Helsinki, Worldcon

Aug. 18th, 2017 12:04 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
[personal profile] liv
That was not the Worldcon I would have liked; I'd hoped to do as several of my friends did, and travel overland and explore some of the region. Or at least to really get immersed in the con itself. And I'd have liked a proper holiday with my partners and their children, which hasn't really happened this year though we've had a few short breaks.

In reality I was only able to go for the long weekend. I spent an eye-watering amount of money on a trip that didn't quite work for me, between flights, accommodation, Worldcon membership (when I actually only ended up attending for half a day), and just general living expenses in a not very well planned trip to an expensive city. It feels churlish to complain about being in a position to spend a bit too much on a less than perfect trip, and in many ways it was good, just not quite what I'd hoped for.

more details )

Mid-week Anti-procrastination Post

Aug. 17th, 2017 06:58 pm
peaceful_sands: butterfly (Default)
[personal profile] peaceful_sands posting in [community profile] bitesizedcleaning
Well, it's a little belated but we've not got to the weekend here yet, so I figure we're still good to call it a midweek anti procrastination post.

So what have you been tackling? How's that motivation going? What's your priority absolutely must not be procrastinated task?

If you're in need of a challenge or a little encouragement.... Hmmm, now let me think... How about 10 minutes (or whatever time suits) to tackle something clothing related - suggestions include : sorting washing into loads that can be done together, actually tackling a load of laundry, handwashing some items, folding some dry clothes, ironing, re-organising a drawer, shelf or wardrobe space to make it more user friendly. I'm sure there are other related tasks. Ooh, I've thought of another - repairing an item e.g. sewing a button on.

Set the timer for the amount of time you think you can spare or manage energy wise and go for it. Surprise yourself with just how awesome you are! And share with us.

Good luck, team! You're awesome!

Helsinki and Worldcon

Aug. 17th, 2017 01:34 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
I went to Helsinki for worldcon.

It was lovely to see osos and liv.

I always find travel a little stressful but I have got better at not worrying. It's still feels like more of a hurdle than travelling locally, even if it shouldn't, but less so.

Helsinki was nice. I didn't do a lot of exploring, but some. I love water, and enjoyed going to another city based on the sea. Helsinki itself isn't on as many islands as Stockholm, but the harbour is covered with them and several tourist attractions are on one island or another.

We went to the zoo, and I went out to the island fortress Suomelina, both nice ferry rides. Suomelina was originally fortified by Sweden when Finland was part of Sweden, and later controlled by Finland and by Russia, with modern fortifications added to the older ones. The original fortifications are incredible to see, vast stone walls dozens of feet thick with tunnels at the bottom surrounding grassy courtyards, and at the main entrance, stone steps swooping down to the sea from a giant gate that frames the sun.

When we flew back, I realised what Liv had already told me, but not previously realised the extent of, that there really are continuous islands all the way from Finland to Sweden.

Zoo pictures are slowly being uploaded on twitter :)

Food was expensive but fairly easy. Few places had good vegetarian options already on the menu, but everyone I spoke to was eager to to be flexible and make up a cheaper price for a plate full of all the side dishes, without me needing to explain or anything.

Part of the expense is being in a foreign conference centre when the pound is getting weaker, but as I understand it, Finland *is* typically more expensive. I don't know enough about it, but my impression is, partly due to needing to import more food, and partly due to higher taxes and wages. But I wish people would acknowledge that latter part when complaining.

Worldcon was fun. Registration was incredibly quick with a computerised "scan barcode and print label" system, and everything was well organised apart from being over-full on the first two days.

Most of the panels I went to were decent but none stood out to me as amazing.

I loved seeing authors I cared about, at the steven universe panel, at the wild cards panel (and winning hugos). The quantum computing panel didn't tell me a lot about the theory but was fascinating for telling us about what computers had practically been built -- and apparently IBM have one you can run programs on online!!

I had a better balance between different sorts of things, I did some panels, some meeting people. I met up with people, but didn't feel like I was constantly missing out on fun things just round the corner. I got some books I was excited by but not too many.

Enjoy the silence

Aug. 17th, 2017 09:26 am
lethargic_man: (reflect)
[personal profile] lethargic_man
If any of you have been wondering why I've not been posting much lately, it's because it's my wedding in a week and a half, and I am very busy preparing for it.

Reading Wednesday 16/08

Aug. 16th, 2017 12:28 pm
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
Recently read:
  • Dzur by Steven Brust.

    I didn't love this; I'm not sure how much it's a weaker member of the series and how much it's me. It is book 10 in a set of 19, of which the last five are still to be written. I may have left it too long since I read the previous volumes, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. I decided I couldn't be bothered following all the complex allusions to the meta-structure of the whole series, and as a single novel it's never more than just ok. I didn't find Vlad's voice or Loiosh's asides witty, and the pacing dragged, and I didn't care about the mystery. Because I hadn't been following the chronology properly, the twist at the end wasn't a delightful surprise, it just unsatisfyingly didn't make sense.

    When I was reading 50 books a year, I intended to read the whole series, because both the individual novels and the way they fit together into a complex whole appeal to me. Now that I read more like 15 or 20, I'm thinking I may drop this. Not sure; one weaker book doesn't mean the whole series isn't worth bothering with.

  • A taste of honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. This was a Hugo-nominated novella, which meant that several of my friends read it, and were enthusiastic about it. So I ended up reading the copy from my Hugo packet on the way back from Worldcon, which is not exactly in the spirit of things. And I regret not reading it in time to vote for it, not that it would have made much difference since McGuire's Every heart a doorway (which I wasn't keen on) won by miles.

    Anyway, this is a really amazing fantasy romance story. It's beautifully written, great characters, twisty, thought-provoking plot. The worldbuilding is really deep; looking it up it turns out this is a companion novella in the setting of a novel, which I'm now definitely going to seek out. I had dismissed Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps mainly because the name is so clunky; I assumed it was parodic or just really generic swords and sorcery.

    It's hard to describe exactly what's so great about AToH without spoilers, but it's a really moving romance, and has a lot to say about choices and sacrifices made for love. [personal profile] jack thought it maybe needed some content warnings; some of the content is about homophobia and abusive parenting. To me it didn't feel like misery porn, it felt as if it centred its variously Queer characters and described some of the bad things in their life as well as the good. But I can imagine some readers finding it hard going.

    Up next: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. I'd been meaning to read this, though I'm a little scared of what I've heard about it, and I've now bumped it up my list since the sequel won a second Hugo.
  • wildeabandon: A glass of wine with text "Moderation is a fatal thing.  Nothing succeeds like excess." (excess)
    [personal profile] wildeabandon
    Last night [personal profile] borusa and I went for dinner at Counter Culture in Clapham. It was bloody brilliant. We sat outside, overlooking the common and enjoying the summer night air.

    The restaurant has a short menu of small plates, and the waiter said that for two people they recommended one of everything, which was exactly what we'd just decided on. As it turned out, the combination of the quality of the food and the fact that we're both quite hearty eaters meant that we ordered seconds of some of them, and there wasn't a single dish that wasn't delicious. We were especially pleased by the plate of salami, which were lovely and piquante and aromatic, the parmasan and chive gnocchi, which somehow managed to be both rich and comforting and light and summery at the same time, and the pork cheeks with smoked aubergine and barbequed pickled onions, which was expertly conceived and balanced. We were also extremely taken with the cheese course, which was a soft goat's cheese, not too pungent, not too mild, served with slices of peach, firm but not so underripe as to be sharp.

    Given the short menu, it probably wouldn't be the greatest dining experience for veg*ns, or people with other major dietary restrictions, but if you're mostly omnivorous, I can't recommend it enough. Dinner for two hungry people, including service and drinks (three beers and two soft drinks, but they also offer BYO at £10/bottle corkage) came in at a very reasonable £115. Also, unlike so many of these new small restaurants, they take bookings, so no annoying queuing.

    Pilot Wave Theory

    Aug. 15th, 2017 07:45 pm
    jack: (Default)
    [personal profile] jack
    Does anyone understand pilot wave theory even a little bit?

    Prodded by several recent articles, I've been trying to follow what it says, and am still quite unsure of the realities.

    The analogy usually presented is, if you have a small oil drop on the surface of water, and the water container is subject to a regular pattern of vibration, the water forms standing waves in shapes affected by the edges of the container and any obstructions in the surface of the water. And the oil drop tends to move across the surface of the water following the paths in those waves.

    If you look solely at the oil drop, you can't tell which of two equal paths it would follow, but you can predict it will take one of them with equal probability, and predict its motion probabilistically. And if you couldn't see the standing water waves, you could deduce something in that shape exists.

    You can even get some analogies for weird quantum behaviour like the an electron passing through two parallel slits and experiencing interference with itself: the water waves form possible channels for the oil drop, and the oil drop goes through one slit or the other, but ends up only at certain places on the far side.

    However, the analogy to actual quantum physics is still unclear to me. Not whether it's true, but even what people are suggesting might happen.

    Are people suggesting there's some underlying medium like the water? In that case, isn't there some propagation speed? The water waves exist in a steady state once all the obstructions are set up, but they don't respond to changes instantly. If the water trough were miles long, the oil drop would set off following water wave paths that existed at the point it passes through, not the paths corresponding to the obstructions that are going to be in place when the oil drop passes through them.

    And yet, as I understand it, no-one expects a propagation delay in quantum experiments. People keep checking it out, but there never is: it always acts like an electron propagates just like it is itself a wave.

    I agree, if there WERE some delay, if you changed the slits at this time, and got one result, and changed them at another time, and got another result, that would be massive, massive, evidence of something, possibly of something like pilot wave theory. But AFAIK proponents of pilot wave theory aren't advocating looking for such delays, and don't expect to find any.

    Contrariwise, if this is just an analogy, and the quantum equivalent of the water waves (equivalent to the wave function in other interpretations of quantum mechanics) propagates at "infinite" speed, then... that is undetectable, indistinguishable from other interpretations of quantum mechanics. But it raises red-flag philosophical questions about what "infinite speed" means when all the intuition from special (or general) relativity indicates that all physical phenomena are local, and are influenced only by physics of nearby things, and "the same time" is a human illusion like the earth being stationary. Even if you don't expect to detect the pilot wave, can you write down what it should be in a universe where physics is local? Does that in fact provide a way to make QM deterministic and independent of observers, even if you change the reference frame? Because it doesn't sound like it will work.

    FWIW, those are very superficial objections, I don't understand what it's saying enough to actually evaluate in depth. But I don't understand why these don't show up on lists of "common objections and rebuttals". Common objections have confident rebuttals in several places, and I've *seen* articles about them, but not understood well enough. Can anyone explain better?

    Digression

    I do agree, the idea that QM equations are an emergent property of something else, ideally a statistical interpretation of a deterministic underlying reality, would be very nice in clearing up a lot of confusion. But AFAIK, the closest candidate to that is Many Worlds, which doesn't appeal to many people who want to get away from QM unpleasantness.

    Short Fiction Recs

    Aug. 14th, 2017 01:02 pm
    forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
    [personal profile] forestofglory
    "That Lingering Sweetness"
    by Tony Pi
    I knew this story was off to a good start when it opened with a tea house. I enjoyed this take on Chinese Zodiac animals. Apparently this story is just the most recent in a series so I'm going to have to go back an read the rest.

    "Waiting on a Bright Moon' by JY Yang (content note: queer characters with queer tragedy in their pasts)This such an interesting world! There is magic and space travel. The main character is an ansible who uses magic to connect her planet with the home planet. I like how this story addresses the complex and messy nature of revolution. Yang has two novellas due out latter this year which I believe are also set in this same world. I'm looking forward to them.

    "Packing" by T. Kingfisher This story begins "Today is not the day I wanted to do this, but we aren’t always given choices. It’s time to pack for the new seasons." It made me cry. If you are an environmentalist it might make you cry too.

    I'm about to go on a trip so I've loaded my ereader up with a fair number of novellas including Bujold's latest, and Rose Lemberg's most recent Birdverse offering. So I will hopefully have some novella recs to share when I return.

    News from Worldcon

    Aug. 12th, 2017 02:04 pm
    forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin blowing up a large blue ballon (ballon)
    [personal profile] forestofglory
    So the World Science Fiction convention is currently going on in Helsinki. I couldn't be there but am following events from afar.

    You may remember that I was part of the YA award committee to help create a YA award voted on and given out with the Hugos. Well I'm pleased to the report that the award was ratified and tentatively named The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book. The award will be given for the 1st time next year at San Jose. I plan to be there in the audience to see it.

    In other great news my friends at Lady Business where awarded the Hugo for best fanzine! They've put together an excellent blog that frequently makes me think as well as helping keep my to-read list nice and long. I'm so pleased and proud. Keep up the great work!

    Music meme: day 20 of 30

    Aug. 11th, 2017 11:48 am
    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    [personal profile] liv
    A song that has many meanings for you. I think this has to be Some kind of stranger by Sisters of Mercy. Partly because it's lyrically complex; I have never been sure if it's about a positive relationship or a breakup, a long-term connection or a casual affair, and it may well not be about romantic love at all.

    This is another song that [personal profile] doseybat introduced me to when we were teenagers. So it's tied up with discovering alternative music and the goth scene, and forming my own tastes in music as well as more broadly. A period of my life when I think I did the most growing up.

    In some ways it's a song about keeping faith in spite of everything that might push you towards despair. And that's why I keep coming back to it, whether it's faith in a person or just more broadly:
    And I know the world is cold
    But if we hold on tight to what we find
    We might not mind so much
    That even this must pass away

    Then it's the soundtrack of my PhD. The bit where my brother had a bad accident and I was in an emotional mess, but the science was still inspiring and still needed doing. The bit where it wasn't inspiring any more, it was a slog, and I had to keep going. One more step, one more flask of cells, one more measurement. The long repetitive bit at the end Come here I think you're beautiful over and over again, when I was sitting in the cell culture room with my headphones a portable tape player, and just keeping my cells alive and nourished before I could actually do any experiments took about three hours three times a week. You can't miss a sesssion or the cells die or mutate and you lose months of work. You have to concentrate enough not to get anything contaminated, but it's not exactly intellectually stimulating. In fact, a lot of the point of my PhD was providing justification for replacing me with a robot, but grad students are cheaper than robots, and I was just sitting there screening through hundreds of potential new drugs.

    It's also a song about making friends with [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel, towards the end of that PhD and the years just afterwards. [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel is also a Sisters fan and gave me a recording of one of their concerts, since it's nearly impossible to buy studio versions of most of their music since the 80s. The ambiguous words might be about a sudden, intense yet enduring friendship, maybe. Some kind of stranger / some kind of angel.

    And even though it's a pretty downbeat song, it's a very happy song for me now. It promised me that I could endure, and I have. My brother is fine now. I still love most of the people who sustained me in my late teens and early 20s. I've succeeded at some things that were hard and failed at others, but I have people who love me for myself, not my achievements. And nothing is permanent, but as long as I'm here and get to experience things and love people, I can cope with that.

    video embed, audio only )

    Oh hey, there it is

    Aug. 11th, 2017 09:40 am
    rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
    [personal profile] rmc28
    I was commenting last night to a couple of friends that I was not as fatigued by the holiday as I had expected.  And then as I got back to our apartment in the early hours this morning, I felt that familiar drag set in.  Spoke too soon!   So Tony is getting the 'night passes' for the rest of the con and I'm going to be pulling bedtime cover with the children.

    (This holiday so far is being an excellent illustration of just how much we have life-at-home optimised for everyone's needs and just how much work it is to cope without those optimisations.  I'd thought my physical stamina was going to be the limiting factor on what we got done; instead it's the family's collective emotional comfort level with being in new places and Doing Stuff.)

    Before staying up too late talking to lovely people, last night I danced my legs off at the Clipping concert.  Clipping's hip-hop Afrofuturist dystopian concept album is up for the Hugo award for Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form, and the con managed to persuade them to come over and play a gig to a bunch of geeks.  The queue for entry was long, and the room was set up with seating, but the band basically said "ok, we're not allowed to get rid of the chairs - we asked - but there's a lot of space here at the front", which was enough to get [personal profile] ceb up and dancing, and I followed.  It was ace.  I think that about 90% of the population right in front of the stage was female-presenting (and within that, mostly white, and mostly around mid-thirties or older).  I am not sure this is Clipping's usual audience demographic? I had a moment of looking around and realising I was dancing in the vicinity of a number of amazing women who I admire greatly and just feeling overwhelmed and joyous and incredibly lucky to be there at that time.  (Speaking of,[personal profile] mizkit also liked the gig.)

    So I not only danced at a Clipping gig a few metres away from Daveed Diggs, I had a short appreciative conversation with him in the bar afterwards, and my internal squee may not stop for days.

    Totally worth being shattered today.

    New Column at Lady Business

    Aug. 8th, 2017 10:56 am
    forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin and Pooh floating in a upturned  umbrella , with the word Ahoy in the corner (The Brain of Pooh)
    [personal profile] forestofglory
    I was invited to write a Quarterly short fiction column for Lady Business. The first one is now up on the blog!

    Anti-procrastination Tuesday

    Aug. 8th, 2017 06:19 pm
    peaceful_sands: butterfly (Default)
    [personal profile] peaceful_sands posting in [community profile] bitesizedcleaning
    Tuesday has rolled around and it's a bit of a disappointment (principally because I spent a good portion of the day believing it was Wednesday...). But all said, it's still time to stop procrastinating and get stuff done. So what'll it be? What are you tackling today? (or tomorrow, or both if you feel like it?)


    Are you in need of a little challenge? A little outside motivation? So hmmm, what could it be? For a small challenge, can you repeat the one we used at the weekend - find five things and take them to their correct home. For something bigger - repeat the challenge as many times as you have energy for - 2, 3, 4 or 5 - just imagine the progress you'll have made. As an alternative, set a timer for 5 minutes and tackle a job for that amount of time - 5 minutes worth of washing up, five minutes worth of cleaning, five minutes worth of vacuuming, five minutes of sorting papers - it doesn't matter which but you'd be amazed how much difference a concerted five minutes of action can make - just to prove you're awesome - Wonder Woman and Superman have nothing on you!

    Group work

    Aug. 8th, 2017 03:18 pm
    liv: Cartoon of a smiling woman with a long plait, teaching about p53 (teacher)
    [personal profile] liv
    I'm on a mission to redeem group work in education. I expect this to be controversial among many of my friends. So if I'm right and lots of you have terrible memories / experiences of being made to do bad group work, I invite you to comment here and tell me what was bad about it. Do you think it's just awful, or are there problems that might be fixed? I believe strongly that while it can be dire, it can also be great, or perhaps I might phrase it as, there are things that look like group work superficially but are actually great.

    Because I'm on a mission this may turn into a more formal research survey at some point, but in that case I'll pose the question in a formal context with ethics and everything. Right now I'm just trying to gather some opinions and not just rely on my own ideas. Plus I am eye-deep in paperwork and I could do with some distraction, so do rant away.

    (no subject)

    Aug. 7th, 2017 04:28 pm
    naath: (Default)
    [personal profile] naath
    20.A song that has many meanings for you

    I'm totally blocked on this. I'm not sure any songs have 'many meanings' to me really.

    It's actually happening

    Aug. 5th, 2017 06:16 am
    rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
    [personal profile] rmc28
    A bit less than two years ago, I was in a hospital bed creating a googledoc named Helsinki, with https://www.seat61.com/Finland.htm open in another tab, starting to build up the shape of the holiday we could have using Worldcon as an anchor.

    Now I'm in an airport hotel room, about to wake up the children and go get our flight to Helsinki.

    Music meme: day 19 of 30

    Aug. 4th, 2017 04:57 pm
    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    [personal profile] liv
    I'm up to the thinky items in the list: a song that makes you think about life. I'm not quite sure what to do with this because in general I don't listen to music to inspire deep thoughts.

    digression on what music is for )

    One song that often makes me stop and think is Song of choice. I heard it interpreted by Solas, a group with a Celtic-ish style that I find hard to classify, it doesn't seem to fit well into either trad or neo. I think this song isn't original to them; I know there's a Peggy Seeger version, but again, she often doesn't perform her own material. But anyway, I really like Karan Casey's voice, and the lyrics are all about taking decisive action before it's too late, a message that seems important to me:
    In January you've still got the choice
    You can cut the weeds before they start to bud
    If you leave them to grow higher, they'll silence your voice
    And in December you may pay with your blood
    But I think my pick for this meme is going to be Farthest star by VNV Nation. I need to have some VNV in this meme, and they tend to have very thinky lyrics. So some of what I think about life is contained in:
    We possess the power
    If this should start to fall apart
    to mend divides, to change the world
    to reach the farthest star
    If we should stay silent
    if fear should win our hearts,
    our light will have long diminished
    before it reaches the farthest star
    It's a call to action, but a more optimistic one than the Solas. video embed, audio only )