Saturday, January 23, 2010

Everything was so unexpected.

When I was 15, I traveled to Vancouver. It was summer. That was the first time that I ever went abroad.

Although I had by then studied English for three years at the junior high, my language skill was still poor.

Verna came to pick me up at the Rembrandt hotel. When we arrived at 7580 Railway avenue, two boys dashed towards us. They were Trevor and Randy.

Trevor and Randy wanted to play with me the moment we arrived. So we played the Game of Life. What followed was the most trying time in the history of my learning English as a second language.

Adults make considerations for the fact that I am not a native English speaker.

Kids don't. Trevor and Randy bombarded me with questions and comments like a rapid fire, and I had to respond in kind. The first ever game of life played in English was a milestone in my upbringing.

Everything was so unexpected.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Please can I have a T.V. show which can be enjoyed in 30 minutes

When I was young I used to have many objections against the so-called blockbuster films from Hollywood. I liked films by Yasujiro Ozu, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, Ermanno Olmi, VĂ­ctor Erice, and so on. The more popular ones almost never thrilled my soul, to be honest, cross my heart.

In Tokyo, the films that I love were shown in a few theaters, while the blockbuster films were shown everywhere. I used to walk around the Tokyo streets with my like-minded friends, and complain that I never understood the foundations and rationale for the popularity of these things.

That was then. It is now. I can now see the motives behind the blockbuster films, apart from the obvious one of making money. I admit that good things might come out of the popular trends, though my emotion still resonates with films of minority sensitivities, like the ones I mentioned above.

One thing I realized in the meantime is that I rather like American T.V. series. The discovery came on the airplanes, when I watched the installed video. These T.V. shows, shown typically in the concise duration of 30 minutes or so, were more to my liking than the extended two hours format of the typical Hollywood films. I could appreciate the effort that went into making a concise, slim script which can entertain people in a short time on the air.

I am thus unconsciously always on the look out for good American T.V. shows. There is one important condition, though. The episodes must be self-contained, to be viewed individually. I cannot take the kind of shows which keeps going and going, as a continuous single story. That would be eventually worse than the 2 hours format of the films.

Please can I have a T.V. show which can be enjoyed in 30 minutes more or less, please.

Seinfeld is a typical American T.V. show that I like. The episodes are self-contained.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A plum blossom seem to symbolize a distant past long forgotten

The other day, walking along a Tokyo street, I noticed that a plum tree had started to bloom. While my mind was being deeply shrouded in the winter atmosphere, nature had already begun the preparation for the rejuvenation in the great cycle of life.

Until several years ago, I used to live near a very large park. It was my custom to go for a jogging there. It took about 15 minutes to go around the park. At one corner, there were tens of plum trees. In the cold weather of January, these trees started to bloom, and gave comfort to the lonely soul which was making physical effort, to no practical avail apart from good health.

Near the plum trees, I sometimes witnessed an old man, with a bicycle on his side. He used to practice singing, with a bottle in his hand. Occasionally, he would drink from the bottle, and go gurgling, apparently in an effort to refresh and enliven his throat.
As I was always running past, I could only take a snapshot vision of this gentleman of this intriguing behavior. When I chanced upon him, I considered it as a bonus.

I wonder if the gurgling gentleman is up and well these days.

As I was passing the plum tree the other day, all these memories came back to me in a flash.

The smell of a plum blossom seem to symbolize a distant past long forgotten.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The cloud has already arrived

People talk a lot nowadays about cloud computing. When put in the strictly algorithmic context, there may be many targets and obstacles, still to be reached and dissolved. In terms of the way information is traded between human brains and nurture cultural environment in that process however, the "cloud" has already arrived, if without a resounding fanfare or a vengeance.

When I write this journal, for example, I put the resulting chunk of words into the internet, which the kind-hearted people access and read each day. It may seem a small thing, and it is a small thing in the context of human civilization as a whole, but the trading is here and now, where the like-minded are shrouded by a common medium materialized by the daily communication of information.

The Amazon kindle automatically archives issues of periodicals on the web, relieving the machine of the need to store incrementally heavy information. This is a particularly explicit instance of cloud computing. A similar process is already here for the human brain.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You know pragmatism is different from utilitarianism.

I had a chat with my philosopher friend Ken Shiotani over lunch. He was lecturing in Hosei University, and I caught him as he was waiting for the elevator in the hall.

These days, I make a point of having a time for discourse during the time of my day, as otherwise my intellect would suffocate and become just practical.

Our conversation on analytic philosophy led to Shiotani's appraisal of philosophy in the United States.

"The Americans have an inferiority complex towards the Europeans as regards philosophy", Shiotani said. "As a result, they stress pragmatism as a philosophical fruit borne out of their own tradition".

"Isn't it great," I countered, "that they have their own problems, and find it, define it, and elucidate it?"

"That's right," Shiotani said, "whereas the Japanese philosophers traditionally just import the Western philosophy and translate them, pretending they are their own. Unless the Japanese philosophers identify their own problem, their contribution in history would be limited."

Then Shiotani suddenly remarked. "You know pragmatism is different from utilitarianism."

"You mean, being pragmatic does not just imply a concern about the utilitarian significances of a particular system of thought, but rather, pragmatism is a whole organic network of methodologies involving epistemology and ontology, a particular way of looking at the world at large?"

"More or less. That's the gist of it"

It was lunch time, and our conversation had to end prematurely.

It is nice to go out of your way a little bit and have this window with your best friend of 25 years, towards stimulating my soul.

Ken Shiotani arguing about pragmatism over lunch.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ilya Farber

I met with Ilya Farber on Sunday afternoon. When I first heard that he was staying in Tokyo from Friday to Monday, I was amazed at his hectic schedule. Then I learned that he is actually on transit from the U.S. to Singapore, where he is now teaching at SMU.

We found ourselves seated in a soba restaurant. In the next couple of hours we talked about the neural correlates of consciousness, the pros and cons of analytic philosophy, problems in university life here and there, the prospect of consciousness studies in the future, how to liberate qualia from mysticism, and the joy of life in Singapore.

Ilya is such a fascinating person to talk with, so witty and full of love.

I learned that Ilya is fond of Japanese culture, his favorite manga being Ranma 1/2.

It is rare to get on a conversational jet coaster to ride from Dennetian arguments to the creams of pop culture within 10 minutes.

It was so fun.

Ilya Farber in a Tokyo restaurant.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The parameter space for the character heterogeneities

The functions of molecules such implicated in social contexts as vasopressin and oxytocin would naturally depend on the biochemical and biophysical contexts into which these molecules are placed. Therefore, the contexts ("keyholes") are more important than the molecules ("keys") themselves.

The more robust existence of empathy in female subjects might be related to the balance of oxytocin and vasopressin, but they would remain a indirect cause, the direct cause more explicitly accounted for by the specific neural circuits involved.
Keeping in mind these reservations, there are some arguments for the explicit treatment of these molecules as socially active parameters.

If there was an instance where these molecules are in effect traded between individuals through some measures, that could lead to an effective construction of their social functionality.

The intricate interaction of these "social molecules" would ultimately lead to, for example, differences in character. Therefore, the parameter space for character heterogeneities might be effectively written in terms of the parameter space of these social molecules, in addiction to a description by the specifics of neural circuits.