Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Philosophical Cannibal Hoedown

(Continued from a couple posts ago.)

An older man in a very professorial-looking tweed jacket hesitatingly stepped up to the podium, while Adelaid and I started on the roast beef.  He didn't look like he gave many public speeches.

He took a deep breath.  "Hello, everyone!  I..."  Here he trailed off, looking a bit nervous, and then started again.

"For... for all you who don't know me, I'm Pr-Professor Polycarp, and I know you all should know the purpose of my Society, but for those of you who don't, I... uh, decided to prepare a little song.  To make it a bit... uh, more exciting?  Also, heh, a bit of autobiography.  I hope you all don't mind.  Um.  So as you all know, I started out in the Literary Theory department.  And things... took a turn.  Take it away, Johann."

Johann (who had just finished showing in some new guests) took a seat at the grand piano just to the left of the podium.  After cracking his knuckles, he rested his fingers on the keys and started an upbeat polka tune.  The professor (looking much more animated than before) took another deep breath and burst into song.

"Oh, aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye!
Oh, aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye!

I did some Deconstruction (and God, it was such a bore,)
And to read ol' Derrida's books was the mother of all chores;
And even Mister Foucalt (though most promising of all)
required me at every chance to murder the fourth wall!

Lit-Crit seemed in shambles--it seemed aimless, sad and tired--
and I thought the field would always be completely uninspired,
but then like a bolt from heaven, I realized my goal--
that every bad philosopher should just be swallowed whole!

I started on my old professor, Pridius L. Slant,
and next went to the head of our great English Department!
(And then I learned on eating two psychologists, alas,
that for whatever reason, social science gives me gas.)

I had to leave my old job (ate the payroll clerk, you see),
and had to look for new work-- but I soon found out with glee,
that if you restrict yourself to teachers all the freshmen hate,
you can get a good supply of meat without too much debate!"

(and here Johann joined in)

Without too much deee-baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate!"

The room filled with applause, and I gagged a little on some of the possibly-roast-beef substance I was currently eating, spitting what was left covertly into a napkin.  This operation complete (and the guilty napkin hidden in my pocket, where I resolved to throw it out at first opportunity), I turned to Adelaid.  She giggled.
"Hee!  Isn't Polycarp great?"
"Yeah, sure.  Uh.  Adelaid?"
"Yes, Paul?"
"What exactly am I eating?"
"Professor Delwar Prescott Flask."
"Wait, the Delwar Flask?  My old ID prof?  The one who wrote that unreadable book on copyright?"
"The very same. Is..." she had the look of a puppy about to be kicked.  "Is that a problem for you?"
I reflected a moment.  "Yes, it is."
"Specifically, he needs more salt."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Heretek Hoedown

Oh, aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye!
Oh, aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye-di-aye!

So I was just a techpriest, a man who builds machines,
A servant whose sole duty was to fix, repair and clean!
But the day before I took the Vow of Nurgle 'pon the lou,
I realized those poor viruses all need some lovin' too!

(do dee do dee do dee do, do dee do dee do)

So my first day upon the job of undermining Man,
I got inside a factory and thus my work began!
I jacked myself into a port, and 'ere the day was out,
The cogitators inside thought that they were speckled trout!

(do dee do dee do dee do, do dee do dee do)

I used to go to Schola, a place of quiet grace,
where they calculate trajectories of things hurling through space!
But soon, instead of finding their attractive fields of force,
the only thing that Schola got was twenty Trojan horse!

(do dee do dee do dee do, do dee do dee do)

The propagandist's office is like the Emperor's right hand,
spreading deceit, lies and heresy throughout my lovely land!
So I let my children into their pristine-ish neural net,
And then suddenly-- the Yellow Sign, in every news gazette!
(In every news ga-zeeeeeeeeeeeeette!)


Doctor Rhemus Polycarp: That's right, it's "Who's Heresy is it Anyway", where everything's made up and the points don't matter!  That's right, the points in this game are like psychic powers on a Khornate Bloodthirster.
DRP:  (flees)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

In Which I Attempt To Turn My Bizarre Dream Into The Plot Of A Bizarre Story

"Well, I'm afraid that only members of the Philosophical Society are allowed in."  The doorman smiled at me apologetically, and lowered his voice.  "Honestly, Paul, I don't think you'd really want in, anyway, unless you were already a member of their fruity club.  The stuff they talk about is pretty... uh, strange."

"Well, maybe," I replied.  "But I was actually invited as an interdepartmental guest from the Chemistry department.  See, my work is on the relationship between retro Diels-Alder reactions and Foucalt's literary theories.  It's interesting, because..."  Seeing the doorman start to get that stoned-monkey look I too-often found on my own students, I cut off my impromptu soon-to-be lecture and gestured toward the door.  "Can I go in now?  I don't want to miss the opening speaker-- I heard Doctor Vincent Polycarp is giving a talk in ten minutes."

The doorman frowned.  "That's as may be.  But I don't--"

A cheerful-looking man waved from inside the lobby.  "Don't worry about it, Bob!  I know him.  You're that Diels-Alder guy, right?"

I grinned.  "Yep, that'd be me."

"Great, great!  We're having a quick dinner before Polycarp's lecture, and you're just in time to catch the appetizers. I'm Johann, by the way."

He ushered me in, and after about two minutes of walking through the corridors of the Philosophy Department, we arrived at the dining room, filled with tables with about five or six people each.  "You know," Johann told me confidentially as we walked, "the normal setup for this room used to be with long, square tables, but one of the professors proved that conversation is 40% less efficient with that setup than with a large number of round tables.  And rationality has always been our watchword!"  Johann showed me to a seat, and gestured to a mid-20's girl who occupied the table with a pair of older, sour-looking gentlemen.  "This is Adelaid.  She's a new assistant professor in our department.  Adelaid, tell him about your work!  I've got to greet some more guests, I'll be talking to you both later."

The girl seated to the right of me smiled.  "Hey, new guy!  Have you ever been to our Society before?"  She laughed.  "Wait, no, stupid question.  Obviously you haven't.  Because you're not in the department!  Anyway, we're all Poststructural Neo-hedonists here.  Are you familiar with that philosophy?"

I shook my head.

"Well, basically, the deal is that we're launching off the works of Eco, which is based on a theme of the common ground between class and culture. See, Lyotard (you know him from his Discourses, right?) suggests the use of textual neodialectic theory to attack capitalism. However, the premise of textual discourse holds that narrativity is capable of truth, but only if Derrida’s essay on conceptualist subpatriarchial theory is invalid; otherwise, art is used to reinforce sexist perceptions of class.  Therefore, to eat man is to become man, and--"  I held up my hand.

"Wait, I'm sorry, what was that last bit? I think I didn't hear you right."

Adelaid waved the question aside.  "That's not important now.  The important thing is, you'll get to hear what we're all about in like five minutes!  Doctor Polycarp is speaking, and he's a really great lecturer; I think you'll really like him."  Her face brightened as a waiter arrived, with several well-garnished plates of what looked like roast beef.  "Oh!  The food's arrived!  Paul, you really must have some."  She giggled, as though at some private joke.  "It's like nothing you've eaten before, trust me."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Apropos of nothing: DREAM JOURNAL TIME!

In rapid succession last night, I had 1) a nightmare about failing all my Computer Science classes, and 2) a nightmare wherein a cannibal, having unsuccessfully attempted to get me and a number of tuxedo-clad party guests to eat a cat, gave us a long-winded Hannibal Lecture about people too weak to follow their desires (which, by necessity, should involve eating cat.  I mean, obviously.)  To which I could only respond

to which he could only respond by having his cultist minions jam a pencil in my ear, successfully killing me and ending the dream.  (Hurt like the dickens, too.)

(Yeah, I dunno.  I have like a million of these macros.  What am I supposed to do-- not use them every chance I get?)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's pretty self-explanatory.

And, for no reason, a bonus MLP image macro.  Don't judge me.

It's like the Christmas gift you never asked for, or wanted!  But perhaps it's what you deserved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why, computer?! WHYYYYY?

Me:  Hey guys, hey guys!  I found this really interesting new mod for Civ 4, Master of Mana!
Branden:  Does it work in multiplayer?
Me:  YES.
Branden:  And it works on your computer?
Me:  Well, single player games work like a charm!
Josh:  Sweet!  I'll throw it on my machine!
Branden:  Mine too!
Okay, it's installed.  Now let's start a multiplayer game!
Me:  Huzzah!
My computer: LOADING...
Me:  Are you actually going to find a solution, or are you just saying that?
My computer:  Just saying that.  It's expected of me!
Me:  Well that's weird.  You've never crashed on me before.  Probably wouldn't happen twice in a row, though, right?
My computer:  lolololololCRASH, NO MULTIPLAYER FOR YOU
Me:  Damn.  Okay, what if I tried reinstalling it?  Would that work?
My computer:  Only one way to find out!
(one hour later)
Me:  Screw it, let's play League.
Branden & Josh:  Yaaaaay!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Worst Book Ever

I was reminded of this book whilst browsing on Amazon and it suggested I buy something else by the same author. I then asked myself, "where would I have heard of this Paul Saint-Amour?" And Amazon gave me the horrible, horrible answer:
Not shown: Amazon giving good advice.

I had to read this-- all 300-someodd pages-- for my first-year ID class.  In this blogopost, I will endeavor to make you share my pain.  For I dare you-- I double-dare you!-- to read more than two pages of this monster without wanting to bust out a fountain pen and make impromptu edits. It reads like a parody of how professors write. But it's not a parody, friends. It's serious. Dead serious.

Anyway, you needn't take my word for it; here's a screenshot of the book's introduction. I recommend you have a phone on hand, so as to call 911 in case of bleeding eyes.

This is the first page of the introduction, ladies and gentlemen. This monstrosity (if you didn't feel like unpacking it) basically boils down to five main points:

1) The title is a pun. Copywrights = makers of copyright (like a shipwright). Get it?
2) Copyright means different things to different people.
3) The meaning of "copyright" has been different at different times.
4) "Copyright" is tricky to define because of this.
5) The title is a pun. Do you see?

Here are my suggested edits, combining simplified language with axing portions of pointless wordy fluff:

In conclusion, this book gets my highest rating for professorial trollery: Five abominations.

News front/Lolhammercrafting!

1) I have bought tickets to Claremont! Huzzah!

2) In LoL, I have developed a liking for everyone's favorite unicorn-drow, Soraka!

Look, I don't like it anymore than you do.

This is in large part because she's got kinda a weird power curve for LoL. But before I go into that, I should explain what the deal is with power curves in LoL! The relevant numbers are Teamfight Influence-- that is, how much you can wreck up the business of your opponents--and Gold Earned-- how much you were able to farm up minions and enemy heroes throughout the game.

The reason the graph looks like this is because support characters tend not to have abilities that scale well-- however, these abilities also have effects like stuns, debuffs or knockups that don't increase in power as you acquire better stats. AD and AP carries, however, have abilities that-- implicitly or explicitly-- act as multipliers for their base statistics, which is to say, multipliers for the gold they earn. Tanky DPS is typically somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Check it out. The reason Soraka's graph looks so different from the other supports is that her own primary teamfight-support ability (Starcall) shreds the enemy team's magic resistance for a flat amount. The thing is, unlike for the other characters in the "support" category, the power's short range requires Soraka getting all up in the enemy team's fries, as per Utahraptor in this Dinosaur Comic. Thus, in order to do anything in teamfights without getting immediately ripped apart, she needs lots of HP and armor. However, there is very much diminishing returns to this tankiness, because when she stops getting focused she stops having a really good place to put all that gold-- that's why her power curve falls off later on, to the point where her dInfluence/dGold becomes more-or-less even with the other supports.

(Note that without this added health she really is pretty impotent. So it goes.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

I love Reaction McGonagall.

So yeah, I spent this week (in chronological order):
  • Proctoring the Genchem final exam, which involved wandering up and down isles being as generally unhelpful as possible to panicky students.

"Can I use this equation here?"
  • There was also a bit where I had to proctor the time-and-a-half special needs students, most of whom have some form of horrific test anxiety. The last girl to leave made me feel like a monster by tearing up while repeatedly asking questions to which I could only respond "Uh. Can't really answer that. Exam, you know." And she'd be all "BUT I NEEEED TO KNOW!" Grim times.
  • Exam-grading! Most of the time which I spent trying to figure out puzzling issues of student knowledge and psychology, such as

  • Getting told that the final needed to be graded by noon Wednesday. The combination of studying for my own finals and having to visit the UW Tacoma campus to register for COMPSCI CLASSES WOOOO meant this was impossible.
  • Get scolded in like three emails within twenty-four hours of the deadline pseudo-politely asking me to turn in the finals as quickly as possible, please. To which I could only respond with a slightly dressed up version of "working on it",while thinking all the while
But now, it's all finished! Never again to be of any account. In fact, as we speak I am discharging my final duty as a TA, which is to sit in a cafe waiting for hypothetical students to get their last two graded labs. Yeah, nobody's coming. Whatever!

And after this? It'll all be clear sailing for Computer Science. Awww yeah.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Knight Templar Chemist

So, I've got this one guy in one of my sections who's really, really prone to arguing over tiny amounts of points for not-super-great reasons.

This does not make him unique, however.

What does make him unique is that he's got this penchant for typing out long, drawn-out emails wherein he argues that to not give him these tiny amounts of points would be an injustice of the highest order, and that he argues not for himself-- perish the thought!-- but for each and every student quailing under the yolk of tyranny that is the point-scoring system itself, and that, furthermore, the grossly unjust way in which grading is carried out will (if not rectified today!) forever poison the hapless students in our department against the very field of chemistry itself, an outcome which could be averted by granting him his eminently reasonable request of five points for some friggin' reason.


Anyway, he did this to me once, and I was all like "By Jove! Am I truly poisoning the minds of students? I certainly hope not!" And thus I fervently searched for my apparent error, though in the end I was forced to deny his complaint for no more reason than it appeared totally without merit. Well, that was that, I figured.

Turns out he writes these long-winded emails to everyone, though. I actually just recently recieved a forwarded email from the stockroom supervisor wherein this guy (who will remain nameless, let's call him Joe) wrote five separate paragraphs decrying the injustice of a soulless, computerized system of prelab deductions, which the syllabus was altogether too ambiguous about, and which, if not fixed, would effectively blah blah blah. Which concluded with a threat to go to Tracy Harvey (the higher power in the department, whose job is basically to tank student aggro) if we decided to reveal ourselves as the unscrupulous and villainous characters he hoped we weren't.

This displeases me. Thus, I-- with great reluctance-- am forced to bust out the Stamp of Authority.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I'm putting that stamp as a business expense.

AKA what I've been doing the past three hours:

Assignment Question: Based on your data, what is your measured n(f) value for your most intense peak near 650 nm?
My response:

It's especially hilarious when they write the literature value, and then go on to talk about how they had obtained it from experimental data when it's entirely obvious that the procedure they describe would lead them to the EXACT OPPOSITE conclusion. Lololololol

Friday, December 9, 2011

Working on new post


In the meantime, here's a picture of a classy fellow in a monocle and top hat.

I confess, I just wanted to post that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm looking at *you*, Shattered Mirror trilogy

So, I'm not going to name any names (although if I was, I'd totally include Alan Dean Foster), but I've noticed that for whatever reason, when a setting includes space aliens as sympathetic or even point of view characters, certain authors seem worried that us readers'll forget they're, like, aliens. You know, from space. Therefore they feel compelled to, whenever an alien feels hungry, have that alien say something like

"By jove! My food-desiring organs are secreting immense amounts of hunger-milk currently! I had better ingest some krill before they undergo spontaneous shutdown, which you earthlings would probably refer to as "starving to death!" Ho-ho!"

Or alternatively,

"Ahh, human, you will never understand the sensation I feel accompanying this particular attractive member of my species' third opposite sex. It is as though my love-glands are filled to exploding!"

It's like the author's super-self-conscious about having the aliens be different, but without actually giving them an alien perspective. Bah, I say! Give me well-characterized rubber forehead aliens any day.

To see an author who averts this quite well, I'll refer you to Eliezer Yudowsky of The Babyeating Aliens. Look, just read the damn thing, it'll take you maybe an hour. I also enjoyed the Animorph's gentle mockery of this trope, where you had a lot of exchanges like

Aximili: "Quickly, move! The alarm is going to sound in just six of your human minutes!"
Anybody Else: "You know, Ax, you've been on earth for like a year now. They're your minutes too."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Polite Fiction

You know what bugs me? Those times when you go into a McDonald's or other fast food place, and the server asks how you're doing today. I mean, don't get me wrong-- I'll do the "politely making conversation" thing, and I don't mind it so much for itself. Mostly it's just the fact that, at some point, I've got to be the one to break the polite fiction that we are merely two gentlemen discussing the merits of mercantilism and the trade deficit, exposing the crassly commercial element of the whole exchange by asking for a drink and an oatmeal with no brown sugar.

It just feels callous-- like this guy or girl behind the counter simply wants to connect with another human being, and I, being the selfish sumbitch I am, deny them even this in favor of getting my drink just a bit sooner. The thing is, I also dig that (despite appearances!) this actually isn't the case, and my staying to chat with the server about Germany's up-and-coming Alchemical College will only result in my getting bludgeoned "accidentally" by the guy behind me that just wants to move it along, please.

The free refills totally make it worth it, though.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Emotional Manipulation for Fun and Profit

So, in playing League of Legends, it has come to my attention that there is a disconcerting number of people who don't know something that should be fairly basic to any team game: how to give advice so that it is taken.

It's harder than it sounds!

So, you're in a game. Bottom lane is losing to Blitzcrank, and horribly. Like, they've got three deaths at the 7:00 mark. Bad times, and this is typically when otherwise reasonable players want to start scolding their fellows. Resist this temptation.

Basically all the advice I'll be giving here, you see, is based off of one simple and obvious principle: Pride is one of the most powerful emotions humans possess. Psychologists have like a million terms for all the millions of ways pride-- the desire to think of yourself as awesome-- influences us to act in ways otherwise contrary to reason. This is encapsulated in some term I cannot recall-- if we're faced with a choice between thinking of ourselves as not-awesome, and literally any other option, we'll pretty much always choose the other thing, with the rest of our beliefs correcting themselves to fit. Let us take a concrete example.

Suppose you told the player in bottom lane "wtf noob, don't u know to hide behind your minions, uninstall ur game and go play tetris. Also noob jungler underleveld lol." This is somewhat more helpful than the option of simply telling him to uninstall and leaving it at that, but even so, by the simple act of insulting him you've made it crazy-unlikely he'll take your (actually quite good) advice to hide behind his minions to avoid getting grabbed. The unconcious calculation is basically as follows:

"Either this guy knows what he's talking about or not. If he knows what he's talking about, I'm a feeding noob who should go play Tetris, and also I should shield myself using my minions. Will crediting this guy imply I'm more or less awesome?"

The rest of the calculation is pretty trivial. Thus, the thing you'll most likely hear in response is

"STFU noob i no wut im doin, also wtf jungler no gank?!?!?!?!??!?!??! noob jungler"

But this is all obvious. What many folks seem not to realize is that even the most politely-worded bits of plain advice send the subtle, but very real, message of "you don't know what you're doing." Thus even if the hypothetical gentleman above spoke thusly:

"My dear fellow, I would kindly recommend you utilize your minions so as to avoid Blitzcrank's rocket grab, which quite assures him of a kill when landed"

The most likely response would be "STFU noob", followed by repeated harassment of the team's jungler as above.

This makes the best advice, I think, take the form of roundabout comments regarding what you've done or regretted not doing in similar situations, preferably in a self-deprecating form so that the other fellow doesn't think you're lording it over him. Thus:

"Blitzcrank's rocket grab is pretty tricky to deal with. Last time I faced him I always got murdered when I didn't keep minions between me and him. Also, wtf jungler nooooooooooooob."

To which bot lane can only respond "ya jungler sucks, gg". But the important thing is, this way he might actually take your advice. And thereby stop feeding Blitzcrank. And really, isn't that the important thing?

This is actually much easier if the behavior you want the other person to perform is something that you, yourself, should reasonably be doing, because then it can take the form of

"Sorry, I keep forgetting to keep minions between myself and Blitz"

which gets across exactly the same information as above, but without any assault-- implied or otherwise-- on the pride of your teammate. (Note that you can totes do this even if you hadn't actually made the error in question. I have never once been called out on this.)

Happy hunting!

*edited for psychological accuracy, courtesy of Blake

Humility is so practical a virtue that men think it must be a vice.
--G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, December 4, 2011


So I confess to you, though I greatly enjoy the game of League of Legends (or, as we've taken to calling it, Lolitics), the player base... well, I wouldn't say they're all assholes.  Some of them would be more accurately described as jackasses, with perhaps a few shitweasels thrown in for good measure.   Don't get me wrong, it's easy enough to find someone reasonably polite when the team's winning, but when the team loses... well, it's kind of like a game of Hot Potato.  Except instead of a potato being tossed, it's furious insults, typed out by middle-schoolers using every key on their keyboard except for the ones with letters.

So given this, it's entirely understandable that I've really only met one person on there who I've felt like playing with again after the game.  Totally a classy fellow, sportsmanlike, willing to admit fault.

"By Jove!"  I thought.  "What if I introduce this fellow to the rest of my playing group, so that we can all play a game together as a team?  It's bound to have only good results!  Right?  Right."

So then I do, and shortly thereafter, I come to the realization:  this guy seems to be somewhat worse than the rest of my team at the actual game.  


Although in his defense, that game was after recent patch changes had forced him out of the jungle (which is where he's best), and into the solo top role (which I am given to understand he's really only sorta-decent at.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What I listen to while grading exams

There's the guy who always mixes up his "joules" and "kilojoules";
and the guy who cannot seem to use his calculating tools;
the one who takes three-fourths the page to get an answer wrong,
And the one who very plainly nowhere near a lab belongs;
and the student who to get one point will for six weeks persist,
I've got them on the list-- they never would be missed!

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Dark Confessional

In relating the circumstances which have led to my confinement within this refuge for the demented, I am aware that my present position will create a natural doubt of the authenticity of my narrative. It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence those isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by a psychologically sensitive few, which lie outside its common experience.  Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them; but the prosaic materialism of the majority condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight which penetrate the common veil of obvious empiricism.

For this reason, I do not expect many of you to understand why I undertake such actions as I currently perform; I suspect those who do will be only those who have (for reasons of their own) already have succumbed to the temptations I myself have discovered.  Nevertheless, some accounting of my actions is called for, and I will not evade responsibility.

My investigations began my senior year of college, when, on a hunch, I took a computer science course over at Claremont McKenna-- fool that I was to plunge with such unsanctioned frenzy into mysteries no man was meant to penetrate!  My professor was an Asian man of fiery eyes and indeterminate accent, one who knew so much of the mechanical gods that he could tell of their comings and goings-- so much so that many of us deemed him half a god himself.  It was he, I believe, who first implanted the mad desire in me, to sacrifice the righteous teachings of the Lexicanum Alchemical I had studied for so long, in favor of the lunatic ramblings of the computer scientists.

I resisted, friends!  I graduated with my chemistry degree, steeped in the eldritch knowledge known only by the highest priests of my discipline.  But this resistance--conceive you-- it came at a price!  I arrived three months later at my graduate program, with a determination to see my chemical education through, but I suspected then (even as I know now!) that there would come a time when my willpower would fail me, and as the dog returns to his vomit--as the sow returns to her mire-- I would one day find myself casting off the teachings of the Holy and Righteous, abandoning my self, my honor, my very soul to the dark gods I discovered that fateful year.

Therefore, I relate to you: I have been accepted to the Computer Science program at the University of Washington.  For mine is not to become a chemist-- it never was, though in the haze of my delusions I had convinced myself otherwise. No, my destiny is far darker, a horror beyond mortal ken.  Yes, friends-- my fate, I believe, is to become a programmer.  Your attempts to convince me otherwise (well-intentioned though such efforts are!) will fall on deaf ears.  Or not deaf ears, but rather, ears which have opened to the terrible singing of the cosmos-- the Choir of Carcosa-- the opera, if I may so express it, that will end the world.

May God help me.  May God help us all.

"Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon."
H.P. Lovecraft, "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sometimes, when grading, I get stuff like:

"Using a 15 percent difference as acceptable, the room temperature Ksp values with and without KCl are the same as the difference between the two values is 10.5 percent which is less than the acceptable 15 percent and therefore 10.5 percent is acceptable and again the Ksp values with and without KCl are the same."

Lest you think this is an isolated occurrence:  on a different paper, which I do not have in front of me but which I have, unfortunately, committed to memory, I found this sentence as a description of the procedure of the lab:

"We used the measurements to find the calculations."

Kill me now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's a work in progress.

Several days after the sinking of Venice during the conclusion of the most recent grail war, an evacuated cabin is found in an outlying village, known to be in the care of one Isaac Morganstern.  A heavy manuscript is found on Isaac's desk, inside an envelope labeled "WORK IN PROGRESS: DO NOT READ."  There have been several titles written and scribbled out; the latest appears to read "PHASERS: THE MUSICAL."  Unfortunately, only one page is still readable, the rest having been rendered illegible by water damage.  This... is that page.

CAPTAIN JOHANN lays bleeding on the deck of the STARSHIP BELLOWSMITH. The CREW appears panicked. A gaping wound in the hull reveals the cold and unforgiving vacuum of space.

(Trombone intro)
Captain Johann: I’ve been shot by a phaser!
Crew: (He’s been shot by a phaser!)
Captain Johann: Not any normal taser, nor a military laser
but a full-blown, automated science fiction phaser!
The glowing should have warned me,
‘bout the cruiser gunning for me—
A futuristic omen of my hull blasted wide open!
Crew: But sir, sir, how did this happen!
Weren’t you in the mast, watching for piratical captains!
Captain (to himself): I suppose my constant drinking
Harbinge’d a ship soon to be sinking….
Crew (in reprise): (We supposed his constant drinking
Meant our ship would soon be sinking!)
(Band crescendos)
Captain Johann:
A red sky in the morning, is a quite ob-vi-ous warning
But I feeeeeeeeear it haaaas no plaaaace
To a shiiiiiiip that’s allllllll aaaaaaaaaaaaa-spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!
(Captain Johann dies.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I should write in old-timey style more often.

I have heard innumerable times, for innumerable competitive games, the statement that a given change will be bad, not because it will make encourage some strategies and discourage others, or even because it will make the game less fun, but rather because

"It will remove the element of skill from the game."

This is a highly questionable assertion for any game that is fundamentally player versus player, simply because skill can be defined as "the ability to win", and in any given PvP game 50% of players will always lose the match. The skills required may change, and any given subskill may be rendered unimportant by a change, but the level of required skill as such will be unvarying.

I believe I shall start referring to this rather bizarre variety of statement as a "Morgensternism," after its fictional 18th-century inventor, Polonius Morgenstern. An account of this idea's creation may be found in his autobiography:

"One day, after I had beaten my elder brother in a Chess-Match, he declared that he was nevertheless the more Skillful player due to the myriad ways he had maneuvered his Queen into a variety of advantageous locations (and indeed, they were Most Advantageous). As a lightning-bolt, it Entered into my mind that, in positing Superiority over another man in any Sport or other Recreation, it is not necessary to demonstrate facility in Winning; rather, one may fixate on some Point or Sub-Skill involved in said Sport or Recreation, and declare it to be the only Relevant, or Noble Point on which all should hang. A man is thus rendered Flexible in means of finding himself more brilliant than his Fellows, whereas a man fixated on Winning may on such occasions be rendered quite Sterile and open to ridicule."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Oh, I love characters like this.

An excerpt from the book Mistborn, on the subject of the Morality of Mind Control:

"Well," Breeze said, "let us begin, then. First, you must understand that Soothing is about more than just Allomancy. It's about the delicate and noble art of manipulation."
"Noble indeed," Vin said.
"Ah, you sound like one of them," Breeze said.
"Them who?"
"Them everyone else," Breeze said. "You saw how that skaa gentleman treated me? People don't like us, my dear. The idea of someone who can play with their emotions, who can 'mystically' get them to do certain things, makes them uncomfortable. What they do not realize—and what you must realize—is that manipulating others is something that all people do. In fact, manipulation is at the core of our social interaction."
He settled back, raising his dueling cane and gesturing with it slightly as he spoke. "Think about it. What is a man doing when he seeks the affection of a young lady? Why, he is trying to manipulate her to regard him favorably. What happens when old two friends sit down for a drink? They tell stories, trying to impress each other. Life as a human being is about posturing and influence. This isn't a bad thing—in fact, we depend upon it. These interactions teach us how to respond to others."
He paused, pointing at Vin with the cane. "The difference between Soothers and regular people is that we are aware of what we're doing. We also have a slight . . . advantage. But, is it really that much more 'powerful' than having a charismatic personality or a fine set of teeth? I think not."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A LoL post?!

So I've started playing League of Legends with Josh and Branden recently (don't look at me like that, California Crowd) and I've been trying to get better with one particular character-- Zilean, the Chronokeeper. Basically he's a support character that specializes in time manipulation. Also, he has a huge damn clock strapped to his back at all times.

A classy fellow, in other words. In that spirit, I present to you: Zilean image macros!

I have no regrets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Remember that game, Oregon Trail?

Man, I used to be all about that game when I was younger. I was sorta naive, though. Among the things it taught me:

1) People will commonly die from minor infections caused by gunshot wounds.
2) Do not eat the tiny red berries. They will kill you.
3) Do not give people sparse rations and a grueling pace, no matter how fast you want to get to Oregon.
4) Do not buy Daffy's Elixir. If you do buy Daffy's Elixir, do not drink it.

That fourth one was especially tricky for me, as I was a highly naive and trusting child. Therefore I took the vendor at his word when I saw the following advertisement:

Daffy’s original and famous elixir salutis: the choice drink of health: or, health-bringing drink. Being a famous cordial drink, found out by the providence of the Almighty, and (for above twenty years) experienced by himself, and divers persons (whose names are at most of their desires here inserted) a most excellent preservative of man-kind. A secret far beyond any medicament yet known, and is found so agreeable to nature, that it effects all its operations, as nature would have it, and as a virtual expedient proposed by her, for reducing all her extreams unto an equal temper; the same being fitted unto all ages, sexes, complexions, and constitutions, and highly fortifying nature against any noxious humour, invading or offending the noble parts. Never published by any but by Anthony Daffy, student in physick, and since continued by his widow Elleanor Daffy.

"By Jove!" I thought. "This could be exactly what I need to curb the growing epidemic of (alternately) Malaria, Dysentery, and The Cholera that has been plaguing my wagon train for the last several weeks! Brilliant!"

Which would've have been just fine if I hadn't, in a fit of youthful exuberance, decided that the opportunity to acquire multiple bottles of the marvelous elixir was a higher priority than keeping up my stores of food and ammunition. I'd always end up with an inventory that looked like:

Oxen (4)
Ammunition (2 bullets)
Guns (1)
Rations (4 days worth)
Duffy's Elixir (Five hundred pounds)

For some reason, the people I had conscripted into my wagon train were none too pleased at the development.

Me: "Everyone! I know it's been rough going, but it's time for more Sparse Rations with a Grueling Pace! We've got to get to Oregon before winter, you know!"
Hapless Traveler: "But... but I haven't eaten in two days! I've started having hallucinations where our oxen grow tentacles and try to eat me!"
Me: "Don't worry, we have several hundred pounds of Daffy's Elixir. It'll cure what ails ya!"
Hapless Traveler: "But it burns! And I think it makes the hallucinations worse!"
Me: "That's just the wood alcohol. Now drink up!"
Hapless Traveler: "But I--"
Me: "DRINK. UP."

The moral of this story is that I should never be put in charge of travel plans.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Magical Telekinetic Ellis?

How can I lose?!

Also, to everyone I'm going to be playing this campaign with: My heartfelt apologies to all of you in advance.


"Man, you can't skimp on the details when you're doin' ritual work. Like, this one time, Paul was tryin' out an idea from an old tome we bought from this creepy old man, and it involved making a summonin' circle, right? So there we were, drawin' one up, and the recipe called for human blood, but then Paul was all like 'Hey, blood's blood, right?' and used some from a chicken instead. So anyway, the spell summoned up a balor, and when the circle didn't work it grabbed hold of Paul and--"
"Isaac, is this the best time?"


"Man, magical research is tricky. Like, this one time I was tryin' to open up a portal to Yuggoth for the purpose of layin' down some new leylines, right, but just at the apex of the spell Paul tripped on his own shoelaces and fell into the portal. Don't ask how it works, but turns out time in Yuggoth goes about a hundred times as fast as it does here, so when we finally managed to conjure Paul back up that evening he looked like one o' them homeless guys you find raving on the street. Man, I laughed so hard I nearly--"
"Isaac, we really don't have time for this right now."


"Man, you can never have too much protective gear. Did I ever tell you about when Paul pawned off his holy symbols, on accounta his mom kickin' him out of the house? About five angry ghosts possessed him that very night. I thought it was just one ghost at first, but then I brought in this necromancer, and apparently it was his first time seein' ghosts possessin' ghosts possessin' ghosts. Makes you think, man. So we got this tub of water--"
"Isaac, could this story wait?"

Sunday, August 14, 2011




Today's topic: Team Cohesion in Left 4 Dead!

Now, for all y'all who don't know, L4D is a game where a team of four people kill zambies, and the four zambies try to kill them back. Now, this is a very, very team-oriented game-- if Side One can communicate well and Side Two can't, the former will roll over the latter like a steamroller over a twinkie. So team cohesion's pretty important. But how is it affected by external circumstances? THIS, friends, is the subject of tonight's BLOG POST.

If you know everyone on your team, cohesion's going to be pretty good. That is because, of course, you know your team will be free of the backbiting that goes on in other groups, and because you already have respect for each other's judgement (hopefully.)

Now... where this can go horribly wrong is if your team is losing-- and not just losing, but being crushed by the other team. This is where it can be advantageous to have one person on your team who your group doesn't know! Whereas in a team fully made up of personal friends there is no ready and appropriate outlet for your frustrations, one can simply boot the unknown quantity out of a three-friend-plus-one-stranger team, thereby preserving the egos of all involved. Everyone wins*! Observe the following genuine** conversation illustrating this:

Situation 1: Max, Blake, Jesse and I are on a team.

Me: OHHHH NOOOO, we're losing horrifically!
Blake: Man, we gotta start executing our ambushes all at once. We're getting slaughtered.
Me: Is that a jab at me? IS IT?
Max: I think my problem is to do with lag.
Blake: Well maybe I wouldn't have to jab at you if you went with the team!
Me: How dare you Blake, I will find you, I will hunt you down--

Situation Two: Blake, Max, me and an Unknown Person (UP) are on a team.

OHHHH NOOOO, we're losing horrifically!
Blake: Man, we gotta start executing our ambushes all at once. We're getting slaughtered.
Me: I think it's that new guy. He's terrible.
Max: Agreed.
Blake: Agreed.
(Unknown Person has been kicked from the game!)
(general rejoicing and merriment ensues)


*I should also note the possibility that I am a terrible person.
Genuine in the sense that nobody can prove it didn't happen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Weekend Debauchery!?

Okayokayokay, so, I haven't blogged in a few days, thereby reneging on my agreement with HTMC to match his blogging pace. But! I've got a good reason for it! Specifically that this weekend I was at Branden's beach house, the one and only place where I actually get drunk. 'Course, this plus the fact that we only go there about once every month or two means that I have the alcohol tolerance of a diseased chipmunk.

Not a bad thing!

Now, some fellas take pride in being able to hold their liquor. Hey, I can understand that a man has to prove his manliness somehow, and we can't all arm-wrestle bears like Jesse does each weekend. So one way of enjoying alcohol is, indeed, the pride of being able to consume large amounts.

Still, I find it convenient to be an uber-lightweight sometimes, particularly:

1) When the alcohol being served is in its purest (read: least drinkable) forms, thereby allowing me to get away with having as few shots as possible, and
2) When it's a Bring Your Own Booze event and I really only need to spend about seven bucks to get entirely drunk off of Mike's Hard Lemonade Light. Awwwww yeah. Also, don't judge me, girly drinks are fantastic. This is attested to by the fact that I have conversations like:

Me: Hey guys! Who's ready to begin drinking-game type festivities?! I know I am. Even brought my own drinks!
Branden: Ahhh, you've just got Mike's Hard Lemonade! That's not like a real drink! A real man drinks vodka spiked with tequila spiked with rum, and follows it with a chaser made of equal parts industrial ethanol and fireball gin. I am embarrassed-- nay, ashamed-- to sit at the same table as a man who plays King's Cup with such a drink as Mike's Hard Lemonade!
Me: I think you mean Mike's Hard Lemonade Light.
Branden: ....
Me: It means it doesn't have suga--

(Five minutes later)

Branden: Hey, mind if I have some of that?

Good times all around.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CSI: Uberwald

"Well, Jenkins, this is a pretty picture. Two corpses on the ground, one obviously a vampire, the other obviously drained by that same vampire."
"Just so, sir. But what killed the vampire?"
"Ah! A tricky question. You see, Jenkins, this is why they pay me the big bucks."
" you say, sir."
"It's clear to me that the dead human here was an alcoholic! You see the unshaven face, you smell the stench of cheap liquor on his clothes? I'd bet this man was just passed out in the alley, and the vampire decided to take advantage of the situation."
"And its death?"
"Elementary, my dear Jenkins. You see, vampires cannot abide alcohol. Their livers are nonfunctional, which is why they need the pure blood of a sober human. So when this he fed on this poor fellow, it went poorly for him."
"But sir, you cannot mean--"
"Yes, Jenkins. The vampire...."

"...died in vein."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Deleted scene from the Captain America movie

Captain America: Mister Stark, I find myself in need of a certain amount of technological assistance. You see, I'm going up against Nazis armed with laser cannons that can reduce groups of men to their constituent amino acids; turrets powered by some kind of ancient artifact; and tanks almost, but not quite, bigger than your mom. I need some help here, is what I'm saying.

Tony Stark Sr.: What'd you say about my mom?

Captain America: Let's stay focused here, Stark. How can you help me?

Tony Stark Sr.: Well, it took me several years to develop, but I have constructed for you a circular disc that, when angled properly by the user, can deflect projectile weapons and even melee attacks, thereby preserving you from harm. You can attach it to your arm or, in a pinch, hold it with one hand.

Captain America: Did... did you just re-invent the shield? Did you really take millions of dollars in government grants in order to give me the foremost in cutting-edge medieval technology?

Tony Stark Sr.: Please! They didn't have polymers in the middle ages.

Captain America: So.... it's a plastic shield, then.

Tony Stark Sr.: "Polymers" sounds more scientific. Plus! You can also, I dunno, throw it. Don't think they did that in the middle ages.

Captain America: So what did you use the rest of the money on, out of curiosity? This thing must've cost all of twenty bucks.

Tony Stark Sr.: Eh, going out clubbing. Scoring chicks. You know how it is.

Captain America: How... why... but clubbing doesn't cost several million dollars!

Tony Stark Sr.: Depends on if you're doing it right.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Where Are They Now? Part 2

Ceinlys, for the next several decades, continued seeking glorious death in battle, only to be defeated at every turn when legion upon legion of advancing Necrons crumbled before his might. Deeply frustrated as he was, when rewarded with a commemorative heavy bolter by the Deathwatch, he tore his clothes, gnashed his teeth, and fired his bolter in rage up at the sky (which, due to an earlier mishap with his medicines, he currently believed to be the emperor's literal home.) Thankfully, this was mistaken for religious zeal by his brethren, earning him the name of "Shinkicker the Holy." He continues to seek his death to this day.


Ceros continued making wagers with Taros regarding number of opponents killed. These wagers became more and more elaborate as time went on, involving specific styles of killing and trick shots, and eventually culminated in Ceros inventing an elaborate system of points whereby each space marine could quantify exactly how much better he was at killing than his counterpart. At the moment, Ceros and Taros each think the other owes him five hundred heavy bolter rounds. Inquisitor Silberthorn refuses to adjudicate.

Veer continued his work for Inquisitor Silberthorn in his capacity as a sniper. As the Inquisitor's trust in him and his abilities grew, Veer quickly advanced from assassin, to elite assassin, to diplomat, and then back to assassin when the Inquisitor realized that Veer's open and trusting nature made him perhaps the worst possible choice for any sort of diplomatic post. Veer kept the monocle, though. And the sash.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Deathwatch: Where Are They Now? Part 1

And so the day is saved! (WARNING: fluff heresy ahead)

Inquisitor Silberthorn went on to become Inquisitor Lord Silberthorn after the previous Inquisitor Lord was killed in an industrial accident involving several turbo-penetrator rounds impacting various parts of his body. Silberthorn then named several planets after himself, one upon which he later ordered an Exterminatus.

The left side of his face was burned off in a battle with a troop of Chaos Space Marines. However, with the assistance of extensive reconstructive surgery costing upwards of several million Thrones, his left eyebrow is making a full recovery.

Taros went on to fight in many wars, and also to replace several of his fleshy bits with shiny metallic bits. During the Sixth Tau Incursion he became famed throughout the sector for accidentally becoming warboss of a neutral ork tribe, thereby obtaining enough green-skinned meat shields to get his own men into close combat with few casualties.

Infern continues to drift through the warp, scheming revenge upon Veer and also maybe the others (but especially Veer.) Plus, he's channeling the Emperor as well as ever.

I mean the Warp.

Only a song remains to mark his passing:

"your heart was a swarm of bees
And they don't and they will never leave
I hear them buzzing there invisibly
And now it's just you and me."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A roller-coaster ride of vexation

DAY 1:

Me: "So, I hear you're working on Interesting Research!"
The Professor: "I am indeed! I actually just got here, and am hiring grad students right now."
Me: "Excellent! And I could start immediately?"
The Professor: "Just so! I'd like to meet again next week. Have sixty pages of analytical literature, it's on the house."
Me: "Excellent!"

DAY 5:

Me: "So, I've read the stuff, and I feel like I'd be a good fit for your group! What say you?"
The Professor: "Well, thing about that is.... I actually only have one additional spot in the group, so I have to make the hiring decision very carefully. Also I have to chat with the Grad Program Coordinator. I'll get back to you in a couple days with my answer."
Me: "Excellent! And you'll get back to me at that time?"
The Professor: "Just so!"

DAY 7:

Me: ....
The Professor: (absent)

DAY 9:

Me: "So how's that hiring decision coming along?"
The Professor: "mmmmmmmmmmMMMMMWorking on it. Don't worry, I'll get back to you tomorrow with my answer."
Me: "..."

DAY 10 (today!):

Me: (compulsively refresh email)
Email: "Nothing new to report!"
(Clock strikes 5:00 PM)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Deathwatch: A Choose Your Own Adventure: The Vision Quest: A True Story

A warped landscape surrounds our hero, the pastel-colored trees twisting in on themselves in a hideous mockery of the natural order. A great, spherical being, almost too bright to behold, floats before him. It has either eight or sixteen wings, precessing around themselves in a fashion casting doubt on which direction it faces. The space marine tenses, waiting for the thing to speak, or attack, or... well, something.




The luminous entity brightens further. "Hello, human-- I am your human lord, the God-Emperor of Mankind himself! I offer you power and blessings beyond your wildest imaginings, if you pledge yourself to me!"

"You are very clearly a daemon who wants to eat my brains. Or whatever it is you guys do."

"What? Of course not! I am the very model of your puny human emperor! Why, my very corpse is dessicating in Holy Terra herself! Also, you're thinking of zombies."

"My answer is still no. Go back to hell, I guess is the general thrust of my message here."

"Well... it's a fair cop, I guess. But it is funny you speak of thrusting, for Lord Slaanesh--"

"Gonna ride right past the part where you finish that sentence."

PAGE 111

The luminous entity brightens further. "Hello, mortal-- I am your lord, the God-Emperor of Mankind himself! I offer you power and blessings beyond your wildest imaginings, if you pledge yourself to me!"

"I dunno... if you're a demon, pledging myself to you would be pretty heretical."

"But consider! If I am the Emperor, NOT pledging yourself to me would be even MORE heretical!"

"Fair point."

"Plus, I have a great many unhol-- er, hallowed gifts which I can bestow on my unwitting vic-- ah, worshippers! Would I be able to do that if I WASN'T the emperor?"

"Well... no. But what exactly is the nature of these gifts, if I may ask?"


"That sounds... pretty unholy, actually."

"Look, I don't exactly have all day here. What would YOU choose as a gift?"

"Some more effective painkillers would be nice."

"Excellent! I shall then equip you with five syringes of a painkiller so powerful, so terrible in its glory, that I had to consume seventeen individual planets in order to make them! A narcotic so potent that to even comprehend its true purpose is to become hopelessly addicted, a willing slave to the doom of the universe, and servant to the Lord of Pain himself!"

"I'm pretty sure you meant the God-Emperor right there."

"Yes. Yes I did."

".... sold!"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A very hypocritical blog post

So in my perhaps UNWISE quest to write a substantive blog post every two days, I have run into the difficulty of not having anything in particular to say for today. I find that this dilemma can be solved by the following methods!

1) Strong, yet formulaic post builds (my CSI Puns series, for example)
2) Doing ACTUAL WORK and coming up with a REAL TOPIC of discussion (NOOOOO)
3) Linking to stuff!
4) Cannibalizing the work of my fellow bloggers by providing supporting commentary to their laborious... labors.
5) Meta! (DO NOT DO THIS)

I favor #1 when #2 proves fruitless, as it generates original content while making few demands on the ever-fickle Muse. In that, I find it's a bit like drunken college hookups: quick, easy, but with the potential to accidentally create something of lasting value out of a half-hour of awkward, yet occasionally enjoyable shenanigans. I'm not sure what contraceptives are in this metaphor.

Of course, I can do #4 and go all recursive with it a la Inception, a film so memetic that I can quote from it without actually having seen the movie. I like to think of this as a bit like #2, but I also kind of view meta-posts as being sort of like first-date discussions where the topic is the awkwardness of first-dating: okay, as far as it goes, but nothing arises from it. At the end of your comedy bit about the horrors of first-dating, you're still on that first date, and have to deal with this fact just as you had to earlier. It's a strategic dead-end, is what I'm saying. On the other hand, it does buy you some time with which to think of other good stuff to talk about, such as your research project on shooting monkeys with lasers.

In other news, I'm very tired! I shall speak to you all again in a couple days, when I should be working in my new Analytical Chemistry-oriented research group. Awwwww yeah. Incidentally, soliciting topics for future blog-o-posting right now!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Game Of Thrones-- TV/Book comparison, pt 1

Spoiler warning: I WOULD NOT ADVISE JULIA TO READ THIS UNTIL SHE GETS, LIKE, SEVERAL MORE CHAPTERS INTO THE BOOK. Also anybody else who doesn't want minor first-season/first-book spoilers for the series.

So I've now both watched and read A Game of Thrones, and I thought it might be neat to investigate how the transition from book to TV series was done. For the most part the lines were kept the same from the book to the screen, which makes any differences cropping up particularly illustrative. I'll be focusing on just a couple of the differences for now, but I'll likely be throwing in a few others later as I notice them.

Difference #1: A Lighter and Softer Stark Family

Catelyn and Ned Stark are much softer and gentler in the TV show than in the series. Catelyn, for example, clearly despises Jon Snow (Ned's bastard child), and this manifests itself in her really, really not wanting him around during times of stress. When Bran gets hurled out the window and Catelyn is sitting at his bedside, Jon comes to say a few words to him before he leaves Winterfell.

In the show:
Catelyn barely tolerates Jon's presence, glowering at him as he speaks to Bran, until finally she tells him "I need you to leave."

In the book:
Catelyn threatens to throw him out of the room, but doesn't actually follow through on her threat. When Jon finishes with Bran and begins to leave the room, Catelyn says "It should have been you (laying in the bed dying)". Definitely the harsher Catelyn, by any standard.

Reason: The show can't let us in the main character's heads like in the books, so they get less automatic sympathy from the audience-- the protagonists have to show that they deserve our sympathy. This means they can't be overly harsh, or the audience will just stop caring what happens to them.

Difference #2: Roz.

Roz. In the show, she's an extremely popular prostitute hired by several of the main characters and... well, she's not actually in the book. As far as I can tell, she serves three apparent purposes, two of them obvious and one of them (I believe) less-obvious.

'Nuff said.

Reason the Second: Interactive thought bubble.
The book series is told in third-person limited, meaning that we basically live inside the point-of-view character's head. That means we get to hear their thoughts as they're having them. Unfortunately, there's not really a non-awkward way to access the important thoughts of main characters on camera; since the perspective rotates between characters, it would feel incredibly awkward to use voiceovers for this purpose. This is doubly true when the book's narrator is performing exposition, rather than the characters themselves.

Roz The Prostitute is a rather elegant solution to this; without really intruding on the main plot, her own character can act as a sounding board for the other characters to, uh, "sound off" on. (I did not mean that to sound as dirty as it did.) For example, look at the scene between her and Theon Greyjoy. The discussion between Theon and she clarifies the complex relationship (a mix of "adopted son" and "hostage") between Theon and the Stark family-- a bit of exposition that would be difficult to do otherwise.

Reason the Third: Greek Chorus
She acts like a sort of greek chorus, putting the actions of the characters in perspective and more-or-less telling the audience how we should feel about them. Lemme use the Theon Greyjoy conversation again as an example. The conversation basically goes:

Roz: Heeeeeey Theon. How's being a hostage treating you?
Theon Greyjoy: I resent that! I'm a Greyjoy, you know, of the Most Noble And Ancient House of Greyjoy-- you've got to treat me with more respect!
Roz: LOL
Theon Greyjoy: No, but seriously, I'm not taking that from a prostitute. I'm a tremendously important individual, you see, worthy of--

This is an important function, since in the books it's very clear, from Theon's private thoughts, that he's a very whiny and self-important individual. His conversation with Roz puts this into greater focus, letting us observe this while Roz, the audience surrogate, belittles him. Hilarity ensues!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Whoo shipping!

Okayokayokay. So there's one thing that bugs me about the new HP movie. And that would be this:

Specifically, why would JK Rowling use a shallow love interest when there's an actually-developed character, like, right there:

These two characters I will subject to the well-known test of "describing her personality if she had never met the love interest." I guess this might not be quite fair-- of course Luna Lovegood would pass the test, because she doesn't actually end up as a love interest, which means without any sort of concrete personality she would just be "extra #14" and probably get eaten by a griffin during the climax of the film.

At any rate, Luna Lovegood is:

  • Probably insane
  • Believes in all manner of bizarre conspiracy theories
  • Maybe psychic (or possibly just got lucky a couple times with her bizarre conspiracy theories)
  • Basically, a female, magical Dale Gribble.
Just imagine this in a dress and witch's hat, and you're basically there.

Ginny Weasley, without Harry, is:
  • Good at magic
  • Ginger?
  • ...
  • Good at magic
My main point being that the movies (and possibly books) would be much improved by merging Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley into a single character, named Luna Lovegood. Of course, there are other possibilities for non-shallow alternative love interests. In ascending order of interest, they are as follows:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

CSI: Flotilla

"Commander Shepard! Commander Shepard!"

"Dammit, Jenkins, this'd better be important. Legion's beating the pants off me in Call of Honor."

"Well, sir, the ship Ludkrig just got hit by a missile volley. Blew it to smithereens."

"What?! From what source?"

"The missiles appear to have been shot from the Ludkrig itself. I don't know why."

"Intriguing. Who's flying this ship? I have a hunch."

"Let's see... that'd be Johann Gunneson, sir. He performs well piloting transport ships, but it's been a long time since we've had him flying anything with armaments."

"Hmm. Well, seems to me ol' Johann forgot all he knew about computer-guided missiles. But I guess..."

" all came back to him eventually."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Computational Chemistry!?

Ah! I very nearly reneged on my promise of another post today. And every two days thereafter. Hrrrrrm. Perhaps I was being overly hasty in making that declaration... or perhaps, just hasty enough?

But no matter. The important thing is, I'm searching for a new research group-- in computational modeling of chemical reactions, no less! This is actually quite a bit more viable than I suspected at first, and I've got an invitation now to go to group meetings for one of the groups I'm interested in. This is a very good thing, because if you're being invited to group meetings this means there's actually a chance you'll be joining the group.

Downsides of computational chem:
  • Requires taking a couple more courses in quantum mechanics next year.
  • It doesn't use any of my painstakingly acquired Organic Chemistry skills.
  • Funding? I dunno.
Upsides of computational chem:
  • I get to program! Wheee!
  • It doesn't use any of my painstakingly acquired Organic Chemistry skills!
  • Involves ingratiating myself with our silicon soon-to-be overlords; this will be useful when THE SINGULARITY arrives, and my programming experience helps me to avoid the attentions of the Flesh Recyclers.
  • Apparently computational chemistry types are all hardcore/raging nerds, whereas other chemistry fields are populated primarily by boring, garden-variety-type nerds.
Although I gotta say, the interview I had with one of the professors today was a bit awkward. He spent quite some time explaining the intricacies of various types of quantum mechanical calculations to me, and I suspect he didn't realize that-- being as I am a former synthetic chemist whose main responsibilities were pouring things into other things-- his discussions of the pros and cons of different electron modeling systems went over about as well as my attempts to teach my dog Dixie how to play chess.

No matter how many times I tell her, she always forgets to castle.

There's often a point in these interviews where I realize I'm in way over my head, but realize also that this has been true long enough that any questions I could ask would instantly reveal that I had only understood about 20-30% of the discussion. Typically my best case in these situations is to smile, nod, and bide my time until I can move the discussion onto safer ground. It's an acquired skill, much like curling your tongue or wrestling honey badgers.

The important thing is, don't wrestle honey badgers.