I voted

Another election has come and gone, but I wasn’t really tuned into it.  A large part of it was the reason mentioned here, namely that voters can’t rely on candidates or their supporters to give reliably factual information either about the candidate or their opposition.  Perhaps it’s the downside to living in the information age that there’s so much information that disinformation is prevalent, and trying to call anyone on it just gets lost in the noise anyway.

When I’m listening to NPR during my commute, I find I have to check myself to giving into confirmation bias when I readily accept statements that confirms my world view and doubt statements that do not.  (On the other hand, when Putin says he supports peace in Ukraine and is not sending in tanks, I find it really hard to believe him or his foreign ministers.  I bet Putin has a good laugh every time he lies about what’s going on under the table because, even if the west denounces his actions and Ukraine throws accusations every other day, what does he care when Russians believe his propaganda.)

Anyway, the only election that really interested me was California State Superintendent for Public Schools.  (Okay, that’s not the only election I cared about.  But even though Obama’s approval numbers are in the 40’s, the GOP congress’ numbers are in the 20’s.  Yet they increase their number of seats?  That’s a serious WTH moment.)

Okay, okay: Torlakson vs. Tuck.  The contest was billed as a mirror of the battle over education in country, with Torlakson representing the establishment (heavy backing from teachers unions and incumbent democrats) and Tuck representing reform.  Except with his charter school and business school background, Tuck represents a very particular type of reform centered around test scores.  I want reform, but not one where students are reduced to test scores and teachers are paid and fired based on test scores, especially since I believe the tests are fundamentally flawed.

I recently bought a kalimba, specifically this one.  I wanted a chromatic kalimba because not having accidentals really restricts what songs you play.  My kalimba has an alto tuning, meaning it has exactly two octaves from G3 to G5, which is enough 99% of time, but…

Currently, I’m working on two songs:

Transcribing the songs for alto kalimba has been a fun little music theory project.  Turnabout Sisters can be played C4 (a fifth below G4) and G5, which fits in my alto’s range.  But at the end it modulates up, and the new high note is now out of range.  (Maybe I should have gotten the chromatic treble kalimba instead, which has two notes above the highest tonic.)  Anyway, I solved this by shifting down to the key of D since I didn’t use the low part of the range.  And since that’s the dominant (right?), there’s only the occasional note from the chromatic notes on the back of the instrument.

Time Travel drives me crazy though.  The piano version above, which I adore and is my ringtone, has a huge range.  The right hand covers 3 octaves plus a fifth below and a couple semi-tones above.  And then sometimes the left hand has the melody.  In order to fit these excursions above and below the tonic, I again transcribed the song in D, but now I only have 1 octave.  I’m not sure if it would be any better with the extra range offered by a treble kalimba; I haven’t tried transcribing it yet.

Anyway I shift up and down whole octaves, sometimes in weird places, to make some passages fit.  Then the song modulates to E… Kalimbas are not scale agnostic.  Playing notes in the tonic scale just uses the thumbs.  Playing in the dominant or subdominant scale is still pretty easy because there’s just one tine on the back so you can keep a finger there.  Deviating further means hunting for tines that you can’t see on the back of the instrument.

Anyway, the kalimba is fun, but it has limitations.

The game I’ve played the most recently is Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager.  It’s is very much a successor to Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space, which has the far catchier name.  However, X Manager and Y Simulator seem to be all the rage these days, and BASPM is very much a manager game, what with carefully cultivating three different staffs (engineers, astronauts, and flight controllers) while picking projects to earn prestige but not going overboard (read: overbudget).

I have to say that the first time I sent humans to the moon (it was a Gemini direct ascent), I got goosebumps.

The game’s interface sucks though.  I really hope they rethink it before the next module, which is supposed to cover space missions between the moon landing and current day, things like the space shuttle and space stations.


20-23 Sept: Bunnyfest

There wasn’t a whole lot to write about during the week.  I kinda wish that Scotland had voted for independence because that would have really pissed off China.  Instead, China is telling Hong Kong that they can’t choose their own candidates for elections, which undermines the whole idea of elections, doesn’t it?  Oh, Scotland mods are very popular in Civ 5 right now.

I tried the Lemongrass Tofu at Loving Hut.  I don’t know what spices they use, but it’s not just lemongrass.  I think there’s some garlic and not a little heat.  Anyway, it’s really good.

I joined Nextdoor, but it isn’t that interesting.  Most of the posts are for people selling stuff or looking for services or recommendations.  Maybe I should talk about Loving Hut.

I’ve been in this mood all week where I want to play an RPG, but none of the couple dozen RPGs I’ve collected through Humble Bundles.  Instead, Rebuild came out with another beta build, and I played that more than was healthy, mainly mucking about with finding a good mix of classes and figuring out how to best use builders (whether to replace useless buildings or keep expanding; balancing keeping a defensible base or fencing in rival factions).

I also started an American Civil War scenario in Civ 5.  The twist they add is that new infantry units are green and fight with 20% penalty.  After their first combat, they gain a random modifier, some good, some bad.  Good divisions get upgraded to corps while bad divisions get disbanded to free up manpower.  (The other twist is that resources limit how many units each side can field.  Manpower limits infantry units.  Infantry corps use 3 times the manpower as divisions for not quite 3 times the combat strength, but it’s the only way to get density.)  I sent a large expedition to take the Shenandoah Valley and had Leesburg threatened by the counter-offensive, but reinforcements saved the city.  The only problem it I might not have left enough time to seize Richmond (the scenario is a short 50 turns).

I volunteered at SDHRS on Saturday and at Bunnyfest on Sunday.  So many cute rabbits.

SDHRS got Meze Greek fusion to bring their stand, and I got a fiery feta with pita chips.  The best way to describe it is Greek nacho cheese: it’s spicy and flavorful and easy to dip, just with feta instead of… whatever nachos use.

We also sat next to the kettle corn stand, and that gave me a hankering.  So I made kettle corn for the office Monday.

27 Aug: A new beginning

I’ve finally moved into my new place.  Let’s dust this blog off.

Today, I was greeted at work by donuts.  Nice!  As compensation for an all-hands-on-deck Python grading session.  Meh.  So I got to learn tkinter in order to grade homework.  We also got a free lunch out of it.  Who says there isn’t a free lunch?  Oh, right… the grading.

Look, freakin’ Russian paratroopers were captured inside Ukraine.  Can this farce end already?!

I let Bunbury into the living room again today to explore a bit.  It was cute to watch him hop around, exploring and rubbing his chin on everything.  But he was also hungry and wanted to test everything to see if it was food, so back he went with his salad.

We lost another war in Clash of Clans.  But now I have permission to kick out some inactive people, so I expunged 5 people who I’m not sure even play anymore.

I made this recipe for dinner.  I paired it with leftover Lucky Lemongrass from Loving Hut (soy protein fried until it’s crispy, and I have no idea what spice mix they used, but I need to find out) and quinoa cooked in chicken broth.  It was so so good.

The Top Gear guys appeared on Phineas and Ferb.  Ha!

9 Oct


Today at work I was caught.  Working.  On the Python course I should have let go of last month.  Whoops.  I’ll have to keep working on it in secret.

I was more talkative at lunch than usual.  Probably because there was a lot of politics.  I realize that politics frustrates me because, despite being a citizen in a democracy, I feel powerless while bad things happen.  Education feels like that sometimes, but I at least control a (very) small corner of it.

Bunnies are still scrapping when they get too close.  I tried switching their pens today so they get used to each other’s scent.  It’s making them act a little weird.  I still don’t know if Kaley/Penny will work out.

Today’s songs stuck in my head:

It feels weird using YouTube, a video site, to link to music tracks, but that’s how it’s done.

Milgram experiments

This weekend’s Radiolab was on Evil.  In particular, why people do things that they know to harmful or deadly to others.

The first third of the show or so was on the infamous Milgram experiments, and every HP:MoR reader knows the role it plays in the fic.  Every psych undergrad knows the experiment for its result on obedience: that normal humans will inflict potentially lethal shocks to another human because someone tells them to.  This is probably because the context for the Milgram experiments is the war crimes and crimes against humanity of the Nuremberg trials.  “Just following orders” is now known as the Nuremberg defense.

However, the guest make two important comments.  First, Milgram’s follow-up experiments altering the scenario show that level of compliance varies depending on the circumstances.  In particular, compliance is lowest when the subject witnesses disagreement about whether the experiment should continue.

Second, Milgram scripted four prods to see what was needed to get compliance:

  1. Please continue.
  2. The experiment requires that you continue.
  3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
  4. You have no other choice, you must go on.

The guest noted that the fourth prod, the direct order, never made any subject continue.  If the subject resisted continuing the experiment, the most forceful wording did not change his mind.  From this, he concludes that the real lesson in the experiment is not that humans obey orders.  Rather, there’s something else that caused normal people inflict potentially lethal shocks: namely that they were helping to further science.  That people will do bad things if they think there is a for a good cause.

I readily accept that humans use “the higher cause” as a justification for their actions.  Look at pretty much every war and atrocity perpetrated in the name of religion.  However, I think prod #3 is pretty forceful: “absolutely essential” is very strong wording.  The “must” in #4 is not as strong.  The difference in #4 is the “you have no choice.”  It may be that using the word “choice” reminds the subject that this actually is a choice.

Back to the first point, I think this underlines the importance of people being able to express their disagreement with the government and authorities, especially to other citizens.  Edward Snowden is still in the news.  The NSA might read what I write more closely because I included those two words.  Snowden is a guy who said no, the experiment should not continue.  (Note: in debriefing questionnaires, many Milgram experiments didn’t say all experiments should be stopped, but that they personally would not continue being a part of them.)  However, he could have picked secrets that didn’t put people’s lives in danger.  That seems to be what the US government thinks is Snowden’s and Bradley Manning’s worst crime: “aiding the enemy.”  Was there evidence that embarrasses the US out of some of its more heinous acts (done for the greater good, I’m sure) without putting operatives at risk?