January 31, 2008


This video is a little old, but it's still worth it. Climbers who fuck, not fuckers who climb. It's not on youtube, something about not being able to show fake sex or something, I don't know.

I couldn't find a good photo, so I googled "climbing hot." This is what I got, you can see the full image if you click on it. Rawr!

January 29, 2008

The Savant

I focus much of my time on philosophy of mind with an emphasis on consciousness, the experiences you have from the senses (vision, audition, tactile, etc.) and from thought. There is one large obstacle in the study of consciousness - there is no third person way to experience consciousness, you only have access to your own. Because of this, we are forced to rely on what people say they are experiencing, and people are notoriously prone to error in their introspective reports. It would be like studying how far people can jump by only looking at how far people say they jump when you know they are really bad at judging distance.

With that in mind, how do people experience numbers? I'm not sure what the answer is, but it certainly is not the norm to experience them as shapes. Take a look at this fascinating documentary on a savant who is able to perform complex mathematical calculations in seconds. According to him, he experiences numbers as unique shapes in his consciousness, and his method of multiplication is to place two of these shapes next to each other and look at the space in between. This space is a new shape which he then translates into an answer.

The end of part 5 and all of part 6 contain the most in-depth discussion of his experience of numbers. He is interviewed by a neural scientist at UC San Diego to see if he truly performs calculations in this way, or if he uses memorization (his memory is amazing, he recites pi to 22,500 decimal places early in the documentary). Although it is all only quasi-scientific, the idea that he is able to experience numbers as geometric shapes (or landscapes as he calls it at times) is cool.

If the way he experiences numbers enables him to perform calculations faster and more accurately, perhaps the way one experiences reading (as words, as a narration by an inner voice, or directly onto the ideas) can influence reading speed and comprehension. If this is the case, and the way one experiences reading is trainable, the effect on pedagogy would be huge. I didn't learn to read until I was in third grade because of poor teaching methodology (you can't learn to read like you learn to speak, through osmosis!), so I can attest to the deficiencies in our understanding here. I was in the dumb reading class. Boo hoo.

However, going back to the jumping analogy, how tough to study! Especially when everyone jumps different distances. So irritating when people experience the same thing in different ways! Where are the laws of consciousness? I'm a fan of laws. Sure am.

[Part 1]
[Part 2]
[Part 3]
[Part 4]
[Part 5]
[Part 6]

January 28, 2008

TA Quandry

One of my students e-mailed me about a poor grade he received on the Business Ethics final last quarter. I graded his paper in a shitty hotel in Tijuana after missing my flight to Monterrey and being forced to buy a new ticked, so I may have been a little harsh. After looking over it again, I decided that he should have received a higher grade on the exam.

I got a grade change form, but it says that “no change of grade may be made on the basis of reassessment of the quality of the student’s work.” The question: is changing his grade a reassessment or not? It seems to me that it can go either way. On one hand, I read the paper once (in a shitty hotel) and gave it a grade, and then read it later (in Potrero Chico) and gave a slightly higher grade. This sure looks like a reassessment.

Yet I probably should have given him the second grade the first time through, which makes it look more like a clerical error than anything else. At the very least, this second way of looking at it doesn’t imply that a drastic reassessment occurred, merely that a mistake was made the first time around and now it must be fixed.

But what a shitty rule this “no reassessment” policy is. What if a multiple choice test is graded using the wrong answer key? If you put it back through the machine, isn’t this a reassessment of the quality of the student’s work? And of course changing a grade for this reason is ok. This rule is shit, and I’m sure it only exists to cut down on paperwork in the registrar’s office. Well maybe if they weren’t so damn lazy over there, we teachers could do our job with skillz.

January 27, 2008


I spent last weekend in Hawaii, surfing, beaching, snorkeling, running, jumping, all the things you do in Hawaii. I only had three days on the island, but hey, when that's all you've got. I even ate some fish because I'm the world's worst vegetarian. I can justify it because fish don't have souls, and I should know, I'm a philosopher.

Amna and I got this awesome couples photo. I had an asian guy take it for us, I figured they must be the best tourist photographers out there, if not for natural ability then out of sheer practice and repetition. I must be in fifty chinese family/couples photos from my trip last summer. Dudes would ask me to be in a photo with their girlfriends, umm...ok. Creepy, but ok.

I leave you with Amna Superstar. Yay!

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January 23, 2008

Moral Intuitions

Here is what I do all day, read smut like this:
"Julie and Mark are brother and sister. They are traveling together in France on summer vacation from college. One night they are staying alone in a cabin near the beach. They decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. At very least it would be a new experience for each of them. Julie was already taking birth control pills, but Mark uses a condom too, just to be safe. They both enjoy making love, but they decide not to do it again. They keep that night as a special secret, which makes them feel even closer to each other. What do you think about that, was it OK for them to make love?"

So what are the thoughts on this? If there is something wrong with this forbidden love, what is it? Can you give reasons? Whatever the reasons are, they shouldn't appeal to the negative consequences of inbreeding - there were two forms of birth control used. And they shouldn't appeal to the repercussions on their relationship, it got better afterwards. So why is this wrong?

I just read an interesting paper on this. Haidt argues that we don't reason our way to moral judgments, but instead are driven by our gut feelings towards the situation. Reason merely plays an after the fact role in justifying our intuitive feelings. This is partly why this example is so strange (the other one is that it involves incest, eeewwwwww). Our gut reactions are separated from reason because nothing bad happens - reason can't come to the aid of our moral intuitions.

Strange huh, the idea that we don't reason through these things but merely feel them. Also, sex with a sibling is creepy. But is it creepier than masturbating with a chicken before cooking and eating it? But that is another paper for another time.

January 16, 2008

The Return

I've been horribly neglectful of my blogger duties. Let me begin by finishing off my trip to mexico. So here it is, The Return:

I left Tecolutla because I had a seminar to get back in time for. Unfortunately, all of the buses were booked because of the holdays. So I had to be creative. An hour ride got me to Poza Rica, then a three hour wait, then a 1:00 am bus to Puebla, then an hour wait, then a two hour bus to mexico city, then getting lost on the metro, picking up a bag I left, more metro, then waiting in the airport. I was on standby, and I spoke with a woman who had been waiting since 5:00 am to get on a flight with no luck. In fact, no one on the waitlist had found an open spot all day.

So I waited in apathy an depression. This photo here is after eight hours in the airport. You can literally see my spirit dying in atrophy. That's right, I'll use "literally" however the hell I want to.

Dumb luck and charm got me a flight, last of the evening, only one who got on it. I was so late, one of the workers ran to the terminal with me, on the phone calling the gate to hold the plane for me.

I crossed the border with $15 in pesos and a passport, nothing else since I lost my cell phone in Monterrey and got my wallet stolen in Mexico City. I needed to get a hold of Amna who was waiting to pick me up, but I had no change. And it was 1:30 am so everything was closed. I tried calling collect, but no dice on her cell phone. So I traded a cabbie some pesos for change, but you can't make long distance calls from pay phones anymore with cash, you've got to use a card. Fuck. So close, but fuck. I finally borrowed a drunk's cell. I got home at 3:30 am. It was nearly 30 hours of travel, shit.

So now the quarter has begun. Damn. Damn. I need to climb more.

January 06, 2008


The theme today is rooms. We really found some winners in Mexico. After a day in Puebla putzing around town, seeing one of latin america's largest pyramids buried under a hill (it looked like any fucking hill to me), and doing you know all that stuff, Jesse and I found the most amazing hotel. Square, two stalls in the corner, one for showering, one for the toilet. You lock the toilet stall from the outside. Jesse was showering, I was peeing, we high-fived.

Then we left for the small beach town of Tecolutla, I'm still not entirely sure why. We wanted a beach, the decent ones on the west coast were too far away, the close ones in the gulf were too polluted, so somehow we ended up seven hours away by party bus.

Jesse found us another sweet place, renting out a space from The Dude out of The Big Lebowski. It wasn't so much a hotel as not a hotel, Jesse saw The Dude drinking beer out front after reading this sign advertising rooms. We realized later that Jesse mistranslated the wall - this was the Dude's attempt at putting his house on the market. He said interest was limited, but there were buyers. I said he should advertise on craigslist instead.

It started raining, so the beach was basically a bust. We spent New Year's Eve drinking tequila in the square surrounded by a bunch of mexican families. The three of us and the Dude were the only gringos in town, but I think we had enough tequila to do a decent job of fitting in.

We took a boat ride through the mangroves with The Captain the next day. When we first met him he was simply trashed, and he was fucking hilarious, so we decided to come back the next day for an adventure. He wasn't nearly as much fun on the hangover.

I had an epic return, over 30 hours traveling, crossing the border at 1:30 am with no wallet or cell phone and just $15 in pesos. Can't talk about it now, still too soon, too traumatic. Give me a day.

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January 05, 2008

Mexico South

The update. I left Potrero Chico to get a look at the south of mexico. So the party relocated - flew into Mexico City, met Eleonor at the airport, met Jesse at the hotel, new surroundings, new trip plan. No more climbing rocks, what nonsense, now it's all about the volcanoes.

After a day in the city we bussed over to a small town at the base of Ixta, not the badass volcano we originally planned on, but considering we didn't have warm clothes or boots of crampons, we thought it might be a little more...I don't know, close to the realm of possibility.

So towards La Muerte, we taxied up to the trail head to find it closed. We spent the night at 12,000 ft in some strange and empty visitor's center we found at the gate. I've never seen anything like it, we had the whole place to ourselves to do with as we pleased. The night guard even locked us in to keep the bandits from stealing out stuff. How strange, knowing there is a padlock between you and the outside world.

We hitched a ride to the trail head the next morning, ate some fucking awesome quesadillas at 13,000 feet, then hiked up to a hut at 15,000. That's pretty high, pretty fucking high to sleep at. But luckily sleep wasn't an issue, since the elevation, mice, a party of goobers, and a creepy kilo of meat kept us from getting any.

At 4:00 am Jesse and I went for the summit, watched the sun rise, crossed a glacier, and stood on top of Ixta, at 17,104 ft, the seventh highest peak in north america and the third highest volcano. It was pretty much miserable, I realize again how much I despise climbing mountains. It's boring, tiring, and a lot of work. I'll stick to rocks until I forget this lesson learned. Probably next summer I'll do something stupid like this again.

But the most irritating part of the whole thing was the lack of information. There is some shitty guide, probably the worst guide I've ever seen, and a little on the internet, but none of it is reliable. We didn't know if we needed ice axes (most people said yes, but we didn't), or crampons (most said yes, but we didn't), or a tent (once again, glad I hauled this fucking thing up the mountain), or where to sleep, or where to leave our shit, or how long it was (anywhere from 3 to 10 hours to the top we were told), or if there was water on the mountain (lots of yes, but there wasn't).

We were the only whiteys on the mountain when we did it, but when we got down there were three other groups going up. I felt like the platonic ideal of knowledge, telling everything Truth that I now knew so well. Everyone else climbing the thing was decked out in snow pants, crampons, high-teck gear, while I did it in tennis shoes and khakis.

Got down and bussed to Puebla. More to come.

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