Wednesday, April 30, 2008

3D Graphics

I've been dicking around with the Axiom 3D engine in my free time for a couple days. It's a C# port of OGRE, and someone had figured out how to do a red/cyan anaglyph display in OGRE, so I was trying to get that to work in Axiom:

Anaglyph robot rendering

I had to make some changes to some of Thieum's original material scripts to account for features that aren't supported yet in the current Axiom alpha release, but it seems to basically work.

I'll be sure to let people know when I start producing the next Björk video.

Not Alone

I guess I'm not the only one to notice. Not that I read Slashdot, but I just happen to be trying to get at something on Sourceforge, and I guess they haven't changed their server configuration since 2001. Which make sense, as it was also the last time they updated their site design.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Computer Fun

A while ago I was looking through the software that came bundled with my laptop, and I came across something called "LightScribe." I hadn't heard of that before, but it turned out to be this crazy feature that uses the laser in your CD burner to print labels onto specially manufactured blank CD's:

Original and backup copies of CD

This was my first time using it, and I guess the results are about what you'd expect. It took a full 20 minutes to print a label that was mostly empty space, the color is a dull gray on khaki, and I paid $15 for 20 of the special CD-R's, which I think is what blank CD's cost in like 1998. But it does actually work, and even the smaller type came out nice and crisp.

Really I'm just happy that this kind of goofy invention gets made. It reminds me of Thunderscan, the product where you replaced your ImageWriter's ribbon cartridge with an optical sensor to turn it into a scanner.

3D Björk Video

Peter sent me a link to the "Wanderlust" video in anaglyph 3D. Really nicely done.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Evil Resident In Us All

Someone somewhere linked to a blog that linked to a blog called Token Minorities, which has some recent posts looking at some of the controversy stirred up last year by the the Resident Evil 5 video game trailers. The game appears to feature a white hero mowing down hordes of zombified black people.

What I find interesting about this is that the zombie genre has always dealt with the fear of the mindless avenging horde. The classic point almost always being the danger that said fear could lead us to commit or condone horrific atrocities, or that society's injustices could blind us to the real threat.

My feeling is that, even if a given zombie story doesn't explicitly portray racial conflict, the very invocation of the mindless avenging horde archetype resonates along those lines when situated in a societal context that includes a strong undercurrent of racial fear. Stories about supernatural mindless hordes tap into actual fears, so in a way all something like Resident Evil is doing (both with this iteration and in the last installment, in which I gather players had to kill waves of marauding Mexicans) is making that culturally-imposed subtext explicit.

Which isn't to excuse the racism. Even when done intentionally (a la Night-Wight) to prompt a meta-conversation about subtext, the racist content is still there and still real. Hopefully the Resident Evil creators will do the mature thing in response to the public outcry, and change the problematic content before the game is released. But it's also worthwhile to take the opportunity to reflect on the feelings that are triggered by the whole series, and by zombie narratives in general.

Some Bloggers Are Wankers

I don't read GrandGood, but I greatly enjoyed R.H.S.'s two posts responding to some sort of whining about "racism" directed at white hip-hop bloggers. R.H.S. pegs the motivating sentiment as discomfort with black nationalist type views.

And who can blame him, nationalism is inherently discomforting to white people, and that's sort of the whole point. But responding with the tired we-should-be-talking-about-class-rather-than-race/blacks-can-be-racist-too lines (with a bonus dose of why-can't-I-use-the-N-word) is completely out of order.

Especially when the comment that set him off (along the lines of "you should blog about something you're more qualified to comment on, like banking") is a) far less offensive than what you can find in any randomly-selected Byron Crawford post, and b) actually pretty funny.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Oops, Ding Dong

Wish I had known about this latest Amanda Marcotte controversy going into last night's reading. Not that there were any fireworks or anything, but it would have added an interesting subtext. I am sure I'm not the first to find it ironic which "politically inhospitable environment" Amanda has found herself in.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

To What?!?

The other day while I was lying in bed either falling asleep or waking up, I had the flash of insight that the phrase "to wit" means "to make a witticism." That is, one should use it only as a lead-in to a punchline: "The vet informed me that my prize-winning ewe was doomed to a life of incontinence. To wit: my sheep had lost her peep."

I looked it up today, and it turns out I'm wrong: "to wit" just means "namely."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No, You Save Us

Matt Yglesias is "getting really tired of [primary season]." Well, I'm sure he's not alone. It is possible to ignore the day-to-day bickering, the debates, the new polls that are always coming out. He should try it. As a member of the DC media, he might even by doing so make it a little less tiring for everyone else.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mets @ Cubs

I turned it off after the grand slam. :(

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ron Darling Catches Himself

Reflecting on Japanese players in the US following a Kosuke Fukudome at-bat in the fourth:
When I played, nobody thought Japanese players would ever be able to compete in the US, because they just weren't as big, couldn't throw as hard. But now today, with their level of schooling—
Pause, no doubt while Ron is berated by his producer via headset.
—and with new training techniques, they're now just as big as some American players.
Whew, nice save.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Too Perfect to Check

This is sort of, uh, hard to swallow, but it sure does draw the employer/employee relationship in pretty stark terms. Yes, in all likelihood, your management will subject you to whatever it thinks it can get away with under the Geneva Conventions. It wouldn't be management otherwise.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I read the responses to the recent Feministe Feedback question on Being a Feminist Boyfriend with a lot of interest, and I was surprised that Amanda at Pandagon took issue with the first comment, which suggested that "deference is a privileged person's best friend." I had actually thought that a really succinct way of putting my thoughts on the issue.

It turns out I was just mistaken on the definition of "deference." There are a couple different ones, but they all seem to hinge on being "courteous and respectful" in "submission," or "yielding," to another. Sounds a lot like chivalry, and I agree, totally inappropriate.

But I think there is a related attitude, on the part of anyone in a discussion with someone over whom they enjoy privilege, that it is important to have. And that's to never assume that "awareness" of the issue at hand can ever substitute for that issue as seen by someone who must experience it first-hand.

The flawed behavior the attitude addresses can manifest in two ways, dismissal and self-righteousness. The dismissive version is basically, "look, I know all about feminism, and you're overreacting." And the self-righteous version is some variation on "I know all about feminism and you're being a bad feminist." In either case, the privileged person is claiming that their theoretical knowledge of oppression should trump another's actual experience of that oppression.

(I'm sticking with gender and feminism here since that's the discussion that brought it up, but the same dynamic obviously applies to any sort of societal oppression.)

By dint of the very privilege that's at issue, the privileged person's voice is going to have more weight behind it, and so it is even more vital that the privileged person takes other voices seriously. Which is what I would have wanted to call "deference," since one "defers" to the relevant experience of another. But it's not really "deference" because you're not doing it out of "respect and courtesy," but because they are in a position where they are more likely to know what the fuck they are talking about.

It's like when you're trying to squeeze into a tight parking space and your friend hops out to help direct you in from the sidewalk. You don't follow their instructions out of "respect" or "courtesy," but because they are positioned such that their perspective is more likely correct. No matter how sure you are that you're about to scrape the car on your left, if they assure you that you have more room, then you trust them. Unless you have reason to think they're trying to make you crunch your fender, you have to acknowledge that they're in the best place to judge the relevant distances.

As someone who has read a little in feminism, and who tends to didacticism in all things (but who has lived not one second as a woman under patriarchy), my tendency is to err on the "self-righteous" side (though I have certainly had my share of dismissive moments as well). But obviously, whatever little use I may be lies in being able to speak about oppression to other privileged people, from a shared position of privilege. Discussion with others should not primarily be about making myself feel good about my "awareness"; rather, it is a good time to listen, and should be valued as the learning opportunity it is.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stephen King, Awesome at Any Age

A blog comment linking to a post about series with crappy endings led me to refresh myself on the plots of the Narnia books on Wikipedia (the next movie comes out in May!). I totally didn't remember how (spoiler alert) it all ended with Aslan talking about how in England he was called "Jesus." And actually I was retarded enough when I read those books that it probably still went over my head.

Anyway, somewhere I saw a mention of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and I was all "oh yeah! I remember those!" I think when I read them there were only three, and I was so anxious about when the next one would come out and how it would all end, and what if Stephen King died in his mid-40's unable to complete the saga? But I guess I forgot about reading them, though I still remember (spoiler alert) the gunslinger fighting lobsters on the beach and learning about tunafish.

And it turns out (spoiler alert) Stephen King still isn't dead! And in fact, he actually finished the Dark Tower series, though I gather it was pretty disappointing in the end and at some point someone needed to obtain "the Pink Grapefruit." And so I've been reading all about Randall Flagg and about Stephen King's other books, and I came across this:
Roland's wine is poisoned, Roland drinks it and dies in three days, Roland's youngest son watches in horror as he drinks the poison. Peter is blamed for it, and is locked up in the enormous tower...Peter has made two requests for things he wants in his cell: his mother's dollhouse, and a napkin with every meal. Peter takes 5 threads from each napkin and with the help of a working loom from the dollhouse weaves them into a rope.

I just want to propose that anyone who comes up with that is awesome. A tip of my hat to you, Stephen King, or to whoever hacked all the Stephen King articles on Wikipedia and made them hilarious.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Weird Observation

Sadie from Itty Bitty Titty Committee has the exact same accent as Carcetti from The Wire.

Also, one of the McPoyle brothers is the plastic surgeon.

Also also, I'm sure I wasn't the only Mets fan who watched a BitTorrent of Itty Bitty Titty Committee because his roommate was watching Simpsons reruns.

Nerd Party

I wrote this C# class for reading INI files on my own time and I think it's cool so I'm posting it up. It uses reflection to populate the fields and properties in a class with values from an INI file.

If you want to read a Windows INI file that looks like this,


then you just make a subclass like this,
class TestIni : IniFile
   public TestIni() : base("test.ini") { }

   public class ShapeSection
      public int Width = 10;

   public readonly ShapeSection Shape = new ShapeSection();

   public class NameSection
      public string First = "";
      public string Last = "";

   public readonly NameSection Name = new NameSection();
and then you can use it like this:
TestIni ini = new TestIni();
Console.WriteLine("{0}, {1}", ini.Shape.Width, ini.Name.First);
It's cool because the structure of the subclass mirrors the structure of the INI file it represents, with a member class for each section containing a field or property for each key.

There are a lot of INI access utility classes out there (thanks to Microsoft not providing any in the Framework), but all the ones I saw used things like dictionaries to look up values by string. I think the reflection approach makes for neater client code.

Potential improvements include the ability to specify alternate names for member data, allowing you to access key or section names that are not valid C# identifiers; and the ability to write out changes to the member data to the INI file.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Developers and Other Scum

Dallas Penn has some amazing photos up showing neighborhoods eaten up by real estate development. As he points out in the text, developers are yet another group who have an interest in letting drugs and crime tear apart communities.

It should be illegal to own residential property that you do not yourself live in; commercial property out of which you do not yourself run a business; or agricultural property which you do not yourself farm. Existing rentals would be collectivized and ownership handed over to current residents, employees, and farm workers.

Who's Gonna Train Me Cats?

Some dog training book I read (Cesar Millan's?) pointed out that in any movie that features a bunch of animals together in a room not chasing each other (the example given was Dr. Dolittle), each of those animals has a trainer standing just off-set, keeping them on task with their positive energy (this is what makes me think it was Cesar's).

This caused me to realize that, duh, you see cats in movies, and therefore they must be trainable, regardless of what people say. I know people train cats to use toilets, after all, so getting them to respond to commands can't be impossible. And indeed, I have found some information on training cats.

We started Monday with "sit." I've been introducing the Colonel to the vocabulary for "kiss," "lap," and "tummy," but not trying to get her to do any of it on command yet, and of course Lucy already fetches on her own. But I did get them each to "come" and "sit" for me a couple times.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fan Pro Tips

While I was trying to find the link for my Sex and the City fanfic the other day in preparation for reading it at Lindsay and Gabe's show, I came across this page of advice for aspiring fanfictionists. The bullet list regarding sex scenes is especially amazing, and two or three of the items were absolutely essential to my piece.

Inside, outside, Holiday Inn

Sarah and I were going to look at an apartment this weekend (we ended up not even getting to see it because someone else took it before we got the chance) that was an "eco-renovated" brownstone, everything redone with sustainable materials and designed for efficiency and conservation. E.g., they had the toilets common throughout the rest of the developed world where you get one little flusher for pee and a bigger flusher for poo.

I was pretty psyched about the possibility of living someplace like that. I find something satisfying about efficiency. Must be my Germanic ancestry. With my current landlord, getting storm windows to replace the paper-thin panes in the living room was a huge coup, and we lobbied for months trying to get him to fix a leak in the bathtub was wasting gallons and gallons of potable water, but even though he paid the water bill, it wasn't costing him enough to justify hiring a plumber.

And of course, he was right; even if we had succeeded in getting the leak fixed, there's doubtless a dozen other leaky taps in the building and a hundred among the rest of the buildings on the block. If it's not worth fixing to him then it's not worth fixing to anybody, and taking care of our tiny leak would literally amount to a drop in the ocean.

A small minority of building owners, like the landlord of the building we wanted to look at this weekend, are sufficiently opposed to wasting water on principle that they would keep things leak-free, but that's ultimately not a rational decision based on sound economics. The question is, how do you change the system so that the people who are deciding things rationally make the choice that we want, which is to prevent so much wasted water?

In economics terms, the rational decision to let water go to waste is the result of an externality: wasted drinking water has a certain cost to society that is not fully represented in the dollar cost of tap water to the person paying the bill. This is why communities experiencing drought need to enact ordinances against watering your lawn: if water prices in those communities accurately reflected the marginal cost of water to the community as water became more scarce, then pretty much everyone would decide to stop watering their lawn all on their own; but since water, as a basic requirement for living, is subsidized, there's no price signal to respond people and you have to tell them explicitly "don't do that, we're running out of water."

Dealing with externalities wisely is like driving a boat or building a bridge: if you can set things up so the prevailing winds or gravity do a lot of the work, then there's a lot less for you to handle yourself with paddles or poured concrete. If you can manipulate prices so that the market does the heavy lifting to conserve precious resources or whatever, then there's a lot less left over to clean up with regulation.

What the case of water-wasting tap leaks made me realize is that the easy way of internalizing externalities in the case of conservation of resources—imposing a "Pigovian tax" somewhere along the line—sort of falls apart when you're talking about a resource that you want everyone to have essentially unhindered access to as a matter of rights.

It's simple enough to raise water prices to the point where most landlords will start looking after their plumbing. But as soon as water is priced anywhere above a nominal level then you'll have people going unwashed (the masses will basically go unwashed at the drop of a hat), letting their gardens dry out, and drinking inadequate water to stay healthy. And slumlords will just let their taps leak away and make their tenants responsible for the water bill. Basically, by trying to internalize one externality you end up creating another.

Which is just too bad.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Couldn't Agree More

Cheese has fat. If you don't want to eat fat, don't eat food with fat. Don't try to cheat by eating food that has had the fat removed via artificial means. It is an affront to God and Nature.

Splenda eaters and decaf drinkers, you also test the Almighty's patience.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pretty Smart

This dude made 3D images by sticking subsequent frames from Alien together: corridor, bridge. That's a really good idea, and it would work with any panning shot without action. It would never have occurred to me.

This one did occur to me, and I'm glad to see that someone's done it, even if it totally doesn't work (the blue is wrong).

There's a lot of good stuff on flickr that comes up if you search for "3D". Exteriors and landscapes seem to work really well.