Monthly Archives: June 2011

Freeplay Weird and Whacky

Freeplay Tribal Masters

Freeplay holy men: Jedi master Matt, Francis and Elder Tom.

I try really hard to make out balanced line ups, and have a system of going back and forth, plugging talent into essential roles, and trying to cover my posterior. If I had a magic wand, my own team–that I design before every game–would always lose by one run. This week seemingly closely matched teams ended up playing a furious rout, featuring a triple play and enough oddity to reach into the twilight zone.

Stuff happens and I’m thankful to count on the post-game reset experienced team mates use as a way of intoning ‘this too shall pass.’

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Know Your Box

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A tweet skidded by: outside the box is just another box. The challenge moving outside “the” box is taking the same thinking with you. So: a problem of how more than a problem of where is this outside. Another way to put it is how do you know you’re outside; how did you get there; what did you bring with you, and, then a crucial move would be, how would you know you’re in a new box?

My basic “meta” approach with respect to deploying applications for the sake of activating outer moves is to disrupt the familiar or well-structured or resistance-free initial tactics; you know where the outer move is made as a matter of the learner being confident he or she knows how to get outside the/a box. And, yes, my practiced approach constitutes its own box.

Successful venturing outside the box, for me, comprises getting outside outside the box, and the quality of this venturing I’ve observed to signal some portion of discomfiture, as if visiting an unknown, even alien land.

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ARK: Five Figures

Toureg Player

Toureg Player

Court Dancer

Court Dancer



Girl Grin

Girl Grin

click for lightbox enlargement
A series of ARK, but with some processing and manipulation

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One Reason

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Teaching Cartoon: Between Second and Third Order


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A Few More Dots

Manly Politics

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Folk You Psychology

Paul-ChurchlandPhilosopher Paul Churchland

How to put this, ummm, lightly, and not glom too much of your time? I am challenged to do this. I need to defer from providing way too much context. This is hard because, although the subject matter is straight forward, attached to this is a bunch of strange and impossible to resolve problems. I guess I won’t go “there.”

I can put it simply. Let’s configure an experiment. You get to assemble a team of psychological experts. You tell them that they will have made available to them a research subject, and, they will be able to each make their own expert inquiry into this subject. This will take place at the entry way to a grocery store. What you deliver as this expert group’s charge is this: find out what you need to know to predict what the subject will do in the first five minutes after he or she is released to go shopping in the grocery store.

The team’s goal is to make predictions. Your goal is to assemble the right team, hoping then that they end up making dependable predictions. Assume (correctly) that you will need to vet candidates for this team by gathering information about potential candidates, and, this effort itself echoes the lesser charge. In other words, your own effort is itself directed to approximately predict that your team will be good predictors.

The central problem given by the field of psychology, as far as I’m concerned, is the awesome difficulty posed by the problem of predicting what an average, and on average, normal subject, will do, literally, next. If this experiment was actually rolled out, one of its fascinating aspects would be revealed by analyzing the data gathering implicit in the various different approaches used to predict this single subject’s possible next actions, after they are released to fulfill or dash the predictions. I intuiting by this suggestion the difficulty supposed by aiming the inquiry into the subject at: some layer, level, part of their human system.

There could be two basic classes of inquiry, first the psychological, and, second, everything else. The obvious question a certain kind of inquiry might deploy would be: what are you going to do next; and next; and next? Are such questions dropped in the class of psychology? If you tell me so, I would ask you, “How so?”

Okay. I make two broadly brushed distinctions when I am pursuing my learning and investigation of, what’s termed, folk psychology. Call the first a kind of terrain. Within its boundaries are all practical undisciplined, non-technical, manifestations of cognition, mind, informal theorizing, (etc.) that are innocent of Folk Psychology “proper.” This used to be termed everyday psychology, yet the differentiation I’m focusing on is rooted to wondering about how the folk psychologize when the folk don’t know anything at all about the technical, model-ordinated, problems incurred by supposing that there are difficulties in making assumptions about how one’s own mind works, and, how other person’s minds work.

One thinks about their own mind’s workings, and that of others, and the signal quality of this is: this is not really problematic.

Why it is, or why it should be, lands in the terrain of Folk Psychology Proper. The actuality of ‘psychology’ in the first terrain is that close to 100% of humanity spends 100% of its mindful time in it. This time is taken up with predictions, estimations, and every sort of seemingly reasonable act of surmising what is to happen next, most of it predicated on–in the scheme of such things–gathering hardly any, or at least, paltry amounts of positive information. Yet, and this is not surprising, all this time is mostly ‘navigationally’ effective. Think about it; we don’t give much of a second thought to the vast taken-for-granted conceptions we use, basically, automatically in figuring out out intentions or the intentions of others. And, somewhat surprising, a team of psychological experts does not provide a very sturdy purchase upon any plane of dependable prediction with respect to the normal, conventional “case” subject and their next activity.

This could be compared to the controversies inherent within Folk Psychology Proper. For my own part, the latter terrain is deliciously paradoxical, ponderable and imponderable all at once. Is cognition produced by operational formulations of representations and propositions (and other stuff!) or is it more like this:

The basic idea is that the brain represents the world by means of very high-dimensional activation vectors, that is, by a pattern of activation levels across a very large population of neurons. And the brain performs computations on those representations by effecting various complex vector-to-vector transformations from one neural population to another. This happens when an activation vector from one neural population is projected through a large matrix of synaptic connections to produce a new activation vector across a second population of nonlinear neurons. Mathematically, the process is an instance of multiplying a vector by a matrix and pushing the result through a nonlinear filter. This process is iterable through any number of successive neural populations and, with appropriate adjustment of the myriad synaptic weights that constitute the “coefficients” of these vast matrices, such an arrangement can compute, at least approximately, any computable function whatsoever. Such neural networks have been shown to be “universal approximators” (Hornik, Stinchcombe, and White 1989).

Such networks can also learn to approximate any desired function, from repeated presentation of its instances, by means of various auto­matic learning procedures that adjust the synaptic weights in response to various pressures induced by the specific input-output examples pre­sented to the network (Rumelhart, Hinton, and Williams 1986a, 1986b; Sejnowski, Kienker, and Hinton 1986; Hinton 1989). Trained networks are fast, functionally persistent, tolerant of input degradation, sensitive to diffuse similarities, and they display complex learned prototypes.

This was Paul Churchland, writing sometime–guessing–in the early nineteen nineties.

The lead-in paragraphs:

The real motive behind eliminative materialism is the worry that the “propositional” kinematics and “logical” dynamics of folk psychology constitute a radically false account of the cognitive activity of humans, and of the higher animals generally. The worry is that our folk con­ception of how cognitive creatures represent the world (by propositional attitudes) and perform computations over those representations (by drawing sundry forms of inference from one to another) is a thorough­ going misrepresentation of what really takes place inside us. The worry about propositional attitudes, in short, is not that they are too much like (the legitimately functional) tables and chairs, but that they are too much like (the avowedly nonexistent) phlogiston, caloric fluid, and the four principles of medieval alchemy.

These latter categories were eliminated from our serious ontology because of the many explanatory and predictive failures of the theories that embedded them, and because those theories were superseded in the relevant domains by more successful theories whose taxonomies bore no systematic explanatory or reductive relation to the taxonomies of their more feeble predecessors. In sum, eliminative materialism is not moti­vated by some fastidious metaphysical principle about common natures, but by some robustly factual and entirely corrigible assumptions about the failings of current folk psychology and the expected character of future cognitive theories. On the explanatory and predictive failings of folk psychology, enough has been said elsewhere (P. M. Churchland 1981). Let me here address very briefly the positive side of the issue: the case for a novel kinematics, dynamics, and semantics for cognitive activity. Though Putnam does not explicitly rule out this possibility, his book does not take it very seriously. At one point he describes it as “only a gleam in Churchland’s eye” (p. 110).

Definitely, I have a foot in the eliminativist terrain. I’m confidant that the talk is different than the walk. Ahh, but the other foot! I doubt the physical apparatus allows for walking the walk. I am not yet able to understand how the common talk could end being ‘faux’ like phlogiston. Nor can I yet comprehend the kind of grain that would come to the fore and allow one to predict that the subject’s next vector-to-vector translation is indubitably heading the subject toward the rack of tomatoes.

And, that we would have by then conjured a language to best frame a matching prediction seems to me not likely to be as robust as the language we use to make good and bad predictions.

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ARK: Cylon Pop (variations)


Cylon Pop Black and White

Cylon Pop Black and White

Cylon Pop Orange

Cylon Pop Orange

Cylon pop Fuschia

The original:

Cylon Pop

Cylon Pop

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Moral Hazard and the Laughing Gangsters

Goldman & God

Making sense of the financial meltdown. There is positive explanatory viewpoint and various idealized viewpoints. About this latter froth of blame-casting, I term such viewpoints normative-mythic.  The first viewpoint would be concerned with the actual mechanics of the meltdown. Opposite this first field of study is the prolific body of various normative “explanations.” So, for example, in this latter realm, one could learn that Fannie and Freddie played the major role, or, that lower class first-time home owners played the major role, or, that deregulation was the crucial factor, etc. Explanations that elevate single or a handful of factors to a consequential majority in the catalog of explanatory factors invariably make ideological turns. I have not encountered an explanation of this type able to remain connected only to the actual, positive facts, events, and obvious forensic estimations.

Back in the late summer of 2008 I figured TARP was necessary to avoid a wreck of every single train rather than many that were wrecked. However, back then, I didn’t have any grasp of the actual mechanics. I did comprehend the ethical consequences would be to bail out the financial gangsters in the unfortunately time-honored procedure of socialization of loss and privatization of gain. (Stating this, I invoke my own normative-mythic sensemaking.)

Scroll ahead almost three years, and the idealized “talk” on offer from ideological perspectives remains unhooked from the actual events, especially as these are now much better understood. So, for example, it is now an aspect of ideological orthodoxy to admit that what should of happened is that all the trains should have been wrecked on purpose, for the sake of moral clarity, and, a salutary system-wide creative destruction. Similarly, and in the same breath, it is conservative orthodoxy nowadays that the financial industry should be de-regulated, that the giant banks should always be allowed to fail, and, that business and capital gains taxes need to be eliminated.

As for the cheap retrospective moralist cant about creative destruction, such  cannot really be a testament to morality or purifying destruction, at least for the reason that had this alternate track been fulfilled, right wing “creative destroyers” would not have proudly have marched into the mid-terms testifying–amidst an economic depression– shouting “this is all great and maybe we should have more of it!” At the same time, millions upon millions of people were victimized by the implosion through no fault of their own, and so it would be basically not possible for a certain kind of ideologue  to run on the platform attesting to how good such destructive medicine really is ‘for you all.’

Socialize losses. No domos of finance stepped off of window ledges either.
Golman Sachs Tea Party

The current Randian Ryanian thrust is in the context of the surging, draining aftermath. It is at least obvious to me that is not credible to want it both ways: to advocate that the creative destruction should have been implemented, and, that the financial domos should nowadays escape accountability, regulation, and personal responsibility. Incredibly, this is exactly what is being promoted.

Megan McArdle possesses a BA in English literature and an MBA from Chicago Booth at University of Chicago. But how is it she has a cushy job as economic editor at the Atlantic when she says: “A short position is inherent in any sale of an asset?” Implied by this is that an investment offer, where the investor says “Buy this,” is implicitly, every time, attached to the qualification, “It’s going in the toilet in some way.”

Last week we learned that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi (above, on left) had, in recent years, invested billions of dollars in oil revenues in several Western institutions, including Goldman Sachs. Today we’re finding out exactly what Goldman bankers did with all that money. They lost it.

In early 2008, according to interviews and an internal document review conducted by The Wall Street Journal, Libya’s sovereign wealth fund invested $1.3 billion in stock and currency options with Goldman, only to watch as the investments shrunk to a measly $25.1 million–that’s two percent of the initial value, for those keeping score–as the credit crisis hit. A Libyan official was so furious with the bank during one meeting in Tripoli that Goldman officials hired a security guard to protect them before they left Libya, consulted Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein (above, on right) about how to mend the relationship, and offered Libya the opportunity to become one of Goldman’s biggest shareholders by investing $3.7 billion in preferred shares or corporate debt. The negotiations eventually collapsed, the Journal adds, but the episode is emblematic of a period of several years when Goldman and other Western banks rushed to do business with Libya after the U.S. decided to lift its sanctions against the country in 2004. That period, of course, is now history. How Goldman Sachs Made Libya’s $1 Billion Investment Disappear

Lloyd Blankfein

Blankfein strikes me as a poster boy for the post-meritocracy. He surely guffaws all the way to the bank even if he had a hand in destroying billions of dollars of wealth while his firm borrowed almost $800 billion in tax payer money for the sake of avoiding the view of the abyss. Yes, he really did say he was doing “God’s work.”


Okay, Dan, you didn’t tell your customers it was shitty.

April 2010. From Dan’s opening statement:

Knowing whether we were long or short was often difficult, as our positions were complex and the market moved erratically. There were times when our analytical risk measures told us one thing, and my experience and knowledge of our positions told me something else. Some days, we took actions to reduce risk only to see the firm’s Value at Risk or “VaR” increase. During this time, there were differing views within the Mortgage Department, and around the firm, as to the direction of the residential mortgage markets. But the one constant theme from senior management was to reduce risk.

Well, what are sucker customers for?

Blankfein echoes McArdle in his April 2010 testimony. “By definition when we sell something we take the opposite position.”

To recap: Goldman, to get $1.2 billion in crap off its books, dumps a huge lot of deadly mortgages on its clients, lies about where that crap came from and claims it believes in the product even as it’s betting $2 billion against it. When its victims try to run out of the burning house, Goldman stands in the doorway, blasts them all with gasoline before they can escape, and then has the balls to send a bill overcharging its victims for the pleasure of getting fried. (The People vs. Goldman Sachs. Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, May 11, 2011)

You didn’t realize an investment bank holds onto its profitable paper and pawns off it losers on its “customers?”

Before the hearing, even some of Levin’s allies worried privately about his taking on Goldman and other powerful interests. The job, they said, was best left to professional prosecutors, people with experience building cases. “A senator’s office is not an enormous repository of expertise,” one former regulator told me. But in the case of this particular senator, that concern turned out to be misplaced. A Harvard-educated lawyer, Levin has a long record of using his subcommittee to spend a year or more carefully building cases that lead to criminal prosecutions. His 2003 investigation into abusive tax shelters led to 19 indictments of individuals at KPMG, while a 2006 probe fueled insider-trading charges against the notorious Wyly brothers, a pair of billionaire Texans who manipulated offshore investment trusts. The investigation of Goldman was an attempt to find out what went wrong in the years leading up to the financial crash, and the questioning of the bank’s executives was not one of those for-the-cameras-only events where congressmen wing ad-libbed questions in search of sound bites. In the weeks leading up to the hearing, Levin’s team carefully rehearsed the moment with committee members. They knew the possible answers that Goldman might give, and they were ready with specific counterquestions. What ensued looked more like a good old-fashioned courtroom grilling than a photo-op for grinning congressmen.

Sparks, who stepped down as Goldman’s mortgage chief in 2008, cut a striking figure in his testimony. With his severe crew cut, deep-set eyes and jockish intransigence, he looked like a cross between H.R. Haldeman and John Rocker. He repeatedly dodged questions from Levin about whether or not the bank had a responsibility to tell its clients that it was betting against the same stuff it was selling them. When asked directly if he had that responsibility, Sparks answered, “The clients who did not want to participate in that deal did not.” When Levin pressed him again, asking if he had a duty to disclose that Goldman had an “adverse interest” to the deals being sold to clients, Sparks fidgeted and pretended not to comprehend the question. “Mr. Chairman,” he said, “I’m just trying to understand.”

OK, fine — non-answer answers. “My guess is they were all pretty well coached up,” says Kaufman, the law professor. But then Sparks had a revealing exchange with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. Tester calls the Goldman deals “a wreck waiting to happen,” noting that the CDOs “were all downgraded to junk in very short order.”

At which point, Sparks replies, “Well, senator, at the time we did those deals, we expected those deals to perform.”

Tester then cannily asks if by “perform,” Sparks means go to shit — which would have been an honest answer. “Perform in what way?” Tester asks. “Perform to go to junk so that the shorts made out?”

Unable to resist the taunt, Sparks makes a fateful decision to defend his honor. “To not be downgraded to junk in that short a time frame,” he says. Then he pauses and decides to dispense with the hedging phrase “in that short a time frame.”

“In fact,” Sparks says, “to not be downgraded to junk.”

So Sparks goes before Congress and, under oath, tells a U.S. senator that at the time he was selling Timberwolf, he expected it to “perform.” But an internal document he approved in May 2007 predicted exactly the opposite, warning that Goldman’s mortgage desk expected such deals to “underperform.” Here are some other terms that Sparks used in e-mails about the subprime market affecting deals like Timberwolf around that same time: “bad and getting worse,” “get out of everything,” “game over,” “bad news everywhere” and “the business is totally dead.” (The People vs. Goldman Sachs. Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, May 11, 2011)

Why isn’t Blankfein in the pokey?

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Fairy Dust

Cash Reserve

The story the “cut-now-and-grow” lobby wants to tell depends not on arithmetic, but on what Krugman calls the confidence fairy (she’s good) and the crowding-out troll (he’s bad). In a tight budget environment like today’s, politicians love the fairy because she provides free stimulus. And since she’s a fantasy, you can attribute anything you want to her: “confidence in the markets depends on [your favorite budget cut here]!!”

Then there’s the notion that high public spending levels are crowding out private borrowing. Again, not a plausible story with excess capacity, the Fed funds rate at zero, and companies sitting on cash that they could invest with if they saw good reasons to do so.

Steve Benen

Similar to this are the promotions advocating that the stimulus failed, when, quite very possibly, the stimulus was too small. Sometime soon a hedge fund manager or Wall Street domo will point out in public that the recovery can be wrecked by contracting the public sector.

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Jung – God Is Fate Its Self

C.G. Jung

Synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers. I define synchronicity as a psychically conditioned relativity of time and space. ~ C. G. Jung

Over the past few years, as I’ve been drilling into the phenomena of constitutive fortuity, I’ve set in the background Carl Jung’s conception of synchronicity. As concept it shares background space with each and every rationale pertinent to how people explain fortuity, or, in common parlance, serendipity. I’ve set myself to catalog these explanatory rationales.

Even deeper in the background is my own investigation of Jung’s opus, and, along with his work, much of the development one discovers in taking in the larger opus of Analytic Psychology. Given my intense curiosity about the nature of humans, Jung has earned an investment on my part second to none, and first, in the top rank, against only Gregory Bateson and Thelonious Monk and Rumi. Yet, I’m not at all a so-called Jungian.

But, this is also the least of it. This in retrospect, and this would be retrospectively in looking backward toward my mid-life crisis/carnival twenty years ago. At that time, the decade the dream journal marked; the stoned slog through the literature and poetry; the deployment of the falling symbolic bones; and staggering synchronic encounters; added up as an elegant lantern and wholly useful map of my own inner territory. Oh, and much was unbidden and terrifying too.

This is different than the numerous other cases, each of which falsifies the global Jungian premises. (My own case verified my own case!) In short, individuation cannot exclusively be a matter of running only the Jungian model. This being the case, psyche is obviously much more ‘pleromatic’ than Jung was able to either conceive of, let alone encompass, in his decidedly looking-to-the-19th century system. Still, be that as it may, the Analytic Psychology is a very fine, and refined, autopoietic ‘constructivistic’ framework and methodology, and naturally lending itself to the aspirational, artistic, soulful, yin temperament.

As my pal Alice O. Howell put it, it’s about squaring the circle and relativizing the ego. She also pointed out God is a verb–a spectacular and sharp modernization of Jung; and, this goes along with the Jungian Brewster Beach’s pointed naming of the stone, God Is Fate.

However, in noting this, it was moments after my mid-life crisis had turned into a mode of grown-a-bit receptivity to friendship and love, that I had an enlightening aperçu, brought on by realizing I wasn’t living in a Jungian cosmos. The cost levied wasn’t any fall at all, instead was an appreciation that as the marabout proffers, there are infinite ways to journey home.

As a practical matter, my indebtedness is mostly to Marion Woodman. (Carl Gustav Jung ended his worldly journey June 1, 1961.)

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