Reinventing Fire

Divide and Conquer

October 9, 2011

Filed under: Politics,Real Life — Magister @ 2:58 am

I have Libertarian friends who think Ron Paul has a chance at the GOP nomination… My intuition is that they are engaging in wishful thinking. My best guess is Romney will take it, but I’m hoping for Cain, for 2 reasons:

  1. It would be kind of awesome to have 2 black candidates for President of the United States; and
  2. I like the idea of Obama going up against McCain and then Cain… it would confuse future schoolchildren.

But should my guess prove correct, and Paul lose the Republican nomination, where would that leave him? He’s garnered quite a lot of support in some polls, and that might encourage him enough to consider splitting off again to run as an independent. After all, he is 76 years old, and may not have that many more chances to run (though he’s pretty spry), so he may as well throw it all in the ring for 2012. (Why independent and not Libertarian? He’s already got the Libertarian vote, and independent status might get him a few people who wouldn’t vote strict Libertarian… it’s a safer label.)

I would love this.

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Speaking in the Third Person

August 28, 2011

Filed under: Philosophy,Real Life — Magister @ 2:24 pm

This is just a simple essay on how I see the world, and how I came to that view, the first in a set of posts I’m labeling philosophy. There’s no real point to it, no political or technical agenda… just some reflection and thinking out loud. I’ve never formally studied philosophy, and I’m sure these thoughts are probably not particularly original, but I arrived at them organically through my own life, in what passes for wisdom. Megan, my wife, laughs at me whenever I start a sentence with “I have a theory…”; apparently, I have a lot of theories. I have an active imagination, and I’m very opinionated; I like to try to figure out how the world works.

The way the mind works fascinates me in particular, and my understandings and beliefs about it have changed and evolved significantly through my adult life. I’m recording these thoughts now for the entertainment of some future me.
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Recharging Roadtrips

November 27, 2010

Filed under: Real Life,Travel — Magister @ 6:29 am

Last week, Megan and I went to the opening ceremony of the first electric vehicle charging station in North Carolina, on the corner of W. Hargett and Dawson in Raleigh.

Megan wrote up a short blog post about it, and we talked about what this might mean for the future of our national infrastructure.

We have a Prius, so if we got an electric car (I like the Nissan Leaf, and not just because they use SVG on their site), we would probably use the hybrid for longer trips, so we could refuel easily. But in 10 years, that might change. Since it takes around half an hour to fully charge modern electric cars using the class 3 charger (the heavy-duty one), and 4-6 hours using a class 2 charger, electric road-trippers will need something to do while they wait. Megan mentions this in her blog:

Would owners of this type of business be motivated to install charging stations as a way to attract customers and hold them captive while their car is charging?

I could see a whole new class of businesses that cater to waiting customers, that charge the charging, so to speak: movie theaters, theme parks, mini-zoos, gaming parlors (multiplayer videogames or casinos or both), strolling gardens… activities that emphasize a more leisurely pace of travel. The return of the roadside attraction!

Here’s to the retro-future!

No Glee for Atheists

October 12, 2010

Filed under: Atheism,Real Life — Magister @ 5:56 pm

The theme of last week’s episode of Glee was religion and atheism. To their credit, they approached it playfully and even a bit irreverently, with Billy Joel’s Only The Good Die Young and one character making wishes on a Grilled Cheesus like it’s a djinni bottle. They even revealed that two of the characters on the show were atheists, which is an unusual and maybe even brave move, even if only as a plot device.

So, kudos to Glee for even raising the topic of atheism. It’s a topic that most shows, especially ones that take themselves more seriously, avoid like the plague. They even raised the problem of theodicy: if there really is a loving, merciful, all-powerful God, why is there such profound misery and suffering in this vale of tears? Maybe the lightness of the show in general let them risk pushing some buttons in this apparently very religious country. The episode was timely, too, on the heels of Pew Research Center’s recent U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, where atheists came out on top in knowledge of religion, and the atheist characters in the show certainly had the most eloquent refutations of religious faith.

So… that’s what I liked about it.

(Warning, spoiler alert!)
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Successful Launches

May 14, 2010

Filed under: Real Life,Travel — Magister @ 10:47 pm

Today has been a good day for launches! In my last post, I mentioned the successful launch of the W3C Audio Incubator Group, which I’ve been working on for a few weeks.

The second launch is a bit more visceral. When I realized that there would only be a few more space shuttle launches, Megan and I decided that we would try to see one if we could. This occurred to me about a month ago, but I wasn’t sure we could fit it into our schedule. But this week, Megan had to cancel a long biketrip, and that opened up a spot for us to drive down. So, we drove ten and a half hours to Cape Canaveral, slept a few hours in a cheap hotel, and got up early (for us, 8:00 AM is really early) to drive to Jetty Park, which was already crowded by the time we got there.

But we still landed a good spot right on the waterfront across from the launch site. A few low clouds threatened the launch early on, but it cleared up by early afternoon. A passing Korean car cargo ship gave us a little anxiety, fearing it might block the view, but it cleared in plenty of time.

Finally, the countdown blared out of someone’s radio, and the whole waterfront chimed in. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

We were pretty far away, but the rocket flame was impressively bright in person, and when the sound reached us, we could almost feel it. This is the final flight of the Atlantis, which makes me a bit sad. I’m ambivalent about retiring the shuttles… single-launch rockets are probably a cheaper option… still, it’s drawing to the end of an era, and I hope we keep pushing forward. Gauss-gun launch rails, anyone?

So, it was a successful launch, which makes me glad. Definitely worth the trip.

We did come away from it with reddened, painfully sensitive skin. I assert that this is rocketburn, not sunburn. Need a higher Rocket Protection Factor next time.

Flashback at a Film

March 8, 2010

Filed under: Real Life — Magister @ 2:09 am

Last night I saw a 12-minute short film by an old friend, Michael Babbitt, playing at his local church.  Years back, Michael was foolhardy enough to let me be an extra in some of the plays put on by the Open Door Theatre company, which he co-founded, and in which he acted and directed.  Seeing him again really threw my mind back to the turn of the century. (more…)

Sonnet to Liberty

July 4, 2009

Filed under: Real Life — Magister @ 11:39 pm

For the Fouth of July, America’s Independence Day, here’s a poem by Oscar Wilde, from 1881:

Not that I love thy children, whose dull eyes
See nothing save their own unlovely woe,
Whose minds know nothing, nothing care to know,—
But that the roar of thy Democracies,
Thy reigns of Terror, thy great Anarchies,
Mirror my wildest passions like the sea,—
And give my rage a brother——! Liberty!
For this sake only do thy dissonant cries
Delight my discreet soul, else might all kings
By bloody knout or treacherous cannonades
Rob nations of their rights inviolate
And I remain unmoved—and yet, and yet,
These Christs that die upon the barricades,
God knows it I am with them, in some things.

Unhacked?

March 29, 2009

Filed under: Meta,Real Life,Technical — Magister @ 1:51 am

Last year, I noticed that my blog had lost all its styling… I was busy with other things at the time, preparing for my presentation at WWW2008 (and my subsequent vacation in China), juggling cats, and so forth, so I didn’t really fret about it. I thought it was probably just my host temporarily flaking out.

But when I futzed around with it, I noticed that if I changed themes, the styling came back. Hmmm. But again, didn’t think much of it. Well, it had been hacked, and hacked good. I rebuilt the theme from scratch, and that seemed to fix it (the hacker had injected some hundreds of fascinating links inside the header and footer templates). But for some reason, nobody could leave comments anymore, and some of my posts had disappeared. Days turned into weeks turned into months… and Google let me know that my site was still hacked in some mysterious manner that honestly doesn’t interest me much, but which had a pragmatic downside: they removed my site from their index. Simple fix, they said: just uninstall your site and start from scratch.

For a while, I just put my excess energy into my twits (other people may have “tweets”, but mine are so inane I think “twits” is more appropriate). But I had a hankering to blog again, so I finally put a few uninterrupted minutes together and un- and re-installed my blog software, exporting and importing my history. Maybe this will fix it? Only the Shadow knows…

But at least comments seem to work again, and over the next few weeks, I may play around with new themes and other adjustments.

Inauguration Vacation

January 21, 2009

Filed under: Parties,Politics,Real Life,Travel — Magister @ 12:00 am

What a fine day! Most importantly, of course, America has a new President, a man of dignity and intellect, who selects his appointments on the merit of the candidate. And if that weren’t enough, Megan and I were there to bear witness (along with two million of our closest friends) to this historic event. (more…)

A Sentimental Journey

January 18, 2009

Filed under: Real Life,Travel — Magister @ 11:06 pm

Megan and I travel back to my hometown of Jefferson City, Missouri every year, at least at Christmas and sometimes in the summer when we can, to see my family; most of them still live within an hour or so of where we grew up.  Xmas get-togethers are always fun… with a family my size (I’m the youngest of twelve), we have to rent a hall, and the adults do a playing-card white elephant gift exchange (the kids do an open Kris Kringle).

Since Megan is in graduate school this year, and has a longer break than when she is working, and I can work from anywhere I have a Tube connection, we decided to make it a little longer than usual.  En route, we visited a couple of friends and a few cities.

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