Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thomas's Compleinte

Today's reading for English class was My Compleinte by Thomas Hoccleve, an English Civil servant who lived from 1367-1426. In this work, Thomas talks about his personal experience of recovering from insanity. What drives Thomas's distress is that none of his friends believe his wits have returned. Here's a passage in the original middle English:

"Thus spake manie oone and seide by me:
'Although from him his sicknesse savage
Withdrawen and passed as for a time be,
Resorte it wole, namely in suche age
As he is of,' and thanne my visage
Bigan to glowe for the woo and fere.
Tho wordis, hem vnwar, cam to myn eere."

That is to say:

Thus spoke many people and said about me:
'Although from him his wild sickness
Withdrawn and passed is for a time,
Return it will, especially in such age
As he is now,' and then my face
Began to glow for grief and fear.
Those words, without their knowledge, came to my ear.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Mount Plant Specimens

Once a specimen has been pressed and dried and served its time in the -20°C freezer, it's time to go to the mounting board.

1. Place specimen on mounting paper and determine which side should face up. The anatomy of any flowers should be visible, and both sides of the plant's leaves should be shown.

2. Apply glue. Depending on the plant, this can be done directly from the bottle or with a paintbrush. Glue under leaves, stems, and flowers so that the specimen is secure. Put small weights on top of glued spots while glue dries. No glue should be visible in the final product.

3. Stamp the mounting paper and attach labels and a fragment envelope if necessary.

4. Cover the specimen with wax paper and place previously used small weights on top. After 24 hours of waiting, the mounting process will be officially complete.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How to Job

I've gotten a contract to write a story for a game where the protagonist is a clown and his sidekick is an adorable dog. Now, I don't particularly like clowns or dogs, or even have much knowledge of them but a job is a job.

The solution? As always with these writing projects, pretend that I know what I'm doing and just forge ahead.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Perfect Storm

It's been an interesting week-- the academic stars aligned, as they often do, so that multiple tests, projects, and papers were due in the space of five days.

These weeks are important because, when it gets to the point where there are simply not enough hours in the day for everything, priorities come to the surface and real decisions need to be made about what to give time to. Additionally, time management skills need to be kicked up a notch as every available hour is filled with classes, homework, other work, and precious periods of relaxation.

All in all, then, I'd be happy to have another such week. A very long time from now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Anglo-Saxon Blogging

Cold clapped the computer keys;
The work-doer still awake,
His eyes ringed and red
Mica he was called; the son of Staffan.
The blog-poster in the pale night,
Feet feeling felt floors,
Lamp-light in the late watches.
His computer was the word-storer;
Eadward was its name, for it had never bluescreened.
Its essays had never been corrupted,
Neither had its hard-drive been cast down.

Monday, September 22, 2014

More Philosophy

In my philosophy class, we've just moved from the Greek philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, et al.) to Descartes, and thank goodness for that. After Aristotle's talk of forms and actualities, Descartes' approach is like a drink of cool water in a pretentious desert.

Descartes' first meditation on philosophy starts with the admittance that all he knows of the outside world is through his senses and that they are not completely accurate. He says, "it is the part of prudence not to place absolute confidence in that by which we have even once been deceived."

He goes on to admit that it is possible that he is simply dreaming as he writes his philosophy. I should say that I've only gotten a few paragraphs into the reading and may disagree with Descartes later, but I certainly appreciate the disclaimers at the beginning.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lab Safety

There's a safety quiz in my chemistry lab tomorrow and there are pages and pages of protocols to read. After going through this information, I can say that all the chemical safety law can be summed up in these two things: don't let chemicals touch you and douse everything in water if anything goes wrong.

Team Fortress 2 Hats

Team Fortress 2 is a free-to-play multiplayer first-person shooter. It is also famous for hats-- top hats, baseball caps, medieval helmets, and almost anything else you can think of. There are hundreds of hats for players to wear in Tf2, and this is where things get interesting.

Hats are pretty much the only part of the game that usually need to be paid for with real money, and they don't affect gameplay at all. This makes the roaring Tf2 hat trade all the more fascinating. I wrote about Runescape hats a while ago, and the same crazy prices apply.

Generally acknowledged as the most expensive hat in Tf2, the "Burning Team Captain" can fetch around $1500. This digital hat is extremely rare and features a military-style cap wreathed in flames. It's a crazy world.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Philosophy and Muffins

I was reading for my philosophy class and looking up muffin recipes at the same time this evening when one cooking site in particular piqued my interest. Instead of proposing a recipe for "simple muffins" or "muffins from scratch," it referred to the muffins suggested by the recipe as "our muffins." Even in replying to comments on this website, the recipe's author said, "I'm glad you enjoyed our muffins."

It just so happens that Aristotle has something to say about this state of affairs. It is written in De Anima (On the Soul) that "thought seems to be an independent substance implanted within us and incapable of being destroyed" (408b18). Aristotle says again, "the thinking part of the soul must therefore be ... capable of receiving the form of an object, that is, must be potentially identical in character with its object without being the object" (429a16).

In the same way, any muffins made with this recipe must necessarily be potentially identical in character with "our muffins" without being "our muffins." This ties into thought in that, while the thought of a specific muffin may be actualized by the recipe's author, the independent nature of thought's substance means that the author is not the possessor of any potential muffins, even if they share the same forms.

Let me sum up: is Aristotle's philosophy actually applicable in this situation? Probably not. Am I going to make someone else's muffins? Definitely not.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

To Tube

To tube;
To sweep atop the raucous wave
Tossed and turned o'er churning tide
To grip and grasp the vital hold
Seizing fast the swooping side
Talon-like; to tube.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Science Facts: Crepusculum

Animals that are active mostly during the day are diurnal. Animals active at night are nocturnal. Lastly, animals most active at dawn and dusk are crepuscular.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

7_Dan_7 Part 7

Chaoz96 took 7_Dan_7 out fishing the very next day. It was warm and the docks were crowded with serious-looking fishermen. After a while, 7_Dan_7 nudged Chaoz96. “My inventory’s full. What do I do?”
Chaoz96 glanced over. “Cook the fish you have, then drop them. Someone probably has logs for a fire around here.”
“Wait, why should I drop the fish?”
“Cooked fish aren’t worth anything in today’s economy.”
7_Dan_7 looked around at the fishermen and raised his voice timidly. “Hey, uh, does anyone have logs for a fire?”
They kept on fishing and only one looked up. “L2p, n00b.”
Chaoz96 grinned. “Ah, they only speak l33t.”
“What, do you know l33t?” asked 7_Dan_7.
“You can’t be a skiller for long without knowing l33t.”
“Can you ask them for logs?”
“Sure,” said Chaoz96. He stood up and called out, “F1re, pl0x.”
“<>< lvl?” said one fisherman.
“What did he say?” asked 7_Dan_7.
“They’ll only give me logs if my fishing level is worthy of respect.” Chaoz96 raised his voice. “My fishing level is 97.”
The fisherman said, “d00d n1ce” and placed a pile of logs on the ground.
“Ty,” said Chaoz96.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Group Work and Game Theory

The Prisoner's Dilemma (Wikipedia link here) is a staple of Game Theory, but it's come to my attention that the same concepts are at work in what can be called the Group Work Dilemma. The situation is this: if four people are given a graded project to complete by a certain date, what are the incentives for each individual. To simplify things, let's assume that everyone involved wants a high grade and that each person chooses either to do a lot of work on the project or no work at all.

The 'ideal' situation, then, is to do no work and have the other three group members complete the project-- this results in a high grade with no effort needed. The dilemma arrives because if each person chooses the 'ideal,' no work will be done on the project and everyone will receive a low grade. Because of these incentives, there's sometimes a game of chicken when approaching group deadlines-- if you wait for someone else to contribute, they might do work that you would otherwise do, but if you wait too long, your grade will suffer.

There are, of course, good ways to avoid this. One popular method is assigning each group member a specific task to complete, removing any need for games of chicken. Another thing that I've noticed works is to do a significant amount of work long before the due date, effectively forcing other group members to complete the rest of the project without calling on you to provide any input. In the end, though, there's only one way to be certain of that top grade: do it all yourself.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


I can't remember the first time I read the story of Beowulf. I first encountered it in an anthology of mythology that my family had when I was in elementary school. That version only contained the last third of the epic, and other versions I encountered in Middle and High School also had parts cut out. Just this past week, for English class, I read the whole story for the first time (Seamus Heaney's translation). Here are the stirring first lines:

"So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall-troops had come far."

One of my favorite things in Beowulf is the kennings-- the two-word descriptive packages used over and over. In the passage above, hall-troops is a kenning. I like the gravity and flavor kennings add to the story. When Beowulf says his first lines, he doesn't "speak" or even "spake;" he "unlocks his word-hoard."
Interestingly, in the original Old English, there's heavy alliteration throughout the epic. It almost makes me want to learn all the archaic words.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Science Facts: Orbital Dimensions

When a carbon atom forms a bond, it often creates a hybrid orbital such as sp, sp2, or sp3. Since each of carbon's three possible p orbitals is on a separate axis (px, py, and pz), an sp orbital is one-dimensional (having only one p), sp2 is two-dimensional (having two p directions to work with), and sp3 is three-dimensional with all three p directions. Fortunately, all this happens without us needing to understand how it works.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goodwill Odyssey

A good trip to the Goodwill store
We made this afternoon
We hoppéd on the shuttle-bus
At least we'd get there soon

Unluckily, the de-bus stop
Was far from destination
We walkéd to the place it was
At least we knew th'location

It turnéd out that map misled
And Goodwill store was nought
But Goodwill D'nation Center
Where things couldn't be bought

Fortunately, we had a phone
With GPS in gear
We located another G'will
At least it looked quite near

The Goodwill store was miles away
A marathoner's training
'Twas two-thirds leagues to Goodwill shop
At least it wasn't raining

A drizzle fell atop our heads
The dewdrops the ground starred
'Twas effluous but at the least
It wasn't raining hard

A thunderstorm conjuréd then
Raindrops fell in wide flocks
Soak'd was I from hair to toe
At least we had a sidewalk

We came then to a 'struction site
And sidewalk was no more
Forcéd off the road were we
On path to Goodwill store

We forgéd on through many trials
Sans-stoplight crossed the road
Through rain and mud and grassiness
Ourselves to G'will we towed

Arrivéd we at store at last
And purchased we our cause
Good Goodwill deals we siezéd there
Was't worth it? I say 'twas

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fun With Resumes

In a class I went to today, the subject of education was resumes. I was eager to learn because for the past couple years, I've really not known what a resume is supposed to look like. Do I need to mention where I went to highschool? What's supposed to be centered and what's supposed to left-adjusted? Where do extracurriculars fit in?

I'm still no expert, but the class today was very enlightening and I've done some major editing of my resume this evening to the point where I'd hire myself at the drop of a hat. Now I just need to see if other people will do the same.

Screenshot of the Day: Orcs Must Die! 2

Don't ask why

Orcs Must Die! 2 is a tower defense game with an action twist. The well-chosen title is the game's main objective, mechanic, and story element. The player builds a series of traps to poke, burn, freeze, and in other ways disable aforementioned orcs (the ones that must die). The player also controls an action-RPG character who can assist the traps in finishing off wave after wave of orcs.

The big thing that stands out to me about Orcs Must Die! 2 is how polished it is. I suppose that, as a sequel, a good level of polish is expected, but from the very start, this game is easy to understand and control. It's very easy to place and remove traps and very easy to tell what's going on and where the holes in your defense are. However, OMD2 is far from easy. I've found most levels to be very difficult, in fact, but because of the smooth design, the challenge comes from the scenario and not from clumsy mechanics. In my limited experience with tower defense games, Orcs Must Die! 2 is a simple gem of intuitive gameplay and reliable fun.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Educating Guesses

In both of my science classes this semester, the professors don't often approach new pieces of knowledge head-on. Instead, they ask students to guess at the system based on what said students already know about science.

Why do organic molecules usually bond covalently? We'd learned about organic molecules and about covalent bonding in General Chemistry, but this question from the Organic Chemistry professor threw the class for a loop. With some guiding of the conversation, the class was brought to the conclusion that it's because carbon, a building block of organic molecules, has four valence electrons and can't easily form an ionic bond.

The first Ecology lecture proceeded in the same manner-- how do populations interact with communities? There were lots of correct answers, from symbiosis to competition. It's not that students already know the material and aren't learning; rather, I would say that good questions bring out known information and require thought on how things actually work. Guidance is often necessary. As with every new level of science education I've encountered, the big discovery is that the systems through which the world works aren't nearly as simple as they were presented to be last year.