April 20th, 2019
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll at 05:22pm on 20/04/2019
Who can turn a few reviews into epub books?
yhlee: wax seal (Default)
posted by [personal profile] yhlee at 02:59pm on 20/04/2019 under , ,
reading for Phoenix Extravagant

from The Met's essays on East Asian art (hat-tip to [personal profile] mecurtin

(yes i am literally reading my way through relevant-to-this-novel things in alphabetical order)

- Art of the Edo Period
- Art of the Korean Renaissance
- Art of the Pleasure Quarters and Ukiyo-e Style
- Asuka and Nara Periods (538-794)
- Buddhism and Buddhist Art
- Chinese Buddhist Sculpture
- Chinese Calligraphy
- Chinese Cloisonné
- Chinese Gardens and Collectors' Rocks
- Chinese Handscrolls
- Chinese Hardstone Carvings
- Chinese Painting
- Daoism and Daoist Art
- The Decoration of Arms and Armor [All my arms & armor books, including the ones that talked about decorative techniques, perished in the flood, FML.]
- East and West: Chinese Export Porcelain
- East Asian Cultural Exchange in Tiger and Dragon Paintings [Haha, I think of ones you can find in the tourist markets in Seoul going for a song. Elsewhere too, I'm sure.]
- Edo-Period Japanese Porcelain
- Folios from the Jami' al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles)
- Golden Treasures: The Royal Tombs of Silla
- Goryeo Celadon
- Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.)
-
Heian Period (794-1185)

for future reference:
- Chinese pigment [Wikipedia]

recently read, other
- Alison Green. Ask a Manager.
Picked this up on sale as an ebook a little bit back. I could have wished for less scattershot organization within chapters, although the chapters themselves were organized by topic (e.g. talks with coworkers, talks with your boss, etc.). Cannot comment on the efficacy of the advice since my job (writing sf/f freelance) is...idiosyncratic. My favorite parts were the far-out-there excerpted letters/answers (like the one about the woman who had a worker who was hexing coworkers she didn't like!!!); less practical to be sure, but I would have found an entire book of the wildest stories more entertaining for anecdote-gathering purposes.

currently reading
- Jason Shepherd. Learn Welsh Now.
A beginning Welsh ebook with linked audio files for pronunciation, which are still up and very handy. Chapters are short, with vocabulary lists, rough pronunciation guides, grammar tips, and quizzes. I'm slowly working through this as a supplement to Duolingo Welsh.
Mood:: 'phoenix!' phoenix!
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
Despite a late start, I slept nearly nine hours into this afternoon and dreamed about some lost episodes of a Twilight Zone-ish, Outer Limits-ish nonexistent TV show that awake I am somewhat saddened by, because changeling stories that end in death between worlds are not all that radical. I suspect I may have been influenced by the discussion surrounding the recent season finale of The Magicians.

I thought I should mention that I have blurbed Bogi Takács' forthcoming poetry collection Algorithmic Shapeshifting (Aqueduct Press). So has Ada Hoffmann. We both used the words "visceral" and "Talmudic," which should suggest something about the poems. It doesn't look as though copies are yet available for preorder, but e-ARCs for reviewers are an option.

The plan for the rest of the afternoon is to pick up a book from the library and meet [personal profile] rushthatspeaks for a movie and dinner. And then maybe go home and go back to sleep. I cannot stay asleep for a month, but I am really starting to wish it was economically and physiologically feasible.
Music:: Lowly, "Still Life"
rydra_wong: From the film "The Last Flight": hands holding a champagne glass containing a set of false teeth. (last flight -- teeth)

PSA

posted by [personal profile] rydra_wong at 04:58pm on 20/04/2019 under
YMMV, but I would commend the recent "In Our Time" episode on "The Evolution of Teeth" to the attention of anyone who would like to experienc some pleasant mild intellectually-stimulating body horror.

Features the term "skin-teeth". DID THE TEETH START IN THE SKIN AND MIGRATE INWARDS OR IN THE PHARYNX AND MOVE OUTWARDS. Also sharks. Lots of sharks.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0003zbg or iTunes or your podcatcher of choice
posted by [syndicated profile] johndcook_feed at 03:17pm on 20/04/2019

Posted by John

If and when large quantum computers become practical, all currently widely deployed method for public key cryptography will break. Even the most optimistic proponents of quantum computing believe such computers are years away, maybe decades. But it also takes years, maybe decades, to develop, test, and deploy new encryption methods, and so researchers are working now to have quantum-resistant encryption methods in place by the time they are needed.

What’s special about isogeny-based encryption?

One class of quantum-resistant encryption methods is isogeny-based encryption. This class stands out for at least a couple methods:

  • it uses the shortest keys, and
  • it uses the most sophisticated math.

Most post-quantum encryption schemes require much longer keys to maintain current levels of protection, two or three orders of magnitude longer. Isogeny-based encryption uses the shortest keys of any proposed post-quantum encryption methods, requiring keys roughly the same size as are currently in use.

The mathematics behind isogeny-based cryptography is deep. Even a high-level description requires quite a bit of background. I’ll take a shot at exploring the prerequisites starting with this blog post.

Elliptic curves

Elliptic curve cryptography is widely used today, and partly for one of the reasons listed above: short keys. To achieve a level of security comparable to 128-bit AES, you need a 256-bit key using elliptic curve cryptography, but a 3072-bit key using RSA.

Quantum computers could solve the elliptic curve discrete logarithm problem efficiently, and so elliptic curve cryptography as currently practiced is not quantum resistant. Isogeny-based encryption is based on elliptic curves, but not as directly as current ECC methods. While current ECC methods perform computations on a elliptic curves, isogeny methods are based on networks of functions between elliptic curves.

SIKE

NIST is sponsoring a competition for post-quantum encryption methods, and only one of the contestants is related to elliptic curves, and that’s SIKE. The name stands for Supersingular Isogeny Key Encapsulation. “Supersingular” describes a class of elliptic curves, and SIKE is based on isogenies between these curves.

Future posts

This post raises a lot of questions. First and foremost, what is an isogeny? Answering that would require at least one post of its own. And what are “supersingular” elliptic curves? That’s also fodder for at least one blog post. Then after exploring the most basic vocabulary, where does encryption come in?

My intention for now is to explore some of these basic concepts, but leave the description of the actual encryption method to the SIKE web site and its resource links.

Past posts

I’ve written several related blot posts leading up to this topic from two directions: post-quantum encryption and elliptic curves.

Post-quantum encryption links

Elliptic curve links

Posted by Andrew LaSane

Attacus Atlas

Glass artist Laura Hart (previously) uses a range of techniques to translate her love of plants and animals into meticulously crafted sculptures. For her “Butterflies” series, the artist has recreated rare species and subspecies from around the world with bright colors and symmetrical designs that perfectly mimic their natural muses.

Never recreating the same species twice, Hart casts the bodies of her one-of-a-kind insects using the lost wax molding and pate de verre kiln casting processes. Each delicate sculpture is around 18cm wide. A glass fusing method is used to make the realistic wings in stages, with intense hues and translucent sections outlined in black. The sections form tiny stained glass windows, altering the light that passes through and reflecting onto the tables and display stands. Sterling silver pieces are added to complete the sculptures, forming the legs, antennae, and proboscides of the colorful creatures.

To see more of Laura Hart’s glass works, check out the artist’s Facebook page.

Kaiser-i-Hind

Large Tree Nymph

Queen Alexandra Birdwing

Scarce Swallowtail

Spanish Moon Moth

Yellow Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll at 11:16am on 20/04/2019
andrewducker: (Default)
supergee: (hearts)
posted by [personal profile] supergee at 05:37am on 20/04/2019 under
The Case against Marriage Fundamentalism [The American Prospect]

Thanx to [personal profile] conuly
den: (Beer)
Longstocking Brewery Dark Ale

Pours a deep, almost opaque red. Very little carbonation visible and a very small head.

First sip: Strong malt, with chocolate, coffee flavours up front. Very little hops - enough to put a very mild woody bitterness on the swallow. None of the flavours last long. Mild carbonation tingle on the tongue. Quite warming in the belly.

I know it sounds a little insipid, but this is a very drinkable beer. It goes down well, maybe a little too fast, and leaves you wanting another sip as soon as you finish the last. The dark maltiness wants me to linger over the brew, but I find myself halfway through the glass in no time at all. This is a yummy beer which leaves you warm in the belly.

Make that 2/3 of the way through the glass.

Longstocking Brewery Dark Ale

Dark Ale
Longstocking Brewery, Pambula, NSW
4.8% alc/vol
330ml bottle

Same again, sir? Yes please! (bugger. Finished this one already.)

Posted by diamond geezer

This secret 'tube' map can bring ad-clicks to your media platform

Does your website need more traffic? Have you run out of fresh and exciting tube map variants to embed and surround with adverts? Well, your prayers have been answered because wow, look at this one.



Looks like a proper tube map, right? Wrong, because this baby is nothing less than a map showing all of the capital's main arterial roads. Mind blown.

That yellow ring in the centre isn't the Circle line, it's the Inner Ring Road, and likewise the outer orange ring isn't the Overground, it's the North and South Circulars. TfL's Network Management team have truly excelled with this one.



We love how some of the other colours match up too, like the Bakerloo-brown of the A41 sticking out to the northwest, the District-green of the A4 heading to Chiswick and the Central-red of the A12 aiming for Gants Hill. Damned clever these map boffins, what?

How many times have you listened to the travel news and wondered where Henlys Corner or the Target Roundabout actually are? Wonder no more! Also, how long has the world waited to see Chessington World of Adventures on an actual tube map? Job done!

Look closer and you'll see the map also includes Cycle Superhighways! Interestingly it doesn't show the superhighway along the Embankment, which might mean this map's older than it looks, so best not mention that when you tweet excitedly about how brilliant the 'new' map is.



Copyright is not important. The Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander tweeted the map last month which makes it 100% public domain, thus fair game to display on your website however and whenever you think fit. Cheers Heidi!

As a bonus, there's no need to waste time writing actual text to accompany the map. Lots of people responded to Heidi's original tweet so you can simply cut and paste their comments to provide editorial content.
Wow. Love the Yorkshire Grey/ Sutcliffe Park and Sun in the Sands bit!

Someone had some fun - unfortunately it makes driving look too easy. Having said that, grey out the main roads and colour up the cycle routes graded by Bikeability levels and infrastructure and I think you’d be onto something

Needs work - why no junctions on A316 after Apex Corner? Is that really the location of Hanworth - Hanworth Mount might be better description. Also, this only reinforces issues of severance and TfL prioritising vehicles over pedestrians on these roads incl. lack of safe crossings

Lovely map, but is TfL going to get any devolution of further rail services any time soon? Southern and Southeastern metro services perhaps? Moorgate?

How much you spend on someone making up this map? A few thousand pounds? Waste anymore money
But the most incredible thing is that London turns out to have two Apex Corners, one in Edgware and one in Hanworth. Who knew? There's also a Clockhouse Roundabout and a Clockhouse Junction, and somewhere in the suburbs to take the piss out of called Moby Dick, plus the inexplicable presence of Robin Hood, Charlie Brown and Queen Victoria. Your editor should be able to bash out an article really quickly.



Dash to it and grab the full size version of this amazing hidden secret map, and let's get clickbaiting.

Posted by cks

Yesterday I wrote that V7 ed read its terminal input in cooked mode a line at a time, which was an efficient, low-CPU design that was important on V7's small and low-power hardware. Then in comments, frankg pointed out that I was wrong about part of that, namely about how ed read its input. Here, straight from the V7 ed source code, is how ed read input from the terminal:

getchr()
{
	[...]
	if (read(0, &c, 1) <= 0)
		return(lastc = EOF);
	lastc = c&0177;
	return(lastc);
}

gettty()
{
	[...]
	while ((c = getchr()) != '\n') {
	[...]
}

(gettty() reads characters from getchr() into a linebuf array until end of line, EOF, or it runs out of space.)

In one way, this is surprising; it's very definitely not how we'd write this today, and if you did, many Unix programmers would immediately tell you that you're being inefficient by making so many calls to read() and you should instead use a buffer, for example through stdio's fgets(). Very few modern Unix programs do character at a time reads from the kernel, partly because on modern machines it's not very efficient.

(It may have been comparatively less inefficient on V7 on the PDP-11, if for example the relative cost of making a system call was lower than it is today. My impression is that this may have been the case.)

V7 had stdio in more or less its modern form, complete with fgets(). V6 had a precursor version of stdio and buffered IO (see eg the manpage for getc()). However, many V7 and V6 programs didn't necessarily use them; instead they used more basic system calls. This is one of the things that often gives the code for early Unix programs (V7 and before) an usual feel, along with the short variable names and the lack of comments.

The situation with ed is especially interesting, because in V5 Unix, ed appears to have still been written in assembly; see ed1.s, ed2.s, and ed3.s here in 's1' of the V5 sources. In V6, ed was rewritten in C to create ed.c (still in a part of the source tree called 's1'), but it still used the same read() based approach that I think it used in the assembly version.

(I haven't looked forward from V7 to see if later versions were revised to use some form of buffering for terminal input.)

Sidebar: An interesting undocumented ed feature

Reading this section of the source code for ed taught me that it has an interesting, undocumented, and entirely characteristic little behavior. Officially, ed commands that have you enter new text have that new text terminate by a . on a line by itself:

$ ed newfile
a
this is new text that we're adding.
.

This is how the V7 ed manual documents it and how everyone talks about. But the actual ed source code implements this on input is, from that gettty() function:

if (linebuf[0]=='.' && linebuf[1]==0)
        return(EOF);
return(0);

In other words, it turns a single line with '.' into an EOF. The consequence of this is that if you type a real EOF at the start of a line, you get the same result, thus saving you one character (you use Control-D instead of '.' plus newline). This is very V7 Unix behavior, including the lack of documentation.

This is also a natural behavior in one sense. A proper program has to react to EOF here in some way, and it might as well do so by ending the input mode. It's also natural to go on to try reading from the terminal again for subsequent commands; if this was a real and persistent EOF, for example because the pty closed, you'll just get EOF again and eventually quit. V7 ed is slightly unusual here in that it deliberately converts '.' by itself to EOF, instead of signaling this in a different way, but in a way that's also the simplest approach; if you have to have some signal for each case and you're going to treat them the same, you might as well have the same signal for both cases.

Modern versions of ed appear to faithfully reimplement this convenient behavior, although they don't appear to document it. I haven't checked OpenBSD, but both FreeBSD ed and GNU ed work like this in a quick test. I haven't checked their source code to see if they implement it the same way.

vass: Small turtle with green leef in its mouth (Default)
posted by [personal profile] vass at 01:52pm on 20/04/2019 under
They should call "reverse bangs" gnabs.
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
And tonight after all the guests from the seder had gone home we vacuumed the eleventh plague off the walls and ceilings of three different rooms, for it came in the form of tiny, tiny midges slipping through the window screens and homing straight for the lights and it was not as gross as the first plague or as fatal as the last, but it was impressively obnoxious. It was a good seder all the same. Every year is different and what matters is that you open the door to the stranger: let all who are thirsty have to drink, let all who are hungry be fed, let all who are enslaved be free. Next year in Jerusalem, next year in freedom as my mother says. Chag sameach, all.
Music:: Lowly, "Stephen"

Posted by cks

A Practitioner's Guide to System Dashboard Design is a four article series on system dashboard design by Cory Watson of One Mo' Gin. The parts are:

  1. Structure and Layout
  2. Presentation and Accessibility
  3. What Charts To Use
  4. Context Improvement

If you like these (and I did), you probably also want to read Cory's The CASE Method: Better Monitoring For Humans, and perhaps peruse the full articles index for additional things to read.

(Via somewhere that I've now forgotten and can't find again. Perhaps it was Twitter or Mastodon.)

April 19th, 2019
siderea: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] siderea at 09:00pm on 19/04/2019 under , ,
Maggid
By Marge Piercy

The courage to let go of the door, the handle.
The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very
stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles
of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast,
a child’s naughtiness, a loud blattering storm
that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.

The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill,
the small bones of children and the brittle bones
of the old whose marrow hunger had stolen;
the courage to desert the tree planted and only
begun to bear; the riverside where promises were
shaped; the street where their empty pots were broken.

The courage to leave the place whose language you learned
as early as your own, whose customs however dan-
gerous or demeaning, bind you like a halter
you have learned to pull inside, to move your load;
the land fertile with the blood spilled on it;
the roads mapped and annotated for survival.

The courage to walk out of the pain that is known
into the pain that cannot be imagined,
mapless, walking into the wilderness, going
barefoot with a canteen into the desert;
stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship
sailing off the map into dragons’ mouths,

Cathay, India, Siberia, goldeneh medina*
leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure.
So they walked out of Egypt. So they bribed their way
out of Russia under loads of straw; so they steamed
out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe
on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports—

out of pain into death or freedom or a different
painful dignity, into squalor and politics.
We Jews are all born of wanderers, with shoes
under our pillows and a memory of blood that is ours
raining down. We honor only those Jews who changed
tonight, those who chose the desert over bondage,

who walked into the strange and became strangers
and gave birth to children who could look down
on them standing on their shoulders for having
been slaves. We honor those who let go of every-
thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,
who became other by saving themselves.


* "Goldeneh medina", Yiddish, literally "Golden Land", idiomatically America
yhlee: icosahedron (d20) (d20 (credit: bag_fu on LJ))
posted by [personal profile] yhlee at 04:00pm on 19/04/2019
still rsi left wrist

plassyuing flight rising bc i can do that w right mouse hand

also sryth

& weirdly, ipad & pencil 2 drawing on procreate. last night: sketches of pike & enperoro georgiou

ara ius playing the game arsenal an fps w evil chickens. i thought of you, [personal profile] rachelmanija

oik, typing 2 hard. see y'all l8r
posted by [syndicated profile] montecookgames_feed at 05:19pm on 19/04/2019

Posted by Darcy Ross

Cypher Chronicles, vol. 15-2019

We return from far-flung corners of the galaxy to bring you news of the team from Star Wars Celebration, Your Best Game Ever, and some Kickstarters with MCG staff contributors! You can get Cypher Chronicles, and other MCG news, delivered right to your inbox! Enter your email address and click the Subscribe button in the right-hand column, and you’ll never miss a post.

The post Cypher Chronicles, vol. 15-2019 appeared first on Monte Cook Games.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll at 12:19pm on 19/04/2019 under
posted by [syndicated profile] digital_antiquarian_feed at 04:04pm on 19/04/2019

Posted by Jimmy Maher

Activision Blizzard is the largest game publisher in the Western world today, generating a staggering $7.5 billion in revenue every year. Along with the only slightly smaller behemoth Electronic Arts and a few Japanese competitors, Activision for all intents and purposes is the face of gaming as a mainstream, mass-media phenomenon. Even as the gaming intelligentsia looks askance at Activision for their unshakeable fixation on sequels and tried-and-true formulas, the general public just can’t seem to get enough Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush Saga. Likewise, Bobby Kotick, who has sat in the CEO’s chair at Activision for over a quarter of a century now, is as hated by gamers of a certain progressive sensibility as he is loved by the investment community.

But Activision’s story could have — perhaps by all rights should have — gone very differently. When Kotick became CEO, the company was a shambling wreck that hadn’t been consistently profitable in almost a decade. Mismanagement combined with bad luck had driven it to the ragged edge of oblivion. What to a large degree saved Activision and made the world safe for World of Warcraft was, of all things, a defunct maker of text adventures which longtime readers of this ongoing history have gotten to know quite well. The fact that Infocom, the red-headed stepchild a previous Activision CEO had never wanted, is directly responsible for Activision’s continuing existence today is one of the strangest aspects of both companies’ stories.



The reinvention of Activision engineered by Bobby Kotick in the early 1990s was actually the company’s third in less than a decade.

Activision 1.0 was founded in 1979 by four former Atari programmers known as the “Fantastic Four,” along with a former music-industry executive named Jim Levy. Their founding tenets were that Atari VCS owners deserved better games than the console’s parent was currently giving them, and that Atari VCS game programmers deserved more recognition and more money than were currently forthcoming from the same source. They parlayed that philosophy into one of the most remarkable success stories of the first great videogame boom; their game Pitfall! alone sold more than 4 million copies in 1982. It would, alas, be a long, long time before Activision would enjoy success like that again.

Following the Great Videogame Crash of 1983, Levy tried to remake Activision into a publisher of home-computer games with a certain high-concept, artsy air. But, while the ambitions of releases like Little Computer People, Alter Ego, and Portal still make them interesting case studies today, Activision 2.0 generated few outright hits. Six months after Levy had acquired Infocom, the preeminent maker of artsy computer games, in mid-1986, he was forced out by his board.

Levy’s replacement was a corporate lawyer named Bruce Davis. He nixed the artsy fare, doubled down on licensed titles, and tried to establish Activision 3.0 as a maker of mass-market general-purpose computer software as well as games. Eighteen months into his tenure, he changed the company’s name to Mediagenic to reflect this new identity. But the new products were, like the new name, mostly bland in a soulless corporate way that, in the opinion of many, reflected Davis’s own personality all too accurately. By decade’s end, Mediagenic was regarded as an important player within their industry at least as much for their distributional clout, a legacy of their early days of Atari VCS success, as for the games and software they published under their own imprint. A good chunk of the industry used Mediagenic’s network to distribute their wares as members of the company’s affiliated-labels program.

Then the loss of a major lawsuit, combined with a slow accretion of questionable decisions from Davis, led to a complete implosion in 1990. The piggy bank provided by Activision 1.0’s success had finally run dry, and most observers assumed that was that for Mediagenic — or Activision, or whatever they preferred to call themselves today.

But over the course of 1991, a fast-talking wiz kid named Bobby Kotick seized control of the mortally wounded mastodon and put it through the wringer of bankruptcy. What emerged by the end of that year was so transformed as to raise the philosophical question of whether it ought to be considered the same entity at all. The new company employed just 10 percent as many people as the old (25 rather than 250) and was headquartered in a different region entirely (Los Angeles rather than Silicon Valley). It even had a new name — or, rather, an old one. Perhaps the smartest move Kotick ever made was to reclaim the company’s old appellation of “Activision,” still redolent for many of the nostalgia-rich first golden age of videogames, in lieu of the universally mocked corporatese of “Mediagenic.” Activision 4.0, the name reversion seemed to say, wouldn’t be afraid of their heritage in the way that versions 2.0 and 3.0 had been. Nor would they be shy about labeling themselves a maker of games, full stop; Mediagenic’s lines of “personal-productivity” software and the like were among the first things Kotick trashed.

Kotick was still considerably short of his thirtieth birthday when he took on the role of Activision’s supreme leader, but he felt like he’d been waiting for this opportunity forever. He’d spent much of the previous decade sniffing around at the margins of the industry, looking for a way to become a mover and shaker of note. (In 1987, for instance, at the tender age of 24, he’d made a serious attempt to scrape together a pool of investors to buy the computer company Commodore.) Now, at last, he had his chance to be a difference maker.

It was indeed a grand chance, but it was also an extremely tenuous one. He had been able to save Activision — save it for the time being, that is — only by mortgaging some 95 percent of it to its numerous creditors. These creditors-cum-investors were empowered to pull the plug at any time; Kotick himself maintained his position as CEO only by their grace. He needed product to stop the bleeding and add some black to the sea of red ink that was Activision’s books, thereby to show the creditors that their forbearance toward this tottering company with a snot-nosed greenhorn at the head hadn’t been a mistake. But where was said product to come from? Activision was starved for cash even as the typical game-development budget in the industry around them was increasing almost exponentially year over year. And it wasn’t as if third-party developers were lining up to work with them; they’d stiffed half the industry in the process of going through bankruptcy.

To get the product spigot flowing again, Kotick found a partner to join him in the executive suite. Peter Doctorow had spent the last six years or so with Accolade (a company ironically founded by two ex-Activision developers in 1984, in a fashion amusingly similar to the way that restless Atari programmers had begotten Activision). In the role of product-development guru, Doctorow had done much to create and maintain Accolade’s reputation as a maker of attractive and accessible games with natural commercial appeal. Activision, on the other hand, hadn’t enjoyed a comparable reputation since the heyday of the Atari VCS. Jumping ship from the successful Accolade to an Activision on life support would have struck most as a fool’s leap, but Kotick could be very persuasive. He managed to tempt Doctorow away with the title of president and the promise of an opportunity to build something entirely new from the ground up.

Of course, building materials for the new thing could and should still be scrounged from the ruins of Mediagenic whenever possible. After arriving at Activision, Doctorow thus made his first priority an inventory of what he already had to work with in the form of technology and intellectual property. On the whole, it wasn’t a pretty picture. Activision had never been particularly good at spawning the surefire franchises that gaming executives love. There were no Leisure Suit Larrys or Lord Britishes lurking in their archives — much less any Super Marios. Pitfall!, the most famous and successful title of all from the Atari VCS halcyon days, might be a candidate for revival, but its simple platforming charms were at odds with where computer gaming was and where it seemed to be going in the early 1990s; the talk in the industry was all about multimedia, live-action video, interactive movies, and story, story, story. Pitfall! would have been a more natural fit on the consoles, but Kotick and Doctorow weren’t sure they had the resources to compete as of yet in those hyper-competitive, expensive-to-enter walled gardens. Their first beachhead, they decided, ought to be on computers.

In that context, there were all those old Infocom games… was there some commercial potential there? Certainly Zork still had more name recognition than any property in the Activision stable other than Pitfall!.

Ironically, the question of a potential Infocom revival would have been moot if Bruce Davis had gotten his way. He had never wanted Infocom, having advised his predecessor Jim Levy strongly against acquiring them when he was still a mere paid consultant. When Infocom delivered a long string of poor-selling games over the course of 1987 and 1988, he felt vindicated, and justified in ordering their offices closed permanently in the spring of 1989.

Even after that seemingly final insult, Davis continued to make clear his lack of respect for Infocom. During the mad scramble for cash preceding the ultimate collapse of Mediagenic, he called several people in the industry, including Ken Williams at Sierra and Bob Bates at the newly founded Legend Entertainment, to see if they would be interested in buying the whole Infocom legacy outright — including games, copyrights, trademarks, source code, and the whole stack of development tools. He dropped his asking price as low as $25,000 without finding a taker; the multimedia-obsessed Williams had never had much interest in text adventures, and Bates was trying to get Legend off the ground and simply didn’t have the money to spare.

When a Mediagenic producer named Kelly Zmak learned what Davis was doing, he told him he was crazy. Zmak said that he believed there was still far more than $25,000 worth of value in the Infocom properties, in the form of nostalgia if nothing else. He believed there would be a market for a compilation of Infocom games, which were now available only as pricey out-of-print collectibles. Davis was skeptical — the appeal of Infocom’s games had always been lost on him — but told Zmak that, if he could put such a thing together for no more than $10,000, they might as well give it a try. Any port in a storm, as they say.

As it happened, Mediagenic’s downfall was complete before Zmak could get his proposed compilation into stores. But he was one of the few who got to keep his job with the resurrected company, and he made it clear to his new managers that he still believed there was real money to be made from the Infocom legacy. Kotick and Doctorow agreed to let him finish up his interrupted project.

And so one of the first products from the new Activision 4.0 became a collection of old games from the eras of Activision 3.0, 2.0, and even 1.0. It was known as The Lost Treasures of Infocom, and first entered shops very early in 1992.

Activision’s stewardship of the legacy that had been bequeathed to them was about as respectful as one could hope for under the circumstances. The compilation included 20 of the 35 canonical Infocom games. The selection felt a little random; while most of the really big, iconic titles — like all of the Zork games, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Enchanter trilogy, and Planetfall — were included, the 100,000-plus-selling Leather Goddesses of Phobos and Wishbringer were oddly absent. The feelies that had been such an important part of the Infocom experience were reduced to badly photocopied facsimiles lumped together in a thick, cheaply printed black-and-white manual — if, that is, they made the package at all. The compilers’ choices of which feelies ought to be included were as hit-and-miss as their selection of games, and in at least one case — that of Ballyhoo — the loss of an essential feelie rendered a game unwinnable without recourse to outside resources. Hardcore Infocom fans had good reason to bemoan this ugly mockery of the original games’ lovingly crafted packaging. “Where is the soul?” asked one of them in print, speaking for them all.

But any real or perceived lack of soul didn’t stop people from buying the thing. In fact, people bought it in greater numbers than even Kelly Zmak had dared to predict. At least 100,000 copies of The Lost Treasures of Infocom were sold — numbers better than any individual Infocom game had managed since 1986 — at a typical street price of about $60. With a response like that, Activision wasted no time in releasing most of the remaining games as The Lost Treasures of Infocom II, to sales that were almost as good. Along with Legend Entertainment’s final few illustrated text adventures, Lost Treasures I and II mark the last gasps of interactive fiction as a force in mainstream commercial American computer gaming.

The Lost Treasures of Infocom — the only shovelware compilation ever to spark a full-on artistic movement.

Yet these two early examples of the soon-to-be-ubiquitous practice of the shovelware compilation constitute a form of beginning as well as ending.  By collecting the vast majority of the Infocom legacy in one place, they cemented the idea of an established Infocom canon of Great Works, providing all those who would seek to make or play text adventures in the future with an easily accessible shared heritage from which to draw. For the Renaissance of amateur interactive fiction that would take firm hold by the mid-1990s, the Lost Treasures would become a sort of equivalent to what The Complete Works of William Shakespeare means to English literature. Had such heretofore obscure but groundbreaking Infocom releases as, say, Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Head or Tail of It and Plundered Hearts not been collected in this manner, it’s doubtful whether they ever could have become as influential as they would eventually prove. Certainly a considerable percentage of the figures who would go on to make the Interactive Fiction Renaissance a reality completed their Infocom collection or even discovered the company’s rich legacy for the first time thanks to the Lost Treasures compilations.

Brian Eno once famously said that, while only about 30,000 people bought the Velvet Underground’s debut album, every one of them who did went out and started a band. A similar bit of hyperbole might be applied to the 100,000-and-change who bought Lost Treasures. These compilations did much to change perceptions of Infocom, from a mere interesting relic of an earlier era of gaming into something timeless and, well, canonical — a rich literary tradition that deserved to be maintained and further developed. It’s fair to ask whether the entire vibrant ecosystem of interactive fiction that remains with us today, in the form of such entities as the annual IF Comp and the Inform programming language, would ever have come to exist absent the Lost Treasures. Their importance to everything that would follow in interactive fiction is so pronounced that anecdotes involving them will doubtless continue to surface again and again as we observe the birth of a new community built around the love of text and parsers in future articles on this site.

For Activision, on the other hand, the Lost Treasures compilations made a much more immediate and practical difference. What with their development costs of close to zero and their no-frills packaging that hadn’t cost all that much more to put together, every copy sold was as close to pure profit as a game could possibly get. They made an immediate difference to Activision’s financial picture, giving them some desperately needed breathing room to think about next steps.

Observing the success of the compilations, Peter Doctorow was inclined to return to the Infocom well again. In fact, he had for some time now been eyeing Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Infocom’s last genuine hit, with interest. In the time since it had sold 130,000 copies in 1986, similarly risqué adventure games had become a profitable niche market: Sierra’s Leisure Larry series, Legend’s Spellcasting series, and Accolade’s Les Manley series had all done more or less well. There ought to be a space, Doctorow reasoned, for a sequel to the game which had started the trend by demonstrating that, in games as just about everywhere else, Sex Sells. Hewing to this timeless maxim, he had made a point of holding the first Leather Goddesses out of the Lost Treasures compilations in favor of giving it its own re-release as a standalone $10 budget title — the only one of the old Infocom games to be accorded this honor.

Doctorow had a tool which he very much wanted to use in the service of a new adventure game. Whilst casting through the odds and ends of technology left over from the Mediagenic days, he had come upon something known as the Multimedia Applications Development Environment, the work of a small internal team of developers headed by one William Volk. MADE had been designed to facilitate immersive multimedia environments under MS-DOS that were much like the Apple Macintosh’s widely lauded HyperCard environment. In fact, Mediagenic had used it just before the wheels had come off to publish a colorized MS-DOS port of The Manhole, Rand and Robyn Miller’s unique HyperCard-based “fantasy exploration for children of all ages.” Volk and most of his people were among the survivors from the old times still around at the new Activision, and the combination of the MADE engine with Leather Goddesses struck Doctorow as a commercially potent one. He thus signed Steve Meretzky, designer of the original game, to write a sequel to this second most popular game he had ever worked on. (The most popular of all, of course, had been Hitchhiker’s, which was off limits thanks to the complications of licensing.)

But from the beginning, the project was beset by cognitive dissonance, alongside extreme pressure, born of Activision’s precarious finances, to just get the game done as quickly as possible. Activision’s management had decided that adventure games in the multimedia age ought to be capable of appealing to a far wider, less stereotypically eggheaded audience than the games of yore, and therefore issued firm instructions to Meretzky and the rest of the development team to include only the simplest of puzzles. Yet this prioritization of simplicity above all else rather belied the new game’s status as a sequel to an Infocom game which, in addition to its lurid content, had featured arguably the best set of interlocking puzzles Meretzky had ever come up with. The first Leather Goddesses had been a veritable master class in classic adventure-game design. The second would be… something else.

Which isn’t to say that the sequel didn’t incorporate some original ideas of its own; they were just orthogonal to those that had made the original so great. Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2: Gas Pump Girls Meet the Pulsating Inconvenience from Planet X really wanted to a be a CD-based title, but a critical mass of CD-ROM-equipped computers just wasn’t quite there yet at the time it was made. So, when it shipped in May of 1992 it filled 17 (!) floppy disks, using the space mostly for, as Activision’s advertisements proudly trumpeted in somewhat mangled diction, “more than an hour of amazing digital sound track!” Because a fair number of MS-DOS computer owners still didn’t have sound cards at this point, and because a fair proportion of those that did had older models of same that weren’t up to the task of delivering digitized audio as opposed to synthesized sounds and music, Activision also included a “LifeSize Sound Enhancer” in every box — a little gadget with a basic digital-to-analog circuit and a speaker inside it, which could be plugged into the printer port to make the game talk. This addition pushed the price up into the $60 range, making the game a tough sell for the bare few hours of content it offered — particularly if you already had a decent sound card and thus didn’t even need the hardware gadget you were being forced to pay for. Indeed, thanks to those 17 floppy disks, Leather Goddesses 2 would come perilously close to taking most gamers longer to install than it would to actually play.

That said, brevity was among the least of the game’s sins: Leather Goddesses 2 truly was a comprehensive creative disaster. The fact that this entire game was built from an overly literal interpretation of a tossed-off joke at the end of its predecessor says it all really. Meretzky’s designs had been getting lazier for years by the time this one arrived, but this game, his first to rely solely on a point-and-click interface, marked a new low for him. Not only were the brilliant puzzles that used to do at least as much as his humor to make his games special entirely absent, but so was all of the subversive edge to his writing. To be fair, Activision’s determination to make the game as accessible as possible — read, trivially easy — may have largely accounted for the former lack. Meretzky chafed at watching much of the puzzle design — if this game’s rudimentary interactivity can even be described using those words — get put together without him in Activision’s offices, a continent away from his Boston home. The careless writing, however, is harder to make excuses for.

In the tradition of the first Leather Goddesses, the sequel lets you choose to play as a man or a woman — or, this time, as an alien of indeterminate sex.

Still, this game is obviously designed for the proverbial male gaze. The real question is, why were all these attempts to be sexy in games so painfully, despressingly unsexy? Has anyone ever gotten really turned on by a picture like this one?

Earlier Meretzky games had known they were stupid, and that smart sense of self-awareness blinking through between the stupid had been their saving grace when they wandered into questionable, even borderline offensive territory. This one, on the other hand, was as introspective as one of the bimbos who lived within it. Was this really the same designer who just seven years before had so unabashedly aimed for Meaning in the most literary sense with A Mind Forever Voyaging? During his time at Infocom, Meretzky had been the Man of 1000 Ideas, who could rattle off densely packed pages full of games he wanted to make when given the least bit of encouragement. And yet by the end of 1992, he had made basically the same game four times in a row, with diminishing returns every time out. Just how far did he think he could ride scantily clad babes and broad innuendo? The shtick was wearing thin.

The women in many games of this ilk appear to be assembled from spare parts that don’t quite fit together properly.

Here, though, that would seem to literally be the case. These two girls have the exact same breasts.

In his perceptive review of Leather Goddesses 2 for Computer Gaming World magazine, Chris Lombardi pointed out how far Meretzky had fallen, how cheap and exploitative the game felt — and not even cheap and exploitative in a good way, for those who really were looking for titillation above all else.

The treatment of sex in LGOP2 seems so gratuitous, and adolescent, and (to use a friend’s favorite adjective for pop music) insipid. The game’s “explicit” visual content is all very tame (no more explicit than a beer commercial, really) and, for the most part, involves rather mediocre images of women in tight shirts, garters, or leather, most with impossibly protruding nipples. It’s the stuff of a Wally Cleaver daydream, which is appropriate to the game’s context, I suppose.

It appears quite innocuous at first, yet as I played along I began to sense an underlying attitude running through it all that can best be seen in the use of a whorehouse in the game. When one approaches this whorehouse, one is served a menu of a dozen or so names to choose from. Choosing a name takes players to a harlot’s room and affords them a “look at the goods.” Though loosely integrated into the storyline, it is all too apparent that it is merely an excuse for a slideshow of more rather average drawings of women.

You have to wonder what Activision was thinking. Do they imagine adults are turned on or, at minimum, entertained by this stuff? If they do, then I think they’ve misunderstood their market. And that must be the case, for the only other possibility is to suggest that their real target market is actually, and more insidiously, a younger, larger slice of the computer-game demographic pie.

On the whole, Lombardi was kinder to the game than I would have been, but his review nevertheless raised the ire of Peter Doctorow, who wrote in to the magazine with an ad hominem response: “It seems clear to me that you must be among those who long for the good old days, when films were black and white, comic books were a dime, and you could get an American-made gas guzzler with a distinct personality, meticulously designed taillights, and a grill reminiscent of a gargantuan grin. Sadly, the merry band that was Infocom can no longer be supported with text adventures.”

It seldom profits a creator to attempt to rebut a reviewer’s opinion, as Doctorow ought to have been experienced enough to know. His graceless accusation of Ludditism, which didn’t even address the real concerns Lombardi stated in his review, is perhaps actually a response to a vocal minority of the Infocom hardcore who were guaranteed to give Activision grief for any attempt to drag a beloved legacy into the multimedia age. Even more so, though, it was a sign of the extreme financial duress under which Activision still labored. Computer Gaming World was widely accepted as the American journal of record for the hobby in question, and their opinions could make or break a game’s commercial prospects. The lukewarm review doubtless contributed to Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2‘s failure to sell anywhere near as many copies as the Lost Treasures compilations — and at a time when Activision couldn’t afford to be releasing flops.

So, for more reasons than one, Leather Goddesses 2 would go down in history as an embarrassing blot on the CV of everyone involved. Sex, it seemed, didn’t always sell after all — not when it was done this poorly.

One might have thought that the failure of Leather Goddesses 2 would convince Activision not to attempt any further Infocom revivals. Yet once the smoke cleared even the defensive Doctorow could recognize that its execution had been, to say the least, lacking. And there still remained the counterexample of the Lost Treasures compilations, which were continuing to sell briskly. Activision thus decided to try again — this time with a far more concerted, better-funded effort that would exploit the most famous Infocom brand of all. Zork itself was about to make a splashy return to center stage.

(Sources: Computer Gaming World of April 1992, July 1992, and October 1992; Questbusters of February 1992 and August 1992; Compute! of November 1987; Amazing Computing of April 1992; Commodore Magazine of July 1989; .info of April 1992. Online sources include Roger J. Long’s review of the first Lost Treasures compilation. Some of this article is drawn from the full Get Lamp interview archives which Jason Scott so kindly shared with me. Finally, my huge thanks to William Volk and Bob Bates for sharing their memories and impressions with me in personal interviews.)

posted by [syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed at 02:53pm on 19/04/2019

Posted by John Scalzi

I may be in London right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t still show off the new books and ARCs that came to the Scalzi Compound this week! Here they are. What here intrigues you? Tell us all in the comments.

Posted by Kate Sierzputowski

Miniature paper work by Nayan and Vaishali, all images courtesy of Paradigm Gallery

Miniature paper work by Nayan and Vaishali, all images courtesy of Paradigm Gallery

Subtle manipulations, intricate cuts, and ornate collages are a few of the various ways contemporary artists are transforming paper today. These techniques and more are displayed in the upcoming exhibition pa•per, curated by Paradigm Gallery co-founder Jason Chen and featuring artists outside of the gallery’s roster. The list includes Nayan and Vaishali (previously), the India-based duo who spend 4-6 hours a day crafting precisely sliced and painted miniature animals. Kent-based artist Sally Hewitt creates the illusion of a body’s impression on cartridge paper by gently prodding the material with needles, bodkins, and embossing tools. Other included artists like Danielle Krysa and Lizzie Gill use collage, while Rosa Leff cuts traditional patterns and imagery found on fine china into cheap paper plates. The exhibition, hosted at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia, opens on April 26 and runs through May 18, 2019.

Danielle Krysa

Danielle Krysa

Lizzy Gill

Lizzie Gill

Sally Hewitt

Sally Hewitt

Nayan and Vaishali

Nayan and Vaishali

Rosa Leff

Rosa Leff

Albert Chamillard

Lucha Rodríguez

Lucha Rodríguez

Daria Aksenova

Daria Aksenova

Posted by Sumana Harihareswara

This month a Recurser I know, Pepijn de Vos, observed a concentration of high-quality open source software in the developer tools category, to the exclusion of other categories. With a few exceptions.

I understood where he's coming from, though my assessment differs. I started reflecting on those exceptions. Do they "prove the rule" in the colloquial sense that "every rule has exceptions," or do they "prove the rule" in the older sense, in that they give us an opportunity to test the rule? A few years ago I learned about this technique called "appreciative inquiry" which says: look at the unusual examples of things that are working well, and try to figure out how they've gotten where they are, so we can try to replicate it. So I think it's worth thinking a bit more about those exceptional FLOSS projects that aren't developer tools and that are pretty high-quality, in user experience design and robust functionality. And it's worth discussing problems and approaches in product management and user experience design in open source, and pointing to people already working on it.

FLOSS with good design and robust functionality: My list would include Firefox, Chromium, NetHack, Android, Audacity, Inkscape, VLC, the Archive Of Our Own, Written? Kitten!, Signal, Zulip, Thunderbird, and many of the built-in applications on the Linux desktop. I don't have much experience with Blender or Krita, but I believe they belong here too. (Another category worth thinking about: FLOSS software that has no commercial competitor, or whose commercial competitors are much worse, because for-profit companies would be far warier of liability or other legal issues surrounding the project. Examples: youtube-dl, Firefox Send, VLC again, and probably some security/privacy stuff I don't know much about.)

And as I start thinking about what helped these projects get where they are, I reach for the archetypes at play. I'll ask James and Karl to check my homework, but as I understand it:

Mass Market: NetHack, VLC, Firefox, Audacity, Inkscape, Thunderbird, youtube-dl
Controlled Ecosystem: Zulip, Archive Of Our Own
Business-to-business open source: Android, Chromium
Rocket Ship To Mars: Signal
Bathwater? Wide Open? Trusted Vendor? not sure: Written? Kitten!



The only "Wide Open" example that easily comes to mind for me is robotfindskitten, a game which -- like Written? Kitten! -- does one reasonably simple thing and does it well. Leonard reflected on reasons for its success at Roguelike Celebration 2017 (video). But I'd be open to correction, especially by people who are familiar with NetHack, VLC, Audacity, Inkscape, or youtube-dl development processes.

Design: Part of de Vos's point is about cost and quality in general. But I believe part of what he's getting at is design. Which FLOSS outside of developer tooling has good design?

In my own history as an open source contributor and leader, I've worked some on developer tools like PyPI and a linter for OpenNews, but quite a lot more on tools for other audiences, like MediaWiki, HTTPS Everywhere, Mailman, Zulip, bits of GNOME, AltLaw, and the WisCon app. The first open source project I ever contributed to, twelve years ago, was Miro, a video player and podcatcher. And these projects had all sorts of governance/funding structures: completely volunteer-run with and without any formal home, nonprofit with and without grants, academic, for-profit within consultancies and product companies.

So I know some of the dynamics that affect user experience in FLOSS for general audiences (often negatively), and discussed some of them in my code4lib keynote "User Experience is a Social Justice Issue" a few years ago. I'm certainly not alone; Simply Secure, Open Source Design, Cris Beasley, The Land, Clar, and Risker are just a few of the thinkers and practitioners who have shared useful thoughts on these problems.

In 2014, I wrote a few things about this issue, mostly in public, like the code4lib keynote and this April Fool's joke:

It turns out you can go into your init.cfg file and change the usability flag from 0 to 1, and that improves user experience tremendously. I wonder why distributions ship it turned off by default?
Wikimedia and pushback: But I also wrote a private email that year that I'll reproduce below. I wrote it about design change friction in Wikimedia communities, so it shorthands some references to, for instance, a proposed opt-in Wikimedia feature to help users hide some controversial images. But I hope it still provides some use even if you don't know that history.

I wanted to quickly summarize some thoughts and expand on the conversation you and I had several days ago, on reasons Wikimedia community members have a tough time with even opt-in or opt-out design changes like the image filter or VisualEditor or Media Viewer.

  • ideology of a free market of ideas -- the cure for bad speech is more speech, if you can't take the heat then you should not be here, aversion to American prudishness etc., etc. (more relevant for image filter)

    • relatedly "if you can't deal with the way things are then you are too stupid to be here" (more applicable to design simplifications like Media Viewer and VisualEditor)

  • people are bad at seeing that the situation that has incrementally changed around them is now a bad one (frog in pot of boiling water); see checkbox proliferation and baroque wikitext/template metastasis

  • most non-designers are bad at design thinking (at assessing a design, imagining it as a changeable prototype, thinking beyond their initial personal and aesthetic reaction, sussing out workflows and needs and assessing whether a proposed design would suit them, thinking from other people's points of view, thinking from the POV of a newcomer, etc.)

    • relatedly, we do not share a design vocabulary of concepts, nor principles that we aim to uphold or judge our work against (in contrast see our vocabulary of concepts and principles for Wikipedia content, e.g. NPOV, deletionism/inclusionism)

      • so people can only speak from their own personal aesthetics and initial reactions, which are often negative because in general people are averse to surprise novelty in environments they consider home, and the discourse can't rise beyond "I don't like it, therefore it sucks"

  • past history of difficult conversations, sometimes badly managed (e.g. image filter) and too-early rollout of buggy feature as a default (e.g. VisualEditor), causes once-burned-twice-shy wariness about new WMF features

    • Wikimedians' core ethos: "It's a wiki" (if you see a problem, e.g. an error in a Wikipedia article, try to fix it); everyone is responsible for maintaining and improving the project, preventing harm

      • ergo people who feel responsible for the quality of the project are like William F. Buckley's "National Review" in terms of their conservatism, standing athwart history yelling "stop"

I haven't answered some questions: what are the common patterns in our success stories (governance, funding, community size, maintainership history, etc.)? How do we address or prevent problems like the ones I mentioned seeing within Wikimedia? But it's great to see progress on those questions from organizations like Wikimedia and Simply Secure and Open Tech Strategies (disclosure: I often do work with the latter), and I do see hope for plausible ways forward.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Posted by Robin D. Laws

In the latest episode of our merry, forest-dwelling podcast, Ken and I talk envisioning game writing in play, John Hays Hammond Jr, Robin Hood and alternate ecstasy history.

Posted by Kate Sierzputowski

A circular net in a bright shades of neon greens, yellows, and pinks hovers above the Paris-based shopping complex Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann in a new installation to celebrate the impending arrival of summer. The suspended playground gives visitors a chance to at once lay underneath the brilliant dome at the center of the building, while also watching shoppers bustling on the ground floor below. The installation is a part of the store’s Funorama initiative which in addition to the central play area, also includes “fun zones” such as old school arcade games, a VR experience, and foosball. Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann invites guests to play, bounce, and lounge on the colorful structure through June 9, 2019. (via fubiz)

Posted by Mary Ann O'Donnell

On March 23 and March 24, Handshake 302 brought the “Urban Flesh and Bones: Futian Edition” project to Shuiwei—one of our favorite urban villages. The Saturday tour was in Chinese and the Sunday tour was in English, but both tours were fully booked and even though the weather was overcast, everyone showed up. In fact, on Saturday afternoon, Handshake 302 led the tour in the rain!

The Shuiwei tour explores Shenzhen’s cultural geography from the perspective of water. We are interested in understanding how wells, rivers, and access to the Pearl River have shaped local history. For example, when Guangdong people want to know where someone is from they ask, “What water did you drink?” Shuiwei villagers answer, “I drank Shenzhen water,” referring to the Shenzhen River. In fact, the original Shenzheners came from Luohu and Futian Districts and the Hong Kong New Territories.

Shenzhen Bay was the geographic center of the “Weitou” cultural-linguistic community that stretched from Huangbeiling in the east to Xiasha in the west, and then continued as far south as Yuanlang and Tunmen. Shuiwei was a community that lived “surrounded by water.” They traded with fishing families, harvested salt at Lok Ma Chao, had fish ponds, and rice polders. Their most important source of potable water was a sweet water well.

Twenty years ago, people said, “Shenzhen has no history.” Ten years ago, people said, “The urban villages are dirty, chaotic, and substandard. Today, people say, “Tell me about the history of Shenzhen” and they go to the villages to learn about the city’s deep history. What’s more, the popularity of the “Urban Flesh and Bones” project suggests that many people care about this history.

Inquiring minds want to know: What’s changed our attitude towards local culture?

Today, Shuiwei is no longer “a small border village,” but a vibrant urban neighborhood. Shenzhen is no longer “Hong Kong’s backyard factory,” but a global IT hub. The people who come to Shenzhen are curious: what can the urban villages teach us about Shenzhen and modern society?

Click to view slideshow.
andrewducker: (Default)
posted by [syndicated profile] twentysidedtale_feed at 10:00am on 19/04/2019

Posted by Shamus

Players expect the game world to make sense. They want verisimilitude. They want carefully planned characters with believable motivations. They want arduous attention to detail.

Unless you’re talking about loot, in which case they think nothing of getting a $1,000 Longsword in exchange for rescuing a $5 pig.



Shamus Says:

Part of this joke was that the sign was supposed to be illuminated by a nearby torch or lantern. It was just one more nonsense trope to make the scene even more absurd. Who lights and refills this lantern and why?

I didn’t make it clear in my notes, and Shawn changed the lamplight to moonlight in the process of drawing the strip. This is the only change Shawn ever made that wasn’t an improvement. Since this was part of the punchline, it sort of took a bit of the “heh” factor out of the joke.

Then again, if it had been at all funny Shawn probably would have recognized it as such and included it in the joke, so…

Shawn Says:

I actually still find this one pretty funny. Not so much for the punchline, but for the dialogue leading up to it. But then, I’m a big fan of comics that just have characters acting naturally and the humor results from that, not neccesarily because you set up jokes and have a punchline at the end. (Get Fuzzy is easily my favorite example of what I’m thinking of.)

Also, people generally reacted very favorably to the silhouettes, which amused me as they’re so much easier to draw. I think after Clockworks ends in like 5 years, I’m going to do the Complete Shadowpuppet Adventures of Silhouette City.

EDIT 2019: No, I wasn’t getting paid by the word. Why do you ask?
supergee: (wile4)

Posted by Stilgherrian

Captain GetUp

In this episode, we explore the wonders of Australian democracy now that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called the federal election for 18 May, and Nicholas Fryer joins me to talk about truth and lies.

We talk about drowning, Donald Trump’s pick for the Federal Reserve, Bill Shorten, Tony Abbott, the alt-right, Fraser Anning, the Engadine MacDonald’s, bestiality, Clive Palmer, more bestiality, Mark Latham, Captain GetUp, coprophilia, Michael Hing’s One Asian Party, having a go and getting a go, and much more.

You can listen to the podcast below. But if you want all of the episodes, now and in the future, subscribe to the podcast feed, or go to SoundCloud or Spreaker.

Episode Links

Thank you, Media Freedom Citizenry

The 9pm Edict is supported by the generosity of its listeners. If you enjoyed this podcast, perhaps subscribe for special benefits or throw a few coins into the tip jar.

Thanks this episode to Peter McCrudden, and one person who chooses to remain anonymous.

Series Credits

supergee: (monopoly)
posted by [personal profile] supergee at 05:10am on 19/04/2019 under
The moneychangers are celebrating what they did to that guy who ran them out of the temple.
posted by [syndicated profile] dg_weblog_feed at 06:00am on 19/04/2019

Posted by diamond geezer

Hampstead's high on the list of London's most enticing neighbourhoods, and is always good for a visit. The High Street has a bohemian vibe, the backstreets are gorgeous and the Heath is extensively explorable. But if your day out needs a little extra, Hampstead is also home to half a dozen historic houses... just don't try to do them all in one go.

Fenton House
Admission £9.00 (free to National Trust members)
Opens at 11am (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
[website] [full-on blog report, 2017]


This is the eclectic/pretty one.



A fine old house on the higher side of town, Fenton House is a treasure trove of ephemera amid a gorgeous garden. Its last owner, Lady Binning, loved to collect porcelain of dubious artistic value, and the National Trust have used this as an excuse to cram the house with more porcelain, period tapestries and keyboard instruments. "If you hurry upstairs," said the guide at the door, "the harpsichords are about to kick off." The garden is on the large side for Hampstead, and exquisite, with an upper terrace and a lower orchard/vegetable garden which don't initially appear to be connected. At present the house and garden are overrun with middle class off-school children, and this weekend sees the annual Egg Hunt Weekend so stay well away, but avoid the holidays and Fenton is a truly genteel treat.

Burgh House
Admission free
Opens at noon (closed Mondays, Tuesdays, Saturdays)
[website] [full-on blog report, 2009]


This is the independent/museumy one.



At the heart of chalybeate Hampstead, Burgh House was rescued by local residents in the 1970s before it could be sold off as yet another private dwelling. They established a museum upstairs to tell Hampstead's story, filling two rooms, and later added an art gallery round the back. The main display doesn't change much, so they keep visitors coming back with additional exhibitions, which at present include a lovely paean to The Ponds on the Heath. Keeping the place ticking over is expensive, so the fact that weddings are booked every Saturday until next year really helps, plus what people really come for isn't the museum but the basement cafe. Its terrace teems with local life, politely poised over coffee and cake, but do step beyond to the enjoy the collection.

Keats House
Admission £7.50 (free to Art Pass holders, half price NT members, £2 Camden residents)
Opens at 11am (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
[website] [blog report, 2011]


This is the poetic/dreamy one.



The creative high point of John Keats' tragically short life came during his brief stay in Hampstead, precisely 200 years ago. In 1818 he took lodgings with his publisher on the edge of the Heath, in April 1819 the love of his life moved in nextdoor, and in 1820 tuberculosis struck and off he sailed to Italy. The house is now Keats House in Keats Grove, adjacent to Keats Community Library, and is operated as a visitor attraction by the City of London. It's very well done, essentially in setting an atmosphere because not much survives of Keats time' here other than letters and of course those odes. Sit here, listen to this, read these, and stand in the actual rooms where he wrote and slept. With three storeys-worth to explore and several bicentenary events planned, now is a great time to visit (just not next week when the house is closed for maintenance).

2 Willow Road
Admission £8.00 (free to NT members, joint ticket with Fenton House, £14.50)
First tour at 11am, explore independently from 3pm (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
[website] [full-on blog report, 2012]


This is the modernist/architectural one.



Hampstead's long had a creative left-leaning bent, so was the obvious place for Hungarian architect Ernö Goldfinger to build a house. Neighbours protested at his plan to replace a row of cottages with a box on concrete stilts, but today his home is thought worthy enough to be protected by the National Trust. Come early and you'll need to join a tour, kicking off with a seriously retro 1996 documentary in the garage, then following your guide up the spiral stairs into the house proper. The guide I got was excellent, buoyed by guests who asked pertinent questions, and gave us 15 minutes longer upstairs than we were due. Only the Goldfingers ever lived here so the place is a proper time capsule (Sony Trinitron in the lounge, tin of M&S ham in the kitchen, Rimmel eyeshadow in the bathroom), as well as being an pioneering exemplar of interior design. My third time round, but I still loved it.

Kenwood House
Admission free
Opens at 10am
[website] [full-on blog report, 2016]


This is the grand/arty one.



Kenwood House perches at the top of the Heath, surrounded by trees, and is the most-visited of the six. It was gifted to the nation by the Guinness family and English Heritage now use it to display the finer points of their art collection. That means florid portraits, including Vermeers and Rembrandts, but with plenty of other historical infill, and the Library is symmetrically gorgeous. When I dropped by yesterday upstairs had been roped off, which limited the attraction somewhat, and the sentinel at the door was attempting to flog the guidebook with coldcaller-levels of focused devotion. For most the cafe is the focus rather than the house, but Searcys don't come cheap so feasting on the paintings might be the wiser option.

Freud Museum
Admission £9.00 (half price for NT members, Art Pass holders)
Opens at noon (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
[website] [full-on blog report, 2009]


This is the thoughtful/psychological one.



It's also the only one I haven't been to this week, because you can't do them all in one go. But next time you go to Hampstead, pick one or more and make a great visit better.

Posted by cks

It is common to describe ed(1) as being line oriented, as opposed to screen oriented editors like vi. This is completely accurate but it is perhaps not a complete enough description for today, because ed is line oriented in a way that is now uncommon. After all, you could say that your shell is line oriented too, and very few people use shells that work and feel the same way ed does.

The surface difference between most people's shells and ed is that most people's shells have some version of cursor based interactive editing. The deeper difference is that this requires the shell to run in character by character TTY input mode, also called raw mode. By contrast, ed runs in what Unix usually calls cooked mode, where it reads whole lines from the kernel and the kernel handles things like backspace. All of ed's commands are designed so that they work in this line focused way (including being terminated by the end of the line), and as a whole ed's interface makes this whole line input approach natural. In fact I think ed makes it so natural that it's hard to think of things as being any other way. Ed was designed for line at a time input, not just to not be screen oriented.

(This was carefully preserved in UofT ed's very clever zap command, which let you modify a line by writing out the modifications on a new line beneath the original.)

This input mode difference is not very important today, but in the days of V7 and serial terminals it made a real difference. In cooked mode, V7 ran very little code when you entered each character; almost everything was deferred until it could be processed in bulk by the kernel, and then handed to ed all in a single line which ed could also process all at once. A version of ed that tried to work in raw mode would have been much more resource intensive, even if it still operated on single lines at a time.

(If you want to imagine such a version of ed, think about how a typical readline-enabled Unix shell can move back and forth through your command history while only displaying a single line. Now augment that sort of interface with a way of issuing vi-like bulk editing commands.)

This is part of why I feel that ed(1) was once a good editor (cf). Ed is carefully adapted for the environment of early Unixes, which ran on small and slow machines with limited memory (which led to ed not holding the file it's editing in memory). Part of that adaptation is being an editor that worked with the system, not against it, and on V7 Unix that meant working in cooked mode instead of raw mode.

(Vi appeared on more powerful, more capable machines; I believe it was first written when BSD Unix was running on Vaxes.)

Update: I'm wrong in part about how V7 ed works; see the comment from frankg. V7 ed runs in cooked mode but it reads input from the kernel a character at a time, instead of in large blocks.

posted by [syndicated profile] creativefidget_feed at 03:21am on 19/04/2019

Posted by chocolatetrudi

Post accessory overhaul, I had lots of repurposing and rehoming to do. Mostly rehoming, but I had put aside a few things to frog, unweave, or refashion. I also kept finding more scarves! All were in the craft room, already awaiting refashioning or frogging.

I didn’t want to add a pile of yarn to my stash. Neither did I want to turn everything into new accessories for me. I was fine with making some to give away, so that’s mostly what I set out to do.

One very long scarf was shortened to make two. A scarf, neckwarmer and two pairs of wristwarmers were frogged. A scarf was unwoven. Out came the circular knitting machines. I turned the neckwarmer and wristwarmer yarns into a beanies to give away:

I bought an extra ball of yarn so I could add pompoms to the ends of this scarf:

And I brought out the Knitters Loom and warped up to weave a honeycomb scarf using handspun from a frogged scarf as the feature yarn:

That left me with a ball of very colourful handspun and a batch of blue speckled alpaca to repurpose.

The blue speckled yarn has already been knit on the circular machines several times, and is beginning to feel a bit worse for wear. Though I love the yarn, I’ve just not loved anything I’ve made from it so far. Time to try weaving it, I think.

posted by [syndicated profile] johndcook_feed at 12:42am on 19/04/2019

Posted by John

The Mathematica function ExternalEvalute lets you call Python from Mathematica. However, there are a few wrinkles.

I first pasted in an example from the Mathematica documentation and it failed.

    ExternalEvaluate[
        "Python", 
        {"def f(x): return x**2", "f(3)"}
    ]

It turns out you (may) have to tell Mathematica where to find Python. I ran the following, tried again, and the example worked.

    RegisterExternalEvaluator[
        "Python", 
        "C:\\bin\\Anaconda3\\python.EXE"
    ]

You can also run Python with NumPy loaded using

    ExternalEvaluate["Python-NumPy", … ]

except that didn’t work the first time either. You have to register a Python-NumPy evaluator separately. So I ran

    RegisterExternalEvaluator[
        "Python-NumPy", 
        "C:\\bin\\Anaconda3\\python.EXE"
    ]

and then tried again calling Python code using NumPy. But then there’s the question of how it imports NumPy. Does it simply run import numpy, or maybe from numpy import *, or maybe import numpy as np? It turns out the first possibility is what happens. So to print pi from NumPy, your code string needs to be numpy.pi.

You don’t need to use Python-NumPy if you just do your own importing. For example, this code returns π².

    ExternalEvaluate[
        "Python", 
        "import numpy; x = numpy.pi; x**2"
    ]

And you can import any library you’d like, not just NumPy.

    ExternalEvaluate[
        "Python", 
        "from sympy import isprime; isprime(7)"
    ]

Everything above applies to Mathematica 11.3 and Mathematica 12.

April 18th, 2019
kalypso: Paddy at Oxford (Paddy)
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Bah

posted by [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll at 03:21pm on 18/04/2019
I think today will be the elderly dog next door's final day. Poor Dakota is very, very old for a dog and time has caught up with her.

Posted by Kate Sierzputowski

From the series Beyond the Border by Yoko Ishii, all images courtesy of the photographer

In Nara, Japan, Sika deer are not restricted to forests or parks, but rather mingle in the urban center much like humans—congregating in green spaces, browsing open shops, and even lining up neatly to pass through turnstiles. Although viewed as a burden in a most of the country, in Nara the deer population is sacred and protected by law. Beyond the Border, an ongoing series by Kanagawa-based photographer Yoko Ishii, captures the deer in everyday moments across the city, from collectively passing down a major street, to pausing to feed their young below a stoplight.

Ishii was inspired to photograph the ways the animals interact with common city infrastructure after observing a pair of deer paused at an intersection in 2011, and especially loves photographing them while the city is at its most bare. “These picturesque moments when early in the morning the deer can be found standing in the middle of desolate intersections, not bound by man’s borders and laws, yet inhabiting a man-made city is fascinating and inspiring,” she explains in a statement about her series.

Beyond the Border explores how the animals exist outside of the basic rules and regulations strictly crafted for the city’s human population, instead living free amongst the many pavement markings and stoplights. Ishii published a book of her photography titled Dear Deer in 2015, and will be included in this year’s Auckland Festival of Photography in New Zealand from May 31 to June 16, 2019. You can see more of her recent work on her website and Facebook. (via Īgnant)

From the series Beyond the Boarder by Yoko Ishii, all images courtesy of the photographer

yhlee: wax seal (Default)
posted by [personal profile] yhlee at 01:16pm on 18/04/2019
i have rsi flare so 1 hand typing only, will re[ply to ppl later

also hunkerted dowm due to tormado watch lol

styay safe ppl
rydra_wong: Doonesbury: Mark announcing into a microphone, "That's guilty! Guilty, guilty, guilty!!" (during the Watergate scandal) (guilty)
posted by [personal profile] rydra_wong at 07:07pm on 18/04/2019 under
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2019/apr/18/mueller-report-release-donald-trump-latest-news-live-updates-analysis-key-points

That's not exonerated! Not exonerated, not exonerated, not exonerated!!

11 instances of obstruction, oh my. And that looks a lot like a Scottish verdict on the collusion, too.
rathany: (Default)


[community profile] urbanfantasy: For lovers of Urban Fantasy

posted by [syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed at 04:39pm on 18/04/2019

Posted by John Scalzi

This fabulous person who also happens to be my wife is celebrating a birthday today, and in the UK, no less. If you wished to convey your birthday felicitations to her, I would not look askance upon it. She’s the best person I know.

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