Coat of Many Colours

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I met in the street a very poor young man

who was in love.

His hat was old, his coat worn,

his cloak was out at the elbows,

the water passed through his shoes,

and the stars through his soul.

˜

J’ai rencontré dans la rue un jeune homme très pauvre

qui aimait.

Son chapeau était vieux, son habit était usé;

il avait les coudes troués;

l’eau passait à travers ses souliers

et les astres à travers son âme.

– Victor Hugo

Changes

DSCN0008sq

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.

Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow.

Let reality be reality.

Let things flow naturally forward

in whatever way they like.

Lao Tzu

The Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

My camera is on the blink: I barely coaxed it into taking a few shots today. I’m hesitating what kind of a camera to buy. Another point and shoot? Maybe something with a few more options of manual control? But not  so heavy or bulky I’ll stop carrying it around. And not too expensive.

I’ve read some reviews of the Olympus Pen Mini (E-PM1), and it sounds like it might suit.

Recommendations anyone?

Between the Lines

Of late, I keep coming up against the language divide. On the one hand, we have the language hippies. They’re cool with any kind of expression – grammatical or not. They tend to shrug off any suggestion that there are things it is wrong to say or write. Down with Skool!

But the idea that something “means” whatever most speakers think it means, is a slippery slope. Most people don’t know the difference between unexceptional and unexceptionable, or unconscious, unconscientious, and unconscionable. So maybe we don’t really need these words. But you’re/your, I/me/mine, accept/except? Do we really want our expressive abilities to erode to a selection of emoticons?

On the other hand, we have the grammar gorillas. If they were politely improving other people’s speech or writing, they might even be useful. But not only do they tear a strip off anyone making a mistake, they are surprisingly often WRONG. Ironically, their crusades are often (mis-)guided by a lack of knowledge and feeling for language, and worse, they are completely impervious to evidence.

Give a grammar gorilla a link to the Cambridge Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, or the OED, and they will fanatically persist in their errors as, obviously, the editors of said volumes cannot be trusted. They object to sentences ending in prepositions, or beginning with conjunctions. And if they think “liberal” means generous, anyone who uses the word in politics leaves them frothing at the mouth.

So where does that leave us, the middle-of-the-roaders?

Now, I confess I have a secret failing. I sometimes politely point out to people on the internet that they’re wrong. Only when people want to learn. Or when they’re being really, really nasty. I keep thinking, when they realise they are wrong themselves, this will make them a bit kinder to the people they go around “correcting”. Foolish of me, I know. People who ridicule others for making mistakes do this because they can’t accept their own. And the more vicious their attack, the deeper the fall if they admit they were mistaken or misguided. Oops.

So I should stop, right? And join the silent majority that allows obnoxious troubled individuals to jeer mercilessly at others. Or maybe I’ll go on patiently pointing out the gorillas’ own errors. Because letting their vicious intolerance go unchallenged, makes the gorillas believe they speak for us all.

I don’t know. What do you do?

The War of Colours

K’12. Ink & watercolour sketch. Impression of an Idyll.

On Sunday, I came across the tale of the Yellow Submarine, and was sucked in. The graphics are breathtaking: a true work of art. Released in 1968, it features psychedelic colours, a wide variety of animation effects and graphic elements. The story in screenshots*:

The voyage in the Yellow Submarine is peppered with colourful adventures, and of course, songs, like Nowhere Man, and All You Need Is Love. A must see for anyone interested in art or design, …and anyone who likes colours. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the varied backgrounds, and the vibrant colours of the submarine’s interior.

***

The Daily Post Challenge this week: A Splash of Colour.

* © Apple Corps Ltd. Sorry about the quality, the screenshots are not from the (beautiful) digitally restored version, as my laptop doesn’t have a DVD drive…

Happiness Is…

Enjoying the sunshine.

You know when you look everywhere for your glasses, and you can’t find them? And then they turn up on your head? Or the book you hunt for high and low? That was on your bedside table all along, lying the wrong way up? You get so annoyed while you’re searching, and then a little embarrassed…

No, it’s not age. You see, something I’ve always been looking for. One day I realised, suddenly, it was in my hand. It always had been. But I couldn’t see it because it didn’t look like I thought it did.

What I was looking for? Didn’t I tell you?

Happiness.


I was stumped by this week’s 100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups (…suddenly it was in my hand…), but when I saw the weekly photo challenge it suddenly fell into place.

The Mind’s Eye

What do you see in the photo? A house? A tree?

What you see in the photo is really only a patch of sky, and silhouettes that could be part of a tree and the corner of a house. But I’m sure you “pictured” a house, a tree, maybe even the ground they’re standing on.

What we see, and how we visualise it are two very different things. I’m not talking about the technical clean-up of the picture quality. But when you’re in a room with a pillar, you imagine the space behind it. And when you put your hand behind your back you picture it attached to the end of your arm, even though you can’t see it. So you’re adding information or ideas to the mix.

Since Shakespeare’s day, we speak of seeing something in our mind’s eye, and we think we’re artificially creating an image like the one we might see with our eyes. In reality, we’re building up a mental image, that may contain visual elements, but also contains concepts and ideas.

I remember a dream where I was standing by a stairwell. Upon waking I realised that I had “seen” a friend walk down several flights of stairs in the dream, although from where I was I couldn’t have “seen” her half the time. So in my dream I was really tracking her progress in a mental image, like an architects drawing of the building.

When I ask someone whether they see images in dreams, I get an emphatic yes! When they go into more details, I find that they too describe more than would be visible. My conclusion is that we dream mental images, rather than visual ones.

The advantage of mental images is not just that they use up less memory space than visual ones. They are also far more flexible. Have you ever dreamed about someone who looks like A, but you know he’s really B? And when you’re picturing something you’re reading about, no need to dream up  complex constructions: your mind can simply add a tag: “stunning architecture”.

Easy as pie.

(This week’s Writing Challenge.)

When Your Laptop Crashes, Does It Suffer?

Fred. His patience makes up for his wooden demeanour.
K’12 Ink & watercolour sketch. Triad, Yellow.

In 1995, David Chalmers stated what he calls the hard problem of consciousness: why do we feel alive, why do we experience the world? He separates this from what he terms the “easy” problems or functions like reportability, attention focus etc. He answers his own question by positing a new fundamental unit, not part of the physical universe. In Red Mary I explained why I disagree with the answer, but I do think it’s a good question.

A detractor of Chalmers’, Daniel Dennett, maintains that the functions of consciousness alone are the explanation of subjective experience. That’s clearly nonsense. We can replicate all the functions in computers or other machines without these being aware. Therefore the functions alone do not explain our subjective awareness.

Consciousness  It’s not a bug, it’s a feature
Chalmers’ list of “easy” problems
The ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli “Incorrect password. Please try again.”
The integration of information by a cognitive system CPU
The reportability of mental states “Insufficient memory. Please free up some disc space.”
The ability of a system to access its own internal states Going into sleep mode due to low battery.
The focus of attention Allocation of processors.
The deliberate control of behavior Control processes on production systems.
The difference between wakefulness and sleep Sleep mode
Dennett’s functions
Delight and dismay* Motor running smoothly vs. motor makes weird screeching noises.
Distraction and concentration Allocation of processors
Feelings of foreboding* “Are you sure you want to delete this?”
Disregard of perceptual details Cache not cleared
Obsessions Do you know how often an SAP run reads the company code customising? Talk about OCD!
Oversights Allocation of processors
Inability to hold more than a few items in consciousness Insufficient RAM
My ability to be moved to tears by X.* Plant watering automat – the rest is subjective “feeling”.
Inability to catch myself in the act of Y. “An unexpected error has occurred.”
*Delight, dismay, sinking feeling of foreboding, being moved to tears: these are subjective emotions, not functions. I’ve given parallels to what we may do functionally when these states occur.
Some of my own
Bad hair day / Getting out of bed on the wrong side. Processes stuck in loops, caches not cleared. This is why IT support tells you to “turn it off and on again” – a new day for the computer.
We’re stuck because we want to eat our cake and have it. Two processes are waiting for each other.

Now, I don’t believe my laptop is conscious. Nor will it become conscious when I add an app that measures things like available disc space, CPU capacity, and battery state, and says: “I’m feeling stressed out!” when the CPU is at more than 98% capacity, “I feel sick” when it’s out of disc space, and “I’m hungry” when the battery’s going. Actually, my iPod already does this: “Low battery,” it says mournfully.

But, I hear myself saying, that’s not how I work. I have no idea how high my blood-sugar is. But when it’s too low, I feel hungry. And that’s where the “extra” bit comes in. I feel.

Emotions have a function, or quite a few different functions. And we “feel” them. This is not a necessary consequence of the functions – we can write computer programmes that fulfill these functions without the computers suffering. But the path nature took to solve these issues is one that made us aware.

For my part: I’m happy it did. Aren’t you?