"Why?"

Something kind of silly I found on my computer...

A young child once approached God while He was in a particularly accessible mood. God gazed down upon the small being of His creation, and asked what it wanted of Him. The small child peered up at his maker, blinking in youthful awe. His lips formed the shape of a question, which, of course, God already knew, but allowed the young one to pose it.
"Sir... Why?"
God looked upon the tiny figure with a fatherly air, musing on how to place the words into a few phrases that a mortal being could understand. Finally, after several long seconds, the Lord boomed softly:

"You ask me why, young one, and I cannot answer simply because there are many, many whys in the world. But I can tell you this:
You cannot have a why without a who, what, where or when. On that note, it is very common to have a why and no how, because, in all truth, hows are not important.
You cannot have a why without a who, because if there were no who, then there would be no one to pose the question. Without a what, there is nothing to ask about, and then no why to begin with. Without a where there is nothing and there is everything. If you ask a why without a where, the answer will be a variable, which is something to be avoided to keep an air of simplicity and finality.
Finally, there cannot be a why without a when, because without a when there is no time, and everything becomes everything else in the same instant, resulting in a chaos of which you cannot possibly conceive of."

God paused as the child took this all in, and added thoughtfully:
"I suppose if you really get down to it, we can assume that the answer to any why is, "Why not?""
The child stared upward with glittering eyes, and God was pleased to see that he understood completely. The boy wanted to try out the answer, so he posed another question:
"Why do you exist, God?"
"Why not?"
God noticed that it seemed to fit the question, and the boy turned to go. According to His nature, God immediately answered his own question, and realised precisely why he couldn't possibly exist. In one second of infatuatingly thorough logic, God, and the universe he had created, ceased to have ever existed.

Do bras cause breast cancer?

I occasionally see this come up - be it something more formalized or some list of "the top ten things that will kill you that you don't even know about." It's certainly a widespread idea and to many people it makes sense. So-called common sense tends to dictate that anything "unnatural" will do you harm and that bras are unnatural so they therefore do harm. (I like to say of common sense, "Not only is it not common, it is often not sensible") What many people tend to neglect is that the various selection pressures don't always drive us in the most beneficial direction. Human females have the largest breasts of any mammal and it is suspected that it's a product of sexual selection, which is notoriously un-beneficial to the individual. Large breasts left unsupported causes lots of pain (NSFW for a breast) to the woman who has them. Letting breasts be "natural" and "free" can actually do more damage than putting them in a bra. But do bras increase the risk of breast cancer?

Quickie: Odin




She's a cutie. She's somewhere around two years old. She has a very large growth in her tummy (that's why she's so rounded) but the vet said it isn't causing her any pain and she is bright, active and curious. The vet said that it was probably her adrenal gland, which would account for her slight balding. I was very glad to find out she wasn't hurting!

She really loves pecans and nibbling on my fingernails. Oddly for a mouse, she doesn't seem to mind living alone. It's the first time I've had mice (we had got two others at the same time, but they got sick and died - I suspect bad breeding since they were from a pet store - but Odin is quite hearty!) and I really enjoy it. I've kept hamsters and gerbils before but I think I prefer mice! If I get another small animal I'll probably adopt some mice from the SPCA, a breeder if I can find one, or from classifieds because I don't like the pet store's breeding practices and refuse to purchase animals from them anymore. (making an exception for fish)

She just wins over anyone who sees her. Most people are "ewww, a pest!" but then they see her running in her little wheel and trying to drag an entire pecan around her cage and they realize she's just the cutest thing ever.

Bee-boop: living with a Roomba


Wiirrrrrrrrr thunk
whhhiiirrrrr thunk
whiiirrrrr CLATTER thunk
Whiiiiirrrr thump thump thump
whiirrrrrrr thunk thunkthunkthunk
Bee-boop.

Anyone who has ever witnessed a Roomba in action knows this combination of sounds well.
At the moment, our only vacuum cleaner for our (entirely carpeted) apartment is a little Roomba we got for Christmas. It's one of the low-end models that WalMart happened to be carrying. The other vacuums proved unable to deal with the amount of fur, rabbit poop and hay that explodes out of the bunny cage... in addition to long human hairs and hundreds of threads I drop when sewing. The motor burnt out on one and the brushes warped on another and both smelled like burning when we used them so now they are a pile of cord, mechanical parts and electronics my engineer boyfriend scavenged for a project that will probably never happen.

Anyway, as I was saying: the Roomba is the only vacuum we have at the moment. I first read about Roombas a long, long time ago in Reader's Digest and still remember a line from it that went something like, "She immediately scooted under the footed bathtub and enthusiastically bounced her forehead off the back wall, joyfully sucking up the accumulation of dust that I had been afraid to touch for some time now." Owning a Roomba, I can truthfully say this is exactly the kind of behavior you can expect from a floor-cleaning robot.

Bunnies!

And while I had the camera out taking pictures of myself, I snapped a few of the bunnies. (Bonus retarded cat at the end)

Black one is Buster, grey one is Nobbers and brown one is Thomas. Buster's a girl, the other two are boys and yes, they're all speuterd. They were outside in their little pen. Of course they were also piled into a corner behind a box and I couldn't coax them out...

You can almost see Thomas' super long eyelashes:

New shoes, sunny day

I got lucky at Value Village yesterday! Some new sandals that fit perfectly. They're a beautiful caramel-leather colour. In celebration I broke out of my jeans, tanktop & boyfriend's-sweater rut (my office is cold y'all.) Apparently this is what my hair does when I go to sleep with it wet.



If I could pick one thing to never be invented it would be:

Photoshop.

I've had a lot of time to think about this one - several years in fact. Things conspired recently to make me want to write my thoughts down. Doe Deere (who I've written about before) answered a fan question regarding some of her photo retouching. I have seen a notable increase in photoshopped images - pictures meant for "geeks" are particularly bad about this. Several times over the past few weeks I've stumbled across "Ugly girls photoshopped pretty" collections. I was in a few lingerie stores recently and noticed the big posters they had up. (Incidentally, I was there to try on some Spanx because I have a bit of a tummy. Guess what made me feel worse about it?) Feministing had a small mention of it. And the other day I told a friend, "Today my goal is to not crush my self-esteem" which I accomplished by not looking at fashion, cosplay, ads or... well, anything that wasn't text, really.

Lastly, the thing that alarms me the most: I am finding it harder and harder to pick up on photoshops. I have become so used to seeing the idealized, physically impossible female form that it has become normal to me. I simply accept it now unless I'm consciously looking for it. And that scares me. Because if I, who has a huge interest in feminism and the impact of the media, who is aware of the pervasiveness of image alterations and impossible beauty standards, am starting to accept this crazy ideal as "normal"... what of the average woman, girl or man who isn't aware?

Nell cosplay, photoshopped

She's cute, eh? Obviously the picture's been digitally altered - the colors and lighting adjusted, skin blemishes erased. It is clearly done for the sake of art. Regarding this kind of photo manipulation, Doe says,
Retouching as a method of artistic expression has existed for as long as photography has been around and is perfectly ok in my book[....]
When I retouch a photo (or apply makeup, or wear a corset, or pose myself), it’s not driven by deceit or insecurity, but done to convey an artistic vision.

Arguing with Creationists: Take Two

We return again! The debate got revived by a third party (M) while I was sleeping and some stuff happened about Hitler and Darwin that I just didn't bother getting involved in. I've had to start explicitly stating what debate "tactics" are acceptable which Ac didn't seem to take too kindly to, but I thought it necessary to demonstrate that I wasn't going to put up with his, for example, trying to incite an emotional response. Without further ado:

Predictions of cars, and the writings of men

Ax: so going back to the bible, you tell me i shouldn't believe in cars, i shouldn't believe that jesus was crucified. i shouldn't believe there was a man named pontius pilate or king harod, david, saul or any other historical figure listed in the bible? all these people were real, including jesus and his disciples. you can't deny this but still you think that they would just mix in lies and urban legends. the books were hand picked and put in an order that would be most effective, i've read a bit of the bible in chronological order, it's not the same. also, if you want to see what was cut out of the bible, read the catholic bible, and also notice how much christians differ from them.

Music, and why I don't care

I have a confession: I don't own an MP3 player.

Technically my phone can do it, but it can also only hold maybe two albums. Right now it has Dragonforce and the 'Boom Boom Rocket' soundtrack on it. I haven't changed that for over two years now. I had a discman once that I got for Christmas. I think I listened to Weird Al on it. I own maybe five CDs and I don't know where any of them are.

My digital music collection is in better shape: about 25 gigs of a broad range of artists. It only got that "big" because I download entire discographies instead of individual tracks. (It soothes my collector's mindset.) The games on my computer take up more space than the music does.
When I say "broad range" I really mean it: I have the Pocahontas soundtrack sitting next to Iron Maiden; Daft Punk next to Sean Paul; Lady GaGa chillin' with Rush. And I listen to and enjoy them all. Sort of.

I don't really listen to music. I don't sit down and say "it's music time" and listen to music. For that reason I don't go to concerts or bars with in-house bands or even dancing. It just isn't stimulating for me. I put it on in the background while I do something else. I love coding to Dragonforce and Civ4-ing to Rush. When I need to perk up I put on some dance music. When I want ambiance I put on techno and classical and techno-classical. When I feel like signing along I put on classic rock and Johnathan Coulton. I find enjoyability and merit in nearly every genre of music I have encountered. And this is the thing that baffles me: how do people have a favourite genre of music?

Pi: Flirting with Infinity

Pi is one of my favourite values (A few of my others are 0 and i.) It's absolutely beautiful - from the Pi character itself to what it represents to the very numbers. I've memorized about twenty digits of Pi - my boyfriend knows 30 - and there's this incredible rhythm to it. It really does feel more like a meditative chant than a recitation. Sometimes I recite it in my head when I need to clear my thoughts.

Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. That's it. It's breathtaking in its simplicity. And yet it is one of the most important values in mathematics - it crops up in the most unexpected of places. It is transcendental, which implies, of course, that it is infinite. Pi has been calculated to about five trillion digits, repeatedly analyzed for repetitions and codes (you can search for special numbers in the first 200 million digits of Pi here) and has eluded all attempts by man to find some sort of pattern. It's a bit of a majestic tease.

So, this ode to Pi isn't without cause. The other day I decided to research into something I had been aware of for some time - the Bible's definition of Pi. That's right, the Bible has a definition of pi - not explicitly, of course, but easily calculated. The verse we're concerned with is 1 Kings 7:23 (NIV):
He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.
Take the ratio of the circumference to the diameter: 30/10 cubits = 3. 3. The Bible says Pi is equal to exactly 3!

Arguing with Creationists: A Facebook Saga

So let me say this first: I don't have any real interest in converting people to atheism. If they are good people who just happen to believe in something a little funky - whatever. The only time I get really bothered is when people use religion to justify inexcusable behavior. If they're just living life, hanging out in church pews and eating cardboard wafers, I really don't mind (although in the spirit of intellectual honesty, I wish they'd stop.)

Intellectual honesty. That's what got me to where I am now. I don't want people to believe in things that aren't true. I don't want people to spread misinformation. And if they're religious, I don't want to let them get away with using weak arguments and logical fallacies to explain away hard questions. They need to learn that they can't get through life spouting stuff like "If humans evolved from apes, why are there still monkeys?" and have people take them and their faith seriously. Someone needs to correct their woeful lack of scientific education on basic things like high school physics and biology. Otherwise they'll never be able to present themselves as a respectable adult who is confident in their beliefs.

It started with this status:

Everything you thought you knew about cleaning is wrong.

The dirtThe world

The world is a dirty place. Really, it's the dirtiest place you can imagine. It's the only place in the universe that we know of that is packed full of bacteria and viruses. One (poor, bored and lonely) microbiologist estimated the number of bacteria on Earth to be somewhere near 5 x 10^30. That's five million trillion trillion of the little guys, all up in you skin and guts, hanging out in your house, in the ground, air and water. Also dirt. Literal tons of dirt.

The world is a dirty, dirty place.

So, we clean it. We get down on out knees and scrub the toilet bowl, wipe down counters, spray Lysol in the air, wash doorknobs and microwaves and clean our cars and use disinfectant soap on any surface it will stick to. We scrub ourselves down every morning, clean our teeth and sterilize our food. We avoid public washrooms and wash out hands after sneezing and basically do everything we can to show all those million trillion trillions of bacteria just who owns this planet. And it works, right?... Right!? Guys? It... it works, doesn't it? Otherwise why would we do it?

Toilet seats



Alright ladies, this one is for you. Not for you in the sense that it's for your benefit, but rather I am directing this rant at you.

Fucking toilet seats. That's right. Toilet seats.

If I go into one more bathroom and see a little sign posted above the toilet that says "Please put the seat down after use" I think I'm going to break something. Come on now, how retarded are you? Fuck. Okay, let's see if I can get through this coherently.

Exploring the Impact of Piracy, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a short paper I wrote. Part 1 is here

History Repeats

Throughout history, various information industries have encountered fluctuations in their sales as new technology changes how consumers access and use their products. The idea of intellectual property and copyright began with the invention of the printing press, and the information industries – print, music, film, etc – have followed a reactionary pattern to new technological “threats” ever since. Player pianos, television and VCRs have all been blamed for the economic downturn of various industries. Each of these technologies gave consumers new ways of interacting with their media. Each of these inventions “…rendered the duplication of [copyright holders’] work easier, less expensive or not previously prohibited by existing statute” [21] and rights holders quickly appealed to current law and pressed legislators to draft new law.

Exploring the impact of software and other digital piracy

Last semester I wrote a short paper that explores the impact of piracy on industry, with a focus on the software industry. I found some surprising results, especially when I dug into the reports that government and industry look to for estimations of the financial cost of piracy. Turns out the papers the figures they cite are... inflated due to the overly-simplistic way they calculate their figures. I'll post the paper here for a general overview and may later return to certain areas in more detail. It's a bit dry, but informative. References will be published in Part 2

Introduction


The Internet is seen as a threatening challenger to the profits of many industries. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) reports that in 2008, the worldwide piracy of software accounted for losses of over $50 billion. [2] Other equally large estimations are reported from organizations representing other information industries. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which represents American musicians, cites a report that states yearly financial losses to the music industry in the United States due to online piracy is $3.7 billion.[20] The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the film industry, cites another report which states that, in 2005, American motion picture studios lost $2.3 billion to online piracy.[10] Online piracy is certainly a concern for many information industries, and there have been many investigations of the impact and prevention of digital piracy. It has been both likened to theft [19]and praised as a new form of product distribution, although the opinion taken by lawmakers and industry lobbyists is more often the former. It is absolutely imperative that we fully understand the effects of piracy before resorting to severe measures to prevent it.

“Piracy,” in this particular sense, is the illegal distribution of protected intellectual property (IP) products. Piracy and counterfeiting is present in all industries from fashion to pharmaceuticals, but it is special in the case of digital products because of the nature of digital information. [8] Piracy of information goods can be spurred for more reasons that the usual financial ones. The ease of making perfect copies of an original has created an environment wherein it can be more beneficial to a consumer to not pay for a product, especially in a situation where a pirate has more freedoms of use than a legal user does. Digital Rights Management systems, which are software “locks” used to protect IP on digital goods, often prevent users from effectively using their legally purchased property. Users can – and do – turn to cracked and hacked versions of digital products to “unlock” the copy protection so they can actually use the product as desired. [3, 16]

"Smudge Attacks"

Some researchers from the University of Pennsylvania released an interesting paper (pdf) on touchscreens and smudges.

Anyone who has handled a touch screen of any sort knows that humans are greasy, oily creatures who leave a trail of secretions wherever our fingers tread and there's not much we can do about it, short of wearing finger condoms.




What might not have occurred to many people is that the trails of person-slime you leave behind could be a security risk, as aptly demonstrated in the above paper.

More Minecraft Goodness

I made a unicorn today:




Also a trio of new skins:



Hairy, tanned, bald speedo guy just catchin' some rays.

Do you see what I see?

Mouseover to show outlines :)




Things I saw today...


Odd sign at the hospital




A caterpillar I rescued form the pool. The first fuzzy caterpillar I've seen this year!
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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."