Sunday, April 29, 2007

Eating dog food in the long driveway

or a stray french fry exposed by the upturned trash can,

do they feel the echo of the cottonwood and sycamore,

which was their verdant home

before development made them thrive?

Do they not miss the old growth forests,

standing with knees bent, claws gripping the bark,

the yellow halo surrounding their disdainful eye,

their sharp black beak,

and the slender shining judges robes

which swell into a feathered porcupine of justice,

addressing the little brown wrens and chipmunks,

frozen with seeds and nuts in hand?

Here they must scream to be recognized,

millions of them, at dusk

collecting on the power lines and bare limbs downtown

like black leaves in a racing imitation of spring.

Tourists gasp and regulars speak louder over

their cacophonous symphony,

the rusty gates of their harsh introduction

and the roar of their concurrent clacks,

a percussive mimic of sunset.

Today I saw a grackle on the pavement

his wings tucked close like a shawl

his head and collar was murky

blue and green like a deep pool

in the jungle, and his eyes were closed

like small crescents of darkened moon.

And suddenly he did not look like any other black bird

he is often mistaken for.

The raven and the crow

are both detested and revered,

for the way they perch eerily,

invoking Poe’s stormy nights,

and the rough shrewd care for an infant

Dalai Lama, swooping in for missing parents.

All the grackle has,

is its harsh eye and that voice,

like old papers blowing around in the creaking attic, or

bones breaking, or

two sheets of metal rubbed together, or

a machinegun, or fireworks, or an earthquake.

And when they gather at nightfall, it is to tell you

that once, before you were born,

and your ancestors addicted them to wide open space and grain,

they were kings,

and this is the sound of war.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I haven't been writing here. I was beginning to feel guilty, but a number of things have made me reconsider.
I haven't been reading much lately and I'm relatively fine with this. I've been very busy. I moved back to Texas, transferred to a new school, and I've been doing a lot of programming. I'm working on a strategy game and I may turn this space into a development journal for that if I have time to keep working on it over the summer. I believe I invented a new algorithm for generating realistic maps for games, and some time soon I'll write about that.
I've also undergone a number of subtle changes in attitude. To sum things up too quickly, some recent events have made me realize that I don't particularly care if I am ever part of the "blogging community" especially the one I'd previously been attracted to. My attitude toward philosophy as it's practiced in modern academic settings is in the process of shifting, and I'm beginning to think of my outsider status as a good thing. In short, I'm changing.
So I'll keep writing about books only now I don't care if anyone reads what I write. This is just for me now, if anyone happens to read it, they will have to put up with my pace and what I want to write about.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
  On Intelligence
I just finished On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee. While I enjoyed it a lot, I don't have a great deal to say about it right now. My thoughts will have to work themselves out slowly.
The central tenet of the book is that "prediction" can be said to occur on basically all neurological levels and that it's the basis of understanding. To build mental models of parts of the world, what we need is to be able to predict how they will behave in our experience. I agree and I feel that this is a pretty good place to locate an intersection between evolutionary theory and pragmatism. More thoughts on this subject will have to wait for another time.

I'd recommend the book for light reading. It could easily be read in a day. I took several days to finish it because I got stuck on a section in the "How The Cortex Works" chapter. This part involves a hierarchy of cortical columns ("higher" and "lower" regions), each of which is made up of a confusingly connected series of layers (which are also referred to with the "higher" and "lower" terminology). I didn't like the diagrams in the book, so I drew my own diagram of the structure of a cortical column, which after an iteration or two ended up looking something like the following:It's missing a few details, but imagine trying to get a mental picture of that from a description and you can see why this section threw me for a loop.
Later I'll write about another thing that threw me off, but I have to meditate on it for a while first.

Things I liked:
Things I didn't:
P.S. Invariably the "Things I didn't" list is longer than the "Things I liked" list, even though I definitely liked this book as a whole. I try to remain very critical and often the reasons to remain critical of a book are easier to describe than the impact it had on my thought processes as a whole. This is particularly evident in this post.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007
  I've been busy
Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been away for a while, and since I've returned I've been busy with various other things. I have these fits where I can do nothing but write computer programs. When I get further along in what I'm working on, I'll post about it here. I'm half way through a book on Wittgenstein, and I'm still preparing for my post on structuralism.
I watched The Science of Sleep tonight which was a great movie which was hard to watch, given how susceptible I am to derealization, and how the main character does nothing but make mistakes.

"Open your eyes, Clevinger. It doesn't make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead."

When we move, it's a movement

An attempt to overcome a crippling perfectionism; an appendix-in-progress for a perpetually unwritten book. Notes on variety of subjects including but not limited to: cognition, mathematics, sociology, philosophy and art. Now with book reviews!

Regarding The Author

J.S. Nelson is a young fellow with a broad array of interests and a lot of time on his hands.

Regarding The Archives

May 2006 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 /

Regarding Others

Alex Golub
Jeff Vail - A Theory of Power
John Robb - Global Guerillas
Savage Minds
The Valve

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