Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘TV Tropes

Thursday Links

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* Today is our last day discussing John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up, and conveniently the headline at io9 right now reads “Gonorrhea is becoming untreatable.” The prophecy was true!

 In an 8-1 vote, the City Council of Greensboro, North Carolina approved a resolution opposing a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban any legal recognition of same-sex couples. Greensboro joins Raleigh and Chapel Hill all in opposition to Amendment 1, which comes to a vote on May 8. The Durham City Council opposes the measure too.

* 16 Things Super Bowl Ads Would Like You to Know About Women in 2012.

* Steve Jobs’s FBI file. Academic pro-tip: when beginning research on anyone who is deceased you should immediately request their FBI file.

* Bad news folks: Obama Has Put America On ‘The Path’ Of Executing Religious People By Decapitation.

* In an interesting piece at An und für sich, Adam Kotsko tries to dive beneath the politics and explain just why it is the Catholic hierarchy is so interested in birth control.

I propose that the answer can be found in a historic compromise set forth by one of the most influential thinkers you’ve never heard of: namely, Clement of Alexandria, a second-century Christian philosopher.

* From David Graeber—Concerning the Violent Peace-Police: An Open Letter to Chris Hedges.

Surely you must recognize, when it’s laid out in this fashion, that this is precisely the sort of language and argument that, historically, has been invoked by those encouraging one group of people to physically attack, ethnically cleanse, or exterminate another—in fact, the sort of language and argument that is almost never invoked in any other circumstance. After all, if a group is made up exclusively of violent fanatics who cannot be reasoned with, intent on our destruction, what else can we really do? This is the language of violence in its purest form. Far more than “fuck the police.” To see this kind of language employed by someone who claims to be speaking in the name of non-violence is genuinely extraordinary.

Facebook has found a way to make money from its new Timeline feature less than five months after launching it, repackaging what people “listen” to, “watch,” and “read” into ads and delivering them to their friends.

* Tomorrow’s TV Tropes today: my friend @drbluman finds another example of Sitcom Entropy, the inexorable law of nature that shows how sitcoms degrade in quality over time.

* Arizona Law SB 1467 Would Make It Illegal to Teach Law, History, or Literature, or for Teachers to Have Sex, or Pee.

* And James Fallows attempts to explain Obama.

This is the central mystery of his performance as a candidate and a president. Has Obama in office been anything like the chess master he seemed in the campaign, whose placid veneer masked an ability to think 10 moves ahead, at which point his adversaries would belatedly recognize that they had lost long ago? Or has he been revealed as just a pawn—a guy who got lucky as a campaigner but is now pushed around by political opponents who outwit him and economic trends that overwhelm him?

‘Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality’

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The only fan fiction I’ve ever recommended, and perhaps even read at all: “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality,” loosely organized around an alternate universe version of the J.K. Rowling novels in which (among other things) Harry’s adoptive parents were not the repulsive Dursleys but instead an rationalist Oxford scientist. The piece is written in accordance with the author’s self-established principles of fan fiction:

The First Law of Fanfiction states that every change which strengthens the protagonists requires a corresponding worsening of their challenges. Or in plainer language: You can’t make Frodo a Jedi without giving Sauron the Death Star. Read any book on writing ever and it will tell you that stories are about conflict; a hero too strong for their conflict is no longer in tense, heart-pounding difficulty. For example, Dark!Dumbledore and Dark!Harry both permit a Harry strengthened over canon – the first by turning one of Harry’s canon!allies against him, and the second by turning Harry against his canon!allies. The most spectacular application of this principle that I’ve seen is Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time, in which Harry has gained all the knowledge of ancient Atlantis and has been through literally hundreds of Peggy Sue cycles in which he learns every possible twist of fate… and Voldemort, who unfortunately got to Atlantis first, has still won every time. The Mary Sue is not defined by her power, but by her lack of an even more powerful opponent. I mention this (1) so that you know I know it and (2) because the First Law of Fanfiction ought to be in a giant banner on every fanfiction site. The most fatal temptation of fanfiction writing is to think of how much easier some character’s life would be if they were a ninja. We are naturally inclined to think up ways to solve our characters’ problems for them, but must learn instead to make their lives more difficult.

The Rule of Rationalist Fiction states that rationality is not magic; being rational does not require magical potential or royal bloodlines or even amazing gadgets, and the principles of rationality work for understandable reasons.A rationalist!hero should excel by thinking – moreover, thinking in understandable patterns that readers can, in principle, adopt for themselves. As opposed to the hero just being a born “genius” who comes up with amazing gadgets through an opaque discovery process, or who pulls off incredibly complicated gambits that would fail miserably if the reader tried something similar in real life.

I found this strange and slightly wonderful mess (where else?) at TV Tropes, which points out that it’s a self-conscious Author Tract for self-educated AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky, who seems to take Bayes’s theorem as something like religion.

Of course “HPatMoR” is definitely not for everyone—I can only imagine what Alex will say if he takes the bait and clicks the link—but it displays that precise nerdly obsessiveness I find I just can’t resist. When a fan-fic writers imagines his souped-up Voldemort turning the outbound Pioneer 11 spacecraft into one of his many Horcuxes—well, look, I’m not made of stone.

I should also say this link is roughly the complete opposite of “breaking news”—the ongoing project is nearly a year old.

Lone Wolf

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Whenever I mention Lone Wolf a friend or two reveals that they too loved the series as children. This post is for you: Project Aon has released a client for playing through the books. (Via MetaFilter, which has bonus links to some Let’s Play playthroughs as well.) For more instant nostalgia, there’s always TV Tropes. (WARNING: Again, this is a TV Tropes link. Click at your own risk, and not if you have anything to do.)

Written by gerrycanavan

August 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

It Was The Week That Wouldn’t End and It Was Only Half Over

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* The time has come for all good people to follow Conan O’Brien on Twitter.

* Pay attention, North Carolina: “It is impossible for any candidate to get to the right of me.” I honestly don’t care who is running against him, I’ll pull the lever.

* Rush Limbaugh is this and every day’s worst person in the world.

* Glenn Beck: Judas!

* Ezra Klein hates America so much he’s trying to pretend that reconciliation isn’t just another world for communofascism.

* Matt Yglesias and Climate Progress explain to the editors of the Washington Post where all this climate misinformation mysteriously originates: their own completely useless editorial page and the liars they happily print there.

* Related: Reid wants a climate bill.

* Also related: Vermont has voted to close its problem-plagued Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. How long can a nuclear reactor last? Via MeFi.

* The secret origins of TV Tropes. Historical footnote: the first TV Trope ever was the Gilligan Cut.

* Behold the terror of the Zeigarnik Effect: “the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete.”

* “DNA’s Dirty Little Secret: A forensic tool renowned for exonerating the innocent may actually be putting them in prison.” Via Steve Benen.

Barlow’s main point of contention was statistics. Typically, law enforcement and prosecutors rely on FBI estimates for the rarity of a given DNA profile—a figure can be as remote as one in many trillions when investigators have all thirteen markers to work with. In Puckett’s case, where there were only five and a half markers available, the San Francisco crime lab put the figure at one in 1.1 million—still remote enough to erase any reasonable doubt of his guilt. The problem is that, according to most scientists, this statistic is only relevant when DNA material is used to link a crime directly to a suspect identified through eyewitness testimony or other evidence. In cases where a suspect is found by searching through large databases, the chances of accidentally hitting on the wrong person are orders of magnitude higher. 

The reasons for this aren’t difficult to grasp: consider what happens when you take a DNA profile that has a rarity of one in a million and run it through a database that contains a million people; chances are you’ll get a coincidental match. Given this fact, the two leading scientific bodies that have studied the issue—the National Research Council and the FBI’s DNA advisory board—have recommended that law enforcement and prosecutors calculate the probability of a coincidental match differently in cold-hit cases. In particular, they recommend multiplying the FBI’s rarity statistic by the number of profiles in the database, to arrive at a figure known as the Database Match Probability. When this formula is applied to Puckett’s case (where a profile with a rarity of one in 1.1 million was run through a database of 338,000 offenders) the chances of a coincidental match climb to one in three.

* Why autism is different for girls.

* Chat Roulette: a documentary.

* Do MFA programs hurt poetry?

* Teach the controversy: “There is no unified flat Earth model,” Shenton suggests, “but the most commonly accepted one is that it’s more or less a disc, with a ring of something to hold in the water. The height and substance of that, no one is absolutely sure, but most people think it’s mountains with snow and ice.”

* In response to a new federal mandate to fix under-performing schools, every teacher will be fired at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. Via MetaFilter, where the conversation is by turns fascinating and soul-crushing. I’m expecting another round of (justified) anti-Duncan, anti-Obama diatribes from my friends in public education in five… four… three…

* And an awesome post I missed from Tim a few weeks back: the top-ten most desirable rare video games.

Monday Night Links

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Monday night links.

* After a brief flirtation with “top five” status, Brüno is back to being a box-office disappointment.

* Top ten comics cities. #2: Chris Ware’s Chicago. Via MetaFilter.

* xkcd tackles the frighteningly addictive power of TV Tropes.

* SF by the numbers. Via Boing Boing.

* Why are we so fat?

* Also in the New Yorker: profiles of Al Franken and Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, last seen ratifying nature’s right to exist.

* And allow me to offer my heartiest gerrycanavan.blogspot.com welcome to North Carolina’s newest resident.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 13, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Holmes v. Moriarty

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Holmes v. Moriarty in “While You Sleep, I Destroy Your World.” Also via TV Tropes. If anything “half my afternoon” was an understatement.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 4, 2009 at 3:44 am

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‘Missives from Possible Futures’

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For your Sample History Search, you asked to see THE DEATH OF ADOLF HITLER on the date of AUGUST 13, 1908 in VIENNA, AUSTRIA. As it happens, THE DEATH OF ADOLF HITLER is one of our most popular requests, and Multiversity™ has developed an impressive pre-cached concordance on the subject, spanning most days of this subject’s entire lifespan. What does this mean for you? Simply that as a pre-researched event, if you were paying for this History Search, we could offer you this information on a substantially discounted basis: Some popular searches are available for as much as 65% off the “new search” price!

Missives from Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results. Via the Web site I spent about half my afternoon at, TV Tropes.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 4, 2009 at 3:40 am

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