Genetic genealogy culminates in the once-thought-impossible

Just used DNA Painter for the first time. Astonishing. With new genealogically-known cousins popping up every few weeks on my lists at 23andMe and MyHeritage, I can now localize DNA segments to 1 grandparents, 4 great-grandparents, one (non-overlapping) great-great-grandparent, and one (overlapping) great-great-great-great-grandparent — for a grand total of 14% of all possible segments securely identified with an ancestor (if I chose to be looser about it, the % would approach 20).

This awesome free utility makes it possible to visualize them all in one chromosome map, which you can compare against matches of unknown provenance. Something I never thought possible.

“Effective in the same sense as coffee”

And my position on the larger problem of meaning is to notice that my life always seems really meaningful and great when I have coffee. If I’m going to try to figure out what the actual meaning of life is, in some sort of deep principled way, I’m going to do it with as much attention to Truth as possible. And if I’m going to give myself some emotional hack that lets myself go on and continue finding life worth living, I think caffeine probably has fewer side effects than falsehood, and is just as effective.

And if you don’t respond to caffeine as well as I do, then I think the overall lesson is that the emotional problem of meaning is a basically biological one, that doesn’t connect with the philosophical problem of meaning nearly as much as you think. Get a good psychiatrist and you’ll solve the emotional problem. The philosophical problem might not be solvable, but “helping others” or “creating a positive singularity” or “[your ingroup’s political goals here]” are, though not Perfectly Objectively Grounded, grounded enough that most people don’t really want to question them once the emotional problem is solved.

I find some of Peterson’s non-truth-value-having writing effective in the same sense as caffeine; it makes me more emotionally willing to follow the truths I know I should be following. Since, jokes aside, I can’t literally be drugged 100% of the time, I appreciate that. And maybe the drug would be stronger if I were to swallow his truth-value-having claims too. But that’s not a risk-benefit profile I’m okay with right now.

— ibid.

Politifact rates your symphony false

This is one reason I respect Jordan Peterson’s pragmatism on a pragmatic level, even as I think it’s a crappy theory of truth. I can imagine a version of him saying (I don’t know if the real one does) “Look, I’m giving you all of these inspirational slogans. You can pick my science and philosophy and mythography apart if you really want, but are you sure you want to do that? You’ll just ruin my attempt to inspire you, and go back to lying on the couch all day wishing you had a reason to get up in the morning.”

Maybe aliens would view it as a tragic quirk of the human psyche that we have to conflate inspiration and truth. Maybe to them, inspiration is just another genre, closer to art or poetry than to an attempt to describe the world as it is. Maybe to them, if there’s an intuitively satisfying explanation of the meaning of life, asking “Is that really the meaning?” or “Is that really true?” would be just as stupid and annoying as nitpicking the lyrics of Ode To Joy. “Ode to Joy says ‘all creatures drink of joy’, but some creatures are unhappy, and joy is not a liquid! Politifact rates your symphony FALSE.”

— “Highlights from the Comments on Twelve Rules“, Slate Star Codex

Ol’ Empty-Full Eyes

So, he introduced me to Buddhism in the form of song. As you may know, Kerouac admired Frank Sinatra for his crooning enunciation, for his oratory, for his clarity of speech, for the precision with which he pronounced the affective emotional content of his vowels. And so, like Frank Sinatra, the first direct Buddhist word I heard from Kerouac’s mouth after letters, was his singing of the Three Refuges. So, that would be the next step.

— Allen Ginsberg, “Negative Capability: Kerouac’s Buddhist Ethic
Tricycle, Fall 1992


It has bored a hole in my head
such that Adon Olam won’t reach
and no one’s left a Lonely Planet

What to make of sex and genre
all inflections old and new
with couch and time extruded too

You’re far too gentle for a golem
hums the Christ on Ravi Shankar beats
be orderly and kind intones the shoe

There’s status, rods, and floral holes
and then there’s groundless whirring ground
in which I trust as “Elohim” or not-a-sound

I’m body-bound, I’m sane, I’m sound
and redolent of ecstasies I’ve spun
and fractal with the histories I’ve smoked.

Nepalese tapestries hung about the mind;
I promise to be kind.