June 28, 2008

Life is a game

Living with a woman is the main workaround for many of my weaknesses, and now that my wife is away for a while I have to consider other ways to avoid being left to my own devices.

I invited some students around today for lunch, and was up half last night prepping beef in red wine so that it could rest a while before being reheated, served. But I think the rest of the weekend I'll see what the devices propose.

One ongoing project is breaking the cat. I came in late to it's relationship with Yuki, and am strictly third in the pecking order. Which isn't so bad, as when guests come over, like today, it's clear that other folk don't even merit a listing. I think the cat [A-Tea] is autistic. He can't relate to people in any meaningful fashion unless they've been hardwired into his system by repeated applications of food.

With Yuki gone he's been moping, and I saw my chance to get ahead by feeding him well with three kinds of good food - quality biscuits and cans, plus fish that I boil myself. He liked the food, but so much so that he was nagging all the time for more, getting me up at 5am, then again at 6.

The face that wakes me

I used to teach kids before I quit that line of work because I didn't like it. I always made the mistake of being too nice at the start, and then having to fight to regain my authority. If you ever teach children this is my advice: make like Takeshi Kitano in the following clip in the first class, and then you can slowly release the pressure.

When you start seeing humans as they really are, just part of the animal kingdom, then some of the rules fall into place. Hierarchies are key, and what cooperation there is is like language, a relatively recent addition to the skill set.

I've stopped being too nice to the cat. I close the bedroom door at night so that it can't disturb me. I give it a small treat and then no food other than the old, unappetizing biscuits. First it has to learn that I'm boss cat, and then it'll be rewarded

June 26, 2008

Death on the installment plan

Aoshima Chiho - click the picture to enlarge, the name to know more

At the cram school I work in each course runs eight weeks, and I'm due to move part time at this end of this one, down to 15 hrs from 38, plus 10 - 20 proofreading hrs on my own account, all of which I like to push into Mon-Fri. I do other things to, so I get tired.

August the 8th is my last day, and you can imagine how this is starting to obsess me. I've made a file card calendar to cross off the days, and am thrilled that tomorrow marks the first quarter done, and that a week later will be more than a third. In this way I'll work and wish away the next six weeks, aided for a time by the fact my wife is out of the country and there's little around the house to remind me of other rhythms. The idea is that by Chinese New Year, 2009, all the work I do is chosen by me, which doesn't seem too much for a supposedly free man to ask for.

Still, in the interim there's something tragic about wanting Monday to Friday to race by. If I make it to be old, how much of my life will I feel I've wasted?
As long as we're young, we manage to find excuses for the stoniest indifference, the most blatant caddishness, we put them down to emotional eccentricity or some sort of romantic inexperience. But later on, when life shows us how much cunning, cruelty, and malice are required just to keep the body at ninety-eight point six, we catch on, we know the scene, we begin to understand how much swinishness it takes to make up a past. Just take a close look at yourself and the degree of rottenness you've come to. There's no mystery about it, no more room for fairy tales; if you've lived this long, it's because you've squashed any poetry you had in you.

June 25, 2008

The years of illusion

...the years of illusion aren't those of adolescence, as the grown-ups try to tell us; they're the ones immediately after it, say the middle twenties, the false maturity if you like, when you first get thoroughly embroiled in things and lose your head.
Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim, p125

June 23, 2008

Utter indigence and striking elegance

Against certain instincts I like to check in at Nassim Taleb's non-blog to see what esoterica he's drawn out from his reading and travels. There doesn't appear to be anyone else on his beat.

I was in India (for the first time) and had the impression that I had been there before –at some point I felt I was coming home & felt like breaking my nomadic streak & staying there. Maybe there is this manner in which the poorest of the poor can live hand-to-mouth while projecting a philosophical composure: a combination of utter indigence and striking elegance you never see in the (industrialized) West –Christianity appears amateurish by comparison. You need to learn to be poor; though it is easier to have nothing than have a little bit, just enough to start a materialistic dependence and worry about losing it, which is why I am convinced that middle-classdom is some form of punishment inflicted on unsuspecting members of Western societies. A few educated imbeciles irritated me with the cliché “fatalism” – a meaningless term.

Which brings me again to ataraxia [inner peace from the skeptical suspension of belief] which these people practice naturally. Among other things, I became once again obsessed with the strange similarities between both stoicism & Pyrrhonian skepticism on one hand, & Hindu thinking on the other –remembering that stoics were often Phoenicians (Zeno, Chrysippus, etc.), that Socratic ethics have some strange Eastern overtones (&, as well, Biblical).
The West in general is so up it's own ass as to take as read that little of value has come from the East, while Asia now is happy to read all, plunder all, and benefit.

I wish I could live another 500 years and see how it all unfolds, as it is I'll be dead within 60 or so. I'm an optimistic guy

Feed me to plants when I die

Dran via Who killed Bambi?

Sitting by my tiny garden this afternoon, in only a sarong and sweating heavily, proofreading, looking at the plants and trying to work out what's going on under the soil, the network of roots and how they interact, the chemical messages sent out among them, the accumulation of dumb facts that leads to the sudden emergence of something approaching intelligence, which is all I'm working with at this end. There's the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, which does what you'd expect, but whatever their findings it wouldn't affect my admiration one way or the other. Plants don't do what we do, but we don't do what they do. Two different means to the same end, and they're doing well.

Which leads me to this link:
Researchers Resurrect Extinct Judean Date Palm Tree from 2,000-Year-Old Seed
I don't believe the following for a moment, but I like to flirt with ideas:
Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.

June 22, 2008

Good luck, Yoshida family

My wife is away in Japan on family business for a few weeks, and I'll miss her a lot, but I know she'll see this.

Love you - A-Tea & Pxxl

Misdirected anger

There's man I sometimes meet who's always angry. He's a not a young man, but about my age, and so the anger always seems misplaced. I think he should be angry at himself more and at the world less. To expect things to be different at age 40 seems naive, and it strikes me that his anger comes from either disappointment or hope, neither of which seem entirely appropriate. We're primates, playing primate games. As such it's essential that low status members of the group that screwed over while high status ones get the honey.

Nothing is wasted - ants consume a dead gecko

Look at this another way. Someone talked the other day and said it was terrible that fishermen caught sharks, cut off the fins, and dumped the bodies back in the sea, all to satisfy the Chinese craving for shark fin soup. Two points, the glib one first. First, they're killing sharks, which I imagine is a great relief to every other species in the vicinity. Second, a dead shark falls to the bottom of the ocean and is wasted to humans, but not to other life. Nothing is wasted. Other animals nibble at the corpse, and it rots, which is all good. Like people who frame environmental questions in any way other than trying to save humans, I think to worry about the 'waste' of dead, but not endangered, animals is misguided. Other things will always eat them.

Related post: The planet will save itself

June 21, 2008

Ill-advised excess

Erowid is your source for all reliable information on all things psychoactive, and I subscribe to their experience reports waiting for gems like the following, cut/ pasted from the site, so with the links for each substance. This is what one person took in a 24 hour period:

DOSE: T+ 0:00 2 g oral Mushrooms - P. cubensis (dried)
T+ 3:30 3 g oral Mushrooms - P. cubensis (dried)
T+ 3:30 3 hits oral LSD (blotter / tab)
T+ 6:00 2 hits oral LSD (blotter / tab)
T+ 6:00 1 capsl oral 2C-B (capsule)
T+ 6:00 2 lines insufflated MDMA (powder / crystals)
T+ 10:00 1 hit smoked DMT (powder / crystals)
T+ 10:45 1 capsl oral 2C-B (capsule)
T+ 14:30 1 capsl oral MDMA (capsule)
T+ 15:30 1 bump insufflated Ketamine (powder / crystals)
T+ 16:30 2 bumps insufflated Ketamine (powder / crystals)
T+ 18:00 2 capsls oral MDMA (capsule)
T+ 23:00 5 g oral Mushrooms - P. cubensis (dried)
T+ 23:00 2 bumps insufflated Ketamine (powder / crystals)

The detailed trip report is
here, but it ends with the line:
Conclusion: I feel I seriously over did it

June 16, 2008

Does each rooster service the same hen each time?

The dullness of having to report that I'm busy with work from morning till night, but not wanting to let the number of posts fall below one or two a week. So, the only interesting thing I came across today was the Coolidge effect:
In biology and psychology, the term Coolidge effect describes phenomena seen in nearly every species that it has been tested in whereby males show continuously high sexual performance given the introduction of new receptive females.

June 14, 2008

Trivial, unconscious

The cafe scene from If... [some nudity]

...evolution consists of an infinitude of trivial, unconscious events...
Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire, p xv
A box from Amazon the other day to ease the apprehension about the next eight weeks full of classes and proofreading ahead of my 'last day', August 8th. Among the things inside were the Criterion disks for If... and The Botany of Desire, subtitled a plant's eye view of the world. The line above jumped out at the start. Pollan's writing about his attraction to one kind of potato, and making the link to bees and flowers, but I thought straight away about the trivial, unconscious reasons to be attracted to someone, and about the trivial ways of getting pregnant and entering the future flow of evolution. One (un)lucky orgasm and that's a whole new roll of the genetic die cast.

I think I'm lucky that I've never become a father, and that Yuki also doesn't want kids. I think I'd be a terrible father, and I'd resent the time and energy a child would take from me. My students disagree, adding that a mixed-race baby would be very cute, but I don't want to take the risk of my deepest feelings on the topic being proved right.

I think everything I do is built on trivial, unconscious foundations, rationalized after the event with the aid of confirmation bias. At the same time I fall for the idea that nothing else could ever have happened, that....well, from Burnt Norton, Eliot's recording of which [here] has been sitting on my MP3 player and getting a regular work out:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

Which for me means there were never any choices, because only one path was taken, and the future is already written. Why not? I don't know what happens next, nothing actually changes.
Related: All posts labeled 'plants'

June 13, 2008


No time to check this out at present, but set here for later reference, one of the purposes of this blog being to slowly build up stuff that I can look back at later. So, here's a special edition on the Singularity from the IEEE, which claims to be the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology. If the topic interests you, it looks like there's plenty to enjoy.

June 12, 2008


Tired, but riding home and memories from an Ann Shulgin talk [Psychedelic Psychotherapy and the Shadow] that loop back to Leary's Interpersonal Grid / Eight Circuit Brain....essentially this: The Shadow Self is the repressed self, and growing to make a conscious choice to accept the darker self as an ally when necessary. Not getting too attached the idea of a steady state self.

Robert Anton Wilson simplifies / clarifies Leary and puts it into four quadrants: friendly strength, hostile strength, friendly weakness, hostile weakness. You can find more in chapter four of Prometheus Rising [earlier post includes a link to the pdf file], but I have to collapse into other things.

June 11, 2008

Plant sex and consequences

My garden is small, maybe just 3m x 4m, one half of the gated yard in front of the house. We moved in a year ago and it was just dirt and creeping vines, two tall trees [5 or 6m each]. I cleaned it up, churned rotting vegetation into the ground, and began to move in some new plants. The flowers mostly died but the other things flourished, a great variety of green things, tall and short, and there's snails, butterflies, geckos. I worked hard on it for 4 months or so and then just let it be, my job just to trim things that grow too far out of bounds, pull the more aggressive weeds. I let things happen and watch it like a slow sport. Plants rock - they use sunlight to turn dirt and water into the living matter that lies at the base of every food chain.

I'm a big fan. So this story in the NY Times caught my eye, Plants Shown to Show Preferences for Their Relatives.

... scientists have found evidence that the sea rocket is able to do something that no other plant has ever been shown to do. ... [It] can distinguish between plants that are related to it and those that are not. And not only does this plant recognize its kin, but it also gives them preferential treatment. [...]

The finding is a surprise, even a bit of a shock, in part because most animals have not even been shown to have the ability to recognize relatives, despite the huge advantages in doing so.

“I’m just amazed at what we’ve found,” said Susan A. Dudley, an evolutionary plant ecologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who carried out the study with a graduate student, Amanda L. File.

“Plants,” Dr. Dudley said, “have a secret social life.” [...]

The studies are part of an emerging picture of life among plants, one in which these organisms, long viewed as so much immobile, passive greenery, can be seen to sense all sorts of things about the plants around them and use that information to interact with them. [...]

Some plants, for example, have been shown to sense potentially competing neighboring plants by subtle changes in light. That is because plants absorb and reflect particular wavelengths of sunlight, creating signature shifts that other plants can detect.

Scientists also find plants exhibiting ways to gather information on other plants from chemicals released into the soil and air. A parasitic weed, dodder, has been found to be particularly keen at sensing such chemicals. [...]

The problem, for many scientists, is that as obvious as the behaviors sometimes are, they can seem just too complex and animal-like for a plant. “Maybe if we understood more mechanistically how it’s happening,” Dr. Karban added, “we’d feel more comfortable about accepting the results that we’re finding.” [...full article at the link above]

So that's cool, as I'm about other ways of being, and it also links slightly into this thing on Bee Porn that I came across a while ago. I saved the page in Google Reader and didn't read it, assuming that it was going to be about floral mimicry gulling bees into copulation, which it was, although the main point is the movie that it links to, which depicts a graphic scene of inter-kingdom love. And also this quote from an abstract, which suggests why the slightly exotic attracts us.

The theory of mimicry predicts that selection favors signal refinement in mimics to optimally match the signals released by their specific model species. We provide here chemical and behavioral evidence that a sexually deceptive orchid benefits from its mimetic imperfection to its co-occurring and specific bee model by triggering a stronger response in male bees, which react more intensively to the similar, but novel, scent stimulus provided by the orchid. [Details at the Bee Porn link]

Note: While it may seem dumb that bees are aroused by the obvious fakery of orchids and such, don't forget that some men have been driven to a state of pseudo-copulation by ink on paper arranged in such a way that the two-dimensional image, a few inches high, resembles the naked form of an adult female.

Related posts:
What's so wonderful about flowers

Being moss

June 09, 2008

Half handed

I half handed in my notice today.

I've got eight full weeks to hide out in air conditioned classrooms and cut the stress with rising levels of excitement / fun with students [it's a nice job, in small doses] as the countdown goes on. But I only half handed in my notice, as I'll continue working 10 x 80 minute classes a week, enough to ensure a living and keep my health insurance.

Income will be supplemented with proofreading, which should be another 15 hrs a week, and when that goes up the classes will come down. This is not a big deal for you, but I've been working hard, saving up, and plotting this for ages. I pissed away my 20s and beyond doing almost what I wanted, and then I worked hard from 33 to 38 so that I could get to this point, which is a small one, but large enough for me, being able to order my time as much as possible to my own design and still make a living.

So, posts may be light for a while, as I try and fit 60+ hrs of work into the week, or else they might tumble out in a rage.

June 07, 2008

King Leer

Until August, when I'll be moving onto part-time, my world is largely this room and the classroom, and things are pretty clear in each realm. I can do whatever I want in the former, and play the knowledgeable guide in the latter. These are roles that I'm comfortable in, but I tend to get thrown when I spend a long time outside and become aware that things are very different, that there's space to occupy between total freedom and a set role, and that it's up to me to draw the line. I have trouble with the concept of restraint in public, unsure as to the limits, and suspect that I tend to set my own too strictly and then too loose, but only in passing at some socially acceptable ideal.

Mostly I sit quietly, with a book, spacing out and coming back to consciousness, and sometimes I can't believe that I'm allowed to see and be seen, that there are essentially no barriers to what the eyes can take in. Why not look out the window and see how someone parks their scooter, wears a blouse?

I should wear sunglasses more often.

June 05, 2008

Things to listen to when doing other things

WGBH Forum Network: Live and Archived Webcasts of Free Public Lectures.

Monkey in a man suit

Benny had actually read Darwin once, in college a long time ago, and had heard of sciences like ethology and ecology, but the facts of evolution had never really registered on him. He never thought of himself as a primate. He never realized his friends and associates were primates. Above all, he never understood that the alpha males of Unistat were typical leaders of primate bands. As a result of this inability to see the obvious, Benny was constantly alarmed and terrified by the behavior of himself, his friends and associates and especially the alpha males of the pack. Since he didn't know it was ordinary primate behavior, it seemed just awful to him.
Robert Anton Wilson, Schrödinger's Cat, quoted on p63 of his own Prometheus Rising, available in pdf form at the link
Being a teacher I generally get away with the illusion of being the boss primate, at least in my own head, which is the reality that counts, psychosomatically. This leads to good spirits and good health. But lately this system has broken down slightly, and for the last two or three months I've had two classes a week, out of 20+, in which I come off the worst in the monkey dominance trip. The stress hormones kick in and linger in the system. Chemically, it's an interesting experience, like when I test my system by eating only carbs and getting manic and grumpy, or mix Xanax and alcohol and pass out too soon. Interesting experiences, but personally they suck.

I need to find a workaround for such occasions.

June 03, 2008

The 100 Club

This is my 100th post, and by coincidence - the 100 Club will always be linked in my mind with the Pistols - I found all of The Filth and the Fury on You Tube the other night, in 12 parts, starting at the link.

The Sex Pistols were important to me when I first heard them, although, like the rest of my formative influences, a pretty good case could be made for both sides, that they either ruined or saved me. But like Pangloss I'll take the fact that I'm sitting here with all four limbs, solvent, in Asia, and due to pick up my permanent residency card, as signs that all the meandering, false starts and idiocy served a purpose, or at least didn't kill me / push me to kill myself.

This is just another temporary story to make it seem like things hang together. At any point it could unravel or spin off in a wholly different narrative, because the past is never finally written, but a series of improvisations from the few things that come to mind at any given moment. Cognitive bias rules the day.

Still, I think I was lost until I head the Sex Pistols in about 1982, aged 12. All my life I'd been waiting for something I couldn't name, and the music gave me that, as did books, sex, alcohol and the rest when they came along later. An honesty day's never work never filled the same kind of needs.

Side point. There's a thin line between leading the pack, riding the crest of the wave, being lifted by the surge, and being dragged along in the rush. Why shouldn't they all feel the same - after all, it's exciting and new to you at each point, and that's as exciting and new as it gets. Many times I've thought I was on the verge of things, but in retrospect I was just part of the crowd before it went overground.

"What we offered England was a pivotal point. We were the maypole that they danced around."
John Lydon on 1977, the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

Busy doing other things

Buddha is supposed to have said 'all that we are is the result of all that we have thought', in which case I'm f***ed.

I need a lot to cleanse my mind. Consider it an ongoing project, but I'll start with a nap.