Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Brain Man

Daniel Tammet's cred as a savant remains unchallenged. He once recited Pi to 22,514 places before an audience of Pi-verifiers. He did it in over five hours without a single slip-up.

Thanks to Digg I also learned that Daniel Tammet suffers only minimally from the normally socially crippling symptoms of Savant Syndrome. Affable and lucid, Tammet cogently explains his thought processes, revealing in this interview with Morley Safer that to him numbers are highly synethetic, appearing like colorful, textured landscapes.

"I see numbers in my head as colors and shapes and textures. So when I see a long sequence, the sequence forms landscapes in my mind," Tammet explains. "Every number up to 10,000, I can visualize in this way, has its own color, has its own shape, has its own texture."

For example, when Daniel says he sees Pi, he does those instant computations, he is not calculating, but says the answer simply appears to him as a landscape of colorful shapes.

"The shapes aren't static. They're full of color. They're full of texture. In a sense, they're full of life," he says.

Finally a first-person account from these "raw mentats" (c'mon, you hardcore Herbert fans, name that reference).

We may also have an answer to the cause of Savant Syndrome: brain injury. Dr. V.S. Ramachandran of the California Center for Brain Study says, "One possibility is that many other parts of the brain are functioning abnormally or sub-normally. And this allows the patient to allocate all his attentional resources to the one remaining part," he explains. "And there's a lot of clinical evidence for this. Some patients have a stroke and suddenly, their artistic skills improve."

Daniel Tammet suffered a massive epileptic seizure at age four, and he recalls developing his synesthesia afterwards.

Cheney, Bug-Shit Crazy

And did I mention that Dick Cheney is bug-shit crazy? I'll let Jon Stewart explain.

Monday, January 29, 2007

And the Right's Crazy Talk Continues

Today's installment of "Crazy Talk" is brought to you by Dinesh D'Souza, whose new book The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, blames the Left for 9/11 and Islamic Terrorism. According to Newsweek, D'Souza takes "pains to insist that 'I am not accusing anyone of treason or even of anti-Americanism,'" yet he names figures such as Sen. Ted Kennedy, Toni Morrison and Sharon Stone as part of the "'domestic insurgency' that is 'working in tandem with [Osama] bin Laden to defeat Bush.'" Quoting again from Newsweek, "It's not just that they're working on behalf of bin Laden—they are also, paradoxically, responsible for bin Laden's hatred of America in the first place, by attempting to foist their decadent moral values on the rest of the world."

So, D'Souza's argument appears to ignore or discount the Israeli/Palestinian situation, which doesn't agree one whit with what Bin Laden said back in October 2004:
Although we are ushering the fourth year after 9/11, Bush is still exercising confusion and misleading you and not telling you the true reason. Therefore, the motivations are still there for what happened to be repeated.

And I will talk to you about the reason for those events, and I will be honest with you about the moments the decision was made so that you can ponder. And I tell you, God only knows, that we never had the intentions to destroy the towers.

But after the injustice was so much and we saw transgressions and the coalition between Americans and the Israelis against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it occurred to my mind that we deal with the towers. And these special events that directly and personally affected me go back to 1982 and what happened when America gave permission for Israel to invade Lebanon. And assistance was given by the American sixth fleet.

So, fine, ok, yet another Right Wing big mouth is spouting nonesense. Limbaugh and Hannity and O'Reilly and heck, Coulter have been doing this for years. All true. In fact, after reading about D'Souza's book I started to remember just how far back this particular brand of paranoid rhetoric goes.

A couple of years before the Oklahoma City bombing, after Bill Clinton was elected to his first term, Rush Limbaugh began opening his radio and television show by giving a count of Clinton's days in office followed by the phrase "America Held Hostage." His late night TV show had a graphic showing the White House surrounded by barbed wire flying a tattered American flag, as if the structure were a battered POW.

When I learned that Timothy McVeigh was a regular Limbaugh listener I was one of the many who called for Limbaugh to change his rhetoric and take some accountability, which of course he didn't. D'Souza won't either. I just wonder what twisted person might take him seriously and to whom he might cause harm.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Battlestar Galactica Going Bad

Ronald D. Moore remains the best SF writer for television, but the latest season of BSG isn't showing his considerable skill (In fact, I don't believe he's penned any of the season three scripts himself).

The season started strongly even before it aired. The webisodes were relevant, defamiliarizing insurgent tactics and, more importantly, motivations. We saw desperation and life under an occupier who ultimately believes in his own superiority. After the flight from New Caprica, however, the writing has gone adrift, like the airy dream-like interludes of Baltar's aboard the Cylon vessels. Recent episodes suffer from sentimentality, underdeveloped story arcs and irrelevance.


Take "The Passage," as an example. This episode's failures were all the more surprising for being written by perhaps the most talented of Joss Whedon's Mutant Enemy bullpen, Jane Espenson. "The Passage" treats the demise of Kat, the unlikable viper-jock rival of Starbuck, like the death of Admiral Nelson.

Before getting the events of that episode, take a moment to remember the last time Kat got any appreciable screentime. In "Scar," Kat flaunted her immaturity through her petty rivalry with Starbuck, brought full force in that episode's final scene as the gloating Kat demands that Starbuck fill her cup, oblivious that Starbuck herself set Kat up to kill the Cylon top gun known as Scar. Starbuck relents, but elevates the moment from Kat's oversized ego to rememberance of lost comrades. Starbuck lifts her cup and toasts all of the fallen pilots, reciting the names of each.

Yet in "The Passage" we're supposed to feel so much sympathy with Kat that we don't gag at her syrupy deathbed scene. Much more likable characters, like Billy, died without any such sentimentality. And where did the contaminated food crisis come from? We've been left wondering about food for the first two seasons. Where were 50,000 refugees getting three squares per day, especially of provisions like meat and salt?

And what's with the hybrid Cylon's and their crazy talk? Or D'Anna's quest to see the faces of the final five Cylon models? Who cares? Perhaps there's some hidden metaphor of our times here, but so far I'm not seeing it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nascent Thoughts

I've been working on the cosmology (or should that be mythology) for Farmingham, so I've been doing that elsewhere. It's coming along. I've got to run as I'm in the office tomorrow and I still have to wrap plush Cthulhu for James.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Love ilovebees

I finally made the time to finish the ilovebees radio dramas last night, and I'm impressed by the quality of the dialog, especially the sections written for Kamal. If you enjoy radio dramas, head here and downthemall, but you'll have to make a playlist so you can listen in the proper order. These are quality productions. 42 Entertainment sought out people who'd worked on radio dramas back in the forties to learn technique, and built actual sets for the voice actors to move in to give a proper sense of space.

I'd like to know more specifics about who wrote the scripts and how some of the loose ends were resolved. I'll let you know what I find.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Sounds like a good name for a Western town, as I've stated previously. I met with Wayne yesterday to talk about the next "Agent X" event, which he'd like to be a Western, so I talked about typical frontier themes and threw a few ideas his way: the rich land-grabbing rancher, the bandits extorting from the townsfolk, the floods, the meddling government.

Wayne liked the bandits so I brought up The Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven and we kicked that around some and stubbed out four acts and four possible endings. If the townsfolk appease the bandits they lose all of their cash and will likely continue to do so. Should they hire gunslingers to bag the bad-guys they lose all their cash but take solace in it being a one-time payment (unless the gunslingers go into the bandit business). If they decide the fight back themselves they stand to kill the bandits and keep all their cash. And should they fight back and fail, their town gets burned down.

Should be interesting. I'm looking forward to creating some characters for this one. Now if we just added some Chinese and high tech elements we'd had ourselves a Firefly adventure.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Day

New Year's Day today, and the last day of my vacation. I'm sitting in the sunroom and I've stoked the stove well and hot. The beer is good and cold. It's nice. I find more reasons to love my wife each day. She just coaxed Hazel into leaving me, since writing while playing Old McDonald with dinosaurs disserves both the writing and the dinosaurs.

Several weeks ago I wrote five scripts for the serious game we're creating. I got a call from John asking if I'd be interested, which I was, of course. I had two days for each, which included plot/design changes, creating the characters (I was handed names and ranks with a couple of personality traits), writing and editing. The ten days went by in a blur, but the work went well. I finished weary but pleased. I only got edited a couple of times. My favorite scene got whacked, but I expected that. It's your darlings that tend to get the ax.

Boy, those flames are mesmerizing

My folks moved into their place, the addition, three weeks ago. I don't like calling it their place, though it shouldn't bother me. Calling it that makes it seem like a separate house, but it isn't. They live here. We live together. That reminds me. I need to go and see the cabinet handles that Dad placed yesterday. I've been spending a lot of time around this stove, especially after hauling and cutting and splitting the wood for it. Anyway, their place looks great, and they're really happy there. The kids love it too. Visiting Grandma and Grandpa became an easygoing adventure. We're doing New Year's dinner there tonight, hors d'oeuvres in the sunroom.