Deep Simplicity and Iterations

I’ve been reading Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity by John Gribbin. I was hoping to glean more insight into the whole “levels of organization” problem
that has long fascinated me. I also used one of Gribben’s examples of
what many call a “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” to use my
computer to plot the results. I was considering using Matplotlib / pylab – matlab style python plotting (plots, graphs, charts) but instead used Excel, which did the job fine.

What was the task in question? It was to iterate the function 2x^2-1,
where x is in between -1 and 1, to see how even a small change in an
initial x leads to diverging values as we go through the iterations.
That is, the small differences are magnified by the feedback loop of
iteration. (I know that the last two sentences are not terribly well
written alas….)

Besides getting to play with mathematically oriented computation, did I
actually glean any more insight about why there seem to be distinct
levels of organization in our cosmos? I don’t know. At first, I was
going to write that the sensitive dependence on initial conditions can
give rise to boundaries — but I can’t say such a statement makes any
sense to me. Hmmm….back to the mental drawing board.

Notelets for 2006.08.08

I am definitely curious to know what Yahoo Research wants to get into, not only because Yahoo! Research Berkeley is only a couple blocks away from my office but because I know a number of bright folks working there.

Group shines light on conservation measures – Catholic Online:

    Interfaith Power & Light, active in 21 states
    and the District of Columbia, works at educating churches and their
    members about how to make a dent in global warming. It’s part of the
    organization’s way of caring for God’s creation, and the work is done
    on many fronts.

The year following Katrina has been a slow-motion catastrophe:

    Indeed, Katrina’s aftermath has not proved that
    congressional Republicans are devoid of empathy, but rather that they
    reserve it for states run by former party chairmen. As of late spring,
    Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour had wheedled his old friends in
    Washington into giving his constituents roughly the same sized block
    grant as received by Louisiana–even though Louisiana suffered more
    than three times the number of seriously damaged homes and lost one
    more major city than its easterly neighbor. The Democrats, meanwhile,
    have been disappointingly silent, preferring to focus on GOP
    incompetence abroad rather than at home.

I enjoyed the film Yi Yi a lot and look forward to seeing the new Criterion Collection edition of the film: Getting the DVD Transfer Right the Second Time Around – New York Times. Will Netflix carry the new edition?

Me and the other guys?

When I saw Men Not Working, and Not Wanting Just Any Job – New York Times,
I wondered whether I’m part of a bigger trend by reducing my time to
write a book. The important difference between my situation and that
portrayed in the article is that the reduction in time is temporary and
that I’m working hard on projects during my time at home. Still, I was
unnerved to think that maybe I was a slow slide to indolence!

Word for my day: mephitic

Gore Vidal wrote in tribute of the recently deceased Barbara Epstein (The New York Review of Books: Barbara Epstein (1928-2006)):

    Ultimately, in fact, she could accept almost
    anything in the way of a point of view if she was convinced that it was
    expressed in good faith: needless to say, she had a difficult time
    dealing with the baroque lies of the neocons which have made mephitic
    the swamps of bookchat.

I had to look up the word “mephitic,” which was Dictionary.com/Word of the Day on June 23, 2001 in dictionary.com. One definition is “offensive to the smell; as, mephitic odors.”

All that pain at Ikea was worth it…mostly



All that pain at Ikea was worth it…mostly

Originally uploaded by Raymond Yee.


Laura and I made a trek to Ikea to buy this Galant Table. I didn’t want to go, but the many months of having our laser printer’ sitting on the floor had to come to an end. The afternoon was more stressful than I had anticipated. When we had to figure out whether a long shelf could fit in the back of our car, I panicked and declared that we most certainly needed to come back another day with a rental U-Haul. I was wrong; the shelf did fit snugly. I was happy to get away from the lines and the crowds.

Unfortunately, when we got home and began to assemble our table, we realized that we were missing a necessary frame. Argh! Injustice! I called the Ikea help line to complain that the woman who filled out our cash&carry order neglected to add a frame. I tried to get the clerk to send us the frame but to no avail — of course. Fortunately, Laura had enough sense to get me off the phone. She just wanted the table.

We went back to Ikea to get the missing frame. Of course, we encountered another very long line. Why couldn’t Ikea just take our order on the phone and have us swing by to pick it up directly? No, if you want to buy Ikea, you must submit to the unforgiving discipline of Ikea.

In the end, we were very happy to bring a bit more order to our apartment. But can I forgive Ikea? I’m sure I’ll go crawling back to that den of just-good-enough furniture within the year’s end.