Friday, September 29, 2006

an excellent story about intuition:

my brother, one of the more interesting people I've ever met, chose to become a hunting guide in lieu of going immediately from high school to college. as such, he has a fair amount of frontier knowledge; if the apocalypse should come, I will feel very safe having him around to teach me about living off the land.

not to imply that he is either bloodless or bloody: he loves the outdoors, the peace and quiet of solitude. as such, he made a trip to our cabin in oregon recently, in order to spend some time alone and make an attempt at two new goals. They were:

1. shoot a deer with a bow and arrow
2. shoot a bear

a week ago, approximately, he shot said deer using the desired method. he then sskinned the deer and set the hide out on the porch to dry (or what have you.)

the next day, it was gone.

his initial assumption was that a bear had eaten it, and as such he woke up early the next morning to lay in wait for this bear and avenge himself, and realize the trip's ambitions all in one blow. indeed, in the early light a big bear came ambling up and he, davy crockett that he is, shot it.

now, wanting to save at least this pelt for a bear-skin rug (which I will be begging him to give to me for years to come), he carefully skinned and cleaned the bear. and, lo and behold, inside it's stomach he found the hide of his deer!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I was thinking about a new yorker article I read by-the-by. it was about wikipedia, and the various war-dialogues going on between Jimmy Wales - Wikipedia's founder (unless you're giving credit to Larry Sanger, but he's resigned) - and his classic encyclopedia detractors. the question is: do you want your information to be served to you by a huge mass of less-informed people with complete access, or do you prefer a highly educated specialist?

it's kind of like long-tail economics: not just anyone can be a specialist, but the information is a high quality (like a single competitor, with a lot of money. this is a real bastardized long-tail simile, by the way). anyone, on the other hand, can contribute to wikipedia, so there are a great deal more contributors.. but the knowledge may be of a lower quality (think of an economic sphere with a ton of competitors who spend very little money each, but a ton overall). of course, the information isn't always worse; it certainly isn't meant to be worse. but that's part of the debate.

one thing that was mentioned in the article was frustration with the idea of "actual" information (or similar). I believe that it was in response to someone saying that the information on wikipedia isn't real or whole in some way and a classic encyclopedia's (like britannica) is (though it could've been the other way around for all I remember). "What is real information?" someone asked (and I approximate). I'm not sure I buy that if, say, 2 + 2 = 5 in some guy's world, he should be able to assert that into the rest of humanity's faces and expect them to dig it or even listen. but a great deal of the world's knowledge - historical knowledge, for instance - is widely understood to be open to debate. what happens and what is are things so much based on peoples' moods, impressions, and pathetically unreliable memories that there is merit in hearing multiple perspectives on such things.

also, I do not pretend to know anything about neuroscience except what I've heard from other people or read someplace, but it seems pretty clear that human consciousness is still largely mysterious. why do people come to believe what they believe? about god, about socialism, about (more contemporarily) the idea that nothing is worth believing in? a keen and well-trained meditator, or a user of psychotropic substances, has experienced things that others would laugh off. but the experiences of these people exist in enough profusion to be talked about. I wonder if anything that is widely experienced enough to be ridiculed is worthy of some attention.

so back to wikipedia, and the question of whether the information posted there by (as it were) amateur specialists is real:
I think that wikipedia itself is a locus of opinions and personal knowledge wide-reaching enough to be interesting as both an encyclopedia and a social experiment. therein lies enough solid traditional fact to give a reasonable picture of the world as most people know it, and also enough aberration to account for those parts of the world and of the social mind that we just don't understand. it may be a crackpot view of the world, but it would be pretty damn interesting to understand the world from the viewpoint of a crackpot.
maybe I'm not classically introverted, but I still really like this:

it reaffirms my desire to occasionally read the advice
column. I do certainly believe that there is a certain amount of
information that is transmitted between people sitting together,
silently; that perhaps information does not exist only in the
encyclopedic, language-based way that we are taught to know it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

while I ruminate on the possibilities for further literary animals to figure into my posts, I'll give an applicable, real-life example of an animal-related list. brought to you by and the letter d.

10 least intelligent breeds of dog:

1. Afghan Hound

2. Basenji

3. Bulldog

4. Chow Chow

5. Borzoi

6. Bloodhound

7. Pekingese

8. Mastiff

9. Beagle

10. Basset Hound

I also have some spectacular monkey related photos, but the'll have to wait for the nonce.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jorge Luis Borges was a master of pseudo-scientific classification, and below you can find the list (found in Other Inquisitions) which is perhaps the paramount example of this skill. As this blog takes its name from a portion of the list, I thought it was worth posting.

" On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into:
(a) those that belong to the Emperor,
(b) embalmed ones,
(c) those that are trained,
(d) suckling pigs,
(e) mermaids,
(f) fabulous ones,
(g) stray dogs,
(h) those that are included in this classification,
(i) those that tremble as if they were mad,
(j) innumerable ones,
(k) those drawn with a very fine camel brush,
(l) others,
(m) those that have just broken a flower vase,

(n) those that resemble flies from a distance."