xiphias: (Default)
Not Gal Godot, not Lynda Carter -- Diana of Themyscira herself used to live in Wakefield, Massachusetts, one town north of me.

In George Perez's foundational run on Wonder Woman in the Eighties and Nineties, Diana's base of operations was in and around Boston, living with Harvard archaeology and geology professor Julia Kapatelis and her daughter Vanessa. The Kapatelises were quite wealthy, and had a place on Beacon Hill -- and another in Wakefield, about a mile from here.

I feel like the Jordan's Furniture IMAX, which is in Reading, just barely over the border on the other side of Wakefield, and is showing WONDER WOMAN, ought to do something about this...
xiphias: (Default)
Our cat has cancer. Lymphoma + leukemia. Without treatment, she'll die in a couple weeks; with treatment, in about six months. We're going to go with "with treatment", because her quality of life for those six months will likely be better than it would be for those couple weeks.
xiphias: (Default)
Dinner tonight was started yesterday. I'd intended to cook up some beans flavored with oxtail, but it got out of hand...

Take some oxtail and start it browning in a Dutch oven. Chop up a couple onions and some garlic, and get those frying in there, too. Do some deglazing with just a bit of red wine, and add a pound of dried pinto beans. Fill it with water, add some salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano, and let it simmer for a while. Remember that you got those really tasty beef frankfurters in lamb casings from the dairy, and they were DELICIOUS, but rather tough to eat as hot dogs -- I think the people putting these things together are still kind of learning as they go, and they're getting really good at flavor, but still working on texture. Chop the rest of them up and put them in the beans.

After many more hours, you have something in between franks and beans and a cassoulet. There are arguments that, if you squint and go technical enough, franks and beans kind of IS a cassoulet, anyway.

Stir everything up, and start picking out the tailbones, and serve.

It's pretty darned good. Lis asked what the shreddy meat in there along with the sausage and beans was, and I explained that that was the oxtail meat; she hadn't realized that you can eat the actual meat, since she was just familiar with oxtail broth, but the meat had actually finally cooked down to shreddy deliciousness, so we ate it, too.

On another topic entirely, though, you may be aware that I buy random interesting-looking booze sometimes. And I was at Total Wine a few months ago, and I decided to see what mezcals they had. I like my mezcals the way I like my scotch -- the smokier the better -- so I looked at the half-dozen they had, and looked for the one that they described as smokiest, and I got that one. It wasn't the cheapest, nor the most expensive, which, in my experience, is where you're most likely to find a hidden treasure.

Or, as in this case, a fascinating failure.

I have been taking the occasional taste of this bottle ever since, each time thinking, "No. I couldn't have remembered that correctly. It really wasn't exactly like THAT, was it?"

The first time I tasted it, I thought, "Wow. Now I know what a gas station tastes like." Then I took a second sip, and thought, "No, this isn't a gas station -- what IS it?" I took a third sip, and thought, "It's a workshop of some sort." A fourth, and I thought, "This mezcal tastes exactly like a junior high school metal shop smells."

I'm happy to give tastes to anybody who is nearby to see if you have a different opinion. But, to me, it is SO specific, and SO clear, that I can hardly even call it "bad". I mean, yeah, objectively, I'm sure that "tastes like a junior high school metal shop" isn't a good thing in a mezcal, but I can't help but be impressed by it nonetheless.
xiphias: (Default)
This is a test post to see if I can crosspost from my RSS feed.
xiphias: (swordfish)
"May Not post ... political materials."

Well, I'm out. I've got a facebook and a tumblr, which I'll start using more. I've got a dreamwidth, too.

Look for me as xiphias, xiphiasgladius, IanOsmond, and IanDavidOsmond.
xiphias: (swordfish)
Will emoji replace written language, says the occasional overwrought clickbait headline? Well, no. It works the OTHER way.

🐮 :cow:
🏠 :house:
🐫 :camel:
🚪 :door:
🎦 :cinema:
⚓ :anchor:
🔪 :knife:
🏢 :office:
🚲 :bike:
✊ :fist:
✋ :hand:
🔱 :trident:
🌊 :ocean:
🐟 :fish:
💈 :barber:
👀 :eyes:
👄 :lips:
🎣 :fishing_pole_and_fish:
💉 :syringe:
😐 :neutral_face:
😄 :smile:
❌ :x:

Ox, house, camel, door, window, hook, weapon, wall, wheel, hand, palm-of-hand, goad, water, fish, support-pole, eye, mouth, hunting/fishing, needle, head, tooth, marking symbol.
xiphias: (swordfish)
One of the big songs in "Moana" is called "We Know The Way", which is about how the main character's ancestors were island-discovering travellers, rather than villagers who lived a, frankly, pretty darn idyllic life on just one island. And it starts out with lyrics in a Polynesian language, before going into the English lyrics that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote. Opetaia Foa'i wrote the part in his own native language, Tokelauan. Tokelauan is a language with only a few thousand speakers, which means that Google Translate doesn't help much.

That said, over at Bustle.com, someone made a game try at poking together a translation by running it through Samoan, which it's a cousin of, and Maori, which it's a more distant cousin of, and was able to pick out a few words and concepts that seem to make sense. But I'm wondering if anybody has an ACTUAL translation somewhere.
xiphias: (swordfish)
The Ted Chiang short story "The Story of Your Life", is, like all Ted Chiang short stories, too internal, too thinky, and just too abstract to be filmable.

But they did anyway.

And it's brilliant.
xiphias: (swordfish)
So, what IS that distinctive bubblegum-like smell and flavor? What is it made of, and what is it supposed to be?

It's a simplified artificial strawberry flavor/scent plus a simplified artificial banana flavor/scent. It makes me wonder if it would be possible to do something with actual strawberries and bananas to play off of that, but I suspect not. Real strawberries and real bananas are far to complicated -- and I think that the artificial banana flavorings are based off of the might-as-well-be-extinct Gros Michele banana, rather than the modern Cavendish, so, unless I got my hands on enough Gros Micheles to experiment with, I'm never going to find out.
xiphias: (swordfish)
I got my firearms safety certificate last night, which means that I can go ahead and apply for my LTC today. So I spent last night with gun rights folks -- people who are very much not politically like me. It gave me a chance to socialize a little during breaks, and get a sense of what they're like.

I mean, I've done construction and stuff, so it's not like I HAVEN'T known blue collar people, but my life's been mostly in the liberal bubble for decades. So this was a good chance to get out of that for a night.

And I remembered, yeah, these people DO have a lot of good qualities.

And there there are still a bunch of 'em I don't like very much. *sigh*

I was going to suggest that a bunch of us should all sign up and get our licenses together, and then start making friends at gun clubs, and build some bridges, and then break some of the bubbles, get to know them, let them get to know us, be less polarized. And I still think that's a good idea. But... do I really want you guys hanging out with people who complain about how awful it is that schools let kids be upset these days, instead of telling them to shut up and suck it up when people beat them up? I mean, yeah, I do, because I think it would be good for them to get to know us, and good for us to know them, but... it'd be kind of a difficult thing to ask of you all.
xiphias: (swordfish)
I know that at least some of you know Charlie Stross, Neil Gaiman, and/or Joe Hill, and I found out something that one or more of them might find interesting.

Miskatonic University was based on Bradford College, in Haverhill. Bradford College closed in 2000. Since 2008, the campus has been a Pentecostal ministry college.

Pentecostal Christianity has a focus on encouraging possession by good spirits and discouraging possession by evil spirits, and offers absolutely no training or theory in HOW to do it. It is based on having people just open themselves up to demons and then freak out. Voudonistas, Catholic exorcists, shamans from every culture everywhere on the planet have established rituals and objects and things to lean on; Pentecostals don't, and just try to do exorcisms on sheer instinct, bravado, and willpower. Also, they are completely democratic in this, and let everybody try, not just cadres of trained experts.

I just want people to think about that for a minute.

But really, I want Charlie Stross, Neil Gaiman, and Joe Hill to think about that for a minute.

xiphias: (swordfish)
Lis and I just watched STRANGER THINGS, and I've got something to say about one of the controversies about it...

Spoilers for STRANGER THINGS.Read more... )
xiphias: (swordfish)
As I've changed my diet, I've reduced the amount of sweets I give myself as treats. In compensation, I've increased the amount of alcohol I drink -- not cocktails, which, they way I prefer them, include quite a bit of sweet liqueur, but as neat liquors. As such, I'm drinking a lot more straight scotch, bourbon, rye, gin, and the like.

I must start by apologizing to Canada. It turns out that Canada CAN turn out a delicious rye, a feat which I had previously deemed possible only by the United States; I had previously believed that Canadian whiskey was only called "rye" out of politeness. I have previously commented that the only reason that I drink Crown Royal is that they throw a bottle in every time I buy a dice bag.

Turns out that the Crown Royal Northern Rye, however, is worth every penny it costs, and, indeed, is a bargain at the price.

Although it's not expensive (more expensive than the baseline Crown Royal, but not by THAT much), it's impossible to drink enough of it to get drunk upon; you are forced to drink it slowly, to savor it, simply because it tastes that good.

The downside is that I ENJOY being buzzed. And I DON'T enjoy drinking bad liquor. So I've been looking for stuff that is good enough to drink a fair bit of, while being cheap enough to drink a fair bit of. Beefeater Gin, for instance, hits that point for me. As does Bacardi rum, if I find decent things to mix it with, Jose Cuervo Tradicional (their silver reposado offering), Rittenhouse 101, and several others.

Anyway, the point is this: during the "Gin Crazes" which happened periodically in the first half of the 1700s, people were buying and drinking gin by the PINT, rather than the shot, as is more typical these days. Given that a pint is more than ten shots, I used to think that this was absolutely mind boggling.

But nowadays, with my greater consumption of gin, I must admit that, while I would never DRIVE in this condition, I apparently can still TYPE after a pint of gin.
xiphias: (swordfish)
an ungendered, multi-use monogarment for everyday wear. It will be disseminated in two forms: as a pre-made garment for purchase, and as an open-source pattern, available to download free of charge. The Rational Dress Society is currently developing a comprehensive new sizing system that can accommodate up to 248 different body types using gender-neutral terminology.

It reminds me of Soylent, in that these are both products which provide a suboptimal solution to a problem that does not exist, by inventing a brand new thing which already exists and anybody can easily buy.

These things are mansplaning and columbusing in physical form.
xiphias: (swordfish)
Thing I learned: George II of England, who reigned in the middle of the eighteenth century, 1727 to 1760, had several mistresses, but wasn't really THAT into any of them. However, his wife wouldn't let him get rid of them, because she felt, and he agreed, that it would be inappropriate for a man in his position to NOT have mistresses.
xiphias: (swordfish)
I'm nearly finished watching Season 2 of Daredevil. It follows a number of classic Daredevil and Daredevil/Punisher plots pretty closely. The only downside: I'd forgotten just how close a parody both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Tick are. I keep giggling at bits for which I'm more familiar with the parodies.

It is impossible for me to get drunk on good whiskey. Ignoring the cost difference between good whiskey and bad whiskey, it's impossible to drink good whiskey fast. I am physiologically forced to drink it slowly and to savor it.
xiphias: (swordfish)
As some of you may know, there's a new THE TICK series coming out, and being released for Amazon Prime. The first episode has dropped, and, on the heroin dealer premise, it's available for free.

Lis and I watched it, and we like it. It's a slightly different feel than the cartoon or the Warburton series, but is slightly closer in tone to the earliest comics. THE TICK has always been a reflection and parody of the superhero-related media at the time: the comics were a direct parody of the Daredevil comics that were right then (to the point that one of the characters was a female martial artist named "Oedipus" whose costume was a canary-yellow version of Elektra's costume). The cartoon took on the basic tone of the Batman Animated Series, and so forth.

This one takes the visual and tonal qualities of the Netflix Daredevil/Jessica Jones shows; indeed, the director of the new show worked on the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight movies. As such, THE TICK has shifted slightly, visually and tonally, to match what is current. But it is still absolutely the same Tick. Arthur is somewhat different, although recognizable, because he is filling a different role.
The first episode is available here.
xiphias: (swordfish)
Someone on my friends list was wondering what the big deal -- after all, Great Britain's been around for a long, long time, and the amount of time it's been a part of the EU is trivial, so what difference does it make?

I did the math. The EU is a re-naming of the European Community, which Great Britain joined in 1973, before I was born. It's gone through name changes, reorganizations, and even a charter re-write or two, but it's the same organization.

Great Britain was formed in 1801 -- it's actually younger than the United States. England was founded in 871 with Alfred the Great, and the United Kingdom was created in 1707, but Great Britain is only 215 years old.

That means that Great Britain has been a member of the EU for one fifth of its history.

Here's another way to look at it. The last time that Great Britain WASN'T part of the EU, fiat money wasn't completely a thing yet. Worldwide conversion to fiat currency had only just started a year or two before.

That was the biggest change in how money works since, I don't know, stock markets, maybe.

Off the top of my head, I'd list the big changes in how money works as the invention of money and markets, around the time of agriculture and cities, the standardization of coinage in the Bronze age, the creation of letters of credit in the Iron age, the development of banking in the late medieval period through the Renaissance, the creation of stock markets and limited liability corporations in the Industrial age, and the creation of fiat currencies in the Information age.

The last time Great Britain was NOT in the European Union, the world was only just starting to switch over to the Information Age monetary system.
xiphias: (swordfish)
IAN (quoting GWTW, if course): You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.
LIS: Okay. [Beat] Let me know if you find one.
xiphias: (swordfish)
At the moment, one part of our national, overdue, and generally underdone gun debate is about the AR-15, and specifically, why anybody would need one.

I read this article, "Why I Need An AR-15", and found it interesting, and started thinking about it.

I'd like to summarize the points in that article that I find relevant, and add a couple thoughts of my own. First, just to clarify, in the headline, he intended "Need" to be in hyperbole-quotes -- he doesn't actually NEED one, but just likes having one. The headline wasn't printed with it, though. So pretend they're there. He's not actually the kind of crazy person that actually thinks that way.

Section 1. What is an AR-15, anyway

An AR-15 isn't so much a gun as it is a gun system. If you've ever watched "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.", you may remember that Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin had these guns that were basically pistols that they could carry in shoulder holsters, not too bulky, and concealable under a jacket. Except, if they needed to, they could attach a silencer. Or they could load in tranquilizer darts. Or they could screw in a stock, a long barrel, and a sight, and use it as a sniper rifle. Or they could attach an extended magazine and a medium-length barrel, and switch some things, and use it as an assault rifle.

The AR-15 isn't that versatile, but it's not that far off. They're made by a lot of different companies, and they are a very well-established design, and they're very reliable, very customizable, and not that expensive. They're made in every caliber down to the smallest. You can use an AR-15 for everything from hunting elk to squirrels, depending on what kind of parts you put on it.

The one thing it CAN'T do is fire full-auto. In theory, it COULD, but it's illegal to make one that does, and they've fixed the problem with it that made it able for people to modify it that way.

It is semiautomatic, which means that it fires one bullet every time you pull the trigger, like a pistol does. Pistols are either semiautomatic, or they are revolvers; in either case, pistols are one-trigger-pull, one-shot, and so are semiautomatic rifles.

Most rifles are semiautomatic. There's basically no reason to build them any other way. Bolt-action rifles do still exist, but only for very specialized purposes, like the most long-range military sniper rifles.

See, the way it works -- you have a cartridge. The cartridge is a little tube with gunpowder and primer in it, and, in front of it, a bullet jammed in. The hammer of the gun strikes a part of the bullet which has a pocket with a little bit of a chemical that goes off if you hit it hard enough, and that chemical lights off the gunpowder, and the gunpowder explodes and the bullet pops off the front like the world's most dangerous champagne cork.

After that, you need to do two things. You need to shove the old casing out of the chamber where that happened, and put a new cartridge in. You could design it so you open up a little door, and pull the cartridge out, and put a new one in, and close the door. But that is a lot of work, and you'd burn your fingers on the very, very hot cartridge that just had an explosion in it.

Or, you could make a sort of lever attached to a little bit of machinery that shoves the old one out, and puts a new one in. And that would be a lot easier. And that's a bolt-action rife, and it's way, way better.

But, as Newton said, for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction, which means that, when the bullet goes forward, the cartridge goes backward, so why not make the cartridge going backward push the lever itself, instead of YOU having to do it? And that's a semiautomatic rifle, and it's even less work.

And it turns out, it's not that much harder to build them that way, and so there really isn't much reason to build them any other way. There are a couple very specialized guns that don't use that, but not many. I think that in the biathlon, they use bolt-action rifles, because they want to save every single ounce of weight so they can ski faster, but I can't think of many other examples.

So the AR-15 is a highly customizable, highly configurable, very reliable, not toot expensive, semiautomatic rifle. And that's why people like it.

Section 2. Why is there a negative reaction to the AR-15 in particular, even more than most other weapons? Also, where I put asuggestion that has been mooted to ameliorate the murder problem.

So what do people who don't like about it dislike about it? Well, the biggest problem about it can be configured for almost any job -- and one of those configurations is very good at killing lots and lots of people in a mass murder.

And that is one reason that so many mass shootings are done with AR-15s. But the other reason why so many are done with AR-15s has to do with why so many more car crash deaths happen with passenger cars than with commercial vehicles -- because there are more of them than anything else.

Is the solution to get rid of the AR-15? Well, that's ONE solution. But there's a simpler solution that would do almost as well.

Get rid of the bits that you use to put the AR-15 into the mass-murder configuration. The other configurations aren't much of a problem. If people could use the AR-15 for all those other things it's good at, which is all of them, but NOT mass-murder, would that be good enough for most of us?

So, what is the most important component that turns the AR-15 from a good hunting-with, playing-with, and maybe even protecting yourself from home intruders which isn't actually a thing but at least people can sort of imagine that it would be a thing kind of rifle into a killing lots of people all at once rifle?

High-capacity magazines.

If you've got five rounds in your AR-15, you can shoot a deer, even shoot a deer a couple times to make sure it dies quickly and humanely. Maybe you can make an argument for ten rounds.

But you can't shoot an entire room full of people. To kill fifty people, the Orlando shooter shot something like two hundred rounds. If he'd only had five round magazine, that would be forty clips, and he'd be stopping shooting often enough that there would be a chance that people could tackle him. Or at least, have a chance to take cover and hide. Even ten-round magazines.

But you can easily get thirty-round magazines. Someone even makes a one-hundred round magazine. It looks really weird -- it's like, a double drum magazine. And, while there are legitimate reasons to own an AR-15, there is NOT a reason to own a hundred-round magazine except committing mass murder.

A "clip" is a bunch of cartridges stuck together that you can put into a magazine. A "magazine" is a thing that holds cartridges, ready to be fired. Some firearms just store all their cartridges in the gun, and that's an "internal magazine". But the thing that we see on TV when someone pulls something out of an empty gun and puts something else in, that's changing external magazines. It is, of course, much, much faster to change magazines than to load magazines, but still, it's a lot longer than shooting -- and you can only carry so many magazines.

And it's pretty easy to carry a lot of ammo -- a lot of clips -- but it's a lot harder to carry a lot of magazines. So you're either spending a LOT more time reloading, or you're carrying a LOT more weight, or both. And either one makes it harder to kill fifty people.

Indeed, let's ignore the whole "semiautomatic" thing. A bolt-action rifle with a hundred-round magazine would be way, way better at killing a room full of people than a semiautomatic rifle with a five-round magazine. "Semiautomatic" is a frightening sounding word, but it's really a less-significant factor in how deadly it is. It's not UNIMPORTANT, not by a long shot, but it's LESS important.

So that's the practical side.

Now let's talk about the emotional side.

Let's talk about the emotional reasons against the AR-15, more than against other firearms. In practical terms, until you've got the mass-murder configuration, the AR-15 is no more dangerous than any other rifle.

I perceive three emotional reasons why the AR-15 might be more frightening than, say, the Winchester .308.

The first, and possibly most significant -- it looks intimidating. And why? Because it looks like a military weapon.

And why is that?

Because form follows function.

Military rifles look that way because it's the most effective, easiest, cheapest, most reliable, and most comfortable way to build them. So, if you're building an effective, easy, relatively inexpensive, reliable, and comfortable weapon, it's going to look a lot like that. You'd have to go out of your way to make it look different, and you'd end up with an item that wasn't as good. It might be prettier, and that's not nothing -- aesthetics ARE an important part of life. But, if your aesthetic is "form follows function", then the AR-15 is what you end up with.

The second thing about it is that it's got a fairly intimidating name. I suspect that people make a mental conflation between "AR-15" and "AK-47". And the AK-47 is the most widespread military rifle in the world. The AK-47 is a weapon that IS only designed to kill people.

And I wonder if people who are thinking that there is no reason to own an AR-15 other than killing a lot of people are actually thinking about the AK-47, which actually IS primarily for killing a lot of people.

And even if someone knows that they're different, I wonder if the AR-15 doesn't pick up some of the same emotional resonance from the AK-47, because of the similarity in the name. I believe in the weak Sapir-Worf hypothesis, which suggests, among other things, that the words you use, and the words you know, influence how you feel about things. And if two words sound alike, one can pick up emotional resonances from the other. I mean, I know perfectly well that it comes from an old Germanic root which means "precise, or exact", and it means "no more generous than the absolute minimum necessary", but I'm still not comfortable even TYPING the word "niggardly".

So, if "niggardly", which I feel a little sick typing, is similar to a word which I can't even get myself to type, I wouldn't be surprised if "AK-47", the weapon that is most used by dictators and warlords around the world, affects how people feel about "AR-15".

And the third reason is the word "semiautomatic". And that actually goes right along with that AK-47 thing. Are people thinking about a weapon where, if you hold down the trigger, you spray bullets all over the place? Which, incidentally, the AK-47 actually is.

And, again, even if people know they are different, does the word "semiautomatic" make people think of "automatic", and pick up the emotional resonance?

Section 3. Why do people want to keep their AR-15s? What is the emotional connection to them?

But now, for the final section of what I'm thinking about.

What is the emotional resonance about keeping and bearing arms in the first place? Why do so many people feel such an emotional connection to the right to own weapons at all?

I have an idea about this, because it's part of how I feel.

Do you know why Sikhs are religiously required to have a knife on their person at all times? Some have a symbolic knife, or even a knife-shaped piece of jewelry, but, in generally, all Sikhs have some sort of nod toward this principle.

It's because a Sikh is expected to fight for what is right at all times. And the knife is a symbol of that.

Except, in some times and places, it's not a SYMBOL of that -- it has been a TOOL for that. The requirement to fight for what is right includes fighting physically when that's the only choice.

One of the duties that an adult has is to serve their community to the best of their ability. We are honor-bound to do what we can to help our friends and neighbors, and work together to protect and support each other.

One part of this is to help each other in times of danger.

As part of this, there are codes of honor which suggest that every adult who doesn't have a moral objection to doing so has the responsibility to be able to bear arms in defense of their community. And you might suggest that such people should do this by serving in the armed forces, and such people often do.

But there are people who believe that, even if one doesn't have the ability to serve in the military, because one has other duties to one's family and community that preclude it, that doesn't absolve them of the responsibility to be able to do that. Even if one believes that it will never, ever come to that.

A Sikh who wears a knife-shaped piece of jewelry doesn't actually expect to be able to protect someone from a mugger with it, but it symbolizes their duty to help people. But some Sikhs believe that, even if they never expect to use it, their honor requires them to have one that they at least theoretically COULD be able to do that with.

And other people who aren't Sikhs have the same opinion. They may never expect to have to use a weapon to defend themselves or their community. But they may feel that their code of honor requires them to have the capacity to do so.

I kind of feel that way, myself. If I ever do get around to getting a firearm, that is the reason I would do so. I don't ever expect to be in a situation where it would be useful, but I am not sure that absolves me of the responsibility to have the capacity.

June 2017

    1 23


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags