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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 06:47pm on 29/09/2017 under
The BBC and some former colleagues of mine have an app ('droid or iOS) you can download to help scientists better map how people move around and interact with each other - more details here
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 04:50pm on 23/07/2017 under
I didn't really have enough time to get through the Hugo reading this year, but I did manage to read enough of the shortlisted novels that I voted for them. I voted thus:

  1. A Closed and Common Orbit; I read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet shortly before the shortlist was announced (and really enjoyed it), which perhaps biased me in favour of this one. That did mean that I knew how one of the story arcs was going to finish, but it was still an engaging read, and I thought the way the author approached neurodiversity was gently but well done
  2. Ninefox Gambit; I would not normally go for military SF, and it did take me a while to get into this, but the author has created a fascinating world, and I really want to find out how the series progresses. Despite being the first in a series, this had a decent narrative arc of its own
  3. All the Birds in the Sky; I wanted to like this, but didn't in the end. The chapters were a bit abrupt, it sometimes felt like it was just being clever, and the magic felt a bit deus ex machina in places. I also found the (inevitable?) romance plot pretty weak. Also, the ending was a bit disappointing.
  4. Too Like the Lightning; I didn't like this at all. The narrator was infuriating, the style affected, the continued harping on about gender irksome, and it didn't even try to come to a natural close, it just stopped. I know there's a sequel, but really.


I didn't read Death's End, because I hated 3-Body Problem; I didn't read The Obelisk Gate because I didn't manage to get hold of a copy (the kindle voter packet only had an excerpt).
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 06:02pm on 20/07/2017 under , ,
Fans of the coffee stall on the Cambridge market (link to my previous post on opening hours) may be interested to know that he doesn't seem to be open on Thursdays any more - AFAICT he's now Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat.

Not entirely co-incidentally, my coffee supplies are now rather low :(
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 07:58pm on 09/07/2017 under
It's getting to the end of the choir year, when some of the older children will be leaving us to go to university. Tradition is that they get to suggest music to do for the last few services of term. So while evensong did rather over-run this evening, we did have some lovely music - A 12 part magnificat by Victoria, Holst's 8-part setting of the Nunc Dimittis, and the anthem was also by Holst, Psalm 148 [links are to youtube recordings of other people singing these pieces].
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 07:15pm on 29/06/2017 under , ,
Ian Hislop is doing history on the TV again, this time "Who Should We Let In?" [available on iPlayer until 27 July], where he looks at how our attitude to immigration changed from the Victorian period where our open door policy was a point of national pride.

It's a disturbingly contemporary account, beginning with antisemitism in London's East End. Early on the press realise that lies about foreigners sell papers (the "Yellow Peril" stories about Liverpool resulted in the city council conducting an inquiry that concluded that the Chinese were in fact model citizens), and it is politically expedient to blame the woes of the poor on aliens.

It's not all depressing - the British took in a quarter of a million Belgians during the first world war, and people put them up in their own homes, rather as some people are now doing with refugees from Syria and other parts of the world. But, as the women who is hosting a Syrian refugee points out, we're a very rich nation and we are taking far fewer refugees than far smaller and poorer countries are.
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:08am on 08/06/2017 under
It's polling day. If you can, do please go and vote (I'm expecting a parcel, and will vote once it's arrived). When the GE was called, I wrote thus on facebook:

So we're going to have a general election as a proxy for a referendum on support for the Conservatives' ultra-hard Brexit strategy. When the main opposition party has not been meaningfully opposing hard Brexit, and I live in a safe Conservative seat (whose MP has not meaningfully opposed hard Brexit, despite saying she opposes hard Brexit).

The result of which is that we'll now be told that the Conservatives have a mandate for their hard Brexit, and there will be no opportunity to try and vote down whatever deal we end up with. And there's nothing I can usefully do to change this outcome - South Cambs isn't going to go non-Tory.

Great. :'(


It's fair to say the campaign hasn't really altered my feelings. I have done some leafletting for the Lib Dems in South Cambs, and I'm hopeful we can at least make the seat look like a winnable marginal for the next GE. I've so far been resisting efforts by the Cambridge LD party to go and help in the campaign there (I may weaken and put an hour or two in after work); it's still frustrating to see so much effort expended on fighting between two anti-Brexit candidates.

It's notable how little Brexit has featured in the campaign, but I guarantee "support for our Brexit plans" (which have still to be described meaningfully) will be one of the things Theresa May says in her victory speech tomorrow, and I'm sure it's going to make getting a vote on the final basically impossible.

I predict that the BBC's exit poll will be very close to the right answer, and that the Torys will get a minority of votes cast but end up with a majority of around 50 (substantially bigger than before, but not a landslide).
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:12pm on 18/05/2017 under
I'm rubbish at films. I read a review or see a trailer or somesuch, and think "Oh, I should go to see that". But then somehow I never quite get round to it, and then the film's no longer on. One such film was Calvary, which I imagine I saw reviewed in the Church Times or similar. This evening, idly browsing iplayer, I saw it was available (for another 11 days at the time of writing), so thought I'd watch it.

It's a very good film, but deals with a number of difficult themes (clerical abuse, guilt, suicide, sin, forgiveness). The main character, Father James, is a priest as real person rather than the stereotypes that priests in fiction often are, and that makes him believable as well as sympathetic. He's trying to live out his vocation and make sense of it in difficult circumstances. It's a very witty film, as well, quite sharply observed in places, with a number of lines that feel like they're commenting on the film itself.

90 minutes feels quite short for a film these days, and you might find yourself wishing there was more of this film. Well worth your time, but not easy watching.
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:07am on 14/04/2017
For various uninteresting reasons, most of the adult choristers at GSM now vest in the vicar's study. This has quite a strong hinged-arm closer (like this one) - you have to pull quite hard to open it, and it slams the door somewhat.

Yesterday, just before the Maundy Thursday service, I opened the door, and the frame started to pull away from the wall, with a very alarming creaking sound! I let it close again, and Marion and I inspected the damage. Most pressingly, the way the frame was coming off, it was now fouling the arm of the door closure, which meant it took us a while to manage to get the door opened at all (and probably meant that the door would be hard to non-destructively open from the outside). So we propped the door open with a chair, and left several large notes saying "do not move door nor chair". Of course, we then spent some time trying to tell people what had happened, and still kept finding people about to shut the door...

The problem, it seems, is that the closer arm was screwed into the wooden frame, but not really into the plaster wall behind, and the wooden frame was only tacked in place. Perhaps surprising it's lasted this long! But still, not really the way to begin the Maundy Thursday service. Hopefully I'll break nothing else...
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 06:17pm on 12/04/2017 under
Star ratings have been in the news recently - firms like Uber essentially considering anything less than 5/5 as a complaint. This reminded me of a time a B&B owner who I'd given 4/5 on Tripadvisor was hurt enough by said rating that they grumbled at me about it when I tried to make a repeat booking!

I'm quite a keen tripadvisor user - both in terms of using it when trying to find places to eat/stay and writing reviews (110 reviews written, which have garnered 51 "helpful" votes). But it's quite rare for me to give somewhere a 5/5 rating. Even taking into account the fact I mostly go places that are already quite well-rated, I've given only 20 5/5 ratings[0]. It seems to me that in the tripadvisor case (which is distinct from the Uber one, I think), a "anything less than 5/5 is a complaint" model would render the rating system much less useful.

Perhaps I am in a minority, but to me 4/5 is, as the hover-text says, "very good"...


[0] 1x1, 2x2, 21x3, 65x4, 20x5
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 03:10pm on 26/03/2017 under ,
I've been thinking for a while that I'd like to make an android app (basically, a dealing sheet - a friend has an online one, but I'd like one that would work offline and that could do simple things like keeping the display on for long enough for me to deal ;). I'm aware that the default way to do this is writing java (a language I've mostly avoided so far, and that seems to love boilerplate), but I'm wondering if there are plausible alternatives (I spotted Kivy via WP which seems python-based - any good?) and/or if anyone has useful pointers. Vague desiderata:

1) I can use my regular text editor to write code
2) As Free as is possible given mobile OSs :-/
3) Plausibly portable to iOS should someone feel like it

I expect to end up with something to distribute via F-Droid.

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