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 )

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.

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.
  • 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.

    Marioke

    Aug. 13th, 2017 06:30 pm
    squirmelia: (fuchsia)
    [personal profile] squirmelia
    I had an awesome time on Friday night at Marioke - karaoke but with the words rewritten to be about games! Danced to and sung along to songs about various games and people, including Sid Meier and Civilization, Peter Molyneux, etc! Stood at the front, before the audience, and sang into the microphone to a version of Nirvana's Lithium that was more about games developers, and generally had an excellent time, dancing and singing along. It was so much fun!

    Won a Crawl Sprint Game

    Aug. 13th, 2017 03:00 pm
    hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)
    [personal profile] hilarita
    A little light relief from the main game. Won the Ziggurat Sprint, with a Troll Fighter of Uskayaw.
    Read more... )

    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.

    What I did in July 2017

    Aug. 9th, 2017 07:10 pm
    squirmelia: (fuchsia)
    [personal profile] squirmelia
    Enlightened Bunting

    I stood in a disused warehouse, which once stored rum and tobacco, amongst a crowd of mannequins, watching videos flash by.

    In a Masonic temple, I wore headphones and watched a video installation about Crowley and Thelema and sex magic.

    I went to the anime architecture exhibition at the House of Illustration with [personal profile] doseybat and [personal profile] pplfichi.

    I ate charcoal coconut ice-cream, which was grey in a black cone, and that felt apocalyptic somehow.

    I went to Hipchips with [personal profile] deathboy and ate fancy crisps, with strawberry, cream & Pimms dip, and gooseberry, elderflower & Gordon's gin dip, and smokey cheese fondue dip, and I drank a bottle of pear and rosemary drink.

    I went to the New Music Biennial at the Southbank Centre and there were songs from Hull, I remember that.

    I went on a tube walk from Royal Albert to Beckton Park and also visited the Newham City Farm and listened to turkeys gobble.

    I went to the monthly Pub Standards and had drinks and conversations with web folk.

    I played on the swing at St Pancras.

    I went to see Daniel Kitson at the Roundhouse with [personal profile] deathboy.

    I went through a fridge to get to the bar at the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. I also saw some of the sculptures in the city and I got confused and thought a man lying on the grass was a sculpture, when actually it was a human being. It took me a while to stop laughing after that.

    I made jewellery out of concrete at a class at Craft Central.

    I went to [personal profile] pir's party and it was great to talk to people there.

    I went to see the Dreamers Awake – women and surrealism exhibition at the White Cube.

    I ate avocado nitro ice-cream with fried corn from Chin Chin Dessert Club.

    I saw Music for Solaris at the Barbican.

    I gatecrashed [personal profile] deathboy's work do and played Dance Dance Revolution at Namco.

    I visited the V&A with [profile] grandedgemaster one evening, for Hack. Make. Create, and an algorave was happening there.


    Ingress:

    I helped organise the Enlightened Summer BBQ. It went ahead despite the rain, and I danced to Sisters of Mercy to keep warm. I made Enlightened bunting and we draped it around and ate much halloumi. Then we played board games in a pub.

    I got the Onyx trekker badge, which meant I have walked 2500km while playing Ingress!

    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.

    Nine Worlds

    Aug. 8th, 2017 07:57 am
    squirmelia: (Default)
    [personal profile] squirmelia
    I had a wonderful time at Nine Worlds! I went on holiday to Hammersmith, stayed in a hotel there and listened to talks on classical monsters in popular culture (classical monster Barbies exist, such as Medusa Barbie, Athena Barbie, and Hitchcock's The Birds Barbie!), Mars: the journey of a lifetime (a Mars One candidate talked about their experiences), learning about sex in teen magazines (nostalgia for Just 17, learning about what people thought could prevent pregnancy, such as crisp packets, and the Yellow Pages!) , Security for beginners, Questing Time (an RPG that was played on stage), Dr Magnethands (another storytelling game, which featured a Smurf making excellent dolphin sounds!), Technology for Writers (included a discussion on buying brains in bulk from Ocado in different colours, like post-it notes; bible translated into Lolspeak, the Emoji Moby Dick, writing to defeat monsters, and chat about if things came to life in VR immediately as you wrote them, wouldn't everyone just write porn?), It's research! (Or why it's totally okay to play Dragon Age for 100+ hours when you should be writing), The future of Nine Worlds, Game design principles to reduce player toxicity (such as making cross team chat opt-in in League of Legends increased positivity), Shitting on social norms in tech: organizing events no-one else will (such as Non Binary in Tech conference, and Sex Tech Hack), Freaky fabulous – gender, disability and queer representation in Monster High, Panel Panel. I also went to a copper and bronze clay jewellery making workshop and made pendants in the shape of leaves, alien faces, Tetris blocks, etc, out of copper clay; enjoyed dancing at the disco while wearing glowing shoes; liked seeing everyone's great costumes and outfits; saw lots of people dressed as Lemmings. Thank you organisers! Also, friends who were there and reading this – It was excellent to spend time with you all! And excellent to see panels you were on/ sessions you were running / talks you were giving / etc! Apologies to those who I passed at least a few times in the corridors but didn't find time enough to chat with! Hope to see you all again soon! Let's not wait until next year. :)
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