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Jul. 24th, 2017 12:39 pm
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The logic of requiring pedestrians to press a button for the pedestrian crosswalk sign to change, rather than just linking it to the traffic lights.

So, anyway, excursion to Darmstadt

Jul. 24th, 2017 05:04 pm
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[personal profile] oursin

This involved a certain amount of faff and hassle about making sure we were buying the right kind of ticket for the train which would also give us free rides on public transport, ascertaining which platform the train in the right direction left from, etc etc. And then when we arrived a) finding the right stop for the tram b) missing the stop we wanted and being carried on to a point we didn't want.

Except it turned out to be right around the corner from Hundertwasser's Waldspirale apartment block, which was on the list of things to see.

After which we wandered down in the direction of the Schloss (which can only be seen by way of guided tours, we passed) and had what was a rather more leisurely lunch than we had intended at the Altes Rathaus before going to the Hessische Landesmuseum, based on the collections of the Grand Dukes, which has some nice stuff.

We then went out to Mathildenhöhe, which was where the artists of the Jugendstil Art Nouveau movement hung out. This includes a Russian Orthodox Church (not particularly Art Nouveau) and the Hochzeitsturm, Marriage Tower, which looks as if it might be the HQ of one of those somewhat spooky early C20th New Agey cults that crop up in mysteries of the period, and a rather small museum (but I think part of it was closed) of furniture and objects created by the artists of the colony.

And then back to Frankfurt, whence we flew home today.

***

And in other news, spotted this in today's Guardian: the strange world of book thefts:

“We caught a gent last Christmas with £400-worth of stolen books in his trousers and elsewhere.... As we showed him the door he told us: ‘I hope you’ll consider this in the Žižekian spirit, as a radical reappropriation of knowledge.’”
As an anarchist friend of a friend remarked when his car was nicked, 'Property is theft: but so is theft theft'.

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[2077]

"Gabe!" Lena shouted, running down the stairs towards the former Blackwatch head. "Hi!"

"Lena!" the tall Angelino replied, beaming. "Wow, you look good in black and violet." He picked the younger woman up like a doll, and she giggled. "I still can't believe you pulled this off," he said.

Venom laughed. "Hold on a mo, I'm on Lunar soil." She pressed a set of buttons on her grapple holster, and her clothes went to tangerine, orange, and while. "There we go."

Gabriel Reyes looked over the Overwatch version of Lena Oxton, and considered. "I like the violet better."

"So do I, luv, but - appearances, you know. Does this mean you're in?"

"An Overwatch where I don't have to run black ops? Hell yeah, girl, I'm in! I've been watching you operate, you need someone who can make some plans that work in the field."

"Ah, c'mon mate, we're doin' all right."

"Sometimes, yeah, when you're there calling the shots yourself," he agreed. "But then you look like badly-disguised Talon, and I don't think either of you need that."

"True 'nuff," Tracer smiled. "So you're here to run strategy for Winston?"

"I'm right over here, you know," said the Lunar Ambassador. "It took some talking, but yes, he's in."

"Hi, Winston!" Lena teleported over and gave the gorilla an enthusiastic noogie.

"Hey! Cut it out!" But he still laughed. "You're in a good mood - I take it you have something for me?"

"Here y'go!" She popped a small memory card out of one of her pockets. "Everything we'd hoped for and more."

"Oh, that's great news!" He knew not to ask how she'd got it. "You'll want to see this immediately, Gabe."

"Excellent. And yeah, if that didn't make it obvious, I'm in," said the former Blackwatch head, picking up the card, all smiles... until he wasn't. "But Lena, there are some things you need to know. Amélie too, for that matter." To himself, he thought, Not that I could tell you and not be telling her, even if I wanted to...

Lena looked down at her scientifically-minded friend. "What's this about, then?"

"It's... Jack Morrison," said the ambassador.

"...oh," said the assassin. "Him." She frowned, an unpleasant coldness twisting in her stomach.

"Yeah," said Gabriel, confirming. "Him."

Lena took a long, deep breath. "Right. Let's get the staff together."

[A Lunar embassy conference room, half an hour later]

"I thought Jack was dead," Lena said, anger, nervousness, and some small dismay in her voice. "I thought he died when the UN moved on him, in Geneva."

Gabriel Reyes nodded. "We all thought he was dead. Everyone. When the UN stand-down order came through, I ordered my chain of command to obey it immediately. We knew it was coming, and frankly, we deserved it. I've been owning up to that since it happened."

"Before," Angela noted, charitably.

Reyes looked down at the table in the direction of the doctor for a moment, left whatever he was thinking unsaid, and continued. "Jack, of course, decided he knew better, and I guess we all know how that went down..." He shook his head. "What the hell that man thought he could get by launching a counter-assault, I'll never know."

"He was bound and determined to keep the mission going, no matter what," said Winston. "Maybe it was the statue, maybe it went to his head."

"Yeah, well, it had all come apart by then, he should've figured that out," Gabriel replied. "Public opinion was not on our side."

Mei-Ling Zhou - present in virtual form, at least, from her satellite research laboratory in the north of China - shook her head, looking down. "I can't believe he changed so much. He used to be so nice!"

"And he really just outright refused the stand-down order?" asked Tracer. "I'd read that, but..." She kept tapping the buttons on her grapple, fidgeting. Winston eyed the device nervously, a little worried she might accidentally launch the hook across the room, but kept it to himself.

"Yeah," said the Californian, "flat out said no."

"That's mad."

"I agree. I evaced my team as soon as I saw where the show was going, and we mostly got out fine. Some of Jack's side of the organisation got out too, but... a lot stayed with him, for whatever reasons." He shook his head. "He always had a knack for putting together a loyal team."

"Yeah," said Tracer, flatly. "Loyal. One direction, anyway."

"Regardless," Rayes carried on, "the UN response was heavy, and his counter was heavier still, but utterly futile. Nobody could've survived the implosion - or so we thought. I sure as hell wouldn't have."

"It's not just a solid pile of rubble, though," Oxton insisted. "There's big sections still intact, deep enough in. Amélie got pretty far down."

Angela contemplated those words. "That was when she retrieved Winston's accelerator, yes? The medical unit near Winston's laboratory... could it have been reached?"

"No idea, luv. She's never mentioned it." Tracer said, nervously.

"Find out, if you could."

"What're you thinking, Angela?" asked Winston.

The researcher and field doctor shook her head. "We had a full compliment of medical supplies there - including ample stocks of regen gel and nanomachines. More than enough for a badly injured man to repair himself, if he knew how."

Mei-Ling looked over to Angela, her expression uncharacteristically severe. "The research unit versions? Do you think maybe he might've..."

"Regardless of how," Rayes interrupted firmly, "there is evidence he's active again. Not openly, but there have been rumours for a couple of years - mostly in Mexico - of a white-haired American soldier vigilante. And I received this yesterday." He threw an image up in the centre of the table - "It's not the best photo in the world, but I'm pretty sure this is him."

The shot, taken in an alley in Dorado three weeks earlier, was from the back, at night, in fog, a bit blurry, and showed a leather-jacketed man, white-haired, with the clips of what could - with a lot of imagination - be a tactical visor showing over the ears. Really, it could've been anyone of that general build - but the way the figure carried himself, that was familiar, and the gun slung over his back - that was unique.

Mei-Ling gasped at the image. «Halla die Walfee,» exclaimed Angela. "I think you may be correct."

"I'm sure you are," Lena said, voice low and quiet. "That's him."

"And if it is," the Angelino said, "given what went down, I'm pretty sure he won't be happy there's an Overwatch not under his command."

"I have to go," Venom said, suddenly again in black and violet. She hit more buttons on her grapple, and talked into her collar. "Widowmaker, message, urgent: Venom heading back immediately. Will brief en route."

"Lena," said Winston, alarmed, "What are you..."

"I owe him," said the Talon assassin, as she strode to the door, old anger drawn across her face. "If he's still alive, I've got a job to do."

"Lena, don't..." called the scientist, but it was too late, she younger woman was already down the corridor. "Athena, raise Amélie, if you can. Route it to my office, I'll be there in a minute. We've got to try to talk Lena down."

"Wow - she didn't used to get that mad that fast," Gabriel said, confused. "Is this about the Slipstream failure? She still torn up about that?"

"Oh yes," said Angela. "She is. Amongst other things."

"For good reasons," Mei said quietly.

"That wasn't even Jack's fault," protested the former Blackwatch head, "Not at all."

"No, it wasn't," agreed Winston. "But not letting me try to save her - that was."

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Posted by Annalee Newitz

On a lazy evening in Regina, Saskatechwan, you can go to a bar called The Fat Badger, grab a beer, and put a little money into the jukebox if you want to hear an old country song about the prairies. Except the jukebox is my cousin, a soft-spoken guy named Marshall Burns, strumming guitar with his band The Alley Dawgs and singing as many classics as they know (and there are a lot). It’s the kind of thing you might have seen here 80 years ago. Or that you might see 180 years from now.

Two summers ago, when I was finishing the first draft of my novel Autonomous, I watched Marshall play and thought about the future. Back then he was at Leopold’s Tavern, and I’d come to the crowded bar with a bunch of family after a long dinner full of conversations about politics and art. This is the sort of thing we might do more often if there were an apocalypse, I mused. We’d gather in some communal shelter, after a day of hunting and gathering in the trashed wastes. Then somebody from our family would start to sing. We’d raise our voices too, to take our minds off the famine and plague and wildfires.

But it’s also the exact kind of thing we’d do in a Utopian future. Imagine us surrounded by carbon-neutral farms whose plants are monitored by sensors and satellites. Our brains would be crackling with ideas, thanks to government-funded science education. After a productive day in the fields and the labs, we’d gather at the co-op watering hole and sing our brains out in agrarian socialist solidarity. We’d all sound great too, because we’d have optimized our vocal chords with open source biotissue mods.

Maybe it sounds a little strange to say that Marshall’s old-fashioned songs gave me these vivid, contradictory images of the future. But I see the future clearly in these anachronistic moments. If we can still hear traditional prairie music in a modern city bar, then it’s a kind of guarantee that people of the future will still be listening to us. As Marshall sang, I could imagine distorted bits of my own culture still alive in a world utterly transformed by time’s passage.

That’s why, about a year later, I asked Marshall if he’d write a country song inspired by my novel for a book trailer. When he’s not being a human jukebox, Marshall is a professional musician and tours with indie rock band Rah Rah, so he took my request pretty seriously (also, he’s just kind of a serious guy). He thought the idea of writing a country song about a robot was pretty weird, which was exactly why I liked it. It represented that blend of past and future I’d seen in the Regina music scene, but also in lots of places on the Canadian prairies.

This is a province that has world-class universities and high-tech farming right alongside small towns with one-room schoolhouses. Go to a bar in Saskatoon, and you’ll find scientists and poets drinking alongside farmers and workers from the oil fields. I’m not saying the blend of tradition and modernity here is perfect—Saskatchewan’s indigenous people still suffer from the historical injustices of colonial conquest. Canada’s past haunts its future, reminding us of ongoing conflicts and unhealed wounds.

I wanted to capture all of that in Autonomous, which is about how the future comes to the prairies, still soaked in the blood of historical crimes. So when I commissioned Marshall to write the Autonomous song, I said something like, “Make it kind of sad.” What he created with this song about the robot Paladin—who is chasing our protagonist Jack Chen across the prairies where she was born—is both funny and sad. In its exaggerated twang you can hear the self-satire of prairie humor, always laced with genuine humbleness. And in its lyrics you can hear a protest against injustice that arcs through time, from the great 19th century Metis rebel leader Louis Riel, to the enslaved robots of Saskatchewan’s future.

Through Marshall, I met Regina filmmaker Sunny Adams, who created the amazing visuals for this video. Sunny animated a kaleidoscopic blend of images from Autonomous: there are scenes from the Saskatchewan prairies and the boreal forest to the north, as well as the science and robotics that are our protagonists’ lifeblood. There are a ton of Easter eggs, too; for people who’ve already read Autonomous, Sunny’s donut machine animation will be shiver-inducing.

What Marshall and Sunny created in this music video can’t rightfully be called a book trailer. Yes, it was inspired by my novel. But it’s also very much the product of their imaginations. It’s an example of what I like to call Canadian prairie futurism. It doesn’t pretend we can have a future without honoring and coming to terms with the past.

Though I have a lot of family whom I love dearly in Saskatchewan, I grew up in California. I’ve spent a lot of time on the prairies, but that’s not the same thing as being from there, living through dozens of those cold, dry winters. I’m very aware that my perspective is colored by my outsider status. Luckily the people of Saskatchewan are usually kind to outsiders. After all, you can’t just leave a person outside to freeze.

Plus, Canadian prairie futurism isn’t just about the prairies—it’s about how the future is taking place everywhere. Tomorrow doesn’t come just to the Tokyos of the world. It happens in Lucky Lake, Saskatchewan. It happens in a suburb outside Vancouver called Richmond. It happens in Tallinn and Samarkand, but it also happens on farms, and in countries that don’t make the G20 cut. Nobody is left behind by the future. But not all futures are exactly the same.

When you watch this video or read Autonomous, I hope it inspires you to think about how the future is a humble place. It’s a patchwork quilt made with what we’ve salvaged from the past. Some swatches are assembled from self-cleaning nanofibers; others will always be stained with the blood of a not-so-distant colonial past.

The pirate Jack and the robot Paladin are living in a future that is full of biotech wonders, but whose people still live in slavery. They don’t dream of spaceships like Luke Skywalker did. They dream of freedom from bondage. It is a humble dream. But maybe it’s the most audacious one.

Autonomous is available September 19th from Tor Books.

Annalee Newitz is an American journalist, editor, and author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is the recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship from MIT, and has written for Popular Science, Wired, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She also founded the science fiction website io9 and served as Editor-in-Chief from 2008–2015, and subsequently edited Gizmodo. As of 2016, she is Tech Culture Editor at the technology site Ars Technica. Autonomous is Annalee’s first novel.

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Posted by Beth Mole

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Brenda Fitzgerald, the newly appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will consider allowing Coca-Cola to once again help fund the agency’s anti-obesity campaigns, according to e-mailed comments reported by the New York Times over the weekend.

Though it would be a turnabout for the agency—which ditched Coke funding in 2013—Fitzgerald's position shouldn't be surprising, as she has a controversial history of accepting funding from Coca-Cola. As health commissioner of Georgia from 2011 to this year, she accepted $1 million from the soda giant to fund an exercise program aimed at cutting the state’s childhood obesity rate—one of the highest in the country.

The exercise-based campaign seemed to fit well with Coca-Cola’s interests. The company has long appeared interested in shifting anti-obesity efforts toward improving physical activity levels rather than focusing on the role of diet, particularly sugary beverages. That’s despite many studies, including those by the CDC, that have found that sugar-loaded drinks are a prominent factor in childhood obesity, as well as the development of associated health conditions such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease. Nevertheless, in 2015, a Times investigation revealed that Coke had been secretly funding and orchestrating a network of academic nutrition researchers, which had a suspiciously keen focus on combating obesity with exercise while downplaying the role of sweetened beverages and excess calories.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Posted by Peter Bright

Enlarge / Who needs Aurich's artistic talents, anyway? (credit: Peter Bright)

The venerable Windows Paint program, known to many by the name of its executable, mspaint.exe, has been marked as deprecated in the forthcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, The Guardian reports.

Deprecation states formally that the feature is no longer actively developed, and it serves as a warning that Microsoft may remove the feature in a future release. Removal isn't guaranteed, however; there are parts of the Win32 API that have been deprecated for 20 years but still haven't been removed. It's possible that Paint will continue to ship with Windows in a kind of zombie state: not subject to any active maintenance but kept around indefinitely since it's self-contained and not a security risk.

Indeed, the end of the development of Paint is not going to surprise anyone who actually uses the thing; the last time it received any non-negligible improvements was in Windows 7, when its user interface was updated to use a ribbon control. Before that, it had an interface that had been largely untouched since Windows 3.1. As such, Microsoft's official deprecation is merely confirming something that was already obvious; it's not an indicator that anything has actually changed.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Posted by Ron Amadeo

Enlarge / Samsung's chip manufacturing business goes way beyond Exynos. (credit: Samsung)

A report from Reuters says Samsung Electronics plans to "triple the market share" of its foundry business over the next five years. Samsung plans to "aggressively add new clients," with E.S. Jung, head of the Samsung foundry division, telling Reuters, "We want to become a strong No. 2 player in the market" behind TSMC.

In May, Samsung officially created a new business unit for its growing foundry operations. The business unit will fight TSMC and Intel for orders from Apple, Qualcomm, and other SoC vendors.

Despite the recent creation of the business unit, Samsung has been doing foundry work since 2005 and is a major player in the high-end SoC space. It exclusively manufactures the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which goes into nearly every high-end Android phone. Samsung's foundry has also done business with Apple in the past, but for the A10 SoC, Apple went exclusively with TSMC.

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Posted by Jonathan M. Gitlin

Enlarge / Who needs connected cars when almost all of us drive around emitting Bluetooth signals? (credit: dion gillard @flickr)

One big promise of the connected car revolution has been the potential to help clear up traffic problems. When every vehicle and traffic signal is connected to the cloud, municipalities and local governments should be able to have a constant view of the traffic on their streets, aware of any problems almost instantly. The catch? It's going to take a long time before there are sufficient vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) or even vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V)-equipped cars on our roads. But the city of Aarhus in Denmark has shown you don't need to wait for V2x to finally penetrate the market to start doing that; all you need are outdoor Bluetooth sensors.

For some time, Aarhus has been using Bluetooth sensors to collect traffic pattern information. As people drive around, emitting Bluetooth signals, the sensors log their movements around the city. In doing so, their traffic patterns can flag and reveal problems that the city needs to fix.

Blip Systems

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Walkway

Jul. 24th, 2017 03:53 pm
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[personal profile] guppiecat

Walkway_1


Since the drought broke in southern California, they’ve had to add fences to keep the plants from taking over the roadways.




Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.
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Posted by Theresa DeLucci

So, taking the Iron Throne isn’t going to be as easy as striding into King’s Landing and demanding it, now is it?

This week saw some hard lessons for the ladies of Game of Thrones, just when it seemed they were going to be on top. (Exempt from this turnabout: Missandei.) Littlefinger’s gonna leer, Spider’s gonna keep swimming, and Theon’s gonna… Reek.

Spoilers for the currently published George R. R. Martin novels are discussed in the review and fair game in the comments. We highly suggest not discussing early preview chapters, but if you must, white it out. Have courtesy for the patient among us who are waiting and waiting (and waiting) for The Winds of Winter. Play nice. Thanks.

I suppose my brain is still too in the books, because I thought for sure the great “prize” Euron was planning on giving Cersei was a certain dragon-controlling horn. But, it’s probably more immediately pleasing for Euron to give his intended bride the Dornish snake-mom in open rebellion against the crown, who was also responsible for poisoning Cersei’s daughter.

So, even though I knew Euron’s haute couture fleet was out there somewhere, I was not thinking that he’d cross paths with Theon and Yara so soon. Even though parts of this episode felt a million years long. Time passes so strangely in Westeros.

But, while I still think it’s a bit unfair that Euron was able to pull off such a devastating ambush—watching four seasons of Black Sails has made me an armchair pirate—the sneak attack itself was terrifying and tense. Greyjoys gonna reave and rape. That last bit will be particularly concerning to Euron’s new captives, which most definitely include Yara and Ellaria, but also possibly Tyene? Please don’t make us watch.

I’m so conflicted; I hate Euron, but he killed 66% of the Sand Snakes, who I also hated. I used to be so pro-Greyjoy, but I am just not here for this swaggering kraken version of Euron. Euron is no Ramsay, who was no Joffrey. Euron’s not even a Viserys. At least Viserys provided a dramatic foil for Dany, so he served an important character function. It’s clear Euron’s going to be the new Big Bad of the season, fucking everything up for everyone with magical plot devices that I already hate. And the way they telegraph this fact is that Euron easily kills characters who, by rights, should be way more skilled in combat than him. Come on, I loathed the Sand Snakes, but it’s just insulting that they were taken out by such a Greyjoy.

A one-liner spewing Greyjoy, no less.

“Give your uncle a kiss.” I’d say this was the worst line in Game of Thrones history, but it came 10 minutes after Ellaria made a terrible innuendo about “foreign invasions” of Yara. Seven Hells.

Also rubbish? Cersei’s new anti-dragon defence crossbow. Okay, so I guess Dany’s dragons are Smaug now? What are the chances you can get that close to a direct hit on a dragon as it’s breathing fire down your neck? Cersei is so hilariously doomed.

Cersei doesn’t know it, but she can breathe a little easier on her throne for a few more episodes because Arya decided to go North once her bud Hot Pie (!) told her Jon is King of the North. It’s wild how there are people who exist in Thrones who know nothing about Jon Snow! I forget that. Arya’s whole demeanor changed.

Dany really doesn’t know Jon Snow and doesn’t seem open to the idea of a King of the North. But I’m sure after an initial meet-not-so-cute, she’ll fall under the spell of Kit Harrington’s curly hair and insane abs, like so many a woman, and all will be forgiven. I still think Dany is the Prince that Was Promised; Missandei correcting the translation of Melisandre’s prophecy was perfect. Dany may not wield a literal sword of light, but, what if she can control the arm who does? Everything else about Azor Ahai seems to fit the Mother of Dragons.

Meanwhile, Jon is not the best at inspiring confidence, which is why I have a hard time picturing him ultimately taking the Iron Throne at series’ end. King of the North, sure, but it’s clear his expertise is strictly in the North. He’s a war-time King, but not like Robert. While Dany may be naive to think she can so easily bring peace to the Seven Kingdoms, she’s more prepared for it and while I see some of that Targ madness creeping around the edges of her, she’s in battle-mode now herself. She needs to be the Dragon now, not a more nurturing mother. So, I agree with Olenna to an extent, but don’t want Dany to completely disregard clever men like Varys and Tyrion, either. As morally gray as both of these men are, I do believe they care more about the bigger picture of the small folk they want to govern.

Final Thoughts:

  • “That’s not you.” Nymeria! I loved that reunion scene. I loved how it echoed Ned Stark’s words to Arya way back when she was given a dancing instructor. You can’t domesticate a direwolf. Will Arya, like the Hound, ever be able to live a simple, domestic life after everything that’s happened to her? Will her encounter with her direwolf make her rethink her decision to go home to Winterfell? I sure hope not.
  • Last week, Game of Thrones ruined lentil soup; this week it’s chowder. Damn, the last two episodes’ editing was brilliant. But also I liked lentil soup and chowder.
  • Maybe there’s hope Jorah will live out his days in Dany’s Friendzone, after all, instead of a Valyrian leper colony!
  • Let’s put Littlefinger in a leper colony. Just, no. I’m glad Jon wasn’t going to take Littlefinger with him to meet Dany, but nothing good will come of him skulking around Winterfell with Sansa.
  • Oh, Theon. I was completely surprised but also not surprised that he chickened out on saving his sister, but it was definitely foreshadowed with Ellaria’s lame joke earlier in the hour. He will never be completely recovered from his trauma and I think that speaks to a certain mature delicacy of handling PTSD.
  • While Theon couldn’t find his courage, two other victims of years of systemic abuse as slaves took a great leap forward to confront their fears. I legit got a lump in my throat when Grey Worm talked about being afraid of Missandei and the vulnerability his love for her gave him, the bravest of the Unsullied. While this was the scene I felt went on a few beats too long—and the mature folks at my viewing party were annoyed that we never got a peek at what exactly was going on with Grey Worm’s worm because apparently it matters to some people—I’m going to give it a pass this time because I’m happy that these two finally got some sexy payoff. Isn’t it funny how Grey Worm did a Tyrion move without even knowing it? Now they really have something in common to discuss for a real conversation.
  • I got two takeaways from the Game of Thrones panel I managed to sneak into at San Diego Comic-Con: fans really love Gwendoline Christie and Varys looks SUPER WEIRD with hair. Watch the new trailer below:

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via raven or on Twitter.

quick update

Jul. 24th, 2017 08:29 am
morgandawn: (Cat Basket Going To Hell?)
[personal profile] morgandawn
am working on Vividcon plans. we just spent 4 days trying to trap an injured feral cat on our property (we were successful. or rather all the people who did the work were. I was cheerleading and getting sunburned) so we've fallen waaaaay behind.  and today we are off to see a specialist that we've been trying to see for 10 months (he travels doing medical research). and [personal profile] xlorp is in the midst of emergency coverage for 2 co-workers who are out on family leave/vacation. and....



jazzfish: "Do you know the women's movement has no sense of humor?" "No, but hum a few bars and I'll fake it!" (the radical notion that women are people)
[personal profile] jazzfish posting in [community profile] poetry
from The Creation of Éa, by Ursula K. Le Guin
(from A Wizard of Earthsea)

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk's flight
on the empty sky.

Music meme: day 15 of 30

Jul. 24th, 2017 03:31 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
A song that is a cover by another artist. I think this has to be Tori Amos' cover of I don't like Mondays, originally by the Boomtown Rats.

Tori Amos was I think the first musician I really got intensely into, beyond just enjoying the sound of somebody's music. The single Cornflake girl was on the radio a lot in the mid 90s, and I quite liked it but didn't have any context. Then I met MK when we were both up for Oxford interview, and became instant friends. He put a lot of effort into supporting me through a somewhat bumpy transition from sheltered child to independent person, including dealing with a bereavement that hit me really hard when I was 19. He's also responsible for introducing me to digital socializing (email, instant messenger, Usenet to an extent, and the wonderful world of peer-to-peer file sharing). And he played lots of Tori songs for me when I was sitting in the dark crying about letting go of childhood naive optimism. I bought Little earthquakes on CD, and had access to a lot of Tori's oeuvre for all of the 90s via not entirely licit digital copies. Not only Tori Amos, there was a lot of alt stuff especially goth that I picked up from [personal profile] doseybat, but Tori Amos was pretty much the soundtrack of inventing myself as an adult.

I don't like Mondays was almost a novelty thing in a way, recorded with a bunch of much less successful covers, of things like Smells like teen spirit which really doesn't work for Amos' musical style, most of which were never commercially released. This one did make it to Strange little girls, the concept album of gender-bent cover songs, which I was never fully convinced by. I haven't been strongly into Tori Amos' music since 2000, not that I think it's bad but it isn't part of my psyche in the way that the 90s material is. But anyway, it's a remix of a song written in response to a school shooting in the late 70s. The original is meant to be ironic, but it comes across as so inappropriately jolly that it often gets played on the radio as a joke song, here's one to cheer you up from your Monday commuting blues... Tori Amos' cover is a total reworking, without any irony at all, just sadness about a teenaged girl turning a gun on her schoolmates.

So it kind of epitomizes why Tori Amos meant a lot to me at that time in my life; she wrote and performed beautiful songs (she's a classically trained musician) about serious subjects which she took seriously. But that seriousness isn't about glorying in the violence and ugliness, it's about challenging it. video embed, audio only )

As a bonus, have kd lang's cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. It's a song that gets covered way too often, nearly always as a kind of soppy lovesong that really fails to do justice to the extremely powerful original. So basically I hate Hallelujah covers, except this one. Again, it's very different from Cohen's original, but it's an emotionally serious interpretation in its own right which doesn't cheapen its source material.

Paging Agent 007

Jul. 24th, 2017 03:07 pm
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History: is it about kings, dates, and battles, or the movement of masses and the invisible hand of macroeconomics?

There's something to be said for both theories, but I have a new, countervailing theory about the 21st century (so far); instead othe traditional man on a white horse who leads the revolutionary masses to victory, we've wandered into a continuum dominated by Bond villains.

Consider three four five, taken at random:

Mr X: leader of a chaotic former superpower with far too many nuclear weapons, Mr X got his start in life as an agent of SMERSH the KGB. Part of its economic espionage directorate, tasked with modernizing a creaking command economy in the 1980s, Mr X weathered the collapse of the previous regime and after a turbulent decade of asset stripping rose to lead a faction of billionaire oligarchs, robber barons, and former secret policemen. Mr X trades on his ruthless reputation—he is said to have ordered a defector murdered by means of a radioisotope so rare that the assassination consumed several months' global production—and despite having an official salary on the order of £250,000 he has a private jet with solid gold toilet seats and more palaces than you can shake a stick at. Also nuclear missiles. (Don't forget the nuclear missiles.) Said to be dating the ex-wife of Mr Y. Exit strategy: change the constitution to make himself President-for-Life. Attends military parades on Red Square, natch. Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

Mr Y: Australian multi-billionaire news magnate. (Currently married to a former supermodel and ex-wife of Mick Jagger.) Owns 80% of the news media in Australia and numerous holdings in the UK and USA, including satellite TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers. Reputedly had Arthur C. Clarke on speed-dial for advice about the future of communications technology. Was the actual no-shit model upon whom Elliot Carver, the villain in "Tomorrow Never Dies", the 18th Bond movie, was based. Exit strategy: he's 86, leave it all to the kids. Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

Mr Z: South African dot-com era whiz kid who made a fortune before he hit 30. Instead of putting his money into a VC fund he set his sights higher. By 2007 he had a tropical island base complete with boiler-suited minions from which he launched satellites and around which he drove an electric car: has been photographed wearing a tuxedo and stroking a white cat in his launch control center. Currently manufacturing electric cars in bulk, launching absolutely gigantic rockets, and building a hyperloop from Boston to Washington DC. Exit strategy: retire on Mars. Bond Villain Credibility: 9/10 (docked one point for trying too hard—the white cat was a plush toy.)

Mr T: Unspeakably rich New York property speculator and reality TV star, who, possibly with help from Mr X, managed to get himself into the White House. Tweets incessantly at 3AM about the unfairness of it all and how he's being persecuted by the false news media and harassed by crooked politicians while extorting fractional-billion-dollar bribes from middle eastern regimes. Has at least as many nukes as Mr X. Rather than a solid gold toilet seat, he has an entire solid gold penthouse. In fact, he probably has heavy metal poisoning from all that gold. (It would explain a lot.) Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

Mrs M: After taking a head-shot, M was reconstituted as a cyborg using a dodgy prototype brain implant designed by Sir Clive Sinclair and parachuted into the Home Office to pursue a law-and-order agenda. Following an entirely self-inflicted constitutional crisis and a party leadership challenge in which all the rival candidates stabbed each other in the back, M strode robotically into 10 Downing Street, declared herself to be the Strong and Stable leader the nation needs, and unleashed the world's most chilling facial tic. Exit strategy: (a) Brexit, (b) ... something to do with underpants ... (c) profit? Bond Villain Credibility: 6/10 (down from 8/10 before the 2017 election fiasco.)

I think there's a pattern here: don't you? And, more to the point, I draw one very useful inference from it: if I need to write any more near-future fiction, instead of striving for realism in my fictional political leaders I should just borrow the cheesiest Bond villain not already a member of the G20 or Davos.

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Posted by Judith Tarr

This part of the thought experiment is going to be tough, because if it was hard to set aside human assumptions about sex and violence, the ones about religion can be downright intractable. Just as it’s a given that sex must be an obsession and mass violence must be inevitable in a sentient species, it may be argued from the (Western, patriarchal) human model that every sentient species must worship some sort of god.

But is it a given?

When it comes to sex and war, we can observe equine behavior and extrapolate from it, but there’s no such evidence for belief in divine power. There’s no way to ask, and it’s not something we can deduce from behavior. Unlike dogs, who seem (to human eyes) to tend toward adoration of their human companions, horses maintain a certain distance. They may bond with a human, sometimes deeply, but it’s a partnership, a sense that each side meets the other halfway. Horses tolerate human behavior rather than try to emulate it; the human may join the herd, but the horse isn’t making an effort to join the human pack.

Herd order is a hierarchy, that much we do know, but it’s fluid and no one individual remains supreme. Age, illness, accident or predation will bring down the lead mare, and the lead stallion will eventually lose a battle and therefore his herd. He may die, or he may withdraw to a solitary existence, possibly with one or two mares who follow him when he goes. Or not.

(In one of those bits of synchronicity that often happens when a writer is at work, I just this moment received an alert about a study that concludes that there is in fact no totally dominant mare, and the stallion does not lead, rather he follows and guards the herd, rounds up stragglers, and generally acts to keep the group together. The overall order is remarkably egalitarian, and herd ranking is even more fluid than science had been led to believe. My own observation is that there are individuals with more confidence, who take the lead more often, and others who are more likely to give way, but again—it’s flexible. So: interesting, and hey, science!)

Would sentience bring with it the need to invent a god? There’s no way to answer that, but from what I know of horse behavior, I think probably not. But there might be other reasons for a religion-like structure to develop.

The purpose of religion in the cultures I’m aware of seems primarily to be behavioral control. Mandating some behaviors, forbidding others. Backing up the secular authority with the authority of a superior being or beings. Humans keep gravitating toward this, for reasons no one truly understands. Maybe it’s genetic, as that TIME magazine article supposes.

Belief in a god or gods might not happen in an equinoid society, but what we can postulate from terrestrial equine behavior is that ritual could definitely be a thing. Ritual might mark important events: raising and deposing stallions, embarking on or returning from enterprises, celebrating the birth of a foal, mourning the death of a herd member. It might also serve a more practical purpose.

Horses are creatures of habit. It’s a common saying among horsepeople, “If he does it twice, he’s always done it.” They like their routine and can become seriously disconcerted if it’s broken: a different route for the day’s ride, a pile of dirt that wasn’t in that corner before, a change in the feeding schedule, even something as seemingly minor as a different brush or a new halter. Change, a horse will tell you, is dangerous, and can be death.

That’s the prey animal in action. If something is different about the environment, there may be a predator involved. Since the horse’s best defense is flight, her first impulse will be to get the hell out of there. If it turns out not to be a Horseasaurus Maximus on the prowl for lunch, she can always circle back to what she was doing before.

Now, add to this that in confinement or under other forms of stress, horses can develop chronic behavioral problems such as pawing, weaving, pacing, or wind-sucking. Horses can manifest OCD, in short. They can get very, very focused and very, very ritualistic in their actions.

I could see ritual as a way of dealing constructively with these aspects of equine psychology. A “Fear is the Mind-Killer” ritual for panic attacks in new situations or when there are big changes in the environment. Desensitization rituals to prepare individuals or groups for travel or exploration. Even “de-rituals” for horses with OCD, to break them out of repetitive patterns and get them thinking in useful directions.

I think a lot of these rituals would be based on movement. Dance, if you will. Marches and quadrilles, whole herds moving in synchrony. Greeting and farewell dances. Mating rituals: stallions courting, mares accepting or rejecting.

Marriage, no, not in a polygamous species. But when a stallion wins a herd through ritual combat, he receives a formal welcome from the mares.

Do they invoke the Great Herd Goddess? Maybe not. But there is a clear connection among members of a herd. Horses are extremely sensitive to small shifts in movement, to changes in the air, to smell and sound but also to each other’s proximity. They’re energy beings to a high degree.

Acupuncture works on them, beautifully. So does Reiki, which a serious test of one’s modern Western skepticism. To watch a horse’s face just about slide off while a Reiki practitioner stands there with a hand half an inch from his neck is a very interesting experience. You can’t placebo a horse. Something is happening, and he’s showing it in clear and unambiguous ways.

So maybe, in a spacefaring equinoid, there’s a sense of the Great Overmind, the herd-connection that holds all the species together. Every individual is connected with every other. They’re singular selves, but also collective beings. The individual who separates permanently from the herd is regarded as a terrible deviant, and true solitude, the life of the hermit, is just about unthinkable.

Western-style religion in the sense of a moral framework might be comprehensible to an equinoid (though not the god part or the dogma part), but there are other practices that would make more sense. Consider that a horse only sleeps for about three hours a day. Her knees lock; she can sleep on her feet. She will lie down for short periods, up to forty-five minutes on the average, and she will go flat and even seem to be dead. She will dream.

The rest of the time she’s grazing, socializing, or dozing—or meditating. Meditation is a very horse-like thing to do. Being still or moving slowly, in rhythmic motions; existing in the moment, going deep inside or extending awareness all around one’s stillness. These are things horses do every day.

They make a meditation of dance, too. Air for them is like the ocean for a dolphin; their spatial awareness is acute, as it needs to be for an animal designed to function in a herd. A horse in motion for the sake of motion has an almost dreamlike expression, a deep focus on what his body is doing. Those big bodies are tremendously strong and balanced and athletic, and the minds inside them are very well aware of this. They take joy in it.

A human analogue would be yoga and similar practices. They’re not about gods or dogma, but about mind and body and their connection to the universe. A horse would get that. In fact I’m only half ironically convinced that my horses, especially the eldest one (she is very wise), are Bodhisattvas. They have that deep calm and that air of being at one with the world.

Imagine that in space. Would they proselytize? I doubt it. Horses tend to be self-contained; they don’t try to be anything but what they are, and I don’t see them trying to convince anyone else to be like them. But they would teach by example. Other species would want to join them, the way humans have managed to partner with horses through the millennia. (Sure, they’ve been indispensable as transport and as war machines, but the myth of the Centaur tells us a great deal about the subtext: that horse and human are one being.)

It’s an article of faith within the herd, that individuals have to get along. The group suffers otherwise, and loses its ability to fend off predators. I could see this extending to planet-wide herd relations, and proving useful in space. In a meeting of spacefaring cultures, the equinoids well might be the diplomats, the ones who make the connections, who smooth the way and resolve conflicts. And the dance performances would be amazing.

Judith Tarr is a lifelong horse person. She supports her habit by writing works of fantasy and science fiction as well as historical novels, many of which have been published as ebooks by Book View Cafe. Her most recent short novel, Dragons in the Earth, features a herd of magical horses, and her space opera, Forgotten Suns, features both terrestrial horses and an alien horselike species (and space whales!). She lives near Tucson, Arizona with a herd of Lipizzans, a clowder of cats, and a blue-eyed spirit dog.

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Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Children of Time Adrian Tchaikovsky Arthur C. Clarke Award

Summit Entertaiment and Lionsgate Pictures will bring Adrian Tchaikovsky’s science fiction novel Children of Time, with its Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning imagination and its shudder-inducing sentient-spiders premise, to the big screen. A recent press release from Pan Macmillan announces that the film rights have been optioned.

“I couldn’t be happier about this,” said Bella Pagan, Editorial Director at Pan Macmillan. “Adrian’s fabulous book has been optioned by a fabulous production company with an incredible reputation.”

The official synopsis for Children of Time, which took home the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2016:

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age—a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

Adrian’s more recent works include the fantasy trilogy Echoes of the Fall: The Tiger and the WolfThe Bear and the Serpent, and the forthcoming trilogy finale The Hyena and the Hawk, publishing in spring 2018.

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Posted by Eric Berger

Enlarge / SpaceX may be dumping the outer ring of 21 engines for its new Mars vehicle. (credit: SpaceX)

Last year, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared plans for his transportation system to send humans to Mars in the 2020s. But the fantastically huge rocket, with 42 Raptor engines and enormous technical challenges, seemed more like science fiction than reality. Then there was the small matter of who would pay the tens of billions of dollars to develop a rocket that had few—if any—commercial prospects beyond sending 100 people to Mars at a time.

Musk seems to have realized that his ambitions were a tad too ambitious in recent months, and has said he will release a "revised" plan for Mars colonization that addresses some of these technical and fiscal questions. Now, we know this discussion will come during the 2017 International Astronautical Conference in Adelaide, Australia, on September 29. And this weekend, Musk dropped a big hint about the change.

In response to a question on Twitter, Musk wrote, "A 9m diameter vehicle fits in our existing factories ..." And this is actually quite a substantial hint, because the original "Interplanetary Transport System" had a massive 12-meter diameter. By scaling back to 9 meters, this suggests that Musk plans to remove the outer ring of 21 Raptor engines, leaving a vehicle with 21 engines instead of the original 42. While still complicated to manage during launch and flight, 21 engines seems more reasonable. Such a vehicle would also have about 50 percent less mass.

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Posted by Ars Staff

Magic: The Gathering has expanded yet again with Hour of Devastation, a follow-up to Amonkhet that continues to riff on Egyptian mythology with a large helping of dragon-led apocalypse. We’ve drafted, built decks, and played a bunch of Hour of Devastation matches—read on for our review!

We’re also going to dive into some of the recent news around the game, including changes to set structure and release cadence, and the future of Magic’s digital offerings.

What happened to Amonkhet?

Hour of Devastation (HOU) is set on the world of Amonkhet (see our review of the original set for more info) as the prophesied “hours” arrive, momentous events that promised glory and eternal life. It turns out, though, that those events were the machinations of Nicol Bolas, the major antagonist of the set.

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Dear Crossovering Creator...

Jul. 24th, 2017 09:22 am
darthneko: siamese kitten reaching for toy ([personal] shiny!)
[personal profile] darthneko
Firstly - THANK YOU! Thank you for writing and/or arting for me! Crossovers and fusions are one of my biggest loves and I'm sure I'll be thrilled with anything you do, so thank you!

Likes, dislikes, bits of info... )

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