Gone

This practice is one form of what Shinzen Young would call “Noting Gone.” (He uses gone as a noun here, a certain kind of sensation, rather than an adjective.) What you’re noting is the moment where a thing goes from being here in your awareness to being gone from it, and the feeling of that moment. It doesn’t matter what the thing is –- a fish, an LED light, a musical note, a shape formed by drooping power lines. It also doesn’t matter how it vanishes — by slipping beneath the surface, by turning off, by going silent, by exiting your field of vision. In all cases the this gone quality has the same feel. It is the unmistakable, mildly surreal sensation of a thing having vanished.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/06/the-vanishing-point/

This piece is a real splinter in my mind. I feel certain I’ve seen the “noting gone” concept before… but I can’t definitely find it. Perhaps I’m recalling that I read this very article, 6 months ago, AND marked it for reading later. So now I’m actually reading it a second time . . . It is definitely an unmistakable, mildly surreal sensation of a thing having vanished.

Also, in my quest to dig out the splinter, I searched for “gone” and got an interesting in itself set of posts.

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Murderous feather dusters

Three birds of prey hunker down in the light drizzle falling on Bouchaine Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley. Rocky, a beefy Harris hawk with long white-tipped tail feathers gently preens his marbled wings while E.B., a hybrid barbary and saker falcon with a dappled white-and-brown chest, keeps his gaze trained on a row of neatly plaited grapevines. Hootbert’s eyelids flutter sleepily over his big yellow spectacled owl eyes.

~ Shoshi Parks from, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/birds-of-prey-at-vineyards

That’s worth the click just for a few close–up shots of some raptors. But also, “Hootbert”.

I once had the distinct pleasure of a too-brief visit to a Falconry school where I was repeatedly astounded. The Harris Hawk I handled was a rescue; It had a damaged toe making it unable to survive on its own. Perched on your arm they are impressive—like, “there is a dinosaur standing on my arm” impressive. It weighs nothing. When it flies in your face it’s like being beat with a feather–duster. It’s gaze and movements are so fast and focused, it seems time must run at a different speed for them. In flight it’s nearly silent, but perched, it makes little sounds rather like a chicken, rather than what you might imagine of a murderous bird of prey. They’re supremely efficient at killing, but basically dumb as a stump otherwise. It was not the least bit interested in harming me, with its razor–sharp beak and talons mere inches from my face and my [I assume] tasty eyes. However, it was 105% interested in murdering the *expletive* out of what we offered it as food. We humans come hard-wired to be afraid of snakes and falling. (I’m only afraid of three kinds of snakes: Little snakes, big snakes, and most sticks.) Harris Hawks are fairly low on the shock-and-awe scale of avian predators. Having met one, I now completely understand why other birds flee in terror.

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Tis’ the season to be thankful

Thank you for reading! I appreciate your time and attention, and I don’t take it for granted.

In years past I’ve posted some links to things which I pay for—if I’m not paying for something, then I’m probably the product being sold. So I prefer to pay for things when I can (when I’m able and when paying directly is possible.) Here are few things I use, which I pay for: Hindenburg, Overcast, Reeder, Feedbin, Tower, Transmit, OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, iaWriter, Discourse, Basecamp, Bluehost, Hover, Zencastr, Zoom, Otter, Mailchimp, Substack, Supercast, and Front.

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Average, or worst?

Over the last few years, deep-learning-based AI has progressed extremely rapidly in fields like natural language processing and image generation. However, self-driving cars seem stuck in perpetual beta mode, and aggressive predictions there have repeatedly been disappointing. Google’s self-driving project started four years before AlexNet kicked off the deep learning revolution, and it still isn’t deployed at large scale, thirteen years later. Why are these fields getting such different results?

~ Alyssa Vance from, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/28zsuPaJpKAGSX4zq/humans-are-very-reliable-agents

This makes the interesting distinction between average–case performance, and worst–case performance. People are really good by both measures (click through to see what that means via Fermi approximations.) AI (true AI, autonomous driving systems, language models like GPT-3, etc.) is getting really good on average cases. But it’s the worst–case situations where humans perform reasonably well… and current AI fails spectacularly.

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Kino Lorber

Go to this YouTube channel: Kino Lorber, click Playlists and then view the Free Documentaries (80 feature-length films) or the Free Movies on Demand playlist (145 films.) Kino Lorber is an international film distribution company; I thought it was a person when I first heard mention of this.

Now try this experiment: Pick a documentary (try Filmworker if you know who Stanley Kubrick is, M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity if you have eyes, or Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil if painting is more your thing.) Watch the movie. Then reflect on the experience of watching a feature–length documentary, versus say, modern “serial” shows. I’ve relearned just how bad modern entertainment can be, when I reminded myself just how good film can be. (Surprise bonus-round: Watch The Atomic Café and be gobsmacked, horrified, and… some-other-feeling-I-can’t-quite-find-the-right-word-for in repeated cycles.)

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Take some time to reflect

On your deathbed, you would do anything, pay anything for one more ordinary evening. For one more car ride to school with your children. For one more juicy peach. For one more hour on a park bench. Yet here you are, experiencing any number of those things, and rushing through it. Or brushing it off. Or complaining about it because it’s hot or there is traffic or because of some alert that just popped up on your phone. Or planning some special thing in the future as if that’s what will make you happy. You can’t add more at the end of your life…but you can not waste what’s in front of you right now.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/35-lessons-35-years-old/

This blog started initially as a place for me to post a eulogy, and then it grew to serve many more purposes. It’s now solidly a way for me to reflect, and to work with the garage door up. Discovery, reflection, and efficacy are pretty frickin’ important to me and keeping up with the ‘ol bloggin’ forces me to keep up with daily discovery and reflection. I’ve a bunch of other processes beyond this blog.

It’s a rare post where I both have a point and state it explicitly: Whether you go off to Holiday’s article and follow that thread, follow my links in this email or this post, or my series teaching daily reflection matters not. It only matters that you take time to reflect.

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Wow! Still, wow.

Almost fifty years after it was detected, the Wow! Signal continues to tantalize and defy explanation. […] In 2020, interest in this candidate [extra-terrestrial intelligence] signal was revitalized when Cabellaro identified a Sun-like star in the vicinity of the sky where the Wow! Signal was detected. If the analysis is correct, this famous signal may have come from a Sun-like star located 1,800 light-years away.

~ Matt Williams from, https://www.universetoday.com/156281/there-could-be-four-hostile-civilizations-in-the-milky-way/

More amazing is that actual progress continues to be made towards understanding the original signal’s origin. Fifty years ago, the area of the sky was known to contain a bunch of stars. Today? We know which of them have planets. …and which of those stars have a planet in the so-called habitable zone. The article is both a good introduction to the famous (among astronomy enthusiasts) signal and a good story about continued research.

And just ignore the article’s click–bait title, which comes from a tangential discussion about whether we should only listen for extraterrestrial intelligence or actually try to contact ET.

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Techno-optimism

What follows is an attempt to consider some of the aspects and implications of techno-optimism. It is an attitude that has become somewhat taken for granted, which is precisely why it is important to consider what it is and how it functions.

~ “Z.M.L” from, https://librarianshipwreck.wordpress.com/2021/06/10/theses-on-techno-optimism/

This is an interesting thesis. I generally don’t like creating new labels for things. But “techno-optimism” just weaseled into my vocabulary.

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100 years later

“Obviously we want to celebrate the centennial of this amazing event,” Rosenow says, “but we also want to interrogate it. Above all, we really wanted to showcase the Egyptian team, whose hard work has been overlooked for 100 years. A lot of them did very demanding physical labor, but others had their own expertise.” Carter had been working in Egypt for 30 years before unearthing Tutankhamun’s tomb, she notes, and in that time, he had come to appreciate and rely on the deep knowledge of local people, who had lived near the Valley of the Kings—where Tutankhamun and other pharaohs were laid to rest—for generations. “These people knew that territory,” Rosenow says.

~ Amy Crawford from, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/king-tut-exhibit-oxford

It’s well-understood that crimes were committed. I choose the word crime, because I wouldn’t characterize what western societies have done in their self-asserted efforts to preserve history, as “mistakes”; Mistakes are something you didn’t mean to do. And Tut’s tomb was perfectly preserved for 32 centuries without western intervention. All that said, it’s a great step to see a large, well–done exhibition about some of the things that were ignored or glossed over at best, and were outright exploitation at worst.

Another negative thread to tug at from this article would be to ask what—pray tell!—will remain from western civilizations after 32 centuries? It’d be nice if the civilization itself remained. I think that’s a good bet. But in terms of artifacts? …nuclear waste seems like a good guess. (Although, I have a dream that once we get nuclear fusion power generation working at industrial scales, we’ll be able to inject all sorts of waste into the process. If you tear anything down to it’s nucleic components, the plasma of loose protons, neutrons and electrons is all just the same soup.) But on a more positive note, https:longnow.org has some neat projects in mind aimed at surviving 100 centuries.

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By any measure, indeed

By any measure, David Bowie was a superstar. He first rose to fame in the nineteen-seventies, a process galvanized by his creation and assumption of the rocker-from-Mars persona Ziggy Stardust. In the following decade came Let’s Dance, on the back of which he sold out stadiums and dominated the still-new MTV. Yet through it all, and indeed up until his death in 2016, he kept at least one foot outside the mainstream. It was in the nineties, after his aesthetically cleansing stint with guitar-rock outfit Tin Machine, that Bowie made use of his stardom to explore his full spectrum of interests, which ranged from the basic to the bizarre, the mundane to the macabre.

~ Colin Marshall from, https://www.openculture.com/2022/06/when-david-bowie-brian-eno-made-a-twin-peaks-inspired-album-outside-1995.html

Somehow I just missed being really into David Bowie when I was in high school. He was definitely big, and popular, and part of the music I heard. To my detriment, it wasn’t until after he died that I started listening to more of his music from his wider catalog, and then watching a documentary, etc. It’s always inspiring to discover a creator who gets more interesting the more you learn.

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