Saturday, April 12, 2008

Let my [chat] go!

Charlton Heston, Epic Film Star and Voice of N.R.A., Dies at 83.

Probability - You don't have to believe in it for it to work

I think I've finally convinced myself that probability behaves the way that people say it does, by which I mean, essentially, that the odds of flipping heads twice in a row is 1/4, but the odds of flipping heads after already flipping heads once already is 1/2. I have nursed the idea that that second flip is influenced by the first; that there is a force beyond human reckoning that will turn that second coin tails just to maintain the status quo. The problem with that logic is what I think can best be described as believing in "doncha think it's due?": the gambling pitfall that makes you put all your money on 15 black because it's been hours since it's come up and, doncha think it's due?

The reason that line of thinking is so tempting is because it makes sense in a way. If you roll the die a hundred thousand times, you're going to get all six results with a pretty even distribution, so if you find yourself in a streak of rolls with no fives, it stands to some sort of reason that five is going to HAVE to come up soon in order to keep up with the other results. The problem with that is that it assumes that even though the odds of getting a five on your next roll is 1/6, there is some sort of universal probability equality law that increases your odds. Who says that your sample of 100,000 rolls has to have an equal distribution? If I roll six times, should I expect equal distribution? What if I roll a million times? How can you possibly hope to say anything about one single roll? Is the guy rolling dice on the other side of the world "using up" all the five rolls? Probability, in theoretical terms I suppose, is based on infinite sample sizes, and so basing your assumptions on what "is due" on a finite sample seems silly, especially when you consider that it's a sample size based on the number of times a guy can roll dice in one sitting, or on what will come up next.

I don't know if I've explained myself very well, but this will at least spark a discussion amongst the people who aren't sick of this topic already, and I just wanted to put out there that I'm finally happy in thinking that the flip of the coin already finished can do nothing to influence the next flip. Hmm.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Translation Notes and Foreign Words Please

Charles Shrio Inouye was on campus yesterday to talk about translating Japanese, and he was interesting, but it was the conversation that followed during the Q&A portion that I've continued to think about.

A question was raised regarding how to know when to use a Japanese word in an English translation and when it's better to give an English equivalent or brief explanation. A German translator in the audience gave the example of schadenfreude, which is, of course the feeling of pleasure we feel at someone else's pain. Some translators will just use the German word schadenfreude, and some translators will give only the explanatory phrase. Still others will do what I just did, which is to use the word once, follow it with a gloss, and then continue to use it with the understanding that after explaining it, the reader will surely be able to recall the meaning of this new word: schadenfreude.

What surprised me was that the Japanese translator and one of his colleagues both rejected the idea of using the original word alone or along with the gloss, opting instead to find an English explanation. Their reasoning was that 1) glosses, footnotes, and other such breaks interrupt the flow of reading and 2) the use of foreign words tends to make the text exotic in ways that it shouldn't be. In other words, they think that when people read an English translation, they want to have an experience similar to that enjoyed by people who can read the original: one free of notes and new vocabulary.

I don't see how keeping translation notes out of a translation could possibly be better than including them. If all you have is a completely English translation, then you're relying on the translator's ability to transform the meaning of a sentence in one language into an equivalent sentence in your own language. What if the translator doesn't understand the original sentence perfectly? What if the original is open to interpretation? What if the original makes allusions that would be clear to native readers, but are unknown to foreign readers? Without notes you lose out on the possibility of seeing some of the original author's intention because he's been overtaken by the translator.

The refusal to use foreign words is equally baffling. How can you say that using the word genkan (the entrance to a Japanese-style home with a step in front of which shoes are left behind) makes a text exotic in ways that having a main character named Takeshi does not? Call the man Tim if you want to complete the illusion of creating an English version that is in all ways similar in reception to the original. And move him out of Tokyo and into Toledo while you're at it.

Using foreign words in texts is one of the ways in which those words enter the vocabulary of other countries. A pet peeve of mine is that movies and anime tend to translate itadakimasu when spoken before a meal. It's usually rendered as some kind of silly prayer or "let's eat!", but it always comes across as unnatural, because it's a single word used to begin a meal and should be spoken by everyone, and outside of "GRACE!" which is irreverent and therefore not practical for all cases, English doesn't have an equivalent and it's awkward to try to find one. However, if translators would just trust their audiences with the word itadakimasu on its own, I don't see why it wouldn't become as commonplace and understandable as the similar-in-function bon appetite that we've borrowed successfully from the French.

Just some thoughts.

Gay Severed Heads Fucking and Cursing.

Some days as I sit here writing rants while my boss is at lunch I think "Maybe I am grossly mistaken and those who maintain views contrary to my own are correct."* Perhaps other people have access to some clarity of purpose and thought which justifies their positions yet eludes me. The problem is that whenever I start to think that way I'll stumble upon something which results from this contrary way of thinking about the world:

And then I get mad.

Ok, assuming that human beings have choice and all actions are not just one big string of causality** then the things which offend an individual are the things an individual chooses to be offended by; this is how "offense" works. We choose to be offended by violence, by sex, by homosexuality. There is not some metaphysical aspect of these actions which triggers an inherent component of human beings and so brings about feelings of offense. Rather, we pick and choose. So if someone is more offended by heterosexual sex than severed human heads they have chosen to be offended.

So the question becomes why would someone choose to be more offended by sex than violence?

The answer, I think, is that violence is more familiar to individuals. Human beings are more comfortable with violence than heterosexual sex or homosexual kissing. With this familiarity comes the understanding of violence as removed from society, peripheral, a fantasy. So we would much rather expose our children to severed heads than sexuality as severed heads belong to that aspect of society which is acknowledged to be a fantasy and removed whereas sexuality poses immediate danger and harm due to its unfamiliarity and allure. We can inundate our children with images of violence due to the understanding that violence is wrong whereas sexuality can be good and so maintaining a strong defense against sexuality is far more difficult.

Unfortunately that world view is fucked the hell up.

I mean, really. How is violence less offensive than sexuality? Ignoring that pseudo-psychologial/sociological babble I spouted last paragraph (because it's bullshit) how can human beings maintain the position that two people engaged in sex is at all offensive let alone more offensive than severed human heads?

Consentual sex is not problematic or harmful; it is not bad. Sure, pregnancy can result from heterosexual sex, but then we have to get into that whole "pregnancy is not bad but sometimes it is but it's not really bad so much as it is inconvenient but babies are not inconvenient though they sometimes are but they're really a blessing except sometimes they are a burden but not a burden more of an unexpected surprise in the form of a burden which is a gift" idiocy. Ignoring all of that jackassery how the fuck is two people fucking more problematic and offensive than two people killing one another?

So if you're going to be an idiot. If you're going to be offended. If you're going to be an ignorant jackass who want to shelter and isolate your children in an effort to ensure that they never objectively observe reality and instead spend their lives clinging to baseless illusions fabricated by your frightened, delusional self then how about you at least get your fucking priorities right and ignorantly flee from the correct things?

Sex is not problematic; sex is not bad. Violence is problematic; violence is bad.

Unless I am mistaken, of course. Maybe it is the case that we are happy that those teenagers in Florida beat up a girl so that they could post it on Youtube. At least none of them had sex and the guys did not kiss one another. Man, that would have really sucked.

*Ok, I never actually think I'm incorrect. But for the purpose of prose let's just all pretend that there are times when I am not an arrogant, narcissistic ass.
**We don't have choice and existence really is just one big string of causality. But since most people are delusional and do not accept this I will happily use their own arguments against them.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Zero Punctuation: No More Heroes

Chickens, Eggs, and Chelsea Clinton

Last night's episode of South Park was delightful. Ms. Garrison finally went full circle and became Mr. Garrison again. And if that was a spoiler to you then, well, fuck you; you should have watched the damn show. Anyway, it is revealed that Mr. Garrison was a man all along. It was not the case that Mr. Garrison was fucked up because he was a woman trapped in a man's body. Rather, Mr. Garrison was always a man and always fucked up.

Which brings us to Chelsea Clinton.

If you couldn't tell from my Chelsea on Monica and more subtly entitled Chelsea Clinton is a whore rants I detest Chelsea Clinton; I hate her so much. The problem with my hatred of Chelsea Clinton is that some would say it is not genuine but rather something else.

If you spend any time reading political articles you'll see that the opinions people have of Clintons are spun and collectivized into a general, societal, pro-Clinton or anti-Clinton groups. Since many people have strong opinions of the Clintons these opinions are taken to be not unique to individuals but rather manifestations of the Platonic Form of Clinton endorsement or Clinton hatred which exists within society. To quote some jackass at, "There is no question that the Clintons generate strong responses and reactions, both positive and negative. Fair enough." One may minimize the impact of any particular manifestation of pro-Clinton or anti-Clinton sentiment by generalizing it to be part of that greater whole and not a unique entity unto itself. We can turn the conversation into a chicken and egg question, as it were.

In the Mr. Garrison example we have a chicken and egg question. The chicken is gender confusion and the egg is "fucked up". Did "fucked up" bring about gender confusion or did gender confusion bring about "fucked up"; which came first? With the opinions individuals hold of the Clintons we have this same situation: Did particular hatred or communal hatred come first; is my hatred of Chelsea Clinton the result of a societal hatred or is the societal hatred the result of the hatred of myself and others?

I can understand why people do this and the manner in which the spin is effective. If one can downplay particular hatred to be part of a communal hatred then the particular is less noticeable and powerful; one is simply part of that mindless choir of haters lambishly baaing in unison.

The problem is that not everyone is a mindless drone parroting what they heard from Glenn Beck or Bill'O or Olbermann. Some of us are self-affirmed entities unto ourselves who really fucking hate Chelsea Clinton regardless of what talking heads say or what we think of her mother or father.

For example:

Sydney Rieckhoff, a Cedar Rapids fourth grader and “kid reporter” for Scholastic News, has posed questions to seven Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls as they’ve campaigned across Iowa this year. But when she approached the 27-year-old Chelsea after a campaign event Sunday, she got a different response.

“Do you think your dad would be a good ‘first man’ in the White House?” Sydney asked, but Chelsea brushed her question aside.

“I’m sorry, I don’t talk to the press and that applies to you, unfortunately. Even though I think you’re cute,” Chelsea told the pint-sized journalist.

It is not a manifestation of some communal hatred to hate Chelsea's bitchy response to a fucking FOURTH GRADER. No delusional, sheepish, mindless conformity is required to be pissed-the-fuck-off by this. Chelsea Clinton is simply a god damned bitch. Don't believe me? Look at how she acts towards fourth graders!

So, sure, lots of people hate the Clintons. Plenty of people love the Clintons. And certainly there is some societal impact on individuals which manipulates their individual views.

But don't try to fucking spin these genuine grievances against Chelsea as some manifestation of baseless hatred rooted in her father getting his cock sucked or her mother being a stubborn, selfish bitch. My opinions of Hillary and Bill are entirely removed from my hatred of Chelsea. There is no chicken or egg here. There is only Chelsea Clinton being a hollow, vapid, opportunistic bitch.

And my calling her on it.

Raeks In the News

Gizmodo has a nice right about the 2008 Dyson award winner. A super raek. This shit can rake leaves and pick them up.

One Raek To Rule Them All, One Raek To Find Them, One Raek To Bring Them All And In The Darkness Bind Them!

There is a video.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cult or Religion

The following quotes come from an article entitled Children of Polygamy.

"But on the other hand, you're not encouraged to think for yourself or have an imagination and learn and grow. You're encouraged to conform and be a clone."

"In the mind of someone who has a phobia, they can't imagine [living outside the compound] will have a positive result," said Hassan. "They'll develop phobias of losing their salvation or burning in hell."

"It can also be things like [fearing] they'll be raped by the outsiders, or that the outsiders will beat and torture you or that you'll get cancer or AIDS if you leave the compound," said Hassan. "Some believe they'll become drug addicts or will commit suicide if they leave."

"The ideology of the theology of the group is that their boss is ordained by God," said Wood. "Initially it's going to be very difficult for them to trust people."

"Inside extremist organizations the addiction is deliberately induced," said Wood, who said the effect a cult has on an individual is similar to that of a drug or alcohol addiction. "When someone comes out, part of the process of healing and recovering is letting go of the addiction, and this case that means letting go of the theology, ideology of the group."

"As long as they still believe, they're still addicted," added Wood.

"People often do go back," said Wood. "Some come all the way out and then they just fall back into them – they don't find the way to survive as free agents."

The article is about the difficulties children raised on that polygamist ranch will experience when they enter society. But if you read the quotes outside of that particular context and delve into the thoughts and ideas behind them? They're discussing what happens in any religion, any group in which indoctrination occurs.

"You're not encouraged to think for yourself", "Their boss is ordained by God", "They'll develop phobias of losing their salvation or burning in hell". In what way do these not describe Catholicism? "...[fearing] they'll be raped by the outsiders, or that the outsiders will beat and torture you or that you'll get cancer or AIDS if you leave the compound." Replace "outsiders" with "homosexuals", "compound" with "the fold", and then pretend that we're talking about James Dobson's followers.

And then we have the best one: "They don't find the way to survive as free agents." The fucking mantra of every dipshit who embraces the notion of an invisible man in the sky.

So, explain to me the difference between a cult and a religion. Because as far as I can tell? The only difference is semantic. It's ok for Catholics to think that the Pope is ordained by God but it is crazy for a bunch of polygamists to think that their leader was ordained by God? It's ok for Methodists to scare their children with threats of Hell but it's not ok for this polygamist group to scare its children with threats of Hell?


I don't think this is apples and oranges, that there is some fundamental difference and distinguishing quality to a religion that a cult lacks. Cults and religions are fundamentally the same thing: indoctrinating clubs for weak-minded dipshits terrified of the notion of being "free agents".

And I'm trying to figure out why we can lambaste this polygamist group for indoctrinating its members while just a few months ago people were voting for Mike Huckabee.

Old People hate WoW

Flickr Video

Flickr added a new feature yesterday, flickr video. You have to have a pro account to add video, but anyone can watch. This is a video i shot with my camera a few weeks ago. There is a 90 second limit on video length. They say it is to get people to share personal videos, not rick rolling or Willard Scott being fucked up.

edit: The more i think about it, the more the 90sec limit seems ridiculous. it occurred to me on my walk to work that flickr is already limited video service to people who pay to use flickr. It seems like that is enough to keep people from using the service to share copy righted videos.

Unlike youtube, where one could be banded for uploading videos, all you have to do is start a new free account. Flickr Pro costs 24$ a year. This is a lot of money for someone who wants to share episodes of venture bros just to get banned. One of the best parts of flickr is the social-y sorts of things. I can see when my friends upload pictures, comment on them etc. I have also uploaded nearly 1000 pictures. That is a lot of time and effort and i do not want to lose that.

That is enough reason to not use flickr video for something other than my own videos.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Stephanie Rathbun's Blogging as of the First of the Year

It became apparent to me today as I realized that I had not read any Wrathburn blog posts since December that I have not posted any Wrathburn blog posts since December. Let us then let the righteous rectification commence and be well wrought:

3/07/08 - Hodgepodge

2/19/08 - Normalcy kills

2/15/08 - The Reason I Play Solitaire

2/01/08 - Procrastination Station

1/25/08 - Starstruck: us or him?

1/22/08 - SJR7: What does it stand for?

1/15/08 - Blog Anew

Monday, April 7, 2008

Weapons Grade Hedgehogs

NZ man 'used hedgehog as weapon'

Police said William Singalargh, 27, had hurled the hedgehog about 5m (16ft) at a 15-year-old boy.

"It hit the victim in the leg, causing a large, red welt and several puncture marks," said Senior Sgt Bruce Jenkins, in the North Island town of Whakatane.

It was unclear whether the hedgehog was still alive when it was thrown, though it was dead when collected as evidence.

The police spokesman said the suspect was arrested "for assault with a weapon, namely the hedgehog."

Mr Singalargh is due to appear in court on 17 April. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.