I found a unicorn!

There was a unicorn abandoned at the bank:


I think I know why this little unicorn was hanging around financial institutions late at night:
That's right, she's got a tramp stamp.

Someone else has a tramp stamp, too. I got a stuffed dinosaur for Christmas:
And she has this tattooed on her butt:
Unlock the fun, indeed.
This is a concerning epidemic, people. Even our toys are being sexualized at a younger and younger age.
The little tramps.

I'm gonna keep the unicorn in my coat pocket so I will have a unicorn in my pocket wherever I go. Even if she is a little club girl.

Feministing has pissed me off

AURGH sometimes that site just gets on my nerves.

For the uninitiated, Feministing is a community blog for feminist causes - they report on gender-related news events, laws, have interviews with feminists, promote conferences, and have other opinion pieces. I value them for information about gender rights and equality, but sometimes they just irk me.

Today was one of those times. It was this article in particular: Public internet shaming and sexism.

Do you remember Kenny Glenn? He was a stupid teenager who posted a video of himself throwing a cat against a wall onto Youtube. A horde of angry internet vigilantes (mostly from 4chan) found it and got extraordinarily pissed - as the saying goes, you do not mess with the Internet's cats. They found out his name, address, school, family - anything and everything they could get their hands on - reported him to local police and generally just ruined his life. Kenny Glenn is now infamous, and I suspect he will have a difficult life ahead of him.

Well, this shit goes down all the time - Glenn is just one of the more notable examples of internet vigilantism. And, as the other saying goes, history repeats. And it occasionally contains cats.
Basically, it happened again. Except this time it was a video of a woman throwing a cat into a garbage can. The owner of the cat posted the video hoping to find the woman responsible for harming their pet. Well, they found her. One Mary Bale, identified by the masses, came under incredible scrutiny and criticism and will probably also have her life ruined because of it. Seriously, you do not mess with the Internet's cats.

This is where Feministing comes in. Feministing posted their article, and here's the bit that got me pissed:

Hormagaunts

Lookit, guys!!!



Hehe. :3

This is my Christmas post

LET'S GET GAY UP IN THIS YULE TIDE AND DECK SOME SERIOUS HALLS

Okay, so Christmas is over. Here's a choppy recap of what happened and what's gonna happen.

I had a birthday party. Yea, it's my birthday on the 23rd, so I went home and had supper at my grandmother's house with a bunch of family. This "family" happened to include my mom's boyfriend, his two sons, and one of the sons' french girlfriend. Okay, so there were strangers at my birthday party, and that was a little weird, but they were friendly... and I enjoyed listening to my aunt pull out a razor sharp wit I have never seen before and mercilessly tease mother's boyfriend.

-------------------------------

We had a ham sitting on the stove, waiting for the rest of the food to be done before cutting it. Everyone was busy with other things and the ham was sitting alone without a single soul within ten feet of it. The ham apparently decided it didn't like not being the center of attention and, in a fit of melodrama, threw itself onto the floor. Luckily, it didn't break its dish and only managed to make a sad smear on the floor.

"It's okay," assured my grandmother, "I just washed the floor today!"
We still washed the ham before eating it.

-------------------------------

I realized my sense of humour makes others uncomfortable. Mom was complaining that she'll wake up in the morning to find her cat sleeping on her pillow, in her face.
Me: "You know why that is?"
Mom: "No, why?"
Me, with a completely deadpan delivery, "Because they're stealing your breath."

What followed was the most silent, shocked thirty seconds I have ever experienced. I could only take a maximum of thirty seconds of everyone staring at me in shock and fear before I burst out laughing. Once they realized I was joking and not, in fact, a raging lunatic, they all joined in.

Christmas Eve Mass

I went to Christmas Eve Mass for the first time in... at least two years, possibly more. I haven't been to church in at least a year, possibly more. I only go when I visit my mother and she makes me go, but even the last few visits I haven't had to attend (more on that later).

It's been a long enough time that I haven't had a chance to attend an actual sermon and mass as a fully fledged, curious atheist. The few times I've gone, I was helping in the nursery and so did not attend the main service. My history of attending services is quite patchy - between switching demoniations from Anglican to Baptist when I was a teenager and simply not attending church at all since, I didn't get much experience with Anglican ceremonies. This year my boyfriend and I are visiting my mother and family so we went to an Anglican service, with a new reverend who I've never met before.

Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my, is it ever strange to see a church service through a more atheist lens.

Something amazing happened today...


That's right.
The Milky Way manifested on our ceiling.
It's too bad I can't get a good picture. I guess you'll just have to come visit instead. ;)
[The planets' placements are roughly to scale, even if the planets themselves aren't]


By the way, I seriously love the name of our home galaxy. It's so sweet and unassuming. Sol, Terra and Luna are also quite enjoyable - so simple. I mean, there's nothing particularly epic or interesting about our chosen names, but considering we have to work with thousands of years of uninformed tradition, such as the belief that the sun and stars are different types of entities, I think it turned out nicely.

My Children's book wishlist

There are three "children's books" I really, really want to own. Grown up books almsot never have cute stories or beautiful illustrations, something I think needs to be rectified, but that's a topic for another day.


"One Wintry Night"
Ruth Bell Graham

I had this book as a child, and while it is heavily Christian (it tells the Christian Christmas story, starting with Adam & Eve) the illustrations were stunning. Absolutely fabulous. I used to sit for hours staring at the pictures, soaking in every minute detail (each illustration has a pill bug hidden in it!). I actually wrote the author (Billy Grahams wife) a letter asking about the illustrations, and she told me they took her years to complete and were done in egg tempera.
You can see a few of the full page illustrations in this blog post, but they aren't large enough to get the full beauty.


"The Little Prince" deluxe pop up edition
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The piccolo effect

Today something rather silly happened to me. A fellow messaged me on OKCupid. His profile contained the line, "I am afraid of plains." In a fit of whimsy, assuming that he had fallen victim to a rather common misspelling, I replied,
Is it the flatness or the large amounts of grass that gets you? ;)
I soon received the reply,
Please tell me, is that flatness and grass a quote? You're not the first to say that.
And that shamed me. The reason it shamed me is because of (what I have dubbed) "the piccolo effect". It is a rather queer phenomenon that I suspect we have all witnessed or unwittingly been a part of. My attention was first drawn to it some time ago when I stumbled upon a blog post from a musician. This musician played, I seem to recall, a saxophone, and took their instrument on the bus on a regular basis. Inevitably during their ride, a stranger who observed the musician struggling with the large case would comment, "Bet you wish you played the piccolo, eh? Haha." At some point the author had had enough of it and wrote a rather scathing post about how people who think they are making witty or clever remarks are rarely doing so, and it's better to just keep your mouth shut.

The most remarkable thing about this is that people who play a large instrument are asked the "piccolo question" an alarming number of times - cellists have particular trouble with it. It seems to happen in all geographic locations (although sometimes piccolo is replaced with flute or tin whistle) and be said by a large variety of people, each thinking they are making a smart remark. A Google search of relevant keywords turns up forums of people complaining of these piccolo remarks, and even a Facebook group.

When I was a teenager and my younger sister was in her baby and toddler years, people would invariably comment to my mother, "Oh, you have a built-in babysitter!". This was particularly strange because everyone who made a comment to that effect said the exact same words: built-in babysitter. If I had to guess how many times I heard that comment, it would be in the hundreds.

I think this is something which more people need to be made aware. It falls under the sarcastic, "Oh, I haven't heard that one before," but I think people don't realize how out of control it really is. There's a difference between someone cracking an obvious pun and someone making more of a creative leap in their remarks, and yet it seems that even the latter is subject to the whims of the collective (sub?)conscious. I would be interested in seeing what the equivalent of the "piccolo question" is for other hobbies and professions, so that I could do my best to avoid falling prey to the piccolo effect again.

I'm still kicking myself for it.

A doodle gift!

Here's an awesome doodle that was done for me (For me!) by random internet stranger Biohazard of My Confusion Theory, who I totally love, BTW.



It's a cocktopus, you see! And I'll leave you to consider why I absolutely adore that name. Biohazard made doodles for all her followers, but of course mine is the best.
Of course.

A silly analogy about face veils

One of the arguments in favor of face-coverings (usually worn by muslim women) is that it is a response to the inherent sexism and obsession with appearance in most societies. By covering their face and body, it forces others - primarily men, of course - to consider them not as a woman who looks a certain way, but as an individual with ideas and value beyond what they look like. This is backed with evidence from studies which reveal that more attractive people are generally treated better.

In those strange, groggy moments of first awakening, when you're half asleep and half awake, I came up with an analogy to demonstrate why this is an inappropriate response.

Say you have a cat. Occasionally cats have accidents - maybe the cat was sick, got a bladder infection. Maybe the cat was just pissed off that you won't give it extra wet food and it peed on your favorite rug out of spite. Whatever. You have a cat, and your cat has just pissed on your expensive rug.

What do you do? Something out of your control happened that negatively impacted you. Say your response is to scold the cat and put a towel over the pee-spot and light some incense. Your thought process is, "now no one knows that a cat pissed on the rug because you covered it up." But the problem is - the cat piss is still there. People can smell it and they wonder why there's a towel on your floor that no one is allowed to move. When someone moves the towel to see what's there and nearly faints from the stench of festering cat pee, you tell them they shouldn't have moved the towel. That moving the towel was out of line and its their fault they got a noseful of putrid urine.

But your friends now start to think you're more than a bit crazy. They can tell the problem is getting worse, despite your efforts to cover up the pee. It's soaked through to the floor now, and has permanently stained your carpet. Your home now reeks of incense and cat urine. Your cat is attracted to the place it peed the first time, so it starts habitually peeing on your rug. That's what cats do. Now you have several spots of pee, all covered with towels, all reeking and staining your rug. There is no way you can clean any of it up now. You decide to sell the cat, finally, in the hopes that the problem doesn't get any worse.

Your friends start to think that it's your fault the problem has gotten worse. They've all had cats, you see. They know that sometimes, cats pee on rugs. But when their cats pee on rugs, they do their best to clean it up. They get down with a scrub brush and as many chemicals and natural fixes they can get their hands on. They recruit others to help them, to give advice or lend a hand. They neutralize the ammonia, scrub every fiber of the carpet, keep working until all the pee is gone. It doesn't always work - sometimes a stain or slight smell is left - but their efforts clearly improved the situation. They didn't have to forcefully get rid of their cat or let the problem get worse. They confronted it, and took care of it.

Let's run back and identify the things here, shall we?

Your cat is the concept of beauty and individuality. It's a good thing, most of the time. Sometimes it leads to bad things - such as an individual woman being treated differently because of how she looks. This kind of sexism or special treatment is the cat piss. It happens to almost everyone and to every culture. But the response is not to take this problem and cover it up - because in the end, that makes it worse. We can see in many muslim countries that the women become slaves to modesty. They can't "clean up the cat piss" even if they wanted to. They throw away the concepts of individuality and beauty in the hopes that their problem doesn't get any worse. The burden of how they are treated is now on their shoulders, instead of on the shoulders of the sexist men.

The correct way is to fight it - through legislation, through media, through challenging the social norms. We fight the idea that someone is only worth something if they look a certain way. We don't try to cover them up to hide how they look, but instead challenge the root idea that appearance matters. This way, when something happens and someone is treated badly, the burden isn't on them - people can't say "well she should have been wearing her veil." We place the burden on the perpetrator.

And that is how burqas are like towels over cat piss.

Christmas tree

Trying to capture what the human eye sees on a camera is quite difficult, but I tried to adjust the colors properly.

This year instead of the usual rainbow barf, we decided on a more coherent color theme for our tree: blue and white, with purple accents. I am very pleased with how it turned out, and it's only a shame that we got it up late (usually we put up Christmas decorations a few days after taking down the Halloween ones, hehe)

My favorite ornaments are definitely the Victorian Tinsel (actual metal strips) and the little sequin birds.



Black lights in CSI-type shows

Blacklight BodypaintingWe've all seen it at least once. The CSI crew are at the scene of a crime, looking for evidence. They turn off the lights and awesome techno music starts to play. Out comes the gloves, goggles and black lights. They proceed to sweep the lights over the entire room until - There! - a telling blood splatter appears on the wall or bedsheets. The crime then becomes solved, thanks to the discovery. I've even seen them go so far as to find bodily-fluid stains on washed laundry, and showing through freshly-painted walls.

On a less dramatic note, there was once a blind dating/matchmaking show where one person got to pick out of three contestants which they would go on a date with, based on several criteria. One was that they got to snoop around their potential date's bedroom to try to deduce something about their personality. Part of this snooping included a black light test. None of the episodes I watched revealed anything interesting under the black lights, but many contestants got nervous at the prospect.

The last area I tend to see the use of black lights is in hyperbolic stories about dirty hotel rooms - taking a black light to hotel bedsheets reveal several disturbing stains in this segment, for example.

And its all made me wonder. Do all bodily fluids glow under UV lights? Can you wash these stains away? And what would the average person's bathroom or bedroom look like under UV lights?

My Wishlist

Haven't been posting much because Finals are upon me. I don't finish until Saturday at about 10 PM. But by then I am finally free! And I will celebrate by seeing Tron!

This is this year's wishlist for Christmas and my birthday. We've already gotten a new couch from my family for Christmas, but still have to give T's mother a wishlist. She goes nuts for Christmas.


Logitech backlit wireless keyboard (k800) & mouse

This is a sexy, slim keyboard that will be a huge improvement against my old non-slim one. I really need a new keyboard because the thick keys are getting on my nerves. And I haven't decided on a mouse yet, but I really need one a gaming mouse. Problem is, a mouse isn't the kind of thing I want to buy without touching first...
($99 - Futureshop [price more or less the same everywhere]; Mice ~$70)

Interactive tabs in pure CSS



A dear friend read my last post about my javascript navigation tabs, and commented that he'd like to see a method where it was easier to add new links and change existing ones. That gave me pause, because I hadn't been able to think of a way to implement a light-weight solution that would accomplish both the look I wanted and flexibility. After a bit more exploration it suddenly struck me - could I possibly implement my tabbed navigation in pure CSS?

I absolutely love CSS. It is extremely powerful and flexible, and the only thing that's annoying about it is that each browser has their own rendering quirks you have to keep in mind. (Getting a CSS layout to work in Internet Explorer is a task for only the brave of heart) There are plenty of properties you can combine in neat ways to get a cool effect, as seen in my blur spoiler tags.

So, I immediately got to work on a proof of concept. And after an hour or so, it worked. It actually worked. I polished it up this morning and will now be using CSS tabs instead of the image/javascript ones I used before.

The great thing about this version is it is so customizable; no mucking about with images and pixel offsets! Anyone can change the border type or colors or font to suit their needs.

Code

Here's my CSS:

Javascript Hover tabs

UPDATE: See my pure CSS verison here. I no longer use this version.

So I just realized, mostly due to an email I received, that I never posted how my tabbed navigation works. It's pretty simple but I'm proud of it because I did it all myself (okay, I had a bit of help from a friend since it was my first time using JS. :P )

When there's no mouse hovering over the tabs, it looks like this:

And when "About" is hovered over, it changes to look like this:

The key to the tabs is that each state is one big image, but only a portion of the image is shown at a time. This is a common CSS trick for interactive layouts. Such an image often called a CSS sprite (good read, I recommend it). It keeps things from lagging as the browser constantly fetches new images from the server; in this method the browser need only fetch one image one time.

City of Heroes costume shots

City of Heroes is a comicbook based, pay-to-play MMORPG that is really great for casual gamers. There isn't a race to level cap, like in other MMOs, because the journey is just as fun as the end. They've made a giant effort to make it fun to play: you don't have hours of travel time, hours of grinding Giant Rats, and with only a few exceptions, any character you roll will be capable. That's why I keep returning - because I can pop in and make progress, even if I only play for a few weeks.

The shining glory of the game is, however, its customization. Since it is based on a comic book universe, appearance is very important and nearly every person I meet in game looks unique. With the exception of some Task-Force or event-related costume items, capes (unlocked at level 20) and auras (unlocked at level 30), all costume parts are available from level 1. You don't have to play for months before you can look good - you just need some creativity. They've been putting out 'Booster Packs' lately, which are about $10 and give you more costumes, powers, emotes and occasionally a few other things like the ability to change gender. And one of the most recent issue updates allowed players to change the color and animations of their powers.

I've been subscribed to City of Heroes on and off for... god, over five years? I have about three years of subscription time. I didn't start in beta, but when I started playing they were only about four issue updates (they just launched Issue 19). This game is older than World of Warcraft and I've been playing it since 2004.

I wanted to share some of my (extremely varied) characters. The customization is both a blessing and a curse: it's fun to try all sorts of combinations and playstyles, but it's hard to stick to just one character.

Hudda Hudda
[Lowbie Fire/Axe Tank]

WAYWT | Milkmaid

I did my hair different today! I read a tutorial from Violet LeBeaux that looked adorable. I've always been a sucker for braids, and especially milkmaid/greek goddess braids. My hair is finally long enough that I can start doing neat updos so I figured I'd start with something easy.

Now, my hair was still a bit too short, so the top where the two braids meet was still a little messy. But I said to myself, "Screw it, no ones cares" and I suspect that's the most truthful thing I've ever told myself. I think everyone should be a milkmaid today.





In other news, I saw all the elementary kids on the playground in their snowsuits today. Do you remember that? Having to get bundled up in a bulky snow-proof suit to go outside and play? Man, I haven't thought about those since like, grade 5. I feel so old.

We got a nice storm over the weekend, maybe fifteen centimeters of snow. Of course it had to rain today and completely ruin it. I wore a wool coat I got at a thrift store and I smelled like wet sheep all day. At least, I assume that's what wet sheep smells like. I have a hat made out of dog hair (it was a gift, okay?) and it smells like wet dog when it gets rained or snowed on. So I could wear them together and smell like a wet farm. The whole thing would be complete if I could get some real leather, and maybe step in pig poop for good measure.

Odin ears

Can't not share adorable mouse pictures. I don't use the flash because I don't want to blind the little thing, so don't mind the bad lighting. She's such an easy thing to please - a pinch of table scraps, some tissue, a wheel... she also goes nuts for hay. She eats half of it and puts the rest in her nest.

And her ears are so big!

Wikileaks founder is definitely a villain

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, looks like a man who has enemies. Enemies that want to kill him. Enemies that want to foil his plans for world domination. If we lived in a comicbook universe he would be fantastically rich, fiercely intelligent, scheming and heartless. He would control the world's governments and finances. I mean, just look at him:



Who wears black under black and then a red tie? Is that a golden vest peeking out of his jacket? He has long white hair! Look at his soul-less eyes! This man is not a man. No, this man is a character, and I totally love it.

Wikileaks has made itself famous by obtaining massive amounts of sensitive documents and releasing them to the world. Governments are panicking, media is feasting, civilians are outraged. The sorts of things that go on behind closed doors, eh? As of now, most of the documents obtained by Wikileaks are related to the US, UK and other similar countries, and many people are critical of that. Credited to Assange is the response,
"People say, why don’t you release more leaks [from] the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us."
Wikileaks isn't biased in their "coverage" on purpose - it's just that Western folks are more aware of the organization and there are apparently more sources prepared to divulge information.

I once saw someone criticize Assange for accepting the publicity he receives. The more publicity Wikileaks gets the better! The more eyes that are on Assange and Wikileaks the less likely it is that someone would arrange an "accident" for him. And I certainly hope that the same someone is smart enough not to touch the Wikileaks site itself. To attack it would be to create a Hydra, nurtured by the rage and anti-establishment tendencies of thousands of geeks worldwide (This attitude can be evidenced by the recent Limewire hilarity). Even still, even knowing that a threat on his life would be the stupidest mistake anyone could make, Assange still mostly lives in the shadows, traveling constantly, occasionally surfacing to attend a conference. He won't enter the United States, for example, on the advice of his lawyer.

The thing I find most intriguing about this whole thing is that the founder of the world's most infamous (and arguably effective) whistleblower website is Australian. The man who fights censorship and secrecy as a job hails from a country so gung-ho about censorship that they have come dangerously close to censoring the Internet and routinely censor media (video games, movies) before offering them to its citizens. On the other hand, maybe it's not ironic at all; maybe it makes perfect sense.

I am less interested in the information divulged than in the phenomena of a civilian-led rebellion. And that's what this is - a rebellion. A rebellion against secrecy in our governments. A rebellion demanding accountability. A rebellion that will change the face of media, journalism and, hopefully, government. At the very least it will make organizations take a closer look at their security to keep it falling into the wrong hands.

Evolution and Natural Selection

It is not my place to go into great detail about the nuances of the theory of natural selection and the phenomena of evolution. I'm not a biologist, for one, and while I have a modest grasp on the whole thing I can't answer the hard questions about genetics and fossil records. For that you're going to have to read an actual book. I would recommend any of Richard Dawkins' books, because he is a biologist. The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor's Tale I have read and can vouch for; and I hear The Selfish Gene is a good one too. If you're brave you can wade through Darwin's The Origin of Species but it's a heavy read.

However, the topic of evolution comes up a lot in various situations, and I constantly find that many people are woefully undereducated - or worse, were lied to - so I figured I would clear up just what the theory of natural selection is, in a very broad and layman-friendly sense. First, a couple of definitions:

Evolution: Evolution is a phenomena. It is not a theory - it is an observed occurrence. Evolution happens and to deny is it idiotic. Evolution happens to viruses, evolution happens to bacteria, evolution is evident in our fossil records and DNA. Evolution is change within a species.

Natural Selection: The theory of Natural Selection proposes the mechanism behind the phenomena of evolution.

Theory: In common English, is is unfortunate that the word "theory" has come to mean "guess" or "hypothesis". In the scientific realm, a theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena; theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses" A theory is the highest status an idea can go. A scientific law and a theory are not the same: a law describes a phenomenon while a theory explains why it occurs.

The best example to demonstrate the differences is usually gravity, because most people understand and few dispute gravity. The phenomenon of gravity is what we can feel and observe - we see falling objects, feel ourselves attracted to the earth and we observe planets orbiting stars. The law of gravity is F = G * ((m1*m2)/r2. And the theory that explains gravity is general relativity.

I look down on you when you call that thing an iPod

The title says it all, folks. I have assembled a nice little graphic to clear things up for you:


I know it's not that big of a deal, but it irks me. I don't know if it's the slight OCD if it's generally how techno-retarded it makes people sound, or if it's just that I hate Apple, but it drives me crazy when people call their non-Apple music players an "iPod."

Imagine this. Just picture this scenario. Someone you just met keeps going on and on about their Ferrari, how they lost the keys to their Ferrari, how they had to take the Ferrari to the mechanics, how they have to pay their Ferrari insurance. And then, when you finally see the thing, it's actually a minivan. They were just calling it a Ferrari because that's what they thought cars were called. Or they were calling their cat a "Siamese" when it was just a tabby cat. Or, a more fitting example, if someone called all computers an "iMac" for no apparent reason other than that they were an idiot.

Here's an easy guide to identifying whether a music player is an iPod:
* Apple made it
* It wants you to use iTunes
* It came with white earbuds
* It cost you your first born son

See? Simple. Now, if only I can get my mother to understand...

Euclidean algorithm, inverses and division in mod

This is the second bit of math necessary for the little cipher I implemented (First part about the euclidean algorithm here). Today we'll look at inverses in modular arithmetic.

In order to do arithmetic in any "system" or field, there must exist two identities. These identities are the additive identity and the multiplicative identity. In the fields/systems we are used to working in (Naturals, Integers, Reals and Complex, in addition to modulus systems) the additive identity is 0 and the multiplicative identity is 1.
We think of a' and b' as the inverses of a and b, respectively.
Additive
a + a' = 0

Multiplicative
b * b' = 1
As you can see, when we add the inverse of a to a, we are really subtracting a from a. When we are multiplying the inverse of b with b, we are dividing b by itself. This way we do not need to define division and subtraction; they are simply the inverse operations of addition and multiplication.
Side note: Something interesting: the multiplicative inverse does not exist for the additive identity. For example, there is no possible value of a' to get 0*a' = 1

"Division" in mod

What we would call "division" in modular arithmetic is different from division in the other number systems we are familiar with. In a mod system, we cannot simply divide a number as we would in Integers, Reals, Naturals, etc. We cannot, for example, do the following:
This is wrong!

2x ≡ 8 mod 10
x ≡ (8/2) mod 10
x ≡ 4 mod 10

This is not the correct approach!

WAYWT | My secret shame

Shhh, don't tell anyone... but I secretly love...

...
Rhinestones. The most tacky gemstone (if it even qualifies as that) on the market, the rainbow diffraction and tinted stone made me totally crazy for them. Yay, shiny rocks! I've spent the past week in either pajamas or jeans & t-shirts, so I decided to go for broke and channel loli goth.

This week has been eventful. I spent most of it miserable with a cold that is now in my lungs making me cough nonstop. We got a new sofa to replace our horribly broken futon. And today it snowed!

DIY Kitty Pillow


Let's make a kitty pillow!

You will need:
- Half a meter/yard of cuddly fabric, any color
- Fiber fill to stuff your kitty
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine or needle and thread
- Pink embroidery floss and a tapestry needle
- Buttons for the eyes
- Felt-tip pen, marker or chalk for marking
- Ribbon and a bell (optional)

Discoveries that took the magic out of living

There are some things that one wishes one could unlearn. Finding your father's fetish porn, realizing that cute waiters only flirt with you to get more tips, noticing the arrow in the FedEx logo... They take a little bit of the magic out of the world, and make you see it for the grey, dreary, twisted place it is. I've decided to compile a list of the things that ruined the world for me, so that you could share in my misery and nihilism. Nothing is sacred.

Mother Teresa was a sadist, well-known for providing deplorable "health care" and unsanitary conditions for her patients and for being obsessed with the beauty of suffering. Her life's mission was not to reduce pain, poverty and suffering in the world, but rather to spread Catholicism as fast as she could, at all costs.

Dolphins are known to kidnap and violently gangrape female dolphins, kill and torture other sea creatures for fun, and kill babies.

Most women will defecate during childbirth, this is why enemas before birth are common.

The breeding cycle of angler fish.

The seemingly random distribution of an infinite amount of prime numbers. No one has yet discovered any rhyme or reason to the spacing of prime numbers, other than that the only even prime is 2. Seriously, fuck math.

Gelatin, the stuff that males Jell-o jiggly, is made from boiling animal bones and tendons. Forget grinding bones to make your bread; I'll grind your bones to make a jiggly, neon-colored dessert.

The word "vagina" is derived from the Latin word meaning "sheath." Every time you use the word "vagina" you are saying your girl parts are a sheath for a penis... or a sword.

Humans will never, ever, intuitively grasp randomness and probability. We're just terrible at it. The Monty Hall problem will destroy your brain.

I'll be sure to add to this list whenever I encounter something soul-crushing. Feel free to comment with your own!

UPDATE
The heart-warming "you can do anything if you put your mind to it" story that Einstein failed math and science as a child in school is absolutely false. He was, in fact, a math prodigy, receiving top marks and mastering calculus before the age of 15.

Euclid's algorithm for Greatest Common Divisors

Well, isn't that title exciting? Today I bring you more math. This particular math is important for some types of cryptography, so instead of explaining it all in a post on the little cipher I implemented, I figured I'd write up a separate post.

The fundamental theory of arithmetic states that all positive integers have a unique prime factorization. This means that any number can be reduced into a product of at least one prime. Prime numbers are numbers where the only factors are 1 and itself. Numbers with more than one prime factor are composite numbers. That is, they are a product of some number of integers > 1. (Side note: 1 is neither a prime nor composite number, and is therefore often called the "unit.")

The Greatest Common Divisor (gcd) of two or more numbers is the largest number that evenly divides all of them. For example, the gcd(10, 20) is 10, because 10 evenly divides 10 and 10 also evenly divides 20. We use the symbol | to denote "divides". We can then write,
gcd(12,20) = 4 because 4 | 12 and 4 | 20
To denote "does not divide" we use ∤ (Unicode 2224, in case you're wondering)
gcd(13,20) ≠ 4 because while 4 | 20, 4 ∤ 13
You can easily see that any prime number (p) will have a gcd of 1 with any other number less than p; that is a prime number by definition will not have a common divisor with any number less than itself. Any two numbers that have a gcd of 1 are called relatively prime to each other.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

An alphabet story

"Alpha!" screeched the young child,
"Bravo! Good job!" exclaimed his father, Charlie, proud that his son was learning his favorite alphabet.
"Delta!" screeched the child again, pleased with the Echo that resonated through the Foxtrot hotel's lobby.
"Golf clubs, please!" Charlie called to the Hotel's bellboy, "I just bought them in India, wouldn't want to lose them."
Charlie's sister Juliet appeared in the lobby, immediately spotting them and rushing over to hug the young boy. "Oh my, you've grown so much! You must weigh almost fifteen Kilos!"
"Lima!" the child pointed at the doors, "Lima! Lima!" a sleek black stretch limo glided by the glass doors. A man appeared at Juliet's side. She straightened up and introduced him,
"Oh Charlie, you've met Mike before, correct?"
"Sure," said Charlie, shaking Mike's hand, "I think we met last November, at Thanksgiving. Oh, how's Oscar settling in?"
"Oscar's a handful, though he's finally housebroken. Papa is watching him for the weekend while we're in Quebec. Romeo is happy to have another dog to play with."
"I'm sure he is," agreed Charlie. "Where are y'all staying?"
"We're staying at the Sierra hotel. They're actually having a ball tonight, Charlie, and I know how much you love to Tango."
"Tango!" repeated the boy, excited by all the new faces.
"Perfect. I even brought my dress Uniform, just in case. Victor should be joining us, though if there's any Whiskey around maybe we should keep it away from him, eh? Last time we had a get-together I believe he had to have a series of rather embarrassing Xrays taken..."
Juliet and Mike chuckled, giving Charlie a hand with his luggage. A disgruntled Frenchman muttered "Damn Yankees" as they passed him, but no one paid him any notice, except the young boy who simply threw open his arms and yelled "Zulu!"
"Shush now, don't yell at strangers," his father admonished
"Zulu!" he repeated in quiet tones.
"That's much better!"

Taking down KFC's Double Down

Some time ago, a friend told me about a horrible chicken monstrosity that KFC was offering to American customers. It was a bacon cheese sandwich, except instead of using bread as the bun, two pieces of fried chicken were used instead. My initial reaction of revulsion was quickly replaced with reservation, then awe, then desire. If you ignored the particular ordering of the foods in the "sandwich" and considered only the components, you're really just eating chicken with cheese, mystery sauce and bacon on top of it. If you ignore the fact that the chicken is deep fried, you are actually looking at a perfectly normal meal. It sounded delicious. It sounded thrilling. My life would not be complete without one. But alas, the Double Down sandwich was not available in Canada, so I moved on with my life knowing it would be one step short of being complete.

Until one fateful day when we received a flier in the mail.
A flier with a bacon-cheese-chicken monstrosity gracing its glossy cover.
A flier with an announcement on it. An announcement just for me.
It was coming: the Double Down was coming!

San Fransciso targets Happy Meals; barely grazes them

As many people are probably not yet aware but will soon be, San Fransisco just passed a non-vetoable bill to ban the use of toys to encourage kids to eat unhealthy food. In other words, restaurants can no longer offer free toys with meals that do not meet certain nutritional guidelines. The media trumpets the news to the world with eye-catching titles like, "Law curbs McDonalds Happy Meals," "Sad Faces over Happy Meals", "San Francisco toy ban takes the ‘happy’ out of Happy Meals", "San Fransisico Bans Happy Meals", [1-4] and.. well, you get the picture. Surely it makes sense that the largest fast food chain in the world would become the posterchild of this debate, although the law doesn't target any restaurant in particular.

The law isn't in place yet - a second review vote will be held next week - but it certainly is attracting a lot of attention. McDonalds has released a few statements, "We are extremely disappointed with today's decision. It's not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for" [1] and the rest echo that sentiment. On one hand are the people who are insulted or feel as if their freedoms are being infringed upon by an overreaching nanny state, while on the other hand are people who applaud the decision and "balk at the sight of a child sucking on a salty [fry] or chicken nugget" [5] (Incidentally, this is the forum discussion that sparked my interest in the first place; can you guess which posts are mine? ;) )

In general, I do not believe that the demands of the populace on a free market will produce the safest, most ethical and highest quality goods. Such an ideal relies on one very large assumption: that the populace is fully informed and willing to and capable of making a decision. Everyone knows from everyday experiences that this simply isn't so - be it themselves struggling to make an informed decision in a society drowning in advertising and propaganda, or by watching others make less-than-intelligent decisions. This is why we allow governments to regulate the market, even in a capitalism-obsessed country like the US. Sometimes these bodies get overeager and overreach and begin infringing on personal freedom. That's why there needs to be a good system of checks and balances and a method of appeal. (Whether there is one available in this instance I am uncertain) I also believe this to be such a case - it is, frankly, a silly law put in place with good intentions.

DST scares me

Today is the first real day of normal time after turning the clocks back from Daylight Savings time. In my province, we turn the clocks back on Saturday night but since Sunday is a weekend and I don't go to church, nothing of consequence is affected.

DST was invented to give us more daylight hours in summer afternoons, mostly in an effort to save electricity (not as relevant now that household lighting is a much smaller proportion of energy consumption compared to before) but it has also proven effective in boosting the economy (though hurting some areas, such as theatres) and health (though heart attacks rates rise for the three weeks following spring DST and are lower following the fall change) and reducing traffic accidents in the summer months. Not all areas of the world observe DST: Saskatchewan, for example, is a Canadian province that doesn't. I've heard from multiple third-hand sources that the reason for this is because Saskatchewanian farmers think having an extra hour of sunlight every twenty-four hours will hurt their crops. Whether this example of stupidity is true or is a rumor started by a bitter Albertin, I do not know.

Point is, DST is observed by most developed areas but there is less and less reason to keep it up. Also, it worries me.

In general, I worry about things I shouldn't - and DST is one of them. I don't trust it. Up to this point I have never had an incident caused by forgetting to change the clocks, but I know it will happen one day. I'm a forgetful person and I know I'm a forgetful person, so as it draws nearer and nearer to DST weekend I start obsessively asking my friends "What time is it?" which seems to confuse them because I usually ask them over IM while I'm on my computer. I can just imagine missing an interview or presentation because I didn't turn my clock forward in the spring, or thinking a class was canceled when I show up an hour early in the fall.

It seems like an outdated practice that only complicates our lives. (By that I mean, it complicates my life) I would be happy if we did away with DST altogether and kept "winter time" all year round. I guess the benefit is that in the fall when I turn the clocks back I have a whole week or so where I feel very rested.

PS: I also find that "Daylight Savings" sounds more like an activists group than a time modifier.

Whiteboard scribbles

I had to erase the miscellaneous scribbles off my whiteboard so I could actually use the damn thing. Problem is I like the accumulated writings that collect there. First up is a collection of punch lines for geeky jokes I am fond of:


And secondly, and I'm proud of this one, a graph-dick:


The penis was totally unintentional. I was explaining to my boyfriend a chart mentioned in a paper on false reporting of speedups from parallel implementations of algorithms (heh) and a few days later looked over and... well, there was a nice big dick, balls and all. It's also (slightly) OVER 9000!!!!!!!

Anyway, I'm off to finish the assignment that required me to clean the board in the first place.

What I want from an IM client and how I fixed MSN

Instant messaging clients and web browsers are probably the most used programs on any of my computers. The problem with IM clients is... well... none are perfect. I've tried several: Trillian (ugly, bad GUI, buggy), Google talk (ugly, no group convos), Pidgin (can't get it running. This post was inspired by a review of Pidgin on a blog I follow.) and Windows Live AKA MSN. None of them meet my requirements. My requirements are fairly simple, although it looks lengthly:

Functional
- Add, remove and block contacts
- "Appear offline" functionality - for everyone or only to individuals
- Choose whether people who aren't a contact can message you
- Allow transfers of any filetype
- Clickable links in chat open a new tab or browser window
- Change nicknames/status of yourself
- Change the display name of people on your contact list
- Conference/ group chats
- Group contacts and send a message to the whole group at once
- Use multiple chat protocols
- Send messages to offline contacts who will receive it when they sign in
- "Toast"/ popups when contacts come online (configurable for other events)
- Change chimes and noises for specific events
- Easy to install, modify and export emoticon packs
- Change personal font
- Be able to override a contact's font
- Ability to italicize or bold text in a conversation

Interface
- Have avatar pictures
- Main window consists only of the contact list and a few menu buttons - no ads or gimmicks
- Change the color of the main window
- Change the background and color of the chat windows and have it persist
- The color of a contact's chat window is the color of their toast

How far can we take our language?

It is a hot topic on the blogosphere now: what is happening to the English language? Even in my first sentence I have used a word that has been artificially invented which would be gibberish to someone from only twenty years ago. Clearly, as our society - and especially our technology - evolves, the language must evolve with it. The question is... how far is too far?

Any sociologist or linguist (or dystopian writer) will tell you that if you can't express an idea you can't have that idea. There are some really wonderful examples of this even in modern days. So clearly we need to be able to create words to express novel ideas - scientists do this all the time. Can you imagine not having words like "computer" or "black hole" because the idea they represent wasn't conceived of when the language was developing? Allowing a language to naturally evolve is the only way to let our societies evolve.

And yet there is a growing movement of frustrated logophiles who seek to retain the current, or a recent ancestor, of the English language - at all costs. These folks will wax poetic about wondrous multisyllabic words, archaic verb tenses and the distinction between who and whom. To them, language is art first and function secondarily. Even people who are less logophiles and more simply avid readers are quick to talk about the destruction of the language by txtspeek and teenagers. I don't blame them - when I visit webforums and c ppl talkin like dis, neglecting to correct typos and check basic grammar like the difference between their, there and they're... it makes me frustrated. On the other side of the fence are the people who insist that the language serves the people, not the other way around - so there is no harm in abbreviating or misspelling words as long as the ideas being conveyed are still getting across. I haven't run into one of these people in a while, but I wonder what they think of technology-related evolutions - for example, the proliferation of common typos due to the QWERTY keyboard layout. I am constantly swapping "from" and "form" in my typing if one hand moves faster than the other - is this a language evolution or a mistake?

Handmade Pocahontas Costume

Alrighty, Halloween's been and gone and here's my costume all put together! You'll have to excuse the awkward pose and facial expressions, here:




Dress



Handmade stretch suede dress with hand tied fringe cording. The dress is based on a sweetheart neckline strapless dress that I modified to have a single shoulder and triangle hem. I kept the proportions as true to the film as possible - thigh-high slit and all! Construction details here.

Belt



The belt was simply a piece of brown faux-suede cut to the proper shape, with a lace up back so I could get it on and off. I thought about attaching it to the dress so it wouldn't slide around, but figured I would just let it be.

DIY Pocahontas necklace

The most iconic thing about Pocahontas is clearly her necklace. In a search around for other Pocahontas costumes, what made them look badly done was a failure to reproduce the necklace from the movie. Lots of attempts, few successes. (Some of the good ones: 1 2 3)




Clearly, the depicted broken necklace is actually impossible, at least when you compare it to the complete necklace. The problem is the placement of the pendant. I considered modeling it exactly after the movie necklace, but that seems like it would take a bit more engineering than I was willing to commit to the project, so I modified the necklace slightly.

Before I had said I would aim to make it look like real turquoise; I didn't end up doing that because I was given some clay for free and I didn't have all the colors necessary. Anyway, getting on with it:

I used a package of white sculpy and a package of turquoise sculpy. The turquoise was a bit darker than I wanted it to be, so I kneaded in some white to lighten it and give it a little bit of depth.

The best way I found to do the necklace was to mold the necklace in full and the bake the large "beads":

Misc unstructured thoughts

My current Facebook status: I like wearing high heels because it intimidates my foes. With a simple change in footwear I can become four inches taller and 300% louder. CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP.


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This year will be the first year ever that I fall in line with the female halloween tradition of "sexy _____" for a costume. Not because I particularly want to exude sexiness but because Pocahontas' dress is kind of slutty. No offense to Pocahontas but she knows it's true. Also, I'm pretty sure Native Americans didn't invent underwear so John Smith was a lucky guy.

Last year I was the King of Wild things (about as far away from "sexy" as one can get):



The year before that I didn't dress up and the year before that I was a cow (I dug out the costume just for you:

As you can tell, I make my own costumes, to varying degrees of success. I haven't had a store bought costume since... well, since I was a kid I guess. It just feels wrong - it's not the spirit of Halloween! This year it'll be interesting having a slit up to my thighs... interesting and probably cold.

I've been living and breathing Halloween this week, in between midterm stress. Can you tell?

Halloween How-to: Cheap DIY decorations

So Halloween is my favorite holiday, but I still can't justify spending more than $20 a year on decorations. Combine that with living in an apartment (no outdoors decorations! Nowhere to put pumpkins! No trick-or-treaters! All the walls are beige) and I had to get a little... desperately creative this year. These are by no means classy dinner party decorations, but they're cute in a campy sort of way.

Ghost trapped in our lampshade. Just tape a paper cutout on the inside of the shade.

A few dollar-store garlands and a fake pumpkin make a small shelf display. I tied black and orange yarn around candles to make them a bit more festive.

Pocahontas dress update

I've had some success with my Pocahontas costume!

Here's my main reference screencaps (for proportions and construction):




And not at all related to the costume, but I laughed when I noticed how long Pocahontas's neck is in some scenes:




I used Burda 7460 and modified it to have a single strap, fringe flap and triangle hem. I just freehanded these modifications. The zipper ended up crooked, somehow - I think I pinned one side too tight, or something - and the bits where I freestyled aren't that good looking but... hey, it's the first big project I've done in years. The colors of suede available were limited and the yellow-y ones were kind of gross, so I went with the darker one. It's a more realistic color than in the movie, anyway. I'll have to make the belt with a dark brown, since my dress is about the color of her belt.

The first thing I did was assemble a mockup, pin and alter it to fit my body better. I happened to have three meters of stretch corduroy laying around that was almost the same weight and stretch as my suede. After pinning for fit, I added the shoulder strap and triangle hem to the mockup:
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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."