Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 11:23 am
I want to print this post out and stick on my computer so I can read it every day.
Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 12:19 pm
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31.7.14 (birthday at BiReCon)
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Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 10:00 am
Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 08:14 am
Was reminiscing with The Eggplants yesterday.
They've been coming to Edinburgh Fringe for (I think) 22 years. The first show I saw was 21 years ago. Both the kids have been coming along to gigs since they were babies.

We've all changed a lot over the years and our life circumstances are pretty different to how they were when we were all late 20s / early 30s.

I guess it's always that way with old friends - you still see the youth you knew under the grey hair and the folds around the eyes, still remember what it was like when the meaning of life was a more likely topic than how to pay the bills...
Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 01:59 am
We finally got the public areas of our house neat enough that I'm willing to post photos. :) Here's the Flickr set. (You may wish to make occasional reference to the floor plan.) Enjoy the tour!

We've been here since late April and we still turn to one another and spontaneously rhapsodize about how much we love this house. Now you can see why. :) And I didn't even take pictures of my lovely quiet back bedroom, or the cozy cluttered guest room/den, or J's spacious room full of books and clothes, or X's gorgeous window-walled room done up in royal blue and white. Or the splendid high ceilings with exposed beams and chandeliers. Or the sunlight slanting through the living room windows when it's cool enough to open the insulating curtains.

I'm so so happy with this house. I hope we can stay here for a very, very long time.
Friday, August 22nd, 2014 08:52 pm
Poll #15822 Pseudonymity
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 33

I am comfortable with connecting my "in-person" physical identity and my online identities.

View Answers

Never or hardly ever. I prefer to keep them separate
4 (12.5%)

Conditionally by topic, e.g. only with respect to things I've posted about publicly on my journal
6 (18.8%)

Conditionally by sphere of interaction, e.g. only in person or only online
6 (18.8%)

Conditionally by individual, e.g. only with those I know well
16 (50.0%)

Conditionally by venue, e.g. only my Twitter identity but not my Tumblr
15 (46.9%)

1 (3.1%)

Here is another condition I apply to connecting my online and in-person presences:

(Inspired by a LonCon3 panel writeup from [personal profile] kaberett. I'm still thinking this topic through and the poll hasn't come out exactly as I wanted to phrase it but it's a start.)
Friday, August 22nd, 2014 01:59 pm
A lot of people on my twitter timeline were sharing this article approvingly this morning, and given that it prompted one of the very rare disagreements I have with my beloved PPC for Calder Valley, I thought I would detail my issues with it. And the first issue comes right at the beginning:
a small engined car with four people in it has lower emissions, lower pollution, than four people traveling by train. So it simply isn’t true that everyone benefits from more train travel
The second sentence there does not follow on from the first. While the first sentence is, indeed, true, when was the last time you saw a car of ANY engine size being used as a commuter vehicle that had more than one or two people in it? And aside from that small disingenuousness, whoever said that the only benefit that everyone gets from train travel is lower pollution? There is also less congestion for those who DO drive, and there is also the small matter of the fact that for many people public transport is the only option.

My second problem with the article is illustrated by these two sentences:
Some City fund manager who commutes in from 50 miles outside London should not have his lifestyle choice subsidised by the rest of us... why should the poor pay taxes so the middles classes can live in the greenbelt?
The blithe and blind assumption that the train is a rich person's mode of transport tells its own tale: if the train is a rich person's mode of transport, then what are those of us who can't afford a car supposed to do, hop? In reality this is a perfect illustration of the fact that trains are already too expensive, rather than that subsidies need to be cut, pushing fares higher.

I suspect this probably comes from a London-centric mindset. Up here in the Frozen North, those of us in mimimum wage jobs sometimes have to commute long distances to get from housing we can afford TO the minimum wage job. I use the train to commute to work, and the bus, and I'm quite happy for what taxes I pay to go towards subsidising public transport because otherwise I would not be able to get to my minimum wage job which Tim professes to have such concern for.

My third problem is the argument "my taxes should not go towards something I don't use", which is basically the point of the snide comments about mimimum wage workers paying for rich people to travel by train. I'm never going to need prostate surgery, but I don't object to paying for other people's. Nor do I object to paying for jobseeker's allowance, or disability benefits, or pensions. Nor do I object to paying for my bloody useless Tory MP who has actively gone against my interests several times while he's been in the House. Nor do I complain about paying for the street-lighting to be on all night, even though it bloody KEEPS ME AWAKE. I don't object to paying for these things that I don't use or am actively annoyed by, because I recognise that they are necessary.

Something that I definitely think is necessary is a working public transport system. Mass transit which is cheap and reliable creates a more mobile and flexible workforce, and that keeps the economy going. I am certainly not going to object to paying for THAT. And I would happily cut spending in other areas to obtain and maintain a cheap and reliable public transit system, because I am fully aware that there isn't a magic money tree.

Finally, most of the people who shared the article approvingly did so while sharing this quote from it:
We should not be taxing the man who cycles to work at minimum wage in order to pay for wealthier people top travel longer distances.*
Well, yes, because we shouldn't be taxing the person on minimum wage AT ALL**. Which, happily, is Lib Dem policy. So yes, vote Lib Dem, get angry blue-haired nascent train geeks cutting your taxes.

*typo included was in the article, not mine. As was the assumption that the minimum wage guy cycles to work, while the posh city gent uses the train *rolleyes*
**not income tax anyway. There are, of course, other taxes available.
Thursday, August 21st, 2014 11:54 pm
There's a Yahoo group I am a member of using a new Gmail account. It's a closed group, so it needs a mod to approve the membership. OK, no problem...

.. until you want to do something in relation to the settings. In this case, I want to set it so that the email account gets no email from the group (and, ideally, no email from Yahoo at all!) while remaining a member of it.

But you can't do that via sending an email, as you could with any decent mailing list. You have to do it via a Yahoo account.

OK, let's look at the welcome email: "Your email address has been added to the email list of a Yahoo! Group. To gain .. easier control of your message delivery options, we highly recommend that you complete your account by connecting your email address to Yahoo account (sic). It is easy and free. Please visit: (address)."

Oooh, perfect...

.. except that link 404s.

OK, let's create a pointless Yahoo account*. So I do that, and then set it up so that the Gmail address is verified as belonging to that account...

.. but Yahoo groups doesn't think that account is a member of it.

OK, let's create a second even more pointless account via logging in with the Google account that is a member of that group. That's done...

.. but Yahoo groups still doesn't think that account is a member of it.

I've emailed the "help", but what is the way to alter your own settings for a Yahoo group you're a member of via being joined other than via an existing Yahoo account?

* Yes, I know the word 'pointless' is redundant in this context.
Thursday, August 21st, 2014 01:29 pm
One day i will like actually like write stuff and not just post very late phone-photos-a-day. But like for now this is the first half of the July ones (there's like one missed day - it was like when Mum was doen here and we were very floompy). They are using the Vignette camera app - these are all different colour swap options:

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Thursday, August 21st, 2014 01:35 pm
I've still had a file listing books read and acquired and that list is behind a cut below.  I thought it might be more interesting to put here my post-Worldcon list of new authors/books to try (additional recommendations welcome!).  I'm going through and tracking down kindle samples or library copies for now - my to-read pile being perpetually too big.

Diversity in YA panel:

Malinda Lo - Huntress
Nalo Hopkinson - The Chaos
Robin McKinley - The Hero & The Crown
Malorie Blackman

We Have Always Fought panel:
N.A. Sulway - Rupetta (Tiptree Award winner)
Richard Morgan - Altered Carbon (fanf has this & others on our bookshelves)
Justina Robson - Quantum Gravity series
Django Wexler
Alice Nunn - Illicit Passage (this is the one about sisters and hackers, and I can't find a website for the author)
Carol McGrath - The Handfasted Wife (historical romance rather than SF, about Harold's not-official wife and the Norman invasion)

Other authors who said interesting things, either that I saw directly or through others' writeups:
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
Mary Anne Mohanraj
Kate Elliott
Rebecca Levene
Liesel Schwarz
R.A. Smith
Zen Cho
Tobias Buckell
Candas Jane Dorsey
JY Yang
Max Gladstone

Long lists of books read and acquired since the last Reading Wednesday post are behind the cut.

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Thursday, August 21st, 2014 12:30 pm
I just ran into the idea that, why, there is a conspiracy. Never mind what people think of Theodore Beale, "NO AUTHOR FROM ANY COUNTRY, OF ANY ETHNICITY OR ORIENTATION, who is _openly_ anything but left wing can get onto the ballot, let alone win", we are told.

If you run into this idea, it may be useful to note that Brandon Sanderson (who was not on the Sad Puppy slate) had Campbell nominations in '06 and '07, a Hugo in 2013, a Hugo nomination in 2014, and cohosts a podcast which has had 4 Hugo nominations one of which resulted in a win.

He is also a Mormon, an opponent of gay marriage, and a "staunch Republican", all of which he blogs about, so they're not exactly secrets.

(Not the only one, just the first one I could find...)
Thursday, August 21st, 2014 10:00 am
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 11:44 pm
Today was spent seeing Antony and Cleopatra at the Globe - £5 'groundling', you want to stand near the right hand ramp as you enter for the best views - and the Ring Cycle plays at the Scoop by City Hall - free, take some cushions to sit on and something to keep warm in, and sit somewhere in front of the lighting control box.

The latter are particularly worth checking out. They're four 50 minute plays covering the stories of the (much longer) Wagner operas. It's quite surprising to be reminded that it's a cast of nine doing them. Each has its very good bits and the first one both works best as a standalone piece and will enable you to know if you want to see the others.

They start at 6pm, 7pm, 8:30pm and 9:30pm, and you can see some one night and some another. Update: it's on Wed-Sun until the 31st August.
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 01:51 pm

The Bodyguard
Thai gun-fu/wire-fu action comedy. We stuck it on our Netflix queue several years ago because we like Tony Jaa. We started watching it with few expectations and ended up REALLY impressed. The director-star, Petchtai Wongkamlao, is a SUPERB actor and comedian. There are lots of very long choreographic gunfights and kung fu fights in various styles. Tony Jaa is on screen for only a few minutes in a scene set in a supermarket. The funniest scene was (no, I'm not going to tell you, it's funnier if you don't know what's going to happen). The star is a little plump but nothing is made of this. There is another fat guy in the movie who wears outrageous costumes (normally I wouldn't like this, but the people making fun of this character are portrayed as ridiculous and he is portrayed as dignified; also they make fun of his costumes and not his size, so it didn't bother me). One of the actors appeared to have Down Syndrome. On the less enjoyable side, there was some sexism and body mockery among some minor characters that did bother me, but the rest of the movie made up for it. For all that I liked it, I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to these genres.

Guardians of the Galaxy
I made a separate post about this.


The Wire
Seasons 1–4 were the best serious television I've ever seen. We had heard that Season 5 was good, but not as good as the other seasons. We watched three episodes and were not very happy with it, so we decided to stop watching. The episodes of Season 5 we watched had moments, but overall it was feeling meaner than the previous seasons, and we thought that some of the character development wasn't right. E.g. it really bugged me that McNulty went from all-but-teetotaling throughout season 4 to drunk-off-his-ass and cheating every night starting in episode 1 of season 5 and no reason was given for the change at all. I also looked at the plotline for the rest of the season and I didn't want to watch Omar or Prop Joe or Snoop getting killed although I'm sure the actors turned in great performances on those scenes.


Robert Greenberg, Mozart: His Life and Music
Series of lectures by a professor of music. He is way over the top; listening to him is more like listening to a stand-up comedian than to a typical professor. But if you don't mind that or like it, it's fun. Of course he spends much of the time vociferously debunking various myths about Mozart's life. (One I didn't realize was a myth, although I should have, is that "Amadeus" is not Mozart's real middle name; that is, he was not christened that and didn't use it during his lifetime, except as a wordplay.) There are bits of good music, if you like Mozart music and/or his contemporaries. I thought Greenberg could have done a more thorough job of explaining what to listen for in the music, but he did do some of that.


Kerry Greenwood, Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1)

Tessa Harris, The Anatomist's Apprentice (Dr Thomas Silkstone Mysteries #1)
Narrated by Simon Vance, who is very skillful but I am starting to hate him. This series "uses a fictional character Thomas Silkstone to examine the beginnings of forensic science, anatomy and surgery" (sez Wikipedia) and is set in the late 1700s. There's a lot of dissection/autopsy porn. It's got a classic mystery plot (country estate, lots of suspects, dark family secrets revealed, etc.) that's done well until just before the end. There's also a romance, which I didn't find very compelling. I didn't like the ending very much.


A New Beginning
Daedalus point-and-click game/story about time travel and environmentalism. I got sucked into it (there's good voice acting and the Bent Svensson character is interesting), but I didn't really like the story. There is an interesting female protagonist but she gets verbally abused a lot throughout the story (for incompetence), she has a technical job but constantly has to ask male characters about technical stuff, and then she sacrifices herself at the end to save the male protagonist. There were some things I liked about the gameplay, but I am not clever at lateral thinking (or grinding through trying every combination of possibilities) of the kind that this game often relies on for its puzzles, so a lot of the puzzles were too obscure for me, and I used a walkthrough.
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 09:45 pm
My second day at Worldcon started with a panel titled “Scientists Without Borders”, with three other female scientists: Sharon Reamer, Katie Mack and Rachel Berkson, along with our friendly moderator, Brother Guy “I can hear your confession, but I can’t forgive you” Consolmagno. All of us have worked extensively and/or presently work in a country that was not the one we were born in, which is less uncommon for scientists than you might imagine.

This was such an enjoyable panel. Guy outlined a quick plan in the Green Room (already this was looking much better than my first panel). He asked us to use personal stories to illustrate points as much as possible, which is a strategy that worked beautifully. This was a panel in which many examples of cultural misunderstanding, miscommunication, sexism and racism were brought up, but all were handled with sensitivity and even with humour.

I didn’t have a chance to make notes. I really wish I had, as I’ve already forgotten a good deal and I would have dearly loved to remember everything about this panel. I enjoyed Sharon’s anecdotes about being an early-career geophysicist in Germany at a time when there were almost no women in the field, trying to give instructions to men who ranked beneath her. They unwillingly respected the hierarchy at first, but eventually she won them over, partly through competence, but also through putting in a massive effort in learning German. I enjoyed Rachel’s observations on adapting to different cultural attitudes toward the expression of respect and the sharing of ideas. I enjoyed Katie’s stories about working in Japan, and her perceived value as a young non-Japanese-speaking undergraduate researcher (hint: not even valuable enough for teleconferences to be conducted in a language she could understand).

Guy provided just enough guidance to keep the panel moving along a particular trajectory, ending with literary examples that we thought did a good job of portraying scientists. (Hint: not very many.) I do hope we influenced some aspiring writers in the audience to put scientist characters in their novels who are well traveled, not single-minded, not necessarily white, who have diverse relationship histories, and who may be parents too. I am reminded now in particular of Rachel’s anecdote about the Swedish professor who was spoken of by Swedes in reverent tones because they’d managed to achieve so much and had a large family. Said professor was male - parental (not maternal/paternal) leave in Sweden is two years (!!!).

I do hope someone, whether another panelist or an audience member, writes up the panel in more detail, as I’m seriously regretting not trotting off to a quiet corner afterward to make some notes. To be fair to myself, I didn’t have much time since I picked up Humuhumu from the bloke shortly afterward and had solo childcare for the rest of the day and evening.

We spent Saturday entirely away from the con. In the morning, Humuhumu and I went to hunt book benches (see previous post), and I discovered just how horribly inaccessible much of the south bank of the Thames is when you actually need to use lifts because you aren’t supposed to be carrying a pushchair up and down stairs. I ended up having to do it once, which exacerbated my existing injury and unfortunately flattened me for what I had hoped would be an evening out for me.

Sunday heralded my third panel, “Secrecy in Science”. There were quite a large number of people on this panel. Three of us were from astro/space including the moderator, one person was from pharma, one European patent lawyer (largely dealing with pharma, I suspect, from their contributions) and one English professor.

Despite the advance discussion in the Green Room, which gave us a good structure to work with, I never felt like this panel quite gelled completely. I’m not really sure why. There was a lot of interesting independent discussion about secrecy in the two realms of drug discovery and space exploration, but we never quite managed to make an unforced connection between them. I didn’t find much of it exceptionally memorable, I must admit, so I didn’t come away regretting the lack of opportunity to make notes as strongly as I had with the Friday panel.

One tense moment occurred during the open access discussion. An audience member asked what the panel members thought of Aaron Swartz (a researcher and activist who downloaded and shared a number of academic articles from JSTOR, a paywall-protected site). Swartz committed suicide last year after being prosecuted by MIT and JSTOR for his actions. Those panel members who were aware of the case (I wasn’t among them) and the audience seemed to agree that the outcome was disproportionate to the alleged crime. Swartz had legitimate access to JSTOR when he downloaded the articles, and a good many of the articles that he shared were apparently not paywalled by their originating journals. However, the discussion got heated when audience members pushed for further personal statements from the panel members, and one panel member took issue with the agreement over disproportionality between Swartz’s actions and the prosecution’s. The tension was diffused by means of a swift topic change.

My final LonCon3 event was my Rosetta talk, “Catching a Comet”.

I had an amusing encounter before I started. I was poking the projector when a person in the audience spoke to me. “Are you the person in charge of the lights and things?”

“No,” I replied, “I’m the speaker.”

The expression on this person’s face was priceless. (You get one guess re: age/race/gender.)

I had thought this talk through but had little time to work on it before the con, so putting it together was a concentrated last-minute effort. It seemed to go over well. At the very least, I didn’t hear any snoring, not very many people left during it and I got a few laughs. I tried to add in little anecdotes and tidbits from work, and I spent at least fifteen minutes answering questions at the end.

Afterward, I talked to a few audience members, and went for a quick coffee with [personal profile] foxfinial and briefly met some other lovely writers before heading out to meet the bloke and Humuhumu for our journey home. It was earlier than I’d hoped, since I had to be in hospital in Birmingham for my 20-week scan on Tuesday morning, so I missed the last two panels I was supposed to be on.

Note: Part 1 is access-locked due to racefail during my first panel. I may unlock it at some point in future, but given previous experience and observation wherein calling out racism often brings more wrath down upon the whistleblower than it does on the person being racist, it’s unlikely.
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 06:23 pm
I turned up on Wednesday and may have gophered rather too much in Exhibits until Monday; I made it to the Masquerade, the Hugos, 3 normal panels, and one filk gig. It was very jolly, although my feet are a bit of a mess, and I did not see many of you as much as I might have liked.

However... the way that Worldcon site selection works is that if you have a supporting membership to con n, you can pay a site selection fee to vote on con n+2 which then turns into a supporting membership to whichever con wins. This tends to mean that voting on sites for even-numbered or odd-numbered years can be reasonably self-perpetuating.

I noticed a number of us seem to have pre-supported the Helsinki 2017 bid, the Dublin 2019 bid, and perhaps even Paris 2023. However, in light of the above, that sort of means Loncon was a year early; to vote on 2017 bids, you'd need a supporting membership to Spokane 2015, whose membership rates rise on August 31.

Traditionally, Worldcons have almost all been in North America; when cross-continental travel was more difficult, there was a rule dividing them between the West and East Coasts of the USA. I feel the current crop of European bids (and Japan 2017) may represent a sea change, where we might instead divide them between North America in even years and the rest of the world in odd ones. I'd like to see this happen (of course, as someone who doesn't fly, not for entirely unselfish reasons).
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 10:00 am