Happy Holidays!

Geordie got to visit Santa Claus this year…he looks a bit skeptical here, but I think I’ll convince him in the end. (“Of course this 22 year old kid isn’t the real Santa Claus, but he’s working for Santa. Santa’s busy with your presents right now.”)

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My favorite thing about this photo is the teddy bear who has had just about enough of all this (lower right hand corner.) 

 

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Cranberry-Almond tart for us..

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Gingerbread javelina for Santa Claus…Geordie’s keeping watch. He still doesn’t believe, but he’ll see some pretty solid evidence come Christmas morning. 

The weather forecast says we’ll get snow on the mountain tomorrow, which means a white Christmas (for Tucson.)

Merry Christmas everyone!

It Can Happen Here

And it did.

Maybe we shouldn’t be happy that California and other states have legalized marijuana. At this point, we need every last brain cell just to carry on.

And we have not only Trump to consider, but also the major Republican win all over the map. Who will check Trump? Where’s the balance? I get this sick feeling that somehow this will all go downhill in some insidious twisted way that no one could anticipate, with each player in the game unwittingly complicit. Yet responsible.

The talking heads don’t know what’s going on, and when you watch them ad libbing at 2am, you finally get to see them admit it. Judy Woodruff nearly broke down in tears at one point as she described what could have been, apparently having had high hopes for Hilary. Surprise surprise. David Brooks told us about all the friends and relatives who were texting him, panicking, crying. As the veneer of impartiality was stripped away, their faces grew increasingly pale with each bit of information, and they filled the time by analyzing themselves: Maybe there was something wrong with the polling—Maybe this is about race—Maybe this isn’t about race—This isn’t about the economy—This is in part about the economy—Let’s take a look at college-educated white women in comparison to…—This election has been unpredictable—It seems no one saw it coming, at least none of the smart folks with their numbers and polls. Were people answering honestly? (Did they secretly vote for Trump? Were they ashamed to admit it?)—This just goes to show that there really was a silent majority out there.—Trump was right about one thing, we got it wrong.

I did watch networks other than PBS to see what they were up to. More of the same mind-numbing speculation, as I’d expected, but I was more interested in their emotional reactions. Several looked to be on the verge of puking or punching a wall. This was an interesting moment to watch—the talking heads letting their humanity show, just to kill time. I’m sure they’re wondering what part they played in this outcome, and so am I.

I sense the foundation of our lives has been ripped out from under us. Who do we trust now? The system? Is the world a reasonable place? It’s hard to believe it is.

What will happen next? What do you think? 


Here are some stress-relieving pictures to look at. If you’re one of those millennials who threw away your vote, look away. You don’t deserve any comfort.IMG_1301.JPGIMG_2355.JPG

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Halloween Costumes for The Procrastinators, The Couples, and/or The Underly-Ambitious Yet Self-Satisfied DIYers

You have no time to read. I’ll keep it simple.


A Lunar Eclipse: For Couples (or if you’re going solo, get creative)

The sun. If you have a dog, include dog. Make some sort of sun out of whatever you have on hand. Panty hose make for a nice impromptu stretchy material to attach the sun around your dog’s waist. Or you could tie the sun to a harness.

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If you don’t have a dog, tie the sun around a wrist and hold your arm out for photos. (The sun would go with the person wearing the shadow costume [see below], not the moon. And make sure your shadow costume wearer places the sun in front of the earth.)

Now the earth’s shadow. Wear all black, buy an inflatable earth or use whatever you can think of. I made this hat with wire which I bent into a halo shape, then placed over a black mask.IMG_2625.JPG

If you can’t find an inflatable globe, you could print out an image of the earth, affix the image to cardboard, and tie it to your wrist to hold in front of you.

Now the moon. I found an image on the internet, printed it out, covered it in clear mailing tape and stapled it to a black shirt. (Tip: Staple from the inside or risk getting stabbed a little throughout the evening.) Add black pants, black shoes, etc. Voila. You’re a moon about to be eclipsed. The smaller person in the couple should be the moon and should stand behind the shadow, barely peeking out. This is an eclipse after all.

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Last Minute Costume Ideas

Matching Couple

Retired (Hawaiian shirt, golf club, AARP card, etc.)

If you have a portable musical instrument, be a musician.

If you partake in any hobby that requires a costume, be that. (For instance, I’m wearing my flamenco skirt and castanets for tonight’s party.)

If you have formal wear, pretend you’re at prom. Add pimples and dorky glasses. Or go with a retro look.


More Costumes

Couples or solo, look here for details on these homemade creations:

A jumping cholla, a saguaro.

Fifty Shades of Grey, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Wind, a Tumbleweed (Yeah, people will say “blow me.”)

A Black Hole, A Shooting Star


The Ultimate Procrastinator’s Last Minute Costumes:

An undercover cop. Click here for details.

A Sale of Two Titties. (Print out: $$$FORSALE$$$ and affix to your chest.)

A Tale of Two Cities (Print out: London + Paris, for instance) and affix these to your butt…again, remember, staple from the inside. Or if you’re going to a really fun party, you know what to do. Don’t recommend Sharpie markers for that.

Last year’s last minute costume.


What’re you gonna be for Halloween?

Translating in the Dark

I’m working on a project with Andreas (you may know him as “Nannus”) to translate Frege’s “On the Scientific Justification of a Concept Script,” which is funny since I don’t know much about Frege—close to nothing—and I don’t speak German. Nannus, however, is a native German speaker with a strong grasp of English and logic, so I thought my work would be a simple edit of what he’d already published on his blog. I believe I told him it would be nice to move away from the original German syntax to make the writing more accessible to English readers, and I thought it would take very little work since the article’s so short. Professional translators are probably laughing at me now.

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This has been an entirely new sort of writing project for me. Normally when I write, I craft sentences to approximate the idea I have sitting in my mind, and yet, this act lends the initial idea a distinctive clarity, tethering it in specificity. I can’t say I have no idea of what I’m gonna say before it becomes formulated into words, but the idea is usually cloudy, a mere outline. It’s not controversial to say that writing clarifies thoughts, but we don’t always like to acknowledge that it can uproot an initial idea by displaying, sometimes all-too-concretely, its incoherence. Thanks to the delete button I can contradict myself without embarrassing myself, I can change my mind in private so that by the time my idea comes across to an audience, it seems as though my thoughts have always been relatively clear, as if it were only a matter of putting them on paper. In seeing my ideas so concretely, almost objectively, I can revise them, altering them to make them more logical, qualifying them to soften their rough edges, tweaking them to make finer points that otherwise
wouldn’t be available to me. This is part of Frege’s point (as I understand him)—that “external signs” make more permanent what is otherwise transient, that thoughts would not be what we think they are without written language.

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A bit of doodling from high school which I found as I was cleaning out my mom’s house. I decided to photograph this bit and then throw away the journal. No regrets. I like the photo better than the original, especially that glare in the corner.

I found that this distinctive benefit of writing—the clearing out of cobwebs in one’s own mind—gets lost in translating, which instead forces words into what feels like a jigsaw puzzle, the emerging picture being some mysterious original content, the author’s intent, somehow graspable though difficult to re-articulate. This isn’t a perfect metaphor since there’s room for some structural alteration which a jigsaw puzzle wouldn’t allow. For instance, I could break apart sentences that an English reader would find tediously long, within limits. But this breaking apart sometimes meant changing a word or two, which then required changes further down the sentence often due to seemingly trivial things like syntactical expectations in English. And after doing this sentence-level reconstruction, all this had to be looked at from a paragraph level, and the reformulations had to be altered yet again to form a coherent whole. And so on. Not to mention the odd dynamic here since I couldn’t consult with the original text myself, which felt a bit like I was playing out some inverted version of the Chinese room argument…and of course I would be the one locked in the room with nothing but vapor clouds of propositional content, wasting most of my time wondering about pizza delivery options. Plus, I wanted to make changes in places I felt there was inconsistency or superfluous detail clouding the author’s message, but that was not only not my job, but not allowed. The irony here is that Frege’s article is about the cloudiness of language and the need to create a new form of communication free from equivocation, hidden premises, and mental muck. Good luck with that, Frege. I suppose a thin crust pizza might make it under the door relatively intact, don’t you think?

Do you have experiences of translating other people’s words? Or lost in translation experiences? What did you learn?

 

The Will to Believe

A few years back I went to a lecture intended for professors and graduate students in philosophy. It was open to the public, even minimally publicized, but the second I entered the classroom I realized no other ‘outsiders’ had attended. The lecture turned out to be very technical, chock full of scholarly jargon. But after whispering a few questions to my in-house philosopher (“What’s he talking about? Pascal’s Wager?”) I realized that the thesis could be understood by considering a few statements:

1.) You cannot will yourself to believe in something that you know is not true.

On the surface, this seems fair enough. Boring actually. Yet when you think about it, you realize there are very few instances when you know something is not true. The statement reveals how often we must act without certain or even strong knowledge.

Everything turns on what it means to know something is not true, which is sticky. People seem to be perfectly capable of believing in all sorts of nonsense. Even when challenged with irrefutable evidence, nonsense-believers stick to their guns. The lecturer clarified by saying that all psychological rationalizations and self-deceptions must be excluded (he said this in a rather sticky way, the finer points of which I’m probably missing.) In other words, you can believe in all sorts of crazy things, as is evidenced everywhere, but you can’t say to yourself, “I’m gonna believe in this untrue thing!”

2.) You cannot will yourself to believe in something that you don’t know to be true.

A slightly different statement, but an entirely different meaning. The lecturer did not make this statement. I only bring it up to clarify the next one:

3.) You cannot will yourself to believe in something that you know you can’t know to be true.

Now it’s clear we’re dealing with the religious sphere, and the hidden premises that the existence of God, the afterlife, etc., cannot be known. I happen to agree that these cannot be known, but the lecturer concluded that we can’t will ourselves to believe in these cases. I’m not sure. The question that remained for me (and which I was too shy to bring up in the Q&A session) is this:

Can you will yourself to believe in something that you know you can’t know to be true if believing will make you happy? 

In other words, suppose you believe there is no evidence either way for the existence of God, you are Pascal’s intended audience (as I interpret him)—i.e., really and truly agnostic in heart and mind—can you then will yourself to believe for the sake of your well being? Because you want to?

I don’t know the answer to this question, but it occurred to me that the answer could affect practical scenarios, not just these theological questions. In our personal lives we often have to make decisions based on very little evidence, but we can do some research and make a choice based on probability. But what if we found ourselves in a state of what I’d call “epistemic neutrality” about the issue? Suppose the answer is not something just around the corner, but is in theory answerable. Time limits our query, rendering it somewhat analogous to the question of God’s existence. In other words, we know we can’t know the correct position or action to take, the answer is not likely to come in our lifetime, but we still have to make a choice now-ish. In these cases, suppose one live option will make you happy, the other will not. There is no harm that can come from choosing the “happy” option, and you’ll never know if you’re right or wrong. Can we then will ourselves to believe?

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Belief in a bottle! Problem solved.


Is it possible to will yourself to believe? What do you think?