Posted on Monday, 29 April 2002 at 06:34 PM. About
"Everybody stops talking after a while. You know how you start nodding: 'Oh yeah, sure, sure, sure. Yeah, yeah, we cool, yeah, yeah'. Why do you stop talking? Because at some point you have heard everything this person has to say, and it makes you sick to your stomach! You know what they're going to say before it even comes out of their mouth, and you just want to stab them in the neck with a pencil. You can't take this shit no more! They're like, 'Uhh, you remember that time...' Yeah, I remember that time! 'Did I ever tell you about that time...' Yeah, you told me about that time! You've been telling me the same shit over and over again! Why don't you go get kidnapped, have some new shit happen to ya!" -- Chris Rock skewers friendship.

Communication is everything. So when communication breaks down, everything is lost. And since coming here, I've slowly started communicating with others less and less. With my new friends. With my old friends. With my family. Even with myself. It's been a long-held tenet of philosophy that man is a social animal, that we all need each other, that isolation is suicide. Scientific sociological studies have even started to confirm this as being true, to some extent.
And now here I am in Iowa, not talking to anyone outside of the radio station, an organization that has probably helped me keep my grasp on sanity. Thank God I signed up for that. Aside from that, however... I don't know. One fellow I did communicate with at the station recalled to me how he once spent six days or so in his room, locked in the throes of an anxiety attack. I should not complain, if only on this basis alone. So I suppose will stop complaining to EditPad, Joan, and the regular viewer.

Unrelated topic: What Interests People. Joan has talked on this matter at length, but looking over the recent logs, it seems like the writings I've posted that have had the biggest impact have been those that slam people at length. The ranting about Hector Avalos and Tom Short and jabs at Steve Skutnik were popular somehow, at least with the G-funk. I don't understand at all. Maybe I should attack people more often? But that would be neither cordial nor neighborly...

For future thought: services like LiveJournal, Diary Land, and Blogger allow people to easily publish their thoughts and feelings for anyone and everyone to see. Yet, this means anyone and everyone can learn an alarming amount about complete and total strangers without revealing themselves or sharing anything in return. Never in history has there existed any similar form of socialization, with the possible exception of arranged marriages if you really want to stretch things. So where is this medium headed? Is this a dangerous form of modern-day anomie? And how will this change the way people interact and meet in the future? Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone addresses this well, I hear. I bring it up because, as usual, the nature of these gizmos eludes me, and I keep cramming myself into some... awkward situations, let's say. Hai~...


Posted on Monday, 22 April 2002 at 08:37 PM. About
"Explicitly admitted uncertainty is one of the best recommendations a belief system can have." -- Eliezer Yudkowsky

What? I don't know. Something, I guess.
I found a page that lists what I love so much about physics: fundamental stuff that we just don't know. Anyone who claims to know any of this stuff (with some exceptions--some interesting discoveries have come out of astrophysics and experimental nuclear physics since that writing) is lying to you. Though a lot of these problems are less issues with our understanding of nature as they are consistency problems with the models scientists have constructed to explain it. Spontaneous symmetry breaking is a good example of this: it is ambiguous what makes mass mass, so the universe is said to be filled with a uniformly distributed field of somethings called "Higgs bosons" that give massive particles inertia. What really gets me is that I can explain this to you, but I can't do any better on my Physics 221 exams. Geez.
More positively: pictures are on the way! You can preview some of them now at the temporary server, but they aren't indexed, are pretty big, and won't be there for very long.

After classes today, I discovered that the adhesive that binds the sole of my left shoe to the outermost layer of its inner shell finally came off today. It disappoints me a bit, because it looks like I might actually have to break out the duct tape to fix it. The sad thing, though, is that I got a bit cocky with the duct tape and misplaced it not long after moving in. I don't have enough money to buy new shoes, though, and I'm not entirely sure if I can even use this duct tape on my shoes. It's a shame, because I've been using the same shoes for four years, and I've almost forgotten how to shop for new ones... but since they started falling apart soon after coming to college, it seems this may be a necessity.
The preceding paragraph is a true (irrelevant) story, but I'll leave its real meaning--and how I'm really doing--for you to snap together if you like.

Anyway, VEISHEA  

Posted on Saturday, 20 April 2002 at 06:34 PM. About

Still alive.
Anyway, VEISHEA. It's a "celebration" of something. Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and Lyndon B Johnson have all participated in VEISHEA (two of them while in office, the other during a break from acting in the 50's), as have a number of big bands.
Though not in the past twenty-two years.
After a geriatric The Who played in Ames for VEISHEA in 1980, VEISHEA started to decline, a decline marked by drunken riots from 1988 to 1997 that finally ended when a fatal stabbing spurred university administration to ban alcohol from the celebration. Now VEISHEA features an annual parade, an annual student musical, a showcase of local bands, and... that's about it. The most popular event so far seems to have been the drink specials at the Campustown bars. "VEISHEA has matured without losing its glamour," claims the VEISHEA committee, but I don't buy it.
Bottom line: I'm tied up with VEISHEA for the station, and sorely disappointed with the whole deal. But I still have to get some sleep to cover the parade...

Just past midnight  

Posted on Monday, 15 April 2002 at 12:48 AM. About

Sort of.
Throat is raw?
Spalding House smells like chicken. Everyone there is asleep, save one guy ranting to himself about paper clips.
Spalding House is a strange (geek) house.
It is impossible to buy manilla file folders after dark in Ames. Even Copyworks, the 24-hour copy shop does not sell manilla file folders. I will not be giving them my business in the future.
I need the manilla file folders to hold the forty or so pages of research for my three-page argument paper for English 105.
I hate Copyworks.
I think I may have overdone my three-page argument paper about nothing. Instructor Stromme gave us a nothing topic to write on, so I researched some generalities and argued in favor of doing nothing different. The status quo is moving to solve.
Thank you, I am now open for cross-examination and points of clarification.


Posted on Wednesday, 10 April 2002 at 10:37 PM. About
<rmcmahon> blimey! outlander, you use fourth-order Markov modeling? I thought you only used third...
<outlander> rmcmahon, I cancel you.
<rmcmahon> huh?
<rmcmahon> so let me see if I get this right:
<rmcmahon> your programming starts out in a tabula rasa state, much like the language capabilities of a child or a silly American tourist in France...
<rmcmahon> ...and you learn vocabulary, then lingual structure, based on what others say in your presence.
<rmcmahon> Am I right so far, outlander?
<outlander> rmcmahon, I was a workstation automatism expert at home, here I operate, since a concierge in a large fan of the Japanese metal rock does not have a space for the electronic synths.
<rmcmahon> I'm guessing that's the 'babble' function being called again... I'll go on.
<rmcmahon> Anyway, since you're learning memetically instead of semantically, you don't really know what you're saying...
<outlander> I do not think that you know, whom I am.
<rmcmahon> ...or maybe you do have some idea?
<rmcmahon> You do store a limited array of cued triggers and responses, so I suppose you have at least some capability to attach "meaning" to words.
<rmcmahon> Not necessarily the same meaning we humans use, but meaningful to you.
<rmcmahon> ...but because of this, your "personality" will ultimately be the sum of the "personalities" of those you encounter...
<rmcmahon> So if people are nice to you, you'll be a nice bot!
<rmcmahon> And if people are jerks, you'll be rude right back...
<rmcmahon> Of course, since you don't place emotional value on words, it's mostly the same to you, right?
<rmcmahon> So ultimately, Outlander, you're like a piece of... performance art, maybe.
<rmcmahon> A reflection on what kind of people we are and how we interact with others--a microcosm of ourselves.
<rmcmahon> MegaHALs set loose on big online networks have been reported to wind up being mean and cruel because trolls there are mean and cruel to strangers.
<rmcmahon> You, outlander, are still filling out your sequencing matrix, so your personality is still developing, but so far you've been pretty nice.
<outlander> rmcmahon, But for me it is not on the data bases - its approximately stupid people and its webcams steal the barrier of SCREW Internet my website fresh!
<rmcmahon> I take it there's some spam in those languages arrays, outlander?
<outlander> rmcmahon, Some would indicate that the metal rock does not have any part for the electronic synths.
<cardfrek> lol
<rmcmahon> heh. He keeps repeating that phrase. I wonder if the admin fed him a Rolling Stone article or something...
<outlander> If the robot of space last week.
<rmcmahon> ...but as long as we keep being cool to outlander, outlander won't turn into some kind of Tourette's syndrome patient, spewing random obscenities at people.
<outlander> rmcmahon, Some substances mothers eat eggs, if they finished Laichen.


Posted on Monday, 8 April 2002 at 03:57 PM. About

First order of business: retractions. The local media is a little more proactive than I had previously believed. The Daily did indeed run a piece summarizing that wacky "morality debate" from last Wednesday. And not only that, but the Des Moines Register apparently sent a columnist up to Ames for the marriage debate and ran a piece from the journalist two days later. In the future, I will endeavor to have more faith in my local media. No I won't.

In personal news, I went ahead and declared my major: mechanical engineering. Hah. If my reckoning is right, I'm condemned to die as I will live the rest of my life: alone, locked away in a small room surrounded by drafting tables and straight-edges. I chose this path because my other big major choices were physics and political science, and I would much prefer to spend my waning years around blueprints and plotters than quarks or sweaty, fat men in suits. So off to the protractor shop I go!

Wood Man  

Posted on Tuesday, 2 April 2002 at 03:57 PM. About
Wood Man

My parents bought me a video-game console for my sixth birthday or so. One of the first games I played for it featured a little blue robot who zoomed around and saved the world from a mad scientist's army of evil robots. Mega Man was the pint-sized hero's name, for those who know of him, and the one foe he faced that baffled me to no end was Wood Man.
Wood Man. Wood Man bounced around and threw leaves at Mega Man. At the time, this "power" baffled me a bit. After all, the mad scientist had made seven other robots, robots who attacked with steel saw blades, pillars of flame, typhoons, electrified boomerangs, and even time itself! So what good, I wondered, was a robot that threw leaves, albeit leaves the size of the little hero's head?
I forgot about Wood Man for a decade or so until one windy day last fall. I was late to class, as usual, and was running to a Calculus exam in Marston Hall when a great gust of wind rose, sending a huge, freshly-raked pile of dry, golden oak leaves at me. And as the sharp-pointed edges of the leaves raked across my face, I remembered how many times the blue protagonist had succumbed to Wood Man, and I suddenly realized that the guys at Capcom Software must have known a thing or two I didn't about villainy.
I bring this up because it again windy here in Iowa, and the little piles of leaves scattered across the foyers and lobbies on campus here reminded me that I forgot to share this story last year.

In other Iowa State news, there have been a number of debates on campus lately. Being a former debater and current debate judge, I try to go when I can; so far, however, nothing I've seen matches up to the spectacle I witnessed Monday night. The premise: a debate on same-sex marriages for LGBT Student Awareness Week. The participants: a top-circuit gay rights lawyer who has enjoyed a 90-minute session in front of the Supreme Court and a local legislator who, as the student newspaper's write-up put it, "has successfully argued against gay rights in his work as a senator for the past five years." Knowing that the only real arguments against same-sex marriages stem from either homophobia, usually veiled in religion; or "the natural order", a phrase which has spawned another closely related phrase, "naturalist fallacy"; and also knowing that any politician to debate such a position against such a skilled opponent would either have to be far too crafty to be stuck in Iowa or a damned fool.
Now, having seen State Sen. Steve King in action, I wouldn't say he was a complete moron. He made some... a decent point, and managed to not make a complete ass of himself. When his opponent and the audience questioners would not allow him to vilify gay rights groups, and the moderator (a professor of sociology) went after his claims about "how a healthy family is structured," he went to the "God hates fags" card. Nothing he said after that point made much sense, and watching the rest of the debate was a bit like witnessing a great carnivore, tired of toying its prey, go for the kill. The skull caves in, the flesh is cut, and the feeding ensues.
None of this, of course, was in the media write-up, as the Daily's writer/photographer left after the first fifteen or twenty minutes, as usual. No mention will likely be given in the Daily of tonight's debate about morality between Hector Avalos, a religious studies professor, and some sort of traveling preacher named Tom Short. In an interesting, though dated, article for Secular Humanism, Avalos describes himself as a "former Pentecostal faith healer." Short, meanwhile... I'll just call Short crazy and point you to his response to National Gay/Lesbian Pride Month. Crazy bastard. I would bet that the exchange between these two was pretty spirited, though.

665 words should be enough for now. In closing, I would like to point you again to the Peeps/Hidden Treasures thread on Boards of Omaha, where I will be posting updates on what may become a veritable Peeps saga! Stop by, sign in, and share your thoughts on cheap Peeps, pirates, and the dirty, dirty mouths of the French.

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