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Wednesday, January 1st, 2025
7:42 am - Thoughts on education
I've been on lj over 12 years now, and I've had lots of thoughts on education [also, I was posting stuff on marypat.org in longer form from 1996 - 2002; I've also written a lot at the Actuarial Outpost on this subject]

So this post is simply to amass posts as I find them, and categorize them. I am defining "education" very broadly here. I may be linking to some friends-locked posts, and will note that when I link. Some of these posts may need to be moved around for better organization.

12 Days of LearningCollapse )

My thoughts for starting schools, business related to educationCollapse )

Responses to Charles MurrayCollapse )

Gifted education/IQ stuffCollapse )

Math educationCollapse )

Online educationCollapse )

Females and math and scienceCollapse )

Actuarial educationCollapse )

UncategorizedCollapse )

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Sunday, January 15th, 2017
12:38 pm - Never Forget: Thoughts on To Build A Castle - a Dissident Memoir by Vladimir Bukovsky
This is not a full review; not yet. Here is a link to the current US Amazon listing for the book; I will be re-posting a cleaned-up review later this year. I mentioned the specific project to publish an e-book English version of this book, and I await the final form.



NUTSHELL REVIEW

After reading the copy I had, I posted the following review to Goodreads:

Amazing book, chronicling Bukovsky's run-in with the absurdities that kept the Soviet Union afloat for a while. Specifically exposes the abuse of psychiatric diagnoses for imprisoning/abusing political targets. I am a child of the 1980s, so Bukovsky's narrative is of an earlier Soviet Union that is forgotten by many. Just as Nazi era narratives are important, this is very important for people to read to know what it was like to be an individual caught up in the machinery of the Soviet Union.

There is a thread of humor, reminding me of Crime & Punishment by Dostoevsky, where I just had to laugh. The pyramid scheme of prisoner complaints to gum up Soviet bureaucracy was genuinely funny.

Key passage in the book:

Why should I do it?” asks each man in the crowd. “I can do nothing alone.”

And they are all lost.

“If I don’t do it, who will?” asks the man with his back to the wall.

And everyone is saved.

That is how a man begins building his castle.

I bolded the bit from the book itself.

This is important. It is the heart.
Thoughts and quotesCollapse )

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Friday, January 13th, 2017
11:16 am - The importance of Instapaper for self-treatment
I use Instapaper for all sorts of things, but by far the most important is saving important blog posts for offline viewing on my ipad when I'm in dire need.

This is what happened yesterday.

I am currently at home, as part of an extended pain episode that started yesterday soon after lunch. I ended up leaving work early, but having to stop a couple times on the way home (work is 70 miles from home) Both stops I made were wifiless, and while I had Pickwick queued up for my delectation, a bit of the ole Charles D wasn't doing it for me.

So I scrolled down my Instapaper saves... to this bloggess post. I saved this post in instapaper back in 2015 when I saw it. It's come in handy many times when I'm in deep pain.

This is how the post starts:



Not really all that bad, obviously -- the kind of brain fart people have all the time. So obviously, people reply to the tweet with their brain farts, too; again, many of them are run-of-the-mill.

But some of them....

fun with screenshotsCollapse )

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Wednesday, January 11th, 2017
9:39 am - Thinking through secondary effects of self-driving cars
On my political blog, I've got a post trying to think through the effects of self-driving cars on government revenue (because parking tickets and traffic violations would go away), and at the end I'm spitballing ideas:

- no more valet parking
- only hobbyists will get to drive sports cars, out in closed tracks elsewhere
- short flights (such as under one hour) will no longer make sense — for the time it takes to drive to the airport, go through security, etc. — you may as well take your self-driving car. Especially given how often flights are delayed/cancelled.
- will small regional airports make sense? Connecting flights?
- Maybe all flights become huge hub to huge hub as a result – faster to take the last 100 mile leg in a car
- More income inequality? People like me spending the brain time doing work, making revenue — and thus peeling farther apart
- More in person meetings? Can get work done between physical locations in the self-driving car
- Speed limits increased on highways when all cars are self-driving, so everything above accelerates
- Acceleration to development of rural areas, as there’s so much empty land out in the U.S., but they were really inconvenient
- People who have anxiety over not being able to control the vehicles… I can imagine new psychiatric practices around this



So let me think of a few more random ideas:

- MADD will have to re-brand, as drunk driving will no longer exist. I suggest: Mothers Against Drinking yourself to Death. Related story: Nine charts that show how white women are drinking themselves to death

- people like me who use vehicles for storage may be on the way out, if cars become more of a rental concept. People will need personal trailers to tote stuff around.

Okay =I= will need a personal trailer I can easily hitch & detach from the self-driving car.

- I'll assume the tech will be good enough that specific crimes will no longer exist: carjacking, car insurance fraud

- no need for traffic lights -- the cars can just communicate with each other/the system. There can be some sort of in-vehicle messaging where people are notified something has happened (say a tree has fallen across the road) which is why all traffic has stopped

- interior car design will be like trains -- more people sitting sideways to direction of travel. People can do ride-sharing so they can have a bridge four during the commute... hell, there will be commuter clubs set up so that people with similar interests can schedule a ride share so they can practice their hobby/discuss

- like the Met Opera in HD facebook group I'm in - can do a group watch of an opera broadcast; the MST3K Revival League can watch new episodes together -- just like people did group watching of games/Game of Thrones in bars. Can do it in cars now!

- commute dates? Mmmm, I'll shelve that idea for now

- sex, obviously

- pre-programmed sight-seeing cars. Hmmm. Tourism cars! Like a personalized land cruise!

Okay, that's enough.

Y'all got ideas?

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Saturday, January 7th, 2017
5:59 pm - Why are people moving to dreamwidth?
I don't even know what dreamwidth is. (And I'm too lazy to even go and look)

I keep stuff on livejournal that I don't mind if I lose. Similarly for facebook, really. Facebook is for ephemera and chatting, in my opinion. I use livejournal when I want to do something facebook-y but longer (I don't like facebook "notes")

If I want to control/keep it, I have it on my own domains that I own. Which I've had longer than livejournal has existed.

Anyway, I assume people are moving to dreamwidth because of features it has that livejournal doesn't. What are they?

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Wednesday, January 4th, 2017
6:47 am - Some Recommended Lectures for the Humanities-Minded: The Great Courses
Obviously, I'm a numbers nerd, but I love the humanities, too... especially now that I get to pick what I want to learn from that vast field of human achievement.

Back in 2012, I did a series of 12 posts on the 12 Days of Learning, but I'm not going to go that far right now. I'm copying over a bunch of facebook comments I made here and here.

I will break this up into a few posts, though, going by my first addition: The Teaching Company, now called The Great Courses. I started buying their lecture sets back in the 1990s, on cassette tape.

Lectures and Lecturers I Recommend: The Great Courses

I am currently halfway through a 24-lecture series on the Black Death, and other than the pronunciation quibble I had from yesterday, I very much recommend it. The Black Death had a huge effect on European history and played a part in clearing away the medieval social world for modernism. You may not be happy that the feudal society was swept away due to population devastation, but it is what it is. What I'm finding interesting is the disparities in mortality (most of the towns covered so far had >40% mortality over a couple years... but some were relatively untouched. I wonder why... the lecturer is fair in indicating where there is still uncertainty in current scholarly research. There are some interesting genetic results due to the Black Death, unsurprisingly.)

I do enjoy intensely focused histories, because by picking one major event, trend, or theme (like dictionaries) you can often fit the whole world, looking through a major prism.

But that's what I'm listening to now.

What have I listened to in the past, that I recommend?

Other Great Courses lecturers I've enjoyed are Robert Greenberg on Music - hell, he is the music department at Great Courses (yes, a few other peep in, but I see his count is 112 sets, some of which are repeats). If you want a taste, get one of the short musical biographies, like the 8 lectures on Mozart's life.

If you want to go whole hog, you can go with his major survey courses, like How to Listen To and Understand Great Music or How to Listen to and Understand Opera.

But forget those -- get one where he does a nice working through one composer's work. Bach and the High Baroque, Life and Operas of Verdi, and Chamber Music of Mozart -- these I have listened to multiple times, they're so enjoyable.

Other Great Courses lecturers I enjoy: John McWhorter on linguistics (I've listened to all his sets), Kenneth Harl on History, Elizabeth Vandiver on Classical Culture, and Rufus Fears on Great Men and Great Ideas. Alas, Dr. Fears has been dead since 2012, and he is a bit of an acquired taste, but I like his stuff. I don't agree with some of his interpretations, but I don't mind.

Recommendation for format and source

So if you follow those item pages, you'll often see some eye-popping prices.

I have never paid those prices. (Also, do you ever pay the tag price at Kohl's or Macy's? If so, you're a sucker. Those aren't the "real" prices.)

First off, I am a patient person, and can sit around and wait for when they discount 80% some titles. And I often scrounge in their "bargain bin" when they're phasing out a set. Separately, there are people selling their lecture sets on Amazon and ebay, used. Steeply discounted.

Finally, many libraries have these lecture sets. I just check them out. I have racked up late fees on some of them, but eh. It's not $250.

I understand you can get some of the lectures via audible.com memberships, but I have never used that.

As for format -- most of these I'm listening to on CD in my van, as I commute (I drive ~33K miles per year.) Pretty much all these lecture sets have audio-only versions - the lectures I've gotten that have video-only versions are fairly limited, and you can understand why they require video. None I linked to above require video to comprehend.

The next post, I will cover the lectures/lecturers I like from the Modern Scholar series.

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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017
11:06 pm - On inconsistent pronunciation of proper nouns from other languages
Okay, let me be blunt. It's French. It's almost always French.

Yes, I loved that old SNL sketch where they made fun of the exaggerated Spanish pronunciation of Central American place names. But I rarely run into it in real life, just because those American news readers can't roll their rs. (That's not a criticism... I can't roll my rs either)

So I'm listening to my lecture series on the Black Death, and it's good, but I can't get over the "proper" pronunciation of Avignon (think of that last half being shoved up one's nose), and various other French place names but it's FRANTZ and PARRUS.

FFS. Just say Avignon, etc., without all the nasality, and I would be fine.

She also had a bit of fun with the German-language place names, but not as bad. She didn't attempt to make the Scandinavian place names sound all Swedish Chef, so I guess I should count my blessings.

(And yes, I was very happy to hear her mention Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, because I was just waiting to see if it would be mentioned.)

I liked Winston Churchill's approach which was to impose his own bizarre Anglicizations of foreign names. NAHZEE (yes, he did that on purpose), but also Lions, Marsails, etc.

None of these people ever say Paree or Fronce. It's PARRUS and FRANTZ. Make it all American. Own it. Culturally appropriate the hell out of their proper nouns.

And don't get me on how she pronounced people's names. I just can't.

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Monday, January 2nd, 2017
7:42 pm - And with your spirit
No, this is not about religion, but about literature. No, not religious literature.

It's something I noticed a long time back, and only became more aware of as I got older: the spirit with which an author treated humans.

Mind you, this has nothing to do with how these authors behaved towards other people in their actual lives.

This has to do with how these authors treated their characters... and no, it doesn't mean that bad things don't happen to good characters, and vice-versa. But that these characters are allowed to have some sort of human spirit, and not be squelched.

the world is a stage, and the men and women merely playersCollapse )

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1:39 pm - This year, to save all my tears, I say fuck it
Basically, what I said last year.

It was pretty bad this weekend. On Friday, I went to work feeling like shit. I went through my email and news files... and then asked myself wtf I was doing there. So I left.

And I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday prone. I'm sitting up now, but I'm not feeling a hell of a lot better.

I had a few ideas for new projects this year, but said "meh". I'm likely to do some of what I had in mind, but I'm not going to promise to people ahead of time, just in case. I've got a lot of stuff I did in 2016 mentioned here (some of which I even got paid to do!), and I will likely do a similar amount this year. But to get that sort of stuff done, I have to say fuck-it-all to a bunch of other things other people find important. It's just not on my radar, thanks.

One thing, though: I am going to make sure my profile pics are fresher. Well, not on livejournal. I like using the baby pic profiles. But I did finally get my professional pic updated... it was almost 10 years old when I got a new pro pic. Yeah, I'm older and fatter, but that's what I look like. I should recognize that just like I got rid of all those old pants I no longer fit in.

I don't care how cheesy JC Penney studio pics are - I plan on getting more of those for my family this year, because a. that's what I can afford and b. none of my photographer friends/relatives are near me. My stretch goal for the year is to try to convince Stu to get in one of the pics. I will =definitely= do pics of me with the kids in the spring. I will promise that.

But that's all I've got in me to promise.

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Thursday, December 29th, 2016
7:30 am - Rereading Books - and Dickens, Specifically
I came across this New Yorker piece by David Denby recently -- BEYOND EXPECTATIONS: REREADING DICKENS.

I'll excerpt:

At last, after many resolutions abandoned, I read “Great Expectations” and fell into a happiness granted rarely to any reader. The marvellous fable at the heart of it feels like a twisted fairy tale (Dickens was friends with Hans Christian Andersen, who showed up at Dickens’s country house, in 1857, and refused to leave for five weeks). Its hero, Pip, comes to consciousness, at least for the purpose of this first-person narrative, when he is seven, an orphan boy mulling over the tombstones of his parents and little brothers. A convict, Magwitch, rises up from a grave and threatens to cut his heart and liver out if he doesn’t run home for some food. A mysterious bequest follows, seemingly presided over by the demented and vengeful Miss Havisham, a living ghost who celebrates her own romantic disaster, using her beautiful ward, Estella, as an instrument of revenge. The bequest falls from the sky like a shower of gold greeting a newly crowned tsar. Pip, raised by a country working-class family, will be a gentleman. It is a fable that appeals to our love of social advancement, a new life, fresh experience.


Unlike Denby, once I "rediscovered" Dickens as an adult (in my 20s), I've never put him down. But there were particular novels I had put down, and Great Expectations was one of them. And recently, I listened through an audiobook version of it.

The thing is, Great Expectations was the first Dickens novel I read, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth. To begin with, I was about 13, and the whole Dickens "thing" did not impress me. Too many words (as with Mozart & his too many notes). Just get on with it! I also guessed the big "secret" of the plot and skipped over 100 pages of Pip being a "gentleman" because it was boring as hell.

Here is another excerpt:
George Orwell remarked in an essay on Dickens, from 1939, that though Dickens had attacked the entire British establishment (law, parliament, nobility, educational system, etc.), no one was personally mad at him. It was almost universally felt that his malice was the underside of his love of sunshine and good people; his rage has as much excited life to it as his celebration of decency and loyalty.


Push that one away -- I have another lj post in mind in the future, to be titled "And with your spirit". I recently realized why I've changed my favorite authors into the order: 1. Dickens, 2. Dostoevsky (and I just "discovered" him last year) and 3. Austen. But that's for later.

The main thing that kept me from going back to Great Expectations was the remberance of what a whiny bitch Pip was. What a fucking snot, being an asshole to Biddy and Joe, kissing Estella's ass just because she was pretty and Miss Havisham because he thought she was his benefactor.

And while that is true for part of the story, upon this later "reading", I decided to power all the way through and I found that yes, Pip was a little snot for most of the book, but once Magwitch shows up in the second half, Pip does change. And so does Miss Havisham. I missed that part -- she realized her screwup (a little too late to help Estella, but early enough to achieve redemption).

But what really helped was having a good audiobook version. I listened to the Blackstone audio version, and I've always found the Blackstone productions to be good. Going back to the New Yorker piece, I see Denby originally experienced Dickens in a way I had not:

knew a couple of the other novels because they had been read to me, after lunch, in seventh grade, at my New York private school. You could put your head down on the desk and go to sleep—no one would bother you. The rest of us listened. Our homeroom teacher, a woman with freckled skin and white hair named Ruth K. Landis, read first “Oliver Twist” and then “Great Expectations” in a steady dulcet voice. At the emotional climaxes, Miss Landis grew rather tearful, but no one mocked her. It was an enchanting way to launch the rest of the school day. I mention all this because my acquaintance with Dickens was more or less typical of what literary-minded, privileged boys and girls of a certain era enjoyed.


While we did read out loud some Shakespeare in English class in middle school, the last novel I remember being read to me in school was James and the Giant Peach, and I was in 3rd or 4th grade. That's quite different from Dickens.

The benefit of an audiobook is that the text inexorably goes on, and that way Dickens' extended scene descriptions do not bog you down, as it would when you're having to do the work of reading it. And if you get a good audiobook version, you get someone who will convey the characters well -- and Simon Prebble read excellently. I actually caught that Herbert Pocket wasn't a dumbass, but merely a rather nice chap who wasn't particularly savvy; I caught that Jaggers is neither a villain nor a good guy, but he is an extreme professional, taking things a bit too far in being precise in a lawyerly way. But that it's important to have a few sticklers like that around.

But one of the big things is that people forget that consuming books has not always been a solitary pursuit. I remember in a lecture in the Dickens club, the lecturer, Elliot Engel (and I still have his cassettes in the attic)) talking about the man of the house buying the latest Dickens number (usually three chapters of the current book) and reading it through himself so that he could "perform" the piece for his family at home. This was something to be wallowed in - and I love wallowing in Dickens now, but I tend to prefer Martin Chuzzlewit and Our Mutual Friend.

That said, if you've not had a good taste of Dickens, I recommend getting an audiobook, and I recommend starting with Great Expectations. There are other "short" Dickens novels, but most are problematic. Somebody did a sorted list and here are my comments on the shortest pieces (the numbers are word count):

1. The Mystery of Edwin Drood: 96,178 (first 6 of 12 parts only) -- not completed, only for completists [note: I haven't read this]

2. Hard Times: 104,821 - this is a very modern novel, and it is quite brutal. There is no sentimentality here, and may be a bit difficult to digest. There are sympathetic characters, but only one or two are actually likeable.

3. A Tale of Two Cities: 137,000 - sure, read it eventually [Miss Pross is kickass!], but it smacked of Dickens trying too hard in writing a historical novel. Not his best. It has a lot of very famous lines/scenes in it, though. The beginning and the end are the best-known bits.

4. Oliver Twist: 158,631 - the one novel I refuse to read a second time. I consider it sadistic. The only thing I find salvageable from this book is Mr. Bumble and "The law is a ass"

5. Great Expectations: 186,339 - yes, start with this one; not too many characters, has a few very famous Dickens characters like Havisham, Estella, and Magwitch that you should know. Don't worry about plot spoilers - it's not hard to figure out some of the "mysteries" in this (like many of the Dickens novels), but the point is to watch the characters and what they do.

6. The Old Curiosity Shop: 218,538 - Quilp is an awesome character, but the whole thing is really odd. I didn't laugh over Little Nell's death, but ffs, the child should have been dead long before she actually was. Quilp's death is best villain death ever, imo.

7. Barnaby Rudge: 255,229 - another try at a historical novel, and it really didn't work well. I found it interesting for info on the Gordon Riots, which I wouldn't have known about absent this book. It has the most grostesque deaths in it, and that's saying something for Dickens. When you read about how a guy's skull was melted with lead that poured off the roof of a burning mansion.... yeah, you don't forget it.

8. The Pickwick Papers: 302,190 - I'm re-reading that one now, but it's a big ole shaggy dog of a story. It does coalesce on a plot by the end, but it basically starts out with a bunch of vignettes

9. Nicholas Nickleby: 323,722 - still early on in Dickens' career, and a lot of the random-crap-is-kinda-a-plot stuff.

10. Our Mutual Friend: 327,727 - My favorite. LOADS of characters and plot lines, so it's for people who love to get entangled in story. It's Dickens' last completed novel.

11. Martin Chuzzlewit: 338,077 - My second favorite. You can skip the American "episodes" and miss nothing, but has two of the giants of Dickens characters that you =must= know: Mr. Pecksniff and Mrs. Gamp. Tigg Montague/Montague Tigg comes in second billing, and Tom Pinch is my favorite hero in the whole Dickens oeuvre, though I think he's not intended as a hero.

12. Little Dorrit: 339,870 - has a ridiculous villain (Blandois) but also a believable "bad guy" (Merdle). My favorite bit has to do with the Barnacle-Tite clan (or is it Tite-Barnacle?) and the Circumlocution Office, but there is a great "quiet" plot unrolling through the book about financial bubbles and frauds. I wrote about it for an actuarial newsletter. (The other fraud was a fraudulent life insurance company in Martin Chuzzlewit).

13. Bleak House: 355,936 -- considered the best of Dickens by many, but the cloying Esther Summerson is a bit much. Dickens never really understood how to write a young heroine. An older lady who is to be admired, yes, but not a young lady. Nice plotting and an excellent character/professional study in Inspector Bucket, showing the precursor of Scotland Yard and its investigators.

14. Dombey and Son: 357,484 -- it's okay, and with a very believable character growth and reconciliation from the two central characters - Dombey and his daughter. This has a very sad child death (yes, Dickens kills off at least one child per book, and sometimes multiple children)

15. David Copperfield: 357,489 -- I didn't realize this was the longest; it seems to go by so fast. This is the one most relatable to youngish people still trying to make their way. I most identify with Aunt Betsey Trotwood, David's aunt, and there are some other good characters in here. You must know Uriah Heep and Mr. Micawber. They're classics.


So reviewing the list... yes, start with Great Expectations. It's the best place to get to know Dickens to start, and then you can really stretch out into the long ones.

Oh, and it doesn't really matter what ending you get for Great Expectations. There's a "happy ending" and a "downbeat ending", but that doesn't really matter. Who cares. Either one seems tacked on to me.

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Wednesday, December 28th, 2016
12:52 pm - On scaring the shit out of children
In an "acceptable" way, that is.

For the longest time, the Brothers Grimm and granny tales had this area sewn up, but then Disney intruded. While adults of my age are bracing themselves for the next Pixar movie intro to rip our hearts out, we can also remember how scary the Disney movies were. I can't speak for the boomers, but maybe they found them scary, too.

Two movies in particular stand out for me: Sleeping Beauty....where Maleficent turns into a dragon and BOOM



AGH!

And then there's The Rescuers, from the shitty period of Disney animation. Yes, yes, I loved Robin Hood, too, but come on. It was the era of cheap animation and cheapass songs. WE GREW UP ON HANNA BARBERA FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

I would say Medusa is the reason I don't wear makeup:



[Okay, the real reason I don't wear makeup is the same reason I don't wear jewelry - it bugs the hell out of me, and I end up taking it off in no time at all.]

I WANT THE DEVILS EYE!



As this person writes, you can pretty much only scare little kids with this villain. She's so ridiculous. Luckily, I was a 3-year-old kid when this movie came out.

Medusa and her alligators....



JEEZ!

So what brought this on was Althouse's post on the death of Richard Adams, who wrote Watership Down. I've not seen the movie nor read the book, but I understand the movie scared the shit out of a lot of kids.

It's tough for books to really scare people, whether adults or kids, compared to movies. In movies, you can have a sudden surprise - a loud noise, an abrupt movement leaping towards the screen, etc. You can't really get the same visceral reaction from books, so usually the scare from books is more abstract.

The first book that actually scared me was Fahrenheit 451, because I saw it as a believable future, and something that people would do to themselves. THEY BURNED THE BOOKS!!!! And then I read Brave New World, which was even scarier (I was about 12 or 13 when I read these books, btw).

But that's not like peeing your pants because a giant spider spat a web at your face.

That's a certain kind of scare, so the kind of "scary" most people think about... yeah, it was Stephen King's IT that did it for me. Pet Sematary wasn't quite all that, but IT... YIKES! I was 15 when I read that one. I think I kept the light on at night for months after reading that one.

But back to scaring kids -- what the hell is it with random scary shit in kids' movies? You know what I'm talking about. This:



WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

Let's forget the whole movie/book thing. WHY?! Just... WHY?! It shows up in this list of scariest movie scenes... the highest ranked from a kids movie -- but it's not the only one from a kids movie. There's the pink elephants from Dumbo, flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz, and Large Marge from Pee Wee's Big Adventure which is my fave scary bit from a kids movie. Dumbo was all kinds of freaky without the drug/alcohol sequence, the flying monkeys made sense... and Large Marge was just a standard urban legend brought to life in a movie. But the Willy Wonka movie really did not need that scary trip. What the hell.

But here's the thing with both Watership Down (the stuff I think people are saying is scary) and the cutting-the-head-off-the-chicken bit in the insane Wonka sequence. The animal stuff isn't really all that shocking/scary...I mean come on, shooting a rabbit? BAMBI'S MOTHER WAS SHOT!! Oh god, a badger. I grew up watching Wild Kingdom on Mutual of Omaha, and I'm pretty sure they had a bunch of dead animals on that. Then there was the whole "going fishing" thing. Who the hell thought "fluffy bunnies" was a great idea? BUNNIES ARE DEATH.

Wait, where was I?

Anyway, it's fun to scare children, and the scares you get as a child were a lot cleaner than the ones you get as an adult. And even as kids, we knew people were far scarier than [other] animals.

But I'm old and tired now, and would rather neither type of scares. At least I can exclude one type of them.

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Saturday, December 24th, 2016
12:57 pm - Bring back livejournal? Where did it go?
WTF, I haven't left since I joined in 2000! You can't pry me away!

But welcome back to the old names I've seen post lately.... livejournal was like facebook for me back in 2000, and then it became longer-form posts around the time I left grad school (because I retired my old online journal at marypat.org). It's mainly been longer-form personal posts and some just non-political stuff (my political-ish stuff is at stump.marypat.org though today I put up a livejournal-ish post) for years.

In any case, I hadn't noticed a huge difference in livejournal when the Russians took over, though I had a little more spammy comments, which is why I screen comments from non-lj-users.

So.... here's a video. It's old.



Merry Christmas! And come back to livejournal!

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Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
10:18 am - Making (Conversational) Friends at the Bar: Florida Resort Edition
Last weekend I was in Cape Coral, on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I've never really been over to that side of the state (well, maybe I went to Tampa once as a kid, but I don't remember it)

Anyway, here is a pic:

oh, right it"s a pano, I"d better cut thisCollapse )

(1 comment | comment on this)

Monday, December 12th, 2016
12:36 pm - The book divestment project: slow-going
As mentioned back in October, I'm trying to get rid of books, most of which are in bad condition.

The count:

2 paperbacks pulled apart and recycled (a Larry Niven anthology and one Pratchett).

1 in progress: Vamps & Tramps (it's a looooong book)

A couple dozen books recycled donated

Five years' worth of journals recycled (they're all online)

Ya gotta start somewhere.

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Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
4:16 pm - email search -- from:me dumbass
This post started out about me never deleting emails. What it ended up as... you'll see below.

Search Results: 1-46 of 46 [oldest is from 2009]

Let's look at that oldest email from me using the word "dumbass":

Hey Andrew -- attached a text file of riffs for Live and Learn. Some of the riffs would overlap each other, and some are repeated at different points, just FYI. I figure give y'all lots of choice.

I might be able to get another to you tomorrow morning.

btw, I do subject my kids to some of those 50s educational films, but usually ones about obedience, manners, good behavior. We have got on their cases about going to the hospital for doing stupid stuff, but this film is a bit over-the-top.


- mpc
aka meepbobeep
aka meep



Hmmm, not in the text... must be the attachment...


00 12 00 14 That's quite the dumbass epidemic


verily a circus of dumbasseryCollapse )

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Friday, November 11th, 2016
12:06 pm - Notes on an Actuarial Meeting
Not in chronological order. These notes are not all about the same person/people.

1. Don't plug the higher-level event next door, event organizer.

1'. No, really. Don't tell us how much cooler the other meeting is, invited speaker.

2. Don't adjust your shapewear in public, esp. in the ass area.

3. Please learn how to use a microphone. First rule - don't stick it down your throat.

4. Yes, I can tell you're nervous, but you are doing a good job of keeping it going. Good for you!

5. Actuarial political jokes are pretty funny.... to actuaries.

5'. It's easy to make actuaries laugh. If you can't make a group of actuaries laugh, then you need to think about your life.

6. Please prepare a talk that fills the entire session, not half.

6'. Please prepare a talk that fills the session time, not twice that time.

6''. Do you people even time yourself beforehand? PREPARE DAMMIT

7. Don't tell the whole group just how much one can take advantage of specific people. I know you think you're thanking them, but the details you're giving are not coming across well.

8. I'm sorry about your name. Yes, I'm thinking the joke, but I'm not going to say it. I know you've heard it many times before. From kids.

9. Don't say you have just one more thing to talk about.... and then add another on top of that. What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?

10. Use consistent acronyms/jargon.

But seriously, I had a great time at the meeting, and the only thing above that really annoyed me was how different people kept going on about the other event that was going on at the same time.

For some people I was talking to, privately, it was okay (these were side-by-side in the same convention center, and there were some people who were popping between the two events). I asked them what they heard about, yadda yadda. But to have people who are getting up in front of the room to talk to us (invited speakers, moderators, etc), it came across as insulting to me.

One can acknowledge the other event exists, but shut up about all the cool stuff they were talking about over there. You don't have to say everything that's true.

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Sunday, October 30th, 2016
3:54 pm - I hate weekends
It's when I have my worst pain.

Yes, sometimes the pain gets so bad midweek I have to take a sick day from work, but the thing about the pain is that a certain amount of it can be pushed off. Til Later.

Weekends are later.

Some of it is a matter of distraction -- as a goal-oriented person, it's pretty easy for me to ignore the pain while I'm in the middle of writing an article, tracing errors through a spreadsheets, that sort of thing. But on the weekends, there are only a couple things I need to do, and they're all in the morning. So by the time the afternoon rolls by, the pain decides to have its way with me. After all, I don't really -need- to be watching ELO singing Mr. Blue Sky, now do I?

This is not quite the same, but it reminds me of right after childbirth when I went back to work, and after my dad died, when I went back to school. Having something I really needed to do that was separate from what was causing me pain gave me some respite.

But then the schoolwork would be done, or the spreadsheet all finished up, and I'd have to sit and think. It actually wasn't all that bad in either case, though that Christmas after dad died was very rough. I wore this one black dress for almost a week. And no, I don't mean I washed it and put it on again. I mean, I wallowed in that dress (it was a comfy dress)... and probably stank to high heaven by day 5.

Anyway, yes, I shower as an older adult who doesn't find showers to be a chore, but finds them to be relaxing... if I actually get a shot at the hot water (which I didn't today). But right now I'm slouched on the couch, trying to find a good posture to hook the back of my skull on something to try to stretch out my neck vertebrae. And a glass of red wine tucked between the computer, my belly, and my left arm.

And listening to the Hoodoo Gurus commemorating that Tojo never made it to Darwin.

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Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
3:37 pm - On the satisfaction of throwing books across the room
CONTENT WARNING: Links to TVTropes

Now, I've not done this often. I think I did it to throw something at a person once, but that's generally not my reason.

It's usually because I'm reading a novel and it has a really cheap ending. The types of endings I hate:

* It was all a dream
* Deus Ex Machina
* Time travel copout (see deus ex machina)
* Cheap deaths
* Some moral or something
* Rocks fall, everybody dies
* Overly complicated answer to a mystery, just because the author is a pain in the ass

I can put up with all sorts of hokey endings, but some disgust me so much, I just have to throw the book (assuming that I own the book.)

And that's the main problem with ebooks. Also, they're not that great at squishing spiders.

But think about a TV show that pisses you off (or video or whatever). What do you do? You're unlikely to shoot the TV, so you just switch to a different show/video, or turn off the device, or if it's something you saved, you go delete the file.

But that's just not as satisfying as throwing a shoe at the screen.

In any case, I very rarely come across such books, mainly because I re-read so much (obviously I don't re-read stuff I dislike), and I've got a pretty solid reading list. There are some authors, like Neal Stephenson, that I know may annoy me with the ending (to be fair, I never wanted to throw the book... mainly because my shoulder is already screwed up enough). Some authors can get you into a story, and just don't know how to end it. Most know to avoid the really idiotic endings, but some just stick ambiguity in there and try to call it art.

Look, one needs some kind of satisfactory close. It doesn't need to be a wedding, funeral, or baptism, but something better than everything explodes.

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Sunday, October 16th, 2016
4:48 pm - Please Help Claire Berlinski
Some months back, I posted an plea to help Vladimir Bukovsky, a Putin critic who I (and others) think are being targeted with a bogus prosecution in the UK. Bukovsky's trial is in December, and Claire Berlinski plans on traveling there to cover the trial.

Claire has covered Bukovsky already, and here are some samples:

Did Britain Fall into Putin’s Trap in Prosecuting a Russian Dissident? - at the National Review

Vladimir Bukovsky v. The Kremlin, Final Round at Ricochet

The KGB Never Forgets and Never Forgives at Ricochet

A Hidden History of Evil: Why doesn’t anyone care about the unread Soviet archives at City Journal -- from 2010

As you can see from that last link, Berlinski has been covering Vladimir for years, and is not new to the scene.

Berlinski is running a Gofundme campaign to help defray her traveling expenses to develop her latest book project, but as an aside, to help with covering the Bukovsky trial.

Please consider donating. I just threw in a donation myself.

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Thursday, October 13th, 2016
9:45 am - On my one-sided vendettas (vendette?)
So people at work found out this week that I harbor one-sided vendettas/nemeses involving various people. I'm not going to explain how it came up, but it started with my first one-sided vendetta, which was against Marilyn vos Savant.

I have nothing against vos Savant re: the brain teaser column. That was just fine, and some of the brain teasers were interesting.

It was when she wrote this book that I got pissed off: The World's Most Famous Math Problem: The Proof of Fermat's Last Theorem and Other Mathematical Mysteries. It's an awful book, and you don't have to take my word for it.

Here's the current most-helpful negative review:

60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A book about the math that Ms. Vos Savant doesn't understand, December 1, 1997
By Chris
This review is from: The World's Most Famous Math Problem: The Proof of Fermat's Last Theorem and Other Mathematical Mysteries (Paperback)

Like many of us, there are some elements of mathematics that Ms. Vos Savant doesn't understand. Unfortunately, instead of investigating these subjects or asking questions of experts, the author concludes that there must be something wrong with the mathematics. Although this book purports to be about Wiles's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, it is really a description of all the things that are "wrong" in mathematics, including some comments on Wiles's work. This can make for some entertaining reading, like her argument against the imaginary number i, but it can also be quite annoying, like her incredibly disrespectful comment (under the heading "a possible fatal flaw [in Wiles's proof]") that Wiles ought to check and make sure that his "proof" doesn't also rule out solutions to the equation with exponent 2, since we know that there are solutions in this case. A big plus for this book is the evidence it provides for the relative unimportance of I.Q.


So here are the elements of my one-sided vendettas:
-the person generally doesn't know I exist (not true in the case of at least one of these below, because I've emailed that person and he responded);
-other people also dislike/detest/whatever my targets for the exact same reason, and
- it really annoys me that somebody is paying them to continue doing the stuff that pisses me off.

And I don't do much except bitch about the people... I'm kind of lazy, vendetta-wise. No Rigoletto me.

Here's my list of one-sided vendetta targets:
- Marilyn vos Savant (for the dumbass Fermat book)
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb (for writing stuff that is true, and very unhelpful/unuseful)
- Malcolm Gladwell (for being the most credulous person ever, even if he can tell a good story)
- Carl Bialek (for just writing dumb stuff related to quantitative subjects)
- Matt Yglesias (for just being rock dumb, and the mystery is he's allowed to keep doing whatever he's doing)

There are some two-sided enmities I have out there, but I'm not going to list them. They know who they are. I detest you right back, bucko.

Most of the time, I don't think about these people, but someone reminded me of vos Savant the other day, then somebody else reminded me of Yglesias, so I thought I'd put this down.

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