Self Wright

Author: agam Page 2 of 90

A tale of two articles

Saw these two in the newspaper today, within two pages of each other, and … it felt like a social commentary of sorts.

Generally interesting links — Aug 2021

Plate XIX from the first volume of Pettigrew’s Design in Nature (1908), illustrating the resemblance between spiral shell formations and bony portions of the inner ear

Science

  • Bio-luminiscent oceans

  • Startling cuttlefish memory: https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/08/cuttlefish-remember-the-what-when-and-where-of-meals-even-into-old-age/

“Cuttlefish can remember what they ate, where, and when, and use this to guide their feeding decisions in the future,” said co-author Alexandra Schnell of the University of Cambridge, who conducted the experiments at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “What’s surprising is that they don’t lose this ability with age, despite showing other signs of aging like loss of muscle function and appetite.”

  • the “spiralist“, perhaps the most fascinating historical-scientific-insightful thing I’ve read this year

Pettigrew confessed himself totally spellbound by the mystery of Nature’s most ubiquitous, liquid, and quixotic form — the spiral.
Pettigrew’s newspaper model showed that the heart’s double helical structure — now known as the helical ventricular myocardial band (HVMB) — was essentially a triple-twisted Möbius strip.
In both arenas of animal physiology, Pettigrew found a spectacular resonance: movement at once precedes and follows structure, the direction of movement in living things being in every instance determined by the composition and configuration of kinetic spiral parts. This resonance seemed to reach right down to the atomic level. Unlike the closed system of the heart, the spiraling lines of atoms and molecules were arranged so that matter could be added in any amount, in unlimited directions. An open flow of energy and form was the basis for growth and progression in all creatures.

Tools

World events

People

Doctors are baffled by the rare disease and have concluded that he is the only person in the US to have the suction capability.
Not only is he able to stick objects to his skin, but his wounds heal faster, he gets sick less and ages slower than the average person.

27 feet tall. 77 tons. Lead, steel, and glass armor almost two feet thick. A 500 horsepower supercharger engine. Able to withstand 3,000 times more radiation than a human. Mighty claws able to tear, rend, and shred steel with 85,000 pounds of force…yet nimble enough to balance an egg on a spoon.

Computing

One of the questions often asked about the IBM PC is why we chose the Ctrl-Alt-Del reset sequence. We proposed Ctrl-Alt-Del as a warm-boot sequence to provide some of the capability of a reset switch. It is difficult to activate by mistake, since the keys are widely separated. By storing a special character in a particular memory location, the warm boot would bypass the memory-test portion of the power-on self test (POST), taking less time than turning the machine off and back on.

 

Tools for thought

A quote from “Tools for Thought” by Howard Rheingold, from the chapter titled “The loneliness of the long-distance thinker

  • Harry Truman was President and Sputnik was a word that only Russian language experts knew when Doug Engelbart first thought about displaying words and images on radar screens, storing them in computers, and manipulating them with levers and buttons and keyboards.
  • To hear him tell it today, both the computer establishment and the computer revolutionaries still fail to understand that the art and power of using a computer as a mind amplifier are not in how the amplifier works but in what the amplified minds are able to accomplish.
  • Engelbart realized, as had Vannevar Bush, that humankind was moving into an era in which the complexity and urgency of global problems were surpassing time-honored tools for dealing with problems. He also began to understand, as did Licklider a few years later, that handling the informational by-products of problem-solving had itself become the key to all the other problems.
  • The biggest difference between the citizen of preliterate culture and the industrial-world dweller who can perform long division or dial a telephone is not in the brain’s “hardware” — the nervous system of the highlander or the urbanite — but in the thinking tools given by the culture. Reading, writing, surviving in a jungle or a city, are examples of culturally transmitted human software.
  • While Engelbart was, in fact, suggesting that computers could be used to automate a low-level task like typewriting, the point he wanted to make had to do with changes in the overall system — the capabilities such an artifact would open up for thinking in a more effective, wider-ranging, more articulate, quicker, better-formatted manner. That is why he distinguished his proposed new category of computer applications by using the term augmentation rather than the more widespread word automation.
  • Even the chewing-gum-and-bailing-wire version Doug was attempting to get off the ground in 1968 had the ability to impose new structures on what you could see through its windows. The symbolic domain, from minutiae to the grandest features, could be arranged at will by the informationaut, who watched through his window while he navigated his vehicle and the audience witnessed it all on the big screen

From the beginning of “A Conceptual Framework for the Augmentation of Man’s Intellect” in 1963:

  • Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: that comprehension can be gained more quickly; that better comprehension can be gained; that a useful degree of comprehension can be gained where previously the situation was too complex; that solutions can be produced more quickly; that better solutions can be produced; that solutions can be found where previously the human could find none.
  • We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human “feel for a situation” usefully coexist with powerful concepts, streamlined technology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.

Economist Covers

I’ve had a print subscription to the Economist for a while, though off and on.

I grew weary of having piles of unread issues stare at me, as though reproachfully, until I learnt the (obvious) answer: these are not meant to be read cover-to-cover!

Anyway, I happened to have two recent issues lying on the table side by side, and there was something … I don’t know … a bit parenthetical about it.

Harry Potter and the 90s

The world of Harry Potter feels charming, with its bits of magic strewn everywhere, but also nostalgic.

It is an alternative world, but for those growing up in today’s world —- it’s more of a counterpart to a lost world.

Moving pictures? Do you mean like “live photos” on my iPhone?

The Ring (completed)

I had mentioned earlier about the graphic novel I was reading.

I finished reading it in a week (would’ve read it in less than a day, but these days I have to “chunk everything up”).

The story towards the end was a bit “huh? cmon!” for me, but the overall effect was powerful.

Two-page spread for the scene where Siegfried breaks Wotan’s spear.

The appendix mentions how the panels were sometimes segmented to correspond to motifs in the operatic score, which I thought was a neat concept, a sort of synesthetic effect.

This comic series won the Eisner award twenty years ago, but P. Craig Russell has other similar works, and I know I need to read more of them!

Understanding Art, lol

Came across this randomly today when my daughter said “did you know Fluttershy is secretly an artist?” and showed me this.

“… the symbolism inherent in the chaotic juxtaposition of my cutie mark melded into a transformative spiral representing the process of personal maturation as experienced by an introverted artisan …”

I can’t even.

The Ring

I hadn’t been to the library “proper” for over two years.

It had been closed for over a year.

It opened earlier a few months ago, and we have been going once every six weeks or so, since then.

I go with my daughter and end up spending all our time in the kids’ section.

I finally ventured in the regular area, just before checking out and leaving, giving myself a few minutes to look and return.

The graphic novel section was one of the three or four possible places within a two-minute radius, and I headed there.

By one of those strange acts of serendipity, I was led to a single book there, “The Ring of Nibelung”.

Wait, I thought, that one?

I should mention I was only vaguely aware of this before picking it up. I knew of the opera, but no specifics.

My closest exposure, as I expect it to be for others too, was to have come across The ride of the Valkyries by way of Apocalypse Now.

I’ve read the first odd-dozen pages now, and … this is amazing.

More than the story itself, I see echoes, in terms of names, and scenes and themes, which remind me of that other epic saga, The Lord of the Rings.

I have no way of judging how closely this hews to the original, but such a chasm of time separates each of these works!

  • I am reading this today, in the year 2021.
  • The graphic novel was first published as a comic series about two decades ago, in 2000.

It’s good stuff 🙂

Monthly recap (Jul 2021)

A butterfly in the backyard

Major updates

  • Week-long trip to Gualala
    • Airbnb
    • included a Foosball table that we used a lot
    • time at the beach
    • an old record player that … only briefly worked
  • 1-night stay to Asilomar
    • Visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Bunch of other “visits after a long time” (Covid milestones)
    • Visited the “mini Legoland” in Milpitas
    • A first movie-in-the-theater experience (after perhaps two years?)
    • Visited the library

Minor updates

  • Completed a bunch of patio work — and we now have a hammock
  • A butterfly (“painted lady”) hatched from a cocoon that Tara brought back from school
  • Got a HomePod Mini (quite satisfied so far)
  • Discovered new restaurant downtown Mountain View: Kakaroto
  • Another birthday went by 😐
  • Bit of “appliance hiccup” when the dishwasher and the fridge stopped working on the same day
  • Bunch of camps for Tara

Watched/read/played/made

  • A lot of Harry Potter
    • Watched Chamber of Secrets with Tara
    • Listened to the audiobook of Soceror’s Stone with Tara
  • Listened to the audiobook of Idea of the World (Bernardo Kastrup)

Random post #743447

Came across this article from six years ago, on the hilarity, or seriousness, and the need, or abuse, of “emotional support animals”.

The author managed to get an exemption for carrying around a turtle (“Turtle“), and a snake (“Augustus“), a turkey (“Henry“), an alpaca (“Sorpresa“), and a pig (“Daphne“) everywhere, just to show how.

Reflecting on whether it is reasonable to be this inclusive of man’s best friends, I called the Australian philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer, who is best known for his book “Animal Liberation,” which makes a utilitarian argument for respecting the welfare and minimizing the suffering of all sentient beings.

Singer takes a dim view of the emotional-support-animal craze. “Animals can get as depressed as people do,” he said, so “there is sometimes an issue about how well people with mental illnesses can look after their animals.” He went on, “If it’s really so difficult for you to be without your animal, maybe you don’t need to go to that restaurant or to the Frick Museum. ”

During check-in, the ticket agent, looking up to ask my final destination, did a double take.

She said, “Oh . . . have you checked with . . . I don’t think JetBlue allows . . .”

“Give me one second,” the agent said, picking up the phone. “I’m checking with my supervisor.” (Speaking into phone: “Yes, with a pig . . . yeah, yeah . . . in a stroller.”) The agent hung up and printed out boarding passes for me and the pig’s owner, Sophie Wolf.

“I didn’t want to make a mistake,” he said. “If there’s a problem, Verna, at the gate, will help you. Does she run fast?”

I’m pleased to report that passing through security with a pig in your arms is easier than doing so without one: you get to keep your shoes on and skip the full-body scanner.

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t read it (and seen the accompanying pictures).

Of course, this was six long years ago, and I’m sure this must feel quite normal now for everyone.

P.S. couldn’t come up with a title for this post, and http://www.randomnumbergenerator.com helped out.

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