Haven't written about myself for a while.

Classes are going fine. I'm not really putting much effort into them... which is sad. I'm doing a lot of other things which don't compensate though. I've worked on my GPA for the last two years, now it's time to let it slowly slide down...

This past weekend I went to Devil's Lake, my third trip there (although it feels like I've been there more than that). As always, rock climbing was fun. The weather could have been better, warmer, sunnier, but we still got a half day of sun, which I'm happy about.


Also, on that note, I'm now president of NUOC. Heheh... now I'm obliged to focus on that and not schoolwork. I love my life.
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The Alarm Which Cried Fire

There once was a fire alarm who was bored as it sat in a college dorm watching the students sleep. To amuse itself it took a great breath and sang out, "Fire! Fire! Clang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang!"

The students came running out of the dorm to heed the alarm's warning. But when they left the dorm, they found no fire. The alarm laughed at the sight of their angry faces.

"Don't cry 'fire', fire alarm," said the students, "when there's no fire!" They went grumbling back into the building.

Later, the fire alarm sang out again, "Fire! Fire! Clang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang!" To its naughty delight, it watched the students run out of the building to heed its warning.

When the students saw no fire they sternly said, "Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don't cry 'fire' when there is NO fire!"

But the alarm just grinned and watche dthem go grumbling back into the building once more.

Later, the alarm saw a REAL fire spreading towards the people. Terrified, it leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as it could, "Fire! Fire!"

But the students thought it was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't run out.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn't returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping.

"There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?"

An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.

"We'll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the youth, "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!"

All the students died. The end.

Original text courtesy of Story Arts.
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Border Crossings, Linux, and Roaches

Stories of people's laptops being "searched" at border crossings amuse me. I particularly like the second comment on the post:
This happened to me once, but it was while entering the US. I have a dual boot laptop. First thing the guy sees is grub. He didn't know what to do and he asked me: "What is that Solaris?". So I boot up Solaris. He looked very puzzled. He was looking for the same thing - porno. He asked where my picture folder was. I opened a shell window and used 'find -type f -name "*jpg"'. It totally freaked him out. :)
I would dearly love to do my part in confusing border agents. This is what they will see if they manage to get as far as my desktop (after a GRUB menu, lines and lines of scrolling text, and a SLiM login screen):

Not much to look at, mainly because there's not much there at all. Fluxbox, people.

In case people are curious, my wallpaper is randomly selected everytime I log in (or when I press Ctrl-Alt-Enter). All backgrounds are images by Blatte. I really like the guy's site, because of his fractals, but also because of his URL. He has roach.org, which is fine, and he calls himself Blatte. The connection? "Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria."

And the reason I know this is I once used "blattodea" (largely interchangeable with the order name) as a username for an online dating site, after someone sent me a random link to "check out her profile". Yeah...
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Global Warming and Religion

Two highly unrelated subjects, but today I came across a newspaper article about the two.

USA Today: Might Our Religion Be Killing Us?

I've never thought of it that way before, the affects of a large family on global warming and resources. I think there are better ways to save the earth's environment than chastising people with large families though, like starting moving off fossil fuel and directly using the sun's energy, designing everyday items and activities to enforce greener living. If you let someone pick between a car and a bike, of course they'll pick the car. What you need is to make the alternative attractive enough... although, I must say the mileage on the bike looks pretty darn impressive.

But then, of course, I don't really care about this issue. We'll (speaking for all live here) survive.
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Look Ma, No Hands!

As my twitter says, this exercise thing is getting to me.

I went for a morning ride today, again to the Botanic Gardens. This trip was much shorter than the last, both in distance (20-24 miles compared to 33 miles) and in time (160 minutes as opposed to an embarrassing 270 minutes). The reason it's shorter is because I didn't get lost this time. Last time I went around a loop in the Skokie Lagoons before figuring out how to continue, and I went past Church to Dempster and had to go back.

The coolest thing about today though, is that I managed to ride without holding onto the handlebars. I kept that going for 100 feet or so, before having to turn a corner. BUT THAT IS SO COOL!

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Have Fun!

I realized (some time ago) that I tend to use "have fun" as a goodbye, especially if I know what the other person is doing. If I don't, I tend to use "see you".

There's probably some psychology and philosophy behind it, something about the purpose of life is to be happy (but with restraints like not directly decreasing other's people happiness). Or maybe it's just because I wish I was having as much fun as they're having.

Nah, I think the first explanation is better.
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Cycling's tiring.

Last week (Saturday 2008-04-05): 37 miles, to Chicago just north of Promontory Point and back.

This week (Sunday 2008-04-13): 33 miles, to Chicago Botanic Gardens. North on Sheridan and Green Bay Trail, south on North Branch Trail with an extra loop around Skokie Lagoons.

Next week (???): ~40 miles, probably down to Chicago again.

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Spring Break Pictures

Spring break pictures are up!
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The Beauty Myth

A while ago I wrote a blog post about young people being sexualized. One of the articles which inspired the essay was written by Naomi Wolf, who I recently looked up in the library. The following is first a summary, then a response to the Sex chapter of Wolf's book, The Beauty Myth. Before I begin, I would like to say that, while the following is all in the book, the chapter also contains sections which talk about the culture of male domination, and how these negative phenomenon are caused by "male anger and female guilt at women's access to power" in the past few decades. I don't necessarily agree, and since I am more interested in what she has to say about psychology than sociology, that topic will not be discussed below.

Wolf starts with an observation about the phenomenon of widespread "beauty porn" and submission with regards to women. In a large number of ads, women are portrayed with arching backs and closed eyes - poised to receive an oncoming orgasm. While the existence of such imagery may not by itself be bad, it is together with the lack of ads which portray tender, intimate sex which creates, Wolf claims, creates the misconception that only beautiful women are sexually satisfied. On the other hand, there are also ads where women are portrayed in submission to men, which can sometimes be violent or masochistic. The prevalence of these types of portrayals of women create a negative psychology. Finally, Wolf also notes that there is a clear double standard for how much of their body a man and a woman can show in publications. While it is common to see breasts and female body measurements in magazines and movies, it is much less common to see the eternal erogenous zone of men (that is, penises), and even rarer to see male body measurements, especially regarding penis size.

These three things create a whole host of problems for females. I will take the problem of submission first. As portrayals of female submission become widespread, women learn from these images that submission is normal, perhaps even required by society. In particular, Wolf suggests that women may learn to fantasize about sex as rape, and view sex as different without violence. Similarly, the common use of rape scenarios in pornography works to increase people's, both males' and females', sexual arousal in rape. There is also possibly a tendency for women to be more violent towards themselves, by going through abortions and plastic surgery. In contrast, the more ideal, romantic, tender sex is rarely seen, except in romance novels where the first kiss may be the climax of the story.

On the subject of beauty, Wolf very carefully points out the difference between beauty and sexuality, and how the common perception is that they are one and the same. The use of beauty porn has created a belief that women are beautiful and therefore sexual, instead of sexual therefore beautiful. In trying to feel sexual, women instead feel inferior to the beauty of the models portrayed in media, and that they don't have the right to feel sexual. One example of this given was of girls fantasizing about sex, but it is them in third person watching themselves with a different body.

There are also a number of issues created by the combination of beauty porn and unbalance in portrayal of men and women. One of the results is that women may know how to look sexual, but not know how to feel sexual. While men may be familiar to sexual arousal through these images of beauty porn, there is few if any corresponding images for women, leading to a warped sense of sexuality. Their desires are defined by other people's desire for them, other people's reaction to how they look. That women want to lose weight, but that weight loss does not increase stimulation during sex, is a case in point. Lastly, Wolf claims that because sexuality is not shown, women are ambivalent about expressing their sexuality, and not sure how others will react.

One of the last sections of the chapter is on why the beauty myth is damaging to men as well. For one, men who are used to porn are not learning anything about female desire, as the images are all staged. At the same time, men will only be attracted by beauty as defined by these images, which in turn is defined by the media. Not only is this an external, impersonal standard, it also ignores all other non-physical attributes of a women. The lack of understanding psychologically (men from ignoring psychology and desire, women from defining self worth by others and being unable to accept attraction for itself) means there can't be true reciprocal love between a couple.

And that concludes my (awkwardly and horribly written) summary. The first time I read the chapter early this week, I paused several times in the middle to think. I wasn't sure what I was thinking about, but there was an idea in the text which was new to me. On reading the second time (and taking notes on it to write the summary), this feeling disappeared, but I also found a few points that I think Wolf is trying to get across. Personally, I don't think she's that great a writer.

The first point is that self worthy should be defined internally, and physical beauty should only be a part of it. True beauty incorporates other elements of a person, their smell, feel, rhythm in life. In fact, "the body appears to grow beautiful and erotic as they grow to like the person in it." Beauty porn leads females to only consider their appearance, and be overly focused on it in neglect of other aspects of true beauty. This same line of reasoning can be applied to males. Young men learning from beauty porn learns to only focus on the external, and learns to desire for it, which drives this vicious cycle onwards.

This first point forms the basis for the other two. Because the publicly portrayed female bodies form an impossible standard, men become desensitized to normal female bodies with its flaws and defects. With women turned into sexual objects, being compared to the standard through numerical measurements, women who "score" low are see with disdain - which would be most women in the real world. This is the reasoning behind Wolf's position in her New York Magazine article, that porn turns men off real women. That female culture does not judge men in the same way tells us that "women make the choice, by and large, to take men as human beings first."

The last point: just because women don't judge as openly doesn't mean they can't. Females can just as easily recognize a good looking male, and will similarly feel desire them. This I think is the most important point, one I have not even considered before: that other people may love you, be aroused by you, and desire you just as you desire them. To be honest, this is a really powerful message, although not new. Everyone has heard the story of the happiest man's secret is knowing that everyone needs him in some way. Because of our culture's focus on male desire, however, sometimes we forget this fact. Again, it is extremely empowering to know that someone might like you the way you like them.

I will end with one last comment. A lot of facts are mentioned in the book, and Wolf tries to string them into theories, which is a little dangerous - it's similar to what Freud did with his theories of how the brain works. One fact which struck me deeply, however, is how accustomed as a culture we have become to measurements of women, with no sight of measurements of men. In this I see a clear inequality, a clear indication that women are being devalued.

And we think women are judgmental.
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Speed Dating Video

Northwestern recently started its own Youtube channel, and perhaps because of that NU has been producing a number of videos. One of the ones I like more is 24@NU, which shows different groups on campus doing different things at all hours of the day. For a lot of the videos they need students to participate, so people have probably been hearing about getting involved for a while.

Nothing beats Steve Carr, the associate dean for McCormick, telling us to go speed dating though. That makes me laugh.
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Favourite Wikipedia Page

We all know that Wikipedia can be distracting at times, but never has it entertained me as much as today when I read the pages on punctuation. I don't even remember how I got to those pages (I think I was looking up Asterisk the telephony system). But those pages are hilarious.

Here are a few of my favourite parts:



Kingsley Amis, on being challenged to produce a sentence whose meaning depended on a possessive apostrophe, came up with:

  • Those things over there are my husband's. (Those things over there belong to my husband.)
  • Those things over there are my husbands. (I'm married to those men over there.)

Apostrophes used incorrectly to form plurals are known as greengrocers' apostrophes (or grocers' apostrophes, or sometimes humorously greengrocers apostrophe's).




Parentheses may also be nested (with one set (such as this) inside another set). This is not commonly used in formal writing (though sometimes other brackets [especially square brackets] will be used for one or more inner set of parentheses [in other words, secondary {or even tertiary} phrases can be found within the main sentence]).


Square Brackets:


The bracketed expression [sic] is used to indicate errors that are "thus in the original"; a bracketed ellipsis [...] is often used to indicate deleted material; bracketed comments indicate when original text has been modified for clarity: "I'd like to thank [several unimportant people] and my parentals [sic] for their love, tolerance [...] and assistance [italics added]".


Square brackets are also used as parentheses within parentheses (alternating between parentheses and square brackets as nesting gets deeper [despite the alternative use of curly braces for this purpose (as mentioned earlier)]).


Curly Brackets:


Curly brackets are often used in internet communities and through instant messaging to indicate hugging.




It also has the widespread usage of representing two vertically aligned eyes in a emoticon, such as :-), :), :(, :P, :D, :O, etc.



The use of ellipses can either mislead or clarify, and the reader must rely on the good intentions of the writer who uses it. An example of this ambiguity is 'She went to... school.' In this sentence, '...' might represent the word 'elementary', or the word 'no'.


In Perl6, the 3-character ellipsis is also known as the "yadda yadda yadda" operator...


Exclamation Mark:


The English town of Westward Ho!, named after the novel by Charles Kingsley, is the only place name in the United Kingdom that officially contains an exclamation mark. There is a town in Quebec called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, which officially contains two exclamation marks in its name.


In recent Internet culture, especially where leet is used, an excessive way of expressing exclamation in text is seen as !!!!!!111. This notation originates from the eagerness to add multiple exclamation marks but failing to hit the shift key combination properly. Later this behavior has evolved into a sign of recognition for certain Internet cultures who now intentionally add 1s after their expressions either to ridicule people who do it without purpose or as a sign of recognition towards others who also are familiar with the behavior. As a further pun to this development of linguistics, some add literal ones such as !!!!!one!11 to explicitly state that their use of 1s was intentionally typed, since one is fairly unlikely to be typed by accident.


British English, a (!) symbol (an exclamation mark within parentheses) implies that a character has made an obviously sarcastic comment eg: "Ooh, a sarcasm detector. Oh, that's a really useful invention.(!)"


Quotation Marks:


Sometimes, quotations are nested in more levels than inner and outer quotation. Nesting levels up to five can be found in the Bible.[2] In these cases, questions arise about the form (and names) of the quotation marks to be used. The most common way is to simply alternate between the two forms[citation needed], thus:

"...'..."...' ... ... '..."...'..."

If such a passage is further quoted in another publication, then all of their forms have to be shifted over by one level.


A three-way distinction is occasionally made between normal use of a word (no quotation marks), referring to the concept behind the word (single quotation marks), and the word itself (double quotation marks):

When discussing 'use', use "use".



The Slash is also the symbol for a wand in NetHack.




Perhaps due to its increasing rarity, the ampersand is sometimes rendered incorrectly when drawn by hand. The most common error is to render the symbol backwards [1]. Another mistake that is sometimes made is to draw it as a treble clef from musical notation.




In the Common Lisp programming language, the names of global variables are conventionally set off with asterisks, *LIKE-THIS*.




The caret is also a common text emoticon used in a pair to resemble Anime eyes (^^).

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I'm sorry I haven't updated this as often after spring break. I spent most of last week writing journal entries for spring break, and most of this week writing about things from last week. I think I'm up to date now though, so I'll try to write here more in the upcoming few days/week.

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Today my professor asked me for the name of another student. We were both in the professor's class last quarter, so I did know his name. It's funny.

I wonder if that has ever happened to me.

...and I've been using vi for too long. I instinctively type :w to save.
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So I've decided that I'll use both Twitter and Blogspot. Twitter (the feed of which should be displayed to the right of the screen) will be for short one liners, to better procrastinate with. Blogspot proper will be for longer posts.

This is fun, guys.
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