trees are harlequins, words are harlequins

(quotes) | (big yud) | (math) | (fiction)

mercurialmalcontent replied to your post “I started reading IDD today, and the criticism you responded to made me happy, because it’s generally a sign I’ll like something.”

Anon, I’m not an idiot. I happen to LIKE and WRITE those things myself — but I can also tell when an author is doing a lot of handwaving and lol random to disguise that they *don’t actually know how to do them*. Swanwick is in the latter camp to me.

(Replying to this to make sure it gets to Anon, but also to say that I agree; IDD after a while feels like being poked in the ribs over and over by someone saying “now isn’t this weird and shocking?”, which is a … very mundane experience, really)

Anonymous asked: I agree. I kind of feel this way about Suda51's games, where he stopped making games that references Reagan's 1983 address to the Japanese Diet and started making grindhouse movies with some surface weirdness.

I only played Killer7, but it was kind of in the middle for me — felt very much like it was really straining to be weird, but in that straining it achieved some real surprises.

Tags: Anonymous

Anonymous asked: I started reading IDD today, and the criticism you responded to made me happy, because it's generally a sign I'll like something.

Just to clarify, people seem to think strangeness, surrealism or narrative opacity are the lame vegetables you have to eat to get at the yummy desert of a good important deep story at the core, but for some of us, those vegetables are the desert. Figuring out that a lot of Deep Important Stuff About The Human Spirit are often people fucking around for fun is very freeing.

1.  Cool!

2.  I actually like those things a lot in many cases — I guess for me they just work better when it feels to me like there is an underlying (but alien) logic that I just don’t (and may never) understand

"This is a thing that is genuinely weird as part of its own nature" feels very, very different to me than "this is the result of a person trying to be weird," though it’s hard to describe the criteria my mind uses to distinguish one from the other

I’m pretty sure it’s mostly a cheap trick. Swanwick likes to do the thing where he simulates depth through vagueness and obfuscation.

Yeah, that seems plausible

I was just thinking that there was some specific thing the book was reminding me more and more of as it went on, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, and then, in a flash, I realized the answer was “Zardoz”

I’m halfway through The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and it’s one of those books where I don’t really know what it’s doing, or whether that’s a good thing, but it’s definitely very effective at doing it

Everything is fucked-up and horrible for the teen fairy children, in many many ways!  Is this cheap shock value?  Who knows!  I keep reading!  I keep going “WTF?” every 20 pages, sometimes because things have gotten horrible for the teen fairy children in a new way, sometimes because some bizarre new magic thing happened and I’m trying to piece it into the eerie uncanny worldbuilding which feels like it should make sense but maybe it doesn’t and that’s just another cheap trick?  Everything is pregnant with meaning even if I don’t know what that meaning is!  Is this good writing?  I don’t know!  It has my attention anyway!


get out your VCR’s it’s time to watch The Prince of Egypt. or you can watch it here.

please don’t watch exodus: gods and kings because it’s icky and racist. you deserve better. you deserve the prince of egypt.

"Moses was a peaceful lawful guy"?  Excuse me?

And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.

And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.

[ … ]

Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses.

(Exodus 2:11-15)

And then there was the whole “ordering his guys to kill 3000 people because of the Golden Calf” thing (Exodus 32:25-28) which, lawful or not, does not strike me as especially peaceful

(This is all unrelated to the “why is everyone white” complaint which I am 100% behind)

(via freezepeachinspector)

scientiststhesis reblogged your post and added:

Dunno. I think in the mathematical bits I gave…

A few quick notes:

First: I think we’re both talking about the same thing (i.e. when you say “Is that what I did?” the answer is “yes”).

Unless I am missing something here (and I could be), I think there is no difference between the following:

"calculat[ing] the expected utility for all possible distributions and then averag[ing] them according to your prior over these distributions"


"calculat[ing] some ‘weighted distribution’ based on that prior and us[ing] that distribution to calculate your expected utility"

These just correspond to two different orders of doing the integral.  The first one corresponds to  ∫ (∫x^4 p(x|H) dx) p(H) dH, and the second one corresponds to ∫ x^4 (∫ p(x|H) p(H) dH) dx.  These should be equal.

The only reason we might not be able to exchange the order of integration would be if the limits of one of the integrals depended on the integration variable in the other.  That’s not true here: the x integral is over all x for any H (all the distributions are distributions over the reals), and the H integral is over all H for any x (for the same reason — no distribution “excludes” any x).

Second: I think we get “swamped” as long as the prior assigns any positive measure to the set of hypotheses with infinite fourth moment.  This is easy to see if you do the integral as ∫ (∫x^4 p(x|H) dx) p(H) dH.  Sometimes the inner integral is +infinity, and if the region in H-space where this happens has positive measure according to p(H), we get +infinity for the whole integral.

The only reason this might not happen is if there were a corresponding region of H-space where the inner integral worked out to -infinity, so the two would cancel.  (In informal, physics-y reasoning that could presumbly be put on a rigorous footing.)  That’s why I chose an even moment here: that can’t happen because it’s impossible for a distribution to have a negative fourth moment.  There’s an asymmetry here: given this utility function, there are no “infinitely dispreferred” distributions out there to cancel the influence of the “infinitely preferred” distributions with infinite 4th moment.



For a lot of last winter I was really sleep-deprived and stressed out about work, and for some reason the idea I become fixed on, as a fantasy of what I’d do when I was free and well-rested, was: read the four classics of Chinese literature

I guess this was partially because they sounded cool, but also because they were a thing that sounded cool and seemed totally removed from anything I know about.  An expansive world distant from me in time, space and culture, which rarely comes up in my sphere of experience even when you’d expect it would.   Escapism, though maybe not in the usual sense of the word.  (Hopefully not exoticism.)

The only result of this was that I tried reading Dream of the Red Chamber / Story of the Stone, was having a hard time getting into it (partially because I was still tired and stressed, and it’s a slow-paced book with a lot of characters), and then someone put it on hold on the library and I had to return it after 150 pages.

Considering that that one sounds like the most accessible of the four, I’m not sure the prospects look good for me reading all four of them at any point, much less enjoying the experience.  Nonetheless, they still occupy this special status in my mind, probably out of proportion to how much I’d really enjoy them.  (Probably because they were a thing I thought about a lot during a stressful time?  Or maybe it really is just Orientalism.)

I’d like to pipe up and say that Journey to the West is very readable. I was expecting it to be, like, an Important Cultural Experience; I wasn’t prepared for how much fun it is. It’s full of humor, action, irreverence, sarcastic put-downs, monsters, cool martial-arts battles, and over-the-top feats of magic. Every chapter ends with a line like “If you don’t know how the monkey king escaped, listen to the explanation in the next chapter.” It’s like the Ming dynasty equivalent of “Tune in next week!”. This book is basically the ancestor of pulp fiction, anime, and Hong Kong action movies.

(This is the translation I read — it’s abridged, so it leaves out some of the less essential side-stories.)

I haven’t tried the other three yet, but I’d really like to at least read Romance of the Three Kingdoms someday. I’ve seen parts of it adapted into other media and enjoyed them. (The Chinese movie “Red Cliff” from a few years ago is well worth checking out.)

Very interesting, thanks!  Maybe I will check it out if Story of the Stone turns out to be too slow for me.

(I think the “if you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to read the next chapter” thing may be common in old novels, even cross-culturally — I’ve also seen it in Story of the Stone and in Tom Jones)

Smooth infinitesimal analysis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Someone decided to base a version of nonstandard analysis on … denying the law of the excluded middle?


It’s not really related to nonstandard analysis, it’s yet another formalization of the “intuitive” notion of infinitesimals.

But yeah! I think this is one of the best arguments for why constructive logic is cool/maybe-useful.

I guess that’s what I meant by “a version of nonstandard analysis” — it’s kind of awkward that one of these infinitesimal things is specifically called “nonstandard analysis,” yet all of them are analysis that is not standard [insert excluded middle joke here]

Anyway, it’s definitely been fun to read about, so far

Tags: mathpost