Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

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brooklyn to manhattan (minding the gap)

July 22, 2010

I’m in New York City. Alone. It’s sort of trippy, not least because I’m moving around a lot each night. My car’s well out of the city, parked Somewhere Safe, and this is the first time in about two months that I’ve been this far from it. My van’s my home right now, and it makes me nervous not to be able to check on it constantly.

No matter. I’ve been riding the subway a lot, as one does here, and it is a peculiar kind of delight. I have, and always have had, a deep fear of the vestibules on trains; I think it’s some combination of dangerous liminal spaces and really loud noises, but I can barely breathe when the doors between cars are open. That said, that’s not the gap they warn you about on the subway; the announcer is always sweetly reminding you to keep your toes and fancy high heels out of the small gap between the train and the platform. That gap does not alarm me, because I know what’s down there: train tracks, cigarette butts, and a lot of gum. But the open vestibule does alarm me, because that gap still exists while we’re hurtling under the city at deafening speed, and because there is no guarantee of what exactly exists in that space.

My Gap Anxiety is a constant motif of this grand roadtrip of mine, but I have a hard time explaining it while sober. To save everyone a lot of angst, and myself a lot of liver damage, I’ve drawn a picture for y’all:

I am highly-trained in design and presentation. You can tell from my skillful use of Microsoft Paint.

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To begin:

June 25, 2010

There is, within the confines of my mens, an abstraction of the world by which I percieve it– the world, that is. Since there is no way to actually process the physical world into meaningful semantic categories of analysis without abstracting, I abstract. It is the first step of removal. There are ways to undo this process– language, especially referential language, is a way of externalizing that inner world in which “I,” or my first-level abstraction of myself, reside, by turning these thoughts into physical actions of my body which can code and then be decoded by other people back into their own abstraction of the physical world. However, since there is an inherent and inalienable gap between my first-level abstraction and the physical world, there is no way of ever knowing that the signifiers and signs I choose to use in my physical actualization of my abstraction will be construed to signify the exact same set of conditions and categories when some listener percieves and decodes the physical language into their own idea of the world.

This, my darlings, is the semantic gap. It is a yawning chasm which has long woken me up at night, shaken me from myself in terror. It is also the gap that some choose to stare into, in hopes of seeing beyond; the notion is that it is possible, and indeed preferable, to encounter the truth of the world without mistaking that truth for the abstraction we use to represent it.

This first-level abstraction doesn’t always cause the big problems, though. We then further abstract the first model, which is our understanding of the physical world as it exists in categories and events, into a second model, which is our story of ourselves. Our second-level abstraction is the way we categorize for analysis more complex things, like emotions and philosophies and dreams and imaginations and free will as it pertains to events in the world. It is drawing connections between categories, drawing causal links and formulae to help us understand what is ultimately too massive and unorganized to otherwise be comprehended; our whole idea of the world as it exists is too big, so we sort the piles of “things that are grass” and “things that are me” and “events of breathing” and “events of falling” into “things that are objects” and “things that are events” and “things that I like.” That last one is excessively complex, because it requires both a conception of “I,” which is some prototypical me-ness sublimated from a series of events and things that I’ve observed in the world, and it also requires a conception of “liking,” which is some prototypical emotion sublimated from a series of events and things that I’ve observed in the world.

Let me back up one step: people are not people. People are a series of events and things.

Let me back up one more step: I’m on this road trip, see.

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Processing Speed and Performance

March 3, 2009

Usually it’s not a it deal if I stretch the stats a little while running complex programs, but lately whenever I’ve got a complex program going my CPU craps out for a minute or two at a time, overheats, goes to standby, comes back.

Oh, yeah, and my computer’s behaving a little funny, too.

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Somnatic Computation

January 29, 2009

So this quarter I’m taking my first-ever Java programming class. It is sort of the “easy” introduction– the class designed specifically for non-computer-majors, which is nice. I’m enjoying the class and the subject, largely because it has the same satisfaction for me as Syntax did last spring, and as knitting and algebra and crossword puzzles do. It’s a very methodical, analytical, segmented activity, with definite right and wrong answers– but still a lot of room for (and need for) creativity. It’s challenging, but incredibly rewarding.

Anyways. Yesterday I got to sleep in pretty late, which was nice.  I did set my alarm for eight, because I knew I had to spend most of the day running back and forth between my various departments to try and declare my second major.  However, having been up until roughly two the night before, I went through about an hour of snooze-button abuse. During that, I dreamed I was programming in Java (on the Processing platform, as it were). The noise of the alarm-clock was, in my dream, the error message for when I made a syntax error or somesuch in the code. It was incredibly frustrating, but I was scared to delete anything because I knew there were multiple errors and I didn’t want to accidentally delete something useful. There is a lovely solution already built into Java for this, though– by making something a “comment” the compiler no longer reads a certain line or block as code. So I can go like this:

this is valid code

//this is a one-line comment

/*this is a block comment,

or messed-up code that I want to

remove without deleting */

this is more code

When you put the slashes in front of a line, the whole line automatically turns a light grey to distinguish it. Only, in my dream I wasn’t doing that in the text editor that Processing gives. Instead, I was commenting out people. Like, my friends and acquaintances. I was being very methodical about it, doing them all at once and then un-commenting them one by one to check which ones were proper and which ones were flawed. In fact, when I commented out, they went into greyscale. It was all very two-dimensional and hazy, especially due to the alarm clock jerking me out of it every eight minutes.