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Brooks

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On Problems with Bowls of M&Ms [28 May 2014|09:57pm]
Over dinner last night, chinders and tiger_spot and I were talking about this, "If you had a bowl of M&Ms and knew that 1 in 4 were poisoned, would you feel comfortable eating one even though most of them are just fine?" metaphor that's been going around to explain why "most men aren't threats" is not a helpful thing. There are some problematic responses that it's been getting, mostly from men.

A lot of the problematic responses seem to be based on some wrong assumptions, aside from the fact that some of them seem to imply that men are entitled to having women eat their M&Ms regardless, or that women are responsible for the M&Ms being poisonous:

The metaphor isn't talking about women being friendly to men, or having sex in the context of a relationship where people know each other pretty well. It's specifically talking about women putting themselves in vulnerable situations with a man they don't know well, where he could easily assault them if he chose to. I suppose you could make that about women turning you down for sex when you don't know them well, but unless that sort of sex is your aim or you're feeling rejected because a woman you don't know doesn't feel safe riding home with you or coming up to your apartment, then the metaphor isn't actually talking about anything that's going to make you feel fulfilled. Maybe you have to form relationships with women in safe places first before they'll come home with you; big deal.

The metaphor also isn't saying that women shouldn't talk to men or have sex with them. It's descriptive, not prescriptive -- and it turns out that, descriptively, most women have sexual relationships with men regardless of poisoned M&Ms, and the vast majority of women are friendly to men. Many women even end up getting into vulnerable situations with men they don't know well, often for pretty strong reasons. What happens is that women mostly do these things with a bit of attention to the potential threats.

(Also, most women do not individually have sex with the vast majority of men who might ask, but that's not about poisoned M&Ms; that's about people being picky about sex partners in ways that are far more complex than value judgments.)

And there's the thing that the metaphor, really, is kind of broken. This should be no surprise; all metaphors are broken -- they explain the thing they're meant to explain, and they fail at the edges where they stop mapping to reality. So, if you're going to have a meaningful conversation with a metaphor, either you have to take it on its own terms or talk about where it doesn't apply. This metaphor is about why a few men being dangerous means most women quite reasonably view all men as potentially dangerous even though most men aren't. It's not about what women do with that view; if I had the bowl of M&Ms in question, I'd throw it out without a second thought (even if I had a poison-test kit!), and that obviously doesn't map to what most women do with men. And it's not about the numbers, either; 1 in 4 risky interactions with men don't end in assault even given 1 in 4 men will assault a woman at some point in their lives. But neither of those is the point of the metaphor, and if that's your objection, the useful way to say that is not to say "but you should eat the M&Ms anyway."

The metaphor also leaves out something that I think is really important, because it's focused on the poison M&Ms -- the interactions with men that leave a woman assaulted or worse. The claim is that the rest of the M&Ms, the vast majority of them, are just fine. The thing I've been realizing, listening to my friends talk about this (and the post I linked to above by [personal profile] metaphortunate is a good example) is that mostly what happens when a woman turns down a man's offer of a ride or invitation up to his apartment or whatever because she doesn't want to take that risk right then, is that he either takes it personally or gets overly apologetic and in any case it becomes this big deal with a lot of emotions and becomes this long-lasting awkward thing. And, no, that's not a "poison M&M" that gets her assaulted, but it's not anything close to "just fine" either. And it's not 1 in 4; it's "most of the time." And one of the problematic things about a lot of the responses is that they're directly part of this pattern of men hearing something like a "no", even when it's not personally directed at them, and making it emotionally painful for the woman saying it.

One of the many reasons that side of things is important is that ... well, it's hard to see where I can personally do a lot about men who assault women. Men who think that's okay tend to be men I avoid associating with, and the public persuasive essay has never been a thing I'm good at. But men who get all feelings-hurt about perceived rejections from women? It's a lot easier to find something useful to do about that: It hurts to admit it, and it's something I really don't like about myself, but I've been one of those men a few times. And so I can start by learning how to not do that again.

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New usericons [06 Apr 2014|08:38am]
A couple of the photos that tiger_spot took of me and Morgan at Happy Hollow park yesterday looked like they would make good usericons, and it's been a while since I've had one that was a current photo, so I've created two new icons -- the one that's on this post, and this one that includes Morgan:



Also, here's a larger version of the one that's just me:

cut tagCollapse )

And a larger version of the one with Morgan: link, because it's quite large.

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National this and that days [16 Mar 2014|02:20pm]
I just happened across a list of various American "National such-and-so food" holidays. Provenance completely absent, of course; that's half the fun of these lists, that some random product council or local politician made a declaration and someone found it when assembling a list, and by random chance it propagated rather than dying out, and it's entirely likely that the number of people publishing a list has exceeded the number of people who have actually celebrated the holiday.

With that said, we just missed National Pears Helene day. And Tuesday is National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie day, as distinct from National Oatmeal Cookie day in late April. In a couple of weeks, we have Turkey Neck Soup day (oddly not "National"), and then on April 8 there is National Empanada day which andres_s_p_b may want to celebrate as well as National Spanish Paella Day on March 27.

Interestingly, both June and September are National Papaya Month.

And, in oddly particular holidays, November 12 is National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies day.

Anyhow, it was amusing, and seems like a good source of excuses for parties or supply of ideas for what to cook.

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So long, faithful server. [21 Feb 2014|08:28pm]
[ mood | nostalgic ]

Some bits of sysadmin-foo need commemorating....

So, about a week over ten years ago, in mid-February 2004, a few friends of mine and friends of theirs bought a new little Compaq Pentium-3 server, named it "jinx", installed FreeBSD on it, and set it up in a co-op colo in San Francisco. Later that year, I also got an account on the server, and set up my "dpdx.net" domain and email address there.

In December 2006, when the little mush that lilairen and keshwyn and annwyd and others of us lived on disappeared in someone else's server move, I set up a replacement little mush on jinx. It wasn't much of a mush -- 90-odd objects all totaled including rooms and players -- but it was a community that saw us through hard times and good times and quite a lot of life.

Ten years on, and jinx has been through a couple of datacenter moves and a couple of co-op reorganizations, and a regrettable lack of operating-system upgrades. The friendships with the friends that initially set it up seem to have mostly drifted apart, mostly amicably (I had one hard breakup, perhaps now healed though distant enough that it's hard to say), and I think I ended up with the server because I was the only one really using it. But there comes a time when, no matter how stable a ten-year-old system seems to be, and how reliably the pair of 80MB disks keep spinning (28 billion revolutions so far, or thereabouts), that the need to replace it becomes too hard to ignore.

And so I have set up a new server, in a co-op colo in Minneapolis, and transferred over my domain and email server and the little mush, and they're now running on the new server as if not much has changed. This weekend, I'll go by the colo here to pick up jinx, so this evening was time to shut it down.

So, for posterity, the last session log.Collapse )

Goodnight, little server. And thank you.

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Scott Lynch is looking for an assistant. [05 Jan 2014|09:50pm]
I assume that my circle of readers in Minnesota fandom is pretty much a subset of scott_lynch 's, but just in case, I pass this along: He's looking for a general assistant, about 10-15 hours/week. Details in the linked post.

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Three variations on chicken and dumplings [05 Jan 2014|08:14pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

In which I had several sick people with varying dietary restrictions to feed, and leftovers from a 16.5-pound roast turkey (among other things) with which to feed them.

The largest ingredient was the broth and leftover turkey -- it turns out that one can make an astounding amount of broth from this quantity of turkey carcass and leftover bits. About a gallon and a half, I would guess. In addition to the broth, we had the two drumsticks and a 6-cup-sized Pyrex bowlful of leftover carved bits, all of which I shredded into bite-sized or smaller bits.

Basic Turkey and DumplingsCollapse )

Vegetarian Carrots and DumplingsCollapse )

Gluten/Dairy-Free Turkey and DumplingsCollapse )

This was a general success, but it also dirties all the dishes....

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QWOP, learning, and small amusements. [02 Dec 2013|11:23pm]
[ mood | amused ]

So, because it came up in conversation earlier this evening, as these things do, Andres introduced me to QWOP.

QWOP is mostly the reduction to triviality racing game: You have a runner, and a 100-yard flat track, and you want to get to the end as fast as possible. There is no competition except yourself, the track, and the clock. The catch: You basically get to play the motor neurons in the spinal cord. You have four control keys -- Q and W to control the thighs, and O and P to control the calves. (Thus the name.) No further explanation is given, except a reminder that it's not about whether you win or lose....

The result is a lot like the little cars in the various "genetic algorithm" machine-learning demo programs, where a bunch of randomly-generated simulated "cars" are placed on a bumpy track, and most of them flip over or otherwise spectacularly fail to go anywhere, and a few make it a little ways down the track before spectacularly failing. There is much flailing, and flipping over, and generally failing to make forward progress.

I found it very interesting observing myself learning how to play it. The first step was mostly conscious -- what, exactly, do these keys do? (My immediate guesses were wrong. The answer, which I will not spoil in case you want to repeat the experiment, seemed rather clearly the right thing for them to do once I got there, though.) And then there was figuring out what to do with them. Some of it was watching what my subconscious brain came up with and seeing whether it worked or not.

I noticed myself getting very good at the "this has gone pretzel shaped, hit the spacebar to retry" recognition and action. And starting to become good at the "don't hit the spacebar until the runner has actually hit the ground" timing on that (because it doesn't do anything until he has actually finished falling over). I didn't have to think about that one much, and generally I was already hitting the spacebar by the time my conscious brain processed what just happened.

Somewhere in there I managed to run 3.2 yards backwards. I also came close to Andres's best (in the demo) 3.0 yards forward, but didn't beat it.

Also, at some point I had a distinct insight of, "oh, right, that's how running works," at which point I got about 3.5 yards almost immediately. I still had more false starts and flailings and such than I had good starts, and most of the good starts went only a couple of steps before the spectacular failure, but it was something.

Then was a stage of an interesting back-and-forth between unconscious and conscious learning. I had a reasonably good run of 7.3 yards pretty quickly, and then started getting worse again and had trouble getting past 3 or 4 yards. It seemed like what happened was that my unconscious had temporarily figured out something that worked, but then as I started consciously trying to understand why it worked, I was throwing off my timing and also interrupting the pattern and thus getting momentarily stuck at a key moment. And eventually and more laboriously, I started to both understand consciously a little of what was working and not working, and -- a little ahead of the conscious understanding -- I started being able to generate patterns that worked some of the time.

At the end, I was working on reliably getting a good start (mostly by conscious observation) and getting a recoverable one maybe one time in three, and a good one maybe one time in nine; on mostly-consciously developing a sense of what a good pattern looked like once the running got started; and pretty much entirely unconsciously working on getting the timing right to keep that pattern going once I got there.

The conscious/unconscious interplay became even more intricate; I was noticing that most of the recognition of a good pattern was unconscious -- the critical stuff was happening too fast to really do any conscious processing in time to do anything useful -- but I was trying frantically to overlay conscious processing on it, first to understand what had gone wrong, and second to figure out what I needed to be looking at to keep it from happening. Of course, this was also throwing off my game a bit; I kept breaking the subconscious patterns by focusing on different things. But occasionally I got a decent pattern going that didn't fall apart too fast, and didn't interrupt it too quickly with conscious thinking about what was making it work.

My best was a run of maybe 10 steps or so, making 8.5 yards.

It's remarkably addictive for such a simplistic game.

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Thanksgiving recipes (including dairy-and-gluten-free stuffing) [30 Nov 2013|12:19pm]
I tried a few experimental things in my Thanksgiving cooking this year that came out well, so I'll record them here. As usual, this year's dinner was a semi-organized potluck of everyone bringing a few things, and this year I made the stuffing and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes.

Also, chinders can't have dairy or gluten, and it was important to me that she was able to eat some of everything I was bringing -- so, experimentation.

CornbreadCollapse )

Mushroom Soup/Gravy BaseCollapse )

StuffingCollapse )

GraviesCollapse )

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An amusement and also a bit of sadness [17 Nov 2013|12:20am]
I was going through my ripped-CD collection as part of transferring it to a new computer, which meant going through and associating album art with the various albums. And one of the ones that didn't have album art already in the system was Annwn's Come Away to the Hills, so I went off on a web search to see if I could find a copy -- and found that the whole album is downloadable online on the bandleader's website, with notes and such.

And that means I can share a song that I'm particularly fond of with you all: "The Bard's Exhortation to the Salaryman", which the bandleader wrote "to poke fun at [one of her spouses] during a time when he had a day job and she didn't." It's a cheerfully fae little song about luring someone off to the hills, with a level of lighthearted humor and also a bit of reminder to spend a little time away from work.

Unfortunately, while I can share that with you, I can't tell her how much I enjoyed it ... because, as I found out reading other parts of her site, she died in a motorcycle crash a few years ago, about the time I happened across the CD. And so I am sad.

Anyhow, go listen. It's a fun song.

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How I made a lamb stew today. [09 Nov 2013|08:54pm]
For some reason, the second-person Infocom-game style of narrative seems appropriate to my afternoon today.

So, this is how I made a lamb stew this afternoon....Collapse )

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My father's flying saucer patent. [15 Sep 2013|09:45pm]
I just posted a comment on a blog post about a rather odd experimental dirigible from 1929, and thought some people here might be entertained as well.

One of the many odd things about the dirigible in question was the propulsion mechanism -- instead of a conventional propeller, it basically had a radial impeller mounted on the front of the hemispherical nose, with the intent that the impeller would pull air from in front of the dirigible and blow it outward along the nose in all directions. The expectation was that the airflow would then follow the surface backwards along the dirigible to the tail making a sort of envelope around the whole body -- and because it was this thin sheet of high-speed air, the tail surfaces could be quite small indeed.

This is, in point of fact, nuts. It is, however, not quite as far-fetched as it sounds; airflow will follow surfaces like that in the right conditions -- it's just that rather low-speed flow around a riveted overlapped-strake dirigible body (I said it was odd, yes?) is not the right conditions.

Anyway, there's a bit of personal history here -- and, yes, it does involve a genuine patent by my father and a coworker for a flying saucer. Quoting my comment:
Of course, aside from all the other flaws in that propulsion idea, it's preposterous that a 150hp engine would be sufficient to propel something that large at those sorts of speeds.

The basic propulsion idea did look awfully familiar, though.

I have memories, as a child, of visiting the university research lab of one of my dad's coworkers, where they were working on testing out this contraption: https://www.google.com/patents/US5054713. In short, the basic idea was to replace the impeller by a jet engine and appropriate nozzle, turn the whole thing 90 degrees so the engine pointed upwards, and leave off the back half -- thereby producing a VTOL airplane that looked very much like an upside-down salad bowl. As with Slate's design, the idea was that very small control surfaces in the flow could be used to effectively control the craft. The patent has a sketch of the static test apparatus, which IIRC was about five feet in diameter.

Obviously the idea never went anywhere -- but then, what 1980s VTOL concept did? My impression is that the basic ideas were reasonably sound: the airflow did indeed stay attached to the surface except where the control surfaces intentionally detached it, and the small control surfaces were reasonably effective. Where it completely failed, of course, was on practicality, and on being any better than more conventional options.
I think I may need to get a copy of the patent drawings printed up for my office.

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Household plumbing questions [24 Jul 2013|09:40pm]
Why is it that old rubber gaskets, such as the ones that exist in the clean-water side of toilet plumbing, transmute into semi-permanent black ink when one touches them? And why is it that plumbing manufacturers continue to manufacture ones that do that?

Also, why is it that simple 10-minute plumbing jobs take an hour and a half?

And, finally, why do I seem to have three times as many metric wrenches as imperial ones and can never find the half-inch one, even though I actually have a nearly complete set of both in the drawer and two half-inch ones?

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On phases [11 Jul 2013|10:35pm]
[I had originally posted this as a locked post, but then people said it mattered to them and asked to share it, and so I'm reposting it as a public post. Feel free to link to it, quote it with attribution, and whatnot.]

I was reading a post about dealing with some of the flak that gets thrown at transgender people, and the usual "it's just a phase" thing came up.

And I started thinking of some stories [1]:

Someone dear to me recently commented that for the last couple of years she'd identified as mostly-lesbian, but now she was finding she was being interested in men too; what was up with that? I don't know what's up with that, but I do know that when she was identifying as mostly-lesbian, that was a pretty real thing that mattered.

Someone else dear to me is genderqueer, though when I met them ten years ago, they were happily approximately-female. Today they are sometimes female, and sometimes male, and often complicated, depending on whether the wind is north-north-West or southerly. Being female is pretty important to them. Being male is pretty important to them. All these things are real.

Someone else dear to me spent a half-dozen years being genderqueer, and then more recently has started identifying as male.

Someone else dear to me was unable to walk until a few months ago; now she's walking easily.

I could keep going for pages of these. There's something critically important here.

Life is phases.

Life is phases.

Life is phases.

(Anyone who says differently is selling something.)

Dismissing something as "just a phase" is not only dismissing the thing, but dismissing the idea that non-permanent things matter -- which is to say, dismissing life itself. We are human; we change, we grow, we shrink, we learn, we forget. When we stop changing, we are dead.

People's identities are no less real, and no less important, when they are not permanent.

So, in pushing back against the "it's just a phase" dismissals -- and, gods in pink feathers, does that need to be pushed back against -- let us be careful not to too quickly negate it to "it's not a phase". People can really be lesbian, or really be transgender, or really be genderqueer, or really be cisgendered, or really be heterosexual, or really be a physics major, or any of these things, for their whole lives or just for a time -- and they are as much really those things regardless of permanence, and as much deserving of respect and acceptance for who they are.

Let us not tell these people, even implicitly, that they were not "really" a lesbian if they become bisexual, that they are not "really" male today if they are female tomorrow, that they were not "really" genderqueer if they become straightforwardly male, or that they are not "really" a toddler because they will grow up.


[1] Of necessity these stories are oversimplified, which is why they're anonymized.

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Much Ado About Nothing [16 Jun 2013|06:52pm]
As suzanne noted, Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing is playing at the Aquarius in Palo Alto, and we went off to see it this afternoon. They've only got showtimes listed on the website through the 20th, and something else is starting on the 21st (though they do have two theatres, so that may not be conclusive), so if you want to see it it may be prudent to see it soon.

Also, you do want to see it.

It is a really good adaptation. The acting is really great, which is fun with the fact that it's using the original text; there are lots of places with reactions and unspoken communication -- and it's fun watching how they interplay with the verbal lines. The visual humor of the parts where Benedict and Beatrice are eavesdropping on conversations for their benefit are really well done, especially Beatrice's.

The other thing that's great about the acting is that ... well, there are some bits of the play that are a bit hard to sell as being something that real people would do. I am admittedly not the best person to judge, but to me they really did sell most of them; Claudio's flip-flopping of emotions between love and jealousy in particular.

I was also quite taken with the choice to do this in black-and-white, despite the modern-day setting. It added a layer of anachronism to the visual setting that seemed to balance the anachronism of the language, with the result that they both seemed part of the whole rather than the language just seeming weird. Likewise, in some of the parts where the text devolves into almost absurdist humor, there's visual humor to go along with it. (Nathan Fillion putting on his sunglasses had me laughing out loud, which is rather an unexpected thing to say out of context. Also there were altogether way too many shoulder holsters in that scene, which was entirely appropriate.)

Also, Joss had a whole movie and didn't kill off a beloved character. Which is also rather remarkable.

So, yeah. Go see it.

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Ironic light bulbs [29 May 2013|10:06pm]
I went to fix a not-working taillight on my Bronco (my when-I-drive daily driver) today, and discovered to my annoyance that the package of lights that I thought were taillight bulbs for it didn't actually fit.

This led to the question of why I had them. So, I did some poking around on the Sylvania bulb-fitting website, and discovered the answer.

They are taillight bulbs for literally every other vehicle I have ever owned, every vehicle suzanne has owned, and even all the ones I've regularly driven and didn't own -- which adds up to a collection spanning three decades of model years. Just not for the Bronco.

(Luckily, the Bronco had two perfectly-good taillight bulbs; the non-functional one worked fine after I prodded it a bit to reseat it.)

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An important subcultural question of our time [30 Mar 2013|12:47am]
CRTpunk: too soon?


(It is, of course, the next logical step after dieselpunk. If it doesn't exist yet I want credit for naming it.)

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Random amusement on a Saturday morning [02 Mar 2013|11:58am]
The local police department's social-media person is fond of posting historic photos and asking if people can identify where they were taken. This morning they posted a 1960s photo of an accident involving a car and a telephone pole that I concluded was only a few blocks from me, and said, "tell us as much as you can about this photograph."

So I biked over and found the date nail recording the year the telephone pole was put up, and replied with a photo of it:


I'm not sure this exactly qualifies as being an armchair detective any more, though.

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Buckwheat Banana Bread (optionally gluten-free!) [11 Feb 2013|11:18pm]
So this has come up in a number of contexts and I figured I might as well just globally post the recipe once for everyone.

This is the canonical banana bread of my people, or at least of me -- it's what my mom always made when I was a child, and generally what I still make today. The recipe card I copied it off of says that it's from Southern Living magazine, probably in the late 1970s or very early 1980s; it has accreted annotations since then.

Recipe behind cut-tagCollapse )
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World's simplest mushroom soup recipe, now as pasta sauce. [06 Jan 2013|01:48pm]
So, a while back, I posted a very simple mushroom soup recipe, which basically involved boiling lots of mushrooms in about enough vegetable broth to cover, and then pureeing.

It turns out that if you take that and add tomato paste and some appropriate spices, you get a really tasty pasta sauce that has a lot of the characteristics of a bolognese while being vegetarian (and enough of its own thing to not be just fake-meat-sauce). And it's even friendly to vegetarians who don't like the texture of mushrooms because it's all pureed and stuff.

(chinders said it tasted exactly like Chef Boyardee, oddly. Speaking of whom, did you know that Chef Boiardi -- who founded the Chef Boyardee food line and was its namesake -- directed catering at President Wilson's wedding?)

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I've been meaning to post a link to this.... [26 Dec 2012|06:01pm]
Saint Harridan Kickstarter project

This is an example of one of the really nifty sorts of things that Kickstarter is making possible. Saint Harridan is a line of clothing -- specifically, a line of formal suits, for women, that are styled as men's suits rather than the traditionally "feminine" styling of basically everything that's available for women today that's not custom-made.

They're priced like a good man's suit; from what I can tell on the page, they're of the quality of a good man's suit. (They have real pockets!) But designed to fit women, rather than just happening to.

Also, their models are astoundingly attractive in a not-traditionally-feminine way, which I suspect many of you may appreciate.

Anyhow, they're well past their funding minimum, so this is definitely a going thing -- but if you want in on the first round, you've got until tomorrow evening before it's done.

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