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Messages - Cain

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Literate Chaotic / Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
« on: Yesterday at 09:24:20 pm »
Well, you've still got what, two days?

I'm unfortunately working night shift, which turns brains to mush, otherwise I'd throw some ideas around.

Pimping for a friend is always acceptable.


When I'm back off my work computer, I will check them out.

Literate Chaotic / Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
« on: Yesterday at 04:51:58 pm »
Shit just got real:

This is your final exam.

You have 60 hours.

Your solution must at least allow Harry to evade immediate death,
despite being naked, holding only his wand, facing 36 Death Eaters
plus the fully resurrected Lord Voldemort.

If a viable solution is posted before
*12:01AM Pacific Time* (8:01AM UTC) on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015,
the story will continue to Ch. 121.

Otherwise you will get a shorter and sadder ending.

Keep in mind the following:

1. Harry must succeed via his own efforts. The cavalry is not coming.
Everyone who might want to help Harry thinks he is at a Quidditch game.

2. Harry may only use capabilities the story has already shown him to have;
he cannot develop wordless wandless Legilimency in the next 60 seconds.

3. Voldemort is evil and cannot be persuaded to be good;
the Dark Lord's utility function cannot be changed by talking to him.

4. If Harry raises his wand or speaks in anything except Parseltongue,
the Death Eaters will fire on him immediately.

5. If the simplest timeline is otherwise one where Harry dies -
if Harry cannot reach his Time-Turner without Time-Turned help -
then the Time-Turner will not come into play.

6. It is impossible to tell lies in Parseltongue.

Within these constraints,
Harry is allowed to attain his full potential as a rationalist,
now in this moment or never,
regardless of his previous flaws.

Of course 'the rational solution',
if you are using the word 'rational' correctly,
is just a needlessly fancy way of saying 'the best solution'
or 'the solution I like' or 'the solution I think we should use',
and you should usually say one of the latter instead.
(We only need the word 'rational' to talk about ways of thinking,
considered apart from any particular solutions.)

And by Vinge's Principle,
if you know exactly what a smart mind would do,
you must be at least that smart yourself.
Asking someone "What would an optimal player think is the best move?"
should produce answers no better than "What do you think is best?"

So what I mean in practice,
when I say Harry is allowed to attain his full potential as a rationalist,
is that Harry is allowed to solve this problem
the way YOU would solve it.
If you can tell me exactly how to do something,
Harry is allowed to think of it.

But it does not serve as a solution to say, for example,
"Harry should persuade Voldemort to let him out of the box"
if you can't yourself figure out how.

The rules on Fanfiction dot Net allow at most one review per chapter.
Please submit *ONLY ONE* review of Ch. 113,
to submit one suggested solution.

For the best experience, if you have not already been following
Internet conversations about recent chapters, I suggest not doing so,
trying to complete this exam on your own,
not looking at other reviews,
and waiting for Ch. 114 to see how you did.

I wish you all the best of luck, or rather the best of skill.

Ch. 114 will post at 10AM Pacific (6PM UTC) on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015.


Aneristic Illusions / Re: Anybody look at Ukraine lately?
« on: February 28, 2015, 10:32:53 pm »
Well, I'm sure this is a good sign.

I N THE 17th century, the area to the east of the Dnieper River was known as the “wilderness,” an ungoverned territory that attracted refugees, criminals and peasants — a place beyond the reach of the Russian empire. Today, this part of Ukraine plays a similar role, this time for Muslim brothers. In eastern Ukraine, the green flag of jihad flies over some of the private battalions’ bases.

For many Muslims, like Rizvan, the war in Ukraine’s Donbass region is just the next stage in the fight against the Russian empire. It doesn’t matter to them whether their ultimate goal is a Caliphate in the Middle East, or simply to have the Caucuses free of Russian influence — the brothers are united not by nation, but by a sense of community and solidarity.

But the brothers barely have the financial means for fighting or living. They are poor, and very rarely receive grants from the so-called Islamic humanitarian organizations. They must earn money for themselves, and this is usually done by force. Amber is one of the ideas Rizvan has for financing the “company of brothers” fighting in eastern Ukraine — the Dudayev battalion, which includes Muslims from several nations, Ukrainians, Georgians, and even a few Russians.

Yes, although even the "occult" elements of the murder have a pragmatic aspect to them.  So for example, Saturday night with no moon makes sense because Saturday night will be the busiest night for young couples in their car, and no moon makes the attack and get-away more likely to succeed.

Spezi and Preston, working from the FBI profile, believed the killer was impotent.  Thus the knife was a substitute penis, the choice of targets was to make up for his own inadequacy, and the ritualistic trophies also make sense.  Interestingly, the Italian police chose to disregard this profile when choosing their suspects with alarming frequency.  Thus one of the Sardinians, Salvatore, was actually bisexual with a rapacious appetite for sex.  Another suspect, the farmer Pacciani, was a convicted rapist of his own daughters.

Much of what interests me in the Monster case is not so much the Monster himself, but what investigating him reveals about the dark underside of the Tuscan countryside.  An area that prides itself on essentially starting the modern world, and of having the highest values of civilization, nevertheless has a brutal and blood-soaked underbelly.

For those wondering about this comment on FB:

This whole comment section is lail. Not the good kind of lail though. The kind of lail that makes you laugh until your throat is hoarse, and then you feel something like a small piece of vomit at the back of your throat, and you try to swallow to make it go away but you can't stop laughing while you do so and it turns into an almost choke. And then you finally get your breath back, but the feeling is still there at the back of your throat, and no matter how much you swallow or have to drink that small feeling and vague taste of vomit just wont go away.

I'm good.  My metaphors just get...strange when I'm on odd sleep patterns.

Also, there's a very good suspect for who the Monster is.  Amazingly good, in fact.  I guessed it might be him after the circumstances of the "Sardinian Trail" and the origins of the Monster's gun were discovered.

Basically, the Monster used a signature .22 Beretta with a notch that put unique markings on the bullet casings.  As it turned out, these bullets matched an earlier solved murder.  However, the murderer was in prison for some of the murders, and in a halfway house under supervision when others occured, and was not of sufficient mental health to be the Monster (who had shown himself to be an "organised" serial killer, in the FBI's parlance).

He was a Sardinian immigrant, who had killed his cheating wife and her lover.  Sardinia, as you may be aware, is incredibly clannish with a strong "honor culture".  They follow something called, well, the Code of the Brigand.  Rape and murder are justified under certain circumstances, as are stealing and kidnap.  Lots of Sardinians moved to Tuscany during the 60s, and made a name for themselves as smugglers, kidnappers and outlaws.

As you've probably guessed, the murder wasn't a one-man job.  Others were involved.  It was a matter of Sardinian honour, after all.  Oh, and money.  And someone related to the involved parties fits almost all the criterea for being the Monster - including attempting to burgle the house where the weapon was kept, which was recorded in a suppressed police report.

I dunno, I've always found that theory to be somewhat questionable.  You'd be amazed how high your risk of drowning is near bodies of water after drinking.  Not to mention the risk of exposure during the winter months.  And the smiley face is a very popular form of graffiti.  I'm not saying it's impossible, only that I have my doubts and that former police officers can be obessive about these sort of things, even when they are utterly wrong.

One of the big problems in the case of Il Monstro was that the Florentine Chief of Police and the Perugia Examining Magistrate were both conspiracy theorists.  I mean, off the wall conspiracy theorists, Satanic cults stretching back to the Middle Ages, Eyes Wide Shut sort of thing.  They followed this Italian blogger who claimed a group called The School of the Red Rose was behind the killings.  As well as several other killings.  And 9/11.

Just to point out at this stage, yes this IS the same examining magistrate who latched onto a witchcraft and sex murder theory in the case of Amanda Knox, despite ample evidence indicating that Rudy Guede's story (amazingly) is accurate.  He's ordered bodies exhumed, had journalists arrested and intimidated and overseen judicial witchunts on the basis of these conspiracy theories.

Mike T sounds like a man you don't want to piss off.  That's a fairly inspired bit of vengeance.

Hey Roger, maybe when Lilly is gone, you could apply for Jim's old job.  You may not be the management the plant wants, but you're the management the plant needs.

What colour was the dress Leonard Nimoy wearing while he died watching 50 Shades of Grey?  You wont believe what millenials said!  Click here for the listicle.

The investigation that followed lifted the lid off a bizarre underworld that few Florentines knew existed in the lovely hills surrounding their city. In Italy, most young people live at home with their parents until they marry, and most marry late. As a result, having sex in parked cars is a national pastime. It has been said that one out of every three Florentines alive today was conceived in a car. On any given weekend night the hills surrounding Florence were filled with young couples parked in shadowy lanes and dirt turnouts, in olive groves and farmers’ fields.

The investigators discovered that dozens of voyeurs prowled the countryside spying on these couples. Locally, these voyeurs were known as Indiani, or Indians, because they crept around in the dark. Some carried sophisticated electronic equipment, including parabolic and suction-cup microphones, tape recorders, and night vision cameras . The Indiani had divided the hills into zones of operation, each managed by a group or “tribe” who controlled the best posts for vicarious sex-watching . Some posts were highly sought after, either because they allowed for very close observation or because they were where the “good cars” were most commonly found. (A “good car” is exactly what you might imagine.) A good car could also be a source of money, and sometimes good cars were bought and sold on the spot, in a kind of depraved bourse, in which one Indiano would retire with a fistful of cash, ceding his post to another to watch the finish. Wealthy Indiani often paid for a guide to take them to the best spots and minimize the risk.

Then there were the intrepid people who preyed on the Indiani themselves, a subculture within a subculture. These men crept into the hills at night not to watch lovers but to spy on Indiani, taking careful note of their cars, license plate numbers, and other telling details— and then they would blackmail the Indiani, threatening to expose their nocturnal activities to their wives, families , and employers. It sometimes happened that an Indiano would have his voyeuristic bliss interrupted by the flash of a nearby camera; the next day he would receive a call: “Remember that flash in the woods last night? The photo came out beautifully, you look simply marvelous , a likeness that even your second cousin would recognize! By the way, the negative is for sale . . .”

One day he learned from a beat cop that investigators had questioned and released an odd character who had been passing himself off as a medical examiner. Spezi found the story charming and pursued it for the paper . The man was “Dr.” Carlo Santangelo, a thirty-six-year-old Florentine, of pleasing appearance, a lover of solitude, separated from his wife, who went about dressed in black wearing eyeglasses with smoked lenses, gripping a doctor’s bag in his left hand.

In the ever-present doctor’s bag were the tools of his profession, a number of perfectly honed and glistening scalpels. Instead of maintaining an established residence, Dr. Santangelo preferred to pass his days in various hotels or residences in small towns near Florence. And when he chose a hotel, he made sure it was near a small cemetery. If there was a room with a view of the tombstones, so much the better.

Dr. Santangelo’s face, eyes covered with thick dark lenses, had become familiar to the staff of OFISA, the most prominent funeral establishment in Florence, where he often passed his hours as if on important business. The doctor with the dark lenses doled out prescriptions, saw patients, and even ran a psychoanalysis business on the side.

The only problem was, Dr. Santangelo wasn’t a medical examiner or pathologist. He wasn’t even a physician, although he seems to have taken it upon himself to operate on live people, at least according to one witness. Santangelo was unmasked when a serious car accident took place on the autostrada south of Florence, and somebody remembered that in a hotel nearby there lived a doctor. Dr. Santangelo was fetched to provide first aid, and all were amazed to hear that he was none other than the medical examiner who had performed the autopsies on the bodies of Susanna Cambi and Stefano Baldi, the Monster’s latest victims. At least that was what several employees of the hotel said they had heard directly from Dr. Santangelo himself, when he had proudly opened his bag and showed them the tools of his profession.

Santangelo’s peculiar claim got back to the carabinieri, and it didn’t take them long to find out that he was no doctor. They learned of his predilection for small cemeteries and pathology rooms, and, even more alarming, his penchant for scalpels. The carabinieri promptly hauled Santangelo in for questioning. The phony medical examiner freely admitted to being a liar and spinner of tall tales, although he wasn’t able to explain his love for cemeteries at night.

He hotly denied as libel, however, the story his girlfriend told of how he had broken off a night of passionate lovemaking by taking a dose of sleeping pills, saying this was the only way he could resist the temptation to leave his bed of love to take a turn around the tombstones.

Police detectives also took the Savonarola theory seriously, and quietly began looking into certain priests known to have odd or unusual habits. Several Florentine prostitutes told police that from time to time they entertained a priest with rather eccentric tastes. He paid them generously, not for normal sex, but for the privilege of shaving off their pubic hair.

The police were interested, reasoning that here was a man who enjoyed working with a razor in that particular area. The girls were able to give the police his name and address. One crisp Sunday morning , a small group of police and carabinieri in plainclothes, led by a pair of magistrates, entered an ancient country church perched among cypresses in the lovely hills southwest of Florence. The committee was received in the sacristy, where the priest was in the act of dressing in his robes, taking up the sacred vestments with which he was about to say Mass. They showed him a warrant and told him the reason for their visit, stating their intention to search the church, grounds, confessionals, altars, reliquaries, and tabernacle.

The priest staggered and almost fell to the floor in a faint. He didn’t try even for a moment to deny his nocturnal avocation as a barber for ladies, but he swore in the strongest terms that he wasn’t the Monster. He said he understood why they had to search the premises, but he begged them to keep the reason for their visit secret and delay the search until after he had said Mass.

All taken from Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi's excellent book, The Monster of Florence.  If you're not aware of the case, you should look into it, and definitely read their book if it catches your interest.  Not only are the crimes themselves shocking, so is the incompetence and careerism of the Italian police and prosecution.

Haha, I am on teh wireless internets.  Seriously though, this place is so stupid.  "Students, you cannot be trusted with broadband internet access after midnight.  Well, unless its also wireless, in which case that's OK".

Well it wasn't for me, because I didn't have wireless.  Until now, anyway.

 :lol: That's totally nonsensical.

But they can be totally trusted to self-medicate.  But they can't be trusted to choose suitable bedtimes.  But they can be trusted to cook for themselves and clean a kitchen.  Etc etc ad infinitum.

This place's rules almost seem like they were designed to frustrate logic.

Haha, I am on teh wireless internets.  Seriously though, this place is so stupid.  "Students, you cannot be trusted with broadband internet access after midnight.  Well, unless its also wireless, in which case that's OK".

Well it wasn't for me, because I didn't have wireless.  Until now, anyway.

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