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Gwen's Spot

28 November 2007

Some (SPOILERY!!!) Thoughts On Severus Snape: In Which Gwen Pontificates

(Yes, I know it's been over a year. Sue me.)

Prompt: I guess Snape's good...but he's still a jerk. I never liked him. I don't get why so many people adore him. I hate Harry, but this man could possibly be worse.

On re-reading, it looks like you're saying Severus Snape might be worse than Harry Potter, not literally "could be worse" than he was. Still, I'm going to riff off of my old reading of what you said.

Yes, he could possibly be worse. He could be the type of man who deliberately knocks an old rival on the head who's suffering from concussion, putting his life in danger--instead of the kind of man who conjures a stretcher for the man who's repeatedly tried to kill him and levitating him on that even though no one's around to see him being kind. He could have been worse--he could have left him for the Dementors, and no one in power would have complained. He probably would have been celebrated, if he'd wanted to be, facing off against a convicted murderer (remember, above and beyond what he already knew about Sirius Black, at this point he had every reason to believe that Sirius Black was guilty of the murder of Peter Pettigrew and seventeen innocent Muggles, plus the betrayal to the Dark Lord of Lily Evans and her husband and--nearly--their infant son) to rescue three children from his clutches and--oops! The Dementors finished him off.

He could be the kind of man who puts students in danger by telling no one when an escaped murderer is on a school campus, instead of the kind of man who risks his credibility, his freedom, and his life to protect children--taking an Unbreakable Vow for one, risking his life again and again for others.

He could be the kind of man who doesn't care what happens to others as a result of his actions, who makes excuses for his behavior like "well, he was trying to take points off of us, he deserved to be stuffed in a Vanishing Cabinet without us even telling anyone what had happened!" or "she ratted us out when we broke school rules, she deserved what she got--even afterwards, when she lost all memory of what had happened!" Instead, he's the kind of man who spends his whole life, risking life and limb and sanity, to make up for a mistake he made when he wasn't even an adult yet.

He could be the kind of man who takes stupid risks because he's bored, who puts other people in danger by his own urge to show off, who doesn't think things through and then wonders afterwards what went wrong, instead of the kind of man who came up with a curse "for enemies" (that to all indications was never actually used)--and then came up with a countercurse, a musical one, because he knew better even as a kid than to create a way to cause pain without a way to heal it.

He could be the kind of man who stands by when evil or cruel things are done, who looks the other way because if he's not doing it, why should he risk himself to stop it? Instead he's the kind of man who reveals himself to be a Death Eater, putting himself at risk of Azkaban or worse, because he felt he had to do something that had even a chance of convincing the Ministry that Lord Voldemort was back.

He could have been the kind of man who could only ever attack someone four-on-one, and who would bully someone because the victim existed, or because he thought the victim was trying for a girl who was "too good for him". But he wasn't.

He could have been the kind of man who would abandon a school to chaos when someone evil or cruel came into power. He could have been the kind of man who retreated into his office, who turned a blind eye to the abuses the students were suffering, instead of doing everything within his power to protect the students.

He could have been a stranger to love. Certainly no one ever showed him any. He could have been the kind of man who finds out someone's weakest point, his love, and manipulates him into doing whatever he wanted. "And what will you do for me in return, Severus?" But he didn't; he loved completely, selflessly, and went on loving a woman who married his rival, a spoiled, reckless bully who thought he was God's gift to women.

He could have been the kind of man who gave up, who agreed with the people who told him his life was worthless. A note and a poison, or a dagger, if he'd wanted to be flashy about it; a potions accident, a mistake in his other work, if he'd wanted it to be quiet. He certainly had the means, motive, and opportunity. Or he could have lived the life of the dead, staying in his rooms, drinking himself into a stupor. Or he could have done less than what was required of him--no night patrols, no paying any more attention to Slytherin than the previous head of house had, no going to dances he knew he'd not enjoy. But instead he got a job and did it, even when dealing day after day with students who hated and mistrusted him, an employer who manipulated him and ignored his concerns (even when they were valid, as they often were), co-workers who hated him, mistrusted him, who had once come this close to killing him and still insisted on putting his and everyone else's life at risk, who were utterly incompetent at doing the job he'd applied for.

He could have been the type of teacher who ignored the students in his care, like Professor Flitwick, or who simply gave up, like Professor Slughorn. Certainly he had more to deal with from his students than any other teacher. Dangerous pranks and tricks like throwing fireworks into a cauldron full of a dangerous-on-contact potion, pilfering from his private stores, cheating of all kinds, melting cauldrons, rude insults. Instead, he tried again and again to get through to difficult students, no matter what they did, how lazy they were, or how incompetent they were. Or how many times they accused him of being in league with the Dark Lord, set his robes on fire, invaded his privacy, refused to do the work even when it meant giving the Dark Lord a free chance to look through their minds, putting him and the rest of the Order in danger. He tried, even when they wouldn't.

He could have said "No". Any number of times, he could have done a little less than his best, could have conveniently not known the proper countercurse, could have not acted on his suspicions of fellow teachers. No one would have known except him. He wasn't getting thanked for making sure the Boy Who Lived continued to; how much easier his life would have been if he hadn't faced his fears and gone out to the Shrieking Shack, the place of his worst nightmares, to deal with a werewolf and an escaped murderer, just for one example. He could have refused to perform the mercy killing, or messed up just enough that he didn't have a chance, considering how tight the timing was. How much easier....He could have been the kind of man who chooses what is easy over what is right. He could have been the kind of protector who had to be convinced, threatened, and argued with to take care of their own children, let alone someone else's.

He could have been the kind of man who lied to make himself look better. He could have been the kind of man who lied to himself to convince himself he wasn't really that bad. Instead, he had the courage--the courage I don't see in any Gryffindor in the books--to see his actions as they really were, and to not make excuses or lies. He had the courage to do what was right, even when it meant blood on his hands, or putting himself at risk for death or worse at the hands of the Dark Lord, or putting himself at risk for death or worse at the hands of the Ministry, or teaching a student how to fight the Dark Lord when at any time his eyes could look out from the student's eyes.

He could have been worse. He could have had the other kind of "courage", the kind which means taunting an insane Death Eater in front of a Death Veil just for fun, or attacking and nearly drowning another kid for fun, or laughing when another student is turned into a ferret and bounced off a wall, or casting curses you don't even know what the effects are on your rival, or going out to a bus station in Animagus form when you're supposed to be in hiding and thus endangering the whole Order, or risking your life and thereby risking the fate of the wizarding world by sneaking around without anyone knowing where you are, or if you've been kidnapped or killed by the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters, because you want to drink butterbeer in Hogsmeade.

That's why I "adore" him. Above and beyond Doylian love for him as a character--he shows moral growth, he has a character arc, he makes hard choices, he has angst!--there's the Watsonian love for him as a person. Call it Good Guy Syndrome. I like Severus Snape, and I mourned for Severus Snape (and I'm in denial about his death...), because he lived a life bereft of love or care or kindness and still managed to be a Good Guy despite it all. (No, the frock coat and the gloves and the silky voice and the snark and so on don't hurt, but I'm perfectly capable of disliking someone with all the same outer trappings if he acts like James Potter.)

As for that [being a jerk]--Sirius Black, sorry to anyone who likes him, was a jerk, and above and beyond that, he tried to hurt and even kill those who disliked, regardless of whether they actually deserved it. He was nice to Harry and his friends, isn't that sweet? Same goes for Ron and Hermione and even, to a certain extent, Harry--they're all good to the people they care about.

But not to anyone else.

Severus Snape, on the other hand, went one step beyond the Malfoys and, oh, nearly anyone on the planet. He was good to the people he didn't care about, to the people he disliked, to the people he just plain detested. If you and I can hate Harry after reading a series of books written nearly entirely from his viewpoint, rationalizations and all, how much more must the man who's had to actually bear the brunt of Harry's immature, nasty, and stupid behavior over the years? Yet he still does what he must, because it is right, no matter how easy the other choice is.

10 October 2006

Susan B. Anthony All Over Again: In Which Gwen Exults

I'm too excited to not post this, but too busy to comment right now:

Polling officials allowed 17-year-old to vote
Teenager now facing felony charges
Eden Prairie, Minn. – September 28, 2006:
Calling it the biggest thing he has ever done in his entire life, Jesse L. Hunter voted in the Minnesota primaries on Sept. 12. However, Hunter is unlike other voters casting their ballots this year. He is only 17 years old.
"They [polling officials] examined my driver's license and asked for my social security number," Hunter said, "but they never seemed to notice that I wrote '1989' as the year of my birth. I voted, and walked out euphoric, bearing an 'I Voted' sticker upon my forehead."
Hunter tells fellow members at the National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) that he never intended to actually vote, but wanted to spark a conversation on the voting age. He considers the current voting age to be unfair to those under the age of 18. "I learned about the importance of voting from my high school government teacher," he said.
Hunter's mother broke down in tears after receiving a phone call from the district attorney's office informing her that her son will be charged with voting fraud, a class one felony in the state of Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, a judge is allowed to give a sentence of up to 12 months in jail or other non-jail sanctions as conditions of probation for someone with no criminal history.
"Many adults take the right to vote for granted: more than 80 million eligible adults failed to vote in the 'high turnout' 2004 election," said Alex Koroknay-Palicz, NYRA's Executive Director. "Yet for exercising the central civil right in this country, Jesse is being charged with a felony."
"If Jesse was a year older, he would be applauded for doing his civic duty, but instead, he is being charged with a crime," said Adam King, NYRA's Vice President. "Jesse had the courage to stand up for what is right - for democracy - and he could go to jail for doing so."

About NYRA:

Founded in 1998, NYRA is the largest youth rights organization in the country. Based in the Washington, D.C. area, the organization is committed to fighting for increased rights of young people. NYRA has nearly 7,000 members nationwide."
Except to repeat my reply e-mail when it went through the NYRA-Discuss list:

"Remember Susan B. Anthony! Don't let anyone post bail!

"It will be seen, therefore, that the whole subject, as to what should constitute the 'privileges and immunities' of the citizen being left to the States, no question, such as we now present, could have arisen under the original constitution of the United States. But now, by the fourteenth amendment, the United States have not only declared what constitutes citizenship, both in the United States and in the several States, securing the rights of citizens to 'all persons born or naturalized in the United States;' but have absolutely prohibited the States from making or enforcing 'any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.' By virtue of this provision, I insist that the act of Miss Anthony in voting was lawful."

Ooh, I hope he takes it as far as he can! Go Jesse Hunter!
(And on a related note, I hope he's not convicted for good, because it would suck if someone became a convicted felon for exercising his right to vote, then couldn't vote again because of being a convicted felon...not to mention having to check that stupid "have you ever been convicted of a felony?" box. But then again, if people didn't think it was ridiculous when that fifteen-year-old ended up being a sex offender for exploiting herself by distributing pictures of herself engaged in sexual acts, they probably won't see this as ridiculous either. Voting fraud, my rear; every single person who supported Diebold machines is as-or-more guilty of that than he is!)"

Spread the word! A voter runs the risk of being labelled a felon, all because the Fourteenth Amendment means nothing...(you know all those people trying to get kids excited about voting so they'll vote when they're old enough? Number one way to get kids excited about voting: let them do it. Number two way: when they do it supposedly-illegally [because of an unconstitutional law], don't clap them in irons and call them felons.)

29 September 2006

Can We Move To Canada Now?: In Which Gwen Decides That...

...her friends who said they'd move to Canada if they could after the last election results came through were just unusually fore-sighted. really covers it, for me.
I don't understand how denying due process to people accused in United States courts of United States crimes, denying habeas corpus rights, accepting hearsay evidence in court, giving the President alone the ability to decide which interrogation methods are unconstitutional, keeping defendants from protesting in court about violations of the Geneva Conventions (because, you know, "accused terrorists" are only being incarcerated, according to defenders of "screw fair and speedy trial", to keep them from continuing acts of terrorism; so either we're at war against terrorists and so accused terrorists are prisoners of war, or we're at police action with criminals so they fall under our court system and our Constitution--can't have it both ways!), only protecting against rape and biological experimentation as cut-and-dried inhuman, degrading, cruel treatment (meaning everything else is on the table), and keeping secret prisoners in secret prisons because they're accused with secret evidence* of secret crimes--is in any way an "American" thing to do.
I don't understand how John McCain can check out of the Hanoi Hilton one decade and then support a torture bill in a later one.
I don't understand how "accused terrorist" means "definitely a terrorist," how indefinite waits for trial make any sense at all, how keeping gay people out of the under-funded, under-equipped, under-peopled military isn't necessary for this war but "you can take your Bill of Rights and shove 'em" is.
I don't understand how our government engaging in terrorist tactics is preventing the terrorists from achieving their goals**.
I don't understand how "you're either with us or you're with the enemy" applies to constitutional preventions of government abuse***, and "the enemy" is on the side of the Constitution.
I don't understand how impeaching the person who swore to uphold and defend the Constitution could possibly be more damaging than leaving him in office for two more years to do whatever he wants with it.
I don't understand how a democracy, in which the people supposedly are in charge, is thought to function better when there is less supervision, more secrecy.
I don't understand how we had no problem giving mob bosses, terrorists if there ever were any, due process like crazy and yet we can't do the same for Iraqi tomato farmers without extensive, effective terrorist networks****.
I don't understand how the same branch of government that defines crimes, arrests people for allegedly committing those crimes, incarcerates them indefinitely, interrogates them using God-knows-what methods, tries them (eventually)*****, and then punishes them is allowed to get away with it by the other branches of government; I don't understand how the Constitution allows one branch to have such powers and I don't understand why I have not heard the phrase "checks and balances" outside of my eighth-grade civics class.
I don't understand why no Republican has the moral convictions to savage this bill like it deserves, filibuster, pull strings, whatever it takes to keep us from turning into the Soviet Union. Shouldn't the party of Lincoln stand up for morality above party politics?
I don't understand why no Democrat has those moral convictions, or party self-interest (the Constitution with the Eighth Amendment and a very cautious Article I also has a Twenty-Second Amendment; who says that Bush is out of office in two years? Isn't he the only one we can count on to give us the strong leadership we need in this time of war******? We can't afford to push him out of office on the strength of something so silly as the Constitution; then the terrorists would win!), or--or--even just reflexive Republican-hating, I don't care, someone needs to stop this. Right now. Before the litany's beginning changes to "They came for the terrorists' rights, and I didn't protest, because I was not a terrorist...".
I think I'm going to be sick.
"...and liberty and justice for all."

* At least under this bill the defendant can see all the evidence the jury can. I know that after rotting away in a cell in Cuba for six (eight, ten, twenty) years, I'd sure want to see what evidence they'd managed to come up with during my pre-trial sentence.
Other people, on the other hand, argue that secret evidence is necessary, so that we don't give the terrorists valuable intelligence information. When they say "terrorists" I must assume that they are talking about the actual defendants rather than outside terrorists, because trials are secret. Unless--unless the terrorists have infiltrated the trials, too! Then they'll see that evidence! So better yet would be if the prosecution simply informed the jury that we have enough evidence to convict if we actually showed you the evidence, which we won't because we don't trust you either.
Or perhaps they really are referring to the defendants, in which case I wonder why they're so worried that the evidence will be so little that the defendant will either be aquitted of the charges or get off in a short enough time that the intelligence information will still be worthwhile, and will therefore spill it to all of his/her evil terrorist friends. (Because people who are aquitted might still be guilty. Like Clinton. It's a lot easier for some people to believe than that some people who are convicted--or even just arrested--might be innocent.)
** Right, the terrorists' goals vary from group to group; wanting to get one's family in power in Saudi Arabia obviously isn't directly related to the erosion of government preventions in the United States. Unless, of course, the government manages to create such a state of fear in its citizens about the magical powers of the terrorist bogeymen (they'll snatch you out of bed in the middle of the night! they eat small children who don't listen to their parents!) that the citizenry will call for giving in to the terrorists' demands rather than have another plane fly into people-packed buildings. Because that's the worst they can manage.
Then again, the administration seems quite sure that the goal of the terrorists is whatever the administration wants people not to do--to destabilize the economy, for instance. So perhaps terrorists want us to keep our Constitution intact?
*** Yes, I said it. Constiutional protections of government abuse, because guess what, the founders were understandably worried about the government having power first, and then the people having (suspendable) liberties and rights. They knew that absolute power corrupts absolutely; Parliament had no problem doing whatever it could to the colonies to recoup money lost defending it, or making sure that the colonies were firmly under a rule Britannia instead of governing themselves, especially since none of the British subjects in the colonies had an actual representative in Parliament. So the Constitution very clearly lists the powers of each branch of government, and then declared all other rights and powers to the people or to the states, and then explicitly listed "including, but not limited to" rights of the people from government interference so that there would be no misunderstanding. Just because the "interstate commerce" clause has been bent unrecognizably out of shape to give Congress more power doesn't mean that the government really has more power than the Constitution says it does. The rights of the people don't come from being United States citizens; they're inherent and all the Bill of Rights does is make sure that the government doesn't nose into them. Or shred them.
**** Remember, class, "alleged terrorists" aren't all terrorists. They can just as easily be the enemies of people desperate to say anything under "harsh interrogation", or in the wrong place at the wrong time, or political demonstrators. Because it's again the executive branch who decides whom to arrest. And whom to charge, eventually. And when to charge, eventually, which is to say "when we have enough evidence" (because it's important to arrest without evidence), which is to say "never, or under the next president."
***** See last sentence of above footnote.
****** The War on Terror has never officially been declared. (By Congress, who is all who can according to that old-fashioned document that founded our nation.) But I consider this bill, if it passes, to be Congress's official declaration of the War on the Constitution. Because the Constitution is more dangerous, even, than marijuana, as hard as that may to believe, because it helps the terrorists win. Plus there's that pesky Fourteenth Amendment, the original non-discrimination clause, which also incidentally makes it so that illegal immigrants who come here, stay, contribute to the economy, use social services much less, and then have kids--the children are actually considered, gasp, native-born citizens! Imagine that, people who live in the United States all their lives and attend United States schools and speak English and follow United States laws are allowed automatic citizenship by that silly slave-freeing loophole.
Much better just to toss the Constitution and start in on a new one. Maybe we can just get rid of the judicial branch entirely this time, so that the executive branch can arrest, hold, and try without supervision for all crimes instead of just this one! Then we wouldn't have activist judges legislating from the bench by interpreting the Constitution, or whatever we decide to call the new one, to actually limit governmental powers and protect people's rights. Which is just silly. Everyone knows the Constitution is just a document that you propose flag-burning and anti-same-sex-marriage amendments for in order to prove that you're a supporter of family values! (Family values like making sure that every same-sex couple that is not celibate has to have sex outside of marriage; family values like making sure that kids grow up without married parents; family values like denying insurance, tax-filing, wrongful-death suing rights to people who have been married in the eyes of God--that is, in a church by a pastor or priest--for decades. Family values like making people who were legally married ex post facto never married, involuntary annullment without waiting for divorce, and who cares about "what God hath joined together, let no man tear asunder"?)

05 September 2006

Wow: Just Wow

Two wows:
one for the people who think that poverty is always a choice and that the people in it are just lazy and stupid
from Whatever:
and one for the people who think that agents of the United States government don't have to worry about due process when they're keeping United States citizens from returning to where they live without a court order or any criminal or civil charges whatsoever
from the San Francisco Chronicle:

I thought that the move-to-Canada crowd was full of paranoid conspiracy theorists. Bush was sworn to defend the Constitution, wasn't he? But...warrantless wiretapping (when there's a rubber-stamp court set up to grant warrants after the tapping anyway)? No, you don't have the right to a trial or charges or a lawyer or a court order before we can decide to keep you from freely travelling in your home country, the only country you're a citizen of? No, arresting someone for re-publishing Hezbollah television material based entirely on content makes perfect sense in First Amendment context? If you'd predicted this in '04, or especially '00, I'd've said, write a book, and call it the sequel to 1984, 'cause it ain't gonna happen.

But we're trading liberties and rights in for better security, right? Right? We're safer, at least from bodily harm, than we were before?
Looks like Ben Franklin/Thomas Jefferson was right when he said that those who would trade in an essential liberty for safety deserve neither...except substitute "get" for "deserve." Look how much safer we are(n't)!

Burning a flag is such a horrible act, regardless of the actual symbolism the person burning uses, that an amendment to keep people from doing so is more important than the actual freedom (of speech, for one) it symbolizes. So by a similar vein, I expect that the administration will have to literally burn up or tear up the actual Constitution, instead of just metaphorically, before there will truly be outrage.

25 August 2006

Bring Back Hiatus!: In Which Gwen Joins The Hiarchy

This is going in my links on this page. Hiatus is to science fiction shows as Franz Bibfeldt is to theologians: in a word, awesome.
Come join the compaign to bring back Hiatus! With enough people behind it, we might actually get it aired!

05 August 2006

Well That Was Fun: In Which Gwen Doesn't Vote In The NYRA Elections

So I get onto NYRA at around, oh, three o'clock, spend the next half hour reading candidate biographies, questionnaires, statements, and the talk-to-the-candidates forum, I decide whom and what I'm going to vote for, I click on the Vote Here! link, and it tells me that it was over. Because "you have until the fifth of August to vote" doesn't mean midnight, it means six o'clock. PM. Eastern Standard Time. So, sorry Alex and Katrina and Luke and Scott, et cetera, I didn't vote for you.
But "Please remember to vote next year"? 'Scuse me? I happened to get on half an hour late and I get a snarky message? I don't mind it ending not-at-midnight-like-most-reasonable-people-would-expect, but thank you for completely biting my head off, whoever-it-was-that-wrote-that. How about my response being "Thank you for not being a * to people who hadn't had the opportunity to vote this year", where "*" represents a word I can't say here because my mother reads my blog and she'd wash out my keyboard with soap.
Oh well. There's always next year.
---Speaking of voting, the Arizona elections are coming up soon. I read the information booklet the Campaign for Clean Elections sent out to every household with a registered voter in it (well, I skipped the candidates for district representatives other than from our own district). I decided not to put check marks by the people I liked because I didn't want to unduly influence my parents when they read it (adults are very easily influenced by their children's choices, you know).
They didn't read it. It went into the trash.
*Singing:* Six hundred ninety days til I'm of age to vote, six hundred ninety days...

04 August 2006

Light Red vs Pink: In Which Gwen Clears Up A Common Misconception

The way the English language works in regards to colors is this: there are the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), which each have their own names; there are the three secondary colors (orange, green, and purple) which can be made by an equal mixture of two primary colors; then there are white and black. When you mix one of these base colors with the color right next to it in frequency, or red and purple, the name of the new color is the primary color hyphen secondary color. (So if you mix orange with yellow it's yellow-orange.) When you mix white with any of the basic colors, the name of the new color is "light" name of color--blue plus white equals light blue, for instance. This isn't news to most people.
Some of the mixes have special names--turquoise or teal for blue-green, for instance (not a perfect example because there are two names depending on which of the two mixed colors the color shades toward). White plus black equals grey (or gray). We don't call it "light black" (unless it's much more black than white), but it still is.
So here's the question: when you mix white and red, do you get pink or light red? My answer is both, because they're the same thing. (For the sake of simplicity, I'm ignoring impure pinks like hot pink; it's no more pink than magenta is red. If you consider your basic pink, it's made from red and white. As is light red.) Not everyone agrees with me. My brother, for instance, who in the middle of our discussion of pink or light red appealed to the authority of The Parents, who also think that pink and light red are different colors. Dad's argument was that if I saw something the color of what he was pointing to, would I tell someone that it was pink or light red? Although I have, in the past, answered "light red" just to prove my pink-is-light-red point, the most concise answer was obviously pink. "Light red" is simply not used often enough for the average listener to understand what color was being referred to without pausing to think a second (and even then I'd probably get an answer of "you mean pink?").
What does that point prove?
Well, it does prove that in a case in which two words or phrases could be used to describe the same object, most speakers of English prefer one over the other, but that's not exactly a new observation. In my experience, most people prefer the word "sunrise" to the word "dawn" (except in set phrases like "the crack of dawn") but that doesn't mean that they refer to different phenomena. In fact, an argument based on what one person would be more likely to use when describing something is extremely fallible; if I pointed to an ape and asked somebody to tell me what it was, I'd probably get "monkey" fairly often, even though apes are not in fact monkeys. (File that tidbit of information in the folder marked "it's Istanbul, not Constantinople.") Tap versus faucet. Just because people on this side of the Atlantic might use "faucet" more often than "tap" (except, again, in set phrases like "on tap" or "tap water") doesn't mean that they refer to different objects.
The real test is "if you couldn't use the more common word for something, and you were to indicate that something to someone else, would you use the other term, and would you be understood?" Not in the charades "oh she must be saying bottle because she hasn't been fed for so long" way that barely-verbal children can make themselves understood; no pointing, maybe over the phone. (There's another one; telephone versus phone, T.V. or tube versus television, even wire versus telegram.) If I were to describe my "light red" shirt to my best friend in California, would she know what color I was talking about? If I were to yell to someone in the other room that the tap wasn't working right, would they understand me? Heck, that test even shows that we could get rid of most of our color vocabulary (like that one language, with as small of a vocabulary as possible; it had words for "light/white," "dark/black," "red," "yellow," and "blue," and that was it). Instead of "light green" we could say "light blue-yellow" or "light yellow-blue" and after a moment of thought, most people would understand what color we were referring to.
And my argument (show me something that is "light red" that isn't "pink") fell on deaf ears; frankly, for me, anyone who claims that light red is a different color than pink is, yet can only show me things that are pink, is not all that convincing.
And my final proof: I went to Paint, found the color editor, and started playing around. (If I'd had actual meatworld paint, this would be a better proof, because I'd have my primary colors as my base colors instead of red, green, and blue, but whatever. Go get some watercolors and mix red with white.) To make the perfect color for the base colors, you put it at 255 with the others at zero--"perfect" blue is red-zero, green-zero, blue-255. To lighten it, you pull the little slidey thing on the vertical bar on the right, or you manually change the other two base colors equally (upward)--so that a lighter blue could be 150-150-255. Light green could be 150-255-150. So light red would be 255-150-150. Guess what the color with those numbers looks like?

15 July 2006

She's Aliiiive!: In Which Gwen Blogs Again

I've, very important stuff. Somehow while doing very important stuff I managed to collect the following links, all of which lead to entertaining things. Unfortunately, due to the very important stuff I was doing, I didn't get to do more than scan the pages involved to determine if they were entertaining or not. Right.
I think I tried to read one of his books once, but I stopped when I realized that it wasn't science fiction. (Look, when the back of the book talks about heroic battles and a character being the "last of his race" and strange and alien lands, my mind doesn't automatically jump to some historical novel about Native Americans.) After reading this, I'm glad that I did. Mark Twain was hilarious.
On a side note, isn't it weird how ministers and mathematicians become great novelists under pen names? I probably would have gotten on well with Charles Dodgson, but not Samuel Clemens; yet (say) the Prince and the Pauper is just as readable as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. (Not to mention that it contains one of the funniest passages in any book I've ever read.)
This needs no comment whatsoever.
This is for other methylchloroisothiazolinone lovers out there. I found it trying to find out what this beloved hair product ingredient is (for instance, possibly a carcinogen, and a skin irritant for some people, which is why it's only used in rinse-off products). Not quite as long a chemical phrase as methylchloroisothiazolinone ethylparaben benzalkonium chloride, but

is pretty cool nonetheless.

Self-annihilating sentences:

And last but not least, Googlefight, where you can learn that the pen is mightier than the sword, that nerds are more popular than jocks, and that kids beat adults hands down, at least in terms of ghits.

As for that very important stuff I've been doing: Mainly what I've been doing lately involves various computer solitaire games (Spider, Kodak, Freecell) while waiting for Language Log posts to load, which in turn is a way to waste time while I wait for my dirt to settle in my dirt-water solution for Environmental Biology. (Is it a "solution" if nothing dissolved/was solved?) Yeah. I had a good birthday, by the way, and a nice Second of July. Discovered filk, thanks to a chain of links starting with a wikiHow article on 1337, moving on to How to Buy a Present for a Self-Proclaimed Geek or Nerd, through to the geek-nerd controversy on the Geek page in Wikipedia, through an article on science fiction, then somehow to a reference to filk, grokking, and the need to gafiate. My new favorite song title ever: "Never Set the Cat on Fire."

26 May 2006

Towel Day 2006: In Which Gwen Describes Her Towel Day

Did everyone have a good Towel Day yesterday? Hope everyone remembered their towels...
My brother Adam celebrated by bringing his towel to school; my mom didn't (she said she knew where her towel was, which was hanging up in the bathroom); my little sister got a towel and had me wrap it around her like a cape because Adam and I had towels. My dad said it was the dumbest thing he'd ever heard of. And of course, I wore my towel all day, to Miranda's future preschool and to Safeway.
No one at Safeway asked me about it, and being a school day no one I knew from middle school was working while I was there. But the kids at St. Luke's asked me a few times why I had a towel around my neck. One girl asked me if it was my blanky. So I got a chance to explain that the day was towel day; one boy named Ethan whom I already knew because he went to school with my brother answered with the Challenge of the Ages: "Nuh-uh." I answered the throwing of the gauntlet, of course, with the equally time-honored response of "unh-huh." Back and forth, but we were interrupted before we could reach the "times infinity" stage. When I told a girl named Cameron that May twenty-fifth, which happened to be her birthday, was Towel Day, her instinctive response was exactly the same as Ethan's. So much for youthful gullibility; and I was telling the truth!
Anyway, here's a picture of me and Adam, taken in our backyard before bedtime. We are both wearing the fashion inspired by Arthur Dent with his dressing gown, or bathrobe as we on this side of the big pond like to call it. I am holding my copy of the Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, containing all five books of the trilogy (go back and read that again, yes, it's a five-book trilogy) plus one short story and an introduction by the man himself. Adam is holding a saucer and a teacup with a teabag hanging out of it. Unfortunately, it's a Lipton Iced Tea bag, as we have less tea than the Heart of Gold, although we have no shortage of liquids that taste almost, but not quite, exactly unlike tea. We both, of course, have towels.

Towel: £10.69

Teacup and tea: £6.23

Dressing gown: £39.99

Picture of Arthur Dent at nine years old: Priceless.

(No, that's not Arthur Dent, that's Adam Smith, and I didn't go the the U.K. just to buy a bunch of things, nor save the receipts; and I'm not affiliated with MasterCard...that's not the point.)

Wishing you all a recursively happy Towel Day, from three hundred and sixty five days from now until Earth's demolition orders filter through to Prosthetic Jeltz,


25 May 2006

Happy Towel Day: In Which Gwen Shows Just How Hoopy She Is

Happy Towel Day everybody! I hope everyone remembered their towel...
and if you want to check out pictures of people in Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Hungary, Sweden, Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Colorado who all know where their towels are (on them), check out this thread at the Towel Day forums at here.

Douglas Adams, the man who gave us I Ching calculators, real-life Schrodinger's Cats, the holistic detective agency, the Babel fish, the Earth entry in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ("mostly harmless"), jinnan tonnyx, Ol' Janx Spirit, two songs about the ills of teleportation, Disaster Area (the band who played so loud the music had to be piped in electronically and the audience could only listen to them at concerts by "cowering on the horizon"), staying dead for tax reasons, Stavromula Beta, an acrophobic elevator, the Heart of Gold, the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaint Department ("Share and Enjoy!"), the whale, the petunias, Agrajag (who was the petunias), Ford, Marvin, Trillian, Arthur, Slartibartifast, Zaphod, Eccentrica Gallumbits, Benjy, Frankie, Fenchurch, and doors with Genuine People Personalities, is dead... long live Douglas Adams!