April 30, 2005

These posts always get me in trouble.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:12 PM

In the context of dating advice, one of the most common aphorisms is "Be yourself". I've always felt this is terrible advice: in my case, being myself means being really shy and quiet, which doesn't go very far. Likewise, people with unattractive personality traits, narcissists and control freaks and so forth, would be better advised to "be someone else".

But I realized that this is an overly literal reading; "Be yourself" really means "Be authentic". The point is that, while it would be a good long-term strategy for me to become less shy, it's a really bad short-term strategy for me to pretend to be a talkative and outgoing person, even if I could pull it off for an hour or two with enough alcohol and/or caffeine. Sooner or later it'll become obvious that I'm just acting, which will look very unattractive indeed. And "be yourself" is the kind of thing one hears 20 minutes before a date, not as a long-term guideline for romantic success.

In my particular case, it's also true that even if I weren't shy I would still be quiet and reserved. So rather than trying to transform myself into an extravert (which may not be possible) I would be better off cultivating the silent, mysterious type of attractiveness. There's a bit of the "be yourself" philosophy here even if I'm thinking about ways of changing my behavior.

And being confident about being oneself can be very helpul as well...

(Is this stuff obvious to most people? It always seems obvious in hindsight, which makes me think that everyone else has figured it out already. Better late than never, though.)

April 29, 2005

Weekend Movie Thread

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:54 PM

The Hitchhiker's Guide movie opens today. Reviews are mixed. I'll probably end up seeing it, but I think tonight I will see Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Meanwhile: if you see Hitchhiker's Guide this weekend, let me know how it is.

April 28, 2005

Pen vs. Keyboard, Pictorially

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:46 PM

As a follow-up to previous post, I collected my writing implements into one place and posted an annotated photo on Flickr.
writing implements
As usual, click through to the Flickr page to see the annotations.

April 27, 2005

Pen vs. Keyboard Showdown

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:25 PM

Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber examines text fetishization in both pen-and-paper and electronic modes. I understand both sides: I have irrationally strong preferences for certain pens/papers, and am also the type to tweak my LaTeX documents endlessly to get just the right formatting.

For creative writing, journaling, or blogging I usually find pen-and-paper too damn slow—I compose sentences in bursts and then have to wait for my hand to catch up, whereas the speed of typing is a little more comfortable. I also tend to revise-as-I-go which is much more amenable to writing on a computer.

Despite this, there's an appeal to the hand-written journal as opposed to a text file somewhere, so I tend to do private journaling on paper despite the slowness. I tried doing this on the computer at one point but it wasn't quite the same.

It's the opposite when doing math, where typesetting is too slow. I've been known to work problems in LaTeX if I know the solution outline already and the solution needs to be typeset anyway, but otherwise I will reach for the nearest piece of scratch paper.

I know a lot of you are writers of at least one form or another; what are your preferences?

April 26, 2005

Relaxation time [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:04 PM

Now that my talk is out of the way, the rest of the week should be more relaxing...

Kung Fu Hustle: I can only describe the style of this movie as a live-action Warner Bros. cartoon. The martial arts by itself wasn't spectacular, and the plot was totally disposable, but it was highly entertaining in its silly comedic mode.

British Sea Power: Open Season: I'm not sure what to say about this album. I like it, but it sort of fades into the back of my mind whenever I play it, so I'm having a hard time picking out specific details to talk about. Maybe I should just give you the first track, "It Ended on an Oily Stage", and let you make your own judgement.

April 25, 2005

Dude, where's my slide?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:17 PM

I have on my hard drive a significant fraction of all the slides made for Clarke group flux qubit talks. Under the current system they are grouped by talk and sorted by date and venue. This, it turns out, is a terrible organizational scheme—I frequently need to find a particular slide, where I have a reasonable idea of the subject and content, but don't remember in which talk it appeared. This leads to an inefficient searching process in which I try to guess when the slide was made and look through talks from that period.

Obviously a better solution would be to keep a set of Powerpoint and PDF files, each of which contains all the slides I have on a particular topic. Unfortunately it would be a lot of work to maintain such a set, and sort the slides for each talk that comes along.

Maybe I should just use Google Desktop Search? I've always found it a little scary, so have never installed it. Anyone have experience with this? (Or a better suggestion?)

A deferral and a referral

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:03 PM

Working on a talk for tomorrow; open thread will go up afterwards.

In the meantime: I opened a del.icio.us page several days ago, so my low-threshold links are going there. Future project: add a section to the sidebar that mirrors my last n posts to del.icio.us.

April 24, 2005

Is there hope for Texas?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:07 PM

An interesting guest post at The Carpetbagger Report summarizes a recent Texas Monthly article on teaching evolution in that state. The article raises the concern that weak science education will result in Texas being uncompetitive in the biotechnology industry.

To those of us who follow this issue, the connection between science education and scientific innovation is pretty clear. However, it may be new to the Texas business community, which is populated by such long-view, big-picture thinkers as Ken Lay. (Of course, I do know some reality-based Texas businessmen; I don't mean to tar all of them with the Enron brush.) Morbo at Carpetbagger speculates that the pro-business wing of the Texas Republicans will end up opposing the religious wing on this issue—which would be good news, since business tends to win these battles.

I'm a little skeptical, since most pro-business Republicans seem ultra-focused on short-term profit. (See also: federal budget deficit.) Nevertheless, this article gives me a little bit of hope for Texas. And perhaps this will lead to other such revelations by Texas Republicans, such as "states that support stem-cell research will attract biotech firms", or "if we had any kind of environmental policy, Houston might not smell like ass".

April 22, 2005

Fear and surprise

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:35 PM

Ok, I thought my Inquisition reference was a cheap shot before. But via Rude Pundit I discover the following quote from Ratzinger:

At the time of Galileo the Church remained much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The process against Galileo was reasonable and just.

(For the reference, go here and scroll about halfway down.)

From Wikipedia, the process that Ratzinger considers "reasonable and just":

On June 22, 1633, the Inquisition held the final hearing on Galileo, who was then 69 years old and pleaded for mercy, pointing to his "regrettable state of physical unwellness". Threatening him with torture, imprisonment, and death on the stake, the show trial forced Galileo to "abjure, curse and detest" his work and to promise to denounce others who held his prior viewpoint. Galileo did everything the church requested him to do, following (so far as we can tell) the plea bargain of two months earlier. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Unbelievable. I guess he really is a traditionalist.

April 19, 2005

Dude, where's my car?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:06 PM

I got a call at 8:30 this morning informing me that Berkeley Public Works wanted to do construction right now in the general vicinity of where my car was parked, and if I did not move it immediately they would have it towed.

Unfortunately, I was at that moment in Evans Hall giving the aforementioned midterm review, and did not receive this message until 6 pm. At which point the towing company had closed for the day.

I am not very happy with the city of Berkeley right now...

Changes of pace [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:51 PM

Another late open thread... I was busy preparing a midterm review, and then I was seized with a fit of irreligion. I should give Christianity a break, and go beat up on Hinduism or something. Or maybe just review the new Fischerspooner album.

Fischerspooner: Odyssey: Fischerspooner's debut #1 was a CD I really liked the first few times, but then many of the tracks became tiresome astonishingly quickly. I gather that this was not an uncommon reaction. Therefore, it was a relief that Odyssey isn't more of the same. The sound hasn't changed drastically, but enough that it sounds new and exciting, and brings back the otherworldly sense that the original album had before it became too familiar. Will this one get old, too? Maybe, but for the moment I'm enjoying it. "Cloud" captures what I like about Fischerspooner pretty well.

Sean Carroll, Charles Townes, and Chewbacca

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:25 AM

Enough pope-blogging! For balance, we will now bash a Protestant organization. Sean Carroll has decided not to give a lecture at a symposium in honor of Charles Townes' Templeton Prize. While this unfortunately means I won't have a chance to hear him lecture at Berkeley (although it's unlikely I would register for the symposium anyway), I have to agree with his reasons:

Upon further review, I've changed my mind, and decided not to go to the conference after all. (As of right now my name is still on the list of participants, but it will go away eventually.) I talked to Mark, with whom I've discussed these issues before, and he made an argument that seems pretty convincing. The point is that the entire purpose of the Templeton Foundation is to blur the line between straightforward science and explicitly religious activity, making it seem like the two enterprises are part of one big undertaking. It's all about appearances. You have a splashy scientific conference featuring a long list of respected participants, and then you proudly tout the event on a separate web page for your program to bring science and religion together. It doesn't matter that I am a committed atheist, simply giving a talk on interesting findings in modern cosmology; my name would become implicitly associated with an effort I find to be woefully misguided. There are plenty of conferences, with less objectionable sources of funding; I can give this one a pass.

It seems to me that the Templeton foundation is attempting a kind of Chewbacca defense of religion, in which they point to various unrelated aspects of science and try to claim that this demonstrates compatibility with (or evidence for!) religion. So I can understand Sean's reluctance to play the part of Chewbacca.

On the other hand, I disagree with PZ Myers, who says,

I don't see any difference between the Templeton Foundation and Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church—both are endowed with overflowing buckets of money and a dearth of reason, and are pouring that cash into efforts to subsidize public insanity.

Sure there's a difference—Sun Myung Moon is actively, overtly evil, Bond-villain evil, straight up black-hat, tie-you-to-the-train-tracks, soon-my-electro-ray-will-destroy-Metropolis bad. By contrast the Templeton Foundation is just sort of silly (unless they are involved in secret political machinations I don't know about).

Benedict XVI

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:58 AM

So the cardinals chose the ultraconservative Ratzinger. I don't know how this will play in the developing world, but I suspect it will alienate the more moderate Catholics in Europe and the United States. While a decline in an institution that I regard with something less than admiration might ordinarily be something to celebrate, I fear the consequences of continued hardline policies on birth control, etc. The Church's committment to worldwide poverty and disease will doubtless endure a while longer. In the US, we will continue to suffer through clergy and punditry who declare that all Catholic Democrats (but strangely not pro-choice Catholic Republicans) are "bad Catholics".

As cardinal, Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I suggest that his first act as pope be to reinstate the former name of this branch of the church. Certainly nobody would expect it!

UPDATE: Giblets proclaims victory.

April 16, 2005

It had to be said

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:22 PM

ABC News: Cardinals Destroy John Paul II's Ring

Presumably by casting it back into Mount Doom where it was forged. I can only infer that this was to prevent him returning as a gigantic disembodied eye floating above St. Peter's Basilica.

April 15, 2005

Bill Frist in search of a holy war

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:16 PM

Bill Frist, with an eye on the 2008 primaries and looking to win the favor of radical cleric James Dobson and his goons, is doing his best impression of that ranting loon on Telegraph Avenue:

According to a piece by David Kirkpatrick in tomorrow's Times, Bill Frist is going to participate in a big anti-filibuster telecast, sponsored by the Family Research Council, in which Democratic opposition to President Bush's most conervative judicial appointments will be cast as a Democratic war against believing Christians.

A flier advertising the event refers to "the filibuster against people of faith" and says: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

So Frist wants to cast this, literally, as a war between the believers and the unbelievers. I guess this is part of toning down the rhetoric.

(Via TPM.) So here's a member of the Republican leadership saying explicitly that Democrats are out to get all Christians. Why do moderates put up with people like this?

I think it's time for a corollary to my rule about voting for Republican House candidates: I will not consider voting for a Republican Senate candidate as long as Frist is majority leader.

Catblogging 4/15

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:32 PM

The ever-vigilant Omen standing guard:

catblogging 4/15

No one told him there's no such thing as a guard cat.

April 13, 2005

Maybe the city did consume them...

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:58 PM

Damn! I only discovered The Delgados a couple months ago, but they quickly became one of my favorite bands. And now, they've broken up:

The Delgados, influential figures in Glasgow's independent music scene for over 10 years, have announced that they are to amicably disband. The reason has been put down to the departure of their bass player Stewart Henderson who informed the band in the New Year that he did not wish to make another album. The Delgados have always been known as uniquely collaborative songwriters and as such, it was decided that the band could not continue without all of its original members.

I need to find a copy of The Great Eastern...

April 11, 2005

Random Linkage: Vote for Pedro Edition

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:10 PM

Fred Clark's take on the all-important Cookie Monster issue is a must-read.

If you've seen Napoleon Dynamite, you should read the full text of this Idaho House Resolution praising the film. As you file your tax return this week, ask yourself: are your legislators making such efficient use of your tax dollars? (Via Fark)

Learning Curves is a great blog by a math teacher, focusing on teaching issues and the antics of her students (including some truly horrible essay writing). (Via Professor B.)

James Wolcott posts an awesome Thomas Paine quote on organized religion. Where's Tom Paine when we need him, anyway?

Sir Martin Rees and Cosmological Speculation

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:55 PM

I just got back from the annual Oppenheimer Lecture, given this year by Sir Martin Rees of Trinity College, Cambridge, under the title "Scanning Cosmic Horizons". I was trying to recall where I'd seen him in the general media before, and a Google search after the talk revealed that he was the guy suggesting that humanity has only a 50% chance of surviving the next century. His talk today was concerned instead with cosmology, but Rees' penchant for speculation was evident here as well.

Most of the lecture was devoted to explaining what is known about the parameters of the universe: its rate of expansion, how much matter there is and how much dark energy, and how uniformly the matter is distributed. He then moved on to counterfactuals: how much can various parameters change while still allowing for an interesting universe? The subtext of this sort of discussion is always the fine-tuning question: some claim that the range of physical parameters that allow for intelligent life is very narrow, and this is frequently used as an argument* for the existence of God. Rees kept these concerns at a subtextual level, even while his subsequent speculation was essentially an attack on the fine-tuning argument.

His favored explanation is very interesting: he suggests that, since we can only put a lower bound on the size of the universe, it could be far, far larger than the (roughly 15 billion light-year) observable region, and while the laws of nature and parameters of the universe seem to be locally uniform, they could in fact be varying over very large distances. Thus, some of what we consider laws could really be "local bylaws", and the only explanation for fine-tuning would be a version of the weak anthropic principle. In effect, he said, cosmology becomes an environmental science.

The question period after the talk was relatively unenlightening; people seemed to take Rees' speculations as license to deluge him with their own crackpot theories. (This is actually not unusual for the Oppenheimer lecture anyway.) Rees took the "smile and nod" approach to most of these. One questioner asked if science or philosophy had made any progress on Hume's problem of induction; normally one of my favorite topics, but it's hard to imagine any response to this particular question other than "no", which was basically how Rees answered.

Anyway, the lecture was entertaining, both due to its speculative aspect and to Rees' skill as a lecturer. If any readers get the chance to hear him speak I would recommend it.

*In my opinion this argument is unconvincing: when confronted with a strange and improbable phenomenon, I do not find the invention of an even more strange and complex entity to be a very satisfying explanation.

Caltech 6, MIT 1

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:06 PM

Via Mason in e-mail and Zifnab in comments: Caltech students prank MIT's prefrosh weekend.

Excellent. The current class of Techers is obviously way cooler than we were.

Order and Chaos [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:03 AM

Some kind of organization obsession hit me this weekend, which led me to scrutinize my living space until I found a superior furniture arrangement—one which happened to require moving nearly every item of furniture I own. Two days later, I have achieved the kind of harmony that comes from a successful restructuring, along with some sore muscles. Unfortunately the process displaced a lot of random crap that needs to be sorted and placed logically. Once that's done, I'll probably post before/after pictures on my Flickr page in case anyone is really curious. [Looking back on this, it's possible I'm turning into the main character from Fight Club. The Ikea nesting instinct and all that.]

Blogroll update: Dave, an occasional commenter here, has started his own blog: Japanese Trash. Check it out.

Gazebo Classic Movie:Monty Python and the Holy Grail: I'm sure most of my readers can quote large fractions of this movie from memory, so there's no real need for me to talk about it. Maybe it was all the obsessive media coverage of the pope, but I felt the need for something sacrilegious the other night. So I watched this movie, and then spent some time reading the Principia Discordia. I had some weird dreams that night.

Bloc Party: Silent Alarm: This album was getting rave reviews everywhere, so I picked it up last week. After all the hype I was expecting it to blow me away, and although it didn't rise to that level it's still a pretty solid album. It's drawing a lot of comparisons to Franz Ferdinand and to The Futureheads, and while Bloc Party has a distinctive texture from these two (and is a bit more dance-y) I can see the resemblance. Certainly they've got the British accents going. I found the leadoff track, "Like Eating Glass" to be especially good.

April 10, 2005

Ah, who cares about those other things?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:09 PM

Ordinarily, when I hear people griping about some beloved icon of their collective childhoods being altered by some uncaring corporation, I'm not inclined to join in. I don't tend to nostalgia of this sort, a usually irrational emotional attachment to the way things were. But: this is different. This is the Cookie Monster cutting back on the cookies and singing that "a cookie is a sometimes food".

This is beyond a "reworking" of the character: it's the destruction of the very soul of the character. What makes the Cookie Monster monstrous, after all, is his unrestrained and insatiable appetite for cookies. C is for cookie, and that's good enough for him. It's inconceivable that this proud beast would submit to such a bourgeois notion as a balanced diet. We all remember the way he would tear into a plate of cookies at the conclusion of his song, how he declared that even a doughnut—a doughnut!—is not as good as a cookie.

One wonders what tortures the health food lobby inflicted upon the mighty Monster to make him submit. Cage him up and feed him only (c is for) celery? Point out that a rice cake with a bite taken out of it also looks like a C? A Snuffleupagus head in his bed?

I proudly sang "C is for Cookie" at dinner every Tuesday during my years in Lloyd House. I did so to celebrate the irrepressible cookie-loving spirit of the Cookie Monster that is the basis of his appeal to young children everywhere. Now, Arcane Gazebo demands that Cookie Monster be freed from his diet, that he be allowed to pursue his cookie passion not just sometimes, but anytime. Anything less is simply cruel.

April 8, 2005

Problem of Induction Comics

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:08 PM

The grue paradox came up in a discussion recently, and it occurred to me that there is an obvious adaptation to Dinosaur Comics.

Hence, I bring you: Problem of Induction Comics.

(I cheated a bit with the joke—grueness is a property of the color at first observation, so grue objects don't actually change color.)

Friday Catblogging 4/8

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:57 PM

Omen sticking his tongue out. This one is actually kind of disturbing.

catblogging 4/8

April 7, 2005

Mmm, sacrilicious.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:10 PM

For a while I was working on a post on the papacy of John Paul II, but I kept discarding it and starting over because it got too obnoxious. (And when I think my own post on religion is too obnoxious, well...)

So instead, just read this well-written piece from the Irish Times. Not that it isn't obnoxious, but it's better than what I was going to post.

Then, fill out your Pope Brackets.

All this focus on the Pope prompted me to go web-surfing on various topics related to Catholicism. The best find was unquestionably this idiosyncratic account of the heretical Circumcellion sect, described therein as the "absolute dumbest religious movement in history". Note that the page is safe for work, but the site [rotten.com] is not. Rotten.com, strangely, has a whole collection of essays on such topics; another interesting one is Secret Archives of the Vatican, which sounds like it should be from a Dan Brown novel but is apparently real.

April 5, 2005

Science and the Republican Congress

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:48 PM

Yesterday's physics colloquium was given by an exceedingly rare specimen in Berkeley: a Republican congressman. Specifically, Representative Vernon Ehlers of Michigan, a Berkeley physics alumnus who gave a talk on science and education policy.

It's hard to believe this guy is from the same party as anti-science loons like Tom DeLay. Ehlers came across as very rational, with an approach to policy that is technocratic rather than ideological. His views on science education, on minority and women in sciences, and on research funding were totally sensible. It's truly unfortunate that his party marginalizes people like him in favor of corrupt theocrats.

(He did slip into a partisan mode just once in the talk, with a bizarre remark blaming Tom Daschle for cuts in the FY05 NSF budget.)

If I lived in his district I'd find it difficult to vote against him—he seems to do a lot of positive things for science policy. But I'd vote against him anyway. Because with one vote—his vote for Tom DeLay as majority leader—he erases all his positive work and drives science backward in America. As long as the theocratic and anti-intellectual contingent of the Republican party is running the country, the outlook for science is pretty dismal.

Coincidentally, Paul Krugman addresses this very issue in his column today, and PZ Myers' commentary is also worthwhile.

April 4, 2005

Narratives [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:02 AM

Daylight Savings Time has been messing with my mind all day. I spent the weekend catching up on teaching stuff, but at least had a chance to see a movie.

Sin City: Robert Rodriguez set out to create a faithful adaptation of the original Frank Miller graphic novels, and although I haven't read the source material, I was amazed at how much this movie looked like a comic book. The cinematography, especially the sparse use of color, was very successful in this regard.

The negative reviews of this film are focusing on how disturbing the graphic violence is. I agree, it's very disturbing, but I found that this added to my appreciation for the movie rather than detracting from it. While the style of the movie is comic-book noir, the real genre is actually horror: it is a monster movie, with the serial killer Kevin and the Yellow Bastard being two of the monsters. But the real monster is the city itself, a society whose institutions are so corrupt that the only way to fight evil is to adopt evil's methods. It's the Nietszchean aphorism in movie form: He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you. And I won't deny that there's a sense of gazing into the abyss while watching Sin City.

What sets the heroes (to the extent that they are heroic at all) apart from the villains is that although they often use the same brutal methods, the heroes do so not for their own advancement but for the benefit of others that they are protecting (or avenging). Each of the three plotlines involves the emergence of selfless behavior in an otherwise nihilistic landscape, and which in each case drives the protagonist to undertake a hopeless struggle against an unbeatable foe. I found afterward that it was this narrative form that stuck in my brain rather than the violence: I had a dream the night after seeing the movie that played out like a Sin City vignette with the violence muted. The strong elements of the dream were the narrative ones: the struggle, the hopelessness of the situation, the determination to defend a loved one. Whereas the violent elements from the movie didn't really reappear: the fights I dreamed were hazy and lacked detail.

I definitely agree with Matt Yglesias: some things should be hard to watch, and Sin City is meant to be this way. And so I both liked the movie and was disturbed by the violence; I'm now interested in reading the original Frank Miller material, and I may see the movie again before it leaves the theaters if I get a chance.

The Decemberists: Picaresque: These lyrics aren't the usual fare: eschewing traditional rock subjects, the Decemberists are more likely to launch into, say, a nine-minute ballad of revenge on the high seas. Sometimes it works for me and sometimes it just seems weird, although even the weirder ones have been growing on me. One that I liked from the start was "We Both Go Down Together".

April 3, 2005

Better red than dead

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:58 PM

I am shocked to discover (via Fark) that teachers are no longer using red ink when grading papers, because it's "symbolic of negativity":

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Of all the things that can make a person see red, school principal Gail Karwoski was not expecting parents to get huffy about, well, seeing red. At Daniels Farm Elementary School in Trumbull, Conn., Karwoski's teachers grade papers by giving examples of better answers for those students who make mistakes. But that approach meant the kids often found their work covered in red, the color that teachers long have used to grade work.

Parents objected. Red writing, they said, was "stressful." The principal said teachers were just giving constructive advice and the color of ink used to convey that message should not matter. But some parents could not let it go.

So the school put red on the blacklist. Blue and other colors are in.


Three top pen and marker manufacturers _ Bic, Pilot Pen and Sanford, which produces Papermate and Sharpie _ are making more purple pens in response to rising sales. School leaders and teachers are largely driving that demand, company representatives say.

When I have graded papers, I've always used red ink, and I've never seen it as symbolic of negativity. It is obviously symbolic of blood, as the mighty grader wreaks his terrible justice upon the wrong answers! No mistake shall be spared his righteous anger!

Luckily for my students, I'm not grading any homework this semester. I do miss it a little; there was a sort of thrill in glorious destruction of a poorly-written assignment providing helpful and enlightening suggestions.

Respect my authority

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:38 PM

Me as a South Park character, using this site. (Re-discovered via Pharyngula, but it's been around a while.) For some reason the raised eyebrow couldn't be switched to the opposite side, so it's not really visible. (Although the right eyebrow is the one I can raise, but I part my hair on the right. So really the hair image should get flipped, but that's not possible either.)

The logo on the shirt was added in Photoshop to resemble a shirt I actually own.

Yes, I do have work I should be doing right now...

And more unreliable connections

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:14 PM

I guess the database went down sometime in the last 24 hours. I don't know why but it might have been one of the unrelenting trackback spam attacks. Fortunately no spam actually gets posted, since I close old trackbacks, but this doesn't stop them from trying. Anyway, comments should be working again.

Unreliable Connections

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:12 PM

My Nokia 3595 phone has an annoying bug: occasionally when I press the button to accept an incoming call, the vibration alert will get stuck and vibrate continuously until I take off the back cover and remove the battery. On top of this the display shows that the call has been accepted, but the speaker doesn't turn on so I can't hear anything. Whether the caller can hear me or not, I don't know (I'm guessing not.) It's especially annoying if the incoming number doesn't show up, and the caller doesn't try again, leaving me no way to follow up: so if that was you calling at about 4:15 today, this is what happened.

I've turned the vibration off as a workaround, but I'm not convinced it'll work, since I've had the connection fail to complete without the vibration sticking, in areas where my reception was perfect. Better solution: get a new phone. If I had an arbitrarily large amount of money to spend, I'd go for the Motorola Razr V3. If I didn't mind looking like an unbelievable dork* I'd get a Treo. Neither of these things are true, so the choice is less obvious. My criteria, roughly:

  • Small form factor (so it fits comfortably in pants pocket, as I don't want to wear it on my belt. My Nokia 3595 is a bit larger than I'd like; I suspect the flip-phone style is better)
  • At least the internet capability of my current phone, which I think is fairly standard at this point
  • Not too costly
  • Supported by Cingular (though in principle I can switch services)

Any recommendations?

*The fact that I am one notwithstanding—I find it's usually best not to advertise it.

April 2, 2005

Newton at the Huntington

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:56 PM

I wish I had been aware of this Isaac Newton exhibit at the Huntington Library when I was in Los Angeles last week. (Via Kevin Drum.) Fortunately I'll have another chance, as I'll be back in Pasadena just before it ends. There's also a follow-up on Newton in modern culture that starts in July...

April 1, 2005

April 1

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:23 PM

With a visitor in lab today I haven't had a chance to look for various April Fools celebrations around the web. So: if you see a good one, post a link in the comments so I don't miss it!

Boring Boring is terrific.

In the open thread Lemming directs us to Google's latest project.

I had something in mind for this site, but wasn't able to implement it in time. Maybe it'll appear in the future...

Friday Catblogging: Mighty Roar

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:01 AM

The mighty lion stalks the savannah in search of prey! He hunts the tastiest beast known to all lion-kind: the salmon-flavored cat lion treat!

The lion hears human tribal music—one of his human servants has returned from a long absence! The human's lair looks so warm and dry and comfortable, but the lion's entry is blocked by a screen. The screen looks so flimsy, but as always the lion's paw cannot tear it down. He roars to summon the human.

Shortly the human appears with offerings of the salmon-flavored lion treat! He moves slowly, and the lion is impatient! He places his mighty paws on the human's chest and demands, "Give me the lion treat, puny creature! Your long absence has inconvenienced me. Why do you smell like rat?" The human cannot understand the noble speech of lions, but he complies with acceptable deference.

The lion devours his salmon-flavored prey, and his satisfied roar echoes across the savannah.

catblogging - mighty roar

Editorial note: Don't be alarmed, I don't actually smell like rat. For that matter the rats were actually very clean and had no discernable smell (to my puny human nose).