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.


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.


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
"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.