2014 in Review, and Many Thanks

Did any of you find these stats for your site surprising? 

My top 5 referring sites: I hadn’t realized anyone from Facebook—mostly friends back in OKC—came to my blog, but apparently it was my top referrer. Not quite understanding or believing that. Second came “buttons-for-website.com” and I have no idea what that is. Then, SelfAwarePatterns! And of course The Leather Library, which I write for. Thanks so much Mike and Steven!

I also hadn’t realized that my holiday posts had been viewed more than others, but I guess it makes sense, being a broader topic. I did know that my Husserl post got the most comments, and for that I thank you all. I was surprised anyone even read that one, but now I know that y’all really do like your challenges.

I would also like to thank my top commenters…you’re the reason I’m still doing this:

Hariod Brawn

Mike Smith at SelfAwarePatterns

“Nannus” (Andreas Keller) at The Asifoscope

Linnet Moss

Michelle Joelle

There are a lot of you who comment on a regular basis and I want to thank you too—you know who you are.

I just realized something else. Most of you are either college professors/educators or involved in computers/IT. The same is true of my real life friends. This shouldn’t really be surprising, but I am sort of amazed by the IT connection since I’m about as computer illiterate as it is possible for someone my age to be.

Now I will stop before this gets as boring as the Academy Awards.

Happy New Year everyone!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

The Imitation Game

Now I have the right to write about The Imitation Game, which I saw in the theaters last night.

Spoiler alert.

images Those of you who read my post about Alan Turing will remember that I expected this portrayal to come across as Sherlock II, and I have to say it mostly did, except Cumberbatch makes Turing into a much more sympathetic character than Sherlock. Think: genius with Aspergers, add childhood bullying, subtract sociopath. I have to admit, I like Cumberbatch better as a “high-functioning sociopath.” And I highly doubt Turing was as socially clueless as he appears in the movie. I also suspect that he wasn’t as closeted a homosexual as the movie made him seem. Not to mention the feminist reinterpretation of Joan Clarke, a woman who was in reality described as  “subordinate to the men in her life.”

But I’m getting off on the wrong track here. So what if the movie’s not historically accurate? We all knew that. For a good critique of the film from the accuracy perspective, see this. The real question is, was it good?

Like the documentary, Codebreaker, I felt there was a lot of detail withheld about what exactly Turing accomplished…but Codebreaker actually did a better job in getting down to the nitty gritty. How did Turing and the crew at Bletchley Park crack the Enigma machine? We know he built some kind of gigantic computer with lots of reels spinning (who knew what these were for) and this computer was supposed to sift through millions of possible codes before the stroke of midnight, at which time it would have to start anew. There was a Hollywood “ah ha” moment in which the details of how the machine might work faster were sketchily drawn, and no more. I would have appreciated more. Of course, such technical detail could not be expected of this kind of film, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

The real disappointment set in when the philosophical stuff about AI was mostly disregarded. When it was addressed, it was totally flubbed. I actually did have high hopes that this aspect of the story would be competently developed, at least as much as Hollywood can do—somewhat along the lines of Her. But no.

In the movie, Turing names his computer Christopher, which suggests Turing saw potential to resurrect his childhood boyfriend as a computer mind. But it’s never made clear what Turing’s beliefs about AI were. Instead we get a few clumsy lines about different kinds of thinking, none of which made sense. This is too bad. There was a moment at the end when Turing reaches out for his computer adoringly, but this wasn’t enough for me. I needed to know why. I needed to see what Turing saw, beyond those clunky spinning reels.

The oddest thing was that Turing’s dramatic death was left virtually untouched. At the end of the movie, we find out that Turing committedUnknown suicide. This is not dramatized at all. No mention of the cyanide apple, even though cyanide was mentioned several times in the film as if to foreshadow the ending. Why the reluctance to use such rich, possibly real-life material? Well, here’s the reason why: It seemed melodramatic, goofy. Goofy? Okay, I can see why ending with a shot of an apple would seem goofy, but really? No way around that? Why not a flash forward into the future where we see everyone working on computers on which we notice a certain familiar logo? I understand that the focus of the movie was on his homosexual persecution rather than on his impact on computer science, but even so, what about the metaphorical significance of the death? Adam and Eve references! This was one of the few times when Hollywood could get away with melodrama…because it was true! How can so much wonderful material be left to, um, rot?

So on the whole, I’d say it’s worth the watch, especially in comparison to what’s out there, but somewhat disappointing. If you have no great desire to head to the theaters, wait for it to come out on DVD. Besides, you’ll get to miss the hoards of people driving around to return Christmas presents—another worthwhile reason to stay home. Trust me on this one. I had a crazy encounter at the mall with a woman who decided it was okay to strip naked in the ladies room to cleanse her privates in public. In full glory in front of a mirror too. And in front of the sink I needed to wash my hands. No more details, I promise. Just stay home this week.

Maybe real life is too dramatic to fictionalize. The truth: No one would believe it.

Have you seen this movie? Or Codebreaker? What did you think? 

North Korea and Sony Conspiracy Theory

Unknown

So when my husband noticed that “The Interview” was coming out in theaters here in Tucson, he joked that this hacking scandal was all a conspiracy to increase revenue for the movie, which otherwise would not be of much interest.

I laughed, then Googled it and came up with this and this. There were several others out there. I didn’t read them all the way through because I don’t care enough, but if you’re so inclined, feel free.

My husband’s theory is more interesting—Sony hacked itself. “Everyone in the world is gonna wanna go and see it now,” he said. “Hell, even I want to see it.”

I was on board with him until I saw the trailer. It’s just not my brand of humor, even if it is of political interest at this point.

Do you plan to see it? Do you have plans to see another movie tomorrow? 

Top 12 Favorite Christmas Traditions

I can be a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I have the typical complaints about shopping and crowded streets, but most of all I don’t like the break in my routine. I haven’t written much here or in my novel lately because I’ve been busy—gasp—socializing. As in, real life real time real people interaction, flesh and blood and all that. Also, I travelled to Oklahoma twice in the past month and got sick in-between, so I haven’t exercised in forever. But hey, that extra blubber is part of what makes the holidays feel so warm.

Also, I’m not a Christian, but since this holiday has been hijacked long ago by secular forces, I don’t feel compelled to abstain from it. I don’t celebrate Easter because I do believe Jesus is the reason for that season, for the most part.

So enough preamble. I’d like to share with you my favorite things about this holiday. Let’s begin the countdown:

12.  Playing the Nutcracker for five minutes. Then I get sick of it, but those five minutes are kind of okay. My brother’s wife once forced him to see it, and he complained that he would rather have his balls nailed to a wall than watch that again. Nutcracker indeed. I, however, am a little bit more tolerant. Five minutes.

11.  New ornament. Each year I buy a new ornament and label it with the year. Some of them have been relevant to the theme of that year, others are just last-minute buys. This year’s is a pig that I thought was a javelina, but who knows:

IMG_2021

10.  Re-reading last year’s Christmas cards. I save them each year for making my list for next year. This year I’m on top of things—I saved the envelopes too so that I have the addresses. You’d think I would have come up with this brilliant idea long ago, but I’m slow on the uptake.

9.  Ridiculous Christmas clothing. The star at the top lights up. Oh yes it does. And I wear it in public. I also have a pair of panties that says, “Be naughty, save Santa the trip.” Oh yes it does.

IMG_2022

8.  Giving gifts. I don’t really like this part because of all the usual reasons, but it forces me to think about all the people in my life. There’s a big part of me that wants to give a random gift at some other time in the year instead, but I haven’t done it.

7.  Rain. We don’t get much of it, which is why I love it. At this time of year in Tucson we get a nice all-day rain from time to time. Yeah, I know. Those of you from cold climates hate me now.

6.  Christmas night lights.

IMG_2023

5.  Christmas lights. We don’t get into the decor like we used to. My husband is the only one who will get up on a ladder, but he has had vertigo recently. So we did the most half-assed job because after he wobbled a little bit, I demanded in a semi-hysterical suburban housewife voice that he get down from the ladder. Last year he put up the lights while I was away in Oklahoma, and he fell. Luckily he didn’t fall into a cholla and he came away with a few scraps, but nothing serious. Still, I’ve been hounding him to let it go, let it go. While it’s not worth spending the holidays in the hospital, I have to admit I like that little bit of shine coming in through the kitchen window.

4.  Sweaters. And I’m not even talking about Christmas sweaters, which I would wear if I had one (see Christmas t-shirt above). I hardly ever get to wear sweaters, and I just love them. Here in the desert, there’s a small window of opportunity, so I grab it.

3.  Challah bread. What? I know, it makes no sense. Nevertheless, it looks so festive and I don’t care that I’m mixing things up. Besides, my husband’s Jewish, and so was Jesus, so I figure it kind of works. I love the whole process of making this bread, especially the braiding.

IMG_0029

2.  Las Posadas. I’m going tonight! This is hands down the best Christmas celebration ever. I hardly know the woman who invited me to this beautiful fete because I usually get the invite from a woman in my writing group and we tag along with her. This year, my friend is out of town, but the hostess tracked me down to give me the invite. Now I feel super special. Her graciousness makes me get a little misty eyed. How many people would track down a stranger to invite them to a party? Merry Christmas indeed! I can’t wait to get to know her better.

For this Posada we all meet and follow a procession house to house while carrying candles and singing “Feliz Navidad.” It’s led by a live mariachi band! I love trying to sing in Spanish, listening to the Mexicans to get the pronunciation right while following along on a printout.

IMG_0078 IMG_0064

And then we end up at the host’s house to finish the evening over tamales and her special concoction:

IMG_0086

I have no idea what’s in here, but it’s delicious. The kids then knock around a piñata and we all get hammered while we listen to the mariachi band.

1.  Christmas tree. I never had a real one growing up, so this always feels special. I love the scent filling up the house, the magic of it. I even love the struggle to get it on top of the car (we put it in a junky sleeping bag to keep it from scratching the paint) and then pissing everyone off as we drive 25 MPH all the way home. :

IMG_0014

 What are your favorite holiday traditions? And/or what are your least favorite?

The Life of Alan Turing

The other night I watched Codebreaker, a documentary based on the life of mathematician, Alan Turing, widely considered to be the the father of computer science. I didn’t know anything about his life. In fact, I didn’t really know much about his work either, other than references to the Turing test for AI.

Turns out his life was really fascinating and tragic. This documentary is available on streaming through Netflix and I encourage you to watch it if you haven’t already seen it.

During WWII, Turing worked with a group of like-minded folks at Bletchley Park to crack German ciphers, specifically the aptly named Enigma Machine. His work was pivotal in the war, and he should have been treated like a hero. Instead, his British government persecuted him for his homosexuality (which was then illegal) and forced him to make a decision: go to prison or allow himself to undergo “treatments” for “chemical castration”. He chose the chemical castration because they told him it was reversible.

He underwent “treatments” for a year to decrease his libido. He had trouble concentrating, and he probably experienced other negative side effects, such as gynecomastia. His suicide was poetic—he ate an apple poisoned with cyanide, leaving behind no letter. The apple said it all.

It’s sickening to think of what such a man could have accomplished had he lived. The documentary painted a portrait of a sensitive and highly self-aware man, sometimes difficult but mostly charming and charismatic.

I watched this trailer to The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing:

Turing seems here to be characterized as the stereotypical autism-spectrum idiot savant, not unlike Sherlock. I know allowances are supposed to be made for movies, but I wonder if even just for the sake of character Turing’s portrayal could have been more nuanced. Of course, I’m jumping the gun here. I haven’t seen the movie yet. (Just like me to criticize a movie before seeing it!) In truth, I can’t wait to see it. Especially since I love Benedict Cumberbatch, even if this does prove to be Sherlock II.

Have you or are you planning on seeing The Imitation Game?