Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Heisenberg Insanity Principle

I sometimes wake up in the morning, and wonder whether or not I've lost my mind. This may sound bizarre, but it's ironically reasonable a stance. Can I really certify my own sanity? Surely I'd need to be certifiably sane to do so, and thus am relying on the conclusion as a premise for the determination of that very conclusion. So what if it was the case that I had lost my mind? Would I hypothetically just be maintaining the illusion of sanity to the outside world an to myself? Well, this naturally raises the question: doesn't the same circularity apply to this case? It's very catch-22-type, as you'd assume you'd need to be sane to know sanity from insanity, and thus evaluating my own sanity (or insanity) would require sanity on my part in the first place! But I think this counter-argument is also circular, as my evaluation of my insanity is made by the me who purports to be sane, because I am in fact insane and cannot sanely understand my own claim of being sane (which is, of course, just a masquerade for insanity). Something to think about...

Amusingly enough, if you haven't been driven insane after reading this, you must be insane!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Greek Chorus

I was walking home from my Wittgenstein Reading Group, a few hours ago, enjoying Vivaldi's "Der Herbst" as I headed back up Conduit Road (that's one hell of a climb), and I began noticing how well music works as a soundtrack in conditions of low visibility. It seems to dramatise everything, and give a particular edge to people emerging from the darkness, and heading back into it in silence. That got me thinking about how wonderful it was to have the small flat device the size of a business card (aka my iPod nano) that could allow me to carry my favourite music around with me. Actually, it is the very storage of music which is marvelous here - the very idea that any person with the equipment could hear Vivaldi's Four Seasons in the comfort of his living room, alone. We can afford to hear things again and again, and to let it play in the background, almost outside of our consciousness, knowing that should we want to hear it again, it will be there.

How different it must have been just 150 years ago, before the phonograph, when the only way to hear a particular piece was to go to a concert, or if you were rich, to have someone come play it at your house. How different must musical intentionality have been, knowing that that particular hearing of a certain tune could well be, for purely logistical/material reasons, your last. Auditors must have focused intently on the music, savouring each moment (for cases where the song was worth it), trying to remember and record the experience. Never would they have imagined that the masses a near century-and-a-half later would view music in a completely different way...

This raises the question: is music the area where social practices and norms define intentionality? Why would the other methods of human interaction be any different. Language and communication, the notion of self, the self in the world, and what things are and aren't... why would these be conserved and unchanged? We generally assume that people of the past are essentially just like us, with a different basic body of knowledge, and weird clothes. But what's to say that the mental difference isn't drastically different the further you go back...

Side note: I wish I could get credit for idle musings like this, and not have to do this goddamn physics project. Oh well, back to work...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Leaving Tokyo's never easy

I looked out the window early this morning, like any morning, and there was grey mist lightly covering the hill-bordered 'valley' that Sheffield lies in. The dark of night had not quite lifted, and the day was just piercing through the mist enough to see the shaded outlines of buildings and houses in the distance, like something out of Delacroix's Mephistopheles (without the flying bloke above the city). Some might consider such a sight to be depressing, but it just makes me feel slightly nostalgic about winter. You can feel it coming along, approaching this general direction, but it hasn't quite arrived. In fact, it feels like there's a certain degree of uncertainty as to whether or not is will arrive. Perhaps it will miss, perhaps it will only come in half-servings, taunting the ground with snow that won't remain, granting us a few crisp evenings, but denying us snow-covered hills and rooftops and streets that will give the world an air of purity and peace for a few moments.

These thoughts of "exotic" weather started me thinking... I haven't been to that many "new" places in a while. I mean, I've had a great time over the past year and a bit, but when it comes down to where I've been, it's not that new. The US over the summer was good fun, Boston was great, but it's all so familiar as well. France was quiet, and Sheffield was nice to come back to. But I feel I haven't really done much travelling, insofar as by "travelling" I mean the act of going someplace relatively new and different from what I'm used to (David Brent's comment on Hull comes to mind...). I haven't gone to Japan this summer, or even as far as Germany or the Netherlands, which I'd really like to visit... a coincidental reminder of which was the fortuitous running into of a former co-worker from Eiken's Summer School (side note: I'm still on the front page of that site, all the way to the right of the picture. Weird), while at some crazy cheap restaurant in Boston (I know, what are the odds).

Thus from the sighting of a misty, slightly foggy morning did I get to a feeling of nostalgia for travelling to Japan. It's bizarre how weather can make you reminisce like that. But more than just going back to Tokyo, I'd like to have the opportunity to visit around a bit. I haven't been to the south of Japan in a while, and have some friends living down there. Perhaps I should pay them a visit. But I'd also like to check out the more rural areas to the north, where it snows generously in the winter. I think that would provide me with some temporary satiation for my occasional wanderlust. Now to think about when and how I could get there... It's both exciting and depressing to think that I've arrived at a point in my life where my imperatives dictate when and where I can travel, and what I can do with my time. But hey, it's quite clear to my at this point that I'd much rather be too busy, than not busy enough.

On that note, and perhaps ironically (in light of my last statement), I should really consider changing out of my bathrobe, getting my ass out of my chair, and going to buy some food. Unfortunately, our kitchen is beyond salvation at this point, and the men behind the mess have buggered off for the weekend. Conundrum...
I suppose I'll just make them suffer when they come back...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Christmas (philosophical) jam in St Catz!

If you read this blog, are into philosophy and have some free time on the weekend of friday 15th to sunday 17th december, and of course live (or can travel to) the UK, I strongly recommend that you come down to the British Undergraduate Philosophy Society's 2006 Winter Conference, which will be held at the gorgeous St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and the the keynote speaker will be Cambridge's own Professor Simon Blackburn.


The amazing part is that this conference will cost the delegate approximately the same price the BUPC registration costs, despite the fact that most Oxbridge colleges were asking for at least the double. This is thanks to the generosity of St Catz (and the fantastic cooperation of its Junior Bursar, Stuart McLellan). So hopefully we'll manage to find enough delegates and authors across the UK to make this conference worth the place it's being held in (although I have little doubt it will be).

Anywhooo, if you're interested, check out the Call for papers. Don't hesitate to pass it along to your friends/colleagues/faculty. Hopefully, you'll consider registering for the event, and perhaps even submit a paper yourself. In any case, get in touch if you have any questions. Hope to see some of you there!

Foggy Weather

I'm not that passionate about weather, really. I'm not too keen for really sunny afternoons, although it is nice to sit in the park with a hat on your head, some corona, and a book. I'm not a huge fan of rain, especially when I'm under it without cover, but I have to admit it'd not unpleasant, being inside on a rainy day, with the light on, my bathrobe donned, and something good to read in the warmth of my room. Not much love for snow either: fresh, it's cold as hell and ends up getting you wet, and after two days of urban existence, it turns into the most vile, dark slush possible. But I must say few things match the experience of drying out in a chalet with cinnamon Gl├╝hwein, and seeing a dark cloud pouring snow down, or standing under a lamppost on a dark snowy night, and seeing how the light plays with the flakes as they come down (pro-tip: wear a hat, or the experience suddenly goes downhill). But it must be said: there is one type of of weather I'm an absolute sucker for, and that's fog. Fog is just amazing. Not the heavy kind that drenches you in 5 minutes, or the wimpy light kind that's accompanied by drizzle, but nice, thick fog. The kind that wraps around you so that you can barely see ten paces down the road, and all the streetlights become nothing more than diffused orbs, and people come and go into the thick mass like shadows, as if there were nothing more to the world but what you can see.

I love how the imagination works in the fog. In hiding all that is unsightly, and blurring all that might be, it leaves the formation of the external world to the mind. Walking down a stone-wall-lined back alley near Endcliffe Crescent, you could almost expect a victorian gentleman in a top hat and black cloak to just walk by, or be in Elizabethan England, and be walking along perimeter of some estate, or just pretty much be anywhere you want to be. The fog makes the world like a book, makes the world anything you want to see, and I think that's pretty damn good stuff, for something which is basically just water.

Anyway, enough crazy ranting about fog. Back to some fun reading about Nuclear Physics while listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "The Lost Christmas Eve", as the rain batters my skylight, and rattles on the roof.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hunter would be proud

Jesus Christ, what a night. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud. Well... or at least he'd dig it. While we didn't exactly engage a multi-drug orgy (well) or wake up in a flooded room with a Godzilla tail attached (thank f*ck for that), it was pretty epic in terms of smashed decadence, and general student excess. I believe over the course of the night, probably over 60 or 70 people came through the house, we most certainly had at least 40 people in the house at once (based on my estimate early-ish in the evening, while I was still capable of counting to 10 or more). Highlights of the evening involved being tackled by physical-chemists and duct-taped to the guard rail of our staircase and having to escape at the cost of great epilation-style pain, being shot at with Liam's BB shotgun, shooting Mike with it (and missing), drinking champagne at midnight with Paul (whose birthday it was, as well... he came over with all his friends) in Jez's room, seeing how many people would fit into mine, climbing up into those crazy little alcoves above our stairs and being too drunk to get down (but managing somehow), hugging loads of people, vowing to walk to the park an watch the sunrise with a J and some beer, then deciding to go to bed early for the good of humanity, and finally, sleeping until 2 o'clock and waking up feeling fine (funny how that happens when you commit the most unhealthy excesses, eh?).

It's been a good party. Quite a good party indeed (to mimic Inspector Fowler)! Alas I must return to my academic (and other) duties. Quite a harsh week ahead, probably going to be very stressful, as my curricular and extra-curricular workload are particularly heavy these next 10 days. And on that note, I think I'll make the wide decision of hitting the hay, so as to get my usual 6½ hours of sleep per day. Toodles!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Woah... um... yeah....

I don't see why people in the UK make such a big deal about turning 21... I mean, 18's a big step since you're legally an adult, and I'd see 20 as somewhat symbolic since you're no longer a teen. But 21...? Maybe it has something to do with how they're currently slowly turning into the 51st state. Anywhooo, come to think of it, the weird part of it all isn't necessarily the "turning 21" part, but more remembering the time where I was 4, or 5, in the states, and thought that I'd never turn 21, let alone make it to 12th grade (merely because it was "so far away"). In fact once I remember getting pissed off because some friend got transfered from class 2 to class 12, and I thought they were letting her skip all the grades (and thus, naturally, she wouldn't have to go to school. A child's mind is always so pragmatic). But yeah, 21 seemed miles away.

So what's it going to change? Well, I'm sure it means I can run for some crazy office in some countries, and of course, I can drink in the US (errrr... yay?), but other than that it's just one more birthday.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Goodnight, sweet phone

Ladies and gentlemen, my cell phone is dying. It has reached the winter of its existence, and the faint flow of its battered screen is the last remaining witness, the last remnant indicator of the telecommunicative glory that this device once was. As days go by, it becomes harder and hard to read, like an aching beast battling to retain the last few gasps of fresh air it can get before it finally expires. Wounded by god knows what, beyond healing, it fearfully awaits its dusk, its night eternal, the day where I will pick its replacement and move on beyond morning, facing fresh life with new mobile partner. Dear phone, I raise my glass to thee.

RIP Sony-Ericsson K750i 2005-2006...