Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I'll Take the Blue Pill, Thanks.

OK, the thing about spending most of my time on the computer is right. (I refuse to address the porn issue.) But, aw, man, do I have to be played by Keanu?!

(Warning: Site is flash-heavy and requires a high speed connection.)

Monday, August 30, 2004

Split-Shift Snoozin'

Strange day. I went to bed last night about 2:30 AM, had some difficulty getting to sleep, and woke up again about 6:30. Tossed and turned 'til nearly 7:00, decided no more sleep was happening, got up, had coffee, had breakfast, did some stuff, finally took a shower around 9:30. Got out of the shower, lay down on the bed for a moment, discovered that it was very comfy and I really felt like I could sleep... and did. I woke up at 2:00. Now I feel all weird and groggy, and I have to be at work in an hour and a half. The really sad thing? When I got up at 7-ish, I remember thinking, "Well, at least I'll have lots of time today to get things done." Sigh.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

More Random Links

I think it's time to throw out some more random links I've encountered here and there. No monsters popping out this time, I swear!

  • I don't know what the heck this site is about. I don't even know what language it's in. But this is the most incredibly, compellingly cheesy music video I have ever seen.

  • The alien languages of Futurama decoded. There's also a lot of other cool Futurama-related stuff on the site, but most of it is in Spanish.

  • Fantastic Fiction book site. Haven't had the chance to look at much of this yet, but there looks to be a lot of SF-book-related goodness.

  • Guide to every science fiction character who was ever killed. The title is way over-ambitious, but it's amusing, anyway. (Contains spoilers for various TV shows and movies.)

  • The Theory of Cat Gravity. Sounds plausible to me!
  • The Light Side

    You know, I've been so disappointed with the first two Star Wars prequels that I'm not at all sure I'm even going to bother watching the third one. But this I would sure as hell go and see: Star Wars Epsiode III: Yoda Goes Nuts and Hides in the Swamp. Not only is it a dead-on brilliant parody, but it actually ties all the continuity stuff together.

    A couple of samples:
    Anakin: "Chancellor Palpatine, you've always given me good advice. Three years ago during the Jedi Padawan athletics contest-"

    Palpatine: "I remember you got first prize, of all the Padawans in the Order."

    Anakin: "And I'd never have thought of spiking their drinks beforehand if you hadn't suggested it. And last year, when I was having trouble convincing that Bothan renegade to tell me what he knew about the Twi'lek slave trade-"

    Palpatine: "His information did prove vital to exposing the slave traders, yes."

    Anakin: "And you were exactly right, I didn't even have to cut off his other testicle. You always know exactly what I should do. Not like Master Yoda and those others, 'anger leads to suffering, violence leads to hate, hiding spy-cams in the Senate to look up Amidala's dress leads to'-"

    Or how about:
    Eeth Koth: "I believe what Master Yoda is trying to say, Master Windu, is that we all appreciate the great skill and wisdom you bring to this Council, but shut up."

    Windu: "You starting something, horn-head? Come on, I'll take you all!"

    Adi Gallia (doing JMT hand motion): "You need to go to the bathroom."

    Windu (squirms in seat): "One at a time, or all together! All the same to me!"

    Adi Gallia (JMT hand motion): "Really badly. Your bladder is about to explode."

    Windu bolts from the Council chamber.

    (Link via Sore Eyes.)

    Friday, August 27, 2004

    Do Dead Calculators Go To Silicon Heaven?

    Alas, it is with deep regret that I announce that my calculator has died. Really, I'm serious. This calculator had great sentimental value to me. I bought it back in the dim and distant year of 1987 (when scientific calculators were still nifty new things) for a high school physics class. It saw me through two years of high school physics, five years of college, an astrophysics degree, and ten years of post-college household use. It accompanied me absolutely everywhere, balancing my checkbook, figuring my gas mileage, and devotedly calculating whatever needed to be calculated. Sure, in its last years, it was growing increasingly feeble. The solar panel tended not to work unless held directly to the light. The display was beginning to fade. The case, cracked in several places, was eventually held together almost entirely by duct tape. But it soldiered gamely on regardless... until today. Today, I pulled it out to calculate how many tapes I'd need to record all of Farscape season 3 with no commercials (answer: 3, on long-play), and discovered that the poor thing had become unable to calculate in anything but binary. Sadly, as strong as my desire is to cling to the faithful old machine, I really don't think converting everything to binary before I can work with it is really very practical. Sniff.

    Goodbye, noble Radio Shack EC-4014. You were a prince among inexpensive hand-held computing devices from the 80's. You will be missed.

    So, uh, anybody know anything about what's good to look for in a scientific calculator these days, if you don't actually plan to do any science?

    Thursday, August 26, 2004

    Search Request Thursday

    Here's the latest batch:

  • Dune fanfiction crossover "Doctor Who": Now, that's in interesting setup...

  • sikozu scorpius music video: OK. Here.

  • sneezing trailers: I can just here Casey Kesem's voiceover... "Coming this summer: THE SNEEZE. It'll blow. You. Away."

  • my nude voga pictures: Yes, it's a little known fact that, in addition to gold, nudie pictures are the other major export of Voga. (OK, hands up anybody who actually got that joke.)

  • buffy vs conner crossover stories: Is it technically a crossover, though, given that they inhabit the same universe (whatever networks they happen to be on at any given point)? Or do they mean that Highlander guy instead?

  • centipede "santa fe": Yes, they have centipedes in Santa Fe.

  • hamman farscape meaning: It's "left" or "port side." You're welcome.

  • "dinosaur suit" wind video: Hmm, well, I hope the dinosaur suit helps protect whoever's wearing it from the wind while they're filming the video.

  • free nude women over fifty: Or if you won't, at least give the poor things some clothes.

  • asimov fanfiction: I was going to say that I wasn't aware of the existence of any, but then I realized that there are a number of professionally published books that sort of count.

  • boob milk flowin pics: I just have this image now of a huge river of breast milk and, I gotta tell ya, it gives entirely new meaning to the phrase "land of milk and honey."

  • "vanity plates" fiona: Let me guess is her vanity plate, um... FIONA?

  • braca love fanfiction: Well, come on, who doesn't love Braca?

  • comedy "aliens watching" movie: I thought aliens generally preferred chick flicks.

  • "mary sue" "dean koontz": Hmm, considering how many of his protagonists are, you know, horror writers, not to mention really great people, that may be a fair criticism.

  • salman kahn chest size: Sorry, the only Khan whose chest size I've really noticed is Kahn Noonien Singh. That guy's chest is impressive.

  • when a superstitious cowboy throws his hat onto the bed: What happens? His wife leaves him and his dog dies? That would explain a lot of country music.

  • terribly ticklish feet: Some big, thick calluses will fix that problem!

  • sikozu halloween: Alas, Sikozu missed Halloween. Which hardly seems fair, really, although I somehow doubt she would have enjoyed it.

  • supermarket bloopers: Gotta be a Fox show!
  • Feelin' Controversial!

    There was a time when I believed that it was a really bad idea to ever discuss religion with anybody. I have long since decided, however, that I don't really care if people disapprove of my religious beliefs. I therefore fearlessly filled out this religion survey.

    Religion Definition
    are you mono or polytheistic?Atheisitic.
    do you subscribe to a major religion?No.
    how do you feel about Jesus?Don't know him personally.
    what holy book do you feel is most accurate (Bible, Koran, etc)I imagine it'd likely be possible for an unbiased scholar to determine which document, overall, was most historically accurate, based on the amount of time the text existed as oral tradition before being written down, the extent to which it treats of obviously historical rather than obviously mythological subjects, the extent to which it is corroborated by archeological evidence, etc. But I'm hardly qualified to make that judgement.
    do you believe in reincarnation?No.
    do you believe in the traditional heaven and hell?No.
    do you believe in ANY heaven and/or hell?Junior High School is the very definition of Hell on Earth. Other than that, no.
    do you think the god(s) are vengeful or nice?I think they're nonexistent, except as fictional entities.
    do you believe in angels?No.
    do you believe in miracles?I believe in the laws of physics, and that, by definition, nothing can happen that violates the laws of physics. I do believe that wildly improbable things happen: with six billion people on the planet, six people are probably experiencing one-in-a-billion coincidences at any given moment. And I believe that wonderful things happen. So, to the extent that people use the word "miracle" to describe improbable or wonderful (or wonderfully improbable) things, sure, I believe in 'em. In any sort of supernatural sense, though, no.
    do you believe in predestination?I don't have a huge problem with the concept of determinism, which I suppose is at least akin to predestination. But I'm not sure to what extent the universe (and all of our actions) are pre-determined by initial states and the working of the laws of physics, and to what extent quantum uncertainty throws a wrench into that worldview.
    do you believe in original sin?No.
    do you believe in freedom of will?See the answer to "predestination." Actually, I think that's a very complex philosophical problem, and that my answer depends a great deal on what you mean by "free will." So I'll just say, um, "yes and no," and leave the complete discussion for another time.
    do you believe in souls?If by "soul" you mean something mystical, supernatural, and immortal, no.
    what do you think will happen to you when you die?The world will go on without me.
    do you think there will be an armageddon?As in an actual battle between the forces of good and evil, kind of thing? Um, no. World-destroying cataclysm is always a possibility, though. Just ask the dinosaurs. Oh, wait, you can't.
    why do you think we exist?Well, when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much...
    do you believe in life on other planets?I think it's extremely likely that life exists somewhere other than here. How common it is, though, I really have no clue. I don't think we have sufficient data to know what numbers to plug into the Drake equation.
    do you believe in evolution?It's a very well-verified process.
    do you think religion and science will always oppose the other?I don't think they're necessarily always in opposition, although the basic worldviews behind them do seem to me to be pretty incompatible.
    what would you say to God if you met him/her/them today?You're not going to hold it against me, right?
    anything else we should know?While I'm not religious, I do regard myself as a basically moral person. I think the best basis for human morality is simple compassion.


    Wednesday, August 25, 2004

    Why, Yes, I Am Excited.

    The trailer for the upcoming Farscape miniseries is now available online, and, oh my god does this thing look cool!

    (Note: It's a trailer, so of course, it contains footage from the show, some of which is... really interesting. The intensely spoilerphobic are cautioned to proceed at their own risk.)

    Monday, August 23, 2004

    So, How Much Should I Trust Microsoft?

    My computer just downloaded the new Widows XP Service Package 2, and it wants to know whether it should install the thing. Frankly, I'm not sure what to tell it. I mean, I've heard some horror stories. Any of you Loyal Readers know anything about this at all? Specifically, does the Home Edition of XP tend to have problems with the new package, or is it just the Pro version? And, if I already have a firewall set up (which I do), do I even need to install SP2? I took a look at Microsoft's website, but it's never terribly helpful...
    I'm Multi-Region, Baby!

    Well, the new DVD player is up and running! I wasn't sure how much setup it would need, but the answer turned out to be pretty much none at all. Yanked the connections out of the old one, stuck 'em in the new one, plugged it in, and ten seconds later I was watching a Blake's 7 disc. (I played the commentary track on "Space Fall." The commentary wasn't really all that exciting, but it's definitely interesting to see that show on DVD. You can see the low quality in which it was filmed in crystalline clarity. Heh.) The big advantage to this machine is that it'll play pretty much anything. Rewriteable discs, mp3s, DivX, jpegs, you name it. The disadvantage is that it's got kind of a crappy remote, at least compared to the wonderfully user-friendly remote the Toshiba had.

    Speaking of the old DVD player, it's still working most of the time, and I was planning on sticking it on the TV in the bedroom to use there until it dies completely. Except the bedroom TV is an old model that only accepts coaxial input, and while I'm certain I have an RF modulator around here somewhere, I can't seem to find the damned thing. Grr. If I can't find it, I'm going to have to decide whether it's worth it to shell out for a new one to use with a DVD player that might not be long for this world, anyway. I hate making decisions like that.
    New Toy!

    My new DVD region-free player is here! Now I can watch my shiny new Region 2 DVDs! (Which, interestingly enough, arrived several days ago, despite having much farther to travel.)

    Ah, yes, Isn't it wonderful? Now I have an entire new continent of DVDs to buy and never get around to watching...
    Mmm, Strawberry Angst...

    My angst tastes like...
    Find your angst's flavor

    Sugary and sweet, your angst is resulting from... nothing, really. You're actually living a very charmed life, and hopefully you're also grateful for it. If you have any angst, it is probably minor and you get over it with your optimistic and sunny personality before it can get to you. You're truly blessed, but be careful that you're not a bit too happy all the time; sadness, uncertainty, anxiety, and other negative emotions are a part of life, so be sure that you're not simply bottling them up or choosing to ignore them for now, because they most certainly will come back and get you later. On the other hand, some people just have great lives and great personalities, and if you got this result, you may very well be one of those, so give yourself a good pat on the back!

    Sunday, August 22, 2004

    Yes, I Do Read Books! Actual Books! On Paper!

    Thanks in large part to setting aside blocks of time to "not be on the computer," I've managed to get quite a bit of reading done this weekend.

    Things I've read since Friday:

    For Us, The Living by Robert A. Heinlein. I'd been reading this for some while, of course, but finally finished it on Friday. I said earlier that it isn't really much of a novel, just an outline of Heinlein's social and economic ideas in the vague and sketchy form of a novel, and that I'm inclined to award it a few points just because it isn't dishonest enough to really try to hide this fact. Nevertheless, I can't really recommend it, unless you're a huge, die-hard Heinlein fan, in which case you've probably already read it, anyway. The thing is, even for a political/social engineering tract, I don't think it's terribly successful. Heinlein's got some interesting ideas, but most of them are pretty out-there, and they need some vigorous debating and examining to make them feel like they stand up. But Heinlein's protagonist -- who, being from Heinlein's own time, is clearly meant to bring an outsider's skeptical perspective to the proceedings -- never does more than ask a few questions, nod his head and say "I see!" a lot, and occasionally venture a few very mild straw man arguments. I can't help but come away feeling that Heinlein's cheated more than a little by leaving all the potential flaws in his proposed systems conveniently unaddressed.

    The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket. This is book 9 in the "Series of Unfortunate Events." I think I've said this before, but it bears repeating: I love these books. They're clever, funny, and often rather pointedly satirical, and they feature an interesting story arc that just gets more complex and more engaging as the series goes on. These are the kind of children's books that can be read by and delighted in by readers of all ages, and I recommend them highly.

    Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. A collection of humorous essays, mostly anecdotes about the author's (often poignantly dysfunctional) family. Not brilliant, but very good in places, and I found myself laughing out loud several times.

    Sirius by Olaf Stapledon. A 1944 science fiction novel about a dog endowed with human-level intelligence. I'm only about 40 pages in, so I can't comment much, but I will say that it's already reminded me of the thing that really impresses me about Stapledon: the man could write incredibly long pieces of exposition and get away with it. Indeed, I think some of his books are almost nothing but extended infodumps, and yet they manage to be absorbing, and often even moving, regardless. I have no idea how the guy did it.

    Friday, August 20, 2004

    You Know You're a Geek When...

    I asked my mp3 player to list my top ten tracks, and it turns out my number one most-played tune is "Why Does the Sun Shine" by They Might Be Giants:
    The sun is a mass of incandescent gas
    A gigantic nuclear furnace
    Where hydrogen is built into helium
    At a temperature of millions of degrees

    For some reason, this fact tickles me immensely.
    Poor Kitty

    Oh, it's a sad thing to get home from work and hear pathetic mewing noises coming from inside the closet...
    Best 404 Page Ever.

    Hee. I should make this my home page. Although it would be funnier if I actually used Internet Explorer at home.

    Thursday, August 19, 2004

    Search Request Thursday

    We've got a relatively small crop this time out, 'cause I kept forgetting to check the referrer logs. It's just been that kind of a week. But here you go, anyway:

  • Maximum Amanda Beard: Poor Amanda. Maybe electrolysis would help?

  • stark crazy cry banik: Yes, Stark is indeed a crazy Banik, and he often cries. Poor guy.

  • farscape favorite episode rankings: I wouldn't even attempt to rank them. I have enough trouble coming up with top ten or bottom ten lists, without attempting to put everything in some kind of actual order. (But, OK, if you force me to offer an opinion, I'd probably put "Into the Lion's Den" at #1, and "Twice Shy" at #88. Probably.)

  • pic troubleshoot "el cheapo": Well, it seems to me that buying the "el cheapo" version of whatever it is is probably the main source of your trouble.

  • Morticia Adams nicknames from Gomez: You know, I can't think of a single one. I guess I get no TV Trivia Points. Except I do know their last name was spelled with two "d"s. That's gotta be worth something.

  • fanfiction mash ticklish margaret: Is Margaret ticklish? Is there canonical evidence for that?

  • Definition of Conspicuous: "1 : obvious to the eye or mind; 2 : attracting attention : STRIKING; 3 : marked by a noticeable violation of good taste."

  • download free sexy female chatbots for your computer: Aww, I'm sure your computer will appreciate you setting it up like that.

  • Red Dwarf Futurama Fry Lister frozen: Y'know, I never thought about it before, but being frozen is certainly something Fry and Lister have in common. And not exactly the only thing, either...

  • Wednesday, August 18, 2004

    Obligatory Farscape Post

    There's a nice little interview with Farscape's writer/producer David Kemper up now on Sci-Fi's Farscape page. Scroll down the page a bit and look for the stuff labeled "video clips." Kemper talks a bit about the miniseries, sexual tension on Farscape, and his opinions of the fans. No spoilers.

    I should also point out, for those who may have missed all or some of it, that Sci-Fi is going to be running the entire series as part of its "daytime rotation" from Oct. 1st to Oct. 15th as a lead-up to the miniseries. So, if you're not already a fan, well, here's your chance to see what you've been missing!
    Sort of a Book Post

    I've just started reading Robert Heinlein's For Us, The Living. Apparently, this was the first thing Heinlein wrote, but it was pretty much unsalable, and it sat in his desk drawer until somebody decided that Heinlein was famous enough that it was salable, after all. As Spider Robinson repeatedly points out in his introduction, it's less a novel, really, as it is a thinly fictionalized showcase for Heinlein's ideas of what the future should be like. To its credit, I suppose, it doesn't really seem to be trying to pretend to be much of anything else, which is more than you can say for a lot of his later works. I can't really offer an opinion on the book yet, as I'm only 50 pages in, but I am finding it kind of interesting to read, just because I always find it interesting to look at science fiction books from many decades ago and compare their visions of the future with the directions things actually went in in reality. This one was written in 1939 and set in 2086. What I find most interesting about it is that, 50 pages in, I'm already getting a strong sense of Heinlein groping blindly towards the idea of something resembling the internet. Apparently when his residents of the future want information (e.g. copies of old newspaper articles from 1939), they call up a records facility on the telephone, place an order, and have the information delivered to them via pneumatic tube in as little as half an hour. Clearly, Heinlein had no way of imagining the technology that would make it possible to gather information like that in seconds without so much as speaking to a human being, but in terms of the basic concept, it seems eerily prescient.

    Some things, on the other hand, nobody ever gets right. One of the things I find most consistently bemusing and amusing about old science fiction novels is that, in their versions of the future, everybody smokes. All the time, everywhere, and without ever asking first if anybody minds. Apparently absolutely nobody was capable of imagining that tobacco might ever start to go out of style...

    Monday, August 16, 2004

    When the Hell Am I Going to Be Able to Trade in This Stupid Organic Body for a Robot Model?

    Gaah. Woke up today after fours hours of shut-eye and could not get back to sleep. I finally just decided to give up, get up, and work on pumping myself full of coffee. And, man, it's such perfect sleeping weather, too: cloudy and rainy and cool. It just doesn't seem fair somehow. Sigh. It's gonna be a loooong night shift tonight, I can tell.

    In other me-related news, I still haven't been to see a doctor about my foot, but a little research has lead me to a pretty confident self-diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of a ligament in the foot. The symptoms sound spot on, and so do the causes, for that matter. (Why, yes, I do put a lot of stress on my feet.) Those of you who suggested that it might be a "bone spur" appear to have been the right track, as apparently the two conditions are associated, but it's not actually the bone spur (if there is one) that causes the pain. According to my Mayo Clinic Family Health Book (which is doubtless a somewhat more trustworthy source of information than the internet), the good news is, if I'm right, it's probably not something that'll require surgery. The bad news is that it takes a long time to heal: anywhere from three months to a year. This thought does not make me happy. Walking is the only real form of exercise I get, and not only that, but I enjoy it. It helps me burn off extra restless energy, and provides a wonderful way of focusing my mind when I need to think. A year without any serious walking and I'll be a six hundred-pound nervous wreck with writer's block. Sigh. Well, at least it really doesn't sound like it's anything too urgent, which means I'm probably fine if I put off making an appointment for a couple of weeks until I'm back to being awake during the day. Not that it would have made a difference today, I guess...

    Saturday, August 14, 2004

    Does Having Been Here Fifteen Years Qualify Me?

    I don't think I've done this one here before:

    You Know You're From New Mexico When...

    You buy salsa by the gallon.

    You are still using the paper license tag that came with your car five years ago.

    Your favorite restaurant has a chile list instead of a wine list.

    You do all your shopping and banking at a drive-up window.

    Your Christmas decorations include "a yard of sand and 200 paper bags".

    You have license plates on your walls, but not on your car.

    Most restaurants you go to begin with "El" or "Los".

    You remember when Santa Fe was not like San Francisco.

    You hated Texans until the Californians moved in.

    The tires on your roof have more tread than the ones on your car.

    You price-shop for tortillas.

    You have an extra freezer just for green chile.

    You think a red light is merely a suggestion.

    You believe that using a turn signal is a sign of weakness.

    You don't make eye contact with other drivers because you can't tell how well armed they are just by looking.

    You think six tons of crushed rock makes a beautiful front lawn.

    You have to sign a waiver to buy hot coffee at a drive-up window.

    You ran for state legislature so you can speed legally.

    You pass on the right because that's the fast-lane.

    You have read a book while driving from Albuquerque to Las Vegas.

    You know they don't skate at the Ice House and the Newsstand doesn't sell newspapers.

    You think Sadies was better when it was in the bowling alley.

    You have used aluminum foil and duct tape to repair your air conditioner.

    You can't control your car on wet pavement.

    There is a piece of a UFO displayed in your home.

    You know that The Jesus Tortilla is not a band.

    You wish you had invested in the orange barrel business.

    You just got your fifth DWI and got elected to the state legislature in the same week.

    Your swamp cooler got knocked off your roof by a dust devil.

    You have been on TV more than three times telling about how your neighbor was shot or about your alien abduction.

    You can actually hear the Taos hum.

    All your out-of-state friends and relatives visit in October.

    You know Vegas is a town in the northeastern part of the state.

    You are afraid to drive through Mora and Espanola.

    You iron your jeans to "dress up".

    You don't see anything wrong with drive-up window liquor sales.

    Your other vehicle is also a pick-up truck.

    Two of your cousins are in Santa Fe, one in the legislature and the other in the state pen.

    You know the punch line to at least one Espanola joke.

    Your car is missing a fender or bumper.

    You have driven to an Indian Casino at 3am because you were hungry.

    You think the Lobos fight song is "Louie, Louie"

    You know whether you want "red or green."

    You're relieved when the pavement ends because the dirt road has fewer pot-holes.

    You can correctly pronounce Tesuque, Cerrillos, and Pojoaque.

    You have been told by at least one out-of-state vendor that they are going to charge you extra for "international" shipping.

    You expect to pay more if your house is made of mud.

    You can order your Big Mac with green chile.

    You see nothing odd when, in the conversations of the people in line around you at the grocery store, every other word of each sentence alternates between Spanish and English.

    You associate bridges with mud, not water.

    You know you will run into at least 3 cousins whenever you shop at Wal-Mart, Sam's or Home Depot.

    Tumbleweeds and various cacti in your yard are not weeds. They are your lawn.

    If you travel anywhere, no matter if just to run to the gas station, you must bring along a bottle of water and some moisturizer.

    Trailers are not referred to as trailers. They are houses. Double-wide trailers are "real" houses.

    A package of white flour tortillas is the exact same thing as a loaf of bread. You don't need to write it on your shopping list; it's a given.

    At any gathering, regardless of size, green chile stew, tortillas, and huge mounds of shredded cheese are mandatory.

    Prosperity can be readily determined by the number of horses you own.

    A tarantula on your porch is ordinary. A scorpion in your tub is ordinary. A poisonous centipede on your ceiling? Ordinary. A black widow crawling across your bed is terribly, terribly common. A rattlesnake is an occasional hiking hazard. No need to freak out.

    You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from New Mexico.

    Get Your Own "You Know You're From" Meme Here

    More cool things for your blog at

    Heh. Man, some of those are true enough to be very, very funny.

    Friday, August 13, 2004

    I Am a Citizen of the World

    Well, as my DVD player continues to have weird, intermittent problems, I finally bit the bullet and did what I should have done in the first place and ordered myself a region-free machine. I then promptly went over to Amazon.com.uk and ordered the first season of Blake's 7. Let's hear it for throwing of the shackles of restrictive trade practices!

    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    Search Request Thursday

    Because when I don't do it, people pout.

  • klingons legends gods "too much trouble": The Klingons have the coolest legends. They really do.

  • sikozu dislike: I disliked her a lot at first, too, but she grew on me.

  • "childhood's end" stargate photo: Hmm. Apparently Stargate is stealing titles from Arthur C. Clarke now.

  • microbe groovy baby wav: Why do I now have the mental image of a paramecium in a disco outfit?

  • where can i find video clips of women sneezing: Not here.

  • FREE PICTURES OF GRANNYS IN SEXY PANTIES: I thought grannies had to wear those great big granny knickers. Isn't that, like, a rule or something?

  • pictures of scott bakula's bare chest: Ooh, can Scott Bakula wear the sexy panties? 'Cause that would be entertaining. In a mildly disturbing, yet still vaguely sexy way.

  • anal sex clips last2weeks: What, there's a weekly archive?

  • night surf adult dvd bondage toy store: Wait, so is it the DVDs that are in bondage, or...?

  • ice cream "personality test" printable: Personally, I'm just as happy if my ice cream doesn't display any personality whatsoever.

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs pussy nude: Um, I don't think he had one.

  • spirograph draw sports car template: Oh, I'll never believe you can draw that with a spirograph!

  • postcard of passenger cruiseline: So you can send postcards to all your friends and make them think you were on a cruise, when actually you were in jail or something?

  • scott bakula armpits: Hmm. Slightly less appealing than his bare chest, I'm afraid.

  • garak bashir children slash: Children? No, I don't want to think about it.

  • "Bill and Betty" yeti: Yes, I think those would be excellent names for yeti.

  • martianwear: What all the best-dressed Martians are wearing this year!

  • bunions "my feet" "august 2004": Yes, it is August, 2004, and I do have bunions on my feet.

  • (scientfic)+(interesting)+(download)+(free)+(book): Presumably it's a book with lots of equations in it.

  • count dracula chocula monte cristo: Three! Three famous Counts! Ahahahahaha!

  • "TV Guide" "past issues" "May 23, 2004": For all I know, I might have that one lying around somewhere. I wonder if there was anything interesting in it?

  • porn nstars r us: Hmm, must be a new franchise...

  • simak "way station" synopsis OR summary spoiler: Oh, come on. It's a short book, and it's good. Just go and read the damned thing already.

  • Neil Gaiman's sandman lemon fanfic: You know, I've heard that term before, but I honestly have no idea where it comes from. Or which Sandman characers you'd apply it to, for that matter.

  • tardis dimension measurements diagram: Are those the inside or the outside measurements?
  • Clearly It's Been Too Long Since I Put Up a Farscape Post.

    TV Guide Online has a nice little article about the upcoming Farscape miniseries. People who haven't seen the 4th season and the deeply spoiler-phobic might want to avoid it, but I don't think it really reveals anything you couldn't already guess, plot-wise.
    Monster vs. Monster!

    With Freddy vs. Jason and now Alien vs. Predator, apparently a lot of people have been inspired to arrange their own Monster Match-Ups. Christopher Bahb has an absolutely hysterical article on the subject, and Matthew Baldwin of Defective Yeti draws up his own Supervillian Tournament Showdown chart, as well as linking to a couple of other people's thoughts on the subject.

    Personally, I think I'm putting my money on Agent Smith. It's tough to beat a guy who has the cheat codes to reality.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2004

    Here, Have Some Random Links

    Just a few interesting links I've picked up here and there. Happy web-surfing.

    Hello Cthulhu and Tales of the Plush Cthulhu

    Spot the difference between these two photos.

    Penguin Warehouse

    Tuesday, August 10, 2004

    Hey, Look, It's This Thing Again.

    Current clothes: Blue jeans. A t-shirt in a sort of textured brown color that makes it look a little like some kind of stone, covered in a design of Native American petroglyphs. White crew socks. No shoes at the moment.

    Current mood: Starting to relax a bit after a rather irritating day.

    Current music: Was most recently listening to Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head.

    Current annoyance: Being on morning shift, mostly. Well, that and the fact that my foot still hurts.

    Current thing: Sitting in front of a computer for up to fourteen hours a day.

    Current desktop picture: This picture of the Aurora Borealis.

    Current song in head: Coldplay's "The Scientist." But before I answered the "current music" question, I think it was "Porcelain Monkey" by Warren Zevon.

    Current book: The Lost Slayer, Part Four: Original Sins by Christopher Golden. It's a Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel (or, OK, 1/4 of one), so apparently I haven't sworn off these things, after all.

    Current video in player: Still the same Farscape tape that's been sitting in there forever. I'm a bad, bad fan.

    Current DVD in player: The first disc of Futurama season 3. Which appears to be working just fine now. Go figure.

    Current refreshment: Darjeeling tea.

    Current worry: That this stupid foot thing is going to turn out to require medical intervention and otherwise just be really annoying.

    Current thought: Aww. Now I'm out of tea. Maybe I should go and make some more. Or possibly get some food.

    Monday, August 09, 2004

    At Death's Door

    Man, I had this really weird/disturbing dream last night. I'd gone down some stairs in somebody's perfectly ordinary house, and I was in this little basement utility area. It, too, was absolutely normal. There was a door on one side that led to a little bathroom, and a storage room on the other side, and a space beyond that with a washer and dryer and stuff. It was all incredibly detailed and realistic. I remember a bucket with a rag sitting in it, that kind of thing. The place looked perfectly ordinary and used.

    But beyond the bit with the washer and dryer, there was a little more space, and there was a door. It was a perfectly ordinary door-to-the-outside kind of door, like anybody might have in their house, and I'm not sure, but there might well have been sunlight visible through it. In front of the door was a man. He was calm. His voice was mild-mannered. He was wearing a suit. And he told me that this place was death, and that once I'd come down those stairs I could never go back up them into the world again. I don't think he ever said it, but the obvious next thing was to go through that door, and he was clearly there to see that I did it.

    I had this dream twice. At least, I think I it was twice. It might have been once, and the dream came pre-built with a sense of having dreamed it before. I'm not sure. But in what I remember as the first time, I went and hid in the storage room and shut the door. It was very, very dark and small and enclosed, like a good hiding place. But he very calmly told me that I couldn't stay in there forever, and that when I came out, there was only one place to go. Because you couldn't ever, ever, ever go back up the stairs. In my heart, I knew this was true. The second time I dreamed it, the weight of this knowledge, the sheer horrible unfairness of the thought that just by walking down an innocuous-seeming set of stairs I'd cut myself off from my life forever became simply too much to bear. I knew I couldn't go back up them; that was, like, an unbreakable physical law. So I had to find another way out. I had to escape this level of reality altogether and wake up. So, with a truly massive effort of will, I made myself realize that I was dreaming, and I woke up. Which, by the way, is something I am very rarely able to do, possibly because very few of my dreams are bad enough to require it.

    There are probably deep, dark, rich layers of symbolic content in there, but I'm not at all sure I really want to explore them.

    Sunday, August 08, 2004

    The Latest Annoyance

    I think my DVD player is dying. I was noticing some problems on the Northern Exposure discs I was playing last week, but I figured that was probably something with the discs themselves. (And briefly debated returning them, but decided they weren't quite messed up enough for that.) Except earlier today I was playing a Futurama disc, and the episode played back fine, but when I tried playing it a second time with the commentary on, it was almost unwatchable. So I stuck it in the computer's DVD drive and played it with the commentary on, and it was absolutely flawless.

    Sigh. That DVD player isn't very old, either. Well, I suppose I was looking for an excuse to buy a region-free machine...

    Saturday, August 07, 2004

    Who You Callin' a Pansy?

    I'm a Pansy. The bloom of thought. Thoughts are my haven. I prefer solitude and quiet places so I can ponder uninterrupted.
    What bloom are you? by Polly_Snodgrass

    That's definitely right, though. Heck, I'm busy wishing people would leave me alone right now.
    All Wet

    Long-term readers of this blog will remember the swampy summer of '02, during which the trailer park I live in flooded long enough for entire generations of frogs to lie and die in my front yard. Well, the park's gotten very mud-puddly from time to time since then when we've had big rainstorms, but nothing on remotely the same scale. Until yesterday, that is, when apparently our entire quota of yearly precipitation fell in the space of half an hour[*], and I found myself once again living in the middle of Lake Socorro.

    This morning, though, I woke up to find that some blessed soul (probably at the landlord's behest) had installed both a makeshift wooden walkway and a pump in my front yard. It's good to know they've figured out how to deal with this stuff.

    [*] Note: Not an actual figure. I completely made it up. But damned if it don't sound about right.

    Friday, August 06, 2004


    My foot hurts, and I can't figure out why. I first noticed it weeks ago, but didn't think much of it at the time. I've had a lot of general achiness in my feet for the last couple of years as my bunions have gradually gotten worse, and sometimes when I've been walking a lot my arches hurt, especially if my shoes aren't laced up exactly right. But this is definitely something different, and there's a spot on the outside of the heel that hurts quite a lot when I press on it. It's weird. There isn't anything visibly wrong with it, and I don't remember injuring it at all. (Well, with the way my memory works, it's always possible that I did and just completely forgot about it, but I don't think so.) Given that it has been weeks, I suppose I ought to think about seeing a doctor or something. I'm not in a big hurry, though. It doesn't hurt anywhere near enough to keep me from walking or anything.

    Here's a game that'll help you kill a few minutes: try to keep a drunk guy from falling over. The instructions are in German, but they're easy enough to figure out: hold down the mouse button, and if he starts to tip, move the mouse in the other direction. My high score so far is 48 meters of drunken ambling, which is probably pretty pitiful.

    Thursday, August 05, 2004

    Search Request Thursday

  • the hellmouth spellbook: Oh, man, I really don't think you wanna go messin' with spells on the Hellmouth.

  • salman khan underarm: Who is Salman Khan, and why are we concerned with his underarms?

  • dawn legolas fanfiction: Well, that makes a change from the inexplicably popular Willow/Legolas fanfiction people are always coming here looking for.

  • pfeffernusse what is it supposed to look like: Like this, apparently.

  • free sex chatbots: Yeah! Free the sex chatbots!

  • old porn grannys: Old porn grannys never die, they just... No, never mind. There really is no good way to complete that.

  • sneezing breasts -itching -coughing -congestion: So, uh, what symptoms do your breasts have, then, besides the sneezing?

  • scooby doo personality and iq quizzes: I'm having an interesting time trying to wrap my brain around the idea of a Scooby Doo IQ quiz.

  • why does my "swamp cooler" smell like fish? There are so many possible punchlines to that that I think I'll let you come up with your own.

  • servalan captures photos: How's this?

  • addiction to hall's honey lemon cough drops: Yeah, that's a hell of a monkey to have on your back.

  • what does rush's starman mean?: I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

  • acumen scorpius: Yeah, that guy possesses all kinds of acumen.

  • curious frog cheating: Looks to be on the up and up to me.

  • body piercing in pennsauken mart: Oh, yeah, I remember that place. Frankly, it never looked all that hygienic to me.

  • nude half-orcs: Thank you. I shall now go and wash out my mind's eye with lye soap.

  • Wednesday, August 04, 2004

    Set Phasers to Stun!

    OK, here's another interesting link, this one to a recent CNN article about non-lethal energy weapons being developed by US weapons labs. Interestingly, it sounds to me like they're working not just on what sounds an awful lot like a phaser's "mild stun" setting, but also on the Mirror Universe's Agonizer gadget...
    To Quote the CyberLeader: "Excellent."

    Looks like the Daleks are going to be returning to Doctor Who after all!

    Isn't this week over yet?

    Tuesday, August 03, 2004

    Hello, Computer!

    Today's featured link is Computer Stupidities, a massive collection of Stupid User Tricks and Tech Support Calls from Hell. Some of 'em are a lot funnier than others (I think the ones under "Emergencies" are probably the most entertaining), they do get repetitive fairly quickly, and a few of 'em made me feel mildly stupid. But, man, oh man, after spending the last hour or so on the phone to my Mom saying things like, "Now, right-click. That's the right button. On the mouse. Press the-- No, Mom, that was the left button," while she tried futilely to open an e-mail attachment, I really feel for the people on the support end.

    Should I feel bad that in the end I pretty much told my own mother to RTFM?
    Heck, It'll Probably Be Better Than the Official BBC Version.

    For any Blake's 7 fans in the audience who don't know about this already, there is a short film parody of the series which will be airing at the Edinburgh International Festival this month. You can see a trailer for it here. (Look for the one labeled "Blake's 7 Junction Trailer.) Looks pretty well done to me. Wish I was going to be in Edinburgh to see it.

    Monday, August 02, 2004

    Let It Rain

    It's raining tonight. Rainy nights make me feel all relaxed and comfortable. Well, at least when I'm not worried about the roof leaking, that is. I don't really know why, but I like it.
    It Is Kinda Cute.

    I'm an Audi TT!

    You're not the fastest, nor the most nimble, but you're cute and you have style. You're not intensely competitive, but when you pass by, everyone turns to look.

    Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

    Sunday, August 01, 2004

    Danger, Will Robinson!

    A week or so ago, after having seen the movie I, Robot, I mentioned that it'd caused me to have some thoughts about Asimov and Asimov's Laws of Robotics, and about how the movie touched on some things that follow logically from Asimov's postulates but that Asimov himself never really dealt with. And I said I might ramble on about these topics at some point. Well, hey, now seems to be as good a time as any! I don't think I'm actually going to talk about the movie in specific, but at least a couple of the points I've been thinking about are very relevant to the way the movie works out. I'll leave those who've seen it to identify which points those are.

    So, right. The Three Laws of Robotics. You know, I've heard occasional bits of speculation (though how serious, I really don't know) about whether Asimov's Three Laws might be useful to incorporate into real-world robots. Personally, I rather doubt it. They're too vague (a point I am definitely going to come back to). But it's easy to understand where Asimov was coming from when he thought them up and why he formulated them as he did. He'd read one too many stories about crazed robots turning on their creators and, frankly, thought that idea was stupid. Robots, he reasoned, were tools, nothing more, nothing less, and tools can and should be designed to specifications that don't include homicidal rampages and plans for world domination.

    The most important feature for any tool, he figured, is that it must be safe to use. And the more potentially dangerous a tool is, the more safeguards inevitably get built into it. There's a reason, he said, why you build a saw with a handle, and there's absolutely no reason why we wouldn't build robots with something fundamentally equivalent. Thus, Law 1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    The second thing is that if you build a tool, well, hey, you want it to do what it's designed to do. We build robots to do our bidding, thus, Rule 2: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. That "except where" proviso makes sense, because, after all, safety is paramount over efficiency. No machine that performs its job by ripping its operators to shreds is going to be tolerated for long.

    Third, a robot is going to be a pretty expensive and valuable tool, and when a tool is expensive and valuable, you want to build safeguards into it to keep it from being damaged. So, Rule 3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. Again, safety is still paramount, and the phrasing of the rule recognizes that there may well be times when the machine itself may be expendable in the performance of its duty.

    So. Those are the Laws. Now, the problems with them...

    Problem #1: These laws assume that people will deal with robots fairly intelligently, not giving them conflicting orders or ordering them to do self-destructive things without realizing that they'll be self-destructive. Asimov, like most writers of the era, was mainly writing about extremely intelligent people, and even they occasionally got themselves into trouble with this stuff. Call me a cynic, but I doubt it would work in the real world at all. (Actually, even Asimov seemed to realize this, and allowed for a considerable amount of flexibility in the Second Law, with most robots appearing to have complex additional rules about which orders would be considered to take precedence over which other orders. Still, I don't see any way an Asimovian robot could ever be anything remotely resembling idiot-proof.)

    Problem #2: How the heck do you program this stuff in? Asimov, for the most part, was writing puzzle stories: Given these three rules, how can Our Heros figure out why Robot X is doing Strange Activity Y? For this purpose, he had to assume that the Three Laws were absolute and immutable, built directly into the very structure of a robot's brain. They have to exist on a simple, basic level, but the truth is, they're not simple, basic concepts at all. This leads us into:

    Problem #3: These rules rely on a hell of a lot of interpretation. This really is the big problem, and it leaves the door open for all kinds of scary nastiness. In particular, there's a couple of words in the First Law that we really need to know the strict definitions of in order to understand exactly what the law is even saying. To begin with, what, exactly, is the definition of "human"? Asimov did touch on this question in his story "Evidence," which considers a robot who is outwardly indistinguishable from a human being, and eventually comes to the conclusion that if such a creature really can't be told apart from a human being, it might as well be treated like one. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is fine. But there's a sinister flip side to that, which is the question of what happens if you can convince a robot to exclude someone, or some group of people, from its definition of "human." Admittedly, it's been a while since I read the stories, but I don't think Asimov ever really deals with that possibility.

    The other problem is with the definitions of "injure" and "harm." Does a paper cut constitute harm? How about elective surgery (with the small but very real possibility of something going wrong on the operating table)? What about emotional harm? Taken to its logical extreme (and Asimov's robots are nothing if not logical), the First Law seems like it ought to require robots to do everything in their power to keep humans from ever doing anything dangerous, regardless of the humans' own wishes. Asimov never deals with this, either, but Jack Williamson tackles it head-on in his brilliant and nightmarish story "With Folded Hands." (For the Star Trek fans in the audience, the original series also address this issue, in a much more light-hearted vein, in "I, Mudd.")

    So those are the biggest problems with the Three Laws, as far as I can see. But it doesn't end there. Because, much later in his career, Asimov introduced yet another law, one that certain extraordinary robots were able to develop for themselves. He called it the "Zeroth Law": A robot may not injure humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. As might be surmised by its numbering, this law was given precedence over the other three, being deemed more fundamental and important than even the preservation of individual human lives. Now, the way Asimov presents this, it's all very noble and moral, and his robotic hero applies it in a gentle and benevolent fashion. But there's no reason to assume that must be the case, and there are some very disturbing possible implications to the Zeroth Law, especially when combined with the aforementioned fuzzy definitions of "injure" and "harm." For instance, given humanity's problems with pollution, over-population, war, etc., etc., might it not, from a strictly logical point of view, be argued that the best way to preserve humanity might be to cull out 95% of us and stick the rest on nature preserves? And, really, how many atrocities have humans propagated based on the firm belief that what they were doing was in the ultimate best interests of humanity as a whole, and that that noble goal far outweighed the value placed on individual human life? This is scary, scary stuff, and I really don't think (as Asimov perhaps did) that the fact that robots are clear-headed and unemotional is going to render them exempt from this kind of response. "Garbage in, garbage out" is one of the oldest precepts of computer science, and all it takes is the right sort of faulty or biased input and you're right back to homicidal rampages and world domination plans.

    So, um, yeah. Those are my thoughts on Asimov's Laws of Robotics. Anybody who's actually read this far have anything they'd like to add?
    How About That?

    Hey, July's finally over!