May 30, 2006
The first movement of Schubert's A minor piano sonata (D784) is remarkable. I used to skip this sonata all the time because I only wanted to listen to D960, which follows it on the Stephen Hough disc I have. Accidentally played it a couple of days ago, and was hooked from the first notes onwards. The opening and the first subject sound especially Beethovenian, though the transition to the bittersweet second subject is pure Schubert. But if you just played me the opening and the ominous first subject, I would have guessed Beethoven for sure. Been struggling to "understand" it with no success. Why the jarring accents at certain points in the second subject? There is some sort of struggle going on, obviously, but my music theory knowledge is too weak to grasp it.
And I am addicted to the final movement of Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Weber all over again. Nothing particularly profound that's gripping me; just the sheer explosive power of the horns' theme.
May 24, 2006
Jansons' interpretation of the "joyful" portion in the second movement of Tchaikovsky's 4th symphony is significantly slower than Reiner's. His first movement is lusher than Reiner's, but perhaps the inferior sound on the Reiner record isn't doing him justice. Reiner's is tighter (which is typical Reiner, after all), Jansons' more expansive.
May 23, 2006
I'm sure I knew more than 900 characters at the height of my enforced study of Chinese, but I still had to read the venerable LHZB with a dictionary at hand. I could probably have gotten the gist of most articles without the dictionary, and probably still can now. Perhaps that's what they mean — knowing enough Chinese to understand if a state-sanctioned article is bleating "X=good" or "X=bad".
May 22, 2006
At first I thought Ryle's distinguishment between laws (which are correct hypothetical statements) and statements of fact is similar to Wittgenstein's distinguishment between logical statements and statements of fact. But then Wittgenstein (the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus that is, I haven't read enough of Philosophical Investigations to speculate on his later opinions) would probably construe both laws and statements of fact as pictures of the world. If they're both pictures then in a sense they are both making a statement about the world. I'm not sure that there's such a fundamental difference as Ryle wants to make out. Sure, one is explicitly extended in time (in that it requires observation of a sequence of events), but I'm not sure that statements of fact are not. If one asks how one confirms statements of facts, is it not a similar "if… then" of the form "if you observe/acquaint yourself with  in a certain manner, then you will get  results"? If you want to say, like Ryle does, that laws do not exist as things apart from the hypothetical happenings they describe, then isn't it also possible to say that facts do not exist as things apart from the sequences of observation and confirmation that they describe?
Ed: Of course, in the Tractatus logical statements are fundamentally different from natural laws, so I was talking out of my arse.
May 22, 2006
Ryle keeps reiterating the point that we already know ordinary reasons for people behaving the way they do, and hence we do not need to hear about "ghostly" causes. I'm not sure how this argument is different from a teleologist saying that we already know that the reason that a pelican has a scoop-like bill is to let it fulfill its function of catching fish, so there is no reason to mention evolution. Or perhaps that is a valid explanation. But it is valid only in the context of what we already know about evolution, no? In any case my objection is that just because we have ordinary explanations doesn't make them the only explanations, or the correct ones.
May 22, 2006
In the opening chords of the recapitulation the first movement of the Emperor concerto, why does Beethoven have the horns do an ascending fifth (on the last chord), instead of the one chord that all the other parts play, and that was the case in the opening? This discrepancy struck me from the first few times I heard the concerto — at first I even thought it was a flaw in the recording I had. I gathered from the BBC's excellent introductory analysis that he delays the customary entry of the dominant key in the development, so I suppose it could be that the ascension from E flat to B flat and F indicates an "acceptance" of it. Only I'm not sure how the dominant features after the recap, and it's a curious way of indicating acceptance — almost an afterthought, relative to the accompanying grandeur. Must listen carefully again some day.
May 20, 2006
Picked up a battered Fortran reference book that someone had left behind in the math grad students' dingy basement. There is rationally no reason to keep books now that everything can be looked up on the internet. And if you get an error you're more likely to find a solution to that specific error message by searching Google Groups for people who've reported similar errors. Nevertheless, the book provides a sense of security that the internet doesn't. Better a material slab of flattened dead trees than ephemeral networks of pooled expertise.
Just spent five hours discovering that PAW wouldn't accept my code because I had used a slightly different variable list to the one that describled my ntuples. There being a few hundred variables on the list, I hadn't bothered to check the individual terms to see that they were the same. The graphs I've gotten after the online veto are barely less horrendous than the raw data. Still, a slight sense of satisfaction, which I had the pleasure of enjoying weekly when I was taking Computational Physics. Perhaps I'm just not getting the right level of challenges in my recent maths/physics courses? Complex anal is just so far above my head that there isn't even a chance for me to meaningfully confront the challenge. The Griffiths QM problems are challenging on my patience but not on my physical intuition or reasoning. In sharp contrast to the problems we got in introductory mechanics and electrodynamics.
The original point of this post was to complain about the lack of any introductory manual to PAW. Everyone complains about it, but then they just learn it the hard way, and after they've learnt it, they can't be arsed to write a tutorial themselves. To put it in economic terms, an introductory manual is a public good. Still, one can find great, free introductions to things like LaTeX and the various programming languages online. Perhaps it takes a critical mass of users for there to exist altruists who'll write an introductory text.
May 19, 2006
More from The Concept of Mind:
…by what criteria do we come to locate or mis-locate sensationos as being, in some sense of 'in', in the right knee or in the pit of the stomach? The answer is that we learn both to locate sensations and to give their crude physiological diagnoses from a rule-of-thumb experimental process, reinforced, normally, by lessons taught by others. The pain is in the finger in which I see the needle; it is in that finger by the sucking of which alone the pain is alleviated.
He must be kidding. I don't find out that the pain is in my finger by looking to see that the needle is there. By that account I would never, for example, have found the leech that was on the inside of my upper thigh, hidden under my clothes. Do we look to see that we've accidentally touched a hot stove before withdrawing our hand from it? Without a natural psychological map of parts of our bodies that tells us where sensations from certain nerves should be found, we would not have survived the vagaries of the prehistoric world. There is no room for bloody experimentalisation when you run the constant risk of being bitten by any number of dangerous organisms.
May 19, 2006
ThinkFree Office requires Java-runtime. Visit trouble shooting page
May 19, 2006
I am highly suspicious of the number of generic positive remarks I'm getting on my analytic philosophy essays. These are essays that I am deeply ashamed of, essays that I had to drag my eyes to the computer screen to proofread, because I'd cringe at every other false leap of logic or strained sentence. I am probably deeply ashamed of most of what I write anyway, but usually I do get criticisms. There doesn't seem to be a good way of telling the grader to say more negative things.