31 March 2008

My Top Spelling Pet Peeve

"It's" is the contraction of "it is."

"Its" is the possessive form of "it."

"It's" and "its." It's its own spelling nightmare.

29 March 2008

UCF Back Fence | Chain of Inspiration

Well, it's been around for a couple months now, and so far we've had visits from Tom, John, Nathan, Shawn, Jeri, Michelle, and Tania. Most people seem to show up between 9 and 11pm, EDT. Unfortunately, we don't seem to be in there more than three of us at a time. Anyone want to work out a day/time to all show up en masse?

A couple other notes. If I'm in there not talking, all you need to do is type out my name ("Nerwen") and it will make my computer ding, which will make me look at the window within a minute or two. If there are no dings, I tend to rotate past the chat window once every ten minutes or so while doing other things. Please wait around for a bit. :) (If I still don't show up, it probably means my boss ate me.) If the only instance of me says "Nerwen-afk" it means I'm not there.

For people who aren't interested in the UCF Back Fence, here's my favorite song at the moment:

Hand of Sorrow by Within Temptation was inspired by the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb. The song lyrics in turn have stirred up inspiration for a story of my own. It'll be interesting to see how my story compares to the trilogy, which I won't be reading until after I'm done.

28 March 2008

Non Sequitur II

For the next week or so, I'll be involved in yet another UCF community-building exercise. This one is called "Get Me Rewrite" and it's basically a tandem story with some specific rules. Each participant will be writing up to 500 words of a story and posting them in their blogs (or in our host Nathan's blog, if they don't have one of their own). Each of us will be going twice. I'll be pasting both of my portions in this entry.

It's open for anyone to sign up, with or without a blog, up until Sunday 4pm GMT. People who are coming into it from mine may send their parts to me and I'll put it in here if you'd rather not use your own.

Part One
Part Two

"Mom, what are you and Dad going to do when I go off to the Space Force?" Sophie asked.

"Oh, I think we’ll be fine, dear. The one I’m really worried about is Blink. Are you sure you don’t want him to stay here? No one is really sure if they can survive off planet, and you might not see him for months."

Part Three (written 29 Mar 3:30pm)

Meanwhile, 217 floors down in the alley behind the skyscraper where Sophie and her mother sat, Blink nuzzled forlornly through one of the dumpsters. Nobody believed him when he tried to warn his family that Sophie wasn't really Sophie anymore. Not Dad, who kept saying "What? Timmy fell down a mine shaft?" Not Mom, who just stuffed Blink's mouth full of shrimp crackers. Not the guards at the Academy's front gates, who laughed as they threw him into this dumpster in the first place. Only Sophie herself knew, and she didn't like him knowing. By the cold, menacing way she stared at him when no one else was looking, Blink was certain she was plotting to kill him.

Something scampered across his foot as it darted from one end of the dumpster to the other, under piles of crumpled papers that fluttered in its wake. Blink blinked. Was there an exit to this giant metal box after all? Did he still have time to find someone in this huge sprawling metropolis that could stop Sophie before it was too late?

He dug down through the heaps of discarded sandwich wrappings and improperly shredded confidential documents, past the unidentifiable sticky gooey stuff that stuck some of the deeper layers together, and finally found a small hole in the bottom corner. There was a small brown creature stuck in it. Its little legs waved frantically as Blink nuzzled its rump, and from the outside of the dumpster he heard frightened squeaks.

Part Four

Part 18

Part 19 (written 5 Apr 10:30pm)

Majel woke with a start. Jerking bolt upright in bed, eyes snapping open, she exclaimed at the top of her lungs, "OH THE UTTER HORROR!"

"What's that?" said the sleepy voice of her husband Pike. He sat up beside her, rubbing his eyes. "What happened?"

"I just had the most horrid dream!" cried Majel. "We were back on Manhome, and I was a literary agent with a cybernetic boytoy for an assistant, and I dreamed that I was reading the most appalling piece of trash you could ever hope to imagine - only it was all about our poor dear Sophie being taken over by aliens! It was horrible!"

Pike put his arm around her comfortingly. "Now now, calm down honey. It was just a dream. Everything is fine. See? We're here in our UCF-issued home on Chenolla. Sophie is safe and sound at the Spaceforce reprogramming hospital."

"What about Blink?" Majel looked frantically around the bedroom. "Did he really fall down a radioactive mine shaft?"

"Of course not," Pike said soothingly. "He's missing, but the Academy guards said they were doing their very best to find him again."

"And Raven? What about her?" Majel's voice was still alarmed but starting to calm down.

"Who's Raven?"

"What do you mean, who's Raven?" Majel's voice rose in pitch, and Pike hurriedly squeezed her shoulders. "The alien! The one that took over Sophie! Oh my good lord, we have to go find her before it's too late!"

"That was part of your dream, honey," Pike said reasonably, keeping a firm hold of her shoulders so she wouldn't bolt from the bed.


The prompter chimed, flashing that an urgent message had arrived. Pike let go of her shoulders and they both climbed out of bed.

White gauze curtains fluttered in the midnight breeze that drifted in from the tiny open window. Under the cold, pale light of a full moon, the message glared up at them from the screen in large orange letters.


"No," Majel sobbed. "No, that can't be what happened."

Pike sighed deeply beside her. "We knew it might happen, especially after the complications set in."

"No," said Majel again, her voice edging toward hysterics. "We have to go to her and let her know everything will be all right."

She tugged herself loose from his grasp and moved toward the door. Pike followed hastily after her, saying something about getting dressed first, but she wasn't paying attention to him anymore. As her hand closed around the doorknob, there came a loud, harsh knock. Majel jerked back with a squeak.

"Colonial Forces Enforcement Services," a man called from outside. "Permit us to enter at once!"

"Now what could they want at this time of night?" Pike wondered. "Something more about Sophie?"

He moved around Majel and opened the door. Majel took one look at the armored officer and screamed. "It's MOWAT!"

Pike blinked in confusion. "What?"

The officer raised his hypersonic blaster rifle and aimed it at Majel. "By official decree of the Spaceforce Magistrate of Defense, we hereby must terminate your existence on Chenolla VI immediately."

"EEEEE!!!" shrieked Majel.

Pike blinked in alarm. "What??"

At that moment, the moonlight abruptly went out. All three of them looked up, just in time to see an enormous latticework icosahedron as it descended from the sky right over their house.

"That looks oddly Tragethen," said the armored officer in confusion.

"EEEEEEE!!!!!" said Majel.

Pike blinked in confused alarm. "What???"

Part 20

26 March 2008

Random pointless witticism of the day

Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts will.

25 March 2008

OLPC Laptop

The OLPC laptop is a low-cost laptop that was custom designed for small children in third-world countries. The only way to get one (aside from being a small child in a third-world country) is to participate in a Give One Get One program - you buy two, one goes to a small child in a third world country, and you get the other.

I'll admit that my motives for participating weren't entirely altruistic - my main interest is its usefulness as a mobile writing tool. In particular, I bought one to directly compare against my Alphasmart Dana wireless. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't've bought it had there not been a Good Cause involved.

Without further ado then, here are some thoughts in no particular order...

Writing: Both have basic text editors with the same general features. The Dana saves in RTF format, while the OLPC will do RTF, HTML, or text. The OLPC offers a wide variety of fonts and a larger screen, but for some writers these are minuses rather than pluses.

Portability: They're about the same size. The Dana is wider but the OLPC is thicker. The OLPC is also about twice as heavy. However, it has a handle for easier carrying, and the screen and keys are nicely protected when it's folded up; the Dana screen and keys are not, unless you want to buy it a bag (sold separately).

Moving files to other computers: The OLPC has three USB ports. It recognized my USB external hard drive but not my iPod (which I'd originally bought to also use as a flash drive but thus far I've not found anything other than Mac OSX that will recognize it as such). I expect it would do fine with standard flash drives.

The Dana has a USB port but only for talking to compatible printers. It also has infrared beaming, but that doesn't work with anything else I have (including my printer which claimed it would when I bought it). Moving files from the Dana to my main computer is supposed to work by syncing, but for some reason doesn't - and syncing is a bit clunky even when it's working, due to file format differences. I manage to move my writing via the "send" function - where it'll pretend like it's typing at high speed into whatever text window I've got open.

Price: It's about the same for both - just over $400. (The OLPC is actually half that - but you do have to pay for two if you want one.) The OLPC is not always available, however. The Give One Get One program I participated in has ended and there doesn't appear to be another one at the moment.

Operating System: The OLPC runs on Linux with a highly intuitive interface called Sugar. Finding my way around was very easy via the Home button, even without reading the online documentation. The Palm OS that the Dana runs is clunky by comparison; rumor has it that it can run more than one application at a time, but I still haven't figured out how to switch between them. On the other hand, the Dana boots up and down instantaneously, while the OLPC takes a minute or two.

Screen: The OLPC is bright and full-colored like any other modern laptop. The Dana's screen looks like the black-and-white PDA style screen, only wider. It also isn't as bright as it could be, even with the backlight on. I've heard that the Alphasmart Neo's screen is brighter and better for writing.

Battery: The OLPC battery is advertised as lasting 3 to 5 hours per charge, which makes it better than those of standard laptops. The Dana is advertised for about 25 hours (which in practical terms means a week or so of not-constant use); I suspect mine might be failing, however, because it doesn't tend to last more than 4 or 5 hours, and less if I try to use the wireless internet. The Alphasmart Neo's battery life is allegedly in the range of hundreds of hours.

File Storage: The Dana stores everything in RAM unless you buy an SD card (there are two slots for those). This means that it must have electricity if you're trying to keep anything saved on it. The OLPC has a 1GB flash drive and an SD card slot.

Keyboard: The main attraction of the Dana is its full-sized keyboard. It's one of the best keyboards I've ever used - the keys click down very nicely without getting stuck, even after a couple years of moderate use. The only better I've seen was the ADB Apple Extended. (Apple so needs to make more of those, except with USB connectors....)

Here's where the OLPC doesn't do so well (for my purposes). The keys work well enough behind a waterproof membrane, but they're tiny and very close together.

Most of the keys are 3/8th inch per side. This is great for small child hands, but not so good for mine. I'll either be reverting to hunt-and-peck typing, or I'll have to plug in a USB keyboard instead. As it happens, the Dana can also function as a USB keyboard, and indeed when I plugged it into the OLPC, it worked great.

Internet: The OLPC can browse the web like any other laptop. Everything loads reasonably fast and in full color, and it appears to handle complex CSS pages well. The Dana can also browse the web, and it can load complex CSS pages and graphics (rendered in black and white), but it's very slow. Neither will do Flash or play music, though MP3s can be downloaded and played in a separate application on the OLPC. (The OLPC allegedly has Flash, but it's not Adobe Flash, and it won't do things like play Youtube videos or run Jigsawdoku, and it doesn't render the Tegaki drawing pad correctly.)

In terms of connecting to wireless networks, the Dana sometimes has trouble connecting to wifi hot spots when other people's laptops seem not to have problems. I've yet to try the OLPC at very many wifi hot spots.

Ebook: Both can be used as ebook readers. The Dana will orient the text in three different directions, and the OLPC will do it in all four. I've never used either for that purpose before, but presumably it would be easier with the OLPC's larger, more brightly lit screen which can be folded down flat.

Camera: The OLPC has a camera for taking pictures and making short videos, and a microphone for recording sound. This picture was from its camera:

Overall, so far I like the OLPC better for everything except the size of its keyboard. (Maybe eventually they'll do One Laptop Per Pre-Teen - and then they might make them big enough.) We'll see how things go as I keep testing it out over the next few months.

24 March 2008

Different minds working off the same brain

When my former coworker Colton wanted to find out how to do something, he would do keyword searches. Upon finding a promising-looking page, he would scroll rapidly down to the exact spot where his keywords appeared, read that, then look around for an example of the code in action. He was capable of making some amazing leaps of insight for which parts of which pages he needed to see and how to apply what he found there. Then he would write some quick test code - and keyword search all the inevitable error messages. In that way, he could quickly cobble together something that functioned.

When I want to figure out how to do something, my approach is to read everything I can possibly find that's even remotely related to the problem, before I even start. If there's a keyword search leading to a page, I'll read the entire page and any related pages. If there's a manual, I'll read the whole thing from beginning to end. It takes me forever to get started, and once I do I tend to be very slow and cautious with each and every step forward. In that way, I can make something extremely sound and solid that will last for a long time.

And when Colton and I worked together with our completely opposite approaches, we could do some astounding things. He was fast at making something that worked, and I was thorough about understanding why it worked. He was great when it came to creating something out of nothingness, and I'm great at taking the beginnings of something and optimizing it. He was much better than me at some aspects of a given project, and I was better than him at others. We could (and did) learn a lot from each other. Overall, however, one couldn't say that either of our approaches was superior or inferior to the other. They were just different.

So, too, is how I think of the different genders. Neither men or women are better than each other.

But there are differences. A masculine brain is better suited to doing certain tasks, and a feminine brain better suited to doing other ones. This doesn't, on the whole, make any particular part of the masculine-feminine gradient superior or inferior to the rest. It just makes them different. Different approaches to the same task are neither inferior nor superior, they are just different.

There are things I want to say here about gender differences. Some of them have a fair amount of personal importance to me. If for whatever reason you are unable to accept my basic underlying starting point - that there are differences - then you probably won't like anything else I have to say on the subject. Nevertheless, this is my blog and I'm going to say them. And after this post, I want to move on from the question of "Are there any differences at all?" My answer is that there are. If you want to continue disagreeing with my starting point after this post, you can certainly do it on your own blog.

And for those who can get past that first question: yes, I'll be delving into still more stereotypes. For that, Tania's 80/20 rule seems pertinent; 80% of women will probably fit the stereotypes about women, 80% of men will fit the stereotypes about men, and 20% of each will mix it up. I suspect most of my audience is in that 20% range about most things.

Here's an opposing-logarithms illustration of how I view the gender gradient. I slaved over it for many minutes, try not to nitpick the details too much.

21 March 2008

Pain begets pain

From a question once posed to one of my roleplay characters, I wrote:
    Would he kill a child to end world suffering? Perhaps that was entirely the wrong question. More appropriately, could he end world suffering? Could anyone?

    The answer to that, of course, was no. For when one put together any group of people, no matter how small, no matter how happy and carefree those people should be: they would find something to bicker about. They would make stuff up. Pick fights over trivialities, prove points about nothing. And always, always stubbornly oblivious to the other man's shoes.

    Sometimes the fences could be mended. But other times, perhaps even to the blame of no one, things spiralled out of control. Pain sprang from Nature, from ignorance and naiveté, misunderstandings and retaliations. Pain begat pain down unending chains, unless someone was strong enough to break free, sometimes (rarely) even turn it to joy.

    This was simply a fact of life, a part of being human. For as long as there were humans in the world, they would make each other suffer. There was nothing that any one human could do. There was no end to it and never could be for as long as humanity itself had no end. [16 Jun 2005]

I've long thought that human social interactions are fundamentally the same at every level. It all scales up and down the same, from two people to two nations. The larger the number of people involved, the less mature the participants seem to be.

In the beginning, A hurts B.

Could be on purpose or entirely by accident. Could be over a misunderstanding. B might've just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A might even be a natural phenomenon (earthquake, hurricane, flood, etc.) rather than a person (or group of people).

What does B do?

B hurts A. A retaliatory move.

B hurts C. Perhaps C reminds B of A in some way, or perhaps C just happens to be the nearest convenient target. Or perhaps C was in the wrong place at the wrong time and caught some fallout from B hurting A.

Then what happens?

A and B begin a long series of bitter assaults of each other. Or, if they're reasonably mature adults, they might work out what went wrong and make amends, but this seems to be the less common approach.

C hurts B. And/or, C hurts D. The chain of pain begins.

These thoughts stirred up from reading this.

18 March 2008

Lentil Chili

For the most part, I'm not a big fan of beans. I like some of them when they're made by a really good cook, but those are few and far between. When it comes to chili, I don't like any of the standard beans usually found in them - kidney, pinto, etc. So my version is a bit unconventional...

2 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
minced garlic
hot peppers (optional), diced
1 big can chopped or diced tomatoes (plain)
2 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1 cup lentils, rinsed

2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste (leave out if there are hot peppers)

Brown ground beef. Mix in onions, green peppers, and any hot peppers. Mix in garlic. Mix in tomatoes. Add water and beef broth. Bring to boil. Add lentils and spices. Simmer 45 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Turn off heat and let stand cooling on the stove until it's at room temperature, then put in fridge overnight to let the flavors meld. Eat the next day.

16 March 2008

And now for something that will get me called a racist...

I've been working nearly every weekend for about two years now at a Chinese takeout in coastal Georgia, and I've made the following observations: 99.9%* of people who steal money out of the tip jar are black. Of those, 99% are young black women between the ages of 13 and 28 - and the rest are accompanied by one. Furthermore, about 90% of all young black women between the ages of 13 and 28 who walk into the store ... turn out to be either tip jar thieves, or they start to do the tip jar dance but abort under my disapproving glare.

For reasons like this, two managers in a row of this same takeout have expressed the opinion that "all black people are bad." Neither of them were born and raised in the U.S., surrounded by a culture of traditional stereotyping against American black people. They came to these conclusions based on their own observations.

I'm having a difficult time here speaking up in their defense. If you're a young black woman between the ages of 13 and 28, please help me out by putting money into the tip jar instead. Or, failing that, stand as far away from it as possible and avoid looking at it. Meanwhile, politeness be damned: if my "tip jar thief" vibe goes off, I'm moving the tip jar under the counter until you leave.

*The 0.01% were a pair of pre-teen white boys with an obviously middle class father (based on dress and that he paid with a credit card). That pissed me off even more than the usual thieves, because they had no excuse whatsoever for taking tip money.

**More observations on customer demographics and thieves thereof, as made last summer

15 March 2008

Gender Stereotypes of the Day

Men say what they mean and mean what they say.

Women tend to talk in layers. They mean all sorts of things that bear no apparent resemblance to what they say (the literal words), and they sometimes say the exact opposite of what they mean.

This fundamental difference in approach to communication is a primary source of confusion among men and women, especially those in their teens and early 20s. Women think men should be able to follow all the layers, which leads to such fun statements as "well if you can't figure it out, I'm certainly not going to tell you!" Men meanwhile protest that they can't read minds.

There's also the classic case of the question with no correct answers. For example: "Do you think I'm too fat?" "Yes" is obviously wrong. "No" is wrong because "well he's supposed to say that" which means it really means "yes," which is of course wrong. Failure to respond is taken as "he's ignoring me! (he must mean yes!)" Sometimes the poor guy really does mean "no." o.O

I've found that the best first step in resolving an argument is to convince the woman that men are dense. This is not to say that I think men are actually dense, mind you - it's just a necessary precursor concept for the woman before she can grok how men think. Then it's a matter of redefining "politeness" and "directness" to not be quite so much at odds.

(As with every post I make relating to gender, I'm aware that a whole bunch of you are thinking "oh yeah? well I'm not like that at all and neither are any of my friends!" Well. I can only say the same thing I say every other time - there's a reason why these stereotypes exist even if no one you know is a good example of their raison d'ĂȘtre.)

14 March 2008

My Lush, Expansive Garden

Actually the chives are pretty lush. I bought them last summer from a grocery store, and they've been doing very well, especially since I haven't been eating them quite so much in the past few months.

The other pot is garlic - also from a grocery store. They sprouted in the fridge so I thought I'd plant them to see what happens. Possibly I should've separated the cloves into separate pots first. However, I didn't want to break any delicate new roots, and also I have a bizarre plant phobia.

Right now they're out my front door, where I can easily bring them inside if it dips too near freezing at night. Later when it warms up enough they'll be on the back patio with all the bugs and dirt-digging critters (I'll have to watch for randomly sprouting oak trees).

13 March 2008

Basic Guitar Repair: An Illustration of the Mental Phenomena I attempted to describe in the last post

Suppose I saw a Google search that said "How many pegs do I need to put on this broken guitar?"

Such a question implies that:
a) The searcher knows what a guitar is.
b) The searcher has a guitar in hand that needs repair.
c) The searcher does not know how many strings a guitar is supposed to have.

Would you want this searcher to repair your guitar?

12 March 2008

Basic Algebra: An Illustration of the Sad State of U.S. Public Education

y = m x + b

This equation defines a straight line on a Euclidean XY coordinate system. m is the slope of the line, and b is where it intercepts the y axis. The equation is equivalent to

x = (y - b) / m

which is equivalent to

m = (y - b) / x

which is equivalent to

b = y - m x

which is also equivalent to

ey = e(m x + b)


ln y = ln (m x + b)

... and so on and so forth.

If you've landed on this post by Googling for "rearrange y = mx + b", might I suggest that you review your high school algebra. Seriously. If you're in a position to need to rearrange it, you shouldn't need to Google for it. -.-

10 March 2008


I've found a new toy. o.O

I blame Megadeus for this. -.-

ALSO: I've stolen some dragon eggs. They are in dire need of your clickity goodness if they are to hatch!

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!

09 March 2008

Life !== Job

If you can avoid it, don't ever work just for money. It'll suck out your soul, which isn't worth it in the long run.

If you can't avoid it, don't focus your life around work. Don't define yourself by your job. There's more to life than being a worker drone. Always keep in mind what (or who) you're really working for.

06 March 2008

Means and Ends

At least twice a day every day, we must brush our teeth.

Is life about brushing teeth?

05 March 2008

Stone Turtle

This stone turtle is in the playground between the Indiana Academy and Burris Lab School in Muncie, Indiana. Its back is a great place for contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Rumor has it that the space underneath is a great place for less public, less solitary, and less intellectual pursuits - but beware the long memories of everyone else.

UCF Back Fence, New and Improved

Well, we now have a place to chat on an IRC server. Click on through via Snave's gracious hosting. Or, if you know how IRC works already, we're on irc.ircstorm.net in channel #UCFBackFence. Come on down. :D

EDIT: Rebelcat is also invited to come. :p (And so is anyone else who happens to feel like dropping by.)

04 March 2008

Fun with y=mx+b

In the beginning, there were two dots. And I needed to find the line between these two dots, so I could find where a third dot would be if it were on that same line somewhere in between.

But wait. It gets worse. There aren't two dots in the beginning. There are two proto-dots, and first I must run them through some complex equations to find the two dots. (Said equations being deeply and obscurely buried in someone's paper, where they obviously didn't want them found.)

But wait. It gets worse. The line they're on isn't a simple straight line. It's all curvy, so I have to invoke logarithms.

But wait. It gets worse. Because there aren't just two proto-dots. There are several gazillion pairs of these dots, each of which has a separate curvy line to find.

And so I wrote some Matlab code. And lo, I saw that it was good.





But wait. My boss doesn't want it in Matlab. He wants it in IDL!

And so I wrote some more code. And lo, it was also good.

    OK = WHERE(B1 GT 0.0)
    SIZEB = SIZE(B1)
    SX = SIZEB(1)
    SY = SIZEB(2)
    A323 = ALOG(0.904*(0.781*[B1/B2]^(-1.07))-0.00714)
    A338 = ALOG(0.858*(0.604*[B1/B2]^(-1.12))-0.019)


Then when I was done with that, instead of doing any more real work I got carried away writing versions of the same code...

PHP style:

    $RESULT = array();

    foreach ($data as $row) {
    $columns = explode("\t", $row);

    if ($B1 > 0) {
    $A323 = log(0.904*(0.781*($B1/$B2)^(-1.07))-0.00714);
    $A338 = log(0.858*(0.604*($B1/$B2)^(-1.12))-0.019);
    $slope = ($A323-$A338)/(323-338);
    $intercept = $A323-slope*323;
    $RESULT[] = exp($slope*443+$intercept);
    } #ends if loop

    else {
    $RESULT[] = 'NaN';
    } #ends else

    } #ends for loop

SQL style:

    SELECT ln(0.904*(0.781*(B1/B2)^(-1.07))-0.00714) AS A323,
    ln(0.858*(0.604*(B1/B2)^(-1.12))-0.019) AS A338,
    (A323-A338)/(323-338) AS slope,
    (A323-slope*323) AS intercept,
    exp(slope*443+intercept) AS result
    FROM data_table WHERE B1>0;

(Technically I don't know if these latter two work or not. They may not be so good.)

In the end, I've managed to solve for every variable in y=mx+b (x=(y-b)/m, b=y-mx, m=(y-b)/x, e^y=e^(mx+b), ...) and graphed slopes as if they were dots themselves. And that's about half of what I've been doing for the past month. Now the boss is successfully off to his conference with all the pretty pictures I made for him, and I'm back to wrangling with the last part of the Saga of the Three PHP Scripts.

Disclaimer: This version of events is highly fictionalized. I didn't do all that by myself - there was mucho input from my boss, a colleague, and a random guy in an IRC chatroom. No dots were harmed in the writing of this documentary.

02 March 2008

On Giant Armed Squirrels and Giant Chocolate Turds: A Photo Retrospective

Once upon a time, Anne C. made some giant crunchy peanut butter balls:

I questioned the giantness of the crunchy peanut butter ball, and in reply she provided scale:

I opined that were I to eat such a giant crunchy peanut butter ball, I might end up looking like this dead squirrel:

This led to a clamor for pictures. Thusly: although I haven't, in fact, partaken of any giant crunchy peanut butter balls, Megadeus nevertheless presents you with a picture:

(Note: it might be helpful to know that in some circles my alter ego is a bunny.)

01 March 2008

*mutter mutter mutter*

I hate memes. Have I mentioned how much I hate memes? Yes, yes I have. And yes I do. This is all ... someone's ... fault. *mutter*

1. Ever been in a relationship lasting over 5 years?


2. What was one of your dreams growing up?

To be a writer. That fell by the wayside in my teens when other people's dreams were forced on me, and then I fled those by going into science instead. Now I'm back to wanting to be a writer.

3. What talent do you wish you had?

Fast thinking. I'm very slow, the way Einstein was in school.

4. If I bought you a drink what would it be?

Some kind of soda.

5. Favorite books?

That's kind of a broad question...

As a kid, it was The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts.
As a teen, it was Strangers from the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno.
In my late teens it was Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.
Nowadays, my favorite series is Glen Cook's Black Company, and anything Steve Brust has written for Dragaera. My favorite roleplay-related book is Demon: The Fallen. I also like Bill Amend's Foxtrot and have all the treasuries.

Addendum: Also, White Fang by Jack London. I went through a phase of liking stuff set in the Arctic. (Which in turn reminds me of Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, which leads me to discover that it was actually the first of a trilogy. Ooo...)

6. What was the last book you read?

Dzur by Steve Brust.
Next up is Old Man's War by John Scalzi. (Yes, finally getting around to reading something he wrote.)

7. Astrology: Menace to science education or entertainment?


Otherwise one could also claim that religion is a menace to science education. It all depends what people do with it.

8. Any tattoos and/or piercings? Explain where.


9. Worst habit?

Not enough exercise.

10. Best attribute?

My ability to resist peer pressure. -.-

Seriously: I don't believe that it's up to me to decide what my best attribute is. This is very much a case of "show, don't tell" in my opinion - I'll try to show you who I am, and you decide whether I'm loyal, empathic, or whatnot.

11. What are your favorite hobbies?

Hmm. Writing seems to be the main one at the moment. Also music, hopefully upcoming.

12. Do you have a negative or optimistic attitude?

I'm an optimist and always have been. In my teens it led me to realize that hope, not love, is the cruelest emotion. Then I became a cynical optimist for a while. But now I'm back to being an optimist.

13. What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?

I'd watch you for cues on what you wanted to do. If you wanted to be quiet, I'd be quiet. If you wanted to engage in conversation, I'd try to oblige. If you wanted to climb out the roof and brave the wolves, well you might be on your own there.

14. Worst thing to ever happen to you?

Discovering myself pinned to my body.

15. Best thing to ever happen to you?

The shattering of reality. Which at the time sure felt like the worst thing, but then I rebuilt something stronger and better.

16. Tell me one weird fact about you.

No. :p This whole meme is about me telling stupid weird things, so you're just going to have to be satisfied with the other ones.

17. What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly?

Depends how long you stood there knocking. I might actually open the door if you were persistent enough. Otherwise I'd assume you were there to try to sell me something. If I did open the door, I'd probably look at you funny.

18. What was your first impression of me?

Since the first place I saw it was on Jim Wright's blog, I'll go with my first impression of him, which was "This guy is hilarious. I wish he had a blog." (This was a month or two before he started one.)

19. What scares you?

Dying a slow, painful death. Dying, not so much. But I don't want to go painfully.

EDIT: Upon further reflection - I fear dying more than I fear being dead. Also, death by drowning or asphyxiation more than any other kinds. I like breathing.

20. If you could change one thing about how you are, what would it be?

I'd add a ton of physical endurance. Somehow I suspect strength would naturally appear if I had the endurance first.

21. Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?

Depends whether I agreed with it.

22. What color eyes do you have?


23. Ever been arrested? If so, what for?


24. Favorite dessert?

Well, in terms of western-style dessert-like items, I'd probably go for ice cream. As desserts in general, I prefer the end-of-meal orange slices that come in Chinese restaurants. And in general in general, I don't eat dessert. At home there's no point, and at restaurants they're overpriced and I'm usually too full.

25. If you won $1000 today, what would you do with it?

Well, considering that one month of living expenses is $1200, it wouldn't be very exciting...

26. Tell me something you want me to know about you.

I hate memes -.-

Also see #16.

27. What’s your favorite place to hang out?

The internet.

28. Do you believe in ghosts? Aliens?


29. Favorite thing to do in your spare time?


30. Do you swear a lot?

Not generally in public. Within the confines of my own head, on the other hand, the words can really fly...

31. Biggest pet peeve?

People who talk me into doing memes.

32. In one word, how would you describe yourself?


33. Do you believe in/appreciate romance?

Yes, in the sense that I see other people being romantic and enjoying themselves at it.

I would probably appreciate it if anyone ever knew the right ways to approach me. Unfortunately, I don't follow the standard courtship scripts at all. I don't know how, nor do I want to learn parts that are completely unnatural and foreign to me. It's one of those brain wiring things that came with ... uh, the other brain wiring thing.

34. Most unusual place you’ve had sex?

Well, at least it wasn't under a turtle.

(which is an in-joke about my high school alma mater.)

35. Do you believe in an afterlife?

In the sense that there is more than nothingness beyond death, yes. In the sense of any versions of Heaven and/or Hell as defined by specific groups of people, no.

There. After all that, I hope you feel like you know me better.