“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
The judgement for the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

And then I burst into tears. Not because I’m gay or lesbian–but because of the immense and profound kindness, understanding, and compassion that Justice Kennedy’s words had summed up.

This is all about equality–a value that is utterly fundamental to my worldview in so many ways–and today it was expressed–against great opposition for many, many years–in a beautiful passage.

As I’ve noted in the past–Beauty is closely connected to pain in my view and experience–and the beauty of this passage cut deeply today–and did so in the best of ways..

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The Useful Lies We Tell Ourselves..

The origins of this post came up in a thread on FB today.

Up front, I must say that it makes me almost immeasurably sad to think that Terry Pratchett is gone from us… because the gist of what I am talking about–the quote I will put here–came from Pratchett’s The Hogfather–and it has always struck me to the core.

In a nutshell, it describes an attitude that I once had a friend tell me in college about how he approached doing things in the world that were hard/strenuous/no fun–but which needed to be done.

I remember the conversation–it was actually about coding or homework or some such thing–and I mentioned something like, “That’s no fun.” and he said, “Oh. It’s fine. I just tell myself that I want to do it. That I will like doing it. I make myself believe that–and then it goes a lot faster.”

And that tweaked my world at the time. It’s something–an attitude that I’ve cultured in my worldview–that I’ve built up over time to the extent that I pretty much live it all the time.


With regard to the Hogfather, it involves a conversation between DEATH and his granddaughter near the end of the book/mini-series about why people believe things:

“So we can believe the big ones?”


“They’re not the same at all!”


“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

All of the greatest virtues that our society has–are lies that we tell ourselves–and which we then work towards making true.

There is no justice in the universe–except that which we believe in and which we work towards making true.

Justice is a lie, but a useful lie that we can turn into the truth only with a huge amount of work and effort.

But it’s worth the effort–and that’s why I lie to myself about it–and so many other worthwhile things–each and every day.

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Games, Logic, and Language..

A bit more than a month ago, there was a math (actually logic) problem that went viral and that generated a lot of discussion.   This was a bit like the famous blue/black vs. gold/white dress phenomenon–See here:

Remember this?  Now what colors do you see?

Remember this? Now what colors do you see?

that got everyone in a tizzy.

In this case, however the so-called math problem that generated all of the controversy was focused on a kind of logic game.  The hook of this problem was that it was supposedly given to 5th graders in Singapore as a test problem–and therefore if you couldn’t figure it out, it must mean that you were not that smart In reality, it came from a Math Olympiad test for high-school age children–so it was a bit trickier than that..

The problem can be found at this link–but–here’s the original image also:


I can say that when I went through the problem–which I think is pretty hard ( and I took a college level logic course in Germany, was a big old Math nerd in high school, and an engineering graduate to boot)–I got a little flustered.   My best guess was for Aug 17, but when I went to look at the linked page above’s solution–they laid out a logic that said it was July 16th.
Their logic seemed odd to me, however, and so I went reading through the comments of the article and found that there was a pretty strong dispute between Aug 17 and July 16th.

Now–the logic of the article went as follows:
#1. First statement by Albert is analyzed: “I don’t know when your birthday is, but I know Bernard doesn’t know, either.”

This statement–especially the second half of it–is parsed to mean that the months of May and June are not the months given to Albert–because both of those months have a unique date in them–namely June 18th and May 19th–and if Bernard had either of those numbers, then he would know the birthday immediately. Therefore, those months couldn’t be possible months that Albert was given to have the 2nd half of the statement be true.

#2. Second statement by Bernard is analyzed: ” I didn’t know originally, but now I do.”

From this statement, it is argued that Bernard has deduced from Albert’s statement that May and June are not the months.  Bernard also claims to know the answer. Now.. with only July and August as possible months, Bernard could not know the answer if he had been told the #14–since there are 14’s in both July and August in the list.  So the only possibilities for him are July 16, August 15 or August 17.

#3. Final statement by Albert is analyzed: “Well, now I know too!”

This statement is analyzed to say that August could not have been the month that was told to him–because there would still be August 15 & August 17 left.  Therefore, he must have been told July–and with the previous knowledge that July 14 & August 14 were eliminated–July 16th must the answer.

That, at least, is the logic presented in the solution.

But there’s something odd going on here if you think about human social relations and how people do things.  If you think of the situation with Cheryl, Albert, and Bernard–then some of the mathematical logic that is employed here is actually in conflict with how humans would act.

Specifically–I’d point to the analysis above in #1.  In specific, the question–in my mind–was whether Cheryl’s birthday could ever have been on the 18th or 19th of any month.  I say this because if either of those dates were true–then this game was entirely rigged.  Cheryl messed with Albert and told Bernard the answer outright–because with those dates, he also already knows the month too.

That’s not generally how any kind of fair game works.  Games tend to involve competition–and to stage a “game” and give one person the winning answer up front would constitute cheating.

This was part of the logic that I–and a number of other people in the comments I read–went from.

If you do this–then you get the following logical progression:
A) Assuming the point that the game is not going to be given away outright by a date of 18th or 19th–a point that Albert & Bernard could each reach on their own (besides being told a different date in Bernard’s case),  Albert’s first statement that he does not know the answer eliminates the month of June–because with the 18th and 19th gone–being told that it was June would have told him the answer.  All other months, however are possibilities that would make the second half of the statement true–namely that Bernard also doesn’t know.
B) With Albert’s statement, however, Bernard can see that June is eliminated.  Now Bernard claims that he knows the date–with May July and August as possible months–the only way this is possible is if that # is unique and only occurs in one of the months. The only date that fits these criteria is August 17th– because all other remaining dates 14, 15, & 16–have two possible month options.
C) This statement by Bernard that he knows the answer eliminates all possible dates that occur in two or more months for Albert.  Thus–August 17th must be the answer.

Now–if you look at this situation–the problem really occurs because of the linguistic assumptions and social assumption that one makes with regard to this situation.  Really–it goes into what actually makes up a game and how do people behave–or at least–how should they behave if they are going to act in such a situation.

This is the fuzziness of human behavior and language that can sometimes make it really problematic to map it directly onto logical or mathematical problems.

It is also, I would argue, one of the problems that is at the root of creating true artificial intelligence–namely that activities as simple and basic logical guessing games are not easily or necessarily accurately extracted from the richer and complex social embeddedness of human behavior.  Yes–it’s possible to choose the assumptions that make the math and computer logic work out easier–but when your goal is to teach computers to “be intelligent” by having them imitate a reality that is easier to program but less conforming to the messiness of the world–well.. you’ll achieve something much more trite and much less impressive than three people talking to each other competitively.

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532 Moons. Almost.

1,356,998,400 seconds
22,616,640 minutes
376,944 hours
15,706 days
532 Moons. (almost.. it was actually 531.86)


Some numbers in my life.  I arrived at these numbers last tuesday, and, in a sense, they help define who I am.

But only partially.  They are merely one dimension of the continuity of my existence and consciousness.  Of my identity.

Obviously, there’s so much more that goes into me.. and thus, those numbers are just somewhat arbitrary markers that I am passing as I move through time and space.  Today, those markers have changed.. they are now
1,357,430,400 seconds
22,623,840 minutes
377,064 hours
15711 days
532 moons

So there is nothing inherently meaningful in the numbers themselves.  They only have meaning if we choose to give it to them.  If we decide they are significant–either personally, internally, subjectively–or through the decision by others external to us to give them recognition.  It’s an interplay, of course–between our own internal decisions to give them meaning and to the decisions of others… but that’s the case with most things that we unusually social water apes do.

532 moons.  Just a bit over halfway to having seen 1000 moons… a goal I hope to achieve if I’m lucky enough.

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Is vs. Ought

On my way home today, I thought about the phrase:

Treat others as you want to be treated.

Most think of this as an “ought”–something that describes a state of affairs where you are telling someone how they ought to be, even though they might not be.

I decided today that I’m just going to apply this as an is. Namely, I’m going to take my observations of how people actually treat others–and then treat them the same.

If you treat others with respect–then you will have earned my respect.

Treat others as objects to be manipulated, and I shall do the same back.

No false equivalences anymore.  No unfair asymmetries.

You get what you give.

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Simplicity of the Devil

It started with a friend wondering in which song the lyric, “Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints” came from as he reflected on the events of the past week.

Fergusson, MO.  Michael Brown.  At least, that’s what I assume.

As others quickly noted–it came from the Rolling Stones classic, Sympathy for the Devil, which is my favorite song of theirs.


What’s really excellent about this song is not only the story it tells, but the sense of ambivalence, danger, and insidiousness that it creates.  It’s the story of Lucifer traveling throughout history, taking part in some of the great tragedies and instances of evil that our species–but also speaking to us directly and warning us to show some respect for the power and danger that he represents.

luciferImportant, however, is the real ambivalence that are found in the lyrics.   Lucifer rides in a tank in the Blitzkrieg and is a general–but he is not leading the Nazis.

He’s almost just along for the ride–to help the destruction along.

Later on he notes that he “shouted out, ‘Who killed the Kennedys?'” but notes that the answer is actually already clear… “When after all, It was you and me.”

This is where the real power of the song comes from–and where the real subversion exists.

Because, in reality, there is no devil.  Lucifer does not exist.

But it’s so much simpler to have a Lucifer.  To have a source of the evil in the world.  To have an overpowering force of evil that is responsible for the carnage, cruelty, and suffering in this world.  To have a “bad man/villain” to point the finger at and to aim our anger and are calls for justice.

But again, there is no devil.  The evil resides within humanity.  It can reside in the systems that we create–whether physical (the Holocaust, Red-lining, Apartheid) or mental.  It can be seen in groups of people or in the actions of an individual.

This doesn’t mean that we are all evil and their is no goodness.  That is obviously–and empirically–not true.

It is also not the case that there are not any “bad men/villains” in the world.  They do exist… and as Jane’s Addiction notes in Pigs in Zen,  “some people should die, that’s just unconscious knowledge….”

What it does mean is that we must always be conscious that the evil in the world is a human thing–and that it requires us to be aware, to be sharp, and to be careful in our thinking and in our actions.

If we are not, if we are lazy, then we bring the devil into the world and we project it onto people, which too often leads to fear, violence, and suffering.

Michael Brown of Fergusson, MO became just such a devil to some.  He was unarmed and even after surrendering, was gunned down by a cop.  Indeed, the Police have subsequently painted him further as the devil by claiming he was a suspect in an armed robbery just before he was encountered by the police by releasing video of the robbery.

But he wasn’t stopped because of the robbery.  In fact, the cop stopping him had no knowledge that he was a suspect at all, it appears.

One final thought to keep in mind is that we need to be careful here to not just simplistically reverse the situation as some appear to want to do.

Some want to make the cop the devil.  To make the entire police force the devil.  To find a simple villain and point the finger at them and make them pay.

But there is no devil.  There is only us.

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
Cause I’m in need of some restraint

Simplicity of the Devil, my friends, simplicity of the devil.


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The limits of being undefined

So.. yesterday, something really interesting happened.

Here’s the scenario:

I was working with one of my stepdaughters to help find her books for her first upcoming college semester.  She had signed up for classes and my best half had wanted her to find out what books she would need for her classes, so that we could look them up and try to find less expensive versions online someplace.  My best half had asked me to help her with this project to make sure it got done, and that’s what I did.


After a bit of haranguing, I got my stepdaughter to start working on this project, although I could tell that she was reluctant.  Fifteen minutes later, I could hear the silence from the next room–where she was working on it–and I went in to check on her to see if she needed help.

She did.  She had logged into her school account, but wasn’t sure what to do next.  Thus, I worked with her and we eventually found her class schedule.  That–with some helpful googling on my part about how to figure out what books were needed for a class at the school–led us to make some progress on determining which books she would need.   We then went looking on Amazon for the books and eventually figured it out and got some prices for her various books.

Reflecting on my observations, I noticed that the biggest hurdle for her was getting started–and that there seemed almost to be a fear of starting and of not knowing what to do or where to go.

When I related this scenario to my best half on the phone, she knew exactly what her daughter was going through, because the two of them have almost always been clones in terms of their outlooks and abilities.   Specifically, my best half mentioned that she used to be exactly the same way when starting a project that was so undefined.  She would be overwhelmed by the possibilities and think that all of the details and aspects were huge and that it would take forever to get it done.

However, she had learned, over time, that such undefined projects become manageable when you just sit down and start breaking them down into smaller tasks, because she had a much better sense of how long such a small task took to accomplish.  Thus, instead of having a multi-step project with an infinite possible time and resource requirement, she had a concrete and manageable list of steps to knock out (which she does remarkably effectively and efficiently…).

This conversation/observation fascinated me, because I tend to be the opposite when it comes to this kind of exact project.  To me, starting such a project is not a hard thing–and I don’t ever see such undefined projects as overwhelming.  Instead, I start them with gusto, and if there’s a problem I have, it’s with the aspect of finishing the last 10% of them–after I’ve figured out the structure and goals along the way.

The key element that struck me while speaking to my best half was the difference in how our two brains perceived the situation of an “undefined project.”  For her, the lack of definition in the project made it overwhelming at first, because the lack of limits meant that the project grew to infinite size.   It expanded to fill all of reality without limits.

To me, on the other hand, undefined projects were never infinite.  Rather, I perceived them as being equivalent to nothing.  It did not exist yet, so it start off as the null set and then only by working on it and fleshing it out do I start to see how big and large it will become.

Reflecting on this fundamental difference, I could (and will) note that my best half and I test out as exactly opposite on mbti tests–she is (and likely her daughter..) an ESFP and I’m an INTJ–and that she has always been a natural extravert compared to my natural introversion, even if we have both become more balanced and similar to each other over the past 15 years.

In any case, despite all the caveats you can note about mbti, it struck me that these different approaches easily mapped onto one of the basic differences that I’ve noticed between introverts & extraverts, and between Artisans (SxP’s) and Rationals (NT’s).

First, for an extravert, primary reality is the external, objective world outside of our skulls.  This realm is, practically, infinite.  Given this fact, if something is undefined in this area–it is not hard to see that it expands off to to infinity.

In contrast, for an introvert primary reality is the world inside one’s skull.  This space is finite, but it is infinite in possibility, because any and all things can be created, constructed, and destroyed at any second.

Such situations fit the scenario above quite well.

Second, in terms of mbti types, ESFP’s are especially good at executing concrete tasks–they are performers and when they have a clear goal, they can knock that shit out of the park. However, they are not always the strongest at abstractions and at figuring out underlying structures without any guidance–at least such tasks are not natural to them initially.

In contrast again, INTJ’s pretty much specialize at figuring out underlying structures and meanings–and do so quite easily.  However, when it comes to carrying out a long list of concrete tasks, INTJ’s often become bored and/or have a really hard time finishing that last 10% of any project–as they want to get onto a new project already.

Such situations fit the scenario above quite well also.

In the end, I thought this whole scenario was quite interesting.  I do not assume that these latter observations about extraversion and introversion & typeology are hard, firm, and objective facts–but rather see them as a possible interpretation of what has happened–an explanation worth exploring.

And now it’s time to get back to some concrete tasks and (mostly) clean the kitchen.



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