Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Snappy Response Song to ICP's Miracles

For those of you who may not know, Insane Clown Posse has a new song out called "Miracles" which is funny because despite listing lots of things about the world we live in that could be considered quite cool, there's this sort of lack of interest in really understanding any of it, and some downright mistrust of science itself for whatever reasons. It's quite amusing on its own but I thought I'd lay out in detail a lot of the issues that I take with the song. So here you have the product of my evening, which I *should* have spent making a write-up for an actual lab report on optical pumping.

Oh hey dudes...now you're on my turf. Time for me to take you two to school...

I appreciate your wanting to inspire a sense of wonder
But that's a little different from asking, "What the hell is thunder?"
I an led to suspect you didn't get through high school
So when you talk about it all you sound like complete fools
Life, sure, is precious and something pretty damn sweet
And our whole damn existence is one hell of a feat
When you think about everything just on earth you can see
Like natural wonders and animals roaming free
And I'd love to find an animal by tracking their turds
There's a thing about lava, that it cools into rocks
And that turns into sand after it takes a few knocks
And when you put everything together it's a really big thrill
I mean, the concept of life is something that feels unique
The processes that regulate it are all pretty freak
The smallest and largest things in life appear almost like dots
But the stuff in the middle -- and there sure is lots
It looks nothing like that and it is pretty crazy
But I won't stop there and wave my hands and be lazy
There are still lots of rules that guide how it did all form
And my purpose of rapping now is to try to inform

It's actually all pretty crazy! There's a lot to keep in mind in the development on how life formed on the planet that we can't just treat biology as a small offshoot of cosmology the way that we look at astronomy as a branch of physics or how a lot of chemisty relies on the studies of scientists like Bohr whose studies were more than just chemistry. Biochemistry is a study of why a lot of larger organisms have a lot of the same parts -- in order to take energy and use it to do things --the way all cars have an engine and some wheels, but even past that there are a lot of open possibilities for species development, with limitations coming from being able to provide the energy for all the parts of the animal or plant to work and the ability to outperform the other things that might be living near it that it has to compete with.

When we look at how humans developed their language and speech
You should think for a moment that monkeys have it just out of reach
Though their cries carry emotions and their faces can too
Koko's the only one that I know ever signed "I love you"
And before humanoids talked they would cry and we'd sing
They had primitive music and, well, that is the thing
Since they're social creatures they'd hang out in packs
And their songs could alert to either move out or stay back
Like if a predator came or if there was food near to eat
And it did help with bonding, maybe add with it a beat
So this rapping I'm doing goes as far back as that
And another thing to think about that we should look at
When you're there with a crowd all taking MDMA
'Cause after all of their work they all need some time to play
There's some natural dopamine that runs through your head
It can make you feel good and certainly glad you're not dead
And you can get some in your brain if you're tripping on X
Or doing pleasureable things -- hey, there's a rush after sex!
And it's part of why juggalos whos reputation is trash
Can all meet together and party and have a fun bash
With no violence or hatred or our guns all firing
And there's a part of me that actually finds that kinda inspiring
But that's why music's like love and why music's like feeling
Because early humans needed it and it was appealing
And that's not to hate on music or say it's dull, dumb, or crappy
Well, unless it's maybe the stuff that's recorded by ICP! (buuuuuuurn)

[also spoken]
Just because we have a pretty good idea of why something is what it is or how it came to be doesn't have to take away from a sense of wonder. When Carl Sagan said "To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe," he was commenting on how a lot of things all came together to actually form things the way they are now, and it's pretty impressive. Even if we know why music sounds pretty to us, that doesn't mean that we're not supposed to think it is or feel like music is trying to mislead us. Well, okay, sometimes it does, which is the whole reason that this song exists, but we can still celebrate music! And if all your crazy violent fans can get together and celebrate and unite under some common bond, even if I question your organization, I think that is a pretty clear example of how music has power and that it can be a very strong force of good. You know, a lot of the music I really enjoy listening to, like spirituals or sea chanties, were done for the sake of communication outside of just creating a nice song to listen to; no, they had a distinct purpose, to guide work and to lift up one's spirits.

Now, sure you may not want to trust any of the the Ph.D.'s
But if you think they're trying to scam you out well then, brothers, please
Remember now that science is more than what an expert claims
They aren't in this for the sake of tricking you or playing mind games
If they seem condescending then it just might be
That they know more than you 'bout something and you're too dumb to see
I won't always fault the ignorant for not knowing what they don't
But it's a pretty big problem if it's more that they just won't
Try to educate themselves on how things might just work
And instead say those who disagree are just a ton of jerks
And there are hints within that song that you're the second group
I suspect that it is time for me to give you the scoop:
When it comes to doing science it's not what the lab coats say
But that their findings match others' done on other days
They have to be sure that their testing finds just what they claim
And that their explanations fit with the data just the same
And lots of scientists will test that older knowledge really might be wrong
But that doesn't justify distrusting them like in your song

There's a system of peer review where scientists review the findings of others by doing the research themselves. Multiple people, with no obvious conflicts of interest. Now, sometimes scientific results are submitted for publishing by people who want the data to go one way or the other -- which, admittedly, can affect the way they interpret the data -- but if the peer review finds that their data and methods are good, then it's still good science either way. It's actually a pretty egalitarian system overall. If you rise to prominence in your field it's because you've done good research. And sure, sometimes scientific inquiry reveals things that might contradict what used to be the orthodoxy, but that doesn't mean that science is wrong or that the previous explanation didn't allow for good predictions of the nature of the world at large.

Now I've droned on for forever and it's taken quite some time
To try to get those who might read this to understand my rhyme
And what is with your kids I just don't quite get what I'm seeing
They're dressed up with your face paint which sure ain't done by their genes
But they have half of what makes you "you" and half that's from their mom
Meiosis splits alleles in half -- now ain't that just the bomb?
Then they combine in pairs, ensures diversity
And that's the reason why it is that, say, you won't look like me
But that's the sort of thing that makes so many different creatures
And although we all should take the time to enjoy every feature
I live in this and love it. I think it would be a sin
To be a complete stranger in the universe we're in.
Now that I've finished with my crazy song of defiance
I think I'll turn off "Miracles" and put on Symphony of Science

Monday, April 26, 2010

I made a Touhou comic

I made this Touhou comic on walfas.org via create.swf. It is the most awesome thing ever!

It is inspired by characters that I encounter in chat on a regular basis. I only make fun of them because I love them immensely.

Those of you not part of this small group may not get it. I can't make it only accessible to them so be prepared to not understand this or find it very funny.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I shaved a little while ago. Well, something like that anyway, more like a drastic trimming than actually shaving since I'm just stubbly now. I usually go long, long periods of time without shaving -- something to the tune of a month or two in most cases. If I had to travel more frequently I probably would shave more often, at least usually the night before, before packing. That way I can avoid getting groped awkwardly by unattractive (and typically male) security officers due to the fact that the beard makes me look more than moderately Arabic. It also comes with the added bonus that the loose hairs that get stuck on the trimmers collect all over the bag and can, say, get caught in my toothbrush bristles, which then get into my mouth and get stuck on my tongue and make me gag! It's good news all-around!

That thing about the looking Arabic appears to be quite true, from what I can tell. Normally they are pretty thorough and suspicious -- sure, they're not people you'd invite to take with you over to the bar on concourse B but at least they're actually doing a decent job, especially since it's tax money paying them -- but they seem to always triple- or quadruple-check my details every time I have a beard. It was made even worse since for a while I kept carrying around a temporary ID with my real ID, even though it was expired and thus not valid -- when they asked to see it and noted the eye color didn't *quite* match up between the two (who knows, maybe the dude at the DMV the day I filled one of these forms out was color-blind), I kept worrying they wouldn't let me on the plane. Thank heavens I managed to get on in the end. I can only imagine things would be even worse if I decided to bring my "DIY Home Explosives Kit" on the plane with me.

Since I normally don't have to deal with security officers thinking I'm going to blow up a plane with old game cartridges and my cell phone (hey, I like old games a lot and am entirely unashamed to admit it), I tend not to shave. It's just something that doesn't have a lot of rewards for the sort of effort that is often involved in the process. Admittedly it's not a Herculean task, but it does feel a bit like I'm channeling Sisyphus given how quickly it grows back. Besides, I look better with a little hair on my chin and my girlfriend seems to agree so I'm not going to argue with it.

It also doesn't help that the preliminary procedure for doing this is under most occasions to just run a pair of trimmers all over my face because of how long the hair is. Seriously, it's the length of most of the rest of my hair on my head whenever I go over to trim it off. It's certainly more scruffy, but it's not something that one can just take a razor or electric shaver to and trim it off. Sure, they'll result in a closer shave but that is amazingly painful and usually involves a nick or two on my skin.

Here's a way you can see for yourself how bad it is: try to pinch like two or three hairs on your lower arm and rip them out as quickly as you possibly can. That's what it feels like, only it goes on for about half an hour as I try to cut every single damn hair off my face. You can see why I end up using trimmers.

Now, the problem with using trimmers compared to an electric shaver is that there is no way to actually collect all the hairs that it cuts off. They'll end up going all over the sink if I use the trimmers right over it (which I need to do basically in order to see what the hell I'm trimming off and that I haven't missed anywhere), and they'll all be really tiny hairs that are almost impossible to clean up. The only way to get around this really is to hold a waste can (a small one suitable for the bathroom, of course) underneath me right at my chest a few feet from the sink in order to collect all the hairs because it's a wide area and all of them collect pretty well.

One thing to note is that this works significantly better the longer my beard is, since the hairs all collect near the blade and can be sloughed off easily. Since that way I can just brush them all into the can without worrying about tiny stray hairs going everywhere or getting stuck in the drain, I tend to wait until it's reached a minimum length before starting; there's thus a sort of no-go period for shaving between being short enough to be shaved with the electric razor painlessly and being long enough to be easily taken off with the trimmers.

I also tend to do it with my shirt off. That way it doesn't get stuck to my shirt and make me itch all day while I wear it, since they can't be removed at all without running the shirt through the wash or something similarly drastic. If I do it with my shirt off I can either shower afterward or just rub myself down with a towel, which is far more forgiving about these stray hairs than my shirts are.

Of course even then it's still not a perfect scenario and I have to clean off a lot of stray hairs even then. It's a lot of effort and is a major reason why I never even bother going for a complete shave; I've been burnt out enough already, especially since the electric razor (which is actually able to collect hairs inside itself to make cleaning less effort-intense) doesn't work its magic as quickly as the trimmers and, again, has the tendency to be painful and unpleasant. Sure, if I used them more often I'd never grow out the beard to the point of painfulness and wouldn't have the damn hairs everywhere but I don't want to do it now, and I never change my mind on this. I haven't used it in years, I'm pretty sure.

Besides, that shaver irritates my skin a lot, and I look better with some stubble on (in fact studies have shown that women find it more attractive or something I think).

So yeah, I look like a hobo half of the year and that is why. At least, that's my explanation. I'm still trying to come up with a plausible explanation for why (since I rarely shower either) I always smell like one too.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The 32X 15th Anniversary Collection Album

The 32X. The power glove of consoles. Certainly not as big a failure as the contemporary consoles it was trying to compete with, like the Jaguar and 3DO, especially for a console add-on but due to poor communication between hardware development teams in Sega ended up being hard to program for (thanks to having 2 32-bit Hitachi SH2 processors but no dedicated graphics chip, very limited memory, and a fairly tenuous connection between it and the main Genesis processors), redundant (thanks to the Saturn having similar hardware which was easy to use -- not that that's saying much given that it, too, was hastily developed at times), and maybe just a little ugly.

I love the damn thing so much. Got one for $24 with the express purpose of using it for testing out independently coded projects for it (think like the Amiga or Commodore demoscenes) but did end up greatly enjoying the ports of games like Space Harrier, After Burner, Virtua Racing, and NBA Jam (T.E.), as well as taking an interest in the games made specifically for it like Knuckles Chaotix (pretty good), Shadow Squadron (actually quite nice indeed), Kolibri (it's all right but not amazing), Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 (a nicer idea on paper than in execution but it's not without merit) and Tempo (probably not going to pick this one up).

The system ultimately has a high ratio of at least pretty-good games to bad ones, which is admittedly not surprising because it's a programming behemoth, and thus not friendly to shovelware. It also helps that the port of Virtua Fighter is damn good and there are only like 35 games on the system total.

The music, on a 3-disc set, comes from -- in this order -- Space Harrier, Stellar Assault [Shadow Squadron here in the US], Virtua Racing Deluxe, Parasquad (not "Pallas Code" as a number of sites foolishly trusting Google Translate) [Zaxxon's Motherbase elsewhere], Metal Head, and Virtua Fighter.

Now, most of the music here has been released in other remix or gotten superior cover versions; a number of these games got Saturn ports that were able to take advantage of a more powerful sound chip (able to take advantage of several-channel sample playback, for example) or used actual CD-audio. Further, the games in question -- except for Shadow Squadron, which got a superior Saturn port/follow-up of sorts instead -- originated on the arcade anyway, making tying them so closely with the 32X almost silly.

Again, soundtracks for games like After Burner and Space Harrier exist in other forms, probably superior, elsewhere. Do check out the S.S.T. Band recordings if this album interests you, before you bother with this. Furthermore, WHERE IS THE CHAOTIX SOUNDTRACK? That one was excellent, 32x-exclusive, and probably the best of all Sonic soundtracks even to this day (Sonic Rush is pretty close in awesomeness though).

As a result the collection seems not entirely without merit but ill thought-out and largely redundant.


(Oh, by the way, if you'd like to see what the album looks like and view the tracklist so you can make your own off your own 32X hardware recordings like I *might*, you can find them over at http://game.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/news/20100319_355799.html.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Am a Horrible Person

Yes, a truly despicable person.

How do I know?


I unleashed the following image upon the world.


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Games I Would Buy Already If I Wasn't Near Broke

So, this list is as much for my benefit as for yours, largely about games that I want to get but can't because I don't have adequate funds at the current moment for them.

Pokemon Heart Gold (NDS)
I had missed out on the pokemon craze back in the days. I'm not interested in starting from square one, but I'm putting a little time into Pokemon Yellow. Even though I still see the game as only having 150 of the little buggers, I still have a bit of OCD nagging at me about getting EVERY LAST ONE. To that end, I would need to trade with other people, so being able to do so over the internet is a godsend. I have a couple people who would be available regularly for trading, too, so that would be cool. Besides, Gold and Silver are supposed to be the peak of Pokemon, so I ought to at least try it once, and go with a souped-up remake of them.

It's been discounted on Amazon recently, but not as greatly as it was a few weeks ago. I guess I missed the boat -- if only I had a little more cash at that time, I'd have gotten it. I'd have probably been OK doing so, and it'd be a good game to keep me busy during flights and such.

Madworld (Wii)

After Bayonetta, I'm at least temporarily obsessed with Platinum Games. Seriously, it rocked me so hard and I'm jonesing for a new fix. Madworld may not be a long game, from what I've heard, but it's stylish, ultraviolent to the point of comical, and has Greg Proops in it.

It's also around $8 on Amazon. Another damn good buy.

Ōkami (PS2 or Wii)

Before they were Platinum, they were Clover, under Capcom. This is one of the games from those days, something of a brawler where you play as the Shinto sun god Amaterasu and get to be a wolf. It apparently suffers from the opposite issue of Madworld -- it is very, very long for an action game. I still want it though, if for no other reason than it's one of the few more modern games that has a particularly appealing visual style. Of course, the game seems at least decently fun and would probably be a good start on the Clover back catalog.

Also fairly cheap on Amazon, somewhere around $10 for the Wii version. Though it doesn't look as nice, I can't really see myself being able to stand drawing things with the PS2 joysticks. Might get it for PS2 anyway, though, since it's not a huge difference otherwise, and might end up cheaper. I'll have to see.

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (Wii, PS2)

Also another one I want. It's only just come out so unlikely to be particularly cheap. However, I am madly in love with Valkyria Chronicles -- it has fun gameplay, a pretty cool story, and a lovely visual style (vaguely reminiscent of Okami). This here is the game that the team behind VC made before they did that one. It's a strategy RPG with dating sim conversation trees in it. That second part isn't really essential to the larger gameplay and can't lead to a game over, but the ability to develop personal relationships with some of the girls in the game is no doubt a significant reason the series has been huge in Japan.

I actually have copies of the first two Sakura Taisen titles for Saturn, gotten cheap from eBay. I've never played them for more than 2 minutes because I don't speak Japanese and there's a lot of dialogue before the first battle, but I needed them after VC because I could find them cheap and SSF is a great Saturn emulator.

I probably won't be getting this one for a while since it just came out and likely won't drop too heavily in price for a while. Still, at least it's something other than FF13.

Resonance of Fate (360, PS3)

This strikes me as what VC would probably have been if it was outsourced by Square. It's by tri-Ace (the Valkyrie Profile people) but actually published by Sega -- just like VC. I will probably play the demo before I do anything else, and likely get the 360 since I have so little confidence in most PS3 ports.
I think I will refer to it as Valkyria Profile in the future.

These are just some of the more notable new releases I'm looking into. I still have a number of GB and SNES games I need to get caught up on. Pity Hagane is such a hard game to find because that looks exactly like the sort of thing I want.