Saturday, June 30, 2012

.hack//Sign: Color My World

.hack recap: Tsukasa hasn't been seen since the thus-far unexplained incident at the end of episode 2.

(I recommend actually buying .hack//Sign since my words don't really do it justice.  One can get either the DVD this episode is on, or the full series as a set.)

.hack//Sign, Episode 3: Folklore, 7:07 - 8:55

Tsukasa is in Aura's domain, same bed, same Aura floating above it, same randomly floating teddy bear, completely different surroundings.  At the moment it's a forest with thick tree trunks covered in deep green moss.

Tsukasa looks at Aura and, slowly, haltingly, as if he's unsure what to do and possibly afraid, reaches out to touch the floating sleeping girl.  As his hand nears her his eyes go wide and he flashes back to a memory.

Small-child Tsukasa is outside in what looks like some kind of an alley, nursing an extremely undernourished kitten with an eyedropper full of milk.  Little Tsukasa smiles as it looks like there's some success.  Then an adult, Tsukasa's dad, shows up with a clenched fist.  We see a menacing POV shot of a left hand coming down from above.  The eyedropper falls (with a thud that has got to be purely emotional since such a light object couldn't produce that sound) and lands next to knocked over milk.

Little Tsukasa says something, presumably protest, but we hear nothing.

The father walks away with the kitten, and at this point I'm wondering if he's left handed because everything (clenching, menacing, carrying the kitten by the back of the neck) has been left handed.  The manner of carrying implies that he's not exactly interested in the cat's well being.  The way he's holding it he can't even see the frail kitten, and it wouldn't surprise me if it's nothing more than refuse in his mind.

Little Tsukasa again speaks, and again we hear nothing, but based on how much mouth movement there is (almost none, as opposed to quite a bit the first time) I think it's quiet and not really expected to be communication.  Quite possibly something said to oneself.

And then little Tsukasa's head starts to drop, after an angle change we can the child completely slumped.  No idea if there is crying going on, but there's definite despondency.  Then little Tsukasa reaches for the eyedropper, the milk, or both, and the flashback ends.

In the present, in The World, Tsukasa is still standing with his arm outstretched toward Aura.

DVL: Go ahead.
Tsukasa: What do you mean?
DVL: Imbue the girl with your own color.

That feeling you had when your dad stopped you from saving a helpless kitten and left you to sulk, possibly sob, in an alleyway.  Put some of that in Aura.

If this sounds like a bad idea, if maybe dredging up someone's most painful moments and using them to shape the personality of a sleeping child seems like something less than ideal to you, you might not be evil.  DVL is evil, and this may very well be the first indication of that that we get.

Tsukasa's color is that of someone who wants nothing more than to hide from the whole world, break off from human contact, and escape everyone.  It's the color of someone who is afraid of everything due to a history of abuse.  It's of someone whose highest goal in life is to be left alone forever.

That's what DVL wants to flavor Aura with.

That's why Tsukasa was chosen.

Of course, as we've previously discussed, Tsukasa isn't exactly as low as he could be yet.  He's reached a kind of stability.  He doesn't get better, he doesn't get worse.  He just is.  To get to the really bad places he'll need to be built up a bit so that he can experience a shattering fall.  When Tsukasa says that he doesn't understand, DVL again starts to work toward the building up side of that:

DVL: Do as you wish.  I shall protect you.
Tsukasa: But...
DVL: Do not be afraid, and do as you wish.
Tsukasa: But.

(Yes, that second "but" is followed by a period.  Apparently it's a complete sentence.)

Once Tsukasa is out there, having fun, living carefree at the top of the world, well then he'll be primed for a downfall that will be even worse than the memory of the lost cat.

The Guardian comes out, and the scene ends.

I considered trying to get here in the "Kinds of Power" post, because Tsukasa is about to get the power to do what he will, and that's an incredible power to have.  Subaru can't just do what she wants, she has the knights to think about, Sora almost can, but he still has to pass through root towns and watch his own back, and he had to put in a lot of hard work to get it.

Tsukasa, who's spent his entire life being powerless, is about to get to feel what it's like to be powerful.  He can do whatever he wants.

Of course, the one with the real power is DVL.  As she says, "I shall protect you," not, "You'll be able to take care of yourself."  That gives her say over how that protection is handled, and it also gives her the ability to revoke that protection.

Regardless, this marks the start of Tsukasa's happy fun times.  They'll last about an episode and a half and be punctuated by not so happy not so fun times.


And then there's a short scene of Mimiru, alone in the desert, fighting against what I'm going to call a giant tailless Komodo dragon with a stone hammer.

I think she's grinding.  Her thinking is about how she must get stronger, this is how you gain experience, so, as I said, I think she's grinding.  It doesn't look like much fun to me, really.

I include this here because I felt like including it somewhere and it would be weird to put it at the beginning of the next post.


Index making, is there (free) software to help with this?

I'm talking about the kind of index you find in the back of a book.

It seems to me that, at its heart, such indexes are composed of data points that carry three bits of information: time, topic, whether coverage of the the topic was beginning or ending.

For example, this entry from The Official Star Trek Cooking Manual, under pie:
custard-fruit, 25-26, 91-93
contains four datapoints:
(25, custard fruit pie, start)
(26, custard fruit pie, stop)
(91, custard fruit pie, start)
(93, custard fruit pie, stop)

Now it is somewhat more complicated than that because we also have to account for the fact the sorting mechanism in place requires an awareness that this should be listed both under pie and under custard.  Plus, I have no idea why it's hyphenated in the index but nowhere else.  (And I don't know what it's like, having never had any.)

But at it's heart an index seems to about those little triads of information.

So one could get all of the information for an index by going through something and recording such triads as they come up.  But it wouldn't actually be an index, it would just be the raw materials that could be used to make an index.

What I'm wondering is if I there's anything that would do the work of making such triads into an index for me.  Obviously it's nothing that can't be done by hand, but sorting the information while it is being gathered would seem to slow things down, sorting it afterward would seem to be a massive headache.


If there is something to help with that, first off that in itself would be quite nice, but second I wonder if it could be used to do more than that.

For example I'm not particularly interested in indexing cookbooks.  They tend to come preindexed.  Works of fiction, on the other hand, seems a far more interesting topic to index.  And in that case sometimes it's not enough to know when a character is on the page or the screen.

One might want to know all of the scenes where Character X and Character Y appear together.  Or, maybe, to look at the scenes in which Character X appears but Character Y is absent.  Pretty sure the triads of information previously discussed are still all of the raw info needed to create an index of X ∧ Y, or one of X ∧ ¬Y, or X ∨ Y or even some more complicated logical expression.  Not sure if there's anything that's actually intended to do such a thing though.

Also note that appearance does not equal scene appeared in, and certainly doesn't equal chapter/episode appeared in.  It would be nice to be able to expand to that as well so one could, if it seemed useful, switch from an index showing when a character is covered to an index showing the scenes in which a character is covered which might tend to start earlier and end later.  (Maybe the character shows up four pages into a scene, for example.)  Or chapters in which the character is covered.

I don't think that requires much more on the information side.  You just need to know which scene/chapter/whatever is when, which requires the same kinds of triads of information (1, Chapter1, start)

But it would require more on the implementation side and given that I don't even know if there's something that does the most basic things I want, I have no idea if there's something that does that.


So, is there anything out there that does any of what I'm talking about?  If there is such stuff, is any of it free?

If there isn't such stuff (free or otherwise) how are indexes made?  I hope it's not entirely by hand.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Deus Ex Training - Part 9: Final Exam

[This is part of a series of posts about the game Deus Ex, which, for the record, I recommend buying]
[The series began with this post.  The first post in this section is here.]

Stealth done Jamie contacts us to let us know the course is almost over, only one more test to go:

Now for the last test. You have to find a way across the river to the exit on the other side. There's more than one way to get there, depending on your approach and the skills you want to use. It's up to you... Make use of the IFF system to identify enemies. The crosshairs will highlight red over enemies, green over allies, and white over neutrals.

The “river” is a pool running the length of the room. To me river evokes outdoor images, this is something wholly contained in a room. Across the river is an observation room. This one contains Jamie, Bob Page, and an anonymous male scientist.

There are ladders on the near side of the river so that if you fall in you can get back out. There are none on the far side meaning you can't simply swim across and climb out. On the far side is a drawbridge, which can be lowered via a keypad on the near side. There are various supplies scattered around.

Also, there is a Page Industries Walking Turret. A robot that's one step down from a giant military death machine. (It's a large military-and-certain-police-forces death machine.) It does not like you. What did you ever do to it?

(Apart from blowing up two of its friends I mean.)

I've done this a few times while making this series, one of the most notable being when I was checking to see if you could select a non-default race in training. To find out if it had worked I had to get a third person view, which only comes up in conversation. So, basically, I sprinted through training, got to this part, and decided that my solution would be to blow up bot, and calmly move on from there once I was out of danger.

In order to accomplish this I started pushing a big explosive barrel into the bot's path. (Its patrol route was very simple, walk in one direction, turn 180 degrees, walk in that direction, turn 180 degrees, repeat.) It turned around before I expected it to, opened fire. My legs were gone, possibly most of my arms too. My core was hanging on by a thread.

At this point I didn't realize that this level continued the cannot-die mechanic of earlier parts of training. At this point I didn't know that earlier parts of training had a cannot-die mechanic.

Now in a panic and hoping to preserve what little health I had left I dove into the river and hugged the near wall, counting on the inability of the robot to see or shoot me when I was directly below it (and that assumes the robot walked all the way up to the wall, if it held back I was definitely protected.)

Making use of the multiple ladders, I was able to misdirect the robot and crawl back on land. Scrambling to get behind some cover opposite the river. While back there I was able to discover a datapad:

Hey J.C., want to cross the water? Lower the bridge. The code is:


It's either that or get all wet.


Thanks Jamie, that's just the sort of information I could use.

Taking careful stock of where the robot was, I crawled to the bridge controls. I couldn't stand so I was looking up at them but I got the numbers in, the bridge lowered, and I made it across, barely alive, but successful.

That was then.


Lets talk about how we approached this today. And by we I mean me. Except if I were to replace the word “we” with something it would be “I” not “me” because of the declension. It all makes sense. Moving on.

The doors open, I see cardboard boxes in front to me. I charge toward them, grab one and jump into the water with it. I push it across the the water and then, at the other side, climb atop it and from it to the other side. I have crossed the river, success.


The doors open and I see that the cardboard boxes are next to some pipes. They're too large for me to jump on top of (since they are not currently partially submerged) but if I had a small crate I could use it as a stepping stool to get on the box and from the box to the pipes.

You know what comes in small crates? TNT. I grab a crate of TNT, I bring it over to cardboard boxes near the pipes. I set it down carefully (don't want to blow myself up) climb up the TNT-Cardboard Box-Pipe ladder. Walk the over the river on the pipes. Success.


Hey, was that TNT I just saw?

Careful around this TNT.  You can pick up the boxes and move them around, but crouch to set them down.  I don't want to have to reattach your arms.

Thank you, Jamie.

I pick up a crate of TNT when the robot is walking away from me, run up to speed, approach, and then throw the crate towards the robot (stopping at the same time because I don't want to run into the explosion. The robot is destroyed, I'm largely unscathed, I'm free to look around at leisure. Hidden by some barrels I find a datacube with the combination to lower the bridge. I lower the bridge. I walk across, success.


Given leisure time maybe I don't need a bridge. Perhaps I could build my own bridge. Of course, is that even necessary? Couldn't I just throw two boxes in the water, hop on one pick up and throw the other, hop to it, and repeat until I crossed the river without ever getting in the water? *more attempts than it should have taken by a long shot* Success!

Oh, and that leisure time I mentioned? Not necessary. I did all of this while the robot was still patrolling.


But I want a bridge. A bridge of my own design that I can amble across secure in my bridge making ability. And that Robot is going to be a problem for construction. The Robot has to go. So first I do some reconnaissance. I search the area. I find a handgun. This has potential. Small arms are all but useless against robots, but they're quite effective against explosives and volatile chemicals stored under pressure and whatnot.

I push an explosive barrel into an isolated place (I don't want it damaging potentially useful building materials.) Then I lure the Robot there. While the robot is approaching around a corner, I steady my aim on the barrel. I let myself fall into the zone and feel my hands waver less. Less shake, more on target, I breathe more slowly, and then, finally, I hold my breath. If I were a sniper I would shoot between heartbeats but that is not necessary here. The robot comes around the corner. I fire, no more robot.

The training area river has bizarre unnatural currents that make bridge construction difficult, but by putting things against the downstream side it seems to work. I construct a bridge out of four cardboard boxes and one supply crate. I cross the river without getting my feet wet or having to use the imperialist's bridge.

I'm creative and an individualist.

This is what I did with five boxes, imagine what I might do with a pair of pliers and a paperclip and some other thing MacGyver might have.

I'm on the other side of the river, success!


I enter the area of my final test, I quickly duck into the shadows, the sound of my robot adversary and my own unarmed status throwing me into stealth mode. I look around, what's this? A crowbar*. Believing that the flow of the universe is on my side and would not guide me to an object I will have no need for, I search for something a crowbar might be used in combination with.

I stay in the shadows, away from the robot's patrol. Near the end there's a moment of panic. At the end of it's patrol path it turns a complete 180 degrees and, because it chose to turn clockwise, for a split second it looks right at me. But the turn continues and it begins to walk away. I'm safe.

In a dark corner I see a supply crate, exactly the kind of thing the benevolent forces of the universe might have given me the crowbar to access. I break into the crate. But it's too dark to see what, if anything, that accomplished. I risk using my light and find a multitool.

I quickly take the tool and turn the light off.

A quick check, consisting of a risky peek around the corner, shows that the robot is still walking away. I have some time. I head over to the the bridge control and start to hack it. Turns out I didn't have enough time, the robot opens fire and all is lost. I jump into the water as an escape.

Then grab a cardboard box and return to plan A. The Robot hasn't lost interest, the rest of this plan is executed under fire. But I make it to the other side. Success!


I enter the area of my final test, I quickly duck into the shadows, the sound of my robot adversary and my own unarmed status throwing me into stealth mode. I look around, what's this? A crowbar. Believing that the flow if the universe is on my side and would not guide me to an object I will have no need for, I search for something a crowbar might be used in combination with.

I stay in the shadows, away from the robot's patrol. Near the end there's panic. At the end of it's patrol path it turns usually turns a complete 180 degrees and, because it chose to turn clockwise, for a split second it looks right at me. And stops. It's spotted me. I backpedal.

It's a robot, it's not a very smart robot. All around the mulberry-bush, the robot chased the agent, and then the robot got confused because it hadn't seen the agent in so long that the agent could be anywhere. It looked all around, saw the agent nowhere, and then resumed its ordinary patrol.

Making sure that I would have enough time, I rushed over to the bridge control, hacked it with the multitool, the bridge came down, I went across it and got out of sight of that damn robot before it could turn around and open fire. Success.


Ok, so it's not the most impressive mission in the history of missions. Get across this length of water however you feel like it. But it is a taste of how there are more ways to get across than you might expect.

Explore a bit and you can find information, tools and weapons.

There are two ways to lower the bridge. You can uncover the password, or you can get the multitool out of the supply crate with gun, crowbar, taunting of the robot, or other grievous bodily harm to the crate) and override the control.

Without the bridge you can push pretty much anything that floats into the river, swim it to the other side, and use it as a stepping stone out.

Or you can stack things up so you can reach the pipes and walk across.

There are also multiple ways to deal with the robot ranging from total avoidance to total destruction. One thing that I didn't mention above is that you can move things into the robot's path, doing this it is even theoretically possible to trap the robot.

Furthermore, in the test to see if the robot could be trapped, the robot ended up blowing itself up by trying to shoot at me when surrounded by explosives, some of them blocking the line of fire.

So it's not exactly the most open multiple ways to do it mission in all of history (you didn't even get to try talking or computer related stuff or crawling through vents) but it is a taste of things to come.


* I almost forgot, as in I published the post with an asterisk but no footnote, I wanted to make note of this.  The description of the crowbar in game is this:
A crowbar.  Hit someone or something with it.  Repeat. 
<UNATCO OPS FILE NOTE GH010-BLUE> Many crowbars we call 'murder if crowbars.'  Always have one for kombat.  Ha. -- Gunther Hermann <END NOTE>
Gunther made a joke.  Gunther made a joke using an English language pun even though English is clearly not his best language.  Give Gunther some respect.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Happy 2π day

I was planning to return to my irrational defense of pi today but the new bridge was opening and I was really tired after I walked back, and I had steps to bring closer to perfection and generally stuff to do and I ran out of time and, for what it's worth, damn it's hot.

So, just to recap:

Yes, it is completely reasonable to use tau instead of pi because tau is to radian addition as one is to multiplication.  However:

Pi is more fun, being the unit that represents as far as you can go without turning back, being a representative of change in a field otherwise full of static things (zero and one, for example, are identities.  They're defined by the fact they do nothing.)  Pi radians is literally a 180, and thus it carries with it the idea of radical change.

Pi is more emotionally fulfilling.  As a constant that shouldn't really be in use because an objectively better one is out there, pi is like the underdog or plucky hero or whatnot in every sports or competition movie you've ever seen.  Pi represents the idea that you don't have to be perfect, sometimes the underdog wins.  There's not a lot of that in math.

Adding Pi radians is equivalent to multiplying by negative one.  Indeed pi and negative one are intimately linked. Adding π*1/X radians is the same as multiplying by -11/X which makes for a very convenient conversion in the complex unit circle (one half pi radians = the square root of negative one.)  Negative one is a number that gets almost no respect (just look at the connotations of negative) and it's nice to see it getting some via pi.  Take away pi and you're erasing negative one's tiny bit of respect.

Pi embraces duality.  When looking in terms of pi radians, the unit circle runs from negative pi to pi.  You can start at zero and move in either direction.  Furthermore it shows the symmetry and equality inherent in this movement.  Apart from the direction of motion, the two paths are the same.  Neither can be said to be better or worse than the other.

Tau, on the other hand, has the unit circle running from 0 to tau.  There is no hint of duality or equality or any such thing.  And, stating from zero, you end up back where you came from.  Instead of symbolizing that multiple paths can lead to your destination, it symbolizes that you'll always end up back at zero.  A depressing thought if ever there was one.

Other stuff.


The plan was for this to be more thought out, and for it to be on video, and for it to involve pie.  Apple.  But like I said, tired and out of time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

.hack//Sign: Can't give up.

.hack recap: Bear thinks it may be necessary to find Tsukasa in the real world.  We have not seen Mimiru since the cliffhanger ending of the last episode.

(I recommend actually buying .hack//Sign since my words don't really do it justice.  One can get either the DVD this episode is on, or the full series as a set.)

.hack//Sign, Episode 3: Folklore, 6:08 - 7:07

So, you read right, there's less than a minute here.  Remember what I said about short posts without much in the way of content?  This is the first of those.

If I didn't want to take things in chronological order I'd probably put this with the short clip from 8:38 to 8:35, the scene from 11:36 to 13:19, and the one from 15:43 to 16:05, which would make for a more coherent thought.  But I do want to take things in order which makes things a bit more complicated.

Between those scenes I might want to group together are scenes dealing with Tuskasa's past, his metaphysical relationship with Aura, what DVL wants of him, Sora's relationship with the Knights, the larger flow of events in the world, the key of the Twilight, Silver Knight's antipathy toward Tsukasa, what Tsukasa does in his free time, and the domestication of the Guardian.

That would be a lot to squeeze into one post just to get this whole sequence together, so I'm not going to do it, but the problem is that this is really the introduction to the sequence, and since all it does is set things up, it doesn't leave me all that much to talk about.  I may very well have similar problems in the next couple posts as well.


We last saw Mimiru at the confrontation at the end of the previous episode.  An event that has had a conspicuous lack of explanation.  We don't know how that ended.  We don't know on what terms the various parties left.  We don't know if she was injured, or if Bear was.  We don't know if Tsukasa was ok.  We don't know if they parted with an, "I'm so, so sorry," or an, "I hate you," or nothing at all.  We have no idea.

We now see Mimiru in a dungeon.  The one where she first met Tsukasa.  She's sitting in front of the unopened treasure chest that is theoretically the reason for coming into the dungeon, staring off into space.

Bear approaches, breaking her out of thought, and says he knew she'd be there.

From this we know a few things, one is that Bear knows this is where Mimiru met Tsukasa, another is that Bear knew she'd be thinking about him.  We might also be able to infer that Mimiru has come here before to think about Tuskasa and this is her Tsuksasa thinking place.

Bear in mind that we are not very far into the series yet.  It's been about a week.  Maybe a bit less, definitely not much more.  If Mimiru already has a, "Thinking about Tsukasa spot picked out that implies a lot of time spent thinking about him over a relatively short time.  Bear's been doing the same.  As I said elsewhere, they're the sort to dive in.

But the problem is, this isn't as simple as rescuing a drowning man.  Tsukasa isn't convinced there is a problem, isn't the easiest to get a hold of, and isn't the easiest to get along with.  Also, as revealed in the confrontation at the end of the last episode.  He's dangerous.  Not him, personally.  As an individual he's nearly helpless, but his guardian is like a pet shark.  Except the pet part is debatable (it doesn't follow orders) and the thing floats so staying out of the water doesn't help.

One imagines dealing with him might be disconcerting, it's definitely frustrating.

Bear asks how it's going, Mimiru says it looks hopeless.  Then explains what she's been doing.

Mimiru: I've been calling him but there's no response.
Bear: He might have jumped to another server.
Mimiru: Maybe.

It's worth noting that when we first met Mimiru she was upbeat and extremely loud.  Or maybe it was loud and extremely upbeat.  Either way there was joy, excitement, and volume.  Here she's quiet, like someone half lost in thoughts that all lead to negative conclusions.  Her own description, hopeless, describes her tone of voice.

Bear changes the subject, he's come to the conclusion that he needs to find out what's going on with Tsukasa's player in the real world, but doesn't know how to find out.

Bear: Do you know where he accessed from?
Mimiru: We've never had that kind of conversation.

There's some disagreement between the subtitles and dub on the tense and mood of access in Bear's quote but given that the series has stumbled over the subjunctive in the past, I'm not going to try to pull any deep meaning from that.

Bear considers that, and concludes that Tsukasa probably isn't likely to have that kind of conversation anyway, and Mimiru, well:

Mimiru: I give up.  I'm just going to forget about it.

If she were capable of following through on that idea she wouldn't be Mimiru.  I don't want to discount her personal agency, or make some kind of nature over nurture argument, nor am I talking about Fate.

Mimiru comes to the stage a fully developed character, someone who has lived her life a certain way all of that comes into play here.  It's a Jackie at the crossroads kind of choice:
When it comes to it, this kind of moral crossroads is rarely experienced as a difficult dilemma. A choice must be made, but that choice will almost always by based on the kind of person making it — based on the character and habits and practice that have shaped that person up until this moment of choosing. A good Jackie will take one path, a bad Jackie will take the other.
Except in this case there is difficulty, because Mimiru will eventually make this choice based on the kind of person that she is, the kind of person her past choices have formed her into being, but right now everything seems to be pointing in a different direction.  Reason and logic and maybe even self preservation are telling her to do one thing, her character, her ethos, is pulling in another direction.

She's sort of like Neoptolemus in the Philoctetes by Sophocles, pulled in one direction by immediate circumstances and another by her character she will eventually find the force of her character irresistible and do what she is the sort of person to do.  It's not to say that Mimiru couldn't change her ethos, but she can't do it overnight.  She can't do it just because Odysseus tells her to.

Moving away from the Philoctetes reference, she's got plenty of good reasons to not want to be involved with Tsukasa.  He's a jerk.  She didn't start playing the game in order to help people with their literally impossible problems.  She has no obligations to him whatsoever, and

Mimiru: I'm tried of being twisted around his little finger.

There is an obvious power imbalance here.  Tsukasa called, Mimiru came.  She brought uninvited backup, but she came.  Mimiru has called, and called, and Tsukasa hasn't responded in the least.  They meet when he feels like it, the meetings end when he feels like leaving.  He has controlled every conversation except for that one time, she does seem to be wrapped around his little finger and it's hard to fault her for not liking the situation.

On the other hand, she's worried about him.  She knows there's something wrong and she wants to help.

As much as she might want to because of all the frustration, she can't just walk away.  She doesn't have it in her to abandon a person in trouble.  People change, but not that fast.

So even as she walks away, and leaves behind the place where she met Tsukasa, she oscillates between trying to wash that kid right out of her hair and wondering where he is and why he doesn't respond and just generally showing concern.

Bear, for his part, seems amused by this.  Yet it's not as if he won't eventually have a crisis of faith of his own.


So, next time expect another short post, color my world.


On an entirely unrelated note, GameSpy and IGN are evil, they torch archives and destroy homes, they are a pestilence that can somehow stab you in the back.  They are a blight upon the world and there is surely a special place in Hell reserved for them.  In fact, it might be the only place in Hell, for who but they could deserve eternal punishment?

Yes, I did discover their latest affront to humanity while writing this post, why do you ask?


When in doubt, comment

This comes from talking to a couple of people elsewhere.

Let's say you're considering whether or not to leave a comment.  Leave a comment.

You may wonder if the post is too old.  It isn't, leave a comment.  But, you might be thinking, it was written far back in the mists of ancient history and surely saying something now will be tantamount to necromancy and start the zompocalypse.  Yes, it is very old.  No, it won't destroy the world.  Comment.

If I were being overwhelmed by comment swarms and couldn't keep up with everything and was having to fight off the vicious comments with a can of diced potatoes my grandmother bought out of fear of Y2K, perhaps there would be reason for you to hold back and not comment.  But at the moment I am not worried about the comments overtaking me and gnawing off my leg, so comment already.

Seriously, I like feedback.  I do not get a lot of it.  I appreciate the feedback that I do get, and I don't want to downplay that any, but if you're considering whether or not to speak up, for the love of all that is holy, speak up.


Also you should know that at least two people lost comments to Blogger being jerkish.  So I recommend that when you comment either write it elsewhere and then copy and paste it over (which is how I used to do all of my commenting back in the day) or copying it right before posting just in case (which I still generally do.)

Practices such as these will also serve you well on disqus and typepad.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Proper subsets, the size of infinity, and the Trinity

[Yet another unpolished non-story post that was originally a comment on someone else's blog (page 2), I must be getting lazy.]

Ok, so it started like this, there was a discussion of theology, the exact details are not important but you can follow the link above if you're interested.  And someone said that the refutation of a given point would be:
Jesus was God in human form, but because God is greater than humanity, Jesus was not the entirety of God. [...] (math majors would describe it as "the set of Jesus is contained entirely within the set of God, but the set of God is larger than the set of Jesus") 
My response was that the way a math major would say that is, "Jesus is a proper subset of God."  Subset means every element of Jesus is also contained within God, proper subset means that not every element of God is contained within Jesus.

At this point someone else pointed out that, if they're infinite, Jesus being a proper subset of God doesn't actually means that God is larger than Jesus, and at that point I said:


Given that a set is infinite if a proper subset of it can form a one to one correspondence with it, which makes no intuitive sense but is none the less plain to see when you look at example infinite sets , my personal definition of infinity is "the point at which things stop making sense."
But yes, Jesus being a proper subset of God does not mean God is larger than Jesus even though it does mean God is not limited to Jesus.
For any who don't follow, allow me to give an explanation that probably won't be any easier to follow.
If we were to consider God to be the set of all integers, the Father to be the set of all integers divisible by 3, the Son to be all integers one greater than divisible by three, and the Ghost to to be the set of all integer one less than divisible by three
God = the set of all k such that k is an integer.
The Father = the set of all "3k*1" such that k is an integer
The Son = the set of all "3k+1" such that k is an integer
The Spirit = the set of all "3k-1" such that k is an integer
(it looks better when I can say it in symbols instead of words)*
So The father is 0, 3, 6, 9, and so on.
The son is 1, 4, 7, 10 and so on.
The Spirit is -1, 2, 5, 8, and so on.
It's completely clear that God contains a lot more than just Jesus, It's got these two other subsets that don't overlap with Jesus at all and each of them is as big as Jesus.
It's plain to see that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are the same size because you can plainly see the one to one correspondence for every element.  If you were to take every element of the Father, preform a simple transformation (add one to the the value of the element) you would be left with every element of the Son.  There would be no duplicate elements of the Son produced, nor would there be left over elements of the Father that had no Son element to change into. There certainly wouldn't be any elements of the Son missing.
That's only possible if they started with the same number of of elements.  Similar correspondences are possible between Son and Spirit and Father and Spirit.  Thus they're all the same size.  And, as noted, they don't overlap.  So what about the size of God, which includes these three non-overlapping things?  Shouldn't God be bigger than them?  No.
Try the same thing.  Take every element of the son, every 3k+1,  and preform a simple transformation.  Subtract 1 (now you've got every element of the Father, but I preferred not to start there)  then divide by three.  Now what do you have?
The son is 1,3,7,10, and so on forever, (and also in the opposite direction, I might add, thus -2, -5, -8, and so on forever), so after this transformation we get 0,1,2,3 and so on forever in on direction, and -1,-2,-3 and so on forever in the other direction.  We get God, all of God, including Father, Son and Spirit.  But this change didn't require us to add any elements, just alter the individual elements, so that means that God is the same size as Jesus in this example.
*And now I can:
God     = { k | k}Father = { 3k*1  | k}Son      = { 3k+1 | k}Spirit   = { 3k-1  | k}
Looks a lot better, doesn't it?
Of course, not everyone is on board with the idea God is a set.  Some think God is a class and one person suggested a relation citing, "Infinite thy vast domain, everlasting is thy range."
The point is, by simply looking at how infinities work on the integers, we can see how we can have three non-overlapping infinite things of equal size each of which is likewise of equal to the sum of the three things.
All of which serves no purpose, but does that really matter?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why you should always vote, even when you don't like the options

[Maybe sometime I'll get around to writing a decent article on this, but until then this comment from Slacktivist can get some of the point across vaguely close to well.]

My personal take: (every "you" is the generic you, for whatever it's worth)
Every election presents you with a choice, and it's usually not the choice you'd like, but it is the choice you have to work with.
No matter how small the difference, if there is a difference you can detect you should always choose the better option even "better" means "slightly less bad".
But the choice you have on election day doesn't come out of nowhere.
Consider Obama.  He's going to be on the ballot in 2012.  That journey started in 1996.  Now that's a pretty fast rise, I think, but even so it shows you a bit of how long it's going to take to get better options at the top if you start the work today.
Presidential candidates don't come out of nowhere, they come from the ranks of senators and governors and congresspeople, and members of state government.  (The last President who didn't hold a previous elected office was Dwight D. Eisenhower.)  And most of the offices they came out of were not ones people generally get into in their first dabbling in politics.
Not voting for the lesser evil won't get better presidential candidates, it will just increase the chances of the greater evil getting in.
To get better presidential candidates, also better senatorial candidates and better house members, what needs to happen is to start electing better people to the lower levels.  Whether better Democrats, or independents/third party members who are better than Democrats.  Because that's how change is actually going to happen.
And if you have the time, inclination, and energy, you can work on that right now.  If a movement did that then it could completely rewrite American politics.  (Actually, a movement is trying to do that right now, but given that they're a sort of tea-party/Ron Paul coalition, I don't think it'll change things for the better.)
But it's going to take time.
In the interm we still bear responsibility for our choices.  That includes doing as little harm as possible.  There are differences between the two parties, and those differences are a matter of life and death for some people, and though I might never meet the people who would be killed by my decisions, it is still my responsibility to make sure those decisions inflict as little suffering and death upon the world as possible.
But, as I said, that's just how I see it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Why the destruction of the first Death Star doesn't leave most mourning

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[This could be seen as an extremely rough partial draft of a post I've been meaning to write about the role negative information (what wasn't said, what didn't happen) plays in the interpretation of fiction.  This is the first Death Star, in the original Star Wars.]

Its essentially the same mechanism that lets us not care when Luke blows up the Death Star and kills everyone on it- they aren't "real," they're just props to showcase the hero.
No. No, no, no. No.
That is not why blowing up the Death Star is considered an acceptable, even laudable, act of self defense.
I've been meaning to write an article on this for years, maybe someday I'll get around to it, but for now the short version.
When the Death Star is built it's an idea. When it first sets sail it's thought of as a deterrent. This ultimate power will cause the rebellion to collapse due to fear. That's what the higher ups say. When it is planned to be used against the planet with the Rebel base it becomes an overpowered weapon of war.
Then it blows up Alderaan. An unarmed non-rebellious planet with no strategic significance.
When the order was given there was no secret as to why, there were plenty of witnesses none of them sworn to secrecy. The goal was to publicly kill an entire planet full of innocent people to anoint the Death Star as a weapon of terror. Not a theoretical deterrent. An actual engine of mass murder whose purpose was to kill innocents until the other side backed down.
In that moment everything changed. Before then the Death Star was like the USSR's nuclear arsenal: there was no solid evidence it would actually be used in anything outside testing and demonstration. After that moment it was unmistakably a tool whose intended use was the annihilation of civilian populations.
Everything changed except for one thing: the absolute loyalty of everyone on the Death Star.
We don't shed a tear for them not because of what they are, but because of what they aren't. Not because of what they do, but because of what they don't do.
When the order was given no one tried to stop it. Not on the bridge, not in weapons control, not anywhere. With their part in the deaths of all those on Alderaan still on their hands no one tried to do anything. The imperials walk unaccosted through the halls. The engines run, The weapon charges up.
We don't see Tarkin running through the halls with his loyal bodyguards as they dodge incoming fire. We don't see a stormtrooper charging the loyalists in a desperate attempt to reach the weapons controls screaming, "For Alderaan!" We don't see the detention area being filled with those who tried to object to the whole mass murder thing. We don't see Vader tightening up security because of the threat of mutiny, we don't see the insurgent stormtroopers and TIE pilots and technicians and cafeteria workers getting together for a strategy meeting in a barricaded part of the Death Star.
We don't see an engineer crawling through maintaince tunnels in the hopes he can get to, and disable, the power source for the weapon before it can be fired again. We don't see someone saying that the trip to Yavin IV will take longer because sabotage has the engines running at less than peak efficiency.
We don't see threats used to keep the crew in line. We don't see nervousness that the person sitting next to a given imperial might be part of the mutiny waiting for the ideal moment to strike.
We don't see turbolasers being turned against the station itself by their operators. We don't see computer technicians trying to do whatever they can* to make Alderaan not happen again. We don't hear anyone saying, "Never again."
We don't see the resistance struggling to the last moment to stop that damned gun from going off. We never hear the battle cry, "Remember Alderaan!" We don't hear Tarkin say, "Evacuate? What the hell do you think I've been trying to do for the last twelve hours? We're cut off from the hangar bays!"
We don't see so much as a single person being relieved of command for refusing to obey orders. We don't see so much as a single person expressing moral qualms.
We don't see resistance. We don't see steps taken to thwart resistance.
What we do see is business as usual with all evidence supporting the idea that every single person there is a willing participant in mass murder. And that's why not a lot of grief is had for them. Because by their inaction they condone and moreover support mass murder. Vader and Tarkin couldn't run the station by themselves, and there's no evidence anyone who helped them do it was under any kind of coercion.
By their choices we condemn them, because they had the power to save billions, and they chose instead to be loyal mass murderers. Set pieces would not be judged so harshly. The population of Alderaan was composed of set pieces, yet their deaths are seen as tragic. Because they didn't go along with mass murder.
Now imagine if it had been slightly different, what if the Death Star were mostly populated by slaves? Or what if the imperials onboard had abducted people to be their mates. Or what if there were even a hint that those affected by the blowing up of the Death Star weren't there of their own free will?
Well that would change everything. The Death Star would probably still need to go (though a less than loyal population might open the door to other options besides kill everyone) but the ending would be much more down, and anyone who even thought about gloating would be clearly evil.
* "She doesn't even have access to the firing codes, she works on the guidance system." He says with far too much arrogance and not nearly enough respect.

There was a follow up post after it was suggested that the morality was simpler:
Fandom [...] has come up with these arguments. But they're a tiny minority of the people who have seen Star Wars. Jane Moviegoer isn't thinking about that. 
Your explanation still ascribes moral agency to the people on the Death Star- they're people who made bad choices. [...] Bad Guys go Boom because that's what happens to Bad Guys. And we know they're bad because they blew up a planet and killed Obi-Wan.
Actually, that's not from fandom, unless I am fandom all by myself. That's from something I was planning to write in on an entirely unrelated to Star Wars topic as an example of how common and necessary it is t o make judgments on what doesn't happen. It may not even be occurring on a conscious level, but how we interpret things depends very much on what we don't see.
Seriously, why are they bad guys?
[Added] To clarify, I'm not asking for a detailed moral argument. You started your explanation of typical experience from a premise of them already being bad guys, how does one reach that point? [/added]
It's not the armor. Han and Luke wore that.
It's not the affiliation, Leia was part of the imperial government.
It's not the location, every single one of the main characters was on that battle station at some point.
Them being badguys is entirely about negative information: None of them take off a helmet and say, "I'm John Watertreader, I'm here to rescue you." None of them get denounced by Darth Vader saying, "You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a spy." None of them do anything to resist.
With the exception of those tiny few directly involved in shooting at something (planets, ships, people), those non-actions are the only things that separate those on the Death Star when it explodes from the heroes.
Whether people are aware of it or not, they're judging those characters on what the characters didn't do.

Abel's death was faked, an idea I probably won't get back to

[Originally posted at Slacktivist.]
[From the same thread that inspired Omphalos Workers, the idea being that if the world is as young as creationists say, and the reason it looks old is because it was designed to be aged, then what happened when the first actual people encountered evidence of the fictional older peoples.]

I don't have time now, and I'm half asleep, but I suddenly want it to the the case that Cain and Abel faked Abel's death so that Abel could travel the world investigating these anomalies without the watchful eyes of parents, angels, or God upon him.  Where he got Indiana Jones' hat I don't know, but he did.
It was the blood of Abel that cried out to God, so they just had to let some blood out, it was difficult, inventing medicine on the spot to make sure that the blood loss wasn't fatal, but Cain and Abel were up to the task (barely) and the plan went off without a hitch.  Unless you count Cain getting cursed, but given what Abel went through* Cain figures he got the easier job.
And the tempting thing is for them to eventually realize that they're literary characters in an inconsistent work and, in their final triumph, escape the the fiction into the real world.
*  Medicine in the era of the second generation, especially when improvised by people trying to make it appear that the person receiving the medicine doesn't exist, was not, on the whole, good.


[Original Work Index]

Friday, June 22, 2012

Today was not a good day

[Trigger warnings for a bad relationship, victim blaming, paranoid delusions, perceived stalking, shoutiness, so forth.]

Had my first in person encounter with actual paranoid delusions today.  Maybe not my first, it can be hard to tell when, say, a random person you don't know starts going on about things you don't know about whether there is some basis in reality for what they say, or whether they're delusional.  Call it the first confirmed encounter.  Or at least the first encounter when the person having them isn't a random stranger.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, the day didn't start there.  It ended there.


Two of my plants are lost to me.  One died a while ago from lack of water.  It was in an extremely small container, the water dried up fast, by the time I realized what had happened it was too late, I tried to bring it back, but all evidence is that it really did die back then.

The other one I couldn't figure out what was wrong.  It had water, all should have been well but it was shedding leaves fast.  When some new leaves appeared I tried to make sure it always had water.  I think I overdid it, flooded out the new leaves.  I did finally figure out what was killing it, the changing season meant the window it was in wasn't getting enough light.

I've moved it, but it looks like the damage has been done.

I really cared about those plants.  They're dead now.

Things went down hill from there.

One of the downsides about being unemployed is that people assume you have time to help them with what they need.  One of the downsides of actually caring is that saying no isn't always an option.

So today I was to help with a house and with yard work because if the evil witch of the [whichever direction she's from now, she moves around a lot] comes back to see it trashed lives will be ruined and the illusion of stability will be shattered and replaced suffering and gnashing of teeth.

And while I'm being poetical, very bad things will happen if improvements are not made soon.

I hate working there, I hate the way it's open ended, I hate the fact that it never seems to end, I hate the fact that I've cleaned the damned place before, several times, and none of this edge of disaster panicked labor would be necessary if it had simply been kept clean.

I also hate waiting.  Much of last week (not the last seven days, the actual Sunday to Saturday period before the one we are in) was spent waiting.  Expecting to head over there in a moment and so unable to accomplish anything because the need to be able to stop in a moment and leave puts a serious damper on any projects one might attempt.  And then for days it never happened only to, after a day wasted in waiting, be told it was being rescheduled to the next day and repeat.

Finally some work was done near the end of the week.

Today I was supposed to go back and do more work.  No waiting should have been involved, I was asked with the car at the ready.  But then third party decided that he wanted something else done first.  Waiting, waiting, waiting and when waiting was finally finished, he decided he didn't want to make use of wha  t was done during the waiting anyway.

We got into the car, he made a joke about murder.  I didn't get the joke, the person he was joking about killing had to explain it to me.

Squicky power dynamics involved in the driving.

He started talking about how I had to see something, she knew he was being an asshole and told him to stop.  I didn't know.  He was building something up so that I could be unimpressed at the lack of progress and so look down on her.  He claimed that he wasn't, but his shouted remarks at the end of the day indicated otherwise.  He thought it was a monument to failure and by pretending to want to show it off to me he was intending to rub salt in her wounds.

She caught it, preempted it, and was derided for being accusatory and unfair.  His own words would later vindicate her and condemn her.

Before we got to the work, there was a stop for food.  Old cartoons were playing.  Sam and Ralph at one point, but one without the friendly off duty chatter that makes Sam and Ralph Sam and Ralph.  Then one with Pepe le Pew.  He praised the skunk.

He said that the cat never said no.  I said that the cat never said anything and her inability to speak was no excuse.  He said she brought it on herself by looking like a skunk.

Her: That's like saying she deserved it because of the way she dressed.
Me: That is saying she deserved it because of the way she dressed.
[I've forgotten the exact words leading up to this but they were something like, "I do believe that" and then:]
Him: If a woman walks into a dark ally dressed like a tramp she brought it on herself.

Finally at the house, some good interactions with ducks, he goes inside to take a nap rather than help.  Eventually we have to deal with the inside, it makes the problems outside look like perfection in comparison. We also need to fashion the parts for some of the work outside.  I do that in the basement, she attempts to corral the mess inside.

He makes it all about him.  Every noise made is a personal attack on him.  Every bit of work done is an affront to him.

While I'm down stairs the shouting starts.  It moves.  There's confusion on her part, anger on his, as it approaches the door I hear her make a small sound of pain.  He responds by shouting that she hit him with a shovel (as in, she hit him right that moment).  I come up stairs, quietly.  The noise has stopped, I don't know what's waiting for me.  I see him walking back toward where he was taking a nap.  I see her nowhere.

I realize he's locked her out.  Of her home.  No one here owns the house, but it is her home and he is her guest and without her he would have no place here.  A guest just locked his host out of her home.  Sudden't Aeneas doesn't seem like quite as much of an asshole as he did before.  At least he never locked Dido out of Carthage.

I let her back in the house.  The shovel is on the other end of the house.  Nowhere near where they were when he claimed to have been hit with a shovel.  It is not lost on me that his faking being hit with a shovel happened right after she sounded like she was in pain.

It is not lost on me that, while it would be completely impossible and unbelievable for him to actually have been hit with said shovel when he claimed to be, it would be completely reasonable for someone, on causing another audible pain, to realize that there was an audience who couldn't see what was going on but could hear it and try to sway the audience to his side by making himself out to be the bigger victim.

He comes out.  Words are exchanged, shouting starts.

My voice is ragged and my body shakes.  One of his points falls flat, his shouted argument was bullshit and I managed to shut it down.  He changes tack.  You see my voice is ragged and my body shakes.  He's showing just as much emotion, but he doesn't need to.

He turns it off, acts like he never raised his voice, speaks in calm measured tones and fluid graceful gestures. Paints me as emotional and irrational. I've seen people do it on the internet, I've never seen it done in real life before.

At the time I assume the fury of emotion was an act, something he thought could get him off the hook for his actions.  Later it will be suggested to me that the opposite is true.  The calm was an act.  This is more disturbing.  It means that at any point he could be seething with rage and not let on in the least.

In any case, something here is massively disingenuous.

Musical chairs.  At one point I'm alone with her, I'm alone with him.  At some point, I think the part between when we're all in the same place at the same time, something new comes up: he says he can't get away, he says she's stalking him.

She sends people to follow him in cars, she begs him to come back, she has a network of people who make her impossible to escape.

It doesn't all come out at once.  First it's the stalking.  I tell him if that's the case he should leave, he's traveled the country, and done it without funds.  If he really thinks she's stalking him he can be beyond her reach.

I doubt she wants me telling him to dump her.  If she wanted to she could break up with him.  But if he's going to make the argument that what he does is justified because she's stalking him, I'm going to make the argument that it's not healthy to be in a relationship with a stalker so he should get out.  His claims made no sense.  His mobility is like nothing I've ever seen before in non fictional characters.  And his electronic footprint is nonexistent, if anyone could escape a dedicated stalker, he could.  And escaping her in particular could be accomplished by moving to the next town over.

So I argued, that if he was so troubled by the supposed stalking, leave.  He has no local ties, he's not from here.  She's the only thing tying him to the area, when they broke up in the past he was in a different state in the blink of an eye.  If he wanted to be off her radar, he could be.

But then she asked for details of her stalking.  And that's where the delusions come up.


When he dumped her she deserved it, and she knew it.

She decided to change her life for the better and be a better person.  At first she was thinking of this in terms of getting him back, but she realized that being a better person would be a good thing regardless of whether or not it got him back.

It would be better for herself, her friends, her family, any future boyfriends.  It would be better in itself, and that had nothing to do with him.

So she decided that rather than try to get him back she would try to improve herself, put her life in order, improve herself.  Once she did that if he was still around, perhaps she could suggest they get back together.

Then she got a call from him.  He wanted her back.

She didn't think it was a good idea, she'd had this epiphany about needing to be a better person, and she decided that the best way to do this was working it out on her own, and she was worried that getting back into a relationship with him would derail that whole self improvement plan.

He convinced her that they ought to get back together.

Then came wrinkle two.  He'd gotten pretty far.  This only just happened and he was already in another state.  She had to make a long drive in the middle of the night on roads she wasn't familiar with to get to him.

That's how it happened in reality.

I remember, I was there.  Not in the car as she drove, but I was the one who she bounced all her ideas off of eventually deciding to stay single for a while while she worked out her personal stuff.  I was the one she contacted to say, "I don't know what to do, now he wants me back but I just decided to try to work things out on my own."


This is how he remembers it:

Every car that picked him up while he hitchhiked away was staffed by one of her goons.  As were cars that followed him while he was on foot.  In the gas station where he waited for her, a gas station that she couldn't even find on her first try, was one of her friends making death threats if he didn't treat her right.

(In reality she has at most two friends in that state, and she doesn't even know if they're still in the state.  She didn't have one at the station, as I said she didn't even know where the station was.)

In his mind she has an infinite network of supporters and he cannot escape her grasp.  There is no where he can run to be free of her.  He has to stay with her because it's the only way to not have her stalking her.

And that's where it the day ended.

I'm back home now.  It was not a good day.

Omphalos Workers

[Originally posted at Slacktivist.]
[The Omphalos Hypothesis is that the universe was created with an aged lived in look, sort of like prefaded jeans, and that is why everything looks so old.  Omphalos refers to navel, and the idea was that Adam and Eve had navels even though, created as adults, there would be no need for them.  The newly created earth also had signs of it's non-existent youth.]
[Or course evidence of human habitation before the supposed creation of the earth is an interesting wrinkle in the whole thing.]

Since I like angels, this story begins when an angel walks into a cave, sees another angel, and then this happens:
"Eoniel, what are you doing?"
"I'm painting."
"God said make the place look old."
"The rocks!  He said make the rocks look old. "
"Yeah, and what makes something look older than some aged graffiti?"
"That's not what He meant."
"Says who?"
"Says... listen, what do you think people are going to think when they find these paintings?  They're going to be confused and jump to all the wrong conclusions and ... and you're ruining everything!"
"If you don't like my art you could have  just said so."
(Hurt:) "You think it's stupid?"
"Look, I didn't mean that, I just meant that... don't look at me like that.  No crying, that's an order.  Come on, please." *pause* "They're very nice animals, really, but we shouldn't be making it look like other people were here before the real ones."
"So you think my art is..."
(Trying to sound sincere:) "It's great.  Really nice.  I'm sure God would think so too, but you shouldn't be doing it here.  We don't want to make it seem like humans have already been here."
"Well you should tell Techniel, he's been making spear-points and such."
*sighs* *facepalms* *composes self* (actually sincere:) "I really do like the horses by the way."
"Thanks!"  *pause* "Oh, you probably want to know that I think some of the others are building ruins to resemble the civilizations from their roleplaying groups."
"Oh for the love of ..."


[Original Work Index]