Dinosaur Comics Helped me Find my Philosophy

Dinosaur Panpsychism Explanation I was reading Dinosaur Comics, as it is consistently one of the best comics on the Internet, and T-Rex was explaining panpsychism. Upon reading the first panel (included on the right for copyright violation purposes), I found myself thinking that panpsychism sounded an awful lot like my personal philosophy of the universe. Poking around wikipedia a bit more, as one is oft want to do, I came across a few other philosophical ideas. I don't quite accept panpsychism, preferring the very similar hylopathism.

I feel safe describing my personal philosophy of the universe as hylopathism with weak emergence and an acceptance of the pathetic fallacy. Putting this in simpler terms, I believe that everything in the universe, from the smallest subatomic particle to the largest galaxy, is sentient, aware of and experiencing existence in its own way (hylopathism). All sentience and awareness within so-called higher beings emerges from and may be reduced to the constituent sentience of lower beings (weak emergence). I not only accept but revel in the attribution of human characteristics and emotions onto the inanimate; a small part of me is saddened when a rock is split in two because the atoms on the new surfaces have had their friends torn from them (pathetic fallacy).

I feel that the extension of hylopathism with weak emergence is much the same as strong panpsychism. The single mind that unites all things is simply an emergent entity composed of its sub-entities. To get existential for just a moment, we are all, one and the same within the all-being but, at the same, each our separate individual selves; our liver is at once the same entity as our heart and at the same a totally separate entity. Have you ever considered the sentient nature of your liver? How about the sentient nature of one of your brain cells? How about the sentient nature of one of the hydrogen ions released into your stomach acid? Hydrogen ions are very lonely creatures, a single proton trying as hard as it can to find a friend to share electrons with (loneliness is the pathetic fallacy sneaking in).

There you have it, I believe in hylopathism with weak emergence.

A Not So Pale Lager and A Hefty Tripel

It's time for a beer update. Before I go anywhere, I should like to note that I am a beer brewer and not a beer judge so my descriptive terminology may not be official or even accurate. Now, let's talk about victory; victory and beer.

I cracked open the first bottle of my, supposed to be pale, lager last Saturday to mixed feelings of joy and disappointment. Upon pouring the beer from bottle to glass, it was immediately obvious that my attempt at making a pale lager did not come out very pale. My goal was to produce a very pale lager of 2-4SRM but the result is far closer to 8-12SRM. Accepting that the color might be off but it might still taste like a Pale Lager, I moved on to tasting. Upon tasting the lager, it was clear that I had not accomplished the crisp, clear pale lager style but managed a heavier, hoppier style of lager. Although the beer is in no way pale, it is nonetheless very good; it is an acceptable mistake. I believe that my mistake probably arose from two problems: my malts were too dark and my lagering was not cold enough. I like the beer and I figure it makes for a valiant first attempt at a lager but I will be trying again to see if I can manage a pale lager at some point in the future.

On Tuesday, as a birthday present for myself, I finally tapped my tripel ale keg. Filling a glass, I was greeted with nothing less than a complete fulfillment of my hopes and aspirations. The beer is clear of any haze and has a very nice amber color, give or take, about 15SRM. There is a very pleasant aroma, somewhat fruity and almost candy-like. Upon tasting, I knew that I had met and exceeded my expectations; the flavor is that of a Belgian white beer, smooth, fruity and with a low bitterness, but has the strong malt overtones of a barleywine or conventional tripel ale. The malty character is more subdued and less over powering than that of most barleywines or tripels I have encountered, which suits my preferences. The beer's alcohol content of about 9-12% is very well masked by the flavors of the beer and puts it slightly out of the standard range of a tripel ale, into that of barleywines and quadrupel ales. This beer is, in my opinion, a phenomenal sipping beer, with a heck of a kick to it; it's easily one of the best tripel or quadrupel style ales I've ever had. I will definitely be keeping this recipe and hopefully I'll have ample opportunity to use it again in the future.

I ate a live duckling

As I've noted a few times before, when I remember my dreams, they tend to be quite vivid, if not lucid. My dream of Saturday night was no different and it was odd enough that I still recall it and want to mention it.

<dream>I found myself sitting in an eatery of sorts, enjoying breakfast, an omelet if I recall correctly. Part way through my meal, I noticed a fluffy thing in my mouth, pulled it out and figured it must have been a hair. After finishing my meal, my waitress came over apologizing profusely about something. Normally, a waitress apologizing as emphatically as she was without specifying why would probably frighten me but I wasn't very perturbed this time around. After calmly inquiring into what the problem was, I was informed that a whole live duckling had accidentally made its way into my food. The waitress continued apologizing and asked what she could do to make it up to me. I still wasn't terribly perturbed by the affair so I said that I'd take the cost of my meal as recompense and be done with the matter. It took a little bit of convincing the waitress that I really didn't mind very much and the cost of my meal was sufficient but then I went along my way. Shortly thereafter, I coughed and a whole bunch of soft, underdeveloped, duckling feathers came out. Some nearby children laughed at me but I shrugged it off. Then, I coughed again and out popped a whole live duckling. Now, let me tell you, coughing up a live duckling is a very bizarre experience.</dream>

Let's Talk Voltron

Ok, Internet, I know we've been doing a poor job staying in touch with each other lately and I don't really feel like pointing fingers, so let's put that behind us. After all, right now, I have something important that I want to talk about: Voltron. In my random being up late, eating a snack and watching some television, I happened to partake in a rerun of Voltron on Adult Swim. This rerun led me to a couple of realizations, which I would like to share with you. Realization 1: the Power Rangers were the biggest ripoff of Voltron anyone could have possibly perpetrated; seriously, Power Rangers would have been more aptly titled Voltron: The Live Action Series. Realization 2: Voltron was a terrible show; don't get me wrong, The Transformers was only 90% as glorious rewatching it in my 20s as it was before I was 10 but Voltron, rewatched in my 20s, is terrible. Internet, if you have fond memories of Voltron, please, take my advice don't ever watch it again; let your fond memories remain unclouded for the product itself will fail to deliver.

The Accidental Vintner

For those of you that I haven't told, a while back, I took up brewing beer, wine and the like as hobbies. So far, I've had a pretty fantastic run of things with only a small handful of failures, none of which were terribly unexpected.

My first brewing was sometime last September or October. With the help of my friend Paul, I brewed an Irish Red style Ale. Being our first brewing experience, we used a pre-prepared kit. Earlier on the day we brewed, however, I had gone apple picking with some other housemates so we decided to modify the recipe by tossing a few apples into the wort. The result we obtained after 2 or 3 weeks fermenting and 2 weeks aging/carbonating was really quite good. We had created a nice, smooth Irish Red style Ale, with a mild but notable taste of apple. While we made our way through the first 24 bottles, which had been refrigerated after 2 weeks aging, the remaining 24 had been left in the basement continuing to age. After finishing the first 24 we moved on to the second to discover that they were even smoother but had lost a little of the apple character.

Having succeeded at brewing a tasty beer, I decided to try my hand at various other fermentations so I picked up a number of dry yeast packets at my local brewing store and set at it. I made up three 1 gallon solutions with equal quantities of fermentable sugar: one with cane sugar, one with molasses and one with maple syrup. These were each given a number of weeks to ferment. After fermentation, I gave them each a try and discovered that the molasses "wine", although alcoholic, was totally undrinkable; the sugar "wine" was alcoholic but completely bland (a good result for less than a dollar in raw materials); the maple "wine" was actually rather tasty but not tasty enough for its cost.

After the experimental "wines", I decided to give proper wine a shot (by proper I mean grape flavored, not high quality). I proceeded to make up two large buckets full of wine from Welch's grape juice and sugar (as an adjunct, if you will). the buckets were allowed to ferment for a number of weeks. The wines' fermentation cycles coincided very nicely with the scheduling of a Mardi Gras party my house was throwing. Myself having 8 gallons of really cheap, but not all that bad, wine and throwing a party made for an obvious combination. I set aside 2 gallons of the wine as my "Special Reserve" and used the remainder to produce sangria for the party. The sangria went over very well, tasting so good that it prompted a number of individuals to question whether or not it was alcoholic. Tasting of the wine prior to sangria production and latter consumption of my "Special Reserve" confirmed that the wine was plenty alcoholic. Consumption of the "Special Reserve" also proved quite tasty on a latter date.

My next attempt, which was started whilst the Welch's wines were fermenting was also my greatest failure, a sake. I didn't feel like dealing with koji-kin (it'd take a while to explain, so you can look it up independently) so I decided to go with the old-fashioned way and masticated a whole lot of rice. It was a bit of a gross thing to masticate my way through two gallons of rice but it was an interesting exercise. After adding yeast and waiting a number of weeks, the concoction was a terribly smelling, undrinkable mess. In retrospect, I probably should have pasteurized it before adding the yeast.

Prior to starting the wines, I started my second and third batches of beer. The second was the result discovering that I could disassemble empty beer kegs and fill them with my own beer. That discovered, I set about designing a cross between a Hefeweizen and a Belgian Tripel Ale (two of my favorite beer styles). The Belgian Tripel Weizen designed, I enlisted Paul's aid once more and we set about brewing 18 gallons of beer. The beer was allowed to ferment for two weeks and then the specific gravity was checked. The gravity had not decreased sufficiently so another week was waited, then another and then finally 15.5 gallons of the beer were moved into the keg (Tripel Ales take a long time to ferment due to high sugar content ). It was about two or three weeks ago that the ale was kegged and I am waiting until April 3rd to tap it; I'm giving it plenty of time to condition and this way I can make it a birthday present to myself. All preliminary tests seem to indicate that it will taste fantastic and I am waiting with bated breath.

My third beer attempt started shortly after my second. I figured that the cold Minnesota winter would likely make some place in my house cold enough for lagering. The decision of what sort of a lager didn't take too long; I went with the classic, albeit a little boring, Pale Lager style. Wanting to take the purists approach, I decided to base mine on the original Pale Lager style beer, Pilsner Urquell. This beer has finished its fermentation and just recently finished (as far as I'm concerned) its lagering and was bottled. Preliminary testing suggests that it'll turn out well enough, time now to wait for carbonation.

These, of course, have been all of my intentional brewing adventures. Now, don't get me wrong, I very much enjoy my intentional brewing and have been meaning to mention it here for a while, but this post was inspired by a recent bit of accidental brewing. As a result of preparing and drinking some leftover frozen juice concentrate as plain juice. More specifically, I've been drinking lots of white grape juice and variants thereon. A few days ago, I made up a pitcher full of white grape-pear juice and brought it up to my room. I was drinking the juice slowly and then a few days ago it started to taste a little off. The taste wasn't off enough for me to think anything was amiss but then, two days ago, I noticed some funny spindly things that looked like mold in it. I decided to throw out the spoiled juice but it was late and I was tired so I put off doing so until the next day. Yesterday, the next day, I forgot about the juice for a while, remembering only at a time when I didn't feel like doing anything about it. By yesterday, the spindly things had settled into a beige mass at the bottom of the juice that looked an awful lot like what grows in intentionally fermented beverages. Putting the matter off again, I went to sleep. Today, when I went to check on my pitcher of juice, I noticed that it was bubbly and smelled of alcohol. Without adding yeast, in fact by doing nothing more than leaving a pitcher of juice in my room, I had created wine. This interests and amuses me greatly because it was quite likely the way in which alcohol was originally invented.

Land of the Blind

I recently came across a trailer for the movie Land of the Blind at the beginning of some DVD or other. Strangely, prior to the trailer, I hadn't heard hide nor hair of Land of the Blind. Anyway, working on the premise that the preview seemed mighty neat, I set about finding an opportunity to watch it. Having now watched this film, I have to say that I can't understand why it didn't show up on the radar. Land of the Blind flew so low that there are only 17 reviews of it aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes (as opposed to the more common 200ish).

Anyway, Land of the Blind follows a political revolution in a totalitarian state, from the standpoint of a military underling that befriends the head of the revolution. The movie starts out kind of normal and political but then descends into bizarre and political before finally descending into crazy and confusing. Basically, I feel Land of the Blind has been done a terrible injustice and in order to rectify the matter I am recommending it to you folks. If you're my friend, you'll probably like it (Sherv, Riad, it's right up your alleys).

An Almost Kinda Near Death Experience

As I was walking to my car this morning, an SUV skidded out of control, slid through where I had just crossed the street, slid very quickly off the road and destroyed a street sign. I was unaware of the event until I heard skidding and a crash behind me. Turning around, noting the feigned sense of shame on the driver's face, frozen in the realization that a one or two second delay might have resulted in my death, a very strange thing happened: nothing.

In that moment, a moment so stereotypically connected with enlightenment and self-awareness, I merely paused and then moved on. As I continued on to my car, I thought about how such events play out in movies and wondered why I was being so blasé about the matter. If my life were a movie, this event could have been a nucleating point where I decide that life's too short to be sitting around and crank myself into high gear. I could run off, announce my undying love to the woman who has been set up through the movie as my perfect match and then live happily ever after; I could embark on some great adventure that has amusing trials and tribulations, eventually leading to further enlightenment; I could undertake that risky business plan that leads to incredible fortune; or, any of a handful of other cliché options. Rather than anything interesting, I got in my car and drove to school.

There are plenty of reasons why I might not be terribly struck by my near miss but only a few make any sense to me: perhaps such an event really isn't all that profound; maybe I'm sufficiently pleased with where my life is and where it's going to not want change; perhaps I don't have any goals, desires or aspirations that might drive me to care about my life enough to be shaken up; or, perhaps I'm sufficiently dissociated from risk to properly assign shock and fear to the situation. Between the grim, good and boring options, I haven't made much headway in ascertaining my actual stance; it may be a mix of some or all of them and there might be other options that haven't occurred to me.

Although I don't really seem to be taking anything more lasting and substantial than this blog post, it was an interesting experience to face my own mortality, if but for a moment. In spite of the interestingness of the experience, I'm glad that I'm not injured, hospitalized or dead and don't much want to suffer a repeat of this sort of incident.

2000 Subaru Legacy GT

My old 1993 Ford Explorer finally decided to come to an end when it started leaking gasoline at a truly alarming rate (you could see the puddles and drip trails). I sold the Explorer, right quick, over Craigslist for the reasonable price of $150 (without the stereo system). Then, between my solidly good 2006 tax return and my mother's offer of support, I set out to purchase a new vehicle. My new purchase was intended to be my first purchase of a car in good condition, to date.

I went to a number of dealerships with a very specific set of minimum requirements in mind: 4WD/AWD, ABS, >20MPG, seat 5, have room for my stuff. The first vehicle that I encountered, which met my requirements was a Subaru Outback Sport but, upon test driving, the car made a funny sound and really didn't have much pickup. There turned out to be relatively few cars that met my standards and seemed decent, namely a few Subarus and some Honda CR-Vs. In the end, the specific car that most caught my interest was a 2000 Subaru Legacy GT. The Legacy had 71k miles on it, the cleanest engine that I'd seen, sounded great and felt great during test driving. I ended up buying that Legacy GT and am, really, quite pleased by my purchase.

I'm very happy to have a new car, especially one as nice as the one that I've gotten.

UPDATE: It turns out that the Subaru AWD setup is decidedly not overrated when it comes to handling snow. We had a bit of a snowstorm--just over a foot--and I had needs that were best served by driving to Target and Rainbow (our local grocery chain). There was, as expected, a solid layer of compacted snow sitting on the roads at the time, which allowed for adequate adverse weather handling tests. During the few instances when I found myself losing control, the loss was minimal and control was regained in an instant. I should also like to note that the ABS combined with four disc brakes was quite fantastic in its stopping power. All in all, I am pleased to note that my car meets my adverse weather handling requirements.