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Oct. 22nd, 2016 @ 11:21 pm What's the matter McFly, stupid?
In every back to the future film, there's a bit 2/3 of the way through where everything is sorted, all they need to do is get back to the time machine and go home, Marty has escaped Biff and is walking off without getting beaten up, and Biff calls out, "What's the matter McFly? Chicken?"

And it's funny, because we all know he COULD walk away, but we all know he WON'T.

And yes, I never WANTED him to go back. He was the protagonist, he'd triumph if he did. But walking away didn't seem especially cowardly, it seemed smart.

But that's because standing up for himself was part of his core identity, but not mine.

Mine is more "be clever". I don't especially care about being cowardly. But I find it really really really hard to back away if someone implies something is OBVIOUSLY right and it's a waste of time to explain it to me. Learning to say "please explain" or to walk away, has been a long journey. (I have inoculated myself against some of the most common scams.)

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Oct. 22nd, 2016 @ 10:11 pm Backgammon edge case
Playing backgammon with dad, after day at Cambridgeshire crocodile and ostrich farm! (No skydiving :))

If all your pieces are in your home quadrant and you've started taking then off, and you can't move your furthest back piece because it would land on a point with two of your opponent's, must/can't you bear off your second furthest back piece?

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Oct. 17th, 2016 @ 06:09 pm Poly Speed Dating
Tags: ,
Poly speed dating again tomorrow! In 3s. I managed to escape doing the programming for the matching algorithm this time :)

What should I tell people about why they should like me?

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Oct. 17th, 2016 @ 12:40 pm Recent Board Games


Present from ghoti (thank you!) It's a really really pretty game. You have a 9x9 quilt board and collect patches in various shapes (like various sized tetris pieces) and try to fit them into your board. Each patch has a cost, and you can only buy one of the next three available, so you have to trade off which ones are worth it right now.

But all of the things have a really nice hand-stitched feel.

And it's explicitly for two-player, when we don't have enough two-player games.

Catan Junior


This really captured the feel of Catan while being really quick to pick up. I liked the pirate flavour. I'm not sure how much replayability it would have if all the players were fairly experienced, but I really liked playing it with K and Ms 7.

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Oct. 10th, 2016 @ 06:20 pm I made a thing for ghoti!
See http://ghoti.livejournal.com/798337.html

For the cotton anniversary of our first date, we went to the Anchor Sutton Gault and it was really nice and we did good communication about things.

But also, I made a thing! In honour of the Parasol Protectorate books ghoti introduced me to, or maybe Firefly, I made a steampunk parasol. I bought a folding lace parasol, and took some cogs, and attached some to the spokes, and some round each panel of the parasol. And used a picture hook pin to attach one to the top and bottom of the shaft, sized at just narrower than the diameter, and loosened just enough they don't feel loose but do spin.

Having entirely cogs that are fixed without spinning seemed sad, these were great.

And I was really pleased, because I'm rarely able to actually *make* something.

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Oct. 7th, 2016 @ 12:56 pm On Two Sorts of Advice
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Have I talked about this recently?

It feels like there's two sorts of advice. Or maybe a spectrum of advice with an axis which I have particularly noticed.

Some advice is implicitly obvious once it's pointed out. If you say "turn capslock off" when someone can't see why their password doesn't work, it's hard to reject if you know what capslock does at all. Sometimes it's obvious once you try it, like "try pressing capslock" when you don't know what it capslock does.

Other advice is implicitly "you won't be able to tell whether it's working or not, just trust me and keep doing it". Anything fairly long term, any "do this every day and you'll be more organised/fitter/healthier/have less chance of X".

And some advice is somewhere between.

I realised aphorisms are generally the _first_ sort of advice. Sometimes "the early bird catches the worm". Sometimes "measure twice, cut once". But when you *think* "are there obvious risks to delaying? are there obvious risks to moving too quickly?" it often obvious which is more risky, and you know to avoid that. (And in a minority of cases it's not clear and its more of a judgement call.)

But I think those aphorisms are still useful, not because they're ALWAYS true, but because they're a useful reminder to consider them when you might otherwise have forgotten to.

But I think we usually need to treat advice like this. Like, it should usually be obvious WHY it's better. Otherwise, it might be worth bearing in mind as something that *might* be useful, but not be treated as absolute.

There are times when it's useful to adopt something without understanding. If you can't see any clear pros and cons, doing it the way a more experienced person does is OFTEN good, because they probably wouldn't do that if there were obvious problems, and there may be non-obvious benefits which they can't immediately explain.

But I think, when someone gives advice, it's worth considering, "does this make sense to me"? And if not, "is it likely to be safer than what I was doing anyway".

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Oct. 7th, 2016 @ 10:31 am Jehova's Witnesses
OK, Jehova's Witnesses. NOW we're fully moved in.

They were really polite so I didn't have any desire or energy to get into an argument. Although I wish I'd pushed back on what I think are of the risks of harm from actively proselytising, and the things that I think may be harmful in JW generally (without getting into a big theological debate, or criticising these two ladies).

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Oct. 5th, 2016 @ 03:19 pm The Intuitionist vs Fifty Shades of Grey
The Intuitionist

At some point, I realised I had a similar problem reading these two very different books.

The Intuitionist is very interesting. It's set in something like an alt-history New York. There is a powerful guild of elevator inspectors, who have made building skyscrapers possible at all. (I think that's parallel but different to the real history?)

It has a lot to say about integration, about the protagonist is one of the few female inspectors and the second black inspector. In fact, I'm pretty sure it has a lot *more* to say than I was able to follow at the time.

However, I think the important themes were initially obscured to me because they are presented via a front of a factional schism between two schools of elevator inspectorate, the intuitionists and the empiricists. Intuitionists ride an elevator and intuit the state of any problems. Empiricists use instruments for everything. And I think this is probably a metaphor for something important I don't get yet.

But I'm rather hung up on the fact that I know pretty well which works in the real world. There are failure modes of both too much process and too little process. And times when too much process is a big problem, and guiding intuition is much more valuable. But when it comes to safety inspection, methodical measurement is really good, and intuition is really bad.

So I'm really not sure, but I think "intuitionists" are supposed to be "some progressive, successful but controversial faction" but it took me a while to realise that, because what they SAID rang really false to me.

And that split ALSO has a lot to say about racial equality, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be reading that into the book as well. In moderation, empirical tests are good for equality. If you have a test related to actually doing the job, focusing on that, not gut feeling, can be very effective for levelling the playing field. cf. orchestras which do auditions with the performer behind a screen. Higher levels of supposedly objective tests are often an impediment to equality though -- see every employer who doesn't SAY "we want someone from an upper-middle-class caucasian background, preferable straight male", but DOES say "do you have qualification X which is expensive but not really directly helpful". However, "gut feeling" is generally ATROCIOUS here. Occasionally it's really good, when someone actively wants to hire under-appreciated talent. But normally "gut feeling" means "I can give free reign to all my prejudices and deny it if I'm called out".

Fifty Shades of Grey

If you ignore the bondage aspects, Fifty Shades of Grey follows a fairly traditional romance outline. It has some parts that bother me a lot, like "omg stalking and controlling behaviour are so sexy". But those are actually really common in many romance novels. I think those are a bad model for a relationship, and it's bad that stories tend to DEFAULT to having them. But also, it's something lots of people fantasise about, and I think it's important that "fantasising about romance, even if it isn't a healthy model for reality" is accepted as much as many many many other books which contain ok-for-fiction-but-bad-for-reality things eg. crime, death, etc.

I think some bits are clearly intended as fantasy. Most people want to *imagine* being stalked by a millionaire, but want that to actually *happen* only in careful moderation. Although the less familiar you are with that as a common romance fantasy, the more you're like "but that would actually be horrible".

Other bits are intended as mostly realistic. She drinks coffee. If she drank bleach every morning, all the readers would legitimately say "WTF? Why is that in your book??" And "it's fiction, I can do what I want" isn't really a helpful answer.

But the bondage stuff is somewhere between. I think to some people, it's clearly supposed to be fantasy. No-one would EVER do ANYTHING remotely like that in real life, right? So it doesn't matter if it's a random mix of mostly-safe-for-beginner stuff, and physically-safe-but-a-big-red-flag stuff, and really unwise stuff. It's all just "let's pretend". But to many people, they don't want to be tied up ACTUALLY against their will. But they DO like being tied up, and that's something lots of people actually DO. And it's not UNREALISTIC that the only person the protagonist's met who's openly into bondage is a dangerous control freak bully with unhealthy relationship habits and no idea of the difference between safe and dangerous, but it's UNREPRESENTATIVE, and it's irresponsible to say "this is what bondage is", when some people will read that and say, "that's obviously dangerous, lets ban it" and other people will say, "that seems fun, lets try it".

And the author could have gone in either direction. Grey could have kidnapped the protagonist -- then everyone knows that even if it's hot in fantasy, it's not a good model for real life. Or he could have had a passing familiarity with how to ACTUALLY do bdsm, even if he departed from it. That would make a lot of sense for the story, if he was known as a bdsm top who didn't care much about consent. And sure, for many people, that's the ONLY sort of BDSM-er they've met or can imagine. But it's still a problem to say that that's all there is ANYWHERE.

But the book bypasses all that. It's like, "deep dark secret, check", obviously we don't need to care about the legal or physical safety of any of the REAL WORLD PEOPLE that "dark secret" applies to, because it's just their for my titillation, right? :(

Other books

And I think that might stand out in other books. There's things which the author thought they could gloss over, which really stand out to me. And sometimes, once I learn what to ignore, I see the strengths of the rest of the book. And sometimes, they're unavoidably central to *most* people, but the minority who can ignore them really love the rest of the book.

But I suspect the same probably applies to big themes too. That there's books where the big theme is obscured by something that stood out *to me*. Or vice versa. But I'm not sure what examples would be.

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Sep. 30th, 2016 @ 08:38 pm (no subject)
Q. Do you have any advice for tourists to England?
A. Be passionate about something in your life and don't use CVS.
Q. ...
A. Do you have a problem?
Q. Sorry, I meant "Do you have any relevant advice for tourists to England?"
A. Sorry, I meant "Do you have a relevant problem?"

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Sep. 28th, 2016 @ 11:54 pm Fantastic Four (the most recent film)
Mild spoilers. Honestly who on earth hasn"t seen this film but wants toCollapse )

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