Posts you will never see

Looking at my blog’s “drafts” section reveals a number of posts that have been languishing, half-formed, some of them since before I made this blog public. Many of these occupied my mind at the time, but since have lost their timeliness. Some needed a bit more polishing. Some didn’t have enough legs to turn into a real post. Others I just haven’t fully formed in my head. Rather than keep them in the “maybe someday” box, they will be pasted in raw form into this post for posterity, and the originals will be deleted, just to get them out of my head.

In these descriptions, text in italics represents text added today for the purpose of explaining the post’s idea. Any original text from the draft will remain un-italicized. The are presented youngest first. In some drafts, text is fairly close to final. Some are only scattered notes. Most are a mix of lucid sentences with random phrases to remind me what I was thinking.

If these scattered thoughts trigger any musings in your own brain, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Fighting illiteracy

Initially created April 2009

A post about how what’s really going on in the Middle East is a conflict of knowledge vs. ignorance. The main point here was to suggest a strategy in Iraq of taking over their educational system, under the assumption that educated masses are less likely to buy into fundamentalist attempts to manipulate them. Also, the point was to change the rhetoric of the United States to be more about enlightenment and opportunity, rather than the stupid “war on abstract concepts” language they use now. I never really got this working in my head.

In the modern world, intimidation and intolerance is the only is the only real path the illiterate have to power.

US pitches the war stupidly: “they hate us for our freedom” “evil-doers”, “war on terror”.

Symbol: the destruction of the Buddhist statues looked like nothing more than “boys with toys”.

Counterargument: reading doesn’t help US fundies from being idiots.

The vegetarian case for cannibalism

Initially created August 2008

In the later chapters of his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, author Michael Pollan spends a great deal of effort thinking about the morality of eating animals. In particular, he wrestles with a moral argument laid out by Peter Singer in his book Animal Liberation, claiming that it “demands you either defend the way you live, or change it.”

Aristotle. I don’t remember the point I was going for with Aristotle. Possibly something about the risk that using reasoning based on assumptions depends significantly on the bias of your assumptions. (I also have a pet theory that at least some of the dark ages was created by the seemingly complete inability of people to doubt what Aristotle said, even when it was obviously wrong, and that the Renaissance happened when people got over this. Uh, and stopped being set on fire for heresy. Anyway…)

Essentially their logic leads to “point A”, at which time they ask “given that most people object to exploiting the retarded, why is it mortal to exploit animal”.

But using the same logic, you can ask “given that most people have no problem with exploiting animals, why is it immoral to exploit the retarded”.

To be convincing, a line of reasoning needs to lead inexorably to a single conclusion. Singer’s argument doesn’t: it leads to many. Worse, most of these contradict each other. So, while there may be some logic to it, it is not a tool for reasonable conclusion of anything.

Singer says “we have a strong interest in convincing ourselves that our concern for other animals does not require us to stop eating them”. It seems to me this should be turned around. Our strong interest in continuing to eat other animals requires that our concern for them is not convincing.

All this rambling was intended to illustrate how, using the same techniques that zealot vegetarians use to “prove” that all should stop eating meat, you can just as easily “prove” that all should start eating human flesh. I pretty much just lost interest in this one, though, so it doesn’t really form any coherent point.

Wheat and chaff

Initially created July 2008. I have no idea what the point was supposed to be.

Things which let you see bias:

The “whiners” comment, exposes party parrots.

Apple’s MobileMe launch.

Atheists for Jesus

Initially created May 2008

Basic idea is that it is possible to embrace many of Jesus’ teachings even with the spiritual side of them removed. Much of the rationale for Christians following them is that “the only way to heaven is trough me”, but that is a “why should I do this”, not a “what should I do”.

There is some meat there, but seems like others have probably tread over this ground before.

The Dread Pirate Roberts

Initially created September 2007. Back when bin Laden videos would surface every once in a while, but there was question if it was really him, etc. I realized that it probably wouldn’t really matter if it was actually him or not. Just like the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride, maybe he could be turned into more of an office than a person:

Well, Roberts had grown so rich, he wanted to retire. So he took me to his cabin and told me his secret. “I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts,” he said. “My name is Ryan. I inherited this ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from was not the real Dread Pirate Roberts, either. His name was Cummerbund. The real Roberts has been retired fifteen years and living like a king in Patagonia.” Then he explained the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley. So we sailed ashore, took on an entirely new crew and he stayed aboard for awhile as first mate, all the time calling me Roberts. Once the crew believed, he left the ship and I have been Roberts ever since. Except, now that we’re together, I shall retire and hand the name over to someone else.

I’d hoped to get excerpts from these videos and show the different people that were carrying the “office” of Osama bin Laden, but it was sort of hard to find decent clips, and by the time I gathered some, the videos appeared with decreasing frequency. Still, I gathered a bunch of links.

Juries are stupid

Initially created May 2006. Post intended to vent about the reality reported by two articles; however, I’ve yet to find even a half-baked solution to this problem, so I never turned it into a real article (as per the rules).

Take heed the court stenographer

The second link used to point somewhere interesting, but now is just a place to buy drugs, which pisses me off all over again.

Making sausage

Initially created May 2006

A memo to my employees, the members if the United States Government:

I approach politics the way most Americans do, with lots of opinionated complaining a no real action. Sure, I’ll talk by the water cooler about which intern blew you when and where, or how much coke you did while attending an Ivy League school you weren’t really qualified to attend, or how they finally fished your girlfriend out of the river, or how old your former slave employee was when she bore your bastard child, or what contributor got which favor, or which particular lie you got busted for this time, but I don’t really care.

Most of my fellow Americans and I seem perfectly content to sit back and mostly ignore you, content in the knowledge that you are out there extending American hegemony.

The problem is: you suck at it now.

Sure, you’ve stumbled before….

Don’t make me get off the couch and overthrow your ass.

In darkest Mordor

Initially entered April 2006. This was meant to be the expansion of an offhand comment I made in an IM conversation about the “cartoon controversy”. The post has a central idea, but I could never make anything intelligent out of it.

How the Cartoon Protests Harm Muslims

If the Muslim world really desires the severing of all ties, maybe we should just surrender and put a wall up. Within 500 years, either they would have a renaissance of their own (see “Breeding the white out”) or they’d basically become orcs.

What do they import?

When the Sizzle is better than the Sausage

No relation to reality, indeed

Breeding the white out

Initially entered February 2006. I never turned this into anything more than an observation about the inevitable elimination of the palefaces.

A solution for Iraq

Initially entered February 2006

Get the “shadow government” to convince big wigs in Iraq that they should not fear democracy, because they’ll be able to manipulate it.

Another solution: leak a memo stating how glad we are that the sects are killing each other.

Things noticed from Fahrenheit 9/11:

  1. There is a scene showing a group of soldiers knocking on the door of a house and eventually detaining a guy living within, in view of his crying family. I think Moore intended for this scene to show how the “brutal fist of the evil U.S. Army” was smacking down the poor innocent civilians of Iraq. I took away something different from it. What struck me was, to my eyes, the complete overreaction of the crying civilians. Basically the soldiers knocked on the door and said “we’d like to talk to you” and the immediate civilian reaction was seemingly genuine terror, as if they were positive they were all going to get hacked into pieces and eaten within seconds. (What that means is that we are getting completely crushed in the propaganda war.)

    The Bush administration clearly thought (if they thought at all, which seems increasingly unlikely) that the reaction of most thinking Iraqi civilians would be something like “look at what the Americans did in Germany and Japan after World War II, maybe they’ll do the same here”. Instead, what reasonable Iraqis seemed to think was “here comes another bunch of white people to ‘colonize’ and oppress us.” Given Iraq’s history, this is a completely rational assumption.

  2. Compare the scene where a distraught Iraqi woman is crying hysterically and saying “please, God, kill them” with the crying of the American who lost her son.

Suggestions for virtual gesture standards

Initially entered January 2006

Eventually, and probably within the next few decades, a growing body of computer users will have reason to interact with 3D environments in a way that feels like manipulating actual objects in space, rather than clicking on a 2D screen. While the virtual reality concept of Neuromancer, Snow Crash and The Matrix seems to occupy the attention of pop culture, it’s probable that ‘immersive reality’, where computer generated objects are displayed overlaying real life, will become popular first. The most accessible demonstration of this idea takes place in the early portions of the film Minority Report, where the lead character uses ‘light gloves’ to interact objects he perceived to be floating in front of him (thanks to holographic screens). While holograms are a ways off, systems based on this idea (originally suggested by John Underkoffler) are already being built. I’m not sure what gesture interface these systems use, and I’ve remaining deliberately ignorant of it while writing this post.

I’ve been thinking about how you might use such as system (perhaps with glasses to give the illusion of objects floating in space) to sculpt three-dimensional objects. It seems to me that the gestures detailed below are the most natural for such a task. Most modelling systems can create basic shapes (cubes, spheres, etc.) but build a lot of complex interface to handle three basic properties of these primitives once created:

  • position: exact placement of the object in 3D-space
  • orientation: how the object is rotated relative to the xyz axes.
  • distortion: how the object deviates from its initial shape relative to other shapes (for example, being scaled larger) or within itself (for example, if part of the object is stretched from its initial position)

One of the less obvious problems in 3D modeling is that when altering one property, it is often difficult to control, or even identify, how your action might change the other properties. For example, if you click on a point on an object, then drag in some direction, will the object shift its position, keeping its orientation? Will it rotate around a central point? Will the part that you clicked pull away from the rest of the object?

The answer to this is usually that it depends on what tool is selected. I think a gesture system could make this much easier, by having the gesture being used imply the operation you want. As someone who “draws pictures in the air” during conversations, I think the following gestures are fairly intuitive (bear in mind these are specifically for manipulating 3D models, not a generic 3D interface):

Never got around to sussing these out. I now lack the desire. For some reason this link was at the end of this draft.

Poser data for RPS-25

Initially entered January 2006. It would have been world-shattering. For free, the world would have Poser data for all the hand positions of RPS-25, to render the epic battles in high definition, 3D goodness. Unfortunately, even I apparently don’t have that much time to waste. I’m too busy playing RPS-101.


Initially entered September 2005

I am a dangerous man. In my Home Depot bag, I hold a substance so devastating it is kept under lock and key, only sold to those the government has deemed worthy of it.

This article was supposed to be an attempt to paint me as an Orginal Gangster for the “edgy, high-crime” lifestyle of buying goddamn spraypaint, which was kept in locked cages in my county, requiring a manager to open, due to a dumb local law. It was actually supposed to be a sort of investigative journalism type piece, doing interviews with both the managers of the stores affected as well as the idiots who signed it into law. I never did figure out what the reason was, though graffiti and huffing seemed like popular bugbears. In any case, it looks like this law got either overturned or exempted to the point that Home Depot no longer has the cages. So my wrath as been quelled, for the moment.

Billions shift from side to side

Initially entered July 2005. As you will be able to tell, I never really figured out what I was saying here.

Sometimes I get images in my head that make perfect sense to me, but have difficulty explaining them.

People are sheep.

If you modeled advances of the human population as a flow of particles that gathered around specific memes, the result would look fluid, but unlike a fluid, all the advances come from those who do not follow the herd, pulling the collective in a different direction. Could this idea be used to predict things? In other words, model as a fluid that has these attractors on the fringes.

[Liberal graph that Rob mentioned, Economic and some other axis as example]. Now imagine there were more than two axes. Things like “degree of religious observance” and “feelings about self-image”.

I hate the word meme, because it seems like you only ever hear it from the same people that say stuff like “if hierarchy presupposes sameness…”.

When whoever it is decides that “pink is the new black”, the masses shift toward a point in the space representing this idea. I’m not sure what the flow would look like, but instinctively it seems to me that it would have some characteristics of a fluid. Thinking about it now, the picture in my head sort of looks like Galactica.

There would be an unfluid characteristic though: innovators.

O’Reilly’s alpha geek strategy. Fashion industry tracking “cool people”. But that’s social. What about using math?

Visual debugging

Initially entered July 2005. This is another picture in my head that I cannot quite articulate.

Existing debuggers seem to think that what people need is more and more features. Wrong. What they need is vision, the ability to see what is going on in a malfunctioning process.

Shows a time line of a value weaving through the code. Blocks of data that expand when you look at them. Lines indicating a path through the code (would remember even if you didn’t step). Threads as threads of code on the screen, controlling them visually.

No little panes.

Order vs. Chaos

Initially entered May 2005

Reading Swarm Intelligence recently, I was struck by a comment that nature tends to organize. While this seems true to me, it flies in the face of the second law of thermodynamics, which holds that everything moves toward disorder. These two concepts can easily be combined into a flaky pop philosophy, which I will spell out now.

Part of this philosophy was to involve the weird kind of numerology that nature seems to use, where it tends to spontaneously organize things in particular ways, with certain units clustering in certain numbers. Those numbers are “two” (e.g. quarks in a meson, parents in sexual reproduction), “three” (e.g. quarks in a proton, licks to the center of a Tootsie-pop), “a few” (e.g. atoms in a molecule, wolves in a pack) and “a hundred billion or so” (e.g. atoms in a DNA molecule, stars in a galaxy, cells in an organ). That is, when natural parts gather in certain numbers, they become something greater. The pop-philosophy would fixate on what sort of ascension happens when 100 billion human brains come together.

Other parts of the idea were to focus on the natural tension between emergent order and entropy, but I couldn’t make it sound like anything other than the metaplot of season four of Babylon 5.

Computers in role-playing

Initially entered May 2005. I think laptops at a gaming table have still not really reached their potential. Seeing this projection system made me want to gather a bunch of ideas about using computers in tabletop role-playing together, but it never happened. Maybe someday.

Things I will never see

Initially entered August 2004.

  • A reenactment of the Nazis marching into Paris, but using the music and choreography of Michael Jackson’s Thriller instead of goose-stepping.

Lesson of the day

I have a walk-in attic. That is, a standard door on the second floor opens up into the space over part of the first floor, and you can enter and walk around. Most of this space contains plywood flooring so you can walk on it. Other, clearly delineated parts, are unfinished, with the bare rafters and insulation open and visible. The unfinished spaces are separated from the walkable parts with 2×4 framing, such that no sane person would want to walk into the unfinished bits without a really good reason.

Lesson for the day: don’t let your mother-in-law wander the attic unattended.


Worldwide deviations

One of the best things about the internet is when random larks you throw out into the æther get picked up by someone who uses them to build something neat.

Someone calling themselves BloodPromiser combed through deviantArt to build a tour of images from every country in the world. I’m both stunned and honored that two shots from my meager gallery were included. Especially given the quality of a lot of the other shots.

I guess maybe I should post some more.

Learning from the Olympics

Here is what I learned from the Olympics that just finished, in no particular order:

If you think you can “smash” another team, keep that fact quiet until the deed is done.

Field hockey is a sport designed to train young girls in skirts to bend over, work sticks, and take occasional balls to the face.

Eight really is a lucky number.

Sixteen looks a whole lot younger than it used to.

All pole-vaulters are hot.

You don’t need media furor and praise to be a champion.

If you are loathed by your competitors, teammates and the audience, winning the gold medal doesn’t make you a champion. It just makes you someone loathed by your competitors, teammates and the audience, who won a gold medal.

NBA players become slightly more tolerable when they shut the hell up.

By the time you read this, those responsible for maintaining the soccer field have probably been liquidated.

Election advertisements are exponentially more irritating when they interrupt the Olympics.

The bronze medal sucks.

You don’t need to be an athlete to be an Olympic hero.

40 is not old.

You learn to hold things when you are six months old. For some people, it doesn’t take.

China knows an awful lot about fireworks.

In 2012, even if there is a 5k race where perfectly healthy people have to limp in a specified way or be disqualified, it still wouldn’t be the most ridiculous “sport” in the events.

Events that award medals entirely based on judging are fun to watch, but aren’t sports and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Photos from NBC, who gathered them from various sources (mostly Getty, AP and Reuters).

Number one

According to some useless rankings just released, Harvard is once again the top university in the US. It’s apparently been twelve years since they could make this dubious claim and, prior to that, they could make it only sporadically. I’m not sure what the administration thinks of such accolades, but having been enrolled as a student during one such year, I know the students don’t particularly care.

This particular year was early into the Clinton era, when grunge was trying to stomp out the memory of Big Hair and the last remnants of Nancy Regan-style anti-drug messages were getting more desperate. (Example: all of the phone books that year featured an ad on the back with a sign saying in thick, black, hand-painted letters “Mom and Dad, I do drugs”, with a kicker line below it saying something like “Real signs of drug use are not so easy to spot”.) Few students in that environment could have cared less what the U.S. News and World Report had to say about them.

Well, except the Harvard Lampoon, who staged a “we’re #1”-style rally on the grand steps of Harvard’s main library. A good number of the Harvard Band had been involved, so it was pretty festive, especially after the champagne started flowing. Like most Lampoon humor, it went way over the top, with speeches, massive posters and guys in mascot like costumes (one of them, for some reason, the “Mac Tonight” guy). The only reason I remember any of this, though, is that almost lost among a sea of huge banners with big “#1″s on them and messages like “Harvard: the Harvard of the U.S.”, was a small sign in thick, black, hand-painted letters saying “Mom and Dad, I do drugs”.

Twenty places in the U.S. I’d recommend over Los Angeles

Having made the mistake of mentioning on a forum that “on my list of top 20 U.S. cities, L.A. wouldn’t even be on it”, I’m now being called to task to produce such a list. So be it. Note that this is all done in the context of tourism. For example, since I have family in LA that would be good reason why I would want to go there, but such considerations would be irrelevant to a random tourist.

If I had to order this list tomorrow, I’m sure the ordering would be different. Also, I’m stretching the concept of “city” a lot here to mean more like “region a tourist might visit”. To increase the degree of difficulty, I’ve tried to capture a wide range of places.

  1. Chicago, IL
  2. Sedonda, AZ
  3. Las Vegas, NV
  4. Washington, DC
  5. Vail, CO (summer only)
  6. Memphis, TN
  7. Flagstaff, AZ (or, rather, the Grand Canyon)
  8. New York, NY
  9. Cedar City, UT (or, rather, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks)
  10. New Orleans, LA
  11. Portland, OR
  12. Seattle, WA
  13. Bozeman, MT (and nearby Yellowstone National Park)
  14. Farmington, NM (or, rather, Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon)
  15. San Fransisco, CA
  16. Kihei, HI (Maui)
  17. Boston, MA
  18. Captiva, FL
  19. Taos, NM
  20. San Diego, CA