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Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline May 25, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books.
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Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline is a nice little novel which has generated a lot of talk in the blogosphere among people younger than myself—those who were teenagers in the late eighties, I suspect. This navel-gazing into the solipsistic past doesn’t do much for me, as I am the wrong era, but the novel itself, when stripped of egregious references to pop culture, it is actually a strange kind of action tale taking place mostly in the dystopian (of course) future.  The action is largely game puzzles solved in a competition in a VR space that has kind of subsumed the real world, but there’s some real-world danger and people meeting in meatspace as well.

Yep, a standard, formulaic quest-type action novel.  Why the blogosphere love? One, Ernest Cline’s use of dialogue and description.  He’s no slacker and it shows. Two (and I think this resonates with everyone who has “read” it), it’s read in the audiobook by Wil Wheaton.

Wil made it for me.  His reading is just about perfect in nuance, pace and sardonic timing.  His acting chops have only gotten much better with age (although really, he wasn’t given much to work with as Wesley Crusher now, was he?).1

Anyway, I enjoyed it during my commute (I should mention than I’m behind in writing about books since renovating my house but Fear Not! I shall catch up eventually) last year when I still did commute. Wil has also read Redshirts by John Scalzi and another Ernest Cline novel Armada, which I just started.  Don’t worry; I will review them both eventually.2 

I do recommend this as your usual scifi stuff.  Popcorn need not be a bad thing, after all. It’s not all Neal Stephenson, is it?


1 No.  He wasn’t. I give him full credit for quitting; that took some cajones for a kid in the meat grinder of television.

2 Be afraid.

Time Sink May 25, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Uncategorizable.
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Why you should leave this page, and never use the Web again.

I Like Giraffes And All, But Really May 23, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Uncategorizable.
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AmqaIyE - Imgur

Software QA May 22, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff.
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Guard your PIN.

Maker Faire lock picking May 22, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Toys.
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I spent most of yesterday helping young people learn how to pick locks teaching young people to walk through walls with prestidigitation. I forgot how easy it is to pick locks, but the young people reminded me and it was quite fun. The Open Organization of Lockpickers or TOOOL sponsored this event, provided locks and cylinders and tools and the sort of spiritual guidance that any lockpicker needs, especially the sage advice to never pick any locks but ones you own and never to pick a lock that you depend on because you can destroy it. Afterwards there was a lovely dinner with the genteel companionship of genius because most of these TOOOL guys are really bright and have been at this a long time. It was great fun and I look forward to doing it again next year perhaps.


Sorry about the strange wording; I dictated that mess on the way to Maker Faire Sunday morning.  Google’s voice recognition still needs some work.

My Enemies are Vanquished May 19, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Uncategorizable, Uncategorized.
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I promised no more posting until my enemies were vanquished, and I mostly kept my word.  I can tell because readership has dropped precipitously in the last year. Now my house is (mostly) finished and I started a contract job helping rescue some semiconductor company documents, our stuff is moved to a lovely house in the Frozen North and my feet don’t hurt so much.  Along the way my wife and I both lost our fathers and I developed sciatica bad enough to require an emergency room visit which gave me pneumonia requiring a second emergency room visit.  I discovered some really lovely people work in hospitals (it’s a pity I don’t remember the second visit. Pneumonia does that, apparently). I also discovered that my wife has a real talent for project management, that my relatives and in-laws are kind and generous, and that my friends come through in a pinch.

Thank you all.

We will resume our faithful coverage of strange Stuff I Like including science, technology, all things geeky and some things humorous, especially if your idea of humorous is anything like mine (probably not).  Basically, whatever I am thinking about for half an hour at lunchtime.

Lex Luthor’s Successor May 18, 2016

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A Wannabe Supervillain Built His Own Thermite Cannon

Colin Furze has a new toy. It’s a thermite cannon, or maybe a thermite grenade launcher. As a first prototype, it is excellent; as a R&D guy I have to tell  him that users are not going to be satisfied with so bulky and heavy a weapon.  He needs some engineers to optimize for manufacturing as well.  Still, it is a very satisfying proof of concept.

See, this is the sort of thing I want to do when I retire.

Stepdaughter Communication: February 23, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Toys.
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Hey so I dropped and cracked my phone and now it’s automatically searching google for what autocorrected to "Jihad" and "Mmmmmmmm I can haz burger" and keeps trying to send random texts in gibberish to people and is also automatically ordering food from Sprig (I just had to call Lars from Sprig to cancel my order three times and the phone hung up on him twice and called some random number that it typed in itself) I mean, I don’t need THREE herb salads, iPhone. I don’t even want one!

So… I’m going to turn my poltergeisty phone off and use my iPad so if you have iMessage I should get it or you can contact me through FB messenger for a few days until I get my screen fixed and phone exorcized.

Currently it is on my coffee table and I keep looking over at it to make sure it’s still there and not terrorizing the neighborhood. I may have to stick it in a locked box in the closet tonight so I can sleep instead of having it slit my throat with its shattered glass only to possess my body. If I sound like Siri the next time you hear from me… Run.

An Authentic Encounter December 22, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff.
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I wore this shirt to Peet’s.



The baristas gave me this:


PSA from NoiseBridge November 10, 2015

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Power is out on our block of Mission, and actually most of the Mission district as of 10:04 today. A semi crashed into a power pole on the other side of Potrero and PG&E’s time estimations to getting it fixed vary from sometime after noon till well in the eve. Additionally most of Monkeybrains’ infrastructure seems to be also down.

Due to our zero fucks policy, and the fact that we still haven’t gotten around to installing a UPS on any aspect of our access control system, Noisebridge is closed till power is restored (or when someone with actual skill shows up with a lockpick). Please take this time to reflect on your life choices, and potentially do something out doors in the real world.

Since considering an anarchistic volunteer driven organization such as Noisebridge as critical infrastructure is foolhardy, any and all complaints regarding "not being able to get into the space to do that thing you so badly need to do" may be publicly laughed at. That is unless the thing you were about to do was to install a solar panel array on the roof, in which case joke’s on me, vegan egg on my face, oh jesus fuck what’s the password to my server’s full disk encryption, etc.

Thank you for understanding,

The Nonexistent Management

Why 3D Printing Exists November 6, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Geek Stuff, Toys.
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Progress! October 20, 2015

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It turns out I can run after all. That’s four miles of enthusiastic running on new shoes. I should point out that it hurts a lot.

Filing August 29, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Hello Kitty, Uncategorizable.
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We gave into the inevitable and created a category.

No further posting until all my enemies are vanquished.

Still Working on Our House July 31, 2015

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Mostly sanding and painting.  It seems like it may never end.

Wicked Appetite, by Janet Evanovich July 14, 2015

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Wicked Appetite, by Janet Evanovich is a funny little story of inherited talents (ability to find magic gizmos and enhanced muffinry, for particular examples), magic talismans, dangerous magicians and distractingly handsome men combining to throw our fearful[0] protagonist Lizzie Tucker into a maelstrom of magic. Also, there’s a fruitcake with a sword[1].

An evil magician[3] seeks Lizzie’s peculiar talent (the location one, not the muffin one) to find seven stone embodying the Seven Deadly Sins[tm], which will allow him to unleash Hell On Earth[tm].  Lizzie doesn’t think that a good idea, but evil magicians can be very persuasive[4].

She is saved from persuasion by Diesel, a kind of a beach bum lookin’ dude[5] with a certain weird charm and with inherited talents also, none of which involve muffins.  Lizzie and Diesel get their hands on the first part of the Gluttony stone, which hilariously derails normality by making everything about food, punishment or hoarding (depending on who has the thing).

Lizzie is helped by her friend Gloria and her discount book of spells, which also hilariously derail conversation.  For this part I strongly suggest the audiobook, so you can hear Lorelei King deliver gibberish.  I would pay full price for this audiobook for that alone.

The link above is to Amazon, but this is available at sfpl.org, where the cognoscenti get their books for free.


[0] She’s not the heroine type.

[1] He is, curiously enough, not the comic relief. He’s just nuts.

[3] Distractingly handsome; see above.

[4] See footnote 3, above.

[5] See footnote 3, above.  I begin to detect a pattern here.

10% Happier, by Dan Harris July 10, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brain, Brilliant words, Science.
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10% Happier, by Dan Harris is the story of ABS anchorman Dan Harris’ journey through Buddhism to mindfulness in the most torturous of routes: trial and error from Eckhard Tolle, Deepak Chopra and a host of what he calls affectionately “Jew-Bus”, Jewish people who have come to embrace Buddhist practices (Harris is Jewish).  In his guise of newsman he cheats his way into getting real answers to the deep mystery: how do you meditate, and why (he even got face time with the Dalai Lama along the way, which is not that easy).

The real juicy part of this book is not so much who he met or how he learned this or that thing, but his blow-by-blow account of his thoughts and reactions as he began learning meditation.  Especially interesting was his reaction to a ten-day Zen retreat of six-hour daily meditation, wherein he finally felt he “got it” and later the emotional outpouring he experience when meditating upon compassion for the first time.

The reason I loved this book is that his story resonates closely with my own, especially the embarrassing awareness of the banality of my own thoughts, the ease of distraction and the lack of rigor in focus or awareness of anything but the voice in my head.  That, and I’m hoping to get a little guidance on my own practice, and I think this book helped.

The link above goes to the Audible audiobook version, but it is also available at sfpl.org.  I do recommend the audiobook, as it is read by him and guarantees his nuances will not be misunderstood (c.f., “Jew-Bus”, above).

Audiobook Roundup July 6, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words.
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Some of my readers know I am renovating my house to rent and spend long days doing repetitive work like sanding and painting and minor repairs. Little of this involves thought, so I listen to audiobooks. I liked the ones I have been listening to, so here goes:

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey is the most horrible horror book I have read in a long long time. The things the UK Army does to a classroom full of children infected with the zombie parasite makes you wonder if the monsters are inside the fence instead of outside. This juicy little novel posits that the parasite involved in creating zombies is a strain Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (a fungus infects an ant, whereupon the insect becomes compelled to climb down to one of the lower leaves and clamp down with its mandibles until it dies. The fungus consumes the ant’s tissues — all except for the muscles controlling the mandibles — and grows inside of it. After a couple of weeks, the fungal spores fall to the ground to infect more ants. Ants infected by this particular fungus are often called “zombie ants.”), and the sciency-flavored horror is lovingly detailed and acted well by the narrator. Most highly recommended, and very depressing.

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman is likewise well-acted by its narrator, but is in another vein entirely. This novel (part three of the series and probably the last) follows the adventures of a skilled magician after banishment from Fillory (the lamb version of the lion Aslan’s Narnia). Unlike magicians of other books, this one grows up to be thirty-something, copes with his father’s death (natural causes–this ain’t J.K. Rowling), stops drinking, resurrects his dead girlfriend, kills a couple of gods and creates two new worlds.

I know this makes him sound like an overachiever, but Grossman tells it so well you just go with it. Spectacular use of language; most highly recommended, not depressing at all.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is another horror book  read by him which is a real treat, as he is very good. The horror is that of a young boy haunted by an elemental spirit of some kind and is pretty terrifyingly brought to life. He has a couple of kindly neighbors who help him with this, and they seem pretty competent so far. One of them is eleven years old…although at one point the boy asks “How long have you been eleven?”

I’m not done with this one yet, but I like it already.

The Antibody by Christopher Lukas June 28, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Video.
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I haven’t been able to find it on Amazon1, but The Antibody by Christopher Lukas is a gripping tale of a man’s struggle with suicide, depression, cancer and loss.  Written, directed and starring only himself, it is hilarious, tragic and real. I cried at the end, and I don’t cry for much. Watch it at the link above; no telling how long it will last.


1. Seriously, Amazon?

Peel Away 7 June 27, 2015

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Peel Away 7 is a non-toxic paint remover which is supposed to remove paint after applying, covering with butcher paper to keep it wet and active and waiting for an indeterminate amount of time before magically peeling away multiple layers of paint.

Hmm.  Your mileage may vary.  Our first test of this consisted of applying a thin layer (1/8" or so–more just drips down the wall) and waiting 48+ hours.  It peeled away down to a yellow layer that may be of a different type (I should explain that our house is a hundred years old and could have lead paint or whatever those folks in the caves at Lascaux used, and might require the high-octane solution known as Peel Away 1 . Or a jackhammer).  In any case, we are now on our second 48-hour test with thicker application and hope for the best.

Things to note for future victims users: put on as much as does not drip off.  Use butcher paper to cover.  Wait 48 hours, since it does not seem to destroy the wood.  Pray that the house burns down before you have to actually work.

I promise to update this exciting chemistry experiment as results become available.

Exciting update:


This is with the thicker coat and full coverage of the paper.  And it’s the second try on the same spot.

Justice Considered as a Symplectic Manifold: June 18, 2015

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Alternating symmetry, no local invariants but everywhere orientable. And mercy?  Not lumpy but curly.

From The List That Cannot Be Named:

> But if the quality of mercy is not strained, how is it prevented   from being lumpy?

Weren’t we just discussing this?  Let justice be a mapping from  aggravations to retributions. Recall that Exodus tells us "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a 
tooth".  This suggests the mapping is structure-preserving.  (Q. does  Mos have coproducts?)
Legal systems generally recognize that injuries are asymmetric. This  suggests the mapping is alternating.  (Ex. verify the difficulty of  recovering damages from oneself)
The Battle Hymn of the Republic mentions the Groups of Wrath.  This  suggests we can come up with a basis for the mapping.  (Q. the Groups  of Wrath are often depicted as purple; are they in fact abelian?)
Under the exponential, we can then examine a range of justices, from  the Mikado’s (retribution-increasing) through the Mosaic (unital) and  the Nazaretic ("turn at least one other cheek") to the Epitectic  ("didn’t I tell you, if you kept that up, you were going to break my  leg?"), and we call the retribution-decreasing cone in this space  "mercy".  But due to the structure-preservation, all these justices  are scalar multiples of each other.  (Ex. check that mercy is well- defined)
Mercy is not lumpy, by definition.


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