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[Friday, February 28, 2003]


Light anatomized

It's very nice to have a real winter for the first time in years. One of the perks of winter is the quality of the light; like that crystalline bluish tint that snow gives to the air after it's been down for a little while but before it gets dirty, or orange light at twilight and dawn falling over snow, with long shadows. The visible eddies in the air during a snowfall, clothing the wind's complexity. The crunch underfoot. The gracious submission of bare branches bending under a load of snow. Opalescent grey skies in the early morning, turning to shockingly intense blue as the sun rises farther. It's wonderful. But I need new boots. And, if we get any more of those -20C with a -30C windchill, perhaps a balaclava. The Mountain Equipment Co-op summons.

A true holism should embrace not only the theory of living systems, but also the reality of the belly, of wind, hunger and snow-worms roasting over the fire on a cold winter night. A man or woman (or child), to be fully human, should always marvel at the mystery of life. We each should be able to face the universe and drink in the stream of photons shimmering across light-distances, to listen to the ringing of the farthest galaxies, to feel the electrons of each hemoglobin molecule spinning and vibrating deep inside the blood. No one should ever feel cut off from the ocean of mind and memory surging all around; no one should ever stare up at the icy stars and feel abandoned or alone.
Isn't that a great credo? It's from David Zindell's The Broken God, which I am currently about 2/3 done. Sometimes you read a passage, and think "Yes! That's what I've been trying to get at for years, right there." This is one of those.

posted 12:00 PM |

[Tuesday, February 25, 2003]


"Not thrilling.. but nice."

Today, I had a gratifying blogging experience: having somebody find my site through an amusing Google query. I've always been envious when people would mock-lament "Oooh, I'm trying to talk about serious things here, and people keep reaching me through the search term 'corblimey Tom Baker scarf bondage Leela'. Cut it out! No, really, cut it out! I hate that!"

Anyway, somebody in New Jersey found me by Googling for what is a Pobble look like. I feel helpless to comment on that, really, but it made me laugh. Hopefully it'll make you laugh, too. Person from New Jersey, if you're reading this, please don't be offended! My tiny audience and I are laughing with you.

And besides, we want to know if you got an answer. What is a Pobble look like, anyway?

posted 7:53 PM |

Squeezed into the tube-train next to you

Here at Epecho, we do not neglect or belittle the desert. For instance, here is a great picture of the famous Canadian robot arm, hovering over the Empty Quarter.

posted 2:33 PM |

[Monday, February 24, 2003]


Aquinas on Software, continued

I notice in passing that, according to the annotations available to me (full disclosure: text is The Pocket Aquinas, edited by Vernon J. Bourke, late of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies; Washington Square Press, 1960; and I might add that they are not kidding about 'pocket', it is about 1/2cm less high than a standard mass-market paperback) the word Aquinas uses for 'axiom' is dignitas, which I think is just great. I also note that a dignitas is a stronger notion than what I'm used to calling an axiom: it's a proposition which must be assented to if you are to learn anything at all. What we usually call an axiom he calls a postulate or positio: something that you're not going to bother demonstrating. Unfortunately, his example of a dignitas is the law of non-contradiction (~(a /\ ~a)), in which I do not believe (more).

Well, perhaps the trés peu of a certain archbishop.

Later on in the same chunk (from Exposition of Aristotle's Posterior Analytics) there's an excellent point about layers of abstraction. A geometer, he says, takes as a postulate that between any two points there exists a straight line; however, it's the physicist's study of the properties of actual space that underpin the postulate. In software terms, the geometer works with an abstraction of space. Since Einstein, we know that this abstraction is not entirely correct; but it's so useful that we still use it extensively, only peering down into the relativistic implementation details when absolutely necessary. The physicist's knowledge is wrapped up in a module that the geometer can re-use.

Comments as always to drangelicus@sorbonne.fr, or, if that's down, dumbox@yahoo.com.

posted 1:45 PM |