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Topics - LMNO, PhD (life continues)

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Bo Diddley just died.

Another giant has left the earth.

The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Fill your bracket
« on: May 26, 2015, 01:50:45 pm »
Compare results!

"The eyes are the most superficial organ."

They only see the surface, don't capture the entire truth, and are manipulated by whatever psychology is lurking in the brain.

Aneristic Illusions / Indiana Facepalm
« on: April 02, 2015, 12:46:44 pm »
So, this doesn't really qualify as major news (as it is a symptom rather than a cause of fuckery), but it is relevant to my interests, so.

There's that law in Indiana that is supposedly a "Freedom of Religion" law, but many say it's a "down with gays" law.  I decided to find the bill itself and see what it says.  It's amusing, in it's way.

Sections 1-4: Blah blah blah, definitions, not intended to violate constitution, boilerplate.

Section 5: As used in this chapter, "exercise of religion" includes any exercise of religion,whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.
Interesting.  To me, this seems to be saying that it's not just core or common beliefs that are in scope, but any side beliefs a religious person might have.  So potentially, a Christian sect that believes redheads have no souls should be covered.

Section 6: More definitions.

Section 7: As used in this chapter, "person" includes the following: (1) An individual. (2) An organization, a religious society, a church, a body of communicants, or a group organized and operated primarily for religious purposes. (3) A partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.
That's pretty much everyone and everything.  However, (3)(B) could be a sticking point.  Take, for example, that pizza place that stepped up and said they won't serve gays.  Wouldn't they have to show that their establishment "exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief"?  Their refusal to serve gays has nothing to do with the act of making pizza, nor is making pizza a part of their religious practices.  I know the argument can be made that their beliefs are what precludes them from serving gays, but in that case, don't they have to prove that their system of religion prohibits them from feeding gays?

Section 8: (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. (b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
The "compelling governmental interest" bit could be fun, if you can finds something in the state constitution that has wording containing "all citizens" in it.

Section 9: If the law is violated, you can sue the government.

Section 10: If you win, you might get a government payout for compensatory damages, and court costs! Maybe.

Section 11: This chapter is not intended to, and shall not be construed or interpreted to, create a claim or private cause of action against any private employer by any applicant, employee, or former employee.
Cute.  The owners can sue the government, but an employee who's discriminated against can't sue the employer.  So a bakery can sue for having to serve a gay couple, but a christian couple can't sue if denied service and a gay bakery.

Literate Chaotic / Shameless plug for Dad's new book
« on: March 31, 2015, 12:22:33 pm »
Posthumously, of course. Before he died, he wrote a couple of chapters for a new book about science policy, or more to the point, about the failures of science policy he witnessed, and some thoughts on how to improve it so that science could be properly funded and sustained through multiple administrations.  After he died, one of his friends complied a handful of lectures he gave while director of Brookhaven National Labs and as Director of OSTP (the Office of Science Technology and Policy) at the White House* which shaped the science budget (and therefore, was functinally also science policy).  The first two written chapters focus on controversies at BNL and the SSC (a failed superconducting collider project), and are a fairly interesting account of the miscommunications and assumptions that fucked things up.  The middle chapters are essentially policy speeches, and were designed for other scientists, rather than a wider audience.  The final chapter are two essays taken from an anthology called The Science of Science Policy, and discuss the need to have a clear scientific approach to devloping and understanding science policy.  It's much more interesting than the speeches, as well.

It's not a book for everyone, but it gives a very rational, non-political look into how science and government interact.

*and Science Advisor to GW Bush.

Bring and Brag / Music challenge
« on: January 29, 2015, 07:51:54 pm »
So, I'm doing the RPM Challenge, which is sort of like NaNoWriMo, but for music.

10 Songs, or 35 minutes of music created in February.

Yes, I know I can loop one pattern for 35 minutes.  It may come to that.  I could also record myself snoring and send it through a delay and distortion pedal.  I may do that.

Anyway, I'll keep you updated.

I'd like to thank PD for pointing out the hot new trend in youth culture: Being a Genuinely Nice Person.

I played a show on Saturday, and it was pretty great.  Everyone was being really cool to each other.  Instead of the historic Boston dance, the "Stand In The Back With Arms Crossed, Judging", people were having a good time, applauding, dancing, and helping each other out.  It came through in the bands, too.  There was one band from NY called "Common Folk", and it was two guys who looked like ratty gutter punks, playing acoustic guitars and belting out songs without a mic or amplification, sounding like a cross between a punk anthem and a sea shanty, singing about how people should be nicer to each other.  The night ended with the closing band inviting all their friends on stage to sing along, and everyone was simply enjoying themselves.

Coming from an earlier era of ironic detachment, where taking an interest in something was considered uncool, this is a welcome breath of fresh air.  Out of self defense, I've built up a cynical shell of dismissive condescension over the years, but I've always felt like simply being a nice guy who engages with the world to be so much more FUN.  Hopefully, the kids will let an old fart have a go at this.

Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / My Day with a SJW
« on: January 09, 2015, 08:13:31 pm »
So, yesterday on FB I ran across a self-proclaimed “fat activist”, and I had a chance to speak with her in chat about her beliefs.  I came away with mixed feelings.

It all happened when Roger wrote (cross posted, I think?) a rant about how people in a Cause heel-dig and screech if their buzz words are challenged, or if additional information or First Thoughts were questioned.

As it turns out, she was a near-perfect Object Lesson.  Roger basically wrote a rant predicting a specific set of behaviors of a person with a Cause, and she pretty much acted exactly that way, right down the list. 

I was curious to see what would happen if I didn’t rise to the bait and removed as much buzzy language as possible, and crafted questions designed for yes/no/maybe answers.  So I sent her a PM, and asked a question that I thought would clearly establish a common reality, i.e. a biological base.

She couldn’t do it.  Every response veered off into “shaming” or “stigma” or “morality” or “discrimination” or “I think that question is used to torment humiliate and terrorize people” (real quote).  It then became obvious she was flat our rejecting certain nouns all together, as if when something is “named”,  it becomes an evil social tool solely designed to hurt a minority group of some sort.  I didn’t mock her or belittle her or try to condescend to her, I simply and politely tried to get an answer.

She then asked why I was so interested, and I told her that I had no bias about size (I don’t consciously, and if I do subconsciously, it’s down so deep I can’t hear it/can’t bother to care about it), and I was just curious to talk with an activist outside my social circle.  We chatted a bit more, and it became clear she was getting genuinely confused about a man and a woman having a non-screeching, non-flaming, polite conversation about fat activism on the internet.  The conversation ended naturally, and then she thanked me “for listening and not making fun of me”.  End scene.

So, as I said, my feelings changed as we talked.  I started out hilariously frustrated trying to get a straight answer out of her.  I mean, we’re talking total nutbag Social Justice Warrior here, oblivious to reality and shifting her fallacious appeals with every sentence, sending up flares and barbs designed to distract and derail.  It’s one of the few times I’ve seen this first hand, as I mainly use Tumblr for gay (and not-as-gay) porn. 

And then, as she started becoming bewildered, I realized that most likely was how the majority of her online experience goes, as arguments and invectives and threats and shrieks and triggers and mockery.  And that it was honestly unusual for someone to be polite and respectful, even while disagreeing.  And it made me sad, and sad for her that this was how she experienced life, at least online.

So yeah, this was going to start as “LOL SJW”, but it ended up… Melancholic? Would that be the right word?  Or Pity, as Aristotle used it, “a kind of pain in the case of an apparent destructive or painful harm of one not deserving to encounter it”. 

So.  Yeah.

The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Speak No More
« on: January 06, 2015, 04:27:28 pm »
So, I went to Sleep No More in NYC this New Year’s Eve.  Here’s kind of what happened.

First, they take your coat, and give you a red velvet cloak, and a mask:

You’re then led up a dark flight of stairs to a dark antechamber with a dark wood-paneled bar.

You know what?  Let’s just assume the working adjective for this whole thing is “dark”.  As both a descriptor of the light level, as well as the presented subject matter.  It’s easier that way.  Anyway, onward.

The group is given a shot of some kind of absinthe cocktail, and are led into another room.  Or to properly say, only some of you are let in.  This is the first in several ways they try to separate groups, as the night is best experienced alone.

A woman with a vaguely Scottish brogue welcomes you, and gives a brief instruction: You’re to remain silent for the next three hours.  She then gives a toast, you drink your shot, don your mask, and are led down a pitch-black hallway.  Some groups are ushered into an elevator (Mrs LMNO was in one of these groups.  They went up a floor, pushed one person out, closed the doors, and took the rest of the group to another floor).  Others were led out into a decrepit graveyard.

If the mentions of the ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ outfit, absinthe, and enforced spookiness are making your eyes roll, stop reading.  You’ll pull an ocular muscle.

The entire performance takes place in an old hotel, four or five stories high.  Each floor has been totally gutted, and sets have been built that change context and narrative as easily as walking through a door: a mental hospital turns into a woodland maze made out of dead branches; a room full of suspended doll parts abuts an accountant’s office; a bedroom becomes a ballroom.  Smoke machines are utilized often, and overall is an ominous ambient soundtrack that sounds like the Kronos Quartet fighting with the soundtrack to Eraserhead.  The guests are free to wander about the floors any way they’d like.  There is no set route, and there is no one to tell you what to do.  You are in unknown territory; you have no idea what’s going on.

The other thing about the rooms is the attention to detail.  The guests are allowed to go everywhere, touch everything.  If you go into that accountant’s office, you can look through the ledgers, open the drawers, examine the paperwork, notice that there’s a hidden doorway that leads to a small darkroom with pictures of vivisected human bodies hanging about….

If you’re getting the impression that the entire place feels like an uncomfortable dream with no linearity or familiarity, you’re getting the hang of it.  Because neither the floors or the rooms have any causal relationship to each other, you quickly become disoriented and lost, trying to find that room that was like the hold of a ship with a scratchy radio playing Kurt Weil songs, only to find yourself in a saloon with a baby doll lying in a font filled with congealing blood.

Then, movement.  A man is charging forward, unmasked, with a torn shirt and suspenders, being followed by a blonde woman in a blue dress.  He stops; she attacks him.  They struggle.  They start shouting at each other, but you can’t make out the words.  Are they even words?  She turns away, sobbing.  He storms out.  Still weeping, she stands and heads in the other direction.  What do you do?  Do you follow the man, the woman, or keep exploring your space?

This is where the “performance” part of Sleep No More happens.  Characters move throughout the sets and between floors, interacting with each other, and sometimes alone.  Often, there are great stretches where nothing happens on a particular floor, or room, and then a quick three minutes of furious flurries of action occur.  But no one is around to tell you where anyone is, who they are, or what the hell is going on.  You just have to come across them, and choose for yourself who to follow, or where to go next.  They move as if they are dancing (modern dance, of course), sometimes as if in slow motion, sometimes with violence and rage.  Not to get too repetitive, but “dreamlike” can be used as many times as “dark” can.  There’s also plenty of nudity (full frontal, both sexes (yum)).

Not to say that the characters are made up from blank cloth.  It’s not required to know the play, but the characters and themes are (VERY) loosely based upon Macbeth.  If one had no more knowledge than a quick scan of Wikipedia on the cab ride over, it is very easily to identify Macbeth, his Lady, Banquo, Duncan, and Macduff.  The themes of treachery, infanticide, and the supernatural all make an appearance. 

Maybe there’s even a coherent storyline.  The way everything is set up, it seems impossible to follow each performer around the building, while keeping tabs on the other.  I would guess it would take a dedicated effort and several visits to see everything that happens in those three hours (which, come to think of it, is kind of a brilliant way to sell more tickets).  The performance ends by the sets  getting shut down from the top floor down, which drives the audience into the ballroom, where a final scene takes place.  It’s pretty powerful, if you’re into that sort of thing.  You’re then led back out to the antechamber, which has been transformed into a speakeasy-type bar serving drinks and playing music, bringing everything back into the waking world.  You now can remove your mask, find your group, and talk about what the fuck you just saw, comparing notes.

7/10, would go again.

The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Whirlpool Memes
« on: December 06, 2014, 08:20:23 pm »

Literate Chaotic / On The Road to Nowhere
« on: December 02, 2014, 03:12:24 pm »
Slate Star Codex does a takedown of On The Road:

On The Road is a terrible book about terrible people. Kerouac and his terrible friends drive across the US about seven zillion times for no particular reason, getting in car accidents and stealing stuff and screwing women whom they promise to marry and then don’t.

Dean has stolen about a dozen cars. He has married one woman, had an affair with another, played the two of them off against each other, divorced the first, married the second, deserted the second with a young child whom she has no money to support, gone back to the first, dumped the first again so suddenly she has to become a prostitute to make ends meet. Later he will go back to the second, beat the first so hard that he injures his thumb and has to get it amputed, break into the second’s house with a gun to kill her but change his mind, desert the second again also with a child whom she has no money to support, start dating a third, desert the third also with a child whom she has no money to support, and go back to the second, all while having like twenty or thirty lesser affairs on the side.

(much, much more at the link)

The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Peeving
« on: December 01, 2014, 01:33:06 pm »
I'd like to suggest a new word, or at least a standing definition of a word, to be used (if so desired) at PD.

"Peeving" v. A post where the author is frustrated, annoyed, and generally aggravated about a minor behavior or situation of a personal nature.  The post is most often hyperbolic in nature, and likely polemical.  The author is fully aware that the post is riddled with bias, may be petty, and is more of a gripe or complaint rather than an observation or constructive thought.

A post which is peeving does not require the following responses:

-Unsolicited advice
-Arguments against the premise
-Semantic parsing

[Peeving] I'm ok with the fact that you have a self-imposed dietary restriction.  I'm even ok that it is ridiculous, and has no basis in medical fact other than it helps restrict caloric intake.  But for the HOLY LOVE OF GOD, that doesn't make it ok to come to my city on a holiday vacation where we go out to eat, and bring it up EVERY SINGLE TIME you look at the fucking menu, and then argue with the waiter that the chef can make a lamb stew without carrots, JUST FOR YOU.  You are THE FUCKING WORST.  Just look at the fucking menu, order what fits your needs, and maybe ask for a substitution, so long as you're POLITE about it.  THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT YOUR STUPID FUCKING DIET.  [/Peeving]

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