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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in fictionpuss' LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
12:09 pm
Preservation by Deflecting Criticism
I'm definitely guilty of this. Like the garden snail, I've grown a shell in order to continue growth without interruption.

It's natural I think. Individuals do it. Political parties do it. Countries do it. Hell, our species as a whole tends to ignore the implications of some of our less-desirable traits.

But criticism isn't bad or good, it just is. The inability to absorb it, and benefit from it, seems to me to be a greater risk than the potential danger of absorbing the occasional wrong-headed criticism. In fact, the meta-program of analysing criticism fairly, is able to self-correct for the occasional mistake.

If you think that you have the ability to determine more often than not (even if it's just 50.01%!) valid criticism from invalid criticism, then you don't need that shell any more. Because every time you correctly absorb criticism, your ability to determine valid from invalid criticism will improve and be on a curve approaching 100%.

If you don't think you have the ability to determine valid from invalid criticism, then you have nothing to lose by abandoning your shell, as it's obviously not doing you as much good as the meta program (analyse all criticism faily) will.

I think it's important to realise though, just how many defences our habitual thought-patterns have developed -- if they didn't have those defences, they'd never have become habitual in the first place!

What really motivates you? What is really motivating you? Two separate questions.

So what do you think? Am I just spouting bullshit?
Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
2:58 pm
Analogies comparing the workings of the brain, to that of a computer fail at a literal level - a set of neurons is neither RAM nor CPU, but encompass at least both those functions. But at a higher conceptual level, when we consider the brain as a computer of ideas, things start to become more interesting.

If you're already familiar with the "interrupt architecture" of a modern multitasking operating system, then the following will make more sense. The heart of the OS is called the "kernel", and it grants processing time (schedules) to the various programs you choose to run. If one of those programs crashes, or enters a infinite loop - think "Keyboard error, press any key to continue", then the kernel is able to recover control. Basically, it swoops in and interrupts all programs on a frequent basis (hundreds or even thousands of times per second), and remembers where each was so that it can resume it later. This way it can grant more time to higher priority programs. You may recall older versions of Windows which could frequently "lock up" the entire computer whenever a program crashed - that's what happens when you don't have good interrupt handling in the kernel. Earlier versions didn't even have the ability to run more than one program at once, that's what happens when you don't have interrupt handling at all.

We know the brain processes ideas, from the simple "it's raining so I'll need an umbrella", to entire religions. And we have a name for the evolution, mutation and reproduction/transmission of these ideas - the Dawkins "meme". But how do we schedule attention between these ideas?

Our environment provides natural interruptions - hunger, sounds, emails, etc. But we are still susceptible to the occasional "infinite loop" - a set of thoughts we cannot escape from. In fact, any idea which doesn't make it "hard to escape from", we quickly forget. In other words, ideas - here an awfully broad term - compete with each other naturally through the forces of emergent evolution. The obverse is an idea specifically designed to create a loop - e.g. Scientology - Memetic Engineering.

What we're really talking about is "attention" - the higher level aspect of consciousness which tunes in or filters out ideas based upon their relevancy to selected ideas. If the scheduler grants too little time to these children then you cannot make a "deductive leap", spend too much time on those children and the danger is constant distraction - especially once they compete for position as a "selected idea". I'm pretty sure I fall flat into the latter category.

I play with my wedding ring a lot, I've always fidgeted, one of the reasons my desk is always... occupied... with various things such as screws, lasers, scrunched up bits of paper. Recently I've started trying to use my ring as a physical reminder (or interrupt!) of looped thinking. I guess that works along the same general principles as rosary beads, except that the single artefact is a reminder against dogmatic thinking, and thus is more of a catma in concept.

I don't have a particular direction for this train of thought, except that becoming more conscious of the mechanisms of ones consciousness, seems relatively better than not doing so.

It seems to me to have a parallel with Leary's Sixth (Metaprogramming) Circuit. I'm not a great believer (read: at all) of "telepathic communication", but I would say that two (or more) individuals who consciously choose to reprogram themselves according to the same set of rules, should end up with something functionally similar to telepathy.

Adherents to religion would be less likely, in my estimation, to experience this if they are encouraged to favour interpretation (instruction) over deduction (the antithesis to faith).
Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
2:22 pm
What is it that dog owners talk about all day long as they huddle together in parks?
Friday, April 17th, 2009
8:05 pm
One dimensional mapping of a sphere
Starting from any given point, draw an archimedean spiral such that at pi/2, you're at the midpoint, and then moving towards the point diametrically opposite the starting point, draw the spiral in reverse to pi. Thus for any value 0 < r < pi, you have a rough approximation on the sphere. For greater accuracy, wind the spiral an additional time for each multiple of pi, and take the position from the modulus.

The modulus becomes increasingly prone to rounding error however. Plus that modelling has distinct biases for the poles.

This could be overcome by repeating this for each axis, but then if you have three vectors, there are easier ways to map a surface point.

Bah. I guess that doesn't work. 'scuse me while I keep searching for non-biased one dimensional spherical mappings.

EDIT: I guess more precisely, I'm looking for a space filling curve for the surface of a sphere. I've seen some papers which cube a sphere, then apply hilbert-peano, but that seems entirely inelegant. Also the curve/seam of a tennis ball is almost there but has a two-axis bias which seems wrong.
Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
3:47 pm
Theories Of The Universe
The thing which amuses me about all TOTU, is that they remain theories until some supernatural entity comes along, says "Yup, you're right", at which point they are all invalidated except for this one.

Actually, the TOTU which interests me most at this point is one Stephen Hawking gave a lecture about a few years ago, about how reality can be thought of as bubbles of probability which coalesce into larger bubbles of probability.

In other words, the moon is made out of cheese, at a very low (non-zero) scale of probability.

The thing which I like about this theory is that it provides an outlet for all the magickal thinking which I've progressively been trying to wean myself from. For example - did Crowley shatter a glass from across the room using nothing other than the power of his mind?

We can't repeat that experiment today, at least under laboratory settings. But the very fact that anyone who seriously suggests that he did, would not be taken seriously, gives it an equal/balancing probability that he actually did.

Oops, I didn't see what I did there. Which, according to theory, makes any of my following statements even less believable.

Going further back - the lack of cameras, and historical documents makes all sorts of things like dragons, sea monsters, casting spells, real life Gods, all entirely possible. That we credit our ancestors with naivete and whimsical fancy is probably due in large part to our hi-tech-erotica/cutting-edge arrogance.

So if we all believed in dragons today, then we might find ourselves in a universe where we had them.

The scary part though, is that this would equally apply to the Gods themselves, to which I would thank you for your contribution to making the first sentence more probable.
12:40 am
Weird bug..
My computer thinks that it's 7 hours ago. The system clock advances at a crawl, and all visual effects which have a delay are all slow. Plus keyboard repeat takes waay too long to kick in. All other operations work at normal speed, and CPU activity seems abnormally low. There's nothing in /var/log/messages.

I haven't had such an interesting bug in years, most them now just seem to be freezes or reboots.
Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
9:54 pm
I wish for a world..
..where video transcoding was as simple as selecting a file type/target and hitting "go". Actually VLC is getting pretty close which saves me from ingesting the transcode manpage. And quicker. Definitely quicker would be good.
Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
12:59 pm
I just made the fantastic, and quite accidental, discovery that pressing shift num-lock repeatedly plays a delightful tune. For some reason KDE is hooked into my system bell. Reminds me of my computer yoof.
Sunday, March 22nd, 2009
12:40 pm
Never watched BSG
Not even a single episode. It was part of a conscious decision to limit the number of shows I follow. It's a love/hate thing with getting hooked on shows. But it's not as if I've painted the Mona Lisa 2 with all the time I've saved.

So I wasted my time by not wasting my time.


I think I lost my SF badge though. Meh. Maybe I lost it when I "couldn't be bothered" to rewatch all of B5 after that ended. Nor any of the spin-offs.

I don't think not watching any more than a couple of episodes of Voyager or Enterprise could really be held against me. Mind you, I never watched all of DS9 either. The last few trek movies haven't tempted me to the theatre or, more tellingly, piratebay.

Although I did buy a couple of TNG vhs tapes back in the day. $40 for two episodes. Wow. Different times.
Thursday, March 19th, 2009
3:03 pm
(interrupt) use quit to exit.
I admit, I don't get it. Why catch ctrl-c, but refuse it, try to bullshit me into typing 'quit' instead, but then exit gracefully with ctrl-d?

There's probably some beardy reason why. Still annoying though.
Thursday, March 12th, 2009
3:37 pm
Now my computer has gone from freezing up once every week or two, to two or three times every day. Upgraded from to in order to fix the once-every-week-or-two problem, and it is now worse.

I'm pretty sure it's to do with fglrx, rather than any particular hardware/memory/motherboard issue. I'm running xinerama on dualhead, and support is awful. With the latest kernel/fglrx drivers from rpmfusion, dri has suddenly stopped working. I had hoped this would actually stablise the issue, with the downside of having no 3d acceleration. But no. I guess that issue is just indicative.

Here's hoping I can downgrade kernel versions without too much additional hassle.

I've been cursing my choice of ATI card for a while, wishing I'd gone NVidia.. but then I've never ran NVidia under xinerama. I simply can't live with only one monitor any more. Perhaps I'm just spoilt.
Friday, February 13th, 2009
10:55 am
Can we fix it? Maybe..
..well yes. Obviously. But where's the fun without mystery and suspense?

Perhaps I'm just happier being a clock-repairman than a clock-maker?

This week I'm building rpm packages for obscure software. I've seen some of the worst build systems I've ever been exposed to. It's the perfect argument as to why subject matter scientists should not be allowed anywhere near an install lever. Rationalising it is a tad nightmarish. But I find it relaxing. More than even writing my own code, I enjoy porting code to other systems.

It's a strange realisation.

I remember getting the first release of kde to compile on my fugly solaris box which was previously running the painfully awful cde. Now that was a hack. But also a glorious adventure with the marvellous treasure of pretty icons and a comparatively sane UI.

I guess it's rather like meta-programming. Getting a bunch of surly applications to play nicely together is a different sort of programming challenge, but one which I often find myself drawn back to. Even though it's quite thankless. The next release of any of the components could bring delicate build machinery to a crashing halt.

And I find myself kinda wishing that it does.. just to see if I can fix it.
Friday, February 6th, 2009
4:36 pm
New contract came through. Finally. Three years. Hurrah!
Monday, January 26th, 2009
9:50 pm
So upgraded to Fedora 10. Took almost all day. Bah. KDE 4.1 is still pants. Gnome annoys me. Trying out XFCE. Stays out of my way for the post part. Kinda like it.
Friday, January 16th, 2009
10:19 pm
Given the drawn out discussions..
..that went into naming our child, I can only imagine those that went into the namings of both little three year old "Adolf Hitler Campbell" and "Joyce Lynn Aryan Nation Campbell".

Right, that's it. The planning on how to somehow get F/OSS into my next childs name starts now.
Thursday, January 15th, 2009
4:07 pm
Save the Sea Kittens!
No, Really! It seems to me that trying to rename "fish" as "sea kittens" takes the whole argument backwards. Assuming that the aim is to stop the practice of fishing, or "sea kitten molestation", as PETA may put it.

Why start out with such a weak premise, when it isn't going to shared by anyone outside of your own group mindset? Anyone who supports the fish industry in any fashion isn't going to blink while hitting that (fish == kittens of the sea) argument right out of the park.

So all they are doing is wasting resources perpetuating a group identity that exists seemingly only to waste resources perpetuating a group identity. And around the cycle goes.

Fuck PETA.

But the problem I have, is that:
1) I have agreement with the basic PETA principles - mistreatment of animals is bad, and an ethical issue.
2) I could never join such an organisation because of the cretinous groupthink, and because the issues - while ethical in nature - are not black/white.
3) The world needs groups like PETA, because by stretching the boundaries of our social reality, they do advance the needle slowly in that direction. Which is incrementally better than the alternative.

Being extreme is the easiest way to guarantee visibility in the media landscape. Visibility equals continued existence for parasitic groups like PETA.

The really messed up part is that the PETA which exists now actually has a motivating force to continue the status-quo. Imagine if the world adopted 50% of PETA's agenda - how could they continue to mine human emotion in order to keep their funding base? I believe on some level the people behind this "Sea Kitten" campaign know that it's going to alienate more people than it sucks in. But that's the nature of group formation which satisfies that tribal/primal urge. It feels better to be part of a religious group, than uphold the stated aims of that group.

The only solution I see is if the fragmentation can be reduced while preserving identity. That is, a forum or framework which is able to distill areas of commonality and agreement in order to leverage that for the joint benefit of the aims of multiple groups. Would I give PETA a dime? No! Would I give anything to "The people who believe we should progressively aim to improve our treatment of animals"? Sure! Could the latter group exist in todays world and the tools at hand? Sadly not. It doesn't sell. TLDR;
Tuesday, January 13th, 2009
1:11 pm
Sometimes I forget...
...how the world ever functioned without the internet and personal/home computers. I mean, I was there, and although I even grew up in the 80s which was the decade of the personal computer, there were plenty of hangovers from the 70's and earlier still around. So I had plenty of exposure to card catalogues and paper based filing systems, searching book indexes as a first recourse rather than google, etc. But despite growing up with it all, it just seems so foreign now.

Mind you, I sometimes forget that the world existed in colour over 50 years ago, so I entirely expect the wonder is a dysfunction of my own brain.

That said, is there any advantage to having known both worlds? Appreciation of what we have now is dandy, but it serves no purpose in of itself, as it's a perspective the future doesn't share. Our children rightly take what we have now for granted, as we did with the marvels of colour television, or as my parents did with the marvels of moving pictures.

Bah to nostalgia, the future's pretty cool!
Thursday, January 8th, 2009
5:24 pm
Logical Conundrum
Which makes more sense?

X in context of Y is represented by Z, says X
X in context of Y is represented by Z, says Y

X intersecting with Y gives Z, says X
Y intersecting with X gives Z, says Y

The idea being that if authoritative sources X and Y both agree that their relationship is represented by Z, then an external party can verify such a relationship without the requirement of a central authority.

#1 implies a relationship in the structure, #2 implies the relationship is named only by Z.

For exampleCollapse )
Thursday, December 25th, 2008
9:59 am
Bah. Looks like I might have to pick one up in the next month or so. Just lost some business for someone who "only texts for expediency". Only SMS, not email I guess. But it's a sign to me that the world is moving, or has moved already, from the stage where it's impractical not to have a cellphone to the stage where it's impossible to function properly in society without one.

I dislike cellphones on many levels. Primarily because it grates on me to have a fancy computer in my pocket which is artificially limited in its abilities purely to sustain a revenue stream - e.g. paying to download ringtones/games/apps. For that reason I've been interested in OpenMoko but last I checked they weren't ready for endusers yet, and I don't have the luxury of much tinkering time.

Maybe 2009 will be the year that the yoof spurn technology en masse with that fashion quickly spreading across generations and we can temporarily experience that simpler time that while walking down the street you had a guarantee of expectation that you could be left to your own thoughts without interruption. Nice dream.

Not that I want to be this guy or anything. I'm not extreme in my sentiment, having owned cellphones before... it's a preference rather than a mission I guess. But anyway, bah!
Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
10:22 am
Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea?


I know one of the first signs of aging is disparaging "todays" forms of entertainment for children, but I really can't get my head around this.
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