packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Green RZ)
A few of you may be acquainted with [livejournal.com profile] kirabug of kirabug's idea files - but then, you may not be. A few of you may also have seen the latest 100-book meme floating around the LJ-o-sphere in the halcyon days of two weeks ago.

Anyway, kirabug filled out the meme, and in our shredding of "Big Read"'s list I and her other fans began to put together a list of a few items which were rather notable in their absence - and Kirabug suggested making a list of our own. So when she, a few days ago, set up a Wordpress forum on her site, she made sure to include an "Ideaphiles Book List" subforum.

The rules are pretty straightforward - one thread ("topic") per author, or a thread called "[your name here]'s book list", and no calling each other names.

C'mon - I know the lot of you are inveterate readers; here's your chance to make a case for your top lists. And if you need inspiration, here's a bit I wrote on my first book-crush, Hal Clement:

Read more... )

Come on in, register, and contribute!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

What are some gripping opening lines from films or books, and why do you think they work so well?

View other answers



I have never seen a book, film, song, or anything with an opening line to match one old entry by [livejournal.com profile] daysgoby (formerly anjimito), here:

On the way home today, while crossing the Fuller-Warren bridge, someone threw a kitten out of their window.


God themself could not write a more gripping first sentence.

(Edit: This entry was reposted to [livejournal.com profile] readers_list here, in the event that [livejournal.com profile] daysgoby is lost.)

(Also: The kitten came out all right, and went to live in a new, loving home. Sorry to spoil the ending for you. ^_^ )
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (pale blue dot)
I know some of you all (I'm thinking m'dad [livejournal.com profile] zhurnaly and the Dread Medievalist [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin for starters) will love this blog, for three reasons.

First, Overcoming Bias is a cool goal.

Second, because it's written by people who know stuff and like to share. (Like Edward Slingerland in What Science Offers the Humanities, and yes, I still owe [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin the review, it's halfway done.)

Third, tasty, tasty writing.

Decoherence is implicit in quantum physics, not an extra postulate on top of it, and quantum physics is continuous.  Thus, "decoherence" is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon - there's no sharp cutoff point.  Given two blobs, there's a quantitative amount of amplitude that can flow into identical configurations between them.  This quantum interference diminishes down to an exponentially tiny infinitesimal as the two blobs separate in configuration space.

Asking exactly when decoherence takes place, in this continuous process, is like asking when, if you keep removing grains of sand from a pile, it stops being a "heap".

The sand-heap dilemma is known as the Sorites Paradox, after the Greek soros, for heap.  It is attributed to Eubulides of Miletus, in the 4th century BCE.  The moral I draw from this very ancient tale:  If you try to draw sharp lines in a continuous process and you end up looking silly, it's your own darn fault.

(Incidentally, I once posed the Sorites Paradox to Marcello Herreshoff, who hadn't previously heard of it; and Marcello answered without the slightest hesitation, "If you remove all the sand, what's left is a 'heap of zero grains'."  Now that's a computer scientist.)



From The Conscious Sorites Paradox, by Eliezer Yudkowsky on Overcoming Bias, as part of a long digression-from-a-digression-from-a-digression-from-a-digression on quantum physics (and, back up the chain, philosophical zombies, reduction, the Mind Projection Fallacy, and ultimately - I think - AI research. Unless ultimately is "Overcoming Bias", in which case ... what am I saying?).

Anyway, you know the problem with WIkipedia? You can totally get the same groove here. Very hypertext.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
Making Light has another fruitful thread, here, about perceptions of wealth among the rich. There's piles of good stuff in there (and a few of the inevitable conflicts-from-misunderstanding that always arise) – I remember one that struck me, from someone named Greg London (posted here at July 23, 2006, 01:23 AM):
I worked hard in college and grad school, but I didn’t earn the talent that made it possible to succeed—I was born with the potential.

"earn" is the flip side of "deserve" and whether or not someone thinks they "deserve" something, has, in my experience, had zip to do with reality, and everything to do with some missing piece of self-worth or self-esteem.

When you sit down to play a hand of poker with someone, you both agree that you're going to get dealt a random hand of cards, and start the game from there. Whether you "deserve" the hand you get or not generally doesn't enter a poker player's mind. At least not ahead of time. It's a weird combination of post-analysis and a person's ability to attach "value" to some randomly generated sequence of events that were completely out of their control and have it mean something about themselves that makes for the human drama called "deserve it".

Life is a weird game. You didn't even agree to play it. Someone just set you down at the table and dealt you a hand. The hand you got says nothing about you as a human being, your value, your deservedness, nothing. What does say something about you as a human being is how you play the hand dealt to you. Do you play the best you can with what you've got, or do you discard some cards and throw away a perfectly good hand? That's all you can control.

There's a scene from Good Will Hunting that cut through a lot of this. Two buddies grew up in a working class neighborhood. They're working in blue collar jobs. One guy has the IQ of a genius and knows it, but won't go to college for a number of reasons, one of which is because he feels he doesn't deserve his talent. His buddy has a talk with him at one point and says soemthing to the effect of: it's your job to make the best of what you've got. Until you do, you're squandering it on yourself, and you're insulting us.


(I have seen Good Will Hunting – that scene Mr. London speaks of is one of the best in the movie.)

(Also, I am reminded of one of the Odo quotes from Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Dispossessed", about deserving, and how pernicious the idea of it is.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (RZ Ambigram)
Looking back through my journal archives, I realize that I never mentioned how good a writer [livejournal.com profile] chanlemur is. I first found his writing through Narbonic (he wrote (is writing?) "A Brief Moment of Culture"), but he has consistently impressed me in his other ventures, both comic and serious. Even those which are triggered by such a minor thing as a little meme that's been going around.

Yesterday, for that meme, he wrote The Thousand and First Paper Crane. It is a gorgeous story.

That's all I came to say.

Disclaimer: Chanlemur has this journal friended, and I have his journal friended. These facts had no bearing on the above – his work stands on its own merits.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Half-Face)
I think I mentioned Making Light a couple times before in other contexts, but the recent Open Thread 59 is really something. Just in what I've read so far, there's been:

  • Discussions of the effects of vacuum on unwrapped bars of soap (the original subject of the thread)
  • Discussions of the effects of unwrapped bars of soap on vacuums
  • Discussions of what sort of music a 12 to 14 year old kid at computer camp in 1980 would listen to (Kraftwerk seems to be among the likely candidates)
  • Discussions of explosive decompression in general, ranging from the modern consensus on what would occur to popular depictions in sci-fi (esp. the famous sequence in 2001 that I've never seen), including the comment which triggered this post:

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:30 AM:

Hmm. Question for Jordin and Graydon: do you suppose you could reduce or stop the O2 loss through your lungs, if you knew you were going to be spaced, by drowning yourself first? I'd expect a couple of lungs full of water would take quite a while to empty in vacuum, and while there's water in the way the diffusion rate is going to be a lot lower -- same pressure gradient, but the exposed surface area goes from something like a couple of tennis courts down to a couple of square centimetres.

Of course, recovery afterwards (when they hook you out of the airlock) is going to be a bitch ...


I gotta start reading these Open Threads more. Just ... whoa.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's birthday is one month from today, on January 27. The man is best known as Lewis Carroll, and as Lewis Carroll he is best known for his two books about Alice, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass – wondrous books, and widely loved.

In honor of his birthday, [livejournal.com profile] crisper instituted the Annual Livejournal Rabbit Hole Day, to occur on January 27. It is a day for Livejournalists to post blog entries from other universes, for everyone to take a dive through the famous Rabbit Hole to land in another universe. Here's one collection of links to such entries from last year, just as examples of what has been done.

January 27. Spread the word.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Half-Face)
Making Light is one of the best blogs out there, with excellent writing and a community of intelligent commenters. Today a post on hypothermia appeared. Very good advice, and well-written.

I, of course, linked it purely so I could quote this paragraph:
The buddy system isn’t just for Girl Scouts. If you go into the woods, take a friend. When his teeth start chattering, his lips turn blue, and he starts acting goofy, you’re hypothermic too.

Excellent reversal of expectations there, and probably more true than it looks.

UFbT Meme

Sep. 28th, 2005 03:15 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Bumper)
Remember Websnark? Well, the same guy, Eric Burns, used to draw and write a webcomic himself: Unfettered by Talent. If you're a fan of his writing on Websnark, you might be interested.

P.S. This is a meme. Spread the linkage to UFbT around. Then do this:

Neener neener.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Have you seen [livejournal.com profile] baxil's latest puzzle (based on a PartiallyClips comic)? Recently*, he has been posting mathematical and logical puzzles on his LJ, and I, being a great fan of both, have finally decided to promote them myself.

See them! His latest is a logical brainbuster in the style of Smullyan, et al.; before, he has posted river-crossing puzzles (one from a commenter, one original), a math puzzle, and a classic-style riddle. The solutions are unscreened for the old ones, but they're still fun!

* Maybe not – I'm assuming.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Someone (alright, [livejournal.com profile] active_apathy) posted a poll about reading speed yesterday, with a link to a Google search for reading speed tests. I took this test.

759 words per minute, 91% (10/11) comprehension.

I should run more tests, of course, but this does make me happy. The average is about 200 wpm.

(Updates on other stuff – i.e. Scout summer camp, 50 mile hike – later.)

Edit: Tests number 2 and number 3 complete. #2 says "between 650 and 700". #3 was inconclusive, as it only measured up to 489. Perhaps the best Test #4 would be an on-paper one.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Green RZ)
From Making Light: The Lyttle Lytton Contest!

As she explains, this contest was made in a similar spirit to the original Bulwer-Lytton contest, but with noticeably different judging criteria. Both were inspired by the oft-maligned opening sentence to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford (the original source of "It was a dark and stormy night"). However, the Lyttle Lytton organizer decided that the old contest was biased far too much towards long, convoluted sentences, so he made his require the sentence to be relatively short.

Naturally, this year's contest is already over. Thus, this advertisement is particularly pointless, since submissions won't be judged for over eight months.

Still a cool link, though.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Green RZ)
Link to [livejournal.com profile] efw. Explanation of purpose of community through use of examples. Generic statement of praise for community. Recommendation to investigate and join.

Marker indicating editing. Indication of implied self-reference present in post. Statement of adoration towards Douglas Hofstadter, including Wikipedia link.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
From [livejournal.com profile] ksleet, here.

Apparently, Star Control II has been reinvented as a free open-source download under the name of The Ur-Quan Masters (its original name). You can download it here for Mac, Windows, or Linux.

I completely remember the first Star Control game. I really hope this is good.

Tags!

Jun. 16th, 2005 01:49 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Green RZ)
So, I'm reading my blogs this morning ...

*checks clock*

Oh, it's afternoon. Anyway.

While I was reading my blogs, I came upon a funny little entry mentioning something called "tags". Minutes later, I find another little entry also mentioning tags. With curiosity in full swing by this point, I hop over to the main LJ page, and find the news entry.

So. These things seem suspiciously cool. Pardon me, my calendar seems to have spontaneously gained a "go back and add tags to ALL YOUR LJ ENTRIES!" item. I'll tell you if I survive.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Real quick, before I hit the sack:
  • Went to the laundromat to help Dad (^z) with laundry. Worked part of a Forms of Verse exercise while there.
  • Went to a friend's house yesterday for a sleepover. Played on his incredibly-awesome swing, which I will have to post about later. Also played on his slightly-less-awesome videogame systems, and watched the pilot episode of the original Star Trek on his parents' computer.
  • Went from aforementioned friend's house to another friend's house for a graduation party and, much more importantly, D&D. Watched "Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones" before leaving – accepted offer to go watch III with said friends sometime next week.


Oh, and on a different note: [livejournal.com profile] paperspace is extremely cool. I saw the original post where [livejournal.com profile] kevinpease got the idea, and have been reading it since.

More later. G'night.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
http://www.livejournal.com/random.bml!

What I learned from this:
  • The stereotypes about LJ are true.
  • Most LJers post quite infrequently.
  • A lot of LJers don't speak English.
  • Someone has an LJ with only 2 posts containing only six words (including subject lines), and it got five times as many comments as mine.
  • The other stereotypes about LJ are also true.
  • "This journal has been deleted and purged." actually sounds kinda cool.
  • There are an lot of really bad layouts, but they aren't the majority.
  • Scratch that, they are the majority. Some of these are just painfully bad. Ultra-narrow columns? Inconsistent borders? Moronic color schemes? What's next, annoying Flash anims?
  • Oh, marquees. I forgot the marquees. And the animated gifs.
  • Ah, sweet irony. Someone hotlinked their background pic, and it says "Remote Linking Forbidden".
  • Wow. A newsfeed with no articles. Funky!
  • How many LJ accounts are there? 7.3 million? Then how did I randomly get the same one twice?
  • No way. I actually found an interesting journal purely randomly. And it only took an hour or so of clicking. I'm gonna bookmark it.
  • And ... back to the stupid. Black on black color scheme? Are they trying to look like idiots?
  • Another repeat. At this point, I'm guessing that the Random feature is busted. I think I'll end the test here.


Right. Something's very wrong here; according to my calculations, there's less than one chance in a million of getting two repeat hits like this. I wonder if the LJ support people know?

Oh well. At least I found [livejournal.com profile] agrumer. I wonder if he'll mind my linking him?

Ooh, his Pigs and Fishes page looks interesting...

Fanfiction

May. 7th, 2005 01:21 am
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
When I first heard of fanfiction, I was pretty sure I didn't want to read any. I had reasons for this, of course, but they aren't really pertinent quite yet. What is pertinent, is that I changed my mind.

The proximate cause was [livejournal.com profile] limyaael, as it happened. You see, I started reading her journal, fell in love with her brilliant ranting on all things fantasy-novel, and began paging through all her old entries. Eventually, I ran into a post reviewing a fanfic (in an unusual manner, as it happens), and I decided to investigate. So, I followed the link to Blood Magic, a Harry Potter alternate-universe fanfic in which ...

Actually, just read Limyaael's description. Or her other description. Or, y'know, read the real thing, if you trust me that much. It's really quite good, even if you haven't read the Harry Potter books. (And I haven't.)


In any case, I was quite surprised, three days ago, when Eric Burns posted an essay about fanfiction. And I was quite happy. Huzzah! Websnark agrees with me about fanfic!

Then I read the fic he'd linked (Special: The Genesis of Cyclops; a X-Men novel-length fanfic, and it's Not Safe For Work like whoa). And I ... didn't like it.

Or rather, I fell out of liking with it. It started off terrific, all psychological and exciting. The main character (Scott somethingorother – he turns into Cyclops) was severely messed up in realistic and scary ways, and it was great watching him recover from all the damage going on in his head.

But then ... romance started happening. And love triangles. And clichés so corny that even the characters acknowledged them. And I ditched it.

Now, to tell the truth, I've no clue when it comes to actual, real-life romance. I haven't even been on a date. I don't know how people act when they're in love. Not really. All I have is this sense of out-of-characterness, this sense that the author was bending the characters to fit the plot.

So, I'm disappointed.




I originally intended to end this article with some hypothesizing about established characters, and prequelitis, and the fear of changing other peoples' creations, but I realized I didn't know enough to make any such claim. Instead, I will plug more good fanfic: [livejournal.com profile] archangelbeth has been writing this cool series of In Nomine fanfiction she calls Interesting Times (I link the first in the series).

It's not as stand-alone as the HP one, though. There were several spots where I was flat-out lost, and imagining the visuals was very difficult without having ever read the original In Nomine material. Apparently, In Nomine is a tabletop (is that the term?) roleplaying game, and a first-rate one, based on some big conflict between Heaven and Hell. Most of what I know comes from the several mentions it's had on Websnark (they're in there, somewhere).

And now my eyes hurt. Goodnight.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
I was just reading some of the old posts in [livejournal.com profile] limyaael's journal, and I found one giving advice on writing. There were many good pointers in there, but the very first one struck me quite hard.


Avoid things that dull your brain. Yes, I've heard about writing from your soul or your heart, too. I'm not one of those writers, or at least not a writer who can tell clearly what writing comes from my "heart" and what from my "head." I tend to think the brain has a great deal to do with good writing in the purely physical sense, at least, given how drastically the smallest occurrence there can affect someone's mood.

I find that I don't feel much like writing after watching TV or playing video games. In fact, I find it much less easy to do anything that I normally find fun after those two. They exhaust me in an odd way, cloud my thoughts, or make me have to give up a whole lot of arguments with the plotline in order to enjoy whatever entertainment they can provide.

Thing is, I need my mind to write. I want to be able to know that a plot twist wouldn't make sense, that a character wouldn't say that, that I really shouldn't write that scene because it would contradict something I said two hundred pages earlier. So I avoid playing video games altogether, and watch TV only when I absolutely cannot get out of it or when (for those rare shows I enjoy on their own merits) I've finished my writing for the day.

Other people might get incredibly stimulated by television, though I don't actually know anyone like that. Other people may find that contact with other people tires them out, or that reading through Internet flamewars dulls their thoughts and makes them rabid. So avoid them. Ultimately, this comes down to self-discipline on your part. If those things have that kind of effect on your mind, you are the only one who will realize it, and the only one who can grab your own arm and frog-march you away from that thing before you hurt yourself.


I don't think this is just writing advice. I remember feeling lethargic after playing videogames for hours. I remember having a hard time concentrating on homework after surfing the web all day.

Avoid things that dull your brain. Hmm.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
Because it's 10:30 at night and nothing's going on!

I think I should go to bed 'early' tonight. Test tomorrow, don'tcha know.

*cracks notebook for a quick review*

"Peak Oil"?

Apr. 9th, 2005 06:59 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
http://www.livejournal.com/users/saintbryan/204109.html

It's a long post, but well-written, with helpful diagrams. As for its accuracy ... it sounds good, but I haven't checked. Yet.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
During the past 15 minutes:

I have read [livejournal.com profile] metaquotes,
I have discovered [livejournal.com profile] qwantz, the maker of a good cut-and-paste webcomic that I already frequent, and
I have not gone to the bathroom.

I am beginning to think this last 'action' (does 'not doing' something count as an action?) was ill-considered...

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