May 28, 2009

Same again (hacking the beast-machine)

bialetti - one more

There's no way for me to directly control a lot of what I do. Essentially, I've given up responsibility for my actions as and when they occur, and instead as much as possible focus on the set and setting ahead of time. Fortunately [but mostly not] I'm good at getting habits, so I can set up workarounds and little hacks and see what they produce.

I used to drink way too much coffee, and I couldn't stop myself. I started grinding my own beans and using a little stove top moka pot so that the time / effort required for each cup would act as a restraint. It works very well - down to three cups a day - exploiting my own laziness / intertia to get things done.

Related post: Monkey orgasm button

May 27, 2009

The pratfall effect

The pratfall effect is a psychological phenomenon whereby the attractiveness of a person perceived as competent increases if the person commits a blunder. Conversely, the attractiveness of a person perceived as incompetent decreases if the person commits a blunder.
Wikipedia experiment by Kay Deaux demonstrates that the pratfall effect applies most strongly to males. She found that, although most males in her study preferred the highly competent man who committed a blunder, women showed a tendency to prefer the highly competent nonblunderer, regardless of whether the stimulus person was male or female. Similarly, my colleagues and I found that males with a moderate degree of self-esteem are most likely to prefer the highly competent person who commits a blunder, while males with low self-esteem (who apparently feel little competitiveness with the stimulus person) prefer the highly competent person who doesn't blunder. It should be emphasized that no sizable proportion of people-regardless of their own level of self-esteem-preferred the mediocre person.
Elliot Aronson The Social Animal [via here - link contains a longer account of the original experiment]

May 22, 2009

Used goods

60s chessboard 01 - ilikegraphics

I've got more books than I need but less than I want, although sometimes I'll go through the ones I've read and have no intention of opening again and take them to a secondhand store. What happens later is I go back to the same store and half the things that catch my eye are books that used to belong to me.

I like secondhand stores, but sometimes it's depressing to see the crap that people have bought and owned and parted with and now it's trying to being sold. But when I die / hit bottom and sell out, my own possessions will be baffling - 'he made a life out of this?' - but life, as you know, isn't in such things.

There's no explaining the cotton coasters on this desk or the picture frames - they fail to transcend their nature as coasters and frames, and cut from active use they're horrible things, like false teeth. I'm pushing 40 and the house I live in is almost empty and totally undecorated, save for white paint and some of the landlord's paintings. I don't care. My desk is alive with things that have some meaning, which means: photos of me and my wife, pens, notes, scissors, tissues, water, beer, chewing gum, an army knife, speakers, some cacti, a stopwatch and tis machine.Welcome to my world.
The next warehouse, in Waukegan, brought a unit full of — depending on how you look at it — cherished household possessions or somebody’s trash. Most of the bidders took the latter view, disdaining an offer. Tonya Boyd bought the bulging plastic bags for all of $6. “It looks like someone had some troubles,” said Ms. Boyd, an employment specialist. There were piles of clothes, brand-new women’s shoes, old chairs, a dirty fan, kitchenware.

For some units, $6 is too much. “A dollar bill, first dollar bill takes it,” Mr. Snyder implored in front of one unit. “Come on, this is everything they own!” To no avail.

This is the eternal mystery of self-storage. If the material was worth money, it was foolish to let it go to default. If it was not worth much, why spend at least $50 a month to store it?

May 21, 2009

Pushing at an open door

Having no lead to follow, we were swept up by words, memories, manias, grudges, and solidarities. Having no goal to aim for, we wasted what little life there was in our thoughts on joining in with a pun, speaking ill of common acquaintances, avoiding unpleasant facts, riding hobbyhorses, pushing at open doors, making faces, and preening ourselves.

May 16, 2009

This must be the place

Home, is where I want to be,
but I guess I'm already there.
Talking Heads, above
It may be mild OCD or just a lack of imagination, but I rode my bicycle around the darkest, quietest streets downtown tonight for 2.5 hrs with this song playing on repeat, and I did it from feeling very good to feeling bad to feeling very good again. And then I went into a bar and washed out the fine body chemistry of caffeine, starvation and physical exertion, to achieve the robust equilibrium I now find myself in.

I'm quiet happy to see time as either an illusion or strictly linear - it's the circular thing that I find unconvincing. So years do not mean a lot to me, nor dates within them. But they serve an important administrative function, and this [mid-May] is the time of year I usually have to renew my visa. Been like that since 1998, but this year I don't need to - I have permanent residency, so no blood test [drugs, AIDS], photos and so on. This place is home.

May 15, 2009

An ideal for living

You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely-knit group of people, and you should think of those people as yourself and your friends.

Pronoia: the suspicion the Universe is a conspiracy on your behalf.

Related post: Shadowplay

May 14, 2009

Transmission of the agape

Nothing sacred ever really dies out.
Richard Evans Schultes in a two part lecture on hallucinogenic plants here [audio not great, because it's old, but I don't know how old]
Schultes was one of the founding fathers of the discipline, along with R. Gordon Wasson and Dr. Hoffmann.

The palace of excess

I'll say at least one thing about drinking with frat boys: it does quickly disabuse you of the notion that there may be any wisdom at the end of narcotic, alcoholic or sexual excess.

May 12, 2009

Manhattan projection

horizonless projection of manhattan, by schulze & webb [click to enlarge]

No one cares about what you think, unless you do what you think. No one cares what you do, unless you think about what you do. No one ever really cares what you say.

Occupational hazards of the self-employed, #1

Never have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you'll be unprepared for your old age. For me, it has always been the same every day since the age of 12. I wake up in the morning and I try to figure out how am I going to put bread on the table today? It is the same at 75, I wake up every morning and I think how am I going to put bread on the table today? I am exceedingly well prepared for my old age.
John Cage, via Milton Glaser
For a while I've been letting the work fall into a random plan- but my life in its current iteration seems to lack the property of self-order. Or maybe I'm expecting too much. Every deadline is met and yet I appear to be doing nothing, hanging out in cafes and bars.

To misquote Flaubert, I need to be orderly and disciplined in my working life, like a good bourgeois, so that I might be wilder the rest of the time.

Interesting properties tend to arise just on the border of order and chaos, while one of my weaknesses is to blindly rush far over either side and hunker down, like an exile.

May 07, 2009

Why I go out drinking more often than before

The major implication intended by this paper is that the personal experience of individuals is closely bound up with larger-scale aspects of social structure, well beyond the purview or control of particular individuals. Linkage of micro and macro levels is thus no luxury, but of central importance to the development of sociological theory. Such linkage generates paradoxes: weak ties, often denounced as generative of alienation are here seen as indispensable to individuals' opportunities and to their integration into communities; strong ties, breeding social cohesion, lead to overall fragmentation. Paradoxes are a welcome antidote to theories which explain everything too neatly.
Mark Granovetter, The Strength of Weak Ties [pdf, 1973]

Click for a bigger version of an awesome 'map of science' from this paper

An idea mundane in one group can be a valuable insight in another.
Ronald S Burt, Structural Holes and Good Ideas [pdf]

May 05, 2009

Ways of escape

On October 10, 2006, Steve-O appeared on Tom Green Live, an Internet talk-show hosted by comedian Tom Green, alongside guests Jukka Hildén and Carson Daly in which he discussed his hatred for current U.S. President George W. Bush and organized religion. Steve-O also spoke out about his feelings towards his clown college alma mater, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, for abusing the animals used in the circus. He took calls from viewers while repeatedly huffing medical-grade compressed nitrous oxide (commonly called "whippits"), smoking, drinking alcohol and eating hash brownies. The show ran for three times its normal length, ending with Steve-O collapsing on the floor after drinking a bottle of Italian salad dressing and vomiting violently.


a painting of some prickly pears by rudy rucker

When someone twice your age dies of natural causes and you're not surprised, then you're officially middle-aged [or older].

May 04, 2009

This effect is advantageous to the parasite

Toxoplasma gondii [above] infections have the ability to change the behavior of rats and mice, making them drawn to rather than fearful of the scent of cats. This effect is advantageous to the parasite, which will be able to sexually reproduce if its host is eaten by a cat. The infection is almost surgical in its precision, as it does not affect a rat's other fears such as the fear of open spaces or of unfamiliar smelling food.