Archive for ‘woot’

2017/01/22

#womensmarchonnyc

I went to the Women’s March on NYC, and it was amazing!  Some stories and pictures and thoughts here.

(First off, I know there aren’t solely positive things related to the march; there’s the “where was all this enthusiasm on voting day?” thought, and the “where were all these people at the Black Lives Matter marches?” thought, and the “don’t be so smug about how peaceful it all was; it’s mostly because so many of the marchers were white!” thought, and those all have merit, but I don’t have anything deep to say about them, and I’m mostly going to talk just about my experience here, and not try to draw any Big Conclusions.  Overall I think it was great, to whatever extent there are problematic ties.)

Here are a bazillion photos (and some videos!) that I took, in a Google Photos Album thing that I hope that link lets you get to and all.

I drove to Croton-Harmon and took Metro North in, as I always do. (The little boy was at work, img_20170121_094108and M is not good with crowds, and the little daughter bizarrely lives in Manhattan now, so it was just me travelling.)

The station had various small groups of women and other people, wearing lots of pink and examining the train schedules and carrying signs. One woman was still knitting a Pussy Hat out of screaming pink yarn; I don’t know if she expected to get it done on the train ride or not!

Saturday morning trains into the City are usually pretty empty, but this one (the 9:45 express, I think it was) was about 10 minutes late, and when it did arrive it was already pretty much packed.  Most of the people were on the way to the March, and when a new pussy-hatted group passed by in the aisle, already-seated marchers would cheer.

I ended up riding in the vestibule between cars (which is always, non-ironically, fun), and even that was packed!

Here we areimg_20170121_104838 arriving at Grand Central; lots of us! Can’t see the entire crowdstream because of the awesome Pussy Bites Back sign, but hey, it’s an awesome sign.

Pussy in its various forms and meanings was definitely a Big Theme of the march.  Lots of cat images (and hats), quite a few uterus images, and a significant (though smaller) number of vagina images, pretty much all of which made me happy.  (Keeping in mind, at the same time, that not all people, or even all women, have cats, or uteruses, or vaginas.)

One of the chants (and I’ll say more about the chants, I’m sure) that I think I heard only once, was a nice simple call-and-response of “Pussy!” “Power!” “Pussy!” “Power!”, led by a woman standing on some piece of civic infrastructure by the side of the march; after the chant ended (with the usual loud Wooting), I heard the male person standing up there with her say “That was great!”.

I went out of Grand Central (see the album linked above for some photos from there; it wasn’t as packed because people were arriving and then as quickly streaming off toward various gathering places for the march, but the crowd was still impressive), and turned East on 42nd Street, intending to head for 46th and 2nd, where the DSA was supposed to be meeting up.

On the way I realized that with my “Resist.” tee shirt covered by my scarf and flannel overshirt and hoodie I wasn’t very visible as a marcher, and I wanted to be (should have planned farther ahead and commissioned my own ping pussy hat from M!).  And Lo and Behold there were enterprising NYC street vendors selling Hello Kitty ear muffs in bright pastel colors, so I got one. Admire my tiny-eyed revolutionary look!
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Laugh if you will :) but I got many compliments on these earmuffs throughout the day.

I made my way toward 46th and 2nd as the crowd gradually thickened, and only when I was very close did I realize that (a) it mattered a whole lot which of the four corners of that intersection they’d intended, and (b) I was not actually going to be able to find the DSA area, if any, as it was getting impossible to move.

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In fact it was pretty much almost impossible to move for over an hour, and no one knew quite what was going on, but it was still very convivial and positive. One older woman felt light-headed and sat down on the sidewalk, and we around her carefully made sure that she was not stepped on by the crowd, and that when she tried to get up but still felt bad, someone summoned a dayglo-vested march volunteer, who was able to push a path though the crowd to get her to somewhere more comfortable to sit.

Now and then a snake of people intent on moving in some particular direction or other for some reason would pass through near me, and sometimes I would move a few spaces by joining the tail-end of the train.  I had a vague notion of heading up toward 48th Street, where it might be less crowded, and looking for the Quakers who were supposedly meeting there, or even skirting the crowd and looking for the Buddhists on 39th, but it was becoming clear that that was unlikely to be feasible.

Also now and then someone would pull themselves up onto the little footing two or three feet off the ground offered by a nearby lamp-post, and announce that they couldn’t see anything in particular happening from up there, either.

In retrospect, I think what was going on was that people were speaking and stuff over at the rally area on I dunno maybe 47th between 1st and 2nd, but only a few thousand people could actually here them, and us over at the intersection on 2nd could hear only occasional cheering, which we always hoped was the march starting, but probably wasn’t.

Eventually I followed enough little trains of people to reach a clearer place (whew!) and breath a bit, and climb up onto a a wide place in a wall and get a better view of where I’d been.  Here is that intersection, from I think 47th Street between 2nd and 3rd (but closer to 2nd), looking at the 47th Street and 2nd Avenue intersection shortly before, or maybe shortly after, the marching proper began:

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There is a small marching band perhaps off the edge of the picture to the right, and the rally and speeches and stuff are happening out of sight in the distance center left.

While trapped in the waiting crowd I saw the only thing at all resembling a counter-protest that dayimg_20170121_141643.  You can’t really see it in this picture very well, and I’m too lazy to do any post-processing to make it easier :) but if you move your eye up the center of the three columns of windows on the brown building-face slightly to the left of center there, you’ll see a small bright dot which is an American flag draped out an apartment window, and if you enlarge the picture or squint hard, you may see on the upper part of the window a little blue sign with something white on it.

We theorized down in the crowd there that it might be a Trump sign.  The people in that apartment would stick their heads out occasionally, and the crowd below would all whoop.  Of course we also all whooped whenever anyone stuck their head out any other window and someone noticed, and any time we heard a vehicle honk somewhere, and any time we heard cheering coming from the rally area, so it was a low bar.  :) As counter-protests go, anyway, it was very mild and polite.  As far as we could tell from the ground anyway.

I strolled down 47th to 3rd Avenue, enjoying the ability to like swing my arms, and discovered that that part of 3rd Avenue was closed as well, I guess because people bored with waiting had been marching along it, and the NYPD was just trying to reopen it.  I found a little sandwich place that wasn’t jammed with hungry marchers, and got myself a sandwich and juice for lunch and a little coffee for after, and sat in a little park and ate.

Somewhere in there I’d picked up an abandoned NYCLU “Dissent is Patriotic” sign (typical of my to have a meta-sign about the protest itself rather than about specific things we were protesting!) and someone had offered me a rainbow-heart sticker which I’d stuck on, so here is my picnic.

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When I’d finished eating and strolled back toward the intersection, it looked like people were actually moving!  So I got myself into the crowd, and in probably less than another hour :) the various streams of people coming together had merged into one, and we were actually marching!  At a detectable pace!

There is a picture of me actually marching.  I don’t know who the img_20170121_144916young woman next to me, or pretty much anyone in any of these pictures, is, but we were all marching together, which was excellent.

We marched (in the sense of walking very slowly while carrying signs and now and then chanting and whooping) down 2nd Avenue, from 47th Street to 42nd street.  This took awhile!

There were lots of great signs, and great chants. There were some great little kids in a restaurant with big glass windows on the second floor of some building, who put up supportive signs facing out their window at us.

We chanted “Black Lives Matter”, and “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go”, and “Show me what Democracy looks like!” / “This is what Democracy looks like!” (my favorite call-and-response, I think, great rhythm to it), and this wonderful one where the women would do “My body, my choice!” and the men would respond “Her body, her choice!”, and the Soprano / Tenor sort of alternation was really moving.

(Late in the march the possibly-inebriated folks with the “Trump hates puppies” signs tried to get a “Trump hates puppies” chant going, but it didn’t really take.)

The turn onto 42nd was slow; I suspect there was another stream of people entering from East on 42nd or South on 2nd. But the view on 42nd Street was amazing.  I didn’t capture a great picture of it, but all of 42nd from 2nd to 5th was wall-to-wall marchers, and it was a Thing.

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That gives some idea: the bridge just visible in the distance center is the Park Avenue “viaduct” right at Grand Central, and the march stretches to it, and beyond into the vanishing distance to Fifth. Pretty amazing!

Here is the march passing under the bridge quite some time later. The bridge itself was lined with people cheering at the march, holding up signs and hanging banners in support, and so on.

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And then we continued, and continued, and continued. :)

Under the bridge, past Vanderbilt, across Madison, and to 5th Avenue, where we turned North toward the Fortress of Evil — ehrm, that is, Trump Tower.

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img_20170121_165525img_20170121_171544I was getting pretty tired by this time, and it turns out it’s harder to walk really slowly than to walk at an ordinary pace.

Interestingly, as we went up 5th, there were barricades between the marchers in the street and the onlookers and random other folks on the sidewalks (including the much-photographed “sync up our periods” lady above), and the sidewalks were comparatively uncrowded. The barricades paused at the intersections, and had openings here and there between intersections. (I don’t think this was true on 42nd street, where there were a few pointless-looking barricades just scattered here and there, and the march was pretty much wall-to-wall.)

So on 5th, if one got sufficiently tired of walking slowly in the gathering dusk, one could slip off of the street onto the sidewalk at a pause or break in the barricades, and walk along at a faster pace for a big (still carrying one’s sign, wearing one’s earmuffs, whooping, etc), and then slip back into the march a short-block later.

That was nice!

Somewhere in there, maybe 46th Street or so on the way up 5th Avenue, the police came in and held back the marchers a few feet ahead of me, and stretched blue tape across the street.  (Big black smiling cop sidestepped back and forth on the other side of the tape, making the point that while he couldn’t actually stop us if we insisted on continuing to walk, he would in a friendly way try to; or something.)

It turned out they were doing this because some people in cars wanted to cross the road!

Ha ha ha, can you imagine?

The blue tape let maybe a few dozen cards and trucks and buses go by, some of them taking pictures out the window, and we whooped at them. A marcher near me claimed that at least one was a taxi with at least one passenger in it, and we speculated how long they’d been sitting there trying to cross 5th, with the meter running. Silly autos!

After not very long at all really, they took the tape away again and we whooped and marched quickly up the several yards to where the rest of the march had advanced to in the interim.

And then at 54th Street there was a guy with a megaphone (video📹) thanking us for coming out and saying that this is what Democracy is all about, and also telling us that 5th Avenue was blocked off at 55th Street, and this was therefore the end of the march, and we were not going to get to Trump Tower tonight, so we should go away now, or if we really wanted to we could go up one more block and then go away.

He was wearing an EMS jacket and a hat with a logo, and there were some people with march volunteer vests by him.  When I stopped megaphoning I asked him who he was,  and he said he was just a regular guy with a megaphone, and I asked if he was EMS, and he said he was with some neighborhood ambulance (I think?) service, and just one of the volunteers tonight.

(I wouldn’t be surprised if NYPD hadn’t asked him, directly or indirectly, to be there doing that, so that they wouldn’t have to.)

Pretty much everybody wanted to continue, so we got up to 55th Street, where the stream was splitting east and west and people were grumbling somewhat and looking past the police barricades in the direction of the Tower.  The chant turned into a very rousing version of “Welcome to your first day, we won’t go away, welcome to your first day, we won’t go away” (more video📹).

However, we were nice, and didn’t make trouble for the police, and the march more or less ended there, at a row of march volunteers (directly in contact with the marchers) and a barricade, and a row of police (not so much directly in contact with the marchers), police cars, and another barricade, and so on.

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Here is a symbolic picture of a single Guardian of Order, making sure that ordinary citizens cannot get too close to the seat of power of the person they are protesting:

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(Of course said person was probably not around his NYC stronghold anyway, being busy off in Washington DC disgracing himself utterly.)

I went and stood by the outer barricade next to the rightmost volunteer for awhile, watching the people and taking pictures and chanting and whooping, vaguely speculating about how it would go if the crowd decided to go to Trump Tower after all, and helpfully helping open and close the opening in the barricade that the police were using to let authorized people in and out of the outer security layer.

Eventually I stopped doing that, and walked East a bit along 55th Street, looking at the amazing variety of signs that people had left leaning against the barricades and spread out on the street.  So much wit and passion and creativity! There is talk of someone making like a coffeetable book of photos of signs, proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood or something; I hope that comes to be. Here are just a few of mine; more in the album linked above.

Soooo many!

I wandered back to 5th Avenue itself, and the tail of the march had arrived and left, and there was a row of shiny NYPC motorcycles slowly coming up.  The police started clearing people from the intersection, and I slipped over to the West side of it, to see what was up over there. They moved barricades around some, amid a bit confusion about exactly what they were doing and who ought to be moved where and stuff. (I asked one NYPD if we were supposed to be like going somewhere else instead, and he just smiled and shrugged.)

Eventually they moved everyone out of 5th Avenue and reopened that and cars started flowing again, to much whooping (video📹). Then they urged everyone on 42nd near 5th to get onto the sidewalks, and started putting up new barricades stuff. Eventually half a dozen of them walked along 42nd toward 6th, side by side, each holding a barricade at waist level, to sort of push back anyone still in the street. It was more an expression of intent rather than an actual pushing, though, since there weren’t very many people in the street anyway, and it would have been trivial to just get into the sidewalk as they went by and then step into the street again (at least one person did, to no obvious effect).

A smallish number of people were still standing on the corner, chanting away, including one rather manic young white guy with a buzzcut who was jumping up and down and pumping his fist in a worrying manner, and a person next to him in a Guy Fawkes mask (the only mask I recall seeing in the march). But neither of them proved to be obviously agents provocateurs or Black Bloc folks, at least not while I was there.

So we chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!” for awhile (video📹, with me doing just the “No Trump!” part because hoarse by that time), and they moved barricades more so that we could stand in a little area on the edge of the street and walking people could walk on the sidewalk.  42nd Street got fully reopened at some point in there.

I asked another NYPD officer if things were now back to about how they usually were, or if this was still post-march stuff.

“We’ll have to see,” he said, roughly, “it’s just Day One!”

“Oh,” I said, “that’s true, but hasn’t the sidewalk been blocked off and stuff near Trump Tower for awhile now?”

“Yeah,” he said, “but nothing like this,” nodding generally toward the still-chanting people.

So that was interesting.

Eventually I decided that was sort of over, so I went out of the barricaded area and walked around. Nearby was the only property damage I saw all night:

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Not at all clear it happened during the March, though; them bus signs are always getting broken off by one thing and another.

Next I wandered over to 42nd and 6th or somewhere, and got a Ham and Cheese and Egg crepe and some water for dinner from a cart guy.

And that’s pretty much the end of the March story for this posting.

img_20170121_224658I texted the little daughter and we had some coffee and dessert, and eventually a sleepy me headed back home on ol’ Metro North.

It was a great time, and I’m glad that I went.

One march, even one day of marches enormous enough to really annoy Certain Thin-Skinned Narcissists, won’t solve our problems by any means (and boy do we have problems omg don’t get me started), but I am somewhat hopeful that it will give people a taste of activism, and a feeling of hope, and ideas about solidarity and involvement, and that as a result things will not be as bad as they would have been otherwise.

And for me personally, being in the City, being with literally hundreds of thousands of like-minded people in the City, expressing support for liberty, equality, justice, love, and all that sort of good thing, and expressing opposition to lies, oppression, sexism, racism, hatred, inequality, and like that, was a really, really good time.

 

 

2015/03/27

Gin and Juice: Summary

Good that old Wikipedia versions never die.

Summary

The song begins with a sound effect of a human urinating, followed by an interlude in which an unknown male is speaking, denouncing one of his associates for either committing maternal-sodomy in the immediate vicinity or for having bad breath, it remains unclear which. The unknown male requests some bubblegum, presumably to remedy the situation.

We are then introduced to the narrator with the nom de plume of Snoop Dogg as he discusses the exigencies of his life; his hometown of Long Beach, California, is very dramatic. He finds the will to create his unique musical style amidst all this drama, and does so daily. He then entreats the listener (affectionately called a “g”) to enjoy his tale in said musical style.

Snoop Dogg’s tale starts at 2 am in his domicile, where a party has been taking place and is able to continue late into the night due to the temporary absence of his mother. Women are copulating in his living room, presumably in a lesbian fashion, and intend to do so until 6 am, when they will depart. Snoop Dogg and his associates decide to join the sapphic women. Ever-prepared, they pull condoms out of their pockets before turning off the lights and shutting the doors behind them.

After making it clear that his regard for the females does not involve love, Snoop Dogg and his associates decide that the use of one ounce of marijuana would be a fitting commemoration of the casual polyamorous scenario. Rather than go into details of what is taking place behind closed doors, he tells the listeners (affectionately called “motherfuckas”) to reminisce of revelry in general, preferably while bouncing.

The said revelry consists of the chorus line and the subject of the song title: cruising down the street, smoking marijuana, and sipping on gin and an unnamed juice. The unnamed juice is likely of citrus origin, though the properties of gin are agreeable to all fruit juices.

It is possible that the previous scene, and the upcoming scenes, are projected memories of the narrators told in the present tense. Mr. Dogg then attempts a palindrome about his constant preoccupation with pecuniary matters.

In another memory, Snoop Dogg has procured a bottle of Seagrams brand gin and is intent on consuming it himself, but his associates have worked up a thirst as well. They present their empty cups for Mr. Dogg to fill, but have not offered any payment for the alcohol. Snoop Dogg is angry at the prospect of sharing his alcoholic beverage without reasonable compensation, as these requests happen all too often. He acknowledges their requests, but reminds them that his needs come first.

Snoop Dogg quickly diffuses the situation by reminding the listener that he is very good at cultivating music that captivates his listeners. He wants to know, “Who listens to the words that I speak?” This is most likely a rhetorical question. We do not learn if he ever does share the Seagrams.

Snoop Dogg leaves the party with his beverage to the middle of the street, presumably because his house party has grown beyond the bounds of his yard. He meets a young lady named Sadie who had previously formed a romantic attachment with one of his associates. He flirts with the young lady, but does not expect physical contact because the weather has remained a sultry 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As she initiates physical contact with his testicles, the heat becomes too much. Snoop tells Sadie to refrain from palpating his scrotum and informs her she should not make further contact with that part of him. He says “at ease”, likely to calm down Sadie, but also in an attempt to relax all involved. Snoop Dogg then runs off to engage in an act of mobbing with his associates (affectionately called the “Dog Pound”) in order to cool off and feel a breeze. He urges all to do the same.

We return to the chorus narration, where Snoop Dogg continues to consume marijuana and gin and juice while cruising in a vehicle. He is still concerned about his financial situation, again stated palindromically.

The narrator then recalls a memory that happened later in the same day, presumably at the house party. His friend, Dr. Dre, pays Snoop Dogg a visit, presenting him with several bottles of Tanqueray brand gin and a very well-endowed joint of marijuana. The marijuana is of a strength colloquially described as lethal, which he cleverly alludes to through a reference to the bubonic plague. The combination of drugs proves too intoxicating for Snoop Dogg, and he is forced to imbibe less vivaciously, but he refuses to stop altogether. Snoop Dre then introduces Snoop Dogg to some women who he has brought from a neighboring city in Los Angeles. Snoop Dogg makes his intent to bed (or cot) the women clear, but warns them beforehand that he does not intend to make them climax nor remain near them after copulation has occurred because he does not love them. Women whom he does not love are referred to as “hoes”, the etymological origin of which is unclear, but is in no way related to the garden tool.

The song ends with a repetition of the chorus one more time, where some spontaneous words are uttered after the title verse (a slang word phonetically spelled BEE-OTCH). Mr Dogg’s mental preoccupation with fiscal matters is restated multiple times, likely in attempt to finally make a palindrome, but never succeeding.

2014/08/25

Fifteen years!

Wow, you’d think something would have changed after a week away; flying cars, or aliens walking around Manhattan, or at least a new subway line or something, but NO, everything is pretty much just the same!

Weird.

Extremely attentive and/or precognitive readers will suspect rightly that we were away for a week because we were in Maine; the first time that happened was in 1999, and this is 2014, so it’s been fifteen years!

And since that first Maine trip was when I started writing a weblog, and this is in some sense the same weblog as that, this is the fifteenth anniversary of the weblog!

Woot!

Here is a picture of Maine:

Renewal

Isn’t that gorgeous? Along with M’s sister’s family, and their father and stepmother, we rented a house on top of Dodge Mountain, overlooking Rockland and the bay and points East, with a lovely deck, and chairs to sit in, and tables to put your book and your wineglass on, and beds to sleep in, and all.

It was great.

I did a lot of reading, as usual. That book there is “Karma and Rebirth” by Christmas (sic) Humphries. I wrote it up for GoodReads (hope that link works for not-me people).

(I will resist the obvious temptation to produce lots of weblog content by pasting in all various book reviews I have written instead of just linking to them!)

I read that because I happened across it in some used book store (perhaps Hello Hello Books?), shortly after watching Hemant Mehta’s rather offputting “Can Atheists be Buddhists“, and it seemed like a nice synchronicity.

The Mehta piece is offputting for a few reasons:

  • His conclusion is basically “no”, and I’m sort of both of those things, so yeah.
  • The reason his conclusion is basically “no” is that, he says, although Buddhists don’t believe in a deity, they do believe some stuff (specifically Karma and Rebirth) that Isn’t Scientific, and therefore atheists won’t believe it.
  • This implies that for Mehta “atheist” doesn’t just mean “doesn’t believe in God” for some value of “God”, it means “only believes stuff that is Scientific”, and that seems like just sloppy thinking or sloppy word-usage or something,
  • His conclusion that Karma and Rebirth are Not Scientific seems very offhand and not particularly well thought out; as for that matter is his assumption that all Buddhists believe in either or both of them in any form.

Some day I will have to write a post on Buddhism and Scientificness and Karma and Rebirth and all, and why atheists can in fact be Buddhists, and vice-versa, at least when they are me. Not today, though. :)

Another book, that I’m sure I bought in Hello Hello Books (which is a great bookstore, by the way), and then I read and enjoyed very much, is Doris Grumbach’s “The Pleasure of Their Company”, which I also wrote up for GoodReads. It was good.

I do love lying about in Maine, feeling the wind and reading books and thinking about things.

Also I went out on a boat! And held a lobster!

Here is a picture from on the boat, with the notable deck hand Dana holding the lobster in question:

Dana with the lobster

and here is the lobster, with parts of my hand holding it:

Lobster

and a little girl looking dubious in the background.

We did many other things in Maine! I took three of the four kids to the beach one day, but the sun was behind clouds and the sand was too wet and rocky and the waves too small and they got cold, so we didn’t stay very long.

Here are some rocks!

Rocks

They do look coldish.

We went into Rockland a couple of times (although sadly we were not in town for this

Internet Cats

which I bet would have been noteworthy), and into Camden a couple of times (here is a classy black-and-white shot of some water in Camden:

Water in Camden

just because we are posting lots of pictures; more and/or different ones can as usual be found on the Insta-Gram).

Reading back through some of the various Maine and post-Maine postings in the weblog over the years, I see lots of variety in terms of thoughtfulness, randomness, introspection, and so on. I did feel introspective, in a good way, and renewed, in a good way, by it all this year, but in writing about it I’m mostly just writing random things, I think. :)

Maybe largely because I didn’t feel like writing about it at all while I was there (too busy doing it?), and now am writing about it retrospectively, having been home for a couple of days and back to work one day, so somewhat back in the quotidian mindset. Or something?

Here is another picture :) this one of ol’ Red’s Eats (where we didn’t eat this year) as randomly enhanced in its usual drive-by way by Google Plus:

Red's Eats

Kinda neat, I thought.

What else? I read some other books, acquired some other books, sat zazen a bit, had some thoughts, drank some wine, ate some lobster and some blueberry pie, enjoyed some sun and wind.

And I’m not unhappy to be home. :)

About all one could ask for, really!

2014/08/04

Eventual thread convergence

Speaking of the really bad science in teevee shows like Numb3rs, and speaking a long time ago about that really annoying book that Stephen Wolfram wrote, we are extremely amused to read that:

Wolfram Research served as the mathematical consultant for the CBS television series Numb3rs, a show about the mathematical aspects of crime-solving.

Wahahaha.

No further comment required.

2014/01/25

Warm and Cold Places

Ooh, it’s snowing again!

So the other day (when was that?) when it was very cold, I decided to see a little more of the city, and I went up the stairs and walked on the surface (surface!) from Grand Central Station to Times Square (the route of the S train, basically).

And it was very cold!

In fact I had intended to walk all the way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal (on 8th Avenue, where one picks up the ACE line), but it was so cold that by the time I came across a subway entrance down into Time Square Station I plunged down eagerly.

Also I had forgotten my gloves, but was was okay because I just kept my hands in my coat pockets. Except when I had to take them out to use my phone as a scanner in order to interact with portals and such.

Because I am playing Ingress on my new Smart-o-Phone!

Ingress is a fun ARG (Augmented Reality Game) sort of game that makes you actually move about in the real world and be near certain locations and stuff when you push buttons on your phone, in order to deal with the XM Satellite Radio signals (or something) that are leaking into the world and something something portals and mind-control fields and stuff and also lots of videos that I have not watched.

Your phone, in the game, uses a network of orbital satellites, originally launched for the military, that enables it to tell where you are in the real world to within, in good conditions, like a few feet.

Oh wait, that part is in real life.

Weird.

So that is being cold and playing Ingress!

There are lots of other things I have been wanting to weblogify about, but I don’t necessarily remember them all, but I will not let that stop me.

Of course it would help if I could remember what I have already weblogified about, but that is easily done! One moment…

Ha, I see I wanted to weblogify about Ingress, and I have now done that. A little at least. Maybe I should mention that as a neophile I am in the Enlightened faction rather than the Resistance (of course we should cooperate with whatever force is sending mysterious energy into the world to boost mankind into the next phase of evolution; what could possibly go wrong?) (also it reminds me of SMAC, which is nostalgic), and I am currently level (um) five of eight (where each level requires twice as many Whatever Points to achieve than the one before, like old-fashioned Dungeons and Dragons, so eight is wayyyyy off).

Oh, and adventures! Yes yes, that is really the main thing I wanted to write about, because woot.

The other day (longer ago than the day that I did the walking on the surface thing, I think), there was this snowstorm during the day while I was at work, and also it was very cold, and it took me about two hours to make the usually-twenty-minutes trip from The Station to home.

This was because, while not all that deep, the snow was beautiful and fine and powdery and very cold, so driving on it was sort of like driving on lots of little hills and drifts made of teeny tiny ballbearings, which is a thing that ordinary two-wheel-drive cars are not all that good at.

(Here is an Instragram of the faithful car waiting for me in the parking lot, with tiny ballbearings all over it.)

At first it was pretty much fine, driving along the local highway, as long as I did not try to go too fast, and was careful to restrain the car’s natural desire to slide gradually off of the road and into the comfy ditch at the edge.

Then I had to turn off of the local highway onto the even more local highway, and as soon as I turned the wheel slightly the car got very enthusiastic about the whole turning thing, and I left the road several yards before the actual exit ramp, and excitingly went around the wrong side of the Exit sign and up a little bank and down the other side, trying to work the controls so that the car would not stop there in a disrecommended place, and was successful enough that the car and I slid right back onto the exit ramp, about halfway along, and fortunately no one was coming because we continued (if I am remembering right) to slide right through the red light and onto the even more local highway which was where we were trying to be.

So that worked out. :)

Then the even more local highway was fine until I got about even with The Mall, from which point on the road I could tell that the Big Hill leading up toward home was all covered with vehicles with flashing lights and things, so I turned (carefully) into the parking lot of The Mall since there wasn’t anything else obvious to do, and parked, and SMS’d M about how there would be a delay in getting home.

Also I went into the bank’s ATM place to get money out since i was short on cash anyway, and to recharge my phone which was short on electricity and they have a plug there.

(Here is an Instagram taken from inside the bank’s ATM place.)

I clomped about out in the snow a bit (there were very very few other cars or people around; I don’t know what all those other people on the train and parked in the station parking lot ended up doing; very mysterious), and walked over to the bottom of the Big Hill and found out from the fireperson there that the Hill was not closed due to the tiny ballbearings on the road, but rather due to a fire that had happened on a road just off the even more local highway, on the hill, and it would probably be awhile before it was open again.

And from my prior experience, trying to get up the hill in the car over the tiny ballbearings would probably not have gone well even with no emergency vehicles or fires or blinking lights involved.

So I got back in the car again and tried to go around the other way, but found I could not go up even the relatively small rise in the street leading back around the other way, so I stopped at a little (and surprisingly open) convenience store opposite that street, and bought hot coffee, and a muffin, and some of those irresistible soft chocolate chip cookies that come in boxes. And a banana.

Then since I had seen a plow-looking thing go by and there was a good run for getting up to speed by starting from the convenience store parking lot, I tried the street again, and got over the rise, and slid successfully down the other side and onto yet another local highway, and around various corners and through lights and things to within site of The Other Big Hill that was the last thing in the way of getting home.

The whole going-the-other-way thing had been problematic mostly because of this Other Big Hill, which is quite steep for trying to get up in the prevailing ballbearing conditions, but does have a nice long run before it for getting up to speed, so I did the obvious thing and sort of slid up the hill at a comparatively dizzying rate, and skewed around onto Our Street which is a bit before the top of the hill, and slid down Our Street and fishtailed slightly into the driveway and was home.

Woot!

And we had cookies (and a banana) to go with the delicious chili (or possibly chilli or chile) that M had waiting for me. (Here is an Instragram of that; yum!)

So that is those adventures. I do love the winter!

(Oh, and if you are in the neighborhood you should go to the Steampunk Coffeehouse! Because it is good!)

2013/10/26

So much…

So very, very much.

All my walking muscles ache in gratifying ways.

I feel like whole sections of my mind are waking up after long, long naps. Or maybe opening up for the first time.

I like the subway more every time I take it. When you see the same thing for the second, third, fourth time, you see more deeply into it. And seeing more deeply into things is good.

The subway, that’s a good segue into some sort of coherence for this posting. :)

NYCMy morning schedule is now: alarm goes off around 0700, I leave the house around 0720, deal with the parking machines around 0736, catch the 0740 very-express, or the 0745 or 0749 also-expresses, from Croton-Harmon to Grand Central, walk to the Shuttle Passage and take the S to Times Square (around 0830), walk (nice long aerobic walk) through the underground passageways from 42nd Street Times Square (1237NQS) to 42nd Street Port Authority (ACE), take the 8th Avenue subway down to 14th Street (the express stops at Penn Station on the way, the local stops at Penn Station and at 23rd Street), go up the stairs into the old Port Authority building, wave my badge at a reader-thing, go up the elevator to the 5th floor, get breakfast, and there I am, at 0900 or a bit before.

Whew!

And during all of that, so many people, faces, eyes, briefcases, shoes, scarves and dresses, ties, suits, and the subway musicians, steel drums, cellos, saxes, opera singers with tipjars, the tables of patient Jehovah’s Witnesses giving out their little books in eight languages, the loud man declaiming how urgent it is to come to Jesus, five-by-seven shiny paper rectangles left on subway seats about Jesus or an upcoming performance of Shakespeare, the song of rails, trains pushing air down the dark tunnels, the clack of heels, voices chanting over the speakers, “please keep clear of the closing doors”, the paper “Planned Service Changes” sign where someone has supplemented the tiny black type with a big crayon arrow pointing to the left and labeled “TO QUEENS” and someone else has written underneath it “thanks”.

Ehem, I was going to be coherent. But there is so much!

As previously noted I work at Google now.

It is extremely awesome.

The extent to which I can and can’t go into detail about things is interesting in itself. IBM’s big emphasis is on getting confidential information only to those who need it, inside or outside the company. Lots of information isn’t confidential, so everyone, inside and out, is free to have it, and as an internal person if I wanted to get for instance the source code to some random other project’s product, it would have been difficult just to figure out where it was and who to ask for access, let alone actually getting approval.

Google is much more Hard Shell and Creamy Center that way; anything that hasn’t been officially published is to be kept inside, but Googlers can get to an amazing amount of stuff. Just how amazing that amount of stuff is, and what it contains, I’m not sure if I can tell you.

I can reveal that Google has more than seven machines, located in more than three datacenters that are all over the place. I cannot speculate on rumors that we have a major datacenter in the back room of every Starbucks, or that we have a radical new way of cooling datacenters using Fair Trade coffee beans.

swagFor my own part, I can definitely reveal that I’m drinking a lot less coffee than I did a few weeks ago; apparently drinking from firehoses is a good substitute, in terms of staying awake.

I can also reveal that whereas it used to take me forty-five minutes to an hour to get out of the house (or, to be brutally honest, even to get all the way out of bed) on a weekday morning, it now takes twenty at the most.

Also, there really are secret rooms behind bookcases in the library, and a slide (I went down it yesterday; twice). And of course scooters (which I will have to try some day when I am feeling brave and well-balanced).

And additionally, swag! :)

I have switched from my snazzy Fossil messenger bag (a gift from M) which is too nice for daily subway abuse, to the pictured Google backpack, which is tougher, has less sentimental value, has just as many tons of pockets (perhaps a little harder to reach into ad hoc), and distributes the weight of an iPad and macbook and assorted stuffs more symmetrically for the back. I am wearing the pictured Google tee shirt even now :) and the propeller hat is still hanging there on the corner of one of my monitors.

“One of my monitors” hee hee.

I have been like a kid on Christmas all week. Giddiness!

So, summary: work is amazing, Google is awesome, I am energized as I haven’t been in probably years. And finally I have found time to write in my weblog about it!

More posts as the situation develops… :)

2013/10/17

Change of address

This has been up on the Facebook for a bit, but it fits nicely into the narrative here, so:

We've been eating grass!

Okay, I really ought to announce it myself, rather than just hijacking the little daughter’s status on the subject. :) As of Oct 21st, I will be retiring from IBM after 33 good years, and starting at Google in Chelsea for the next 33. Yep, it’s quite a commute, and I’m looking forward to it anyway. The place is packed with former Watsonites, and I expect it to be a Good Time. Also, they provide Lego!

I expect there will be more postings on this general subject going foward :) but right now here are a couple of exclusive pictures (well, on the Instagram, but not the Facebook) which are related.

The cake is not a lie!

Sorry about that!

Oops! Sorry about that, stockholders…

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2013/05/15

Empirical Evidence for the Axiom of Choice!

Banach-Tarski Duck

(original photo)

2013/01/09

The morning’s news

I went to The Gym this morning for the first time in ages, so I was exposed to and can report on the Morning News Programs.

The TV most directly in front of me, tuned to that peacock network, had a long in-depth story about how beautiful Miss Alabama 2012, who is also the girlfriend of some football player or something, is, and how some sports reporter thought she was beautiful; it featured extensive footage of her being beautiful and an exclusive interview with her about how beautiful she is.

This was followed by breaking YouTube footage of a fat guy falling down alot trying to do yoga.

To the left of that TV was one tuned to that Eye of Sauron network, with a hard-hitting report about how cute and cuddly giant pandas are.

And over to the right, beyond a few TVs with just people talking and car commercials, on a network whose totem I didn’t catch, was a supermodel explaining that one should not “sweat the number on the scale”, but should apply argan oil directly to the hair, face, and body.

(Presumably it’s also good, for this purpose, to be in a job where one can spend upwards of forty hours a week on making oneself look hawt.)

But that is just TV.

The real news is that, in the back of the Lego store, past all of the boxed Lego sets designed to let you build something that someone else thought of, there is a big wall of bins where you can make your own Lego set a la carte, in a little plastic tub!

bin

A mere US$7.99; a bargain at half the price! (The larger tub, not shown here, is like US$14.99 or something.)

Here are the parts I chose:

assortment

Yes, a bit vehicle-oriented, but sometimes one must choose.

And the first experimental result:

street

I have them at work now, for when my brain needs to flow in different channels for awhile… :)

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2012/09/27

It’s Hard To Overstate My Satisfaction

(Note: this is all geeky in-jokes. Don’t worry if you don’t get it; it just means you are not obsessed with weird old console games!)

So I have one of these on the trunk of my car; here is a rather bad picture:

When I was driving out of the lot at work the other day to go home, I noticed a piece of paper had been tucked under my windshield wiper, so I parked again and got out and looked at it.

Here it is:

Needless to say, that made my day. :) Thank you, anonymous colleague and fellow Portal fan!

It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.

2011/12/01

Thursday, December 1, 2011

So, well, let’s see.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I prefer the lattter.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yes! And there is this picture!

Please use straw hole

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

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

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

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

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

The world is so mysterious…

2011/10/17

Monday, October 17, 2011

I wear the chains I forged in life, mon!

Ha ha ha ha ha! We just came up with that in the office here. Maybe a little obscure, but it pleases me…

Secure yourself to heaven.
Hold on tight, the night has come.
Fasten up your earthly burdens,
You have just begun.
Indigo Girls

That pleases me also, because I have no idea what it means, but it sounds neat.

I like to be able to think of the world as a deep and complex place, with lots of secrets and interesting things I haven’t seen yet, where the lit-up parts that I understand and inhabit are a nice small-and-secure corner from which one could venture out.

Songs sung in unknown tongues…

Be kind to me or treat me mean
I’ll make the most of it
I’m an extraordinary machine

Heard that on the radio yesterday (yesterday?), and liked it. Seems to be an original Fiona Apple; my main mental impression of Fiona Apple is that she is too thin. Maybe I should listen to some of her music! I wonder who else has covered this ditty.

What Do They Want?

Here is a This Modern World on the subject. (Apologies for any Daily Kos popovers or anything.)

My sympathies are to a large degree with the Occupy Wall Street (and Things In General) protestors (protesters?). As are even some folks at Fox, which gives me a warm feeling. I think.

So what is economic justice, in this context? I can think of a few examples that one might work for. I’m not sure whether or not I favor them all / each of them in any particular sense.

  • Tax income from capital gains just like any other income. For: why favor rich people (who get lots of capital gains income), after all? Con: if we don’t favor rich people, they might take their ball and go home.
  • Let the Bush tax cuts expire like they were written to. Gets rid of most of the projected federal deficit with one blow.
  • Regulate the shadow banking system about like we regulate the normal banking system. ’cause now we know that otherwise they go crazy.
  • Bring back Glass-Steagall since on the whole it appears to have been a good idea after all.
  • Announce that the U. S. Government will no longer be bailing out failed financial institutions beyond what’s in the FDIC and so on. “Moral hazard” ain’t just a theory anymore, eh?
  • Stop lopsidedly favoring investment over savings in Federal economic policies. Savers are people, too.
  • Regulate corporations. I know, kind of general. But as the very interesting The Conservative Nanny State points out (free pdf available), being able to create this fictional construct to shield yourself from liabilities is a huge benefit; government has a perfect right to require a certain amount of good behavior in exchange.
  • Aggressively prosecute and convict (and get some of the billions back from) the people who ruined the world economy to enrich themselves. Seems like a no-brainer, but apparently not everyone is on board, even with prosecuting the most blatant and obvious parts of it, like fraudulent mortgage foreclosures.
  • Remove those administration officials with the most obvious conflicts of interest. The argument that only these people have the skills to clean up the mess is unconvincing; the only skills we know they have are to make the mess in the first place, and to enrich themselves and their friends and firms. Get rid of ’em.

Seems like a nice start. Hello, White House and Congress and all? You there?

Let’s see, what else we got?

Two postings on how the “SCADA” systems that control things like air traffic and the electrical grid are really not all that mega-secure after all, and in fact are probably not any more secure than one might expect. Which is a little worrying.

High-Performance Computing at the National Security Agency, not a book title one would necessarily have expected to find on the open Web. :)

The Best Thread in the History of the Internet; and I think they have a plausible case to make for the title.

Fleepgrid, a fun example of someone’s personal desktop virtual world that they’ve made available to everyone, just because why not?

I’ve been playing Glitch, which is kind of fun in a silly and amusing and relaxing way. I think I have like three invitations; tell me if you want one! I’m Orbst.

(Glitch has gotten some very positive press lately, which is notable. I have no idea how long I’ll keep playing in it; I think (sort of like WoW and utterly unlike Second Life) it will have alot to do with what the developers do to move the story that we’re all living in along in interesting ways.)

And I’ve been playing lots of Second Life, including a real clothing-acquiring spree in the last few days for some reason. (Evidence here and here and here and so on.) Perhaps decompressing after releasing my second major Serendipitous Exploration product in SL, which was great fun. (Sales are light so far, but I’m sure it will bring me worldwide fame and wealth soon!)

Otherwise, things are good in general. Missing Dad (and Mom for that matter) in wistful but nontraumatic ways, hoping that they are doing interesting things in whatever one does after one is done doing this. Loving the coming of Autumn, vaguely regretting that I can’t smell it (but not enough to go back to ENTs and talk about nose operations and stuff). Wondering about how one chooses an evaluation function (the answer being that ultimately one doesn’t, more or less inevitably, but then what?).

And writing in my weblog! Woot! :)

2011/10/07

Friday, October 7, 2011

I’m taking the day off at random; it is very nice! We don’t have Monday off, so it’s a mere three-day weekend, but still.

Hos, Boobies, an’ Orgasms

So we signed up for HBO for a month, mostly so we could watch this George Harrison Special that they had. The program on HBOHD right before it was “Making it in America”, which seems to be a satirical comedy about naked people having uncomfortable-looking sex. Then the program right after it was “Cathouse” something, a hard-hitting documentary about what it’s like to be an escort, including numerous scenes of nudity and/or sex. And then after that was “Katie Someone on Sex Toys”, which featured sex, as one might expect from the name, and also a blonde ditzy stark-naked narrator with large artificial breasts (as one might also expect from the name I suppose, since Katie Someone is apparently a relatively well-known porn star).

Surprisingly the George Harrison Special didn’t include any gratuitous nudity or sex, at least not that I noticed. But the other programs suggest a certain theme, or one might even say obsession.

Weird.

The Aren’t Like Us, You Know

So (maybe all subsections should start with “So”) I finished listening to that Learning Company course on consciousness, and it was indeed pretty basic. It was also disappointingly simplistic on the whole “what kinds of things have consciousness, and how could we possibly know?” question.

The professor says things like “to be conscious is to be the subject of sensation” as if it actually told us anything very interesting. He also talks about how impossible it would be for fish to become aware of, or know anything about, water, as though that was anything more than the flimsiest of metaphors (flimsy because it falls apart as soon as one asks whether humans could ever know anything about air).

And in general he has very definite, but apparently completely unsupported, opinions about what is or might be conscious. He is always talking about what he is “inclined” or “strongly inclined” to “say”; but I find myself rather definitely uninterested in what he is inclined to say: I want to know what is true.

He is for instance inclined to say that there is something that it is like to be an amoeba, but that there isn’t anything that it is like to be a “machine” (where “machine” is not further defined). My suspicion is that that inclination comes from a sort of unthinking “carbon compounds good, silicon compounds bad” meme with nothing very interesting behind it, or at least he gives us no reason to think otherwise.

The question of what things might be conscious is rather a different question from the question of how we might come to know that a thing is conscious. We come to know that other humans are conscious because we observe a strong correlation between our own actions and our own consciousness, and probably-justifiably conclude that people that take similar actions have similar consciousnesses. (One thing the professor gets right is pointing out that the claim that we each have only one datapoint, ourselves, on the subject is wrong; actually we each have a huge number of datapoints: all of our conscious actions.)

But it’s important to distinguish between things that we can come to know are conscious (other humans, probably other relatively high-level animals, possibly unicellular microorganisms although I would take some convincing), things that we can come to know aren’t conscious (not sure what if anything is in that set, although the professor seems to think that “machines” are in it), and things that we can’t come to know are conscious (or at least can’t come to know it in the same way), but still might be conscious for all we know.

Even if I bought the argument that an amoeba’s actions are more like mine than the actions of any machine could ever be (which I think is in fact utterly false), that would still not be any reason to think that no machine could ever be conscious. It would just be reason to think that I could not come to know that any machine was conscious by way of the behaves-like-me argument.

Conflating the truth of a thing with one’s ability to find out that truth is the height of arrogance, not to mention silly.

“Are there any apples in the box?”

“Nope.”

“How do you know?”

“The box is closed, and I can’t see inside. Must be empty.”

I don’t know if there’s something that it’s like to be an amoeba, or a tree, or a jackhammer, or Deep Blue. I think the whole question is deep and mysterious and fascinating. Pretending to answer it by just examining one’s pretheoretic inclinations to say things is completely unsatisfactory, and I’m disappointed in this professor for doing not much more than that.

One possible reaction to all this is to say oh, well, phht, it may be philosophically fun to speculate that maybe there’s something it’s like to be a tree, but really there isn’t, and it has no practical interest. I think it was Nagel or someone who pointed out that some extremely alien Martians might examine us and their more practical citizens might say the same thing about us, and they would be factually wrong, since in fact there is something that it is like to be one of us.

And I’d like to not be factually wrong, when feasible.

Blue What?

So I am really liking this wireless Bluetooth headset thing! It’s ummm this one. I bought it to work with the iPad, which it does very nicely, and it turns out that the Windows 7 laptop here also has Bluetooth, and also works nicely with it.

My only complaint is that when anything of interest happens (the signal momentarily dropping or reconnecting, one accidentally trying to turn the headset volume higher or lower than it goes, etc) it makes a LOUD BEEPING NOISE in one’s ear, which seems uncalled-for. Also switching it from the iPad to the laptop and back requires a bit more messing-around than I’d like, but maybe I just haven’t found the right buttons to push yet.

So anyway I can now listen to sounds being produced by either the iPad or the laptop without having to untangle wires, keep my head carefully within N inches of the device, or worry about having the things rudely ripped from my ears by passing cats or the corners of things.

It is very modern and shiny!

There was some other witty section title I was going to use

But I have forgotten it. :) I have also been playing Glitch, which is fun and silly, and some WoW, and always Second Life. And watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes on Netflix on the iPad! Which is also fun and silly. :)

2011/08/26

Storm a’comin’!

There is a huge hurricane more or less approaching, and it is very exciting!

We have gone around the outside of the house, grouping things into categories:

  • Things that there are alot of, and the storm will probably blow them around, but it doesn’t really matter (sand grains, leaves, sticks, squirrels, etc), which we leave where they are,
  • Things that there are only a few of, but that are hard to move and if the storm manages to blow them around we will have already fled the area (the house, the garage, large boulders, that wooden deck-thing in the back yard), which we also leave where they are,
  • And finally things in between, primarily lawn furniture and plant-pots and like that, all of which we have now stuffed precariously into the garage.

So having done that (and also M having gone to the local Warehouse Store and bought large quantities of various things, and me having dropped off my car at the shop for Regular Maintenance and asked the service lady to have it done tomorrow before the roads become impassable although I’m not sure she actually wrote that down), we are now safe from the storm, and the things on the news, like the evacuation of New York City and all, just add to the excitement.

Citizens residing in the vicinity of secret underground bio-weapon research labs should avoid contact with flood waters, which may contain genetically-engineered viruses capable of converting ordinary humans into flesh-eating zombies.

(If anyone fleeing Manhattan due to the zombie onslaught could post a quick Tweet to give us in the suburbs a little extra warning, it’d be great; thanks! We want to be prepared, like these people.)

(We note with alarm and delight that the CDC actually has anti-Zombie posters. Good to know the government is on its toes!)

If you observe black FEMA vans slowly cruising nearby streets with the lights off, spraying something into the air out of silent nozzles, and dragging people from their homes, you are experiencing stress-induced hallucinations; report to the nearest FEMA van for counseling.

(The adorable cat is also very excited, because there is a small fly in the house! This is at least as exciting to her as the prospect of a major hurricane, cats not being really big on mere prospects in general.)

Rabbi Yehuda Levin blames hurricane Irene on negative reaction of everyone on the East Coast to his blaming the recent earthquake on gay rights legislation.

(In other news, he is an enormous douchebag, to use the technical term.)

And although it isn’t directly hurricane-related, I’d like to hear what the Tea Party has to say about word that the same Republicans who think it’s critical to extend the Bush tax cuts for billionaires are opposed to extending tax cuts for working people. Where’s the rage and the quaint hand-made signs now, eh?

Sheesh.

(As a possible antidote to that thought, here are many pictures of nude persons; most, I’m afraid, female and in need of a few hamburgers, but what can one do, eh?)

This is just like th’ old days! Posting random things for no particular reason, and boldfacing various phrases!

Woot!

(We also have a sandbag on the front porch; I hear these are useful in floods and hurricanes and things. Although I think people generally end up using more than one.)

2011/08/15

Come November

One interesting difference here (although it’s a difference of culture or tradition and affordance, not a strictly-speaking necessary difference) is that posts will tend to be smaller, and with titles, rather than, as in the old log where they were perhaps longer, and titled only by date, so that you got “here’s what I’ve thought that I feel is worth recording today” rather than “here’s what I’m thinking right now, about this subject, or at least with this subject sitting there on top”.

(Another difference might be that wordpress might start putting ads onto the pages; if that gets annoying I will consider giving them money to stop doing it. Or moving back to the old site.)

(Also I’m not sure if these pages will validate, HTML/CSS-wise. But somehow I am not as concerned about that as I now and then was, or pretended to be, in the Old Days.)

Anyway! Come November I may be writing another novel. The question will be, what sort of novel this time?

Awhile back, I posted a list of the existing novels, and what each one was sort of subjectively like.

I feel like fiddling with the medium again, at the moment at least, rather than just writing a straightforward story. Not sure just why that is. :)

And of course it may change by November.

But at the moment the playing-with-the-medium that I’m thinking of is using the rather obscure variant of first-person limited in which you get just the narrator’s experiences of the external world, without internal monologue (or dialogue), explanations, or exposition.

I sat up in the bed. A woman in a white uniform brought me food, which I ate.

Another woman came in, and stood at the foot of the bed. She said things. I continued eating, looking at her, but said nothing.

The woman at the foot of the bed said more things, in a louder voice.

Eventually, I said things back.

Could be interesting. Fifty thousand words of interesting? Maybe… :)

2011/08/15

Woot!

So we are going to experiment with a WordPress-type weblog for at least a bit, to see if in fact we post more often and/or get other benefits which more than offset whatever costs (costs?) or disadvantages or downsides (downsides!) there turn out to be.

The original weblog will of course remain there in all of its glory until the heat death of the universe, or other similar event. (If this WordPress thing doesn’t work out, I might go back over there and weblogify over there again; or I might do something else; who knows!)

I will fiddle around with the (what’s the word?) template or whatever here until I like it enough, and then I will put up a post to the original weblog, pointing to this place here.

And then we will see!