Interesting Links for 24-07-2017

Jul. 24th, 2017 12:00 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker

Re-Tired

Jul. 23rd, 2017 08:45 pm
kevin_standlee: (Rolling Stone)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
It's a good thing that I didn't need to go down to the Bay Area to work this coming week, because late last week we discovered that the right rear tire of the Rolling Stone was flat. On Friday we learned where the jack and lug wrench are hidden in the storage compartment. We could have used the tools Lisa has around the property (they're a little easier to use), but Lisa said (and I agreed) that it would be better if I learned how to do it myself on the road without support.

The jack is a screw type (not hydraulic), and you need to have some boards to put under it, because it doesn't really have enough lift to get the tire clear. My arms were very sore once we got it up to where we could remove the tire. The lug wrench was relatively easy, and I was able to break loose the eight lugs that hold the tire in place and get it off. I wrestled it into the back of the Astro and we took it to Big O Tires in Sparks where we bought the tire in the first place.

The immediate problem turned out to be a nail in the tire, which they fixed; however, they also told us that the wheel rim must have failed and it would not hold air. We took the wheel and unmounted tire back home with us, because with that diagnosis, we would need to buy a new wheel. When we got home, Lisa put some boards under the tire-less wheel and lowered it onto the boards, as pictured below.

Taking the strain )

Yesterday, Lisa examined the wheel rim and said that the diagnosis must be wrong, because the piece they said had failed isn't something that holds air anyway. It's a solid one-piece wheel, not the two-piece type used in some vehicles. We could have taken it back to Sparks tomorrow and asked them to remount it under the tire's warranty, but instead I took it Hanneman Service down the street and paid them $17 to remount it. This evening, we put the tire back on and we'll let it sit for a while and see if it holds air.

It's a good thing I don't have to drive it as often as I did when we first bought it. However, even so, we know that the vehicle (repairs and all) has more than paid for itself versus the cost of even cheap-by-Bay-Area standards hotels, when the fleabags in Fremont are charging $99/night and selling out. Nevertheless, even though I'm now officially 100% Work From Home, I have commitments (medical and dentist appointments, SFSFC and Worldcon meetings) that will take me to the Bay Area several times a year, so we'll need to keep the Rolling Stone in "warm storage" and run it periodically to keep it usable when needed.

If I do get a flat out on the road, I may well call AAA though. They have jacks in their trucks that are easier and faster to use. I'll only resort to the hand-crank jack in an emergency.

Best Novels 2016

Jul. 23rd, 2017 04:05 pm
voidampersand: (Default)
[personal profile] voidampersand
Here are my thoughts on the Hugo ballot for Best Novel, 2016:

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)

I love this book. It is not long, but there so much in it. It is a modern fable, pulling in tropes from all kinds of pop culture: fairy tales, comic books, movies and cartoons. At the same time it is seriously realistic. The world is going to hell in exactly the same ways that ours is, just a little bit faster. People are (mostly) sympathetic and mean well but they are imperfect and success is often beyond them, especially as the world's problems become even more daunting. The tone is wry but not cynical. Things seem to be heading towards a conflict between magic and super-science, but the different schools of magic don't see things the same way, and the different groups of scientists and technologists are often competing instead of cooperating. But it's still worth trying. And it's worth trusting other people even when there is no way you can imagine how or why you can.

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)

I found out that it is a sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet so I read both. The worldbuilding is good, especially the aliens are truly diverse. It presents a vision of the future that is mostly positive. It reminds me of James White's classic SF. But the characters are just kind of what they are, and there are some structural issues. It's uneven. A Closed and Common Orbit is better written, and it has two really great characters with compelling stories. Along the way it raises some very interesting and subtle questions about morality (vs. legality), friendship, and personhood. In other words, don't underestimate this book, just because it's a fun read and it's nice.

Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)

I really liked The Three Body Problem. I started reading The Dark Forest and bounced off the prose in the first chapter. It was so clunky. I picked it up again recently and was able to make headway. I plan to finish the trilogy presently. I didn't feel any urgency to finish it before voting because the first book in the trilogy already won (deservedly), and the third book would have to be amazingly good in order to justify awarding two Hugos to what is really a single work in three volumes.

Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)

The common question about this book is if it is really science fiction or merely fantasy. I am squarely in the it's science fiction camp. Space opera as a genre requires faster than light travel in order to maintain its traditional plot pacing (which happens to be exactly the same as 19th century steamship stories, go figure). Faster than light travel is bogus science. So are force fields, blasters, phasers, anti-gravity, teleportation, and so on. Yoon Ha Lee invented a fresh and new form of bogus science to power his space opera. He gets to do that. Go him. I think it's a lot of fun. The space opera is set in a grim dystopian interstellar empire. Not fun. I've read some other reviews where readers were bummed out because it was so grim and the characters were so constrained by the system. I didn't read it that way. The system has a lot of cracks in it, including a really huge one that maybe we'll learn more about in the third book. Many of the main characters are wild cards. Unexpected things happen. Overall, I think it's one of the most innovative and interesting space operas in recent years.

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)

I think the The Obelisk Gate is good, but not at the same level as The Fifth Season. It reveals some things about the Earth that are very big, but we have to wait for the third book to see anything climactic (as opposed to climatic). The middle book is more about developing characters and moving the plot along. Unfortunately, the key character developments are sad, or creepy and unpleasant. At least the sad developments are very weird and leave at least a smidgen of hope. I am waiting for the third book and we'll see what happens.

Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

Too Like the Lightning is a dazzling and enthralling debut novel that is also unreliable and contrarian, sometimes even infuriating. Or maybe it is just Mycroft Canner, most reliable of servants and most unreliable of narrators. On the plus side, it's a science fiction novel set on a near future Earth where nobody is hungry, there are no wars, and politics are based on the fundamental principles of the Enlightenment: rationality, order, justice, humanism, enterprise, and compassion. On the minus side, decisions seem to be made by a very small number of elite leaders who are very much in bed with each other (except the utopians are snubbed for some reason), and it seems about to fall apart. What seems like an ultimate love letter to the Enlightenment could turn out to also be a devastating critique of it. Enough has been revealed in the first book to make it clear that it does not stand alone.

Novels I nominated:

Everfair, by Nisi Shawl (Tor Books)

This is a book that needed to be written and I am glad that Nisi wrote it the way she did. The steampunk movement imagines an alternate past where the second industrial revolution was accelerated to extraordinary heights and at the same time somehow was shared in an egalitarian way without colonialism, racism or sexism. Which of the two imaginations is more unrealistic is hard to say. Nisi tackles both head-on by establishing a 19th century high-technology utopian settlement in the Belgian Congo. It works because the settlers are not just technically skilled, but also radical socialists, the kind of people who would really try to create a steampunk utopia, and to fight King Leopold II. (It helps on the super-technology side that the Congo has major sources of uranium.) What I really liked about this novel was how the native African characters were just as empowered and important as the settlers. Also, as one would hope with radicals, just about every possible unconventional relationship that could occur does, and the love and care in these relationships is a great strength.

Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine (Tor Books)

A delightful, strongly feminist, alternate-cosmology planetary romance that riffs on Jane Austen, Patrick O'Brian, Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Featuring a plucky heroine, a dashing captain and his brilliant mechanical sidekick, and a motley crew of tuckerized SF writers and fans. What more could you ever ask for? Okay, maybe it starts a bit slow. But it really gets moving soon enough, and the ending is fantastic. Now that it's won the Andre Norton Award, it is officially certified as suitable for corrupting the minds of our youth. But there's no reason not to corrupt your own mind too, it's good for all ages.

The state of Augmented Reality

Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:27 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
Five years ago I had a disagreement with a friend over whether this article was being overly pessimistic about augmented reality and whether we'd have "hard" AR soon.

Five years later, and this is the state of the art:


Which is, I totally admit, a very neat tech demo. But it's not "there" yet. The FOV is too small, and you can see the real world through it. Although, to be fair, most of the time the real world isn't _that_ distracting, you're definitely not going to be able to "see Victorian gas lamps in place of normal lights" or "have a real Coke can that you want to turn into an AR Pepsi can by drawing a Pepsi logo over the Coke logo".

Ah well, I'll make a note to come back in five years time and see where we are then!

Suggestions needed for motto

Jul. 23rd, 2017 06:37 pm
watervole: (knitting)
[personal profile] watervole
 I'm nearing the end of a piece of cross-stitch that I've been working on for about a decade.  It isn't that big a project, but I had detours into knitting another other embroideries.  This used to be my 'travel' embroidery, in a case ready to go and easy to take anywhere knowing that I had all the necessary bits to do it.

It had a border of poppies and cornflowers and space for my own text in the middle.

But I can't decide what words to put in the centre.  It can't be too lengthy, a dozen words at most, and fewer might be better.

I'm hunting for something that says we don't need loads of possessions to be happy; that a garden is a great source of contentment; that life is to be enjoyed while you have it and maybe something ecological as well.

Now, clearly one can't manage all of that....


Random ideas have included:


Gardeners live longer

To be content is the key to happiness

We only have one world, treat it gently


Toss ideas at me.  Anything that sounds good.


Short Cuts Make Long Delays

Jul. 22nd, 2017 09:16 pm
kevin_standlee: (Family)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
For reasons related to some property management, I need to so see my mother twice a year, in January and July. It has to be done in person. Today was my day for getting it done. Lisa didn't have to come along and elected to get extra sleep. I got started later than I would have liked, having told Mom I would be there at Noon. Instead, it was well past 1:30. She'd left me voicemail, but I didn't hear the call come in and didn't notice the message until I was already at her place and had to wait for about an hour for her to come back from the farmer's market, where she can gone, having given up on me.

Old Home Week )

After Mom got back from the farmers' market, we dealt with business, I gave her a list of all of the places I would be (and how to contact me) during the Europe trip, and we talked for a while. It was about 3:30 when I finally left. The idea that I could be home in time for a 6 PM San Jose Worldcon committee meeting call was fading fast.

Not a Short Cut at All )

My mother's house is less than 120 miles from my home. I left at about 3:30 and it took me more than five hours before I got home, albeit that I did stop several times, including long enough to buy some groceries in Reno that I figured Lisa would want.

I made a separate mistake of not putting on any sunscreen. My face is redder than usual tonight. I'll put ointment on it before I go to bed and hope I don't peel too badly.

Interesting Links for 22-07-2017

Jul. 22nd, 2017 12:00 pm

Local Politics

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:01 pm
kevin_standlee: (Fernley)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
As is our wont, Lisa and I went to the local Fire Board meeting. The first part was nice: the district holding "badging" ceremonies for the newest fire-fighter to pass his probationary period, followed by the formal badging of the department's first-ever captains. They managed to figure out how to budget for three captains so that the Chief didn't have something like thirty direct reports (an untenable situation IMO). After the ceremonial stuff, which ended up delaying the start of real business for close to an hour, they got down to work. But the Main Event item was being presented by one of the more boring people I've met, and even though he admitted up front that he "talks in circles," the Chair of the meeting didn't tell him to get to the point when he rambled along. After nearly an hour of this rambling, abetted by the board members failing to stay on point themselves, and everyone simply repeating the arguments over and over again, Lisa and I gave up and went home. This is too bad because there were other things on the agenda about which we were interested, but at that point it looked as though they were going to be there all night arguing about whether to grant the local raceway a permit to hold a "fire lantern" festival.

My hours don't allow me to stay up late on weeknights. We walked home and I went to bed, possibly going to sleep faster by envisioning the ongoing drone of repetitive debate.

When I preside over the Business Meeting, if a speaker is going in circles, I've been known to intervene and say something like, "Could the member come to a point?"

It was the meeting-induced sleep that led to me not posting anything yesterday, which is a rarity for me because I do try to post something daily if I get a chance.

Runner beans

Jul. 21st, 2017 07:34 pm
watervole: (Default)
[personal profile] watervole
 I only used to eat runner beans when cooked, but many years ago now, I observed my mother-in-law's tortoise eating raw runner beans with great enthusiasm.   So I tried one and found that I liked it.

Oswin does too.  Really likes them.  Can eat several in a day.

Today, she was eating a slice of cake.  Grandad came in with fresh supply of runner beans from the allotment and gave her half of a runner bean.

She took it with great delight, ate it at once, and only then went back to the cake.

I love a three year old who appreciates allotment veg!

(no subject)

Jul. 21st, 2017 05:05 pm
lexin: (Default)
[personal profile] lexin
I read an entry from [personal profile] brithistorian which came originally from [personal profile] spiralsheep.

I welcome all of the following types of comments on ANY of my entries:

- Single term comments, e.g. *hugs*, yay, yes, no, thanks, this, seconded, like, +1, &c.
- One or two word comments.
- Otherwise brief comments, e.g. single sentences.
- A comment that is a punctuation mark to let me know you read, e.g. a full stop, or an asterisk, &c.
- A comment that is a punctuation mark to express your response, e.g. ! or + &c.
- A comment that is an emoticon(s) to express your response, e.g. \o/, <3, :), :(, :-D, ;-), :-P, &c.
- Long, wordy comments. Feel free to ramble away....
- Comments on related topics, conversational asides, and tangents generally.
- Incoherent comments. Most of us have both posted and had practice reading incoherent comments!
- Commentors conversing with each other is also welcome. I like hosting a place where people can interact.

I also welcome:

- Comments on older public entries.
- Comments on VERY OLD public entries.
- Comments from people who are not subscribed to me.
- Comments from people who I’ve never met.
- Comments from people who haven’t talked to me for a while.
- Comments from people who’ve never talked to me.

How I reply to comments:

- I usually try to reply to comments.

If you need to know anything else then I recommend asking as a more productive strategy than speculating. ;-P

***

I don't mind arguments as long as they don't descend into name calling. I do ask that if you make a comment you stick around to defend your point of view, and don't drop a lighted match into the petrol of life, and then slope off.

Interesting Links for 21-07-2017

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:00 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker

Review: Kingdomino

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:46 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
When I saw that it had won the 2017 Spiel des Jahres I took a look at Kingdomino. On discovering that it was only £15, and that games could be played in about 15 minutes I decided to pick up a copy.

So far I've played games with both [personal profile] swampers and [personal profile] danieldwilliam and both of them picked it up quickly and enjoyed playing it.

It's based (surprisingly enough) on the idea behind dominoes - or, at least, the part of dominoes where you have tiles with two ends and need to match them against each other. In this case the different ends are different terrains (grass, mountain, etc), and you score by forming areas of the same terrain*. Each turn you have to make a judgement between going for the tiles that score the highest, versus going for lower-scoring tiles which allow you make the first move the next turn.

I enjoyed it, and I'm definitely taking it on holiday. If you're looking for a filler game then it'll do a great job of that.



*It's a bit more complex than that, but not a lot.

Interesting Links for 20-07-2017

Jul. 20th, 2017 12:00 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
I posted yesterday about the media using "X defends against accusations" as a way of making you think that there are widespread attacks on them.

47 people clicked through to that post from Facebook. 5 from Twitter.

The 5 from Twitter all did so within an hour of the post going up.

The 47 from Facebook did so over the course of the following 12 hours (19 of them within an hour, but then an ongoing curve downwards).

Which indicates to me that Facebook does a pretty good job of knowing when something is interesting to my friends, and keeping it "active" for a while, whereas Twitter sweeps it away near-instantly, and unless it really grabs people it's gone.

And looking at my overall referrer stats, Facebook gets between three and six times the number of clicks that Twitter does.

(Just had a look at my actual LJ statistics too - yesterday I had 145 readers, of which 100-ish were reading via their friends-page and 45 were going direct to my posts/journal. Sadly I don't get the same info from DW, but Google Analytics tells me that 78 people visited that post on DW.)

2017 WSFS Business Meeting Staff

Jul. 19th, 2017 11:21 am
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
Because some private correspondence shows me that not everyone with a concern about WSFS politics is aware of it, let me make it clear that the people managing the 2017 WSFS Business Meeting in Helsinki are:

Chair: Kevin Standlee
Deputy Chair: Donald Eastlake III
Secretary: Linda Deneroff
Timekeeper: Paul Dormer
Videographer: Lisa Hayes

WSFS Division Head: Michael Lee

I take no offense that not everyone knows I was chairing this year. I am, however, proud of my ongoing accomplishment, as this will be the fifth country in which I've presided over WSFS. (Scotland, USA, Canada, and Japan — the last pictured in my user icon here — are the earlier ones.) I don't think other past WSFS Chair has more than two countries under their belts. I hope to justify the Worldcon 75 committee's faith in my ability.

Interesting Links for 19-07-2017

Jul. 19th, 2017 12:00 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
I've seen this twice in the last week - a newspaper talking about the BBC "defending" the new Doctor Who choice against "angry fans". And then this morning the Game of Thrones director "defends" the Ed Sheeran cameo.

And both times I'm left wondering how many people were actually attacking. Was half of the population of Who-dom out attacking this choice? Or was it actually about 1% of them being noisy enough on Twitter that the newspapers could manufacture a story out of it?

Similarly, I suspect that the vast majority of people don't really care if Ed Sheeran pops up for 10 seconds in the show, does a perfectly average acting job for his two lines, and is never seen again. But that's not a story. And the way to make it a story is to not mention how many people are upset at something trivial, and leave things vague enough that it _could_ be the case that half the population of the country are waving pitchforks outside the studios, rather than seven people having a rant on Twitter.

Westercon Business Page Updated

Jul. 18th, 2017 07:32 pm
kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
Linda Deneroff has completed the minutes of the Westercon 70 Business Meeting and the updated for 2017-18 (thus for Westercon 71) version of the Westercon Bylaws & Standing Rules. We've updated the Westercon Business Page with the latest versions of the documents and "demoted" last year's information to the "Past Papers" version of the site.