On Communication

I've been reading Overcoming Bias regularly for the last couple of months. It's become one of my favorites for mental stimulation.

Eliezer Yudkowsky on communication barriers:

If you want to sound deep, you can never say anything that is more than a single step of inferential distance away from your listener's current mental state. That's just the way it is. (From How to Seem (and Be) Deep)

The audience doesn't know anything about an evolutionary-psychological argument for a cognitive bias to underestimate inferential distances leading to traffic jams in communication. They'll just think you're condescending. (From Expecting Short Inferential Distances)

Inherit the earth

A geek desires to tell you how he feels
and not content to air his fragile dreams
obscurely in third person, he reveals
them cloaked in allegorical extremes.
He writes from the perspective of a hack--
a journalist from twenty-fifty-two
who chronicles nerd heroes of way back
when physical appearance was what drew
more hearts: "The strange emergence of the nerds,
equipped with sci-fi trivia and math,
as models for the macho human herds
has steered mankind from war's destructive path.
 The world grew up when people learned to play
 and regular expressions saved the day.

Just words

If I could have my way with words
I'd lock them in my soundproof ward,
subject them to a hypno-beat,
deny them sleep.
I'd isolate them from their kin
and stress them till they'd only mean
the things I want,
and not the things you think you hear.

Cephalopod Awareness Day

I missed it (by Australian time). October 8th was International Cephalopod Awareness Day. Not having much time, I've collected some of the cephalopod poems I'd written for PhaWRONGula.

An Awdl Gywydd for Pharyngula: Firefly squid

Skin-deep creatures, rage the night,
Flaunt your brightness to excess;
Flashing features, star-like, proud,
Show the crowd your nightclub dress.

A Lehrerian tango for Pharyngula: More cephalopod art

Dim the lights for a tantric temptation;
Feel this rhythm of writhing elation;
Great Ones watch us askance as the night bids us dance
And the music demands the tentacle tango.

All alone in your tank, are you sighing?
Let me taste every tear that you're dyeing;
Feel the lure of my charms; leave your marks on my arms;
Come to me, and we'll trip the tentacle tango.

As I fondle each sensuous sucker
Is it out of the question to pucker?
Your rapturous grip makes each dance step a trip
When we dance, beak to cheek, the tentacle tango.

Though my friends say I'm wasting my life on
A wet bag with eight legs and a siphon,
Still I'm lost without trace in your tactile embrace
Every time we attempt the tentacle tango.

A limerick for Pharyngula: Cirrate octopus

They're luminous, leggy and lissome,
In diaphanous drag. Don't dismiss 'em.
You see, I'm a sucker
For 'podes when they pucker,
But I can't find the courage to kiss 'em.

And some double-dactyls:

Re: Pharyngula: "los diablos rojos"?

Tabloid Canadian
Libels the Humboldt with
Fishermen's tales,

Marking himself as a
First to be food when the
Old one prevails.

Re: Pharyngula: Cephalopod gnashers

Two-spot the octopus
Suckers his snacks with his
Tangly physique,

Munching his meals with a
Chitinous crab-opening
Muscle-bound beak.

Re: Pharyngula: God hates squid

Answers in Genesis
Claims that an octopus
Is not alive;

This is great news, 'cause their
Lore will allow undead
Squid-men to thrive.

Re: Pharyngula: Florid squid prose

Gigas (Dosidicus),
Migrating north from its
Home in the deep,

Causes reporters to
Paint purple prose while the
Old guy's asleep.

Just sing!

Thoreau thought it patently wrong,
Most men's days are distressingly long,
Filled with dull desperation;
They face expiration
Without giving breath to their song.

September 2007

The Management Committee

Its members all have their own specialized roles;
They report and direct their divisions
While checking for external threats to their goals
And making reactive decisions.

Some archive significant outcomes and actions
(And trivia, flukes, noise and guesses)
To look for the patterns in business transactions
In hope of repeating successes.

They argue and quarrel; they bicker and fight,
But unite for their public display.
They rest all together for six hours a night
And then meet eighteen hours each day.


parts of me
take not me
make more me
parts of me
take excess me
make less me
parts of me
control me
sense me
invent a Me
beyond me
only it's me
it's only me
it's all me...
or was that meat?

Sonnet off the cuff

If I composed a sonnet off the cuff
I'd struggle for a subject at the start,
And by default I'd use reflexive stuff;
It fills the lines, y'know, but it ain't art.
I'd dedicate it to the one who asked
Me for this damned impromptu rhyming verse
And hidden in the subtext there'd be masked
An awkward mix of gratitude and curse.
This third quatrain is where the well would dry;
The blarney gone, the gift of gab deserted.
(Self-referential style would pall and die
In parenthetic comments I'd inserted.)
Don't be surprised if most of this sounds dumb
When pulling fourteen lines out of my bum.

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