Politics: from Quantum to Thermodynamic

In the past, candidates campaigned with a quantum model of the voter. Each voter counts. The candidate needs to convince neighborhoods and each house on a block. It was quantum in the sense that individual action mattered. Every atom/voter needs a packet of energy to transform from one candidate another.

Now the quantum model of the voter can be replaced by a classical thermodynamic model. One thinks in terms of the temperature of groups instead of individuals. Rather than counting individuals, the campaign thinks of percentages.

For many issues, opinions are split nearly evenly. To get the electoral results for a candidate, moving a fraction of voters in the middle is enough. The effect is that, for the majority of the electorate, the candidates don’t need to address them. They won’t matter to the outcome because their votes are free energy to win an election without exerting any work.

Targeted advertising such as what is available with Facebook, YouTube and Google allow candidates to focus their appeals to the subgroups that are in the middle. Adding heat to targeted parts of the pot can be more successful.

Changing the votes of one or two percent in the right demographic can be enough to win the election. Narrow campaigns targeted to subgroups can be more efficient than mass appeals through TV and radio. A campaign’s money can be stretched further when it tries to change the temperature of small groups rather than trying to push individual votes one at a time.

In a quantum model of campaigning, each person matters. When a candidate shifts their efforts to a classical, thermodynamic model, what matters is convincing groups in the margins. People have been reduced from individual human voters into inhuman mathematical abstractions.

Listening with your mind’s eye

I notice that I visualize the letters of the words that people are speaking. I see the text as the words pass. I wonder whether other people experience a visualization like this.

If I were to learn a new language, the need to spell text might be limiting.

Arabic and Farsi would first require me to learn how to pronounce and write Arabic script. It would be an added step that I wouldn’t have learning new European languages. I don’t think visualizing it would be a great challenge once I could read and transcribe words.

Mandarin Chinese, in contrast, might be acutely difficult for me to learn. Since words are not written phonetically, I would need a completely new level of interpretation to see what I am hearing. I suspect that skill would develop very slowly (if at all.) There are phonetic transcriptions of the sounds, but if the variations in the pronunciation of words is subtle, I might not “see” the correct “text.”

In some languages, people speak more words per minute than in English. Would my ability to visualize the words be overwhelmed by the speed that the letters go by?

What would happen if I had a stroke that broke that neural link between my hearing and the visualizations? I wonder whether I could track a conversation when I couldn’t see the words anymore.

I believe song lyrics access a different part of my language system. When I read the lyrics to familiar songs, the words don’t register as familiar. Often, I find that I never really knew what the song was about. My visualizations didn’t seem to help. I’m wonder whether a PET or fMRI of me listening to a song and its lyrics would be different from one recorded while I listening to the same words as prose.

It’s interesting to notice skills that are natural to me. It would also be interesting to learn skills that are natural to other people that I’m unable to experience.

An aptitude might be broken down into micro-level skills. Some may take practice to develop fully. It is a form of neurodivergence to identify skills that might be missing in one person and robustly available in another.

Consider the ability to recognize faces and the ability to visualize images. I’ve heard informal suggestions that people have different levels of proficiency. These are examples of everyday skills that might have a spectrum of ability. Mathematics may be hard for some people because some necessary sub-skill is neurologically disadvantaged.

Brains are mysteries full of puzzles. They hide individual differences. I don’t know things that I can’t do that are natural for you. It’s hard for you to know things I take for granted that you struggle with.

Lightyear (2022)… spoilers

A green thought bubble

I just saw Lightyear for the second time this week. It was better the second time.

The framework of Lightyear is that it is the movie that Andy from Toy Story watched which led him to fall in love with his Buzz Lightyear toy. In this film, Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) is a Space Ranger devoted to “completing the mission.” His intense focus on that principle costs him a lot. He doesn’t seem have the insight to see that life can have more purpose than just fulfilling a singular goal.

One of the transformations Buzz undergoes is that he comes to a realization that his friends had worthwhile lives without escaping the strange planet that they landed on. He had been convinced that he was a failure when he couldn’t rescue them. Several of the characters make mistakes that seems to be impossible to correct. Their level of distress is managed because a humorous solution exists to solve the problem. However, Buzz revealed that his career started with failures and the confidence of a mentor helped him succeed.

For some, the fact that a woman falls in love with another woman is too much to accept. Their disapproval seems to be reflexive. Diversity in the film is more deeply rooted than the superficial reading of a half-second kiss between two women as a horrific affront. When Alicia Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) tells Buzz of her engagement, Buzz asks what “her” name is, indicating that he knew she was attracted to a woman. The final energy crystal had a rainbow of colors, a nod to the rainbow LGBTQ flag.

The story can be choppy with abrupt transitions. It was almost as if they had too much story to stuff into the allotted time so that scenes need to move quickly from one to the next. For example, their visit to a mine seems like an arbitrary plot device. Although the film foreshadows that particular event, other unexpected situations are science fiction cliches. The robotic cat SOX, (voiced by Peter Sohn) is a good comedian. The ludicrous bee-boop bee-boop when the cat is scanning can be silly, but the cat’s running commentary is also light-hearted. The cat also has some surprises built in.

There was a running gag about life on the planet being dangerous or even hostile. Buzz’s initial reaction is to report that the planet is uninhabitable but they stay. Perhaps this initial reaction was part of Buzz’s determination to escape. I couldn’t see the characters expressing many emotions but a crucial turning point, you see a hint of Buzz’s sadness. That tension quickly fades as the adventures restart.

Although the movie wasn’t outstanding, the story was engaging. It was an action science-fiction story and not a psychological commentary. If I wanted the film to make the characters seem more 3 dimensional, I was pretty much dooming myself to be disappointed.

The movie was good enough to see twice and I enjoyed it both times. The first I was able to see it in a local theater before it closed. The last movie I saw before the pandemic began was Onward, another Disney film. Now that both are available on Disney+ and BluRay, I probably won’t be able to see them on the big screen again.

Today’s sad news

The theater I would go to for movies has closed. The closest one near me is on the other side of town and requires driving in some of the most congested parts of Fort Wayne.

Right now, I don’t subscribe to any of the premium services. I’m not sure which, if any, to choose. I don’t have a lot of incentive to subscribe. My TV has been on only a couple of times in the past few months.

Everything Everywhere All and Once news

Film canister

I discovered that they are showing Everything Everywhere All at Once in the local theater again. They had stopped showing for a couple of weeks but now it’s up again. They’re also putting it up at the prime time of 8:30. When I saw it before it was in the afternoon.

the-numbers.com reported that the number of theaters carrying it jumped from 170 to 1490 this weekend. They also had a big jump in the box office receipts. Including international box office receipts, the movie has already collected about 4 times more than it cost to make it. The income per theater hasn’t changed that much this first weekend, but the gross number are a lot better.

So far this year, it’s #1 by a substantial margin in the category “Top 2022 Theater Average at the Domestic Box Office”

I was thinking about going to see it again before it dropped out, but now I’m considering it again. I already saw Lightyear which is gone. I’d also like to see the new Minions and Marvel movies but it’s easy for me to decide to stay home rather than hit the road for a show.

Go see it! It’s really high energy, funny and touching.

Review: Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

A movie reel

Everything Everywhere All at Once has an intriguing title. The story seems simple, a family that owns a laundromat needs to organize their business. Diedre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis) is investigating the family’s documents for their tax filing. She becomes a menacing monster terrorizing Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) throughout the multiverse.

Out of that simple nugget of a story, Evelyn is distracted by her tangled life. She can’t pay attention to what’s going on but denies her wandering attention. Through the film she finds what her life could have been.

Threaded through the story is humor and the ridiculous possibilities of life. Evelyn finds a way to lighten up each situation. She draws strength from the universes that she visits. Her ability to bring silliness is disarming. The film shows flashes of Evelyn in the different lives that comes from alternative choices. She can switch realities that are linked together so that Evelyn acquires new skills or memories.

When the action stops abruptly, there’s just the emotions of the Evelyn and her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Their chase ends in a stalemate, and they try to sort out what life means. They sit on the edge of a canyon watching the peaceful beauty.

The energy of the film grows out of control with montages of rapid cuts. The screen flits between brief views of Evelyn in many universes. She speeds through possibilities until she has found the resource that the current quandary needs. Googly eyes are used to represent mischief, inner sight and traversing life’s complexity.

The film balances humor, terror and sentimental feelings as the situation turns dangerous and then ludicrous and then emotionally difficult. A path through the multiverse is not easily mapped out. An app on the phone that the universe jumping version of her husband, Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan), helps find the right path. The red pill is pressing a green button on the earpiece of a Bluetooth headset. Evelyn learns there she has so many possibilities because of her imagination and flexibility.

Eventually, she still can’t pay attention but is willing to come “back to earth” and acknowledge her quirks. The changes might not stop, but her zany character is game to find a way through them.

The New Yorker Fiction

One of my favorite magazines is The New Yorker.

The section of the magazine that I appreciate the most is the fiction. The magazine regularly includes a short story. They are something I look forward to each week.

I’ve made a table with links to the stories organized by publication date. Most of the time, the online copy of the magazine also includes an interview with the author and a podcast where the author reads their story. The table includes links to those as well.

The page helps a reader find to the different stories if they want to go back and read an older story.

It’s interesting to notice the authors who have published more than one story since I started tracking them. These include Lauren Groff, Souvankham Thammavongsa and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh.

The table is available is in this blog’s menu as “The New Yorker Fiction

Hats and coffee mugs

In the summer, I forget what it is like to be chilled and cold. The rain is the closest I come to that. I avoid the rain mostly unless I can wear a hat. My wardrobe of hats isn’t very fashionable. I’ve got some baseball caps and some knit stocking caps. Even though I want to keep my head dry, I don’t use them.

I got one of my hats when we were working with Macromedia to make the Flash library work with our screen reader, Window-Eyes. At GW, they complained that I never gave them the swag that we got.

The Macromedia hat is a kind of trophy. When I was at Purdue, I took a computer graphics class. One project was to simulate a 3-d moveable arm. The memorable part was that I did it so well that they gave me a special Megatek coffee mug as a prize. I feel that it is one of my favorite trophies. I still have it 35 plus years later.

I get chilled also when I get stuck working on a project and it seems like I am doing it wrong. This week I’ve been really devoted to a computer program. It is going well. I didn’t get very far but I am getting close. With all the effort that I am putting in, I’m glad that it is coming through.

It is a good day and I want for tomorrow to also be good. If I see people, I could be glad for my striving for a better life.

Alone Tomorrow

I’ll be alone tomorrow.

My friends have found the truth.
I have said it aloud; now I’m in shame.

I thought they would forgive me.
I wanted understanding and acceptance.
Instead, their judgment was unanimous.

Will I be stuck as an eternal “I”?
“We” and “our” are foreign words now.
I know that I have made a grievous error.
With no one to share with, I began to despair.

The days have been passing slowly.
I cannot expect freedom again.
The world around me is black.
I can wish for friends, but it will be in vain.
I will be alone again and again.

William Wayne Smith

One of my worries had been that I do something bad and lose a friend.  My imagination can be vivid so that I can compound simple conflicts into a lost friendship.  If I can’t forgive myself—why would anyone else?

This poem takes that fear to new levels.  Not only have I made a mistake, it is so severe that everyone abandons me.  They reject me because some secret sin had been revealed.

If I am alone, I cannot use “we” and “us” again. This is as if one mistake would be a dead end for my life in the world.

I make mistakes all of the time.   They do not mean that I am unworthy of the caring and friendships that I cherish.

This poem paints a bleak outlook on reality.   I don’t embrace that perspective, but my imagination could bring it forth at times.


I published the poem initially at Alone Tomorrow. The image It takes a lot to give, to ask for help is by 10 Mix licensed with CC-BY-NC 2.0