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Is Cereal A Soup? [Oct. 18th, 2016|11:57 pm]
Here's some stuff I wrote in a discussion over email about whether breakfast cereal is soup, and whether hotdogs are sandwiches. You may well have already heard me talk about this kind of thing, but I felt that this came out well and was worth preserving. Also, there are a couple good links near the end.

Italics are quotes from other people (someone different in each case); plain text is me.

Is cereal a soup? Is a hotdog a sandwich?

No and no.

No to the first because cereal is prototypically a cold sweet breakfast food, while soup is a warm savory dinner food.

And no to the second because sandwiches are prototypically characterized by horizontal layering of fillings between slices of bread, while the hotdog is self-contained and nestles vertically within a bun.

But what about GAZPACHO?

Gazpacho is cold. So is vichyssoise. But they're both still savory and traditionally served for dinner. Plus, they're vegetable-based rather than grain-based, and prepared by a cook not poured from a box, and so on and so forth. Thus, despite the atypical temperature, they still possess more characteristics matching the mental prototype for "soup" than they do for "cereal" and are categorized accordingly.

Similarly, although the hamburger has horizontal structure, it's a self-contained meat unit in a bun, rather than layers of filling between bread, and therefore it feels like it doesn't quite match the mental prototype for "sandwich". It has a lot in common with the hot dog, but the shape is all wrong, so it doesn't match well there, either. If we were from a different culture where these weren't common foods with strong prototypes, we'd probably be comfortable lumping it in with one or the other, but since we have a strong sense of the hamburger as being a specific thing, we end up forming a new prototype for "burger".

Which works beautifully until somebody swaps out the ground beef patty for a grilled chicken breast and you have to decide what to call something that falls perfectly into the overlap between "sandwich" and "burger"...

Except for all the signs from the 1920's forward advertising for a "hamburger sandwich"

Yes, and that was when hamburgers were new and our culture didn't yet have a sense of them as being a distinct thing warranting a prototype of its own. The past is a foreign country, after all.

The usage of "hamburger sandwich" starts dropping after 1940, while just plain "hamburger" continues to grow. It's overtaken by "burger" around 1970, which I think is indicative of the development of a new prototype that can accommodate variations like "turkey burger" and "veggie burger", both of which start showing up with some frequency not long after.

I don't think sweetness or temperature should be used as a deciding factor in whether something is a soup. The important quality of soup is that it is mostly a liquid essence (french onion, tomato, chicken, etc with broth) that may or may not have chunks. Milk is not an essence and can't be used to make soup unless combined with an essence. I don't know much about gazpacho but it is majority liquid essence. Cereal, oatmeal, porridge, aren't soups, but they are a category very similar that uses milk instead of an essence.

Sandwiches are a free-standing, not-stuck filling contained in bread for easy handling. Hot dogs are sandwiches. Hamburgers are sandwiches. They are special classes of sandwiches that are never referred to as such. Two slices of pizza is not a sandwich, tacos don't use bread. Open-face sandwiches, wraps, and other bread conformations contain the free-standing filling in bread. If I hollow out bread and fill it with something not a liquid essence (like porridge), that's a porridge sandwich.

I hold that there is no deciding factor. The way that our brains work is that we perceive objects as having a collection of associated features, some more central than others. We decide whether an object is a member of some abstract class by comparing its features to the feature cloud of an imaginary mental prototype; if the barycenter is close enough to the prototype, we say, yeah, that's an X.

For soup, "liquid" is one of the most central terms, so it's hard to do without it. Unless you have, say, frozen soup. Or dehydrated soup. Which are both still soup! Or you're at a fancy molecular gastronomy restaurant and they turn the soup into foam or gel or bubbles so that it IS soup and yet is also not-soup, both at the same time, whoa, crazy!

Prototype-based categories are fuzzy contextual clouds that rarely have sharp boundaries between them. Often they are nested. A BLT and a veggie burger are both "food", and both would fall within the cloud of "sandwich" if the only other categories on the menu are "salad" and "soup", but if you've also got a section for "burgers", that's clearly where the veggie burger belongs.

If you fold a piece of pizza in half, you have moved it away from the prototype for "pizza" and towards the prototype for "sandwich"; whether that warrants calling it a sandwich is context-dependent. Tacos don't use bread... unless that's all you have in the house and it's Taco Tuesday and it's been a rough day and you promised the kids tacos, in which case those are 7-grain taco shells, dammit. I wouldn't normally call a hollowed-out boule of sourdough filled with artichoke dip a sandwich, but if you want to put the lid back on it and eat it with both hands, sure, that's sufficiently sandwich-y treatment to push it back over the edge.

Prototypes are also subjective. They tend to match up well from person to person within a society, but they vary culturally and regionally and even personally. That's what makes cross-cultural questions (like "is pho porridge?"*) difficult to answer. And sometimes the differences in prototypes can be quite surprising, especially if you weren't expecting there to be any:

Separated By A Common Language: Prototypical Soup
Separated By A Common Language: Sandwiches, Particularly Bacon

[* A question that came up in a thread that branched to the discussion of whether oatmeal was soup or cereal: since pho is a warm and savory breakfast food, does that make it a very wet porridge?]
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Shin Godzilla [Oct. 16th, 2016|11:32 pm]
Friday night we saw the new Godzilla movie with David V!

It's the real deal, from Toho. Every so often they decide "okay, we're done with Godzilla now," and then Hollywood makes a Godzilla movie, and Toho has to do one last one to show how to do it properly.

It was at the Alamo Drafthouse, which is way down in Littleton, but it wasn't until 9:30, so it wasn't a chore to get down there in time for dinner at a nearby restaurant. I did not get a tasty burger, because diet, but it did have a tasty salad.

The movie was good, and I recommend it! (Although it was subtitled and the dialogue flew fast and furious, so be prepared for a LOT of reading.)

It's got a hefty dose of satire about Japanese government and politics, which even as an ignorant foreigner I was able to pick up on the humor in. And once Godzilla shows up, it actually manages make him genuinely scary, and to convey the wrenching distress of a large-scale disaster.

I thought the cinematography was really interesting. In the same way that manga has a much higher percentage of environmental mood-establishing panels, the movie had many more non-action shots than you'd see in a western film. There were also a bunch of Hollywood tropes that were refreshingly absent.

Go see it in the theaters if you get a chance, or wherever you can if not.
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Star Trek Beyond, Marianne, Doom Patrol, Stuff [Oct. 6th, 2016|11:57 pm]
So let's see, since last week:

I went and saw Star Trek: Beyond and enjoyed it. Best thing ever? No, but definitely solid. It sort of cracks the hermetic seal of total disconnection from modern pop culture, and I expect that rubs some fans the wrong way, but I didn't mind. And it's amazing how good all the new actors are at channeling the original actors rather than imitating or caricaturing them.

I finally drove down to Parker on Saturday to visit my step-mother while she was in town. She was here watching Joel's & Coryn's kids while they took their first vacation in years - a trip to Jamaica. I brought a bag of games, which the nephews love, and played some games with them and caught up on family news and suchlike with her.

We ended our D&D hiatus on Sunday and finished off the second tower/dungeon in the campaign. We'll probably finish the campaign in a few months and are likely to hit 20th level by the end of it, so that'll be fairly epic.

Jerry got the first two books of Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol, and we both spent a good chunk of the last week reading them. (Third book is on order.) I read some of them back in college, when somebody (Bats, I think) was collecting them as they came out. They're really good. Tremendously bizarre, of course, but one of the big things that I like is that there's none of that '90s grim-n-gritty™ tone. I mean, traumatic and disturbing things happen all over the place, and the heroes fail as often as they succeed, but it's still an entertaining story, not a slog through cynical angst. (I ordered a bunch of good stuff from Amazon, too, but I haven't had a chance to read any of it. I've just been listening to the new CHVRCHES album, which is excellent.)

Douglas came over for dinner & socialization on Tuesday evening. It has cooled off considerably and today it rained, though the forecast says it'll be back into the high '70s next week. Work stuff, lots of ticking of items on my far too many TO-DO lists. Dumped a decent amount of effort into a couple philosophical/political discussion threads on FB & eit; I sort of thought about copying some bits here, but then I remembered how quickly I run out of patience for such topics and lose the will to engage with them. Online, at least; in person it's much easier to keep things moving at an interest-sustaining pace.

I think that's about it. Y'know. Stuff. As usual.
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Eyelid cobblestones and science says no [Sep. 28th, 2016|01:09 pm]
I'm working from home so that I can go see Star Trek this afternoon before it leaves the theaters. That also let me make an appointment to see the eye doctor, because my contacts have been bugging me. On Friday, it felt like I had a speck in my eye that wouldn't go away, so I took my lenses out and left them out all weekend. Wore them without trouble on Monday (well, for half a day, since I spent the morning in bed with a sinus headache), but then yesterday afternoon my eye started to kind of ache.

Happily, doctors says it looks like just allergies. I have "cobblestones" under my eyelids. The solution is just infrequent wear while it clears up, being diligent about using enzyme on them, and to steal some of Monkey's allergy pills when my eyes are bugging me. *whew*!

Not a lot else going on. We had dinner at Sweet Tomatoes on Friday night with my mom & Larry, my niece Leah, my step-sister Leslie & her two kids, Tyler and Layne, and an old friend of the family, Lynn Christensen, & his wife.

I spent all day Sunday at a retreat for the Inclusivity Board. It was tiring but productive. One key thing we figured out is that we don't have to come up with a plan to Solve All The Problems; we just have to look for things that the city is already going to be dealing with in the next two years where inclusivity is a factor worth considering, and make some specific recommendations about those issues. Which is waaaay more manageable.

Oh, and I finished off a little bit of statistical analysis consulting I did for a friend's law firm this week. I got to do some Bayesian modeling of binary outcome data. The answer didn't turn out to be quite what they were hoping, but that's science for ya. Sometimes the answer is no.
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Time, Tomatoes, Concert [Sep. 22nd, 2016|11:02 pm]
I feel like it's been about two days since my last post, but apparently it's been an entire week already. Mostly just Doing lots of Things, both for work and for personal, so not much interesting. Like, checking the roof for hail damage (from a storm last spring that the HOA is going to file a claim about), and remembering to replace the furnace filter before it gets cold (two trips to Lowes, since I grabbed the wrong size the first time), and shopping for pants (found some acceptable cargo pants at JC Penny, finally).

I had a whole bunch of things on my To-Do list at the beginning of the week that I wanted to get accomplished before the workshop that started today, but then I had to spend Monday & Tuesday updating the website for the new data archive and Wednesday we had interviews for a new student assistant, so there's been a lot of fitting things into cracks, which somehow makes it feel like about an hour has passed between when I get to work and when I head home.

My Mom & Larry are in town for a week looking after my niece, and Monday night they stopped by our house to drop off a whole bunch of tomatoes and a flat of old ('50s & '60s) sci-fi magazines, so that was pretty cool. Garden-ripe tomatoes, sooo good! I have been eating a LOT of them.

I went to 1/3 of a concert tonight. Sabaton played second at Summit Music Hall, after Huntress and before Trivium, neither of whom I was interested in. I almost skipped it because I was tired, but I had a little bit of a lie-down after I got home, which regained me enough mana to go. And I'm glad I did; everything worked out really well. First, I found $2 street parking only a block and a half away. Then, when I got to the box office and discovered that it was cash-only, and that I had forgotten to get extra cash as I had planned, I asked the ticket-taker where the nearest ATM was and was about to head off when a guy standing nearby asked me how much cash I had on me, and sold me his extra ticket for the $9 I did have. I found a decent spot to stand on the right-hand stairs; it was behind other folks, but a bunch of them were short and I had a good angle. Sabaton came on all of five minutes after I got there and played for a bit over an hour, which is pretty long, considering they were only support, not headlining. I liked the new stuff they played, there were several good sing-along songs, and everyone got a good calf workout pogoing along to Audie Murphy and Primo Victoria. The audience was loud and enthusiastic; Denver is apparently is one of their better North American stops, fanbase-wise. And when it was all over, the merch tables were right at the bottom of the stairs, so I only had to stand in line for a couple minutes to buy their new album. I got home slightly over two hours after I left.

Three things make a post!
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Garbage [Sep. 18th, 2016|10:38 pm]
I saw Garbage at the Fillmore on Thursday night with Pyro (for his birthday), Craig F., Jeff L. and Rod V. It was a good show; I enjoyed it.

They played music from lots of different albums, not just big hits. There were plenty of songs I didn't recognize, many of which I still found groovy. And we got the first-ever live performance of "Magnetized" off their new album during the encore, so that was cool. The bass was mixed super-heavy, and there were all kinds of crazy infrasonic vibrations going on, but that was cool; it's one of those live-performance things you don't get just listening to streaming audio off the internet. The venue wasn't super-crowded; we stood in front of the audio engineers and had a decent amount of space. Oh, and there was a guy standing a row or two in front of us with this amazing hairdo, where his hair was curled up and forward into a perfect loop on top of his head that was dyed pink on one side. With curly mustaches, too! It was a very band-appropriate look.

Before the show we had dinner at b.d's Mongolian Grill, which was tasty and, more excitingly, easy to make no-carb. Eating out is kind of a pain while I'm on this ketogenic diet, so it's always nice to identify new options.

And since I was gonna be down that way anyway, I knocked off working from home early that afternoon and met with Thomas and one of his colleagues to discuss some data analysis I'm gonna do for them. It's nice having transferable skills. :)
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Fringe, Akira, Deadpool, Kubo [Sep. 14th, 2016|08:47 am]
This weekend turned out to be mostly about watching good movies.

Friday night, at long last, we finished watching the final season of Fringe. We (which is to say, I) got kinda stalled out on it for a while because the last season mutates the show's premise in a bit of a dystopian direction, and I hate dystopias. But Monkey noticed that it was leaving Netflix soon, so we binged the last half of the season, and I'm glad we did. The show concluded in a way that was very satisfying and true to itself, with of course any number of callbacks to elements ranging all the way back to the very beginning. Well-resolved, all ways round.

On Saturday, Dave V. came over to watch movies. Our original plans shifted due to streaming availability, and we ended up watching Akira (subtitled) and then Deadpool. It had been ages since I last watched Akira, and I had forgotten how good the animation is. The story is terse and elliptical, not just in the usual way of Japanese storytelling but of necessity, given the length and scope of the original manga (we have the graphic novel collection, and it's about a foot thick). I can't remember much of my reaction from the first time I saw it, but I imagine it's a lot clearer the second time around. Still, it's a remarkable film.

Deadpool was fun. It's violent and funny and fully aware of its own trashiness, and that works if you do it right, which they did. I laughed, I was appalled, it was better than Green Lantern. A LOT better than Green Lantern. Ryan Reynolds, all is forgiven. And I hope to see Negasonic Teenage Warhead in whatever X-movies they can fit her into. (Also, best post-credits stinger I've seen in a long time.)

And then Sunday night we went to the Mondoplex and watched Kubo and the Two Strings, which is gorgeous and amazing, and you should definitely go see it in the theater. I went in not knowing much of anything about the story, other than that it's sort of Japanese fairy tale-ish / folkloric, and was continually and enjoyably surprised. I guess I can mention that also there is origami and a monkey, if you need any further enticement. The whole thing is stop-motion animation, and the quality of it is so high that most of the time you can't tell, which oddly enough makes you forget the astonishing amount of skill and effort that went into it, except for the few moments where things are a little rough and you suddenly remember that's right, they did all of this MANUALLY. Anyway, it was super-good.

Ran errands and unsuccessfully went shopping for pants on Saturday; skinny-leg pants are a terrible fashion trend. And I paid Grandma a visit on Sunday afternoon. I heard some new bits of ancient family history that cemented in my mind how terrible a person her father (my great-grandfather) was. He was an abusive husband who abandoned his wife and children to run off with another woman at the beginning of the Great Depression, and he died a few years later when a tornado dropped a cast-iron stove on him; all I can say is that, frankly, he deserved it.
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Long Weekend: Games, Gatherings, Fragrance [Sep. 8th, 2016|08:22 pm]
Today is apparently Thursday, but my brain doesn't really believe that. A good long weekend often throws me off like that.

Got two nights of boardgames in: on Friday night we went over to Bob & Jeff & Douglas's and introduced them to Sentinels of the Multiverse. (Well, to Bob & Douglas -- Jeff was napping off the effects of work crises the day before. But we got to say hello.) We won, which was neat because things were looking grim near the end and I really was not expecting to. And then on Sunday night the Gamaches had folks over and I played some Dominion with Joe & Zanon & Malachi, and first-timer Malachi beat everyone by being the only one to have bought a Colony when three piles ran out unexpectedly early.

Saturday afternoon we also dropped by Timothy's BBQ for a while. And then Monday was an end-of-summer pool party & Bob & Pyro's, which was social and relaxing and enjoyable. And Monkey didn't get sunburned, hooray!

But the big thing we did was on Saturday we went up to Boulder and did a consultation at that perfume shop I talked about before. The thing that she does in a consultation is that she has this proprietary blend ("Special Formula X") that's a mix of a bunch of components that enhance your personal scent. So she rubs a bit of that on your arm, and then sniffs it, and tells you what notes your personal skin-scent has. (My skin is woody, sweet, and green. Jerry's is fruity and sweet.) And then that determines what kinds of fragrances will work on you, and she pulls out a couple dozen to consider. The "woody and green" thing is why most men's fragrances smell awful on me; the popular ones usually have elements that don't work with that.

There was also a big educational component to it; we now understand what terms like "woody" and "green" and "aldehydic" mean. (Some of the stuff she brought out was like "okay, try this. I predict you'll hate it, but it'll be informative.") And we learned that "musk" is not a funky animal smell; it's a soapy clean smell.

So, amazingly, she was actually able to find a couple different scents that would work for both of us! The interesting thing is that they smell very different depending on which of us is wearing them. The combinations work really well, too, and rather than having her mix them, we just got a little (1 dram) bottle of each, so we can play around with just using different proportions when we put them on. We got bottles of Special Formula X (because actually, just skin smells pretty good), and Arabian Sandalwood (sandalwood is my friend), and one called Hippie Chic. (Which you would never believe has patchouli in it, but it does. Also burnt coconut, which is also my friend.) Jerry also got some beard oil with a personal, just-for-him blend. It's Hinoki with I think Ambre and Exotic Wood, but I'd have to check.

We spent like two and a half hours at it, and it was a really novel and enjoyable experience. The thing that I found most interesting about it is that I don't really like perfumey smells, and I have no interest in smelling like Mr. Hello I Am Wearing Cologne. So the fact that there exist subtle fragrances that can make you smell like yourself, just a little bit more so and a little bit more complex and interesting, opens up a whole new realm of expression and presentation, and that's pretty keen.
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Grief Counseling (and Lack Thereof) [Sep. 7th, 2016|10:54 pm]
When I got to work today I found out that our division director (my great-grandboss) died suddenly and unexpectedly last night.

Which is sad, though less so for me than for those who worked more closely with him; I liked him and I thought he was a good guy, but our paths did not cross frequently. For me, it's mostly an unsettling sudden change. I keep thinking "Wait, really? He's just gone? That doesn't seem right."

The organization has made grief counselors available, which is good. They have also scheduled group grief counseling sessions for those who are interested.

Words cannot express my abject horror at this prospect. Which is a little surprising, given that I like my colleagues and care about them quite a bit, but just... sorry, thank you, but no. The very thought makes my stomach churn.

I'm glad it's an option for those who might want it, but I'm also very thankful that it's purely voluntary.
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The Rolling Stone Mystery [Aug. 28th, 2016|11:48 pm]
I have received two issues of Rolling Stone magazine in the last week.

They have my name and address printed on them in the little label box, so they haven't been misdelivered. Apparently I have a subscription?

Which is a mite perplexing, because I haven't, to the best of my knowledge, signed up for it, nor is it a title that I would sign up for. And I can't think of anybody who would give me a subscription as a gift.

It's quite inexplicable.
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