Tuesday, October 03, 2006

a dark descent

Watching The Aviator, a film contrasting the multiple faces of Howard Hughes, I am reminded of a certain dark, humorous claim. The claim goes, "the only difference between madness and eccentricity is that the mad are poor and the eccentric are rich." The truth is, while the manifestation is often difficult to distinguish, there is often an overlooked, fundamental difference -- that being the difference between the loons who live outside any conceivable reality and the disturbed who obey sophisticated scripts and codes of behavior from a nightmare, a nightmare in which the sole exit door becomes increasingly difficult to open and, eventually, to even find.

To fully grasp this difference, one needs to examine why, and how, nightmares are highly prevalent among dreamers. The capacity to conceive and envision often seems to dominate wishes to steer such untethered freethought toward constructive endeavors. More tragically, those with seemingly unbounded motivation and drive are motivated and driven by the same fuel on which the monster of insanity feeds, the fuel of self-programming, of mental constructs, of illusions.

Many credit adrenaline and various chemicals and hormones coursing through our veins as the fuel which drives us. While such biological assistants no doubt play a role, their effects are temporary, and their potency limited. In contrast, the truly powerful fuel is one that irreversibly reshapes our very perception of reality. Such discrete alterations to the psyche are rare, but many people know of them, and call them epiphanies. The brilliant are often blessed, and cursed, with far more epiphanies, and at such rapidity as to knock the psyche about until it loses the concept of stability.

This state of uncentered flux is not ominous; it is often transient, a time when men and women rediscover their being and contemplate on a redefinition of themselves. While the majority of people may redefine themselves once, twice, or thrice, in their lifetime, a few seem to harness the power of a mind that has lost a stable center on which to crystallize new thoughts predictably. A mind not allowed to solidify will remain in the unstructured, malleable state; this is the state in which young children live, in which they will believe what is told, in which they are programmable.

Of course, an adult mind cannot remain completely unstructured; the harsh realities of life would devour someone who exhibited neotenies like naïveté or ignorance. This results in a subconscious agreement of sorts, an agreement to keep the mind naïve and programmable only to itself, while keeping the mind highly wary and skeptical of others. This protection that seeks to guard the susceptible kernel of a malleable mind can exhibit itself as paranoia, sometimes at the healthy levels of a shrewd businessman, and other times at unhealthy levels of delusional proportions, both witnessed in the portrayal of Howard Hughes.

The ability to program oneself is a very peculiar one. It is an ability to alter the will of the subconscious with the forethought of the conscious. It is an ability that can lead to greatness. Many who know of the effort, diligence, and zeal required to attain success would envy anyone who possessed the ability to muster with merely a thought those same attributes while simultaneously banishing the psychological impediments of hedonism, lethargy, and timidity.

However, gaining such ultimate governance over oneself comes at a terrible price. While attuned thoughts of achievement can propel the pliant mind into attaining lavish goals, morbid thoughts can just as forcibly subjugate the pliant mind into vulgar obedience. The surreal quality of starkly teetering between unprecedented success and unprecedented dementedness only further stokes a fascination with crossing the boundaries at each end. At a certain point, the descent into dementia takes its toll on attaining further success, and instead of teetering between the two, one is plummeted into severe dementia. A normal mind would have dissenting opinions from within when an extreme action is contemplated, not so with someone suffering dementia. The seriously ill mind is under the control of a tyrannous dictator who brooks no tolerance for dissent. Even the most peculiar thoughts must be obediently carried out, not by an army of peasants, but by a single servant, the ill individual.

Fortunately, Howard Hughes' predicament isn't as bleak. While rumors and speculations of his mind's unraveling were rampant on account of his reclusiveness, Hughes managed to keep his wits intact long enough to become the nation's wealthiest man by 1966. Unavoidably, his world-famous eccentricities seemed to have caught up with him near the end years of his life, a time when his hedonism prevailed and he forwent the responsibility of caring for his own body. The claims that Hughes stored his own urine in bottles lie unsubstantiated, but history has substantiated claims that Hughes stopped brushing his teeth until they all fell out, that he let his hair and fingernails grow to grotesque lengths, and that he developed an insatiable desire for candy and brothels as his mind began its final, dark descent.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum! I smell the blood of an English data miner

Oh, how I love engaging in quackery on the once noble field of statistics! I found in my gmail nest an email to myself, dated 18th of September, 2005, containing a dictionary analysis using the venerable turd-machine, Google. In the email were my dataset and its associated scatterplot piccies, as was a Google Ban™ screenshot which I shall forever keep with me as a data miner's evidentiary badge of honor. No one need fret, as a simple dhcp release and acquire is all that's required to set one's ipv4 address straight, and, in retrospect, to poison the address pool with a bum addy that cannot even 'oogle... Hmm...

Fig 1.  Google Ban™  screenshot through IE; 13,400 queries made in the span of approximately two hours

The datasets are partitioned by the host which I told Google to search within. I originally contrived an idea that I would somehow compare and contrast BBC, LiveJournal, Blogspot, and the general English corpus, but because of the nuissance posed by the wide fluctuation in the wordcount per webpage, I grew weary of trying to formulate insightful commentary that the data would support. The lazy bastard and quitter that I am, I shelved the idea of writing about the findings - or lack of findings - until this very epiphanal moment when writing about such a thing became the least boring in the long list of nauseatingly boring things I could be whiling away my time at.

Fig 2.  x-axis represents frequency rank, 1 being highest; y-axis represents frequency in units of webpages per billion in domain-specific corpora as measured by Google; dataset contains 3,500 randomly selected words from the 1913 Unabridged Merriam-Webster dictionary queried against each of 4 domains

The horizontal axis represents the ranking order of a word by descending frequency. That is, x=1 represents the most frequent word for each particular dataset, which may be "the" for one set, and may be "an" for another set; and x=383 represents the 383rd most frequent word for each particular dataset. The purpose of keeping things in descending order of frequency is to form a Zipf curve, which is visually smooth and tenders brownie points for allowing me to mention Zipf.

The vertical axis represents the search results returned by Google, multiplied by a coefficient that lets us pretend the most frequent word of any dataset has 1 billion search results. This multiplicative shifting was necessary to make the superimposition of datasets in a single plot less jarring. Unfortunately, such arithmetic jugglery creates jagged artefacts near the tail-end of the curves, as the words become less frequent. This unsightliness is the graphical pronouncement of integer search results multiplied by what was necessary to make the most frequent word show up as 1 billion. Under a log scale plot, there is little difference between y=1023 and y=1024, but quite a bit of difference between y=1 and y=2.

Fig 3.  unscaled version of Figure 2

A notable, consistently reappearing anomaly is a discontinuity in the curves. This discontinuity, what I would dub The Google Chasm were it not for my vanity insisting on it being called The Thoreaulylazy Plunge, shows a steep dropoff in search results once the search results reduce to a navigable amount, which is 1,000 if you ever care to try to navigate to further and further pages in the google resultset.

Fig 4.  asymptotic region requeried the following week to check for reproducibility; plausibly inflated results multiplicatively deflated through division by 10 (approximately)

As a logical being, I would exhaust all avenues of explanation before spouting off fervently in an accusing tone. That said, I am baselessly laying the blame squarely on a Google conspiracy to inflate search results by a factor of ten once the results are no longer navigable and hence no longer easily verifiable. At some point, I should access the Google APIs under the free academic license and find out once and for all what this crevasse is all about. A mosey down into yahoo-land and a repeat of this data mining escapade may also prove fruitful as ammunition in my Google conspiracy claim. Ah, who am I kidding, I'm not persistent enough to furnish any evidence.

highly frequent words in the english lexicon
1 and and and not
2 home home that add
3 site help not help
4 information policy home and
5 that skip they site
6 help not no ask
7 policy that site information
8 not e don lost
9 e responsible see yahoo
10 see site them e
11 no see very press
12 program they today policy
13 press edition old legal
14 they related big that
15 related northern every every
16 science watch place kind
17 them pictures help no
18 today science found don
19 network no though anyone
20 skip them photo looking
-5 direfrench gristmill galopade meruit
-4 vorspielgerman congeries exaltee appurtenant
-3 grstorgegr enthymeme conferva inexpugnable
-2 slipstickcoll nosce pegomancy livraison
-1 metrongr federalize solecize chronogram

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

a biennial anniversary of a stillbirth

I stand in amazement - figuratively, since I am seated, but if I were... ah, there, I momentarily stood up so now my initial statement is quite appropriate. Amazed at what, you might ask - again, figuratively, since I have no readers, thus there is no "you" to address. Rummaging through the gmail graveyard of my self-sent emails, I found a cornucopia of files, tips, and hyperlinks that date back to the inception of my gmail account in 2003. In one of these time capsules, I found a story I began to write, a story I could not even recognize as my own!

The sense of suspense, the idea of even having suspense at all considering I read my own words, was exhilarating. Each new sentence drew me inside an exciting story world, so much so that had the story kept going, I would be dedicating an all-nighter just to reading it. Alas, it abruptly ended, mid-sentence no less! It was written during a time of transition, when I moved from California to Connecticut, and the date of my self-sent email, Friday, June 18th, 2004, was precisely the day I packed my computer for transport. Quite a shame, really. The story had such marvelous potential, and now it lies stillborn.

I feel a slight, incestual dirtiness loving a story I myself wrote, but considering I had absolutely no recollection nor reminding artifact of it for two entire years, I could not read it with the cruel criticism I otherwise would. Below is the full content of what was written:

“Ha ha,” Quincy ran in with that usual mischievous look to which Tom and Amanda could only greet with a gulp of trepidation. “You two absolutely have to come and see this!” he continued. “Well, put on your boots,” he chirped at the two, puzzled at their longer than usual stupor at being asked to go. The only thing more predictable than going on unknown expeditions with Quincy into the forest landscape surrounding their cottage was the certainty one would be beaten to a pulp refusing to go with him. He was the usual tall and husky kid, the type not to know his own strength when shoving his younger brother and sister into the dirt until they give in. It wasn’t as though Quincy was all bad – it’s just that Tom and Amanda have never seen him when he wasn’t. “Let’s get our boots Amanda,” Tom wearily slurred as he went to fetch them. “Hurry up!” echoed Quincy’s voice as the two emerged fully set for the outdoors.

* * *

“We’ve been out here for two hours; aren’t you going to tell us what we’re going to do this time?” Tom softly spoke in a resigning way. “Stop. We’re here!” Quincy’s voice bounced. “And,” Quincy turned to Tom with a sinister smile, “it’s not a question of what we are gonna’ do. It’s a question of what it will.” Tom could feel Amanda silently tightening her grip on his hands, to which he tries to reassuringly squeeze back. “Okay Quincy, let’s see it then.” Tom had a brave face on. “Oh, but first we have to have it see us,” Quincy added mysteriously, reaching into his jacket pocket to reveal a small hand mirror. After a bit of side-straggling, he positioned himself under strong rays of sunlight that managed to pierce through the treetops. He took the mirror and redirected focused light to what now appeared to look like a cave entrance, only it was so dark before no one saw the entrance apart from the adjacent rock. “Now we wait, it will come to us.” Almost as soon as he spoke, bats poured out of the cave like a flash flood, littering the entire sky with their dark fleshy wings and horrific shrieks. “Wait, just watch. Ah, yes, I can feel it rumbling in the air.” Oddly, Quincy didn’t seem interested in the bats; he had his eyes intent on a different place of the sky. “We’re not here to see those bats?” Tom questioned. “Shut up; of course we’re not here to see shitty bats. They’re food for it.” Amanda let out a muffled gasp, trying not to outright scream, her face now buried in Tom’s sweater with only one of her eyes peering out into the sky.

Everyone could now hear a rumbling in the air. At first it sounded like a dam breaking, but unlike a dam burst this rumbling was incessant. The bats shrieked louder and scrambled haphazardly in every which direction. No one was paying much attention to them, however. Quincy and Tom were gazing at the silhouette of a creature now growing larger as it came closer to the earth from the sky; Amanda peered occasionally at it while intermittently covering her eyes again with Tom’s sweater sleeve. It was majestic, yet ominous. Were it not for two faint shadows of wings to its side, it could easily be mistaken for a meteor. Then it dove faster, piercing the air and leaving a stream of what could only be plumes as it came into vision.

Its body was shaped like a griffin, and it would easily measure seventy feet in length. “A whale of the sky,” Quincy whispered in deference. The remnants of twenty or so bats could be seen held in the talons of this behemoth. It was close enough that all three, Quincy, Tom, and Amanda could feel the air and earth tremble under the thunderous flaps of its wings. It was otherworldly to see, as Quincy put it, a whale of the sky, dance as it did in the air, ensnaring some more of the now dispersed bats. “AEhh…” Amanda panted and Tom took notice of what she was panting at; some bat carcasses were dropped just yards from where they stood. The bodies were mutilated with nothing left for recognition. “This is dangerous and disgusting, Quincy; we …” Tom stopped; he couldn’t find Quincy nearby. “I want to go home.” Amanda was nearly crying. “Yes, I’m sure Quincy won’t mind if we do. He’ll find his own way back.” Tom led off, Amanda following him, still tightly clung to his sleeve.

* * *

The steamy broth being prepared at daybreak filled the cottage with a moist flavorful smell to which Tom instantly woke. Amanda’s bed was well made and Quincy’s was still horrendous looking with bits of grass strewn about it as usual. It was a Tuesday, the day when fresh produce is available in the nearby village, and in preparation Tom dressed in his finest. He slicked his hair back, wore his father’s brown leather boots, stuffed with leaves to fit, a cotton sweater without any large holes, and a trouser with no stains except at the knees. Yes, indeed, Tom was looking his best, and he grinned at the mirror. After finishing admiring

Quite a cliff-hanger. Oh well, one of these days I ought to finish it, assuming I can ever write that alluringly again.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Homeopathically Unwrinkling My Left Toenail, an Anatomical Treatise vol. 1

Despite utmost care for, and good governance of, one's own nails, a single careless action can and will render uniform keratin smoothness a dream, a desire, a mere memory of the perfection that was and the imperfection that is. Due to the irreproducibility of such tragic trysts with destiny, the cure to such life-altering ailment has remained elusive since time immemorial – that is, elusive until now.

Firstly, it is of paramount importance to distinguish wrinkled toenails, that is, those with fine chaffing along vertical lines, from toenails with deep horizontal grooved lines that Joseph Honoré Simon Beau posthumously likes to call “Beau’s lines”. While both stem from damage to the nail fold, fine vertical lines affect luster while horizontal ridges are just plain despicable. This treatise is targeted solely towards homeopathically healing the fine vertical lines and the associated chaffing and not the hideous Beau’s lines. The recently wrinkle-afflicted should not worry if horizontal lines temporarily appear soon after injury. Cosmetic damage will eventually be grown out to clippable area; only damage to the nail fold will produce a constant stream of wrinkles which create vertical lines as the nail is grown.

Now, before delving into the cure, let us first harken back to the shrill cries of my badminton-playing self. I had kept my eye on a lobbed birdie, but in spite of its clear trajectory out of court, I had the urge to smash it powerfully with my racquet. That urge for display of power, that very urge to feel the harmonious 'twing' resonate and reverberate through my forearm was my ultimate downfall. As I ran beneath, squinting against the midday sun to see the faintish outline of an inbound shuttlecock, a sharp, excruciating sting permeated from my afferent nociceptors until the entire path of dendrites and axons from my left toe to the dorsal root ganglion affixing my consciousness transcended into a highway of pure pain. Regrettably, I wore open-toed sandals and stubbed my toe into the raised pavement area around a well. On the positive side, the various assortment of insects were presented a feast of blood-drenched sandy pavement. Reparations, perhaps, for my trespass into their court. By cracking my toenail, I became a silent member of the eschewed millions whose left toenails no longer had the sheen, the luster, the polish that makes us entirely whole. I was only twelve years of age, too young to be afflicted with a wrinkled toenail, a haunting reminder of the mistake once made; but the cruel fates confer no mercy for innocence and youth.

Two days ago, a miracle of circumstances occurred. Wearing improperly velcroed house slippers, I spirited up a staircase when three stairs shy of the top my slippers slipped and while I am uncertain of the exact sequence of events, I was left panting and knelt, with my knees on one of the topmost stairs and my two hands firmly prostrated on the ceramic tiles of the floor I wished to be on. More importantly, my left toe seared with blunt pain, the kind associated with blue bruises and an absence of external hemorrhaging. Resuming my bipedal locomotion, I channeled my dedication toward composure and continued on with my day unfazed. Later that night, shortly before heading to bed, I inspected my left toenail and to my astonishment, the blunt force seemed to have unwrinkled the nail plate, shaping it to the smoothness of the tender skin beneath. I now eagerly await as the entire nail replenishes at 0.1mm/day from the now corrected lunula. Preliminary findings support the case that in a couple months’ time the entire toenail will be correctly regrown, erasing all remnants of a wrinkled past.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Unabridged, Unedited Conversation with YVXQXJJ

Monikers have been replaced with anagrams to protect the insane.

(21:32:55) PLZNYFGDJ: good grief

(21:52:04) YVXQXJJ: hi

(21:56:13) PLZNYFGDJ: how was your day

(21:57:14) YVXQXJJ: not bad. had the day off. we got customer approval on a project I worked all weekend on, so I told the boss I needed a day to refresh. how about you?

(21:57:24) YVXQXJJ: and what was the "good grief" for? :)

(21:57:58) PLZNYFGDJ: my exasperation over people who are illogical

(21:58:32) PLZNYFGDJ: logic just says you don't have a contradiction - it otherwise never places any constraints on how crazy your axioms can be

(21:59:22) PLZNYFGDJ: there are 4 types of people: crazy but logical - great! crazy but illogical - eek. sane but logical - yawn. sane but illogical - good grief

(22:00:11) YVXQXJJ: lol

(22:00:47) YVXQXJJ: my last ex - for all of a month - was the 2nd type.

(22:02:36) PLZNYFGDJ: I just IMed some woman who as far as I know is sane -- hasn't killed anyone yet.

(22:05:25) PLZNYFGDJ: But she got into some cockamamie claptrap about how we all have choice (she doesn't believe in determinism). Okay, I disagree with free-willists, but I enjoy their nonsense so long as they're using logic (and it's one of those philosophical stalemates where two good philosophers, one supporting free-will, one supporting determinism, can never find a fallacy in the other's statements)

(22:06:31) PLZNYFGDJ: So, I decided to egg her on by stating that, well, how come I'm not the prince of england, since I would've chosen to have been born as one

(22:07:34) PLZNYFGDJ: now, this is where she went from just screwball humorous (but otherwise logical) to illogical. She claims that she believes that we do decide whom we're born as, and at some level I wanted to be born as I was

(22:07:47) PLZNYFGDJ: now, on the surface of things, there's nothing illogical about what she siad

(22:08:18) PLZNYFGDJ: however, and I mentioned this to her, the consequences of what she said lend way to contradiction, disproving her premise. The consequences are as follows:

(22:08:48) PLZNYFGDJ: that means more spirits are deciding today to be born, since we have a global population of 7billion and growing

(22:10:03) PLZNYFGDJ: more spirits prefer to live impoverished lives with a 90% certainty of dying of starvation than to be born into a middle-class family (hooray for free-will!)

(22:11:57) PLZNYFGDJ: And, the clincher --- I can envision a hypothetical evil genius who controls trillions upon trillions of human embryos in a matrix, and can decide on the flip of a switch to fertilize them all and can decide just as easily in another flip of the switch to flush them into an abyss. It's against reason that trillions of spirits would decide at a single moment to infuse life into cells just to be flushed moments later.

(22:12:10) PLZNYFGDJ: Those are trillions of retarded spirits, in which case.

(22:13:55) YVXQXJJ: well, yes. most people are retarded.

(22:14:33) PLZNYFGDJ: bleh

(22:14:38) PLZNYFGDJ: defies logic

(22:14:49) PLZNYFGDJ: at least free-will philosophers employ logic

(22:15:20) PLZNYFGDJ: unlike people who "believe" and can't reason their way about why an even number plus an even number cannot be odd

(22:16:05) YVXQXJJ: philosophy - and philosophers - confuse me.

(22:16:17) PLZNYFGDJ: nah, they're fun folk

(22:16:27) YVXQXJJ: heh

(22:16:39) PLZNYFGDJ: they're basically mathematicans but with dumb/inconsequential axioms

(22:17:15) PLZNYFGDJ: but as any mathematican, logician, or philosopher will agree, whether or not an axiom is valid is only determined by whether or not you can infer a contradiction

(22:17:31) PLZNYFGDJ: so long as the system is consistent, you can have two separate systems with opposite axioms

(22:18:18) PLZNYFGDJ: e.g one system where the axiom says "God exists" and another where it says "No god exists" can be completely valid systems within which no contradiction can be inferred

(22:19:05) PLZNYFGDJ: mathematicians just pick more useful axioms, like "Given a Euclidean space (defined by 10axioms), a triangle's inner angles sum to 180"

(22:20:04) PLZNYFGDJ: a philosopher would pick, "suppose our bodies were merely mental projection with no tangible component, ..."

(22:20:39) YVXQXJJ: that's more or less it. one matters, the other does not.

(22:20:59) PLZNYFGDJ: In fact, philosophers so often picked insane axioms that instead of having to prove a contradiction, it was agreed upon that "reductio ad absurdum" was a valid enough counter-example to stop philosophizing over it

(22:21:34) PLZNYFGDJ: essentially, reductio ad absurdum states that if you prove that philosophy is unnecessary, then stop! Change your axiom before we philosophize again!

(22:21:52) YVXQXJJ: the world would cease functioning without math. philosophy... eh. some college profs would be out of a job, and some publishers would take a hit on their profits, but I'm otherwise not affected.

(22:22:03) PLZNYFGDJ: E.g. "what if the universe were created just this instant, with all its atoms and molecules arranged as they are and animated just now..."

(22:22:32) PLZNYFGDJ: that's a famous philosopher's dilemma -- there's no way to prove it's not true -- the universe may very well have been created just now!

(22:22:52) YVXQXJJ: my counter to that is they think too much.

(22:23:10) PLZNYFGDJ: However, if it has been created just now, then all this philosophizing we've been doing hasn't been philosophizing at all -- you and I were just created this instant with the illusion of having had a conversation

(22:23:16) PLZNYFGDJ: In which case, reductio ad absurdum!

(22:23:48) PLZNYFGDJ: Which is quite different from saying the axiom is wrong. Reductio ad absurdum does not say it's wrong -- it just says it's absurd! It's not worth talking about

(22:24:22) PLZNYFGDJ: If the very nature of talking is undermined under the axioms, then it's not worth talking anymore

(22:24:41) PLZNYFGDJ: beautiful, huh? Took thousands of years of bickering to come up with that one gem

(22:24:43) YVXQXJJ: right. my version of that is usually "shut up, quit talking. I don't have time for you, I have email accounts to fix and users to edumacate."

(22:25:56) PLZNYFGDJ: philosophy is a good exercise of logic, sort like bicycling is an exercise for the calves

(22:26:19) PLZNYFGDJ: but otherwise, yeah, it's inconsequential

(22:26:59) PLZNYFGDJ: exercising logic is pretty good though -- it helped usher in the age of enlightenment and all that

(22:28:30) YVXQXJJ: *nods* I've never been interested in philosophy or anything related. I think I've got logic down enough for what I do. I don't need to focus on it - if I don't have moments without logic, my mind breaks.

(22:31:09) PLZNYFGDJ: I need logic, not necessarily sanity, but definitely logic. For example, SG-1 adventures to new planets and everyone seems to speak english yet everyone seems to have mutually incomprehensible written language. Okay, bizarre, but it's not illogical. It's just an axiom of this fictional world, and it doesn't contradict anything! I like bizarre, as long as no contradictions arise

(22:32:31) YVXQXJJ: I just imagine that SGC somehow developed the universal translator and neglected to tell anyone about it.

(22:32:42) PLZNYFGDJ: heh

(22:33:14) PLZNYFGDJ: See, if the authors tried to explain why everyone spoke english (as you just did) rather than it being an axiom, then they might create some contradictions in all that complexity required to explain it.

(22:33:37) PLZNYFGDJ: For example, by trying to explain it with a universal translator, you just created several contradictions!

(22:34:01) PLZNYFGDJ: e.g. then why do they need Daniel Jackson to keep translating all these written works if they have a universal translator

(22:34:46) PLZNYFGDJ: a universal translator is illogical. Leaving it unanswered why they can verbally communicate is the best answer

(22:35:13) PLZNYFGDJ: trying to explain these things just creates inconsistency, and inconsistency is doom for any Sci-Fi would-be story

(22:36:30) YVXQXJJ: it can't translate written documents because the project went over-budget, so something had to be scrapped.

(22:36:54) PLZNYFGDJ: pfft. heh, see you're just adding more complexity and creating even more paradoxes!

(22:38:00) PLZNYFGDJ: Simplicity is key. Only add complexity when you're sure you've thought it through and it makes sense within the rules you define

(22:39:39) YVXQXJJ: something tells me you would hate certain Neil Gaiman novels.

(22:39:53) PLZNYFGDJ: you can define baseball, you can define chess, you can define any fair game and people will like to play with you -- if you create a game where the 2nd player always loses, you've made a pretty lousy game, and a system with a contradiction is a pretty lousy universe to set your fictional story in

(22:40:41) PLZNYFGDJ: it's broken. it's buggy. it's like m$ windows =)

(22:43:06) PLZNYFGDJ: fyi - when I said "the 2nd player always loses", I'm talking about the 'perfect-play', i.e. the players are both trying to win. You can obviously still win as a 2nd player in games where the 1st player must win under perfect play if the 1st player purposefully throws the game

(22:44:00) PLZNYFGDJ: And some bad sci-fi reads like a broken game where some player must win under perfect-player, but the characters are so dimwitted they still manage to bungle and almost-lose if not lose completely.

(22:44:39) PLZNYFGDJ: e.g. in Harry Potter, I near banged my head on a wall when Hermione used a time-travel device. WORST IDEA EVER. Bad, Bad JK Rowling!

(22:45:20) PLZNYFGDJ: I know she wanted to introduce the idea to little children, but she should've mentioned it as a device long ago that was destroyed because it was too powerful. Instead, she gives it to a 10th grader! Ugh

(22:46:23) PLZNYFGDJ: And then she quietly forgets about it. Dumbledore's dead? Time travel back and fix it! Something bad happened? Time travel back and fix it! See, the time-traveller is guaranteed to win under perfect-play! That kills the story.

(22:47:04) PLZNYFGDJ: proper time-travel is like how Sliders portrayed it, where you travel back to an alternate past, not your own past.

(22:48:04) PLZNYFGDJ: and that's also proper multiverse tiling according to Hawking-Penrose models of spacetime

(22:48:17) PLZNYFGDJ: anyhoot. I ranted

(22:48:39) PLZNYFGDJ: thanks for being the anonymous half-listener =)

(22:48:46) YVXQXJJ: lol.. no problem

Friday, February 17, 2006

Odyssey into the terrifying world of one Ms. Recipient's messy and overpopulated Inbox

This email began with the ambling keystrokes of one Mr. Sender, pressed through the telltale precision of a ten digit wielding writer with vacuous chasms for a brain. No thoughts could churn upstairs, so this email is poorly devoid of worthwhile content. All the same, it occupies space, and oh what space it occupies! Letters and words and sentences, all lined up in sequence in an overt attempt at being meaningful while still without meaning.

If this email could tell its story, it would tell of its communion with the digital gods as it hurdled past scrutinizing network devices, shedded off its outer TCP layers in a desperate attempt at passing on its seminal data to the next transport layer. It would, if it could, tell of its ordeal through Bayesian spam filters and the harsh interrogations thereafter of its header. Oh, if only it could tell these things and more!

This email, however, is quite silent, as all its strength to reveal its odyssey was drained by the very odyssey itself and the maddening hours it spent enveloped in solitude, awaiting deliverance. It clings, nonetheless, with the last ounce of its spirit before it decays into your post-read trashbin, to solemnly deliver, as any duty-bound email would, the laconic message of its author. Therefore, with this email's dying breath, it reveals unto you, oh most valued deity of the Inbox, these words:

Yo, it's me.

'sup? You weren’t online. Msg me when you’re back.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Towels: What Walks with Three Legs at Night

“Sir, how did you get here?” a boy in rags asked in cautious tone. “Sir? Are you…”

Heaps of towels sloppily providing the comfort of a blanket began to rustle until they were abruptly tossed off, revealing a disheveled, gaunt man beneath. He sat up with a few groans and then faced the boy with his head leaned back so his grizzly white beard protruded and his long flowing locks of white hair kept away from his eyes. Squinting judgingly, he began measuring the boy up before discourse.

“I am Ethikos. What business have you with me?” The message was delivered loud and forcefully but a few ensuing wheezes and phlegmy coughs quickly diminished any effect of grandeur. Without giving a pause and for seemingly no reason, the man, Ethikos, reassembled those stained towels of his and slipped under them again, unconcerned.

“Sir…” the boy spoke with a quiver, puzzled and uncertain how to proceed. “We met a few hours ago. I was thrown in this cell…” but before completing, Ethikos jumped up and shouted.

“Vagrant! Thief!” Ethikos pointed accusingly with a mess of towels now abound and one towel, uncertain how to fall, flapped indecisively on his outstretched arm.

“No… please, sir, try to remember - it’s not like that… don't you remember?”

“How dare they shove a criminal in with me!”

“Please, sir, try to remember, I’m innocent as you are.”

“Lies! Treacherous lies!”

“Sir, you’ve been here a long time… today they put everyone in prisons…”

“Everyone?” Suddenly and unpredictably, Ethikos turned calm. “Yes, they are the sorts to devolve into something devious like this. Imprisoning everyone… as I suspected! No one listened. No one ever listens.” Ethikos reclined and, while still mumbling, groped the adjacent ground for his towels and slowly buried himself in them once more.