September 30, 2002

Elysian Fields

Homer and Virgil have described the existence of Elysian fields. Elysian fields are at the ends of the Earth. It is to these fields that the souls of heroes and virtuous people go to after their deaths.

Elysian Fields or Elysium is generally used to refer to paradise.

Here is a blog with the title elysian fields.

Posted at 11:14 PM

Life and Change

How do I break free? like a caterpillar turning into a beautiful monarch butterfly. A babbitt into Prometheus? Shedding away the soporific monologue called life that I am living with an afklarung that puts me in a state of orgiastic achievement!

Posted at 08:57 AM

September 26, 2002

September 25, 2002

A commute

It's 8:01 am. I indicate I am entering the right lane. The silver gray BMW acquiesces by pausing for a fraction of a second. I am in the rightmost lane taking the exit for the North bound freeway. The ramp appears to head straight into the beautiful blue Texas sky. Several stories above the maze of expressways it descends back down towards the freeway. I'm almost to the top. My eyes blink. I see my vehicle slowly edge towards the shoulder. I am unsure of what I hear first, the violent scratching of my left bumper against the left wall of the ramp or the sudden sound of silence as everything slows down. It appears as though everything is moving in slow motion interrupted randomly by the real soundtrack of what is happening. The left tire climbs the barricade. My automobile has slid off the ramp. Its an eerie feeling being airborne like that. The discomforting realization that the car has now begun to spin as it descends into the freeway below sets in. I wonder if the car will straighten itself as it careens itself into the traffic below. I calculate the possibilities of being rammed by an 18 wheeler carrying inflammable liquids. My eyes blink. My car is now joining the traffic heading north on the freeway. Like clockwork I think. Every morning as I leave one freeway and enter another - the same thought.

I'm a few miles from work at this point. "Phase two" I think. Now my mind will obsess about being side swiped by cars entering the freeway from the next exit. The scrunch of metal rings in my ear as parts of my vehicle absorbs the impact of another at high velocity. I try to count the number of months I've been having these thoughts. I realize I don't know. I think back to college. At that time I used to think of falling asleep on the freeway. A friend once remarked that the most disconcerting aspect of being on the road while in the throes of of sleepiness is how insane your logic becomes. Your mind says, "It's really ok if I sleep for a minute. I'm sure I'll be fine" and it actually makes sense!. Drifting off to sleep maybe to never wake up. Visions of a car heading full speed into an impassable object to the soundtrack of a famous aria.

I brace myself. My mind thinks about marriage. I see happy times. I see kids. I see unhappy times. Then I see times that make unhappy times look like happy times. I see strife, anger, hatred, obsession. I shudder. Marriage has loomed overhead for the most part of this year of my life. My own Damocle's sword. Threatening, imminent, rife with possibilities. My fecund imagination has enjoyed tormenting me with the cornucopia of outcomes. In the last 2 weeks I've shaken it off. I am free of this monkey on my back. I sigh. My hands position themselves at 11'oclock and 1'oclock on the steering wheel. I give the wheel a gentle squeeze. real and alive I muse. I'd much rather think of death in a fiery crash I resolve. An instantaneous end. Not the slow, agonizing vise-like grip of matrimony squeezing the life out of me. phew!

Posted at 11:00 PM

September 24, 2002

September 23, 2002

H to the izz-O,

H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A Fo' shizzle my nizzle used to dribble down in VA H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A That's the anthem get'cha damn hands up H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A Not guilty ya'll got-ta feel me H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A That's the anthem get'cha damn hands UP!
-- Jay Z
Posted at 10:30 PM

September 22, 2002

Immaculate Conception

In the olden days unexplained pregnancies were blamed on fertile lavatory seats or otherwise deemed to be the acts of gods. Modern wisdom teaches us to dismiss the lavatory seat option as nonsense but the question as to whether gods are capable of producing offspring by acts of sexual union with mortal human beings remains open.
Alexander Waugh --God
Posted at 01:16 PM

September 18, 2002

September 17, 2002

Stock market spoofing

IP Spoofing is no longer the only method of masquerading in my vocabulary. It is possible to spoof the stock market. This weakness is due to the way market makers set their bid/ask prices.

Market makers set their bid/ask prices. (Bid is the price the dealer will pay for your stock and ask is the price at which the dealer will sell you the stock). The SEC has a Limit Order Display Rule which requires that limit orders for 100 shares or more is displayed on the system (NBBO - National Best Bid and Offer). The display of the limit order influences the dealers bid/ask price (because the dealer knows of an outstanding order for a higher price). This weakness is exploited by a trader sending in a limit order at a higher bid price and then selling his shares when the dealer honors the higher price. The immediately the trader cancels his limit order leaving the dealer with the stock.

An example:

the Commission’s complaint against Alexander Pomper alleges that Pomper placed a limit order to buy 300 shares of Gumtech International (“GUMM”) at $11.375 per share when the best bid side of the NBBO was $11.0625 per share and the best offer side was $11.4375 per share. Due to the Limit Order Display Rule, Pomper’s $11.375 per share buy order became the new best bid price. Pomper then placed an order to sell 2000 shares of GUMM at $11.375 per share through another market making firm. Pomper obtained immediate execution at $11.375 per share (rather than $11.0625 per share) because the other market maker honored the $11.375 best bid price created by Pomper’s buy order. After Pomper obtained his price improvement of $.3125 per share, or $625.00, he canceled his order to buy at $11.375. Pomper’s conduct was deceptive because he improved the NBBO with a limit order he did not actually want filled.
Posted at 09:07 PM

The God of Probability

My God is the God of Probability. I first met him as I was running late for a bus. I was talking to myself "Oh God, What are the chances the bus will be late!". "1 in 2" a voice replied. I spun around to see the God of Probability. He was right behind me. I continued to rush towards the bus stand. "Of course, we could help your chances by calculating the probability of the traffic light being stuck at red". I shouted "Can't you do something about it?". "Sure", he said. "This time the odds are in your favor". From the corner of my eye I saw the bus pulling up beside me as I approached the stand. "Thanks God", I said as I boarded the bus.

The next time I met my God was before the exam. I was going through the material for the mid-term and was anguishing over the large portions of the syllabus I had no knowledge about. "Oh God! What are the odds this wont be on the exam" I said. "Pretty slim" said God now sitting across from me. He was examining my library books. "You're also very likely to pay a fine for keeping these books past the deadline". I was consumed by dismay. I looked around helpless. A divine being who equated my life to the play of numbers! What happened to compassion and benevolence. "There you go again" said God. "Don't wallow in your self-pity. Quit whining and look for answers outside yourself if you wish to improve your odds".

I looked around and my eyes found a classmate sitting at the other end of the hall. I gathered myself and walked briskly over to her. On questioning her on her position before the exam I learnt some interesting things. She had spoken with the professor during his office hours and understood that the quiz would only cover the material in the notes. Yes, I could copy her notes and ask her any questions I had.

Brimming with confidence and glee I walked back to my desk infinitely better. "I am also known as the God of Coincidence" said God now looking through my bag for something to eat. "But coincidence is also a probability" I replied. "Yes, you are right. But when people dont undertand the probability of an event's occurence then its a coincidence to them".

"You arranged this?" I asked
"If you knew how to perform the probability calculation you would know" said God.

"Stop molesting my backpack, What kind of a God are you? Dont you know if what you want is in there?" I rebuked, his attitude getting on my nerves.

"I never said I was omniscient, just probabilistic" he said sheepishly as he walked away towards the vending machines.

A few days later I was examining my answer sheet with the posted anwer key outside the professor's office when God showed up again. I fired my opening salvo "I dont believe in you". He raised his eyebrows, alarmed at the unprovoked outburst. "I can't believe statistically it would be possible for me to score so poorly". He smiled and replied "You are grouping the probability of getting the answers right in the test". Pointing to the answer key he explained, "The probability of getting the right answer out of 4 is 1/4 = 25%. You cannot group across 100 questions and hope to get 25 answers right". I groused "yeah yeah".

With school behind me I started interviewing for a job. I made all my plans outside the realm of chance. I always left early for my interviews. Prepared in advance for all outcomes. Maybe this is why I never saw my God for a while. One day I was interviewing with a company in another city. I had had 3 interviews that had concluded favorably. I was now awaiting the manager who had the final say in offering me a job. The door opened and who I saw surprised me as much as it surprised the man who came in. It was a neighbor from several lifetimes ago. Needless to say the interview was very much a non-interview. I got the job and accepted it on the spot.

I left the building with a big smile on my face and waited for my cab at the curb. "Went pretty good didn't it?" said the man next to men. I looked up to see my God again. He had lost some weight. But not in a good way. He looked haggard. "What happened to you?" I exclaimed. "Its been a stressful time", he replied. "Lots of people with lots of wild connections". He winked. I said "No kidding. I just met my neighbor who I havent seen since I lived in a country 3000 miles away! Thats a million in a one chance. I don't see it as a chance. I was meant to get that job". He chuckled softly. Looking straight at me with a combination of sincerity and respect he said "There are 250million people in the US. Every day I have to make 250 one-in-a-million coincidences happen. That is a lot of work. They are all not as simple and nice as your running into your neighbor. I've had to make cribs break open, brakes fail, gas cylinders ignite. Not all coincidences are pleasant. Lately I've had to keep security people from doing their jobs and cause a lot of pain to a lot of people. I've had to keep nasty people from their deaths and send nice people to theirs". Tears welled up in his eyes "It hasn't been fun". He got up and slowly shuffled away.

My God was gone. But yet he is still here. In everything I do I see my God of probability. He helps me sometimes and works against me at other times. But I know he's there. When I can't explain something, he's there. He brings sense to my life. Life is not fair or unfair. Its probabilistic. Sometimes it works out in your favor sometimes it doesnt. But the cycle continues.

Posted at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2002

Social impact of religion

History aside, the almost universal opinion that one's own religious convictions are the reasoned outcome of a dispassionate evaluation of all the major alternatives is almost demonstrably false for humanity in general. If that really were the genesis of most people's convictions, then one would expect the major faiths to be distributed more or less randomly or evenly over the globe. But in fact they show a very strong tendency to cluster...which illustrates what we all suspected anyway: that social forces are the primary determinants of religious belief for people in general. To decide scientific questions by appeal to religious orthodoxy would therefore be to put social forces in place of empirical evidence.
Paul Churchland --Matter and Consciousness
Posted at 01:07 PM

September 13, 2002

Things I want to understand

There are things I do not know now. I wish to understand them.

1. The line between an agnostic, deist and atheist.
The default attitude of most cultures is to accept the notion of God. An atheist is told that he has to prove the non-existence of God. When people are unsure of their belief they become agnostic. The important distinction here is that when people reject the God of contemporary theology (Yahveh, Brahman, Allah, God-Jesus-Spirit) they turn to agnosticism as a stop gap. However consider for a moment that there is a God, but this God is a philosophical God. For all practical purposes this God does not know about or maybe care about us. This so called special entity is required to validate our existence. When I say 'validate' I use it in the same context as the idealists such as Locke and Berekely did. Berkeley said Esse est percipi (to be is to be perceived). In order for things to exist outside our immediate perception (so as to not be drawn into the blackhole of solipsism) he needed a philosophical God that perceived us.

This is a stretch but bear with me. Lets use an anology. In a computer you have many processes running. Lets assume we are a process. We perceive the disk, the network (and possibly the registry) etc etc. There are other processes in the system. Sometimes we perceive them. The question then becomes does the disk, file, registry exist outside of the perception of the process? Can the process really know? No. Because as far as the process is concerned they exist when it looks at them. It knows not how they are guaranteed outside its perception. It also doesnt understand how other processes might exist (they are always in a suspended state when the process perceives them). The reason is that the Operating System plays the role of God in this scenario. The Operating System perceives all the processes and 'validates' their existence. So with this analogy I now return to my original question. While its a no-brainer to reject the God of contemporary philosophy can we really reject the God of Philosophy? At this point I consider deism an interesting alternative. Do deists believe its the God of theology that has abandoned them? or is it the God of philosophy.

Given that this God is incapable of being distinctly perceived by us. ( I could be wrong on this point, the Operating System can interact with the process). Do I become a deist? or do I just say atheism rejects the God of theology and makes no distinguishing remarks about the God of philosophy.

Number 2:
Existentialism and the fear of relativism.
Existentialism informs us that we have defined our essence. There are no absolutes. Currently I have comforted myself with the following thought. There is no pre-ordained right/wrong. Society has constantly reformed to discover new evils and accept old evils. The social contract requires us to accept the contemporary rights/wrongs in order to interact with our society. Unfortunately this smacks of relativism. How do I reconcile the fact that I absolutely believe that pedophilia is wrong with my existentialist world view?

3. Ubermensch, Nietzsche, Schopenhaeur, Sakyamuni
Schopenhaeur's philosophy of pessimism sounds a lot like Buddha's (Sakyamuni) world-as-dharma. Nietzsche's ubermensch sounds like it may have originally be borrowed from Schopenhaeur (and later extended and hopelessly destroyed by eugenics etc). So what is the relationship between these three? Is the Ubermensch the man who surpasses his humanness? or is it the genetic wunderkind - a product of artificial Darwinism

4. Nirvana or just a weird schizophrenic mystical experience?
What is Nirvana, satori or any of the things that Buddhism claims to help us find. Is it just an exclusive club that asks people who wish membership to join in a vague mystical-schizophrenic experience. Satori, the claim is the ultimate truth. Its the point where you transcend your humanness or egoism and suddenely find the answer to the presence of buddha nature in a dog. Enlightened people communicate over koans of utter nonsense. Does their claim of having achieved a higher plane where this nonsense is real hold water? Or are all claimants charlatans or just victims of a mystical delusion that amazingly appears similar? Even if we grant the validity of satori what does it say about the God of philosophy? Zen considers God irrelevant to the question. It frees us from the unnecessary excitations, passions (or if you prefer, suffering) of every day life. But should it also preclude us (as a society) seeking a better and more consistent meaning to our lives. Here is the rub. Zen says that the pedantic discussion of rational consistency will never let us understand what must be experienced.

5. Art the touchstone of humanity?
Camille Paglia says art represents the never ending Dionysian-Apollonian battle. Nietzsche at one point believed Wägner was the peak of human understanding (?). I don't know art.

Posted at 10:52 PM | Comments (1)

Entering accents and special characters

If you want to enter accents and special character on an English keyboard this link will be useful:

Special Characters

The one drawback: Once you turn on the US International keyboard the computer stops to think each time you enter one of the 'trigger' characters.

Posted at 10:44 AM

September 12, 2002

It makes too much sense

A car full of intellectual, self-confident employees were driving back to work after lunch. As we pulled into the office park someone observed people laying new sod at the entrance and commented "I can't believe they ripped out the perfectly fine grass last week and are putting in new grass". Another person chimed in "Yeah, its not like they put in new pipes or anything, what a waste". The group groused in near unison about the lack of sense and planning that seems prevalent.

A quiet voice calmly noted "Maybe they are replacing it with drought resistant grass before the summer?". The crowd drowned out the dissenting opinion "Nah, that would make too much sense".

Are so called senseless actions stigmatized because we cannot decipher the reasoning? Hello relativism, its been a while!

Posted at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

What would God say?

God says:


I'm flattered you liked my book so much. Now why don't you read something new?

—God

[via MeFi]

Posted at 12:32 PM

September 11, 2002

Where was God?

Its been one year since the World Trade Center attack. This morning I heard a mention on the radio about an essay trying to answer the question about God's complicity in letting these acts happen.

I decided to search the net for more essays:

Where was God - Ray Bohlin
How could God allow this
Where was God - Encounter magazine
PBS special - Faith after 9/11

>> Here is a critique of one essay


Where was God?"

How many of us have heard that question, "Where was your God when the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked?" Well, I know where my God was
the morning of September 11, 2001, and He was very busy.

He was trying to discourage anyone from taking these flights. Those four
flights held over 1000 passengers and there were only 266 aboard. He was on
four commercial flights giving terrified passengers the ability to stay
calm. Not one of the family members who were called by a loved one on one of
the hijacked planes said that passengers were screaming in the background.
On one of the flights he was giving strength to passengers to try to
overtake the hijackers.


<< Tue morning cross country flights were picked by the hijacker specifically for the lack of passengers. We don't know if people were screaming outside the window of the phone calls. And the argument from fallacy (none of the loved ones said anything about screaming) doesnt hold. Just because you were not intimated about an occurence says nothing about its occurring. Remember Berkeley's "if a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it"

He was busy trying to create obstacles for employees at the World Trade
Center. After all, only around 20,000 were at the towers when the first jet
hit. Since the buildings held over 50,000 workers, this was a miracle in
itself. How many of the people who were employed at the World Trade Center
told the media that they were late for work or they had traffic delays.

>>The flights struck at 8:46am. The offices dont fill up with people until well after 9. This is an everyday occurrence in almost every normal office building.

He was holding up two 110 story buildings so that two-thirds of the workers could get out. I was so amazed that the top of the towers didn't topple when the jets impacted. And when they did fall, they fell inward. God didn't allow them to topple over, as many more lives would have been lost. And when the buildings went down, my God picked up almost 6,000 of his children and carried them home with him. Reassuring his frightened children that the worst was over and the best was yet to come.
>> The designers of the world trade center had to convince the public that the buildings would withstand all sorts of hurricanes and forces of nature. In fact criticism levelled against the original design was that an airplane could fly into it by accident. The building withstood the impact but failed because of the jet fuel that kept the fire going.
He sat down and cried that 19 of his children could have so much hate in their hearts. That they didn't choose him, and now they are lost forever.
>> no comment
He sent his children that are best trained for this disaster and had them save the few that were still alive, but unable to help themselves. And then sent many others to help in any way they were needed.
>> its all in how you look at it. He didnt send his best airport security men to stop these men.
He still isn't finished though, He held the loved ones that were left behind in His arms. He comforts them daily. His other children are given the strength to reach out to them and help them in any way they can.
>> nothing different from all the traffic accidents he causes (or as the other has it "doesnt stop")
And I believe He will continue to help us in what is to come. He will give the people in charge of this great nation the strength and the wisdom to do the right thing. He would never leave us in our time of need.

So, when anyone asks, "Where was your God on September 11th?", you can say
"Everywhere!" And yes, although this is without a doubt the worst thing I
have seen in my life, I see God's miracles in every bit of it.


>> ahem

Posted at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2002

Loss of Freedom

Here is a list of freedoms that have been compromised since the war on terror [via MeFi]

Posted at 08:20 PM

Knowledge

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
- Plato
Posted at 09:09 AM

September 06, 2002

Taking Reponsibility

It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.
C. S. Lewis --Mere Christianity
Posted at 08:17 AM

September 05, 2002

Inverted Pyramid

In journalism a concept called the inverted pyramid merges penmanship and common sense. News stories are written so that all the facts are presented in the first paragraph. This way the reader gets all the information from the first paragraph and can decide on reading the rest of the article. It also allows editors to shorten the story when presented with space constraints.

Posted at 11:21 AM

On things not understood

Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, there would be no end of divine things.

Hippocrates
--Aphorisms

Posted at 08:53 AM

September 03, 2002

Hayek Reader

This entry will remain a place holder for my future forays into Hayek country.
While the name Hayek commonly evokes memories of a sultry Latina actress from Veracruz, a distinguished pupil of Ludwig Von Mises, Friedrich Hayek is the subject of this entry. There is however a less than serious discussion of a Hayek-Hayek showdown.

One of Friedrich Hayek's major contributions (via The Road to Serfdom) is that he predicted that a socialist system will lead to totalitarianism. He reasoned that a centrally planned society such as in a socialist country will require a "Central Planning Board" that will eventually have to make decisions and trade-offs in the absence of market data. This structure will lend itself to domination by a strong personality that will use it for his (this appears to be an exclusively male pursuit) pleasure. Evidence: Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot

Resources:
Hayek Pages
Economics and Knowledge

Posted at 11:04 PM | Comments (1)

Hail to the working chief

Bush has spent a whopping total of 250 days of his presidency at Camp David (123 days), Kennebunkport (12) and his Texas ranch (115). That means Bush has spent 42 percent of his term so far at one of his three leisure destinations

A reporter has kept interesting statistics on Bush and other presidents. [via Fark]

Posted at 08:32 PM

A new perspective

Finally we can watch the world through our Haiku colored glasses at headline haikus.com [via MeFi]

Here's mine:

iraq saddam bush
9-11 baseball
headline done

Posted at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

Trial

Jemand mußte Josef K. verleumdet haben, denn ohne daß er etwas Böses getan hätte, wurde er eines Morgens verhaftet

Thus begins Franz Kafka's "Der Proceß" or "The Trial". Read a summary if you dont have the time to read the real thing. My Labor day weekend was spent following Joseph K. as he navigated through the quagmire of legal hurdles that were thrown his way. I wonder if it's heresy to wish that Max Bord had executed Kafka's will as written.

Posted at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)
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