field notes (4/19/2017)

Baby consciousness. It’s now 4/23/2017 but I have to share some thoughts retroactively. Babysat a very special boy for some very special friends last week. As someone who loves littles more than bigs in this human world it was an absolute gift. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take notes but had zero opportunity to take notes. So I jotted down what I could with the inkwell of my hippocampus and later wrote them down. Just a few moments/observations (These are not written in order, and are not representative of any overall sequence of behavior, as they were put on paper down some hours after the actual experience)

  • At ten months baby has good eye contact and according to Dad he is BIG: “He’s in the 90th percentile for size.” “So you’re saying he’s gonna be a big boy?” “He already IS big. 90th percentile NOW. He’s a big baby!” & we had a laugh.
  • Baby has a unique behavior I most enjoyed. A sort of hand motion/wave. Less of a wave than a reach. In a literal embodiment of an “approach” behavior his left arm, led tentatively and first by his left hand and wrist, twist outwardly and warmly into the air. He twisted his chubby bubby fingers inward, as if creating a cosmic corkscrew to say HELLO. Once his little hand was twisted inward in blissful engagement he clasps and unclasps his hand – this all (obviously) takes place as he beams right into your soul. Babies seem to be quite good at that.
  • A fun bit of behavior on the stairs. After about 20 minutes of spending time with baby and Dad, Dad began explaining to me how to babysit/the ins-and-outs of the house. Nursery is upstairs so up we went. & as myself, Dad, baby & family dog ascended the stairs Dad began to explain a few more of baby’s behaviors. The stairs are carpeted and Baby, w/Dad behind, was crawling up them.
  • Baby had been increasingly focused on me before we began the Great Stair Climb – offering more eye contact, smiling at me. So as we began on the stairs, with me and Dad behind, baby was distracted/not climbing quickly. It seemed this strange invader behind him was more captivating than The Great Stair Climb. Me: “Maybe I should go up the stairs [ahead of him]?” Dad: “Yeah, you’ve got his attention. Go ahead of him.”
  • So I did, & this incentivized baby to speed up and get smiley. How compelling and ineffably warm it felt to have this massive and newly formed consciousness gurgling and approaching.

field notes (4/18/2017)

lad is conscious of me – perhaps 3 times so far we have met and hung out in the presence of his Dad. Today was a warmup to our first one-on-one hangout on Thursday.

Babies are tremendous and wondrous. To anyone fascinated by biology, physical forms, learning, animals, family…I’ll shut up now. Babies are amazing & everyone knows it. But to be clear – this journal of mine is for observations of living things, and today’s opportunity was a rare gem amongst the daily dirt.

Baby – small. large head, of course. His presence rendered me compelled to observe and also eager for eye contact. Eye contact is rare in this day & age – normally I feel I am seeking it, adults frustrate me in their lack of it….to sustain in it (or persist in it) seems to require or signify a type of FORTITUDE.

Not so with a baby.

Baby instead had me requesting his eye contact but, unlike larger humans, made me follow his lead in that attempt in a much happier and rewarding way. In general (with big people) it really feels that I am trying to lead them into a substantial interaction, or at least into eye contact, but in this instance it was Baby who was leading me – to look/not look/wait/not wait. With Big People it seems I am forceful and am compelled to channel. With Little People I am gleefully and willingly channelED.

can machines think?


(from Robert Tocquet’s The Magic of Numbers, known in France as 2+2=4)

sorry. the machine-consciousness bandwagon is catchy. it really is. and the same caravan of wannabe-theories  (extending backward through history) has similar bandwagons worth hopping onto. not unlike rich kids today who experience their first metaphysical considerations at the sight of a overpriced virtual reality headset, roman elites looked away from theology or metaphysics & instead proclaimed that fountain technology would rip apart the very fabric of reality. when a pocketwatch was amongst the most complicated of mandmade artifacts there was only a single thing on earth in the minds of their owners nearly as glorious or intentional in its construction- yes, duh, the brain. whenever a new technology emerges that outraces its predecessors the first audible noise is a human making proud and inept self-reference.

post-enlightenment egotism serves this notion that humans (the only sentient thing) are special (after all, we are the most complex thing of all things) and therefore other complex things (almost as special) are also sentient things (almost as sentient as people). Folks on this machine-consciousness bandwagon often love to drool over Alan Turing but are creeped out or dismissive of panpsychism. That is to say they believe their silica-based electronics, envisioned by some obsessed white entrepreneur somewhere, have consciousness, but trees and gusts of wind do not. computers think, but Sister Silica does not. today in 2017 this allows flashy characters with inaccessible toys and tech-speak to swallow up an entire culture’s worth of dialogue about consciousness and quietly slink off to shit it all out, revealing their intellectual indigestion. i encounter so many of these types in the world of neuroscience. The same attitude against these passive panpsychist “spooks” existing within or as all matter (“nah dude, my Macbook is conscious but not a rock. btw, machines are gonna take over the world”) is incredibly phobic of the singular machine consciousness they somehow cling to. Don’t get me wrong- Terminator and Ex Machina are splendid movies but they aren’t scary. I did read Frankenstein, after all.

if you’ve made it past philosophy 101 and have still invested all of your ontological energies into the folly end of the Can Machines Think? question, and find yourself in disagreement with me, please leave me a comment. it’s 3:56am and as much as I’d like to keep challenging machine consciousness I need to power down for the night

field notes (04/17/2017)


Today’s weather/appearance feels like a gift. Big, wide blue sky…A tiny breeze that feels much more spring than summer, but the direct sunlight casts away obligations to sleeves. Although I do have sleeves with me – haven’t gotten sunscreen yet so I keep the jean jacket with me to save my skin. My face/ears/etc are still unprotected from the cooking but hey, I’m on the shady side of the porch for now. Cars going by every few moments are quite unsettling and unwelcome. The sound and smell of them is worse to the senses but their inherent priority status is pain to the soul. After all – cars seem to decide how places are designed. Cars run the roads at all hours, embody human self centeredness, and

shut up, Ian

Moving on. The grid of the street irritates me today. Birds chirping – a few across the street. A single chirp perhaps 2 times per 1-2 seconds. A bit hard to hear on each chirp, like a chime or a chord (which I myself cannot piece apart with my own ear, though many humans can). A bit moist – the sound, I mean. At this moment a few young girls pass by the house –


“How do you say orange, anyway? Do you say OHrange or AHrange?”

I wonder if their ‘ew’ and subsequent linguistic assessment was because of the discarded orange peel over by the street. Now a few birds back here by the porch.


A crow yelling. Reps of at least 6-7. I notice that same pairing of 2 staccato calls, preceded by one call, like this:

\   \\   \\

\   \\  \\ \\ \\

field notes (4/16/16)

6:52am. a few sounds and sights this morning. up around 5:45 or 6:00 to the sound of a single corvid up the street- calling in repetitions of 5. poured some seed out onto the roof from the attic. realized it was easter today & poured out some extra. muttered “happy easter, bird brains!”

grabbed coffee & went down to porch. perhaps my greatest insight in my 25.2 years is that when possible or available, Comfort is Key. this has culminated in my ultimate achievement which is to keep a small pillow on the porch (tucked away out of view from the street) upon which to sit. what a concept. sometimes one just wants to sit on the porch, but the porch is all splintery. or sometimes wet. usually it’s too cold (at least in the early morning), and my lumbar spine gets messed up without proper downward tilt. i wear a lot of black and dont enjoy having funky-porch-dust visible on my buttcheeks. thus, porch pillow.

sat on pillow, folded it double under my rear end, & heard the corvid again. 5 calls.


there was sort of a staccato in cadence between each grouping. sometimes their raspy calls roll together a bit, as if squawed in the same respiration, but these were rather distinct. it was so rhythmic. one of the things that came to mind in articulating (re-articulating) these noises to myself in my head was the voice of my old orchestra teacher. She’d subdivide rhythms for us out loud & this 5-point call was more than rhythmic enough to fit a 4/4 type of tempo. Ok let’s be real I don’t remember how time signatures work, but my orchestra teacher’s voice came to mind anyway. Such a rhythmic and regular little bird!

It struck me yet again this morning that the patterns and syllables in “crow-talk” are complex enough to lose track of but simple enough to annotate (somewhat). That is to say I don’t understand their songs but can certainly (try to) write down the notes. Yesterday I at Macalester’s Springfest celebration (loud, people-packed, and unremarkable) and decided it was time for some bird watching. As I walked home along Summit, Pierce, and various alleys I was unable to see many birds but I heard a few. During that walk I was also wondering about how to transcribe/inscribe/note crow talk to myself on paper. Morse code? Some type of pseudo-musical strategy? Whether or not their vocalizations are ever consciously meaningful to a human I am unsure but it would be cool to at least recognize a few of them. Perhaps some type of animal annotation in this way exists- should touch base w Temple Grandin and her work. If I were literate in waveforms I could perhaps etch or sketch a mockery of the sound but I also am unaware if humans can be entirely literate in waveforms. Certainly waveforms are at least slightly readable, as in when observing a sound signal in a music software program. I know this because as the number of hours I’ve spent DJing and staring at those waveforms go up they’ve gotten groovier and groovier in my brain’s grooves/gyri. But are they writeable? Maybe, but probably not the best way to encode information. A waveform must likely be one of the more complete & complicated ways of representing a sound and perhaps rather than set my brain to a “deep learning” task it could be a little simpler. 

As I jot down these thoughts from my walk home from Springfest yesterday I can’t help  but notice how rewarding these questions of animal behavior are, even if totally unanswered or unapproachable. There were lots of cool people at Springfest but to be honest I enjoy toying around in my head with these brainquiries.

Anyway- I try to holler at the birds in a pseudospeak but as hard as it is to resist do that it’s really time to start resisting. It’s just not a helpful urge to act on and to be mimicking crows could draw attention to myself in a negative way. Most importantly though- odds are 99.9999% that whatever I’m screeching in my “crow-voice” is utterly horrifying or aggressive to them, and so it’s probably best to listen for now.
anyway. so this morning i was on porch and orchestra teacher is in my head subdividing the morning song from this black feathered dinosaur up in a tree. adding to the morning splendor was Gilda, who you likely know is my housemate’s cat. Gilda is a teensy tiny golden short-hair with green eyes and a whiny baby voice. She’s essentially an adorable needy whiny baby. So as the crow was yelling about something up the street Gilda came into the window on the porch and began yelling too. She was eager for some attention and to get her head/ears rubbed, and quite forcefully (with as much force as a 5lb cat can exert against a screen) mashed her head against the threaded metal. it was undeniably adorable and I told her so. such a baby. such a big baby! tried to give her a few scratches but likely just left her even more needy. sorry Gilda.

walked up the street to find the corvid w no luck. walked back to the house. kept hearing the 5-point call. i went back into my house and walked to the kitchen. on the way back I look out the bay window of Selby and freeze- 2 big fellas on the roof. Big meaning not finches. Corvids- crows, based on their size, or perhaps younger ravens. They were eating the seed that until that moment I had assumed was going entirely to the finches. One was pecking its head quite firmly into the shingles, making me wonder if Analuna hears all this downstairs.
I was frozen. They tend to fly away the minute they see me- i was within plain view of them but hadnt been spotted. I felt that prickly rush panic flush of the skin and a huge adrenaline surge- do I grab my phone and try to photograph them? no. rude. do i move? no, thatd scare them. rude. do i watch them? no, thatd scare them too. rude. so i just remained frozen.

A few moments went by and I decided to tiptoe towards the window. Mind you, this was before I decided to cease my vocalization project. In a very gentle voice I sang softly: “hello babies!” out the open screen. They looked at me.

“hello babies!” they both kept looking. i was gentle and averted my gaze, as not to freak them out. “hello babies!” a third time- and off they went. I immediately threw a piece of chicken out, which drew a large raven to the tree across the street. it cawed out in that 5-6 point rhythm and passed in front of the house a few times.

last encounter of the early AM- big fat raven aforementioned flew right up to porch and hovered over chicken. we locked eyes thru the bay window and it took off. havent heard or seen a single thing since (45 mins).

Ha! As I typed that, the raven returned. These birds are too powerful for me to be messing around with, I tell ya.

(to be continued)