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posted by [personal profile] damerell at 02:19pm on 23/01/2015
Take this list, remove a thing, sort it by how much you like the things, add a thing at the top, a thing in the middle, and a thing at the bottom (preserving the sortedness, pedants):

(most liked)
Steam locomotives
Nessie Ladle
Maths
Twitter
Eating paper
Running away from zombies
Getting up early
Undercooked Aubergine
Oilseed rape in hayfever season
(most disliked)

(from http://wildeabandon.dreamwidth.org/238730.html).
damerell: (food)
posted by [personal profile] damerell at 02:57pm on 14/01/2015
Many of you have already seen it in real life, but for those who haven't, [personal profile] ceb and I made a rather unusual Christmas cake this year, and there are pictures of it here. It is worksafe, highly educational, and completely historically accurate (ish).
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posted by [personal profile] damerell at 03:37pm on 27/11/2014
I am 39! Also, my brain is no better, but such is life.

I will be at the Carlton as usual this evening, but also with S at the Pembury in London on Sunday from about 2pm. If you know where one of those places is, come and say hello.
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posted by [personal profile] damerell at 04:48pm on 11/09/2014
Idea is, ten books that affected you somehow, don't overanalyse.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is _not a book_ )
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posted by [personal profile] damerell at 05:52pm on 09/09/2014
(For those not familiar with the question, it is; given one pair of _Portal_ portals, that transmit matter between them instantaneously preserving velocity relative to the portal surface, what's the most useful thing we can do?)

My answer to the question is energy generation: drop a solid steel bar through the portals. If the portals are 2m^2 and we drop the bar at a very modest 10 m/s we get out 160MW.

It's trivial to extract this energy; electric railway locomotives have all the engineering we need. The Class 91 is an obsolete design now, but each bogie's 4 driving wheels can move nearly 250kW from one steel surface to another (an electric motor pretty well runs in reverse as a generator, the frictional considerations are the same, etc). We can also obviously drop the bar at the Class 91's c. 60 m/s top speed, generating just under a gigawatt from 16,000 steel wheels pressed against the bar. (Sanity check; each wheel then has just over 300 cm^2 of bar surface to itself). The bar is safely held by the infrastructure of wheels, electric generators, and the supporting framework for same; it can be sped up or slowed down by adjusting the load.

Obviously one could do much better with custom designed equipment, but this is clearly possible because it uses existing - 1980s - technology.

It's counterintuitive that the speed of the bar makes one get more free energy out, but it does make sense. Cyclists (who are also nerds) are familiar with this effect because, although power to overcome air resistance varies with the cube of speed, power input from gravity varies with speed. Another way of looking at it is that our figure for work done by gravity on the bar (which is where that 160MW comes from) should match our figure for potential energy created by teleporting stuff. 2m^2 (cross-section) * 10 m/s (speed of bar) * 8000 kg/m^3 (density of steel) * 100m (height teleported) * 10 J/kg/m (energy imparted to mass by being teleported up against gravity) is indeed 160MW. Now it's clear why a faster moving bar works better; more mass is being teleported every second.

I don't know what the air resistance losses are - although I hope they're low for a polished steel cylinder - but in principle we could run the mechanism in a low-pressure environment.
damerell: (reading)
Bored yet? Sorry. Or you've probably heard me complain about this elsewhere.

It struck me that the Hugo ballot-stuffers have come up with an interesting false dichotomy as part of their conspiracy theory. SF/F is essentially to be divided into two kinds of book. One is Art, beloved of "social justice warriors", with improving themes about disabled black lesbians. The other is rip-roaring action, published by Baen, with explosions and guns described in fetishistic detail.

Obviously (the argument goes) no-one likes the first kind of book, and everyone likes the second kind of book, so if the second kind of book can't win a Hugo, that's indicative of a massive conspiracy to ruin SF by promoting improving works in the first category.

Unsurprisingly, this is guff; it's quite possible to mistrust Art (which is why I went straight No Award in Short Story) and want books where exciting things happen, without existing on a diet of Ringoesque teenage power fantasies. Ancillary Justice has plenty of exciting things happen! (They could even happen to disabled black lesbians, why not?)

However, this dichotomy is quite effective if one doesn't question it. Here we are, in our ivory tower, admiring the Art and giving each other Hugos, while the hoi polloi are out there in vastly greater numbers enjoying their entertainment to which we are entirely irrelevant. But, as Dr Goldacre would say, I think you'll find it's more complicated than that.

This struck me because Dave Freer (of the "NO AUTHOR" rant, which as previously discussed is grade-A bollocks) is also weighing in on the current spat over videogames and their often hideous misogyny, which is arguably a similar quarrel between "real gamers" who don't want the likes of Sarkeesian to ruin everything with a little critical analysis and, well, the rest of us who are no longer 14 and are unlikely to play a videogame just because it has breasts in it.

This is interesting partly because as a rule the sad puppies steer well clear of overt bigotry, Corriera's idiotic decision to nominate Beale aside, and I'm willing to believe that's because most of them aren't bigots. Conversely, the videogames spat is entirely, overtly, about anti-feminist ideas. But, also because the same dichotomy is emerging there; if a videogame isn't Call of Duty or Gears of War or something else with explosions and a complete lack of self-awareness, it's Depression Quest and dull as dishwater.
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posted by [personal profile] damerell at 04:18pm on 24/08/2014
I saw "The Daughters of Buffy", a panel which talked about the influence of Buffy, as you might expect. One of the ideas was that Buffy was first (1997) to have a female lead supported by an ensemble cast, showing it could be done.

It struck me (with a bit of looking things up)... Sailor Moon started in 1992, and it aired in the USA in 1995; cancelled, the enormous fan response led to it being rerun (further into the series) in 1997. It was massively influential in US anime fandom, arguably the Robotech of its generation (down to the dub being a bit of a travesty, ahem). Sister of Buffy, maybe?
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posted by [personal profile] damerell at 12:30pm on 21/08/2014
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...)
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posted by [personal profile] damerell at 06:23pm on 20/08/2014
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).
damerell: (reading)
posted by [personal profile] damerell at 10:51pm on 30/07/2014
Context: I have absolutely no qualms about voting tactically against the sad puppies. They started it and I'm damned sure that, having tried to fix the nominations, they'll try to fix the vote too. Spoilers are rot13ed.

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