Much a day

Feb. 25th, 2014 11:24 pm
eclectic_boy: (Zeno)
I'm pretty worn out considering how much of today I spent sitting down. While it's not quite at the level of your average Jillian-Day-Of-Many-Things, it's about as close as I ever get, and so merits describing via LiveJournal.

I was up at 8:00am (after going to bed at my usual 2:00) to call Enterprise and remind them they were sending a car to pick me up at 9:00. They had asked me to make that call, and despite it I didn't get picked up until 9:30, and didn't actually have the rental car until 10:00, at which point I drove to a previously-incognita section of West Philadelphia, getting lost only once, to pick up Wendy, who I knew when I was a student and she the Physics Department adminasst. I was driving her to Oakland NJ (the upper-east corner of the state) to see someone concerning her physical condition, recovering from a stroke. It was about a 150-minute ride of muches potholes and intermittent flurries, redeemed by one of the best sandwiches I've ever had -- if you have any reason to go to Oakland, eat at DJs Deli.

The journey back south was even longer owing to rush hour and to going into semideepest Delaware, in search of the house Wendy had grown up in. Which we failed to find -- Enterprise hadn't had any GPSs left to rent to us, so we'd been going off my voluminous Mapquest printouts for the day's journeys. While I like Mapquest's feature of telling you the names of the streets right before and right after the one you're making your next action at, they apparently have some bad data, as once we were close (i.e. off numbered highways), the streets they told us to turn on weren't there. So we gave up and headed back to the motel she's spending the night at, in New Castle, and again got lost because Mapquest said we should turn on DE 301 when we encountered no such road, or at least no signs -- the actual turn should have been on US13/US40. After that everything was fine; we got to the motel at 8:00 and a little later I headed home to go right to bed. Given that it's 11:20pm you can see how well that plan fared, but on the whole I think the day went at least as well as it was likely to've.
eclectic_boy: (Zeno)
I was looking into the collision between religious-freedom laws and anti-discrimination laws, spurred on by reading the recent news about the New Mexico wedding photographer who was accused of refusing to take pictures of a gay wedding (I should at least mention in passing that gay marriage is not legal in NM).

My googling has borne fruit, in the form of what I think could be a real 'money quote', from no less than Antonin Scalia:

...The free exercise of religion means, first and foremost, the right to believe and profess whatever religious doctrine one desires...

But the "exercise of religion" often involves not only belief and profession but the performance of (or abstention from) physical acts ... It would be true, we think (though no case of ours has involved the point), that a State would be "prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]" if it sought to ban such acts or abstentions only when they are engaged in for religious reasons, or only because of the religious belief that they display...

Respondents in the present case, however, seek to carry the meaning of "prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]" one large step further. [...] They assert, in other words, that "prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]" includes requiring any individual to observe a generally applicable law that requires (or forbids) the performance of an act that his religious belief forbids (or requires). As a textual matter, we do not think the words must be given that meaning. ...We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States (1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice...

Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a "valid and neutral law of general applicability..."

-- SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and WHITE, STEVENS, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined.
eclectic_boy: (croc)
"the consequences of this widespread belief that boys and men are constantly addled to the point of harm, is, of course, to punish girls and women"

And, because I ought to start with my own thoughts, I'm trying to weigh the unfairness to both the dentist and the dental assistant. What protected-class status should be given to looks? Should the dentist's attraction be considered a disability, and what accommodations are appropriate for ameliorating such a disability? Relatedly, when I think about the argument for telling the dentist to just control himself and deal with it, I get strong resonances with the notion of telling someone with depression to "just cheer up".
eclectic_boy: (Zeno)
I think the world is in desperate need of a Mrs.-Malaprop-like character whose distinguishing feature is that she always misreads the intentions of written internet communications, thinking them much more antagonistic or sarcastic than the writer intended, and responding in kind, exacerbating the situation.
Then we'd be able to tell people who we see actually behaving that way, "Oh, don't be such a Mr. Lunderwort" and they might re-evaluate their behavior.

By any chance, is there already such an incarnation, that I just haven't heard about?

(this is crossposted from FB, where I got a response that Emily Litella is essentially this character -- except I don't think she suggests the same thing, since she suffered from a hearing problem, not an interpretation/persecution problem)
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Sometimes reading the same story from different sources just makes my head hurt. These can't all be true, but how to tell which? The worst part is how brazenly one or more of these sources is lying, simply stating (theoretically) easily verifiable things and just assuming no one will call them on it. So who should I be calling?

From NBC News, 10/17, 2:10pm:
Jeremy Epstein, First Questioner in Debate, Says He's No Longer Undecided
Asked Wednesday whether he was still undecided, Epstein said he was not.
"No, I think I made a decision," he said.
Epstein, who is studying exercise science, declined to reveal which candidate will be getting his vote.
But he told NBC 4 New York that before the debate, he was "swaying a little bit, I guess, towards the incumbent."

From ABC News, 10/17, 7:30pm:
But Epstein isn't expecting to be part of a potential Romney administration. He still considers himself undecided but leans toward one candidate.
"Well, if the election was today, I probably would vote for the president, so I don't know if you would call me undecided," he said. "But it would be a good label to put me under."

From Long island Newsday, 10/17, 9:59pm:
Nonetheless, Epstein said, he remains firmly undecided.
"Mitt Romney's interruptions were more outbursts and the president's were more subtle," Epstein said. "The president was more funny about it and Mitt Romney was a little intense about it."
eclectic_boy: (Zeno)
Lonnnnnnng day. First I put up the signs I'd made last night--recruiting for volunteers to join the Swarthmore neighborhood team for the Obama campaign, ending at McCabe library where I discovered what I'm going to do tomorrow: try to solve an Augean-stables-sized puzzle of hundreds of classical CDs, the booklets for those CDs, and the trays/inlay cards for those CDs, all available free for the taking, but arrayed in three separate, utterly random piles. Much assembly required!

Then I headed to New York. )


May. 29th, 2012 12:42 am
eclectic_boy: (robots)
Is this what we're going to be on about for the next week or so? MSNBC's Chris Hayes does a show on Memorial Day weekend about public perception of soldiers, and utters a money quote that manages to appear simultaneously disrespectful of fallen military and intellectually presumptuous (I'll let you google it for yourself; it's the only part of the two-hour show that will ever receive any press now).
Anybody doubt that this is an avalanche-trigger that will lead to Congressional posturing about liberal un-Americanism, other figures in the news being pressed to repudiate him, and a certain amount of open season on "them cogno-intellectuals"?
eclectic_boy: (Default)
I just got an email requesting a contribution to the Obama campaign. Nothing unusual about that. But here's the entire email - you'll probably see why I reinspected it carefully to make sure it wasn't a fraud using link-misdirection:

Subject: Hey

Jim --
I need you with me on this one.
Tonight's deadline is our biggest yet, and I need everyone pitching in.
Give $20 or whatever you can: htt[etc]/Today
Let's go,

That's the entire email, not even a graphic (beyond a "Paid for by Obama for America" disclaimer). No explanation of the deadline or the goal. It's a tiny step above "You! Send me money!", and it certainly decreases my likelihood of contributing in the near future.
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Posit: Rick Santorum has now done enough to establish himself as a credible candidate that, even though he will lose the nomination to Romney, he will now be the "next in line" automatic frontrunner for 2016 (or 2020).

eclectic_boy: (Default)
Some rather-rambly thoughts on an SF concept I haven't seen before:

I was thinking about how the structure of families and the relationship between parents and children is tied to both our lifespan and to our period of sexual fertility. Humans (and lots of other creatures) are fertile pretty much from the moment they grow into adults, even a bit earlier. Indeed, that's a plausible definition of when a person has become an adult. And they stop being so well before death (on average).

Now, playing around with that may be evolutionarily unbelievable, but given that advances in technology have allowed humans to greatly increase the prevalence of other characteristics that are way unfavorable from a purely evolutionary perspective (as my 20/500 eyesight reminds me constantly) I'm not going to let that stop my speculating. Note that I'm not going to give an explanation for *how* this would come to be -- that can be worked out later if the speculation leads to interesting places.

So for the moment let's just accept that humans still have an 80-year-ish average lifespan, and that fertility starts around age 70. From late teens until then you're adult in every way except sexually. What changes happen to people? To families? To society?

Here are my ideas and questions )
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Apropos of this discussion on Charlie Stross's blog, the increase in technology that makes it possible to produce as great an amount of our society's material needs with fewer workers can be dealt with by:
1) Increasing the material needs of people (whether by planned obsolescence, fashion, or just a changed idea of what's necessary for a decent life)
2) Reducing the number of people employed
3) Reducing the number of hours each employed person works
4) Employing more people to produce nonmaterial things (which include things I think are good, like research, and things I think aren't, like bureaucracy)
5) Providing more material needs of people outside our society living below our affluence level

Personally, I think we should promote the last three and deprecate the first two. You?
eclectic_boy: (robots)
What a great party tonight was! In honor of 11/11/11 we served Elevenses (at 11:11:11pm of course), which was in the Pooh style: bread with honey and condensed milk (bread optional). We spent many hours playing many parlor games, including Telephone Oracle, Plenty Questions, Coffeepot, Pavlov, and the identify-the-person-written-on-the-scrap-of-paper-on-your-own-forehead game (which Julia called "the Inglourious Basterds game"). Better still was the attendance, which consisted of six current students and six alums, plus three children. Best still was when two of the students mentioned that they're running for the PsiPhi presidency on a platform that includes running more activities, including restarting some lapsed traditions they'd read about in the Panic Book / wiki.
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Tonight's Classical Music Fans meetup went so well -- first we screened Leonard Bernstein's "Omnibus" lecture on modern music (which I had never seen before and is awesome - clever, funny, smart, insightful and info-dense; it's pretty much a nonstop 45-minute monologue with Lenny pausing only to play the piano and conduct the orchestra he's standing in front of). There was, fortunately, a break at that point so I didn't have to follow him immediately, and then I and Ricky Der took up where Lenny'd left off, at around World War II, and gave whirlwind tours of ten later genres of 20th-century music. The entire evening ran almost four hours, and everyone except one who had to leave early was not only still there and awake at the end, but interested and participating in good group dialogues. It was a lot of prep (even more for Ricky than for me) but very worth it!

Friday's lecture, on Egypt and the Arab Spring, will be much easier, since I'm not the one giving it -- I just have to introduce Prof. Ghannam, who is. :^)
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Last night Ethan had a bunch of friends over, and I took part in my first game of Summoners' Scrabble; hopefully it won't be the last. The game was invented by Psi Phi's co-president-with-a-natural-19-charisma, Books Schwartz. It's Scrabble with a bit of Magic: The Gathering and more than a bit of free-form storytelling.

The first person to play must put down a word that the group agree is a type of monster; they have summoned it, and its hit points at the end of the game will count towards the summoner's score. The hit points with which the monster begins is its score in Scrabble (normally calculated: tile values, Double Word Scores, etc).

From then on, players may summon their own monsters, or play attacks on existing monsters: these are nouns, verbs, or adjectives that could arguably sap the strength of a specified monster, and that words score comes off the hit points of said monster. Once a monster drops below zero it's dead and can't be attacked, but its negative hit points count against its owner's score. Each player may have as many monsters in play at a time as wished, and you can also cast powerups on your monster, just like attacks but with words that arguably increase said monster's strength.

We also evolved a house rule about stealing control of a monster by turning its word into a new word; it's very much a Maximum Fun Quotient game, so such variations are to be encouraged.

Sample game: Player 1 puts down ENT on the central double word score; it has 6 HP. The next player puts down IGER off the 'T' to summon a tiger. The next player builds AXE off the E, taking an axe to the ent and reducing its HP to -4, killing it. Player 1's turn again; she summons a CRAB off the R, which has 11 HP; her score is now 11 - 4 = 7. Play until out of tiles. We found it to be more fun to allow acronyms; in our game the JOCK was hit with a DUI and the AI suffered an IP attack...


Jul. 16th, 2011 10:30 pm
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Ethan and I are hosting an improv games afternoon tomorrow. It's been a long time since I've done one, so I'm both excited and a little nervous -- will people get into it? Will they have fun?

I'd love suggestions for improv games we could play; I don't know very many, and while there are lists around the web they don't give me an idea of which ones would work well for 6-8 largely-inexperienced people. What improv games do you find fun?
eclectic_boy: (Default)
"We're Getting There" is an awful slogan (do they still use it? If not, do they have a new one?), but in fact SEPTA is moving into the future, albeit slowly. Presenting...

Real-time locations of all SEPTA buses and trolleys, on Google Maps

Hopefully I'll be doing less waiting-20-minutes-at-the-bus-shelter now.
eclectic_boy: (Default)
I just had two current students knock on my door, circulating a petition to get a referendum on this year's ballot on whether the borough of Swarthmore should be a dry community or a wet community -- a referendum explicitly designed to overturn the 2001 referendum that Swarthmore would permit the selling of alcohol only on the premises of an inn located on the grounds of a four-year institution of higher learning. In other words, a specifically tailored "College Inn law". Their argument was that the law was serving a special interest by giving that exemption, and that a ten-year-old referendum couldn't be taken to necessarily reflect the opinions of residents now.

I located a Phoenix op-ed about it, but I didn't get any idea from it (nor from the students) whether this was being organized by students, ville residents, owners of other Swarthmore businesses, or what. Had anyone else heard talk of such a referendum, or have any other thoughts on it?
eclectic_boy: (Default)
I just rode in on the R3 ^H^H^H Media line with Vukan Vuchic, who a mutual friend introduced me to.
He too thinks the elimination of color coding on SEPTA's trains is ludicrous, and thinks someone should have been fired for making the type size on the train's signs unreadably small. On the other hand, he continues to defend his nomenclature system, saying that it's just like the Market-Frankford: you need to know which end of the line you should head to.
eclectic_boy: (Default)
In an attempt to help reldnahkram's efforts to bring more fun to LJ, here's a communal quiz:

There are slang words which are nouns, adjectives, etc... *how many* parts of speech have examples of (non-obscure) slang? Are there slang prepositions? Conjunctions?
1 point to the group for each different part of speech.

I'll toss out the first one. Adverb: Hella.
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