Friday, September 25, 2009

Italian Journeys: Sneeze-Interview and Lecture

  1. A short interview with me in Italian is up at Vivarte; here's the crazy robot English version.

    It's actually a "sneeze-interview", I don't know why the robot thinks it's an interview-partridge. How is a sneeze like a partridge? (They both explode out of the bushes?)

    Yes, I actually did the interview in my version of actual Italian.

  2. It looks like I will be doing a reading and lecture at the University of Florence on November 6th. Time (probably early afternoon?) and location not set, but you know, just in case you want to design your fall Eurail tour around that date.

    (Side note: why am I linking to the U of F in the paragraph above? What are you going to do, register for classes based on this blog entry? Ultimately there's something weird about the whole idea of blogs, isn't there? Or am I just having a moment of universal alienation?)

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Corollaries to the second law of thermodynamics

  1. The best argument for death is children.
    1. More specifically, in a putative stable future society abritrary able to extend life and actually serious about sustainable management of resources, there are two natural (and rational) political parties:
      • Immortality
      • Breeding
    2. The above is a specific case, assuming discrete individuals and a constant average consumption per individual, of a more general trade-off. The tradeoff is equally well exemplified by "Few of Us in Mansions" vs. "Many of Us in Tents", low vs. high sampling rate and resolution in simulations, etc.
      • (How egalitarian the distribution of resources is actually matters little for our purposes here -- though inegalitarian distribution of resources has a way of distracting from this tradeoff, giving it at least the appearance of being provisionally irrelevant.)
    3. The most general formulation: "there are many defensible answers to the question 'what should be the granularity of individual sentient existence?'"
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The New Blog Entry

They were good, worthy, lovable, dear people; but unfortunately they kept asking me about the new blog entry, and that was horrible.

If I met on the street dear and lovable acquaintances, they invariably asked: "how's it going with the new blog entry? Innumerable eager people look forward with great excitement to your new blog entry. It's become obvious that you're writing a new blog entry. I hope it will be posted soon, your new blog entry!"

It's true; I had dropped certain hints. I was so foolish, so careless, as to have allowed it to become obvious that I was planning on posting a new blog entry. Now I was screwed.

I was upset, my situation insupportable.

If I logged in merely to check my RSS aggregator, sure enough, here they came, a blizzard of AIM and Gtalk and Jabber and MSN and Skype instant messages: "When will it finally be posted: your new, your wonderful blog entry?"

I was close to collapse.

"If only I had never had the idea to drop such hints, to let it be known that a new blog entry was growing and blossoming within me!" was my desperate, silent, internal cry.

My rage was equal to my shame. Only with a great effort of will could I suppress my dread enough to visit homes and LiveJournals whose charm and hospitality had once delighted me.

For my aggregators and linkers, people in every respect of enormous worth, I had suddenly become a source of great unease. When I met with them, they treated me as if I was a troubled and sensitive child given to depression and despair. Everyone can easily imagine how this pissed me off. For these most worthy people in the world, these high-ranking Metafilter and slashdot and Reddit contributors, these editors of link-rich weblogs and newsfeeds, I had become a source of pensiveness and anguish. Gently and tonelessly, in quiet funereal voices, as if we were speaking of a matter absolutely devoid of hope, they asked me: "how is it going with your wonderful new blog entry?"

"It's coming along," I whispered.

I did not believe myself, and my beloved linkers and aggregators merely smiled their tired and disappointed smiles. They smiled as a person smiles who wishes to make clear that he has decided to renounce everything in this world which is shiny and attractive and has earned 5-starred customer reviews which were helpful to many people.

Once they told me, "if you aren't going to post your new, successful blog entry, perhaps it is better if you don't come to see us, or to visit our websites. To see a blogger, or even the IP address log trace of a blogger, who, instead of posting his new, innovative, comprehensive, provocative, remarkable blog entry, merely always promises it, hurts us, and therefore we would like to ask you to put off visiting us or our websites, until you are able to post your new and excellent blog entry."

I was crushed. "Oh, if I had only never revealed that I was at work on a new and respectable blog entry. Oh, that it had never occurred to me to promise what I could not deliver! If only I had never thought to mention that a new and beautiful and exciting and comprehensive blog entry was in progress and would soon be posted!"

I cried this aloud, feeling that I had been absolutely pwned. I learned in full measure that agony which afflicts the blogger who promises earnestly, believing himself capable of it, to deliver a new and astouding and thrilling blog entry, but whose promise is more visible, and has a higher Google page rank, than the blog entry itself, by reason of the blog entry itself not yet having been posted.

I could no longer appear in those streets and supermarket aisles and IRC channels and newsgroups where one is in the habit of asking a blogger about their new blog entry.

So, eventually, I made a decisive end of this confining and horrible situation.

I deleted my blog and began to twitter instead.

(with apologies to Robert Walser)

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Friday, September 18, 2009

L'Shana Tovah

Happy new year, everyone!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009


If I've wronged you this year -- by word or by deed, by commission or omission -- let me know.

My yearly deadline for making amends is coming up.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Saving up my willpower

In the midst of our busy Friday (before picking up Aviva at her piano lesson to rush her across town by bicycle to her trapeze lesson), Noah and I are in the Koscher-Laden buying champagne and juice for Rabbi Barbara Borts's last service at Migwan.

As I'm paying, I'm chatting with the proprietors about Noah's Hebrew (he was reading the french fry package, haltinglly) and Migwan's afternoon Hebrew classes for kids. "Migwan has a school now?" they say, raising their eyebrows. They seem guardedly pleased -- and also tickled, as if by a juicy piece of gossip.

Then, I notice that Noah is sitting on the floor by the cash register, covering his eyes with his hands.

"Noah," I say, "what's up?"

"I'm trying not to look," Noah says.

"Why is that?" I ask.

"I'm saving up my willpower," Noah says.

Slightly confused, I search the immediate surroundings. The propreiors chuckle.

"Aha," I say, "you mean because there is candy here?"

"Yes," says Noah, "and ice cream. Snickers." Taking his hands from his eyes, he points to the sign depicting a Snickers ice cream bar. It does look pretty good.

The propreitors and I smile indulgently. "And you are saving your willpower not to ask for any?"

"No," Noah says, somewhat annoyed. "I don't want any, because I'm saving up my willpower."

"Oh," I say, and pay for the champagne, and say goodbye to the proprietors. "Okay, well, we have watermelon in the trailer."

"I'm saving up my willpower for Migwan tonight," Noah says.

We go out. "I see," I say. "Well, there will be lots of good things to eat at Migwan tonight. You can save your appetite for those."

"Daddy," Noah says, "you don't get it. I'm not saving up my willpower so I can eat. I'm saving up my willpower because we're saying goodbye to Barbara tonight."

"Oh," I say, stopping in my tracks.

Noah waves his hands, underlining the obvious. "I don't want to collapse in the middle of the party!"

"You are avoiding sugar," I say, dumbfounded, "to manage your mood."

"Of course," says Noah, and gets in to the trailer.

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