Registered

In the spirit of "take immediate action":


Welcome! You have been conditionally admitted to CNM pending final review of your on-line application and CNM program and placement policies for SPRING 2008.







(Yes, I just did this moments ago.) ...Hopefully, one new year's resolution will be checked off the list soon. ; )

Resolute

Though I am surrounded by people that "don't believe in resolutions", I myself am inordinately fond of them. I enjoy challenging myself. I like to think I can make changes for the better. Thus, I welcome any chance I can get to adopt new resolutions, including the New Year. I've been ambitious this year, and won't be terribly disappointed if it takes longer than a year... at least, for most of these:

  • Eat very little sugar.
  • No new video games this year.
  • Find an appropriate way to exercise.
  • Take at least one college course. Preferably two.
  • Watch a Hindi film and understand it.
  • Have a conversation in Spanish.
  • Learn the writing systems, basic grammar, and 1000-ish words of Arabic, Conversational Sign, Dutch, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, and Spanish.
  • Read the news in German, daily.
  • Produce another album (music).
  • Draw. A lot.
  • Shed a couple layers of ego.

Fractals In Nature

If you were an unbeliever in the fact that Fractals are well-represented in nature, behold the Broccoli Romanesco (it's more like cauliflower) that we received from our organic co-op this week!

(click to enlarge)

Is that not fucking awesome?!?

All Is Full of Love


I've never been fond of the word "love". I find it hard to say, even if it's easy to do. I am uncomfortable when people (my wife excepted) use it. I even tend to avoid music that over-uses the word in its lyrics.

There are a few exceptions. Seal can get away with it in, say, Future Love Paradise. Despite the title, the concept seems fairly incidental in a song that is very difficult to comprehend. To my ears, it's just another tonality on the interesting instrument that is Seal's voice.

Björk, though, cannot be denied the power of the word "Love", in All Is Full of Love. This is one of those rare songs that talks about love in a way that often comes close to bringing me to tears.

I don't know why, exactly. Perhaps it's the music video, which is awesome. Perhaps it has to do with the implication that everything is perfect, just the way it is. But it makes me feel good about life.

And boy, does she ever belt it out! No holds barred: she makes it a raw, emotive, overwhelming exclamation: all is full of love!

...But then I listen to s'more techno (at the moment, that's Nexus by Astral Projection), and pretend it never happened.

Ignoring my emotional ineptitude, I recommend you pick up a copy of the song from your favourite on-line vendor. It's one of the best ever.

The Man Who Could Take Any Medicine

Not one who normally likes diverting my readers to other blogs without explanation of what they're getting into, I must break protocol for Scott Adam's story today. The creator of Dilbert apparantly prizes himself on the ability to take any medicine, regardless of how foul the taste.

Recently, he was defeated.

It's a story worth reading. Please do.

Physical Activities and Energy Use

Ever wondered what activities were better at burning calories than others?

Enter the Compendium of Physical Activities. Exertion is measured in "METs". Not sure what they actually mean, but some examples: Hacky Sack is 4.0, Fencing is 6.0, Shoe Repair is 2.5, Typing (Computer) is 1.5, and Sleeping is 0.9.

Just before Christmas, I went on a jog/walk type thing. I jogged for about 10 minutes, and walked for about 20. According to the CPA, that was a solid 6.0. Perhaps I'll do this more often. On the other hand, martial arts rate 10.0, so I suppose that would be a better use of time.

Think You're a Liberal?

A friend of mine emailed me a link about an atheist's "need" for faith and the like. I was replying to him, when I noticed an Ad Sense link over on the right stating, "Think you're a Liberal? Read this, and there will be one more of Us and one less of Them."

The morbidly curious part of me clicked on the link, thinking it was some kind of Libertarian manifesto or something. It wasn't: it seems to be an argument for liberalism. Not sure what to make of it: it's very choppy, and I'm not sure I follow the points. Nor do I think I really agree, but it's hard to say.

Still, an interesting and quirky find that I thought I'd share, to see if anyone else had thoughts on it.

Our Game Shelf


No, this doesn't compare to Rolfe's library of games, but this is what we've got:



I happen to believe that the games on the top shelf are all the games that a person really needs. (Note that on the left, there's a big stack of blank index cards.)

Puerto Rico not shown... I'm currently reading the rules. People say it's one of the greatest games ever, but I haven't had a chance to find out.

Paper Bags of Firey Fun



In New Mexico, we celebrate the holiday season by putting flaming lunchbags on our lawns.

Obama on Finance Reform

"When you walk into my administration, you will not be able to work on regulations or contracts directly related to your former employer for two years. And when you leave, you will not be able to lobby the Administration throughout the remainder of my term in office.

"I will end the abuse of no-bid contracts in my administration.

"We will institute an absolute gift ban so that no registered lobbyist can curry favor and build relationships with members of my administration...

"we will return government to the people by bringing government to the people – by making it open and transparent so that anyone can see that our business is the people’s business.

-- Barack Obama, June 22nd, 2007
Sorry for the old news, but I was just thinking about this, and had a link laying around.

What Is Waterboarding?

I wasn't sure what waterboarding really was, and wanted to find out. Here's a first-hand account by Henri Alleg:

The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn't hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save me from suffocation. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably. "That's it! He's going to talk," said a voice.

The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed.

According to the WSJ, "the CIA has only used this interrogation method against three terrorist detainees and not since 2003." Further, President Bush signed an executive order banning torture during interrogation of terror suspects in July of this year, which includes "threat of imminent death". (This should encompass waterboarding.) That said, this was already implicit in the Geneva convention, (and thus the U.S. War Crimes bill), and the need for executive order may have been redundant.

All that said, "the United States has apparently never prosecuted a person under the War Crimes Act. Perhaps as a result, there is some question concerning the act’s scope." (CRS Report for Congress) ...Indeed.

Just a Reminder: Bush on War Crimes

In its ruling on military commissions, the Court determined that a provision of the Geneva Conventions known as "Common Article Three" applies to our war with al Qaeda. This article includes provisions that prohibit "outrages upon personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment." The problem is that these and other provisions of Common Article Three are vague and undefined, and each could be interpreted in different ways by American or foreign judges. And some believe our military and intelligence personnel involved in capturing and questioning terrorists could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act -- simply for doing their jobs in a thorough and professional way.


-- President George W. Bush, September 9, 2006 (emphasis added)

Acid

The strongest known superacid is Fluoroantimonic acid (HF-SbF5). It is explosively reactive with water, though it is not combustible. It's a colourless syrup that is typically put in Teflon containers.

Teflon itself was a mistake. The inventor was attempting to make a new type of chlorofluorocarbon for refrigerants.

Game Reviews


Assassin's Creed summary: play it.

It's a short game. It crashed on me about a dozen times. It ends with a "there will be a sequel" scene. It was too easy. It was fucking violent: snapping legs, watching an innocent get stabbed 30 times, and worse. The whole "present day" storyline was superfluous. The controls take some getting used to. You have a very hard time identifying with the main character, on account of his being a pig-headed prick.

All that aside, the experience is awesome. The roof-top chases alone are worth the fifty bucks. This game accomplishes things no other game can. Personally, I hope the Looking Glass folks get their hands on this engine and make a worthwhile sequel to Thief II.

I finished the game one day before The Orange Box arrived... and it's a damn good thing, too, 'cause now that I have Half-Life 2 (HL2) back, I can't stop playing it. Screw the other games in the Box!

I haven't had much time to play, so I'm only as far as the big bridge scene. I was worried that I would get my ass handed to me, since I'm used to PC gaming, and the controls are very different. ...but I am proud to report that I have not died once. Before every scene, I kept telling myself, "there's no way I'll make it through this without dying." Yet somehow, I limped through.

I'm positive I'll fall off of the bridge a few times, though.

I find HL2 to be a perfect game: moody, dark, detailed, creative, immersive, frightening, charming... I'm addicted to it. It is the best game of all time. I don't mind the linear nature of it at all: it's like playing a (superb) movie.

Sundance Music Festival

I just sent this email to Bad Loop and Recue:

Okay, I've been euphoric about the sundance recording (the Kahvi version) for long enough now that I figured it was high time to comment to you both about it. (Cc'ing Nik cause I know he likes to hear this stuff.) ; )

I think it's fantastic. The style, mood, and tonality are consistent throughout, making for a coherent track. A gearhead like myself has to appreciate the work that's gone into the sound design. The rhythms are all perfectly glitchy and interesting throughout. The melodies, though, are what make this memorable: I find myself humming the various themes on a regular basis. The flow of the set is amazing, with both pauses and climaxes in the right places... it's just an amazing overall experience.

This gets queued up as often as my other favourites, and has officially made it to my "essentials" list. Definitely right up there with esem.

Thanks for making this available (and free). Count yourselves as having one more fan.
I suggest you check it out. You'll get an idea of the kind of music I love, and you may even grow to like it yourself.

Some Rails Plugins Won't Install

If any of you listening are subversion-savvy, I'm getting the following error when I try and install select plugins:

svn: Can't connect to host '[some hostname]': A connection attempt failed because the connected party did not properly respond after a period of time, or established connection failed because connected host has failed to respond.

...Any clues?

It sure sounds like port-blocking, but I've installed other rails plugins just fine. I suppose it could be the case that the ones that work are using http, but I'm not sure.

I've also tried both hostnames and IP addresses.

...I'm just asking for a little lateral-thinking. If you have any, I'd appreciate it.

Liberal Conspiracies (Some Quotes)

Their parents wrested defeat from victory in Vietnam; and so try they. For liberals life is all about control. They don't care about the troops or nation, or they would support them so they can come home in victory. Will America prevail if anything and everything is permitted in the name of free speech? When does free speech become treason? Yes, terrorists threaten America. But the liberal attitude is the most deadly assault on our country. The threat of nuclear terrorism on our shores pales in comparison. Citizens like these do more harm than our enemies.

-- letter to the editor of Daily Record

On immigration:

I don't want [my friend] Louis deported, but I don't want or will tolerate Mexican flags on American streets or have my country reduced to a multicultural, socialist cesspool. The people behind this are not people like Louis, but those with a political agenda that wouldn't invite Louis home to dinner. Don't blame Louis and others. If I sound harsh with Mexicans, etc. I apologize, it isn't them.

Some interesting quotes from Amazon's reviews of an old Sean Hannity book:

Finally someone, in this case Sean Hannity, is able to cut through the liberal domination of the published world and drop some truth grenades on the battlefield of America. You say Liberalism I say Terrorism. In fact I can't tell the difference. It's the liberals who have declared jihad on the wombs of America's women. It is Liberals who strapped their [...] bombs to their bleeding hearts and blew up the church of marriage. And it is liberals who flew the plane into the second tower. I've heard one of the pilots was a 3rd cousin of Al Gore.


By the fact that so many people are so enraged over a guy who only writes a book about the fact that liberalism is bad for the country and that America is a good place, shows how utterly perverted and reprehensible our society has become. You would think that Sean Hannity had written Mein Kampf. I mean this is merely a book that criticizes the liberal agenda. Not only that Hannity respects the Democrats of JFK and Roosevelt and Truman. The main problem is the Democratic party today, wants partial birth abortion on demand, hates Christianity, wants open borders, hates America, defends those who blow up our buildings.

...To be honest, it's actually relatively difficult to find coherent right-wing arguments on-line. I assume that has something to do with the correlation between technophilia and liberalism. ...Or perhaps it's a liberal conspiracy by Google to drown out the Right. I would like some intelligent counterpoint to the crap I've found while looking for myself. It mostly seems to boil down to points like this:
...Nothing makes a citizen more selfish than socially equitable communitarianism: Once a fellow’s enjoying the fruits of Euro-style entitlements, he couldn’t give a hoot about the general societal interest; he’s got his, and who cares if it’s going to bankrupt the state a generation hence?

Heroes

Damn: add Gandhi to my list of heroes. I'm a little ashamed that I didn't remember him earlier. I've long been a believer in what he did.

Brilliant guy. The fact that he found such brutally effective ways to counter the British occupation of India and Pakistan just astounds me, and his personal sacrifice is something to be thoroughly admired. He's one of my favourite human beings.

I was reminded of him in a conversation with friends about heroes. Specifically, the question:

If you could be any person, past or present, who would you be?

My answer to that was "an artist, in the future, where the ability to create is intimately facilitated by technology."

A friend of mine pointed out that almost everyone--including women--choose men.

Who would you be?

Why are men more "respected" in history?

Silly Cents

Wikipedia:

"In April 2006, the copper-plated zinc cent contains 0.8 cents worth of metal. However, the mint spends about 0.6 cents to produce each cent in addition to the cost of the metal content. Presumably with the rapid rise in price for zinc, the US Mint will have to find another alternative. However, it is Congress that determines the denomination and content of coins that the Mint must produce and put into circulation. As the United States Mint produces only the coins that Congress mandates, it does not have the authority to alter or abolish a unit of currency. If directed to do so by legislation enacted by the Congress and signed by the President, the Treasury Department would again study changing or phasing out the cent. Because the demand exists and the Federal Reserve Banks require inventories to meet the demand, the United States Mint is currently committed to producing the cent at a loss."

Perhaps it's time to ditch the penny (and nickel) and start dealing in dimes?

Dangerous Words

What do you believe is the most dangerous word in the English language?

Some suggestions from others: tomorrow, forgiveness, and (good one:) assume. (I'd have found more, but lots of them were blocked by my employer.)

For my money, the most dangerous word is "should". When one says others should do anything, conflict is the result. "Should" is an expression of morality... and people certainly don't like being told to do things that aren't in line with their own views. It's even more dangerous than "assume", since it implies assumptions about other's morality.

More Numbers


For whatever reason, I found myself pondering the Monty Haul Problem again today.

If you're familiar with this problem, stop reading. I only describe it here, I don't add any value. : ) For the rest of you, here's a nickel-tour:

You're on Let's Make a Deal, and Monty shows you three doors. He tells you that behind one door is a new car, and the others have goats. You pick a door, say, Number 1. Without opening the door you picked, Monty opens one of the other doors (say, 3), revealing a goat. Monty then gives you the chance to switch from Door 1 to Door 2. Or you can stick with your guns. Which do you choose?


Most human beings say "stick with 1". But it turns out (counterintuitively) that if you switch doors, you are actually twice as likely to win a car! ...At best, telling this to people not familiar with the problem elicits violence.

Some people are willing to "accept" that they may have gone from a 1/3rd probability of winning to a 1/2 probability. But even that's not true. Switching gives you a 2/3rd chance of winning.

The best explanation I saw of this was using a chart. The math for this is way beyond my ken. But, if you are unconvinced of this, write out a chart representing the possible outcomes:

1 2 3 either 2 or 3
1 2 3 must be 3
1 2 3 must be 2
1 2 3 must be 3
1 2 3 either 1 or 3
1 2 3 must be 1
1 2 3 must be 2
1 2 3 must be 1
1 2 3 either 1 or 2

So, the bold is where the Car is hidden, and the green is where you first picked. If you look at each in turn, the right most column tells you which door Monty can open. So, if you switched, you will lose in only the cases where Monty could open one of two doors (ie: those cases where you chose right the first time). In every other scenario, switching wins. From the standpoint of switching, there are 6 winning scenarios, and 3 losing. ...meaning, you are twice as likely to win!

Humans are not wired for statistics! (At least, I'm not.)

Some (Alleged) Numbers From Iraq

According to Wikipedia, there have been a minimum of 733,158 Iraqi combat deaths since the invasion in 2003. That's not counting the 392,979 minimum violent "excess" deaths, and 169,045 minimum criminal deaths, and there are no estimates for starvation/illness deaths. I count 1,895,182 minimum Iraqi deaths due to this conflict.

According to another article, that places it a hair behind Shaka's tour of Africa. A top-twenty war, as measured by casualties.

Those numbers are Iraqi deaths. They don't include the 1,015 contractors and 4,201 coalition casualties... but those are a mote in the chalice of Iraqi blood, yes? American deaths total 3,895. That's point 2 percent (0.2%) of overall casualties.

How does that make you feel?

1kBWC: AssCactus



(C'mon, Rolfe, I know you were thinking about it when you saw the post.)

Hindi

One of my "resolutions" for this year was to learn Hindi. It came about because of a post by some woman who suggested learning one language every year: seemed a reasonable goal.

Well, I can't speak Hindi. But just this past weekend, I read an entire paragraph in Hindi (Devanagari, even) and understood it. (Granted, it was designed to be read by beginners: a letter home about moving in to a foreign-exchange-type home)

That was such a cool feeling. Reading something in an entirely foreign alphabet is quite a rush.

I recommend it!

St. John, Zen, and Appreciation

I took Monday off this week. While driving my son to school, I was brooding, and recognized that I had been doing so for several days. On my drive back home, I realized: I'm depressed again.

This isn't uncommon: happens to me once or twice in a typical year, and lasts for a month or three. The last time it started, I began taking St. John's Wort, and noticed a quick improvement. Thus, I'm taking it again.

In addition, I decided to take up Zen again. It's something that's brought me peace in the past, and I do enjoy the "still mind" effect that it produces. I treated myself to two books on the subject. I'm reading " Everyday Zen" currently, and rather enjoying it.

Part of her process is listening to one's thoughts, and categorizing them. Some people think mostly about the future, some about the past, others about relationships, others about their insecurities. The author says it takes several years to get a good understanding of your own thought processes, but already I can see that I think about the future more than anything else: thing I can post on this blog, changes I can make to code, lessons I need to learn, looking forward to playing a game later... I've also come to realize that a very strong motivator for me (whether it's obvious or not) is to gain people's appreciation. I'm constantly looking for things to do that others will appreciate: this is not altruistic, mind you: it's because I like the feeling. It's a selfish thing (if it has positive benefits, so much the better). I think this is a fairly common trait among geeks: we like living on the technological edge, because we can point out "cool stuff" to our colleagues.

Accent

I have a Boston accent, even if I think I don't.

At least, this is according to an interesting poll that Rolfe pointed out today.

Music: Decmeber, 2007

[Warning: this post is going to be a blatant over-post. I wanted to be detailed on this one, since it's something of a "historical" post. I want to know what I was thinking at this point in my life.]

As I find myself cleaning up the music off of my work PC (because I have the iPod), I discover that it's time to take stock of my favourite music, again. I'll do it a little differently, listing how many tracks I refused to delete from my machine, despite the redundancy. Thus, these are the songs that are in my "survival kit", for those rare days where I've forgotten my iPod (which I haven't yet). And so, I bring you...

Essential Music


In reverse order (meaning, fewest to most):

  1. A tie for the 1-song slot: Alexander Chereshnev (Silver Train), Bad Loop and Recue (AWESOME 1-hour long mix), José González (Heartbeats), The Orb (Slug Dub), Rush (Tom Sawyer--it's nostalgic), and Tobias Wilton (hevv). Also Alanis Morissette (Uninvited), whom I admit to having a crush on.
  2. A couple of 2-song contenders not worth singling out: Biosphere, Dave Mathews Band, kaen (which is cheating: they are 1-hour-plus mixes of Kahvi music), and Mataya.
  3. Pat Metheny Group: 3. Yes, I still listen to some jazz now and then!
  4. Enigma: 3. All from MCMXC AD. Cheeseball? Perhaps. But addictive.
  5. Afro Celt Soundsystem: 3. Though it's something of a guilty pleasure (saying you're listening to "world music" usually elicits violent responses), these guys rock. I have a boatload more of their music, but three of the songs are essential.
  6. Kilowatts: 4. This is the kahvi release from about a year ago. Download it! One of the best releases from Kahvi... a lot of fun: electronic and rhythmic. Full of energy and whimsy.
  7. Pink Floyd: 5 tracks from The Wall that I can't live without.
  8. Seal: 6. An incredible vocalist, sure, but it's the punchy rhythms and unusual song development that I prefer.
  9. Red Hot Chili Peppers: 6. Blood Sugar Sex Magik: best rock album of all time, sez I.
  10. Esem: 9. I was actually surprised that I cut it down to this few... these are his "hardest" pieces, from alipe lacks to tetaby. This music is the power source for my soul.
  11. Tangerine Dream: 10. This is just the entirety of Dream Mixes.
  12. Depeche Mode: 10. Namely, Playing the Angel. When I need a fix of hard-core electronic music, this gets queued up.
  13. Shpongle: 11. And this is only so low because I don't have Nothing is Lost on this machine! I think that album's about 16 tracks, so perhaps this list should be around 25. : )
  14. Toad the Wet Sproket: 13. Down-to-earth rock music.
  15. Nine Inch Nails: 24. Yup. Nasty, evil, dark, dirty, and delicious.
  16. Introspective: 27. This is my own music... not everything I've written, clearly, but some of the best picks. I suppose it's a good sign that my own music comes out on top.
My "survival kit" is comprised of just over 150 songs, by 26 artists. Not sure what that says, since there's very little to compare it to. : )

All Perception

My mantra for a walk to lunch today was "all perception." Try it sometime. Just walk along, trying not to think of anything, and stifling any stray thoughts with the phrase "all perception".

Enjoyable.

Epic Play

I've been thinking about Epic D20 play, since it's something I've always wanted to try. In theory.

Part of my "thinking" has included looking through some epic-level play handbooks. The problem that I'm quickly seeing is in the attack stats. You've got to hit bonuses of, like, +77 or +123. The problem here is that the spread is too high: either you're going to be hit every time, or you're going to miss every time. That's lame.

The damages are also really annoying: 12d6+50? Who wants to roll that kind of damage? You're supposed to be playing, not doing math.

I still like the setting. Extraplanar travel and epic-level creatures are both super-cool. But the System breaks down at those level. You've gotta switch System to something more appropriate, once you get there, or the game will devolve quickly. Or so I hypothesize. And the fact that I've only ever heard of one epic-level game, ever (and the stories were always about how broken it was), suggests that most people seem to agree.

And, no, I'm not interested in Scion. ; )

No Life On Earth


The experiments used to detect life on Mars failed to find any.

The same experiments conducted here on Earth found none, too.

Oopsie.

(Want more information?)

The next time we go, we'll be taking deeper core samples. Better luck next time.

Male Privilege

Here's a list of all the privileges I have, thanks to the little dangly piece of flesh 'twix my legs, according to Peggy McIntosh. I'll highlight a few, to whet your appetite:

12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.

17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.

24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.”

25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability or my gender conformity.

41. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.

42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do.

46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

Hideout

If you had to disappear, where would you go?

If, for whatever reason, you needed to hide from some reasonably-large group of people for a couple of years, where would you go? What would you do?

...I see two options, myself.

Option one would be to go to some remote college town. Probably in Oregon, 'cause it's not too populated, but not too remote, and the cost of living isn't obscene (yet). I'd take some low-key job in the town, hopefully on-campus, though I wouldn't be able to take an "official" job: too much paperwork. This way, I could audit a good number of classes and keep myself intellectually stimulated while remaining off the radar.

Option two would be tucking myself away in some hidden Zen Temple. Sure, I'm not Buddhist, but I could certainly fake it for a few years. This way, I would be spending the bulk of my time hauling water, sweeping leaves, and clearing my mind. And there's no chance in hell anyone would look there. ; )

Uhhh... unless they read this post. Dammit!

What about you?

1kBWC: Best. Tea. Ever.

+ 600

1kBWC: Thermal Depolymerization


+ 500, - 200

You've found a cheap way to make energy.
But, dude, you're burning poo.

1kBWC: Methane Hydrates

-200, + 300

You think you solved your energy problems
with burning ice, but it's a greenhouse gas,
and you've created a new dependency cycle.
Still, burning ice is pretty cool.

1kBWC: The Ol' Switcheroo

-300

Keep this card in your hand.
When another player attempts to steal one
of your cards, give them this card instead,
(it goes to their pool.), then draw a card.

Photography

I used to own a Minolta 5si. At the time, and not counting my house or car, it was the most expensive thing I owned. It looked like this:

I loved my camera. I loved taking pictures with it. I loved photography.

That was then. Since my house was robbed, I only had so much money with which to replace everything, and I decided to ditch photography in lieu of music. Thus, I invested in a good computer and lots of soft-synths. The camera I'm using now is way smaller: a FinePix F30. I bought it because it fit in my price range, and it got good reviews.

I'm not sure whether I regret the decision to downgrade. I think I'm okay with it, since it's forcing me to draw more than shoot. It's also neat that it can shoot movies. I will be taking advantage of this, I think.

That said, I took this shot while in Santa Fe. Weird clouds: I had to shoot them. I'm glad I at least have a camera! (No, I am not claiming this is an otherwise good photo! It was a snapshot!)

The Next President of the United States

If you believe money buys votes (I do), our next president will likely be Hillary Clinton.

I would prefer Barack. He is the most well-spoken politician that I've ever seen. ...And the ability to speak well should be relatively high on the list of requirements for a president, in my opinion.

Still, Hillary seems decent enough. I did some research on her positions tonight, and I could certainly live with another President Clinton.

1kBWC: Keep Moving, Freak.

When another player places a card in your pool,
you may move that card and this one to the pool
on your left. (That player may use Keep Moving
at the start of their next turn.)

Coolest Setting Idea

One of the coolest ideas that I heard from indie roleplayers was a setting idea: a captive tarrasque . (If you don't know what one is, this post will be lost on you. Move on.)


Some ages ago, a collection of very powerful mages managed to lure the tarrasque into a trap... for example, completely buried underground, in hard stone, with magical bonds around each limb. The tarrasque was left to rot and the area abandoned and made off-limits to the people of the time.

...But that time has passed. Some years ago, the tarrasque was discovered by a less-than-scrupulous mage. He has decided to mine the tarrasque.

Yes, to mine it.

He's dug an underground laboratory to one side of the tarrasque, and bored a hole through the rock to the tarrasque's back. Periodically, they cut into the tarrasque with a horrific contraption, and harvest what organs they can, capturing as much blood as possible in the process. The beast makes muffled screams from within the rock, and there are occasional quakes as it writhes in agony... but its unmatched restorative powers always return it to full health. ...And then the mages begin again.

...Clearly, there are plenty of opportunities for PCs, here. Some ideas:

  • Someone hires them to steal some of the curative blood, without knowing its true source.
  • An enemy kingdom hires them to stop the production of the curative blood.
  • The PCs are asked to negotiate with the mages for the blood (without knowing the source), in return for some resource they represent.
  • The PCs are touring the facility, when one of the bonds breaks... they need to act immediately to stop the tarrasque from escaping.
  • The blood is making people progressively more evil. A patron of the PCs is using it, and they notice his changes, investigate the reason, and discover the operation.
  • Cultists (PITA?) are en route to free the tarrasque. The PCs must stop them.
  • When the PCs discover the operation, one of the NPCs with the party decides this is cruel, and tries to free it. Will they turn on their own party member to save the world?

1kBWC: Pre-emptive Shoosh

You may choose to discard the
next card played by the target.

All I Need Is A Hero [Edited]

Over the past few months, I've given thought (albeit limited) to heroes. And I don't mean the super- kind.

When we're kids, we were asked who our heroes were. Many answered it was their mother/father. I chose my grandfather.

Why don't we ask adults this question?

After thinking about it, I came up with four: E. O. Wilson, Derren Brown, Seth Godin, and Scott Adams. Let that say what it may.

Who are your heroes?

Do you know TED?


Today I discovered (thanks to Amy Hoy) a website called TED. Stands for "Technology, Entertainment, and Design", I think. It's an idea-sharing site, with video contributons from the likes of Jane Gooddall, AL Gore, and Richard Dawkins.

Once upon a time, I used to keep up with Edge. Then it got old-school. TED is new-school. Ideas for geeks. Stuff that matters.

If you already knew about TED, please tell me about these things! I am always looking for a good source of geekery! Take one look at the (large) stack of books by my bedside, and you'll see some role-playing books, sure, but 90% of it is non-fiction. Bordering on reference, even: biology textbooks, language instruction, knot-tying, science overviews, and art instruction.

Where do you go to get your geek on?

Consonants

Hawaiian has 13 letters, only seven of which are consonants (HKLMNPW). That puts it in second place, behind Rotokas (PTKBDG), for the least consonants.

One language near Istanbul, Ubykh, has 80. Actually 84, but four of them are in borrowed words only. Impressive. I won't be learning that language anytime soon... (apparantly, it's a dead language as of 1992 anyway.)

But it gets worse. One of the clicky languages of Africa, ǃXóõ, has 112 sounds, 81 of which are consonants. (Just under 50 of them are clicks.) There are still ~4,200 speakers of this language, too.

When you have to be that careful with your mouth, I imagine speech must be a religious experience.

Albuquerque: the Windy City


I did some research on the wind program in NM. What they offer is really just a subsidy for wind power: they just pump the wind power into the grid. So there's really no guarantee that you're really getting "wind power"... it's more like you're just saying "I support it". Everyone in the city gets the same amount of power from wind.

That said, it's super-cheap. I signed us up: it's an additional $1.80 per 100 kw/h, up to a maximum of 90% of your kw/h usage: they looked at our usage and said it would cost three units.

[shrug] I do it with the hope that it will help move wind power forward. I'm a big supporter, so even though this extra cost is something of a ruse, I still want to throw in my $6.

I actually wish there were some wind farms nearby (ours are in House, NM). I find them very aesthetically pleasing: geometric, slow moving, and almost magestic. In fact, I often have a picture of a wind turbine for my desktop.

So, perhaps I'm just buying "warm fuzzies"... but I hope it's also making something of a statement.

अनुच्छेद 1

सभी मनुष्यों को गौरव और अधिकारों के मामले में जन्मजात स्वतन्त्रता प्राप्त है। उन्हें बुद्धि और अन्तरात्मा की देन प्राप्त है और परस्पर उन्हें भाईचारे के भाव से बर्ताव करना चाहिये।

I (think) I've learned the Russian alphabet, though (of course) reading is painfully slow. I basically have no vocabulary yet. :) That said, I've been thoroughly surprised at how similar the vocabulary is to other European languages. It's not nearly as foreign as it seems at first blush.

With that accomplished (for now), I've shifted back to Hindi. The text above translates as "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." It's taken from them UN's declaration of human rights. It's not a bad constitution, but it didn't strike me as the best ever... until I started reading others. Most suck.

What would you want in your constitution?

Cast of Characters


I thought I could use a little "trash" application here at work, where I could test out Ruby/Rails features without stepping on the toes of our other main products.

Rather than just make another "depot" application, I thought I would recreate a collaborative writing game that a friend I used to fool around with when we were both fairly young developers. The idea is simple: you can see the last line of text just fine, but the rest of the story is garbage.

Because I wanted to allow some level of continuity, I decided at the last minute to add the idea of characters, so before you post a line to the story, you must choose who is acting/speaking. This should at least avoid the somewhat-annoying habit of having characters appear in a story for two lines, then disappear. Other features are a "gibberish" engine that converts words into garbage by changing vowels and consonants independantly. The result is strikingly readable, if a little spooky. Also, you can attach an image to any given post (via a URI).

At the moment, there are no restrictions on who can post or how often, who can create how many stories, or the like. The login process is brain-dead, but password-protected. ...There is no logout. And presently, there is no way to "finish" a story, such that editing is locked and the real text is displayed (rather than the gobbledigook). I'd also like the ability to change how many lines are hidden/shown at any given time. I also thought it would be a neat feature to randomly pick a word or three from the last hidden line and show them, so you get a vague sense of what was going on. These would all be easy changes, but at that point, I got bored with it and just wanted to show off what I'd accomplished.

It took me about three hours, all said and done.

Sorry: you can't play. I don't have a static IP at home, and I don't have a Rails host to put this on. ...I looked it up: it's only $5 a month... but finances are crazy tight at the moment, so I can't do this until we get a few things cleared up. (I don't want to go into the details.)

If you would like a copy of the source, though, I would be more than happy to oblige.

Yum.

Morningstar Buffalo Wings.


It's good to be a vegetarian.

The Progress of Truth

Some would argue that progress is the only measurement of success in life. Push, push, push! Do more! Be more! Strive!

...I'm not from that camp. ...Probably has something to do with the whole when-you're-dead-you're-dead belief. : ) And as the stereotype suggests, these people miss a lot of the finer, relaxed moments in life.

There are those from the other camp: there's no point to it all, so why bother with any of it?

I'm not from that camp, either. I would certainly rather spend my time enjoying life than pushing myself. Most of us would. The problem with laziness is that it accrues a kind of debt. After some time of it, one finds oneself paralyzed with a sense that there was no point to it all.

While progress is often painful, one feels a decided satisfaction looking back on one's accomplishments. The lazy types miss out on these finer moments in life.

The best path lies in harvesting the low-hanging fruit.

What can you accomplish with the least amount of effort?

The Pattern of My Obsessions [Re-post]

  1. Accumulate interest in a subject without taking action.
  2. Saturate myself in the subject, taking repeated actions to get an overview of the topic.
  3. Find the pieces that interest me the most.
  4. Study those pieces for a time.
  5. As the interest wanes, tell myself that I'll "get back to it soon". I don't.
  6. Become comfortable saying "nah, I dropped that. Maybe I'll get back into it someday."

I wish I could find a way to leverage this trend.

Be Nice.

The other day, I went out for brunch with my wife and house-mate. Coming out of the restaurant, we decided to head over to an art supply store, two buildings down. We were stopped by an obnoxious woman who "informed" us that where we were parked was for the plaza with the restaurant only, and not for the art store: we would have to move our vehicle.

This made me see red. I seriously contemplated confronting her: we had just eaten at the plaza, so we'd essentially paid for our parking. There's no way to easily move the car from here to there: it took me a full five minutes to drive around a very large block to move the car 100 yards. We were only going to be in the art store for 10 minutes, and there were plenty of parking spaces in the plaza lot. There was no need to interrupt us, no need to be so snippy, no need to waste our time. She had no right.

I kept it to myself, though. Still, I was still fuming an hour later. Part of me wished I had stood my ground.

What do you do when people aren't being nice?

русский язык

А Б В Г Д Е Ж ...

...I am trying to learn Russian... casually. The first step, of course, is learning the Russian version of the Cyrillic alphabet.

I love this kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun with Devanagari (
देवनागरी), and I'm enjoying it so far with Cyrillic. (Damn, even pasting that Devanagari text in there has me wishing I spent more time with it. It's a way-cool writing system... until you get to the blasted ligatures...)

It's a bit tricky for the English-writer, though. For example, some letters are the same (
А), some are similar (Б is like our 'B'), others are new (Ж is 'zh')... all well and good. But then there are letters that we use that sound different, like В, which is actually a v-sound! Makes the brain work a little harder.

There's a neat application out there that lets you type some of the Russian letters on the keyboard to hear them, if you're interested...


And, Victor, since you're reading this... I don't know if you recall a conversation we had where I was saying Russian has a cool vowel that's high in the center of the mouth, which English speakers have a really hard time with? It's
Ы. Most people say it's like the i in 'bit', "but further back in the mouth"... which is kind of accurate, but a bit misleading.

До свидания

The Nature of Offense

When you speak, to whom do the meaning of your words belong?

If you were to say something like “I would sell my watch here, but I’m afraid we would get raped on the price,” and the person to whom you are talking to is offended by the word “rape”, who owns that?

Is it their fault for reading too far into the meaning of the word? Is it their fault if that word, "rape", conjures up images that makes them physically react?

Is it your fault for not knowing this? Or, worse, if you did know, would it then be your fault because you chose to ignore that? …After all, you certainly don’t mean the evil things that “rape” implies.

Personally, I think the meanings of words belong to the listener. Words are, after all, communication. It’s the responsibility of the person communicating to use language that conveys the intended meaning. …I could speak German at you all day: it’s worthless if you can’t understand a lick of it. ...A gross analogy, but I think the point is the same: if “nigger” is going to cause someone to hate you, don’t say it.

At the same time, however, I would add that you have the right to say whatever you want. You may not own your words, but you own the reaction.

Shut the fuck up if you think someone “took it the wrong way”. : ) It’s on you. That’s why it’s called communication. Sometimes you fail. Figure it out.

Some part of me understands the adverse reaction that "political correctness" has created. It is obnoxious that you must be careful about what you say. ...And yet, I think it's undeniably the speaker's responsibility to be aware of the listener's interpretation.

Where do you stand?

Movies Have Started To Suck

I was just reviewing my list of favorite movies, and it dawned on me: I have nothing to add to this list, and it's been two years since I touched it. (Okay, slight lie: I managed to miss Brick on the list, and added that. But it's a 2005 flick.)

Are movies really starting to suck, or am I just getting more curmudgeonly in my old age?

Ever notice how older adults tend to prefer the older movies? Perhaps there is some part of the human psyche that predisposes us to media ("stories", broadly) that we take in during our more formative years.

If that's true, I'm well-formed. :) Not much has appealed to me since Serenity.

Am I missing something? What have you enjoyed in the past two years?

On Compositional Style

Continuing on the subject of music, I thought I would outline how my compositional style has changed since my days with Triple Helix:

First, I embarced the use of drum loops.

Second, I use far fewer effects. Perhaps three effects per song in toto. ...Not counting compressors, which I consider a mastering tool and not an effect.

Third, I've moved away from "ambient". The first song of this next album begins (and ends) with ambient drones, but understand that I deliberately put them in there to represent the transition from the old style to the new.

Fourth, a heavy, heavy use of synthesis. ...And I mean balls-to-the-wall subtractive synths. Perhaps a sample-based element here and there... but from there, it's squares and saws all the way down. The music sounds very, very electronic.

Fifth, and tied to that, is a much-restricted set of instruments. My last album was 80% Albino, 10% impOSCar, and 10% "other". The upcoming album is 80% impOSCar, 10% Ex5/microKorg, and 10% "other". My new studio is very much restricted: Stylus, Atmosphere, impOSCar, Predator, and a Virus. That's it. Nothing else. End of story. The fifth step is perhaps the most important: I am satisfied with what I have. That makes a huge difference.

Music

I've had music-writing as a hobby since around 1992. I would consider myself fairly "serious" about it, at least as a hobby is concerned. I spend more time at it than I do at role-playing, I'm just less vocal about it.

The reason I'm quiet about my music is because for about six years, I was involved in a "group" of fellow musicians on a Yahoo! Group called "Triple Helix". I'm not sure if it's open to the public: feel free to look it up, if you care to.

I left the group some time ago.

In terms of music-writing, it was the best thing I've ever done. My last album shows signs of my movement away from the influence of the others in the group. My next one (coming up in the next few months), even more so. If I say so myself, it's an excellent album: mature and coherent.

From that group, I learned about synthesis and song arrangement and even a bit about the business of writing music. But there was a toll: I found myself self-critical when I strayed from their preferred style, only to have those criticisms echoed on the list. In short, I needed to find my own voice. Helpful in the early days, poisonous after too long.

Perhaps it's best to walk one's own path from the start, even if it feels like a longer one.

Amber Quotes

Just doing a dump of quotes that I kept during our last Amber campaign:

"So, the plan is to sneak into the castle and find Dworkin. If he looks trapped, free him. If he's having tea and crumpets, kill him." -- Andre

"You're going to hell." -- Psalm... just about every five minutes.

"Okay, I will trust in Uncle Brand." -- Jeremy
[jumping out of chair:] "I WON! I WON!" -- GM

"You'd have to open your legs a bit wider for an old man like me." -- Dworkin, to Andre.

"I just have to say, that's the boldest thing I've ever done in a role-playing game." -- Jeremy
"What, sleeping with Fiona?" -- Sarah

"Since Brand is dead, I put him down." -- Andre.

"The Pattern is Dworkin's brain. ...Like, on fucking drugs." -- Prince Random

"Exactly how many Hellmaids have you 'parlayed' with?!?" -- Todd, to Psalm

"Here's my plan: 1) save the universe. 2) Deal with Freeman. 3) Figure out Random. 4) Go insane and plant corn." -- Andre.

Best one of the game:
"I jump off the stairs [of Tir-na-Nogth]." -- Liam/Psalm
"Wait, do you know what happens?" -- Sarah
"Sure: gravity pulls me down... but I have Dierdre's trump!" -- Liam
"You'd better hope she's out of her coma!" -- Rob
"Wait, she's in a fucking COMA?!?" -- Liam, who had missed the previous session...

"The only way Freeman will survive is through his sperm!" -- Todd

"...When we're done, we can finally put Oberon, Brand, and Freeman to rest." -- Andre (Freeman wasn't dead.)

"So, Todd's trump suddenly turns into a pressurized hose, spraying water that knocks Todd down, lands a few feet away and continues to spray like a geyser." -- GM
"I point it at the primal pattern." -- Rob, seeing the blood all over the Pattern
"Wait, NO!!!" -- Rob, realizing that's BLOOD ON THE PATTERN

"You see Lewella swimming downward, going deeper and deeper..." --GM
"Lewella, are you near a doctor?" -- Todd

"What harm could Freeman do? He was outmaneuvered by a horse!" -- Lewella

"Give me my souls!" -- Baby demon
[pointing his pistols:] "Come'n take em, ye lil twat!" -- Psalm

"Who told you that?" -- Psalm, to Florimel
"Freeman's man..." -- Flora
"The bald guy with the cats?" -- Psalm

"After all the good work we've done here with the flamethrowers, I think this is a safer place!" -- Flora

"...Like Zen, for example. Complete and utter bullshit, and yet it exists in almost every world." -- Ygg

"I'm afraid I have to disagree with you on that..." -- Andre
"What, you like your nipples?" -- Ygg
"Yes."
"But why? You're male--they are completely useless! What purpose do they serve?"
"They give pleasure."
"Please demonstrate!"

"Todd's gone mad, destroyed Ygg. Chaos winning!" -- Andre's update to Corwin
...And those were perhaps Andre's last words. ;)

Amber Campaign Idea

Wouldn't it be interesting to play in a post-apocalyptic Amber game?

Brand won. The others couldn't stop him. Reality has been re-shaped in his image. Of course, the elder Amberites are still all around: Brand would want to gloat. But here's the rub: Ygg has moved, and now its the Amberites that cannot cross the boundary between the realms.

Some of the Amberites have managed to find love--or at least momentary pleasures of flesh--in the demented reality created by Brand. Some children have come of it. ...And the children, it seems, do not have the curse of their parents: Ygg is no boundary for them.

Now, with the aid of the elders, the younger generation begins making forays into Brand's Golden Circle, to learn what they can of the fate of the multiverse and, hopefully, find a way to reverse it.

New Powers:

Shadow Pattern
. Because there is no "true" pattern to walk, the grandchildren of Amber will receive their ability to move through shadow from their parents, by walking a pattern in their parent's mind, through a strong psychic link. Their ability to shape shadow using this power is greatly reduced, however. With this ability, the user still has the power to affect probability, but only one small effect at a time--all other factors change independently. Thus, if the player chooses to make a pistol appear on the tabletop, he may inadvertently also change the color of the sky. This power also acts like an involuntary Shadow Trail: if reality changes around a user of this power, they will be pulled along with the change. (This is to ensure that one player's changes never isolate them from the other players unless they have significant geographical distance.)

Trump. The players may not take Trump powers: Brand has complete control of Trump, so using it would immediately alert him, and likely result in their immediate death. The Elders have taught their children to fear Trump absolutely.

Shadow Dispersal. Brand was clever, but not quite clever enough to completely erase the Pattern's predecessor, the Unicorn. She is now working, in secret, to restore order to the universe, and to this end has developed a power that momentarily disperses shadow around the user, then "reinserts" the user in shadow in the presence of another, named possessor of Shadow Dispersal. It takes about 30 seconds of concentration to create the dispersal, during which no other actions may be taken and the user must remain stationary. (This allows players to rejoin after being separated). As a lesser effect, the user can create a miniature void in her mind, with which she may communicate to another user of Shadow Dispersal. (And, of course, this replaces Trump as a method of keeping players in touch with one another.)

Sorcery and Conjuration. These powers should be easier to use: in Brand's multiverse, magic is more uniform.

Power Words. Same.

Smoker Rant

I don't like getting into quibbles on the internet. ...Yet somehow, I found myself replying to a post by a friend of a friend: he was complaining about the strong anti-smoker's movement. I felt compelled to point out that he's whining only for the sake of whining: part of being a smoker is being shunned by others, that's part of the "appeal".

I shouldn't have said anything. He's playing his role, and anti-smokers are playing theirs. It's all integrated and expected behavior.

For the record:

  1. I am a non-smoker.
  2. My entire family has smoked at some point or another.
  3. I do not give smokers nasty looks, with one exception (5, below).
  4. I do not complain when smokers smoke around me.
  5. The exception is smokers who do not dispose of their butts. The world is not your fucking ashtray. If you throw your cigarette on the ground while I'm around, I will give you shit for it. It makes me see red.
  6. I do not believe smoking should be banned. People have the right, BUT...
  7. I do appreciate no-smoking areas. A lot.

Thrown Down in the Dojo

With the release of Dojo 1.0, I thought it was time to pick up that particular torch, and add it to our project. It's quite sexy, what it can do.

So I spent the morning trying to get Rails to choke down the include tags (which, if you Google it, you'll see is non-trivial). Once that was working, I goofed around with a few forms, then abandoned the idea.

Yes, abandoned it.

According to Firebug, my load times on any particular page went from 281ms to over 2.1 seconds.

It sure does look cool, though. And if we end up creating some big Ajaxy page, where the user sits and doesn't leave, then I'll whip it out again. But in the meantime, it goes against the grain of what we're doing and is clearly too heavyweight.

Maybe someday I'll get back in the dojo.

Dammit, W

I made the mistake of getting sucked into a post about the "War" in Iraq. I only read two comments, but that was enough to get me fuming.

Perhaps I'm alone in so-thinking, but even if there WERE WMD in Iraq, I don't think that gave us the right to invade. Clear and Present Danger doesn't mean "carrying a big gun", it means pointing it at us.

It takes courage not to preemptively strike. I have that courage. Do you?

President Bush

A coworker of mine has a Republican Party calendar hanging in his room. He's quite liberal: he has it there to post silly thought-bubbles over the pictures.

Nevertheless, I found myself staring at it just moments ago and fuming.

Do I hate Bush?

Not really. It's more of a pity thing. I find his core views so fundamentally flawed that he feels more like a misguided child to me than the ill-meaning power-monger that most people take him for.

Nevertheless, the calendar was making me angry because they portray him as something super-human. People smiling and laughing and waiting to shake his hands, to touch him.

I strongly dislike this aspect of power. People are people, even the powerful ones, and I consider it a tremendous flaw that we put popular people up to another level of expectations.

I feel I may be alone in so-thinking, but I truly wish our world's leaders had a healthy level of humility, and their followers more reasonable expectations of them. It breeds dishonesty to think they are "better people".

ColdFusion: '(unknown)' is not a valid path.

This is a stupid error I got from our CF server today: it caused quite a headache.

The solution was simple (and yet inane): ODBC was trying to point to mounted drive, and the server didn't have a user logged in.

Yes, we should be pointing to a //fully/qualified/directory instead of a mapped drive. It's not my server. ;) ...It just affected my code, so I got in trouble for it.

And, yes, we still use ColdFusion around here over Ruby sometimes. I don't like it, either.

Hey, Shortstuff

Two revelations: first, reading long posts is a deterrent to keeping up with blogs. Second, as much as I have disdain for soundbytes as news, I do prefer shorter, elegant statements to rants and babble.

As a result, I will attempt to write shorter, more succinct posts on this blog.

On Sketching... and Other Passtimes

I spent about four hours today sketching.

Not drawing, mind you. Sketching. In fact, I would say that today, I learned the difference between the two, and I am here to tell you: sketching is harder than drawing.

This is, of course, counter-intuitive. One would think that the rapid nature of sketching loans itself to greater sloppiness, and therefore the results are less prone to overt error. I can't exactly say that "the opposite is true", but close enough! In drawing, you are rendering what you see. I'm reasonably capable of doing that. In sketching, you're trying to... I don't really know... capture... or interpret what you see.

Truth be told, I'm working from a book called "Life Drawing", which, in addition to being a suitable substitute for soft porn, seems to be an excellent guide to learning the art of sketching. The very first exercise (apart from making lines on the paper to "get a feel for it", uh-huh) is something they call "rhythm and curve". I spent about two hours on that one alone... and each attempt is supposed to take three minutes. (Granted, I made about 20 attempts, but I was obviously still going over.) The idea is to capture a figure in as few curves (no S-curves) as possible.

This is much (much) harder than it sounds! I finally got it "right" after much tribulation. The bad news, aside from the time it took, is that it got me... frustrated. I was literally growling and rolling my eyes and heaving big sighs and coming this --> <-- close to snapping at family members for no good reason.

I have noticed that my response to frustration is one of two things: walk away and never think about it again, or dig a trench and refuse to leave until the problem is solved. I (clearly) chose the latter... and in this case (indeed, most cases), I am glad I did. I cannot claim that anything I ended up drawing was worth keeping (thus, no link to flickr or the like)... The second exercise, which I was all to happy to switch to, was "circling"... reducing everything to the most basic shapes (usually circles), just to get the placement and proportions right. That I did much better at, and rather enjoyed... though I must admit, I'm more of a "tone" guy than a "line" guy, and often found myself circling areas of shadow rather than shapes, which the exercise called for.

After that, I took a moment to browse back through my older stuff. Instead of seeming "somehow wrong", the errors seemed much clearer: the eye in this profile was too far forward and too small; the left side of that face was drawn too wide... things like that.

All this definitely put me in a drawing mood, and I spent the remainder of the day attempting to make sketches of whatever possible, wherever possible. ...Most of them while finishing off Season 2 of Star Gate: SG1. And there I have another observation: trying to sketch from television is really hard. The whole "MTV" thing is too prevalent: it is very, very, very difficult to get enough usable information about a subject in a second or less... even if they keep cutting back to it periodically--the other shots interfere with one's memory. This didn't keep me from trying, however... and nothing good (visually) came of it. But I can say that I was enjoying myself at that point. As with going through old sketches, I could "see" what was wrong, and had at least some idea of how to correct them--often failing at that, but it still felt like I was making progress.

...And when the missus stepped out to go to the bathroom, the 'pause' allowed me to do some longer (albeit "short", in the vocabulary of sketching--3 minutes, tops) studies. And those tended to suck far less.

The most significant thing to come out of this is that I feel like I've tripped some switch in my head: it feels to me like becoming "an artist", whatever that means, is now inevitable. I'm seeing things differently, and drawing (sketching?) is no longer arduous, but intriguing. Almost addictive.

That, and I burned through probably 40 pages of sketchbooks, and dulled four pencils at least three times each. : )

Drawing is not my only obsesssion at the moment. On Thursday (I was home sick), I wrote a new Rails application for my role-playing game. That was fun. And today I watched a video on RSpec for test-driven development, which I feel like I will be adopting this month, painful as that will be. In my spare time, I'm learning "Contact Sign", which is like a watered-down version of American Sign Language, and I am really enjoying that. I've tried to learn sign at least three times before, but this time it seems to really be clicking. ...I also picked up some audio courses for Spanish (it's about time to learn the damn language, which I actually have some hope of using around here)... AND I've written two new songs. ...Well... one new song, and some scaffolding for a second, which needs major revision. Lastly, I've ripped through more than half of the "Psytrance" collection I recently acquired... several days worth of music, in all: I'm trying to whittle it down to the 1/8th that doesn't suck. : )

In short, keeping very busy. ...But really enjoying myself, on the whole.

Sucky weekend

  1. My dog had a seizure on Saturday. She's okay now... we find out more on Friday, when she sees the vet.
  2. My house was broken into on Sunday. I lost all of my electronics; my wife lost half of her DVDs (she had over 700) and jewlery.

I'm kind of pissed off, as a result.

For Posterity...

As I've mentioned in the past few posts (or so), I am a fan of Shpongle. Shpongle is, as a quick search would turn up, Simon Posford. It only recently occurred to me that he might have other pseudonyms, though... and indeed he does! (I count 31.)

This news is both good and bad. Good, in that I have plenty of music to explore, now. Bad, in that his music generally isn't cheap. On Amazon, some albums were for sale (used only) at $50.

It dawned on me that my wife has an iPod, and thus can buy songs at a buck a pop ($10 for an album). So tonight, I goaded her into buying two of them (this and that). I am presently listening to A Flock of Bleeps. ...and cursing myself that I didn't do this earlier.

Shit.

This may sound a bit silly, but I do think Posford is a modern-day Mozart. Unconventional, brilliant, and a visionary. If I believed in the whole reincarnation thing... : )

Well, this should keep me satisfied for a few months.

In other news, the newest programmer at work managed to convince the other two programmers that we should really be writing as much as possible in Ruby (and Rails, secondarily). So this past week, I started "training" the others, kinda. It seems to be well-received. As a result, I spent a good 20 hours this week in Aptana. I also released my port of... uhhh... well, it would take a long time to explain it, but basically, my "main application"... which was originally written in ColdFusion (and I daresay there have been only a handful of CF programs as complex as this one). I only got it running Thursday night, and Friday was fraught with "gotchas". But there's something very different about Ruby code, and I wasn't at all stressed by it, as I might be even in Perl. The code is fairly clear. Clean. Approachable. I don't worry about problems: they can all be solved quickly and with minimal pain.

I'm a fan.

M-kay. It's past midnight here (I spent the last few hours composing), and that's way too late for me. Bedtime, new Posford music or not!

Biochemical Music

I noticed the other day that there are some songs that just... well... move me. Not like a plain-old great song (Shpongle comes to mind), but individual tracks that just flip some switch somewhere, demand the volume be turned up, and that everything else be ignored. All hands on the audio deck.

Interestingly, these are also songs that would likely not make my list of "best ever" music! This is a bit paradoxical, and I cannot put my finger on why, but it's true: these are not songs that I would put on my Desert Island list... at least, wouldn't have. Now that I've discovered such a class of music exists, I might re-think my reflex to take songs that are "great", in the conventional sense of the word.

These songs are good, mind you... it's just that they may not hold up to technical scrutiny. No advanced theory, here. No super-human technique. My college music professors would laugh at me for mentioning them. No, these songs aren't great. They just move me. It's biochemical.

The song that did this to me was Kyes Ivrload by Esem. Technically, it's a stupid song. It's literally the same bassline, beat, and bells played over and over and over for three minutes and 48 seconds. But of course, the song is all about the effects that roll over the themes like dark waves. As I said, this song moves me. I wondered if there were other songs that were capable of it. That said, I don't think any of the others provoke such a visceral reaction: my whole demeanor changes when this song percolates to the top of the playlist.

Beat 6 by Aaron Jasinski (sorry, I don't think he ever released it, officially) does it for me. It's another non-complex song, with just a few themes. Very electronic, heavy. It's one of those songs that demand high volume and low distraction. One of those tracks that's hard to hit the "skip" button on, even when you're rushing. Aaron has a tendency to "borrow heavily" from others, and I wonder where his influence for this track (and the others in the series, which are all great) came from: I would likely enjoy that artist!

Uninvited by Alanis Morrisette. (Does it make me less of a man to say so?) Nearly perfect: dark, musical, driven-yet-downbeat. Using the "hard to skip" criteria, this certainly passes: I don't think I've ever skipped this track when it comes up. I like Alanis, but it's usually a mood thing: I can't just listen to her music on an average day. ...except for this song.

I Want You (She's so Heavy). Enough said.

Nothing's Impossible and The Darkest Star by Depeche Mode. I'm a little wary putting these on the list, since I haven't even owned this album for a year, and it's dangerous to judge a song's merit on anything less than a year's listening. ...Further, it takes me a minute to get into these track (I can skip one easily through the first few bars)... but once it's in full swing, I'm hooked. It's dark, detailed, textured.

I almost want to put some of Enigma's first album on the list, but I don't. Close, but not biochemical.

Another close miss is Giles Reaves's Velvet Shade and Here and Now. These are intensely personal songs, from a time in my life where I really first started to "find myself". ...But as such, these are more cerebral celebrations than physical. They are still hard to skip, though. : )

Undocumented by... uhh... me. Okay, perhaps this is cheating, but also perhaps this song is what truly sparked this whole line of thought: I had just finished listening to this track the other day and said to myself, " Man, I LOVE this song...", then immediately asked if I thought it was my best, and had to say no, it wasn't. Yet this track makes the list: it's not fancy, but it's visceral. I wrote it in a few hours, and found no need to ever go back and tweak it: it is what it is, and I love how it came out. So nyah. (Then again, if a musician doesn't put their own music on their best-music list, something is wrong.) Another track like Undocumented in this respect is Viral Proteins. I wrote it very quickly, loved the result, and it moves me... but I'm not sure I'll put it on this list "for real," since it's so much more ambient than the other tracks. It sparks wonder, not energy.

Okay, I've gotten into Nine Inch Nails territory. I expect more than a few, here. First up is Somewhat Damaged. Perfect, in its angry, simple way. The Wretched, which may be the best song Reznor's ever written: it satisfied on both levels: this low-level, emotional one, and it's also technically a superb song (well, for the genre, at least). Dammit, a good half of this album qualifies. At least, that's what I'm thinking when The Fragile comes up. I love this song. I'll try and skip Even Deeper , The Great Below, and Into the Void. (But really, they should probably count.) Every Day Is Exactly the Same. ...I don't know what it is about that song, but... well, I just become helpless when it comes up. Must listen to it. Only counts. How could it not? The imagery makes it (and the beat's cool, despite it's simplicity.) "I'm becoming less defined, as days go by ... kind of drifting in the abstract, in terms of how I see myself." Ha! There's also this vague, tense crescendo throughout the song that keeps you from stopping it early.

Yup, more than a few. It's possible another four or five tracks will make their way onto this list, once I've had time to re-digest Year Zero. ...But I promised myself I would take some "time off" from listening to it before I went back, so I'm going to skip it now. ...Plus, I've only owned it a month or two now. : )

Goodbye Blue Sky. Floyd. Of course. Note that I wouldn't put "Comfortably Numb" on this list: it's a perfect counter-example of a song that is superb (perfect?) in every other respect... but it's not something that grabs you and sucks you into this introspective world of deep, moving music. Ahhh, but it is such a good song. : ) "You are only coming through in waves; your lips move, but I cannot hear what you're saying..." Of course, not a song I can skip easily, but it's not the same thing. Again, biochemistry. I can't think of any other way to describe it.

Oh, here's another counter-example: Her Majesty's Secret Service, by PropellorHeads. This is the song that keeps me from buying "Saturday Night Fever" (thank god): it's got that disco rhythm down, but adds to it all the electronic goodness that makes modern music cool. I was thrilled they used it in The Incredibles. One of the best movies of all time! In this case, I think I can name why it's not on the biochemical list: it's frivolous. Disqualified!

In the Maybe-Someday department, there is Puff Dragon's Chinese Radio. I have a feeling it'll make it, but it needs more time to sink in. I'm listening to it now. It's close. "Perception, Reality. Perception, Reality."

Sir Psycho Sexy
. "A long, long, long time ago, before the wind, before the snow lived a freak of Nature named Sir Psycho." Ahhh, we love him so. I become someone else when I listen to this song... most because the lyrics are so much racier than anything else I could get caught listening to. (Even Reznor's.) Note that this is another song that would likely make my "best ever" list: it works on both levels.

Oh, TOTALLY! Human Beings by Seal. Totally. Another one of those songs that just transforms me: I just want to put my head down and press the headphones into my ears and dissolve into the music. Don't know why: it's not an incredible song, and I might not even think of it when considering best-ever's. Yet, here it is. Perfect example. Future Love Paradise comes close, but it's not the same: again, it's more a cerebral kind of thing.

Ahhh, Shpongle. I love 'em: I honestly think he's one of the best five composers I've ever heard--a Mozart for the electronic age... But they don't make this list. Perhaps because the music is too frivolous.

Tangerine Dream, too. Dream Mixes, as an album, does something for me, but that's probably because of the experiences I had when I first grew accustomed to it. They're also kind of "backgroundy" to me: I don't have to devote my attention to them.

Okay, I'm putting Butterflies on the list (Toad the Wet Sprocket). It's a magical song. It's sort of the odd-man-out on the list, I think, but I have to put it here. I'm addicted to it.

Hmmmn, perhaps that's part of what I'm trying to describe by "biochemical". It's a form of addiction.

hevv . Tobias Wilton. I had this song in mind the second I thought of creating this list. Here's an excellent example: I don't think I've ever convinced anyone else this song is as brilliant as I seem to think it is. People I expose it to think it's redundant and obnoxious. I adore it. Nay: I need it. Yes. Perhaps we are talking about addiction.

Mmmn, I've really taken to the music of Ultimae (it's a label) over the past two years. ...But I can't really put anything in the biochemical domain. Chinese Radio (mentioned above) comes very close, as do some others by Hol Baumann.

Aleksi Virta Meets Tortsi... another example of great music that isn't an addiction. Hmmmn... No, I think True Dwelling Place qualifies. Deep, dark. Mmmmn. Sure.

Some of Alexy V's music might make it in the near future. Hundred Miles is a contender.

...Which brings us to esem.

Ahhh, esem. He created this list, really. The first artist I was truly addicted to. He might not be the best composer... but there is absolutely something there in his music that infects. ...Not every song does it for every person, but every person who's been smitten by his music has more than a few tracks of his that just feed the soul. Esem may give Reznor a run for his money on this list. For me, the magic is in:

  • Halfmoon
  • kyes /live (I already mentioned kyes ivrload, but... hey, I love it just that much that I'll take both versions!)
  • eloki.neadu (A remake of an early track of his... about the time when I realized I was absolutely hooked on his music.)
  • qre.ii
  • ekred
  • rz ttt
That exhausts my list at work, and I don't think I would have left any of this music at home. : ) I've created a playlist of it... let's see if listening to them all in one stream is wise. ...I suspect not: this is music I want to stop and listen to... and if there's a whole bunch of it one after another, it might get tedious. We'll see.