Microsoft Excel Class

Posted in Humour on June 30, 2011 by Sardonic Pariah

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Richard B. Riddick

Posted in Randomness on June 23, 2011 by Sardonic Pariah

Riddick.  In my opinion, a spectacular anti-hero, perhaps one of the best.  He literally is the antithesis of social norms: a sociopath, a murderer, and a convict who’s been through the worst prisons in the universe he inhabits.  In coping with the extremes of his life he has amassed a number of abilities not attributed to the normal person: incredible skills with a knife, amongst other weapons, the ability to pilot small spacecraft, eyes that collect light to the point where he can practically see into the infrared.  He has remarkable willpower, perception, and intelligence.  Unfortunately, the series of which he is a part has frankly ruined the character.  How?

First things first, Pitch Black is a damn solid movie.  It has a premise grounded in science, suspense, monsters, and, like all good fiction, is character-driven despite these other perks.  Riddick himself, portrayed by Vin Diesel, puts the movie over the top.

And then came the abortion known as Chronicles of Riddick.  Somehow the producers of this movie have found a way to transmute vomit directly into digital images.  Neat trick, that.

Whoever they got to write this steaming pile of crap doesn’t seem to have had much originality.  Or talent, for that matter.  Aside from reusing lines from the original movie (“You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?”) as opposed to, say, creating new lines along the same theme, it also seemed appropriate to name things as if the in-universe explorers had received some brain damage before they set out to find new worlds.  Helion Prime is a grand example: Helios was the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology.  Helion could be taken to mean “of the Sun.”  Better yet, there are apparently four or five other worlds within the habitable zone of this unnamed star, which is one hell of a tight fit.

But back to the movie’s naming conventions.  Riddick comes from a planet called Furya (winning), populated by a people known as the Furyans (still winning), though he doesn’t know it.  This explains nicely as to why he’s so pissed off, in addition to having been found in a trash can with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.

Now, in the first movie, Riddick seems to have come by this information second-hand, which gels, because who has memories of their first few moments of life?  His natural assumption was that his mother had tried to kill him and chucked him out.  Turns out it was an officer of the Necromongers (if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that we’re still winning) who has since risen to become their Lord Marshal.

This fellow, who’s a bit of a prick, as you may assume, became Lord Marshal after returning from some place called the Underverse (continuing to win).  His people refer to this as “another verse.”  Not another ‘brane, as would be scientifically accurate, but another verse.  Like they’ve sung the chorus, and now it’s time to delve into the next part of the song.  You can’t expect them to be too bright, though.  They live in a society that appears so inherently unstable that it should swallow itself within a generation or two, though it instead seems to conquer entire planets in mere hours.  Maybe they’re so ferocious when they get outside because they’re so excited to get away from the gloomy architecture.  There’s Gothic, and then there’s depressing.  And then there’s whatever the fuck it is these people are subjecting themselves to.

Speaking of which, the fragility of the science presented in this supposed piece of science fiction is laughable.  Well, actually, it’s not science; no one here could be accused of having picked up a book on any science, anywhere.  Unless you count porn as biology.  Probably the most grating, from my point of view, is the assertion that the night side of Crematoria (sigh, winning) was three hundred degrees below zero, which is colder than cold can get.  Ever.  At -273C all activity, down to the atomic scale, stops.  It’s called absolute zero for a reason, people.

Curious is the seemingly advanced animals found in-universe, and the apparent lack of intelligent life.  This one’s really more a matter of the author’s preference, mind you, and I’m still wondering if the Elementals (winning…) are aliens or some kind of strangely modified humans.  Though how you would modify a human to allow it to essentially dematerialize is beyond me; for that matter, how (and why) would a species have evolved this way on their own, supposing they’re aliens?

In short, Chronicles of Riddick exemplifies the subgenre of science fiction I like the least, that being space opera.  That being said, Chronicles is some pretty horrible space opera, and writing such must take a lot of work.  So, A for effort on this one.  Bonus marks, even.

For Shame!

Posted in Life and Times on June 23, 2011 by Sardonic Pariah

Two weeks and more since I posted.  Slacking!

Why?  Because I have other things to do, and I’m immensely forgetful.  You may be asking what I’ve been up to, and if you aren’t, you’re going to read the response anyway, and you’re going to like it.

School.  Fun thing, that.  I’ve got some classes that require group work, which requires a quarterback, which requires me to be said quarterback.  Being the quarterback, in this case, resolves itself into generally ignoring the people willing to work, and endlessly chasing the people who aren’t.  Not that I truly ignore the people that are working, but if they’re going to get the job done, I feel I should focus on getting other elements of the team producing something.  This requires a lot of potentially unnecessary effort.  Except that it is necessary.  Because firing someone in school is considerably more difficult than firing someone at work.

Tutoring.  Being smart is a royal pain sometimes.  It can also generate income.  So I’m making money for my pain.  I tutor in several classes, all unofficially, and thus receive a few bucks here and there, or beer, or food, or attention.  I’m like a cat: I need you to pet me at all times, except when I decide that I don’t.

Work.  Or rather, the seach for it.  As much as I may loathe risking some of my OSAP money for real, taxable dollars, I haven’t much of a choice.  Hurray!

Girl.  Yes, one of them will talk to me.

So, you can see I have a multitude of things that I am doing.  I’m so tired.

The Cost of Anarchy

Posted in Essays on June 8, 2011 by Sardonic Pariah

I had an interesting conversation with a “non-conformist” young man the other day, who was dressed quite similarly to the other “non-conformists.”  In thinking about the general idiocy of his responses I decided to write a short piece about my opinions on what it was he thought best for the world.  In moving forward, he claimed, the world should revert to anarchy.  I found this an interesting idea to refute, and so that’s just what I did.  Not surprisingly, he wasn’t interested in listening, despite the eloquence evidenced by my rebuttal.  I’m going to flesh out those ideas some here, in something of a short essay.  The thesis, you ask?  That general anarchy throughout the world would result in massive disruption in trade and trade revenues, that it would fatally hinder any attempt at progress from here, and that the population of the planet would crash, quite possibly to untenable levels.

First things first, complete anarchy would result almost immediately in the destruction of telecommunications, as well as other methods of communication.  You can’t very well enact international, or even interregional, trade if you’re unable to communicate the need.  Even in the off chance you could manage some form of conversation, say with post riders or carrier pigeons, how would you actually complete the trade, given that the lack of communication will likely destabilize any type of unified currency.  Perhaps barter would be the new old thing.  If you think it sounds bad already, just wait.  It gets worse.  Supposing you could trade your unrefined copper ore for their beaver pelts, how are you going to get it there?  Transportation, itself a form of communication, would have become quite difficult and potentially very dangerous; unreliable to say the least.  Besides which, given that industry would be a logical near-impossibility, how the hell do you intend to get the ore in the first place?  Of course, this leads us directly to our next point.

Progress, both technological and sociological, is based almost entirely on communication.  This is not to say that one cannot come up with something stunning and new, but simply that sharing it amongst the people of the world cannot be done without the ability to communicate.  You can develop some wonderful new thing and it scarcely matters if only you know about it; you’re going to die eventually, and no one will ever know that you made the best whatever it was ever.  This is evidenced by the fact that the rate of advancement during the first hundred and eighty five thousand years of human existence is less than that of the last ten thousand.  As the ability to communicate increased, the rate of progress increased with it.  The net effect?  A state of true anarchy, benign or otherwise, chokes progress.  Of course, this problem is further exacerbated by the following point.

Populations will crash.  Simple as that.  Society is an interrelated system, where one person relies on many completing jobs of their own, in order for the whole to work smoothly.  As an example, ask yourself: where did I get my lunch?  Did you grow the fruits and vegetables?  The grains?  Did you hunt for the meat?  Or did you go to the grocery store, wherein is stocked all these items, gathered by others?  Of course, without the ability to trade, how would the food get there?  But that’s the first point, and we’re working on the third.  When the population decreases below a certain threshold, those farmers are gone, or are concentrating on feeding themselves.  Without the progress civilization has wrought, you would not be able to go to the grocery store to get those things; you’d have to go out and hunt for them yourself.  This would leave less time to communicate with other parts of the world or to make any additional progress, indicating that the lack of population is not only a consequence of failures in the first two points of this essay, but also a contributing factor to the very same.  Below a certain population threshold, none of the conveniences to which modern humans are accustomed are possible.  Besides which, and this is the point that the young man really hated, under a state of anarchy only the strongest survive.  The very people who work every day to prevent a state of anarchy, those being individuals such as soldiers and police officers, are the ones best equipped to survive in it.  Pimply-faced, overweight teens eating Doritos in their mother’s basements are not terribly likely to thrive in a truely anarchic state.

And so it becomes quite clear that the destruction of useful communication networks, the lack of progress, and the simple fact that not everyone will get to survive is indicative of the fact that, while Emo kids may scream for it, anarchy is not something they would bear well.  In fact, pretty well none of us would.  People that feel marginalized by the existing society, that feel powerless and unheard, scream for it, not understanding that that very lack of personal empowerment means that they’d be the first to be eaten.  And that is how you refute an idiot in one thousand words or less.

The Prolix Pig

Posted in Humour on June 6, 2011 by Sardonic Pariah

One day the first grade teacher was reading the story of the Three Little Pigs to her class.  She came to the part of the story where the first pig was trying to accumulate the building materials for his home.

She read, “…and so the pig went up to the man with the wheel barrow full of straw and said, ‘Pardon me sir, but may I have some of that straw to build my house?'”

The teacher paused then asked the class, “And what do you think that man said?”

One little boy raised his hand and said, “I think he said ‘Holy shit! A talking pig!'”

I Like Big Moons and I Cannot Lie

Posted in Science on June 6, 2011 by Sardonic Pariah

Nothing like starting a post by referencing an ancient hip hop song.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13609153

So what exactly does this mean?  Anything at all?  I tend to think it does, but I’m just parroting what people much smarter than me have said.  All three of them.

It’s often claimed that a large moon is somehow vital to life.  Why would that be?  Because it introduces change.  A paradoxically regular change.  A moon with such mass in comparison to its parent body is going to cause some interesting effects.  For one, the tide.  And periods, but that’s neither here nor there.

So what do tides do?  Wonderful things, that’s what.  Don’t think of tides as affecting only massive bodies of water.  They touch every body of liquid, water or otherwise, on the surface of the planet.  Every day, as the planet rotates, different parts of the globe are exposed to the gravity of our moon.  The liquid rises, spreads out to fill it’s “container,” be that the shoreline of the Pacific or the little mud flat on your local creek, inundating that space with various bits of sediment its picked up from elsewhere.  Usually that elsewhere is pretty close, in which case it simply fortifies the local soil with additional minerals, but occasionally the sediment comes from much farther away and thus propagates the spread of life.  Good on you, water.

There are other things the moon does for us.  It reflects massive amounts of solar light down onto the surface, meaning that even the night is generally not entirely dark.  Nocturnal animals love it.  It stabilizes our pole so we have regularly maintained seasons, adjusted over long periods by climactic shifts, allowing indigenous life forms time to adjust to the changes.  It gives any intelligent life a nice target for beginning a space age.

After all, it’s pretty as hell, isn’t it?

The Quantitative Easing

Posted in Humour on June 6, 2011 by Sardonic Pariah

Macroeconomics class, you rule.  Just for this.