18 November
big mac is number 3!
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No, this is not about the well-known hamburger.

I heard a rumor about this last week, and apparently it's true: Virginia Tech's Big Mac cluster is the third fastest supercomputer.

That's a big effing deal. Even though this stuff changes and the Big Mac could be beaten out fairly quickly, it's impressive to make it into the top bracket for even a picosecond.

And get this - the thing was assembled from parts you and I could buy off the shelf, for way less than the cost of any of the other supercomputors (still millions, but not hundreds of millions). Score one for Apple.

I'd like 1100 G5's on my desk. How cool would that be?

On the down side, I might have to retire all those jokes about Virginia Tech students' um, aptitudes, from my joke repository now.

 

10 April
testing for the ineffable
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There's something about tests that challenge the contradictions in one's beliefs that hearkens back to that boy. You know, the geeky one who was always getting his ass kicked for trying to make other people look stupid?

So, if you harbor residual resentment for the aggressive geek in your [past] life, you might want to avoid Battlefield God.

If you're curious about my personal philosophy, or are just interested in the level of annoyance produced by the questions in the battlefield test, read on for the answers I gave and the supporting theories on my part. I have to say, I feel much better now that I've gotten my niggling and quibbling out in the open.

I still owe a boy named Eric a kick in the shins from sixth grade for asking me stupid questions like this over and over again. If you see him, will you pass it along for me?

[Link from Ampersand]

but wait! there's more


 

14 January
the new a-prime
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I'm starting a new language. I'll call it a-prime. You can use it with e-prime if you like. The two languages are quite complementary (and hey, by using both, you could be simultaneously communicating in three languages).

a-prime will abolish the use of the words "they" and "we". It's increasingly becoming a word that angers me. There's little room in "they" or "we" for dissent. It's the most convenient way to lump individuals, with individual opinions, into one dismissable or laudable group.

This morning I read a comment that Kell posted on the We Have Brains topic for the week. It was an eloquent comment that demanded respect for people who don't want to see porn or any aspect of the sex industry. But it had one tragic flaw - the continual use of the word "they" to refer to anyone who supported porn, as if all persons who consume porn or work in the sex industry have one, single platform. And all of those people, of course, are all about in-your-face comments designed exclusively to anger those who disagree. It was, suffice to say, a comment that has put me temporarily off reading a blogger whose writing generally excites me.

There is no one "we" of pro-sex feminists. No one feminism, no one fat accceptance movement, no one queer movement, and no one "pro-porn camp". There are individual voices that might unite in one message but do not share one overwhelming agenda.

If belonging to any of these groups requires me to accept these "we's" and "they's" people love to toss around, I'll renounce them all here and now: I am not fat, I am not a feminist, I am not queer, and I am not anyone's "they" or "we". I am one person with a set of opinions that may or may not coincide with yours.

 

05 December
awareness
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It's probably impossible to know how much control we each really have over our thoughts and actions. How much we're influenced by all the things around us.

I like to think it's all about free will.

But.

I find myself thinking other people are the product of their environment. And to try to forgive them their annoying characteristics as something they can't control.

For instance, I know a woman who is somewhat whiny and also fat. I wonder if she's whiny in part because she's experiencing the world as a fat person. Her tendency to tell me too much about when and what she eats, to mock herself, these could be things she does because that's what fat people are supposed to do.

This isn't fair of me. It's almost as if I presume she has less control over her response to life just because she's fat. Would I think the same thing if she were a thin woman? I suspect I'd just think she was whiny and tended to over-disclose. Or, worse, I'd assume that her fixation on food was directed at me. I know for sure I wouldn't think the same if it were I acting that way; I'd skewer myself, stew over it, and do many other cannibalistic-sounding things. I would not forgive and chock it all up to some form of gentle oppression; ideas like The Media [o, great singular conglomerate] would not enter the picture - it would be all about me.

If we could all just say, to hell with it, wouldn't that be better? Wouldn't it be easier to just drop activism and live our lives? That is, if we just did whatever we did, accepted it as free will, and therefore automatically rejected stereotypes, oppression, all those little social inequities.

The problem is that thought sometimes has to be consciously changed. We follow a pattern of automatic thoughts for so long, and they don't just change like that. No *poof*.

On the surface, social activism can seem like bizarre thought regulation - it's okay to say cunt, maybe, but not to say girl. It sounds like just rules for what you can and cannot think, when it's really about awareness. If that awareness makes you unwilling to say and think and do certain things, it might be good for you, but you don't get to awareness by following rules about what you can and can't do.

I forget that sometimes. I don't want to hear things from other people that offend me, and it's easier to command don't say that than to impart awareness.

Because. People are influenced, to whatever extent, by conventional wisdom. We all carry with us a handful (or more) of stereotypes and other automatic assumptions of what we and others are and do. Only awareness changes that.

but wait! there's more


 

01 December
history and its annoying concept of time
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I've been reading this book about philosophy [Sophie's World, which is actually a novel about the history of philosophy], which calls up something that always bothers me with history.

In short, this Darwinist perspective that all events are strung together in a line.

but wait! there's more


 

25 July
food for thoughts
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I like the idea of writing down lists on the thin ricepaper wrapping of those japanese fruit candies that are somewhere between hard candy and bubblegum. And then eating your words.


I've never done this, I just like the idea of literally eating words. It's like ingesting [insert your comestible religious figure of choice]. I'm thinking Year King. Communion. Symbolic.


I hate the idea of "eating your words" as a figure of speech. For the longest time, I thought it meant taking them in and absorbing them. I thought this was so beautiful. Some words you want to devour. But to eat words as a way of taking them back makes conversation feel like bulimia. I don't take words back, even when they're not understood, even when they're wrong.

 

08 July
low-fat equals good?
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If you ever needed proof that there's no such thing as Science (the homogenous entity that always, ultimately, agrees on the best rational idea), read the latest NY Times diet article [you may need to register to read it, but it's worthwhile].


Yes, scientists have disagreed with the whole "low-fat equals good" notion for years. Yes, the research that turned fat into an American national enemy was - well, spurious. But the important thing to note is this: Americans got exponentially fatter in the generation most focused on dieting. And not from a lack of will, activity or self-control [Gasp! Fatties aren't all lonely sluggards who can't keep their fingers out of the ice cream!].


Which leads to my ultimate conclusion: dieting is bad; balanced diets are good. Period. Unless you're allergic to some part of your balanced diet, of course. The article ends up glossing over the balanced-diet theory and focusing on Adkins, but it's still full of useful information.

 

27 June
in my continuing quest...
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To dig into the interesting lives of fat people who aren't consumed by dieting [but rather consume their diets, ha!], here is: Leigh is fat.


It's packed full of tasty fat links.

 

24 April
passing thoughts and parenting
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I feel obliged to keep promises to my parents more now than I did when I lived with and depended upon them. Go figure.


I thought about this as I carefully squished my schedule for this weekend to accomodate both a promise to the parents and a desirable social engagement (party! featuring friends not seen in years!).


I think I'm a better kid now. Than when I was a kid. I hope I am, at least.


The boy is fixated on the teaching and raising of children (we have none; I want none) and has me reading books by John Holt. These books seem very outdated. I read them mostly because I am very, very afraid of children and I want to know why.


And I encountered, while browsing today, this zine: raising hell. It made me think of some friends of mine who are such unbelieveably good parents.


I'm working (mostly mentally) on the "your mom" issue of the zine. So I'm not exactly preoccupied with parenting, but I am noting my passing thoughts on the subject more than usual.

 

18 April
comparing your life
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I've seen many people linking to this accomplishments by age blank thing. Essentially, you input an age (presumably your own), and it coughs back a list of other people and things they accomplished at that age.


The links all look the same. "I've wasted my life". "I'm five years behind". I'm not as good as the people on that list, but I don't intend to do anything about it. I've thought things like that before. The people I'm getting to know and the authors I'm reading sometimes seem so captivating that I think my life has been wasted by not trying to be more like them.


So I had to know. What was this site? Why did someone create something the sole purpose of which seems to be to depress other people by trivializing their lives and accomplishments?


And the answer: someone in China memorized fifteen thousand telephone numbers while Napoleon conquered Italy. I have no interest in memorizing phone numbers or conquering countries. That is to say: the accomplishments of any given year of a life can only be measured in context. Your life is your context.


By the way, the museumofconceptualart site isn't bad overall; it just has that one tragically overlinked page.

 

kabalarians
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This wacky name-analysis site tells my my name makes me vain, creative in a practical way, and overly concerned with other people. Which is, while generalized, largely true.


The site also has more names that you've likely imagined. Even the boy's name, which is pretty unusual. In any case, it was neat.

 

11 April
why philosophy is silly
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Not to say that philosophies, beliefs or logic are silly. But rather that the structure by which we pursue philosophical study seems to have been developed by men who were like the little boys who were always trying to catch you in a lie or trick you into seeming stupid with a technicality.


Sorry, you don't even know what I'm talking about yet. I'm talking about the philosophical health check, which highlights the following opinions as contradictory...

but wait! there's more


 

15 March
free advice
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I have discovered the cure for smoking.


[drumroll, please.]


Don't buy cigarettes.


No, seriously. It's working like a dream for me. You don't buy any, then when you want one you have to go buy them. If you're me, and the cigarettes you [used to] smoke must be purchased at tobacco shops, this is a seriously good plan.


I recommend it.


[Updated 3/16/02]

Due to the immense (ahem) popularity of the previously dispensed advice, I've decided to reveal the other secret, revolutionary method behind my smoking control [it's not quite cessation, is it?] program:


It's called: the boyfriend. He's been enlisted for the past couple of months to control my access to cigarettes by hiding them and only dispensing them in units of one or two.


Also highly successful, at least at limiting the smoking.


Not recommended for people whose significant others also smoke, as they're likely to think you're an idiot and to mock you severely.

 

04 March
personality tests
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I am in love with this blog. And I don't just say that because it supports my personal belief that the Colorgenics test suffers (or benefits) from the Barnum effect (tell someone anything general enough about himself, and he'll believe you're psychic).


Still. I don't buy the PTypes test, largely because it relies on the subject's ability to accurately report his/her behaviour and the impressions of others, versus the Keirsey/MBTI reliance upon the subject's preferences.


In other words, the PType test seems heavy-handed. I'm intrigued by the concept, particularly the association of mental illness with types (but what is it used for?), but very much suspect the questions need to be re-written. Plus, as it appears many have noticed, there really isn't a one-to-one match between the PType thing and the MBTI. Again, I suspect it's a result of the questions, but it could also be a problem with the way results are phrased.


Anyhow, liked the blog. Nice list of other blogs, too. And, in defense of the PType thing, I found I liked blogs written by people of both my supposed PType and my MBTI type.

 

01 March
in case of doomsday, break glass
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it turns out there really is a secret government.


the boys always thought (in college, when you're especially likely to think this sort of stuff) that the secret government must be in the strip mall around the corner from the outlet mall. really, the power went out around town all the time, but never at the shopping center with the subway. lots of black lincolns parked there, too. obviously evidence of the secret government at work.


update: are people really that surprised to find that there are protective bunkers and such for members of the government? i mean, cold war! not that long ago. at lunch this afternoon, we saw a news broadcast that exclaimed doomsday plan! which, of course, made us think that some horrid plot had been discovered. but no! it's an anti-doomsday plan, as it turns out, again referencing the secret government.


you have to wonder. does the word doomsday actually appear in the plans? who thought to bring that word up?


maybe the problem is that the news media are trying to avoid either a) more bad news from the west bank or b) finding anything substantial to criticise in the bush administration. i don't think they're actually in cahoots with the conservative side of politics. rather, i suspect, based on their reactions to the cbs anthrax scare last year, that the people who write and report the news are terribly, terribly emotional. and if they had to confront injustice, hopeless efforts at peace (i just typed peach, thought you should know) or anything else of substance, they would never be able to stop crying.


i understand. i've felt that way too, sometimes.


so, next time you're thinking my god, how much do i really care about the wife of the olympic national committee head, think about those poor newspeople. and remember, they're doing everything they can to keep from crying.

 

26 February
everything smells
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i quit smoking. sort of. again.


i'm not sure i could have moved away from the water if i hadn't been a dedicated smoker at the time. i might have noticed how well the salt breeze covered the ick that was everything else.


i contend that the urban world is better smelled from behind a cloud of smoke. not just the obvious exhaust and fermentation of cars and trash, but the subtle things. living around the block from so many restaurants and their intermingled food smells. people who smoke. dogs. cheese. meat. your sweated out perfume. the insides of office buildings. standing water. gravelly dirt (it absorbs all the other bad smells for later rebroadcasts).


everything just smells so much, and the good smells are such light notes compared to. i mean, on a warm day, you can smell your cement sidewalk. it's horrid. and it's not that all urban smells are awful, particularly southern ones (blooming magnolias and hot streets, for instance, is a smell like an extraordinary thai meal). it's just that so many of them are noxious and vaguely smoky, which means that smoke, like defocusing your eyes on those mall posters, reveals the subtler fragrances.


maybe i need to get away. drive a few miles and smell walnuts fallen from trees. or water.

 

21 February
today's grammar annoyance
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the confusion of "as much as" and "more than". as in "twice as much as" versus "100% more than". usually it's just a confusion of meaning, the conversion of percents to actual values and such, but today on the radio, i heard someone say something about the price of sugar being "twice as much [insert several words here] in canada than in the us. hmph.

 

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