Chris Corwin is a UX engineer at @salesforce who digs bourbon, beer, bikes, and beef. And pork. Aaand chicken. And asparagus. Food, really.

My self-awareness is a trick of the shape of the universe I occupy.

So, I am just trying to construct a narrative here based on what I have access to; bear with me.

The whole of the universe (the World), “past”, “present”, and “future”, always exist so long as the universe exists.

I am not attempting, here, to prove that, but rather present it as a given.

To find yourself convinced of this, should you wish to be, I suggest starting with Charlotte Higgins’ excellent article There is no such thing as past or future’: physicist Carlo Rovelli on changing how we think about time.

Stretching the premise: much as a Video has the entirety of the Video contained in a file that, when played, shows a viewer the Video, so the universe is a thing that contains info about the state of the universe.

Given that time is not real, but it sure feels like it is, and I find myself alive and wishing to stay that way, I am just trying to construct a narrative here based on what information I have access to.

Why am I doing that?

Why am I doing?

Why am I?


Too hard, let’s go for something easier for the moment.

Let’s start with what I am and try to get to why later, perhaps.

What am I?

“I” am just a node of some part of the universe that seems to have self-aware capabilities.

Where these self-aware capabilities come from is anybody’s guess.

We truly do not know.

Nobody knows.

It is unknown.

One idea that I am particularly fond of holds that consciousness emerges from the interactions of…something or other, maybe.

But, whatever, consciousness does emerge.

Mine does anyway — and although I can not prove it to you (whatever you are) I am confident that my experience of consciousness is not an illusion, even if whatever mechanisms that lead to it are unknown, or even unknowable.

Anyway, there are sub-parts of me which do not seem to have self-aware capabilities, at least not to me, and are “only” there to support the sub-parts of me that are self-aware. That is my “body”, and, my body contains my brain.

Now, my brain is what seems to be self-aware, while the rest of my body is there to supply my brain with what it needs to keep going.

And my brain is there to keep my body out of the way of oncoming trains.

And so forth.

My body is a bunch of particles, most of it completely unaware that there is an “I” to me.

But some part of me is aware of itself.

Some part of the thing that is me is only able to be me because some part of me thinks of itself and the way it thinks of itself is “I”.

“I” have a body, and my body has a brain, but neither my brain nor my body is precisely equal to me. This is called the “illusion of the self”, and is discoverable merely by going and looking for it. Go for it now, if you wish. You will not find it. The whole nature of the illusory self is far outside of the scope of this writing, but, also is a given.

At the very edges of my body, I have special structures of particles that interact with the particles of whatever it is that surrounds ”me”.

It is those sub-atomic-level interactions that I use to sense, and make sense of, the World around me.

My vision and hearing are two obvious examples.

But so are my memories, which contain data about past inputs, and the sense I made of them then.

My notion that “it is bad to push someone over as they pass by me on a bicycle” is formed from all this sense making I do based on all of my inputs, and my memories are simply one of my inputs.

My memories contain information about the culture I live in, what riding a bicycle feels like, what falling over is, what it is like to experience pain, and so forth. All of this information has lead me to successfully never once even consider pushing a cyclist over as they ride past me.

Well, I mean, until this evening while writing this.

I am confident, dear reader, that I will do exactly zero cyclist pushing in the future.

Perhaps if it seems to me that doing so would save the cyclists life, by stopping them from interacting unfavorably with, say, a train?

On not being killed by a train

The only way I can know “a train is coming” in such a way that will compel me sufficiently forcefully enough that I purposfully avoid the train‘s path is by having built a narrative of things such as “I”, “The World”, “Trains”, “Paths”, “Pain”, “Loss”, “MOVE” and so forth.

I see, hear, feel (!) the train coming and, hopefully, react by moving my body, which contains my brain — the structure of which is capable of passing information around via particle interactions that make up sub-structures within itself, and, notices patterns (that is: has memories) …and… has it a “self” idea, and a “trains” idea, and… and all of this stuff called “I” can piece all of this information input together in such a way that what emerges is a something like I need to get out of the way of that train or I am going to die.

My self is aware of myself being aware of myself.

This process allows these brain structures that pass information around to begin to use some of those other structures to store information about myself and what has happened to my body along the way, and, even though the entirety (in every direction, x, y, z, t) of the physical World within which I live exists (like the movie file above, all of the universe, all of it, exists all at the same time), I only have one-way access to the memories formed in the structures of my brain because of the one-way information-destroying flow of heat.

I can only remember the “past” because in that ”direction” the heat exchange allowed me to keep the information about the state of the ”previous slice of consciousness” I am able to access from ”here”.

My self-awareness is a trick of the shape of the universe I occupy.

So, I am just trying to construct a narrative here based on what I have access to; bear with me.

When the soft-matter “bits of stuff” that formed as a consequence of an XY sperm joining with an XX egg, the DNA coded into that soft-matter bits of stuff informed the those bits of matter on how to go about the business of growing and morphing.

The environment that the soft chunk of matter was stored in did too (womb, food, warmth, sooooooooo many factors).

And that soft chunk of matter did, in fact, start growing according how the DNA informed the cells, and, the environment gave feedback of so very many kinds until the bit of matter informed by DNA and formed by other bits of matter formed the neurons that start to do the information passing, all “simply” via interactions between discreet bits of matter according to whatever rules the various discreet bits of matter obey, and, it all managed to stay out of the way of oncoming trains long enough to start to notice relationships with all the stuff around it, including the fact that it could, vaguely, anyway, compare the current information being passed around with the closest version it has available, each a version of it that it is stored, frozen, in the interactions with the next two adjacent versions of the world.

The past and the future.

Remember, here, there is no past and and there is no future.

There is the World, and, the World has a shape, and, the shape of the World has within it emergent phenomena.

In fact, it has many many emergent phenomena.

It has one very specific phenomenon that emerges, somehow, from the interactions of all the particles in a very specific part of the World.

The phenomenon is a localized consciousness that can interact with the World, via its inputs.

The localized consciousness phenomenon calls itself “Chris Corwin”.

One of the localized consciousness’s inputs is the stuff located immediately next to it in the matter World, that is, the stuff that is not Chris Corwin.

I have skin that has an outer layer that touches stuff I do not think of as “part of myself”, right? Through my skin I get information that I experience as the feeling of “cold” or “hot”. Through my eyes I receive information that I experience as “eyesight”.

The localized consciousness that calls itself “Chris Corwin” (me) also has inputs from stuff “right next” to it in the non-matter World: other phenomenon emerging from of all of the interactions of the matter that the World’s component parts, following the rules of such interactions. These are things like “entropy” and ”light” and ”gravity”.

SooooooooOOOOoooooooo many tiny little discreet particles interacting, causing phenomena to ripple around. Interactions interacting with interactions, with the results of the interactions informing all of the other interactions, a great fury of ripples, all of it weaving a tapestry of interactions.

Somewhere in all of this Weave of Interactions of the particles that make up the shape of the non-matter World are all of the localized consciousnesses that also call themselves “Chris Corwin” extending in both available directions: that is the “past”, and, the “future”.

There are “past” and “future” me out there, each one of them thinking of themselves as me.

There are some that are close enough to each other that their bodies interact with each other through a direct cause-and-effect relationship: during the time between when I start to press down on the “X” key and when I reach the bottom and begin to pull my finger back up, causing the letter to appear on the screen in front of me… all of that movement of my finger actually happened to thousands of versions of me, nearly indistinguishable, with every “step” along the way having been caused by the step before it, in terms of basic particle interactions.

Other past and future me, however, are remote enough from each other that they may only interact through memory.

Chris Corwin at T+-0 does not have immediate access to the results of interactions with Chris Corwin at T-2 (”past”), but does have immediate access to the results of interactions with Chris Corwin at T-1 because Chris Corwin at T-2 is only available via memory handed off from Chris Corwin at T-1.

Chris Corwin at T+-0 would seem to have immediate access to the results of interactions with Chris Corwin at T-1 (”past”) and to Chris Corwin at T+1 (“future”) through the Weave of Interactions.

However, because of the one-way flow of heat exchange the result of such interactions are only available from the direction we think of as “past”.

Put another way: all of the interactions between the basic particles that make up Chris Corwin at T-1 and Chris Corwin at T+-0 lead to heat being exchanged, and, information transfers as a result, and, it happens that Chris Corwin at T-1 yields information to Chris Corwin at T+-0, while Chris Corwin at T+1 yields no information whatever to Chris Corwin at T+-0.

The result from those interactions are how Chris Corwin at T+1 gets information from Chris Corwin at T+-0.

The future only gets information from the past, it does not give it.

I just exist, building a narrative from the data structures which correspond to a state of the world as a “snapshot” from all the inputs available to me, including the current input, which includes sensory input as well as access to the snapshots in the directions of T-∞ , what I concluded about snapshots in the direction of T-∞, what I predict about snapshots in the direction of T+∞ and and … it is here that I find I can not know the future.

The future is the direction from which the Weave of Interaction yields zero information.

Knowing the future is in the same realm of knowledge as is knowing the location, volocity, and, spin of a particle right now, all at the same time.

That, we have proven, can not be done.

That it can not be done is a feature of the World that we find ourselves in.

There is no is “right now” that one can nail down and define all of the attributes that a particle might have, because it is only through the interactions of particles that anything can be known about them at all, and the interactions are things that do not take place at a given time: they simply take place.

There is no “right now”.

There is only the great Weave of Interaction of Particles, and the information that is yielded from it.

The exchange of heat is the result of the interaction of two particles and this interaction itself yields information, that is, the bits that encode the information, the bits that are remembered, the memories that are available to the localized emergent consciousness phenomenons like Chris Corwin at T+-∞.

So the information about “the future” is simply not accessible on “this” side of the exchanges with “the future”.

The future is simply the half of the Weave of Interactions that, when queried, yield zero results.

And the nature of the phenomenons of emergent consciousness like Chris Corwin is to be forming a narrative explaining to itself what in the actual fuck is going on right now, and, that narrative goes only in one direction, and, as long as the phenomenons of emergent consciousness like Chris Corwin have access to the structures of matter and phenomenons that result in the forming of the very memories that get passed along the Weave of Interactions to other phenomenons of emergent consciousness like Chris Corwin, that narrative is, in fact, passed along through the Weave, and the narrative continues.

I need to get out of the way of that train or I am going to die.

The phenomenons of emergent consciousness like Chris Corwin (plural) must stay in a state that enables them to continue to be able to maintain their awareness of, their sense of “self”.

We call that state “being alive”.

If a consciousness that emerges as a localized phenomenon of the Weave of Interactions of Particles is rocked too far, if it is pushed into a place where it loses the thread, loses the narrative, it splits/forks and something/someone else emerges, informed by whatever it has access to which may or may not include the previous connections to the structures storing the memories.

When it does not have full access to the memories it had before the event, we call that “Amnesia”.

It may lose any sense of consciousness at all for a while, say, in a coma, or as a result of being under general anesthesia, but, if it’s body is maintained in a healthy enough state so that by some happenstance the self-awareness is able to bootstrap itself back up, it may be able to re-establish connections to those memories and what emerges thinks of itself as… well, still itself.

If the body is physically damaged enough that it can no longer supply the brain everything that it needs to maintain the state of information-passing we call being alive, the brain dies and, thus, the consciousness it protected and enabled (or at least seemed to be correlative with) stops interacting, the one-way exchange of information stops and the whole thing goes offline.



But are they gone?

The whole of the the universe, “past”, “present”, and “future”, always exist so long as the universe exists.

The whole of the World still exists.

All of those memories are still there, frozen, just as always, available to localized emergent consciousness phenomenons like Chris Corwin.

The past and the present and the future are constructs of the consciousness.

They are merely different states of the world that we have immediate, pretty good, dim, flawed, or no access to, but are wholly real nonetheless.

Is there a Chris Corwin at T+-∞ ?

I am just trying to construct a narrative here based on what I have access to, so that I can avoid being hit by a train.

Timet Nosce

Appreciation for the genuine differences between people can help you orient yourself in the world, and appreciate the truly diverse viewpoints necessary to make the complex systems of society function, as well as increasing your comprehension of the singular and unique combination of basic traits and subsidiary aspects that characterize you, personally.

From Understanding Myself

Reading: “The hard problem of consciousness is a distraction from the real one”

There is a final twist to this story. Predictive models are good not only for figuring out the causes of sensory signals, they also allow the brain to control or regulate these causes, by changing sensory data to conform to existing predictions (this is sometimes called ‘active inference’). When it comes to the self, especially its deeply embodied aspects, effective regulation is arguably more important than accurate perception. As long as our heartbeat, blood pressure and other physiological quantities remain within viable bounds, it might not matter if we lack detailed perceptual representations. This might have something to do with the distinctive character of experiences of ‘being a body’, in comparison with experiences of objects in the world – or of the body as an object.
— Read on aeon.co/essays/the-hard-problem-of-consciousness-is-a-distraction-from-the-real-one

Anil Seth’s research fascinates me.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking on the nature of consciousness, meditating to understand my own experience better, and that has led me to some really interesting ideas.

The idea that the brain is hallucinating what we perceive as “reality” is one of the most fun ideas in this space, to me.

I wish to develop my understanding what “hallucination” even is and I hope to, perhaps, one day, eventually, have an idea to contribute to this domain.

*tap tap tap*

Is this thing on?


We shall see.

Space Opera is the first (fictional) book I’m going to have finished since I read Wheel of Time

I read Wheel of Time a couple years ago.

By that I mean I started reading it a couple years ago.

It actually took me about thirteen months to finish it, which means I was really moving, because the series is, uh… big: it consists of fourteen books weighing in at nearly twelve thousand pages.

That’s 4,410,036 words.

The audiobooks take, are you ready?, nineteen days to listen to.

Understand that I am a reader, dear reader.

So, I’ve been reading since I was three.

Essentially nonstop.

I always read.

I usually have three to five books going at once.

I never don’t have a book I’m currently reading.

Before the Kindle, I always had a book with me.

After the Kindle happened I always have all of my books with me.

I read alone at bars when other people are watching basketball.

I read on line at the grocery store when Helen is writing her $2.05 check to buy her pack of gum.

I read in the car when someone else is driving. I read in planes when I’m not in fetal position because the plane obviously is going to crash because planes go 300 miles per hour on the ground and that is not natural, and, back when I had classes, I would read in classes when I was supposed to be listening to someone talk about the thing I was reading.

That all changed when I finished Wheel of Time.

I had gotten so well and truly sucked into the series that I stopped reading anything else.

For over a year I always only read those books.

When I was finished it felt like I’d completed an ultra marathon, brain wise.

The series has an incredibly satisfying ending, I was amazed at how well the whole thing got tied up, I couldn’t wait for my wife to read them too so that we could talk about them, and, I had a whole queue of books I was itchin’ to get to cause I’d been throwing titles on a “to read” stack for over a year, and what could be better than finishing such a wonderful thing?

I’ll tell you what could be better: a gawddamn root canal, that’s what.

The thing is, those books ruined me for reading.

I started and fizzled out maybe fifteen books.

I could not enjoy reading.

I have always enjoyed reading.

I panicked.

I tried enjoying reading harder, which is not even a thing.

I got sad.

I got afraid that I could never enjoy reading again.

I panicked harder, which is totally a thing.

I got sadder.

Eventually I decided that all of that was dumb and that all of this would sort itself out and I should just not try to force it and try something else for a while.

I watched some TV, which I’d not really done in a long time. I had heard that this show called “Parks and Rec” was pretty good, and it was. I watched nearly all of them and… still haven’t finished the last three episodes.

I watched more movies than ever before. That means that I actually watched movies I had never seen before, instead of just watching Ocean’s 11 or Harry Potter over and over and over.

Some of them ended up being pretty good — turns out people were right about that whole “Marvel” thing. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I figured when I wanted to read again I would.

It took a year.

Nearly exactly twelve months after finishing book fourteen of Wheel of Time I read a review of a new comedy science fiction book called Space Opera, and, I had felt spark of excitement that I’d not felt in a very long time.

I want to read this book, I felt, barely recognizing the feeling.

I found it on Amazon, not easy given that it’s name is also a genre, bought it, and had started reading it within three minutes of learning of its existence.

I fell in love with it instantly and was pleased to discover that I had finished three chapters before it had occurred to me that I was reading again (!).

Then I had a weird idea about the nature of time and started doing some digging and ended up reading a whole bunch of physics stuff that sidetracked me for a couple weeks, but that’s been fun and exciting too, and deserves it’s own space, so I will reserve all of that for other posts, but, the point is I was enjoying reading again and now I’m almost done with that book.

So instead of finishing it I took a photo of my accomplishment: I am eleven minutes away from killing the first fictional book I’ve been able to get into in over a year.

I will post this, sip some beer, and do this thang.

Get iOS-style “double-spacebar ⇢ period” trick on macOS

For too long I have suffered from the tiny momentary annoyance of typing space space on my Mac keyboard, thinking I will get period + space like I do on iPhone and iPad.


How it was in the bad old days

Typing two spaces in a row macOS results in… two two spaces.

In a row.

I won’t rant on it, but, as we learned in 1990, on page 13 of The Mac is not a Typewriter, in modern computing, two spaces in a row is rarely needed, and probably actually Bad™.

Click me to see full sized

What is a contentious nerd to do?

Method 1: Just turn on the macOS native setting.

Turns out there’s a “hidden” (from me, obviously) setting right in the Keyboard → Text preference pane to “Add period with double-space”.


Use that: it’s fast and works just like iOS.

Except when it doesn’t, like in “web app” type apps like Slack or anywhere in Chrome and who knows where else.

Which brings us to method 2…



Method 2: Set up a BetterTouchTool “Custom Key Sequence”

I have used software called BetterTouchTool for small productivity boosts on macOS for years.

It has stupid-configurable window snapping tools, which is why I originally bought it, but it also allows you to allows you to set up custom actions based on mouse or trackpad gestures, gives much finer-grained control over the speed of things like mouse tracking, scrolling, where the touch-sensitive areas of your Magic Mouse are and a million other things.

What I realized this morning was that I can use its custom key sequences to overcome the frustrating lack of being able to hit spacebar twice and get a damn period.

This is a screenshot.

In BetterTouchTool’s preferences (either “Simple” or “Advanced”, doesn’t matter) click the button labeled “ + Add New Shortcut or Key Sequence”.

Choose “Key Sequence” and click the “Record New Key Sequence” button, then hit your spacebar twice.

You’re looking to set up a “predefined action” called “Paste Custom Text”.

The custom text is “period space”, like, you know a period and then a space.

Save that junk and obtain enlightenment.

How it is now

With this BetterTouchTool trick, typing two spaces in a row gets you what it should: a period and then a space.

I mean, we’re not animals.

You’re welcome.

The Most Exciting Design Systems Are Boring | Big Medium


“When the design system is boring, it frees designers and developers to do the new stuff, to solve new problems. The design system carries the burden of the boring, so that designers and developers don’t have to.

Instead of designing a card pattern for the 15th time, it’s already done. Product teams can instead put their time and energy into creating new experiences, new algorithms, new business logic.”

Apple Acquires Workflow


How to minimize windows into their app icon in macOS Sierra

A nice trick from Apple World Today on de-cluttering your dock. 
How to minimize windows into their app icon in macOS Sierra — Apple World Today

Sharing some of my ringtones.

A recent Facebook conversation led me to upload some of my favorite ringtones, including an excerpt from this awesome Sesame Street video:

Sesame Street Aliens

Monty Python & The Holy Grail


I’m sad that the video about our solar system being a vortex is wrong.

You’ve probably seen this video which shows our solar system traveling along sideways through the galaxy, around with the planets trailing along in a corkscrew fashion.

It’s beautiful and amazing… and wrong.

This article by Phil Plait explains just why it’s wrong.

Vortex motion: Viral video showing Sun’s motion through galaxy is wrong.

Scary test.

This is a scary test.

What If You Had Bought Apple Stock Instead of That Apple Product?

What If You Had Bought Apple Stock Instead of That Apple Product?
If you’d bought Apple stock instead of a $5,700 PowerBook G3 in November 1997, you’d be sitting on a cool $330,000 today. (Via Kottke.)

What If You Had Bought Apple Stock Instead of That Apple Product?

Ephphatha Poetry: “Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black” – Tim Wise

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Ephphatha Poetry: “Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black” – Tim Wise


Before you go