[Warning: Rudy Rucker is a fictional character. Do not try injecting conotoxins into your own brain on New Year's Eve.]
As I keep saying, for the last couple of years I’ve been working on a long book with a long title, The Lifebox, the Seashell and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About Me About Ultimate Reality, the Meaning Of Life, and How To Be Happy.
Here's another excerpted idea. I'd wanted John Brockman to put this on his annual Edge Question of the Year page, but he thought it was too complicated. Like, the regular Godfather makes you an offer you can't refuse; but the Mathematician Godfather makes you an offer you can’t understand…
Here we go.
Think of a computation as an ongoing process, for example your life, or society, or a plant growing, or the weather. Relative to a given computation we can formulate the notion of a target state as being some special status or behavior that the computation might eventually reach. The halting problem in this context is the problem of deciding whether a given input will eventually send your computation into one of the target states. And a halting problem is unsolvable if there's no computation, algorithm, or rule-of-thumb to detect which inputs won't ever produce a target state.
By way of getting a more defendable form of Wolfram's Principle of Computational Equivalence [registration required], I've formulated the following Natural Unsolvability Hypothesis (NUH):
Most naturally occurring complex computations have unsolvable halting problems relative to some notion of a target state.
The table lists a variety of real world computations to which the NUH might apply. In each row, I suggest a computation, a notion of “target state”, and a relevant question that has the form of wanting to detect initial states that fail to produce a target state.
Unsolvable Halting Problem
The motions of the bodies in our solar system.
Something rams into Earth.
Which possible adjustments to Earth’s orbit might make us safe?
The evolution of our species as we spread from world to world.
Which possible tweaks to our genetics might allow our race survive indefinitely?
The growth and aging of your body.
Which people will never get cancer?
Economics and finance.
Which people will never get rich?
Economics and finance.
Which people will never go broke?
Crime and punishment.
Going to jail.
Which kinds of careers allow a person to avoid incarceration forever?
Writing a book.
It’s obviously finished.
Which projects are doomed from the outset never to be finished?
Working to improve one’s mental outlook.
Serenity, tranquility, peace.
When is a person definitely on the wrong path?
Finding a mate.
Knowing that this is the one.
Who is doomed never to find true love?
Which research programs are utterly hopeless?
Assuming that the NUH applies to these computations with these particular definitions of target state, we’re faced with unsolvability, which means that none of the questions in the third column can be answered by a finding a simple way to detect which inputs will set off a process that never leads to one of the target states.
In such cases, all you can do is watch and wait, maybe forever. In a way, it's no surprise.
So I’m going on about cellular automata all the time and you’re thinking, “Yes, but can CAs get me high?” I’ll say! Stephen Wolfram’s mascot is the textile coneshell, famous for having a one-dimensional CA wrapped around its shell.
Now as it happens, these little guys are fierce carnivore predators, prowling around in search of small fish to harpoon. See the Cyber Diver News Network for details.
The harpoon is a tiny barb laden with a venom called a conotoxin!
(These two pictures are from a conotoxins interest group.)
And today an article in the Washington Post [registration required to view] reports that a new conotoxin-derived pain-killing drug named Prialt has been approved. And we know all about “pain-killers,” right? Prialt is said to be a thousand times as strong as morphine. It’s so powerful that if its injected into your muscles or blood stream, it stops your heart — the only way to take Prialt is to inject it into your spinal cord so that it goes straight to the brain. And, natch, a relatively common side-effect is hallucinations.
The world broke into cellular automata, at first in patches and then in chunks. A pair of gliders scuttled by, unweildy as crabs on stilts. As I spoke, the sounds from my mouth became long strings of oscillators. And then a Zhabotinsky jellyfish engulfed me.
Today another quote from The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul, upon which I'm laboring these days. This quote is (C) Copyright Rudy Rucker, 2004.
Let's start with a looooooooong picture of a one-dimensional cellular automaton in action. Think of space as the horizontal direction, and time as the direction running down the page.
I want to mention a touchy subject: God. Let me immediately say that I’m not out to advocate religion. If you want to keep things more neutral, think of “God” as a convenient and colorful synonym for “the cosmos”. Or think of the “God” word as convenient shorthand for “the unknown.”
My reason for mentioning God is that there’s a particular connection between God and free will that intrigues me: When in dire straits, people sometimes ask God to help them change their behavior. And, often enough to matter, this seems to help them get better. What might this mean?
I would say that becoming desperate enough to turn to God involves recognizing a current inability to alter one’s mental patterns, and a desire to attempt some higher-level change. The plea expresses a longing to jump out of a loop; a desire to move from one attractor to the next; a wish to experience a chaotic bifurcation.
If the plea works, does that mean that the Great Author, the Ground of All Being, the Omnipresent-Omnipotent-Omniscient One has reached down to change the parameters of some suffering character’s mental computations? And, more to the point, does this destroy determinism?
Well, we can keep determinism if we allow for a less supernatural view of reform-by-supplication. We could simply say that asking God for help has an organic effect upon a person’s brain. In other words, expressing a desire to have a spiritual life might activate, let us say, certain brain centers which release endorphins that in turn affect the threshold levels of one’s neurons. And these changes nudge the brain activities to a new strange attractor. A deterministic chaotic bifurcation occurs.
Do I really think it works like that? Well, to be truthful, I’ve always felt comfortable about reaching out for contact with the divine. The world is big and strange, and we have only the barest inkling about what lies beneath the surface.
But even in this less materialistic view, a person can still be deterministic. Asking God for help in achieving a chaotic bifurcation is really no different from asking a doctor for penicillin. You can’t will an infection away, and you can’t will yourself to abandon some deeply ingrained bad habit. But at slightly higher level, you may be able to muster the will to get help. And this higher level is, after all, simply part of your brain’s ongoing deterministic computation.
For that matter, God, too, could be deterministic. In the context of the theory I suggested in an earlier entry, God could be a deterministic non-reversible class four paratime metaphysical cellular automaton.
But that sounds so dull. Better to say the cosmos is dancing with us all the time. And that God is in the blank spaces between our thoughts — like in the white regions of the picture of the deterministic “China CA” shown above.
Regarding the image, it follows a one-dimensional CA through six hundred generations. The world of this CA is 128 cells wrapped into a circle, meaning that the right and left edges of each strip match. If we were to paste everything together, this picture would be a cylinder like a baton. Notice the characteristic feature of class four rules: they send information back and forth between different regions by means of the moving patterns that we call gliders. I discovered this rule after about fifteen minutes of a Blind Watchmaker-style directed search. I call it China because it looks a little like a silk fabric design. Image made with CAPOW.
Holiday blues setting in already?
No blues here just now, I'm feeling happy, but just to have something to blog, I'm posting a possibly topical excerpt from The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul This quote is (C) Copyright Rudy Rucker, 2004.
At the emotional level, I find it’s interesting to think of my moods in terms of homeostasis. In principle, I would like always to be calm, happy, productive and cheerful. With the accumulation of years of bruising experience, I should by now know to avoid those actions — like yelling at someone — which are sure to have a bad effect on my mood. But my common sense can still be overridden by a conflicting homeostatic drive — such as defending myself against some perceived slight to my self-esteem. It’s striking how easily I’m shunted off into new trajectories. If someone smiles at me, my mood goes up; if the neighbor’s gardener turns on a leaf-blower, my mood drifts down.
My moods continue to vary even when I do manage to be behave optimally and think nice correct thoughts about everything. I might suppose that this is because my moods are affected by other factors — such as diet, sleep, exercise, and biochemical processes I’m not even aware of. But a more computationally realistic explanation is simply that my emotional state is the result of a class four unpredictable computation, and any hope of full control is a dream.
Indeed I sometimes find a bit of serenity by jumping out of the system and really accepting that the flow of my moods is a class four computation akin to the motions of a fluttering leaf. It’s soothing to realize that my computation must inevitably be gnarly and uncontrollable, and looking out the window at the waving branches of trees can be a good reminder.
Buckminster Fuller once wrote a book called I Seem To Be a Verb. His dictum brings out the fact that the individual is a process, an on-going computation. In the same spirit we might say:
I seem to be a fluttering leaf.
One shouldn’t place too high a premium on predictability. After all, the most stable state of all is death. We stay chaotic for as long as we can, postponing that inevitable last output.
Before the holiday feast, a scouting party staked out Magic Door Beach.
Vigilance rewarded; extraterrestrial craft spotted.
The radiolarians carpeted the coast, sending one of their number inland.
Back at the rancheria, the ambassador was found to have established a symbiosis with a beloved family pet, taking on the appearance of a rubber tongue. A win-win-win.
We roasted a beast, and were at peace.
Dawn at the bottom of the year.
Two daughters! With the scary Santa robot.
Imagine writing or reading a blog on Christmas day. Electronic sharing. What if your TV could see you, and show your images to random viewers? In my novel Wetware (Avon, 1997), I describe a future Christmas morning like this Louisville, Kentucky, featuring a daughter named Della just returned from the colony on the Moon.
When Della woke up it was midmorning. Christmas! So what. Without her two sisters Ruby and Sude here, it didn’t mean a thing. Closing her eyes, Della could almost hear their excited yelling — and she realized she was hearing the vizzy. Her parents were downstairs watching the vizzy on Christmas morning. God. She went ot he bathroom and vomited, and then she put on her flexiskeleton and got dressed.
“Della?” cried her mother when Della appeared. “Now you see what we do on Christmas with no babies.” There was an empty glass by her chair. The vizzy screen showed an unfamiliar family opening presents around their tree. Mom touched the screen and a different family appeared, then another and another.
“We’ve gotten in the habit,” explained Dad with a little shrug. “Every year lots of people leave their sets on, and whoever wants to can share in. So no one’s lonely. We’re so glad to have a real child here.” He took her by the shoulders and planted a kiss on her forehead. “Little Della. Flesh of our flesh.”
“Come, dear,” said Mom. “Open your presents. We only had time to get two, but they’re right here in front of the vizzy in case anyone’s sharing in with us.”
It felt silly but nice sitting down in front of the vizzy — there were some excited children on the screen just then, and it was almost like having noisy little Ruby and Sude at her side.
[If you want to read the rest of my novel, don’t accidentally get the wrong Wetware — some guy ripped off my title for a completely different book in 2002, meaning that there is a bogus Wetware in the marketplace. My Wetware is out of print just now, although used Wetware copies can be found.]
Brian Silverman sends a link to Mark Owen's amazing pages on the Wireworld cellular automaton .
Christmas gaining momentum here. I went skating in San Ho again with one of the kids. The PA system was playing “Octopus's Garden” from Abbey Road and I was happy.
The other day some of us hiked up onto Saint Joseph's Hill behind the Jesuit residence. We call the hill in this picture Donkey Hill, as usually there's a pair of donkeys living there. I'm always happily amazed at finding such a rural-looking corner within walking distance of my home, here on the banks of Route 17.
This is part of a really big eucalyptus tree. I love when trees have wrinkles as if they were soft flesh.
I had a line about this in my novel White Light :
“I stood under a big twisting tree, a beech with smooth gray hide made smoother by the rain running down it, tucks and puckers in the flesh, doughy on its own time-scale.”
There's a nice article about my artist friend Dick Termes in Science News
As I understand it, Termes's painting method consists of getting a spherical canvas, standing in front of it, and painting onto the canvas what you see on the other side of the sphere, in front of you. Termes does not work by painting what is behind him onto the sphere, all the while looking over his shoulder. He paints what is in front of him. Once he has finished a patch corresponding to what is in front of him, how does he add what is, say, to the left of the patch in front of him? He moves around the sphere to the right a little so that he is now looking directly at the area that was formerly to the left. And he rotates the sphere to the right so as to expose the blank part of the sphere canvas to the left of what he already painted.
Mathematically, this is equivalent to central projection of the world onto the inner surface of the sphere, followed by eversion. By eversion I mean this: turn the sphere inside out. This way the correctly projected image which was visible from the inside is now visible from the outside.
I went to visit Dick when I was working on Saucer Wisdom in 1997. The painting of mine shown above depicts Frank Shook, Rudy, and an alien. Recalling this, I just posted my Saucer Wisdom notes, a cool 50,000 words of PDF for your reading pleasure.
Here's a picture of my friend Greg Gibson “being” my Saucer Wisdom hero Frank Shook.
Down into Los Gatos for a spot of Xmas shopping. Lots of lines, as in the P. O., but it’s somehow soothing to be part of the hive mind, to be sharing common activity.
When I first moved to California and walked around Los Gatos in December, I was amazed. I still am, kind of. The first year I was here my father-in-law bought me a surfboard!
The ultra-commercial artist Thomas Kinkade lives near here and has painted a couple of Los Gatos scenes, one near this spot. Kind of a nice picture, actually. Available in spime form, in small and large sizes, signed and unsigned, with a variety of frames.
One store had a kind of terrifying Santa Claus robot who sings and dances if you get close to him. “Ho ho ho, spare change?” Is this the 21st Century, or what? Like Bender from Futurama.
My head is warped by the shop windows.
Yesterday I found a link on boingboing.net to a video of Bruce Sterling giving a talk in Munich.
So I pissed away a rather enjoyable hour watching it.
It's kind of hard to sit in your computer chair and not do anything for an hour, so I got my yoga mat and lay on the floor for most of it. I ate some cereal out of a dish on the floor like a dog. At the feet of the Ascended Master of Industrial Design.
He's talking about what he calls spimes, he spoke on this at SIGGRAPH as well. BoingBoing has the text of this speech online.
The flash is that every object CAN have an URL address. The realworld tech for this is something called an RFID (pronounced Arfid] a little chip that sings out an ID number when scanned by an RFID reader within about ten meters. No more lost glasses.
[My addition: The scifi way to do it would be to have an intrinsic ID based on an object's measurements and quantum state. If the scifi case, a spimeID reader would be something you'd have to pick up outta the universal wave fuction.]
A big practical nearterm downside of RFID Bruce mentions is if Americans have to put them in their passports, as has been proposed. Duh? Another downside Bruce mentions is the the Beagle Boys skimming data to find where the expensive loot is.
He ends the talk with what he's been know to call “the standard SF move of transcendence.” Now each object has a life history, like a person. And therefore a soul? Dear objects!
Of course objects always did have a spacetime trajectory that God/the cosmos can see. But now it's a humanized soul. I think of the story of Byron the Bulb in Gravity's Rainbow.
Might one write a story from the point of view of two objects? A two-cans story instead of a two-guys story. In this context, forget not Phil Dick's “The Short Happy LIfe of the Brown Oxford.”
Or a hive mind could emerge from the objects? Stealthy scuttling of an empty sardine tin.
Or we discover what I've always suspected, that objects ARE regularly disappearing into the fourth dimension, and now it becomes known. Big Act One reveal for that.
It was a good show, always a pleasure to see Bruce in action. His delivery is such that he continually sounds like he's making fun of what he's saying, mocking it, wrapping it in irony, and by thus throwing the listener off balance, he keeps the upper hand. A rhetoritician sublime.
Here's an excerpt from section 4.7 of The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul which I was revising yesterday. The book will be out in Fall, 2005.
Consider the following bit of dialectical analysis.
• Universal automatism proposes a thesis:
Your mental processes are a type of deterministic computation.
• Your sense of having a free will entails a seeming antithesis:
Your thoughts and actions aren’t predictable.
• Wolfram advocates a beautifully simple synthesis:
Your mind’s computation is both deterministic and unpredictable.
The synthesis is supported by the following conjecture, implicit in Wolfram's A New Kind of Science.
• Principle of Computational Unpredictability (PCU). Most naturally occurring complex computations are unpredictable.
The workings of your mind are unpredictable in the sense that, when presented with a new input of some kind, you’re often quite unable to say in advance how you’ll respond to it.
Someone offers you a new job. Do you want it or not? Right off the bat, there’s no way to say. You have to think over the possibilities, mentally simulate various outcomes, feel out your emotional responses to the proposed change. Someone shows you a painting. Do you like it? Hold on. You have to think about the image, the colors, the mental associations before you decide. Someone hands you a menu. What do you want to eat? Just a minute. You need to look into your current body feelings, your memories of other meals, your expectations about this particular restaurant.
We say a computation is unpredictable if there is no exponentially faster short-cut for finding out in advance what the computation will do with arbitrary inputs. When faced with an unpredictable computation, the only reliable way to find out what the computation does with some input is to go ahead and start up the computation and watch the states that it steps through.
Once again, suppose I’m presented with some new input. Since my thoughts are unpredictable, the only way to find out what I’m going to end up thinking about the input, is to go ahead and think until my mind is made up. And this means that, although my conclusion is in fact predetermined by how my mind works, neither I nor anyone else has any way of predicting what my conclusion will be. Therefore my thought process feels like free will.
I seem to be a fluttering leaf.
That Slow Time entry was kind of a downer. So let’s put on a fresh layer of reality paint. Nothing’s going on today, except that I’m revising Lifebox, so, hmm, I’ll reach into the picture archives to find something to post.
Three pictures of mirrors! The first is a window in a parking lot in Wyoming.
The second is caustics on the surface of a brook in Big Basin in Santa Cruz Country.
A reflections quote, from my journals, this fall.
“I went camping in Big Sur; it was a hot day, and I had the chance to stand in the cool clear flow of the Big Sur River, up to my neck in a big pool that accumulates right before the river flows across a sand bar into the Pacific. Standing there, I closed my eyes to savor the sensation of water and air. My arms were weightless at my sides, my knees were slightly bent, I was at perfect equilibrium. Each time I exhaled, my breath would ripple the water, and reflections of the noon sun would flicker on my eyelids. Exquisite.”
“I was all there, fully conscious, immersed in the river. And I became powerfully aware of a common sense fact that most people will have known all along.”
“'This isn’t a computation. This is water.'”
A third picture, an office building in Denver, erstwhile home of Neal Cassady.
Working with computer graphics has enhanced my appreciation of the natural world. Though I think painting does the same thing.
Here’s a quote along these lines from David Kushner, Masters of Doom, (Random House, 2003) p. 295. Kushner is describing the programmer John Carmack, who developed most of the code for the first-person-shooter computer games Doom and Quake.
“…after so many years immersed in the science of graphics, he [John Carmack] had achieved an almost Zen-like understanding of his craft. In the shower, he would see a few bars of light on the wall and think, Hey, that’s a diffuse specular reflection from the overhead lights reflected off the faucet. Rather than detaching him from the natural world, this viewpoint only made him appreciate it more deeply. ‘These are things I find enchanting and miraculous,’ he said, ‘I don’t have to be at the Grand Canyon to appreciate the way the world works. I can see that in reflections of light in my bathroom.’”
The other day, I was noticing how slowly time seems to go these days.
In a bad way, I can look ahead at an afternoon or an evening and think, “I’ll never make it through this.” In a good way, I can think, “I’ve got all the time I need. I can relax.”
The other day, I had a feeling of being into a just endlessly expandable kind of mental time. I’d rather think of this as a good thing. After all, the faster you time goes, the sooner you die. My neighbor Rita, who’s in her 80s, was bemoaning this the other day. “You say Christmas is in two weeks? I feel like last Christmas was just two weeks ago. I feel like I’m on a express train to the graveyard.”
My time slowdown is happening — why? I can think of three possible causes.
(1) Idleness. I’m not teaching, and don’t have the concomitant mental check-list: do this, do that, do the other thing, etc. I’m still adjusting to retirement.
A job makes time pass because you carry with you a mental check-list that makes the time melt away. Plus there’s the commuting to help kill the day. Even now, when I read, or write, or when I work on my blog, the time melts away. A hobby, like a job, is a “pastime”.
TV is a pastime, too, but to me, watching TV almost always feels like I’m being robbed. I think I’d rather spend my time staring at my shoe.
I do have more empty time than before. I have to fight the capitalist, puritanical fear of empty time. Slow, empty time is a good thing.
(2) Thoughts per second. Another factor in the time slowdown could perhaps be that, thanks to thinking about philosophy so much as I work on my Lifebox book, the world is starting to seem denser and stranger to me. Trippier.
I’ve always thought that the speed at which I perceive time to be flowing might relate to the rate at which I’m having thoughts. So if you’re having a billion thoughts per second, then, yeah, a second seems like a long time. And if you settle in on the zombified gerbil wheel of TV programming, with a thought every five minutes or so, then yeah, the whole evening is gone in a flash.
But I'm not really sure I'm thinking that much more than I ever did.
(3) Isolation. Talking to people passes the time. Now that I'm retird, I’m spending more and more of my time alone.
The idea that conversation speeds up the perceived passage of time doesn’t really dovetail with the “thoughts per second” idea that time goes faster when you have fewer thoughts. Because it seems like you’d be having more thoughts rather than fewer thoughts if you’re having a lively conversation, so it would seem that the conversation should seem to make time go slower rather than faster.
I think the reason conversation speeds time up is that it takes me out of myself. If I’m continually monitoring my personal state, navel-gazing if you will, then the time will seem to go slower because I’ll have a lot of memories of wondering what time it is. Nothing slows time down like looking at your watch every thirty seconds, like when you’re waiting for a work day to be over. Or in the back seat of your parents car asking, “Are we there yet?”
What time is it now? Is that all?
Elena told us the surf was up. My wife and I drove down to Cruz and went to a beach I call Magic Door beach, it’s about 6.3 miles north of the last traffic light in Cruz on, of course, Rt. 1. Parking area is on the left, high up, flat, long, like a waiter’s tray holding cars, rutted, muddy, you walk across the tracks and down some scree to an ampitheater beach.
Whoomp! I walked up behind the rock where the waves were booming. A peaceful tidepool there.
And in the pool, the aliens dreamed all unaware. Life is calm in La Hampa.
I got real close to the rock to shoot this veil of spray. There’s always a seagull or two just perched somewhere in the scene (not shown here) calmly diggin’ it, happy as a Big Sur cow.
And then we went to the Magic Door at the left end of the beach. And made it through.
There’s a whole ‘nother hidden beach on the other side, this is La Hampa as well. Gray and sandstone rock makes art heroine dreams.
It’s nice to have my dear wife here this time — instead of just my shadow.
I found the shrunken head of that third person you always see in your dreams.
We were reading T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land to each other on Wednesday, wondering if it had something to do with the Grail Legend. And there’s this creepy passage about the third person you see in your dreams. I want to have this personage show up when, say, two of my characters are walking around in La Hampa.
“Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
— But who is that on the other side of you?”
And then a little dog came up and ran away with this particular kelp-bulb head.
Yesterday we had a little dinner party for our neighbors. It's always nice when the house is clean and everything is tidy. Poised for action.
We had our friend Elena and her husband Gunnar. Elena is quite a character.
The occasion was the visit of Elena's son Jerry with his new wife Anne and baby Lula.
I love babies. Anne is French, from Nancy, she says that back home doting fathers are called “Papa Poule,” the male version of “Mother Hen.”
I made a fish stew for the meal. But for me the high point was the chocolate cake.
When I'm full of sweets, things begin to look dreamy. Life's lovely computations all around. Oh, forget computation. Life all around.
All I did yesterday was work on The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. I drew a picture and wrote something to explain this certain idea I have about how we might get a deterministic universe despite the wifty, come-drink-the-Koolaid mystery-mongering of quantum mechanics. But what the bleep do I know?
I’d like to suggest that maybe there really is only our one sheet of spacetime, that this sheet obeys a deterministic reversible Physics Rule akin to a reversible CA. Let’s suppose for now that one can in fact slice our spacetime into spacelike sheets. In this case, we can use the Physics Rule to derive all of our spacetime, past and future, from any one spacelike sheet. So in order to “explain” our universe, we only need to explain one single spacelike sheet. The picture below shows where I’m heading with this.
Figure 2.23: A Physics and a Metaphysics to Explain All of Spacetime.
In this picture we think of there being two distinct CA rules, a Physics Rule and a Metaphysics Rule. The vertical plane represents our spacetime, and the line across its middle represents a spacelike “sheet.” The Physics Rule is a reversible CA that grows the spacelike sheet upwards and downwards to fill out the entire past and future of spacetime. And the Metaphysics Rule accounts for the contents of that spacelike sheet. The Metaphysics Rule is not reversible; it grows sideways across paratime, turning some simple seed into the pattern found in the singled-out spacelike sheet.
In order to explain one particular spacelike slice of spacetime, we invoke a Metaphysics Rule which is like a CA that grows the space pattern from some presumably simple seed. When I speak of this metaphysical growth as occurring in paratime, I need only mean that it’s logically prior to the existence of our spacetime. We don’t actually have to think of the growth as being something that’s experientially happening.
Got it? Good. Quiz on Monday.
I was in at SJSU yesterday. I saw my old student Gary Singh, I was his thesis adviser for a creative writing project about a pataphysical device called a Ridiculometer.
Gary wrote a nice article about me in the Metro newspaper last spring.
I went to the final demos of the game projects in Chris Pollett's CS 134 Game Programming class. They used my book, Software Engineering and Computer Games, and it was good to see my Pop framework software was working for them. (Sorry about the buggy wall-corner collisions, guys, maybe I'll fix them.)
I was impressed by this student's fashion sense, which is not a given among CS majors! She had cool running shoes too.
One of my best former students Leo Lee was there, checking the demos out. Leo just entered one of his games into the student contest held at the Independent Game Festival at the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose every March. I'm proud of him and I hope he can get a game programming job.
Leo's already finished Half-Life 2 twice, turning up the difficulty level for the second time through. Me, I'm still in the airboat.
Still raining, everything getting green, up in the morning it's lovely out the window, kitchen lamp reflected in the panes.
Robert Sheckley one wrote a story about a space explorer stranded on a world with no green. The only green color he could see came from the explosions of his blaster. He ran down its battery, firing it over and over to see the green. And then the yellow hyenas got him.
Closer in on the green leaves I remember the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams.
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Speaking of refrigerator magnets, daughter Isabel has a fresh crop of Isabel's Copper Refrigerator Magnets ready for the holiday season.
We have quite a few of them ourselves. In fact last year, Isabel gave me a set of her magnets with one for each of my book titles; they're mixed in with the others. These little guys are holding up the plot diagram of Mathematicians in Love formerly known as Crazy Mathematicians.
I'll be getting back to my novel that soon, but meanwhile I'm revising my Lifebox tome. Actually, revising is somewhat dull and stressful, so I'm in fact blogging, and now the sun's coming out, so maybe I'll go for a bike ride. When you're revising, you're facing the gap between what you dreamed of doing and what you actually ended up with.
Great wind and rain last night. When we first moved to California, I was surprised to hear people call this kind of weather a “storm”. The temperature drops to 50 and you get half an inch of rain. Whoah! Not like the twister suckin' the steeple right offen a church like in this newspaper photo hyar. The woman's hair is nicely gnarly, no? You're seeing her from the back, and a stray vortex is pulling the loose hair up. If we could see air currents, we'd be so amazed.
That sideways picture on the fridge is an image of a canvas by our friend Ronna Schulkin Pearce.
And, as long as I'm pitching things, surely your holiday gift list should include a copy of Frek and the Elixir, my best book ever? Here's a typical satisfied reader…
Yesterday we went to a tea party given by some of Sylvia's co-workers and friends. I dressed up like a professor — I'm thinking Alan Turing in the faculty locker-room here.
And I drank a lot of tea. (Picture from a Celestial Seasonings refrigerator magnet — every object is bloggable!)
I switched from coffee to tea about a year ago, and have come to really enjoy it. Hard to get a good cup in a restaurant, obviously Lipton's has nothing to do with it, but even if you get the good bags, its tricky having the right amount and temperature of water. Making tea is a somewhat alchemical process. But when you get it right you can kind of taste the caffeine. It tastes like electricity.
I get that line from a scene in William J. Craddock's 1960s San Jose novel, Be Not Content, where they're eating brownies with LSD in them and one of the characters named Baxter says he can taste the acid, it tastes like electricity, and the narrator remarks, “We should haver realized this was a bad sign,” and then Baxter goes into a hideous freakout. I can't find the book right now, it's somewhere in my house, I paid a pretty penny to get a used copy last year. Well, when it turns up, I'll blog it.
And now back to revising The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul.
Ever since this summer, my novel Master of Space and Time has been under option for a movie directed by Michel Gondry starring Jack Black. This book had nice covers in both the hardback edition
and paperback editions.
It's out of print now, but a new edition with yet another great cover will be out soon from Thunder's Mouth Press, an Avalon imprint.
The movie is by no means a done deal; neither my agent Marty Shapiro nor I have heard anything new about it for months. But I’m thinking of it today because I got a link to Charles Eicher’s blog where he’s ruminating about the possible deal and speculating about my thoughts, it was flattering, but it felt odd reading it.
Meanwhile I’m laboring on a revision of The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. I though it was done, but now after setting it aside for two months and coming back to it, I’m seeing it needs a lot of polish, and am a little uptight about how much work I have left.
Today Rudy, Jr., and his friend Penny stopped by, along with Rudy’s dog Slug. Penny rented a van to move some of her stuff. I love how the flash make’s Slug’s eyes look.
This pose of Slug’s is called Prairie Dog.
Sylvia and I went down to the annual Los Gatos Christmas Parade, a cozy event where pretty much anyone who wants to can form a group and march or drive down the main street.
Some guys who call themselves the Los Gatos Camel Herders — I think it's that old Mason/Shriner thing of enjoying dressing up in Eastern garb, in other words, these guys are probably not Moslems. Do people in the mid East ever have parades where they dress up like Westerners?
The Bubble Angels under I forget what aegis.
Los Gatos Meats, which is place that will butcher up your deer meat for you, had a float with some reindeer on it, reminding me of those pigs in chef’s hats that you see all over the South. I wrote a story called “The Men In The Back Room At The Country Club,” about a guy who becomes a kind of pig-chef, cooking humans for aliens, and it is supposed to appear in Infinite Matrix some day.
And some born-again types, even in yup Los Gatos. I looked up John 3:16 to see if it has anything to do with camping, but no, it doesn’t. Would you go in this tent?
Is a minister who pressures his flock to vote for an anti-human regime really any different from a deer who leads his fellows into a slaughterhouse? Budda-boomp.
Aw, I promised myself I wouldn't talk about politics in here, and just listen to me. Maybe the minister of the church with this tent-float is a really good guy, you never know. And certainly it's nice to have God in your heart, yes. But, look, when I go camping, I want trees and streams. Nature is, after all, the cosmic ur-religion, all on her own. Hail Gaia!
Today’s big news is that my San Jose State University computer science student Harry Fu has gotten three-dimensional Belousov-Zhabotinsky-scroll cellular automata (3D BZ CAs for short) working for his Master’s degree writing project.
Way to go, Harry. Nobody’s ever seen three-dimensional CAs before except on supercomputers or using special hardware, especially not 3D BZ CAs, and our man Fu has these mofos working as a Java applet running Open GL!!!
Note the spontaneously forming scrolls. The first 3D BZ CA picture shows a 3D version of the Hodgepodge Rule, and this one is the 3D Winfree Rule.
Gnarly much? Live mushrooms, vortices, jellyfish.
So how can you, too, run Fu’s applet? I’ve updated these links on March 12, 2011. You can go to Fu’s Welcome to CA 3D page for an overview.
And then proceed to o Harry Fu’s CA3D download page, which walks you throug three steps
(1) Make sure you have the latest and greatest version of Java, this would be version 6 today. Anyway, go and get the JRE (Runtime Environment) for your Mac or Windows system. You don't need the full developer’s kit, just the JRE.
(2) Get JOGL (Java bindings for Open GL).
(3) Run Fu’s application, ca3D.jar.
Geekin’ OUT! And lovin’ it. You realize, of course, that your brain is a 3D BZ CA?
What else I did yesterday.
After meeting with Fu, I walked over to downtown San Ho and skated on this cute rink beneath the palms right beside the Fairmont.
And then I went into the ADMISSION FREE San Jose Art Museum. Frankly, the art there is more interesting to me than anything I saw in Milano. I think spending so much psychic time with Peter Bruegel cured me of feeling like I have to care about religious art at all anymore. But that’s another topic.
Is this great, or what? It’s “Desire for the Other” by Brian Goggin, also the creator of that amazing Defenestration building in San Francisco at Sixth and Howard, with all the furniture jumping out the windows. In this piece we see an airport-lounge-style sofa devouring a wing-back armchair. Note the bulge of its last meal in its gut.
This last picture shows a piece by Tony Oursler, a really slimy looking object, it’s a curvy fiberglass shape with a video of eyes and mouth projected onto it, the mouth is babbling. In general I despise art that makes noise in a museum, as IMHO it’s unfairly detracting from the many silent works here. But other than being noisy, this is a really cool work.
Of course it would be gnarlier if it used 3D BZ CAs. If they ever make a movie of one my WARE books, I really hope they use 3D BZ CA projections for the bodies of the boppers.
Turns out Kenny’s reading from Never Coming To A Theater Near You was on Tuesday, not Monday.
Here's a picture of Kenny and me, taken by his wife Patty Williams, a professional photographer (it shows). We were leaning in the back doorway of a pizza parlor; we're lit by pizza light.
Earlier in the day I drove down to Santa Cruz early and went to Four Mile Beach alone.
So far as I’m concerned, this is the gate to paradise. Right off the parking lot there on Route One, four miles north of the last traffic light in Santa Cruz.
I think this is a godwit. It’s cool how when you zoom,the sun reflections make those stars.
The surfers work the north end of Four Mile Beach, and down at the south end there’s a collapsed natural bridge. To me this is a real power spot, feels like a million miles from anywhere. As I recorded in my writing notes for Frek and the Elixir, I wrote “EADEM MUTATA RESURGO” on the sand here, and then an alien cuttlefish writhed out, and then I came here again a day or two after 9/11 and thought about that saying some more.
It does get a little lonely out here; this is my pet duck.
And my closest friend.
I met Kenny and his wife Patty at the Union Coffee Shop, then went over to the Capitola Book Cafe to see him do his presentation. He was great, mostly answered questions, it’s a pleasure to hear his voice. He does movie reviews on NPR, so is fairly well known now, there was a good crowd.
Forty freaking years since I roomed with this guy. To me, he's cuter than ever.
Correction: I meant to say that the woman on Zappa's Joe’s Garage was Dale Bozzio, onetime Playboy bunny, former wife of Zappa’s drummer Terry Bozzio. Dale was also in her own band, Missing Persons. Her voice on Joe’s Garage is unbelievably cute.