opusculus: Digital Devil Saga's Argilla's voring mouthboobs (Cannibal mouthboobs)
2012-01-11 01:07 pm

Salads 101

Lately I've been trying to get the hang of salads. I grew up having salad as the designated side with dinner every night, and there's something about that that makes it come off as really, deeply and sincerely, boring to me. All I ever had, and all I ever did when I took over the family cooking was lettuce + random dressing. BORING. And making the lettuce the main course never quite…worked for me? I always felt weirdly dissatisfied.

But I bring my lunch to work most days, and while I have no problems filling it on days that I cook myself something the night before, I really needed something besides frozen tamales/burritos/chicken pot pies etc. to fill it on the days I don't. So! Salads are something I can do in 10 minutes even if they're a bit on the complicated side, and I have these adorable little sauce thingies that I can use to put my dressing in so it doesn't get all soggy, and therefore they seem like a good solution to that. I like sandwiches more, but I hate pre made sandwiches because they get all soggy and the flavors mix and sometimes it's still fine if I really, really loved the sandwich in the first place but I just don't like them as much. And my usual objection to salads - that they're not filling - is kind of negated by the fact that I pack that lunchbox FULL, dudes. I have breakfast (yogurt with fruit or fruit and cheese, normally), miscellaneous fruits to serve as snacks, miscellaneous chocolate to serve as desserts (Green and Black's Maya Gold is the most delicious thing ever, for the record), miscellaneous cheeses to serve as snacks in case the fruits aren't enough, and maybe a cookie or two just for bonus, and usually in the morning it's kind of bulging out at the sides. I usually don't finish all this, but I like having snacks available and if I don't have fruit available I feel grumpy all day. And there's basically no restaurants nearby that actually serve fruit, which is really great incentive to have it available.

But since I've never actually really made salad, I'm sort of in the process of teaching myself how to make a good salad. So here's a summary of what I've been learning about how to make a satisfying salad from what I have available.

mmm tasty food. )

...I don't know if this is the worst icon for food or the best icon for food.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)
2011-12-30 08:50 am

Igrick's interview on the future of LJ

I found the translation here.

After reading it, I actually found it really fascinating because... 1) it makes me really interested in seeing where LJ goes, and 2) it absolutely confirms to me that moving to DW both personally and voting for CFUD to move was the absolutely right decision in a way very few things could.

LJ's been moribund for a while now, and was and is on the downslide to obsolescence. It was mostly coded...what, a decade ago? And hasn't been significantly updated since. It has some great features! As far as I can tell, there's no other site that isn't based on LJ that is basically focused on the ability to wordvomit on your social network at length and to turn that into a thriving discussion. Nowadays it's tags and followers versus communities and flists, and while I have feelings on that (that come down to I would really like some site someday to give you the option for both, I'm more likely to spend more time in communities because I prefer the social environment that creates), none of them really seem to take tags to their logical full extension for the purposes of actualfax discussion. So to me, the idea of updating LJ to take advantages of all the possible improvements code has allowed for in the last update has the potential to be great.

But the problem as I see it with Igrick's vision for LJ is…well, there's two problems, really. One's on the small scale of how I like the site, one's on the larger scale.

The large scale one is this: It sounds, to me, like he's treating it as a…startup isn't the right word, but I don't know what the right word is. He wants to completely change every last bit of how LJ does business. Paid accounts aren't important any more. Advertising will no longer exist on LJ. The focus on LJ sounds like it will be to get users to pay to make their content rank higher, basically, and that's…in a very small scale I don't mind it? But the way he describes it an entirely new business based on the Livejournal domain with some inspiration from the old one and all the old content, and that doesn't really strike me as the way to revive LJ. Yes, LJ needed a full-scale redesign. But he's throwing out the old business models and completely revamping how the site's actually used at the same time, and… I don't actually think the core of the site was so weak that that is actually necessary, or even a good decision. If he were envisioning adding new ways to use the site, without subtracting the old ones, that would be one thing? But his vision of a revamp is pretty clearly about subtracting features as well as adding them, and generally not quite respecting how people already use the site if it conflicts with his vision, and that's…it's not only drastically increasing the risk, it's pointlessly drastically increasing the risk. Subject lines don't harm anyone. Tweaking the FB and Twitter features so that they were blocked in any locked post doesn't harm anyone, although I'll grant that it takes more work and I have no idea if it would be technically feasible. But from the sounds of it, there's going to be more changes that don't respect the way LJers currently use the service.

And that more than anything is what makes me think that this endeavor is going to fail. Your best bet in an endeavor like this is to keep a close eye on how your customers actually use your service, and respect that as much as possible so long as it doesn't actively get in the way of how you see the future of the site. You have the advantage of the most intimate possible knowledge of how people actually use a large social media site, and a large existing user base, and you should be working to extract every last bit of advantage to that. And Igrick's throwing that away. I actually have immediate family history of someone taking an existing company and completely reworking it working quite well, so I'm really not going to say that it's impossible. But…it's something that should be an absolute last resort. it's basically a well-funded startup with a built-in userbase. Startups, even ones with advantages, have a high failure rate. It's the nature of the beast. Even if they succeed, they're not necessarily going to attract the same target market that LJ formerly did.

And on a more personal level, I don't like it because it sounds like it's heavily emphasizing the broadcast model of social internet sites, which first off isn't my preference, and second off isn't even LJ's strength. If I wanted to broadcast my thoughts to as much of the world as I could reach without caring about discussion, I'd be on Twitter with the popular hashtags and on Tumblr. It's just not what appeals to me.

But more importantly, to me, LJ's biggest strength in the way it's currently designed is that it's both extremely flexible to how people want to use it, and has really strong community-creating features. Tags don't form the same sense of community, as far as I can tell. And I realize Russian users do emphasize the broadcast features of it much more strongly than the LJ side, which is undoubtedly why he's focusing on that in his redesign considering he's coming out of that usage tradition, but…I'm having a hard time believing that the community building features are as unimportant a draw for LJ as he seems to think. He actively doesn't seem to like flocks and communities that are isolated from each other, and that doesn't give me much hope for the redesign to succeed anywhere outside markets where that is completely unimportant to how people use it. And considering most people do use services proffered, I think that's fewer than he thinks.

I'll be interested in seeing how it goes, I suppose! In pretty much the same way I poke around Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr just because I'm interested in how social systems like that work. But at this point my desire to actually use LJ is basically nill. It just doesn't sound like it's planning on turning itself into a site with any draw to me. I was there on 2003, and didn't really think I'd ever fully leave it. But I barely read my flist nowadays, don't respond to anything, and mostly have only stuck on there to play on CFUD. And now that that's moving, I'll probably continue to check my flist and crosspost for anyone staying on there and maybe one or two other things, but that was the last thing keeping it as my internet home.

It's funny, I would have thought that if I was going to have the last of my interest in using LJ killed by anything related to a major wank of theirs, my feelings would have been of profound irritation at very least. Instead, it's disinterest. I guess it's the difference between quitting because I hate what they just did and still fundamentally enjoy using the site, and quitting because it simply looks like it's turning into something that doesn't interest me, and I no longer have any reason to stay.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)
2010-05-17 06:43 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

You know, I would have so much more respect for neuroscientists and biologists who argued for God's hand in the brain and evolution if they'd just make better goddamn arguments. Ignoring creationists hiding behind the thin fabric of intelligent design for now, I just picked up a book on religion and neuroscience and AUGH IT IS PISSING ME OFF SO MUCH AND I'M NOT EVEN THROUGH THE FIRST CHAPTER. (The book is The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary)

Okay first off? He dedicated the first chapter to attacking atheism - no wait sorry materialism because y'know, let's just pick the term for what we dislike with the worst connotations. And y'know, that's not the way to endear yourself to an atheist. Then he's so completely wrong on what most atheists in general tend to believe I have to assume that either a) he's deliberately lying, b) he's so bigoted about atheism that anything said to him by atheists gets filtered through a thick layer of "atheists are materialistic heathens who hate God because they're just that evil", c) he deliberately sought out the most nihilistic atheists he could find as the one true atheists because that's what he believes all atheists believe. I also tend to figure that if you have to start off your argument by attacking other people's beliefs rather than making your point, your point isn't all that strong.

Second off, his arguments so far are really, really dumb. He tried to make a serious argument for the separate nature of the mind and the brain because of an idiom. The fact that we say "I made up my mind to buy a bike" versus "Bike helmets protect against brain damage" doesn't mean anything except that the English reflects the fact that people have historically seen a major gap between the mind and the body. This has nothing to do with science. And...seriously? If you're saying that brain damage doesn't affect the mind and soul, I'm...not really sure how to explain Gage then. I mean, brain damage turned him from a nice young man into a lying lazy asshole who didn't give a damn about anyone but himself. That would seem to reflect on his soul, wouldn't it?

Third off, what I've seen so far of neuroscience is...not incorrect so much as ignoring the mechanics behind it in order to presume that the soul causes changes in the brain. I will note while I am an avid reader of anything neurosciency I can get my hands on because I find it fascinating, I am not a neuroscientist so I could be wrong here. But this is my understanding of how the brain and neuroplasticity (which is the term for brain changes) works.

Think of the roads in your town. You can ultimately get from any point in town to any other point in town, but there's basically an infinite number of pathways you could take. However, some of these paths are a lot easier to go through. There's been a lot of people through there, so the road's a lot wider and it's paved nicely and the brush is kept off the roads and everything. Then there's older, more worn down roads that are basically dirt and gravel and there's bushes overhanging the road and if you go through there, your car's probably going to get scratched up a little. But you theoretically can. It's just a little more difficult. And if you do decide to go through that worn down road, then you'll widen it just a little more and make it a little easier to go down next time. And if you keep going down it long enough, eventually that road will the new Main Street, with paved surfaces and three lanes and everything.

Those roads are neurons, as you've probably figured out. By the time you're an adult, these pathways are relatively established and very hard to change significantly. However, it is possible! Everyone's doing it to some extent all the time, when they learn and think new thoughts. This is what the author's talking about when he talks about "People who suffer from phobias can reorganize their brains so that they lose their fear". Or like...your morning routine. Most people have a fairly set routine that they don't really want to change. This is a pathway you've created in your brain to do this in this order without really needing to think about it much because the pathway's so ingrained. But you still can. I recently forced myself to completely redo my morning routine into something more efficient by cutting out my computer time. It just takes effort until you've gotten the pathway a little more well-trodden.

But to me, saying that the mind as a separate entity is necessary to initiate these changes in the brain just doesn't make any sense to me. It might if you lived in an isolation tank, I suppose. But people encounter new stimulus every day, and the brain responds to that stimulus by making new connections and reorganizing. Or it might make sense if the pathways didn't in some sense already exist and needed some kind of divine intervention to connect them. (Wow, that would be...a lot of divine intervention. Seriously.) But every neuron inside your brain is already physically connected to every other neuron, if indirectly, so it shouldn't take some kind of self outside the brain to strengthen these connections.

I mean, I suppose there's a chance that he'll make some really good arguments in the future as to why this could be so! I hope so, at least. I pick up these books in hopes of them making a good argument, damnit, and I don't want to be out $15 for this book if the quality of his arguments remains the same. But so far, I am so not impressed.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)
2010-05-16 11:11 am
Entry tags:

The facts of the MZB case

So I wrote the other day's ramble back when I was just realizing what exactly had happened, and as such it's rambly and unfocused and more "huh, rethinking things now" than establishing what all happened back then. And I wanted to write out the actual tale of what happened with the Marion Zimmer Bradley case out while my mind's still fresh from looking it up and I can still dig up most the links for my own future reference. As far as I can tell, no one's just written out the whole series of events in one place before, and trying to find out everything that happened is a pain in the ass, even with fanlore's help. (By which I mean half of the links in here I stole directly from there.)

I will note that I am not personally acquainted with anyone involved; I am relying solely on publicly available information to put all this together; and there's a whole lot of conflicting information on this case out there. I tried to rely on sources that had a direct relationship with MZB or the fan during this time period and otherwise reliable sources and ignore the 8th hand reports, but I am still almost certainly dead wrong on some aspects, and I have no idea which ones. There's also just a ton of stuff I have no idea about. Who brought in the first lawyer? How similar were the ideas? How incapacitated was MZB by her stroke? Hell if I know. All I can do is reconstruct the events as they happened as best as I can from the publicly available information. I'm just tired of having the only side written out in public are variously garbled versions of MZB's, since only having one side of a complex and contentious issue speak in public is always going to give you a bad answer.

(And in regards to the other MZB scandals I found while looking it up, I'm just going to say wow. Seriously.)

Cut for length )
opusculus: Black hole (Default)
2010-05-01 03:25 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

So, I got an iPad as a belated Christmas present! And I really kind of embarrassingly love it. It's shiny and useful and has all these neat bells and whistles and it's pretty and fun to read things on and. Yes. I am kind of a dork don't judge me.

But one of the things that was going through the back of my head when browsing through the app store was "...This thing is designed to be a prosthetic brain." And that requires a bit more explanation! One of the things I've noticed when dealing with a few people I know who have smartphones and tend to use them to their full capacity is that they basically use them prosthetic brain. They use them to store vast quantities of information and allow them to look it up at the drop of a hat, without having to burden their brain with storing it. My brother is particularly bad about this, to the point where if I eat dinner with him, he's grabbing it out to support his point at least three times during it.

But smart phones aren't really designed for this! They're stuck in the form factor of a phone, and that's not really the ideal form factor for this. Both the phone factor and the brain prosthetic aspect are hurt by this. I can't figure out how to answer the average smart phone in the time it takes to ring. (I am, admittedly, REALLY BAD with phones.) And they look awkward to use and I just don't really see the appeal. But they're also not really the best form factor for a prosthetic brain device either. I can't even count the number of times my brother's told me to look at a picture of something on his cell phone and I've gone "Uh, bring it closer, can you turn the brightness up" etc. And trying to do anything for more than ten minutes...it's just too small. I can't imagine ever feeling comfortable.

Meanwhile, netbooks lose out from the other direction. They're not intuitively designed for one, but more importantly they take a lot longer to boot up. When you're grabbing out your prosthetic brain device to bolster your argument or show someone the perfect couch, the last thing you want to do is wait. And they're pretty much designed around the "browse the internet" model which is a lot of what people want out of something like this, but it's not all of it.

And you can tell just looking through the app library that that's where a lot of apps are going directly towards. You can track your period on your iPad. There's multiple software designed for personal information management database type stuff. There's maps, there's encyclopedias, there's Spanish lessons, there's medical reference stuff, there's weather stuff - it's all the information you want to keep track of but can't organize or can't remember or can't fit it all into your head.

Reading through the press on this, its brain information access utility seems to have gotten somewhat overlooked. Those who go near the topic dismiss it as "but since it's too big to carry in pockets, it'll never be a replacement for my smartphone." To which I say, dude, if you haven't noticed, probably fifty percent of the population carries around bags all the time. (It's amazing how many tech writers are men, really.) If you're already carrying a purse around, suddenly the iPad's form factor makes a shitload more sense. I mean, I'll be thrilled the day they have a flexible screen that can be folded into your pocket, because I don't really like purses that much myself. But that doesn't mean that something this size doesn't make a shitload more sense for most smartphone uses than the average smartphone.

So basically the only way this could be more awesome is if you could directly implant it into your head and access all this information in your brain. I'm totally waiting for the cyborg revolution, guys.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)
2010-04-21 12:36 pm

(no subject)

Because the way to start a new journal is totally to essay at ridiculous length, right guys?

I actually got around to watching Black Lagoon the other day. It's really a pretty fun and awesome action series if you don't mind it getting a tad overheavy on the nihilism on occasion, and it made me want to ramble on strong female characters and why Simon R Green's skeeves me out while I like Black Lagoon's when in some ways the dynamic is very similar.

Simon R. Green, if you don't know him, is a noir sf/fantasy author who consistently writes very strong and very crazy women, who are generally kept saneish by a mild-mannered male partner. Black Lagoon is filled to the brim with very strong and very crazy women, generally kept saneish by a mild-mannered male partner. At a quick summary, they're very similar and it should be pretty obvious what I find problematic about it.

Giant ramble about gender roles in Black Lagoon and Simon R Green's work goes here. Mild implied spoilers for Black Lagoon )