Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fighting Blogger

In some ways I like Blogger, which is why I've stayed. However, the Blogger engine does not permit much freedom in customizing the design and fails to support subcategories. What I want are the following, in order of importance:

1. Subcategories extending to a minimum of two levels, although more would be better. Ten levels of subcategories would be optimal. A blog without categories is like a book without a table of contents.

2. A more robust Comment feature, one that does not drop comments by accident without any explanation.

3. Useful gadgets for the blog. Most of the add-ons are annoying gimmicky substitutes for content that the writer should instead provide.

3. The ability to customize the header in any way, shape, or form.

4. The ability to customize the appearance of the rest of the blog.

5. Better templates.

6. The ability to delete an article while editing, before publishing. Right now, Blogger stores everything, whether the article is empty or not.

I am considering moving over to Wordpress. The cost in terms of broken links would not be all that high. The only downside as I see it is lack of advertising support, but I can afford five bucks for sure.

If I do make the move, never fear. My last message here will link to the new site.

I sure am glad I mowed the blog last week. There won't be as much moving to do. I anticipate the move taking a couple of hours. But first, I need to examine Wordpress and make sure the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. Reports of security vulnerabilities in Wordpress are quite alarming. Perhaps that explains why somebody out there is hitting my router with port-scans. Yes, I do have a Firewall. D'oh!

As for LiveJournal, that is now owned by a Russian company. Sorry, Russian readers, but I do not have a high overall opinion of Russian democracy, right at the moment. The fact that they laid off a bunch of programmers in San Francisco and moved the jobs over to Russia does not sit well with me, either. It is just another thorn in the side of our ailing country. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world. Don't mess with SF.

As for Myspace, it is owned by Murdoch, and no more need be said on that score. Windows Live Spaces may be worth considering. I'm not that much of a Microsoft h8r; after all, I use Windows XP. They probably have the security angle covered. I'll just bet they don't bother with categories (#1 on the list above) or for that matter any other innovation. A Microsoft solution aims for a solid and sound imitation of the other players in the market without getting ahead of them. Reports of browser incompatibility are not too surprising. Microsoft still expects everyone to use IE. More troublesome for me is that Microsoft censors the word "democracy" in China.

Category: Medicine


Back Pain: 1, 2, & 3


Dentistry 1 & 2

General Philosophy Regarding Medicine

Graves Disease/Hyperthyroidism

Psychology: Asperger's Syndrome

Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements: Vitamins

Nota Bene: writer is not a licensed caregiver--just an opinionated patient.

This Table of Contents was created because the Blogger engine does not support subcategories.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Balloon Bank

Check out this cartoon about the bailout of financial firms.

Farewell, Conservative Anglicans

Upset by gay clergy, conservative Anglicans are defecting to Catholicism, which is ironic from a historical perspective. The Anglican Church was created after King Henry VIII could not secure a divorce from the Pope. Upset by Church marital laws, the King dissolved the religion in England and created a new one. The ancestors of the Catholics slew the ancestors of the Anglicans and on some occasions burnt them alive for heresy.

Today, the Church of Rome takes an active role in denying the right of gay people to marry, donating millions of dollars to advertising campaigns. Contrast today's political activism with two issues from the recent past. The Church condoned abuse against children committed by its supposedly celibate clergy over the years. During the Holocaust, the Church remained obedient and passive while the Nazi government seized the Jews and other minorities for death camps. The best that can be said is that the Church of Rome has made strange choices regarding the battles that it chooses to fight.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Readers

My readers hail from the following locations:

Most are in the English-speaking world--no surprise there. The top cities supplying the most visitors are, in order: Penza, Russia and Atlanta, Georgia. These cities account for the largest orange dots on the map. After the top two, we have New York, London, Oslo, Brisbane, Sydney, Austin, San Diego, Olympia, Seattle, Melbourne, Houston, Athens, "not set" (unknown location, due to privacy settings), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris and several other cities.

This data comes from google-analytics, a utility that many webmasters use to evaluate their sites. The average time spent on the site is the juiciest detail. If a reader spends less than a minute, then the site repelled him for some reason (poor design or content, most likely). The more time a reader spends, the better. I expected the highest average time to be from the United States, but was completely mistaken:

Countries where English is not the native language show higher average times. Those visitors require more time to interpret what for them is probably a second language, learned in school. In the same way, I would require more time to read a French site.

I'm not sure how to interpret all of this data, but I do like the idea of the blog being read in faraway places that I've never visited. I wonder what the reader in Bolivia thinks about the blog, for instance. Once, I wrote an article about the recent coup in Honduras. Someone out there replied, but their text was written in Chinese characters, and I could not publish it because I didn't know what it meant. I rejected the comment, but the person left a similar comment two more times, until I changed the settings on the blog to disallow anonymous comments.

The data itself does not tell me much, other than this site is good enough to capture attention for an average of 1.86 pages and 2.09 minutes per visit, which isn't too bad, considering most people click and then leave before a minute gets clocked. Servers may visit my site on a daily basis to scan for keywords for marketing purposes or to inspect the AdSense code. In some cases, they grab the text, create a summary and then put a summary of my content on a web page, along with summaries of content from other blogs, organized by key words. I think this technique is intended to generate ad revenue.

All of the data collected by google-analytics is technical in nature, and so of less interest to a writer than to a webmaster, who frets over whether his site plays well with all the browsers and screen resolutions. More interesting questions would be, what do the readers believe, and do they agree or disagree on this or that article? These are unknowns, although the data gives little hints.

What does screen resolution mean? In my experience, those with very high screen resolution are either involved with technology, graphic design or games; well-to-do financially, or both. High status has a strong association with high screen resolution.

All of these resolutions are about the same, in what I call the lower to middle-class spectrum of screen resolution. Only when I extend the list do I notice some unusual resolutions, such as 2560 x 1600, which indicates a power user, someone with an unusually expensive monitor. Today as I write this, such monitors cost eleven hundred dollars and up at, although in the future they will become cheaper. Such a person probably has a fast internet connection, as well, such as a T1.

The smaller resolutions, such as 800 x 600 and 800 x 480, do not indicate poverty. Someone could be logging in from a mobile device. Also, I have noticed that many people, no matter how much money they have, just don't bother upgrading their computer. It's perceived to be a hassle. They use their computer until it breaks, and then buy a new one. Whatever screen resolution is on their new system, they will live with until the new computer also breaks. They just don't care about screen resolution.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I decided to write a list of all the things I feel optimistic about.

1. People are still writing excellent applications--games, utilities, browsers. In fact, they are better than ever and can do more than ever. And they're giving 'em away, in many cases.

2. Television these days--certain shows--are incredibly good. Shows like Nova, Horizon, the old (pre-jail) Martha Stewart Show, the David Attenborough documentaries (mammals, insects, birds), Seinfeld, The Catherine Tate Show, Mad Men, Peep Show, The Graham Norton Show, Little Britain, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. . .even Dr. Who. They are ten times better than the television fare available just two decades ago.

3. Although there is turmoil elsewhere, at least the U.S. is at peace on the domestic front.

4. Books are better than ever. Smarter, with better writing and better illustrations and more perfect knowledge. And bookstores are (almost) giving them away.

5. Food at the grocery store is better than ever. More diverse, and in some cases, such as pistachios, cheaper. Iran blew the whole pistachio monopoly back in 1976 when they took the American hostages. California producers started growing, and the rest was history. The best thing about pistachios today is that they no longer contain that icky red dye that used to stain fingers.

Well, five is about all I can manage today. Maybe one more.

6. NASA is still exploring and astronomers are still discovering new information about the cosmos. If you really want to read the good news in the world, filter out *.business and *.politics and just read *.science.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Who are the Prohibitionists?

If you are scared of cannabis, then you still have plenty of company. Mostly old timers, as it turns out:

This chart was found on a recent posting on the NORML web site.

I wonder how much those who are 65+ really know about cannabis. Do they base their opinion upon government propaganda? The government is concerned with political expediency and is not a reliable source on this particular subject.

Cannabis has been a taboo topic for a long time. Some people feared being called a pothead if they dared to speak out in favor of legalization. But the times, they are a-changing. I see the discussion of cannabis moving from the sidelines into the mainstream, where it belongs. People who never use it nevertheless recognize that cannabis poses less danger to society than the Powers-That-Be would have us believe. Prohibition of cannabis has even less scientific basis than the Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s. Cannabis is safer. Later generations will look back upon the Prohibition years as collective hysteria.

The disparity in opinion between liberals and conservatives is not surprising. Modern-day conservatives seem to relish the idea of inflicting severe punishment for other people's peccadillos. Some favor making prison a nasty and brutish trauma as well. This draconian policy is not without costs. Conservatives have been in power for so long in the United States that today our prison system has over two million people. Such a huge amount of incarceration has consequences for the economy and the well-being of poor families. The cost is a long-term drain upon the national resources. If Americans were presented with a bill detailing the cost of Prohibition over the last century, the total would surely eclipse the budget deficit. Meanwhile, Holland gets by just fine with a liberal policy toward cannabis.

Asperger's Syndrome

Psychology attempts to classify individuals into various categories. Often this is like trying to put round pegs into a square hole. The good doctor observes similarities among individuals and attempts to generalize, which is only natural. Generalization works quite well in tackling other matters, such as corn, soybean, insects and animals. Humans are incredibly complex, though, and some individuals are quite difficult to classify. This presents a challenge for the psychologist. Theories tend to miss the mark when working with individuals. A psychologist should remain flexible and not take any one theory as absolute Gospel. There are infinite permutations, particularly in a diverse population spanning the globe. In addition to innate traits, there are societal and familial influences to consider. Psychologists therefore have a difficult time of things, and I don't envy their job. They grapple with the most intricate puzzle of all, H. Sapiens.

This morning, at random, I entered "love" in Wikipedia just to see what the article would say. I have loved plenty of people in my life. It's kind of a crazy feeling, which the article confirmed. "Love" led me to an article on "love-shyness," which is a condition in which an individual is unable to establish a relationship with another person, usually an opposite-sex person. The heterosexual author of the theory suggests that love-shyness is confined to heterosexuals, but I'm skeptical of that, being gay myself. I have felt love-shyness before, even around the same sex. This so-called condition is also quite a common plot in situation comedies.

One of the proposed causes of love-shyness was hypoglycemia, which I may have to some degree, and "Asperger's Syndrome," a term I have come across before. Science fiction author Piers Anthony wrote on his blog (I forget which monthly posting) that his father probably suffered from AS.

In reading about this syndrome or disorder (the psychologists have not reached a consensus over which slot to place AS in), I felt a bit taken aback. The description sounded a little like me. I've been accused of pedantry, for instance. I certainly do like big words. The description of early childhood and adolescence did not seem off base for me, either. When I was a child, one girl called me a "walking, talking encyclopedia." This seemed to echo the description that Hans Asperger applied to four boys that he diagnosed with AS. He called them his "little professors." Adolescence was a challenging period, but it is for many gay people, due to the hostility one may find in high school just for being different.

Syndrome is a scary word. This was a test for my ego. Did I suffer from AS? Do I suffer from AS? At first I thought, maybe. However, I have this memory-resident program running at all times in the background of my operating system. It is a handy little utility called "Question Authority." I have enough experience with academia to remain unfazed by fancy terms.

Upon reflection, it sounds to me like the establishment has found a label to put on nerds. Everyone wants to place a label on everyone else. It seems to make things easier. But humans cannot be classified like insects, not in the way that some would like to do. There are some that prefer to take a pathological view of others. They will look for a difference, and instead of interpreting the difference as a simple variation, which may be adaptive in certain scenarios, they think it is a symptom of either an illness or moral evil. I am more familiar with this sadistic attitude than most people, being homosexual. One of the main drives in human beings is ego fulfillment, and one of the paths to this end is the belittlement of others. If others are sick or wrong, then that implies that you, the observer, are better than they are. And is that so? When you point a finger at another person, three fingers are pointing back at you.

I visited a forum for "Asperger's Spouses," where I found supposedly normal wives complaining about the eccentricities and perceived effeminacy of their heterosexual husbands. They were convinced their husbands had AS. The term seems like just another label used to beat other people over the head with. If you can diagnose someone with XYZ, then you're automatically right forever, and they're automatically in the wrong, no matter what the circumstances. The diagnosis sounds like a convenient weapon to me.

How normal is normal functioning? The nations of the world often slay each others' people by the thousands or even by the millions. This is a demonstrated and documented fact about normal, sane people. How rational are normal people, if violence is their answer? It seems closer to the truth to confess that the majority is not such a sterling model of sanity to begin with. Normal is just not that great. Look at the results.

The criteria for AS includes a difficulty in understanding humor, social nuances and figures of speech. AS'ers also have a tendency to have a narrow range of interests. They may memorize railroad schedules, catalog information, or movie times, something I've never done. Based upon these and other criteria, I decided I'm about 25% closer to AS than the general population, but not quite there. I can sit by a computer almost all day writing, programming, reading, or researching. I like these activities a great deal. But in other ways, I am unlike AS people. I'm not clumsy, but have average physical dexterity. I don't have any problem with small talk, love humor, and watch comedies on a daily basis. I don't shy away from abstract concepts, and I'm not confined to one narrow area of interest. Dungeon Crawl may be a minority subject, but if every person with a niche interest is AS, then that implicates all of academia along with me. I like everything taught at college. There aren't many subjects I don't find interesting. I'm more of a generalist than the AS diagnosis predicts.

I suspect the psychologist's viewpoint is influenced by their occupation. They must deal with disturbed individuals suffering from behavioral problems. They spend less time with the well-adjusted than with the troubled. So their viewpoint is apt to assume a pathological bias. There was a famous study once in which a psychologist sent several normal volunteers, mostly graduate students, to mental hospitals. Each of the volunteers claimed to be hearing voices, but mentioned no other symptoms. Almost all of them were admitted and diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, manic-depression, or something similar. After a few months, the "patients" revealed the experiment to the hospitals and published the results. This scandal exposed the fallibility of psychological diagnosis.

It would be well for people who have been told they are some kind of label to take the diagnosis with a grain of salt. Perhaps the esteemed professional is correct, perhaps he is mistaken, or there is a third possibility, perhaps he is both correct in some ways and mistaken in other ways. No one is God. No one is omniscient, no matter what they may claim. No matter what their rank in the social hierarchy, each person generates their own internal version of reality which differs to some degree from objective reality. J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, "Even the wise cannot see all ends." And in the Bible it says, "We see the world as through a glass [mirror] darkly."

There is much in the realm of psychology that remains a mystery, more so than in the other sciences. Psychology today remains in its infancy. In any case, if one is diagnosed, it's not the end of the world. As for AS, there are certainly worse things to be than that. It seems rather mild in comparison to some of the other classifications.

As a computer programmer, I have known on a professional basis many nerds, and some of them probably did suffer from AS or HFA (High-Functioning Autism). I remember several guys and even a couple of women that almost never interacted with the others around them. They tended to be heterosexual. They did not even say hello to me in passing. I sometimes felt offended by this behavior, but then I learned that they were this way to everyone, by no means just me. They were pretty good programmers, if unlikely to wear the latest fashions. They were shy and not apt with small talk. The truth is that they were probably afraid of the so-called normal people. They did not understand us, and for this reason hesitated to engage us in conversation. But if you asked them a question and were patient enough to listen to them, they could interact well enough for the purpose of the job.

I am reminded of the bitter complaints of wives of AS sufferers. If nerdiness bothers a woman, then she should not marry such a man in the first place. Who is really to blame for the marriage: the socially naive nerd, who is gullible and often the victim in social settings, or the so-called normal partner? It is a good idea to know one's boyfriend well before putting a ring on one's finger. Marrying someone just because they are willing to support you is seldom a good idea. Desperation is not a good reason for marriage either. But if one does marry for these reasons, allowances should be made for the other person's eccentricities. One can't expect a nerd to transform overnight into Prince Charming. It's asking too much.

My advice to psychologists is to go a little easier on the nerds. Don't give them such a hard time. You need them to wrestle with all the technical problems in today's world. Of course, when a married couple comes in for counseling, it may be an easy thing to target the least socially sophisticated spouse and pile all the blame upon him, because he will be less likely to seek confrontation. This is an easy path to take, but not necessarily the right one.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On Computer Programming

If you are interested in working for the federal government, this is the web site to search for jobs. It's a huge improvement over the past, when jobs were posted to local newspapers.

There is one deficiency. If you are looking for a computer job, the postings seldom specify the precise skills required. Instead, you are redirected to a lengthy questionnaire on a slow server. Often the questions are not just multiple choice, but contain text boxes asking for a more detailed response. Around the thirtieth question, you may be asked whether you have experience in PeopleSoft or some other highly specialized niche. If you don't, that means you are not qualified and have wasted up to half an hour on one job posting. Also, if you are gay, the federal government does not offer domestic partner benefits, so it may not be worth considering as an employer, unless your partner receives health insurance elsewhere.

Computer jobs tend to be too specialized overall. When I graduated with honors, I couldn't find a local job using any mainstream language. Instead, I found employment with a company that wanted me to program in an obscure language used only by them. This is a cunning trick to discourage job-hopping. They expected long hours, sometimes during the graveyard shift, and the pay was lousy. I mastered the language, saved my money, and with a year's experience under my belt, left for a better job with more pay at another company. I kept all of my textbooks in huge triple-ringed binders, altogether weighing about a hundred pounds, for about ten years. Then one day I realized they would never be used again, so I deposited them in a dumpster.

In general, the computer programming trade has been a Tower of Babel. Skills become outdated with rapidity. Employers are seldom interested in programmers that know old languages. The old languages are no longer widely used. In my career, I seldom used the same language for more than five years. There was a constant need to master new languages. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to this. Sometimes it seems like change for the sake of change.

Recently, I read an article in Money magazine that compared the stress levels, education requirements, and potential salaries of a hundred different careers. For software development, they indicated that the stress level was low. I had a good laugh at that one. Real-time applications must be free of bugs and fault-tolerant. A programmer must be able to predict the future. He must consider every possible outcome, not just the most likely ones. If a technical event only happens once in a billion instances, that means that it will certainly happen, and you will be blamed for not anticipating it. I have seen the consequences when programmers make mistakes or oversights. Even the best and brightest programmers fail on occasion. It is just the same as a doctor flubbing a prescription. The guilt and embarrassment are enormous, because programmers are conscientious individuals who take pride in their work. "Sorry" doesn't cut it. Overtime is the only balm for failure, overtime and vast quantities of coffee.

College students should not be so eager to major in computer science, no matter how much they like using computers. It is true that the profession pays well, in comparison to say, the business major, which often leads to a sales job. However, if you have plenty of book-smarts, a better choice would be any of the other sciences, such as biology, geology, or chemistry. In these sciences, change comes gradually, and tends to be cumulative, building upon what is already known, rather than an entire subject becoming obsolete overnight.

In my opinion, the traditional sciences bring greater benefit to this world. You should want want more than just money out of your work. You should want to achieve something positive in your life of genuine benefit to society. Much computer programming consists of reinventing the wheel. Every company likes to craft their own individual solution to common tasks such as accounting. They do this to save money. It is often cheaper to hire a bunch of eggheads to hack out code rather than purchase a third-party package and pay an annual retainer fee.

Consider medicine. That's where the big money's at, and that's where you have an opportunity, at least, to make the world a better place. I can think of nothing better than healing the sick. Become a General Practitioner or a Registered Nurse, because the country needs more of them. You will never want for money in those occupations. Better yet, do research, because in that role, your work may save many millions of people. The more knowledge we acquire, the better, as long as this knowledge is used in the proper ways.

Computer Won't Turn On

My usual morning routine is to fix myself a breakfast of oatmeal and then boot up the computer. This morning, the computer refused to boot. The power supply's blue LED light flickered but then died. I unplugged everything, waited a minute, and then plugged it back in. Again the blue LED light flickered, and this time the CPU fan came on, but the computer would not boot.

Verdict: bad power supply. Solution: Replace.

If the problem had only been a blown fuse in the power supply, then the blue LED light would not have come on.

Thirty minutes later I'm up and running. It is fortunate I had a spare lying around. Magazine articles often advise against being a pack rat. Well, there are advantages. If I weren't a pack rat, keeping spare parts here and there, then I would not be writing this article today.

The bad power supply was a RAIDMAX RX-630A. It lasted no more than two years, which isn't a very good outcome, considering I paid close to $100 for it. I thought that by paying more, I'd get a more reliable part.

The new power supply, a Thermaltake, works, but it too has a problem. A thin plastic card located within the box has come loose. The glue holding it in place must have decayed. Every once in a while, it comes into contact with the power supply's fan blades, causing clickety-clack. I've left the case off so that I can quickly replace this power supply, too, in the near future.

Friday, October 16, 2009


There are people in the world spending their time and energy trying to do harm to minorities. This has always been so, but it is more deplorable when they use God as a weapon, making the assumption that the One Deity is on their side.

Some use religion to place themselves above others and claim moral superiority by virtue of their religious affiliation. They claim to belong to the right church and to worship the right God. They look down upon others with contempt and dismiss the liberal religions as heresy. It is important to remember that all of the denominations began as heresies. No religion began with a plurality.

Religiosity is distinguished from true religion in this manner: religiosity is a performance made for the public to observe. It has a mind toward rewards in this world and in particular, power over others. It is arrogant.

True religion is humble. We are but feeble creatures. There is much that we do not know. There are many things about which we should keep an open mind. I hold two exceptions. One, do no harm to others. Two, try to help others.

Those who misuse religion play the cunning lawyer, taking the words of Scripture out of context and using them as a basis for cruelty. Seldom do they reflect upon the consequences of their actions. They are less interested with reflection than in using ideas as weapons to smite their perceived enemies. They spend a great amount of time looking for enemies. Would it not be better to look for friends?

Life & Death

Every individual is the center of his own personal Universe. He perceives through his senses. If he knows pain, the Universe is terrible. If he knows contentment, then all is right with the Universe.

If he is wise, and if he is willing to make an effort, he can try to view the world in objective terms. He sets aside whatever he has been taught. Nothing is good. Nothing is bad. Everything just is. It is possible to see many things that are otherwise hidden. A human can approach objectivity, but it remains elusive and unsustainable. The senses always call us back into our personal and individual consciousness.

Have you ever wondered: what will the world will be like after your passing? Was it all just a dream? Are you real or could you be virtual, an imagined being in the mind of God? Some people believe that there are multiple realities.

I believe there is just one reality. When one consciousness fades, the world keeps on keeping on, just as it was. It is good at that.

I believe that the soul is temporal. It exists during a lifetime. When a person transforms from life into meat, then the soul is destroyed. The atoms are recycled by nature into new things.

Most of the matter we see on earth originated from stars. We ourselves are star dust. Our atoms will be recycled, just as they have been since the beginning. We derived from the same source. The Universe is one. We are all one, just as we were in the beginning. Individualism is an illusion. In death, the illusion is exposed. The dead revert back to the earth. The earth provides nourishment which then becomes new life, completing the cycle. Life and death are not serious alternatives. They are points on the wheel of destiny.

When the Universe ends, as it is said must happen in the future, then perhaps that will set the stage for a new beginning. Who can say how many Universes came before this one and how many Universes will come after this one?

The Bridge

I returned to the city of my birth for the first time in many years. The city had a new bridge, a mile long at least, beautiful, with a partition for bicyclists and pedestrians, which surprised and pleased me. I had to walk it. Somehow I persuaded my brother that it would be fun. He was tired from work and wanted to go the next day, but I felt the time was now; this morning, we must go. The weather was right: a sunny, windy winter day. So we went.

There were many out today, walkers and bicyclists, as well as plenty of traffic. We walked together for a time, talking about this and that, catching up on each others lives. As we ascended, more often than not, the wind swept our words into the sea, which put a damper on conversation. I got ahead of him a bit, when I saw two bicyclists approaching. They were different from the rest, though not in any discernible fashion. It was just a feeling I had that had no real basis or so it would seem.

I studied them as they approached. One was a young woman I had never met before. The other wore mirrored sunglasses and a helmet that concealed her short hair. She smiled at me. Maybe she assumed that I would not recognize her. Thirteen years had passed since we had last spoken. She kept smiling until just before she passed me, but then her smile dissolved with much twitching. She did not stop and did not say anything. I don't know what I expected. I didn't know what to say, either. I let my brother catch up with me and kept on walking in the other direction.

Before we left the bridge, they passed us again. They had been headed in the direction of the beach, but were now returning to the city. I don't know why. Her partner appeared distressed and was arguing with her. Again nothing was said between us. I watched as they disappeared in the distance. That was the last time I saw her.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Cannabis is one of the most misunderstood plants on Earth, due to years of government propaganda which consisted of half-truths, stereotypes and outright fabrications. One of the many reasons why people do not trust the government has to do with the government's draconian cannabis policy. The amount of taxpayer money being wasted on arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating marijuana users is ridiculous.

For those who seek release from the cares of this world, cannabis is far less harmful than the usual alternatives. It is less toxic to the human body than tobacco, aspirin, or coffee. It reduces both anxiety and aggression, and cannot cause physical addiction. In addition, cannabis has beneficial properties for the millions suffering from a variety of medical conditions. A substance found in cannabis has even shown promise in treating cancer. More research is needed in this area, but our government has held back scientific research for decades. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws maintains a rational and truthful blog in sharp contrast to the misinformation found on government web sites. NORML should be the starting point for anyone interested in researching this topic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Ant Bite

Last year, I was walking through the backyard when an ant bit me on the ankle. I was astounded! What had I ever done to the ant?

The neighbor to the right, Mrs. London, offered assistance, and the neighbor to the left, Mrs. Paris, offered advice. I accepted the assistance, but rejected the advice. Who wants advice, in a time like this? I already know everything there is to know! I told Mrs. Paris to mind her own damn business. She said she was just trying to help. I reminded her of that time when she came to me asking to borrow sugar. Honestly, the nerve of some people!

My reaction was heroic, because I'm a hero. First of all, I took out a huge loan from the Bank of China. They are so friendly and accommodating at the Bank of China! They said my credit is good for the time being and not to worry about anything. They were very pleased to have my business, let me tell you. I'm not a big fan of debt, but when something like this happens, you have to be prepared to go into debt, because after all, this is war, and war is more important than anything else. No one really wants to go on living after getting bit by an ant!

I used all the money to dynamite the backyard, bulldoze the house, and set everything on fire. Now the house is in ruins, but those ants... I bet they learned a really good lesson! I even took out my magnifying glass and tortured a few ants with the rays of the Sun. Oh, I really taught those ants a thing or two, let me tell you!

The funny thing is, those ants seem to keep coming back. The world is a dangerous place, I'm afraid. The only thing to do is to keep taking out more debt and keep on dynamiting. If I blow up enough stuff, eventually everyone will know just how good I am.

Now if I could just get the Bank of China to forget that huge debt.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The High Elf Hunter

In Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, no race is better at the long sword or the bow than the High Elf. Therefore, the High Elf is well-advised to specialize in both of these weapons. Although the Centaur enjoys equal aptitude at Bows, the High Elf can benefit from racial aptitude when using an elf bow combined with elf ammunition. Therefore, a High Elf has the potential to inflict greater damage with the bow than any other race.

I chose to be a Hunter for the simple reason that I've never played one before. In fact, I seldom use missile weapons in any of my race/class combinations, preferring melee or magic. Yet missile weapons are scattered throughout the dungeon, and an entire class, the Hunter, is built around missiles. It was high time for me to see what all the fuss was about missile weapons.

Here is my character getting ready to plunder a Ziggurat, a most dangerous endeavor, because therein lurk named Demon Lords from Pandemonium and the other nether regions. Powerful demons that can summon minions are quite dangerous for a Hunter who lacks an amulet of warding or an Abjuration spell. The minions serve to block the range of the Hunter's bow. The hunter becomes encircled by these ever-multiplying minions. Meanwhile, from a safe distance, the summoner smites the hunter from afar even unto death. I died several times in this manner, until I resolved to avoid the Ziggurat. There isn't any point in plundering the Ziggurat, anyway, unless you need magic items. My character has quite enough magic items, as you can see:

Once he has gathered strength and obtained resistance to confusion and other elven magic, it is essential for any elven Hunter to plunder the Elven Halls in order to secure the very best elven armour, bow, and long sword. Most desirable of all for the elven Hunter is the elven longbow. As for swords, the elven scimitar is best for the High Elf, because it inflicts the most damage.

The elven longbow is no joke. It inflicts injuries equivalent to the scimitar, and often slays powerful monsters after just a few, or only one arrow. As long as hordes of summoned minions aren't approaching, a Hunter has an easy time picking off enemies from a distance, no matter how powerful they may be. When they get too close, one can always Blink away--or simply continue firing the bow.

Each time an arrow is fired, there is a chance it will be destroyed. Therefore, conserve elven ammunition for powerful monsters. With weaker monsters, fire your non-elven ammunition. Ideally, you should conserve enough elven arrows to see you through the Realm of Zot. Carrying all this luggage does severely limit the amount of other goodies one can carry, especially if you emphasize Dexterity over Strength. I was not sure just how many elven arrows I needed to last the game, so I tried to carry as much as possible. Elven arrows represent yet another reason to plunder the Elven Halls.

Although there may be better armours to be had, for an elf, elven chain mail is pretty darn good. The only armour I might consider substituting for it is gold dragon armour, but that is quite a heavy burden for an elven hunter that stockpiles elven arrows. There is nothing better for the High Elf hunter than elven arrows. I discard wands in favor of arrows, because the High Elf is much better at Bows than Evocations, and the elven longbow is more effective than most wands.

Gold dragon armour is better suited for exceptionally strong characters such as Minotaurs. Besides, in order to cast spells while heavily armoured, a character needs to acquire a very high Armour skill, and that's a tall order for a High Elf. I learned Armour to a certain level, but then switched to light elven chain, because I wanted to cast spells of Enchantment.

I probably erred in choosing a medium-sized shield, because it does inhibit the bow, but the shield in question proved irresistible. I'm a sucker for additional capabilities like Teleport and See Invisible. However, better might have been a heavily enchanted Elven buckler. Elves are not particularly gifted at Shields, but do better at Dodging.

I haven't reached the end of the game with this character yet. I may even delete it, because it has a huge weakness when it comes to Summoners, and the deeper levels are full of Summoners of various stripes. Bows just can't beat a Summoner, I'm afraid. A Hunter needs to have some kind of answer for the Summoner problem--an Amulet of Warding would be the simplest solution, although I'd miss my "Guejoh" with its +3 AC and +4 Dex.

Devices of the Future

In the near future, MemCams the size of an ant will be implanted into the affluent, recording the events of their lives for posterity. In this way, the wealthy will be able to replay their most cherished memories and also provide inerrant testimony to misdeeds great and small. The MemCam may be toggled on and off by touch, so that certain moments can remain temporal. Spies and undercover detectives will employ this device, which will be positioned in the epidermis around either one eye or both for superior depth perception. Some may opt for a MemCam resembling a sapphire, ruby or emerald, planted in the forehead in the way of the Hindu. As the technology matures, MemCams will become accessible to the poor as well. The energy source will initially be a battery, until a method is discovered to make MemCams organic, at which point they can receive energy from the hosts' blood vessels.

(I discovered recently that my idea is not new.)

The great discoveries of the future (if there is to be a future for our violent race) will be in the area of biology. Silicon is on the way to obsolescence. Most devices of the future will be both organic and living, because life forms are self-sustaining, self-replicating, more adaptable, and more capable.

The future returns to the horse and abandons the car. "Horse" in this instance must be understood to encompass any large living organism designed and bred by humans or their successors. There will not be a distinction between car and house anymore. Houses will be born, not built, and need not be stationary, but may be the primary means of transportation, such that when one travels, one travels with everything one owns, leaving nothing behind.

These innovations may be the fruit of H. Sapiens--or of another species, either extraterrestrial or of Earth.

H. Sapiens, if it destroys itself, may be succeeded by new breeds, because there is time left, no matter what happens to us. The Sun will not diminish for many millions of years, and in that time, a new intelligent species could evolve either independently of our own or derived from us but different enough to constitute a new species.

H. Sapiens is the tyrant of the world, not its protector. We bring death to the other life forms on Earth--almost nothing except for death. When we are gone, other lines may prosper and may even develop a greater consciousness and awareness than our own species.

The diminishing of the ozone layer and nuclear war, dooms for us, are not without benefit for the other creatures upon Earth. Either event increases the rate of mutation, accelerating the process of evolution, leading to new species. This has happened before, from meteor impacts that kicked up radioactive dust into Earth's atmosphere.

Is the Past Better than the Future?

Reading history gives a poor impression of H. Sapiens, due to the endless cycle of wars, injustices, slavery, and corruption. Have we progressed that much since times past? Some would say yes, just because today we have more technology.

Right now the most powerful country in the world is bogged down in two expensive and pointless wars in which we stand to gain exactly zero dollars and zero cents. Meanwhile, the government uses its money assisting the rich so that they can fail once again in their ill-conceived business endeavors. The corporations receiving government money today will lose it tomorrow, but tomorrow there may not be a bailout. Debt cannot be increased forever. Sooner or later, debt must be paid. The stage is set for another Great Depression.

A simple discussion about health care has devolved into an acrimonious battle in Washington, D.C. People would prefer their neighbors die, rather then receive any medical assistance. People don't know their neighbors and don't want to know their neighbors. Is this a country, or is it a collection of selfish individuals who want to dominate others? People are willing to suffer any inconvenience, just so long as they perceive that other people suffer more than they do.

The U.S. is fast becoming a police state, with the largest prison population in the entire world. Over two million citizens are in prison, mostly for drug-related offenses. To incarcerate a person, any amount--millions--will be paid. But people are less enthusiastic about the idea of healing people from their illnesses and making them better. Also, less money is being spent on education than on incarceration. People are ruled by hatred, fear, and greed. These are the three primary emotions that rule many minds. To see others suffer is a consolation, but to see the happiness of others inspires envy. Not everyone is this way, but enough are to make FOX News the most popular news channel on television.

Global warming continues unchecked, which means that much of the nation's wealth, concentrated along her coastlines, will be ceded to the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. The fish will be impressed with the skyscrapers we have constructed. Nuclear war has only been delayed for a few generations. It too is coming, to deal with those who live further inland and in mountainous regions.

I think it is fair to say that, instead of having improved over the lot of the prehistoric Cave Man, modern man has made his world worse and imperiled his very existence. Modern man finds relief from his otherwise boring existence by indulging in hatred and warfare. Millions sit at home fantasizing over the blood and guts that have been spilled in faraway places. They read casualty reports and are satisfied when the other side has lost more lives than their side. They hate everybody that isn't a member of their particular tribe or their particular church and are distressed whenever other tribes get too uppity.

In the end, large-scale nuclear war is inevitable, in order to resolve the many hatreds that have been cultivated. People would prefer to die, just so long as their enemies die as well. At least they "won."

H. Sapiens has not had time to evolve sufficient resistance to the high levels of radioactivity that will be released by the plutonium-based munitions. The only question is whether a few souls may survive in the remote regions of the world, far away from the blast sites. If so, I hope that the few survivors were born without the trait for selfish hatred that has marked the human race. Perhaps they can begin to breed a new race, a better one, more apt with words and ideas than with the club.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions