Archive for February, 2012

The academic Dungeons & Dragons substitute vocabulary

February 28, 2012

In a recent tweet, I referred to some physicists as “gremlins”. This is not derogatory, but rather an example of the ancient and well-established “Academic Dungeons & Dragons substitute vocabulary”. (He said with the smile of a car insurance encyclopedia salesman.)

In this vocabulary, physicists are gremlins, mathematicians goblins, and applied mathematicians, naturally, hobgoblins. Chemists are gnomes; statisticians kobolds (or if particularly dry, mummies), biologists are gnolls; and so on.

Each field has its own subdivisions: for example, in biology those given to wild extrapolation are known, as per the old joke,  as “grassy gnolls”, and in mathematics the “goblin” that is the principal investigator (PI) of a research group is known as “Gringotts” for some obscure reason.

Social sciences people are elves; the antipathy between elfin and orcish races may or may not have an analogue in academic life. Those human-related pursuits especially abhorrent to hard science are populated by the drow: like elves, but with spiders.

Those engaged in divinity studies are known as ghouls; this is not atheistic prejudice, but a reference to the medieval belief that theologians eat their own dead.

The university administration is led by the chancellor / headmaster / Boss Nass, referred to as the Dragon; under his wings the PR department (trolls) and the personnel department (yugoloths) brood and crouch and bide. Between these types and the common academicians are layers of “draconic creatures” of middle management: dracotaurs, draconians, landwyrms and the like; the exact usage varies from place to place.

The various types of dean and faculty head have their own bywords: particularly experienced types are “liches”, while those with interests in efficiency and reorganization are called “illithids”. (The perhaps not well known Dungeons and Dragons race of illithids, or mind flayers, eats the brains of other creatures and makes them their mindless, groaning, stumbling slave spawn. Why this name had been assigned to this type of management is not known.)

Graduate students are known as oozes or, in the case of those with a slipping schedule, as mold.

Secretaries are secretaries. They are subtle, and quick to anger.

The astute reader may have noticed all of the races and types mentioned above are at best humanoid, but not quite human; this is intentional. The roles of humanity are left to the small folk, i.e. the students. The usual “character classes” of a role-playing game are used as shorthand to refer to the most common types of students, like this:

“Warriors” — those that do enormous amounts of work: making notes, highlighting random passages, diving head first at exercises, using every minute of exam time, and so on. As can be expected of warriors, these time allotments are not always intelligent or successful; but they are done with such gusto.

“Mages” / “Sorcerers” etc. — these students come up, almost preternaturally, with solutions from beyond the reach of normal studentdom. Their essays deviate from the norm; their calculations are not what the TA anticipated. One suspects they have a spellbook; their methods certainly are not from any book the lecturer or the TA has ever seen. Most often their approaches are wrong and stupid, but they have a certain mystique.

“Rogues” — this type has the exact same essays and answers as one of the other types. The reason should be obvious.

“Clerics” — these slightly uptight types adhere to a higher code of conduct; some pamphlet given out by the university PR department possibly. They have faith in the regulations and the rules, and a mystic hunger for knowing all the details of the course’s organization and scoring. It is not uncommon for these poor literalists to become martyrs to their cause, once they try to play their feeble rules against the Darkness That Is Dean.

“Rangers” — this type of student navigates in difficult terrain, and does not kowtow to clocks or calendars. They emerge from their rangings about ten minutes after the start of the lecture, cracking the door open with a loud squeak; they have a tendency to have everything going on at the same time, leaving them running from place to place, and popping up from wild brush to ask for make-up exercises and alternate dates; as a result, their academic output is like talking to animals.

Finally, there are “Bards”, who are voluble, loquacious, and ever eager to explain themselves in ways that do not involve the actual content of the course. As in the game, their explanations are usually if not wholesale then at least generously embellished with fiction.

It is to be wished that students would “role play” or actually desire to learn about their chosen subject; but many are “munchkins” instead, focusing on a raw calculus of credits and exams, seeking to “power game” their way to a degree. (Here the word munchkin is not used to refer to Ozian brightly-attired comic dwarfs; though some would argue otherwise.)

Common study strategies of students are relying on the abilities or notes of their elders (“power leveling”), repeating courses (“grinding”), taking advantage (if possible) of grading on a curve (“PK”), and asking for extra credit (“griefing”). When the exam then comes around, students may “roll one” and define integration as a function adapting into society; or “roll a natural twenty” and pass the course. (Some may “fail the saving throw against clock” and not show up for the exam at all.)

The place where this all takes place, the university, is of course “the dungeon”. Whether there is any authority one might call a Dungeon Master is highly debatable.

Wikipath: a game for bored people

February 23, 2012

So I wrote the post below, thought “This is not a particularly original idea, but it’s fun. Maybe I’ll just google my name of it to be sure it doesn’t mean anything already” — and lo and behold, it actually already means just the thing I describe below.

* * *

Go to a random page on Wikipedia. Choose another random page.

Try to get from page #1 to page #2 using only the links. No typing. No cheating by going to the alphabetical index (there is one), and no going to the Main Page. If you want to be strict, no going to Categories either. Just hitting the links. No typing — so no editing either.

May be played as a timed game or as a shortest-path game, may be played by yourself or against someone else. (By yourself, it’s probably a game of the cleverest path.)

Here’s an example. Page #1 is “The Elite Squad“, a Golden Bear-winning Brazilian film from 2007.

Page #2 is “Michael Connelly“, American crime writer, author of the Harry Bosch (LAPD) books.

My path was as follows:

The Elite Squad > Rio de Janeiro > History of Brazil > Spanish colonization of the Americas > California (ha!) > Los Angeles > List of notable people from Los Angeles (no Connelly) > Los Angeles Police Department (what, no mention of Bosch?) > 1992 Los Angeles riots > 1992 Los Angeles riots in popular culture > Michael Connelly (victory!)

Notes: It cost me that Brazil is Portuguese, not Spanish. It surprised me that Connelly was not in the Famous from LA list; but he’s apparently from Philadelphia originally. (A possible additional rule: no fact-checking while you play this.) I don’t know anything about the movie, but a working knowledge of the Bosch books and of American history was a lifesaver: I knew to aim at LA from the Spanish angle, and at Connelly from LA and the frequent mentions of LA riots; the “X in Popular Culture” sections were very useful.

Urgh, this game really makes you think about how to sidle up to something.

If you want to make the game even more humiliating to yourself, two extra rules: (a) no going back — once you hit a link, that’s where you need to go, even if it is a horrible choice and/or a stub; and (b) no going to an article you already were at.

If this was played as a spectator sport — and I’d much rather watch this than any grunting-jock sport! — there could be a jury to give points for clever and unexpected paths; and lots of points for not rising up to big general articles before diving back down.

This would become a Bacon game if you restricted yourself to just people. This would become a horribly difficult game if you chose a different-language Wikipedia: it would be a smaller and less “saturated” space.

Go pick some two of these and play — or take these as a route, starting from Katainen and ending at Mandela:

Jyrki KatainenDonner partyPascal (programming language)Lord of the RingsCharles StrossHölder’s inequalityNelson Mandela

Workplace memoranda from the year 2111

February 22, 2012

551 149 / RE ZERO-G SLEEPING FOR NEWBIES

Ffd from the cleaner. This supervisor suggests newbies don’t annoy the cleaner; he has more drones than there are people on-site, and inefficiency is a dirty word.

“If there is even the tiniest, teeni-weeniest chance, even the ghost of a probability of a hunch, that you have taken a stomach bug, a spoiled meal, or enough other excitement to even hint at the barest possibility of diarrhea… you will wear the vacuum longjohns. You will not say they chafe; you will not say they are not stylish; you will not say you like the open air on your skin and it’s your own nook you sleep in. You will put on the greytape pants, strap yourself to your nook, and sleep happy.

“If you think this is harsh, ask Frankie the Floater about the time she woke up floating in the middle of a galaxy of brown suns and stars. Or ask any of her former bunkmates; you know them by the fact they don’t bunk with her no more. Okay?”

Franchise LaGuardia’s contact details are appended, as is the pamphlet “Zero G and Bodily Functions: All the Questions, and Too Many Pictures”.

*

551 562 / MISAPPROPRIATION OF RESOURCES AND ETHICS

It has come to this supervisor’s attention that some of you have been keeping a little cooking experiment in a locker in the changing room next to Laboratory C. Now, as much as this supervisor would like to suppose that has been just misguided initiative and natural curiosity, it is this supervisor’s duty to reiterate the following points.

One, misappropriating the Laboratory C technicals is not cool. Nobody cares about everyone’s small personal projects but really, two kilos of technical gamma? And ten grams of technical omega? Numbers like that start impacting our output, people!

Two, and this supervisor does not by any means suggest this is the motive in play here, but yes, the new regulations do give you leave even over the mainline crunch period if you complete the “project”, but isn’t this a bit much to get away? This year’s mainline will be tough, but really, come on, people!

Three, as for the ethical issues, dear empty heavens, people, the permit is a courtesy, but you can really get into trouble if someone starts retroactively asking if you fit the custodian profile or have had the cylinders inspected. Do you think we’re living in the wild and sticky everything-goes 2010s?

The joker or jokers may get their stupid artificial womb from this supervisor’s office, preferably before the child hatches. Don’t make me run the DNA test to find out whose he is.

*

552 114 / THE ROBOT IS NOT YURI

There has been some confusion over the new kitchen robot, so it falls to this supervisor to set things straight.

First, it is not a cyborg. Yes, it is known it looks like Yuri, our last human cook, did. That’s just something the management though would be a fun customization. This appears to have been a terrible mistake.

Second, continuing on the same subject, the joker that slipped a speaker into the robot’s mouth cavity can go look for her toy in the vacuum outside. Really, people, so “Help me” is funny, is it?

Third, the rumor attached to the case of a broken wrist is not true. The robot doesn’t assault you if you try for seconds. Just don’t go grubbing for it yourself; say what you want, and it’ll slop it out for you. Don’t go sticking your hands in the chest cavity.

Fourth, by all means do engage in casual chitchat with the robot while it works your order. Just don’t expect it to be the same kind of a rumor broker as Yuri was. The management is considering a cortical update to include some of that functionality in the next quarter, AnoHuddleChan or something equivalent, but you all can stop asking the robot where the orgy will be tonight.

Fifth, and this is included because this supervisor knows how you people sometimes think, don’t involve the robot in the orgy. Just don’t. It’s a new machine, and nobody wants its database having that kind of instructions when it’s supposed to do your food.

That is all for now.

*

552 599 / ATTN EVAC 6 JOKERS

Okay, EVA Crew Six, you all have three hours of extra duty tomorrow.

In case the reason for this is not obvious, see the attached abbrev of a medical report on Syaoran Kinomoto, Crew Five’s rookie. Your hilarious stunt of giving him a burger made of nothing but nutritional pills put him in such overnutritional absorbance system shock (whatever that is) that he’ll be out of play for tomorrow, and thus you will fill in.

Nice work, people.

*

552 611 / MAINLINE AND CHILD LEAVE

As regards the current child scandal brouhaha, this supervisor has decided as follows:

First, you are strongly encouraged to not take up growing a child with the aim of birthing during the mainline. This is not a rule; it’s just a wish. Nobody will be penalized for this. Nobody needs to order stagnatives or get into illegal custodian-switching over this. This is the big point the management wants to get out: if you doubt our sincerity, look when former Mgt. Foreman was reassigned. He does not possess the fetishes to make that a preferred career move.

Second, however, we will be requiring a Certificate of Union from families that want to take a parent leave during the mainline; the management will arrange postnatal frozure for the duration of the mainline if the Certificate cannot be worked out.

Note: For this particular part of this ruling you may thank the joker EVA Crew Six, who all decided they were the family unit for Crewmember Laakkonen’s child. Really, people, you really thought sixteen people could swing that? This supervisor shudders thinking of some of you and the demands of the custodian profile.

Third, as per usual procedure, the previous point is waived for doublies. You sweetly old-fashioned lots will be having your hands full anyway, nobody thinks you could be gaming the system. (But let this supervisor make it perfectly clear that anyone, anyone that starts snarling “every child needs more than two parents” will be given punitive fertilizer rotator duty.)

Fourth, as for parent leave NOT during the mainline, a Declaration of Planned Parenthood suffices.

*

(Inspired by a smart post, followed by a smart comment thread, by Cat Valente on Charles Stross’s blog. Also inspired by me having watched all of the anime Planetes recently.)

(Also, first thought “…from year 2099”, then “…from year 2112”, then finally thought of a year that didn’t have that blatant associations with an already existing fictional future.)

(Also, I don’t know what some of the details above are. The mainline, I have no clue except that it’s crunchtime. And as for why the management will arrange postnatal frozure and not a nanny, well obviously in this future it would be inconceivably perverse for the family to not share the newborn’s first weeks. After the whole hassle of gene sampling and permits and vats and cylinders and decanting, the family of course wants to get to know the child. It’s not like this is some barbaric epoch when unfixed people just boink each other, get rogue pregnant by mistake and pop out a wild baby nine moons later.)

A Dead Beat comment

February 22, 2012

It’s potentially very embarrassing to write commentary on something after having read only a part of it, but here goes: after Dead Beat, book 7 of the 13 currently available of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, I am torn.

Mild spoilers follow.

In Dead Beat, our hero Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only publicly practising wizard, has among all his other problems a fallen angel trapped inside his mind.

A fallen angel that is nothing but helpfulness and sweetness, promising all kinds of help if Harry would just co-operate, but Harry has a problem with the “fallen angel” part.

I don’t know if I do.

This is probably because I’m an atheist and I don’t come with good prejudices to the White God, the Dresdenverse Christian God that possibly exists and if so, probably is just some kind of a spirit. (See endnote.)

Thus I don’t feel good just accepting the idea that, duh, it’s an angel fallen away from God, it can’t be good. And though the readers have seen some other fallen angels that were real bastards, they have not seen this one do anything evil. They’ve heard one Michael, Harry’s friend and a sword-bearing Christian, describe this one as the Seducer, the Webweaver, the Temptress. As one who may at first seem reasonable and give you power and wisdom but then bam! she’ll take your soul, corrupt you, possess you and whatnot.

It’s an interesting place to be in: to see this as the thing Harry believes, and that probably is true in the world of the story… and still have this suspicion in my head, whispering: “Well, that’s what someone like Michael would say, isn’t it? Who is no longer on his God’s side is all evil, all the time! Death to defectors! Uninformed prejudiced propaganda bullshit!”

I’m probably forgetting many details (and because of fear of spoilers can’t go looking for them), but that’s my view of the thing. I would end with something like, “good and evil are often more nuanced than these blanket denunciations issued by simple men of action, and one does not need to be God’s good to not be evil” — but that sounds like a fallen angel line.

* * *

Endnote, on the White God as the faeries call him. It seems Dresden’s faerie folk are not Christians, and not especially damned either; I’ve seen no religion in them, and they don’t seem to give a wizard’s cuss about the supposed Big-G God. Are they then outside the dominion of this world’s Christian God, making Him a spirit not unlike the Winter and Summer Queens of faerie? Do the faeries have afterlives?

Do Dresdenverse’s humans?

In Dead Beat Harry meets his father’s ghost — and no sooner it appears than Harry says, this must be a hallucination brought by exhaustion; again, very cleverly, Butcher keeps ambiguous about the real-world-religion thing, for obvious reasons. It’s not a good marketing move in America, I think, to say “The Christian God exists but is this lesser limited lord of a part of the world!” (I can’t even say if it means anything pro or con that the irritating Christian sinfighter and wife team of Michael and Charity Carpenter, note the ha-ha surname, is not from the most pleasant and easygoing end of the Christian pool. Sweet Lucifer, the uncharitable prissiness of those people!)

And we’ve seen an afterlife of Harry’s mother, in Blood Rites I think, but only as a magical voicemail. So Heaven and Hell — Dresdenverse canon or not? Do I even want to… well of course I do; must keep reading.

Or is the Dresdenverse God just a fiction, since Harry frequently stresses that emotion, faith alone, deep honest conviction alone, is enough to power and empower the magic the Knights of the Cross and similar folks do? (I think that on that Michael the holy knight would say Harry is in a bit of denial, and I’m neck deep next to the pyramids, but that’s just the “you’re close-minded!” line Christians and placebo-merchants always say, isn’t it? One shouldn’t postulate Gods, when magic is enough to explain things.)

I don’t think the books have had an angel in them so far; so is it possible the fallen angels of the Denarius band are something else, some other creatures who like play-acting and having the Knights as their chew toys? And if there are angels in Dresdenverse, who says they can’t be liars too — or also confused between faith-is-magic and faith-implies-God?

Or perhaps this is one of those settings where all myths and religions are true. In which case, huge problems since the definition of “monotheism” is, there is but one God and he is this God of mine. If all religions are true, then many gods must be weaker than promised in the original texts. (Or there is this big hovering vague all-good God who has no position on abortion and homosexuality and isn’t Christian, Jewish or Muslim but goody good; I hate that noncommittal spectre and the writerly good sense and cowardice it implies.)

(Wait — did I just call “not pissing off the majority of your potential readers” “cowardice”? Dear fnord!)

See — being an atheist makes everything funner!

Noses, what good are noses?

February 19, 2012

Am abominally sick, or else someone has replaced my nose with a snot dispenser. You pull, and with a rumble a portion comes out.

Go buy a musicced reading of the Fungi from Yuggoth by the British Yog-Sothoth folks. Or get your hands on the anime called Planetes. Both are good enough to make you forget your nose for a while.

Even if you don’t especially want to forget your nose, well, hey, what has your nose ever done to you? Ever thought, “Gee, my nose is great”? No? Well, then fuck your nose and go lose yourself in something good.

Really. Noses. What good are they? They’re so useless there isn’t even such a thing as a sexual nose fetish. There are thoughts, there are pictures (drawn) of people being penetrated through the eye socket, but the nose? Interests nobody. I —

Wait. Let me google that, just to be sure.

Dammit, humanity.

Foot fetishism wasn’t enough for you, was it?  Getting your kicks from the dead, from nonagenarians, from autoerotic asphyxia, from Norwegians wasn’t enough. There had to be nose fetishists too.

And I’m not ragging on the fetishists, I am not averse to a few myself, but noses? At the moment, and with my nasal simulation of a creampie, I cannot find sympathy for that. If noses are someone’s thing, then what about snot? Hah, that would—

Don’t google that, by the way. It’s enough that I now have to keep telling myself those were trolls, nothing more.

Now I have to try to get well, or failing, have to register hotsnotshots.com and dig up a camera. (“All the snot you wanna see — and probably more!”)

Nharr

February 13, 2012

The title of this post is a word; a word that I use for Monday mornings.

Nharr.

It’s the state of mind of you when you sit on the toilet and try to work up the willpower to get up and put your socks on.

Nharr.

It’s the feeling of waiting for the bus and detachedly observing your balls wrinkling in the cold, cold morning air.

Nharr.

It’s the feeling, the feeling, when that wrinkling thought crawls across your mind, and you slowly wonder if the morning really is this cold, or if you forgot to put on some pants — and you don’t really care.

Nharr indeed.

That’s the feeling that those other people can’t be awake yet, it is not humanly possible, the world cannot be so cruel, they must be faking, they are the same somnambulant zombies as you, or p-zombies otherwise, and please don’t let them say anything to convince you otherwise.

Nharr.

It’s sympathy for Cthulhu, and the feeling that if you have to actually do something, all the doom-redolent ponderous dreams of Lovecraft will break loose. Morose. And terrible. And rugose. And detached, and stuff. Because you’re fucking dead, not awake.

Nharr.

It’s the vivid, dream-like flash of a world where your work chair could transform, Optimus Prime-like, into a lounging bed with anti-advisor missiles.

It’s the sound you make, it’s the feeling of a Monday morning before the first cup of coffee.

Nharr.

*

In contrast, the word for the period after three, when the power of coffee has left you, left you empty and burnt up inside… that word is “eeh”.

Which both probably should be places in Zothique or the Dreamlands.

Oh, and the word for the third pit, the one in between? Uccastrog.

Notes on Phantom Menace 3D

February 12, 2012

So I decided to go and see a movie today. My first choice was Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a movie that had three strikes against it:

  1. Tom Cruise,
  2. by the trailers, it’s a stupid glitz-action flick made for people who masturbate over guns, slowly curving cars and gowned girls getting out of them — which is okay for those that like such, but if I take matters to my own hands it better be something I desire, like nice libraries — and
  3. Tom Cruise.

Then I heard Ebert had given it 3.5 stars of 4, and decided to risk it.

No dice; the theater was packed. And when the board shows the free seats going to single digits, I don’t go. I don’t go to the movies to meet people, and the kind of people who go to see a Mission Impossible movie annoy me.

(“Why, Mr. Masks-of-Eris, but all kinds of people go to see—“)

(“My point exactly!”)

The second choice was Vuosaari, a Finnish film about Finnish people being depressed and hopeless. (This is the only theme of about 70% of all Finnish films. The other 30% are often weird.)

No dice again; there was a humongous line, a line as if nothing else was showing tonight, despite the MI film being packed and playing already.

I looked at the board and saw there was just one more film playing today, a second half-hour away.

Star Wars I : the Phantom Menace, in 3D.

So I took that.

*

In a film like this, you pretty much know who the heroes and the villains are. One way to know this is that the heroes are allowed to act snooty and rude at the villains without being called on it.

The two Jedi come to treat with the Trade Federation guys, and one could really watch the first few minutes as them being mafia toughs and the Trades being justifiedly afraid for their lives.

Don’t take my word for it. What did Mr. Qui-Gon say? “These Federation types are cowards. The negotiations will be short.”

How about Mr. Dofine of the Federation? “I knew it! They were sent to force a settlement, eh. Blind me, we’re done for!”

Ah yes, “force a settlement”, in “short negotiations”, like a gundark forcing a splanbean into a turbolaser.

Admittedly after this the Federales will unleast battle droid mayhem at the Jedi, but still. Who sends a couple of Space Jesuits to deal with a diplomatic crisis?

(Wait, no. As I’ve heard, Jesuits are smart guys except for the religion thing, and not lightsaber-wielding ninjas. They would be good negotiators. But the Jedi? Qui-Gon can be as lovely and incorruptible as he wishes, but does he know a left-handed toss about Intergalactic Law? About trade franchises? About what is legal and what is not? Or it is just that the Jedi are not subject to Law, and so people tend to do what they want?)

In my ideal world, the Trade types would have sat down and talked, and talked, and talked until a Jedi (Obi-Wan probably) lost temper and force-choked one. Then a lawsuit, and popular victory! Vicious Jedi thug assaults peaceful Neimoidian! Secretive Jedi Council refuses to investigate! Found to be in contempt of court, Yoda is! Ha ha ha!

*

Wait a minute. Because of the body double scheme, am I not right in saying that 90% of the Amidala costumes never had the real Amidala in them?

*

The middle of the movie would go so much smoother if Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan would just introduce a light saber into Watto’s chest and take the engine. What, the needs of the Republic, the lives of thousands, don’t excuse a little bit of theft? You really think Naboo can wait a day for this pod race of yours? Gambling Jedi pricks!

Also, Shmi, Anakin’s mother. Who will be next mentioned in a later film, a decade or more later, when Anakin has the premonition she’s in trouble. Because who has time to rescue his mother from slavery on a harsh desert planet when you can do Jedi Training! instead.

It would have been a nice drama spot to have a slightly older Anakin ask the Jedi to bring his mother out (Watto is greedy; the Jedi are rich), and be told that the Jedi don’t go for love. That love leads to anger, hate, music piracy, whatsit. You know, instead of a teenage Anakin muttering that line sullenly at Padme.

*

One more horrible revisionist idea. If you want to turn the Phantom Menace into a film from the Sexist Ages, turn Jar-Jar into a silly exotic woman-girl, and the Gungans into an Amazon tribe of such.

Not so funny comedy relief now, right?

Oh wait; Jar-Jar was never funny.

For a different Age of Horror, take some real ethnic group instead. (That would be a nice movie: Star Wars as made by the makers of the Birth of a Nation! Carpetbaggin’ Neimoidian scum versus pure Jedi in white robes! With hoods! And uh burning swords that make a cross shape like this—)

For additional discomfort, imagine the droids as human slaves in funny suits. (The droids are sentient, I think. And Anakin can make one in his basement, without anyone asking any questions of this toddler Frankenstein!)

(I think droid rights were briefly mentioned in the Star Wars Extended Universe; but they’ve decided to not go there. The same as with house elf rights in Harry Potter; liberating the differently looking servile race is a futile fringe lunacy and the attempts are hilarious! Go back to work, DOUGLASS-7! Ha ha ha!)

(Actually, since droids are commonly seen talking to each other, thinking, expressing desires and distress, they must be sentient, or really weirdly and wastefully programmed for the comfort of their masters. Assuming the first, think of the droid factories in the second and third films. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of minds, stamped into being to be disposable soldiers! The horror! The horror!)

(Wait, what about the droid control ship? Are individual droids just the fingers of some big central intelligence? Hopefully, because the alternative is that they’re thinking beings slaved to the control ship, to go to coma or to die when the control ship decides that’s a good idea. That’s really controlling your slaves.)

*

The dialogue. Real people don’t speak like that. I’m pretty sure real people don’t speak like that.

Unless Star Wars is purposefully filmed to happen in a galaxy where manners and thought patterns are such that this is how people actually think and speak.

That would be some high-concept sci-fi, bordering on trolling the audience.

George, you wouldn’t, would you?

*

There were around ten people in the audience: this on a Saturday, the day after the first showing, in a theater with around 250 seats.

One of those ten was a raggedy-looking older man that was not and had never been in the core audience for Star Wars. He sat at the back row.

Around the end of the exciting, action-packed pod race sequence he had had enough, and had fallen asleep. Which was made known by his loud, loud snoring.

I didn’t mind. Phantom Menace, remember? I just thought he had found an escape.

Well, until round the big end battle he started distressedly mumbling and speaking out in his sleep. Truly, there is no hiding place from the evil of the prequels.

When “Directed by George Lucas” blazed on the screen and I left, the usher guy was trying to get him to wake up.

*

One more thing. The poster at the lobby had a big picture of Darth Maul, the bad guy. (I hope he didn’t get paid by lines, because he has like two of them.) And two pod racers racing. And Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. And Padme maybe.

But no Jar-Jar, and no Anakin.

Maybe they were hoping people wouldn’t notice this was that film until after the door was closed and the lights out.

A sample of my work

February 10, 2012

Second day of going at my thesis introduction. (That is, the part that goes before and around the four articles and is supposed to make them make sense.)

Here’s the Preface at the moment:

PREFACE & ACKNOWLEDG(E)MENTS

I do not want to thank anyone, but as that is traditional, I thank my advisor, Name Withheld, for his endless patience. Also, I thank the people who have given me money. I love money.

I thank my parents, brothers, uncles, cousins, Lord Lucifer Satan the Ruler of Hell, his brother our dean, and Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. May death come swiftly to his enemies.

DEEEEEEEEEETH!

(date)
(name)

Needs more revision.

Rules

February 8, 2012

Everyone has an opinion.

Everyone has “facts”. Most of these are not facts.

The easiest place is not between two extremes.

The correct opinion is not always between two extremes. (“Well, but don’t liberate the slaves too much.“)

There’s always someone more extremer than thou.

Don’t whistle while pissing; that attracts the pissbears.

Corollary: Paranoia is easy.

You are not special.

Corollary 1: “I strongly feel” is not a good argument.

Corollary 2: Your experiences are not the sum of the total of human experience.

Corollary 3: The sum of the total of human experience isn’t all there is.

Corollary 3b: Tradition is overrated.

“Do good” is about as useful a guide as “Turn right”. (“Universal guide to arriving to Las Vegas: Turn right!”)

There are stupid questions.

Corollary 1: Aardvark whatever us charley horse a state?

Corollary 2: Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Corollary 3: Assuming this is a good thing and this is an evil thing, which do you think is gooder?

You should ask even the stupid questions.

Corollary 1: Colorado!

Corollary 2: Mu.

Corollary 3: The first one; and about your model of the world and the world itself, a few words…

Meant to be

February 6, 2012

There is the person you are meant to be. You are not meant to die yet, not before you are that person; it is not your part to be something else.

That fate of yours is to be a crocodile tamer in the Everglades.

Trust me; I am the person whose job it is to know what is meant to be.

In case you wonder: why of course there is an authority for these things. Do you suppose the whole “it was meant to be/not meant to be” thing was just a verbal tic, a belch of illogic for those too selfish to take the blame for their own failures, too timid to claim agency for their own victories, too terrified of the possibility that the universe is a big scary random place where things just happen?

Or a cosmological mistake, reflecting unexamined prejudices about the internal workings of the universe?

Do you really think it was just a glib assertion that either indicated faith in religious predestination and implicit surrender of free will, or then vague hopes that each and every life has a meaningful character arc and a happy ending, except for all the junkies and those that die young, who incidentally are not the special person You?

Why no.

That is very silly.

Six millennia ago you, Dear Reader, were foreseen and then destined to crocodile-tamer-hood by the Enrobed Conclave of Midnight, and I am telling you so you can have a bit of time to prepare.

Get a leather hat and a machete, maybe.

Sooner or later people become who they are meant to be, and the Crocodile Dundee of the Sunshine State is you. All of you who read this. There’s space in Florida, and a meaning to each and every life.

(My hat in life, Dear Reader, is making Official Pronouncements To You and getting incensed over the little things people say. It is not quite the work of a Dundee, but there’s less chance of being eaten by a crocodile, so it kind of averages to the same.)