Continued elsewhere

I've decided to abandon this blog in favor of a newer, more experimental hypertext form of writing. Come over and see the new place.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Emacs hack: yank URL from Chrome (on Mac)

Damn is this going to be useful:

(defun yank-chrome-url ()
 "Yank current URL from Chrome"
  (require 'apples-mode)
  (apples-do-applescript "tell application \"Google Chrome\"
 get URL of active tab of first window
end tell"
    #'(lambda (url status script)
        ;; comes back with quotes which we strip off
        (insert (subseq url 1 (1- (length url)))))))

I suppose I should have separate blogs for stupid hacks and Deep Contemplations of the Nature of Things, but who has the time to manage multiple web presences?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Lambda the ultimate incantation

I endorse this:
Thus, I believe it is understand programming languages as the latest instance of a dream and set of technologies developed by mystics, alchemists, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. These languages do not just represent things, they also do things in the world. They are both symbolic and material in form. They are central to the disenchantment of the world and, simultaneously, the substrate for a "reenchantment of the world." They are, to sacrilegiously misappropriate the lexicon of the Catholic Church, "the word incarnate." Programming languages melt the boundaries between science and religion because they are an unholy union of the two.
-- Warren Sack, The Software Arts (forthcoming)

(for more on this project, see here).

Computation is the intersection of quite a few different things: science and religion, mathematics and language, engineering and psychology, and more. I don't know that these unions are exactly unholy, but let's just say they tend to have relationship problems.

Friday, October 03, 2014

The Sacred and the Rational

At Burning Man, the Temple of Grace was something like the sacral center to the whole chaotic affair, an oasis of silence and tranquility amidst the noise, a place of meditation, where people went to commemorate and mourn the dead.

I made quite a few visits there, but my first was in the company of some friends, including the one who diagnosed irony in my dancing. He՚s a big-time rationalist, and I had an urge to start an argument/discussion with him there, to grill him on what the rationalist idea of the sacred was, how these two things were supposed to co-exist in his worldview. I did not do this, because that very urge seemed to go against the mood of the place, it would have been an attempt to generate heat and words in a place of calm and quiet. He (I assume) makes his own peace between reason and sacrality, and why should I trouble that peace at that moment? Quieting mental chatter, internal and external, also seems to go hand-in-hand with the sacred.

But I couldn՚t help mull over the opposition in my own mind, and am apparaently still doing so. Reason wants to break down and analyze and measure everything, the sacred exists outside all of that. The sacred is definitionally beyond reason, beyond all forms of contaminating human inquisition. It is that which demands the highest respect, and in that sense is the same for all religions and rituals. You don՚t have to believe in any particular god or creed to recognize it, and if you aren՚t a jerk you respect other people՚s sense of the sacred even when you disagree with their beliefs. It is that which can՚t be argued with. My own tendency to argue with everything gets put on hold (partially and temporarily) in its presence.

It is almost Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and I am going to go be part of that (with the usual doubt and reluctance that apparently doesn՚t matter all that much). Ritual tunes up your relationship with the sacred. It is apparently something I need to do; probably something most people need to do.

Given our multicultural society there is not much that is held universally sacred. The minimal sacred object is personhood, the inner core of every person that deserves respect no matter how wrong, assholic, or fucked up they happen to be. That may not be enough, there is something about the sacred that demands public ritual. But it՚s better than nothing.

Previous Yom Kippur-related posts also seem to touch on this notion of that which is beyond language and reason. Hm. I am getting almost tediously repetitive. Maybe I need to call it a ritual.