Saturday, January 31, 2009

Something My Father Never Gave Me

Growing up my father never much played with us.  I figure he had a bunch of us so he wouldn't have to.  My brothers and sisters and I played the typical sports as kids.  We were fairly athletic, above average or better at whatever we did, but none of us ever achieved any exceptional success (yet, that is).  When pushed or properly motivated we did pretty well, but nurturing wasn't a strong point of my parents so we pretty much acted like any normal kid, did just enough to get by--no great conflicts to overcome, no family footsteps to follow, just keep keeping on.  That is why it absolutely confused me when my father, and mother for that matter, started to reveal their excitement towards the Baltimore Ravens.  Of all things.  My father doesn't even know how to throw a football.  I've seen him try.  In fact that is the one memory I have of him playing any sort of sports with us, his awkward, how to throw a football like a girl lesson he gave me and my brother when we were kids.  Jeez.  I hope he redeems himself somehow in that department before he dies because I would rather unburn that image from my memory.  Anyway, so my dad is a Balto Ravens fan.  Big deal.  But I figured out why it bothers me.  You see, when we were growing up we were never fans of the Baltimore Colts.  We weren't even fans of the Baltimore Orioles, even though all of our friends were.  We were displaced from San Francisco and we held a soft spot in our hearts for the SF teams, though it is my Papa who can claim responsibility for that.  I can picture him now, sitting in his red leather chair, listening to the ballgame on his transistor radio, talking to no one, but with only the emotion that a die hard fan could understand.  He was a fan.  He made us fans.  We had something in common.  I'll be a SF Giants fan until I die thanks to him.  So back to my father.  Turns out he is a Ravens fan because my mom is friends with prominent and wealthy Baltimorian who has season skybox tix to the Ravens.  Several times she's given my parents her passes so they could see the Ravens play.  So in her generosity, my parents are Ravens fans.  She gave that to them.  I'm glad they lost.
Anyway, this realization made me think of what am I giving to my children--the intangibles.  I suppose the question could be posed, if I died, what would my kids remember of me?  My elder daughter would probably remember me as a soccer player since I play fairly often.  My younger daughter would probably remember me as a handyman since I work on the house frequently.  My boys wouldn't remember anything because they are too young, but if they did they might remember that I played with hotwheels and Thomas trains with them for hours on end.  We travel as a family a lot and experience lots of interesting places together, but those are more personal things to them.  I the department of who I am, though it is probably thin since I'm often busy working on the computer or simply driving them here and there.  I guess it really does come down to action means everything...not an understatement.  It's the next logical state after empiricism.  You can't experience intentions or thoughts or emotions, only actions.  Tomorrow will be a day to play.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

When does too much become too much

Today there are hundreds, if not thousands, if not millions of places to get information.  I'm guilty of being something of an info-monger.  I read news and opinion off the net, I listen to news radio, I rarely have less than a dozen non-fiction books checked out of the library, I use Google alerts and rss readers, I listen to audio books, I blog, I post, I observe, I wonder.  I can't say why I do it.  I just like to consume info.  The only problem is that more info is just more data.  But when does information become actionable?  Probably most of it never does.  If you think like David Hume, then none of it matters anyway because without cause and effect, what is the point of studying anything? 
This morning as I was driving back after dropping my kids off at school on the radio I was listening to Tom Keene interviewing some Nobel Laureate in economics from some school.  He is in Davos, Switzerland and the World Economic Forum and he mentioned George Soros referencing Karl Popper as he talked abou the current financial crisis.  I think if there is one person in the world who understands what is going on, and who would be able to get us out of the current crisis, it's George Soros.  He's pretty smart for a billionaire (sic).  So now that I know Soros studied Popper who is a philosopher who had a run in with Wittgenstein, who was influenced in part by David Hume.  I know a bit about these giants among men.  Is any of this information actionable, besides a random comment on some totally obscure blog?  I'll save that thought for later.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Miracles and the Supernatural

There are lots of questions that may never have an answer.  There are lots of things that cannot be explained.  Ever since I started learning about philosophy, I've seen the world in a new light, though it was a pretty dim one.  I found that there are simply things that I can never know the answer to, somethings of which I can't even ask.  When I first learned of this technique, I admit, I was impressed.  It sounded so clever and it seemed plausible at the time that philosophy was dead and there was no way back.  But that has happened several times before, e.g., Descartes, Kant, Wittgenstein, etc.  Then a Briefer History of Time found me and then I was introduced to quantum theory.  Quantum theory simply puts an element of unknowing into science.  You can get down to such a granular level that measurement is not possible without contaminating the results.  The margin of error is too large for the measurements to be of any use.  This does not mean that on the macro level all of Newton's world still functions as expected.  But it is that uncertainty that keeps us from ever knowing the whole truth.  I believe the same is with philosophy.  I believe Wittgenstein, Hume, Kierkegaard, etc. all overshot the idea of the possibility of miracles, as did I.  I thought that anything that happened in nature, anything that is restricted to the laws of nature...not anything, but simply defined as natural and by definition, supernatural events cannot occur because it implies that something occurs that is unrestricted the laws of our world and it just can't happen...and I'm not talking about black swans, but if someone came to earth and could shoot lightning from their fingers then they are a God...wait Tesla already did that, but he was of another world already.  But here is my argument....what if life was impossible?  Let's say, what if by some event, Mars and Earth switched places.  It would be easy to imagine that all life on earth would end.  How about life on Mars then.  Would life just spontaneously create itself on the planet that now occupies Earth's orbit?  Give the new Earth/Mars a billion years.  Would life evolve?  Can life come from not life?  I dunno, but if it cannot then life itself is a miracle and life itself is supernatural.  It doesn't necessarily mean there is a God or a god or an afterlife or a before-life, but it would mean that supernatural events do occur and that the Pre-Socratics were better philosophers than anyone since.  So next time anyone ask me if I think miracles are possible, I'll tell them, "You're looking at one."

Monday, January 26, 2009

The future

Reminder 1: The future is not simply an older version of the present.
Reminder 2: Customers are the only way you make money.

What did Einstein really know?

What did Einstein really know?  He was probably one of the greatest scientists of his time, but how much more could he have discovered?  He did great work in figuring out the way things work, but stopped short of the theory of everything.  If there is such a thing, how many lifetimes will it take to uncover it?  In our lifetime? Hardly.  Probably not for another million years and by then humanity will have rendered itself extinct and so much for progress.  Does that mean that striving for such a goal is futile?  I think yes.  Too much effort is spent in the world to consume.  Every last corner of the world is being exploited.  There is a scarcity of harmony.  I'm going to try to change that.  It's back to basics.

Two types of people in the world

There are two types of people in the world, leaders and (I was going to say followers, but since there obviously are those who go along and those who go against and those who just don't care so I have to amend my list to) everyone else.
Wow, if this isn't pointing out the obvious, but it does bring up an important point in my action is everything philosophy.  Take the rock star analogy.  You either are a rock star or you aren't.  You are either THE alpha male or you are not.  Take your current job.  Are you the person who writes the check or someone who receives a check?  I can't say one is any better than the other, but I'd rather be in the driver's seat.
So today when you are working, you can either be a leader or you can support someone else to be the leader (but they'll get the credit, and the spoils too).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Philosophy is kind of cool

For the past few months, I've been consuming as much info about philosophy as my brain can hold, within reason, that is.  I do have four kids and a job and a half and a mortgage and a half.  But philosophy is so cool, even if it is dead.  Actually philosophy isn't really philosophy, but more like logic or math.  However it does have applications everywhere I look.  Maybe that's the beauty of it.  It is always there, whether you know it or not, something like gravity.  But philosophy is about limitations.  I can't remember exactly, but I think that's what St. Thomas came up with. You can only know God through what he isn't.  I guess that's where it takes one to know one comes from.  Once I get this hardcoded into my brain, I think everything will be clearer.  It's starting already.

Netflix API

Signed up for a netflix API key.  Next step...six degrees of Kevin Bacon of course.  I can't believe it hasn't been done yet.  Well, maybe people have to work, especially in this economy.  I'm not excluded from this tribe, so Kevin, you'll have to wait, but here's the gist.  You enter the name of an actor that you know and you'll get back a tree that leads to The Bacon himself.  Cool.  Again, I'm sure it's been done, but maybe I'll give it a try anyway.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Age of Computers

We are living in the age of computers.  This means that many decisions we make are computer assisted.  If I want to read a book, I don't just go to a book store and read the back covers, though I used to do this when I was in college...for real.  Instead I go to or and read reviews before making a choice.  Then if I find a book that sounds interesting I don't order it, but I login to my library account and see if any of 50 surrounding libraries has the book.  If they do, then I see if they have it in audio available for download, which I put on my MP3 player and listen to it in my car or wherever.  If they don't then I get it on CD and then copy it to my MP3 player via ripping it to Windows.  If it sounds really good then I just request the item online at my library and then they have it shipped to my local branch and I get a phone call a couple of days later when it comes in.  If they don't have it in my local branch, then I use one of my other library cards that searches their collection in the next state.  If the book is brand new or out of print sometimes I look on in their used book sellers.  If I know that I want the book then I spend the $1 to $5 plus $5 shipping and handling and get the book in a couple of weeks.  Then the book(s) sit on my shelf until it's due at the library or until I go on vacation and have time to sit and read it.  Life with computers sure is complicated, but then again, computers are my livelihood and without them, I'd probably be cutting wood and sinking nails for a living, which wouldn't be so bad either.

Life is but a dream

I can't remember where I heard it (though I wish I had written it down), but the concept "life is but a dream" is quite interesting.  In this light, death is akin to waking up in the morning.  Death means the end of an altered state and a return to the normal state.  If this were the case, then dying would be nothing to fear.  In fact, it would probably be something welcomed by the other-side self.  But just think of the implications if this was true.  Suicide would be rampant (unless of course there were some abject consequences associated with such action).  On a whim, people might simply jump off a building.  In fact, I could envision people going to great lengths to make their exit as fantastical as possible.  People would undeniably get creative in the act and it would become somewhat of a sport.  It's a gruesome idea, but if life was but a dream, then we'd all become nihilists.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The 60 Second Philosopher

I do a lot of thinking...probably too much, though I can't help it. One habit, I have, though is to record my thought as often as I can. I have found four repeatable patterns to do this:

One: write down ideas in a journal. One benefit of using a notebook is that I get to doodle and draw diagrams and arrows and things not limited to typed or spoken words;
Two: send emails to my blog. This is what I'm doing now and anyone who reads my blog would agree that this is very streamy writing and not of much use, but better than nothing (I think/write);
Three: texting messages to myself using my phone. I have my phone on me all the time so it is a no brainer to use my phone to capture my thoughts. The only problem is that texting is not somthing that can be done with alacrity and it forces me to slow down and severely filter my thoughts...not always a bad thing;
Four: Use my phone's sound recorder to record a know, the proverbial, note to self. The only problem with that is I have an excess of 300 note to selfs. and getting them out of my phone into a usable medium is not the easiest thing to do. Transcription is something I never have time for.

In that light, there are also certain instances where I can generate ideas for my documentation...running on the treadmill, lying in bed, talking to my friend, or while listening to audiobooks in the car. None of these are planned events for generating ideas, yet they are usually pretty good at it.

Finally one day I want to Lulu all of my ideas so I can have more fodder for thought and hopefully one day can form my own philosophical framework.

New Year Resolutions

Ah, it's a new year filled with possibilities and dreams to fulfill. What should I do this year? I think this year I will do something to change the world (for better of course). The world is open for business 24 hours a day. Most of us spend it wallowing in ourselves. Well, me and my boy, Barack have a lot of work to do. I would like to live in a world where my kids can walk a half a mile to school and I won't have to worry about someone taking them and doing bad things to them. So they figured out who killed the Walsh boy. There is no room for people like that in the world. None at all, yet they exist. How then can we make the world safer for our kids. I don't know that, but I'd like to figure that one out. If people had Jesus in their lives then maybe. If they believed that they had to answer for their actions then maybe. If Jesus was coming again then maybe. Well he is coming again and people need to clean up their acts. Do I have to become a preacher? Do I have to fight satan? If someone actually reads this blog, they'd probably think I'm a nutcase. Note to self: My new year's resolution is to make the world a better place by starting and continuing an act that will make you a better person, which in turn will make me a better person, so that someday the streets will be safe from bad people and children can be children, free to play and enjoy life and all that nature affords them.

Time Travel

I finally understand time travel.  It took me like a day to figure it out, but like Napoleon Dynamite and Wittgenstein, I'm a polymath and since I understand how things work it only takes me an instant to understand a concept in entirety and immediately.  Now after listening to part of Hawkings book, A Briefer History In Time (listen because reading is so 20th Century and I listen to abridged versions of books becaues most books--even Harry Potter books--could stand to be a lot shorter), a chapter on time travel sparked my interest.  Since it is almost purely theoretical and not scientific I found myself knowing the chapter before I read it.
Time travel basically involves worm holes and bending time and going faster than the speed of light, but that's all wrong.  Light is a perception and just going faster than you can see something doesn't mean that you turn back time.  Quantum Theory is about as accurate as Greek Mythology, I have to say.  It is the religion of trying to explain something that happens in nature using mathematical formulas sprinked with magical constants that must be passed over in silence.
Anyway, time travel is most likely very hard to achieve, but it is also highly undesireable.  How do I know that?  Because everyone who has done it is dead.  That's the catch.  You have to die to go back in time and who wants to do that?  There's even a machine to do it though we won't know about it for many many years.  Here's the other catch, time travel is like a rewind button.  Going back in time means literally going back in time.  You can be a baby again, if you want, but you cannot retain any knowledge of adolescence or adulthood because the time machine does not alter the universe for an individual, it just backs up a few frames.
See, the big problem with being a natural is that you are confined to nature.  Is there any case of where something is and then is not?  Do things ever disappear?  No they just change states.  Can a time machine be here one second and then gone the next?  No.  Of course not.  Could gravity be turned on and off with a switch?  Never.  But there is one thing that can utterly and entirely simply vanish as if it never was and that is life.  You can be alive one second and gone the next, never to return and almost never as if was.  Even that is subject to the rigors of biology.  People don't spontaneously die though.  You can't even will it.  You have to do it.  Anyway, maybe the only thing time travel and life have in common are that they are two things I don't understand.  Based on that, they must be related...yeah right.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The end of the Internet

I'm reading books on philosophy and cosmology and there are definitive limits on things physical and conceptual.  Those outside cannot be spoken of...what an easy way to avoid any contradictions or problems in all of our neatly construed models.  So we cannot speak of what was before the Big Bang or what is colder than Absolute Zero or even The Meaning of Life.  That is almost how I feel about my finances.  I cannot speak of my net worth a month from now since there is no such thing as cause and effect and since the future has not happened and obviously it is not simply an older present, how could I expect to know anything about my bank balances a month from now?  With an infinite number of possibilities, and since the Bell Curve has been broken by the Long Tail, who's to say I'm not a Black Swan?
But I digress.  With the end of analog TV quickly approaching (Feb 2009?), an era of TV will move into the shadows of the past.  It wasn't unpredictable, though how TV's can stream images from thin air is well beyond me.  If I was the last man on earth, I could spend 10 lifetimes before I could figure out how to recreate that technological feat.  Anyway, I'm thinking now of starts and ends.  The Internet is all the rage now, but can it be predicted when it will end?  Can we plug some starting values into the Theory of Relativity and come up with a reasonable guess?  Analog TV seems to have lasted for about 50 years.  Videotapes lasted about 40.  HD DVD's about 2.  What about the internet.  My guess would be about 10 more years.

Older Posts