Caveat: Friday Blogroll

Blogs (and blog-like-objects) in my browser right now (in a few very broad categories).

Politics, philosophy, culture


  • Wikiart (not really a blog, more like an online collection)


Language, linguistics

A supplementary quote:

“This is war, after all. If it feels good, consider for a moment you might be evil.” – Mike Solana (blog Pirate Wires, above)


Caveat: An Apostate Quaker Parable

An Apostate Quaker Parable

A city denizen was out in the countryside and encountered a sturdy Quaker farmer. After ascertaining that the man was a Quaker, he asked the farmer if he believed in turning the other cheek.

“Yes, Friend, I accept that biblical instruction.”

Whereupon the city man struck the farmer on the left cheek. The farmer simply turned his head. Then the city man struck him on the right cheek.

Whereupon the farmer dropped his hoe and started to roll up his sleeves. Now since the farmer was larger and far more physically fit that the city fellow, the latter started to worry, and blurted out, “What are you doing? I thought you said you believed in following the Biblical command to turn the other cheek?”

“Oh, yes, Friend”, the Quaker farmer replied, “I do. But the Bible is silent on what to do when the other cheek is struck, and now I am going to chastise Thee for being an obnoxious oaf.”


Caveat: Байрактар

“No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war. Before the war you always think that it’s not you that dies. But you will die, brother, if you go to it long enough.” – Ernest Hemingway

What I’m listening to right now.

Unknown, “Байрактар.” This song is quite morbid, and glorifies death and war and patriotism, which are dangerous sentiments. I freely acknowledge that it is Ukrainian war propaganda, which makes me uncomfortable. Yet I found myself transfixed by it – as a composition (video and song, together), it’s coherent and well-crafted, though insanely simple. I’d hazard the opinion that it’s a kind of 21st century bardism. The title, Bayraktar, is the name of a high-tech, Turkish-made, drone-based weapons system, which the Ukrainians have been deploying to devastating effect on Putin’s columns of tanks and supplies.


Прийшли окупанти до нас в Україну
Форма новенька, воєнні машини
Та трохи поплавився їх інвентар
Байрактар… Байрактар…

Російскі танкісти сховались в кущі,
Щоб лаптем посьорбати довбані щі
Та трохи у щах перегрівся навар
Байрактар… Байрактар…

Зі сходу припхались до нас барани
Для вастанавлєнья велікай страни.
Найкращій пастух баранячих отар
Байрактар… Байрактар…

Їх доводи – всяке озброєня різне:
Потужні ракети, машини залізні.
У нас на всі доводи є коментар –
Байрактар… Байрактар…

Вони захопити хотіли нас зразу
І ми зачаїли на орків образу.
З бандитів російських робить примар
Байрактар… Байрактар…

Російска поліція справи заводить
Но вбивцю рашистів ніяк не знаходить.
Хто ж винен, що в нашому полі глухар?
Байрактар… Байрактар…

Веде пропаганду кремлівський урод,
Слова пропаганди ковтає народ.
Тепер нове слово знає їх цар:


Caveat: Friday Blogroll

Blogs (and blog-like-objects) in my browser right now (in a few very broad categories).

Rationalist and adjacent

Philosophy, politics, language, culture

Technology, design


Caveat: comedian-in-chief

The current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, worked as an actor and as a comedian before becoming president.

In this very short bit, he and another comedian review the history of Ukraine-Russia relations.

– Ukraine has always conned Russia!
– Oh, please, it can’t be understood.
– Ukraine has Russia one day…
– and Russia has Ukraine the next!

I don’t very often spend time on youtube, but after finding that short video clip, I ended up spending more than an hour watching some of Zelenskyy’s oeuvre, including an episode of the sitcom that he produced and starred in (in which he plays an everyman that becomes president) that propelled him, via a bewildering life-imitates-art trajectory, to the presidency.


Caveat: various -dles

There is a fad circulating online, for a little online word-game called “Wordle.” It’s okay, I guess. Just a little word-guessing game, and perhaps part of what draws people to it is that you’re only allowed to play once a day, which creates a kind of artificial scarcity.

Frankly, there’s a variation on Wordle called Absurdle that I like better. Unlike Wordle, you’re allowed to play as much as you want. But it’s much, much more frustrating. That’s because instead of the puzzle choosing a random word and you having to guess it, this version makes the puzzle “hostile” – if you guess the word the computer has chosen, but other options are available, the computer will change its mind, and move to a different word. So you’re trying to guess at a moving target. It’s exactly like playing 20 questions with a 6 year old, actually.

And then I found Semantle. This game is, perhaps, superficially a bit like Wordle or Absurdle. But instead of just guessing at spelling out a word that the computer has chosen, instead you’re trying to guess a word based on a kind of “hot/cold”, described relative to some rather complex semantic maps of word use. These are the same sorts of mega-dimensional semantic vectors (co-occurrence matrices, I think) that are used in AI-styled language translators, such as e.g. google translate. Anyway, this last is the game I find most addictive, as I try to think about how the semantic fields play out in a large corpus of sample texts.

Caveat: Friday Blogroll

Blogs (and blog-like-objects) in my browser right now (in a few very broad categories).

Culture, internet, economics, politics, policy (some of these are hard to put in one category, right?)…

Science, physics, philosophy…

Kind of a blog, but also really a weird, on-line philosophy book thing…

Not really a blog, more of an aggregator for interesting maps…

The dominance of the substack platform in intellectually-inclined blogs (as evidenced above) is become quite disturbing. If this here blog thingy (AKA Caveatdumptruck) ever gets moved to substack, you’ll know I’ve sold my soul to the devil.


Caveat: epistemectomy

I just made up this word: epistemectomy – a procedure which removes knowledge from a person or information system.

I read strange things on the internet almost every day.

Earlier today, while Arthur was at the dentist, I found and began reading a web story (or, maybe, novella), on my phone. It’s about an object that functions as an “antimeme”. An “antimeme” is an idea (perhaps embedded in an object) that in its nature prevents people from being interested in it or remembering it. This opposes to the normal definition of “meme” – which is an idea that encourages people’s interest and recollection.

So unfortunately I can’t remember much about the story (okay, maybe that’s a joke).

Anyway, I recommend you can try to read it. It’s quite weird, though – just a warning. In fact, though, the story recalls certain features of certain secret societies that play difficult-to-define roles in some of my unfinished novels.

Here is the beginning of the story: We Need To Talk About Fifty-Five (part of the Antimemetics Division series).

Caveat: the

Apparently the word “the” has been declining in use-frequency over the last 100 years or so  – though it remains the single most common word in the English language.

There is a recent article on the Language Log Blog about it: here.

There is a more in-depth (more definite?) article from the same source, from some years ago: here.

I have always really liked the word “the” – it’s one of my favorites. Perhaps it became a favorite about the time I realized there are languages that don’t have a word that means “the”. Russian, for example, has no definite article. And they do fine. Korean, too, utterly lacks a word for “the” (Korean, on the other hand, deploys a “topic clitic” (-는) that is quite weird and impossible to translate to English reliably, but that overlaps semantically in some respects with “the” – but not enough to be considered in any way the “same” word).

“The” is a very strange word, actually, if you start to think about it. If languages can do fine without a word that means “the”, what, exactly, is the word “the” doing?

If things go on with the same trend, perhaps English will evolve in the direction of eliminating definite articles. I did some googling and found the example of Aramaic (specifically its Eastern dialects) as being a language that once had but has now lost the definite article. The opposite change is much more familiar to me: though Latin lacked definite articles, all of its modern descendants (Italian, Spanish, Romanian, etc.) have them. Historical linguists blame the Greeks for the spread of the definite article – the Greeks’ enthusiastic deployment of definite articles is well known.

That said, most evidence suggests Greek-speakers acquired their definite article mania from those Phoenicians. Early Semitic languages appear to have been original innovators of old-world definite-articlism, and modern Arabic is well known for its ubiquitous definite article, “al- “, such that that prefix is a marker for “Arabic” in stereotypical representations. Aramaic is interesting because, with such a long, long documented history (3000 years!) it has in fact passed through both processes: it at one point acquired a (the?) definite article (under influence from Hebrew and Arabic, perhaps) and then later lost it again (in many dialects).

In a slight digression, there is a nice word worth knowing: arthrous. This is a term in formal linguistics and philology, an adjective meaning that a particular language uses articles (both definite and indefinite, or of other weird flavors of article e.g. Swahili, I think). Thus English or French or Greek or Arabic are “arthrous” languages, because they have articles (definite, indefinite, or both); meanwhile, Russian, Korean, or modern Eastern Aramaic are “anarthrous” languages, because they do not have grammatical articles.

Perhaps in future English will make do without definite article.

(The.) End.

Caveat: Friday Blogroll

Blogs in my browser right now (in a few very broad categories):

Oddities and bibliophilic pursuits:

Technology, computers, internet:

Rationalist, Policy, Philosophy:

History, Politics, Culture:

Not really a blog, more of a news magazine:

Not really a blog, more of a news aggregator for tech and computer news:

picture[daily log: walking, 2.5km]

Caveat: important

“I have just learned the meaning of ‘important’. It refers to an ant who is being brought into the United States.”


Caveat: Dogwalking #28 and robot dogs that walk

I continue the dogwalking habit. She has good days and bad days in terms of behavior. This morning was a very bad day – somewhat stressful. I generally let her off her leash for a while, when near our house. Mostly she runs around in circles and explores but always within earshot. This morning, though, she went chasing some waterfowl down the beach and completely disappeared.

I wandered and called her name for 30 minutes, then went back to our house, reported the situation to Arthur, called Mike and Penny to let them know their dog had disappeared, and went off along the road calling the dog’s name and hoping she’d hear me and come to me.

Meanwhile, she showed up at our house right after I’d left again – so Arthur, knowing the dog was “lost,” let her in. But instead of keeping her at our house until I came back, he decided to deliver the dog to Mike and Penny’s. So off they went, though I think honestly the dog would have found her way home without Art’s escort. Of course Art didn’t think to contact me that he’d found the dog. So I’m walking along the beach and the road eastbound, calling for the dog and stressing out. Art is walking west, with the dog, without a care in the world, and he and the dog arrive at Mike and Penny’s and Mike gets the dog back on the leash.

I guess I would have preferred to know what was going on, as I spent another 30 minutes walking up and down the road, calling the dog’s name. But eventually Penny came driving along and found me, to let me know the dog was found.

Here is a picture of the dogless beach.
Meanwhile, I have been watching these videos about a guy building an open-source dog robot. He provides an immense amount of detail. It’s all very interesting. In the specific video below, the 7th in the series, he is refining the dog’s walking style.


Caveat: Hacking as spectator sport

This video intrigued me more than I expected it to. The guy is “hacking” one of those hardware wallets for cryptocurrency. He’s doing it for a fee, at the request of the device’s owner (because he lost his password), so this is “white hat” hacking.

The guy in the video reminds me a lot of my good friend Mark, in certain aspects of not just professional capacity but also personality.

Caveat: Increasingly vague turtles, farther down

I read weird things online, almost every day.

Today, I read an article by Physics and Computer Science blogger, Scott Aaronson, in which he asks: Why is the universe quantum-mechanical?

He requests answers from the public. I wouldn’t dare to presume to participate – I lack knowledge. Nevertheless, I found myself rather quickly forming a thoroughly amateur opinion about it.

My own hypothesis:

If the universe is in fact finite (by definition presumably), its quantum nature simply makes sense. It’s a kind of requirement. A universe governed by classical mechanics suffers a problem of essentially infinite potential precision – what level of precision is necessary to produce all the universe as it is? It’s unbounded, and regresses to infinity at ever-smaller scales. But in a quantum-mechanical universe, there is an upper bound on the amount of information required to “run” it (to run the universe, that is). That’s because only examined values need to be precise – otherwise there are just fuzzy probabilities.

There’s the old joke about the scientist who asks some traditionalist guru about their supposed notion that the world is on the back of a giant turtle. The guru insists, preemptively: “Don’t even ask. It’s turtles all the way down.”

Instead of “turtles all the way down” it’s more like “turtles receding into the distance, until they are only specks, and which when examined through a lens, are really only just specks, or rather, they look like turtles to the best of our ability to resolve the image, but that ability suffers constraints due to the quality of the lens.” The turtles farther down are less precise, until, at some very distant point, they are only notional turtles at best. Consequently, though the “number” of turtles is definitionally infinite, the amount of memory required to store all the turtles is finite, because each one is less precise than the one above it.

I think the universe being quantum-mechanical in nature solves a similar problem that arises in classical mechanics.

Out of 500+ comments, Scott Aaronson succeeds in rebutting my amateur answer somewhere around comment #5:

Responding to comment #2 (which in some broad respects resembles mine), he writes, “Any answer along those lines, it seems to me, immediately crashes and burns once we realize that passing to wavefunctions, far from decreasing our classical simulation cost, has exponentially increased it—the fact famously exploited by quantum computation.”

I’m not sure it completely makes sense. It depends on whether you assume that all the collapsing wave functions must necessarily be collapsing. Isn’t there something in QM that says that the wave functions only collapse when someone looks? Isn’t most of the universe not being looked at, most of the time? Schrödinger’s litter box, and all that…

Caveat: Friday Blogroll

Despite their supposedly being quite passé, I still read many, many blogs.

I really like those blogs where the authors periodically post “links” pages – they link out to various items of interest found all over the internet. The absolute master of this is Tyler Cowen, who does it every single day, without fail, on his Marginal Revolution blog: he will post 4-10 links to items of political, philosophical, economic or cultural interest. Another blogger who does this well is Scott Alexander, who posts a monthly links page on his Astral Codex Ten blog (successor to the Slatestarcodex blog) – his links are less frequent but more interesting, on average.

I have often felt somewhat jealous of this capacity to post links-of-interest this way, reliably – and I’ve thought, oh, I should do that, too. But I’ve not been sufficiently motivated to do so myself.

Mostly these “links” articles link to specific blog entries found out there on the internet, or news articles or academic papers and publications. The other day I had a kind of brainstorm, which was that rather than try to replicate this “links” summary style, I’d instead do a kind of periodic “blogroll”. “Blogroll” is a term of art in blogging that stands for that thing on side of a blog that lists other blogs of interest – this here blog of mine has one, but I’m really bad about updating my blogroll. In fact, I only do so once every few years, and over time, it ends up being just barely indicative of what I’m reading regularly.

So I thought, instead – what if my blogroll was a feature on the blog? That would force me to update it more regularly, and you’d see what I was reading. I always have 5-10 blogs open in my browser: so how about if I just publish that list, on a regular basis? That’d show what I was reading. I suppose over time it might get repetitive or boring – some blogs are almost always open (e.g. Marginal Revolution or Astral Codex Ten, mentioned above). Others are one-time shots. So, to prevent that, I think I’ll make a rule that I can only mention a given blog once. Then it would be a kind of master list of blogs I’ve checked out at least at some point in my career of online textual consumption.

So with that preamble, this is my first entry in my hoped-to-be-regular feature, my “Friday Blogroll”. We’ll see how that goes.

Blogs in my browser right now (in a few very broad categories):

“Rationalist” or “rationalist-adjacent” blogs
(by my own conception – not necessarily the classification the author would choose)

Tech or programming related blogs

Design or urbanism related blogs

Language or Linguistics related blogs


Caveat: Lisp in Life

What follows will make no sense to you if you are unfamiliar with Conway’s “Game of Life” or don’t know what Lisp is.

Conway’s Game of Life is a very simple “cellular automaton” that is known to be Turing Complete. See wikipedia.

Lisp is a high-level computer programming language, quite revolutionary in its time and one of the oldest computer programming languages still in wide use. See wikipedia some more.

Long ago, I was a “Lisp hacker” – I wrote programs in Lisp. Specifically, as an undergraduate linguistics major (and computer science minor) at the University of Minnesota in the 1980’s, I wrote complex programs that could parse a tiny subset of highly ambiguous English syntax, centered on the multivalent nature of the word “that“. That was my senior thesis, that I prepared for Professor M. Kac, my advisor: it was a 50 page paper with an appendix in the form of a compilable Lisp program that was at least another 50 pages, printed out. I have a recollection that at one point, my program while in development caused the mainframe (yes, I was working on, I think, some kind of VAX at the time) to crash or something, and Dr Kac got a call in the middle of the night from the computer department at U of MN asking what in the world I was working on. In fact it wasn’t an infinite loop, but rather, a very very very long loop, and so the system admin had flagged it as de facto infinite.

That’s a digression.

Yesterday I found an article about a guy who has implemented a simple Lisp interpreter using Conway’s Game of Life. This is weird. But very cool and amazing. Here is a video of a very simple lisp program running that multiplies two numbers.

Another digression: given that Conway’s Game of Life is Turing complete, and given that the universe seems to be Turing complete, what if the universe is a simulation running on some really giant Conway’s Game of Life?


Caveat: Dogwalking #18 and a handy problem-solving algorithm

I took the dog on a walk this morning – first in a week, as the road has been so icy and slippery I haven’t felt inspired to attempt it. The dog was pleased to take a long walk, and was on best behavior. I suspect that’s just coincidence – I don’t think she really thinks things through at that level, being a fairly impulsive beast.

Here are some pictures of the dog – walking.

She pulled hard on her leash till I let her off it.

She found a deer-carcass skeleton – but she didn’t get carried away with it, as dogs sometimes do with disgusting dead things.

She stood still for a brief moment for the camera. Not usual.

Meanwhile, here is a handy way to solve hard problems, as attributed to the famous physicist, Richard Feynman.

The Feynman Algorithm. “The steps are as follows: Write down the problem. Think real hard. Write down the solution. Easy!”


Caveat: 100 years in the future

I read weird things online, almost every day.

Today, I read an article published in 1922, predicting the future! It told me all about what life would like in 2022. So now I know! The article is here.

Like all efforts at futurism, it had its hits and misses. I like the use of the term “kinephone” – by which the author means something like television. No inkling of the universal information and communication device in each of our pockets, now. On the other hand, this sentence is quite perceptive and interesting (bearing mind the context – in 1922, the women’s vote was 3 years old, and very fresh in people’s minds):

…[I]t is unlikely that women will have achieved equality with men. Cautious feminists such as myself realize that things go slowly and that a brief hundred years will not wipe out the effects on women of 30,000 years of slavery.

In other news, I went to see the doctor today. For the first time since moving back to the United States in the summer of 2018, I had a doctor’s appointment of my own (as opposed to being a drag-along for Arthur’s doctors’ appointments). It was a general health checkup, not related to any specific ailment or concern. I had been told by my diagnostic oncologist, Dr Cho, in 2018, that “maybe after about 3 years” I should see a doctor as a follow-up to the cancer surgery. It’s been 3 1/2 years, but I just decided I should at least be “on record” at the local healthcare provider, and see what the doctor had to say after a short prodding / checking, along with review of relevant medical history (such as I could report – obviously he doesn’t have access to the Korean National Cancer Centers records).

The doctor took a look in my mouth, prodded my neck, asked some questions, and together we opted against a CAT scan (which I was hoping to opt against, given the hassle and cost). He seemed to agree with Dr Cho’s reported assessment from 2018: any cancer at this point will be a “new” one, as opposed to a follow-on to (metastasis of) the previous one.

So we’ll continue to assert, as I have been, that I am cancer-free, with the caveat (really, a caveat?) that biologically, none of us are truly cancer-free.
picture[daily log: walking, 3km; dogwalking, 3.5km]

Caveat: 404

The code “404” is the message a webserver gives to a client (to your browser) when a resource (a specific webpage or URL) is “not found.” It’s a kind of error code.

Most web 404’s are pretty boring. This here blog thingy has the standard apache 404: here – it doesn’t even bother saying the number “404”, which actually bothers me a little bit but not enough to go try to fix it.

Some websites use their 404 page to post jokes of various kinds, or to say something vaguely amusing. Google’s 404: “That’s an error…. That’s all we know.”

One of my favorite 404’s is the Financial Times (of London) newspaper website: here.

In other news, I had a dead battery this morning. An annoying circumstance, but I survived – it didn’t happen at the house, but rather after I’d gone to town and parked at a merchant while running an errand this morning. The car said, “404 – battery not found.”

We’ll see how it does tomorrow morning. The NAPA store here in town didn’t have the needed battery model in stock (of course if didn’t). So I’m carrying around one of those nifty battery-pack jump starter thingos, now.

picture[daily log: walking, 4.5km; retailing, 6hr]

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