11/29/2003

11-29-03 - 1

11-29-03

Government involvement in marriage is ridiculous. It should be a private agreement between two people, which is optionally encoded in a legal contract (essentially what current marriage is). We should remove special legal status for married couples, special tax breaks, etc. it is not the business of the government to be involved in encouraging people to have good Christian lives. Strange how conservatives claim to be so "Laissez-faire" and yet want the government to be involved in subsidizing big business and people who behave like good Christians. In fact, I would say that current laws are a violation of the separation of church & state, since marriage is really a very religious institution, and the various forms of marriage differ greatly from one religion to another. Traditional monogamous marriage is a very Christian thing, and outlawing other forms is very discriminatory.

11/19/2003

11-19-03 - 2

11-19-03

I finally watched the Nova on String Theory, since I'm home sick for the day. Horrendous, and not just for someone who knows some physics, but just horrendous in general. Four hours and almost totally devoid of information, very repetetive and insultingly simplified. I think that any smart person who doesn't know physics would have felt the same way. When I watch the Novas on other fields, biology, chemistry, etc. I find them to be too simple, lacking in depth. There's also a way that programs like that could talk to multiple levels at the same time; just toss out a little bit of more advanced stuff once in a while and you'll keep the higher level people occupied. In fact, the program was very un-compelling. String Theory is really magical and amazing stuff; when I learned it, it sent shivers down my spine, literally, the things that come together to make it possible are just astounding - the magical cancellations of the infinities, the dimensions and symmetry groups, the fact that it just so happens that the Standard Model is found inside the only possible string theory, it is like the theory was meant to be - and that's why people have stuck with it through so many difficulties. The show gave none of that impression, really.

There is no good description of quantum mechanics for the lay person. I bet I could write one. Quantum mechanics is definitely correct; even if it's not the way the universe works, it's correct as a model. That is, even if the universe works in some other unknown way, QM is still correct as a predictive model. In fact, under some philosophies of science, all you can ever do is form a predictive model. That is, let's say we did have a "Theory of Everything" - let's say String Theory worked out and explained everything. Now, is the universe actually made of strings? Who knows! In fact, what does it mean to say "actually made of" ? All we can say is that string theory is an incredibly good *model* of the universe. We can say that the model of the universe acting as strings predicts the same thing that actually occurs. I think that even many scientists fail to grasp this and believe that when they work with strings, it means the universe is actually made of strings. That's ok, it's a form of religion, and it helps to make thought clearer.

Quantum mechanics requires you to visualize branching amplitude trees, state overlaps and collapses, probability amplitude spreading and coupling and forming conditional probabilities, etc. Even plain probability is very difficult and paradoxical to most people, amplitudes (square roots of probabilities) are even more bizarre, and the idea that the universe works this way is just incomprehensible to most.

11-19-03 - 1

11-19-03

Green leaf lettuce is the lowest form of lettuce. Boston is better, Butter, Romaine, even Red Leaf & Iceberg have more character.

I've had a bit of an epiphany about manipulation. Yes, sure, there is lots of manipulation and lying in the world, but there's also this idea of "helping people do what they really want to do". Most people won't do what they really want to. If you just ask someone "do you want to go to the lake and go skinny-dipping?", they might love to, but they can't say yes for various reasons. You need to help them to be able to say what they really want to say. This "help" often takes the same forms as manipulation. Manipulation of course is getting people to agree to something they don't really want to, and the techniques are very similar. I'm learning that I need to help people along.

I went to Vegas last weekend. It was a good time (it was also pretty damn expensive). It's my first time going, so part of the purpose was just to check it out, see the spectacle and whatnot. We went out dancing and clubbing, that was good, there are some definite nice clubs in Vegas. I dig dressing up in my fly gear and talking to the ladies, and there was some really interesting people-watching. The whole seedy-Vegas-slot-machine thing is really disgusting, as is the way everyone is trying to take all your money all the time; I hate being around so many people who live off tips, it brings out greed and pettiness and just a nasty side of humanity; I'm pretty disgusted by the whole Disney-land aspect of the really fake casinos too. I like the old-school classy joints that don't really have much of a theme; even if they're starting to decay a little bit, that doesn't bug me, I don't really like things to be sparkling brand new. I'd like to go back some time in the summer when it's hot, so I can spend all day at a nice pool, and all night in dance clubs, and maybe hit the blackjack a tiny bit. I played some poker in Vegas, but playing ring games just isn't that much fun for me. It is a big thrill when you win a big pot, so it's fun to sit down and play enough to do that, you get a big adrenaline rush, your hands shake, etc. Proper poker in a casino is like work. I played some blackjack, and that was more fun; some of the tables were rotten boring, but on the last day we got a fun table, mainly we made it fun ourselves, and we were winning money and hooting and it was all good. After the trip I felt hung over and smokey and un-fit and drained. Time for a cleansing.

My grandpa died a little while ago, and now I get paid by his life insurance. It sucks. Every month I get a reminder in the mail that my grandpa is gone.

11/11/2003

11-11-03 - 1

11-11-03

What really sucks is being smart enough to realize how things should be done, but not skilled enough to actually do them that way.

11/06/2003

11-6-03 - 1

11-6-03

People think about what they deal with daily, not what they're interested in. I have lots of thoughts about games; I don't real give a rat's ass about games, but I have lots of great ideas for how to do them better. If I worked at a toaster factory, I'd be writing papers on how to improve toasters. I always chuckle when I see some guy who's got a patent on something like "method for vibrational damping of corn syrup injection in snack cakes".

11/05/2003

11-5-03 - 2

11-5-03

If someone tries to hang you : first, bend your knees, try to let your weight rest in the noose, don't support yourself with your legs. Death by hanging is caused by the sudden jerk breaking the neck, not strangulation. Now, when they kick out the chair or open the trap-door, you have already got your weight in the noose, and you should be able to ease into the hang. Try to get a big breath of air right before they do it. Now, make a strangling noise and twitch a bit, then twitch your fit, then be perfectly still and play dead. Hopefully now they'll assume you're dead and either A) cut you down, or B) leave. If they leave, pull yourself up the rope with your arms. Once you have some slack, wrap your left arm in the rope tightly so you can hang your weight on it without using your muscles. Pull the noose with your right arm to get some slack into it so you can slip out.

11-5-03 - 1

11-5-03

In all traditional media, you know where you are in the experience. With books, you can feel the number of pages before and after the current, with television, you know the duration and the current time, with movies you have the convention of the standard duration. This is a major part of our experience; if a mystery starts wrapping up and you know it's only half-way done, you know there's a big twist yet to come. If on the other hand you're near the end of a book and a mystery is wrapping up, you know it's the real wrap-up, and you commit yourself to it emotionally. Now, if someone suddenly hands you another book and says "surprise, there's a second volume!" you feel betrayed, bothered that the end was held in front of you and didn't come. This happens with movies that are longer than the conventional hour and a half. When the movie keeps giving false wrap-ups and then just keeps going, we feel emotionally strung along, and we just want it to be over already. With modern electronic media, we have the occasion now to provide variable length experiences and not let the consumer know where they are or how long the experience is. This is generally a bad thing, it's disorienting to the consumer. It can sometimes be used to artful purpose to convey a sense of being lost in the story, but almost always it's done without being aware of how important this idea of knowing your position in the experience is.

11/01/2003

11-2-03 - 1

11-2-03

I'm a rugby player now, on the local SLO Rugby team. It's Division III amateur, but they're pretty serious, they went to nationals last year and plan to do it again this year. I'm a winger; it's the perfect position for me, because I'm pretty fast, but small by rugby standards (180 lbs, a mere 81 kilos), and my passing isn't very good, so winger is ideal because I mainly just take the last pass and run. I had my first real game yesterday, an exhibition match against Cal Poly (their 2nd team) to start our season. I scored a try - pretty rare for a first game. It was a beautiful team try, I take no credit - we were near their goal line and our forwards were crashing in; their defense bunched up to stop our forwards, and our scrum-half kicked the ball out to the backs; our backs charged and passed the ball down the line at a nice angle, and I was last in line, took the ball at good pace with a burst and beat the last defender to the outside. Today I'm in great pain, I took a beating all over. The worst hit was when I got tackled right in my thigh by a guy diving into me; it's given me a horrendous "charlie horse", and my whole thigh (quadricep) is like one big knot, I can barely stand on it. I'm taking aspirin, icing it, heating it, stretching, massaging, etc. I need to get it rehabilitated quickly so I can get back to training. I need to run run run and work on my skills.

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