Friday, February 29, 2008

Breaking the Bent

Cue Bent by Matchbox 20, as well as I suppose Shimmer by Fuel and for completeness' sake let's throw in an AMV of Shimmer set to FLCL.

I am quite the musical man am I not?

I have felt somewhat bent lately. Maybe the tireness... maybe the hyper-busy-ness... maybe the loneliness... maybe the magic space aliens...

But maybe I should stop whining about it. Introspection's fine, but wallowing just stops me from realizing how awesome I am.

As Barney (from How I Met Your Mother) said, "When i'm sad, i stop being sad and i become awesome instead."

True Story.

But it's hard being awesome sometimes.

Because being awesome's a great burden, when you commit yourself to that path, well, you can't just say the world's not good enough, because the truly awesome don't depend on the world to make them awesome.

Perhaps that's a generator of much of my fears.

Or perhaps the matter's simply a fear of failure.

Or both, or everything or shabiddie-dooda-dee-do, etc.

But you can't let that fear keep you.

Fear cannot master the soul.

Because God has freed it.

Amen.

Anywho, just a short little juant on a snowy day where the weather outside is frightful and the weather inside my brain is a little less than delightful.

But as long as you love me so, hey let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Anywho, take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

We need a long burn

Ah the burning sleepiness of the insomniatic, overworked, under-energized, madman wonder-worker!

And you wonder why I haven't posted lately!

But I will, I will, I WILL!!!

Do not fear, Rand remains here.

And if you want to get more of the good old Randishness while I'm out being lazy and/or tired, you can check out my other webposts:

http://johnhistoryman.blogspot.com
http://mathimoto.blogpsot.com

But soon, soon I say, even later this day, I WILL POST AGAIN!!!

YOU CAN BE SURE OF IT!!!

India, A Chronology: Prologue

Greetings, good readers!
Now I am not normally one to put up large blocks of names and dates, but I have done just that in my previous post. The reason why is that I feel that good hard names and dates, especially in regards to India, a country dear to my heart, are often lacking in these modern times.

Recent teaching methodology has dismissed the importance of names and dates and I agree to a degree. The essence of history is not names and dates, but the stories. The rich strands of narratives that drive forward events and ultimately make up who we are, that is what history is truly about! Often bombarding kids with names and dates will just alienate them from the true core of history. Yet names and dates are valuable. If a person can recall names and dates without any hesitation, his or her analytical thoughts can flow without interruption. I have never mastered that level of memorization but I still find knowing a few names and dates off the top of my head is a very valuable trick.

But what intrigued me most about names and dates in regards to India, is how much the historiography of India has been dominated by ideas of general forces, overall trends, and vague cultural assessments. I am not disagreeing with that school of historiography, or even that general forces drive history, but without grounding these general ideas in names and dates, historical analysis becomes mere speculation. Names and dates can often concretely link events and paint out a picture of what exactly is happening so that clear and concrete trends can be deciphered. And even when broad trends are apparent, having precise names and dates to back them up can help shut down any cliquish resistance.

Now, do not get the idea that I am making some grand criticism of historical research done in the past about India. I have great respect for most India scholars, both Indian and non-Indian, in the field today. All I want to do is add a tool to their and my investigative endeavors, and thus I am attempting to make an easy to use, easy to read chronology of India. By necessity, due to the intertwined nature of national histories, I am covering to some degree regional history, but my main focus is on India. Perhaps if I have the time I will put some effort on covering the chronology of other lands, but for now India is my destination. So let us go, post-haste!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

India, a Chronology: Part I

1498 - Portuguese under Vasco da Gamma arrive at Kappad (near Calicut (Kozhikode), Kerala) in the kingdom of Saamoothiri (I'm unsure if this is the name of the kingdom, but it is at least the name of the ruler, the kingdom centered on Calicut and ruled over the surrounding areas of Kerala). Establishing the trade route between Portugal and India via the Horn of Africa (there are some sources which suggest that Greeks knew of this route before hand, but none of the sources are very strong).



1510 - Portuguese under Afonso de Albuquerque capture Goa and establish a Portuguese colony in the city of Goa and its surrounding area.



1600 - British East India Company founded as a joint-stock company with a 15-year monopoly over British trade in the East Indies (India and SE Asia) in its founding charter, granted by Queen Elizabeth.



1602 - Dutch East India Company founded (VOC based on its Dutch initials) as a joint-stock company with a 21-year monopoly over Dutch trade in the East Indies in its founding charter, granted by the Dutch States-General.



1605 - Mughal Emperor Jahangir begins reign.



1605-1627 - Reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir



1619 - Mughal Emperor Jahangir grants the British East India Company permission to trade in his territories at Surat (in Gujarat).



1627 - Death of Mughal Emperor Jahangir



1627 - Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan begins reign



1627-1658 - Reign of Shah Jahan



1639 - First British factory in India established at Madras, then called Fort St. George. It was a factory in the sense of the word meaning warehouse.



1658 - Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan overthrown by his son, Aurangzeb. Beginning of the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.



1658-1707 - Reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb

That's what I get for all that Scheming

So I know that I have sang the praises of Scheme in several posts now, but let me get to some of the downsides:

First of all, it's insane. No control structures. No local variables. THE MADNESS!!!

But more importantly for me, because it uses exact numbers (ie fractions), the numbers can quickly become to large for the interpreter to handle within reasonable amounts of time. In many cases having exact numbers is ideal for math, but when your using mathematical estimates based on numerical analysis that is iterated many, many times, well, things get ugly.

So I'm putting out this question: Does anyone know of a way to turn off exact numbers in Scheme. I realize that you can just use the function (inexact->exact num), but that only turns it off for one instance, what I'm looking for is a more general purpose off switch.

Because of this difficulty, for some of the more advanced numerical methods I'm handling I'm switching to OpenOffice Spreadsheet. It's not a perfect system, but if properly used the spreadsheet can be a mighty powerful tool of data manipulation.

And I shall also see if I can design functions that get around the inexact/exact difficulty even if it is with the inexact->exact function, because I dream, I dream of the day when once more I can Scheme.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce

No I hate Marx, on several levels (ah I'm kidding Karlly-boy, I love you, I just hate your murderous ideology), but I got to admit he occasionally, when he wants to, he can turn a nice phrase (of course when he doesn't want to, you can end up with something like Das Kapital, which 99% of the world can bear reading, and 1% of the world pretends to read).

But whenever you think of Napoleon III, nothing seems to fit better. Yet, that typical assessment misses how important Napoleon III really was to world history.

Just on the bare bones:
He brought down the Second Republic of France, furthering the French tradition of chronically unstable and periodically radical governments.

He reignited foreign adventurism by helping to push forward the Crimean War. While this war can be looked from a purely Russia-Ottoman standpoint, the entire 19th century and most of the 18th century were constant Russia-Ottoman conflicts, what made this one unique was the French and British military intervention (as opposed to later diplomatic interventions), which owes itself in a great deal to Napoleon III.

He furthered the idea of colonialism for prestige and honor + the idea of colonial paternalism in his policies in Algeria, Vietnam, and the Middle East.

He brought European politics back to the Americas with his intervention in Mexico.

He helped destablize the European power-balance by encouraging the emergence of Italy and generally backing nationalism movements and lobbying for a first place of France beyond the Concert of Europe.

He was perhaps the first of the modernizing conservatives. Essentially radical in their embrace of modernity and their embrace of nationalism, essentially conservative in their views on rights and on personal values. The basic tenant of figures like Napoleon III, who would haunt the late 19th century as well as the whole of the 20th century, was that the nation must be made great and strong, while the people must be kept orderly and moral.

In Napoleon III, there is the model for more than 100 years of brutal modernizers who did it all in the name of the nation. In that company, he does seem like a little bit of a farce. But he created a modern but unstable France, he helped create a nationalistic but unstable Europe, and he helped create a world being consumed by the need for glory, honor, and a place in the sun.

So in the end, history repeated itself twice as tragedy.

One More Day with old Spidie

They retconned Spidie.

They finally blew it up.

YOU FINALLY BLEW IT UP!!!!!!

Damn, Damn, Damn.

Now, I'm not a hard-core Spider-man fan, I've liked the character but I've always been more DC-oriented than Marvel-oriented and I've always had trouble envisioning Spider-man in the same universe as the X-men (Ultimate Spider-man really does a much better job of this than the old comic). Still, when I picked up a Spider-man comic on occasion I would do so with strong hopes. Spider-man is the everyman-hero as is often said, but more importantly he's the everyman-angst hero. His angst is slightly teenagish, sure, but it's teenagish in the sense of coming of age. The angst is that of responsibility, power, love, family, duty, etc. Essentially the philosophical issues that inherently tear at people when they move from one phase of life to another.

But what is coming of age without some adulthood. Trapping Spider-man eternally in teenage-angst would be depressing, and so I was happy to see him have adventures where his relationships and attitudes toward life were maturing, till finally he got married and had to deal with that sort of angst.

He was the every-man hero not in the sense he wasn't heroic, but that he embodied the great heroics and great burdens that exist in every man, only brought out 100 fold by the circumstance of him being a superhero.

But then, to sap of all that by saying, all your struggles, your lifetime, and your essential earned adulthood are gone...

And just by magic!

Not by magic working under certain rules just magic!

If you haven't heard, Marvel, in what seems largely a promotion called Spiderman: One More Day, has erased Peter Parker's marriage to Mary Jane. In the process for some reason or other, they erased also him reveling his identity to the public, Harry Osborn's death and a number of other random details. Basically whatever makes it easier for them to do whatever the heck they want. And it was all by a snap of the wrist of a devil.

BAM!

All gone.

That's not how things should work with Spider-man. Angst only works if there's some significance to it, and there's only significance to his angst if his decisions have consequences and rewards, and if the sum of that actually leads him from one phase of his life to another, instead Peter Parker is doomed now to be trapped a teen...

DAMN YOU!!! YOU BLEW IT UP!!! YOU MANIACS!!! YOU BLEW IT UP!!!

But if this had been some grand adventure like Crisis of Infinite Earths, I still would have strongly disagreed, but I could forgive, but instead it's a short quick story, dealing with a crisis that's been dealt with before, and without any significance to the drama or even really to the personal weight, and without any strong, contiguous explanation for how this all makes sense within the Marvel Universe (which by the way is going on without a retcon, so JUST Spidey's being retconned) and...

DAMN YOU ALL!!!! YOU BLEW IT UP!!!

DAMN YOU TO HELL JOE!!!

Just give me one more day with my friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

The one who just like me actually grows up and lives with his decisions.

Because that's the Spiderman we all fell in love with...

Just one more day, Joe, can't you just give me one more day...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cause the History don't stop coming

My apologies for not keeping a regular schedule... but does history keep a regular schedule?

Nonetheless I will try to post on a more regular rate.

Alas, I cannot regale you with a full post today, but instead I invite you to ponder something.

Why is it so easy to make a conspiracy theory?

You take any given important event, you give anyone with the intelligence of a 3rd grader an excuse, and you can get a convoluted conspiracy that will be on the web within 13 minutes. Why is it so easy?

My answer: Two things, first history is complex. It is the sum of all human activity, except then you have all that interacting with itself in ways that cannot possibly be completely documented. Infinite complexity + finite minds = confusion, and confusion + desire not to be confused = lame excuse = conspiracy theory. It's quite simple math.

Secondly, history has a lot of interrelated factors. When one thing, like say the cultural fortunes of an ethnic group, goes up, a whole horde of other things, like say a school of thought, a city's economic situation, or say a politician's national standing, all are affected. And this is because there are links, not sinister links mind you, but just natural links between each person, and since history affects people, those links affect other people, and then since people affect history, history is altered again.

Basically, history creates a really big feedback loop with... well, everything.

Thus with a giant mess of links and connections, it's easy to pick out one or two, trace them up through the ages, and then say "My God, this is the secret to all history!"

Then you take things that don't quite fit and you squish them a little, and then a little more, and then a little more, until you get a whole bunch of convoluted conspiracies.

Let me take an example. Every country has either more sheep or more cows. Thus if you line up every bi-lateral conflict in history you have a conflict between sheep-owners and cow-owners. However, multi-national alliances might confuse things, but if you look at the upper elite, you'll notice certain connections to religious orders, political clubs, ethnic groups or some other grouping, I mean everyone has groups, and probably that can give a clearer cow/sheep backing line. Conclusion: All war is caused by the conflict between cows and sheep.

But perhaps I missed the most pressing reason for conspiracies. It's comforting to think everything fits within a neat logic. If there are clear lines of interest, clear villians, clear crimes, and clear tragedies, life's a lot simpler and easier to handle.

But a historian's job is not to make life easy to handle, it is to actually handle the whole of life.

Urge to kill rising...

Now that phrase comes not from my well-documented urge to kill... (just kidding, just kidding... please don't arrest me), but rather from the quite spectacularly awesome Treehouse of Horror Episode: Treehouse of Horror V (check the episode capsule here).

Still I like to think of myself as a media connaisseur, and the media world of late has not treated me especially well, although not especially badly either.

It feels a little bit strange moving from my usually heavy personal rantings, to this rather random media sampling reviewish type session, but SO BE IT!

Now, the #1 item on my media radar (which functions less as a radar than as a paperweight holding inside of it the secret to eternal youth) is Lost.

Ah, Lost, my on-again, off-again, tv-show lover. It's hard to hate Lost, no wait, it's easy. There are always sixteen different running plotlines which go from being overemphasized to forgotten, the flashback/flashforward structure is sometimes forced. The "mysteries" are sometimes without purpose except to yank the audience's chain. Many of the characters act in a bizarre, irrational fashion just as a story device.

Yet, it's also easy to love Lost. Even if sometimes convoluted, the plot twists are often surprising and serve to force the characters to act in a way more revealing of their personalities. That's the big point, Lost is at the end of the day, a series of character studies, and all the flashbacks and island weirdness serve to bring out, throw together and force into conflict the different aspects of different characters personalities. Sometimes this works better than other times. Sometimes the writers fail to bring out the full glory of the characters. But when things work... damn.

It's just awesome.

And perhaps, if everything holds together till the end of the show, which I'm not sure if it can (X-files for example, while building an amazingly complex and intriguing mythology for many seasons, fell apart in the last few years), might create an idea of the island which can serve as a character unto itself, with depths immense and complex, just like the show's characters at their best.

But if Lost can be pretty damn awesome, for most of season 3 and even a good chunk of season 2, it was pretty damn lame. But at the end of season 3 there was a solid rebounce, and now with season 4 we're seeing some pretty awesome episodes... until now. The first 3 episodes of season 3 were all grade A's, the 4th one's a C+ at best, but the season's not over yet, and so I'm still swinging for the fences and watching every episode.

If this is setting me up for a fall... well, you got to lose to love, and you got to love to lose, and so here I am a loser ready to love. Or something like that.

Anywho, sleep's a-calling, so take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Does there really have to be any reason?

I'm sure in the grand scheme of things there's a rhyme and/or a reason to everything.

But more specifically with events in my life, and feelings in my brain, I don't think there really needs to be a reason that deals with me. I mean events happen for reasons, but those reasons could largely concern the actions of other people. And with feelings...

With feelings... well, I feel like we're taught that every feeling has a reason. In this post-Freudian era, every unhappy moment has some hidden trauma behind it. Yet sometimes I think, especially with me and certain medical circumstances of mine, sometimes feelings just come on you like waves of the ocean guided by some unseen moon. It just hits you and all of a sudden you're full of anger, or full of sadness. And despite your best efforts you can't figure out why. The best you can do in a situation like that, or the best I can do, myself, is weather it out, endure the storm, and wait for the waters to calm or for your body or mind to become used to the currents.

However, sometimes feelings do have reasons. Sometimes there are hidden or not-so-hidden reasons for feelings that have to be dealt with. And sometimes it is not easy to distinguish between the completely irrational feelings and those with a core of truth to them. We are biological creatures, built with raging chemicals, but we are also creatures built from experiences (we are in the end crafted by God, but these are the means), and so while biology may explain our turbulent moods, usually the reasoning is a combo of biology and reasons. Except when the turbulent moods don't stop, you can't just say it's one or the other or both, but all of the above, mixed together. If it's not easy to sort out the mess, well, sometimes' life's not easy.

If I were to say any way out of the matter, I would be simplifying far too much. But it is best to pay attention to your emotions, to know when to resist them when they threaten to destroy your mind for no reason, but also to learn when to dissect them to find the truthful core. The best way to distinguish between the two is to pay attention to the circumstances around the emotions, if there is a reasoned core to the feelings, the same circumstances should eventually repeat themselves and revel themselves to be a trigger. And yet one should also be careful about paying too much attention to their emotions, while the unexamined life may not be worth living, neither is one devoted solely to self-obsessed introspection.

And so sometimes we are left with questions about feelings that defy attempts to answer them.

So be it.

Still we march on, for no matter how the waves might batter us, there is a glorious sunrise on the horizon.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Walkabout

I had been thinking for a couple weeks now, that I would take a break of 6 months. Actually I had been thinking about a year off but I had told my family 6 months because I wanted to ease them into the concept. They did not respond favorably to the proposal.

Mostly their objections were you're going to get nothing out of it, I'll loose my "focus," I'll have to explain it to my employers, and other more minor complaints.

But I have answers to all of that, to a degree. What am I going to get out of 6 months off? A break from everything. Some easy time. A chance to sharpen my job skills. An opportunity to get some new exposures. Some time to seek out romance (although there's a perfectly reasonable objection to that: who wants to date a guy with no job?). Most importantly, I always have side projects which could use some working.

What about my "focus"? My focus has always been on my own stuff. Jobs and such have always been a route to get that, and so I don't think taking time off will dampen my focus.

With explanation to employers? Plenty of people take some time off, it wouldn't be a strange thing to talk about to an employer.

And there are more minor answers to more minor objections.

But while all those objections are answerable, they are only answerable to a degree. They all tend to add little bits of discontent into the plan.

Ultimately though, the real breaking point is this, what really would I be doing for 6 months? Taking a break? I'd get bored quick. Working on projects? Well, I can do that, but if I really want to focus on that, I'd have to reorient my life into a sort of work-like mindset. Traveling? Well, I can do that a little, but eventually my money's going to run out.

Ultimately, I'd be half-assing everything. I'd be doing a little working, a little relaxing, a little traveling, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and nothing of anything enough to get some real satisfaction. So in the end it just doesn't make sense to take that amount of time out.

So then why did I come up with that idea?

I suppose I wanted to have a moment of my life that was really, really mine. But the thing is even with no work, no devotion to a single project, no focus, there are still obligations, there are still pressures, and then there's still the needs to work, to strive...

To find God and pursue righteousness.

And while sometimes I find that burden heavy, Jesus will help me carry it. And it might be hard sometimes, but you still need to soldier on.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

MC Esher be mathin' out

It's hard exactly to say how MC Escher relates to math. Now certainly MC Escher studied math, and certainly he was inspired by math. But what do the weirdness of his drawings have to do with math?



Well, by all means, the weirdness of his drawings were a matter of creative impulse, but there is a mathematical essence to them. The regularity of his pattern manipulation, the way he defies and distorts perspective, the angles of light bouncing and readjusting. There be math in those hills.



And with that in mind, I direct you The MC Esher Official Website with all sorts of good MC Escher stuff:



http://www.mcescher.com



Go there now... Mathimoto commands it!

The Melancholy of Haruhi Redux

(I previously had this post using my full name, but because of the whole companies searching for my name to check me out and then reacting badly to the medical/mental stuff here, I had to take it out. It sucks, it's not how things, but F-ing A-, that's the way the world is.)
(I love using my middle name to give a phrase a little bit more gravitas.
And a word such as melancholy has been overused so much, one must add a dash of gravitas to bring out its true essence.)

Because melancholy's a little bit more than that whiny-ness it's so often associated with, it's about a profound disconnect from the world and from that which gives people joy in life. Melancholy's not a fun place to be...

But it is sometimes a fun place to watch, at least in the case of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. As I said in that review of the show, I can identify with her melancholy. She has the loneliness of anonymity. If you're just one out of millions of millions, why do you matter? Why do the people around you matter? Why should you bother with happiness? And the natural laws of population say that there are millions and millions of humans, and they're never that far away from you. It's natural to feel a melancholy, and even if it's masked by a manic lust for excitement driven by a desperation for a source of uniqueness, that melancholy, it's absolutely horrible.

And I said I could relate to Haruhi's feelings, and I can. But I have a reply to those feelings and so does the show. Since I'm going to talk about the latter as well as the former, prepare for spoilers.

Or to make it more clear Warning: Spoilers.

By the beginning of the show, Haruhi, in response to her melancholy has discarded all normal human relations, all normal human activities, and all normal human impulses, because she is determined to find the abnormal, and so she'll only bother to become interested with things which defy the normal world, such as aliens, esp-ers, and time-travelers.

Yet her approach at the beginning of the show is rather self-defeating, because instead of being guided towards the weird, she is isolated from even the normal. All that's left to do is sit bored and stare out the window. But Kyon, our intrepid, if foolishly impulsive, hero boldly begins to talk to her and mentions that those dissatisfied with the world are doomed, unless they're an extraordinary few who change the world.

So Haruhi is determined to become one of those few. So she organizes a club like none her school has seen before. Its mission is to seek out aliens, esp-ers, and time-travelers, and have fun with them!

That's certainly a response to the melancholy that possesses her. And it's a response that makes sense. Instead of waiting for the strange, go out and find it. Instead of resigning yourself to be normal in a normal world, make your world extraordinary and become extraordinary.

And that approach works... to an extend. I suppose I adopted that approach to a degree during my high school year, or even before. I wanted to seek adventure and get all my friends to help me. I even drew up the club papers for John Corp, which isn't too far away from the SOS Birgade. I had a dream of a personal army who would seek out the dangerous, the glorious, and the righteous, and would reform my school and would run businesses and would implement my revolutionary new ideas and would fight the drug culture and... yes I did dream of fighting the melancholy.

But there is a problem with that approach. The world is very hard to change. And when you do change it, the change is always small compared to the bigger changes the world inflicts on itself. To make matters worse, you can't always control the changes you make to the world. Perhaps I hold myself too harshly for this, but during freshman year I ran for Class Treasurer (actually originally I had planned to run for Class President but a pal of mine convinced me to run for Treasurer while he ran for President, ensuring that there was only one male in each category, so that while the female vote splintered, the male vote was concentrated... essentially we rigged the election... awesomely), and my approach was three-pronged. I gave an impassioned speech outlining my plans, my enthusiasm and my reasons for service. Then I did a rap and did a dance. Yep.

To add to things, several friends of mine had written J-O-H-N on their chests and took off their shirts. In short, I raised the bar on showmanship for the high school election.

Yet every year after that, it seemed like speeches became less and less about issues and more about jokes, till finally senior year a cabinet full of funny, good-natured, but lazy jokers were elected. Events went unorganized. Our school phonebook, once renown for its terrific art (including once a cover by me), was left with crude last minute scribblings. Our finances stagnated and our once grand senior trip plans had to be cut up (to a degree, exactly to what degree I can't remember, it was 4 years ago). In short competence had gone out of student government.

I think I blame myself too much for this, since a few years before I came to high school, a kid made an election speech focusing on a twinkie, and overall no one respected the student government. But I didn't help matters, at least in the respect of student council respectability. The changes we want to make are often very different than the changes we make.

That's not to say don't try to change the world. Heck, I'm still trying, I manage at any given time 4 or 5 side projects, most of which amount to nothing, but all of which aim to become part of something grand. Besides, the world has a lot that needs to be changed. War, hate, apathy. And we can fill the world with love and hope and faith and grandeur and dreams. Heck, I love big dreams, just like Haruhi.

But like I said, there are limits to her approach, which I think she finds as well in the show. Despite forming her club, she finds that she can't get enough members or attention. And although she herself is actually quite extraordinary with the ability to shape reality to her will, the changes she inflicts can often be quite destructive to those she cares about. In fact, by the end of the season she comes quite close to destroying the world.

Yet, if changing the world is a messy, unpredictable, and immensely slow process, a truly melancholy person can often find even in extraordinary times, things aren't extraordinary enough, despite all his or her trying.

And I've felt that too.

But the show and I can agree on two other replies. First is the reply of people. While Haruhi's club doesn't change the world, and while she never (at least so far, there's another season being produced and more books (the series is based on some books) being written) realized that she is in fact secretly surrounded by aliens, esp-ers, and time-travelers, she does acquire friends. And if friends don't make you truly extraordinary, it does allow you to feel extraordinary for moments, and it gives you relationships where each one is uniquely shaped. It's not everything, but sometimes good relationships are better than even an extraordinary world. That's the show's primary answer.

The show has a secondary answer it visits upon more briefly. If you can't become extraordinary everywhere and for all time, it is still possible to become extraordinary in certain moments and certain times. But it requires working through the ordinary. And thus something as simple as a fun band to play in on the side can become an opportunity for a moment of truly extraordinary thrill. Even if there's a lot of normal in this universe, if you look hard, you can find there's a lot of spots of extraordinary as well.

These are, as far as I can see, the show's answers to Haruhi's melancholy. To that I would add the thing that saved me more than anything else from my melancholy (not to say I'm entirely cured of it, but I can handle it, and I couldn't before, and besides, a little melancholy (mind you a little), isn't so bad).

God has always been there for me. Having His light shine down on me, having Him love me, having God, the most... that's something extraordinary. There's your unique. He will hold you close for your every moment, and to Him you are something absolutely precious.

What's more, understand that the world's in His hands gives you a different perspective. You don't need to save the world... I mean you can't really, the world's far too big for you, but not for God, and He's doing the best He can. Now the world's still got problems, and there are reasons for that (the need for free will, the need for individuality, the need for diversity, etc.), and there are mysteries involved as well. Yet even though you still might want to change the world, you don't need to worry about it not being made good enough, God's still out there, and if you trust Him, things will be all right in the end. That's not to say tears are something bad or wrong, but out there waiting is a joy so profound it defies all melancholy.

Yet even if you're not religious, perhaps you can find a taste of that profound joy in the taste of love. For God's spirit moves through love, and perhaps in a kind world, a hug, or... a kiss... one can find that a bit of that absolutely... extraordinary... presence and find that even melancholy can be defeated.

Although I doubt The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya will echo my religious thoughts, I do think it believes in the power of love, and maybe that will be enough to save Haruhi too from the depths of her melancholy.

Anywho, just to remind you guys, I gave the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya a 8/10 and I look forward to seeing the next season whenever it comes over to the English-speaking world.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

In the end, it's St. Valentine's Day again

St. Valentine's Day always brings up a lot of feelings for me. And there's a lot I can say about it. Yet much of what I want to say about it, old and new, I have said elsewhere. Perhaps it's cheating a little to direct you elsewhere, but perhaps given all the complicated feelings with this holiday I don't necessarily want to deal with, I deserve a little cheating.

So let me direct you to some writings of mine:

Here's the St.Valentine's Day post I did last year, and the post of the day before Valentine's which I think was inflected by the Valentine's Day mood.

Here's my History webpost's session on Valentine's Day.

And here's my Math webpost's session on St. Valentine's Day.

Now I will depart
For my feelings of today I will not start
And if I am being lazy
Well, otherwise I would still be hazy
And if that's what you prefer
Well, other days I would concur
But today
I say no
No more shall I say
Except have a good night
On this St. Valentine's Day

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Happy St. Valentine's Day

Ah, St.Valentine's Day, a day of love, a day of romance, a day of... MATH!!!



Since I have spent much energy elsewhere, I cannot explain the full dimensions of St.Valentine's Day mathematical importance, but I can share with you a Valentine's Day treat.



Want to make your sweetie's heart swoon, give here the formula for Cardioids, vaguely heart shaped graphs using polar coordinates!



(just to refresh you, polar coordinates use distance from the origin (the center of the graph) as r, combined with an angle Θ (it's hard to represent it on a computer, but its basically an O with a line in the middle, or sometimes just a cursive-ish O) to form a location for a point)







or if you're feeling more sine-y







(formulas courtesy of Paul's Online Calc. II Notes, which is itself courtesy of and property of Professor Paul Dawkins of Lamar University)



But if you've messed up former Valentine's Day gifts, perhaps you need something a little bit more spectacular, well then I direct you to this fantastic site:



All About Heart Curves! (not it's actual name)



From the mind of Professor Jürgen Köller.



Well, I think that's a heart healthy start to Valentine's Day. But you can't slack off, after all, you still need to give Valentines to people. Just don't forget to give a Valentine to one very special girl, Math!!!

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

A holiday is a holy day (although Valentine's Day is no longer technically a holy day, it remains so in my heart), as the word would suggest, but days of holiness have reasons for their holiness and that, my friends, is where the history comes in.



DISCLAIMER: This is going to be somewhat more personal, its going to go on tangents which contain telescoping parentheses, its going to be heavily Catholic, and while I'm going to put in as much history as I can, this is a post about love written by a rank sentimentalist, so be prepared for some rank sentimentalism.



There are a couple fold aspects to St. Valentine's Day. Firstly, as many classicists will emphasize, the holiday takes the place of a popular Roman holiday, Lupercalia. Like many pagan Roman holiday's its association with the pagan religion made it uncomfortable for Christians to celebrate and difficult for potential converts to give up.



(Would they have to give it up? If I might point out some Christian precedent, this situation is somewhat similar to eating food that has been offered up to idols, ie, enjoying the benefits of pagan ceremonies without participating in the pagan part, and this situation was a historical dilemma for Christians. The solution however, can be seen in the First Letter of Paul to the Corithians. He says that in his view it is not a sin to eat food offered to idols, although if the Christian worried that it might be a sin, then it would be a sin because he or she would be choosing pleasure over potential sin. Thus my view is that enjoying the celebrations of a pagan holiday without having any sort of reverent attitude to the religion that sparked the celebration would not be a sin, however, if the Christians were ambivalent and worried about the potential sinful nature of the holiday, then precedent holds they should probably not participate, and this likely was the case of many Christians in the Roman world with Lupercailia, hence the dilemma.)



But while the celebration of Lupercalia was primarily of fertility (in this it was also a celebration of spring, similar to those present in many other cultures, perhaps explaining why its replacement spread so fast), it also had aspects of celebrating love, and love was (and is) a hugely important theological principle among Christians.



(while Jesus himself talked about love, the most famous theological speculation after Jesus about love was St. Paul's in his First Letter to the Corinthians)



Thus a logical way out was to change the celebration from fertility to love, and to secure the new emphasis, no longer was the celebration commemorating the abduction (essentially rape, but to be fair marriage by abduction was practiced by many cultures in the ancient world) of the Sabine women by the early founders of Rome (a more exact explanation of Lupercalia can be found in this page by Professor James Grout of U. Chicago), but rather now the emphasis was on a saint who embodied love. Yet to not break completely from the fertility celebration, the saint had to be one of marital and romantic love. The question of if this saint was real or was just folklore or was even invented so that there could be a saint of marital and romantic love is still debated among historians, but I find it of less importance. The importance of the holiday is romantic love, which good marital love hopefully has, and so instead of joining that debate, I instead direct you to a good place to check out the various stories of several, perhaps real, saints called Valentine who are celebrated on this holiday.



And here's a little more on the Catholic perspective on St. Valentine's Day (if I'm seeming a little uber-Catholic today, well it's because I am uber-Catholic and as I said holiday has historically and literally meant holy day). By the way, the previous Catholic site I directed you to comes from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, a good resource (the early 20th century encyclopedias, many of whom are on the web and public domain, represented a different age in encyclopedia making, when it was not just about knowledge (not that there's anything wrong with solely-knowledge-centric encyclopedias) but also about fine writing and that's why a lot of people still like them despite their age) but a bit out of date, this second Catholic site is from AmericanCatholic.org and is up-to-date, for example, it notes that St. Valentine's Day has been taken out of the Catholic Liturgical Calender.



And for you Valentine's Day haters out there, here's a Christian anti-Valentine's Day site (although it's from BibleStudy.org which I feel is a bit Protestant-y) and here's a secular anti-Valentine's Day site. (the secular one's also a bit more bitter and a bit more vulgar, but hey, so are many people (including me occasionally) around Valentine's Day)



My own feelings about the day are not historic (so I'll try to be brief about them), and they might strike some as not strictly Christian (although they are rooted in my faith). I like St. Valentine's Day a lot, I think love is something sacred and grand, and while I do not think romantic love is for everyone, (historically has been acknowledgement that romantic love is not for everyone, see for example, Jesus's words about marriage and divorce) I do believe it is wonderful for those who can find it and have the capacity to embrace it. I hope someday to fall into the latter category myself some day.



And if I do not have anyone to celebrate the majesty and mystery of romantic love, well, at least I can raise a toast to it. Because it really is good stuff, after all, were it not for romantic love, none of use would even be here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Istanbul once Constantinople

Now as that song goes Istanbul was once Constantinople, but although many suppose this happened just when Constantinople was taken by the Ottoman Empire, but no, it was only after the Ottoman Empire fell did Istanbul become Constantinople. Why?

Nobody knows but the Turks.

Actually it was probably just a matter of nationalism. Afterall if one force was driving the end of the Ottoman Empire it was an explosion of conflicting nationalist impulses. If there was an inherent difference between the revolutions which doomed the German Empire and Russian Empire and the revolutions that doomed the Chinese Empire and the Ottoman Empire is that G and R rev.s were driven by socialists, while C and O rev.s were primarily nationalist driven. One could say that as a matter of development. But that's far, far too simplistic.

First of all, the socialists in the G and R rev.s were often somewhat nationalistic, even if they hid it. Part of the appeal of socialism is its promise of making your nation the forefront of development and that was very much in the mind of those revolutionaries. Also, there was a far left presence in the Chinese and Ottoman revolutions, especially in the Chinese case. But a good counter-example to the claim that the differences were due to development or perhaps due to geography was the example of the Austro-Hungarian revolutions, which while sometimes Communist (notably in Hungry) were often first and foremost nationalist.

The key point the Chinese, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires shared was their multi-national composition, and unlike the Russian Empire, their diversity was to the point where the ruling ethnicity was far from the majority. This was particularly acute in the case of the Chinese who were ruled by a thin layer of Manchus. This made it easy to direct the revolutionary impulse into a nationalist one, because the struggle to modernize which often drove much of the dissatisfaction in these governments could be portrayed as a struggle between an oppressed nation and a foreign ruler. It is notable that in the Russian rev., the Tsarina was often emphasized as German for a similar effect.

But the difference between the Chinese rev. and all the others is that the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, German and Russian empires all collapsed in World War I. Three of the four, minus the Germans, struggled deeply and largely unsuccessfully with modernization. The Germans on the other hand were successful. Yet all had to deal with restive minorities, although the Germans less than most. The fates of the revolutions were different though. Turkey's revolution led to a moderately authoritarian but stable modernizing government, Russia's revolution broke off sections into independent states but most become the USSR, the Austro-Hungarian revolution shattered the empire into small states, each with an unstable mix of nationalism and socialism. And the Germans...

The Germans were left with an unstable democracy which under better circumstances might have stabilized (after all, France had a chronically unstable democracy since 1870, but it remained democratic), but instead spiraled into the hell which was Nazism.

Time keeps on Schemin'

So one thing I'm a little bit worried about with this blog is the temptation to turn it into a semi-computer science blog. I want to keep things well rooted in math here, because math is awesome. I mean computer science is cool and all, but math is awesome, and also I think there are more computer science blogs out there than math blogs.

Still, I'm dealing with a lot of numerical analysis stuff now, the line between math and computer science is a little bit blurry. Still, because this blog is mine, I'll walk that line.

And so in the interest of math, I will now reveal to you some really cool Scheme code (just to refresh your memories, I'm using Dr. Scheme, a free Scheme interpreter, and I've been consulting The Scheme Programming Language by R. Kent Dybvig for reference) I wrote to deal with numerical analysis problems. Many people have said that Scheme should not be used for numerical analysis hw, and they are right, but that's why it's ultra-cool when you get it right.

So here's some functions:

General method applier for numerical methods requiring iteration (for generating a list of the value at several different iterations, largely for hw purposes but also so you can look at how it is converging).

(define (applymthd method fun initx tol)
(
map (lambda (iter) (method fun initx tol iter)) '(1 5 10 20 50 100 1000)
)
)

So this obviously is a pretty rough function, but I can tweak it into shape and if I do, I'll pass it along.

Here's a cheeky little function for forward distance:

(define (fordist fun n)
(
(- (fun (+ n 1)) (fun n))
)
)

Here's a less cheeky function for Aiken's terms given a function:

(define (Aitkens fun n)

(- (fun n) (/ (expt (- (fun (+ n 1)) (fun n)) 2) (+ (fun (+ n 2)) (* -2 (fun (+ n 1))) (fun n))))

)

But moving on to more sizable methods, here's an implementation of Steffensen's method:

(define (Steffensens fun initx tol iter)
(if (< iter 1)
initx
(
if

(< (abs (/ (expt (- (fun initx) initx) 2) (+ (fun (fun initx)) (* -2 (fun initx)) initx))) tol)

(- initx (/ (expt (- (fun initx) initx) 2) (+ (fun (fun initx)) (* -2 (fun initx)) initx)))

(Steffensens fun
(- initx (/ (expt (- (fun initx) initx) 2) (+ (fun (fun initx)) (* -2 (fun initx)) initx)))
tol (- iter 1))
)
)
)

More stuff: An implementation of Fixed Point Iteration:

(define (fixedpnt fun initx tol iter)
(if (< iter 1)
initx
(if (< (abs (- (fun initx) initx)) tol)
(fun initx)
(fixedpnt fun (fun initx) tol (- iter 1))
)
)
)

So that's that for now. And I'd say that's a good chunk of stuff, so that's some Scheme, but really, it's all about how to deal with numerical analysis in a quick and painless fashion made slightly more insane by using Scheme instead of any number of more saner tools.

Bright eyes maybe

Now I have a poem which likely must go in for heavy editing (it was written during my high school years and is one of the best examples of my stream-of-consciousness phase, but I feel while it has a legitimately quality core, there are some aspects lacking now which sometime later can be perfected), but one of the lines is sad eyes maybe, which I might change to pale eyes maybe. But then again, right now I'm feeling like a man with bright eyes.

Cue Mr. Brightside

But then again, I've been on the bright side before, and pale eyes aren't too far away. If that transition made no sense to you, I'm sorry, but I think if you apply analytical skill to this transition and to the transitions before, and it should all make sense, with enough effort. But do you really want to spend enough effort on a matter like this?

Just puttin' on the ritz.

I've think I've done enough psuedo-meta-theory, psuedo-philosophical psychobabble for now, so let's move on.

Movin' on's been a big topic on my mind lately for obvious reasons: I'm going to graduate in May (barring disaster or dramatic reassessment of my plans). But here's one reason for staying more focus on the here and now:

Girls.

Ah, woman the cause of and solution to, all of life's problems.

I've already talked about all that in a sense or so. I can talk more about my feelings to the more lovely gender, but that would engender far more writing than I am willing to do now.

The writing I will do now is instead a matter of my newly intensified interest in the fairer sex. Now certainly, I've been interested in girls since I've hit puberty and even well before (even before I had a sex drive, I still liked the idea of being married someday and very much to a woman). But my desire for romance has always ebbed and flowed. And now it is very much flowing.

But what surprises me is most flows I've had have been related to specific fixations, crushes, and unrequited loves. This... this is different. Certainly I have prospects, some more attractive (I mean that in the non-literal sense, although of course some are more attractive physically than others, but I like to think that's not how I order the women I like) than others. But when the romantic upsurge started was actually when I was in the absolute worse place possible for romance: among family in a foreign land.

During winter break I spent two weeks in India, and that is when I first noticed a marked increase in my romantic poetry. That increased continued and was mixed by an increased desire for romantic stories and tv, etc. Now last semester I certainly spent some effort on trying to enter the dating world, but when push came to shove I prioritized work over dating. Moreover, I got a sense last semester that there was not really much point to dating, because the girls around me were likely not to be in my life in May. But now, still, I want romance, and I want it now.

That's not to say I need full love. I want that, but I find myself unusually tolerant of the prospect of dating (they say men like the chase, to me the chase seems just painful), just because I want to be around girls I like. There's something beautiful about women, something inherently beautiful. They have such a fullness of life to them, or maybe that's my imagination. But the feeling I get when I'm with a girl I like, even if women aren't as lively I might imagine them to be (alright I'll give you that not all women have that magical degree of life, but some special ones do, and they all seem special to me, although one I think will be very, very special), I feel a little bit more lively, like my life is really full.

But again, I didn't really want to go into the exactitudes of my feelings about women. Well, okay... let me just get to what I was getting to. I think why India triggered my romantic feelings is that... in India I was away from work and with family, and to some degree I was okay with that. Yet I knew there was a part of me dissatisfied with that, and yet... seeing my family, seeing the idea of family, suddenly I felt, just maybe, if I had a woman at my side, romantically I mean, perhaps I wouldn't really care if I was away from work.

Perhaps this puts my sudden willingness to put off working in a new perspective, maybe what I'm feeling is a desire for romance and maybe I just want to seek that instead of work for a while.

Perhaps.

Perhaps a lot of things.

More likely I don't need to concretely decide between work and romance... and if I do, well I don't need to decide right now.

Right now... well...

In touch with the ground
Im on the hunt Im after you
Smell like I sound, Im lost in a crowd
And Im hungry like the wolf
Straddle the line, in discord and rhyme
Im on the hunt Im after you
Mouth is alive with juices like wine
And Im hungry like the wolf

And I'm hungry like a wolf... or something like that.

But anywho, I think I've got to get moving on. Work's a calling, and maybe romance too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Man from Tallahasse

Sometimes syllables just go together. It just rolls off your tongue don't it?

The reference is actually to an episode/character of Lost (and to make matters clear, here's a music video featuring The Man From Tallahasse (the character that is, none of those scenes are from the episode of that name)) and I plan to do a whole bunch of stuff about Lost later since the show has somehow, despite my disappointments managed to draw me back in.

But otherwise I've got to say I've over all been feeling a lot more out than in.

Not a perfect transition, and with the great and glorious Rand they can all be winners, but I have not the time and/or the energy and/or the care, and I'm decently satisfied with that transition, even though now it's been derailed into a rough break. Oh 'twell.

Anywho, I've found myself low stressed lately. Oddly so because I've been dealing with some high stress situations with only mixed results. Take for example this morning/last night. I slashed them together because I did not sleep last night (or well, I did take a nap for two hours or so, but it wasn't anything more than I would take during a normal work-day), yet despite my successful all-nighter (usually I have to struggle a lot more to pull an all-nighter) I only barely finished 10 pages of unedited half-gibberish historical essay (for a teacher who points out before hand that he grades partially on proper form) as well as just finishing 3 pages of un-collated short story strung out over 6 copies. I will not go into the exact details of the mess because if they are not boring to read, they are at least boring to write about.

That level of productivity itself is not too shameful; it's not fantastic but it's not horrible. But I feel like I definitely could have done more, especially since I spend a good chunk of time watching episodes of Lost (while I was paying attention through most of the 1st season and I kept up with a good chunk of the second season, by the beginning of the third season the show was dead to me; however, I occasionally would check in on it through the posts of the illustrious Mr. Sepinwall, and after he said that the third season finale was awesome, I was like dude, sweet). Yet still it's better than I've done on other occasions.

So up to that point, no real sign of oddly low stress levels, but I did find myself a bit calmer than I should be when I was late for class and facing the prospect of handing in an unedited paper. But the real sign of the low stress is that I did not try to get out of handing-in the paper un-edited. I could have sneaked off to the computer lab and snuck the paper into the pile at the end of the class, but that kind of last-minute weaseling, which I have practiced most of my school career and which I think is a necessary part of any good school career, suddenly seemed very servile.

I suppose it's since I'm graduating soon, and I'm graduating with a decent GPA (unless I horrifically mess up this semester and maybe even if, as long as the New Brunswick administration actual does its job on a certain matter again too boring (on either writing or reading level, pick which one makes you feel better) to get into percisely), and moreover it's the beginning of the semester... so what if I get marked off on this essay. I actually sort of wanted to hand in the unedited version even though I asked for permission to edit it and email it to him, since the unedited version goes into some cool alternate history speculation that would likely be cut if I was being organizationally strict.

I want to get a good grade on that paper, I really do, but ultimately I don't care too much about it. Nor do I care that much about a homework assignment I missed while completing the two more lengthy and important ones before. Well, I do care, and I do worry, and I am a bit concerned right now about the sleep I'm going to miss finishing up the homework I have for tomorrow. But school is not pressing down on me too much.

Nor is in fact, this webpost. I want it to do well, but in the end, it not being done well is not too big of a problem, I have the future to perfect the art, and with two new webposts in incubation, there is a lot of prospect to the future. But no real tension, no real deadline. There's graduation and I need to watch myself so I graduate well, but...

After that then what?

Living I suppose.

Even without definite medium term goals (I have my long term of ultra-success, I have my short term of graduation, there's just that gap in the middle), there's still certain contours of my life. Friends, writing, gaining skills, etc. But there's no pressing need for immediate cash, immediate job success, or even immediate publishing. And that is refreshing and relieving but also...

It makes me feel a bit lost as well. I'm used to seeing a goal ahead of me and charging to it until my body and mind give way (best example: finals time when I stress myself to breaking and indulge in all the unhealthy habits I can imagine to maximize efficiency) (or at least that's how it seems to me right now, even when we look back on our short-term past, our current mind-set colors our memories), this is new and a bit disorienting. Perhaps I might take some time to get used to it, or perhaps I might indulge it. Eventually I need those medium-term goals to get towards my long-term goals, but perhaps it might be time to take a break, and maybe I'll just deal with the day-to-day stuff that still has a lot of satisfaction it in:

Friends, Art, and God.

The embodiments of love.

Least that's how I see it.

I can't really think of a good transition to exit, but this seems as good of a point as any to make a rough break.

So anywho, take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Quotes! Boats! And more of the Rand you love!

So it's been a while since I've done a quotes session. Too "a while," "too a while" indeed.

So then BRING ON THE QUOTES!!! (And now with boats too!)

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." - Churchill after the Battle of El Alameinin. (The battle that signaled the beginning of the defeat of the German North Africa campaign and the beginning of the end of the North Africa front in World War II)

"Every beginning contains the seeds of an end." - Rand

"I do believe in the power of stuff." - Saka, Avatar: The Last Airbender (Episode: Avatar Day)

"A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas." - G. H. Hardy (a pretty interesting early 20th c. mathematician, he was one of the most eloquent speakers on the art of abstract mathematics. Notably he wrote The Mathematician's Apology, explaining math as art, and especially the beauty of math that's absolutely useless. He is also notable for discovering our next quotee)

"An equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God." - Srinivasa Ramanujan (one of the great mathematicians of the early 20th century, largely self-taught (although his mother MIGHT have been versed in traditions of Indian mathematics) he stunned the world with revolutionary theorems in abstract fields of mathematics. Yet, to the probable chagrin of Hardy, he was a highly religious Hindu (Hardy, a well-known aethist/agnostic, said after Ramanujan's death that Ramanujan's religiosity was overstated, but based on other people's accounts, quotes like this, and most biographers, I imagine it's just a matter of the father-figure sad that his son-figure is less like him). He was brought to England by Hardy and while being highly productive, Ramanujan became ill and died soon after arriving there, leaving the world to wonder about what feats of math he could have accomplished had he lived a full life.)

And as promised here's a boat... of the stars!!!

"Beauty is truth's smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror." -
Rabindranath Tagore (Definitely in my top 3 most absolutely awesome poets)

"Wild honey has the scent of freedom" - Anna Akhmatova (Definitely also in the three)

"But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep," - Robert Frost (And that would round off the three)

"Facts are many, but the truth is one." - Rabindranath Tagore

"“A journey was undertaken/ and it was not the destination/ but it was in good faith!” - Hajj, NHB

"Look our forefathers died for the pursuit of happiness, okay, not the sit around and wait of happiness. Now if you want you can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the liberty bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it." - Barney, How I Met Your Mother, Episode: The Taste of Liberty)

"Writing is like swallowing a precious gem, to get it out you need to sort through tons and tons of crap, but if you try hard you can get that precious gem." - Rand

"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." - Samuel Johnson

"Whenever the private sector introduces an innovation that makes the poor better off than they would have been without it, or that offers benefits or terms that no one else is prepared to offer them, someone—in the name of helping the poor—will call for curbing or abolishing it." - Thomas Woods, Woods's Law

"Never follow a hippie to a second location." - John Francis "Jack" Donaghy, 30 Rock, Episode: Rosemary's Baby

"Everyone specializes in what he is worst at." - Rothbard's Law

Saturday, February 9, 2008

You know this guy, I love this guy, I really do

You know with TV shows have several multiple plot centers, especially when there's an ensemble cast of all-cool, all-awesome characters. But sometimes you're just in a mood for one plot center, and you're like, hmmm, how do I get through these lists of episode names to get to the plot center I want. And so I feel like that at times. And so I thought I might even things out for myself and for all other Cowboy Bebop fans out there:

So let me break down some plot centers, etc.:
(story-line are episodes having to do with the character's central personal back-story, semi-storyline are episodes that have some lasting significance or that reveal some minor back-story element, and then there's just non-storyline episodes)

Ensemble episodes: 2. Stray Dog Strut, 4. Gateway Shuffle, 7. Heavy Metal Queen, 11. Toys in the Attic, 14. Bohemian Rhapsody, 23. Brain Scratch

Jet-centric episodes:
Storyline: 10. Ganymede Elegy, 16. Black Dog Serenade
Semi-storyline: Boogie Woogie Feng Shui

Edward-centric episodes:
Storyline: 24. Hard Luck Woman
Semi-storyline: 9. Jamming with Edward
Non-storyline: 17. Mushroom Samba

Faye-centric episodes:
Storyline: 15. My Funny Valentine, 18. Speak Like A Child, 24. Hard Luck Woman
Semi-Storyline: 3. Honky-Tonk Woman, 12.,13. Jupiter Jazz (two parts)

Spike-centric episodes:
Storyline: 5. Ballad of Fallen Angels, 12,13. Jupiter Jazz (two parts), 25.,26. The Real Folk Blues
Semi-Storyline: 1. Asteroid Blues, 19. Wild Horses, The Movie - Knocking on Heaven's Door
Non-storyline: 6. Sympathy for the Devil, 8. Waltz for Venus, 20. Pierre Le Fou, 22. Cowboy Funk

Some might dispute my divisions, but in the end, those people aren't as cool as me.

So take it to your head take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Friday, February 8, 2008

The End of Empires and other such tales

One question that always raises curiosity in my all-too-curious brain is why/how do empires rise and why/how do empires end?

Since this is a topic that can be gone on endlessly, I shall go on endlessly about it, but given my limited time constraints, I will pace myself.

Let's look at one, most particular example of the fall of empires, at the World War I, 4 empires: The German Empire, The Russian Empire, The Austro-Hungarian Empire, and The Ottoman Empire collapsed.

Was it do to the war? Maybe, there's a lot of evidence both ways. Since I'm obliged by class to write an essay on the topic in regards to the Russian Empire (likely I will at least), I'll try to share my insights on that.

Throwing out some context info: While those 4 empires fell at the end of WWI, this was the height of imperial empires, and the world's second largest empire fell before WWI: The Qing Chinese Empire started its collapse in 1911, although after effects of WWI ended up contributing to the chaos, its collapse could not be do to WWI which only started 1914.

But let's just briefly (very briefly do to time, and not enough analysis done/looked up on the topic) look at some compare and contrasts between the 4 WWI end of empire scenarios (starting with the German Empire, and I'll fill in the others tomorrow/later):

German Empire:

This empire came closest and might even qualify as a nation-state rather than an empire, however, the ruling ideology was still imperial, with ultimate power and the source of power in the monarch's hands. Also, the German Empire had a large minority of Poles and some other assorted Slavs, as well as a smaller minority of Danes.

It was also a colonial empire, with colonies in the Pacific (throughout but most notably in New Guinea), SW Africa (now Nambia), W. Africa (Togo, part of Ghana, and Cameroon), C. Africa (Rwanda and Burundi) and E. Africa (now Tanzania (excluding Zanzibar)). There were also colonial spheres of influence in China, and semi-colonial partnerships in the Balkans (Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire).

It collapsed into a mess:
The Polish portion and a corridor of majority German territory leading to the sea became part of Poland. Denmark took the Dane-majority portion, although there was still a tiny Danish minority. Still compared to the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires after WWI, this was smaller scale.

The German portion was taken over by the Social Democrats. A more radical uprising is put down by returning soldiers (in contrast to the Russian situation where the returning soldiers help carry out the revolution). Briefly a Communist state is established in Bavaria but this too is put down by the returning soldiers.

The fact that many Germans had been left out of the new state (although many Germans had been left out of Germany from its start), helped fuel the dream of reconquest, helping to bolster extreme nationalism.

In terms of human loss, cultural dislocation, and economic damage, Germany was immensely ruined after WWI.

That's a short snap-shot of the fall of the German Empire.

Why did it fall? That's another story for some time that is not now.

Why plan when you can scheme?

Let me make a pitch for programming in scheme for math purposes.

Why is Scheme good for programming numerical methods and other math brick and brack?

Because it is so gloriously insane!

Scheme is a language without local variables, without control structures, without global constants, it uses reverse-Polish notation (those crazy Poles!) run usually by an interpreter... basically to the layman, let me say that it makes no sense.

But the advantage to Scheme is it fits very well with the idea of constructing logical algorithms and basing your math around that. Scheme strips algorithms down to their basic components, the procedures, and doesn't allow you to go any further than that. There's a ruthlessness to this restriction and enough power in this limited space that you end up being able to do a lot of math stuff simply and in a manner which illuminates the heart of the algorithm.

But it remains insane.

That said here's a good Scheme implementation:

Dr. Scheme

And here's a good guide to the language (note the implementation and this guide are not related, so some aspects of the guide may not work with this implementation):

The Scheme Programming Language by Kent Dybvig

Now I don't want this math blog to go all computer sciency, but it must be admitted that comp. sci. has some math overlap, especially when it comes to doing programming to make math easier. So look out in the future for some bursts of code for math-based functions, most likely in Scheme.

Keep on Scheming!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

And what of the Oriental in America?

My deep apologies for my absence for so long, especially given the youthful state of this blog, but matters prompt me to here and there and everywhere.

So I'm not going to be able to make this session as deep as I'd like, so maybe I'll revisit later, but since I mentioned Orientalism in my last session, I thought I might discuss it a little more. To be exact I wanted to discuss Orientalism in light of the fact that I am of Indian heritage and thus, if Orientalism is as prevalent as Said claims, I am looked up by the West as an Oriental.

I am certainly not an Oriental in the same sense Said is. The Arab world, in particular the Palestinian world, is very different than the Indian world, in particular the Malayali world (although there are some claims that Malayalis, including myself have a little Syrian blood in them). But Orientalism, as a perspective, doesn't make such distinctions. So therefore, a country like America, steeped deeply in the European academic traditions, should view me primarily as an Oriental, correct?

I can't say I've ever experienced that. Well, no, I have experienced moments where I've seen Indians and myself treated as generic Orientals. One particular example I like to harp on is the McDonald's Asian Chicken Salad commercial. It basically talked about how the "Asian-ness" of the salad gave you some culinary Nirvana. Obviously the commecial was joking around and I don't pretend otherwise. And while I could see how Buddhists could be offended by the causal throwing around of a sacred concept like Nirvana, Christian concepts like heaven and hell are tossed around in American media with little respect too. What annoyed me though, which might be a little over-reacting, was that it perpetuated the same myth of Asians being inherently mystical, especially in a special "Eastern" way. I find that ridiculous. I know plenty of Asians without a lick of mysticism too them, and while I admit that India has a great spiritual heritage, it is a country and Indians are a people not just some materialization of that spiritual heritage.

Yet such slights always seemed to me minor. Annoying perhaps, offensive perhaps, but not an essentially harmful part of my life. Overall, while my brown-ness was recognized I was not treated any what specially and the label of Oriental did not haunt me.

I am and was, through most of my life, treated as an American.

Perhaps Professor Said had something to do with this, do to the impact of his book. Maybe.

But then there's the other side of the coin, my internal impression of myself. That's a little bit more complicated. One factor that has to enter the mix at some point is that I was raised in a middle-class suburban environment which was largely white. Those who weren't white tended to be lower down on the income ladder. So there was a sort of internal tension between my identity as part of this middle-class American group that was mostly white, and my familial and ethnic identity as an Indian. For example, sometimes I would forget that I was brown and start thinking of myself as white because I associated with the American majority and the American majority was always depicted as white.

If this sounds like a deep psychological issue, I suppose it could be. But its not really. I have over time come to think of myself more and more certainly as Indian and Malayali in an ethnic sense, but more and more I have fixed an identity as American. The internal tension has been lessened by clarifying in my mind what my heritage and my nationality really means to me. My heritage is a shaping force through my history and a network of bonds that links me back in time and across space to others of my historic background. My nationality is a matter of affection, it is not exactly rational but it comes down to a feeling of attachment, identity and love. Clarifying these concepts the internal tension between me as brown and me as a middle-class American has lessened. Has it gone away? Not entirely. Since I remember it and occasionally worry about it, it can never fully remove itself from my mind, but it doesn't concern me much. To be truthful it never concerned me a lot, but in the past it would send spikes of confusion into my mind every now and then, and that is less so the case now.

So I know myself as Indian ethnically but American in nationality. No where there is Oriental. Occasionally I have seen sparks of Orientalism in American culture, but my overall treatment has been as an American and I have accepted that place. Perhaps my view point on these matters is shaded by the fact that I am not a racial essentialist, but race, while an important concept, is just one of many concepts that can add to a person's identity to him/herself and to that person's identity to the outside world. And those two identities need not match.

But the question must come up, fine I feel both like an Indian and an American, but am I right to feel that way? Well, that essentially is a moral question. I can say I'm happy generally, and I find satisfaction in my life, but I'll admit I find my life less invested in my ethnicity than some (notably my parents) might like, and I find my mind filled with paradigms foreign to my ancestors. I am less attached to my heritage than I would be say if I identified myself nationally as Indian, or if I felt that the flashes of Orientalism I find occasionally define the way I have been treated growing up. Yet while I'd like to preserve as much of my heritage as I can, I'm not obsessed with it, and I feel in terms of values, customs, etc., my preferences and internal philosophical debate must come first before adhering to my heritage. Has that view been shaped by culture? Yes. Does that make it less true? Well according to that view, no. There's a moral question of whether putting my own personal ideas before my cultures views is right, but that can't be simply a matter of history, science, or cultural analysis. So are my views on national/ethnic identity correct? I'd say yes, but others might legitimately disagree.

This whole matter may seem like a digression from history. It is. More than a matter of history, what I have written here is a matter of personal introspection. But even that is shaped by history, and my personal perspective undoubtedly shapes my historical perspective. So excuse this indulgence. I simply thought given the fame of Said's story, I'd present the life of another who might be called Oriental in America.

Can't Stop, Addicted to... THE RAND SHOW!!!

By the way (couldn't resist putting a link to the music video for that one") Can't Stop is a pretty awesome song (and here's the music video for Can't Stop). As a general rule: RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now to the meat of the matter. If you've been attentive dear readers you might have noticed that my posting of late has been pretty crappy. Well, that's largely because I've been feeling pretty crappy. Yesterday, in particular was a very bad day. But by the end of the day I was able to revive with a little help from a friend in a high place. (I'm talking about God if you didn't get that (here's the verse from the Bible about Jesus calling us friends, not slaves)). However, the effect of that matter has been a couple fold.

First of all, it has reminded me that I am not well, and that I need to remember to utilize all my resources for help (if anyone, particularly any Christian Scientists in the crowd, find a contradiction between me having God help me deal with my health problems, but also relying on medicine and therapy, well, I'd like to just say, God creates these means for helping His children, if we are good kids, we'll use that help). Mainly I need to see my psych. resources. Also, I need to establish a good consistent contact with my friends. Also, it wouldn't hurt to do a little romantic exploration. More and more, although I know I have God at my side, and I know I have good friends, and I know that I have a sense of mission in life, I am becoming more certain that I'd like to have a woman to share my life with. But that is a long quest and should not be seen as a quick fix by any means.

Secondly, I have realized that I have been taking on too much of late. Now I have certain core responsibilities which I can't skimp on or which I could skimp on but I'd really hate to do so. Those are:

Church of course, but despite what some might say, that obligation is not heavy;

School, I want to graduate by the end of the semester and I want to try for some nice grades, although with my current grade point average I can stand a few B's, and it is also a possibility to take one less course and finish things during the summer.

WRSU, I really like the radio station, and it helps me with my future career plans.

My Church group, MCYM NJ chapter (here's the website I made for them), I never really wanted to be president of the group, but I find that there's a lot of good stuff I can do with them as president with not too much effort.

ICF, the Indian Christian Fellowship, I neglected it last semester and they're really good folk who I'd like to establish good friendships with.

My normal social contacts: poker, having occasional contacts, and maybe trying out some romantic leads.

But I got to say some things I need to trim a little, as the stuff above is a pretty full plate. While I want to put some effort into a job search, I can't stress myself out too much about it. I'd like to expand my social portfolio, but I don't have time for as much party planning as I'd like. I have a whole lot of side projects, but I got to remember to keep them on the side. Also, there are a lot of nice stuff to do around Rutgers, but I got to limit the activities I do to what I can handle.

So the question arises: Why keep up with the Rand Show?

Well, the answer is this: The Rand Show is mine. It's my work, it's good work, and it's something where I feel myself keeping up with my creative side and driving myself forward.

Part of the problem with the crappiness I've been feeling lately is that I've been running constantly from one obligation to another. Inevitably I've messed up with some of those, but more importantly, I've lost some control of my life. Given the fact that my life isn't really chasing my dreams right now, losing control and losing the time for the outlets of my creativity made me feel like my life was useless, pathetic, and no longer belonged to me. That's crap really, I mean I chose my obligations and I chose to abide by them, but I think for the health of my soul and mind I need to have some control over things and I need to be creative.

And so I can't stop The Rand Show. Don't you feel fortunate?

Anyways, while I have to dial back my obligations a little, that doesn't mean I'm discarding them. A lot of times when I have said "I need to relax more," I basically stopped doing anything. But I do have obligations that I want to or have to abide by and to stop doing them would just be counter-productive and stupid. Being too scared to do what I need to do is also a loss of control. So what I'm building up to here is...

I need to go. I'm having lunch with my little sis, because one of the obligations that I desperately want to abide by is my obligation to be a good family member. So I need to be off, but remember I SHALL RETURN (like MacArthur I take those words seriously).

Anywho, take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Don't Do as Donny Don't Does

Back in the day for each of these random phrases I could easily point you to a youTube clip. But apparently the media companies like making money off their media, because otherwise you know their entire business model is bankrupt.

But I'll get into that upon a latter hour.

Alas, of late I'm feeling like our poor misunderstood Donny Don't.

Despite my noble claims of having discovered the secret of time management, I find myself with my schedulization less than ideal.

Perhaps truly the problem is too many commitments: School, 2+ clubs, unknowing being elected MCYM NJ president, work, etc. Everything keepin' me busy and busy and busy.

But really, truly is the matter that simple?

I dunno.

Perhaps the greater matter is my fear is eating up time when I could be working, or maybe I'm just making a big deal out of everything.

Whichever, got to go.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Time to go down to the ground where the Buffulo Roam

So I am utterly, totally, tired.
So I was thinking about doing a music/AMV session.
But I'm even more tired than that would imply.
And I'm a bum.
So instead I'm going to a VJ thing and give some videos without really giving reviews, except maybe some random chatter.
So but for future reference, all these songs and videos rock.
They really do.
So...
KICK IT!!!

Beastie Boys - Fight for Your Right to Party

So I know I actually used this in one of my AMV sessions (Beastin' it up with the Boys)
But I'm a lazy bum. Besides why should I worry about a silly little thing like that, after all, my future's so bright, I'm going to have to wear shades.

Timbuk3-The Future's So Bright

So you happy now? If not at least you should be feeling glad.

Gorillaz-Clint Eastwood

Well, it's very nice to have sunshine in a bag, but I'd rather have an atom bomb!

Fluke - Atom Bomb - AMV with Ghost in the Shell: 2nd Gig

Man, I love a woman who knows her way around a gun. (You try making sex puns when you're very tired, actually you probably shouldn't, if you succeed it'll just make me feel bad, mwaaah!!!) But the thing about all that firepower is you got to watch out, the heat can give you away in Infrared.

Placebo - Infrared

But if you're in the infrared you must be pretty damn hot, maybe even down in hell after dealing with the Devil.

The Charlie Daniels Band - The Devil Went Down to George - AMV with Futurama

And if the Devil did get your soul, well then he'd have the best of you.

Foo Fighters - Best of You

(This is another song I've used before, several times in fact, most notably here)
But maybe deep down, it's not a problem with your soul. Maybe you're just not as cool as me. Hey, it happens. Some of us are awesome and brown, and then some are just white and nerdy.

Weird Al - White and Nerdy

However, even if you're white and nerdy (or even if you're black and hip) you can still be a rockstar.

N*E*R*D - Rockstar

Case in point for white and nerdy rockstars...

Weezer - Buddy Holly

Yep, when those boys are dissing your girl, because in the end all that matters is what's in your heart.
And on a 99% unrelated note...
Bon Jovi - You Give Love a Bad Name - AMV with Inu - Yasha

So that's a number of videos, and that took me longer than I thought, likely because I was often distracted, often by the very videos I had hoped would save me time.

Still all the songs and videos were awesome weren't they?
Hate to say I told you so.
The Hives - Hate to Say I Told You So

Why all of this? Because I wanna.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!