Last Post

If you're reading this you'll have agreed to LiveJournal's Terms and Conditions. In the original Russian. As I'm not sure what they are (and the explanation of the alleged English translation has more weasels than Olga Pullofski's best winter fur coat) I will no longer be posting here.

Old posts will remain in the hope that the T&C aren't retroactive and keeping them there won't mean I'll be offered a cup of Polonium tea.

If you want to check out the ramblings other than my Twitter feed, you can find me on

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 but I do not crosspost automatically. There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
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    thoughtful thoughtful

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 (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
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    pleased pleased
Duty calls

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 (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
  • Current Mood
    artistic artistic

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.)

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Cross-posted from DreamWidth at (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
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    happy happy

Kerbal Space Program: a view from orbit

I've been playing, on and off, with Kerbal Space Program for a few months now. It started as a bit of tinkering with the demo, moving to the full program as a prelude to getting to grips with Elite: Dangerous (now moved back thanks to the funds for the PC upgrade going elsewhere), and blossoming into a wave of exploration with KSP's latest release, wittily titled "Beta than ever". Tee, as they say, hee.

Executive briefing: KSP is a gentle introduction to making things that can fly very fast, shoving Little Green Men [1] into them, and then trying not to make the things explode or strand the LGM off their Little Green World. The world's called Kerbin, its major satellite is the Mun. Other quasi-heavenly bodies are available.

So far, I've mostly confined myself to the two moons orbiting Kerbin, with a single probe out to the Mars-analogue which was more to test an engine configuration rather than learn anything. Oh yes, the learning: go somewhere, check the local conditions, pick up a bit of rock, get back alive, and you get science (excuse me, SCIENCE!!!1!eleventy) points which you can then convert into improvements for your craft, like fitting batteries into capsules so the LGM don't get stranded because the ignition won't work.

Right now, I'm working on how to be smarter when researching. Remote probes that transmit their findings don't provide as much knowledge as bringing the findings back, and as some of the experiments are non-repeatable, that can be a bit of a pain. However, now I've got the bits for a space station, and it's much easier to send probes down to the Munar surface and back up rather than fire them at the Mun, see if they bounce, and get them back to Kerbin, well...

Gentlebeings, the Munar Orbital Laboratory.

The Munar Orbital Laboratory: a shining beacon in space, all alone in the night.

Nearest us is a Munar Taxi, or the last two stages of one. Its job is to get three Kerbals to the Laboratory, and bring them and their research back.

Further along are the laboratory proper, and the living quarters, which fits up to four Kerbals in moderate discomfort. Next to that is a small fuel tank with two docking ports, each taken up by a robot landing craft. (The red and green lighting is a reflection off the navigation lights.) The lander on the left still has an unused science module, the one on the right has already flown one mission and is waiting its next payload. (The used module was jettisoned as its experiments could only be used once.)

Finally, we have a big orange fuel tank, containing the remainder of the fuel used to bring the docking strut and living quarters. The ability to move fuel between tanks if they're docked to the same object means that the landers can be reused many times, at least until the landing computer glitches...

Future experiments include replacing the big fuel tank by a Mark II which will have its own solar panels because MOAR POWAH and also some additional docking ports; and replacing the science module with a one-Kerbal lifepod so some brave volunteer can bring back some rocks. In the long term, I'll see if it's feasible to move the station to the outer moon, and then to some of the other planets. Might as well, since it's part-way there already.

[1] Yes, really. The full release promises Little Green Women as well.

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
  • Current Music
    of the spheres

Patema Inverted unboxing

Patema Inverted is a well-written, lavishly designed piece of SF by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who has worked on other anime such as Evangelion and Time of Eve (you can catch the first episode here on Crunchyroll). The UK Licence was picked up by All the Anime who wanted to give it the best possible release, and kickstarted the idea of releasing a couple of collectors' editions, with a specially commissioned artbook and a CD soundtrack as well as the DVD and Blu-ray.

No surprises as to what turned up this morning...

It's a box. A very sturdy, very pretty box.

Take the wrap-around cover off, and you get the same image but without the text or the BBFC logo...

Front cover

... but you do get lots of writing on the back. Some of it is upside down. Were they trying to be clever? Why yes; and I think they succeeded.

Back cover

Here's the disc case with a striking picture on the outside:

Disc case outside

And, finally, the discs on the inside:

Discs inside

Let's pop the Blu-Ray out to have a look at it...

All the discs!

... and take out all the discs to show the artwork and the ongoing inversion theme underneath:

Which way is up? That would be telling.

Finally, the front cover of the art book, which has just over 150 pages:

Don't. Let. Go.

The whole presentation has been beautifully put together, and sturdily for the most part. I'm not entirely convinced with the mechanics that hold the discs in place, or the glue that holds the plastic that holds the mechanics; but if they got through the post without falling out, they should be fine for just sitting on a shelf. I've seen the film and know it's worthy of this kind of presentation, and I'm glad I helped put it together.

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
  • Current Music
    Something by Michiru Oshima

Bluetooth keyboard review: Nintendo Pokémon typing adventure

When I got an Android tablet for my birthday last year, I looked at various keyboards that claimed to work with it, but they all fell short one way or the other. The keyboards integrated into a case looked flimsy, many of the others looked like they came out of the same factory with only different branding to differentiate them, and the very few that looked worth considering cost almost as much as the tablet (Hail and farewell, Apple wireless...). My quest, like so many other gadget searches, moved to the back of my mind, until last month, when a colleague and fellow Nintendo fanboy loaned me a Bluetooth keyboard designed for, of all things, a Pokémon game.

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Cross-posted from DreamWidth at (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
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    content content

Drip, drip. DRIP...

The Dangerous Logs Act Data Retention and Investigatory Powers bill, which essentially enables the UK government to do what it damn well pleases in regard to monitoring what anyone, anywhere, does online, got its reading in the House of Commons today.

House of Commons

The reason the House was so packed is that all MPs had been given a single line whip on the lines of "there's some rather boring stuff coming up, don't bother your pretty little heads about it, pop off back home for a long weekend, why don't you?". Which they obligingly did.

The vote on this takes place on Tuesday, and it's expected to pass by a landslide, because TERRORISM! PAEDOPHILES! DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER! etc.

Now the more thoughtful of you may be thinking, "Hang on, doesn't the UK government already do what it damn well pleases in regard to monitoring what anyone, anywhere, does online?" And indeed you would be right.

The trouble is, a few weeks back the European Court of Justice ruled this was sort of illegal, so the ISPs who until then had been whole-heartedly co-operating started muttering about lawsuits from disgruntled customers. The Government accordingly stated it would sort things out, and remained very silent on the whole thing until earlier in the week, when this little gem was announced, giving me the thought that the whole discussion in government on what to do went something like this:

To recap: the government got caught doing something illegal, so it's changing the law.

It's all rather wearying and disheartening to hear politicians of all stripes telling us this is a perfectly good thing really, and will help spark a debate on what security laws we should have, which has me screaming TOO BLOODY LATE YOU'VE ALREADY PASSED IT YOU PILLOCK; and of course it's got a sunset course so the next government can get rid of it (cough PreventionOfTerrorismAct cough).

I just remind myself that despair is a sin, and there's the House of Lords. They might do something. Might.

Cross-posted from DreamWidth at (provided Frank the Goat hasn't been at the vodka again). There are comment count unavailable comments there so far.
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    numb numb