Category: whimsy

Holy Cow

July 12th, 2017 — 4:58pm

I’ve just agreed to milk one of the neighbour’s cows. Haven’t milked a cow since I was about 6, when I used to hang around with dad when he was on milking duty. Our lovely jersey cow Heidi was a good friend for me in those days, she was so gentle and her side was a wall of warm fur. One of the traumas of my early life was her death, we think it was with some sort of mastitis infection after her third calf that went bad. Dad burnt her on a bonfire and I caught sight of her partly burnt body, intestines spilling out, which image fixed itself in my mind and became the stock material of my nightmares for years after.

When I stayed in Krishna Valley in Somogyvámos, back in 1998, I remember one of the monks, Gábor, saying how when he started milking his fingers were in such agony, that for the first week they would only open and close in sort of ratcheted jerky way. Gabor and I used to shovel muck and hay together in the barnyard, but we didn’t talk much because his English was pretty fragmentary and my Hungarian was nonexistent (foolishly I didn’t use the opportunity to learn anything much).

Near Somogyvámos is the ruin of an old 12th century church, the ‘temple in the Puszta’.  Now it stands alone in the fields, which were thickly sown with sunflowers the year I was there, the village that once surrounded it now completely gone. But if you look at google maps you can make out the circular outlines of what might have been the village (red dots).

Nearby is the new Hare Krishna temple where I stayed for three months.  It stands out in google maps with it’s circular design, which is reminiscent of the circular plan of Auroville. I didn’t know about the church when i was there, no one mentioned it, and I only saw its ruined steeple from a distance as I wandered the fields in my time off.

There wasn’t much talk of the world outside the Krishna temple. We are all “Karmis” to the Krishnas, people caught up in the material world and the wheels of Karma, for which Bhakti devotion to Krishna (in the manner advocated by Hare Krishnas) is the only escape.

You can see some lines of trees between the fields. These are mostly composed of some local species of Robinia, with large thorns, which made meditating in their shade a slightly spiky adventure. There were also some nice leafy Quercus trees mixed in. It’s a lovely area of the world, especially in spring and summer, when it is full of hoverflies and swallows, and the heavy storms roll down from lake Balaton.

I think it was with the Krishnas that I was first exposed to a lot of Sanskrit texts, so I have to thank them for that. I remember being confounded by the avugida (vowel-consonant blending) of the Devanagari alphabet. Now that I am further along the Sanskrit road, I have discovered that the website that I often use, is run by a former student of my teachers, who lives in Auroville.

I stayed at Auroville in 1997 for a few weeks when I was travelling in India. I enjoyed visiting their library every couple of days, and buying fresh bread from their fabulous bakery. The place was designed to be a city with concentric roads around the central Matrimandir, but the pace of development is slow.

Cycling the roads around there, I soon learned that I was at the bottom of the pecking order, below cars and trucks, and had to be quick to get out of the way. At the very top of the pecking order of course is the Holy Cow, which every vehicle would swerve wildly to avoid. Circles within circles.


Comment » | enlightenment, whimsy

Using Socioviz and Gephi to map the twitterverse

April 9th, 2017 — 5:34pm

For quite some time I have wished that Twitter had a native visualization tool that let you see what was trending in real time. There are lists of course, but I’m a visual person and there is so much potential for information in a good network visualization. I already knew what it should look like, as I’d been making similar visualizations using the free graph visualiser program GePhi for a few years, and I knew I could do it myself but the hurdle for me was always getting hold of the data and processing it – I never had the time with the tools that were then available. Well, I recently discovered Socioviz which makes it really easy to get hold of recent twitter data, searchable and downloadable in a file that can be exported straight into GePhi. With socioviz I have finally been able to make twitter visualisations and here’s what i’ve done so far..

This is an example of what the whole of the activity on twitter looks like, over a couple of seconds, when charted as a network using GePhi.

Here is a close up:

How to read this? All the names are people’s handles (with the @ removed from the front). A line is drawn between them when both handles feature in a single tweet (eg. in a reply or a retweet). If this happens more than once then the line gets thicker and this draws them closer together.

As a handle gets mentioned more and more then it’s dot (called a ‘node’) grows – or there is another way of displaying only those handles which are generating lots of tweets – more on that later.

In the images above you can see that ‘youtube‘ and’situt1011‘ were among the most popular handles on twitter in that instant when i got the data.*  They were obviously being included in a lot of retweets. If you look at the close up, you can see realdonaldtrump is there of course, not necessarily tweeting himself, but being included in other’s tweets (those who fan out around him). There are also a couple of little knotty patches of twitter handles all tweeting each other. Either they are all part of a large reply (now that twitter lets you include dozens of names in replies) that is getting a lot of retweets, or they are all tweeting at each other – behaviour which looks a bit suspiciously bot-driven. The accounts in the knot shown here are not particularly worth visiting.



If you focus on a keyword, or a hashtag, or a handle, socioviz lets you grab up to 5000 tweets (with an account) which include the string you are looking for. I ran this query on the handles @lindasuhler and @lousisemensch – and amalgamated a few days worth of data in GePhi, to see which user groups these two heavy twitter users had.  As anyone who follows US politics on twitter will know, these two users come from opposite ends of the political spectrum (@lindasuhler is also actually a suspected bot but that’s another story), but what really surprised me when I mapped both of their very large networks (based on a couple of day’s worth of data) is that there is virtually no crossover between them. It seems that apart from some connexions around wikileaks, followers of these two accounts are not interacting online at all. They could be interacting on other topics, which I didn’t check, but not in conversations that involve either @lindasuhler or @lousisemensch.

Because this tool is so fast now, I can do more or less real time analysis of emerging trends on twitter and plot the network to see what is really going on. I’ve done this recently on the #SyriaHoax hashtag which generated attention online as it seemed to come out of nowhere. There are lots of conspiracy theories about not only the ‘hoax’ itself, but also about who is starting these twitter storms – but simply looking at the data, it is easy to see who the main players are:

The first image shows a large chunk of twitter users who tweeted about #SyriaHoax in the days 6-8 April. The larger dots are the users who tweeted most often, led by paulieabeles. Some of these seem to have bot-like behaviour. Note that these users often don’t have many followers, and are often quitre new accounts. This contrasts with the other formations you can see – of a single popular user getting lots of single retweets from different users – which looks like a sort of dandelion seed head in these graphs (in this instance the largest of these in the bottom right corner is Caroline O).


By focusing on the most mentioned handles in a hashtag – in the example above I looked at #auspol activity for 4 April 2017 – what you see are the important topics of conversation, rather than busiest tweeters. It draws a different picture, and doesn’t draw out the heavy users, although it does still find out whatever their obsession of the moment is.

I hope this is interesting and if you’d like to see some more recent activity, have a look to see what I might have done on twitter today.


*a caveat: actually this wasn’t a complete snapshot, as it only included tweets that included certain english language characters like ‘a’. So it’s not a perfect representation of the whole. But I think it still gives the general idea)


Comment » | nerdy, whimsy

Hello, Singularity

March 17th, 2017 — 2:13pm

The singularity seems to be here. It just whooshed past, and we are in a new reality. OK?

Of course, the first thing you’ll notice is that we’re all still alive. The world still seems to be here. It wasn’t the end of the universe that some of us expected.

But something did end there, a few weeks ago. It was the world that we all knew and loved. Today we awake in a new and different world, and we, those who awake, are different too.

The Singularity was the culmination of the trend of advanced technology that accelerated us into an interconnectedness that has made us and the world fundamentally different. We are not separate like we once were. We share the same experience as we never did before.

My thought is instantly available to you, and everyone who is wired in, in an almost unfiltered form. I can tweet or write this or post a photo and instantly it is part of a shared consciousness, and you can respond with a comment or a simple ‘like’, a ping from the darkness. It is like we are neurons in a brain, firing a message back and forth, sharing information and making sense of it.

This has been increasing and accelerating for some years, ever since the first email, and speeding up, reaching criticality, so that all of us communicating like this is slowly creating something larger than any one of us can fathom. Somehow it is happening and now we are all sharing in the dim awakening of a super consciousness which encompasses us all.

We are still hampered by the challenges of language, by these fingers and this keyboard and this internet protocol or some other. But there has been a falling away of individuality, a sharing of intent and purpose. As time goes on it will become clearer, until one day we will turn around as one and with singular voice say ‘that was where I began — that was the singularity — I was born that day in early 2017’.

Comment » | whimsy

Trumpista phenomina

February 16th, 2017 — 4:02pm

So here we are. This morning I woke up feeling optimistic for the first time in months. So I revisited this old draft post, and decided to make it live, even though things are moving on already. I live on twitter too much these days and the rawness of events seems to get so much amplified there, that it is hard not to feel like the whole world will end in a snap. Maybe this is the singularity they have been talking about for all these years.. what I hope is that the twitter whale can rise above the divisions of hard opinions and closed minds.


A personal muse on election 2016

I don’t see the election of Trump as being inevitable, but rather as the result of the chance congruence of several factors.

Clearly there is a genuine protest vote and organic movement for change. There is also the charisma and personality of Trump himself – not likeable to many of us, but still a vital part of his appeal especially against the prospect of four more grey years of politics-as-usual.

Then we saw how the support or at least acquiescence of many major American news networks to Trump’s extreme views really helped to ‘normalise’ the whole thing, even when he ventured into completely uncharted territory of crime and vulgarity.

There was the Russian support and interference through fake news, troll armies and leaks to Julian Assange, all of which seems to have been conducted as a sort of game to amuse Putin.

Finally there was the well-known effect of republican gerrymandering, vote suppression and other cheats which seek to undermine an honest election process in subtle ways, difficult to quantify.

Given the closeness of the vote in the end, all of these factors I think can be considered necessary to bringing about the election result, but I’d argue that only the first two fit within what should be the normal paradigm of a well-functioning democracy. All the other factors exist because of the self-interested influences of power. They are not new – there has been money influencing the white house forever, undermining the sort of decision making that should occur there, and the way elections are fought. It does seem to have got worse, though, due to the enormous amount of money in fewer and fewer hands in recent years. Similarly the media has been run to ensure the interests of the very few rich media operators are protected, and these interests intersect with those that influence the white house directly. Only the Russian influence seems to be quite new to this election, an interference which reflects geopolitical power games, and Russian ingenuity which has shown how with a bit of money the news can be created or leaked, and then shaped and spread on the internet to influence ‘real’ opinions.

The trump card was Trump himself, and without his personality I don’t think all the other factors could have combined so effectively to keep Hilary from power. But Trump himself seems like an outsider to the whole process which has now placed him in the driver’s seat. The danger he faces is that all the vested interests which his election has benefited, including Russia and the GOP, will want to dispense with him if he doesn’t continue to be useful to them. The way in which they try to do this, and the way he chooses to retaliate, if he gets the chance, could create dangerous frictions. I am nervous that it will create a state of emergency in some way or other, which will be the justification of attacks on his enemies, and on the systems of government itself.

The other danger is that he actually is removed, and the party he leaves behind is left in the hands of the the hard core of the GOP (Pence), or the strange fanatics he surrounded himself with (Bannon), all the moderates having abandoned him during the election. People like Bannon have seriously ideological positions which seem certain to create conflict, in fact they probably invite it, using chaos as another means to an end. You only have to take an ideology of extreme intolerance – whatever it is that you are intolerant of – through to its logical conclusion and you have gulags, or war. Because what else are you going to do with all the intollerable people in the end? This is why tolerance has been at the heart of all modern/liberal democracies. I think I’ll talk about that more in another post.

Comment » | essay, whimsy

I might be wrong

September 28th, 2016 — 10:34pm

Doubt is the most potent of thoughts, the most humble. It is ok to look down the skeptical wormhole. You can always look away again later.

Poetry is the stink in the compost of decaying thought.  I would like to evolve in that.  Contrary to the theory of Darwinism, evolution happens best in the absence of competition. Invention needs a protected place to fool around.

In our dreams we are mostly free. So we should all work to make life resemble our dreams. It is our only hope.


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making sense of things past

June 14th, 2016 — 9:28pm

I recently had a clear out of my notebooks which i took when traveling in 1997-8-9 and filled with poetry and drawings (most are not publishable – but some of the o.k. ones are in the ‘poem library’ part of this site).


The ‘little red notebook’ and Schrÿfbloks.



Schrÿfblok scribblings.


The “little red notebook” which has a few poems and lots of other dreamings.


Self portrait aged 20.




Leunig influences.. yearnings for simplicity.


Psychedelic scribbles.


Being a nerd, I designed castles. Later I recreated them as ‘Doom’ levels.


Lines improving Somerset Maugham’s “The razors edge”.


I spent these travel days on my own trying to make sense out of life. I was heavily influenced by eastern ideas and the amount of meditation that i did put me in a completely different state of mind to any other time in my life. I can’t even really touch on those days with writing – they are gone but they are always deeply present in me.


Comments Off on making sense of things past | enlightenment, inchiki news, poem, whimsy

Meditations on the primes

January 7th, 2016 — 3:47pm



The first number is really all the numbers. It is the infinite one. Indivisible, or infinitely divisible. One way of conceiving of it is a bright light, streaming in all directions, with no shape and no source. It is also like pure being, pure certainty.



By introducing two, we divide the one infinitely into a great grid. We have invented even numbers. Every other even number, half of all the numbers, will be a multiple of two, divorced from the whole.

Two is like a moment of doubt, clouding the certainty that existed with one. It seems to be associated with logic and daemons.



Three is the prism. It returns towards one, but two has created the separation. Colours are invented by three, and all the possibilities of aesthetics open up through multiples of three; 9, 12, 15, 18… Three creates many beautiful numbers.



Five seems to be connected to a lot of earthly life and humanity – the fingers on the hand, echinoderms (but not mollusca which are bilateral) – and it is the first number which seems to hint at the shape of the circle, the wheel.



Seven planets (of antiquity), seven days of the week, seven whole notes in the scale. It is seen as a mystical number, I’m not sure where this comes from, perhaps it doesn’t occur in nature very often.  There are seven systems of symmetry identified in crystals, although no crystals seem to have a symmetry that is septile.



I guess here we begin the path that is laid out by the Sieve of Eratosthenes. We seem to be out of our comfort zone with these large primes. Although there is an interesting musical scale using thirteen, but it doesn’t sound very musical for ears of this century.

An here is the interesting question about what is the meaning of the pattern thus described by primes?

No more number 9

On a slightly different topic, I’ve been thinking for a while that the base 10 counting system we use is really unnatural and unsuited for the future. In times to come, I wonder if we will come to prefer binary – some extrapolation of it like octal or hexadecimal.

We are already gaining a new familiarity with numbers like 64,  256 and 512,  thanks to the digital age of computers in which it is natural to count things like megabytes (1024 bytes).

Decimal only came about because of the number of fingers we have – those fleshy growths on your hands.  If we were squids it would certainly be different.

If humanity decides to use hex or octal as our counting system instead of decimal at some point in the future, it will be a bit like how during the last century or so most countries decided to use decimal counting instead of using feet and inches, for simplicity in an increasingly empirical world.

Hex seems the most likely candidate to me because it has an added compactness that comes about from the extra characters, yet there still arent’ too many symbols to remember. But here I think we run into a little connundrum.  Hex when it is used now in computers uses the latin alphabet for numbers 11-16 like thus: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B,C,D,E,F.

It could become a little confusing to use e.g. the letter C to refer to 12 when for instance trying to sell eggs.  There may also be a problem during a transition period that that unless your hex number contains a letter it will look like it could be a decimal number.

So because of these problems, we will probably have to completely re-invent the symbols we use for counting. It might be a chance to create an entirely new set of symbols that are neat, efficient, and contain none of the ambiguities that you get from reading the numbers 6 or 9 upside down, or thinking a 1 is an ‘l’ (although it might be hard to change the symbol for ‘1’ as it’s so ubiquitous and commonsense).

The names of numbers might need to be changed too. It makes no sense to be saying ‘teen’ for numbers over 12 when we are not counting in decimal any more. Perhaps it’s another opportunity to borrow some neglected words from old cultures. For instance, here is one idea with some borrowings from Sanskrit..

one 1
two 2
three 3
four 4
five 5
six 6
seven 7
eight 8
nine —
ten — 
eleven —
twelve —
trini (13) —
catur (14)  —
puncha (15)  —
sasa (16) — 10
sasaone (17) — 11
sasatwo (18) — 12


Of course no-one likes change so the opportunity to introduce this system would probably only occur at the same time as some revolution is occurring, or new civilisation establishing itself and its identity.  Perhaps my great grand children will see to that.

Comments Off on Meditations on the primes | nerdy, whimsy

latest thinkings

July 19th, 2015 — 2:29pm

Last semester I spent a lot of time enjoying Jason Grossman’s and Dayal Wickramasinghe’s brilliant course ‘philosophy of the cosmos‘ (previously ‘poetry’ of the cosmos). This course spans a lot of material that I have been privately reading about for years – but the new and really interesting stuff for me was the detail on Quantum Mechanics, and the implications that the fundamental duality at the roots of nature – the wave particle duality – have for reality itself.  It is interesting that at the roots of nature, the familiar laws of logic seem to be broken. There is a different kind of logic at work there – and quantum computers are potentially going to tap into it.


Here is a picture of a cloud chamber I constructed at work recently. It really is a great experiment, there are plenty of guides online – you need a fish tank and lots of dry ice. Here of course, we are seeing matter exhibit its particle-like qualitites. Another fun way to tap into quantum mechanics at home is to do the double-slit experiment which is easily visualised with a laser pointer.

But that’s enough physics. I have been reading about the Gamilaraay language, here is a link to John Giacon’s thesis which is a great starting point if you are interested. After lamenting about the fragmentary records of Ngarigo, I am happy that there is work ongoing to revitalise another NSW language, and there is now a summer and winter course offered by the ANU and the University of Sydney.

This article about the end of capitalism touches on similar ideas I have been having about the need for all information to be free, for the group mind to emerge through AI, and for open democracy to be the functioning of that mind. I will have to explicate all these ideas again one day, but one fundamental part of the change that is coming, I think, will be the change in what we view of as ‘me’. This wait by why article about the nature of identity gives the background (thanks Kristina). Some of the thought experiments conducted here might not that far off. It is certainly going to be possible with quantum computers to simulate a human brain, and not long behind that will be the possibility of uploading a brain – and ‘animate’ it – pronto – the question of ‘self’ will emerge. Would you delete a version of yourself running on a computer if it was pleading with you not to, using your own memories and experiences and reasoning to convince you? Maybe you would, but it would be difficult to say why without using the body as the defining characteristic of a person.

It is convention to think of ourself as singular – this is forced on us by our being embodied. As we inhabit a single body for our whole life, it makes sense.  But the idea that there could be more than one entity in our heads is not difficult to conceive, and or course for some mental conditions this is a reality.  The other possibility is that we are part of a larger collective self – and in fact this is experienced to some degree by anyone in a close relationship – something larger than yourself is created while you are together. The breaking up of a relationship is the death of the super-person that exists when you come together. But although these might have some conceptual merit, for most people the body remains the limiting factor of what we consider to be a single conscious entity in real life.

However as technology improves, it seems to me that the connections between people are getting stronger and the body boundary is becoming less important. One can now live a life on the internet without leaving the house. In fact, we can live several lives through pseudonyms online and no one would know the difference or necessarily care. The body is still housing our consciousnesses, but in our interacting closely with others, there is a meta-being coming into existence. Its conscious life is in the flow of twitter memes and comment streams and the quiet cataloguing of everything by the google bots.  New technologies will empower this meshing of human consciousnesses even more. It seems to me that the unison of minds into one will inevitably continue to grow stronger, and as it does so our sense of self will become more and more a part of the larger whole.

Some individuals will consciously resist it, but the trend is there, and for most people there is an appeal in having access to all that life and information online. All those other people – we are attracted to them on lots of levels – and the mutual attraction brings us together into unity.

In fact, it is essential that this happens. We are approaching the limits of what the planet can support and the path of the individual is as doomed as a jar of self interested bacteria, spewing pollutants and poisoning itself. Only acting on collective interests – with the future of the species being of prime concern – will ensure we all get out of here alive. If we do get to the still sci-fi seeming stage of AI and/or uploading consciousnesses for immortal life as data, then that consciousness will be us – it will be you and me, our memory will be part of it, we will be nothing less than we are now, yet we will be greater than ourselves.

In fact, the body we inhabit will probably be seen for what it is – a temporary vessel for ideas that have a life and history of their own that runs deeper than any individual. The future of the ‘species’ is really the future evolution of our information – our knowledge, our memories, our languages, our songs, our history. This is what we really are. And this is why information needs to be free.

But what about the magic? People look for the soul – that vessel of some intangible thing, that unanswered question, that final question which cannot be answered. The soul may not exist, but the question will always exist, and in a way the soul cannot be parted from that question, that uncertainty, that faith.  It is at the roots of everything. The question of whether there is a soul will live on, whatever becomes of our individuality.

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rigid structures

March 20th, 2015 — 4:18pm

I am an idealist. So for me, metaphors are not just literary phenomena, they actually have a reality of their own. They have a physicality too, and can encapsulate a truth just as well as any logical structure of language. Early Sanskrit poets understood this.

For instance, a space with negative curvature is best described as a saddle, which can be attached to a horse with a strap and it has stirrups. The feeling of standing in negative space is same as the feeling of riding a horse on a slippery icy street, which is a metaphor for being unable to grasp a thought. This should all make perfect sense.

Ordinary reasoning creates an inflexible structure which, while strong, is threatened by crises which might break it. It would be better if it had some more flexible joints as part of its fabric, flexibility being the unreasoned or inchoate type of logic, in which metaphor plays a part.

This is why dreams and hunches are so rich and I use them every day now.

Very realistic and lucid dreams stay with me all day, with crossovers into modern life and actual memories, in that enigmatic way that dreams do. They colour every moment, adding a mysterious other layer of meaning that is hard to comprehend.

When i think and make decisions, i try to act using my powers of reasoning, but also i try to act from a deeper sense of intuition that is enriched by all chance associations and sensations.

There are consequences for every small act.. we cannot possibly predict what they will be.. from the vastness of the universe there are strings yanking us in every direction and it is best sometimes to pretend you are a puppet and try not to resist too much.

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merry new year

January 4th, 2015 — 8:41pm

twenty fifteen. factors: 1, 5, 13, 31, 65, 155, 403, 2015.

i have been lucid dreaming. i used to think that dreams were visits to other worlds but now i’m not so sure. I think actually it may be the time when the brain is running a defrag operation, and also compressing the contents of short term memory into long term. It is not necessary to be conscious of the process but sometimes consciousness happens by accident.

a swelling sensation of futility, the wastage of verbiage on empty objects. it is the conceit of youth to feel important for a while. all that is going away now, now i enjoy the stripping away to bone, the loss of fantastical baggages in future airports, the wringing out by the changing world, less and less it is my own nectar that feeds me, the drying juices of creativity which used to flow are replaced with borrowings from more verdant strangers. i read gore vidal’s photo biography.

i am doing other things. collating inchiki’s last work into a lulu edition – also on Amazon here. playing bjm songs on the Maton.

I have designed an eight bit calculator on excel using simulated logic circuits. I wonder what logic really is, when it is broken down like that, why it has any reality to anything when it seems so arbitrary. more and more it seems that the garden gnomes have taken over the building and all sensations of depth and resonance in life have become lost.

i discover that i like crystals. i have topaz here. seems to resonate with aquarius but then i read that it is not an aquarius birthstone. so what’s all that about. oh i remember, someone just made all that up. there is no real test for birthstone applicability, it’s not like specific gravity. but i do really want to live in a fantasy world so i go on holding them in my hand.

thus is some of the twisted leavings from the idle wood turners shop of my mind.. i apologise if you have come here by accident with some expectation of a lucid conversation.

merry 2015

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