jack: (Default)
To give context to my previous tweets, in my novel, something like a creation narrative literally happens: God, angels, adam and eve, the war in heaven, six thousand years later, the present day. It's not exactly the same as any accepted belief system, but something along those lines.

I have not decided if that's *instead* of the geological history we have evidence of in this world. If so, I need to, um, explain biodiversity, and dinosaur bones, and geology, etc, etc, etc. And coming up with a plausible present day derived from that history is more world-building than I want, I'm basing it on "like the present day, but with fallen angels occasionally wandering about".

Alternatively, the two histories are sort of parallel, God "smoothing out" the older history somehow. Which makes sense, but is a bit of a cop-out.

So far, I've just not mentioned it, but it feels like a question hard not to have any idea of.

In terms of certainty, there are still characters, like the main character, who personally remember the war in heaven and the creation of the world, and interacting directly with God. Not remember *very* well, because time passes, but have a reasonable certainty that things happened like that. And some knowledge of magic etc supporting their assertion of knowing how the universe works.

(What happens *outside* this world *since* the creation is left uncertain, because that really would overload my worldbuilding.)

But I haven't really addressed what non-religious philosophies exist. People who don't find the evidence for God convincing? Presumably those people do exist, and for people who think the evidence is convincing in *this* world, they will seem exactly the same as atheists in this world. But for me, they're more like flat-earthers. People who think God created that universe much as described, but hasn't intervened since and/or has no special moral place? They presumably exist. I think I have those characters, though they haven't had conversations about it yet.

That's what I meant by "can I have dinosaurs" and "can I have atheists" :)

ETA: And as London Crawling points out on twitter, it would be plausible to have people who believe in dinosaurs and angels, but find the account of a prime mover who personally created angels unconvincing. In fact, that might even be accurate in this world -- my account of creation is all given second hand.
jack: (Default)
Do all numbers have a multiple which you can write (in base 10) solely with 0s and 1s?

Spoiler in the comments. And probably maths.
jack: (Default)
A little while ago, someone told me about a really simple algorithm brainteaser. Suppose you want to find both the minimum and maximum of an array. Instead of writing something like:
   for (int i=0;i<size;i+=2)
      if (arr[i]<min) min = arr[i];
      if (arr[i+1]<min) min = arr[i+1];
      if (arr[i+1]>max) max = arr[i+1];
      if (arr[i]>max) max = arr[i];

You can reduce the number of comparisons per two elements from 4 to 3 by doing something like:
      if (arr[i]<arr[i+1])
         if (arr[i]<min) min = arr[i];
         if (arr[i+1]>max) max = arr[i+1];
         if (arr[i+1]<min) min = arr[i+1];
         if (arr[i]>max) max = arr[i];

I asked, does it make a difference if that pipelines less efficiently, and I didn't really get an answer, but I got the impression that wasn't a sensible question to ask.

But when I actually tried it, with some simple instrumentation code (using "clock()" from "time.h"), the second took about twice as long. On a windows PC, compiled with cl, using O2.

When I looked at the disassembly, each comparison looked to be something like:
   if (arr[i]<min) min = arr[i];
0040118B  mov         ecx,dword ptr [i] 
0040118E  mov         edx,dword ptr [arr] 
00401191  mov         eax,dword ptr [min] 
00401194  mov         ecx,dword ptr [edx+ecx*4] 
00401197  cmp         ecx,dword ptr [eax] 
00401199  jge         min_max_2+59h (4011A9h) 
0040119B  mov         edx,dword ptr [min] 
0040119E  mov         eax,dword ptr [i] 
004011A1  mov         ecx,dword ptr [arr] 
004011A4  mov         eax,dword ptr [ecx+eax*4] 
004011A7  mov         dword ptr [edx],eax

Which didn't seem great, but did seem like the number of instructions was proportional to the number of lines expected to be executed.

What have I missed?
jack: (Default)

I went jogging at lunchtime. It was much more useful than last year when I tried that, because I've already got the habit of particular targets. And it was so much nicer running in the light (even in the rain). But I still need to get on with it, not let myself dither before actually leaving.


The last couple of days I've been hitting my nano word targets ok. Once I got a good idea of the characters and situation I was able to plough ahead and just write for an hour or two and get an appropriate number of words. But it's hard to keep that going without being hung up on "I need to figure out what happens in this bit" (I'm trying to avoid perfectionism, and just saying, "I need some plot here, this is plot, it's good enough for now", but even so, sometimes I have inconsistent needs and need to resolve them).

However it goes, I think it's a useful metric for how much time I can plough into a project if I'm determined, and how much it drains me for the rest of my activities.


Did I remember to say? Everything got fixed. We'd accidentally turned the gas cut-off handle (what's its real name?) putting something in the cupboard. After some fiddling, I turned it on again, and got the pilot light lit. And now I know where they are when I need them in a real emergency.


I don't really have anything more to say, except, my thoughts are with anyone who needs them :(
jack: (Default)

I never did enough writing for it to be a major source of procrastination, but when I did, I often did "not starting" or "having started, not wanting to stop because I don't expect to be able to start again tomorrow".

That was a very similar sort of procrastination I'd have first thing of the day at work, when I had a good task in front of me, but I was scared of starting it and having to stick with it all day.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that has almost vanished for my writing. I wouldn't like to say it was permanent -- I'm sure it will rear it's head again if I'm writing something I *am* intimidated by. But I think once something becomes "I'm used to the idea that I can do this well enough compared to the standard I expect", it's a lot less intimidating to start, there's not the uncertainty, just an assumption if I put some time in I'll get commensurate results.

Writing vs coding

I've said I sometimes have a similar process with writing and coding. Not a formal process, just a similar pattern of mind. But it occurred to me it might be interesting to try and actually examine it.

Something like, I'm having some trouble starting something. Usually a chapter or a function, but sometimes a larger scale design decision. Why? Usually because I'm not sure what's actually going to go into it.

I usually have some things I WANT to include. If I write those out, those usually are a combination of "what I want this to achieve", "what I think a nice implementation might be" and "this is just cool, I'd like to have it".

And when I do that, I can usually see the problem -- usually, I had multiple, contradictory, assumptions about what it should do, usually because I thought of a simple constraint I expected to be able to fulfil, but it was contradictory to my other expectations.

But when I write it out, I can usually see what may be contradictory. And then decide which top-level requirements are most important, and accept any ugliness elsewhere which is necessary to achieve those, and then fulfil as many of the things I thought would be very good as possible.

If I had more time, I'd contrast a couple of particular examples, and this would be a lot less vague.


Unrelated to the above, but I was very pleased to realise, after a while of practising bridge bidding, and cycling, together, we're pretty much just on the same page: we usually understand our bidding, and cycling somewhere in town is mostly automatic, rather than an adventure.

No gas??

Nov. 6th, 2016 12:19 pm
jack: (Default)
Oh my gosh, I keep thinking I'm on top of things and then it turns out I have no idea :(

Since Sat lunchtime, we seem to have no gas. I don't *think* that means a leak?? Like, there's no indication of a gas smell or anything. But no gas in the stove or heating.

I don't *think* I screwed up paying the bill.

The last several months we've has some work done in the street, we had the gas cut off for a day while they did... something. But that was, lots of notes through the door saying "warning, off on this day, on again on this day, someone will come round to disconnect you and reconnect you".

My best guess is, either a problem with the valve here?? Or a problem with the works on the gas main upstream. But I don't know how to tell the difference.

I don't know if this is a "my problem, need to get a heating engineer", or "national grid problem, need to call them and ask" or how to tell the difference. I feel like that's just obvious to everyone else, but I somehow missed out knowing :(

And if it is cut off upstream, does that mean you need a professional to reconnect it? Or that causes all sorts of problems?

I naively supposed that the website would contain some sort of information, but it seems divided into two sections: "oh my god I smell gas emergency" and "everything is working as expected but I don't like it". I seem to have a problem physically impossible to have, what does that mean?
jack: (Default)
At the poly meet, they asked for volunteers to do a short presentation -- now it's a bit larger, the equivalent of Amy's prior "I brought a few q as a discussion topic" when there was often only half a dozen or so.

Except most people weren't sure what to present, so I volunteered to lead a little discussion instead. I started with something simple but interesting, what different sorts of poly are there. I wasn't sure how it would go, but I was sure it would be ok for five minutes. And it actually lasted about 45 minutes of clearly being interesting to everyone, before it reached a natural stopping point and I broke the group up to chat individually again.

Actually, it worked really, really well. Just defining things was interesting to experienced people and newbies both. And there was some productive discussion that I, and the admins, managed to avoid spinning off into long digressions.

I've done very little public speaking of any sort, but it worked really well when I tried it.
jack: (Default)
I really liked it. Especially the first half an hour or so is exactly the blend of humour, action, frivolous and serious I like. It manages to make deadpool seem both intimidating and effective, but also whimsical and willing to charge into impossible odds.

Deadpool is notoriously edgy, in good ways and bad depending on his mood and the medium he's portrayed in. His whole schtik is doing bad things to bad people -- he openly admits that's not really ok, but that it also does good by getting bad people out of the way.

There's two problem with "edgy". Read more... )
jack: (Default)
In every back to the future film, there's a bit 2/3 of the way through where everything is sorted, all they need to do is get back to the time machine and go home, Marty has escaped Biff and is walking off without getting beaten up, and Biff calls out, "What's the matter McFly? Chicken?"

And it's funny, because we all know he COULD walk away, but we all know he WON'T.

And yes, I never WANTED him to go back. He was the protagonist, he'd triumph if he did. But walking away didn't seem especially cowardly, it seemed smart.

But that's because standing up for himself was part of his core identity, but not mine.

Mine is more "be clever". I don't especially care about being cowardly. But I find it really really really hard to back away if someone implies something is OBVIOUSLY right and it's a waste of time to explain it to me. Learning to say "please explain" or to walk away, has been a long journey. (I have inoculated myself against some of the most common scams.)
jack: (Default)
Playing backgammon with dad, after day at Cambridgeshire crocodile and ostrich farm! (No skydiving :))

If all your pieces are in your home quadrant and you've started taking then off, and you can't move your furthest back piece because it would land on a point with two of your opponent's, must/can't you bear off your second furthest back piece?
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Poly speed dating again tomorrow! In 3s. I managed to escape doing the programming for the matching algorithm this time :)

What should I tell people about why they should like me?
jack: (Default)


Present from ghoti (thank you!) It's a really really pretty game. You have a 9x9 quilt board and collect patches in various shapes (like various sized tetris pieces) and try to fit them into your board. Each patch has a cost, and you can only buy one of the next three available, so you have to trade off which ones are worth it right now.

But all of the things have a really nice hand-stitched feel.

And it's explicitly for two-player, when we don't have enough two-player games.

Catan Junior


This really captured the feel of Catan while being really quick to pick up. I liked the pirate flavour. I'm not sure how much replayability it would have if all the players were fairly experienced, but I really liked playing it with K and Ms 7.
jack: (Default)
See http://ghoti.livejournal.com/798337.html

For the cotton anniversary of our first date, we went to the Anchor Sutton Gault and it was really nice and we did good communication about things.

But also, I made a thing! In honour of the Parasol Protectorate books ghoti introduced me to, or maybe Firefly, I made a steampunk parasol. I bought a folding lace parasol, and took some cogs, and attached some to the spokes, and some round each panel of the parasol. And used a picture hook pin to attach one to the top and bottom of the shaft, sized at just narrower than the diameter, and loosened just enough they don't feel loose but do spin.

Having entirely cogs that are fixed without spinning seemed sad, these were great.

And I was really pleased, because I'm rarely able to actually *make* something.
jack: (Default)
Have I talked about this recently?

It feels like there's two sorts of advice. Or maybe a spectrum of advice with an axis which I have particularly noticed.

Some advice is implicitly obvious once it's pointed out. If you say "turn capslock off" when someone can't see why their password doesn't work, it's hard to reject if you know what capslock does at all. Sometimes it's obvious once you try it, like "try pressing capslock" when you don't know what it capslock does.

Other advice is implicitly "you won't be able to tell whether it's working or not, just trust me and keep doing it". Anything fairly long term, any "do this every day and you'll be more organised/fitter/healthier/have less chance of X".

And some advice is somewhere between.

I realised aphorisms are generally the _first_ sort of advice. Sometimes "the early bird catches the worm". Sometimes "measure twice, cut once". But when you *think* "are there obvious risks to delaying? are there obvious risks to moving too quickly?" it often obvious which is more risky, and you know to avoid that. (And in a minority of cases it's not clear and its more of a judgement call.)

But I think those aphorisms are still useful, not because they're ALWAYS true, but because they're a useful reminder to consider them when you might otherwise have forgotten to.

But I think we usually need to treat advice like this. Like, it should usually be obvious WHY it's better. Otherwise, it might be worth bearing in mind as something that *might* be useful, but not be treated as absolute.

There are times when it's useful to adopt something without understanding. If you can't see any clear pros and cons, doing it the way a more experienced person does is OFTEN good, because they probably wouldn't do that if there were obvious problems, and there may be non-obvious benefits which they can't immediately explain.

But I think, when someone gives advice, it's worth considering, "does this make sense to me"? And if not, "is it likely to be safer than what I was doing anyway".
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OK, Jehova's Witnesses. NOW we're fully moved in.

They were really polite so I didn't have any desire or energy to get into an argument. Although I wish I'd pushed back on what I think are of the risks of harm from actively proselytising, and the things that I think may be harmful in JW generally (without getting into a big theological debate, or criticising these two ladies).
jack: (Default)
The Intuitionist

At some point, I realised I had a similar problem reading these two very different books.

The Intuitionist is very interesting. It's set in something like an alt-history New York. There is a powerful guild of elevator inspectors, who have made building skyscrapers possible at all. (I think that's parallel but different to the real history?)

It has a lot to say about integration, about the protagonist is one of the few female inspectors and the second black inspector. In fact, I'm pretty sure it has a lot *more* to say than I was able to follow at the time.

However, I think the important themes were initially obscured to me because they are presented via a front of a factional schism between two schools of elevator inspectorate, the intuitionists and the empiricists. Intuitionists ride an elevator and intuit the state of any problems. Empiricists use instruments for everything. And I think this is probably a metaphor for something important I don't get yet.

But I'm rather hung up on the fact that I know pretty well which works in the real world. There are failure modes of both too much process and too little process. And times when too much process is a big problem, and guiding intuition is much more valuable. But when it comes to safety inspection, methodical measurement is really good, and intuition is really bad.

So I'm really not sure, but I think "intuitionists" are supposed to be "some progressive, successful but controversial faction" but it took me a while to realise that, because what they SAID rang really false to me.

And that split ALSO has a lot to say about racial equality, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be reading that into the book as well. In moderation, empirical tests are good for equality. If you have a test related to actually doing the job, focusing on that, not gut feeling, can be very effective for levelling the playing field. cf. orchestras which do auditions with the performer behind a screen. Higher levels of supposedly objective tests are often an impediment to equality though -- see every employer who doesn't SAY "we want someone from an upper-middle-class caucasian background, preferable straight male", but DOES say "do you have qualification X which is expensive but not really directly helpful". However, "gut feeling" is generally ATROCIOUS here. Occasionally it's really good, when someone actively wants to hire under-appreciated talent. But normally "gut feeling" means "I can give free reign to all my prejudices and deny it if I'm called out".

Fifty Shades of Grey

If you ignore the bondage aspects, Fifty Shades of Grey follows a fairly traditional romance outline. It has some parts that bother me a lot, like "omg stalking and controlling behaviour are so sexy". But those are actually really common in many romance novels. I think those are a bad model for a relationship, and it's bad that stories tend to DEFAULT to having them. But also, it's something lots of people fantasise about, and I think it's important that "fantasising about romance, even if it isn't a healthy model for reality" is accepted as much as many many many other books which contain ok-for-fiction-but-bad-for-reality things eg. crime, death, etc.

I think some bits are clearly intended as fantasy. Most people want to *imagine* being stalked by a millionaire, but want that to actually *happen* only in careful moderation. Although the less familiar you are with that as a common romance fantasy, the more you're like "but that would actually be horrible".

Other bits are intended as mostly realistic. She drinks coffee. If she drank bleach every morning, all the readers would legitimately say "WTF? Why is that in your book??" And "it's fiction, I can do what I want" isn't really a helpful answer.

But the bondage stuff is somewhere between. I think to some people, it's clearly supposed to be fantasy. No-one would EVER do ANYTHING remotely like that in real life, right? So it doesn't matter if it's a random mix of mostly-safe-for-beginner stuff, and physically-safe-but-a-big-red-flag stuff, and really unwise stuff. It's all just "let's pretend". But to many people, they don't want to be tied up ACTUALLY against their will. But they DO like being tied up, and that's something lots of people actually DO. And it's not UNREALISTIC that the only person the protagonist's met who's openly into bondage is a dangerous control freak bully with unhealthy relationship habits and no idea of the difference between safe and dangerous, but it's UNREPRESENTATIVE, and it's irresponsible to say "this is what bondage is", when some people will read that and say, "that's obviously dangerous, lets ban it" and other people will say, "that seems fun, lets try it".

And the author could have gone in either direction. Grey could have kidnapped the protagonist -- then everyone knows that even if it's hot in fantasy, it's not a good model for real life. Or he could have had a passing familiarity with how to ACTUALLY do bdsm, even if he departed from it. That would make a lot of sense for the story, if he was known as a bdsm top who didn't care much about consent. And sure, for many people, that's the ONLY sort of BDSM-er they've met or can imagine. But it's still a problem to say that that's all there is ANYWHERE.

But the book bypasses all that. It's like, "deep dark secret, check", obviously we don't need to care about the legal or physical safety of any of the REAL WORLD PEOPLE that "dark secret" applies to, because it's just their for my titillation, right? :(

Other books

And I think that might stand out in other books. There's things which the author thought they could gloss over, which really stand out to me. And sometimes, once I learn what to ignore, I see the strengths of the rest of the book. And sometimes, they're unavoidably central to *most* people, but the minority who can ignore them really love the rest of the book.

But I suspect the same probably applies to big themes too. That there's books where the big theme is obscured by something that stood out *to me*. Or vice versa. But I'm not sure what examples would be.
jack: (Default)
Q. Do you have any advice for tourists to England?
A. Be passionate about something in your life and don't use CVS.
Q. ...
A. Do you have a problem?
Q. Sorry, I meant "Do you have any relevant advice for tourists to England?"
A. Sorry, I meant "Do you have a relevant problem?"
jack: (Default)
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 :)
jack: (Default)
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.