Thursday, December 28, 2006

Alas, Poor Yorick!

"Shakespeare jokes for the easily confused."

A few months ago, I complained about how there are cyborgs already here: people who never put their portable electronic devices away. (I thought about linking to it, but decided against it, because it's embarrassing. Go find it yourself if you care that much; it's not all that impressive.) Why this annoys me, I'm not sure, but it does. Mostly on principle. The idea that humans ought not to spend all their time with machines, get some fresh air, that sort of thing. Not that I ever do that, of course, but it's a matter of principle. That's supposed to be hypocritical.

It's something I worry about. I still don't own a cell phone. I had one, which I lost, and I haven't gotten another one; partially out of apathy, partially out of worrying. I like technology, but I worry about it. I worry about spending too much time with it, on the computer, on the internet, and not enough on "important things." Things that will last.

I worry about mortality. I've been thinking, lately, about how finite time is. How it's always counts down. Quasi-existential nonsense, mostly. I hate making decisions, and it's partially because of the worrying about time. You can never really undo a decision. Even the decision not to make a decision. Every action is permanent.

So I worry that I'm losing time. Losing time to computers, video games, web surfing, television. I don't have that worry about reading, because that, I feel, is not just "recreation." It's also a means to an end. Writing well myself. I don't feel that way about movies (usually) because again, its a means to an end. Studying the craft of storytelling. (Which causes its own problems. I have a hard time just watching movies. I'm constantly analyzing the structure. Which has certain advantages, but it's also distracting.) I do feel that way about television--that it's useless, a waste of time. That's why I don't watch it. Except that I don't feel like Firefly is a waste of time, because its "good."

So where's the line? Is the distinction I make between "frivolity" and "seriousness" in media real, or is it me internalizing useless cultural value judgments? Is it useful? Do I really have to worry about how I spend every minute of my time, and how it's going to affect the world after I'm dead?

I think there's something wrong with me. I'm seventeen, and I'm worrying about my legacy.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Interpreting the Bible for Fun and Profit

So. I was hanging out on this cool website I found today, Creationism vs. Science. I love sites like this: tons of text, history, interesting philosophy. There's a lot of material there. The help on debating creationism is useful, the history of fundamentalism is enlightening, and the essay on how Hitler was not (contrary to popular belief) an atheist, but a Christian, is somehow amusing.

Better than all of those, though, is this gem: Morality Comes From Humans, Not God!

God had to learn morality from humans. A God cannot, by its very nature, (immortal, omnipotent, etc.) understand what humans think of as morality. Brilliant. I may have to do something with this.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Kansas Drug Tax

I swear, they actually call it a Drug Tax. You buy stamps. It's all anonymous. I have no idea how they enforce it, but apparently they expect that people care more about tax laws than they do about drug laws.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Geek SF

You may have seen, recently, Gene Neuroses 101 on Charlie's Diary. Interesting article, a lot of people have been linking to it. (The most interesting bit for me is towards the beginning, when it talks about the current state of horror fiction. How it's not really scary, and has morphed into this weird Romance meet Christian revival by way of vampire thing.) It talks about how modern American SF has recently started to suck, and the obsession with "alternate history" stories. (THE NAZIS WON! OMGWTF!)


There's another article on that site that's very interesting, also talks about "the decline of science fiction," but approaching it from the readership angle rather than the writership angle. It's sort of a response to an essay by Kristine Kathryn Rusch that defends Star Wars and its tropes, that I read when it was published in Asimov's. (Which you should read, by the way. It's an excellent magazine.) This time, the really interesting bit is about two thirds of the way down:

We've arrived in a different future, and central planning doesn't work. Things are fast, chaotic, cheap, and out of control. Ad hoc is the new plan. There's a new cultural strange attractor at work, sucking in the young, smart, deracinated mechanistically-minded readers who used to be the natural prey of the SF movement. It's geek culture.

There's more, but that's the basic gist. Read the article.

Now, the reason this is interesting is because I'm nominally a member of geek culture, as well as a reader of science fiction. (I say "nominally" for geek culture because I'm not really much of a techno-geek. I participate in geek culture through the roleplaying side of things, and by hanging out with techno-geeks.) So I don't think that geek culture and science fiction are naturally antagonistic to each other.

Particularly, I think that created worlds are attractive to the same kinds of people who are attracted to geek culture. It's one of the major features that I find interesting in sf. "Near-future" types of science fiction, where the focus on how various technologies will affect the world in the next few decades, are not as interesting to me as things set futher into the future, or seperate worlds all together. Partially because the near-future sf I've read has generally been either preachy, frankenstein-type warnings, or singularity nonsense.

I don't read enough science fiction, though. I read a lot of short stories, but I don't really know what's going on with novels. Seems to be time for a trip to the library.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Door-to-door Atheism

This is pretty awesome. This atheist guy (he's an Australian, naturally) gets fed up with Mormons coming around in the morning and trying to convert him, so he flies to Utah to return the favor. Predictably, they don't appreciate it.

There's a bit of wonkyness at just one point in the second half, when they're going door-to-door talking to people, when he says that "we follow the teachings of Charles Darwin." Generally speaking, that's not really true for atheists. We tend not to follow anyone's teachings, that's kind of the point. Charles Darwin was, however, crucial for the development of atheism as a movement and a belief system, because it basically says that God is not necessary to explain life as we know it. Minor quibble, really, but just a point I wanted to make.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Logic Death

Nifty article on why horror heroines are so stupid.

There's some game theory, some evolutionary biology, some cognitive psychology. It's all good stuff.

The most interesting, to me, is this bit about halfway through:

But for better or worse, the neocortex is dominated by its left hemisphere, which tends to be not only logical but gullible, rationalizing and self-deceiving. You know that voice inside your head that says everything is all right, there's nothing to worry about here, just ignore your gut feeling and get on with the task at hand? That's your brilliantly stupid left brain talking, and if you listen to it long enough, eventually it will kill you.
I don't think I've ever heard the left/right brain divide categorized this way, but it makes sense. "Logical" and "sensible" aren't necessarily the same thing. Asimov makes this point in several stories; "Reason," a short story where a robot gets religion (and demonstrates that logic can prove anything, if you start with the right postulates), and The Caves of Steel, a novel that concerns a detective who worries about his robot partner replacing him as they solve a murder together. The detective in question discovers while working with the robot that this is not likely to happen, and one of the reasons is the difference between "logical" and "rational." Asimovian robots are both perfectly logical and perfectly irrational, and it turns out that being rational counts for more in terms of being human.

(Those summaries are horrible bastardizations, especially the Caves one, so go read them both to find out what I'm actually talking about. "Reason" is found in the book I, Robot.)

I'd argue that this ability to clamp down on fear, even when it might be more useful to listen to that fear, is a direct result of the brain's "right sided" imaginative, intuitive abilities. Human's aren't limited to fearing real things; we're perfectly capable of inventing things to fear, so there needs to be some mechanism to determine between reasonable and unreasonable fears. Sometimes this mechanism goes a bit haywire, as most mechanisms do.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

4:30

Most people would take "cackling madly every time they finish a sentence" as a sign that they should go to bed.

And now that sentence is also inexplicably hilarious.

Party Ben, Mash Up Master

Three posts within three hours? Yeah, that's how you know there's something I'm supposed to be doing. But instead, I'm reading Twenty Sided! Whee . . .

Anyhow. There's this guy, Party Ben, and he does Mashups. Sticks songs together so they sound like one song. It's freakish, mind-bending goodness.

What you do: Go to the downloads page. Find yourself a song that you know really, really well. "Singing along without actually realizing it" well. The mashup should produce a weird kind of gear switch grinding sensation in your brain.

Or is that just the lack of sleep?

Freakish Quiz Results

Your results:
You are Superman

Spider-Man 65%
Hulk 65%
Robin 62%
Green Lantern 50%
Supergirl 45%
The Flash 35%
Iron Man 30%
Wonder Woman 25%
Catwoman 20%
Batman 10%

Superman? How am I like Superman? Heck, how am I like Spiderman? Hulk I can kind of understand. (Emotionally unstable? Check. Prone to doing unbelievably stupid things because I think everyone's out to get me? Check.) The other two, though . . .

I like how Batman is down all the way at the bottom of the list, though. And how Catwoman is listed as a superhero. I guess she is, these days, but how long is that going to last?

(And yes, the chart did look all nifty originally, but it was also displaying with funky spaces in between things, so I had to fix it. Bleah. It's waaaay to late for me to actually be thinking.)

Starship Crew Quiz




You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


81%

Moya (Farscape)


69%

SG-1 (Stargate)


69%

Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


69%

Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


63%

Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


56%

Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


56%

Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


56%

Enterprise D (Star Trek)


50%

Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


44%

Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


44%

FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


38%

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com


Actually a fairly neat quiz. The main result doesn't really surprise me (And of course it wasn't because I threw some of the questions. Allow fugitives on my ship if they were basically harmless and provided some useful services? That could mean anything.) but I am kind of amused by the next three, since I know nothing about any of them. I think I saw an episode of Farscape, once.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Guerilla Mail: Words Fail Me

Yeah, I know. Two posts in one short day! But this is just too awesome to wait. Even though I need to finish my laundry, finish my homework, take a shower, and get to sleep, it can all wait until I have informed the world of the 21 day revolution of this amazing website, Guerrilla Mail.

I was thinking, earlier today, about how I hate having to use my e-mail address to register for things. Sure, they say they won't use it for anything untoward, but if they were planning on selling it to 12-year-old Nigerian spam-lords, do you really think they'd tell you about it first? No, of course not. Setting up an auxilary e-mail wouldn't do much more good, because eventually it would just get so clogged up with spam that it would be useless. So the ideal situation would be to have a disposable e-mail address, that could be set up with a minimum of fuss, and then easily deleted once it had outlived its usefulness.

Enter Guerilla Mail.

Direct from the website:
Guerrilla Mail provides you with disposable e-mail addresses which expire after 15 minutes. You can read and reply to e-mails that are sent to the temporary e-mail address within the given time frame.
This is pure genius. Awesomeness on a level unheard of by man or Batman. Sheer intellectual perfection unheard of since the invention of sliced bread.

This, my friends, is zero-cool.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Amaze Your Friends! Confuse Your Enemies!

The Language Construction Kit is one of the coolest sites on the web. It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen, period. It's up there with mimes dancing to Christian rock in front of the Jefferson memorial.

It's a guide to creating your own language. It doesn't cover everything you need to know to make a "perfect" conlang, but it covers enough to make a decent one, especially if you don't know anything else about linguistics. It's also a great general starting point for learning about languages.

Best of all (to my mind) are the sections on making related languages, and using conlangs to enrich worldbuilding. It's very hard, if not impossible, to really get a feel for "what it's like to be there" if you don't at least have a rough idea of how the people in a culture talk.

All that is just icing, though. The best reason to get into conlanging, and to check out this website, is that there's no better way to confuse people than to start speaking your own language.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blogger Beta

Just updated. It now supports multi-person blogs, so I was finally able to transfer the account. That's why, suddenly, this thing looks completely different. Well, that and my uncontrollable urge to fiddle with things.

Current color scheme, and all future color schemes, will be subject to sudden, unpredictable, irrational, and entirely too frequent change. You have been warned!

I really like the way all white looks, but unfortunately making it all white would hide the links.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Life of a Reformed Jerk

This is weirdly meaningful.

I don't know why. This blog is mostly random thoughts, day to day details, and the occasional acerbic observation. The combination produces something somehow important.

Found it using the blogger tool bar, a couple of days ago. A most excellent feature, I must say.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Amazing Screw On Head



This is a pilot for a show called, "The Amazing Screw On Head." Originally published on the Sci Fi Channel website; they were doing a survey on it. It's based on a one shot comic of the same name by Mike Mignola. Between this, Hellboy, and his run on Batman, the man is clearly a genius.

Just watch it, that should answer all relevant plot, background, and punchline questions you may have that I can answer.

The awesome inherent in just the name of this show--when Abraham Lincoln says the words "The Amazing Screw On Head" aloud you know you've got something good--should be more than enough to convince every right thinking American that this must be made. I would actually watch TV for this.

Emperor Zombie is so Monkey Island . . .

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Awesome? Zero-Cool!

I've been thinking lately that I really need to expand my vocabulary. There's one specific word that has prompted this thought: Awesome. As awesome as it is, it's one word, and I use it all the time, to describe everything. So I've decided to find some synonyms to replace it with, at least occasionally.

Google wasn't particularly helpful, in this instance. Typing in "define:awesome" yielded but two entries, one of which had something to do with flying and one where "awesome" was used in the definition of "amazing." Google wasn't entirely useless, however. When I accidentally type "definition:awesome" instead of "define:awesome" it produced this result:

This more or less vindicated the entire enterprise. (Read the second line of the Tip carefully.)

With that chapter of my search concluded, I returned to an old favorite, Thesaurus.com. I've used this site many, many times, never for anything remotely useful. In this case, entering "awesome" into the search field produced the following list:

alarming, astonishing, awe-inspring, awful, beautiful, breathtaking, daunting, dreadful, exalted, far out, fearful, fearsome, formidable, frantic, frightening, grand, hairy*, horrible, horrifying, imposing, impressive, intimidating, magnificent, majestic, mind-blowing*, moving, nervous, overwhelming, shocking, striking, stunning, stupefying, terrible, terrifying, wondrous, zero-cool*

*Words that Thesaurus.com classifies as slang.

Some of these words are obviously useless, for various reasons. They fail the yell aloud test, they fail the Batman test. In fact, none of them really approach the Awesome inherent in the word Awesome.

Except zero-cool. A word I've never heard before. It's apparently the name of a movie, the title of an early Michael Crichton book, and the nickname of a character in the movie Hackers. It's essentially a variation on the word and concept "cool." (What's cooler than being cool?)

And I may actually consider using it. Because "z" is an awesome letter.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Monkeys For Helping

If you read one blog, it should be Monkeys For Helping.

Actually, it should be this blog, because then you'll be able to find out about many more things approaching the sheer Awesome of Monkeys For Helping. But definitely consider MFH as a second choice.

Particular favorites include:
Frog in a Dragonball hat
"It's hard being me"
Giant Rat Cannon!

And that's all just on the first page. There's over a year and a half of archives of this stuff. It's great.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mexico Zeitgeist

So I was checking out Google's zeitgeist, because I was reading the archives for this blog and I thought, "Yeah, that was cool. I wonder what's up today?" Nothing really interesting in the US section, so I headed over to the international monthly section, and I scrolled down. A lot of Steve Irwin, a lot of celebrities like Paris Hilton. A lot of wikipedia. And then I see . . .
It's a bit blurry, but yes, "goku" clocks at number 4, "dragon ball z" is number 6, and "pokemon" is number 10. And yes, all those terms mean the same thing in Spanish as the do in English, as far as Google is concerned. Finland and Chile also have "pokemon" in their lists, at 11 and 14 respectively, but Mexico is the only one with the DBZ terms.

Apparently, there are things about Mexico of which I was not aware.