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Terran Mayhem
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6th-Apr-2011 - spoof

Here is trivial mimic of an optical illusion, based on blurring horizontally in the background and vertically in the foreground. Does the background appear to slide around?

Turns out a former colleague of mine has got it into his head that, even though he had once explained to me that if he tried to do any significant exercise his defective heart was guaranteed to fail, and despite a lifetime of inactivity and smoking, he has set a goal for himself to complete the Ironman triathlon a year from now. I can't decide what I think about it. He has enough money that he can pretty much train for it full time, with the best equipment and personal trainers and nutrition, and even afford untold amounts of restorative medical procedures. And a lot can change in a year. But I can't help but wonder why. Is this to be the vanity of the rich? To be able to say "look what I did" only to return afterward to one's former ways? Still, I am interested from a scientific perspective to see where such determination leads. I hope it will end well.

Speaking of determination, I was just reading an article about the travails of an aspiring dancer who got drawn into psychiatric treatment for failure to eat enough. Funny how the story starts out sounding like something with which one can identify, but by the end, it's so absurdly messed up that it taxes the reader's belief. And yet, I think the world is full of things every bit as messed up as that. I wonder whether one of the most lasting effects would be a deep sense of unease about knowing that someone obtained extraordinary access with which to tamper with one's mind, possibly even physically in the most literal way, but not knowing exactly how or whether it was successful. The resulting sense of distrust of one's own self... would take some getting used to.

Rationalization aside, this is probably an example of determination gone wrong. It's always sad when determination yields punishment rather than reward. For it seems to me that determination is one of the few things that belongs to one's self, thus potentially worthy of pride. When I was young, I never understood that. I figured that determination was what you settled for when you lacked the true gifts of intelligence or whatever. If a person is unusually smart or strong, though... what if this is merely the result of luck, upbringing, genetics, and other external factors. In the future maybe intelligence and strength will be things that you can simply buy with money. Augmentation, gene therapy, even nanotechnology, who knows what will be brought to bear. Certainly these attributes should make a person happy, in the same sense that winning the lottery or otherwise being financially well off should tend to make one happy. But to the extent that these things represent luck and external factors, are they a valid source of pride? Whereas determination is by definition one's own initiative, and thus more deserving of pride in the end. (Or shame if it's ill inspired). But despite all that, anybody that tells you determination always trumps luck is not being completely honest, IMO.

Incidentally, what's the deal with the DoS against LiveJournal in Russia? I hadn't even noticed, but then I read about it in the FP Blog. I've heard LJ was big there, but this almost makes it sound like it's still a relevant blogging platform somewhere in the world. Who knew?

4th-Apr-2011 - stranger than fiction

I enjoy the sometimes humorous juxtaposition of news items in Harper's Weekly Review. However, the following excerpt is just too ridiculously bizarre for reality or fiction, with or without cooking....

A SWAT team in Maricopa County, Arizona, served a search warrant on a suspected cockfighter by first flattening his farmhouse gate with a tank. Action-movie star and martial artist Steven Seagal, a passenger in the tank, later told reporters, “Animal cruelty is one of my pet peeves.” A hundred roosters were euthanized at the scene.

I was thinking April 1st at first, but no, apparently it's part of some confluence between the local authorities and the reality TV enterprise.

More amuzing quotes from the local news:

Llovera was convicted of a misdemeanor last year of attending a cockfight and has no history of owning weapons.

Yet the sheriff’s office said they had reasons to believe Llovera might be armed.

“We're going to err on the side of caution. We're going to make sure that we have the appropriate amount of force in case we do run into anything like that,” said Sgt. Jesse Spurgin.

Appropriate indeed! One hesitates to think what level of force would be appropriate if it should be discovered that he owned an automatic weapon or employed a security guard.

Several times before, I've had a huge swath of memories pop back into my awareness at the notice of a simple smell. Last night I was riding home, perhaps a bit hungry, and the funniest thing triggered it. It was just the smell of a certain flavoring used in the TV dinner version of mexican rice. But with that recollection came the feeling of being secure and safe and most of all loved, with my mom and dad and brother, back in the old house in KC. This pervasive feeling of being loved and cared for suddenly stood out as of great importance. And I wondered to myself, am I giving this to my children? Do they feel loved? Will they have the same wonderful realization some day of the water they swim in? At that moment, as these memories were flooding through my mind, I couldn't help but think this is a more valuable gift than any material wealth.
22nd-Mar-2011 - wishing for a camera
Today is a good example of one of those days where I wish I had brought a camera. There was this large freighter parked at the grain silo. It was a classic design, from what little I've observed. It looked to be 50 or more years old, but that assessment doesn't do justice. It was so old and rusty, it looked like it might break in half. I mean, if they had cared at all, they could have at least scraped some rust off and spared a little more paint for it, but I guess that would have undone the "most dilapidated boat" effect they were trying to achieve. And so I had a little chuckle when I saw the barely readable name painted on the side of the boat... I didn't know why such a long-suffering old boat would be named "Joyous Age", or whether it referred to the Joy of the modern era of which it did not belong, or a joyous days gone by, or just a sarcastic joke about the hardships of growing old, but somehow regardless of what it meant, somehow the irony seemed purposeful. Not sure, though. I didn't recognize the flag on the ship at first, and had to look it up. It was a Hong Kong flag.
15th-Mar-2011 - lowest magnification

I finally got one of those microscopes with a builtin LCD screen and camera. I thought about making my own, but I can never find the time. Here's a picture of a CD, at the lowest magnification. At first I was ecstatic--I thought somehow I was looking at bits! Well, no, I was looking at the soft underbelly of the silkscreened dot pattern, underlit by the lower light source.

Zooming in with higher magnification, you can see much more detail, but still nothing especially interesting. :)

I note that my favorite image viewer, qiv, is now on display in the main software package selections for Fedora, which is great, congrats to qiv on a step to stardom. qiv is very fast, and that appeals to a certain class of user who doesn't like waiting on the OS.

While I'm making recommendations, I should mention a couple others I noticed recently.

dstat is more visually effective than vmstat et al. I like how they change the color of the numbers when the unit changes. Couldn't figure that out at first, but it makes a lot of sense in terms of helping distinguish between kiloblahs and megablahs.

xmlstarlet is good for processing arbitrary xml, and trains you to think in terms of XSLT operations. It can even output the XSLT code to do the requested operation. Here are some examples:

xmlstarlet sel -t -m //AudioStream -v @IP -o ' ' -v @Port -n FileOrURL
xmlstarlet sel -t -m /Haystack//Needle -c . FileOrURL     (dump Needle)
xmlstarlet sel -t -v "count(//AudioStream)" FileOrURL     (count AudioStreams)
xmlstarlet sel -C my_query    (print generated XSLT for query)
xmlstarlet el -u FileOrURL    (unique elements in tree)
xmlstarlet ed -L -u //AudioStream/@IP -v '' FileOrURL  (edit in place)
xmlstarlet fo unformatted.xml >formatted.xml
xmlstarlet esc < unescaped.txt > escaped.txt
xmlstarlet unesc < escaped.txt > unescaped.txt
xmlstarlet ls | xmlstarlet sel -t -m /dir/l -v @n -n   (show all symlinks)
24th-Feb-2011 - software serendipity
The LyricWiki plugin for audacious.
11th-Jan-2011 - favorite foods

I felt the need to indulge myself, virtually if not in actuality. So I sat around for a while dreaming about my favorite foods. Here's my list so far:

  • chilled water with essence of chocolate and mint
  • cranberry juice
  • fresh carrot / celery / white grape juice
  • lime essence flavored sparkling water
  • pepperment tea
  • cherry vanilla soda
  • hot spiced apple cider
  • blackberry milkshakes
  • root beer float with maraschino cherry
  • mushroom pizza
  • slow cooked beef briscuit heavy on the bbq sauce
  • tuna salad on rye sandwich with pickle
  • samosas (with emphasis on tart mango powder, peas, spices)
  • red pepper / poblano soup
  • chili con carne
  • red hot blues (blue corn tortilla chips coated with red pepper)
  • smoked salmon with sesame crackers
  • enchiladas
  • tortilla chips with cottage cheese
  • almond covered pimento cheese loaf w/ thin havarti, meat shavings, crackers
  • macaroni and cheese with garlic, sausage, and broccoli.
  • chinese pancakes (no sugar, heavy on the egg, chives) with ham & cheddar
  • green bell peppers stuffed with meatloaf
  • hashed potatos with garlic, chili pepper, and sharp cheddar
  • spring rolls wrapped in roast beef and dipped in spicy jiaozi sauce
  • strawberries
  • peaches
  • grapefruit
  • satsuma oranges
  • dark chocolate dipped pomegranate
  • dark chocolate dipped almonds
  • raspberry zingers
  • lime jello cheesecake with chocolate shavings
  • sesame tang yuan (filled rice flour balls)
  • peanut butter with chocolate ice cream
  • chocolate ginger cookies
  • the Indian dessert known as Rasgulla
  • pumpkin pie
  • banana nut bread
  • chocolate covered filled eclairs
  • carrot cake with crushed pineapple sauce
  • german chocolate cake

Unsurprisingly, lots of desserts and sweet things.

8th-Jan-2011 - snowball

It couldn't have been Alan (background). It could have been the nephew (foreground), who looks rather guilty.

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