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Blogging review

As the rough beast that is 2017 slouches over the near-dead body of its predecessor prior to shambling towards us, I've been reviewing what and how I've been posting and considering what I'm going to be doing in that regard for the near future.

Like a few others, I've been overindulging and over-reacting on Twitter, and it's not been good for me. It's been detracting from my posting here; I need to get that under control, so we'll see how well I do on that. The first step is realising I have a problem.

I still have a LiveJournal account, but I'm no longer automatically cross-posting from Dreamwidth. This post is manually cross-posted: others may not be.

The information on my Facebook account remains unreliable, and my posts there remain sporadic.

I revisited Usenet briefly this year out of curiosity, when I found out Windows 10 had a client app. I report that my old haunts there are mostly an undead malevolence of bots trying to scam each other (ObRef Wunch / Stross, Charles). It would be interesting if it weren't so sad: I wasn't a pioneer, but I was an early settler, and still remember what it was like before the Eternal September.

I poisoned my LinkedIn account before deleting it; and will only be taking out a new one if it becomes mandatory Company policy to have one. I'm currently opposing it.

There'll be more posts on Dreamwidth next year than this. There may even be one before then.

My main blogging account is Dreamwidth. This entry is crossposted from there and may be found at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/201089.html but I do not crosspost automatically. There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.

Suicide Squad and Odeon's IMAX

Today was the day when no. 1 daughter makes her annual pilgrimage to Chessington World of Adventures and throws herself with gay abandon around the rides, the least of which I am sure Robert Heinlein would have rejected from use in his juvenile 'Space Cadet' training course as cruel and unusual punishment. Ohm regards this as a good excuse to sit in the pub there and catch up on her reading, so it fell to me to take no. 1 son to the pictures.

He decided he wanted to see Suicide Squad, I noted it was in 3D and what passes for IMAX at the Odeon, and decided if I was going to watch what the critics had been panning we were going to do so in style. I'm rather glad I did: it was actually pretty good.

To be fair, it's a bit of a mess at the start. There's too much backstory on some of the crew, and not nearly enough on others. Once that's aside, there's only a couple of overlong flashbacks to temporarily slow the pace.

The plot is simple enough. Puny humans are worried that the next war will be fought with metahumans and decide to get their retaliation in first by coercing those metahumans they have in custody (and to be fair, none of them nor what they've done is very nice). The flaw in this cunning plan is that metahumans are, well, meta; and thus the humans inadvertently create the scenario that made their preparations necessary in the first place At least I think it's inadvertent: you never can tell with Amanda Waller (who I think is played excellently by Viola Davies).

Most of the rest of the cast who are allowed to acquit themselves well. Will Smith brings his A game and occasionally remembers to use it. Margot Robbie is a delight and there are far less shots of her allegedly CGI-reduced Daisy Dukes than some reports would have you believe. Jay Hernandez makes the best of what he was given, and I found his performance to be controlled and understated rather then nonexistent. Overall, it's a medium weight romp that veers off course from time to time rather like a kid on a bike who's had the training wheels taken off, but who gets to the finish line in the end.

And so to part 2: the IMAX experience. Or more properly, Odeon's IMAX experience. I've got the Bradford IMAX practically on my doorstep at home and yours, Odeon, is no IMAX. A bigger screen than others, yes. A bright enough bulb so you can actually see what's going on in dark scenes in 3-D is good, too: as is a properly balanced sound system. The subwoofers under the seats are a nice touch and add something I haven't experienced since I went to see 'Earthquake' with Sensurround. But there's no point in having a large screen if the floor angle is so low you can see other people's heads along the bottom. It gives me an MST3K vibe, and Suicide Squad doesn't deserve that. Really.

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/200647.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
Nineteen years and then some. A good life, a full life, and that's what I'm desperately trying to remember right now.

Have a pic.

Have a few more while you're at it. Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/200210.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.

The SAMS, 2016

It's that time of year when filkers gather Somewhere In England, and amongst the informal circles, guest performances, and generally hanging out at the bar the annual awards are handed out. These are put together by my other half and a small coterie of like minded talented folk, who every year manage to come up with something different based on the convention's name.

This year, for example, it's called Con2bil8 (the first one was called Contabile, someone had the bright idea to call the second one Con2bile, and why oh why is the joke not dead yet?) Ahem. Anyway, as there's a bil(l) in the name, this year's theme is birds.

There would have been a gallery here if I'd worked out how to do it, but instead you can see smallish pics of these here and (much) larger pics here. In order, they're the:
  • Gold Award
  • Serious Award
  • Silly Award
  • Award for best performance.

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/199698.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.

Conspicuous Consumption: January

It's February in five minutes, so here's what I've read/watched this month behind the cutCollapse )

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/199558.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.

Storm chasing: in which I catch one

Smartphones: mostly the same, doing mostly the same thing. Prices, screen sizes, and memory size vary, but they're all pocket computers that connect via radio to networks and other devices, and are occasionally used to make phone calls. None of them cure cancer, they won't get the milk in or put the cat out, and we some of us I spend far too much time on one when I could be gainfully employed making little green men explode.

So why is my latest one different enough for me to bother anyone else about it?Collapse )

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/199140.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
There's a quiz doing the rounds that tickled my fancy [1]. Here it is, with my answers.Collapse )
[1] Oo-er, missus.

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/198822.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.

The Green Party and Copyright

The Internet is a fine place to go if you want to look for outrage; and this morning’s Twitter was no exception, with many artists fuming about the Green Party’s apparent plan to reduce the current copyright term of the life of the creator plus 70 years down to a fixed 14 year term from the first date of publication.

Slightly more level heads pointed out that this was not in fact in the Green Party manifesto, which calls simply for a reduction in copyright length, but in its policy, which is currently mostly first drafts from the last conference [EDIT]: last few conferences and ever subject to change. This didn’t do much to quell the mutterings, and then the Telegraph weighed in:

"Though our long-term vision includes a proposed copyright length of 14 years, we have no plans to implement this in the near future.”
The spokesman later added: "It would be 14 years after publishing, as recommended by Cambridge University researcher Rufus Pollock."

Now that’s a name I recognised from elsewhere, so a quick bit of Internet research found this:
Forever minus a day? Some theory and empirics of optimal copyright

The first thing to note about this paper is that it dates from 2007, so it’s nothing new. The next thing is, it’s chock-full of the sort of maths that I ran headlong into in my A-level days, bounced off of, and never recovered. However, taking the base economics and the calculations on trust on the basis that while the paper may be contentious, nobody seems to have come out and said it was utterly wrong, here’s the Executive Version (or as I understand the youth of today write, TL;DR):

There are overall benefits for work remaining in copyright; but those benefits become lesser over time. Similarly, there are benefits for releasing work into the public domain, and those become greater over time. There is a point where the combination of those overall benefits is maximised, and that point is around 14 years from a work’s first publication.

You can find this on page 26 of the paper if you’re so inclined.

At least the Green Party’s 14 year idea wasn’t pulled out of a hat. However, while there may be sound economic reasons for reducing copyright terms, this one is extremely unlikely to be adopted, for two reasons: one very good, one very bad.

Let’s go with the good: Artists need to eat. And wear clothes, and have a roof over their heads. Unlike most people in a regular job, even in self-employment, their income is far more dependent on forces outside their control; such as marketers, publicists, and the whims of the general public. One of the consequences of copyright is that artists can, if they are lucky enough for their work to be popular enough for someone to sell it, and if they are clever enough to negotiate, will receive ongoing payments, aka royalties, for up to the duration of the copyright term. Even though they may not be much, royalties can form a vital part of an artist’s income, so to be told that the time you could possibly get something for creating a work is going to be cut by maybe as much as 90% is not going to go down well at all with them, or with anyone who thinks that starving in a garret is so 17th century and it’s really time we got over it. Oh yes: and whoever put this into the Green Party’s policy needs to be gently reminded that human beings are not perfect spheres of identical size and mass.

The bad reason is that very powerful, very rich entities, most of which are inhuman, whose drive not only to remain rich but get even richer has distorted the original concept of copyright from the temporary, limited, restriction of owners’ rights to do with what they have bought as they wish in order to promote science and the arts through the creation of new works, into the idea of a licence to print money in perpetuity or as near to it as makes no difference. And most of us have bought into that.

The drive by the “entertainment industry” – film, music, books; each with their own chequered history of dodgy and in some cases downright illegal practices – to extend copyright for their benefit at the expense of nearly everyone else, including most of the creators of the works they sell, is well documented. It stretches back beyond the “Sonny Bono” Copyright Term Extension Act in 1988 (where the egregrious Jack Valenti proposed the “forever minus a day” extension mentioned above), to last year’s extension on created works from life plus 50 years to life plus 70 which seems to have served no purpose but to enrich Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Cliff Richard, and other such paupers (and also in my opinion to make them no better than the “pirates” who copy without permission for profit: they took from the public domain and gave nothing back in return).

There’s a human instinct to create, even though most of us, myself included, hardly have an original thought in their lives (Disclaimer: you’ll find over 90% of this article in other places, I’ve just cut, pasted, and re-arranged; index I copied from old Vladivostok telephone directory…). Most of our creations are derivative, and I’m not just referring to using a common alphabet, colour palette, or the 88 audible notes you can find on a grand piano. You’ll have heard of Chaucer’s Canterbury tales: within a decade of their first coming out folk were writing fanfic where they were hob-nobbing with the Wife of Bath. Sir Thomas Malory, knight, took completely separate tales of Artos the Briton and Launcelot du Lac, and mashed them into Le Morte d’Arthur. As for Will Shakespeare (happy birthday, Will!) the number of files he went through getting rid of the serial numbers to make his plays would make a decent sized chest-plate. All of which makes “Pride and prejudice and zombies” or “Spider-sense and sensibility” look like a perfectly logical progression, and makes it even more frustrating that the myths and legends we grew up with: the mouse who dared to become a wizard, the farm-boy who took up his father’s sword to fight his father, despite their origins in stories of the past, are jealously guarded so we cannot tell our own tales about them without begging some faceless entity that’s only interested in how much they’d get out of it (or hope they’re not looking at Ao3 right now…). And if they have their way, we will never be able to do so, because they’re now talking to extending life plus 70 years to life plus 120…

The end result that the corporations desire - and while corporations are an artificial intelligence with thought patterns quite different from humans’, we share desire – that copyright should last “forever minus a day” must be fought against if we’re to preserve our creativity as a species. Spider Robinson put it much better than I could in his short story ‘Melancholy Elephants’ back in the early 80s, and because he’s a mensch, you can read it here.

And that, O Best Beloved, is while I think it’s wrong to reduce copyright terms to 14 years, I think the Green Party have got it right that they need to be reduced; and if nothing else today’s furore has got the whole idea of copyright terms being discussed. Over to you, here or elsewhere, as you wish.

[25 April ADDENDUM]: Tom Chance, a previous Green Party spokesperson on "intellectual property", comments here and clarifies some of the confusion. It's not over yet, the "just 14 years" meme is a powerful one and will continue to be raised; but it's going to be just one figure among many in a debate which needs a better resolution than Life plus 70 years.

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/198163.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.

KSP update

My initial wave of exploration netted me enough science points to make nuclear powered interplanetary craft. The Mark One of those never left Low Kerbin Orbit owing to some serious design flaws and has mostly been repurposed as a hot-rod fuel tanker and Yet Another Space Station. Mark Two is on its way to one of the outer planets with a crew of six and two hopefully reusable landing craft, pursued by a robot fuel tanker just in case. The Mark Three is mostly assembled and is less than two-thirds the mass of the Mark Two thanks to some radical redesign but can only carry one lander and three crew. It heads out-system in three game months when a launch window shows up.

The original space station has been converted into an orbital hotel by sticking most of a shuttle fuselage on one side, and is currently being managed by someone who snuck on one of the modules when I wasn't looking. Although he's supposed to clean the air filters, check for leaks and so on, he seems to spend most of his time transmitting ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JEREMIAH A DULL KERBAL over and over again. I must look into this sometime.

A new station is under construction in a higher orbit. I'll see if I can't get it to rotate to make artificial graviry sometime. it should be fun, though probably not for anyone on board.

Pics on Twitter as things develop.

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/197921.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.

Thunderbirds are Go: some brief thoughts

I've finally got around to watching the first two parts of the reboot that ITV showed on their HD channel last week before shunting the rest onto standard-def CITV. While it's not my Thunderbirds that I grew up with, it's a mostly competent attempt at reworking the magic for a generation with less patience than mine.

That's my main problem with it; it's too fast in places, and what necessary exposition there is frequently gets lost in the action to the point where a couple of times I was thinking, "hang on, (s)he's doing what now?". This extends to where you simply don't get that Derek Meddings and his team managed to convey that the Thunderbirds are big: while I understand the kids sponsors won't go for a three-minute montage of TB2 selecting a pod and strolling down the palm-tree avenue to the launch ramp, the new sequence is so wham-bam you don't feel you're seeing anything other than a very well-crafted CGI craft against a less well-crafted CGI [EDIT] model background (more often than not crafted at Stingray's level than Thunderbirds).

Other niggles? The eyes used on the characters remind me of a deluxe 1960s doll's, and if anyone was seriously aiming for that they deserve to be slapped around the head with a wet kipper and reminded this is the 21st century, please try again. As for Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, she's far too young and far too high-pitched. She's not an aristo, she's an ingenue.

Switching to what's good. The craft we've seen so far are gorgeous. Major redesigns such as TB2's wings and VTOL jets and TB3's crew entry system make sense. 21st century modeling mean we finally get to see how TB2 retrieves a pod while hovering. Lots of good original stuff such as TB1's gimballed seat and TB4's pod launcher have been carefully tweaked. (Diverting slightly, TB2's runway with the folding palm trees makes much more sense than the original. Someone thought about that one, and it paid off.)

As for the plotCollapse )

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at http://murphys-lawyer.dreamwidth.org/197633.html (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.



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