miss_yt: (Default)
I don't ask this kind of thing often, but does anyone here play Eternity Warriors on the iPhone and/or iPad, or know someone who does? I'm looking for a clan to join, or at least to team up with another loner.

In the unlikely event that someone is interested: my GameCenter ID is BookBeast.
miss_yt: (Jedi Mind Trick)
With regard to Turn Coat: Damn you, Jim Butcher! In a good way!

Ahem. That's all.
miss_yt: (Bother bother bother!)
I have just returned from a dispute with one of the tenants of the neighboring building. See, there are two driveways, one on either side of the building I live in (both buildings are houses converted into apartments, by the way). Both feed into my building's little parking lot, and each also feeds into the parking lots of the houses adjacent to us.

I got home tonight and saw that someone had parked their car in one of the driveways, blocking it. I was able to get in through the other one, but really, it's inconsiderate (and possibly hazardous) to park your car in one of those drives. I was reasonably certain that someone who lived in either my building or the one it shares a driveway with would not park there, and that parking there was illegal, so I called the towing service that removes unauthorized cars from the property.

When the tower got there he called me to talk to him, because it wasn't clear whether the blocked driveway belonged to my landlord or the landlord of the house next to ours. I also had a bit of an argument with the two young women who owned the car and did, in fact, live in the adjacent building. One of them bitched at me for calling the tow truck, saying that since she was not blocking my access to my parking lot, it was "evil" of me to call the towing company, especially since she makes it a point to knock on the door of our building when one of us parks a car in her lot. I said no, it was not evil, because I was under the impression that one is not allowed to park in the middle of the driveway. She said her lease allowed her to park there and she does it all the time (I was skeptical about this: I know people do occasionally park in that driveway, but not all the time and, I think, not legally).

The tow truck driver agreed that she probably was not allowed to park there, or at least it was a very bad idea, because the driveway was an easement feeding into the lot behind another building (ours) as well as the one she lived in. We weren't able to clear up who owned the driveway and who was allowed to park in it. The truck driver, and the bitchy young woman's friend, both figured that it was a misunderstanding. I'm not precisely sure who misunderstood what, but I didn't say that.

Anyway, I ended up splitting the truck fee (which the driver kindly discounted for us) with the two young ladies, just because I didn't want to get into a huge argument over the thing, but I said I wanted to see some proof that their landlord owned the driveway and that they were allowed to park in it as soon as they could get it to me (in the form of a signed letter). This seemed to mollify the bitchy young woman, who dialed down to merely grumpy, although I'm a little worried that she might point me out to other residents of the building or something and I don't know what will come of that.

Maybe I should have knocked on the door, but recall that I was under the impression that a resident of either building would not inconvenience others by parking there (apparently I was wrong about that), and the behavior of some of the other renters in the neighborhood - drunken parties with loud music at late hours and other general hooliganery - makes me a little wary of the prospect of talking to them. I strongly suspect that at least a few of them are under the impression that they can do whatever they please without regard to others who live nearby, and that they would object very strongly to being told or even asked to have some consideration for others. Ms. Bitchy certainly did not encourage me to feel otherwise.

So, I had a bit of unpleasantness and lost twenty-five dollars over the whole affair. I suppose next time I should only make a complaint if someone is blocking the other driveway, which I know for certain is part of my landlord's property.
miss_yt: (Nervous much?)
I learned a new medical word yesterday: "Neuroma." Apparently I have one.

A bit more than a week ago, the ball of my right foot and the second toe on that same foot started to hurt. It felt like muscle strain: I figured I'd been pressing down too much on that part of my foot while doing elliptical exercises at the gym, and that it would get better in a couple of days like all muscle strains. But it didn't: it got worse. I had to leave my kendo practice later that week and I didn't bother going to this latest practice, because the part of my foot that hurts so bad is the part you come down on when you do fumikomi, or striking footwork.

I went to the health center yesterday and the doctor, after feeling my foot and asking me some questions, said that I have a neuroma, which is when you irritate a nerve and it starts to swell. She said to wear supportive shoes with nonflexible soles to keep that part of my foot from bending and hurting and to put ice on it. Buddy-taping my second toe to my big toe seems to help too. I hope this clears up on its own and that I won't need surgery to remove the nerve, so I'm trying my best to follow her instructions and avoid the need to have my foot cut open. Please wish me luck!

Group Wank

Mar. 3rd, 2009 02:58 pm
miss_yt: (Mock the Stupid)
I've learned a few things about working in groups during my graduate school career. One of those things is that, if you are working in groups larger than two, there is always someone who just Doesn't Get It. I don't mean that they're slow to catch on, or that they just don't have the knack for whatever the group is doing (if they are, for instance, trying to build a shed together and one of them is a habitual klutz who keeps banging his thumb with the hammer). I mean people who display a frankly astounding lack of ignorance of some subject that they have no excuse for not understanding by now and that they need to work effectively in the group.

I have encountered, so far, three different types of Not Getting It:

  1. Not understanding the methodology of the project or the format it is supposed to have, even though they have been undergoing the same training and (presumably) reading the same textbook/manual about doing this type of project as everyone else in the group.

  2. Lacking an awareness of practical considerations that are not part of the core topic of the project, but important to it nonetheless. This lack of awareness leads to unrealistic expectations about what the group or the finished product can accomplish.

  3. Having a poor, if not nonexistent, grasp of the fundamental principles they and the other members of the group have been reading about, and discussing in class, for half a semester now - in spite of having a professor who is actually very good at explaining his field to nonexperts, and course readings that are good at it too.

I have another group project coming up (although fortunately one has just ended) and I'm not sure if I can stand another person who Doesn't Get It.
miss_yt: (Chairleg)
Some of you may be aware of a recent ruling by Federal judges rejecting the theory that vaccines cause autism. About time, says I, although I'm not sure how much good it will do. I doubt the ruling is getting as much publicity as the theory did, and even if it does, it's unlikely to convince a lot of people who believe there's a link between vaccines and autism to believe otherwise.

I don't think it helps that the guy who wrote that particular article, or a lot of other people who reject the theory (including doctors), demonstrate so much contempt for all the parents of autistic kids who believe their children were messed up by booster shots. If you are trying to convince someone to change their mind and see things your way, calling them an idiot for disagreeing with you might feel good, but if you do it you've already lost.

And while I'm very angry that so many people are convinced that vaccines cause autism, I am not for the most part angry at them, and I don't think they're idiots. I'm angry at the people who came up with this theory in the first place. Let me explain.

Parents of autistic children are stuck with the unenviable task of raising a round peg to fit somewhere in a world full of square holes. No matter where the child is on the autism spectrum, that's a difficult thing to do. If the kid has serious problems and has no chance in hell of growing up into a reasonably functional adult,1 then there is no way for parents to do the job they're supposed to do.

We don't know what causes autism - there are some theories, and we know genetics play a part, but that's about all - and for parents of autistic children, the lack of an answer to the question of "what made my child this way?" is yet another difficulty they have to deal with. In the absence of an answer, they either get frustrated, blame themselves, or both. It's not rational to be frustrated or guilty, but these are parents, and this is about their children - of course they're not going to be rational.

So along comes this guy - Dr. Andrew Wakefield - and he says he has conducted a study demonstrating proof that some of the chemicals in vaccines cause autism. All those parents of autistic kids, because they don't really understand how vaccines work, because they have a culturally inculcated suspicion of the medical establishment and pharmacy companies, and most of all because they are desperate, finally have an answer. They can now direct their frustrations at something other than themselves, their kids, God or the universe in general. Considering how they felt before, it's no wonder that they'll believe any theory that seems halfway plausible, and I really can't blame them.

The thing is, Dr. Wakefield conducted this study at the behest of a law firm representing parents who blamed vaccines for inducing autism in their children. When Wakefield published his results in 1998, he neglected to mention that he'd received something in the neighborhood of one million dollars for conducting this study. There is also reason to suspect that he fudged his numbers. Meaning, in other words, that the whole "link" between vaccines and autism was cooked up by a bunch of lawyers and a dishonest doctor who wanted to line his pockets and should probably have his medical license revoked for violating the ethics of his profession. What these people did was incredibly manipulative and it's part of what makes me angry about their "theory."

The other thing that makes me angry is that they've scared a bunch of parents out of getting their kids vaccinated, which creates a huge health risk. We don't usually see diseases like measles, polio or tetanus in the developed world anymore because we vaccinate our children against them. But we've been seeing these diseases a bit more often lately - for instance last year's measles outbreak in the UK - because a lot of people who believe Dr. Wakefield's theory are not taking their kids in for shots. Children have died of easily preventable diseases because of this quack's self-serving lies.

So don't tell me that autism is caused by vaccines. I know where that idea comes from.

1 There are of course a lot of self-sufficient autistic adults out there, even if you don't count folks with Asperger's Syndrome.

I did it!

Feb. 6th, 2009 01:47 pm
miss_yt: (Knitting Icon by Arcessita)
After many many months of work, I finally finished what I've taken to calling the Afghan of Doom (because of its sheer scale and the occasional frustration involved in making it). My mother commissioned this and paid for the yarn. After I show it off to the ladies at knitting circle this coming Tuesday, I'll mail it to her.

Here are pictures!

The whole afghan (or almost the whole afghan) )


A close-up view, for a better look at the ripple pattern )
miss_yt: (Default)
When I was a kid I didn't read a lot of comic books - I still don't - but I did enjoy DC's Elseworlds stories, or at least the few that I found. For those of you who don't know, Elseworlds comics are "what if?" stories in which familiar DC characters are put in an unfamiliar context. For instance, Kal-El's pod landed in Communist Russia instead of Kansas (that's Superman: Red Son) or Bruce Wayne took up the mantle of Batman during the late nineteenth/early twentieth century (Gotham by Gaslight, of which I have a copy).

Here are the premises of some of the Elseworlds issues I had when I was a kid:

  • Batman, Robin and Catwoman are ninjas during Japan's medieval period

  • Superman landed in the Indian jungle during the 19th century, was raised by animals and discovered by a party of British explorers, including Richard Burton and Lois Lane

  • Krypton is under threat not from earthquakes but from a deadly genetically engineered plague. The ruling council follows Jor-El's advice to evacuate the planet. 100,000 Kryptonians (plus Kal-El, still an embryo in a gestation pod) relocate to Earth and take over the place. Kal-El, born and raised on Earth, joins a resistance movement led by Lois Lane

I'm pretty sure I had more, but if so I forgot them.

Anyway, I poked around on Amazon.com recently and found a whole bunch of Elseworlds books available for order - although as far as I can tell, they are all in single-story format and there are no collected editions or anything like that (phooey). Can those of you who are more comic-savvy than myself perhaps recommend some Elseworlds books to read?
miss_yt: (Tribbles!)
Since I am studying information security, I just can't stop laughing at today's XKCD. I sent the link to my security professor who then forwarded it to the whole class, although that may have been redundant because I'm pretty sure most of my fellow School of Information grad students read XKCD on a regular basis. And if they don't, they should.

EDIT: Link fixed.
miss_yt: (The Laughing Man)
I've never used a news aggregator before, but I feel that I should start so I can keep track of articles on developments in information security. Does anyone have any recommendations? I need something that will let me pick up articles by author, keyword(s), column, or some combination of the three.

In other news, I finished knitting what I've taken to calling the Afghan of Doom - a project my mother commissioned and bought the yarn for. I gave it to someone at a local knitting shop to do the finishing work. I will post a picture of the finished product when I get it back. I have started knitting a really broad scarf that I can easily use to protect my face, ears and neck. The alpaca scarf I recently made isn't long enough to protect everything, and while the 12-foot-long thing I have works for that, it's very awkward.

Wonder why I'm fussing about scarves? Because this winter I've encountered stretches of days when the high temperature is, at most, in the low teens - and has often been less. That kind of thing is very tough on one's exposed ears.
miss_yt: (Default)
Whew! I'm back home from class and a couple of errands, and managed to keep from freezing to death or losing any extremities to frostbite. I don't have to go out anymore today, which is a great relief.

I've been thinking about knitting some kind of really broad scarf that I can wrap around my head and neck. I have a nice alpaca scarf that I knit, but it's not wide or long enough to keep everything warm. I have another scarf that is really long but awkward. Fortunately, I also have a giant skein of cheap but good acrylic yarn that I can use to make more winter-weather gear. I also have a book of knitting motifs. I'll find a good one and use it as the basis for a big broad scarf.
miss_yt: (Sokka by Darkchan)
It's not fair. My Mac temperature widget says it's -12 degrees outside. And guess what the high temperature for today is? 4 degrees.

I have to go to a morning class. I'll still go because it's my enterprise security class and that's the career field I want to go into and so I'd better darn well be there, but I'd better wear my really long scarf and my ski gloves.

Wish me luck so bits of me don't fall off from frostbite before I reach the classroom.


Jan. 7th, 2009 09:10 pm
miss_yt: (The Laughing Man)
I have been reading Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin, a book I highly recommend.

The book is interesting in many ways, but one of the most interesting things in it - to me - is a theory developed by Dr. Robert K. Wayne of UCLA about the relationship between early humans and dogs. Or, well, the wolves that speciated into what are now dogs. His research suggest that humans did not start domesticating wolves 14,000 years ago, as current theory has it, but that early Homo sapiens sapiens had a sort of symbiotic relationship with wolves starting as early as 135,000 years ago. Humans and wolves protected and fed each other.

One piece of supporting evidence is that human bones and wolf bones from more than 100,000 years ago are often found in close proximity to one another. But a more interesting piece of evidence is something that Temple Grandin points out herself: humans have many "wolfie" features that distinguish them from other primates. The social structure of a wolf pack is more complex than that of, say, a band of chimpanzees. Wolves also have strong non-kin friendships, which no primate species (other than humans) has. Most primates aren't all that territorial, but humans - like wolves - are very territorial. All in all, it seems like humans didn't domesticate wolves into dogs so much as humans and dogs' wolfie ancestors domesticated each other.

This all sounds a little crazy to me but still relatively plausible. Thoughts?
miss_yt: (Default)
Merry belated Christmas, to those of you who are into that kind of thing! I am now in Florida with my brother Daniel, who thoughtfully got me some baby mohair yarn for Hannukah. Granny took us out for Thai food last night, a twist on the Jewish sort-of-tradition of getting Chinese takeout on Christmas Day. This actually is a tradition in my synagogue: people bring in vegetarian Chinese food (our synagogue is vegetarian-only) and watch Israeli movies.

My other brother, Benjamin, got the new Prince of Persia game with his Hannukah money. I got a good ways into it while I was home and will definitely finish it when I go back to Maryland before returning to Michigan. And, for those of you who are wondering, it's an awesome game. Although I often felt like I was playing a supporting character to the Prince's own personal superheroine,1 Elika. I'm not sure whether that's a bad thing because it's a new experience for me and I am rather fond of Elika.

I'm missing Roo terribly. I keep having dreams about losing her. But I'll get to see her again in a little more than a week, and she will probably give me some new bites and scratches to replace the ones that have healed since I've been away. Awww!

1 What? She swoops in and saves the Prince when he's about to fall to his death or get squashed by a bad guy or something. Of course she's a superheroine.
miss_yt: (Default)
That microecon final did not go as I anticipated. I thought I was prepared, but when it came down to it I couldn't figure out how to answer any of the questions. Microeconomics involves calculus, by the way. If I hadn't dropped out of college freshman calculus, I would have failed out. See the problem?

Fortunately, after I conveyed to the professor just how in over my head I was, she said I could take the test home and use my books and notes. I'll be taking a penalty but I should at least pass the class. It took me four hours and fifteen minutes to finish the damn thing (a bit more than twice the time actually scheduled for the final), but it's good. I'll be dropping it off with the grader tomorrow. Well, later today.

Speaking of which, I've been up all night. I tried to go to sleep at half past midnight and gave it up for a lost cause less than an hour later, and I've been awake ever since (it's 6:30 now). It's not anxiety - it's a weird PMS thing I have. Kind of annoying, but at least if I need to take a nap later, I'll be able to do that.

Tomorrow I'm flying home to Maryland. A friend of mine will be taking care of Roo while I'm away. I'd better hug the kitty as much as I can before I leave, because I won't be seeing her for the next three weeks!
miss_yt: (Default)
I managed to beat Jade Empire today before I had to rush off to class. Woo! It's pretty awesome. This time I played as a woman. Next time I plan to play as a man and make a different romantic choice, just to see what happens. Will I follow the Way of the Closed Fist instead of the Way of the Open Palm? Probably not. I just have this issue with being evil in RPGs. I have to have a reason beyond curiosity, malice and/or in-game material rewards to do that kind of thing.

I would like to squee with someone! [livejournal.com profile] desdenova, you're up!
miss_yt: (Default)
First, a background recap. My immediate family went to Florida for Thanksgiving this year, so I didn't think I'd be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner. I decided to go to Chicago over Thanksgiving Break. When I let this be known on Livejournal, [livejournal.com profile] desdenova generously offered to be my host and guide. When I told my mother, she said I ought to go visit her cousins (my second cousins) in the Chicago area as well.

So I got Thanksgiving dinner after all, with my mother's cousins. It was a lot of fun. There were two turkeys, one conventionally baked and one deep fried, as well as a turkey-shaped loaf of bread, among other tasty things. I decided it wouldn't be a good time to bother people about my organic meat snobbery and just ate what I was offered.1

My cousins have a standard poodle named Rocky. I mention Rocky because he does a really cute dog trick. When they hold hands and dance around in a circle singing "Hava Nagila," the dog dances too, running around the circle and leaping like an excited puppy. [livejournal.com profile] desdenova said that my cousins should film this and put it on YouTube.

Speaking of [livejournal.com profile] desdenova, I got to see her on the day after Thanksgiving. I met her at Union Station and gave her a gift I'd brought along from U-con - that gaming convention I went to a couple of weeks before. The present was a chainmail gaming dice pouch. [livejournal.com profile] desdenova said one of the most gratifying things I've ever heard someone say on receiving a gift from me - that the pouch would make her the coolest kid in her D&D group.

We went sightseeing around downtown Chicago for a while that evening. If you ever go to Millennium Park in Chicago, make sure you see the giant reflective bean sculpture. Walk under it and look up to see the Awesome Shiny Bean Vortex, because it's awesome. The city has some interesting stuff going on at Christmas, like the Christmas Market (based on similar markets in Germany) and the decorations in the shopping district. We were lucky enough to get seats at the bar in a popular pizza restaurant and get some honest-to-goodness Chicago deep-dish pizza. Ann Arbor pizza tends to be adequate at best, so having good deep-dish pizza was a big thing for me.

The next day we went to the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. Unfortunately the Oceanarium at Shedd was closed (so no dolphins, whales or penguins for us), but there were still a lot of cool fish to see. There was also a great jade exhibit at the Field Museum - as well as the famous Sue, the most complete fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world. We ended the day with really good Thai food at a restaurant near [livejournal.com profile] desdenova's apartment.

I would like to once again thank [livejournal.com profile] desdenova for being my host and Chicago tour guide, and also for introducing me to Jade Empire. I haven't beat it yet but I would like to discuss it with you when I do!

1 I don't bother about the organic meat thing when it would present an extreme annoyance/inconvenience to my hosts. For instance, I don't bother about it with any of my grandparents, who would have a hard time making accommodations for it. In this case, my visit was on somewhat short notice and my cousins were taking me along to dinner at someone else's house, so it really wouldn't have been appropriate.
miss_yt: (Ale and Whores!)
Spent most of the morning at U-con playing Settlers of Catan. Not just regular Catan, but "Big Catan," a game on a custom-made large-sized board made with foam hexes and the kind of modeling equipment people use to build model railroad landscapes. I won one of the games and got a Cthulhu activity book as a prize. XD

In the afternoon I joined yet another D&D game, this one old-school 3.5 edition. The DM actually lives in the area and runs campaigns. I said It had been a long time since I'd done regular gaming (not since I left Philly, actually), and asked if he would be okay with me joining a game next semester. He said he's planning a new 4th edition game in January and that I was welcome to join it. We exchanged e-mails, and I will get back in touch with him after winter break. Yay!

I think I'll be a fighter this time, and maybe a Dragonborn. I'm tired of being a spellcaster (I usually play clerics). I'd just like to wade in and hit stuff.
miss_yt: (Ale and Whores!)
So I've spent much of the last couple days at U-con, an annual gaming convention at the University of Michigan. I've played two Dungeons and Dragons games so far, both 4th edition, and I feel I should provide some kind of review for the curious (and/or skeptical).

I'll do this in the form of a quick rundown. Here's the good stuff about the new D&D:

  1. New races: Dragonborn and Tieflings. The former are, as you might think, a humanoid dragon-ish race: the latter, a race of demon/human crossbreeds. Both have some awesome racial skills (particularly Dragonborn), and Tieflings are nice if you want to play a conflicted character. There are also Eladrin, a cousin race to the elves, but in my view they're just another flavor of elf and not all that interesting, although they don't suck either.

  2. Low-level heroes do not suck. They have quite a few abilities and can actually do some real damage.

  3. New classes: Warlock and Warlord. Warlocks are kind of like sorcerers but they handle better. Warlords provide leadership bonuses and stat buffs to the party.

  4. Mark, quarry and curse: Mark is usable by fighters, paladins, and certain other fighter-ish classes. Quarry is used by rangers (it may be used by other classes, but I don't know). Curse is used by warlocks. They are all class-based free actions that either provide the player with certain advantages against a particular enemy or debuff that enemy. It's a nice touch.

  5. It's easier to crit: you just have to roll a 20, no re-rolling, and it just means you do your maximum possible damage.

  6. Movement is by tiles (which are basically 5-foot increments), not feet, which makes moving and range and such easier to work out. You can also move diagonally without any penalties or other weirdness.

  7. Healing surge: Certain classes, like the cleric and paladin, can use something called a "healing surge" a certain number of times a day. It's just a straight way to regenerate a fixed amount of hit points and you don't have to roll for it. With certain spells, you can enhance healing surges or activate a healing surge for another player who can't "self-activate." It takes a lot of the frustration out of magical healing.

  8. Minor actions: In addition to move and standard actions, there are now "minor actions" as well. You don't have to give up an opportunity to move or attack to perform some small action like drinking a potion. Certain special abilities and spells are also classified as minor actions.

  9. And here's the big one: abilities. This covers many special attacks, spells, and "active" feats. You have "at-will," "encounter" and "daily" abilities. "At-will" abilities can be used as often as you like during battle. "Encounter" abilities can be used once per battle. And "daily" is, well...what it sounds like, pretty much. The spells you used to have to memorize and cast-and-forget are now abilities, which takes a lot of the headache out of being a spellcaster.

And the bad stuff:

  1. Half-orcs and gnomes are not listed as races in the standard player's handbook. Gnomes now default to being a monster race (although you can still create a gnome hero - it's just weird). I don't know about half-orcs yet.

  2. Some classes, like bards and barbarians, have been cut out of the player's handbook. Barbarians, at least, are supposed to be covered in some kind of supplement: I don't know what happened to bards.

  3. Half-elves have been retconned. Instead of being loners they are now apparently social butterflies.

Some of the DMs around the con and others who have been playing D&D 4th Ed. were making other complaints too, although I forgot about those. Overall, I actually think that the fourth edition has many distinct advantages over 3.5, and is much more streamlined than its predecessor. I enjoy it, warts and all, and I would recommend to my DM friends that they give some serious consideration to adopting the new play system. Of course, that would mean spending a small fortune on all the source books, so I won't insist on it.
miss_yt: (I can bludgeon pretty hard.)
E-mail to: sales@credomobile.com

Subject: Take me off your list.

Today I got a piece of CREDO junk mail in my mailbox - this after getting numerous spam e-mails. I want you people to stop sending me anything.

First of all, I am a student on my family's cell phone contract plan. I can't easily afford my own cell phone plan. I couldn't switch services even if I wanted to. Second, I DON'T want to. Your company has annoyed me so much by trying to sell me something with a "social justice" label stuck on it that I don't want to do business with you. Ever.

I am not part of your market demographic. Stop trying to sell me something, because I'm not buying.



miss_yt: (Default)

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