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I voted in several more categories, but eg in long form dramatic presentation, I didn't have a lot to say so I'm not going to try to recap it here.


Ballard of Black Tom was a very moving Lovecraft inspired story, from the perspective of a black new yorker, it paints a great portrait of his day to day life in 1920s (?) NY, and his initially minor dealings in mythos stuff. It was quite creepy once it started, but I've still to read the more lovecraftian ending of the story.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe was *also* a very good Lovecraft inspired story, set in the dreamlands, and the travels of a professor at the newest university college, the women's only college, through strange parts of dream, weird gods, and eventually maybe the waking world.

Penric and the Shaman is enjoyable in all the ways you'd expect it to be if you've read other Chalion stories by Bujold. It says a little about shaman/demon interactions which was only incidentally touched on before, and has slightly more of a role for a Father-worshipping figure. But it doesn't add a lot new.

A Taste of Honey, I still need to read, but the cover is *gorgeous* and there's some good male/male flirting on the first page. I'm not sure how that's going to turn out.

This Census-Taker. Interesting worldbuilding, I'm not sure where it's going, I still need to finish it.

Best Novelette

“The Art of Space Travel” about a small cast of characters living and working near Heathrow, against a backdrop of a second Mars colony mission, 30 years after the first tragic failed attempt. I loved the character stuff, and background matter-of-fact look at a possible mars mission, although I wished they'd tied together more closely: I wanted to know more about the disaster, and the next mission. The title refers to the name of a textbook.

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon. All of her stories are pretty good, although I didn't love this as much as some of her others, despite being pretty good.

“Touring with the Alien”, an odd-job woman ends up with the role of taking reclusive alien visitors on a road trip to see some of earth. Interesting musings on free will etc even though I wasn't convinced where they ended up. Again, I loved the day-to-day interaction of the protagonist and the other characters.

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, interesting worldbuilding, but I need to see how this finishes up. Jewels were nobility of a hidden kingdom, who kept it secret safe and stable with various supernatural powers granted to them by gems, but could only be bestowed by Lapidary servants.

You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong. Something about a desert? It looked good but I couldn't get into it at all (sorry).
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I've had several conversations about why "secondary" is such a loaded concept in poly relationships and feel like I'm slowly getting how people feel. But still, I feel there's a lot that's important to people I'm missing.

1. Not enough

It seems like many people are starting from the assumption that nobody *wants* to be a secondary, and the concept is basically synonymous with "I'll probably want more but I'll settle for what I can get". And yes, if that's how you feel, then that might be ok, but there is an inherent source of tension which is likely

I never had that assumption, only as I've met a wider variety of relationships have I started to understand it. It seemed to me, some people had many parallel relationships (either a small number of permanent partners who are equal priorities in organising your life whether or not they're different in other ways, or varied relationships each negotiated individually etc). Or they had one or two main partners, and other partners as well, usually people who themselves had many other partners, or had other major commitments, or otherwise were at a point in their life where a relationship *might* become much more, but they weren't looking for more, they were looking for something which fit their life right now, even if they had limited time and energy.

But if every relationship is "I fall deeply in love" then it makes sense that anything other than deep and permanent is really hard. Likewise, if you only have room for one relationship, it's a very painful choice to be with someone who wants to be with someone else more, if that's not what you want, and either "they need to have room for their relationship with you to grow" or "they need to realise that they may not be kind by having a relationship with you" may be issues.

With the benefit of hindsight, that looks to me like, "here's a form of relationship that suits some people but not others, don't choose it if it doesn't suit you". But if you have no experience of possible relationships, and the only model you have is "A and B are the love of each other's lives, and C is there too but is treated with absolutely zero respect", it's easy to fall into that model, and come out feeling like it should be burned to the ground.

2. Negotiating from a position of weakness

The other thing I had to say is, it's common for a relationship (not romantic, any form of association) to involve people with different amounts of power. Sometimes that's seriously unfair, as in a bad boss and an employee who needs the job: the boss has every opportunity to take advantage, to not just be unfair but to manipulate the interactions to their advantage by changing the rules all the time.

Sometimes it's completely fair, as in A wants to date B and B doesn't want to date A: then B deservedly has completely control over who they want to date, and they may reject A politely and compassionately (if A is not a jerk) or harshly (if A is a jerk, or if B is for that matter).

"Fair" doesn't mean "half and half". Although in most healthy ongoing relationships, jobs, romance, etc, both sides get comparable good things out of it.

A relationship can be unequal. Say, A has young children, another partner, and many other commitments. And they have a fortnightly date with B, whose commitments are a lot more flexible. That's just how their lives are, no-one is deliberately being unfair. But it does turn out, B has more flexibility than A, so they end up rearranging things more often.

Now here's the distinction. At the moment A doesn't really have the power to offer a lot more time to B. But they do have the power to make arrangements respectfully, by being clear in advance what commitments they can and can't make. By being honest about what time they have. By being upfront that occasionally emergencies will happen but that won't be a default. By not changing plans at short notice and expecting B to cope, can we emphasise that one.

Maybe B *could* cope with that if they had to, but if A forces them to for no reason, or for unfair reasons like, "My other partner is jealous if I spend ANY TIME WITH YOU AT ALL so rather than talking about it I'm just going to constantly jerk you around in the hope that eventually they're happy", then A is not treating B at all respectfully.

The reason I mention this particularly is that it seemed to be a common complaint from people familiar with certain sorts of history, that A had apparently logical reasons why they needed to constantly change stuff around. But it's possible for A to be unfront about what's not really changeable, while also being respectful and communicative about everything.

This is obvious in some relationships: most people with friends know that sometimes a friends' job or partner need them right now, and most friendships, if you move away your friend will usually stay with their job or family, not move with you. And that's just normal: almost all humans have many relationships and give different things to different ones. But it's also normal that friends are not jerks about it, and (a) don't constantly talk about how something else in their life is more important than you and (b) make time for you sometimes and don't just cancel all the time without telling you.


Hopefully this is obvious, but this is, me trying to understand many thoughts I've heard from different places, and not about any particular relationships of anyone (especially not anyone I know). Hopefully that postscript isn't needed, but I know it's possible for me to post "thoughts on X" and people to worry "is this about me".
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Quite a long time ago now, I read about the concept of inbox zero. For a long time I struggled with various productivity techniques. I sometimes temporarily achieved inbox zero, and I made big inroads against the habit of having all the urgent emails muddled in with everything else I'd ever received. Although that never quite became permanent.

However, now there maybe has been a permanent sort of shift. I think a combination of receiving less urgent emails, and of having a regular non-email based per-week todo list, and of generally being less stressed by all urgent things, have led to a point where I no longer *need* inbox zero. I generally only have a few emails needing attention, and those are starred. And other recent-ish email sits around in my inbox to a certain extent not doing much harm, but being handy if I need it.

And I'm sufficiently non-stressed that it's not usually something I need to *set aside time for*, but something I can do when I'm checking my email anyway. Any longer time commitments get put in a separate todo.

Non-email email (social network notifications, mailing lists, confirmations, etc, etc) gmail helpfully puts into a separate tab. Social network stuff I star anything I want to reply to, and empty it out every so often. Everything else I just glance at, and if it needs any response move to my main inbox and star it.

This has bad effects as well. Because it *usually* just works, if I get an urgent email and then suddenly go away, it can fall through the cracks. But that's hopefully ok, it's mostly how most people deal with tasks: they usually do it fine but occasionally miss something, instead of needing to be always perfect else they fail forever.
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Every Heart a Doorway tells the story of a school for the recovery of children who've been subject to portal fantasy stuff, specifically people wanted to stay but were cast out for some reason. It's pretty good; I felt it could have embraced the premise *better*, but it still did a pretty good job.

I have lots of different thoughts about this.

Returning from portal fantasy

One of the biggest is probably that, it's written as if people being cast out is a central feature of secondary worlds, whereas originally I think it's more like, the authors didn't think about it much either way, they just tacked on a happy ending even if it didn't really make sense in the book.

But as liv points out, many people found portal fantasies incredibly moving as children because they wanted to escape somewhere else from where they were, and returning was horrible, and this story serves very very well as an emphatic rejection of that trope.

Funnily enough that was never me. Lots of my friends overcame a lot of childhood problems, but though I was nerdy and bad at making friends, my parents were great, and I never wanted to get away from here, even if I was drawn to the idea of going somewhere where my strengths could blossom. I got some of that by going into maths and programming.


I enjoyed this more than most of the other Seanan Mcguire I've read, even the Mira Grant. I think the strengths were similar, but the bits where "the characters go where the plot says, completely disregarding logic, common sense, emotion, characterisation, survival, or physical possibility" were much less prominent.

At least to me -- I know some people didn't find that a problem in any of her books, and some people were bothered by it in this one. But there are going to be *some* rants in the spoiler section.

I wasn't bothered by some things that bothered other people. To me, the variety of sexualities etc didn't feel shoehorned in, except occasionally (and I was pleased it was there). I wasn't bothered by shifts in narration from tight third to omniscient (I actually quite like little omniscient asides).


The diversity of characters. The description of the secondary worlds: the harsh "high logic" faerielands; the "high nonsense" nonsense worlds; the ones with rhymes, the underworlds, etc etc. It is all very memorable.

Random thoughts

I know I can be too optimistic here, and it can be impossible to stop bullying, but I also just despair at how it's taken for granted in so many situations fictional and real. Here there's a fairly small group of children, with several adults present full time. Can't they at least TRY to prevent at least physical attacks? And ideally violent threats?

Spoilers )
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The android game I wrote last month is available for download (see bottom of this post).


It's a variant on an augmented reality match three game. Physically walk around to change which square is highlighted with a light grey background. Click that square to place the next tile there. The next tile is shown at the bottom of the screen. Match three of the same type in a row, and they vanish forming a new type. Then try to match three of *those*. When you reach hearts, match three hearts of any colour and they vanish entirely (but give lots of score).

For instance, three fish next to each other in a line make an octopus, three octopuses make a whale, three whales make a blue heart, three hearts of any colour vanish entirely. And similarly for the three other starter animals.

Only vertical and horizontal. But if you make a line of four, or two crossing lines of three, they all vanish. They only give one new tile, but you get more points.

It would be trivial to play if you could just click on a square, but it's surprisingly addictive when you play it walking about.

Be careful not to walk into the middle of roads! It's surprisingly easy to make that mistake when you're concentrating on your location in the game.

The screen wraps round, so you can always keep walking in one direction rather than walk in the opposite direction. It's best to start by figuring out which compass direction corresponds to which direction on the grid :)

Tips: When you complete an octopus, think about where you're going to put the fish to make the next octopus next to the first one.


If you open the .apk file on an android device, it should ask if you want to install it. You can only do so if you agree to install apps which come from me not the play store. I think that should work but I don't know for sure.

It is very early stages. It seems to work on one or two devices, but I haven't tested it more extensively than that. It will hopefully be ok, but I don't know for sure. I would appreciate knowing everyone who tried it, just whether it ran ok or not, and if the game itself seemed to work.

It still has some UI from the open source OpenSudoku game I based the code on. Don't pay any attention to the menus or help.



(Let me know if the link doesn't work. You should *not* need a dropbox account to use it, but you may have to scroll to the bottom of the screen to continue to download without one.)


I would appreciate knowing everyone who tried it, just whether it installed ok or not, and if the game itself seemed to work.

Lots of things are known to be unfinished, so don't waste energy enumerating what's missing in menus etc. Do let me know anything that seems to prevent me playing the game. Do ask if it doesn't run or it's not obvious what to do. Comments on what's fun and what isn't are very much appreciated!

Thank you!

News recap

Jul. 13th, 2017 01:05 pm
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Unfortunately, I often lose track of events when they're no longer headline news, even important ones.

I'd not realised how long the situation in eastern Ukraine had been :( But apparently, it's mostly in the same situation, with several large areas controlled by separatists backed by Russia, with continued fighting but not a lot of movement in lines of control.

Everyone condemned Russia and instituted sanctions, but it doesn't seem to have made much difference :( I guess eventually, the current situation will be formalised. Unless someone offers military aid to Ukraine which might even be worse, more proxy (or not proxy) wars :(

I think I sort of knew that, but I wasn't really sure.

I looked this up while checking what happened under NotPetya, the malware that used the same exploit as WannaCry, but also sought administrator privileges on networks to spread throughout organisations. It seems it didn't go globally apocalyptic as it temporarily seemed it might. But was pretty bad in Ukraine. It was initially spread when a commercial accounting package widely used in Ukraine was hacked to include it in a software update.

That's scary in two ways. One, it was targeted at Ukraine in several ways. It superficially presented itself as ransomware, but actually just did damage, the "accept money and decrypt" stuff was half-arsed.

Secondly, most people don't have a good defence against a legitimate software update. Image if chrome were hacked, or windows! That's hopefully not likely, but if it were possible, and someone used a new exploit to subvert their software updates directly instead of spreading indiscriminately first, it could infect *incredibly* widely.


Jul. 13th, 2017 01:02 pm
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Last week, Rachel and I had a couple of days away in Norwich and Great Yarmouth. It was really lovely. Norwich was great to explore, visiting the sea was blissful. We found some nice food, especially the little cafe 42 King Street in Norwich which did tapas-style... stuff, including fascinating vege stuff, incredible marinated halloumi and dip.

Then we went to Michelle and Mike's wedding, which was really nice. I loved their book cake, and geeky references, and games, and little lego-chocolate-dispenser gift bags! And the family has been through a lot, it was so, so lovely they got to this point.
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This falls into what I'm starting to recognise as a category, computer games that are incredibly beautiful in multiple ways, but I play for five minutes and decide I don't have time to play properly. You crashland on an ocean planet, and oh my gosh, the water is so WET it practically comes out of your monitor. And warm and clear and inviting, with tropical reefs stretching endlessly.

The actual game is a bit like minecraft, find the right materials to feed into an emergency fabber to make more complicated tools to get more useful materials and components, until you eventually repair a distress beacon. (I don't know if that's all or if there's also underwater aliens or whatever).

Avatar on Wii

Rachel bought some old-ish games and it's been lovely to have something fun but simple-ish we can play together occasionally. One person controlling and one person kibitzing works surprisingly well, a lot is "what now" where having the trigger finger isn't the important thing.

It looks great, very avatar-y. It's not set at any particular point in the chronology but has a feel of an avatar well-respected but also young and unpracticed well. And your abilities work like that too: you have quite powerful abilities but you have to unlock them by levelling up, and they have cooldowns, so you feel powerful, but also like you can only succeed by being skillful, which fits the tone very well.

I have a few quibbles. The wolves appear intelligent to manufacture, or at least habitually carry, headbands of +2 armor, and yet not intelligent enough to avoid spontaneously attacking the most powerful humanoid bender on the planet. The avatar indiscriminately slaughtering wolves and taking their stuff seems tonally inconsistent on multiple levels. But that's computer games.

Also, Zuko can jump down behind Kitara and grab her and she's suddenly unable to fight back? Why didn't he try that on all the OTHER waterbenders there?

Flintstones comic

So... there's a gritty flintstones reboot. Except it's not *very* gritty. Not like gratuitous gore. But it deals with consumerism. And colonialism. And PTSD. And so on. I've no idea how this came about, but it works really quite surprisingly well. A few panels are incredibly biting. I loved the animals-used-as-appliances talking to each other, and calling the pet dinosaur a traitor.

On other occasions, it does veer a bit puerile, making simplistic jokes and criticisms of modern life that aren't especially telling. But worth reading some of.


About a superteam where the most powerful superman-like member goes rogue and starts killing people, and everyone else has to figure out what they can do from there.

The worldbuilding and characters are pretty good -- it feels really LIKE famous superteams, while all the individual members are not knock-offs of specific characters from a single team, but embodying the *sort* of iconic characters that usually exist.

It's mostly about the characters, and what they do and their relationships with each other. There are quite a lot of *further* story developments of one sort or another, it doesn't just dwell on the premise forever with nothing evolving.

I've some quibbles. Things would drag on a lot less if people stopped going back and forth on when to try to contain someone and when it was necessary to kill them. And it's not a *lot* of sexism, but there's some.
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“That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)

Chess, two countries slowly developing a peace after a long war, two people from opposite sides tentatively renewing a friendship formed during the war, and one side is entirely telepaths. Generally pretty interesting. More thoughts below.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)

Two sisters with magical abilities over the weather and alternate histories.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

Two fairytale protagonists rebel against their allotted labours and help each other escape.

“The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)

A struggle to allow, or prevent, New York to become a living city. Really evocative, but I found it hard to get into.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)

Likewise, doing something good but I find it hard to describe.

The john c wright one

In general, I'll vote any spam entries no award and not feel obliged to read them, but I checked some reviews. It talks about things I genuinely find interesting, like the relationships between asimovian robots and theology. But in rather horrible ways.

Some spoilers )
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I've entered votes for everything apart from the novellas. There's quite a few I wish I had to spend more time on: ideally I'd read more by the Campbell authors, and some of the short stories I'd like to read again, and some other things.

But I'd also like to talk about what I enjoyed, and see what other people thought, so I'm working my way through some of the categories this week. The deadline for finishing voting is 8am Sunday morning BST (I think).

A few years ago I didn't follow any graphic novels at all, I only recognised entries which were webcomics I knew. But a combination of random drift, me following some authors online, reading some of the earlier graphic novels (especially Ms Marvel and Saga) and having other things recommended to me, and of just getting into the habit of reading comics on the tablet at all, have made me recognise enough of the ballot to have an opinion on the category and want to see the entries I didn't already know.

Most of them had enough in the hugo packet to make a good decision, a first issue or first collected volume, which is pretty good. Although I wouldn't have time to read them all.

Vision was really interesting. It's about the artificial magical humanoid from the avengers I only know from the recent avengers film, but enjoyed there. I don't usually read comics from large continuities even if I like the characters, because it feels like they're too constrained by stuff I don't know. But I really enjoyed this; Vision and family lose their memories (or the emotional component of their memories) and try to fit into human society again by living in a house in the suburbs and sending the teenagers to high school. It hits a lot of interesting "learning to understand human interaction" things. Although there looks to be a fair amount of gratuitous death coming up.

Black Panther is about the prince of Wakanda fighting... a bunch of mystical stuff. It covers lots of worthwhile themes, of power and racism and so on and is very well done. I got confused because I was trying to skim and that didn't really work, but I definitely want to read it more slowly, and rated it pretty highly

Monstress, I'd like help forming an opinion about. I read the first issue a while back without knowing much about it, but my impression was, it was absolutely gorgeous, both in visuals and in tone, all about some mystical battle of enslaved people and spirits against someone, and lots of people being captured and bravely escaping; but it felt very male-gazey and I assumed it was going to be "interesting, but not developing the interesting themes further and getting hard to read". But what everyone else said about it was gorgeous, amazing worldbuilding, feminist themes, so it sounded like my first impression did completely underestimated it, and it was all the things I'd love. But I've not actually read any more to be able to form my own opinion about. Has anyone else read it more (or even just read the first issue more slowly?)

I postponed the saga and ms marvel entries. I assume they're good, but about as good as the previous series was, so I will take the risk of voting on that basis. (If either was exceptionally more standout than the rest of the series, let me know). And I will vote most of the other entries first, because I'm more excited by *new* series, even as I want the ones I like to continue.

Papergirls is about three teenage girls who deliver newspapers discovering some alien invasion or something... the write-up sounded interesting, but I couldn't get into the first couple of pages. I expect it's fairly good, but I'll see if I go back to it or not.

Has anyone else read any of the ones I've partly read and have helpful opinions?
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I previously talked about accessing the scope of an owning class from a class declared and instantiated within it. Latest post here: https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1017241.html

The possible approaches seem to be: the owned class has a pointer back to the owning class; or functions dealing with the owned class get an extra parameter to the owning class. Whether that's implemented manually, or automatically by the language, or somewhere between.

Thinking some more about this, various things occurred to me:


I hadn't realised, but I learned Java and C# (and maybe other recent/managed languages) do this automatically, presumably implemented by the owned class automatically having a pointer to the owning class, and checked where its instantiated that it's only instantiated by an instance of the owning class.

I was naturally drawn to a "owning pointer is passed in alongside or as part of a this pointer" implementation as it seemed more conceptually correct. However, the actual benefit of this is a lot smaller in most languages other than rust. I first started thinking about these options in a rust example, where having a pointer to the owning class needed some fancy dancing, because rust prefers to keep tight limits on how many pointers to a class at once (ideally one only).

This hopefully makes memory management safer, and means you can usually move classes around in memory using a raw memcpy, because they don't usually have internal pointers to different parts of them. But most other languages don't even try to do that, just assume that a non-trivial class is fixed in place in memory (or moved only by a garbage collector that knows where all the pointers are).


If you try to avoid having a permanent pointer back to the owning class, and if you ever need a pointer to the owned class (this is common if you use it as a callback), you need to accept your pointers would actually be a pair (or more) of pointers, to the owning class, and to the owned class. The owned pointers might be an offset rather than a complete pointer. That's clunky, but wouldn't necessarily take up that much space if the language supports it. You could do a similar thing for iterators, like pointers to members of a collection, rather than having a bare pointer that only makes sense if you already know what the collection is.

That seems a useful concept, but I'm not sure how useful it would be in practice.
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I've been at the new job over three months and it's going fairly well.

For a long time, I've felt like, each project goes through phases, of "just getting started and full of ideas" and "wrestling with someone else's code I don't understand" and "filling out features and making something fairly complete" and "dealing with an urgent problem". And they basically ALL caused me to procrastinate. But with very very many varied productivity tricks and techniques, I seem to finally be reaching a point where, in most of those phases, I can just go ahead and do work, without constantly struggling not to freeze up and get nothing done.

The last couple of weeks, I was a bit stuck in a "it doesn't work and I can hopefully fix it but I don't know for sure" loop, and hadn't realised how much it was dragging down my mood. It also seemed to be, I wasn't content if there was *any* major upcoming problem hanging over my life, I had to make progress on *all* of them before I felt at all better. But I eventually did.

Overall, that's really quite good. I still need to test if the improvement is ongoing, but it's an improvement I wasn't sure I'd ever quite reach. Unfortunately, because I'm me, my brain is less excited, as depressed that it took so long, and that afterwards things will not be significantly better.

There's been a slow shift. It used to be, if I had a little bit of time, I could never just, do something small (washing up, or code tidying, or replying to some emails). I could only ever do things when I made it so I *had* to. But as things improved, that resistance melted away, and "how intimidating tasks seemed" shrunk back to something related to how much work they actually were. Which I guess is where many people were all along.

Doing month-by-month goals or projects was definitely good, I think I want to keep that up. Sometimes they've been a specific project, like learning rust. Other times they've been just "catch up on these paperwork/chores". But having that structure helps a lot letting me see progress. And knowing a project is self-contained, I can see how much I can do, and then *stop* and force myself to re-evaluate my goal, not get stuck in a dragging-on project for ever.

I haven't done anything very spectacular this year, but I've learned about rust (and contributed!) and learned about writing an android app. And started a new job. And am confident that if I try to work on a project in a language I already know it would have gone a lot faster.

It feels like, given the slightest pressure to do things a particular way, even in my imagination, my brain immediately collapses into thinking "i have to do things that way" and it's really hard to *notice* how I'm stuck let alone dig myself out again. And that applies not only to specifics, "colleague refused to listen to idea, so can I ever consider that idea again in the future in any way?" but to meta-skills. It always feels like I *have* to fix everything by sheer force of will, not by, well, techniques that work, because that's what people expect of me. But it's not true, no-one does think that, but it *feels* like they do.
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I've bashed my head on this before but not got a specific answer. Now I read through it in some more detail.


In West Wing episode 1, Josh insults some evangelical christian leaders. In a meeting trying to resolve this, the following happens.

* One of them proposes a radio address (presumably by the president) on a topic important to them, including public morals, school prayer or pornography. Apparently meaning "people in school should not have access to condoms", "people in school should be forced to perform christian prayer" and "we don't quite know what we want you to do but we're very upset about pornography".

* There is a muddle of people speaking at once, and he cuts in again, saying, "I'd like to discuss why we hear so much talk about the First Amendment coming out of this building, but no talk at all about the First Commandment."

* He says, "The First Commandment says 'Honor thy Father'."

* Toby breaks in, and says that's wrong, that's the third commandment. He is very long-suffering.

* He says, what is the first then?

* The president enters the room and quotes: "I am the Lord your God. Thou shalt worship no other God before me."


I'm fairly sure the intended impression is, talk show guy spoke without thinking and screwed up something basic, Toby and the president correct him.

But firstly, the first commandment seems SO basic, it's hard to see how he could get it wrong. Whether or not he's a good Christian overall, quoting the commandments, especially the first one, seems like the sort of thing he'd do all the time.

Secondly, when I first heard it, I assumed this was "honor your father and mother", but now I wonder if it's supposed to be honoring *God* thy father. Although that doesn't quite fit any of the specific sentences either.

I'm not sure if the commandment he was quoting was supposed to be directly related to the previous discussion or not. Either of the possibilities doesn't seem directly relevant to the school stuff, but it's possible it is in a way that's only familiar if you know the usual arguments people make.

Several people point out that all the people involved have *different* traditional commandment numbering. Toby is Jewish. The christian leaders are protestant. And the president is catholic. I assume in America the protestant version is widely known and often considered canonical? I spent some time on wikipedia checking the different traditions for how to break up the commandments into ten.

But that doesn't seem to fit much better. The president could be quoting the protestant version (or possibly a slightly abbreviated catholic version?)

There's no way to make "honor thy father and mother" into 1 or 3, it's 5 for both protestants and jews (and 4 for catholics).

It could instead be "have no other god" or "don't take God's name in vain" but that doesn't quite fit, either the numbers or the quote.

My best guess is that someone wrote an exchange that worked, probably based on the traditional protestant numbering[1]. And then it got edited for various reasons, and ended up in a version which sounded good but didn't actually make sense.

The best alternate explanation is (a) Christian leader guy genuinely didn't know what the first commandment was (or forgot in the heat of the moment) (b) Toby was trolling by deliberately making something up, knowing no-one could call him on it as he had a different numbering anyway (c) the president (an intellectual catholic) knew the confusion of the numbering, but quoted a first commandment that would be expected to protestants and wasn't exactly wrong by his own tradition.

But to me that seems too complicated, if all that was supposed to be there, there'd be more indication. The mistake would have been one where it's more clear how he came to make a mistake. Toby would have sounded different if he was blowing smoke than if he was correcting people. There'd be some acknowledgement that SOMEONE would have known the first commandment, that this isn't exactly an obscure piece of theological trivia the president researched.

[1] West Wing does much better at research than most shows, but they seem to research a particular topic, it still seems like minor things not the main theme of an episode get overlooked sometimes.

Transcript: http://www.westwingtranscripts.com/search.php?flag=getTranscript&id=1
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Community. Rewatched first two series. Got bored in series three. I think there was still a lot of good things after that, but I wasn't as excited by each episode.

Rewatching s1 of west wing. Still very good. See twitter for running commentary. It's strange that WW made so many things famous you can't look up if they're true or not, you just find they were in the WW.

When I was being excited by Natural History of Dragons #3, I forgot to say, they investigate translating an ancient syllabary language. made me think of rochvelleth :)

Watched Doctor Who "Veritas". Some things are tedious: that's not how computers work, and that's not how random numbers work. It's almost the opposite. But overall I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Read the latest wild cards. Weird that it just happens to be set in Taraz (Talas) in Kazakhstan when ghoti et al are visiting that country. Although it unfortunately doesn't include much actually specific to Kazakhstan.

There's so many things that are really interesting about the wild card books. Partly that lots of famous authors show up writing a really different style of thing to what they usually write, often more straightforwardly engaging. Partly that main characters in one story thread show up as minor characters in other story thread, and you get a good triangulation on them, how they think of themselves vs how different people see them -- often with no Word-of-God on which is more accurate.
jack: (Default)

OK, I'm going to assume everyone who wanted to think about the original problem unspoiled has probably done so, and assume comments have rot26 spoilers from here on.

Read more... )
jack: (Default)
OK, so before the bizarre misunderstandings in my previous post, I had been going to repost question which I thought was an interesting logic puzzle in its own right.

You have five bags of holding. One contains a fabulous treasure. Two contain liches who can't escape until you open the bag. Two contain nothing.

You have a spell which tells you something about the result of a course of action you propose. (This description is slightly altered from the functionality of the original spell to make the puzzle work, feel free to ask for clarification as needed.)

"Weal" for good result (eg. treasure, no liches)
"Woe" for bad result (eg. 1+ lich, no treasure)
"Weal and Woe" for a good and bad result (eg. treasure and also lich)
"Nothing" for a result of no particular good or bad (eg. open no bags or only open empty bags)


What's the minimum number of castings of the spell needed? (I think 3 is easy and 1 is impossible, so basically, can you do 2?)


The course of action has to be 30 minutes or less.

We don't have specifics on how you define the course of action, ask if it needs to be more explicit.

Assume you can include other results in the plan if they help, eg. "if this bad contains nothing, I stab myself in the leg", without necessarily needing to follow through. (This is slightly more generous than the original spell.)

Assume you don't include the castings of further divination spells within the scope of the course of action considered by casting the first spell.

Follow-ups (may be unnecessary depending on the best solution to the original)

If you only have one casting, what's the greatest chance you can give yourself of finding the treasure whilst finding no liches.

The original restrictions of the spell say that if you cast it four times in a day (ignored for the basic puzzle), the second, third and fourth times have a 25%, 50% and 75% chance of giving a random answer. What's the highest chance you can give yourself of finding the treasure and no liches in up to four castings with those failure chances.

Previously we assumed you couldn't create a paradox. If you *can*, and causing a paradox causes the spell to fail to give an answer in a way distinct from "nothing", can you reduce the number of castings?

If you *can* ask about a course of action including further divination spells, does that help?

Does the answer generalise to a larger number of bags (assuming 1 treasure, N liches and N nothing)

ETA: Fix formatting.
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In several ways I enjoyed the second (African swamp dragons) and third (Sea Serpents, Chinese dragons of many sorts, and Polynesian firewyrms) more than the first. The main character is more proactive. We start to see more of the outline of her life. I found it a bit easier to cope with the alternate-history geography too, either because I was more used to it, or because it was further away from places I'm familiar with.

I like the bits of her son Jake we get. There's so few fantasy novels with children and adults together.

And I'm more familiar with the alternate world. Several things are different: the series is set later than I'd realised (1890s?) but steam power is severely curtailed by the lack of iron, taking the place of various resource-scrambles Europe imposed on the world in our history.

And I still can't believe I missed everyone is Jewish, temple judiasm or "magisterium" judaism, but with the varied devotion victorian scholars had for Christianity.

As I'm re-reading, I see more things alluded to in the early volumes, about her eventual discoveries, and the misadventures she gets into, and her later remarriage, that make me excited to know which of the things I've read tie into those and which are still to come.

Every book seems to wend its way until the plot starts about 3/4 of the way through, but the third one I was really wrapped up in all the things that happened until that point, the difficulties of navigating a ship, negotiating chinese bureaucracy to get to see dragons, befriending islanders, surviving storms, performing experiments.

I'm still a bit put off by the alternate-history names for countries. Couldn't we just use the same names even if the shapes are different? It seems like more places are islands? And it feels weird I can't just look it all up online and see what corresponds to what, but here no-one seems to have done the work. I should compile a list of what I managed to work out for my own reference.

Minor Spoilers )
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I'm not going to get all of this right, but there's quite a lot of things which have been annoying me. Please suggest corrections or additions.

Sinn Fein will not take their seats. They have not been taking their seats for a very very long time. There might be some circumstances where they might, but almost certainly only if (a) it's an issue overwhelmingly important to NI and (b) they would actually make a difference. Some constitutional hack, or swinging the UK govt one way or the other, is not likely to change that now.

Hence, report the true number for a majority, not the theoretical number if SF were going to vote against.

The PM usually resigns as PM when someone else is ready to take over. This almost never matters, but there there IS a PM in the intervening time.

This is the closest british equivalent to the concept of a "lame duck" in American politics, I think, because you don't usually have elections that take a long time to take effect.

Everything is usually organised very quickly. Whether or not it might be healthier to take longer, if there are any negotiations, they're usually a matter of hours or days, not weeks.

Two processes happen. The unofficial process is, "parties have talks and establish if they could possibly form a majority". This is much less complicated than many countries as there's usually not many different combinations who would *ever* work together. There's often only one real possibility.

The official process (well, more official -- almost everything is by convention) happens in parallel. If that the govt have a majority (either directly, by coalition, or by enough other MPs being willing to vote for them anyway), then they stay govt, there's no resign and reform. If not, the largest party have first crack at forming govt. Else, the second largest party. But usually, it's obvious in advance if this is possible or not, and only the possible options actually happen. (eg. govt resigns if opposition have a majority)

The fixed term parliament act did basically only one thing: prevent the larger party in a coalition calling an election against the wishes of the smaller party in a coalition. It may have very slightly increased the pressure on a govt not in coalition to not call snap elections, but apparently, not really. It did the thing that the people who designed obviously wanted.

It might or might not have been nice if the fixed term parliament act had actually made parliaments fixed term. It sort of looked like it might. But (a) it didn't and (b) I don't think the people who designed it just stupidly forgot it didn't, I think they just accepted they couldn't really fix that and didn't really try. Because (a) if there's a hung parliament, there's another election anyway (that makes sense, what else will you do?) and (b) if the govt want an election, even if they don't have 2/3 -- are the opposition going to come out and say "yes, we can rule better than them but we don't want to prove it"?

I'm not great at reading between the lines, but somehow even people who are presumably more socially aware than me often ignore things I find obvious and I don't know why. There are many, maybe most, cases of potential coalitions like this, but see Lib Dems in this election. Tim Farron says he won't form a coalition with the conservatives. Duh! Saying that would be electoral suicide. I don't know if he would like to, but I think he's pretty much *got* to deny it anyway[1]. Would he? Well, hopefully not. But if the conservatives offered an attractive enough deal (say, electoral reform and cancel brexit) one the public might actually like, would he say, "oh no, I'm sorry, I agree that would be best for the country, my party, and my own career, but too late"? But that doesn't happen, because they're not making that offer. If really really wanted to say never ever make it stick, he could probably say something bridge-burning.

It's not guaranteed, but you usually know which way the non-top-two parties will go. Ie. UUP and DUP are likely to prop up Con and not Lab. Lib-Dem are kind of split. Everyone else might prop up Lab but won't help Con. That doesn't mean they WILL prop up a government, but when you're considering potential governments, there's not usually a lot of different possibilities. Usually you'll get a majority. If not you can see a majority of "Lab or Con + parties generally disposed to them". If so, they'll usually work out SOMETHING. If the margin is thin it will be very flaky (eg a rainbow coalition needing many small parties to get a majority is likely to fall apart). Technically any "not majority" is a hung parliament, but that's only really the case if there's a significant chance of a deal not being struck. If no-one has a majority even with reluctant support, then probably whoever's closest (closest in numbers or closest to support from a large non-govt party) can eke out a minority government. If that doesn't happen, *then* there's a reasonable chance of a surprise, some party working a party you don't expect. And if not, then it's well and truly hung and will soon devolve into another election whether people want it or not (but that's really rare).

[1] See also, "PM says they won't resign". They always say that. If they have to, they have to, whatever they said, and if they're not in politics any more, what do they lose by having said the opposite?

ETA: And re: "English votes for English laws", even if the conservatives have *some* votes outside England, they still have a larger majority in England than in the UK as a whole. Somehow people (who usually know what they're talking about) keep seeming to think that Scottish tories and DUP don't count for England-only matters, but opposition MPs in Wales/Scotland would. But I don't understand why people think that?

Books etc

Jun. 11th, 2017 10:10 pm
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Villains, Inc

Second in the series of Wearing the Cape superhero novels. Does a better job than most of building a world where superheroes make sense. I like the second one more in some ways, where the protagonist has grown a bit and is a lot more proactive. Although I don't remember much else.

I was interested to realise, "Villains Inc" was not just a catchy name but a reference to Murder Inc, the name given by the press to the organisation that span out of various crime families in the american mafia handling a majority of their contract killing[1].

[1] Also see: http://www.anarchogeekreview.com/history/so-a-nazi-walks-into-an-iron-bar-the-meyer-lansky-story

Hanging Tree (Rivers of London #5)

I liked this more than almost any of the previous ones. The humour is firing on all cylinders. We stop discovering whole new tracts of supernatural beings surely SOMEONE would have mentioned by now, and return to the strongest topics, Peter's family, the rivers, Nightingale and the other magicians. There's almost none of Peter being an arse about women. We're still waiting to find out more about what happened to you-know-who, but we find out *something* about it.

Magnificent Seven remake

This was... ok. It had a few good moments.

The first 30 minutes of the Magnificent Seven were one of the best films ever made. An underwear salesman is trying to pay for the funeral of a guy who died in the street, but the funeral director won't take his money because no-one wants a black guy buried in the cemetery, even though it's full of disreputable people, murders, criminals, etc. The protagonists volunteer because why not, everyone watching chips in to pay for the wagon if necessary, for the spectacle more than out of the goodness of their hearts. There's an extended scene while they drive to the graveyard, shooting a variety of people who take potshots at them. Everything about it is just great. It's entertaining and tense. Even the minor characters are very memorable. It cements two of the major characters for you.

And the rest was ok, but not especially memorable. Writing is HARD, because you want EVERY PART of your story to blow people away, and it's really hard to say what makes that happen. And the same for the sequel. Nothing especially is wrong, it just all happens how you'd expect, and I never felt "Wow".

Stealing Light

The galaxy is de-facto ruled by the Shoal, the only species to have FTL. Humanity lives in the region of stars allocated to them. Now a human faction may have discovered an ancient pre-Shoal FTL ship.

I didn't really get into the book itself, but I really wanted to find out about the history and which races had FTL and how they interacted. I probably won't re-read it, but I may read the sequel.
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In order for life to continue you need a variety of things. You need to severely curtail the number of fusion explosions around. You need oxygen. Need to not be underwater. Not to be constantly struck by lightning.

But funnily enough, for life to come about, you basically need the opposite of all those things.