Friday, November 30

Mainly for Christine: Top 100 names of 2001 (from the Social Security Administration, and they should know, right?) (link via fnirt on MeFi). William is 14th for boys. Sean is 59th. And Elizabeth is 7th for girls. Guess we're just like everybody else. And I thought we were counter-cultural :-)

Actually, now that I look at it, this page has a lot of links to potentially interesting information.
Recent interview with Philip Yancey, a particularly thoughtful and honest Christian writer.
While I was over there, I found that Steven's analysis of US talk about Iraq got linked in the sidebar and deserved it.

And in that thread, raysmj linked a slate article (warning: annoying pop up ad) giving reasons not to attack Iraq.
Hmm. Like I said, I'm back into MetaFilter after a long hiatus. They're having a lot of self-policing discussions over in MetaTalk. I don't think they're making much progress. You can check it out if you like. At any rate, something great got posted.

Freeze! Self-Appointed MeFi Police!

And if I need to, I'll use it!

That is all.
I decided to nose back over into One of their discussions centers around the importance of software and with the dominant theme being Rebooting Civilization.

Software and computation are reinventing the civilized world —"rebooting civilization," in the words of David Gelernter. "It's a software-first world," notes Stanford AI expert Edward Feigenbaum, chief scientist of the U.S. Air Force in the mid-nineties. "It's not a mistake that the world's two richest men are pure software plays. Or that the most advanced fighter planes in the U.S. Air Force are bundles of software wrapped in aluminum shells, or that the most advanced bomber is run by computers and cannot be flown manually". Everybody in business today is in the software business. But what comes after software?

Physicist David Deutsch, a pioneer in the development of the quantum computer, points out that "the chances are that the technological implications of quantum computers, though large by some standards, are never going to be the really important thing about them. The really important thing is the philosophical implications, epistemological and metaphysical. The largest implication, from my point of view, is the one that we get right from the beginning, even before we build the first quantum computer, before we build the first cubit. The very theory of quantum computers already forces upon us a view of physical reality as a multiverse."

I don’t necessarily buy that this is true. Multi-reality might be true at the quantum level, but that doesn’t mean it has huge metaphysical implications. If it does, it might point toward multidimensionality instead, for example, the kind that's being discussed in string theory.

One aspect of our culture that is no longer open to question is that the most signigicant developments in the sciences today (i.e. the developments that affect the lives of everybody on the planet) are about, informed by, or implemented through advances in software and computation.

I don’t think that’s right. Biological comparisons are ofter more apt. We just happen to be in love with our creations. God's creation is a better model for understanding, with better depth, than what we have created.

As before, I find Jaron Lanier’s reflections on this topic to be most useful. While we have faster, bigger, cheaper computers in accordance with Moore’s Law, software has, in many ways, gotten worse, not least of all because we’re locked into bad standards – there’s strong persuasion for me to use MS Windows and Office because everyone else does and I know files will be compatible.

Jaron writes ‘One question to ask is, why does software suck so badly?’. He goes on:

To tie the circle back to the "Rebooting Civilization" question, what I'm hoping might happen is as we start to gain a better understanding of how enormously difficult, slow, expensive, tedious and rare an event it is to program a very large computer well; as soon as we have a sense and appreciation of that, I think we can overcome the sort of intoxication that overcomes us when we think about Moore's Law, and start to apply computation metaphors more soberly to both natural science and to metaphorical purposes for society and so forth. A well-appreciated computer that included the difficulty of making large software well could serve as a far more beneficial metaphor than the cartoon computer, which is based only on Moore's Law; all you have to do is make it fast and everything will suddenly work, and the computers-will-become-smarter than-us-if-you just-wait-for-20-years sort of metaphor that has been prevalent lately.

The really good computer simulations that do exist in biology and in other areas of science, and I've been part of a few that count, particularly in surgical prediction and simulation, and in certain neuroscience simulations, have been enormously expensive. It took 18 years and 5,000 patients to get the first surgical simulation to the point of testable usability. That is what software is, that's what computers are, and we should de-intoxicate ourselves from Moore's Law before continuing with the use of this metaphor.


If I were a character in The Lord of the Rings, I would be Faramir, Man of Gondor, the humble younger brother of Boromir.

In the movie, I am played by David Wenham.

Who would you be?
Zovakware Lord of the Rings Test with Perseus Web Survey Power

That's cool, because I really like Faramir.

However, if memory serves, Faramir has darker hair and complexion, different from his brother in that regard. I would have cast him differently, looks-wise. We'll see about the portrayal in a year in 'The Two Towers'.

Wednesday, November 28

More best of MeFi:

Did you know that someone photoshopped a picture of ObL to include a picture of mad Bert in the background that the major wire services picked up? And MeFi was one of the first places to break the story. (Before you sputter with disbelief that I didn't know this - I did. But if you didn't, it's worth a look.)
Then I found out that I have a Kottke number of 3. Hmm.
Hmm. I found this MetaTalk link in my referrers today. Turns out Steven mentioned me with gratitude twice. You are most welcome, Steven.

(Want my two cents worth on the debate? I guess most people like the mix of interesting links, a few of the serious, and personal stories. I like them. Fewer people like Steven's serious take. But I do.)
Interesting NYT editorial on fate of International Space Station (via Robot Wisdom).
Matt's meme: text ads are now popping up everywhere - Matt started it on MetaFlter. Evan adopted it for Blogger. Now Daypop's got it. Matt's got his finger on the proverbial pulse of this enlightened use of the Internet thing. Now we just need to find him a job.

Tuesday, November 27

Now this is fun: Matt's thinking about a best of Metafilter slot on the archives page. His idea thread elicits nominations and can point you to some of the best of MeFi.

The self-parody thread is funny, but you have to be kind of experienced over there (it's kind of the new 1142). Plus, believe me, I didn't read the whole thing.

The MeFi community took on for stealing Matt's design. Some funny stuff.

Anyway, you get the idea.
Here's a beautiful poem by the inimitable ee cummings (via Eric)(Why? Because everyone needs more poetry.):

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
by e e cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
I agree with everything Eric says about the situation with the Twins.
I really like John's Chair Trilogy. If you want and innocent, guilt-free laugh (since laughter, after all, is the best medicine) then GO AND READ IT!
Here's something kind of cool: Robot Wisdom is part of the syllabus for a Intro to Soc class at Parkland College.
The quick victory in the war is creating political problems. But I keep thinking it was right to fight and not dance. My uncle works for the Indiana State Police. He says 'If you're going to fight, fight. If you're going to dance, dance. But don't fight and dance.' Translation: fight to win. The political problems need to be treated. But we’ve got in trouble in the past mixing war and politics (fighting and dancing). If you’re going to fight, commit, and get the job done.

Strangely, this doesn't mean I condone the violence. I'm very conflicted on this issue. But there you have it.

Monday, November 26

It's just as I hoped: When I looked for the unabridged Lord of The Rings on tape the versions I found were in the 100$ range. Maybe I didn't look in the right place. I found them today on CD for about 35$ apiece at Amazon. I've heard 'The Return of the King' as read by Rob Inglis, and it was wonderful. I'm sure they're all the same.
Also via Jason, Secret Santa with Amazon wishlists. What a great idea. I'm in!
Wholey mackerel! Some dudes broke into, swiped 'hundreds of thousands' of names and credit card #s, then sent an email to everyone who got hacked, mostly just to prove a point (via Jason).
And there's a nice article in about Matt and Metafilter.

Random thoughts:

The title of the article is 'metafilter man'. How cool would that be on a one-of-a-kind tshirt for Matt?

Maybe there needs to be a 'metaflirter'. Interesting idea.The URL is available.
From the Daypop Top 40: a new gravity map of the world. Cool.
Wish I was going to be in Chicago to take in the Van Gogh and Gaugin exhibit. But I'm not going to, and I can't make a special trip.
I'm back. But you probably didn't know I was gone.

I found out last sunday that my maternal grandfather died the night before. So I hastily arranged stuff and flew out to Florida last monday. I got back saturday afternoon.

You probably chalked up the lack of posting to Thanksgiving, but there was more to it than that.

Monday, November 19

Matt got stuck in traffic at 3:30 this morning with other people coming back from watching the meteor shower. Cool.

If I was an Autobot, I'd be:

Blue Streak

Take the Transformers personality test at!

Very interesting article on CIA paramilitary involvement in Afghanistan by Bob Woodward.
Whoa. I had a big accident on my bike on saturday. Going too fast to make the turn, pushed off the cement wall, laid her down on our left side. A little sore on the ham, knee, and hand abrasions today.
Have you seen beatgreets? Jim Higgy sent me a neworder card from them and it was rad.

Friday, November 16

Wil Wheaton reports that Wesley Crusher might be in 'Star Trek X'. I got this at MetaFilter, and there are some crazy Star Trek geeks in that thread. My opinion? TNG was entertaining, but ultimately the cardboard characters were unsatisfying. I appreciated DS9's and Voyager's attempts to make things more interesting, more complex.
Cool. I found out from thewebtoday that Xerxes reputedly built a canal in Greece and now there may be some evidence of it.

That sent me off to Google. There I found some pictures (the latter with the appropriate selection from Herodotus (so here's another map relative to Herodotus' history) and a tourist map (the canal was apparently dug near Nea Roda (thinnest part of the more eastern peninsula)). If you haven't got the idea yet, or need to brush up on your history, here's a summary of the The Persian Wars. Finally, just to be complete, and give Google its due, here's another history with a less-detailed map.

(I'm going to post this on MetaFilter, too, so if you're curious, you can check it for comments.)
Jeff excoriates the Major League Baseball contraction idea, for various reasons. The new Sports Illustrated is in favor of it because it will help improve the quality of the game.

The real problem here is owners who are in it for the business and not for the fun and to win. Are there any guidelines MLB could enact to help with this problem?

Thursday, November 15

And Shimon Peres is talking about widespread support within Israel for a Palestinian state saying many people think it's their 'best bet'. Aptly described. It's a long way off. I'm not getting my hopes up. But this could also be the beginning of more good news.
There's a lot of good news coming out of Afghanistan for us. I'm sorry for the loss of life of civilians and others, but hopefully much of that will now change. Aid can come in now. Multinational peacekeeping troops are ready to get involved. The missionaries were saved. Afghanis are rising up against the Taliban. The political plan looks as good as it can. The Nothern Alliance doesn't seem to have their hearts set on ruling alone. I hope for good outcomes.

Wednesday, November 14

Can American Airlines possibly live through all of these bad things?
Review of Roy Lichtenstein's artwork (via Robot Wisdom). You might also check out his gallery at

I like his ironic pop art best. I interpret it as subversion. Here's
an example (there are lots more choices at that site, too.).

Does anybody look at this art stuff I put up? Oh well...
Hmm. I might have to start watching the Nets. (I've given up on the Hornets. Their management, especially, is terrible.) I like Jason Kidd and Keith Van Horn especially.
I need this controller (via cHutler on 13 Labs). It's only 200$. (Don't worry, Christine, I won't buy it without your permission. Sure would work well for me and the kids playing games, though! :-)
All of a sudden my # of hits is down. I attributed it to fewer people searching for Os--- b-- L---- pictures, my somewhat infrequent updates, and unknown factors.

I failed to notice I'm getting fewer referrals from Robot Wisdom. Jorn took the sites that support Israeli divestment off the top. There you have it. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Thanks, Jorn.

Tuesday, November 13

Archaeologists Unearth Roman City, Winery in Egypt
Remember my post about how much I like Mike Martz' mad scientist style of football? Bob Stoops at Oklahoma is kind of like that. He airs it out. He calls trick plays. They don't always work, but they often do, and it makes things exciting. I think it energizes players, too, to practice such plays and then have them called. It's one thing to practice a play for desperation. It's another thing to practice a play that you know has been called in cool situations.

(By the way, Matt McCoy, who threw the lateral mentioned in the article, goes to our church. It's a fun connection. Matt had an interception a couple of weeks ago, too.)
Kabul falls. Reportedly, the Taliban will now wage guerilla war. That could be particularly sticky.

Update: Steven discusses guerilla warfare. In short, the way to fight it is not fight it. You stop supplies and starve them out and stay ready to defend. If you try to go root them out, they'll eat your lunch.

Monday, November 12

Sorry for the lack of publishing lately. As you can see, I've had some posts. We were having some phone problems at home and then I was having problems with my BlogBack code, which I'll have to restore some other time.
I started and finished reading Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods' over the weekend. It was great.

While I was at Neil's, I came across a fansite for Terry Gilliam. I really like his movies, especially '12 Monkeys' and 'The Fisher King'. I accidentally, but happily, watched these two on consecutive nights. The theme of insanity is so strong in these movies and almost all of Gilliam's other work - what is insanity? and when is it more sane to be insane than sane? Very provocative.
Reportedly, bin Laden is now confirming that he was behind the 9.11 terrorist attacks.

As usual, Steven also has a lot of very lucid war commentary, including his opinion that bin Laden's claim to have nuclear weapons is a bluff.
I love kennings. There's a site about them, formed into a game. I'm not into the 'game' or modern uses. I'm very conservative when it comes to kennings. The best come from Beowulf, eg, 'Beowulf, leader of the host
unlatched his word-hoard.' (Grendel Attacks about 2/3 down or Edit/Find on Page). Anyway, here's the selected, classic stuff.

What are Kennings?
Kennings are an old Norse poetic device based on the analogy. They're similar to Homeric epithets. Where the Greeks might say "the wine-dark sea" in their epic poetry, the Norse would say "whale road." This of course comes from the analogy "sea is to whale as road is to horse" or something like it. To use the standard shorthand, this becomes

sea : whale :: road : horse
You can also diagram it as

sea road
----- :: ------
whale horse
The key to the Kenning Game is realising that such an analogy provides four kennings possible (or at least permissible). In this case, we have

sea = whale road
whale = sea horse
road = horse sea
horse = road whale
You get these kennings by going "vertically" then "diagonally" from the word in question in Figure 2. With a valid analogy, you can always get a kenning by going vertically then diagonally. Try it and see.

Some of these seem a little strange, but we might make sense of them by positing that "road whale" for "horse" is the product of a culture of aquatic intelligent beings that ride whales the way we ride horses. Some kennings do come out strangely, but one thing we are after in art is the novel viewpoint.

sun : moon :: gold : silver

sun = gold moon
moon = silver sun
gold = sun silver
silver = moon gold

Friday, November 9

As you know, I link almost everything Lovecraft. Jorn has The HP Lovecraft Library online. As I've written before, there's some question about copyright (they state here they believe they're okay, and I'm inclined to agree), so view advisedly. (And, by the way, I listened to the sample of the Audio they're selling, 54 hours of voice synthesis. Do not buy it. If you want to support them, just give the money.)
Jason calls his weblog all London Tube maps all the time'. It's interesting, especially if you're into design. As Jason notes (and others with him) the new London bus maps are really easy to read and very useful.

(I've got to say, he also links to a letter from Satan which is well-intended by a Christian to provide an alternate perspective on Christianity, ie, from Satan's point of view. You may think it's in poor taste, but it is a fair statement of classical Christianity's view of Satan. CS Lewis, who was a great writer, did something similar with 'The Screwtape Letters'. I imagine Jason thinks this is a gas (and the music is corny), but I think it's largely based on correct theology, though mayb a little hokey.)
I enjoyed the webpage for the PBS special Warships
Clinton calls terror a U.S. debt to past and I think he's right in some regards. However, the sad thing is that he didn't do more about that when he could have. It would have been too politically costly. He's the one who brought us 'It's the economy, stupid.'
Fermi's Paradox II: What's Blocking Galactic Civilization? Or Are We Just Blind To It?

Hugh Ross is a physicist who says it's actually not surprising that there aren't any other life-bearing planets in the universe, not to mention civilizations. Design Evidences in the Cosmos. Design Evidences for Life Support.

Wednesday, November 7

If the filmmakers themselves can't cut it, the fans will.

Interesting story of The Phantom Edit.

The author writes:

While it advances the story faster, the film obviously cares for its characters even less than before.

This isn't true, strictly speaking. The editor had only so much footage to work with. S/he may be very interested in character, but just not have the material to work with.

More than anything, "The Phantom Edit" magnifies problems that can't be fixed with clever editing: too many bland, uninvolving characters (the stoic Jedis, the stoic Princess Amidala, way too many digital characters), too few scenes with Darth Maul, no renegade comic relief à la Han Solo, and a typically confusing final battle that takes place in about 13 different locations at once.

What can I say? Right. But I still love the Star Wars universe. I don't have to let it go, yet.

I finally got through on the 'Breathing' trailer I posted yesterday. It was cool. All of those things will probably still be wrong. But it's Star Wars. Most of all, I love the Jedi concept. I love thinking about other races of beings and space travel. I like the heroic subplot.

But some of the execution, some of the characterization, most of the dialogue comes up short.

Tuesday, November 6

Amazon comments: I like Amazon. I hope they live.

But, their interface is too busy. And I've noticed they've added a Target tab. And now they have an ugly 'Look Inside!' icon.
Arundhati Roy didn't want to be pigeon-holed as a pretty authoress with some political views, so she cut her hair off. Picture and recent interview (via Robot Wisdom).

By the way, I checked her Booker Prize winning novel, 'The God of Small Things' out from the library. I read the first chapter and a half and it didn't grab me. I doubt I'll go back to it. I'm not in the mood to persevere. Her writing is self-indulgent, 'precious', though I agree many of her values.
I've been really struggling with the pronounciation of garnishee. Now I think I've got it.
The Star Wars Teaser attached to 'Monsters, Inc' is now on the web. If you're having trouble viewing it, as I am (presumably because their servers are getting squashed), you can start with these stills (via Robot Wisdom).
Something I didn't know until I found it in my referrers: I'm the third of three results for the Google Barley's Uptown Dive.

Monday, November 5

One of the reasons I avoid conflict is because I don't like being wrong, and we tend to say things we regret when we're angry. On the other hand, if we don't vent those things sometimes and get them out in the open, it can do real damage. But I'm often not willing to do so because I'll say thing I regret and I'll have to say I'm sorry and I don't want to. There's something messed up in there.
Is it worth it to get Launch for free if I have to look at pictures of Tom Green with his finger in his nose and gross copy advertising 'Freddy...'? Yes, I guess, but it's close.
I'm thinking of the word excoriate today.
Remember back when the Spice Girls were big? I know it's hard to remember. In the ministry team I was on, we all decided to give ourselves Spice Names. Mine was Despondent Spice.
My Word of the Day for wednesday was eldritch. Turns out, the etymology is 'elf kingdom' (the word for kingdom in Old English being 'rice' like in the German 'reich'). Cool.
ABY - Anybody But the Yankees. I'm glad the Diamondbacks won.

Friday, November 2

If you like REM, you'll probably like

Backspin: R.E.M. Album Retrospective
still liking: Gorillaz

"There's a lot of manufactured bands, and they're all manufactured very poorly. We just thought, if you're going to manufacture something, why not do it properly?" Jamie reasons.
Purple Haze all in my brain,
lately things don't seem the same,
actin' funny but I don't know why

I know why: lots of ganja.

(By the way, when I debated a little my freshman year of high school there was a Jimmy Hendrix paradigm that if you couldn't understand the words of the debater then they didn't count for anything. Hmm.)
Here's a kind-of-long-but-somewhat amusing discourse on specialness (via 13)