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Mister Sanity

Sanity? Why yes, indeed, I do have sanity. I've got loads of sanity, all kinds of sanity. Perhaps I've got a little too much sanity. I've got so much sanity, it's driving me out of my mind!

Updated: 2017-12-07T05:27:09.438-05:00


Screenshots: NetHack Fourk


These screenshots are for NetHack Fourk version, which is being released today. [...]

When Sheryl Ran for Granted


It started on a Tuesday,
I remember that much now,
When Sheryl ran for granted.
She never really did say,
But we heard her anyhow,
When Sheryl ran for granted.

When Sheryl ran for granted,
     before two, after three,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     over you, and under me,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     feeling trapped, feeling free,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     we were there, you and me,
When Sheryl ran for granted.

We had a lot of backers,
They poured in by the dozen,
When Sheryl ran for granted.
Some of us were slackers,
But the diligent were chosen,
When Sheryl ran for granted.

When Sheryl ran for granted,
     day by day, thick and thin,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     'twas the way, that was then,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     child's play, kith and kin,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     what she'd say, how we'd win,
When Sheryl ran for granted.

Surprises kept on coming,
So much was unexpected,
No one foresaw the end.
Sheryl just kept on running,
She was so underrated,
It was such a mighty trend.

When Sheryl ran for granted,
     all as one, none alone,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     what a run, in the zone,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     she was the one, our backbone,
When Sheryl ran for granted,
     it was fun, the world to own,
When Sheryl ran for granted.

Pear Cake


Note that, for this to be any good, you must use proper canned pears. Do not go to the grocery store and buy flavorless so-unripe-they-are-crunchy canned pears. Ever. Nothing good can come from that.

Cake Ingredients:
1 quart of home-canned pears (in light syrup, ideally).
1.5 cups of (granulated white) table sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. vanilla flavoring or extract
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
Glaze Ingredients:
all the juice/syrup from the pears
plus any excess blended pears (see instructions)
1/2 cup sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 tsp. pear extract (optional)
2 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Open the pears and pour the juice off into a saucepan, allowing the pears to drain well. (Not only do you want the juice for the glaze, you also don't want too much liquid in the cake.) Place the pears themselves in the blender and puree them, then divide the results: use up to 2 and 7/8 cups of the pear puree for the cake and whatever remains (if any) in the glaze. (If there isn't any pear puree left for the glaze, that's ok. The juice is enough.)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the larger portion of the pear puree with the sugar and eggs and beat until foamy, then beat in the oil and milk. Stir the dry ingredients together and then add them to the pear mixture. Beat until smooth. Fold in the raisins (if desired). Pour into a bundt pan. Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes (depending on your oven). When it's almost done, start the glaze (below). Let the finished cake cool in its pan for 5-10 minutes, then invert it onto a plate. Spoon glaze over the top while they are both still hot. If you get the top of the cake coated and a decent amount dripping down the sides and there is still glaze left, it can be spooned over individual slices while it lasts.

Glaze Instructions:

To make the glaze, combine the pear juice, the remaining pear puree (if any), the 1/2 cup of sugar, and the cornstarch in the saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens up. When you are just about ready to spoon the glaze over the cake, stir in the extract.

Big Rocks.


(image) This photo was taken on the Cup and Saucer hiking trail east of Kagawong.

Sault Ste Marie



This is a photo of the bridge over the St. Marys river, taken from a lookout point on the campus of Lake Superior State University in the UP.

Crystal Falls, Kinsman Park, north of Sault Ste. Marie


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Bridal Veil Falls, Kagawong


Ok, now that my Big Annual Thing is safely underway, I should probably start posting some photos from my vacation in June. Here's one from the falls in Kagawong.


Vacation Observations: on Currency


I just got back last night from a nine-day vacation trip with my sister. Yes, yes, photos will be forthcoming at some point. Meanwhile, a few observations. Tonight I'm going to focus on the currency. There are some things I like about Canadian currency... When you're counting it, you never worry that two bills are stuck together. That's basically impossible, because of how slick they are. I am not using the word slick for its colloquial meaning here: the bills are quite physically slippery. This feels really weird to me: they don't feel like US bills, that's for sure. But it's nice not to have to triple-check that you don't have two bills stuck together. I could get used to the color coding. It looks weird at first, but it's pragmatically reasonable. You don't easily mistake a red fifty for a blue five or vice versa. Most of the colors were a bit stronger than they would really need to be, so yes, it kind of does look like Monopoly money if you're not accustomed to it (more subdued colors would still be easy to tell apart at a glance), but on the whole I think I like the coloring. If you'd told me that I would like not getting pennies back (they round everything to the nearest nickel if you pay in cash), I'd have said you were crazy. But with the large pocketfuls of change that I was accumulating as it was (more on this below), I really really didn't need pennies too. I didn't accumulate that many nickels and dimes either. Prices seemed to often work out to multiples of $.25. Maybe this was my imagination, but I don't think so. I think places of business deliberately set their prices so that with tax, the final price you pay comes out to a decently round number. This is in stark contrast to our American system where practially every single thing is priced to require pennies, nickels, _and_ dimes to each be involved somehow. (Our prices start at figures like $24.99, so you'd think oh, you just get one penny back, no big deal; but with tax, it doesn't work out that way.) There are also a couple of things I dislike about Canadian currency. Canadian currency does not stack nicely. Americans can take a big stack of bills, fold the entire stack in half down the middle, and conveniently store the whole thing in a pocket or wallet. This, as near as I can tell, is fundamentally impossible to do with Canadian bills. The slickness (mentioned above) may be a contributing factor, but I think the big issue is that the bills are so stiff, you can't fold two or more of them together and get them to fold in the same place. They won't both fold down the middle. Maybe one of them will, but then the other will fold in a different place, perhaps a third or a quarter of the bill's length from the end. So even with a small stack, say, six or eight bills, you end up with a pocket full of individual bills that are each folded differently and won't stack together well, so when you pull them out you feel like you're pulling out a fistful of random scraps of differently-shaped colored plastic, each unique. It's a big fat mess. Did I mention that I accumulated huge piles of coins all the time and then proceed to say that I got no pennies and few nickels or dimes? Yes, I believe I did say both of those things, and they are both true. So yeah, I tended to accumulate a lot of quarters, but also, there are all these one- and [...]



When the news media go into absurd conniptions over some completely mundane thing, I generally don't pay much attention. That's what the news media do. There's nothing interesting to see there.

But generally don't expect Randall Munroe to be so easily excited and confused. I am referring, of course, to the placement of MH 370 in the upper-right corner of the graph, marking it as both highly weird and also very difficult to explain. I don't think it's the least bit of either.

I'm not going to spend any further time on the question of its weirdness, because that's so inherently subjective as to not be worth arguing about.

But I have a really hard time understanding why someone as creative and intelligent as the author of xkcd can find this difficult to explain. It's much easier to explain than most of the other stuff on the chart. It's so easy to come up with highly plausible explanations for this, I'm going to offer up three of them:

  1. human malice
  2. physical failure (of the aircraft)
  3. human idiocy

I could go on at length, but I think I should probably just stop here. All three of these explanations are so inherently plausible, it is difficult to even rank them in terms of likelihood. All three of them are so likely, their probability is mainly limited by the fact that they're competing with each other (although, it's easily possible that more than one of them occurred). They're all things that you can easily see happen all the time in everyday life, and they're all things that could very easily lead to the loss of an airplane in the middle of the ocean and are known to have done so on other occasions.

I don't get it. What's hard to explain here?



Ok, so I acquire an older-model computer (Pentium4, 2GB of RAM), and of course it comes with Windows XP installed. What's one of the first things I try to do with it?

What would a normal person try to do with it? Maybe watch some YouTube videos, or check Yahoo Mail, something like that? Facebook?

I tried to do this:

I my defense, I already have a computer, which in the first place is several years newer (multi-core, 8GB of RAM about to be increased to 16 next time I'm willing to reboot it) and, additionally, runs a much better operating system. So if I wanted to do just regular stuff on the computer, I could do it on my main system. I got this other, older system, and my thinking is, while it still has the default Windows install on it, is there anything I want to try doing in Windows? And in that context, this is the answer I came up with: Didn't somebody on IRC say that building NetHack4 on Windows is broken right now? Maybe I should try that.

Why Profile Icons Matter


At some point during the 2.x dev cycle, the Gnome people removed an important feature from gnome-terminal, on the grounds that it might allow a user to make some of the icons in their UI look inconsistent the desktop-wide "icon theme," which is somehow more important than making it possible to distinguish between different things. For a while, I simply downloaded the old version of gnome-terminal that still had the feature and compiled that myself, hoping maybe the whole stupid "icon theme" thing would blow over and someone would see sense. This did not occur, and when I upgraded to wheezy at work it became More Trouble Than It's Worth to try to compile the old gnome-terminal, so I switched to Konsole, which still has profile icons. I'm happy with this solution, because gnome-terminal was one of the last remaining vestiges of Gnome that I was still using, and frankly I'd just as soon move away from all of Gnome. Since sometime around version 1.0, Gnome has been systematically removing features and options and configurability at a rate that would make Apple blush. So good riddance. But people who are not big terminal-window users keep asking me why on earth I would ever need profile icons. I want to have a post I can point to that answers this question. So I took a screenshot of my home desktop (which is spread across two monitors) and snipped out the two taskbars (one from each window) to show off here. I want to stress that this is not a contrived example. Somebody on IRC asked the question, and I took a screenshot, and then I wrote up this post. Here's my main taskbar: The three icons at the left are Run, Screenshot, and a colorblind thingy. (Clarification: I'm not colorblind. The colorblind thingy is to show me what websites that I create might look like to people who are colorblind, so I can try to avoid making them unreadable. Not sure how effective it is.) After that there's a small blank space, then the task list, which contains the following, from left to right: Totem (a media player), dclock (the really generic-looking icon; this clock is positioned on the main monitor but often gets covered up by windows), Seamonkey (my main web browser), Writer, Opera (another web browser), Emacs, a gnome-terminal window (this computer hasn't upgraded to wheezy yet) that I use to tail logfiles, a gnome-terminal window that I use to play a game called Brogue, a gnome-terminal window that I use mostly for playing NetHack (another game) on NAO, a gnome-terminal window that I use for generic shell-related purposes, but in an auxilliary fashion (not my main shell profile), a gnome-terminal window that is remotely connected via ssh to a web server, a gnome-terminal window that I use for mostly NetHack-related purposes, but which is different from the other one (it's not for playing on NAO), another Seamonkey window, Chromium (another web browser), a gnome-terminal window that I mostly use for NetHack4, a text editor, a gnome-terminal window that is connected via ssh to the computer upstairs in the living room, a gnome-terminal window that is connected via ssh to the router, and a gnome-terminal window with a root (administrative) shell. Here's the one from the second monitor: The tasks on the tasklist here are a gnome-terminal window that I use to run a Perl script I wrote that reminds me when I'm supposed to be going somewhere or doing something, two more instances of dclock (these are positioned on the secondary monitor where they're less likely to get covered up by other windows), a gnome-terminal window that I use for interacting with MySQL (a relational database), two volume control applets (probably because I forgot I already had one opened and opened another; these things happen), and finally the gnom[...]

Christmas: The Best Explanation I Know


The best explanation of Christmas that I think I have ever encountered is found (perhaps ironically —or perhaps obviously), in a book written mainly for Jewish audiences. It's a bit long, so I will attempt to summarize; but because my ability to express it as well as the book does is in doubt, I'll include a number of footnotes, which are references to particular sections of the book.

Without Christmas, humanity's hopes are pinned, as any practicing Jew knows very well, to an inherently flawed system1, wherein we (humans) are represented only by sinful men2 who can offer nothing but the blood of animals, which can never take away their sins or ours3. It is ultimately a depressing, futile system, one that makes us acutely aware of how flawed we are but can never actually solve the problem.

Here is the main point, then: it is only because God the Son was made one of us4 that we now, through the miracle of Christmas, have a perfect human representative, one of us who has offered a perfect sacrifice that completely takes away all our sin5, a man who can go to God as our representative and ask for anything for us6, and God will not say no to him.

As Christians we tend to focus on Easter, but while the resurrection is important, it is only really important in the context of Christmas. For God to conquer sin and death is all well and good, but by itself it is unremarkable, since God was sinless and immortal in the first place anyhow. For man to conquer sin and death, that is the real miracle, and it is only possible because God became a man. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.

So now instead of the worthless, flawed, futile system represented by Mount Sinai7, where the law was given that could only reveal our wickedness and so condemn us, we now have God's perfect system, the heavenly Jerusalem8, wherein our Great High Priest has made it possible for God to live among us and be our God and make us his people9. He will take away our wickedness and make us perfect10.

That is Christmas, according to the book of Hebrews.


A Tale of One Town and Three Governements... Or Is That Four? Five? Several.


This is a story about one town that is claimed by several governments. Exactly how many governments claim it is a matter of some debate -- the number could be as low as three (some people would even say two) or as high as four, depending on precisely how you count. (There are more than four, if you include historical claims, but that's true in a lot of places, so we'll only count current claims, and we'll say 3-4.) The town itself is not very large. If it were in Ohio, it would be called a village, because it is not large enough to qualify as a city under Ohio's rules. (Of course, it's nowhere near Ohio.) If you looked up the town on a political map that reflects the actual de facto situation, it would be in the country that I'm going to label as Blue. (I'm assigning these colors arbitrarily, as is traditional for political maps. I'm not going to try to pick them all from the respective national flags or anything.) However, it's very close to a three-way border. Just across the line in one direction is Green, and just across the line in another direction is Orange. Got that? Three-way border, Blue, Green, Orange, and the town is just barely in the Blue zone on our objective map. Green, you may be surprised to learn, is not one of the governments involved in the dispute. They don't claim the town, and as far as I know they never have. It just happens to be close to their border. Orange does claim the town. We'll come back to them presently. Pink also claims the town. It's hundreds and hundreds of miles from any territory that they actually control, but they claim the town because they claim to be the successor state of White, which used to have a sort of mother/daughter or lord/vassal relationship with Red. Confused? Okay, we'll come back to Pink. In fact, we'll come back to the present day. Let's talk about the history of the situation. The border question was originally raised between Yellow and Red. Yellow, a colonial power, had control of Blue at the time, and the town was near the border -- the poorly defined unclear fuzzy border -- between them and Red. So Yellow commissioned a study to iron out the details of exactly where the border with Red was. Yellow wanted everything to be precise and clear. Now, the town was, and is, to this day, rather important to Red, for religious reasons. (There's an important building there, where somebody or another was born.) It's easily more important to Red than to everyone else involved combined. However, when working out the border treaty, Red was apparently not extremely careful with the implications and failed to realize, until after signing the thing, that the town is on the wrong side of the border. Oops. Yellow, for its part, never really exerted effective control over the town. They did exert effective control over the (also disputed) surrounding area, but they mostly left the town alone. It had a trading post, but other than that it wasn't really critical, so as long as they were free to trade there (which Red didn't seem to have a problem with), it wasn't a big deal. Yellow never collected taxes from the town, and Red continued to do so, so in practice the town was de facto still part of Red's territory -- but on paper the treaty said it belonged to Yellow. Perhaps you can see how this might lead to a dispute later. Now, a few years after Yellow and Red signed their treaty, White came along and forced Yellow and Brown to agree not to conduct negotiations directly with Red without involving White. (Too many colors? Don't worry about Brown. It doesn't come up in the story again.) The thing is, White at this point was a declining empire. The White government was overthrown not very much later. [...]

Wooden Dish


My dad won this object in some kind of game or contest at a family reunion. It was made by my mom's oldest brother, who used to be a professional carpenter before he retired. He makes things out of wood as a hobby now and gives them away. This is typical of his work. I had to wait for a sunny day to take good photos. (I initially tried taking them indoors, but that didn't work out so well. Some of the woods he used have rather low albedo, and although my camera is significantly better in low lighting than the average consumer digicam, it does have limits.)

Peach Cake


I had previously mentioned, when I posted my cherry cake recipe, that I was working on a peach variant. Today I had the opportunity to fine tune it, and I believe I finally got it right. It's a bit more bland than the cherry, but you'd expect that: peach is not such a smack-you-in-the-face flavor as cherry, nor would you really want it to be, I think. In my opinion, the peach has just the right amount of flavor for peach.

Note that, for this to be any good, you must use proper canned peaches. Do not go to the grocery store and buy flavorless crunchy picked-green canned peaches. Nothing good can come from that.

So, without further ado, the recipe for peach cake:

1 quart of home-canned peaches (in light syrup, ideally).
1.5 cups of (granulated white) table sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. vanilla flavoring or extract
Glaze Ingredients:
all the juice/syrup from the peaches
about 1/2 cup of the blended peaches
1/3 cup sugar
1 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional, or vanilla)

Open the peaches and pour off the juice into a saucepan, allowing them to drain well. (Not only do you want the juice for the glaze, you also don't want too much liquid in the cake.) Place the peaches themselves in the blender and puree them, the divide the results: use about 2 and 7/8 cups of the peach puree for the cake and the remaining half cup in the glaze. (The amount that goes in the cake is the critical measurement; if the glaze gets shorted a little or gets a bit extra, that's okay.)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the larger portion of the peach puree with the sugar and eggs and beat until foamy, then beat in the oil and milk. Stir the dry ingredients together and then add them to the peach mixture. Beat until smooth and pour into a bundt pan. Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes (depending on your oven). When it's almost done, start the glaze (below). Let the finished cake cool in its pan for 5-10 minutes, then invert it onto a plate. Spoon glaze over the top while they are both still hot. If you get the top of the cake coated and a decent amount dripping down the sides and there is still glaze left, it can be spooned over individual slices while it lasts.

Glaze Instructions:

To make the glaze, combine the peach juice, the remaining half cup of peach puree, the 1/3 cup of sugar, the cornstarch in the saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens up. When you are just about ready to spoon the glaze over the cake, stir in the almond extract.

NAO game 115, Turn 100856


Another NetHack screenshot, this time in color: You are blinded by the flash! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 0| 0 * * ) |* | *| | | - - ----- | ----- ------------------------------| | -- --- | ----- | | | |*| | | | | | --------------| | | % < | | | | | --- --- --- | | | -- | CaB | | --- ----------*| | | | | | | |^ | --@--------|--| | | | | | | | | ----- --- --- | |-- | @ c i@S | |-- | | | | ----- |---| | | |) | | | | : & :@E@H| | | | | | | | | | ------- | --| --- | -- c$qxc&@Q$| -|-| --- | ----|%----| | | | | | |*| |0Y | t |$HDcdf@@@| | | | | | | | | | | --------- | | -----%| |HH c d $| | | | ----- - - | --- --| | | | | | | | | | | C u d$||--%-- | | | ** | | | | | | | | - |-- | | | | | --- | Quacf O| |[ [| | ----- | | ------- | | | | |[ | | | | | | )| -----| | | | | | | | | | | --- --| | |%| | | | | H |> - | ^ | | --- | | |)----- | | --- | | | | | | | | -------- ---- | | | | | * |*| | --- | | - --- | --------------------------------- ----- - | | ------- | | | > % H | ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jonadab the Heroine St:18/** Dx:22 Co:18 In:22 Wi:22 Ch:18 Lawful S:1675355 Dlvl:39 $:0 HP:236(241) Pw:71(71) AC:-40 Xp:22/25786222 T:100856 Blind At this point in the game I am on my way to wake the Wizard. This room full of hostile monsters is just one of the things that's supposed to slow you down on the way, but it's a pretty weak defense against any character who has made it this far. Yes, you see five pets. There's even a sixth: my original pet, Griff, found a polytrap somewhere when I wasn't paying attention and became a quivering blob, and I chose to leave him that way, because it keeps him from attacking things and getting killed. Quivering blobs, of course, do not show up on telepathy, which is why you don't see him. If all goes well, this will be the first time I ascend with my original starting pet. The other pets were domestics (cats, mostly) that I picked up in Gehennom using tripe and transformed into various more powerful things using polytraps on purpose. I originally collected them mainly so I could get the robe from the Valley priest, and then I kept them around for now just because I can. There used to be a Jabberwock, but something happened to it (possibly a purple worm; I've seen several).[...]

Election Campaign Coverage


Okay, there are a couple of months yet, so theoretically something could happen in that time to change things. Nonetheless, if I had to call the upcoming US Presidential election right now...

Working at a public library, I tend to catch glances of various local and regional newspapers from time to time.

The current, incumbent President recently made a campaign pass through Ohio. The newspapers, of course, covered this event. Some of them even put it on the front page, naturally. I mean, how often does the President of the Whole Entire United States visit your home town? That's gotta be news. But look at the photographs they're running.

I do not believe these photographs were selected to make the President look good. The Bucyrus Telegraph Forum has him squinting, brow wrinkled, lips pursed, teeth showing in the middle, so that he looks simultaneously disturbed and also comical. The Mansfield News Journal's choice of photo is worse: they apparently managed to get a shot of the President simultaneously scowling and screaming, face twisted with some obviously unpleasant emotion, possibly rage.

In video coverage, these kinds of faces flash past in a second or two, and the person goes on to have other expressions some of the time as well. In a still shot, you get one instant captured, and the people who pick the photo get to pick the instant. They were running these kinds of photos of George W. Bush four years ago. As those of you who have ever lived in a swing state know, the newspapers consistently lean just a little more to the liberal side than the average member of the population at large. I do not believe a Democrat can win in Ohio without their support.

And it would be somewhat unusual for anyone, Democrat or otherwise, to be elected President without winning Ohio's electoral votes.

So if I had to call the election today, I would predict that Romney will win.

Fuel Efficiency: A More Practical Perspective


It is undeniable, from a historical perspective, that there was a shift in emphasis in motor vehicle development and marketing from the seventies and eighties, when fuel efficiency was a major consideration, to the nineties and naughties, when fuel efficiency has mostly not been a major consideration. Now there are people who want to shift things back in the other direction, but... not everyone is buying it.

One thing I've noticed is that it seems like everyone talking about vehicle fuel efficiency these days is talking about the environment. While there's nothing per se wrong with that, it's not an effective motivator for most people. For one thing, it's very hard to quantify. If John buys a vehicle that uses 25% less fuel, how much impact can he expect that to have on the environment, anyway?

So I'd like to look at it from a more immediately practical and quantifiable perspective: the pocketbook. This is something almost everyone should be able to relate to. If John buys a vehicle that uses 25% less fuel, how much money will he save on gas, over the life of the vehicle? How much per year?

It depends on usage patterns, of course, but let's construct a hypothetical example. Let's say there are two models of vehicle, the Strontium and the Rubidium. Of course in practice there are way more than two models of vehicle available, but comparing only two makes the example simpler. So the Strontium gets almost 22 miles to the gallon (average, for the type of driving John does, blah, blah, blah) and the Rubidium gets a little over 29 mpg (with the same qualifications), i.e., it uses 25% less fuel to go the same distance. There are, of course, other differences between the vehicles, e.g., the Strontium is probably a little larger. But for now let's just figure how much difference it's going to make in gas costs.

If John is typical, he probably drives to work and back about five days a week, plus some assorted other driving. You can plug in figures that fit your situation more closely, but for the example we'll say he drives thirty minutes to work, averaging (with stop lights and everything) about 27 mph, which is typical for driving with only light traffic, only partly in town. During the 30 minute commute each way, then, he covers 13.5 miles, for a total of 135 miles a week just driving to and from work. Toss in another couple of hours of assorted other driving here and there (to church, to the mall, to the video store, to grandma's house, wherever) and you're looking at closer to 200 miles a week of driving. Again, you can plug in your own numbers and get something more relevant to your own situation.

200 miles a week means the Strontium will use about 9 gallons of gas, and the Rubidium will use about 6.8 gallons, in a week. At $4 per gallon (obviously, the price may fluctuate...) that means the Strontium costs John about $36/week to drive, and the Rubidium costs about $27.20/week, a difference of about $8.80 per week, or $460/year. If John intends to drive this vehicle for ten years, the more fuel-efficient vehicle is the better deal, from a purely financial perspective, unless it costs at least $4600 more (all else being equal).

You can plug in the numbers for actual vehicles at your leisure. Note, however, that for hybrid vehicles you have to factor in the cost of electricity you expend charging them, in addition to the gasoline (or diesel or alcohol or whatever).

Convict Role patch 0.7 ported to NH4


As anyone who follows rgrn knows, Karl Garrison has created a patch for NetHack 3.4.3, which adds a Convict role. Meanwhile, some other people have been working on a fork, called "NetHack4" (which can be easily downloaded here).I have now ported the Convict role patch to work with NetHack4. For lack of a better place to put it, here it is:diff -Nurd nitrohack-ais523//libnethack/dat/CMakeLists.txt nitrohack-ais523-convict//libnethack/dat/CMakeLists.txt--- nitrohack-ais523//libnethack/dat/CMakeLists.txt 2012-04-25 16:53:48.000000000 -0400+++ nitrohack-ais523-convict//libnethack/dat/CMakeLists.txt 2012-04-27 11:44:41.000000000 -0400@@ -6,6 +6,7 @@ ${LNH_DAT}/bigroom.des ${LNH_DAT}/castle.des ${LNH_DAT}/Caveman.des+ ${LNH_DAT}/Convict.des ${LNH_DAT}/endgame.des ${LNH_DAT}/gehennom.des ${LNH_DAT}/Healer.des@@ -35,29 +36,30 @@ Bar-loca.lev Bar-strt.lev bigrm-1.lev bigrm-2.lev bigrm-3.lev bigrm-4.lev bigrm-5.lev castle.lev Cav-fila.lev Cav-filb.lev Cav-goal.lev Cav-loca.lev- Cav-strt.lev earth.lev fakewiz1.lev fakewiz2.lev- fire.lev Hea-fila.lev Hea-filb.lev Hea-goal.lev- Hea-loca.lev Hea-strt.lev juiblex.lev Kni-fila.lev- Kni-filb.lev Kni-goal.lev Kni-loca.lev Kni-strt.lev- knox.lev medusa-1.lev medusa-2.lev minefill.lev- minend-1.lev minend-2.lev minend-3.lev minetn-1.lev- minetn-2.lev minetn-3.lev minetn-4.lev minetn-5.lev- minetn-6.lev minetn-7.lev Mon-fila.lev Mon-filb.lev- Mon-goal.lev Mon-loca.lev Mon-strt.lev oracle.lev- orcus.lev Pri-fila.lev Pri-filb.lev Pri-goal.lev- Pri-loca.lev Pri-strt.lev Ran-fila.lev Ran-filb.lev- Ran-goal.lev Ran-loca.lev Ran-strt.lev Rog-fila.lev- Rog-filb.lev Rog-goal.lev Rog-loca.lev Rog-strt.lev- Sam-fila.lev Sam-filb.lev Sam-goal.lev Sam-loca.lev- Sam-strt.lev sanctum.lev soko1-1.lev soko1-2.lev- soko2-1.lev soko2-2.lev soko3-1.lev soko3-2.lev- soko4-1.lev soko4-2.lev Tou-fila.lev Tou-filb.lev- Tou-goal.lev Tou-loca.lev Tou-strt.lev tower1.lev- tower2.lev tower3.lev Val-fila.lev Val-filb.lev- Val-goal.lev valley.lev Val-loca.lev Val-strt.lev- water.lev wizard1.lev wizard2.lev wizard3.lev- Wiz-fila.lev Wiz-filb.lev Wiz-goal.lev Wiz-loca.lev- Wiz-strt.lev+ Cav-strt.lev Con-strt.lev Con-loca.lev Con-goal.lev+ Con-fila.lev Con-filb.lev earth.lev fakewiz1.lev+ fakewiz2.lev fire.lev Hea-fila.lev Hea-filb.lev+ Hea-goal.lev Hea-loca.lev Hea-strt.lev juiblex.lev + Kni-fila.lev Kni-filb.lev Kni-goal.lev Kni-loca.lev+ Kni-strt.lev knox.lev medusa-1.lev medusa-2.lev+ minefill.lev minend-1.lev minend-2.lev minend-3.lev+ minetn-1.lev minetn-2.lev minetn-3.lev minetn-4.lev+ minetn-5.lev minetn-6.lev minetn-7.lev Mon-fila.lev+ Mon-filb.lev Mon-goal.lev Mon-loca.lev Mon-strt.lev+ oracle.lev orcus.lev Pri-fila.lev Pri-filb.lev+ Pri-goal.lev Pri-loca.lev Pri-strt.lev Ran-fila.lev+ Ran-filb.lev Ran-goal.lev Ran-loca.lev Ran-strt.lev+ Rog-fila.lev Rog-filb.lev Rog-goal.lev Rog-loca.lev+ Rog-strt.lev Sam-fila.lev Sam-filb.lev Sam-goal.lev+ Sam-loca.lev Sam-strt.lev sanctum.lev soko1-1.lev + soko1-2.lev soko2-1.lev soko2-2.lev soko3-1.lev+ soko3-2.lev soko4-1.lev soko4-2.lev Tou-fila.lev+ Tou-filb.lev Tou-goal.lev Tou-loca.lev Tou-strt.lev+ tower1.lev tower2.lev tower3.lev Val-fila.lev+ Val-filb.lev Val-goal.lev valley.lev Val-loca.lev+ Val-strt.lev water.lev wizard1.lev wizard2.lev + wizard3.lev Wiz-fila.lev Wiz-filb.lev Wiz-go[...]

Management Concept: No Chairs


I have concocted a business management concept worthy of Scott Adams. The more I think about this, the more I believe it could really catch on: more than open-plan offices (no walls), more than Six Sigma, more than flattening out the org chart, perhaps even more than synergy.This concept is so simple, it beggars the imagination: eliminate all chairs (and stools and benches and anything else designed to be sat on) from the entire enterprise.Yet that simplicity is deceptive, because the concept has a lot of implications. Here are just a few of the things it has going for it...The sales pitch to upper management is so obvious I scarcely even need to explain it. The productivity benefits of not letting workers sit down while working are so straightforward that the English language has embodied them in an idiom, "sit down on the job", which means, roughly, "not work when one is supposed to be working". I could write pages and pages about how to pitch to management the concept that standing improves productivity, but I don't need to write it all out, because if you stop and think about it for a little while you already know exactly what kinds of things I would say.Convincing employees to buck up and take it (as opposed to rioting in the hallways) would be a little harder, but there are a number of obvious lines of reasoning that can be used. For starters, any HR manager worth his benefits package ought to be able to stand there with a straight face and say that it'll actually be better for the employees (once they get warmed up to it) because sitting all the time contributes to the sedentary lifestyle that is responsible for most of the major health conditions that plague the developed world. Employees may think they *want* to sit all day, but it's not actually *good* for them, the HR guy says, and if he's any good at all it's almost impossible to be sure he doesn't actually believe this line of reasoning. You can also argue that throughout virtually the entire blue-collar world (err, but you don't say it that way, you say "many industries" or somesuch) workers take standing on the job for granted and don't even think to complain about it because it's Just How Things Are Done. (This has the virtue of being undeniably true, and even employees who are fairly sure it's completely irrelevant will generally have a difficult time articulating clearly WHY it's irrelevant.) If they can do it, you argue, so can we, and with that stroke you put anyone with self-esteem issues instantly on the defensive. Finally, you can appeal to the worker's ego by arguing that such a policy will build a better working environment by helping to encourage the laziest 5% of employees (which almost nobody will admit to being, even to themselves) to seek opportunities elsewhere. But the real clincher for employee compliance is, there's really no good way for them to play the Ghandi card (i.e., just peacefully cooperate as incompletely as possible). When there are no chairs, there are no chairs, and even if an employee brings in a canvas folding chair from home, it won't be the right height for the new furniture.That brings us to the next point: the "no chairs" school of management does not allow for dipping your toes in the water. It's both feet or nothing. You can subject most of your corporate practices to Six Sigma and yet leave a few well-established procedures unmolested, but you can't do most of your work with no chairs in the building and then go back to using the cha[...]

Preposition Chart


I found myself in a situation (in an online venue) wherein I wanted to refer to this chart, but the site in question didn't provide an easy way for me to attach an image to my message. So I'm posting it up here. This is a visual chart depicting several common English prepositions.

The chart is inspired by a similar one that William D. Mounce used to explain Greek prepositions in his excellent grammar (which I highly recommend to anyone who has even a slight interest in Greek in particular, dead languages in general, or the etymologies of English words; it is hands down the best textbook I have ever encountered, on any subject).

All Made Out of Win


Okay, so my last set of lyrics turned out kind of emotionally down. I didn't set out to make them that way (and wasn't even in a down mood when I wrote them -- a weird mood, yes), but that's how they landed. So lest I present myself as some kind of bizarre incoherent emo-depressive nitwit, I wrote another set of lyrics. (These, no doubt, will still make me look like a bizarre incoherent nitwit, but in a much more upbeat way.) So, umm, here they are.

Yo, put me in a trebuchet and launch me to the stratosphere:
I'm gonna have some fun today, and then I'm gettin' outa here.
I've got a lot of gumption, and I'm gonna raise some ruckus now,
'Cause if I gain some traction I can bust it all up anyhow.
The secret of contentment isn't havin' things or doin' stuff.
You follow that old siren and you never ever have enough.
Hey, take me to the river.
Put me in a basket, or
Lock me in a tower.
I'm gonna prosper yet.

I'm always feelin' happy when my mojo gets to flowin' good.
A billion-dollar industry has taken over Hollywood,
But nevermind the critics, we're a celebratin' irony,
'Cause once we have the hutzpah we can write an awesome comedy.
Forget about the dazzle, nevermind about the cam'ra work:
We'll shoot it in a castle, and we'll use the spoon and skip the fork.
Hey, show me all the money.
Livin' out of pocket, I've
Never had a problem.
Now, tell me your excuse.

Our attitude is everything, so I am gonna celebrate.
An institute of joy has really drawn me to matriculate.
I'll never let my circumstances rule my mind or get me down,
And if I ever graduate then count on me to go to town.
I'm singin' and I'm dancin' and I'm tellin' lots of corny jokes.
Now tell me just what imag'ry my energizing rhyme invokes.
Hey, let me lift your spirits.
Lookin' on the bright side, we're
Tackle-in' the issue.
I'm all made out of win.

[Musical bridge.]

Take me to the river.
Put me in a basket.
Lock me in a tower.
Show me all the money.
Livin' out of pocket.
Never had a problem.
Let me lift your spirits.
Lookin' on the bright side.
Tackle-in' the issue.

[Short musical interlude.]

I'm gonna prosper yet.
I don't need no excuse.
I'm all made out of win.
All made out of win.
All made out of win.

Screenshot, from my current game on


Why am I posting an ASCII screenshot of nethack here?

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Jonadab the Champion St:18/** Dx:23 Co:18 In:24 Wi:24 Ch:17 Lawful S:2396967
Dlvl:37 $:0 HP:364(364) Pw:174(174) AC:-40 Xp:26/60006894 T:112414

Because I don't have a good way to post it to usenet at the moment.