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Fuzzy Logic
 With mippa posting of her love for My Little Pony, I should possibly note how much the infection has spread. Recently, the release notes for a programmer's editor I have sometimes used listed "add ponies." I had the experience of watching a sort of serious analysis of scientific errors in My Little Pony, and now many of the denizens at Voice Hollywood have taken to identifying themselves with one pony or another. In fact, Amby Leigh just send around this list:

AlivieinaTwilight Amby LeighRarity DizzySoarin' (Wonderbolt)
Faded PhantomPinkie Pie GildragonPrincess Celestia Heaven IncarnateSpike
JefferzBraeburn MadiAppleJack MellieTrixie
Moniker SilentDerpy OmiiPride09Prince Blueblood RachellularRainbow Dash
ScherisDJ Pon Pon SharpCookiesApple Bloom SikonoSnips
SpazzcakesScootaloo Valkyrie CelesFluttershy ZelinaSweetie Bell

I'm getting worried. How infectious is this, anyway...?

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I am... well, heavier than I should be, and because of problematic knees, I don't exercise as much as I should. Running is painful, and treadmills just bring the pain inside. On a trial gym membership, I discovered that the elliptical trainer was perfect, though - no impact to bring pain to the knees; unfortunately, my budget doesn't allow me to pay what the local gym is charging.

Then I saw a deal at woot.com for a low-end elliptical trainer, the Schwinn a40 - new, for just $285 including shipping. It was perfect. You even got to put it together yourself, which for me was an added pleasure.

It was a bit heavier than I had expected. The FedEx guy dropped off the box with a handtruck on Tuesday, and then I realized that getting it upstairs in the box would be problematic.
It weighed 90 pounds!

The obvious step was to open the box and bring the parts upstairs. Then the fun began! First came building the frame: followed by adding the arms and pedals .

Adding on the electronics completed the trainer: . I didn't get to use it for much of the week because of Shavuous, but I worked up my first great sweat on it today. The directions say 30 minutes / day, 3 days a week. It sits right in my computer room, so I have no excuses not to work out!


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Mom had tickets as part of a subscription, and gave them to me to take my eight-year-old daughter. Now we both love the movie: it has a great combination of a plot that involves character growth and amusing fantastic scenes and songs.

The stage play doesn't come close.

They removed some of my favorite scenes: there are no dancing penguins, no merry-go-round horses, no laughing Uncle Albert. In their place, they went back to the original source material and pulled in new scenes: dancing naked statues, an extremely old woman who sells letters and gives out gingerbread stars, and a completely different reason for Mr. Banks to fear for his job.

Oh, they include many of the songs from the movie, but many of them are out of place. For example, in the movie, Let's Go Fly a Kite represents Mr. Banks reconnecting with his family. In the stage musical, Bert finds a kite near the start of act 2, and suddenly it's "everybody on stage for the kite song." The song results in the return of Mary Poppins, who had left at the end of act 1, and she returns by holding on to Bert's kite (which is how she comes back at the start of the book, Mary Poppins Comes Back. The result is a dud.

The show was horribly long; my daughter picked up her coat at the end of the more than hour-long first act, and I had to explain that it wasn't over. Bert kept being a chimney sweep over and over, probably because it let them reuse the rooftop set.

My advice: if have a chance to see it, don't waste your time. The sets were beautiful, the special effects spectacular, the acting and dancing brilliant, but the story was painful.


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It's been a long time coming, but I've now completed my my novel! Chapter 132 (I know, right?) is scheduled to appear on the site tonight, and the final chapter will appear Friday morning.

And if that weren't all:

  • I made arrangements for my trip to NYC, where I have a job interview

  • I worked out an arrangement and backing for my first-ever song mashup (needed for the singing competition I'm in).
  • Got approval to submit a critical functionality change that I've been working on for weeks at work
  • Got the first challenge for an acting competition: Shakespearean monologues!

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Like my science fiction / fantasy readers, I keep the books I like after I read them, intending to read them again. I also try to augment my collection by going to used paperbook bookstores, so I probably have about a thousand paperbacks in my office, and hundreds of hardbacks in the library downstairs. I've pretty much read them all, but after a long enough time I'll generally forget enough of the book that I can read it again. Sometimes I'll just want to reread a book because I really enjoyed it and it's been awhile.

But best of all is when I discover a book on my shelves that somehow I'd never gotten around to reading. That happened this weekend. On the top shelf, I discovered a book by Orson Scott Card called [i]Homebody[/i] that I had never even noticed before - it came from a second-hand bookstore and I must have just shelved it because I'd bought too many to read at once.

Well, this was just great. I'd probably have to classify it as horror/romance, a combination I'd never expected to encounter, much less enjoy (I'm not so big on horror, frankly). It was annoying to find several pages badly cut up; including one that was missing a couple of paragraphs on each side; fortunately, it was near the beginning, not the critical portions of the story. And when I wasn't lost in the story, I kept thinking, "I want to be able to write like this!"

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I'm usually pretty good at delayed gratification. When the iPhone came out four years ago, I drooled, but did not buy it, since I didn't want to switch providers. Besides, I figured, it would be on Verizon in two years, and if it didn't I could consider switching later. I even avoided upgrading my phone, since I didn't want to lock in for two years, just in case I gave in and was willing to switch.

So when they finally announced the Verizon iPhone, I knew I had to get it. Oh sure, it didn't use 4G, and you can't access the internet while talking, but... I've had an iPod Touch for a couple of years (it was a present from my family), and I'd grown to depend on it for appointments and shopping lists and internet when I had WiFi access but no ready computer. And remembering to carry both it and my phone everywhere was a pain (in fact, I left my iPod at work over winter break, which was really aggravating, since I didn't know where it was for a week and a half.

Well, I have the iPhone now and I love it. Not only does it do everything my phone and iPod did in one device, it does it better! It syncs with the address book on my Mac, so I have one list of contacts for email, phone, and AIM. It handles texting really well, gives me a pretty decent camera that's in my pocket at all times, and is noticeably faster than my iPod Touch. I was even able to just restore all of my iPod settings and apps, so I didn't lose anything when I switched.

And it has one additional application that I find really clever. The device, if you bought it without a phone plan, is super-expensive, so you really don't want to lose it. And you can imagine how easy it would be to do just that. So there's a service called FindMyiPhone. You register it and you can log in to the web site, ask it to find your device, and it uses the onboard GPS and internet to show you exactly where it is (yes, that means that you can effectively track the user as well). Then, if that isn't enough, you can tell the device to display a message, or to emit a sharp sound, even if the device is muted, or you can erase all of your data if you cannot retrieve the phone. Pretty darn slick!


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My friend Dylan Collins runs a game called Momento Mori, in which the mysterious Jonathan Black sends volunteers on a "mission," the idea of which is to identify and eliminate the killers, although you don't actually know who they are. Of course, the killers' goal is to eliminate everybody else (think Mafia, with more flexible rules, and secret alliances). This particular version included a Mafia-style lynch rule (each day the survivors voted to kill somebody), while werewolves and vampires would kill at night. I was a werewolf.

Over time, certain players were turned to one of the non-human types, and many were killed. As the game went on, I realized that five of us had formed a de facto alliance and could control the lynch to kill off everybody else - but we were technically on four different teams and would have to turn on each other to do anything more, which we really didn't feel comfortable doing.

So I decided to think outside the box. I organized a peace rally:

Well, Mr. Black didn't like that and one of our number turned on us and killed the vampire and tried to kill me, so we had to lynch her. We were informed then that if we didn't finish up, we would be killed off randomly until there was only one of us left. mytilene indicated that she would kind of like to win, so FadedPhantom and I (both werewolves) committed suicide with silver knives (mytilene was, conveniently, a silver smith). Before we died, though, I sang a swan song, which I'd written for the occasion.

Dylan's reaction: Hahaha - you guys outsmarted me. Well played!
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This happens sometimes to me. I have a pretty good idea of where I want the story to go, but the characters aren't cooperating and the next thing I knew they're running off and doing something else; something unexpected. Now sometimes I know that I don't want the story going that way, so I have to back up and add some other elements that will redirect them. The really interesting times come when I don't know if I like what's happening in the story - can I use it and rewrite the next portion? The ending? Or do I have to scratch the whole thing out and figure out where I went wrong.

And then sometimes I need somebody else's perspective and I have to find somebody who's current and give them the next piece and see how they react...


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Hi, I'm Russ and I was a Facebook games addict...

I suppose it was a year ago or more, when one of my FB/LJ friends (you know who you are) send me an invitation for the Facebook game "Vampire Wars." I ignored it at first, but some time later, out of curiosity, I decided to start playing it, and before long I was hooked. At one point, I think I must have been playing VW as much as two hours a day, in between work, while doing creative projects at home, and even in the middle of the night. I issued and accepted friend requests from people I didn't know, all because we shared one thing in common - to succeed at Vampire Wars.

It turns out that such games are specifically designed to be addicting. I saw active players loudly proclaim that they were quitting, only to show up with VW-related posts on Facebook a few weeks later. I even read the above article, understood what was happening, and still had trouble staying away for more than a few days - after all, there were new "limited abilities" to be gained, abilities that would never be available again.

I finally decided that cold turkey was the only way, just as if I were quitting smoking. I blocked all VW posts, hid all of my FB-only friends and then just waited. I waited until I'd missed some of those "never to be gotten again" abilities. I waited until game goals I had set for myself were slowly becoming irrelevant, and then I took the next step. I started to defriend people.

In Vampire Wars, as in many similar FB games, you need a lot of friends who are also playing in order to succeed. By defriending my allies, I was giving up an advantage that had taken me a fair amount of time to build up. But I also made it that much less worthwhile to go back into the game. After all, I was now much weaker. I could no longer count on receiving support from other players as needed to meet various challenges. Little by little the addiction died out.

I think I have fewer than thirty "vampire-wars-only" friends left on my list, and I defriend them when I recognize them. It was an interesting experience, but one I prefer not to repeat.

Are you a Facebook games addict, too?
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I am becoming increasingly convinced that we still haven't gotten science education right in our primary and secondary schools, and the latest defenses of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) just add to that conviction. If you haven't seen it, the claim basically is that AGW explains why it is so cold recently (yes, that's right - it's cold because the planet is warming). Warming, you see, has increased water vapor in the atmosphere, leading to more snow in Siberia which then reflects the sun and causes cooling.

Now, this may well be happening; however, what it describes is essentially a damping mechanism, suggesting that the earth is inhibited from overheating. But the real problem is that AGW never predicted it, and therefore citing it does not support AGW at all.

Here is the key: science is all about making falsifiable predictions. A useful theory is one that makes predictions that you can test. If it repeatedly shows that it can predict things accurately, we can start to rely on it. Newton's theory of gravitation is useful because it has been shown repeatedly to predict accurately the motion of objects from pebbles to planets. There are a few cases, such as the precession of the orbit of Mercury, which had been seen in the 19th century not to follow the theory, leading to the need to develop General Relativity, which does predict those cases accurately.

The problem with AGW is that it has not been shown to predict anything accurately. That does not demonstrate that human activity has no impact on climate, only that the claim remains unproven and essentially useless. That some scientists have developed models which claim massive worldwide floods should not be stampeding us to destroy our economy which hysterical energy policies, since there is no reason to believe that those models are accurate at all.

If we taught science properly - as a process of learning about the world rather than a collection of facts and computations - I'd hope that most people would have seen through the AGW nonsense long ago.

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