Monthly Archives: June 2005

the half–truths of war

i didn’t watch the president’s speech yesterday. didn’t even know it was happening. i’ve grown accustomed to ignoring what he says because he says so little that actually illuminates. if there is truth in the world (and i seriously doubt it), he does nothing to promote it. perhaps the job of any president is not to expose the truth, but rather to create politically expedient half–truths. but that’s the cynic in me speaking.

i don’t think there’s a single american that would doubt that war is hard. as eulsive as truth is these days, this truth seems pretty self–evident. and yet the president reiterated it in his speech yesterday, several times. he also reiterated the need to support our troops, and to recognize the sacrifices of the brave men and women fighting (and dying) in Iraq. also self–evident.

i don’t think anyone on either side of the aisle would argue these two points. so why reiterate them?
these statements have become platitudes. their obviousness almost elevates them to the level of tautologies (the color red is red, the sun rises in the east if it rises in the east). but what happens when you mix these statements with other assertions that are more tenuous, with other calls for support and faith?

maybe there’s the feeling that by asserting so many things that people hold to be true, then mixing them with things that many consider suspect, you will engender positive feelings towards the latter — a truth halo effect, if you will. either that, or your speechwriters are really running out of gas and can’t come up with other good things to say.
if this was the ploy, i don’t think it worked. it’s hard to believe this president when you just don’t know what to believe in general. do you believe the democrats? the republicans? the bloggers? the sunnis? the shia? the kurds? the president? CNN? fox? rush limbaugh? truth, when it comes to the war in Iraq, seems to be caught in the shifting sands of perception, belief, and context.

in any case, the course in Iraq is one that’s impossible to chart. i’m not even sure shackleton could get out of this one. i don’t envy you, mr. president. you’ve got a hard, hard job.

Butane or pork?

Lifeblog posted image

the local asian supermarket that elaine and i patronize has no organizational system, as far as i can tell. when it comes to blue light specials, anything goes, as the picture above demonstrates. pork fu. butane fuel. they’re all just specials. who cares if there’s any sense to it?

the last time i recall encountering a complete disdain for in–store classification was in hana, hawaii. there’s a grocery store there called hasegawa’s that has the most random assortment of items that i’ve ever seen. the only difference there is that they’re the country grocery store that has to have everything for everyone, in one tiny establishment. 99 ranch doesn’t have the same excuse.

i suspect there’s something really deep to be said here about supply chains or the law of supply and demand or some other thing about marketing or sociology, but i just can’t think of it. call this entry "the deep thought that wasn’t".

the case of the missing pants

i lost a pair of pants.

it wasn’t a sudden loss, the kind where you smack your forehead with a doh! realizing that you’ve just left something on the train or in some mystical foreign land. instead, this was the uncertain kind of loss, the loss that creeps up on you. a sneaking suspicion starts brewing in the back of your mind that you’ve lost something, but you don’t have the time to search to confirm or deny your fears. instead it just percolates.

and then, at some point, you reach the breaking point, the point where the brew is beyond ready; in fact, it’s stinking up your brain, and you’ve got to do something about it.

i felt like i hadn’t really seen one pair of my jeans in a few weeks. it didn’t bother me too much — i figured it was in the laundry or on the drying rack or stuck in some drawer out of place. then i started to miss these particular pants, because i felt like i was paying altogether too much attention to my other levi’s. one wouldn’t want to convey an impression of sartorial favoritism, so i decided it was time to look for my neglected pants, not knowing whether they were in fact in the land of the lost.

the usual suspects turned up nothing (laundry hamper, drying rack, all clothes drawers, piles of clothes in the guest room waiting to be ironed, unfolded clothes on the guest room bed waiting to be folded). the next step was luggage from recent trips — no dice. hmmm. hanging somewhere on the back of a door? nope. stuck in the hall closet? no…oh oh! laundry chute! no pants (although i did find two wayward black socks and a white tshirt that had been hanging there for god–knows how long).

things were getting desperate. i wracked my brain trying to remember when i might have worn them, but this is precisely the kind of thing i always forget. i started wandering aimlessly through the house and garage at this point, suspecting that my pants weren’t the only thing i’d lost.

and then it came to me. i had recently done a pants transfer operation — i moved old pants out of my jeans drawer into the Goodwill stack, so that there would be room for my new pants. had i inadvertently cast aside my new jeans as if there were some ill–fitting throwaways?

i had. i pulled down my stack of Goodwill pants, and right at the bottom were the almost–lost jeans.
there’s some sort of deep lesson in here that i wanted to convey, but i’m afraid i lost my train of thought.


goldstein: incompleteness

i haven’t been documenting any of the books i’ve been reading. this is my first attempt at rectifying that oversight. the chronology will likely get a bit jumbled as i dig back through books i’ve read over the last few months, but that probably doesn’t matter too much from your perspective. :-)

during my trip to palm springs, i read rebecca goldstein’s biographical analysis of gödel and his proofs: incompleteness: the proof and paradox of kurt gödel. it was a fascinating and rewarding book, one that i would heartily recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in the philosophy of science or mathematics.

what follows is synopsis and review focused not on mathematics, but on some aspects of philosophy and gödel’s life. my friend Chookyfuzzbang has already done an admirable job of reviewing the mathematics of gödel’s proof (and other aspects of the book as well). the interested reader is referred there for a complementary review and analysis.

and so…here we go.

Continue reading

wired for sleep (or not)

sleep is a precious gift, a blissful punctuation mark between day and night (or some other circadian rhythm that suits you (cf. Eastern Standard Tribe)). it keeps us calm, it keeps us happy; it keeps us from wanting to stick our fingers into light sockets or scream at people unnecessarily. it makes the never–ending stream of days into rewards, instead of punishments. (i’m speaking in terms of ideals here, people — work with me.)

in short, we could not live without it. and yet, many people don’t sleep well, and they suffer for it. indeed, some of them die because of it.

a few nights ago, i took a first step into exploring my own world of sleep. i went to a sleep disorder clinic to undergo testing for sleep apnea.

Continue reading