How I Plan to Use Google+ Circles

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

Google+ is the shiny new toy over the past week or so.  It is very Spartan compared to Facebook, which is its strength.  It is also very flexible in how you can use it… which I fear may be its downfall (those who remember Wave will be familiar with this).  Circles are cool things — they’re like Facebook friend lists, but instead of being an afterthought as in Facebook, they are a core part of the design of Google+.

I plan to split my circles into two types: “broadcasting” and “receiving.”

Broadcasting circles will contain groups of people whom I want to broadcast certain types of information to.  For example, many people in my friend list really don’t care about my latest Exalted game, but the gamers might.  So I have a circle called Gamers that I will post that sort of thing to.  Basically, the sorts of people that if I would talk to these sorts of things about if I were in front of them face-to-face.  My friend Sheena has even publicly posted a list of her circles and asked people which they would like to be in, which I think is a great idea (maybe I’m into knitting and she just never knew!).  I’m going to post mine on my public profile.

Receiving circles will be groups that I want to listen to for different topics.  I am thinking this will be a much smaller set of circles.  Probably only two, actually: one that I pay attention to always, one that I pay attention to sometimes, and the third implied group of everyone.

What is the purpose of this?

The “broadcasting circles” are to help combat information overload.  One of my main issues with Facebook is that there is a lot of information overload on there: I have to wade through tons of posts that I simply don’t care about in order to get to the few that I do.  So to help alleviate this for others, I plan to be specific about what I share with whom.

The receiving circles is to help combat information overload from the other end.  I’ve just got started with Google+ and I have nearly 150 people on my list.  If all of them were to use the above philosophy of broadcasting circles then my stream would probably be manageable.  However, I don’t realistically expect that — many will probably post publicly (or to all of their Circles) by default.  Which is no knock against them; I realize not everyone is going to see circles the same way that I do.

What are your thoughts on this?  How do you plan to organize your circles?

Installing iOS 5 Beta 2 in Windows

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

Apple pretty much assumes that everyone who is using their iOS beta has a Mac — which is a reasonable assumption, because the beta is really more for developers to make their application work with iOS 5 than for nerds like me who just want to use the features before they’re publicly available.  But I digress.

Since Apple doesn’t really provide any instructions or support for installing iOS 5 using a PC, I will tell you how.

  1. Download and install iTunes 10.5 Beta 2 from here (you will need to have a valid Apple developer account, which costs $99/year).  This step is very important! Even if you downloaded 10.5 Beta 1 to install iOS 5 Beta 1, you still need to download Beta 2, or the upgrade won’t work.
  2. Download iOS 5 Beta 2 from here (again, you’ll need a valid Apple developer account).
    • Make sure to download the correct version for your device. If you’re on AT&T, download the GSM version; if you’re on Verizon, download the CDMA version.
  3. Using 7-Zip, unzip the .dmg file, then unzip the file “2.hfs” that is inside of that.
    • Inside of that, there should be a file named something like “iPhone3,1_5.0_9A5248d_Restore.ipsw”.  Note its location.
  4. Plug your iPhone into your computer and start up iTunes if it does not start automatically.
  5. Sync your iPhone to make sure that you have all the data on it backed up.
  6. Shift+click on Restore, then navigate to that .ipsw file from step 3 and select it.
  7. Restore your phone.
  8. After restoring using that file, you will need to restore again using the backup from step 5.  This will take some time, but it will add all of your contacts, text messages, songs, apps, etc. back onto your phone.

And then you’re done! The only real glitch I’ve noticed is that during the last step, some applications seem to get lost in the ether, so you may have to reinstall them. You may also have to re-enter email passwords and the like.

Upgrade Your iPhone 4 to iOS 5 Beta in 4 Easy(ish) Steps

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

Important Note: This is for iOS 5 Beta 1. I will provide an article for iOS 5 Beta 2 soon, though currently I am not sure if the workaround for non-developers listed below works for Beta 2.

There aren’t many good tutorials on this out there, so I’m making one. I actually made the instructions for my girlfriend to start out with, but I figured some other people out there might be interested too.

Caveat 1: I am not responsible for any damage/bricking/etc. that may occur from this — iOS betas are generally pretty stable, but sometimes bad things happen, so don’t blame me if they do.

Caveat 2: The beat is really only supposed to be for Apple developers. It will be buggy, and I have already found several bugs, in fact.

Caveat 3: It is possible that with the next release of the beta, Apple will patch any holes that allow non-developers to have access to this, which could brick your phone (restoring to a previous iOS is very hairy). If that happens, please do contact me and I’ll do my best to help you fix it.

Okay, with that out of the way, here we go! Note that this tutorial will also work for the iPad and the iPhone 3GS, but you will need to download a different IPSW file to do that, as mentioned above under step 3. Also this tutorial is assuming you’re using Windows, but there’s really not much difference (except that Apple doesn’t directly offer iTunes 10.5 even to developers as far as I can tell).

  1. Back up your iPhone using iTunes.  Just do a normal sync operation, this should handle it.
    • Just to be extra sure, you might want to copy that backup to a different location. You can find this backup using these instructions.
  2. Install iTunes 10.5 beta, from here (if that doesn’t work for some reason, there are other links listed here under “iTunes 10.5 (Windows x64(64-bit, 74.07MB)”).
    • If you have a developer account and want to get it in a more authorized way, you can — the Windows version is well-hidden under the iCloud downloads. iTunes 10.5 Windows Beta.
  3. Download the iOS 5 beta torrent here (or again, if you have an Apple developer account, just get it from there but see the third note below if you do that).
    • For AT&T choose the GSM version; for Verizon choose CDMA.
    • If you don’t already have a BitTorrent client, I recommend uTorrent.
    • If you do a Google search and get it from elsewhere (or from Apple’s developer site) as a .dmg file, you might need a special program to unzip that; go ahead and install 7Zip to do that. After you unzip it, go into that folder and unzip the file “2.hfs”.  That should have a directory named “iOS 5 beta – iPhone 4 – 9A5220p” which will contain the file iPhone3,1_5.0_9A5220p_Restore.ipsw — that’s what we’re interested in.
  4. Follow instructions here (basically fire up iTunes, hold down Shift while you click the Check for Update button, and select the IPSW file you unzipped above).

Tada!  Your phone will go through a few reboots, you will be prompted to activate it, and at that point you’ll be really scared because none of your apps, contacts, music, etc. will be on there.  Never fear — just run a restore from that backup you made in step 1, and you’re golden.

Happy upgrading!  And please, if any of this doesn’t work for you, or any links are broken, let me know.

Review: iPad 2

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

Yeah, I jumped on the bandwagon. I upgraded from my iPad to an iPad 2. Who can resist the geek-chic siren’s call of new Apple products?

Seriously though, the iPad took the market by storm, and the iPad 2 is superior (in my opinion) to the alternatives — both those currently on the market, and those hitting soon. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some glaring flaws as well. So, let’s get to it.

The Good

  • Camera — The biggest change in the iPad 2 was the addition of a front-facing and read-facing camera. It works as advertised, though the rear-facing camera doesn’t seem to be as good as the iPhone’s. Honestly, I think they could have done away with that one entirely and made the front-facing camera better quality for better quality videoconferencing.  Though after a bit of playing around with it, I do have to say it’s a bit of a pain to transfer video from the iPhone to the iPad — to do it without annoying sync operations through iTunes you have to buy a 3rd party app, in fact.
    • Skype video over a 3G connection is not so great.  When I tested it, I was around 3-4 bars of signal (out of 5), so perhaps this would be better with 5 bars. I saw the other end okay, but they said I was doing the jitter, freeze-and-catch-up thing.
    • FaceTime is pretty awesome.  There was a bit of blurriness when FaceTiming with my girlfriend on the same WiFi network, but the network had been acting a little funny that night anyway.
  • Smart Cover — I thought this would be a neat thing but nothing too special; however, it’s actually surprised me. The magnets are stronger than I had thought they would be, making the cover much more stable in the stand-up configuration than I expected. The triangle-fold allowing stand-up or slight-incline is useful, and much easier to use than the cases Apple pimped for the original.
  • Battery life — When a device gets smaller, that usually means the battery gets smaller, as does the battery life. In this case, Apple managed to make it smaller and faster while retaining the amazing battery life. Some tests have even shown it to have superior battery life when compared to the original, but my bet is that they were using a brand-new iPad 2 and a year-old iPad, so there would be some battery degradation on the latter.
  • Sexy softwareiMovie is pretty awesome, though it does take a bit of getting used to (I wish they had a tutorial or something available within the app). Using iMovie is a much better experience on the iPad 2 than on the iPhone 4. I haven’t tried Garage Band yet (haven’t even bought it), but it seems fairly awesome.  And the operating system in general is intuitive, smooth, and sexy. You don’t have to read any manual to use this thing — you just turn it on and go.

The “Meh”

  • Fingerprints — The oleophobic coating does help… a little. Mostly they help in removing the fingerprints more easily, not so much with preventing them. So the thing still gets fingerprint smudged to hell. The magical covers have a glass cleaner on the underside, which… kind of works, but not really. And because of the shape, even the bit that it does work makes causes issues because where the fold creases are in the cover, there is no cleaning, so you end up with vertical smudge stripes where the cleaning bits didn’t touch.
  • Speed — This was actually improved a lot, but I list it as “meh” because the original acted very snappy, so the speed increase doesn’t really affect the experience much. Rebooting is notably faster, but you hardly ever need to do that. But if you’re interested in the boot time difference, check out this video I made.
  • Thinner — It is notably thinner, and feels better in the hand. However, I put this in the “meh” section because it causes some issues too — mainly, the angled edge. It makes it really awkward to plug in the sync/recharge cord, and ejecting the SIM card was unintuitive (click that link to see). Also, it’s much thinner and only a little lighter, which means it’s actually more dense, which in turn makes it feel heavier.
  • No back protection — Yeah, you can get a third-party case for it, but it is sort of a shame that the flagship covers don’t protect the back of the device from scratches. I’ve been babying it, and so far so good, but I’m betting that it’s going to develop tiny little scratches soon.
  • Big iPod Touch — Let’s face it, there really isn’t any difference in iOS between a handheld device and the iPad. There is tons of whitespace between icons, for example, and overall you can really feel that the OS wasn’t made for a tablet device.  The same was true of Android until recently with version 3.0 (Honeycomb).

The Bad

  • Expandable storage — It still doesn’t have it. There were rumors that it would, and I was hoping that because the tablet market is heating up bigtime that Apple would see that they need to compete in this way to lure photographers. But no, they just made an SD dongle that allows you to transfer photos and videos to/from an SD card, but not actually use it as extra space.
  • Adobe Flash — There is no Flash support now, or ever (unless something changes drastically).  There are some alternatives to watch Flash video, like an app that costs $5 and converts from Flash to a playable format, but that doesn’t work with Hulu, and it doesn’t at all work with Flash apps or games.  Steve Jobs would like you to think that Flash is going away in favor of HTML 5.  He’d mostly like you to think that because he wants it to go away, and if he can convince everyone that it is going away then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve got news: Flash isn’t going away.  Get over your shit, and support it.


I really like the iPad 2 a lot. For me, the video conferencing is definitely worth the upgrade. And if I didn’t get on the bandwagon with the first iPad, I definitely would have with this one. If you’re thinking about upgrading, I’d recommend trying to sell the old one on eBay first to see how much you can get for it (look to see what others are selling for and expect to get about that).  Or give it to a friend or your significant other and get the upgrade for yourself. People made fun of Jobs for calling the iPad “magical,” but once you play with one for a few days you’ll realize that it really is.

A final note, on Android tablets: Some of the Android options out there are neat, but none really compare to the iPad 2. They try to sell themselves on hardware specs, and honestly that shit just doesn’t matter. The iPad is relatively cheap, thinner, and more polished than the competition, with more killer apps. I hope that Android tablets will catch up, but right now there’s really no competition.

Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary: Open Development

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

The folks at White Wolf are going to be releasing a 20th anniversary edition of Vampire: the Masquerade Revised at The Grand Masquerade this year.  It will be a self-contained tome on the order of 400 pages, including a ton of stuff. But what’s interesting to me is what is going to be different in this version, and the fact that it is open development.

Also, as a note, this product has nothing to do with the MMO. It’s simply something they’re doing to give back to the fans.

What’s Open Development?

Basically, as they are developing, they are making their first drafts of each section available via Google Docs, and seeking feedback from the fans. So you can playtest before it’s out, theorycraft, and overall you can have a say in what will be in the final product. There is already a lot of discussion going on via Twitter (hashtag #V20), their design blog,, and their own forums. Some people have also been blogging about it, like this great post from Malcolm Sheppard.

I like this open design process. In addition to giving insights into the development process, it’s a great way to interact with the Vampire community. I would be interested to see how it’s organized behind the scenes, though — that is a lot of data and fan feedback to go through. Do they skim it, and only really pay attention when several fans have the same thought? Is it at the developers’ whim? Or is there some more formalized process of integrating fan feedback?

What’s Different in This Version?

It’s not really a whole new edition, you see. But at the same time, it’s not an exact copy of Vampire Revised, either. It’s sort of like Vampire 3.5 — well, really more like Vampire 3.1. The setting will be updated to reflect current times. There will be a few rules tweaks here and there[1]. But there will be no meaningful metaplot advancement, and the rules will for the most part be the same.

Also, it will be most things combined into one book. All of the clans, clan variants, (playable) bloodlines, and Disciplines. This thing is going to be large.

And it will have new art, by Tim Bradstreet and others. I’m interested to see what happens here. I’d like to see new version of old artwork done as homage, combined with some more modern-themed stuff.

My Thoughts

I’m excited about this.  I like that it’s not a completely new edition — it’s a slight update and compilation of something the fans know and love.  Malcolm Sheppard did a pretty good job of saying what I would like to say in his blog post, though I disagree on a few points.

I will give the caveat here that I was honestly never a huge Vampire fan. Blasphemy, I know! I had fun playing it, and more fun with it in LARP (though I hated the paper-rock-scissors mechanic), but Mage: the Ascension was really the game that spoke most to me.  The optimist in me would like to hope that they might do something like this for Mage, but the realist in me knows that White Wolf made its name on Vampire (see how I avoided saying “cut its teeth on” there?), and they are about to make a Vampire MMO, so the odds of anything like this for Mage are slim to none. But here’s to keeping hope alive.

1. For example, they’re thinking about getting rid of dodge as an Ability, and also (currently) you can only botch if you roll 1s and no successes (used to be that if you rolled 10, 1, 1, it was a botch) (as Ian points out, botching is the same as Revised) a few other minor things.

ZOMG Nuclear Meltdown! Wait, What Does That Mean?

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

First off, what happened in Japan is horrible. I do not at all mean to downplay any of the tragedy that occurred there. Also, I do not claim to be an expert on nuclear technology. However, I do know a fair amount, and more than enough to be able to distill what others (such as the people at MIT) have written. And I like my friends to be informed, and able to call bullshit on media hype when appropriate.

So with that said, this nuclear reactor stuff has been generating a lot of buzzwords in the media, which I don’t think many people understand. If you don’t want to read all this crap, skip to the TL;DR section at the bottom.

What is nuclear meltdown?

That’s when the reactor goes out of control and there’s a nuclear explosion like in Chernobyl, right? Wrong.

It’s basically when the rods melt themselves, and their surroundings. That’s it. If complete nuclear meltdown is all that occurs, nothing bad happens. Well, except the company that owns the reactor will have to spend a lot of money to reclaim the uranium back out of the soup of melted crud inside the containment unit. And nuclear plants are engineered with multiple redundant levels of fail-safes, and further engineered such that even if all of that goes wrong, the damage will be minimal.

Also, let me side-track a moment to talk about Chernobyl. First off, it wasn’t a nuclear explosion — not in the sense of an atom bomb. Many things went wrong there, not the least of them was that the plant was poorly built. Also, it was not kept up very well. Also, it was understaffed. Also, the people who were on the staff made many bad decisions. What happened was that the core suffered meltdown, containment measures failed, and there was a non-nuclear, regular ol’ hydrogen/oxygen explosion that scattered radioactive crap everywhere. Essentially, it was a dirty bomb.

So what’s going on in Japan?

Okay, to know what’s going on, first you have to know a little about how nuclear reactors work. This will be a simplistic crash course. First, the 4 levels of containment:

  1. The uranium resides in little ceramic oxide pellets, about 1cm tall and wide. They have a melting point in the neighborhood of 2800 °C.
  2. Those reside in Zircaloy casings, forming fuel rods. Those have a melting point around 1200 °C.
  3. Those are put into what is essentially a big steel pressure cooker that operates at around 1000 PSI.
  4. The entire main loop of the reactor — the “pressure cooker”, pumps, and pipes that contain water (which is used as a coolant) — is housed in a thick concrete and steel casing.
  5. There’s technically a 5th level: the plant itself. But it doesn’t do much as far as containment goes, functionally speaking.

#4 is the big one. It’s made to contain a complete core meltdown indefinitely. So if a meltdown does occur, everything is contained in this (including the radiation), and inside is a soup of the rest of the crap.

When the earthquake started, control rods were dumped into the core to stop the reactions, but there are secondary reactions that take a while to wind down, so the cores will keep producing heat for several days in the meantime. Heat is normally good — nuclear reactors are kind of like big steam engines. They heat up the water, which turns into steam and spins turbines which produce electricity.

The earthquake that hit was several times the power of what it was built to take (the Richter scale is logarithmic, so a 9.0 earthquake is ten times as bad as an 8.0). That wasn’t so bad on its own, but then the tsunami hit.

All right, so what about the explosions?

Long story short, this caused the cooling systems to fail. It was a pretty epic fail, including instances of them bringing in backup power to keep the water pumping, but not having connectors to connect the power where they needed it to go.

So pressure was building — literally and figuratively.  They needed to vent some gas outside of containment to alleviate that.  Unfortunately, at those temperatures, the hydrogen and oxygen tend to break apart, which makes for a nice explosive mix.  This wouldn’t normally be a problem because of the amount of water that is still in the air, but when it hit the cooler roof of the plant, some of the water vapor condensed, tipping the balance in favor of the combustible gases, and a spark somewhere made a boom.  This happened in reactors 1 and 3 at Daiichi, and the boom was outside of containment. The more recent boom at reactor 2 was different, and of greater concern, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Why vent gas from containment though? Isn’t that radioactive?

Well yes, it is… for a few seconds, literally, before it becomes safe. In some of the venting-induced explosions, some more-radioactive material got vented. At 9:37am (JST) the radiation level was around 3130 micro
Sieverts. That’s definitely not good, but to put that into perspective, if you were exposed to 100x that level for an entire day, you might feel nausea and have some damage to bone marrow. However, just an hour later, it had dropped to about 1/10th of that, and continued to drop off (albeit more slowly) after that.

So why the hubbub?

People hear radiation and possible nuclear meltdown, and it’s sensational. Which makes people watch the news. Which allows the news corporations to sell commercial time for much more money. From what I know, at this point there’s really only one thing to be concerned about:

Possible degradation of containment at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2

Remember containment element #4 above; that thick concrete/steel casing? Earlier today (March 15th) it was reported that there was an explosion at unit 2 inside that primary containment unit, damaging the suppression chamber (a doughnut-shaped chamber holding water and meant to depressurize the core). This is more serious than the other 2 explosions. The gas causing the explosion should have been vented, and exploded outside of containment if at all (as with units 1 and 3), but for reasons yet unknown, it wasn’t vented, and it went boom inside of there. If the suppression chamber is damaged badly enough, I presume it means pressure will build again, faster, until there is a bigger boom. Which could end up being like Chernobyl.


So what does all that mean? The explosion before today were no big deal. The radiation released so far was no big deal. The explosion today could cause the shit to hit the fan, however.

Suzanne Venker is an insane anti-feminist

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

A friend just posted a link to this interview with Suzanne Venker, co-author (along with Phyllis Schlafly) of The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know—and Men Can’t Say. Feminists will probably be familiar with Schlafly already, and this interview with Venker is… well, read it for yourself.

As a note, I do not consider myself a feminist per se, though I do believe in equal pay for equal work, and that employers should treat women the same as men. I also believe in equal treatment both ways, so for example I think women in the military should be allowed in combat, but should also have equal physical fitness requirements as men.  Physics don’t care whether you’re a man or a woman — if your buddy (who weighs 230 lbs. including gear) gets knocked unconscious by an IED, you’d better damn well be able to pull that buddy to safety, period.

Okay, with that out of the way, here are some gems from this interview:
And whatever strides [feminism] made in the workforce have had tremendous ramifications for businesses, so they came at a great cost to businesses and government. It’s a double-edged sword.
Translation: women deserve less pay, don’t be a meanie and pressure corporations to pay them equally! Their proper place is in the kitchen anyway.  At least, that’s what I get from that.
The abuse problem is smaller than it’s made out to be, and when you draw attention to something that’s so terrible, it’s like the issue of homosexuality today. The awareness that gays exist, or that terrible men beat their wives, is good to recognize but not to belabor or exaggerate.
Hmm, people belaboring and exaggerating terrible things, huh?  Being gay is terrible, like spouse abuse is terrible?  You, madame, are a small-minded twat.  Some might say that she didn’t mean to imply that being gay is terrible.  While she might not have directly said that, that’s the whole point of the analogy (terrible things being exaggerated/belabored), so I call bullshit on that.
Why would you have a whole movement to make women feel better about not choosing to have children?
<sarcasm>Because you know, women’s place is to pop out babies, so why the hell would you want to make them better for not doing their biological duty?  So the feminist movement is kind of like having a movement to make murderers feel better about murdering.</sarcasm>
It is my belief that ultimately nobody, male or female, can be happy with that lifestyle, with having sex with whoever they want, having sex with your friends, or one night stands and all that.
Not that I believe the exact opposite is true, but I’d love to respond to that with, “It is my belief that ultimately nobody, male or female, can be happy with that lifestyle, with never having sex with whom they want unless it’s their one partner, never being able to have sex with friends, or one night flings.”  I’m sure her reaction would be priceless.
Feminists are not concerned with anybody outside of America.
Just… wow.  Saying that American feminists center their political and cultural activism in America is one thing.  But this statement is full-on retard.

I understand that there are some valid points in this woman’s philosophy.  Feminism is about equal opportunities, but some feminists disrespect women who choose to be homemakers, and that’s not cool.  And… yeah, I think that’s about the only valid point I see.  People like this disgust me.

Yet still I’m glad that I live in a country where they can spout their nonsense.

My Love/Hate Relationship With the Nostromo N52

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

I have a Nostromo n52 gaming pad for use with World of Warcraft, and I both love it and hate it. Here’s why:


  • Macros. You can program it to do all sorts of macros that the WoW UI won’t let you.
  • Convenient movement. This is really the biggest thing for me.  I can use my thumb to do all of my movement, instead of the standard — which is three fingers on WASD, which switch away from movement to press other buttons.
  • Comfort.  It has a great ergonomic design (whoa, buzzword from the 90s), that just feels really comfortable.
  • Design.  It just looks cool… though not nearly as cool as the n52te (tournament edition).  The astute may notice that the n52te is essentially the same as the n52, with some pretty lights added — they found the right formula, and they stuck with it.  Though some have issues with the software for that model, saying that the original is better.


  • Reliance. I feel like I rely on it now; without it I can’t really play effectively. This isn’t a huge deal, but if I’m on someone else’s computer, it takes a while to get reacquainted with the keyboard.
  • Chatting. It’s very hard to switch between playing and typing, and because I’m a lazy bastard this means I usually just don’t chat because it’s too much effort. Which is extra bad since I already tend to get focused on the game and not pay attention to messages, so I feel like I’m doubly ignoring friends and guild-mates.

I don’t know if these weren’t popular enough, or people started moving to mouse-based solutions (Razer, WoW mouse), or what, but there has only been the one update to this several years ago, and nothing further.  Which is disappointing — my perfectly functional gadget is old, so I need to replace it with something betternewer, damnit!  Ah well, maybe I’ll try out a Razer. Or… just stick with what I’ve got since I rarely play WoW anyway.

Global Warming

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

Not a new thing, I know. This has been an off-and-on hot topic (pun intended) for a while now. There seem to be two schools of thought:

School 1: Carbon dioxide emissions have been causing global warming, so we need to cut CO2 emissions.
School 2: Global warming is a natural, cyclical phenomenon, so we don’t need to cut CO2 emissions.

Who’s right? Hell if I know. In fact, we’ll never know (probably not in the lifetime of anyone reading this, anyway), so let’s take who’s right out of the equation. “Absurd!” you say? No. Because regardless of who’s right, I really don’t understand why there’s a debate on what we should do.

My logic is thus: we don’t lose much (relatively speaking) by cutting CO2 emissions over time, even if school 2 is right. However, we lose a great deal by not cutting CO2 emissions if school 1 is right.

Let’s take an analogy. There are 2 roads. One of those roads you know to be longer, and one shorter. However, the shorter road might just kill you — you’re not sure, but it might — while the longer road will definitely not. Most who are of the second school of thought are saying that we should take the shorter road. I can’t say that I really understand that philosophy.

I realize that there are some rational people in the 2nd school of thought. They believe the odds are so low that we are causing global warming that it’s silly to overreact, and by implementing stiff regulations the U.S. will lose even more industrial-economic power to China. I can understand that, but I really don’t think the odds are that low, that the loss to our economy outweighs the possibility of pretty much making the planet into a shit-hole. School 2 seems more like wishful thinking to me — like a teenager with no concept of his own mortality, unable to comprehend risks.

New Tattoo

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

I’ve been wanting a tattoo for over 5 years, and tonight I finally got it done. I knew I wanted something involving a yin yang — cliché as it might be. The struggle between opposing forces, seeking balance, is a pretty key thing in my life, as are some of the Asian philosophies. Though I do not claim any of the associated religions as my own, I like Buddhist and Taoist philosophies, and even some Confucianist tenets.

However, I didn’t want it to be a standard yin yang — I wanted it to be something a little more me. My initial thought, back in college, was to get it done in binary, with one side (white) being a bunch of tiny zeroes, and the other being a bunch of tiny ones. That idea seemed cool for all of maybe a year, then I thought better of it.

I got the tattoo done by Joe Vegas at 13 Roses. I originally wanted it to be done by a guy named Soul, but by the time I got off my ass and went there, Soul had moved on. So after looking at the artists at 13 Roses, and some other local artists, I settled on Joe Vegas because I wanted it to be Asian-themed, and he does some amazing work along those lines.

Blue described getting a tattoo as like a more intense version of the violet wand. I can definitely see the comparison. Especially with the noise it makes, which is similar(-ish). And it hurt, but the pain was far from unbearable. It did feel like someone was vibrating something sharp against my skin, but it didn’t actually feel like the skin was being pierced. Honestly, the near-constant wiping away of ink (and occasionally blood) was more uncomfortable than the needle.

I really like this piece. I waffled a bit after the initial consultation — I also really like tribal tattoos, and could maybe pull off the same general theme of conflict/balance through that. But in the end, I decided to go with the idea that was in my head for nearly a decade. Still might do something tribal at some point,maybe even try to do a piece around my existing one and blend the two. Or maybe not. If I do another piece, I want it to be something that’s stuck in my brain like this one has (though maybe not for so many years). Something I know I’ll be proud to have on my body for the rest of my life.