a stupid thoughtless Somewhat
(a.k.a. Erika's Bloglet)

I seem to be having a polyhedra type of day. _
02:20:09 PM, Tuesday 3 July 2012


Easter reading of Four Quartets.

Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always--
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.
From Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot. _
12:32:59 PM, Sunday 8 April 2012


In my continuing quest to police quotation attribution everywhere I see it, I eyed a sign on the T the other day:

God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn.

--C.S. Lewis
I thought the chances were pretty good for this one to be genuine because it was creative and bizarre enough. Tim thought churches were unlikely to be careless with their posters. Well, I don't know if either of those bits of reasoning actually works, but in a rare win for truth in quotation, this is in fact a quote from C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity, in the chapter entitled "The Shocking Alternative". _
08:43:14 PM, Friday 30 March 2012


I would like to lodge a formal complaint against this cold. I was all ready to be a productive non-sick human being. I was! And now my lungs are in rebellion and my head feels like it's stuffed with cotton. I've got enough custom Erika problems, I don't need normal problems on top of them. Then again, normal problems are at least easier to complain about. So they do have that going for them. _
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09:16:48 PM, Thursday 29 March 2012


Tim and Ling
Tim and Ling _
05:10:22 PM, Saturday 17 March 2012


tidal pool
tidal pool _
05:09:40 PM, Saturday 17 March 2012


land of the stones
rockpiles gather here. _
05:08:45 PM, Saturday 17 March 2012


There are harlequin ducks out there.
There are harlequin ducks out there. _
04:51:20 PM, Saturday 17 March 2012


frothing _
04:49:45 PM, Saturday 17 March 2012


Soldered the wires, excuse me. Nothing so exciting as welding going on. Now I have the living room strewn with electronics components, puzzling over my book's sudden demand for a unijunction transistor, whatever that is. You can fake it with two standard transistors, apparently. But why?

It's like learning to program except you can accidentally set things on fire. Also, it's a serious gearhead game. The author of the book I'm learning from does not stint on the gear recommendations. He jokes that your heat gun (used to heat insulation tubing to tighten it) is not a hairdryer. Mine is. Works fine actually. I have yet to figure out whether I really need a 15 watt soldering iron in addition to the 40 watt one. I think I will actually break something first before I go out and by another damn piece of equipment. _
08:14:22 PM, Friday 16 March 2012


I welded two wires together today! Next up: welding wires together for a useful purpose. _
05:45:48 PM, Thursday 15 March 2012


A notebook where I used to write haikuish things was floating around. Here are a couple:

video game sounds
like a mastadon army.
outside, a child yells "no".
in the morning i'll
just have to raise
the blinds again.
06:54:24 PM, Monday 12 March 2012


I've started a little blog of colors and textures that say something about how I feel. For whatever that's worth. It's feralbowerbird.tumblr.com. _
12:12:36 PM, Friday 2 March 2012


quack. quack. quack. quack.
quack quack. quack quack. _
03:30:59 AM, Monday 20 February 2012


On uselessness:

Hui Tzu said to Chaung Tzu, "I have a big tree called a shu. It trunk is too gnarled and bumpy to apply a measuring line to, its branches too bent and twisty to match up to a compass or square. You could stand it by the road and no carpenter would look at it twice. Your words, too, are big and useless, so everyone alike spurns them!"

Chuang Tzu aid, "Maybe you've never seen a wildcat or a weasel. It crouches down and hides, watching for something to come along. It leaps and races east and west, not hesitating to go high or low---until it falls into the trap and dies in the net. Then again there's the yak, big as a cloud covering the sky. It certainly knows how to be big, though it doesn't know how to catch rats. Now you have this big tree and you're distressed because it's useless. Why don't you plant it in Not-Even-Anything Village, or the field of Broad-and-Boundless, relax and do nothing by its side, or lie down for a free and easy sleep under it? Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it. If there's no use for it, how can it come to grief or pain?"

Chuang Tzu, Basic Writings, tr. Burton Watson, pg 29. _
08:54:42 PM, Friday 17 February 2012


Movie log:

Watched Chinatown for the first time tonight. It's one of those movies that gets referenced so much as one of the greatest films ever that it seemed like a thing to see. I somehow had it in my head as one of these ultraviolent movies, which it was not. Just your typical hard boiled murder mystery, chase round clues and find the looming evil baddie. It seemed like it was playing it very safe in terms of plot, by which I don't mean avoiding controversial subjects, which it didn't, but the way the plot ticked was very standard, clue followed clue, it was very easy to follow. I would have seen the movie a lot earlier if someone had told me it was about the politics of the Los Angeles municipal water supply. But that would have been misleading, the water supply stuff was really a MacGuffin. A MacGuffin which afforded plenty of opportunities for beautiful shots of water, which comes to what was great about this film, it was just absolutely gorgeous, all the way through, in every shot, in a way that let you just luxuriate in it without getting distracted by visual cleverness. Every single damn thing in it was gorgeous, the cameras, the hats, the leather-trimmed binoculars, the cars with white tires and mahogany dashboads, the cigarettes, the cigarette holders, the smoke. The mansions were gorgeous, the offices were gorgeous, the dry riverbed with a boy on a pony was gorgeous, Chinatown was gorgeous. I don't usually get style, I don't get why things need to be visually perfect, it irritates me that people spend so much time on it. But this movie made it all seem worthwhile, not crass in the slightest, because it wasn't at all about people wanting to look good or have good looking things or make things around them look good (there was not even a hint of Interiors). By not questioning the premise that this is all worthwhile, it let me enjoy the good-looking world thoroughly.

Also watched Boys Don't Cry recently. Working through my Netflix Instant queue. This one, I don't know. It's basically a true crime story, a dramatization of news clippings. I don't feel like I learned anything much about transgender issues from this movie. I learned that Hilary Swank makes a cute guy. But Teena Brandon seems just from the bits and pieces on his wikipedia page like a more compelling person than his portrayal in this movie. I came out of it with questions like "how do the people involved feel about this movie?" and unfortunately the answer is that Brandon's real girlfriend sued the movie studio for defamation for portraying her as being at the crime scene when she was not, and staying with him when she did not, among other things. That's pretty serious. If you're going to use someone's real name, you don't get that much poetic license, is my view. I'd be more comfortable with a fully fictional based-vaguely-on-a-true-story movie that had more room to draw out characters that the writers fully own, or with a real documentary. _
12:18:46 AM, Saturday 4 February 2012


Today I am in love with everything about this picture: Doris Mable Cochran (1898-1968), measuring a turtle shell _
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10:49:25 AM, Saturday 21 January 2012


This was intended as a comment on Neil's post about Calvinism but the spamblocker didn't let it through.

I ran across this weird site on monergism, which is a bit like Calvinism or somehow related anyway, here are their FAQs on monergism and Calvinism. This mnenomic about Calvinism is brilliant:

This historic council responded to the five points of the Remonstrance with what have come to be called the five points of Calvinism, and which are commonly remembered by the acrostic "TULIP". The points are as follows: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.
The guy who runs the site is Presbyterian, for what that's worth. Modern Calvinists, they are indeed out there. _
12:55:57 PM, Wednesday 18 January 2012


For a while this fall I kept track of songs that were in my head. The ones that pop up spontaneously, not the ones that remain in my head because I've heard them that day. These were gathered over a month or so:

1. If I Had a Hammer/ Peter, Paul and Mary
2. Higher Love/ Steve Winwood
3. What's Love Got to Do with It/ Tina Turner
4. Punk Rock Girl/ The Dead Milkmen
5. Get the Party Started/ P!nk
6. Party Rock Anthem/ LMFAO
7. Rock me Amadeus/ Falco
8. Rite of Spring part II/ Stravinsky
9. I Wanna Be Sedated/ Ramones
10. Daddy Cool/ Boney M.
11. Manhattan Skyline/ a-ha
12. Stray Cat Strut/ Stray Cats
13. Video Games/ Lana Del Rey
14. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm/ Crash Test Dummies
15. Play that Funky Music/ Wild Cherry
16. These Dreams/ Heart
17. Symphonie Fantastique/ Berlioz
18. I Saw Her Standing There/ The Beatlesv 19. Jump Around/ House of Pain
20. Corduroy/ Pearl Jam
21. In a Big Country/ Big Country

Ok, so I don't necessarily like everything on this list, they are earworms after all, but I like a lot of it, it's a cheerful mix. My subconscious wants to party, apparently. Also, I noticed that a lot of these songs, especially the older ones, have vivid place and time associations. Get the Party Started I first heard in a certain bagel shop in Ann Arbor while waiting in a long line for lunch: it takes me right back to that not particularly interesting moment. Jump Around was played at a dance at my middle school that took place in the cafeteria. We jumped around. Rock me Amadeus was on the soundtrack for a modern dance class I took in fifth or sixth grade. I Wanna Be Sedated is somewhere in the field by the river at St. John's, I had it in my head once there and bopped around singing it. It's like they're mental spacetime navigation points.

This little project was more interesting than I thought it would be. It turns out I don't know what's in my head if I don't write it down. Also that I really like Tina Turner, who is not Whitney Houston. I'll start a new one for 2012.

Here's the Spotify link. If you play it, be advised, these are all certified earworms, every single one of them. _
12:49:47 AM, Sunday 1 January 2011


In the Atlantic's Civil War Issue there is an article from 1904 in which a journalist remembers Abraham Lincoln. Apparently one of the striking things about Lincoln was his atrocious sense of humor:

I was introduced to Lincoln at Freeport, and met him frequently afterwards in the course of the campaign. I must say frankly that, although I found him most approachable, good-natured, and full of wit and humor, I could not take a real personal liking to the man, owing to an inborn weakness for which he was even then notorious and so remained during his great public career. He was inordinately fond of jokes, anecdotes, and stories. He loved to hear them, and still more to tell them himself out of the inexhaustible supply provided by his good memory and his fertile fancy. There would have been no harm in this but for the fact that, the coarser the joke, the lower the anecdote, and the more risky the story, the more he enjoyed them, especially when they were of his own invention. He possessed, moreover, a singular ingenuity in bringing about occasions in conversation for indulgences of this kind.
Here are a few samples. They would not be out of place on the Reader's Digest joke pages:
Lincoln told of the preacher that said, during his sermon, that although the Lord was the only perfect man, the Bible never mentioned a perfect woman. A woman in the rear of the congregation called out "I know a perfect woman, and I’ve heard of her every day for the last six years." "Who was she?" asked the surprised minister. "My husband’s first wife," came the reply.
01:18:54 PM, Tuesday 20 December 2011


Naomi Wolf on OWS _
07:02:12 PM, Thursday 1 December 2011


Technologists wish every program behaved like a brand-new, playful little program, and will use any available psychological strategy to avoid thinking about computers realistically.
--Jaron Lanier in You are not a Gadget.

I definitely have this syndrome. This is why I prefer to write small programs. _
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02:34:20 PM, Friday 25 November 2011


Smoothies for dinner, then home-made apple turnovers for dessert. In this house we play the grownup game with finesse.

While making the turnovers, I was unable to calculate the side of square half the size of a 15 inch square in my head while rolling dough. This seemed like a terrible failure that should get my math geek cred taken down several pegs. I guess I'm out of practice. Anyway, for future reference, after some scribbling, it's 15/sqrt(2), which is by a good enough approximation (2/3)*15 or 10 inches, quite a bit bigger than the 8 inches I went with. I'm not likely to make frequent use of this ratio, unless I get into the habit of making half recipes of pastry, which come to think of it is not a bad idea. _
10:38:37 PM, Saturday 1 October 2011


On Radiolab there was a podcast about Lincoln Beachy, known as a daring aviator and also the subject of an old jump-rope rhyme from the 20's:

Lincoln Beachey thought it was a dream
To go up to heaven in a flying machine.
The machine broke down, and down he fell.
Instead of going to heaven he went to . . .
I was astounded to find that nowhere on the internet (until now!) is Lincoln Beachy's name connected with Miss Susie's:
Miss Susie had a steam boat
the steam boat had a bell (ding ding! )
Miss Susie went to heaven and the steamboat went to...
Hello operator, please get me number nine,
and if you disconnect me I will kick you from behind
the frigerator there lay a piece of glass
Miss Susie fell upon it and she broke her little...
Ask me no more questions, I'll tell you no more lies
Miss Susie told me all of this the day before she...
Dyed her hair all purple, dyed her hair all pink
Dyed her hair all polka-dot and washed it down the...
Sink me in the ocean, sink me in the sea
Sink me in the bathtub
And that's the end of me.
Straight from the folklore haven that is my brain as molded in the mid 80's in Michigan. The connection to the Beachy rhyme is clear enough. Presumably there are intermediates, a whole world of them probably. Where is a professional folklorist when you need one? Come on, someone cares about this more than me. _
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08:03:50 PM, Tuesday 27 September 2011


I'm moving over to google docs from OneNote (grr, OneNote: I gave you enough chances), and found this which seemed interesting. I'm not sure what to do with it, I don't think I would say the same thing in the same way now. I don't know what it would sound like from outside my sort of experience. It just seems like an interesting thought.

April 26, 2010

"you think you're so god damn unimportant"

this came out in a poem about mania. yeah. it's true. the "grandiosity" of mania takes away the illusion of being unimportant.

the conventional wisdom says that most people want to be more important than they are. let's turn this around. most people want to be less important than they are.

what do i mean by that? one might say "everybody wants to play the hero". but do they really, when it comes down to it? no. it's very comforting not to be the hero. it's very comforting to think that one's actions do not really matter. it's very comforting to think that one will never have to make any kind of big sacrifice simply to keep one's world safe. it's very comforting to think that one will never have to face a very difficult situation independently, to make a difficult choice alone with other people's lives on the line. it's very comforting to think that one will never have the opportunity to do anything really right, or really wrong.

in mania i played the hero. it was exhilarating, but also extremely difficult, much more difficult than i would have thought. to think that one's every action has some deep impact on things is perhaps a gratification to the ego at first, but it is also terrifying. deep impact implies deep responsibility, and it was clear that i did not actually have the knowledge needed for this task.

the mistake is not to think that one is important, but to think that others are not equally important, or that the world somehow isn't real.

but not being willing to accept the role of hero is just as egotistical as craving the role of hero. the grandiosity of mania is not pure wish fulfillment. there are aspects of heroism that no one wishes for. wanting the world to somehow be completely independent of oneself is just as false as getting bound up in solipsism, thinking the world is completely dependent on oneself. mania does not fulfill a wish, it allows one to play out a role, to face a situation that is perfectly real, psychologically speaking. there is falseness in it, but the falseness isn't "you, little one, pretending to be so big!" it's not ridiculous in quite that way. the falseness is in the way the world gets flattened.

everyone needs to be able to accept the role of hero, to accept significant sacrifice. for everyone, that is very difficult. even for real heroes.

what about this idea that certain things are trapped in ideas that are seen as too high, or as imaginary? that there is something that it means to feel that one is christ, or something, and that nothing but actually thinking that will do, as far as releasing that feeling. and some of us are so constituted that we can (unconsciously) grab that sugar, gather all that meaning back into the world, by remaking the world in our own minds. of course that goes badly, but it does not change the fact that some very important things might be trapped in psychologically inaccessible places, and being able to grab them out is in fact very effective at restoring a feeling of meaning to a grey, clockwork world.

a natural question then is this: is there a better way to go about it? like, knowing this fact, could i find ways to grab some of that sugar without disrupting my sense of reality. instead of swimming over to the other side, could i create narrow bridges? i suppose that is what religion and art are all about, at least, sometimes. _
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11:14:59 PM, Saturday 9 July 2011


I dreamt that there was a bank that had left its extensive Christmas decorations up, for a kind of sad Christmas in July. I woke up to find that it's July and I seem to have a cold, which is similarly sad and unseasonal. _
11:13:12 AM, Saturday 9 July 2011


Word of the day: bezel. Usage: "I need a new front plastic bezel (aka front panel) for my computer because my power switch broke". I wonder if there's any harm just leaving it off: with the switch underneath exposed, I can turn my computer on and off just fine. _
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05:28:56 PM, Tuesday 5 July 2011


Future historic village
Future historic village
Future historic village _
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11:24:40 PM, Wednesday 29 June 2011


So I saw asking this question:

Think back to the first time you saw the internet. Not just saw it, but really got it. That “oh wow” moment when you realized how important this could be. It doesn’t matter if it was last decade or last week. We want that story.
So this is not for that project (which wants voice, not text), but it got me thinking. After talking to Tim about it we decided the question is probably relevant to an older audience, maybe only slightly older, but older: people who had adult selves already when they heard of the internet. When I encountered the internet, well not the internet at first, AOL and local BBSs, it quickly became clear there was this thing called the internet that was the cool thing where you could connect with anyone and it was just completely obvious from the get go that I wanted in, and went to various lengths to get in, even when "in" was just an interface to Gopher where you could just search for random things and laugh at the mostly-irrelevant results, or to Usenet groups overrun with flamewars. It didn't occur to me to wonder whether it was important. I don't know what it is or where it's going, but I want better faster more.

The internet was for a while, I'm sure you all recall, kind of a weird hobby, something our parents didn't know about or needed our help with, and even as more and more people used it, it remained kind of a subculture, cordoned off from real life. So what's been striking to me over the past ten years or so is how the subculture has almost merged with the mainstream: that might be my equivalent of realizing the internet is important, "whoa, the internet is the real world now". Seven years ago it was a little amusing to hear local internet outages covered on the radio as if they were utility outages: oh, the radio gets it about how important this is to people. Hearing internet commentators anywhere else was exciting. Today, it's an accepted fact that the people need their internet service just like they need electricity, and commentators and politicians and superstars flip-flop easily between the web and other media. And NPR will not shut up about twitter.

I am part of the last generation to be able to compare the world with the internet to a world without (even if it had been invented a ways back). And there's a difference. I suppose we lived with information being much more difficult to transfer. I don't think we knew we had a problem: I don't think anyone was like, you know what the world could use, it could use world readable databases of cats with captions. Or anything like that. (Until we got a handle on the internet, and then everybody and his mother's uncle knew what to do with it, which is what the tech bubble of 2000 was all about). I have a bit of knee-jerk nostalgic conservatism: an enduring sense that maybe something's lost, something's not quite right, shouldn't get so dependent on it. But also an enduring sense that the internet is something special and wow, that's heightened by it not always having been there. _
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10:09:40 PM, Saturday 25 June 2011



1. Give official permission or approval for (an action).

2. Impose a sanction or penalty on.

I sanction this situation. _
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04:21:53 PM, Tuesday 21 June 2011


Grocery shopping tales:

In several places at Shaw's, including by the tea (which I tend to take a good look at), they've been hanging these little one-egg frying pans with a picture of an egg being fried, and a cartoon egg peeping out looking worried and angry ("I'm next??") and cute. Every time I see these I have an impulse to buy one, which I have to counteract by remembering that I already have a nicer pan of about the same size which is great for cooking one egg in (and not much else). This is how marketing works, I guess.

Speaking of eggs, brown eggs are now slightly more expensive than white eggs. I could have sworn that it was the other way around a couple years ago, and that was why I switched. It was a novelty, for sure, coming here: I had never seen brown eggs in Michigan.

Getting out of the parking lot and headed in the direction of home is almost impossible. I need to turn left, but I'm not supposed to turn left, and besides there is generally either a line of traffic backed up from the light, or four lanes of thick traffic whizzing past in both directions. Turning right or left at the light doesn't get you to a block you can go around, either. You need to to actually turn around and go back. The inefficiency of this still bugs me after doing it semi-weekly for months. There has to be a better way!

But I made it home, groceries in trunk. I have instant cold-brew iced tea: brew right in a cup of cold water. Nice if it works. I'll let you know how that goes. _
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02:07:11 PM, Tuesday 21 June 2011


If you're interested in heavy metal and/or Iraq, you should watch Heavy Metal in Baghdad (handheld camera advisory). It's a vivid, and odd, perspective on Baghdad during the war through the lens of Baghdad's first and only metal band. Be sure to look the band up after you watch. _
09:58:33 PM, Friday 17 June 2011


Mark Twain according to David Allen, productivity guru:

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.

--Mark Twain
This seems to have been started by Marc Allen, a similar guru type (family business?) in the 1998 with his book A Visionary Life: Conversations on Personal and Planetary Evolution.

As Mark Twain once said, fake Mark Twain quotes are all over the place, but at least remember who Mark Twain is, sheesh. Mark Twain: author with an actual body of work, not funny close-quote mark used for wise sayings.

Edit: Tim pointed out that the first sentence sounds at least passably like a quoteable quote, so I looked for that separately. "The secret of getting ahead is getting started" originates in the 1992 book The Last word: a treasury of women's quotes, attributed to one Sally Berger. I love google book search. _
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12:52:49 PM, Wednesday 15 June 2011


Coffee syrup is meant to be used for making Coffee milk, the official state drink of Rhode Island by stirring it into milk. On a whim I poured it into seltzer instead, creating coffee soda. It works! I've never tasted anything quite like it, but it's not bad. _
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07:47:03 PM, Thursday 9 June 2011


Cat window flap in action
Cat window flap in action
Hey, the flickr Android app still knows how to post to my blog! Cool.

This is our cat's new toy. He hasn't come in through it yet. He'll figure out its advantages over banging at the screen soon. _
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09:51:15 AM, Thursday 9 June 2011


The TV industry is worried about people like us who ditch cable TV because we don't watch it anyway. Granted, Verizon shouldn't be too worried about us, since they still sell us high speed internet and phone service at nearly the same price. They have a bigger problem:

"At the low end, customers aren't just choosing between one provider and another," he argued. "They're often choosing between these services and a third meal."

The financial pressure on millions of U.S. consumers - 44 million live below the poverty line, and 50 million use food stamps - is not only a challenge for pay TV operators, but also entertainment giants, Moffett highlighted.

Clearly what cable companies need to do is get poor people (the skinflints) to cut back on food rather than TV. This is not as absurd as it sounds:
We asked Oucha Mbarbk what he would do if he had more money. He said he would buy more food. Then we asked him what he would do if he had even more money. He said he would buy better-tasting food. We were starting to feel very bad for him and his family, when we noticed the TV and other high-tech gadgets. Why had he bought all these things if he felt the family did not have enough to eat? He laughed, and said, "Oh, but television is more important than food!"
Read this whole article about hunger around the world, it's fascinating. _
12:26:24 PM, Thursday 2 June 2011


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75. It is a very extraordinary instance of the force of prejudice, and much to be lamented, that the mind of man retains so great a fondness, against all the evidence of reason, for a stupid thoughtless Somewhat, by the interposition whereof it would as it were screen itself from the Providence of God, and remove Him farther off from the affairs of the world.
-George Berkeley