not a beautiful or unique snowflake's journal

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Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
11:10 am - music
Haven't posted any music in a while (since early 2012), and overall I didn't post very much music at all from 2009 until now, and that's because most time I was putting into music was going into trying to make a polished album.

And that polished album is done now.

It's called Music for Plastic Instruments, and it's technically by a new band that is me and another guy.

This is very much of a piece with the other music I've done, but we're calling it "math rock" given its pecadilloes and for lack of a better name.

The songs were designed to be played in Rock Band, but we took so long finishing them, they're not actually playable in Rock Band (since the Rock Band Network, the system designed for people to put music into Rock Band independently, has been effectively dead for about a year).

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Saturday, April 27th, 2013
6:40 pm - ten years on
I've been reading through my old journal entries from 10 years ago. 2003 was the year of my first audio sketchbook, and the tail end of my frequent movie reviews due to netflix, so there was a lot of that going on, but not much else.

It was interesting to see a few people popping up in the comments. Although I still talk to ifmudders on ifmud, and talk.bizarre people on facebook, those of you I know primarily from tiny*/dinomush or just from LJ itself are mostly lost in time (e.g. Agnieszka), except those very few of you still posting regularly here (e.g. Lorelei).

This is your once again friendly reminder that I'm active on twitter under the same username. Mind you, I'm primarily followed by videogame programmers, so my tweets slant towards that + liberal political retweets, so I can understand if you're not interested. But let me know your twitter either way; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2BqLlVHlWA#t=65s .

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Sunday, February 24th, 2013
12:17 am
I just noticed that Netflix will show me the date when I added things to my DVD queue.

My queue has 250 DVDs on it.

Here's the top 20 DVDs and the month I added them Read more...Collapse )

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Monday, February 18th, 2013
8:57 pm
For what it's worth, in case I haven't mentioned it, I'm moderately active on Twitter under the same name, unlike here.

I am not on Pinterest or tumblr.

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Thursday, January 31st, 2013
9:05 pm
This is not about the most important issue in the world, but good lord is the press terrible.

cut for BeyonceCollapse )

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Sunday, September 23rd, 2012
7:11 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Revelations"
My internet was down for a while, and I kept watching B5 but not bothering to write recaps. That meant when the internet came back, I now had four recaps to write, and I pretty much had to re-rewatch them all to recap them.

So I've been putting them off.

I've also been putting them off because it takes too much time. So I'm going to try being briefer about comments, and less thoughtful (less brief) for the plot summaries. Especially with these re-rewatches.

Season 2, Episode 2: Revelations

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Friday, September 21st, 2012
9:47 pm - achieving universal immortality
I have solved the problem of universal immortality.

Before you get your hopes up, I don't mean physical immortality -- not immortality of the body, or the mind, or the soul. I don't even mean classical "Gilgameshian" immortality -- where people are widely remembered by their cultural works or accomplishments. This latter immortality lacks universality -- only a small fraction of people are remembered, and then only poorly (consider poor Bill Shakespeare and the fact nobody can prove he even wrote his own plays). I'm talking about the related but simpler "remembered immortality" -- being remembered by someone just as a person, not for some works.

Universal immortality!

How can we achieve this?

Just so that we can keep it clear, let's introduce the idea of a "personal celebrity". A personal celebrity for you is somebody who is "famous" to you -- your relationship to them is just like your relationship to a regular famous person. You know some stuff about them.

We will achieve universal immortality by making sure that every human ever is the personal celebrity to somebody at every moment in time, forever. At every moment, somebody, somewhere, will remember every single one of us: know our name, what we did, what we liked, a few things about us.

To simplify things, we'll ignore everybody who lived before now. (It's possible to rework this to account for them, but it's a lot of bother, and really, its their own fault for not thinking of this back then!)

Suppose you have a list of personal celebrities, and suppose it's unique -- nobody else in the world has that list of personal celebrities. You get married (or whatever), and you and your spouse have two kids. Who should your kids get as their personal celebrities? Well, once you're dead, nobody will remember anyone from your list. So you need to pass your list on to your kids. But so does your spouse! So you each give your list to one of your kids to keep the memories alive. That's not good enough, though, because once you're dead, who will have you as their personal celebrity? Nobody. So you need to pass your list on to your kid, but with one extra name.

That won't work. After enough generations have passed, the list of names will get too long. Remember, you actually need more than just the list. You have to learn all about every name on your list, and remember them well. So we need to keep the list short.

Fortunately, there's an easy solution: you just need to have more than two kids.

Also, to simplify the math, let's assume you're on your own list (you might as well be, you know everything about yourself anyway). We also want to add some redundancy--we want everyone to be on more than one list. So we'll always have each person including him or herself on their own list, and all of their siblings.

Now, suppose your personal celebrity list (including your siblings) has eight names on it. You get married, and you and your domestic partner have four kids. Between you and your partner, you have 16 personal celebrities to pass on to your kids. You divide them up evenly; each child gets 4 personal celebrities from your lists, and each gets 4 personal celebrities by including their siblings and themselves. Each child ends up with 8 personal celebrities, exactly the number we started with.

Every generation after that, someone out there will remember every personal celebrity. (In fact, four people will.)

Now, I know what you're thinking, everyone always having four kids is a lot.

To you I say: but think of the benefits!

But even so, I'm willing to grant that the above might be a little excessive. Fortunately, we can make the same thing work differently. If we all keep a personal celebrity list with nine celebrities, then each couple only needs to have three kids. The couple divides 18 personal celebrities into thirds, giving each child 6 inherited celebrities, plus the 3 siblings-and-themselves makes 9 again.

That's all there is to it! The secret of immortality unlocked!

All we need is for every human ever to have exactly three kids.

Bonus: Don't trust the frailty of human memory? We can all write a short (4-page?) biography and deliver it to our siblings. Then everyone is charged with recopying the biography of all of their inherited personal celebrities. Recopying avoids problems with text aging, and allows translation into new languages as they arise.

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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012
4:48 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Points of Departure"
Season 2, Episode 1: Points of Departure

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Saturday, September 1st, 2012
3:44 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Chrysalis"
Season 1, Episode 22: Chrysalis

And so it begins.

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Thursday, August 30th, 2012
3:27 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "The Quality of Mercy"
Season 1, Episode 21: The Quality of Mercy

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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
10:35 pm - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Babylon Squared"
Season 1, Episode 20: Babylon Squared

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4:49 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "A Voice in the Wilderness parts 1 & 2"
Season 1, Episode 18: "A Voice in the Wilderness part I"
Season 1, Episode 19: "A Voice in the Wilderness part II"


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Sunday, August 26th, 2012
12:52 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Legacies"
Season 1, Episode 17: Legacies

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Saturday, August 25th, 2012
1:44 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Eyes"
Season 1, Episode 16: Eyes

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Friday, August 24th, 2012
1:00 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Grail"
Season 1, Episode 15: Grail

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Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
10:28 pm - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "TKO"
Season 1, Episode 14: TKO

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1:37 am - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Signs and Portents"
Season 1, Episode 13: Signs and Portents

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Monday, August 20th, 2012
10:46 pm - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "By Any Means Necessary"
Season 1, Episode 12: By Any Means Necessary

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8:13 pm - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Survivors"
Season 1, Episode 11: Survivors
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Sunday, August 19th, 2012
10:17 pm - Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Believers"
I originally watched a lot of Babylon 5 when it was airing, but I got a late start: I only started watching it regularly sometime during the third season. Some time after that, a friend hosted a VCR'd B5 watchathon to catch latecomers like me up, going through the significant and arc-y episodes of the first and second seasons, but skipping a lot of others so we could do it in a day.

I also never watched season 5 (due to a change in my access to a TV).

I've always meant to go back and watch the whole thing from scratch and give it a fair shake. (In fact, maybe I have already and I've just forgotten it.)

Well, the time has come, and I'm watching them now. I also remembered that Shaenon Garrity, author of Narbonic and Skin Horse, started rewatching and recapping the series a year and a half ago, but (apparently) abandoned it after 9 episodes.

So I'm going to pick up where she left off.

Season 1, Episode 10: Believers

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Sunday, April 1st, 2012
9:40 pm
New instrumental 24-hour album. Crap. No Foolin'

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Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
3:55 am - knowledge and certainty
When Amanda Knox was on trial for murder in Italy, I remember being struck by the ease with which I formed the opinion that she was probably innocent. She was half a world away and so were the events that had taken place. I was just following along with the American media/social-networking spin that here was someone who was being abused by a legal system because she was a foreigner.

When I realized how easily I was accepting a canned narrative, I had to stop and think. I couldn't take back that gut instinct, that feeling she was innocent, but I could know it for what it was -- an easily manipulated irrational jump to judgement with little-to-no-bearing on the truth.

This wasn't that hard for me, because this wasn't the first time I'd thought about it. I'd often been struck by the ease with which people could find a jury verdict to be a 'miscarriage of justice'. Despite not having been there in the court to hear the evidence--despite only hearing everything fourth-hand, through heavy media spin, people could so easily be certain of someone's guilt or innocence. Yes, sometimes people get off on technicalities; sometimes passing judgement on a jury verdict isn't unreasonable. But most of the time it really is.

So I've been feeling pretty awkward about this whole Trayvon Martin thing. There's certainly one clear thing: he really shouldn't be dead, and we have handguns and "stand your ground" laws to blame. Regardless of who started it, the death is a terrible, terrible outcome.

But that's not the direction most people are coming from. Most people have decided that Trayvon Martin didn't start it; that George Zimmerman shot an innocent kid, unprovoked. Certainly Zimmerman's actions leading up to the event are pretty reprehensible, and his choice to carry a handgun questionable. But these things don't to me make a pattern that means he is unambigously the kind of guy who would attack or kill a black dude without provocation.

Zimmerman's story is, unsurprisingly, that Martin attacked him. Can we as easily reject that Martin could have attacked Zimmerman first? We don't have the narrative convenience of Martin going around stalking white guys to make convenient sense of it. We're told Martin was just an unthreatening kid coming home from the store. This is some kind of story, but does it get at the truth? Do we actually know enough about Martin to know he couldn't have started it?

Martin's parents think they do:

The attorney for George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month, said Monday that Martin initiated the confrontation, beating his client so badly he suffered a broken nose and injuries to the back of his head.

Martin’s parents and their attorney, preparing to fly to Washington for a congressional briefing Tuesday, disputed the account, which contradicted their long-standing assertions that Zimmerman had attacked their son without provocation.



The problem is that Martin's parents have no idea what happened; this appears to be a narrative they have invented solely from their knowledge of Trayvon Martin's character. And they're his parents.

The problem we have in this case is an information asymmetry; only one person is alive to tell his side of the story. We feel a need to find some kind of balance; to attempt to provide some kind of version of the other side's story. But when we choose the most extreme, biased source to construct a purely fictional alternative narrative, we should at least hesitate and think about what's going on.

Kids don't always show the same person to their parents that they do to others. That the parents' narrative paint him as a harmless saint should be unsurprising but also unconvincing. Maybe he was a great, harmless guy. Maybe he was the kind of guy who would start a fight with a racist who was following him around. I have no idea, and I don't really think any of you do either (although you may think you do).

I do not have an opinion on who started it--on whether Zimmerman is guilty of murder. This doesn't mean I think they're 50/50 responsible. I'm refusing to apportion blame at all, not splitting it. For people who have formed an opinion, I would like them to think about what sort of evidence it would take to change their mind. What if an eyewitness came forward verifying Zimmerman's version of events; would that change your mind? (The police claim they have one.) What if the eyewitness was black? What if there was video?

I honestly think there are some people who would say something like "well, sure, if video happened, but no such video could possibly turn up, because I know Zimmerman is guilty". If those people are personal friends or family of Trayvon Martin, then I'm sympathetic. But for everybody else who might feel that way, I'm a bit worried that there's a rush to judgement here based on feelings, not facts. We really don't know Trayvon Martin, and don't know what he might or might not have done.

Yes, racism is terrible, and it plays a major role in the chain of events that leads to someone like Martin being dead, whereas someone like me, a white 45-year old, would never experience that chain of events in the first place. But we can point fingers beyond racism. Two things I'm really sure of is that Martin shouldn't be dead and that information asymmetry when one party to an altercation is dead or in a coma seriously hinders our ability to uncover the truth. The solution to both of these problems is to discourage things that leave parties to an altercation dead: to attack handgun ownership and get rid of terrible "stand your ground" laws.

Like I said, I don't know Trayvon Martin. It's hard (and unfair) to try to imagine what he was capable of, but I feel obligated to because of the rush to judgement against Zimmerman. So: if I picture him as Wallace from The Wire? Then I can't imagine Zimmerman as anything but a murderer. But sticking to "The Wire" really limits the possibility space. How about if I imagine him as my friend Jay?

Jay is a skinny guy. I can't imagine think you'd think he was scary if you met him. In the last three years Jay's gotten into three fights that I know of. One time he hit a guy for spitting on the sidewalk near him as he walked past. Can I imagine Jay getting in a fight with some guy who was stalking him in a suspicious manner? Easily. Can I imagine Jay getting shot by that guy after provoking the fight? Well, now I can, sadly.

I'm not trying to put Trayvon Martin down by implying he might be like my friend Jay. I'm just saying nothing on the table makes that scenario impossible, or even necessarily improbable.

I'm certainly not trying to say Martin was an impetuous, volatile youth. I have no idea whether he was or wasn't one. But my point is I'm not sure why both options aren't the table. And I don't say this is a possibility for his character because he was a 17-year old black kid. I say this is a possibility for his character because Jay is a white millionaire in his 40s.

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Sunday, March 18th, 2012
12:26 am
Following up my last post about twitter:

Things twitter broke in the new design:

  • When viewing a conversation, can't easily view further back in history (you used to be able to click on a tweet back in the history and see further back; now that just shows 'details' and you have to click on that, opening a new tab or losing current state, and view history there).

  • When looking at people retweeting/favoriting you on the @Connect tab, you can't click through to see the actual tweet they're retweeting/favoriting (for example to check the counts on it). You have to dig it up in your timeline.

  • When looking at the details on a tweet and seeing the retweet/favorites, you can't tell who retweeted and who favorited (this is sometimes interesting when looking at other people's tweets)

  • The actions on each tweet which only appear when you hover over it can appear over the user's name. But the user's name is clickable to open a window about the user. So you can try to click the user's name and accidentally click 'reply'.

  • Promoted tweets in the timeline are still dismissible, but the Dismiss choice only appears when you hover over the tweet, so it takes longer to dismiss (hover to locate the Dismiss choice, then click it).

  • When you block someone, the blocked tweets stay visible; the block doesn't take effect until you refresh the page, which twitter avoids doing most of the time using AJAX. You can switch back and forth multiple times between Home and @Connect and the tweets remain. (This might have been true before, but it was jarring to me in a way that suggests it was a new experience for me. But I'm not 100% sure.)



Probably more that I'm forgetting.

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Monday, January 23rd, 2012
9:13 am
Tom Swifties Written By An Author Willing To Go To Any Lengths To Make A Tom Swifty Thus Resulting In Constructions That Often Require More Work For Readers Than For The Author

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Thursday, September 1st, 2011
6:18 pm - twits
I've been using twitter actively for a couple months now, and goddamn is it busted.


  • If you block someone, and someone else retweets them, you still see their tweet.
  • Your timeline doesn't show other people's replies to other people who you're not following. This is sort of understandable, but broken in many ways:
    • No way to say "show me all of this user's tweets no matter what" (you have to manually view their timeline), despite the fact people'll will obviously want this for some small number of really important people they follow
    • Because people say generally useful things in replies, and there's no way to say "show all this users tweets", sometimes they'll prefix a dot (".") at the beginning of the message to prevent the normal suppression so that some of their replies are publically visible. However, this doesn't work some of the time (I think it doesn't if it's a true reply (one that enables their threading), and does work if it's only a manual reply)
    • If someone I follow mentions me, it should show up in my main feed, not only in mentions. It doesn't show up in my feed if their tweet is a reply to somone I don't follow.
    • When somebody asks a public question, it would be nice to see all the replies to it. (Remember on moderated Usenet groups where the etiquette was to collect responses and post a follow-up summarizing them? Good times.) The conversation thing shows a line, not a tree, so I'm not sure what it does when there are multiple replies. But it also misses replies that aren't true replies. The solution is simple: be able to see the "mentions" tab for other people (note that you can just search for @whoever, which will give similar (same?) results), but why not just give me the tab?
    • Once you are following enough people, it doesn't make sense to add everyone who is even slightly interesting. What matters is how what they post will affect your feed (their signal-to-noise ratio, basically). So you go to their profile and look at their timeline, but that shows you *all* posts. Since replies to people not on your follow list won't show up, that may not at all resemble what you'd actually see (or it might, depending on how many replies they do and how their follow list matches yours). So you have to scan through, guestimating how many are replies to people you follow.
  • Nothing about the way tweets behave (like the above examples) is documented, and they're hard to discover since there's no way to check what's going on, to e.g. determine to whom your tweets are visible--how your stuff looks to other people.
  • I'm sure there's other stuff affecting me that I just don't know about yet, plus I'm sure there's stuff that's busted but that I don't use.

I encountered all of this stuff within a week or two of using twitter actively, although it's taken me longer to realize just what was going on in all cases.

And here I thought phpbb was terrible.

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