Jan 28

Dusk

While I was dreading doing yard work today, a duskywings of some sort flew into the yard and started snacking on some weeds.

This gave me the perfect excuse to go retrieve the camera.

What I like about my 100mm lens is that it’s such a great piece of glass that I get to see details using it that I’d never notice with my naked eye. It’s not the most expensive lens I have, but it’s by far the best one as far as optical quality and ease of use.

Here’s the photo of the duskywings – it’s isn’t that great, but I like it because the 100mm allowed me to see the iridescent sheen on the underside of the wings. It’s really beautiful.

dusky

And I also thought it looked pretty cool run through Photohop’s oil paint filter, and then having it sharpened heavily.

paint

Jan 27

Alex

"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Jan 26

Convincing

How a general became convinced that allowing women into combat roles was the right thing to do – because they were already doing it.

Dempsey took command of the Army’s 1st Armored Division in June 2003, when Iraqi insurgents were starting to target American troops with sniper fire, grenades and roadside bombs. As he prepared for a trip outside his headquarters, he took a moment to introduce himself to the crew of his Humvee.

“I slapped the turret gunner on the leg and I said, ‘Who are you?’ And she leaned down and said, I’m Amanda.’ And I said, ‘Ah, OK,’ ” Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon.

The reason for the slapping on the leg is a turret gunner stands outside of the Humvee or other vehicle, in a sort of rotating affixture with typically a .50 caliber cannon. Like this:

Humvee_turret_showing_fifty_caliber_MG

If the general had merely called up, it’s unlikely the gunner would even hear. Slapping on the leg or even calling on the radio is a typical way to get a turret gunner’s attention. I’ve done it a number of times myself in training.

Jan 25

Prices

I’m surprised by how glum and ugly the inside of even very-pricy houses usually are. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if we look at rental houses that cost $800 a month or $5,000 a month – most of them look not fit to be inhabited by humans.

Are people really so habituated to the inhumanity of their interior environments, even well-off people? I cannot explain it.

I know adding windows and such is expensive – but it’s not that expensive, considering how long houses last. Spending $5,000 now on larger and better windows pays off forevermore.

And houses for sale are no better, either. I guess I’m also now a house snob, but I’ve looked at maybe 500 houses online in the last week. I’ve seen maybe one I’d even consider living in.

Even in the realm of very expensive houses, until you get up into $5+ million dollar homes, you get more rooms, sure, but still the same tiny, shitty, poorly-lit and dim, depressing ones.

Designing our own house one day is the only option. I can’t believe people choose to live in such shitholes even when they don’t have to (that is, even those who have enough money to make a better choice, don’t).

Jan 24

Pinball

This made me laugh.

Like so many things which are illicit, though, the attraction of pinball only increased in the prohibition years following World War II, and, by the 1950s, the quickest route to proving your rebel status in America was to be seen within a few feet of a pinball machine.

The entire article just shows that America has always been a priggish, prudish country of Puritan anti-sybarites.

Jan 24

Phot

I’m a photographer by avocation. I take many photos of many things.

And yet I will never understand the urge that some people have – usually the worst photographers, too – to take a photo of every damn thing that happens to them.

I never take photos in a place where it will annoy other people – photography is a context-destroyer for many people, and it’s also attention-grabbing. It’s best to be avoided in most public situations. And frankly, some schlemiel taking photos of his grilled cheese sandwich in a restaurant would and does bother even me, an inveterate photographer.

Jan 23

Considering

Considering US women have already been fighting and dying in combat for a long time, it’s about time it was made official.

I was in an airborne unit, along with many women. Cook, mechanic, infantry – you all jump in. And guess what? The enemy doesn’t not shoot you just because you are a cook when you are falling from the sky onto their airfield.

And with no real front or rear anymore in the sort of wars we fight (agree with them or not), this just formalizes something that was already reality.

Jan 23

On learning

One of my all-time favorite books is about math.

It’s Infinity and the Mind, by Rudy Rucker. I was reading adult mathematically-themed books and books about physics by the time I was in the fifth grade.

I understand most mathematical concepts – including some very high-level ones – better than many who have scored in the top echelon of students.

As a for instance, for several years I was friends online with a student at Stanford. He was in their quantum program. It’s a bit more technical than I want to get in here, but our dispute was over determinism and probability in quantum systems. His argument was that determinism was ruled out by quantum systems. I argued (correctly) that determinism was perfectly possible under several different valid at-the-time interpretations and probability models of QM. We argued about it for a long time, and then I told him to go ask his professor.

He later sheepishly told me that he’d talked to his professor, and that I was right.

The details don’t matter, and even if I’d been wrong, they still wouldn’t matter – the point is that I understand the concepts just fine in many areas where even those who practice using those methods don’t really understand their implications or exactly what it is they are doing when they use infinitesimals\limits or many other abstruse mathematical tools.

However, for the life of me, I cannot actually calculate (usually) even the simplest math problems that would be quite easy for a middle-schooler. I also cannot at all play chess (despite being in the chess club and playing hundreds of games over two years), I believe for similar reasons, despite understanding it conceptually just fine. I’d guess these two facts are related, as whatever cognitive deficit I have expresses itself in these two arenas. Also, I cannot solve even the simplest logic problem, no matter how long I spend or how patient I am.

This post originally intended to talk about teaching kids math using soul- and curiosity-destroying techniques, how the “transfer effect” that supposedly makes teaching math help thinking in other arenas is completely false, and the opportunity cost of these failed methodologies – but already this entry is too long, so I will just stop here for the moment.