让人欲罢不能。真是太厉害了,我好崇拜她。

或许更难得的是淡淡的恰到好处的幽默感,冷不丁地来一下,不注意就错过了。

哦,对了,还有,不看这部小说还真不知道,江户的意思就是大江入海的关口,是水乡,跟上海一样嘛。小说中描写的料理也免不了跟鱼虾海鲜大有关系了。

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Something and Nothing

My friend Terence wrote a hilarious piece today about the eternal question of "Why is there something and not nothing?"

So, it dawned on me --- What is nothing? Do we know what it is? In our world, it seems, there is no place where nothing exists. What we previously thought to be vacuum in space turns out to be an endless stretch of dark matter and dark energy. Our universe is filled with something. So what is this "nothing" we think exists?

If nothing does not really exist in the universe, then why are we pursuing it? Where did this idea of nothing come from? Ah, therein lies the rub. Our concept of nothing comes from a lack of consciousness --- the space-time before our birth and that after our death. But in fact we are fundamentally wrong. The nothingness before birth and after death is purely subjective. Something existed before we know it and will exist after we cease to know it. Just because we know it now, does not mean its existence is dependent on our knowing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Man After My Own Heart

最近看了两部 Aki Kaurismaki 的片子,Arial, Shadow in Paradise。我特别想看但是不容易找到的一部是 Hamlet Goes Business,现代芬兰荒诞版王子复仇记,只在油管上挖到几个片段,例如这段决斗大结局,笑死我了。

捏着小拳头说,俺要模仿他的芬兰风格!


Measure for Measure

Isn't it funny ironic that the villain in the story, the very embodiment of hypocrisy and cowardice of power, is named Angelo? Oh you wicked, wicked Willie.

The way he wrote about the fear of death here and elsewhere convinces me that he did not believe in the afterlife. He knew very well that the rest is ... silence.

Timon of Athens

During the intermission of Timon of Athens at Folger, I eavesdropped on a discussion among the 3 persons (who looked like a mother with t...

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