Saturday, May 25, 2013

Music For Deleting Troll Droppings
Click on link above

Carla Bley (when we were all a lot younger)
Chris Spedding - Guitars
Michael Mantler - Trumpet
Gary Windo - Tenor Sax
Arturo O'Farrill - Organ
Gary Valente - Trombone
Vincent Chauncy - French Horn
Carlos Ward - Alto Sax
Joe Daley or Howard Johnson - Tuba
Steve Swallow - Bass
Dee Sharpe OR Nick Mason - Drums

Live from the Kansas City Women's Jazz Festival c. 1979

Ethel, The Last One.

The widow was a gold star mother. Her son killed in Korea, no other children. She was old when I knew her. Her husband, one of my father’s “radio bug” friends, “another ham, WWI”. Antennas all over their yard. And a tower held up with guy wires. He told my father to take it when he died but he never got around to it.

She talked on and on about nothing. Usually nice, sometimes she’d fret and worry,  no one knew why. Pixilated, some said. She died last. They came to clean out her house, take away the old radio stuff she’d never gotten rid of. She left movie magazines. Thousands of them, in neat bundles all over the house. She’d played piano in the theater a town over, before talkies.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring: Marc-André Hamelin and Leif Ove Andsnes pianos

You're going to hear in the next few days that May 29 is the centenary of the premier of Stravinsky's legendary ballet, The Rite of Spring.  But that's only the first public performance, the one where the riot broke out.  The summer before that Stravinsky played it in a four-hand piano version with Claude Debussy.  I can imagine that performance counted quite heavily in Stravinsky's experience.  I'd much rather have been there than for the famous first performance.  Having heard the few recorded examples of Debussy playing  his own music and recordings of Stravinsky playing his, I can imagine it must have been quite a performance.  One account I heard was that the aftermath was rather subdued.  At least one critic wondered if Debussy saw the end of a long musical era, one he had done so much to end with his harmonic, formal and instrumental ingenuity.  I'd count Debussy as the first really modern composer.  Behind all of the delicate brush work and easy attractiveness, his work was revolutionary.

This is a recording of two of the greatest living piano players.  I can't bring back Debussy and Stravinsky but this is an amazing performance.

Staple Singers: Downward Road

Guess Who

Aged canned rot, his ordure, for custom stales his tin, finite variety.

Senmova de Tuuĉe Ŝen

Here's Something I Doubt Would Have Made Paul Kurtz or Martin Gardner Happy

Just a quick link to a story by Adrian Cho in Wired posted yesterday.

Physicists Create Quantum Link Between Photons That Don’t Exist at the Same Time

Having read the article two times, I can report that for me it will take more than that to understand the description of the experiment.   But here's the end of the article.  Especially notice this sentence, "Yet, the phenomenon definitely exists."

The experiment shows that it’s not strictly logical to think of entanglement as a tangible physical property, Eisenberg says. “There is no moment in time in which the two photons coexist,” he says, “so you cannot say that the system is entangled at this or that moment.” Yet, the phenomenon definitely exists. Anton Zeilinger, a physicist at the University of Vienna, agrees that the experiment demonstrates just how slippery the concepts of quantum mechanics are. “It’s really neat because it shows more or less that quantum events are outside our everyday notions of space and time.”

So what’s the advance good for? Physicists hope to create quantum networks in which protocols like entanglement swapping are used to create quantum links among distant users and transmit uncrackable (but slower than light) secret communications. The new result suggests that when sharing entangled pairs of photons on such a network, a user wouldn’t have to wait to see what happens to the photons sent down the line before manipulating the ones kept behind, Eisenberg says. Zeilinger says the result might have other unexpected uses: “This sort of thing opens up people’s minds and suddenly somebody has an idea to use it in quantum computing or something.”

This will more than open people's minds to how to make money in quantum computing.   This and other recent experimental results are likely to open more people to the idea that the scheme of 18th and 19th century materialism, the common culture of materialists today, is in need of extreme alteration.  To the extent that those holding it are quickly on the verge of being science deniers.  Maybe their lagging behind is an example of entanglement with the minds of materialists long dead and the ideas that are no longer valid.   If, as Eizenberg says, "it’s not strictly logical to think of entanglement as a tangible physical property,"  and Zeilinger says, "quantum events are outside our everyday notions of space and time."   That's quite a problem for conventional materialism, physicalism, naturalism... by whatever name it goes.  Just to drive a few of my non-readers up the wall.  Experiments aren't only for scientists to run.

Lu Xun: Medicine

Translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang

Looking up stuff for one of this week's posts, I came across the statement that Lu Xun (Lu Hsun, Lusin) was the greatest writer of the 20th century.   While it's a silly thing to believe anyone could quantify something like the greatness of the greatest artists, he is certainly far, far more great than the attention given to his work in the United States would show.   I'd rate him as far higher than many of the more often read writers, Kafka comes to mind, never mind those like Henry Miller and Gertrude Stein.  I would suspect that, since both of them rely on translators to reach an English speaking audience, a lot more has been written about Kafka's writing than what I'd say is the far more consequential writing of Lu Xun.   I think that ethnicity is a major reason for him being overlooked here, though that he  also deals with far harder and immediate issues does too.   He's not an easy writer.  Whatever else could be said on that, he is not considered a minor writer in China and many other countries influenced by Chinese culture.  That alone makes reading him worth the effort.

This story, Medicine, is as disturbingly relevant today as it was ninety-four years ago. Not a day passes when the news doesn't have many accounts of the equivalent of the stories disturbing action, only by other means.  At least that's how it seems to me.   


It was autumn, in the small hours of the morning. The moon had gone down, but the sun had not yet risen, and the sky appeared a sheet of darkling blue. Apart from night-prowlers, all was asleep. Old Chuan suddenly sat up in bed. He struck a match and lit the grease-covered oil lamp, which shed a ghostly light over the two rooms of the tea-house.

"Are you going now, dad?" queried an old woman's voice. And from the small inner room a fit of coughing was heard.


Old Chuan listened as he fastened his clothes, then stretching out his hand said, "Let's have it."

After some fumbling under the pillow his wife produced a packet of silver dollars which she handed over. Old Chuan pocketed it nervously, patted his pocket twice, then lighting a paper lantern and blowing out the lamp went into the inner room. A rustling was heard, and then more coughing. When all was quiet again, Old Chuan called softly: "Son! . . Don't you get up! . . . Your mother will see to the shop."

Receiving no answer, Old Chuan assumed his son must be sound asleep again; so he went out into the street. In the darkness nothing could be seen but the grey roadway. The lantern light fell on his pacing feet. Here and there he came across dogs, but none of them barked. It was much colder than indoors, yet Old Chuan's spirits rose, as if he had grown suddenly younger and possessed some miraculous life-giving power. He lengthened his stride. And the road became increasingly clear, the sky increasingly bright.

Absorbed in his walking, Old Chuan was startled when he saw distinctly the cross-road ahead of him. He walked back a few steps to stand under the eaves of a shop, in front of its closed door. After some time he began to feel chilly.

"Uh, an old chap."

"Seems rather cheerful. . . ."

Old Chuan started again and, opening his eyes, saw several men passing. One of them even turned back to look at him, and although he could not see him clearly, the man's eyes shone with a lustful light, like a famished person's at the sight of food. Looking at his lantern, Old Chuan saw it had gone out. He patted his pocket—the hard packet was still there. Then he looked round and saw many strange people, in twos and threes, wandering about like lost souls. However, when he gazed steadily at them, he could not see anything else strange about them.

Presently he saw some soldiers strolling around. The large white circles on their uniforms, both in front and behind, were clear even at a distance; and as they drew nearer, he saw the dark red border too. The next second, with a trampling of feet, a crowd rushed past. Thereupon the small groups which had arrived earlier suddenly converged and surged forward. Just before the cross-road, they came to a sudden stop and grouped themselves in a semi-circle.

Old Chuan looked in that direction too, but could only see people's backs. Craning their necks as far as they would go, they looked like so many ducks held and lifted by some invisible hand. For a moment all was still; then a sound was heard, and a stir swept through the on-lookers. There was a rumble as they pushed back, sweeping past Old Chuan and nearly knocking him down.

"Hey! Give me the cash, and I'll give you the goods!" A man clad entirely in black stood before him, his eyes like daggers, making Old Chuan shrink to half his normal size. This man thrust one huge extended hand towards him, while in the other he held a roll of steamed bread, from which crimson drops were dripping to the ground.

Hurriedly Old Chuan fumbled for his dollars, and trembling he was about to hand them over, but he dared not take the object. The other grew impatient and shouted: "What are you afraid of? Why not take it?" When Old Chuan still hesitated, the man in black snatched his lantern and tore off its paper shade to wrap up the roll. This package he thrust into Old Chuan's hand, at the same time seizing the silver and giving it a cursory feel. Then he turned away, muttering, "Old fool. . . ."

"Whose sickness is this for?" Old Chuan seemed to hear someone ask; but he made no reply. His whole mind was on the package, which he carried as carefully as if it were the sole heir to an ancient house. Nothing else mattered now. He was about to transplant this new life to his own home, and reap much happiness. The sun had risen, lighting up the broad highway before him, which led straight home, and the worn tablet behind him at the cross-road with its faded gold inscription: "Ancient Pavilion."


When Old Chuan reached home, the shop had been cleaned, and the rows of tea-tables shone brightly; but no customers had arrived. Only his son sat eating at a table by the wall. Beads of sweat stood out on his forehead, his lined jacket clung to his spine, and his shoulder blades stuck out so sharply, an inverted V seemed stamped there. At this sight, Old Chuan's brow, which had been clear, contracted again. His wife hurried in from the kitchen, with expectant eyes and a tremor to her lips:

"Get it?"


They went together into the kitchen, and conferred for a time. Then the old woman went out, to return shortly with a dried lotus leaf which she spread on the table. Old Chuan unwrapped the crimson-stained roll from the lantern paper and transferred it to the lotus leaf. Little Chuan had finished his meal, but his mother exclaimed hastily:

"Sit still, Little Chuan! Don't come over here."

Mending the fire in the stove, Old Chuan put the green package and the red and white lantern paper into the stove together. A red-black flame flared up, and a strange odour permeated the shop.

"Smells good! What are you eating?" The hunchback had arrived. He was one of those who spend all their time in tea-shops, the first to come in the morning and the last to leave. Now he had just stumbled to a corner table facing the street, and sat down. But no one answered his question.

"Puffed rice gruel?"

Still no reply. Old Chuan hurried out to brew tea for him.

"Come here, Little Chuan!" His mother called him into the inner room, set a stool in the middle, and sat the child down. Then, bringing him a round black object on a plate, she said gently:

"Eat it up . . . then you'll be better."

Little Chuan picked up the black object and looked at it. He had the oddest feeling, as if he were holding his own life in his hands. Presently he split it carefully open. From within the charred crust a jet of white vapour escaped, then scattered, leaving only two halves of a steamed white flour roll. Soon it was all eaten, the flavour completely forgotten, only the empty plate being left. His father and mother were standing one on each side of him, their eyes apparently pouring something into him and at the same time extracting something. His small heart began to beat faster, and, putting his hands to his chest, he began to cough again.

"Have a sleep; then you'll be all right," said his mother.

Obediently, Little Chuan coughed himself to sleep. The woman waited till his breathing was regular, then covered him lightly with a much patched quilt.


The shop was crowded, and Old Chuan was busy, carrying a big copper kettle to make tea for one customer after another. There were dark circles under his eyes.

"Aren't you well, Old Chuan? . . . What's wrong with you?" asked one greybeard.


"Nothing? . . . No, I suppose from your smile, there couldn't be . . ." the old man corrected himself.

"It's just that Old Chuan's busy," said the hunchback. "If his son. . . ." But before he could finish, a heavy-jowled man burst in. Over his shoulders he had a dark brown shirt, unbuttoned and fastened carelessly by a broad dark brown girdle at his waist. As soon as he entered, he shouted to Old Chuan:

"Has he eaten it? Any better? Luck's with you, Old Chuan. What luck! If not for my hearing of things so quickly. . . ."

Holding the kettle in one hand, the other straight by his side in an attitude of respect, Old Chuan listened with a smile. In fact, all present were listening respectfully. The old woman, dark circles under her eyes too, came out smiling with a bowl containing tea-leaves and an added olive, over which Old Chuan poured boiling water for the newcomer.

"This is a guaranteed cure! Not like other things!" declared the heavy-jowled man. "Just think, brought back warm, and eaten warm!"

"Yes indeed, we couldn't have managed it without Uncle Kang's help." The old woman thanked him very warmly.

"A guaranteed cure! Eaten warm like this. A roll dipped in human blood like this can cure any consumption!"

The old woman seemed a little disconcerted by the word "consumption," and turned a shade paler; however, she forced a smile again at once and found some pretext to leave. Meanwhile the man in brown was indiscreet enough to go on talking at the top of his voice until the child in the inner room was woken and started coughing.

"So you've had a great stroke of luck for your Little Chuan! Of course his sickness will be cured completely. No wonder Old Chuan keeps smiling." As he spoke, the greybeard walked up to the man in brown, and lowered his voice to ask:

"Mr. Kang, I heard the criminal executed today came from the Hsia family. Who was it? And why was he executed?"

"Who? Son of Widow Hsia, of course! Young rascal!"

Seeing how they all hung on his words, Mr. Kang's spirits rose even higher. His jowls quivered, and he made his voice as loud as he could.

"The rogue didn't want to live, simply didn't want to! There was nothing in it for me this time. Even the clothes stripped from him were taken by Red-eye, the jailer. Our Old Chuan was luckiest, and after him Third Uncle Hsia. He pocketed the whole reward—twenty-five taels of bright silver—and didn't have to spend a cent!"

Little Chuan walked slowly out of the inner room, his hands to his chest, coughing repeatedly. He went to the kitchen, filled a bowl with cold rice, added hot water to it, and sitting down started to eat. His mother, hovering over him, asked softly:

"Do you feel better, son? Still as hungry as ever?"

"A guaranteed cure!" Kang glanced at the child, then turned back to address the company. "Third Uncle Hsia is really smart. If he hadn't informed, even his family would have been executed, and their property confiscated. But instead? Silver! That young rogue was a real scoundrel! He even tried to incite the jailer to revolt!"

"No! The idea of it!" A man in his twenties, sitting in the back row, expressed indignation.

"You know, Red-eye went to sound him out, but he started chatting with him. He said the great Ching empire belongs to us. Just think: is that kind of talk rational? Red-eye knew he had only an old mother at home, but had never imagined he was so poor. He couldn't squeeze anything out of him; he was already good and angry, and then the young fool would 'scratch the tiger's head,' so he gave him a couple of slaps."

"Red-eye is a good boxer. Those slaps must have hurt!" The hunchback in the corner by the wall exulted.

"The rotter was not afraid of being beaten. He even said how sorry he was."

"Nothing to be sorry about in beating a wretch like that," said Greybeard.

Kang looked at him superciliously and said disdainfully: "You misunderstood. The way he said it, he was sorry for Red-eye."

His listeners' eyes took on a glazed look, and no one spoke. Little Chuan had finished his rice and was perspiring profusely, his head steaming.

"Sorry for Red-eye—crazy! He must have been crazy!" said Greybeard, as if suddenly he saw light.

"He must have been crazy!" echoed the man in his twenties.

Once more the customers began to show animation, and conversation was resumed. Under cover of the noise, the child was seized by a paroxysm of coughing. Kang went up to him, clapped him on the shoulder, and said:

"A guaranteed cure! Don't cough like that, Little Chuan! A guaranteed cure!"

"Crazy!" agreed the hunchback, nodding his head.


Originally, the land adjacent to the city wall outside the West Gate had been public land. The zigzag path running across it, trodden out by passers-by seeking a short cut, had become a natural boundary line. Left of the path were buried executed criminals or those who had died of neglect in prison. Right of the path were paupers' graves. The serried ranks of grave mounds on both sides looked like the rolls laid out for a rich man's birthday.

The Ching Ming Festival that year was unusually cold. Willows were only just beginning to put forth shoots no larger than grains. Shortly after daybreak, Old Chuan's wife brought four dishes and a bowl of rice to set before a new grave in the right section, and wailed before it. When she had burned paper money she sat on the ground in a stupor as if waiting for something; but for what, she herself did not know. A breeze sprang up and stirred her short hair, which was certainly whiter than the previous year.

Another woman came down the path, grey-haired and in rags. Carrying an old, round, red-lacquered basket with a string of paper money hanging from it, she walked haltingly. When she saw Old Chuan's wife sitting on the ground watching her, she hesitated, and a flush of shame spread over her pale face. However, she summoned up courage to cross over to a grave in the left section. where she set down her basket.

That grave was directly opposite Little Chuan's, separated only by the path. As Old Chuan's wife watched the other woman set Out four dishes of food and a bowl of rice, then stand up to wail and burn paper money, she thought: "It must be her son in that grave too." The older woman took a few aimless steps and stared vacantly around, then suddenly she began to tremble and stagger backwards, as though giddy.

Fearing sorrow might send her out of her mind, Old Chuan's wife got up and stepped across the path, to say quietly: "Don't grieve, let's go home."

The other nodded, but she was still staring fixedly, and she muttered: "Look! What's that?"

Looking where she pointed, Old Chuan's wife saw that the grave in front had not yet been overgrown with grass. Ugly patches of soil still showed. But when she looked carefully, she was surprised to see at the top of the mound a wreath of red and white flowers.

Both of them suffered from failing eyesight, yet they could see these red and white flowers clearly. There were not many, but they were placed in a circle; and although not very fresh, were neatly set out. Little Chuan's mother looked round and found her own son's grave, like most of the rest, dotted with only a few little, pale flowers shivering in the cold. Suddenly she had a sense of futility and stopped feeling curious about the wreath.

In the meantime the old woman had gone up to the grave to look more closely. "They have no roots," she said to herself. "They can't have grown here. Who could have been here? Children don't come here to play, and none of our relatives ever come. What could have happened?" She puzzled over it, until suddenly her tears began to fall, and she cried aloud:

"Son, they all wronged you, and you do not forget. Is your grief still so great that today you worked this wonder to let me know?"

She looked all around, but could see only a crow perched on a leafless bough. "I know," she continued. "They murdered you. But a day of reckoning will come, Heaven will see to it. Close your eyes in peace. . . . If you are really here, and can hear me, make that crow fly on to your grave as a sign."

The breeze had long since dropped, and the dry grass stood stiff and straight as copper wires. A faint, tremulous sound vibrated in the air, then faded and died away. All around was deathly still. They stood in the dry grass, looking up at the crow; and the crow, on the rigid bough of the tree, its head drawn in, perched immobile as iron.

Time passed. More people, young and old, came to visit the graves.

Old Chuan's wife felt somehow as if a load had been lifted from her mind and, wanting to leave, she urged the other:

"Let's go."

The old woman sighed, and listlessly picked up the rice and dishes. After a moment's hesitation she started off slowly, still muttering to herself:

"What does it mean?"

They had not gone thirty paces when they heard a loud caw behind them. Startled, they looked round and saw the crow stretch its wings, brace itself to take off, then fly like an arrow towards the far horizon.

 April 1919

Note:  I hope to post tonight or tomorrow but today's another busy one.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Anna Russell: Introduction to the Concert by the Ladies' Club President

Day Late: As Much Wagner As I'm Ever Likely to Post

Anna Russell presents Der Ring des Nibelungen

More on The Forbidden Language

I had a request asking how someone might learn to join the band of disreputable outcasts who use the "Aggressor Language" .  I'm not making this up, you know.  It was actually called that by the Pentagon (Fun youtube at the link*)   Ironically it's something they seem to have shared with Stalin and Hitler who killed people for being Esperantists.  Darkly and ironically fun,  huh?

Esperanto U.S.A. has a list of ways to learn it, many of them free and online.   I used the old version of  "Teach Yourself Esperanto,"  which is about the only one of their language books I've tried that really worked.  If you really work that book, you should be able to read and understand just about anything you're likely to encounter, using a dictionary far fewer times than you will with any other language.   I understand a new edition is even better and comes with language discs.

*Someone should have told them that "j" is pronounced like English "y".

Update:  I should say that I don't agree with Esperanto USA about #3, the "video course"  Pasporto al La Tuta Mondo, which I doubt anyone could learn much from.  It's pretty silly.  You'll learn a lot more from the more old fashioned courses.

From: Artificial Intelligence Meets Natural Stupidity

A short time before he died, someone asked Joseph Weizenbaum what the most important paper in his field was.  He thought a while and said it was  Drew McDermott's  “Artificial Intelligence Meets Natural Stupidity”   While I'm sure there are some anachronisms in this 1976 paper, it has a lot that seems to have only become more true in the intervening decades.

The rather simple and simply traced self deception  came from  the artificial intelligence specialists' use of natural language terms.   Those denatured terms were short cuts instead of more accurate denotations of what they were actually doing.  That has has, I'd guess, become an inbred habit of belief as new AI guys are generated by their elders.   And it's at least as bad among their true believers in the lay public today, as my current opponent  in a brawl over mind-reading machines shows.  They don't even understand similar problems of thinking when they're laid out to them.   They seem unable to understand that we don't know what it means to experience, never mind the mind that is both experienced and what experiences.   And that seems to come, at least in part, from their faith that the words they use to talk about them have real and known meanings defined according the the very limited way in which they are used in that narrow context.  Though they certainly couldn't say what those meanings are in the real world.  I certainly couldn't, no one seems to be able to.

So we can fool ourselves into believing that what the computer does, and our understanding of our own creations can stand in as actual understanding of some of the hardest of mysteries of our very being.

I left out a passage of more worthwhile examples, partly because of running out of time, partly because it's kind of archaic (note the former meaning of GPS) and, finally, because, since I'm giving a link I found THIS MORNING AFTER I TYPED IT OUT FROM A  DIM PHOTOCOPY OF A YELLOWING PAPER COPY LAST NIGHT,  you can read it yourself.  I had typed out the passage about behaviorism before then.  It is a habit that has, certainly, been retained in the succeeding sects of behavior-sci with their even more obvious mixing of self-deceptive labeling with entirely imaginary coding, giving the false impression that what they're doing is even closer to what is called TRUTH out of the same mere naming convention, not an actual identification of an observed natural entity.

I hope you like McDermott's dry wit.

As a field, artificial intelligence has always been on the border of respectability, and therefore on the border of crackpottery.  Many critics , have urged that we are over the border.  We have been very defensive toward this charge, drawing ourselves up with dignity when it is made and folding the cloak of Science about us.  On the other hand, in private, we have been justifiably proud of our willingness to explore weird ideas, because pursuing them is the only way to make progress. 

Unfortunately, the necessity for speculation has combined with the culture of the hacker in computer science to cripple our self-discipline.  In a young field, self-discipline is not necessarily a virtue, but we are not gettng any younger.  In the past few years, our tolerance of sloppy thinking has led us to repeat many mistakes over and over.  If we are to retain any credibility, this should stop.

This paper is an effort to ridicule some of these mistakes.  Almost everyone I know should find himself the target at some point or other;  if you don't, you are encouraged to write up your own favorite fault.  The sthree described here I suffer from myself.  I hope self-ridicule will be a complete catharsis, but I doubt it.  Bad tendencies can be very deep-rooted.  Remember, though, if we can't criticize ourselves, someone else will save us the trouble. 

Acknoledgement-- I thank the AI Lab Playroom crowd for constructive play.

Wishful Mnemonics

A major source of simple-mindedness in AI programs is the use of menmonics like “UNDERSTAND” or “GOAL” to refer to programs and data structures.  This practice has been inherited from more  traditional programming applications, in which it is liberating and enlightening to be able to refer to program structures by their purposes.  Indeed, part of the thrust of the structured programming movement is to program entiely in terms of purposes at one level before implementing them by the most convenient of (presumably many) alternative lower-level constructs.

However, in AI, our programs to a great degree are problems rather than solutions.  If a researcher tries to write an “understanding” program, it isn't because he has thought of a better way of implementing this well-understood task, but because he thinks he can come closer to writing the first implementation.  If he calls the main loop of the program “UNDERSTANDING” he is (until proven innocent) merey begging the question.  He may mislead a lot of people, most prominently himself, and enrage a lot of others. 

What he should do instead is refer to this main lop as “GOO34”, and see if he can convince himself or anyone else that GOO34 implements some part of understanding.  Or he could give it a name that reveals its intrinsic properties, like NODE-NET-INTERSECTION-FINDER, it being the substance of his theory that finding intersections in networks or nodes constitutes understanding.  If Quillian <1969> had called his program the “Teachable Language Node Net Intersection Finder”, he would have saved us some reading ( Except for those of us fanatic about finding the part on teachability.)

Many instructive examples of wishful mnemonics by AI researchers come to mind once you see the point.  Remember GPS?  By now, “GPS” is a colorless term denoting a particularly stupid program to solve puzzles.  But it originally meant “General Problem Solver”, which caused everybody a lot of needless excitement and distraction.  It should have been called LFGNS – “Local-Feature-Guided Network Searcher”. 

Compare the mnemonics in Planner with those in Conniver :

Planner                         Conniver
GOAL                           FETCH & TRY-NEXT
THEOREM                    METHOD
ASSERT                        ADD

It is so much harder to write programs using the terms on the right!  When you say (GOAL...), you can just feel the enormous power at your fingertips.  It is, of course, an illusion.

Of course, Conniver has some glaring wishful primitives, too.  Calling “multiple data bases”  CONTEXTS was dumb.  It implies that, say, sentence understanding in context is really easy in this system.... 

… Lest this all seem merely amusing, meditate on the fate of those who have tampered with words before.  The behaviorists ruined words like “behavior”, “response”, and especially, “learning”.  They now play happily in a dream world, infernally consistent but lost to science.  And think on this:  If “mechanical translation” had been called “word-by-word text manipulation”, the people doing it might still be getting government money.  

I don't know if that cessation of funding continued but, somehow, I doubt it.

Note:  Earlier this morning I posted a draft instead of the near-final copy earlier.  I hope this version clears up the meaning of what I wrote.  It's been a hectic day.   Why the lists that line up perfectly in the word processor show up unaligned on screen, I can't figure out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

True Confession / Vera Konfeso: Jes, mi puŝas butonojn.

Busy day of elder care ahead today, not much time to research new material or to type in long extracts of books,  though, come to think of it, I could do that offline..... don't know why that didn't occur to me before just now.

Anyway, going for maximum sensationalism with minimum  expenditure of effort, a few years back I read an article about the emotional reaction that people have when someone talks about - brace yourselves - Esperanto, the planned secondary language.  Now, I can guess what the reaction of at least one of the people reading this far into this post will be, though I doubt he'll get much farther before his attention deficit kicks in.  I know because, being the bad sort, as soon as I read the article I decided to put it to the test on a ready-made, voluntary group of human guinea pigs, an, admittedly, non-random sample of the mid to high brow educated population of the English speaking peoples.   I posted a few comments in Espearanto, letting it be known that was the language I was commenting in and that I'd been a sekreta esperantisto (samideano) for a couple of decades.

Now, as my readers and even a few non-readers as mentioned in the previous paragraph, will know that I'm extremely skeptical of the scientific nature of psychology, not to mention psychoanalysis.  The more I read of it the more skeptical of it I've become.   The author of the article, Claude Piron was, by profession, a psychoanalyist - after years as a translator at the United Nations and, after,  an employee of the World Health Organization and one of the most interesting of authors in Esperanto*.   However, overcoming my skepticism of psychology, I found his ideas interesting enough to try to elicit the responses he theorizes happen when the word "Esperanto" is used.

To a psychologist investigating reactions to the word "Esperanto" two facts are immediately apparent: a high percentage of those invited to give their opinion have a great deal to say about it; and they regard as self-evident, and in many cases cite without prompting, various statements which are contrary to verifiable reality, for example: "no one has ever written a novel straight into Esperanto", "Esperanto is a language no one speaks", "there are no children who have it as the mother tongue", etc. Such convictions are well illustrated by a reader's letter in Time magazine from Peter Wells of Singapore:

Esperanto has no cultural history, no indigenous literature and no monolinguals or even first-language speakers. (Wells, 1987).

       In addition, many of those questioned display every sign of emotional involvement. Some react enthusiastically, fervently. But the majority are patronising towards Esperanto, as though it were obviously childish. The person concerned makes it clear that Esperanto is not to be taken seriously, and his tone is disdainful, ironic or humourously condescending towards the "simple souls" who take it up.

If, in order to get a control reaction for comparison, the researcher asks the subject to give his or her opinion about Bulgarian or Indonesian in the same way, he gets quite a different response. The subject takes about a minute to recount in a perfectly neutral tone of voice everything he has to say about them, usually that he knows nothing.

You can read more about those in M. Piron's article.

The predominant reaction I got was a surprising degree of anger.  It was clear that I'd found yet another taboo to break, one of the more hilarious ones that is commonly found among the supposedly broad minded, almost uniformly monoglot**,  educated class of the English speaking people, it would seem.  I mean real rage in some cases.  Especially in one Brit who was a regular at a couple of blogs I tried it at, though another Brit seemed to take it with no negative reaction at all.  Though, as can be seen in the article, it's not an exclusively British trait:

And why does the reaction, so frequently, become so emotional? This involvement of the emotional range is not restricted to individual conversations, as witness the following quotation taken from an article on the teaching of Latin, an article otherwise expressed in a neutral and informative tone:

Gloire donc au latin, et à bas l'espéranto, mixture aux relents d'artifice et aux espérances déçues! (G.P., 1985).
(Long live Latin, then, and down with Esperanto, that hotchpotch stinking of artificiality and hopes betrayed!)

That sentence, unrelated to the remainder of the text, seems like an emotional eruption unexpectedly boiling up out of who knows what kind of depths. Why should this be?

As I said, I've been an Esperantist for decades, learning it for a lark well after I'd left grad-school with its 3 foreign language requirement a serious prerequisite.   I'm not an enormous advocate for it, never having joined any of the promotional organizations, but I read several books and many articles and short stories and poems in the language every year.  It lets me read the thinking of people who speak  languages I'd never learn, Croatian, Finish, Mandarin Chinese (the translation. made by Chinese esperantists of Lu Xun's stories is wonderful) unfiltered into a language with considerably more cultural baggage than the far more neutral Esperanto.

My mother's cousin's husband once told me that when his Catholic high school administration was approached in the 1930s by someone wanting to start a hockey team, the pricipal said, "Are you crazy.  Giving Irish boys on skates clubs so they can play against the English?"  I don't know if it's true or not but it was a mistake for these guys to point me to that particular button to push.  I ran the test a number of times over a couple of years and the expected response was near automatic.   Instant upper-class style rage.  I do have to confess that made me smile sometimes.  It still does.

*  Claude Piron's specialty was writing articles, short stories, novellas, novels and even scholarly works in fluent Esperanto using a very small number of word roots Many of them with fewer than five or six hundred words which can be easily read after a minimal amount of study..  The grammar and structure of Esperanto makes the use of such a small corpus of word roots a practical possibility that Basic English couldn't accomplish.  

Piron's didactic mystery story, Gerda Malaperis, has become widely used in an early reading course, though I'd recommend you go through one of the many free elementary courses, self-taught or guided online,  before going through it.  I recently watched a movie based on it

and am still impressed at how fluent it is within the tiny corpus of word elements used.  Piron's  collection of stories written as the next step after Gerda Malaperis, Vere aŭ fantazie, is even more fluent.

** My dear old obnoxious-atheist Latin teacher told me that the monoglot state of the English speaking educated class, as seen in the bibliographies of the general run of their papers and books was shameful.  I don't know if it is his telling me that decades ago that colors my perceptions, but it does seem to be true as compared to the bibliographic content of most French and German, not to mention Esperanto, scholarship I've looked at.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Good Cops And The Good People They're Good To

Through A Blue Lens should be depressing because it documents the interaction of police on skid row in Vancouver but the police are good cops and the drug addicts are presented as human beings, for all of their depressing conditions.  It depressed me at times but it ended up being encouraging.

Through A Blue Lens

Constable Al Arsenault shows a slide of a wide-eyed 18-year-old girl taken outside a bar in downtown Vancouver. 'Does she look like a drug addict?' he asks a class of high-school students.

When they answer no, the officer shows them the next slide of the same girl, Shannon, six months later. Her face is bruised and covered in festering sores. 'She's on the needle. She didn't know she had an 'addictive personality'. She does now.' The students express their shock and disbelief.

Arsenault, along with six other policemen, began video-documenting the people on their beat to create a powerful educational tool to help prevent drug use among young people. This unique group of officers, who formed a non-profit group dubbed the Odd Squad, resulted in an unusual relationship between the police and addicts in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Through a Blue Lens tells this moving and compassionate story. In this documentary, addicts talk openly about how they got to the streets. Through their participation in this video, they want to stop others from joining their nightmare.

From the National Film-board of Canada

I Have A Machine That Can Read Your Mind. Do You Believe Me?

One of the greatest boons of anti-religious propaganda was successfully selling the belief that people's ideas about their own experience was unreliable, at best, unbelievable, most likely, a total delusion except within the narrowest of ranges of conventional materialist thinking. And they weren't going to admit that last one is what they were doing.  As noted by Eddington,  Weizenbaum, Robinson and many others, materialists have to hold their own ideologies outside of their framework of debunkery.  I agree and go further, observing that those ideologies are not separate from the minds that hold them so they have to exempt their own minds from their, otherwise, totalitarian systems*.

The use of psychology, especially that of the mentally ill and the irrational, was the primary vehicle to destroy peoples' confidence in their own knowledge of their own experience.  If those guys could be so deluded about their thinking, well, why not you?   No one seemed to be considered to have such a rational and well observed normal life  that they were not a good candidate to be accused of harboring a hidden monster unknown even to themselves.  In a few cases I've read about, people have been convinced to consider the possibility that they'd committed horrible crimes that they, then, didn't recall.  I remember one such case when a woman accused of the most bizarre and far fetched of child abuse accusations - with no supporting physical evidence that such crimes occurred - had to be convinced that her memory of Not having done the unthinkable was reliable.

As an aside, that people who spend their professional lives reading about, writing about, brooding over and, even, on rare occasions, interacting with irrational and diseased minds can relalistically conclude about minds that are not demonstrably diseased and disabled is something that should be questioned a lot more than it is.   I'd guess they'd start looking for pathologies that just aren't there.   Shouldn't we be at least as suspicious about people evaluating our minds as we would be of contractors wanting to sell us new plumbing or a Kirby vacuum cleaner?   Doesn't every roof tend to look like it might harbor rot under the shingles to a roofer with payments?  

No, in order to destroy consciousness and the mind we must not be allowed to know that we are what we are, in fact, the only possible experts on what our minds are like.  No one else experiences our mind, no one else experiences our experience.  While someone can look at our actions and speculate on what that means about what is happening in our minds, that's secondary, at best.  The observer's  conclusions inevitably will  be based on a consultation of their own experience to interpret other peoples' behavior and any thing said about it will have come through that double filter.  What they interpret to be the content of the mind which they cannot observe or experience is inescapably a product of that process.  When an additional layer of psychological or cognitive ideology is introduced into the observer's process - as it will be in every case of professional "scientific" observation and evaluation - that makes the address of the actual mind of the observed person even more remote.

I've been having a fight with a rather conventional seeming atheist-materialist-"skeptic" about whether or not in some future there will be machines with the ability to "download" the contents of our minds.  He's entirely convinced that it is an inevitability that such a machine will come and with it the behavioral,cognitive and psycho-social "sciences" will achieve the same scientific status as physics.  Given that the guy is a "skeptic" his precognition of a 100% guarantee of mind-reading machines is pretty funny on that ground alone.

He has such total faith in the promissory notes issued by materialism in this area that it overcomes his "skeptical" scruples against precognition and telepathy, when it's an actual mind that is purported to do it, while granting predictive powers to a sort of informally stated ideological I Ching and telepathic potential to an imaginary machine to be produced later.  And, here's the coup de grace he claims the machine will be right with no need to consult the person whose mind is to be read for confirmation of its findings.   A major point of contention is my assertion that no matter what machine is proposed to do this mind-reading trick, the accuracy of its results couldn't even be guessed at without consulting the person whose mind is allegedly being read.  I would assume he wouldn't grant that power to a human mind-reader, only, if he did then it would make the job of mind reading humans a lot easier.

Of course, what can be said about the callow faith this kid has in his future mind reading machine can be said now about the entire practice of generalizing about experience in people by the behavioral and cognitive sciences, especially in assigning unknown thoughts to an individual.  The predictive ability of these "sciences" are based on a human implementation of an program.  An ideological program written in prose and mathematics instead of code.  It purports that there is some professionally reliable way to say what's "really" going on in someone's mind on the basis of theories of what will be there.  Whether the mind-reading is done by a programmed machine or a programmed person, it's still a mind-reading program, alleged to tell us things about our and other peoples' minds on the basis of something far less than the direct observation of it, because there is no direct observation of anyone's mind except by the person who experiences that mind.  And, according to much of psychology and, increasingly other branches of thinkology, the one and only expert on what is happening in that mind is not to be believed.  At least when it is decided to not believe the person, not necessarily on the basis of their behavior.

I'm tempted to go into what kinds of thinking which both risk and cause the deaths of large numbers of people to entire habitats and their residents are considered to be quite undiseased, even, supported by modern economic "science'.  Economics is a behavioral "science" as well.  It seems like everyone's agreed that such behaviors aren't pathological.  Makes you wonder what this marvelous mind-reading machine will tell us about it.

* I greatly annoyed the renowned intellectual Richard Seymore  of Lenin's Tomb blog by pointing this out about his assertion that ideology was a manifestation of materialistic entities.  He was denying the possibility of transcendence, and so truth, to his own ideological system.   He didn't take it well.   Nevertheless, I would recommend his book on Christopher Hitchens, "Unhitched" which I've seriously skimmed at the book store but haven't bought yet.  Waiting for lefty books to go into remainders takes longer.  That doesn't mean that I don't think his ideological system isn't obviously self-refuting, because it is.

UPDATE:  Just because I want to drive my most persistent troll nuts:

Some people claim there are ghosts they've seen here and now, you can't claim that your mind-reading computers exist now, you can't point to anyone who has seen one. There's testimonial evidence of ghosts but there is no testimonial evidence of your imaginary mind-reading computers. There is less evidence, today,  that computers will ever read anyone's mind than there is of ghosts. That's slightly complicated for a "skeptical" audience but it's a rational argument.   It is more irrational to believe in mind-reading computers than it is to believe that people have seen ghosts.

Monday, May 20, 2013


"Brain Only" Answer to a troll

For example, you are obviously  thinking with your undescended testicles.

I Never Thought I'd Be Writing About Bill Nye

Note:  I came to this by reading Digby's post on the Waco incident from the other day.  At first I thought it just happened, but it was a rehashing of an old "Think Atheist" post from 2009 which, I found out while researching this post,  rehashed the incident from 2006.   Clearly Bill Nye's great stand for science is destined to become an evergreen of anti-religious invective.

Bill "the science guy "Nye is one of those pop culture figures who one is apparently supposed to automatically consider as above question and a figure of veneration*.  Like a soap opera hero or something.   I never got it.  His pencil neck geek "sci-guy" persona was all right to carry a kiddie's show but he doesn't even approach the watered down public face of science condescendingly given to the masses in the 1970s and 80s.  The lab coat and bow tie are looking old.   I strongly suspect that TV is not a useful venue for gaining knowledge about the vast majority of science topics.

The reason I'm even thinking about Bill Nye is the use that's being made of an incident that happened in Waco Texas, where Nye was hired to give a couple of lectures as part of McLennan Community College's Distinguished Lecture Series.  His lecture topics are reported to have been energy consumption and global warming and Mars exploration.  All well and good, and fine and groovy, all things we need to know more about, all things about which science is equipped to tell us what can be found out about.

I'd never heard of a controversy that happened when Nye seems to have interjected a comment that Genesis 1:16, "God made two great lights -- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."  is wrong because the moon only reflects the light of the sun.   It's an old Bible debunker's bromide, one which I've heard for decades.  How it fit in to the lectures, I'd like to know, if it was not the answer to a direct question from the audience.  I haven't been able to find out how the line was brought into the discussion.  That Nye wouldn't have known that particular line might have excited controversy in an audience in Waco,  I don't believe that for a second.  The line got the just about 100% predictable response, walk outs by angry audience members who, instead of being educated by "the science guy" were pissed off because they're smart enough to know when they're being mocked.  Which is the real meaning of so many of those atheist bromides, "you're stupid" "you're ignorant yahoos from the Bible Belt", etc.

It's a point that the atheist, materialist, evolution espousing geneticist, Richard Lewontin, warned wouldn't produce the allegedly desired results:

The struggle for possession of public consciousness between material and mystical explanations of the world is one aspect of the history of the confrontation between elite culture and popular culture. Without that history we cannot understand what was going on in the Little Rock Auditorium in 1964. The debate in Arkansas between a teacher from a Texas fundamentalist college and a Harvard astronomer and University of Chicago biologist was a stage play recapitulating the history of American rural populism. In the first decades of this century there was an immensely active populism among poor southwestern dirt farmers and miners.7 The most widely circulated American socialist journal of the time (The Appeal to Reason!) was published not in New York, but in Girard, Kansas, and in the presidential election of 1912 Eugene Debs got more votes in the poorest rural counties of Texas and Oklahoma than he did in the industrial wards of northern cities. Sentiment was extremely strong against the banks and corporations that held the mortgages and sweated the labor of the rural poor, who felt their lives to be in the power of a distant eastern elite. The only spheres of control that seemed to remain to them were family life, a fundamentalist religion, and local education. 

This sense of an embattled culture was carried from the southwest to California by the migrations of the Okies and Arkies dispossessed from their ruined farms in the 1930s. There was no serious public threat to their religious and family values until well after the Second World War. Evolution, for example, was not part of the regular biology curriculum when I was a student in 1946 in the New York City high schools, nor was it discussed in school textbooks. In consequence there was no organized creationist movement. Then, in the late 1950s, a national project was begun to bring school science curricula up to date. A group of biologists from elite universities together with science teachers from urban schools produced a new uniform set of biology textbooks, whose publication and dissemination were underwritten by the National Science Foundation. An extensive and successful public relations campaign was undertaken to have these books adopted, and suddenly Darwinian evolution was being taught to children everywhere. The elite culture was now extending its domination by attacking the control that families had maintained over the ideological formation of their children.

The result was a fundamentalist revolt, the invention of "Creation Science," and successful popular pressure on local school boards and state textbook purchasing agencies to revise subversive curricula and boycott blasphemous textbooks. In their parochial hubris, intellectuals call the struggle between cultural relativists and traditionalists in the universities and small circulation journals "The Culture Wars." The real war is between the traditional culture of those who think of themselves as powerless and the rationalizing materialism of the modern Leviathan. There are indeed Two Cultures at Cambridge. One is in the Senior Common Room, and the other is in the Porter's Lodge.

Lewontin is very unusual among big name scientists because of his extensive and wide ranging reading of history and politics.  But he's even more unusual among public scientists in that he is remarkably without scorn for the great unwashed, even those whose culture is radically opposed to his own point of view.  He is almost uniquely and analytically critical of his own cultural melieu and of the culture of scientists.

Nye was one of Carl Sagan's students at Cornell University, where he studied engineering after a rather elite preparatory education in Washington, D.C.  Since then he's followed Sagan's career in science popularization, presenting watered down, I'd say dumbed down, science to what they obviously see as the ignorant masses in much the way that a stereotypical missionary brought true religion to the savage heathen.

As Lewontin's review of Sagans' "Demon Haunted World", began with an account of his first meeting Sagan when they were sent to debate evolution at  a Christian college in Arkansas, criticizing Sagan's approach due to condescension for the public and an unrealistically idealistic presentation of science, Nye would seem to have repeated his teacher's approach.  It is an approach that will get the reaction that it got.  As will the rehashing of it throughout the atheist blogs and other media.

I'm left with wondering why the light reflected off of the moon onto the Earth wouldn't make the moon "a great light", in the sense that the author of Genesis would mean it.  No one knew the nature of the moon at that time or even for quite a while later.  Even the proto-scientists of the classical period were unclear about things like that.   I'm not aware of when it was that they figured out that moonlight was reflected from the sun, it would be interesting to know when that first became the uniform educated viewpoint.

But, wait, isn't anyone who uses the word "moonlight" as much at fault as those people who walked out in Waco?  I'd love to know if Bill Nye, Digby, Morgan Matthew, or any of the others snarking about this incident have ever used similarly inaccurate but entirely understandable language about the moon.  Nye's walk outs probably didn't care at all about the issue of reflected light off of the moon, but they are the ones who heard what Nye was really saying, they knew the real message behind the words,  "You're stupid, I'm not", if not "I'm smarter than you are because of where I grew up and went to school. Not some community college in Texas".   Even if Nye is unsophisticated enough to not realize that's what was heard, I will guarantee you that is the message he delivered.

So much for the role of TV and popular science educator in the hands of the new atheists.  When they do this kind of stuff, call me skeptical, but I don't really believe that science education is the goal.  It's the coercive enforcement of cultural superiority.

* I will only resist the temptation of analyzing his bizarre seven week long non-marriage and the reason Blair Tindall, his estranged non-wife,  gave for an, admittedly, brutal attack on his flower garden onlyh because neither of them have revealed the reason that their very public marriage - at the Skirball Center! officiated by RICK  WARREN! and with YO YO MA PLAYING! - only because neither of them have revealed why their marriage was legally invalid.   I will note that she gave her reason as, "Bill commented [on Ed Begley's TV SHOW!] that life would be perfect ... if only he had a woman with whom to share the house — a house I'd found, fixed up, and assumed I'd enjoy married life and motherhood as 'Mrs. Nye' within."

I'd never approve of the murder of innocent flowers and certainly not with weed poison, but I'd have merely revealed why Bill bailed on the marriage, unless there was some pre-nup that prevented me from telling the truth.  Still, a tell-all is preferable to the way she handled it.

And that's as close as I ever expect to get to being a gossip columnist.

Update:  I mistyped.  Lewontin and Sagan were sent to Arkansas, not Texas, though the scientist they were debating had a PhD in Zoology from the University of Texas.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bela Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle Different Productions

UC Davis Symphony Orchestra: Gregory Stapp, bass (Duke Bluebeard); Jessica Medoff, soprano (Judith); Peter Lichtenfels, & Bella Merlin, co-directors  I believe the English translation is by Peter Bartok, Bela Bartok's son.   I love the minimalist production and it's nice to be able to understand the words.

Bluebeard  István Kovács; Judith  Klára Kolonits;
Bard (recited introduction) Tamás Jordán; Conducter  György Selmeczi

This is a German language performance from 1963.  The singers are Norman Foster as Bluebeard and Ana Raquel Satre as Judith,  Zagreb Symphony Orchestra conducted by Milan Horvath Michael Powell is listed as the director.

I don't especially like the production in this version from the Hungarian State Opera House, too much overlying of psychological stuff that isn't in the libretto or the music.  The music is quite well performed by Conductor: Adam Fischer, Bluebeard: Balint Szabo; JudithL Viktoria Vizin.