Monday, August 21, 2017

Black and white and gray

Telling someone that they are stuck in "black and white" thinking is a modern day insult. It conjures images of the 16th century papacy wrongly insisting that the earth is the center of the universe in the face of Galileo's insights. Or more recently, the insult is applied to Christian fundies for their strict and wrong interpretations of the bible. Duality thinking is seductive because it makes the world terrifyingly easy to understand. Light and darkness, good and evil, body and soul, water and fire, ones and zeros. It's beautiful in it's minimalistic perfection. Especially when you place your team on one side and everyone else on the other side. Heaven and hell, life and death, black and white, straight lines, perfection.

We sew duality into our stories to make them captivating. Look no further than the book series that produced the first (and only) billionaire author on the planet. Millennials love Harry Potter so much that they single handedly revived a previously lame Los Angeles theme park. And who can blame them for resonating with an epic tale of good versus evil? Add butterbeer to the mix and boom, literary hit of the century.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Irresistible Icarus

Philosophy is not a popular topic at brunches and nor should it be. Learning how to die is not a merry subject. A truly enlightening conversation is often an uncomfortable one and thus an impolite one. In fact, the best time to talk philosophy is after your audience has consumed a bongs-worth of weed. In that case, everyone is too stoned to remember how rude you were.

For the introspective few, philosophy and truth feel like an inescapable pursuer. The muse sticks with you like an earworm. It's a form of possession which drives its host deeper and deeper into the woods. In Christianity, this possession is called the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Non-Christians don't agree on a word for it but are affected by it just the same.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dreaming of Nirvana

Progressives in the west are so drawn to Indian philosophy. In gardens from Berkeley to Madison, small Buddha totems smile motionless next to gopher holes. If not in their gardens, tiny silent Buddha is placed on their stand-up desk. If not on their desks, a nice picture of a waterfall stamped with curly text ending with "-Buddha" is set as their desktop background. Zen is an office buzzword.

There are various reasons people put Buddhas on their desk. For some, it's an outstretched hand to exotic foreign culture, an offering to the Gods of Globalization. For others it's a shred of hope in a dark world of suffering, a Jesus of their own making. It could even be a way to manipulate your boss.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Eugenics are Whack

Duck! The environment is trying to kill you!

People joke about the Darwin Award which hypothetically goes to a person killed doing something stupid. The truth is, a person doesn't even have to do something stupid to get killed off. The environment is a hostile force, as anyone who has gotten poison oak can attest, which makes me question the mental state of so-called ecosexuals. Darwin said it very eloquently and precisely and people listened. The environment comes at us in waves and we sink or swim. The waves vary in size and intensity. The waves come from various directions and with various speeds. Wits, strength, grit and luck (and sanity) keep us alive.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Love For Hoffer

“Why the in the world did I come here”

I came because I'm a romantic. I’m always searching for the next high but I don’t do drugs. I’m always searching for revelations, making pilgrimages to places I think might be holy. But there are no holy places anymore. There are only holy moments.

As I turned the corner and saw the patch of grass where it was supposed to be, I doubted it was there. A public art installation dedicated to a man, a hero, who didn’t fit in, and not in a shy but charming sense. In a reclusive, grumpy, kind-of-an-jerk sense. His ideas are alternately uplifting and depressing and his life mostly dull. Yet I wish I was more like him. A blue collar pedigree, yet a philosopher's soul. What a combination.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Theseus

If the earth is 4.5 billion years old, our planet has rotated on its axis approximately one and a half trillion consecutive times so far. Does that make tomorrow's rotation a given? No. If every person you’ve ever met has exactly ten fingers, can you make the conclusion that every person, ever, has exactly ten fingers? No. In both of those scenarios, a clear pattern is apparent.

Circa 1740, David Hume came up with the disturbing philosophical problem of Induction. It states that the past doesn't necessarily predict the future and assuming that it does is based on faith rather than rationality; pretty deep stuff from someone who spent a good stretch of his adult life employed as a librarian. Put a different way, believing in patterns is an exercise in piety. Most people naturally take this into account. We notice patterns and apply them until they don’t work anymore. Patterns are useful for efficiency. It's perfectly reasonable to use apparent patterns to develop systems, in fact, it's the most reasonable thing one could do.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Timeline Compressed

Transcendent figures often seem out-of-place in their time. It’s as if they were actually members of the future but were accidentally born too early.

Generally a writer of true force/originality is anywhere from 20 years to 200 years ahead of his generation. So therefore he starves, goes mad, suicides, and is only recognised if portions of his work are somehow found later, much later, in a shoebox, say, or under the mattress of a whorehouse bed, you know. -Charles Bukowski

These figures are sometimes writers, sometimes scientists, sometimes philosophers. But during their lifetime, they are not appreciated. Politicians are always appreciated during their lifetime because everything that matters to them is here on earth, power. Without power they aren’t important. So this only applies to people whose contribution is on a non-temporal level. Wouldn’t it be great for humanity if that timeline is compressed and we appreciate what we have? Appreciate the transcendent figures before they perish? I think it’s possible. But first let me digress into how transcendent figures are actually far from transcendent.

Monday, May 7, 2012

DIY: Custom Graduation Photo Cards

Card in envelope
The final result of my DIY photo card adventure
Since I'm graduating this May, I decided to send out a special graduation thank you note to my friends and family. I started using the photo card creator on the Walgreens website but quickly got frustrated with the lack of customization tools. Specifically, I wanted custom fonts and also to change font colors within a text box. Being an incurable DIYer, I thought to myself: "I can make this myself in GIMP and customize it all I want!"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Interesting Infrastructure: Caltrans and Music Notes

These photos are from Cotati, CA in the northern bay area. As you can see, Caltrans incorporated a music note motif into their new overpass project. Since Cotati is sort of a hippie town, and also home of an annual Accordian Festival, it fits the local vibe. The motif has a treble clef sequence and a bass clef sequence, and they appear on the sound walls, the retaining walls and on the actual overpass. I alternate between thinking this is really cool and thinking it is a huge waste of money, but here are the pics anyway:
Sound wall in final stages of project
Overpass with alternating design

Friday, March 30, 2012

GIMP: Adding New .gpl Palette

Palettes are very useful if you want to have a consistent color scheme. I find that having good colors readily available helps in the creative process as well. You can find great user-created palettes for free at kuler.com (link) and colourlovers.com (link); using these palettes can give your project a very professional look.