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It Doesn't End Well For The Kitten

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(no subject)
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This is stupid. People have an a right to believe what they want, even if they are too stupid to evaluate evidence.

It's actually pretty sad that Steyn fired his lawyers, because really, "Steyn is a total moron who has no idea what is or is not true" is their best argument, and it's not one he's going to make himself.

Still, hopefully the judges will figure it out.

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Cranberry nut pie
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Since I've made this recipe like four times this winter, I figure I should probably share it.

Preheat oven to 325.

12 oz raw cranberries
1/3c sugar
1/2c chopped nuts (I use pecans)
Mix and spread in 10 inch greased pie pan

A:
2 eggs
1c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
beat together

B:
3/4c melted butter


C:
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
mix

add B and C alternately to A, stir lightly to combine

pour batter over berries.
bake for 50-60 minutes.

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Call no man happy until he is dead
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I feel like I've said before that I cannot judge a work of fiction until I've finished reading it.

This is probably not actually true. Like, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be happy with Ra, when it finishes. I've read all of Hughes's prior work, and I know that his sense of what is satisfying lines up well with mine. Plus it's sort of made for me -- magic-as-engineering is one of my weaknesses.

Worm just finished.

I found it on Metafilter a couple months ago. I opened it in a tab, then lost the tab for a couple of weeks. When I got back to it, I expected to read about one chapter and then give up. But I was actually totally sucked in, and read the entire thing. The entire thing is long. He's been writing at NaNoWriMo speeds for over two years(!), and thus has ended up with over 1/3 of the word count of the Wheel Of Time. It's not the best writing in the world -- he definitely could use an editor. But it's definitely got a lot that's satisfying. And I don't even particularly like superheroes.

Speaking of superheroes, I found it interesting that as soon as Siberian encountered Clockblocker, I had an immediate, very strong opinion about of how their powers would interact. I was wrong, but it's still weird to have such strong opinions about nonsense physics.

Here's the thing about Worm: ~5/6ths of the way through, something about the cosmology of the universe is revealed that completely and utterly destroys the story. In a shorter work, that would be enough for me to declare it a failure. But with this amount of good stuff, I decided to ignore it and retcon/patch my way around that aspect of the story. And, ultimately, the ending was (ignoring the cosmology) satisfying.

So I'm going to recommend it to those in the mood for a long read, with some trigger warnings: bullying, violence, really really dark.

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The Sparrow
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Cory Doctorow, at one point decided to write a
series of stories with the same names as famous science fiction stories. I was thinking about this recently in the context of PRISM:

"Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it." -Matthew 10:29-3

And of course, there is a very good SF novel titled "The Sparrow" (skip the sequel). So this is my new short story (which has the same title), which I will never write: In 2012, our protagonist is the victim of a crime, and in 2013, she learns about PRISM, and wonders why her attacker could not be caught by these same technologies. That is, if we live in a security state, why are we not secure? If the NSA knows about every sparrow, why do we still have unsolved crimes?

It's not actually true that this maps perfectly on to the problem of evil, because, unlike (a hypothetical) God, we don't necessarily trust that the security state's conception of evil matches out own. But there are some interesting discussions to be had which aren't the usual discussions.

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Random notes on programming
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One:

Time periods: When searching, the time periods now have their upper bound excluded. It will allow us to have a cleaner or more correct dataset. API doc. Credits go to @NovalisDMT for spotting the problem.


Well, actually, thanks to Dijkstra. What's really crazy is this: what if I hadn't happened to read that article? Then would I be doing bounds wrong? Or would I have figured it out anyway? And how many other things have I been doing wrong because I didn't read the right Dijkstra article?

Two:
PCRE: "
The maximum length of a subject string is the largest positive number that an integer variable can hold.
"

Sure, because 2GB should be enough for anyone. It's not like there is a special data type designed explicitly for representing the size of data in memory that is no harder to use than integer.

Oh, look, here's the issue biting someone. (My comment on that bug is not correct; there is a workaround possible. But it will still be a big hassle).

Three:
I added a bunch of code to ag (a replacement for ack). Unfortunately, due to the bug fixes I made, it is no longer faster than ack. Which I guess should not be all that surprising; Perl's regexp engine is pretty well tuned, and most of the time will be spent in regexps or system calls, so there's no strong reason for a C reimplementation to be dramatically faster. On the other hand, ag is now handling gitignore files (and hgignore, etc) more correctly (this is the cause of the slowdown); ack doesn't even bother to try. So, I guess I'll stick with ag for now.

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On the experience of waiting
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Y'all have been following XKCD's "Time", right? If not: Over three weeks ago, XKCD's comic was an image of two people sitting on the ground. The mouseover text was, "wait for it". Every half hour, the image updated (the updates have since slowed to 1 per hour). It is still going. over 650 frames later. Here's a site that's been tracking it. It's not even that it's the best XKCD comic ever -- there are a dozen XKCD strips that I think of on a regular basis, and a few that still make me smile even though I've read them multiple times. But it's such a totally strange way to read a comic. And it's still not clear what the comic is about. Which maybe explains the addiction. I guess that's what people got out of Lost (I haven't actually watched it myself). Or some of why I used to read Hitherby.

But with books, the waiting thing can be totally frustrating. Like, I don't really care when the next _Walls of the Universe_ novel comes out. Because yes, there are things I would like to know about the multiverse, and yes, I believe it will be reasonably diverting, but ultimately, the mystery can wait. Whereas with _The Steerswoman_ series, every time I think of it, I get annoyed that there's not more. And I haven't started the second R. Scott Bakker trilogy because I'm going to be annoyed if I start it and then have to wait a couple years for the remainder. I might even wait until the third series is complete. Then if it turns into the Wheel of Time (which I quit after book 9, but should have quit earlier), I won't have wasted the time.

I don't really have a thesis here -- just some random thoughts.

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(no subject)
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As requested, commentary on another moron doing the right thing for the wrong (stated) reasons.

"Simply put, if The Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn't, and I won't"

This is perhaps even worse than Rob Portman's argument, in that it completely ignores the entire reason why anyone (Nelson included) opposes SSM in the first place.

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Explaining Portman
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sandmantv and thekinginyellow have posted about Rob Portman, but I don't think either of them has it quite right.

sandmantv says "I think there’s too much emphasis on the personal dimension of this." Then he follows up with "Yes this is their personal journey and lots of people have their eyes widened regarding tolerance because of how it touched them or someone close to them. Basic compassion is how liberal morals march on." Which seems to be pretty much saying that the personal dimension is all there is. I don't think that this is how liberal morals are supposed to work, but since I am not a liberal, I guess I can't say for sure.

thekinginyellow says it's about philosophy -- that what matters is getting the right answer for the right reason, and that our society doesn't value that enough. This is closer to right, because a philosophy is how you avoid making the same class of mistakes again. Portman has compassion for gay people now? Great! But he's still got a lot of work to do; he could, for instance, start having some compassion for cancer patients and support medical marijuana (yes, I checked; he doesn't).

I think it's actually all about cookies. Portman did a bad thing for a long time. His actions hurt a lot of people. It's good that he's no longer doing that bad thing. But he hasn't apologized. And he hasn't done anything to fix the problem that he was a part of. He could introduce a bill in the House tomorrow legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. It probably wouldn't pass, but it might shift the debate some. But even if he's a lazy bum, he could at least put his name on a brief. Where are you, Rob? Apologies and reparations matter, because they're the only thing keeping purely cynical politics from being a dominant strategy.

There's also the whole God problem. If you had asked Portman five years ago why he didn't support marriage equality, he would probably have answered with something about God. (You might have had to ask twice in order to get past the meaningless boilerplate "I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman"). So, what changed? Is God wrong? Or did God change his (God's) mind? Or did Portman "pray" and come to this conclusion? And if so, did God tell him something different than he told the next Republican over? Or is the next Republican over just really bad at this whole praying thing? Shouldn't this make Portman question all of the other stuff he thought that God had strong feelings on, like abortion?

This, I think, also explains some of the anger at Portman; he doesn't have to give up religion, but he's got to give up the kind of religion that's about controlling other people's lives. And because he hasn't done that, we simply can't trust him.

Coursera: Machine learning, computer vision
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Context: I dropped out of college after two years, and haven't taken a college course since.

I just finished the Machine learning course from Coursera, taught by Andrew Ng. I really enjoyed it, and I think I learned a lot. I would happily take another course from Ng.

However, my impression of Coursera is that they basically don't give a shit about quality. The videos don't play on Chrome on Ubuntu. There were occasional uncorrected disfluencies -- cases where Ng started a sentence, stopped, then restarted the sentence; clearly, these should have been cut. And the last assignment had two bugs. Neither were showstoppers, but both should have been corrected. And yes, people did point these out on the forums, with no reply from Coursera. If these were the only issues, I would chalk them up to minor growing pains.

However, the Computer Vision course was a clusterfuck. I found myself sitting there while the professor silently wrote things on the whiteboard. This makes no sense -- *software* could have cut that shit out. Or like $50 on mturk, at worst. Also, the pace of the course was too slow by far. In a ten-week computer vision course, you cannot spend the first week proving minor results in geometry (with lines like, "if you remember this from Freshman Physics"). This is really too bad, because I have a really neat computer vision puzzle concept which I would love to know enough to be able to code.

Finally, having completed the ML course (that is, aced all of the review questions and programming exercises that remain open), I think I ought to be able to click a "Get my motherfucking certificate now" button, even though the last video doesn't officially air until next week (they were releasing them a week early), and the last assignment isn't due until like August. I'm done -- let me out of here!

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(no subject)
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"The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, & breeds reptiles of the mind." - William Blake.




I want these motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking brain.

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