Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Treasury: Song for the Dumped

Ben Folds has long been one of my favorite artists of all time: a piano player who handles lyrics with deft humor and deep insight, sometimes in the same song? What's not to love! "Song for the Dumped" remains one of my favorites of his, so I thought I'd have a had at turning it into a treasury.

'Song For The Dumped' by Kokoba
















In case you don't already know the lyrics, here they are:

One, two, three four!
*piano riff* 
 So you wanted
To take a break?
Slow it down some,
And have some space?
Well, fuck you too!
Give me my money back,
Give me my money back, you bitch!
I want my money back.
And don't forget
To give me back my black T-shirt! 
Wish I hadn't
Bought you dinner
Right before you
Dumped me on your front porch. 
Give me my money back,
Give me my money back, you bitch!
I want my money back.
And don't forget...

So how'd I do? Pick a song and give it a try, it's really fun!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Music Monday: Buddha's Birthday

Today is Buddha's Birthday in Korea, a red day that means a day off of work for most people (myself included). The date is based on the lunar calendar, so it's a different calendar day every year.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Science Saturday: The Dawkins Delusion?

An intense book-shopping trip has left me with a whole new pile of non-fiction to read! Yay!

The first off the list is The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister and Joanna Collicutt McGrath.

I've made my distaste for Richard Dawkins clear already, not even on religious grounds, but on his tendency towards mansplaining and obnoxious white male privilege demonstrated during Elevatorgate. I had vaguely disliked him for years at that point (anti-religious polemic hits very close to home for me), but that settled it.

When I saw this at the used bookstore in Seoul, I was torn. Dawkins is a jackass, to be sure, but phrases like "atheist fundamentalism" and "denial of the divine" stick in my craw as well. When I saw the authors intelligently reference Stephen Jay Gould's concept of NOMA to bolster their case, though, I was sold.

The good: It's a short read—less than 100 pages—and an easy one as well. McGrath treats Dawkins fairly and with a sense of respect, taking care to avoid vacuous ad hominem attacks. The book keeps its focus sharply fixed on repudiating The God Delusion. The McGraths go through the book systematically and lay out their objections, all of which are kept in the realm of the scientific and the rhetorical. Despite their strong faith, there's never a point where it becomes preachy. Nor is this some Intelligent Design/Young Earth apologetics, either. McGrath is a scientist by training and knows better than to hold in with that garbage. Never does he cite Scripture as a scientific authority or attempt to make a case against evolution.

The bad: I wish it had been longer, but Alister McGrath does have a heady pile of literature to peruse so that's not so bad. I think it's marketed as a little more Jesus cheerleading than it actually is: the book is more about the holes in Dawkins' arguments against religion rather than championing the rightness or necessity of a faith in God.

One interesting fact: Honestly, there's not much in the way of facts here. It's largely a work of rhetoric and argumentation. They do provide a "further reading" list in the back, which is nice and which I will definitely reference later.

Would recommend? Yes. For everyone: Christian apologetics and IDers/Young Earthers (not everyone is like Dawkins!), Dawkins enthusiasts (this is where he gets it wrong!), atheist Dawkins detractors (thank you for articulating what I could not!), and anyone who has read The God Delusion.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mini Rant: GM Food

 Being politically liberal myself, I have lots of politically liberal friends. Sometimes they don't seem to understand how science works (a mistake that is, frighteningly, one of the few truly bipartisan things in this country) and I see things like this on my newsfeed:

The tinfoil-hatted ignorance that inspired this post! How
many logical fallacies can you spot?

We've been genetically modifying food since we started farming. Not only our food, but our decorations (plants, trees) and companions (pets) as well. The only difference between what we did then and what scientists are doing now is that it's infinitely more efficient and precise, with much broader a scope. However a plant is modified to resist pesticides or to grow larger results in zero physical effects on the human body because that's not how science works. Altering the DNA of an organism does not in and of itself make it poisonous, or carcinogenic, or dangerous, it just makes it different. In a very simple example, scientists switch out a red LEGO block for a blue one. They add another green one. They don't expose the entire LEGO castle to radiation.

I've mentioned this documentary before, but it bears repeating:

The ethics of the leading GM pioneers like Monsanto is a separate issue entirely. Likewise the interaction of GM crops with the surrounding ecosystem is something that needs careful and controlled study. These are legitimate issues with GM food: should you be allowed to patent and claim intellectual ownership over a genetically altered lifeform? How can you prevent GM crops from negatively affecting the local ecosystem?

But the genetically modified tomato itself is not poison. It's not carcinogenic. It won't give you Alzheimer's. It offers us a potential for more efficient food crops. It can feed more people, using fewer resources. Don't let crunchy granola hippie fear-mongering tell you otherwise.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Music Monday: Tiger JK/Yoon Mirae/Sun Zoo

This was the last weekend of the International Music Festival up here in Uijeongbu. Because I'm a cheap clueless git, I didn't see any of the performances except the guy playing the piano on an old-timey penny farthing bicycle:

Don't ask me to explain, because I can't.

This past Sunday night was the finale concert at the Uijeongbu Arts Center (a very posh place, by the way). The big deal was that Tiger JK, a Korean-American rapper of some renown, was giving a free concert with his wife Yoon Mirae. Since this was the festival's grand finale concert, it was stupendously well-attended. Not surprising, since Tiger JK was born up here in Uijeongbu and lived here until his family moved to America when he was twelve. Definitely some regional pride involved.

It was a good time; I wasn't blown away musically, but that's to be expected. Hip-hop is a genre I've only recently begun to appreciate. Plus, with rapping, a lot of the enjoyment comes from knowing the language and appreciating turns of phrases and word play. My Korean is just not up to par for that. That said, Yoon Mirae has great stage presence. I loved her.

It was also cool to see a pop concert that was obviously about showcasing talent and not just being a pretty face on a hot bod. Before Tiger JK and his wife took the stage, there were of course some opening acts of a similar ilk, whose talents seemed far more focused on singing and rapping than on choreography. The gorgeous weather and ambiance of the venue was just the cherry on top: not too humid, comfortable temperature, clear skies, families laughing, old guys selling goofy flying light-up toys or ice cream on the outskirts of the audience.

My mind wasn't really properly blown until after the concert, when I looked up Tiger JK on YouTube and found this:  the multicultural hip-hop group "Sun Zoo," featuring Tiger JK, Yoon Mirae, and Roscoe Umali, produced by Illmind. Don't worry if your Korean is as bad as mine, it's in English. It's very NSFW, so plug in your headphones; Mom and Mom-mom should probably just skip this one entirely.

Yoon Mirae has the second verse and Tiger JK has the last verse. I'm going to be listening to this on repeat for the next few days.

What I want to see happen (or what I want to find out about if it has happened) is a K-pop/Korean hip-hop star from Uijeongbu sampling "Suicide is Painless." That would make my life.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Color me pleasantly surprised!

I just came across the "artomat" project today. You guys remember cigarette vending machines?

The local pizza place from my childhood (since closed) had one.  The whole restaurant was a bit dusty and retro, with lots of wood paneling and curio cabinets with tacky knick-knacks. The vending machine fit right in. I remember being fascinated by it because at that point they were getting phased out, so it was the only one I had ever seen.  What do you do with these machines that you're no longer allowed to have?

Enter Art-o-mat, a project to reclaim these vending machines as a way to dispense original art:

This has been going on since 1997! What's double-cool is that out of the four machines installed in my home state of PA, three of them are right where I live! I don't know how I missed out on these but I am definitely going to keep my eyes peeled when I get back home.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Science Saturday: Facial Recognition

Universality of Facial Expressions Called Into Question.

More specifically, a recent experiment about recognizing the moods of facial expressions has suggested a difference between how Western Caucasians and East Asians interpret facial expressions.

Let's start out with a small experiment of our own. How does this man feel? Is he surprised or scared?

I found it difficult to decide, not the least because of semantics: something that's scary is inherently surprising, after all! I had to peak at the image name to get a conclusive answer as to the mood intended. It is, indeed, surprise.

According to the article, Caucasians tended to put expressions in discreet categories, while East Asians saw borders between, say, anger and disgust, as fuzzy and mutable:

Observers, half of whom were Western Caucasian and half East Asian (with little experience of each other’s culture), were asked to categorise each animation as one of six basic emotions – anger, happiness, fear, sadness, disgust or surprise – or “other”, and judge the emotional intensity of each animation. 
For Western Caucasian observers, the facial movements categorised as each of the six basic emotions appeared distinct and all observers identified the same emotions.
By contrast, these same distinct movements were not seen in the categorisations made by East Asians, who showed a high degree of overlap in the categorisation of certain movements. This was particularly the case between fear and surprise, as well as anger and disgust. 
Other differences were also apparent between the observations of Western Caucasians and East Asians. In particular, the perception of emotional intensity in some expressions was cued by rapid changes to the eye region for East Asians, whereas Western Caucasians took their cues from other parts of the face.

The last paragraph is interesting to me because I've heard the same thing from Koreans in casual conversations. That's why sometimes Western internet smileys, such as ":)" ":-/" or  ":(", make no immediate sense to them—beyond them inexplicably being sideways, it's the mouth shape that indicates the mood. Compare that to East Asian style smileys: "^_^" ">_<" or ";_;" where variation in the eyes is  the key to the meaning. As a result, Westerners tend to have more exaggerated mouth movements, and East Asians tend to have more exaggerated eye movements.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Broke and Fixed Again: Computer Woes

I have been running Linux since my early university days. I cut my teeth on Debian, then switched over to Ubuntu because I'm lazy and conditioned to having a computer "just work." At the time, Ubuntu had better out of the box compatibility with most everything—and being Debian-based, was still familiar to me.

It's been an interesting ride since then, notably with some DVD issues and the occasional xorg.conf problem. While I'm mostly happy with it, and happier than I would probably be with windows, Ubuntu is not without its frustrations.

First and foremost, they are set on being the shiny cool dev, which is frustrating for people like me who see their computer as a tool and not a toy.  The biggest offender in my eyes is Compiz, a compositing window manager that looks really cool but doesn't really serve any useful purpose except to waste some CPU cycles. Funny enough, I remember Compiz being all the rage when it was first released but now it seems that no one's talking about it. I hate to say I told you so...

 I also had issues with PulseAudio when they first started shipping it as the default sound server. It seemed very much an issue of, "Wow, this is so cool, let's ship it now instead of testing it to make sure it won't break things for people."

Related to this, perhaps, is my second issue of the six month release cycle. Releases go out whether or not they're ready; whether or not certain issues have been fixed. I tend not to upgrade until months after the fact, just so that things get a chance to get sorted.

Yeah, it's safe to say I have my issues with Ubuntu.

One of the updates to 11.04 broke the heck out of the X windows manager. In layman's terms, this meant Priscilla (I name things, sometimes) would hang for ages while booting (long enough that I would assume it was caught in an endless loop and reboot futilely), until finally yielding a dull gray screen. And nothing more.

I had a big assignment for work due in two days. This did not make me happy camper. At all.

table flip
Not that I really did this because beads
would have gone flying everywhere.

In the interest of science and posterity, this was basically how I fixed it:

1. Boot up. Wait for the inevitable hang time at "checking system V runlevel compatibility" or, for variety's sake, "checking battery level." Curse the Ubuntu devs with the foulest words you know.

2. WAIT. WAIT LIKE VLADIMIR AND ESTRAGON. Also, mix yourself a drink. At this stage I was taking slugs of soju straight out of the little green bottle.

3. Given enough time (I mean like, I nuked an omelette and ate it and gave myself a manicure levels of time here), it will just attempt to load X. It won't work, of course. But you'll see a cursor and a grey screen, and it responds to mouse movement. BINGO! In the immortal words of every hacker in every cheesy thriller/action movie ever: "We're in."

4. Ctrl-Alt-F1 into tty1. THAT'S RIGHT, WE'RE GONNA COMMAND LINE UP IN HERE. THIS ABOUT TO GET REAL, SON. If you're having this problem at all, you're mostly likely (like, 99% likely) using 11.10. Upon logging in to your account, you'll be prompted to upgrade to 12.04 LTS. Do it. Other places on the Intarbutts recommend manually starting X via startx at this point, but that just froze things back into uselessness for me. You're free to try for yourself though. If that's the case: congratulations! Otherwise, you're going to need to upgrade this bidness.

5. Sit and stare at the command line while you continue to drink, because you have nothing else to do.

6. Finish your drink and pass out in desperation because this is going to take a while.

7. Wake up, if the screen has gone blank hit an arrow key to prompt the command line to repeat itself and thus come back into the world of the living. Answer the install questions to your preference (do you want to keep your old Network Manager settings or switch to 12.04 default options?) and make yourself some breakfast, because this nonsense is also going to take a while.

8. After all of this, you're going to need to restart. sudo shutdown -r now

9. Linus be praised! Your machine no longer hangs during boot up. But what's this? You can't log in to your own account? HOT DAMN, SON.

10. Time to command line again! Ctr-Alt-F1 is a magical, magical key combination.

11. ls -Shla | grep "Xauthority" to see what you've got, because this is an issue with Xauthority. Note: this isn't really entirely necessary, but it's good to double-check that you indeed have some kind of Xauthority file. I can't imagine why you wouldn't, though.

12. sudo mv .Xauthority Xauthority.old In other words, change the current .Xauthority file into something else and allow the system to generate a new one that should work and be able to authenticate your login credentials. Guess what? RESTART!

13. You're back to using your computer like a boss!

14. Have a drink.

Now if only I could get DVD playback working again...

Thursday, May 17, 2012


"I" went on a massive bead spree last weekend. I say "I" because really, it was a sort of in absentia thing. My mom has my new Visa check card at home (the bank mailed it to my home address, I don't need it in Korea, and I don't want to deal with it getting lost in the mail), and so she periodically makes bead runs for me.

Here is the largest and latest, almost all of which will be the subject of an upcoming geo-shopping entry!

Green Aventurine

green aventurine beads

green aventurine beads

It's hard to tell, but the beads on the left are a little over half as big as the ones on the right. They're also not cut quite as well the others, but most are very much usable. As for the ones on the right, well, they're already a necklace for the Mad Scientists of Etsy!'s April (and now May, I guess) challenge piece (which is going to get its own entry soon).

Red Aventurine

red aventurine adventurine beads

Kind of a misleading name, really, since it looks more orange than red, but there you have it.


mookaite mookite barrel beads

I've blogged about this stone before (I LOVE IT SO MUCH). Stone I love + atypical bead shape = CANNOT GET ENOUGH. That's why I spent over $50 on these Mookaite briolettes in an earlier bead binge:

mookaite mookite faceted briolette beads

Mahogany Obsidian

mahogany obsidian square cube beads

Speaking of atypical bead shapes, I cannot get enough cubed beads. They have a really funky modern look to them, and when they're next to round smooth beads it makes for a really cool geometric look, like in this Planck's constant physics bracelet:

Planck's constant physics bracelet

Unfortunately, they're somewhat hard to find, so my mom did a good job snatching these up when she did!


mother of pearl beads

It's hard to photograph lighter beads like mother-of-pearl, and I'm not too happy with this, but you can get a sense of mother-of-pearl's trademark milky swirls and warm cream color.

Blue Lace Agate

blue lace agate beads

Another difficult one to photograph. The blue in this particular strand is very rich and striking. with dark marbling throughout. You can kind of see it here, but not every well. There's one more strand of this in the bag of goodies I got, but they were even more impossible to photograph (coloring that isn't quite as rich) so i gave up.


Some nice six millimeter amethyst.


I love carnelian. Love love love. The color in this strand is especially lovely.

Dyed Howlite

Howlite is naturally white with gray veins, but very porous, so it takes a dye very well. As a result, you can find it in all kinds of goofy colors like lime green or hot pink. My mom and former coworker both immediately thought of me when this strand came up in the shopping, and they were dead on! Wouldn't they be fun earrings?

Kambaba Jasper

And finally, what may be my favorite strand in the lot, kambaba jasper. These are large ovals, about thirty by twenty millimeters. This is a strand my mom picked out, because my mom has awesome taste. The two nicest ones from this strand are going to be a pair of earrings for her, but they're all really gorgeous. They'd also be great as pendants, especially with some understated sterling wire wrapping. Or the focal bead in a viking knit bracelet? The possibilities are endless!