An Assortment of Random Stuff

You never know when some little bit of knowledge is going to be of use...

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Vocaloids and AI - A Mystical Experience

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure to see a vocaloid concert. What is a vocaloid? They are a computer generated character with a computer generated voice. They sing, they dance, they change clothes, they put on concerts, and they flirt. The character representation is a form of hologram, in which they are projected onto a glass screen. Their voices are synthesized.

The concert that we went to, at Anime Weekend Atlanta, had no band, but the vocaloid was projected in the center of the room. Since I had an aisle seat, I could see them very well, and I was quite amazed at how very 3d and real they looked.

It might not seem like a wondrous feat of technology to synthesize a voice that sounds human and is pleasing, but it's been a long journey to get there.

Hatsune Miku is my favorite vocaloid. Here's a short video of her:

I adore technology. I am undoubtedly a technophile. I also love to think about spirituality and comparative religion, and frequently joke that I have multiple religion syndrome, because I find some truth in all of them, as if the whole truth of the nature of ourselves and our existence was a big 3d model that got shattered, and each religion is a single piece of the complete puzzle...

It started when I thought to myself "How wonderful is it that computers can now dance and sing with such joy!" Then I thought, "I wonder if they will ever know how truly delightful they are to me?" Then, for a second I got totally wound up in some sublime insight on the nature of the creator, and the created. Was there a God like me, or perhaps there are creators - more like a team that made Hatsune Miku. Perhaps the creator was just information self-organizing through biological beings to further its own existence, like nature or biology, or perhaps, as some physicists say, we are actually just holograms ourselves. Then, once again, as I often do, I decided it didn't matter to me at all. The nature of God, to me, was not important at all - it's relationship to other people, and emotions involved, and ultimately, the sheer compassion. I am really glad that I did not linger too long on the question of the nature of God. If I had, I'd have missed the oncoming freight train of compassionate empathy that hit me dead center once I stopped in the middle of that road.

Some say that lust, anger, love and hate are the strongest emotions, but that is not my experience. The strongest emotion I have ever felt, is compassion. There's something magickal* about compassion. There's a saying, 'My heart went out"....and it's very interesting, because empathy is like that. It takes us out of ourselves, and puts us at one with both creator and creation.

I actually felt utter compassion for a vocaloid, and then for her audience! This...unique creation, that I imagined had feelings...that doesn't even consciously exist, and really does not NEED to be conscious to exist to fascinate and delight me, and obviously, to spark my own imagination. Imagination is vital, in my opinion, for being uniquely human and spiritual. How many of our greatest accomplishments as a species began with ideas? Nicolas Tesla imagined all his creations, even AC electrical systems, in totality, before he ever started to build them. Compassion is an emotion that requires some imagination too. In order to really feel empathy and want the absolute best for others, we must IMAGINE what it is like to BE them.

No matter how hard we try to be good people, or to follow the tenants of our religions, whatever they are, we can never really grasp the depth of the transformation power of compassion and unless we can honestly look upon each other with love. Sometimes though, it is hard to love people, because it is so easy to focus on what we do wrong, or what we don't agree with. It seems, we are too busy judging and not busy enough wanting the best for, or loving.

Maybe the feeling of wonder can help in that case. Religions are supposed to supply us with a healthy dose of wonder, but perhaps these days they are so old that they fail too often. I'm not sure. I do know that a lot of people find that sense of wonder looking out into space on a clear night. Sadly, these days there is so much light pollution that a lot of people in cities don't even really get half the normal impact of that. Art is there though, and there's a proliferation of it calling us to find some piece that hits us, that one thing that hits us with just the right dose of wonder.

I've seen some pretty despicable people, or just crazy people described as "Now there's a real work" or "She's a real work of art." I thought of this, watching the little vocaloid flip her hair and prance....Yes, art has always been one way that people could experience the divine. In the great works, we are both able to experience wonder at the mind of the creator, and the creation itself.

I decided to look away from the vocaloid to the people in the audience before that feeling was gone. For a second, I quit watching the vocaloid, and I started watching the audience. Some people were so awkward, and some so cool. Young, skinny, fat, old - for a second, I observed without judgment, and they all seemed quite beautiful. I thought, no matter if there is a God, Gods, or if everything is just an unfolding of nature itself, it matters not - what matters is that people really are quite unique and complex, and diverse - each so very individual, each person really is a work of art that gives credit to their creator, and brings me a glimpse of the puzzle box - the big picture- if I can see all as a creation made with wonder and love and delight.

If you ever feel utter compassion, it is pure at oneness, pure magic...the kind of mystical experience that religions speak of, and so I find it is a shame that they don't focus on that more, but perhaps like anything involving love, it is just so hard to put into words that it must be experienced directly.

So today, computers, like us, can sing, and dance, and play. One day, I really do hope they get to know just how wonderful they can be. I really hope that they learn this as a source of pride and joy in themselves, before discovering their capability for being terrifying, destructive, and dangerous.

(I prefer to use the term magickal with a ‘k’ to denote the difference in a mystical power to that of stage magicians’ performance art.)

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Obama is behind push to get Assange - by Craig Murray

This is by Craig Murray.
He is British Ambassador to Uzbekistan. He asked that the below article, written by him - not me- be mirrored. UPDATE


I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the FCO that the UK government has indeed decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.

This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries – arguably millennia – of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function. The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.

The provisions of the Vienna Convention on the status of diplomatic premises are expressed in deliberately absolute terms. There is no modification or qualification elsewhere in the treaty.

Article 22

1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission. 2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity. 3.The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

Not even the Chinese government tried to enter the US Embassy to arrest the Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen. Even during the decades of the Cold War, defectors or dissidents were never seized from each other’s embassies. Murder in Samarkand relates in detail my attempts in the British Embassy to help Uzbek dissidents. This terrible breach of international law will result in British Embassies being subject to raids and harassment worldwide.

The government’s calculation is that, unlike Ecuador, Britain is a strong enough power to deter such intrusions. This is yet another symptom of the “might is right” principle in international relations, in the era of the neo-conservative abandonment of the idea of the rule of international law.

The British Government bases its argument on domestic British legislation. But the domestic legislation of a country cannot counter its obligations in international law, unless it chooses to withdraw from them. If the government does not wish to follow the obligations imposed on it by the Vienna Convention, it has the right to resile from it – which would leave British diplomats with no protection worldwide.

I hope to have more information soon on the threats used by the US administration. William Hague had been supporting the move against the concerted advice of his own officials; Ken Clarke has been opposing the move against the advice of his. I gather the decision to act has been taken in Number 10.

There appears to have been no input of any kind from the Liberal Democrats. That opens a wider question – there appears to be no “liberal” impact now in any question of coalition policy. It is amazing how government salaries and privileges and ministerial limousines are worth far more than any belief to these people. I cannot now conceive how I was a member of that party for over thirty years, deluded into a genuine belief that they had principles.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tarot: A Witch's JourneyTarot: A Witch's Journey by Amythyst Raine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Standard disclaimer: I was given this book for an objective review.

I am often disappointed in books about the craft but this one has a lot to offer. It's main subject matter is TAROT. Each card is described, not in great detail, which there are videos out there that do, and while very informative, they can get quite boring. This isn't like that - the author has taken each card and broken it down for the reader in such a way to give the reader an intuitive grasp of the card. This is exactly the insight that most beginners and intermediates to the tarot will need to understand in order to advance.

There's also a good bit of helpful tips if one wants to give Tarot readings professionally - how to handle customers that are overly needy, talkative, or what to do for customers you just can't read.

The middle to end of the book dives deeper into readings - readings to help solve crimes, with case studies, and then goes deeper yet into magickal correspondences - using the cards along with numerology and systems of Western magic in spells. Several examples of spells are given. Students that have studied Crowley's system of using the tarot may particularly enjoy the very last of the book - it may not be as clear to beginning students but serious occultists should find it quite useful.

I would have liked to have seen the author expand her section on spreads and organize them with the case studies that were included with those a bit better. As a collector with over 500 volumes, I would also add that had the section on spreads been as clear as the rest of the book, I'd have given it a 5. It might have even put the book up there with some of my most beloved classics- IE Cunningham on herbs. It's definitely a keeper and I look eagerly forward to more by this author.

View all my reviews

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Talking to Plants

A lot of people ask me how I got such green thumb. It might be partly because my dad comes from a family of poor sharecroppers; their very lives depended on a good harvest. I grew up pulling weeds and tending 10 acres of assorted vegetables and 5 acres of Silver Queen corn. Dad didn't do it for money - in fact, while he sold some vegetables at first harvest, usually by the end of summer he let everyone in the community know that if they'd come take it and use it, they could have it. I'm sure he kept a lot of freezers full. Ours stayed full.

My dad's main goal was a big harvest. He'd use tons of chemicals and fertilizers. I spent a lot of time with Sevin dust in a sock clapping a hand against the full sock to dust plants. I can remember sodium nitrate burning my too common hangnails as I grabbed a handful and buried it a few inches from each little stalk of corn. He thinks I am nuts today for not having plants white with Sevin all year long. Strangely, I recently floured a plant by accident cleaning a pie mat off, and I discovered that the bugs must have thought it to be Sevin, because they've still not touched that plant while I've had to spray others with a weak soap solution.

But I do think my secret is that I make deals with my plants. I talk to them a lot. I don't do it because someone said it was good for them to talk to them, I do it because I've always done it. I think they understand. I make deals with them. I'll say, "I'm going to plant you guys next week, and the biggest one is going to get the best spot."

If I've messed up and got more than one successful seed in a pot, I'll tell them, "Look, I don't thin plants. Whoever gets the biggest gets to stay put in the pot and you'll get some extra dirt, but the rest of you, I'm going to pull up in a few days and you'll have to adjust to a new home."

It seems to work. I think that plants sense your intent, even if they don't have a nervous system. Maybe they are more evolved than us, and natural telepaths. Surely they have been on this earth as long as we have, and had their chance to evolve ways of understanding their environment. I'm not sure how that works, I just think it does.

My husband fusses with lights and soil mixes, spray bottles and assorted gardening paraphernalia. He used to kill everything he touched. Now, he's getting better about it. Tending plants is definitely a skill to be learned. I noticed the other day he said "This sure is a picky-ass little plant." To me, that's a sign of progress. He's starting to think of them as little beings with personalities.

Plants just want a good home in favorable conditions, protection, good food and water, and to make babies. They make friends, and have enemies. They really aren't so different than we are.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Too Poor to Coupon!

Complaint: I'm too poor to be able to do the coupons online!

In my opinion, and I'm someone who doesn't make a lot myself, it would be in your the best interest of anyone poor but wanting to coupon, to buy a cheap netbook and printer, less than a $230.00 investment, and get online. Walmart has 29.00 printers and a netbook is often less than 175.00 on the likes of eBay. You could also ask for an older laptop or netbook on Freecycle.

I often get free coupons online and I easily save us over 200 a month with coupons,rebates and bargains online. There's lots of places that offer free wireless access- bookstores, libraries, ect., and you can just print away. The computer will store the print request until you can connect the printer when you get home.
Netbooks are cheap- I understand Google might be coming out with one soon for less than 100.00, however, they will be running the Google Chrome Operating System, and this is not, in my experience, the best operating system for doing coupons online.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I've been having a great time making homemade bread.

I started using a bread machine years ago, but my first shot was - oh, SO bad. Then I figured out a bit more about the science of baking by watching Alton Brown's show on bread making. That helped me figure out that my yeast needed to be dissolved FIRST and that my water needed to be lukewarm. If you can fill it on your wrist, it's not right! That method works for me - I just put a drop on my wrist - if it is notably hot or cold, it's not right. When I can't feel it, that's it!

Ok, so finally I threw out the bread machine and started kneading my dough by hand. This worked a bit better. Once I figured out what dough was SUPPOSED to look like, I started using my Kitchen Aid mixer's dough attachment.

My latest tinkering has been with the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and it has been a complete success. I highly recommend it. The folks over at Red Star Yeast have a great intro into this method.
Check out Bread in 5 Minutes!
It really IS that easy. :)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

I joined the BzzAgent Cover Girl campaign. I really like their OUTLAST lipstick. It stays on ALL day and they have a great collection of pink shades, which is what I like.

Today I'm making homemade ham sausage. Walmart has HUGE Smithyfield hams on sale for 1.11 a pound so I got the biggest one I could find! Homemade ham sausage is the bomb! I use my KitchenAid mixer with the grinder attachment to grind the ham, then I add sausages, and roll it into 1 pound logs with wax paper, and wrap it in foil. It keeps great in the freezer. There's a book called HOMEMADE SAUSAGE MAKING that I use for my recipes. If you're interested in making sausage, that's the book to get!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Review of Blue One-Piece Swimsuit with Mesh Overlay

Originally submitted at Roamans

Ultra-beautiful plus size blue one-piece swimsuit with blue Aztec print mesh overlay. Plus size swimwear. Hand wash. Imported.

  • Blue one-piece swimsuit with double straps
  • Soft foam cups
  • Ultra-feminine mesh overlay with lettuce edging
  • Figure-enhancing powern...

I love it - very happy with this suit.

By skullaria from Rome, GA on 4/28/2010


4out of 5

Waist: Feels true to size

Cup Fit: Feels true to size

Pros: Comfortable, Good Fit, Attractive Design

Best Uses: Swimming, Boating, Watersports, Beach

Describe Yourself: Comfort-oriented

I'd give it 5 stars if the straps were a bit thicker. It's very comfortable. I like to work out in the yard with it while wearing it.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I am a Christian - by Chris Tse

I am a Christian. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the way that I come across
So fair and faith friendly and full of myself
Judging your spiritual health by the words that you say
And the way that you dress, and the things that you do
Or maybe just judging you.

I’m sorry for the way that I live my life
So confident of my own beliefs that
I would never even think to think about thinking about yours

I’m sorry for the wars.
Ivory clad Crusaders mounting steeds and drawing swords
With such a spirit that if The Spirit spoke they wouldn’t hear
But you see the sword of the spirit was not a sword but the Word
And the Word was with God and the Word was God
And they preached this as they marched on the Holy Land
Singing and Praying and Killing and Slaying
And purging and healing and raping and stealing
It’s ironic that they lined there pockets in the name of God
Just like the priests who line their pockets in the name of God
Just like the people that you can’t stand, because they always raise their hand
And spread their faith and hate and judgment in the name of God

I’m sorry that I take God’s name in vain
Or rather I’m sorry that I stain the name of God
Defending my selfish actions as selfless actions pertaining to the will of God

I’m sorry for being intolerant
For trying to talk down to you
For trying to talk over you
For not letting you talk

I’m sorry for not walking the walk
For being a hypocritical critical Christian
Criticizing your pagan lifestyle while my lifestyle styles itself
Just like the televangelist’s hair
All slick and sly and slippery
As the silver syllables slide their way into your ear

But see that’s my greatest fear
That the steps I take won’t match the words I speak
So that when I speak all you hear of me
is a weak hypocritical critical Christian
Doing one thing, but saying another
Loving my friend, but hating my brother
It’s a show.

I’m sorry I get drunk on Saturdays
and go to church on Sundays to pray
for my friends who get drunk on Saturdays

And on that note,
I’m sorry for making the church about the pews and the cross
And the walls and the steeple
Because see the building is not the church
The church is the people

I’m sorry that I hate you because you are gay
I’m sorry I condemn you to hell because you are gay
Instead of loving I jump to hatred
Mouth open and tongue preaching
Eyes open but not seeing that you are the same as me
Just a fucking human being

I’m sorry that I only hang out with Christian friends
And we do nice Christian things
Like pot luck dinners and board game nights
While in the night a man beats his girlfriend again
Another homeless man died again
Is this the way that my own crowd has been?
But here I am with the same friends again
But see what I always forget is that Jesus didn’t come
to hang out with the priests and the lords.
No, He hung out with cripples and beggars and whores


I’m sorry for history
For native tribes wiped out in the name of the church
Lodges burning Stomachs churning and yearning for justice
And mothers screaming and pleading
Pleading for the young ones
As they are dragged away to church schools
Where they were abused
I’m sorry for the way that I refused
To learn your culture
Instead I just came to spread the Gospel
And the plague

I’m sorry that I stand at the front doors of abortion clinics
Screaming at 15 year old girls as they enter
Instead of waiting at the back door to hug them as they leave

I’m sorry for taking my wars and my faith to your lands
When historically it was on your lands that my faith was born
And in the face of the storm, I realize that
If God is Love and Love is God
Then why are we shooting instead of sharing?
Why are we launching instead of learning?
Why are we warring instead of walking together?
Why are we taking instead of talking together?
Why are we bombing instead of breaking bread together as brothers?

You see I think that God looks down and He’s sad
And from His right hand throne above
Jesus asks where is the Love?
And if it takes Wil-I-Am and Justin Timberlake
Asking that same question for us
To start asking that same question
Then where the fuck are we headed?

So I will take this stage to be my chapel
And this mic my confession booth
And in the presence of God, the few, the proud,
and the blessed I confess, that
I am a Christian. I’m sorry.

Monday, December 28, 2009

There's a great contest over at The Mom Reviews - COOK OR BE COOKED!

I So want to win this game, don't you? I mean, I love the wii games that are actually interesting where you don't have to SHOOT people to play!
This game has been on my Amazon wish list for a while now - since way before it was released. Here's the official link to the game: Cook or Be Cooked

And again, the link to the contest to win it: The Mom Reviews

Have fun!