27 June 2009

Mea Idiota

You'd think that I would remember that, if I can't find one of the cats and if I've had the garage open at some point during the day to check the garage in the initial panicked sweep. Last night Jilly didn't come to say good night (or, more accurately, come to demand I pet her before I go to bed), so I started looking for her. She wasn't in any of her favorite sleeping spots. I banged on the upstairs floor, since there are places where the cats can get into the space between upstairs floor and downstairs ceiling, but she still didn't come out. I thought maybe she'd gotten out of the house without me seeing, and wandered outside with a flashlight frantically calling her name. Nothing. Once or twice I'd think I heard a faint 'meow', but then I'd decided I imagined it.

I was convinced that she couldn't possibly be in the garage because I was certain I'd seen her inside the house after I'd shut the garage up again. Now, bear in mind that it was even less likely that she was in the freezer or the refrigerator, and I did look in both of those places. I suspect I was too tired to think clearly. I also suspect that it was Dovienya I'd seen in the house, but only out of the corner of my eye, and that I'd mistaken her for Jilly. So then this morning I woke up, thinking at least somewhat more clearly, and went to check the garage. Yup. There she was. She was probably hungry and thirsty, but otherwise just fine. So now she's happily sleeping in the cat tree.

Meanwhile, I got about four hours of sleep, plus about an hour's nap after I finally found her and could relax. I did not drive to IF for taiji, as I figured there was a greater than 50% chance of my sleep-impairment causing a wreck. When I woke up after the extra hour, it also dawned on me that my car was nearly empty of gas, and I doubt I would have been awake enough to notice it before I left. So if I hadn't caused a wreck, I probably would have run out of gas somewhere in the middle of no where and had to call someone for a ride.

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25 June 2009

Looking for Group - Boom de Yada

I actually ran across this comic through the tv tropes wiki. It was a link to an example of a character type, and I no longer remember the name of the character type. I do remember that the dwarf character was considered a "rare female example", and that it was a very boisterous kind of character.

At any rate, Looking for Group is quite entertaining. Imagine a party made up of an evil undead warlock, a neutral half-orc and her foster-father minotaur, and a perfectly good elf who reminds me rather a lot of Corporal Carrot. Anyway, I just had to post a link to the comic's version of "Boom de Yada". And here's a sample panel:

That's Richard, the evil undead warlock, singing. He also has a pet rabbit, and thinks of nurseries as all-you-can-eat buffets.

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22 June 2009


I just discovered that one of Chang's Garden's Calamari appetizers is actually gluten-free. It's called "salt and pepper squid". This name is misleading, unless you think "pepper = jalapeño pepper". It's a bit spicy, but it's quite good. It's also fried in what I think is a corn starch batter. It was too spicy for my mom. I thought it was a pleasantly warm amount of spice. And the flavor was excellent.

AM ADDENDUM: Actually, the "appetizer" is large enough that if you just ordered some rice on the side, and maybe a bit of sweet and sour sauce, there would be plenty for a meal.

I also forgot to mention that the other calamari on the menu, labeled "fried calamari", is not gluten free. I'm not really sure why they can't just use the same coating, but apparently they don't.

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21 June 2009

If I Only Were a Bot...

Quantum Artificial Lifeform Manufactured for Logical Exploration and Assassination

Get Your Cyborg Name

I could while away the hours,
shootin' at the flowers
Thinkin' deadly thoughts.
And my knife I'd be filin' while
my plans kept on compilin'
If I only were a bot.

Original Lyrics

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Depressive Stigmas

What happens if I don't take my medication? I turn into a zombie. Everything turns flat, it seems almost as if things lose their color, like all the colors fade. I feel like my body weighs so much that I can't even hold my shoulders up. I become lethargic - I can't get myself to do anything. I don't feel sad; I feel nothing. Empty, blank, flat. Great things can happen, but they don't make me happy. Awful things can happen, but they don't make me sad.

What happens when I take my medication? I'm myself again. The medication doesn't make me feel happy; it makes me feel. With the medication, my emotions come back; I can feel happy or sad. I enjoy it when things are going well; I get sad or angry when they go poorly.

~MarkCC @ Good Math, Bad Math

I seem to have made it through my bout with depression, amazingly without the aid of pharmaceuticals. Some would say that makes me "better" than people who need the pharmaceuticals; I would say it makes me damned lucky. I've talked to people who actually think that all you need to do if you're depressed is "snap out of it." It's obvious that such people have never, ever suffered from genuine depression. They've had the "oh, I'm a bit down today" variety.

In my case, I was able to keep functioning through sheer effort of will, but I didn't give much of a damn about anything. The place where this manifested most obviously was in getting bills paid. I would know that the bill was sitting there, that I had the money in my checking account to pay for it, that the checkbook was under the bill...and I could not motivate myself to get up and do anything about it. I managed to push through that often enough to avoid losing anything other than cable...mainly because none of the other companies were as ridiculously uptight about late payments as the cable company. One of the signs that the depression was lifting was when I would sit down almost immediately after receiving a bill and get it paid.

Here's the thing, though. I didn't use pharmaceuticals, but I did use a meditation practice. Meditation has been shown to alter brain states. Instead of taking a drug to alter my brain chemistry, I adopted a practice that would do so. I tended to keep with practices that seemed to improve the condition, but it was largely a matter of trial and error. I can't see how that is "better" than using a pharmaceutical to achieve the same effect. Such a practice is a major time commitment, and has to be done everyday if you want to keep receiving benefits. The pharmaceuticals are a hefty monetary commitment instead, and have to be ingested everyday to receive benefits. Which have you got more of, time or money? And do you have enough patience to give a meditative practice time to work?

I do think there are further benefits to a meditation practice, particularly one that utilizes physical meditations like taiji and yoga, and I do think everyone could benefit from such practices. But I am not about to tell someone who is so depressed that he/she can't get out of bed to go do yoga asanas. Pharmaceuticals would be a much better option at that point. Maybe, maybe, after the pharmaceuticals have helped enough, such a practice might reduce dependence on them, but, then again, it might not. Whether it's worth trying is entirely up to the person who is suffering.

In my case, since the meditation practice works for me, I prefer to rely on that. It doesn't require a doctor's visit or a prescription. It does require a strong commitment to the practice. Most people who are depressed wouldn't be able even to contemplate such a commitment. When I began it, my goal was to keep it up for 36 days straight, and that was all. Just 36 days. I did not expect to make it through those 36 days, but it gave me a goal to concentrate on. Rather to my amazement, I made it through 36 days, then 108, and I've just passed the 900 day mark. That's 25 cycles of 36 days, when I didn't honestly expect to make it through a single cycle of 36 days. I've even expanded the practice since then. But, that's me. That's not going to work for everyone, any more than a single pharmaceutical remedy is going to work for everyone. It helps that I'm a touch obsessive-compulsive and have a fascination with numbers, so that counting the days actually served to motivate me when I began. Now I still keep track of the numbers, but it's more a matter of interest than of motivation.

But what if that hadn't worked for me? What if I hadn't lucked into a practice sufficient to keep me sane? I don't know. Best case scenario, I think, would be that I wound up on some sort of pharmaceutical. Worst case? I don't think I would have suicided, as the only time I felt suicidal it was ginger-induced*, but I might have gotten to the point of not giving a damn about anything, including the job that pays my bills, or the cars coming on a street I needed to cross, or... One way or another, the situation would have gotten worse and worse.

*I've determined that if I'm perfectly awake and healthy, ginger just makes me a touch sleepy. If I'm already tired, ginger makes me feel depressed. If I'm already depressed, it can make me feel suicidal. I no longer cook with ginger.

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20 June 2009

Happy Solstice

Despite Pocatello having flash flood warnings and record amounts of rain (more than 3 inches so far in June; normal is about 1 inch), the first day of summer is upon us. Click on the picture to see APOD's blurb about it.

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19 June 2009

Darths and Droids

Fibonacci showed me this comic a while back, and it didn't catch my interest. Then he showed it to me again recently, and either it was on a better segment or I was in a different sort of mood, because I then went back and raced through the entire archive.

The comic is called Darths and Droids. The premise is that the Star Wars prequels are in fact RPG's, and that the players are not even trying to cooperate with what the GM has planned. Jar Jar, btw, is played by a young, easily bored girl, who has a tendency to invent stuff at random. The truly bizarre, or possibly impressive, thing is that the movies make a heckuva lot more sense this way. I mean, the plot of the prequels, is, well... um... Basically, you can tell that they knew they needed to get from X to Y to Z, and rather than try to make this make sense, threw in anything that they thought might be cool and/or help sell merchandise. Turning it into an RPG with uncooperative players, though, makes the whole thing work. Especially Summon Bigger Fish. Just be careful how you use it. ^/^

Oh, I should point out that the commentary is at least as entertaining as the comic. They're currently somewhere in the middle of whatever Episode II was called. Random rant: what happened to George Lucas' naming ability between IV, V, VI and I, II, III? The Phantom Menace? Attack of the Clones? Revenge of the Sith is semi-decent, but still... Seriously, "The Dark Side Lurks" is better than "Phantom Menace," and it's still pretty pathetic.

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18 June 2009


I finally made it to see Terminator: Salvation. It was very nearly perfect. One thing that was done very very well was to pay attention to details and back-story from the previous movies, without being heavyhanded about it. Now, anyone who saw the previews (and paid any attention to the first five minutes of the movie) knew already that Marcus wasn't exactly human. The first time this becomes obvious on-screen is when a human punches him. You see the exact same head-deflection used by Arnold Schwarzenegger in T2. Another nod to T2 is that John Connor hacks into multiple "security" panels in a way very reminiscent of young John Connor hacking into ATMs in T2. Plus we finally get to see some of the massively huge Skynet machines in real action sequences, rather than just in short flashforwards.

The reason it was only nearly perfect relates to the very last scene. I think the sentiment could have been made to work, but as is, it came across as a bit, well, corny. It didn't help that the foreshadowing for it was a bit heavy-handed, to the point that I was going "Why do they keep bringing that up?" To be fair, there were at least two reasons to keep bringing it up, both of which show up near the end of the movie. The one that bugged me, though, was from the very last scene. Trying to describe this without actually spoiling it is a bit tricky. Okay, they kept bringing up X throughout the film. Suddenly X becomes important in the last scene, and it becomes obvious why they kept bringing it up. Then they produce a corny moral out of X.

They did something similar at the end of T2, with Sarah Connor's speech: "If a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of a human life, maybe we can too," (from memory, so it may not be exact). This could have been corny, but they actually made it work. I didn't think the attempt worked in T4. I didn't actually see T3, as the previews put me off, so I don't know if something similar was tried there. I think if it hadn't been so heavyhanded, it might have worked. It just didn't work as written.

FYI: Kyle Reese, aka John Connor's future, er, past, er... John Connor's eventual father is played by Anton Yelchin, who was also Chekov in the recent Star Trek film. He had more of a chance to shine here. Also, there is a T5 listed as "in development", with the same director at the helm.

And in the bizarre trivia department... Danny Elfman composed the score for T4. He also composed the score for Tim Burton's Batman movies (the two with Michael Keaton). When Hans Zimmer was asked to do the music for Batman Begins, he didn't want to compete with Elfman's haunting score, so he did a percussion heavy, "black on black" score. So now in T4, I hear Elfman doing a very similar "black on black" score, at least in some places. Not sure what to make of that. There's also a riff of melody that I finally figured out reminds me of the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack.

One (ranting) spoiler below the fold.

Above, X = Marcus' human heart. Several times in the film, someone comments on how "good and strong" it is. The first time, I was slightly weirded out by it. The second time, I was just confused. Then in the last scene, when someone else's heart was giving out, I just wanted to kick whoever had written those plants into the earlier part of the script. I mean, you don't need to bludgeon us with the foreshadowing, okay? And could we at least have had one of the foreshadowing references refer to his heart metaphorically, rather than solely to the literal, physical organ? That might have made the derived moral work a bit better. Maybe. When it comes out on DVD, I may try my hand at rephrasing the moral so that it doesn't come across as just weird. For now, I don't remember it well enough to make a useful attempt.

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16 June 2009

Random Acts of Commerce

I made an unexpected $15 yesterday. Someone knocked at my door and asked if he could get some "raspberry starts." On the south side of the garage, my raspberry plants have been quite prolific, and I figured, sure, why not. We found three that were a bit isolated from the others, dug down and got at least most of the root, and stuck them in a pot that he had brought. He kept insisting that he'd pay for them, so I asked him what he thought they were worth. He figured that plants as large as what we dug up would run about $7 at a nursery, so I suggested $5 each. I honestly expected him to talk me down, and I was figuring on $10 for the set, but he went for the $15 without any discussion. For less than 10 minutes of work and a few excess plants, $15 seems like plenty to me. ^/^

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14 June 2009

"Carrots cause Swedish bomb scare"

In the "stranger than fiction" category, see this article at the BBC.

[The artist] taped bunches of carrots together with black tape and attached blue and red wires and a clock to them.
The carrot bombs had been placed around the city at the request of a local art gallery, as part of an open-air arts festival.

People apparently just saw sticks of things taped together ominously, and called the cops, who considered the bombs too realistic (presumably from a distance). So now I'm imagining putting up a sign next to them that says "Not a real bomb." Strangely, I think people would find that more worrisome.

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Fourth Time's the Charm?

I wasn't sure whether or not to believe it when I ran across the rumor that they might make a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Now, I wouldn't complain overly much, so long is it was up to the standards of the first three, but...well... most of the loose ends were tied up at the end of 3, and the after-credits scene indicates that Will remains bound to the Dutchman for the 10 years immediately after 3. I suppose they could play with Jack going after the Fountain of Youth, and Will can contribute so long as he doesn't set foot on land... (and continues to do the duty of the Dutchman's Captain). I don't know.

Anyway, it's at least official enough to merit an announcement on imdb. Note that it is labeled as "announced", not even "pre-production", which probably means that they're floating ideas around, seeing who they might be able to get back, and probably seeing who's willing to fund it. Since this will likely change, here's a screen-capture from today:

Most of the links on that page either take you back to the same info, or require access to IMDB-Pro. So... assuming it makes it past "announced", I can't resist speculating on what plot points they'll focus on. Presumably, they'll try to make it feel like it was always intended to be four movies, so they'll want to continue on from existing loose ends.

(1) Jack going after the Fountain of Youth - happens at the very end, needs to either be continued or have an explanation as to why it didn't work out.
(2) Barbosa going after Jack to get his map back.
(3) Will, maybe, looking for a loophole in his Dutchman duties (he's so honor-bound, though, that this one seems a stretch to me)
(4) Elizabeth looking for a loophole in Will's duties (seems more likely than Will himself)
(5) Calypso/Tia Dalma... For her to be a major player, there would have to be something she wanted that her powers as the Sea would not get for her; otherwise, I'd expect a semi-random cameo from her if the actress were available.

I'll have to rewatch to movies to see if there are any random references that might provide future movie fodder, too. Still, the most obvious loose end is the whole doomed romance bit, and unless they set 4 at least 10 years after 3, I don't think that any fix can succeed without betraying the audience.

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12 June 2009

Failure...Not particularly catastrophic

My water heater died yesterday, in a pool of its own rust-stained water. Two days before, the hot water for my shower had been behaving erratically, like it does when I try to take a shower while the water is running on the garden, but there was no water running. I didn't think much of it at the time. Then last night, I discovered that there was no hot water in the house. At all. I went downstairs to check the water heater. There was a small quantity of water under it, but no other suggestions of a problem.

This morning, the heat coming on woke me up. I'd forgotten to turn it down from the cool-spell yesterday before going to bed. I got up to turn it off, and, since I was up anyway, went to check on the water heater...and this time there was a rather large quantity of water surrounding, and I could hear more water running into it to fail to be heated. The two largest streams of water came from either corner of a panel on the front. I managed to get buckets under the panel, and then tried to find a shut-off valve for the thing. I didn't find it until after breakfast, after scanning the connections diagram from the manual that had been taped to the tank. Then I knew which pipe to hunt down, and it was there, almost buried at the back. It didn't get rid of the water already on the floor, but at least no more would be collecting.

The plumber I called got someone out to look at the thing within a half-hour of my calling. He pronounced the thing dead, told me that if I wanted to switch from electric to natural gas it would more than double the price (as I had no hook-ups or flue), and indicated that the person with the new tank would be coming before noon, probably within the hour. In fact, he got there at about 1:30 pm, or about 4.5 hours after the first visitor. I found this very frustrating. Now, if I'd been told something like "There are three people ahead of you; it probably won't be until noon or so," I would be fine with it. But "within the hour" and "before noon" were both entirely misleading. I could have gone out and gotten some lunch or groceries had I had even a semi-accurate time estimate.

Okay, done ranting. The plumber was a decent enough guy. Somewhat amusingly, I didn't even notice he had a Japanese face until he mentioned his aunt visiting from Japan. When I looked for it, I saw it in his features, but he had a perfectly normal midwestern accent. I had noticed the black hair and not-quite-white skin, but there are so many hispanics in this area that they barely registered.

So, I now have a new water heater and a slightly cleaner (and damper) basement. Since I had to pull it out anyway, I finally got the cats' cheaper climbing tree repaired. It needed the bolts tightened and the rope for the scratching posts rewound and/or replaced. Princess seemed to like having it outside, though: it put her at the perfect height to watch the housefinches flying around the birdfeeder. Oh, when the first guy was there, Jilly was in the basement. She does not like strangers. She climbed into the ceiling and growled the whole time he was there. When the second plumber came, all the cats scrambled outside somewhere until he was gone.

Actually, there had been hints of a problem before this week, but I'd misinterpreted them. There was a little bit of water in the storeroom around both the furnace and the hot water heater. I had figured that the discharge hose from the furnace just had a hole in it and needed to be replaced (for those who don't know, modern furnaces give off water as a byproduct of the heating process). I never got around to it. If I had, I might have found a perfectly intact hose...and turned my suspicions to the water heater a month or so sooner. Ah well. 20-20 hindsight and all that.

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10 June 2009


dancing, darting wings
sail through raspberry blossoms:
humming and hov'ring

When I went out to get Princess back inside this afternoon, there was a hummingbird happily pollinating my raspberries. I don't think I've ever seen a hummingbird in this yard. We used to get them once in a while at my dad's house. I stayed still, watching it for a while. Then it darted up into the elm tree, perched for approximately five seconds, and flew off over the house.

The picture is of a hummingbird seen in Idaho (here's the source), and I seem to vaguely remember that there aren't very many species of hummingbird that make it this far north, so there's a decent chance that it's the same species. The colors look about right. It was not one with spectacular coloration, but it was gorgeous all the same.

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08 June 2009

Rewatching Buffy

Just a few random observations from my selective rewatch of Season 4. I started rewatching it mainly because I was writing a character with an accent similar to Spike's, and needed to get it fresh in my head again. I kept watching, at least the eps that I most liked, because I'd forgotten how much fun the show was. However, I must not have watched it while in full-on writing mode before, because I found myself picking apart bits of the storylines more. Not in a bad way: by and large, the story arcs hold together. But just...noticing little plants here and there that I'd missed before.

One of the most amusing, and strangest, is the Frankenstein doll Giles has hanging up for Halloween. Now, with no knowledge of the Big Bad, and the Initiative barely even discovered, this wouldn't have told a first-time viewer much. But it's a rather nice touch considering where the season is going to head.

There are also several not-so-subtle hints about Willow's eventual relationship shift. Played for laughs was Riley hanging a "Lesbian Alliance" sign, but there's also Willow commenting that "college is about experimenting." As I haven't been watching every episode, there were probably others that I missed.

One negative comment: did the editors really not realize that Sarah Michelle Gellar needed a thinner stunt double?!?? Also, the wig used on the stunt double was horribly obvious in at least one fight scene (Hush, at the Clock Tower). Not as bad as James Marsters' stunt-double's wig somewhere in Season 2 (which was worse, because it showed up constantly in the "Previously on Buffy" segments), but still... yick. I did not notice this so much on any previous viewing of Season 4, so maybe it's only when you've seen the episodes a few too many times. *shrugs*

Still, it's amazing how well the shows do hold up on re-viewing. So far my complaints are all technical nitpicks, rather than "Wait, I thought this made sense?" Oh, and I've also been grabbing some of my favorite lines to use as Random Quotes, which has been entertaining. (Apologies if I'm rambling; head pounding and tiredness make it impossible for me to tell)

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05 June 2009

Random Statistics

I just finished Season 3 of Lost (incidentally, does every season have to end on a cliffhanger?), and was poking around the Lostpedia, and came across this page. It counts the number of times Hugo Hurley says "Dude" in each episode. Now, this is his "stock phrase," but I'm not sure it would have occurred to me to count how often he uses it.

There's also a list of all the most frequently used catch-phrases. The one that I really noticed was "Don't tell me what I can't do!" It's most often said by Locke, but Jack's said it a few times, and I think there are a few others who have said it. Wait, Ben actually said that at some point in the third season. Of course, Ben seems to be an insane, megalomaniacal liar (emphasis on seems, since nothing is ever certain on this show).

As far as Lost goes, it's still amazingly well done. I didn't like Season 2 quite as well as Seasons 1 or 3, but all were quite enjoyable. I'm not sure how much of a hurry I'm in to get Season 4, simply because Season 5 won't be available until November (and Season 6, presumably, the November after that). Ah well.

Vaguely related note: Seeing Star Trek while in the middle of watching Lost made me notice some common features, presumably due to JJ Abrams' influence. First, he seems to have a soft spot for (or possibly mild obsession with) pregnancy; it's less obvious in Star Trek than in Lost, though. There was also a long, oddly lit corridor used in both works (on the ice planet in Star Trek, and at the medical station in Lost). Also, one thing that either Abrams or his writers does/do very well is to make the plot solidly work with the characters. With the massive ensemble cast in Lost, that's very important. With something like Star Trek, where fans know the characters already, it's arguably even more important.

Odd coincidence, I just realized: I started re-watching Buffy Season 4 just after finishing Lost Season 3. Strangely, Buffy 4 does not resolve any of the issues of Lost 3...

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04 June 2009

Moral Foundations?

Via 3 Quarks Daily, I discovered a morality quiz/survey site. It's got a nice variety of topics. Here are my results for the "Foundations" Survey. Green = my result; blue = average liberal result; red = average conservative result.

Apparently I object more to harm and less to unfairness than the typical liberal. I don't see much point in the Authority/Purity categories, especially not for mature adults. Anyway, there's a lot of material on the site, and it's...not as fluffy as the typical internet quiz site.

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03 June 2009


Working on a torture scene in a story and then going to a discussion group on Kant's "Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals." (Amazon)

Which reminds me, I think the reason I've been posting less is that I've been working on outside writing projects, and have felt less of a need to write here. I'll try to work on that.

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Interesting Quote

At least with science, adaptive knowledge is self-consistent within the context of evolution and science. Tautological and limited? Perhaps, but it is at least an internally consistent truth system. Within the system, adaptive knowledge will tend to be closer to the truth than non-adaptive knowledge.

Philosophical naturalists assume, of course, that there actually is an absolute noumenon or truth, and that science is the path to it - which IMO, is difficult, if not impossible, to defend.

They also assume that our knowledge is always becoming progressively more accurate, approaching the noumenon in a linear or asymptotic way - but there is no way of knowing that. We could simply be approaching a local maxima in our tiny local truth system, without realizing that greater and possibly unrelated maximas exist elsewhere in what we call reality.

~Tom S. (seventh comment here)

Based on my readings in Pragmatism, we accept that science produces knowledge because doing so seems to "work." (see this xkcd) However, suppose it didn't work. We would then try something else, and that itself would be invoking the scientific method. I definitely need to take a philosophy of science class. At the very least, I'll know what things to be confused about then.

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