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Monday, September 8th, 2008
11:24 pm - Quote of the Indefinite Time Period
Viga: Oh man, I'm farting up a storm. So unladylike.
Me: That's okay, I'm oozing pus and blood.

Aren't we just the cutest couple?

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Sunday, September 7th, 2008
10:17 pm - So... Palin.
UPDATE (via mullenkamp): According to ABC,
Rick Davis, campaign manager for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., just told Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace that McCain running mate Gov. Sarah Palin won't subject herself to any tough questions from reporters "until the point in time when she'll be treated with respect and deference."
Deference? DEFERENCE? Who the hell does she think she is? This is America! "Deference" is for kings. Elected leaders get hammered by questions both fair and unfair. As mullenkamp said, why should Palin get something no other VP or presidential candidate has ever gotten? And I mean ever -- you should see some of the stories newspapers ran about Jefferson when he ran.

Last week's Palin post continues below...

I've been waiting a few days on the Palin thing to see what we find out about her.

It is not a pretty picture.

Speaking of pretty, I've seen several comments on her appearance. I don't get it. I thought the people who think Obama is good-looking were weird (seriously, dude, Ross Perot wants his ears back), but Palin? Really? With that giant plastic smile surrounded by saggy plastic face and coated in way too much makeup? I suppose she's slightly ahead of Ann Coulter on the supposedly-good-looking-Republicans front, but when you compare her to Elizabeth Kucinich or (since Mrs. Kucinich is more than ten years Palin's junior) Ariana Huffington? Seriously, Republicans, if these half-melted, overly made-up Barbie dolls are what pass for good-looking in your neck of the woods, no wonder you hate sex so much!

Still, what matters is what's inside, not outside. And what's inside Palin is hate, hypocrisy, and abuse of power.

First of all, let's talk about her religion. A candidate's religion is usually not fair game, but when it preaches specific views on political questions, it makes itself fair game. For example, it was perfectly fair to question Edwards on the discrepancy between his church's teachings on abortion and his stated political stance (a question which he answered admirably during the YouTube primary debates, by the by).

Palin has belonged to three churches in her life. All three are dominionist churches with strong ties to the Assemblies of God, a metachurch organization identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. All three churches preach Kingdom Now theology (also known as Joel's Army) which teaches that believers have the right and obligation to physically impose Christian "dominion" on non-believers during "the end times". All three churches also preach that the end times are now. In short, all three churches she has belonged to in her life preach against the separation of church and state and in favor of the establishment of a totalitarian theocracy.

Palin is in favor of abstinence-only sex education despite overwhelming statistical evidence that it is less effective at reducing teen pregnancy and STD rates than comprehensive sex-ed. She is in favor of teaching creationism -- not just the ID Trojan horse, but actual, young Earth, biblically literal creationism -- in science classes. She attempted to ban books from the Wasilla Public Library when she was mayor (which, in case you're wondering, was only six years ago), and tried to fire the librarian when she balked.

Palin belongs to a supposedly feminist organization, the Feminists for Life, that opposes abortion in all cases, including rape, incest, and when the mother's life is endangered. They also teach that the ideal occupation for a woman (ANY woman) is as a stay-at-home wife and mother. In short, they're as anti-feminist as it comes. And this is the woman who's talking about "breaking the glass ceiling"? Talk about hypocrisy.

She is, of course, also against gay marriage and civil unions, and called the war in Iraq "God's work".

So there you have the new Republican wunderkind: a bog-standard hypocritical, authoritarian right-wing bigot, distinguishable from the likes of Dobson only by her age and possession of boobs. In every way that matters, she is nothing more than yet another Christofascist posing as a conservative.</lj>

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10:09 pm - Has anybody heard from cnorgard in the last week?
dejapes spoke to him over a week ago, and he said he would "almost definitely" drive down that Saturday (eight days ago now). He didn't show up, but we didn't worry at first, because it was the third time in a row he said he was coming down and never showed without telling us he wasn't coming.

Except that we haven't heard from him since. We've both tried calling with no reply (I've left two messages), and I've e-mailed him twice. Earlier today I tried the number I had for his parents; it had been disconnected. I looked online and found a phone number connected to his address under his dad's first initial and last name; that rang and rang with no answer, not even a machine. I let it ring until I was automatically cut off.

So, anybody heard from him more recently than August 30? We're starting to worry.

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Thursday, August 28th, 2008
6:40 pm - Assorted Updates
The CNN article I linked? Some time in the last 24 hours they cut the quote where he said the Republicans would never nominate a black man. Yeah, that's some liberal bias you've got there, guys.

I have managed to track down one of the cofounders of the company that made Ramagon. He says that they are nearly sold out of the remaining stock, which is now in his closet. He says they would happily turn the molds and drawings over to anyone who wanted to build Ramagon again, but estimates it would cost around $15 million to get the project off the ground as a web business, closer to $50 million if you wanted to sell it through toy stores. He's snail-mailing me an info packet.

I have started drafting a Wikipedia article on it. I fully expect its notability to be challenged inside of an hour of my posting it, which is why I'm not going to post it until it's done.

Still looking through 4e. Amazingly, they've managed to take their fantastically moronic alignment system and make it even worse. Why is chaotic evil eviller than evil and lawful good better than good? I mean, seriously, who's the automatic go-to name for Ultimate Evil? Hitler. Lawful evil if ever there was one. And who's the only true role model the English-speaking world has? The Doctor, of course. Chaotic good through and through.

Lawful evil is always worse than regular evil, because lawful evil is organized, institutionalized, bureaucratized, and banal. Chaotic good is always better than regular good, because it doesn't let principles get in the way of doing what's right. What is wrong with the WotC guys? They've got this bizarre authoritarian streak sometimes.

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12:42 pm - Holy fnerking schnit
This will mean nothing to anyone, because no one but me knows who *both* these characters are. Well, pristis might be able to guess.

Anyway.

damurxac has given me an amazing epiphany by asking about the forum game I dropped out of. To wit:

Twill.

Is Lir's.

Teacher.

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1:02 am - I'm glad I saw this at home, because posting it from work would be a federal crime...
Look, I try to give the Republicans and their supporters as much benefit of the doubt as I can. There are people... well, one person... anyway, there's a person I respect who usually votes Republican most of the time, and another who occasionally does. I think that Teddy Roosevelt was actually one of the better Presidents of the 20th Century, foreign policy weakness notwithstanding. I think Reagan was a monster, but it's hard to say whether the damage he actually did is worse than the damage Kennedy almost did -- the Cuban Missile Crisis was both entirely avoidable and came within a hair of turning into the deadliest single day in human history (in raw numbers, anyway; as a percentage, the eruption of Thera, among others, may have been deadlier).

And it's not that the Democrats are flawless, not by a longshot. In fact, they're pretty pathetic. Their failure to impeach Bush and hand him and his cronies over to an international war crimes tribunal disgusts me. Actually, what I really want to see, just for the irony, is Bush and his cronies tried for terrorism under the Patriot Act, followed immediately after conviction with its repeal.

Hmm... 'The definition also encompasses activities that are "dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State" and are intended to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population," "influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion," or are undertaken "to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping" while in the jurisdiction of the United States.'

Lessee... Committing criminal fraud to start a war? That's a criminal activity dangerous to human life. And involves coercing the civilian population of the Unites States -- deception is a form of coercion. Not to mention the threat of being extraordinarily rendered, though it's arguable whether that's part of the same criminal act.

Seriously, though, there needs to be a law which punishes government officials who abuse their authority in a way that undermines the Constitution, with punishment greater the greater the abuse AND the higher up the official. Then again, I'm a firm believer in what you might call the inverse Hammurabi code, in which individuals of higher social class or greater authority are punished more severely for the same crimes, because they had more alternatives. (Not to mention that I consider authority and social class to both be innately evil, but I consider that to be an element of morality that properly lies outside the scope of law, which is more about social engineering than individual behavior.)

That's beside the point, though. The main point I want to make is this: I'm done. No more benefit of the doubt from me. I am fond of saying, "Opposing evil does not make one good." This is true. Look at the Democrats for an example. Hell, look at El Presidente: There's no doubt in my mind that terrorism is evil, that Hussein's actions against his own people were evil, or that George W. Bush and the majority of his administration are evil, despite that each of these opposes (or in the case of Hussein, opposed) the other two.

But the converse is not true. Failing to oppose a clear evil is, in itself, evil. Actively supporting evil is evil, period, even if you're not the one firing the bullets or drafting the signing statements.

And let there be no doubt: the Republicans are evil. Outright, pure, mustache-twirling, cartoon evil. It's absurd, I agree. Hard to believe that such people can exist in reality. But that's exactly how they've gotten this far: by exploiting the assumption that they can't really be as evil as they seem, there must be some misunderstanding. Well, that and exploiting the psychological need some people have to be led.

But the last straw was last night, when a Republican campaign consultant told CNN, without a trace of shame or even recognition that there might be reason to be ashamed, that the Republican party would never consider a black candidate for President.

Bigotry, of which racism is one (relatively) recently developed type*, is one of the purest forms of evil. There are individual acts that are more evil, but few things are more pointlessly destructive. Bigotry is counterfactual, hurts everyone involved including the bigot (though obviously it hurts the target of the racism far more), and produces absolutely no benefit whatsoever for anyone.

To have a major Republican campaigner freely say, "Yeah, we're racists," is unbelievably chilling. I mean, it's not a surprise. Republican politicians are rarely openly racist, but the most widespread Republican stances on immigration policy, war, terrorism, and English as a national language are racist in origin and intention for at least some Republicans, as the racist rhetoric around them shows. Their stances on those issues also show elements of linguistic, cultural, and religious bigotry. Not to mention the party's strong history of support for sexist and homophobic positions.

But let's just run down the line of Republican evil, shall we?

1) They want you to die so companies can profit.

2) They have a history of lying and obfuscation to invent controversies where none exist. See here, here, and here.

3) They support institutionalized bigotry against homosexual and related groups, women, minorities (especially blacks, Hispanics, and people of Middle Eastern and Central Asian descent)**, and non-Christians. (So do many Democrats, but not anywhere near as many or to such an extreme.)

4) They support corporate welfare and oppose the social safety net for individuals -- in short, comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.

5) They oppose nationalized medicine, which demonstrably provides more coverage to more people at a lower cost per person (in, among other places, Britain, Germany, Japan, and Canada).

6) They support spying on American citizens, jailing people for indefinite periods without warrant, preventing defendants and their attorneys from seeing the evidence against them, undermining the independent judiciary, expanding the power of the executive, using military resources for police and judicial functions, extensively employing mercenaries, reducing government accountability, and in general creating a police state.

7) Hypocrisy, the most glaring example of which being that they support increasing the influence of Christianity on politics when it gives an excuse to prevent people from being happy, but are strangely silent about the fact that the New Testament explicitly condemns wealth and the wealthy and specifically bars the mingling of church and state.

8) They support maintaining the highest incarceration rate in the world (5% of the population and 25% of the imprisoned -- and we call this a free country?), most of whom are not in jail for violent crimes or theft, but as a consequence of the disastrous "war on drugs".

9) They favor abandoning rather than reforming the public school system.

10) They favor economic and educational policies that reinforce societal stratification.

There's no reason it has to be this way. Liberalism is not good and conservatism evil; life is more complex than that. It is perfectly possible to have both a centrist party and a conservative party (much as I'd like one, there is no major American liberal party, there hasn't been one since the Progressive Party collapsed, and there is unlikely to be one anytime soon) which have the best interests of the nation, its people, and the world in mind, study history, the sciences, and the world around them to determine what policies are workable, and yet still disagree on a whole heck of a lot.

But voting for the current version of the Republican party is voting for immense evil. If you really oppose the Democrats' policies that strongly, fine, vote for a third party or not at all. But not for the Republicans. If you find you agree with them and support their goals? Congratulations, you're a minion. I strongly recommend re-evaluating your life, your morals, and your beliefs, but until then, I shall regard you with pity and continue to oppose your leaders.

*Historical ignorance is so much fun! The notion that humanity is separable into distinct groups on biological lines really only appears in the Middle Ages and didn't strongly catch on until the 17th century. Prior to that in Europe, and in most other cultures right up until the last 150 years, bigotry was primarily along familial (such as India's caste system), cultural/linguistic (ancient Greece's "barbarians", which just meant "people who don't speak Greek"), and economic (India's caste system again, Rome's patricians and plebians) lines. The reason was simple: dividing people up on appearance just doesn't make sense when most people spend their entire lives within a hundred miles of their birthplace, and therefore never see anyone who looks significantly different.

There were exceptions, of course. Pretty much anywhere you had significantly different-looking ethnic groups living near each other, particularly if one had power and the other didn't, you got something like modern racism. In some periods of ancient Egyptian history, for example, the light-skinned ruling class referred to the darker-skinned people in and near Egypt as "the demon race of Ish". The Japanese have a centuries-long history of systematically marginalizing and killing the densely bearded, crinkly-haired Ainu (also commonly called Utari, Ezo, or Emishi).

However, racism in the modern sense (based on skin color and tied roughly to continent of origin) can really be traced to the systematizing of biology in the 18th century. Linnaeus, for example, who is known for inventing the system of binomial nomenclature used (in modified form) by biologists to this day, identified four subspecies of humanity. He even ranked them from "superior" to "inferior," as: Homo sapiens europaeus (whites), Homo sapiens asiaticus (asians), Homo sapiens americanus (Native Americans), and Homo sapiens afer (blacks). (Hispanics did not yet exist at the time as a distinct ethnicity, and he either overlooked Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Polynesian, and Australian Aboriginal populations or considered them members of the groups he established.)

**The final straw in losing my respect for one Republican of my acquaintance was their incredibly bigoted attitude toward Muslims and Arabs, which they regard as being interchangeable terms. The point, however, at which I realized that this person was actually insane was when they argued that the draconian immigration policies they were describing were justified because, I kid you not, "Border patrols won't be able to tell Hispanics and Muslims [by which she presumably meant Arabs] apart."

How do you answer that kind of complete nutjobbery? I mean, even ignoring the spectacular racism of the suggestion that Arabs are more likely to commit terrorist acts on American soil (the likeliest group is, of course, American-born Caucasian males, such as Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, and Timothy McVeigh. Note also that, in the last 30 years or so, terrorist acts in the U.S. have been overwhelmingly more likely to be committed by social conservatives such as McVeigh, Kaczynski (arguably), Rudolph, and the Sept. 11 hijackers. I'm just sayin'.)

Anyway, even assuming that the racial profiling was justified, how on Earth can somebody actually divorce themselves from reality enough to say that it would be hard for a trained agent of whatever-the-INS-is-called-this-week to tell whether they're talking to a Nicaraguan or a Pakistani? And if it *is* that hard to tell, doesn't that kind of undermine the whole idea that there are racial features you can use to identify who's more likely to be a terrorist?

Then again, this person also believes that Asians can't drive and Obama is Muslim, so clearly they're not members of the reality-based community.

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Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
11:24 pm - Cue the roleplayers of the world to attack me in 3... 2... 1...
I downloaded D&D 4e, flipped through the PHB and MM, and very, very little of the DMG.

I like it.

It's basically a very solid system of combat resolution, with some trap and opposed-check rules tossed in, and nothing else.

Which, as far as I'm concerned, is exactly what's needed, covering the weaknesses of freeform RP while its strengths untouched.

I really, really want to combine this with the use of Lego to create 3d battlefields.

A lot.

I also really, really want to play an Eladrin Rogue. With a rapier proficiency, obviously.

Why do I love the notion of teleporting fencers so much? I don't know. I just do. It's totally what I'd be if I were a superhero.

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2:33 am
"Let me get this straight. You plan to topple a civilization..."

"Mm-hmm?"

"...that has been around longer than the language you speak..."

"Yes!"

"...has more soldiers than the known population of your entire species..."

"Yes..."

"...and is led by a being so old he's spent more time saying the word 'the' than your hometown has existed."

"Yeah..."

"And you believe you will be able to do this by using a sharp bit of metal. Which they have. Under heavy guard. In another dimension."

"A magical sharp bit of metal."

"Oh, well in that case, then."

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12:28 am - What the hell? Since when do I want stuff? Dangerous business, wanting stuff...
So, I have two related questions:

1) Why do I regularly have to reboot my router? This has happened with every router I have ever owned, on every ISP, so it appears to be either something endemic to home networks, or something I personally am doing wrong. The former seems more likely, as the last two routers were set up by <lj user="dejapes"> and the cable guy.

2) I know I have to reboot my router when every webpage I attempt to load produces an error (I usually use the Google page to check). Weirdly, whatever it is that causes this does *not* affect the p2p connections formed by BitComet. Why?

Anyway, that aside, I had a brilliant idea: use Lego instead of miniatures for D&D campaigns! Sure, they only have pre-made figures for humanoids, but c'mon! What six-year-old didn't make 5-headed dragon-buffaloes out of their Legos?*

I have compiled a list of things I would need, and yeah, it's mostly doable. The main obstacle, rather surprisingly, turns out to be treasure chests. With the discontinuation of Lego Pirates, those are *really* hard to come by... until I checked eBay. You can get a metric fuckload (which is 3.4 Imperial fuckloads, or 10 metric buttloads) of them for less than $10. Of course, it's eBay, so it's like $850,000.19 for shipping.

Wizards are a pain, too, but also available on eBay, it seems.

Alas, checking eBay is always a bad idea... I found Ramagon. The original Big Box of Random Parts, like I had when I was a kid. Most of you have probably never heard of it -- it's undeniably obscure. Basically, it's this. A bunch of plastic rods that plug into these polyhedral (26-hedra, uniform but irregular) balls, and faceplates that snap into triangular or square groupings of rods. Three important details make Ramagon insanely awesome:

1) It is ridiculously easy to set up one of the ball joints to be capable of rotating.
2) There were these little yellow clips that you could use to connect ball joints directly, allowing them to rotate at angles to each other.
3) Some of the faceplates had Lego bumps.

I am but a man. Prick me, do I not bleed? Tickle me, do I not laugh? Present me with the original 150-piece Ramagon set** for under $30 including shipping from a high-rated seller with lots of sales, do I not click Buy Now?

This, however, is but a distraction from the primary goal: Lego D&D. Launching the campaign, as near as I can tell, requires a bag of parts I assembled and some baseplates, total of $75. Ouch. But if I wanted to do it justice? I'd need this.

This will never happen: I am much, much to cheap to ever consider buying all that stuff. Well... maybe in installments, slowly. But that requires dedicating myself to a campaign, which requires a stable of players. I've currently, well, not got any. Maybe, since I'm contractually required to go to AUSA (the girlfriend is on panels) I'll recruit some at cnorgard's BESM campaign. You're still doing that, right, C?

Hell, maybe somebody'll join that has Legos they're willing to donate to the cause.

Anyway... this is me pondering.

*Technically, me, but I grew incredibly adept at making elaborate and aggressive spaceship designs out of the half-dozen minikits and the random-bucket-o'-parts I had.

**The one I used to make the big spacedock for the spaceships, with the multiple independently rotating docking platforms and the one retractable platform on top.

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Monday, August 25th, 2008
6:16 am - Can somebody check my logic?
It's been years since I've done anything programmy. This isn't meant to be in any particular programming language. Just assume "int xxxx(int A, int B)" defines a function xxxx that takes two integers and returns one.

Would the following "program" determine the Pythagorean triplet {A,B,C} (i.e., a trio of natural numbers that could satisfy the Pythagorean theorem) such that A+B+C=1000?

{
A == 1
B == 1
display A
display B
display Pythag(A,B)
}

int Pythag(int A, int B) {
C == 1000 – A – B
if (sqrt(A^2+B^2)=C^2) {
return C
else {
B++
if (1000 – A – B < 1) {
A++
B == 1
}
Return Pythag(A,B)
}
}
}

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Friday, August 22nd, 2008
7:28 pm - Quickie Reviews
Slayers Revolution Eps 1-6: Okay, but not great. It doesn't help that I hear the name "Duclis" and know exactly what's going to happen to him, or "Zuuma" and know exactly what's going to happen to everyone else. There just doesn't seem to be any momentum; they kind of drift from standalone episode to standalone episode. There is, obviously, an underlying story arc here, but it's so completely boring. I really hope there's something more interesting than Potoka's little kingdom coming up. All that's really sustaining me is the hope that Dynast Grauscherra, Luke, or both will somehow get involved in this. Quality, ignoring disappointment factor: B. Disappointment Factor: Knock off a letter grade and a half for a C-. Poor show, people. We know you can do better than this!

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai Eps 1-12: Meh. Seeing the mystery unfold at long last is nice, but what made the first season great was seeing new and interesting ways for a bunch of stock moe characters to brutally slaughter each other while creepiness steadily mounted. Now that they're not slaughtering each other anywhere near as much, and the answers are starting to outnumber the questions (effectively murdering the creepiness), it's just a bunch of stock moe characters. Quality, ignoring disappointment factor: C. Disappointment Factor: Half a letter grade for another C-.

Princess Tutu Eps 1-2: Utena has now been surpassed as the shoujoiest shoujo ever shoujoed. Other than that, I'm withholding judgment for now. I hate the character designs, but it's already got enough cute little postmodern twists to hold me, despite the incredible twee-ness of the actual plot and the lack of any remotely interesting characters. Really great music, though. Well, not the ending or opening theme so much, but everything else was great. Yay for Tchaikovsky being in the public domain! (At this point, I would like to say that I am very impressed that Firefox's spellcheck recognizes both "twee" and "Tchaikovsky". I am distressed to note, however, that it fails to recognize "spellcheck".)

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7:33 am - Weird TV Dreams
Had a couple of weird TV-related dreams last night.

In the first, I was watching Slayers. Attempting to recreate a magical experiment that went horribly awry, the group managed to somehow infuse Lina with a Dragon Slave, giving her a red aura and sending her on a berserk destructive rampage. For some reason, said rampage was in a giant lava-powered steampunk robot-golem spider thing. The thing went smashing its way through the city with Lina throwing fireballs from its back, while the rest of the group tried to stop. Eventually Gourry convinced Lina that he was trying to help her, and managed to trick her into filling the cockpit with lava, forcing her to jump off. Amelia and Zelgadis then had a brief discussion of which ice spells to use to freeze her for a decent period of time without killing her. Then I woke up, said to myself "Worst. Slayers episode. Ever." and went back to sleep...

...in time to have the second bizarre dream. In this one, a bunch of my friends were gathering at someone's house (I think it belonged to the dream's weirdest character, a hybrid of benabik and Aaron Windecker from middle school). The only friends of mine who were *consistently* present were dejapes and cnorgard, but others sort of appeared and disappeared throughout the dream, the way people sometimes do in dreams. Anyway, at some point in this dream we watched part of a Star Trek episode, which was apparently a crossover between the original series and Next Gen. I remember it involved both time travel and multiple parallel universes, something to do with reality decaying faster if they traveled too fast, and Data freezing up if they traveled too slow. Also, evil alternate-universe Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had gotten on board the Enterprise and were scheming to take it over. But Chekov outwitted them and stopped them with a scheme that involved hundreds of levitating phasers. Also, the whole thing somehow hinged on incredibly complicated political maneuvering and military posturing around this gigantic space station.

After watching, my friends and I all went to bed, and I had a dream-within-a-dream in which the stuff about the space station was recreated in board game form. Spock was playing against a fluctuating group of my friends, and I was watching. He was trying to impart some kind of moral lesson through his play style, something about freedom, and I almost grasped it, but my friends never noticed he was trying to teach them anything. After we woke up I told my friends about the dream. Then my brother showed up to deliver the Aaron-benabik hybrid's girlfriend. Apparently he decided making this delivery gave him the right to be exceedingly obnoxious, which he was to me for the rest of the dream.

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Wednesday, August 20th, 2008
10:07 pm - Reading Kant, Day 0
Tonight I am reading the translator's introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason. Once I start the actual Kant, I intend to keep a running journal of the thoughts it inspires. I imagine I'm going to be reading it sporadically, and therefore will likely need the journal to track where I am. And I figure, as long as I'm keeping it, why not share it? Some of my correspondents have expressed a desire (bizarre as it may be) to follow my wandom ronderings through the philosophical realm.

In other news, I rewatched the first season of Higurashi no Naku koro ni, and started the second. I'm on episode 8, I think? The second season isn't as good as the first, in my opinion. Not enough mindwarp, not enough suspense, not enough paranoia. Things are just going too well. The writers seem to be unaware of one of the cardinal rules of writing: happy times are boring times.

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Friday, August 15th, 2008
8:23 pm - *sobs* I'm going to have to violate one of the most fundamental rules of my universe...
And work tomorrow. Saturday.

I just can't focus at all. I haven't gotten anything done in hours, and the Project of Doom is due... well, technically today, but that really means "Before Monday."

*weeps*

I just have too much philosophy running around in my brain, trying to get out, to write about Plan Asset Audit Plans.

Yes, part of the Project of Doom deals with creating and maintaining Plan Asset Audit Plans. I proposed calling them Plan Asset Audit Plans for the Auditing of Plan Assets by Auditors of Plans, but everybody thought I was joking.

*headdesk*

Also, I figured out why I haven't been writing. I'm afraid to. More on this in a later post.

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Wednesday, August 13th, 2008
1:18 am - Otakon Report, Part the First: The Phenomenology of Shinji Ikari
Easily the most interesting panel I attended was "The Phenomenology of Shinji Ikari," hosted by a triad of yaoi fangirls with philosophy degrees.

Their yaoi fandom had no real impact on the panel, I just note it because it amuses me. Only at a con, right?

Anyway, the discussion of NGE was virtually nil, which is good, because at this point I am quite satisfied with my understanding of NGE and frankly starting to get a little bored of it. Mostly they talked about Full Metal Alchemist, Utena, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, the Hegelian model of history, and Kant's Knight of Faith.

They pretty much summed up for me that anime, like literature in general, is chock-full of philosophy I disagree with*, but it did at least finally compel me to pick up a copy of The Critique of Pure Reason. I haven't actually cracked it yet, but I bought it.

Anyway, probably the most interesting thing they brought up was also, as far as I can recall, the only testable idea in the whole panel, namely the idea of a system of color symbology in Utena. I intend to test this; basically, if I can find a threshold of significance above which more than 95% of color usage corresponds to the system they proposed (with a minimum threshold that any occurrence of corner-roses and the hair color of any duelist are significant), I will consider the theory established. Of course, I intend to test this by viewing the anime again. The correspondences they claim are laid out below:

Green (Saionji) is memory and the past.
Blue (Miki) is idealism.
Yellow (Nanami) is the Princess.
Orange (Juri) is the miraculous.
Red (Touga) is power and control.
White is the Prince.
Black/Purple is corruption.
Pink is Utena herself.

They posited that each of these colors represents something Utena needs to become the Prince, with White the ultimate goal. Red, in this view, is the closest to the Prince, which is why Utena is pink (halfway between the incomplete Touga and the full Prince) and why Touga, of all the student council, is closest to Akio.

It's a cute theory, and I'd like for it to be true, but I must test it.

Otherwise, it was a pretty cool panel, and I ended up chatting with the panelers (what do you call people who run a panel?) and a couple of other attendees for several hours. I recall a particularly heated debate that arose from a mention of Gnosticism -- the leader of the panel dismissed it as a heresy, and I countered that there was no particular reason, from an unbiased perspective, to prefer the Council of Nicea's consensus over any other interpretation of Christianity before or since. I forget how exactly we got into that.

In the course of that debate she pulled out a particularly silly "proof" of God: that God would necessarily be a being so great that disbelief in it would be impossible, and that therefore if one does not believe in God one is failing to envision the concept properly.

To take this view apart: first, the initial claim, that God would necessarily be so great that belief in it would be impossible, has no basis. Even assuming we are talking about the philosophical God (as opposed to a deity of any particular religion), the sum of all superlatives, there is still no reason to assume that disbelief in it would be impossible. Unless one begs the question by assuming a valuation system in which compelling belief is better than not compelling belief, I see no particular reason to think that encountering an infinitely [insert everything "good" here] being would necessarily cause one to believe it was real. On encountering a being which appeared to be infinitely good, powerful, knowledgeable, etc., the response of most people would be to test its limits in order to confirm it was as it appeared -- in other words, to doubt it.

Second, conception is not the same as belief. Conceiving of a being which causes incredible thirst to any in its vicinity does not actually cause me to feel thirsty. Almost certainly, on some level, some small part of myself believes I am thirsty, but my overall gestalt is of non-thirst.

Third, belief is not proof. Even if merely conceiving of the above being were sufficient to cause me to believe in it, that in itself is not proof that it exists. Most people believe at least some untrue statements, and we know some untrue statements are quite compelling (for example, dehumanizing statements about other tribes).

Even convincing me that I should believe something is not equivalent to convincing me that it is true. For example, I have been persuaded that believing in agency is a good idea, even though there is no actual evidence of a qualitative difference between the stimulus-response of a simple cell and the complex cogitation of a human. Agency is actually an excellent example, since there is a case to be made that disbelieving in agency is impossible for a human being (e.g., that regardless of philosophical stance humans will always behave as if they and at least some entities around them are possessed of agency), yet there is, as I said, no evidence that "agency" is anything other than the complex concatenation of an enormous number of utterly non-mystical chemical reactions.

*This is utterly unsurprising. Reality is interesting in its details, but quite uninteresting philosophically. All the interesting philosophical questions arise from fictitious creations, like free will, the self, morality, and so on. In other words, to be philosophically interesting, an idea must be untrue (either false or lacking in truth value).

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Sunday, August 10th, 2008
8:59 pm
Home.

Exhausted and in pain.

Otakon was awesome. Best time I've ever had there.

Points to remember to elaborate on later:

Anime ambush RPGs

The phenomenology of Shinji Ikari

Color symbology in Utena

The Amazing Three as a possible origin of furries

The Last Unicorn with live running commentary by Peter S. Beagle

Slayers bait-and-switch

Failtastic public transit

Peter Fernandez

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Thursday, August 7th, 2008
5:01 pm - Well, I'm off to Otakon in a couple of hours...
If anyone reading this is going to be there, I'm the short fat white guy with a goatee holding hands with the tall, heavy black chick with purple hair. One day of the con she's going to be dressed as a yomomba or however it's spelled. You know, the girls in Japan that put on blackface and white eyeliner and dress like Delirium in Sandman does when she's dressing up?

Today I had a revelation: Some people are actually, genuinely dumb.

I have now met them, in the form of certain... individuals, shall we say?involved with the Project of Doom.

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Thursday, July 31st, 2008
12:51 pm - Blarg this project is murdering me!
I was at work until 9:30 last night.

I came in at 7:30 this morning.

I'm in a giant doom meeting of doomilicious doominess from 8:30 - 4:30 (I'm on lunch break now) -- 16 attendees, many of them opinionated or prone to fiddling.

Then another meeting of just the two of us actually working on the project. (I keep telling myself that every extra hour worked between now and Otakon is one fewer hour of leave I have to take.)

The draft of the procedure is currently 56 pages long with an additional 32 pages of revised and new supplementary documents, plus a whole bunch of supplementary documents that aren't revised or new.

Rosemary and I have been working on it all day, every day for the last two weeks. It must be final and ready to go by the fifteenth... and Rosemary's taking next week off.

I've already taken to quaffing Gaviscon straight from the bottle.

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Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
12:28 pm - The slow rebuilding begins...
Cable has been fixed and computer is now functional, though I still need to do a LOT of work rebuilding it. All I've really done so far is switched control of the wireless adaptor away from Intel's stupid program and back to the OS, purged McAfee Antivirus with a vengeance, installed ZoneAlarm, scanned for viruses and spyware (2 spyware gained in the time it took to download and install ZoneAlarm), and installed and configured Thunderbird. I still need to install Firefox, iTunes, Trillian, and BitComet.

They did allow me to keep my old drive, so hopefully I can find a data recovery service and salvage some of my document files and MP3s, but I'm not holding out much hope.

Now that I have Thunderbird, I can access my e-mail again. I've got everything that was sent to me while the computer was down, but once again, if you have anything I wrote sitting around, please send it to me.

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Monday, July 28th, 2008
10:32 am - Updates -- Computer Woes and Otakon
Cable was fixed yesterday, appears to be fully functional now.

Computer guy is coming by today to fix the laptop, mostly involving replacing the hard drive. Hopefully I will be permitted to keep the old hard drive to try to salvage the data.

Going to Otakon this year with starlightv. Who'all else is going?

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