Robin Hobb

Apr. 26th, 2017 03:49 pm
damerell: NetHack. (normal)
[personal profile] damerell
I've been chewing through quite a lot of Robin Hobb lately, and have come to the Farseer trilogy, which was her first. I was pretty amused when I read this:

"A very faint scent of her clung to my shirt from her brief embrace, and I agonised over whether to wear the shirt that day, to carry the scent with me, or to set it aside in my clothing chest, to preserve it."

I laughed because in the last chapter a weasel vomited on his shirt. (This is a bit unfair - on careful review, he does spend a sentence changing clothes "hastily", but wouldn't he still be a bit weasel-vomity?)

More seriously, it's not as good as her other stuff. The youngest prince forms a murderous plot, they thwart it, inexplicably they decide he's learned his lesson, rinse and repeat. The protagonist has trained as an assassin, so after a few rounds of this, really, you had one job, Mr Protag. Kindly stab him up so we can get on with the zombies^W Forged ones.

I have not agreed to the new Livejournal TOS (they do it with javascript) but I suspect this is my last crosspost.

OMG an actual uterine replicator!

Apr. 26th, 2017 02:57 pm
ceb: (squee)
[personal profile] ceb
https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15112

In 50 years time we will look back on this as second only to the washing machine in the revolutionising-womens-lives stakes.

(IHNJ, IJLS "labour-saving device")

vignette from a morning guitar lesson

Apr. 26th, 2017 11:21 am
flaviomatani: (humped zebra)
[personal profile] flaviomatani
Good morning from Kings Cross, at a pupil's.

She 's playing an arrangement of Gounod's Funeral March for a Marionette, which my first music teacher used to call a musical stupidity and used to be the theme tune for Alfred Hitchcock's TV show in the '50s...

there is a water feature in the flat, a little fountain thing tinkling away while my pupil plays, making a nice counterpoint to it.

A nice morning so far. Good morning!
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/35: Paradise Lost: The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance -- Giles Milton
When the screams from the distant quayside grew too loud to be ignored, the captain ordered the ship’s band to strike up tunes.


This is not a cheerful book: but it is fascinating, brilliantly written, cautionary and informative.spoilers for history )
ludy: a painting i did looking in a mirror (Default)
[personal profile] ludy
Currently re-living "the BiCon with the weevels" in my Parents kitchen. Mostly just in one specific cupboard which i've now thoroughly cleaned out and sprayed with teatree (am not against using more powerful insecticides in principle but can't apply them myself without stopping breathing!).
As a handy hint do not google things like "insects in food cupboards" just before bedtime because the enlarged images of creepy-crawlys will invade you dreams ...
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
I just learned that Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, passed away on Monday, at the age of 88.

I've thought for a while that I should tell you about one of the more valuable things I got from ZAMM, which I refer to now as Pirsig's Pejorative Just, and now it seems like a fitting tribute to share the relevant passage:
[...] the English faculty at Bozeman, informed of their squareness, presented him with a reasonable question: "Does this undefined 'quality' of yours exist in things we observe?" they asked. "Or is it subjective, existing only in the observer?" It was a simple, normal enough question, and there was no hurry for an answer.

Hah. There was no need for hurry. It was a finisher-offer, a knockdown question, a haymaker, a Saturday-night special – the kind you don't recover from.

Because if Quality exists in the object then you must explain just why scientific instruments are unable to detect it [...] On the other hand, if Quality is subjective, existing only in the observer, then this Quality that you make so much of is just a fancy name for whatever you like. [...] If he accepted the premise that Quality was objective, he was impaled on one horn of the dilemma. If he accepted the other premise that Quality was subjective, he was impaled on the other horn.

[... regarding the first horn, the objective premise] This horn was the mean one. [...line of proposed reasoning...] This answer, if valid, certainly smashed the first horn of the dilemma, and for a while that excited him greatly.

But it turned out to be false. [...]

He turned his attention to the other horn of the dilemma, which showed more promise of refutation. He thought, So Quality is whatever you like? It angered him. The great artists of history – Raphael, Beethoven, Michelangelo – they were all just putting out what people liked. They had no goal other than to titillate the senses in a big way. Was that it? It was angering, and what was most angering about it was that he couldn't see any immediate way to cut it up logically. So he studied the statement carefully, in the same reflective way he always studied things before attacking them.

Then he saw it. He brought out the knife and excised the one word that created the entire angering effect of that sentence. The word was "just." Why should Quality be just what you like? Why should "what you like" be "just"? What did "just" mean in this case? When separated out like this for independent examination it became apparent that "just" in this case didn't mean a damn thing. It was a purely pejorative term, whose logical contribution to the sentence was nil. Now, with that word removed, the sentence became "Quality is what you like," and its meaning was entirely changed. It had become an innocuous truism.
Now, when I point to a "just" – or an "only", or a "mere", or a "simply", or "but" – and say, "That's a Pirsig's Pejorative Just", you'll know what I mean.

And, if this is the first time you've seen this, maybe now you'll be better prepared to notice them slinking by, in the wild, yourself.

ETA: I wrote a longish comment below, further discussing ZAMM and my criticisms of it, which may be of interest to my readers.
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/34: The Little Stranger -- Sarah Waters
Arriving at that crumbling red house, I’d have the sense, every time, that ordinary life had fractionally tilted, and that I had slipped into some other, odder, rather rarer realm. [loc. 1151]

minor spoilers for events rather than plot (if you see what I mean) )

Backups baaackuuups

Apr. 25th, 2017 01:03 pm
xtina: (Default)
[personal profile] xtina
Note to self: Have you done a backup today? Of anything at all? To anywhere at all?

Ah, yes, the English weather

Apr. 25th, 2017 03:09 pm
flick: (Default)
[personal profile] flick
Mike's just come in from mowing the lawn to let me know that it's snowing.

Edit: Aaaand now hail!



Lovely and sunny on the other side of the valley, though.

The Better Angels

Apr. 25th, 2017 08:44 am
flaviomatani: (flavdblxp)
[personal profile] flaviomatani
Perhaps a bit gloomy, that previous post.

OTOH, I've been reading Steven Pinker's 'The Better Angels in our Nature', where he posits that, contrary to our perception of these things, violence and war have been steadily decreasing along the last thousand years of history. He does support this with lots of stats and sources. So at least there is that. Progress may not be inevitable but it does nonetheless happen.

(no subject)

Apr. 25th, 2017 08:06 am
flaviomatani: (seventhseal chess)
[personal profile] flaviomatani
Sitting in my teaching room at the school in Watford where I teach guitar on Tuesdays. It's sunny, there's a piano and a trumpet in the distance. And somebody playing on a drum kit somewhere, but we'll try to ignore that. Short working day here for the rest of the summer term as many pupils are on study leave, etc.

Getting a bit difficult to ignore the drums. How come all rooms in this building are insulated acoustically but the drum room is not?

Strange times. Seeing that headline (was it The Times?) celebrating the fall of the political elite in France... with a huge picture of La Pen celebrating, arms raised. Having to read a module and respond a questionnaire for this school on radicalisation of children and what to do about this if you see signs of it. The rise, as it would seem from here, of an anti-rationalism that has many aspects, from anti-vaxxers to Trumpeteers to the whole anti-expert attitude, the wilful, selfish ignorance that puts Trump in office and UK out of the EU. I've probably worn out the subject by now, but this is not quite the future one envisaged while growing up in the '60s and '70s. We were going to work less for more, there would be less injustice and more freedom, we were going to have more meaningful lives (and maybe that holiday on the Moon). Oh, ok, there was the whole flying car thing, the silver shell suits and the food in pills. Luckily none of those came to pass, says flavio while seeing people on the street that seem to be dressed in their pyjamas... it sometimes does feel, though, like at some point we took a wrong turn in the shift-space of all possible futures. We'll have to wait and see, says flavio, looking away from the paper headlines....

Sigh

Apr. 24th, 2017 11:56 pm
rbarclay: (Default)
[personal profile] rbarclay
Friday the transmission/drivetrain on the bicycle acted up, I could mostly only change gears up 2-3 at a time (eg. press the lever, nothing happens, press it again, *clonk*, 2 gears up). Well, "mostly" because sometimes it wouldn't change gear at all, and needed to be coerced into cooperation via changing gear on the front chainring (which I nearly don't use, the mid-sized chainring is sufficient for everything but one hillclimb/day).

Youtube'd up at the office, culprit is most likely the pre-tension in the cable. Only that with my cheap Shimano system there's no easy way to in-/decrase that, so I went by the shop. They had a quick look, and said that the problem is most likely with the cable pretension. Fixing that would mean quite some dismantling work, and wouldn't I want to have that done with the next service (in 2 weeks)?
Well, ok, it is still usable, if only barely.

Of course, today on the way to work it started to get worse. Much worse. Including a blocked chain (luckily freewheeling still worked, so it wasn't an "OMG accident" problem). So tomorrow the bike will go to the shop. And I'm somewhat lusting after something that needs less maintenance anyway, guess I'll ask about what installing, say, a Shimano Alfine (internal geared instead of a collection of pinion rings) would cost. Combined with 2 chainrings at the front that should (in my mind at least) cover my use case nicely. (And no, this 600-buck bike will not get a kilobuck Rohloff ;-) .)

when worlds collude

Apr. 24th, 2017 04:33 pm
the_siobhan: (flying monkeys)
[personal profile] the_siobhan
I swear, I get the most random LinkedIn invitations.

Today it was from some guy who does anger management counselling. And I'm like, so, what are you trying to say?

Stuff - especially schools

Apr. 24th, 2017 12:31 pm
lnr: (Default)
[personal profile] lnr

Wow, I'm faintly astonished by the amount of stuff being posted here on DW at the moment. I think I'm going to have to investigate reading on my phone rather than just in breaks at work or I'll never keep up :)

So since we got back from the peaks:

  • The boiler broke, but was fixed within 24 hours with a £300 quid part. Thank goodness for the annual £160 service contract!
  • Easter happened
  • We had a visit from Rae and Adam and enjoyed the unexpected sunshine in the Botanic Gardens
  • We went for a bike ride over to Whittlesford and Thriplow, with a picnic lunch, and back via Harston Red
  • My phone came back from its holiday in Sheffield, safely in one piece
  • Primary school place application results were announced (more on that below)
  • The UK announced a snap general election
  • Mike had a birthday
  • We survived three lovely birthday parties for four four-year-olds in two days
  • Ireland seem to be on the way to huge changes in abortion law
  • The consultation phase on organisational change ends today

Many positive things there, but the organisational change and general election, on top of general brexit fears, are a bit tough. Still the hardest thing at the moment is probably the primary school results.

schools )

Finally, a meme: meme )

Linux Presentations, Gaming Updates

Apr. 24th, 2017 09:33 pm
tcpip: (Default)
[personal profile] tcpip
Gave introductory Linux and HPC day-courses at University of Melbourne last Thursday and Friday, followed by a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria the following day on Compiling from Source in Linux. The former courses had a particularly high-ratio of staff, rather than the usual collection of postgraduate researchers. Regardless the feedback was equally positive. The presentation to LUV was quite challenging, as I quickly realised however the single talk could easily be several, and as a result I touched upon several items (compilation options, makefiles, autotools and other autobuild systems, environment modules, etc). Nevertheless the post-presentation discussion was excellent; Rodney B., asked whether I had used material from other courses. When I revealed I had not he described the presentation as "embarrassingly good" - which I suppose is positive. At times like these I can have the conceit that I might actually be reasonably good at this HPC Training racket.

After LUV attended the monthly RPG Review movie night at The Astor. It was a monster-themed double with Kong: Skull Island, followed by the 1970 Hammer film, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. The former was fairly good, a rather fun combination of King Kong and Apocalypse Now. The latter was absolutely terrible, with the one redeeming feature of the film being carried out in a constructed language. On related popular culture matters played GURPS Middle-Earth the following day and our party of do-gooders successfully defeated the evil sapient trees built by a mad druid. Apropos had some pretty regular sales from the RPG Review in the past couple of weeks, and am reminded that both the RPG Review journal is due, along with Papers & Paychecks.
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
A set of videos, of particular interest to programmers, compliments of Metafilter. Delightful, recommended.

These are lectures/demos of brilliant stupid programmer tricks:

1) A DOS executable that only uses printable bytes. (SLYT, 25:40 (yes, long, but so worth it, and accessible to non-programmers), audio and visual both required)

2) On the Turing Completeness of PowerPoint (SLYT, 5:33, audio and visual both required)

This is a work of art with accompanying making-of:

3) A Mind is Born (article with embedded SLYT, 2:21, primarily audio plus cool but inessential visuals) - a 2+ minute music video that is, in its entirety, a 256 byte program for the Commodore 64. This is now my answer to "can a computer program, in itself, be a serious work of art?" I understand about one word in five of the article; someone on MF said of it, I read most of the how it was done link, and I've been a programmer for 20 years, and I still say the answer is "black magic".

Oh, and a bonus blast from the past – I just got done fixing my broken video links post migration from LJ – 4) Life in Life (SLYT, 1:31, primarily visual, with cool but inessential audio). h/t [personal profile] nancylebov. I originally posted here; I had tagged it "sci", but I dunno, what do we call programming with cellular automata?
hirez: (dissent)
[personal profile] hirez
The thing I was going to write yesterday, but mutated into whining about IP addresses, turned out to be slightly deeper than I expected.

For reasons of retro, or perhaps for reasons of 'These are the things we have lying about' the washing line isn't a collapsible hurdy-gurdy (as Pa named all things that went round and round) like modern people from the seventies have to hang their bri-nylon outside so as to catch all the instant sunshine provided by a WE.177C free-fall thermonuclear device.

(Is is perhaps coincidence that people wore fewer nylon undergarments as CMOS logic became more popular?)

No. We do not have that sort of thing because our back garden is a nuclear-free zone. The front garden is handy for the front door, so is often at home to my Alpha-particle-emitting key fob. Which has been glowing quietly for at least twenty years.

So in our nuclear-free garden we must keep something that is not of the seventies and will not remind people of such things lest they have a march and make a right mess of the strawberries, the careless CND bastards. Thus the washing line is held up by a pair of what I'm fairly sure are scaff poles. They've gone a lot rusty and the hammerite I applied about a decade ago is beginning to flake off as the rust blooms outwards like spaceship fungus.

The one nearest the house has also been leaning at more and more of a drunken angle since the thing that was holding it upright no longer works.

There is an unknown length of RSJ (I-beam to everyone else) concreted into the garden, and it would be at an ideal height to bark one or other shin upon, were it not set in line with a low wall that holds up the alleged rockery. There is (or was) a very rusty V-bolt more-or-less pinning the bottom of the scaff pole to that RSJ, with the rotten remains of a lump of wood that was originally providing some squidge to tighten the V-bolt against.

It had all rotted out. A week or so ago, I poked at the thing with a stick, worked out how big the V-bolt was, and realised with something of a sinking feeling that I was setting a chain of events in motion when I toddled upstairs to order replacement bolts off the internets. I had also decided to buy myself an angle-grinder as a present, because, well, angle-grinder. Also because the existing V-bolt was single rusty lump and there wasn't enough WD-40 in the known universe to free off its nuts. (ooer, etc.)

The replacement V-bolts arrived on Saturday morning. The sun was bright and the air was clear and I peered at the things as they sat on the table, wishing for an excuse. I thought that I might as well inspect the old V-bolt again, since I would need to find a lump of wood in the shed to replace the rotten section. I waggled the pole back and forth, experimentally. Then thought 'Oh fucking bollocks to everything' and hauled at it. It lifted right out, which was tiresome. I scraped out the weeds, earth and rotten wood. The bottom end of the scaff pole came out next. It had completely rusted out, which is why I was able to move it at all.

I was committed now.

I dug out a junior hacksaw (I have several, but can only ever find one at a time) and cut away the rusty bolt. At some point, silly-sod the previous owner had performed some more concreting and made it impossible to replace the V-bolt, so I attacked that with a bolster until there was enough elbow room. In the shed, where I have been clearing space, I found the right lump of wood to squidge between RSJ and scaff pole.

I had the thing back in place and bolted firmly upright before I really knew what I was doing.

If there's a take-away from any of this, it's that I have some difficulty diving into projects that I'm not entirely sure about. 'Some difficulty' in this case probably also parses as 'sinking feeling and nameless dread, why not go and waste the afternoon on social media instead?' which is no real way to run a railroad.

The upside to some of this is that I obviously have collected enough random bits of wood that they're starting to come in very handy indeed. And also that there's the start of enough space in the shed/garage to be able to think small thoughts without having to go outside to change your mind.

Forgive us our Trespassers

Apr. 23rd, 2017 06:35 pm
hairyears: (Default)
[personal profile] hairyears
Tomorrow we celebrate the anniversary of The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, in which hundreds of Ramblers and other members of the public forced their way past gamekeepers to hike on the moors and peaks of Derbyshire in 1932.

I have many reasons to be thankful that they did, having walked upon those very hills myself; and on others, which were long fenced off against the public as the playgrounds of a privileged few.

Some of the original Trespassers were imprisoned, and I do not doubt that they would suffer harsher treatment if they tried such acts of civil disobedience today.

So, a question for the legally-minded Journallers who read this: what would the Trespassers be charged with today? And what would be their fate if any of them could not prove their cizenship, or looked ever such a little bit foreign?

Would my long-lapsed membership of the Ramblers Association, and my evident sympathy for their aims - I have led a ramble myself! - turn out to be a liability? Worse, perhaps, than the social consequences that arise when I reveal my ability to hold a lengthy conversation about 1980's hiking socks?