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

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Saturday, December 22nd, 2012
5:29 pm
Is the universe a simulation?
The problem with the idea of "The Universe May Be A Simulation", is that it seems to miss several critical key issues of simulation. There's some definite things going for it as well though.

On the "pro" side, our physical universe is highly quantized: Energy has discrete states, we have a lower bound for measurable space (Planck length, Planck area, Planck volume), we have an upper limit for energy within a given unit of space (Planck energy), we even have a minimum measurable unit of time, Planck Time (bet you didn't see that coming). Current simulation theories commonly assume that if the universe is a simulation, it's modeled on a 4-dimensional grid with individual units Planck units (in both space and time), on an equally spaced grid.

The idea that the universe is an infinite grid of infinitesimal units is not new. This one has been around for a while. More recent theories of space-time that attempt to describe this have moved on to irregular or regular lattices of different polyhedra, such as Weaire-Phelan foam, and/or to higher-dimensional lattices. (Space-filling polyhedra in n-dimensions of n>3 is left an an exercise for the reader.)

But I'm not at all convinced that - even if it was determined that the universe was an orderly array Planck-scale hypercubic cells - we are living on a simulation. Let's look at the issues of simulation.

Simulation involves tradeoffs in space (memory) and time (processing power), and there's two more real-world trade-offs: Size of the computation machinery and ratio of simulation time to real-world time. Let's address these.

Let's be optimistic here. Let's assume that rather than have the memory for the simulation of the entire grid allocated, the grid is sparse, and the simulation only assigns memory for the particles in the known universe. That's 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (or 1x10^80, 1E80 for short) particles, and the memory required for each particle. With any reasonable assumption, any given memory cell must have a mass equivalent to at least 1 fundamental particle, and more likely to be several orders of magnitude larger. That gives us a lower bound of the mass of the entire visible universe for our universe to be a simulation.

What about computation time? There are information-theoretical limits to computation. An ideal quantum computer could store one bit of information in one particle. I have no idea what the resolution or range of numbers should be for quantum states. But I understand that the simplest real particles are believes to be described by 12-14 quantum numbers. Let's pick an arbitrarily high number for resolution, and assign 128 bits. That means the simplest particle would be simulated by 1536-1792 particles. Information theory also tells us that the computational speed of this quantum computer is related to temperature and pressure. I believe the only way you could get anything approaching planck-scale computational rates out of a quantum computer would be in a black hole, but my grasp of information theory is too weak to calculate the ideal computation rate of realistic materials are.

Long story short: Simulation always trades time and space for the ability to control the parameters of your simulation. To simulate the universe, would require something orders of magnitude more massive than the universe.
Monday, December 10th, 2012
10:51 pm
Didn't really want to put this on the facespaces, so this works out marginally better. My first LJ post in… what, a year?

So yeah, depression. I bet this is what I posted about last time, too. Changed jobs this fall, and am definitely thinking it was a poor choice. The money is much better, but the work is a pain in my ass, workload is stupidly high, the work I'm doing is nothing at all like the stuff we discussed in the interview process. The level of bureaucracy is… well, it's high, but not unexpectedly so. What surprises me is how ineffectual the bureaucracy actually is at regulating the processes under inspection. So it's bullshit. I hoped, also, that the shorter drive would mean shorter commutes: Nope. That's fallacious.

So the work thing is a drag, who doesn't feel that their job sucks? I get it. I do. It ain't McDonalds. I'm not slaving in a sweatshop, and I'm making really good money. I should suck it up and move on, right? Yeah, I probably should. That's what always works for depressed people, right?

Oh, depression, that's what we came here to talk about. I think the winter has something to do with it. The last few winters have been pretty stark in terms of depression. Admittedly, I've had some pretty stressful winters in a row, usually work related, and I shot myself in the foot this time around with the job change. Stressful or not, I'm playing medication bingo again, seeing if I can plug the gaps in my pharmaceutical emotional retaining wall. Up next: Adjunct therapy with Wellbutrin, on top of my existing Lexapro. On top of which I also already take Trazodone, the official anti-depressant of getting some fucking sleep because I don't sleep like normal humans.

I would love to be able to work for myself. I just have no idea how to do that.
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
4:31 pm
Should I give up militant atheism for lent?
Monday, February 13th, 2012
10:53 pm
Let me tell you what I believe. I believe that everybody ought to be viewed equally in the eyes of the law, and in the eyes of each other. I believe that, all things being equal, laws should err on the side of compassion. I believe that the failure of evidence of a deity is sufficient evidence for me to disbelieve in the existence of said deity. I believe that people are people; but corporations aren't. I believe in turn signals, even if that asshole ahead of me clearly doesn't. I believe that kisses should feel like they last a week, and set your brain on fire. I believe I like having my ears nibbled on. I believe that war is stupid, and that pre-emptive war is stupider, but if someone else starts stabbing me, it is perfectly acceptable to shoot them in the teeth. I believe in Charity, Faith, Joy, and Constance. I've met them; they're nice girls. I believe that sex is a wonderful thing between consenting adults, regardless of who has which bits and which appendage (if any) goes in whose whatever. I believe in masturbation: It's sex with someone I love. I believe that comfort food can cure what ails you, but don't skimp on the meds if that's what you need. I believe that science holds the answers, even if we sometimes don't understand the answers. I believe that maybe we just need to re-phrase the question. I believe in anthropogenic global warming. I believe winters were colder when I was a kid, that the snow was whiter, and that the icestorms were AWESOME. I believe that some bad movies are better than good movies. I believe that Sean Connery looked TERRIBLE in a handlebar mustache and red diaper, but we should all still stay inside his aura. I believe I'm going to be late getting home, and that my kids should really behave better for Kim. I believe that Kim is underappreciated and overworked, and that I love her more than she knows, but less than she deserves.
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
8:17 pm
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
11:16 pm
It's not very often that the kids get along without either arguing, or going nuts, roughhousing, or just generally being hyper and annoying the shit out of me. It's like there's no middle ground with them.

Tonight, the snow really started coming down. The first snow of the winter. We went out to play in the snow a bit, and took the dog out for a walk. We ran into one of the kids' friends as we walked, who they invited along with us. They wanted to take the dog to the park. I wanted to let them have their fun together, (and I was soaking wet) so I left them to it. But I got a picture as they left.

It does me good to see the four of them, my kids and their friend, walking along just talking and being there. No fighting, no craziness. Just enjoying the moment and each others' company.

Monday, May 23rd, 2011
10:49 am
Kids are a huge undertaking. They take all of your energy and time, and you get very little in return, and none of it tangible. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids an I enjoy our time together, and I enjoy seeing them grow and change. I'm proud of their accomplishments, and the people they're becoming.

It's so easy to focus on the bad things, to take all the annoyances and negative experiences to heart, though. It can be all too easy to forget that the little shit that's screaming at his sibling, and being an inexcusable smartass to you is just a person who isn't finished growing up yet. (And worse yet, their shortcomings are probably all your fault.)

Our therapist wants me to be harder on the kids. I concede that I certainly need to be stricter; I've not been as consistent in discipline as I should be, or as quick as I should be in putting a stop to negative behavior. "Divorced dad" is a hard position to be in, though; you find yourself needing to be both mother and father, and I've usually found it easier to be the nurturing, communicative type in any case.

They all grow up eventually though. Get what you can before you only talk to them on holidays and the odd weekend call.
Friday, May 20th, 2011
12:54 pm
I'm telling you, I love this city. Today's events conspired to make it pretty damn good so far. Lunch time, I notice I have cash in my pocket. Enough cash to go to Humdinger for lunch, in fact. Not only do I have enough, but they're running a lunchtime discount, so I get a huge-ass chocolate malt to go with it. SO GOOD.

As I'm driving back to the office with my delectable eatable booty, I see, walking down the sidewalk, a young lady clad in a plaid skirt and boots, with hair dyed shock red, carrying her shirt in her hand. Topless young women walking around the place, soaking in the sunshine.

Yup, I love this fucking city.
Monday, April 18th, 2011
11:52 pm
Nintendo 3DS
Look, I'm a gadget whore. Totally addicted. Even more so for video games. I own so many consoles, I've run out of room for them all.

But the 3DS wasn't a big deal to me. I ran out and got a DSi, and was pretty disappointed. DSiware was a big flop. It wasn't sufficiently updated in terms of hardware or features to make it worthwhile. And where were the games to take advantage of the new features? There's been precious few non-DSiware games that took advantage of the DSi features. Upgrading from the DS to the DSi was costly and pointless. So the 3D features and the improved resolution seemed like a good thing, but they were going to have a pretty tough sell to get me to upgrade.

Add on to that the fact that I never had much luck with 3D chicanery. 3D movies were either fairly non-impressive, or just gave me a screaming migraine. But a few weeks ago I got glasses. So when I saw the demo 3DS at Target a few days ago while I was shopping with the kids, I thought I'd give it a try. And it was magical. The 3D was distinct and crisp, with good color and no bleedover between the eyes. So I had to have it.

I traded in my DSi for a new black 3DS and a swipe of my magic plastic card.

A few days in, and I'm still impressed by the 3D. I picked up Pilotwings Resort, based on the fact that it's the only retail 3DS software that I gave a damn about. Out of a pitifully paltry lineup of only 9 games.

We can talk about the totally fucked battery life. That's fun. 3-5 hours of batter life. So far, I've found that 4 hours is about right for Pilotwings. Less for the built-in augmented reality games. The charging cradle and the longer-than-usual-for-nintendo power cable makes charging easier to deal with. Road trips or, god forbid, plane flights will leave you pretty pissed though. There's plenty of press about the battery issue here, so I won't belabor it.

The built-in games are surprisingly good and well thought out, even though they're extremely light on actual content. The 3D photography feature is nice, although the poor resolution is a bit of a pisser.

Pilotwings is pretty good. I've got several hours into it, and there's really not that much there, but the challenges keep you coming back for perfection (unless you're not into that, in which case you'll get about 3 hours out of this game before you get angry about the amount you paid for such a small amount of actual content).

But I really want to fume for a bit. Nintendo released the 3DS into north america with essentially nothing. The web browser? "Enabled later though a system update." The 3DS store "will be available through a system update." Even the DSi store will "become available" later. Why? The store functioned perfectly on the DSi, (even if it was chock-full of crap games, and poorly designed, and a showcase in how not to do an online sotre) how the hell hard could it be to port it forward to the 3DS?

You'd think that perhaps they felt they could delay the online stores because they had such a strong retail offering of release titles. Nintendo announced 16 release titles. In all my local stores, I could only find the same nine titles. What happened to the other 7? Nintendo, traditionally strong (even strong-armed) in first-party games only release three first party games: PIlotwings, Steel Diver (not found in stores here) and Nintendogs+Cats. Where's Mario? Where's ANY of their blockbuster properties?

Finally, Nintendo seems to have ignored the explosive growth in social gaming. They've made tiny concessions over their previous "friend code" model. Instead of one obnoxious, impossible, entropy-rich friend code per friend per game, at least it's only one obnoxious, impossible, entropy rich code per friend. The codes are now per-system. What happens if your friend borrows someone else's 3DS or replaces their 3DS with another? In the first case, TOO BAD, in the second, Nintendo support may be able to help. Or maybe not. Currently, I can't find a solid answer on that.

What the hell is Nintendo thinking? They released a significant new product with a potentially huge new technology (glasses free 3D). The marketing program was lackluster. The concessions they made to social gaming are insufficient. Significant features were missing. Release titles were crap, first party support was essentially totally absent, and in an industry where attach-rate is king, they're making it awfully hard for us to give them our money.

Pros: Awesome glasses-free 3D. Huge potential.
Cons: Nintendo should be ashamed of themselves for this release lineup. I guess they're leaving plenty of potential for us to discover down the road.
Thursday, February 17th, 2011
1:15 pm
Friday, February 4th, 2011
3:49 pm
STOP USING THE PREFIX "CYBER"
Friday, January 28th, 2011
5:42 pm
I've been following the Egyptian revolutionprotests fairly closely today. I'm not sure what got my attention where I would've otherwise failed to give a shit. I think it was that the Egyptian government shut off the internet. OH GOD, THEY SHUT OFF THE INTERNET. I get heart palpitations just thinking about it.

No, seriously, that's what got my attention. What else got my attention was the bizarre (to American eyes) handling of the situation. The much-loathed Egyptian president sends in the Army, and the protesters cheer. The Army leaves the population alone, and in fact, reports come out of the Army protecting the population from police force. The government party headquarters are burned and looted, but right next door, a few dozen people ring around the National Museum to prevent it from being damaged or looted. (I know what the twitterers retweeted to each other, but I watched the report on Al Jazeera, and it looked like a few dozen people to me.)

Reading up on the causes of the uprising made me realize how out of touch I am, in typical American fashion, with the world beyond the borders. I didn't realize that the government of Egypt had been operating under emergency powers since 1967, apparently to protect the dear Egyptian electorate from itself. ("If we allowed you to vote, you might vote in someone bad for you!")

( Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Egyptian_protests )

If the US is so pro-Democracy, then why do we support this sort of bullshit? The US backs up this barely legitimate Egyptian presidency with significant military and financial aid, Mr Obama's press secretary talks about our "wait and see" approach to all this. Fox News talks about how this will let the Muslim Extremists get a whole new government in their evil clutches. Even CNN makes wild claims that the protests were organized by muslim forces. As far as anybody else can tell, none of this was actually organized at all.

There's more I want to say, I'm sure, but I still need time to think about it.
Monday, December 13th, 2010
7:33 pm
With everything else going on, someone's been trying to hack my passwords. I find this… intriguing.
Saturday, December 4th, 2010
1:22 pm
I got an old Cisco 2600 router from work when we were about to dispose of it. I figured my house was a much less ignominious end for the poor thing. I set it up that very night. Ah, bliss, to be running my own Cisco hardware at home, something I haven't done in my nearly 20 years as a network engineer.

It was awfully loud though. Crazy loud. It only has the one fan in it, but it's a crazy loud fan. I replaced it with a super quiet (like 10dB quiet) fan. The Cisco is now so quiet that you can't even hear it with your ear pressed against it.

Finally having some professional hardware has got me making changes to the whole system left and right. The Cisco even has the advanced security load on it, so I can setup advanced firewalling and IDS/IPS. Mmmm… IDS...

Also, last week I was reminded by worldcommunitygrid.org that I haven't contributed in quite some time. I used to have several desktop PCs doing work for distributed computing projects. Over the years, I've switched to laptops nearly exclusively. I have a tiny little mini-ITX based server that I run at home. I haven't used it for distributed computing because it runs so loud when it's hot, and prolonged heavy loading overheats it and makes it crash. So I replaced the obnoxiously ineffective CPU fan with a low-profile, quiet, high performance unit from Thermaltake. I also changed the power supply fan orientation around, now the whole thing runs 20 degrees cooler. And half the noise.

So yeah, lots of changes on the technology front at home. I haven't had this much fun with the home network in a loong time.
Monday, November 22nd, 2010
3:14 pm
Alrighty, my charitable peeps. I just gave $50 to Childs Play, the premier charity by gamers, for children. I suggest, nay, demand that you go do something similar. It doesn't have to be that much, it can be more, it can be less. But this is one charity, and one cause, that you can all be 100% behind.

Clicky!
Sunday, November 21st, 2010
1:01 pm
I'm really enjoying myself right now. I'm looking forward to the holidays. I'm looking forward to cooking for thanksgiving, and I've got great ideas for gifts for the kids. I was really stressed out and depressed last year for the whole season, although I guess I hid it pretty well. This year, I want to make up for last year.

I've got meds that work, I've got a beautiful wife that loves me and treats me better than anybody in my life. I've got a home, and a job, two cars, three kids and a house full of pets and love. (Even if the kids act like they hate each other half the time) I've got friends that care.

I'm happier than I usually am, and I love it. It's hard to believe that there are people out there who feel like this all the time!

I envy them.
Sunday, September 5th, 2010
7:59 pm
This weekend was PAX. It was my second year there, first as a non-enforcer. Last year ended early, due to pinkeye. So that doesn't even fucking count. Got it? We won't count that.

PAX is… well, I won't say PAX is like home, although some of the advertising would argue that point. My home isn't several square blocks of downtown Seattle, and full of hour+ long lines. The lines at my home are mostly a few minutes long, tops, and usually for the bathroom, not to watch Wil Wheaton, Gabe, Tycho, and Scott Kurtz play D&D. But I digress… While it's not home, PAX is my people. Every one of those goddamn motherfuckers is "one of us". It certainly makes standing (and sitting) in those 90 minute lines a relative pleasure, when you can instantly open a conversation with a complete stranger, and automatically have common ground to work from. Shouts of "Mario Party DS!" would echo down the line, letting you know that someone was starting a game, and you could join in wirelessly. There were card games (not poker), board games (not monopoly) and smoked things (actually someone was sharing their homemade bison jerky with the surrounding members of the line).

These were my people, and it felt really good to be immersed in my culture in a way that I never really had been before. For three days, Kim and I were there, we watched the panels and the games, we played and talked and participated. It was wondrous! I've been to cons for an afternoon before, but each of them represented a vertical component, a subculture of geekdom. PAX embraces the much broader spectrum of geeks.

Out in the real world, we're respected.


Among our own kind, we're understood.
Friday, July 16th, 2010
8:49 pm
It fun to discover a great new artist opening at a concert, only to discover that you've been listening to them in a different project for years.

Listening to Imaad Wasif, previously of Folk Implosion. Recommended.
11:43 am
I'm really frustrated with my brain meds. The prozac, despite past successes isn't working well. Probably too similar to the Paxil, which worked for 7 years, then petered out.

The doc started me out on prozac at 40mg a few months ago, which wasn't doing much for the depressive stuff. We tried a higher dose, but that only made me a crazy anxious, non-sleeping asshole with no patience.

Went down to 40. Hey, still have the anxiety, though less, and I'm still an asshole. (Yes, I've considered that perhaps that's my ground state. Shut up.)

On my own, I tried tapering down to 20. Marginal improvement. Read several studies that showed that for Prozac, after an initial ramp-up to achieve steady state, lower doses retain the positive effect without the side effects. Cut myself down to 10. Even better. Cut myself down to 5. Even better. This is nuts. Cut it off entirely. For the first five days, I felt like a champ. Better than I'd been in months. Then the crazy kicked in. Brain started buzzing like a cheap flourescent light. Running, jumbled thoughts that won't stop, and I can't focus on anything that requires a lot of mental muscle. (I can still trigger hyperfocusing though, but it only lasts a few minutes where I can normally go hours.) And I constantly feel angry, frustrated and jittery. Jumped back onto the 'zac wagon, at 20mg, hoping to get the steady state, but it wasn't working, so I hit the doc up again.

After much discussion, we're going to try Lexapro. Ordered to taper down the prozac as low as I can and then start the Lexapro. Was planning on starting it this morning, but as I taper the prozac down again, I'm starting to feel the normal, like I did for that five day period a few weeks ago. I'm not going to be a fool and think I can just discontinue entirely, I just want to make sure I have enough of a gap between meds that I'm not doubled up.

I'm surprised by not just the lack of effectiveness of the prozac, but by the paradoxical effects. Here's hoping the lexapro will be a dramatic improvement. I wonder if the anxiety I'm feeling from the Prozac is caused by its lack of selectivity, and thus the increase of norepi levels in the brain.
Thursday, July 15th, 2010
11:39 am
At the peak of my Eve Online days, I had a big Gallente battleship, which I named Wheel Of Taranis. I chose "wheel", because I'd been reading Gene Wolfe's Torturer series, in which people being broken on the wheel is a frequent mention. I chose Taranis because it seemed like a decent name for a god, demigod or hero who went around torturing and killing the undeserving. (And because it was similar to "tartan", since "tartan" and "plaid" are common thematic elements in names I choose during gaming, for obvious reasons.)

Turns out that there really was a god named Taranis, though. He was the celtic thunder god, (eventually syncretized with Jupiter), and he carried a wheel, although I have no idea what he used it for. Perhaps he broke people on it. Bizarre coincidence, eh?
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