Travellin' Man

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:32 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
James Nicoll just posted a retrospective on the old SF role-playing game Traveller. That brings back some memories of my own... When I was a student at Chicago, I got involved in a D&D group. At one point, our GM suggested we try out this new SFnal answer to D&D; we were all game for it, so he set up a scenario and let us loose.

At the end of the first session, our party was aboard a submarine, hiding from the Imperial Space Navy, who were hunting us on charges including poaching, assault (several counts), hijacking, kidnapping, trespassing on government property, theft of government property, destruction of government property, and extortion. We were, in fact, not guilty of poaching. We meant well, though...

(The GM later suggested that we had gone into a game set in civilized places with the mind-set appropriate to the barbarism of D&D. Nicoll's pet phrase for D&D adventurers is "murder hobos". (I think that was Nicoll, at least.))

Ah, me. Haven't played any of those games in decades; video games are a poor substitute.

Babylon Galactica

Jul. 21st, 2017 11:25 am
asher553: (Default)
[personal profile] asher553
Last night started binge-watching two of my favorite SF shows in tandem: Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica.

Babylon 5 aired from 1994 to 1998. The creation of J. Michael Straczynski, it was groundbreaking in its time and I think it stands up very well today. The show featured the most advanced and extensive CGI effects to date, and set a whole new standard for CGI production. It also marked a departure from the procedural format common in TV series - in which each episode is a self-contained story, and the episodes may be watched interchangeably in any order - toward a serial format, in which an extended story arc is developed from one episode to the next over the length of a season or even the series. The premise of B5 is a space station located in deep space, and hosting visitors and diplomats from various spacefaring races. A similar concept was used in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' and Straczynski maintains that the Star Trek franchise stole his idea, although he declined to pursue legal action. B5 was notable for its dramatic sophistication and strong character development.

Battlestar Galactica, which aired a decade later, was Ronald D. Moore's 're-imagined' production of a 1978 TV series of the same title. In the pilot mini-series, the human race (an Earth-like, spacefaring civilization spanning twelve planetary 'Colonies') is wiped out following a war with robots of its own creation, called Cylons. Only about 50,000 humans survive aboard the spaceship of the series title. This show too set a new standard for CGI effects and for dramatic production. The scenes have a gritty, lifelike feel which Moore said was part of a conscious effort to differentiate the series from the 'Star Trek' model. Much of the tension comes from internal conflicts among the protagonists, sometimes overshadowing the external threat from the Cylons.

So I've started watching both shows from the beginning, more or less alternating by episodes. Vorlons to the left of me, Cylons to the right! This is gonna be fun.

Thunderstruck

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:47 am
asher553: (Default)
[personal profile] asher553
... as covered by Finland's Steve'n Seagulls. Via Kestrelcat at LiveJournal.

Practice

Jul. 19th, 2017 09:36 pm
catsittingstill: (Default)
[personal profile] catsittingstill
So this is a thing I did a couple of nights ago. Call it practice. Practice just being there. Practice being the Middle Aged White Woman policemen want to look reasonable in front of. It was surprisingly difficult for something that isn't difficult at all.

Here's how it happened; I went out for a walk around dusk, because I hadn't gotten any exercise that day, and I tromped around campus for a while playing Pokémon Go and about the fourth time the app crashed on me I decided I'd had enough exercise and started walking home. By now it was full dark, maybe 10 pm or 10:15.

I was tromping down the street full tilt in my usual "take no prisoners" pace, when I noticed a couple of police cars by the back dock of the Post Office, with their flashing blue lights on. As I came by I saw a white car pulled over in the glare of their headlights being searched by a policeman while a pair of young people sat stiffly on the nose of the police car with another policeman talking to them.

I would ordinarily have passed by, politely pretending not to notice these stressed people. But these are not ordinary times and I've been hearing things, and I started weighing things over in my head. The girl was white, very blond--the boy was wearing a red watch cap and I couldn't see enough of him to be sure of his color. A couple of my friends had mentioned the Power Of The Middle-Aged White Woman to keep cops from getting violent. Should I stay?

Could the police men even see me in the dark? I was wearing a white shirt; surely they could. Wait, now the boy turned his head and I could see he was white too. Maybe they didn't need me. Probably they didn't. I should go.

But I could feel the urge to turn around and leave, especially when the policemen kept glancing my way. Like a social repulsor field. And I thought: maybe I should stay just for the practice. Practice Being There. So I stayed.

The policemen glanced at me again. I reminded myself I had every right to be there, and to watch policemen doing interesting things on public property. I stayed. One of the policemen drove away. Mosquitoes came and expressed their pleasure that I had been so accommodating as to wear shorts. I asked myself what Judi would do. I stayed. A new policeman drove up and talked to the kids a while.

Then he walked over to me saying "May I help you?" Jimminy Christmas he was actually taller than me which doesn't happen very often.

I smiled and said "No thanks, I'm just watching."

He said "that's fine, you have every right to watch." (Ha. White Woman Privilege at work.) "I just wondered if you knew these juveniles."

I smiled and shook my head and said "Sorry, no."

He walked back over to the kids. My feet got tired and I leaned against a nearby stone wall. More talking. I wondered if there might be ticks in the lawn the stone wall was retaining. I hoped not. Presently he led the girl over to his police car. I moved a bit so I could see that he wasn't hurting her. She got in the back of his car. He drove her away. I sat back down on the stone wall.

After a while the boy was allowed to go sit in the driver's seat of his car. He smoked a cigarette. I stayed. And a while after that the remaining policeman got in his car, pulled out and drove away, and the boy did likewise and I went home.

I stayed for roughly an hour and came home with tired feet and new mosquito bites, and had Kip check me for ticks before I went to bed. (No ticks, whew; ticks really give me the creeps.) It was not an easy thing to resist the social repulsion field and all the voices in my own head telling me everything was fine and I didn't have to be there and I was probably embarrassing those kids or the policemen or both, and for nothing. But it was a lot easier for me than it would have been for someone who didn't have my advantages. And hopefully next time it will be easier still.

Because there will be a next time. I'm practicing.

SFF Binge-Reader Bundle

Jul. 19th, 2017 10:12 am
filkferengi: filk fandom--all our life's a circle (Default)
[personal profile] filkferengi
https://storybundle.com/bundle

Just a couple of these things, & it pays for itself. For example, the Fiction River anthology alone [nearly 800 pages!] is 8.00 on Kindle. The Uncollected Anthology Year One [490 pages] is only available as a $24 paperback. Afaik, this is the only e-book edition. The Grayson trilogy is excellent, romance-with-woo-woo fun; the Rusch Diving series has great buzz. The Faerie Summer is a 20-book e-book set.

Throw in the others, & that's a lot at an excellent deal. Squee!

filkferengi, off to buy it now

(no subject)

Jul. 18th, 2017 11:11 am
mmegaera: (Default)
[personal profile] mmegaera
Well, I have an appointment for the lung biopsy to check out the nodules they found when they did my MRI. Friday. At 6:45 in the *morning.* They'll keep me for six hours. They're going to go in through my skin, not down my throat. And this determines whether I have stage 1 or stage 4 uterine cancer, with everything that implies. And thus how my treatment goes. More good thoughts, please? Boost the stream? I'd be grateful.

That Damned, Elusive Pimpernel!

Jul. 17th, 2017 06:43 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
I'm currently reading Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. (I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg when I was on an adventure-novels kick; The Prisoner of Zenda, Captain Blood, and one or two others were also part of that haul.) Three thoughts come to mind.

1) Spoilers. Going into the novel knowing the identity of the Pimpernel probably diminishes its effect. (I would quite possibly have guessed - the trick Orczy played has become common since her day.) Fortunately, apart from the broad context, I know nothing more. I can foresee some of what will come - I just finished the scene where Marguerite is blackmailed by the French agent - but no more than in outline.

2) Reigns of Terror. Orczy, of course, makes an effort to get the reader to sympathize with the poor persecuted aristocrats, and I try to let that happen; but I keep remembering the bit by Twain, comparing the several-months-long and bloody Reign of Terror with the slow-motion, thousand-year Reign of Terror, in the opposite direction, which begat it. Lavoisier was certainly not the only unjustly condemned victim, but the whirlwind doesn't really care who sowed the wind. (I also find myself remembering the next-to-last paragraph of Lincoln's Second Inaugural; but that's another issue altogether.)

3) Typography. There are, naturally enough, numerous French or French-derived words and phrases in the text: entr'acte, coup, and the like. I would prefer to believe that Orczy wrote them, in the original, as I just did, and some blunderer, transcribing it for the Project, interpreted the italics as indicating emphasis and thus replaced them with ALL CAPS. If the Baroness herself is responsible, all I can say is QUEL DOMMAGE!

July Fitness

Jul. 16th, 2017 10:41 pm
selenite0: (fighting candlestickmakers)
[personal profile] selenite0
6/30-7/2 - Libertycon, with extra walking. Lots of extra walking.
7/4 - mow lawn
7/8 - mow lawn
7/15 - mow lawn
7/30 - 30 min on nustep at 7

Sunday evening

Jul. 16th, 2017 07:20 pm
asher553: (Default)
[personal profile] asher553
Spent the weekend mostly recuperating from the now-concluded job. Got some new prospects in the works, including a phone interview tomorrow (Monday) morning. I popped in for the minyan at Chabad this morning and chazzaned. I'm hoping to start going somewhat regularly once again - after having been away from it for a few weeks - and it was nice that they asked me to lead the prayers.

Portland seems to be finally into a sustained period of nice weather and I got outdoors for about 20 minutes of run/walk today. Planning to do it again tomorrow. What I've been forgetting about those runs is how good I feel afterward.
sraun: first picture of ziggy (Shih Tzu Ziggy)
[personal profile] sraun
He stopped eating overnight Friday / Saturday. He ate over half his dinner Friday, and has been pretty much ignoring any food since then. We put scrambled egg - a real delicacy! - in his mouth on Saturday, and he just let it fall on the floor and ignored then. Since then, any food we put in front of him might get sniffed at, and then he turns his head away.

I'll be calling the vet as soon as possible after they open at 7:30am, and seeing when we can get him in.

Math Worksheet Software

Jul. 16th, 2017 07:22 am
asher553: (Default)
[personal profile] asher553
You get good at anything by practicing it a lot, and that includes mathematics. I wanted to bring my foundational math skills up to a good strong level, and I didn't want to schlep around a lot of textbooks. So after a little poking around I discovered Kuta Software (based in Istanbul), which markets a line of "Infinite" math worksheet programs aimed at the grade school to college levels.

https://www.kutasoftware.com/index.html

I started using the software last night and I'm very happy with the product. Right now I'm working on solving polynomials by completing the square; this is one of those operations that you can learn step-by-step in a few minutes, but it's only by working many practice problems that it becomes natural.

The topics covered range from arithmetic to calculus. You set the parameters for your worksheet (topic, number of problems, easy/hard, involves fractions or doesn't, etc.) and the program spits out as many worksheets as you want, with fresh problems each time. You can refresh the random values each time so you never run out of problems - hence, "Infinite".

Now that I'm officially working in the IT field, I'm going to want to make sure my technical skills are strong, and notwithstanding my age I'm still hoping to get around to finishing that BS degree in Physics or Engineering. An endless supply of practice math problems will help me stay in the game.

Connections

Jul. 14th, 2017 09:23 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
One of the phenomena that so excited Charles Fort is that of the vitrified forts, crude stone buildings which at some point were subjected to intense heat.

I'm currently reading Sir Walter Scott's journal, and just ran across the following paragraph: "Will Clerk says he has a theory on the vitrified forts. I wonder if he and I agree. I think accidental conflagration is the cause." (Dec. 11, 1825)

Just an odd coincidence...

They Lurk Within

Jul. 14th, 2017 08:44 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
Note to self: just because a frozen dinner is labeled "Honey Balsamic Chicken" doesn't mean it doesn't contain Brussels sprouts.

media

Jul. 13th, 2017 08:36 am
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
Experienced recently, keeping it short here more as a log than as reviews:

Reading:
Nicola Griffith's Slow River on an accurate recommendation from [personal profile] watersword. So good. Wow for the realistic abuse content, ggggnnnnnngggh for the competence in water treatment facility management scenes. I feel like people who liked China Mountain Zhang, for the personal journey stuff and the mundane futuristic scifi stuff and the emphasis on physical labor and managing complicated processes, might be likely to also like this.

(Reread) a few Tamora Pierce books from The Protector Of the Small quartet for comfort. Still comforting.

All the Birds in the Sky: finished, LOVED everything except the last 10 pages which were just okay.

Started Hild and am having a tough time getting the world into my head.

Am most of the way through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which is fairly breezy.

A bunch of Jon Bois stuff which is SO GREAT.

Visual:

In Transit, documentary, loving and unexpected. Way more about people and way less about the train itself than I thought we'd see. I had a lot of nostalgia for my times on the Empire Builder.

Schindler's List -- saw this for the first time. Stunning, of course. I'm glad I saw it on the big screen. I am glad I saw it on a Friday night when I'd had a good day and I didn't have anything in particular to do the next couple days.

Jurassic Park -- awesome and fun, maybe my 3rd or 4th time seeing it. I could probably see this once every 12-18 months.

Steven Universe -- all caught up now, love the songs, love Lion, amazed and surprised every few episodes.

A Man For All Seasons -- saw this in high school I think? So many good burns in this movie, and a fascinating portrayal of an actual conservative.

Wonder Woman -- better as an Event than as a movie (in contrast some movies don't have to be Events, like, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever or whatever). The message the movie wants to speak is in direct opposition to the basic visual and structural form of a tentpole superhero blockbuster film. But there are fun bits.

Yuri!!! On Ice -- I'm glad I saw this and I respect it a lot but I don't love it. I think that it's the restaurant that doesn't punch you in the face for a bunch of the intended audience, and I'm not part of that audience.

Audio:

Leonard's podcasted conversations with our friend Lucian about 90s nostalgia -- I enjoyed Lucian's recurring "because Kurt Cobain" explanations of his teenage quirks.
asher553: (Default)
[personal profile] asher553
I've got several boxes full of old CDs and DVDs, all of which I keep meaning to watch or listen to "someday". Last night I decided to give one of those DVDs a go (a production of a Shakespeare play that I'd had for maybe 5 or 6 years) and I put it in the DVD player. A few minutes into the play, the faces of the actors dissolved into blocks of pixels as if they had all been placed under the witness protection program. Soon thereafter, the disc stopped playing entirely.

Disc rot. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disc_rot] It's the same problem I'd been having with many of my DVDs and audio CDs. Meanwhile, my old vinyl records - some of them inherited from my parents - still play, for the most part, pretty well.

Sony gave us the CD back in the early 1980s [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_disc] and I can remember the extravagant promises that were made about the digital compact disc's durability and longevity. Now I'm wondering if it's time to just cut my losses and toss all my old optical media in the dumpster.

I can watch videos and listen to music on streaming digital media and downloads now. Of course, the continued viability of those media depends on the survival of the technological infrastructure that they inhabit: successive generations of computers, mobile devices, music players, and so on.

I'll confess I have a certain sentimental nostalgia for vinyl - but my reasons for keeping up my vinyl collection are pragmatic. I want a record that'll damn sure play 10 or 20 years from now. I don't know that about my digital tracks, and I certainly don't know it about my CDs, but I know it about my vinyls.

And as for Sony - the folks who brought us the compact disc in the first place - what are they up to these days?

Well ...

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/29/534854280/sony-will-start-making-vinyl-records-again-in-japan-after-nearly-30-year-hiatus

The tables have turned ... at 33 1/3 rpm.

(no subject)

Jul. 12th, 2017 02:57 pm
mmegaera: (Default)
[personal profile] mmegaera
Home. Exhausted. But home.

27 days till surgery. After healing from that I may start feeling human.

We have a diagnosis on Ziggy

Jul. 12th, 2017 10:10 am
sraun: first picture of ziggy (Shih Tzu Ziggy)
[personal profile] sraun
It's not Addison's. It's third-degree {something something} - I think the second word was arrhythmia?

Basically, his nerves are not communicating well enough with his heart to tell it to fire.

The treatment is a pacemaker. That's not in the cards. The veterinary cardiologist gives him maybe a month left to live.

Low Bar

Jul. 11th, 2017 08:56 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
I'm just going to leave this passage from Polybius, about King Ptolemy Philometor, here.
If any king before him ever was, he was mild and benevolent; a very strong proof of which is that he never put any of his own friends to death on any charge whatever.

whee!!!!!

Jul. 11th, 2017 07:59 am
mmegaera: (Default)
[personal profile] mmegaera
I haz a normal white blood cell count!!!!!

Oh, and I get to go home tomorrow! (I am having an MRI today -- this is prep for the surgery next month). I'm not well as such, obviously, and won't be until I start recovering from the surgery next month, but at least I can go home and wait the four weeks. Still bloated. Hope the heck that goes away, and I don't have to live with that for four weeks.

As of today, I have been in the hospital a bloody *week*. I don't begin to want to know what state my apartment is in, given the disaster it was when I left it (I was sick enough that a *lot* went by the wayside for the last three days or so before I went in the hospital).

Jon Bois

Jul. 9th, 2017 11:57 pm
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
I need to go to sleep, but:

There are some people making speculative fiction right now who don't get enough mainstream attention, in my opinion, or even enough attention from the circles of feminist scifi fans I generally hang out with. Like, some of you know about them, but others don't, and if you don't, I feel an urge to shake you by the lapels as I tell you about them, to ensure you are fully aware. Like, Alexandra Petri is consistently doing really interesting speculative work in her Washington Post column. Alexandra Erin's "Women Making Bees in Public" is an amazing piece about the necessity of being fierce and spycrafty in order to be a woman, about bees, about unexpected beauty, and about doing a chunk of work every day and witnessing what emerges.

And Jon Bois does some digital humanities writing and videos (often using the lens of sports history to dig up interesting stories and statistics), and writes fiction, again, often using the lens of sports to think about meaning, uncertainty, loss, and kindness. Jed's blog post about Bois's fiction pointed me to a few of his pieces and I'm just enthralled -- The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles is 40,000+ words and is complete, and 17776 is in serialization right now (here is a MetaFilter thread where I'm discussing the chapters as they go up).

His work is so loving and he's so consistent about making connections, stories, ideas that feel immediately real and of-course-it-would-be-like-that, finding the alien in the familiar and the familiar in the alien. The humaneness, that is what I am trying to get at. I need to sleep -- I hope you give him a try.
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