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The Mad Scientist's Livejournal

Sep. 4th, 2008

12:17 am - Because you haven't heard enough about politics...

I'm a registered voter.  I'm also unaffiliated-- that is, I don't belong to any party.  Although I have certain tendencies, in elections I generally try to keep an open mind.  At least, I listen to all the different sides, and I try to actually think about what the candidates have to say.  If I lean to one side I try extra hard to give the other side a fair shot.  It's pretty hard to do sometimes, but I do my best.

So, that said... Tonight's speeches from the major speakers at the RNC sounded sarcastic, nasty, and contemptuous to me.  Did anyone else feel that way?

I admit that I'm in favor of Obama and have been for quite a while.  But if I'd heard a real, solid, positive message from Palin et al., I was willing to at least consider it.  As it is, I feel like I'm being driven away from the Republican ticket, so strongly that it seems they're doing it on purpose.

What did you think?

Jan. 12th, 2008

02:51 pm - Sad news.

It is with many regrets that we report that the author of this blog, Woddly Spinning, has tragically died in a blogging accident.  This is especially ironic given that last week, Woddly narrowly avoided death in a freak haberdashery incident. More information, and an obituary for Mr. Spinning, can be found here.

Jan. 10th, 2008

09:06 pm - From the "now I need a thesaurus" department...

I'm not a fan of spam.  However, I got this in my email today, and I was highly amused.  Not only have spammers improved their vocabulary, the second sentence may even be an attempt at a pun!

The message read:

"Facing asperity in intimate relations?
Our preparations work superiorly for this hardship!"

I'll be sure to reconnoiter their concoction.

Jan. 9th, 2008

02:05 pm

Heading back to Rochester today after an awesome visit to Long Island with sukitawdry.  Don't want to go, but I gotta get that PhD done!

The other day I had the idea for this, and thought it would be fun to throw out there:

Woddly Spinning's Predictions: Technology you will see on the market within 10 years.

  1. Batteries that recharge very, very fast (in less than a minute) and never wear out.
  2. Affordable, fully electric cars.
  3. Miniature projectors the size of a deck of cards, or smaller (even built into cell phones), which display vivid images and video in completely lifelike colors.
  4. Computers that look and feel like a book or a scroll. The pages will look and feel like ink on (almost) paper. You will be able to write on the paper, and it will display video and animation in full color.
  5. Flat-fee wireless internet access almost everywhere. No configuration required -- it will be automatic.
  6. Computers built into desks, where the entire desktop is the computer display. It will look just like ink on paper. (Your desktop will be your desktop!)
  7. Flying cars.  Really.
Several of these will happen in much less than 10 years, most likely within the next 2 or 3 years.

Oh- note that I've combined several predictions with varying timing into each item.  For example, in #5, the "flat-fee" part will take 9 or 10 years, but the rest of  #5 will happen much sooner. In #4, scrolls will happen long before books.  Etc.

Dec. 6th, 2007

04:12 am - Work trumps talent; or why I don't like being called "smart".

I ran across this article the other day, and I was shocked at how much sense it made.  I've seen this phenomenon happening all around me my whole life -- not just to kids, but to many adults and even to myself -- yet I could never put it into words or explain it.

Just read it.

"You're so smart!"

Oct. 23rd, 2007

12:33 am - Linux 1, Windows 0

As trivial as this may sound to some, I figured I would write about it anyway.  Who knows, a few of you may see this as significant!  But most of you will probably think it's a bit silly.

I just deleted Windows from my computer.

What's the big deal, anyway?Collapse )

Sep. 24th, 2007

03:56 pm - I never post these...

I really dislike those annoying mass-emails with supposedly "funny" things in them.  But since so many people I know are computer geeks, I figure that you will all appreciate this sketch about a medieval help desk.  Thanks to sukitawdry for sending it to me.  It just made my day.

Sep. 21st, 2007

09:23 pm - There but for the grace of God... and cynicism... go I.

I'll second sukitawdry in her suggestion that you should really read this story.  You will be entertained.

Sep. 19th, 2007

10:45 pm - The Hedgehog and The Fox

"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

- Archilochus

Which is more important?  Which are you?

02:28 am - About freedom of speech

If you have had any contact with media in the past 24 hours, you've probably heard about the student who was tasered during the question-and-answer session of a John Kerry speech at the University of Florida.

I've read several articles about it, ranging from the sympathetic to the antagonistic; and of course Slashdot.  The commentary usually focused on one of two things: police brutality, or the student's reputation as a prankster.  Typical comments sound something like this:

While these are all relevant points and interesting issues, I find these kinds of comments disturbing because they gloss over the very first incident, an incident that (to my mind) is more important than tasers, practical jokes, or police brutality.  Ignoring the first incident either devalues it or assumes it was proper and reasonable.  This troubles me greatly.

The first incident was this: Why did the police force the student from the microphone?

Before we go farther, I invite you to review the best video I've seen so far of the incident.  This video begins with John Kerry finishing his answer to a previous question, and calling on the student (Andrew Meyer).  It follows the sequence of events through Meyer being tasered, with only a brief cut in the middle.  This is an excellent quality video, with a close-up of Meyer as he asks the question and throughout the events immediately following.  I'll warn you that you might be strongly disturbed by the content -- I was.  I want to talk about the first half of this video, so if you're queasy feel free to skip the second half.


That video doesn't have good audio of Kerry's responses, so here is one that does:


Every article I've seen seems primarily concerned with the second half of the video, in which Meyer is trying to pull away from the police, yelling and shouting, waving a book in the air, and eventually is brought to the ground, half-handcuffed, and tasered.

But what about the first half of the video?  In the first half, an over-eager, poorly spoken student is forcibly removed from the microphone during a public forum.  Why?  What could possibly be a reasonable justification?

Speakers like this show up all the time in town meetings and forum-type settings. They're annoying and a little kooky-sounding, they take too long, and sometimes they don't even ask a direct question. The same people sometimes show up on radio call-in shows.

In these cases, there is a universal standard response: The speaker or moderator interrupts the person, thanks them for their "question", and proceeds to answer it. In extreme cases, the person might have their mike cut off or be booed by the audience.  There are social customs to deal effectively with this situation.

It's very clear from the video that the student fell squarely into this social context. He had waited to be called on by Kerry, had asked a long and rambling question, and under a moderator's pressure was wrapping it up. The situation was entirely calm, and John Kerry (who had been talking to the student throughout) was about to assert control and answer the question.

Then the police tried to grab the student and take him away.

Your perception after watching the video may be "dangerous wacko gets grabbed by police", but it's very important to see that the situation did not become dangerous or wacko until after the police committed battery.

I have heard some reports that the student pushed his way to the front of the line, that police had actually followed him in. More information about what happened before the video started could be informative.  But to my mind, that is mostly not relevant.  He may have been a boor, and he might not have deserved his place in line, but once he was allowed to start his question, he was a recognized member of the forum and should have been treated as such.  John Kerry can be clearly heard saying "No, let me answer his question."

I have been a fool many times in my life, even to the extent of hogging a microphone when it was clear I had overstayed my welcome.  I'm not the only one: everyone is a fool from time to time.  Being a socially unaware pest, even in a public forum, is not reason enough for police action.

If we as a society have become so complacent in our comfort that we feel even the smallest disturbance of the peace justifies police action, then we fall far short.  Where have our compassion and tolerance gone?

The discussions surrounding this incident subtly reinforce the belief that police action in that sort of situation is reasonable.  It is not.

We must first invoke our own conscience, before we rationalize force.  A policeman is nothing if not the avatar of our community conscience.

(Edited 9-20-2007: Changed "assault" to "battery", which is the right word for what I meant to say.)

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