May the destroyers of our world rain their cosmic force upon you! Seriously speaking, this is a place from which I get to both curse and praise the world without actually affecting it in any physical way.


'Finding Ada' Post 2010: Annie Jump Cannon

Ai, ai, ai, the things I do on my slightest whim. At the cost of my precious bedtime sleep that no amount of school naps can replace, I’m here to talk about Women in Science on behalf of My referral, if you can officially call her one, is Sydney Padua via the wonderful Seeing that her work features Ada Lovelace as protagonist, little wonder that she would have talked about this.

The lucky woman I decided to look at is Annie Jump Cannon. Born in 11th Dec 1863 and dead by 13th Apr 1941, she received a fair amount of education as she grew up, starting with a maternal kick-start to stargazing, then attending Wellesley College (a woman-only college then and now) and later Radcliffe College, before going onto Harvard. But the important thing that even with this education, no women would have dreamed of entering the academia in many areas, such as astronomy. Cannon changed all this.

In 1896, she and a large group of other women were hired by Edward Charles Pickering of Harvard, who wished to save money by hiring them at a quarter the men’s pay. All of them were either astronomy graduates or naturally gifted in mathematics. Together, they handled a mammoth feat of celestial bookkeeping and published the Henry Draper Catalog in 1880.

But that was not the end for Cannon. She continued revising the star photographs over the years. She continued and continued and continued until she finally… continued some more. At the end of her life, she had discovered 300 new stars and classified 325,000 more. She became known as the ‘Census-Taker of the Sky’, but that wasn’t enough for her.

On the way, she managed to knock down the old, inadequate star classification systems while averting the plodding complications of her colleagues’ own systems. She noticed that stellar temperature was the principal distinguishing feature among different spectra and combined previous classification systems into a simplified scheme. The ABC types of old were reordered into the OBAFGKM system, which was subdivided into 10 subclasses, starting from 0 and ending at 9.

Her advances were not missed, and she was appointed as Curator of Astronomical Photography, Harvard University from 1911-38. Then she served as Harvard Astronomer from 1938-40, the first women to receive this position. She also clinched a second First for being the first women to be awarded the Draper Gold Medal of the National Academy for Science. Oxford gave her an honorary doctorate in 1925, and on top of that she joined the American Philosophical Society. Outside the academic world, she fought for women’s rights.

Cannon had an extraordinary talent for distinguishing stars. She could classify 3 stars a minute based on spectral patterns, which meant she spent twenty seconds to glance at one, observe its features, compare them to the ideal OBAFGKM stars and categorise them accordingly. Using a magnifying glass, she could view stars of 9th magnitude, which in normal English is 16x fainter than the human eye can see.

She was listed as one of the twelve Greatest Five American Women by the National League of Women Voters.

I’ll say she spent her life doing beautiful stuff. She herself expressed a desire to reach out for the stars, an extension of humanity’s drive to know our universe. What was most amazing was that she managed this in a time of inequality in most of society. Now, I can’t do anything directly to honor her, due to a notable lack or desire of femininity, but I can direct others down her path. I hope this works, hasty effort it is.


To Catch the Vapors

Moons and suns, I think I'm becoming addicted to gaslamp romance(1). A return to the time before the advent of the electrical computer, before the entire Digital Age began. Sometimes, even a bypass into a Analog Age given the fresh life of innovations that could have been.

It is in part caused by myself, as these trends are. I borrowed an anthology called, fittingly, Steampunk, edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer. I browsed the web extensively for fanart of Acker's 9, or more specifically his stitchpunks. I visited steampunk sites online. But the pivotal point was when I came upon this.

Sydney Padua's take (which in her words is 'not a comic') on a reality where Ada Lovelace(2) and Charles Babbage(3) have successfully built the Difference Engine(4) is sheer comedy, complemented by delightful characterisation via body language as well as the stock duo Lovelace and Babbage comprise. Under the veneer of laughs it is, to the core, steampunk, criticising modern problems from a pseudo-, no, semi-, no, somewhat-Victorian standpoint. Go see it.

I hope this has been educational. I now know more about Babbage than I ever thought I should just by standing next to Padua as she forged on with her not-a-comic. Otherwise, it should be entertaining. Failing that, I took great pleasure in writing this.

(1) General term for fiction depicting alternative realities where abandoned technologies are the driving force behind progress. Includes but not restricted to the "steam" in steampunk and the "clock" in clockpunk, as the "punk" part requires the story to lash back out at modern society.

(2) Mathematician and phyicist who, ironically, was the only legitimate child of the notorious poet Lord Byron.

(3) Inventor of devices stated in (4), but was also extremely interested in other things ranging from banning street music, visiting little volcanoes like Vesuvius and construction carriages with built-in bookshelves. He was quite a character, which is like saying he was a prime paradigm of the quality called humanity as my classmates have once phrased. But I can say he was a person who had a knack for doing things to tempt one to distance oneself from.

(4) A computer used for calculating polynomials and logarithms. Its descendant, the Analytical Engine, was THE computer that could have been, if not for the irritating Second Law of Thermodynamics . Note: if successful, computers would have come something like a century early. Even if Babbage had only finished it at the end of his life, they would have come in 1871, seventy years early. Think on that.



On the train is as good a time as any to practise my handwriting. Normally, the longer I write, the worse I get. The fact that I am writing on the train does not make this easier. Speaking broady, I can say I have to round out my letters more instead of stretching them out and learn to lift my pen off the paper for certain strokes. A sense of timing and a proper pen are also crucial. This time, I write slowly.
Fine, I say. My handwriting is not accurately described as neat even at this leisurely pace. The temptation to flatten out curves and crosses is large. On my blog, which I just decided this will go, this is of course impossible to see. The reason why I prefer typing to writing. Though the ubiquity of writing implements trumps keypads or keyboards. Knowing alone helps little against the part of me that itches to scribble.
I scribble beautifully. It's like my own calligraphy: hard to decipher and then comprehend. But in this world there are almost seven billion different points of view. I need at most three to remind myself my font does not appeal to all. To me, it looks somewhat large, undeveloped and childlike when compared to other people's, notably girls'. Still, I stick to the view that my handwriting is unique and probably more interesting to look at. I have already expounded on my scribbling's qualities. The shorthand is left.
Strictly speaking, it is more of a mediumhand. There are plenty of words I have not abbreviated yet. More importantly, I have not studied the actual shorthand in detail. It is a system of writing that is akin to Arabic or Tamil in appearance rather than Englishm, English only in the words the letters produce. In a sense, it is. The lines are consonants while the dots are vowels. The precise placement of the dots determines its exact vowel sound.
It looks intriguing and time-saving, if only I had the courage to learn it. My mediumhand already combines the worst of my scribbling and my speed. Moreover, there are clearly non-English symbols. In case it was forgotten, my handwriting was in possesssion of a higher degree of order twenty minutes ago than now. Most vexing how my curbes have imploded, how my crosses have melted, and the irritating habit of writing over mistakes.
I might expand on my shorthand in later weeks, but I've briefly pointed the way. If the reader is inquisitive enough to try the original systems that were sources of my own, I commend them as an senior to a junior. The time for slowly taking notes ended months ago. Taking no steps to brace onself for the future is not worth congratulation. But I am kind, and striving to be open-minded. Otherwise, you can wait for me to upload my system and adopt it.
I don't recommend that. My schedule states three months will pass before my turn. On the bright side, I can polish up my writing, mediumhand and maybe even learn true shorthand.


Tripod of Control

I have formulated an intriguing conjecture on the nature of human struggle. I believe our ultimate goal is to yoke the entire universe under the control of humanity. This we do in three ways: control of the natural world, control of ourselves and control of other people.

Why would control of nature be lumped together into one category? The man-nature dichotomy is very clear-cut, in the sense that we are the only part of nature that has the ability to analyse nature itself. Any other thinkers have not made their presence known, but that would be under another topic. Nature can harm us, or leave us alone. We view technological progress as benefits, but in reality it is merely fending off natural disasters, the dangers that come from the elements.

Control of ourselves is so, so vital. That is a point of view developed by someone so drunk with solitude being with other people numbs his mind for a while. However, the consequences of a lack of introspection have caused great catastrophes; wars, lives lost, people's handiworks demolished, heritages lost in the dust of ages. After all, someI exists to judge the world, its experiences and its effects on Itself.

Control of other people is my personal deficiency. I can truly state that at this point in time, I couldn't handle a crowd to save my life. I would likely die at the hands of the mob. Though I know the theory of herd behaviour, it is one thing to watch trends as they happen and another to cause them. People are the world's greatest resource. No matter what one may think about philosophical zombies and the like, it has to be admitted that there is substantial evidence there are other 'I's out there, 'I's who also want to control nature, themselves and people. In a way, a people person just needs to make friends with specialised experts and put everything together to create a functional whole. They will get the credit. This can also be said to concern emotions, but is not bounded by that.

The thing is, however, in order to be assured of a moderate chance of survival in an uncertain world, control of nature, self and people is each required. One missing is the weak point at which death may strike.


Learning to be a Revolutionary

Experimental forage into mentally psyching oneself into the mindset of a bloodthirsty xenophobic and surviving the bloodshed long enough to pass down the lessons.
PS. Everything between the 'PS' is an introduction. This was written as part of my GP journal. It is a result of reading Dune, Hotel Rwanda, The Last Hero and Chapterhouse: Dune within a single week. It's quite a pessimistic text I wrote. PS

If history is any guide, there is always room in the human world for the violent. A human finds it impossible to be entirely pacifistic in their life, let alone an entire group where the mechanics of human nature subtly shift, resulting in the chaos such systems expectedly produce.

There is elbow space for the military revolutionary, the one with fire in their eyes, speeches in their mouths and a weapon always close to hand. The problem is, such revolutionaries quickly follow the paths of their oppressors, making the populace wonder why they bothered with all the troublesome war before starting another revolution just in case it turns out different.

The point here is for the revolutionary to stick around to make sure the revolutions are carried out right. For these uprisings are not just for the sake of making life better. The uprisings are dreams manifested in the world, dreams of a perfect world if only the king was no more. But dreams fade on waking, and there is little better stimulant than a revolutionary not sustaining dreams.

This guide is not for rulers. It is for the person who breathes jihad, the collective raging fervour that takes whole groups to horrific heights. Or depths.

Firstly, be a flexible dreamer. Whatever the vision of the revolting populace is, as long as they think they work towards that dream, they are content. For rulers, this is all very good to know, but hard to apply in the midst of intoxicating power. It is easier to lay low until the people are unhappy with their ruler’s lavish lifestyle and grumble for change. Get to know what they believe they want, and then inject absoluteness into it. Say God leads you; who knows, it may be true, and the people will not know the difference. But if saying ‘God’ causes looks of veiled despisal while ‘science’ brings awe, then the natural course is to become a scientist, one with fire in his eyes, of course. Knowledge does not work if not communicated.

Being able to converse with your group is vital, a pillar of your power. Humans are social creatures, holdover from the time when safety in numbers outweighed safety in isolation. It probably still does. Knowing they are in a group, that they are a group, the populace sees itself that more powerful, capable of making a mark on the world, if only they knew what to do. This is a mob when self-assembled and self-led. With competent and sufficient leadership, it becomes an army. Indeed, one person finds it hard to train an army. Better to train a core elite, loyal to you and receptive to your needs, who will be the extensions of your voice and authority (also good to know for rulers, except instead of paying in dreams of happiness you have to pay in happiness itself). Get to know this elite well; it would be a sad thing for them to turn on you because they see themselves the true leaders of the revolution.

Abstaining from greed aids in the relationship management. It is well known that revolutionaries all too often fall into the trap of abusing power. In this guide, we believe the abusing starts from the moment the revolutionary lets his army crown him. Nay, reject the authority. Let another wear it on his head. You’ll personally take it off his neck sooner or later. (That is, if he is not a great ruler. But in that case you may well be living happily, or fighting against him happily in an entirely legal way.) The important thing is that you survive to spread the doctrine of revolt when the people again have need of it. That is your duty. Stick to it, and you will save your nation the trouble of having to come up with new leaders every time. Note: To do this means you must craft a public persona, acting for your adoring audience. Wear a mask, distort your voice, change your sex, it all boils down to altering appearance. It makes it easier to come back next time.

Change, communicate, continue living. Had but a single one of our revolutionaries heeded these words, our revolutions would truly have been wonderful, clockwork happenings, with nary too many hiccups (no perfection; too much of a dream).


A Bit of Publicity

I was looking online as part of research on our beloved school leader because I was interested in his Five Year Plan for RV. Yes, hearing the name of the plan gave me bad vibes from the time of Chairman Mao and his Great Leap Forward. Anyway, I was quickly sidetracked to an even more important issue: Silviu Ionescu, the Romanian diplomat to Singapore, has predictably been found to be one behind the triple hit-and-run accident a month or two ago.
Yet no one talked about it.
That was the scary part.
Somehow, we let a pompous fat foreign cat take his car, knock three humans down and waltz out of the country. Now, to make sure I understood the politics of this, I went to look at Romania's and Singapore's international relations. The results are bad, politically, for Singapore. Romania is a member of NATO, an old organisation, older than APEC which Singapore has joined. Besides that, Romania is a player in the EU and many parts of Asia, while Singapore is not too well-known outside Asia. The best thing for political Singapore to do is lie low and soothe its (small minority of) outraged citizens until they forget about the matter.
There is too much for me to say. The tags will likely help in showing the topics.



I give up on keeping quiet.

Call it arrogance. Call it my nature. Call it my Asperger's. I have on the whole kept quiet about topics I have had thoughts about, which is all of life. Everything I've experienced, I've read in a book. Consequently, I thought it was best to distance myself from all the trouble that filled the pages of said book.

This led to boredom. Boredom in watching people flailing around in their lives, not knowing what they wanted or how to get it. Boredom in hearing people suggest how to solve their problems and getting it hopelessly wrong. The keyword is 'hopelessly'. There are sayings that say if one cannot deduce the whole of a problem from one small part, one is beyond effort. Notably, Confucius says, in total seriousness and absence of parody, 'I do not teach the uninterested; I do not help those who fail to try; if I mention one corner of a subject to a pupil and he does not therefrom deduce the other three, I drop him.'

The difference between my ancestor and myself is that on reflection, I don't mention the subject at all. For a stranger to even guess at what I'm thinking, it will take the skills of a prophet or the vagueness of a horoscope reading.

The solution is to speak out and be heard. This blog will become more active. But not just that. I've just bookmarked some of the most popular blogs online. I'm not sure just how I'm going to look at them, but tentatively I'll take a look at the commenters. This is because the only people likely to see this blog are RVians, part of the top 10% in SG, trapped in a school that has glued itself to tradition and basically citizens of a country where 'but' follows the freedom of speech.



Perhaps I've said I wanted to create my own blogskin. I don't have concrete memories of typing it, nor do I remember telling anybody. This is then the first clearcut announcement that this blog will be changing looks soon. It won't be changing now; my HTML skills are pretty basic, not a bad point in itself. If not for CSS, I would have done it by now. CSS fills the source codes of all the blogs I've looked at and copied for reference. At the top of each one, there is the damning phrase |style type="text/css"| (I cannot use "<" or ">", so I replaced them). Below that, I understand nothing.

It took me time to realise this. The first thing I wanted for this blog were boxes. The visitor will first see a short message or image, the cover, you could say, of my blog. Then by clicking buttons at the top of the blog, the other sections such as profile and posts would appear in a central frame. This plain, simple thing was too much to ask for. Cannibalising the source code of one blog made them identical. Identically black in background, when I was looking for brown or some sandy colour. Taking out even one line messed up everything. I decided I should look elsewhere, only to run into the bigger problem of entirely losing my sense of direction in the shelves of code.

The solution is to go learn CSS from the ground up. It's slow. I do not think I can enjoy the luxury of slowness, though I believe the opposite. My plan is to do it in parallel with my revision, homework and hike report. Seeing how two of those are fast due, it's a bit tough.
School gets in the way of living once again.