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Brooks

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Out-of-context quote of the day [18 Sep 2016|06:55pm]
"Wow, look at those goalposts go! Zoom, zoom!"

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Chronicles of Cal the Bard, pt 4ish. [07 Sep 2016|11:07pm]
[ mood | smug ]

I'd like to write up session summaries of the 13th Age game I've started playing in (and, given that I'm playing a bard, it seems appropriate), but I get home from the games about 11:00, so I'm not sure whether that's likely to ever happen regularly. Anyway, this was the 4th session that I've been to, I think -- and, rather than trying to start at the beginning and catch up, here are some highlights from today's session. Because today we learned that my character is kind of a badass when he wants to be.

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Today I learned.... [05 Sep 2016|03:47pm]
One of the things about home construction projects is that there are quite a number of thingummies that one knows the existence of (or, often, doesn't know the existence of, until one discovers them and realizes that they are exactly what one needed), but one doesn't know what they are called.

Sometimes these names are rather ... evocative.

Today I learned that the thingummy that I was looking for is called a "cable gland".

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An observation on tomatoes [19 Aug 2016|02:21pm]
The benefits of keeping up the volunteer tomato plants that show up in one's garden (or front flowerbed!) from the homemade compost are that many of them are cheerful and hardy and they take very little effort other than staking them up.

This has, however, led to the observation that while standard bulk-handling-resilient grocery-store Roma tomatoes are passably tasty, they don't actually taste much better when homegrown than they do from the store.

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Memories of my father, and how I became interested in engineering. [19 Jun 2016|12:54pm]
siderea posted a question earlier this morning asking how her readers got into "geeky stuff", and my answer had a lot about my father, so given the day I thought I'd repost it here.




I don't really remember a lot from that young, but I know that when I was eight or so, in 1984, my father brought home a tiny "pocket computer" from a yard sale and we had fun programming it, and that seemed entirely normal to me. He was an engineering professor, and so I spent a fair bit of time when I was small visiting him in his office and playing with his box of turbine blades and with the toy tractor that one of the admins had. And then in 1985, when I was nine, he brought home an IBM PC and I started learning to write BASIC programs -- and, a bit later, helped him write programs that would do simple engineering computations and in a couple of cases would create numerical-milling-machine programs to make parts for his experiments.

Also my brother and I had vast amounts of LEGO bricks, and we already had a significant number of them when I was seven or so. That probably also contributed to the habits of making things. Once we got to an age of doing things with the Technic bricks, which would have started around 10 or 11, I was doing things like figuring out how to build a front-wheel-drive mechanism. (With the parts available at the time, it wasn't particularly satisfying and was a bit fragile, but it worked.)

I figure a lot of the influence was from my dad, partly just visibly doing engineer things at home and sharing what he was doing. I remember him, when I was young, sitting at the kitchen table tracing the connections on an 80-channel slip ring with a multimeter and labeling all the wires. When the engineering department had a rubber-band-powered dragster contest, we built an entry together (using, among other things, wheels from my Capsela set -- I remember that we had trouble with the wheels slipping and spinning when it started, so the night before the race he coated them in a bit of maple syrup so they would be sticky). And then, when I was ten, we built a new house -- which he and my mom designed, and I helped by helping building small cardboard models of the interior spaces and the outside and coloring them with my colored pencils. A bit later, when I was fourteen or so, the three of us (him and my brother and me) entered a contest to make a small water turbine that would lift a weight using water from an overhead tank -- he did most of the design, but showed us how to do the calculations for it and we helped in designing it.

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Formal and informal diction [17 Jun 2016|11:06pm]
[ mood | confused ]

I just sent my insurance agent an email, and got a reply back, and was struck by the difference in writing tone between the two. I think I'm incapable of not lapsing into formal tone when I write that sort of thing. And then when people write back with an informal-friendly tone, I feel awkward about it.

Not sure what to do about that, but I notice it.

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[28 May 2016|09:44pm]
So it turns out that, although the things in the "sunchoke" bin at the local grocery store looked like (sort of large) sunchokes when I got a bag of them, and even looked rather like sunchokes when chinders peeled them to put some in the dinner salad, they didn't quite _smell_ like sunchokes. They smelled a little ... peppery, she said. And, so, experimentally, Morgan and I each had a thin slice to taste to see if they tasted odd.

Morgan, wisely, had a tiny bite and then spat it out.

Meanwhile, I ate the whole slice, because why wouldn't one do that.

And now I know that eating a slice of raw horseradish root is not an experiment I particularly want to repeat. Yipe. Oops.

So now I need to figure out what to do with about three pounds of horseradish root.

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What do "family" and "partner" mean to you? [02 Apr 2016|10:07pm]
The word "family", in the sense of "chosen family" (which may or may not include one's "blood family"), can mean a lot of different things to different people. Likewise, especially in the poly world but even in the world of standard-appearing monogamous relationships, "partner" (in the relationship sense, not the business sense) can mean a remarkable lot of things.

As a result of some recent miscommunications, I'm chewing over what these mean to me, and I'm feeling very curious: What do these words mean to you, if and when you use them for your relationships? Do they have implications about what sorts of things you can rely on someone for, or what they can rely on you for? Are there expectations of willingness to perform emotional labor, or physical labor, or provide resources? (In exceptional circumstances? As a normal pattern?) Are there expectations of where the relationship fits in daily life? Of there being particular emotions that tend to come from the relationship?

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Avocado seeds, eh? [24 Mar 2016|11:36pm]
I clicked on a Facebook-ad clickbait link about the things one could do with avocado seed, out of possibly-misguided late-night curiosity. Well, definitely-misguided; the link went to a video that I declined to watch, so it wasn't enlightening at all, but putting "grated avocado seed" into Google found a few more things.

I was particularly entertained by the site that was all about "antioxidants" and "amino acids" and buzzword this and superfood that, and how it will regulate thyroid function; can be used topically as a joint- and muscle-pain reducer and rejuvenates the skin; prevents tumor growth, heart disease, and epilepsy; and is an aphrodisiac -- and, to top it off, "ground avocado seeds mixed with cheese and flour are used for mouse poison"!

Just what I always wanted as a recommendation for a food that will cure all that ails me, yeah?

(As far as I can tell from other sites, yeah, avocado seeds are toxic to rabbits and rodents, but apparently not to humans in quantities of one seed or so -- though the recipes suggest removing the brown skin from the pit. Also, there are claims that a bit of ground avocado pit is a traditional ingredient in some North-Mexican enchilada sauces.)

Perhaps more uncontroversially, one can also use them to make a rather nice dusty-reddish dye. That one, I might try.

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A bit of a political rant. [19 Mar 2016|12:34am]
[ mood | grumpy ]

I posted this on Google+, initially intending to just link to an article and write a paragraph about it, but it turned into a bit of a long-form rant so I'm posting it here as well.

The article I linked to is "Why the South Is Rebelling Again" on politico.com, with a lead photo of a run-down roadside used-to-be-a-gas-station building in Southwest Virginia with a Trump "make America great again" campaign sign out front, and lead-in text of "Rural voters are mad about constant job losses, and they’ve had it with the party establishment."

Here's what I had to say about it:

I find it noteworthy how little airplay this set of issues -- and, for that matter, the ways these communities of people have been systematically disenfranchised and marginalized by our governments and businesses in the last handful of decades -- gets in the political discussions around me here in Silicon Valley.

Frankly, from this perspective, I can't see a thing about the other Republican candidates that I would support -- but I can see quite a lot about Trump that sounds appealing. This is who he's talking to with "make America great again," and for these communities their part of America definitely was great within living memory in ways that it certainly isn't now for reasons that are in part directly because just about every political side in power has shortchanged them for profits elsewhere.

I think there's also a critical difference in the rhetoric that will appeal, between communities like this that remember doing well, and communities that have "always" been disenfranchised. Rhetoric of "wealth equality" is not going to appeal (to your pocketbook, anyway) when you think of yourself as being on the well-off side of the spectrum, and a lot of that anti-appeal carries over when you think of yourself as should-be-well-off.

Likewise, a critical difference in the rhetoric that will appeal to rural communities where the whole geographic region is economically depressed, and urban communities where you ride the train past the rich neighborhoods on a regular basis. Rhetoric of "wealth equality" talks about solving the problem as if it's a zero-sum game, and in a place where you can't see hardly anyone who has what they had 30 years ago, zero-sum solutions don't look so good. But making the whole pie great again, that's a solution that could go somewhere.

And of course these combine. I'm guessing that the typical Trump supporter in rural Virginia is struggling to get by, but sees themselves as having more than many other people around them, and also habitually sees themselves as more well-off than not. And so the natural expectation is that anything that redistributes wealth is going to redistribute it away from them, not towards them. Oh, and for good measure, add in the politics of seeing themselves as "middle class", seeing typical government social programs as primarily benefiting people who are below middle class, and (rather reasonably) observing that the upper classes are not very populous and generally find -- or buy -- loopholes so that they don't actually pay for anything.

And, when "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" is a running joke with an awful lot of truth to it -- even with social programs, just look at how much pain we put people through to get even rudimentary social services -- the only sorts of government help that people are likely to really believe in are the ones that involve the government being over there doing something far away from me. Like, say, building walls, or lowering my taxes.

I certainly hope that the Democrats (whether Sanders or Clinton wins the primary) can field a campaign that understands this position as much as Trump does and is as clear about standing up for these people, and then can deliver on those promises.

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Odd things I have found in the attic so far [12 Mar 2016|01:07am]
[ mood | amused ]

I've been exploring the attic in our new house in order to run a phone line across to the logical place -- a somewhat centrally-located closet -- to put the networking stuff, and also to put in a power outlet there. (The house has no crawlspace, so everything goes in the attic instead.)

So far, I have found the following things in the attic that I did not expect to find in the attic:

  • A plastic figure of a character from Spongebob Squarepants.
  • The rear window to an unknown (but relatively recent) car.
  • An empty package for a lubricated condom.
Also, the electrical panel for the house is very incompletely and inaccurately documented with a handful of Dymo labels in what we think might be Slovenian. The one that happens to go to the one light in the attic, along with a random assortment of other things throughout the house, is labeled "ZAHODM", which two people have independently suggested may be a typo for "Z'ha'dum".

I am beginning to be slightly concerned about this....

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[11 Mar 2016|12:19am]
So The Toast posted an essay on the Black woman character in the new "Ghostbusters" movie as she shows up in the trailer. In particular, an essay about the ways that at least in the trailer she's reflecting all the stereotyped Hollywood (and broader-culture) portrayals of black women.

You could read this for the view on "Ghostbusters" and what to make of it as a social-justice-promoting movie for its having an all-female ghostbusting team, and whether you're likely to like to movie.

You could also read this as a very clearly encapsulated illustration of the ways that "I included a positive character who's not a standard white male, so I'm doing my part for diversity" can fail in ways that are worse than not including them, and exactly why that failure state is possible. There are no doubt all sorts of subtleties and corner issues and ways that well-intentioned writers can unknowingly do this badly -- but this isn't one of those cases. This is a very clear and easily-explained and obvious (at least once explained) example, and the things that lead to the problems are big and easy to see.

This seems like a good antidote for writers who are worried that they will do this sort of thing by accident. Go, read this. Here's what the problem actually looks like, and how it works, and why. This isn't a subtle trap that people run into despite trying not to; it is not at all hard to avoid this instance of this problem. It is not at all hard to do a lot better than this. And, once you've written a thing, you can ask people to beta-read it and tell you if it's doing this in a subtle way -- and, if it is, you now know how the problem works so you can fix it.

As is usual with The Toast, also read the comments. The comments are good, and add extra commentary -- such as one that points out the importance of taking responsibility for why your audience is laughing at your jokes, as well as for making them laugh.

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Goodbye, beloved cat. [31 Jan 2016|06:22pm]
Beatrice, ???? to 2016.

We adopted her in 2008, and we don't really know how old she was then; the medical paperwork we got with her wasn't very accurate. But she was at least six, and maybe ten, years old then. She was a tiny, tiny cat; maybe seven or eight pounds at the most. She spent most of the nights curled up sleeping on top of Suzanne's hip, or occasionally mine, and was generally quite snuggly. And very patient with Morgan. We will miss her a lot.



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Inspired by a great jazz instrumental version [12 Sep 2015|02:03pm]
The world really could use a revised version of "You Are My Sunshine" with non-creepy lyrics. And a good earwormy recording thereof.

Or at least, I could.

(For the record, the instrumental that inspired this was by Bert Kaempfert and his Orchestra.)

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Why is the word "seeble" not in common usage? [05 Apr 2015|10:20pm]
This word came from the alt.polyamory newsgroup (at least in my experience), and I find myself wanting to use it in other contexts frequently. Most of those contexts are ones where nobody would know what it means, and this is a notable hole in my casual-language vocabulary.

So, definitions, insofar as it works in my idiolect:

seeble, transitive verb [humorous mock-backformation from sibling, brother or sister]: To have a (gender-nonspecific) sibling relationship with the subject, particularly in the metaphorical sense of sharing the same feelings about the current topic of discussion and/or supportiveness and feeling sympathy.

seeble, interjection [from transitive verb seeble]: An expression that one seebles the person one is replying to.

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On cleaving, in six parts. [18 Nov 2014|08:43pm]
1.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed splitting firewood.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed splitting firewood, outdoors on a crisp Virginia slightly-below-freezing late November afternoon, and having the muscle memories start to come back.

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It turns out that buttercream frosting is really very easy. [12 Sep 2014|10:53pm]
[ mood | happy ]

I expected it to be sort of tricky, like baking is, but then I looked at the recipes and did it twice, and it isn't.

The basic recipe seems to be thus: Take a quantity of powdered sugar, about equal in size to the amount of frosting you want. Mash in butter (or, if doing dairy-free, margarine) a bit at a time until you get to a smooth paste. Then mix in milk or cream (or, if doing dairy-free, coconut milk) a bit at a time until it's the consistency you want. Presto, frosting.

For chocolate frosting, add cocoa powder in something approximating a 1:5 ratio with the sugar and mix that together first. Optionally, whether doing chocolate or plain, add some vanilla along with the milk. Presumably you could also add other extracts, such as almond or orange or lemon or mint.

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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:

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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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