The Longest Now

In eternal rhyme: as Cyberiad draws nigh, a tiny Lem shrine
Sunday March 25th 2018, 1:49 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,noetic,poetic justice

Stanislaw Lem‘s Cyberiad is a miracle of 20th century literature.

In particular, the poems of Trurl’s Electronic Bard, and the story itself, remain one of the best bits of writing I know.  So I’m preserving here the Bard’s poems, in as many translated languages as I can find.


Phlogoisticosh. Rhomothriglyph. Floof.

Pev’t o’ tay merlong gumin gots,
Untle yun furly pazzen ye,
Confre an’ ayzor, ayzor ots,
Bither e furloss bochre blee!

Mockles! nt on silpen tree,
Blockards three a-feening,
Mockles, what silps came to thee
In they pantry dreaming?

Oft, in that wickless chalet all begorn,
Where whilom soughed the mossy sappertort
And you were wont to bong–

{Responding to Klapaucius’s taunts…}

The Petty and the Small
Are overcome with gall
When Genius, having faltered, fails to fall.

Klapaucius too, I ween,
Will turn the deepest green
To hear such flawless verse from Trurl’s machine.

Have it compose a poem — a poem about a haircut! But lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom!  Six lines, cleerly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter s!!

Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.

Now all in g! A sonnet, trochaic hexameter, about an old cyclotron who kept sixteen artificial mistresses, blue and radioactive, had four wings, three purple pavilions, two lacquered chests, each containing exactly one thousand medallions bearing the likeness of Czar Murdicog the Headless…

Grinding gleeful gears, Gerontogyron grabbed
Giggling gynecobalt-60 golems

Let’s have a love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics.  Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit.

Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustrum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I’ll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou’lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love’s lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not — for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a²cos2ф!

{And found among the poet’s papers…}

Arms, and machines I sing, that, forc’d by fate,
And haughty Homo’s unrelenting hate,
Expell’d and exil’d, left the Terran shore…


“‘I participate in contact origami’, The Book”, The Movie
Thursday March 09th 2017, 8:48 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,noetic

Footprints in a self-similar river. The occasional passing act of will that remains and is amplified downstream, so that at some future moment, perhaps fording at another spot altogether, you discover a print announcing to you alone that you have been there before.

screen-shot-2017-03-09-at-5-33-45-pmA decade ago, I once spent too long creating a stylesheet for a tiny “how-to” template: the numbers in boxes laying out a three-step process, whether to switch fonts, bold, padding, background and border colors. Making the css just right to work on screens of all sizes.

It looked something like this.  >>

In fact, almost exactly like that.  Some things worked, some didn’t.  I tried to add padding to the left of the roman numerals, tried to remove the pixel of whitespace above the bordered boxes, without success.  Should the roman numerals be left-aligned but the boxed text centered?  Since then, scores of similar templates have copied and remixed it, changing text and context but not style.  The color palette I settled on, almost content with it, shows up on hundreds of pages. It would now take a script and many hours to find and tweak each instance of the design.

I run across one myself every few months, and experience river-shock: the sense of seeing something simple you did once that has a quiet, pervasive mark that cannot be undone.  This is quite different from the sense of pride or dismay that comes from seeing the expected result of a major endeavor: a book in someone’s hands, a clinic building in use or in disrepair, a student now teaching others.

Another memory: One week I set about compiling a collection for a museum, a complete series of parts, diagrams and XO laptops: a few boxes full.  I had sent background context by mail, but at the last minute took a fine-tipped sharpie and attached clarifying notes to post-its on each cluster.

Years later, visiting the museum with a friend, I ran across the display as part of a history of computing; the electronics beautifully preserved as I had hoped, as I saw with pride.  And – river shock – a handful of my post-its, with small diagrams and 8pt-font notes to the curator, exactly where I had placed them.  Anyone with access to the materials could have chosen one of each and put them in a box; my handwriting made it seem like my own workdesk, enclosed in perspex and on display.

On occasion a visitor will find one of the historical texts I’ve preserved against linkrot and plagiarism, like the acquiantance checking up on the man trapped in Charles de Gaulle airport, or a friend running across their favorite college essay or spellpoem, and I have a shadow of that frisson.  A passing fancy, created to be found anonymously by others, appearing at least once more in the endless river of daily life.

The Memetic Zoo – Collaborative space where woke creatures share slang
Monday January 23rd 2017, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,noetic,poetic justice

January is gray, and this now is the Ur-Jan, but today for a change was bright.  Thanks to the snain, red lettering, h’rissa and light.

And to you, dear Reader, for truth, presence, and ideas catalysed in telling – rarities that should be commonplaces. And for this box of potential thoughts about thoughts I will think Thursday.

I still have so many things to ask: what you know of supersimultaneity, quantified serendipity, if you feel a cool thrill in the small of your back when a crux or potentiality approaches, foreshadowing and afterimages. Sometimes I wake with the certainty I must pursue such things with all who might answer, before my pulse cools and I file it away as dream residue for review. Next time.

Today drew out instead improvements in preservation and propagation: idiogenics, cryogenic Seed Vaults and Culture Vaults, a vicariant Greenland. Advances in meme propagation as a critical piece of biological development, including RNA and human speech, but countless other innovations besides. Revisited a recurring dream of a summer camp (memezoo!) for animals who have learned to communicate with humans, to demonstrate relevant universalities.  These prodigies & their humans could spend time with the most precocious of their own species, sharing their newfound memetics, solving puzzles together, creating cross-species pidgins and developing contextual slang, to see what emerges // a place where Batyr and Kosik could have met, and Kanzi could build language bridges with more than just his step-sister.

And what is Earth herself but a planet methodically coated by a memetic zoo?  Once we have a more balanced sense of non-human memetics, we may be able to see our own more clearly, in both historical and current context.

techsolidThen Tech Sølidarity met in a converted warehouse, 150 people totally focused on the moment, technologists listening and thinking for over an hour. At most a handful of computers out, checking data or taking notes for the room. But the same narrow cross-section as before, 80% men, 90% white.

We agended aligning national efforts towards: visualizing data for local politics, streamlining calls to city pols; visualizing gerrymandering & voter disempowerment; securing voting machines; coordinating and sustaining responses to alt-facts (like the Guardian’s dangerously wrong WhatsApp bashing); listing things tech design decisions have broken & proposing fixes; devising mottos for technologists (Protect the Vulnerable?); building toolkits for curators and reviewers to ward off vandals and trolls.  And finally, looking for interfaith groups holding similar gatherings of religious leaders, with which we might cross-pollinate.

I worked with the group gathering voting-machine tech & policy wonks who could provide checklists and advice that we could adopt and share with city councils and mayors. We glissed an arpeggio of steps from procurement & policy to auditing & security, which could each be adopted by someone. Only pranksters whispered about blockchain, but agreed we needed a tacky sign to raise whenever the word came up. Next time.

They too agreed not to wait too long before the next, and to endeavour|fail|evolve rather than simply passing on the meme.

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