Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day, Extreme!

(GOING LIVE ON 3.14.15 AT 9:26.  Five... four... three... two... [finger points])

Happy Pi Day! No, I don’t mean pie day. I mean Ratio of a Circle’s Circumference to Its Diameter Day! Or approximately 3.1415926, followed by a lot more digits, going on forever. It’s the universal number signifying the presence of an intelligent, sentient species. If we ever detect that number being beamed to us from space, it’s either from one of us, or there are Intelligent Beings out there, with both math and transmitters. My dog Captain Jack is pretty smart, but I don’t think he knows about pi. My cat Moonlight... well, she might.

Anyway, Pi Day comes around in a minor way every March 14. (3-14)  But today is Pi Day Extreme: 3.14.15. That won’t happen again for a century!

Pi Day is also when the MIT Admissions Department sends out its notices of acceptance. In fact, according to the Boston Globe, this year’s admission notices will be released on Saturday, March 14, at 9:26 a.m. That works out to 3.1415926, which is pi to seven decimal places. I love MIT.

Here’s a video MIT prepared, depicting the admission notices going out en masse by quadcopter drones, set to Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries:

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Friday, March 13, 2015

GNU Terry Pratchett!

Good day readers. This is Jeff's daughter Julia, and I hope you don't mind my taking some of your time.

We lost Terry Pratchett yesterday. It seems like a particularly unfair kind of cruelty to lose him barely a week after we lost Leonard Nimoy. My dad has never found the right Pratchett book to suck him into the series, or maybe he just hasn't found the time, which is why I'm here talking to you about him instead.

To be entirely honest, I kind of expected to one day get to meet Sir Terry. I imagined that I would quietly say that I was a big fan, ask him to sign a book (Going Postal, probably -- it was my first) and then escape before embarrassing myself or discovering too much about my hero.

I'm a little bit of a cynic sometimes, though not nearly as much of one as I pretend to be in public. (Look, the lure of "coolness" is strong, powerful. Don't talk to me about honesty.) Terry Pratchett was a little bit of a cynic as well, and by 'a little bit of a cynic' I mean 'incredibly unbelievably cynical'. He was also an incredible idealist. I don't quite know how he managed to be those two things at once, without having Terry Pratchett to show him the way.

As I said, Going Postal was my first Terry Pratchett book. I vaguely recall receiving it as a Christmas or birthday present when I was somewhere around twelve years old, and nothing about it seemed deep or meaningful to me except for how very clever it was. It seemed like delightful, fluffy, brain candy that I devoured like, well, candy, and giggled at nonstop. The first of his books that made me think thoughts about morality and philosophy and the nature of the world was Hogfather, and it did so by hitting me over the head with a sledgehammer that was somehow full of nuance. And then I think it stole my wallet, but what can you do. It also made me think a lot of thoughts about how much I wanted to be Susan Sto Helit. And then came I Shall Wear Midnight, which is the last Tiffany Aching book but the first one I read, and it was the first of his books to reach out and take me by the hand and help me become a stronger person. I never wanted to be Tiffany Aching, I just needed her example to follow.

The best way I can describe the world as it is shown to me by Terry Pratchett is that it is incredibly possible. It's a world where you can look true things in the eye and yet somehow not despair. It's a world in which you can do the task in front of you, because it is there needing doing and you are there in front of it, and so it is yours to do. It's a world in which you can become a real witch in five easy steps, by which I mean that everything important is very very difficult and requires care and thoughtfulness but maybe you can manage not to screw up too badly if you try your very best.

Terry Pratchett helped me in much the same way that going to my church helps me -- in that I don't do it very often, I'm always promising to apply its lessons more consistently, and when I do make use of it, the world looks a little different and my efforts in the world work a little better. My mother is going to be very upset with the syntax of that sentence. Sorry mother. Some forces are too powerful for good syntax.

Terry Pratchett helped me do things. He helped me think things. I understand that he was an atheist, but I hope he won't mind too terribly when I say that Terry Pratchett was one of my favorite pastors.

GNU Terry Pratchett.

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

I Defy You, Winter!

Yes, it's snowing again.

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