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Robert Sperry

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A few hours before Ben [Mar. 29th, 2009|11:27 pm]
Robert Sperry
A second child of mine will be out in the world in 9 hours if all goes to plan.

I am calm.  Waiting.

What kind of child will we get?  How will William adapt to the lessened focus?  How will I?

Star sleeps now...I hope...she will need it.  This process has been a tremendous strain on her.   The next three months will hopefully be easier than the last.  Probably a silly thought.  But we have done this before, we have new plans.  So much of my thinking is modeled off William it will be interesting to see how I adapt my expectations to a new baby.  I view it so abstractly, and see blank spots when I try and concertize my visions.  Sometimes I see memories of William.

My plan is to take one full week off of work and then work half time for 12 weeks.  I am worried that I wont really work half time, and that my attention at home will be focused to much on what is not done at work.   There are many tasks I am happy to pawn off on other people (installing software that lacks an install script...ug) and others I don't like to let other people do because I know I will just have to re-do them.  I am also worried that my attention at work will be distracted by the happenings of home, and a new level of tiredness.

As if a Lokian conservation law was in effect Desiree who has been a fixture in my/our daily life will be leaving San Diego for a new start in the bay area the day after Ben is born.  I have spent enough time being sad about it that I am undisturbed in the moment, which surprises me.

This last year was the most emotional of my adult life.  Both in my experience of myself, but also that I was more let into the emotional life of the other people in my life.  The latter was a driving force for the former.   Part of this was a shift in the gender composition of the people I spend time with, from almost all male or couples, to almost all female (and the most emotionally disclosing male I have met).  Its strange to me, I spent so much of my past concerned with the broader ideas and systems.  I feel at ease talking about epistemology or ink jet technology, but often feel inwardly awkward around emotional content.  I am deeply interested in it though, its a space where mental models can be tested with very high amplitude feedback...particularly when I am slow and get things wrong.  Which I seemed to be with great regularity this last year... that thought does make me sad.

This exploration will need to diminish to the background for now.

The needs of my family will be more stark in the coming months

I hope I get some sleep tonight~
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Thoughts of William, just before the arrival of Ben [Mar. 23rd, 2009|12:23 am]
Robert Sperry
[mood |Reflective]

I tell William a story every night at bed time.  I usually make them up on the spot and place them in some fantasy world that he is interested in, batman, star wars etc.

One common story template I use is to take a issue that he had that day and put it into the story.  I am pretty blatant about it, and he often takes a special interest in those stories.  I use this as a moral dialog and have the characters try to resolve the issues in ways I hope are within the edge of his understanding while taking into account a psychological model of what everyone is feeling and how this connects to their motivation and actions. The goal being to try and get him to be able to see and sympathize with other peoples point of view.I try to ask him questions along the way.   How do you think he felt here?  What should he do now?  Occasionally at the end I may venture so far as to try and relate the story to what happened to his day to complete the circle.

Today however not three sentences into my story he looked at me sharply and perhaps even accusatory "Hey that's what happened to me today"  As if clearly I was failing to make up a story if i was retelling him something he already knew.  I was able to muddle through the story but he seemed to regard it much more skeptically.  Like I was giving advice

I will now apparently have to be more sneaky and obtuse, and see if he can find the connections if I make them a bit more vague


He also has been asking interesting questions.

Yesterday he asked where names for things come from.  "Why is a tree called a tree"  Was one of the examples.

Today he asked if Star and I were married, followed by "But I hear you argue sometimes"  as if he had a model that clearly if people were married they wouldn't argue...

Other questions he has asked in the recent past have shown a interesting appreciation for recursive thinking.

I don't remember the phrasing but he basically asked the common where babies come from question.  But then turned it into a series of questions like if you came from your parents where did they come from.  After a few round of this he paused and asked something like "Well then how did that start?"   I tried to explain the theory of evolution the best I could and how the origin of life was a mystery and an unsolved problem that people were still trying to figure out.   He later asked a similar question that led to me trying to explain the big bang.
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Response to a question on current events [Nov. 25th, 2008|06:21 pm]
Robert Sperry
What we have is a system wide failure; Market, Corporate, Government, Consumer.. how ever you want to slice and dice the system it allowed a bubble to occur and it put itself(the system) in jeopardy.

We don't have the anything near pure capitalism certainly that's clear.  But I think Greenspan is right to have been surprised by how badly the markets have overpriced certain things and how out of whack so many of the markets got.  Why was risk management so bad at so many firms?  

Why did firms and investors allow compensation packages that were so tied to short term performance when it was clear that many of these people were doubling down on bets that would eventually go bad and bankrupt the whole company, this is as true for the Government backed corps as it was for the private ones.  One might argue that the bond investors (china et all)  were rationally accounting for implicit government backing, but the same can not be said for those that held the stock of Friedy, Fanny, Bear etc.

But its not like the Government or its host or regulatory or legislative bodies identified the problem in 2003 and started trying to fix it.  No suddenly after everything is obviously in collapse then they know how to fix it.. right I feel so much more confidence now that they are taking bold action.. sigh.  Where was law enforcement when the fraud was happening, making examples of people and putting some fear into those that needed it.  Now when its to late they can punish, but they did not protect.

And there is all of us regular folks, so many of which lost all control in buying and selling houses acting like we were making value and being so smart.  Those of us who saw the bubble and stayed on the sidelines were obviously unable to persuade the others to calm down, we were ineffective at sharing our incite, so we failed as well.

Now the powerful use this as an opportunity greater than war to move the wealth of the present and the future around to their favor.  Those who could not anticipate and prevent this, now broadcast their ever changing solutions for the problem of the day.  Ultimately this will all smooth out, even the real depression was a blip almost unnoticed by history, except for lives of the people that had to suffer through it.  So to will today pass, the knowledge and technology that is growing will dwarf the turmoil of the present.  In the long run the power of politics is insignificant compared to the force of knowledge...the empire of Rome is long since ash...only the arches and poetry survive.
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Be scared, be very scared. [Sep. 19th, 2008|10:16 pm]
Robert Sperry
"The Bush administration, moving to prevent an economic cataclysm, urged Congress on Friday to grant it far-reaching emergency powers"

The scariest half sentance I have read since 9/11.  The second half does not make me feel better.

"to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in distressed mortgages despite many unknowns about how the plan would work."
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Education, Manipulation [Feb. 26th, 2008|02:47 am]
Robert Sperry
It all starts out innocently, teaching our children to manipulate.

"Please" they say, and look at us happily.  Well surly we must reinforce this.  If they don't get what they want when they say please they wont learn say it.  So its an imperative really that we allow ourselves to be manipulated, just for educations sake.  
Its also a two way street.  There are things we want the kids to do and we demonstrate a wide range of manipulative skills to coax them.  Teaching by example

Star and I have been trying hard to get William to learn to read.  He has to put it mildly varying levels of interest in the activity.  We recently went through a period where he basically wouldn't read for us at all.  So we backed off for awhile and largely dropped our efforts.

But he is interested in TV, and TV access being regulated is a valued commodity.  In the past as a final measure we would try to bribe him into reading by offering TV.  In his anti-reading moments he would not succumb to this.  Now as his memory of the reading wars have faded he has turned this around, and started negotiating for TV by offering to read a book (counter offer 2 books.. sold!).  His reading has started to improve again.  The circle is now complete.

Math has been developing slower.  Currently my best strategy for this is to leverage his interest in playing Hide and Seek.  Not the hiding bit, but the counting before you seek part.  He has to count by 2's before he can seek.  Hopefully this will have some pay off in adding and multiplying later on.  Who knows what else its teaching him about the ways to get what he wants.
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My Current Electoral Opinion [Feb. 4th, 2008|11:19 pm]
Robert Sperry
I think Hillary will make the best president of the 4 likely candidates.

I think she will be a divisive figure if elected, she will galvanize her opposition. I think that if she wins it will be by a relatively smaller majority than an Obama win could be. She will have smaller coat tails and a smaller margin in congress. In short I think this will lead to a grid lock dynamic in Washington...and I think thats a good thing. The less they do the better.

The problem is that I am not convinced she would win against McCain and I would rather like to see a democrat in the white house. If only so that they can investigate the hell out of the current crop of republicans and force the republicans to internalize their defeat in the hope they they come out with something better that public choice theory on a power trip.

We need a changing of the fief.
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My Feynman Moment.... [Jan. 26th, 2008|12:31 am]
Robert Sperry

I am going over neurogirl's Inovation Academy Petition, which lead me to look up the California State Science Standard.

Kindergardners are supposed to know the following about physical science:

Physical Sciences:
1.Properties of materials can be observed, measured, and predicted. As a basis for understanding this concept:
    a. Students know objects can be described in terms of the materials they are made of (e.g., clay, cloth, paper) and their physical properties  (e.g., color, size, shape, weight, texture, flexibility, attraction to magnets, floating, sinking).

Sounds good!

    b. Students know water can be a liquid or a solid and can be made to change back and forth from one form to the other.

I like it!  Throw in a gas and I am extra happy.

    c. Students know water left in an open container evaporates (goes into the air) but water in a closed container does not.

Water evaporates.. oh good gas... though steam would seem more obvious...err why are we talking about containers? 

What do you mean water can't evaporate in a closed container?  Ever seen the inside of a half drunk water bottle?  The water can also diffuse through the plastic and evaporate on the other side! 

Next thing you know they will be asking for the total temperature of a group of different color stars :(

Page 1 of  http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/pn/fd/documents/sci-stnd.pdf
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Parody or irony? [Jan. 14th, 2008|11:24 pm]
Robert Sperry
Caustic article on Facebook in the guardian:

The article opens...

"I despise Facebook. This enormously successful American business describes itself as "a social utility that connects you with the people around you". But hang on. Why on God's earth would I need a computer to connect with the people around me?"

So let me get this straight, someone is writing on an internet site a article being read by people around the world "Why on God's earth would I need a computer to connect with the people around me?"

So is that self parody or unintended irony?

My second thought is that I want to meet Peter Thiel. 
Have any of you all met him?
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More envitonmental fun... I really liked the second paragraph [Feb. 21st, 2006|01:40 am]
Robert Sperry
100 years?

In 100 years the future environmental debate will be about when we should disassemble the earth to help construct the “Matrioshka Brain.”

Having the earth be hotter will just mean more potential energy to tap. So consider global warming as a mass energy savings program if that makes you feel better.

Oh and don't worry about the people on the Ganges they will either be floating around Io taking in the beuaty of Jupiter or they be uploaded spread out over the ever growing allnet.

P.S Don't piss off the lobsters
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ID or I don't konw? [Jan. 23rd, 2006|12:37 am]
Robert Sperry
In response to> http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/01/supporters-of-science-must-adapt_22.html

I think that is a great tactical rhetorical message to get across.

It is still the case that one should not give ground to the ID folk that what they are doing is science. The criticism of the existing particular story of evolutionary history can qualify as science, but they didn't name their movement after their criticism but their favored alternative hypothesis.. The hypothesis that they advance has no basis in observation and there is no claim that any specific testable result would follow from it.

ID should be treated as philosophy. Which is fine, I like philosophy. But the philosophical claim is by no means new. It is the very old argument from design. While I wouldn't send my child to a public school except as a anthropology field trip, I otherwise would think it fascinating if they would teach ID as philosophy along with the classical design arguments. Particularly if they also gave the historic responses. I can just imagine the PTA meeting after a strong argument from evil, and regress argument were made. Or the teacher training in Kolmogorov Complexity to prepare students for the ID class!

If life is so complex irreducibly complex as to require a designer, where did the designer come from? How complex is that designer? If you compressed the designer what would be the length of his program? How again does it help to introduce a more unknown more complex more powerful entity that we can't explain, to explain a much simpler phenomenon like the first cell?

How did the designer come to be? “We don't know,” they answer. But thats the same answer to the question “how did life evolve given that it looks so irreducibly complex?” So answering a designer does not add any information to the system it simply pushes out ignorance one more step. Occam's razor (as well as complexity based compression theory) demands that we shorten the explanation from “GOD...I don't know” to the more simple “I don't know”

Finally I can't resist...The old creationist had an argument that evolution was like a hurricane going through a junk yard and making a 747. Which was fine except GOD is like having no hurricane going through nothing and poof there is the space ship enterprise. At least the 747 conforms to the known laws of physics, and there are in fact hurricanes and junk yards.
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