Wednesday, April 26, 2023

N'EGO: The Negation of the Ego

I'm still mostly on blogging vacation. This is just a little postcard from Synchroni City.

On the night of Saturday, April 23, I had a dream in which Kanye West had released a new album, in collaboration with two of his children. Not wanting to take unfair advantage of his name recognition, they had used some forgettable pseudonym like "the Williamson Family" or something, but everyone knew it was actually Ye. The name of the album was N'EGO: The Negation of the Ego.

In the morning, I made a quick note of the dream and then went about my day. At around 4:30 in the afternoon, I happened to come out of a shop just as two people went past on a scooter. One of them recognized me and, without stopping, waved and said, "William!" I waved back to be polite, but actually I had no idea who it was I was waving to. They went by really fast and were both wearing full-face helmets.

I then got on my own motorcycle and headed for home. Before long, I had to stop at a red light. I noticed that the guy on the scooter in front of me had a huge white rabbit on the back of his T-shirt, so -- the white rabbit being a recent sync theme -- I pulled out my phone and snapped a quick photo for future reference. When the light turned green, I turned right and the white rabbit continued on straight.

Several minutes later, while I still on the road, I thought, "Didn't that white-rabbit guy have NEG on his license plate and then some numbers? I wonder if the NEG was followed by 0 or 15 or something."  I was thinking of the "N'EGO" in my dream, of course; O looks like zero and is the 15th letter of the alphabet. When I got home, I checked my photo:

It's not 0 or 15, but NEG is followed by four digits of which the sum is 15, so it still encodes NEGO. What are the odds?

Assume a license number of the form ABC 1234, which is the most common format in Taiwan. In theory, the probability of getting NEG is 26-3, or 0.0057%. However, my impression is that one sees the same letter combinations recurring much more often than would be expected if all 17,576 possible three-letter combinations were assigned with equal probability. I think the government probably uses only a small subset of the possible strings, so to err on the side of being extremely conservative, let's say the chance of getting NEG is 1%. The chance of the numbers that follow encoding O is much higher than you might expect. The first digit could be 0 (10% chance); the first two digits could be 15, or could add up to 15 (5% chance); The first three digits could add up to 15 (6.4% chance, when overlap with the first two cases is excluded); or all four digits could add up to 15 (5.58% chance, excluding overlap). The total probability of any of these being the case is 26.98%.

Surprised it was so high, and wondering if I had made a mistake in my arithmetic, I did a quick empirical check by having generate 100 truly random four-digit numbers. Of these, 22 met one of the conditions listed above. More surprisingly, one of the numbers it gave me was the very same four-digit number that was on the license plate! The odds of that are not astronomically low, though: 1 - 0.999100, or 9.52%.

Normally, in estimating the probability of a license-plate sync, I would have to take into account the number of license plates I see every day, a figure which is likely in the hundreds. In this case, though, it's not just that one of the hundreds of plates I see every day happened to encode NEGO; it was one specific plate, one which I had photographed for reasons entirely unrelated to NEGO.

Later that day, I was thinking about the people that had gone by on a scooter and shouted my name, trying to think who they could have been. I thought, Oh, maybe it was so-and-so! (an acquaintance I only see a few times a year). That night, I happened to be in so-and-so's neighborhood; there was a small parking area across from their house (shared by them and some neighbors), and there was a scooter parked there with a NEG license plate! Had that been them? When I saw the rabbit T-shirt and snapped a photo, had I unwittingly been taking a photo of someone I knew but didn't recognize from behind?

No, actually, this was a different NEG plate:

Recall what I had asked myself earlier: "I wonder if the NEG was followed by 0 or 15 or something." Well here was a different scooter which had NEG followed by 15 and 0. What are the odds?

Several minutes later, I just had to go back to their neighborhood and double-check. I must have seen something wrong. It must actually been the same NEG plate. So I went back and looked more carefully at the five or six scooters that were parked there. I had seen it right -- but this time I noticed that just across the street from that scooter was the one with the other NEG plate I had photographed before. (Sorry about the photo quality, but it's documentation, not art.)

Now that I had reason to believe that it was so-and-so, I sent her a message the next day, and she confirmed that she had been the one who passed me on the street and said hi, and that she had been with someone wearing a white rabbit T-shirt.

So that's a coincidence of four things: The scooter with the rabbit T-shirt I photographed (1) belonged to an acquaintance who just happened to go past at the moment I came out of a shop (2) and had a license plate encoding NEGO, a nonsense word I had just dreamed about (3), and which was also encoded by her neighbor's license plate (4).

That was all on Sunday. Now an epilogue from today (Wednesday, April 26).

Last night, I had a dream in which I did not appear as a character but simply observed the story as if watching a movie. It was about a man who had decided he wanted to visit a place "where the ocean empties into a river" (sic) because of all the amazing things you could see there -- "Imagine, you could see sharks, octopuses, all kinds of things -- in a river!" So he was walking off to a place like that, with a female friend tagging along rather unenthusiastically. She asked if they were going to Africa, and he said, "No, Michigan. It's a bit north of Africa, but the ocean empties into a river there, too, so it's just as good."

They were walking through a swampy area with lots of tall reeds and rushes, and the woman was complaining about how far they had to walk. "We can't complain about that," said the man. "Don't forget, Jesus himself used to walk everywhere -- more than 30 miles a day, and that was in a hot desert!"

I jotted down the dream and went to work.

This morning, I met with an adult student who studies at home with a magazine intended for English learners and sometimes brings it to class if she has questions about anything she has read. She had given me a copy of the magazine, but I hadn't read any of the articles before today's class.

Today we looked at two consecutive articles. The first was called "Across the Mojave Desert on Foot," about a geologist named Nick Van Buer who did what it says on the tin, and it synched pretty remarkably with my dream of last night.

The dream, as you will recall, was about a man who was hiking through tall reeds and rushes to get to a place in the US where the ocean empties into a river, and who told his companion she shouldn't complain because Jesus used to hike more than 30 miles through the desert every day. The page I have photographed has a man hiking 31 miles ("more than 30") through a desert in the US and -- unexpectedly for a desert hike -- going through reeds. It also has the words river and ocean juxtaposed, and even includes the number 150, a figure which was significant when I saw it on a license plate on Sunday night.

After "Across the Mojave Desert on Foot," the next article was called "The Right Way to Deal With Criticism," and it featured this illustration:

Recall the name of the Kanye album in my Saturday night dream: N'EGO: The Negation of the Ego. Come to think of it, it's also a bit of a sync with last night's dream, which, unlike the vast majority of my dreams, "left my ego out of it" by not even including me as a character.

One final sync wink. More than one commenter has compared some of my more extravagant sync posts to one of those "evidence boards" used by detectives and paranoid schizophrenics on TV, the kind with all the string. Check out the magazine's table of contents:

There it is, right next to the two articles I clipped for my own crazy wall.

Also notice the lower right corner: "Biggest Myths About Traveling to Africa." According to the guy in my dream, the biggest such myth is that you need to go all the way to Africa when actually Michigan has everything you need.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Moonlight Shadow


Note added: Given some of the topics I discuss on this blog, and my well-known penchant for thinly veiled hate speech and malinformation, I never dreamed that my very first post to be deleted for violating Community Guidelines would be this completely innocuous 1983 music video hosted on YouTube (same company as Blogger) and posted here (originally) without comment! Well, I guess everybody's got to start somewhere.

Banned by Google! For 36 minutes, but still. I feel like all my hard work is finally starting to pay off.

Update: Google deleted it again at 3:07 and reinstated it again at 7:00. No idea what’s going on.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Nine paranormal knocks in three groups of three

I'm still basically on vacation from blogging, but I discovered this today and felt a sort of urgency about getting it typed up and posted right away -- as if some particular person needs to read it, and needs to read it at a particular time.

I can't imagine why that would be -- it's really just a bit of historical trivia -- but if any of my readers happen to have experienced nine paranormal knocks in three groups of three, you may be interested to learn that you're not alone. Whitley Strieber experienced this in 1986; and the entire town of Glenrock, Wyoming, in 1988. And long before that -- I learned today -- in the winter of 1716-17, the family of Methodist founders John and Charles Wesley experienced the very same thing.

Details are at my Strieber blog, Winking Back from the Dark.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Missing persons report

Starting tomorrow, I will be offline almost all of the time and will not be posting anything. I also won't be reading or commenting on other people's blogs much and will be an even less than usually reliable email correspondent. I anticipate a return to normal online activity on or shortly after May 28.

Big Bird and the Blue Sun

I found this out randonauting tonight:

It was on the wall of a "Sesame English" school that licenses the characters from Sesame Street. There was no "Bird," just "Big." I recently mentioned Big Bird in "Sync: Don't be confused. Back up the heavy burds." The background also got my attention: "The sky was yellow, and the Sun was blue," as in the Grateful Dead song "Scarlet Begonias."

This is not the first time Big Bird has been associated with yellow-blue reversals. There was that one time he was captured, painted blue, and promoted as the Bluebird of Happiness.

This in turn made me think of the They Might Be Giants song "Birdhouse In Your Soul," with its repeated references to a "blue canary," as well as one mention of the "bluebird of friendliness." (Big Bird, while claiming variously to be a lark or a "golden condor," has sometimes been identified as a canary.)

One assumes that "Birdhouse In Your Soul" was inspired by, among other things, Emily Dickinson.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers --
That perches in the soul --
And sings the tune without the words --
And never stops -- at all --

The blue canary in the song never stops at all, either: "My story's infinite / Like the Longines Symphonette / It doesn't rest."

If you look back at the first Big Bird image, you'll see that the blue sun is rising over a few curved but mostly horizontal red and white stripes. This same image with the same colors appears in the iconic Obama poster which also invokes Dickinson's "thing with feathers."

The blue sun made me think of the blue star Sirius -- but of course that star is associated with the dog, not the yellow bird. The "blue canary" in the song also made me think of Twitter, so I decided to check that website -- something I very rarely do. It turns out that, as of just a few hours ago apparently, Twitter's blue bird has been replaced with a yellow dog!

Another thing the blue sun made me think of was an Indian roommate I had many years ago, who told me that "blue is the radiance of black," and that Krishna and Shiva are portrayed as blue to show that they are black yet radiant. If that's true, then Big Bird's blue sun is equivalent to the Black Sun, a Nazi symbol.

How about that? How often do you see Big Bird juxtaposed with Nazism? Oh, wait, I just saw that yesterday, in this gratuitously offensive meme from 4chan. (Sorry about this stuff, guys. I may have mentioned a time or two that the sync fairies ain't got no class.)

Oh, and Hitler's in a boat. I just read in William Bramley's The Gods of Eden that "the swastika . . . which most people associate with Naziism . . . is a very old emblem. It has appeared many times in history, usually in . . . societies worshipping Custodial 'gods.'" He mentions elsewhere that these "'gods' traveled into the heavens in flying 'boats.'"

So -- this is a very weird sync-stream. We'll see if it goes anywhere.

By the way, on the same randonauting excursion, I ran into yet another double-D lemniscate, once again connected with the yin-yang symbol.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

When did dogs figure out pointing? (updated)

This is a repost of something I wrote in 2011, with a new data point added.

Original 2011 post:

In “Transposition,” a sermon delivered during World War II and published in 1949 in Transposition and Other Addresses, C. S. Lewis refers to dogs’ inability to understand pointing.

You will have noticed that dogs cannot understand pointing. You point to a bit of food on the floor; the dog, instead of looking at the floor, sniffs at your finger. A finger is a finger to him, and that is all.

If you’ve ever owned a dog, you will no doubt find this a rather extraordinary thing to say. Dogs obviously understand pointing, even without any training, and it’s quite common to train dogs to respond to pointing as a command (for example, pointing to a doorway to tell the dog to go into the room indicated). No dog I’ve ever met would waste time sniffing my finger when I’d just pointed out a bit of food it could eat. Cats, yes, but certainly not dogs.

However, Lewis had already had no fewer than six dogs by the time “Transposition” was published (details here), so it’s hard to dismiss what he says about them. This isn’t Pliny the Elder we’re dealing with, reporting hearsay about animals he’d had no personal contact with. Lewis knew dogs well and must surely have known from direct experience how they respond to pointing.

Is it possible that Lewis was right, and that dogs have changed in the half-century since he wrote?

We know that dogs’ ability to understand pointing is a relatively recent evolutionary development. According to dog expert Stanley Coren (as quoted in a 2009 Bloomberg article), domestic dogs understand pointing but their wild conspecifics do not.

“Suppose I point at something — the dog recognizes that I’m indicating something in that direction and looks,” Coren said, referring to a 2004 experiment carried out by Harvard anthropologist Brian Hare, which focused on the increase in dog IQ from domestication. “They do this even if they’re eight to ten weeks old, whereas a wolf, reared since puppyhood in a human environment, would look at my hand,” explained Coren.

Is it possible that the change Coren alludes to could have happened within living memory, sometime after the Second World War? It would be interesting to comb old books for references to dogs’ understanding or not understanding pointing and try to infer when the change took place.

I suppose it’s also possible that geography is a factor. Perhaps the North American dogs studied by Hare and Coren have abilities which English dogs do not. (Iain McGilchrist, a Scot, also refers to dogs’ ability to understand pointing, but he seems to be drawing on the same American research as Coren, not on his own experience.) Most of my own experience with dogs has been in America, but I often see stray Taiwan Tugous (a local breed far removed from anything in Europe or America) and should be able to test their responsiveness to pointing.

If you have any direct experience with dogs and pointing, or if you know of any references to it in books, please leave a comment.

2023 addendum:

This is from p. 36 of The Hidden Springs: An Enquiry into Extra-sensory Perception (1961) by Renée Haynes:

Humans . . . may also observe that no domestic animal can understand the human gesture of the pointing finger; cats and dogs alike may sniff or lick that finger, but will never follow the line it indicates towards a bone or dish of milk.

"Cats and dogs alike"! As if this were not one of the most conspicuous cognitive differences between the two species!

I have not been able to discover how much first-hand experience Renée Haynes may have had with dogs, so it is not clear whether she speaks from her own knowledge or merely passes on received opinion. At any rate, to say that dogs do not understand pointing was apparently considered uncontroversial as recently as 1961 -- just 43 years before it was experimentally demonstrated that they do. It seems fantastic that canine nature could have changed in such a short time. But, supposing it did not change, it also seems fantastic that such a basic misconception about such a very familiar animal could have persisted for so long -- and in England, of all places, a country Haynes calls a "Dog's Paradise where Cerberus himself would be fed with vitaminized biscuits."

Loaves of gold

(Not to be confused with " Leaves of gold .") Wherever these bread syncs are going, the sync fairies seem intent on connecting all...