Thursday, September 28, 2006

Though there are quite a few geek/nerdity1 tests around, most seem to be written by wannabes or nots. The only one I've ever given any real credence is The [Infamous] Nerdity Test and its ancestors. This is in part, however, because it's so old--also its biggest flaw.

These days, such tests ask about playing video games or writing web pages. Things done by geeks, but also by the least geeky people around. Back in the day, having played a computer game all night meant, for starters, that you had a home computer. Hardly a sign of geekdom these days.

The key to assigning a geek rating is less than ever to focus on computer ownership, or even computer knowledge. A book geek can be much geekier than most computer experts are. What you should focus on is prioritising and caring about such things. Cosplayers are geeky2--at least during their public cosplaying--because they put cosplaying above normality. They appear obsessed simply because they care more about enjoying their interests than in fitting in with the world at large.3

However, because we can't just enumerate the computer knowledge and hardware of a person to determine their nerdity quotient, assigning a value become difficult. There are countless things to be nerdy about, and a single test can't cover all of them.

In addition to being out-of-date and biased towards (or against, some might say) computer geeks and hard science geeks, the infamous test is also skewed towards people who've attended college, people who've had formal schooling, people who speak English (*shrug*), people rich enough to afford lots of equipment, and so on.

I've been meaning to make a better nerdity test for quite some time, but I'm not entirely sure how. Obviously updating the numbers would be a start (why, yes, I do have a computer with >1M[i]B RAM!), but that doesn't address the major issues. Maybe I should make seperare tests for different types of nerds, allowing scoring of at least some people, but then the dual-interest geeks and weird-interest geeks get unscored/misscored. That's unacceptible, as ones nerdity score is the most important number in ones life.

I'm roughly 53.4% on the infamous test, by the way.

1 There are lots of bad definitions for distinguishing geeks from nerds. There are also some good ones, but no good, standard way of distinguishing the two, and I don't feel like writing an essay on the distinction, anyway, just now. So I'll use them interchangeably. If you think this is a big problem, it's because you favour those stupid definitions.

2 Disclaimer: Anime sucks. Well, okay, I've seen very, very little, and I know there's a lot of good anime out there. I just don't watch it. Anime doesn't suck.

3 As an aside, I absolutely have to clarify something here4: many, many, many people these days are weird and profess theirselves nerdy, not because they're nerds, but because being weird makes them different == cool in an off-beat way. Or whatever. My point is that nerds are not weird for the sake of being weird. We're weird because we legitimately are interested in our interests, and won't sacrifice them, whether to fit in or to stand out. Many nerds throughout history have desired to fit in (while others just didn't care either way).

Certainly a nerd can be happy to be different, but abandoning ones interest because it becomes popular is as decidedly anti-nerdy as abandoning it because it's unpopular. The condition for being a nerd is that popularity is the primary consideration.5

4 So much for not writing a definitions essay. But I'll still use 'geek' and 'nerd' interchangeably.

5 This is clumsily stated and may be wrong with certain types of geekdom.

6 This footnote had nothing pointing to it. Why are you reading this footnote?7

7 This would be cleverer if my footnotes were slightly more 'hidden'.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Science fiction from before we went to the Moon can be fun.

A stick-figure astronaut with blue feet and a red head (and red stream rising). '"Help!" says Mr. Astronaut. "I'm burning up and freezing!"'In Poul Anderson's 1957 short story 'The Light'1, the astronauts have cold feet.
I'm not saying that they're scared. It's their feet. In the story, the astronauts are very warm at the top of their spacesuits, as very little heat escapes via radiation, but very cold at the bottom, because the freezing Moon surface rapidly sucks the heat out through the soles of their shoes. Major heat gradient goes on inside.
Now, I personally have never been to the Moon--my vials froze and exploded at an altitude of several thousand feet--but I'm fairly confident this isn't how it is. Still, it's a brilliant insight on the part of the author. It's things like this that make me understand why scifi is so geek-loved. I often find scifi novels boring, but the authors think, and come up with some very artful concepts.

Of course, it's not all genius. One children's scifi series I enjoyed when I was young was Jerome Beatty Jr.'s Matthew Looney series. The Looney's were a family of Moon-dwellers.
On the Moon, people had to walk a special way. Otherwise, they'd find themselves hovering ten(?) feet off the ground for a few hours before finally settling back down to the surface. Low gravity, you know? However, when the Moonfolk visited Earth, the planet's gravity was so strong that they couldn't move at all unless they had their personal anti-grav units.

At one point, Maria Looney--I think it was her--was launched high into the Moon's sky, and oh my goodness! She couldn't breath. Luckily, she floated back down nearer to the surface quickly and was able to fill her lungs with 'atmos'.

(Sidenote: The Moonfolk were very wasteful. They used each article of clothing once, after which they'd be converted into Moon dust and used to fill craters. They were shocked to discover Earthlings use the same clothing over and over again.)

1 Poul Anderson, THE LIGHT © 1957 by Galaxy Publishing Corporation. So says 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction, edited by Groff Conklin, which is where I read it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

LISP -> Scheme -> Schemer -> Ringo Starr -> The Beatles -> Liverpool -> King John -> Shakespeare -> Bacon -> Miss Piggy -> Frank Oz -> Yoda -> Size matters not -> Canada's Really Big -> Cold -> Siberia -> Russian -> I18N -> Mozilla -> CSS -> deCSS -> MPAA -> Disney -> Cryogenics -> Futurama -> Bender -> Pigface -> Penn Jillette -> Libertarian -> US Constitution -> Magna Carta -> The Charter of Liberties -> Henry I -> William the Conquerer -> France -> Napoleon -> Louisiana -> Hurricane -> Floyd -> Seargent Pepper -> Mr. Kite -> Wind -> Air -> Oxygen -> Trees -> Leaves -> Back to the Future -> Westerns -> Elvis - Country -> Peace of Westphalia -> Netherlands -> Audrey Hepburn -> model -> anorexia -> Tubgirl -> Goatse -> Slashdot -> Everything -> 42 -> BBC -> Monty Python -> John Cleese -> Harry Potter -> Scotland -> Braveheart -> Robert the Bruce -> Uncles of Wesc -> Mark -> Low GPA -> Einstein -> Quantum Mechanics -> Indeterminism -> Free Will -> God -> Ra -> Stargate SG-1 -> McGuyver -> This American Life -> NPR -> Underfunded -> Social Security -> Franklin Delano Roosevelt -> Wheelchair -> Ramp -> Slide -> Banana Peel -> Fruit -> Fruitcake -> Things harder than diamond -> Geroge W. Bush's Head -> Hollow -> Cavity -> Toothpaste -> Mint -> Benjamins -> Overused Names -> John Smith -> Smite -> Bruise -> Weasel -> Fur is Murder -> Shave Your Legs -> Marielle -> Table Tennis -> Forrest Gump -> Vietnam -> Communism -> Cuba -> Full Health Care -> Most First-World Nations, but Not The United States -> Right to Protest -> Locke -> Hobbes -> Calvin -> Patent Attorney -> Lawyer -> Copyright -> Pokemon -> Pikachu -> Squeeky Things Wesc Hates -> Elmo -> Kevin Clash -> The Labyrinth -> David Bowie -> Avril Lavigne -> Not Punk -> Britney Spears -> Reality TV -> Pretty Much Any News Except FOX News -> Journalism -> Writing -> Socrates -> The Matrix -> Star Wars -> Star Trek -> Wolf 359 -> Binary Star System -> Bennifer -> Divorce -> Catholics -> Homophobia -> Racism -> KKK -> Sororities -> Fraternities -> NOD -> Agree.

When I say 'LISP is the best language', you should nod in agreement. THE BEST LANGUAGE!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The US is still busy busy busy in Iraq, but we're already discussing what nation(s) we should invade next. Iran? North Korea? Sweden? I think I have a few better ideas:

Last year, the Japanese Mafia destroyed America's most important port. But has Japan done anything about this? They have not. The US should send a wind-proof invasion force to take out those good-for-nothing card playing gangsters.
The Ukraine
Voter apathy is a major problem in the US, yet we saw in 2004 just how much the Ukrainian people care about election results. These people are like Mexicans, except they've been irradiated by Chernobyl and as a result are rife with superheroes, another thing America lacks.
Many have proclaimed that America is dead. But the Ukraine? Ukraine is not dead.
This one is a little different, in that it's a guerilla campaign carried out by civilians.
It has been suggested by some that we immigrate to Mexico to steal all their low-wage jobs that they don't want to do themselves. This will teach them how it feels to have low-cost goods and no jobs available except hard ones requiring a high school diploma. If we do this, they'll patrol the borders so we don't have to.
Map of Iraq The formerly-secular nation of Iraq underwent an upheaval in 2003 and recently elected a theocratic government. The US knows quite well that separation of church and state is one vital aspect of a free people, so we should attempt to bring this concept to Iraq, or at least parts of it.

Unfortinately, this may require a large deployment, and many of our troops are already occupied.

The Netherlands
The Dutch have something we need: the ability to build strong levees to keep their cities from flooding. Now, I'm not quite sure why we can't just hired some of their engineers to come over here and teach us how to do the same, but apparently they're all unwilling to share this precious technology. We must strike quickly to conquer their pathetic nation and acquire their technology. We'll also get a huge island covered in ice, with which we can combat global warming.

Two Papal Swiss Guards in traditional uniforms (yellow, orange, and red stripes). Photograph by Greatpatton of the French Wikipedia and used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0 license.
Vatican City
America has clearly lost its moral authority with the world. We messed up, and everyone knows it. What we need is a respected figurehead, and it just so happens there's a well-known one in the Vatican.
If Italy will allow us to launch a strike on the Vatican from their territory, our only obstacle will be the crack squad of Swiss Guards in their tights and poofy pants. We can take 'em.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

We all want a way to send people to the Moon. We did it in the sixties and the seventies, but not since then. And yet over the past few years, numerous people whom we really don't want on Earth have cropped up, both in politics and entertainment. So what we need is a new plan for getting people to the Moon. Several concepts worth considering exist:

A crappy stick diagram of a spaceship being fired from a cannon.One distinguished author had the thought of launching the spaceship from a cannon. This has the benefit of not weighing the ship down with tons of fuel. It has the disadvantage of extreme acceleration--enough to kill the passengers--and (assuming you aim well) extreme deceleration--enough to squash or bury the passengers upon arrival.

A large blue ball (Earth) connected to a smaller grey ball (the Moon) by a wavy line. This ia a crappy diagram of a space elevator to the Moon!Another method worth considering would be to build a bridge. Space elevators are talked about a lot, but if you really want something useful, you should make a space elevator going all the way to the Moon's surface.
This idea, however, has the disadvantage of disrupting the Moon's orbit around the Earth or the Earth's rotation. While I wouldn't mind longer days, I would object to the Moon being pulled apart by sudden deceleration and then falling on our ambitious heads.
Of course, this can easily be avoided. Most space elevator designs are flexible, and many have movable bases. All we need is a full track around the Earth's surface so the base can follow the Moon. (Gravity has slowed the Moon's rotation to match it's revolution, so we can fix the point it attaches to the Moon.) We'll also need some stretchiness, as orbits are elliptical. We'll keep this as a backup plan.

A crappy stick drawing of an uphappy guy standing below falling shards of glass.There was also an idea from a clever French poet noted for his oversized proboscis. He figured that in the morning, dew rose from the ground up to the Sun. So he figured we could fill a bunch of vials with dew, attach them to our hapless spaceman, and watch him float up into the sky come morning.
In his outline for this plan, however, he predicted a small problem. The astronaut found himself going too far (keep in mind the dew goes to the Sun, not the Moon) and had to break the vials to stop his ascent.
I'm sure I don't have to point out to you the dangers of shards of glass raining down from the upper atmosphere or beyond. This plan should be only used as a last resort, and only if we have force shields to protect us from deadly glassrain.

A public domain photo of Apollo 15 on the Moon's surface, with the flag flying and a saluting astronaut. The Moon Lander and Moon Rover to the right.Lastly, there's the option of reviving the methods used by NASA. These, however, have the politically unpopular characteristic of being based on actual science, something the jury is still out on.


Friday, September 22, 2006

It really irks me when people don't tow the line when it comes to the English language. It really begs the question of where they went to school when they can't get simple things right. Admittedly, they'll do the lion's share good, but there are always a few things they'll mess up alot. Occasionally, someone will just do stuff wrong as a joke or something but, most grammatical errors are on accident.

There are some who could care less about grammar, and I wish they'd learn, though I'm not going to take the time to educate them on this. I guess this means I just want to have my cake and eat it.

I could of sworn we had books to teach people English. There's one entitled Essentials of Grammar. Read it. You sound like an idiot right now. I realise we're all equal, but apparently I'm more equal than you.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

For ages, my newer version of my lame Javascript text adventure game has been getting an error in IE6. (Link goes to old version). Sadly, because I had done a lot of changes testing just on Firefox, and the error message was completely useless ('Error: object expected' with the file stated being the HTML file and the line number being the line at which JS is called) it took me a while to figure it out which change had caused the error.

So I just continued developing for Firefox.

This, of course, means that many more IE nonworkinesses have appeared, and since I don't keep detailed version history, it will be painful to identify them all. But I've finally found the original idiocy.

In Javascript--much like Java, C, C++, and so on--you define a constant by writing const variable_name[ = value];. This works just fine in Firefox and Opera, and probably in most others. But In IE, it doesn't. And when it doesn't work, it doesn't complain 'You wrote "const" on line 42 and I don't know what that means'. Instead, it pretends everything is all right. Suppose you have this in your header:

<script type="text/javascript">
const c = 3;
No error message will occur. Yet should you comment out const c = 3;, the alert will run, so there's no question that IE is doing stuff in the right order here. Same thing if you do
<script type="text/javascript">
function foo()
const c = 3;
<body onload="foo();">
No error message. Just silence. Commenting out the const (or doing s/const/var/) will make it work fine.

To get it to report the error, the user has to activate it, as best I can tell. Onclick will get the job done:
<script type="text/javascript">
function foo()
const c = 3;
<p onclick="foo();">Get an error message</p>
And you don't need to call the 'erroneous' function:
<script type="text/javascript">
function foo()
const c = 47;
function bar()
var c = 42;
<p onclick="bar();">Get an error message</p>

Basically, if the keyword 'const' appears anywhere in that Javascript, it's all dead, but you won't be informed until you explicitly try to execute it. (Multiple <script> tags will work independently, as will code in an onclick attribute.)

Ramble, ramble, ramble. My point is, someone please tell me how to get constants to work in IE. I don't really need them, but it's generally considered a good practice. Probably slightly faster run-time too, though so minor that it doesn't really matter in this situation.

Anyhow, there will likely be a new version coming out in a few days. Unless I decide otherwise. Or I end up having too much trouble with all the other errors IE6 is--oh, wait, hey! No other errors at first glance! Marvy!