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The thing about the second Ringworld books onward is...

rishathra. Lots of it. Apparently Ringworld is all interspecies orgies all the time. Even the vampires work that way.

now, I thought the uncanny valley problem would have prevented stuff like this. On evolution weeds out those who mate with similar-but-different species, because they result in energy expended to produce either no offspring, or occasionally sterile offspring.

except, every so often I hear that humans interbred with neanderthals, and recently, that any human without immediate African ancestry contains some Neanderthal genes, which contradicts that principle.

I don't know. Two distant members of the same genus will produce nothing or a sterile hybrid, but two distant members of the same species can produce some of the strongest offspring. And two members of the same family will produce an inbred, weak offspring. And basically everyone on the Ringworld is descended from Homo habilis. And in Niven's universe, everything we know about human evolution on Earth is wrong anyway because aliens did it.
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So, for the first time in a while, I bought a comic book. Well, a hardback compilation, as it turns out. [Simpsons-Futurama Crossover Crisis.

It's a new thing that I usually don't buy, but it's not exactly enriching.

So I also bought a Getting Started with Arduino Kit V2.0. I have no idea what I'll get out of it. I only have vague childhood memories of making circuits with those old Radio Shack kits where you'd connect a bunch of wires between all these little numbered springs. I didn't learn very much from those. I did make a thing on a breadboard once, probably in some summer school program, but I've forgotten whatever I learned there, too. Maybe it'll all come back to me, and maybe it'll stick harder. Or maybe I'll remember why it didn't stick the first time. Anyway, it'll probably arrive this weekend and I'll at least crack it open.
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I'm awakening the better parts of my younger self.

I bought jeans in a store, as opposed to online. And I cracked open Gödel Escher Bach, a book that was recommended to me by a Kibologist I haven't spoken to in years. I'm not very well-versed in classical music, though, so reading the introduction just makes me flash back to when I rented Amadeus.


Jul. 24th, 2009 12:01 am
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Where can I get four tiny elephants? When I'm done getting unlimited 1UPs, I want to make 3.5-inch Floppy Discworld.
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I'm reading iWoz, in audiobook form.

I'm glad it's unabridged. Even though I'm not a hardware guy, I'm fascinated by all the technical details about the stuff Woz built.

Also, the longevity of the Apple 2 was already impressive, as I'd seen them installed in my high school as late as 1996. But then I learned that the design was completed before Woz even left Hewlett-Packard.

It woke me up a little. The dawn of home computing was exciting enough for me when I was a little kid. But to people who were grown up at the time, it must have been even more magical. Could you imagine being the first person in your city to buy Visicalc?

Clown nose

Nov. 8th, 2008 08:22 pm
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I found a clown nose in my luggage. It's a relic of a trick I never ended up trying. It's from Penn & Teller's book, How to Play in Traffic, and it goes like this:

Prepare for the trick by carrying a clown nose with you anywhere you're likely to be asked for ID. Use a small piece of red foam to "improve" your ID so that there is a small, but easily removed clown nose on your picture. Then, when you hand someone your ID, you put on the clown nose. They look at the ID, they flick off the nose, they look at you, they laugh.

Neat sounding trick, and I found a clown nose at a local party shop, but I couldn't find any "red foam" anywhere. Pencil erasers don't work, even when I use rubber cement to make it a little more tacky. I figure a tiny wad of that poster-stick stuff would work, but I can only find it in blue or white. And wouldn't it come off in my pocket?

Do any of you think you can solve the problem of applying a temporary clown nose to a piece of ID?
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shit, I lost the book that tells me how to finish up this bread.

where the hell did I stash it?

Update: I even got my last load of garbage out of the dumpster. Still no luck. But I guess this means it's still in the apartment somewhere. But I'll never get back the hour and a half I spent searching for it, during which time I finished up that bread, burnt the top, found a loaf pan that's actually nine by four inches, and started letting that one rise.

I had work I needed to get done.

oh well. I can always buy another copy. And it'll show up right when I find my original copy.

Poor little original copy. It's sitting around somewhere, with the book jacket tucked into that sandwich bread recipe, just itching to tell me how the hell I'm supposed to slice it neatly without a mandolin.
unbibium: (homestar smart)
John Hodgman's second book is out!

But not in audiobook form yet. Drat. John Hodgman is one of those authors that is even better on audiobooks. And I've got a pile of audible.com credits.

Update: They printed a history item for a day of the year on every page. That's going to be distracting.
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I caught "Stuck on You" on Comedy Central. It's not the first time I've caught it on cable, but it's the first time I've seen it from the beginning. It's about conjoined twins, played by Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. Both are short-order cooks in a restaurant that they own. Bob (Greg Kinnear) is an actor who does one-man shows and decides to move to Hollywood. Walt (Matt Damon) has panic attacks, and has an Internet girlfriend in Hollywood whom he's afraid to meet.

Damon's great, Kinnear's great, and even Cher is great. The actors who I can't name are great. The story is great. Even the cheap conjoined-twin gags are great.

It's a wonderful movie. I don't know how well it's received by conjoined twins in general. As I'm what they would term a singleton, I'm almost jealous of the life. I barely ever see my brother, and I've had a lot of amazing moments in my life that have gone unrcorded, unreported, and unshared.

In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert describes the sisters conjoined at the forehead, one of whom is a country singer. They're mentioned by name in the movie, even. They're cited as an example of people who are happy, when you might think that it wouldn't be possible. Somehow, it reminds me of The Planiverse, because many things we take for granted would become impossible if one of our spatial dimensions were taken away. I posted a quote about that years ago.

I suppose life's about playing the hand you're dealt. Which is great, if you're good at poker.
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Acting on advice I solicited in a previous post, I bought Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, figuring it was a good idea for me to learn some basic break-making techniques.

I read the first four and a half chapters. Essentially, the book promises to enable me to make very wet bread dough in bulk, and I can store it for at least a week. It also promises that as the dough ages in my refrigerator, it'll take on "sourdough notes", without having to rely on a starter. Sounds like it's worth a try. It also claims I won't have to knead the dough, and it gives an explanation that a baker might understand, but I don't.

Today, I ventured out for supplies to make my first loaf: fresh flour, yeast, containers, and baking equipment. I thought Fry's Marketplace would have everything, but they didn't have a pizza stone or pizza peel. I crossed the street and went to Target, and found a pizza stone, but no peel.

I suppose, if I want, I can make the dough tonight, get the peel tomorrow, and bake it then. It'll take a couple of hours for the dough to rise after I make it.

It also occurs to me that I'm not really that huge a fan of bread, but that could be because most of the bread I've tried has been either supermarket-sliced or restaurant-stale. Some party tray bread has been a combination of the two. I'll be curious to see how this turns out.
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So I listened to "The Colour of Magic" as an audiobook last month. It was my first Pratchett book, so I figured I'd start with Discworld #1. Discworld has been on my gotta-read list since that clerk at the Scottsdale Borders recommended it to me and [livejournal.com profile] jecook.

I'd always wondered why Nethack had a Tourist character class, and now I know. I suppose if I read more books, then more parts of Nethack will make sense, in the same way that popular music started to make more sense once I'd started dating, and had my heart broken a few times.

And all through it, I kept thinking that there was no way they could make a movie from it. But it got a bit confusing towards the end, and I figured I'd better Google a plot summary online, and holy shit it's on British premium TV. Sean Astin is in it.

No mention of a US release, which means I'm perfectly morally justified in what I just told my computer to do.
unbibium: (pacman-power)
I must confess to very strange feelings as I write about day and night on Arde. Especially when I write about sunrise and sunset I imagine myself to be an Ardean standing on some rocky summit and watching a sliver of sun set over a slip of land. All is confined to the narrowest band of vision imaginable; an infinitesimal line, encompassing me, contains my entire visual world. I turn my head from Shems setting in the west, turn my head upward (not around) and swing my crystalline eyes to the east where all is darkness and settling gloom. As an Ardean I watch this fading light, taste the evening, listen to the sounds of burrowing things underfoot, and am satisfied with the day which draws to a close. Soon I will go down some stairs to my underground home, but first I look up again at the gathering stars which sprinkle the half-circle of heaven above my head. Suddenly, I am again an Earthling, trapped in the cruelest prison imaginable. When I look again at the setting Shems, it seems a narrow mockery of a sunset on Earth.
-- A.K. Dewdney, The Planiverse: Computer Contact With a Two-Dimensional World
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The Planiverse is on an amazon.com list of Ten Books to Change the Way You See the World. It also contains The Design of Everyday Things, which I have also read, and recommend.

And by working outwards from the differences between the second and third dimensions, we can make certain assumptions about life in the fourth dimension:
  • A planet would have much more room.
    • There would be a wider variety of geography and species.
    • The population of a planet would be staggering by our standards.
  • That which is easier in 2D would be harder.
    • Containers, from cups to river dams.
    • Aerodynamic devices, like sails and flying machines.
  • That which is more difficult in 2D would be easier.
    • Surgery
    • Information storage
    • Traffic
    • Machinery
  • Aspects of life might also be in the opposite direction.
    • There would be much less respect for the land; littering might not even be a crime. One could build anything anywhere, since there would be so many ways to go around it.
    • Social norms might be looser.
    • Predatory life forms might have less incentive to evolve.
I'd better not think about it too much longer, or blood will start to shoot out my ears.


Dec. 29th, 2001 11:03 pm
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This morning I went to the library and checked out Planiverse by A.K. Dewdrey. I read through the whole book today.

Planiverse is a fascinating book about a computer lab's contact with a sentient being named Yendred in a two-dimensional world. The book explores just about every aspect of that two-dimensional universe, including biology, physics, politics, sociology, art, astronomy, technology, and sex. All of this is learned through a young college-age two-dimensional character who wishes to journey to the other side of his planet's lone continent to seek enlightenment. The second dimension is a dangerous world compared to our own; though there are many people and devices that help young Yendred on his journey, there are just as many hazards and disasters.

The book has a lot to keep the mind occupied. Aside from Yendred's journey, and descriptions of life in the second dimension, there was the college computer group's struggle to maintain access to the necessary program on university computers, which was a bit harder in 1984 than it would be today. But I looked forward to the dialogue the most.

I wonder if I should read that Flatland book that seems to be constantly cited as the precedent to this book. But, as it stands, I'll have to reread Planiverse a couple of times to more fully appreciate the work that went into the biology and the technology.

I must say, I haven't read a book this size in this short a time since I was a teenager.
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Sarah recommended to me a book called Planiverse. I suddenly want it very badly.

I can't check the Tempe card catalog for it because I don't have a Tempe library card. And the Phoenix public library only has copies of it, and anything else good, at the central branch. It'd take at least two buses to get to either one, or at least $10 in cab fare each way, even if the Phoenix branch is pretty close to that skating rink I like to go to sometimes.

However, with just one bus, I can go to the downtown Tempe's Borders Books and see if they have it. The downside of this is, if I buy the book and have an unlimited amount of time in which to read it, I don't have the motivating factor of the due date in which to finish it.

Or I could just go home and start reading Puckoon, which arrived in the mail today.


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