Kirk Israel's commonplace and blog. Quotes and links daily since 2001.
Just donated Platelets at the Red Cross. Nice excuse to Netflix and get slightly chilled (a common side effect of round trip of the rest of the blood plus saline, remedied by nice preheated blankets they are happy to provide.)

Note to future self: don't over do the "cut back on water just before" , since your bladder is pretty robust and it makes veins a bit harder to tap. Also: maybe a more cheerful, less body-horror film than "Annihilation" next time, eh?
it's been said before and i'm sure said better than i can phrase it. but really, really - if you like making "i'm going to kill myself" jokes, please try switching to being ironically conceited instead.

anytime something goes wrong, say things like "ah well at least i'm beautiful and charming and everyone loves me." when you forget something, try "my big huge brain is so smart and thinking about too many other very big wizardly thoughts you wouldn't even *understand*." when you're frustrated by one of your symptoms, start talking like you're in My Immortal. "Life has come for me but my eyes are beautiful pools of gorgeous fire and my hair is amazing. I stuck my middle finger up at life and told it to fuck off and it did."

just... try it for a month or two. try saying the most absurdly self-congratulatory shit you can think of.

i know it's tempting to make suicide or self-harm jokes. and for me at least, a decade ago (!) when someone suggested i stop making those kinds of jokes, i was kind of at a loss for what to replace them with. i wanted to make light of these moments, but *genuinely* (at the time) my first thought *really* was suicidal ideation. there was a part of me that even felt like ... i was kind of "making light" of that voice. that if i could say *i want to die lol*, it would help take the sting out of that genuine (albeit passive) desire. like i could turn my illness into a joke.

when i started complimenting myself instead, it felt awkward and stupid. it felt really, *really* ironic. what i was actually saying was *nobody would ever think this stuff about me, that's what makes it so fucking funny*.

but. the effect was immediate. first thing i noticed was the people around me. when i dropped a glass and said *ah my skin is too beautiful and sleek the glass has swooned and broken for me*, other people were suddenly overjoyed to jump in with the joke. rather than making an awkward moment, we'd both start cracking up. *ah princess sleek hands, i've heard of you*.

i was 19. i hadn't noticed i'd been making others tense when i said *i want it all to end*. i know now that it's *incredibly* hard to know how to walk that moment - do you talk to them about your concern? do you potentially make them uncomfortable by asking if they're okay? do you ignore the situation? do you help them pick up the glass, or do they need to do it by themselves? are they genuinely made suicidal over this small moment? and most importantly, how do you - without professional training or supplies - actually help?

most people want to help you pick up the glass in your life, they just have no fucking idea how to do it. they don't want to make anything worse. they don't want to make assumptions about you. they love you, they're scared for you - and being scared makes people kind of freeze up. it's not because they don't love you. it's because they do.

now when something bad happens, my first thought is *how can i make a stupid joke about this*. it isn't my brain saying *you're a dumb fucking bitch*. i spend more time laughing. i spend more time being gentle with myself. i spend more time feeling good.

and the thing is - what's kind of funny - is that you'd be surprised by how many people *agree with you*. the first time i said *i'm too pretty to understand that*, someone else said *to be fair you're the prettiest person in this room*. i promise - you really don't know how kindly your friends see you. but they love you for a reason. they sort of reverse-velveteen-rabbit you. your weird and ugly spots fade away and you just become... the love they want to give you.

go love yourself ironically. the worst thing that happens is that you end up tricking your reflection into *actually* loving you.

My one basic opinion is that nobody should ever have to live in poverty and boy oh boy does this make some motherfuckers real mad!

why is the sky so weird today?
Today I learned "Baby Shark" was originally about a shark attack. Always wondered why it ended so pointlessly.
I use mardi gras throws (the more hip term for "beads") on my tuba for decoration and as back up percussion. As the loops break I retire them and put them in jars...

Just the other day I realized that two of the main problems with them might cancel each other out: they break and they are tough to untangle. But that might just mean: they can be repaired! Re-tangling a broken loop at the end by twisting the beads around each other seems like it might be weirdly stronger than a lot of the basic connections? I'll have to make some experiments to see how they survive under real-world conditions, but still...
Borrowing Blockbusters: The Best, Worst and Weirdest Star Wars Knock Offs This was fun to watch.
Sure, I WAS Team Pfizer - but now that Moderna has a vaccine with a name as macho as I am - SPIKEVAX (all caps) how could I resist?

Also I like that the Walgreens worker jdgaf about band-aid placement for proper logo display- same for the flu shot bandaid on the other arm...

Great things from Japan pantomime :
Heh, an excercise trend called 'rucking' where you're hiking and moving with a back full of weights.

Wonder if my sousaphone counts? 25 lbs right there baby.
Behind the H-Mart in Central is a sitting rock that rocks, literally and figuratively. Which makes me wonder why "rock" became the poster child noun for either verb, frankly.

September 16, 2023
"Eifelheim" was an interesting book describing a first contact with aliens in Medieval Germany, just before the Black Plague swept through. It plays with some ideas about light speed possibly not being the constant we assume it to be throughout the history of the Universe. (Which is a legit if unproven concept, and in the book also ties with time as being quantized, claiming that ties into some red shift quantization some have observed.)

The book really shows a thoughtful form of old Christianity, where "natural law" was explored as a way of discovering God's creation, and simplified "God just did it" explanations were not favored. But in some ways, us "moderns" have more in common with the aliens than with the pious of the time.
["There is nothing so well established as the constancy of light speed."] was the wrong thing to say, not only because there really were several other things better established, but because there is nothing guaranteed to get the back up of a no-fooling scientist than *argument from authority*.
Michael Flynn, "Eifelheim"

Think it through, Jackson. Light speed is frequency times wavelength. So if c is dropping and wavelength is constant, frequencies must be increasing. [...] So, atomic frequencies govern the rate at which atomic clocks tick. Of course, the speed of light has been constant since they began using atomic clocks to measure it. The instrument is calibrated to the thing it's measuring!
Michael Flynn, "Eifelheim"

"Those who hold the middle ground," said Gregor, "are often attacked by both camps. Between two armies is a dangerous place to graze your flock."
Michael Flynn, "Eifelheim"

"If a sinner truly repents, he dies to sin and a new man is born. That is what it means to forgive, for it defies reason to blame one man for the deeds of another."
Dietrich in Michael Flynn's "Eifelheim"

September 15, 2023
Man the food-gatherer reappears incongruously as information-gatherer.
Marshall McLuhan in 1967, via James Gleick's "The Information"

Odysseus wept when he heard the poet sing of his great deeds abroad because, once sung, they were no longer his alone. They belonged to anyone who heard the song.
Ward Just, via James Gleick's "The Information"

Language is not a technology, no matter how well developed and efficacious. It is not best seen as something separate from the mind; it is what the mind does. "Language in fact bears the same relationship to the concept of mind that legislation bears to the concept of parliament," says Jonathan Miller: "it is a competence forever bodying itself in a series of concrete performances."
James Gleick, "The Information"

Whereas the total vocabulary of any oral language measures a few thousand words, the single language that has been written most widely, English, has a documented vocabulary of well over a million words, a corpus that grows by thousands of words a year.
James Gleick, "The Information"

In our world of ingrained literacy, thinking and writing seem scarcely related activities. We can imagine the latter depending on the former, but surely not the other way around: everyone thinks, whether or not they write. But Havelock was right. The written word--the persistent word--was a prerequisite for conscious thought as we understand it.
James Gleick, "The Information"

On two occasions I have been asked,--"Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
Charles Babbage via James Gleick's "The Information"

Cannot work on account of rain

The rain has done much good

The rain has done a great amount of damage

The rain is now pouring down in good earnest

Every prospect of the rain continuing

Rain much needed

Rain at times

Rainfall general
William Clauson-Thue's "The A B C Universal Commercial Electric Telegraphic Code", some of the codes for messages pertaining to rain (11310–11330)
(via James Gleick's "The Information")

To employ the telephone, one just talked. A child could use it. For that very reason it seemed like a toy. In fact, it seemed like a familiar toy, made from tin cylinders and string. The telephone left no permanent record. *The Telephone* had no future as a newspaper name. Business people thought it unserious. Where the telegraph dealt in facts and numbers, the telephone appealed to emotions.
James Gleick, "The Information"

It may sound ridiculous to say that Bell and his successors were the fathers of modern commercial architecture--of the skyscraper. But wait a minute. Take the Singer Building, the Flatiron Building, the Broad Exchange, the Trinity, or any of the giant office buildings. How many messages do you suppose go in and out of those buildings every day? Suppose there was no telephone and every message had to be carried by a personal messenger? How much room do you think the necessary elevators would leave for offices? Such structures would be an economic impossibility.
John J. Carty arguing that the telephone, as much as the elevator, had made skyscrapers possible, via James Gleick's "The Information"

Thornton C. Fry, enjoyed the tension between theory and practice--the clashing cultures. "For the mathematician, an argument is either perfect in every detail or else it is wrong," he wrote in 1941. "He calls this 'rigorous thinking.' The typical engineer calls it 'hair-splitting.'

" The mathematician also tends to idealize any situation with which he is confronted. His gases are "ideal," his conductors "perfect," his surfaces "smooth." He calls this "getting down to essentials." The engineer is likely to dub it "ignoring the facts."
James Gleick "The Information"

It used to be supposed in Science that if everything was known about the Universe at any particular moment then we can predict what it will be through all the future.... More modern science however has come to the conclusion that when we are dealing with atoms and electrons we are quite unable to know the exact state of them; our instruments being made of atoms and electrons themselves.
Turing, via James Gleick's "The Information"

There was a difference in emphasis between Shannon and Wiener. For Wiener, entropy was a measure of disorder; for Shannon, of uncertainty. Fundamentally, as they were realizing, these were the same. The more inherent order exists in a sample of English text--order in the form of statistical patterns, known consciously or unconsciously to speakers of the language--the more predictability there is, and in Shannon's terms, the less information is conveyed by each subsequent letter. When the subject guesses the next letter with confidence, it is redundant, and the arrival of the letter contributes no new information. Information is surprise.
James Gleick, "The Information"
Seems very relevant to today's ChatGPT crew...
Information can be considered as order wrenched from disorder.
Heinz Von Foerster, via James Gleick's "The Information"

Some son-of-a-bitch will invent a machine to measure Spring with.
E. E. Cummings, via James Gleick's "The Information"

You cannot stir things apart.
Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, via James Gleick's "The Information"

Alan Turing once whimsically proposed a number N, defined as "the odds against a piece of chalk leaping across the room and writing a line of Shakespeare on the board."
James Gleick, "The Information"

Szilárd made clear that he did not wish to invoke a living demon, with, say, a brain--biology brought troubles of its own. "The very existence of a nervous system," he noted, "is dependent on continual dissipation of energy." (His friend Carl Eckart pithily rephrased this: "Thinking generates entropy.")
James Gleick, "The Information"

Any one who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.
von Neumann, via James Gleick's "The Information"
I remember my friend and mentor Paul Morville printing that out and posting it in a lab where we worked, the implication that my frustration with bugs generated in code (probably code I had written) were making such random chaos.
Septimus, in Tom Stoppard's drama Arcadia. "Thousands of poems--Aristotle's own library ... How can we sleep for grief?"

"By counting our stock," Septimus replies. "You should no more grieve for the rest than for a buckle lost from your first shoe, or for your lesson book which will be lost when you are old. We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language."
James Gleick's "The Information"

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
T. S. Eliot via James Gleick's "The Information"

Once a piece of information is filed, it is statistically unlikely ever to be seen again by human eyes. Even in 1847, Augustus De Morgan, Babbage's friend, knew this. For any random book, he said, a library was no better than a wastepaper warehouse. "Take the library of the British Museum, for instance, valuable and useful and accessible as it is: what chance has a work of being known to be there, merely because it is there? If it be wanted, it can be asked for; but to be wanted it must be known. Nobody can rummage the library."

Too much information, and so much of it lost. An unindexed Internet site is in the same limbo as a misshelved library book. This is why the successful and powerful business enterprises of the information economy are built on filtering and searching. Even Wikipedia is a combination of the two: powerful search, mainly driven by Google, and a vast, collaborative filter, striving to gather the true facts and screen out the false ones. Searching and filtering are all that stand between this world and the Library of Babel.
James Gleick, "The Information"