hudebnik: (Default)
I read in the newspaper that one of the high-tech entrepreneurs (like Elon Musk) was planning a humanned mission to Callisto, within four years. I thought this was quite ambitious, and wondered why specifically Callisto and what possible business model they had in mind to make the project pay for itself. A subsequent newspaper article indicated significant competition among high-tech entrepreneurs to get to Callisto first. Yet another newspaper article informed me that they had actually gotten there, with a four-person crew, and found native life that looked remarkably like humans, right down to the clothing.
hudebnik: (Default)
I was grocery shopping with somebody -- either [profile] marchforth2 or [personal profile] shalmestere. The grocery store had recently renovated, changing what had been the in-and-out door to out-only and adding a separate in door that also provided a convenient default configuration file for those who came in that way. We got everything we needed, paid at the checkout counter, and headed for the car. I looked at the receipt to make sure we'd been charged for the right things, and there were things on the receipt that I didn't see in the grocery bag. So while my companion went to the car, I went back into the store to get the missing items. I had some difficulty matching up the receipt with the stuff in the shopping bag, but eventually concluded that we DID have the right number of boxes of tomato puree, and were just short a package of olives (and for some reason we had a bag of olives which was already open). Then I noticed some really bizarre things on the receipt, for which we didn't seem to have actually been charged: tens of thousands of photographs, "2 AFRICAN SLAVES" itemized at $100,000 but not actually affecting the total, etc. I concluded that the programmers had decided to throw in some random stuff to see whether anybody was actually reading their receipts, but I thought the bit about African slaves was in poor taste and would probably get them sued.
hudebnik: (Default)
I watched a video of somebody rolling a marble down a particular sloped street in Manhattan. It took 3 minutes to get from one end to the other. Then the same thing, with a slightly-powered vehicle: it took 1-1/2 minutes. No great surprise. Anyway, I went to the street in question for some reason, saw a couple of suspicious-looking vans without license plates, concluded (somehow) that they were associated with the Bill Frist political campaign, whose office was right there, and climbed up the stairs to ask the campaign about it. The campaign office didn't appear to have a door, but only a window, so I had to climb around from the top of the stairs in through the window (hanging on by my fingers two stories above a busy Manhattan street). But I got inside without incident, and with some trepidation asked about the vans. The friendly-looking fellow sitting inside the cluttered office immediately guessed I was concerned about the lack of license plates and said "Oh, yes, those are 'adorned', a legal alternative to license plates" for some reason I don't remember. So I climbed back out the window, down the stairs, and took some photos of the vans just to make sure.
hudebnik: (Default)
[personal profile] shalmestere and I had some sort of mid-day performing gig upstate in the Hudson Valley, then drove back in a hurry, arriving just in time to be seated in the auditorium for some other show. Except, as we realized at the last minute, I was supposed to be performing a brief historical-dance bit in this one too -- fortunately not until the second act. So at the intermission, [personal profile] shalmestere drove home to get something I would need, while I went backstage and found Mrs. Odorizzi [my high school drama teacher, who was directing this thing] to make sure she knew I was there, and make sure the music for my performance was ready. Mrs. O. looked distracted, but said "Talk to Tori about the music. And where's your shirt? I must be going now," and wandered outside to talk to somebody else. My shirt? Oh, right: I'm still wearing a bathrobe, which really isn't right for this performance. So I ran outside to find [personal profile] shalmestere and ask her to pick up a shirt along with whatever else she was retrieving from home. I saw her heading for the car, but couldn't catch up with her. I needed to get her the message, so I started writing it in large letters on one cuff of my pants with tailor's chalk [yes, at least I was wearing pants], then realized that I needed the pants, too, for the performance, and having "GET MY SHIRT" written around the cuff might not add to my performance, so I stopped and tried to brush off the tailor's chalk. Besides, I had a cell phone, which on second thought seemed like a much better way to send [personal profile] shalmestere a time-critical message.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I was sitting in the front row at some kind of math colloquium, where a woman was describing something called "abstract pairs" of matrices. (Even in the dream, I thought this was a lousy name, as there was nothing abstract about them.) The defining property had to do with the sums of various 2x2 sub-matrices, and she demonstrated how, if this property held, any 2x2 submatrix that appeared in one quadrant of the matrices must also appear in the other three quadrants, or something like that. I asked a question to clarify: "so, if I understand this, abstract pairs are really rare, but if you've got one, you only need to know what's in one quadrant and that tells you everything?" The speaker replied "No, not quite," but before she could explain why not, a woman in the back row had a question of her own, which she introduced by saying "I was the one who replied to your paper in the Bratislava Proceedings with 'I love you!'" And I don't remember what her question was. And then I woke up.

Why I'm having dreams about a math colloquium in the first place, much less one about this particular class of matrices, I don't know....
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I had a dream, based on the terrible short story I wrote forty years ago entitled "The River" (in the form of a multigenerational diary recording the collision of the Indian and Eurasian continental plates), but with a "rent-seeking" trope layered on top: people see an island on the horizon with two enormous trees towering above the rest, and imagine that the fountain of youth (or something similarly mythical and valuable) lies between them. As the island gets closer, they develop more and more elaborate, glowing stories about its wonders, and eventually they go, find a pool there, retrieve some of its water so they can sell it for exorbitant prices, and fall into bickering and bloodshed over the allocation of this new resource.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
The teenaged female tomboy protagonist decided for some reason that a particular physical-fitness video game was her route to social acceptance. Determined to get really good at the game, she asked around on social media for exercises and challenges, and somebody suggested "for each level, pick a target number of points, and try to get as close to that number of points as possible, neither over nor under."

This is so 21st-century: rather than work hard to get actually physically fit, she works hard to get good at a video game about physical fitness.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
From the POV of Hermione Granger:
we see her and Harry as friends, some time in their teens.
we see her and Harry as friends, some time in their twenties.
we see her and Harry as friends, some time in their thirties or forties.
we see her, in her fifties or sixties, find Harry (likewise in his fifties or sixties) on trial. He sits, silent and stony-faced, in a chair in the center of a sub-basement dungeon. Hanging in the air over his head is a handwritten list of all the library books he's taken out in his life, with about two thirds of them crossed out because they were returned. With tears in her eyes, Hermione has to bear witness that she saw him take out one of those unreturned books in his teens. His sentence, by now, has grown to longer than his life expectancy.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I was watching a classic black-and-white film starring Jimmy Stewart. I'd seen it before, of course, and every scene carried resonances of discussing that scene with [ profile] shalmestere on previous viewings, or what critics had said about that scene. But something else was going on, as though I were watching it on a crowded airplane, and I was frustrated that I couldn't pay the film the attention it deserved.

Remember the famous opening scene in the restaurant, where Jimmy's character, having finished his meal alone, signs something for the waitress [while watching, I remembered pointing out to [ profile] shalmestere that he didn't have a credit card, as they hadn't been invented yet, but just ran a tab]. You see, through Jimmy's character's eyes, the lines of figures he's working on. Cut to a close-up of the front of a man's shirt, then back to the figures, then the shirt, then the figures, then the shirt, then pull back to reveal the manager looming angrily over Jimmy. The figures, then nothing where the manager was, then the figures, then a different shirt, then pull back to reveal the gorilla of a security guard who's about to pound Jimmy to a pulp.

Anyway, there's another famous scene in which the lady of the house comes home and starts puttering around, her black maid all but invisible in the background... but suddenly the maid becomes visible and comes into focus, a warning that something is very wrong.

A later scene where Jimmy's on the run from the bad guys... I've lost that one, the way dreams evaporate when you wake up.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
[ profile] shalmestere had left some pieces of paper lying around for me to see. I picked one up and concluded it was a recipe, written in 19th-century English, for compost -- in the gardening sense, not the preserved-root-vegetables sense. In fact, looking at the others, I realized there were at least a dozen different recipes for varietal composts, presumably for different garden conditions. And each one ended with a series of "if" statements and a list of book titles. At length I realized that the "if" statements were actually conditional-compilation directives (if the C preprocessor had been based on 19th-century English), and the book titles, all by the same 20th-century female author, were effectively include directives: if you ran the whole thing as a script, you would get the full text of all her novels, with the compost recipe inserted at all and only those places where it was appropriate to the setting.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
[ profile] shalmestere and I were at a Broadway musical. As people milled around in the entrance hall before finding their seats, the all-black cast came out to warm up the crowd. The innamorata sang a song about herself as an actress (not her character in the show) and how she'd gotten here, and the innamorato actor did a song listing all his faults, each of which the rest of the cast spun into something positive, to his evident annoyance and embarrassment.

And that's all I remember.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I was at an all-day music-notation class.  In the interest of cultural inclusiveness, it covered not only medieval European music notation but Klingon music notation as well; fortunately, there was a remarkable amount of similarity between the two.  Klingon music notation never developed the bar-line, for example, but bar-lines weren't common in European music either until the 17th century.  And the staves and note shapes were surprisingly similar.

Unlike most music-notation classes I've attended, this one had a written final exam, which included examples in both 15th-century-European and Klingon (can you tell which is which, can you transcribe them into modern European notation, etc.)
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I walked into the office of my postdoc supervisor J, who was having an altercation with a co-worker played by John Cleese.  She was filling out paperwork for a patent on a human gene they had discovered jointly, and showed it to him.  He said "I don't understand -- how is this different from the gene I just filed on?"

She replied, angrily, "The difference is that this one produces a growth hormone!  Now get out!"  And he did.

I was surprised that J, whose background is mostly in computer science and logic, was patenting a gene, and was about to suggest that she collaborate with [ profile] hrj, whose line of work was more closely aligned with this sort of thing, then realized that [ profile] hrj was already in the room.  They were drawing up plans for a startup to commercialize the discovery, with [ profile] hrj as 50% owner -- a rather larger percentage than J planned to buy herself, since (as mentioned above) it was closer to [ profile] hrj's line of work.  [ profile] shalmestere showed up and also invested a bit, although not planning to be actively involved, as a show of support.  As they tried to figure out who was paying how much for what percentage, they started leaving bras and socks on the table as tokens for different amounts of investment.  I mused to myself "How long will they spend doing this in their heads until they decide to work it out on paper?  It's a one-variable high school algebra problem."  J overheard me and snapped "OK, YOU try it."  So I sat down with a piece of paper and started adding up the amounts invested, and realized I wasn't sure of the exchange rate between a bra and a sock.  Just then my student Alex walked in and decided he wanted a piece of the startup too, paying a pair of socks.  Increasingly bewildered, I woke up.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Scene: a Psych 100 class, being subjected (as they so often are) to a behavioral experiment. The students in the class were divided randomly into about ten groups. The first group were each given a candy. The second, third, etc. groups were then each given something much more valuable, of which the only one I remember was "you're allowed to sleep as long as you wish." (One group was given nothing at all.) Then all the students competed individually in a variety of contests, some of which were designed to favor the students who had gotten a particular reward. The first observation was that the students developed a strong sense of "team nationalism", sticking voluntarily to the classmates who had been given the same reward. The students who had gotten nothing at all weren't particularly grumpy or resentful, perhaps because they held out hope that they would yet get something good. The students who had gotten a candy were the angriest and the most competitive in the contests, doing hours of stationary-bike training and things like that, glowering all the while.

Sources: I'm guessing that this has some connection to the cucumber/grape experiment, which I watched some time in the past few weeks, and some connections to the new Hunger Games movie (which I haven't seen yet, but I reread the book a few weeks ago in preparation for seeing it), and some to my sense of being perennially underslept.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
[ profile] shalmestere, I, and the entire Monty Python regular cast are all elite agents working for an international spy agency. As the dream opens, we're all gathered in a large meeting room watching a presentation by the administration. The room is dotted with redshirts loyal to the administration, and as the presentation unfolds it becomes clear why: there have been major budget cuts, and a lot of us elite agents are going to be laid off, furloughed, or pay-cut. Naturally, there's a lot of grumbling.

A cartoon circulates among the agents about the folly of pissing off such a group of people: "Here is a highly-trained assassin [with a picture of one]. Here is a bomb creation-and-disposal expert [picture]. Here is [insert a few more specialized job descriptions and their pictures]. Here is an agent demonstrating how to move a bomb harmlessly to outer space [picture of agent, wearing space suit and floating in zero-G, holding onto a redshirt and an administration tool, NOT wearing space suits, eyes popping out]."

There was another series of action after this, but I've lost it. Oh well.
hudebnik: (Default)
I was on vacation in some place that used the English language, but with an interesting grammatical quirk: in sequences of modifiers, the later modifiers are always more fundamental or chronologically earlier than, or provide a context for, the earlier ones in the list. For example, you could say you had fish for dinner last night on such-and-such island, because the island was there long before the evening, which is broader than dinnertime, which is broader in turn than fish -- but you couldn't say that on such-and-such island last night you had a dinner of fish.
hudebnik: (Default)
I was on my way to a job interview. The interview was in a small town in the hills of Appalachia, so the last leg of the trip was on a small plane -- no more than thirty seats, half of which were empty -- that flew below the clouds, and I enjoyed watching the scenery for this last hop. On the way I got into a discussion with the others on the plane: "Whatever happened to direct flights?" "Well, the deadliest thing for an airline company is empty seats, and I think deregulation in the 1970's forced them into more price competition..." stuff like that.

One of the other passengers was a young woman named Mary who was on her way to a job interview too -- in her case, an interview for a bartending position. "My interview was scheduled for this morning, but they had a couple of other people to interview today, so they moved me later in the day. It's just as well: the more drinks they've had before I serve them, the better!"

Eventually we landed and got off the plane. Two fashionable-looking women in their thirties met Mary at the gate and escorted her to the bar. My own interview wasn't until the next day, so I tagged along for moral support. As we walked, we heard a warm, fatherly voice from above us. A middle-aged man, clean-shaven, wrapped up in blankets from shoulder to foot and with a white towel around his head so he looked rather like a mummy, was being carried on a gurney suspended from the ceiling in the same direction we were going. "Ah, you must be Mary! Dreadfully sorry to miss our interview, but it seems I'm destined to die today. Oh well, can't be helped. Good luck with the interview!"

We got to the high-tech bar, all glass, steel, and colored lights. At each end of the bar was a white sliding door, and the man in the blankets was being set down next to one of these, saying "You might as well use the one on the right," which obligingly opened to reveal a long low passageway with a coffin-like white medical apparatus in it. What happened next was obscured by the welcomes of others on the hiring committee; when next we looked, the man was gone and the door was shut. As Mary stepped to the bar and prepared to show her stuff, the door was mistakenly opened and we saw the man in the blankets, now ensconced in the medical apparatus. It was perfectly silent, but through the glass around his head we could see his face, which appeared to be screaming in agony. Mary fled and I woke up.
hudebnik: (Default)
"Be careful, dear!" said Mrs. Finch as Arabella drew her wand. Mrs. Finch knew it was only a four-foot drop, not really dangerous even without magic, but this was Arabella.

Arabella had always been a powerful magician, but always a bit... off. The day Mrs. Finch had brought her home from the hospital, twelve years before, the baby had gone peacefully to sleep and Mrs. Finch had stepped exhaustedly into the kitchen for a snack. "What I wouldn't give for some chocolate cake," she thought, then stopped as she saw a three-layer chocolate cake on the kitchen table. "How sweet of Edgar," she thought. "He guessed what I would be in the mood for when I got home. How sweet... and how impractical, as we still need a real dinner tonight." But she did need a hit of cake, so she poured a cup of milk, put a slice of cake onto a dessert plate, took a bite, and spewed cake crumbs all over the kitchen. It tasted of beef, stewed for hours in a rich gravy.

Edgar was as surprised as she, and it only took a few such episodes for them to conclude that the culprit was the sweet-faced baby in the next room.
hudebnik: (Default)
So one day our friend [ profile] hotspurre posted that he was going on a tourism trip to eastern Belarus, where there was (among other things) a medieval church that had a lot of artworks and artifacts from his persona's period and culture. Everybody wished him well.

A few days later, the TV and radio news (and of course the blogosphere) filled with news of a major earthquake in Belarus. Actually, it wasn't all that big -- Richter 6.3 -- but the building standards in the area were so bad that houses and office buildings all over the area were collapsing. Grainy home videos appeared on YouTube of what looked at first like alleys lined with tall, wobbly stacks of cans of cat food, teetering and falling over -- until you realized that they were apartment buildings. Political dissident groups seized the opportunity to try to overthrow the government, and the military seized the opportunity to try to crush political dissident groups. The two were on the move towards one another through collapsing cities. And [ profile] hotspurre was heading for the exact same place. His friends were worried.

Then I woke up. Yo, [ profile] hotspurre: don't do anything stupid!
hudebnik: (Default)
I was in a major city in a foreign country -- Montreal, or Paris, or something like that -- and taking the subway to get somewhere. At one point somebody on the train (who looked and sounded very American) said to me "We never get Americans here on the M line." I knew I was on the right line, but I took a moment to check my travel plans, and realized that I wasn't sure what stop to get off, nor what building to go to once I got off. So I headed back to the hotel where my directions were.

By this time it was too late to get to my appointment on time by subway, so [ profile] shalmestere very kindly offered to fly me there in the ultralight. As we were flying over the river that ran through the center of the city, I looked down and pointed out a couple of whales in the river, and we both admired them for a minute or two. Really Big whales, whose length was something like a quarter of the river's width. Then one of them breached right underneath us and we lost control of the ultralight, crashing into the water. Neither of us was hurt, and we swam to shore without difficulty, but the ultralight was at the bottom of the river; I thought I could just barely see it down there, and was just about to swim down and try to pull it out of the river, but woke up before it occurred to me that it was at least thirty feet below the surface, and it wasn't that light.


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