August 16th, 2017
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
posted by [personal profile] liv at 12:28pm on 16/08/2017 under ,
Recently read:
  • Dzur by Steven Brust.

    I didn't love this; I'm not sure how much it's a weaker member of the series and how much it's me. It is book 10 in a set of 19, of which the last five are still to be written. I may have left it too long since I read the previous volumes, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. I decided I couldn't be bothered following all the complex allusions to the meta-structure of the whole series, and as a single novel it's never more than just ok. I didn't find Vlad's voice or Loiosh's asides witty, and the pacing dragged, and I didn't care about the mystery. Because I hadn't been following the chronology properly, the twist at the end wasn't a delightful surprise, it just unsatisfyingly didn't make sense.

    When I was reading 50 books a year, I intended to read the whole series, because both the individual novels and the way they fit together into a complex whole appeal to me. Now that I read more like 15 or 20, I'm thinking I may drop this. Not sure; one weaker book doesn't mean the whole series isn't worth bothering with.

  • A taste of honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. This was a Hugo-nominated novella, which meant that several of my friends read it, and were enthusiastic about it. So I ended up reading the copy from my Hugo packet on the way back from Worldcon, which is not exactly in the spirit of things. And I regret not reading it in time to vote for it, not that it would have made much difference since McGuire's Every heart a doorway (which I wasn't keen on) won by miles.

    Anyway, this is a really amazing fantasy romance story. It's beautifully written, great characters, twisty, thought-provoking plot. The worldbuilding is really deep; looking it up it turns out this is a companion novella in the setting of a novel, which I'm now definitely going to seek out. I had dismissed Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps mainly because the name is so clunky; I assumed it was parodic or just really generic swords and sorcery.

    It's hard to describe exactly what's so great about AToH without spoilers, but it's a really moving romance, and has a lot to say about choices and sacrifices made for love. [personal profile] jack thought it maybe needed some content warnings; some of the content is about homophobia and abusive parenting. To me it didn't feel like misery porn, it felt as if it centred its variously Queer characters and described some of the bad things in their life as well as the good. But I can imagine some readers finding it hard going.

    Up next: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. I'd been meaning to read this, though I'm a little scared of what I've heard about it, and I've now bumped it up my list since the sequel won a second Hugo.
  • location: Olorum
    Mood:: 'okay' okay
    Music:: Enya: Orinoco flow
    wpadmirer: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] wpadmirer at 07:14am on 16/08/2017
    It is no sudden surprise that Trump supports white supremacists. His father was one, and so is he. Remember, this is a man who was prosecuted for refusing to rent to African-Americans years ago. This is a man who persistently attacked the first black president. His consistent position has been one of a bigot. His insistence there was "violence on both sides" and his failure to mention the death caused by one of those "peaceful demonstrators" is just another nail in the coffin of the illusion that he is anything but a bigot.

    In other news, I have now learned to add a second punch with the right hand to the left jab. And no, there's no reason at all that I would mention this is the same breath as discussing Nazis.

    And on that note, I'm going to go find breakfast.
    andrewducker: (Default)
    wildeabandon: A glass of wine with text "Moderation is a fatal thing.  Nothing succeeds like excess." (excess)
    posted by [personal profile] wildeabandon at 09:15am on 16/08/2017
    Last night [personal profile] borusa and I went for dinner at Counter Culture in Clapham. It was bloody brilliant. We sat outside, overlooking the common and enjoying the summer night air.

    The restaurant has a short menu of small plates, and the waiter said that for two people they recommended one of everything, which was exactly what we'd just decided on. As it turned out, the combination of the quality of the food and the fact that we're both quite hearty eaters meant that we ordered seconds of some of them, and there wasn't a single dish that wasn't delicious. We were especially pleased by the plate of salami, which were lovely and piquante and aromatic, the parmasan and chive gnocchi, which somehow managed to be both rich and comforting and light and summery at the same time, and the pork cheeks with smoked aubergine and barbequed pickled onions, which was expertly conceived and balanced. We were also extremely taken with the cheese course, which was a soft goat's cheese, not too pungent, not too mild, served with slices of peach, firm but not so underripe as to be sharp.

    Given the short menu, it probably wouldn't be the greatest dining experience for veg*ns, or people with other major dietary restrictions, but if you're mostly omnivorous, I can't recommend it enough. Dinner for two hungry people, including service and drinks (three beers and two soft drinks, but they also offer BYO at £10/bottle corkage) came in at a very reasonable £115. Also, unlike so many of these new small restaurants, they take bookings, so no annoying queuing.
    gerald_duck: (oreille)
    It's been two months now since the One Love Manchester concert. I'm still going back and watching this video every few days. And I'm still crying every time I do.

    I was already quite impressed by Ariana Grande. She seemed like a genuinely lovely person, though I was cynically aware that a bit of careful PR could curate a favourable public image. Her response to the Manchester bombing, however was hugely impressive, and evinced the kind of grace and compassion that's beyond fakery.

    The decision by Parrs Wood school to release a charity single in the wake of the bombing was inspired, as was the decision for them to perform at One Love Manchester, on the same stage as an impressive hastily-convened lineup of international megastars.

    In the normal course of events, if you catapulted a twelve-year-old from the relative obscurity of a school choir into an audience of fifty thousand at Old Trafford with tens of millions more around the world watching live on TV, and they started crying, that would be a pretty awkward moment. Not this time!

    Ariana hugs her with sincere tenderness, and it works. The look in Natasha's eyes at the 2m31s mark is beautiful to see. What's more, the crowd feels exactly the same way, and is entirely supportive of both of them.

    Natasha has since spoken to Manchester Evening News, and clearly views the experience extremely positively.

    It's also clear that Ariana Grande has a prodigious talent. When I pause to think about what's going on there, she's performing one of the biggest gigs of her life at one week's notice, she's juggling her own emotions, she's looking out for Natasha and she still sings like that!
    gerald_duck: (nazi)
    posted by [personal profile] gerald_duck at 01:49am on 16/08/2017
    Here's a tweet that gave me pause for thought: "Sounds like it comes down to a fear that if whites become a minority they'll be treated like they've treated minorities."

    Yes. To somebody who assumes everyone else thinks and acts as they do, and knows (however little they'll acknowledge it to themself or others) deplorable things have been done to various minorities in the past and even current treatment of minorities is very shabby, the idea of those minorities suddenly coming into power over them would be terrifying. That does make a kind of sense.

    In reality, that's not going to happen any time soon, if at all. Current projections are that "non-Hispanic White" people will stop being the majority in 2043, but it's absurd to suggest everybody would vote on racial lines in 2044. (Also, they'd remain the majority for a little longer amongst people of voting age.)

    Equally, in reality, most people don't think and act like they do.

    But they could be in for a nasty shock. They would do well to read the Lord of the Rings with particular reference to Saruman's fate. In the penultimate chapter, the Scouring of the Shire, having cornered Saruman the hobbits could easily kill him. That's what Saruman would do in such a situation, and it's what he expects:

    I have already done much that you will find it hard to mend or undo in your lives. And it will be pleasant to think of that and set it against my injuries.'

    'Well, if that is what you find pleasure in,' said Frodo, 'I pity you. It will be a pleasure of memory only, I fear. Go at once and never return!'

    The hobbits of the villages had seen Saruman come out of one of the huts, and at once they came crowding up to the door of Bag End. When they heard Frodo's command, they murmured angrily:

    'Don't let him go! Kill him! He's a villain and a murderer. Kill him!'


    'I will not have him slain. It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing. Go, Saruman, by the speediest way!'


    Saruman turned to go, and Wormtongue shuffled after him. But even as Saruman passed close to Frodo a knife flashed in his hand, and he stabbed swiftly. The blade turned on the hidden mail-coat and snapped. A dozen hobbits, led by Sam, leaped forward with a cry and flung the villain to the ground. Sam drew his sword.

    'No, Sam!' said Frodo. 'Do not kill him even now. For he has not hurt me. And in any case I do not wish him to be slain in this evil mood. He was great once, of a noble kind that we should not dare to raise our hands against. He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it.'

    Saruman rose to his feet, and stared at Frodo. There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred. 'You have grown, Halfling,' he said. 'Yes, you have grown very much. You are wise, and cruel. You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more.

    To someone mired in evil, mercy and justice can hurt more than any violence. The alt-right fear us stooping to their level; maybe they should be more fearful that we will not.
    August 15th, 2017
    skibbley: Grant wearing a straw hat (Default)
    jack: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] jack at 07:45pm on 15/08/2017 under
    Does anyone understand pilot wave theory even a little bit?

    Prodded by several recent articles, I've been trying to follow what it says, and am still quite unsure of the realities.

    The analogy usually presented is, if you have a small oil drop on the surface of water, and the water container is subject to a regular pattern of vibration, the water forms standing waves in shapes affected by the edges of the container and any obstructions in the surface of the water. And the oil drop tends to move across the surface of the water following the paths in those waves.

    If you look solely at the oil drop, you can't tell which of two equal paths it would follow, but you can predict it will take one of them with equal probability, and predict its motion probabilistically. And if you couldn't see the standing water waves, you could deduce something in that shape exists.

    You can even get some analogies for weird quantum behaviour like the an electron passing through two parallel slits and experiencing interference with itself: the water waves form possible channels for the oil drop, and the oil drop goes through one slit or the other, but ends up only at certain places on the far side.

    However, the analogy to actual quantum physics is still unclear to me. Not whether it's true, but even what people are suggesting might happen.

    Are people suggesting there's some underlying medium like the water? In that case, isn't there some propagation speed? The water waves exist in a steady state once all the obstructions are set up, but they don't respond to changes instantly. If the water trough were miles long, the oil drop would set off following water wave paths that existed at the point it passes through, not the paths corresponding to the obstructions that are going to be in place when the oil drop passes through them.

    And yet, as I understand it, no-one expects a propagation delay in quantum experiments. People keep checking it out, but there never is: it always acts like an electron propagates just like it is itself a wave.

    I agree, if there WERE some delay, if you changed the slits at this time, and got one result, and changed them at another time, and got another result, that would be massive, massive, evidence of something, possibly of something like pilot wave theory. But AFAIK proponents of pilot wave theory aren't advocating looking for such delays, and don't expect to find any.

    Contrariwise, if this is just an analogy, and the quantum equivalent of the water waves (equivalent to the wave function in other interpretations of quantum mechanics) propagates at "infinite" speed, then... that is undetectable, indistinguishable from other interpretations of quantum mechanics. But it raises red-flag philosophical questions about what "infinite speed" means when all the intuition from special (or general) relativity indicates that all physical phenomena are local, and are influenced only by physics of nearby things, and "the same time" is a human illusion like the earth being stationary. Even if you don't expect to detect the pilot wave, can you write down what it should be in a universe where physics is local? Does that in fact provide a way to make QM deterministic and independent of observers, even if you change the reference frame? Because it doesn't sound like it will work.

    FWIW, those are very superficial objections, I don't understand what it's saying enough to actually evaluate in depth. But I don't understand why these don't show up on lists of "common objections and rebuttals". Common objections have confident rebuttals in several places, and I've *seen* articles about them, but not understood well enough. Can anyone explain better?


    I do agree, the idea that QM equations are an emergent property of something else, ideally a statistical interpretation of a deterministic underlying reality, would be very nice in clearing up a lot of confusion. But AFAIK, the closest candidate to that is Many Worlds, which doesn't appeal to many people who want to get away from QM unpleasantness.
    hooloovoo_42: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] hooloovoo_42 at 08:10pm on 15/08/2017
    I had heard that Stargate SG-1 was back on Now TV, but hadn't had time recently to look for it.  Monday nights are currently taken up with GoT (OMG!!! GoT!!!), but tonight I decided to give the latest rewatch of Grey's Anatomy a miss and search for SG-1.  So now I'm happily ensconced in episode 2.  

    Oh, I've missed this.  Even the theme music makes me all happy on the inside.  The initial meeting between Jack and Sam is squeeful in the extreme.  Hammond is just explaining to Daniel why he's not going to be on SG-1 and Daniel is having nothing of it.  

    And they all look so *young*.

    I know what I'm going to be doing with my free time for the next 10 seasons! 
    wpadmirer: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] wpadmirer at 07:13am on 15/08/2017
    I went to bed at 9:50 last night. Not bad. I was shooting for 9:30, but didn't quite make it.

    Work was busy. Mostly I missed my friend, Paayal, being there. She's the dentist, and we take a few minutes each day to just hang out and talk. She will be out on maternity leave for 12 weeks. (sigh)

    I pushed a lot of paper yesterday. That is about 90% of my job.

    In other news, Paayal had left me her ice cream stash. I went in after lunch to get one and the dental staff had eaten the entire box of ice cream she'd left me. WTF?! I guess they figured since she was out on maternity leave it was up for grabs.

    Our maintenance guy had brought me in a tin of homemade banana bread, which I was going to put in the staff room and share. But since they ate my ice cream, I'm keeping it to myself.

    Yes, the petty stuff of working with other people. Never fails to annoy. And the banana bread is excellent.

    Pat is riding this morning, but he's still having problems with his neck. This makes me unhappy, but there is no talking him out of it. He "has" to ride. Yeah, right.

    I have boxing this afternoon. It is going to be exhausting, and probably cathartic. (grin)
    andrewducker: (Default)
    kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] kaberett at 09:40am on 15/08/2017 under ,
    On Sunday I conned Adam into going blackberry picking with me (it's a bit more complicated than that, but the short version is he hadn't realised how much more tedious and unpleasant it is to pick wild blackberries than it is to pick pick-your-own strawberries), so we've got a large tub of blackberries that I'm gradually turning into beverages/desserts/etc. We also had the end of a pound-a-bowl bag of blueberries from the market, and I have been meaning to try clafoutis for years, so! Lightly adapted from River Cottage.

    Read more... )
    August 14th, 2017
    mtbc: maze C (black-yellow)
    Back in May I had mentioned, More recently in working on extending our server's permissions system and especially in then fixing the performance issues I thus caused, I have not been at all sure how many weeks the work would take nor how possible I would find it at all, which of course is a stressful uncertainty. I now seem to be back in that joyless realm.

    The server permissions work that I am doing was meant to have been released long ago. Enforcing a later hard security requirement caused some performance issues that took me some weeks to investigate and fix or at least work around. The release date was pushed to what is now fairly soon and more performance issues have raised their head, thanks in part to tougher testing that I recently suggested. I noted some ideas that may help but, as has been typical, luck has not smiled upon me which may be par for the course when wrestling complex legacy code, based on an equally complex enterprise software stack, so that it can manage current-scale data such as the Image Data Resource. I still have more ideas to try, perhaps even more to have, but I cannot promise to fix the issues on time nor am I sure that it would take less than a fundamental redesign.

    On the one hand, my coworkers understand that I am wrestling with difficult issues and will help where they can. Just today one of them took one another task off my plate and has probably finished it off. On the other hand, being ongoingly at the center of delayed code with significant technical risk does not leave me feeling comfortably relaxed.
    sfred: (faun)
    If there's anything you want to say to me after BiCon, feel free to do so here. Comments are screened and will remain so.
    kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] kaberett at 06:27pm on 14/08/2017 under , ,

    2. [ profile] kaberett continues explicitly Things That Make Me Happy, all the time, no politics. [ profile] kaberabbits continues... all the rabbits, all the time. In case this is relevant to your interests. (Anything political would go on [ profile] kaberants, but I just... Haven't Been.)
    ewx: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] ewx at 06:05pm on 14/08/2017 under

    Things I attended included...

    • Appeal of the Bland Protagonist. I remember only that Robert Silverberg was fairly entertaining.
    • The Long Term Future of the Universe & How to Avoid It. I don’t think we got as far as proton decay. Entertaining but I don’t think I learned much.
    • Polyamorous Relationships in Fiction. I think a fair few examples given but I don’t really remember much about this.
    • What Science Can Tell Us About Alien Minds. This was largely a very well-pitched survey of what we know about minds and brains and their development here, with the implications for the alien underlined. Excellent.
    • New, More Diverse Superheroes. Something that’s been improving lately. Many of the examples were familiar. Slightly surprised that Vimanarama wasn’t mentioned, it can’t be that obscure?
    • How to Tell the Ducks from the Rabbits. This covered some unpublished research modelling some perceptual effects we find in human vision. Ian Stewart is a good speaker.
    • Cyberpunk and the Future. Fairly rambling but quite entertaining and IIRC avoided the trap of falling into a laundry list of recommendations which can sometimes happen.
    • New Publishing. A couple of models I didn’t know about (though ‘run publisher as a co-operative’ doesn’t seem conceptually new) but I didn’t get a sense that any particular model was about to set the world on fire. Apparently ebook sales are declining as a proportion of the total, which surprised me.
    • Supermassive Black Holes. A quick survey of how black holes work (which didn’t contain many surprises) followed by some new stuff: the GR-aware visualization of a black hole made for Interstellar, corrections to it involving red/blue shifting and the spin of the black hole, a further visualization of what you’d see as you flew into one (assuming you destroyed by any of the many hazards) and a project to radio image out galaxy’s central black hole. Another excellent science talk.
    • Hugo Awards. Very glad to see Monstress winning Best Graphic Story.
    • Beyond the Goldilocks Zone. Panel about the possibilities for exoplanets that sustain life. One point I’d not previously been aware of was that although Europa-style bodies might (hypothetically) have life in sub-ice oceans, there’s no realistic way of detecting this from a distance, meaning that more earth-like planets are a better bet for analysis. (The “goldilocks zone” is the range of distances from a given star in which planets can support liquid water on their surface, making them a good bet for life.)
    • Gender and “Realistic History”. The panel largely surveyed past examples of groups and behaviors sometimes thought to have been absent or rare in the past. Interesting listening.
    • Exoplanetary Zoo and The Search for Earth 2.0. Another excellent science talk, this time on the detection strategies for exoplanets and the results they’ve had so far. There are a lot of exoplanet discoveries awaiting confirmation.
    • Language Creation. David Peterson (famous for the conlangs from Game Of Thrones) described the basics of making a convincing sketch conlang. A very entertaining speaker.
    • The Singularity: Transhuman Intelligence in Fiction and Futurism. An opportunity for Charlie Stross to steal the show. Fun.
    • Bullets in Space. Basic orbital mechanics, done fairly well. The basic proposition is that ballistic projectiles are a terrible idea when fighting in an orbit; if they miss the target they are probably going to hit something you didn’t want them to.
    • Tomorrow’s Cool SF Physics. Enjoyed it but don’t remember anything else about it.
    • Designing Life. Fun discussion of biotechnological possibilities for modifying and creating life.
    • Ideas Crossing the World: Japanese Adaptations of Western Fantasy. In practice I think this mostly amounted to an opportunity for the panellists to entertain with their encyclopaedic knowledge of manga and anime.

    ...there were other things but I can’t remember enough to say anything about them.

    skibbley: Grant wearing a straw hat (Default)
    wpadmirer: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] wpadmirer at 07:11am on 14/08/2017
    Which does not bode well for my Monday. Crap.

    In other news, laundry is done. Pat did his metric century on his bike.

    The Red Sox beat the Yankees in a close game. (YAY!)

    Tomorrow is boxing training so I'm thinking I may have to go to bed at a ridiculously early hour in order to not collapse during it.

    andrewducker: (Default)
    skibbley: Grant wearing a straw hat (Default)


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