Drawing Class 2: Perspective


Please understand: I know that this is major boring shit. I'm just doing this to chronicle the art class, not to claim they're any good.

By the way, these are all 18x24, which is twice as large (meaning, four times as much area) as I am used to working in. It's weird.

First Art Class Drawing


Yes, I must find a better way to take pictures of these things.

Originality?

The mark of originality since 1917. Get your winter pairs now.
www.Converse.com

This was in my GMail account today.

Can you really have a mark of originality?

Radio Silence

The company I work for is having a security audit in about a month, and they may look at internet traffic. As a result, I will not be blogging (reading or writing) for the next month or so... at least, not at work. My time after work is seriously limited lately, too, so it's possible you won't hear from me at all for quite some time.

I will still be active on email (via https).

Enjoy the silence!

"Black Mesa Winds" Released


After about six months sitting in queue, my latest album, called Black Mesa Winds, has been released on Kahvi.

It's cc-by, so feel free to download it for free and pass it around.

Note To Shelf: Drawing Concept

An attractive, older woman, an exasperated look on her face, sitting at a table, resting her face in one hand. She's looking down at a plate. On the plate is a planet, cut in half and with a piece torn off. "Crumbs" on the plate, evidence of the bit on the fork to the right (which is askew). On the left, an elegant wine glass, filled with stars and an inky black.

1kBWC: Cloing Program, Word Vomit


Showing how bad my scanner is. ...Alas, what does one expect for $50?

Music: Geonosian Advance

This is not really meant to be a movie, but Blogger doesn't allow MP3s, so I whipped something up this morning in about an hour. It's not meant to be at all "good". ...Well, the music is. Screw the video. ; )

This is one of four songs I've started for my next album. The pictures and movies are just shots of my "studio" and of New Mexico: I took them all. Feel free to ignore them; this is really about the music. : ) Sadly, Blogger did a wonderful job of butchering the sound quality in its "processing". Oh, well. At least you get the idea.

video

Three "New" Old Drawings

These are actually quite old, but I finally got around to shooting and uploading them. I figured I would want a "before and after" for this Drawing class I'm taking.

(There's a nipple on one of them, so be mindful of who's around.)



Mnemonic Tip

In order to be effective, mnemonics need to be vivid, active stories.

For example, sonA is Hindi for 'gold'. Ostensibly, that should be easy to remember: just picture a sonar operator with, say, a gold tooth.

Nope, didn't work. At least, not on the first try. ...Might have worked with repetition. Instead, I re-pictured my stalwart sonar operator, this time with a gold bar on the table next to him. He hears something rude about India, picks up the bar of gold, and smashes the console in front of him. Little bits of audio gear go flying everywhere.

Works like a charm.

Speaking of Aliens...

A new X-Files movie is en route. [via]

X-Files has come up in multiple conversations lately, so this is good, timely news. ...Most of the conversations were along the lines of "Scully was so hot."


It's supposed to be a "stand-alone movie", departing from the "mythology" of the shark-jumping episodes.

It will be good to see them on the screen again. ...Cause, clearly, she is so hot.

Mnemonics

I've known about mnemonics since college, but I haven't really used them much (at all) until reading Derren Brown's book.

I am using them extensively in learning Hindi. I am also using them to remember names at parties.

I was describing my method to some co-workers this week. I said:

"Since it's easy to remember faces and other visual things, basically what you do is visualize the other person interacting in some remarkable way with someone else with the same name. So, like, if I met someone named Jeremy, I might remember Jeremy Irons giving the new guy a head lock."

I've been stuttering with increasing frequency in the past three years. Not sure why. But it so happens that I stuttered a bit on that last sentence. Thus, what the others heard was "Jeremy Irons giving the new guy head."

Mmmn-hmmmn. That would be memorable. The joke certainly is: perhaps someday they'll stop making references to it.

[Image blatantly stolen from some news site. Wipe that grin off your face, Irons.]

Why Voting Sucks It

Caveats: I am not a politician. I am not a lawyer (I ANAL). I'm not a mathematician, statistician, or economist. Hell, my IQ is only around 125, far below all of the readers of this blog. Despite these shortcomings, I am opinionated. And one thing I dislike is the American voting system.

  • I have yet to hear a compelling argument for the need for an electoral college (or their primary-parallel, delegations).
  • The one-candidate-per-party concept is also absurd.
  • Money seems to have a profound influence on the results. That must be addressed.
  • Reporting seems to have a profound impact on the results. They need to shut the fuck up on election day. Exit polls should be waterboarded.
  • Even the long-lasting adage "one person, one vote" makes little sense to me: we should be able to vote for--or, better, rank--multiple candidates. (A co-worker just extended this idea by suggesting that if a candidate on such a system doesn't have more than 50% of the population saying "yup, I'm cool with it", elections are re-started. Sounds cool to me.)
Feel free to unignorantate me. But in the meantime, I will continue to be an election curmudgeon.

MySQL is Now Owned by Sun

So, Sun bought MySQL. And for a jagillion dollars.

I prefer MySQL to the alternatives, and this move means management has improved.

However, I prefer distribution--not centralization--of Open Source projects. Google is great, as is Wikipedia. I use both of them daily and extensively. But is it positive in the long-term that so many of my resources come from those two places?

The green in me says "hell no."

Open Source is gaining power in the business world. ...And you know what power does.

Charcoal Is Not My Friend

My second drawing class was last night; we worked on our "entrance drawing".

It was a still life: bottles and trinkets around a long table. We were allowed only charcoal, a few erasers, and a chamois. She refused to comment on our progress. She said we could stop when we had a "full, complete drawing".

I found my self incredibly nervous when starting out, and did a miserable job blocking in, so things were out of proportion... I completely screwed up the angle of the edge of the table. I focused on a small grouping of items, but--since this was 18x24, larger than I have ever attempted--I started way too small, and decided to incorporate as much of the scene as possible, including another cluster to the left and over the edge of the table to the right and above. The overall drawing ended up low-key as a result. My favourite part of the resulting drawing was the knee of another student across the table. ; ) Anyway, the cluster to the left was disproportionate. I attempted to fix it slightly, but it was too far gone, so I just tried to relate things as naturally as I could, even if it was wrong. The feather fucked me up entirely: it just looks like a big long, odd-shaped and out-of-place shadow. I finished in about 90 minutes.

I'm not fond of charcoal, and know none of the techniques. If the damn drawing were in graphite, I'm sure it would have been fine (though it would have taken twice as long). That said, I was able to intuit some of the advantages of smudging, and I have to say the tone in my drawing wasn't horrible. My line sucked: I am simply not used to drawing on that scale. All in all, I would have thrown it out when I was done. Sorry, I didn't bring my camera, so I can't show it to you. But I can tell you that charcoal is not my friend.

On the positive side, when I walked around the room after finishing, I noticed that everyone else's drawings were just outlines of forms. No one really used tone at all. There was one nice drawing, but it was nice only because she had abstracted everything (again: just line, but with nice gradients of tone coming from select edges). ...Unfortunately, this is something the professor has already said wouldn't fly: this class is about accurate rendering, not interpretation. I foresee arguments with this student on the subject. And, in her defense, it was a nice drawing. A keeper, in fact, where mine (best rendering in the class) was trash.

Two final comments: 1) after loosening up (about 30 minutes in), the rest of the class flew by. Drawing is very relaxing, once you're in the zone; and 2)
my hand is cramped today.

Stealth of the Ocean

Marine biology may be one of the most visually amazing fields of study possible.


No Atmosphere's a Bitch


...Just look at all those scars! This is an image [larger version] from the Mercury mission [via], taken just yesterday or so. This is the "unseen" side of the sun's innermost planet (not entirely accurate). Lore more pictures will be arriving from the mission in the near future.

All I Care To Know About Gangs...

I learned from TED... a few interesting things about gangs.

Gang members have a 7% annual mortality rate. Death row has a 2% mortality rate. American soldiers in Iraq have a 0.5% mortality rate.

"Foot Soldiers" in a gang average $3.50/hr. Twice as much when there's a "war" going on.

Most of these people moonlight at McDonalds and the like.

The "success" rate in a gang is about the same as in the corporate world... very, very few rise to positions of power. ...If they make it, they can earn $100-$300k per year. ...But those people tend to hold power. So you're almost completely barred from "promotion".

The "bling" you see isn't gold; it's gold-plated. The Bentleys are rented. The flashes of lots of money was borrowed.

Go watch the video. It's very entertaining: good information and a few laughs.

Morality

Which of the following people would you say is the most admirable: Mother Teresa, Bill Gates or Norman Borlaug? And which do you think is the least admirable? For most people, it's an easy question.

Yet a deeper look might lead you to rethink your answers. Borlaug, father of the "Green Revolution" that used agricultural science to reduce world hunger, has been credited with saving a billion lives, more than anyone else in history. Gates... determined that he could alleviate the most misery by fighting everyday scourges in the developing world like malaria , diarrhea and parasites. Mother Teresa, for her part, extolled the virtue of suffering and ran her well-financed missions accordingly: their sick patrons were offered plenty of prayer but harsh conditions, few analgesics and dangerously primitive medical care.

...So begins an article by Steven Pinker. Here are some other juicy excerpts:

Much of our recent social history, including the culture wars between liberals and conservatives, consists of the moralization or amoralization of particular kinds of behavior. Even when people agree that an outcome is desirable, they may disagree on whether it should be treated as a matter of preference and prudence or as a matter of sin and virtue. Rozin notes, for example, that smoking has lately been moralized. ...Smokers are ostracized; images of people smoking are censored; and entities touched by smoke are felt to be contaminated...

This wave of amoralization has led the cultural right to lament that morality itself is under assault, as we see in the group that anointed itself the Moral Majority. In fact there seems to be a Law of Conservation of Moralization, so that as old behaviors are taken out of the moralized column, new ones are added to it.

Driving a gas-guzzling Hummer is reprehensible, but driving a gas-guzzling old Volvo is not; eating a Big Mac is unconscionable, but not imported cheese or crème brûlée. The reason for these double standards is obvious: people tend to align their moralization with their own lifestyles.

...Consider [this situation], originally devised by the psychologist Jonathan Haidt:

Julie is traveling in France on summer vacation from college with her brother Mark. One night they decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. Julie was already taking birth-control pills, but Mark uses a condom, too, just to be safe. They both enjoy the sex but decide not to do it again. They keep the night as a special secret, which makes them feel closer to each other. What do you think about that — was it O.K. for them to make love?

Most people immediately declare that these acts are wrong and then grope to justify why they are wrong. It's not so easy. In the case of Julie and Mark, people raise the possibility of children with birth defects, but they are reminded that the couple were diligent about contraception . They suggest that the siblings will be emotionally hurt, but the story makes it clear that they weren't. They submit that the act would offend the community, but then recall that it was kept a secret. Eventually many people admit, "I don't know, I can't explain it, I just know it's wrong." People don't generally engage in moral reasoning, Haidt argues, but moral rationalization: they begin with the conclusion, coughed up by an unconscious emotion, and then work backward to a plausible justification.

When anthropologists like Richard Shweder and Alan Fiske survey moral concerns across the globe, they find that a few themes keep popping up from amid the diversity. ...Haidt counts five — harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority and purity.

By my own introspection, I'm absurdly unmotivated by community, authority, and purity. I've very strongly motivated by harm, and moderately by fairness. ...Well, with some special exceptions: I'm very well-behaved. Basically I believe in transgression with permission in most cases. ; )

In a large Web survey, Haidt found that liberals put a lopsided moral weight on harm and fairness while playing down group loyalty, authority and purity. Conservatives instead place a moderately high weight on all five. It's not surprising that each side thinks it is driven by lofty ethical values and that the other side is base and unprincipled.

Go figure. One last quote:

People have shuddered at all kinds of morally irrelevant violations of purity in their culture: touching an untouchable, drinking from the same water fountain as a Negro, allowing Jewish blood to mix with Aryan blood, tolerating sodomy between consenting men. And if our ancestors' repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new.

Okay, now go read the whole thing.

Science Blog

I am currently in the market for a good "Science Blog". I've looked at these, and while there were a few good ones, the really popular blogs seem to be at most 20% science, and 80% "creationism can suck it". I don't need to hear about the whackadoos. I am also passing over the big magazines (Science, Nature, etc) because they don't post full articles, only soundbytes with links. (Honestly, I am thinking of nixing Scott Adams' blog because he switched to this format. It's sad.) If I can read the whole thing in Google Reader, I am unlikely to bother.

And no, Rolfe, Repeated Explitives doesn't count as science. And, yes, you can object all you want. : )

Best. NPC. Ever.

Sometimes a player character is interesting enough to make the game (Farvin in our Friday night game, Kelly in our Continuum game), and sometimes the cast of characters interacting make the game (as in our Amber game, where infighting was what kept it most amusing). But when those fail (and they are rare and precious), for my money at least, NPCs make the game.

This is, for obvious reasons, especially true for computer role-playing games. And of the games I have played, there is not a single NPC that comes as close to being perfect as HK-47. Ostensibly, HK-47 was simply comic relief. ...But, shy of the Jedi if you roll that way, he was the single best character to bring into combat, since you were an infighter, and he was a very skilled ranged fighter.

I also have a weak spot for droids.

I will often tell people, with great conviction, that you should play KOTOR for no other reason than to experience HK-47. Yes. He's just that good. ...Really, what isn't there to love about a psychotic, sarcastic assassin droid?

[while dealing with Jawa:]

Revan: Can you help me out here, HK?
HK: I'm 98% percent sure this miniature organic meatbag wants you to help find his fellow miniature organic meatbags.
Revan: And the other 2 percent?
HK: The other 2 percent is sure that he is just looking for trouble and needs to be blasted, but that might be wishful thinking from my part.

This week, I played Portal. It's a short game, so it was something I did in a single evening. I was looking forward to it, because the AI that guides you through the game was supposed to be an excellent NPC, for many of the same reasons as HK-47: sadistic, sarcastic, and humorous. ...And I did laugh quite a few times while playing it, particularly at the ending credits. (And, by the way, it's an excellent game.) But it didn't have the same magic as HK-47.

The Main Character Theory of Role Playing Games

Role-playing games, given a modest amount of time, will develop a main character.

This goes counter to one of the implicit objectives of running a game: namely, the idea that every player should be included equally. However, in my experience, it is unavoidable: there will be one character from who's perspective the story is most compelling, and without whom the overall story suffers.

Sometimes, this is the most vocal player, for obvious reasons: they contribute most to the storyline, by directly affecting it. The game I'm running right now features a character named Jokamo, and he does most of the talking, and thus the game seems to be from his perspective. Each character he's with is a strong one: a snarky wood-elf, a mage with the ability to take down tall buildings with a single evocation, and... uhhh... a quirky half-height mystic who likes to wear cups for hats and keeps a magical talking skull on her shoulder.

It is not always the most vocal player. However, I also played in a game of Amber where my character, Freeman, was based on the video game. He didn't say much of anything. And yet that game seemed to largely revolve around him, once the action started. Most of the other players (a strong-man, a monk, and an displaced steampunk IRA member) were out to kill him. When he took action, the universe changed, and the game with it.

It is not always the most interesting character. In a game of Cyberpunk that I played, the story was clearly from the point of view of Rolfe's character (who's name I've forgotten). Interestingly, the character himself was somewhat... drab. Certainly compared to the rest of the motley crew that accompanied him, which included a spunky mechanic, a Russian biochemist, and a cigar-smoking, wheeling-dealing fence. Rolfe's character has less social skills than the fence, no real combat skills to speak of, and didn't otherwise stand out in the crowd. He was, however, the leader of the group, and thus the story was clearly from his perspective.

It is not always the clear "leader" of the group. In a game of Continuum that I played, the main character was very clearly Liam's character Kelly... who was certainly the most interesting, but definitely not the leader of the group. Heh. No, he was as far from the voice of reason as is possible. : )

It is, however, the character most central to the plot. But to say so is somewhat redundant, since that's pretty much what defines a main character. : )

This theory does not universally apply. I ran a very large game (eight players at any given time), which (interestingly) ended up more as an ensemble, where a few of the players stayed on the fringe, but the others each had their moments in the limelight. No one player contributed enough to be considered central to the plot or to the gaming. ...It was a relatively unstable group, however, (heavy on the "drama") which may well have affected things.

I wanted this to be more of an exposition of an idea than a commentary about its effects. Yet I feel compelled to say one thing that I've learned because of this: it is more important for the players to be forewarned about this tendency than it is for the GM.

New Years Resolutions, Redux

So, I've been reading more "zen stuff", and taking it to heart more than I ever had in the past. When the student is ready, and all that...

It's gotten me thinking about the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I decided to do the Anthony Robbins "rocking chair" test, and think about what I would say about my life in my old age. ...I had trouble doing that: it didn't feel right. Instead, I thought back to my life-thus-far. I've largely enjoyed it. I am largely proud of it. If my life ended here, I would be content to say, "yup, I done good."

I asked myself why. The answer surprised me. So I've decided to re-write my goals to reflect what I've learned. Here are my new-New Year's resolutions:

  1. Be a good person.

Changes In Science

I am going to make some generalizations about what I'm reading at the Edge Question of 2008 site. Please keep in mind two things:

  1. This is not representative of all scientists, only the blokes who read Edge and have already decided to answer the question. ...a very small set of the science community. Also, the vast majority are American.
  2. I am re-interpreting their answers, so you are hearing this through my filter. There are conflicting points of view, even within the current answers. I could cite (multiple) specific sources for each of my comments, but that would take more time than I am willing to give. :) The site is worth reading in its entirety.
On to my observations (in the order they struck me):

First, synthesis has been strongly emphasized. This excites me, as someone who's wanted to see more of it for a long, long time. Namely, this is the idea that multiple fields need to come together to find better answers: the "divide and conquer" cornerstone of science is being questioned. Neurobiology needs to heed Psychology and Sociology, for example. In another example, a neurobiologist calls for help from top-notch mathematicians. While experts may still be important, cooperation is required for further progress. The internet, of course, poses a gigantic opportunity for such collaboration and broader awareness.

Second, the state of science, particularly in America, seems threatened. There is not as much of a sense of wonder about it anymore, and the whole "Intelligent Design" debate, along with other political tussles, have taken their toll on the trust people have in science. And scientists have also lost some of their faith in people. Specifically, they wish there were more science in the governance of America. Perhaps better-stated, there is a greater divide between science and religion.

Third, scientists have become frustrated with the slow progression of their fields. For example, there have been no major physics breakthroughs since the late 90's, and even those weren't as remarkable as The Standard Model or Special Relativity. Superstrings haven't panned out. Dark Matter might be a ruse. Gravity is still a mystery. They're pining for the next huge revelation. Another example is computer science: the promise of AI was unrealized, and the speed of processors is not growing geometrically like was hoped.

Fifth: the so-called "fishing expeditions" are coming into style. ...These are the funded "studies" that are not for testing a hypothesis, but for formulating one. Studying things for the sake of studying them... and with the hope that, out of this, you will see trends which can then be subjected to the scientific method.

Sixth: lots of scientists have converted to atheism, and apparently like to announce it. : ) I loved this paragraph by Frank Wilczek :

What I found most disillusioning, however, was not that the sacred texts contained errors, but that they suffered by comparison. Compared to what I was learning in science, they offered few truly surprising and powerful insights. Where was there a vision to rival the concepts of infinite space, of vast expanses of time, of distant stars that rivaled and surpassed our Sun? Or of hidden forces and new, invisible forms of "light"? Or of tremendous energies that humans could, by understanding natural processes, learn to liberate and control? I came to think that if God exists, He (or She, or They, or It ) did a much more impressive job revealing Himself in the world than in the old books; and that the power of faith and prayer is elusive and unreliable, compared to the everyday miracles of medicine and technology.

Seventh: Statistics is making a comeback. Bayesian analysis help explain the human brain, greater variance helps explains why more males are among the intellectual elite (and the morons), statistical analysis of speech proves more effective at Turing Tests than any programs trying to mimic "understanding"...

"I changed my mind about climate change" (meaning: they are now worried about it) is probably the most common answer. I just didn't think it was interesting enough to put above the Eighth point.

Re: Hindi Update

I have started to carry around index cards, cut in half, with Hindi words on one side (in Devanagari script), and their pronunciation and meaning (and, when applicable, gender), on the other side. When I have a moment, I quiz myself on them.

I hated flash cards when I was a kid. Despised 'em. Coupled with simple mnemonics, however, I now find them absurdly powerful learning devices.


I presently have about a one hundred and thirty word vocabulary in Hindi, measured by the ability to recognize words written in Hindi. I'm worse at understanding spoken Hindi, and much worse at translating English to Hindi: I haven't practiced that, yet.

I've learned the vast majority of those words (90?) in the past 24 hours, so we have yet to see how well I retain them. : ) That said, it seems entirely possible to pick up 100 words or so in a day, if you're working at it frequently. 20 words a day would be nearly trivial. ...Perhaps that's the pace I will try and maintain.

Bits of Plane

Actually, there were bits of plane at the Pentagon.

(Image taken from Snopes without permission.)

Note To Shelf: Short Film Concept

(Done in rough cartoon-style. Silent, or with minimal ambient background.)

  1. A man, staring down at a picnic table. No motion, but the drawing should "wiggle".
  2. A mosquito, sitting on the picnic table. Stoic.
  3. The man. Close-up of his face, staring at the mosquito. He squints slightly, brow furrowing a little.
  4. Mosquito, close-up of its head. No expression.
  5. The man's eyes, reflecting the picnic table, with a dot on it.
  6. Mosquito's eyes, reflecting 3 dozen men.
  7. From the side: the man slowly raises his hand to head-level, palm-forward, ready to swat.
  8. Repeat scene 4.
  9. From behind and above. The man starts to swing
  10. Rapid switch to side-view of the mosquito, pulled out a bit, to see the hand coming down. It jumps away with a buzzing sound, and the hand slaps the surface loudly.
  11. 2/3rd shot of the man, hand still on the table, head following the mosquito as it buzzes away toward the camera, which it flies past.
  12. Front view of the man pulling his hand back, putting at his side, looking at where the mosquito was. Perhaps he looks stupidly at the palm of his hand for a moment.
  13. Further away, he's still standing there, silently. A circular shadow starts to grow from right behind him, encompasses the majority of the scene.
  14. Close-up of man's face, eyes looking down, then up.
  15. Pull WAY out to show a meteor falling toward the man.
  16. Close-up of man's eyes, which quickly widen.
  17. Side view of meteor falling on man. No explosion: just a THUNK, burrying itself half-way into the ground. Pause. ...The mosquito flies past.
Point: showing that a mosquito, with 1/1000000000th the brain cells, can be smarter at the simple things.

What Have You Changed Your Mind About?

The "Question of 2008" over at Edge, which I keep posting in reference to, is "What have you changed your mind about?". Here's my answer: opinions.

I used to believe opinions were dangerous. At best, sharing opinions would gain nothing as we pat one another on the backs for sharing the same beliefs. At worst, I might avoid the person altogether because I was shocked by their profound ignorance.

Recently, I've realized two things about opinions. First, they are never Truth. People usually have reasons for believing what they do, and finding out why can be interesting (if difficult). Second, when you approach these subjects with a lighter heart, they are actually very approachable subjects.

Synthesizing the two, the result is that you learn from talking about people's opinions. There are points to be made on either side of any argument, and by accepting both sides' existence, I think you walk away with a better understanding. It becomes almost a Zen thing.

Another Interesting Video

A video by Chemical Brothers. You're riding a train, and all of the background stuff occurs in sync with the music:

Did the Atom Bomb End WWII?

  1. Members of the [Japanese] Supreme Council, which customarily met with the Emperor to take important decisions, learned of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945. Although Foreign Minister Togo asked for a meeting, no meeting was held for three days.
  2. A surviving diary records a conversation of Navy Minister Yonai, who was a member of the Supreme Council, with his deputy on August 8. The Hiroshima bombing is mentioned only incidentally. More attention is given to the fact that the rice ration in Tokyo is to be reduced by ten percent.
  3. On the morning of August 9, Soviet troops invaded Manchuria. Six hours after hearing this news, the Supreme Council was in session. News of the Nagasaki bombing, which happened the same morning, only reached the Council after the session started.
  4. The August 9 session of the Supreme Council resulted in the decision to surrender.
  5. The Emperor, in his rescript to the military forces ordering their surrender, does not mention the nuclear bombs but emphasizes the historical analogy between the situation in 1945 and the situation at the end of the Sino-Japanese war in 1895. In 1895 Japan had defeated China, but accepted a humiliating peace when European powers led by Russia moved into Manchuria and the Russians occupied Port Arthur. By making peace, the emperor Meiji had kept the Russians out of Japan. Emperor Hirohito had this analogy in his mind when he ordered the surrender.
  6. The Japanese leaders had two good reasons for lying when they spoke to Robert Butow. The first reason was explained afterwards by Lord Privy Seal Kido, another member of the Supreme Council: "If military leaders could convince themselves that they were defeated by the power of science but not by lack of spiritual power or strategic errors, they could save face to some extent". The second reason was that they were telling the Americans what the Americans wanted to hear, and the Americans did not want to hear that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria brought the war to an end.

- Freeman Dyson, citing Ward Wilson.

Cool Stop-animation Video

This may take a moment to load, but it's worth watching.

New Year's Resolutions Update

  • Eat Little Sugar: Not doing great, yet. Eating less sugar, but that's not what I set out to do. On the other hand, I've gone on three agressive walks in the past two days (one of them with 1/3rd jogging).
  • Take a College Course: Holy shit, I registered! My declared major is "Biotechnology", but the first course on that track (Chemistry) requires math and writing, and I need to jump through hoops to prove I got that at U-Mass. As a result, I decided to go with my second (and as-yet-undeclared) major, and take Drawing I. In fact, I just now paid for the course. I am officially a College Student, once again. I even went to the campus today and talked to an adviser, who was quite helpful. ...To be honest, this is freaking me out. First class is January 14th, and it's on the sub-optimal Montoya Campus. Again, I say: holy shit.
  • Learn Hindi (for Real):it's amazing what flash cards will do for your vocabulary. I made some yesterday for "Lesson 1.2", which is where I've been stuck, and after 3 goes through the "deck", I was able to read the chapter text without looking anything up. As a result, I've learned how surprised Pratap was that his room as large, clean, and airy. He was also shocked that the cupboards were empty. I'm on the edge of my seat!
  • Buy no more video games this year: I even canceled my pre-order of "Force Unleashed". How's that for willpower?

Ledoux on Memory

From a post on Edge.org (an ugly, ugly site, but some cool writing if you can bear it):

Karim Nader did an experiment that convinced me, and many others, that our usual way of thinking [about memory] was wrong. In a nutshell, ...each time a memory is used, it has to be restored as a new memory in order to be accessible later. The old memory is either not there or is inaccessible. In short, your memory about something is only as good as your last memory about it. This is why people who witness crimes testify about what they read in the paper rather than what they witnessed. Research on this topic, called reconsolidation, has become the basis of a possible treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction, and any other disorder that is based on learning.

Ben Stein's Intelligent Design

Did you know Ben Stein is releasing a movie this February about Intelligent Design?

Under a new anti-religious dogmatism, scientists and educators are not allowed to even think thoughts that involve an intelligent creator. Do you realize that some of the leading lights of "anti-intelligent design" would not allow a scientist who merely believed in the possibility of an intelligent designer/creator to work for him… EVEN IF HE NEVER MENTIONED the possibility of intelligent design in the universe?EVEN FOR HIS VERY THOUGHTS… HE WOULD BE BANNED.

Robert A. Wilson on "SNAFU"

Paraphrasing:

The problem with authoritarian systems (like our government, or the military, or corporations) is that information cannot properly move "uphill". More accurately, only information that suits your superior's view of reality will be accepted, and the penalty for reporting things that do not suit this point of view can result in negative action (pink slip/court marshal/reassignment). This effect is compounded the further up the hierarchy one looks, until, at the top, the leadership has very little idea of what is truly happening within the system.

(I'm listening to RAW on politics this morning. He's a pretty whacked guy, but does occasionally say some brilliant things, so I try to overlook the whacked stuff.)

Control of the Media

Before the 2004 elections, I took an informal survey at my place of work. I asked people which political party they thought controlled the media, then asked them which political party they most closely identified with.

Without a single exception, the people who identified with the right thought the media was controlled by the left. People who identified with the left unanimously thought it was controlled by the right. There was one centrist, and he believed that both sides were well represented.

I did a little research on the subject (on the 'net), but couldn't find strong arguments in either direction.