Tag: personal

I am Shiva, destroyer of fireplaces

Posted by – August 20, 2010

The fireplace started smoking out of its right side. There’s a brick wall that’s supposed to meet the mantel and keep the smoke in, but it has started leaning in, letting the smoke out. In fact all the brick lining, especially in the back, is beyond its useful lifespan and failing.

Note leaning right wall

Note leaning right wall


More…

Who’s going to buy a piece of crap like that

Posted by – May 14, 2010

Sometimes I feel like we really live out in the sticks. The other day a guy came around selling horse manure. What, horse manure? Yeah, you know, for fertilizing. Mom always bought some this time of year. I think it’s good for the rose bushes or something. Hey honey, are you buying this shit? Yeah, this guy is peddling crap in a van. I don’t know if we really need this shit. I mean, we don’t have to take this guy’s horseshit if we don’t want to. Okay man, how much you want for this shit?

It was 10€ a bag, three bags for 25€. We got three bags.

The ongoing march of materialism

Posted by – May 13, 2010

I got so excited about owning stuff that I put together an Amazon wish list. If you’re ever in the position of having to get me a present, anything here is very welcome (I’ll obviously be buying these up myself as well).

Economics as philosophy replacement

Posted by – May 13, 2010

I’ve found myself getting more and more interested in economics recently, and defending this interest somewhat sheepishly. Why is that? Up till recently I rather looked down on economics, mainly because it can’t really predict anything, and when it can its predictions seem very obvious (involving supply and demand curves of a maximum of two goods at once). And besides, it has to do with money, and everyone knows talking about money is boring and low status.

When I was young and even more stupid than now I was most of all interested in philosophy. The way I saw it, everything else came out of logic, which came out of philosophy, so I should certainly cover philosophy before getting to anything else. I did get a big kick out of some things, like the question of free will, utilitarianism, Mill’s concept of liberty, Kant’s ethics, Rawls’ justice, the recognition of some important fallacies and reasoning principles (no ought from is, no is from ought, Occam’s razor) and most of all, Wittgenstein’s linguistic solutions to philosophical problems (my term). And of course I’m still very interested in what you might call practical epistemology (thinking about the best way to get an accurate understanding of reality). Also, the craziness of what some people think about metaphysics has great entertainment value.

But none of those things have a great revelatory effect on most people, perhaps because they sound like opinions. They also don’t have much predictive power (except the reasoning guidelines, occasionally). Sounds like another discipline I know…

By the way, my interest in philosophy was finally quenched by being acquainted with contemporary writings in the field of environmental aesthetics (I believe the rest of philosophy is similar). Partly it’s a self-generating field: essays rebut other essays which claim that philosopher X believed Y, and once you’ve written enough, you can become philosopher Z whose opinions will be the topic of further “study”. Partly it’s a craft: an essay might consist of the careful application of someone’s theory to some practical issue or piece of art, some “surprising” result comes out and overall the essay is a pleasant thing to read, but it’s difficult to say what exactly has been discovered. There’s value in it, but there are seldom any actual discoveries. I don’t reject it, but I wanted (at that time in my life at least) something else.

So in short, I think I’m willing to give economics a break on the grounds that I gave one to philosophy. Economics deals with some difficult questions and comes up with numerous different but plausible solutions – and to be fair, some of it is already fairly well settled (which is not to say that politicians accept even the settled part, for some reason). I think it will be a lot of fun to learn.

Books ordered today

Posted by – May 8, 2010

  • Concrete Mathematics: Foundation for Computer Science (Ronald Graham, Donald Knuth and Oren Patashnik)
  • Programming Pearls (Jon Bentley)
  • The Little Schemer (Daniel Friedman and Matthias Felleisen)
  • Principles of Statistics (M. G. Bulmer)
  • Probability Theory: The Logic of Science: Principles and Elementary Applications Vol 1 (E. T. Jaynes)
  • Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming (interviews by Peter Seibel)
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (Douglas Hofstadter)

Owning these books will make me smarter, right?

Fifties week

Posted by – May 3, 2010

We were burgled a couple of days ago in the middle of the night. Very unsettling to know how easy it was for someone to get in and root around the place. I immediately started having violent fantasies about catching the guy (sexist assumption).

He only took an axe (!) and my wife’s wallet before being disturbed, whereupon he fled. One consequence of this is that my wife doesn’t have cash, an ATM card or any debit or credit cards, so she has to ask me for money. Patriarchy reinstated! “How much do you want, honey? What, you going shoe shopping or something? Okay, but don’t spend it all in one place…”

Can’t pay for love

Posted by – April 29, 2010

Leonard Cohen is coming to Helsinki, boy oh boy! More specifically, to a massive sports arena named after its sponsoring beer company. Still, I thought I had a kind of emotional obligation to see the man at least once.

I go to the website they’re selling the tickets from. Good tickets are 90€. I’m incurably cheap, so that kind of shocks me, but it wouldn’t exactly break the bank. Okay, let’s make the plunge. Crappier tickets start from 60€ – but what would be the point if you can’t see the man up close? I vacillate for a while over it (I’m also horribly indecisive) and next thing I know, the best tickets are sold out already. I start to feel bad about the whole thing, forking over too much money to sit in a sports arena, looking at a jumbotron with thousands of others. I suddenly decide not to buy a ticket.

<bitter> So yeah, have a lot of fun, jerks. I’m talking to you, 58-year-old hags who couldn’t even name a Cohen album, let alone remember any words. Make sure to get lots of pictures with those camera phones. </bitter>

I don’t know, the transaction just didn’t feel right in the end. Of course the guy’s right to ask for however much he can get, and obviously there’s enough demand to justify that level of supply discrimination. That’s what money was invented for. But trying to decide to buy the tickets, I just couldn’t feel the joy in going. There are going to be something like 15 000 people at that concert – at those ticket prices, that’s over a million smackers. As whispers of beauty and tenderness flow one way, tens of thousands of hours worth of labour flow the other. It’s not the price that I balked so much as that vision. As the proles jump at the chance to pay for their football gods’ unimaginative excesses, as the religious tithe while the pope creeps around in gold and ermine, so would I be overpaying for a beloved poet, touched only by my money, hundreds of meters away in an arena. Is that as beautiful a moment as the songs are? What kind of love requires me to declare my own relative worthlessness so loudly?

Of course, it’s not love at all, it’s business. But when it comes to Cohen, love is what I want, and that’s what the songs have already given me. So I don’t feel too bad about the concert anymore.

I did get to see Randy Newman the other night. Thankfully that love is shared by few enough people not to trigger my emotional reservations, so I had a great time.

Recoil in disgust

Posted by – April 14, 2010

One downside of living near nature again (see previous episode of this blog in which we moved back to my creaking childhood château) is the nature. Ants… fucking EVERYWHERE. They discovered the pre-compost bucket we keep in the kitchen and went crazy about pear peelings. Moving the bucket around doesn’t fool them for very long. I guess I’d have to kill all the bucket-outbound ants to accomplish anything.

But I can deal with ants. They’re not really disgusting.

One thing I hear people disgustedly complain a lot about is stupid opinions. Sometimes they’ll even lament in their Facebook statuses that they’ve been reading the reader comments in web-newspaper (eh?) stories: the comments are like soooo ignorant and they totally shouldn’t have done it because now their head hurts and they feel bad.

I reckon this is because people like to cheat themselves about the world. They like to think that their social reference class is normal and everyone who’s different is either evil or ignorant. I get that, everybody hates diversity. But this convenient psychological defence can really blind you from what’s coming. If you find other people’s opinions so offensive that you have to protect yourself from them, you’re not going to have a very clear view of the world.

This phenomenon has been rather poignantly replayed in about every European country in recent decades with regards to immigration and multiculturalism. For a long time politicians and newspaper columnist took it as given that on this topic, 99% of everyone agrees and 1% are loser racists who nobody cares about. As time passed and the world kept changing, the loser racists became more and more relevant and suddenly it’s more like 40% – 60%, the politicians are scrambling to change their opinions and the columnists just can’t believe what happened because everyone they know is still right-thinking.

By the way, something similar is happening with anthropogenic global warming, although of course that’s not just a matter of opinion.

Anecdote: when I was a kid, I had to turn away from the tv when there was kissing because I found it to be extremely disgusting and unsanitary. I had to be told when it was over so I could look back. My mother was the same way about violence. Now both seem about as silly to me, although I guess the kissing aversion is really worse. Opinion aversion is probably even worse than that.

Spelling struggles

Posted by – March 19, 2010

I just went through my old posts changing instances of “particularily” to “particularly”. I don’t think I’ve ever spelled that word correctly. A while ago I had to do the same with “mathemathics”, I still catch myself making that mistake all the time. I also used to write “pronounciation” and… God, the shame, I can’t go on anymore (now my stupid spell checker tells me there’s no such word, but I just don’t care). It’s like someone suddenly telling you that “apple” should be spelled “appel”. The brain doesn’t accept it right away. So please alert me to any relapses.

Art hour

Posted by – March 13, 2010

I did something extremely uncharacteristic and bought a fancy new smartphone. It’s very neat! One of the things it has is a resistive touchscreen, so you can control applications by touching the screen. One application is for drawing sketches:

My current wife

My current wife

It must have awoken my artistic side, because some time later I saw a watercolour paint set in a shop, bought it and had another go at the same subject:

Then I realised that painting from life is really second-rate, and I can just paint directly onto it:

I think shes watching tv

I think she's watching tv

It’s so convenient having a wife. A++, would marry again!