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Rated: 18+ · Book · Personal · #1196512
Not for the faint of art.
Complex Numbers

A complex number is expressed in the standard form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers and i is defined by i^2 = -1 (that is, i is the square root of -1). For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number.

The bi term is often referred to as an imaginary number (though this may be misleading, as it is no more "imaginary" than the symbolic abstractions we know as the "real" numbers). Thus, every complex number has a real part, a, and an imaginary part, bi.

Complex numbers are often represented on a graph known as the "complex plane," where the horizontal axis represents the infinity of real numbers, and the vertical axis represents the infinity of imaginary numbers. Thus, each complex number has a unique representation on the complex plane: some closer to real; others, more imaginary. If a = b, the number is equal parts real and imaginary.

Very simple transformations applied to numbers in the complex plane can lead to fractal structures of enormous intricacy and astonishing beauty.

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February 8, 2021 at 12:02am
February 8, 2021 at 12:02am
Entry #2 of 8 for "Journalistic Intentions [18+]

*VinylB* Let It Roll

Back in college, I had occasion to visit the Drama Department every once in a while, mostly in my capacity as newspaper photographer. This department was in what was then a relatively new building, with more contemporary fixtures than in many of the other University buildings. One such fixture was the toilet paper dispensers in the restroom stalls.

Now, there wasn't a lot of graffiti at the school in general. Oh, there was some, to be sure; the scribblings in the Philosophy Department, much older than Drama, were particularly incisive, and I had great laughs at the occasional math pun in the Engineering department (which is where I took most of my shits). But in this particular case, someone had seen that the toilet paper dispensers had a lever with words on it that read: "PRESS DOWN FOR NEW ROLL." Predictably, but still amusingly because this was, in fact, the Drama School, this person had altered the last L to become an E.

Anyone who's been following along should know that I like to learn about language, and play with it. "Roll" and "role," as you might imagine, are... absolutely of the same origin.

Surprised? I was, when I discovered this.

Turns out that, at least according to Dictionary.com, the word "role" split off from "roll" somewhere in Old French, where an actor's part was referred to, in what I suppose is a case of metonymy, from the roll of paper upon which the actor's lines were written.

I absolutely love this sort of thing; it gives me insight into the way peoples' minds work through the lens of language development.

I should also note that it appears that the French word "roue," which translates as "wheel," comes from the same source as well. Not entirely sure of this one, though.

The "role" origin also seems to tie into one of the other definitions of "roll," as in "roll call." Oddly enough, though, the word "scroll" doesn't seem to be related, at least not as far back as they can trace it -- though it should be, describing as it does a roll of paper, parchment, vellum, whatever. No, "scroll" comes from, of all things, "escrow," which itself was an alteration of an older word "scrow," which apparently meant... roll.

Essentially, "roll" is traced from Latin and "scroll" is Germanic in origin -- though both language families, naturally, stemmed from the same source, even further back: Proto-Indo-European, or PIE. This is, of course, what we call it now; no one seems to know what this original language was called or even, with any level of certainty, what its words or structure were.

A while back, I did a blog entry about the invention of the wheel. After much searching, I finally found it. Here: "As the Turn Worlds (or whatever). And in that entry, I refer to another entry from a couple weeks prior, here: "Lox Pie. Now, based on what I found out in writing those entries, it seems that people smarter than I am have figured out where the PIE-speakers probably originated from, and that the reason that particular language spread so far and wide was because those bastards invented the wheel, slapped those suckers on a cart, and hooked the resulting contraption to horses. This made the people in that culture incredibly mobile for the time. I mean, anyone with a horse would have been more mobile (Genghis Khan comes to mind), but if you want to take your stuff with you, you need a cart, too. Preferably one behind the horse, rather than in front of it.

So, essentially, the PIEs rolled all over Europe and parts of Asia, bringing their language with them -- a language which then fractured, merged with other languages in different areas, adapted to its speakers' varying needs and environment, and then -- thousands of years later -- maybe started coming together again, in a vastly different form, as English borrows heavily from so many different other languages.

All of which is to say that there's more than half a dozen songs called "Let It Roll," and I haven't even heard some of them, and those that I have, I don't particularly like, so this entry's about roll and not rock.
February 7, 2021 at 12:02am
February 7, 2021 at 12:02am
Kids these days with their... um... kid stuff.

The one constant across all of human history is the older generations freaking out over something that the younger generation is doing.

They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things -- and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning -- all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything -- they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.

More complaints about "kids these days" from millennia ago can be found here.  

Anyway, the Cracked article linked first above.

Once upon a time, there was a world before Fortnite, COD, and even Angry Birds when most people needed to visit arcades and other public places to get their video game fix.

I was one of those kids in 1982.

Yet instead of enjoying their time outside of the house, socializing at arcades as they gamed with their friends, basically, everyone and their mom thought that video games were actively destroying their brains, sparking mass hysteria among parents.

And before that, it was hippie stuff, and before that it was jazz, and before that it was... I don't know... writing, maybe. Or revolutions against colonial oppressors.

"GRONK! FLASH! ZAP! Video Games are Blitzing the World!" read a cover of Time Magazine in 1982.

On the other hand, maybe it did destroy my brain; I have a distinct memory of Pac-Man being Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" (before they finally stopped being so fucking sexist about these things), but in researching this blog entry, it seems that the Pac-Man "Man of the Year" cover was actually a spoof done by Mad Magazine. Mad, of course, was Cracked's main rival at the time, but more importantly, it was published by the same people who published Time.

Everything is connected somehow.

Time did, however, once select "the personal computer" or something similar as "Man of the Year," notably before they changed it to "Person of the Year," thus illustrating that to people back then (People was a popular magazine then too), the computer was more important than the wimmins.

In an attempt to curb this "electronic blight," with 4,000 to 5,000 consoles popping up in arcades, pizza parlors, grocery stores, and drugstores, city officials passed regulatory laws, only allotting video games in commercial or industrial areas. Because nothing says good, wholesome fun like a bunch of unsupervised children heading down to their local factory district area to play some Pac-Man, right?

Also, I don't remember any of this. I got my video game fix in arcades and at the local 7-Eleven.

"Officials say they are responding to complaints from parents that children have skipped school or stolen money to play the games and made a nuisance of themselves," the anchor said over footage of kids seemingly having a great time playing games.

Said 7-Eleven was located right across the road from my high school. I'd leave extra early in the morning to stick stolen quarters (okay, they weren't really stolen, but it's not like I had a job at the time) into Ms. Pac-Man and/or Galaga prior to trudging over to prisonschool.

I got really, really good at Galaga, by the way. When the first Avengers movie gave it a nod, I might have cheered right there in the movie theater.

I don't recall that I ever skipped school just to play video games. But I can't say I never played video games when I skipped school. It's just that the owners of that particular convenience store were narcs, and if a kid was there during school hours, we'd get told upon.

Incidentally, I had occasion to pass by that high school fairly recently, because it was on the way to a microbrewery I wanted to try -- I think this was in November of 2019, because it was definitely in the Before Time, but still recent -- and behold, there is still a 7-Eleven across the (now four-lane) road from the high school. It does not, however, still house video game consoles, but the cashiers still looked like narcs. This shouldn't be surprising, since that convenience store is also next to the FBI Academy. Yes, that FBI Academy; it's right across the line from Quantico.

Point is, there have always been things that kids do that freak adults right out. This, I think, is an important part of childhood, and I hope it never changes. Because, it's not in spite of these moral panics that civilization keeps right on chugging along, at least for now.

It's because of them.
February 6, 2021 at 12:02am
February 6, 2021 at 12:02am
I'm going to preface this entry by noting that I have never had a Twatter account, and I haven't used my Facebook account in years. I would go on and delete it, but that requires me recovering its password, which I have yet to be able to do. So it's basically a zombie account.

I mention this because occasionally I get emails from Failbook announcing that someone or other wants to friend me there. If you're reading this, I'm not ignoring you. I'm ignoring Assbook.

Because freaking everything has to have a damned acronym now. EHAA: Everything Has An Acronym.

Do you ever scroll through your social media feeds and feel gross? If so, you’re not alone.

No. See above. The only social media I'm on is right here, and generally the people here don't suck (those that do tend not to last very long). I also participate in Google Guides, but that barely qualifies as it's not constantly bombarding me with other peoples' bullshit.

And yet we go back, day after day, over and over and over, endlessly scrolling, like addicts hooked on a drug that we once loved but now kind of hate and cannot or will not even try to escape.

I'm not claiming moral superiority here. I have other addictions.

Technologist and philosopher Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer and early internet evangelist who isn’t on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, contends that you should just quit social media. Go cold turkey. In his latest book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now...

Don't go on social media! Buy my book instead!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not going to rag on someone for promoting their book, not here on a writing site. Unless, of course, I think the book will suck. I don't think that's the case here.

He’s developed a simple acronym to sum up the sinister purpose of tech companies that brought us the platforms we’re hooked on and their effect on us—BUMMER. It stands for Behaviors of Users Modified and Made into Empires for Rent.

On the other hand, this is easily one of the bottom five worst forced acronyms I've ever encountered.

BUMMER platforms are more than just a bummer from Lanier’s perspective—they’re eroding health and happiness and political and social discourse, curbing our free will, and turning us into, well, “assholes.”

Whew, it's a good thing we don't have free will to start with, and that I'm already an asshole.

Or, as Claire Lehmann, founding editor of Quillette magazine puts it in an Oct. 17 tweet (of course—where else might she express herself?), “Social media satiates our appetite for moral disgust and tribal conflict.”

I admit that there is something to be said for Twitter's character limit, as it forces people to condense their thoughts into digestible form. It's a worthy writing exercise. On the downside, as I've said before, engaging on Twitter is like arguing with bumper stickers.

In an interview in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Lanier explains that you can spot a BUMMER platform by examining whether Russian intelligence warfare units like the Internet Research Agency targeted it and used it to manipulate people. The list includes Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram.

Obviously, I don't stay away from YouTube. Except in very particular circumstances, though, I don't venture into the comments. I've deliberately trained their algorithms to give me suggestions in the categories of music and science videos, though. Occasionally, political commentary will crop up there, and to combat it, I search for music or science videos and eventually they dilute away.

To disengage from the experiment is simple enough, he says. All you have to do is stop using BUMMER platforms. That’s the best way to undermine the systems designed to manipulate us and, he argues, the only way to force tech companies to change the platforms’ fundamentally flawed business model.

Oh, sure, simple. I mean, yeah, I've done it (with the exception of YouTube, as I noted), but then, I'm that guy who has never, ever had cable TV.

The problem with attempting social change by imploring people to do (or refrain from) certain behaviors is that you will never get enough people on board. This is why boycotts tend not to work, this is why the world will never go vegan, and this is why we're doomed to a dreary post-apocalyptic future due to climate change.

If you do go boldly where Lanier and Simon have gone and abandon the tech platforms everyone else seems to be on, rest assured, it might not have to be for long. Lanier says he is currently working on creating healthier social media platforms that won’t be such a BUMMER.

This article is more than two years old. The only new social media platforms I've heard of since then are even worse than Facetwat.

Instead of abandoning the (I won't use the acronym because it's stupid) standard social media platforms, I'm seeing more and more people signing up for them. It won't be me, though. Guess I'll just have to languish and die in obscurity. I'd rather do that than subject myself to the bullshit I've seen on social media.
February 5, 2021 at 12:02am
February 5, 2021 at 12:02am
Kids these days with their slang...

Curious, I looked up the word origin for "slang."

Dictionary.com: "mid 18th century: of unknown origin."

M-W: "origin unknown " ... "The first known use of slang was in 1756"

My money's on it being a contraction, s'lang, short for something like "side language" or "short language" or something beginning with the letter s. But until we invent time travel (which won't happen), we'll probably never know.

The point is, this article is about American colonial-era slang, which oddly enough coincides with the same period when the word "slang" appears to have been coined -- but the word itself is probably older, because these things tended to be used in conversation before they were written down (as opposed to today, when we get most of our argot from the internet). And the concept of slang, the use of informal words and phrases in everyday conversation, is surely older than the word used to describe it, and might even be as old as language.

An argument could be made that language depends upon slang to evolve... but I'm not qualified to make or defend such an argument. It's just something to think about.

Anyway, back to the linked article, which is about a year old but what difference does it make?

But the Colonial Period—which stretched from roughly 1607 to 1776, starting when America was just a group of colonies on the east side of the continent and ending with the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence—was a fascinating but complicated time in which settlers from England forged a proud new identity. These new settlers brought the English language with them when they came, and whenever English finds a new home, it often takes on a new life.

Or as I like to put it, the British invented it, and we perfected it.

1. Kedge

What It Meant: Doing well

I'm feeling pretty kedge today, so this entry isn't going to be too depressing.

Don't worry; I'm not going to list all of them. Just go to the article to see more.

6. Fishy

What It Meant: Drunk

Possibly no one invented more ways to say “drunk” than colonial Americans. Benjamin Franklin alone compiled 200 ways to say it.

Ben Franklin: Still my favorite Founding Father. Sorry, Alex. We always need more synonyms for "drunk." In college, we called it getting cabbaged. Hell, it's a lot like the situation with reproductive organs: one can adapt a wide variety of words for the purpose. "I got writ last night." "After an evening of getting completely astronomical, he almost regretted it the next morning."

Bonus points if the word you adapt for this purpose is in an obscure foreign language. "I'm going to get completely danchu tonight."

Okay, Mandarin is the polar opposite of "obscure." Still. (According to the googles, "danchu" means "to fade out," as in the end of a scene in a movie, or to fade from memory. What? It's appropriate for describing getting plastered.)

9. Savvy, Savey, or Sabby

What It Meant: To know or understand

While we still use this word to mean something like “literate” (computer-savvy), in Colonial times, it was actually used more like the way Jack Sparrow uses it. So you might say, “I don’t want to come to work anymore, savvy that?” According to Merriam-Webster, it’s derived from sabe, which means “he knows” in Portuguese.

I can't be arsed to trace it all the way back, but another source lists Spanish as the origin for this word. There's a similar verb in French, "savoir," "to know," which in at least one of its conjugations is "savez" which is pronounced a little bit like "savvy" only with the emPHAsis on the other sylLAble. I can only assume that what with all of these Romance languages using a similar verb that it came from Latin, because I've forgotten most of the Latin I ever knew.

Anyway, I knew the word long before Pirates of the Caribbean came out. I guess you could say I was savvy.

14. Circumbendibus

What It Meant: Roundabout

Of all the ways to describe something unnecessarily roundabout— like someone telling a rambling story or taking a weird road when driving somewhere—this word, which dates to 1681, might be the most delightful.

I absolutely need to work this into my vocabulary, since a lot of these blog entries are circumbendibus.

Now it's time to get fishy.
February 4, 2021 at 12:05am
February 4, 2021 at 12:05am
Entry #1 of 8 for "Journalistic Intentions [18+]

*VinylB* Immigrant Song

Ready for some music theory?

No? Well, too bad.  

Now, look, I'm not entirely ignorant of music theory, but some of the shit in the video at that link is way beyond me, kind of like how I have some knowledge of physics but then they start talking about quantum this and dark matter that and my brain shuts off.

The analysis that guy goes through is the musical equivalent of literary analysis. And as with literary analysis, I think they often read into the art things that the artist didn't consciously intend. "Why did you play that particular note at that time?" One might expect the musician to launch into a detailed explanation of harmonics or dissonance or setting up a musical resolution or some shit, but chances are they just go, "Well, it sounded right."

Making it sound right is the musician's job. Explaining why it sounds right is best left to theorists.

As a writer, I've always been more focused on the lyrics than the music. As powerful as the tune is, I have to admit I dismissed it for a long time because, come on, enunciate, Plant. But of course when the internet came along, I was finally able to decipher the more obscured words. Also, apparently, "Waa-aa-aaaaaaaaa-AHH! is a word. That's an official Robert Plant lyric right there.

Probably the most awesome use of the song in its 50-year history (don't you feel old now?) was in Thor:Ragnarok, and the decision to use it not once but twice in the same movie, for whatever reason (I can no more analyze movies than I can music) just works.

This is how you choreograph a fight scene to battle music.   Few musical selections have fit the tone of a scene, or an entire movie, so well.

Of course, no discussion of Immigrant Song would be complete without the inclusion of this seminal music video:

As someone notes in the comments (yes, I ventured into that swamp): "The internet peaked when this was originally posted. It's been downhill ever since."

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Mini-Contest results!

Seven responses, all relevant to the question. As I noted, I'm just picking one at random, but I appreciated all of the comments.

The Virtual Dice returned a 4, so the Merit Badge goes to... (drumroll) (Hey stop with the bass line, I said drumroll)... Graham B. !

We'll do this again soon.
February 3, 2021 at 12:05am
February 3, 2021 at 12:05am
But first, a quick brag:

Merit Badge in 30DBC Winner
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Congrats on winning 1st Place in the January 2021  [Link To Item #30dbc] !! Well done!

Thanks to all the judges and other participants in "30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]

You, too, can win a Merit Badge, and with a lot less effort -- details below!

Today we reach into the Wayback Machine for an article from the innocent Before Time, two years ago. A time when we actually worried about being around other people because we might get a cold.

Quick-fix cold and flu remedies do nothing but make you poorer  
Emergen-C, zinc, detox baths, vitamins, echinacea: it’s all garbage. Chicken soup, though, works.

I once worked in an office that, I’m convinced, was actually a refrigerator. The people who worked inside that open-plan frozen concrete box were often sick, probably because a large contingent of them never washed their hands after they used the dead-silent restrooms.


But we were not the healthiest people.

This is my shocked face: *Meh*

We continue to cling to so-called “old-wives’ tales” when it comes to preventing and treating coughs, colds, and flu; in fact, interest in complementary and alternative medicine, such as vitamins, herbal treatments, and acupuncture, has consistently climbed over the past few decades. But ultimately, we’re spending energy and money on prevention methods and treatments that, at best, don’t work, and in rare cases, could actually make you sicker.

On the contrary, these "medicines" have been proven to be very effective... at allowing the people who peddle them to eat.

Freed recently conducted a poll of over 2,000 parents, representative of the general United States population, and found that 70 percent of them employ folk strategies to help prevent their child from catching a cold. Such strategies include disallowing the child from going outside with wet hair, limiting outdoor time generally to avoid getting sick, or conversely, encouraging more time outside to prevent the child from getting sick.

My takeaway from this: Better not go outside at all. Safer that way.

One of the most popular herbal supplements for immune-support, echinacea, is mixed at the very best; while a handful of studies show it can reduce your risk of catching a cold, several others, like a 2004 randomized controlled trial, were unable to replicate those earlier studies’ results; a 2018 review (with a very helpful infographic!) takes that language even further, stating that echinacea, as well as other popular supplements and herbal remedies like zinc, garlic, ginseng, eucalyptus oil, and honey, shows “no evidence of effect” for treating the common cold.

You'd probably be well-protected against vampires, though. I mean, I eat garlic all the time and I have yet to be bitten by a vampire. It really works!

“Detox baths,” in which the patient bathes in hot water with epsom salt, baking soda, ginger, essential oils, apple cider vinegar, and/or ground mustard seed are another cold treatment popular with wellness bloggers.

"Detox" is one of those words that, if you use it unironically, is extremely effective at keeping me away.

These baths supposedly conduct their magic by “opening the pores” and “ridding the body of toxins we pick up from pollution and processed foods.”

Sniff... sniff... ah, the familiar scent of bovine excrement.

So what can you do if there’s a cold going around and you don’t want to catch it, or if you already have one and just want the misery to end?

Stay home and drink booze?

Sadly, not much.


The most important thing for prevention is practicing good hygiene, like washing your hands frequently, cleaning surfaces in your house, not touching your face, and “not being in the face of people who have colds themselves, like Uncle Edward or Aunt Freda who want to hug and kiss you,” said Freed.

A year before Trump Mumps, folks.

Some over-the-counter medications, like antihistamines, decongestants, or painkillers like Ibuprofen or Aspirin, can temporarily relieve symptoms...

Ibuprofen is my go-to pain reliever. However, I have never yet found an antihistamine or decongestant that does a goddamn thing for me. Well. Some of them make me feel woozy on top of whatever cold I have at the time, but they don't relieve sinus problems in the slightest. And yes, I've had prescription ones.

One inconclusive (but promising and honestly delightful) treatment method is eating chicken soup.

See? My people were right all along! Just not about bacon.

Until the common cold is eradicated, or at least until we have more, better research on the subject, the best thing to do is wash your hands and hope no one sneezes on you.

Or in your chicken soup.

In spite of these findings, which have been apparent for some time, people continue to waste money on nostrums and snake oil in hopes that, I don't know, something will work. And there's always the person who swears by one treatment or another. "It works for me!" Well, there are several possible reasons for that, including a) placebo effect; b) you're getting better anyway and it just happens to be right after you swallow some pill or other; or, I'm willing to admit, c) you're weird and the thing actually works. Problem with (c) is that unless it passes scientific testing, it's clear that it's not going to work for everyone or even most people.

I'll finish by noting that back in college, I participated in a study on zinc as a potential cold remedy. Participating in studies in college is a time-honored tradition, and kept students in beer money back when more undergrads could drink beer. Of course, I still don't know if I was in the control group or not. Point is, this was in the mid-80s, and here it is over 30 years later and it seems they're still arguing about zinc. Which tells me that it's pretty damn worthless, or there would have been something conclusive by now.

About that Merit Badge, though, it's time for another

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Merit Badge Mini-Contest!

We'll make this one easy. Comment below with what you do to prevent and/or treat a cold when you get one (or brag a lot if you never get colds). I'll pick one of the relevant responses at random and give the commenter a Merit Badge tomorrow. As usual, you have until midnight WDC time tonight, Wednesday.

And just to be fair, I'll tell you here what I do: I buy three or four boxes of lotion-infused tissues, take Advil for the headache, drink tea, sit up in bed and blow my nose every 5-10 seconds. Sometimes, rum is involved -- it doesn't make the cold better, but it helps me give less of a damn about it. And then I bitch a lot about how fucking miserable I am to whoever will listen, and maybe a few people who won't.

Why no chicken soup? I can't be arsed to make it when I'm sick (even if it involves nothing more than opening a can of Campbell's), and besides, it couldn't possibly be as good as my mom's -- it was the one thing she could cook well.
February 2, 2021 at 12:02am
February 2, 2021 at 12:02am
If you haven't noticed, the US has a problem with public transportation. The problem is it sucks.

Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don’t Blame Cars.)  
Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.

While this article is about two and a half years old, the issues it addresses certainly haven't improved.

One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world.

And now the world has surpassed it, but we don't have it in us to envy them.

Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from 115.8 in 1950 to 36.1 in 1970, where they have roughly remained since, even as population has grown.

Hence "per capita," duh.

This has not happened in much of the rest of the world. While a decline in transit use in the face of fierce competition from the private automobile throughout the 20th century was inevitable, near-total collapse was not.

The automobile has one major advantage over any sort of public transportation: convenience. No need to concern oneself with any schedule other than that of whatever place you're heading.

This is, of course, only possible because of vast public expenditures in private transportation infrastructure (as the article mentions later), as well as the willingness of city planners to allow for stupidly generous amounts of parking. Having designed a few parking lots, I'm not entirely ignorant on the subject.

So there are a few environmental concerns going on: autos themselves (mitigated somewhat by the inevitable switch to electric cars), ever-wider roads, and huge amounts of impervious surface in the form of parking lots.

Now, here's the thing: I've really given up on the whole "save the environment" thing. It's clear that governments aren't really on board with this; the best they seem to be able to do is come up with things like mandating low-flow toilets (which use 1/3 the amount of water but have to be flushed three times) and low-flow shower heads (which use 1/2 the amount of water but require showers to take twice as long). I've resigned myself to the fact that there is not a goddamn thing I can do about it, myself; any attempt merely inconveniences me and amounts to one less snowflake in a blizzard.

I mean, there are things I do. I installed insulation and better windows. I replaced all my lightbulbs with LEDs. I recycle. This is because like most people, I respond to incentives: insulation and better windows keep my heating / cooling bills low; LEDs have a high up-front cost but last 20 years and I hate changing lightbulbs; and the city provides free single-stream recycling.

Absent these incentives, I simply can't be arsed. I didn't have kids, so fuck it, I could spend the rest of my life flying a private jet (if only...) and not even come close to the total carbon emissions of someone with offspring.

And I like to drive.

I say all these things mostly to point out that despite all of this, I would totally use public transportation if it didn't suck.

A bus that comes once and[sic] hour, stops at 7 pm, and doesn’t run on Sundays—a typical service level in many American cities—restricts people’s lives so much that anyone who can drive, will drive. That keeps ridership per capita low.

I've been bitching for years, both as a potential consumer of public transportation and as someone with a background in transportation engineering, that US cities go about the whole PT thing ass-backwards. They seem to get the idea that, well, we'll just put a line in from Point A to Point B, run a carriage every hour during daylight, and see how much revenue we can get for expansions.

With a schedule like that (and the complete disregard of Points C through Z), they set themselves up to fail. Miserably. Then they throw up their hands and go "See? No one wants public transportation."

My small town is better than many of its size in that regard, but many's the city council meeting I used to sit in on where they'd go, "Let's reduce the parking requirements to incentivize people to use the buses." Meanwhile, a good half the people who need to get into town live beyond the bus service, so they have to drive in... but now there's not enough parking. And what parking there is is marked "no commuters," like private shopping centers and such.

It's maddening.

This town needs a monorail.

What happened? Over the past hundred years the clearest cause is this: Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might “justify” its improvement will never materialize.

Or this happens.

Anyway, the article is a pretty good overview of the history of transportation.

It may be that, like a lot of things, the actual solution will be something else entirely -- like if we could get people to stop being scared shitless of autonomous vehicles. Auto accidents cause fatalities every damn year in the range of something like (can't be arsed to look it up but this number is what's stuck in my head) 30,000 dead people: drivers, passengers, pedestrians. Thirty. Thousand. People. A year.

An autonomous vehicle, in beta, kills ONE person and people freak the fuck out.

Look: you're never going to get fatalities down to zero. Not unless you ban transportation entirely, and good luck with that. And yeah, there are some things to work out, but goddammit, stop being afraid of anything new or robotic. I'm reminded of how people are scared shitless of flying, but think little of speeding in their car to the airport; the latter activity being several orders of magnitude more dangerous.

If autonomous vehicles can reduce that by as little as 3,000 fatalities a year, I'd consider it a win. But I'm convinced that most people will focus on the glass half empty (27,000 fatalities a year) rather than the glass half full (3,000 fewer than before).

Because, by and large, people are utter shit at understanding risk management and statistics, preferring to go with emotional reactions.

Need I point out that this is similar to the COVID vaccination thing? Half a million dead from Trump Mumps, millions more disabled by it, possibly permanently, but one person has an adverse reaction to the vaccine and all of a sudden it's "I don't trust it. I'll take my 1% chance of dying a horrible death rather than the 0.00000001% chance of having a bad reaction to the vaccine." (Note: I pulled those numbers out of my ass but the point remains valid.)

And this. This is why I've quit giving a shit about the environment. No one will learn until we all burn.
February 1, 2021 at 12:00am
February 1, 2021 at 12:00am
Not long ago, in "Time After Time, I speculated about time travel.

And tomorrow is Groundhog Day, which is now more famous for the eponymous movie than for the rodent's weather forecasting abilities, which in turn displaced a much older purpose for observing the beginning of February, but that's not important right now - what's relevant today is that the movie Groundhog Day featured a time loop.

I should note once again that an episode of ST:TNG did the time loop thing before GHD did, and that GHD itself was inspired by a novel whose title I've forgotten. But Bill Murray is awesome enough that GHD is the only thing people can compare any time loop movies to.

This is fine. I love the movie, myself. I just have to be pedantic about it.

Anyway. So today's link, which as usual was chosen at random, relates to both of these things. Sort of.

I find that paradoxes tend to resolve themselves once semantic issues are resolved -- if, that is, they ever are.

No one has yet managed to travel through time – at least to our knowledge – but the question of whether or not such a feat would be theoretically possible continues to fascinate scientists.





"...if you go back in time and stop your parents from meeting, for instance, how can you possibly exist in order to go back in time in the first place?"

People keep going on and on about the multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics, and I'm still not sure how that works (neither is anyone else), but that would easily resolve such an apparent paradox.

"Classical dynamics says if you know the state of a system at a particular time, this can tell us the entire history of the system," says Tobar.

Okay, this guy's a physicist and I'm not, and I'm not going to contradict his statement, but the way this quote is presented is, in my opinion, misleading. First of all, classical dynamics doesn't rule here; quantum mechanics does, with the Uncertainty Principle and all that. Second, one would have to know the state of a system to an arbitrarily large number of decimal places, which is practically, if not theoretically, impossible.

What the calculations show is that space-time can potentially adapt itself to avoid paradoxes.

This is misleading, too, implying an intelligence for which there is as yet no evidence.

To use a topical example, imagine a time traveller journeying into the past to stop a disease from spreading – if the mission was successful, the time traveller would have no disease to go back in time to defeat.

Tobar's work suggests that the disease would still escape some other way, through a different route or by a different method, removing the paradox. Whatever the time traveller did, the disease wouldn't be stopped.

Hey, that sounds like a wonderful idea for a movie- oh, wait.  

Incidentally, I once saw the movie that inspired 12 Monkeys, a short film called La Jetée. Actually, I saw the short film first, in a cinema class in college in the 80s. If you can find it, it's worth watching. Hell. I might try to find it in the original French now that I have some understanding of that language.

Tobar's work isn't easy for non-mathematicians to dig into, but it looks at the influence of deterministic processes (without any randomness) on an arbitrary number of regions in the space-time continuum, and demonstrates how both closed timelike curves (as predicted by Einstein) can fit in with the rules of free will and classical physics.

No, no, it's not just you; they lost me here as well. I mean, yeah, I know what a "closed timelike curve" is, sort of, but that doesn't say much. Anyway, the thing I take issue with here is "the rules of free will." There are no such rules. Free will is taken as a given, as a basic assumption, but I'm not convinced free will is anything other than an illusion. That is, it's not a matter of predestination, but that our consciousness is the result of physical activities in our nervous systems, which in turn are subject to the rules of determinism; our decisions aren't predictable, but they are deterministic -- probably with some quantum randomness thrown in; the details are above my pay grade, but that doesn't mean we can just accept "free will" is a real thing.

"The maths checks out – and the results are the stuff of science fiction," says physicist Fabio Costa from the University of Queensland, who supervised the research.

Technically, anything can be the stuff of science fiction. Just saying.

While the numbers might work out, actually bending space and time to get into the past remains elusive – the time machines that scientists have devised so far are so high-concept that for they currently only exist as calculations on a page.

Like I said: speculative. I still don't accept that time travel is likely on the kind of large scale that captures the popular imagination (that is, anything larger than subatomic particles).

But it sure is fun to read and think about. Especially if you're a writer.

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