February 6, 2018

It's only words... and assumptions; and priorities; and... ouch!

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 2:26 p.m.

On the very first of December 2017, a man whose knowledge I admire started publishing the FFA (Finite Field Arithmetic) series on his blog. Having previously struggled to actually follow in the immense log the scattered bits and pieces and discussions and rants and what-not on the topic, I was absolutely delighted that he finally took the time and committed to this weekly series. I was (and am) also grateful that he decided to put in the significant effort for this last but crucial step of writing software: documenting it essentially, providing at the very least a single place for the interested reader to start from.

As my delight is not of the mere words type, I proceeded to adjust my schedule to fit in a weekly dose of FFA. So I looked around at my madness of a weekly schedule, cut and put away various things that were not quite as important as I considered FFA to be, cleared up Saturday afternoons and set that time aside specifically for FFA reading and practice. As the FFA chapters were meant to be published every Friday as per their author's own statement of intent, I considered Saturdays to be perfect fit: fresh chapter ready to be read and enough time to digest it properly until the following week and the following installment. In a word, perfect, right? Sadly, it turned out I was wrong.

It really took only three weeks for the Friday FFA to become... the Saturday FFA. And this was indeed a change half-sort-of-announced in the logs1 - I recall it as a statement from Stanislav along the lines that he *might need to* delay the FFA chapter because of work load. This statement in any case didn't sound AT ALL like a loud and clear "from now on FFA will be published on Saturdays because workload far exceeds expectations and I'm only human, sorry". As I consider public complaints to be rather futile, I did not even complain about it - in hindsight I suppose I really should complain more, if not for any effect (I still doubt any effect) then at least for the record. For MY future record especially.

Going back to this sliding of Fridays into Saturdays, the very unpleasant effect for me was of course that my painfully cleared time on Saturday afternoons was all of a sudden not fit for purpose anymore. And not just because "no FFA this week" but consider this: one can slide, sure; this week I'll read last week's FFA chapter and so hopefully I can at least still use the whole setup; except... certainly not fresh anymore, certainly not exactly keeping up to date, certainly not solving the puzzles as intended before potentially seeing other people's attempts in the chan if nowhere else. And to top it all, this week a monster chapter2 further stretched the schedule anyway: by the looks of it one week slide behind with the reading will still not be enough to avoid being left stranded. So what am I supposed to do exactly to be able to follow FFA? Honestly, my current approach - and I really don't see another - is simply to say: fine, stuff this "follow" idea, it's *way too costly* simply, not going to happen. Let it run its course and when it's finished and all ready, there will hopefully still be time to go and take it chapter by chapter, as possible. At least once it's there, one can make a plan on eating and digesting it, without further surprises to blow up one's plan.

Note that this has nothing to do with the FFA itself. In particular, this is NOT in any way saying that Stanislav "should have" done more work or different work or whatever other work. The whole sticking point really is on the planning and communications side and this came to the forefront even more visibly only yesterday through the "hardware debacle" for I can't call it in any other way. As far as I can grasp from the log itself, the work there behind the scenes was again done and done well as Stanislav always does it. However, the last step, the 20% that kills the whole other 80% was botched beyond belief and the saddest part of it is that Stan himself does not even see how or why exactly he ended up in the hot soup.

From previous practical experience I can say that it almost never helps to tell a man what he can't see for himself. There is a reason for that particular blind spot of his eye and that reason is not addressed through someone else's explanation. Nevertheless, I'll say - for my future records mainly - only this: assumptions made but not explicitly stated for the other party to accept or challenge are a way of shooting yourself in the head; conflicting deadlines and/or requests are to be shouted from the rooftop as soon as spotted; in this horribly limited reality of human life, practical costs can and do quite often trump ~everything else. The unexpected in particular tends to have a horrible cost, so the best thing you can do for those you work with is to make sure you don't add to their share of the unexpected. Otherwise put, please, please make sure that they really can trust your exact words at any moment as much as they can trust your finished product: any assumptions clearly stated and defended if needed, any limitations made clear from the start, any change to previously promised issues clearly argued, any priorities made explicit, any implications of new developments (be it new requests or anything else) stated as soon as identified. This being said, communication is of course a not-exactly-precise activity and one in which I certainly do not presume to give advice to anyone. I simply listed there the main parts that I found myself adding to my own "communication manual" over the years - it's been of use to me and that is enough reason for it to be here but if you, reader, find anything of use for yourself in there too, that's even better really.

  1. I can't even find it now, all I could come up with was Mircea Popescu's later surprise at this development...  

  2. Similarly to previous schedule stretching, this was also announced as a mere "thinking of" rather than "previous planning was totally inadequate for these here reasons; new plan as follows with x, y and z measures taken to avoid repeat of same mistake; sorry and thank you for sticking around." This time however, I decoded the message better given previous experience so I was at least *expecting* no FFA this Saturday basically, what can I say. 

November 12, 2017

Despre Bacalaureat dupa 6 ani

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 5:44 p.m.

In 2011 faceam gratuit un serviciu pe care Ministerul Invatamantului nu-l facea pe bani buni: ofeream public pentru prima data datele de la Bacalaureat intr-un format simplu, text, sa poata fi analizate de oricine are interes. Ani de zile dupa aceea am tot primit intrebari despre datele acestea precum si cereri pentru restul de date asa ca pe parcurs am mai actualizat pe cat posibil pagina cu datele nou aparute. Anul acesta pentru prima data am primit un altfel de comunicare si anume o oferta de la Costin Bleotu de la Code4Ro: datele noi precum si o arhiva cu datele din anii anteriori de la Bacalaureat si Capacitate. Tare frumoasa surpriza mi-a facut dansul asa, ca uite se poate totusi si asa ceva, o interactiune altminteri perfect normala si logica: am facut asta, am vazut ca ati facut inainte ceva similar, am comparat, astea-s diferentele, va intereseaza ori poate fi de folos? Asadar am multumit, am preluat, am contactat pe cei de-i mai stiam interesati de analize pe datele astea, am dat mai departe. Si cine stie, poate incet-incet, ceva se misca totusi in directia cea buna. Vom vedea.

Totusi, suntem in 2017 si daca ma uit in urma ca era 2011 cand am pus datele acelea prima data, se cheama ca am fost asadar cu *doar* 6 ani de zile inaintea societatii civile din Romania. Undeva, candva, intr-un viitor indepartat e posibil inca sa se intample ca si Ministerul Invatamantului sa ne ajunga din urma desi nu-i clar exact cand. E mai degraba posibil dar nu tocmai probabil dat fiind ca 6 ani de zile mai tarziu singura "imbunatatire" a sitului Ministerului e ca macar folosesc un singur format prost pentru date in loc de 5 formate proaste. Adaugarea si unui banal format text e posibil sa mai dureze inca un sfert de secol ori pe acolo, in fond nu-i graba ca nu dau... turcii. Ori nu inca, in tot cazul. De publicat analize si utilizat datele concret si transparent sa stie si lumea la ce-s utile si cum ajuta nici nu-i vorba.

Oricum, daca tot au trecut 6 ani de la ultima analiza am zis ca merita macar asa o privire din fuga la ce s-a mai intamplat cu notele la Bacalaureat. Iata cum sta treaba per total:



In prima imagine aveti procentul de candidati care au fost admisi la examenul de Bacalaureat in fiecare an in sesiunea de vara. In vreme ce e clar vizibila caderea brusca a procentului de promovati in 2011 si apoi in 2012, din 2013 imi pare cam la fel de clara "revenirea" oarecum gradata catre 75%-80%.

Nota medie (imaginea a doua) e calculata doar pentru cei admisi (de vreme ce candidatii respinsi nu au neaparat note la toate materiile oricum). Aceeasi scadere brusca e vizibila in 2010-2011 si aceeasi "recuperare" treptata e la fel de vizibila din 2012. Insa merita totusi spus ca diferentele nu-s chiar la fel de dramatice: in vreme ce procentul de admisi e 50% in 2011 (cand e cel mai mic) si 74% in 2017 (ori aproape 84% in 2005 cand e cel mai mare), nota medie e totusi 7.39 in 2011 (cea mai mica) si 7.88 in 2017 (8.21 in 2005 cand e cea mai mare). Asadar nota medie variaza cu mai putin de un punct per total si altminteri cu o jumatate de punct intre 2011 si 2017. In acelasi interval insa procentul de admisi creste cu 25 de procente si mai mult decat atat examenul in sine se transforma in consecinta dintr-un examen "dur" intr-unul in esenta lejer de vreme ce trei sferturi din candidati sunt admisi.

June 12, 2017

O Brave New Code

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 5:37 p.m.

...that has such people into it.
- 'Tis new to thee.

- O, wonder! The coding of our days 'tis like no other for it is social now so it is great and beautiful indeed! Gone are the terse and subtle algorithmic scribblings that hurt the puny, untrained mind with their crystal clarity of thought and structure. Gone are the small gems of code that numb the senses with their lack of useless purple flourishes, their elegance, predictability and reliability. Not only gone but truly defeated in this brave new sprawling code of half a million lines that do almost nothing - but they do it so collaboratively, so socially, so wonderfully modernly unthinkably effortlessly!

- But wait, I thought coding was still but a baby activity, one born out of the two parents of Mathematics and Electronics, software and hardware. It's not that long since the very first computer after all, how can it be that Mathematics don't even count anymore, Electronics are not even mentioned at all? Nobody says one should write code on punched cardboard cards of course, but code is still simply the implementation of some design, after all. First one aims to understand the problem to solve, then one designs a solution and only when satisfied with it, one implements it.

- Pshaw. Such old and stale thinking of a most unsocial kind! To think of all that repetition of "one" as if coding was a solitary activity of the individual mind. As if one was perhaps even responsible for the code they produced - what nonsense! Such approach is really just holding contributors back, think about it - what if they don't understand the problem? Shouldn't they contribute anyway? What if they don't understand the existing design? Shouldn't they add to it anyway? What if they are afraid that they might make a mistake? Shouldn't they be free from such fears so that they can fully contribute to grow the codebase most wonderfully? Of course they should, what's with all those barriers to entry - down with the barriers that keep people out!

To only think of it - such progress mankind has achieved in coding matters! Barely 50 years ago coders were those crude workers of the mathematical sort: mere slaves of theories and models, of proofs and numbers. Pity them, for before they could even write code they actually had to write all sorts of other drab things - designs, flowcharts, models, diagrams, proofs of correctness, comparisons, assessments even (gasp!) documentation! But now no more, no need for such shameful things anymore - let the bright young minds of our beautiful and pure offspring know no such debasement as writing or reading descriptions of thought gone into some piece of code. Of thought? What thought - it's unsociable to think in solitude after all! Don't waste your time thinking - go there and code, code, code like you talk to your friends. Coding IS the new small talk of yesteryear - 'tis all about the latest craze, the latest phase, the latest gimmick that caught your fancy. Go and code beautifully in a big loop using Hadoop, with loud pops from DevOps, 'tis like magic with swords when you use all the buzzwords.

- What about documentation though? Shouldn't there still be documentation so that one can understand the code at a later time?

- Documentation - 'tis but for laughter now, for what use could there even be to such an antiquated notion? The social coding of today has made documentation not only utterly obsolete - a thing of the past much like solid oak furniture and family homes that lasted for generations rather than months - but also totally useless. Take for instance the open source developers of this game called Planeshit - it's not out of laziness that they failed to really document their source code, not at all. It's simply that the code is truly such a wonderfully creative mess that no documentation could ever contain it - data spills and cascades from class to class and back again, method calls can go up to 25 levels deep and responsibilities are shared to such a wonderful degree that nobody is in fact truly responsible for anything anymore - nor truly to be trusted to do something indeed. And even if there was someone foolish enough to extract some sort of class diagram out of the code, who do you think would be able to or indeed have any interest in reading it anyway? Why read documentation instead of coding? And can't you see that the documentation is really not helpful at all with all those links between all classes? All barriers are down and it's all shared, all owned and used in common for the greater good of the society as a whole: it's not my pointer and your pointer anymore, nor this class' data or that class' responsibility so what can you document exactly? Any and all documentation will really be just as long as the code for there are no rules and no patterns to constrict the free flow of social coding!

- Well, that class diagram really looks horrible indeed. But you should then clean the code!

- Oh, no, what a thought! Clean the code of all its beauty and appeal and creativity? How cruel and cold hearted! And how foolish to try too, really - do you really think nobody ever tried? Ah, but they did, they tried, the fools and the anti-social with their mathematical minds. They tried and they failed and the sad remains of their defeated minds are all over the code - for chaos actively opposes order and it will easily drown the naive coder who thinks that the chaotic code they see is but an accident or only a small layer on top of an otherwise solid structure. But it's not an accident, it's fully intended and - after a point - self-supporting. It's not just top-layer deep either, but rotting away all the way down to the very core. And as a warning you get here and there the ever sadder epitaphs:

"//it's an ugly hack, that should be changed in the future" - the future never comes of course, what future, it's all present!1

"//ugly hack, to put the AL in the entity hash" - the hash in question being itself a festering hole of maggots, of course. But once defeated, the once-possibly-sane-coder is effectively corrupted and turned into an active contributor to the chaos. 2

"// The following is an ugly hack: the destination slot must be cleared - before - we move the item there, since the DEEQUIP message must go to the client before the EQUIP mesage. If not, the client gets a ghost-weapon mesh stuck in their hand" - this is really where the defeat clearly shows: it's not that one doesn't understand what mess they are making, no. It's worse than that - they understand it all right, but they make it anyway, out of laziness or out of tiredness or out of anything under the sun - instead of solving the root cause of the problem, they paper over and ... leave it for someone else to solve "in the future". All the while also feeding the same problem of course, giving it more power to grow into the monster that will then eat more than a year to just trim - not even yet fully kill, no.

You see, it starts like this: in comes the naive coder who wants to get things done - but done you see, once and for all, reliably, solidly. In she goes with the head full of models and the fingers itching to implement them. Down she goes into the neverending swamps of pointerfuck and the solid wall of "manager" classes that prop one another like so many real bureaucrats - without doing anything useful really, but very importantly "managing" everything from users to songs to spells to speech or movement on one's own two feet.

Down she goes not for hours or for days or weeks but for months at a time. Out she comes for a minute to breath some fresh air in, to wipe her hands of the bleeding entrails of the 30+ manager classes that have been slashed so that there aren't even 10 remaining anymore. Down she goes again into the remaining fetid mud of treacherous methods that take upon themselves and out of the blue to do something more or something less or something *other* than they say they do.

"Oh, I *do* send messages" - says a method brightly while effectively taking it upon itself to decimate all those sent its way: I didn't *really* say I send all messages, did I? And isn't it better that I send fully only every 10th message, as there really are so many after all? I do send something for all the other too, just not really all, what's the problem?3

Out comes again the stubborn coder who refuses to give in to mud and nonsense. Out she comes, covered in shit and blood and a little - just a little - tired this time, for she is carrying on her back the remains of several hundreds of thousands of lines of code that were extracted piece by piece out of the writhing mess. And in she goes again to somehow put the whole thing up together again - all the while painfully aware of the fact that this is really only a quarter of the story, since all this code routinely communicates with another piece of code that can't yet be touched and is by now sure to be just as full of idiocy as this one was just one year ago. One year ago, when the coder was so very naive indeed that they could have been easily told:

- 'Tis new to thee.

- Not anymore, though, 'tis not. And by the time I'm really truly done with this mess, I'll not have the perfect code, not even fully sane code - for perfect and fully sane are really both utterly impossible while still in the swamps - but I'll personally kick in the nads anyone who adds even an inch of social creativity and all that shit to it again.

  1. From actionmanager.cpp 

  2. From gem.cpp . Ah, this "gem" - there aren't words to fully convey its monstrosity. 

  3. For example, directly from the worm's behind in bulkobjects/pscharacter.cpp "//every 10th msg to this person, send everything" 

January 25, 2017

Feelings are helpful, but not for idiots

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 4:09 p.m.

Although I write here in English and I do so as a result of thinking in English too1, I grew up in quite a different cultural space. And then I went on to live in a few different countries, choosing at times places that were really not homogeneous. Places that were even rather tense through direct - often unwilling and uneasy at least at first - interaction between several different cultures. Of those, South Tyrol comes most easily to mind, with its Italian- German/Austrian mixture that ressembles at times oil on water rather than yeast in some milk.

Given this background of mine, I am quite used to and not easily unsettled by differences that really run deeper than what people eat, how long it takes them to say goodbye or what "9 o'clock" really means for them (hint: it will mean 8:55 for the German in South Tyrol and anything between 9:10 and 9:30 for the Italian in South Tyrol who is also likely to base their calculation on a weigthed function of their own perceived importance in the group who is supposed to meet at 9 o'clock). Moreover, I am really quite simply interested in noticing differences - I actively look for them, quite as one would look for clues to solving a mystery. It's from differences and unexpected things that I learn most and what seems to be "just a small difference" at first can sometimes run so deep underground that it truly yields the most interesting facts.

One difference that most startled me at first in the English2 is the repeated appeal and questioning of "feeling" in the most unexpected and broadly least suited contexts of all. I've been asked over and over again what do I *feel* is a fair price for X or for Y and what do I *feel* is correct here and there and how do I *feel* one should proceed with Z. Allowing for difference and still at the initial stages of studying it rather than weighing it, I simply took all those to mean the only sensible meaning of what does one *think* of X, Y and Z and gave my answers accordingly, with a small emphasis on the "I *think*" part of it3, to highlight - just in case one might entertain the idea that it's really a feeling there at work rather than the appropriate reasoning process - the correct nature of the issue at hand.

Funnily enough, this apparent worship of feeling as worthy guide in business matters is in rather stark contrast with actual practice most of the time. It's almost as one might simply sugarcoat it in feelings if that can fool you or alternatively, as one's inner emotional landscape was already so arid and barren that dry calculations are the only thing that grows there anyway. I never could quite figure this out for sure4, but another bit of the puzzle has recently slotted in place: all this appeal to feelings where they don't belong might simply be the English attempt at flattery, despite the fact that any sane mind would interpret it as quite the opposite - if such mind wastes any time at all on it and doesn't bash the idiots directly.

Taken at face value, such misplaced appeal to feelings signals to me that the speaker is not worth speaking to on the matter, as they are clueless and confused at best. However, on reading how one might actually have internalised a direct link between their worth and the relevance of their feelings above and beyond everything else, I can see the sales person (despicable as I consider them anyway) at work: basically instead of stating that I'm the light of the Universe and all mighty and powerful but could I spare them some coins, they appeal to my feelings as most important and that should work - based on their previous experience with people suffering from a complete misunderstanding of their own feelings - as a proxy for making me feel terribly important just the same. Except, of course, that it doesn't work like that, not for any sane person who actually spent any time at all not only feeling, but also - gasp - thinking a bit. Thinking even about feelings and without emotion or bitterness, but quite detached and unemotional about it all. For feelings are really the most useful thing when not abused or invested with all sorts of weird meanings of self-worth or potential danger to oneself or who knows what else.

Feelings are simply indicators and quite powerful ones at that. They are however indicators of one's own internal realm, not of the reality outside it and confusing those seems to be the most common mistake one chooses to make. What you feel about something can tell you a lot about your own -and at times very deeply buried- expectations, assumptions and investments. However, what you feel about something will not tell you anything about that something itself. Taken as such internal indicators and nothing more, your feelings can reveal yourself to you in the privacy and safety of your own person and to a degree that is otherwise possible only through submission perhaps. Your feelings are the inner mirror in which you can - if you choose to - watch yourself truly naked and without pretense for they are simply reflections of your own otherwise invisible being. Like any mirror however, they are ultimately passive and non-prescriptive: they show what is there, but it's your choice as to how closely you look at the image and what you make out of it. And whether you truly look to notice or to check even subtle changes or whether you look only to obtain confirmation that nothing has changed - even as it has. As such, as internal indicators and nothing more, your feelings are the most useful thing of them all, similar with physical pain (an indicator albeit imperfect of decay and ultimately of life loss) if not even more useful perhaps.

If you choose however to basically abuse your own feelings by making them anything other than they truly are - if you make them a measure of your own self-worth or if you look in their mirror for an undistorted reflection of the outside world - you will make of course nothing but trouble for yourself. But that's really just you being an idiot, nothing to do with feelings - not even yours - at all. Your feelings will still work the same and through that very mechanism they will become ever harder to ignore and twist and abuse in the ways you insist they should be. Until one day, when you find it so hard that you give up. Whether that's the day when you give up being an idiot or give up the ghost is entirely up to you.

  1. I think and write here in English by choice and I don't mean this as a generic and overall choice, but one that I often make and then make again: I can and frequently think/write/speak in other languages too - that's what choice means, after all.  

  2. I mean here the current English-speaking mostly. 

  3. One might say that this approach is too tolerant at heart and moreover tolerant of the wrong sort of thing - I am guilty of this sometimes, indeed. Perhaps it's too much optimism, perhaps it's being a woman, I don't know. I tend though to make sure and triple-sure that things are indeed as unbelievably stupid as they seem at first before I bash them and dismiss them for good if I am indeed in a position to do so. 

  4. I am aware that it does not actually matter directly. Stupid is stupid and who cares in what precisely way you managed to be such an idiot? Well, it seems I care, for all you'd rather I didn't or at least not so much that I'd actually plainly and publicly state it, I know. 

January 20, 2017

Despre lene

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 5:56 p.m.

Ca si iubirea, lenea e in esenta simtire universala si un tip de rezonanta directa a fiintei. Nu-i nevoie de pregatire anume ori macar de abilitati speciale sa fii cuprins de lene. Si-n plus atata-i de familiara si des intalnita ca se recunoaste de altfel lenea - cel putin a altuia - instant si fara dubii, dintr-o singura privire:



(Pozele sunt facute de utilizatori ai Morguefile.)

Tot ca iubirea, lenea e si adanc transformatoare a fiintei, ca nu-i posibil fizic zic sa fii cuprins de lene doar asa partial ori superficial, azi o mana, maine ochiul si poimaine varful unghiei de la degetul mare al piciorului stang. Ori ti-e lene ori nu-ti e, tot dupa cum ori iubesti ori nu. Sigur, iti poate fi lene tintit, iti poate fi lene la un mod pervers ori iti poate iesi cu totul lenea ca mod voluptuos de a fi. Ceea ce nu schimba asemanarea cu iubirea catusi de putin, ca si iubirea-i tot atata de variata, fiind ea pur si simplu raspuns si manifestare a fiintei proprii, mecanism al vietii.

Si totusi, daca despre iubire se vorbeste mult si se practica -prin comparatie- extrem de putin, cu lenea se face fix invers. Ceea ce-i pana la urma perfect rezonabil si clar, ca omul n-are in fond a vorbi discutii cand poate face si nici a pune osul sa faca inainte de a epuiza discutiile. Totusi, fiind eu contra cam ca de obicei, mai ca s-ar zice (dintr-o simpla consultare a arhivei blogului de fata) ca mai degraba vorbesc despre lene iar si iar - posibil fix pentru ca nu-mi iese ea asa de bine in practica deloc. Si daca tot vorbesc atata de lene, e timpul zic sa incerc o definitie, sa stiu anume despre ce vorbesc si cu cine am de lupta - ori de impacare.

Pus in termeni ireverentiosi, lenea e cand se pune inima cu curu'-n usa ratiunii. Altfel zis, cand ai decis din ceva motiv extern ori mult prea superficial ca "trebuie" sa faci ori sa dregi, da' in fapt, intern si-n adancime nu-ti trebuie catusi de putin. Sigur, trebuinta asta e foarte relativa ea asa, ca pus fata-n fata cu chestiuni primare precum foamea ori supravietuirea, poti sa fi surprins ce chestiuni iti pot brusc "trebui" pana la epuizare, de dispare lenea ca si cand nici n-ar fi fost vreodata. Dar asta nu schimba pana la urma nimic din ce e lenea: nimic mai mult ori mai putin decat expresia exterioara a unei lipse de acord intern.

Si daca-i lenea asta pur si simplu dezacord ori lipsa de claritate mai adanca in ce priveste trebuintele reale, de ce n-ar fi ea mai des discutata franc si onest asa, pur si simplu asumat?

Posibil doar de ...lene. La patrat cum ar veni.

December 8, 2016

The Impossible Chances

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 12:35 a.m.

In this world of recycled cardboard and stained plastic that shines for a second and litters for the rest of eternity, the proposition of a new sort of hero - even as a fancy exercise only - is quite pleasant really. So let's consider this mythological hero who is "foretold to be buried in the first impossible object." Like all things foretold, this tickles and sparkles initially, full of joy and happiness: oh, that surely means immortality now - be it of the sort where one cannot rather than will not die - that same immortality that the young perceive to be in fact youth without old age and life without death, as more aptly described in an old Romanian tale1

This hero who thinks he cannot die for as long as there isn't an impossible object to contain his remains has to be a rather optimist fool2 to be overly happy about this "great" advantage. As he does not even have any sort of control over some physical artefact that ensures him that his time has not yet come3, he is basically not much better off than all the other people that ever lived: even assuming that he just happens to know one key circumstance of his death (rather than one circumstance of his burial), so what? Oh, you will ONLY die impaled through the single crooked horn of a purple cow with 7 tits. Or poisoned by the smelly farts of 50 beautiful maidens that ate -unknowingly and - even more unlikely - in total silence- their father for dinner. Or when the poplar yields apples and the willow blossoms full of gillyflowers4. The world is full of impossible things that turned out to be quite possible, especially when the human mind brands as impossible whatever it has not yet been forced - rather painfully - to acknowledge as fully possible.

One might argue that this hero is actually just a sort of less-concrete Koscei: his island is fully in the realm of thought and his needle is simply a strong belief in one "law" of nature or the other that he chose for himself. In this move away from the concrete, the hero of the impossible casket might simply be a hero of a different sort, a fighter of the mind rather than the sword. But that doesn't really sit too well with this choice of using such weirdly childish heuristics then, naively pegging all of a sudden the event of his death on the existence of this object5. After all, even basic incantations of the statistical sort go along the lines of "correlation does not imply causation." Let's look a bit at this in the context of equating chances of dying with chances of impossible objects.

The only thing that supposedly marks this hero's death as special is the fact that the circumstance he knows of his death is an unexpected and presumably rare one indeed. Based on this rarity of the event - indeed, "impossibility" even, as suggested by the "impossible object" - the hero (or maybe his followers) who was apparently not very good at Maths6 develops his overly optimistic "heuristic" we are told, which simply keeps checking the world for that impossible object and if it does not find it (or rather if it does not know of its existence) it assumes all is well and dandy, fine week ahead with absolutely 100% chances of survival. While this makes perhaps for a very good approach to sane living and arguably a happy disposition, it sucks beyond description as a rationale of any sort. A better word for it might be wishful thinking or perhaps feeling or maybe idiocy or downright lack of brains, depending on your disposition. We are being told that this approach leads to a "mental conundrum" due to the fact that this same shitty heuristic will go ballistic as soon as it learns about that impossible object being not only fully possible all of a sudden but actually real. Basically before learning of the existence of such object, the heuristic was overly optimistic. To compensate that of some sorts, it then goes overly pessimistic. It really sounds to me more like a recipe for bipolar disorder than an heuristic7. A kinder way to look at this is simply that people tend to underestimate the unusual/unexpected and otherwise overestimate - out of fear/unknown - its destructive impact as soon as they catch a glimpse of it. Not very heroic perhaps, but quite usual really.

The inescapable truth of the matter is that every person - hero or no hero - actually has only one... death. Or at least one next death that they are currently concerned with. This means in turn that there actually is some unique circumstance for every single death - be it one of time, place or person as it were. Sure, it doesn't make for much fun to be predicted that you'll die ONLY when YOU die, but basically that's all there is to it. Whether an impossible object materializes to contain your remains when you die or you are just cursed to not even be buried until that impossible object becomes possible  - by the way, those are only 2 cases that totally trash that idiotic heuristic -  or an impossible island is found and a needle is broken are really just touches meant to make heroes feel better about it. Presumably heroes need to feel better about their death. Or their followers need to feel better about their hero's death. Or maybe both heroes and their followers just need an excuse - we'll call it heuristic - to lull their mind into forgetting about the possibility of their own death in order to do what makes them heroes. Who knows exactly. The only thing that is clear however is that there is no mental conundrum in the predicted fate itself - it's all in the broken interpretation and understanding of it, as usual.

  1. I've been reading this precise tale recently to my 4 year old who...welled up by the end of it, full of sadness for the hero. I used to absolutely HATE this story as a child, make of it what you will.  

  2. And one who did not read/listen to enough stories as a child, too! 

  3. As Koscei had, at least in theory, since he could have kept that needle wherever he pleased, supposedly. 

  4. Cand o face plopu' pere si rachita micsunele - meaning quite never. 

  5. Arguably, the poor hero might be totally innocent of such heuristic, while the horde of idiots surrounding him push it with all the power of their sheer number. 

  6. Nor were the heroes really expected to be good at Maths. Or even very bright really, they had other qualities overall. I had many laughs as a child reading a tale - was it Mongolian? - in which the hero is all the best and all that, but his HORSE is always better. And his horse even goes as far as to tell the hero in no uncertain terms at some point: if you were as bright as you are bold, then you'd look ahead at THAT! The story's title in my re-translation from Romanian would be "Tevene Mioghe and his horse Demir Shilgi" - it's a several-generations saga in which half the time is spent looking for a horse good enough for each successive newborn hero. 

  7. Then again, I do not trust heuristics much. Especially when they are very optimistic.  

July 28, 2016

Nu-i fundul prea mare, ci puta prea mica

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 1:44 p.m.

Lola se enerveaza ea asa simpatic chiar, ca adica de ce-i arde pe mate taman pe cei mai neispraviti masculi faptul ca nu-s femelele din preajma fapturi minune. Si cere dansa ceva mai multa toleranta, primind in schimb in comentarii - dupa cum e de asteptat - taman pe dos, diverse incercari de "punere la punct" (ori dupa punct, in fine).

Acum Lola declarandu-se ea majora zic ca n-are treaba oricum cu chestiunea. Dar pentru cui i-o folosi ori pentru nimeni anume chiar, sa fie scris aici ca in fapt toata preocuparea asta pentru kilogramele altuia n-are treaba nici cu placutul nici cu kilogramele (ori formele) ca atare. Cam tot masculul vrea sa domine. Iar daca nu poate pentru ca-i mai mult zeta decat alfa, hamaie si el in schimb cat poate fix catre ce-i pare ca ar fi mai vulnerabil prin preajma. Sperand deci sa domine daca nu prin faptul ca e el superior, macar prin faptul ca se crede celalalt inferior. Si la rigoare se convinge si pe sine ca nu s-ar culca cu "grasa" pentru nimic in lume, nu pentru ca realmente nu vrea ori nu-i vine ci pentru ca-i e atata de frica sa nu cumva sa constate ca nu poate incat se apara pana si de posibilitatea sa fie nevoie.

Ori pe scurt: problema acolo nu-i ca au ele fundul prea mare, ci ca au ei puta prea mica.

P.S. Am vrut sa-i scriu direct Lolei majore, dar cum ea cere acolo cont de feisbuc ori alta dananaie similara, m-am lipsit. Scriu in schimb aici la mine unde nu cer nimanui loginul la control, ca nici nu inseamna nimic, nici nu am apucaturi de politist sa-mi vina a cere.

June 27, 2016

Politica - de facut, nu de barfit

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 9:42 a.m.

"Calul moare de drum lung si prostul de grija altuia."

Unu' prea ocupat ca sa-i pese de glorie & recunoastere.

In lumina recentului referendum din Marea Britanie1 simt nevoia unei modeste contributii la inteleapta observatie de mai sus: cine nu poate sa faca politica, o barfeste intens in schimb. Iar calul macar face drumuri, dar prostul e prea ocupat sa-si exprime nestiinta si neputinta cat mai tare, clar si raspicat.

Desi traiesc in Marea Britanie, n-am nimic de zis pe tema referendumului2. Si n-am nimic de zis pentru simplul motiv ca n-am in fapt control de vreo culoare asupra a ce se intampla ori se va intampla pe tema, iar un torent de vorbe si "discutii" nu confera vreo farama de control ori de putere de a schimba realitatea catusi de putin.

Daca n-am control asupra politicii mondiale ori locale, am insa control asupra a ceea ce fac si voi face eu, asa ca ma voi concentra ca si pana acum pe facutul asta. Si ca rezultat, am nu doar optiuni (cum am venit, pot sa si plec; cum muncesc de aici la distanta, pot munci si din alta parte la distanta; cum m-am integrat aici ma pot integra si in alta parte; cum m-am construit pe mine insami, ma voi avea in continuare oriunde as fi) ci si liniste. Sigur, nu e niciodata usor - nici nu va fi vreodata, mi-e clar.

Stiu ca linistea insa sperie multa lume, ca atunci cand e liniste incepi sa auzi tot felul de lucruri pe care voiai sa le ignori. Mai ales goluri, lipsuri si carente proprii. Insa asta-i alt fapt, pentru alta data. Pana una alta, sa fie doar clar zis ca daca-i atata vorbarie pe tema, e doar pentru ca nimeni nu stie in fapt ce urmeaza, ce inseamna, cum se vor desfasura lucrurile. Si asta-i tot ce conteaza, dar nu va fi descalcit de barfele la marginea drumului fie el drum de la coada vacii ori a internetului.

  1. Marea Britanie a votat sa iasa din UE, in esenta pe principiul ca "Nu ne place cum traim si tot mai avem pe cine da vina" - ca intotdeauna in astfel de situatii de altfel. 

  2. Chiar daca in mod foarte interesant toti cei din afara par sa aiba foarte multe de zis, ca si cand ar chiar sti multe pe tema, ca si cand ar chiar conta ce zic ei, ca si cand si-ar fi rezolvat problemele proprii si acum din mare bunatate le rezolva ei si pe ale altora, ca si cand n-ar fi ei cei care mor de grija altora 

August 30, 2015

Notite despre un fel de arta

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 2:49 p.m.

Notez pentru mine insami, nu pentru ca ma tem ca as uita ceva, ci pentru decantarea pe care o da scrisul in sine, ca exercitiu de transpunere. Si poate pentru ca simt nevoia acestei decantari exact pe temele care apasa ori cantaresc mai greu, fie din placere, fie din durere.

Agatat de mana mea, m-a intrebat deodata ce-i in acel tablou? Si i-am raspuns ca e dintr-un oras de departe, unde am fost candva odata, demult. Mi-a stat pe limba sa adaug “intr-o alta viata.” I-am zis ca-i un oras mare, frumos si vechi, pe nume Sankt-Petersburg, intr-o alta tara. I-am spus ca-i un tablou facut in chihlimbar auriu si aramiu, iar cladirea aceea din tablou e o catedrala mare, pe malul unui rau care ingheata chiar si-n martie, chiar si-n aprilie uneori. I-au lucit ochii de incantare ori poate numai de curiozitate si asculta ca pe-o poveste. Asculta cum nu l-am vazut inca sa asculte altminteri povestile-povesti.

Ma asteptam poate la o intrebare ori urmare, la o iscodire a tabloului. El insa a mai aruncat doar o privire tabloului in chihlimbar. Apoi, cu simtul practic al celor 3 ani neimpliniti, a mutat privirea imediat pe alt tablou mai micut, mai intr-o parte: acolo ce-i, mami? E doar un peisaj de iarna cu zapada multa si lumina filtrata prin atata alb, i-am zis eu si mi s-a parut mai usoara intrebarea. Iar el a urmat cu logica impecabila: ai fost si acolo, mami?

I-am raspuns desigur ca n-am fost si atunci mi-a venit raspunsul imediat, cu certitudine si fara dubii. I-am scos apoi un album mare cu picturile si desenele lui Durer, poate mai mult din curiozitate sa vad daca ma intreaba de am fost si acolo cumva, candva. Nu m-a intrebat – el cauta... trenuri. Si vapoare ori masini, desigur, ignorand toata bogatia detaliului si intensitatea culorilor. Ori poate luandu-le drept un dat, drept normalitate, cu tot optimismul lipsei de experienta. Daca l-am vazut pe cale a se plictisi de banalul realismului, i-am scos a incercare si Dali, care s-a dovedit intr-adevar cu mult mai interesant. Insa tot nu m-a intrebat de-am fost vreodata acolo, in sertarele subconstientului, printre elefanti, pe sub pomul care rodeste ceasuri lungi ce se preling incet ori sub palariile-pantof. Am pus apoi albumul la loc iar el a revenit firesc si fara nici o ezitare ori perceptie de diferente vizibile la “arta” (ori sa-i zic desen tehnic?) cu magneti colorati, cam asa:


July 1, 2015

Matematica anilor proprii

Filed under: Sense and nonsense — admin @ 9:11 a.m.

Ce bizar imi pare ca se face atata caz daca tii cont omului de fiecare banut in vreme ce in fapt se masoara altminteri si ultima secunda a timpului cuiva, chiar daca e numai pentru a risipi apoi mai cu spor pana si secundele, alaturi de minute, ore, zile, ani. Pentru ca ziua are intr-adevar 24 de ore, dar degeaba le numara doar limba ceasului, daca nu le inscrie in carne si-n suflet prezenta ta in fiecare secunda.

Pentru cativa ani, am uitat pur si simplu sa numar anii si m-am trezit in consecinta usor confuza privind varsta proprie. Ca-n glumele banale, de vreo 3 ani, am tot 30 si nimic in plus. Atata doar ca n-are a face cu vreo vanitate ori cu frica de a imbatrani, ci doar cu faptul ca nasterea lui mi-a schimbat perspectiva si focarul atentiei atat de radical incat anii acestia pur si simplu nu-mi vin in minte ca ai mei. Pentru ca probabil nici nu sunt anume – sunt ani traiti de mine, drept, traiti insa cu si pentru altcineva. Sunt anii lui si pe aceia intr-adevar ii numar fara gres si-i stiu pana la secunda, cu toate ale lor si-n cele mai marunte amanunte. Trebuie doar sa-mi aduc aminte ca anii lui de pana acum sunt si ai mei, sa-i adun deci celor pe care-i am eu in plus si sa-mi aflu astfel varsta obiectiva, ca un total, ca o suma.

Nu-i de altfel prima data cand nu-mi stiu varsta direct, ci o deduc ca dintr-o ecuatie matematica prin raportare la varsta altora. Atata doar ca abia acum inteleg semnificatia acestei raportari. Stiu si masor timpul ca indicatorul fara gres al atentiei si-al investirii. Si nu cred ca-i gresit anume sa-mi fie atentia indreptata spre altii deocamdata, dupa cum a mai fost candva demult. Intre atunci si acum, au fost doar cativa ani in care mi-am stiut varsta proprie, m-am focalizat pe mine insami si mi-am mers alaturi, m-am privit intr-o oglinda in care pentru prima data ma reflectam singura, cu spatiu amplu pentru fiecare miscare si fiecare intoarcere ori rasucire. Aveam nevoie de spatiul acela ca sa inteleg cat de mult pot ocupa in unele directii ori cat de putin in altele. Stiind acestea, ii pot face acum loc lui alaturi de mine in acea oglinda, loc atat cat are nevoie, loc din ce in ce mai mare, pana cand intr-o zi va ramane singur sa se priveasca si sa afle la randul lui cat de mult si-n ce directie e in fapt el insusi.

Posibil ca abia atunci voi re-incepe sa-mi numar anii proprii si totodata singuri. Posibil de asemenea ca voi continua de unde am ramas: 31, 32...

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