3708 – You’ll Get What You Need

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Dec 142016

Or maybe not. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was Trump’s campaign song. If there is something, that his voters neither needed nor expected to get, then it is a government strongly infiltrated by Goldman Sachs. Surprisingly that’s exactly what they get. Wasn’t that a Hillary thing?

Dec 132016

No, I don’t know what it means, but I’m sure the experts who figured out #pizzagate could tell you exactly 🙂

Well, did you go down the rabbit hole that is #pizzagate? Actually I didn’t, but at least I’ve tried to understand what it is supposed to be all about. There are a few comprehensive lists of the “findings”, and I admit that it can look quite convincing. I have no URLs and I don’t want to link to them anyway, but they are not hard to find.

Hillary Clinton and John Podesta dealing in children? Sexual abuse as a business model of the Democratic Party? In a pizzeria?? How weird is that?

But again, read through the list of “facts” and tell me that they didn’t make you wonder at least for a moment. Why is that? Basically you have a long list of facts and plausible reports, each one harmless by itself, but suddenly someone demonstrates how they fall together and result in a monstrous big picture.

Have you ever read Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum“? If not, you definitely should. It explains a lot.

What happens in those cases is, that we try to create order in randomness. We see patterns, but we don’t see just any type of pattern. What we see is what we expect to see or fear to see or want to see. We have lots of weak indications. Each of them proves nothing. For each of them we have a small probability that it is related to a bigger “conspiration”. We know that we have not anything solid, and therefore we look further, and, surprisingly, we find more of the same.

Yes, we figure, one of them can be chance, but when all of them subtly point in one direction? Then it can’t be chance any more, can it? Somehow those small probabilities must add up.

Only they don’t. What we forget is, that while every “fact” has a certain probability that it means what we expect it to mean, there is also a much higher probability that it is indeed random, and that there are any number of perfectly plausible explanations. It’s only that we completely ignore anything that does not confirm our bias, and due to that ignorance, those aspects don’t contribute to the overall picture.

And there’s more. A central argument of #pizzagate is, that there is a code used by producers and consumers of child porn. I don’t remember exactly, but “pizza” was supposed to mean “girl” and a few other words from the pizzeria context are supposed to mean boys and rape and whatever.

The problem with that is, that the same words make perfect sense in any pizzeria. Now take one with a playing area for children and lots of activity in social networks. If the main nouns connected with the concept of a pizzeria are systematically re-interpreted due to such a key, it is practically inevitable that you can find lots of “reckless talk” about “child abuse”. And why not? In reality they talk about pizza. That’s their core business. What else should they talk about? And of course it’s for sale.

But all those seemingly absurd sentences, that don’t make sense in normal pizzeria context and that suddenly make sense when interpreted as a conspirational code?

It’s only that this again ignores, that we have ignored everything else, that perfectly did make sense. The weird sentences are somewhere in between. But there are always weird sentences in between everything.

Weird, absurd sentences are written all the time. For instance they are written by people who use mobile devices with all sorts of input prediction. Often the author even sees the error, but most mobile virtual keyboards lack cursor keys, and that makes it extremely inconvenient to go back and correct the error. And why so? The receiver will figure it out from the context, and apart from that, it is not worth the effort anyway.

And again, here we talk about communication that has all its core concepts systematically misinterpreted. You could as well use a different key and would easily get equally plausible results. The insiduous trick is, that you don’t replace just a single noun, you replace all of them. You change out everything that is not basic syntactic structure. Pizza gets a new meaning and so do cheese and bread and soup and wine and …

You see? It could mean anything. It could even mean what the conspiration theory says it means, only that it is so much more likely that it literally means what it means in any other pizzeria as well, namely the very stuff that they make and sell: pizza, cheese, bread, soup and wine.

3705 – Another Madonna

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Dec 112016

I’m afraid I don’t know which of the many churches and chapels this is. I delayed tagging the images until it was too late. I suppose I could find it on Street View, but I’m on the train now and my connection is flaky. Having an LTE plan is one thing, having LTE is another 🙂

… some time passes …

No, I’ve tried just that, I’ve walked the streets of Aix, I know the part of the city where it should be, but obviously I have made a shortcut or a deviation somewhere that I’ve forgotten.

I have made a non-distinct image a minute before, and the next images came only 15 minutes later. 15 minutes are a long time. Even one of them is, as we’ve learned in Yellow Submarine 😀

3704 – Streets of Aix

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Dec 102016

There are “Sights” and there are sights. Today it’s about those lower case moments when you walk along the streets of a city and just feel the urge to take a photo.

It’s the mode of seeing that you are in when you are on home turf. You don’t try to depict a characteristic view of a place that you likely won’t return to, you try to depict the feeling of being where you are, regardless of where that is.

Whenever I am on vacation, I try to get a fair mix of the two. “Sights” are what you came for, sights are what let’s you feel relaxed. Skip them and you haven’t been there.

3703 – The Symbolic Top

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Dec 092016

There’s a story about the see-through clock tower helmet of Aix’ town hall. It’s something about a lazy bell ringer and the necessity of being able to see him at work. I forgot the details, but I can assure you, it’s not true. You see the same kind of towers all over Provence. It’s just an architectural style.

3702 – The Ghost of Brexit

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Dec 082016

You may have noticed, Austria has a properly elected president now, and to the surprise of many, it is not Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the “Freedom Party”.

It has caused a sigh of relief throughout most of Europe, and most certainly among those who still think the EU is a good idea.

Brexit was a shock, and after Brexit, we thought that everything is possible, regardless of how stupid it is. Populism seemed to reign surpreme, and Trump seemed to be the clear proof that the age of facts is over.

Is this a turn of the tide?

We can’t be sure of it. It was Everybody vs Freedom Party in Austria, and what we got was a clear lead of 53.8% vs 46.2%. That’s more than OK for a victory, but it is not a landslide for reason. The next time, in general elections, we will see each party campaign for itself, and only the most principled of them will be steadfast about their refusal to go into a coalition with a probably leading Freedom Party. I expect the Greens and the Neos (a neoliberal party, basically the modern conservatives) in this role, but the two biggest rivals, Social Democrats and People’s Party, are already “reforming” their programs to be compatible with any coalition that may be needed to stay in power.

What can we, the people, do?

Well, we can stop waiting for the next elections. We have to make it clear NOW that we don’t approve. The next time we’ll be asked, it will already be too late. If we don’t say no to populism today, tomorrow and every day, if we don’t insist on facts as the fundament of political decisions, then the rivals for power will all go the way of populism.

If we don’t want to be lied to and if we don’t want to be tricked cheaply, we must demonstrate that populism does not work. Populism depends on a gullible populace. In a society of independent critical thinkers it does not work. Let’s show them that we are responsible individuals and not voting material. That’s all we need to do, but we have to do it convincingly.