Monthly Archives: April 2016

Interpretive Dance vs. Non-Verbal Communication

Over lunch today, we were talking, and the question came up as to exactly where the boundary was between interpretive dance and non-verbal communication.

Interpretive Dance is described as seeking to “to translate human emotions, conditions, situations or fantasies into movement and dramatic expression”.

Whereas Non-Verbal Communication is seeking “communication through sending and receiving wordless clues”.

So, what is the difference? Is Interpretive dance more intentional? Is it more specific? When an actor or performer is acting at their best, is their non-verbal communication any less intentional?

Perhaps these are just two sides of the same coin, like Rap and Spoken Word.

Baba’s Cabbage Rolls

'Traditional Ukranian Cookery' cookbook

When I was about one year old, my family briefly moved to Ottawa. This turned out to be lucky, as it meant that my Baba wrote down all her recipes for my mom to take with her. This is my favourite, her amazing Cabbage Rolls, in her words:

Cabbage Rolls

Baba's famous Cabbage Rolls, page one
Baba’s famous Cabbage Rolls, page one

Parboil about 1 cup of rice and 3 cups or so of boiling water so you wouldn’t have any water to drain. Let it go dry but not burn. You have to guess.

I cook some onions chopped and celery if I have it and minced[1] meat any kind pork or beef or chopped ham anything you have around. Mix it with rice and season with salt , pepper, and sage & mace if you have it.

Scald leaves of Cabbage, but don’t boil; they will tear. Take a spoonful of rice and roll it tight. Put with end down.

Baba's famous Cabbage Rolls, page two
Baba’s famous Cabbage Rolls, page two

If you cook on top of stove, use a wire piece you have on bottom of pot[2] then lay your Cabbage rolls on top. Put some tomato juice mixed with little water and pour over Cabbage rolls . Don’t fill the pot too full, about a little over a half or near 3/4 full. You can use cans of tomato sauce diluted with water or dilute ketchup with water. Cook on low heat. After they start cooking, you can cover with chili sauce or spicy relish if you like them spicy. In roasting pan you don’t need the wire.

It takes about an hour or longer in pot, and a little [sic][3] in Roasting pan, or try one, taste it, if it’s cooked, it saves heat cooking on top of stove[4].

Before transcribing this, I didn’t know what ‘Parboiling‘ was. Cool.

(All punctuation mine.)

[1]Having eaten these cabbage rolls many years ago, I OCR[5]’d these words to ‘you need’, as the meat makes a large part of the flavour (I remember hot dog bits being especially tasty). Looking at it again, I’m pretty sure it says ‘minced’ instead. Either works, as long as the meat is in small pieces. 😀

[2]I’m assuming this means some sort of pot insert, but I’ll have to test to find out.

[3]Here, I’m assuming it should read ‘a little longer’, but I’ll have to try cooking them to find out.

[4]I think this either means it saves heat to cook the Cabbage Rolls on top of the stove instead of in the oven, or (more likely) it means that once they’re cooked, you can just keep them warm on top of the stove, which saves heat.

[5]With my eyes.

Technology and the Evolution of Diplomacy

How has diplomacy[1] evolved through the eons? We postulate that humans have changed, but do you think that a Roman senator would feel that out of place in the U.S. Senate? That the job of an ambassador has really changed in the last three thousand years?

It feels like the largest difference has been in the speed of communication. It used to be that the phrase ‘I have to go consult with my government. This may take some days.’ meant travel time. Now it means ‘We need to get used to this idea’ exclusively.

Advances in dentistry and water fluoridation probably mean that people are less cranky because their teeth hurt, advances in chemistry mean that we no longer sprinkle lead on our food. Advances in travel and communications mean that larger empires are more governable and longer-range diplomacy and trade are more viable.

But have any of these really fundamentally changed diplomacy? It remains, as they say ‘the art of letting someone else have your way‘[2]. Even the techniques of ‘Getting to Yes‘ must have been known in some form to the ancients.

Perhaps the spread of democracy[3] has had the greatest effect. If you look at human history (especially the relatively recent colonialism), those nations or organizations which were the most stable and had the greatest longevity tended to become the most powerful (provided they had the desire and resources/room to expand). But once you control for that, once countries reach that higher stability plateau, they end up competing with each other in very familiar ways.

But most probably, the spread of nuclear weapons has actually had the greatest effect. Great powers have warred with each other since time immemorial. The relative power of offensive and defensive technology has waxed and waned throughout history, but Mutually Assured Destruction was never present absent a larger third party.

Maybe we’ll use this opportunity to talk a little bit more, and understand each other a little bit better.

[1]Diplomacy has remained largely unchanged, except for the use of plastic game pieces in some editions.

[2]Attributed to Daniel Varè an Italian diplomat and author from the early 20th century.

[3]Many would argue for ‘Representative Democracy‘, ‘Constitutional Monarchy‘, or ‘Republic‘. These are all valid positions, and this discussion is out of scope.

DS9: The Power of Adversaries, Season 4

Continuing our adversaries series, we’re looking at DS9 season four. We’ve seen a number of different patterns season to season, with season one being ‘Q and Prime Directive’, season two being ‘Cardassians and Introspection’, and season three being ‘Dominion, Time/Planar travel, and Introspection’.

Let’s see what’s out there…


High: 7 (3 Dominion)
Equal: 4 (Klingons, Klingons, mirror, and Jem’Hadar)
Low: 3
Self: 11

The standout this season was internal conflict, whether it’s Bashir vs. O’Brien, or Worf vs. his brother, season four was a study in character stories and internal dilemmas. The writers continued to use the Dominion for the plurality of the high-powered adversary plots, while eschewing almost entirely low-powered external adversaries.

Almost like the calm before the storm, the self introspection before the galaxy erupts into war.

1 (Klingons)
2 (frozen in time)
-1 (Bashir vs. O’Brien)
-1 (Kira vs. Dukat vs. Dukat)
-1 (Dax vs. Dax)
2 (Time Travel)
2 (Two Jem’Hadar ships and a gas giant)
-1 (Worf vs. Kor vs. Worf vs. Kor)
2 (Holodeck)
-1 (Earth and fear)
-1 (Earth and fear, part II)
-1 (Odo & Kira)
2 (freighter vs. Klingon ship)
-1 (Worf & Kurn)
-1 (Quark and the union)
0 (Bajoran politics)
1 (Klingon courtroom drama)
-1 (O’Brien suffers)
1 (Defiant vs. Mirror)
0 (alien & Lwaxana’s lover)
-1 (Sisko)
1 (crew + Jem’Hadar vs. Jem’Hadar)
2 (Dominion disease)
0 (one Ferengi)
2 (The Great Link)

DS9: The Power of Adversaries, Season 3

Continuing our adversaries series, we’re continuing with DS9. Today we’ll see if season three follows in the footsteps of season one, season two, or something else entirely.

As usual, moderate to severe spoilers below.


High: 8 (3 Dominion)
Equal: 6
Low: 3
Self: 9

Note that all of the times that the Dominion appeared during season three, they were presented in an overpowering way, with even one changeling being equal in power to the Defiant’s crew.

Season three is a different mix again from seasons one and two. Season one focused on high- and low-powered (‘Q and Prime Directive’) adversaries. Season two focused on self and equal (mostly Cardassian) adversaries.

Season three goes back to a more TNG-like mix, in fact almost the exact same mix as TNG seasons six and seven, with the focus on High/Equal/Self instead of High/Low/Self.

This seems to be because DS9 meets with the other major powers much more often than the TNG crew, possibly because TNG is more exploratory, and DS9 is more interested in politics.

It’ll be interesting to see how the remaining seasons compare, especially once the Dominion War starts in earnest.

(0 is less powerful, 1 is about the same, 2 is more powerful, -1 is self)

2 (Defiant vs. The Dominion)
2 (The Dominion)
1 (Klingons)
-1 (Dax)
1 (Cardssians)
0 (one Jem’Hadar)
2 (DS9)
-1 (Dax)
1 (Cardassians)
-1 (Lwaxana)
2 (Time stream)
2 (Time stream)
-1 (Bashir)
-1 (Odo)
2 (Prophecy)
0 (Nagus)
1 (Romulans)
-1 (Bashir)
2 (Mirror)
1 (Tain)
2 (Dominion)
-1 (Sisko & Jake)
-1 (Quark & Family)
0 (Bajorans)
-1 (Jadzia)
1 (One Changeling!)

DS9: The Power of Adversaries, Season 2

Continuing our adversaries series, we’re continuing with DS9. Today we’ll see if the trend which separated DS9 from TNG continues in season 2.

As usual, moderate to severe spoilers below.


High: 3
Equal: 8 (mostly Cardassians)
Low: 6
Self: 9

Season two is a marked departure from ‘Q and Prime Directive’ mix from season one. A plurality of episodes are dealing with the Cardassians, usually in an equal[1] adversary role. We also see an overall plurality of ‘Self’ episodes, as the writers now have enough space[2] to start exploring the characters in some more depth.

Perhaps most interestingly, there are only three stories with extremely powerful adversaries, and two of those are because a small number of crewmembers are up against an entire colony or civilization (The other is the Dominion, but that’ll be a story for a later season).

On a slightly different note, S suggested the following scenario, as an exercise for the reader:

“Riker and Dukat are on Earth, during the early 21st century. They are trying to order a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, but the teenager behind the counter tells them no. Who is the adversary, and what is their power level?”

(0 is less powerful, 1 is about the same, 2 is more powerful, -1 is self)

1 (Cardassians)
1 (Cardassians, and the Bajoran ‘Circle’ has “more firearms than a Galaxy-class starship.”
1 (same as previous two, three-parter)
1 (same number of people as the crew, even though the plot was contrived)
1 (Cardassian politics)
-1 (Bashir, Melora, and low-gravity Ability)
1 (Ferengi negotiating story)
-1 (Odo flashes back and meets Kira, Dukat, and Quark)
-1 (Sisko meets someone…or does he?)
-1 (Resettling gamma quadrant refugees away from Bajor)
0 (con-artist, and ‘luck’)
-1 (Odo and his ‘father’)
2 (less powerful civilization, but trapped and left for dead)
-1 (O’Brien)
0 (colonists/trap)
-1 (character stories, hologram generator)
0 (prime directive story)
1 (Cardassian ship)
0 (40 guards, they have a ship)
0 (Maquis)
0 (Maquis, part II)
-1 (Garak)
2 (mirror universe)
-1 (Bajoran politics)
1 (Cardassia)
2 (3 Jem Hadar ships outmatch one Galaxy-class)

[1]There is considerable analysis suggesting that the Federation/Cardassian war was vary one-sided, at least in space. In the context of this analysis though, starting a new war with Cardassia would create far more problems than it would solve, and therefore the Cardassians get an ‘equal’ ranking.


Differently-Named Atoms: I

1: Most people know it by its colloquial name, ‘Hydrogen‘, but in more formal settings, it is known as ‘Hyllodrogen’. These more formal settings are usually at ISM[1] meetings, where Hyllodrogen wears its classier allotrope, H3+.

2: Similarly, most people are not aware that ‘Helium‘ actually has atoms of multiple genders. The two most common are called ‘Helium’ and ‘Shelium’.

3: ‘Lithium‘ is more properly known as ‘Lilithium'[2], due to its properties of reacting with whichever molecules it wishes, ignoring the restrictions of others. It is postulated that this aggressiveness is what causes its therapeutic effects.

4: ‘Beryllium‘, or ‘Beeryllium’ was made up long ago on a drunken dare, but then was surprisingly discovered to actually exist.

5: ‘Boron‘ and ‘Boroff’ are two sides of the same non-interesting coin. Specifically, not interesting to stars in the main sequence, as they have to wait for cosmic rays to make it.

6: The name ‘Carbon‘ comes from the Latin ‘Carrusbon‘, meaning ‘what is left behind when you burn a vehicle’.

7: ‘Nitrogen‘ was originally dubbed ‘NitroGennifer’, after Daniel Rutherford’s stage name. It is said that his bonding flexibility is only exceeded by that of his namesake.

8: ‘Oxygen‘ was a favourite of the ‘Oxygentry‘, the name for the select group of chemists who did work on the Phlogiston and acids since ancient times.

9: ‘Fluorine‘ is the past participle of ‘Flyrine’, which explains its intense reactivity and corrosiveness.

10: As we reach the foot of the second row of the periodic table, it is only fitting that we mention ‘Neon‘, or ‘Kneeon’, so named because of the bend in early versions of the periodic table, before the discovery of noble gases.

[1]Interstellar Medium.


Dada Science

So, I was talking to G earlier today, after our coaching session, and I was struck by the misheard word: ‘Dada Science’.

I was immediately struck. *Of course!* That’s *exactly* what I try to do!

It’s all about Between. The space between meaning, the difference between art.

But what exactly is Dada? Or Dadaism? As Dadaist Jean Arp is reputed to have said, ‘To be a Dadaist means to be against Dada. Dada equals anti-Dada.’

The following really speaks to me about Dada:

Cubism and the development of collage, combined with Wassily Kandinsky’s theoretical writings and abstraction, detached the movement from the constraints of reality and convention. The influence of French poets and the writings of German Expressionists liberated Dada from the tight correlation between words and meaning.

But what is ‘Dada Science’? Namespace being what it is, there are already two others with a claim to the phrase.

For me, it’s all about helping people get to that space between meaning, where their minds are just a little more open to the possibilities. I quite enjoy being put in that state. Terry Pratchett might have likened it to ‘Thlabber‘, ” a recognised scientific term used by wizards to describe the precise instant during any magical transformation where, after a period of feeling elongated, stretched, altered, or reduced to a single point in the space-time continuum, things have just returned to normal and the subject is feeling the first hints of relief and disorientation.”

Perhaps the space is not created by the stretching, but by the reaction and recovery to the stretching.

Stupid Hackathon Toronto Ideas


Some of you may be familiar with the ‘Stupid Hackathon‘, which I believe was started by Amelia Winger-Bearskin and Sam Lavigne at ITP in New York a few years ago.

(I also know of a San Francisco Stupid Hackathon, hosted by Noisebridge (of course).[1])

Setting aside the issues of privilege and the General Malaise required to make such an event work, I wanted to talk about a similar event happening in Toronto in late May:


– Is this the purchasing of food on margin? Speculating on food ‘Futures’? Or ‘Presents’?
– Is this finally the incarnation of, the sharing economy startup[2] for fractional sandwich ownership? Only time will tell.
– Is this anything like ‘The Food Lift‘?

– How many neurons are required for full reductionism?
– What happens when you only have one neuron? Does it talk to itself?
– If it can talk to itself in multiple ways, is that still turing-complete?
– Do you get one of these by taking the PCA of your Restricted Boltzmann Machine and dropping the 90% least used neurons?

– I think I know what they mean here, and I’m not talking about this topic here.

– Is this about a phase-cloaking video display?
– Perhaps hacking a 6502-based console to run video?
– Perhaps a squadron flying horses in a hurry?
– Thinking about it, what would you need in video for a flying horse? Some type of HUD? Probably something very light.

– I was looking at our new condo building, and what looked like a Red-tailed Hawk was perched on top. I hope we can become friends. They can live to 25 years old in the wild, so it might have been a millenial.
– How would you feed a stooping bird? Would you put food out on a flexible holder a few feet out halfway up a very tall building? Gotta practice that stoop somehow…

– See ‘The Internet of Thins

– Cue ‘Second Life’ references.
– You could talk about player organizations within MMORPGs, but what could you build to actually (not) help them?
– This topic is a pyramid scheme.

– For starfish, of course.
– Or this guy.

– I feel like this would require a considerable amount of calibration for each user
– Alternatively, this could be a hide-and-seek game

– See my post about ‘Beenary’ logic for some ideas on this.

[1]If you’ve never heard of Noisebridge, check out their website! All of the warnings at the top of this post probably apply.

[2]S suggests ‘Sandwich Rental’ for the ultimate experience.

The Line Between Art

Yesterday, we were talking about the line between ‘Art’ and ‘Making’.

Over lunch today, I was talking with A & D, and they raised a couple of (unrelated) questions[1].

1. Yesterday, we had talked about the line between ‘Art’ and ‘Making’. But what about the line between ‘Art’ and ‘Destruction’? Auto-destructive art a reasonably recent example[2], but think about sculpture. In general, sculptures made from stone are just very (sometimes very very) finely controlled destruction.

Is it the intentionality? You could write an essay about the meaning of it, then hit a cube of concrete once with a sledgehammer and call it art. In the right context, that could be very provocative. So, where’s the line? Is it someone trying to make ‘Art’? Is it someone trying to create an emotional response? Because I would argue there are plenty of people who have destroyed things to create an emotional response[3], but that is not art. Is it destruction with the intent to help someone by creating an emotional response? Destroying a prized but hurtful possession can be helpful, but I would argue it is not art. So where’s the line?

2. On a more minor note, they also mentioned the line between graffiti and art. I would argue that a simple tag (especially tagging a mural) is not art. Often, it is vandalism. But when you draw an entire mural of your tag, with shading and curlicues, I would argue that that is art. It may be ‘pop-art’, it is likely still vandalism, but is still art.

So, where is the line here? Is it percentage art vs. percentage vandalism? Is it intentionality? Is it the amount of time spent? In the words of the immortal Duke Nukem, ‘Where is it?’

[1]I always really enjoy hanging out with sysadmins, and people who have been sysadmins in a previous life. They are endlessly fascinated by people and their design (or lack thereof) of complex systems. Complex systems which inevitably try to fly apart at the slightest provocation.

[2]And the first thing to appear when I searched for ‘destructive art’.

[3]I will not enumerate these here. This falls under the category of ‘memes I will not spread’.