One pervasive meme in the language of romantic obsession, as portrayed in music, the media, and conversation, is that of the lover who believes they could never live without the person they love. Despite its wide perception as romantic, this is a dangerous idea, for several reasons:
For a standard application of the motif, see the Chicago song “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love”:
I don’t wanna live without your love,
I don’t wanna face the night alone,
I could never make it through my life,
If I had to make it on my own.
A classic pop hit that uses it right in the title is “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?”:
I didn’t come here for crying,
Didn’t come here to break down,
It’s just a dream of mine is coming to an end.
And how can I blame you
When I built my world around
The hope that one day we’d be so much more than friends?
How am I supposed to live without you,
And how am I supposed to carry on
When all that I’ve been living for is gone.
The narrator edges toward self-reflection, seeming to briefly realize that their dream of being with their love was only a dream, and it’s unfair to blame someone else for it, but then retreats into a standard application of the motif.
Another pop hit that takes the idea to extremes, to the point where I’m inclined to regard it as a parody or deconstruction of the idea, is The Carpenters’ “The End of the World”:
Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world
‘Cause you don’t love me anymore?
I wake up in the morning and I wonder
Why ev’rything is the same as it was.
I can’t understand, no, I can’t understand
How life goes on the way it does.
Is this literally a song about breakups being the end of the world? Or is a song about how life goes on, and the evidence is all around you? Your guess is as good as mine.
If “I can’t live without you” is a bad idea, then what is the alternative? Should we declare that breaking up is no big deal and we’re happy to move on at any time? That’s not realistic either. I think the most poetic alternative I’ve heard was in a mature and thoughtful love song by Trisha Yearwood entitled “Down on My Knees”:
I learned to be strong a long time ago
And I can face any wind no matter how hard it blows,
But I’d have to be stronger than I want to be
If I had to live without you loving me.
The narrator is no longer saying “I can’t live without you”; the implication is instead “I can live without you, but it would be hard.” Or as Kelly Clarkson more informally put it: “my life would suck without you.” I think that hits closer to the truth for most of us.
French intelligence agency threatens Wikipedia administrator to get page deleted
On 4 March 2013, the Wikimedia Foundation (the “Foundation”) was contacted by the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (“DCRI”), a French intelligence agency. The DCRI claimed that an article entitled “La station hertzienne militaire de Pierre sur Haute” on the French language Wikipedia contains classified military information and that publication of such information violates French Penal Code, Article 413-10. The DCRI demanded removal of the article in its entirety without any further substantive explanation […] Furthermore, the page was originally created on July 24, 2009 and has been continually available and edited since. We do not know why the DCRI believes that the article has suddenly become an urgent threat now.
We requested more information from the DCRI, such as which specific sentences or sections they believed to contain classified information. Unfortunately, the DCRI refused to provide any more specific detail and reaffirmed their demand that the entire article be deleted. Therefore, the Foundation was forced to refuse their request pending receipt of more information that we could use to fully evaluate their claim.
On 30 March 2013, we discovered that the DCRI, evidently dissatisfied with the Foundation’s response, contacted a volunteer with administrative rights (a “sysop”) who resides in France. This sysop is not responsible for the hosting of the content on Wikipedia, had no role in the creation of the article, and is not part of the Wikimedia Foundation. As we understand it, the sysop attempted to explain his limited role as a volunteer and directed them back to the Foundation’s legal department.
Unfortunately, the DCRI did not accept this answer and insisted that the sysop use his administrative rights to immediately remove the article, or face serious and immediate reprisals. Under the shadow of these threats, the sysop removed the article as directed.
Emphasis and truncation added.
More links here: Geekosystem, Wikimédia France
I just had a random scary thought: what if you’re an astronaut on the International Space Station, and you get an urgent medical problem like appendicitis or a heart attack? What if it’s not safe to move them, or no shuttles are scheduled to arrive for some time? Do they have doctor-astronauts to help with that? Do they have remote doctors who give detailed instructions? I’m pretty sure they can’t afford to bring very many drugs or diagnostic equipment into space. And I don’t know if surgery is even possible in a free-fall zero-gravity environment. I guess you just hope you don’t get sick.
THIS FUCKING AMUSEMENT ARCADE: The Gaming Cringe -
In Scotland there’s something we call “Scottish Cringe”. I think the term originated in Australia, with “Australian Cringe”. It refers to something called a “cultural cringe”. Wikipedia describes Cultural Cringe like this: “Cultural cringe, in cultural studies and
Many people aren’t aware that UC Berkeley has an Extension program for working professionals. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the building that the Extension program is housed in, also known as the Golden Bear Center, at University and Bonita in Berkeley.
If you take a look at the UC Berkeley AirBears coverage map, you’ll see this building is by far the westmost building on campus that has wifi:
Don’t ask me why west is at the bottom of the map.
Since I live in West Berkeley this makes the Extension building a particularly convenient place to go for wifi, since my bandwidth at home sucks. So I went and explored it yesterday, and I’m posting this from there right now.
On the bottom floor is an information center for UC Berkeley Extension, and some small businesses, at least one of which (Fidelity) leases streetfront offices on University Ave, which is a commercial district. The 2nd floor is mostly occupied by classrooms, an open computer lab, a kitchen with vending machines, and an open study area with student cubicles and power outlets. The cubicles have a lovely view of business fronts on University Ave, including Brasa Pollo Local (a Peruvian restaurant), OctoberFeast Bakery, New Amsterdam Coffeeshop, Chocolatier Blue, a restaurant called SLOW, and a saxophone shop called Saxology (seriously). The remainder of the building (5 stories in all) is rented out to small businesses.
I’ve been uploading my new blind Let’s Play of Final Fantasy VIII from here, which is about 1 GB per video, and I get about 650 KB up as compared to 60 KB up at home, so it’s well worth the 10-15 minute bike ride over here.
Rewarding artists for their creative effort is good, but DRM is awful. Kindle eBooks and iTunes videos can’t be moved between devices or lent to friends like physical books or DVDs. Amazon Instant Video won’t stream HD on PC. What’s the solution?
I prefer a method called “steal before you buy” - pirate works, enjoy them, and then do your best to find an affordable way to pay for them that is proportionate to your usage/enjoyment of the work and will direct as many dollars as possible towards the creators. You have the opportunity to wait until a release comes along that fits what you are able to pay. Using multiple accounts, you can buy a digital copy of a work multiple times if you particularly enjoyed it. This is, of course, every bit as illegal as normal digital piracy, but the moral problems vanish.
I recently attempted to do this - after I pirated Disney’s Tangled for a friend and watched it myself, I went to Amazon Instant Video and rented it for a 48 hour period. This costs only $3 and is enough in principle for both my friend and I to watch it. I streamed a couple segments of it just to try out the service, and it seemed to work fine. But then out of nowhere, a couple days later, Amazon cancelled the item and refunded me for it. A followup mail said “[w]e noticed that you experienced poor video playback.”
Exasperated, I contacted their customer service. They promptly told me they had added the item back to my account and that I would not be charged. I told them “No you don’t understand! I want to be charged!” They seemed quite confused by this. I was eventually able to resolve this by renting the HD version, but I really don’t know why it’s so difficult to give people money.
Today I went to the dentist for a regular cleaning. My dentist is on the 7th floor of the tallest building in Berkeley, with a window facing the campus, so I’m always very interested in the view. I have a point-and-shoot camera that I try to pull out for a quick shot during the final part of the cleaning where I’m just waiting for mouthwash to do its thing.
My dentist’s office building
I wasn’t going to take a picture this time because I already had some, like this one:
But then when I arrived I saw that they were demolishing a parking structure and it was visible from the window. I’m generally entranced by demolition, so naturally I had to get a photo of it. Unfortunately the construction equipment had departed, and the parking deck is quite far away (far off in the upper left corner in the picture above), but still a decent shot.
My dentist was feeling a bit overwhelmed because the owner of the practice had retired for health reasons and she was a bit overwhelmed with taking over the practice, but I hope in the end it’ll be a big step up for her.
On the Wikipedia side today I expanded the article on the reciprocal 1/x, and did more SVG charts.There’s a surprising amount you can say about such a basic topic. How do computers compute 1/x given a particular x? Why is the integral of 1/x equal to ln x? And apparently, the global minimum of the function x^x is at exactly x=1/e, which is just cool.
Random things from today.
There’s a local French restaurant called Gregoire’s. The food is okay, a little greasy. But my favorite part is the plastic utensils that are silver-colored and strongly resemble metal utensils. They look like these:
On Wikipedia, I’ve been working to improve accessibility of math articles. I added some graphs to the article on the prime number theorem, which is a really deep theorem about the totally obvious fact that prime numbers get less common as they get bigger. I’m excited about my charts because they’re my first SVG charts that scale arbitrarily and they actually look nice at thumbnail size:
Click here to see it at SUPER BIG SIZE!
This one was also fun to do because the left half of the chart is generated programmatically, while the right half comes from the research, since it’s exceedingly hard to compute the exact number of primes less than 1024.
I’ve been watching some recent Disney movies that I never got around to seeing like Tangled. If you know me and my fetish for long hair you could predict that I’d like it, but not only did I find the characters likable and the comedy to be well done, the CG is really masterful - I’m frankly shocked at the amount of novel technology that had to be developed just to simulate Rapunzel’s hair (see [[Tangled#Animation]]).
In other news I’ve damaged a zipper on my backpack from trying one too many times to cram my 18.4 inch HP dv8t into it. Not only did one of the two zippers come off, but a small portion of the zipper has detached from the fabric. Ideally I should just get a larger backpack and stop abusing this one, but really it just about fits all my stuff perfectly (it’s a Victorinox Altmont 2.0, the one in red). I’m hoping I can repair the zipper rather than ordering a replacement, but I’ve never repaired a zipper before. I think this guide will do the trick if I can manage it.
Scholarships and straight allies -
The issue under discussion is that most LGBT scholarships also are open to straight allies. I kind of straddle the line, having identified as straight when I was younger but still supporting LGBT rights, so I can hopefully offer some perspective from both sides.
Part of the strife comes from the fact that some straight allies have a sense of entitlement, believing they have a right to a disproportionate reward for their efforts. But a gift given with an expectation of reward is not a gift at all - it is a transaction.
I view the people who give scholarships as rational agents whose aim is to advance LGBT rights and status in society. I don’t have any data on how often straight allies receive these scholarships, but if they feel like they can accomplish their goals best by awarding some scholarships to straight allies, or by not doing so, I think that’s their prerogative. As long as they’re up front about it with the people who are funding their organizations, they get the choice of how to go about their goals. We can have an honest disagreement about whether this is the most effective strategy - but that disagreement should not be with the recipients, but with the administrators and donors to the program, who have all the actual power over eligibility and selection.
A harder question is about what the most effective strategy actually is. It’s clear that every LGBT person who has the opportunity to succeed also has the opportunity to be a role model for others and have a real effect on the advancement of rights, even if they’re completely passive. But straight allies can also be really effective in advancing the conversation about LGBT rights in public venues, and leveraging their privilege to get LGBTs entrance into closed communities. Neither of them will be of much use to the cause if they don’t graduate. So I think it really does require individual review, as well as careful research on outcomes, to weigh the factors and determine what the best balance is between the two.