essentialsaltes: (dorian Gray)
Deep context: my conviction that Sam Harris is an idiot, and his idea of finding an objective measure of wellbeing is misguided from the outset. Making morality objective is like trying to make aesthetics objective -- it's just a fake way of baking in your own subjective opinions and declaring them objective.


The simplest explanation for biased algorithms is that the humans who create them have their own deeply entrenched biases. That means that despite perceptions that algorithms are somehow neutral and uniquely objective, they can often reproduce and amplify existing prejudices.

Headline: A beauty contest was judged by AI and the robots didn't like dark skin

Article also has a relevant link to a related story:

"To take just one example, judges, police forces and parole officers across the US are now using a computer program to decide whether a criminal defendant is likely to reoffend or not. ... If you’re black, the chances of being judged a potential reoffender are significantly higher than if you’re white. And yet those algorithmic predictions are not borne out by evidence.
The big puzzle is how the bias creeps into the algorithm. We might be able to understand how if we could examine it. But most of these algorithms are proprietary and secret, so they are effectively “black boxes” – virtual machines whose workings are opaque. Yet the software inside them was written by human beings, most of whom were probably unaware that their work now has an important moral dimension."
essentialsaltes: (herbert West)
del Toro LACMA

Really nice collection, organized into little themed areas.

Most of the items are from del Toro's collection, but there are a few from LACMA itself:

del Toro LACMA

As creepy as the many life-size life-like statues are, I did like the Ray Harryhausen tribute:

del Toro LACMA

There were also a small number of metal sculptures Ray himself had made.

del Toro LACMA

Speaking of statuary, got to see Bryan's work -- someday I'll get to the other big bust in Providence:

del Toro LACMA

Arthur Rackham original!

del Toro LACMA
essentialsaltes: (dead)
Bicycle safety - "The cyclists who ignore the advice end in a pool of blood, crushed by a truck and, in one case, apparently dead."

Don't date foreigners - "The scholar, named Dawei or David, showers her with compliments, red roses, fancy dinners and romantic walks in the park, and convinces the girl to provide him with internal documents from her government propaganda workplace."
essentialsaltes: (wingedlionbook)
Swann's auction catalog of Art, Press, & Illustrated books has some pretty unique things.

A curious edition of Flatland, published by the Arion Press, with an introduction by Ray Bradbury. It's printed on 56 accordion folded pages (so you can lay out the whole text... flat) and housed in an aluminum case.

If that's not wacky enough... The Robin Book:

If that's not pretty enough, then how about the Kelmscott Press (William Morris) Works of Chaucer:

If that's not racy enough, imagine having to compose a properly dry auction catalog entry for this:

"An unusual, unexpected, and very erotically graphic publication that touches on all manner of taboos and the employment of otherwise innocent items like pickles."


Aug. 9th, 2015 12:37 pm
essentialsaltes: (space invader)
We made a snap decision to take a road-trip. We started off in San Marino, hitting an estate sale where Dr. Pookie picked up more uranium glass.

Then out to Ojai.

The Post Office:

Ojai Post Office

There is a ladder to the tower, but the door is locked. A sign says you climb at your own risk.

We had a nice lunch at Suzanne's Cuisine. Possibly inspired by the recent potato chip tasting at work, I opted for the Reuben sandwich (my least unfavorite of the four flavors).

The Museum has some historical doodads and taxidermed animals. One thing that caught my eye was a jug of Pixo Cola concentrate from the Pixie Flavor Base Co.

Pixo Cola

The address on the jug is on Vernon, less than ten blocks from our house. Sadly, the only thing I can learn about the Pixie Flavor Base Co is that it got in trouble with the FDA in 1943 for adulterating/mislabelling orangeade concentrate. "On October 5, 1943, no claimant having appeared, judgment of condemnation was entered and the product was ordered destroyed or delivered to some charitable institution."

But there was also a temporary exhibit of items from Sergio Aragones' personal comics collection. Not of his own work, but the work of others, much of it signed personally to him. Aragones is now a local resident, and actually next Saturday (and again on Sep 19) you can tour the exhibit with him for a mere $25.

I was impressed by it, but I'm sure my comic book fan friends probably would have gone bananas.

Bob Kane

autograph/sketch books

We stopped at Bart's Books, which is a local institution. Didn't buy anything, but it's got a lot of stuff packed into a crazy space. A house that's been eaten by a bookstore. Books on the exterior walls just stay there, and you're advised to drop coins in a slot to pay for them after hours.

Bart's Books

We did a wine tasting and an olive oil tasting, and came away with bottles of both. And then pointed the car home. PCH was probably not a good choice on a summer beach day, but it was made worse by an accident that shut things down for a bit. Still more interesting than either the 101 or going back the way we came.
essentialsaltes: (poseidon)
All 50 Chapters!

I liked the parts where these old Yehudis tolchock each other and then drink their Hebrew vino, and getting onto the bed with their wives' handmaidens. That kept me going.

A faithful (so to speak) adaptation, and remarkably restrained, given much of his other work. Sure, every woman typifies his ideal proportions, but they mostly have clothes on, and the sex scenes are hardly gratuitous, though the adult supervision warning on the cover is justified.

The pictures force you to slow down, and think about some of the weird stuff going on, and some of the pictures may help to draw the weirdness to your attention. Why exactly is Abraham pretending his wife is his sister, so he can prostitute her not once, but twice? Crumb actually addresses this in his afterword, suggesting that this was some remnant of a hieros gamos-type ritual, in which Sarah plays a role as goddess to cement a relationship with these political leaders. Anyhoo.

Or other things like Jacob and Laban, where the two basically take turns screwing each other (in the business sense), including bonus magic, as Jacob uses striped sticks to produce stripe-y sheep and goats.

I mean, yeah, yeah, Adam & Eve & the Flood is all great, but why don't we ever hear about the animal husbandry of stripe-y flocks?

This sat on my amazon wishlist for a long time. And now I have it so that I can...

✓graphic novel
essentialsaltes: (cthulhu wreath)
An incomplete, long-delayed compilation of our Xmaholisolstizaah cards over the years.

essentialsaltes: (city Hall)
St. Vibiana's, which did NOT get illegally knocked down, is now open as a wedding venue.

More importantly(?), the cardinal's residence is now Neal Fraser's restaurant, Redbird (get it?). Not a lot of info as yet, but he also does the menus at Vibiana.
essentialsaltes: (wingedlionbook)
I've started reading On the Map, and there have been some lovely things, like the Hereford Mappa Mundi, and some awesome work by the monk Matthew Paris. There's a lovely road map by him (the AAA Trip-Tik of its day) that shows the journey from London to Jerusalem in various stages, and there's even some neat little flaps that fold out for more info. And I'm delighted to see that the book/map has been scanned by the British Library, so you can navigate it yourself. Be sure to flip forward a bit to see the map of England.
essentialsaltes: (nazgul)
No, not the film. Aaron McGruder's (and Reginald Hudlin's and Kyle Baker's) comic novel from a decade ago. It sat on my amazon wish list, and then it became unavailable, and then some years passed, and then I bought it cheap on eBay.
Glad I got it cheap, because I found it pretty disappointing. Not very satirical, not very funny, and not very well-executed really... it's clearly a slightly warmed over failed storyboard for a film that was never made. While ordinarily I might curse at a world where Tyler Perry can get greenlit and McGruder can't, I wouldn't have greenlit this either. Perhaps most interesting (in light of recent events) is Hudlin's Foreword describing life in East St. Louis back in the day (and the elements of that that show up in the story) like throwing your trash bags on the roof during a lengthy garbage strike so the feral dogs didn't get at them.

Shadow of Mordor was fun but started to overstay its welcome. I'm not sure whether to feel cheated or relieved that the final final big boss battle is a few "punch the button flashed on screen" kind of exercises that's over pretty quickly. Lots of orc killing fun, and I appreciate some nerd-level Tolkien detail that goes into the story and details.

The gameplay is sort of a ramped-up evolution of the Arkham/Batman gameplay of sneaking and fighting, with added bows and mounted warfare and monsters.

Although I don't know whether it really added much to the experience, I did like the way you could sort of check out the orc's org chart.
essentialsaltes: (arkham)
Dr. Pookie noticed Edwin Henry Landseer's "Man Proposes, God Disposes," painted in 1864. It's quite a striking painting.

Despite the title, the complete lack of tentacles, and being painted decades before Lovecraft's birth, I think there's a hint of the Lovecraftian here, in the illustration of the futility of man in the face of the uncaring universe, even with the benefit of our feeble science, represented here by the telescope. This is not a celebration of the heroism of those who risk their lives in exploration, but a scene of horror at their failure.

The painting depicts the aftermath of John Franklin's last expedition to the Arctic, which led to the deaths of the entire complement of 129. Obviously, "At the Mountains of Madness" also deals with a failed polar expedition, and to make an extremely tenuous connection, the fictional expedition passes Franklin Island, named after John Franklin.

To get even more tenuous, the story also mentions Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, two volcanoes in Antarctica. The mountains are named after the ships used by James Ross in his polar expeditions, and later used by the doomed Franklin expedition. The remains of HMS Erebus have recently been found.

The painting now hangs in a university hall in London, where (on test days) it is covered by the Union Jack to avoid spooking the students.

Recent graduate Michaela Jones was told that a student during an exam had stared directly into one of the polar bears' eyes. Trance-like, the student had then gone "mad" and killed herself - although not before etching the words "The polar bears made me do it" onto her exam paper.

Friendspage breaking giant image back here )
essentialsaltes: (Titan)
A handsome book that mixes art and math. Maor is a historian of mathematics, and Jost is an artist. Together, they fight crime. Er, no. Together, they explain and illustrate a number of geometric (and broader mathematical) ideas. These kind of math/art mashups tend to be kind of lame, but this book has a pretty good batting average of art that does a good job of communicating or exhibiting mathematical ideas. Many familiar faces, from Euclid to Fibonacci to Sierpinski. But also a number of new things to me. Like Steiner's Porism, which would take me too long in words to describe, so I will leave an enigmatic GIF:

And one different way of looking at things. We all know(?) that the stars on the US flag are arranged in alternating rows of six and five. 6 + 5 + 6 + 5 + 6 + 5 + 6 + 5 + 6 = 50.

But if you look at the field at a 45 degree angle, you can see it as a sorta triangle of the odd numbers 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 = 25 (*) stars, sitting on top of the same thing flopped over.

(Teaser PDF with a few chapters.)

(* note in passing -- the sum of the first N odd numbers is N^2.)
essentialsaltes: (Titan)
LACMA has a fine exhibit on German Expressionist film, with lots of behind the scenes production art, stills, posters, and other material. Loops of several films also play in inviting walkthrough areas of the exhibit. You don't feel like you have to stay for the whole show, or that you will annoy anyone by staying a moment and passing on.

Lots of good material on the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Concept Art, Cabinet of Caligari

Die Nibelungen

Dragon from Lang's Die Nibelungen


Trial Scene from M



The Golem, The Blue Angel, Faust, Waxworks, the Testament of Dr. Mabuse...

After the art, a fine meal at Ray's, although the server and the chef paid a lot more attention to a few wealthy donor types. I'm sure it's wishful thinking that the chef would deign to speak with the likes of us, but at least I know what 'sous-vide' means, unlike the wealthy twat you're fawning over. They had a nice menu of drinks inspired by (not German expressionist) films. My Evil Flying Monkey was based on an aviation, natch. The charcuterie plate is just as good as I remember it. And the lamb sausage pizza was fantastic stuff.
essentialsaltes: (NukeHugger)
Scientific American has a remembrance of Martin Gardner [Preview only] on the occasion of what would have been his 100th year.

One detail caught my eye... a story I hadn't heard. In December 1975, 50-something "housewife Marjorie Rice" saw her son's copy of Scientific American, which had Gardner's column on tessellations. Apparently it asked the (open) question of whether there were more pentagonal tessellations of the plane than those known (3 new ones having been recently discovered). Marjorie doodled away at the idea for quite some time, developing her own idiosyncratic notation. To make a long story short, she discovered four hitherto unknown pentagonal tilings of the plane. She contacted Gardner, who put her in touch with mathematician Doris Schattschneider, who verified and publicized the discovery. There are 14 known pentagonal tilings, and one of the others was also discovered by someone inspired by Gardner's column.

It's also adorable that she made art patterns based on pentagonal tilings:

essentialsaltes: (Dead)
This is what 45 looks like.


[For reference, this is what 40 looks like.]

The comment there about 'Sunday was lazy football watching and pizza making' remains fairly apposite, as here is dinner:


Prosciutto, broccolini, onion, olives, jalapeño, capers...

Yes, it was very, very good.

But I do not taunt you aimlessly, (maybe).

As I alluded before, a year from today will mark the completion of my 46th year. Twice 23. 23 years (arguably 92) since the events of 23 Skidoo occurred.

So I officially announce 23 Skidoo Times Two. September 13th, 2015 -- hopefully some of you will survive into September 14th.

This live game is not literally a sequel to 23 Skidoo -- especially since only a handful of people 'survived' -- but I'm certainly open to continuing lines.

My basic ideas...

The setting
Date: 1946
Place: Vienna, Austria
Venue: An auction of rare items and curiosae, much of it no doubt liberated by the vicissitudes of WWII.
Characters: to be written by players, and then adapted as needed by moi.
Primary filmic reference: The Third Man. Not that the game will necessarily be anything like this, but you must watch this peerless film, and thank me later.
Theme: Lovecraftian references will no doubt be present, and possibly of primary importance, but not necessarily overpowering. Postwar malaise. Black Market. Greed. Lust. Wrath. Other Deadly Sins.

The game: theater-style live game. In many ways an ode to the Enigma games of yore, but informed by the past few decades.

The players: I hope and trust, a great many of my friends, old and new, from Enigma, Wyrd Con, and beyond.

The details: In general.... TBA.

And so I ask... who's in? Contact me publicly or privately with your ideas, suggestions, concerns, etc.

In some months a more official announcement will appear, but for now this serves as an announcement of intent.

"Appendix D of The Lord of the Rings says that our New Year's Day (January 1) corresponds "more or less" to the Shire's "January 9", and in standard years our September 14 and the Shire's "September 22" [i.e. Bilbo's and Frodo's birthday] both fall 256 days after that date."
essentialsaltes: (jasmine)
I remember liking the demo a long time ago, so I finally picked up a used copy on ebay. It's sort of a game and anime series rolled into one (I guess they did ultimately create an anime series). You and your plucky squad of vaguely WWI-era soldiers carry out bigger and bigger battles against the enemy. And in between, you click through story elements and movies. The action is sort of first-person shooter/strategy, which is kind of cool. Your squadmates each has a limited amount of action points for movement, and each can only fire a weapon once during a turn. So you have to run for cover, or make sure you end your turn hiding behind your tank, and so on.

The variety of battles is good, but one of the annoying things is that usually there's a stupid trick to a battle that only becomes obvious after you've lost (possibly many times). I think the worst case is one where there are some gun emplacements on a cliff-face that will just kill your dudes as they run up the beach. The trick is that you only place a couple scouts, who can move far & fast enough to avoid the guns, take a poorly defended enemy base, and then use the base to summon the rest of the troops once you're past the guns. Why didn't they do that at Normandy? Anyway, it does teach you the lesson that you don't have to fill up your roster at the start of a battle, which can be a valuable tool.

The story's not terrible, and although Dr. Pookie didn't care for the pastel anime Photoshop-filter look of the artwork, I appreciated that at least it looked different. All told, I liked it, and it's too bad the sequels were made for PSP instead of PS3.
essentialsaltes: (Agent)
@jackiekashian mentioned the Evil Knievel stunt cycle

which I had as a kid. And then I remembered the Smash Up Derby cars, which I loved almost as much.

And then I thought about the little plastic snowflaky-linky things that we'd make 'cars' out of and smash into each other until one of them had been reduced to its component atoms.

These seem to be contemporary Chinese knockoffs, but they get the idea across.

But my GIS ["plastic snowflake link together 1970s lego toy"] also brought me this.
essentialsaltes: (Dorian Gray)
An artist is hired to paint the titular portrait. Added difficulty: he's not allowed to view his subject. They converse for an hour a day with a screen dividing them, and she spins some elaborate yarns from which he will be able, it is supposed, to form a picture that will serve as a model for the portrait. Her violent husband appears from time to time to further complicate matters.

Although I didn't much like The Physiognomy by the same author, this was much better. The story does jerk you around a lot, but at least the setting in late 19th century New York City provides a relatively stable platform. It builds up a nice fantasy-tinged mystery, and then blows all that good will in the last five pages. Bad ending, no cookie.
essentialsaltes: (Quantum Mechanic)
A Mathematician's Apology is an interesting insight into the mind of a mathematician, an investigation of what mathematics 'really' is, and why one would want to mess about with it. It's a relatively brief work, written in 1940 when Hardy was in his 60s and, he sadly concluded, was quite finished as a mathematician. Probably the most famous quote from the work is Hardy's dictum that mathematics is a "young man's game." The edition I have on the Kindle also includes an introduction by CP Snow that is nearly as long as the work itself, and provides a lot more biographical detail, including details of his student life:

Hardy had decided-I think before he left Winchester-that he did not believe in God. With him, this was a black-and-white decision, as sharp and clear as all other concepts in his mind. Chapel at Trinity was compulsory. Hardy told the Dean, no doubt with his own kind of shy certainty, that he could not conscientiously attend. The Dean, who must have been a jack-in-office, insisted that Hardy should write to his parents and tell them so. They were orthodox religious people, and the Dean knew, and Hardy knew much more, that the news would give them pain-pain such as we, seventy years later, cannot easily imagine.
Hardy struggled with his conscience. He wasn't worldly enough to slip the issue. He wasn't even worldly enough-he told me one afternoon at Fenner's, for the wound still rankled-to take the advice of more sophisticated friends, such as George Trevelyan and Desmond MacCarthy, who would have known how to handle the matter. In the end he wrote the letter. Partly because of that incident, his religious disbelief remained open and active ever after. He refused to go into any college chapel even for formal business, like electing a master. He had clerical friends, but God was his personal enemy.

One of Hardy's claims to fame is having discovered the self-taught & idiosyncratic Indian mathematician Ramanujan, who had sent some of his bizarre discoveries to him. "[Hardy] was accustomed to receiving manuscripts from strangers, proving the prophetic wisdom of the Great Pyramid, the revelations of the Elders of Zion, or the cryptograms that Bacon had inserted in the plays of the so-called Shakespeare.
So Hardy felt, more than anything, bored. He glanced at the letter, written in halting English, signed by an unknown Indian, asking him to give an opinion of these mathematical discoveries."

Hardy was soon intrigued, and took the time to puzzle some of out. An interesting detail of which I was unaware is that...

"But I mentioned that there were two persons who do not come out of the story with credit. Out of chivalry Hardy concealed this in all that he said or wrote about Ramanujan. The two people concerned have now been dead, however, for many years, and it is time to tell the truth. It is simple. Hardy was not the first eminent mathematician to be sent the Ramanujan manuscripts. There had been two before him, both English, both of the highest professional standard. They had each returned the manuscripts without comment. I don't think history relates what they said, if anything, when Ramanujan became famous."

Snow also talks of Hardy's abiding love of cricket, and how he (Snow) would have to study up on the latest scores before visiting Hardy, in order to help cheer Hardy up in his later years of illness.

But to finally get to the man himself in his own words, Hardy more or less rejected the idea that the pursuit of mathematics is justified by its technological fruits:

"The mass of mathematical truth is obvious and imposing; its practical applications, the bridges and steam-engines and dynamos, obtrude themselves on the dullest imagination. The public does not need to be convinced that there is something in mathematics.
All this is in its way very comforting to mathematicians, but it is hardly possible for a genuine mathematician to be content with it. Any genuine mathematician must feel that it is not on these crude achievements that the real case for mathematics rests, that the popular reputation of mathematics is based largely on ignorance and confusion, and that there is room for a more rational defence."

He also considered that, even if mathematics was unimportant, it might well be right for those with an aptitude to pursue it. "Poetry is more valuable than cricket, but Bradman would be a fool if he sacrificed his cricket in order to write second-rate minor poetry."

There is virtually no mathematics in the work, but there are occasional allusions to things that were unfamiliar to me: "Farey is immortal because he failed to understand a theorem which Haros had proved perfectly fourteen years before; the names of five worthy Norwegians still stand in Abel's Life, just for one act of conscientious imbecility, dutifully performed at the expense of their country's greatest man." [I haven't the faintest idea what that refers to.]

Getting back to heart of the matter: "THERE are then two mathematics. There is the real mathematics of the real mathematicians, and there is what I will call the `trivial' mathematics, for want of a better word. The trivial mathematics may be justified by arguments which would appeal to Hogben, or other writers of his school, but there is no such defence for the real mathematics, which must be justified as art if it can be justified at all."

And here's one last awkwardly timed prediction: "There is one comforting conclusion which is easy for a real mathematician. Real mathematics has no effects on war. No one has yet discovered any warlike purpose to be served by the theory of numbers or relativity, and it seems very unlikely that anyone will do so for many years."


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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