green leaves

Sketch for a fanfic about the One Ring

Here's a sketch for a story-- I might never write the whole thing, but I think the idea is good enough that I don't want to lose it completely. As usual with such things, this idea is free to a good home if you write it up. Credit is appreciated but not demanded.

For some time, I've thought that the Ring in LOTR is an interesting viewpoint character-- it tried so hard, it waited so long, it came so close to succeeding, but it failed.

Recently, I've been exposed to enough idealism that I came up with a more complex version.

Suppose that being away from Sauron causes the Ring to have its own take on things. In particular, being in contact with Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam is quite a different world than Sauron's point of view.

I think the turning point would be when Sam is tempted with a garden the size of a continent. The Ring doesn't understand anything benevolent, it's just amplifying what Sam wants, but then the Ring is in contact with Sam's love of a proportionate garden that he takes care of himself. It's nothing like Mordor's wasteland.

We can assume slow erosion of the Ring's similarity to Sauron from decades in the Shire, even though it didn't make a huge obvious change.

Here's the part where I need to reread LOTR, which is on the to-do list anyway.

When Frodo puts on the Ring at the Cracks of Doom, the Ring is horrified. Gollum was addicted, of course, but the Ring adds a push so that Gollum is able to take the Ring (saving Frodo, who the Ring is sympathetic to, but not enough to save his finger) and fall into the lava.

And in the real world, lava fertilizes the soil, like a less intense version of the dirt from Lothlorien. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

A good recipe for lamb cubes, or probably for just about anything

Successful cooking: Lamb cubes cooked on high with olive oil in an electric wok for maximum heat.

Black pepper, salt, and vinegar with some honey (Bragg brand) until the lamb is cooked.

Then lemon juice, peppermint (Burlap & Barrel Euphrates mint, which is very strong and sweet, but any peppermint leaves would be good), and chopped parsley.

These flavors are a good combination. I think they'd work with beef, chicken, eggs, fish-- and you could probably go vegetarian or vegan with rice and beans or pasta Or kasha or quinoa . Suggestions for meat substitutes are welcome.

It would probably work to flavor ice cream. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

Good times in biology

Long piece about how much research is happening in biology.

Part of it is about how much you need to investigate to have a well-informed opinion-- in this case, about the condition of a science.

Part of it is about, even though there are research-blocking incentives, there are also a lot of people finding ways to work against those incentives and do research, presumably because there are a lot of people who really want to do research.

And a list of recent discoveries-- I assume things are so lively because the tools keep getting better and biology is so complex that there's a tremendous amount to use the tools on. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

Spicy Seafood soup

I made a spicy fish soup which could help take your mind off your problems, at least if you like spicy food.

I bet a mild version would be good, too.

1 1/2 pounds mahi-mahi, sliced thin
sour mustard (Chinese pickled greens)
good-sized can of crushed tomatoes
medium pile of button and shitake mushrooms
some Chinese chives (about equivalent to a medium onion)-- any onion would do
1 habanero pepper
some Penzey's Arizona Dreaming spice mix (any medium hot pepper would do)
a tablespoon or two of raw ginger
half a head of garlic
most of a tablespoon of Penzey's fish base

Melt the butter, and saute the garlic, ginger, habanero, chives, and Arizona Dreaming on medium heat until the onions and mushrooms are cooked.

Put the crushed tomatoes, the cooked veggies, and the sour mustard (including the liquid it was packed in) together in a good-sized pot. When they're heated up, add the mahi-mahi. When the fish is cooked, the soup is ready to heat.

This is a good lively-tasting soup, but not viciously hot.

The sour mustard had saccharine and aspartame-- read the label before you buy it. I don't think it needed to be sweetened.

Crushed tomatoes strike me as being pretty much like an tomato sauce base-- they're a smooth puree.

Originally posted on Facebook[0]=AZV1wUVUDPhNIZY6vDC5yRqhGsUWUkJ-ZUCnnCqgeLod5LX5FSHt6DbHuZ90oCs1jngBeq9-T50x5ftUpqgmHHapSLPNsT7L6xxLISJ9-eFCRNWiDM155xjZlFH31zU0nKU&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

Comment from Chastity Sheepie:

"So sour mustard is a literal translation and will get you into trouble as there is a condiment of the same name. You want sour mustard greens. Which is different from preserved mustard greens. Both are fermented. Both are commonly served chopped, on opposite sides of a plate, with a five spiced fried meat in between them. That's the standard Taiwanese hot lunch, with a bowl of noodles or rice. Some fancier places have chopped sauteed vegetables." This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

Protest, resistance, challenge

An excellent essay about different degrees of putting pressure on a government. It's by Orion.


I have an intuition that one of the most important things for a functional society to do is to get everyone on the same page about who the legitimate authorities are, or if that's impossible, at least prevent them from literally fighting about it. Conflicts over leadership or state legitimacy have pretty much unlimited stakes and can thus escalate almost without bound. I have a much more relaxed attitude toward conflicts over policy. I think that a society can withstand a great deal of conflict over which policies the authority ought to adopt. People sometimes use illegal or even violent means to try to stop the authorities from implementing a policy they find objectionable, but even when it comes to that, the conflict still has limited stakes to prevent it from escalating uncontrollably. Accordingly, my analysis of various ways people act on their disagreements with government involves a look at both the immediate damage or consequences involved, but also at the extent to which it undermines state legitimacy or consensus about who is in authority. I think pretty much all the options that citizens have when they're angry with their government can be categorized as some combination of protest, resistance, and challenge. I'd characterize the riots we had over the summer as a particularly sustained and destructive form of illegal resistance. I'd describe Trump's people storming the capitol as a relatively mild and unserious form of illegal challenge.

Protest: "Pure" protests are not really a thing that can exist in the wild, except maybe when you post an open letter to your government on your personal blog. More or less all actually-existing forms of protest are in fact also a form a resistance. I think of protest qua protest as communication. You address the authorities, express your displeasure, and request a change of policy. On the damage/consequences side protest in itself can't really do any harm. When it comes to legitimacy, I tend to think that properly-addressed protests* actually strengthen the system. The more we cultivate the habit of calling our senators to complain about their decisions, the more we reinforce and normalize the idea that the senators get to decide. For these reasons, I think protest is clearly the least problematic option.

Resistance: Resistance is any attempt to prevent or deter the authorities from implementing their policies. Resistance can come through legal means like malicious compliance, or private actions that mitigate the impact of a policy, or through illegal means like civil disobedience. Resistance can mean stopping the objectionable policy directly, like surrounding a house to prevent an eviction, or it can mean causing chaos or damage elsewhere as deterrence, like gathering in large groups to shut down major roads or to block access to important buildings. Most public "protests" are really primarily about resistance. Gathering a a bunch of people to yell and wave signs outside a government building makes it more stressful and time consuming for the authorities to go about their daily business, doing it in a commercial district suppresses the economy and effectively takes businesses hostage, and so on. Looting and burning a target is a more extreme application of the same principle: impose costs wherever you can impose costs in hopes of getting leverage over your policy interests.

I'm obviously using "Resistance" to cover an extremely diverse range of activities here, from the legal and innocuous all the way up to certain types of domestic terrorism, so it's hard to generalize about the category. Obviously some acts of "resistance" are very bad indeed. Nevertheless, I feel that it is still valuable to distinguish between resistance and challenge, even when looking at more extreme resistance. As far as I'm aware, the left-wing violence this summer was all or almost about violent resistance, not violent challenge. Some "abolish the police" people are willing to burn and destroy to achieve their goals, but their expressed goals are to get city council to vote to dissolve the police. Some are willing to go to an elected officials house and intimidate them to achieve their goals, but their goals are to get that official to change a policy they dislike. In Seattle they were willing to occupy a whole neighborhood and set up an "autonomous zone," but AFAIK there was no suggestion of erecting a People's Hall and selecting a People's Mayor to overturn the real mayor's edicts. Which brings us to challenge.

Challenge: Challenge, in my view, is any activity that denies that the authority is an authority, or seeks to destroy or deprive them of the trappings of their office, or personal violence targeting authorities; also anything that proclaims or supports alternative authorities or tries to enforce their edicts. Like "resistance," "challenge" is a broad category that includes things legal and illegal, violent and non-violent. Challenges probably also have an effective/symbolic axis that's analogous to the protest/resistance distinction. A plot to assassinate the president is an illegal violent challenge, stealing a podium or ceremonial mace would be illegal but non-violent, filing an election lawsuit or holding an impeachment hearing is legal and potentially effective, wearing a "not my president" t-shirt is legal and purely symbolic. For any permutation of these properties, you could create a challenge and an analogous act of protest or resistance, and in all cases I think there is something more reckless and potentially corrosive about the challenge.

I think Democrats have become way too cavalier about legal and symbolic challenge. I've spent 4 years fuming about how "not my president" is a dumb and destructive slogan. I've pointed out to many Democratic acquaintances that even if it were true that all of Trump's voters were duped by fake documents distributed by foreign hackers, they wouldn't forfeit their right to vote, and Trump would still be the legitimate winner. The whole thing is childish and destructive. Also: Democrats are too cavalier about violent resistance, as has been covered extensively on this board. But there's one line that I can still comfort myself by saying mainstream Democrats haven't crossed, and that's encouraging violent or illegal challenges for authority. (We've have had a gut-wrenching series of lone-wolf terrorists, the kind I was always told only came from the right: the guy who tried to shoot Trump, the guy who did shoot Steve Scalise, the neighbor who assault Rand Paul, and so on; we probably have not done enough to try to discourage that, either) I'm sure that the various right-wing bogeymen the media trots out to scare me with (sovereign citizens, boogaloo boys, militias, q-anon, "posse comitatus," whatever that is) objectively did a lot less damage this year than left-wing rioters, but despite that they do scare me more viscerally. Because the far-left may say "we will burn cities until the government does what we want," but the far right appears to say "the government is not the government," and in the unlikely event that they got anywhere with that it could get much worse than mere riots.

I would agree that objectively speaking, a few hundreds people storming the capitol and then milling around until dispersed would not ordinarily be a big deal. If they had done this on a day when Congress was scheduled to pass some left-wing bill, I'd be about 1000% less concerned. Same if they did it the day after Biden's inauguration just to put him on notice that they don't intend to be pushed around. That would be a fairly harmless bit of good illegal-resistance fun. But doing it to prevent his election from being certified converts illegal-resistance into illegal-challenge. Was it effective enough to call it an attempted coup? No, that seems hyperbolic. But I think it signals coup-friendliness, creates common knowledge that people are thinking positively about the idea of a coup, tests the waters, and could function as a dress rehearsal. I'm reminded of Scott's line about being nice until you can coordinate mean-ness, and I think it's reasonable to look at this as one step toward building capacity to coordinate meanness.

*I forgot to come back to the idea of "properly addressed" protests in the original version of this post. Basically, calling on an official to do something is good for the system if the official actually has the authority to do the thing, but if they don't have that authority, it's effectively not a protest but a challenge -- an attempt to proclaim an alternate authority. Protesters demanding that Mike Pence or Mr. Raffensberger overturn the certified election results are undermining the integrity of the system, whether they realize this or not. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

A Christmas poem by R. A. Lafferty

For those who celebrate, and also for those who like bouncy poetry.



Of trumpet-lightning and a womb that lept for us
One promise made for us and ever kept for us

(Behold a man a-waiting in Jerusalem
Named Simeon and older than Methusalem) —

One Central Thing, before the Day-Star, cited yet
The Word that lights the world, and it be lighted yet.

An incandescence in the human mesh of us,
We be illuminated in the flesh of us.

We are no islands, we are very isthmuses
All of one Main, the nexuses our Christmases.

-- R.A. Lafferty


How it was found in the files of Kinesis, an sf poetry magazine. This poem was for an issue which never came out and the link has its first appearance. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

A boy and his BB gun

Art dominates reality.

This classic is about a boy who desperately wants a Daisy Red Rider BB gun with a compass and a sundial in the stock even though every adult within range tells him he'll shoot his eye out has a side story.

That model with the compass and the sundial doesn't exist, but under pressure, Daisy built the gun.... and then offered it later as a limited edition.

Is this hyperreality or what? The story is about intensity of desire amplified by advertising-- and then the story invades the real world. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

Cave exploration robot contest

This is incredibly cool-- an Australian team has a combined robot on tracks and drone team for cave exploration.

Sometimes it's more competent on its own, sometimes the human operators do better. It's not just that it can cover terrain (like steep slippery slopes) that people can't, its navigation skills are sometimes excellent.

While this is an effort to design robots for exploring caves on the moon and Mars, there are caves on earth that can't be fully explored by humans, and I expect this system or another robot system will be used here. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

Risks of coronavirus-- eating in restaurants dangerous, movie theaters safe

Airflow matters a *lot* for virus transmission. Eating in indoor restaurants is quite risky. So are events where people are talking loudly or breathing hard. Movie theaters seem to be pretty safe.

Zeynep Tufekci is a very thoughtful person and this is a look at some meticulous research. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.
green leaves

Efforts to create a sarcasm detector

China is doing this-- not just China (more in additional links), but this is terrifying. People there may have to guess how much enthusiasm is too much enthusiasm.

A lot of people would like to be able to detect sarcasm mechanically, it's not just about censorship.

Discussion (this could be used as training material for the AL):

Somewhat interesting, but not very good. Keeps talking about Easterners when they mean China. And I have no idea whether all Westerners-- or all western cultures-- have similar attitudes about humor.

Definition of the four styles of humor cites:

At greater length:

With some examples:

The four styles of humor don't seem to include puns.

A better humor typology. This entry was posted at Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.