Brought to you by "ways I am not in point of fact permitted to open my poster"...
Brought to you by "ways I am not in point of fact permitted to open my poster"...
- which lubricants are least harmful to sperm
- that "aplomb", "plummet" and "plunge" all derive from the Latin word for lead, plumbum, which is why the chemical symbol for lead is Pb and also is why "plumbing"
- there is honest-to-gods a species of fish called the sarcastic fringehead (I'm so sorry, I've closed the tab, but I am absolutely certain I learned this from one of you, so please do take credit)
- ... it is possible to make the history of the user agent string funny
- how to install Linux on a dead badger
At the start of the game, players are given a fair and balanced selection of number blocks, which then get permuted in subtle ways as the game progresses.
Then Reiner Knizia produced Priests of Ra, which has a near-identical auction mechanic, using identical components, but the auction is for completely different tiles with different scoring.
This demonstrates that the auction mechanic is somewhat portable. Hmm…
What if it was applied to entirely different tile-based games? I could see it potentially working with almost any game where players draw tiles and find some more useful than others: Scrabble, Mahjong, Rummikub, Carcassonne… any other notable and good such games?
In discussing this elsewhere, someone needed reminding which game Carcassonne is. I blithely said it was the original game with meeples, then thought to check my facts. In the process I chanced upon Thirsty Meeples, a wonderful-looking boardgaming cafe. Only problem is, it's in Oxford. It's not often I'd rather be in The Other Place! Anyone fancy setting up something similar here? (-8
Astonishingly enough, he was wrong about everything. In particular, he literally claimed that children should be taught Esperanto instead of a natural language like French, because it's completely unfair and unreasonable to expect children to memorise tables of irregular verbs before they can have a conversation with their friends, and Esperanto doesn't require them to do that! It is, he said, ridiculous -- you give five-year-olds recorders, not bassoons.
(1) That isn't even how child language acquisition works (very different to language acquisition post-11, and third & subsequent languages are much much easier than the first couple),
(2) The reasons you don't give five-year-olds bassoons are that (i) they are extremely expensive, (ii) they're twice the height of most five-year-olds, and (iii) five-year-olds do not have the lung capacity because unlike violins where it is possible to make 1/8th-sizes at standard pitch by changing the tension of the strings the same cannot be said for a wind instrument,
(3) Actually giving 5yos recorders is preposterous, because while they're very easy to get a sound out of they're very hard to get a nice sound out of, see also "why on earth do we teach children to draw with wax crayons",
(4) There is absolutely no benefit from teaching children a constructed language rather than a natural language, especially not one that is not only so heavily based on Indo-European but the Romance family while claiming to give people an introduction to ~every language ever~,
(5) ... dudebro you just claimed Mandarin and Cantonese were IE languages I am so done with this conversation, please stop mansplaining linguistics to me and please for crying out loud stop encouraging schools to teach children Esperanto.
If you have ever heard me loudly exclaim bassoons are NOTHING like irregular verbs, you now know why.
See, e.g., linguistics blog Languagehat on the topic; I feel I should clarify that I'm Cambridge-educated and upper-middle class and I speak RP - but English is my second language and I speak a really weird hybrid of dialects in my first language, that combines the "standard" form of the language as legislated in the largest country in which it's spoken with forms of dialect that were definitely spoken in one very specific geographic area in the 1950s, but might well not have been since then. In my first language, spelling things the way I do is absolutely a political statement and will be interpreted as such, even though what it is in practice is "that's how my grandmother taught me to write". Just because the politicisation of Standard English is largely invisible to people for whom it is their first or primary language doesn't mean that the choice to use it (never mind attempts to enforce it) aren't political.
(Questions about the specifics I'm referring to re German etc welcome from you lot!)
What does that statement tell us? How are they similar? What insight do we gain from the comparison?
In fact, I just made it up, so it tells us almost exactly nothing. I couldn't even find any online data about how fast people typically write. Not in metres per second rather than words per minute, at any rate. I pulled the number out of my arse.
I'm not fond of analogies, and very wary of them when I encounter them. Then geraldinegoose complained that my posting last week contained several, and this was somewhat hypocritical given my attitude. On re-reading it I can only see one or two incidental ones. But that's by the by, because I considered my attitude to analogies a little more closely before I thought to make that check.
Analogies can be used for many purposes, and I think it matters a great deal how they're used. To me, the gold standard of an unexceptionable analogy is isomorphism: within its domain a pretty-much direct one-to-one mapping between examples of one thing and examples of another. Especially in mathematics, we know what to expect of an isomorphism and the relationship is strong enough that even a formal proof in one system is also a formal proof in the other.
But most analogies are rather more vague and approximate than that, meaning they can bring confusion or error as well as insight or clarity.
To take an example, look at the well known beginning of Psalm 23:
At the most straightforward level, this is a statement about God's protective nature towards us. But how compelling is it? I feel it's important to recognise that, while the analogy may be useful to someone wanting a ready reckoner for God's nature having already grasped something of it, the analogy is most certainly not direct enough to convince someone who is not already in agreement. Nobody (sensible) is going to say "Gosh, yes, previously I wouldn't have agreed that God is protective of me, but if you put it like that…"
Then again, this is in the Old Testament. It is speaking to a people who have been brought by their God through tribulations into a Promised Land and given a Covenant: if they obey God's law they will prosper and be protected; if not, they will suffer and die. Jesus's message in the New Testament, for example in Luke 21:10-28 is rather different: now God is protective of one's immortal soul, not of one's physical wellbeing in this life. Is the analogy quite as useful and relevant now? (Maybe the Lord is my sheep dip — unpleasantness now that, once endured, offers the promise of a better life hereafter?)
I heard a series of sermons about Psalm 23. It didn't address the contextual issue of how an analogy to the Old Covenant remained relevant to the new, which I felt was a pity. What it did do was extend the analogy by talking about sheep becoming cast down: stuck on their back unable to right themselves because of a heavy fleece or pregnancy, coupled with ending up in a hollow of some kind. If left like that, they lose circulation and die. We are — so the extended analogy goes — sheep liable to being cast down and in this respect also, the Lord is our Shepherd.
I'd not heard of sheep being cast down. I asked a vet and he hadn't either. The Internet does know of the phenomenon and, indeed, knows that a cast down sheep is also known as a riggwelter. I know that term, admittedly only via the Black Sheep Brewery beer which gets its name by a somewhat more direct, if frivolous, analogy.
Most of the hits I found was for people using the example of cast-down sheep in sermons. Hmm!
It seems the phenomenon is pretty uncommon. I found only two YouTube videos of it, a few still photos, one blog entry. Yet the analogy hinges on becoming cast down being a frequent and serious risk that, just as any sheep could become cast down and dependent on the shepherd, we must all rely on God or risk calamity in our lives.
But there are other notable aspects of the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. One is that, once upon a time, there was the Mouflon, the wild sheep, which survived as a species just fine without human help. The shepherd took an existing species and made it dependent.
Another is that the analogy is always to sheep, never to goats. Yet goats, you can call or lead; sheep have to be driven.
Neither of these, I submit, extend the analogy into areas that give any positive or accurate message to Christians. If anything, they're ammunition for detractors.
The trick with relatively weak analogies like this, it seems, is to know the answers before you start. Otherwise, if you take the analogy seriously you could come away thinking practically anything. As another way of thinking about a thing already understood, perhaps it helps. Perhaps. But I'm baffled as to why anyone ever thinks such an analogy would actually convince me of anything I didn't already agree with.
As a postscript, I recognise that there are important philosophical theological concepts that transcend the expressive power of human language. Zen addresses this problem with Kōans, neat little iron bars to drop across the railway line of thought. Where straightforward, straight forward, language fails, maybe analogies are needed. But even then the analogy either has to content itself with opening up ways of thinking about the issue, that the student might reach a conclusion by themself, or it has to carry some authority that is already recognised by the listener. It won't be inherently convincing.
PPS: Yes, I know I've created analogies between analogies. And indeed used a flagrant analogy of my own in that last paragraph. I've tried to steer clear of the pitfalls I've described and with a little luck I may even have succeeded. None of you are going to accuse me of saying Zen is ferrous and at least 1,435 mm long… right?
2. Preposterous hot chocolate. ("Gingerbread hot chocolate" - dark chocolate with misc spices; it's fab.)
3. Always and always and always, Mia's art, which is always and forever a blessing. (I have some siblings to that piece on my wall, one of which has hair of autumn trees and bluebirds; I should tidy that section of my room a little and give you all photos. It is the wall that contains art from Mia and art by elisem and other bits and pieces I've collected along the way, including a bundle of bay leaves from my mother's garden tied with a piece of gold-edged white ribbon, blessed by a priest on Palm Sunday, because Austria. It sits next to a photograph of the Moon and a scattering of rocks and my tiny sun and my most extravagant aloe vera, and I try to remember to incline my head before it every morning and say I will try to make good choices.)
4. I have read a small heap of short stories today, including Nghi Vo's Tiger Stripes and Song of the Body Cartographer (the former author I was introduced to via Long Hidden; the latter I hadn't come across before LonCon3, but she ended up being a deciding factor in whether I felt like attending a particular panel because she is that good).
5. I have Scalzi's Lock In now on my ereader, and I am looking forward more than quite makes sense to Ancillary Sword (which is still like a whole MONTH away, wow). Also super-endeared that someone's already started predicting that AS is going to be on the Best Novel Hugos slate for 2015!
6. My household. So many good things about it, including the general stream of amazing queers who do not give any fucks about any of the things. (Housemate's guest tonight was completely cool with me wandering out of my room wearing mostly a blanket, acquiring a plate of food from the hob, and disappearing back into said room having mostly gone "I AM WRONG NEW MEDS ARE NOT AGREEING WITH ME". It was pretty awesome.)
7. I am pretty damn stressed at the moment but my reaction seems to be "I need to grit my teeth and pull through this and This Too Shall Pass", rather than anything more... histrionic? Which, given my history, is an achievement of which I am very proud.
8. aaaaaaaaaaah mine's a size 40 (why are these classified under "Swimwear" WE SHALL NEVER KNOW) (on which topic, I only in the last few weeks realised that the "beachwear" vs "swimwear" distinction is one of function - one of these is not expected to actually be useful for anything involving physical activity beyond stretching picturesquely on a towel...)
9. I have been pretty good about Just One Thing-ing today - I got laundry put away, I got a significant amount of stuff moved through to recycling/bins as necessary, watered the aloe (which after nearly 2 months without was starting to wilt a little in places) etc.
10. More reading, I suppose - I have finally today got around to reading several poems I'd had open in tabs for ages, including a thing by Borges the title of which is translated as You Learn/Learning, and a thing by Rilke. (I am, I swear, going to get around to reading all my Rilke ebooks one of these days.) Nom, poems.
And now a tiny bit of python, I think, and then attempting sleep...
- Wire Guild, who make beautiful jewelry [website | Etsy]
- Elsewhen Press, a UK-based independent publisher specialising in specFic
- Jessica Meats
- Romy Wolf, Die Spione von Edinburgh series (Weltenschmiede Verlag)
... and there was definitely someone else - a small press who do books of poetry and also books of creepy and lots and lots of female werewolves? AUGH I seem to have lost their flyer that is DEEPLY irritating. If any of y'all can identify them for me I'd be super-grateful!
As it happens, it's about Facebook and is a bit of an eye-opener in its own right. But what mainly struck me was the list, three quarters of the way down, of techniques used for brainwashing. The article then added "I’m not ready to call Facebook a totalitarian thought reform organization. I am startled to find more alignment between Facebook’s behavior and these markers than I thought I would."
For me, the same sentiment applies to relatively mainstream religion.
Relatedly, I recall Neil Kinnock discussing that Labour Party rally in Sheffield in 1992. There was much to criticise about it, but one point he raised as having made him especially uncomfortable at the time was the motif of Kinnock and the shadow cabinet parading to the stage from the back of the venue, passing through an increasingly enthusiastic audience — he said it reminded him too closely of the Nuremberg Rallies.
And I am also reminded of Salvador Dalí saying "The sole difference between myself and a madman is the fact that I am not mad!"
Evangelical Christian churches use — in milder form — a great many of those techniques for brainwashing. For many, the church becomes the centre of their social life, and this has actually been advocated to me by a minister. There is a tendency to try to convince or reinforce via presentation as well as substance. There is the othering of people who don't conform. There is the somewhat selective awareness of science. The soundbites. The — as that list puts it so neatly — primacy of doctrine over person.
I realise there is great variability even within Evangelical churches. And any of the churches I've encountered only tend to be especially prominent in a handful of those ways. But I've seen enough of them in enough places to give pause for thought.
There is an argument that if one knows not just a truth, but the truth of truths, the Good News that, if accepted, means the difference between eternal life and eternal damnation, the imperative to evangelise about that truth is so great that the end justifies any means.
This feels dangerous to me, both doctrinally and pragmatically. Would it really be OK for a Church to take a leaf out of Hitler's book in terms of presentation? Is it a problem if the only difference between a Church and a cult is that they're not a cult?
In doctrinal terms, I am reminded of a sermon that I heard Rowan Williams give: God is ineffable. The temptation in envisaging a god of infinite might and lordship, Christ Pantocrator is in thinking of worldly power and imagining God as having that kind of power, only to an ifinite extent. Rowan Williams presented a compelling argument (more compelling than I'll be able to repeat here) for a perception of God coming in at right angles to our more usual ways of thinking about power and authority. It's not quite what we think it is; words can't quite describe it; we should be wary and tread carefully.
(The next hymn was "Crown Him With Many Crowns". I wanted to ask him afterwards what he thought of what seemed to me a deep irony, but grabbing a moment with a former Archbishop of Canterbury is harder than it looks.)
Also, Christ acknowledges that not everyone will listen. He tells his disciples, if ignored, to shake the dust from their feet and move on. What to make of that? On the one hand, it was a gesture laded with considerable significance in Jewish practice, so might be viewed as a low-tech first-century equivalent to proclaiming the gospel with a rock band and powerpoint slides. On the other, there's a definite message to step away and let matters take their course.
At a pragmatic level, I worry about the practical effects of even slight tendencies towards the by-any-means-necessary approach.
We live in a cynical age. There is a battle afoot between people clamouring for our attention, our hearts, our minds and above all our money; and people who, in self-defence, are alert to and suspicious of such techniques.
Non-Christians (hereinafter, in a good-natured post-ironic way, referred to as "heathens"), especially well-informed, skeptical heathens of a scientific mindset, are alert to being manipulated into thinking something rather than convinced of it substantively. A lot of what the average Church does to reach out to heathens will look like advertising to them. That's because it is advertising. Why would a rational person, seeing a board outside a Church saying "I am the way and the truth and the life." pay it any more attention than "Every Generation Refreshes the World" or "Just Do It"?
Conversely, what is the fate of someone who is convinced by "headology" rather than substance? Are they not now more susceptible to similar approaches from other organisations and people? One could take the approach that this doesn't matter provided they're Saved, but that assumes both that they're genuinely Saved and going to remain so (ooh — can of worms, there!) and that there's no better way for them to be Saved.
More subtly, I feel that many churches lose sight of what they're actually doing. Obviously, Churches should do many things, but if they take the attitude that evangelism is an extreme end that justifies extreme means, I feel they should be very careful to make sure both that they do apply those means to evangelism and that they refrain from applying them more broadly.
It seems to me that few of the messages Churches emblazon on placards and projector screens and song lyrics actually relate to salvation, redemption or Christ's distinctive moral message. As an agnostic, I have heard sermons I could agree with almost entirely. I have sat in a home group at which people were asked "if someone saw you reading a Bible in an airport departures lounge and asked what it meant to be a Christian, what would you say?" and heard answers that a Muslim could have given. Important though those messages may be, they are not at the core.
Similarly, I have seen the evangelical arsenal of techniques applied to topics far more specific than the core message. The moment one is Othering another denomination, seeking to drive a wedge between different groups of Christians on some doctrinal issue, perhaps even claiming those others aren't real Christians, it seems important to think even more carefully about whether the means are being used responsibly. At the pragmatic level, there is a risk that people who disagree about that peripheral issue will fall away from faith or, by seeing it portrayed as integral, never find faith in the first place.
It is often observed that the burden on those who lead a Church is a heavy one, in terms of their good character and in terms of what they teach. The burden might be even heavier than that — I'm not sure how they teach doesn't matter just as much as what they teach.
1. I have my desktop working again, and even looked up some more arguments I can apply to redshift for better screen colour temperatures.
2. While I did not learn as much about MySQL as I wanted, I have learned some.
3. I have made a tiny tiny dent in the towering pile of terrifying PhD work, which makes the future a little less scary. (I made it into work during normal working hours for the first time in three weeks yesterday. I barely made it out of my room today, but hey, so it goes. Have I mentioned round these parts that I'm a bit wrong at the moment?)
4. The necklace arrived in the post: it is deliciously heavy and does all the right things with body temperature.
5. I have dealt with the washing up. (Hello lovely housemate I hope the 3am washing up didn't bother you it seemed like the best option at the time.)
6. I have read a whole pile of book - finally got around to Long Hidden, and have several authors to follow up as a result (and have already read more Nghi Vo, who I think I am hoping to nominate for something Hugo-related).
7. Lock In arrives in e-book format tomorrow, entirely breaking my rule of "don't buy books, especially not books by straight white cis men, while the in-ereader to-read pile is over 50" (the exemption for "unless you're going to read it straight away" is only really supposed to apply to people who aren't... white men), but do you know what there's a fair chance I'll find it pleasing escapism, so.
8. In more "spending money will totally make me feel better, right?" news, I have Dealt With My Lack Of Post-It Notes, Thank You eBay. (The yellow gingko-leaf-shaped-ones are probably going to be for writing nice notes to myself and sticking up places; the pale blue square ones are for work when I want to use the whiteboard for three things at once.)
9. I am enjoying the rain.
10. I have not yet finished the pear-and-apple juice we have in the house, but the blueberries we finished earlier continued delicious.
How do attitudes to self-service checkouts in shops correlate with religion and/or political leanings?
There is a certain amount of discussion in the literature about phases in games: setup, mid-game, end-game, perhaps even more distinctive phases such as bidding and playing in Bridge, or the ages in Seven Wonders.
However, I have noticed that many games have a more gradual changing nature as they progress, relating to the abilities players have. Looking at what a player can do in one "turn" (whatever that might be) there are three properties that could increase or decrease:
- The number of actions a player can perform
- The variety of actions a player can perform
- The "power" of actions a player can perform
For example, in Settlers of Catan the amount players can do per turn gradually increases as their income improves, but there are the same five actions available throughout the game. Conversely, in Agricola the amount someone can do in their turn remains constant, but both the diversity of actions available and the power of those actions incrase.
In Blokus, players start with 21 pieces they can place, but once each is placed it's gone and their choice dwindles until nobody can make any more moves and the game ends.
While there are plenty of perfectly good games without such properties (Scrabble, Poker, Apples to Apples, …) I'm interested by how many of the games I really like exhibit such dynamism.
In Dominion, as the game progresses players can improve their deck, increasing the variety of things they do, the power of things, or the number of things. However, eventually, in order to win they must buy "victory" cards that actually score points. These clutter up the deck, reducing what is possible. However, perhaps the really intriguing aspect of Dominion is that each game a different "Kingdom" of ten piles of cards are set out for players to buy acquire in building their deck. The cards available can dramatically change the winning strategy: one game I might create an "engine" which means I gradually do more each turn than the previous, in another I might instead buy a handful of expensive high-powered cards. Maybe I try to build a deck that's resilient to my eventual accumulation of victory cards, but perhaps I instead try to mitigate the effect by the victory cards I buy. Or I try to buy enough cards to end the game early, never having to buy reams of victory cards at all.
That diversity may be part of what makes Dominion one of the very best games available.
kaberett: chris I have broken everything enough
kaberett: that alt+ctrl+f2
kaberett: doesn't give me a terminal
kaberett: please tell me you're impressed
Chris: this is the machine you just reinstalled, right?
kaberett: no this is the desktop
Chris: oh ok
Chris: so I mean it's possible that xorg.conf contains DontVTSwitch I guess?
kaberett: how did I do this
kaberett: it didn't ought to
kaberett: how do I fix the thing
kaberett: sorry the clarifying point
kaberett: is that it's failing to load the graphical desktop either
kaberett: which is why I'm even trying
kaberett: I AM GLAD YOU'RE IMPRESSED
Chris: but I mean, is it showing you some empty/faulty graphical screen which you then can't switch away from, or..?
kaberett: black featureless screen of d00m
Chris: (or something text based I mean)
kaberett: it briefly shows me a text-based login prompt
kaberett: which gets REPLACED
kaberett: by the BLACK FEATURELESS SCREEN
kaberett: never to be seen again
kaberett: ... there's the additional special
kaberett: (yes there's more)
Chris: those sure are some impressive sharks you've got there.
kaberett: (do you actually want to hear it)
kaberett: okay so
kaberett: I was fucking around with installing some more xserver-xorg packages
kaberett: on the grounds that the internet suggested that was a reasonable fix for the issue I'm having -- ... was having? -- with saving xorg.conf
kaberett: and nothing obviously broke
kaberett: ... until I went away to the kitchen
kaberett: ... and came back after the screens had gone to sleep
kaberett: ... whereupon um
kaberett: ... they wouldn't wake up again?
kaberett: I got a brief flash of background+mousecursor every time I hit space or moved the mouse enough to trigger
kaberett: ... you're proud
Wednesday 3rd - Celtic Music at the Théâtre du Château
Weekend 6-7 - festival of the Potters, including firing up the replica Roman kiln.
Weekend 20-21 Heritage Days
Many events, including exploring archeological digs and tours of châteaux, medieval town centres, windmills and watermills.
Sunday 21st - Medieval Fete
Petit Niort, Mirambeau