Sunday, August 28, 2005

Work in Progress

Figured I'd better blog before I finished the current book I'm reading, it may be a while. "The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain" is very interesting but taking a while. Good points so far:
  1. In general a repudiation of Chomsky's Universal Grammar. The idea is that languages, being memetic software, could evolve must faster than the brain. Their target: children's brains.
  2. Interesting discussion of why no animals have even simple languages -- not a complexity issue, rather an issue of lack of symbolic processing capabilities.
  3. Animal signing systems, including humans, are a parallel system, not an early version of language. Think about human non-language signing: laughter, sobs, snorts, shrugs, growls, and of course, my favorite, the (female) scream -- an on switch for the adrenaline of every male in hearing distance. I have meaning for years to read Darwin's "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals". OK, it's on order now.
Biked to High Bridge today, 40.6 miles, 3h10m. Collapsed and slept for 2 hours afterwards. I really need to start biking during the week.

Pouring rain here. Katerina hitting New Orleans. 4th strongest hurricane on record, wasn't even a tropical storm as it approached Florida. A couple of weeks ago an MIT researcher published an article on global warmings' increasing the intensity of tropical storms. I've been preaching this for years -- of course, I got it from John Barnes' "Mother of Storms", published in 1995.

Music-wise, had all my daughters point me at Kings of Convenience "Riot on an Empty Street". Norwegian pop, woo-hoo. The folky stuff reminds me of Belle & Sebastian, but not quite as sappy. The jazzier stuff is pretty good, track 5 "Know-How" is very catchy, my middle daughter's favorite.

Downloaded lastest New Pornographers, "Twin Cinemas", listening to it now.

Movie-wise, was pointed at "Kung-Fu Hustle" by an old friend, I've watched 3 times. The movie is hilarious.

I was loaned a copy of "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", about the Funk Brothers, the studio musicians behind the songs of the Motown golden age. Very enjoyable, great music of course.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Another Day ...

, another green, blue and electric yellow dollar (Firesign Theater, "Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him", 1968). No biking last weekend, my wife and I went to a wedding of a traitor (employee quiting to go to law school for IP law) in Louisville, then to The Jazz Factory, then spent the night at The Galt House, where we spent our wedding night before getting out of town for the honeymoon. Nice jazz trio, young black guy on tenor sax, old white guys on drums and Hammond B3 organ. The organist, Mo somebody, 4 pages of google and I can't find him, was great. You can do practically anything with a Hammond. Sunday morning, walked up 4th St to the library at York, amazing how downtown Louisville has changed. When I was in high school at St X 64-68, I came through downtown Louisville a lot. Weird ghosts of the past.
Like the 1st time we did a college tour, maybe in 92, and came out of MIT at 77 Mass Ave and crossed to the student center. The 100s of times I did that as a student, I never saw the future and pictured doing it with my wife and 4 kids. And, I remember thinking, urge to clone -- the college years are a time in life when you seriously collapse your possibility space. There I was with my 4 very bright children, and I was thinking, "This one could be the astrophysicist. This one could be the musician. This one could be -- no, no, evil, evil." The evil thoughts passed, my children have of course made their own futures.
Just finished "Accelerando", by Charles Stross. Finally, the novel I have been waiting for from him. His fantastic short stories are merged together and make a consistent narrative. A compelling, funny and scary posthuman future, with great logical twists. I laughed out loud numerous times. And great neologisms -- I particularly like a suicide who "autodarwinated" himself.
Music-wise, downloaded a couple of albums by Citizen Cope, eponymous and "The Clarence Greenwood Recordings", 3 stars. His "Sun Gonna Rise" was an iTunes free song, way catchy, went for the albums. Funny, a couple of days later, I hear "Sun Gonna Rise" in a car commercial -- maybe a little too catchy. Also got the latest Jack Johnson, "In Between Dreams", very listenable, 3 stars.
Last night, downloaded the latest Bjork, "The Music from Drawing Restraint 9". It appears to be the sound track to an indy movie set in post-WW2 Japan. It is a work of genius, 4 stars, 5 for the haunting 1st track, a letter to General MacArthur. Kudos to Ms. Gutmunsdottir, this is a hell of a creative work.
Charles Stross has really cheered me up this week. I needed it, last week started out with our fearless leader Dumbass Bush endorsing the teaching of Intelligent Design -- "people should be exposed to both theories" -- except one is science and the other is fairy tales. Grrr. Richard Dawkins had a good article in Free Inquiry on the nature of science: it is "mining the unknown". A theory without holes would get no research dollars, scientists love the holes, their life's work is filling in the holes. Non-scientists say "your theory has holes, it must be wrong, so ours must be right" -- even tho theirs is a fairy tale. Who the fuck designed the intelligent designers? It's a god-damned infinite regress -- not that they would know what that was.
Dawkins' article mentioned how once he said how unbelievable the Cambian Explosion was -- to his eternal regret, as now he is quoted as a proponent of Intelligent Design based on his teasing statement. I have wondered about the Cambian Explosion, all currently known phylum, and others now gone, emerging 550 million years ago. Recent article, some simple bilaterally symmetric species dating to 580 million years ago now found. Knowledge advances.
Last week I also woke up one night at 4:00a, from a dream where I was in airport security, got into a hassle, and started shouting: "It's all a lie! It's another bush administration lie! You're no safer than you were before all this crap! The FAA says so! It's just another lie!". I woke up as I was being shipped to Gitmo.
I loved Bush's statement, to the effect "In my business, I have to keep repeating things, ... to catapult the propaganda." The Republicans have astutely learned to exploit the well-known unfortunate human cognitive defect, that hearing anything often enough causes us to give that thing credence -- "I heard that somewhere ...". But, some polls are saying that the public is starting to give the current admistration lower and lower ratings on trust. Maybe the sheep are waking up. Interesting to see if Rove will skate on outing the CIA agent.
Lying and playing the fear card. When did Americans become such cowards, that playing to their fears allows you to lead them around by the nose? Conservatism is basically a ideology of fear of the future -- or rather, of the present. Yearning for the good old days that never existed. I've already ranted on this, 11/3/2004.
I like the Ben Franklin quote: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security". There is no security, the supernova shockwave that blows away the atmosphere could strike with pretty much no warning. Wake up, Amurica!
Interesting Prius moment: next to one of my young coworkers at a red light, rolled down the window, put the car in neutral, pushed the gas pedal up and down to rev the engine -- nothing, the gas motor was off. A rite of the teenage years gone.
Time to go watch the rest of "The Daily Show".