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[sticky post] Hello!

Oct. 29th, 2009 | 03:00 pm

Welcome back my friends
To the show that never ends!
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside, come inside!

— Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression, Part II)

Hi there!

If you're reading this, you're probably just looking at my journal, perhaps even thinking about adding me as an LJ-friend; or alternatively, perhaps I just added you as an LJ-friend, and you're curious about me now. In either case, I'd like to use this opportunity to say a few things.

Trevor: You're skating the edge.
Æon: I
am the edge.

— Æon Flux

First of all, I tend to write freely about topics everything that matters to me; more distanced, "professional" entries may directly be followed by more personal ones (and vice versa), and I will, generally, openly write about all sorts of things, including philosophy, sexuality, politics and more. Some of my entries will be friends-only, others will be publicly viewable, too, and unlike other people, I don't use <lj-cut /> tags or specific "topic filters" (i.e., custom friends groups dedicated to specific topics) to shield people from things they may not want to see.

Well, as long as it's text, that is; I will cut images that aren't safe for work etc. (at least if I remember, which I might not always do!), since I wouldn't want for people to get in trouble if their boss happens to be shoulder-surfing at work. Text, though, is a different issue, and if you'll get into trouble for reading about certain topics at work, you probably shouldn't be checking your friends page at work to begin with.

He said, "I am told that when men hear its voice, it stays in their ears, they cannot be rid of it. It has many different voices: some happy, but others sad. It roars like a baboon, murmurs like a child, drums like the blazing arms of one thousand drummers, rustles like water in a glass, sings like a lover and laments like a priest."

— Mike Oldfield, Amarok (liner notes)

Second of all, concerning friending me: feel free to. There is no need to ask if it's OK to do so; everyone's welcome to, as well as to post comments etc. (as long as they're genuine: spammers etc. will not be tolerated, but that goes without saying, anyway). I may add you back if your journal looks interesting or if I know you, too, but this isn't automatic. If you do want me to add you back, engaging me and talking to me is probably the best way to go about it.

Please don't ask about being added back if I didn't do so on my own, either, unless I already know you well and you want to be able to read my non-public entries.

If I already friended you but you don't know who I am and haven't been in contact with me before, that most likely means I became aware of your journal somehow, took a look, and decided I wanted to keep up with what you're writing — "I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter", as it were. I don't expect you to friend me back or otherwise take an interest in me, but if you do — all the better.

If what it is to be furry you still don't comprehend
Then consider this advice, my curious friend
If you're willing to respect that which you don't understand
Then come take my paw and I'll take your hand.

— from "Furry", by Croc O'Dile of TigerMUCK with help from Tony DeMatio, June 1995

Regarding commenting, BTW, I'm always happy to receive comments. However, things like "lol" are not proper punctuation, and correct spelling and grammar would be nice as well. And of course, I expect people to not be insulting or rude, but that, again, should go without saying.

That's about all I can think of for now. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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Heatless habaneros

Feb. 14th, 2017 | 01:33 am

NPR's reporting on a heatless habanero variety called the habanada, bred by Michael Mazourek (Cornell) for his doctoral dissertation:

"We selected the habanero for heat because that's what was coveted. But what if you wanted to experience the melon-like experience of a pepper?" [NY chef Dan] Barber asks. "You can't do it with a habanero — you can with a Habanada."


As with most matters of taste, everyone describes the Habanada a little differently. Some say it has a citrus flavor, while others cite floral notes or even a hint of guava. But in some ways the main payoff of the Habanada is the anticipation it builds inside eaters' mouths. "Imagine as though you're tasting a habanero, so your taste buds feel as though there will be a rush of heat — but it never comes," [Ark Foods founder Noah] Robbins describes.

Now that's a pepper I'd like to try. I keep getting told habs have a nice flavor once you get past the sheer raw heat, but they're too hot for me to be able to tell. The article actually discusses this:

A normal, unaltered habanero can get up to 300,000 on the Scoville scale – which measures levels of capsaicin, the chemical that causes the burning sensation we call "heat. The [Carolina] Reaper registers at over 2 million. Reaper-eating challenges on the Internet often end in disaster for those who attempt it. Common side effects include: vomiting, sweating, stomach cramps, blisters in the mouth, and all around agony. Potential physical illness aside, "You get to a point where it's so hot that you aren't tasting anything but heat," [author Judith] Finlayson says. "You're in a state of numbness from the heat."

That's something I've been saying for years. As much as I like heat, it has to be balanced with the rest of the flavors in a dish; if you can't taste anything else anymore, what's the point? It makes about as much sense as pouring a pound of salt on your plate so that literally all you can taste is saltiness.

And then there's a good observation on flavors in general:

For most of the last 50 to 100 years, Barber says, the chef has been left out of the conversation of which plants were valuable. That decision has instead been in the purview of grocers, farmers, distributors, and others whose main concern wasn't taste but practicality. As a result, Barber says, we've dumbed down taste, flavors, and diversity for the sake of the industry that wants things to be controlled. "Chefs don't want that control. Just as a painter wants different colors of paint, chefs want different flavors of food."

And so do diners, I might add.

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R.I.P. Raymond Smullyan

Feb. 12th, 2017 | 12:28 pm

I just learned that Raymond Smullyan, a great mathematician with a passion for (among other things) mathematical and logical puzzles, has died on the 6th, at the ripe old age of 97. Here's an obituary from the NY Times.

I had two of his books when I was little (still do, in fact), Alice in Puzzle-Land and Satan, Cantor and Infinity. They're great books, and perhaps I should take this as a cue to read some of the rest of his works as well.

If you'd like a taste of his logic puzzles, the NY Times has a few samples here. (One hint: in the last puzzle, "either ... or" does not actually mean that; it's possible both the "either" and the "or" are correct.)

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Eating kiwifruits

Feb. 3rd, 2017 | 12:38 pm

A while ago I was talking to kalogrenant about kiwifruits, and he was very surprised to hear about the way I eat them — whole, with the skin and everything, as you would an apple.

This isn't very common from all I know. Most people either peel them with a kitchen knife and cut them into wedges or slices, or alternatively cut them in half and spoon them out. (Some even use special kiwifruit spoons with serrated edges.)

I used to do this, too, but I found that it's time-consuming, messy, and above all unnecessary. Wash the fruit, and it's fine to eat whole.

Still, I know it's probably not common, so I'm curious:

Poll #2062410 How do you eat kiwifruits?

How do you eat kiwifruits?

Peel 'em
Cut 'em in half, spoon 'em
Just wash 'em and eat 'em, skin and all

If "other", leave a comment below!

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Be Our Guest

Jan. 27th, 2017 | 12:43 pm

A question in the CFz staff chat regarding the meaning of "complimentary upgrades" led to some silliness earlier today, with suggestions of the con telling you what a nice person you are each day, birds and mice waking you by drawing the curtains aside, Cinderella-style, and your plates and cutlery serenading you while you're having breakfast.

That brought to my mind one of my favorite Simpsons songs, and I spent 20 minutes writing a quick spoof — sing this to the tune of See My Vest:

Be our guest,
be our guest,
be a step above the rest!

Don't be muzzled
at Confuzzled,
you deserve the very best!

Hugs from a fox,
a chocolate box,
– isn't that unorthodox! –

We will meet you,
we will greet you,
To the finest things we'll treat you!

Have a laugh
with the staff
rise above the riff and raff,
it'll be a golden ticket and a haaalf!

So don't protest,
Don't be stressed,
Get your fursuit and get dressed,
Be our veeery speeecial guuueeest!

I hope it's obvious which stanzas correspond to which in the original!

EDIT: as lupine52 points out, the Simpsons song is apparently a parody of another song from the movie "Beauty and the Beast", which is also titled "Be Our Guest".

Wow, what are the odds? I never watched that movie, and never knew that song; I'd always assumed that it was in fact a Simpsons original. Quite amusing, then, that in rewriting it I took it back to its original title, but I suppose it's simply proof that GMTA. :)

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Jan. 1st, 2017 | 11:17 am

Unusual words:

gladiohydrocracy, n.

A system of government based on strange women lying in ponds distributing swords.

Unusual definitions:

debrief, v.

  1. (intransitive) to take off one's own underpants.
  2. (transitive) to take off someone else's underpants.

"The agent was thoroughly debriefed upon return from his assignment."

Words that don't exist but should:

animous, adj.

(of a judicial opinion) divided.

"The Supreme Court's animous decision was the subject of great controversy."

postpare, vt.

(of a meeting, lecture; educational material; etc.) (in analogy to "prepare") to do further work on at a later time, typically shortly after: e.g. to rethink, to reread, to consolidate notes, to look up additional information, to summarize, to collate, to inform interested third parties, etc. Related, but not synonymous, to: to debrief; to wrap up, to finish; to do a post-portem of.

"The professor cautioned the students that it was very important to prepare as well as postpare the lecture's content each week."
"My boss asked me to postpare our Monday morning kick-off meeting by summarizing the salient points and emailing them to the team."

seanconner, v.

to push for or demand independence.

seanconnery, n.

(from "seanconner") the state or act of seanconnering.

"This is the kind of Scottish seanconnery up with which we will not put." — David Cameron

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Happy Nude Deer

Jan. 1st, 2017 | 12:00 am

Season's greetings:

(Click for larger — 1920x1033 PNG, 1568 KiB)

Happy Nude Deer 2017! :P

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The wild animal Other

Dec. 26th, 2016 | 02:46 pm

The following is from Marcus Baynes-Rock's Among the Bone-Eaters: Encounters with Hyenas in Harar, pp. 27-29. The author describes how he observes (for the second time) a butcher feeding hyenas, and speaks to the man about this:

Waking up in the middle of the night, I left the hotel and went to the playing field where I'd seen the food being thrown to hyenas from the butcher shop. When I arrived, the butcher shop had not yet opened, but staring into the darkness I could discern the shapes of a couple of hyenas lying in the middle of the common. I sat on a stone slab and watched as dogs sniffed around looking for scraps. The dogs were taking care to not come too close to the hyenas. Not long after I arrived, I heard a chorus of barking behind me and turned to see some dogs running out of the way of a procession of six hyenas who had arrived via a side road. At the entrance ot the field the leading hyena stopped, turned to watch the other hyenas coming in, and then followed the last of the group, as if checking to see that everyone had followed. [...] At about 3:30 A.M., a truck arrived at the butcher shop and the door opened. The hyenas and dogs crowded around the shop while a butcher emerged from inside to take delivery of the beef, mutton and goat on the bone. After passing the goods to his apprentice inside, the butcher emerged with some fatty strips that he held out for the hyenas, who were waiting expectantly.

The butcher's name was Sisay Gadissa, an Oromo man originally from west of the Rift. He was tubby, with a broad, gleaming smile, and was remarkably jovial considering the hour. SIsay spoke enough English to be able to tell me about the hyenas, saying he'd been feeding them in front of his shop for four years. When I asked him why, he said, "I love animals. All animals." Still, he seemed to favor the hyenas over the dogs and cats. Or maybe it was simply that the dogs and cats didn't have the nerve to stand in front of the hyenas. I asked if Sisay had names for the hyenas. "Oh yes," he replied. "There's Bajaj and Gooncha. Bajaj has three legs." A broad smile briefly pushed aside his chubby cheeks. "He comes here, but today he's absent." As we talked, hyenas gathered around expectantly. Sisay went back inside and came out with a handful of scraps, which he let go of only as the hyenas took them.

This is a fascinating little story in a book that's (so far) full of fascinating stories, but what stood out to me was the part that followed, where the author asks the salient question: why?

Yes, a person can love animals, and yes, a person can want to feed them. But why not just leave a pile of food at the other side of the common for the hyenas to eat undisturbed? I didn't ask that question of Sisay, because the answer is at once too obvious and too elusive. It's not enough just knowing that they're out there. We want them to come to us and acknowledge our presence in the world as fellow creatures, but we don't know why. For some reason, we crave these creatures' validation and acceptance, grounded in their close presence. With regard to animals, the word love is often interchangable with the word need.

The ecologist and philosopher Paul Shepard grappled with this issue. He was interested in the importance of animals to normal human development and psychological health. According to Shepard, pets, domesticates, and zoo animals are psychological band-aids for urbanites who crave the mystical presence of wild Others in their brick and lawn landscapes. The principle of phylogenetic probity holds that the healthy development of an organ is best assured under the circumstances in which that organ evolved. Consequently, normal human development is retarded in urbanized humans who are far removed from the Paleolithic landscape that teemed with wild animal Others. According to Shepard, Homo industrialis is trapped in a perpetual adolescence, "subjected to the myths of the animal/machine, heroes of progress and domination and the dualisms of ideology." Hence we reach out to wild animals, wanting to draw them closer. We chase them about in boats, hike for hours in forested mountains, point cameras at them from tour vehicles for a price equal to the daily wages of an entire village, and hold out strips of food to draw them ever closer—to their peril. All in the name of filling an intangible psychological hole that emerges out of a lifeway that both facilitates and necessitates these kinds of practices. The playing field was a drab, dusty bowl amid tin and mud-brick suburbs, littered with the refuse of modernity and resounding with the chug of diesel engines. Is it any wonder that an eighty-kilogram predator amid all that should draw a man from his occupation?

I think both Baynes-Rock and Shepard have got an excellent point there: we, as modern humans, live in ways that are completely contrary to our nature, and in environments that are completely unnatural to us. This isn't necessarily as bad as it may sound, but consider that the human psyche has evolved to ensure survival in a rather different environment. And we are not only equipped to survive on the African savannah, we in fact need it, certain aspects of it anyway, to remain healthy. Throw us into unnatural situations, and we'll find ways to make them resemble what's more natural to us — more familiar.

I couldn't help but think of the furry fandom when I read this passage, either. Why animals, after all? Why not (say) robots? There's never (to my knowledge) been a real clunky fandom, and most people I know, even those who're fascinated by robots, don't seem to connect to them the way they do to animals. Animals simply touch us, by virtue of always having been an integral part (for better or worse) of human life and the environment we found ourselves in.

Furries sometimes like to point to things like the Egyptian pantheon, shamanism, fables etc. as proof that furries are older than late 20th century US-American comic book fandom. Others counter that none of those who came before would've considered themselves furries. I contend that both those viewpoints are both right and wrong: furry fandom, like that which came before, is simply another expression of the psychological need for the animal "other" that Shepard identifies. Ancient Egyptians, for all their lack of modern science and technology, did not live in accordance with their human nature anymore than we do. It's no surprise that they, too, felt the need to find again the animals that they had lost.

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Con(gratulations|dolences), USA

Nov. 9th, 2016 | 01:01 pm

In the wake and on the occasion of the recent US presidential election, I will remain silent and instead let Dr. Rumack from Airplane! speak for me:

„Good luck. We were all counting on you.“

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R.I.P. Bjarni Jónsson

Nov. 8th, 2016 | 12:47 am

I only learned today that Bjarni Jónsson, a famous and highly-regarded Icelandic mathematician and Distinguished Professor at Vanderbilt died back in late September this year.

Not someone I knew personally, naturally, but I'd encountered his name here and there before. As always, all the best wishes to his colleagues, friends, family and loved ones, and everyone who knew him.

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