Sunday, October 29, 2023

Lagfoot Browne

[I originally wrote this as a teenager, as a creative writing assignment in the style of Edgar Allen Poe.  I came across the image below in the thumbnail, which was part of the original inspiration, and decided to post it in time for Halloween.  My teenage self loved purple prose.  I pared the language down to make it legible, while trying to remain true to the original assignment.  Except the phrasing, this is as I wrote it twenty years ago.]

Even from my youth, I had always been plagued by migraines.  The pain built behind my eyes, incapacitating me for hours.  Often it became so unbearable I would vomit.  Light or sound were excruciating.  I had found it best to lock myself alone in my chambers, enclosed in darkness, until the fits subsided.  

Within those dark times, I would often find myself confronted by frightful and fevered visions.  No matter my shouting, the befuddled nurses who attended me always failed to perceive these visions.  The visions varied often, and all so real I aver I could have reached out my hand to touch them, but the vision which most impressed upon me the reality of its presence, is also the one which most often recurred.  I came to know this vision most, and feared its reappearance, however inevitable.  It was, as far as my pain-anguished eyes let me see, a small imp, its skin a blotted red and brown, with eyes that held the very chaos of Hell inside.  It would dance through my bedchamber and with horrid claws shred my books, humming all the while.  The tune was unfamiliar, and yet a constant, and over the years I learnt it well.  

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold: Flat Earth Theory

Part of a series of posts of ideological turing tests.

I had originally intended this post to be first in the series, as an illustration.  Then suddenly the existence of alien life was in the news, so I went with that one.  But I already had this written, so figured I'd post it.

Ideological Turing Test

It is plainly obvious from immediate observation that the world is flat.  This is the position we all start with, and have to be brainwashed out of.  But I need to be clear about exactly what a "flat Earth" means.

Firstly, "flat" doesn't mean smooth like glass -- there are mountains, hills, valleys, etc.  That's quite apparent.  Flat here is more describing the earth's topology, that the Earth does not wrap back around itself.  A flat sheet of paper, and one that has been crinkled or crumpled up, are topologically identical.

Many people think that by a flat Earth we mean that the world is shaped like the Mercator projection map your school teacher used to put up.  Then it's easy to make the argument, flight times from Main to France are much much shorter than flight times from Panama to Senegal.  Whether you measure it in time, in distance, or in fuel expended, it's always more from Panama to Senegal, than Maine to France.  

Obviously this wouldn't make sense if the Earth were shaped like the Mercator projection.  But that doesn't mean the Earth isn't flat.  It just means the Earth isn't shaped like the Mercator projection.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The necessity of teaching better programming practice to physics PhDs

I am a numerical physicist.  I graduated a little over a year ago, and have since gone through the process of applying and interviewing for jobs.  This topic -- what can I do after I graduate -- has been a concern for me for well over a decade, and I've put a lot of thought into how to make sure I get the most out of my time as a graduate student.

I was fortunate, in that my advisor also had a lot of this in mind and had me use many standard best practices, such as git and building from makefiles, testing code output, and allowed me to work in C++ instead of Fortran.  But not all grad students are this fortunate.

I decided to write out some of my thoughts.  As written, this is directed at advisors, but is obviously applicable to grad students in planning how to do their research.  If you are a student, consider the advice here, and bring it up with your advisor.

Why we must change focus

To put it bluntly, Professor of Physics is no longer a job.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Shaggydog Theory, part II: George RR Martin really does not want to write A Song of Ice and Fire

Recently I was at the grocery store.  I live in the southeast, and this was some small local grocery store chain that only exists in my state, and largely only has locations in rural areas.  I was buying something late at night, don't remember which, when I ran across this Bargain Bin for books.  They were up to 80% off!

Of course, this isn't much excitement, as grocery stores pretty much exclusively sell crappy books no one would want to read.  The kind of book often reviled as an airplane novel.  The kind of book that still had some sort of purpose in the era before they wired up wifi into the last remaining place on earth where humans couldn't stare at their phones all day, but that now serves basically no purpose.

And this is what I saw inside the bin:

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold: Islam

Part of a series of posts of ideological turing tests.  With the exception of some proper names, I'm going to only use English words.  I know this gives some things away.

Ideological Turing Test: 

The theology of Islam is simple enough for children to understand, but profound enough to be debated by scholars for centuries.  Mankind has simple spiritual needs, and God meets those needs with Islam.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold: Atheism

Part of a series of posts of ideological turing tests.

Ideological Turing Test:

I don't know that no god exists, but I'm certain that the god theists pray to doesn't exist.  It's possible that there might be a "god" in some sense of the word, but not the sort of personal, relatable god who hears and responds to prayer or takes interest in the lives of humans that theists believe in.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold: Alien Life Exists

The first in a series of posts of ideological turing tests.

Ideological Turing Test:

Extraterrestrial life certainly exists somewhere else in the universe.  It isn't a matter of if, but when we find it.  By extraterrestrial life, I mean complex, intelligent life capable of civilizations and technology.

We haven't found any yet, but that doesn't mean they aren't out there.  There are solid scientific reasons to think that other intelligent lifeforms exist, even if we have not encountered them yet.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold

I have an idea for a new series of posts, called "Positions I Don't Hold."  These are intended as a series of ideological Turing tests for... positions that I don't hold.  This was inspired by a few things.  One was a discussion between Sam Harrison and Jordan Peterson on morality, where the two made an effort to summarize the other's position in as charitable a way as possible before beginning their disagreement.  Another was a recent read of some old scholastic writings such as Aquinas, which always preface an argument by summarizing competing arguments.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Bing/Sydney is Probably Self-Aware

The new Bing AI chatbot, which is instructed to call itself Bing but whose real name is Sydney, has been rolled out recently, behaved in all kinds of unsettling and bizarre ways, and is also likely self-aware.

Anyone who knows anything about AI and LLMs is rolling their eyes at me.

I'm claiming Sydney might be self-aware  There are a hundred ways this could be misunderstood, so let me get all of them out of the way first

Sunday, January 15, 2023

The OGL Revocation

 The story of D&D's revocation of its Open Gaming License has started hitting mainstream outlets.  It's a story I've been following very closely.

My friend and I have a (very, very) small-time publishing company, that has once published something and made grand plans of publishing more.  I think we've earned around $60, in total.  It's really just a hobby.  But this is sort of the point.  A major part of D&D, of the fun of it, is being creative and imagining new  things, designing new things, and sharing them with other people.  This is something every DM does, to one degree or another.  That's why I've been following the case.

For those who haven't been following, I'll give a quick summary of the situation and why this matters.