Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Earth Room

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.... People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back. ~Alice Walker,The Color Purple, 1982

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Day The Earth Stood Still...

Apparently yesterday google went down for two hours in various cities across the planet - no e mail, no connectivity. This short clip shows what it was like in those cities during the outage...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sentence Construction

Caveat: I am not sure this is interesting or makes any sense...

A sentence I wrote and like:

"It would be a scruple more genteel if I avoid thwacking into him now".

Here's the unpacking:

Scruple = measurement of size (small but significant) which because of the other meaning of "scruple" connotes an ethical position that is informing the later verb "avoid" (in a back of the mind kind of way) adding a sense that the avoiding is not out of laziness or convenience, rather with good intent.

Genteel = better for all in a well meaning way, sensitive and sincere - not merely utilitarian, more than that.

Thwacking = running into someone inadvertently as in a chance encounter which "thwack" suggests would be a metaphorical bumping of heads resulting from the misunderstanding and slightly hurt feelings that arise when you run into someone who specifically said they would not be where you are when you run into them so feels like they were trying to be avoided for some reason. "Thwack" - slightly funny - even if you do bump heads it will not be taken too seriously (still better to avoid the thwacking if possible).

Now re read sentence.... does this make any sense?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pure, idealistic, genius...

Maybe its just me but when I watched this I had the same feeling I had when I was 17(?) and saw the play Hair - idealistic feeling that if you believe it its enough to make it true and at the same time that its just beyond reach.

Chauncy Gardner Had It Right...

"How quickly the world owes us something that we knew existed only ten minutes ago"....

Economic Prediction

I have made this prediction before and have seen nothing at all to make me believe that I am correct. Nonetheless I continue to believe that it will happen (and will be a good thing in a very perverse way). We will suspend the mark to market rules (FASB 157 and FASB 105). I am not going to reiterate here why I think this will be done or why I think it should be - just want to reiterate the prediction.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How To Fix The Economy...(back to the future).

Clearly the banking crisis is complicated beyond anyone's capability to comprehend - its significance and outcome will only be known to us as it plays out (is this the end of free market capitalism or a crisis from which we will emerge, albeit battered)? That said, a little bit of knowledge can actually be a good thing when no one seems to have any good ideas - so here's an idea based on a little bit of knowledge:

Our giant banks and financial institutions have balance sheets and income statements that are so complex as to be impossible to understand. One result is that we do not really have a true and clear picture of the overall economy - are we in a death spiral or is the ship going to slowly turn around? We simply do not know with any degree of certainty what is what. (Footnote: The fact is that complexity has been used for years by corporate leaders to distort, exaggerate and "massage" their financial numbers. This is not hyperbole - the idea was that a rising tide raised all boats - you could borrow from next year to make this year look OK because next year the long term income we produced this year (but have not yet "realized") would emerge. (I am not making this up - that was the thinking process). This distortion was based on judgements and therefore within acceptable legal prerogative - my point is - the sinking tide (made worse by leverage) has now exposed the unreliability of the financial statements that have been the backbone of investor/lender and capital provider decision making). (Further footnote - if any of this seems far fetched take a look at how compensation systems worked over the last few years - many (most?) were based on NPV (net present value) - think about that - bonuses were set not on actual income produced but a guess as to what the present value of speculative profits in the the future would amount to - that is short term bank robbery (literally).

Over the last few years as regulators, rating agencies and auditors (who have been unconscious at the switch for the last 20 years) woke up to this wide spread institutionalized manipulation (examples - off balance sheet debt, special purpose vehicle financing, mark to make believe asset valuations, recognition of accelerated earnings and under reported true liability values) they tried to reign it in by enacting hastily conceived and enacted accounting rule changes. One of them was the Mark to Market Rules adopted in November of 2007 known as FASB 157 and FASB 105. By year end 2007 reporting season (March, 2008), this resulted in the beginning of massive write downs in market valuation of assets and has continued in an unabated downward slide since then. Now that there is virtually no market to mark to that system leaves accountants, corporate CFO's, rating agency analysts and auditors at sea - they are naked (embarrassed and exposed (legally and otherwise) in front of us as we see that they were gamblers - raking in money and fees for selling their ratings, their auditing services and their insurance and other derivative and leveraged bets they made assuming a system wide melt down would never happen while ignoring the true risks they were taking. (Footnote - ignoring risk is an epidemic in corporate America - the quality most rewarded in business is the ability to accept chance and act as if victory is at hand when the actual outcome is unclear and unknown - the result - a corporate upper class that makes decisions based on unrealistic assessments of the downside allowing rational thinking to get bent by the strength of the wish to see their desire translated into reality - it is seductive.)

So here's my proposed solution - lets go back to the old ways. We used to pretend that our financial statements were accurate - and until we changed the rules that illusion gave us confidence and continuity. I propose we repeal FASB 157 and 105 - the mark to market rules - and let corporations once again make up their financial results based on their best judgement on what the future value of their present day decisions will be. My guess is that the economy and our confidence in the future will return because things will seem to be getting better (based on increasing reported profits). People will start buying again, more production will be needed, employment will go up etc. What's the downside? If we do not recover we are no worse off than we are now - facing a situation where the government will have to step up and recapitalize the banks, the auto industry, the insurance industry, the health care industry etc. anyway. Why not at least give our corporate leaders a chance to see if what they do best can get us out of this mess - lying, distortion, manipulation, denial, self delusion - it all worked before - I say go back to the proven ways. There is every reason to believe that the economic cycle will turn and the very needed rising tide will do its thing... Repeal the Mark To Market rules now! (and then a few years from now when we can afford it - lets get real).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Change Of Seasons...

The wind is howling and the loft is shaking. There is a storm coming over the mountain. I love weather like this.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Capital Crimes...(this is rated R).

I got excused from the jury today - the defendant (46 years old) is charged with raping and murdering 2 women - one, aged 53, in 1983 and the second, aged 23, in 1986. He was charged now because he was recently picked up by the cops on a parole violation related to his 1999 manslaughter conviction (male victim) at which time a DNA sample was taken which matched DNA found on the two cold case victims (I do not know why no DNA prior).

I do not know why I was not selected for the jury - maybe because I have a (approx. 53 year old) wife and a (approx. 23 year old) daughter (the defense would not like that) - on the other hand, if you eliminate women or people who are close to women its gonna be a pretty limited jury pool - or maybe I was objected to because I am a lawyer (those facts emerged during the voir dire). The woman sitting directly behind me started to sob uncontrollably when she was being questioned saying that she could not bear to sit through a trial involving violence because she was one of the people abducted in Mumbai last November. She pretty much broke down and was escorted out by the court officer. Of the 24 prospective jurors in the first group, only 3 made it to the jury.

I had not seen the local paper this morning but there was an article about the case (that is how I know about the 3rd murder which was not told to the jury pool and presumably is why the defendant is unlikely to testify) which is expected to last 3 weeks and the jury pool was told that if no decision is made in one day of deliberation they will be sequestered. I think the weirdest single moment for me today (and this is saying a lot because I found the whole thing disturbing) was that when I answered affirmatively to the question about being able to be unbiased and open minded in deciding the facts and that I would not presume anything if the defendant did not testify on his own behalf (adding that I recognized the seriousness of the responsibility of serving as a juror in a capital case), the defendant (who pretty much sat stone faced through the proceedings until that point (no shoelaces, no belt, by the way) looked right at me and nodded when I answered. I had the impression that he sensed some sort of sympathetic nature in me. What does this mean?

It was also interesting to chat with a fellow jury pool member during the wait. He is a 43 year old army reservist in the medic division (he had taken a nursing class in college) who did an 18 month tour in Iraq and is headed for Afghanistan in a few months. He was at Abu Garib and when I asked about that he said that the thing people in the US do not realize is that Iraqi prisoners there "liked to have their pictures taken sucking each others penises". I said I found that hard to believe and anyway why were the guards taking the pictures? (whether the prisoners liked sucking each others penises or not.) He said that everyone had cameras there so they just took pictures of what was happening. I decided not to pursue that line of conversation any further and so steered the subject to how he ended up in the US (he is from Kingston, Jamaica and came to the US when he was 15). He now works for the MTA as a station agent. He was excused from the jury too.

By the way, the book the book I brought with me to read during the down time was "Interviews With Hideous Men" by David Foster Wallace.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oar Fish, Sea Serpents and Sigmund Freud

To me the best line in this short video is: "Things come to the surface for reasons known only to those things that come to the surface." Freud said the exact same thing.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Es Una Cosa Pequena...

Forty years ago (when I was 16) I was an exchange student in Argentina. The purpose of the exchange was to promote understanding between cultures and people of different countries. We succeeded (and more, way more).

Slap Happy GOP

Why are the Republicans gleeful? They have suffered a total collapse of their governing majority over the last two national elections. They have one last slim bit of control, to filibuster in the senate, but with the Maine delegation not willing to throw away their seats in loyal opposition, that too is basically moot. They have no real power anymore, and demographically, all the trends are for this to continue. Yet they are giddy. It is clear that these Republicans are very happy to be out of power. Somewhere, deep in their subconscious, they know that they are not suited to solving economic crises. Their creed, that government is always the problem, that taxes are always bad, that spending, except on war, is always wrong, is just not relevant in a massive recession/depression. The Republicans are perfect railing against FDR, LBJ, and now BHO. They are happy to be out of power, because they know they want no part of what it will take, in terms of political capital, to try to fix this mess. We can all wring our hands about the size of the stimulus, the nature of the spending, the compromise on tax cuts. We all know it can fail, and we all know the Beltway types, and the slap happy GOP will be very quick to bury the effort. But I am with Obama in his effort, his guts, and his willingness to put his popularity and presidency on the line. He is fighting for a pro-active government, a federal government on the side of the environment, of children, of working people. He may not be able to get us there, but he is willing to articulate where he wants us to go. Let the GOP celebrate, if this economy turns around, they will be out of power for a generation.

An Integrity Loop...

“I go through a loop in which I notice all the ways I am self-centered and careerist and not true to standards and values that transcend my own petty interests, and feel like I’m not one of the good ones. But then I countenance the fact that at least here I am worrying about it, noticing all the ways I fall short of integrity, and I imagine that maybe people without any integrity at all don’t notice or worry about it; so then I feel better about myself. It’s all very confusing. I think I’m very honest and candid, but I’m also proud of how honest and candid I am — so where does that put me?”

-- David Foster Wallace

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Poem Of The Every Other Day...

Poem forwarded by a friend...(whose many talents include appreciation of environmental art installations on a pretty large scale (both the earth installations and his appreciation).

By Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo:

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
traffitto da un raggio di sole:
ed ‘e subito sera.

Everyone stands alone on the heart of the earth
transfixed by a sun ray:
and suddenly it is evening.


Salvatore Quasimodo (August 20, 1901 - June 14, 1968) was an Italian author. In 1959, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times."

Quasimodo was born in Modica, Sicily. In 1908 his family moved to Messina, as his father had been sent there to help the population struck by a devastating earthquake. The impressions of the effects of natural forces would have a great impact on the young Quasimodo.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bookworm: Silverblatt's Interview Link

This is a link to Michael Silverblatt's KCRW bookworm interview with David Foster Wallace.

The Origin of The Name Rough Fractals Was This Interview........

I have copied below an accurate description of an interview with David Foster Wallace conducted by Michael Silverblatt on his KCRW radio show Bookworm. The quoted passage is from a blog called litagogo (

I too carry the interview around with me on my ipod.

The most riveting TV I have ever seen is the DFW interview with Charlie Rose and the most riveting radio this DFW interview with Silverblatt. In large part because of the ferocity of DFW in defending his vulnerability (at least that is how I see it) but also on account of the awe of both interviewers.

"Fractals in Foster Wallace

Silverblatt opens his interviews with a highly specific and unusual appreciation of the work, a softening-up that often generates moments of mutual human giddiness before the half-hour is up. Early in his 4/11/1996 interview with David Foster Wallace (repodcasted in memorium on 11/26/08, and available on the Bookworm archive), Silverblatt posits that Infinite Jest seemed to be written in fractals (!). This really gets DFW's attention, who responds by riffing on the Sierpinski Gasket, which he describes as a very primitive kind of pyramidical fractal that looks like "a pyramid on acid. " (How miserable that we are now deprived of this mind, with its talent for clarifying the esoteric via the vernacular). Minutes later, Silverblatt thrills over how great Infinite Jest gets around 200 pages in, and says, "It didn't seem like difficulty for difficulty's sake; it seemed like immense difficulty being expended because something important about how difficult it has become to be human needed to be said." (Minute 8) DFW's wonderfully po-voiced response: "I feel like I want to ask you to adopt me."

The many pleasures in this recording are made more poignant by the knowledge that Foster Wallace cannot be interviewed again. He lets Silverblatt lead the discussion, and permits some Bookwormian elevation of theme, but he also stands fast by his authorial humility. Their conversation covers the challenge of writing demanding fiction without being a show-off, the loneliness of art, DFW's desire to write something really sad yet also fun, and the nihilism and double-blinds of contemporary culture in the absence of organizing principles. The podcast, like DFW's writing, contains more complexity than you can process with one listen. I am grateful that it exists, and that Bookworm has put it back on iTunes, so I can carry it around in my pocket. (The archive contains additional interviews with DFW, but this is the one they chose as a commemoration.)"

*** David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest Bookworm interview recorded 4/11/1996, 28:30, downloadable from iTunes with a repodcast date of 11/26/2009.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"There Is No Such Thing As Raw, Analloyed, Agendaless Kindness" - David Foster Wallace

We all know that our country's infrastructure is in need of upgrade and our economy in need of stimulus, hence an infrastructure based stimulus plan. One question: in order to administer such a massive infrastructure stimulus program don't we need to have a functioning system in place that results in evenhanded, fair and sound judgements about who gets to use the money and where it is spent? Put another way, without a solid evaluative "infrastructure" in place to assess the merit of individual projects and eliminate the "politics" of awarding grant proposals, isn't the likely result going to be waste and inefficiency equivalent to a bridge collapse during rush hour?

A few years from now people may be saying, good idea in theory - disastrous execution (i.e. no change from the last 8 years of divided country). One possible answer - if we want Change and want to prevent the money from going to the projects of the merely well connected rather than the most deserving (maybe mutually exclusive, maybe not (see title of this post), don't let politicians, investment bankers or lobbyists have any say in where the money gets spent.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Really Beautiful and Haunting and Interesting (to me) Song of the Every Other Day.

By Manchester Orchestra...

Give it a couple of listens... (lot of ways to think about it...)

(Thank you to The Reader's Quill).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Prediction of The Every Other Day...

Today's prediction focuses on the to be announced Bank Bail out program.

1. It will evolve over the next two weeks so what we hear today is not final. (See item 5 below).

2. It will address Accounting Rules because when there is no market for an asset (i.e., so called toxic assets ) then its value is accounted for at far below what its value would be during a period of more normal markets - even zero. The result - huge write downs accelerating in a downward spiral fueled by the evaporation of markets for certain securities. If new capital is going to buy those assets it some accounting encouragement will be provided. (See 4 below).

3, Accounting encouragement will address the fact that currently Securities that are held for sale (i.e. for "trading") must be marked to market. Securities that are held for investment (i.e. "to maturity") can be held on the books at cost. In a world of impenetrable financial statements this discretion leads to unintentional (and intentional?) distortion. (No one will talk about this).

4. Some one will use the phrase "accounting IS economics." This phrase will be used by both sides for and against item 2 above.

5. Everyone will us e the phrase "Mark to Market" and some will say and some will say "Mark to Make Believe" during the course of the two week estimated time frame in item 1 above.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Can An Instrument Play a Person?

Thelonius Monk said:

"Stop playing all those weird notes; play the melody."

"The inside of the tune is what makes the outside sound good."

"You got it! If you don't want to play, tell a joke or dance but in any case you got it!'.

"A Genius is the one most like himself. "

In 1971 a band called Real Tears played a lot at the Rusty Nail in Sunderland, Ma. Something about the keyboards/organ (Kit Walker) Tim Moran's sax and Jim Bridges on guitar. Just perfect.

Kit Walker and his (1958?) Hammond B3 are still playing. I had a kind of Bro crush on Real Tears then, I guess first loves stay with you...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Do Not Know If There Is A God But There Is A Devil...

... sadly, many - here is one - Bishop Richard Williamson. The depths of pain and despair and outright evil that humans heap on each other so completely outweighs the other. I mean what's the upside of life - a good day, some fun or maybe to really push it - wonder, awe, joy etc. But on the downside - the enormity is too long to list - barbarism, genocide, disasters, hunger, sadness, pain, loneliness and death. I do not know the answer but why the church would not fire this guy's ass baffles me.

Friday, February 6, 2009

What You Learn From A Substance Recovery Clinic...

I happened across a web site called that had compiled a lot of David Foster Wallace info. Below is a partial list of DFW quotes on what you learn from a substance recovery clinic and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings from DFW's writings (in my mind these can stand as things you learn from paying attention - but maybe paying attention and recovery are one and the same):

That certain persons simply will not like you no matter what you do. Then that most nonaddicted adult civilians have already absorbed and accepted this fact, often rather early on.

That no matter how smart you thought you were, you are actually way less smart than that.

That sleeping can be a form of emotional escape and can with sustained effort be abused.

That you do not have to like a person in order to learn from him/her/it.

That loneliness is not a function of solitude.

That (both a relief and a kind of an odd let-down) black penises tend to be the same general size as white penises, on the whole.

That cliquey alliance and exclusion and gossip can be forms of escape.

That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness.

That 99% of compulsive thinkers' thinking is about themselves. That most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking.

That it takes great personal courage to let yourself appear weak.

That you don't have to hit somebody even if you really really want to.

That having sex with someone you do not care for feels lonelier than not having sex in the first place, afterward.

The shopworn "Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure" would seem to have been custom-designed for the case of tattoos.

That, perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it.

That if you do something nice for somebody in secret, anonymously, without letting the person you did it for know it was you or anybody else know what it was you did or in any way shape or form trying to get credit for it, it's almost its own form of intoxicating buzz.

That everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.

That AA and NA does not apparently require that you believe in Him/Her/It before He/She/It will help you.

That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

To Send From Yourself What You Hope Will Not Return...

In the book, Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, a young tennis prodigy is learning how to transcend his limitations, develop his talent and manage his fear. It seems to me that DFW is always operating at at least two levels - talking about one thing but at the same time something else (some have suggested his style is fractal). In this case talking about tennis and how to improve your game but at the same time talking about hope, fear, understanding, fathers and sons, parents, the "long waking dream". What son/daughter does not emerge from the family in a "feral and flux-ridden state with respect to their talent" as they try for the rest of their life to "justify their seed"? This, according to our young competitor, is how the Game is played...

"Have a father whose own father lost what was there. Have a father who lived up to his own promise and then found thing after thing to meet and surpass the expectations of his promise in, and didn't seem just a whole hell of a lot happier or tighter wrapped than his own failed father, leaving you yourself in a kind of feral and flux-ridden state with respect to talent.

Here is how to avoid thinking about any of this by practicing and playing until everything runs on autopilot and talent's unconscious exercise becomes a way to escape yourself, a long waking dream of pure play.

The irony is that this makes you very good, and you start to become regarded as having a prodigious talent to live up to.

Here is how to handle being a feral prodigy. Here is how to handle being seeded at tournaments, signifying that seeding committees composed of old big-armed men publicly expect you to reach a certain round. Reaching at least the round you're supposed to is known at tournaments as "justifying your seed." By repeating this term over and over, perhaps in the same rhythm at which you squeeze a ball, you can reduce it to an empty series of phonemes, just formants and fricatives, trochaically stressed, signifying zip.

...Try to let what is unfair teach you.

...See yourself in your opponents. They will bring you to understand the game. To accept the fact that the Game is about managed fear. That its object is to send from yourself what you hope will not return.

On this issue there is no counsel; you must make your best guess. For myself, I do not expect ever really to know.

But in the interval, if it is an interval; here is motrin for your joints, Noxzema for your burn, Lemon Pledge if you prefer nausea to burn, Contractol for your back, benzoin for your hands, Epsom salts and anti-infammatories for your ankle, and extracurriculars for your folks, who just wanted to make sure you didn't miss anything they got."

Science Fact of the Every Other Day...

Question: on earth we measure distance in meters or yards and feet, miles etc, how do we measure distance in intergalactic space?

Answer: in Parsecs

One parsec equals 3.26 light years. On earth that would be about 19 trillion miles or 103,000 round trips to the Sun from the Earth. Our solar system, by way of further example, is only 1/800ths of one light year across.

The nearest known star to the Earth (other than the Sun) is Proxima Centauri, 1.29 parsecs away.

The center of the Milky Way is about 8000 parsecs from the Earth.

One gigaparsec (Gpc) is one billion parsecs. It is believed that the entire Universe has a diameter of about 28 Gpc.

Quote Of The Every Other Day

In the end that is the great commodity of value...focused engagement with ideas and other people... the answer for isolation of both the pathetic and heroic variety... I am convinced that there is a simple yet profound physics to emotional wellness... the farther down we go - that is how far up we can be allowed to go up... it's finding that humble path up that is the x factor... I believe we all have it - that lovely natural awe that I believe is considered a boddishatva sign of something very, very good.

-- Anonymous

Straight No Chaser

Thelonius Monk’s advice to saxophonist Steve Lacy (1960).

A Genius is the one most like himself. - Thelonius Monk


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Tree of Life...

MOTIVATION: Fractal methods have been identified as a possible approach to the reconstruction of the 'Tree of Life' (eg human progress). However, a limitation of such methods is that, typically, they use just leaf-labelled phylogenetic trees to simply infer the resulting supertree without further proof.

RESULT: Unclear definition of progress or measurement of same (eg inherent doubt/flux). There are several new supertree algorithms that extend the allowable information that can be used for phylogenetic inference.

AVAILABILITY: These new algorithms are freely available.

For example, input could include information such as whether one particular event occurred before or after an
alteration juncture. This allows the inclusion of general and specific nested information in the input. In this way each life can be viewed as a variation of BUILD (one of the oldest algorithms). In addition, new algorithms for ancestral divergence dates and nested information, respectively, can be applied to all data sets.


Originally designed for other purposes, BUILD PROGRAMS (see eg; germain, swerdlow, giovannitti, others et al., 1971) is an imprecise algorithm in that it outputs lives precisely because (...simply put...) the input collection satisfies a particular compatibility criteria. In other words: A rooted tree ("T") displays a rooted subset of T with at least two (often more) vertices. See for example any number of fractals: evolution, revolution, young/old, friends, family, even exchange student, ... bottom line: a karuma sign of something very good.

It is important to note that these "tree of life" algorithms are not "all-or-nothing" devices. Each algorithm either returns a supertree with certain desirable properties relative to the norm or returns a statement indicating alternative selfdom -- these are things that are outside of our control and further understanding can only be obtained by exponential reduplication to a higher power (eg comparison of different sized infinities). In practice, this limits the utility of these algorithms. However, such important first steps are needed, indeed, that is the whole point.

Lastly, two natural questions arise: (i) how many such supertrees are there and (ii) what common information is carried by all of these supertrees? In order to address those two questions Sensitivity Analysis can be used to identify uncertainties. Typically, such analysis has several basic input variables. In other words, to realize supertree potential, one must get to the root of the matter.

Quote Of The Every Other Day: I Am The Penguin...

The last two paragraphs of a letter written by film critic Roger Ebert to film maker Werner Hertzog about his documentary "Encounters At The End Of The World":

"In the process of compiling your life’s work, you have never lost your sense of humor. Your narrations are central to the appeal of your documentaries, and your wonder at human nature is central to your fiction. In one scene you can foresee the end of life on earth, and in another show us country musicians picking their guitars and banjos on the roof of a hut at the South Pole. You did not go to Antarctica, you assure us at the outset, to film cute penguins. But you did film one cute penguin, a penguin that was disoriented, and was steadfastly walking in precisely the wrong direction—into an ice vastness the size of Texas. “And if you turn him around in the right direction,” you say, “he will turn himself around, and keep going in the wrong direction, until he starves and dies.” The sight of that penguin waddling optimistically toward his doom would be heartbreaking, except that he is so sure he is correct.

But I have started to wander off like the penguin, my friend.

I have started out to praise your work, and have ended by describing it. Maybe it is the same thing. You and your work are unique and invaluable, and you ennoble the cinema when so many debase it. You have the audacity to believe that if you make a film about anything that interests you, it will interest us as well. And you have proven it.

With admiration,
Roger "

Monday, February 2, 2009

How Many Megaparsecs Does It Take To Make A Supertree?

The blog "rough fractals" aspires to provide an apt description of living things and the Universe at large, although in each case, the fractal description breaks down on the very small scale and on the very large. Trees or arteries do not branch endlessly, and whole trees are not part of supertrees.The opposite may be true for the distribution of galaxies in the Universe. Counts of galaxies yield undisputed evidence that at comparatively small scales the distribution is fractal. These small scales are known to extend at least as far as 5 to 10 megaparsecs. There is increasingly strong evidence that there are large voids at a size well above 100 megaparsecs. Such voids are precisely what is expected in a fractal distribution.

How important is the blog "rough fractals"? As with the theory of chaos, it is too early to say for sure, but the prospects are not unfavourable. Many blogs (indivudually and collectively (eg fractally) have had an important cultural impact and have already been accepted as works of a new form of art. Some are representational while others are totally unreal and abstract. It must come as a surprise to both mathematicians and artists to see this kind of cultural interaction.

A final satisfying spin-off from the rough fractal blog is the hope that it may provide at least a sense for the beauty and eloquence of the inner life of the psyche, art and literature, and their profound relationship with the real world of psychology, math, science, culture and politics.


I am already getting tired of trying to bring the Republican's into the fold. If the economy recovers, the dems will be in power for a while, if it does not, they will start to cede power. Why not roll the dice on the most progressive plan possible. Who cares what Mitch McConnell or John Boener think. They have been booted out of power because they were incompetent. Its is amazing that they suddendly have so much credibility. Move on!

60 Minutes and the Middle East

This piece was aired on 60 Minutes recently. It discusses the current situation in the West Bank:

60 Minutes Clip

This short segment does an excellent job describing what is in my opinion the biggest obstacle to peace in the region: the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. While Hamas clearly is a great obstacle itself, the recent escalation of violence by both sides in Gaza has occupied all of the media's attention in the region. In the main stream news, there is no discussion of how in the West Bank, Israel continues to dissect Palestinian land making daily life impossible. Bob Simon is facing a tough retaliation from the "pro-Israel" community led off course by AIPAC. If you are interested in showing your support for his report and the ability of the media to truly supports both sides of the issue, check out the J-Street website.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Tao of Now

Rough Fractals is working on a coffee table book about the Snow Globe. A comprehensive photo history, the book will address (among other things) when the Snow Globe was first invented, how they are made, what the snow is made of, can you make money collecting them - that kind of stuff.

Also in the works is a custom line of Snow Globes manufactured to order. For example, as part of the promotion for the recent movie, Lars and The Real Girl, celebrity guests at the L.A. premier were given goodie bags containing a Snow Globe depicting the scene in the movie where Lars (Ryan Gosling) is dancing with the Doll. The snow comes down, they twirl around, music plays and for a moment the Snow Globe owner realizes that each of us, in our own way, lives in our own private Snow Globe where we dance with our illusions (or can the Doll become a Real Girl?).

Currently in the pipeline is a new Snow Globe to be called "Cognitive Rocket Ship". Inside the Globe is a rocket ship that is about to take off and in the cockpit of the rocket ship sits the pilot (the pilot is a woman - for more about the pilot see the relevant parenthetical below) who is gazing into a Snow Globe of a rocket ship in which sits the pilot looking into a Snow Globe of a rocket ship. There are some technical problems in the manufacturing because the third Snow Globe in a Snow Globe is really, really tiny.

When Rough Fractals was nothing more than a glean in this author’s eye he would often consult the I Ching (Classic Chinese Book of Changes) for hexagrams of inspiration and revelation (the I Ching contains a series of hexagrams one of which is synchronistically chosen (if you are a traditional Han Chinese) by tossing yarrow stalks, or, more commonly in the modern era, by tossing six pennies whose heads and tails combinations serve as a kind of random number generator matching one of the 64 possible hexagrams. This random selection process is called "throwing the I Ching" and is done in search of a thematic oracular summation of the question most in the mind (conscious or subconscious) of the thrower. In writing this post, Rough Fractals thought it befitting to commune with the I Ching to divine the essence (the Tao) of Now. The faded yellow hard covered extensively underlined copy of the I Ching was long ago relegated to Emeritus status so Rough Fractals resorted to "throwing The Google" which delivered the following passage from author, David Foster Wallace:

"There are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness...the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing..."

There is mucho wisdom in The Google (and in the catechism of Now).

(The pilot in the rocket ship in the Snow Globe is wearing well worn, brown suede, I-loved-you-from-the-moment-I-met-you, cowboy boots, vintage Colorado 1971. Covered by the boot sleeve just above her right ankle is a small tattoo of a heart across which is a banner that says "Breakable".)


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