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Nov. 26th, 2014 @ 09:56 pm Minor DIY - hanging rail in sliding wardrobe
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One of the very minor DIY bits we said we'd do is replace some of the shelves in the sliding wardrobe with a hanging rail for clothes. I think that's really simple but I've not done even that much before.

As best as I can tell, the wood shelves are simply screwed to the wood supports and could be unscrewed and lifted off. And the rail could rest on the top support (or would it be better to get one of the rail-ends which screws into the wood at the side? But then it has to fit to the mm?)

So that means, just get a metal tube 91 cm long. Is that about right? Am I missing any obvious problems?

If so, what's the easiest way for that -- to go to homebase? Or would Mackay's be nicer? Or easier to order online?

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Nov. 25th, 2014 @ 02:02 pm Recent media
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Hunger Games: Catching Fire (film)

I thought this was done fairly well, but I still thought that it was undermined by the fact that everyone was lying to her all the way through, it made the middle bits so different in retrospect in way which doesn't really seem to be acknowledged.

Mirage, Matt Ruff

I read this for Bug's book club and then had a clashing engagement and couldn't go.

About an alternate world where there's a United States of Arabia instead of United States of America and 9/11 happens in reverse. I liked a lot of the characters, but lost interest in what was going to happen half way through.

It was a lot less fail-some than I expected, and made some good points about some of the problems in how many arabic countries are seen. But I thought the mirror-image conceit was pushed too hard, in a way which reinforces an idea that America=civilised and middle-east=not, which isn't what we want to reinforce.

I agreed with Rmc's review http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/555077.html which said it better than I have time for.

The Demon's Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan

I enjoyed this. I think I saw SRB doing something cool online or at a con and found the book from there, but I don't recall exactly how.

Magicians main power is summoning demons, which always must be imprisoned in circles. This is a quick path to the dark side because they need to feed on people. Some people have lesser magic powers, but it's hard to compete. About the main character and his brother, and traumatised almost-silent mother, moving from city to city intermittently trying to have a normal school life while being intermittently found and hunted down by circles of magicians.

It's a YA-type book which I find slightly reminiscent of DWJ (with imperfect relationships between teens and discovering a lot of things which were evident but the main character was oblivious to), which is a good start.

I was left wanting something chewier, and more "lexicon", but I enjoyed it. I don't know how it would compare for someone closer in age to the protagonists.

Shadowboxer, Tricia Sullivan

Somewhere I was recommended several female-protagonist urban-fantasy combat-sports books, the last being Jacqueline Carey's Santa Olivia about a faux-werewolf boxer.

I'm only 2/3 of the way through this. About a just-under-18 girl with a large temper and chequered history as an up-and-coming Mixed-Martial-Arts fighter, who punches someone at the wrong time and takes a sabbatical at her manager's cousin's gym in Thailand, fighting Muay Thai. Mixed up with the story with magic about the eternal forest, and a fostered girl escaping her immortality-seeking guardian, starting from Thailand but later returning back to America.

I loved the main character and MMA/Muay Thai, which has small touches of magic, which are well done as relevant but deniable, but is mostly about her real life. The secondary characters are vivid, and the main character comes across well as someone sympathetic but with a real anger problem.

The other thread was well described but I found less engaging, as I'm already convinced that 99% of fictional orphans warring against evil magicians automatically prevail, whereas I was genuinely unsure about the fights.

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Nov. 24th, 2014 @ 09:21 pm Password reset
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AGAIN I went through the steps to recover my username, reset my password, play twenty questions to discover what the actual requirements on my password are, be unable to set it, discover that the problem is "same as previous password", go back to log in screen and log in.

Is there a reason websites that have a morass of password restrictions don't show them on the LOGIN screen, so you can remember what constraints you had to deform your password to meet? Is it sheer hatred for humanity? Or just incompetence? Or better, why not accept that I don't care about your stupid insecure grasping website and give me a one-time log-in code to my actual email address, rather than forcing me to pretend that because I had to use your site once, it will automatically become my primary email address? I guess that last question answers itself.

There's a reason google is seductive and evil, "evil and repellent" is not a good sell!

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Nov. 17th, 2014 @ 11:35 pm December Days
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Give me a prompt you'd like to hear me talk about for a day in December! It can be one word, or a detailed question, or anywhere between. Feel free to suggest several and I'll pick some or all of them. You can suggest a particular day if you like, but by default I'll spread them out at random through December. People who know me well and people who are mostly lurking both encouraged to say something.

Thank you!

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Nov. 17th, 2014 @ 02:09 pm Today I have seen a nugget of purest evil
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Today I saw an act of pure evil (and an act of pure good).

If you're in a stationary queue of traffic, and and a vehicle wants to turn through (not into) it, into or out of a side road, there is absolutely no benefit to you in preventing it, and negligible harm to anyone else. It's physically impossible for the queue ahead to accelerate so fast that waiting 20 seconds to let someone through means you may be left behind, unless they have psychic powers. And even if they do, you're still only losing 20 seconds.

As far as I can tell, the only possible downside is that way at the back of the queue, the cars are being held up by 20 seconds, and someone *may* be slowed down by the queue from reaching the turning they want. But the person in the vehicle that would like to turn in front of you is *definitely* being prevented, so letting them through seems like it would always be better. There's not even any mental effort, since letting someone turn out of a side road is pretty boring, but it's less boring than sitting in a queue of traffic :) Is there any other downside I'm missing? Even if the queue is only moving slowly, it's still usually better, but sometimes it's actually rolling forward a few metres at a time between stopping again.

It's basically free karma. Completely free: not "clearly better to do more good, at the expense of a smaller downside", not "put in a bit of effort now and it will make a greater return later", just "no downside, take the gold pill and make the universe slightly better, or take the green pill, and don't". Pure positive-sum, a small microcosm of positive-sum-interpersonal-interactions which are what make society.

So why do people NOT do this? It's pure evil.

Except, even if that analysis of the pros and cons are accurate, that emphasises the difference between evil intent and evil outcome. Most people haven't thought it through, just "must get to the red traffic light AS SOON AS POSSIBLE just in case something delays me". As with big things, for small things, "evil" intent is poorly correlated with evil outcome -- obliviousness is at least as common.

Which feels more wasteful, but might be easier to fight.

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Nov. 13th, 2014 @ 12:34 pm Scott Polar Escape
http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/museum/events/

Apparently one of the staff at the Scott Polar Research Institute decided outreach needed to reach further, and organised a mystery escape! Groups from 3-8 are invited to be locked in the lobby with a mystery to solve to escape.

I went with Amy and several of her friends and it was totally awesome. Very crystal maze. There is a backstory about suppressed research, and you need to solve a set of puzzles to progress, helped by any exhibits in the room and a limited number of hints. There were a few technical hitches, but it generally went very smoothly, the staff member I think organised most of it was obviously not quite a professional puzzle-setter, but had a good setting, good equipment (real small safes!) etc.

We escaped with about thirty seconds to spare! It was very dramatic, as we were stuck for about twenty minutes in the middle, but once we got over that hitch, it turned out we had most of the pieces to get the rest of the way really rapidly.

And it got me to wander round the museum which I'd never done before, despite living so close.

There's a companion event at the Sedgwick Museum but both are fully booked now. But they said demand was really high, so I hope they'll do some more.

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Nov. 13th, 2014 @ 12:22 pm Price, wage, rent controls
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I have the idea that things like price, wage, rent controls are very useful to correct imbalances in bargaining position or imbalances in bargaining information -- eg. employers and landlords often have more power in the short term, and can use that to impose unreasonable contract terms, if they were not stopped, and the same could apply to prices.

But that they don't usually work to change the value long-term, because if the "official" value doesn't reflect the market for a long time, it distorts the market and the problems bubble up elsewhere: eg. either black markets (if prices are significantly too high) or bribes (if the prices are significantly too low). And often "bribes" are really inefficient, eg. the school catchment area system is supposedly fairer than paying for education, but leads to people overpaying for houses to get to the right catchment area, which can lead to everyone living somewhere that's less efficient for them.

And if the changes are short-term or not-too-large it works because it's not worth anyone's while avoiding the official answer. And sometimes we don't have a better solution, and using the only tool we have available and hoping the side-effects are not too bad is better than ignoring the problem. But it would be better if the demand could be addressed directly (either by meeting it or ameliorating it) rather than pretending it can be legislated out of existence.

Is that right? I'm not sure I'm thinking about this the right way.

It's painful for me to say so, because there's lots of things I wish were distributed "fairly" rather than on the basis of "who can pay a ridiculously extortionate sum", from education to concert tickets. But I'd rather everyone were taxed a lot more and then things were priced according to demand, rather than trying to fix individual unfairnesses piecemeal.

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Nov. 12th, 2014 @ 10:57 pm Dear creepy ads
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Dear creepy ads which snooped on my browsing and followed me all over the net,

I've already bought a Lakeland clothes hanging rail and it was very good. I don't need another Lakeland clothes hanging rail. I won't buy another Lakeland (TM) clothes hanging rail, however many ads you keep showing me for Lakeland (TM) brand clothes hanging rails.

Please continue to show me ads for Lakeland clothes hanging rails! They're much less offensive than all the ads you used to show me and the repetitiveness makes it a lot easier to automatically tune them out.

Also, I hope charging lots of money showing ads for products to people who won't buy them means your whole industry syphons off all the moolah from the overhead economy to creators and then bankrupts itself.

Love Jack

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Nov. 10th, 2014 @ 10:40 pm Noah film
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The Noah film was actually interesting, although only so-so to actually watch. It made more sense as a story than I was expecting, more sense than I expected from most Noah films.

In many ways it felt like a vision of interesting theology, an interesting view of the early pre-flood world with all sorts of weirdnesses which are gone now, interesting moral questions, interspersed with an angry red pen scribbling "needs more fighting!"

The ark was the least ship-like ark I've ever seen, more like a cuboidal container ship. Which I guess makes as much sense as anything else.

It was full of quite interesting questions -- I don't know if any of these come from religious tradition, I had the impression most of them were made up on the spot, but they fit the *sort* of thing you'd expect.

The world was populated with mostly descendants of Cain, who did all the falling-into-wickedness, here portrayed as over-building an industrial civilisation and over-hunting, in contrast to Noah who won't even pick flowers. Noah is the only proper descendant of Seth.

There were "fallen" angels, more of the curiosity, mischief and disobedience, cursed to roam the earth as stone giants with a hidden fire, until those killed defending the ark are freed to return to heaven.

Noah (Russel Crowe) is seized with doubt whether the human race should continue. He has three sons and an adopted daughter (Emma Watson) who is de-facto betrothed to eldest Shem, but can't have children. He tries to rescue some more women or girls, but fails. And takes this as a sign the human race should die out. And then Emma Watson is miraculously cured again, and everyone else takes this as a sign, but he doesn't. Which I think is wrong, but is exactly the sort of morality tale which plays out in the bible with a hundred different interpretations, like Abraham and Isaac.

In fact, there's almost quite an ecological message. Humanity destroys the world through over-hunting, over-mining, over-consumption and violence, which leads to a giant water-level-rise. The best, strongest people are completely vegetarian, probably vegan; eating meat is potentially tasty but really horrible. Serious thought is given to not continuing the human race, but on balance, it's decided on mercy.

And there's surprisingly little God. Noah has a prophetic dream. There's a few miraculous things left over from the early days of the Earth. But other than that, everyone wants to love or resent the creator but felt abandoned by Them. There's mention of temptation, but it's all abstract, there's no personification of the devil. I'd assumed the film was pushed by someone pushing a particular Christian ideology, but now I'm not sure, it seemed to try hard to be interesting and open, even if it had some unfortunate flaws.

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Nov. 10th, 2014 @ 05:27 pm The past
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In the past, if you didn't know the way somewhere, you had to find a map of the area in advance and bring it with you, or you'd be lost.

If you weren't able to plan to bring something to read while you waited, you didn't have anything to read.

If you arranged to meet someone somewhere and they weren't there, there was no way to find them.

In the past, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to ring the building they were in and hope.

People routinely used synchronous voice communication for minor non-urgent communication, because there wasn't anything better.

Before 1989, and in 1999/2000, there were periods of time with no humans in space.

Radios, calculators, notebooks, stereos, spreadsheets, compasses, maps, spirit levels, plumb lines, rulers, protractors, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, flashlights, telephones, alarm clocks and calendars were distinct physical objects, not apps you could just download whenever you needed them.

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