Journal of No. 118

October 21st, 2014

October 19th, 2014

Carrying and Marrying @ 05:59 pm

So a Vegas wedding chapel where you get married by an Elvis impersonator refuses to perform same sex marriages.

Less sensationally, a couple of ministers in Idaho who run a wedding chapel have filed a lawsuit calling for a temporary restraining order. For some reason, many religious media have incorrectly characterized the situation as the city suing the couple.

Anyway, the point really comes down to the fact that a wedding chapel is not a church. It is a for-profit business.

“The difference between a church and a place of worship and a wedding chapel, is that a wedding chapel is a business so that is covered under the Public Accommodations Law of Nevada,” said Tod Story of the ACLU.

Obviously, it's complicated by the fact that the employees of this business are ministers, but I can't help the fact that they decided not to carry out their religious activities in their church, but rather have prostituted them by opening a storefront where they do their mumbo jumbo (possibly Elvis-clad) for strangers who walk in off the street and give them money.

An analogy occurred to me, strengthened by a coincidental rhyme.

A few years back, there was a flap when Muslim cabbies in Minnesota were refusing to take fares if the people had alcohol with them. They lost their legal fight.

And in both cases, it seems like they are the victims of their own choice of employment.

If these people didn't want to carry people who had alcohol, they shouldn't have gotten into the business of carrying people.
If those people didn't want to marry people of the same sex, they shouldn't have gotten into the business of marrying people.

October 18th, 2014

Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s @ LACMA @ 09:06 pm

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LACMA has a fine exhibit on German Expressionist film, with lots of behind the scenes production art, stills, posters, and other material. Loops of several films also play in inviting walkthrough areas of the exhibit. You don't feel like you have to stay for the whole show, or that you will annoy anyone by staying a moment and passing on.

Lots of good material on the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Concept Art, Cabinet of Caligari

Die Nibelungen

Dragon from Lang's Die Nibelungen


Trial Scene from M



The Golem, The Blue Angel, Faust, Waxworks, the Testament of Dr. Mabuse...

After the art, a fine meal at Ray's, although the server and the chef paid a lot more attention to a few wealthy donor types. I'm sure it's wishful thinking that the chef would deign to speak with the likes of us, but at least I know what 'sous-vide' means, unlike the wealthy twat you're fawning over. They had a nice menu of drinks inspired by (not German expressionist) films. My Evil Flying Monkey was based on an aviation, natch. The charcuterie plate is just as good as I remember it. And the lamb sausage pizza was fantastic stuff.

October 15th, 2014

what if? by Randall Munroe @ 03:11 pm

Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

The dude behind xkcd tackles some strange questions in this delightful book. While all of the questions are fairly absurd, they also range widely from dumb (What is Yoda's Force power output?) to the potentially profound (If everyone on Earth vanished, how long until the last artificial light went out), as do Munroe's answers. Not every absurd question deserves and answer, and a few intercalary appetizers appear from time to time with questions that he didn't see fit to answer, but are usually amusing/horrifying (e.g. "Would it be possible to get your teeth to such a cold temperature that they would shatter upon drinking a hot cup of coffee?")

Although he occasionally plays fast and loose -- often by necessity given the utter absurdity of some of the questions -- most of the answers are based on good solid science. And there are plenty of interesting factoids buried here and there, like the fact that the greatest contributing factor to sea level rise is not melting ice-sheets, but actually the thermal expansion of water, or if you printed out all of Wikipedia, the paper would occupy a volume of about 300 cubic meters.

He comes up with a couple snappy answers to some too-frequently-asked absurd questions. Like noting all the positives that would occur if the Sun suddenly went out. Forget about the improved satellite service, and imagine the advances in international trade and communication since there will no longer be any need for time zones. Or the question about people gathering in one place and jumping at the same time. After the anticlimactic result, Munroe describes the cataclysm that occurs as everyone tries to go home again.

An enjoyable and pretty fast read (plenty of pictures!). If you need to know whether you can build a bridge out of Legos that spans the Atlantic Ocean, or need to know what the map of the Earth would look like if water started magically 'draining' out the bottom of the Challenger Deep, this is the book for you.

October 14th, 2014

Do not carelessly form a scientific acronym for copper NanoTubules @ 02:06 pm

Via Improbable Research, a peculiar look at bad language in science publications (translated from the italiano):

"Would you read a paper written by Stronzo Bestiale (Total Asshole)? A dose of mistrust would be justified: the name says it all. Yet, in 1987, professor Bestiale, supposedly a physicist in Palermo, Sicily, authored major papers in prestigious scientific peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of Statistical Physics, the Journal of Chemical Physics and the proceedings of a meeting of American Physical Society in Monterey."

October 6th, 2014

Halting State / The Friday Book @ 05:15 pm


Halting State (spoiler alert) is a novel by Charlie Stross. Sort of a technothriller, there are a number of nice conceits in their -- my favorite being the idea that ARGs could be used by intelligence services to get idiots like you and me to carry out low-level operations, thinking that we were only playing a game. A popular ARG could have a gajillion people signed up, some of them right where you need them. Go make this delivery. Follow this car and report where it goes. Nominated for the Hugo, I can't quite rate it quite *that* highly. Just because it gets so complicated that it's like The Big Sleep, doesn't mean it's as good as The Big Sleep.

The Friday Book is a collection of nonfiction by John Barth. Many of them are introductory remarks he gave before readings, so they tend to dwell on what's on his mind as he's writing various works. And his mind is full of a lot of miscellaneous things. And many of the usual things for Barth... the Arabian Nights, myth, Maryland crabs, and boating. And as a professor of creative writing, he often gets very academic with his presentation, too abstruse for an ill-educated wannabe scribbler like me to fully appreciate. I love Borges and the Arabian Nights almost as much as Barth does, and enjoy his discussions of these topics, but several essaylets and introductions split hairs between modernist, premodernist, and postmodernist novels. Barth gleefully admits that other experts have informed him that his definition of postmodernism is entirely wrong. I gleefully confess I don't care. Another favorite bit was his defense of 'dippy verses' (the very phrase of a critic of one of his novels). Having composed a few dippy verses of my own, I sympathize. I'm not sure why the piece also includes a long discourse on osprey nests, but I'm glad it does. Alas, on the whole, I felt there were not enough enjoyable nuggets in this Cracker Jack box of miscellanea.

October 3rd, 2014

Oh those wacky candidates @ 05:05 pm

Looking at the choices for the sexy Water Replenishment District of Southern California, I note that the incumbent is 83 years old, had a face-off with the state attorney general for conflict of interest, and was apparently free with the expense account.

So what are the alternatives?
Johnnie Roberts, Public Affairs Consultant. Not too inspiring: "He has done some Research on Water Issues, & arrived at some solutions to improve the way Southern California receives it's Water."

James T. Law, minister/disability activist. No info I can find. Except that in 2011 he was bumped from the city council election "(James T. Law was the last candidate to be checked — his petitions had an insufficient number of valid signatures, bumping him from the competition.)"

Daniela Calderon, mother and restaurant manager. No info I can find, although she may be a manager at the Hollywood Café 50s, which I guess is a point in her favor.

Mervin Evans, author/consultant. Ok, Mervin, you're my last hope. sigh.

October 1st, 2014

The exhilarating perils of recreational mathematics @ 03:41 pm

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Scientific American has a remembrance of Martin Gardner [Preview only] on the occasion of what would have been his 100th year.

One detail caught my eye... a story I hadn't heard. In December 1975, 50-something "housewife Marjorie Rice" saw her son's copy of Scientific American, which had Gardner's column on tessellations. Apparently it asked the (open) question of whether there were more pentagonal tessellations of the plane than those known (3 new ones having been recently discovered). Marjorie doodled away at the idea for quite some time, developing her own idiosyncratic notation. To make a long story short, she discovered four hitherto unknown pentagonal tilings of the plane. She contacted Gardner, who put her in touch with mathematician Doris Schattschneider, who verified and publicized the discovery. There are 14 known pentagonal tilings, and one of the others was also discovered by someone inspired by Gardner's column.

It's also adorable that she made art patterns based on pentagonal tilings:


September 29th, 2014

Destiny @ 03:29 pm

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I've played a fair amount of Destiny. The game looks and sounds absolutely beautiful. But there's a giant black hole where the interesting story is supposed to be. I'm not the first to say it, but it is Borderlands with better graphics (and no sense of humor). This applies equally to both games: "I enjoyed it, but it starts to get tedious/monotonous, as you carry out 'missions' that seem mainly designed to send you back and forth long distances across the maps so that monsters can fight you."

Multiplayer is fun, even if (as usual) I get killed a lot in the arena-style PvP games. Although I should say, one of the neat advances is that even the single-player game is sort of multiplayer. You can see other players wandering around the area and join up in impromptu ways to battle the monsters. One slightly maddening thing is that there are no communications. Apparently, you can only hear the audio of people you've friended in PSN and that are part of your group. This may keep the rape threats and fagcusations down, but it makes the environment pretty sterile for multiplayer. And it really detracts from the cooperative missions, where communication would obviously be of use.

It's fun enough that I'm keeping with it, but I can easily imagine that a few months after I set it down, I will have totally forgotten it.

September 25th, 2014

California Propositions, &c. @ 01:26 pm

Prop 43 was removed and replaced with Prop 1, information about which will be supplied at a later date in a Supplemental Voter Information Guide.

Prop 44 was renamed Prop 2.
And so onCollapse )

Journal of No. 118