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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in xander_opal's LiveJournal:

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Friday, November 25th, 2016
10:44 pm
Philosophy: the Self
Listening to a podcast where someone was arguing that there is no such thing as a self; that in a way reminiscent of Zeno's Paradox, when everything is taken away that seems to not be inessential or won't change what someone is, there is nothing left.

My armchair philosophy is that a person, a *self* is emergent behavior, like the patterns of motion of a flock of birds or a school of fish. The self begins to emerge as more and more entities come online, as the brain develops and grows more complex. It is why the 'I' of a given moment is not the 'I' of a year ago, nor the 'I' a year from now, yet there is a continuity between each instance.

I should remember to bring this up with an actual philosopher at some point, to see how this thought/observation holds up to rigorous logic testing and current philosophical thinking.

Current Mood: philosophical
Sunday, November 6th, 2016
12:58 pm
A comparison, with snark
A somewhat snarky thought this afternoon.

Science vs. Religion:

Science: We don't know... yet.
Religion: God did it. Do not question.

Science: Hmm. That's... interesting.
Religion: God. No questioning!

Science: Oops. On review, we made a mistake, but look what we found out!
Religion: How dare you question the Supreme Authority of The One True God!

Current Mood: bemused
Monday, October 17th, 2016
11:25 am
Ain't Dead
Recent sad events online have given me an odd perspective I've never asked for.

A fixture in an online roleplay community passed away due to an accident about a month ago. Somehow, in one of the areas of the community, a secondary character/screen name I used there was assumed to be that person.

In short other words, some people had thought I was dead, not because of anything I'd done, not because of malice, but a misunderstanding.

And the reactions I got from a few folks when I logged back in there, of profound relief.

The perspective is... sobering and interesting and provokes some deep thought, combined with some thoughts I've already been having from some literal and figurative cleanup in my life.

What kind of legacy do I want to leave when I truly am gone?

How am I going to better deal with the loss of important people in my life when, not if, it happens?

Current Mood: Odd
Friday, September 23rd, 2016
1:01 pm
Seeking advice: Android podcast app
So, I finally got a smartphone, and the battery of my iThing is aging.

Any recommendations for a podcast app for Android?
Saturday, September 17th, 2016
11:05 pm
Universe comparison: ship tonnage
I wonder which universe has had more stellar masses of ships in combat: Honorverse, or Star Wars?
Monday, September 12th, 2016
2:11 am
On a day of memory
I am glad that soon, a generation will come of age who did not live through the events of 9/11.

It is a day that belongs behind us, in history, along with Pearl Harbor and Oklahoma City.

This coming generation will not be afraid. Not because of government security, but because they did not live through that day the skies were empty, the day thousands died.

I welcome the days when youngsters cannot comprehend why the old folks are worried and afraid. When people look around at security theater, and wonder why these things are being done, that have no cause.

And nothing happens when so-called security is eased. It accomplishes nothing but to keep people afraid. There are ways to have real security, effective security. This isn't it.

Each day, a step away from horror which should be placed in unfeeling text, Each day warmer, more innocent.
Saturday, September 10th, 2016
10:24 am
So-called Conspiracies
Dear person,
If these groups are that powerful, if the government is that willing and able to kill remotely...

... why are you still alive to speak of these things? Why are the people who told you of these things still alive?
Monday, September 5th, 2016
3:41 pm
Castaway Stories
More of a musing than a proper analysis.
I recently reread Ringworld and found myself comparing it to Castaway Planet. The difference in approach, the dynamics of being stranded, and interpersonal relations/conflicts are very interesting.

First, technology:
The Kimei family has very limited tools, quickly reduced to what they happened to have unloaded/carry on them before they lost their ship. They are reduced to very, very limited resources, and have to find materials to work with in walking distance. From the moment they crash down, they're having to scramble to stay alive with alien creatures, and needs of food and shelter.
The Ringworld expedition starts exploring with reliable aircraft, a plethora of tools that make their travels about on par with going cross-country with well-stocked vehicles. There is little immediate pressures on survival; it takes making mistakes and miscalculations, plus a bit of entropy to find themselves in truly dire straits. In fact, things don't really truly go bad until the group trips an ancient speed trap.

The Kimei family is a family; wife, husband, three children, and an adopted alien. Interpersonal conflict is that one might find in any family in a stressful situation, but there is that familial bond which urges everyone to cooperate. There is a deep trust there that is not broken.

Louis Wu, Speaker-To-Animals, Teela Brown, and Nessus are most definitely not closely bonded. These people barely know each other, only two are the same species... though Teela Brown's luck results in her and Louis being unable to relate on some of the most basic elements of human experience. Trust is grudging, alliances are made but always with one hand on the handle of a figurative weapon or an eye for an escape route. Respect is also grudgingly earned, but by doing things the individual thinks is insane, despite what the other considers a Proper Way To Act.

The manner of the crash and means of escape are quite diffrerent:
On Lincoln, the family has no means of their own to leave the gravity well. Their transportation is literally beyond their reach and likely non-functional; their best hope is to survive long enough for someone to happen by and see their means of signalling.
The Lying Bastard is capable of ferrying the explorers back to Known Space... once it gets far enough from the Ringworld's primary. An exercise in problem-solving under a stressful situation, with an unseen actor working at cross-purposes. In some ways, it bears more similarity to The Odyssy.

The nature of the world's nature changes things as well. Lincoln's unique continents and alien landscape/biosphere make for a more difficult time long-term than on a normal planet. The scales are extremely local, giving it the feel of the island the Swiss Family Robinson found themselves upon.

The Ringworld is more of an abandoned park in fairly good climate gone awry and overrun by squatters. An abandoned park, where the protagonists have to deal with distances greater than one can find on Earth.

This was a fun little exercise in thought.

Current Mood: contemplative
Sunday, July 31st, 2016
10:54 am
A small step outside of conformity
An opportunity came to pick up an old laptop for cheap, and I decided to get it as a 'crash box'. Last night, I installed Ubuntu on it.

Getting to the install point was the hard part. After a bit of searching, I found the easiest way to set up a bootable USB stick was to use a convenient utility someone had created, which set up the ISO, added a couple necessary files, and changed the file names as suggested in a couple articles I'd read.

Plug it in, ensure boot sequence had USB at the top. Select install OS rather than just try it out (the hard drive had been wiped by the previous owner), select region for time display, and set up partition (this was the only thing that wasn't obvious how to do, so I think I selected the whole drive).

After that, it just worked. I'd picked a version with a GUI, poked around at a couple things. I'll have to double-check some of the hardware, there may or may not be a wireless card built in. I'm also curious if WINE will be able to let me play some very old games I've had sitting around.

This should be an interesting experience. So far, a good one too.
Friday, June 24th, 2016
11:28 am
What do you think would happen
.. if Harry Dresden, Mercy Thompson, Jason Wood, and Alex Dering all wound up hanging out over coffee or beer?
Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
1:10 pm
A repeated sense of wonder
Ryk Spoor's recent 'Moments of Awesome' posts at http://grandcentralarena.com had me re-reading his works, or for the first time in some cases.

I am currently re-reading Grand Central Arena, and have reached the reveal of the Arena itself. This is the third or fourth time I've read this book, and the grandeur and epic of infinite scale still grabs me. Well-worlds, Ringworlds, Dyson Spheres all are smaller than grains of sand in the ocean. I marvel and wonder, and perhaps dream anew even this time around.

Well-wrought, and well-done.

Current Mood: Wonder
Thursday, June 19th, 2014
2:01 pm
Lego Movie
A fun time for the young and young at heart, and a lesson to those who think there is only One Right Way To Do Things.
Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
12:00 am
Jurassic Park
I just got done watching Jurassic Park again. It's been a while, and of course I've seen it several times, but the movie still catches me up in its storytelling magic. And, of course, Utahraptors.
Friday, February 28th, 2014
1:28 pm
With a long commute to work, I keep my mind busy with a few podcasts.By and large, they're quite informative:
One collection is the Brachiolope Media Network, a group of podcasts about science and engineering: http://www.brachiolopemedia.com/
Collapsed Wavefunction is their newest, and has some interesting insights on chemistry, food, and what some of those polysyllabic ingredients actually are.
Technically Speaking are a couple of engineers who bring in guests, discuss news in engineering, and have some interesting brainstorm sessions. Astrarium is astronomy and astrophysics, with a mellow background soundtrack.
Science... Sort Of is about things that are science, things that are sort of science, and things that wish they were science: science news, guests, interesting beverages, movie trailer discussion.
Titanium Physicists explores physics, often astrophysics-related: Ben Tippet hosts, with two scientist guests and a media guest (such as comic artists, authors), the latter to ask the questions that keeps the discussion to the common layperson.
Weekly Weinersmith is about discussion of biology-related papers, by Kelly and Zack Weinersmith. Kelly is a parasitologist, and her husband Zack is the creator of the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic and fairly knowledgeable about physics himself.

There's also skeptical podcasts:
http://skeptoid.com/, http://www.skepticality.com/.
Skeptoid is a 10-15 minute podcast, while Skepticality runs between an hour and an hour and a half.

The interesting thing about skepticism-based information, is that they give me less things in life to worry about. I've found myself revising or refining opinions on a number of subjects, including artificial sweeteners (yet another multi-country intensive study showing that they are not harmful), why vaccines are necessary and good, that the Blood-type Diet has no effect in and of itself (I ascribe benefit to people paying attention to what/how much they eat, rather than the specific foods).

There's a lot of useful and thought-provoking things in these links. These are well worth the time to ponder over.

Current Mood: Thoughtful
Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
12:59 pm
And back again
January 2. Back to work, back to life, back to reality.

I so very much need to move closer to work. Can't right away, due to embarrassing amount of junk. Car is wearing out, due to 40, 50 mile round trip daily. Yes, there's folks with longer commutes (both time and/or distance), it just eats away a good chunk of my day and income. Adding an hour and a half to a 10-hour work day gets old after a while.

Location and rent, I hope to find someplace that has a cost close to what I pay where I'm at; the upper limit is current rent plus the difference in fuel cost for the commute (Roughly $70/week, or $280/month. Yikes, that's a lot of money I spend to get to work and back).

So, things to do in the next few months: keep car together, get the trailer cleaned up, find a place close to work.
Sunday, October 13th, 2013
1:06 pm
To all my Canadian friends...
... Happy Metric Thanksgiving!
Saturday, October 12th, 2013
1:41 am
The current Nicoll Factor is 72%.
Sunday, October 6th, 2013
4:48 pm
Shrinking world
My online one, that is. Fewer hangouts, fewer friends and acquaintances. More nights of logging into a chat (either IRC, telnet, or others) and seeing I'm the only one active. Or lack of response other than 'hi, how goes?' 'Fine, what's new?' and then... nada.

Mostly an observation; the melancholy here is minimal. I know a lot of the folk I used to chat with frequently have their own lives to live, and in fact those lives are wonderfully full. This is a Good Thing.

Where even a few years ago, I'd be wondering what I was doing wrong, I realize that I've got good friends of my own outside of the internets. A couple of gaming groups, people I can talk to about life, and listen to how their own lives are going.

Just some observations on a lovely day as I'm about to head off for hanging out with some folks I know.
Friday, October 4th, 2013
3:31 am
Singularity approach
Been a while since I posted. A Long, long while.

Just noting here that my LJ friends feed is at least 90% James Nicoll entries.
Thursday, December 13th, 2012
2:23 pm
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