Saturday, October 05, 2013

Chrissie Pissie: a proposal

A thought I had at last year's Chrissie Pissie, and would like to bring up now in the lead up to the social season:

Can we shift the $15 surly santa presents away from 'gag gifts' towards 'stuff people would actually want in their house'.

Two reasons I can think of:
1. Less clutter in people's houses, more things they remember fondly. I really don't need more geek-themed coasters, cookie cutters or sound emitting devices in my life. I do however want cool coffee mugs, or some lovely tea, or a nice book, or a pot for a houseplant, or a cool kitchen gadget, etc.
2. More meaningful environmental impact. Each of those items takes energy, and water and resources to make. To then have them used once or twice is, in my books, not something that fits with the ethos of most of us.

I do however think that nerf guns/sports equipment that get used on the day and then handed to a child are an exception. But then, they'd get used more than once or twice, so they fit reason two.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Turkey day is approaching....

You have been warned! Batton down the hatches, loosen those waistbands, slow-cooked turkey is a-comin'! Get ready with your servings of grits and jell-o salad. We will once again provide the venue and the birds, and look forward to seeing you all there! Turkenation is scheduled to commence around 1pm on Saturday, 30th November. Dinner will be around 6 or 7 pm as usual.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Get on Up!

I'm sure most of the ForBattle! crowd probably agree with this. Via GetUp! on Facebook:

"Get this: the TV networks are refusing to put GetUp members' ad on the air. Channel 7 refused outright on the grounds that it was "distasteful", while Channel Ten and Channel Nine have told us directly that they won't continue running the ad because it criticises Rupert Murdoch.

"And in a really bizarre twist of events, Channel 9 withdrew the approved ad from broadcast after having accepted payment for the ad spots, and haven't confirmed they'll refund the money.

"They're giving Murdoch a free pass while censoring our free speech. We won't let that stop us though. Can you help us make sure as many Australians watch this ad as possible? It's already been seen by more than 100,000 Australians online - like & SHARE this to keep it growing!"
 So I'm sharing,because I'm really bloody sick of the appalling bias in our media.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Finite Haiku

So a funny thing happened in my brain today. I wondered... given that haiku has exactly 17 syllables all up (5/7/5), and that the english language has a certain number of words/sounds, how many unique haiku exist? Well.. I'm still not sure, but I did some poking around to work out the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is that English is a living language, and that haiku is simply a collection of 17 syllables, each from a pool of all possible syllables in the language. While this is very simplistic, and throwing random syllables together is unlikely to produce words let alone meaning, it does future proof against new words that may turn up. And it does provide a maximum number. So how many syllables are there in English? Turns out that I couldn't find any definitive answer, but I did find an article here which again is kind of a worst case scenario. The author refers to 15,831 syllable candidates. This does seem rather large, but I'd be interested if someone else had any good sources on something more accurate. So if we take this worst case of 15,831 syllable candidates, and we have 17 positions to fill, again using a worst case scenario that any syllable can follow any syllable, we end up with 17^15,831 unique haiku - which will include both the nonsense ones and also every possible sensible haiku. It did take a while to find a calculator that wasn't going to fall over punching in that kind of number. Luckily, Wolfram Alpha was obliging and came up with 1.7*10^19479. A stupidly large number. How stupidly large? Well... let's compare it to some other things. For the bridge players out there, there are 5.4*10^28 unique bridge deals. For the chess players, it's estimated that there are 1*10^120 unique chess games. So I'd like to make the number more accurate, but I'm not sure how. Any suggestions? Maybe if I could find the average number of syllables in a word (not in a normal distribution, but across the english language), I could use that and the total number of unique words. Any other ideas?

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sith Names

I was thinking on the way to work this morning - because, you know, youTube videos of babies with lightsabers should probably not be consumed before breakfast - and I've decided to join the Sith.  I mean everyone was all trendy and jumped on the Jedi bandwagon, spawning headlines in the Telegraph like "Jedi the largest alternative religion in the UK" ("alternative" apparently being defined as "not bigger than Jedi".)  So its time to move on to the new hip thing - Emo Jedi.  And more importantly, I want to get in before all the good names are taken.

So the rules for geting your Sith name are apparently simple:
  1) You pick a word you like the sound of that starts with IN.  Like INvader, or INsidious.
  2) You add Darth and lop off the IN.

The problem is that the prefix IN on a word often means "not", so you have to be careful not to end up with a meaning you didn't quite want.  Some names I am considering:

Darth Sulator
Darth Fluenza
Darth Frared
Darth Spector
Darth Cur
Darth K (yo!)
Darth Fidel (apparently already taken by some guy in Cuba who got in way early.)

Some names you might end up stuck with, if you wait too long to join:

Darth Continent
Darth Competent (actually, this is my vote for the new head of our order.  We could use some competence.)
Darth Complete
Darth Attentive
Darth Comprehensible
Darth Hospitable
Darth Ept
Darth Flammable
Darth Fomercial
Darth Seminate

Disney, you're welcome to use any of these you like. Darth Brooks does NOT fit the pattern, and is not allowed.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pueblo Canyon Ruins, Sierra Anchas

All right, so even I have admitted at this point that Facebook has completely supplanted the blog as a method of keeping in touch, but I want to squirrel some maps and route information away to share with others (and myself, when I forget it 5 minutes from now.)

This weekend we did an awesome hike to a place called Pueblo Canyon Ruins, in the Sierra Anchas.  The ruins are relatively hard to get to, so they have remained in pretty good condition; a fair number of rooms are intact, above-ground floors are still present if broken, and there are a fair number of pictographs that would at least appear to be genuine.

There is some graffiti damage (some of which is also apparently historical - cursive script in chalk dated 1911 that, given the climate - I can believe could be legit.)  There is also a stretch of trail on the way in that is pretty scrambly.  Not terrible; we did it with packs, dogs, and a man with a broken back, but I wouldn't try this hike with anyone who wasn't willing to scramble on all fours.  Its supposedly about 8 miles round trip (sounds about right; took us most of 3 hours in and a bit over two hours back) and involves about a 1,750 ft elevation gain, almost all of which is stacked at the beginning.  You can camp at the end but almost nowhere else, which means you're camping right in amongst the ruins so  - duh! - for the love of whatever don't spoil it.  Don't light fires back under the overhang, pack out your trash, and not to put too fine a point on it; crap before you come or be willing to walk a mile back to do it.  (Can't believe some people.  There was toilet paper in the middle of the trail at one point.  If you appreciate it all this should go without saying.  If you don't appreciate it, don't come.  You won't enjoy it anyways.)

How to get there:

Hwy 188 south from Roosevelt or north from Globe, to the eastern end of Lake Roosevelt.  Its about 3 hours from Flagstaff to this point.  Turn north on Hwy 288 - also called the Globe-Young Highway.  Pass over the Salt River.  At about mile marker 265 you'll see a prominent marked righthand turn onto Cherry Creek Road (National Forest Road 203).  This is a good dirt road for the first 20 miles, with a number of popular camping areas along it.  You'll climb in and out of a couple of valleys, and cross a couple of streams - there aren't many places to go the wrong way, and they're fairly obvious.  Somewhere around the 19-20 mile mark you'll cross a stream by a prominent private ranch and the road gets markedly worse.  They say 4WD is required - I think the clearance is more important than the actual power to all four, as the road was reasonably flat, just scattered with largish boulders.  We made it in our little Jeep Compass, which is by no means an offroad vehicle, but in places we were pushing our luck.  At the 21 mile mark you pass a sign, and the cliffs to your left are starting to look pretty impressive:

Somewhere about mile 23 (our directions said later, but our odometer said about 23) you pass over a partially buried steel drainage pipe, and within the next 100 feet you'll see an old mining road heading precipitously up to the left, and down to the right.  (The guides we were following said this road was "passable but not worth it."  I think you'd be insane.)  Just up at the next bend in the road there is a parking spot on the right, and a faded sign on the left.  You should actually be able to see the ruins you're heading to ahead and to the left from here - high up the walls - but you'll have to have good eyes.

The trail:

The trail heads steeply up the mining road for maybe a mile, passing a wilderness area boundary sign, and eventually coming to a huge grey boulder on your left.  It zigs right then left - no real branchings to this point, til it comes to a bit of meadow with a big white rock on the right with a (modern) spiral pictograph:
There is an easily-missed fork at this point: bear right to stay on the correct trail (left takes you up Cold Creek.)  From here there are no more real choices.  Climb up above the oaks and into the manzanita, from which you can see down to your car far below.  You're moving north at this point, around the point of a ridge and into the next side valley (The main valley, and road you were on, heads north-south.  This side valley faces east.  You're coming northwest, onto the southern side of the V.)
 As you come around the point into the side valley that is Pueblo Canyon, you can see the ruins about midway up the far wall.  And you can see why you're making this crazy zigzag in the first place - there's no way up over there:

The bush-bashing happens in here - its scrambly, but just keep telling yourself that this is waiting at the end:

You don't really need a guide from here on out: there is one ruin on the southern wall (partially destroyed by a uranium mine) followed by a waterfall (apparently does NOT run year-round.  We took all our water and didn't need it, but someone we met on the trail said they'd been there when it was dry.  I reckon if you saw water on the road near the trailhead you're probably fine, but you have been warned.)  After the waterfall you come back along the north wall of the canyon and get to visit all the ruins you've been looking at for the last hour: