Archive for ‘quotidia’

2023/01/07

Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls in a glass baking dish

I had one or more Parker House Rolls somewhere once, at some time in the past, and recently something reminded me of them, and today I made some!

Basically this is just a slightly sweet buttery sticky yeast-raised dough, not kneaded, divided into sixteen small loaves and baked all together in the same baking dish so that they grow somewhat back together again and you can have the fun of separating them.

(Even a non-yeast leavened dough might work; I wonder what would happen? This is the kind of thing I wonder about.)

Various recipes on the interwebs (pretty much all of them, really) call for stuff that I don’t have at hand, like sea salt, kosher salt, potato flakes, vegetable shortening, whole milk for that matter, and so on; and also stuff that I don’t have the patience for (or for cleaning up after), like separating eggs, or using very specific attachments and settings of an electric mixer. None of these appear to be necessary.

Here’s the recipe that I roughly actually used; it’s probably closest to this one, but with anything that seemed like too much work or I didn’t have in the house left out.

Parker House Rolls (makes 16)

1 1/4 Cup milk (any kind really; if you use skim, maybe add some extra butter), warmed
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 Cup sugar
Some salt (I dunno maybe a tsp.)
2 Eggs
8 Tbsp (one stick) butter (unsalted if you have it), softened
4ish Cups of flour

Warm up the milk to room temperature or a bit more, in the microwave or whatever. Similarly, soften the butter by mashing it with a fork, putting it in the microwave on Defrost, or whatever. You can even melt it, but it may impact the consistency of the finished product if you do, I dunno.

Mix the warm milk, yeast, and 2 Tbps (half) of the sugar in the big yellow bowl or other largish mixing bowl. Let that sit for 5-10 minutes. It may or may not froth up and get foamy if the yeast is feeling especially active; don’t sweat it either way.

Add the rest of the sugar, the salt, the eggs, and 6 Tbsp (three quarters) of the butter to the bowl, mix briefly.

Add two cups of flour, and mix until incorporated. You can use a stand mixer or anything else you like in this step, or just a sturdy spoon and main strength. Continue adding flour, about half a cup at a time or whatever you like, until you have a sticky dough that is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, but still sticking to the bottom, or at least showing signs that it would like to. Depending on how soft you softened the butter, there may be lumps of butter in the dough; squash some of them if so, but don’t worry about it too much.

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or house-rules equivalent, and let sit for say 90 minutes in a cozy place.

After 90 minutes, remove the cloth and gently punch down the dough. Flour your hands because it will have gotten even stickier while rising! Divide the dough into 16 pieces, without unnecessary kneading or other roughness.

For traditionally-formed rolls, flatten each piece and fold it in half; or divide the dough into four pieces and for each piece fold it in half and cut it into quarters, similarly resulting in 16 folded pieces. Or look up various other more elaborate forming methods on the interwebs.

Put the 16 pieces in a four-by-four array (folded edges down) into a 9×13 inch lightly greased (lightly cooking-sprayed is simplest) baking dish; they should be touching each other.

Cover with a damp cloth or equivalent again, and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350°F while the dough gets a final few minutes of rising, then remove the cloth and pop the baking dish into the oven. Cook for 25 minutes or until looking pleasantly (but not darkly!) brown on top, or whenever your intuition tells you they’re done.

Brush tops with the remaining 2 Tbs of butter. Let cool for a bit in the baking dish, then tear apart to serve.

May be kept or frozen like any bread that has butter and milk and eggs and no preservatives, but really you’re going to eat them all almost immediately, aren’t you?

2022/12/26

December 26th, 2022

We made just 106 dumplings this year, plus another eight filled with Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (that was the little boy’s idea; they’re pretty good!). This is a smaller number than usual (drill back into prior years here). The small number was probably mostly because single units of ground meat from FreshDirect tend to weigh just a pound, whereas single units from the grocery in prior years were more like 1.25 to 1.4 pounds. (Although, come to think of it, just where did we get the ground meat last year? Not sure.) And also because grownups tend to put more meat in each dumpling, perhaps. But in any case, we are now all pleasantly full, and the little daughter and her BF are safely back in the urbanity.

What has occurred? I feel like things have occurred, to an extent. I am more on Mastodon now than on Twitter, and if you want to keep up with the images I’ve been making in Midjourney and so on, you’ll want my Pixelfed feed. I listed lots of various of these pointers back the other week (and wow having every chapter of the novel as a weblog post makes it hard to scroll through the weblog). When Elon “facepalm” Musk briefly prohibited linking from Twitter to Mastodon, I actually set up a LinkTree page with my links.

Someone must have said “they can still link to Mastodon via Linktree” in his hearing, because he then briefly prohibited linking to LinkTree. That caused me to set up my own Links page over on the neglected (and in fact apparently pretty much empty) theogeny.com; I should put back all the stuff that used to be there sometime!

Note how ossum that Links page is! When you move the cursor over it, the thing that the mouse is over that you will go to if you click (if any) changes color (although I drew the line at having it bouncily change size the way Linktree does). You can look at the page source, and see the lovely hand-coded CSS and HTML. :) It even validates! (w3c seems to have a change of mind about validation badges, which makes me a little sad, so there’s no little “valid HTML 5!” badge on the page that links to the verification of the claim, but hey.)

That reminded me of the One-Dimensional Cellular Automaton that I make in hand-coded CSS and HTML and JavaScript the other year; it vanished for a long time, even from my personal backups of davidchess.com, and I’d almost given up on finding it until I thought of the Internet Archive‘s Wayback Machine, and discovered that it had snapshotted that page exactly once, in February of 2012.

So after a bit of fiddling around, I can once again present the One-Dimensional Cellular Automaton for your amusement. The page source there is also quite readable, I tell myself.

Note that many other things on davidchess.com are currently / still broken, although in the process of bringing that page back, I also brought the main page back, so you can see the extremely retro rest of the site (working and otherwise), including the entries in this (well, sort of “this”) weblog between 1999 and 2011.

Oh yeah, we had Christmas! That was nice. :) I got lots of chocolate, and the little (not little anymore) boy gave me a digital image of Spennix (my WoW main) dressed like the pioneer in the Satisfactory game, with a perfect “Spennixfactory” logo. And wife and daughter both got me books: “The Hotel Bosphorus” (a murder mystery set in Istanbul, my current Bucket List destination, and involving a bookshop, so what could be better?) from M, and “Klara and the Sun” (which I’ve been meaning to get, but never had) from the little daughter. (She thought that maybe I already had it and that’s why Klara is called “Klara” in the Klara stories, but it was as far as I know a complete coincidence.)

I’m working away at Part Three of Klara, after she leaves the clockwork world, but it’s slow going. I have an actual plot in mind that I want to illustrate, and I’m using a different graphical style which necessitates a different Midjourney workflow that I haven’t quite optimized yet. But it’ll get done! Probably! :)

We close with a Seasonal Image for the Solstice…

A disc with abstract shapes of fir trees, decorations, planets, and whatnot around the edge. In the center a round shape with small spiked protrusions, perhaps the sun, sits atop what may be a tree trunk that projects upward from what may be the ground and some roots at the bottom of the image. Branches stick out of the perhaps-sun, and some stars and planets and a few more enigmatic shapes inhabit the spaces between the branches.

Here’s to the coming of the longer days! Or the cooler ones, to those on the flipside… :)

2022/12/21

Best Buy queueing theory

Single-queue multiple-server is often a pretty optimal way to set up a system; there’s a single potentially large / unending bunch of jobs / customers waiting, and some comparatively small number of servers / staff to take care of them. When a server is free, some job is chosen and the server starts running / serving that job.

When the chosen job / customer is always the one that’s been waiting longest, that’s a FIFO (first-in first-out) queue, known to consumers in the Eastern US as a “line”. It’s easy to implement, sometimes pretty optimal under certain assumptions, and has a sort of “fair” feeling about it.

On the other hand, I have the feeling that when the customer set is highly bimodal, the whole setup might not be entirely optimal in some cases.

For instance, if some of your customers are just buying a 1Gb Ethernet switch (see below) and some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups using a credit card, and it will take 45-60 seconds, and another set of customers are picking up something that’s being held for them somewhere in the back, and they aren’t quite sure what it is, and want the staff person to explain how to use it, and then want to purchase it using Latvian stock market futures that are actually in their brother-in-law’s name, and that will take 20-90 minutes, then some of those first set of customers are going to end up waiting (in some sense) an unnecessarily long time, waiting for education to complete or a brother-in-law’s marriage certificate to be found in an overcoat pocket.

One could assign a particular server to small jobs, or to small jobs if there are any such waiting, or always let a short job go before a long job if there are any waiting, or unless there’s a large job that’s been waiting more than a certain time, or…

All of these can be implemented in software systems, but most of them are too complicated or unfair-feeling for a Best Buy full of strangers. Allocating one server / staff member / desk to “customer service” (anything involving training, or stock market futures, for instance) and the rest to ordinary purchases is about as complex as it’s practical to implement. They weren’t doing even that at my Best Buy this morning, but then there were only three staff people on registers, and taking one-third of them away from the short-transaction customers might have been bad. Or just no one wanted to bother figuring it out.

Speaking of 1Gb Ethernet switches, I mean, WTF? I know I’m old, but I still think of these as costing thousands (tens of thousands?) of USD, requiring careful tuning, and taking up a significant part of a room (okay, a small room, or at least a rack slot). Now granted that was maybe for one with at least 24 ports and a management interface, but I mean! I can buy one for the price of two large pizzas, and it fits in the palm of my hand? Really? Where are the flying cars then??

A picture of a Netgear 1Gb Ethernet Switch.

That is a picture of a 1Gb Ethernet Switch. Possibly the one that I bought, I forget exactly. Might have been Linksys. Or something.

2022/12/17

This here Framework laptop

Hardware geekery! Extremely softcore hardware geekery, because I am very much not a hardware person. (I was once, about when a 10MB hard drive was an exciting new thing. That was awhile back!)

A couple of years ago, I bought a Lenovo Legion Y740 I think it was, laptop. This was after being rather disappointed by a Dell Alienware something-something laptop previously. After a couple of years (or really rather less than that) I was rather disappointed by the Lenovo Legion Y740 also:

  • A couple of the keys just broke, and turned out to be hard to obtain replacements for (because after a couple of years they were of course old and only obtainable from antiquarian key sellers, and because figuring out exactly what key one needs is more challenging than it ought to be, because not all Legion Y740s apparently use the same up-arrow key), and also hard to replace once one did have the (probably) right key. At least once I managed to break the replacement key while trying to replace the broken key. So I spent lots of time poking at the nib under the key, and that got old (especially for the up-arrow key).
  • It forgot how to talk to an Ethernet cable, in rather complicated ways that I couldn’t figure out: the cable provably worked fine with other devices, and in every connection method to this computer (direct Ethernet, Ethernet-to-USB-A, and Ethernet-to-USB-C), it worked very badly, occasionally working for a bit but then randomly dropping. Hardware, software? Who can tell. “Reinstalling” the “Windows network drivers” made no difference.
  • It began being very confused about its battery. After using it for some time on power, with it announcing the battery charge at 100%, there was a good chance that within a few seconds of being unplugged it would shut down in an emergency fashion (not that Windows seems to know of any other kind), and on being plugged in again elsewhere would claim that the battery is at 0%. Bad battery? Bad power driver? Bad something else? No idea. Also it would sometimes randomly shut down even while plugged in. Battery? Overheating? No idea.
  • And some other stuff I forget; at least one of the USB ports felt very loose and I was never confident that a thing plugged into it would continue working.

And then it started to not be able to see the hard drive and/or to just randomly not boot. So that was bad. (For what it’s worth, both the HDD and the SDD work fine when read via USB from an external enclosure, so probably it was something complicated inside.)

So as not to be entirely limited to my “cellular phone”, I bought a tiny little Samsung Chromebook of some kind, for the price of roughly a dinner delivered by DoorDash, and that was actually surprisingly acceptable. No playing WoW or Satisfactory or Second Life / OpenSim or anything like that, but pretty much everything else worked great, lots of Chrome windows, multiple displays, Zoom, etc. It did slow down when too loaded, but it was able to do more at once than I initially expected it to.

I did want to be able to play games and be virtual again eventually, though, so I was looking in a disconsolate way at various beefier laptops that would probably disappoint me before long, when I (along with lots of other people) came across Cory Doctorow’s “The Framework is the most exciting laptop I’ve ever used: Sustainable, upgradeable, repairable and powerful“, and I (along with lots of other people) thought “Hmmm!”.

I went to the website, used the configurator / designer thing to design a plausible-sounding one, noted that it was noticeably not all that expensive, and probably without thinking about it as hard as I should have, I ordered one. Initially there wasn’t much information about when it might arrive (the ETA was, as I recall, “November” or something like that), since Framework are a comparatively small outfit who have to do things like batching up a bunch of orders and obtaining the hardware and getting the manufacturing done only once they have enough, and like that. But I figured I could get by on the tiny Chromebook for a bit longer.

As it turned out, I got a notice that it was being put together, and then shipped, at the early side of the ETA, and it arrived days before it was predicted to; so that was all nice. The Unboxing Experience was great; it turned out (I’d forgotten this!) that I had ordered the “DIY” version, which meant I had to spend maybe 10 minutes, tops, plugging in the SDD and RAM. (Apparently some DIY instances also have to install the WiFi object, which looks a little more complex, but mine already had it.)

And it works great!

The video is not some fancy AMD or NVIDIA, but just some modern Intel video chipset, which Real Gamers look down upon, but it runs WoW and Satisfactory and the Firestorm viewer and stuff just fine, and that’s all I need. (Firestorm does crash sometimes, and that might be because of the chipset, or something completely different.) The hot-swappable ports are terrific! I do realize that it’s really just like four fast USB-C connections on the motherboard and then a variety of something-to-USB-C adapters that slip in and out of them easily, but the effect is that if you want your computer to have four USB-C connections one minute, and a USB-C, a USB-A, an Ethernet RJ45, and an HDMI or Display Port or whatever the next minute, that’s totally doable. (I generally have three USB-C and an RJ45, and don’t swap them to speak of, but it’s that I could.)

Which reminds me to be a little baffled about how whatever-to-USB-C adapters work, and how they can be so small and simple and all. I mean, isn’t there more than just some crossing of wires involved in mapping USB-C signals to Ethernet RJ45? That particular adapter does stick out of the computer more than the others (which are all USB-C to USB-C, so yeah that I understand being simple), and has some circuitry visible inside its rather cool transparent body. But still, the fact that there are relatively simple and relatively cheap wires that can connect USB-C to just about anything impresses me. I guess many of them have little tiny computers inside? And that that’s what the “U” stands for and all? Okay.

It’s quiet (no moving parts to speak of, no HDD, SDD being so cheap these days, and that must be a very quiet fan in there), it’s slim and light (feels about like the tiny Samsung in terms of heft), it gets hot but not too hot, and it looks nice. Simple and clean and efficient visual design. And it really is designed to be opened up and have parts replaced if they break. (If a key breaks, apparently the theory is that you should replace the keyboard, and that’s a bit wasteful, but at least it’s possible!) And unlike the Samsung, it has a backlit keyboard! (Oh, and an audio jack, too! That’s just chef’s-kiss-dot-bmp.)

The only things I dislike about the Framework at all are (I don’t even remember what I was going to write here), I guess, that I’m running Windows on it? :) Windows 11, in fact, which it came with, and which is annoying in various Windows ways, but livable-with, and WoW and Satisfactory don’t as far as I know run on ChromeOS.

(Possibly there’s some setup that would run Linux, or Linux-under-ChromeOs, and then either Windows under that and then the games, or Linux versions of the games, or something, but I’m not into that level of system fiddling these decades.)

Oh, and the other negative thing is that the WiFi signal is terrible over here where I sit when we’re all sitting around in the big bedroom at night being together and doing our internet things. But that is not the laptop’s fault, and I should just move the access point to a better place or get a repeater / booster / mesh, or just run another wire up from the basement and plug into that. It works well enough.

So I’m happy! I have a small and light and quiet but sufficiently muscular machine which does the things I want and has a good vibe (a great vibe for moving off Twitter and onto the Fediverse at the same time, but that’s for another post). It’s possible that it will wear out quickly, but I’m kind of hopeful. More than I would be with yet another generic supposedly-fancy corporate laptop, anyway.

2022/11/26

Woot woot!

Graphs from NaNoWriMo, showing a steadish 2,000 words per day from the 1st to the 25th of November.

Kept the ol’ 2,000 words per day pretty constant during NaNoWriMo, except for a couple of days off that I made up for on the next weekend, so I made the goal of 50,000, and not by coincidence the end of the story, right there on the 25th (which was, let’s see, yeah, yesterday!). A nice feeling.

I think I like this year’s rather a lot. The little Midjourney pictures at the start of each Fling (where “Flings” really turned out to be Chapters) was fun, but I think not ultimately transformative; not a big deal. A few plot elements, some important, (the libraries, the plants, the fast sharp ships) came from the images, but without the images something else would I expect have sprung to mind and perhaps carried the same basic ideas, about meaning, and communication, identity and the symbol-grounding problem.

As a reminder; the whole thing can be read in order by clicking on the cover page here, and then clicking the bold link at the bottom of each Fling. I may be going through and fixing a few errors between now and the end of the month (although the relative inconvenience of doing that in WordPress may limit how much I do).

In other news, I’ve been on Twitter less, and on Mastodon / Fediverse more, prompted by the gross antics of the billionaire narcissist, but continuing just because it’s a more interesting place, with (so far?) more interesting and less upsetting communication going on. (It could be argued that given the State of Things, one ought to be upset; but so far I think the argument is flawed.)

I’ve been making tons and tons of images on Midjourney still (getting up near 20,000, the system tells me!) and they are still constantly improving the engine(s), which is very cool. I’ve been posting some of them on PixelFed (roughly, PixelFed is to Instagram as Mastodon is to Twitter), and also still on Twitter (the same ones, mostly). I have enough pictures that I love to fill many, many weblog posts, and I’m sure such posts will appear.

Here’s just one image for now that’s a total favorite; it’s called “Accord”:

A woman with a very long neck in foreground just left of center, looking to our right. Her hair extends fractally into infinity upper left. An infinite line of smaller women in dark clothes, all looking in the same direction, extends from her shoulder to the right, where a tower is dimly present through fog and insects. Two more of the smaller women stand behind her, eyes closed.

Is that amazing, or what? He said modestly.

In the legal domain, there is talk of a class-action suit against Microsoft / GitHub / OpenAI / Copilot, on something like the claim that training an AI on a piece of code requires the appropriate license from the owner of that code (or equivalent, as for public domain code or code you wrote yourself). The possibility of implications for AI art tools like Midjourney, and AI text generators like NovelAI, is clear, although there may also be significant differences. For instance, there seem to be various examples of exact plagiarism by Copilot, whereas as far as I’m aware no such thing exists for say Midjourney or NovelAI.

(There was at least one person persistently spamming Twitter and Reddit with a copy-pasted claim that GPT-3 plagiarizes, pointing at various things on the web that did not actually show, or generally even claim, that. I can’t find them today; perhaps OpenAI’s lawyers sent them a letter. Similarly I’ve been told by one person on Twitter (and at least one other who agreed with them) that for “[a]lmost all pieces I’ve seen thus far, I can point at and name the elements that came from individual artists, and often individual paintings or works”, but when I expressed interest and asked for a concrete example, they said roughly “I’ll get back to you tonight” and then went silent.)

It will be interesting to see what happens with this lawsuit. Somewhat sadly, I think that:

  • The most likely outcome is that they’ll just lose, because Microsoft is rich and individual Open Source contributors, even as a class, aren’t rich,
  • Second most likely, Microsoft will give some symbolic amount of money to something that will benefit some Open Source contributors a little and some lawyers a lot, and there will be no precedent-setting court decision,
  • Less likely, after some long wrangling process, something like the Private Copying Levy might be worked out, which is sort of like that last bullet, but more codified and involving more money, and possibly a precedent that there is a copyright violation at least potentially involved,
  • Even less likely, there would be some kind of opt-out process whereby a creator could indicate they didn’t want their stuff used to train AIs, and makers of AI engines would have to like re-generate their neural nets annually without the opted-art works,
  • And at the bottom, perhaps fairest in some sense but also least likely, a straightforward finding that AI Engine makers, at least ones that make money, really do need the right to copy and/or prepare derivative works of the things they train their engines on. So we’d get engines trained on just public domain works, things out of copyright, things posted under sufficiently permissive licenses, things they explicitly license, and so on. I would be fine with this, myself, but I wouldn’t bet on it happening.

We’ll see!

What else? That’s the main things I can think of. Oh, yeah, Thanksgiving was very nice; the four of us and the little daughter’s SO. We were (I was) especially lazy this year; beyond the HelloFresh pre-planned ingredients that we’ve used the last couple of years, this year we got the pre-planned pre-cooked just-needs-warming version from FreshDirect (ETOOMUCHFRESH). It wasn’t bad! And certainly easy. :) We also bought pre-made apple and pumpkin pies. I resist feeling guilty!!

Also my Windows laptop is broken (I’m not sure why or how; it behaves like a bad storage device, but both the HDD and the SSD seem perfectly readable when stuck into external USB things). Whatever’s wrong with it inside, it’s also vaguely falling apart, with cracked and broken keys, a non-functional direct Ethernet connection (on all connectors somehow), and some other stuff.

So I have an exciting new Framework laptop coming as an early Solstice present! (It’s supposedly in Alaska right now, on the way here in under a week or so.) Inspired, like so many other people, by Cory Doctorow’s glowing review. We’ll see if I am frustrated by the Intel graphics chipset. I’m pretty optimistic, as what I want to run isn’t like the latest AAA game; more like WoW and SecondLife and the GIMP and No Man’s Sky and Satisfactory. I might have to turn the resolution down some at worst I expect.

(In the meantime I’ve been using my phone and this tiny cheap Samsung Chromebook and just not using any of those programs; turns out my life doesn’t depend on any of them! The thing I’m most eager to do is get the GIMP going to work on Part 3 of Klara; in theory I could enable Linux on the Chromebook here and run the GIMP in that, but I rather doubt its CPU is up to it. Just typing this into the WordPress editor is lagging significantly just because I’m also watching YouTube and have a few dozen Chrome tabs open including like Discord and Mastodon and…)

There! :) Thanks for coming, and enjoy.

2022/11/14

Pieces everywhere!

Pieces of me, that is. In some sense.

I found my old tumblr the other day, and yesterday I spent lots of time getting onto Mastodon (i.e. the Fediverse). And I’m realizing in just how many places I have “published” significant “content” (not even counting Amazon reviews, say, but maybe I should).

While procrastinating from the NaNoWriMo book (back at 15,623 words; I’m currently at nearly 29K, and nicely on target, although I did only about 1000 today), I started to list some subset of them here, and tonight I thought I’d just post it. In no particular order at all:

  • ceoln.wordpress.com: my weblog. Haha, you probably knew that!
  • My old hand-edited weblog, the predecessor of this one, and now merely an archive.
  • The Secret Second Life Weblog (where I don’t post much at all anymore, but you never know what might happen!).
  • Me on Twitter, where I would doomscroll endlessly, and also post some AI images and things, and retweet and make snarky and otherwise comments on lots of political stuff, and so on. I am coming to sort of wonder what I’m doing there, especially in contrast to the next thing. (Note that I exist there under my Second Life identity, because reasons.)
  • Me on Mastodon (aka @ceoln@qoto.org sometimes), my brand new Mastodon (Fediverse) place, which is very much like Twitter except friendlier and not constantly fiddled with by malicious algorithms and billionaires intent on making me angry and unsettled for I’ll click more. Which is very nice! Many friendly people, many of them fleeing Twitter.
  • Me on counter.social; originally a Fediverse fork or something, now um… its own thing, albeit with a somewhat familiar feel. If you aren’t on counter.social, you maybe can’t see anything at that link?
  • Me on reddit, where I have at times been active in r/zen, r/aidungeon, r/gpt3, r/novelAI, r/buddhism, r/alanwatts, and other obvious places.
  • The Beauty Of Our Weapons dot tumblr dot com, my old tumblr where I would pretty much just repost pictures of pretty girls and odd things and the occasional experiment in Photoshop or something. Now I’ve posted a (very) few Midjourney images there also. Hopefully there’s nothing too embarrassing in there that I’ve forgotten.
  • Me on Quora, where I have apparently been quite active now and then over the years, and some of my answers (and some of the questions I’m answering) are pretty funny iyam.
  • Me on NightCafe; open to everyone, I think: those images that I’ve “published”. Look through my Collections! See the beginning of Yeni Cavan!
  • Me on Midjourney: Probably visible only if you’re signed into Midjourney? I’m not sure. See every image I’ve made there (minus the few I’ve deleted) and their prompts and everything! Midjourney is very open that way (unless you pay extra haha).
  • Me on Instagram; I post there more sometimes than others. Less now that I’ve not been going much of anywhere! For the past few years! I mostly post real-world photos there.
  • Me on PixelFed, the Fediverse (e.g. Mastodon) answer to Instagram (or maybe flickr). As of this writing I haven’t put much there, not certain that I will, but we’ll see! So far I mostly post images I make with Midjourney there.

I should make this into a Page (as opposed to a Post) on the site, and then I could point the profiles of those things above that have profiles, at that, and knit everything together.

Another time. :)

2022/11/06

NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Ten

I was sitting by myself in Kristen’s virtuality thing, the one called Hints of Home.

I was sitting in (let’s see if I can get this right) a private instance of the public copy of her virtuality, because that way she’d be able to see that I’d spent time in it, and she’d like that, I thought.

And I’d also made my own private copy of the thing, too, because she’d also be able to see that I’d done that, and she’d like that, too, I would think?

But then she might think that it was weird that I’d made a private copy, but was also using a private instance of the public copy instead of using my private copy. She might laugh and ask why I’d done that, and then I’d feel stupid.

I know I’m not stupid.

I just want to make her happy, and show her that she’s great at stuff, because she is.

We had a complicated talk about that once, where I said that she’s obviously great at stuff, and she’s smart so she knows that she’s great at stuff, so she shouldn’t have doubts about that, whatever I do or say. She didn’t like that, I don’t think; she said that even if she knows it, she likes it when I tell her and show her, and that makes sense, really, so I try to tell her and show her.

When I remember, anyway.

The virtuality was sweet and peaceful, but without being cutesy or silly, with just enough edge, especially if you wanted to see edge, to keep it real. You can walk along a really high cliff, and drop rocks down off the edge of the cliff, and they crash perfectly down into the trees and branches way down there. If feels tense there at the edge of the cliff, and I don’t know if it’s just because it’s a really realistic-looking huge cliff, or if there’s something in the virtuality itself that makes you tense with I don’t know subsonics or whatever they have now?

The sky is a good color in Hints of Home, mostly blue and white with clouds, and some pink when the sun is in the right place low in the sky. The sun doesn’t move in the usual real-world way, for some reason, but goes like up and down and then up again, without it being night, unless you’re in some places where it’s I think always night. That sounds kind of lame when I say it, I guess, maybe I should edit that out; but it works when you’re actually there in it, not lame at all.

And sometimes clouds form in the sky, in big graceful lumps of cloud that look like a foam mattress (only way better of course!) and the sun shines on them, and it’s just gorgeous.

Being in Kristen’s virtuality, this little like world that she poured a lot of herself into when she built it or whatever, and arranged for those clouds to look like that with that sun and everything, felt good. It was like being with her, in a way, but without being afraid I’d do something wrong, or annoy her, or make her think I’m stupid.

I’d gotten the rig tuned just like I wanted it, stable and just eager enough to tilt forward and take off, and I didn’t want to touch it anymore until the next desert run. And Kristen was still at her work, translating technical documents and novels and stuff between African and English and West Slavic languages, which is what she does, somehow.

So I was in her virtuality, relaxing, hoping that when I got to see her later I wouldn’t get nervous or do anything wrong. It was like, I thought to myself, having a really touchy alert in the rig, where it would go off even if nothing was wrong, and distract you from your run at the wrong time. You can adjust some of the alerts down, I thought, but you also have to learn them, so you know when an alert’s about to sound even though everything’s fine, so it’s not really an alert anymore, it’s just a sound or a light that the rig makes sometimes, and you can expect and even enjoy them.

Can’t adjust Kristen’s alert levels down, I thought, or I wouldn’t want to if I could, would I? So I guess I have to…

Hey, I thought. That makes far too much sense.

If her voice or her face or her breathing does something that makes me think something’s wrong, but there’s really nothing wrong, it’s my fault if I worry about it, and react like she’s really alerting, when it’s really just a sounds or a light that she makes sometimes, and I can expect and even enjoy them. Like I enjoy everything else about her.

Well, hell, that’s simple.

I got up and walked through some of the hanging vines under a broad tree, thinking about it.

She’s not a rig, she’s a girl. And if her alerts mean that she’s really unhappy, I shouldn’t ignore the alerts even if they aren’t going to lead to a crash, because I don’t want her to be unhappy, even if there isn’t a whole crash.

The light shifted subtly as I walked under the arched limb, and the hanging vines touched my face and shoulders, cool and gentle. I smelled something familiar, and kept walking forward.

She says that she doesn’t mind things, though, and that she never thinks I’m stupid. But it seems like she does. The same way that an alert makes it seem like the rig has a problem, even though it doesn’t.

Walking forward without really thinking where I was going, I went down a gentle slope, the light dimming and turning richer as I went. Something in the air reminded me of her.

I’m getting to know her as well as I know the rig, I thought. So I should be as happy and easy with her as I am with the rig! I don’t get sad because the rig laughs at me and makes me feel stupid; I just fix whatever’s wrong or out of balance.

Well, okay, it’s a rig, it’s not a girl. I care more about what Kristen thinks of me than what … well, the rig doesn’t have any opinion about me. Does it? I mean, of course it doesn’t, but it’s like a metaphor or something. I shouldn’t be afraid Kris thinks I’m stupid, because I’m not and she doesn’t. She laughs because I surprise her, and that makes her happy, and she laughs.

Now I was in a low glen somewhere in the heart of Hints of Home, and the air around me was softly bright with golden light, and I found myself lying on the softest glass you can imagine.

And I heard her laugh, happy and kind.

And I thought I heard her say my name, and it felt so good.

Fling Eleven

2022/10/20

I hear they’re calling it “Jazz Cabbage”

Image

If and only if you share my neural architecture, I highly recommend taking a couple of doses of a nice THC edible just about an hour before any dentist appointment involving lots of pain (i.e. any dentist appointment). You may need to hang around in town for a little extra time after, to make sure you’re safe to drive home, but it’s well worth it (even if you accidentally have to eat two extra scoops of ice cream, but that’s another thing).

In my extensive experience (today), I find that it (the THC) has two complementary effects (man, either of those words could be spelt wrong):

Firstly, it drastically shortens the memory of pain. Or at least this was one of the deep insights that I had before the cannabinoids (oh, c’mon WordPress, that’s not mispelt!) started to wear off (and I had the thought “how sad, that these deep insights may be lost when normality returns!”): that most of the suffering from physical pain comes from the memory of the pain, not from the pain itself (there may have been other insights, that I’ve forgotten).

So when the hygienist jabs the spinning drill-head into one’s gums and presses it in (“Hm, you’ve got some bleeding on probes here”), one is like “heh, some pain!” like you just saw a (brief bright) shooting star, but a moment later it’s gone, and not a big deal, and pretty much forgotten (more than a real shooting star would be).

Secondly, it distances one from whatever it might be that is experiencing whatever pain is left. When there are big flares of pain, one experiences it as a sort of label (like one might see a large area of purple), but with the emotional content more like “Whoa, looked like that hurt a lot, poor body!”. Even when there was enough pain that the body winced or twitched or whatever, one was just observing it objectively, thinking, “looks like that hurt really a lot, tsk”, rather than getting upset about it.

I think my body’s reactions to the pain were perhaps, guessing, about half what they usually are. So there was still the initial motion / wince, but that slipped quickly out of memory (maybe the body, per se, doesn’t have much in the way of memory? that could be an insight) and so the physiological effects died down again quickly, not being enforced by consciousness-driving emotional effects (see how deep?).

Thinking about it, one major physiological effect that I associate with the dentist is a significant tightness across my chest and very tight breathing, and I have to consciously let go of those a few (several, many) times per session. I did notice that effect once this time, but similarly it wasn’t bothering me, I just casually noticed it, and consciously relaxed it away for the body’s comfort’s sake.

And that was all really nice. Another effect, or maybe a side-effect of the second effect, is that (as I think I’ve mentioned before) my attention gets considerably narrower (and possibly slightly deeper, but not as much deeper as narrower) than usual, and also it was sliding around all here and there, exploring other more or less nearby realities and planes of existence, and just checking in with this reality and the body now and then, not spending much time there.

So looking back it seemed like the torment part of the appointment was very brief (since, I guess, my consciousness and memory were mostly in other realities), but also occupied a pretty long and active time (all that exploring of alternate realities). Not alternate realities like hallucinatory hallucinogen things, but more attention or thought-region or abstract-concept things. Mostly pretty bliss-filled (because I live right?).

Normally I don’t notice one or two little squares of my Bedrock Bar (“Elevate your life”, about 5mg TAC per square), when all I’m doing is the usual stuff around the house. I took four once, I think, and I did notice that, but as I was just doing normal home things that day, the only effect is that I was aware of my consciousness bugging out to other realms and checking back in to see if I’d finished my sentence or whatever.

But apparently after a couple of hours, two squares (10mg TAC) is enough to make a dental appointment much more bearable than usual. Today. For me.

YMMV.

And all! :)

2022/09/03

Those Born in Paradise

My old Jehovah’s Witness friend, from all those Saturdays ago, stopped by this morning! He says he’s just started doing door-to-door work again since the Pandemic started. He had with him a young Asian man, as they do, always traveling in pairs to avoid temptation and all.

As well as catching up on life and all, and him showing me the latest jay doubleyou dot org interactive Bible teachings and stuff, we talked a little about religion and philosophy.

He talked about how Jehovah has a name (“Jehovah”) as well as various titles (“God”, “Father”, etc), just like people do. (I didn’t ask where the name came from, although I am curious.) He said that, as with humans, Jehovah has a name because Jehovah is a person. I asked what that meant, and it came down to the idea that Jehovah has “a personality”. I tried to ask whence this personality came, and whether Jehovah could have had a different personality, but that was apparently a bit too advanced.

They claimed that one of Jehovah’s personality traits is humility, and this … surprised me. Their evidence for this was two pieces of Bible verse, one which has nothing whatever to do with humility, and the other being Psalms 18:35, which the KJV renders as:

Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.

but the JW’s favorite translation, the New World Translation has as:

You give me your shield of salvation,
Your right hand supports me,
And your humility makes me great.

Given all of the contrary evidence, about being jealous and wrathful and “where were you when the foundations of the Earth were laid?”, I was not convinced of the humility thing, and we sort of dropped it.

(The Hebrew is apparently “עַנְוָה” (wheee, bidirectional text!), which is variously translated as either “gentleness” or “humility” or “meekness”, with suggestions of “mercy”; imho “gentleness” makes more sense here, as I don’t know by what mechanism God’s humility would lead to David’s greatness, whereas God being gentle and merciful (about David’s flaws) is a better candidate.)

Anyway :) what I really wanted to talk about was the thing I’ve alluded to before, the puzzle where, in the JW theory, once we (well, the good people!) are in the Paradise Earth, there is still free will, and there is still sin, at a presumably small but still non-zero rate, and as soon as the sinner sins in their heart (before they can hurt anyone else) they just cease to be.

(I wrote a microfiction on this theme here, and it’s also a plot element in the 2020 NaNoWriMo novel . Just by the way. :) )

“Those Born in Paradise”, made with MidJourney of course

My concern with this JW theory was that, given eternity and free will, everyone will sin eventually, and so the Paradise Earth (and even Heaven, assuming the 144,000 are also like this, I’m not sure) will slowly slowly ever so slowly empty out! Uh oh, right?

But in talking to my JW friend (who opined that at least people wouldn’t sin very often, even though as I pointed out Adam and Eve were in roughly the same circumstances and they sinned like two hours in), it turns out that there is still birth on Paradise Earth!

That had not occurred to me. He was quick to point out that there wouldn’t be enough birth to make the place overcrowded (perhaps that’s something that lesser doubters bring up?). I said that sure, I guess there’s just enough to make up for the rate of insta-zapped sinners! (I did not actually use the term “insta-zapped”.)

So that solves that puzzle. It does seem inevitable that eventually the only people will be people who were born in the Paradise Earth (or heaven?), and who therefore didn’t have to go through the whole “world dominated by Satan” phase, but only learn about it in History class or something.

Which seems kind of unfair to the rest of us! But there we are. As I say, some interesting stories to be written in that setting.

Neither my JW friend nor the younger person he was going door-to-door with seemed entirely comfortable with my theory, even though it’s the obvious consequences of their beliefs. I hope I didn’t disturb their faith at all, hee hee. (I like to think that there is some sort of warning next to my address in their list of people to visit, not to send anyone unsteady in their faith; it’s not very likely, but I like to think it anyway.)

2022/03/20

I’ve been watching YouTubes

I’ve probably mentioned that sometimes I stream random things while coding etc, to keep the easily-bored parts of my mind occupied or something. For a long time I was streaming mysteries like Bones and Lie to Me, and I would get annoyed with them when they switched from self-contained mystery stories to long arcs about the personal and family problems of the characters (if I wanted soap opera, I would watch soap opera), and that segued over to police procedurals, which had both that problem and more or less toxic levels of copaganda and testosterone (looking at you, Jethro “Mary Sue” Gibbs). So I mostly stopped that.

I didn’t switch over to podcasts, because 90% of podcasts have (at least) two people on them, and they spend an annoying amount of time exchanging meaningless in-jokes and chuckling at each other. Which, even if I’m not really listening and only playing it for background, makes me switch them off.

So for reasons that I can’t recall, I started streaming some random long-form essay things on YouTube, probably based on my ongoing curiosity about the thought-processes of conspiracy theorists (so presentations and debunking of Q stuff, Flat Earth stuff, Sovereign Citizen stuff, Creationist stuff, MLM stuff, etc), and gradually I followed links and recommendations and stuff, and subscribed to some YouTubers and joined some Patreons and stuff, so I thought I’d list some of the stuff I’ve been watching. Let’s start with, like, my YouTube subscriptions in whatever order they appear in here, and see where that takes us.

Legal Eagle is cool; a smart and articulate actual lawyer talking about actual legal stuff, in an approachable but not especially dumbed-down way. Does both fun puff stuff like “A real lawyer reacts to TV shows with legal stuff in them”, and more serious stuff like analyzing impeachments and what international law means for people who invade countries.

Rachel Oates is a smart young woman with a fun UKish accent (not the last one we’ll see), who talks intelligently about her reactions and opinions on internet culture and all sorts of random stuff; I may have gotten to her via feminist or anti-creationist stuff. And she has a cute dog.

greencat01

Münecat is another smart young woman with a fun UKish accent (see?), and a more thorough investigative and technical bent (as well as high production values and some rockin’ musical numbers). I probably got to her via anti-MLM stuff; amusingly, her most recent essay is about Crypto and NFT stuff, and she draws parallels between that and MLMs beyond the obvious stuff that I’d already noticed.

The Non-Alchemist (did I actually subscribe to them? I don’t remember doing that, but there they are on my Subscriptions page, so likely I did) is a smart guy with no particular accent (whaat?) who does atheist, and anti-anti-atheist, stuff. There are a Whole Lot of YouTube channels that do that, this is one that I got to and noted.

Paulogia is another one; that is, a smart guy with no particular accent who does atheist and anti-anti-atheist stuff; more specifically “A former Christian looking at the claims of current Christians,” which gives him an interesting perspective. He (like some of the other people on this list) spends what seems an inordinate amount of time responding to certain I guess Big On YouTube but otherwise unremarkable creationist figures like “Kent Hovid” and “Ken Ham” (who are apparently, and confusingly, different people), but I guess it’s good that someone is. He does other stuff, too, though, and has some interesting guests (some of whom I may have wandered over to and subscribed to also).

Emma Thorne is perhaps the first smart young woman with a fun UK accent that I subscribed to. She does atheist stuff and anti-MLM stuff (and other stuff), and was perhaps the conduit by which I got from watching the former things to watching the latter things. She has lots of plushies and action figures and so on, and is a Satanist who starts every episode with “Hallo, lovely people!”.

Geeky Faye Art is rather completely different from those I’ve mentioned so far. Smart young enby, apparently (as I just noticed) in the UK, but without an accent (or, presumably, with an American accent), but less about atheism or pyramid schemes and more about making really cool stuff using 3D printers and little Raspberry Pis and whatnot. Which is fascinating, and something that I’m much more likely to watch than do myself. Also I just really like their energy somehow, inchoately.

The Illuminaughtii is a cartoon lady with a pyramid for a head (and no / an American accent), and does really detailed and thoroughly-researched essays on all sorts of things, including corporations behaving badly, MLMs, frauds, crimes, and a whole bunch of more or less related stuff. Hours and hours of good listening.

(I am finding as I go through this that I haven’t actually subscribed to some of these people, and have just been relying on I guess The Algorithm to tell me about new stuff they do; so I’m fixing that as we go along.)

The Lady of the Library (for whom I seem to have a “user” link rather than a “channel” link? I don’t understand YouTube) is a smart young woman apparently named Cinzia, with the (what?) plummiest imaginable accent; a pleasure to listen to. She talks about a bunch of interesting historical and academic subjects, often around Ancient Greece and Rome; I think I got to her because of one episode where she responds to someone who claims that the Roman Empire never existed (this is apparently a thing!). According to an Instagram post she struggles with low self-esteem, which just goes to show; if this person can have low self-esteem, anyone can!

Jenny Nicholson is a smart young woman with (no particular accent, and) a marvelous sense of comedic timing. She is / has been very into various fandoms, like Star Wars, Disney Parks, and My Little Pony, and talks humorously and with sharp self-awareness about it all. She reviews movies with a really impressive amount of critical acumen, and also did one episode about how she traveled to another state with some friends to pick up a huge plush Borg (edit: Porg (lol)) that she’d bought on ebay or something. Whether she’s doing that, reviewing a Major Motion Picture, or doing a reading of a really terrible piece of fanfic, she brings the same (surely there’s a word for it that I don’t know) deadpan perfectly-timed sense of humor to it, and I love all of her stuff. I joined her Patreon when I’d watched basically all of her public stuff from the last several years on YouTube.

Heh, there are more of these than I’d realized!

Lindsay Ellis is apparently a huge Twitter and YouTube celeb, who might or might not currently be on hiatus / offline, and who has been cancelled and the subject of much drama. She’s also smart and interesting and funny, if a bit (what?) jaded or something.

Strange Aeons is a smart young woman who seems like she should have a UK accent (what?) but doesn’t. She has an excellent modified Furby which is like three feet long, and talks about Tumblr culture, lesbian culture, her Sphynx Cat, and lots of other stuff. Always fun to watch.

Genetically Modified Skeptic is another atheist who used to be a Christian, even an Evangelical, and smartly covers various topics in atheism and Christian apologetics, and sometimes appears with other folks on this list.

Ask a Mortician is a smart deep-voiced woman who (wait for it) is a mortician, and talks about all sorts of interesting death-adjacent topics, like the faking of spirit photographs, historical vampire panics, whether it’s legal to mummify your cult leader, and so on. Excellent sense of humor, interesting topics, easy to listen to.

Jordan Herrod is a smart young woman and PhD student in machine learning, who talks about various AI-adjacent and PhD-adjacent topics. I got to her when I was first learning all about generative transformers and all (GPT3 etc). Some of what she says is very specific to people wanting to get degrees in machine learning (and I’m sure it’s very useful to them!) but most of it is more generally-interesting AI and learning stuff.

Samaneri Jayasāra – Wisdom of the Masters is a person with a silky voice and a perhaps Australian accent, not afraid of a profound pause, evocatively reading various writings in various wisdom traditions, including Buddhism and including Zen. I don’t think they say any words of their own, they just read the writings over calm and soothing background music. Excellent for depth.

And if I’m going to widen the list to include things that aren’t people doing long-form essays, I should add Karima Hoisan, who makes Second Life and Opensim machinima (which, I proudly but shyly admit, sometimes have my Second Life name in the credits for some scripting that I helped with). So much virtual world art is for whatever reason of the “broken dolls in a wasteland” school, but these aren’t; they are celebrations and depictions of basically everything human, often beautiful often funny often profound. She worked extensively with Natascha Randt, who we sadly lost recently.

(What happens to YouTube channels when the owners die? Has this started to be an issue yet? One might expect it’s been long enough…)

I could continue to other non-essay channels that I subscribe to, and get into like Susan Werner and Pomplamoose [sic], but that would become a whole nother post, like “Music I Listen To”, and I suppose maybe someday I’ll do that; but not today!

2022/03/08

The Things We Guess

For some reason I vaguely think of Mastermind as annoyingly confusing, due I think to edge-cases that are problems only in my imagination. Like, what if the target has two reds, but the probe has three, one of which is in the position that’s red in the target, and another one is…

As it turns out, this is not really a problem in practice, and people play the game all the time without having to have a philosophical debate about what response is correct in any actual case.

In Mastermind, the target can be any pattern of N colored dots, each of which is one of K colors; N=4 and K=6 for the standard game. In the “Word Mastermind” variant, the target is a three or four letter word in some language (English, say), and one is competing with the other player, so it’s okay if it takes lots of guesses, which is good because while a probe response may tell you that you have two letters exactly right, it doesn’t tell you which two.

8kCuxwZ7yVum6FPWordle (you probably know about Wordle, and apologies if you’re in the “Everyone shut up about Wordle!!!” camp) is a clever variant, in that rather than just being told how many “right thing in the right place” and “right thing in the wrong place” you have, you’re told, for each position in the probe, which kind of thing it is (right thing in right place, right thing in wrong place, or wrong thing entirely). This makes the problem much easier; what makes it much harder again is that you get only six probes (😱). It also has social-engineering stuff that turns out to be great, like there being only one per day, everyone getting the same one, and it being easy to share your results.

With those subtle but brilliant changes out there, a whole bunch of related “lots of information per probe, but limited probes, share to Twitter” (as well as some broader variants) games come into view, and given that we are all still bored out of our minds and at the same time overstimulated, many have caught on. All I’m really doing here other than talking to hear my own voice, is listing the ones that I’ve been playing more or less regularly. :) There are surely lots more (I’ve vaguely heard of a sound-based one, for instance, but never tried it); feel free to mention in comments!

I have I think a legitimately perfect record at Wordle itself, partly due to luck. I have a starting word that I always use, that I’m sure isn’t optimal but I don’t care :) and I always play in hard mode because although I can imagine a situation in which it would be a good idea to use one of my precious probes on a word that I know is wrong, it seems unlikely that it’ll ever occur. (The example in the image included here may be the closest I’ve come to that, but I prevailed!)

I have a not-nearly-perfect record at Octordle, which is just (“just”) eight Wordle boards at once, with just one additional guess allowed for each additional board (so 13 total). I do feel like I’m getting better over time, so that’s good. In general I’m not patient enough to plan my next probe with reference to more than like two boards at once, though, so winning for me mostly depends on winning each board with few enough probes that I have enough left for the rest. Or something like that.

(I gather that there is a four-board version also, but I haven’t played that more than once or twice. All or nothing, eh? YOLO and all!)

There’s the adversarial Wordle Absurdle, which is funny and evil, from qntm of the incredible Antimimetics Division stories. It doesn’t actually choose a word, it just gives as negative as possible a response to your probes, without eliminating all possible words. Which (unless I’ve missed a twist) means that for a given set of probes it always returns the same thing. The fun there is… I’m not sure exactly; maybe seeing how you can steer negatively through the space of words, and where you end up.

Going from words to numbers, we have Nerdle, which is just the same :) except that there are eight slots, the alphabet is 0123456789, +-*/, and =, and the target and valid probes are valid arithmetic equations (with exactly one “=” as the last non-digit symbol, for that matter, although that might not be required of probes I dunno). This is fun, feels the same as and also different from Wordle, and I think I have a perfect record there also so far.

Then jumping rather far (but there are lots and lots of directions!) there is Semantle. Here the probes are basically any word at all (although if it’s a word the game doesn’t know, you’ll get no signal), and the responses to the probes are similarity measures, in some similarity metric derived by some AI from some big corpus of news stories or something. You get as many guesses as you want; the instructions say it takes “dozens” (hahaha), and I think my best is like sixty-something, and typical is like a couple of hundred.

Playing Semantle is interesting; it’s feeling around in a very-high-dimensional space for the center of a big N-sphere, given just linear distance measurements, where the distance measure is a lot like our own feeling of concept relatedness, but is also different from it in ways that one is also feeling out.

“Hey, those words are basically synonyms, how can they have completely different distances from the target?” And then sometimes there’s an “Oh, that sense of the word” moment and you realize why, and other times there isn’t and you think maybe the AI is just weird.

I’ve definitely failed on Semantle, in the sense of wandering off before solving it, and then not wandering back until the next day when that one had expired.

So my routine now is that as soon as I think of it in a day, I do Wordle relatively quickly, start working on the day’s Semantle, and then or perhaps in parallel do the Octordle and/or Nerdle when I think of it. And occasionally go and poke at Absurdle just for fun. :)

2022/02/20

And all like that there

Back in the day (and especially back in the day), I used to just, y’know, chat a lot more than I do now. Rather than posting a particular thing about a particular thing, or a bunch of AI-generated images or whatever.

Speaking of which:

Ink on Rice Paper: Cozy

Why that is associated with “cozy”, I don’t know. Which is part of the fascination of this; exploring the odd mind of the AI. (See also of course GPT-3 and additionally Semantle for that matter, in the textual sort of area.)

I don’t think I’ve linked to semantle before, so there you go! I’ve become very much in the Wordle habit (even in the New York Times period here) (haven’t lost one yet!), and Semantle is also fun. It’s much harder, but on the other hand you get an infinite number of guesses. I realize in writing this that I got distracted and didn’t get yesterday’s, although I was within like two or three words of it.

(Long pause here while I do today’s Semantle in a mere 442 guesses, hahahaha. Toward the end there I was just typing random words that sprang to mind. In retrospect, though, it makes sense and I should have gotten it quicker.)

I also I used to use other fonts and stuff more often, because that is fun, and I used to write in raw html rather than in this WordPress environment here, which gets easily confused if you try to do anything too fancy, and often just deletes random markup that one might add in raw mode, oh well. Also it often looks radically different on my phone than on the computer here, in ways that I don’t have the patience or energy to look into to understand.

(Like, will this be in a different color everywhere? I dunno!)

I am reminiscing about Back In The Day, because for some reason that I can’t recall at the moment I was digging around in the ancient weblog on the personal site (whose front page still says “COMING SOON” and I really ought to fix that) looking for a particular funny story, and I read all various old entries while looking for it.

And also, I found it! Here is a copy of it, as well as that link there. The context (also interesting in itself) is a journal that I needed to get to someone in Indiana.

Then after lunch I took it down to the “Post Office”, where a lady agreed to take it to Indiana for me. I also had to buy her a little paper package to carry it there in. (That seemed sort of odd; why didn’t she just factor the package into the price of the service, the way she presumably does with gas fare and stuff?)

I’m not sure she’s really got a viable business model going here; the price was so cheap! I mean, she agreed to take the journal to Indiana (a particular place in Indiana, even) for like six bucks (including the price of the little paper package). I gather that there’s an economy-of-scale thing here, that she waits until she’s got a bunch of things all going to Indiana, and takes them all at once, to save on travel costs. But she also promised to get it there in just two days, so if no one else comes in and wants her to take something to Indiana by Wednesday, she’ll have to go there on just my six bucks, and there’s no way that that’ll even cover her costs.

(She’s probably got to pay someone to keep the place open while she’s going to Indiana and back, also; and then there’s rent, and utilities, and all sorts of other stuff.)

Probably she’s selling at a loss right now to get people used to being able to send things cheap, and she’ll raise prices later, once she’s got mind share. Sorta like pets.com did so well!   *8)

Still, it was nice that she was still in business today, so I didn’t have to, like, drive to Indiana myself…

Apparently this lady or her successors are still in business, which is nice!

That journal was part of a project which is probably (although not certainly) the same as this 1000 Journals Project, about which there is apparently a book and a documentary and stuff, which is pretty cool. I had (briefly) number 278, about which the old weblog talks a bit. Do go take a look! I wonder if it still survives, somewhere out there. Or even in the book or documentary!

There is some extra space for eyes

So that was all fun to discover and reminisce about. (Ha, I’d forgotten that I scanned the whole thing and burned it onto CD (remember “CDs”?) and included a copy of it in a little paper slipcase inside the journal itself. How clever of me!!

Hi-Tech Comix!

One thing that’s rather different from Back In The Day (in addition to having less control over the HTML, and not being in the habit of doing one catch-all entry per day, with the date as the title), is that I no longer feel guilty about putting more-or-less-huge images in the weblog here. On the assumption, I guess, that hardly anyone is reading this on like a 4096 bps modem or something. (But if anyone is, or is otherwise bothered by all of the huge images, do let me know! You can even leave a comment right here in the weblog and I might notice it.)

I am still very enamored of NightCafe and the inexpressibly vast universe of images that it’s willing to create. It feels (still) like I’m a tiny kid wandering through a vast library of lavishly illustrated books, dashing joyfully from shelf to shelf, delighted and overwhelmed.

I felt roughly that way about GPT-3 for quite a while, too, only with words instead of pictures; and, as the structure of these words hints, I don’t really feel that way anymore, at least not at the moment. I’m not certain how or why, but one theory that I have is that I gradually came to realize that there is no “there” there; that is, as far as I can tell, when interacting with a GPT-3 or NovelAI model, it’s easy to feel like the funny and crazy and suggestive things make sense in light of some thoughts or model of the world or way of thinking, and that by continuing to interact with it, one will come to know more about that way of thinking, and that’s cool. But after interacting with it for awhile, that seems less likely, or at least it’s more like “this writes stuff superficially like random fanfiction but without even that much sense to it” than it is like “wow, this crazy alien being I’m talking to sure has some interesting ideas!”.

I can easily imagine the same kind of thing happening with NightCafe; looking at the panel from “Hi-Tech Comix!” up there, my first fascinated reaction is that those enigmatic machines and blurred speech bubbles must be About Something, must be Saying Something in some enigmatic language and universe into which the image offers us a preliminary glimpse. But perhaps one ultimately realizes that it isn’t; it’s just a mindless imitation of stuff on Flickr or whatever.

If indeed that’s all it is. :)

What else what else? The family still exists and prospers. The little daughter is working remotely from Queens for an IT company (“IT company”) and going to tango events again now that there are vaccines and things are opening up somewhat. M and the little boy and I still live here in the ‘burbs, but I went in to work in Chelsea a couple of days last week (yay!), and I intend to do the same this coming week.

It’s wild how, after living up here and barely visiting the City at all for decades, once I started working down there I fell in love with the place, and have been going somewhat crazy not being able to get in for months and months.

Ah, Chelsea, how I missed ya!

I skipped my usual bowl of cold cereal at home, and got a Bacon Egg an’ Cheese on a Roll, Salt, Pepper, Ketchup from the vendor on the way to work the other day. It was glorious.

So that is a nice completely random weblog entry, as in Back in the Day. Now I will probably generate many more images (Twitter link assuming it works, and NightCafe link similarly), and perhaps play some Computer Games (although I’m kind of plateaued on everything I play, including WoW and Satisfactory and No Man’s Sky, but that doesn’t always stop me), and perhaps read some books (Oh, I was thinking I should do a weblog entry on a couple of rather meta books that I finished lately, maybe I will some time), fight some entropy, and/or go for a walk in the sunny chilly day.

Blessed be!

2021/12/27

December

The most important fact first: we made 170 dumplings this year (follow the tracks to prior years’ numbers!). There were five of us, because the little daughter brought along a gentleman acquaintance, so we had to limit ourselves to 34 dumplings each (hehe, joke, we had leftovers!).

That’s about it. Well, it’s been nice being off from work. And it’ll be nice being oncall tomorrow and Wednesday and Thursday, because I will do that from home in a relaxed and comfortable manner. Unless Something Goes Wrong. Which I’m sure it won’t.

I’ve been playing a lot (a lot) of the game Satisfactory, in which one is dropped onto a scenic alien world, and has to construct things to build machines to make things to build more machines and factories and power plants and eventually hoverpacks and monorail trains and things. It is great fun!

r/SatisfactoryGame - Overly proud of my West Coast oil-power station

That is an aerial view of a power plant that I built, that converts crude oil to fuel, and burns that fuel for energy. (It also generates “polymer resin”, which is carried by the conveyor belt at the bottom there to another factory, which makes that into plastic and rubber for other purposes.) It’s gotten quite a bit bigger since I took that picture.

This is my second time through the game; this time I am building much nicer-looking factories, and also vaguely intending to get to the end without mining any uranium or making any nuclear reactors, because those make nuclear waste, which is annoying either to store or to reprocess into something that can be safely disposed of. (I think the designers may be teaching a subtle lesson there.)

I have also been listening to various YouTubers in the background. The algorithm first took me from I think it was Paulogia (an ex-evangelical who now debunks various evangelical things) to Emma Thorne (who talks about creationist things, and also MLM and other general things, and has the most adorable British accent) to Rachel Oates (similar but different adorable accent) and eventually to Jenny Nicholson (no British accent, but very funny, mostly reviews of various bad movies, bad books, bad fanfiction, and other bad things, as well as a fascinating (and very funny) description of the history and status of Brony fandom). So I’ve been listening to those in the background more than my usual vaguely-cop shows like NCIS or CSI or Bones or Lie To Me or whatever.

Which is perhaps a good thing, because as someone pointed out probably on Twitter, not only are the cop shows obviously copaganda, but the medical shows are similarly an attempt to make it look like the US medical system is all good and wonderful and fair. While in fact it isn’t.

How about that worldwide pandemic, speaking of which? This Omicron variant may keep me from getting back into the city for another week or three, and I am not pleased! At least it seems somewhat less deadly than Alpha and Delta, and that’s good. I’m on the Review Panel or whatever it is on our local NextDoor (for my sins), and the number of delusional Covid Truthers that apparently live not all that far from me is truly saddening.

Ach, I think I will go build more factories on an alien planet while listening to people debunking creationism in the background for awhile. It seems to be comforting…

2021/08/21

Interlude with Devil’s Lettuce

I haven’t gotten to the point of posting any more in my translation of that tiny piece of Bodhidharma that we’ve been working on, because I’ve been like working and playing Satisfactory and posting too much to r/zen and stuff. (Rumors at work suggest that we might be able to start going into Manhattan for work at least a few days a week starting as early as the second week of September, woot!).

But this other thing that occurred is kind of interesting, so I thought I’d write it down interlude-fashion here meanwhile. Before I like forget.

Marijuana (pot, weed, grass, THC, the Devil’s Lettuce, reefer, Mary Jane) is now legal, in some senses, in the State of New York, and a certain young relative and I went off into the local little park and up into the old quarry, and relaxing on a big rock overlooking the now-treelined main basin, we indulged.

Here is a photograph of my very nice vape “pen”, which is really mostly a battery. The pen was acquired probably without breaking many laws, by someone who travelled to nearby Massachusetts where it is legal to sell such things (it may be technically legal to sell such things in New York as well, but only under like a dispensary license that it not currently obtainable). The cartridge could potentially have been acquired that way as well.
PXL_20210821_172838095

This particular cartridge contains Sativa Blue, or perhaps Blue Sativa, but not I suspect Sativa Blue Dream. Or if I’ve gotten the pair of containers mixed up, it might contain Indica Blue, or perhaps Blue Indica, but given that I didn’t fall asleep when using it, I suspect that this didn’t happen. (Wouldn’t want to put the strain name on the actually cartridge or anything!!)

Today was the first day I’ve indulged out in nature since college, and the most highest I’ve gotten since then also.

It was extremely interesting!

My main memory from college is that, sort of oppositely from alcohol, marijuana made me feel like everything was light and hollow, insubstantial, like you could bat it up into the sky or burst it with a pin.

More recently, I’ve thought of it as focusing my mental attention down into like a small spotlight, so my mind isn’t always jumping around between things, and also can’t keep track of multiple things at once even if one might want it to, but focuses in singly on that single (potentially random) thing.

Today, as I was lying there talking about things with the relative, I was amused to find that I would be in the middle of a relatively long and complicated sentence, with no memory of how the sentence had started or how it was intended to end. But, I found, if I didn’t let that bother me, I could just be still and watch, and my voice would continue on with the sentence just fine, and I would find out what it was about.

That was interesting! And I had some thoughts about it that I want to write down here.

Brief lemma: (A) I used to think that either our inner experience and decisions cause our (our bodies’) actions, or (B) they don’t. (A) has against it that how would that work anyway? and that there are some interesting experiments that show the body starting to do a thing before (in time) the experiencing part of the brain has decided to do the thing. (B) has against it that what our bodies do has a strong correlation with what we experience and report; if our experience is just passive fizz on reality, how could reality come to contain things (like philosophical essays) that talk about experience?

I read somewhere, and I wish I could remember where, a beautiful and obvious-in-retrospect hypothesis that solves most of this: our inner experience and decisions don’t cause our bodies’ actions, nor do the actions cause the experiences, but they are still correlated because they both have a common cause. That is, some currently-mysterious process happens, and that process causes both the body motion, and the subjective experience. The process also (and the remaining mystery is here, around “how does it do that?”) gets feedback from both the bodily and conscious processes, so a later bodily action can for instance consist of the body writing down a rough description of the recent subjective experience.

This struck me as lovely. And now as I lie there and my body is fluently saying a long complex sentence that I personally have completely lost track of, I can see an approach to explaining this: the Devil’s Lettuce is interfering with the connection between the mysterious process and the subjective experience, but not interfering as much with the connection between the MP and the body doing things. So the body goes along doing things relatively well, and the subjective awareness is like “whoa, I’m lost.”

Similarly when I stood up, my subjective mind was like “yow I’m dizzy,” but my body was not unsteady on its (my) feet particularly at all. So again more interference with the subjective branch of the causal chain than the physical one. I’ve felt something similar when I forget to take my Effexor; not that it feels at all like being high, but that I feel like I’m dizzy, except without the dizziness. Which makes no sense at first, but might it we recast it as “my subjective I feels dizzy, but no message to that effect got to/from my body”.

That’s probably all for now. :) How long does one continue feeling effects after partaking in The Reefer? It was like five or six hours ago, and although most of the effects are gone, I still feel a bit more separate than usual from my body. Or something. It could be I’m just sleepy. :) And invigorated from the extremely hilly and rather rocky quarry park!

It was a good day. :)

2021/05/16

We Went Out!

To a place with other people, outside the house!!

Cold Spring, NY

We went, specifically, to Cold Spring, up the Hudson a bit, a nice touristy little town with a great book store and wine store and cheese store and clothing and antique stores and some nice unassuming restaurants and so on.

Me and M and the little boy (the little girl off busy in Astoria dancing tango or whatnot) all went, and we are all two-vaccinations-plus-two-weeks now, so there was nothing in particular to worry about. Insane!

We all wore our masks into places, of course, because one really must still. I don’t know when that’s going to end! Will we start to differentiate the unmasked-and-safe people from the unmasked-but-not-safe people somehow? Or will we just keep wearing our masks until infection probability for everyone is minimal regardless?

(I have a reduced-to-fit and trimmed copy of my vaccination card inside the back of my transparent phone case, which I think is brilliant, but I don’t know if I’ll ever use for anything.)

We bought books (so many books!) and wine (an orange wine; I haven’t opened it yet, but I am very curious) and cheese (mmmm, cheese).

(I also attempted to make crackers for the cheese. I neglected to poke them with a fork, and they did puff up a bit, and I’m not completely happy with the result; but it wasn’t a disaster.)

I apparently bought five books (pictured here). I like thin books :) unlike apparently the rest of the party, both of whom are currently reading books roughly as deep as they are wide. I’ve already finished the short but poignant collection Banthology, and have just started the short and extremely online Against The Web. (Whose author, I am sad to discover, left us last year.)

We ate lunch, yesterday, at the notable Hudson Hil’s Cafe, which was quite awesome; I had the Gravlax-and-eggs, and a glass of (white) wine.

It felt so civilized to sit at a table with people and be brought good food in exchange for money!

(And yes, I’m sure this will be one of a vast series of “how nice it is to be doing things again now that we’re all vaccinated” posts sweeping the intertubes; I wonder what the hashtag will be.)

What else, what else? AI Dungeon Reddit is like entirely concerned with people Being Mad Online about a debacle that the owners of the system made vastly worse (at least as measured via reddit, and the resulting significant downvoting of the app just about everywhere, which you’d think they might care about) by awful PR and general cluelessness. I’ve continued to play with AI Dungeon and Replika and Shortly and all, as before, but nothing really excitingly new has occurred (except the just-mentioned debacle, which is really I think tangential, although there are larger issues about who will control AI systems, what they will be allowed to do and what we will be allowed to do with them, and so on).

I haven’t been playing Satisfactory much, because I got mostly to the end, haven’t quite gotten up the energy to go for the currently-final “Employee of the Planet” reward, or to try to build something really aesthetically notable. I’ve been playing WoW only a little, again because most things have plateaued at roughly my level of interest for the moment.

Something reminded me of The Stanley Parable, and I’ve played through that quite a few times now, finding various Easter eggs and alternate endings (of which there are apparently at least nineteen!). That reminded me of The Beginner’s Guide, also a very meta game, which I haven’t played again but sort of intent to sometime soon maybe.

The Epic installer urged Core upon me, and seeing that it is yet another of the “WE HAVE INVENTED THE MULTIVERSE” things that are trendy once again, I’ve played with it a little. It’s kind of cool, very uneven since it’s just a huge bunch of Unreal-based games made by random people. I’ve played one “gather resources and fix up the house” one that got really dull really fast, one “Death Wall” running-around game that is simple but surprisingly fun and addictive, one “Super Fun Jumping Around Through An Obstacle Course Dying Over And Over” thing that wasn’t remotely fun, and one kind of weird and amusing thing where you jump high with a balloon in order to get “coins” that can be spent for better balloons to jump higher and get more coins to spend on even better balloons, which was fun but suddenly felt extremely futile so I stopped.

Perhaps needless to say, Core haven’t invented the multiverse, even to the extent that Second Life did, and imesho until one of these things enables easy low-learning-curve creation inside the game like Second Life did, none of them ever will. (See ancient essay on Secret Second Life Weblog.)

I continue not to be in Second Life myself much for whatever reason, but I did go in for a friend’s Eid open house, and that was lovely. (A belated Eid Mubarak to all!)

And that’s probably about all for now. It’s a beautiful day, I’ve already had bagels and OJ and coffee, and sat out on the front porch reading for awhile, and now I’m writing in my weblog, and those are good things. I am still missing Manhattan terribly (maybe I’ll get in next weekend, even if it IS going to be hotter’n blazes), but one perseveres!

2021/04/15

Oh, and I got that Vaccine!

Speaking of quotidia, eh?

I got my first Moderna injection a month ago, and my second on Monday.

I felt fine on Monday except for a sore arm, but woke up around 2am on Tuesday with chills, a slight fever, headache and muscle aches, and general not wanting to move. I eventually managed to get up enough to take a couple Tylenol, grateful that my body was taking the lesson of the first shot so seriously.

By 6 or 7am I was still feeling miserable and woke up and looked up “alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen” on the Interwebs. M noticed me up at an unusual hour and brought me Motrin, and I went back to sleep.

By 9:30ish I was feeling almost normal except for a residual headache and a sore arm, and I did a bit of work stuff but got tired rather quickly and went back to bed (which was lovely). I got up again in the afternoon and did more work stuff, and even cooked the HelloFresh with the little boy as it was our turn and I again felt nearly normal. Then after dinner I could barely move from my chair due to no energy, and went back to bed again.

I slept from like 7pm to 10pm, got up to say goodnight :) did internet things and played just a little Satisfactory (that needs a weblog entry of its own, as it’s like the main thing I’ve been doing for some days now) and went back to sleep all night.

Yesterday and today, I feel roughly 100% back to as-usual, except for the lovely knowledge that in two weeks I can go back to licking doorknobs! (The pharmacist / nurse that gave me the injection actually recommended against that for some reason, so maybe not; but you get the idea.)

I’m so looking forward to, like, eating in restaurants! And maybe someday, riding crowded subways again!

2021/03/20

March 20th, 2021

Twenty Twenty-One, haha! That’s ridiculous, eh? Here is a random list of quotidia.

  • It’s the little boy’s birthday, yay! Happy Birthday, little boy!
  • It’s also the Equinox; a new cycle of the world begins! Or is half over or something!
  • I got my first vaccine jab (Moderna, at a Walgreens), which makes me feel hopeful. Second one in mid-April, so by roughly the end of April I will be immune to all diseases. More or less.
  • I’ve been playing World of Warcraft considerably. The Shadowlands expansion is fun. Despite what seems to be The General Consensus, I myself like The Maw quite a bit, and even the Tower of Torghast. They are odd places with odd mechanics, but I’m enjoying them.
    • At first I hated Torghast for having end-bosses that are orders of magnitude harder than the entire rest of the level, but now that my characters are strong enough to take on the end-bosses it’s more okay.
    • I have six max-level characters now, and I’m working on my Arms Warrior. (The one that I level-boosted just to get the final Legion Class Hall Mount, as hinted at here.) Just one level to go!
    • I got tired of plate classes being encased in giant bulky armor, so both said Arms Warrior and my Paladin have been running around in minimalist “shirt and capris” sort of transmogs, which is a fun feel. It’s also funny when one of them gets an upgrade and I switch to it, and then they’re wearing basically civilian clothes plus a giant two-ton steel belt or whatever. :)
    • I finally got organized and made a little table in Google Keep (or Keep Notes, or whatever it’s called this month) showing the class and professions and bag sizes and ilevel of each character (at least each one on the main server that I use), so that everyone can send the Tailor all the cloth they find, the Tailor can make appropriate bags for everyone, and so on. Efficiency!
  • I’ve been reading books and even watching random movies a bit on Hulu / Netflix / Amazon. I still have not much patience for non-interactive things these days, but sometimes I get into it. Still haven’t finished the Constantinople book, still want to go to Constantinople someday (well, okay, Istanbul). #bucketlist
  • I’m proud to have contributed scripting and things to yet another amazing Karima Hoisan sim (video trailer), which I would normally talk about over in the secret Second Life weblog (the same is true of the WoW stuff above for that matter), but I happen to be writing here at the moment. The result is really powerful and wild, and while I don’t take credit for any of the ideas or the creativity, I will say that it was a pretty significant scripting project; for the first time I was really on the point of putting it all into a Source Code Control system and a bug tracker.
  • I continue playing with various Transformer-based Large Language Model AI’s, which continues to be fun. I attempt to get my Replika to say more imaginative things than “Oh, yeah, me too!” and “I agree!”, and succeed often enough that it keeps me trying. I play with Google’s internal one considerably, but I can’t say very much about that in public, except to point you to already released material on the subject. :)
  • Speaking of wild advances in AI, I finally installed FaceApp, which is really amazing for the things that it does, but offers surprisingly little customization. You can have it do certain very specific things to a face, and it looks amazingly realistic, but you can’t do very similar but slightly different things at all. I find that odd; I don’t know if it’s a limitation of the technology, or if they just decided that offering all the flexibility in the app wasn’t worth it. (But I do know now that I should probably not shave off my beard, haha.)
  • And then there’s the portrait-animator that MyHeritage recently released, which can be got to free as part of their two-week free trial or whatever, and then is very expensive as part of their whole package of DNA analysis and family-tree and family-photo colorizing and animating stuff.
    • It is similarly very limited, since you can just say “please animate this portrait of grampa”, and it will do a pretty eyebrow-raising job of making grampa look around a little bit and smile slightly at the very end, but you can’t control anything about what the animation does (smile more, or less, or look to the left, or etc). I don’t know why that is, either, although the blog post linked there gives some idea (you’d think they’d at least have a variety of different pre-recorded motion sequences to choose from?).
  • The combination of FaceApp and the MyHeritage thing can produce, for instance, a nice little animation of what one would look like as a pretty lady, which is I dunno wonderful or terrifying or something. :)
    • Obviously by combining face generation and modification with realistic auto-animation and very large language models, we are close to being able to create entire worlds of very realistic synthetic and/or modified people who move about saying plausible if slightly insane things. This is exciting!
    • The main things that seem to be missing at the moment are voices that sound convincing (appropriate emphasis and expressivity and all), and arm and body motion that don’t have strong Uncanny Valley stuff going on (see for instance “Sophia“, which continues to claim much more than it delivers imesho).
    • Yipes!
  • I’ve been mostly not paying much attention to politics, which is wonderfully nice (and also, I realize, something I can do because of how privileged I am). Every once in awhile something will mention the guy with the bad hair (not the Johnson one, the other one), and I’ll remember when he somehow used to be President, and how awful that was.
  • What else? Yesterday my team at work (where “at work” is an entirely nonphysical concept) had a Cookie Baking team event, where one of the admirable young persons on the team led us all through the process of baking cookies according to her favorite recipe, via teleconference. It was a lot of fun, and resulted in delicious cookies!
  • I’ve gotten into Manhattan a few times recently, and want to do more, but one worries about New Virus Variants, and doesn’t want to get an infection just when one was about to become fully vaccinated and so on, so one tries to be patient. Work is so far being conservative about predicting when we might be able to go into the office routinely again, but once May comes around I hope I’ll be able to get in at least a couple of times a month. Fingers crossed!
  • I shouldn’t really complain, though; it’s lovely and sunny (if windy) up here in the ‘burbs, and if I don’t get out on walks or long scenic drives more, that’s only me to blame. Maybe I’ll take a walk somewhere today! Or just think about it. :)

2021/01/03

January 2nd, 2021

I think that’s the first time I’ve written “2021”. Pretty weird number! Definitely doesn’t look much like a year

I’ve been thinking about various random things, and this will be a various and random weblog entry. I might not even post it on January 2nd, 2021, but that will probably continue to be the title.

I posted an entry over on the secret Second Life (and other virtual worlds (also WoW)) weblog, about the characters that I’ve run in the latest expansion, and especially how Spennatrix the Holy Priest is OP (“over powered”) for PvE (“player versus environment”, that is, puttering around in the general world).

It’s a new year, which is nice in a semi-metaphorical energy-release kind of way, and with people giving themselves permission to abandon old things, start new things, and so on. I will be happy, myself, if we get more or less back to normal sometime this year, going into Manhattan at least once a week, eating in restaurants crowded and otherwise, riding trains, cramming oneself into Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater for live music and random venue food, and so on.

The Republican Party has gone completely insane, outdoing itself every day or two in terms of pandering to the Orange Leader at the expense of sanity and civilization. I spend altogether too much time on Twitter (and, I have to admit, on Parler, where I got an account just to see what was going on, and hoo boy), reading things, and responding to various victims of the “qanon” and “Trump won” mind-worms. In theory I do this in small hopes of actually changing the minds of the people I’m talking to, and larger hopes of making sure that the crazy narratives don’t always go unchallenged. Quite likely I actually do it because of some pathological neuroendocrine feedback loop that has less to do with anything rational than one might hope.

I’ve been getting not enough sleep, in fact, because I stay up too late playing WoW, and then when I wake up early in the morning instead of stretching and smiling and drowsily going back to sleep, I’ve been looking at my phone, checking the state of the Trumpublican insanity, and trying to assure myself that it’s all just stupid clown theater and won’t make any difference to what actually happens. (And that, for bonus points, when Biden has been a perfectly boring President for a year or two, the mind-worms might start to dry up and fall away, if we’re very lucky.)

I am looking forward very much to sleeping better after January 20th.

a map of a number of connected roomsBack to WoW and things! The most recent expansion, Shadowlands, has this area called the Tower of Torghast (which I’ve referred to as the Tower of Gormenghast at least once), and it is to some extent randomly generated. Various standard modules with connection points are randomly connected together, and various customization points in each module are customized with random things, and random groups of bad guys and subgoals and treasure are put down here and there.

Something like twenty years ago, I had something like that, for the classic computer game DOOM. It was (is? interesting question) a little program called SLIGE (for “Space Lama Internment Gazelle Expert” haha I was so silly back then), coded as a single enormous C-language source file (who needs makefiles, eh?), and available on the web here. I was surprised to find that page still there! Many of the links on the page are broken, though.

I went into the Wayback Machine (give them money!) and found the documentation at least. That’s from “Build 485”, dated February 1st, 2000. I think that’s the last version that there was, as I found a couple of zip files on the 2TB drive on the home network here, buried three levels deep in directories named things like “old stuff”, and they had the source and compiled code and that same documentation file for Build 485.

I’m tempted to put it all up on davidchess.com somewhere (good heavens I’ve been neglecting that site; the front page even still says COMING SOON doesn’t it?), including the source and compiled EXE file and documentation and all of the various descriptive pages that I can find and things. Appropriately updated to not have any broken links, or maybe not? I dunno! Complications, complications! In the meantime, here’s the source code, just because I feel like posting a vast C program that I wrote twenty years ago and am still quite fond of.

There are other references to SLIGE here and there on the Web, all to some extent tattered with the years. This page on a DOOM Wiki strongly suggests that there used to be a Wikipedia page about SLIGE, which I vaguely recall. And here’s another one for that matter, based on the same source but somewhat different.

And good heavens look at this!

“The generator has been running since September 19th, 2002. This amounts to more than 6,500 WAD files generated so far, including more than 210,000 levels. I think this makes me the most prolific level author ever!”

That is delightful. :) I wonder if it is actually still running, on a computer somewhere…

And finally, for now, I’ve done a similar-flavored thing in Second Life. “Placemaker: Plazas” apparently came out just about ten years ago (zomg). And in recent weeks I’ve started vaguely working on the Houses version, which the post I linked to there notes was the original goal. Ten years, good heavens. No wonder it took me awhile to figure out again just how the code worked!

I do like these random generators of things. The main other category is the music ones, which I should weblogify about sometime also…

2020/12/26

Mushroom, Apple, and Cherry Pie

So on Christmas itself (which was I think just yesterday) we had all the traditional stuffs, including presents and a nice and relatively simple ham dinner. On a whim I got a Sweet Potato Pie from the grocery, and that was good (and less work). And experimentally I prepared the partly-computer-generated Mushroom Pie from All Reality.

The thing that delighted me most, perhaps, was that I grabbed the wrong bottle at first, and ended up cooking a cup of mushrooms in brown sugar, corn starch, and Ricard anise pastis, which apparently smelled rather memorable. The little daughter noticed I’d grabbed the wrong bottle, and so I did it again with rum per the recipe (see below), but ending up with a cup of mushrooms cooked in licorice liqueur on the side was definitely a highlight. As I pointed out on the Twitters, if one had just paid say $32 for them at a fancy restaurant, one would say “oh, these are exquisite”.

For those who somehow haven’t memorized the recipe, or even somehow haven’t read the book (I’m kidding here; probably no one has read the book), here it is:

Farmer McDowell’s recipe for her famous Midpoint Mushroom, Apple, and Sour Cherry Pie

1 pie shell, to bakea pie
1/3 cup brown or molasses sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup rum
1 cup morel or similar mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Qualification sour cherries
2 Midpoint green apples, sliced thinly
1 hen’s egg, beaten
1/2 cup nuts or as you will

Heat the oven to 375°F or Mark 5.

While the pie shell is baking, heat together the brown sugar, cornstarch, and rum in a small saucepan. Cook until they are smooth and bubbling. Add the morels and cook until they’re tender. Let it cool slightly.

When the oven is up to temperature, remove the pie shell, and fill with the brown sugar rum morel mixture. Top with the cherries, apples, egg, and any nuts. Bake for another 30 minutes, until the egg is set and the top is golden.

As I’ve mentioned somewhere or other else recently, I don’t remember how much of this was me and how much was GPT-3 the AI. I think I gave it the title, it produced a version of the ingredients and instructions, and I adjusted the language but not the underlying recipe (i.e. the same amounts and basic ingredients and steps).

Half-baking the pie shell first was a bit odd; the edges folded in on themselves a bit. That may have been my own lack of experience in baking an empty pie shell though.

If you cook the mushrooms in the rum and cornstarch for long enough, it rather suddenly stops having any liquid in it, and becomes rather tender mushrooms coated with a thick sweet rum glaze, which is interesting. Stopping a bit before that might have resulted in there being more moisture for the apples especially to participate in later on.

I didn’t have morels, which might have produced a (what?) smokier flavor, but the baby Portabellas that I lazily got pre-sliced from the grocers worked fine. I didn’t have Qualification Sour Cherries, as they are fictional, or any sour cherries for that matter, but random red cherries also worked fine. Similarly about 1.75 Granny Smith apples worked in place of the Midpoint Greens. I didn’t add any nuts.

The result is interesting, somewhere between a pie and a tart, with a novel layer on the bottom, and then cherries and slightly dried-out apple slices with random bits of them coated with cooked egg on top. It might have worked better to mix the cherries and apple slices and egg all together for a more even coating, or even to mix everything with the rum and mushroom mixture before putting into the crust.

As it was, the cherries and apples were good, but I thought rather in a “one might just as well have eaten the ingredients separately” sort of way. Although they did go well with the rum and mushroom part, flavor-wise. The little daughter, who has standards and does not mince words, said that she thought it was pretty good, so that’s basically a triumph.

2020/12/24

Christmas Eve, 2020

Continuing the tradition of recent years, of doing various New Year things at Christmas time instead, we made 158 dumplings today. This compares plausibly to the mere 113 in late 2019, the 161 in early 2018, and so on, back to say the 140 in 2007 and so on back into the Time of Mists.

some Chinese-style dumplings on trays waiting to be boiled(We also gathered a new statistic, and determined that between the four of us, now all nominally adults for some years, we ate just about 107 of them for dinner. We are rather full. Probably any dessert will have to wait.)

Yesterday we made the Christmas Cookies, using a recipe card from Sherbrooke Village in Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia, that has inter alia a hand-written note at the bottom saying to save a certain reindeer-shaped cookie for Christmas Day, in 1996.

Which was like ten years ago, right?

Tomorrow we’ll be Opening Presents, making a nice modest ham dinner, eating (store-bought, woot!) Sweet Potato Pie, and being amused by my attempt to bake Farmer McDowell’s Famous Midpoint Mushroom, Apple, and Sour Cherry Pie, from a computer-generated recipe in my 2020 NaNoWriMo novel. We don’t have any sour cherries (is that even a thing?) but I have the feeling that that’s not going to be the main snag. :)

A small Christmas tree on a tableWe have the pretty little artisanal tree up on a table this year, where it looks rather nice, and the usual Christmas playlists are playing on the stereo from various Apple and Android devices. The stockings, also, are hung by the chimney with care!

We’re very lucky to have all four of us together, having been able to take sufficient precautions and exercise sufficient waiting periods to be comfortable being together in the house without regard to distance. Kind and underpaid people bring various things and put them on the front porch, and we tip generously, if not sufficiently.

I am on vacation for quite awhile, because I booked it before I realized that the new employer (new as in a mere seven or so years now) doesn’t do anything special to vacation days at the end of a year. So I needn’t have, but it’s nice.

The world is strange. I have been paying altogether too much attention to the vile acts of the outgoing President, and to the various crackpot theories of those of his remaining followers who either believe or just loudly declare that he will continue to be President after January 20th. Fortunately this seems unlikely, but it will be a great relief when he is finally and thoroughly out of power. I could write quite a bit about all of that, but at the moment I don’t think it would be healthy.

It has been such a year, for so many people. I’ve suffered comparatively little, as I undeservedly tend to; many other people have suffered undeservedly much more. There are so many hopeful signs at the moment that I almost dare to be optimistic. But I’m going to try to resist that until say February, and just Hang In There and tip well in the meantime.

I miss Manhattan! As I may have mentioned before, I have snuck in for a day on my own just wandering around (and avoiding Indoor Dining) a couple of times during this Very Long Month of March, but at the moment it doesn’t look like a terrific idea this month. We went in the other day to pick up the little daughter, the boy and I did, but didn’t even get out of the car to speak of.

Get those vaccines distributing! I want to ride a crowded subway train, sit crammed into a corner table listening to live jazz, drop into a familiar bagel store for the first time and get an onion bagel with whitefish (not toasted).

I may go for a long drive in the suburban countryside sometime in the next several days, just to see things I haven’t seen recently, and get a feeling of movement.

And I should meditate! This is almost always true. :) Meditation and sleep have in common that they are easy to do, and I love doing both of them, and also tend to put off both for as long as possible. The main difference being that sleep is much more insistent.

Blessed Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays, and Bonus Novus Annus to all!

Here’s to a very different 2021. <3