cloud app

I had wanted an easier way to take an image I see on my screen and put it into a blog post. Cloud App may be a useful tool. Let's see how easily I can put a screenshot into this post.. I took a screenshot with Mac's simple command-control-shift-4, selected this blog post, then pressed Cloud App's control-option-C to upload the clipboard and get a url into the clipboard.. now let's try to insert it as an image.. ugg.. no luck.. the url is not to the raw image: http://cl.ly/image/0C1I1P3R3m0p. Going to that link and getting the image url we get:

Not too bad..


california license

I went to the DMV to get a California driver's license. I have an Arizona license, but California threatens to charge me with a misdemeanor if I don't have a California license. I'm too risk averse for that. So, I went to get a new license.

But they punched a hole in my old license! I've had that license since 2000, and it wasn't set to expire until 2046!


drivers asking for help

While walking to the DMV, a car asked me for help getting some place. I said I didn't know where it was, but my phone did. He pulled over and I leaned into his car showing him where to do.

While walking away from the DMV, a parked car asked me for help getting some place. I said I didn't know how, but my phone did. I leaned into her car showing her where to go.


learning on your own

At my family reunion, I had a discussion with my uncle about learning stuff by one's self. He's a proponent of reading what other people have done. I'm a proponent of reinventing the wheel as much as possible.

I think reading what other people have done is a powerful tool, but it has some drawbacks. First, it's sortof like looking at the answer to a brain teaser -- I now have the answer, but I probably haven't improved my skill at solving brain teasers. Second, it kindof puts my mind in a box so that I'll think about the problem the same way as the people before me, and I may get stuck in the same places they got stuck, whereas if I reinvent the wheel myself, I may arrive at a slightly different wheel that has some advantages over other wheels that I wouldn't have thought of starting from someone else just telling me about wheels.

Anyway, as always, I think there are pros and cons, but I think that people undervalue reinventing the wheel. In fact, I think there is a social stigma against it. I think people perceive it as arrogant -- how can someone think that they'll reinvent a wheel better than the "great" inventors of the past? However, I think this perception is harmful -- how are people supposed to learn to be inventors if they can't practice inventing things that have already been invented?

big words

Big words compress information. However, they are also more difficult to understand -- they are used more rarely, so they are more likely to be forgotten, or may take longer to recall. I feel like the tradeoff rarely favors using a big word if the goal is conveying information.

I feel like this same tradeoff comes up in math. After thinking about a problem for a while, the solution can be compressed into a short equation. However, presenting that equation alone presents a very challenging task to the reader to try to unravel the meaning of the equation (especially if it has lots of greek symbols, and the reader is not greek). I think it is often better to walk the reader through the key ideas that led to the equation.

Naturally there is a tradeoff. Sometimes big words and equations are good.

But I feel like they are often abused in order to make an author look smart, or even to hide a bad explanation by making it difficult for people to understand, and hoping that people won't ask questions for fear of feeling stupid for not understanding it.

I think explanations are like user interfaces. If the explanation fails, it is probably the fault of the person doing the explaining, NOT the person listening.


note to self: I enjoy playing the piano. I should get one. That is another thing I could do to relax.

relaxing with chores

I went home for a family reunion this weekend. I told my family that I'm taking a vacation soon.

I talked to my aunt about relaxing. She said she relaxes by mowing the lawn. She said this seems like it would be a chore, but she enjoys doing it, and she enjoys the feeling of accomplishment. She said that if she watches TV, then she feels like she's wasting her time.

I have a similar problem. I believe it is good to set aside some time to relax, and I think watching TV is a legitimate form of relaxation, but it's often hard to know how much time I should spend relaxing. When am I really done?

So I've been thinking about chores as a form of relaxation. I enjoy doing little chores around the appartment -- taking out the trash, starting the dish washer, putting things away -- and I often put off doing these things when I'm trying to be efficient because they are not really necessary. But, they do give me a sense of accomplishment anyway (even though perhaps they shouldn't, just like watching TV shouldn't give me a sense of waisting my time), and so I'm trying that out as a way of relaxing.

I'm actually in the middle of it right now. Writing this post is one of my small errands. I'm not sure exactly what things should quality -- I think I want to stay away from things that require too much decision making, since that's stressful.


meditation 12

..continued. Planning for up to 5 minutes.. ok, I stopped about 10 seconds short of 5 minutes. I feel I did ok. My thoughts first went toward fear stuff, like last time, but moved past that fairly quickly.. and I entered a somewhat odd mental state, a bit detached from emotions or higher level thinking, and more attached to rudimentary stuff, like breathing -- that is not a very good description -- this came with a mental image of being in the rear-top quarter of my head.. then my thoughts moved toward wondering what the difference is between meditation and hypnosis. The thing is, recently I made some progress becoming hypnotized (I think), and I have a fairly good feel for what that feels like, and how to enter that state, and I could enter that state while meditating, but I'm not sure that's the right state to enter.. anyway, as I was thinking about it, I kindof moved past that worry (and didn't enter a hypnotic state), and then I was left not really thinking about anything at all, and it was a bit boring, and I wasn't sure what to do, but I figured I should write the thoughts I had since they would prevent me from making too much more progress..


ideas repeat

I'm sure I've said this before, but this idea has a pretty good repeatability disclaimer built into it..

The idea or meme is that any good idea that someone has is almost certainly also in someone else's head, and was probably even in someone's head who lived a long time ago and wrote a book about it. This can be discouraging. BUT, it shouldn't be if we think about ideas like children in an evolutionary sense. People are not discouraged about having kids simply because other people have also had kids. Someone's own kids are likely to be pretty darn similar to everyone else's kids (as humans, we are really good at noticing the subtle differences, but to an alien, I suspect humans would be really hard to tell apart), but we hope that our kids are a little bit different and a little bit better. So it is with ideas. Our ideas will inevitably be extremely similar to other people's ideas, but not completely the same -- there will be subtle nuanced differences in our own version of the idea -- and we hope that our ideas survive and reproduce.

It's good for people to have the same ideas as other people. This is the nature of the evolution of ideas. It shouldn't be discouraging. And we shouldn't discourage it by saying that people need to have "novel" ideas.

meditation 11

..continued. Planing for less time this time. Only 5 minutes. That's what I feel like I can do naturally, without sortof forcing myself to just sit there, and I'm not going to worry about clearing my mind just to clear my mind, I'm going to try to clear my mind and see what is in the way, and deal with that stuff.. in some sense.. sortof.. maybe.. not sure.. here goes..

ok, I got about 2 minutes in, and then stopped with an unexpected "worry". The thing is, when I start to meditate, trying to clear my mind, I often see beautiful images and scenes that I would like to capture somehow. This time I saw an image of a woman and a tiger looking out a window. I couldn't see what was outside the window, all I could see was the light falling on the figures within. The room around them was dark. The window was the sort of window one would imagine in the movie Alladin, namely, it was shaped with a point at the top, and the walls were very thick. I say a woman and a tiger, though I'm not sure if that's right (and it wasn't Jasmine and Rajah.. and it wasn't cartoon-ish). The dominant colors were orange and blue. There was fine detail in the figures (though I'm not sure what they were), and in the wall. Eventually, the wall started to become puzzle pieces.

I'm not sure I could paint the scene as it was in my mind. I wish I could.

Anyway, then I thought "this is great, but I should be trying to clear my mind rather than being distracted by this," and then I thought, "well no, this is a real concern of my mind, wondering whether it's a good idea to just see a beautiful scene like this and then forget it in favor of clearing my mind." That is to say, I do want to clear my mind, but I think the best path toward that is to resolve this issue of what to do about beautiful scenes which enter my mind while I'm meditating. Here are some options:

1. Acknowledge it and continue clearing my mind. That is, don't attent to it.
2. See if it's good, and if it's really good, stop meditating and try to capture the image or idea somehow.
3. Admire the image while it's in my mind -- not try to capture it for painting later -- but just see it now, like admiring a beautiful sunset.

Pros of 1: I can meditate. Also, I'll probably see more images later, so no need to capture these ones.
Cons of 1: I might miss the opportunity to capture a good image.

Hm.. am I really worried about a missed opportunity to capture a good image? I mean, I can't paint it anyway. I guess I just feel like, if I wanted to be an artist, I should do whatever I'm doing and stop at the stage of seeing beautiful images and trying to capture them. On the other hand, maybe those images only arise because I'm not seeking them.. maybe they are like dream images that arise when my mind is absent during sleep.. perhaps that is why they have more detail.

I guess the question is not whether to paint them, or even record them.. i.e. option 2. isn't really viable.. the real question is whether to do 3. Should I attent to the image, and admire it, or let it vanish.

My gut tells me that the answer to this question is: I should not attend to it. I should acknowledge it, but let it pass as a dream, because I'm after bigger fish. Hm.. when I put it like that, I feel like I'm on some quest to some great mythical place, and I ignore the wonders along the way, and when I get there it's some guy sitting, and I ask the guy, "is this it?" and he's like "did you look around you as you came here?" ..Smelling the roses, and the journey is the best part, and all that.. hm..

I think maybe I should spend a little time admiring the images, and try to understand them in the context of trying to meditate.. and see how that goes.. maybe I'll try meditating again now..

ok, I think I went.. well.. over 2 minutes that time. I was doing ok, but I had a thought, and I decided that I'd better write down the thoughts because they would just be there preventing me from going further down.. that sortof is the thought in a sense. The thought is: I need to excavate all this stuff in my mind and get it "out" so that I can go further down. I need to acknowledge fears, and be finely attuned to what's really going on in my head, and this is the path down -- rather than trying to "force" my way down by artificially clearly my mind by just ignoring what's in it. Anyway, this feels right. Incidentally, the sequence of images that came up was less pleasant this time. The first image was of a dark stone passage lit with monocrome light. The stone reminded me of a stone stature I saw recently outside a winery (I didn't actually go to the winery, I just saw the statue, but the statue is of an animal, except it doesn't really have a head..

..yeah, that's it (from this blog post). It's from the Robert Mondavi Winery. Anyway, the passage was eerie and made of stone the same way that statue is eerie and made of stone. The passage evolved and morphed a bit in my mind. Then I thought the thought "I'm trying to meditate, and my mind knows what it's doing, and it's getting there, and I just need to play along.." and I saw the scene with the passage move down as if it was at the base of a marble table, and I was beginning to see the top of the table, but when I was looking at the rim of the table I saw a face, which looked like a face carved in stone, like something I might have seen in the Louvre. Then some strange and frightening things happened with the eyes of the face, and the face morphed and changed for the worse in terms of scariness, but this didn't disturb me too much, I thought "yes, I need to overcome fear.. and this is deeply personal and would be hard to explain.." and.. well I'm not going to try to explain it -- I'm not sure I know the explanation, at least not consciously, but I feel like my subconscious knows what's up, and it seemed like it was making positive progress despite the frighteningness of the imagery. Then the scene changed to a stone slab being pushed aside to reveal a pool of what may have been blood, and there were separators in it, like the separators in a swimming pool to keep the swimmers in their lane. And flat paper-thin figures started to emerge from the pool. This was also a bit disturbing, but strangely enough is not why I stopped meditating at this moment, but rather because the ideas accompanying these images -- namely the ones about excavating my mind and facing fears as a path toward meditation seemed worth writing down, and I figured I wouldn't be able to progress more if I was thinking "oh, I should write that down."

So.. one more time? hm.. I suppose..

ok, over 3 minutes. Nice. Hm.. this time began with the image of a Chinese pot. Then, it got darker.. The overall gist of it was still "face your fears", except this time there was some real fear associated with the experience. The faded a bit when I stopped, but again, the reason I stopped was to write some of the fears I had. Though, some are too personal to put here.. if you can believe it, I have a more personal blog than this. At some point, I want to open up completely, but.. I guess I fear that too..

pigma micron 005

leading myself

When trying to lead someone in dance, there's this notion of a connection. If your partner's arm is limp, and you push it, then the arm will probably move, but not their body. You want to feel a bit of resistance from their hand, to know that the arm is engaged, and that pressing on it will be felt by your partner.

Now, I've been trying to meditate and also trying self-hypnosis. Both of these activities seem to require relaxation, which is a bit challenging for me. My strategy so far seems to be "just relax". I think this may be like pushing against a limp arm.. or something like that. The analogy may not be great. But I feel like I'm trying to get my brain to relax when my brain is still worried about stuff, and so my brain sortof covers up the stuff with an blanket and tries not to look there, but part of my brain still secretly knows what's under the blanket, and is worried about it.

I think to really make progress relaxing, I need to tackle the causes of my stress directly, rather than trying to relax in spite of them. I think some people can just relax and forget their cares, but I don't seem to be good at that. Or rather, I guess I'm not truly convinced that forgetting my cares is a safe idea.

subjectivity / consciousness / sentience

Sometimes I tell people that science has nothing useful to say about consciousness. And they say: "What do you mean? We know a lot about the brain. Presumably consciousness is coming from there."

And I say something like: "Well, I'm not talking about the stuff that's explainable by the brain. I understand why I do the things I do in terms of the brain. I even understand why I discuss things like consciousness -- sort of -- in terms of the brain. But none of that necessitates actual subjective experience."

And then they don't seem to know what I mean..

This is where words like qualia come in, and nobody seems to agree about exactly what is being discussed..

But I think that lack of agreement is the essential defining characteristic of consciousness -- it is the aspect of our subjective experience which cannot be explained in words, not even words like qualia. Note that this definition says what consciousness is not, but not what it is. Anything that we say in an attempt to explain the true essence of subjective experience is, by the very fact that we are saying it, not subjective. It would presumably be possible to inspect someone's brain and see that they said the things they said because of the laws of the universe, without any need for true subjective experience.

The deep and strange philosophical claim that a conscious entity makes by asserting that it is conscious is that there is something about itself that it cannot explain in words -- or any other way -- and cannot prove exists.


why aren't I Mormon?

Whenever I'm asked this, I think about how to respond. I've written blog posts about it. When asked this recently, I said what I had most recently written in a blog post (something about not wanting to be judged). But then, that didn't seem like a reason not to believe, but rather a reason not to want to believe. I had forgotten what I wrote in that post about free-will, which makes more sense as a reason, but as I was thinking about it, I thought of another reason.. well, this reason is along the lines of the story I tell in this post (something about comparing the feeling of the spirit to the feeling of understanding something in physics). The core point of that story can be summarized as follows:

I decided that I shouldn't be asking "why not be Mormon?", but rather be asking "why should I be Mormon?". And the trouble is, the only reason I can find to be Mormon -- and even most Mormons will tell you this -- is by feeling the holy spirit. But I don't know how to know whether I'm feeling the holy spirit, or just feeling something coming from my own brain. I think that the brain can produce feelings which one could interpret as coming from a divine source. So.. I need something else to convince me that Mormonism is correct, and nothing else has.

seeing things

I thought I was seeing things, but really I was seeing a thing. A spider.

It was crawling behind my little scanner. I got an envelope and coaxed it onto the envelope. I had the door open, ready to bring it outside, but it decided to crawl toward my hand, so I threw the envelop onto the floor. Then it started racing across my floor, so I picked up a box and dropped it on the spider. The spider survived and kept running. More box dropping. More survival. Eventual death.

Poor thing.


problem: I created an EC2 machine, and I want to start some long running script, and I want the script to keep running even after I close my terminal session.

solution: A friend introduced me to "screen". I type "screen", which opens a sort of virtual terminal, and I run my command within that, and then I press Ctrl-A and then D to "detach" from the session but keep it running. I can reattach with the command "screen -R". Apparently it is just the nature of screen itself to keep running even if I close my terminal session, so I can "exit", log in again, type "screen -R" and I'm back to the command I ran, and I can even see all its output.

perl vs grep

A friend at work claimed that perl uses NFAs and grep uses DFAs. He gave this example regular expression: (a?){30}a{30}. Then he ran the following command:

echo "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" | grep -E "(a?){30}a{30}"

which found a match instantaneously. Then he ran the following command:

perl -e "print \"match\\n\" if 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa' =~ /(a?){30}a{30}/"

About 5 minutes later it printed "match".

I get the impression that grep really does convert a regular expression into a DFA, which is cool, though I seem to recall that DFAs can get pretty big for some evil regular expressions. I'll have to try giving it such an expression.

I get the impression that perl is a bit more ad-hoc than using NFAs -- I think perl can do more powerful things than NFAs support. However, it does appear that perl is not converting regular expressions into DFAs.



note to self: these are amazing.



bad brain teasers

In listing brain teasers I like, I remembered that I've wanted to complain about some brain teasers that I hate. I hate brain teasers which claim to require "out-of-the-box" thinking, but.. well.. I feel like they cheat. I realize that brain teasers often have a "trick", and they often purposely lead the thinker down the wrong path, but they need to be careful. They need to make sure, in the way they are stated, that all the necessary assumptions are clear.

Here's an example of a bad brain teaser:
There's a room near you with a light in it. You're in a room with three light switches. One of those switches controls the light in the other room. You can do what you want in this room, and when you're done, you can walk into the room with the light. Then you need to say which switch controls the light.
The supposed answer is: leave one switch on for a while, then turn it off, and turn on one of the other switches, then walk into the room with the light. If the light is on, it must be the most recent switch you turned on. If it is off, feel the bulb. If the bulb is hot, it must be the first switch, otherwise it's the last switch.

However, this supposed answer assumes some things that were not clear from the problem statement. First, it assumes that the light in use is the sort that heats up. Second, it assumes that the light is within reach, and not attached to a high ceiling. These assumptions are not clearly stated, so someone thinking about the brain teaser can't assume they act in their favor.

Another example that bother's me a bit is the Candle Problem (my phrasing is taken from wikipedia):
How do you fix a candle on a wall (a cork board) in a way so the candle wax won't drip onto the table below using only the following (in addition to the candle): a book of matches, and a box of thumbtacks.
The supposed solution is to empty the thumbtacks out of the box, put the candle inside it, tack the box to the wall, and then light it. However, I'm not convinced that it is clear to all participants that the box holding the thumbtacks is a legal item. It seems fair to think that the experimenter simply included the box so the thumbtacks wouldn't roll away. If it's fair to use this box, why isn't it fair to move the table away from the wall?

brain teasers

I love brain teasers. Not all brain teasers. There are different kinds. Some just require churning through lots of possibilities. These generally require paper. I'm bad at that, and I hate it. I like brain teasers that are simple -- that I can hold completely in my mind.

Here are the best one's I've heard:

My dad told me this one. He said he heard it on Car Talk. I don't remember the exact story, but I believe I have the same puzzle:
There is a prison with twenty prisoners. The warden calls them into a room. He says he's going to play a game with them. It goes like this. They can talk to each other for an hour strategizing. After that, they will all go into solitary confinement, and they'll never be able to talk to each other again. Each day, the warden will bring a random prisoner into a special room with two switches. Each switch can be up or down -- not anywhere in between. The prisoner may put the switches into whatever configuration they chose, and then they'll be taken back to their cell. Now, if a prisoner ever asserts to the warden that all the prisoners have been to the switch room, he'll let everyone free if this is true, and kill everyone if it is false. How can the prisoners ensure eventual freedom, with no chance of death?
A friend in grad school told me this one. Again, I don't remember the exact story, but I believe the puzzle is the same:
There are 100 quarters on a table. You happen to know that 20 of them are heads-up. Unfortunately, you are blind, and you cannot feel the difference between heads-up and tails-up. Your task is to sort the quarters into two groups with one requirement: each group must contain the same number of heads-up quarters.
I think I've heard this one from multiple sources, but it's still good:
You have 9 identical looking balls. One of them is a little heavier, but you can't tell which one. Fortunately you have a balance-scale. What is the fewest number of weighings required to identify the heavier ball?
Here is an upgrade to the 9-ball puzzle, though I failed to solve it in my head. I thought I had the answer, but wasn't sure, so I wrote a program to solve it, and the program showed a way to solve it with one fewer weighing than I thought:
You have 12 identical looking balls. One of them weighs a little different than the others, either heavier or lighter, you don't know which. You have the same trusty balance-scale. What is the fewest number of weighings required to identify the different ball, and know whether it is heavier or lighter?
I heard this one just today from a professor doing a sabbatical at my place of work:
You have three independent random variables X, Y and Z. Is it possible to define the distribution of each variable such that there is more than a 50% chance of X > Y, a more than 50% chance of Y > Z, and a more than 50% chance of Z > X?
update: I should include the Monty Hall problem here, though I failed to solve it in my head. In fact, after I was told the solution, I didn't believe it, and I wrote a program on my TI-83 to prove the solution wrong -- but it proved the solution right. Here's the problem from wikipedia:
Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1 [but the door is not opened], and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
NOTE: I think it is important to the puzzle to further state that the host would not have opened the door with the car. Wikipedia's version says that the host knows what's behind the doors, but we need to know that the host is actually using this information to find a door with a goat. I discuss this issue in this post (note that it gives away the answer, but I suspect anyone reading to this point already knows the answer).
update: Here's another puzzle I like. I'm not sure where I heard it. It goes something like this:
The teacher lines up 3 students, one behind the other, all facing the whiteboard. Each student can see the students in front of them. Now the teachers says, "I have 2 red hats and 3 white hats. I'm going to place a hat on each of your heads. You won't be able to see your own hat, but if you can deduce the color of your own hat, then say so." All the students are logical and smart. There is silence for a bit. Eventually the student in the front says, "I know what color my hat is!" What color is their hat?


meditation 10

..continued. The plan is 15 minutes in the lotus position. I was just thinking about maybe doing it sitting in my chair, but I think the lotus position puts my mind into the mode of "I'm trying to meditate now". My focus will be trying to clear my mind of thought, and trying not to get too frustrated about how bad I am at that, but just trying..

done.. notes:

- I feel like I need to remove my ego. I often get a bit annoyed reading or hearing people talk about meditation, or related stuff, because I have my own deep opinions about it, and I feel like this is my "strong suit" in some sense, and I guess I feel jealous or arrogant when other people tell me things about it.. but I feel like I need to lose that ego. I feel like I need to lose "myself".

- I worried about a logistical matter that will happen this Friday, and I was debating whether I should stop meditating to write down the thought. The thought in favor of doing so was "this matter involves other people, and it would be selfish of me to forget about dealing with it in favor of meditating", and the thought against it was "I'll remember later, and really meditation is more important for me, and I may really just be worried about what other people will think of me rather than genuinely worried about hurting them.. maybe.." Anyway, I decided to keep meditating. I think this is probably the right tact in the future. I don't meditate that long, and hopefully I'll remember the important things later, but this is time I feel is important to give to myself.

update: I meditated again for 15 minutes. Good practice. I feel like I may need to practice many times before I get the hang of this, but I feel like I'm headed in the right direction.


meditation 9

..continued. Ok, this time the plan is for 14 minutes, but lying down. Usually I do this in the lotus position (or my version of that, which is probably wrong) and I find that I spend a fair amount of time correcting my posture. I think that might be fine, but I wonder what the experience is like not worrying about physical posture. So, here goes..

Hm.. one disadvantage to that approach is that it makes me very tired. I want to sleep now. Other than that, I think it's pretty similar.

- my mind is very noisy. I keep attending to things. It is very difficult to just not think at all. I'm sortof thinking that "not thinking" is not an end in itself, but it a tool for something, and I certainly don't have that tool yet. I like to think that I'm pretty good at doing mental things, but this particular thing seems like it will simply require a lot of practice.


It is hot inside my apartment. There is no air conditioning here. I have the windows open, and Google claims it has cooled to 73 degrees outside, but my thermostat reads 87 degrees. It was over 90 degrees inside earlier.

I am negatively effected by the heat. I makes me sluggish and not want to work.

I feel like I would gain a lot of value by living somewhere cooler.

Gödel, Escher, Bach

I recently heard someone say that the book Gödel, Escher, Bach tries to explain consciousness. I hadn't heard that before. I had always thought the book was essentially saying that Gödel, Escher and Bach all incorporated recursion into their work, and that recursion was cool.

So I got the book, and I read the preface. In the preface, the author does indeed claim that there is a connection between Gödel, Escher, Bach and consciousness. In particular, that the sortof strange paradoxical recursion found in Gödel's incompleteness theorem is essentially the building block of meaning, self-awareness, and consciousness.

I've had some related thoughts.

In a previous post, I drew an artsy half-baked doodle labeled "meaning of meaning". This doodle was inspired by a paper I wrote for a philosophy class in grad school, which talks about the Liar paradox and the halting problem, which I think are both essentially the same as Gödel's proof. The core idea of the paper is that meaning and truth require an interpreter. If you want to know what a statement means, then say it to someone that knows the language of the statement, and see what they do. Whatever they do is the meaning of the statement. If you want to know whether a statement is true, you must ask an interpreter of the statement whether it is true, where the word "true" itself is part of the language of the statement. A statement is not true in an of itself, since it has no meaning in and of itself, and neither does the word "true" have meaning in and of itself.

I've also written a post exploring the idea of interpretation as a candidate for understanding consciousness in a similar vien to the way Hofstadter suggests that consciousness arises from strange recursive loops, like the Gödel sentence.

However, I feel like the Gödel sentence is not enough to explain consciousness. I understand that the Gödel sentence is sortof self-aware of itself and the system it is in, and our human consciousness is sortof self-aware of ourselves and the environment we are in. I've even subjectively felt more conscious at those times when I have understood something more recursively.

But, I've also felt more conscious at those times when I've seen a beautiful landscape, or held hands with a beautiful girl. I feel like the common thread between these situations is input -- stuff to be aware of and interpret -- and recursive thinking also generates a lot of input, but it is not the only thing that does.

This is the thought I was exploring in this previous post, which suggests that there is a difference between consciousness and intelligence. I feel like recursion is a powerful tool for intelligent thought, but I'm not sure it is the building block for consciousness.

Of course, it might be. These thoughts are all a bit muddled for me, but I feel like they're related. I also feel like the notion of infinity -- explored a bit in this post -- should be in this discussion. Note that even that post mentions Gödel's paradox, but it places lower on the continuum of mathematical strangeness than higher order infinities.

meditation 8

..continued. This time, the plan is for 13 minutes. I'm feeling a bit antsy. Hopefully the meditation will help with that. We'll see. OK, just about did it. 11 seconds short. Right at the end, I had the though "oh no, I turned my sound off at the movie, I wonder if it is even going to ring.." I opened my eyes and checked the time. 11 seconds left. I waited them out, and it did ring, so that's good to know for future reference, both during meditation, and in the theatre.

- the thought came to mind that "self control" is a big part of this
- I was antsy at times, but I felt like I could acknowledge / accept / let-go of it
- I wonder if I should really be in a lotus position. It is physically strenuous. I wonder if that is purposeful, along the lines of self-control -- and it seems like yoga is an even more extreme example of that.. hm..

moonrise kingdom

I decided to watch moonrise kingdom this evening. Alone. I headed over to Mountain View for a 10:10pm showing. Before the show, I stopped by In-n-Out for dinner. While there, I saw someone I hadn't seen in a few years. Turns out he was also going to see a movie.. the same movie. So I ended up not going alone after all.

alligator christmas

My grandma on my mom's side carves. Every year, her grandkids get a carving. It got an alligator this year. I just found out, because the gift had been sitting at my sister's house, and she remembered it when I went home this past weekend. I think this may be the only gift I got this christmas. Man that sounds sad, but I don't mean it that way. I'm not much into christmas gifts, and I don't think I gave anyone anything. Hm.. now that sounds evil.

the o in oDesk..

..is now a person


monty hall again

I ran an experiment on mturk here, and then I decided that I made a mistake here. I reran the experiment, and here are the results from that (note that only 90 people did it before the HIT expired).

The results were similar, but not quite as good. The most common answer was again 50%, followed by three-way tie between 100%, 75% and 70%. If we restrict ourselves to just people who guessed that the most common answer would be 50%, then the most common answer is again 50%, followed by a three-way tie between 67%, 33% and 20%. This result isn't as nice as before, where the next most common answer was just 66%. However, both 67% and 33% are more reasonable than 100% or 75%. I'm not sure where 20% is coming from.

I also ran an experiment with the same idea, but a different brain teaser:

Imagine you have 9 identical looking balls, and a weighing scale. All the balls weigh the same except one, which is heavier.
How many weighings on the scale do you need in order to identify the heavier ball?
[        ]
What answer do you think most other people will give?
[        ]

The results from this are here. Note that only 64 people did the HIT before it expired. Also note that there was more variance in how people answered: some people added words, and some of the answers appear to be percentages rather than numbers. The most common answers were 3 and 4 with 19% and 17% respectively. If we restrict ourselves to people who guessed that the most common answer would be 3 or 4, then all the answer are 3 and 4, except one person who answered 8. Only 3 people gave the correct answer of 2, but two of these people guessed that most people would answer 2, and one of these people guessed that most people would answer 1 -- which seems sketchy to me.

So, I'm less confident in this technique. I still think there may be some clever way to get turkers to reason through difficult brain teasers -- maybe it would help to ask people why they gave the answer they did, and have other people rate those bits of reasoning?


meditation 7

..continued. I'm going to meditate for 12 minutes this time.. ok, done, notes:

- got bored once, but pretty quickly resumed patience
- idea: maybe the idea of clearing the mind is that when the mind is clear, it is simple, and it is easier for a meta-mind to understand it, and sortof "see above it"
- attention often diverted to keep upright
- my ear was a bit plugged, and I kept hearing my breath loudly in my ear (my ear has been plugged all day, and I think it got more plugged after dancing.. something to do with sweat I think)
- I also heard the fan of my computer -- I feel like noises are not good for meditation. I think ultimately I should be able to focus in their presence, but it seems easier without them
- near the beginning, there were some images, even some pretty vivid images. Many of these images were sortof stoic, which I identify with meditation, but I decided that I shouldn't entertain or be distracted by even these images, but rather completely rid my mind of thoughts (these thoughts seem a bit illusionary in that.. it's sortof like imaging that I'm an olympic athlete, rather than actually exercising)
- near the end, I decided to focus on accepting thoughts.. acknowledging and accepting thoughts as they passed by, without letting them take my attention.. I feel like this is in the right direction
- I felt like I was doing well, and that maybe I just need more practice
- I've recently been feeling a feeling of sortof.. being above myself, and giving myself commands, though I'm not sure how real this feeling is.. in any case, I went back and forth a bit on meditating by sortof giving my "lower" self the command to meditate, but I feel like this strategy might be wrong, since this supposed "upper" self is still thinking.. so I'm still focussed on trying to rid my mind of all thought. I'm hoping these mental phenomena become more clear as I continue on.

risky vs long-term

I heard a conversation today that went something like:
Person A: I think startups should invest in research.
Person B: I don't think startups will benefit from long-term research.
Person A: I don't think startups should do long-term research. I think startups should do "risky" research, where the payoff is relatively near-term. It is harder and harder for anyone to do long-term research, since it is increasingly less clear what the future holds.
I like this distinction between "risky" and "long-term" research.

Cirque du Soleil

I just saw a video of Cirque du Soleil. I've been watching America's Got Talent, which is where I saw it. I've seen other imported acts on America's Got Talent before, but holy crap, Cirque du Soleil reminds me what professionalism can be when it comes to performance. So precise. So smooth. Spotless.

[update: I ended up seeing this cirque du soleil show in New York a month or so later. It was fantastic.]

depression and non-depression

Yesterday, I went to bed depressed. I had been depressed for a while. Today, I woke up non-depressed. I'm not sure what changed. I tried some mental technique before going to bed, but I often try various mental techniques. I seem to recall this technique having something to do with letting my mind go, so to speek, allowing for gross or disturbing imagery to enter my mind, if that's where my mind goes -- and it did -- and at some point, when it had run it's corse, I kindof imagined crystalizing it all, and melting it into the sun.

But I feel like there was some realization that I'm missing. One thought I had last night was that my baseline was depressed. It felt like a new realization, acknowledging that I keep coming back down whenever I get optimistic and excited about stuff. But, I thought, why should my baseline be low? What is special about being low? If my baseline can be low, why can't it be high?

Anyway, I don't think I've solved my depression. I think I'll be depressed again, maybe even soon, but it's good to not be depressed sometimes to realize what it's like again, and to give me hope that I can get here more often.

I think my optimism also stems from some successes today. I feel like I made some progress in meditation and hypnosis and also in dancing. Progress feels good. I'm not sure progress is sustainable. Sometimes I won't make progress. But, today, I also remember lying down and at some point the idea came to mind "I'm blocked in meditation, and I wrote that I should read something about it. Maybe I should read something about it." And then I had the thought, "here is some motivation to do something, I should probably follow it, since I haven't been very motivated lately." And that turned out to be the right decision.

dancing for exercise

At some point in grad school, I started dancing for exercise. I would go into the basement of my dorm, which had a dance room with a wooden floor and mirrors. I would go there at 3am, so that nobody was awake, so nobody would accidentally walk in and see me. It was so embarrassing that it was hard even to watch myself in the mirrors. But eventually I got over it, and it became a very enjoyable way to exercise. To date, this is the only form of exercise I've been able to keep-up -- everything else I've tried has been too boring. Though I have had some success with listening to music on an elliptical machine, and walking in time to the music.

Anyway, I want to keep track of my dancing/exercise because I haven't been doing it often enough, and keeping track here seems to be a good way.. so:

- Wed July 4 : 30 minutes (notes: usually I just improve for myself. This time, I spent some time imagining dancing with a partner. This was pretty helpful, I felt like I could improvise more freely than when I actually dance with my instructor. I discovered that what I've been missing is allowing for more simple and controlled moves, and really feeling the music with my partner.. I'm excited to keep practicing like this in preparation for my next lesson.)

- Thu July 5 : 30 minutes (notes: pretty good -- I feel like I refined some of the things I did yesterday, though I'm a bit worried about how to create new stuff. Maybe I need to listen to dramatically different songs -- I do feel like different beats spawn different ideas in my head of how to dance to them, and a lot of the music I've been listening to has essentially the same beat)

- Fri Jul 6 : 30 minutes (notes: still good -- I listened to Lana Del Rey, and that seemed to have a different beat, and I think I came up with something different for that.. so exploring different beats seems good.)

- Sat Jul 8 : 30 minutes (notes: I had wanted to practice particular songs for tomorrow, but the 30 minutes went by so quickly.)


meditation 6

The saga continues. I said before that "Maybe it is time to read something about meditation before my next attempt." So I did. I looked up "meditation" on Wikipedia. In the section "Meditation, religion, and drugs" I saw a reference to The Master Game, by Robert S de Ropp : "the 'door to full consciousness' can be glimpsed with the aid of substances, but to 'pass beyond the door' requires yoga and meditation." I then tried to find The Master Game online, which I did here: http://selfdefinition.org/psychology/Robert-S-De-Ropp-The-Master-Game.pdf. I read maybe a third of it, skimming a bit.. I stopped at the section talking about "The Silent World", where it seems to talk about some early stage goals of meditation, where one main goal is stopping thoughts.

Now, I had said before that my impression of meditation was to "clear the mind", and I had been heading in that direction, but upon reflection, I think my issue was that I didn't understand why I would want to clear my mind. It seemed like the greatest hope of this would be to essentially relax, and I guess I'm just not that interested in relaxing in a really hard and boring way.

But, the author of The Master Game seems to suggest that a higher state of consciousness lies beyond the normal thoughts that occupy our minds on a day to day basis. That is to say, the point of meditation is not to clear the mind, but rather, clearing the mind is a tool for arriving at a higher state of consciousness, and that does seem more interesting.

So this time I meditated for 10 minutes. I upped the time because I felt I could go longer, now that I had a good reason to quite my mind. I remember at first being concerned about the loudness of a fan that was on, and I almost decided to turn it off, but then thought "I feel like I should be able to stop attending to the fan as I stop attending to other thoughts." And I did, I had forgotten about the fan by the end.

I feel like the experience is going to have fewer and fewer things to say as I continue. First, because thinking of things to say goes contrary to "quieting the mind". And second, because I've been led to believe that a higher state of consciousness is indescribable. Though, I'm never convinced of statements like that. I think the true nature of an experience is indescribable, but I think it's always possible to say something about it. After all, The Master Game itself is a description of such things. So, we'll see.

..after writing all that, I meditated again for 10 minutes. I read it is good to do this often. It is difficult to really truly let go of my thoughts. I feel like I need to really not be attached to the cares of the world, and I feel like one challenge I need to overcome is getting sidetracked by ideas and insights that come to mind while meditating. I feel like they are really just a tool my brain uses to trick me into caring about stuff again. I guess I have a deep-seeded hope that eventually, following this path will shed some insight that I can explain and that will be valuable to "conventional reality", but I'm not sure.

I'm not sure that the higher state of consciousness accessible through meditation has very much to do with humanness. I feel like consciousness itself transcends humans. I feel like humans are a fluke, if you will. Humans are the size and shape of organisms that happened to evolve here on Earth, at this time, which is a very small place and time in this universe. Humans happen to be conscious, but I feel like consciousness itself is more fundamental and interesting in its own right, separate from humanness.

Mormon errata

...just thought I'd fix the Mormon religion real quick:

1. the devil

Mormon belief: My understanding is that the Devil and Christ had different plans for man. The Devil wanted people to be more-or-less forced to be righteous. Christ wanted people to choose righteousness for themselves. God went along with Christ and threw the Devil and his followers out of heaven.

fix: The Devil and Christ had different plans for man. The Devil wanted people to gain understanding without experiencing hardship. Christ didn't think this was possible. God also didn't think it was possible. The Devil and his followers were afraid to experience hardship, so they didn't enter mortal bodies, and they're waiting around until they overcome that fear.

2. atonement

Mormon belief: My understanding is that Christ came to earth to suffer for the sins of man, so that man can be saved, since sinning makes people impure, and people can only return to God if they are pure.

fix: Christ suffered all the sorts of things that people suffer so that he could understand people when they prayed, otherwise people might be like "you're a God, you don't understand what I'm going through." There's no such thing as being impure. God is infinitely understanding.

3. after-life

Mormon belief: My understanding is that there are three degrees of glory people can attain after they're are judged, and one degree of non-glory called "outer darkness." All of these are eternal, though I've heard people disagree about that.

fix: Spirits are learning all the time -- sometimes inside of mortal bodies -- and as they learn more, they get more power as a natural side-effect of their increased understanding about how things work. If you're like the Devil, saying "I don't want to suffer at all" then you're limited in how much you can learn, but you're not trapped forever. Spirits can always learn and progress.

4. faith

Mormon belief: My understanding is that when you read the Book of Mormon, and pray about it, you get a feeling of "this is correct", and you should trust that feeling. This is then the foundation of faith in God and the church.

fix: It's hard to be sure that any particular feeling came from God. Brains are tricky. Even after extremely powerful feelings, if people reflect on them honestly, they may doubt their supernatural origin. However, religion is not about faith, it is about hope. Faith is easy to put in the wrong place, acting as a trap where people get stuck believing something that isn't that great. Hope is free to explore, and discover how we truly wish the universe was, given the experiences we've already had. This exploration is the true quest for God. And I submit that it isn't easy. It is hard to come up with a good way for the universe to be that accounts for all the negative experiences people have had so far.



False high-level impression: Lies are good. High-level impressions are good. They convey information quickly, and they are memorable.

True low-level details: Distorting the truth can be a useful tool for painting a high-level picture of an idea. One risk is that people will believe falsehoods. On the other hand, it may be better for someone to believe one lie and nine truths than to gain nothing at all.

I often fall into the trap of telling the truth. In a previous post, I talk about a conversation I had with my mom about religion. The post is a bit long and dry. I feel like that post should read something like this:
I often argue with my mother about religion. Usually I tell her that it doesn't make sense, and she tells me that it gives her hope. My comeback is: I would rather live with the truth than hope for a lie. However, this time I realized that her faith wouldn't even give me hope. I fear her faith. I hope is isn't true, because it judges people for eternity based on an astronomically short period of time over which people have no real control. Maybe I don't care about the truth. Maybe I too just hope for a lie.
This impression of the situation is a lie, but I think it does a better job conveying the core thought that was running through my head. It is a better meme. This story has a better chance of surviving and reproducing, because other people can understand and relate to it more easily.

I want to lie more. Though, I want some way for people to know I'm lying. Like an impressionistic or abstract painting, that people never confuse for reality.

video games

Games I love for the story and/or ambiance (in reverse chronological order):

Bastion : love the voice acting. love the story telling technique, though the story itself was a bit disappointing somehow. love the use of color manipulation in the dream sequences, making all the colors become more saturated.

LIMBO : love the stylized greyscale art and general ambiance, though the story didn't feel as solid as Braid.

Machinarium : great art, cute story. I lost patience with many puzzles and looked them up -- this happens to me with adventure games. They have puzzles to keep you from moving through them too quickly, but the puzzles often amount to just trying to do every possible thing, at which point I look them up.

Portal and Portal 2 : omg, what a great game. great story, combined with humor. I wish the story was more meaningful in the multiplayer part of Portal 2, though I understand why it isn't, since many people won't be able to play it, lacking a partner.

World of Goo : great bridge-building puzzle game with art that conveys a story.

Psychonauts : omg, wow. I played this before portal, but it is similar in that it has a great story, told with a great sense of humor, along with great gameplay.

Braid : fantastic. braid is like Mario Brothers for adults, where the story is as deep and meaningful as the puzzles. I love the stylized nature of the story, where the story seems real, even though the puzzle levels themselves are not taken to be stuff that the character in the story actually did.

The Longest Journey and Dreamfall : the longest journey is perhaps my favorite game of all time -- definitely my favorite adventure game. I love it for the story. The puzzles were too random and hard for me, and I think I looked up answers online. But the story was awesome. Dreamfall is good. not as good as the longest journey, but continues the story, and I will play the next game if it ever comes out to hear the end.

Grim Fandango : second only to the longest journey -- and I'm not sure it should be second. great humor -- one of the best intro-cutscenes ever. I played this with my sister. we didn't look up any answers.

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
 : classic adventure game. very good, though if I had to rate them, I'd put King's Quest 6, Grim Fandango and The Longest Journey all above this one.

Myst, Riven, and Exile : I don't actually think the story was that great in these, but they were beautiful with good puzzles. I think I beat Riven and Exile all on my own, but I had seen some people play Myst before playing it myself.

Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2 : this is the closest I ever got to playing Dungeons and Dragons. note that I never beat Baldur's Gate 2. not sure why. I remember choosing a male character in BG2 specifically because there was a female character that the game would let your main character fall in love with. She was evil though, so I had some moral qualms being evil enough for her to fall in love with me. I forget if I succeeded. I think I failed.

Exile : a low-budget share-ware tile-based rpg. I loved it though. I loved the mystical eastern-inspired people with the brightly colored baggy clothes, and wave-blades. I never beat it though. I think it was too hard. The way these games go, you sometimes need to level up your characters quite a bit to beat the foes further in the game, and I wasn't that into "grinding". I wanted to go as quickly as possible through the main plot-line. I think this may have hurt me in Baldur's Gate 2 as well. I think the reason I got through the original Baldur's Gate is that summoning creatures was broken -- I would just summon a crap-load of creatures, and the foes couldn't get to me.

King's Quest 6 : this was my first introduction to adventure games, and I fell in love.

Real-time Strategy Games (in reverse chronological order):

StarCraft and StarCraft 2 : I'm not sure I beat either of these, but I played them both a lot online. I was never that great, though I did get into a "gold" league in StarCraft 2. My strategy was generally: 7 roach rush, and then mutalisks. On a side note: I played StartCraft 2 a lot while finishing my thesis. Thankyou StartCraft 2!

Command & Conquer, and Red Alert : I remember thinking these were both a poor-man's version of WarCraft, but they were fun in their own right, and you could select any number of units at once. I played both of them all the way through, waiting for StarCraft to come out. I remember waiting so long for StarCraft.

WarCraftWarCraft 2, and WarCraft 3 : I remember the first time I saw WarCraft at a friends house. My friend clicked a guy, and told him to go chop wood. And off he went with some cute remark, "o-kay..". I was in love. Multiplayer was also great, though I feel like WarCraft and WarCraft 2 were both broken. WarCraft was broken with Daemons. They were unstoppable. WarCraft 2 was broken with blood-lusted ogres. They were unstoppable. I never got too into WarCraft 3 multiplayer -- I didn't like trying to micro-manage my heros.

Dune 2 : this was the first real-time strategy game I played. You could only give commands to one unit at a time, but it was amazing. especially the wave-tanks.

"Other" (in reverse chronological order):

Plants vs Zombies : I usually don't go for these "time killer" games, but I played this one all the way through. good game mechanics. I felt like I could "be creative" in how I beat the levels.

The Sims, The Sims 2, The Sims 3 : all amazing. I bought it because it was sooo popular, and I didn't understand why. I'm not sure I could explain it even now, but I love designing the house and making it pretty, I love designing a good looking sim, I love the cute animations, and I love watching them succeed. Note that some of the career paths require having lots of friends. In the Sims 3, you can get lots of friends by throwing a party. That may have worked in the older sims, but not for me. What I would do instead was, every day I would invite the person who hated me the most and get them to fall in love with my sim.

One Must Fall: 2097 : the only fighting game I ever got into. You could upgrade your robot, and change it's colors. I learned all the moves for my favorite robot type, and I could beat all the special players that would show after winning tournaments.

Ultima Online
 : my first introduction to Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. this game had such a big impact on me that apparently I wrote a post about my experience.

SimCity 2000 : oh my freaken god, this game was unbelievable. My sister invented a technique of terraforming the land before starting a game, so that you didn't have to pay for the adjustments. She would plan out each city block, complete with a pond in the center of each one, so she could place pumps next to it to supply water to that block. Later, a cousin discovered a waterfall mountain, allowing for a mountain of hydroelectric dams -- as cheap as coal, but they never blow up.

Console Games (in reverse chronological order):

Mario Kart 64 : this is probably the only racing game I ever beat, and the only multiplayer console game I ever enjoyed.

Mario 64 : when they started making 3d games, I thought they were actually less fun, and less good-looking than 2d games. Mario 64 was an exception. I loved it. I got every star, though I had a magazine telling me where they were. It was hard enough to get the stars even knowing where they were.

Sonic the Hedgehog : best platform game since Super Mario Brothers. On my birthday, I beat this game, while getting all the chaos emeralds.

Tetris : if you get a high enough score, it shows the kremlin with a rocket off to the side, and the rocket blasts off. The rocket gets bigger and bigger the higher your score. One time, I got a really high score, but the rocket reverted back to the smallest rocket. I was a bit disappointed, until the kremlin itself blasted off.

Zelda : I did not find everything myself. I would get hints from neighbors and friends. But at some point, I mapped out every screen and every dungeon using graph paper. After that, I put away all my maps, and I beat the game beginning to end without dying in one sitting. I think it took me six hours. I'm surprised my mom let me do it. Usually we could only play nintendo 30 minutes a day.

Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario Brothers 2, Super Mario Brothers 3 : perhaps the defining video games of my childhood. while playing the original Super Mario Brothers, I thought to myself, "if I was in a little box floating in space forever with just this game to entertain me, that would be fine." I don't think I ever beat Super Mario Brothers 3 by playing through all the worlds in one sitting, but I did beat every level, and I could beat the whole game in 18 minutes using warp whistles. I recall one level that only my sister could beat for a long time. It involving holding B to run, and pressing A while still holding B.

WORK HERE : add games from glittle.org here


I went home this weekend for a funeral. I stayed with my mother. We spent one evening talking about religion. She is Mormon, and I am not. We've talked about this before, many times.

I feel like I've given many reasons to many people about why I don't believe in the Mormon faith. In a previous post, I cite various reasons along the lines of: what we know about the brain doesn't jive with what Mormonism says about the spirit; I don't want my friends to go to hell; and I can't trust my feelings, e.g. "feeling the holy spirit", so I need the religion to make sense -- which it doesn't, to me.

However, this conversation brought to light a new reason. This reason is along the lines of "I don't want my friends to go to hell". More specifically, I don't want to go to hell, or be to judged at all.

She asked why I don't want to be judged. My answer was: "because I do evil things." I see other people do evil things and think, that's not right. I don't understand how they could do that. And then later, I find myself doing one of the same evil things and think: "oh, now I understand how someone could do this." My conclusion then is not "it's ok to do this", but rather "I shouldn't judge people for doing this." And I suspect this applies to everything. I think for every evil thing, if I was in the shoes of the evil-doer, I would do the same thing. Hence, I feel like I can't judge people.

But I don't think God can judge people either. I think even if God was in an evil doer's shoes, not knowing He was God (since evil doer's generally do not know that), and having the same knowledge and emotions of the evil doer, that God would do the same things that the evil doer did.

So judging people and sending them one place or another seems bad, even for God.

Of course, another way of stating my objection is that I don't believe in free will. More specifically, I don't understand what free will is. I feel like brains have a set of desires, and they try to meet those desires, and they might make compromises between conflicting desires, and they might accidentally do something that doesn't meet their desires by mistake, but brains are not capable of deciding to do things that don't meet their desires. I feel like someone reading this might slap themselves in the face and say "Ha! I did something that didn't meet any of my desires." However, I would say to that person, "you wanted to prove me wrong -- that's the desire you were satisfying when you slapped yourself in the face, and you wanted to prove me wrong so badly that you compromised your desire to not hurt yourself."

Anyway, I don't know what it would even look like for an entity to make a "free will" decision that wasn't based on any desires. Why would they have made that decision and not some other decision? If they can't answer that question, I think the decision was random, not free. If they can answer the question, then the real question becomes, did they make a free will choice to have that value system for comparing decisions, rather than some other value system? If so, we ask "why did they chose the value system they chose?", and we apply the argument recursively. If not, then the freedom seems to end there.

I think humans are born with a set of desires that they don't chose, like wanting food and air and love. I think other desires are logically derived from those, e.g., I want to go to school, so I can get a job, so I can earn money, so I can buy food.

Incidentally, I do believe in jail. If someone does something bad, I don't believe in "judging" them in the sense of thinking "shame on you! you evil person!", but if I think they'll do it again, then I'm afraid of it happening to me, then I would like them to be prevented from doing it.