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Ευδία της Ίθακης
The WeatherPixie

My Monster Seed
ink & color by me.
drawn by nedroid.
Sunday, July 20th, 2008
1:25 am
I saw The Dark Knight with Dani and Zach.

We varied on what we thought about it: I thought it was two movies glued onto each other, while Dani thought it was basically an entire TV season. (It might have been a little closer to half.)

The Joker is an incredible character in the movie, and is rather impossible to pigeonhole. He lies to pretty much everybody about pretty much everything. Is he a villain just because he's a traumatized sociopath? Or is it just a joke, to him? Or is it more like what both Alfred and the Joker opine: he's a chaos-advocate and anarchist who wants to stand tall and proud as the world burns? Or is it more like Batman's idea, that he just wants other people to be like him? Or is he suicidal, and just wants to go out with a bang?

I felt like the lead character (Christian Bale as Batman) went remarkably unexplored, by contrast. The amount of screen time that you're interested in what Batman is doing is about 5 seconds long, and ends with him using an interesting maneuver to flip a Mack Truck 180° about its long axis. The rest of it, you were just left with wondering "why?"

For example, Batman has to take on a SWAT team because they don't know that they're facing a bunch of innocent civilians. But why didn't he grab a two-way radio from them in the first place? Even worse, he's later shown in that same general scene to be in two-way communications with the guys back at Wayne Enterprises -- why not ask them to put him in contact with the SWAT team? (They apparently have already hacked into every cell phone in the world.)

Other than those remarks, not too shabby of a movie. I liked it.

(2 socks dropped | drop some socks)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008
2:41 am - (Pirates) plus (Wi-Fi) minus (Pirated Wi-Fi) equals (Entertainment).
So there's this pirate named Drostie with some internet issues: he just installed a new wireless router, and -- wouldn't you know it? -- his router does just fine with a wired computer, but doesn't work with a wireless computer. The wireless computer goes, "HAY I SEES ME A BELKIN-BRAND ROUTER OVER THAR!" but then when you say, "Avast, me heartie! Board it and set sail," it goes, "um, it's not responding to our boarding party."

Arr, clearly our party needs more cake.Collapse )

And it worked, and he made it to port, and found a good buxom wench for the night. Okay, so that last part is made up, but we can all be dreamers, can't we?

[In other news: Yesterday I went to some official ceremony where I saw Amanda Perl pokevolve into Amanda Wampler. Also, there was some subtext of eternal love and exchanging rings and other neat stuff. Someone even read from the Song of Solomon. That's the porno book in the Bible, you guys. I wanna do that at my wedding now: find some heartening romantic quote in some porno movie, and recite it as a wedding vow. "I vow to love you, honor you, and cherish you above all others, for as long as we both shall live. Also, did somebody call a plumber?"]

(drop some socks)

Saturday, July 12th, 2008
2:00 pm - Magic Fingers + Computer
I wanted to give a video demonstration of the utter weirdness of our new wireless router -- my computer evidently will not connect to it unless I'm holding the wireless antenna myself.

Needless to say, that's not workable. But I'll try to find something. I'm not exactly sure what's happening when I act as an antenna; I'm surprised to find out that I'm the right sort of composition to allow such things to occur. I need to test what happens as I use various metals as a proxy between myself and the antenna, to see if any of them have the requisite properties to take my place.

Thankfully, I won't have to deal with it after a couple of weeks! And I can always play offline games.

Enough about me. How are you?

(1 sock dropped | drop some socks)

Thursday, July 10th, 2008
12:33 am
From a boogenhagen-type-character's LJ, I've been directed to this particular 2006 rant by Ira Glass of "This American Life." He talks about storytelling in four clips, which I've arranged into a YouTube playlist:
Interesting perspectives, all.

(drop some socks)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008
2:07 am
Steel Train did a wonderful song on the 7/7/08 Conan O'Brien show, called "I Feel Weird." Their execution was impressive-but-odd; the lyrics are absolutely rich but were getting buried in a lot of added complexity. They can't possibly need four guitarists *and* a piano player. I mean, one of their guitarists has been outsourced to the *xylophone* of all things, and another to main vocals, because they're busy with overkill.

They've got a wonderful path ahead of them, I think. I'd just like to see them respect their lyrics more, because their lyrics are golden:
When I was eighteen
Everything was alive
Then the planes hit the towers
Then she died, then he died
A part of me disappeared
Six feet in the ground
Million miles in the sky
A fire burns, a fire burns, a fire burns
And it's mineCollapse )
To be honest, the lyrics remind me somewhat of Tennyson. I realize that I shouldn't even pretend to make the comparison between a poetry legend and a rock band, but a lot of my favorite things about Tennyson's poetry come forward here: "Then the planes hit the towers then she died then he died" reminds me of nothing so much as "Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath," in the way that it trivializes something that is usually a deep emotional topic by the artistic use of time. The repetition of the earlier verses at the end, too, really reminds me of Tennyson's "sad mechanic exercise / like dull narcotics, numbing pain." But they take it the other way and turn it into a dedication and even, I'd say, a sort of rebirth. The lyrics are a wonderful and interesting perspective on old artistic questions; and I think that Steel Train needs to let them speak up more.

(drop some socks)

Sunday, July 6th, 2008
2:07 am
From this Washington Post article:
Desalinated seawater from Hawaii, meanwhile, is being sold as "concentrated water" -- at $33.50 for a two-ounce bottle. Like any concentrated beverage, it is supposed to be diluted before drinking, except that in this case, that means adding water to . . . water.


(1 sock dropped | drop some socks)

Friday, July 4th, 2008
1:17 am
There's a wonderful pro-libertarian "world's smallest political" quiz out there -- and if you know me, you know that I'm somewhat critical of libertarianism as a whole. And it's a visceral reaction, entirely: I just look at libertarianism and feel like there's not enough nuance, like the libertarians that I've met paint the shades of gray in the world into blacks and whites.

Anyway, it graphs you onto two axes: "economic freedom" and "personal freedom," and asks questions that are as leading as those titles. If you choose freedom of both, you are labeled a libertarian; et ceteree et ceterai. On the graph, libertarianism is presented as the diametric opposite of authoritarianism, with liberals, conservatives, and centrists sitting all somewhere on the hedge between freedom and authoritarianism. It's wonderful precisely because it pretends to sound honest.

I've thought about what sort of quiz would be more honest, because I think leading questions, like that wonderful quiz, are too easy.

I've been thinking that if the graphs were something like "people can be trusted ... people can't be trusted" and "governments can be trusted ... governments can't be trusted," you might get something which just feels more right to me.

Am I alone in this? My entire experience with libertarians has been that they are heavily "people can be trusted, governments can't be trusted." That is the single dominating theme that has come forth in all of my discussions with libertarians. Okay, so maybe they shouldn't be all the way in the corner, because they recognize that a couple criminals out there can't be trusted; but "of course gun ownership should be unregulated: your average Joe is completely trustworthy and we can't trust the government to tell him what he can or can't do." That's how I see libertarianism.

Contrast this with the classical liberalism that the founders of the US worked with, which I think took a more difficult route of "governments can't be trusted because people can't be trusted." Governments are a necessary evil to keep power in check and provide for the people's prosperity; and the way we're going to keep the government in check is to incite a perpetual internal warfare between three branches of government; and the people will act on a check against the government just to keep the fighting going on forever.

Modern liberalism is just the exact opposite: when you see Obama and Hillary on the campaign trail, you see that their message is, "both governments and people can be trusted; we want to establish universal healthcare because the citizens of our nation are trustworthy and can handle it (and deserve it), and the government can be trusted to provide it."

Bush-era "compassionate conservatives" seem to take the approach that some people can be trusted -- religious leaders, families, normal US folk, et cetera -- and that governments can be trusted, but that there are some people out there who are Just Plain Evil and the government exists to protect Us from Them. Put them somewhere in the middle of the "government can't be trusted" side, but (probably) a little bit toward the side that "People can't be trusted," since the Us/Them partition requires a healthy distrust in people as a whole to sustain itself: That guy has a beard and isn't wearing a cross; he might be One Of Them.

Arguably, the Greek philosopher-king approach was the ultimate in "people can't be trusted, but governments can." I don't think I know of any modern political philosophies which go that route.

Now, I think that's an honest way to categorize many of the different views I've seen. The quiz would still need to be phrased in a bias-neutral way, of course, but I think an honest quiz could be structured around this.

(5 socks dropped | drop some socks)

Monday, June 30th, 2008
1:27 pm
So, I've been playing The Witcher, an immersive single-player fixed-role RPG. I guess most people are comparing it to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which is somewhat natural: Most of the ways that Oblivion improved on its predecessor, Morrowind, are also present in this game. But I think that's a bit inaccurate or unfair. Instead, I'd describe it as adding full 3D perspectives to Planescape: Torment, which gets at the gameplay a little more accurately.

The game is adult-themed and morally-ambiguous. Apparently, "morally ambiguous" means basically that whenever you make a choice, it will turn out that you are right. For example, at the end of Chapter I, the events of Chapter I finally reach a head, and you are confronted with a village of religious fundamentalists who want to burn a witch. If you side with the witch, it turns out that all of the village's problems were caused by their own villainy. If you side with the fundamentalists, it turns out that the witch belonged to a secret cult of death and destruction, and she was causing the trouble all along. (To make it a little more morally gray, immediately before this scene, she tries to bribe you with sex; if you say "yes," you get treated to a somewhat freakish nudie shot of her that's completely out of line with how the character normally looks. I really think that if she hadn't broken out the bone necklace and the claw-mark-looking-thing across her chest, and the human skull and fire and tattoo, more people would have sided with her post-coitus.)

Combat is point-and-click plus a little diversity, in that you have to time another click to "chain" your attacks, otherwise the enemy gets counter-attacks. (The enemy might still get counter-attacks anyway; particularly if you're using your "Strong" style, which is a little slow -- but putting your sword in his face repeatedly tends to help.) There's quite a bit of tactics and a little diversity: when I faced the main boss from Chapter I, it was damn near impossible to survive the fight without at least a little tactics to start with (place specter oil on sword, drink a long-term healing potion, then *run* to heal some of the damage that you incurred while doing both of those actions, take out the little minions first, run some more to try to heal a little more; then take on the big boss in fast mode and *hope* he doesn't paralyze you...). Of course, I still only made it with about 10-20% of my health left, and then I had to face an angry mob, but of course, running around in circles with health regeneration while an angry mob of fundamentalists chases you is a good way to rest up between fights.

The Witcher is such a weird game...

I like it, though. I hated Oblivion because it felt like it took too much effort and too much suspension-of-disbelief to actually do well at the game; you would sit there at level 3 chasing crabs to slaughter because you couldn't quite handle the bandits with your blunt weapon, but you needed two more points in that skill if you wanted to get the full strength boost next level. And unfortunately, they put severe limits on how much people could train you, so that you could no longer (as in Morrowind) make a bunch of money early on, only to hang out with the most skilled archer in the world, receiving top-notch lessons in return for almost all of your hard-earned fortune.

There are fewer skills here, but you can definitely feel tangible increases with every couple hours you spend on the game. That's always something that makes me feel good about an RPG.

One down-side: apparently, it might cost you upwards of 3000 orens in this game just to read through a book-collector's entire library, because you've got to buy the books from them at 100% and sell them back at 20%, paying 80% of the full purchase price. No haggling et cetera, no nothing.

(4 socks dropped | drop some socks)

Friday, June 20th, 2008
3:35 pm
After I read Little Brother I was inspired to make a video of me showing all of the different ways to break into something. For the something, I chose the downstairs computer. The results are here:

(drop some socks)

4:50 am
This. Is. One. Of. The. Greatest. Books. Ever.

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. I normally get tired from reading internet text, and I just can't read after a while. I seriously picked this up this afternoon and could not stop reading it until I had finished. Just, could not be done.

Download it. (It's Creative Commons; it's free to download.) Read it. Post it to your blog and tell your friends.

I... just... Wow.

(drop some socks)

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
6:07 pm
I just watched Jesus Camp.

I don't think I've ever laughed so hard while being so scared. You see a Christian woman basically admitting that she's taking her cue from Muslim fundamentalist practices on training suicide bombers: that she wants the same level of devotion for Christ. You see these children -- poor poor children -- being brought up to think that God and Satan are people who are watching them, judging and tempting them, respectively. As you look in their eyes, you see that their faith is a mound of dirt that they bury the pain under: that they know something is wrong, but their parents must be trustworthy and so they must persevere. Children who excitedly talk about how they watched the Harry Potter movies even though their parents said they weren't allowed to -- because they know that's not temptation, even though their misguided parents keep repeating that it is. They are pained, ostracized, and finally brought to a place with peers that can relate -- only to have their parents try to force the Jeebus down their throats during the happy times as well.

I struggle with Christian metaphor, because I like a lot of it: but this whole business of turning God into a literal human being has created an environment where transcendental theism, the sort of theism that I think is reasonable or worthwhile, is discouraged. Instead, there is a sort of embodied theism -- what the Old Testament might call "idolatry" -- that permeates these groups. That's not surprising or confusing; that's part-and-parcel of Pauline Christianity as a whole. And it is both hilarious and terrifying to see these children brought up into institutionalized idolatry.

(1 sock dropped | drop some socks)

Saturday, June 14th, 2008
3:44 am
Oh good God.

Geohashing Saturday (today) is 40 miles away through thunderstormy 80-degree weather. It's closer to Syracuse than it is to Ithaca. There is no way that I'm going to manage that and back in one day. I'd have to set out really early and stay overnight somewhere in Syracuse. It's not worth it, I don't think.

No thank you.

(drop some socks)

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008
11:54 pm
My geo-hashing video is Youtube-broken. :-(. I'll have to repeat the performance next Saturday. (You can see the video here, if you seek forward a little bit. But the audio doesn't seem to ever cut back in.)

We have a Taiwanese dude staying at our house for a couple days! He's a biomedical engineering student, studying for a M.Eng and possibly then sneaking into a Ph.D. without a prior M.S. degree.

I showed him around Ithaca tonight -- biked him into campus, showed him the Arts Quad, Ho Plaza, the Eng Quad. Walked him through Duffield, then had some coffee at Stella's.

I missed the fact that Collegetown has a Starbucks. I don't know how new it is. I think it makes Collegetown a worse place to live, on balance. Like if a McDonald's opened up across the road from Mama T's, it just seems like everything that would be served by Starbucks is better served by Stella's.

(drop some socks)

Sunday, June 8th, 2008
3:28 pm - My commitments.
I've tossed this list around in my head for months now, and I think it accurately reflects the way I approach life.

(1) Love. I will love life. I will avoid at all costs being trapped in a circle that I don't want: addictions, painful relationships, et cetera.
(2) Honesty. I will look at the world honestly. I may use metaphor, or tell "white lies" for entertainment's sake; but I will be honest when I'm asked a direct question, and I will recognize metaphor as metaphor and accept the world around me.
(3) Humility. I will keep an honest view of myself, and my place in the world. I will avoid useless struggles that just serve to "prove" that I'm "better than" someone else.
(4) Bravado. I will fail gloriously. I will not let an opportunity for love or fun pass me by simply because it might be difficult or painful.
(5) Charity. I will listen to others, and help them when I can.

I've taken to wearing 10-123 on my wrist, as symbolic of those five commitments. (I prefer 10-123 to the conventional pentagram 5-1 because when you turn 10-123 inside-out, you get its mirror image. That property is called "amphichirality," and it means that a knot doesn't have a separate left-handed and right-handed version. Contrast that with the Christian triquetra, a symbol of three fish (symbolizing the tree persons of God) in one knot called 3-1 or the "trefoil knot." The trefoil knot does have a separate left-handed version from its right-handed version, as does 5-1.

(1 sock dropped | drop some socks)

Saturday, June 7th, 2008
8:33 pm
18 miles there, 18 miles back. (2 miles on a detour.) I have cycled 38 miles today in the 90°F humid weather, and I'm beat. I only got over my recent cold on Friday morning, so I thought "fuck rest, let's go." Blame Randall; this was part of xkcd's wonderful Geohashing challenge. I met two people at my destination who just drove.

I averaged around 8mph on the way there, much less on the exhausting journey back. I wouldn't have made it, except that about halfway there, I came upon a couple -- the man, mowing the yard; the woman, washing her car. I stopped and asked, "Hey! Do you think you could just hose me down for a while? She agreed and I was very very cold and wet, which was just what I needed to be. (I also saw a cute daughter-type looking at me from the garage, but I didn't say anything and she stayed hidden.)

I'm very sunburned, since I've been out for hours and hours; and I'm very drained. And my ass hurts like hell from sitting on that damn bicycle seat for so long. I'll have a YouTube video I'm going to make from my journey up later. (Basically, every 15 minutes or so on the 2-hour way there, I took a 1-minute video. They require music and compilation.)

(drop some socks)

Friday, June 6th, 2008
4:27 pm
Also, I was linked to a Very Christian web site called ookingdom.com, as an example of good site design. It's not great, but not bad: but apparently the webmaster self-identifies with green-skinned olive-eyed buck-toothed fanged MS-Paint zompire angels.


You heard me right. The web designer apparently self-identifies with a buck-toothed green MS-Paint zompire. He literally, actually, kisses his wife with his front teeth covering his lower lip. They's a new batch of crazy.

Some other things you already could have deduced about this family: They have/had four cats, the wife isn't exactly a looker, they reproduced, and their child is going to one of those Christian colleges and majoring in "youth and family ministries." The dad has a CD out that might one day top 30 copies sold. Might. One day.

Ergo, content and design cannot be divorced: if site content is crazy enough, it distracts from even the most elegant web design and leaves a bad taste in your mouth for the entire site. QED.

(5 socks dropped | drop some socks)

3:51 pm
If you've ever worked in web design, check out marginLeft for some lulz.

It's bad enough that they claim XHTML compliance but then save as .html and serve as text/html. It's even worse that instead of making the menu at the top interactive with a little bit of Javascript image-swapping and replacing the content tree of some node -- instead of that, they went for the "endlessly scroll down" approach.

It gets even better when you get to "Past Work." Earlier on the page, they made a huge deal about how they were going to give your site 100%, and yet you still see sites which are transparently unfinished -- like the clothing site that's apparently offering a cap for $13 (ok), a hoodie for $32 (fine), and pants for $192.55 (BWUH?!?). The caption says it all -- "While the website was never completely finished..."

Several of the pages in their "Past Work" scorecard still have "Lorem Ipsum" text written all over, which means they hadn't seen the light of day when the marginLeft screenshot was taken. I took the liberty to look up one of these marginLeft productions, The CRSF at U.Maine. Well, it's published, and it looks vaguely like the site in the screenshot, but several features are missing in Firefox and the whole page is fugly in IE7 which "only" has something like 70% of the market share or more. I mean, I'm a Firefox guy, but... damn.

They have two other sites with Lorem Ipsum text: (1) their link to the english.umaine.edu site just gives an "Apache has been successfully installed!" screen, so I don't know what to make of that; (2) Their "Traditional Turkish Carpets" site is not linked and not google-able. (The business appears in Google maps just fine, but the site doesn't appear in a Google search.)

In other news, I'm being kicked out by the end of next August; it's official. I'm not worried.

(drop some socks)

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008
1:16 pm
I am fucking tired of spin.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton finished the US Democratic primary in a dead heat, with Obama having only 125 more pledged delegates than Clinton. The unpledged delegates ("superdelegates") are allowed to change their mind all the way up until the Democratic National Convention in August. There are about 800 of these unpledged delegates, and if they vote 60/40 or more in favor of Hillary, then Hillary wins -- otherwise, Obama wins. They can keep changing their mind all the way up to the convention. It doesn't sound like particularly bad odds for Hillary; and you may wonder why all the TV networks are going, "Obama has won!"

Well, the answer is that many of the unpledged delegates have said things like, "I'm just going to go with the popular vote" or, "I'm voting for Barack Obama." And others are just predictable -- who do you think Bill Clinton is voting for? That's called "endorsement" -- the votes aren't pledged and the superdelegate's mind can change, but right now, they've publicly endorsed so-and-so. Here's one such list of endorsements.

The reason why people are speculating that Obama has won is that, of the 691 delegates that have endorsed someone, the present split is about 60/40 -- for Obama. Among superdelegates right now, Hillary is about 20 points behind.

Who's the nominee? We don't know. We think it's probably Obama, but that's based on a speculative guess about how 800-ish people will vote in August. Superdelegates switch their endorsements all the time. If Obama made some huge gaffe tomorrow, maybe the nominee would be Hillary Clinton instead. Contrast this with McCain, where his lead is in pledged delegates: the Republicans have to vote McCain as their candidate.

(1 sock dropped | drop some socks)

Thursday, May 29th, 2008
9:11 pm - Yet Another Weird YouTube Video
The story behind this project is even worse than the story behind the Fleshlight fiasco: I've caught up, this summer, with an old friend from Ithaca, and if you know me, you know that my conversations always drift towards one of the PeRVS topics: (Politics/Physics/Philosophy), Religion, Videogames, and Sex. (The P part varies from semester to semester or so.)

This particular one went the way of sex, and this particular friend is a gal who mentioned that she enjoyed douching before/after sex to feel clean, but would feel too embarrassed to have a douche kit while staying at home, since they're not exactly discreet. For better or for worse, I started speculating on the sorts of do-it-yourself ideas that would work similarly. It wasn't supposed to be an offer, but she mistook it for one, and I felt obligated to go forward with it. Besides, when have I turned down a silly, weird, and potentially humiliating project?

Do you see the sort of reputation you get after a Fleshlight fiasco?! I promise, this is the last sex-related YouTube video for a while.

I quickly ran into the idea of using a 20-oz coke bottle as the syringe, since that would be discreet and you'd just need to store a modified bottle-cap separately. (Or, for that matter, it could be a 2-liter bottle. The point is, all you need to store is the cap, and hopefully, nobody will be able to look at the cap and say, "I know what this is for.")

Finding a tube-insertable part for the syringe took most of this week. I originally thought of the maple tree lines that I saw at my boarding school: the spiles and plastic tubing seemed perfect, if a bit obviously weird. But Ithaca doesn't actually have a maple-sugaring supplier. One of those water-bottle-straws was my second thought, but I abandoned it after roaming the Target in the Pyramid Mall. I was looking through mouthwashes a little later for something else, and I saw the perfect thing: apparently there is a type of mouthwash called "ACT" which has this incredible plastic stem inside of it. It looked PERFECT.

The rest of the story is in video form on youtube:

Things you'll see there:
- a bottle of ACT mouthwash
- the top to a coke bottle. should have a removable inner-plastic-liner, so that you can use it to cut the rubber to the right size.
- a segment of rubber from a blown-out bike tire, to make sure the seal's tight.
- hot-melt glue, to seal the coke-ACT joint watertight and hold the stem in place.
- a dremel tool with a grinding stone and a cutting edge, to cut the coke-bottle top.

(7 socks dropped | drop some socks)

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008
5:32 pm
I've been looking for a web hosting provider. There are a lot to choose from. I have decided to cut the field roughly in half by instituting this...
NEW RULE: Any web hosting provider which includes clip-art of a white woman with a headset on their contact our support team page or button, forfeits all professional credibility and is off-limits on my web hosting search.
This includes: A2B2, AN Hosting, FastDomain, Globat, GoDaddy, Hosterio, HostGator, HostMonster, InMotion, MidPhase, NearlyFreeHosting.com, ProfitGate, StartLogic, TekTonic, TotalChoice, and VistaPages. HostMonster earns back a couple of brownie points by also having clip-art of white *men* with earpieces, subverting one of the three categories, but they very distinctly have a special clipart image of a white woman with an earpiece for their actual "Questions?" image with the phone number written on it. What is so scary about an Indian girl with a phone or just a picture of a Black or Asian dude?

I can't help but notice that many of these companies also have names which were formed by gluing two words onto each other without leaving a space in between...

(4 socks dropped | drop some socks)

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