August 20th, 2017
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 11:44pm on 20/08/2017 under , ,
So, Arrival (the film, adapted from the Ted Chiang story). I didn't have a lot to say about it. Aliens, were great. Linguist, was great. Kind-of-sympathetic kind-of-antagonist military were a bit gratuitous, but generally good. But I did have thoughts about a few specific things.

And, yes, I'm annoyed it wasn't EVEN MORE like a Ted Chiang story than it was, but please do adapt as many Ted Chiang stories as you can. The tower-of-babel one would be amazing...

Spoilers )
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Both children love swimming. Charles is a competent casual swimmer, Nicholas is still in beginner swim lessons and needs the full-time attention of an adult whenever out of his depth. So I like to take them swimming whenever possible, and made sure to pack swimming things for this holiday.

So far we have managed 2 pools in Helsinki, 1 on the ferry, and 2 in Stockholm.
Read more... )
Today we arrived in Copenhagen and our current airbnb in Fredericksberg is a very short walk from another local pool, plus there are a number of others I am investigating in case we have time for a second one ...
fluffymormegil: @ (Default)

Because the Inform 7 team refuse to release source of anything that isn't completely perfect, Inform 7 is non-free software.

EDIT: It was refusing to run on Debian 9 "stretch".

When I moved its user config directory (which I hadn't touched since last running it!), suddenly it worked again. Peculiar.

August 18th, 2017
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
posted by [personal profile] liv at 12:04pm on 18/08/2017 under
That was not the Worldcon I would have liked; I'd hoped to do as several of my friends did, and travel overland and explore some of the region. Or at least to really get immersed in the con itself. And I'd have liked a proper holiday with my partners and their children, which hasn't really happened this year though we've had a few short breaks.

In reality I was only able to go for the long weekend. I spent an eye-watering amount of money on a trip that didn't quite work for me, between flights, accommodation, Worldcon membership (when I actually only ended up attending for half a day), and just general living expenses in a not very well planned trip to an expensive city. It feels churlish to complain about being in a position to spend a bit too much on a less than perfect trip, and in many ways it was good, just not quite what I'd hoped for.

more details )
Mood:: 'becolden' becolden
location: Helsinki, Finland
Music:: The Feeling: Fill my little world
August 17th, 2017
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 01:34pm on 17/08/2017 under
I went to Helsinki for worldcon.

It was lovely to see osos and liv.

I always find travel a little stressful but I have got better at not worrying. It's still feels like more of a hurdle than travelling locally, even if it shouldn't, but less so.

Helsinki was nice. I didn't do a lot of exploring, but some. I love water, and enjoyed going to another city based on the sea. Helsinki itself isn't on as many islands as Stockholm, but the harbour is covered with them and several tourist attractions are on one island or another.

We went to the zoo, and I went out to the island fortress Suomelina, both nice ferry rides. Suomelina was originally fortified by Sweden when Finland was part of Sweden, and later controlled by Finland and by Russia, with modern fortifications added to the older ones. The original fortifications are incredible to see, vast stone walls dozens of feet thick with tunnels at the bottom surrounding grassy courtyards, and at the main entrance, stone steps swooping down to the sea from a giant gate that frames the sun.

When we flew back, I realised what Liv had already told me, but not previously realised the extent of, that there really are continuous islands all the way from Finland to Sweden.

Zoo pictures are slowly being uploaded on twitter :)

Food was expensive but fairly easy. Few places had good vegetarian options already on the menu, but everyone I spoke to was eager to to be flexible and make up a cheaper price for a plate full of all the side dishes, without me needing to explain or anything.

Part of the expense is being in a foreign conference centre when the pound is getting weaker, but as I understand it, Finland *is* typically more expensive. I don't know enough about it, but my impression is, partly due to needing to import more food, and partly due to higher taxes and wages. But I wish people would acknowledge that latter part when complaining.

Worldcon was fun. Registration was incredibly quick with a computerised "scan barcode and print label" system, and everything was well organised apart from being over-full on the first two days.

Most of the panels I went to were decent but none stood out to me as amazing.

I loved seeing authors I cared about, at the steven universe panel, at the wild cards panel (and winning hugos). The quantum computing panel didn't tell me a lot about the theory but was fascinating for telling us about what computers had practically been built -- and apparently IBM have one you can run programs on online!!

I had a better balance between different sorts of things, I did some panels, some meeting people. I met up with people, but didn't feel like I was constantly missing out on fun things just round the corner. I got some books I was excited by but not too many.
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
    August 15th, 2017
    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?

    Digression

    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.
    August 14th, 2017
    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.

    August 12th, 2017
    fluffymormegil: @ (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] fluffymormegil at 05:32pm on 12/08/2017 under ,
    Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 3


    Which broadcast version of the Doctor Who theme do you prefer?

    View Answers

    Delia Derbyshire
    1 (33.3%)

    Peter Howell
    1 (33.3%)

    Dominic Glynn
    0 (0.0%)

    Keff McCulloch
    0 (0.0%)

    Murray Gold
    0 (0.0%)

    A specialty variant which I will mention below
    1 (33.3%)

    August 11th, 2017
    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    posted by [personal profile] liv at 11:48am on 11/08/2017 under ,
    A song that has many meanings for you. I think this has to be Some kind of stranger by Sisters of Mercy. Partly because it's lyrically complex; I have never been sure if it's about a positive relationship or a breakup, a long-term connection or a casual affair, and it may well not be about romantic love at all.

    This is another song that [personal profile] doseybat introduced me to when we were teenagers. So it's tied up with discovering alternative music and the goth scene, and forming my own tastes in music as well as more broadly. A period of my life when I think I did the most growing up.

    In some ways it's a song about keeping faith in spite of everything that might push you towards despair. And that's why I keep coming back to it, whether it's faith in a person or just more broadly:
    And I know the world is cold
    But if we hold on tight to what we find
    We might not mind so much
    That even this must pass away

    Then it's the soundtrack of my PhD. The bit where my brother had a bad accident and I was in an emotional mess, but the science was still inspiring and still needed doing. The bit where it wasn't inspiring any more, it was a slog, and I had to keep going. One more step, one more flask of cells, one more measurement. The long repetitive bit at the end Come here I think you're beautiful over and over again, when I was sitting in the cell culture room with my headphones a portable tape player, and just keeping my cells alive and nourished before I could actually do any experiments took about three hours three times a week. You can't miss a sesssion or the cells die or mutate and you lose months of work. You have to concentrate enough not to get anything contaminated, but it's not exactly intellectually stimulating. In fact, a lot of the point of my PhD was providing justification for replacing me with a robot, but grad students are cheaper than robots, and I was just sitting there screening through hundreds of potential new drugs.

    It's also a song about making friends with [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel, towards the end of that PhD and the years just afterwards. [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel is also a Sisters fan and gave me a recording of one of their concerts, since it's nearly impossible to buy studio versions of most of their music since the 80s. The ambiguous words might be about a sudden, intense yet enduring friendship, maybe. Some kind of stranger / some kind of angel.

    And even though it's a pretty downbeat song, it's a very happy song for me now. It promised me that I could endure, and I have. My brother is fine now. I still love most of the people who sustained me in my late teens and early 20s. I've succeeded at some things that were hard and failed at others, but I have people who love me for myself, not my achievements. And nothing is permanent, but as long as I'm here and get to experience things and love people, I can cope with that.

    video embed, audio only )
    Mood:: 'melancholy' melancholy
    location: Keele University, Staffordshire, England
    rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
    I was commenting last night to a couple of friends that I was not as fatigued by the holiday as I had expected.  And then as I got back to our apartment in the early hours this morning, I felt that familiar drag set in.  Spoke too soon!   So Tony is getting the 'night passes' for the rest of the con and I'm going to be pulling bedtime cover with the children.

    (This holiday so far is being an excellent illustration of just how much we have life-at-home optimised for everyone's needs and just how much work it is to cope without those optimisations.  I'd thought my physical stamina was going to be the limiting factor on what we got done; instead it's the family's collective emotional comfort level with being in new places and Doing Stuff.)

    Before staying up too late talking to lovely people, last night I danced my legs off at the Clipping concert.  Clipping's hip-hop Afrofuturist dystopian concept album is up for the Hugo award for Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form, and the con managed to persuade them to come over and play a gig to a bunch of geeks.  The queue for entry was long, and the room was set up with seating, but the band basically said "ok, we're not allowed to get rid of the chairs - we asked - but there's a lot of space here at the front", which was enough to get [personal profile] ceb up and dancing, and I followed.  It was ace.  I think that about 90% of the population right in front of the stage was female-presenting (and within that, mostly white, and mostly around mid-thirties or older).  I am not sure this is Clipping's usual audience demographic? I had a moment of looking around and realising I was dancing in the vicinity of a number of amazing women who I admire greatly and just feeling overwhelmed and joyous and incredibly lucky to be there at that time.  (Speaking of,[personal profile] mizkit also liked the gig.)

    So I not only danced at a Clipping gig a few metres away from Daveed Diggs, I had a short appreciative conversation with him in the bar afterwards, and my internal squee may not stop for days.

    Totally worth being shattered today.

    August 8th, 2017
    liv: Cartoon of a smiling woman with a long plait, teaching about p53 (teacher)
    posted by [personal profile] liv at 03:18pm on 08/08/2017 under ,
    I'm on a mission to redeem group work in education. I expect this to be controversial among many of my friends. So if I'm right and lots of you have terrible memories / experiences of being made to do bad group work, I invite you to comment here and tell me what was bad about it. Do you think it's just awful, or are there problems that might be fixed? I believe strongly that while it can be dire, it can also be great, or perhaps I might phrase it as, there are things that look like group work superficially but are actually great.

    Because I'm on a mission this may turn into a more formal research survey at some point, but in that case I'll pose the question in a formal context with ethics and everything. Right now I'm just trying to gather some opinions and not just rely on my own ideas. Plus I am eye-deep in paperwork and I could do with some distraction, so do rant away.
    Mood:: 'quixotic' quixotic
    location: Keele University, Staffordshire, England
    Music:: Taraf de Haïdouks: Rustem
    August 7th, 2017
    naath: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] naath at 04:28pm on 07/08/2017
    20.A song that has many meanings for you

    I'm totally blocked on this. I'm not sure any songs have 'many meanings' to me really.

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