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Fri, 20 May 2005

Astrology Defended

— SjG @ 3:13 pm

As the son of an Astronomer, it would be the height of heresy (not to mention treason) to say something along the lines of “but Astrology is scientifically defensible”.

I have, however, had a theory rattling around in my head for a while on this topic. My theory may be obvious and well known, perhaps even disproven, but I have yet to see any other references to the basic concept. A recent study on the factors determining the onset of menopause, however, shows a similar conclusion, so I felt like it was time to present the idea.

My assumption is that people’s personalities could be shaped by the time of year in which they are born, and that common traits may be found among people born in similar seasons. This is not to say that the boundaries are calendar months, nor linked to planetary or cosmic positions, with the exception of the relative positioning of the earth and sun. My thought is that the availability of vitamins and micronutrients in the diet have traditionally been seasonal, and that neonatal nutrition may have a subtle but real effect upon brain development. Obviously, there are a lot of caveats to this theory: primarily, it assumes that personality is (at least partially) a result of physical brain structure.

In any case, next time you hear someone rejecting Astrology out-of-hand with arguments about the relative gravitational fields of the planets and the doctor delivering a baby, this theory can be used to play devil’s advocate. And, after all, that’s where the fun is.

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Thu, 12 May 2005

Le Mort d’ Arthur

— SjG @ 9:06 pm

Thomas Malory, 1470, edition published by William Caxton, reprinted as an eBook from BlackMask.com

Top ten archaic words from Mort d’ Arthur that deserve to be brought back into the common lexicon:

  1. dight: orderly, proper, or adorned. “And at the last he entered into a chamber that was marvellously and well dight and richly…”
  2. maugre: in spite of, notwithstanding. “… yet had I liefer die in this prison with worship, than to have one of you to my paramour maugre my head.”
  3. hight: to call or name. “It was a king that hight Meliodas, and he was lord and king of the country of Liones…”
  4. liefer: prefer, rather. “…for there is no knight that I saw this seven years that I had liefer ado withal than with him.”
  5. wood: mad, insane, raving. “Then was the king wood wroth that he had no knights to answer him.”
  6. yede: past tense of to go. “Then he yede and armed him and horsed him in the best manner.”
  7. siker: certain, secure. “So was there sikerness made on both parties that no treason should be wrought on neither party; …”
  8. paynim: Pagan, non-Christian, especially Saracen or Muslim. “Then the damosel sent unto Corsabrin, and bade him go unto Sir Palomides that was a paynim as well as he…”
  9. sithen: since. “Now tell me your name, sith ye be a lover, or else I shall do battle with you.”
  10. chiertee: tenderness, affection, cheerfulness. “Howbeit it hath liked her good grace to have me in chiertee, and to cherish me more than any other knight…”
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Mon, 9 May 2005

Post Apocalyptic Puzzles

— SjG @ 3:33 pm

I have a strange mania, which comprises various and sundry thoughts involving reconstruction, reinvention, and rebuilding some semblance of structure after some unspecified societal collapse. Maybe it’s because I read too much post-apocalyptic science fiction at too young an age, or because I’ve succumbed to the fear-mongering of the news media, but I often find myself thinking about how I would implement key elements of infrastructure (or even obscure and trivial manufacturing) if the existing order were to fail.

This is not to say I’m a survivalist, or caching weapons, or preparing for The Tribulations. Frankly, living where and how I do, I’d be unlikely to survive a serious breakdown of our society. Maybe it’s merely a fascination with how things work.

This section will include some of these musings.

I’ll start with something trivial: how would I build a machine to manufacture pipecleaners?

The basic idea of a pipecleaner is simple: a large number of short, stiff bristles are held tightly together in a spiral formed of two or more wires. The puzzle is that the tight spiral of wire holds the bristles in position; before the wires are twisted, the bristles are free to move however they will. Using longer bristles makes it easier to hold them in position, but more difficult to twist the wires which will secure them. What’s more, that would require trimming the bristles after the twist is completed, which would be a complicated spiral cut, and would be wasteful.

My best solution thus far is to have a mechanism knot long bristles around one wire, which enables a simple straight cut to correct their length, and prevents wasted material. Then, the second wire is applied, and the two wires are twisted.


Sun, 1 May 2005

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood

— SjG @ 1:10 pm

Peter Biskind, Simon & Schuster, 1998

This is really only the second book I’ve read on Hollywood, the first being David Niven’s Bring On the Empty Horses. The books are about very different eras, and they are, not surprisingly, very different books. Empty Horses is a raconteur’s reminiscences, a participant’s tales retold with a certain charm and tact, even when dealing with scandal and excess. Easy Riders is a much denser history, more concerned with the facts, and is written with a distinct thesis. There’s another obvious difference, with Niven focusing on the stars and Biskind focusing on the Directors. But there’s deeper stylistic differences as well. Niven’s recountings each have their own arc, segueing into one another, perhaps, but mostly episodic. Biskind’s retelling is much less linear, telling chronologically parallel stories.

I can’t remember when I have read anything that throws such a bewildering quantity of names and facts per page as Easy Riders does. Lacking Biskind’s encyclopedic understanding of the names and interrelations of the people involved, coupled with his tendency to refer to a person by first name, then last name, then nickname, then role (sometimes all in a single paragraph) I was occasionally left confused.

Yet even with this confusion, I thought the book did a remarkable job of telling the tale of the rise and fall of a generation of filmmakers, gave insight into their movies, and even helped explain the Hollywood of today. It also sketches out the attributes required to become a successful director or producer in Hollywood.

Like Empty Horses, Easy Riders left me with a sense of the personalities behind the movies, but, more importantly, gives some texture to the zeitgeist from which the movies sprang.

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Wed, 2 Feb 2005

Today’s Vision of the Future

— SjG @ 3:44 pm

Today’s installment:

  • everything will have a camera on it.
  • everything will be connected to the internet.
  • everything will have gigs of memory or more.
  • everything will have a GPS receiver in it.
  • everything will serve up targeted advertising based on location, personal history, and other gathered demographic data.
  • everything will play your music and movies to you.
  • everything will spontaneously reboot at least once a week.
  • the job title “Systems/Gadget Immunologist” will be more prestigious than “Doctor.”
  • nobody will brush their teeth or floss; instead they’ll squeeze another tube of plaque-scrubbing nanobots into their mouths once a month.
  • people will network their home theaters, so they can recreate the experience of seeing a movie with other people.
  • houses will be equipped with special systems to play your personal theme music for various activities. Only old folks will use the same theme song for activity_01.01 (getting up in the morning) and activity_07.47 (returning to the house).