Unreliable narrators

November 21, 2021

Just about everything I’ve ever read by Jaan Kross has featured a narrator who’s recounting things second-hand, rather than from their own personal knowledge. A short story from the point of view of someone overhearing a conversation on a train; a novel from the point of view of someone who discovered a long-lost diary of a historical figure; that sort of thing.

After establishing that the narrator doesn’t actually know, the storytelling may shift to the story-within-the-story, but the framing is still there. The narrator might not be lying, probably isn’t lying, seems to be acting in good faith — but could very well be mistaken, could just be recounting baseless hearsay.

This comes to mind as I am trying to develop the habit, the ability, of introspection. (I am now, finally, trying far later than I should have.) This is a terribly, needlessly abstract and indirect way of fretting that, despite my best attempts, I might still deceive or mislead.

Whom might I deceive or mislead? Well, anybody, I suppose. But most importantly, myself.

I’m not the same person I was this morning. More importantly, I’m not the same person I was 30 days ago, or 33 days ago, or six months ago, or whenever.

When you’ve spent a lot of time in deep denial, you can look back, but you’re still looking from the outside in. You can do your best to remember, but can you really know what was going on in your mind when you were trying very hard at the time to block it all out? It really does feel secondhand.

And if it’s hard for you yourself (rather, me myself) to decipher, how much harder must it be for someone else?

On Universes

January 27, 2009

Odd, isn’t it, that it took me until now to realize this.

I do much better on closed-universe problems, where outside research is strictly forbidden. If I’m expected to generate an answer based on the information provided in a very limited set of documents, I can do it just fine. That has held, so far, both at work and at school.

I only start to fall apart when the doors are thrown wide and almost anything could be relevant. The hardest part is deciding to stop researching. Ugh.


August 15, 2008

Best idea ever: using CAPTCHAs to decipher old, damaged texts. Kind of the inverse of using browsers of internet pornography to break CAPTCHAs, in a way.

I really like this approach, especially since I myself would probably have contributed much more to PGDP if it were presented as an unobtrusive word at a time, rather than requiring me to actively complete an entire page. Because I’m lazy like that.

Oh jeez

May 16, 2008

I can’t believe it took me this long to realize that “Lojack” is the opposite of “Hijack”. Wow.

In other news, Linux (specifically, Ubuntu (specifically, Hardy Heron)) is dead to me, and I officially no longer have any interest in running it on my desktop. Not worth the hassle. I’ve had to recover my MBR and reconfigure GRUB far too many times in the past couple of days. GRUB errors 17, 15 and 13 were bad enough, but error 5 (“Partition table invalid or corrupt: This error is returned if the sanity checks on the integrity of the partition table fail. This is a bad sign.“) was the last straw.


June 22, 2006

My objections to this year’s NBA Finals are almost identical to my objections to the 2004 US Presidential elections.

That is, I’m questioning the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’. The Dallas Mavericks were outscored by the Miami Heat in four consecutive games; George W. Bush received more electoral votes than John Kerry. Those are facts, and neither of them is in dispute. But one can question the way those came to be so.

I’m not saying I agree with the conspiracy theorists in either issue, or even necessarily with the more levelheaded folks.

I don’t think either contest was stolen, but I can’t be sure at all. It’s just like Scalia going hunting with Cheney and then not recusing himself, or a patent examiner examining an application in whose assignee he owns hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock. The appearance of impropriety is what’s important here.

Dirk Nowitzki getting called for a foul when Dwyane Wade shoved him doesn’t, in itself, mean the NBA is rigged; neither does the CEO of a company known for making easily- and untraceably-tampered-with voting machines publicly pledging to deliver the state of Ohio to a particular candidate, in itself, mean the 2004 election was stolen. But, really, how fair can any contest be when the system overseeing and regulating it screws up all the time?


February 7, 2006

I can’t believe it took me this long to finally realize/notice that Jack Feeny and Mark Prindle are not, in fact, the same person.


April 8, 2004

I can’t believe it’s this simple. The secret to singing louder, it turns out, is to think about your stomach. It took me this long to figure that out? Christ. Tomorrow I begin a regimen of situps as voice training.

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