Archive for December, 2011

2011/12/25

Happy Christmas to All!

A Happy Christmas and greetings of the Season to all of my good Readers! The Queen’s Message has just finished, and we are sitting by the Tree, listening to Traditional Carols being played upon the stereo-phonic system, with a pie crust heating in the oven for Chocolate Silk Pie in the French mode later on, with the Ham Dinner.

This year I have received Gifts that spring from the Profligate Bosom of Technology! M has given me a bound copy of Robert Hooke’s “Micrographia”, as published by the Royal Society in September to General Acclaim. It is quite an astonishing volume; I admit I have been “looking at the pictures” primarily, rather than reading the text, but it is clear just how revolutionary a piece of work this is, opening whole new worlds to human examination, and whole new channels in the human psyche.

From the Little Daughter, a selection of knit “sweaters”, including two open ones in the style of the Earl of Cardigan, that she assures me are popular with the “hipsters” in her set. I am wearing one now, and if I say so myself it is both agreeable to the eye, and significantly Warming.

In my “Christmas stocking”, I also found an Eight Gigabyte USB Key, in the style of Swiss Army Knives (from Victorinox, the Original Makers). This offers enough “memory”, I should think, to contain a detailed narrative of my own Life, and for that matter most of the History of the Universe. Quite an amazing bauble for one’s key-ring!

And less Technologicially, I also have a new Messenger Bag for carrying things in, and a Quantity of Chocolate, as is traditional. :)

As it says in Clement Moore’s verse, which also in accord with Tradition I read aloud to the family last night (notwithstanding the eye rolls of the teen-agers): Happy Christmas to all!

(And to all, after Dinner, a Good Night!)

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2011/12/21

Solstice

The longest night, the shortest day. When we gather around fires, and around evergreens, and tell stories about death and rebirth, to celebrate that it’s the darkest time again, and so it’s going to get lighter now.

And as well as to celebrate, we cuddle up to reassure ourselves and each other that it is, in fact, going to do that getting-lighter thing again. And maybe to have company while we worry, a little, that this time it might not.

But it always does. :)

A pendulum is fastest at the bottom of its swing, and pauses at the high points at the ends. But the year, I think, is slowest at the bottom of its swing, and down here at the Winter Solstice we feel everything pause in the darkness and the cold, everything holds its breath, motionless for a moment.

We hold our breaths, long enough to look around, make sure that the warm place, the bright place we’ve secured in the darkness, is all ready, all warm, all bright. So the moment of most-dark can pass easily, quickly, smoothly, with us quiet and watching, and after that breath-held dark-quiet pause, motion can start again, and later the sunrise, and not too long after that the Spring.

2011/12/15

Wham!

(I should not admit where I got this.)

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2011/12/13

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This is a season of homecomings, and military families across America are being reunited for the holidays. In the coming days, the last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq, with honor and with their heads held high. After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq ends this month. — Pres. O.

I figure with all the parody and Occupyin’ and stuff that’s been filling this weblog and my Facebook (“Facebook”) feed, I should post some happier stuff. That there “end of the Iraq war” thing seems like pretty happy stuff!

Also, Proposition 8 in California (the one re-banning same-sex marriage after the courts found it legal), seems to still be going down in flames, if very complexly. As you may recall :) the In re Marriage cases found same-sex marriage protected by the state constitution in 2008, Prop 8 amended the state constitution so it wouldn’t do that anymore, the U.S. District court found that to be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution in 2010 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, with a temporary stay, which the Ninth Circuit then extended; with all that, and a constant flurry of lawsuits about whether gay judges should be able to judge cases involving gay people (zomg) and so on, the whole thing is quite in limbo, but it looks reasonably hopeful that some good law (not to mention some joyful marriages) might come out of it all.

For some reason I had a note to myself to weblogify about some recent event concerning Prop 8, but I’m not sure what it was. Presumably not just a rather technical ruling on standing, and anyway that was back in November.

Maybe I had a prognostic (prognostic? prophetic? precognitive?) dream. :)

Speaking of funny responses to Rick Perry’s stupid video from last time, here are a couple from Funny or Die that I also like:


and then there’s the rolling-on-the-floor laughing Bad Lipreading version (which WordPress doesn’t seem to want to embed), which leads us to a whole bunch of other hysterically funny Bad Lipreading things, of which my favorites at the moment are Newt Gingrich, Barak Obama:

(although I don’t think the music-video bits work all that well), and Mitt Romney:

and Ron Paul:

Give me Vaseline, for when I’m having these boring x-rays! :)

I am very fond of this meme…

2011/12/09

Rick Perry is a Sorry Excuse for a Human Being

Not that this is any big news, but jeez.

Down in the polls, but still in play because the way the Republican race has been going he could suddenly be front-runner at any time. So, to stay relevant, attack gay people! And, explainable only by a complete lack of brain, specifically attack gay people in the military! (Because attacking our men and women in uniform is a tried-and-true way to win Republican — oh, wait…)

All this resulting in what is, thankfully, one of the most Disliked videos ever on YouTube, whose basic message is “there’s something wrong in America if both gays and non-Christians have their civil rights respected”:

Currently: 10,186 likes, 423,057 dislikes

And apparently there is an amusing mole in his wardrobe department or something, in that he is wearing what most viewers of the YouTube video will see as a Brokeback Mountain outfit in an anti-gay ad. (Perhaps the target audience of the video will see it as a Normal People outfit, but that’s not the YouTube viewership.)

There are of course a billion YouTube responses. A couple of pointed rational ones I like:


And two that are just funny, in evil ways:


It must be so painful to be a Republican right now…

2011/12/07

Vampire Willow

That’s a fun title! All sorts of possible meanings. But only one in the Buffy context, and this time we are in the Buffy context because I have been watching ancient Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes again (or, as I keep saying by accident much to M’s hysterical amusement, “Bumpy”).

That’s Vampire Willow over to the right there (or somewhere nearby, or else you just have to imagine a picture, depending on how you’re Experiencing this Content). She appears in two Episodes: “The Wish” and “Doppelgängland”. She is, obviously, the vampire form of Willow, the shy quiet bookish young hacker girl that everyone with an inner geeky highschool gynophile has an enormous crush on.

Vampire Willow is the sultry sexy id of the Good Girl Willow. She has Willow’s cute mannerisms, without the insecurity and repression. She also looks on humans as primarily a food-source, and enjoys causing fear and suffering, but our inner geeky highschool gynophiles are willing to overlook that because she looks so good in leather.

Besides fanboying all over the character, I bring up the topic of Vampire Willow because the episodes, especially “Doppelgängland”, touch on the question we considered the other week: just what is the relationship, in the Buffyverse, between a person and the vampire that that person becomes after they are, um, made into a vampire? And what does this tell us about personal identity, moral responsibility, justice, and so on?

One delicious and relevant moment in “Doppelgängland”:

Willow: It’s horrible. That’s me as a vampire? I’m so evil, and skanky… and I think I’m kinda gay.
Buffy: Willow, just remember, a vampire’s personality has nothing to do with the person it was.
Angel: Well, actually…
[pauses as Willow and Buffy look at him]
Angel: That’s a good point.

Now Angel was about to say something along the lines of “actually, a vampire’s personality is shaped to a surprising extent by the personality of the person” (and of course the “kinda gay” thing is lovely foreshadowing since it will turn out that Willow is in fact kinda gay, for various values of “kinda” and “gay”).

This suggests some sort of subtle grey area between our previous wondering whether a vampire is (a) the same person, just with the soul / conscience / goodness removed, or (b) a completely different person (well, demon) who is just using the body of the (now dead or whatever) person.

Perhaps the vampire is a demon who is using the body, and also using the personality of the original person, only with the non-demonic bits left out, maybe because this flavor of demon doesn’t have a personality of its own. When looking at the vampire, then, we might draw conclusions about the person, not so much that they are culpable for the vampire’s acts or anything, but something along the lines of “this is what Willow / Angel / whoever would be like if they cast off the shackles of conscience“.

This still doesn’t seem to justify (for instance) Xander or Giles hating Angel-with-soul for what demon-Angel actually did, so we still have a puzzle there. But one can imagine that knowing things of the form “if he were to cast off the shackles of conscience, Angel-with-soul would be capable of X and Y and Z” might make one sort of uncomfortable to be around him, at a visceral level. (As might, I admit, just knowing that his body had in the past done these various very unpleasant things.)

Nor does it really make any sense of the gypsies’ (gad, is that the right spelling?) wanting to give Angel back his soul so he could suffer for what he (“he”) had done. The closest it really gets is “we will give him back his soul so that he can see the awful kinds of things that he might do if he didn’t have a soul!”. But that’s kinda stupid. If not any stupider than any other explanation we’ve been able to come up with for the gypsy thing.

Presumably (or at least this is worth thinking about) we don’t hold anyone morally responsible for things that they would do if they had no conscience, because when we judge someone morally we are judging (among other things) exactly their conscience. If we found out that someone would be a murderer if only they were a better shot, we might judge them harshly; but “he’d be a murderer if only he had no conscience” is not nearly the same sort of accusation.

Of course I’m awful at explaining human behavior in general. :) Don’t get me started on sexual jealousy, for instance (another common Bumpy theme); why is Willow hiding in the girls’ room crying (in “Consequences” I vaguely think it was) because she’s found out that Xander (whom she loves but is carefully not physically involved with because she is going all steady with Oz who she probably also loves) has had sex with ummm Faith, and why does she dislike Faith intensely as a result?

It’s not like she and Xander had pledged mutual fidelity and he’s broken the agreement; quite the opposite in fact! (That is, they’ve promised not to get physically involved with each other.) Is no one she loves allowed to have sex with anyone else? (That would probably condemn Xander to a life of celibacy, given the Oz thing.) Is she envious of Faith? Is she wishing that society wasn’t so annoyingly monogamous so she could snuggle with them both? (That one would almost make sense to me, come to think of it.) But it doesn’t seem to be that kind of crying.

(Maybe it’s more the “In this situation I’m supposed to cry for no rational reason, like in the hundreds of similar love stories you’ve seen throughout your life, and don’t question it or you’re some kind of sick pervert!” kind of crying, heh heh.)

So okay, that (and for that matter my relative incomprehension of the immediate “never speak to me again!” reaction of Cordelia and Oz finding Xander and Willow kissing that time in “Lover’s Walk”, when you’d think that if there was any actual, y’know, love involved it’d be more like “I understand, pumpkin, you both thought you were going to die, it’s a perfectly normal reaction”, or in Cordelia’s case “whatever, as long as you continue to turn me on with your wild chemistry”) — ehem anyway, that is my cluelessness about human nature for the night.

I will go back to interacting with nice rational computers now. :)

2011/12/05

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So yeah all the swearing in that last post was just for fun. We have written about swearing in the distant past (and we still hold essentially the same views).

Since I’ve mentioned Glitch recently and how I feel like I’ve sort of done everything (although I did stay logged in longer than usual today so as to set up my brand-new still and start making hooch), I feel obliged now to link to the big unLaunching announcement in which the Glitch folks tell us that they are going back to Beta, in order to add more cool stuff to do without having to worry to a post-Beta degree about compatibility and stability and stuff.

Which I think is pretty cool.

In Illyriad my two cities are thriving and I’m slowly putting together the resources for a third. And exactly why one would want to do that still sort of escapes me.

I think I am doing Too Many Things, really, on this here computer and the Internets and things inside it. Let’s see:

  • Glitch
  • Illyriad
  • Second Life
  • WoW (nearly forgot that!)
  • No doubt other things like that that I have forgotten for the moment
  • Writing two different weblogs
  • Not actually reading the four million weblogs I have in Google Reader
  • Trying to remember to download my monthly allotment from eMusic
  • And so on and so on.

But oh well! Such is XXIst Century Life.

So instead of going on and on about that, here are the last few things that have found their way into my iTunes library, most-recent first, just for randomness:

  • The Legend of Zelda, 25th Anniversary Soundtrack (ripped from the CD that came with the kids’ copy of Legend of Zelda; Skyward Sword)
  • Pomplamoose, “Tribute to Famous People”, “3 New Songs Woot!”, and the single of “Bust Your Kneecaps” (it is not as deliriously fun to just listen to these as it is to watch Nataly Dawn sing them, but it is still fun)
  • Three tracks from Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” (speaking of using up my monthly eMusic allotment),
  • Howlin’ Wolf, “The Best of…” (utterly classic blues)
  • Cream, “Disraeli Gears” (welcome to 1967!)
  • Meat Loaf, “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” (I have not formed an opinion on this yet, I’ll have to get back to ya)
  • Feist, “The Bad in Each Other”, from “Metals” (no idea; probably trying to spend the last 50 cents in an eMusic month again)
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth” (less-than-three Joan Jett)
  • Fiona Apple, “Extraordinary Machine” (the whole album, although I really got it for the title track)
  • Sandy Bainum, “Extraordinary Machine” (just the one track; I heard this, I forget by whom, on NPR, and had to have at least two covers of it at once!)
  • School of Seven Bells, “I L U”, from “Disconnect from Desire” (I have even more completely random stuff than I thought I did!)
  • Seefeel, “Faults” (good electronica)
  • Thelonius Monk and Sonny Rollins, “Thelonius Monk and Sonny Rollins” (Jaaaazzzzz)
  • Martin Denny, “Quiet Village” (Have I never told the story of this album? Suffice it to say my parents had it, and I had an enormous crush on the woman on the cover.)

And that takes us back to about the beginning of October, so I’ll arbitrarily stop for now. :)

Hm, I bet I still have December money to spend on eMusic

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2011/12/02

More economics shit

So I don’t understand the huge fucking deal about the weakness of the goddamned Euro. I mean, so who the fuck cares if their currency is “weak” compared to some other fucking currency? Sure, it like sounds wimpy an’ shit, like “haha dude you are Weeeeeak!”, but it’s not like really so fucking awful and like waaaaa my currency is weak and oh noooo my poor poooor balance of payments!

Some Euros or some kinda shit like that

Some Euros or some kinda shit like that

So say you’re some Euro dude and you want to buy some foreign shit, and you go to buy it and the fucker is like “you want to buy it with what?” and like “those Euros aren’t worth jack-shit, so if you want to buy my crap you gotta give me like ten billionof ’em”. And that’s a drag ’cause you can’t buy the foreign shit, but really you can just go to some other Euro fucker who makes the same kinda shit, and buy it from him, and he’s a Euro dude too so he’ll take just a couple Euros for it, and so you didn’t get the foreign shit that you originally wanted, but you got some similar shit, and really shit is shit, y’know?

And if you’re a Euro bastard who wants to like sell stuff to foreigners (or y’know people that Euro dudes think are foreigners, which includes like Americans who aren’t actually foreign, but you know what I mean), you are in Hog Heaven, ’cause you can be all like “my shit is one million Euros!”, and they can just go down to the bank and buy a million Euros for like nine ninety-five, and they’re like “here’s your million Euros, sucker!”, and you’re like “yes!!”, and everybody’s happy.

An’ really once enough fuckers who have real money start buying all that Euro shit ’cause Euros are so cheap, Euro stuff’ll get all like fashionable an’ shit, and everyone’ll want to buy it because it’s cheap and like Lady Fucking Ga-Ga is wearing it or anyway it’s cheap, and so people will want to buy like billions an’ billions o’ Euros to buy it with, and when some assholes want to buy tons o’ some shit the price of the shit always goes up, and so Euros’ll start to be worth more again.

So it’s, like, self-correcting an’ shit. I’n’t? I mean, fuck!

2011/12/01

Thursday, December 1, 2011

So, well, let’s see.

Here is a random image, in the sense that it was the first hit on a Google Image search for “random image” (without the quotes). It has lots of numbers in it. Also, the second hit was a picture of Chuck Norris.

(Google seems to have made it harder to construct image-search URLs, or I’ve just forgotten the simple method. I thought you used to be able to just change the “www” to an “images” in the standard Google search URL, but now it seems you have to set “tbm” to “isch” in the query-string.)

For the first time, I have started a NaNoWriMo novel, and then not finished it during November. New experiences are good. Somehow I just sort of lost interest, and although sitting down and making myself write 1,600 or 2,500 words was still fun, it was I guess a familiar and already-known sort of fun that didn’t prevail against all other sorts of fun one might use one’s leisure time for.

(Will I ever finish it? Will we discover who, if anyone, murdered Viridax, called The Wise? Will the mysterious narrator’s origins, unknown even to emself, be revealed? I don’t know!)

I started playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and then sort of stopped, and so far have continued to stop. Or (interesting verb tense there) have at least not started again. A few notes on Skyrim:

  • It is indeed rather pretty, but there are lots of rather pretty videos around, and either I amn’t all that impressed by mere eyecandy, or it’s just that this eyecandy isn’t all that to my taste, and I’m just more a Windwaker sort of d00d. (Awful lotta grey in the palette, too; maybe if I played it for long enough I would get to more omg-colorful places, Oz-style. Or not.)
  • It is realistic in some good senses; the female characters, for instance, do not have huge mammaries and skin-baring armor, unlike a billion other games one could name,
  • There is at least for me rather an Uncanny Valley effect in some of the realism (for some reason I always think “Eerie Valley” at first instead of “Uncanny Valley”, but Google reads my mind and knows this and takes me to the right place anyway); for instance a very realistic-looking tree sticking through the side of a very realistic-looking building is somehow wronger than that happening in a cartoon world; and a very realistic-looking person behaving in a weird robotic way (see below) is more disturbing than a cartoon character might be.
  • And what’s up with the incredibly stupid and annoying NPCs, anyway? Bethesda has made a bunch of these games, you’d think they’d know how to do it by now. But no, go into the back room of the shop to look around, turn to leave, and there are the shopkeeper and your housekarl, standing side-by-side blocking the doorway, staring creepily and not getting out of the way. Since people are not penetrable as they are in WoW, the only way out of the room is to push on the blockers until one of them moves; and the one that moves will make an annoying annoyed noise, like “Huh?” or “What?” or “Whoa!”, and they’ll make that same noise every single time you have to push them out of the way. Which will be lots.
  • Companion NPCs are also horrible at battle tactics. I’m exploring an ominous cave, an arrow comes twanging out of the dimness, I press my back to the wall to get out of Line of Sight, and my housekarl goes rushing off down the corridor, sword held high. Facepalm. Players who do this kind of thing in WoW get kicked from the party. My kids say they don’t take their housekarl around with them because of annoying stuff like this; but then you can’t do as many quests at low levels, without the help. (It’s possible to tell your companion to stay put, but that’s not what’s wanted either; if there’s a “don’t be stupid” mode, I haven’t found it yet.)
  • Which brings me to levels of things. Now really it’s unrealistic in WoW, say, that you can just select something and the game tells you what level it is, or that it’s so high level that you’d better stay out of its way. But on the other hand in Skyrim when someone says “Could you go get some lemon verbena for me”, you’d think they might add “oh, and the thing guarding it hurls Enormous Fireballs of Instant Death, so you’ll want to level up for a few days before you try it”. Only polite!
  • I find having to use separate control-things for where I’m walking and what I’m looking at to be a PITA (this is on the “xbox 360” console-thing). I’m always finding myself staring up at the sky while my little person walks off the side of the stairway and falls into a lake or something. The kids say that this is how First Person Shooters generally are these days (DOOM wasn’t!), but really Skyrim spends most of its time not being a First Person Shooter, so you’d think there’d be at least an optional “camera follows you sensibly” sort of mode like WoW and SL and and and…
  • Complain, complain, complain, moan, moan, whinge.

Isn’t “whinge” a great word? I think it is British. Speaking of which, that “mdr” in our previous humorous entry is short for the French phrase “mort de rire” which literally means “death from laughter” or “dies laughing”, but idiomatically is the French equivalent of “lol”. You can impress Francophones in online environments by casually saying “mdr” when amused; rather than “mort de rire“, this then means “I am a cool and with-it vaguely-multilingual modern person, and I am amused”. (At least that’s what I mean when I say it.)

Which brings us to the important question of what the repetitively intensified forms of “lol”, like “lolol” or “lololol” or “lololololololol”, mean. (It has been suggested that it means “lots of laughing out loud”, but that would be depressing.) The right question is, do these forms stand for “laughing out loud out loud out loud…”, or something more complex, as in “laughing out loud out laughing out loud…” or “laughing out loud, oh laughing out loud, oh laughing!”.

I think I prefer the lattter.

And there is a picture of a kitten which has captured a little boy. Or, for those in the more conventional time-stream, a cat which has captured a teenager. We get this alot around here, mostly when he is asleep and she isn’t. The boy also captures the kitten relatively frequently.

(If you click through on the picture you will get to M’s weblog, where you will find lotsa fun and mostly irony-free stuff about Thanksgiving and all, and pictures of more people, possibly including me. Don’t tell!)

What else what else? Still playing Glitch just a little, dropping in to learn Distilling I and maybe fight off a rook attack. Also the aforementioned Illyriad, where I have now (with much help from the training guild that I joined early on) moved my capital out of the desolate mountains onto the fertile plains, and established a second city (well, tiny village), and am building buildings and breeding cows and sending my army to fight giant snakes (they were all wiped out by some wild dogs once, owch) and sending caravans full of resources from my capital to the new city to help the building.

But I’m not really sure why, and I can easily imagine that before long I might be writing my guild to ask them if there is some way I can ship all of my goods and population off to their cities, leaving perhaps just a plaque signed “Ozymandius” to mark where in Illyriad I once was.

Or I could get fascinated by something in it, who knows…

Oh yes! And there is this picture!

Please use straw hole

which is our Annoying Inanimate-Object Request o’ the Day. (Click through to flickr for amusing Notes overlaid upon the picture itself; what will they think of next?)

Why does the juice carton implore me to use the straw hole? What if I don’t have a straw? What if I just like the old instinctive “separate and bend back the edges and push out the little spout” method of drinking my encartonned (encartoned?) orange juice?

Things like this baffle me. Someone at (ummmm) Tropicana must have explicitly decided that the carton would say “Please Use Straw Hole” there. It’s even right at the place where you put your fingers to open it in the good old spouty way. (And in fact the carton even has little indentations in the upper surface, to make the spout pop out better! Visible in the picture!) What could the person have been thinking, as they decreed that those words should appear there, in Brand-Appropriate Green?

Is there some Great Battle within Tropicana, or perhaps within the Carton Producing Community, between those that put the spout-enhancing indentations in, and those who pre-perforate the straw holes, and this printed legend represents some partial victory of the latter over the former? Was it snuck into the package design in the dark of night, by a ninja in the employ of the straw-holers?

How do they tell who is winning? Does the Nielsen company survey people about their carton-using habits? Are there little Carton Diaries, where you record which way you opened each morning’s orange juice, with little ticky-boxes for “straw hole” or “spout” (or even, horrific to contemplate, “other”)? Or do the cartons themselves contain tiny sensors and transmitters, and phone home to Carton Ninja Central to report on us?

The world is so mysterious…