Friday, May 27th, 2016 01:24 pm

Posted by Annalee Newitz

X-Men: Apocalypse premiered in the UK on May 18 and is now in cinemas worldwide.

The best way to approach X-Men: Apocalypse is to think of it as an actual series of comics—some of the individual books are incredible, and other ones are absolutely meh. Translated into movie terms, that means you'll flip from a scene of holy-shit awesomepants to a subplot where you know exactly what's about to happen because it's so grindingly obvious. Whether the movie as a whole works for you depends on your investment in these characters and how much filler you're willing to endure to reach those transcendent moments that genuinely shine with a sense of wonder and fascination.

Apocalypse is the third in the latest X-Men trilogy, finishing off a timeline that took us back to the origins of the X-Men in the 1960s with First Class, went all timey-wimey in Days of Future Past, and has now landed solidly in the 1980s, complete with bad hair and new-wave music. Directed by Bryan Singer, who helmed two of the original X-Men movies as well as Days of Future Past, it's a perfectly competent action movie with a few dazzling effects. Singer has continued the trilogy's theme of history affecting the future by picking Apocalypse as his lead villain. Possibly the very first mutant on Earth, Apocalypse is virtually immortal and was last seen ruling over ancient Egypt, sucking the powers out of mutants using a weird slab of glowing rock. A series of superpowered shenanigans left him buried in rubble for thousands of years, only to be resurrected by cultists who want him to rule the world again with his extremely old-school values.

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Friday, May 27th, 2016 12:54 pm

Posted by John Scalzi

For today’s Big Idea, Camille Griep goes all the way back to the Trojan War for inspiration with her new novel New Charity Blues — and picks up the story of two characters you might not expect.


“The danger on the rocks has surely past,” sang Steely Dan’s Becker and Fagen in “Home at Last,” a paean to Odysseus’ homecoming. “Still I remain tied to the mast.” From songs to poetry to fiction, retelling old stories isn’t a novel concept … or is it? (I apologize, really. Please put the tomatoes down.)

The empty spaces in fairy tales, myth, and folklore insatiably lure some writers, and I’m no exception. We’ve wallowed in the untold tales of Oz, the fleshing out of King Arthur, and the exploration of the Grimm’s Ever Afters. (Heck, I even wrote one of the latter.) With New Charity Blues, I knew I wanted to look a little deeper in the Old Story pile. Though the Trojan War and its fallout has received beautiful and innovative treatments from Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles to Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, there were two stories I thought needed a further look: those of Cressida and Cassandra.

Way back in the olden days when I was in college, I remember one of my favorite professors marveling at length at how a certain car company could be so stupid as to name their sedan a Cressida. “Hey,” I thought to myself, in a fit of tacit cowardice. “It wasn’t her fault she had to fend for herself in the Greek’s camp. Who knows, maybe those cars are scrappy and reliable?” Honestly, though, I had no idea. My family bought American, and I could only dream my moldy LeBaron into a vehicle that didn’t slurp up a bottle of power steering fluid a day.

Not too long after that, the same honors lit class read “Cassandra,” by Robinson Jeffers. “Poor bitch, be wise,” warns the poet. Though Jeffers was commiserating with the Seer in the piece, I recalled leaving class incensed at the injustice of it all. Cassandra never gets to rub her rightness in anyone’s face, never gets to say I told you so. Instead, she gets myriad odes to her supposed mental state. Suffering insanity or not, the girl was right. And I wanted to hear a story where someone had to say, “Holy Horsenoodles! We should have listened to her!”

New Charity Blues puts a magnifying glass over the perspectives of Cressida (Syd) and Cassandra (Cas), but to do so, I needed to significantly quiet the violence (the magic of trial and error revealed that one can only kill so many characters per chapter unless one has a four letter monogram). To tell the story of the two women required an allegorical war, and to tell a contemporary version of that conflict, I needed an apocalypse. I chose to enter the story after a pandemic has swept the (unnamed) country, introducing Syd amid the ruins of a city crippled by lack of water and Cas atop a desert-turned-verdant paradise.

Ripping inspiration from the headlines usually my bag, though in my case, I admit there might be a bit of subconscious passive aggression in New Charity’s water-rags-to-reservoir-riches tale. Growing up in the dry foothills of Eastern Montana, waiting for the trundle of the water truck so that I could take a shower, I might admit to a certain glee in giving the city girls the short end of the cistern measuring stick for once. Regardless, New Charity has the water the City needs. And they aren’t sharing.

As with so many wars, the resentments between the two communities run long and deep. Syd left with her mother for the city at 14 to become a dancer, leaving her small town beginnings and her friends behind for the bright lights. Her father, who had been slated to join them, found he could not and chose New Charity over her family. Readers meet Syd six years later, and she’s plenty jaded, having lost her mother, her city, her career, and her purpose. When a letter arrives with the news her father has died, a final door shuts on a possible reconciliation for all that hurt. The letter, however, contains an opportunity: a way in to the gated bastion of all things painful in her past. On a mission, Syd arrives in a New Charity much changed from her childhood, though some things have stayed the same.

Syd notices that her childhood friends, Seers Cas Willis and her twin, Len, are the same “perpetual whirlwind” they’ve always been. But while Len is fumbling his way into adulthood despite his insulated environs, Cas is reticent to even think about who she wants to be – her mother treats her like a baby, her father uses her a fortune-telling political puppet, and her brothers use her as a reliable sidekick. When Cas foresees Syd’s arrival, she’s relieved. That is, until she accidentally learns more about Syd’s father’s death; it calls into question the magic of which she and her brother are the last keepers.

And here is the crux of the big idea: Syd wants to turn the water back on and save her beloved City, but hits a snag when she learns the repercussions of her plan. Cas wants to prove her town isn’t the monster Syd is painting it as, but cannot seem to convince herself the more she learns and reflects. Their friendship grows, changes, and prevails, even as the conflict escalates via tiny decisions – ones made for all the right reasons resulting in all the wrong outcomes.

Syd’s search to find peace with herself and the people around her will hopefully allow her to fight back against her literary reputation of inconstancy. Cas’s awakening to the wider world around her will challenge perceptions of her poetic forbear’s naïve hysteria.  Their stories could be told a thousand times more, and with any luck, they will be.


New Charity Blues Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

Friday, May 27th, 2016 11:45 am

Posted by Jennifer Baker

(credit: Steve Garfield)

MEPs yesterday voted to take a hands-off approach to regulating blockchain technology.

In a move that received the thumbs up from finance commissioner Jonathan Hill, the European Parliament suggested that a “wait and see” approach would be more beneficial than suffocating the new tech with rules and legislation.

Following the vote, sources told Ars that European Commission staffers are working hard to wrap their heads around the distributed ledger technology underpinning virtual currencies—seven years after the launch of Bitcoin and venture investments totalling more than €1 billion.

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Friday, May 27th, 2016 11:22 am

Posted by Sebastian Anthony

You can now opt out of unsolicited sales and marketing phone calls in the UK by sending a single text message from your mobile phone.

To use the service, which is operated by Ofcom and the Telephone Preference Service (essentially the UK's domestic "do not call" list), you must text "TPS" followed by your e-mail address to 78070. You will receive confirmation via SMS that you have been added to the TPS list. (Your e-mail address is required to verify your identity, should you ever need to make a complaint.)

Once you're on the list it's illegal for companies to hit you with unsolicited calls, unless you have previously given your consent to be contacted (you remember all those times you clicked the "opt in" box, right?) After you sign up, Ofcom says you should see a gradual reduction in spam calls, and then full cessation after 28 days. If they don't stop, you should complain to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO); the company may get hit with a juicy fine.

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Friday, May 27th, 2016 11:03 am
Staying had become impossible much faster than Kalena had expected. As they’d worked out what she was they’d start doing their best to destroy her, so she ran. There was one place she knew that she would be safe. Unfortunately it just happened to be the place she’d left behind because she couldn’t bear being trapped there any longer. In the middle of the night she left with nothing but the clothes she was wearing, not daring to pack anything, doing everything she could to make certain they wouldn’t know she’d gone until morning. Hopefully that would give her enough time to get to where she needed to go.

Read more:

Collection: The World Walkers, Status: Complete, Word Count: 2000 - 3000
Friday, May 27th, 2016 12:00 pm
Friday, May 27th, 2016 06:41 am
I have spent years wondering if I am autistic, even though I have a Theory of Mind and can pass for neurotypical in many social situations. For one thing, I have a number of other issues that are often labeled autistic, such as attention deficiency, dyspraxia, hypersensitivity, and an approach based on living in my mind and dealing with the world, rather that living directly in the world. Rebecca Burgess shows us that a spectrum is not more-or-less, the way the autistic one is usually described.

Thanx to Metafilter

Almost forgot: This post on Status 451 seems to cover some of the same questions. (Technical math terminology warning. And I am perversely amused by a measure of autism based on the mathematics of Paul Dirac.)
Friday, May 27th, 2016 06:23 am
Remembering Roger Zelazny remembering other writers.
*There appears to be no Shakespearian irony here.

Thanx to
Friday, May 27th, 2016 09:50 am

Posted by Sebastian Anthony

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has confirmed that it used IMSI catchers (aka "stingrays" after a US company that makes such devices) at two prisons in Scotland. This is the first confirmation of official stingray use by UK authorities, though they are almost certainly being used elsewhere in the country as well.

According to documents returned by a Freedom of Information request filed by The Ferret, the SPS were using (or perhaps still are using) both mobile and static stingray devices at HMP Shotts in Lanarkshire and HMP Glenochil near Alloa. The SPS spent more than £1.2 million outfitting both prisons. It appears that the SPS were trialling stingray tech at Shotts and Glenochil before potentially rolling it out to other prisons.

While stingrays can be used to snoop on conversations or otherwise gather intelligence, it appears that in this case the SPS were using IMSI catchers to stamp out mobile phone use at the prisons (it's a criminal offence to use a mobile phone from prison). IMSI catchers work by tricking nearby mobile devices to connect to them, rather than an official base station. The stingray can then be used to triangulate the user's location, or to simply block the connection.

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Friday, May 27th, 2016 04:59 am
-the leadup to Welsh devolution in the 1990s

-the Soho, London art scene in 1989

-death-related fantasy and YA from the mid-90s

(first two for fic, last one for work)

(tbh i like the idea of making Will and Bran make out someplace where I've already written Holmes and Watson fucking, the continuity is nice)
Friday, May 27th, 2016 03:17 am
This poem was inspired by a conversation with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer about how tiresome it is when the supposed good guys fight in front of the bad guys, and how differently that would go in Terramagne. It also fills the "marriage" square in my 1-4-16 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by LJ user Ng_moonmoth. This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: Graphic marital conflict is the whole point of the poem.

Read more... )
Friday, May 27th, 2016 08:15 am

Posted by Jonathan M. Gitlin

My actual drive from Washington, DC, to Columbus, Ohio, and back took about 12 hours in total, but thanks to the magic that is time-lapse, you can come with me in a mere 90 seconds. Video edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

On Sunday, my colleague Lee Hutchinson regaled you all with a tale of his semi-autonomous driving adventure in one of Tesla's high-speed electric chariots. But that's not the only semi-autonomous (Level 2 self-driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) road trip we've conducted here at Ars. You can read all about how we got on with Volvo's latest and greatest XC90 SUVs in a week or so. Plus, there's the new Audi A4, which in Dynamic mode really puts the mantra of "trust the machine" to the test as it late-brakes for exits at up to 0.5G. And finally, I was also fortunate enough to have put many miles on an Audi A7 TDI, driving from DC to Columbus, Ohio, and back when I went to visit the Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3.

Much of the technology that underpins these systems is shared among the industry. A handful of companies like Bosch, Delphi, and Mobileye provide sensors, control units, and even algorithms to car makers, who then integrate and refine those systems.

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Friday, May 27th, 2016 03:13 am
Fanwork is awesome and sharing fanwork is even more awesome. Join us as we keymash and squee over our favorite fanwork, from fic (both written and podfic) to art to vids and meta and back again. Plus, this week, the launch of a new reccing feature!

Recommendations included:
  • Amazing Spider-Man — fic (1)
  • Avengers — art (2)
  • Ballet Shoes — fic (1)
  • Captain America — fic (2)
  • Crossover: Pride & Prejudice/Mansfield Park — fic (1)
  • Crossover: Mulan/Sleeping Beauty — gifset (1)
  • Crossover: Star Wars/Alfred Hitchcock — vid (1)
  • Crossover: Supernatural/Adventure Time — vid (1)
  • Crossover: Thor/Guardians of the Galaxy — fic (1)
  • DC Comics — art (1)
  • Downton Abbey — fic (1)
  • Dragon Age — art (1), comic (1)
  • Final Fantasy VII — art (1)
  • Hamilton — art (1)
  • Harry Potter — fic (1)
  • Jessica Jones — art (1)
  • One Piece — art (1)
  • Smallville — fic (1)
  • Stargate: Atlantis — fic (1)
  • Star Trek: AOS — fic (1)
  • Star Wars — fic (1), vid (1)
  • Transistor — art (1)

On to the recs! )
Friday, May 27th, 2016 07:31 am

Posted by Peter Bright

(credit: Garrett Ewald)

The investigation into the attempted £700 million electronic heist at the Bangladesh central bank has expanded to as many as 12 more banks that all use the SWIFT payment network.

Security firm FireEye, investigating the hack, has been contacted by numerous other banks, including some in New Zealand and the Philippines. While most of the attempted transfers in the original heist were cancelled, some $81 million was sent to the Philippines and subsequently laundered through casinos. The SWIFT organisation in a statement said that some of these reports may be false positives, and that banks should rigorously review their computing environments to look for hackers.

Symantec, meanwhile, has corroborated earlier claims from BAE Systems that the hackers that stole from the Bangladesh central bank are linked to the hackers that have attacked targets in the US and South Korea since 2009, and that hacked Sony Pictures in 2014. The FBI claimed that those hackers were North Korean. Symantec's rationale is the same as that of BAE; malware found at the bank, Sony, and other victims, all appears to share common code for securely deleting files to cover its tracks.

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Friday, May 27th, 2016 07:11 am

Posted by Beth Mole

(credit: NIAID)

Over the next day or so, you may see headlines and reports about a “nightmare” “superbug” that has been detected for the first time in the US.

So far, the Washington Post reports:
“The superbug that doctors have been dreading just reached the U.S.”
And the article starts with: “For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort.”

CNN had a similarly alarming, but distinct headline:
“'Nightmare' drug-resistant bacteria CRE found in U.S. woman”

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Friday, May 27th, 2016 12:56 am
1. Recently I've been having some Photoshop problems and wondered if maybe it was because the copy I have is literally ten years old and maybe I should get a new one. Since Photoshop is actually semi-affordable these days (at least as a treat yourself kind of thing for me), I decided to download the trial version of Creative Cloud and see how I like it. It's pretty spiffy and $10 a month is not terrible, but I also decided to check out Elements and see if I could do everything I want to in that, then maybe I'd go for that instead, since it's just a one-time purchase not a monthly fee.

As it turns out, Elements is almost okay for what I need (though I don't like the layout, even on "expert" mode, which gets it more looking like Photoshop), except it can't do TWAIN scanning!? Whyyyyy? One of the things I use Photoshop for is scanning manga, and in Elements it seems like you can only use the basic scanning interface and also have to scan a page, edit the file, then open the scanning interface again each time. Fine for scanning one photo, or even a couple, but if I'm scanning manga, I want to keep the interface open, scan the whole chapter or whatever, and then edit and save the files altogether.

So...that may be a dealbreaker for me. I suppose I could scan in my old version of Photoshop and just save Elements for editing, but idk. I may just decide to splurge for Creative Cloud. (I can always discontinue my subscription at any time.) Either way, it's been fun to play with these spiffy new versions of Photoshop and it definitely makes me not want to go back to my ancient CS3. D:

2. Some weird things were going on with my computer over the last few days, but I think things are all fixed now? For one thing, Windows Firewall, which I always turn off straight away, for some reason turned itself on the other day and started interfering with my life (like trying to block Dropbox, and messing up downloads). I turned it back off again only to have it turn itself on again after a little while. This happened several times until I finally found someone saying that rather than just setting it to off in the control panel, you can actually turn off the entire program and I followed the instructions to do that and it seems to have stuck. No idea why this happened, after years of no problems over multiple computers, but at least I found a solution.

3. I posted more manga! Not that I really needed yet another series, though honestly I am keeping up with all the stuff I'm translating really well. Go me!

4. I love this pic of the kitties so much. The angle makes Molly look like a giant, though they're really about the same size.

I love this angle. Molly looks like a giant.
Friday, May 27th, 2016 12:04 am
What are you currently reading?
Oops, somehow I missed like two weeks of doing this, but mostly I am still reading the same things as last time, so...

I've read a little under half of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood, have not touched The Sweeter the Juice (which puts me at still having read only the intro), and read about one more chapter of Half World (about halfway through). All of these are books I'm liking, I just haven't been setting aside much time to read lately.

Mangawise, I'm halfway through vol. 9 of Ookiku Furikabutte. Looking at LibraryThing, I apparently read the first five volumes in 2013 and vol. 6 in 2014, then set it aside for a while. Which means that when I picked up vol. 7 last week, I had no idea what was going on or who anyone was (especially since the author has an awful case of sameface syndrome), but I got back into the swing of things pretty quickly and have been enjoying it. I don't think this is ever going to be a super favorite series, but I do like it.

What did you recently finish reading?
Vols. 7 and 8 of Oofuri. I also read all the issues of Bob's Burgers I had (so I'm now current, though I can't remember what the current issue number is).

I also did read a book! The other book I got at the library a few weeks ago was The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae. I think I watched the first episode of her webseries when it first came out, but I'm terrible at keeping up with webseries, so I kind of forgot it existed. I just happened to see this on the new books shelf at the library and since I always enjoy humorous memoirs, I picked it up. It's a quick read and I did enjoy it, though I will still probably be unlikely to ever watch any more episodes of the webseries.

What do you think you'll read next?
Well, hopefully some of those books I started. ^_^;; As for manga, I think I have up through vol. 10 of Oofuri on my iPad, and then I will probably switch to something else because I'd really like to clear off some of the stuff I have on there before I load anything more on.
Thursday, May 26th, 2016 10:16 pm
 We hit it off.  You're fun to talk to, you meet me at my level, and you've figured out what I want to learn and how to get there.  You're a good dude.  I look forward to learning from you.

"You don't LOOK disabled!" is never, ever an appropriate thing to say.