Saturday, December 01, 2007

I Still Wonder What Would Have Happened If My Twin Had Managed to Eat Me First

I actually make a decent living out of going to the blogs of people I know and leaving annoying comments.

For some reason I tend to write poems in pairs - and in the sense that one eats up the other, they're sometimes like fetal twins.

Posted by: Scoplaw | November 29, 2007 at 02:34 PM

What are the chances! You write poems the same way I get STDs!

Posted by: Scott Scheule | November 29, 2007 at 03:37 PM

Read the Scop's response here.

The Scoplaw metaphors a good simile, but is still held back by his complete inability to write in rhyme. That's why he's getting another Dr. Seuss book this Christmas.

UPDATE: I've gotten like ten emails from people already asking, "Did you really eat your twin?" I'm tempted to respond "What Happens in the Womb, Stays in the Womb"--the Supreme Court will back me up here--but that's not really apropos, since this only happened three months ago. Anyway, it was him or me, loosely interpreted, and sharks do the same thing.

Works Cited

The true elements of the material world, Timaeus says, are not earth, air, fire, and water, but two sorts of right-angled triangles, the one which is half a square and the one which is half an equilateral triangle... The above two sorts of triangles, we are told, are the most beautiful forms, and therefore God used them in constructing matter. By means of these two triangles, it is possible to construct four of the five regular solids, and each atom of one of the four elements is a regular solid. Atoms of earth are cubes; of fire, tetrahedra; of air, octahedra; and of water, icosahedra. (I shall come to the dodecahedron presently.)...

The regular tetrahedron, octahedron, and icosahedron, have equilateral triangles for their faces; the dodecahedron has regular pentagons, and cannot therefore be constructed out of Plato's triangles. For this reason he does not use it in connection with the four elements.

As for the dodecahedron, Plato says only "there was yet a fifth combination which God used in the delineation of the universe." This is obscure, and suggests that the universe is a dodecahedron; but elsewhere it is said to be a sphere. The pentagram has always been prominent in magic... It seems that it owed is properties to the fact that the dodecahedron has pentagons for its faces, and is, in some sense, a symbol of the universe.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Absolute Equality

Russell critiques Plato's argument that knowledge is just recollection.

Take the concept of equality. We must admit that we have no experience, among sensible objects, of exact equality; we see only approximate equality. How, then, do we arrive at the idea of absolute equality? Or do we, perhaps, have no such idea?

Russell clearly falls into the "we have no idea of absolute equality camp."

Plato's answer, on the other hand, is that knowledge is recollection, so even if we had no experience in this life of absolute equality, we did in some past existence.

This is a plank in his argument for immortality, which in Russell's presentation is not persuasive. For one, why must a priori knowledge come from past existence--why not, I don't know, from some form of pure (non-empirical) reason? Surely the Plato of the world of ideas must entertain that such abstract ratiocination is possible. But even if a priori knowledge is from a past life, must past existence guarantee future existence? Russell really rips the immortality argument apart.

At the same time, even if Plato's observation doesn't get him where he wants it to go, the observation that we possess a priori knowledge (from somewhere!) is nonetheless sound. Not to Russell:

Let us take a concrete case. The metre is defined as the length of a certain rod in Paris at a certain termperature. What should we mean if we said, of some other rod, that its length was exactly one metre? I don't think we should mean anything. We could say: The most accurate processes of measusement known to science at the present day fail to show that our rod is either longer or shorter than the standard metre in Paris... But this is still an empirical statement, in the sense that empirical evidence may at any moment disprove it. I do not think we really possess the idea of absolute equality that Plato supposes us to possess.

Quine spent some time hammering at the synthetic-analytic distinction. I feel this is surely related to Russell's criticism of the a priori/a posteriori divide, but I regret my current inability to explain how.

Either way, this whole explanation by Russell doesn't do a thing for me. Now, I agree with Plato, we'll never see absolute equality in nature. Nonetheless, I have complete faith, and I really don't see how Russell cannot, that I could recognize a rod exactly one meter should I ever come across it. At present, I can also accurately recognize a rod that is not exactly one meter. (By meter, in all this, I use Russell's definition: "The length of that rod in Paris"). Moreover, not only could I recognize such equality, I can even imagine it. It takes virtually no effort to dream up two absolutely equal rods--how do I do this if I have not the knowledge Russell denies?

This is all wishful thinking on Russell's part. People don't like the irksome problem of "Where do we get our premises from?" (Russell even admits this puzzle earlier). Grounding them as deductive won't do, since deduction can only produce conclusions from premises thrown in, and empirical knowledge produces the same endless line of justification (how do we know we know we know?) So we either deny such premises exist or distract ourselves by harping on the empirical side of the divide, where our starting points are more universal and thus, more apt to escape notice.

Incidentally, Russell has a better criticism of Plato's argument, so far as immortality goes. Even, says he, if we grant that we have a notion of absolute equality, it would seem to only be possessed by fully reasoning adults, certainly not newborns. Where are these supposed memories of the immortal child before he learns to properly reason? Held in escrow somewhere?

Works Cited

These [Pythagorean] studies are not to be pursued in any utilitarian spirit, but in order to prepare [the young man's] mind for the vision of eternal things. In astronomy, for example, he is not to trouble himself too much about the actual heavenly bodies, but rather with the mathematics of the motion of ideal heavenly bodies. This may sound absurd to modern ears, but, strange to say, it proved to be a fruitful point of view in connection with empirical astronomy...

The apparent motions of the planets, until they have been very profoundly analysed, appear to be irregular and complicated, and not at all such as a Pythagorean Creator would have chosen... The problem thus arose: is there any hypothesis which will reduce the apparent disorderliness of planetary motions to order and beauty and simplicity?... Aristarchus of Samos found such a hypothesis: that all the planets, including the earth, go round the sun in circles. This view was rejected for two thousand years, party on the authority of Aristotle... It was revived by Copernicus, and its success might seem to justify Plato's aesthetic bias in astronomy. Unfortunately, however, Kepler discovered that the planets move in ellipses, not in circles, with sun at a focus, not at the centre; then Newton discovered that they do not move even in exact ellipses.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

Philosophy, for Plato, is a kind of vision, the "vision of truth." It is not purely intellectual; it is not merely wisdom, but love of wisdom... Everyone who has done any kind of creative work has experienced, in a greater or less degree, the state of mind in which, after long labour, truth, or beauty, appears, or seems to appear, in a sudden glory...

This experience, I believe, is necessary to good creative work, but it is not sufficient; indeed the subjective certainty that it brings with it may be fatally misleading. William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was: "A smell of petroleum prevails throughout."

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

My Physical

You know you're a grownup when you're able to make small talk while a complete stranger is prodding your junk like there was something written down there in Braille.

I love being interviewed about my health. It's nothing spectacular, but what a feeling of accomplishment to hear a huge list of possible maladies and answer I've had none. "Ever had rickets?" "No!" "Heart disease?" "Nope!" "Hearing problems?" "Never!" "Cancer?" "Nada!" "Sleep apnea?" "Nuh-uh." "Been sodomized by a European man in the middle of a bathhouse?" "Does Turkey count as Europe?" "No." "Nope!"

I'm flattered that the older I get the more parts of my body people seem to be interested in. Nooks and crannies that previously weren't getting much play nowadays are at the top of the doctor's list.

Constantly saying "Like what you see?" may seem funny in your head, but it really just makes the exam longer and more awkward.

You've got the option between complete nudity and a paper gown. Paper gown? Bullshit. I've already had to scribble my name on a paper cup full of my own urine, do I really have that much pride left to protect?

"How many times a week do you drink?" "I never drink. Now ask me how many times a week I lie to doctors."

In sum, I'll be alive for a long, long time, and will be bouncing around the universe long after wearing out my welcome.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

From the Archives

I generally hate anything I've written more than a week in the past. I don't know if this indicates that I'm getting smarter at an exponential rate (though i am--i've even evolved beyond the need for proper Capitalization) or that my typical blog post is just intellectual refuse my brain needs to occasionally crap out, but the fact remains that any Scheule writing that's older than your current carton of milk is one I'll happily disavow.

Nonetheless, on a whim I just read an old post of mine at Catallarchy, and I still like it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

That's Not Funny!

I just spent an hour trying to find a doctor, and I don't care what kind, who will write me a prescription for Paxil (I had gone to the Georgetown Law Clinic for my seratonin-adjusting needs, but since they tricked me into graduating, I don't think I'm welcome there). Since I'm at work, God knows what the ten coworkers of mine within earshot of my cubicle think of my acceleratingly desperate pleas for mood-enhancing drugs to various physicians in the greater Washington DC area. I'm so tempted right now to exert a huge sigh, then audibly pretend to place an order for some handgun ammo.

(Finally found someone, a nice father and son practice in Arlington. Incidentally, Aetna, your website fucking sucks. Either update your information or disable the Find a Doc feature. I called at least a dozen places that reported "We no longer accept Aetna" [which, let me tell you, inspires a lot of confidence in my healthcare provider] or "Hi, this is Starbucks-formerly-the-Mental-Health-Center-of-Howard-University-Hospital.")

I know what you're wondering, and no, baristas do not have prescription pads. Those are solely the province of the manager, and that guy wouldn't give me anything unless I agreed to come in and buy a triple espresso first.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Also Managed to Smack My Own Ass

So your typical racquetball round between Jay and me consists of a few solid shots with every successive return requiring more and more complex acrobatics to reach the ball in time. It's like a game of twister--by the fourth return you're typically throwing the racquet at the ball, or hopping on one leg and trying to pull off some weird jump off the wall move you once saw Jean-Claude Van Damme do in Timecop and swinging wildly. Yesterday, I somehow managed to miss a return and slam the racquet into my left hand.

[11:58:12 AM] Scott says: You should see how purple my finger is!

[11:58:27 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: You have a cameraphone. You should blog it.

[11:59:14 AM] Scott says: I don't have a cameraphone. But if I did, the caption would be: "It's like I got to third base with Grimace!"

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Do You See a Duck?" "Nope, Just Some Jerk Holding a Rabbit."

One of my favorite pieces is Turangalîla. Part piano concerto, part tone poem, part symphony, tuneful, glorious exemplar of modernist orchestration, frightening, lush, rhythmic: it's unforgettable.

My Thanksgiving was great. It started Tuesday evening. The Chinatown bus was late, and even though I had a ticket for the 6:00 to Philly, when it finally rolled up at 7:30, there weren't enough seats. So I waited another half-hour for the 8 o'clock. We made decent time, passed a few accidents, but really got sloshed in traffic when we approached Philly on 95, which--I swear to God, for no reason whatsoever--had been closed down to one lane. No construction going on, no accidents, just a line of orange cones corralling us down to single file.

I could complain, but any bus ride when you don't get stuck sitting next to an obese guy is a good bus ride, and this was one of those. I got in at quarter to midnight, and asked David if I could stay with him for the night. So I got to see Paige's and his apartment--finding out your baby, non-attorney brother has a (way!) nicer apartment than you is a fine way of starting any holiday. Wednesday, he took me around Philadelphia and showed me various places where It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia had been filmed, plus some Rocky, and also the bridge under which some guy who'd shot a cop recently had drowned. Since I grew up fifteen minutes from Philly, most of this tour was unnecessary, but the weather was nice. Jacob, who'd agreed to come, called to say he was too sick to make it up. I told him he didn't sound sick.

By the time David and I got to Jersey, I'd guilted Jacob into coming up anyway. We picked him up Thanksgiving morning and brought him home with us, like a starving pup. David, Jacob and I played Scrabble: halfway through the game I tried to use the word "Qualias," which would have won me the game if it had been an actual word.

Much cooking later, Mom had dinner ready. Aunt Suzi, Uncle Pash, their kids, my grandmother and great Aunt, proceeded to eat. I had like a gajillion slices of pecan pie. After dinner, Steven and Michael hooked up their Wii, which I'd never played before. I kicked some ass at Wii-bowling, held my own in Wii-boxing, but Jacob destroyed all of us at Wii-Duck Hunt by entering some kind of bizarre Jedi mindtrance. The next day Mom told me I'd been drunk, but her evidence for that was circumstantial at best: I laughed a lot, made dirty puns, implied Dad was gay, and pissed myself in the middle of the living room (I pointed out I did 3 out of 4 of those items before I even had my first drink).

Jacob went home Friday, which marks the first time he's visited and a beloved member of our family hasn't died. (We broke the streak, Jake! Told you we could do it!) Richard, Erin (Richard's girl), David and I went back into Philly to feed Erin's cats, and her rabbit, Puff. I picked up Puff, turned his head to the side, and said, "Look! Do you see a duck?" No one got the Psych 101 reference (see here), so I sulked for the rest of the day.

The next day was Dad, David, Richard, and Aunt Peggy's birthday party. I gave Dad the first season of the greatest television show on today, The Wire. Richard and I spent some time in the woods, testing out the various forts and swings we'd built in our backyard when we were kids. The tree fort down at the stream had a few steps that gave way under Richard's bulk, but the ravine-swing held together; I got my foot stuck in it and swung over the ravine upsidedown a few times like an animal caught in a snare. I screamed for help and Richard pointed and laughed. We stacked firewood. The next day my entire back was sore, and I've told myself this is because of the firewood stacking and not Wii-boxing.

The bus ride back yesterday was much easier, since I was sleep-deprived and generally snored the entire trip. I spent the day reading Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy and had my most socially dramatic Final Fantasy XI session yet (which my character subsequently wrote about.)

DAVID: Why did Benjamin Franklin do that experiment? Was he just trying to find out if lightning would strike a metal object?

SCOTT: No. He just really hated keys.

Of Course, Spelling is Just a Social kkkonstruct of Privileged White Mails

[12:30:28 PM] Scott says: I'll higher a surrogate.

[12:30:35 PM] Scott says: Man, did I just write higher instead of hire?

[12:30:41 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Yes, you did.

[12:30:48 PM] Scott says: I can spell, just not the write word.

[12:31:50 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: You did not write the right word right, so it's misspelled.

[12:32:36 PM] Scott says: But eye rote the wrong word write!

[12:39:39 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: I cringe every time you do that. Seriously.

[12:39:46 PM] Scott says: I no.