Well, since our dear leaders have decided that interest rates (that are exceeding low), and "crowding out", and Very Serious Invisible Bond Traders, which all allegedly come from federal deficits, as opposed to say, the unemployment rate that's up around 9%, it's very hard to find a job. So that's led to thinking about ideas on what kind of job I can make. Now, while I'd much prefer a job saving the world, and doing the stuff I spent years going back to school for, that's not worked so far.

Well, what about starting an engineering company? Well, there's issues there with getting a license, which requires working with already licensed engineers for a length of time, plus getting contacts for jobs, and starting something without a reputation or experience. So for the moment, that's not really looking practical.

Computers? Well, I know them, but I'm not a hardware guy, and I haven't kept up at all with programming languages, network stuff, or anything like that. So I could learn it, but I don't have any of the credentials or experience there.

Working for somebody else in retail sucks, especially in a crappy economy, which is where I'm currently stuck.

So, what kind of retail could I do? Well, the most obvious is a nerd shop, probably comics and games. I worked at a game store for five years, I've been friends with people who ran comic shops, I know both those markets pretty well anyway. And it'd give the possibility of creating a place for people to come and meet and have fun and interact, and that'd be good.

Comic/Game shops are hard, though. They're operating in a relatively small market, comics are non-returnable for little guys, and costs four bucks and up each. That aside, there's also a lot of stereotypes about comic and game shops, like they're essentially some dude's basement. And there really are ones like that. Or just look at The Ferrett's column about his FLGS. There is a comic shop chain here in Savannah, but as their webpage shows, they have a bit of hoarder in them too. Plus there's nothing else to that site besides that page. But the pictures, with the T-Shirts hanging from the ceiling and the confusion, that's not so appealing. The hobby shop I worked in had some of that too. We kept it mostly clean, but it was piled with stuff, especially trains, almost to the ceiling on a lot of shelves. So, obviously, I wouldn't want to do something like that. Running somewhere clean, safe, and welcoming to everybody would be the goal. There's no point in turning away customers by having the store look bad.

The problem there, even in a city like Savannah, with SCAD having its art college with a sequential art series, the market for comics isn't always that big. and the comics don't always help with that. And that's a little scary when looking at opening a shop. Comic stores are always shoestring businesses, which is part of the reason so many end up messy. There's lots of other things out there, and there's lots of TPBs and the like that provide more value for the money, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to try and change all of that. Or if I'd make any money doing it, and not just end up owing even more money when it failed.
You know, I'm almost certain that if better pre-construction investigation had been done, they could have found a better spot to build a hotel, a botique, and a swinging hotspot. A brownfield, or an area needing redevelopment. Both of which would have had better infrastructure and transit, which could have allowed for a smaller parking lot, or completely removed the need to put it up in the first place.

(ref: Counting Crows (cover) and Joni Mitchell (original))
"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors: we borrow it from our children." - David Bower

I've been thinking for a while about knightly orders, superhero societies, and the like. Some of this is likely due to the Order of the Engineer, which we can join as part of our graduation, but it's more than that. I've been trying to think of a, not exactly oath, definitely not a "mission statement" or any of that kind of thing. More what a mission statement or "statement of principles" wants to be, before the marketers and consultants drained all the vitality out of the idea. So maybe it really would be more like an oath, then.

And yes, I know knights were mostly just some aristocrat who had the money to afford a horse and some pikemen to go in the armies of the Crowns, and were mostly NOT the "knight in shining" armor cliche. But it's that image I'm trying to tap into, the symbolism of what the knights tried to present themselves.

The hard part is trying to write one that'd be specific enough to mean something, but broad enough to allow people of goodwill to all get behind it. Which is part of the Death by Committee that happens to Mission Statements. But even so, it's something I'm trying to make.
Man. LJ has a WAY higher ratio of interesting links and stories and knowledge to crap than Facebook. Even once you block all the game spams that somebody grew a squash in Farmville, but needs your help carrying it to the market!
At least we know if the laws of physics were to suddenly change one day, we'd notice, because of the innumerable high school and college science classes replicating basic experiments every day.
"Wait, you thought you could defeat Death by KILLING PEOPLE?"
So I was reading the comments on The Ferret's post about manilness and somebody linked to the website The Art of Manliness, and I clicked over because I was curious, and I was ready to make jokes about it, but then I saw the title bar.

I simply cannot argue with that moustache. That is a truly elegant and wise moustache, and only a fool would dispute with it.

Now I'm actually going to go read the site, but between the moustaches, top hats, and illustrations taken from vintage men's magazines, I get the feeling that these people have their heads on straight enough to not actually take it all seriously, while taking it seriously. Or maybe it just reminds me of David Malki!'s Wondermark.
So, I set up a facebook account a while ago, in part to keep in touch, so to speak, with people I know who'd graduated and such. My opinion so far? It's Twitter and Flickr combined, with a bunch of flash games. But I blocked all the games, especially the annoying ones that spam updates to all your friends, so I could actually see if anything important was going on. Usually there's not. And the "status updates" have a short character limit (thus the Twitter comparison) which makes it nearly useless for long-form blogging, or my didactic explanatory posts. So basically I've used it for things like "So who's doing $thing?" and posting links to neat stuff. For the forseeable future, I don't see it replacing LJ or much of anything, for me.
The Turing Test (Wikipedia) is an attempt to figure out if a computer is actually thinking, by seeing if someone on the other end of a terminal (or some other interface) can tell if they're dealing with a human or a computer. But Neuroscience keeps finding more and more that the way our brains work isn't simple software, it's got to do with many many parts of the brain working together, and emotion is one of the foundations of reason and logic. So, if we create a computer that's intelligent, would the different sensory and processing methods of a computer versus a human make the computer's intelligence too alien to fool anyone that it was a human?

Play This

Apr. 19th, 2010 10:30 pm
Digital: A Love Story is far better than it has any right to be. Go play it now.

If you want, you can read things other people have written, but there may be spoilers in those, especially ones with comments. Or mine, below

Here's the nickel summary. It's a game set "five minutes into the future of 1998" in the heady days of BBSes. You've just gotten your new computer, and it includes a modem, and the friendly local computer shop guy stuck a dialer and the number for the local BBS into it. As a bit of advice, I suggest using your online alias when it asks. Trust me. From there, you explore BBSes, learn to hack and phone phreak, fall in love, and save the world, or at least the Internet. The game is short, a couple hours at most, and well worth it. The puzzles are good at making you feel clever, even when they're objectively not too hard. And you can even get in nerd-arguments about which Star Trek captain is best.

By the time we got a computer with a modem, in all of its 14.4 glory, AOL discs were spamming mailboxes everywhere, and the net was just being "discovered". I've only ever visited BBSes a handful of times, over at a friend's house, where we played Legend of the Red Dragon and dinked around. But the feel of things is very right. Very early internet. I can't really pin down what about the game is so affecting, or why it's stuck with me so much. The soundtrack, the low-res welcome screens, everything about it made it feel right. Part of it is nostalgia, I'm sure, even if it's nostalgia for something that wasn't quite the internet I grew up on, but its ancestor. And the story will probably kick in more for anybody who's ever made those emotional contacts that can come from just letters on a screen.

So I don't know if it's the story itself that's stuck with me, or the recreation of a smaller, more secret, newer, less ad-filled days of the Internets. But whichever it was, at the end of the story, I was honestly sad, and it's kept kicking around in the back of my head in the days since I played it. And that's reason enough to recommend it.
So, I don't even have an RSS reader I use. I used to have one for a while, but I kept not reading things in it. Anybody have suggestions on methods of keeping up with news and site updates and the likes? Plugins, standalone programs, whatever. Maybe I should use Opera and that initial montage of site thing they have. Chrome has something like it too, but I haven't been super impressed by Chrome so far.
When people say "Somebody ought to do something", they forget one word, they mean "Somebody ELSE ought to do something".

We should all try being somebody else once in a while.

(I'm pretty sure the quote, or at least the idea, is from a Terry Pratchett book, and I could almost swear it was Susan's line, but I can't remember the quote or find it on Google, so you get this version)
Somewhere along the line, I seem to have once again become what I was years ago. A space nerd who wants to save the world. Naive? Sure. Idealistic? Duh. But so what? It's better than the alternative. I may not be the astronaut, but I never really figured I would be. Right now, I just want to keep things working well enough that some day, my kids or their kids or however many generations get to reach that glorious dawn. I have a goal, and that beats the pants off just living to make the next payment on $item.
When I was younger, I didn't care much for going to hardware stores. That wasn't the kind of tools and the kind of building that interested me that much. The most fun part for me, as a kid, was the funky panel carts with the bars on them they used to have to carry boards on them. That's started to change, which is to say I've started to change. Partly because my interest has moved on from just computer stuff, which these days mostly requires a screwdriver, if that, to more ambitious goals. And things like making trebuchets, which I blame on Mythbusters. (No, I haven't done it yet. I'll have pictures when I work on it)

Since I got my multitool, I've been carrying it with me most places I go. And I usually find a use for it at least once a day. The little one with scissors, or the screwdrivers, I've even used the can opener...once. But carrying it, there's a lot of times that I wouldn't have done something, but when I have a dozen different tools in my pocket, I can. The other day I fixed a shower head on a hose, because it was broken. It was just held together with three screws, and just needed to be straightened out. But if I hadn't had the tool, I'd probably have just sworn at it and decided to buy a new one, or make do. I probably wouldn't have thought to go get a screwdriver. In a way, it's a method of applied laziness, hacking my own behaviors. Because I know I won't go get something special to work it, but if I have it with me, I will.

And having tools available changes how you interact with the world. Not just because tool use is what separates us from animals (except some apes, and some otters, and some birds, and...) but because 99% of the environment most of us live in was built or adapted by humans. With tools. When you have tools too, you can interact with those parts of the world on the same level, rather than them just being something that's there, and does what it does. Part of that's a matter of mindset too, though. Interacting with the world, as opposed to passively accepting it. Which goes back to my hacker heritage in computers. :)

I'm not sure that I have an actual point here, or that I'm pointing out anything many others before me have, but it's all I've got the time for today.
High school should not be the best days of your life. I'm not sure if it reflects worse on the person or society if high school is really the peak of many people's lives.

100 Years

Nov. 23rd, 2009 04:54 pm
While there's lots of times that looking at something that happened and saying "It won't mean a thing in a hundred years" is helpful, since it lends perspective, I'd really like to do something in my life that would mean something in a hundred years.

Stuck

Nov. 16th, 2009 10:34 am
So I was reading about Nash Equilibrium the other day. I'm sure there's lots of complexities that aren't covered in the wikipedia article, but there was one thought that stuck out for me. It's in the introduction paragraph, so I can't really claim it's a great insight, though I think their example is non-ideal. "However, Nash equilibrium does not necessarily mean the best cumulative payoff for all the players involved; in many cases all the players might improve their payoffs if they could somehow agree on strategies different from the Nash equilibrium (e.g. competing businesses forming a cartel in order to increase their profits)."

It's entirely about local equilibria. Which is an important and valuable tool, in the way that a photograph is an important and valuable tool, but it you draw all your conclusions just from either, you miss an important axis, the changes over time.

It also doesn't work when one or more of the participants aren't aiming at maximizing their whatever. Which is also covered in the article

So, I guess I'm not really adding anything about it, but it's still an interesting article and concept, so yeah.
On further reflection, the idea of dragons means something entirely different in a world with surface-to-air missiles and jet fighters than it would in a world where the longbow is the height of anti-air technology.
The world and the universe are both vast and awesome in size and variety. Leaving aside all of the weird stuff that's implied by extrapolating the laws of physics, and even the weird stuff we've seen and confirmed, hell, leaving aside everything beyond the bounds of the solar system, the world is full of all sorts of interesting and strange things. Just the Earth alone is mind-bogglingly huge (humans seriously suck at comprehending numbers outside what can easily be visualized, that's why we love metaphor so much) there's an amazing variety of ways which people have created to deal with the many and varied repeated tropes of human existence, including all sorts of ways to make really big numbers into something comprehensible.

That's awesome. In the literal sense, inspiring awe. The thing about awe, it can turn into wonder, or fear. Which makes sense, as big awe-inspiring things like avalanches, giant water features, sabertooth tigers, or mammoths used to also be deadly. And still can be, if you're not careful. So I suppose bit of fear is a healthy thing our genes are happy we have.

What I really don't understand are the people who look at this kind of awesome variety and endless possibility, and then pretend it doesn't exist. People who (sometimes more, sometimes less) metaphorically stick their fingers in their ears and shout "LA LA LA LA LA!" Not just like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, which thinks if you can't see it, it can't see you, they think if they don't acknowledge the world, it doesn't exist. Or, at least, it's Somebody Else's Problem Though in many ways, this seems to be a fairly common human trait, it's applicability to aliens is based on extrapolating from a sample of one.

But I guess, what I really don't get is the why. Why someone would chose to treat the awesome wonders of the world as if they didn't exist. Why someone would choose a life that was deliberately smaller, that was deliberately less interesting, that was deliberately full of less possibilities. Maybe fear of the unknown is that strong. Maybe it's the comfort of familiarity. Maybe it's fear of feeling small and tiny and insignificant. I don't know, like I said, I don't get it. I can sort of get my brain to that place, but not really get it.

I am only human, after all, and I can only be shaped by what I know and what I've done. And growing up, the unknown wasn't ever presented as something terrifying and scary. The giant emptiness of space, or the variety of the world wasn't something to fear, it was something to explore.

When it comes down to it, I'm an optimist. Partially by temperament, and partly by choice. I have faith in humanity as a whole, for all the ways we such and fail, we're persistent and bloody clever and can be our better selves. We're not perfect, and probably will be, but we are better than we once were, and we can be better still. We can be smarter, we can be more compassionate, we can be stronger, we can be more just, we can be better. Yes, our monkey brains evolved to throw sticks and stones may eventually be able to comprehend the workings of the universe, or at least come up with better and better models, there's always a twist. So all the weirdness and distance and STUFF out there is something to figure out, something to appreciate, something to discover.

And I guess that's why I don't get the people who want a little universe, with them at the center. I just don't see the point, when there's so much more out there. Imagine if there really where dragons in all those "here"s.
Money is an abstraction created to make it easier for people to measure and trade value, and avoid the problems of barter.

One of the fundamental problems with modern capitalism is it replaces creating value with creating money.

Discuss.

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