DUFL Doggerel

[As always, apologies in advance]

Aught for naught is dearly bought, 

What’s lost is sought but can’t be caught, 

With coins or barter, sweat or tears, 

enjoined, you can’t pay past arrears. 

No free lunch, accounts come due, 

You conscience will always haunt you.  


Sayings of the Buddha and the Gospels

So I recently started reading some of the sayings of the Buddha because, really, what else do I have to do?

I was struck by how similar his sayings are to the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels.  Take, for example, one of the most troubling parts of the New Testament for many people, Jesus’s warning that we have to hate our family (In Luke 14:25 et seq, for example).  There are all kinds of readings of this, one of the most common is that it’s a test of our faith.
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All Your Philosophical Problems are Belong to Us: Wittgenstein Shows Philosophy the Door

So, I’ve been a bit obsessed with Wittgenstein lately.  Once you understand the guy’s arguments, though, it’s pretty hard to shake them.  There are no philosophical problems, we find, only empirical, aesthetic/moral (not moral philosophy, mind you), and logical ones.

The gist of his thinking is that the meaning of most words are determined by human behavior.  Some words are not.  We are tempted into believe that words that are determined by human behavior are like those words that are not.  Take, for example, the classic “is my color red the same as your color red” problem.  He shows us that the phrase “my color red” is nonsense, as in it doesn’t mean anything, like the word shnibble.  The concept is simply not something that we can speak about, as “my experience of the color red” has no shared referant to ground the communication.  We fall victim to the illusion because the grammar of the word “red” is like the word “chair,” but, alas, common grammar means nothing for our purposes.  For more, check the Mark Alford website (a physicist whose website I have been reading compulsively in a desparate attempt to understand quantum mechanics) out or this alternately annoying and hilarious (as per the usual) David Foster Wallace essay.
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Vancouver

First thing I noticed was the seagulls.

Fatter, stronger, etc., than any seagull I’m used to!

You’d think they get self-conscious or cocky about it or something, but then you remember that they’re just seagulls, so they probably don’t think about these things too much.

It also rains a lot. I also noticed that. I think the seagulls notice it too since they fly around and kind of hide in window ledges looking inside with cocked heads to see what we’re up to, like “what are you doing in there?”

When the sun comes out, the sky is gold and red and rainbows from all of the rain. I also think the seagulls notice this. They start hopping around on the edges of buildings more and flying and peeking in windows less. They probably figure it’s going to rain any minute, so I had better get my hops in while I can.


Born Under the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Despite the fact that I grew up a few miles from NASA’s Space & Rocket Center in Alabama, I knew appallingly little about Neil Armstong before learning of his death yesterday afternoon, apart from what every grade school student hears. But even so, his death has weighed on me in a way other celebrity deaths have not.

I’ve since discovered that Armstrong was an incredibly smart, lucid, humble man, who — in addition to being the first person on the fucking moon — was a professor of astrophysics and just an exceedingly nice human being by all accounts. For starters, this was his self-description:

I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer—born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow. As an engineer, I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.

And this video (via Ryan Cooper) of him describing the terrain of the moon and how distances appeared distorted is absolutely surreal and delightful.


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Darkness by Paul Celan

In honor of newly unemployed status, a poem by Paul Celan.

The urns of stillness are empty.

In branches
the swelter of speechless songs
chokes black.
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Please read Christopher Glazek’s “Raise the Crime Rate” in the latest issue of n+1

It’s not very often that I read something that pierces me straight to my core. This week I’ve had the fortune and pleasure of reading two: Mike’s moving, uplifting tearjerker of a post on adult cinema and Christopher Glazek’s latest muckraker in the most recent issue of n+1, “Raise the Crime Rate.”

Glazek’s piece, an indictment on this country’s criminal justice system, is expansive. Here are some highlights:
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