Friday, January 18, 2013

A Memory of Light Post Mortem

Two years ago, Jan. 19, 2010, I wrote a note in Google Reader making some general statements and vague predictions of the end of The Wheel of Time. In the original post I mentioned that I'd come back and see how well I did.

Spoiler alert.

As a preliminary matter, obviously everybody has access to umpteen bazillion pages of WoT and could have made similar "predictions" or notes or whatever without actually contributing an original thought to the un-indexed corpus representing the collective thoughts of humanity. But I had enough courage to put some thoughts on paper, so I can take credit where it is due and laugh at my mistakes.

The original list can be found somewhere here:

I've cut and pasted the bullet items with my current responses interlaced:
The Gathering Storm (by Sanderson) made me interested in WoT again. TGS is pretty good, reads quickly (contrast with Knife of Dreams, which should be named Sweet Dreams Dear Reader), and is fun.

I'm not here to put Jordan down. Overall, I liked his work. My enjoyment for TGS was probably due entirely to Jordan's setup. Here's how I see it: Jordan spent the last 20 years lining up dominoes and Sanderson shows up to make them all fall down.

I have some predictions too. Lots of stuff that I want to see happen the way that I think they should. I don't have a reputation for predicting the future, and most of my predictions will probably prove incorrect, but you can stop reading if you are afraid of spoilers.

1. The wheel of time turns and ages come and go... We're going to see stuff from the first book brought back again.

Too vague to respond to, miss. I think I was leaning toward The Eye of the World (the pool of saidin, not the book), but I'll address that soon.

2. Kinslayer knew that the hundred companions screwed up when they touched the bore with saidin. Well, he probably knew once Elan/Ishmael/Moridin brought him back to sanity.

Close enough to a hit. Lesson learned, don't touch the DO with saidin.

3. The pool of saidin at the Eye of the World is the key to sealing the bore. If taint cannot transfer from general saidin to TEoTW, then it should not travel from TEoTW to general saidin. Remake The Eye of the World and use that power to seal the bore. TEoTW cannot be tainted once it is drained.

Not right, but the motivation is similar to the right answer. Half credit? Instead of using TEoTW, Rand used the True Power.

4. There has always been some background desire for Rand to use the choden kal at tarmon gaidon. Ignoring the developments in TGS, callendor is more appropriate for a smaller pooled source like TEoTW.

Miss, no pool was used.

5. "Smaller pool" is relative, TEoTW had enough to nearly burn-out Rand while either Balthamel or Aginor (I forget) was also draining the source.

The True Power, through Callandor, was bigger.

6. Jordan said that Taim is not Demandred. I think this is a red herring, because of course Taim is Demandred.


7. Shadar Logoth was created to fight the shadow, and the events of the cleansing show that it could be effectively used to destroy the shadow. I think we'll see a gollum moment when Padan Fain (who was twisted by Mashadar, Shadar Logoth, associations with the dark one, and a close friendship Michael Jackson) ultimately finding relief when he falls into a volcano with the ring.

Withered on the vine.

8. Moirane will be saved from the tower of Genji in the next book (obvious). I think Lanfear will be saved too.

Cyndane did a BSG reboot via the DO.

9. Lanfear will turn against the shadow. She's offered before, she'll offer again.

Miss. I forget her plea to the Dragon in AMoL, whether she offered to turn or not, but when the chips were down she would have served the DO.

10. Lanfear and Alanna will be Rand's callendor buddies. Alanna will help Lews and Mierin die together. Alanna will also bring Rand back. She is also secondary enough to die during the process.

Wrong, thought Alanna was secondary enough to die.

11. Elan turned to the shadow when he deduced that the shadow would prevail at tarmon gaidon. If he can be convinced that the shadow could be removed from the pattern, and therefore the light can prevail for eternity, then I think he could change teams again.

Moridin was too exhausted to be convinced of anything.

12. Moridin is exhausted. He doesn't have much to live for. When he switches, he brings the True Power with him. This might be useful for excising the shadow.

He didn't so much switch as be tricked, but he did bring the True Power to help excise the shadow.

13. The link between Moridin and Lews is bizarre, and I don't know what to make of it. But it does give Sanderson another option for killing Lews without killing Rand. I prefer the callendor method because it is more consistent with Min's viewing, but I think both are possible and that Rand will survive.

Full credit, and the Alivia thing was a copout made unassailable because it was in the Epilogue written by RJ before his death.

14. Rand will marry all of his lady friends. Elayne, Min, and Aviendha will all get rings. Sanderson obviously cares about the topic—Rand's conflicted inner dialog demonstrates this—and it is super cheesy. I think that given the average LDS, polygamy is preferred to pimpin.

Rand gets all the girls, and they are OK with that.

15. I stopped caring about Old Perrin long ago. B-O-R-I-N-G. There was that horrible book where Perrin chased Faile, and I can't remember anything except when he waterboarded that brown-skinned chap.

ToM had one of the best scenes in the series starring Perrin, redeeming him as a likable character following that one awful book.

16. I've stopped caring about New Mat ever since his personality changed and he started daydreaming about 9-moons. I'd rather see Olver play snakes and ladders than Mat reenter the tower.

TGS Mat was pretty bad, but he got better in ToM and AMoL. FoH better, too.

It has been a month since I read the book, so I've forgotten most of what I wanted to predict. We'll check back in two years to see how close I was.

Overally, not terrible, could have been worse. I think I was relatively close to the mark with the method of resealing the bore. If I had known that Callandor provided for statutory non-consentual channelling assault then I may have been closer to the target.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I haven't published in a while, so here's something to chew on. Expect quick topic changes more suited for a microblogging site:

• Homemade hawaiian pizza, not-yet-cooked. I'm sure it will be delicious!

• I'm breaking the habit of double-spacing after sentences. This was great in the days of typewriters, but no longer. Double spaces were also useful back when writing 5 page papers was difficult. But because I can't be shut up anymore I don't need more spaces in my writing.

• I sold all my Pentax equipment and bought a bunch of Nikon equipment. In a perverse showing of loyalty, I rebought many Pentax lenses under the Tokina name.
The 40/2.8 and 77/1.8 have no peers. Their service has earned top honors and I wish them well in their retirement.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sous Vide

I've been interested in sous vide for about a month now, and I finally got the tools and the nerve to do it. The experience was rewarding because the meat was superb and the cooking was—believe it or not—easy.

First, I found a cooler at Costco for $25. You'll probably have one of these around the house. Costco also sells good meat, so I bought 3 pounds of USDA Choice flank steak.

Flank steak is hard to cook normally. I've burned my share of these. Usually I'd butterfly the steak so that there isn't much meat left in the center, so that it cooks a little easier. None of this is necessary with sous vide.

Instead, I seasoned the steak as per usual, and then I rinsed the salts off and dried the steak with paper towels. Then we put the steaks into gallon-size ziplock bags. We used the immersion technique, and some massaging to get all the air out.

The next step is to put the meat in the cooler full of 134ºF water for 3 hours. We could have cooked for less time, but we decided to do 3 hours to be safe because this was our first attempt.

Maintaining the temperature while waiting is pretty easy. I put about 120 cups of water into the cooler to begin with. The formula for raising the temperature is to heat a 15-cup pot full of water to 10 times the desired change in temperature. So if my cooler is at 132º and I wanted 134º, then the difference is 2º and I'd need to heat 15 cups to 152º, and then remix the water. I hope that makes sense. To be clear, I took 15 cups of water from the cooler, heated it on the stove, and then recombined the water into the cooler.

The cooler normally drops temperature at approximately 1º every 30 minutes. As luck would have it my cooler was positioned in the sunlight and actually maintained perfect temperature for the entire two hours. However, when the steaks were introduced the temperature dropped and I needed to add more heat a few times fairly quickly, but that period passed and the following period was maintenance-free. So it was even easier than I expected.

When the steaks are cooked, we pulled them out and dried them off. Rob seared the steaks in an iron skillet using clarified butter. Chris cooked some fantastic spinach and veggies. Nealon played on the porch in the sunlight. Nicole slept. Perfect.

The flavor was really good. This method of cooking can be extremely easy, especially once you develop a process. As the summer months come, I'm sure that temperature can be regulated by opening and closing the blinds.

Natasha helped clean up. I think we ended up using every utensil and pan in the house, and we had to run the dishwasher twice that day. The guys are good at keeping clean while they worked, but Natasha deserves special mention for all of her hard work.

Thanks to everybody who participated! And thank you to the scientist-chef who invented the technique. Please try it yourself too, it is easier than it appears.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I use Google Reader to plow through RSS feeds. I used to share a bunch of stuff, so that if you hooked-in to my shared feed you could see the stuff that I liked the most on the internet. It was fun, even though I'm pretty sure that nobody read my shared feed.

Starting in about December, Google Reader began collecting all the junk that other people liked and creating their own top stories feeds. Which made my shared feed completely worthless, because very rarely would I find something that I liked that wasn't also duplicated on the customized feeds. My shared items are merely a subset of Google's shared items. Their list is better. Nobody in their right mind would look to my feed for entertainment when they could take from Google. So there isn't much point in having me pick and choose favorite content.

There isn't much joy in discovering "new" content if Google is parked right next door with a bigger and better list of discoveries.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Camera Update

I've been geeking out with my photos lately. I'll show some of the more interesting results.

First, I was curious as to how I actually use my zoom lens. A zoom lens is one that can change field of view, meaning that you can zoom in on stuff. Most of my lenses are the opposite, called prime lenses, and they give you one field of view and cannot change.

Back to the zooms. I searched for all images that used my Pentax DA* 50-135mm f2.8 lens, and then from those I computed the number of shots taken at each field of view. I knew that I hit the stops on the wide and narrow ends more than I used the middle, but this tells me more exactly what I actually do. Here's the chart:

62% of my shots were at 50mm or 135mm. That is a whole lot. Depending on your point of view, this either means that I should stick to primes or that 38% percent of the time I like the flexibility of the zoom. Or you could say that even if I used the zoom at one extent or the other, it is like having two primes mounted on my camera, giving me a great deal of flexibility. Or you could say that I'm a fool, because I use the most compromised positions on my lens (things in the middle are better optimized, see Feynman's story on plastic gearing).

Next, we take a peek at which lenses I'm shooting most. The gray/black pies are lenses which I've sold for one reason or another. The colored slices are in my current bag. This graph doesn't account for my preferences over time. I've only had the DA 35mm f2.8 for a year, and it is already catching up to the 50mm.

Last, I compiled some data on which apertures I use the most. This is a neat graph.

This one is neat for a few reasons.
First, you can see my favorite apertures right off the bat! f8.0 makes any lens look good. And most of my lenses are full-open at f2.8, so that one gets a lot of action. f1.4 is the max for the 50mm, and it gets used a lot too.
Second, this graph shows the difficulty in making meaningful graphs. Not all ranges in the graph are equivalent. The ranges could have been made equivalent. I could have made buckets the size of one stop, or made each bucket contain the same number of shots and had the range indicate preference. Maybe a scatter plot would make more sense. Maybe a hybrid scatter plot could indicate the number of occurrences at each point. And so on.
Third, the data shows a number of shots at f27-f38. Which is weird because I don't think anything I own goes beyond f22. So the whole thing could be fake anyway.

Lastly, I got a new camera yesterday. The Pentax K20D is here to replace my K10D. I put my K10D up for sale at my work's version of craigslist and got a buyer within minutes. Yay.

Keep your eye out for future shots at ISO 3200 and occasionally ISO 6400. Or maybe some 21fps sequences. It is gonna be awesome.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cell Phone

As a rule, as time progresses technology becomes cheaper and easier.

But not with cell phones.

My first cell phone was purchased in Germany for 100DM (about $50). It didn't come with a contract, all the grocery stores sold prepaid cards, it was easy to use and cheap. I love cheap stuff. Text messaging cost about 2¢, you only paid to send text (free to receive), and I could make a prepaid card last for a long time because I didn't talk much. This plan made texting the cheapest and preferred option. Further, ICQ could send messages for free from the internet to a cell phone, and nobody would pay. The transition from landlines to reasonably priced cell phones was liberating and reasonably-priced.

When I came back to the states, I bought a phone with a 1-year contract for $30/mo. Texting cost $0.10 to send and $0.10 to receive. Because my minutes were plentiful, it actually cost more to text than it would to make a phone call. The phone was free with contract. ICQ would not send text to this phone for free.

My next phone cost $200 and came with a 1-year contract. Ouch.

My next phone was $200 with a $100 rebate (which I forgot to send) and came with a 2-year contract. The monthly price for the minimum minutes went up to $40.

My current phone was $70 after rebate. The outside LCD screen broke within two months of regular use. I'm not a brute, I treat my stuff nice. In fact, when I sold a bunch of DVDs to Amoeba Music in Berkeley, the dealer told me that I take really good care of my stuff and they would like to see me come back to sell more stuff. I think the phone must be prone to breakage and was a design flaw flowing from cost-savings and corner-cutting. The message is clear—I should have paid more for a better phone.

What's worse is that I chose my phone by-the-numbers, using a scheme that didn't work. My phone has the biggest battery I could find. I like to charge my phone once per week. But instead of using a big battery to extend standby life, my new phone uses 3G, which apparently uses the bigger battery to power more frequent and intense bursts of energy-draining communication with the cell towers. Despite my large battery, my battery life is less than ever. And if I accidentally hit the GPS button (which I don't pay to enable), the phone will die within hours doing a service that doesn't benefit me.

These days, modern phones are internet enabled. But, true to form, the prices have gone up yet again. Now you have to buy an internet plan in addition to a voice plan. The internet plan runs around $40/mo, which rivals the price of my home internet plan. Ouch. I don't pay for this option either.

If I could, I would turn back the clock to 2001 and use the cell phones and cell phone plans of that era. The service was stellar, the prices cheap, and the phones were a little bulky but useful.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Open Letter to Yogurt Makers

Make containers that don't explode when opened.