In which I attempt to advance my English writing skills from poor to mediocre.
dreamtime iliaster's Articles
August 23, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
I just watched a 1974 thriller, The Conversation. In it is the only realistic lock picking scene I've ever seen. What gives? How come modern TV shows and movies pantomime lock picking by sticking a single hairpin into the keyway and wiggling it a bit? Like making functional pencil erasers, the ability to depict lock picking seems to have been lost. This is not the dark ages. The knowledge hasn't actually been lost. So what happened?
August 21, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
Edited: This was rambling and incoherent, even by my standards. I'll try to rewrite it later. Or not.
June 28, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
I was at a bar with some campus liberals the other night when the conversation turned to Abu Gharib; one of them remarked that there must be something about war that causes people to commit atrocities. Everyone agreed that war, like the One Ring, is a corruptive force that is irresistibly turns people to evil. Good can't come from evil, so no good can come out of the occupation of Iraq. The Iraqis must all be outraged at the violation of the sovereignty of their nation, they said. Unlike them,...
June 14, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
I'm reading The letters of Madame Sevigne (Barnwell's translation), and one of the footnotes says that after her early marriage to the Duc de Rocquelaure, Mme de Roquelaure had fallen in love with the Marquid de Vardes. Her love being unrequited, she died of a broken heart at the age of twenty-one. What is it to die of a broken heart? Is it a euphemism for a specific end?
June 9, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
One idea that has taken hold in the education community recently is the idea that we don't really need to teach people how to do mathematical calculations, since they can be done so easily on a calculator, and are rarely done in "real life" anyway; instead, we should teach "concepts". Why is this idea limited to mathematics? The grammar checker in MS Word gets better with each new release, the spell checker is already quite good, and any laptop can carry millions of books. With voice software at...
June 4, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
The Copenhagen Consensus results are in. As expected, the climate change proposals have the worst cost/benefit ratio, and three of the four proposals that have negative returns are climate change proposals. I was surprised that spending money on HIV/AIDS has a greater benefit than spending money on malaria though. Knowing the result, it makes sense - the most effective malaria treatments are preventative, and must be applied to whole populations, and each individual case of malaria causes fewer...
June 3, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight, with no visible attempt at disguise. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o'clock news. When police later showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in incredulity. "But I wore the juice," he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler was under the impression that rubbing one's face with lemon juice render...
May 29, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
A lot of Bush supporters are saying that "after eight weeks of unrelenting catastrophe for Bush, Kerry and Bush are in a dead heat", implying that things can only get better for Bush. But an extra catastrophe or ten won't really have that much effect on Bush since people have already made up their minds about Bush - only 1% are still undecided on Bush, but 21% are still undecided on Kerry (Zogby), which explains why Bush is spending so much money (over $100 million), mostly on negative ads. Th...
May 27, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
Among many Americans, there is the sentiment that the "war on terror" cannot end, and the occupation of any foreign country will lead to a quagmire; the United States can't possibly be topped by guerrillas, and any action taken against the guerrillas will only increase their numbers. Have the fundamentals of warfare really changed more in the past few decades than in the past few centuries?

For as long as there has been warfare, successful anti-guerrilla campaigns have shared some common foc...
May 27, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
I've never understood paragraphs. When I was in elementary school, I never used them, and it didn't seem to be a big deal. From middle school through high school, we wrote the same five paragraph essay over and over, varying the filler. That was good training for writing five paragraph essays, but not much else. In college I managed to avoid writing classes altogether. Now, all of my writing is disjointed. You could remove a single paragraph from one of my "essays", and it would flow just as wel...
May 25, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
The same week I read about an attack on 802.11, I saw an article on guns for police that can only be used when they are near an ID chip, to be implanted in the owner's arm. Actually, the two articles are unrelated - the chip seems to be nothing more than an RFID chip, which is much easier to jam than an 802.11 transmitter, but it makes me wonder how anyone can think this is a good idea.
May 24, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
When I first looked at the government payscale, the 8% cost of living adjustment listed for New York seemed ridiculous - rents are at least twice as high as any other place I've lived. But yesterday, while wandering around aimlessly, I was able to pick up Ball Four, After Henry, The Robber Bride, Best American Essays (College Edition), and Granta (#35) for $3.60 (total, not each) at a used bookstore. I passed two other used bookstores with comprable prices, but unfortunately didn't have the time...
May 19, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
There are doors here that are labeled "NOT AN EMERGENCY EXIT", in three inch tall red block letters but graffiti is removed within hours of its appearance; there are doors labeled "EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY" (thought, few of them actually are), and there are unlabeled, non-emergency, exits; death and madness lie on both sides; some of the doors aren't exits (though most are). It is inexplicable.
May 18, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
I talked to yet another government recruiter last week. They always say the government has a shortage of engineers, which means that they're doing everything they can to hire the best engineers. They're lying.

They talk about fat pensions, strict forty-hour work weeks, and complete job security, but those inducements only attract slackers - those things repel good engineers, who don't want to be stuck on a team with someone who is only there because the firing an employee who hasn't committe...
May 14, 2004 by dreamtime iliaster
While I was working out in the great basin, I overheard some Christians talking about a professor of theirs. They were going on about what a great professor he was, how nice he was, how understanding he was, and so on and so forth. One of them mentioned that the professor is an atheist. Dead silence followed. They were shocked (shocked!) that anyone so nice could be an atheist. One person remarked "Why would he be considerate if he didn't think he would go to hell otherwise?" The conversation mo...