May 22, 2016

here is a series of thoughts that i have had today

reality is not what you think it is.

my name is neil saitug and i write about things.  i also read things.  most of what i read will never come to fruition as written thoughts.  this thought, in a great company of other sad thoughts, saddens me the most greatly.

here is a series of thoughts that i have had today, and a few recurring thoughts from this week:

- the power of explanation, as expostulated by David Deutsche in his two books, The Fabric of Reality and the Beginning of Infinity, are everywhere.  it is one of the core functions that powers great teachers and great ideas alike.  explanations are cross-cultural; they are universally treasured by humans of all creeds, classes, occupations and concerns.  in fact, I would naively posit that the key to understanding any group or single human being is to understand the explanations that they make use of.  this thought is so deep, that I find it reflecting back at me in almost any media or interaction, both present and past.

- the true revolution that underlies the free software movement (rebranded and watered down in the mid-aughts as Open Source software). this thought is driven largely by finishing off Gabriella Coleman's Coding Freedom.  coincidentally, the Google v. Oracle debate that is occurring right now makes a great stage for dissecting the current day status of copyright vs freedom of speech legal status of open source code; in fact I would argue that the lawsuit is one of the most monumental public and legal moments for open source/free software meets copyrightability that has occurred since Coleman's book was published in 2012.  on a more personal note and as someone who writes code, i found myself deeply reconsidering my own attitudes and proprietary assumptions surrounding the code that i write.  when i write and publicize code on the internet, what is my relationship with the people who find it?  how is that similar (or different) to the relationship that I am assuming right now, with you, my reader?  to what extent is code different than essays?  what is the most important thing about putting my code out in the world: is it freedom of that code to become part of the commons of code that exists for the world to use, or is it recognition of authorship, or monetary?  how much control do i as a creator of a public work do i retain for myself over the work itself?  how much does that matter to me?  are ideas really free, if they have a creator?  or am i just a vessel for the work?  (can you hear it?  the voice? no?  i'll tell you what it's saying: ego, ego ego).  i'm leaning strongly towards allowing the next bits of software that i write to be strongly free, but am struggling with accepting that other people may make money off of them.

- book mania.  i've been buying books like a fiend for a while now, and have been feverishly reading through them.  i'm starting to flag a bit tho, as the number of books that i want to read, while currently in my lifetime an attainable goal (that is to say that given all of the books that i would like to read currently, if i were put a hard stop on the list, i would ostensibly be able to finish all of the books within the end of my lifetime.  there is a point where this will no longer be the case, however.  what that point it is is...?)  so, given that i can read all of the books that i want to read, is there an ordering or certain works that are more important to read earlier than later?  this builds a bit upon the idea that there are certain thoughts or habits that can act as catalysts for further thoughts or lines of inquiry; ideally these generative books would be the ones that i read first, and save all the others for later, where the timeliness for them is less important.  ok, so how do i pick out which books are more timely than others?  i don't have a good answer for this yet, but here's a few general rules of thumb that i've been using: recently written books get higher priority, as they're more likely to be timely/about currently actionable things.  books that are recommended to me by someone else are more important than books i've found via Amazon.  books that pertain to lines of inquiry i find currently interesting are ranked higher.  fictional works have currently taken a bit of a backseat, the thought being that most plot lines are things that I've read before, and assuming that most fictional work is not contributive to 'generative' thought as other works (i'm sorry to say it, but recent experience has proven this to be exceptionally true).  here's a list of the books (and book genres) that i'm currently attempting to find time for: finishing David Deutsche's Beginning of Infinity; a book/dissertation of the results of a generative, social AI experiment (starting to wonder if i wouldn't have gotten thru this faster if it had been in ebook format); a number of books on the history concerning the 34th street district (Macy's, Santa Corp, Empire State Building, Penn Station) -- these have a deadline of next Monday; Pychon's Bleeding Edge; a book of short stories; Hamilton's biography; a book on the engineering systems underlying NYC; Tuttle's beginning Chinese characters; a very recently published book on poverty and racism in America; an ethnography on sex, commercialism and public space in Times Square; there are more but i can't remember them.  Ok so maybe the most daunting thing right now is finishing Deutsche's Beginning of Infinity (it feels like I've been stuck on it for months now).  Unsticking this one should hopefully let the others flow more quickly.  Books that I've abandoned as being not longer relevant or just plain uninteresting: A.O Scott's book on Criticism & Camus' The Rebel.

- ups and downs of having a dog.  i've been a bit down on myself lately for not entirely appreciating the responsibility of having a pet, to say the least.  it is a bit of work, and time and, most prohibitively, a certain amount of guilt inherent in leaving her at home by herself, or not letting her sniff the flowers for as long as she'd like to because i need to get home.  strangely, one of the bigger pluses of having her (besides the companionship and built-in schedule reinforcement) is the removal of the curiosity of what life would be like with a dog. i've been talking about getting a dog for years now, waffling on it you could almost say.  now i rarely have that mental pressure or distraction.  in a way, the relief is a huge validation of the power of doing things and dealing with the consequences than not doing things but forever wondering whether or not *now* is when I should do that thing.  ie: favor action over waffling, because the peace of mind pays dividends a thousand fold.  a strong corollary to this is writing thoughts down -- writing things down and publishing them on the internet has the effect of helping to clear out my mental space, like reducing the pressure in a hose.

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