Virtually Yours:
Carolyn L Burke
My Cognitive and Physical Landscape
Page 1

Be warned: This is my diary... clb

Go to today's entry first. Otherwise, start here, and you'll get things in the order that I wrote them in -- except the links to other docs which are filled in as my diary web fills in. Believe me, there is rhyme to this. Put it this way with a cliche: I dance to a different saxophone.

So soon I need an index for my diary.

January 1995

My Virtual Office

Visit my virtual office at FSC Internet, Finite Systems Consulting's Online Web Site. Only the landlord knows about the real physical space of this place... the rest of us make do with a few megs here and there.

[ no longer in service! clb, Oct '96 ]

The International Philosophical Preprint Exchange (IPPE)

The IPPE is the worlds only humanities preprint exchange. We receive preprint submissions from professional philosophers from around the world, and make these available to everyone on the Internet.

Originally, the IPPE was maintained as an ftp site in Japan at Chiba University and picked up by the American Philosophy Association's gopher along with the Science Studies gopher at UMKC. [By the way, the APA has created their own web site now too.} We then added a mirror site at Michael S Hart. Most recently, we installed our own web server [which still under construction] at Chiba University (you can reach me there). Here is the IPPE.

[ no longer in service! clb, Oct '96 ]

Announcing our new domain for the International Philosophical Preprint Exchange : We will be transferring all of our documents very soon.

You'll find a wide variety of philosophy journals housed on the IPPE, where we carry a minimum of their forthcoming abstracts and tables of contents.

To place a paper or comment on the IPPE: see pub/submissions/README. Note that we only accept papers of interest to academic philosophers.

[ no longer in service! clb, Oct '96 ]

The Interpedia Project

wherever it went to before getting completely superseded by the success of the World Wide Web. This was one exciting project, and some of the ideas could still find fertile ground in implementation. My favorite is the SOAP or Seal Of APproval, see Section 4. And here is Tim BL on how to integrate the WWW with the project.

My Life...

January 1995

Here are some of the defining (currently) features of my life (in a conveniently unordered list). A wise teacher tells me that laundry lists are good for picking up one's laundry, but that, and here another friend elaborated, sharing a cognitive landscape with another is not so simple. Welcome to my cognitive landscape. On second thought, I'll skip the list and paint with words instead.

I wrote a poem / story about many things once, and it was published in Vol 4, No 1 of the really cool Internet zine InterText. It is entitled TimeBugs. And I also wrote a short poem while a grad student looking out a window: Imagine A Man... in Angst Volume One Issue Two. Here is Angst Volume One Issue One. I think the zine vanished after Issue Three although Issue Four had collected acceptances. If you have a copy of issue three or four, please send me. Michael Heacock, where are you? Hold on... I found issues 1-3 at They're all zipped though.

Finally, see my collection of works.

And my friend Carey wrote two amazing issues of Extinct, Issue 1 and Issue 2. She specializes in suicide notes. And Hella's story The Kimberley Effect appeared in Angst in Issue 3, as did Tracey's story Staring Contest in Issue Four. A late arrival: here are Peter's poems. And Nedra's.

Right after I found that my fragmented and foolish writings were fit for public viewing (as my mother would put it if I talked to her anymore), I invited everyone I knew into publishing their works too! This was so exciting that I keep these wonderful ups in my cognitive space.

Most people I have ever known, foolishly it seems to me now, have each many times said to me "Carolyn, there's a book in that." and "I'm a writer." By the latter they were always referring to themselves. I've wondered about this, and since very young have wanted to start a publishing company solely to place their works out there for you to read. Funny though... it seemed to me that only me, the non-writer, had the nerve to send out stuff I had put down on paper to publishers and editors. (Dagney just curled up on my knee here.. typing is harder but she is beautiful to snuggle with.)

Once I sent out my story (I sent two, but only one survived), I think I freed up a lot of my friends' worries about the ephemeral standards of the publishing world. After all, a lot of people do a lot of reading. This implies quite a few things. First of course is the fact that in the bell curve of quality, the median of written pieces has to satisfy the tastebuds of the majority of readers. This is obvious?! But as well, there has to be a sufficient quantity of stuff written to keep all of us word junkies fixed up. So after the fact, it comes as no surprise that average little me can get her stuff published. Its like joining MENSA -- the top two percent of the IQ population can do so at will -- that's a hell of a lot of people; not the elite class that one might think.

So once the non-writer had published something, all the writers couldn't back down. And I'm proud to say that they didn't either. Oh, I forgot to mention Rita's poem. You really do have to check it out! Its in Angst Volume One Issue Three, and is called Escapes. Oh, she goes by Ritu, so I call her Rit<vowel> or just plain Rit.

It seems rather easy to publish things nowadays what with the Internet to speed things along. But I suspect that I've maintained a fear-based belief that getting one's ideas out into the world is difficult. I think now that it is really only overcoming the fear that is difficult, that the standards of publishers and editors are lower than most people's own. We build our own gilded cages with 20th century rationalizations and '90s quality whinings.

ps: Here are Richard's essays on stylized writing. There is a lovely registry of writers at the Internet Directory of Published Writers.

Foolishly: Collected Collections.

If you're close to certifiable anyway, you might be interested in my Masters thesis. It is a study about... well, read the abstract and "oral defense" introduction or send email for the PostScript version if you're interested in a chapter or 4 answering the question: How Scientific is Chomsky's Theory of Linguistics?.

Enough for tonight.

My Closet

January 3, 1995

Many, many years ago and for many years, I was what I call now a truth-functional person. Such a person says what is on their mind. They let you know what they are thinking and feeling without pretense or protocol, and one might want to add, without thought as to the consequences of their verbal actions. Let me testify that this sort of person is always in the thick of things - namely since you tended to cause the thickenings. :) This is fine and dandy when the thickenings are good news. Then life is joyous and rich. However more often then not, the results are stickier.

I had resolved to stop the automatic opening of the oral cavity by installing a number of intermediate steps in speech: the brain!; social protocol; human compassion; human understanding; and finally, a form of secrecy whereby I would want to stay silent on the juicier tidbits of my thoughts. I regarded this as a form of selling out some of my ideals. In a sense, I didn't want any but the pragmatic results of this change in my public character.

Of course, I believe now that most people engage in this sort of social lubricant spreading. A policy of always giving out your best information in a society where information is the sole medium of value exchange doesn't seem sound when put like that, does it. But it was a selling of my personal ideals. Imagine a land where people were not inclined to take advantage of each other for their own self gain. Yeah right. The utopian ideal in modern drag. Incredibly childish reasons? Probably, given human nature and social fabric and all the rest.

The essence of the change I made was to use a little fore-thought and planning before saying something. Sure -- it sounds good. But don't you just for a second get a sense that this is a bit sneaky? If not, then you've probably been doing this sort of thing for years. My little sister knew this trick when she was 4. But is it a trick? Surely as the only so called rational animal on the planet, we have not just the ability but the obligation to think before we act.

The truth-functional person is more than a free-association blabbermouth... what they say is regarded by them as true. Now this does not have to be truth with a capital T. It merely means that they value statements that to the best of their knowledge (that is the kicker, of course), are true. In fact, people with this value in place will find it difficult to see two interpretations of the same set of statements, not to mention that they also tend not to read fiction in the first place - it isn't truth-functional. Even Hemingway, who uses the truth-functional style in his writing isn't being true to the ideal since his writings are stories!

So given this unpleasant rendering of truth-functional people, why do they exist at all? The positive aspects of and for such a person are as follows. There is a strong clarity of mind, much as for a person who has a religious doctrine. This is advantageous, as is any specialized knowledge, to the quick reaction and the quick decision. Clearly this is also less desirable in that the same quickness, that due to pre-thought-out and practiced views, can lead easily to close-mindedness about these same issues. The truth-functional person is what Peter and I have for many years called the godel point of the system.

... to be continued...

Why I have so many email addresses

The most exciting game on the net two years ago was getting as many exciting email addresses as possible. I still collect addresses. Here are the ones I keep in my .plan file:
FSC Internet Corp.
Carolyn's Diary
York University (expired)
Internex Online (expired)
Chiba University (expired)
Project Gutenberg (expired)
Carnegie Mellon University (expired)
Logic and Computation at CMU (expired)

But I've made a list. Oops.

Later in January, 1995

I've been wondering on the web almost solidly for a few days. The structure here seems it have changed. From a virtual many-to-many landscape, commercial use of the web (but not yet the whole 'net) has encouraged a much simpler tree structure once again. The tree trunks turn out to be the great search engines - internet catalogs, site registries, hot link lists, and more.

But what are the branches of these trees? While recently in Venezuela, I had the opportunity to commune with cacti rather more than I have had the opportunity to previously. In fact, being from the cold north, I haven't really met my fair share of cacti at all. So I took advantage of the country-side - which except for the large number of cacti and rather small number of maple trees, reminds me a lot of northern Ontario. I met quit a number of lush cacti of the variety of favorite in american west movies - the type that pitchforks were modeled on. And I met a similar, if more surprising cactus.

This unremarkable plant had the pulpy leaves or branches that normally constitute the main trunk of cacti. (I'm afraid for all of my ecological lore, I don't know about the parts of cacti. Wouldn't this be a great place to put in a cacti-link for future readers!) (Now I'm off in search of a picture of this prickly plant. Back in a sec.) Here it is. Yeah right -- no cacti pix on the net. Who would've guessed. This link awaits your donation..

As you can see, this cactus has oblong branching parts. Many of these grow one out of the previous one to create linear branch-likenesses. And once in awhile, a real branching occurs. Here two or three oblong branching parts grow out of one ancestor. A real fork in the road, so to speak. Finally, I should mention the obvious features of this plant. It is green! And it is covered in spines - short ones about an inch long. About two or three spines grow out of each small node in the leaf skin. And the nodes are about an inch apart in each direction. Very prickly indeed.

Now imagine that each spine is an Internet URL. And that each oblong branch / leaf is a search engine. There are quite a number of search engines available on the Internet, each of which covers an enormous amount but small percentage of the Internet URLs available.

So far, so good. But what is missing? And why a cactus rather than a maple tree? Well, to answer the second question first, the cactus has two interesting differences from the maple tree. The oblong leaf / branch is fat and rich - like a search engine, and unlike either the slender wooden branches of the maple or the finely veined, five lobed, maple leaf. Over the course of evolution, organizational structures in the physical make-up of living things grew more experimental - that is, less simple. In other words, the number of levels of in the pattern increased as well as the patterns on each level. In a maple tree, for instance, there is the leaf level, the branch level, the trunk level, the veins in the leaf level, and the root system, and internal trunk systems. (I am making this up, bear with me.) So what is missing in the cacrus? Essentially, it lacks the middle levels: the branches and the veins. It has only spines, branch / leaves, and roots. Even the trunk is only a number of branch / leaves in a column. It is structurally simpler - not everything one would want in a tree-structured, er.. ah.., tree.

Anyhow, the point is that the WWW world has achieved cactus level development in its growth. In theory, the many-to-many linking that is possible is not being practiced. Each commercial site creates a number of pages for its products and pamphlets, and is otherwise a dead-end: a spine on the shopping mall oblong leaf. Academic sites are sometimes a source of spines themselves, but still, with the exception of pointers to the big search engines, these institutions also become deadends. They may carry a list of links to other institutions of similar concerns, but not to smaller sites. Government sites have tried to become a combination of document library and important person registry. Again though, these two listings are usually of internal documents and personal only. The sites are deadends as far as web structure is concerned. In every case, the only way out of the site is to put your mouse into reverse and back out of pages you've already been through. Just like gopher tunneling.

The dream of hypertext richness - the n-dimensional web - the link in everyone's homepage - hasn't met the reality of the cactus.

also to be continued... [if anyone knows where cacti pix can be found, please mail an URL.. thanks]

[ flash from the future: I have some absolutely wonderful cacti now!

An old soul.

Thu Jan 26 1995

The world always kicks you in your weak spot. Peter's motto. I think there is something to this if taken neither cynically nor sarcastically.

His response to this was always to work on his weakest spot first. And being the enlightened individual that he was, he would of course stay up on when his weakest spot was toughened sufficiently to treat a new spot appropriately. And true to motto 1, this realization usually arrived in a seat of the pants kick doled out by the universe. Not surprising at all.

So what sort of person results? Well, as Peter is somewhere around 30 now, as am I, its time for a phase one report on his progress. He says that I prefer to speak about him rather than myself; that I blame everything but myself for things. I prefer to think of it my form of hiding my feelings in confusing language. Imagine that in this day and age of revering the emotional spillings of others, that nevertheless it is embarrassing, if not humiliating to do so honestly. (Or perhaps, I'm thirty and have too much water under my bridge to think that honesty is anything other than harmful naivete given he information based society we live in.) What to do with the requirements of current civilization to be emotionally open then? My theory is that people express the emotions with a lot of camouflage. Rather than repressing them, putting them in the closet, or telling them to your priest or psychoanalyst (or everyone on the Internet :), expressing emotions is remarkably easy to do if you do not let the other person involved know either what the correct emotion is or the correct thoughts about them. An isomorphic disguise, buried in the choice of metaphor and interpretation that we allow the audience to grasp. A big slight of hand. I discovered this many years ago in trying to understand one of Peter's behaviours. He used to tell me that he was off for half an hour to play a video game (he really is rather good). And always, he would stay out for quite a lot longer. I had to believe that he knew how long half an hour was and how long he actually stayed out for. It drove me nuts. Any way, one day it occurred to me that his motivation in making the claim in the first place - before leaving - and without being asked, was not in fact to inform me about the length of time he thought he would be staying out. He wanted to tell me that he enjoyed my company in spite of the fact that he was leaving for a number of hours; that he was not leaving me, but rather doing something else for awhile for himself. I call this his intention language. He quite systematically announces plans and schedules. And a certain type of them are not about his future behaviour. I don't want to imply that he is unreliable. On the contrary.. he is very reliable about most of what he says. But if he mentions going out for a video game for half an hour, he means that he needs some time alone to grok the universe, and will return when done. Mind you this is only an example of one person's use of language disguising. I think we all do it - all of us in the expose your emotions generations of the latter 50 years. I start to speak about what caused what to make me feel a certain way thereby exposing my shier emotions from direct or easy scrutiny by others.

So I am speaking about my feelings here really. Not about Peter. I think the facts are true, but at the same time, I know that what I am writing is about my own view ofthe world. I apologize for needing the safe route today. It's been a confusing one. Clearly though... I should only apologize to myself for being a tad less brave than I could have been. Call my shy.

So, Peter has become a generalist. He has worked over each weakness he found wonderfully, and usually regards living as repeating that which he has already learned. Arrogant? Or merely true. I think he really is an old soul, an ancient Moira dragon in a dungeon of mostly young dragons. Most people in today's society find their best attributes and play on them. We have been filtered through many tests and programs and teams and classes while prepubescent, and most of us have been rewarded grandly for the latent talents that emerged ... a few of us probably even enjoy the specializations and hobbies that resulted form this early democratic form of phenotypical skill selection. Many of us though know how to play the piano or sing or throw a baseball simply because we didn't quite reach prodigy level during the filtering. But many many did find that one knack in a thousand that they had latently lying in their fingers, backstrokes, or minds. We North Americans paraded our outrage at the cold blooded genotypical and chemical programs of less civilized countries. Democracy has made us willing servants to the honing and selling of our own strong points. Each gives her best and receives the just fruits of capitalistic democracy.

But what happens if you don't give your best, if instead you work to strengthen your weakest abilities, your Achilles heel? It is a matter of logic to conclude that either it will not stay the weakest of your abilities indefinitely or you aren't strengthening that ability in the first place. Most who do not want to change will take the latter course. Peter didn't. He dealt with each chink in his karmic armour as it presented the biggest threat to his desire to be a sentient and rationally self-governed person. It is also a matter of logic that he will forever have a weakest spot. But unlike for many people (me included I think), his weakest spot is not thesame one through time. It is this which makes him strong, tempered, and wise, an old soul.

And why did I chose today to write about Peter and his weak spot? I think I need him to feel that he is wonderful. To remind him that for all he may hurt, he is strong and self-made. Someone to admire. And love.

Mon 30 Jan 1995


... continued from My Closet ...

Thu 2 Feb 1995

So I had just claimed that the truth-functional person is the godel point of the system. What system is that, you wonder? Well I do. The system in question is that of the rule follower. The rule follower without a godel point rewrite rule is in trouble. And the dogmatic person without some experiencial input capacity cannot change either. Change is the crux of this.

Allow me to explain. A person is that thing (well this is one level of description anyway) which or who can change itself. A person can change voluntarily, with a design in mind, so to speak, of their new mind. Nothing else can... barring a few cool little programs which specialize in exactly only this, and some rather bizarre games of Nomic. But essentially, only persons have the capacity to design the rewrite rules they will use. The system in question is both being itself and designing changes to itself.

Now the truth-functional person has set the rewrite rule to "Allow in true beliefs only." which in itself seems harmless, if not admirable. Truth sounds like a good thing to filter on. But is it? With truth comes consistency, and with consistency comes either brittleness or incompleteness. Certainly truth-functinal people don't have to end up this way, but if they adopt a rewrite rule that only allows truth beliefs to enter in - factoids primarily - they may find themselves unable to do more than encyclopedic upgrades to their mind and personality. But humans beings are capable of more than this. They can break through the godel point to self awareness and self design. If they believe in themselves.

People can become whatever they think they can become. Oh, I don't mean that if they think they ar the president of the US that they will be the president of the US. That is confusing one's mind and personality with the physical realites of the world. I guess someone like Tony Robbins, cult master, is a good example of a self-designed person. He is what he thinks he is - mind and personality. And of course, in the world his choices of what to be make him look like a cult master (to me), a highly successful and admirable one at that. Let's say its a personality cult. Its funny though because although some people look to be masters of their own fate more than others, I believe that every person is... that every person creates their own fate in choosing who to be.

Famous examples of samurai designed mind/personalities include the JFK clan, Arny S., Madonna, D Letterman, Pierre Trudeau. Well I can't think of any more at the moment. But suffice it to say that not all famous persons are self designed. Most are not - most are the results of advertising agents and the desires of the public to ignore the mindlessness of these puppets. These few famous exceptions, and I expect a large number of not famous exceptions lurk in the darker corners of society, shine in our eyes. And all they do is believe in themselves with self-made minds, even if simple ones.

I am suggesting that the truth-functional person is not self-designed. Highly desirable in our disposable person society, the truth-functional person is programmable in small ways - in ways of the spirit. Truth functionality makes one gullible as to motives of other that are not so bare. This makes them useful, and so rather than encouraging enriched spirituality, we have a society that encourages scientistic self-design... believe it only if it is true. But this is a shorn and mutilated spirituality in place where the gods would carry the heart into civilized warmth and the soul into exploration as security.

As a brick in a blue-collar wall, as a spoke in the white-collar expertise wheel, the programmable person is marvelous. As an individual with personal feelings and creative outpourings, that same person is empty.

The evening.

Sun Feb 5 1995

Well, I have just spent a long day with Tracey going over her nusiness and mine, and building mutual dreams and plans listening to Brahms' Hungarian stuff on the CDRom drive. Its pretty. I'm tired of doing how things now though.

So with a concerto in my ear, I for the first time write in the evening. I am a total morning person -- up with the sun or earlier. Even in Venezuela - whch was a blast since no-one else there wakes for three more hours. [A lullaby ... and good night... Brahms!] As a morning person, I spend an hour in isolated grumpiness... I'm happy then only wiht myslef. I think I'm particularly sensitive then.

just a sec ... Tracey is back..

Well its late.. I'm gonna crash. Good night.


Mon Feb 6 1995
Not the normal banter on this subject, I hope.

Can you imagine a fish without scales? Sure you can. Its easy, something we do all the time. What if fish had no scales? This is a diferent question, one with bigger implications than one's imagination can get around so easily. What if all bipeds were featherless? What if there was no tv, or no government? What if the sky were falling? What if we had peace? The what if, known to many as the hypothetical and to others as thoguhtfulness, and still to more as navel gazing. The what if.

Well, how does one answer such a question? Simply put, speculation is called upon, and specualtion is a knack many of us have and many don't. A why person might find this trick easier than nought. What if fish had no scales: how would this effect the way things are? This latter question suggests that scaleless fish would effect other thigns than the surface feature ofthe critters involved. Sure these guys would swim a tad differently. They might get the equivalent of colder. And whoever it is that sells those $19.95 Scale Removers on cheapo television might be out of a job. But that's it, right? So much for that question, or is it.

These few extra changes are each as simple and insignificant (in the scheme of things as I know it) as was scaleless fish. And if this latter ever so minor change can generate three more, mightn't each of these three also? And isn't it easy to imagine that in this quickly cascading wave of iotic changes, there might eventually be one that comes closer to the heart? And if this isn't enough, imagine that a couple of these changes further along in the cascade perhaps even in completely different causal chains by that point might in turn both act on the same effect, say on the price of beer, causing a bigger result than either would have alone? Wouldn't this then make a less insignificant change? Well, youget the picture... interactioneffects, interference effects both additive and cancelling, and in the end perhaps even grand effects.

In that scenario of course, all of the effects go forward in time. Let's place the original baby change back 5 millenia. Now what happens? Mankind evolves inpre-civilized times without the fish scale? Without whatever other small changes might accrue without fish scales. Perhaps the whole course of our development takes a different turn entirely and we become sea-faring people only - after all fish would be much more delicious without those scales.

And one step further... what if fish had never had scales? Would our sea-dwelling ancesters have ever left the sea? Might they have developed scales instead of the fish? Who knows. But things would sure have been different.

Essentially, a simple little what if leads to so many changes that to think that this hypothetical universe is more than a dream of vast proportions is a tad off the mark. Designing changes to the future by comparing it to the present is pleasant and to some extent realistic. But the chaotic winds of change lead to many places that we never did imagine. If the simple fish scale can tip the balance of reality as we know it, then something as abstract and important as the desire for peace that dwells in most peoples' hearts must too.

So many times, I hear that God couldn't exist because there is evil in the world. Or that if we changed this style of government into another, that the world would be a better place. Or that if more people could read, we'd all be happier. Or that ... well the list goes on. And I promised not to say in a list what a verbal collage could better display. I mean that I think that the world will go on changing no matter what. People who want this change more than that one will indeed effect the future... and they have no idea as to what that effect will entail. They think they do, and will fight for a particular change. But with so many of us doing this in so many ways, the results as not clear to see untilmany years later.

I must run now.


Wed Feb 8 1995

I'm so easily hurt these days. The subtlest of inflections in tone of voice, in the flicker of an eyelid, or the lack of a friendly signature in email. These all twig in me the fear and pain that I'm not liked. And yet, I myself would seem to be one of the meaner persons around... a sharp tongue and a few hurt feelings emerge. And I hurt myself so much doing this. I guessthat is the problem in part. I'm hurting myself more than anyone else. I think I should be gentler to me. Not very Christian that... good thing I'm not either.

I've beeen puttering about building web pages ahither and thither. They're fun to do and while doing such low-end technical stuff, I sort of zen out relaxing into a confortable not-knowing of self. Balancing books is like that, and so is making up tables and things. Aren't people who enjoy low-end book keeping typically perfectionists?

I have to admit I am, or started out as one. I've tried to let go of that but when things get a bit hectic there is nothing more relaxing [well except a warm bubbly tub and a good book or two] then setting up a few Excel macros and crunching numbers. I should've been a tax accountant, I guess, or a tax lawyer. A word and number plumber. But i have never pursued what I find relaxing and fun professionally. In fact, I've avoided pursuing anything professionally, opting instead for the pursuit of mind-molding in the institutions of learning. Silly that.

Have I mentioned that I have decided to be a business tycoon for awhile rather than merely whiling away my time in pursuit of mental challenges which create nothing but a few papers in journals and haughty opinions of my own intellectual grandeur. Well, perhaps that last isn't going to go away when the university affliation does.


And to even more matters, I must run to the car licensing people, purchase an update sticker, take that to the police place and prove that I am no $105 ticket deserver.


... flip the page ...


All daughter writings of Carolyn's Diary are copyright © Carolyn L Burke, 1995, and may not be copied without permission except for commercial gain. See what your lawyers can make of that.

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