Sunday, January 18, 2015

Warning to Children

Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island,
On the island a large tree,
On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and pare the rind off:
In the kernel you will see
Blocks of slate enclosed by dappled
Red and green, enclosed by tawny
Yellow nets, enclosed by white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where the same brown paper parcel -
Children, leave the string alone!
For who dares undo the parcel
Finds himself at once inside it,
On the island, in the fruit,
Blocks of slate about his head,
Finds himself enclosed by dappled
Green and red, enclosed by yellow
Tawny nets, enclosed by black
And white acres of dominoes,
With the same brown paper parcel
Still untied upon his knee.
And, if he then should dare to think
Of the fewness, muchness, rareness,
Greatness of this endless only
Precious world in which he says
he lives - he then unties the string.

Robert Graves


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Information underload

What do I mean by this, information underload? (I'm being influenced by Chaitin's essay from which I'm deriving this post). I mean that at times we are given information that seems to be constrained, but more is there to be seen. In other words, we must not quite break the rules as see around them.

Chaitin is discussing the foundations of math and gets to a famous paradox:
Anyway, the best known of these paradoxes is called the Russell paradox nowadays. You consider the set of all sets that are not members of themselves. And then you ask, ``Is this set a member of itself or not?'' If it is a member of itself, then it shouldn't be, and vice versa! It's like the barber in a small, remote town who shaves all the men in the town who don't shave themselves. That seems pretty reasonable, until you ask ``Does the barber shave himself?'' He shaves himself if and only if he doesn't shave himself, so he can't apply that rule to himself!
The barber shaves all men who don't shave themselves, or he wouldn't, in part, have a business. But that's just one facet, or constraint here. He also shaves himself, and by doing so, according to the setup, he must be shaving someone who doesn't shave himself...

But that's limited. We can also intuit that the barber, being the sole subject and object of this, is in a class by himself. That is, if we 'break' the rules. Is that cheating? Are there no exceptions?

The hinge, I think, is "all men" in this brief tale. Is it forgotten: "all men who" -- the qualification is there to be seen; it is another way. There needn't be contradiction.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Story

- I'm hungry.
- Get used to it.
The sky was a dark blue now, brightened from a black pool specked with dots of white that had flickered in the humid air. A bird fluttered by, surprising him.
- What?
- Oh, a bird, I think.
- What bird?
- Not sure, still too dark.
- Not a bat?
- Don't think so. Outline wasn't right.
He looked down at his son's head, poked as it was out of the orange tent. His silhouette of curls was flattened on one side.
- You never move in your sleep.
- I don't? Are you sure, Dad?
- Hunch. Your head's flat on one side.
He winked, even though it was too dark to see that. His son reached up to touch, patted his hair around the sides.
- Is your head flat?
- No.
- That's 'cause you never sleep.
- Everybody sleeps.
- I never seen it.
- Seen sleep?
- Seen you sleep, Dad.
- I do, you just never see it.
- That's what I just said!
He smiled at the ground, then turned to look east. He only slept long after his son fell into it.

Those were important hours. He had to think, plan, examine. That he awoke before his son was a fortune that he bowed to in his mind, several times.
- I got an idea, son.
- Yeah, Dad?
- I need you to help since you can draw.
- Okay.
- Can you find that pencil?
- I think so; I whittled it down last night... it's here.
- And that paper? Packed, right?
- Yeah, from one of the last... got it!
- Okay, ready?
- Ready.
- It's of a man looking at a light bulb, but it's out.
- Out where?
- Above his head. And the man looks at it, and has an idea.
- How do I draw someone having an idea?
- A cloud above their head... no, like a bubble... or can be whatever you choose.
- Okay I choose, then what?
- Draw a light bulb inside the bubble, but on.
- Okay... Dad, that's funny. It was on.
- The bulb was only on in his head, remember that.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all. I do resolve to write more here, and, failing that, to discontinue blogging in favor of other pursuits.

I recently finished reading two books relating to the American Civil War. One, America Aflame, is a single-volume history of the period, including the decades before and after. The second, The Guns of the South, is a novel, and a fascinating one despite the contrivance that I won't give away.

On that theme, I've been reading a speech of Lincoln's which is not widely discussed, that of his July 4, 1861 address to Congress. In it he attempts to refute the compact theory of federalism. I also get a much better sense of Lincoln the lawyer. Surprisingly, Barnes & Noble offers Jefferson Davis's The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government as part of its Library of Essential Reading. This would make for a fascinating rejoinder.

Personally I take the view that if the federal government is indeed derived from 'the people' and not from its constituent states, then how are the states at all legitimate entities, and what reason is there for their continued existence? Contrariwise, if the states are representative of their people, then how are they not legitimate and how can they not act in their interests?

Until next time,