Saturday, August 30, 2014

Nope, not gonna come out today. Gonna stay inside to play.

Having a hide-away Saturday, the type of day when I know I need to do stuff, but I don't want to talk to anyone or go anywhere. I've got prime numbers coming up this week, and some programming stuff. See you tomorrow.

Friday, August 29, 2014

My goal update for month three.

My Goal Update

August 29th, 2014


It's the time of the month to post an update on my goal. This month is a special month for me, only because it's month 3. My goals traditionally are set up by month milestones: 3 months, then 6, then 1 year, 3 years, and 5. This project is to become something special. This project requires the ideas and skills I've picked up, but I'm going to learn something new. That's why I love this stuff. I like to think that one day I'll be someone that has tried a bit of everything. Jack of all trades, master of some. Enough of that, have I actually done anything this month or the last three months?


Looking back at my first three posts, they're pretty dismal. The very first one that announces my intention to bring this cause back only gives 2 goals:
  • 62 shares of the cause - Not Done.
  • Put the description page back on the site - Done
The next post was made on the road and mentions making a Facebook page, which also been finished.  You can follow it here. The 3rd post rambles on, outlining my neuroses about funding animal shelters in Russia, then ends with 2 vague goals: Keep reassuring myself it's a good idea, and figure out advertising. I need to clean up my act on this stuff.

I have ads up on the site. 30% of the revenue made will go to the cause. For every $100 dollars, $30 will go towards the cause. I'm gonna be truthful here, I need the rest. BUT, I'm working on getting other forms of income coming in to help out this cause. These are freelance projects and they are way too young at the moment to actually help. At the 1 year marker, there should be a huge significant change though. At the moment, I'm still playing with the placements of the ads so people will actually, you know, CLICK them.

I have actually completed a post on Animal Rights. It's here, and it's a start. It is just an outline of some of the ideas that bug me as I start to get into the literature and ideas. Also, there is a a new shelter going up on the outside of Moscow. Facebook is here, website to donate is here, and my post is here.

Surprisingly enough, that post I did last month helped. So often it's easy to go into a new idea and new goal, then the brain gets in the way with ideas on why it won't work or why people won't support me. With actual work put into this project, good documentation, and real milestone goals, I should see progress by the 6 month mark.

My page views are up. I'm getting all sorts of spam, but when I post to IWSG, this update, and Google +, I see real numbers go up. And sometimes the people keep coming back for more! That always feels good. With my page views up, an emphasis on quality of posts, better viability for the cause, and the new share links, it should help spread the word of the cause.

I got more done in the last three months than I expected. Something to proud of. I think right now I can honestly say that this project has started back up, and it's time to set honest, concrete milestones to meet, and not just vague ideas.

For the Future:

The original goal was raise $20,000 dollars to distribute between animal shelters in Moscow. This is still a big milestone goal. To reach something like that in 1 year, I need to raise $200 a month.
  • Milestone 1 is raise $645. With this money, it can become a non-profit, and can offer real benefits to donators, like tax breaks and such.
  • Milestone 2 is make $200 a month. Better visibility for the Cause is a must. Patron is under consideration at this point. That brings a new set of goals to be considered, though.
  • Milestone 3 needs to be better advertising for myself and this cause. So, an ad needs to be made, and distributed.
  • Milestone 4 is creating and finishing a blog hop. I'm working on an idea for one, as it becomes more concrete, more details will be posted.
I just need to start talking to more people. I haven't been able to get out much to do this, but now this project is going, I have something to direct people to. There is my vague goal for the month. Let's raise a glass and hope that the next three months will be productive as well.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The group, part 1

Build goodwill in the community.

This is by and far the most important thing a group or an individual can do. The community and people outside the group provides a defense against others who speak out against it. The community provides greater strength and support through helpful donations. It is not the job of the Group or Individual to take advantage of this. The strength of the group is proportional to the strength of the community it is in. Take time to educate the children, because in time they are the ones who will carry on the legacy. Do not ignore the adults, at best they have a wealth of experience that can help in many projects, at worst they are jaded and cynical; they feel that nothing will or can change. Show them the fruits of their efforts.

Build structure within the group.

The idea that bothers me. In truth this is simple, with everyone from Machiavelli to Confucius  commenting on how a leader should act and how the structure should work. The ones with knowledge, a history of good decision making, and ambition is at the top, while the ones without experience are at the bottom. This is routinely messed up. A person's school does not make them a good leader, their family history does not make them creative or an intellectual. Education and ability to reason does not improve with wealth or money. How to structure the group? Find a way, because with dead weight at the top, the rewards are spent to make people feel good about themselves. And with too much weight on the bottom, there's no motivation and anarchy ensues.


Rewards aren't always money. In a society that prizes possessions,  it easy to believe that money is a reward, because money buys dreams. Money is a hell of a motivator, and money can be used well.  Money can be used for good deeds, to wield influence over others, maybe even buy happiness. For a group starting out, or maybe even an older group, rewards can come in the things that are needed. Food, a place to live, the ability to make decisions.

Thanks for sticking through a combination of the stuff I've been reading lately. This is a part one, because items need to be expanded later.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What I'm going to do next month

Hey there, have a good weekend? Same here. Did a math group thing on Saturday, then hid myself in my room for most of Sunday. Finished two books. And of course, thought about what I want to do for the next month right here on the blog!

There is an experiment I want to try in October. If it's successful, then I can try to do something more grand next year. The thing is, it's not a 100% developed idea. In fact, it's barely 30% developed idea. All I have is parts. The parts I have is this blog, a talk I'm scheduled to give on November 5th on the zombie fungus, a monthly math group that will meet to discuss "The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives" by Leonard Mlodinow, and a book on statistical programing as well as a good python Google + group. Back in March, I started thinking of ways I could try and combine all my current projects into one thing that also tries to knock off some life goals, and I can do that in October. I just have to read the book first. But, I own it, and it can be read! Once that's (mostly) done, I can figure out the post for 2 months for now. Or, if I realistic, make a basic outline, then write my post in 2 hours the night before.

This all just brings me to what I want to do this coming month. On September 27, Math Counts will meet to talk about Prime numbers. Prime numbers are awesome, and great, and just all around amazing, and I've grown to love them, really. The people who read this may or may not situated in the Philadelphia area spatially or temporally, as you may be reading this on the west coast or you may be reading this 5 months from now, or you may be a figment of my stressed out mind. How can I pass on my love of prime numbers to any of these 3 groups of fine people? By spending the next month talking about prime numbers of course! 3 days a week, the people coming here get to see prime number stuff. 2 days, posts on bash scripting, since I have a bash scripting project and really need to focus on that as well. Weekends, well, you'll get something. Just probably whatever.

This week, I've got the spare time to play with some other ideas and extra I want to work on. And the "Do you have a goal" bloghop is on Friday. Next week is IWSG. Just enjoy your Monday, duders.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Short saturday post for the people not around

Saturday. Does anyone come on Saturday? There's so much to do because today isn't a day I have to be at work, and I imagine it's the same for most of the Americans that visit this site. Maybe Something short today.
In a meadow with Maddow, on boat to boot the loot from Jajagaboot. Leaving now on plane with Efrain, and me and Jane sing a refrain to "Frog Jones blues hits". Ride a bike, take a hike, and eat a bag of cake. Maybe a walrus sits on a job with too many nails? Just thinking, is all.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Night Revolution

Well, it's that time of the month! Time for bills, time for to pay people, time for me to think about capitalism, anarchy, and the life I have lived thus far. I could give into the depression, and let it swallow me whole. OR, I could just role with the thoughts and feelings. So a list for you beautiful people out there for some pop-counter-culture items to get you through your Friday.


Let "the man" know the revolution has begun by blasting tunes from your cubicle!

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death! - Dead Kennedys

Make your revolution feel like a Tarantino movie with surf punk sounds! With classics like "Holiday in Cambodia" and "Too Drunk to Fuck" this classic gem will give your revolution a more vacation vibe!

Freak Out - The Mothers of Invention

Maybe your less angry and more annoyed with the system and the people around you? We got you covered! With Frank Zappa's 1966 debut album, you too can realize that all the problems about American culture are not new, and have been around since time began (in the 60's!). Only the music has changed (Spoilers, pop music sucked in the sixties, and it sucks now!)

Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age - Public Enemy

Hey, what's with all the white boys? Those rioting in Ferguson need a soundtrack too! Here's Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age to rock your world and call for change! While you listen, ask yourself about old age and wonder how a group goes from inflammatory rap to dumb reality shows. And remember, the system corrupts the weak and stupid!



What are your goals as you work to burn your current place of oppression, or at least generally annoy the people around you? How will you survive after you become unemployed and live on the streets?

FM 21-76 US Army Survival Handbook:

Now, I am more familiar with the copy of the survival handbook from the 70's, but this is still a hell of a good book to have around. The highlights include how to think when you need to survive, and basic woodland survival skills, like identifying edible plants and dangerous animals. Looks like the fascist pigs CAN write a good book!

Steal This Book Today:

For those of you who need to survive, but live in an urban environment, may we present to you the updated version of the 60's classic, Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman. Basic skills are covered like cooking, the type of food you'll need,  what to do if your one-night stand turns out to be a government spy, and how to steal stuff! For the ironic hipsters out there, you can buy the original Steal This Book from Amazon.

Anarchists Cookbook v2000

What's a list without the very classics? It does you no good to uprise against the system if you can't even fashion a decent Molotov cocktail!

Now, get out there, start a cubicle fire, and break the system so I don't have to pay my bills! And as incentives to you, think about it: Infinite vacation. Finally, time to mow the grass, fix the house, and start that book you always wanted to write.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An ADHD day.

I'm having a lot of trouble focusing today. Part is job related, part is I woke up in a foul mood. I keep trying to complete tasks that I can normally complete well, but I'm having no luck. Every just start the day frustrated and then nothing works because you stay frustrated, and it builds and builds? Sigh. Whatever. I'm just not sure how to fix this mood. These days suck because I have stuff to do, damnit! It needs to get done, I try to work on one task, but my focus runs to another task, it doesn't get done well.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Animal shelter and donations

Hi, busy day today, sadly, and I don't have to time to craft a beautiful well crafted post, so I will give you all a Dog Lovers Unite update. I have a facebook page up for Aristotle's Mistake  now, so go over there and like me. Over the next couple weeks a real "follow me" tab needs to go up on this site.
The news I want to spread is there is a new animal shelter going up outside of Moscow. According to my Moscow friend:

"Construction and activity of unique care centre for pets and farm animals
This page is dedicated to the building and work of unique help centre for pets and farm animals "Mokriy nos". There will be two pages: in Russian and in English.
There is an animal centre "Nika" in Zelenograd, Moscow. Its volunteers bought a piece of land 30km away from Moscow in 2014. New European oriented help centre is going to be built. Comfortable infrastructure, good cages that are warm even during the severe frost, children friendly atmosphere -these are our advantages. This centre is financed by private donations. The centre can receive 500 animals at once. You can find reports, accounts, projects and information about the stage of building on this page." is the Facebook page in question. The posts are in Russian, but the descriptions are in English and Russian. So far they've raised about 60% of the funds needed. I'm sharing this in hopes that you'll share or donate money here: but I don't have an English page for you all as of yet. I will have something by 8 pm EST though, even if I have to translate parts of it myself. Right now, I have to get going.

EDIT: There is no page in English, sadly. They are working on one, but nothing yet. I want to keep up with this, because for now its a connection I have to the project that isn't just me working hard to start my cause back up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

90's kids remember Dr. Kevorkian

In the end, suicide is your decision. That 7 word statement will probably be the weightiest thing ever said here. Death is a big deal, it's heavy man. No one likes to think about the end, but it will come. They say it's unpredictable, and you can guess at maybe how and when you can go (I call it the roulette wheel of Death), but those are just chances. 70% chance of heart failure, 60% of cancer, but ultimately, 100% chance of death.

Physically, the body can shut down, with the lights shutting off one by one. Eventually, it'll break down, leaving behind minerals that will be scooped up and used for new life. Either your ash will become carbon for plants to use, or your decomposing body will leave behind nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate for plants to use. There has always been a beautiful, Buddhist like cycle of reincarnation there for me, because the minerals and molecules are passed from one organism to the next, then comes back around. That's the physical breakdown, and not what happens to your personal self, your laugh, smile, thoughts, and sense of style. And it doesn't touch on your final moments.

When I was a fan of drugs, I preferred the hallucinogenics. They can't stop time, but they can certainly slow your perception of time down to an eternity. Relativity is when your brain slows down to parade every insecurity you've had for you to see while you wonder if this parade of humiliation will last forever. The funny thing is about the break down of the basic mechanics of death, I failed to mention that in your final moments, your brain releases DMT. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Really, it's where dreams come from. Again with an anecdote,  I have had a dream where I wake up in my bed, get dressed, walk out side, and the world becomes a wonderland. I can have a wild adventure while lying in my bed. Combine that with the brains ability to turn a few seconds into a few millennium, and there's my idea of the afterlife. How wonderful that few seconds will be will be based on my state of mind in my final moments, and a happy life will make a happy trip.

When a person dies they will leave something behind. Even the man who wanders the streets of St. Petersburg and only makes friends with the houses makes an impact on others lives. The reality of reality is, a person comes in to contact with others ever day and contributes something. This thing a person leaves behind, this is their chance at immortality. The people they affected carry with them memories, the work that they've done is their lasting impact on the world, and then there is the art and stories that they told. These pieces of them of them, the ideas of them, are just as alive as they are. It changes and grows as it gets passed from one person to the next, and from one generation to the other. This may be that soul thing I keep hearing so much about, a piece of me that has a chance of living forever.

With all of this in mind, why should death be left to chance? Why should suicide be a selfish act? Death will happen. You want numbers? According to this website, 62,000 deaths a year are from natural disasters. 13.3 million a year from communicable diseases. 3.3 million died between 1998 to 2002 in the war in republic of the Congo (so 660,000 a year, on average). There's a nice little chart on the website with all the probabilities on it, but it doesn't mention that the chance of dying is 100%. The rest is just a question of when and where it will happen. And when faced with that question of probability, we like to act like the man with a gambling addiction: well, I'm just lucky, therefore the worst won't happen to me. I deserve the best.

The question of suicide forces an interesting question onto one's mind. What have I put forth into this world? Wise men at their end know dark is right, and the idea of preparing for death is an old one; Pharaoh's could afford to build monuments to themselves, others buy plots of lands and write out their wills, and still others sit down to write their memories so they can be preserved. The question of "How do I want to die?" empowers the asker. It should be just as important of a question like marriage, children, and losing your virginity, and to that end it should be a question discussed with loved ones. It's a question that brings up interesting answers.

No life should be wasted. No matter what is done, Dylan Thomas and "Do not go gentle into that good night" should ring in your head like a theme song. How do you approach life though? Some wait for chances to come to them, others make sure that chances come to them. A third group ignores that, and just lives a life of experience and adventure, never bothered by the bigger questions because they are too busy with life. If given the choice of how to die, what would you choose? Letting life, or god, or chance and chaos decide allows an unfair fate become a person who has brought nothing but light to the world. It's natural, though, and it gives everyone around us the idea that we fought till the end. A nice romantic notion that we fought the god fight to the last breath, and showed death that life is worth fighting for. The decision of how you want to die is the guarantee you'll get that you will die with a piece of mind, surrounded by comfort and family. It's a decision of power, and gives the illiusion of control over the chaotic mess that is the world. And it is the reflection of a state of mind that shows that the person feels they have lived a wild and full life.

Personally, I hope it's over long before that for me. The question can be extended to "Well, what if I die tomorrow? What if I get into a car and a jaws of life takes me out? What if I just don't wake up? What if chaos wins? Can I be happy if with my life if this moment is my last?" Death is a final act, it can be a futile and meaningless event causing pain and bitterness for everyone. Death can be drenched in irony, and it can simply be fitting. I may not meet an end like Steve Irwin because my adventures are devoid of dangerous animals, but I hope that I live by Hunter S Thompson's words: "A day without fun is a day that eats shit." And I hope death can be a final decision made as a fitting bookend.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mixing math with politics: August Philadelphia math meetup.

On the 4th Saturday of the month the Philadelphia Math Counts meetup meets at the greatest coffee shop in Philly, Capriccio Cafe & Espresso Bar, to spread Math culture in the city of Philly by discussing videos and books. This month, the meeting is on August 23rd and the discussion is on George G. Szpiro's Numbers Rule: The Vexing Mathematics of Democracy, from Plato to the Present. As per the usual order of the group, you don't need to see the video to join in the discussion, just come with an interest in the material and two dollars to help make sure we get to continue doing this. Everybody from novices with questions to experts with answers are welcomed, because the regulars fall under both categories. It's fun, informative, and there is a ton of coffee involved. Or tea or bagels, if that's your thing.
It's that time of the month, the time for people in Philadelphia to get together and discuss an idea in mathematics. This is later then it should be since I got the book late and have been putting off writing something until I was done with it. Now it's the Monday before and I need something.

This book is not just for math fans. Again, this book is not just for math fans. This is good for everyone who has a problem with "the system". It's a summary of voting systems  developed from Plato to modern times, and it outlines the pros and cons of each system.

There is a long history of voting systems, because early on philosophers and thinkers had with problems with the simple "majority wins" system of voting. Namely, Plato thought the majority couldn't be trusted with making decisions. As time went on, others simply saw problems in the system. They felt that the system didn't actually represent the majority.

With 3 possible candidates, the voters cast their votes, and an exit poll is given. The results of the hypothetical election:
8 voters: Candidate A; Candidate B; Candidate C
7 voters: B; C; A
6 voters: C; B; A
The setup is that the first candidate listed is the preferred candidate, and the last candidate is the least preferred by the voters. According to "majority wins", candidate A wins, since he has 8 votes to others 7 and 6 votes. Right here we can see that A is only the preferred candidate of 8 voters, 13 voters wish he would rot in hell. And the problem arises that the majority didn't win.

Throughout the years, mathematicians came up with their own ways of solving this dilemma. More than a few built point systems. The earlist was a system called m-units. The preferred candidate would get n amount of m-units, with n being the number of candidates. In the hypothetical example, Candidate A would get 3 m-units for every first place, 2 for second and 1 for third. In this case, Candidate A would receive 8 * 3 + 13 * 1, or 24 + 13 = 37 m-units. B would get 7 *3 + 14 * 2 = 49 m-units, and C would get 6 * 3 + 7 * 2 + 8 * 1 = 40. Candidate B is the winner in this outcome.

This book is fond of point out that politicians can't not be trusted. And any untrustworthy politician can really mess with a majority vote. With 2 candidates, the majortiy wins is quiet simple.
3 voters: A; B
2 voters B; A
Simple, right? The winner is A, no muss, no fuss, and by way of m-units A gets 6 to B's 4.  But lets add C back in there:
3 voters: A; B; C
2 voters B; C; A
 A now gets 11 m-units, B gets 12, and C gets 7. By adding the one candidate who had no chance of winning, the winner changed. Funny enough, this is why Democrats tell me to not vote for third party candidates.

And there are other paradoxes and problems that befall voting systems. An important one to mention here is what congress has to go through in order to gain enough representatives. The American readers are (hopefully) familiar with how the Senate and House of Representatives work. In the Senate, every state gets two senators to represent their states, so that each state gets an equal say for the matters at hand. The House of Representatives assigns 1 congressman to every 30,000 people the country, so that the people get represented in political matters. This ended causing problems every 10 years when the census comes out. Szpiro spends like 3 chapters going through every problem that arose through the history of the United States, there is no way I can do justice to the problems in a paragraph. Quick run-down of an example given in the book:
Three states in the union, Louisibama, Calyoming, and Tennemont. Louisibama has 506, Calyoming has 307, and Tennemont has 187. Total, there's 1000 people. 1 representative per 10 people, so 100 seats are available. Each state gets its number based on its population in the total. So Louisibama would have 50.6 seats, Calyoming would have 30.7 and Tennemont would have 18.7 seats. This is a problem since 0.X of a person isn't possible without an axe murder present. Rounding all the numbers up (51, 31, and 19) would give us 101 seats. So somebody is going to lose a seat.
This caused problems for a couple hundred years. Many ideas were tried then scrapped because they either didn't work or somebody with power would risk losing some power. Simply put, politics is not simple and mathematics is left in the hands of people with agendas. It's a good book, and if you're interested, come on down to the Philadelphia Math Counts this Saturday at 110 N. 16th Street , Philadelphia, PA, 19102 to give your two cents, or buy the book here at Amazon or here at abebooks if you're a poor broke writer.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tools for learning a new Language

Happy Sunday. Today, I put a hangman game at the bottom of the page. It only does Russian vocabulary, because it's a way to practice my Russian. And you can practice too! You may be thinking "What is the deal with all of this Russian crap?" Well, first of all, red heads are born communists. It's true. Second, I do speak a bit of french and spanish, but the grammar, alphabet, and vocabulary do not not come close to russian. I've found if you know french or spanish, you can work out the grammar for the other, just the pronunciation of words will really mess you up. Russian, well that's something I need to practice a lot of, really. There will be some more changes over time to the game, and next I want to make a cryptoquote game. I love cryptoquote and sudoko, but sudoko can't be translated.

Score :
Fails (6):

This free script provided by
JavaScript Kit
Here is the game to try out. The vocabulary is limited at the moment and there's an odd glitch that I'm trying to work out. I've been at this all morning though, so it's time for a walk and a nap.

The vocabulary comes from here:
Podcasts to help learn Russian:
Tolstoy on LibriVox:
Wikibooks for Russian Grammar:

I have a french group meeting on the same day I do my math group, so I should do something french this week to pretend to practice.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A more elegant punshiment for a civilized age

Distractions, the bane of any creative type. Are you an artist, writer, or freelance programmer? Then you've had to deal with horrible demon that is distractions. Today, I have the extreme pleasure of working next to a drill. Whenever the drill runs, it shakes the entire room and all I can do is imagine is how I will destroy the person running it. Beating them with the drill is such a basic, unimaginative fate, but think of rhythmic, meditative feeling as your arm swings and blood paints the walls. But no, again, not enough thought. Medieval and particularly catholic works did punishment the right way. Is there inspiration in Dante for how annoying distractions should be punished?

There is demon, Exercitatus, who is more of a minor minion in the moors of hell, who posses a drill penis, and uses it to sodomize neighbors who do loud constructions at inappropriate times or have loud sex next to paper thin walls. This is done in a room with piss poor acoustics where the walls vibrate, so as the poor soul is tortured, they are forced to listen to the act shake the walls. Not only do they experience the act, but the buzzing and vibration of the walls is played out as the sound track. Does it occur for infinity? Well, time is relevant in our world, so why not in hell as well? The act does not need to go on forever, it just needs to seem like it.

Most punishments for things fit in with their times, so what is a good mythical style punishment that reflects our age? A more civilized, technologically advanced age calls for punishment more fitting of our increased knowledge in science and math. Not a Sysyphus punishment with a bolder that rolls back down to the bottom. No, my suggestion is to make someone work an entry level job with high stress for one day in a Poincare Disk.  Time still moves forward, but as the end of the day approaches clocks slow down by half. The end of the day never comes, and the last hour is an eternity spent watching the clock.

Writing is such a good way to get rid of demons. Lets a bored and angry mind become creative and work out frustrations.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You get nothing! NOTHING!

Working hard on a post, but it's much harder than expected. As I'm doing research on the post, I notice that there are many websites with the exact same information. Damn. It's so easy to just copy and paste information and put it up on a different website, but it makes so many questions about the content. And doing it that means that anyone looking for information on a subject only gets one point of view and misses all the other details of the story.
EDIT: The post I'm working on is a brief biography of a mathematician,  and the website I keep finding is a copy and pasted text from one of those pre-written papers on line. Do lazy people become successful in this life and then become forgotten as time goes on? There's a difference between shortcuts to do something and just being lazy. Come on, now.
I've done my two hours of writing now, but the post isn't finished. It won't be a dense wall of text, but because I playing with ideas and styles it's taking longer than expected. Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Issues with animal rights

Animal Rights. There's two subjects I don't like, economics and ethics. I've read some economics, but it still seems like voodoo. Yeah, that's all I can say. When I start to think about ethics and then write on them, my brain stops and I start focusing on all the paradox's and problems that exist. Taking any sort of hard stance on the issue seems impossible, because good and evil does not seem to be a binary issue, but something with many gradients in between. The issue of animal rights is an interesting one and worth exploring.
Animals are an important part of society and serve a useful propose. We would not be at this level of a society without domesticated animals. This is not a personal idea, but historical fact. When large groups of people gather, the waste that is made (whether it's trash or feces) attracts rodents and other creatures that carry diseases that humans were not immune to. And as people started to travel, hitchhiking diseases came with us. Domesticated animals like dogs and cats helped kill and protect cities from being wiped out. Other animals served as tools and transportation to help build more impressive technology. Whether someone is a cat or dog person or doesn't own a pet at all, animals were the link that made civilization possible.
How animals are treated though, has gotten bad. They are forgotten or seen as tools or merely food. The animals that provide food are genetic mutants and might not be animals. On an organic farm, chickens are given space to roam and walk around. Meat chickens are bred to have huge thighs and huge breasts which gives them a strange waddle while they walk around. After 8 months, it's really a mercy to kill these animals since it becomes hard for them to walk at all. Antibiotics have become a necessity for cows, since their tits have become bred to a point where infection is inevitable, and infection will cause pus and all sorts of nasty things to go into the milk. This is not a factory farm problem, this a problem caused by a 1000 years of breeding with one thing in mind: Bigger, more food, more appeasing to the eye.
So what's the problem with ethics? When it comes time to research on the issue of animal rights, a few writers take an extreme stance. Tom Regan's 1986 paper, The Case for Animal Rights reads as a call to arms for animal rights. His choice of words make his case aggressive, and he claims that to be against some problems in the system, a true activist must be against the whole system. The stance is fine. The system is fucked. It's the extreme nature of that line of thinking that is a problem, and is an argument taken for Eco-terrorism. Putting people in danger to save animals is an extreme that is far from what makes sense. Murder of one group to save another group cannot be the correct answer. This is where the whole thing falls apart for me.
And there are groups that make animal rights an issue, which is good. How they choose to relay that message is a problem. PETA seems to treat people as dumb, either by participating in a naked protest using beautiful women or by making a pokemon game with no understanding of the source material (PETA black  and blue. I refuse to link traffic to their site.) These tactics either assume that the only way to make people listen is to use sex, or are built purely on passion but no knowledge. Sex works, sex sells, fine, but how many people leave their teenage years and can still be convinced to do something by the promise of seeing a naked body? Advertising that uses sex uses the promise of the act itself; perfume with pheromones to attract the perfect mate, the right clothes to hide some features, accentuate others, and shape what needs to look good in order get sex. On this subject though, sex is only one thing. Sex sells because it's a desire everyone can relate to, but it glosses over other issues. How can animal rights benefit people? People have other desires beyond sex, so the focus shouldn't be on "animal rights is sexy" but "this how animals rights benefits the person watching or reading this".
I can take a stand on GMO's and animal breeding. It's a job I've worked and have seen negative consequences. And the problems seem to lie in how groups of people think about an issue, then react on an animal level, as opposed to reason. On the surface of animal rights lies a lot of people and stances that give the idea a bad name. This helped set my mind on some issues I want to address in the future as I approach the topic more and more. In the meantime, click the ads on the site. 30% of the revenue I get goes to animal shelters. Or you can click the "Dog Lovers Unite" tab to find a link to donate money to the cause.
It's Wednesday, and I don't need a smart post to gain readers as much as I need a post to help me focus my goals. I'm half way done with my translation post. I had something on Sunday when I said I would have it, I just wasn't sure of how to post it. I can't just put a sketch in the bottom and say here it is! What I can do is post a screen capture of it, though. Or not since this computer doesn't have a button to screen capture. Later I'll get a picture.
I have found pure evil. It is called "Derivative Clicker" and it proves that I don't need a game with characters or story or 3 hour cut scenes. Apparently, I need a button that makes the numbers go up, a button that buys other buttons, and button that makes numbers drop. That's it.  I need an account on github, 'cause that place is the shit.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

International Potluck Blogfest and the Philosophy of Cooking

Today is the International Potluck blogfest! Hop around the blogs, and work up an appetite for lunch or dinner or brunch or whatever. It's hosted by Lexa Cain, Beth Fred, and Medeia Sharif. You can win prizes, I guess. More importantly, food and people!
Now this has got me thinking about reading and eating. The only book I have that has food in it is "The Fine Art of Chinese Cooking" but I can't for the life of me tell you any of the recipes in that book. There's a lot of MSG because it was written in the 60's. I just the love the introduction to that book, because the book is less of how-to cook and more about the philosophy, art, and mindset of cooking. You know what, I'm gonna talk about this book, then just give a recipe for Gomen, an Ethiopian collard green dish.
I've spent a lot of time in used book stores. Used books are cheap, good, and became plentiful when people started buying e-readers. Used books stores have their own unique character. There's the Book Barn near me in West Chester, PA. It's a four floor used book store build from an old barn, and even though it has cats roaming around, they keep it clean and it doesn't stink like cat pee. The one in my hometown of Bellows Falls, VT is just stacks and piles of books. It's so awesome because of it's lack of organization. I say all this, because their are always books you will find in a book store, it seems. This is one of them.
Cooking is not something you do to eat, it claims. Cooking and eating is an exercise to be enjoyed by all the senses. Dr. Lee Su Jan outlines the ideas of a dish having crunch, sweet, sour, heat, and color. The idea of this book was to introduce Chinese cooking to an American audience in 1963, knowing that they wouldn't have the ingredients for traditional Chinese cooking, so he sticks to the basic ingredients and thoughts and substitutes when he can. He quotes Chinese philosophers on the subject of cooking. According to the book, Chinese scholars always approached the subject of cooking as a very important thing, and even Confucius had a book on the subject. All in all, it's great book to change how you look at cooking. Pick it up for cheap at abebooks.
OK, with a mind set of a cooking philosopher, it's time for gomen. Traditional southern Collard Greens always seemed silly. You take a fresh vegetable and cook it in pork fat. The only way to get people interested in kale and it's cousin Collards is to cook it in bacon. Surprised the internet hasn't picked up on it.
  • 1 pound collard greens - rinsed, trimmed and chopped 
  • 2 cups water 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onions 8 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced green bell pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
  1. Place chopped collard greens in a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover, and simmer until collards are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, but reserve the cooking water. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked collards, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the reserved cooking water. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat until liquid is nearly evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Add the green pepper slices, lemon juice, salt, turmeric, paprika, allspice, and ginger root. Cook until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes.
This stuff is frickin' delicious, is full of hot, spicy flavor, looks great and has plenty of color. Your supposed to eat it with Injera, which is this fermented flat bread that serves as a plate and eating utensils.  You just pick pieces of bread off, then use it to pick up the food. Not only does this dish have flavor, and look good, but it's fun to eat! Finger food for the win!
Have you noticed the ads? Did you know if you click them, 30% goes to animal shelters? That means for every $100, $30 goes to stuff like blankets and medicine and such. I don't like ads myself, but they can be a force of good.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why your blog sucks

I'm not a website guru who sits atop a mountain in all my enlightened wisdom. I know enough website coding to get me by, and I always feel like I should be improving on my writing. To that end, recently I've been getting a kick out writing the phrase "why does my blog suck" into google and reading the resulting advice. Most of it is the same stuff, written in different styles and voices, and funny enough it's the people who read blogs who have the best advice, I think, not the people trying to sell yet another goddamn book on how to make it as a blogger. The piece of advice that bothers me and always bugged me is the advice to ad more numbers. "The best tabloids and newspapers use numbers and stats in their articles and headlines, why shouldn't you!?" Sure, they do, but it doesn't mean their right, or good. The Washington post and CNN can afford to have an analytic major or math major on staff, and if they do, I don't think they use them. Chances are you "hate math". Funny thing is, I tried to do a quick search for a percentage on that to back up my assumption, and I found a Washington Post article that claimed "Math, like reading, is not a “natural” human activity." Oh boy, there's a rant for another day. My short answer to that is, animals can count, reason and understand the concept of abstraction, that is they can assign value to things. They just don't give numerical values to stuff and they don't have advanced arithmetic like trigonometry and calculus. You automatically assign higher value to papers with math and fancy equations in it because math is fancy and for smart people, and since you don't understand it, there must be higher importance in how it works.
Math isn't just fancy calculations that cause people to have violent seizures upon reading. Calculations are a recent thing in math, like enlightenment age recent. Story goes, Leibniz was hella good at calculations and people just wanted to be like him. His rival, Newton, based at least one of his books on geometry. The statistics that people are so fond of using in their blog posts to back up a claim are based on calculations; some simple that are extensions of ratios that have been used since the Greeks, and some hard F y = P X< y = y f x dx distribution type calculations. If you ask me a year ago, I would have claimed you shouldn't discuss these stats if you don't understand math. That was based on a pet peeve of mine where people claimed to dislike math then quoted stats at me to back up arguments. The idea you need to understand something to use it is ridiculous, everyone reading this is using a computer, but only a small handful of you understand how it works. Instead of taking a Prop and Stats class just so you can post a number backing up your article on gun violence, I will talk about something that's normally glossed over in beginning math: Logic and reasoning.
I'm going to start off by stealing and referencing John Allen Paulos. Mathematicians can do this, because there is pressure to be original, but work is built off of others, to a degree. And not referencing someone with more knowledge and experience would be hours of work that I will never have. He wrote a book called "Logic of Stories" and it's great. It's short, like less then 200 pages, and it's written in a way that flows and keep you turning pages. He also condensed it for a New York time article and a TedX talk. He has a much less crass way of stating my thesis: "In listening to stories we tend to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained, whereas in evaluating statistics we generally have an opposite inclination to suspend belief in order not to be beguiled." When dealing with the numbers, the first important rule is "Correlation DOES NOT equal causation." (The second rule is something about how the rules must have recursion.) If I told you that gun violence rose 80% in ten years, and then said live panda births dropped by 80% during the same time, I would hope that your next question would be "So?" That's a ridiculous enough of an example that someone would hopefully see right through. However, I could pick something less ridiculous like "average education" and "chances of bicycle being primary mode of transportation" instead. As the average education of a population drops, the use of bicycles increases, so getting rid of bike lanes will help with education. See any problems there? A town where the education isn't great on average may also indicate that income of the population is lower, so bicycles are used more because people can't afford cars. Bicycles don't cause people to be stupid (I hope not at least). In this case, and in a lot of cases I see, it's not the numbers that are problem but the logic.
Numbers are like words and letters. They are completely meaningless symbols until people give them the rules and context to make them powerful. ΔX >= ΔY isn't a something that a lot of people know, and even if you do know what those symbols mean you're aware of the fact it's gibberish unless I define it. The concept is similar to how you use words in your posts to make a point. Words aren't evil, but they do convey certain meaning to certain individuals; dropping an f-bomb is fine when I'm talking to 20-somethings at a bar, but I'll clean up the language a bit around a mix group of children and grandparents. "7 Dirty Words" is the definitive example in my mind about using words and how words meaning changes on context and how words change over time. That George Carlin is a scholar. With that knowledge, men like Churchill and Martin Luther King were able to move large groups of people. Numbers can be used to the same affect. You can put them in their like the wanna-be intellectual who uses big words without understanding their meaning, or you can use logic and reasoning, the basic building block of good mathematics, to change that paper into a post that cuts with surgical precision.
While I'm on the subject of words, you need to understand that different groups of people use words differently. Average does not hold the same meaning to the layman that it does to a mathematician. My second favorite statistic is "The average American makes about $90,000 a year, but the majority of Americans make less than that." (When reading that last sentence, keep in mind my favorite statistic is "87 % of statistics are made up on the spot".) Given a group of numbers {2, 3, 3, 3, 20, 5}, you can see that the common number is 3, but you can't see that the average is 6. Thinking back to 3rd grade math, you remember that you add 2+3+3+3+20+5, then divide by 6, since that's how many numbers you have. That 20 really screws up the average. So beware the phrase "On average. . ."
I really, really want to just talk for hours on prepositional logic. It's what made me fall in love with math, so it's like that lover or child (not a child-lover, you sicko) that I won't shut up about. I have to keep it short and really just keep to the surface. And with that, I'm just resigned to saying "Watch out for Non-sequiturs". Basic logic that has been around since Aristotle falls under the pattern of "If statement A is equal to statement B, and statement B is equal to statement C, then A is equal to C." If that last statement was "then A is a banana" then it would be a non-sequitur and just plain surreal. Aristotle, the father of logic, did it though. His were not surreal, but see the Russell quote at the top of the page. A problem of his was that he would draw conclusions based on "common knowledge". Try reading some of his papers, and you'll see some great examples of logic, but you'll see more stuff about how weird ancient Greece culture was. Views on women, sex with boys, and how smaller penises are better spring to mind. This problem still occurs when people start using statistics. If you come at a number or a set of numbers or even some problem with some pre-established prejudices,  statements like "red states have lower IQs" or "black people only use government hand outs for drugs" start getting tossed around. Extreme examples in both cases, but ask yourself if a conclusion follows logically, or if the conclusion suffers from bias.
Using numbers in a post will help your writing standout more. Using numbers and logic will change it into something beautiful, something magnificent, something actually fucking coherent. And let's face it, there is always someone smarter than you. Einstein had Gödel, you know. Some of those guys want to keep you in the dark because it gives them the advantage. Knowledge is power.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

An easy sunday post for easy Sunday reading

Ah man, it's Sunday, and I haven't written anything. I've been translating one of my posts. The thing about translating yourself, you still have full artistic control over the content. Which is good, because a straight translation is horrible. It makes no sense, and leaves out the authors style. It will go up soon. I'm going to take this Sunday to share stuff I've been reading and finding on the internet. Nothing fancy today, just a good day to lie around. - Chapter 1 of discrete mathematics.

Yup. I open this post by saying I'm doing some translating, so of course I'm reading something on discrete mathematics. This chapter is a nice refresher on logic which I haven't done for a couple years now and is an important part of math, not just computer science.

A Simple Email Crawler in Python

It finds emails on a website to populate lists.

Also, I'm reading "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison along with a few other books. Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Food for energy, not for thought

I've been forced to ride my bike everyday wherever I go. This is no problem, I have football coaches who remember me as the guy who used to ride my bike to practice, a feet made impressive by the fact that it was during "hell week" a hot and tough week of practice, I had to ride my bikes 5 miles on Vermont hills, and after all this I was still 250 lbs. That last part is the focus of this; not the fact I was overweight, but the fact I could be active as a kid by playing a sport for every season, riding my bike for a 14 mile round trip to hang out in town, and hiking with my dogs for about three hours and still be overweight.
On top of the biking, I've started running as an effort to tighten up some loose skin from the weight lose from the past year. Not a lot of loose skin, just a bit that hangs around the belly. In order to run 5 miles a day AND ride a bike for 8 miles, I need food. I need energy. Otherwise, I'll be sitting on the couch, get up for some water, and feint. Or I'll wake up the morning after a meal of a medium pizza, 2 litter coke and 12 pieces of wings and I'll be starving. Lucky for me, I live 1 and half miles away from the strip mall area, and so I can run to McDonald's.
There is absolutely nothing to these meals. I just ran there and back, and had a meal that their sign claimed was close to 1000 calories. I don't feel like I've eaten a thing. I just had half a days intake of recommended calories for a barely active person, and I don't feel like I've eaten a thing. For contrast, if I decided to to run the same distance and come home and make 2 pancakes with nothing but flour, sourdough, and baking soda, I wouldn't be hungry until 1 pm.
Growing up, I think I read at least a chapter of most of the fad diets that were popular between 1995 and 2005. And I saw those mail order diets that claim to help you learn how to eat. The best education I got was from working on organic farms. None of the people claimed to be nutritionists, except for the one farmers wife who was going to school to become one, but everyone there cared very deeply about what was going into their body. You could try to call them out about only being into a idea about GMO's, organics, and vegetarianism just because it was trendy, but then these guys would school you with a deep store hold of knowledge pulled from every corner of time.
So let's talk food. Mainly, I 'm tired of hearing that Americans have it so easy because we have enough food that our poor are fat. Our poor aren't fat because they have so much to eat, it's what they eat. Frozen pizza is food, fast food is food, and it has enough calories on the box that you would think that the consumer wouldn't be hungry until Friday. But it doesn't. There's no energy in those calories. The body eats them, but it does seem to know what to do with them. So we sit on the couch and watch tv. The whys have been explained to me plenty of times. Food has sugar and salt put into them as a preservative, and the freezing and storing process also breaks downs other molecular pieces into simple sugars as well. I feel like a lot of that info came from an old health teacher I used to despise, so this post should inspire a good nutrition research post.
Not all food is create equal. Again, I was fairly active as a kid, but dinner was steak, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. And corn as a vegetable. Corn is my least favorite vegetable from my time as a farmer; it takes so much from the ground and gives the consumer almost nothing in return. My house had frozen pizza, easy cheese, saltines, Ritz crackers, peanut butter and jelly, and ground beef. I've discovered in the past year I can live off a small garden, rice, flour, and a wonderful drink called Kvass. I still eat meat sometimes. I keep reading articles that say 26 through 28 is when you notice you metabolism decline and all this other stuff. I have never been in this great shape, I have more energy, and I even recover from hangovers faster. In short food has a "Quality over quality" matter to it. Also, snacking. I eat when I'm bored. I have a garden now, so I can snack on stuff from my garden, as apposed to potato chips.
I think tomorrow I need to stop by work and grab a kvass culture. Then I can start my sourdough again and stop being hungry all day.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Programing as a solution to problems

If you draw a random triangle inside of an arbitrary rectangle, what is the probability that it would
be obtuse? This problem comes from the book "Digital Dice: Computational Solutions to practical Probability Problems" by Paul J Nahin, a book on programing Monte Carlo simulations in order to solve probability problems. The answers to his problems are all written in a pseudo-MATLAB type code, so I thought I would take the time to show the answer I got in Python. Programing has become pretty important in the world of math, it's turned mathematicians into scientists and allowed them to run simulations in order to check their predictions. That's the beauty of this example. I've only just started this book, and this problem is in the introduction. You wanna know a secret though? I've only been doing this fascented with math thing for 5 years, and I learned how to program 2 winters ago because work was slow. I'm still just a youngster when it comes to both, so these making simulations that work is the type of challenge I crave.
Again, the problem.
Ok, back to work. Time to focus on this. If you draw a random triangle inside of an arbitrary rectangle, what is the probability that it would be obtuse? (Ctrl-c, ctrl-v is so handy!) This is barely enough information to build a simulation from. This is barely enough information to solve the problem with old fashion calculation. The first part is to define an arbitrary rectangle. This is easy enough for everyone who had shapes in kindergarten. A rectangle is a four sided polygon whose length is longer then its width. A rectangle with four sides of equal length is a square. w and l are the symbols we are going to use for this part, and according to the definition above, a rectangle is a polygon where l >= w. Are you with me so far? As long it falls under this rule, then the answer can be scaled up or down and the answer to our question remains the same, because we want to know the probability of drawing an obtuse triangle within a rectangle. If it can be scaled, then we can scale l to L and w to 1, or L >= 1.
It will start to get a little tricky here, but if you follow along, I swear you'll get it. A triangle has three sides that meet at three points. A random rectangle would be three independent points along the sides of this rectangle; {(X1, Y1); (X2, Y2); (X3, Y3)} Any Xi will fall along the w axis, that is it fall between the points 0 and 1. Accordingly, Yi will fall along the l axis, so a number between 0 and L. Easy.
An obtuse triangle is greater than 90o. Basic, first week high school geometry. To check these three points for obtuseness, we need trigonometry, my old nemesis. I like math, but trig is the math class that starts up PTSD flashbacks for me. All we need is law of cosines, which isn't too bad, but if anyone of you has access to a time machine, use it to go back in time and tell my 19 year old self that he'll be using trigonometry.
Law of cosines: c2 = a2 + b2 - 2ab cos(C)
c, a, and b are all sides of the triangle, and the answer to this puzzle lies in the answer to C, the angle in question. To solve for C:
cos(c) = a 2 + b 2 - c 2 2 ab
HA! Take that trigonometry AND HTML! Now, what needs to be done is to take our three random points, determine the distance between them, then put the resulting lengths into formula. If we solve this for any angle between 90 and 180, we get a negative, therefore if the test produces a negative number then the angle is obtuse. A length can be determined by:

Or Y2 - Y1 over X2 - X1, for those not familiar with the shorthand and symbol. There's the math, here's the code:

import random

r = []
s = []
L = 1

while len(s) < 1000:
    while len(r) < 3:

    for i in range(len(r)):
        r.append(L * random.random())

    d1 = (r[0] - r[1])**2 + (r[3] - r[4]) ** 2
    d1 = (r[1] - r[2])**2 + (r[4] - r[5]) ** 2
    d1 = (r[2] - r[3])**2 + (r[5] - r[3]) ** 2
    if d1 < d2 + d3 and d2 < d1 + d3 and d3 < d1 + d2:
        obtuseTriangle = 0
        obtuseTriangle = 1
    S = sum(s)


 That does everything I talked about, I swear. Assigns random points, creates lengths, checks angles. And it does it a thousand times. That's where the problem for my code comes in. Anything over 103 slows the virtual machine I run this in so much that I can't tell if it's thinking or broken. I think broken. Sadly, even though I get a good number for P(1) (0.679 on the last time I ran this program) it's not as accurate as it could be if I could run it 1,000,000 times. Aw well. I'll work that problem out before the next time I do a post like this.

For a copy of the book on abebooks: Digital Dice Computational Solutions to Practical Probability Problems

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A simple walkthrough of planing my posts

This month, I'm trying to set aside two hours to write everyday. Some people have mentioned that this exercise will help improve writing skills. I remember when I did A to Z in 2013, by the end of the month I was ready to go creatively.  I put together two posts that I was extremely proud of at the time. I haven't been able to put together that sort of writing for a while. And I'll tell you why.
Besides life getting in the way, big projects get thought of and get started, then all I can I do is look at them and feel overwhelmed. There are 3 projects I want to write about on this blog, but when I think of them and look at them I just feel overwhelmed. The best course of action is to bring them up, analyze and discuss them. When feeling overwhelmed by the size of a project, it's because it just looks big. By breaking in down into a small manageable goals it turns into a done project.
Project number one: Python Monty Carlo problems. I bought a book on solving statistical problems with programing. The dreamer in me sees the book, and realizes that it would help me improve my problem solving skills with python and programing. This in turn would help me with another book I'm reading on Knights Tours and the problems laid out in that book. These would both help me with my job, and then I could use the experience to bigger and better things! I would write a famous paper, then travel the world and become one of the great names that show up in history books! I'm getting ahead of myself, though. I still haven't made it past the introduction. What's the problem? The code in the book is written in a faux-MATLAB type code. So I'm trying to translate the answers into python.
Maybe I'm approaching the problem all wrong. Instead of taking the answer they give, try and understand the problem, and write the code accordingly. The problem I'm having at the moment is trying to figure out what they are trying to make their code do, and then I end up having to fix my code to cover those mistakes. His answers give me the output that I'm shooting for, so that tells me what my code should be saying. The first step is to re-read the problem, and try to understand it. Try to use that heuristics I've become so fond of. If reading doesn't work, then try explaining the problem here or to someone in the room. Then of course just try something.
Project number 2: Translating some of my old posts into Russian. I had an idea that I can simply run my old posts through a translator and then edit them in order to practice my grammar. After doing that and getting some pieces right, what I really want to do is sit on the couch and bitch about how hard it is. And now I realize that it does seem like a big task, and that with no scheduling it will be pushed back indefinitely until I delete next year. I don't want that. I've done some nice basic work on the project already. I think 30 minutes to an hour of my time is reasonable. Or maybe, 25 minutes uninterrupted, a 5 minute break to recharge my brain, then another 25 minutes. About an hour's worth of work, and it would keep me from feeling too overwhelmed. Hmm. Now to make that time. Today is the end of Wednesday. I want to finish it by Sunday. I will update my status at the end of blogposts for until Sunday. Let's see if that motivates me to find some time.
Project Number 3: Continue Animal Shelter. This is a constantly continuing project that always needs a new step to be working on. I've been wanting to write a new post about it for a month now, but have been putting it off for a while. I have a topic, animal rights, and I have the style, the link lists I've been doing recently. I just have no desire to do it right now. Those are best done early in the morning, or around 10 o'clock. Tomorrow or Friday is the best time. I think tomorrow morning, but the reality is that I have to wait to see what my schedule is tomorrow before I work on it. I have no plans yet, but something may come. Unlikely, but a possibility. Alright, I'll work on it tomorrow morning, the python problem needs to be re-read and understood, and  the Russian needs at least an hour worth of time to work on. It's a good plan, and I'll put it into motion tomorrow.
This post is really for my benefit, something to see if I can organize thoughts on paper, make a plan, and follow through. The follow through is the toughest part, but hopefully giving some status updates will give me a moment to realize what went wrong if anything happens. If you made to the end of this boring journal entry, congratulations. For now, I need a walk and shower before bed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My return to IWSG

Proud Member ofI think I've been gone for almost a year. I can check the posts, but that requires work I don't want to put into this at the moment. Anyways, this was always a good way to discover new blogs and new people, and get advice on things. And I have some questions for everyone.
A few people have gone the way of the self-publishing route. Is it expensive? This blog is still more hobby these days, but the idea of writing a book and publishing myself has always been appealing. I still would have a lot of questions before I go that route though. What would the subject matter be? Most likely I would tackle that question the same way I decided what to write about here, but just writing. How much of a distribution would I would be looking for? And for that matter, who would the audience be? These are all answers I'll find over time, for now I just want to know, does it cost a lot?
What's up with ads? Every time I start a new project or get involved with something new, I never try to fool myself into thinking that it's going to be easy. Trying to find info on how to do something is always a struggle and a half. I've turned to the dark side and put ads up, because I want to use the money to support the charity thing. If anyone has any info on some of the words or phrases I should know, please tell me. The worst part about this is there's information that either assumes I know what they're talking about or they are literally making up buzzwords to confuse me into buying things. I do my own research on this stuff, but my speed is slow. I'll become a master in a hundred years, and in 3 months I finally figure out what keywords are bullshit. Anybody with some good starting points would be greatly appreciated.
Stop limiting yourself. Stop telling yourself that to be a successful writer, or person, or whatever, you need to pick one topic and exhaust all angles. It is an idea I've never understood. With different careers, jobs, skills, and tasks comes viewpoints and knowledge that would have remained hidden forever.  This advise comes curiosity of the fact that I've been reading about how to improve my writing and how to improve my blog. If I want to improve my blog, then apparently I need to pick one thing or topic and focus on that. Because people are coming to me for advise, or they want something from, and I need to give them a product that is reliable, focused, and well organized. If I to improve my writing, however, then I need to feel free to experiment with my style! Try listicles! Or typing blindfolded! Have you tried live tweeting your skydiving experience yet? And the blog I got that advice from was cooking blog. I'm constantly told that if I write characters that only have interests that are work or school and maybe a 'hobby' then the character is really a bland 1-dimensional stand-in. So why should writing be the same?
I have a line of reasoning here. The traditional idea seems to be that I'll write a science blog, I'll play with style, content and ideas until I get decent, then shares, advertising and word of mouth will make me into a success. Science is not a collection of "ain't-it-cool-facts" no matter what facebook tells you. Chemistry is so damn cool and pretty useful because the tools, tricks and facts learned there can easily be applied to cooking. Biology shows us that as a species, we are not that special, and life is diverse and adapts itself to live. And all of the sciences and all of the thinkers tried to show us one important way to live our lives: is the established rules the right way?
Where am I going with this? You can apply whatever strange, random knowledge you have to a new problem and find a new path never before seen. The world around us is diverse and has a lot to offer, it makes sense to use your writing to explore the whole world instead of limiting yourself to one narrow genre. You can also use that to find new audiences and people who have never seen you before. When you find a pattern and you find a grove, think about if it's the most efficient way, or creative, or maybe try the long way. Challenge yourself and the people around you, strive for the best out of your writing.
I keep forgetting I have twitter. Follow me there @aristotlemstk.

Monday, August 4, 2014

5 awesome books on math for people without a lot of math education

It's coming on the year anniversary of Philadelphia Math Counts Meetup, but that's not important. What is important is in twelve months, I've had to read six books on math. A couple were really good, they taught me something about math and a few worked to show the reader something about math culture. Some, not as good. Thinking about these books and others suggested to me that I was able got me thinking: I should throw together a list of five of the math books I like. It would be nice to make this an annual thing, since there's a book this month that I'm still reading and we have 3 more books lined up for the next 6 months. Looks like a year of books. Here it is, 5 great books on mathematics.
  1. Symmetry and the Monster - Mark Ronan:
    • I've mentioned this before in a monster post, but I only attempted to describe the
      monster. The task of describing the monster is no easy feat. In fact, this is not the only book I own on the subject of symmetry. Like all the books we've read, this is not for people who have studied symmetry and group theory. Unlike other books I've done on symmetry, it tries to treat the reader as intelligent and having more than a passing knowledge in math. At this point in finding books to read on math, you just don't how much of a relief that is. A math book that assumes you understand math! Crazy, I know. Ronan chooses to more focus on the stories involved on the lead up to modern era, telling the history of each of the characters. Math has certainly had many interesting characters, from Galois dying in a gun duel at 21 to Lie hiking across Europe and being arrested as a spy. Check this out if you're interested in catching a glimpse of math culture and you are aware of the fact geometry exists.
  2. How to Solve It- George Polya:
    • This book has made me a fan of Heuristics. People in my day to day life think I'm
      good at math since I keep this blog and help run that group, and they ask me for suggestions on ways to get better. First of all, I am not that good at math. I failed pre-calc in high school. I just read a lot of books, websites, and watch videos about math. This book though, man. Heuristics needs to be taught alongside basic arithmetic. What heuristics is the science of problem solving. This book only focuses on basic geometry problems, but it outlines the basic steps on how to solve problems with an unknown answer. Memorizing tricks and things to solve problems with a known answer is fine, but progress always seems to be made by the people who tackle problems that may not even have an answer to begin with. The problem with the book is Polya was the first to outline this idea, so there are steps that people say are missing or other steps that redundant. I've seen most of the steps outlined here in other parts of my life where people taught the steps to solve problems, but I took away two good ones from this book: Have you seen the problem before, and can you use that answer to solve a new problem? And look back on the problem and meditate on it. It's a basic thought that comes from the idea that you should prove your work, but he extends further into the idea that an answer may have more than one solution that you can miss. Really, the ability to solve problems is a function of math that can be used in our day to day lives.

  3.  Chance and Chaos - David Ruelle:
    • We read Chaos by James Gleick for the group. It's not a bad book, it's just not written for people who want to do math. It helps the reader acknowledge that a field of non-linear dynamics exists, and presents the mathematicians who worked on it. This book was suggested to me by someone who skipped that meeting, so I picked it up for a couple bucks. First of all, Ruelle was one of the physicists that pioneered work on this field. And like Symmetry, he attempts to show the math to a non-mathematician. He explains randomness and chance. He shows the reader equations. He makes an effort to actually teach the reader something. And he does it with a strange french sense of humor. The whole time he interjects stories of his own while he was working with some of the other players in this field. Good book on chaos, and some other math as well.
  4. Once upon a Number - John Allen Paulos:
    • A book chosen for two reasons. First of all, it was written by local Temple math
      professor John Allen Paulos. And it gives a great perspective on stories. Going into this, a few of thought it was on actual logic and set theory of stories, but instead it broadens it's scope to the statistics of stories. It looks at a lot of different news stories and books and focuses on the numbers used. It looks at things like why stats may be wrong or just misleading. And it uses a lot of word problems. It does walk through the logic of those problems. This book was the first book we read this year that attempted to show a simple mathematical model. It's not as deep and well-built as ones I encountered later, but it helped me begin to read and understand the later ones. Since reading this, I focus heavily on the math and stats people use in news. This book is on openlibrary, by the way, and the pdf can be read for free.
  5. Godel, Esher, Bach - Douglas Hofsteader:
    •  If you read math books, then you knew it was going to be here. Some people love it, some people hate for being another book that dumbs down simple ideas for the masses. I think education is for everyone, and people need to start somewhere. And what a hell of a place to start. He recreates basic mathematics by assigning rules to odd symbols. There are pictures by M.C. Escher, my longtime favorite artist. He retells stories by Lewis Carrol! It's a book on logic, really, and the rules that make math. There is history, but he just walks you through each part of math while trying to explain Godel's incompleteness theorem, which is a heavy task. But along the way math is connected to stories, art, and music. What turned me off of math years ago is the fact that higher math didn't seem to connect with the real world. This book holds a special place in my library because it showed me how math can apply anywhere.
So go out and read about math. You don't need a crazy education in it to understand or even do it. Like all things, you just need to be interested in.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

How to stick it to the man and grow your own mushrooms, Part 1

Growing mushrooms is tough work. I was a farmer for four years and I thought that was tough. An amazing end of the year paycheck can come from hard work and determination, but there's a few times when you just learn that god neither loves or hates you and just wants to fuck your stuff up. That's the real meaning of hurricanes in Vermont and tornadoes in Pennslyvania. A bored god with nothing better to do.Plants are not picky when it comes to food though. Sure, NPK is important, and calcium deficiency will mess up your garden and look like any number of molds and bacteria. Ultimately, huck some seeds out the window, 9 out of 10 will probably germinate. Getting fruit depends on animals who live in your area, the amount of attention you give to the seeds, and just what your deity is up to on any given day. Mushrooms are a bitch though.
The worst part is, I can grow mold because I simply forgot about something. Mold is easy to grow! Didn't clean out the tub? Left the bread alone for too long? It was just a humid and wet summer in general? Congratulations! You are a proud mold farmer! But it's never the right type of mold. It's always that mold that can kill you dead! Mold that will eat your dog and kids and then eat your brain too! I've talked about mushrooms a few times. It's my job, it's what I do. They are some magnificent little buggers, and are used for spiritual, medicinal, and gourmet purposes. I've written about growing them in the past, but it was a basic crash course with some quick terminology that was really meant to get me writing again on a regular basis. Because people ask me how to do it, here's some in depth tips on growing Agaricus Bisporus.
No one cares about these guys. I work with them, and they're boring. Because they're just so damn boring, the practice has become so standardized and simple that they're easy to work with.
  1. Sterilization is SO VERY important. Very, very important. Earlier, I talked about how easy it is to grow mold? Mold loves cooked rye, especially mold that is aggressive enough to overtake and eat the mold you want to grow. It's actually kind of cool to watch on petri dishes, but here it means that your yield will suck. So latex gloves, alcohol, and a pressure cooker are your best friend. If you have extra time on your hands, here is an article about how to build a Mycology lab. Give that ariticle a read, because it talks about some pretty standard stuff I barely think about anymore. Things like bleach the surfaces you are working on, and spray with 70% alcohol. Don't touch anything not sterilized when working with the spawn.
  2. Cook rye and mix with gypsum. Rye isn't the best thing to use but, unlike at my job, you don't have an R & D team sitting around coming up with better mushroom substrate. Rye is pretty easy to get your hands on. Bob's Red Mill sells rye berries.For a one pint jar, it's recommended you use 100g of rye, (3.5 oz ~ 125 mL) 105 g of water (3.9 oz =105 ml) water, and a teaspoon of gypsum. Rinse and wash the rye, then simmer until the rye is fat and ready to burst, or about 45 minutes. Put in a jar, then put a lid with a filter on it and place in your pressure cooker for one hour. Why a filter? Heat and pressure makes stuff with water explode. It's happened at work once when someone tightened caps too tight and placed the bottles in the autoclave. The steam has no where to go, so you get a rye and glass bomb in your kitchen. The pressure cooker is to keep things sterile.
  3. Because I like your face, here's a link to buy some spawn. Feel free to do your own digging though, since you might find better prices or organic or heritage or something. That's the pre-made stuff for the steps I described above. To get this stage your self, you need to inoculated the grain you prepared with some agaricus mycellium. That would be either you have a petri dish with the mycellium on it, or you use about a gram of the pre-made stuff. This needs to be done in a sterile environment. Sterile. Enviroment. Place the lid with filter back on top, because fungus breathes in oxygen and exhales CO2, shake well to mix the inoculum, and let it sit for 14 to 16 days at room temperature. Watch it grow, it's pretty cool.
There's the stage to make you spawn. I will finish this tomorrow, but tonight I need to sleep.If you're interested in more information on growing mushrooms then there's plenty out there. As much as I'm annoyed to say it, the majority of information on growing your own mushrooms is on psychedelics. It's a good place to start though, because they do have information on building a hood, sterilization, and even tips on getting started. It's like learning chemistry from someone who cooks meth though. Paul Stamets has some great books on why mushrooms and fungus is important and how to grow them. The techniques are really only handy if you have some land available to put your inoculated logs.