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I went to the classics museum again one lunchtime. And caught a Growlithe! :)

But I also admired the statues.

I think I mostly re-absorbed the impressions of the ones I was really interested in the last time.

The sprawling faun, so sensuous and lascivious.

The bronze boxer, weary and bashed up, hand wraps (?) and small cuts inlaid in a different metal. I wonder what the story is of someone who said "I need a statue of an exhausted boxer about to make a final stand"?

And I seemed to remember a giant head with curly hair, almost the size of a human, but I think my memory exaggerated, or it was moved :)
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I read the first book, Leviathan Wakes, a little while back, and recently got round to reading the second and third. Someone online said book #5 was really good, so we'll see what I think.

What I really like is the setting -- medium future solar system SF, when Mars has been settled, and Earth and Mars are the solar system's superpowers, but humans are still scattered round the belt and a few other places doing mining and research and so on, with a varying tension in how they're loyal to the inner planet governments they have almost no connection with.

It's old school in a way I like, to imagine humanity will eventually make inroads into the solar system, rather than assuming it will never happen, or will only happen by some magic alien tech which is dropped onto us. It feels like, it's at an *earlier* phase than some other books, in that we've settled *one* other planet, and some other asteroids and moons, and the situation is evolving from there.

Earth and Mars have military spaceships, bu they're like aircraft carriers -- they've rarely been tested seriously against OTHER serious military spaceships, only against smaller stuff. And they really exist as a last line of defence for the settled planets which might be futile.

Of course, into the middle of this, they DO drop some alien technology, which is simultaneously an incomprehensible physics-defying threat, but also automated and uncontrolled and potentially an opportunity if you're VERY VERY careful.

The second and third books are about as good as the first (which is good but not superb for a series :)). They still talk about the settled human places and the politics between, though it's evolved a lot. And I wish there were more of it. The alien tech is still there, not sidelined, still central to the plot of each, in what happens next, but not completely obviating the existing worldbuilding.

A few minor details bother me. "No lightspeed delay" is not impossible like "free energy" it's impossible like "garble warble farble" -- you need to say what it MEANS before you can attempt to claim it's something which has happened. *Different* details bothered other friends.

The second and third books are *better* at a varied representation. The first book focuses on Miller, a hardboiled detective archetype, and Holden, who has almost the same personality but runs a spaceship instead of being a detective. The second and third keep Holden but have (I think), an even mix of male and female viewpoint characters, many of which I really like. Although I feel it's still playing catch-up in some ways, like one fo the viewpoints in the third book is an antagonist, who doesn't feel as equal as the others.

And the viewpoints are not always very distinct -- when it's describing what's going on, it's easy to forget who's in theory seeing it. And I feel like something's missing it's hard to put my finger on. Like each character has stuff that happens, but it's not always much of an *arc*, it's sometimes hard to fit "challenges met and overcome" into the plot of the book.
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See previous post: http://cartesiandaemon.livejournal.com/996269.html

I've settled on a name for now, and polished off the teething troubles that made some of the earlier versions a little hard to get started with. And I'm playing it regularly with Liv and Ghoti which is a pretty good sign. I've playtested it with some of the children, with Liv's brother (thank you!) and with Alex and Douglas (thank you!)

What I like

I've said some of this before, but there's quite a lot I'm really pleased about, most of which was there right from the initial idea.

* Some of the feel of robo-ralley
* It's physically compact, the whole thing fits in a pocket
* It's very quick to explain, most people are able to start playing with a minute or so of verbal explanation, and almost never feel "how should I have known that"
* Each turn is easy to play, it's rarely hard to know what to do
* It's *physically* easy to play. You don't need to hold a hand of cards, each turn is quite short.
* Hits sweet spot of "few decisions, every one is meaningful"

Now, some of those are more obvious than others. I think being physically easy to play is useful for children, and a lesser extent non-gamers. But is mostly irrelevant to people used to holding hands of cards for every game. But I am reaching a point where some of the goals conflict, and I need to decide to go one way, the other, or try to make versions that work for both.

Overall direction

There are some minor things I'm still resolving:

* I have an idea for an improved start row that works for more than two players, but I need to try it. (Multiple toys can be placed in a queue to enter the board behind any of the four rows, but can't enter the board pushing another toy.) It will still be a bit congested the first couple of turns, and I don't want a big risk of someone not being able to do anything.

* I need to test with more people, and get a wider baseline of experience

There are some things I know I can do, but I'm holding off on:

* Variant rules
* More cards, or more complicated cards

With both, there are lots of things that might be fun, and I welcome more suggestions, but I want to winnow out the idea that might improve the larger goals below before branching outward.

But the two biggest questions follow, in their own sections.

Good to great

Right now, it seems like the game is fun, which is a very good place to be, but I think I need to evaluate what works best, and anything which doesn't really contribute, and see if I can amplify that into *really really really fun*.

Often you can't, often you have a game that's already as good as it can get. But it's always worth trying. Partly because a game which is really really really fun to *you* is probably necessary before other people are interested at all.

Strategic complexity

Here is a point of divergence. My main playtesters are enthusiastic about the game as-is, and I basically want to leave it alone without any major changes.

But I feel that I'd enjoy it more if there were a little more what I think of as strategy. Things like:
* a greater incentive to place tiles several moves ahead, instead of usually right in front of a toy
* more potential to set up fun combos with "move twice" squares and "extra toy" squares, where they naturally allow maybe a couple of turns before the opponent breaks them
* more potential to establish winding paths, where there's a reason to follow them more often instead of just automatically overlaying a straight path

I'm not sure about my games evening playtesters. I think they'd enjoy that change if it were possible, but they weren't looking for it and weren't sure if it would be possible. Does that sound about right?

I am interested in trying that in parallel to testing the current version, even if I end up deciding it doesn't work out.

I don't have any firm ideas, but ideas I've considered:

* More magnetic latches, or features that function similar to that, so there's more incentive to plan ahead and to go round things. (Need to avoid just piling on locks on bad squares on the start row, though. Maybe more locks with "choose direction" arrows on?)
* Instead of having a linear race to the end of the board, have the game be to pick up presents placed on random tiles, or to knock opponent into pits. (Thanks Douglas)
* Lock counters, where the players can place to lock a tile in place (probably need some way to remove, but maybe not as easy as placing?) (either move lock every turn, or have a fixed number for the game, or something) (or just randomly happen every so often?)
* restriction on playing tile overwriting tile opponent has just placed
* restriction on playing tile directly in front of toy
* make plastic tiles not cards and have restriction on playing based on number of tiles already there (eg. each turn roll a dice, may only place on stacks that high or lower) (playtest by twisting stack so number of underlying tiles is visible) (I just thought of this last week, but I'm really interested to know how it would work)

Do any of those sound attractive?

Complete RULES (05 Sep 2016) )
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As best as I can tell, the pokemon go scanner reports whether a pokemon is within 200m or not. It updates about every 15s (?) When a pokemon is within about 50m (?) it appears.

My current strategy is, when I see a pokemon appear, continue in the same direction, assuming it's more likely I've walked into its radius than that it just spawned, and that it's more likely I've entered its radius closer to head on that obliquely. Mathmos, does that sound true?

If I walk about 200m and it isn't there, I try to curve round sideways. If it disappears again, I backtrack, and knowing two points approx 200m away from it, head for one of the points of those triangles.

But I'm wondering, would it be better that when I see it appear, I immediately turn sideways in the hope of finding two nearby points on the edge of its radius, and then extrapolate a point perpendicular to a line between them? That's harder, because it means I deliberately walk away from it. But maybe it would be quicker to narrow down where it is?

If there weren't a noisy gps and periodic updates, and those numbers were all precise, what would be the best strategy? It reminds me a little of Dr Leader's "you are trapped in a gladiatorial arena with someone who runs at exactly the same speed as you" puzzles, but hopefully simpler :)
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What I like about Ingress

You can make plans and follow them. You can say, "I have ten minutes, let me see if I can grab keys for these four many portals" or "Can I fill this hole in fielding". In pokemon, you can't really set out to *do* something most of the time.

There's a big incentive to visit different and out-of-the-way portals which is really interesting. Getting keys for them, or linking to them, mean the portals are *different*, not just "go to whichever ones are closest".

You can look up where's an interesting place to go to.

What I like about Pokemon Go

Filling the pokedex and collecting high-level pokemon gives you a form of progress which you can always increase. In Ingress, the only form of permanent progress was levelling-up, which was fun at low levels, but it was about conquering territory which was always transitory.

There's three teams, not two. I don't know why, but that seems to make it a lot more fun, both in how gyms change hands, and in meeting people.

The flavour is really nice, I love seeing different pokemon.

When you get to higher levels, there's not quite such a cliff of "now it's too hard to level up, and there's nothing else to do, there's no point".

Problems I'm starting to have with Pokemon

I've had a *lot* of fun with it. But I am starting to find some problems.

The new scanner sort-of works. It at least tells you what's within 200m. But it seems like that's not *totally* reliable. And it doesn't seem to tell you pokemon in order. But that means, I never have the satisfaction of tracking a pokemon methodically. It's either "walk along the river" or "rush backwards to establish the edge of the circle, then dash in one direction, and either frantically search around 200m from the first point, or reach another edge and triangulate". It's not a *fun* process, it's aggravating.

You don't play only at pokestops.

I mean, it's realistic that you don't get good intermediate indications of progress, you just have to try your best and then wait for success. But getting positive feedback is one of the things that makes games fun!

Now I have most of the pokemon which often spawn nearby, there's a lot less point going for a little walk and capturing some. I used to take a little wander, catch a few, come home. Now it's "go and see if there's a rare one, there isn't". Or, waste a bunch of pokeballs catching pidgeys I don't really need.

And it's hard to *work towards* filling my pokedex. ETA: Either someone tells you where a rare pokemon spawns, or you just wander around and hope. Either way, you get a random success for no reason, followed by a long period of failure.

So I may stop. But I wish it would become possible to start over, while being able to switch back to my original account occasionally. Like, in Ingress, having multiple accounts even if it took time to switch was a big advantage, because you could put multiple high-level resonators on a portal. But in pokemon, it seems like it wouldn't make that much difference. I'm sure I *can* start another account, but it would be nice if it was officially supported, "yes, that's what you're supposed to do, we won't ban you". Maybe with a built-in delay for switching or something.
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I am trying to make cards for a putative board game. Just printed on normal paper is fine for this level of testing.

I have a spreadsheet with a list of card titles and card text. Ideally I would print A4 pages each of which has four cards. Each card would have the title in a larger font and the text in a smaller font. There would be a little spacing, so if the cutting isn't perfect I don't lose any text. I may be getting over-perfectionist here, but ideally the spacing would not need to be in addition to the page margins, I just want a white border, it doesn't need to be printed.

I have libre office. That's supposed to be reasonably good, right? But the mail-merge features seem byzantine. Am I just too tired? Microsoft office was always overly-hlepy, but functional, for this sort of thing. Or is there any command-line based solution which is better?

I feel like it's at the "shouldn't be that hard" stage. I know I CAN figure out how to do it in libre office, but I want to know if something else is likely to be easier[1].

[1] One of my pet hates is that when you're pretty sure you can't do something a different way, people jump all over you saying "no, don't do it like that", and you have to rehash all the trade-offs you've already made before they're willing to believe you actually had a reason for doing it that way. But if you're NOT sure what the best way is, and ask, people rush to tell you "the way you've already chosen, the next step isn't that hard, it's X" and yes, thank you, now that takes 2 minutes not 20 minutes, but it hasn't really solved my problem if I want to do that for all twenty steps or not...
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I took an afternoon trip to Ely. After a cold morning the weather was fairly cooperative, the riverside garden bits are really pretty.

I tested my new phone mount for my car windscreen on a fairly easy journey, and it seemed to work quite well navigating with google maps navigation mode. It's probably not quite as good as my satnav, except that it has an up-to-date road network, uses an up-to-date touchscreen where it's easy to search for things, and steadily improves over time.

Does anyone know how to temporarily disable all notificaitons on android? When I'm using maps to navigate, I don't want random apps interrupting.

I introduced scribb1e and mavislovesmaths+samholloway to each other, and they introduced me to an awesome bookshop.

And we caught a Mr Mime, and some other pokemon.

And I saw a duck and a pile of yellow ducklings all crossing the road in single file!
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I have conflicting impulses to argue with people's premises vs arguing with the conclusions. If their conclusions seem really wrong, I immediately have an impulse to explain why I think that's wrong (which is sometimes useful, even if often asking for more detail on why they think that is usually more constructive).

Conversely, if I'm less emotionally involved, my instinct is to work forward step-by-step from premises we agree with, completely discounting any conclusions until I can understand every step towards them.

What I'm now realising is that both of those are useful at different times (different to what my instincts tell me). It's futile arguing with conclusions which rest on significantly different premises.

But OTOH, often people hone and refine their argument when their conclusion seems insufficient, in that we may arrive at the same conclusion from different routes, having refined our premises such that they seem different, but might actually fulfil similar purposes from different perspectives.

So it's worth judiciously switching back and forth to check which seems most constructive for a particular subject.


Aug. 12th, 2016 07:18 pm
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If you shave, what do you use?

Razor? Disposable, or with changeable heads? Or straight razor (ulp)?

With shaving foam, soap, or just water?

In sink, shower or bath?

Electric razor/hair clipper/something else?
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See gameboard here: https://twitter.com/CartesianDaemon/status/763871871943270400

I keep changing the name of the game. But you're manufacturing something (toys? robots?). You get a toy/pig/pallet at the left side of the board, and need to move over the conveyors to the right side of the board where you get a crate/wrapped present/victory counter.

I wanted to capture the slightly hectic "everything in all directions, build an intricate machine" feel of RoboRally, but in a game which could be learned and played quickly and easily, possibly even by a mix of children and adults.

So I focused on making sure (1) the decisions are usually interesting, there should usually be at least two plausible options and no "of course" decisions and (2) it should be hard to play wrong, all possible moves should be legal even if suboptimal, it should be easy to move the pieces without getting it wrong even if you're not winning. I even stuck to one tile a turn, partly because that seemed enough to be interesting, partly so you don't have to try to keep track of a hand you can drop or show people or forget to draw etc. Each turn is self-contained and fairly easy to follow.


- Deal tiles into a 5x4 grid. L = start row. R = score 1. Edges = pits (go back to the start). Alternate toys at start row, 1 each 3-4 players, 2 each 2 players. just off edge of board (on invisible "move forward" arrows)

Turn order:
- Draw tile, place over any tile in any orientation. Not under toy. Not on tile latched by adjacent magnet.
- Move all your toys in any order
- If you move off the end, get a present
- When a pawn reaches the end of falls off the edge or down a pit
--- goes back to the start (unless you have 1/2 toys already on the board, then return it to the supply)
--- Choose which row it starts in (not directly behind a tile with a toy in)
--- (WAS: opponent to your right choose which row it starts in)

- Move in direction of arrow, 1 tile or the number of tiles shown in the arrow
- Don't move past wall
- Push any number of toys ahead of you in a straight line (if no walls)

Game end
- When you draw the last tile, finish your turn. Then the player with the most presents wins.
- Tiebreaker = furthest-forward toy (then second-furthest, etc)
- (Alternative rule for longer game: when draw pile is exhuasted, collect all tiles with no toy on them and redeal. Play to N redeals or N presents)

- Infinite loop: Congrats! When toy returns to previously visited tile in loop, if it's impossible to change any of the tiles in the loop (eg. all have pawns on, or are latched by magnets), may return pawn to start
- Can't progress: (eg. unmoveavble unpassable tiles forming barrier from top to bottom of board). Redeal all those tiles.
- Move diag and walls: Moving from C to B. If A and left side of B are clear, ok. Same for D and bottom side of B. If both have walls, can't move. If both have pit, fall in. If one wall and one pit, roll a die:


- Move diag off corner of board = treat as moving off the end, get present, go back to start.

(These are the rules for Deck #2, a slightly tweaked version. I have Deck #1, the version Liv and Ghoti tested, safe and unchanged and won't fiddle with it, but the rules are written down, not electronic.)
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I was recently watching Community, and there's an excellent parody, Inspector Spacetime. It starts as a throw-away joke and I worried it might be a bit cringe-worthy, but Abed and Troy return to it over the season until there's a whole host of stuff about it. I hear some fans even made a spin-off (they changed the title).

It's a parody of Old Who. But it doesn't just take the most obvious traits and change the names slightly (though it does that too with Dalek-analogues etc). It amplifies. It takes the concept of the police-box and doctor's attitude and the doctor's time with UNIT and rolls them up into a simple idea where Inspector Spacetime is more directly police-detective themed. Which wasn't in the original, but is somehow even more true to it.

In Inspector Spacetime, there *was* a female incarnation, but many fans hated her (implied to be a combination of disliking the character, and disliking having a female character at all). And the characters argue whether that was a good thing (because more representation) or bad thing (because they didn't like it). All those parts come from Doctor Who, even though that combination never actually happened.

Likewise, sluggy freelance made an excellent parody of Harry Potter. It was occasionally a bit gross. But it didn't seem hostile to its target, as too many Potter parodies are. Rather, it affectionately continued many things people like about the original (Dumbledore being in charge, the camaraderie of the school, etc) while massively playing up everything that was potentially out of place (how dumbledore can be annoying when he orders people around, how the plot is carefully set up, but doesn't always make sense internally).

In particular, for book #2, the monster is NOT a giant snake. It's a completely DIFFERENT monster that incapacitates people in an entirely DIFFERENT way that JUST SO HAPPENS to be caused three different ways for three different victims, giving a clue as to the monster's actual (ridiculous) underlying nature.

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AIUI the Islamic calendar is purely lunar. ie. the year is a fixed number of lunar months, and the seasons drift round the year, unlike a solar calendar (Gregorian) or lunisolar (Jewish, Chinese (?)).

Traditionally, a month starts when you first see the new moon. However, with astronomical calculation, it's easy to predict what day you are GOING to see the moon (provided it's not cloudy). There's also an understanding that after thirty days you move on to the next month anyway, so even if you follow the traditional system, the months never *accumulate* errors, there's always one month per new moon, and if one starts a bit late, it's correspondingly shorter.

In particular, this Ramadan, for many people following the traditional system, it started one day late, but it finishes a day late at random other years, not particularly the same year it started late, so it's likely everyone will celebrate finishing at the same time.

What I could NOT find in a quick google was which countries used which calendar in practice, for civil use (Gregorian or an astronomical version of the Islamic calendar? usually not an observation-based Islamic calendar?) and which countries' tradition used which calendar for religious festivals (astronomical calendar? observation calendar)? I'd assumed that would be fairly obvious, anyone able to fill me in?

This came about, because someone was complaining that in order to get timezone code correct, you had to take into account that Egypt cancelled daylight saving during ramadan. But I don't know what calendar they actually used for that.

More books

Jun. 27th, 2016 01:07 pm
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Runemarks, Joanne Harris

Lent by ghoti, I've wanted to read this for ages and I really enjoyed it.

It's set in a world after Ragnarok, when many of the gods are dead or weakened, and humanity is slowly regaining ground. The magic is really interesting, based on runemarks, both people born with them, and incorporated into various spells. The protagonist is born with a mark, which everyone in her village distrusts; she meets a mysterious one-eyed stranger; and eventually travels to the various underworlds.

Apparently Harris wrote lots of quite *different* books, so I should look to see if there's any others I might like.

Scorpion Rules

In the future, peace is kept between nations by keeping hostages of the people closest to power, of whom the protagonist is one. I'd hoped for more actual politics, but enjoyed descriptions of her mostly-pastoral hostage life, and the AI who rules the world and set up this system.

Iron Druid #N, Kevin Hearne

Urban fantasy about an immortal pre-Christian Irish druid, now on a par with many of the gods, but constantly on the run from his own pantheon. He forged an iron talisman which turns his aura to iron, which makes it harder to do some magic, but makes him immune to most of the magic of the Tuatha De Danann, his his epithet.

Generally enjoyable. It feels a bit fussy, with too much "every possible myth is true", and not enough overarching plot, but not as much as many urban fantasy. I kind of think it might be horrible offensive to people actually from Ireland, though I don't know enough to know either way.

Russel's Attic

Thanks to everyone who recommended this to me, I finally read it. Urban fantasy without much fantasy (?) about a woman whose superhuman maths powers give her supernatural physical skills, who works as a PI/retrieval specialist/mercenary. And runs into trouble defending herself from a secret organisation with mind-control powers.

I love her relationship with the other characters, the obligatory mercenary-sociopath-with-a-close-bond-to-the-protagonist, the hacker, the PI-who-didn't-intend-to-get-this-deep.
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Traditional Jewish prayer for after going to the toilet

So if you don't already know, the most interesting thing about it is that there IS one. It talks about how we're grateful for the orifices and sphincters because we couldn't live without it.

Lots of people have an instinct that it's not really appropriate to mix defecation and prayer. And there's some of that in Judaism, eg. you're not supposed to pray on a toilet. But a big part of his talk was quoting bits of talmud about toilets, to illustrate, there's nothing _bad_ about it, it's like things like sex (and maybe surgery?) which are great and good topics for prayer, even if you're not supposed to mix the two.

Although he never explicitly SAID that distinction. I think it might have been helpful if he had, rather than just giving pro-toilet examples without explaining the distinction explicitly. (I got a lot of this from hatam_soferet's comments on liv's post.)

The overall thesis

I felt like I was missing background here, like there was some cultural disconnect. His overall thesis was related to the fact the prayer refers to god as roughly "throne of glory" and also (?) uses "throne" in reference to the toilet. And there's most probably SOME connection implied there.

But he seemed to imply it was more than that. Which seemed very odd, like, the rest of the talk made the point that it was ok to pray about bodily functions as much as anything else. But (I don't know, but I got the impression that?) it's really shocking to imply God might do _anything_ physical, even eat -- and I didn't get the impression that defection was so much MORE holy it was ok to talk about God doing it.

But I was clearly missing something, like he didn't EXPECT to prove that thesis. He just wanted to advance it. And I guess that's partly him, and partly a tradition of commentary? After all, most talks don't have a thesis they even pretend to prove. But partly, I'm frustrated because if someone SAYS they're going to prove something, I'm not used to the idea I'm not supposed to believe them.

And partly I'm frustrated because I'm really interested in this sort of cross-cultural meta-conventions about study and prayer, but people rarely *talk* about them, even though it might be something Rafi could do very well.


In fact, I get the impression he's rushed off his feet delivering these popular talmud sessions. He always encourages people to participate with ideas and interpretations (less so this time, but more in other sessions I've been in), how you're supposed to when studying something. But a few things made me realise he maybe usually lacks time or preparation to really *engage* with any of those comments, except by plowing ahead with his thesis. So he's still a really good popular educator, but I'm sometimes left not sure what I'm missing.

R. Akiva follows R. Yehoshua into a bathroom and spies on him

He followed with half a dozen pieces of Talmud which supported his thesis in some way, but really, one of the most interesting aspect of the talk is just seeing them in their own right.

R. Akiva: Once I followed my teacher R Yehoshua into a bathroom and watched what he did, so I would know the most appropriate way to go to the bathroom.
Ben Azai: And "not spying on people" you didn't think you could figure out for yourself?
R. Akiva: How to go to the bathroom is part of the teachings (oral Torah?), I had to learn it!
R: Kahana: It's funny you should say that, because I hid under your bed and listened to you with your wife. You chatted and giggled like new lovers. I had to learn how to behave in the bedroom, it was part of the teachings.
R. Akiva: *with a straight face* That was highly inappropriate.

It's also followed by a passage where rabbis argue why you should wipe with the left hand. Because you eat with the right. Because you wrap tefillin with the right. Etc. I'm not sure if any of them end with the obvious answer "all of the above".

The dangers of learning from Joshua the Nazarene

Liv linked to a partial translation here: https://www.ou.org/life/torah/masechet_shevuot_13a19b/

R. Eliezer was accosted by a follower of Jesus (or, so we guess), commonly supposed to be James (?). He proposed a point of teaching, which is implicitly not traditionally correct, but R. Eliezer was amused/moved by the argument, and even though he didn't respond, came under suspicion of following the teachings of Christianity, which was illegal at the time, and temporarily arrested by the Roman authorities.

What's fascinating is that it's one of the few (possible?) mentions of Jesus in the Talmud. And it gives me dissonance, in that I know much Talmud was written down about the same time as Jesus, but they don't easily go together in my head. R. Eliezer stars in such stories as the oven of achnai, where he pursues an academic argument by making increasingly impossible miracles, culminating in being outvoted shortly after God speaks from the sky to endorse him personally. And is exiled, and loses it, and gazes on the crops and sea, which are ruined wherever he looks. It's like the time of myths. But then there's other stories like this one where he bustles around early-AD middle east going to market, administrating universities, arguing with political authorities, etc. (Right?)

And the particular point in question was, it was forbidden to use money from exploitation and vice[1] as donation to the temple (subject to a lot of details). The disciple asked if it was appropriate to use it for the high priest's privy, that already being full of uncleanliness in some sense. And this gives a very strange view of how jewish leaders at the time might have viewed christianity at the time (or the temple for that matter). Eliezer is inconvenienced by being associated with Christianity, but he doesn't recoil shouting "blashphemer, blasphemer". And the christian disciple is more persecuted, but not so much he can't stop in the middle of the market to buttonhole rabbis and have theological arguments.

It seems likely this is an implicit criticism or mocking of Jesus' followers' beliefs of the time SOMEHOW but I don't know the context to say how. I don't know if that's something Jesus' followers WOULD have had an opinion on, or if it's supposed to discredit them.

[1] The translation is fee from a prostitute, but I prefer to read that as the bad thing being betrayal of vows, exploitation, or whatever, rather than prostitution per se, anyone able to add details?
jack: (Default)
On Sunday, Liv and I, ghoti and cjwatson, and youngest and middle child attended cambridge limmud, a one-day Jewish conference. At some point, I got lucky or got better at judging which talks would actually be interesting to me, and went to several talks I'm really glad I got to see.

And maybe because I've started carrying caffeine pills, which I resolutely do not use day-to-day, but I find really useful if I'm at an all day event, or in a foreign city, and even if there is tea/coffee readily available, it may be inconvenient to actually get hold of it.

The limmud makes a big effort to have an actual children's program, with things that are exciting to go to and several of the same speakers as the adult program, and not just be somewhere to leave children. Middle child loves people and really loved it -- hummus making, drumming, puppet show, a little bit of the aleph-bet etc. Youngest child finds it quite difficult to meet new people, he said "i don't always like adults", and I sympathised a lot. But we were allowed to sit with him, and after a couple of sessions of wanting ghoti, I was really impressed he joined in a lot of things. He was always good at cooking (I am in awe, I'm only now really learning any cooking) and also colouring, and talking to people. And said he was looking forward to next year!

The organisation was pretty good. There were a few problems, but none really evident to me. It was a bit smaller than the previous one, but they managed to get the popular speakers into the big rooms so there was no-one turned away, which had sometimes been a problem. Lunch is always tricky to arrange, but was handled fairly well.

Talks I went to:

Calne - a famous transplant surgeon (?) who talked about the ratchet of science, how science always gets more, not less, and we have an obligation not to build dangerous things with it. With a smattering of interesting history and philosophy. I kept expecting him to make some overall philosophical argument, but I never really heard it.

Freedman - expert on Middle East problems. Mostly conflicts between other countries, not Israel. It was mostly about "why it's so difficult", but to felt optimistic in that it was at least talking about how things could improve, even if it was hard to ever achieve.

Rita Rudner -- light anecdotes about her life story and life in hollywood

Rafi Zarum - talmud study for non-experts, he does this a lot and is a really good speaker. This was on the prayer for after going to the toilet. Pending a post about it.

Boyarin -- a real scholar, always talking about something that doesn't really exist at all yet, usually to be future published in a book, he was the one I was most excited about. But I correctly predicted it would be full of digressions on the bits he was working on this month, and hedged around with detailed justifications of dating of texts etc some people will find controversial but I'd be happy to take his word for, and generally I didn't have enough background to understand. So I sent liv and cjwatson to listen, and went to Freedman instead, and made them promise to explain it to me at length afterwards which worked pretty well. May be a future post coming.

Levine -- talking about how what some of Jesus' parables might have been interpreted by people belonging to jewish tradition at the time. I love that sort of thing, and she apparently published an annotated NT in addition to some other books, which we should maybe seek out. And she was a hilarious and effective speaker. However, I had some reservations about the actual examples she used, I didn't get any good idea what they might have meant other than "not what Luke said", and when they're only known via Luke, you can only go so far in expecting Luke to have preserved a clarity of meaning different to the one he said they meant. May be a future post coming.

Also see liv and ghoti's write up:
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There's a story. I can't remember where I saw it (slatestarcodex?) It was really creepy. It described someone in hell, and he/she/they were walking across an endless desert, getting thirstier and thirstier, never relieved, never dying. And after an endless aeon, the devil came to them, and offered them a different hell. And he/she wouldn't tell them anything about the alternative, but they thought "anything but this".

And inevitably, the alternative was infinitely worse, and they suffered for another aeon, all the time thinking this was worse than anything and they wished they'd stayed in the desert. All the time blaming themself, and feeling they brought it on themselves. And then the devil came to them again, and offered them the choice to be put into a different hell. And they thought "I know it was a mistake, but anything at all is better than THIS".

And of course they were wrong, and the suffering was even worse, and they wished they could go back to the second hell. And this pattern repeated every aeon for eternity, getting ever worse and ever more self-blaming.

So anyway, it turns out, when I get an SMS, now google hangouts says, "would you like to install google's SMS messaging app?" and I say "surely it's more convenient than hangouts?"
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Caped anthology

A collection of superhero short stories. Not a must-read, but I found all were a good read in a different way.

Archivist Wasp, book

Which was on the wiki of "potential hugo nominations" with a great title. I loved the basic setting, a post-apocalyptic world, where the protagonist is honoured/trapped as the archivist, ghost-hunter, forced each year by the priest to fight to the death to keep her role as intermediate to the supernatural. Straining to keep the community safe from dangerous ghosts, and to record what scraps of information she can, to add to the archives for future archivists.

Then she meets a pre-apocalypse (or contemporary-with-apocalypse) ghost, much stronger than any other, and they flee together, passing through the ghost underworld, and... Well, I liked the start but got bored, so I didn't finish it.

Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi

I loved the premise here, all about life in a mostly-post-uplift solar system. The inner planets are ruled by some of the cabal who were uplifted first, now effectively Gods. The Oubliette is one of the few havens for non-uplifted, but ruled by a massive shared exo-memory, people share or refuse permissions from. Other humans live in the Oort cloud. Jean Le Flambeur is an anti-hero thief, with unspecified ties to the "gods", broken out of a virtual prison to recover... something from Oubliette.

When I first read it, I completely bounced off it. On second reading, all that mostly made sense to me, and I was really interested in it. But I wasn't sure how consistent it could be, if it would be kept up for the following books or not. I will probably try them at some point.

And it constantly felt like they waved "quantum" around as magic, and I'm not sure, if my understanding is lacking, or the book's is.

Better Call Saul

The prequel series to Breaking Bad, about Jimmy McGill (later aka Saul Goodman), an ex-huckster small-time lawyer trying to make good, and torn between his impulses to "be basically decent", "screw everything up" and "open his mouth at the wrong time". From the reviews it sounded like I would enjoy it more than BB, and I quite enjoyed the first half-a-dozen episodes, but then I mostly lost interest.
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The fictional saturday morning cartoon version of Watchmen was really funny. But it also looked pretty fun. Like actually, maybe a lot of what people responded to in watchmen was the characters, the worldbuilding... things which were good but separate from the "real life superheros would suck" message, and could be incorporated into an annoyingly-up show just as easily as an annoyingly-down show.

Just like you have Batman appearing in heroic, campy, and grimdark versions.

And in some ways, it's making the same parody about how the low collateral damage of of superhero fights used to be unrealistically low, but showing them EVER LOWER, rather than VERY HIGH :)

But also, given how relentless grimdark has become since, "happy watchmen" might be almost as subversive now as the original was :)
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In C and C++, you should avoid using an uninitialised variable for several reasons, not least of which, it's undefined behaviour (?) But in practice, what are the relative likelihoods of the (I think?) permitted outcomes:

(a) it being treated as some unknown value
(b) the following code being deleted by the compiler
(c) something even weirder happening?