Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Charles Stross' "Accelerando"

I read Charles Stross' Accelerando while recovering from surgery (i.e., on prescription painkillers), and it was excellent. I do not know if the reading experience would be quite as good without the chemical enhancement, but who can snub a book that includes a character described as having "a dry, sardonic delivery that can corrode egos like a desert wind" (p. 147)? I found it to be full of similar clever turns-of-phrase. The plot was good, too -- it reminded me of John C. Wright's Golden Transcendence series, so similar on some plot points that I found myself anticipating the same scifi devices that Wright used. But Stross used totally different ones, addressing a nearly-orthogonal set of concerns about a nearly-identical futuristic technology.

I also read Scott Sigler's Infected, recommended to me by Escape Pod. It was ok. I would not recommend it to anyone else with itchy skin or a tendency to obsess. I found that, having started the book, I had to finish it or risk the great danger of skin-scratching nightmares.

This post's theme phrase: "grotesque candle accident," as heard here.

How to distinguish spam from the Bill of Rights?

From indexed: simple humor on index cards.

This post's theme word: faience, "glazed ceramic ware."

Super Marios theme played by remote-controlled car

This makes me happy, and not just because they are muttering Japanese in the video. It just has a happy sound texture. (Why are all youtube links/videos loading slowly today? Maybe it's just me.)

This post's theme word: velleity, "a wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Recovery day 2

E. and I have oft mused together over our mother's dimension-warping abilities. In a three-dimensional room, she can pack 3.2 dimensions of fabric, for example. Fractally. Somehow. None of her children has yet figured out this ability. When confronted with a need for band-aids and antibiotic ointment, she was able -- Mary Poppins style -- to pull band-aids out of several long-lost, archival compartments of her suitcase. Then she supplemented them with more medical tidbits from the 3.3-dimensional (and cross-referenced, for easy location!) car.

My camera has entered terminal failure. Pictures of the unveiling pending.

This post's theme tea I plan to design: the "supplicating botanist."

Recovery night 2

"Life is a process which may be abstracted from other media." John Von Neumann
Pain is a major part of my life, so pain must be abstractable as well. What is my knee pain without the medium of my knee? Existentialism creeps in where sleep does not.

This post's theme word: anodyne, "relieving pain."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Recovery day 1

There is pain. There is endless talking. My leg is turning yellow in streaks. My moods, I am told, cycle with the level of medication.

This post's theme phrase: "eldrich ersatz insects" (Charles Stross, Accelerando p. 48).

Friday, April 25, 2008


Not as bad as last time, but still not something I'd recommend. Although I intellectually understand, I cannot viscerally understand how people can become addicted to morphine, surgery, or percocet.

As I was waking up, the nurses found that my heart rate and blood oxygen levels were ok while they were talking to me, and dipped too low when I was left alone. So they had me recite poetry.

This post's theme word: farrago, "a mixture of things."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

7 days in a row? A curse from hell!

M. is here now, physically. Verbally. The evening's conversational coup de grâce is her non sequitur: "I am a gerund." Stop reading here if you want to retain the sanity that allows you to recognize that as a strange sentence. I lost that a few hours of conversation ago.

Together as mother and daughter, we explored this surreal masterpiece of culture. The key step is omitted from the instructional animation, and I for one wanted more of the cute dog(?) and less of the stupid teenage girl lingo. Despite missing two of the questions (one for kicks, and one out of heartfelt horror -- see title), we were assured at the end of the voluntary pop quiz:
you got 100 points! It's a red letter day. U R brainy indeed.
This drives me to ask: is it possible to get more than 100 points? I took the quiz again, getting every question right, and discovered that 100 is no longer the limit:
you got 120 points. Ur a genius. Period. or period genius.
On a scientific bent, I took the vapid quiz again, this time carefully picking only incorrect answers. I was chastised:
Better crack the books girlfriend! U still have alot of learning to do about the scarlet 7.
This was accompanied by an adorable animation of the dog(?) carrying a stack of books. The animation rewarded me far more than the verbal praise of actual success.

Do men ever undergo such public, open humiliation of their gender? Is it plastered on billboards? Are there analogous bubbly blue Flash sites where a cartoon dog talks about wet dreams or erectile dysfunction?

This post's theme band: that new band from Sweden. ... because millions of ancient women can't be wrong, though they can apparently exert more biological self-determinism than modern women.

Positive feedback

It is incredibly nice to receive positive feedback about an experience that I enjoyed from my perspective, too. The warm glow stayed with me for several days afterwards. This is why I try to compliment my friends when they do amazing tasks or exhibit wonderful characteristics. I'm not very good at it, but I do try.

This post's theme word: afflatus, "a divine creative impulse or inspiration."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Although I'm still the same, just having a diagnosis makes things better, somehow. Makes me seem more reasonable. There are other people out there like me, I am not alone. And as Steve Eley says here, now I can work with my known quirks, rather than trying to suppress them. Not that I was doing a good job of suppression anyway, since then suppressing them became an obsessive-compulsive focus... oh, recursion.

The diagnosis was accompanied by the observation that I have "incredible willpower" to function daily at the level that I do. Hooray!

This post's theme passive verb: to be neaped. That is, to be stranded aground by a neap tide (of course!).

Crutch fetishism

Yesterday as A. was walking me home, a beggar heckled him, joking that A. was sketchy for picking up a gimpy girl. A. played along with the joke, as is his fashion. The beggar escalated the heckling, and A. matched him.

This eventually reached a point where I was laughing so hard that I could not continue to crutch, and had to stop walking. To laugh until I could suppress the hilarity enough to be able to move.

Then we ate chocolate and discussed the fertile, manifold possibilities of crutch-fetish pornography, with reference to earlier conversations about octopodes. And I was happy.

This post's theme word: erethism, "excessive sensitivity or rapid reaction to stimulation of a part of the body, esp. of the sexual organs" or "a state of abnormal mental excitement or irritation." I am delighted that this single word has both these senses.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Intellectual battle-axe: obsessions

A sampling of things my mind bounces between recurringly, insistently (alphabetized for your reading pleasure):

- Biting nails.
- Circuit vs. function-reduction methods of defining complexity classes; cool idea but increasingly encumbered.
- Do I have enough food for M?
- Hack the terminal on my desk to do Dvorak.
- Is M using an RSS reader?
- Is it difficult to learn Flash?
- It's hard to mop on crutches. And treacherous.
- Later this week, someone will cut into my skin with a knife and fiddle with my insides. Disturbingly.
- Meeting CL ppl for dinner; est. crutch travel time to rendez-vous: 10 min. No, 5 min. No, 15 min. No, 8 min.
- My hair is too hot; maybe I'll donate it again? Springtime shedding.
- Need to do laundry.
- Pata pata pata PON boom boom pata PON (trumpets!).
- Sickening anticipation of the removal of blood from my body later this week.
- Simulating biological systems; interactions; mathematics is powerful and glorious. Like an intellectual battle-axe.
- Stop biting nails!
- The problem of infinite recursion in psychological self-regulation.
- V^0, VPV, VC, \hat{VC}, \bar{VC}.
- Watch tan.
- Why blog? Why am I blogging? Paranoia/security versus psych. rewarding activity... alternatives?
- Why is the skin peeling off the back of my R knuckles?

This post's theme word: setiform, "bristle-shaped or having bristles."

Crushing the dreams of our youth

I just finished an epic grading cycle and now rejoice in returning to my own arcane research. I feel like this:This post's theme word: mephitic, "pestilential, noxious, miasmic." It doesn't roll off your tongue... it is pronounced chokingly.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

To each his own

I'm glad that I live in an age when I can come across phrases like, "More than 80 levels of progressively frenetic baking".

This post's theme food: frosting.

Crowded crutching

Craving both an exercise and electronics fix, I set out today to crutch to the nearest major electronics outlet. It is 72 degrees (F) outside and sunny. My chosen path took me through Chinatown, which on a beautiful Sunday is rather crowded. This provided for some challenging crutching scenarios, since I was doubly disadvantaged: less mobile, and also less visible (so others couldn't see my crutches from afar and give me extra maneuvering room). Jostling sucks. Sunshine does not.

So, I got my exercise. And I basked in the electronics. We are not too far, I think, from the future of personal tricorders. Already there are mobile phone/camera/video/TV/computers. The PSP is also amazingly multifunctional. And sleekly beautiful. Two things that are missing from real-life multi-use digi-toys, but necessary to fulfill my sci-fi fantasies: a scanner (maybe some sort of infrared-view mode?) and a holographic projector.

This post's theme word: rigmarole. The way I learned to pronounce it has an extra syllable that is unwritten, but the dictionary approves.

Rainbow carnage

"... leaving, in my wake, a trail of rainbow carnage."

This post's theme animal: kestrel.

Saturated Model Theory

Clearly it is more difficult to omit than it is to realize, since the act of omitting requires that every element of the extension be worried over. (A not well-known model theorist once remarked: "Any fool can realize a type, but it takes a model theorist to omit one.")
- Gerald E. Sacks, Saturated Model Theory

This post's theme animal: cassowary.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Romantic orbit

This post's theme romantically-attractive feature: nerd jokes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Portrait of the artist as... (saggital)

my right knee, saggital viewMy intact ACL and PCL are both clearly visible in this image. The top and bottom anchors of my reconstructed ACL are visible -- that shiny thing in the middle of my tibia is a metal screw anchoring the top of my ACL. (If I can, I am going to obtain the X-ray they took of my knee in order to verify that it was metal.) The bottom is anchored by a plastic screw that doesn't glow in the magneto-image-magic of the MRI.

This picture is really cool: it is possible to view details of my bones, ligaments, musculature, blood vessels... Look at my kneecap!

This is by far my favorite photo of myself, ever.

This post's theme adverb: omnivorously. I challenge you to use it in casual conversation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Realization re: maturity

Shocking realization today: I am more mature than people older than me. Adults. Strange. I still don't think of myself as an adult, because my models of adulthood are my parents, and they are -- pretty much by definition -- ahead of me in personal development.

This post's theme word: はく, "to vomit." It came up in a podcast. I have been trying to think of a single scenario of my time in Japan, or even of imaginary textbook scenes, where it would be appropriate to say something like "はきたいの" -- "Because I want to vomit, that's why." (casual) Or maybe "たこお食べるとはきます。" -- "When I eat octopus, it makes me throw up." (formal and ineluctable cause-and-effect) I need to practice my Japanese more; I never know when I might need it!

I am an idiot.

Probably not news to anyone out there. I leave every meeting with my advisor feeling convinced of my stupidity, and resolved to work harder on the preparation for my next meeting. It never seems to be enough.

This post's theme conference-learned buzzword: "impostor syndrome."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why don't you write back?

Dear all,

I know I tend to be secretive and defensive. So maybe you don't know, and have not yet figured out, that I am very slow to warm to new people, and even slower to make friends. You may not realize your membership in a tiny elite. Remember how you thought I despised you for the first months or years of our acquaintance? Well, I hope you overcame that just as I overcame my unfriendly nature. However you managed it, you wormed your way into my confidences. And I do not intend to let you slip out of my grasp. (Cue the lightning, evil cackles, menacing shadows cast on a dungeon wall.)

Well, I'm still well within my experimentally-determined 2-year-minimum friend-making timeline here, but I have been trying to maintain my connections with you, my friends, across the globe. I think of you. I write you letters and send you packages and postcards. Why don't you write back?

I know you're busy. I'm busy, too. And you probably make friends faster than I do, so you are spending time with your new friends. But I am eminently reachable -- you have my mailing address, my email address, my instant messaging identity, my phone number, my facebook account, my skype information. You don't have to reply at length, or in finely crafted language, or even with substance. It would be nice to hear from you, even just a one-sentence email saying hello. That takes, what, 30 seconds to think about, write, and send?

I miss you guys and wish I heard from you more often.


P.S. And to my readers here in Toronto: hang in there. I warm up, I promise.

Adult finances

My taxes for last year are done. I just paid my own tuition for the first time in my life. My wallet is lighter, my shoulders are heavier with the burden of independent adulthood. Or maybe that's just soreness from crutching around Toronto all weekend?

This post's theme direction: up. Growing up, bulking up.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recent reading rundown

I don't have a lot of free time for reading, or for context-switching between leisure reading and work, but I also love to read. So once every one or two weeks, I sit down and read an entire book, just for fun. In the spirit of C, here are some books I've read in the past few months. (I read many of these as ebooks, delivered to my inbox as part of Tor's promotion for their upcoming site.)

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Children's fiction, but with under- and over-tones for plenty of enjoyment by adults. Delightful parallel universes collide, in a poorly-defined way. Children open and close windows between them. Heavy religious (and inquisatorial) themes, although the reveal (in book 2, a high point for me) was not at all what I expected based on the hints dropped earlier in the book.

Shike by Robert Shea

I love all things Japanese, so this Japan-themed semi-samurai novel tickled my fancy. It had a lot of good scheming, politics, battles and tactics. But it dragged on for several hundred pages more than I could really enjoy. Was it at all realistic to have all of the main characters survive nearly to 100 years of age? It's convenient for storytelling; they get to live through several different political regimes, shaping them subtly and altering power structures over time. But it was long. Just too long.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

This book was a delight -- technology, personalities, military scheming and tactics and crazy alien encounters. It reminded me of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game in its tone and subject matter. Excellent! (At the bookstore where I made a spaceship, I discovered that there are more books in this series. Yay! They were sold out -- unsurprisingly -- but I added them to the queue.)

The Android's Dream by John Scalzi

Yes, the title is a reference to Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But that is the full extent of the allusion. Unlike Dick's dark, depressive, gritty novel, this one is bright, shiny, comedically clever. There are no androids. There are sheep, a lot of them. (Unfortunately, most are dead.) It begins with interplanetary diplomacy ruined by farting, and escalates in a nearly Terry-Pratchett-like way from there...

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This book is amazing. It has joined my list of books I can read repeatedly, without boredom. This brings the list up to five. What else can I say? The gods live among us as people, but retaining their mythical powers. As long as their believers believe, they are powerful; otherwise, they fade. Or some mechanic like that. It's a meta-mythology encompassing everything. I am addicted to anything meta; this book is fantastic.

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Modern, epic space confusion. The stars and moon vanish. Time is dilated. We attempt to terraform and settle Mars. The universe hurtles towards its cold, collapsing end. Doomsday cults abound, flourish, collapse themselves before doomsday comes. Humans are, perhaps, being kept like zoo animals by some much more powerful aliens? ... with a satisfying conclusion.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Cool premise of a typical medieval-era world. A little of an alchemical tinge, but also magic and fantasy. A favored upper class enforces the dictates of an omniscient, omnipotent dictator in oppressing a slave class. The slaves rise! -- of course. This book was very enjoyable, and I was glad to discover that it has several sequels. So many puzzles were solved, so many (ominous) questions remain unanswered...

Gray by Jon Armstrong.

A short, cute novel. It was under 300 pages long, though, and it never really fleshed out any ideas in that space. The readers shared with the protagonist a certain scattered perception of events. I found this frustrating, right up until the end. It felt like the protagonist was willfully unobservant in order to prevent the author from describing things which might give away important clues to the readers.

This post's theme ability: reading. Close runners-up: flying, seeing in black-and-white, telling the future, traveing between parallel universes, and crazy ninja fighting tactics.

The feeling of places

Places I have recently (sometimes disconcertingly) felt comfortable:

my house
my office
the theory lab
the doctor's office
the hospital
inside an MRI machine

Places I have recently felt uncomfortable:

meeting with my advisor
walking on crowded sidewalks
phone conversations with bureaucratic agencies
the hallway outside my office
any social situation with someone I've known for less than a year
my front porch
the grocery store

This post's theme people: random strangers who stop on the sidewalk to help the sad girl on crutches. They are rarer than I would ever have believed, but incredibly kind when they do occur in nature.

I'm a big girl now!

I've had the jingle from that diaper commercial in my head all day. Today (despite accidentally spilling boiling water on my hand -- because of my hurt knee -- so that I was icing my hand and knee all day -- crutching was painful -- sometimes I just channel Miss Saigon: "Why, God, whyyyyyyyyyy?") I made an independent foray to the supermarket and back. I will not starve, at least not in the next few days. Groceries are heavy, my hand hurts, and the rain made the sidewalk treacherously crutch-slippery.

Yours in overcoming adversity,

This post's theme biological trick: freezing nerves to prevent them from signalling pain in the brain. It is fabulous.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Raising razers

It takes a whole child to raze a village. (-A.)

This post's theme word-type: self-antonyms.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Crutch rage, again

I am again on crutches. I have again twisted my right knee. This time, it seems, I've torn (again) TWO -- not just one! -- ligaments. I am again in pain, and again looking forward to an MRI and then probably surgery and definitely lots of physical therapy and rehabilitation. It feels like I just finished my last PT rehab. I do not want to jump around in circles, or walk backwards, or climb a single stair endlessly, or do anything with an exercise ball, ever again. Yet here I am, again damaged.

And again, I find that I can redirect my despair at being painfully hobbled into a rage against the machine. The mechanical machine. The crutches. This time, I have much better upper-body muscle strength going into the crutch period. Be warned: if you cross my path while I am crutching, I will strike you down with righteous fury. With my metal crutches. Leaving you, twisted and broken, on the sidewalk. I will not feel bad about it, because you probably don't exercise and weren't using your knee ligaments. By my reckoning, that makes us even.

This post's theme mantra: "There is not now, nor has there ever been, a well in my cellar." From here. Many thanks to A., who probably prevented me from killing bystanders on my crutchful way home today.