Howliday 2010

I’ve been meaning to post about this year’s Howliday, lest its new tradition get lost in the haze of memory.

Seeing as all participants were people that happened to have beards, it was discovered that long have poor folk — who could not afford more convincing disguises — adopted beards at this time of year to fool the banshees.

Ladyfolk generally just tried their best.

One can conveniently piggyback on top of Movember to guarantee an optimal face bush for Howliday.

Lady Gaga Needs to Wise Up

So I get why no one told Lady Gaga before the video for “Telephone” came out, because naturally, no one wanted to prevent that work of art from seeing daylight. Now that it’s been out for a while, I think it’s finally safe to tell her.

OMG, your phone has a silence mode. Also an off button!

On Happiness

There is an excellent TED talk about happiness and the tension between the “remembering self” and the “experiencing self.”

It touches several things that I happen to have been talking about with people recently: the distinction between the pursuit of “shallow” and “deep” pleasure (experiencing and remembering selves respectively); moving to California; what sort of vacations are good; how much money one needs to be happy.

To live a life you remember fondly, apparently you must make sure there is change, significant moments, and a happy ending. Hedonism is not enough. 🙂

I like his point about a two week vacation where the first week was relaxing and great and the second week was much the same. Experientially, that was a great vacation. Twice as good as just going one week. But recalled as a story by your memory, you might as well have gone just one week.

I think this tension is in part what Reason (with a capital R) tries to diminish. It strikes me that reason argues for the experiencing side of the equation, while feelings argue for the remembering side.

Quote of the Day

From Life of Pi:

I can well imagine an atheist’s last words: “White, white! L-L-Love! My God!”–and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, “Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain,” and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story.

Quote of the Day

This one’s gross. From Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon:

The room contained a few dozen living human bodies, each one a big sack of guts and fluids so highly compressed that it will squirt for a few yards when pierced. Each one is built around an armature of 206 bones connected to each other by notoriously fault-prone joints that are given to obnoxious creaking, grinding, and popping noises when they are in other than pristine condition. This structure is draped with throbbing steak, inflated with clenching air sacks, and pierced by a Gordian sewer filled with burbling acid and compressed gas and asquirt with vile enzymes and solvents produced by the many dark, gamy nuggets of genetically programmed meat strung along its length. Slugs of dissolving food are forced down this sloppy labyrinth by serialized convulsions, decaying into gas, liquid, and solid matter which must all be regularly vented to the outside world lest the owner go toxic and drop dead. Spherical, gel-packed cameras swivel in mucus-greased ball joints. Infinite phalanxes of cilia beat back invading particles, encapsulate them in goo for later disposal. In each body a centrally located muscle flails away at an eternal, circulating torrent of pressurized gravy.

San Diego

Elaine and I just got back from a week-long California vacation (mostly in San Diego). I believe pictures will appear on her flickr or facebook feed.

  1. San Diego’s weather is amazing. We were there for a reasonably bad stretch of weather by their standards, but it was still impressive to us Bostonites. Outside weather year round lets them make neat decisions like open air malls and gym equipment on the beach that seemed to actually be regularly used (i.e. people seemed to use it as part of their workout, rather than paying bunches for an air-conditioned year-round indoor gym). Very nice.
  2. We went to both the San Diego Zoo (which is a traditional, albeit large, zoo) and the San Diego Wild Animal Park (which has several large enclosures where compatible animals intermingle). The Park was way better than the Zoo.

    First, you didn’t feel as shitty for exploiting animals in their sad little exhibits. These enclosures were massive — the African herbivores got 213 acres.

    Second, the animals seemed much more active and interesting. Rather than peering into an exhibit to see a leg of a sleeping antelope, you got to see a whole herd making their way to the water hole. The roaming space and presence of other animals seemed to make them more active.

    The carnivores got less space since they were each in their own enclosure, and were subsequently less active it seemed. But we caught a feeding, so we saw the cheetahs walking around at least.

    Apparently their breeding program is very successful (averages a birth a day). They were working on bringing a rhino population back to decent numbers, and they were one of the few zoos that has had success breeding them.

    I think/hope this is the future of zoos. It seemed better for visitors and animals. I assume the primary disadvantage is the space (and maybe cost — not sure if it’s cheaper or more expensive to house multiple animals in a field). The San Diego Zoo proper just added a giant new elephant exhibit that looked very similar to the Park’s elephant exhibit in terms of space. So maybe they’re gradually going in that direction.

  3. In-N-Out is a fast food chain in the Southwest US that was very nice. They have a delightfully elegant menu; you can order just three items: a burger, cheeseburger, or double cheeseburger (with the usual topping choices). Add in fries, a fountain drink, or a shake. The burgers were fine (nothing to rave or complain about). The fries though, were excellent. They were freshly made (we saw a guy throwing peeled potatoes in a machine) and with so little salt I couldn’t taste it. Their shakes were frosty-like, though not as good in my opinion.

Battlestar Galactica And Singularities

Two quick recommendations today!

BSG

One is Battlestar Galactica the board game. It’s very good; basically Mafia the board game.

The players (all characters from the show) are each given secret cards that say whether they’re human or cylon. Halfway through the game they’re each given another one (a ‘sleeper cylon’ flavor).

The humans’ goal is to survive (not run out of food, fuel, people, or morale) until the fleet reaches their destination. The cylons’ goal is to sap those resources and slow the fleet down.

Often the secret cylons sabotage while amongst the humans. So it makes for lots of interesting accusations and all that jazz.

The Singularity

The other recommendation is the book Accelerando by Charles Stross. I read it back when it was up for the Hugo in 2006, but I had forgotten the name until recently.

It’s about humanity reaching a singularity and is full of interesting ideas and technologies. Worth a read if like science fiction. It’s even available as a CC-licensed download, so no reason not to read it!