[Me] Renovation

johncoxon

Outside the Asylum

Have you ever read the instructions on a packet of toothpicks?


[Me] Renovation
johncoxon

Magazine Launches and Monty Python

Hello LiveJournal! Writing this on Monday morning at work, because I was too tired last night.

Monday and Tuesday were roleplay, as per usual: Pathfinder and Star Wars, respectively. It felt like we got through more roleplay on the Monday than we have been doing recently, although I don’t know whether that’s just my perception or not. I helped the GM solve a technical problem after we’d played, regarding the upcoming redesign of Physics for Idiots, a website that he and a couple of friends of ours constructed back in the day. It’s an exciting project, and I’m looking forward to seeing Physics for Idiots reborn in all its glory! Star Wars was fun, I’m still enjoying GMing and I’m having a blast coming up with ways to have the players’ explorations land them on the main plot by hook or by crook. I like the feeling that they can go and poke around and still wind up uncovering stuff that’s relevant, but it requires a lot of reworking and improvisation as a game progresses. It’s a rather terrifying experience, actually.

Wednesday was a bit weird for two reasons: firstly, it was the graduation ceremony for the College of Science and Engineering, so I was tasked with selling the Journal of Physics Special Topics to the graduates. It’s a compilation of some of the miniature papers that they write over the course of a year, and so they tend to get bought so that people can sign them, etc. I produce the book for the department each year, and each year I have to work out all the problems from scratch because I take terrible notes. Next year, I’ll be at my new post in Southampton and so I won’t be able to do it; as such, this year I took pretty good notes. I must blog them, really. In the evening of Wednesday, cmdrsuzdal and I went to Café Research, a monthly meeting of postgraduates to discuss postgraduate research throughout the University of Leicester. This month saw the launch of Frontier, a new magazine that also focuses on postgraduate research – I was the director of design for the inaugural issue, so I attended to see that happen. I have a couple of copies for my parents, etc., and it’s quite cool to see my designs in a semi-professional magazine!

I know we watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin at some stage this week and I think it was Wednesday night. I enjoyed it, it was silly and fun. We also started watching Orphan Black at some stage, which I am enjoying. And we really need to finish the series of Rick and Morty, which should really be getting a Hugo Award this time next year.

Thursday and Friday were much the same at work, but both involved barbecues afterwards. The Thursday saw a couple of my colleagues throw a barbecue leading into watching The Secret Life of Students, because the latest episode had my supervisor in it. España and I left before the communal watching so that we could watch it in bed, but it was fun to see the department and academics I know featured on the show. I’ve actually been rather enjoying the show generally, so it’s nice to keep up with it on the day it airs (especially given that it tends to get discussed at work). Friday, himedark decided to throw a barbecue, which was great fun. It was nice to hang out with Lianne, Liz, Hamish and Ian, and have España spend a bit more time with them. We ate way too much meat, which was also very fun!

Saturday, I went to the gym really early before España was properly awake, and we headed to Mrs Bridges Tearooms when she had gotten up so that we could get a spot of breakfast. I got some pork shoulder diced on the market for an experiment, and then we headed home to clean the flat. That evening was Chris’ birthday dinner at Buddies USA, so we got a lift with Liz and Hamish and met up with Alex, Lianne, Shannon, Andrew, Chris, Ash and Nicola at the restaurant. It was fun: España had a burger that came in two waffles instead of in a bun, with maple syrup. I had the Chewbacka, which is just bacon, cheese and mushrooms – also yummy. After the meal I headed back to Chris and Andrew’s to drink some prosecco, and then headed home to collapse into bed because knackered.

Sunday was a day on which my parents visited at 09:30 to drop some stuff off, so we got up stupid early. I made a banoffee pie and hung out with Chris, Andrew, Alex, and Lianne to play Eldritch Horror, which is jolly good fun. It’s similar to Arkham Horror in terms of the need to close gates and defeat monsters, but the actual lower-level mechanics are different enough that I think it’s worth playing both. I had a great time.

Finally on Sunday, I went to see Monty Python with my friend Josh. It was really great fun, but the introduction of a few new jokes in places didn’t work very well. Honestly the best bits were when they were corpsing or forgetting their lines on stage. John Cleese, particularly, seemed to be having difficulty with lines and whatnot. I was pleased to see Graham Chapman appear on the monitor quite prominently. All in all, a good evening (and about 3.5 hours long at the cinema, which was worth the money!).

Until next time, LiveJournalers!


[Me] Renovation
johncoxon

Books I want to read

Hello everyone! As most of you will have noticed I stopped posting book updates on here; I've migrated to Goodreads (which is a pretty awesome website). If you want to keep up with me on Goodreads then feel free to do so, I've linked my account to Facebook so it should be easy to find me.

However, I wanted to list the books that I want to read in February (as much for my reference as anything else) so here goes.

Books I'm currently reading

Report on Probability A by Brian Aldiss*
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton*

Books I want to read

Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell*†
Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith*
The Noise Within by Ian Whates*
Hothouse by Brian Aldiss*
Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds (possibly)*
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie†
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell‡

* Author appearing at the Space Fiction event being held at the National Space Centre in February.
† Reading for book club.
‡ UK film release on 22nd February.
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[Me] Renovation
johncoxon

New LiveJournal apps coming in Q2 2013

Originally posted by manu at LiveJournal app for Android, v. 0.4.1

The next year (second quarter roughly) we'll release a new application for iOS and Android - it turned out that it's easier to write a new app than to fix all existing bugs. I'll announce the new app in this comunity.



I suspect that one of the reasons that LiveJournal is doing quite badly is a surfeit of good mobile apps for the service (and this is also one of the reasons I'm reluctant to move to Dreamwidth). So hooray for this!

[Me] Renovation
johncoxon

The Nova Awards: A controversial opinion?

Seventeen people voted for the Nova Awards this year. I'm pretty sure that I had enough friends at Novacon that, had I offered to buy each one a drink, I could've mustered eighteen votes.

Hmm.

It bears noting that, although I'd really love to win a Nova for Procrastinations someday, bribery is not the way I want to do it. Don't flame too hard!

[HHGG] Wikipedia
johncoxon

Dreamwidth

So I was fiddling around on Dreamwidth just now, and maybe I'm wrong, but is it right that you can't go further than 14 days back in your friends list?

[HHGG] Wikipedia
johncoxon

GIP

GUYS THIS USERPIC IS INSANELY AWESOME
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[LICD] iRon Man
johncoxon

Read Receipts

I read an article that Boing Boing linked to about read receipts, privacy and all that jazz, and found myself disagreeing with it – I have never felt pressured to respond to a text even if there are read receipts flying around, and so I didn’t really see the point. However, it does occur to me that I only use text messaging with a fairly small group of close friends, and so it’s possible that my views on this are biased. I’ve put this poll up to get an idea of people’s feelings on the subject; I also posted about it on Twitter (you can read the tweets at Storify).

I should say that I’m talking specifically about read receipts of the sort that are being introduced by Facebook and iMessage, where you just receive a quiet ‘Read xx:xx’ (Apple) or ‘Seen at xx:xx’ (Facebook). I’m not talking about email read receipts, which I don’t think I’ve ever actually encountered in the wild. In the poll, where I say ‘opt-in’, I mean, ‘in order for people to see that you have read their messages you must have opted into read receipts’.

I’m sure I’ve missed something but I have somewhere to be now, so I’ll leave it to you lot to leave angry comments on this post before thinking about it further.

Poll #1858247 Messages and receipts
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 13

Delivery receipts…

View Answers
Are a good idea, and should be mandatory with no opt-out.
3 (25.0%)
Are a good idea, and should be enabled by default with an opt-out.
3 (25.0%)
Are a good idea, but should be an opt-in feature.
2 (16.7%)
Are a bad idea, but can be put up with if the service is good enough.
2 (16.7%)
Are a bad idea, and put me off an app or service that has them.
2 (16.7%)

Read receipts…

View Answers
Are a good idea, and should be mandatory with no opt-out.
1 (8.3%)
Are a good idea, and should be enabled by default.
0 (0.0%)
Are a good idea, but should be an opt-in feature.
7 (58.3%)
Are a bad idea, but can be put up with if the service is good enough.
1 (8.3%)
Are a bad idea, and put me off an app or service that has them.
3 (25.0%)
Tags:

[Me] Reading, Fritz Leiber
johncoxon

2012 Books #35 – Stealth by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

35) ‘Stealth’ by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I read this in the issue of Asimov’s that was in the Hugo Voter Packet and I must confess I would rather it have been on the ballot this year than a couple of the others that actually got nominated. It’s the tale of a woman called Rosealma aka Squishy, who starts the tale on a station; she quickly moves off the station again before it blows up. I liked this story because of how well the flashbacks were used – it’s not a novel concept but they were exactly where they needed to be to lend context to proceedings. I also liked the central idea and the hints at what might be happening.

The rest of this entry is cloakedCollapse )

I could probably try to write more about this but I’m tired and it’s late, unfortunately. Another time, perhaps.

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[Me] Reading, Fritz Leiber
johncoxon

2012 Short Stories #91-103

91) ‘How I Crippled a World for Just 0.01 Cents’ by Michael W. Lucht
First published, 2010 – appeared in The Drabblecast #247

It really would be terrible if you had to pay royalties on common physical formulae; V = IR costs $12 to licence in this short piece. Cheaper systems are available, but many of them are nonsense – especially the very cheap Aristotelian mechanics, which are almost completely useless. I liked these concepts, they made me smile.

The Drabblecast are apparently currently running a little low on funds, so if you listen, help them out and donate, mmmkay?

92) ‘Softlight Sins’ by Peter F. Hamilton
First published, 1997/1998 – appeared in StarShipSofa #212

This was a pretty immense story about capital punishment, the nature of the soul and a variety of other things. The reading in StarShipSofa was great, I was quite impressed. The story starts in one manner and ends in another, but the ending is fantastic. I love the central conceit, of a form of capital punishment that doesn’t actually require the death of the body; I was a little confused by some of the religious undertones partway through the story, but I think it works, in the end.

93) ‘Dial Double Zero’ by Ray Bradbury
First published, 1963? – appeared on BBC Radio 4

I’ve got to be honest I didn’t get this one, and I’m thinking that might be the fault of the BBC’s way of presenting it as a dramatisation. A quick Google to find the publication date reveals a page that says the point of the story was about the spontaneous creation of Artificial Intelligence. The impression I gleaned from the BBC’s version was that a mental person had gone around codifying his younger self into tapes and set them all to ring him incessantly when he turned 80, which just didn’t make any sense whatsoever. I think, to be fair, I should probably read the short story proper.

94) ‘113 Feet’ by Josh Roseman
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #351

I liked this story, which was told from the perspective of a girl learning more about her father as she grew up. It’s another example of how good the original fiction from Escape Pod is. In this one, the girl reads her father’s notes on a couple of occasions to learn that he’s not really in the line of work he says he is, but in another one; she’s not sure which, because she’s too young to understand some of the words. The story jumps forwards through her childhood and further revelations about her father before, one day, something happens to turn these revelations into an obsession. I liked this a lot, and while I’m going to include it on my Hugo longlist just in case I don’t think it’ll make the final cut.

95) ‘The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (Prologue)’ by John Scalzi
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

I enjoyed this but the joke began to wear thin by the end and it’s nowhere near to the same standard as any of the other Hugo-nominated short stories in 2012. There really isn’t much substance to the story and whilst I suspect that’s a deliberate decision, it also means I don’t have much to say about it, nor do I have any real desire to put it higher than last place in my Hugo rankings.

96) ‘Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage’ by Seanan McGuire
First published, 2011 – appeared in StarShipSofa #245

I enjoyed this story, overall. It was about a young girl in a faraway, fantasy land who fought some bad guys before coming home, to our universe, to sleep. She gets visited in the night, with huge ramifications for her plans for the future. It’s a good tale, and I liked the Truth Fairy and her effect on people quite a lot, but I didn’t really feel the ending was great.

97) ‘Food for Thought’ by Laura Lee McArdle
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #352

This one’s about an intelligent (ish) cow who is taking part in a reality television show being put on by people from the future. I enjoyed it, although it was incredibly silly. Just the sort of story to kick off a Monday without needing to think too much – I’d recommend it but it isn’t going on my Hugo longlist!

98) ‘The Cockroach Hat’ by Terry Bisson
First published, 2010 – appeared in The Drabblecast #248

This one was even sillier than the last one. Perhaps ‘whimsical’ is a better word. The plot is so disjointed that I can’t even begin to sum it up, and the central conceit appeared to be that anyone can turn into a cockroach at any time. It made me giggle, but it’s one surreal kettle of fish.

99) ‘The Steam Dancer (1896)’ by Caitlín R. Kiernan
First published, 2007 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This story was intriguing, set somewhere in the United States (‘the great smoky city at the end of the mountains’) and following the tale of Missouri Banks, a woman who has mechanical protheses instead of her left leg or her right arm. It was well-written, especially the dialogue. I loved the description of the dancing, which was really vivid and also very body-positive, both things of which I wholeheartedly approve! There aren’t any big ideas here (beyond clockwork protheses in the 19th century) but that didn’t matter to me given how much fun I had.

100) ‘Ruminations in an Alien Tongue’ by Vandana Singh
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This one’s a bit of an odd one. It’s about a woman called Birha and her experiences with aliens. I’m presuming that the reader is supposed to assume that the story is a translation from an alien tongue, or perhaps we’re the aliens and so English is the alien tongue – either way the title doesn’t appear to bear much relevance to the story, which is mostly concerned with many-worlds theories. It’s a curiously mellow tale of love and heartbreak, and I enjoyed it.

101) ‘Nomad’ by Karin Lowachee
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

I liked this one. I liked the concept of a Fuse at a very early age between a Radical (the name for the artificial intelligences in the story) and a human. The story is touching, and it didn’t feel as long as some of the novelettes that I read in the Hugo packet this year. It’s about a Radical who survives an event that kills everyone else present, including its human – it has to deal with that, and the story describes it leaving the Streak (tribe/clan thing) to which it belonged.

(I hadn’t noticed before that Lightspeed publishes novelettes as well as short stories, and this is the first one of those that I’ve noticed. Since they only appear to publish one Hugo-eligible novelette per issue, I figure there’s not much point in longlisting them since I can just go through and refresh my memory of the twelve that I’ve read.)

102) ‘Our Town’ by Kim Stanley Robinson
First published, 1986 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

Stunning short story about sculptures made from microuniverses containing living beings, frozen at just the right instant to create the desired effect. Totally great idea, however, the ending struck me as rather a damp squib – I was expecting some revelation about Desmond and the girl, but nothing was forthcoming and the story finished very abruptly.

103) ‘Mother Ship’ by Caroline M. Yoachim
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

The title is a literal one, which gives you some idea of the content of the story; I loved the idea of a colony ship bred for the purpose, and the idea of humans taking it, fiddling with it and fucking it up resonated with me. I really liked the way that Yoachim makes it seem more plausible by taking the way we do IVF and applying it to how we attempt to breed a ship for ourselves. Melancholy in its own way.


[Me] Reading, Fritz Leiber
johncoxon

Best novels of 2012 so far?

If you were forced, at gunpoint, to submit your five novel nominations for the Hugo Awards now, which five novels would you pick?