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even more laptop bunny awesomeness

So my old laptop had to retire. Time to upgrade to a 2016 model Macbook Pro. (I considered some others, but I’m starting a new job next week and they are giving me a new Macbook Pro for work, and I’ll have enough to learn without learning a new desktop, so… sticking with Macs for now. It’s a pretty pretty Unix to me.)

So, much like the last one, I had to laser etch the new one. And I found another bizarre bunny themed image, Buntacles, by Phineas X. Jones.

IMG_20170329_234110

Here’s the closeup–so sharp:

IMG_20170329_234230

I did it at South Side Hackerspace with the help of Phil Strong. Actually I did all the graphic work of pulling out the background and making it suitable for input to the laser printer. Phil did almost all of the laser wrangling. We borrowed a lot of the procedure from last time. And my neighbor Mat has a large format scanner we used to scan it.

Look at how sharp it came out! So much better than last time. One difference: We did a test etch on a piece of cardboard taped in position, just like last time, to make sure we liked where the image fell. Then we took the cardboard away, but this time before we etched we refocused the laser.

Also, this laptop is Space Gray, so it stands out more.

We could have made it bigger. Also for some reason none of the grey tone from the image came out. But i still think it looks great.

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Jesus is my chainsaw

I’m formally Zen Buddhist. I took Jukai with Robert Joshin Althouse in 2007. But I grew up Catholic, and while I have multiple problems with Christianity, I still think there’s a lot of value in the teachings of the Jewish desert prophet. And while Christianity as practiced and understood today doesn’t work for me on a rational level, I do still have an emotional connection  to it.

Once a Christian tried to sway me with the line, ‘don’t think so much about this.’ That’s what we call ‘not understanding your audience.’ Yeah, no. But it does have enough of a tug on me that I don’t want to completely discard it. And I feel like repressing it could backfire in ugly ways. I’d hate to surprise my friends by going through a born again phase like Bob Dylan.

So an informal relationship with the the Christian tradition works best for me. I don’t consider myself un-Christian or anti-Christian, but I don’t think most people who would  call themselves Christian would call me one. Which is fine with me: I don’t have a need to fit anyone’s categories.

I came up with ‘Jesus is my chainsaw’ when I wrote this. It’s a line from a b-movie concept I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while, spoken by the evil Reverend Jim. ‘Jesus is my chainsaw! Come to Jesus! Bwhahahaha!’ But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. So I’m making it mine.

I have a deeply perverse and absurdist sense of humor. And for me, humor does have an important place in spirituality in general. So, while others might say Jesus is their savior, I say Jesus is my chainsaw. Jesus was a righteous dude, who stood up for ‘the least of these,’ threw the money-changers out of the temple, and died for what  he believed in… I don’t imagine him as a one-dimensional guy, but he could be pretty badass.

Savior? No. Teacher? Closer. Chainsaw? Hell yes.

bike powered ice cream

we interrupt the money hacking series to bring you the following shenanigans…

I had this great old ice cream maker—eight quarts, hand-cranked, cedar bucket, 192o’s-era ‘stainless’ steel canister—gathering dust in my place. I got it off ebay with ambitions to make it bike powered. It sat for over a year, until I came to terms with the fact that it would not fulfill its destiny in my hands. So I donated it to Pumping Station: One.

Soon after, Mitch Altman came to us with his Take On the Machine competition, and $3000. And it was on. Boy was it ever on. Because I’m running on wordpress.com, they won’t let me embed video (grr),  but you can see what we did here.

We actually ended up very close to my original vision, which was somewhat coincidental. There were a lot of creative people and strong personalities involved, so I didn’t want to try to control the process too much. A lot of good ideas made it in, as well as some engineering I would not have thought of (A u-joint for the drive coupling? Good thinking! Next time let’s not use one made of cast zinc.) The unit we have was almost a general purpose portable bike-powered unit. There’s a lot you could do with that, more than make ice cream.

The process was not a little frustrating. But damn, at the end that glow in the dark mint ice cream was tasty. It took a minuscule amount of fluorescein to make the whole batch glow bright under blacklight. I think we have enough left over to turn the entire city of Chicago’s pee bright yellow for a day.

Hmm… (more…)

Eric Holzle gets it going

So at least he’s not a patent troll… Some of you may recall my previous post on the subject of Eric Holzle. Well, he’s doing it: he started Scientificmatch.com, a dating site that matches people based on their major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, plus some personality matching stuff. Plus they check you out, pretty thoroughly. Something to keep an eye on, see how it goes. Still, $1995 for a membership. It’s lifetime, but I wouldn’t expect to spend that much in my life on a dating site.

blowing Ann's cover

I admit it: I love the Yes Men. Comic brilliance.

And they have an ongoing project–and I think it’s their biggest–a deep-cover prank so brilliant, it blows my mind. I don’t say “it blows my mind” lightly: my mind is not easy to blow at this point. But when I finally figured this out, I had no other way to describe it.

I’m speaking, of course, of the career of Ann Coulter.

Doubts? Just to be clear, let’s review one of the Yes Men’s prank methodologies.

The Yes Men represent themselves as members of an establishment organization, perhaps not explicitly right-wing, but serving a right wing agenda: perhaps some Bush-aligned government office, perhaps a world trade group.

Make an appearance at an appropriate public event, usually a conference. They’ve made several news show appearances, on BBC and CNBC. Perhaps a trade conference, perhaps a Heritage Foundation meeting. Get the confidence of the audience.

Give a speech. Work up to some proposal or statement that is completely outlandish, but based on the premises of that organization. Package it in a presentable, acceptable way.

Conservative audiences have been fooled into accepting slavery, using “Justice Vouchers” to allow repressive regimes to trade for the right to abuse their citizens, or a scheme for rationalizing death for profit. Their hidden biases are exposed, and they are discredited.

Ann? Ann targets a different crowd. She’s less focused on issues around globalization and injustice, and more focused on exposing the hypocrisy and gullibility of many on the religious right. She targets cultural conservatives more than social conservatives.

But the approach is similar: rehabilitating Joe McCarthy? Calling John Edwards a faggot? Or this page of quotes? Or this gaffe? How can you take her seriously? The point is, some actually do. They don’t get the joke.

She’s been at it longer than the Yes Men have. But it’s clear she has been an inspiration. And what does it mean to be a Yes Man, really? After all, you too can be a Yes Man. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them collaborating more directly in some way soon.

Now, being as I’m fairly liberal, why would I blow poor Ann’s cover like this? Well, I don’t really think I am: she has a committed audience. They might not like what I’m saying, but they won’t believe it anyway.

On the other hand, there are others who think they oppose her, who also don’t get the joke. Fellow liberals who find her infuriating. I was one of them for a while. I figure there’s no harm in letting them in on the prank. It is pretty funny.

Further, though I’m generally liberal, I’m also honest, and there are conservatives I respect. Honest disagreement is an important part of my politics.

Most of the conservatives I respect find her more infuriating than liberals do. And while I may oppose them in certain contexts, there’s no reason to be cruel. Besides, I think she illuminates an important distinction within conservatism: people who have a commitment to authentic American values, and people who will fall for fascism the first time they get scared. Terrorism’s low-hanging fruit: people terrorized-waiting-to-happen. And I think it’s import to know where we all stand with regard to that.

So, Ann, I have to say: great work. Hilarious. Way to show those America-haters. Nudge, nudge,wink, wink.

It doesn't mean I don't love you

It’s a favorite turn of phrase: It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Usually applicable with some version of ‘no.’ Examples:

‘Sounds like a fun party, but I can’t make it that evening. Which doesn’t mean I don’t love you.’

‘No, I’m not continuing my health club membership here. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.’

‘I can’t help you overhaul your transmission Sunday, I have Bears tickets. Dude, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.’

Always said with either ironic disaffection, or affectionate regret. But always a small snark of ambiguity between the two.

patent jealousy

I hate you, Eric Holzle. Well, maybe not hate. But I am extremely jealous…
Some of you may have heard of the original ‘stinky t-shirt study‘:

In 1996, Claus Wedekind, a zoologist at Bern University in Switzerland, conducted what’s become known as the stinky T-shirt study. Wedekind had 44 men each wear a t-shirt for two nights straight, then tested how women reacted to the smelly shirts.

Like mice, women preferred the scent of men whose immune systems were unlike their own. If a man’s immune system was similar, a woman tended to describe his T-shirt as smelling like her father or brother.

More recent fiindings link this effect directly to genes in the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC:

…Then they looked at three MHC genes, each with two different varieties, and compared each partner’s genetic makeup.

The more similar, the less sexually responsive they were to their partners. They also were more unfaithful. The genetically similar women reported more attraction, interest and fantasy toward other men prior to ovulation. When they were not in this phase of the cycle, they showed no sexual interest outside of their partner.

So, I’m poking around at this stuff, thinking “This is the basis of a dating site! I can see it now: Get people to get their genes tested, have them post the data about their alleles to the site… it’s a simple match. If you make some money, you could even fund some research to collect more data about the impact of particular differences. You could market through gene testing clinics… damn, this has legs!”

Then, as I googled, I saw Eric’s patent application:

3. A method of matching human beings with others, comprising the steps of: (a) assembling and/or defining a population of human participants, physically and/or virtually, to be matched amongst themselves and/or any future or past participants in the context of a dating service, dating services, or other social groups or organizations; (b) producing, assembling, and/or observing the class I and class II MHC profiles of all or any fraction of the participants, where said profiles include the HLA-A and HLA-B loci in the class I region, and the DRB1 locus in the class II region; (c) comparing said profiles of some or all of the participants with said profiles of others and rating the degree of compatibility between any two or more people according to the number of alleles they have in common, where fewer commonalities represent a greater degree of compatibility; (d) matching said participants based on said comparisons.

Well, it is just a patent application, but if Amazon can get the 1-click patent, this is a shoo-in. I’m not familiar with the relevant bodies of prior art, but as such claims go, this isn’t bad.

Damn you, Eric Holzle. Damn you.

all great B movie concepts begin with the name

Maybe not all, but many…

You’ve heard of the Knights Templar? Medieval monastic warriors for the Pope? Forcibly disbanded by Pope Clement V in the early 1300s?

Well, as it turns out, there was also a contemporaneous secret order of nuns, known as the Sisters of Righteous Mercy, sworn to protect the weak and the poor. Tended to operate in elite units: assassinations, sabotage, moving strategically against high-level targets.

Flash forward to today. The Sisters still operate in the shadows, fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. Their movie?

FORCE OF HABIT

Sister Prudence, serving in a poor neighborhood, finds fishy goings-on at a storefront church down the street from the church. Young, poor churchgoers are disappearing, and no one will do anything about it.

The culprit? An unaffiliated lunatic who calls himself Reverend Jim, and his chainsaw named Jesus. As he descends on his prey and revs his chainsaw, he squeals with murderous glee: “Come to Jesus!”

Can Sister Prudence and the Sisters of Righteous Mercy stop Reverend Jim’s killing spree? Find out in

FORCE OF HABIT

You can hide a lot under those things…

the elder quoteable stoner

Dad had a great remark today:

“Just because someone stands on their head doesn’t mean you have to kiss their ass.”

Context: we were leaving Barnes & Noble in Crystal Lake. Dad couldn’t find a journal that was both cheap enough and not made in China. He observed, “Some of the ones made in China were more expensive.”

“These things don’t always make sense,” I said.

His responded, well, quoteably.

Not sure when I’d use that one again, but you can be soure I’ll be looking for opportunities.