Category Archives: Blog

Provided without context:

“People can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is animated.”

“When freedom is practiced in a closed circle, it fades into a dream, becomes a mere image of itself.”

“the opposite direction: playing old footage, over and over, until a mythical structure declares itself.”

As the work of Claude Levi-Strauss perpetually reminds us, every myth never merely describes, but participates in the myth it narrates. Myths within myths, a continuous re-writing that is never separate from its putative foundations. There can be no “outside” to any myth.

I was watching the stream of a conference on quantuum mechanics to see if I could gleam some interesting patterns, something that caught my attention is “QBism”, or:

So QBism being one of the various models that are actively being considered as plausible explanations for the quantuum mechanics types of phenomena. “Ugliness” in Science measures the amount of unsettling change and perturbations a theory brings to the field. The ideal being “elegant complexity”, which I assume is a quality of god. Summed up in the Occam’s Razor principle, that wants the most amount of phenomenons explained by the smallest amounts of formulas.

In this case, while the technicalities escape me, it seems to me a reformulation of Von Foerster’s “constructivism” mixed with the most magical ideas revolving around the “collaborative universe” crackpot theory.

Since this particular theory seems limited to explain quantuum paradoxes then its confirmation might have a milder impact on “reality”, but the question is always the same: how can my “belief” actually affect the probabilistic outcome? How can the model itself transition from the unobservable magical “small”, to actual concrete and observable reality?

But in this case the interesting part is about fitting the problem into another. From an article I found, some of the suggestive quotes:

Danish physicist Niels Bohr, insisted in a 1929 essay that the purpose of science was not to reveal “the real essence of the phenomena” but only to find “relations between the manifold aspects of our experience”.

People argue to this day about whether wavefunctions are real entities, like stones or ripples on a pond, or mathematical abstractions that help us to organize our thinking, like the calculus of probabilities.

Fuchs and Schack adopt the latter view. They take a wavefunction to be associated with a physical system by an agent — me, for example, based on my past experience. I use the wavefunction, following rules laid down by quantum mechanics, to calculate the likelihood of what I might experience next, should I choose to probe further. Depending on what I then perceive, I can update the wavefunction on the basis of that experience, allowing me to better assess my subsequent expectations.

As another Viennese investigator even more famous than Schrödinger — Sigmund Freud — put it in 1927: “The problem of a world constitution that takes no account of the mental apparatus by which we perceive it is an empty abstraction.”

The actual papers sound even uglier:

QBism personalizes the famous dictum of Asher Peres. The outcome of an experiment is the experience it elicits in an agent. If an agent experiences no outcome, then for that agent there is no outcome. Experiments are not floating in the void, independent of human agency. They are actions taken by an agent to elicit an outcome. And an outcome does not become an outcome until it is experienced by the agent. That experience is the outcome.

I’ve recently finished watching a rather popular anime series called “Madoka Magica”, with an eye in particular to its symbolism. It basically is for the magical girls genre what Evangelion was for the big robots anime. A deconstruction of the medium spiced up with a spark of modern realism.

The ending of Madoka Magica is an ending self-aware of the existence of Evangelion. Actually the whole series is, and it can be seen as a: “what if Shinji was a magical girl?.” In many ways Madoka Magica is an answer to Evangelion. It is far less dense and pretentious. There are no sidetracks and this makes it quite straightforward and maybe simplistic. It can be quite heavy on symbolism, but whereas Evangelion draws its lifeblood from its metaphysical and metaphorical depth, in Madoka this level is subservient to the story and merely adding a rather shallow psychological layer. The symbols exist in a one to one relationship without some higher or elusive spiritual meaning. But that also means everything is self-contained and it isn’t more than what it appears to be. So, taken as a whole, the story is more coherent even if it ends again in the purely metaphysical.

You can notice this pattern I described in the use of symbolism. Where Evangelion didn’t shy away from overt Kabbalistic symbolism, Madoka Magica basically reproduces the exact same scenes, but without openly referencing them. So for example you still get the Tree of Life, but it looks different:

Compared to Evangelion’s own version, that doesn’t dissimulates its origin:

And you get Evangelion Sephirotic wings around the earth too, but they also look different (and are consistent with that mythological/psychological look and meaning that goes through the series):

Which is still only a very simplified and blander version of what Evangelion did:

But what made me write this post was this explanation of the ending (just the very first link I came across) that mentioned a typical time paradox:

If Madoka destroys her own witch , doesn’t that create a time paradox?

My good friend Catcher answers this marvelously well. “This is best answered in a reference to the ageless question “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” The idea behind the question is of circular logic: the chicken lays the egg, but the egg houses the developing chicken. Madoka’s disappearance can be explained in a similar fashion. After Madoka gathers all the grief from the mahou shoujo, she literally has nothing else to do rather than to house this grief, which takes the form of a giant soul gem that we see take the form of a world-devouring witch. Her wish, however, mandates her to destroy herself in her witch form (which would be in her own immediate future), thus eliminating her from the plane of existence that Homura is in. She’s essentially created a paradox for herself, thus why she can’t take a material form.

This type of paradox is the standard in time travel sci-fi stories, but I remember I used it to give a scenario on consciousness. What if we reach a point where we truly know everything and so can control everything about conscious experience. The “singularity” so to speak. My idea is that “truth” ceases to exist. It’s truth itself to be made virtual. Meaning that the pattern that is created, is similar to the one described here about the time paradox.

Think for example to the hypothetical scenario where human beings continue to exist “forever”. Eventually they will be able to develop “total knowledge”. Meaning that their knowledge becomes equal to the totality of the system. Meaning, as explained in the previous posts, being equal to god (also known as the “Omega point”). So what if “god” isn’t the entity that was before the beginning and that created the world, but was instead an entity in the FUTURE, that got control and gave origin to a new cycle? The time paradox is repeated here: we need a “timeline” that leads humanity up to acquire total knowledge, but at that point total knowledge means that “reality” and “time” become relative and virtual. Meaning that the timeline that lead up to the singularity is cut away and sealed. It ceases to exist. Only a circular, independent virtuality is left.

And this was also my interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Quoting the actual end:

My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)

He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

The idea of this ladder that you use to reach some elevated place and the idea that the ladder itself has to vanish after it has been used, is to me the same as the time paradox, where there’s a history that has to lead up to an event, an history that then is cut away and vanishes when a circularity is triggered and made independent from the rest.

While scrolling tat page I also noticed these two quotes:

The subject does not belong to the world but it is a limit of the world.

The philosophical I is not the man, not the human body or the human soul of which psychology treats, but the metaphysical subject, the limit—not a part of the world.

That again seem to relate with my idea of Free Will as an occluded horizon. An imposed limit, as metaphorically described in Kabbalah, opposed to the “truth” of a continuous, undivided world.

Finally, both Madoka Magica and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest are founded on this idea of human emotions as an endless source of energy that can defy entropy, in DFW’s case especially as a self-feeding circularity (and also with obvious sense of humor).

Okay, to hell with boundaries. I make a sport of this blog confusing everything with everything else.

Reading Malazan book 6 I found a quote that is basically the Malazan formulation of the Kabbalah quote:

The gods, old or new, did not belong to her. Nor did she belong to them. They played their ascendancy games as if the outcome mattered, as if they could change the hue of the sun, the voice of the wind, as if they could make forests grow in deserts and mothers love their children enough to keep them. The rules of mortal flesh were all that mattered, the need to breathe, to eat, drink, to find warmth in the cold of night. And, beyond these struggles, when the last breath had been taken inside, well, she would be in no condition to care about anything, about what happened next, who died, who was born, the cries of starving children and the vicious tyrants who starved them – these were, she understood, the simple legacies of indifference, the consequences of the expedient, and this would go on in the mortal realm until the last spark winked out, gods or no gods.

Here’s again the quote from Kabbalah:

(about the question “What is the meaning of my life?”)

“It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one ever wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life, as always.”

Then I happened on this page (with some interesting nice pictures), and I found this quote that metaphorically matches the previous posts on Free Will and being bound to a point of view:

The descent of the divine emanations concretized in cosmic creation is occurring at this moment, and the fact that the world is such or such a thing, for the modern mentality, or that in accord with our viewpoint we perceive this or that, is completely indifferent to the process of the universal creation, which is ongoing, even visualized from the horizontal viewpoint, and simultaneous, from the vertical projection.

The interesting part is the formulation of the system as “simultaneous, from the vertical projection”. Meaning deterministic. There’s no time scaling. Yet experience from within, our viewpoint, is bound to time and seen as becoming.

So this aspects of Kabbalah seems to retain (and explain away) the problem of compatibilism.

Related, but only if you are a particular type of crazy like I am, here’s a page of David Foster Wallace’s personal copy of Joyce’s Ulysses. Showing how a text with bi-dimensional perspective is given three-dimensionality because of 2nd level (recursive) observations:

Let’s sum the previous posts on Free Will into a system of overlapping patterns, and formulate god as a formal system.

God = origin of creation = totality (one and boundless) = pure light.

Light = information. Wholeness of creation = totality of information (knowledge).

Totality of information = omniscience = providence = nature.

Totality of information = god.

Partiality = Point of View (wedge, slice) = pain and suffering (lack of understanding).

Pain is the direct consequence of lack of wholeness. You are bound to your personal life and egoism, separate from the rest of nature. You versus the world. The inside of the point of view, versus the outside/alien. Egoism = partiality.

Partiality = partial information = concealed light/concealed god = can’t see/can’t understand.

Free Will = not-god.

Why Free Will is antithesis of god? Because total of information equals deterministic world (everything behaves following laws of nature). Science, as the external point of view (and so not partial), declares lack of Free Will. Hence god cannot give freedom of choice, unless through a partiality.

In order to FEEL and BELIEVE THE FEEL, you need to be like in a dream state: believing the dream. A dream like a veiled truth. Experiencing limits. Without limits = omniscience. No Free Will.

So formally this equals the religious formulation: in order to give freedom of choice and Free Will, god had to conceal himself (omniscience, total point of view, wholeness). The totality of god is opposed to the partiality of man. But it’s that closed, occluded perspective that grants us the CHOICE. God can’t interfere, we decide our morality, we decide our laws. WE HAVE TO. There’s no external system that tells us what’s absolutely right or wrong, being concealed from god/knowledge, we have the imposition to decide for ourselves. Otherwise, if we all had omniscience, we would all knew what was the right thing to do, and we would all agree on that. Because totality of knowledge = wholeness. There’s no discord in the totality, as there’s no discord in god. There’s one voice. Quoting Kabbalah: “He who knows all mysteries will testify that he will not turn back to folly.”

Being freed of pain means exiting the occluded perspective. Pain is always transitory if you know what it is meant to be, and if you can transcend from it. Leaving behind the misery of the lack of light (lack of knowledge, lack of motives and understanding). But it’s only the limited perspective that grants that freedom.

It’s as if god (or the formulation of the system as it is) is saying: there wasn’t any other way.

Free Will comes with pain because Free Will comes from partiality of information. Partiality is pain, but so is Free Will.

Free Will is the antithesis of god. It is only a mechanism of life that operates through partiality (or dichotomy from nature, as in “self” versus “nature”, or humanity versus hostile external world).

As science develops, we discover more and more that Free Will doesn’t exist in this system of nature. It’s just an illusion. Religion already anticipated this fact, because religion knew that the truth was the wholeness of nature, and this wholeness didn’t admit true, non-illusory partiality within.

So science only declares what can eventually happen: Free Will can only be lost, not achieved. Which is the ultimate destination declared by religion as well: reunion with god. Science reveals the truth: consciousness is the illusion. Exactly as religion declares mortal life as illusion. For science and religion both, we belong to the wholeness. The partiality of life is the illusion.

Hence science only defines the destination. It’s the voice beyond the veil of existence. Concealment. Hidden light.

If you want to put this in the most brutal way, then you can say that both religion and science have the exact same idea on “death”: transience. Not because you appear into some metaphysical afterworld, but because consciousness was always an illusion. Occluded horizon, like a soap bubble. You always were part of a bigger system, unite with it, and so you always were and always will be with it and part of it. What dies is only consciousness. And, again, that was mere illusion like a dream.

The religious “heaven” was always an image, a concrete formulation of an abstract idea: wholeness with god. Hence religion always told the truth, through metaphor.

Or: science is equal to religion without metaphor.

Since I know nothing (Jon Snow) I can come up with the most absurd theories by just playing with patterns and generalizing them. And sometimes I even get some nice intuitions, whether revelatory or merely fun from a mythological perspective.

The fun part isn’t when you simply make whimsical associations, but when the whimsical associations actually get confirmed and produce more “sense” on their own. As if you merely try to see if a piece fits in the puzzle, and then it really does and tells you more than you were expecting.

So let’s make wild associations and see what fun comes out.

I watched an hour long video of a conference with Sean Carroll that I truly recommend because it’s one of those rare things that explain complex science while making it crystal clear (without losing too much precision, I hope). In this case it was an update on how science sees reality thee days, and the Higgs boson in particular:

After that I went reading on his blog some more complex and convoluted stuff about quantuum fluctuations.

I really can’t follow that stuff well, but I try to focus on the macro patterns that seem to come out.

So, just for fun, I propose four different, totally gratuitous associations.

1- My interpretation of that blog post, or what it seems to come down, is that quantuum fluctuations don’t seem an intrinsic property of a field or object, but the result of an interaction. In this case observation. “what we call “quantum fluctuations” aren’t true, dynamical events that occur in isolated quantum systems. Rather, they are a poetic way of describing the fact that when we observe such systems”.

More specifically he explains:
It has nothing to do with consciousness or intelligence (of course). An “observation” in quantum mechanics happens whenever any out-of-equilibrium macroscopic system becomes entangled with the quantum system being measured. It will then decohere (become entangled with the wider environment), which causes a splitting of the wave function into separate branches.

That I transformed into:
it’s like I’m seeing the object a little different because it’s as if I look at it from a certain angle. If I change my angle of observation, then the object changes. So this “fluctuation” depends on the angle.
the macroscopic system has a kind of “imprint” that defines “where it comes from”. Like in science fiction usually is defined as a “vibration”, with parallel words having different vibrations or phases. So it seems you say that when an observation occurs, the entanglement happens because it’s the fingerprint of the macroscopic system that gives a peculiarity to the thing observed.

Here the pattern (if you’ve seen the video linked above): what if the “angle” of observation, or the branches that compose the multiverse, is dependent on the “height” of the Higgs field in respect to all the other fields? As if that field defines a particular wavelength that differentiates a world from the next. The fingerprint vibration.

I was just recently reading the “Otaku Tower” and it definitely had fun playing with these ideas. Here’s an actual quote (and first layer of actual mythology):

“We only know how things work in this world. We assume the workings of this world are absolute. But what if there were a great number of other worlds and it turned out the rules of this world are great exceptions compared to the other worlds?”

“But we do not know of any other worlds, so we can only assume they would be the same as us.”

A bitter smile appeared on Ooshiro’s lips when he heard that response.

“True,” the old man said. “But another world is another world. They are fundamentally different. What we think is simply ‘how things are’ and what the other worlds think is simply ‘how things are’ are fundamentally different.”

“Are you saying,” Sayama looked down at his feet, “there is a world where this is how gravity works?”

Ooshiro nodded, walked over to the opposite window, and stood on it. He looked straight up toward Sayama.

“The ten other worlds and this world are perceived as individual gears and so we refer to them as such. 1st-Gear through 10th-Gear all had their own unique characteristics. And do you know what we called this power of ‘how things are’?” Without waiting for an answer, Ooshiro said, “Concepts. We called them concepts! They are a power that can control even the laws of physics. They are the ultimate reason behind everything. That is what concepts are!”

“That was a Concept Text. It is made by gathering inferior reproductions of an extracted concept. Each individual concept is very weak, but it can be heard as a voice once it reaches the level of a Concept Text. This space also has several weaker concepts added on as well, but they cannot be heard as a voice.” He continued. “When an out of phase space has concepts added to it, it is known as a Concept Space. We think of a concept’s identity as a variable fixed-period vibration wave that we call a string vibration.”

Ooshiro had said an alternate world was a world with different concepts. In that case…

“So alternate worlds are worlds with different string vibration frequencies?”

“Yes. And everything in any of the worlds has a string vibration for their world and a string vibration for the object itself. The one for the world we call the parent string vibration and the one for the individual we call the child string vibration.”

Sayama nodded and said, “So is it like a numerator and denominator? The denominator tells you what Gear they belong to and the numerator tells you what the individual is.”

“Yes. If the numerator differs, it is a different individual. If the denominator differs, it may be the same existence but from a different world. These alternate worlds are not parallel. They exist in multiple phases atop each other. According to the records, a ‘gate’ that alters one’s parent string vibration is needed to move to and from different Gears.”

2- The second pattern is an association with the property of Free Will I defined in previous posts: the limited horizon that makes impossible to acquire knowledge to deny free will. This claim reveals already a pattern similarity: Bakker’s BBT. This formulation of Free Will relies of the impossibility of integrating knowledge. So integrating information. Bakker’s BBT is all about consciousness not being able to access (and so integrate) information. But I’ll get to this later, with its own patter.

In this case instead the pattern of a closed perspective seems to match a pattern in actual physics: Complementarity What was surprising for me was finding the concept actually /present/ in physics. Even if it’s applied to a different context, this concept exists. It’s actual, accepted science. What matches isn’t the details, nor it’s a way to use the murkiness of quantuum mechanics to imply some metaphysical properties. Nope. It’s the pattern. Sean Carroll brings it down to the ground again:
“For black holes, complementarity was taken to roughly mean “you can talk about what’s going on inside the black hole, or outside, but not both at the same time.” It is a way of escaping the paradox of information loss as black holes evaporate. You throw a book into a black hole, and if information is not lost you should (in principle!) be able to reconstruct what was in the book by collecting all of the Hawking radiation into which the black hole evaporates. That sounds plausible even if you don’t know exactly the mechanism by which happens. The problem is, you can draw a “slice” through spacetime that contains both the infalling book and the outgoing radiation! So where is the information really? (It’s not in both places at once — that’s forbidden by the no-cloning theorem.)”

I can’t really track and resolve the detail here, but there seem to be this idea of a limit, a horizon. My pattern-matching simply suggest that this could say something about the information horizon that defines Free Will in my formulation. Free Will is theoretically possible because information that proves it (Free Will) wrong can’t be accessed. It’s “either or”. Complementary information whose integration DEPENDS on the point of view. Where the point of view imparts authority, so reality.

3- Let’s now match this pattern to Kabbalah, because it’s hanging there, so close. The first association is the simplest possible. Science works with “information”, Kabbalah with “light”. It’s not even pattern matching, they are really just formulations of the same, light IS information, as we know.

What is physical reality according to Kabbalah (and also a bunch of other religions)? Concealed light. The upper world, where light is pristine, is spirituality, whereas the physical world, where light isn’t pure and is instead concealed, is Malkuth. The sephirot at the bottom of the tree. The Kingdom.

Why is there pain in the world? Answering with a non-answer: because the light is concealed, otherwise a pure light would be void of bad feelings or “wrongs”. This transforms into: why I feel pain? Because I’m not omniscient (I don’t know the reason of pain). Because all pain is justified as long it can heal. As long it leads somewhere better. As long there’s revelation at the end. As long it can be salved, left behind, and a life lifted to a better world. As long it’s revealed as just one part of a better whole.

Some quotes from a Kabbalistic text:

“42. Indeed, you should know that the reason for our great distance from the Creator and that we are so prone to transgress His will is for but one reason. It became the source of all the torment and the suffering that we suffer and for all the sins and the mistakes that we fail in.

Clearly, by removing that reason we will be instantly rid of any sorrow and pain. We will immediately be granted adhesion with Him in heart, soul and might.”

Thus, understanding His providence is the reason for every good, and the lack of understanding is the reason for every evil. It turns out that this is the whole axis that all the people in the world circle, for better or for worse.

4. Now you can understand the words of our sages about the verse, “therefore choose life.” It states: “I instruct you to choose the part of living, as a person who says to his son: ‘Choose for yourself a good part in my land.’ He places him on the good part and says to him: ‘Choose this for yourself.’” It is written about this, “O Lord, the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup, Thou maintainest my lot.” You placed my hand on the good fate, to say: “This take for you.”

The words are seemingly perplexing. The verse says, “therefore choose life.” This means that one makes the choice by himself. However, they say that He places him on the good part. Thus, is there no longer choice here? Moreover, they say that the Creator puts one’s hand on the good fate. This is indeed perplexing, because if so where then is one’s choice?

Now you can see the true meaning of their words. It is indeed true that the Creator Himself puts one’s hand on the good fate by giving him a life of pleasure and contentment within the corporeal life that is devoid of content, filled with torment and pain. One necessarily departs and escapes them when he sees a tranquil place, even if it seemingly appears amidst the cracks. He flees there from this life, which is harder than death. Indeed, is there a greater placement of one’s hand by Him than this?

“Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?”

“The reward is according to the pain.”

“When He who knows all mysteries will testify that he will not turn back to folly.”

In general the idea here is somewhat typical. The pain is necessary from this perspective only to “know good”. Think of it as a learning process. There’s ideally always a benevolent hand that guides us. The benevolence is that the pain is merely necessary, but not the end. Yet, in order for this lesson to work and be truly understood, “the hand that guides” can’t be seen. It needs to be concealed or otherwise we would know it’s all a trick. Think about dreams. They only “work” as long you are immersed in them and truly believe it’s an authentic experience, and not merely a dream.

In order for this to happen, you need not to know. The concealment is necessary. The perspective needs be partial instead of total. In order to “feel”, you need to divide from the whole. Hence the reason why god supposedly created humanity, by dividing himself, Adam Kadmon. Hence why pain is necessary: it’s the partiality to cause pain. Whenever you are rejoined to the “whole”, all pain is erased. You are back with god.

This is not only a religious pattern, but also what I formally described in my formulation of Free Will. It is a partiality. Consciousness feels pain because it feels itself as “stranger” from nature. Divided from it. Nature is hostile to us, as if we are aliens in this world, fighting it with all our strength. Banishing, cursing it. Everything happens because we cannot reach and feel the flow of nature. If we die, our world dies. We cling to our life because we cling to our perspective. We die and the world dies with us, because we are no more. It’s a self versus everything else. Or: a self that perceives itself as separate.

Separate from Nature, separate from god, from light, from eternity. Just a small piece of “egoism” and desire. The Will to Receive. Endlessly. Give it to me. I.

4- The last pattern is the information horizon and Blind Brain Theory. Bakker says consciousness is merely illusion because it cannot integrate information about itself. Hence it’s all a distorted impression of the world.

My actual challenge is: what if we turn this upside down? My formulation of Free Will DEPENDS on the lack of information. Or better: the impossibility to integrate that information.

The pattern here emerges before the ideas themselves. It’s the state of concealed light that grants us the first person perspective (and pain). Omniscience (god or science) is merely the wholeness of the process, from whom we are separate. We are strictly vessels that have Free Will because information cannot be integrated.

If information is theoretically possible to integrate, and so accordingly to BBT you achieve a more precise and realistic knowledge of how consciousness works, then you escape this condition, open onto some sort of “singularity”. But I’m saying that this can’t happen, because it can’t formally happen. It’s not merely part of the progress of science because the boundary here isn’t a boundary of knowledge, but the boundary of the actual box we live in.

As if we are back to the concept of complementarity in physics. You cannot integrate these two levels. The horizon of reality occludes the light. You can project points beyond, but these still appear on OUR SIDE. Like stars painted on a dome. These stars are theoretical holes that lead beyond, but factually they are only theories of holes, ideas.

You don’t get to feel what’s outside the dome. Only the possibility of it. And whether you walk with faith or cynicism, you are still only various degrees of miserable.

Just a nicely worded quote from a Kabbalistic text I was reading this morning. Lots of these give me many doubts, but this one is a rather accurate description:

(about the question “What is the meaning of my life?”)

“It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one ever wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life, as always.”