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Ugh, stop twitching
february 2011 Q&A digest
minutiae Posted 2011-03-02 17:24:24 by Jim Crawford
Yep, still doing this. Archived from

What is your least favorite thing?

Being uploaded into a personal pocket universe and tortured indefinitely.

How many more questions do you get that end up deleted? How much are you NOT telling us? And what sorts of things tend to get thrown out and why?
Formspring doesn't keep track of the questions you've deleted, so I can only go by memory. I've only deleted a few. If a question is inane -- “what is leg” -- or just the sort of thing I don't have an interesting answer to -- “If you were redesigning Rome today, what changes would you make?” -- I'll leave it up for a few answering sessions in case I come up with a good-enough joke answer, then delete it.

Define art.
One problem with Formspring is that there's no comment feature to allow people to help me flesh out my first approximations. Silver lining: I can throw out some bullshit and nobody can call me on it.

Let's try this one: a pattern or object created by an organism, for which the intended purpose is not to keep anyone alive or get anyone laid.

(So I guess rock and roll doesn't count.)

Vampires are REAL! Also, you are the PRESIDENT! How do you choose to handle the newly rising vampire population? What programs and policies would you attempt to implement, or is extermination the only way?
I guess it depends on whether I've read “I am Legend” or just seen the movie. Protip: the latter.

What is more ethical? To allow someone to believe something that you believe you know to be false, but which makes them happy? Or to try to force them to discard this belief, knowing that if you succeed they will be significantly less happy as a result?
This depends on the larger picture, of course. The whole reason we have the concept of “sticking by your principles” is that a decision made for pragmatic, local reasons can ripple out and touch your life, or the lives of others, in larger ways you weren't considering. For instance: if word gets around that you made this decision, you'll be unable to comfort anybody else in a similar way, even with the truth, because they'll doubt your honesty. Even if word doesn't get around, how will it affect you psychologically to maintain the fiction?

Conversely -- this is how you use “conversely,” right? -- if word gets around that you were blunt and honest, people will be much more likely to trust you in the future. And maybe think you're a dick, but that's the life of the blunt and honest for you.

Does technology create more problems than it solves?
Well, the jury's still out on this one, isn't it? Will we be destroyed in nuclear fire? Will we reach the stars and live forever? Will the Singularity pan out, and if so in a good or a bad way for us?

For the time being I'm inclined to say no. I like the present much better than the past.

Where are the bodies buried?
Statistically speaking, with every breath we're each inhaling thousands of the atoms that composed the bodies at time of death.

Do you think there's a way to objectively measure the value of a person? How about subjectively: can you determine whether one person is more valuable than another? What criteria might you consider?
“Value” is a wholly human, subjective concept, so no, you can't objectively determine the value of anything. The way we as a culture generally measure value is by way of a popularity contest, weighted by those whose opinions we respect more.

This criterion is of course circular, but: I value most the people who have contributed the most value to humanity, weighted by how much they've affected me and the people I know. Value contributed to humanity would likely take the form of increased quality of life, but quantity of life can work too, e.g. Norman Borlaug's work in agriculture.

(Yes this is all pretty vague. I like Thai iced tea and video games! So whoever invented those is pretty awesome.)

What's something you've done lately that you're proud of?
The whole learning to drive thing is pretty proud-making. Surprisingly fun, too. (Which, yes, scares me.)

Are you out of questions? Should I ask more?
No, yes. I started out telling myself that I'd answer every question asked of me, but I've given up on that. So don't worry about asking a terrible question -- you won't be forcing me to answer it, and you'll also never know for sure whether I deleted it immediately after reading, or whether I've simply spent the three years since you asked crafting the perfect answer.

What powers the universe?
It's not any of a number of human emotions, but as a human, it doesn't it sure feel like that sometimes?

How many letters are in the answer to this question?
Let's see, um, seven... teen?

Do you think that equality is really desirable?
Differences in status, and potential differences, are some of the biggest motivators for humans to work hard. I want to make a physics analogy about heat differences being required to do work, but I'm not sure I can without sounding like an idiot to people who actually know physics.

I'm pretty sure what we want is not true equality, and maybe not even equal opportunity, but a steadily rising baseline level of opportunity, paired with a steadily rising baseline level of quality of living.

We run into interesting questions, though: what about people who are handicapped in some crucial and unavoidable way? There are people today who are literally incapable of doing useful work. You can't argue that a brain-dead person is being denied job opportunities for cultural reasons, like you can for someone who didn't get a good education because he grew up in the slums. Where's the line? Is the distinction even important? If we don't actively make work for people who are incapable of doing useful work, then they'll be miserable. (Okay, brain-dead people won't be miserable, but you see what I'm getting at.) And this group of people is only going to grow over time, eventually encompassing potentially everyone.

Since you woke up this morning, what was the first word that you did NOT say?

(Also, I've answered the phone since answering the last question in this series. My second and third words were “what's” and “up.”)

Is art important?
Seems like this should go without saying? Yes, art is important. The only way I can imagine otherwise by using an exceedingly narrow definition of “art.” Like, maybe, “'Art critic art' doesn't seem that important to me, because who looks at that shit?”

I guess the next step in answering this question is for me to define “art.” So, uh, on to the next question!

(P.S. Art that the general public doesn't care about is still important if only because of its influences on popular art.)

Do cats smile all the time, or none of the time?
If you define “a sound” as the impact of the falling tree producing vibrations in the surrounding air, then yes. If you define “a sound” as a human brain perceiving those... wait, sorry, I'm thinking of a different question.

I have seas without water I have forests without wood I have deserts without sand I have houses with no brick What am I?
A run-on sentence.

If you fart in cold weather, is there a plume of condensation that reveals it to the world?
Not that I've noticed. Are you insinuating that you wouldn't know because you've never farted in a public place, and that I'm the sort of person who would do that?

Is absolute morality possible without a deity?
Sure, I can conceive of a universe without a deity but with absolute morality. That's not this universe, though.

Why can't you fly?
My family didn't have a plane when I was sixteen, and since then I've been too lazy and/or scared of responsibility to put in the effort.

You are given a super-anti-laser-blaster, capable of un-blowing up a single thing completely, once, before its nega-batteries run out. What do you use it on?
This is basically the same “if you had infinite resources what would you do with it” question I answered before. Have a look at that one.

What made you decide to get a driver's license after all this time?
Cheri and I went to see The Black Swan. Neither of us knew that it was secretly a horror movie, and it ended up freaking her out pretty badly. Then she had to drive us home, rather than relaxing while I drove.

Really just basic consideration, I guess. I'm not sure yet why I never noticed this sort of situation cropping up in my life before.

Under what circumstances should one submit one's artistic vision to the irrational demands of others?
“Should” is a funny word. Hey, did you know that the Sistine Chapel Ceiling was a work-for-hire?

Of the first seventeen years of your life, which one would you say was the best year, and why?
I frankly don't remember most of those years. I'm gonna guess the 17th, though. Most of the friends I still have, I made around that age.

What was the SECOND word you said today, out loud?
I don't think I've spoken at all today, actually.

What was the third word you said today, out loud?
Ask me again tomorrow, and I'll try to remember.

Quick, name something that is not a cow! Go!
A moose.

You just learned that you are never going to die. How does this change the way you live your life over the next 20 years or so?
I could see this going one of two ways: On the one hand, I might end up relaxing and indulging in idle pleasures, knowing I'll have all the time I need to accomplish my goals -- i.e., it might make me lose my edge.

On the other hand, I think that one thing that stops me from really bearing down on a single interest is the opportunity cost of not being able to focus on other interests. So it might instead mean I spend the next 20 years doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and carving more and more intricate table legs.

If you could pick any letter of the alphabet, and for the whole day, everyone could only say words that started with that letter, which letter would you pick?
Hm. T, because it's a common letter to start words on, and it also can be used to start the “th” sound. Double your initial phoneme selection! You can thank me later. After I change my name to “Thogwai Thoet,” I guess?

What is the best Pokemon?
Oh, you know, I like 'em all, really. I have great appreciation for, uh, the vast variety of Pokemon that we use to, uh, store little red balls. There are just so many excellent Pokemon, I don't think I could name, er, choose just one. Goldar? Is that... no? Um, Cheetara?

Suppose you had the power to grant wishes, but only if the person wishing was wishing for more batteries at the time. How would you use this power?
I'd go door-to-door at Christmas, in a superhero costume. The batterer saves the day yet again!

Is it ethical to eradicate, say something like, racism, if there are people right now who enjoy from being racist, and would hate the un-racist world you would try to forge? Beliefs about racism aside, do you have the right to take that from them?
What if I first eradicate enjoyment of racism? It's a lot easier to accept this sort of change if you take it in baby steps -- because that's how your mind changes in real life. A decade of baby steps and you can end up a very different person.

Do you ever set microwave timers for 1:90 instead of 2:30, just because you can?
No, but sometimes I set them for “90” because it's shorter than “1:30.”

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