June 23rd, 2017
wildeabandon: (books)
posted by [personal profile] wildeabandon at 09:22am on 23/06/2017
Gosh, I've not done one of these for a while...

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
This is a series of essays about the experience of being an ethnic minority in the UK. A lot of the ideas were things I'd encountered before, but all presented thoughtfully and engagingly, so it would be a really good starting point for someone who hadn't thought much about race relations to introduce themselves to some of the common ideas and experiences. But there was also a lot that was new to me. Thoughts about representation and tokenism in popular media, about the relationships between generations with different levels of integration, about colourism and casteism, and about the impact on ethnic minority children of growing up learning that stories are about white people.

Seed to Harvest (Wild Seed, Mind of my Mind, Clay's Ark & Patternmaster) by Octavia Butler
This is a collection of four of the five Patternist novels (the fifth is set in the same universe, but I understand doesn't include any of the same characters, and is disliked by the author). These are all exciting and easy to read novels, but other than that and the plot thread that runs between them, they have surprisingly little in common. Wild Seed is alt-history, Mind of my Mind is a near future story about psychic mutants, Clay's Ark is gritty apocalyptic stuff, and Patternmaster is in a distant future that feels more like fantasy than sf. They're all great though - lighter than Kindred, but still packed with ideas about society and hierarchy.

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
This book has a phenomenal amount of detail about the anatomy involved in five major lifts - the squat, deadlift, overhead press, bench press, and power clean. A fairly tedious read, but one which I hope will make me less likely to injure myself.

Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity by Fr James Martin SJ
I really like Fr James Martin, and his "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything" is one of the best books about life and religion that I've ever read. This is a short book in two parts; first an essay based on a talk about how the Church hierarchy and LGBT Catholics can heal the divide between the two groups, and secondly a series of suggestions of bible passages and questions that LGBT Catholics and their allies might find useful in prayer and reflection. I liked the essay, although more because it echoed a lot of my own thoughts back at me than because I learned much from it. I think that the more traditionalist members of the church could benefit a lot from reading it and taking it to heart. I think that most LGBT people, especially those who aren't Catholic, would find the suggestion that they too need to show respect, compassion and sensitivity towards those in the hierarchy who have hurt and oppressed them quite frustrating. I have a lot of sympathy with that, but ultimately I think that Fr Martin is correct, both because we are called to love all our neighbours, not just those whom it's easy to love, and because I don't think we will see change any other way.
June 22nd, 2017
wildeabandon: musical notes on a stave (music)
posted by [personal profile] wildeabandon at 08:51am on 22/06/2017
Apparently it's the time of year for reviving old hobbies. I recently got to the top of the waiting list to join the London Gay Men's Chorus, so I'm going to be starting rehearsals with them in September. I'm a bit nervous about this, because singing in public is scary, but also really excited. I'm switching my piano lessons to singing ones for the time being, which should help with the nerves, and having external things to practice for will hopefully mean that I'm a more assiduous student than the last time.

Yesterday I also went climbing for the first time in years. I used to climb quite a bit when I was a teenager, and then about five years ago I tried going with [personal profile] emperor as a day trip from Ardgour, and found it depressingly difficult. Since then my strength to weight ratio has improved significantly, so last night I had a much easier time hauling myself off the ground. I was still distinctly conscious that the kind of strength you need in order to lift a heavy thing and then lower it five times before putting it down and having a break to recover is quite different from the kind of sustained effort you need to put in climbing a wall. I started with what was probably the easiest route on the wall, and then gradually increased in difficulty until I found a couple of routes that I made it up but just barely, and a couple more that I couldn't manage, but which are now on my target list for next time.
June 19th, 2017
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 05:23pm on 19/06/2017 under ,
I've bashed my head on this before but not got a specific answer. Now I read through it in some more detail.

Summary

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."

Analysis

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
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 12:00pm on 19/06/2017 under ,
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.
June 18th, 2017
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 05:07pm on 18/06/2017 under ,
http://cartesiandaemon.livejournal.com/1030046.html

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... )
June 17th, 2017
karen2205: Me with proper sized mug of coffee (Default)
The fire at Grenfell Tower is amongst all sorts of other things, a reminder of something I learnt on 9/11.

Sometimes people, seemingly in authority, get it wrong and give out advice that is wrong for the situation. Blind obedience to advice can kill. Equally, in other circumstances, not following good advice can also kill. I know if I'd been in one of the World Trade Center Buildings and had been told to stay where I was I'd have done that. I'm older and less compliant nowadays. What would I have done if I'd been in Grenfell Tower? I don't know:-/

So, my advice, for what it's worth goes like this:

1. Nearly always you are the best judge of the situation on the ground, because you are there. There's an amusing pseudo-safety sign I've seen online that says something like "in the event of fire, evacuate the building before updating Facebook" and it's right. In an acute situation don't phone/email/poke the internet for help from friends or family instead of acting to get yourself somewhere safer. [Phone/email/internet for getting help if you *can't* help yourself to somewhere safer without help is different]
1.5. Teach children autonomy by stages as they can cope with it; the correct response to fire is to get out of the building and phone 999 before contacting a parent. You don't want your children not knowing how to act without your assistance, because there may be circumstances when you aren't there.
2. Advice from authority figures who are physically present with you vs. being on the phone stands IMO, a better chance of being accurate to your situation, but should still be subject to critical evaluation. Part of that critical evaluation might be that it's best to go along with for now, but that you need to keep the situation under review.
3. Advice can be perfectly good advice for most situations and still be wrong in your circumstances. Assume good faith, but remember they're people too and they make mistakes/don't have the same information you've got.
June 15th, 2017
wildeabandon: "If God had intended for people to be bisexual he would have created two sexes.... Oh." (bi)
posted by [personal profile] wildeabandon at 09:32am on 15/06/2017
I have said from time to time that although I have very little time for the idea that Christians in the West are somehow oppressed, I personally, in the circles I move in, am far more likely to be attacked for my faith than for my queerness. On reflection, I’m not sure whether that’s entirely true, or if it’s just that I’m more likely to feel attacked for my faith than for my queerness. (Please don't read this as being sure that it is false)

In the immediate aftermath of Tim’s resignation I started to feel defensive even before I saw any reactions, guessing what would be coming. And when I saw those reactions I got more so, and started poring over his letter, desperately looking for an interpretation that would mean that in his heartfelt prayers he didn’t believe my relationships were inherently sinful. I could have found it, could still find it, but somewhere along the line it became clear to me that although it was there, it was far from the most natural reading of the text, and why was I so desperate to find it?

I feel more attacked for my Christianity than for my queerness, but I think that might be a function of my expectations. When I get half-hearted support of my right to love those I love, to marry my partner, to be who I am, I compare it to the outright denial and bigotry that still exists in so much of the world outside my little bubble. When I see Pope Francis continuing to support the idea that gay men are unsuitable for the priesthood, I compare him to Pope Benedict, and make excuses for him.

Being a queer Christian is hard. I have very little time for the idea that Christians in the West are somehow oppressed, and acknowledge that the fact that I still can't get married is the fault of the church and not atheist queers. But I still can't get married, and it is an injustice that I suffer as much because I'm a Christian as because I'm queer.

There are readings of the bible in which loving sexual relationships between men are not sinful, but they are not the most natural reading of the text. There's an interpretation of Tim's resignation letter where in his heartfelt prayers he doesn't believe my relationships are inherently sinful. Why do you think I was so desperate to find it?

On a political level I entirely agree with the argument that what matters is how a politician votes, and what they campaign on, and on that measure Tim's record has been excellent. On a personal level though, I care very much about whether my relationships are actually sinful. I don't believe they are, but I am not as confident in that belief as I would perhaps like to be.

I am uncomfortable sitting with this uncertainty, and that discomfort is relieved when I allow myself to believe that my view is (or is becoming) the dominant one, and that views of same-sex relationships as inherently sinful are fading away. But I don't want to allow myself to believe comfortable falsehoods. I want to be able to hold in my mind the belief that Pope Francis can be less homophobic than his predecessor, and still think that my relationships are sinful, and be wrong. All three at the same time. I want to be able to hold that Tim Farron can be admirable for separating his private beliefs and political actions, and still think that my relationships are sinful, and be wrong.

I am uncomfortable sitting with this uncertainty, but I am going to try to stop making myself more comfortable by pretending that there is more support for my relationships from other Christians than there actually is, and maybe if I do that, I will find it easier not to feel personally attacked when other Christians are critiqued for their homophobia.
June 14th, 2017
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)

Puzzle

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?)

Clarifications

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.
June 12th, 2017
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 11:39pm on 12/06/2017 under ,
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 )
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 01:16pm on 12/06/2017 under
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?
June 11th, 2017
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 10:10pm on 11/06/2017 under
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.
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 10:08pm on 11/06/2017
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.
jack: (Default)
Some sites don't load in chrome on this one computer. IE, ok. Chrome on another computer on the same network, ok. This one, doesn't load or loads reeeaaalllllyyy slowly. Any suggestions?
June 10th, 2017
jack: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] jack at 06:22pm on 10/06/2017 under , , ,
Sigh, my phone seems to have worn out. I thought this one had been treated fairly well, with a case, and not suffering any disastrous drops. But now when I turn it on, it reboots again either immediately before finishing the boot sequence or as soon as I open an app.

I tried removing the case and waggling the buttons, and doing a factory reset and that didn't make a difference. Is there anything else I should try?

Assuming I need a replacement, what should I get? Probably a recent android phone. I used to always get nexus but pixel seem to have got expensive.

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