Wednesday, September 07, 2005


If you've scanned my profile at all, you'll have noticed that I'm currently reading a book entitled "Metamagical Themas" while taking shits. If you didn't know, it's an annotated collection of articles written by Douglas R. Hofstadter for Scientific American back in the late 70's and early 80's. The subtitle of the book provides some context for the content within: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern. It's pretty dense reading, stuff written by a really super-dooper smart guy for an intellectually active adult audience.

In other words, it's over my head most of the time. But I make my way slowly, reading and re-reading until I understand what the fuck he's talking about, and I find myself totally enrapt with this guy's thoughts. His brilliance is, well, illuminating. So far one section of the book has been about self-referentiality ("self-referentiality is hard to type!" works better with "self-referentiality"), which quite obviously influenced some earlier posts on this blog. The second section of the book works through perception and people (it's called "Sense and Society"), and in it today I read an article called "World Views In Collision: The Skeptical Inquirer versus the National Enquirer."

This article addresses the issue of knowledge and skepticism, specifically mentioning things like tabloid articles, ESP, and paranormal happenings. At one point it mentions the idea that humans have a really great time of noticing oddmatches, or coincidents. We pick 'em out with ease, as if we were a super-awesome car stereo that can pick up pop stations loud and clear in the middle of nowhere on some lonely interstate. But when you think about it, the probability of hearing one certain continuous pitch of static is essentially the same as hearing a crystal clear broadcast in the long run. What us humans suck at is recognizing how high long-term probabilities of those oddmatches are. As Tyler Durden (maybe, almost--I'm paraphrasing here) said, "on a long enough timeline the survival rate is 0." Everyone dies, there's lots of static on the radio, and weird shit is bound to happen.

So, odd enough, some weird shit happened today. Thing is, it's really only weird because I spent the day reading that damn article (or dozing off with it in my lap) during the slow moments. I should mention that I took it to work with me, so the time spent reading the several-page article was not all on the crapper. Only some. Another result of the article (which I recommend reading to those who poop) is that I am uber-skeptical today, and tempted to accept only very solidly common-sensical things. I'm having a bit of trouble sorting out all of the contributing issues, so I'm going to try to sketch them out here and ask for your input:

1. The first girl.
- Some time ago we start hanging out in a socially neutral setting, and to get to know one another a little bit.
- We hook the intarweb thing up. She knows I'm interested in seeing her in non-socially-neutral settings, and I (naively) only suspect the same of her.
- She accuses me of being Martin, and when I tell her I have no idea what she's talking about she forwards me a love letter that ended up in her mailbox. It's a sappy, head-over-heels, tongue-in-cheek sort of affair that reeks of spam. Unfortunately, Martin's writing style is similar to mine own.
- I guess I finally convince her I'm not Martin (I'm really not), and we hang out on occasion in honest-to-god socially-active situations. I think I might kinda, you know, like her.
- And so on, but things are currently awkward on my end (it could only be because most anything you could think of--like grating cheese or riding a bike or sock drawer reorganizing--is fairly awkward on my end).

2. The Article.
- Keep in mind I've been reading this article all day, and it has me in a skeptical bent. I'm watching out for odd matches, being wary of finding signal in the noise where there isn't one, that sort of thing.

3. The second girl.
- I get a charming message in my MySpace inbox from this second girl, whom I don't know. She's new to Tucson (she spelled it Tuscon, heh)--wait! coincidentally, Girl no. 1 is also new to Tucson! what's going on here?
- Her charming message has all of the ringers of a spam-type situation: no MySpace buddies, pretty skeletal profile.
- In Hofstadter's article there's a paragraph that's a description of you. That is, when you read the paragraph, it describes you just like, oh i don't know, a horoscope describes you. Her profile is like that, in the sense that she seems pretty ideal and the guy she says she's looking for sounds just like what every guy will believe about himself when told the same.
- But I don't get the same bells and whistles I had when I read Martin's love letter. Martin came off like some asshole who would send a love letter to random girls on the intermanet just to make 'em wonder.
- Girl no. 2, given my reading choice for today and a little natural innerneb paranoia, comes off like Girl no. 1 getting ideas from Martin.
- Girl no. 2 proposes to continue to "chat" online via email (oh, that's another thing: her email is spammy-smelling too) and maybe hang out in her initial message. The just friends thing, you know, which is fine by me. Meanwhile, as honest and objective an evaluation as possible hints that that is exactly what Girl no. 1 might want.

Putting all of this together, what I'm left with is a few questions:

1. Is Girl no. 2 really Girl no. 1? They have different pictures, yes, and there's no way I could really be sure based on the evidence currently accumulated; I don't know either near well enough.

1.1 Could Girl no. 1 be both Girl no. 2 and Martin?

2. Do I respond to Girl no. 2 at her word? That's a good question even without the article and Girl no. 1 fuzzing shit up. I'd hate to be taken in by spam and made the fool. I'd also really like to get to know more people in this town. I need friends. Like, tangible ones that'll knock some sense into me when I get paranoid. On the other hand, Girl no. 2 could just be Girl no. 1 offering the same thing as a way to clear up any awkwardness that might afflict our current relationship.

3. Should I take this whole situation in all its glorious paranoia to Girl no. 1, the way she took Martin to me? Like I said, it's awkward even without me bringing up this weird shit.

4. Or should I just make light of it in a post, get drunk, and wait for everyone to read about it? The intarmanaweb shitstorm would be awesome.

I can answer the last one myself, but any input on the other questions or the situation in general would be greatly appreciated. Also, there's one more question from a previous post that I really would like some feedback on, and is sort of related to all this shit:

5. Am I a moron any longer if I recognize and accept the idea that I'm a moron, then factor that information into my action reasoning? Does pre-supposing moronness obviate it?

I think the answers to those last two are "yes" and "no" respectively, but I'd like to hear what you have to say on the topic nonetheless.

Currently Listening:
The Unseen
By Quasimoto

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