Monthly Archives: May 2017

It’s No Wonder

With the adults, and most of the neighborhood kids, occupied with the block party outside, John fumbled with the lighter in his bedroom. He finally managed to keep it lit without burning his fingers, and ignited the cigarette that stood straight out of Victoria’s mouth. Chris looked on in amazement as she inhaled, held the breath in, and exhaled smoke out of the side of her mouth. True to her android precision, the cigarette remained level throughout.

“How does she do that?” Chris asked.

“We have, like, an advanced model, or something,” John said with a casual cadence. “We’re getting that new Adult Sociability upgrade soon, so she’ll know how to do it like a real grown-up.”

“Do you think it will damage her?”

“Hell if I know.”

There was a swell of women’s distressed voices outside; John noticed his mother’s voice in the chorus. He and Chris raced down to the curb, leaving Victoria alone in the bedroom.

A group of the block partiers gathered around a hover-vision, where a news anchor interviewed a young man sitting on an expanse of concrete, next to a parking lot yellow stripe. John couldn’t make out the dialogue, but the headline accompanying the interview read: “IBM’s Worker Protest Continues.” The young man reclined, going to sleep in the lot, and his scraggly beard began producing a strange foam.

The adults were aghast. The children who were still paying attention giggled as the parking lot man’s head began to shrivel. Victoria appeared next to John, letting out a puff puff of smoke through her nose. She was learning the art by herself.

John and Chris made a start as John’s father noticed Victoria smoking and flustered about, fussing to the boys about abusing the android. John’s mother swooped in to antagonize her husband, putting the question to him as to why he cared so much about one android when IBM worker’s children had to sleep in parking lots with foaming beards.

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“Shave it.”

You don’t need to know much about the characters, or the series itself, to appreciate this little filler episode (embedding the video is disabled, hence the direct link), showcasing the evolving psychology of boredom. I don’t even mind the “dopey, good-natured male vs exasperated, dutiful female vs mischievous kid” trope.

One thing to know: Vincent is not quite human, but a Jekyl-Hyde type of character. Pino, the little girl, is a high-functioning android. The woman, Re-L, is the only actual human of the trio, and as an astute Youtube commenter pointed out, she’s the one acting the least human—at least, up until the end.

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A Reign of Terror and a Guillotine

From A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court:

I rather wished I had gone some other road. This was not the sort of experience for a statesman to encounter who was planning out a peaceful revolution in his mind. For it could not help bringing up the unget-aroundable fact that, all gentle cant and philosophizing to the contrary notwithstanding, no people in the world ever did achieve their freedom by goody-goody talk and moral suasion: it being immutable law that all revolutions that will succeed must begin in blood, whatever may answer afterward. If history teaches anything, it teaches that. What this folk needed, then, was a Reign of Terror and a guillotine, and I was the wrong man for them.

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Someone Steal This Idea and Do a Kickstarter

A belt clip holster for cell phones, attached a retractable draw string, so that the phone is always attached to the clip, and subsequently the hip. The idea is to prevent accidentally leaving the phone somewhere, which happens to users who have minds that are always in some other place (like mine).

Some high-level specs:

1. Ideally, the phone would hang upside down at the hip, when in the retracted state. So the holster is attached to the beltclip at the bottom.
2. Both the clip and drawstring would have to be rather heavy-duty to hold up against being pulled dozens of times per day.
3. The holster would completely cover the phone, so the face of it should pick up on all the normal gestures used to interact with phone
4. Should have a button to disable retraction, so the thing isn’t tugging at you when you don’t want it to, like when using it as an actual phone that makes calls.
5. BONUS: Drawing or retracting drawstring charges phone.

EDIT: This actually comes pretty close to what I was thinking. The actual holster doesn’t seem too durable, as it is just a sticky backing that holds the phone, as opposed to a pouch. The cord and belt clip seem pretty lightweight, too. Also see this and this.

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The Epistemology of the Man-flu

This post was originally titled: “Don’t Tell Me How To Feel About My Own Body,” quotes included. Though that was an obvious appropriation of retarded activist-speak, I couldn’t bear having it so prominently on display. Satirizing activists is a few degrees lower on the cringe-meter than an actual activist, and I don’t have the perpetual self-disregard of a trained actor to actually go through with it.

It turns out man-flu really exists—which, okay. The study looked at male and female mice (the article strangely calls the male mice, “men”), and the dude mice fared worse than the lady mice when injected with influenza. The article helpfully points out that, of mice and men, there are differences.

Studies like this aren’t needed to prove man-flu exists. You simply have to gauge the general reactions of men versus women when they get the flu. Maybe some access to simple statistics could help you along. Pinning the more acute reaction on men just being more whiny gained traction because the hah-hah chumpy sitcom dad trope is funny. Humor is easy to remember, and so is pathos; there’s nothing more acutely and universally pathetic than a whiny adult male. General likelihood doesn’t bear that scenario out though, since biological reactions—something we generally can’t control—happen with more consistency than a mild conspiracy on the part of men the world over to take advantage of their convalescent state. The former is a force of nature, which do not bend to force of will, whereas the latter involves human agency, which is much more variable.

The study isn’t needed because humans have bodily awareness, a field of philosophy that I don’t think is explored very much because it tends to get overrun by the physiology or psychology fields. In the case of “feeling” sick it’s called “intransitive bodily awareness,” since we are dealing with the body perceiving itself rather than objects existing outside of it. The thing of it is, it’s of the surest forms of knowledge we can have, since there’s no middle, interpretive layer between the sickness and the perception of it; the feeling of it is the knowledge of it.

Even in extreme, hypothetical contexts where a man’s awareness is tricked into feeling sick through stimulation of certain parts of the brain, it doesn’t change the fact that the sickness is felt, even after the deception is revealed. In other words, it’s “defeater proof.” If someone were to show me that the dead tree in the lot behind my house was actually a holographic projection, it still doesn’t change the fact that I still see a dead tree, even after knowing it’s not a real tree. I can’t be reasoned out of seeing the tree, just as I (or anyone) couldn’t be reasoned out of feeling a certain way when getting sick, because sense-data isn’t falsifiable*. Even our sitcom dad in question can’t argue with this.

* But perhaps not always. I need to read and think on this.

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I did another hackathon. See photo below for photographic results. I somehow got more sleep than past hackathons, but that’s not saying much.

The local news covered the event (PS- I’m not a CMU student as the title implies). You can try to watch the video but it’s Flash-based and the site takes forever to load, like most affiliate station news sites.

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The Soldier Has No Gun

All thirty employees gathered in the carpeted lobby for the first public beta play-through of the game. Becky, the project manager, won—she would say “lost,” after the fact—the shortest straw and was player one.

Silence during the opening cinematic, and a quick cut to the gameplay, an older-style side-scroller shoot-’em-up, made all the more intense with the processing of modern gaming platforms. Becky pushed right on the controller…and immediately stopped, unable to articulate what she just saw.

The solder on the screen stopped also, doing a heavy breathing animation on loop as he “rested.” The fire of the battlefield burned all around him. Becky reluctantly pushed right again. There it was: the soldier, without a gun, lifted his hands, wrists forward in a vulnerable stride, and daintily tiptoed with mincing steps among the rubble.

“Is this a joke?” Becky asked, quiet. Then louder: “Is this a joke?

No one answered. She moved the soldier again, and cringed. “What the fuck is this?”

Someone behind her, she thinks it was Brad, cleared his throat. “We thought—”

“You didn’t think, Brad, or whoever, back there…” Becky said, eyes still jabbing forward in disgust at the smooth, ridiculous running animation. “He has no gun and trots like a little girl. There’s nothing in the story to back any of this up.”

“I know—”

“How did this get so far? Is this team a Hitchcock episode?” Her voice grew louder with each word. She almost dropped the controller. “I mean, does—what the hell! We’re here to make games, not fag up people’s televisions! Does no one else think this was a bad idea? The fuck, guys!”

Becky passed the controller to whomever was sitting next to her and barged out the front doors. Earthworm Jim, a sacred inspiration for her and her career, is the only character remotely allowed to do something like that. A well-muscled, bronzed American fruit with no gun was no Earthworm Jim.

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“Orion down yonder”

From Ethan Frome:

It was during their night walks back to the farm that he felt most intensely the sweetness of this communion. He had always been more sensitive than the people about him to the appeal of natural beauty. His unfinished studies had given form to this sensibility and even in his unhappiest moments field and sky spoke to him with a deep and powerful persuasion. But hitherto the emotion had remained in him as a silent ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it. He did not even know whether any one else in the world felt as he did, or whether he was the sole victim of this mournful privilege. Then he learned that one other spirit had trembled with the same touch of wonder: that at his side, living under his roof and eating his bread, was a creature to whom he could say: “That’s Orion down yonder; the big fellow to the right is Aldebaran, and the bunch of little ones—like bees swarming—they’re the Pleiades…” or whom he could hold entranced before a ledge of granite thrusting up through the fern while he unrolled the huge panorama of the ice age, and the long dim stretches of succeeding time. The fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie’s wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure. And there were other sensations, less definable but more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy: the cold red of sunset behind winter hills, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubble, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on sunlit snow. When she said to him once: “It looks just as if it was painted!” it seemed to Ethan that the art of definition could go no farther, and that words had at last been found to utter his secret soul….

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Ebook Sales Trend Downward

Due to screen fatigue…at least in the United Kingdom:

“I wouldn’t say that the ebook dream is over but people are clearly making decisions on when they want to spend time with their screens,” says Stephen Lotinga, chief exeutive of the Publishers Association, which published its annual yearbook on Thursday.

“There is generally a sense that people are now getting screen tiredness, or fatigue, from so many devices being used, watched or looked at in their week. [Printed] books provide an opportunity to step away from that.”

You can’t Netflix the latest edgy one-hour drama or search for Caitlyn Jenner’s eyebrow waxing routine on a static, printed book. Amazon might do well to keep up with pre-fourth generation Kindles, where it was an actual e-book reader and not an iPad clone.

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