19 April 2010

sub inter mutandis

Edmund Leach writes a ghastly description of religious practices of the Kachins. "The supreme manifestation of this is when a woman dies in childbirth; such a woman is deemed to be a witch of the most noxious kind and in former days all the possessions of her husband's household, including the house itself, had to be burnt so as to disinfect the community". His work is challenging, as in you have to look something up about once a page. He is fond of using Latin such as sub specie aeternitatis, mutatis mutandis, inter alia. You could make yourself an excellent vocabulary building word list by going through Leach and listing the words you do not know. I may do just that.

I have a recipe for sigil construction which has garnered much praise, and one person even used the method to design a tatoo for themself. It is based on a method that was probably invented the week after they invented letters back in the Levant in the beginnings of the Iron Age. First you begin with your spell. (I have never used this spell, but it will serve to illustrate the method.)

I intend to shag Angelina Jolie.

Rewrite this with all duplicate letters omitted:




Now strike all duplicate strokes; for example the T contains the I; the E and N contain the H:

NTEA OSGJ (Also I have separated the letters containing curvature from the ones that do not.)

Now fire up your word processor. Type the OSGJ in 70 or 80 point font, one letter per page, with a different pastel color for each letter--pink, light orange, yellow, light green, &c. Type the NTEA in 70 or 80 point font, one letter per page, the lightest gray you have got. Now print the letters all on top of each other. Print the first letter, put the printout back into the feeder tray; print the second letter, put the printout back into the feeder tray. And so on.

Now you have a sigil you can use as you please. I have four of these and I cycle through them to give me a different intention to be mindful of every fourth day. You can mount them on poster stock, or the way I have done is to use some styrofoam poster board cut up into four inch squares. Lastly do not tell anybody what your sigil is, what it signifies, not a word. Supposedly part of the magic is that this is a secret you take to your grave.

15 April 2010

hypomnemata, hypnerotomachia, handycrafts

As the final item in my socioeconomics crash course I began in October 2008 I read the Foucault Reader which was compiled by the anthropologist Paul Rabinow. His work is a little too far beyond anything I can use, but it's good for defining that boundary. I have read him before but Rabinow's editing gave a different impression. He comes across as having been a sad man. I always knew he was comical, but I never realized he may have been so partly because he was so profoundly sad. He used a word I had to look up, hypomnemata; and if you google on hypomnemata the top hits are Foucault stuff. In other words this may be more his imagination than any fact.

The hypomnema or hypomnemata are similar to diaries (or weblogs even) except they are not written one time and maybe never looked at again. They are to be reread and rewritten over and over for the writer's education and work and progress. I have been doing a bunch of this for years and it is only since November of 2008 that I have established a system that I am confident of using daily and feel that the pages will continue to contain useful information for five or more years. Every page is dated and numbered. I now have close to 1500 pages with the numbering scheme. Foucault claims this is a great idea and I don't know about that but so far I like it OK.

For fun I have been reading The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance by Joscelyn Godwin and it is a trip. He looks at the arts culture in late 15th and 16th century Italy with a view that the ultimate work is the novel and woodcuts Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, which apparently we are not even certain who wrote it or made the woodcuts. Godwin has a lot of amusing speculative history which is similar in spirit to the way that Foucault did it. For example he has magic spell interpretations of the court ritual musical pieces such as Le Pellegrina, music for the wedding of Ferdinado de Medici and Christine de Lorraine, Florence, 1589. He has magic spell interpretations of the architecture of the Palace at Versailles. He reports that Louis XIV was an initiate of a Pythagorean secret society.

It does not take much imagination to concoct a magic spell interpretation for the Sacro Bosco in Barmozo. That place looks Satanic even on the wikipedia or google image search pages.

An interesting character is the Venetian artist Andrea Mantegna. Godwin surmises that it was a member of Mantegna's shop, but absolutely not the great man himself, who did the Hypnerotomachia woodcuts. He also has a chapter almost entirely dedicated to the Mantegna tarochi, and again, concludes those cards were painted by a member of Mantegna's shop but not by the great one himself.

For my handicraft project this week I constructed a meditation device out of a set of Mantegna tarochi images. It is on an 11" by 17" piece of printer paper. Ten points in the shape of the Holy Kabbalah Tree of Life. The ten points connected by eight lines of black graphics tape in the lightning flash configuration. The ten points covered by half-size Mantegna tarochi images of: Grammatica, Artixan, Polimnia, Forteza, Theologia, Philosofia, Fede, Mercurio, Musicha, and Saturno. I have used it a couple times and it works pretty swell!

07 April 2010

spring branch decision tree blog

The water moves into the roots of the tree up to the trunk of the tree out to the branches of the tree through the leaves of the tree. One of my internet pals asks me about the layoff and am I moving to Rochester as I had once planned? Short answer: maybe, not soon.

The long answer is too long to post here. I will try and hit the highlights. Since I have known about this for months, I had plenty of time to do as much soul searching and planning as I wanted to. It turns out I wanted to do quite a bit. I used two texts: What Color is your Parachute? and Sam Keen's Your Mythic Journey. The parachute book is obvious and it is the gold standard of career consulting handbooks for good reason. A large portion of the book is a self-examination of strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes so you can make this important decision from an informed point of view. Bolles names this the flower exercise. I did not do Bolles' flower exercise. As a substitute for this I did the similar and more comprehensive writing exercise that is the bulk of Keen's book.

I have a four main branch, (5, 3, 4, 1) small branch decision tree after all that, and one of the small branches is U. Rochester and moving and I may do that. A priori I would say the chances of that are around one in thirteen. The four main branches in the tree are:

I. get another seismic job
II. go back to school
III. start my own business
IV. chuck it all

(i.e. it looks like this but details omitted because absolutely nobody is going to want to see all the self absorbed narcissistic minutia:
I. A.B.C.D.E.
II. A.B.C.

Each branch has its pluses, minuses. The biggest plus for getting another seismic job is that the opportunity cost for not doing so appears very large. That is more of a double negative than a positive so obviously it is not the greatest idea. I may do it anyway, but first I am going to explore the rest of the tree deliberate.

What I am most drawn to is starting my own business. This has the advantages of liberty and control freaky freak on. Supposedly I have some issues with authority. No doubt there is some deep seated Freudian origin for this which might fascinate some, but it does not fascinate me. I consider it a possible environmental boundary condition. And if I work for myself it does not even exist. At least my childhood was not as miserable as Michel Foucault's apparently was:

"Humanity does not gradually progress from combat to combat until it arrives at universal reciprocity, where the rule of law finally replaces warfare; humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination."

-- Nietzsche, Genealogy, and History

The business I am working to create involves an unsolved physics problem. My first task is to refresh and reload my physics expertise with an intense course; first Feynman, next Landau and Lifshitz. If my business plan turns out to not fly, this effort is fully worthwhile for all eight of the minor branches in major branches I and II and mostly worthwhile for the other three minor branches in major branch III. In New Orleans they call this lagniappe and at West Point this is known as covering your flank.

The appeal of Rochester used to be stronger. The University of Rochester, due to Max Eastman's endowment and Emil Wolf's genius, is the center of the optical physics universe. When I was studying optics at the University of New Orleans, I might have been the only person in the program who could get an American military secrets security clearance, and my goal was the Navy laser lab at China Lake. This was before the war on terror and the rude reawakening that I still do not have the stomach to work on weapon systems. I love optical physics. Waging war on Arabs and Persians makes me want to puke.

When I visited Rochester in the spring of 2007 both the professors I spoke to said that there was a fellow at Rice University I need to meet. I can do all the optical physics that I want and stay in Texas. I may go to Rochester eventually. A sound strategic plan includes exclusions. For example I no longer plan on winning a grand slam tennis tournament or shagging a Hollywood movie star. Those items are now excluded from the decision tree. Rochester remains included for now and at least a little further.

02 April 2010

running from medusa to a perpetual motion machine

My new project is a perpetual motion machine. Not exactly that, but close enough for all practical purposes. If I achieve even ten percent of my intention, I can afford to rent a private jet to fly a smoking hot babe across the country to see a total eclipse of the sun in 2017 and not even blink when I sign the bill. That is the most extravagant thing I would ever care to do--hence to me I am inventing a perpetual motion machine for all my practical purposes. My first full day at work was OK. Before I get to that (including a couple of wondrous tidbits if you hang in there dear Reader) I am going to back up and cover medusa.

I found out I was getting laid off pretty much for sure the second week December and Wednesday was my last day. This means for first three months 2010 my office has reeked of the carrion of my dead corporate career. The hazard in that is most succinctly described in Bronislaw Malinowski: Magic, Science and Religion. His Trobrianders describe a creature, which he calls mulukuausi, and is elsewhere described as the Melanesian Medusa. She hunts humans and is aroused by the aroma of carrion. Whenever Malinowski was walking through the forest on Trobriand Island and the natives smelled carrion, they immediately performed complex rituals for protection from the mulukuausi. The mulukuausi is described as female which is its main physical similarity to the medusa. Snakes for hair is not mentioned anywhere that I know of.

I have been daily performing protection rituals to diffuse the carrion taint, which is why I claim I am fleeing medusa. Yesterday I did a tarot spread. It was informative. I drew all fire and water cards--it was a good spread for ritual cleansing. The key message I took was from the seven cups in position seven. My interpretation of this card is beware worshiping false gods. Very similar to the first of the commandments in Exodus: Thou shalt have no other god before me. I don't have to worry about elevating tarot. And I certainly do not have to worry about elevating my upwardly mobile corporate career. Not any more. I suppose my main concern in this regard is excessive elevation of my magnificent intellect.

God I swear I crack myself up. Maybe the card was referring to my inappropriate expressions of humor.

My big smarty ego may be quickly cured by step One in my new project which is working through the Feynman Lectures on Physics one by one at least to Volume III Lecture 21. That is the last lecture that I have on tape. I do not have them all on tape. There are around 150 and I have 60. Yesterday I read five lectures and listened to two. I have tried this sub-project a couple times before and not gotten far, but both of those times I was doing it the other way around. Attempts one and two were centered around working through the 60 recordings, anchored back on to the 60 corresponding printed lectures. Printed lecture four is recorded lecture 25 and I never got that far before.

He has, by odd coincidence, a discussion of perpetual motion machines in this lecture. He has a machine which may be more complex than necessary to demonstrate his point, and I thought the argument a bit Baroque, like one of those goofy picture frames that has angels blowing trumpets carved into the top corners. He says his argument (following from Carnot) is ingenious, but just because an argument is ingenious does not mean it is correct. If it does not agree with the experiments, the argument is wrong. This argument does happen to agree with the experiments, and it demonstrates that perpetual motion machine impossibility and energy conservation are two ways of saying the same thing. At the end of the lecture he points out how little watery Hydrogen is necessary for nuclear fusion energy amounting to all the coal, oil and gas, &c. we are currently burning and he challenges physicists to liberate humanity from energy limits.

My project is partly an unsolved physics problem so I appreciate the sentiment, but it does not yet involve nuclear fusion energy production.

The most interesting thing about the recordings is the man's audio presentation. He had a strong working class New York accent which he had not done much to modify at the point when the lectures were recorded in 1961. He sounded like a Looney Tunes character: Bugs or Foghorn Leghorn or Sylvester Cat or perhaps some hybrid of the three. There is no doubt in my mind that Mel Blanc could have done a splendid Richard Feynman rap. If I can continue at five lectures a day I can have a good time with this for the next thirty days. Maybe I will mix in some Looney Tunes videos to break it up.

That's all folks!


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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.