Archive for January, 2004

Andy & Michele: FAQ

Saturday, January 31st, 2004

When you move to a new place, you often wind up answering a lot of questions about yourself. It’s certainly kind of people to take an interest, and since I find myself to be a topic of great interest, I don’t mind answering. Sometimes, though, we think that an FAQ on Us might be in order. Here is what that might look like:


it had to happen sooner or later

Friday, January 30th, 2004

This blog has been mostly free of cute cat stories up until now, and I’d say it’s due for one.
Yesterday I heard some scurrying around outside our sliding door, and went to check it out. A squirrel was climbing around on the two dead houseplants I keep out there (that makes it sound purposeful, doesn’t it), being closely watched by our cat Misty. The squirrel seemed to have figured out that Misty couldn’t get through that invisible glass barrier, and was now sitting inches away from her face, totally carefree.
Today, the squirrel seems to have taken things up a notch. I was sitting in the living room reading (school stuff, of course), and heard the familiar scurrying and saw Misty looking very intent, up on her cat perch. Next time I looked up, I saw a squirrel face peering in the window which is located in the wall perpendicular to the sliding door. Misty was sitting on the table under the window, and reached a tentative paw out toward the squirrel face. She knows that she can’t get outside, since an attempted pounce on the squirrel last summer resulted in her bouncing off the closed screen door in a very undignified fashion.
The squirrel, apparenlty having realized that Misty poses no threat, celebrated his new-found security by scrambling around all over the window screen and sliding door screen, and staring tauntingly in at both cats who were now riveted by his performance. I don’t know about him. Come warmer weather, I’ll be spending more time out on that patio and then we’ll see who’s boss.
I really need to get out more.

Good news!

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

Coffee is good for you.
Still waiting to hear about the amazing health benefits connected to excessive cookie consumption.

why is this so much more interesting than school?

Monday, January 26th, 2004

The comments on the last post raised some new ideas about machine consciousness, and I decided to post a new entry instead of making a really long reply. This isn’t exactly a response, just some new stuff on the subject which I felt like writing about. It’s very long, and I’m not at all sure I’ve accurately represented the theories I cite, but it was fun to write.


random theories for a Sunday afternoon

Sunday, January 25th, 2004

A friend and I once took an evening class with an anthropology professor who had some pretty unique theories. I had some difficulty staying alert in that class, it being a long evening lecture class and all, but these theories would be enough to wake me up and cause me to wonder if I’d just fallen asleep and dreamed that he said that.
One of the less wacky theories was that children are optimal foragers (the class was about hunter-gatherers). He said that because of our hunting-gathering origins we tended to prefer foods that had the highest fat, protein, and carbohydrate levels because those are the three nutrients that keep us from starving to death–vitamins & minerals are of secondary importance. Children are the best at this which is why they like stuff like macaroni & cheese & fruit juice. So when we try to eat healthy and lose weight, we’re going against our natural tendency to eat foods with the highest amounts of the above nutrients, which I guess is why it’s difficult to choose salad over a hamburger. Okay, so maybe it’s not that interesting, but it has stuck with me all these years.
A somewhat weirder theory was that the plants are going to kill us. The prof maintained that because we are focused in on only a few species of food (wheat, corn, and what have you); ultimately these species will evolve defense mechanisms that will make them poisonous to humans, to prevent us from keeping them from reproducing by consuming or confiscating their seeds. Now “the plants are going to kill us” is prima facie wacky, and more difficult to maintain from an evolutionary point of view, since domestication has actually increased the habitat of these species probably several thousand-fold; and they are so genetically engineered they don’t have much hope of any natural mutation working its way in to the general population. But maybe I didn’t fully understand his argument. Either way, the important thing is that I got to use the phrase “the plants are going to kill us” in my blog.
Yesterday Andy and I were discussing the concept of artificial intelligence and how it always seems to be perceived as hostile to humanity. I maintain (ha, you thought you were going to get out of this without one of my own personal wacky theories) that if an artificial “intelligence” or “awareness” could be created, it would be very different than human intelligence. First of all, I don’t think you can create a “consciousness” that has nothing to be conscious of–it would have to have sensory equipment and the equivalent of arms and legs with which to move around and manipulate its environment (based on the theories of Husserl, Heidegger, and other hermeneutical theorists, which I am incapable of reproducing here). Second, while I can imagine a computer becoming aware of its surroundings and able to act and solve some problems better than a human, I can’t imagine it writing a poem or painting a picture or having an emotion of altruism or love or hate. It might be able to mimic such things very well, but it would not be having the experience that a human has. Computers now can’t do anything but what a human tells it to do, and they have only the data that a human gives them or equips them to gather. My idea of an “aware” computer is one that doesn’t need a programmer–it recognizes problems that threaten it or whatever its mission is, and programs itself to solve that problem. I don’ t see how we can program a computer to have an emotion, or to have a human-like consciousness–largely because we ourselves have only a very sketchy notion of what human consciousness is. I mean, that has been one of the big debates of philosophers over the millennia, and we haven’t come to any kind of concensus yet. Science doesn’t seem to be able to throw much light on the phenomenon either, and the humanities and social sciences only study the artifacts of consciousness. In any case, I’m not too worried about the “the machines are going to kill us” hypothesis–I mean, if it’s not the machines or the plants, it’s bound to be something.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 24th, 2004

Let’s see…back before the cat stuff, the gaming, the church stuff, the pity party, and the digressions, there was the holidays. New Year’s was quite fun this year, especially in comparison to other New Yearses I’ve experienced. One year, some time in the mid-nineties, we had gathered at a friend’s house to celebrate New Year’s. We were expecting another friend to come by after work, but she never showed up. We got really worried about her (I worry about people when I don’t know where they are), so another friend and I decided to go look for her. We drove past her place of employment and she didn’t seem to be there, so we went on to her house. We didn’t want to freak out her mother if it turned out she wasn’t home, so we tried to sneak up to the house to see if the light was on in her room (her room was in the basement, so we had to get pretty close to the house to see). Unfortunately, her mother noticed two suspicious figures creeping up to the house, and called “who’s there” tremulously out the front door. We admitted it was us, and tried to figure out whether her daughter was home without actually asking. Fortunately, she was. Another co-worker had wanted to go rent a movie after work but couldn’t decide on one, so she was stuck staring at a copy of Prizzi’s Honor as the new year came in. I don’t know, New Year’s just isn’t my holiday.
But this year it was good. We spent it with some friends who made dinner for us, followed by a game of Settlers of Catan (not the time I won–the New Year’s curse no doubt).
Before that was Christmas, which was very relaxing. Andy and I opened presents and had a very enjoyable day. Presents were very multimedia this year–several DVDs including Indiana Jones, Mr. Bean, The Tick (the live action one), The Matrix Reloaded; also Game Cube games and books. The cats got canned food which seemed to make their day.
Instead of an advent wreath, church had different windows from houses attached around the sanctuary with candles in them; and a picture of Salvador Dali’s “girl at a window” (I forget the exact name). It was quite cool. I looked through a Salvador Dali book at Schuler’s the other day. Most of the pictures in the book wouldn’t be suitable for church.

Entrust your noble soul in your sword

Thursday, January 22nd, 2004

I’ve been playing a lot of games during the past few weeks. Only 6.5 weeks until my comprehensive exams, that seems appropriate. Andy got Soul Calibur and Mario Kart for Christmas, both of which I’ve spent a good amount of time with. SC includes strange phrases like the above–Andy says they make sense if you know the back story, but I find it difficult to imagine what such a story would be like. Mario Kart is also quite fun. I don’t use the adjective “trippy” very often, but it’s really the only one suitable to describe the last map, which Andy unlocked recently.
We’ve also played Magic a few times lately. I’d played it in college a few times, but never really got into it. I find it more fun now, maybe I’m just better at losing games now. I used to get really competitive about games, especially Monopoly for some reason.
Andy and I played a game called “Settlers of Catan” with varoius people over the holidays. It was quite fun. I expected to be awful at it, since it requires strategic planning which I am bad at; but I actually won once. It’s kind of a board game, in which the board is made up of hexagonal pieces which you colonize in order to gain resources, build new settlements, and establish cities. It comes with little wooden pieces representing the towns, etc., which you can use to build small structures while waiting for your turn. I think you should get extra points for building the most interesting structure, but I haven’t been able to sell any of my co-players on that idea yet.
Little update on the cats: They went back to the vet yesterday. Still don’t know what’s the matter with them, but the answer seems to be spending more money. They now have pills that I give them with a scary-looking contraption called a cat-piller. I think the cats think it’s a cat-killer, from they way they react.


Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

This was obviously an enterprise begun by an immature mind, one with an utter lack of ability to comprehend its cost in dollars, time, effort and standard of living; or with any hope of being able to meet that cost. Already it has cost more money than anyone is likely to see in one place at one time, and every day it continues, it plunges us further into financial chaos. Even after months and years of dealing with an ever more difficult and time-consuming task, there is no clear concept of how or when it’s going to be resolved; and it shows every sign of dragging on for years more. Meanwhile, on the home front, money is tight, and any improvement in the economy hasn’t yet improved the situation. It may already be too late to get out of this thing unscathed–financially, morally, mentally, and emotionally.
I refer, of course, to graduate school.

cats, amoxicillin, and eschatology

Tuesday, January 20th, 2004

The biggest adventure of the past few weeks (and this is a good indication of the usual excitement level of our lives) has been administering medicine to our beloved pets, Misty and Teti. They both developed little scratches or something that didn’t seem to be healing up, so off to the vet we went. The vet didn’t know what was going on with them, so she decided to charge us for everything–er, I mean she decided to treat them for everything. So for 10 days I had to squirt liquid antibiotics into their mouths and anoint them with Tresaderm, twice a day. No one enjoyed this process one little bit. I got better at medicating them as time went on–the first couple of times more medicine got on their faces, my hands, my jeans, the floor, and whatever else was within a three-foot radius, than in their mouths. They go in to the vet again tomorrow, and I’m hoping the vet will say they’re okay.


I live in dirt, and nowhere glows but drearily

Monday, January 19th, 2004

Actually, things have been going pretty well lately. I figured that a post with the above header would garner more readers than one entitled “Actually, things have been going pretty well lately,” however.
It’s been a while since I posted, so I’ll work backwards in time through the missing month; and you the reader may play Merlin to my King Arthur (sounds like someone thinks a lot of herself).