(no title)

Jul. 29th, 2015 09:38 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed
Cancer log 106: Funny cancer note. A few days ago, I noticed that the palms of my hands looked dirty. I had been doing a fair bit of gardening, but I wear gloves, and I was trying to figure out how dirt had gotten inside the gloves. Then I tried to wash it off, but even with soap, it didn't seem to be getting much cleaner. Confusing.

Then today, my doctor asked me to stick out my tongue, and said, "Yes, I noticed the hyperpigmentation on your hands, and there's some on your tongue too. It'll go away in a few weeks."


The Bridge at Q'eswachaka

Jul. 29th, 2015 08:25 pm
[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

Each year, using traditional Incan techniques, communities along a canyon in Peru rebuild a rope bridge that has been in continuous use for hundreds of years.

That you can take thousands of thin grass stalks and, through the careful application of engineering and hard work, make them strong enough to hold the weight of several people over a canyon still seems magical. (via cynical-c)

Tags: how to   Peru   video

(no title)

Jul. 29th, 2015 08:07 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed
Cancer log 105: On the plus side, I got several compliments at the cancer hospital today. I went bare-headed, just 'cause it was easier, and various medical personnel told me I looked great. More significantly, four or five different patients, all of whom were wearing wigs or head coverings, complimented me, and one in particular enthused about how brave I was. She was a woman in her 60s or so, and I'm guessing it would be much harder (emotionally) for her to go around bald than it is for me. Her wig was very fetching, but she said it was itchy and hot.

The things we do to ourselves.

emceeaich: A close-up of a pair of cats-eye glasses (Default)
[personal profile] emceeaich

In response to this bit where a libertarian lawyer chortles over a terrible Supreme Court decision, which includes this banality:

“[E]nsure that the position exercising those oversight powers believe in free market ideals.”

I must wonder whatever became of the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution?

[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

The Fibonacci Shelf by designer Peng Wang might not be the most functional piece of furniture, but I still want one.

Fibonacci Shelf

Fibonacci Shelf

The design of the shelf is based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ...), which is related to the Golden Rectangle. When assembled, the Fibonacci Shelf resembles a series of Golden Rectangles partitioned into squares. (via ignant)

Tags: design   Fibonacci sequence   mathematics   Peng Wang

(no title)

Jul. 29th, 2015 07:36 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed
Cancer log 104: Doctor's office update. White blood cells good, so no heightened infection risk; red blood cells good, platelets down a bit, not to worrying levels -- she says that's why I'm feeling short of breath on exertion. Breast exam very good, which I'm assuming means that as with last time, she's not feeling any lump.

We talked a little more about the schedule, and I was really disheartened to learn that there's a full year of herceptin infusions starting in October (overlapping with the six weeks of radiation). I was thinking that I'd basically be done with all of this by November, but instead, I have to go back every three weeks for another six-hour day here, until October 2016. The side effects should be the same as the early rounds, so relatively mild nausea that the meds should mostly take care of, and some days of tiredness.

It shouldn't be a big deal, but even though I knew there was going to be some follow-up hormone stuff, I thought it was basically pills I could take at home, so I've been thinking of it as a year of treatment, and now it's a lot longer. I felt kind of sick when she told me, and though I held it together until I got over to the clinic, when the nurse asked me how I was doing, I started crying. They brought me water and tissues, and pulled a curtain so I could cry in peace if I needed to. Hooray for kind nurses.

The oncologist said I did have the option of opting out of the year of follow-up herceptin, but none of her patients ever had -- she'd have to check, but she thought the studies showed doing that extra year of treatment correlated with a 50% reduction in recurrence. That's too big a number to dismiss. I'll cope, but a hard day. Wish I'd known about this from the beginning.

On Nóirín Trouble Plunkett's Death

Jul. 29th, 2015 06:49 pm
[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
I was devastated today to learn of the death of my friend Nóirín Plunkett.

This is a terrible thing and I am still shocked and saddened to learn of their death. (Per their profile, please follow their pronoun preferences and use "they".)

Some things to know about them:

Their bold honesty about being sexually assaulted at an open source software event moved us to action; it helped spark the creation of the Ada Initiative.

As Geek Feminism's wiki documents, they were facing tremendous legal bills because of a legal conflict with an ex.

They had just started a new role at Simply Secure, one that combined their open tech expertise with their writing and coordinating skills and their judgment and perspective.

When I was volunteering on the search for the Ada Initiative's new Executive Director, I worked closely with Nóirín and could always count on their wisdom, compassion, and diligence. I am so grateful, now, that I had a chance to collaborate with them -- I had hoped to work with them again, someday, in some organization or other.

One of the last times I saw them, they were crying with happiness over the passage of the Irish same-sex marriage referendum.

I don't want to end this entry because there is no ending that can do justice to them.

Gimme shelter

Jul. 29th, 2015 11:12 am
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
We all need shelter some of the time.

Hug or send your good thoughts to a feminist activist today

Or just anyone near or far.

Probability and Dice Wars

Jul. 29th, 2015 05:10 pm
[syndicated profile] kith_feed

Posted by Jed

There's this Flash game that I play called Dice Wars. It's sort of like a stylized and abstracted version of Risk.

(Note: it's pretty addictive. Fun, but can be a major time sink.)

I've been playing it intermittently for years. There was a time, a few months ago, when I won at least two-thirds of the time.

These days, I win less than half the time.

It seems unlikely that I've gotten worse at playing over time. I don't feel like my strategy has changed.

The game's code was written in Flash, years ago, so it seems unlikely that the computer-players' code has been improved; and the game doesn't keep a persistent state, so the computer players can't learn to get better over time.

Also, attacks that used to almost always succeed seem to be failing fairly often. For example, when I attack with 8 dice against 5 defending dice, I should have a 95% chance of success, but that attack seems to me to be failing about a third of the time these days. And when I attack with 3 dice against 2 defending, which should have a 77% chance of success, that seems to fail about half the time.

Thus, I am led inescapably to the conclusion that the way probability works has changed, and we're now living in a region of space where things have different probabilities than they used to.

(...To be clear: I'm joking. The answer is probably a combination of my strategy changing in subtle ways that I'm not aware of, and observer bias on my part. It's vaguely possible that the game relies on a random number generator that behaves differently on my current computer than it did on my old computer, but that seems unlikely—and if that's what's going on, then it seems like it should affect the computer players just as much as it affects me.)

(Update: I wrote this entry in mid-June, but didn't get around to posting it 'til late July. Sometime in July, the pattern I had observed went away, and I started winning most of the time again. Obviously this means that we've left the skewed-probabilities region of space. ...I also came up with another possible explanation, which is that even unlikely things happen sometimes; probability isn't a guarantee that the outcome will match the expected distribution.)

[syndicated profile] kith_feed

Posted by Jed

Google Contributor is an experimental system that allows you to directly financially support websites you visit. If you sign up for it, then Contributor charges you a small monthly amount (you set how much), and on some sites you see a thank-you message where you might normally see an ad; the site owner gets a tiny amount of money directly from you, to replace the money they might've made by showing an ad.

So it's kind of like a combination ad blocker and tip jar. It won't hide all ads, but the more you contribute, the fewer ads you see.

You can tell Contributor to reduce ads on all of the millions of sites that are set up to use the system, or only on the sites you specify, that you want to pay to support.

You even have some control over what you see in place of ads. By default, it'll be a thank-you message, but using advanced settings, you can (for example) replace ads with pictures of cats and kittens.

I'm a happy Contributor user; it's always a pleasure to be scrolling through some page and find a picture of a kitten. A nicer experience than seeing ads, imo. And I've always wanted a good easy way to financially support sites that I like.

If all this sounds interesting to you, sign up!

There are a couple of ad- and cookie-related settings that you'll have to set (they provide instructions on how to do that); I suspect some of you won't be willing to change those settings, and thus that you won't be able to use Contributor. I'm sorry about that. I was a little hesitant myself. But in the end, I decided that the system is valuable enough to me that I was willing to try changing those settings. If I change my mind, I'll change the settings back, and Contributor will stop working for me.

(Wrote this a week ago, but somehow forgot to post it.)

[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

A painting of fruit done by Giovanni Stanchi sometime in the mid 1600s shows that the watermelon has changed somewhat in the intervening 350 years.

Renaissance watermelon

That's because over time, we've bred watermelons to have the bright red color we recognize today. That fleshy interior is actually the watermelon's placenta, which holds the seeds. Before it was fully domesticated, that placenta lacked the high amounts of lycopene that give it the red color. Through hundreds of years of domestication, we've modified smaller watermelons with a white interior into the larger, lycopene-loaded versions we know today.

(via @robinsloan)

Tags: art   food   Giovanni Stanchi
[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

This video from the MTA shows some of the vintage technologies that are still in use to control many of the NYC's subway lines and how they are upgrading (ve. ry. slow. ly.) to safer and more reliable computerized systems. Some of control systems are more than 80 years old.

Whoa, after watching that, I'm shocked that the trains ever get anywhere at all. (via the kid should see this)

Tags: NYC   subway   video

Baahubali: The Beginning

Jul. 29th, 2015 09:15 am
rachelmanija: (Default)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
In brief, AMAZING. If it’s playing anywhere near you, run and see it immediately. (It only has about two more days left in the USA.) If not, see it on DVD when it comes out.

This is a difficult movie to review because I don’t want to give too much away. It not only has several surprising plot twists, but also a lot of gorgeous imagery that’s wonderful to see for the first time, when you don’t know it’s coming. So I won’t say much about the plot.

Baahubali is an original historical fantasy that plays out like it was based on an ancient myth. Though it doesn’t have the complexity of character or moral ambiguity or intellectual heft of The Mahabharata or Ramayana, those epics and other the ancient tales of India clearly inspired its epic scope, archetypal themes, and magical imagery.

Classic tropes from Indian legend – the boon, the rivalry between princes with disastrous consequences, the humble but loving mother who adopts a son with a destiny, the mountain in the clouds, the war formation the enemy doesn’t expect, the woman wronged who demands bloody revenge – all make appearances here, and are given their proper, larger-than-life weight. The hero reminded me of Bhima in personality and physique, but a number of incidents were clearly inspired by the life of Krishna. For instance, the baby held above the waters echoes Vasudeva crossing the flooded Yamuna to hide away the infant Krishna.

The song I linked in the last post is a version of a hymn to Shiva, the Shiva Tandava Stotram, which is attributed to Ravana. I’ll quote some of it because even in translation (by P. R. Ramachander), you can feel its power and beauty and sensuality. (Remember how magnificent it sounded in Telegu.) That is the sort of ancient writing, still living today, which inspired this movie.

The celestial river agitatedly moving through his matted hair,
Which makes his head shine with those soft waves,
And his forehead shining like a brilliant fire
And the crescent of moon which is an ornament to his head,
Makes my mind love him each and every second.

He, with the shining lustrous gem on the hood
Of the serpent entwining his matted locks,
He, who is with his bride whose face is decorated
By the melting of red saffron kumkum,
And He who wears on his shoulder the hide
Of the elephant which was blind with ferociousness,
Makes my mind happy and contented.

A lot of the movie walks the fine line between magnificence and camp, but even when it’s ridiculous, it’s gloriously ridiculous. This is what you get when you put together an extremely talented director steeped in Indian myth, a brilliant cinematographer determined to tell the story visually so even people who don’t understand the dialogue will love it, and a totally committed cast, and have them all go for broke. Sometimes this results in "Did somebody order a LARGE HAM?” hamminess. More often, it captures the larger than life spirit of myth.

When a woman reveals her secret plan for revenge, a strong warrior staggers backward from the force of it. A desperate prayer to Shiva is answered with a boon that allows a dying woman to walk underwater. A man whose destiny is to climb the unclimbable mountain falls a thousand feet, only to rise to climb again. A sleeping warrior on a riverbank, her arm dangling in the water, is seduced by a prankster lover who swims through schools of bright fishes to paint a tattoo on her hand. If you ask why he was in the river and where he got a set of underwater paints, you’re missing the point.

A lot of the power of myth is in its lack of naturalism. Events occur and choices are made not because of the realistic motivations of ordinary humans, but because archetypal stories are playing out. If Baahubali had been more realistic and less theatrical, it wouldn’t be half as magical.

It was the most expensive movie ever made in India, and while the CGI is occasionally a little shaky, it uses its budget to the max. When CGI first came upon the scene, I thought it would be used to create fantastical worlds and creatures – sense of wonder brought to sight. And sometimes it is, but more often it’s used to create big, pointless, repetitive explosions. Baahubali uses CGI to create beauty and wonder. Just look at the waterfall and the city in the trailer. The entire movie is like that.

(Plus blood-splattering battle sequences and bull-wrestling. I’m glad they put the disclaimer that no animals were harmed and all animal falls are CGI at the start of the film rather than the end, because otherwise I’d have been concerned.)

Though I’ve emphasized huge! Epic! Grand! In my review, there’s also lots of nice little touches. Many of the characters have marks on their foreheads, like bindi, which helpfully identify them when you’re trying to distinguish Magnificent Warrior Dude # 1 from Magnificent Warrior Dude # 2. (This isn’t usually difficult. They all look quite different, and also have different Magnificent Moustaches. But given my general terrible facial recognition skills, I appreciated it.) The hero has a coiled cobra, the mark of Shiva. A pair of princes are marked with a sun and moon. There’s a complete throwaway bit, lasting maybe five seconds, where a pair of bull-masked dancers butt heads, that is SO COOL. I also enjoyed the funny-on-purpose moments.

My only real criticisms are political rather than artistic. There’s a song/dance number where the hero melts the warrior heroine's icy heart via stylized fighting and pulling off her clothes. It’s clearly meant to be about him breaking her emotional barriers with his sincerity, sensuality, and passion. But, well. Not to mention the unfortunate implications of what was actually intended, where she embraces her femininity and warmth… and then totally forgets how to fight so he can rescue her. And then there’s the attack of the dark-skinned barbarians, with its own set of unfortunate implications.

In a more enjoyable use of traditional gender roles (traditional in India), there is not one! Not two! But THREE awesome middle-aged moms! One is a loving mother raising a son she doesn’t quite understand. One is a total badass who rules a kingdom with cool authority after taking on a regency with a baby in one hand and a bloody dagger in the other. The third initially seems passive, turns out to be anything but, and has one of the best scenes in the entire movie. (For the benefit of my one reader who’s actually seen Baahubali: a handful of twigs.)

Be warned: Baahubali ends on a very dramatic TO BE CONTINUED!!! Well, it is subtitled “The Beginning.” But I ate up all three hours and would have happily sat through three more. The first hour, especially, is pure magic. I haven’t felt so transported in a movie theatre since the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Rings.
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Chris Bertram

David Frum is a US pundit, who writes on US politics. So, being based elsewhere, I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to him. Unfortunately, today, somebody drew my attention to this article in the Atlantic in which he argues, as a prelude to some boilerplate anti-immigrant conservative points, that the people who are crossing the Mediterranean are economic migrants rather than genuine refugees. Although there’s a rather dismissive mention of Syrians at the beginning of the piece “just 30 per cent” (30 per cent of a large number is a lot of people), the message of the piece is clear. Frum calls in aid the Canadian journalist Doug Saunders, who knows his stuff and usually writes sensibly on immigration matters.

Here’s Frum (and Frum quoting Saunders):

Doug Saunders, a British Canadian journalist who has spent considerable time reporting from North Africa and the Middle East and who in 2012 published a book that was sympathetic to trans-Mediterranean migrants, rejects as “insidious” the notion that such migrants are fleeing famine and death. To the contrary, he wrote recently:

Every boat person I’ve met has been ambitious, urban, educated, and, if not middle-class (though a surprising number are …), then far from subsistence peasantry. They are very poor by European standards, but often comfortable by African and Middle Eastern ones.

What these migrants are doing is what migrants have always done: they’re pursuing a better life. But although migration is attractive to the migrants, it is unwanted by European electorates—and the tension between continued migration and public opinion is changing the Continent in dangerous ways.

I’d read the original Saunders article, which is rather good and which draws on research from the always impressive Hein de Haas, so I was surprised to see it quoted like this. I went back and took a look. The quoted passage comes after some earlier paragraphs in which Saunders writes:

What has compounded the matter during the past 24 months has been the conflict in Syria. While only a fraction of people fleeing that country have attempted to go to Europe – the vast majority are encamped in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon – that fraction has multiplied the numbers of boat people dramatically in 2014 and 2015. It now accounts for perhaps half of Mediterranean boat migrants (though the boat that was the subject of last weekend’s tragedy carried passengers almost entirely from sub-Saharan Africa). … “There should be no reason for Syrian refugees to be getting on these boats, except that there has been no proper pathway for safe refugee acceptance opened up,” Dr. de Haas says. If Western countries would take their United Nations refugee responsibilities more seriously, Syrians wouldn’t be dying at sea.

Is David Frum often this misleading in his use of sources?

The sounds of Voyager's Golden Record

Jul. 29th, 2015 02:43 pm
[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

When they were launched in 1977, the two Voyager spacecraft each carried with them a 12-inch gold-plated copper record containing images and sounds of Earth for the viewing pleasure of whichever aliens happened across them. NASA has put the sounds of the Golden Record up on Soundcloud. Here are the greetings in 55 different languages (from English1 to Hittite to Polish to Thai):

And the sounds of Earth (wild dogs, Morse code, trains):

What's missing from the two playlists is UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim's greeting:

...as well as several other UN greetings overlaid with whale sounds:

Due to copyright issues, also missing are the 90 minutes of music included on the record. Among the songs are Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry, The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, and Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground by Blind Willie Johnson. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles was originally supposed to be included, but their record company wouldn't allow it, which is pretty much the most small-minded thing I have ever heard.

  1. The English greeting was spoken by Nick Sagan when he was six years old. Nick is the son of Carl Sagan, who chaired the committee that selected the contents of the record.

Tags: audio   music   NASA   space   Voyager

(no title)

Jul. 29th, 2015 11:59 am
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed
Cancer log 103: Chemo today, the start of the slow decline. The worst of the effects will likely hit this Sat - Mon. After the previous treatment, two weeks ago, I'd say I only had two days (Mon / Tues this week) of feeling really normal. And chemo is cumulative, so I'm bracing for just basically feeling sick through the next four weeks. Some days better, some days worse.

I'm trying to focus on the positives. I got to the grocery store yesterday, so the freezer is well stocked up for a few weeks, at least; Kevin should be able to feed us without too much trouble, and if he's exhausted and we need to do takeout a time or two, we can afford it. I'm thoroughly stocked with books to read, video games to play, tv to watch; I have enough distraction for an army. Kev's working from home for the entire month, so if I end up basically in bed, he can cope with the kids and their needs. I've almost entirely cleared my schedule (just have about two hours of semi-urgent work to do), and my syllabi are prepped, so if I literally do nothing for the next month, it's okay. The house is very clean at the moment, so there's a chance it won't degrade too badly over the next month. Well, it will, as keeping it spotless is not Kevin's or the kids' priority, but it should be recoverable without too much effort.

I've basically prepared as well as I can think of for a month of sickness. Now, it's just a matter of living through it. Today's chemo is scheduled later than usual -- I don't go in until until 11:00, and will likely be home by 5 or so. So I have time to get a few things done before I go. Plan for the morning -- go out now and weed for an hour, come back and get the kids dressed and fed and to school / camp, send the Jaggery checks, tend to some gardening chores, order my course packs for fall semester, send back contracts for the Asimov's and Lightspeed sales. If I finish all that, then I really will be done and ready to just collapse for a month.

Profanity-laced tired rant

Jul. 29th, 2015 05:41 am
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
[personal profile] jewelfox

Can't sleep. Preoccupied with stuff.

Content note: Swearing, and way too much talk about miniatures, sexism, and messed-up unethical companies.

Read more... )

Bison Designs Last Chance Belt

Jul. 29th, 2015 09:00 am
[syndicated profile] cooltools_feed

Posted by mark

Once you start gaining weight, certain forces of physics start to come into play. Your belly tends to push down on your pants and regular belts become ineffective. This is because it is hard to tell where your waist is and you end up tying the belt beneath the waist at your hips. The solution to this problem is a belt that does not have holes but can be tied off anywhere. There are those leather belts that have holes all along them but they are not exactly business wear.

Enter the Last Chance belt. I like the one in gunmetal. Although originally designed for outdoor types this belt is simple and elegant. It also lets you tie off your lower half like a tourniquet so some judgment is required. I’ve used it for two years now and am very satisfied.

-- Edward G Iglesias

Bison Men’s Last Chance Heavy Duty Gunmetal Buckle 38mm Belt

Available from Amazon

The multiple feminisms

Jul. 29th, 2015 01:51 am
wired: Picture of me smiling (Default)
[personal profile] wired
One of the things that I am understanding is that there is no unitary feminism, at least not as a community. There is a plurality of feminisms.

I laughed at a bunch of GamerGaters who invented a fake feminist convention that claimed to support the principals of NOW - National Organization for Women. I am not saying NOW doesn't do work in the world, but they are not at all who I look to for my ideals.

There's the amazing and inspirational women doing racial justice work. The women working for reproductive justice. Old nuns fighting against nuclear arms and tween girls fighting to be on the football team. These are not all the same feminism. Some of them don't even like each other.

And you know what? That's ok.

It's ok that I don't have any kind of desire to participate in what I think of as Lean-In style corporate womanism. It's ok that founders of feminist organizations have messy corporate breakups. It is, it MUST BE, ok for women to screw up, to fail, to not succeed in being some kind of ideal everywoman.

It is a toxic belief that we are letting down feminism if we aren't performing every kind of feminism. It is a toxic belief that we have to do it all, and it is a TERRIBLE TOXIC BELIEF that we are always going to get it right. If we believe that about our heroines, and about ourselves, we have no room for patience and understanding when something inevitably goes sideways.

I don't want to live in a binary world of women who are doing good work and those who have failed. I would not be judged well in that world, and neither would many of the people I admire. I don't want women who are working on improving the world to be looking over their shoulder for the specter of failure, or down at their feet to see if the clay is crumbling. I want them (us) to be looking ahead, for what we can change, how we can help.

The flip side of saying that I don't want everyone to be judged by a single failure is that I do want us to be able to point out when things are going wrong. I want us to say, "That thing you are doing is hurtful to me. Can we change it?". I'm sorry for all the people who are crushed by the loss of the Michigan Women's Festival, but I also really appreciate all the people who tirelessly advocated for the inclusion of all women. I wish there had been a way to broaden the scope of the festival, but failing that, I think it's really valuable that people decided which of their priorities mattered most and decided based on that.

The reason I'm kicking up such a fuss about The Ada Initiative is that I hope we are still in the window where loving, concerned input can change an organization's direction. I would would much rather reform this strong existing base than create a splinter movement. But that depends on the response I get, and so far, it's not encouraging.

In lightbulb jokes, it only takes one psychologist to change a lightbulb, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

In theology, I'd rather reform the church than create a new one.

In open-source, I'd rather fix the bugs than fork the project.

But if it comes down to it, I'm willing to be one more feminism, that is slightly different than others. I want my feminism to do a lot of work with women, and extend imposter syndrome training to women who don't think of themselves as "being in technology". I want to do work with people to think about the worth of jobs that are not the technology pipeline. I want a midwestern kind of feminism, that doesn't focus so much of technology companies, but more on that iceberg of women who are doing technical work at places like Arctic Cat and healthcare companies and not-software. But that's me. I hope there is room for a plurality of voices, and I hope that I manage to listen to people who tell me when I'm screwing up.


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