Friday, March 16, 2018

Monthly Finance Post

This was supposed to be done yesterday, I ended up writing volumes on things only tangentially related to anything.  Thus you get the short version.  Short version:

Everything has left me behind enough on the non-monthly bills that second instances are rolling around with the first still unpaid and round about now (perhaps yesterday) that means I'm about $1,280, give or take, behind on such bills.

I'll be able to cover $286 of that leaving $994ish

These are not the bills that will get me slapped with late fees or ruin my credit score.  These are the bills that I have way more leeway on but also carry much higher stakes.  These are the "I'll lose the house if I don't (eventually) pay it" bills, but also the "Provided I actually pay it, there's not going to be penalties for being three months late" bills.

The uncertainty is good in so far as it was because of said-uncertainty that I wasn't doomed last December.  The uncertainty is bad in that it's very very stressful not knowing if the breaking point will come today, or this week, or this month.


A persistent thought that won't get out of my head is what it would take to actually get clear of everything.  Via my Patreon I'm finally making as much regular monthly non-SSI income as they think I've been making all along.  That means that, in theory, outside of major unforeseen disasters (like my boiler, which I call a furnace, breaking) I should be able to be in a place where I never need to depend on desperately begging for help again.

So, I can't stop thinking about what it would take to get to that place.  The answer isn't particularly pretty.

Ten thousand dollars.  Ten thousand dollars, more or less, and all at once.

Wipe out all of my debt beyond my low interest student loans in one fell swoop thus not allowing it to build itself back up, pay off the ~$1,000 I'm currently behind, catch up on the two-ish months of saving for the next non-monthly that I should have been doing but haven't had the actual luxury of doing.

It is at once impossibly out of reach and tantalizingly close.  When the boiler broke it took $6,000 dollars to replace it and that money materialized literally overnight.  That makes it seem close.  Yet there is absolutely nothing I could possibly do to get $10,000.

Yet I can't stop thinking that there must, somehow, be some way.  Won't God damned leave me alone.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The shape of things to come, one hopes.

No secret that I haven't been on top of things lately.  As an example: last night my depression got bad in a way that it hasn't in so long I don't remember.  Spent a lot of time laying down, crying, and hiding from the light.

Finance problems are scaring me.  Until my debt is gone I'll never be completely on top of things, but at the moment I'm not even in the same vicinity as on top of things.  The internet thing isn't close to being resolved.  In spite of it looking like my service was suspended because I was behind on my my bills, my account has been closed outright.  So I need a new account, probably with a provider that doesn't close my account without telling me.  (And the money spent to get up to date would have been better allocated to paying other bills I'm behind on, but it's too late for that.)

Inspiration hasn't exactly been striking.


Still, I have something that kind of, sort of, vaguely resembles a plan:

This part is the same as it's always been:
 • I'm going to try to get back to the myriad things that have been left to languish.  From transformative work like Edith and Ben, Skewed Slightly to the Left, and the various Kim Possible stuff, to original work like The Princess Story, the super hero verse, four realms, Ash, and such.

That's been the plan for ages.  I think we all know how well it's gone.  Which is why there are other parts of the plan.

• Other than Stumbling Toward Redemption, which is still stuck at just the one chapter, I've been left with impression that no one here is interested in My Little Pony or Equestria Girls stuff.  That's understandable as Stumbling is most definitely way better than anything else I've done in that arena.

There are places elsewhere on the internet, though, where there are those who want infinite variations on Equestria Girls stories that was lackluster in the first place.  That's encouraging and I've written some stuff in such places.  I should probably port it over here even though I worry about driving away the three people who still read my stuff here.  (In part because it really is infinite variations on the same thing.  Mostly the 2013 Equestria Girls Holiday Special.)

• The various changes made to blogger over the years have left the formatting on a lot of the old posts downright atrocious.  I need to go through them and fix that, and so long as I'm doing that I can do two things.  One is the years overdue overhaul of the indexes and navigation.

Another is that as as I fix the formatting and such, I can call your attention to the older posts and maybe you'll find something which you like and haven't seen before.

• If one takes a look at my wishlist it will be quickly noticed that every other thing is a lego set.  I like legos, I like building, and I've been considering doing a posts about that.

• I used to do more posts concerned with photography and image manipulation and I can do that again.

• I feel like that wasn't it, but I have no idea what else I might have been thinking.


• Right, I want to reboot my decons.  I was actually looking at the first episode of Kim Possible again immediately before I started writing this.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

An Introduction to Math, by chris the cynic, Part 1: One to one correspondence, sheep, natural numbers, and addition thereof.

[This is also what happens when I have no internet.  Written at the same time as the volumes on exponentiation, but given much less attention.]

We don't know what the first math was.

I don't have the internet right now, so I can't check if crows or gorillas or such can do math.  Whether or not other extant animals can, you know that earlier hominids would have had it in them, and modern humans were around for a very long time before they started writing things down.  The result is that extensive, if informal, mathematics had been worked out before writing was a thing.

It's worth distinguishing “math” from “numbers”.  It's really easy to work out what the first number was.  It was one.
I have one cat.
I have one pair of pears.
I have one set of dishes.
I have one deck of cards.
I have one flock of sheep.
I have one pile of Legos
I have one . . . empty fucking space where my stuff was supposed to be!
Anything, no matter how numerous or vacuous, can be described as one collection.

You can always have a group, a portion, an amount, or a lack.*

That, however, isn't math.  It's just a number.  It doesn't tell us what the first math was.

One theory is that the beginning was 1 to 1 correspondence.  That can easily be used to keep track of things without any formal understanding of anything.

It goes like this:

I tally my sheep by putting rocks in my pouch:
I have one sheep, I put a rock in my pouch.
I have another sheep, I put another rock in my pouch.
I have one last sheep, I put another rock in my pouch.
I check on my sheep using the rocks in my pouch:
One rock.  One sheep.
Another rock.  Another sheep.
The only number used is “one”, which we've already discussed is basically a gimme, yet it can be scaled to any number of sheep (or other discrete things) it is possible to have.  (It is not possible to have infinite sheep or one over pi sheep.)

You do need to be aware that if a sheep dies you must take a rock out, and if a sheep is born you must put a rock in.  With those considerations taken care of, it allows you to make sure you've got your whole flock even if there are too many for you to keep track of in your head and you cannot count.

One to one correspondence isn't just the math of sheep and stones.  It's also the math of tally marks.  This lends itself nicely to the creation of the natural numbers.

You give names to certain collections of tally marks.  One tally mark is called “one”, for that only makes sense.  You look upon “││” and call it “two”.  You look upon “│││” and call it “three”.

You can keep on going forever, but without a system it would be hard to keep track of all those names.  We'll get back to that later.  For now, regardless of names, the key point is that we've got all of the natural numbers (we have the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . .}).

We haven't defined any operations yet.  The numbers just sit there.

The basic operations are pretty easy to figure out.  Addition, in particular, comes very naturally.

You take two and put it next to three.  Then count up the tally marks or make a new, combined, tally with one mark for each mark in the two individual tallys.

││+│││ = │││││

Congratulations you just learned that 2 + 3 = 5.

It's also plainly clear that x + y = y + x.  .  You don't even need to redraw the marks to change one to the other, just scratch out the plus after the first x marks and stick one in after the first y marks.  So points for discovering commutative property as well.

The associative property is likewise easy to demonstrate.  It doesn't matter where you insert a “+” or parentheses, the number of tally marks doesn't change.

It's worth noting that we don't get any new numbers here.  Addition, on its own, is fully capable of giving us more numbers.  Infinity plus one of them, in fact.  But to do that we need to have a negative number and we have not yet reached that point.

Thus far everything is simple and intuitive, and honestly I'm just stringing words together now because I kind of stopped writing this after the first sentence of the previous paragraph so the content sort of ran out.

Still, it seems like if I'm going to post this I should have some sort of ending.  Not sure what that should be though.  See you next time, if such a thing exists.

- -
- - -
- -

* The last part, “a lack”, does get resistance.  People don't generally dispute that 0 =  1 × 0, so they don't dispute that zero is one zero and their objection isn't mathematical in nature, but the idea that nothing, in the abstract, can be said to be one [thing] does get resistance even when that [thing] is a collection with nothing in it.

That's . . . not a major problem for us right now, but it is worth noting that (modern) mathematics is built upon a foundation of set theory and the set with nothing in it is precisely one set.  It's also monumentally important.  It's usually written as “{}”, “Ø”, or “ø”.  It is called “the null set” or “the empty set”.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

On the definition of exponentiation 1 (chris the cynic complains about something that isn't actually a problem and most people don't care about)

(This is what happens when I have no internet.  Post brought to you by Dunkin' Donuts free wi-fi.)

I've never really liked the way exponentiation is defined.

You start out with whole numbers, and that makes things easy.

Multiplication is repeated addition. “a * b” is “a” added to itself “b” times. (Which is also “b” added to itself “a” times.)

Exponentiation is repeated multiplication. “ab” is “a” multiplied by itself “b” times.

You move onto the rational numbers, then the real numbers.

Multiplication stays fairly straightforward. In fact, in an axiomatic approach, multiplication is one of the things we take as so basic that it's a given.

Exponentiation becomes “to determine the value of x to the y evaluate the natural logarithm at x, multiply the result by y, and evaluate the exponential function at that result.”

If this isn't setting off your “What the fuck?” alarms, it probably means you've already taken this class.

I say again: The expression xy is supposed to be “x multiplied by itself y times” and therefore to find out what xy is you evaluate a function, which has nothing to do with multiplication, at x, then multiply by y, and finally plug the result into another function that has nothing to do with multiplication.

Now, there is a reason for this. Two actually.

Before I state the reasons, let me convert that into a more mathy and less wordy form.

xy = exp(y*ln(x))

Now, onto the two reasons why that's the definition of xy.

The first is that the math checks out and it works just fine.

Specifically, the two functions are inverses so “xy = exp(ln(xy))” is definitely true (provided both sides of the equation actually exist), and the natural logarithm has the property that “ln(xy)=y*ln(x)” which means that the equality from the definition holds.

More importantly, we can solve it.

How is that more important than it being true?

We can make up infinite things that are equal to xy, but most of them don't help us answer the question of what xy actually is. This does.

We know the exponential. We know the natural logarithm. We know how to multiply. Thus converting “xy” to “exp(y*ln(x))” has changed something we didn't know how to solve (raising a number to an arbitrary power) to three things we do know how to solve.

So, that's why we do it. First off it's true, second it's useful.

For what it's worth, this is usually written as “xy = ey*ln(x)”.

So . . . “e”.

e is a very special number. For the moment, that matters to us not a bit. What matters is that “exp(1) = e” and, because the functions are inverses, “ln(e) = 1”.

So if you set the x in the “xy” we've been using equal to e, you get:
ey = exp(y*ln(e)) = exp(y*1) = exp(y)

That's what justifies converting “exp([ ])” to “e[ ]”. We can't, however, start with that. ex is undefined until we define it using the exponential function, so we need the exponential function first. Once we define it, though, it's equal to the exponential function and can be used to stand in for it.

So “xy = exp(y*ln(x))”, usually written as “xy = ey*ln(x)”, undeniably works and it happens to be useful. It lets us solve xy for arbitrary values of y. But do a little comparison.

As previously noted, multiplication, our “repeated addition”, is so simple and basic we take it as a given. Exponentiation, our “repeated multiplication”, is so complex and exotic we have to invent two functions just to solve basic equations. And not just any functions. Difficult functions.

Difficult enough that my word processor (I'm not composing this online since I have no internet right now, that said my html-fu likely wouldn't be up to the task either) can't actually show what ln(x) is equal to.

So I'm going to have to use words instead of symbols. You take the integral of one over t dt. My word processor can show that (admittedly badly, but it can do it): “ʃ1/t ∂t”. Then you evaluate that integral from one to x. The result is ln(x).

Or, to put it another way, you have to invent fucking calculus before you can even begin to understand the definition of xy.

You have to invent calculus, integrate a function that resists simple integration, and when you've done that you're still only halfway there.

The exponential function doesn't exist yet. We can't just say it's ewhatever either, because that's not defined until we've created the exponential function.

So first you invent calculus. Then integrate one over t dt from one to x and call the result ln(x). Then you determine the inverse of the function ln(x) and call it exp(x).

Then, finally, you look at the number whose value you're trying to determine, xy. You evaluate ln(x) at that particular x, multiply it by that particular y, and take the exponential of the whole damn thing.

And only then do you know what xy means.

‧ ‧ ‧

And that is why I don't like the way exponentiation is defined.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Hugely important meta post

I'm coming to you over a Dunkin Donuts free wifi because my internet is out.  This has led to me discovering that I can't log into my account with the provider which means I don't know why my internet is out.

In spite of the fact that logging into the account gives access to no confidential information whatsoever, and the worst someone breaking in could possibly do is pay my bill with their own money, if the password isn't changed within the prescribed amount of time the account becomes inaccessible.  This being an account that I use only once every several months because it's only useful for paying the bill and the bill is structured so that you make one payment for several months of service.

It is possible, even likely, that in the hectic efforts to keep my house from becoming unlivable I forgot to pay the bill, became delinquent, and got my service yanked.  There are other possible explanations too.  I can't find out because I can't get back in.  In theory it should be easy to update the password, but the security question answers aren't working. It's possible that this is because of some character restrictions (compare "one two three" "one_two_three" "OneTwoThree" and so forth.  Sometimes knowing the answer isn't enough) which I wouldn't know because it doesn't tell me what the problems are.

And the questions would have been made over a decade ago, because: fuck.


Anyway, here's why it's hugely important.  I have no idea when I'll have internet again.  Even if I manage to get into the account, if it turns out to be a matter of having missed bills then I'm kind of fucked because I don't have money.

As mentioned elsewhere, all of the oil bullshit left me about $900 behind on other bills.  The good news is that unlike oil there's not set deadline when if I don't have it everything goes to hell and I lose my house.  The bad news is that sometimes not knowing is more stressful.

There comes a point where I stop getting slack and am forced out of my house.  I never know when that point is on these kinds of bills.  At least the oil is pretty straightforward.  The oil runs out, it takes about two nights in a row for the boiler to freeze and break and destroy itself.  If that happens its over.

When your landlord is your family, how long before you get kicked out?  I know that my mom's boyfriend is pushing hard and always for her to kick me out and sell the house even when I'm completely on time.  Now I'm late, and not just a day or two, with about nine hundred dollars.  When does she conclude I can't pay ever and give in?


Best case, in a day or two I make a post saying that it was a problem with my router or some such, and everything's good.

Worst case it turns out I was behind on my bills, I can't pay them, I don't have internet in the foreseeable future, all future posts are from Dunkin Donuts or other places with free wi-fi, and that means I never have an interesting post in that same forseeable future.


Really short version: this place might go dark and not light up again for a long time.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Why "precursor" tech is so advanced

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.  Another cut and paste of a comment.]
[There are a lot of settings where ancient technology is way more advanced than present stuff.  Not a "Roman Empire compared to Dark Ages" difference, more like a "hyperdrive as compared to walking barefoot" one.]
[This is the best explanation I can come up with.]

"Why would ancient technology be better than the stuff in cutting edge R&D labs that build off the best ideas our university system can come up with?"

And, once again, she looked at me as though I were the stupidest thing to ever be created in four universes.

"Ok, let me explain this in a way that you can understand. Everything ends, right? The mindless entertainment you watch, planets, stars, galaxies, so forth. It all has a finite lifespan and at the end it's kaput and anyone who hasn't gotten a new job at the next inane series to be pumped out of Enterprop* Megacorp, or a house on a new planet in a new solar system that's part of a new galaxy, well . . . they all go kaput with it.

"Follow so far?"

I nodded yes, then realized there was seemed to be a key problem with this line of reasoning, "What does that even have to do with--"

"Haven't you ever wondered what happens when there's nowhere new to go? The expansion of the universe is speeding up, not slowing down. The same amount of energy spread over more and more space even as ever greater quantities are converted from usable to entropy.

"The universe is ending. Not today or tomorrow, but as time goes on the one inescapable fact is that eventually this will all come to a close. The final curtain call, the actors, bow, and the heat death of the universe is a done deal."

I tried to counter, "Which has fuck all do do with stuff that ought to be dug up by archaeologists instead of--"

I failed.

"It has everything to do with it," she said, her voice just below a shout. "What the Hell do you think people faced with the end of everything, and armed with trillions of years of scientific progress, would do? Lay down and die?"

"I thought your whole point was that the end was unavoidable."

"The end of the universe, sure, but you don't have to stay there and take it," she said, again as if I were unforgivably stupid. "Well maybe you do, but they didn't."

I had a question, "Didn't you slip into the wrong tense?"

She had an answer, "No." It was followed by an elaboration, "With no future, but science on a level that makes current concepts of magic blush, they went to the one place they knew they could live out their days without ever having to worry about the lack of future. They went to the past."

"Isn't that reaching just a bit--"

"Nope," she said. "Why do you think we find ruins so old that we can't account for the beings that created them even evolving in time to create them? Why have I dug up weaponry based on singularity sheering from under the layers with the spear and arrow heads?"

"Because your grasp of stratigraphy is limited, you excavation lacks finesse, you tell rigor to go--"

"Because the so-called 'precursors' are actually our successors and so every advancement we make now has already been incorporated into their technology."

I distilled my response into three words, "Not buying it."

"And that is why you fail," she said.


* Is it entertainment? Is it propaganda? Why not both? With the latest intellectual properties from Enterprop Megacorp you'll be sure to be distracted from your soul crushing life and left thinking the right thoughts. Only officially approved and guaranteed-engrossing ideas go into our work so that only the best right-thinking and satisfaction comes out of it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Where are the space dragons?

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[In a better world this would be edited, polished, improved, and so forth.  In this one I'm just copying and pasting some comments.]

Watch something like Legend of Voltron and you quickly notice that it heavily revolves around space elves and the magic-based technology they have constructed. This even though there are only three and a half known space elves remaining in the universe.

This is a good thing as elves are too often relegated to eternally medieval settings.

But there should be everyone else too. The space orcs and space ents other than Groot and space dwarves, and space . . . everything.

Which brings us to my usual example of choice: space dragons.

Imagine that a crew of salvagers finds a seemingly abandoned ship that seems to be promising some very valuable materials. They board the ship and find that the interior design is massive. The rooms, the halls, the doors, everything is huge. They consider that this ship could have once belonged to giants, but it slowly dawns on them that this is a dragon's ship.

It's not abandoned --the dragon is just taking one of those long dragon naps, the readings that brought them there were the dragon's horde, and they really should get out before the dragon wakes lest the dragon dispose of them as thieves.

And then the question becomes what do dragons horde. A generic space dragon might horde materials used in the production of electronic components (gold and copper and such) or as space craft hulls, as these things all seem valuable for space faring cultures and dragons are known for wanting wealth they can touch (credits that exist only on a computer are for plebeians, not the grand and mighty dragons.)

A space dragon in Star Trek would surely horde dilithium.

There's also, though, the possibility that a larger scale means larger things. One could imagine a dragon hording space ships. With an entire universe to expand into, dragon owned planets are probably more likely than not. Having more than one planet in one's horde would be difficult without the proper portal/teleportation technology because dragons tend to like one central stash.


The thing is, dragons are often intelligent beings that might talk philosophy with you before eating you, so of course they can have a space faring culture.

And yet . . . space dragons, where are they?


Photon noted:
In general dragon don't seem that much into building stuff in normal fantasy either.

I responded:

Dragons aren't much into building things, but surely they can commission. I mean, the night sky is full of jewels, and they'd want to get in on that even if it meant somewhat undragonish dealings.

Since dragons tend to be solitary, once their hatchlings are old enough they get dropped off on nice inhabitable planets rather than kept on the ship. Since inhabitable planets are useful and dragons have long lifespans, eventually something will happen.

Underling: Sir, there's a dragon outside!
Overling: Um . . . what?
Underling: Apparently this land belongs to it.
*Overling mentally calculates odds of surviving disputing the claim*
*Overling determines that the land belongs to the dragon whether legitimately or not*
Overling: Dragons claim all this . . . stuff, take a nap for five hundred years, and then get angry when someone builds a colony. Would it have killed it to post a sign?
Underling: I asked. It said, 'Dragons don't do signs.'
Overling: Well what does it want.
Underling: It demands tribute.
Overling: I swear, if it wants a human sacrifice--
Underling: It wants a space ship.
Overling: What does a dragon want with a space ship?
Underling: I asked that too, sir, it said, 'To sail space, what else?'
*Overling sighs*
Overling: How big is this dragon?
Underling: Too big for any of our ships.
Overling: It understands that it takes time to build a custom space ship, yes?
*Underling nods*
Overling: Fine. Tell the dragon that we will acquiesce to it's demand for tribute, provided that it personally explains to the entire colony, its claim and chosen reparation.
Overling: (under breath) Because I'm sure as fuck not telling everyone that their income for the forseeable future will be docked on account of needing to build a space ship for a dragon.

And then you've got another dragon on a space ship.


I can also totally imagine a dragon keeping some humanish people around because the space ship has a lot of small parts and the robots kept breaking down (and the robots have even smaller parts.) Though that is not even close to my first thought.


Photon had also noted the idea of dragons hoarding planets ("This star seems to be orbited by 132 planets in orbits that are definitely not natural"), the idea of dragons hoarding celestial objects led to this exchange:

It wasn't until significantly later that it was discovered that the star rich clusters surrounding galactic-center black holes were not, as previously believed, a function of natural galactic formation but rather the hordes of particularly large dragons.
Do you mean the 'hoards' of large dragons, or are these hordes of dragons able to transform into stars? I'll happily accept either version :)
I will never forget when I accidentally invented "one word currency".