Friday, May 22, 2009

Apophenia, sounds like a Who concert only it isn't

Presidents can sure let you down. I mean, they can be truly great in some ways, yet so terribly flawed in others. Nixon was like that, and to various extents, Kennedy, Carter, Bush, and probably all the rest. No surprise I wasn't a big Bill Clinton fan, along with most of the US military. I felt fully vindicated about those feelings after the whole Lewinsky business; it just seemed like the highest office deserved better than the way he handled that. That said, I had to admire Clinton's record as an administrator, because it seemed to be the best boom in the economy since post WW II; and a budget surplus? Unheard of.

What was his secret? Some say he fanatically used focus groups to stay on the sunnyside. But one aide, I don't recall his name, admired most that Clinton had an uncanny knack for "seeing the connectedness of things." That statement really resonated with me. I've always admired people who could hear about an event, or take some sort of action, and somehow, immediately and accurately know how it would affect, say, the price of carrots. It is particularly impressive if these connections have significant impact on the domestic or world stage.

In my old job, which was largely logistics, the ability to predict the various impacts of a "disturbance in the force" was highly prized and often, the only key to success. Certainly, the golden rule in the military is you must often make significant decisions on courses of action even without adequate information. You can see how recognizing true connectedness would be a godsend. I can't say I was a master at it, but sometimes I saw some angles nobody else did--instant gratification there. A truly great talent would be seeing the patterns in certain activities so as to allow one to predict the future. If I could master that, I'd live in Las Vegas, and quite nicely.

There's a whole realm of math that I don't understand that chases specific outcomes of events (deterministic prediction) and random outcomes (stochastic prediction, an array of outcomes, some more likely than others). But then, there's also apophenia: the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena, or the propensity to find meaning, patterns, and significance where there is none. Maybe that's the line between genius and pure paranoia. But who then is to say that a purported pattern is real or not? In the end, it doesn't matter; if knowing the answer does not result in useful information to optimize things, it just doesn't matter.

Next blog, I'll tell you where I'm going with this...

Monday, May 18, 2009

My best defense for saving "Marriage"

My best defense for saving the "traditional" meaning of the word "marriage" is the story of the word "gay." I'm still pissed about that one. So I guess what I'm saying is I'm really arguing over a stupid word.
I truly believe people of the same sex who proclaim their love for each other should be able to enter a union with the exact same benefits as marriage. I say call it a "civil union," or somesuch, make it legally the same as "marriage" and let them have at it. I guess you could further define the situation as "traditional marriage" and "gay marriage," but the vitriol will still exist in our society, and it will inevitably get shortened to marriage anyway. How about we create a new word, like we did with "Ms." How about "murriage?" It could be for all unions, be they straight or homosexual. You could still use the words "husbands" or "wives" and you haven't re-written anything.
But quit changing the meanings of extant words already! Maybe one can argue that the word "marriage" was never specifically defined as between opposite sexes, but it was assuredly implied as such for millenia. You know, some words have a certain untranslatable meaning for their particular society. The word gay was not the exact same as any other single word, so when our culture changed its meaning, we lost something. Gay used to mean sort of lighthearted-happy-carefree but also carried a hint of the fleetingness or fragility of that state. Well, that one is gone for sure. Let us not sacrifice the meaning of another word to the alter of pop culture. Our language is pretty rich, surely we can expand it a tad further?
Love free speech!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Comment on Mom's Day

It occurred to me there are two kinds of mothers; those who tried to have kids, and those who (for whatever reason) didn't. The interesting thing about this is that the beginning has no reflection whatsoever on the result. I mean, there are "good" and "bad" mothers regardless of the planning factor. Of course, good and bad are kind of relative terms, but who would argue that there aren't a few real monsters out there. I would argue the vast majority aren't monsters, just regular people with a unique relationship to you. People can love you, hate you, surprise you, empower you, forgive you, hurt you, the whole gamut--most come and go. But mom can do all these things and when the sun goes down, she's still mom.
I miss my mom. For all her love, her faults, her strengths, there were always good times mixed with some lows. The good times give me a warm feeling, and the lows don't sting so much anymore. What gives me pause is that with passing time, I understand more about the way things were for her, about the decisions she had to make, because in addition to being a mom, she was a regular person too. I believe the fact that she was my mother does not give me special power to judge her as a person. What I know for certain is she sacrificed a lot for me and my sister, more than any one else I could name.
So, I'm glad there is a Mother's Day. Though I can't do anything special for her now that she's gone, I can reflect on her love, sacrifice, and inevitable human frailty. She was a person, and she was my mom.