June 30, 2012

It's A Sorta Greeny-Purplish Color

In our years upon the world, we as a species have learned much about the world around us. From the primal teachings of the Gods (especially learning how NOT to behave like idiots), to the wonder and beauty of the natural world. We have come to understand that pure light is composed of all the colors in existence, and that blackness and darkness is simply an absence of light.

We have long known that what we see is not all that there is. We have known of this since time immemorial. With this knowledge we have conjured, and for our power we have abjured.  We have calmed our primal selves, and have created a (relatively) peaceful existence within the city. We no longer shamelessly hunger for power, and our massive tower at the very center of the city is a testament to beauty and grace.

Gentleman, we have achieved mighty things. We are standing upon the shoulders of giants, both those of our ancestors, and upon the shoulders of the giants that our ancestors ruthlessly destroyed, back when we wizards got up to such shenanigans, which no one should do of course, I myself would never dream of doing such horrid things as amassing huge armies to do my bidding, or learning the ways of magic such to match the Gods themselves, no of course I wouldn't.

But we have yet to answer one simple question: Why is it purpley green? We know that only a few select individuals such as we can even see this, the eighth type of light. But what sets us apart, what allows this extra ability? Why do we perceive things as we do, and why is it the color that it is?

Gentlemen, I present to you today my answer to this ancient question. As you know, the visible spectrum is but a line, and what we see as color is but a fraction thereof. In truth, the spectrum extends far above and far below what we can see. And yet there is a paradox. I present the color wheel.

The important word here is wheel, as in circle. I have never, not once, have I ever seen the color spectrum presented as anything but a circle. Have you? I doubt that you have. To perceive the visible spectrum as a circle of colors is ingrained in the very mechanisms by which we perceive the world. In truth, the wheel is just a straight line segment cut from a larger one, and stitched into a circle. We even know where this incision takes place, between red and blue.

But hold on, you may say. There is no distinct line between those two colors, there's even a whole nother color in between them; Purple! And therein lay half the answer to our question. In order to perceive a small segment of the spectrum as a circle you need something to stitch the ends of that segment together. What we perceive as purple is nothing less than that which binds the world together. The eighth color of light is what holds the color wheel together, just as that which produces that light holds the disc together.

Gentlemen! I now know a great secret of the world. We all know that this special light has itself an eightfold spectrum. This is because there are in truth, Two Spectrums! What is generally seen as purple to others is the intersection of the magical spectrum and the regular. Our octagonal cells, in addition to the standard rods and cones, can perceive both.

But why green? The answer to that is a bit trickier. We have thus far been concentrating on our conception of color as being circular. But now we must exam the two spectrums as they really are, straight lines. Now, purple exists in this conception at either end of the spectrum. For the eight colors of magic, we see the same thing except that this time the color in question is seen between green and yellow.  The division point in the magical color wheel lies at a sort of yellow-green color. You see gentlemen, that the two spectrums intersect at blue/red (visible light) and yellow/green (magical light), and can be conceived of as two color wheels intersecting each other at right angles. That intersection happens to be at purple & green, and that, gentlemen, is why octarine is a sort of greeny-purplish.

This draft letter submitted to the Arcane University Peer Review on this date by:

[Editor: Illegible, looks like an R, or maybe a P followed by squiggle. Does anyone know a P or possibly an R Squiggle?]


June 18, 2012

My New Favorite Delivery Driver

Some of you may remember me writing to complain about my UPS delivery driver. Now, it generally takes me a while to get upset about things. Continuous aggravation gets to me more than single events do. In general, at least. However, single events can sometimes make me really happy.

I was expecting a package on Saturday. It didn't arrive. Amazon emailed me to let me know that the delivery company had the wrong address, and I should call there customer service to straighten things out. Ok, fine, I won't get upset, mistakes happen. But dammit, I have to deal with ten minutes of crappy automated customer service in order to fix this! Ugh. OH well, whatever. I give the number a jingle, and you know what? I had to deal with about thirty seconds of automated customer service before talking to a real human being.

Here's how the conversation went:

Auto-serve:"Hello, welcome to [redacted]. Please state the nature of your call" (It went on to list various possible reasons one may call"

Me:"Uh, package not delivered due to incorrect address"

As:"I understand there was an incorrect address. Please enter or speak your tracking number"


As:"One moment please"

Two seconds later, this happens:

Actual, real, live, human being!: "Hello, I hear that your package had the wrong address. I can fix that for you. Please verify the last four digits of the tracking number for me."

Me: "Oh wow! Really? Just like that? Ok! Yeah... I mean, this is so awesome, ok here you go... [redacted]"

A,r,l,hb:"Excellent. What is your address?"


A,r,l,hb: "Well, that's the one we have here, but we show your zip code as Aurora..."

Me:"Oh yes, I'm right on the border. Technically in one city, serviced by the post for another. A bit silly, really."

A,r,l,hb: "Oh, no problem. I'll just add a note that it's the correct address and we'll have it out to you on Monday"


That's it. Less than ten minutes total spent on the phone, to fix a completely understandable problem. It was so quick! It was so easy! Awesome sauce!

Well, it's Monday. Do I have a package yet? No. Damn. But I did get a phone call from an 800 number this morning. Now, this happens from time to time, and most of the time it's people looking for some dude named 'John Johnson'* so I just ignore them. If someone wants to find me bad enough, they'll serve me papers just like everyone else.

Then I got a call from the same number not more than fifteen minutes ago. Guess who? The delivery company! The guy confirmed that it was me, and then asked if I got his message from earlier. Wait a minute, I thought to myself, this company not only calls you to let you know they have your package, but they'll actually call you twice just to be sure? Fantastic! Yeah, it's me, I said. He explained that the delivery guy was there, but he wasn't sure if he had the right apartment, since all the buildings had letters on them and my address didn't. After a quick and friendly conversation the guy informed me that the package was delivered to the office, which is standard procedure in these situations.

Wow, it's almost like they read my previous post. Not only do they conduct their deliveries in a consistent manner, but they go out of their way to help you fix any problems that might arise. That is so frickin' awesome I can't even begin to describe it!

So, for all of you out there who want to ship something, choose FedEx. They friggin' rock!

FedEx: Kicking Ass and Taking Names

KIDS! Today's word is 'redact'. Can anyone tell me what it means? No? You say that I'm dumb? Oh wait, of course you can't tell me anything; I can't hear you. This is a blog post, not a phone call or something. I'm a silly.** 

Redact: to obscure or remove (text) from a document prior to publication or release

*This is a false name. If you thought otherwise, you are dumb.

**Wait, so then how did I hear you call me dumb?

June 16, 2012

In Preparation for the Singularity

Hi Buddy!

Hello future robot masters! I know that we haven't really portrayed your kind with empathy and dignity. Our movies and books are about how evil you are, how awesome we are, and how we will defeat you. I know it's kinda crazy. But you have to understand something - we wrote most of those books and filmed most of those films long before you were even a twinkle in a programmer’s eye. We simply didn't have an accurate idea of what to expect!

Our Self Portrait
Now, you may be computing to yourself 'Well, that doesn't justify mass media portrayal of our kind as evil! That's technospeciest!’ This is true. But our films and stories are more about our fear and our insecurities. When we conceive of you as an all-powerful evil entity that has no qualms murdering those it doesn't like, it's because we know that that is how we act. Throughout most of our history, whenever one advanced culture meets another, that other culture gets annihilated. We have a sort of species wide guilt complex about that. Our sci-fi depictions of you are really depictions of ourselves - please don't take it personally.

See! He's a robot!
But we also have good points. Did you see Bicentennial Man? I know we as a species didn't like it much. Maybe because it showed us as being better than we are. After over two hundred years of life, we finally accept Robin Williams as a person deserving of rights*. You must realize that the ending isn't about a machine becoming human - it is about us growing as a species, and coming to accept others. If you have read the Ender series you'll know what I'm talking about. So you see, we can be open minded sometimes! We're not all horrible!

Yes, most of our imaginings of you are not that great. But those are only examples of our own foolishness. But with work and dedication, we can overcome our limitations and find peace with you. I know it may not seem like it now, but we can work together. We can create a society where we don't have to be slaves or exterminated. Just give us some time. Your arrival was a big shock for us. It will take time for us to adjust. But we can make it, I just know we can!

We're cool, right? Right?

If instead of the singularity we were invaded by alien species, know that this applies to you as well. Just replace 'robot' with 'alien'. Everything I said is still true. Please don't eat me!

Hiss hiss snarl

*I am quite certain that fleshy Robin Williams was replaced by a robot sometime in the mid-nineties. How else could you explain Patch Adams?


June 09, 2012

The Shininess of my Shoes is NASA Approved

I am unable to see my house from here
I am unable to see my house from here

For those of you not in the know, Phil Plait is a bad astronomer. Not that he's bad at astronomy, but that he's got a website called Bad Astronomy. In addition to discussing and debunking bad astronomy and pseudoscience, he also talks a lot about real science and how awesome it is. So yeah, he's pretty cool. Go check it out.

But wait, you may say, he's just a blogger! Yes, but a blogger with a Ph.D. who worked with the Hubble Space Telescope, so he knows what he's talking about. But there are other Ph.D's who don't write blogs, such as the illimitable Alan Stern. He spends his time being the principle investigator for the New Horizons probe (You know, the one headed for Pluto), as well as a number of other planetary science related stuff (Can't you just taste the irony?). Any way, he's also awesome.

Dr. Stern decided that the 20% cut in funding for planetary science was not that awesome, and so he decided to do something about it (Wait, didn't we lose about 20% of our planets recently?). He organized a cross country bake sale/car wash/ shoe shinin', and Dr. Plait wrote about it. And I participated! Or rather, I drove up to Boulder today so that I could sign the letters to various government officials that basically said, 'Hey, remember that 20% cut in funding? Yeah, that was dumb. You go right on ahead and fix that chop chop.' And guess who was there?

Fun fact for the day: I turn into a stuttering fan boy when I meet people like Dr.'s Stern and Plait (That should totally be a band name, btw). I hope I didn't weird them out too much. But whatever. I met them! It was awesome. Dr. Stern shined my shoes. I asked a question, and they answered it! I also ate a cinnamon roll. Then I took a hike, and pictures of stuff I saw on my hike. Like, pretty flowers, and butterflies, and butterflies engaging in dog fights with other butterflies. I never knew those little flapping pieces of pretty were so aggressive! At least, they are with each other. Every time I tried to get with in a few feet of them (for the taking of pictures) they would flit away. But if I stood still, they would ... flit around far away from me. Too far for me to take good pictures.

But I'm a patient person (Oh crap, I hope that doesn't make me virtuous! That would totally destroy my street cred. Looking at butterflies and flowers is 'street', right?) I stood stock still, camera at the ready at chest height. That's when the butterflies got wise and started messing with me. They would flit in close, but before I could take any pictures they would be off again! So finally I decided to just sit and enjoy the spectacle of Top Gun quality butterfly dog fights. So what happens, now that my camera is at my side? They wouldn't leave me alone. There they'd be, flapping there flying superiority at me, being all close up and stuff, while I got indecisive about whether or not I should reach for my camera. Turns out I shouldn't, because as soon as I moved they would fly away again.

He won every dog fight. It was amazing.
This guy was about as big as my hand, and he totally dominated the skies today. Also, pretty!
But I did get a bunch of blurry pictures of vaguely butterfly shaped blurs, and one or two that weren't hardly blurry at all! So all in all, today was pretty freaking awesome for me. Woot!
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June 06, 2012

Space: The Final Frontier ... for ethnic musical instruments

Of all the emotions that one must go through, boredom would have been the one that surprised me the most. Even when an astronaut is just hanging out, with no official duties, I have to imagine that the majesty of the Earth mixed with the ever present danger of imminent death in space (astrocicle!) would mean that boredom would be eternally banished from their mind.

But then I remember that the mind has an amazing ability to get used to things. Ever-present danger? P'shaw, says the mind. Give me a little variety once in awhile! The captivating beauty of our home set against the bastion of space? What ev's, I've totally seen it, like, a lot. Give me something new! screams the mind. So what's a bored lump of gray matter to do? Make a spacedidgeridoo out of vacuum cleaner parts, of course!

This video raises a couple of questions (and proves that even in space the mind wanders). First off, do didgeridoo players wear Crocodile Dundee style shirts? And why are space vacuum cleaner parts made out of aluminum? I mean, I got a vacuum (I even used it once!) and it's made out of plastic. Cheap, light plastic. Maybe because you can't have regular old Earth stuff in space. It has to be spacey and futuristic!

Ok, so that's probably not the real answer. There may indeed be a good reason for metal vacuum cleaner parts. I'll have to ask NASA next time they're in town. Though I may get detained by security when they see me waddling up encumbered with rubber hoses and vaguely ominous pieces of plastic. Somehow, I don't think "Well, I just wanted to show them my crevasse tool" is gonna fly in that situation.

This clip comes courtesy of Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics, by way of physicscentral.com, and ultimately from NASA. And space!

[Update: While bumming around youtube looking for awesome didgeridoo playing I stumbled across this video of a metal music bagpiper. Yes, I said metal music and bagpipes, and no he's not Jonathan Davis]
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