Damien Sullivan's Indiana Ramble
8 Sep 2004
I'm going for a joint PhD in computer and cognitive science here at Indiana
University, working under the aegis of Douglas Hofstadter and the FARG/CRCC. My current thesis-type
goals are extending Metacat, making it smarter, more self-aware, maybe
creative. My life-motivation goals are creating full, science-fictional,
Turing-Test crushing AI. Or figuring out how humans thing. Ideally, both.
It's a distant goal, but it's nice to have a dream.
I entered IU in fall 2002, and started a web page
which turned into an intermittent 'blog'. Eh, I prefer journal. Anyway, I've
decided to hit the reset button. It's Dr. Seuss's birthday today, so I should
have made some rhyme for this. But if I do that'll have to be late.
Pictures from June 2003: close up and the setting, the highest point in Tennessee, the name of
which I forget. They both look a lot better (lighter) in xv than in my
My occasional alternative news page
web page at Caltech.
spying on Democrats in Congress.
Reading John Holt's How Children Fail: "To a very great degree,
school is a place where children learn to be stupid."
"We ask children to do for most of a day what few adults are able to do even
for an hour. How many of us, attending, say, a lecture that doesn't interest
us, can keep our minds from wandering? Hardly any... Yet children have far
less awareness of and control of their attention than we do."
on "socialization" and home schooling.
to a few nice graphs of political axes.
attempt at listing more than 2 political axes, for once.
Conservative/revolutionary, liberal/autocrat, idealist/realist, equal/inequal.
I don't know that I agree with it all but it's a start.
Plunkett charging falsely
convicted Britons for the expenses of locking them up.
New book! What Do I Do Monday?, by John Holt. Advice on what
teachers could actually do in thier classrooms. Mostly lots of measuring, at
least as a starting point. Using a stopwatch and asking people to say when
they think a minute has gone by. Measuring heights and its change over time.
Weight discrimination (i.e. holding two weights and saying which is heavier)
and how that changes for different weights, or after different trials.
Exercises the kids can do to burn off energy usefully, a couple of which I
just tried and found hard. Color discriminations. Heart rate, blood
pressure, and galvanic skin response measurements; he didn't use the word
biofeedback, but he described it.
Schoolteacher by John Taylor Gatto. Goes with my John Holt craze.
Christian theocracy advocates in America, "dominion theology",
"theonomy", and "Christion Reconstructionism". Racist, anti-democratic,
advocates of stoning for breaking laws in Leviticus. Weekly Planet and Public Eye. They
would turn the US into a less free society than theocratic Iran, which lets
women vote and be elected to the legislature and have careers. Many also like
to operate by stealth, a "Christian" fifth column. Also Reason We're talking
Christian Taliban, here.
Public Eye quotes Garry Wills: " By contrast, mainstream historian Garry
Wills sees no mistake. In his
book Under God: Religion and American Politics, he concludes that the
framers stitched together ideas from "constitutional monarchies, ancient
republics, and modern leagues. . . .but we [the US] invented nothing,
except disestablishment. . . . No other government in the history of the
world had launched itself without the help of officially recognized gods
and their state connected ministers." Disestablishment was the clear and
unambiguous choice of the framers of the Constitution, most of whom were
also serious Christians."
Disestablishment as the American invention. That's pretty cool. Wills is
specifically talking about Article VI of the Constitution: "3. The senators
before-mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all
executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the sev-
eral states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this consti-
tution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to
any office or public trust under the United States."
In the meantime, the
"The fact that the Pentagon pulled the
fighting force most equipped for
hunting down Osama bin Laden from
Afghanistan in March 2002 in order to
pre- position it for Iraq cannot be
Fifth Group Special Forces were a rare
breed in the US military: they spoke
Arabic, Pastun and Dari. They had been
in Afghanistan for half a year, had
developed a network of local sources
and alliances, and believed that they
were closing in on bin Laden.
Without warning, they were then given
the task of tracking down Saddam."
Condoleeza Rice responds to Richard Clarke's charges that Bush went after Iraq
at the expense of fighting actual terrorists, such as Osama bin Laden, by
attacking Clarke's character on TV, while refusing to testify under public
The LA Times says "To understand the White House response, insiders and
observers alike say that it's important
to recognize that the most cherished value in the
Bush administration is loyalty. As a result,
Rice and others are reacting to Clarke's
disloyalty, not to the substance of his criticism."
Lies about pot -- debunks the claims that
marijuana today is 30 times strong than it used to be.
School -- John Taylor Gatto.
The USDA rejected a plan by Creekstone Farms to test all of its cattle
for mad cow disease, as required by Japan for imports. Get that: the USDA is
preventing someone from testing for a deadly disease. Assuming the test
itself is harmless, it's probably because of fears people will get skeptical
about other beef. Don't you feel protected by your government? Don't you
wonder why the government has the power to block someone from testing their
own product? The Secretary of Agriculture (Ann Veneman) is a former lobbyist
for the beef industry. Mmm, regulatory capture.
26 Apr 2004: I finished Words and Women today, the mid-1970s
attack on sexist language in English. I found it pretty interesting, and
still relevant. Of course I was introduced to taking these concerns
seriously by Hofstadter's essays in Metamagical Themas, and the ongoing
attack on 'guy' as the new male-as-faux-generic replacement for 'man'. For
the record, I favor use of 'they' as a third person indefinite pronoun;
something which has been in use since Shakespeare's time is not an ugly
neologism. But Swift and Miller mention 'thon', short for "that one", which
was coined by Charles Converse in 1859 and showed up in a dictionary in 1959.
They also make the point that these concerns are the opposite of Orwellian
Newspeak, which was designd to reduce precision and scope of thought; attempts
to remove sexist language are trying to increase the precision of English.
Switching generic singular sentences to plurals in order to cope with our lack
of a generic singular pronoun often increase precision in two ways: the male
as default is removed, and so is the implication that a single person stands
in for a whole group. Instead of "the baby... he..." we can get "many
babies... they". Or "most babies", or "all babies", as appropriate.
New take on Columbine
aides speak out
Reuters article on Greenpeace -- the organization, not individuals
responsible -- being prosecuted for sailor mongering, with a 19th century law which was
used twice before, last in 1890. Free speech and selective law enforcement
issues, and why is Bush defending illegal trade in mahogany?
"Semen warrior tribes"
isn't better -- study suggests that car safetly matters a lot more than
car weight, even to driver safety, and that SUVs are in fact not particularly
safe, even for their own drivers.
US newspaper hierarchy
21 May 2004: I watched "Emma" Friday, with Gwyneth Paltrow. It was
pretty good. Fairly good to the book, as far as I can recall; no doubt lots
of details got dropped, but the essential bits seemed there without intrusion.
I think the book was more subtle; I recall getting sucked into the image of
elegant Emma Woodhouse. I think even "Clueless" has Cher seeming competent
in her own ditzy way. Paltrow's teenage (allegedly 22, I was told Paltrow was
18 or 19) Emma was more clearly naive and oblivious. Though it's been a while
since I read _Emma_ or saw clueless so the comparison isn't fair.
Dan Moniz points me to this
1970 essay by Marvin Minsky, "Form and Content in Computer Science". The
first third is computer science stuff, but the latter two thirds are on math
education, and the disconnect between set theoretic formalisms and practical
understanding. He seems to hope that computer people can contribute their
experience with debugging processes to the task of education -- e.g. helping
in debugging people's mental models.
not to buy happiness
A better political quiz
My reviews of The Postman and The Carpet People. And of Otherness