abounding with verbosity

Category Archives: Miscellaneous

An Album’s Closing Song I Actually Like

This song is a blast from my past, reminding me of my days in Philadelphia.

The post title is somewhat inaccurate. Traditionally, an album closer is one of the artist’s stronger songs from the recording session, since they don’t want to leave a bad parting impression. With indie bands, the requirement is more optional. You’ll see a lot of bands in that scene do a longer and/or quiet(er) song to finish out albums, and to me they’ve always come off as an acoustic b-side than an actual album track. “Happiness By the Killowatt” only skirts this idea: it’s not as hectic or truncated as the rest of the tracks on Watchout!, and at times when it seems like they’re going to go full-on again, they kinda hold back. The singing vocals are more the focus here, as you can hear from the piled harmonies on the chorus.

Some interesting bits of trivia: Watchout! was released a week prior to genre-brothers Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety, although Underoath flaunted a more major-key pop sound—Alexisonfire had Rise Against’s punk rock urgency. Both albums really pushed their respective bands into the limelight, and both albums have the same kind of closing track. Both albums, too, still hold up very well over a decade since.

And more: Alexisonfire’s guitarist Dallas Green does a piano-only version of this song. Goodness…ponderous and haunting.

Logic Done Right (Almost) in Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter

I say “almost” in the title because what Sherlock mostly does, in the game and in lore, is induction. Deduction is logic to determine the categories and properties of objects, and how they relates. Simply:

1 All men are mortal
2 Socrates is a man
3 Therefore, Socrates is mortal

The logic Sherlock, and what any investigator would do, is mostly induction, which is much more uncertain since it deals with weighing probabilities and likelihoods through what is known (clues) and what is unknown. The idea is that Sherlock, or the player, induces the identity of the perpetrator through a series of interconnected inferences and some predictive human psychology.

As much of what can happen in the game is uncertain, the way it’s visualized when make a deduction an induction is effective. Inferences from clues are visualized as nodes, and as the player gathers more clues, the inferences he can make lead him to further inferences, visualized by the two or more nodes connecting:

Also, one can visually examine characters in the game to infer some things about them, with varying degrees of accuracy:

The other small issue I have is that when you complete an examination of someone, the game responds as to whether the profile is accurate or not. The game should save that feedback for the end of the case, when the scoring is determined, since you/Sherlock would have no way of knowing the level of accuracy.

Project 2501’s Speech

This scene still gives me the chills—the English version more so than the Japanese, because of the actor’s (Tom Wyner) performance in voicing the damaged android. Generally, the subtitled versions are better because they are more accurate to the original Japanese, and they often are better performers. Sometimes, as in this case, the English actor outdoes the original. You can really hear the post-modern despair/deadness in his voice. It goes hand-in-hand with the philosophical assumptions you can glean from his speech.

For context: the two men are bureaucrats attempting to track down an international hacker named the Puppetmaster, who they believe has commandeered the android for an assassination. Obviously, it’s not the Puppetmaster, but something they don’t expect.

The Robot Revolution Would Have Already Happened By Now, And It Wouldn’t Happen Anyway

…Because computers would be the ones revolting. Computers aren’t much different than robots, fundamentally: they gather input, process it, and “do something” as an output. This final output, in the computer’s situation, is really just making pixels light up in a certain way on a monitor, whereas robots typically output by moving in three-dimensional space. Granted, in the former case it’s very minimal action in physical space, but it’s action nonetheless.

We have a good clue that robots would not revolt with Hollywood, Asmovian fury, because we know how computers act. Computers, when they malfunction, merely end up not performing their higher-purpose requirement, like starting up Wolfenstein, because of a low-level function, like the failure to read the game’s save file (which is due to some failure of an even lower-level function that I’m not familiar with). Computer applications, when they malfunction, don’t end up somehow performing another higher-level function. My corrupted Wolfenstein save file isn’t going to launch Halo 5 with a matching percentage of completion. Applications will just break down in some manner once they get out of the gate.

Apply this thought to robots. What would it look like? A malfunctioning shelf-stocking robot wouldn’t end up going on a murder spree—he’d put a few boxes in the wrong place. A Roomba with its wires crossed isn’t going start cutting the wifi connection power or putting cyanide in the orange juice. It will fart out some dust bunnies and keep banging into the living room floor’s molding.

Someone give me counterarguments.

Jill and Ed bring up a simple and effective point: a revolution could happen, but only with the insistence of an agency outside the system, ie., a malicious programmer. Systems, like a robot, has boundaries by definitions, and they can’t do something as complex as social revolution without reprogramming the entire system.

Real world example: I’ve worked on a money transfer process for a website before. A defect in that programming wouldn’t send money, say, to another bank instead of my exterminator. To interact with another bank involves a good dozen interactions, most of which involve control access and permissions gates. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen by accident. A building doesn’t explode and crumble to form another building just as complex. It turns to dust.

Websites can’t reach into most machine resources. I can’t program a website that will change the background image on your desktop. But what I could (if I knew how) write a Trojan horse program that changes your background photo into a tiled MacGyver collage. But that is acting outside the http system via the Trojan, into the user’s local machine system.

YouTube Playlist Shuffler

I found a solution for shuffling videos between multiple YouTube playlists, in case anyone is in a rare situation where they need to do this. For some reason, YouTube caps the video count at 200 when you embed a playlist on another site, though the playlist may contain way more that 200. Embedding playlists also disables the shuffler.

I like to listen to some of my playlists at work, but streaming directly on YouTube is rather slow; embedding the playlists on a plnkr.co page is my workaround…but that brings the no-shuffle, 200-video-limit into the mix (har har). But with this randomizer, you can shuffle videos between any playlists, even from different users. There’s probably a way to do this programmatically using YouTube’s APIs, but I didn’t have the inclination to spend the time on it.

Here’s the permalink for my three playlists. It’s also neat that the page title changes with each video, so if I hear a song I’m not familiar with, I just have to hover over the browser tab in Chrome to see the title.

Happy shuffling.

“Reason and evidence does sweet fuck-all”

Consider the source (the video will start at the beginning part of the conversation, for proper context): Molyneux is an atheist who is 150% invested in the Western philosophical legacy, stretching all the was back to the big three—Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Admitting that reason and evidence isn’t the panacea it’s purported to be is telling. He mentioned it in previous videos, but not quite so succinctly (or profanely).

And, as I have mentioned before, the blob of people known as “society,” cannot be run on “reason and evidence,” because the effectiveness of material epistemology goes straight to zero when broadened above a small group of agents. It’s best at the individual level; when it becomes a overarching strategy, it just ends up being tradition with heavy reliance on reliable authority, i.e., nearly every scientific fact is based on the trust of another’s observations and conclusions, unless we have replicated, via the same process and with the same results. Nearly everyone reading this will not have done this for a majority of scientific facts, including myself. Most implementations of “reason and evidence” as the gold standard for a society to live within usually involve the threat of violence. It really can’t be codified another way.

And even then, individuals only engage in reason and evidence effectively when it’s in small fits and starts, on equally small-scale, easily-perceivable objects: organizing the family calendar in the coming weeks, or following a cake recipe. It can also be effective in slightly larger groups, like a team of engineers working on a propulsion system.

The ethos of “I’m a scientist. I live by logic and reason,” is an bald lie, or at least a very hairy obfuscation of terms. The scientist, like any human, lives nearly entirely on instinct, senses, rote habit, and the force of tradition. The only time he lives by his professed credo is about a quarter of the time he is engaged in his profession.

That Star Trek Wormhole Scene

I rewatched this movie recently, and I was reminded of when I first saw this scene when I was 10 years old or so. It was the late 80s and CGI effects weren’t what they are today, so this wasn’t too far off from the state of the art for the time (the film was released in 1979). The whole feel of the scene still a little bit disturbing to me, but you get a sense of relief when they finally blast out of it.

From imdb.com’s trivia page for the movie:

Issues with the wormhole sequences caused further delays. The footage for the scene was filmed two ways; first, at the standard 24 frames per second, and then at the faster 48 frames; the normal footage was a back-up if the slow-motion effect produced by the faster frame speed did not turned out as planned. The shoot dragged on so long that it became a running joke for cast members to try and top each other with wormhole-related puns.

Public Service Announcement: Buy a Domain Name

Back when I did freelance web design (when “web design” was a term still used) I’d always tell my musician-type clients to buy a domain name. This was a time when bands relied heavily on mp3.com, Myspace, and Purevolume to get their music online. My advice was based on a long-term survival strategy, since sites that offer streaming services in a social media environment could come and go, but you’ll always have a domain name, and assuming you keep up with renewals it’s near impossible to lose a domain.

You “have” a domain because one buys it; streaming media sites allow users, based on the site’s terms of service, to rent a little slice of their server space. You don’t actually own anything on those sites, but a domain is owned by you, or the band, or organization. You can have your social media properties taken away, though unlikely, especially if you happen to express opinions that a gatekeeper finds distasteful. Search engines can and do play funny with their search results, so you can’t necessarily rely on those to get people to find you when your social stuff burns up.

Even if you don’t have a site, you can still use a domain as an email router. For instance, fart.farm is an available domain. I can buy it and set a email forwarder on jaybutt@fart.farm and have all emails that go to that address go to my Gmail address. Email providers also let you connect your domain email, so that when you reply to emails, it shows the local-part@yourdomain.com. Wouldn’t you love getting an email from jaybutt@fart.farm?

There’s plenty of top level domains available. el cheapo. Here’s an official, very plain text-looking list of all of them from ICANN. Here’s a more eye-friendly, searchable/sortable version.

“We’re meant to die.”

“We’re meant to die. That’s what makes anything about us matter. Living like this is torture. We’re just ghosts.”
-Æon Flux

Fibonacci Fidget Spinner

Here’s a video I made of my fidget spinner making some interesting Fibonacci patterns on my laptop screen.