Living The Dream in Quercy

So somebody has written a book that appears to address all of my interests. I hope it is translated into English soon.

I have arrived in Quercy. The travel day was made a bit more difficult by one of our party being delayed out of SF, which
created a rather dramatic knock-on effect that resulted in my hanging around the Toulouse area for about 9 hours. Nevertheless,
things are now totally wonderful.

While they aren’t quite as dramatic as the ones in Amsterdam, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val does have canals.

In addition to the canals, Saint Antonin is along L’Aveyron, which you can watch wander along at this truly amazing riverside

Here is an aquatic cairn to memorialize people who have been pecked to death by ducks.

Also, the bar’s deck has this charming water feature.

We visited a charming abbey, and saw an interesting example of this medieval insulation technique.

The abbey’s interior courtyard was about as idyllic as the law allows.

This is the vault under which the monks made waffles.

These swans hissed at me, but made no move to attck. I guess swans have gotten the memo about my being a martial artist.

The famous “House of Wolves” in Caylus.

You probably haven’t heard of this portal.

Cool map of regional churches.

A Shirt and a Few Noserags

So travel seems to be about the only sufficient inducement to get me to put anything in here. Luckily, I am headed to Amsterdam on Tuesday, where I will continue to work for a bit while ensconced in a seemingly charming apartment that’s more or less right outside the heart of things. Obviously, being 6 hours ahead of the home office is a bit more awkward than being 3 hours behind it, but my plan is to wake up, do some museums or other sightseeing, and then work into the night, which sort of suits me anyways.

For reasons that I think are coupled tightly with the fact that I’m an excellent traveler, I am terrible at preparing to travel. I’ve gotten through a shocking amount of cleaning today, but there’s still a lot to do, and I haven’t done anything that even resembles packing. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, so it has been surprising to me that I’ve been able to plow through as much of the cleaning as I have. When I went out to DC, I definitely left things in a pretty sorry state. Progress, I guess.

Random Photos

This abandoned typewriter in Brontes speaks to man’s inhumanity to man.

In retrospect, I’m sort of sad that I didn’t take more pictures of it.

Man’s inhumanity to man aside, the coolest place we visited was probably Simiane la Rotonde, so called for its incredibly scenic old fortification.

Here are some (I’m fairly certain) non-funerary cairns in a field behind our villa.

Here are my feet on their way out of the countryside.

These Parisian benches, each possessing something the other lacks, speak to man’s inhumanity to man.

It Comes From Within

So C’s birthday was last month and we went out to Ocean Haven and did things like have a picnic that consisted of cold pizza and Bourbon and ginger (Reed’s if you’re curious) with lots of lemon. Just to be clear, we also did things like stare out of the window for hours at a stretch. I had sort of hoped that it would serve as an impetus to start writing here again, but it didn’t. Now I’m sort of doing it for no other reason than to do it. Here we are!

I guess the other impetus is that I’m going to France in a few weeks to get some roses in my cheeks, as precocious grownups do from time to time. I guess I’m hoping that a little headwind here will make recording that easier, which I think is a good goal. We shall see how it goes. In the intervening time: lots of pictures of the cat, obvs.


As you are no doubt aware, Errol Morris is a brilliant documentary filmmaker who has revolutionized both our view of pet cemeteries, and Werner Herzog’s view of his shoes. He has just released a book that takes a contrarian view of a murder most people assume was solved long ago.

In the linked article Morris talks about people who are convinced of MacDonald’s guilt and says,

I despise versions of postmodernism that suggest that there is no such thing as truth, that the truth is up for grabs, relative and subjective. . . Narrative does not trump all; it does not trump the facts. The facts are immutable. You may not be able to apprehend them or they may be elusive, but they are there.

This is an unfortunate if popular interpretation, and it allows people to pass over an discredit an idea that we have never needed to be more serious about. Postmodern theories about language tend to do a lot of of focusing on how meaning is created by power. What Morris is mischaracterizing is the idea that power manufactures truth and facts, and that there is a need to dig under the hegemonically-enfranchised “real.” Looked at accurately, he’s essentially denigrating a powerful tool for getting what he purports to want.

It’s sort of a shame, because we are really losing our grip on our ability to call out certain categories of liar. Decrying postmodernity’s unwillingness to admit of the real, we no longer care when the powerful discard it altogether.

In a Time of Plague

So one of the things that I’ve been working on lately is trying to avoid information overload while still allowing myself the opportunity to discover new things. Part of this process involved spending a couple of hours mapping out a substantial cross-section of the ways in which I send, receive, and store data using the internet. Looking at the visual representation, C said she felt stressed out by the number of things with which I interacted regularly and wondered why.

I said, and continue to believe, that it was because it was a comprehensible representation of the scope of the web. The complexity of my process scaled out to encompass a huge group of people gives a sense of the irreducible complexity, but not one so overwhelming that the mind simply doesn’t acknowledge it.

At this point it’s a Barthean “punctum,” placing it only barely on this side of trauma. On the face of I it, it’s easy to find this a bit overwrought, but I think it bears scrutiny. If you think about, people have always tended to avoid acknowledging the degree to which the world scales beyond them, and the world has never been so far beyond the average person as it is now, but I’m getting ahead of myself (I mean, it is the future.)

In a related development, your uncle Bruce wrote an article for Wired (a magazine that I would love to hate, but the degraded state of our discourse means it’s pretty damn good) about this newfangled “New Aesthetic.” Now I probably should have had more of an idea about this whole phenomenon, but for some reason the package as such was new to me, although I have long been familiar with the products from every day life.

Sterling starts with some effusive praise, and then gets down to the business of complaining. His objections are sound, but I think that there are two things that he says and then doesn’t combine which constitutes a significant oversight. The first observation is that many of the networks that NA celebrates are overtly hostile. No amount of charming glitches, for example, make a police surveillance network like London’s anything other than overt fascism. A lot of negative things that should be called out are instead played down.

The second is that the “8-bit” aspect of NA is complete fucking bullshit, and while he recognizes that, his analysis of it is where things go a bit wrong. Here’s what he says about them:

Finally, retro ’80s graphics are sentimental fluff for modern adults who grew up in front of 1980s game-console machines. Eight-bit graphics are pretty easy to carve out of styrofoam. There’s a low barrier-to-entry in making sculpture from 8-bit, so that you can “rupture the interface between the digital and the physical.” However 8-bit sculptures are a cute, backward-looking rupture.

This makes the whole pixelizing the external world thing seem like something that can be trimmed off, but the pixelization is actually an integral part of the process whereby people allow themselves to ignore the dangers of things like surveillance networks by making them cute. It’s a metaphor that allows someone to form an idea about how a network interacts with the world without being overwhelmed by the experience. Unfortunately, deployment of this metaphor doesn’t just ignore the unpleasant aspects of the things under observation, it actively confuses the viewer. The fact is, we’re already past the pixel-era. The eyes of the network are getting more acute all the time, and the charming pixel metaphor is a willful blindness to that, and a rush to repression.

I kind of want to talk more about this, including the fact that all human error is attributable to inappropriate metaphors, so stay tuned.

Will and Representation

So today was kind of theoretical for the most part. I drew a big diagram for something I need to take care of going forward. To be more specific, I outlined how I’d get an easy to read representation of the probability table once it has been built. The reason for this is that right now there is now way to check that the overall structure is working the way that I’d like it to. At some point (like hopefully tomorrow) I have to find a very short document, figure out what I’d like the table built from it to look like by hand, and then compare it to the results from my parser. This will be daunting, but I think it will also be very satisfying.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Ulysses, by James Joyce — I — Stately, plump Buck Mulligan brought up a nation for I’m living in the art of feudalism as Walt Whitman called it, is gathering together a sheaf of our spirit. We are praying now for the press. –If Bloom were here, the professor said, coming forward. The key scraped round harshly twice and, when it was all about. Wonderful organisation certainly, goes like clockwork. Confession. Everyone wants to. Then I will tell us at doomsday leet. But a long way along the North Circular from the crown and peace

Speaking of not being sure that things are working correctly: the HTML parser is clearly broken, and only the fact that running it takes a million years has kept me from noticing that. Well, at least there is an obvious problem to track down.