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Packbat's Journal Below are 50 entries, after skipping 50 most recent ones in the "Robin Zimmermann" journal:

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Wednesday, Mar. 3rd, 2010
08:40 pm
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Whiteout Gaiden
What? I asked.

It's a Japanese word that means a story that plays with the same characters, but different, my brother told me. Ninja Gaiden was a retelling of the story of Ninja, but different.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the difference between Whiteout (1998 comic) and Whiteout (2009 film). What killed the interest in this movie for the people who hated it was either (Theory 34) that Kate Beckinsdale's shower scene wasn't hot enough, or (Theory Changed) that it wasn't anything like the book. Both objections are correct ...

... but if the comic had never existed and the film had been simply written directly, it wouldn't have received anything like the opprobrium it is subject to. It's a thriller movie, set in Antartica, with a hot lead, lots of plot twists, good action scenes, kinda low-budget special effects but give them some credit, they work, and a satisfying ending. It's not a classic, it's not a tightly-written Chandleresque suspense novel with brilliantly stylized presentation, it's not forward thinking in any way - it's a popcorn movie, and a good one.

Whiteout Gaiden. Rating: 3 stars, buy cheap or rent.

Current Location: home\west_bedroom\south_bed
Current Mood: awakeawake
Current Music: "Musical Key" - Cowboy Junkies
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Sunday, Feb. 21st, 2010
06:26 pm
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Writer's Block: Arts v. smarts
Given the choice, would you prefer to be a world-class (visual or performing) artist or an intellectual genius? Which, in your opinion, would facilitate a more fulfilling career and social life?


Why, this is perfectly straightforward. "Intellectual genius" and "world-class artist", respectively.

...what?

Oh, the contradiction. Yeah, I just have to own that one. The thing is, somewhere in my head, I have this driving principle which seeks out knowledge rather than pleasure. "Socrates dissatisfied", as they say. The thing is, though, I do so even though I dispute John Stuart Mill's thesis: I would be more content, not merely happier, if I chose to subordinate my intellectual drive and took up the paintbrush. I just choose not to. I prefer to choose the less pleasant when offered the choice of truth or happiness, or even truth and safety, or truth and pride - I would rather know the truth, though it tear me to pieces.

Which, to disgress, may be part of what I find so compelling in Bruce Sterling's Islands in the Net. And that may be as satisfactory a conclusion as any to the post.

Current Location: home\basement\futon
Current Mood: awakeawake
Current Music: "Melody and Harmony" - Lui Collins
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Saturday, Feb. 20th, 2010
10:34 pm
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Moving snow
This afternoon, I was digging out the snow leaning against the basement windows, but the geometry of the area meant that I needed to take snow out around the corner of the house to have space to dump it out.

Now, I had two ways of doing that. Either I could just carry every shovelful a good forty feet (twelve meters) to where I could throw it out, or I could use a ex-shower-curtain folded in half to drag it. Now, the choice was obvious ... except that the path around the house was lumpy and uneven, and so the snow was continually rolling off the plastic. So - after a moment of frustration - I had a bit of an obvious idea: scape and pile the snow to make the path gently sloping and smooth!

This worked out to be quite straightforward, in fact - the only major kink was that there were a couple places where a pile of snow was needed to fill in holes. Fortunately, I had all the snow that I was supposed to be moving ...

... most of which went into the piles. Net result: I removed the pile of snow by paving a path around the corner of the house. In the end, I was even dumping piles of snow right in the middle to cover over a morass of mud.

Ah, well. The snow was removed ... just not as far as I expected.

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Sunday, Feb. 14th, 2010
12:30 pm
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Ladibug21's Five Questions
ladibug21 has asked me questions five, and answers five I bring!

(If you'd like me to ask five questions of you to know you better, just say the word. Yes, this is a meme.)

1. Given your answers to the recent LJ Question of the Day, what's your favorite breakfast? Are you a savory or sweet breakfast person? Where is your favorite breakfast place?

Some day ... some day ... I will find the breakfast-spot where they know how to cook an egg over medium instead of over easy.

For the meantime, I believe hotcakes, eggs, and bacon at the Vienna Inn are pretty good, when I get the chance. Hash browns are a little much.

2. Are you a fan of the winter Olympics? If so, which is your favorite event? If not, why?

Not a big fan, really - my interest in spectator sports seems to start with baseball and pretty much peter out there. I think it would be cool to learn cross-country skiing just because it's useful, but, given my current lattitude, a ham radio license would be a higher priority.

3. What's your favorite comic or printed cartoon?

Online right now, it's just about a dead heat between Kaspall (a very metafictional fantasy suspense novel) and Dead Winter (a post-satirical zombie apocalypse bildungsroman). Offline, I would have to decide between my childhood love, The Adventures of Tintin, English translation (a bit of a wandering-the-earth series), and the books I've become interested in more recently, such as Sandman Mystery Theatre, Transmetropolitan, and Invincible.

I think I would go for Dead Winter and Tintin, respectively, and would hate to choose between the two.

4. What do you plan to do once you're done with school?

I think at this point it is abundantly obvious that teaching is in my future.

5. What are your feelings on Valentine's Day?

Is that today?

On the one hand, I don't like obligations, but on the other hand, I tend to forget to do things I should if I don't have a reason and a date. On the gripping hand, I'm single (sighs!).

...well, that's all. Now to throw on some clothes to rush for the library booksale!

Current Location: home\west_bedroom\south_bed
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "Salt of the Earth" - The Rolling Stones
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01:36 am
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I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier
I have wondered online a number of times about how to describe pithily that state of physical and mental deterioration that results from staying up too late without sleep - the analog in many ways is being drunk (key difference: lacking sleep doesn't imbue a false confidence in your current abilities), but "sleepdrunk" is weak, and the other terms are all obscure and obsolete.

Except they aren't - there's already a widely-used term for that state. It's called "wiped", as in "I'm sorry, I tried to push through an all-nighter, but I was so wiped by one a.m. that I just passed out."

This has been your wiped-post of the wee hours of the morning. Carry on.

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12:47 am
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Game Night!
(Forgot to mention until today: the heat pump got fixed Friday! Forgot until today, but not to mention: shipped the application for the FE exam that's due Tuesday in Baltimore!)

So, this afternoon I got a call from J.-no-longer-from-school (yay graduation!) suggesting that we have a Game Night at T's house. Being the kind of guy I am, the answer was most definitely "yes", I threw some snacks into a grocery bag, and caught a ride out to College Park ...

... where we discovered that some streets aren't plowed very well after two blizzards back-to-back!

On the bright side, I got to pitch in with the crew pushing a mildly clueless BMW-driver out of the ditch by the road. (I actually contributed one factor which may have helped much: pushing the front wheel out so it could pull the rest.) It was a really good thing that I have those great new waterproof hiking boots, because I was standing in a big snowdrift ... in my sneakers, with my boots in the closet at home.

The gaming was good, though! We started off with "Da Vinci's Challenge", which is this very patterny game where you try to get particular shapes for points - we frustrated L. quite a bit by talking when she wanted to discuss strategy with her teammate, though, which made things very awkward. After that, we played an unusual trivia game I've forgotten the name of - everyone writes up guesses, but then you ''bet'' on the guesses you think are actually probably right. We wrapped up with Puerto Rico.

I actually caught a ride home with L., who lives nearer my house than J. (Funny: three of us in the same area, and we all three go to College Park instead! Next game night might be closer, I imagine.) Fortunately, the street had been plowed while we gamed - although not all the way down to the street.

Ah, well. Fun night, anyway!

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Friday, Feb. 12th, 2010
09:35 am
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When is Valentine's Day, anyway?
(Don't answer that.)

Saw xkcd today - I think it's one of the good ones. Behold:

xkcd #701: Science Valentine



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09:10 am
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Don't Stop the Sandman
This mashup is seriously the most awesome thing I've seen all week. Thanks, tacit! (And thanks nationelectric, who linked tacit's essay the other day!)

EDIT: Substitute remix79 in the parenthetical - goes to show why you should check your sources...

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Wednesday, Feb. 10th, 2010
12:46 am
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Admittedly, it is a very Applish kind of fiery crash.
Does anyone know why, when a MacBook Core 2 Duo running 10.5.8 crashes hard - so hard that even a Vulcan nerve-pinch is ineffective - that the iTunes will keep playing until it finishes the song?

Current Mood: confusedconfused
Current Music: "Tramontane" - Foreigner
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Tuesday, Feb. 9th, 2010
12:41 pm
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Writer's Block: Wake up and smell the coffee
Given the choice, would you rather sleep in or eat a delicious breakfast? Is there any food you love so much that you'd wake up at dawn or travel a great distance just to eat it?


Given the choice (which I never am, as I am asleep): breakfast. Breakfastfood is the business.

...which is why I would go along with my roommates in the wee hours of the morning to Denny's, I suppose!

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11:45 am
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Positivity!
bliumchik i.e. maggiebloome had a tasty, tasty post+links about the sort-of self-destructive anti-ego thing which a lot of women do to avoid seeming too self-confident establish their femininity ...

... and that reminded me of an entirely different self-destructive anti-ego thing that I do, when I don't get things done that I wanted to have done. The thing is, I have this self-image of this feckless, flaky ass who blows off important assignments and mooches financially and emotionally off everyone he meets ... but the whole basis for this persona is that I'm ADD. I don't concentrate well, and I don't have the tools established to work around it (other than "be so clever that you can solve the problem in fifteen minutes or less"...). And given that I'm the only person I have ever met who has given any weight to the ass-hypothesis, I suspect the truth is closer to "my organization skills need a little work".

The self-destructive part, then, is whinging about being a horrible person who deserves to die (a total lie, for the record), rather than doing that little bit of work. Because I can - I have the technology - and everything else is just that I haven't, yet.

Abrupt transition!



Reply to this post, and I'll tell you one reason why I like you. Then repost this [if you like] and spread the love.

Except! Amendment!

Reply to this post with something you like about yourself. No cop-out complinsults please! I know you've got it in you! And if you don't I will still do the original meme above, so no pressure or anything, but try. For me.

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Sunday, Feb. 7th, 2010
08:47 pm
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Power returns
Okay, so strictly speaking, it returned five hours ago ... but it's back!

No heat, though. And we're still so socked in with the weekend blizzard (over 20 inches) that school's closed tomorrow. And another five inches of snow is on its way Tuesday/Wednesday.

...yay, electricity!

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Saturday, Feb. 6th, 2010
12:18 pm
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Conversation in the kitchen

"Oh no! My snowball got caught in a tree!"

"Don't worry - I'll climb up and get it for you!"

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

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10:46 am
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Contrast

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06:44 am
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It's a distinctive sound

Don't you love the sound of transformers exploding in the morning?

On the bright side, we won't lose our heating because of this - it's gone already.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

Current Music: Vrrwww...
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Friday, Feb. 5th, 2010
10:12 pm
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"Junkers Come Here" on YouTube
h/t deviantart::ByoWT1125: "Junkers Come Here", in eleven parts.

(I have not watched it all the way through.)

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Thursday, Feb. 4th, 2010
09:48 pm
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Scattered events
Ah, the disorganized list. What greater bloggoriffic staple could there be?

  • Our house has a heat pump for both winter and summer ... and it's dead. Capacitor's blown, and wires of the condenser fused together. Whole new unit's needed, and won't arrive before, well:
    * PRECIPITATION TYPE...HEAVY SNOW.
    
    * ACCUMULATIONS...STORM TOTAL ACCUMULATIONS OF 18 TO 24 INCHES.
    
    * TIMING...SNOW WILL BEGIN MID-MORNING FRIDAY...AND WILL
      CONTINUE THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING. CONDITIONS WILL DETERIORATE
      RAPIDLY FRIDAY AFTERNOON...WITH HEAVIEST SNOWFALL OCCURRING
      BETWEEN SUNSET FRIDAY TO SUNRISE SATURDAY. THE MOST HAZARDOUS
      WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS WILL OCCUR FRIDAY NIGHT.
    
    * VISIBILITIES...THE COMBINATION OF HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS
      WILL REDUCE VISIBILITIES TO BELOW ONE-QUARTER MILE...PRODUCING
      NEAR-BLIZZARD CONDITIONS AT TIMES FRIDAY NIGHT AND EARLY
      SATURDAY MORNING.
    
    * TEMPERATURES...HIGHS IN THE LOWER 30S FRIDAY. TEMPERATURES
      WILL BE IN THE MID TO UPPER 20S FRIDAY NIGHT AND SATURDAY.
    
    * WINDS...BECOMING NORTHEAST 10 TO 20 MPH FRIDAY WITH GUSTS TO
      30 MPH FRIDAY NIGHT AND SATURDAY.

    Joy to the world.
  • I got a lucky break (alluded to in the prior post) with respect to a presentation I am to deliver; I now have a fair bit of time to actually produce that which I must present.
  • The slide of the zipper on my leather jacket is brokened. However, the buttons on my blue slacks are fixted.
  • I would be interested in purchasing this tee-shirt, should it ever be for sale.
  • I am once again a TA for Heat Transfer Transfer Processes! (So called because the processes can transfer mass, as well ... and I have now taught you the entire mass-transfer curriculum of the course.) I come better equipped this time, as I have Asked A Professor For Advice On Running Discussion Sections. (Also, my student guide on the solution of nonlinear algebraic equations is much improved!)
  • Prof. Orzel gave a talk today on campus!
  • I reread The Moonstone (excellent! --although Ms. Clack danced a merry jig on one of my berserk buttons) and read for the first time World War Z, which my mom kindly lent me after I bought it for her (rollicking zombie fun!). I also read The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly, and am now jonesing for the #2 in the series.


I fear I may pass out before finishing, s

Current Location: home\west_bedroom\south_bed
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "Dancing Days", Led Zeppelin
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10:22 am
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I swear, there is no conceivable explanation for how I can be as stupidly lucky as I have been my entire life.

I am seriously tempted to start invoking absurd excuses for this.

In other news, hello! Don't follow those links if you value your time!

Current Location: school\office
Current Mood: confusedconfused
Current Music: Sara Bareilles - Love Song
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Thursday, Dec. 31st, 2009
11:59 pm
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Open Thread 2009
And, for the new year, an open thread! You know the rules, and so do I - anything that doesn't respond to a recent post can go here.

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Sunday, Dec. 6th, 2009
09:47 pm
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Goodbye, kind world!
I apologize for the perfunctory and belated nature of this notice, but ...

... I have a problem. My life habits are ill-suited to being a regular Internet denizen - like an alcoholic, I invariably binge, rather than partake, and I find myself interrupting or putting off things I need to do, like working, sleeping, eating, to refresh, archive-trawl, and read and comment.

Given this, I'm dropping all of it - webcomics, weblogs, Wikis, and fora - for the foreseeable future, and I will probably never be active in the way I was. There is a chance that I may revive a few of the less busy feeds, the more idiosyncratic and compelling feeds, to read in small bits at irregular intervals - I was thinking Plan B, possibly Thirteen Ribbons - but this blog and the other will probably fall fallow, and my Twitter, definitely.

Be well.

(P.S. My final bookmarks file.)

Current Location: home\west_bedroom\
Current Mood: tiredtired
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Monday, Nov. 30th, 2009
11:59 pm
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National Novel Writing Month
This is the future-posted National Novel-Writing Month post.

Current status info.

My goal of this month is to write a story about a young man who gets superpowers he is entirely unprepared for. He is not a hero, nor is he a villain. As for what he will become – I do not know. He has fallen into a sea he has never seen and where he swims will be up to him and the tides.

I am titling it "Momentum", as the concept is deeply relevant to the premise. I am titling the chapters after basic physics concepts because I'm that much of a geek. I have no idea if I'll make 50,000, but if you'd like to follow along, just ask.

Current Location: downtown\Mayorga
Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: "Radar Love" - Golden Earring
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Sunday, Nov. 29th, 2009
11:04 am
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Personal Info Meme
From a couple people:

You know how sometimes people on your friends list post about stuff going on in their life, and all of a sudden you think "Wait a minute? Since when were they working THERE? Since when were they dating HIM/HER? Since when???" And then you wonder how you could have missed all that seemingly pretty standard information, but somehow you feel too ashamed to ask for clarification because it seems like info you should already know? It happens to all of us sometimes.

Please copy the topics below, erase my answers and put yours in their place, and then post it in your journal! Please elaborate on the questions that would benefit from elaboration. One-Word-Answers seldom help anyone out.




first name: Robin. I, like my siblings, have a gender-neutral name, and like (at least one of) my siblings, that means occasionally getting mail with the 'wrong' honorific. (As you can see by my scare quotes, I 'care' about this. For the record, the correct honorific is "Mr".)

age: 770 Ms - or about 24 years 5 months, if you like the merely standard units of measure.

location: Near DC on the Maryland side - convenient to the bus lines and Metrorail, which explains why I don't have a driver's license. (Which explains why I have disposable income - can you say "car insurance"?)

occupation: Graduate research assistant at the University of Maryland, College Park, doing research in two-phase cooling for power electronic systems. From the back forward: "power electronic systems" are, for example, the thing that turns your AC into DC or vice-versa; "cooling" is taking the waste heat off the device (it's not 100% efficient) so that it may be dumped into (probably) the air somewhere else; and "two-phase cooling" means doing the above by making a liquid boil, later to be condensed elsewhere. This is something which is an active area of research because it's kind of a messy problem (like turbulence in fluid flow) and the best solutions are of the plus-or-minus-30% strength. Which works in steam power plants, but not in microelectronics.

partner: Romantic? None so far.

kids: In light of the previous question, I am quite glad that the answer here is "none" as well.

brothers/sisters: One each. The sister is a twin, and yes, I've been asked if we're identical. I don't get it either. (The brother is older, and makes me look boring.)

pets: None. My parents had a guinea pig when I was young, and my sister had a rabbit some time later, but I've never been responsible for another living being. (I did quite poorly just caring for a plant!)

3-5 biggest things going on in your life: Largest is the research project, presumably, and second is my schoolwork. (I'm actually pretty stressed these days thanks to an incomplete from last semester I'm having trouble tying up. The class I'm in now is pretty chill.) There on down, it gets pretty minor-scale - the novel I started for Nanowrimo is the biggest thing, and I'm ... not really diligent about working on it.

parents: Both living, and both with a Web presence. I'll mention my father's (done!), as he comments on this blog from time to time. Oh, and is a fierce blogger himself. Pretend that I said that when I mentioned him.

some of your closest friends: There are a couple from my Scout troop that I've been absolute rubbish keeping in touch with (K and W), and then there's several from school with whom I'll banter in the ASME lounge, exchange books, and occasionally play board games (particularly J, J, and T). Other than that, I get on decently with my parents, hang out with my brother, and exchange communications with quite a few people on the Web of Lies (as my mum would call it).




I believe that's better than one-word answers, anyway! Toodles!

Current Location: home\west_bedroom
Current Mood: boredbored
Current Music: "Ohio" - Crosby, Stills, and Nash
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Saturday, Nov. 28th, 2009
11:57 am
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Writer's Block: Book worms unite!
What are the three best books you have ever read and what are the three worst? What made them so good or bad?


With the caveat that I'm just naming books off the top of my head, and I might miss something perfectly obvious, and the further caveat that I only include books that I've read straight through:

Best:

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

One of the best English humor books ever written. Three English blokes (and a dog) decide to go on a trip up the Thames river. What makes it hilarious is J's writing - he is a brilliant raconteur with a poetic, charmingly digressive style, and he finds exceptional material in his reminisces.

(Conveniently, it is available online in several places.)

Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling

You could describe it many ways, but it feels to me a bit like film noir Twenty Minutes in the Future (as they say on the Tropes of the TV). Remarkably, it's still Twenty Minutes in the Future despite being published in 1988 (five years before the Eternal September), which should give you an idea of how strong Sterling's SF chops are. In any case, this stands out for its skilled worldbuilding (of course), characterization, and pacing. Events occur kinetically yet vividly, which is a fine line to walk.

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Reportedly, somewhere in the television series Lost, a character named Sawyer says about this: "Hell of a book! It's about bunnies." It would be difficult to describe it more eloquently in less space.

Taking advantage, then, of having more: this is my very first favorite book, and I'm proud to say that it's held up well for more than half my life, reading it again and again. Richard Adams possesses the most fluent descriptive voice that I have ever encountered, and paces it with a master's grace. There is a simply beautiful passage where Hazel (the protagonist) pauses at the mouth of a burrow to check the surroundings before going out in the field, and Adams takes this moment of time to describe in lyrical terms the sights, smells, and sounds of that instant. It is a beautiful trick of the writing art, and Adams wields it with virtuosic skill. A true classic, in the sense of a work which survives the test of time.

And fun to read! Hell of a book, like the man said.


Some books which I considered, but did not include in the top three:
  • Shardik by Richard Adams
  • A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
  • A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason
  • A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will by Robert Kane
  • Fooling Some of the People All of the Time by David Einhorn
  • The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II


Worst:

Caveat: I enjoyed most of these. All of them, if I'm honest. I (mostly) don't finish books if I don't. That said...

Born to Run by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon

Cheesy modern fantasy. It makes this list less out of any flaw than out of general lack of merit.

War of Honor by David Weber (Book Ten of the Honor Harrington series)

The Honor Harrington series follows a very simple formula. That formula has worn paper-thin by Book Ten. The new elements Weber introduces to liven it up do precisely the opposite, except where they introduce a little excitement by being profoundly stupid. I had enjoyed the first two books in the series, continued reading the series out of intertia, and ran out on this one.

In truth, this is probably the worst of my three-worst list. But I feel obliged to bump it from that slot in light of...

The Radiant Warrior by Leo Frankowski (Book Three of the Conrad Starguard series)

...which features censoredCollapse ) trope. The first four books are pure fluff otherwise - time-travel wish fulfillment fantasy of the most elemental sort - but the misogynistic aspects are utterly grating. Fortunately, the most epochal Crowning Moment of Awesome for the series is in Book Two. Unfortunately, as far as respect for women is concerned, the aforementioned censoredCollapse ) is more a dip than a chasm in the narrative.


(I will not include a near-misses list here - I have too much respect for NAME REDACTED and NAME REDACTED, and TITLE REDACTED wasn't supposed to be good in the first place.)

(Edit: Actually below all three books on the list is a Dean Koontz book I read ages ago, my former copy of which my mother decided should be dismembered and recycled rather than continue to exist. I take pride in not remembering the title - it featured incest, Body Horror, thoroughly horrible people, and was written in a loving style which cannot reflect well on the author.)

Current Location: home\west_bedrooom
Current Mood: contemplativeanalytical
Current Music: "Tin Soldier" by the Small Faces
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Monday, Nov. 23rd, 2009
12:06 am
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Why I'm up at midnight on a school night
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Yes, I just spent hours of my life 'painting' a virtual car with a virtual skyline and a Maryland flag. But that's not the ridiculous part.

No, the ridiculous part is that I didn't plan on putting that Maryland flag on my hood. I was only making it so that I could put it on the license plate.

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P.S. Many thanks to netstate.com, for Maryland flag information.

Current Location: home\west_bedroom\
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "Crazy Love, Vol. II" - Paul Simon
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Saturday, Nov. 21st, 2009
12:02 pm
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Some much-needed profanity. tldr: I'm still writing, but not for Nano.
Okay, this Nanowrimo thing?

Fuck this. And I mean that with the greatest generosity towards the project and its goals.

I'm not going to write 38 455 words in ten days. It won't happen, mathematically. I could if I wanted to just type utter crap for four hours a day, but I'm not going to.

Do you hear that? I'm not doing exactly what Nanowrimo is about - screw that up the bunghole.

Why aren't I doing it?

Because I like my book.

I'll still be posting updates, and I'll still be writing - and I'll still be doing both on December ... maybe not 1, but still in the single digits. I'm not going to give up on the novel, I'm going to give up on the obsession with wordcount.

That is all.

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Current Mood: angryangry
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Tuesday, Nov. 17th, 2009
09:57 am
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Writer's Block: Message in a bottle
What three items would you place in a time capsule to help future generations understand you?


...oh, wait - it's future human generations! That makes things simpler!

I'd say the following would be quite informative of my personal habits and development:

  1. Imre Lakatos, Proofs and Refutations.
  2. Turn 10 Studios, Forza Motorsport 2.
  3. Hergé, The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham's Treasure.


If the videogame is out, substitute Abramowitz and Stegun.

Current Location: home\west_bedroom
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "Planned Obsolescence" - 10,000 Maniacs
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Monday, Nov. 16th, 2009
12:54 pm
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Greta Christina: The Top One Reason Religion Is Harmful
On AlterNet.

Caveat: If the title suggests that you don't want to read this, then please don't read it. I'm mostly posting for my own reference.

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Wednesday, Nov. 11th, 2009
09:55 pm
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Pulling another zero.
Sick today - no writing. (Broke 10k yesterday at the College Park write-in, though!)

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Thursday, Nov. 5th, 2009
11:14 pm
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4104 and writing war
I'm falling further behind, but I've discovered the writing war trick at my brother's insistence - more updatage in the future, probably after I've finished this chapter.

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Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, 2009
11:20 pm
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Pulled a zero.
More Nano tomorrow - studying for test today.

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Sunday, Nov. 1st, 2009
06:00 pm
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1741 words
Back from the write-in with my quota - barely.

A question I forgot to ask: does anyone want to read f-locked posts of the Novel So Far? I'm thinking I'll go with the classic make-a-filter option if anyone is interested. (For what it's worth, my brother - who wrote 5074 words - seemed to enjoy it.)

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03:37 pm
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1040 words
60% of one day's wordcount, and I've kicked things off with a literal bang. Unfortunately, I've a headache, $2.50 of iced coffee I don't want, 1/3 of a brownie I don't want, and a bit of a block.

I guess I just need to remind myself, as the Bard once said, to "lay on - and curst be he who first cries, 'Halt, enough!'"

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Current Music: "Walk of Life" - Dire Straits
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Saturday, Oct. 31st, 2009
11:06 am
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Writer's Block: Would you talk to the dead?
Have you ever participated in a seance? If not, would you consider it? What spirit would you summon and what question would you ask them? Do you believe we can get messages from the dead?


I haven't - I might attend one as a favor for a close friend if they wanted me there. If I did, though, I wouldn't be planning on trying to summon any spirit at all, or expect to get any message from the dead. I'm fairly sure that death is the end.

That said, I wouldn't object having a chance to have a real conversation with my maternal grandfather. I just think it's impossible.

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Current Music: "You Get What You Give" - New Radicals
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Sunday, Oct. 25th, 2009
05:04 pm
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A couple days ago.
broken laptop

And I just got a stack of CDs to import, too.

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Current Music: "All I Wanna Do" - Sheryl Crow
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Monday, Oct. 19th, 2009
09:00 pm
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For anyone who doesn't follow xkcd daily: Bag Check
(Or rather, because I was incapable of not reposting this.)

Bag Check

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Sunday, Oct. 18th, 2009
12:40 am
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Entered NaNoWriMo.
Packbat's writer profile.

Still thinking about what to write.

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Thursday, Oct. 15th, 2009
08:11 pm
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As you know, Bob, Tony Perkins lies a lot for money.
A link to pass on: Slacktivist explains the lie Tony Perkins is telling for money about the expansion of hate crime legislation to cover LGBT persons. Money quote:

The only extent to which hate-crime protections pertain to "thought" is in the way that all criminal law does, which is to say that motive matters. If you truly believe that the law should make no distinction between accidental manslaughter and premeditated first-degree homicide, because you truly believe that any such distinction constitutes the establishment of "thought crime," then I will accept that you are making this "thought-crime" objection to hate-crime legislation in good faith. (I'll think you're kind of an idiot, but at least a sincere idiot.) But you can't accept that distinction and still argue in good faith that hate crimes are "thought crimes."


P.S. If anyone you know is concerned that hate crime legislation could infringe their freedom of speech, two words: Fred Phelps.

P.P.S. On a related note, a riddle courtesy of eyelessgame in the comments: What terrorist organization has killed more Americans than al Qaeda?

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Current Music: "Long Ride Home" - Patty Griffin
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02:14 pm
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Packbat NaNoWriMo (Y/N)?
Poll #1471665 Should I try NaNoWriMo this year?
This poll is closed.

Should I enter National Novel Writing Month 2009?

Absolutely.
1(16.7%)
If you like.
3(50.0%)
I won't stop you, but I won't encourage you, either.
1(16.7%)
No way.
0(0.0%)
None of the above; I just wanted to show I'm still paying attention. Ish.
1(16.7%)


If it matters, some Reasons To Enter:
  • Eric Burns-White said so [teal deer version: because if I like writing, I ought to actually write something, and NaNoWriMo provides motive and emotional support]
  • Because I'll be going into a PhD program soon, and that'll make it harder to carry out major projects.
  • Because it's just cool.

...and some Reasons Not To Enter:
  • Because I'm in a MS program, and that makes it harder to carry out major projects.
  • Because nomicide is heating up and I need to be available.
  • Because I'm not getting enough sleep as it is.
  • Because I'm rubbish at dialogue and plot.

...and some Reasons To Ignore The Above Reasons:
  • Because I'm not really that busy this semester.
  • Because nomicide isn't a huge burden anyway.
  • Because I'm not getting sleep thanks to screwing around on the Internet all night.
  • Because I won't become any good at dialogue and plot without trying.

...not to mention Reasons To Ignore The Further Above Reasons:
  • Because there are ways to get writing experience which are more likely to produce good literature.
  • Because the PhD program won't be forever, and I'll have the rest of my life to do crazy things like this.
  • Because very few people will be particularly impressed.


...yeah.

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Current Music: "All I Want" - Joni Mitchell
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Tuesday, Oct. 13th, 2009
09:36 am
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Writer's Block: What is your muse?
If you're trying to create something, like a story, a composition, or a design, etc., do you find yourself imagining how others will react to it? Does that impede or enhance the creative process?


Oddly, I don't usually think of other people when I'm working on an aesthetic endeavor (as opposed to a practical matter, such as a user interface). Perhaps I should - when I judge it purely for myself I rather come off poorly.

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Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: "Thinking Of You" - Tracy Chapman
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Sunday, Oct. 11th, 2009
10:59 pm
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Because we should celebrate
From across the blagocube:

Comment here and tell me something you did recently that you're proud of and I'll comment and tell you that you're awesome and I'm proud of you. And if you see anyone comment and you know them (or understand why they'd be proud of that thing), then you comment to them and tell them why they should be pleased with themselves.

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Current Mood: busybusy
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07:34 pm
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Writer's Block: Go to the head of the class
When you take a class or attend a big meeting, where do you prefer to sit? Up close or way back where you can make a speedy get-away? Can you force yourself to focus even when you're not interested?


I usually want to sit near the front and far from the exits - near the exit if I have to leave early, but I rarely do. As for paying attention, I have trouble when I'm sleep-deprived, but boring material is rarely an obstacle: you can always treat it as an anthropological expedition when all else fails.

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Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "The Vgly Vnderneath" - XTC
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06:48 pm
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A letter to Eden Games, developers of Test Drive Unlimited
To whom it may concern:

I am writing to you as a great fan of Test Drive Unlimited for two reasons: first, to thank you for making such a great game, and second, to suggest a few things I noticed that could make it even better.

Before I say anything else, I want to say that TDU is probably my favorite videogame of all time. The driving physics feel realistic without being unmanageable, the fleet of available cars is extensive and well-crafted, the traffic AI is beautifully implemented, and the variety of missions and challenges is enough to satisfy anyone. Most importantly, the major selling point of the game - the freedom to simply drive anywhere on the network of roads covering the island of Oahu - simply works; in contrast to previous games (such as GTA: Vice City), only the rarest of hiccups interrupt one's drive.

I would say that there are only three things to which I must direct your attention. I am sure you are well aware of the corresponding issues, but I will mention them nonetheless.

First, I notice that the game seems to have been designed with the outside-the-car cameras in mind. I don't really object to this - I know many people like to play that way - but I've noticed that when I am using the inside-the-car camera I (a) can't see traffic lights when I stop at the intersection and (b) can't turn the camera quickly to look in directions away from where I'm going. These aren't game-breaking issues, but it would be cool if the team could spend a little more time on them.

Second, the classification system for the cars is somewhat unsatisfactory. For example, in Class G, the Mercedes Gullwing is much slower than the Pontiac Firebird, which is much slower than the Lamborghini Miura, which is much slower than the Shelby Daytona. In the other classes, too, several assignments are dubious (e.g. the TVR T440R as C instead of A). Adding a numerical rating system like in Forza 2 would be able to capture these details more clearly (although even in Forza 2 the Porsche 914 was underrated). It would also support the addition of a more complicated tuning system, like in the Forza and Gran Turismo series.

Third, there's no way to tell whether another human car is a fair challenge for you before you challenge them except by knowing all the models. Again, the numerical system could help with this: for example, an identical opponent could be displayed with a white halo (like the health indications in Left 4 Dead), and the halo could fade towards pink and red for faster opponents and toward gray and black for slower. (I chose these colors arbitrarily - if you have better ideas, please ignore them.)

Thank you for your time and trouble,
Robin Zimmermann

P.S. I just finished all the missions to get "Ace" rank in TDU!

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Current Music: "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" - Don Henley
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01:34 pm
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"and if you’re against it, then get out of the way."

From [info] baldanders, here and there:

Alan Grayson (D-FL) is my hero. Seriously, he tells it like it is, without fear of the insurance companies, and certainly not without fear of the Republican lie machine:

"We as a party have spent the last six months, the greatest minds in our party, dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote on health care reform. I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected President last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America's population.

"What America wants is health care reform. America doesn't care if it gets 51 votes in the Senate or 60 votes in the Senate or 83 votes in the Senate, in fact America doesn't even care about that, it doesn't care about that at all. What America cares about is this; there are over 1 million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bills. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are 44,780 Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care, that's 122 every day. America sure cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition, even if you have health insurance, it's not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don't need any. America cares about that a lot. But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities, America doesn't care about that at all." [. . .]

"Last week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there are 44,789 Americans that die every year according to this Harvard report published in this peer reviewed journal because they have no health insurance. That's an extra 44,789 Americans who die whose lives could be saved, and their response was to ask me for an apology." [. . .]

"Well, I'm telling you this; I will not apologize. I will not apologize. I will not apologize for a simple reason; America doesn't care about your feelings. [. . .] America does care about health care in America. And if you're against it, then get out of the way. You can lead, you can follow or you can get out of the way. [. . .] America understands that there is one party in this country that is favor of health care reform and one party that is against it, and they know why.

"They understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry. In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon.

"But that's not what America wants; America wants solutions to its problems, and that begins with health care."

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Current Mood: impressedimpressed
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Sunday, Oct. 4th, 2009
04:39 pm
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New jacket!
Went to Value Village today to get some cheap new-to-me slacks for work. And while I was there, I found a pair of leather shoes in my size and ... this.

A black leather biking (?) jacket on a hanger hooked over the top of a white door.

Only twenty bucks, too! There's a seam with a few stiches loose in the lining, but the zipper is intact and the snap-closures don't stick.

awesome++.

(In other news, eating spaghetti with a spoon is ... less than elegant. Also, Interviewing Leather is still a great read.)

Current Location: home\basement
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
Current Music: "Sister Andrea" - Mahavishnu Orchestra
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Monday, Sep. 28th, 2009
10:24 pm
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Desktop Snapshot
Meme via wingywolf, shamelessly adulterated by myself:

1. Take a snapshot of your desktop. Now. No changing it!
2. Explain in no more than five sentences why you're using that wallpaper!
3. Post!


Desktop snapshot
Desktop snapshot
As you can see, the icons are right-oriented as per the Macintosh convention. The image is from DeviantArt here.



Why this image? Three reasons: first, it's work-safe; second, it's low-brightness (good for late-night eye-ruining!); and three, it looks quite good.

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Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "Dude Looks Like A Lady" - Aerosmith
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Thursday, Sep. 24th, 2009
08:07 pm
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My Atheism
Greta Christina recently posted something rather brilliant about atheism and self-definition that ... well, it inspires me to define my atheism, just so people know where I'm coming from.

I'd love to see people's reactions to this, by the way. I might be too busy to react properly, but I'll try to answer questions, comments, complains, and arguments, whatever reaction you have to what I say.

*clears throat*

I'm an atheist. What that means is that I don't believe that anything like a god is real. I'm not totally certain - I don't think any atheist is totally certain, however hyperbolic their rhetoric might become in the heat of debate - but I've thought about this quite a lot for quite a while, I've read a lot of arguments, and all told I simply don't believe it. I'm pretty sure that the people who do believe there are any gods, be it one, a few, or many, are simply mistaken.

I'm an atheist. I'm a strong atheist - I believe that no such thing as a god is real. Now, this distinction commonly causes semantic confusion: "I don't believe gods are real" doesn't mean "I believe gods are imaginary", never mind that I could state both truthfully; it's perfectly common for atheists to not believe that gods exist, while simultaneously not believing that gods don't exist. Such persons don't believe they have the evidence to commit either way on the question. I do.

I'm an atheist. I'm a metaphysical naturalist - I think the universe operates according to fundamentally non-mental principles. Richard Carrier defined supernaturalism well in an essay a couple years ago: supernatural things cannot be broken down into non-mental pieces. That makes no sense to me. Everything I have ever learned - my education in philosophy, in physics, in psychology, in mathematics, in computer science, in literature - has given me a strong instinct that somewhere at the base of it all are simple mathematical laws. I draw the comparison to Conway's Game of Life: the rules are basic and unbreakable, but through their implications on higher and higher levels of complexity in the world shaped as it is we find everything with which we are familiar.

I'm an atheist. I don't believe there's any overlord of the universe to dictate moral laws for us, nor any afterlife wherein our acts can be judged. Our morals are our own - earned in the struggles and victories of our ancestral species, forged on the anvil of a world which does not tell us what we should do, but merely referees. Our senses of beauty, of honor, of justice, of fairness, of charity, of love, of pride, of disgust ... every subjective experience we have is ours, proven on the steppes from which we came and coming together to create that which is us. To declare that this makes goodness into something meaningless is, if you'll forgive the rhyme, senseless - we're not stupid, and if we value goodness, that is meaning enough.

I'm an atheist. I am an atheist because I have the freedom to be thus - the freedom to learn, to decide, and to proclaim. I would not live where I was required to be thus by ignorance, deception, or coercion: to be an atheist freely is to be aware of the need for freedom. As Alfred Tarski is quoted to have said, "The sentence 'snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white" - and to be forced to believe that snow is white is to be coerced to believe, be that belief true or false. The only way to be free to believe truth is to be free to believe what one must on the strength of one's own judgement.

I'm an atheist. I care about being an atheist - I care about what I believe, and about being true to what I believe. I want to be treated decently and with respect. I want the people who disagree with me to listen to me - to trust my sincerity and my rationality - and when they argue with me, I want them to be sincere and rational in doing so. I want the arguments against me to stem from a fair and charitable reading of my sometimes-clumsy explanations - you can fight me, but fight the true implications of my world-view with the true implications of yours.

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Friday, Sep. 18th, 2009
07:47 pm
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Writer's Block: What if calories didn't count?
If a magic genie told you your calories wouldn't count for 24 hours, would it change what and how much you ate that day?


If a bonafide, JREF-certified magical genie I could trust to be truthful said my calories wouldn't count for 24 hours ... I'd try something which filthspigot mentioned in the commentary to A Girl And Her Fed: a milkshake with a stick of butter in it.

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Thursday, Sep. 17th, 2009
12:56 am
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Easy Hard Problems
"What's the easiest unsolved math problem to explain?" I asked my dad tonight, just out of curiosity. I asked because the two obvious, famous answers - Fermat's last theorem and the four-color problem - are both (probably) solved.

Well, I can't guarantee the actual answer is here, but a few candidates he pointed me to:

  • The P = NP problem: if the answer to a computational yes-no question can be checked quickly (in polynomial time), does that imply it may be answered quickly (in polynomial time)? This is a marginal case, as a lot of people don't know what "polynomial time" is, so two better candidates are...
  • Goldbach's conjecture: that every even integer greater than 2 can be written as the sum of two primes, and...
  • The twin prime conjecture: that there exist an infinite number of twin primes - primes separated by two (like 3 and 5). (Bonus: this is a special case of Polignac's conjecture.) However, there are a pair which do not even require understanding primes...
  • The existence of (a) an infinite number of even perfect numbers and/or (b) the existence of any odd perfect number. Perfect numbers being, in these examples, those which equal the sum of all the divisors smaller than themselves - such as 6, equal to 1+2+3, and 28, equal to 1+2+4+7+14.


(Now, one could argue that an even easier hard problem to state is "how come things fall", but that's physics!)

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Sunday, Sep. 13th, 2009
01:25 pm
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Writer's Block: Do you see psychics in your future?
If an online psychic warned you not to leave home, would you cancel plans to attend a party? Would you refuse to date someone with a clashing astrological sign? In short, do you believe?


If, today, someone online proclaimed to have discovered through psychic powers that I should not leave home, I would consider three possibilities:

1. They were trolling in an attempt to disrupt my life.
2. They knew something, and were hiding that knowledge behind the excuse of "psychic powers".
3. They had a strong feeling that I was in danger, and interpreted it as a warning.

The first implies nothing. The second is extremely unlikely, but implies danger. The third implies almost nothing.* Whatever the true facts, I would not let it interfere with my plans (although I might be marginally more alert to unusual circumstances).

As for astrological signs ... frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

* I am aware that there are individuals on my friends list that would dispute this. Such persons should trust their own judgements on the matter as far as they feel justified in doing so - I shall trust my own judgement likewise.

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Thursday, Sep. 10th, 2009
09:09 pm
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The Sliding Scale of Cooking From Scratch
(You can tell I TVTropes too much, can't you?)

0: Selected. This is (almost1) the theoretical minimum - telling someone else what you want so they can prepare it for you. When you call the pizza place, this is what you're doing.

1: Heated. Whether it be oven, microwave, or boiling water, this degree of preparation consists of "take prepackaged food and make it hot".2 When you put a toaster pastry in the toaster, that's this.

2: From mix. At this point, you begin to put some genuine effort into the dish - at the least, measuring and stirring - but the tricky parts of the recipe are still taken care of for you. As you might guess, this covers any product with "mix" in its name - chili mix, cake mix - as well as those horrid "mac & cheese" boxes with the powdered chemical byproducts.

3: From ingredients. The minimum level to actually count as "cooking from scratch" - here you go all the way back to butter, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, chopped nuts, egg, semi-sweet chocolate, vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon water, and drop by half-teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets to bake at 375 °F for 10-12 minutes. If you went to a grocery store, bought items with fewer than five ingredients listed on the label, and put them together at home to make the dish, that's this.

4: From organisms. When you go hunting, fishing, berry-picking, or the like, you've reached this level.

5: Farmed. When a dish is composed of food you grew yourself - from a tomato patch to a laying chicken all the way up to a full-fledged farm - you have reached the top of the scale.3 Congratulations.

As a rule of thumb, if all the major components of a dish are on the same level, the dish should be counted on that level. (If you shoot a deer and fry up a cut with seasoned salt, it's still a "4".) However, if major components span multiple levels, that should be indicated. (A pie filling made from ingredients and baked in a store-bought shell is a "1 to 3".)

1. I say "almost" because going to a dinner with a set menu would remove even this degree of control over the proceedings. ^
2. On reflection, pouring milk into cereal would probably count as this level too, despite no heating being involved. ^
3. Technically, the human mind can conceive a more basic level, but it's not commonly practiced. ^

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