Random thought for the day

We etch a pattern of fairness on our pupils,
Then complain about distortions in our vision.

Comic Love

If I wore my undies outside of my leggings,
would you wear the girdle of steel--
the one with the physiological gloss
to project super-nature's appeal?

If I padded my spandex and practised those poses
that spawned my jejune aspirations,
would you show me that stance where your bookshelves hold up
to the weight of teen male expectations?

If perspective promoted my muscular thews
would you match my dramatic dimension?
Would our Freudian dances and meaningful glances
contribute to unresolved tension?

If together we teamed in a tandem of trust
waging war against evil's foundations,
would we fight side by side, pert and proud, light and lithe,
and perspire through tight situations?

Would our narrative tread ever stranger romances
through retcons and wrinkles of fate?
Would the risks that we run climb beyond unbelief
as our foes and our powers inflate?

Could we catch me and swing you with fearful faux physics
where meat flies as light as a feather?
Then, like a kid-fantasy pushed past its prime,
could we lose the plot,


Q: What's scarier than a megachurch full of fundies looking forward to the end times?

A: A megachurch full of fundies looking forward to the end times and carrying concealed weapons.

Lunchtime reading

Henry Markram:

Like a real brain, the behavior of Blue Brain naturally emerges from its molecular parts.


There is nothing inherently mysterious about the mind or anything it makes.

It's more than mere theorizing when you have your supercomputer producing accurate simulations.

♦ Out of the Blue

February 2008

Living Next Door to Alice

"Aha!" said the mind of Virge. I'd forgotten about that.

What I had experienced occasionally as a kid was known about back in 1955, well before I was born. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, illusory distortions of size, distance or position of stationary objects, was something that happened to me. I can't recall how old I was at the time, probably 6-12. (It's not something I associate with the later years of secondary school, so it was definitely before then.) It wasn't frequent either. Just every now and then, everything would seem dramatically bigger, or sometimes small and further away than expected. The sensation never lasted for more than a couple of minutes. Everything would revert to match my normal perceptions, usually within seconds.

Because it was infrequent, it didn't cause me much concern. There were plenty more things for a kid to worry about. When we asked a doctor about it, he went through the expected questions about drug use and illnesses, but didn't have anything to connect the experiences to. It would have been amazing if he'd been familiar with J Todd's study, and for him to research that fairly innocuous symptom would have been a waste of time and effort back in those information-poor days. Nevertheless, one of the final sentences of Todd's article rings true to me:

In the writer's experience, the anxiety of these patients can be appreciably lessened by an assurance that these symptoms are not necessarily the prelude to insanity.

It would have been comforting to know then what Vaughan posted in Mind Hacks today:

Children often experience it but grow out of it as they reach adulthood (both of which happened to me).

Putting Philosophy of Mind in Perspective

Believe it or not, this quote makes sense in context:

Mark screws up his face in concentration. "But... if you didn't believe in magic that works whether or not you believe in it, then why did the bucket method work when you didn't believe in it? Did you believe in magic that works whether or not you believe in it whether or not you believe in magic that works whether or not you believe in it?"

♦ Here's the context.

More on Apologies

I agree with almost all of what Kevin Rudd said in his Sorry speech. However, there are some parts of it that expose muddled thoughts that could do with closer examination:

It is for these reasons, quite apart from concerns of
fundamental human decency, that the governments and parliaments of
this nation must make this apology - because, put simply, the laws
that our parliaments enacted made the stolen generations

We, the parliaments of the nation, are ultimately responsible,
not those who gave effect to our laws.

I see the need to admit wrongdoing. Brendan Nelson's counter-speech, punctuated by rationalizations, "best
of intentions" justifications and weasel wordings like "Aboriginal Australians made involuntary sacrifices", was not the way to heal any wounds or redress any wrongs. It was a way to make white Australians feel good about their great and glorious past. This is itself wrong. The more we justify our predecessors' actions as being well motivated, the more we allow ourselves to self-justify our own actions. We need to learn our lessons and apply them to more current issues, like how we've treated refugees. But let's leave Nelson alone.

My difference with Rudd is in his sleight of hand that treats the "parliaments of the nation" as unchanging entities. "We ... are ultimately responsible" is placed in the present tense. When we talk about the mistakes of the past, made by people who are no longer in power, this is wrong. We cannot take ultimate responsibility for other peoples decisions. The "parliaments of the nation" change with the people of the nation. If we take responsibility for and apologize for anything, it should be the continuing current racist attitudes in our nation and the way they influence our corporate behavior.

We accept the burden of the decisions of our predecessors. We accept the debts incurred. We accept the responsibility to fix the problems of the past, but this is completely different from accepting responsibility for the decisions made by our predecessors. We could apologize on their behalf, but that would be blatantly presumptive of us unless we have some access to their thoughts and attitudes. The best we can do is express our sorrow, our shame, our empathy, our current understanding of how wrong our nation was, and our commitment to prevent the repetition of past mistakes. We can say "sorry", but to imply any responsibility for other people's decisions is hollow and meaningless.

Judaic teachings have a concept of sin being passed down from father to son through multiple generations. The original sin concept is rife in Western thought. It contributes to a confusion of thought regarding identity and responsibility. Our sense of justice tells us that someone did something wrong, so someone must pay. When the people who did the crime are no longer available to take the punishment, we're left with a wound. Who can heal it? Where is the mystic karmic justice to "balance" the world? We can see the false ideas of universal fairness creeping in here. The pain of unresolved injustices and the religious ideas of inheritance of sin mesh to produce a derived false idea that we, now, are somehow "ultimately" responsible for what they, then, did.

Strip away the mysticism; accept that people are fully responsible for their own actions, and we have a much clearer view of life, but we have done nothing to solve the ongoing feeling of injustice. For that we needed an "apology", an open admission that the stolen generation actions were wrong, and a real commitment to fix whatever can be fixed. For that I commend Rudd:

None of this will be easy. Most of it will be hard, very hard.
But none of it is impossible, and all of it is achievable with
clear goals, clear thinking, and by placing an absolute premium on
respect, cooperation and mutual responsibility as the guiding
principles of this new partnership on closing the gap.

How much of the rancorous debate about an apology could we have avoided if we hadn't muddled our ideas of responsibility? Responsibility to fix something is separate from the responsibility for breaking something. We can accept the former, but we would have to arrogate the latter.


I apologize for my conformity and complacency,
for my lack of voracious zeal
in attacking every injustice,
past, present, future,
and in all the other possible worlds my descendants may find accessible.

I apologize for my twin spring
of emotion and invention
for my overreaching engineering urge to solve problems
before I understand them.

I apologize for my intrinsic coil
of undeniable self-interest,
of xenophobic, planet-crushing potential,
of curiosity, creativity and compassion.

I apologize for my inheritance
of uncontrollable comfort in my formative years;
I didn't deserve it. It was forced upon me.

I apologize for the continuing ignorance
that prevents me from remedying
the inadequacies of human cultures
without changing those cultures.

I apologize for claiming
responsibility for consequences
for which temporal considerations deny me causal efficiency.
I only do it to draw attention to my sensitivity credibility
and because you seem to value it.

I apologize for my considered opinion
that one program to redress current inequities
is worth far more than a thousand apologies.

A golden age of American apprehension and mistrust

You may say, "I am only one person. What can I do?" But all of our efforts are needed if we are to maintain a state of constant anxiety.

♦ We must all do our part to preserve this climate of fear.

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