May 8th, 2007


Weekend On the Rocks

Due to my failing to realise some issues of timing, my enthusiasm for the RHPS convention being held in West Virginia this coming weekend has dropped from 90% to about 5%, and it's looking rather unlikely that I'll actually go. This will be moderately embarassing, especially in light of my having ducked out on connected things in the past with some of the same people, but I think I would be missing out on at least two things that are much more important if I went. I'll probably have to decide for sure tomorrow so people can adjust their plans, and I should make good on the financial commitments I've made anyhow.

Not particularly related, I finished reading "Mistress of Spices", by Chitra Divakaruni today, and it was quite good. I'm not sure if it's one of the kind of books one ever rereads, but it was definitely worth reading once.

The G thing didn't work out - I think I can probably find a better match of some details I care about if I look harder. I should probably prod the people at H I was talking with earlier and see if that door could be reopened... probably.


Sharp Notes

NSF is a sound format that is commonly used for storing sound from old NES8 games - I think it's made by tools that extract the audio from ROM images. It's probably conceptually similar to a tarball of midis. Most audio software I've seen that can play them tend to loop whatever song is playing (or perhaps NES8 audio actually had something akin to a GOTO in it - some older sound formats did, and I don't actually know much about this format), and provide additional controls to swap between the songs inside the NSF (some of them also let the six channels in the thing be turned on/off individually). I don't normally keep NSF files in my normal music folder, but I was recently listening to some stuff from Zelda, and was doing other stuff, and later realised that for about 45 minutes, I was listening to the Zelda1 dungeon theme. I'm not sure if it was that I was programming (and zoned out), that the music is presumably designed to be repeated endlessly without getting old, or that I'm used to it on some level because when I was younger, I played Zelda a lot. Either way, it's funny how deeply some of these tunes are burned into my brain (along with the elaborations on the tunes when better hardware (and better understanding of said hardware) allowed sequels to do more with the themes). I am amused to think of orchestras today playing music that orchestras of the future will want to extend because they have better musical technology, although I imagine that that's taking the analogy too far (or at least onto a slope where technological advances that make a difference wrt potential complexity are slow). How much complexity can most people handle in music? How much complexity can a trained ear appreciate? Is there a difference?

The Wexner Centre for the Arts (tied in some way which details I don't remember to Ohio State) put together a mix tape for memorial day (which I would guess is upcoming?). This marks the second alumni newsletter I've gotten from OSU that's actually had anything interesting (the first told me how to revive for lifetime email forwarding).

Last Saturday, according to a recent university police report, some people who sound a lot like POG members wandered onto campus in the afternoon and did some untargeted vandalism/destruction in Wean after having pulled a fire alarm in NSH as a distraction. As usual, I'm embarassed - not at vigilanteism/civil disobedience/direct action, but because this wasn't at all targeted, people couldn't concievably figure out what they were doing it for, and it did nothing apart from possibly let them work out some anger. Pittsburgh's young anarchist community's aversion to planning and leaders (even if leader doesn't mean someone with authority) will continue to hold them back for the indefinite future - these are not the same kind of anarchists who organised the Black Army in Russia to fight for their notion of freedom - they're more the sort to start a Pogo-Party, I think. I'm especially frustrated because the group has built a high level of idealism (a precious thing) into their subculture, but it's not the right sort nor paired with careful thought. Oh well...


Positive Dystopia

I really love N-dropout procedures in psychology experiment design - they seem philosophically cute because they're a bit of code that matches remedial efforts (especially relevant in memory studies) so nicely to where they're needed. I particularly like a variant on the standard notion where instead of correcting/retesting at the end, tests/retrials are mixed back in, but there are a number of other interestig ways to do it... Mmm... They're also fun to code. Unlike any of my previous experiments, I coded a significant portion of this one in Perl instead of the awful E-Prime environment/language that we use for most of our stuff.

Sometime earlier I was talking about English language fluency, but couldn't think of a really good example - one that I recalled today was "to ask". In English, "X asks Y." is an awkward sentence - "to ask" normally doesn't stand alone - unlike "to query", to flow properly it needs an indirect object. I'm not sure if this is a formal rule of English, but I would at least call it poor style to violate it. The few instances where I can recall "to ask" being used sans Indirect Object, the Indirect Object was implied and nearby in another sentence, while I've often found "to query" being used in a simple Subject-Object sentence.

Authoritarian Dystopian novels are political entities as well as literature - definitive of the genre is an authority (usually a state authority) telling people how to live according to its ideology. I like the genre, but I wonder at people who read too many of them because of the politics they inspire - in real society, the risks incurred by too little steering are obvious from a political economy/philosophy point of view, but it'd be tough to make a novel that grabs the imagination along those lines (Max Barry's Jennifer Government and a few "postcyberpunk" novels might handle the matter to various degrees of care). While running another pilot of my current experiment, I was thinking about the coercion involved in the normal concept of authoritarian dystopia, in particular if it would still fit the genre if the state provided dehumanising options to people on a large scale, knowing that human weakness often makes us choose things that won't make us happy. Changed notions of family often are present but peripheral in the genre - much more common are attempts to supress love. What if we imagined a society whereby not-quite-real expert systems (assume no strong AI in the story) gave people a surface-satisfying replacement for flesh-and-blood relationships, and made that option widely avaiable, so people who go through inevitable bumps and dips in their relationship with real humans eventually satisfice with such a thing? What if we imagined a society where people accepted a number of other synthetic "good enoughs" that are enough on the surface but lead people to .. something akin to a midlife crisis that lasts their whole life? Television satisficing biological needs to be around each other, etc etc. Dystopia? I'd be tempted to call it "Eating Styrofoam", but that would be too simplistic - there would be "some substance", and it would need to stress the dangers of individuals taking the easy way out in a society/economic system that makes that easy. ... it might take a lot of work to flesh out the idea and make it coherent though. Maybe "Twinkie Gourmet" would be a good title, if it wouldn't result in a nasty lawsuit :)

To my surprise, I'm probably playing an impromptu game of soccer after work today. Spiffy!