packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Why did I sign up for NaNoWriMo again?

*rolls Will save vs. panic*

(p.s. not dead, just very, very distractable.)

Edit: Ping me if you want in on (or out of) my NaNo11 filter.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
I am not a Christian, but there are a number of things I admire in the theology of most Christian religions. One of these goes back to the titular Christ himself: his affection for all peoples. Heretics, sinners, those judged impure and those despised, all these were the people he chose to spend his time with, the people he was loyal to. Fred 'slacktivist' Clark spoke of this quite memorably in the essay "Clean shoes" - and for that matter, so did Richard Thompson in the song "God Loves A Drunk" - but there's another aspect of this that struck me quite powerfully. An inversion, if you will.

What we usually say is that Jesus loves everyone. What we usually say is that Jesus hung out with fishermen, tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes. We say that Jesus accepted all these people, people who the Pharisees, the cleanliness-obsessed, the self-righteous rejected. But the same goes the other way around. These people who would have nothing to do with self-righteous, cleanliness-obsessed Pharisees accepted Jesus. Prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, fishermen would hang out with him. Everyone loved him.

To say he loves is to say a great deal - but to say he was loved, a great deal more. It is not difficult to be convinced that you love someone, that you care for them, that you want the best for them. To be convinced that others care about you and appreciate you - that they value you - is somewhat more challenging. If someone handed you a religious tract, would you believe they cared for you? If someone proselytized to you, unasked, on the street, are they offering you what you need? They believe so - but do you?

In contrast, if someone listened to your troubles, would you believe they cared for you? If someone offered their aid, unasked, on the street? Would it matter what they believed, if they offered you clothes when you were naked, drink when you thirsted, food when you hungered?

It seems like a thought worth considering.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
SCENE: Robin (i.e. packbat) and David are playing chess in the ASME lounge. Ben enters.

Ben: Who's winning?

Robin: (mumbling)

Ben: Well, he's moved twice, so clearly he's winning.

Robin: I'll just tie it up then. [moves piece]

Ben: Tie goes to Black.

[beat. Robin looks up at Ben.]

Robin: This isn't affirmative action, man!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
This is a place to post random messages to me, or hold conversations on topics you don't see looking at my posts.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
One Chance.

Short game. No replay. No undo. Controls are the arrow keys and a spacebar.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
Okay - so you know how the new health care bill is supposed to charge people who voluntarily refuse health insurance (so as to encourage people to sign up)? And you know how emergency rooms have to provide care, even to the uninsured?

How about this: have insurers bid for their price to cover the costs of treating the uninsured in each state. The lowest bid gets their cost divided among the uninsured in that state. That way:
  • The cost to hospitals of emergency room care is paid, and
  • The cost to individuals of refusing health care is controlled by market forces.

    Any obvious flaws?
  • packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
    Post edited ~5:20p EDT - thanks, [ profile] zwol!

    Well, I'm coming back into blogging with a fury, aren't I? First politics, and now religion!

    Those of you who do not follow the atheist blogosphere may not be aware of the long, boring back-and-forths between the "New Atheists" and the "accommodationists". To summarize: the latter frequently accuse the former of being mean to theists (people who believe that one or more gods exist) and the former retort that the latter are being intellectually dishonest. What's annoying about it is that the argument never actually connects to the essential disagreement, edit: rarely gets back to actual questions of fact. The latest brouhaha, for example, relates to a question which "New Atheists" answer in the negative and many "accommodationists" answer in the positive: do any people have sufficient intellectual justification to believe that a god is real?

    And for that reason, I want to congratulate Larry Moran, who is addressing this question.

    This brings me to my challenge. I challenge all theists and all their accommodationist friends to post their very best 21st century, sophisticated (or not), arguments for the existence of God. They can put them in the comments section of this posting, or on any of the other atheist blogs, or on their own blogs and websites. Just send me the link.

    (Link via pharyngula.)

    If anyone in the audience believes that there are good reasons to believe that a god exists (or has a friend who so believes), please contact Prof. Moran (or have your friend do so) by Saturday, October 2.

    As a footnote, though: I realize that there are a subset of people who would answer in the affirmative to the question above without answering Moran's challenge: some people believe that they possess evidence good enough to convince themselves, but that their evidence cannot be communicated to anyone else. Whether this is true is a philosophical question, and one which I would be glad to discuss ... but unrelated to the announcement.

    Remember: if you believe that a God exists and you can prove it, or if you know someone who so believes, tell Larry Moran by Saturday, October 2.

    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    What is wrong with book-burning is not that a book has been set on fire - it is that the book is no longer available to be read.

    Consider a few cases:

    1. A government deems a particular book to be subversive literature and orders every copy burnt. Agents of the government seize all copies found in libraries, bookstores, or private residences and commits them to the fire. This is wrong.

    2. An ideologue arranges to purchase every copy of a rare book and burns them. This is wrong.

    3. An ideologue arranges to purchase several copies of a commonly-available book and burns them. This is not wrong.

    Apologies to everyone who got sick of the whole debacle over two weeks ago.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    Dan Shive (best known as the creator of El Goonish Shive) recently wrote a brief argument why alternate universes would probably not contain alternate "you"s. His argument looks correct, as far as it goes, but it is qualitative - lacking numerical estimates - and I don't see why it has to be. The data exists. Surely ballpark back-of-the-envelope numbers could be produced.

    ...but not trivially. Dan Shive's challenge can - and I think should - be broken down as follows.

    Read more... )

    Now, I lack the knowledge of biology to, first, nail down these questions to their most correct forms, and second, assign probability estimates to relevant steps in the chain. But the most superficial examination of the situation seems to suggest at least one thing: any alternate universe measurably diverging a significant period before the birth of an individual is vanishingly likely to contain a copy of that individual. Which, of course, is what Dan Shive has pointed out.

    And, as an obvious consequence of this, even if such a universe contained a duplicate of yourself, it would still be vanishingly unlikely for it to contain duplicates of anyone not your direct descendant. (Which would make for a heck of a paternity test, I have to tell you!)
    packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)

    Are you a boot person or a shoe person? Why?

    Sponsored by Sorel.

    View 167 Answers

    I prefer lightweight shoes for everyday purposes - I like the aesthetics of boots, and I like the practicality of boots, but if I were going to go all (warning: TV Tropes!) Limited Wardrobe, it would be with a well-made, comfortable pair of leather shoes.

    Since I'm not, I wear trainers, mostly, and boots when it's raining. Or I'm out hiking.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
    When you read this, you're tagged! Take a picture of yourself in your current state - no changing your clothes or quickly putting on makeup, and absolutely no photo-manipulation. Show your F-List the Real You!

    (caught this today from a post by [ profile] ladibug21 a few days back)

    packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
    So: yesterday I got out a bicycle, unfroze the chain with generous doses of both machine and elbow grease, pumped up the tires, and took it out on the bike trail for a shakedown ride. Guess what I did today?

    • The chain was in much, much worse condition. Fortunately, after giving up one or two times, I hit up the Googletubes and found an essay about fixing frozen bike chains, claiming (a) you should set it upside down, and (b) you should use two pairs of pliers, one to grip either side of the frozen link. With these alterations, and much sweat, the chain was freed.
    • The front brake calipers were dodgy - one half wouldn't rebound from the wheel. Fortunately, oil and time (somehow) repaired this.
    • I forgot to pump up the tires the first time I took it out. Fortunately, I realized this close to my house, and walked it back.
    • Did I say "the front brake calipers were dodgy"? I meant the entire braking system. As I told Dad, the only sound worse than the front brakes was the rear brakes.
    • Instead of a rear reflector, I had a broken headlamp.
    • Instead of a kickstand, I had nothing.
    • Half the tape on the right handlebar was loose.
    • I took a different trail, one that was all paved. But much, much lumpier, as it happened - once I was jounced so badly I lost footing on the pedals.

    All in all, damaged sprocket notwithstanding, I think the other bike is better - still, this makes two rideable bicycles ready to go. And a pleasant weekend, too.
    packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
    This morning I thought I might ride out the trail again, and I pulled a bike out from under the tarp. I had been riding my three-speed, but I'd busted up the rim (quite a while ago, actually), and it's not a good idea to ride on dented rims.

    That said, it is entirely impossible to ride with a frozen bike chain. Fortunately, I had most of a jar of bike lube and an extra-large dose of TLC* to apply, and after well over three hours, the bike was in rideable condition, and I took it out to the trail to run down to Bethesda to buy some ice cream** and a new wireless hub.

    More than one person told me that the bike looked like it was in great shape, so I must have done something right. :)

    (Sadly, one of the sprockets on the rear derailleur is missing one or more teeth, so I may not get away without spending some money.)

    Anyway, it was quite an experience. First, this bike is very much a road bike - it bogged down in gravel quite badly. Second, it's a ten-speed with a very funky derailleur system, so I had the devil's own time getting away from fifth gear for uphills and slow starts. Third, the controls are arranged quite differently (drop handlebars, down tube shifters), which left me quite nervous and timid. Third, I'm not really fit enough to take the bike to where it should go - I was struggling to keep it moving and moving in the right direction, even.

    But it was pretty good, nonetheless. Tomorrow, I'll take out the other rust monster and see how I can make it run.

    * TLC = Tender Loving Care. With a pair of pliers and a lot of sweating, I must say.

    ** Sadly, the ice cream shop (Giffords) was closed when I went by, so I ended up buying a Dunkin' Donuts iced tea and bagel.
    packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
    I wish this was a proper review, but the book came out a good seven years ago - long enough for this to be awfully old news regardless.

    I. Love. Moneyball.

    I would say this, if I were cynical and funny: Moneyball is, ironically enough, a story about how storytelling is deceptive. But it's not true. There is a hint of that feeling when I read it - the story is such a good story that I'd want to believe it if the entire book was lies from cover to cover, and the book does warn against dreaming and making up expectations based on merely what you see - but I would do Michael Lewis an injustice if I said that. The man worked his butt off getting it right, and that dedication shows.

    What is the material? Well, Moneyball is, perhaps, the perfect underdog story: a story about a baseball team (the Oakland Athletics) with a financial payroll tinier than almost any other in a sport where the richest teams spend many multiples more than the poorest ... that sets out to win, with a determination and intelligence that is an inspiration to behold. Moneyball is also a layman's introduction to that intelligence which, long ignored by the very people who would most benefit from it, finally found its instantiation in the Oakland A's: sabermetrics. And Moneyball is a story of this intelligence on this team reaching out to rescue an oddball collection of underrated players and give them the chance to give a bloody eye to the entire baseball establishment that didn't see how good they were.

    And it's a story of how such a thing should ever happen - how mistakes were made and perpetuated and compounded upon, and how the visions found when that fog of confusion was pierced could take so long and strange a journey to where they deserved to play out: on the diamond.

    It's a business book, a sociology lesson, a baseball story, and a hell of a good read. A nearer approach to perfection in nonfiction is rarely seen.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    Via [personal profile] egypturnash. Video is a bit monotonous for first two minutes, but the wait is worth it.


    Jul. 26th, 2010 10:05 am
    packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
    I think I've come up with a new game for Omegle.

    Stranger: hi
    You: Greetings.
    You: Would you be interested in playing a game?
    Stranger: yeah... what's game?
    You: It's called the imitation game, or the Turing test.
    You: One participant is the interviewer, and the other is either a human or a computer program. )

    Footnote: the imitation game is first described in Computing Machinery and Intelligence, a paper by Alan Turing - an easily-read transcription is available from the Loebner Prize website here.
    packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
    (So, so belated...)

    The morning of our departure was relatively tame. I read more of my Gettysburg book, finished the main body of the work. We went to a Chinese restaurant, Pei Wei, for lunch, finished packing (I'd loaded my bag the previous night), and I played through Wily's castle in Mega Man 2 on Difficult again. I had just made it to the second final boss and figured out how to hurt him when we had to leave for the airport. Ah, machts nichts.

    At the airport, we got through security in minutes and found our gate, where I sat down with the book I had decided on for the plane trip home: Michael Lewis's Moneyball.

    Only five things were permitted to interrupt it. First, I got dinner at a (mediocre) burrito place in the airport. Second, boarding. Third, taking pictures out the window during the flight. Fourth, disembarking. And fifth, finishing it. It was one of the fastest and most engrossing reads I'd opened in some time.

    At home, I saved all my photos to my computer, and am planning to copy them out onto my external hard drive (separate from the automated backups, I mean). Digging through to make a proper album will take a bit (and does anyone know a good free Mac utility for stitching together panoramas?), but that is all to come. Right now, I'm home.

    Okay, not right now, as the location line will tell you, but still.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    First, a quick thing-I-forgot from yesterday: Dad got out a couple of his old board games, including "Dispatcher", for me to look at and maybe take back to Maryland. (Quick aside: by "maybe" I mean "definitely".) Now, "Dispatcher" is a game which is generally not liked, and for good reason: it's got innumerable tiles, rigid and complex synchronized events, randomness, timed events, and a brilliant scoring system involving demerits you cannot possibly avoid. Even as someone who played "Rail Baron" over the board, I find it a bit cumbersome. But I really like it, and would love to make a proper computer version with forecasting and automated movement. (Quick aside: by "make" I mean "have".)

    Anyway, back on track: slow start this morning. There were only two major events I found cameraworthy today: luncheon at Taco Cabana followed by a quick revisit to Fry's for flash memory, and dinner at my uncle's house. It was a relatively pleasant day, but not a lot doing.

    Some highlights:

    • I had a good conversation about how one would write the aforementioned "Dispatcher" computer game on the way up to my uncle's house.
    • I played more Mega Man 2 - enough to find that I'm not quite good enough to make it through Dr. Wily's castle on Difficult. Quickman keeps annihilating me. I will have to wait to discover whether I am right when I suppose that Dr. Wily cannot be beaten on Normal.
    • We drove past an IRS building which had been in a plane crash - a lot of damage to the one side of it.
    • My uncle's house is quite beautiful - up a dangerously steep driveway, mind (there's stains which look like someone punctured their oil pan on it earlier), but open and airy with a great view off the balcony.

    In any case, the flight leaves at 4:15 tomorrow, so we have time to run a small load of laundry to minimize stress on facilities at home.
    packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
    (This is yesterday's entry - I guess I'm falling further behind with each...)

    Back in Austin, and the first place to start - as they say in all the old encyclopedias - is a good breakfast. So Grandma and I left Dad at the house and went to Randall's, which is reputed to have very good bagels ... and did, in fact. And some donuts as well. A pleasant breakfast, in all.

    After that, Dad got a call from an old friend of his, Dr. S, and arranged to meet her at the Texas State History Museum that noon. Dad & I went, leaving Grandma behind, and found a great parking space just around the corner from the entrance. Sadly for my ambitious shutter finger, photography at the museum is restricted to the lobby and outside, so I was only able to take about 75 photos there. It was good, though - Dr. S shared some wonderful info with us, e.g. talking about the condition and shape of the different saddles and what they meant in terms of purpose.

    After wrapping that up, we noted that we had just enough time to walk a couple blocks to the Capitol Visitor's Center and pick up a new tourist guide and map for Grandma. (We didn't, quite, although we received no ticket.) We once again got to going the wrong way at the capitol, though - in this case, by going inside at all, as the visitor's center was in a separate building. We took care of it, though, and walked by the Governor's Mansion as well. There had been a traveling exhibit at the history museum mentioning that the building had been set on fire by a (presumably unknown) arsonist - something which a tour guide driving past the museum had joked about earlier - and so it was covered in scaffolding that obscured our view. It was also surrounded by trees, which obscured our view far more.

    On the way back, we went up Guadalupe ("The Drag") to check out the buildings on the segment near the university.

    That was our midday, so we ate a late lunch on our return and Dad went out on a trail run while I played Mega Man 2 and printed some baseball scorecards. (Dad's journal includes many running reports, and will include that, if that's your thing.) Then Dad and I went out again, this time to the Round Rock Express ballgame.

    It was an interesting game, and a fun one to keep score at. The scorecards I'd gotten (the Enhanced Vertical from worked well, except where we spilled soda on them, and there were plenty of events, thanks mostly to the spectacular failure of the bottom-ranked Round Rock team. Let me put it this way: in the bottom of the fourth, the Express got a run and a grand slam ... to tie it up. And then gave away five more runs to lose 10-5 to the New Orleans Zephyrs.

    But hey - there's no such thing as a bad ballgame, in my book.

    And, apropos of nothing, and as thanks for either reading or just scrolling past these big entries, a picture.

    A photograph of an amusingly-shaped toothbrush holder.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    Today (okay, yesterday) began at Grandpa's house, where we had a quick breakfast and headed out early to pick up kolaches and meet Grandma at her sister's house. Where I met Dad's cousin, and he showed me Everquest 2, and let me try it out.

    That took up until we left for dinner. I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.

    The dinner was nice as well, although I may have done better to choose something besides the grilled fish - it was awfully oily. After that, we had the long ride home and I watched the last half of the Mythbusters moon hoax episode before retiring.
    packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking) that we actually left Austin, rather than loitering under the bridge all day.

    Okay, so it's a silly title. Anyway, Dad & I went out La Grange way, planning to drop off Grandma at the McDonalds with my great-aunt (her sister) to hang out while the two of us went on to see Grandpa at his farm. However, first: the Central Texas Museum of Automotive History!

    As you might imagine, it was glorious. They had a Jaguar XK, a Jaguar XKE, a Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing, a Porsche Spyder, a Corvette Stingray, a Chevrolet Bel Air convertible ... I used up over 100 photos on my digital camera's card and continued onto the iPhone before I finished photographing all the amazing cars they had there. I was forced to resort to copying photos onto my father's netbook to clear space.

    Twice, actually. Because after clearing it at Grandpa's house, we walked around (taking more photos) and then went on a driving tour around the area, viewing places like the schoolhouse Grandpa attended (which, interestingly, had been moved bodily several miles to be the Sunday school of a local church). We then went up Monument Hill, where I was resorting to on-the-fly deletion of old pics just to be able to capture more of the sights.

    Finally, we picked up some excellent BBQ on the way back (before Monument Hill, now that I think of it), and whiled away the evening watching the very good White Sox - Twins game on the telly. I think all of us are a bit tired, so we're drifting separately to bed so we can rise reasonably early in the morning.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    Today was relaxation and shopping. The morning began with a Macy's where Grandma wanted to get sheets - I wandered the mall, taking a few photos and looking at the game stores - and proceeded from there out to a Frys with the facade decorated like the keyboard end of a grand piano.

    After that was lunchtime, where we discovered that Google Maps on my iPhone doesn't know about Grandma's favorite Schlotzsky's. Grandma and Dad each had sandwiches; I tried their Mediterranean pizza. (Much to my irritation, Dad decided he wanted the free dessert from answering a survey and called the number before the food even arrived. Given that this got us a free Cinnabon, though, I'm inclined to forgive.)

    From Schlotzsky's, we went to the Target near Grandma's house for a few essential supplies. Thence home, where I spent the afternoon productively with her NES. (I seem to have picked up some mad Mega Man 2 skills somewhere - I rocked all the way into Wily's castle twice, first on Normal and second on Difficult. Defeating Wily, that will require a little more time.)

    Anyway: tomorrow, we'll be heading out to visit Grandpa, stopping by the historic automobile museum on the way. Update may be delayed.
    packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
    Stage 1: The H.E.B.

    After setting out the sprinkler (conveniently equipped with a timer), we went down the street to the local grocery for certain (in)essential supplies: fruit, salad, bread, milk, yoghurt, ice cream, chocolate milk, soda, Gatorade, &c. For documentary purposes, I took my camera and many pictures.

    Stage 2: Inner Space Cavern

    When planning something to do in the noon and afternoon, we accidentally found opposite the guide page for the automotive history museum an entry for a cave with a mark next to it. As it was not too far away, Dad and I opted to head out, leaving Grandma at home. The caves were discovered during core sampling for a bridge on I-35, and turned out to be both impressive as a tourist attraction and a magnificent geological and paleontological site. (Several students from various universities were going through the cave as we were heading out from the end of our tour.) Our guide was informative and entertaining (e.g. teaching us the difference between stalactites, which go down from the ceiling, stalagmites, which come up from the floor, and stalagpipes, which are the handrails), and I ended up giving him a tip at the end of the trip. Then buying a shirt, a guidebook, and a map from the gift shop,

    Stage 3: The Takeout Chinese Place

    Upon our return from the cavern, we tackled the question of "what do we want to eat?" As it was early yet in the trip, we decided the logical thing was to buy takeout from the local Chinese restaurant, which served quite large quantities.

    Technically, it's also a sit-down restaurant ... but none of us wanted to eat there. Not shown in the pictures I will eventually upload, for example, is a bucket, catching a drip.

    Stage 4: The State Capitol Building

    Lunch complete (around 3 p.m.), there was a gap where we watched TV and discussed possibilities. In this gap we came up with three things worth checking out: the state capitol, the Congress Ave. Bridge bats, and BookPeople (my suggestion, having recalled [ profile] fadethecat's remarks on the place). Some research proved that we could make it to all three places without running into closures, so we headed out around 6:30 for downtown.

    I love the architecture of the Texas State Capitol. I like the landscaping, even, but I particularly like the very open, naturally-lit spaces throughout - from the highest points to the lowest. And this open-ness was accomplished without any sacrifice in navigability (unlike certain buildings I could name). I expended an absurd number of pictures swooping through doorways into the open spaces.

    Amusingly, all the way off in Maryland, a pizza delivery person was calling for directions to a residence ... calling my dad, here, as his cell phone was the listed one. It became even stranger when Dad's distinctive ringtone sounded and we realized that he'd dropped it, purely thanks to this.

    Also amusingly, we spent several minutes wandering these sunlit halls looking for the exit before realizing it was two floors above us. We straightened ourselves out, however, and took a couple pictures of the library/archives building next door before returning to the car.

    Stage 5: The Congress Ave. Bridge Bats

    From the capitol, we drove straight down Congress Avenue to cross the bridge and turn into the Austin American-Statesman parking lot, where small plastic signs advertised bat parking. Grandma had been foresightful enough to equip us with beach chairs, so we set up comfortably on the lawn and waited.

    Unfortunately for me and my camera, the bats have been flocking out from under the bridge quite late in recent days - and though I could see an hour after sunset, the camera could just about pick up the streetlamps and that's all. After Dad caught a few shots which could be argued to show a bat or two, we folded and went back north and west to seek the fabled bookstore.

    Stage 6: BookPeople

    This is a nice bookstore. A large bookstore, with nicely arranged shelves and tables of discounted and recommended books. It is from the latter that I found volumes to take home: Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel and Michael Lewis's Moneyball.

    A pleasant day, in all.

    In Austin!

    Jul. 14th, 2010 10:49 pm
    packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
    After packing last night, I went to bed far too late and woke up at 7 to be ready to go by 8. The plan to get to Austin was straightforward: Dad & I had tickets for an 11:30 flight to Tampa Bay (where we would get a 3:15 transfer to Austin), so we needed to be on the subway by 9 to catch an early enough shuttle. We beat that time by a good margin: in fact, we were in Greenbelt by 9 and caught an earlier shuttle to make BWI with hours to spare.

    Where, in exchange for travel vouchers, we opted to catch the direct flight from BWI to Austin at 3 instead. This meant a long wait at BWI - long enough to get bored, buy a $5 "Motor Trend" magazine, get bored with it, walk the entire length of the concourse, buy a slice of pizza, play with my iPhone, and get quite bored. Finally, we boarded the 3:00 flight, where I, to my great pleasure, found myself seated next to a most interesting and entertaining person, one Linnea Duff. In the midst of discussing teaching methods, graphical interpretations of calculus, the administrative policies of the Boy Scouts of America, the history of social justice in the United States, and other subjects and sundry, we exchanged URLs. Dad & I disembarked at Austin as she went on, so I bade her farewell, snatched up my carry-on, and departed with Dad to pick up the checked luggage (which had come in half an hour earlier on the Tampa flight).

    Grandma picked us up at the airport, and we spent a little while trying to repair a broken remote and watching "Man Vs. Food" on cable. After, we met up with my aunt, uncle, and cousin to go to Tres Amigos for some tasty, tasty dinner. Finally, we watched an episode of "Big Brother" that Grandma had wanted to record and separated to our various beds.
    packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
    Via kirabug, a proper description of the instinctive drowning response:

    1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
    2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
    3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
    4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
    5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

    Read the rest, and read the prequel about cold water survival.
    packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
    A quick message (via iPhone, because the DSL modem at home is on the fritz): I will probably be visiting Austin, TX for a week starting on the 14th!

    Does anyone have advice on things to do and see there? I heard great things about the Congress Avenue Bridge bats, but I can't say I recall much else.
    packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
    As you know, Bob, I have been switching from Livejournal to Dreamwidth as my primary social network blogging hub, due to repeated unkind behavior by the LJ overlords.

    Well, part of that is canceling my paid subscription. I will no longer give Livejournal my money, and as of July 1st that will mean that my LJ account will be reverting to some kind of basic presumably-ad-supported form. Please do not buy me a new subscription.

    Thank you for your time and trouble.
    packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
    Via JamesAndrix on, a talk from Adam Savage on his method of problem solving:

    Second half is Q&A, which is awesome but mostly unrelated.
    packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
    [personal profile] alchemi recently posted a self-esteem meme based on an earlier post from [ profile] finding_helena, here (who cites an earlier post on another blog - warning: language). In the introduction, alchemi quotes the opening paragraphs of finding_helena's post:

    We all, particularly women, tend to downplay what we're actually good at. When somebody compliments us, we demur. And I definitely include myself in that. I don't want to seem too vain in accepting a compliment. And it's true, I think, that bragging can go too far.

    And I do feel a little silly taking credit for things that come really easily to me. Like if somebody is impressed with, oh, my ability to tell you what note you just played to me. Seriously, that's just a little quirk of my brain that I have nothing to do with. It's like complimenting me on having pretty eyes... I mean, glad you appreciate them, but I didn't have anything to do with the process of them being so.

    BUT. There are things that I've worked hard on and am good at.

    Now, I think there's something interesting to be said about what you can and cannot take credit for, and what taking credit should mean ... but in the meantime, some things do I take credit for )

    I'm sure I could say more, but at 1:05 in the morning it might be better to stop here.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
    Via, a brief foray into the realm of philosophy.

    SMBC May 12, 2010 )
    packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
    The breakdown is here, if any of you missed it. I find most of these results fairly unsurprising (although the "yellow" region of the saturated color space contains a startling amount of green), but it's really cool to read through the details anyway. Favorite bits:

    • The mnemonic* for how to spell "fuchsia".
    • "Actual color names if you're a [girl/guy]..."
    • The list of colors.
    • The entire "Miscellaneous" header.
    • "Baige".
    * Fun fact: I instinctively put a "u" after that "e". Perhaps you can guess how I pronounce that word...

    (P.S. Word up, Mr. Munroe.)

    (P.P.S. I'm feeling much recovered, save for residual sleep-dep from catching up on grading.)

    (P.P.P.S. Less Wrong taught me a lot more about teaching than I expected.)

    99.2 °F

    Apr. 24th, 2010 10:13 pm
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    I feel simultaneously terrible and 0.7 F° short.
    packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
    Via Making Light, Paul Cornell: Wish Me Luck, I'm Going In. What with the recent stalling of the Equality Bill in Britain, he's had enough.

    I wish there were a Christian organisation like British Muslims for Secular Democracy, who could liaise with the various gay Christian organisations, but also include those who aren't directly involved, who just think this cause is just. Then there would be a phone number for that liberal voice that the UK media could lay their hands on. If they ever wanted to call it.

    In the meantime, I've started a hashtag on Twitter: #godlyforequality. If you're on Twitter, go and have a look, and let's see if we can retweet the message a long way. It's only a tiny thing. It's the least I can do.

    I'm not a Christian, and I think that Christianity is factually wrong - but what he's doing here is fighting homophobia, and on those grounds he's fighting for the side of good.

    Good luck, Mr. Cornell. Do the right thing.
    packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
    For those of you who are not engineers: professional licensure in engineering is a four-step process - first, you obtain an engineering education (currently a Bachelor's degree, although I have heard a rumor that this will grow to a Master's in a decade or so); second, you take the eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering exam to become an Engineer-In-Training; third, you obtain five years working experience in a position of responsibility; and fourth, you take the eight-hour Principles and Practice in Engineering exam to become a P.E.

    The first I completed some time ago, and the second ... well, it will be approximately 120 days before I know, but I think I did well!

    ...and then I went home and slept like a log. (After checking the Interwebs, of course.) (:
    packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
    Joshua Kors tells the story.

    Luther insisted to doctors at Camp Taji that he did not have personality disorder, that the idea of developing a childhood mental illness at the age of 36, after passing eight psychological screenings, was ridiculous. The sergeant used a vivid expression to convey how much pain he was in. "I told them that some days, the pain was so bad, I felt like dying." Doctors declared him a suicide risk. They collected his shoelaces, his belt and his rifle and ordered him confined to an isolation chamber.

    Extensive medical records written by Luther's doctors document his confinement in the aid station for more than a month. The sergeant was kept under twenty-four-hour guard. Most nights, he says, guards enforced sleep deprivation, keeping the lights on and blasting heavy metal music. When Luther rebelled, he was pinned down and injected with sleeping medication.

    Eventually Luther was brought to his commander, who told him he had a choice: he could sign papers saying his medical problems stemmed from personality disorder or face more time in isolation.

    I can't even joke about this. It's horrible, pure horror.

    Edit: Link via [ profile] ceruleanst, here.
    packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
    I visited the Tomb of Horrors for the first time today!

    I think I may go back sometime, if only to see if I can make it out of the iron box with three levers - so don't tell me anything that happens next! (Or even lie about it, actually - that always makes me uncomfortable when I think I've been "spoiled".)
    packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
    Via [ profile] roaminrob: Arithmetic, Population, and Energy by Dr. Albert A. Bartlett, uploaded in eight parts. ~75 minutes.

    Part One.

    I've posted some links because I was curious about your opinion; this one I think is important, clear, and convincing. Unfortunately, I don't see a good way of summarizing it - wonderingmind42, who uploaded it, did a pretty iffy job with the title, in my book - but I'll try: the lecture is about the nature of steady percentage growth (e.g. 7%/year) and the policy implications that come out of the arithmetic. You don't need anything more than multiplication and division to follow the reasoning - the most difficult calculation is for the doubling time, and that goes

    years to double = 70 / % growth per year

    which is accurate to one part in twenty for any growth rate up to 12%/year.

    I think it's worth at least 90 minutes of your time - 75 minutes is a steal at the price.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    A warm, uplifting tale about elementary school educators.

    Go ahead and back out to the original article the above comment is on, if you like.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

    Do you believe that a higher power controls our fate or that we choose our own destinies?

    Submitted By [ profile] adorlee_malfoy

    Answer View 917 Answers

    "No" is the short answer. I don't believe that there is such a thing as fate or destiny - the world is far more chaotic than that.
    packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
    Hat-tip to [ profile] circuit_four here: HuffPost: GOP Senators Refusing To Work Past 2PM, Invoking Obscure Rule.

    ...two things.

    One: Key Republican Senators apparently (a) don't care about doing their job, and (b) believe the Democratic Senators do, and therefore (c) are willing to enforce a work stoppage to make the Democrats do what they want. This does not reflect well on the Republicans. The first metaphor that comes to mind is if a police department decided to blockade the fire station in order to get their 'support' for changes to the city budget.

    Two: How stupid are the Senate rules, anyway? You can't make Senators actually filibuster, you can't make Senators actually work more than two hours a day ... this is not how governance happens.

    Politics is an important, valuable activity - but this ain't.
    packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
    Academian on LessWrong talks about the apparent disconnect between our experiences and philosophical materialism. 2227 words. The author edited it down to 771 words.

    Please comment there or here if you read it - I have my own opinion, but it's not written for me.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
    If I may venture a prediction: [ profile] feech, you would not like this movie. Like in Duel, very little plot transpires in a given minute of Sorcerer - the chief part of the story can be summarized in a couple sentences, but it all takes two hours to play out.

    What I found compelling, though, was this sense of characterization and atmosphere. The characters are all trapped, desperate and struggling, but trapped - by financial problems, legal problems, extralegal problems, and, for the four protagonists, in the end by the job that they have taken itself. What drives the film is this almost certainly fatal struggle to escape the terrible circumstances they have found themselves in.

    Don't be fooled by the title: it is a remake of the 1953 French film Le salaire de la peur (English: The Wages Of Fear), and the "Sorcerer" is merely a truck. There is a sense of sorcery about it, perhaps, as one poorly-punctuated review on IMDB suggested, but it is the inimical spirit of bad luck, no agent who may be blamed.

    I found the characters compelling, and the story tense. It is not a happy film, but a good one, I think.


    Mar. 14th, 2010 01:13 pm
    packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
    My phone WiFi has been broken for some time, so I decided to break out my bike and ride to the Bethesda Apple Store.

    After a day and a half of rain.

    Brilliant, I am not.
    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
    Poll #2386 The Chocolate Dilemma
    Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 1

    There is a sack of chocolate and you have two options: either take one piece from the sack to yourself, or take three pieces which will be given to Dylan. Dylan also has two options: one pieces for himself or three to you. After you both made your choices independently each goes home with the amount of chocolate he collected.

    View Answers

    Take one piece for yourself.
    0 (0.0%)

    Take three pieces for Dylan.
    1 (100.0%)

    From, via.
    packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
    As a number of people have noted, Livejournal placed into their software for a period of time code which would do two rude things:

    1. Alter links to ecommerce sites to forward users to a particular company's URL.
    2. Replace affiliate markers on such links with a different affiliate marker.

    ...and do these things on every link on Livejournal, regardless of context. [ profile] shatterstripes looked into this from the technical side, and made a series of relevant informative posts, but the implications are clear: they were mining money from everyone on Livejournal without telling anyone that's what they were doing.

    I personally like my Dreamwidth+crosspost solution, and have three invitations on hand, but I'm not going to remove all my LJ content. If you are staying on LJ, I will still be paying attention - if you are migrating elsewhere, please let me know so I can find you there.


    packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

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