Prompt for 2017-07-23

Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:24 pm
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Today's prompt is "bearing witness".

Prompt for 2017-07-22

Jul. 22nd, 2017 09:58 pm
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Today's prompt is "shelter".

Prompt for 2017-07-21

Jul. 21st, 2017 11:15 pm
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Today's prompt is "nothing lasts forever".

Prompt for 2017-07-20

Jul. 20th, 2017 08:12 pm
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Today's prompt is "leaving this place behind".

Hugos: Remaining finalists

Jul. 20th, 2017 12:30 pm
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[personal profile] jack
I voted in several more categories, but eg in long form dramatic presentation, I didn't have a lot to say so I'm not going to try to recap it here.

Novellas

Ballard of Black Tom was a very moving Lovecraft inspired story, from the perspective of a black new yorker, it paints a great portrait of his day to day life in 1920s (?) NY, and his initially minor dealings in mythos stuff. It was quite creepy once it started, but I've still to read the more lovecraftian ending of the story.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe was *also* a very good Lovecraft inspired story, set in the dreamlands, and the travels of a professor at the newest university college, the women's only college, through strange parts of dream, weird gods, and eventually maybe the waking world.

Penric and the Shaman is enjoyable in all the ways you'd expect it to be if you've read other Chalion stories by Bujold. It says a little about shaman/demon interactions which was only incidentally touched on before, and has slightly more of a role for a Father-worshipping figure. But it doesn't add a lot new.

A Taste of Honey, I still need to read, but the cover is *gorgeous* and there's some good male/male flirting on the first page. I'm not sure how that's going to turn out.

This Census-Taker. Interesting worldbuilding, I'm not sure where it's going, I still need to finish it.

Best Novelette

“The Art of Space Travel” about a small cast of characters living and working near Heathrow, against a backdrop of a second Mars colony mission, 30 years after the first tragic failed attempt. I loved the character stuff, and background matter-of-fact look at a possible mars mission, although I wished they'd tied together more closely: I wanted to know more about the disaster, and the next mission. The title refers to the name of a textbook.

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon. All of her stories are pretty good, although I didn't love this as much as some of her others, despite being pretty good.

“Touring with the Alien”, an odd-job woman ends up with the role of taking reclusive alien visitors on a road trip to see some of earth. Interesting musings on free will etc even though I wasn't convinced where they ended up. Again, I loved the day-to-day interaction of the protagonist and the other characters.

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, interesting worldbuilding, but I need to see how this finishes up. Jewels were nobility of a hidden kingdom, who kept it secret safe and stable with various supernatural powers granted to them by gems, but could only be bestowed by Lapidary servants.

You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong. Something about a desert? It looked good but I couldn't get into it at all (sorry).

Thoughts on the term "Secondary"

Jul. 19th, 2017 09:25 pm
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I've had several conversations about why "secondary" is such a loaded concept in poly relationships and feel like I'm slowly getting how people feel. But still, I feel there's a lot that's important to people I'm missing.

1. Not enough

It seems like many people are starting from the assumption that nobody *wants* to be a secondary, and the concept is basically synonymous with "I'll probably want more but I'll settle for what I can get". And yes, if that's how you feel, then that might be ok, but there is an inherent source of tension which is likely

I never had that assumption, only as I've met a wider variety of relationships have I started to understand it. It seemed to me, some people had many parallel relationships (either a small number of permanent partners who are equal priorities in organising your life whether or not they're different in other ways, or varied relationships each negotiated individually etc). Or they had one or two main partners, and other partners as well, usually people who themselves had many other partners, or had other major commitments, or otherwise were at a point in their life where a relationship *might* become much more, but they weren't looking for more, they were looking for something which fit their life right now, even if they had limited time and energy.

But if every relationship is "I fall deeply in love" then it makes sense that anything other than deep and permanent is really hard. Likewise, if you only have room for one relationship, it's a very painful choice to be with someone who wants to be with someone else more, if that's not what you want, and either "they need to have room for their relationship with you to grow" or "they need to realise that they may not be kind by having a relationship with you" may be issues.

With the benefit of hindsight, that looks to me like, "here's a form of relationship that suits some people but not others, don't choose it if it doesn't suit you". But if you have no experience of possible relationships, and the only model you have is "A and B are the love of each other's lives, and C is there too but is treated with absolutely zero respect", it's easy to fall into that model, and come out feeling like it should be burned to the ground.

2. Negotiating from a position of weakness

The other thing I had to say is, it's common for a relationship (not romantic, any form of association) to involve people with different amounts of power. Sometimes that's seriously unfair, as in a bad boss and an employee who needs the job: the boss has every opportunity to take advantage, to not just be unfair but to manipulate the interactions to their advantage by changing the rules all the time.

Sometimes it's completely fair, as in A wants to date B and B doesn't want to date A: then B deservedly has completely control over who they want to date, and they may reject A politely and compassionately (if A is not a jerk) or harshly (if A is a jerk, or if B is for that matter).

"Fair" doesn't mean "half and half". Although in most healthy ongoing relationships, jobs, romance, etc, both sides get comparable good things out of it.

A relationship can be unequal. Say, A has young children, another partner, and many other commitments. And they have a fortnightly date with B, whose commitments are a lot more flexible. That's just how their lives are, no-one is deliberately being unfair. But it does turn out, B has more flexibility than A, so they end up rearranging things more often.

Now here's the distinction. At the moment A doesn't really have the power to offer a lot more time to B. But they do have the power to make arrangements respectfully, by being clear in advance what commitments they can and can't make. By being honest about what time they have. By being upfront that occasionally emergencies will happen but that won't be a default. By not changing plans at short notice and expecting B to cope, can we emphasise that one.

Maybe B *could* cope with that if they had to, but if A forces them to for no reason, or for unfair reasons like, "My other partner is jealous if I spend ANY TIME WITH YOU AT ALL so rather than talking about it I'm just going to constantly jerk you around in the hope that eventually they're happy", then A is not treating B at all respectfully.

The reason I mention this particularly is that it seemed to be a common complaint from people familiar with certain sorts of history, that A had apparently logical reasons why they needed to constantly change stuff around. But it's possible for A to be unfront about what's not really changeable, while also being respectful and communicative about everything.

This is obvious in some relationships: most people with friends know that sometimes a friends' job or partner need them right now, and most friendships, if you move away your friend will usually stay with their job or family, not move with you. And that's just normal: almost all humans have many relationships and give different things to different ones. But it's also normal that friends are not jerks about it, and (a) don't constantly talk about how something else in their life is more important than you and (b) make time for you sometimes and don't just cancel all the time without telling you.

Postscript

Hopefully this is obvious, but this is, me trying to understand many thoughts I've heard from different places, and not about any particular relationships of anyone (especially not anyone I know). Hopefully that postscript isn't needed, but I know it's possible for me to post "thoughts on X" and people to worry "is this about me".

Prompt for 2017-07-19

Jul. 19th, 2017 12:30 pm
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Today's prompt is "that's not what you said".

Inbox Nonzero

Jul. 18th, 2017 10:38 pm
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[personal profile] jack
Quite a long time ago now, I read about the concept of inbox zero. For a long time I struggled with various productivity techniques. I sometimes temporarily achieved inbox zero, and I made big inroads against the habit of having all the urgent emails muddled in with everything else I'd ever received. Although that never quite became permanent.

However, now there maybe has been a permanent sort of shift. I think a combination of receiving less urgent emails, and of having a regular non-email based per-week todo list, and of generally being less stressed by all urgent things, have led to a point where I no longer *need* inbox zero. I generally only have a few emails needing attention, and those are starred. And other recent-ish email sits around in my inbox to a certain extent not doing much harm, but being handy if I need it.

And I'm sufficiently non-stressed that it's not usually something I need to *set aside time for*, but something I can do when I'm checking my email anyway. Any longer time commitments get put in a separate todo.

Non-email email (social network notifications, mailing lists, confirmations, etc, etc) gmail helpfully puts into a separate tab. Social network stuff I star anything I want to reply to, and empty it out every so often. Everything else I just glance at, and if it needs any response move to my main inbox and star it.

This has bad effects as well. Because it *usually* just works, if I get an urgent email and then suddenly go away, it can fall through the cracks. But that's hopefully ok, it's mostly how most people deal with tasks: they usually do it fine but occasionally miss something, instead of needing to be always perfect else they fail forever.
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Every Heart a Doorway tells the story of a school for the recovery of children who've been subject to portal fantasy stuff, specifically people wanted to stay but were cast out for some reason. It's pretty good; I felt it could have embraced the premise *better*, but it still did a pretty good job.

I have lots of different thoughts about this.

Returning from portal fantasy

One of the biggest is probably that, it's written as if people being cast out is a central feature of secondary worlds, whereas originally I think it's more like, the authors didn't think about it much either way, they just tacked on a happy ending even if it didn't really make sense in the book.

But as liv points out, many people found portal fantasies incredibly moving as children because they wanted to escape somewhere else from where they were, and returning was horrible, and this story serves very very well as an emphatic rejection of that trope.

Funnily enough that was never me. Lots of my friends overcame a lot of childhood problems, but though I was nerdy and bad at making friends, my parents were great, and I never wanted to get away from here, even if I was drawn to the idea of going somewhere where my strengths could blossom. I got some of that by going into maths and programming.

Flaws

I enjoyed this more than most of the other Seanan Mcguire I've read, even the Mira Grant. I think the strengths were similar, but the bits where "the characters go where the plot says, completely disregarding logic, common sense, emotion, characterisation, survival, or physical possibility" were much less prominent.

At least to me -- I know some people didn't find that a problem in any of her books, and some people were bothered by it in this one. But there are going to be *some* rants in the spoiler section.

I wasn't bothered by some things that bothered other people. To me, the variety of sexualities etc didn't feel shoehorned in, except occasionally (and I was pleased it was there). I wasn't bothered by shifts in narration from tight third to omniscient (I actually quite like little omniscient asides).

Strengths

The diversity of characters. The description of the secondary worlds: the harsh "high logic" faerielands; the "high nonsense" nonsense worlds; the ones with rhymes, the underworlds, etc etc. It is all very memorable.

Random thoughts

I know I can be too optimistic here, and it can be impossible to stop bullying, but I also just despair at how it's taken for granted in so many situations fictional and real. Here there's a fairly small group of children, with several adults present full time. Can't they at least TRY to prevent at least physical attacks? And ideally violent threats?

Spoilers )

Emojulution Match!

Jul. 17th, 2017 11:04 pm
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[personal profile] jack
The android game I wrote last month is available for download (see bottom of this post).

Gameplay

It's a variant on an augmented reality match three game. Physically walk around to change which square is highlighted with a light grey background. Click that square to place the next tile there. The next tile is shown at the bottom of the screen. Match three of the same type in a row, and they vanish forming a new type. Then try to match three of *those*. When you reach hearts, match three hearts of any colour and they vanish entirely (but give lots of score).

For instance, three fish next to each other in a line make an octopus, three octopuses make a whale, three whales make a blue heart, three hearts of any colour vanish entirely. And similarly for the three other starter animals.

Only vertical and horizontal. But if you make a line of four, or two crossing lines of three, they all vanish. They only give one new tile, but you get more points.

It would be trivial to play if you could just click on a square, but it's surprisingly addictive when you play it walking about.

Be careful not to walk into the middle of roads! It's surprisingly easy to make that mistake when you're concentrating on your location in the game.

The screen wraps round, so you can always keep walking in one direction rather than walk in the opposite direction. It's best to start by figuring out which compass direction corresponds to which direction on the grid :)

Tips: When you complete an octopus, think about where you're going to put the fish to make the next octopus next to the first one.

Details

If you open the .apk file on an android device, it should ask if you want to install it. You can only do so if you agree to install apps which come from me not the play store. I think that should work but I don't know for sure.

It is very early stages. It seems to work on one or two devices, but I haven't tested it more extensively than that. It will hopefully be ok, but I don't know for sure. I would appreciate knowing everyone who tried it, just whether it ran ok or not, and if the game itself seemed to work.

It still has some UI from the open source OpenSudoku game I based the code on. Don't pay any attention to the menus or help.

File:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/md5sjt25xe3eean/emojilution-debug.apk

(Let me know if the link doesn't work. You should *not* need a dropbox account to use it, but you may have to scroll to the bottom of the screen to continue to download without one.)

Feedback

I would appreciate knowing everyone who tried it, just whether it installed ok or not, and if the game itself seemed to work.

Lots of things are known to be unfinished, so don't waste energy enumerating what's missing in menus etc. Do let me know anything that seems to prevent me playing the game. Do ask if it doesn't run or it's not obvious what to do. Comments on what's fun and what isn't are very much appreciated!

Thank you!

Prompt for 2017-07-16

Jul. 16th, 2017 01:21 pm
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[personal profile] brewsternorth posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is "the key to the woods".

Prompt for 2017-07-15

Jul. 15th, 2017 01:36 am
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Today's prompt is "making a choice".

Prompt for 2017-07-14

Jul. 14th, 2017 12:03 am
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Today's prompt is "so how have you been?"

News recap

Jul. 13th, 2017 01:05 pm
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Unfortunately, I often lose track of events when they're no longer headline news, even important ones.

I'd not realised how long the situation in eastern Ukraine had been :( But apparently, it's mostly in the same situation, with several large areas controlled by separatists backed by Russia, with continued fighting but not a lot of movement in lines of control.

Everyone condemned Russia and instituted sanctions, but it doesn't seem to have made much difference :( I guess eventually, the current situation will be formalised. Unless someone offers military aid to Ukraine which might even be worse, more proxy (or not proxy) wars :(

I think I sort of knew that, but I wasn't really sure.

I looked this up while checking what happened under NotPetya, the malware that used the same exploit as WannaCry, but also sought administrator privileges on networks to spread throughout organisations. It seems it didn't go globally apocalyptic as it temporarily seemed it might. But was pretty bad in Ukraine. It was initially spread when a commercial accounting package widely used in Ukraine was hacked to include it in a software update.

That's scary in two ways. One, it was targeted at Ukraine in several ways. It superficially presented itself as ransomware, but actually just did damage, the "accept money and decrypt" stuff was half-arsed.

Secondly, most people don't have a good defence against a legitimate software update. Image if chrome were hacked, or windows! That's hopefully not likely, but if it were possible, and someone used a new exploit to subvert their software updates directly instead of spreading indiscriminately first, it could infect *incredibly* widely.

Holiday

Jul. 13th, 2017 01:02 pm
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[personal profile] jack
Last week, Rachel and I had a couple of days away in Norwich and Great Yarmouth. It was really lovely. Norwich was great to explore, visiting the sea was blissful. We found some nice food, especially the little cafe 42 King Street in Norwich which did tapas-style... stuff, including fascinating vege stuff, incredible marinated halloumi and dip.

Then we went to Michelle and Mike's wedding, which was really nice. I loved their book cake, and geeky references, and games, and little lego-chocolate-dispenser gift bags! And the family has been through a lot, it was so, so lovely they got to this point.

Prompt for 2017-07-13

Jul. 13th, 2017 11:59 am
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Today's prompt is "the one who got away".

Non-hugo games and comics

Jul. 12th, 2017 10:36 pm
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[personal profile] jack
Subnautica

This falls into what I'm starting to recognise as a category, computer games that are incredibly beautiful in multiple ways, but I play for five minutes and decide I don't have time to play properly. You crashland on an ocean planet, and oh my gosh, the water is so WET it practically comes out of your monitor. And warm and clear and inviting, with tropical reefs stretching endlessly.

The actual game is a bit like minecraft, find the right materials to feed into an emergency fabber to make more complicated tools to get more useful materials and components, until you eventually repair a distress beacon. (I don't know if that's all or if there's also underwater aliens or whatever).

Avatar on Wii

Rachel bought some old-ish games and it's been lovely to have something fun but simple-ish we can play together occasionally. One person controlling and one person kibitzing works surprisingly well, a lot is "what now" where having the trigger finger isn't the important thing.

It looks great, very avatar-y. It's not set at any particular point in the chronology but has a feel of an avatar well-respected but also young and unpracticed well. And your abilities work like that too: you have quite powerful abilities but you have to unlock them by levelling up, and they have cooldowns, so you feel powerful, but also like you can only succeed by being skillful, which fits the tone very well.

I have a few quibbles. The wolves appear intelligent to manufacture, or at least habitually carry, headbands of +2 armor, and yet not intelligent enough to avoid spontaneously attacking the most powerful humanoid bender on the planet. The avatar indiscriminately slaughtering wolves and taking their stuff seems tonally inconsistent on multiple levels. But that's computer games.

Also, Zuko can jump down behind Kitara and grab her and she's suddenly unable to fight back? Why didn't he try that on all the OTHER waterbenders there?

Flintstones comic

So... there's a gritty flintstones reboot. Except it's not *very* gritty. Not like gratuitous gore. But it deals with consumerism. And colonialism. And PTSD. And so on. I've no idea how this came about, but it works really quite surprisingly well. A few panels are incredibly biting. I loved the animals-used-as-appliances talking to each other, and calling the pet dinosaur a traitor.

On other occasions, it does veer a bit puerile, making simplistic jokes and criticisms of modern life that aren't especially telling. But worth reading some of.

Irredeemable

About a superteam where the most powerful superman-like member goes rogue and starts killing people, and everyone else has to figure out what they can do from there.

The worldbuilding and characters are pretty good -- it feels really LIKE famous superteams, while all the individual members are not knock-offs of specific characters from a single team, but embodying the *sort* of iconic characters that usually exist.

It's mostly about the characters, and what they do and their relationships with each other. There are quite a lot of *further* story developments of one sort or another, it doesn't just dwell on the premise forever with nothing evolving.

I've some quibbles. Things would drag on a lot less if people stopped going back and forth on when to try to contain someone and when it was necessary to kill them. And it's not a *lot* of sexism, but there's some.

Prompt for 2017-07-12

Jul. 12th, 2017 11:27 pm
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Today's prompt is "body heat".

Hugos: Short stories

Jul. 12th, 2017 03:18 pm
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[personal profile] jack
“That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)

Chess, two countries slowly developing a peace after a long war, two people from opposite sides tentatively renewing a friendship formed during the war, and one side is entirely telepaths. Generally pretty interesting. More thoughts below.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)

Two sisters with magical abilities over the weather and alternate histories.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

Two fairytale protagonists rebel against their allotted labours and help each other escape.

“The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)

A struggle to allow, or prevent, New York to become a living city. Really evocative, but I found it hard to get into.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)

Likewise, doing something good but I find it hard to describe.

The john c wright one

In general, I'll vote any spam entries no award and not feel obliged to read them, but I checked some reviews. It talks about things I genuinely find interesting, like the relationships between asimovian robots and theology. But in rather horrible ways.

Some spoilers )

Prompt for 2017-07-10

Jul. 10th, 2017 10:14 pm
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[personal profile] brewsternorth posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is "relatively painless".

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