What kind of geek aren't I?

In high school, I thought I had some promise as a math geek, particularly since I started out a year ahead of my classmates. I kind of enjoyed certain fields, and had a degree of natural aptitude—my geometry teacher in particular was eternally miffed that I could carry a B average while almost never doing the homework, for which my grade never exceeded 46%. (She also didn't much apprecaite my answer on a solid geometry word problem involving a sphere of ice cream melting into a cone, which I indicated was unsolvable without the unsupplied densities of frozen and molten ice cream; she did, however, give partial credit since I was technically correct.)

By pre-calculus I hit my aptitude limit, and even with extra tutoring I just barely managed to pass. I signed up for calculus senior year, but discovered at the last minute that the teacher I would have taught my track and the AP class exactly the same, the only difference being whether the students were "allowed" to take the AP exam for college credit. I bailed in a hurry and traded that in for a related-arts class, which turned out to be where I discovered electronic music and thus had a profound effect on the course of my life to date. By the time I got to college, I dumbed myself down and took the easy way out, basically repeating the work I'd already done in high school across two semesters for 6 credits, rather than having to take pre-calc and calc for 9 credits, busting my ass and paying for the privilege.

I still love numbers though, especially wacky shit like number theory. My discovery of the Mandelbrot set in 1988 caused a near-orgy or geekitude, optimizing algorhythms for computer color-mapping of portions of the set in BASIC on the 2 MHz C=128 and in Pascal on the 8 MHz IBM PC AT (surprisingly, it ran faster on the slower machine, which I later learned was a result of a built-in math coprocessor.)

Which brings me around to mentioning that I just read a frustratingly interesting book that I found on the to-be-read bookshelf of Housemate M (as opposed to the has-been-read shelf):

Aczel, Amir D. (1996 October). Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 147. ISBN 1-56858-077-0. LCC QA244.A29 1996.

Interesting because of the extreme math geekery: the proof (which at 200 pages is longer than the book itself) spans every major field of mathematical endeavor, several of which I'd never heard of before. Frustrating because this is, in essence, a history book more than a math book; it contains precious little actual math, so while I have some vague idea of why proving the Shimura-Taniyama Conjecture for the special case of semistable elliptical curves proves the theorem, I'm left without really understanding what a Modular Elliptic Curve is. Still more frustrating is the knowledge that it would probably require several years of post-graduate work to even approach that understanding—and that's assuming that I was wrong about my inability to deal with calculus in the first place. And this is not to mention miriad steps between polynomial equasions and such deep math. -sigh-

Anyway, highly recommended to fellow geeks and fans of science/math history. I'm still crossing my fingers to hope that James Gleick decides to cover the same territory, since he could probably manange both to cover more actual math, and make it more of a page-turner.

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    Klein Four Group - Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)
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"Fist" Lyrics

I just felt like sharing.

Eat "Fist" Epicure 1994 (Factory/Sire NRD-1105)

Concrete over the face of my Earth.
Rest in peace with the rest in pieces.
Cover it all in your gastric juices.
We're like one big sweet for you to suck,
One big sweet for you to suck.

Put your hands between your legs,
Close your fist and regulate.

Your teeth are rotten, your brain's forgotten some.
Who's gonna clean up all the muck I don't know.
Sell her own grave on her death bed.
And pull the gold teeth from her dead head,
Pull the gold teeth from her dead head.

Put your hands between your legs,
Close your fist and regulate.

You turned my face into a car park.
Your hyper scores and hypertension.
You burned the woods and stripped the bark.
And ran the whole world with your mark,
Ran the whole world with your mark.

Put your hands between your legs,
Close your fist and regulate.
You regulate.
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    Eat - "Epicure"
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More stoopit news

Hays, Tom. "7 plead guilty in corpse plundering scam." Associated Press, 2006-10-18.
"Rest in peace with the rest in pieces." -Eat, "Fist", Epicure, 1994.
Walters, Patrick. "Coffins to bear logos of baseball teams." Associated Press, 2006-10-18.
Not to mention NFL, NHL, NASCAR.... I can almost understand it on urns, but coffins? WTF? Um, you are going to bury that, right? Underground? Right?
[unattributed]. "Not it! Mass. elementary school bans tag." Associated Press, 2006-10-18.
Perhaps if we were to package all children thoroughly with bubble wrap over kevlar vests, we'd finally be able to produce the nice, safe, timid, ineffectual, useless consumer sheep we've been looking for. Fucking breeders.
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    Eat - "Fist"
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Vatican News

In which your Humble Narrator continues to be amused by Papal antics.

Cooperman, Alan. "Pope Poised To Revive Latin Mass, Official Says." Wahington Post, 2006-10-13, A03.
Well, Mel Gibson will probably be happy about it.
Jeffries, Stuart. "If you feel a commotion beneath your feet today, that'll be gazillions of unbaptised children moving out of Limbo." Guardian Unlimited, 2006-10-06.
Evidently, Papa Bennie is getting set to dispense with the idea of the limbus infantium, the verion of limbo probably inspired more by Dante than by the Bible, where it is (was?) supposed that unbaptized children are sent after death since their original sin has been held to bar them admittence to the direct presence of YHVH pervading Heaven. Big up the Pope for realizing that the whole idea is ridiculous, and unnecessary to either Catholic mythology or metaphysics.
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Where's my head?

More recent reading. While that only explains part of where my head's at, this is the sort of post that it easy for me to keep up with, and I suspect easier for some others as well.

Card, Orson Scott. Xenocide. New York: TOR, 1991. ISBN 0-812-50925-0.
I don't generally agree with Card's politics or his religion, but damn was this a good book, in the "hard to put down" and "makes me think" senses. For literary style I'll still go with Nabokov or Kafka, but I haven't been forced to claw through a book like this since the 3rd Harry Potter novel. The ethical dilemmas at the root of this story were as thought-provoking as they were heart-wrenching. If there's anything bad to say about it, it's that one must first get through Speaker for the Dead before this will mean much—it's been a few years since I read that sequel to Ender's Game, and there were some fine points of the backstory that I found distractingly lost to me.
Baker, Luke. "Rival 'fiefdoms' eclipsing dream of Palestinian state." Reuters, 2006-10-11.
Just when you thought politics in the (ahem) "Holy Land" couldn't possibly get any more fucked up.
Evers, Joris. "Security expert: User education is pointless." C|Net News.com, 2006-10-12.
Why? They're too stupid, don't care, and really, computer security is the job of the IT staff, not the VP of Finance or his secretary.

Recent reading

Stuff I've been reading in between job listings over the recent Silent Period. Now with Topical Variety!

Weil, Elizabeth. "A Wrongful Birth?." New York Times, 2006-03-17.
The ethics of abortion become murkier as prenatal genetic testing increases and parents begin to sue for not being advised when to abort.
Kjerulf, Alexander. "A faster and better way to recruit: Extreme Interviewing." Chief Happiness Officer (blog), 2006-09-13.
An interesting method developed by Menlo Innovations.
—. "Why job descriptions are useless." Chief Happiness Officer (blog), 2006-08-16.
And what to do instead.
Lacey, Mark. "Castro Foe Puts U.S. in an Awkward Spot." New York Times, 2006-10-08.
U.S. reluctant to extradite home-grown terrorist.
Holtzman, Elizabeth. "Bush seeks retroactive immunity for violating War Crimes Act." Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times News Group. 2006-09-23. Archived from the original on 2006-09-25.
The King is a fink!
Tanner, Robert. "U.S. Holds AP Photographer in Iraq 5 Mos." Associated Press, 2006-09-18.
No one is safe, but even less so if you happen to be of a targeted race.
Chick, Jack T. "The Death Cookie." Chick Publications, 1988.
Cartoon tract/pamphlet humorously decrying the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which should be even funnier to Thelemites.
Kurzweil, Ray. "The Law of Accelerating Returns." KurzweilAI.net, 2001-03-07.
Not that I agree with him at all, but it's still interesting (read: wacky) to read.

Read, discuss, or don't.

So wrong, So funny V

Stick around thru the credits for a censored taste of the also giggle-worthy "Beauty Queen", from the Leather Dynamite album Testicular Manslaughter.

(Yeah, yeah, I've been MIA - busy job-hunting, still, and generally trying to rustle up cash. Sue me.)
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    Leather Dynamite - Beauty Queen
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The Rise of Stupidity

Thanks to keith418 for the pointer.

Stupidity used to be something to be embarrassed about. But we're going through a phase of stupid pride right now, and it pervades many aspects of our cultural life. People in power, with access to the media, have stumbled onto a great truth: Stupid people long to feel good about themselves. They want to be told that what they secretly suspect is true: that they're the ones who apprehend the big picture, while the supposedly intelligent folks are just nitpickers bogged down in meaningless detail. Since the stupid can't see the nuances, they prefer to believe those nuances just aren't there. That's why, for example, every stupid critic's favorite reference is "The Emperor's New Clothes." For the complacently stupid, that's the height of aspiration, to see and think like a child, a state they sentimentalize as clarity and virtue.

We see this in movies. We also see this in politics and religion. Appeals to reason are distrusted and discounted. Appeals to emotion and invitations not to think rule the day. Fifty years ago, the most famous television preacher was Bishop Fulton Sheen, a highly orthodox Catholic who, nonetheless, offered complicated Aristotelian proofs of God's existence and who insisted that thought, study and rationality were intrinsic parts of a religious life. Today, TV preachers say what politicians say: "Don't think, just listen to me, and you'll be saved. You'll be virtuous." The good news, sort of, is that eventually stupid pride produces situations so untenable that reality becomes undeniable. In the movie business, reality presents itself at the box office, and in a democracy, it's usually at the ballot box. But in Berlin, 1945, it didn't quite sink in until people were knee-deep in rubble. In any case, this delightful phase we're in will end, sooner or later, one way or the other.

Lasalle, Mick. "Ask Mick Lasalle, Chronicle Movie Critic." San Francisco Chronicle, 27 August 2006, p. PK-42. Retrieved 13 September 2006.

All emphases are mine.


Bloody weather.

The lovely part about stop-over flying is making the connections. Due to weather over Las Vegas, the plan I was supposed to be on at 1:46 didn't even leave to get to OAK until after 2. Boarding was expected at 3, with departure at 3:30, and my connecting flight to PHL was scheduled for 4. Anyone up for defying the laws of physics? Bending space-time a tad?

The good part is that I'm now rebooked on a non-stop flight. The bad parts are that it's not until tomorrow, and it departs SFO instead of OAK, effectively costing me another $10, which would be a minor annoyance if I at least HAD A FREAKING JOB!!!

And of course I get home too late to return a rare cold call from a recruiter who I'd planned to call tomorrow from Mom's, and since tomorrow is shot due to travel again, I guess I won't get back to them until Monday. I hope they really really liked my online résumé, or by then I'll just be wasting my time. Again.

Bitter much?