packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
Post edited ~5:20p EDT - thanks, [livejournal.com 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.

Thanks!
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: 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: 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: 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 [livejournal.com profile] ceruleanst, here.
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: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
Hat-tip to [livejournal.com 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: [livejournal.com 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.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
On AlterNet.

Caveat: If the title suggests that you don't want to read this, then please don't read it. I'm mostly posting for my own reference.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
A link to pass on: Slacktivist explains the lie Tony Perkins is telling for money about the expansion of hate crime legislation to cover LGBT persons. Money quote:

The only extent to which hate-crime protections pertain to "thought" is in the way that all criminal law does, which is to say that motive matters. If you truly believe that the law should make no distinction between accidental manslaughter and premeditated first-degree homicide, because you truly believe that any such distinction constitutes the establishment of "thought crime," then I will accept that you are making this "thought-crime" objection to hate-crime legislation in good faith. (I'll think you're kind of an idiot, but at least a sincere idiot.) But you can't accept that distinction and still argue in good faith that hate crimes are "thought crimes."


P.S. If anyone you know is concerned that hate crime legislation could infringe their freedom of speech, two words: Fred Phelps.

P.P.S. On a related note, a riddle courtesy of eyelessgame in the comments: What terrorist organization has killed more Americans than al Qaeda?

My Atheism

Sep. 24th, 2009 08:07 pm
packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
Greta Christina recently posted something rather brilliant about atheism and self-definition that ... well, it inspires me to define my atheism, just so people know where I'm coming from.

I'd love to see people's reactions to this, by the way. I might be too busy to react properly, but I'll try to answer questions, comments, complains, and arguments, whatever reaction you have to what I say.

*clears throat*

I'm an atheist. What that means is that I don't believe that anything like a god is real. I'm not totally certain - I don't think any atheist is totally certain, however hyperbolic their rhetoric might become in the heat of debate - but I've thought about this quite a lot for quite a while, I've read a lot of arguments, and all told I simply don't believe it. I'm pretty sure that the people who do believe there are any gods, be it one, a few, or many, are simply mistaken.

I'm an atheist. I'm a strong atheist - I believe that no such thing as a god is real. Now, this distinction commonly causes semantic confusion: "I don't believe gods are real" doesn't mean "I believe gods are imaginary", never mind that I could state both truthfully; it's perfectly common for atheists to not believe that gods exist, while simultaneously not believing that gods don't exist. Such persons don't believe they have the evidence to commit either way on the question. I do.

I'm an atheist. I'm a metaphysical naturalist - I think the universe operates according to fundamentally non-mental principles. Richard Carrier defined supernaturalism well in an essay a couple years ago: supernatural things cannot be broken down into non-mental pieces. That makes no sense to me. Everything I have ever learned - my education in philosophy, in physics, in psychology, in mathematics, in computer science, in literature - has given me a strong instinct that somewhere at the base of it all are simple mathematical laws. I draw the comparison to Conway's Game of Life: the rules are basic and unbreakable, but through their implications on higher and higher levels of complexity in the world shaped as it is we find everything with which we are familiar.

I'm an atheist. I don't believe there's any overlord of the universe to dictate moral laws for us, nor any afterlife wherein our acts can be judged. Our morals are our own - earned in the struggles and victories of our ancestral species, forged on the anvil of a world which does not tell us what we should do, but merely referees. Our senses of beauty, of honor, of justice, of fairness, of charity, of love, of pride, of disgust ... every subjective experience we have is ours, proven on the steppes from which we came and coming together to create that which is us. To declare that this makes goodness into something meaningless is, if you'll forgive the rhyme, senseless - we're not stupid, and if we value goodness, that is meaning enough.

I'm an atheist. I am an atheist because I have the freedom to be thus - the freedom to learn, to decide, and to proclaim. I would not live where I was required to be thus by ignorance, deception, or coercion: to be an atheist freely is to be aware of the need for freedom. As Alfred Tarski is quoted to have said, "The sentence 'snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white" - and to be forced to believe that snow is white is to be coerced to believe, be that belief true or false. The only way to be free to believe truth is to be free to believe what one must on the strength of one's own judgement.

I'm an atheist. I care about being an atheist - I care about what I believe, and about being true to what I believe. I want to be treated decently and with respect. I want the people who disagree with me to listen to me - to trust my sincerity and my rationality - and when they argue with me, I want them to be sincere and rational in doing so. I want the arguments against me to stem from a fair and charitable reading of my sometimes-clumsy explanations - you can fight me, but fight the true implications of my world-view with the true implications of yours.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
On Fred Clark's blog, slacktivist:

A: Sarah Palin is lying about health care reform.

B: Whoa, hold on there. That's quite the accusation. You want to use the L-word, you're going to have to prove it.

A: That's not difficult. Here is the outrageous and demonstrably untrue lie in question, from her Facebook page:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

She's accusing President Obama of trying to create a "death panel" in which bureaucrats will decide whether or not to euthanize the elderly and handicapped children. That simply isn't true. It isn't close to anything that's close to being true. She's lying.

B: So you say.

A: No, what I say is irrelevant. What matters is what she said versus what the reality is. She is lying.

B: OK, let's just say for the sake of argument that what she is saying there isn't true ...












Enjoy the followup as well.

Tank Man

Jun. 4th, 2009 07:57 pm
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
On the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen Square, the New York Times "Lens" blog made two memorial posts regarding the photographs of the Tank Man: first, the classic four photos with comments from the photographers, and second, the fifth photo, unreleased until now.

I am sure I can say nothing to add to these. But I am wondering: what of the driver and other crew of that lead Type 59 tank? It seems to me an incredible thing, that these four PLA soldiers, presumably with orders to drive away the protesters from the square, saw this single man (incongruously carrying plastic bags, as if he was just out shopping) walk out in front of them ... and they stopped. Their guns were silent. Ashamedly, the driver turns the tank to go around the man - like you might turn your car to avoid a pothole - but the man puts his body in the way, seventy or so kilos of meat and bone against thirty six thousand of metal, and ... I don't know. Were they confused? Or did they, somehow, in the midst of the machinegunning of hundreds of people, look out through their periscopes and see a person, a fellow human being, before them?

I have been thinking for a while that nonviolent protest is the strangest sort of moral judo - if war is an extension of diplomacy, seeking victory by the destruction of your enemies personhood, then this is likewise an extension, an anti-war, seeking victory by the construction of your own personhood. The acts of passive resistance bewilder because it is impossibly to justify as war. It can only be understood as human.

We don't know who the Tank Man is. As far as I am aware, we don't even know who was in the tanks.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (pale blue dot)
Via my dad*: Louis CK on the Conan O'Brien Show, Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy.

* Technically, he posted a YouTube clip of the segment, but I figure NBC won't make copyright claims against itself.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (internet)
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Issue may be a simple case of poor systems security, rather than evil - see (1) http://gawker.com/5210142/why-it-makes-sense-that-a-hackers-behind-amazons-big-gay-outrage (2) http://pastebin.ca/1390576 (3) http://community.livejournal.com/brutal_honesty/3168992.html

xposted from my Twitter feed: Amazon.com is censoring LGBT literature. See http://jesurgislac.wordpress.com/2009/04/12/lesbian-and-gay-books-disappear/ and http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/04/12/amazon-possibly-using-category-metadata-to-filter-rankings/ for more info.

I've heard people saying "don't use Amazon" before, but this is rather egregious. Another person who has been all over this is [livejournal.com profile] ironychan, including in both of her webcomics - here's a list of other online booksellers if you're interested.

Baseball!

Apr. 5th, 2009 01:07 pm
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
For those of you not following the Twitter filter (does that link work?) - went to an exhibition game yesterday at the Washington Nationals stadium downtown - they beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-5, with (amusingly) all five Nats RBIs credited to one ballplayer, Josh Willingham. Grand slam in the first, fielder's choice single in the seventh. It was fun - I got the Grande Nachos at the Bullpen Burrito, which were delicious.

Now to go to school and write computer programs! ...after lunch!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

What is your favorite macro? Why?

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Do you have to ask?

(I am so setting myself up for disappointment...)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

If you knew that a friend's significant other was cheating on him or her, would you tell your friend the truth or keep it to yourself?

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I would confront the S.O. before anything else (not the least because some people are in open relationships). Then I would talk to someone I trust, to make sure that I'm not being utterly stupid. But if I did that and still knew, I would tell my friend - it's what I'd want.

(See, that's the thing with lies - it's much easier to think lying is okay if you don't put yourself in the shoes of the lied-to. I know - I read it in a book!)

(But seriously - it's true, and it's a good book: Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life by Sissela Bok. I recommend it.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (swing dismount)
From [livejournal.com profile] baxil, with his modifications:

Comment to this post, and I will list five things I associate with you. They might make sense or they might be totally random. You're encouraged to post that list, with your commentary on each item, to your lj (or just add a reply back at me).

Extra Baxilian addition: If you have a mental association with me that nobody has mentioned yet, add it to your five-things request and I'll write some bonus commentary.




Swing Sets

I like swings. I would consider this a fairly awesome date.

I'm not sure when or where my earliest experiences were, but I know we had a swingset in the back yard of the family house when I was a kid, and I seem to recall a swingset at the park down the street, too. I think both of them are gone, now. So is the swingset in the icon, at K's house, but the swing in the icon - the brown thing I'm holding on to is the seat of a tree swing - is still there and still a lot of fun. Without the swingset to climb on for extra height, though, it'll be a little harder for me to fall off at the highest point off the ground and knock my wind out. Again. Pity.

Atheism

n. Not believing in any gods.

Now, this is not the definition you will from Messers. Merriam and Webster, should you ask of them - they will tell you that it is the positive belief that there exists no deity (and yes, they use the singular). It is also slightly different from the definition common at the once-IIDB, now FRDB (Freethought and Rationalism Discussion Board) - while that definition may be worded identically through sloppiness, strictly speaking, they refer to the negative belief, lack of belief, that any gods exist.

That said, provided that you interpret all three of these definitions reasonably, by which I mean avoiding the stupid, stupid idea that beliefs have to be infinitely certain, all three apply to myself. I positively believe that no people with power over the laws of nature exist ("in my opinion nothing occurs contrary to nature except the impossible, and that never occurs" - Sagredo, "Two New Sciences" (1914 translation), Galileo Galilei), and I decidedly don't have faith in any such creatures.

I made a post for [livejournal.com profile] convert_me a while back talking about the history of my opinion - I won't bother to repeat it here.

Magic: The Gathering

My dad, my sibs and I got into MtG early - not beta-early, but Unlimited Edition and Arabian Nights expansion early. Back then it was a great game, a lot of fun, though I stank at it - now, with the tremendous backlog of expansions and extra rules and so on that it has acquired, not so much (though I stink much less, now).

Still my favorite collectible trading card game, though.

Writer's Block*

* The LJ thought-prompter, not the creative affliction.

The LJ Writer's-Block feature quite often has interesting prompts - certainly better than Sturgeon's-Law percentages. Today's, for example, is "What do you think happens to us when we die?", a question of deep interest to many people that normally wouldn't occur to me to answer.

I normally don't put a great deal of effort into answering the Writer's Block questions, though. I expect if I were answering today's I would merely reiterate my support for the physicalist position - that you are (mostly) the operation of your brain, and if your brain data is destroyed, so are you. A more thorough response would invoke some of the evidence for the position - from Phineas Gage to the neurophysiology of near-death experiences and hallucinations.

Nomic

I've always been a bit of a rules-lawyer and I've always loved paradoxes (growing up, we had both of Martin Gardner's Aha! books, and at least one Raymond Smullyan - The Lady Or The Tiger? - I read all three often), so when I first heard of the game of Nomic (probably through my older brother), I was hooked. A game where you could change the rules! Nay, a game where you were encouraged, nay, required to change the rules, not just one where there was no-one to stop you! The very language of Suber's Initial Ruleset appealed to me.

And, of course, no-one in my circle of meatspace acquaintances was interested in playing. So the desire persistent, unfulfilled, until that fateful day when [livejournal.com profile] active_apathy decided she wanted a game. And by January 23rd, there was [livejournal.com profile] nomicide, and we've been off and running (with occasional stumbles) ever since. </plug>

Edit: That's January 23rd, 2007, for reference - over two years, now!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Do you think stem cell research is good, bad, or dangerous? Should it be funded by the government?

Submitted By [livejournal.com profile] srkfanatic15

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Stem cell research is a highly promising field, and no more 'dangerous' than carbon nanotube research. Further, the chief objection to it - that embryonic stem cells cannot be acquired morally - is baseless: the blastocyst is a barely differentiated bundle of cells, lacking even sensory organs, much less intellectual capacity.* There is no legitimate reason for this research not to be funded by governments.

* Certain religious Christians may object to my argument in this line, on the grounds that the blastocyst - undeveloped as it may be - nevertheless has a soul. I refer them to [livejournal.com profile] bradhicks Christians in the Hands of an Angry God series, which, in Part 4, demolishes the claim that the Bible puts the beginning of life at conception.
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If you see this, post a favourite poem.

My favourite poem, as I have mentioned, is modern and under copyright - it is called "The Voice You Hear When You Read Silently" by Thomas Lux. In lieu of that, I would have posted another favorite - "The Tree", by Ezra Pound - but that, although less recent, is still modern and under copyright. Therefore I will offer this, which is modern but not under copyright:

         Sara Teasdale
 Interlude: Songs out of Sorrow

   II. Mastery

I would not have a god come in
To shield me suddenly from sin,
And set my house of life to rights;
Nor angels with bright burning wings
Ordering my earthly thoughts and things:
Rather my own frail guttering lights
Wind blown and nearly beaten out:
Rather the terror of the nights
And long, sick groping after doubt;
Rather be lost than let my soul
Slip vaguely from my own control
Of my own spirit let me be
In sole though feeble mastery.


- from "Love Songs", 1917.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
  • 10:15 @RobertGirandola Hey, I think I heard something about that! #
  • 15:44 A word for you all: rip-rap. Large rocks lining the banks of a stream to reduce erosion. #
  • 21:38 Oh man, how much have I been missing by listening to music on my headphones at reasonable volumes? Intro on "Radio Free Europe", for one! #
  • 22:33 @Sugarwilla You can add "in bed" to the end of hymn titles, too! community.livejournal.com/metaquotes/6994557.html #
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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (music)
I just got back from the Janis Joplin concert at Wolftrap ... it was amazing, but when she was talking about her time in California, and said she almost fell into full-out addiction, almost ruined her life - well, it made me think. What would have happened? Would tattoos still be the provenance of outcasts? Would we ever have had the inrush of female voices into the rock-and-roll scene, people like Stevie Nicks even have played rock? A tiny change to history - if we had Joni Mitchell still playing and Janis Joplin died young - and so much would have been different.

What might Jimi Hendrix have accomplished, if he lived as long as Jim Morrison? Where would Simon & Garfunkel have gone if Paul Simon hadn't died in a car crash in 1965 - would they have just been another obscure one-hit wonder? What could R.E.M. have accomplished if it were Marc Bolan died young and Michael Stipe still alive today? Heck, would Tommy Allsup be remembered the way Ritchie Valens is, if the coin toss had gone the other way?

I guess we'll never know.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Have you ever spontaneously hugged someone you didn't know? Or received an unexpected embrace from a stranger?

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Dude, it might even have been that guy!
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  • 07:51 @sereneworx Y'know, I've long suspected that Star Trek is actually just another variation of The Twilight Zone, only with a framing device. #
  • 20:36 @punkybird Crap on a crutch - that's Wikipedia, right there, at it's inclusionist best. Wow. #
  • 21:17 A posthumous editorial from Sri Lanka. tinyurl.com/7sph9z #
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  • 08:03 xkcd today is quite good, if you missed it - xkcd.com/530/ #
  • 10:22 @kirabug Mm, only 60 for me, thanks... #
  • 10:43 In thirteen days is Lewis Carroll's 177th birthday. You know what that means: Rabbit Hole Day! crisper.livejournal.com/192670.html #
  • 10:53 @kirabug ...wait, I mixed up my Celsius and Fahrenheit - it's 30 degrees, so I only need another 30 down here. #
  • 11:42 Finally got the right artist for my Pandora station, and it's Melissa Etheridge. Who'da thunk? *listening to Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car"* #
  • 12:28 What do you call it when you're familiar with the CoverVersion, and then you hear ... uh, CoveredUp version? (All links to TVTropes.org.) #
  • 19:27 @tvtropes ReCovered? Hey, that could work! #
  • 20:00 @Sugarwilla America isn't bad - I'm not a fan, but I usually enjoy their songs when they come up on the radio or on shuffle. #
  • 20:42 @Sugarwilla Doing OK - you? #


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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
Let's face it. You're in a blog rut.

Most of the time, you write about more of the same kinda stuff that you usually write about.

Maybe it's your day-to-day life, the stuff you did. Maybe it's topical news response. Maybe it's short fiction. Maybe it's re-linking random stuff you see on the internet. Maybe it's LOLCAT porn. (I hope it's not LOLCAT porn.) Maybe it's here on LiveJournal, or it's over on Vox, or Blogspot or Blogger or Blogblog or Postablogablowablog, or WordPress or Facebook or FacePress or FacePlant or maybe it's just your Twitter account. It's what you're comfortable with, I know, I know...

...but why not try doing something different, just for a day?


Tuesday. January 27th. Rabbit Hole Day is coming.

Pass it on.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
  • 09:41 WaPo Express: 6-year-old kid borrows family sedan to get to school after missing bus, says learned to drive from *GTA*. Me: Which is worse? #
  • 13:39 Whoa. The "Read it Later" Firefox add-on puts markers in Google Reader to do it! #
  • 14:56 Wow, the "Note in Reader" bookmarklet that Google provides is really nice. I should have started using this thing before! #
  • 15:08 My LiveJournal is now archived with ljdump: hewgill.com/ljdump/ Tutorial for MacOSX users @ crasch.livejournal.com/746791.html #
  • 17:27 @Sugarwilla *Cold*! #
  • 19:13 @Sugarwilla Sounds like a example of "the hedge". Other variations: "I know I shouldn't say this...", "I would never try to give advice...." #
  • 19:23 @Sugarwilla My neighborhood got a bit of Christmas cheer along the same lines last month - well worth spreading! #
  • 19:24 Okay, you know what Twitter needs? @-replies with offset. e.g. "@Sugarwilla-1" for the penultimate Sugarwilla tweet! #
  • 19:25 LJ is back - did you miss it? :P #
  • 19:54 As the question has been raised, it shall be answered: @Sugarwilla is officially the bee's knees, the snake's hip, the cat's pajamas - cool. #
  • 19:55 As George Carlin put it: if I am wrong, let God strike down ... *this audience!* #
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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
  • 09:56 @somerled Wow - it's like all those articles saying "Arab cultures consider throwing shoes at someone's head a grave insult." #
  • 13:05 USians for Tax Cuts is host for the RNC Chairmanship Debate - vote on th'questions: tinyurl.com/7mlclt #
  • 23:12 @Sugarwilla You just realized *today* you tweet a lot? You tweet more @-replies than the entire output of everyone else I follow combined! #
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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

A lot of resolutions, from the mundane to the truly ambitious, are being made today. What are your New Year's resolutions? Do you think you're likely to stick to them past the month of January?

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Oh, I should make some of these!

1. Practice being calm when being calm is the best strategy - most prominently, when receiving unwanted advice. (I was going to say "senseless courtesy", but civility sometimes requires rudeness.)

2. Ride my bicycle more, building up to commuting to school on it.

3. Reclaim time from those pleasures which do not give me much pleasure, and gather up fragments of time, lest they perish.

4. Work out the list of things I need need to pay attention to (my financial status, my health care coverage, my health, my...) and pay attention to those things.

...okay, those seem like good ideas. I'll leave them there.
packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
Buoyed by the terrific success of last year's, I offer you: another open thread! Post! Question! Answer! Flame! (Not too much flame, though - the extinguisher hasn't been recharged in a while.) Anything doesn't reply to regular posts can go here.

Biking!

Dec. 30th, 2008 05:16 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (cctrail)
Finally went out to ride my bike again today. Last Friday, I'd walked to the local bicycle shop to waste my money on invest in various essential biking accessories, but the combination of bad weather, intersemester schedule lapse ("Are you staying up until 2 a.m. or something?" "Err..."), and the bicycle shop being closed Mondays meant I put off actually riding until today.

First, I went out to pump up the tires (first taking Dad's running stuff off the handlebars). Whereupon I realized I had no clue how much air they needed. So: up the stairs to my laptop and the Webbernets, which promptly informed me that (1) my bike was worth less than a meal at Taco Bell and (2) I needed to know the size of the tires. Back down the stairs, borrow a ruler, 1-1/8 inches is about 28 mm, and - back up the stairs - assuming 35 kg load per tire (reasonable) that makes 80 psi. Back down the stairs.

Then the helmet. I do most shamefully confess - after ten minutes of irritating helmet-adjusting, I simply gave up, pulled everything tight that could be tightened, and said, "Good enough".

(I also skipped putting on my LED taillight. Ironically, the headlight, which I did put on, was absolutely useless.)

After all the aggravation, I was quite glad to walk it out along the sidewalks to the nearest bike trail. And I was ecstatic to be riding again. There is very little I enjoy more than cycling - the effort required to maintain a pace my hindbrain reads as fast is quite easily within even my untrained capacities, even on (slight) uphills.

That said, I was feeling a little woozy after the first 1.5 miles, so I stopped in at a gas station to buy candy and energy drink. After that, I was doing quite well.

Anyway, in the end, I skipped the bicycle shop. After all, it was a cheap, old bike, and I was going to meet with some of me bro's friends (my acquaintances) and play "Left 4 Dead" at the internet cafe this evening. I'll go some other day.

Much fun, today.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, you've probably experienced something that you couldn't explain. What was it?

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Something I haven't bothered to explain.

For cripes sake, coincidence, people! Weird stuff happens all the time! Grow up!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
  • 19:27 SotD: Tracy Chapman's version of "The Times, They Are A-Changin'". "Come gather round, people..." tinyurl.com/65jvxz #
  • 00:07 I think something is wrong with the battery in my iPod. It keeps going dead after about forty-five seconds. #
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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
  • 08:53 @jephjacques Wait, no, you have the perfect excuse! The sign is written mirrored to confuse the customers! (Or, well, not.) #
  • 17:56 Wired Magazine is hosting an event to write an epitaph for our @MarsPhoenix : tinyurl.com/6ycx82 (You can vote on them, too!) #
  • 19:25 If you live in Missouri: No on Proposition A and M. bradhicks.livejournal.com/415324.html #
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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
  • 12:48 Just FYI: www.canivote.org/ - gateway site actross US to let you check your registration and find your polling place. #
  • 13:54 Addendum on the debate tournament: the final case was basically "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", asking, "do you blame those who stay?" #
  • 17:05 The difference between truth and lies is that truth gives you a more accurate knowledge of reality and lies less. Hence "truth in fiction". #
  • 23:37 Went to school for texts in my locker and to do HW. While there, posted skeptics club ads in engineering. Pity name changed since printing. #
  • 23:45 Ad on train commemorating 60th anniversary of Berlin Airlift, this year. I agree with TVTropes here - that was a Crowning Moment of Awesome. #
  • 23:50 At school Metro, had creepy moment: train entered station v. slowly, passengers walked likewise. Had to do gravity check to reassure myself. #
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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
  • 03:00 Three a.m., fading badly, and the presentation due before noon is a long way from done. Pop quiz: nap now or nap later? #
  • 03:12 @kirabug Hmm ... nah, I think there might be someone sleeping in the ASME lounge. I'll just go with the artificial substitute - C8H10N4O2. #
  • 03:29 @kirabug Conveniently packed in syrupy lime selzer! (Not sure it's working, tho: listening to "Jezebel" by 10,000 Maniacs on repeat again.) #
  • 03:43 (That said, it's a great track - tinyurl.com/3ehm98 for a bootleg live version that's as well-performed as the CD.) #
  • 04:46 ...if I fall asleep *right now*, I can get two hours before my alarm goes off. Yay! #
  • 15:21 Possible book title: Respecting Belief. Or: With Respect to Belief. #
  • 21:06 Debate club - finally got ballots (evals) back from Swat Novice. Not much new to learn from them, tho' - practice and poise is what I need. #
  • 21:21 Filk idea: "You Gotta Be Smart To Be Dumb". And the bridge: a Model-of-a-Major-General fast wall of argumentation ending "And so 2+2 is 3"! #
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packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (butterfly)
Just wanted to comment on a little poetry of the sports page from Chico Harlan of the Washington Post:
Up it all went for the Dodgers, in nine pitches. The Philadelphia Phillies poked one homer just beyond the fence. They smacked another one halfway to the next Zip code. But distance didn't even matter. One measured these sorts of shots by the silence they caused, the home team's lead they erased, the series they likely shifted -- if not ended.

Good article.

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