epershand: Photo of AE Housman (Housman)
This morning in the shower I was wondering about the history of Latin scholarship. Presumably folks were running around ancient Rome using the ablative because it felt right and being innovative and playful with it for the heck of it. That's certainly the vibe I get from, say, Catullus or Ovid.

What, then, was the point when people decided it all needed to be codified into ridiculously elaborate rules to memorize, with distinctions, say, between the ablative of means, ablative of manner, dative of agent, etc? Was it during the middle ages when they were coming up with equally elaborate terminology for any metaphysical doubt one might possibly have? Or was it some folks in the Renaissance who looked back at all the Latin written during the middle ages and blushed at how embarrassingly straightforward it all was? (Not that Renaissance Latin is any less silly, grammatically speaking, but they at least *try*. Sort of.)

Which would be an interesting thing to research, I think. Except what actually happened then was that thinking about silly Latin from the middle ages totally diverted me and put the following mash-up poem in my head:

Bibat ille, bibat illa, bibat servus et ancilla
With the rhyming and the chiming of the
Bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells!
epershand: A speech bubble with "tl;dr" (tl;dr)
All this week, I have been making the same mistake. I look at the clock and think "huh, I should go to bed soon. Maybe I'll just read a chapter of Dive Into HTML5 before I go to bed."

It is generally about two hours after this that I pull myself away from whatever fascinating and specific Wikipedia or Quora article or Joel on Software blog post or whatever I am currently reading, because Dive Into HTML5 is the TV Tropes of computer manuals.

Seriously, read the chapter A Quite Biased History of HTML5 and tell me if YOU can drag yourself away from it and its links. Browser wars! Extended quotations of Marc Andreessen's emails! Snarky commentary on the methods of standards bodies!

This thing is BETTER THAN THE DINOSAUR OPERATING SYSTEMS TEXTBOOK. (This is, for the record, the highest praise I can bestow on any book about computers.) But now I've got this fear that it's going to be like it was after that month where I read all the Sarah Vowell books. I went around wanting to tell people Exciting Facts! And the response was always "oh yeah, I think I read something like that in a Sarah Vowell book once." I am totally going to be all "BROWSER WARS!" and people will be like "oh yeah, that was an awesome chapter in Dive Into HTML5."

So far, the people on twitter I've enthused at have linked me to:
This snarky Pilgrim essay on XML
This commentary on the positive things IE did in the world of browser development

Oh also the wikipedia page on BROWSER WARS! Is amazing. But you already know that because you have read the chapter above, which links to it.

/o\

Tuesday, 21 June 2011 23:27
epershand: "It was becoming an obsession" (Obsession)
It is the time of the Big Annual Work Conferencey Thing, where lots of people who do the sort of work that everyone but me does in the sales division of $EMPLOYER gathers together, listens to speeches about how awesome we are, and gets very drunk and chatty.

It's funny, every year I bitch and moan leading up to BAWCT--waste of time, who needs to hear ra ra sales pitches, it's the END OF THE QUARTER, I have REAL work to do blah blah blah--and every year BAWCT turns out to be really fun, and the schmoozing I do at the afterparty turns out to be really useful. Maybe eventually I will remember this in advance. Tonight I a bunch of people told me my main project was awesome, AND one or two volunteered to help me with it in ways that are actually useful and not a waste of my time. AND I chatted with an old colleague who is looking for a change and would be perfect for a job we're trying to fill on my team. What is this even.

Anyway THE POINT of this post was actually going to be to report a rather ridiculous dinner conversation, the real take-away of which is "if you hire a bunch of smart people, and then tell them to use their brains to come up with ways to make technical support more efficient, you are to blame for the consequences when you socialize with them."

CONVERSATION TOPIC: CHILDCARE, COST THEREOF
(Coworker 1, Coworker 2, and Boss are in their 30s and have children. Coworker 3 and Epershand are in their 20s and do not.)

...
Coworker 1: Fortunately, the cost goes down with the age of the child, because the teacher:student ratio can drop.
Coworker 2: Yes, as the children age you can drive more scalability in your childcare solution.
Epershand: Mmmm, yes, the older ones are more easily automated. I MEAN THEY ARE MORE AUTONOMOUS.
Boss: Ok, note to self, do not let Epershand and Coworker 2 take care of my children.
Epershand: No, I just mean that you can start using more of a self-service model later on.
Coworker 3: But really, at those prices? If you have multiple children...
Coworker 1: Raising children is incredibly expensive. You absolutely can *not* do an ROI analysis before you do it. If you do the math you'll never reproduce.

-------

In other news, 2011 appears to be the Year In Which Every Australian Epershand Knows in the US Moves Back to Australia. I learned about another one today :(((((((.

-------

But I am totally ditching the evening portion of BAWTC tomorrow for PANIC! AT THE DISCO. I still have a couple extra tickets, so if you happen to know anyone in the Bay Area who is looking for tickets, please send them to me so I do not wind up selling them to scalpers.
epershand: An ampersand (Default)
I've been meaning to rebroadcast [personal profile] wild_irises' Is Copyright Broken?. I still am pretty sure I haven't actually had a conversation with her about it, although we have had at least one "have we had a conversation about that post" conversation.

The following is relatively unformed, especially since I'm in post-con mode (and should REALLY be asleep right now... I'm waking up in less than 6 hours). But I want to get it down before I forget.

The personal statement I wrote when I thought I was applying to law school was actually about my secret excitement about the brokenness of that system, and my desire to dive in and get my hands dirty fixing it. It feels like we're reaching a crisis point--the old system doesn't work any more, and various people are trying to construct new systems, none of which work entirely either. My leftover teenage Marxist wants the old way to collapse in glory leading to a triumphant revolution; the lawful neutral hacker* I've become wants to fiddle and tinker to make the old system run again. Now, even if I'd gone to law school I probably wouldn't have gotten to a place where I could hack the copyright system, and now that I'm looking at Information Science instead (even with a focus on intellectual property) it's much even likely, but this crisis point still excites me.

Actually, the more I think about the issue, the more I think that the best way to wriggle out of the copyright mess we're in is more laws like the DMCA. I'm weird in a lot of the circles I move in, in that I am pretty fond of the DMCA. It's interesting, the perspective that working for a content host provides on the issue. Granted, it is a problem that in many cases hosts assume their users to be guilty rather than innocent when they get served a DMCA notice. But the fact is, for every DMCA takedown notice a big host gets they get thousands more demands that don't go through the process, and DMCA provides them with a legal harbor to ignore those requests without fear of getting sued. A lot of discussions center around the fact that once a notice has been served, the alleged infringer has to file a counter-notice to get their content back up, which burden stops a lot of people from fighting, even if their content is fair use. But what is awesome about the DMCA is the initial burden it creates for the people making the infringement claims.

It's actually a pretty good trade-off in my opinion. It's a practical, flexible law that can actually be made to work for all three players--IP holders, IP users, and content hosts-- if applied correctly.

Applying it correctly, of course, is the major sticking point. (But then, even the most idealistic views of copyright freedom seem to have application problems, or my photography mailing list wouldn't have monthly centithreads about the total meaninglessness and unenforceability of the CC "noncommercial" definition.)

Right now, the advantage is in the hand of big corporations with the resources to automatically serve infringement notices, which makes the burden much higher on the defense side than on the offense side. So, maybe the sort of solution I'd like to work on isn't in changing the laws. Maybe the solution I want is to even the playing field for small content creators, and making the mediation task easier for content hosts with limited resources. Oh man, do you know what I would love to see? An open API that content hosts could tap into to get something like "percentage overlap with what it's supposed to infringe on" (YouTube has something like that piece) and "likelyhood this is fair use" and other handy things that would help them make more sensible decisions. An easy-to-use system for users to tap into the same data to make automated counter-notices.

Presumably other people have had similar ideas before. To do: go to sleep, wake up, see if I can find any prior art in the morning.

* "hacker" used here in the sense defined for "honer" in Diamond Age--my preferred problem-solving technique isn't in inventing new things, it's in tweaking existing things to do the things I want them to do, particularly when they weren't meant to.
epershand: "It was becoming an obsession" (Obsession)
I'm listening to an audiobook of Amin Maalouf's The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, and my addiction to that stretch of history is growing again.

So I'm looking for recommendations of similar books. I've read a fair amount about the Crusades from the Byzantine perspective, but this is the first I've read from the Arab perspective. Are there any other good books on the Arab perspective of the "Frankish invasions", or books on Saladin?

No I am totally not plotting Richard/Saladin in the Dragon Waiting verse. Why would you think that?

Random thought

Tuesday, 13 October 2009 14:47
epershand: An ampersand (Default)
There could be a very good Who vid done to Aqueduct's "Lying In the Bed I've Made."

Mostly because of the chorus of "Sorry, Sorry, I'm so sorry."
epershand: Kirk and Spock looking at each other. (Kirk & Spock)
[personal profile] chosenmortal asked what "the good Trek novels" are, and I'm attempting to oblige. I don't own many any more, since my general attitude in middle school was to treat the local used book store like a lending library for Trek novels--so basically I'm operating from Wikipedia and the list of novels on the inside of The Siege, which I borrowed from Marc a few weeks ago and do NOT recommend. It is interesting to note that while I read a fair number of DS9 novels and in fact only know the Voyager crew in novel form, just about all the novels that are listed here as having made a big impression on me are TNG novels.

This post is roughly arranged by author, since it provides a convenient cross-series way to look at the novels, and also because for the most part, you can do a rough analysis of how good a given Star Trek novel is going to be on the basis of the author.

Unlike the Star Wars novel franchise, which form a consistent universe that the prequel movies happen to disregard as canon, there is no attempt to maintain continuity from one novel to another within the Star Trek franchise. One author, or within a particular series in the franchise, the is continuity, but it's easiest to think of the Star Trek novel franchise as pro-written fan fiction.

John M. Ford
Mike comes first because he's one of my favorite authors, and also because among a certain set, Mike's Trek books are mandatory reading even if you don't like Trek. Before I offer my own recommendation of Mike's Star Trek installments, I'll add someone else's. This is from Neil Gaiman's introduction to From the End of the Twentieth Century, a retrospective of Mike's work:
This is a man who... wrote not one but two astonishingly brilliant Star Trek novels -- one, The Final Reflection, a first contact novel from the Klingon perspective, the other, How Much for Just the Planet?, a genuinely funny musical farce -- each book responsible for setting new parameters to the Star Trek Franchise, mostly consisting of "He got away with it because he hadn't thought to make rules against it, and now he's done it no-one else is going to do it again"...

How Much For Just the Planet? is brilliant. I read it last month and spent the novel asking myself, wait, did that just happen? In a ::Star Trek novel?:: It made my brain explode in all the best of ways. The Final Reflection is on both my reading list and my bookshelf, and I really need to get to it. These are the only two Trek novels I currently own (technically, this is because I am on an epic quest to track down and read out-of-print Mike Ford books. The implied compliment stands).

Vonda N. Macintyre
Now you are thinking, nobody can get on Molly's List of Awesome Star Trek Authors unless they have been to WisCon and Potlatch with some frequency. I think maybe the causality goes in the opposite direction? Wiscon/Potlatch people are awesome, and write awesome books, some of which happen to be Star Trek.

So you already know that Wrath of Kahn is the best of the Trek movies. What you don't know is that Vonda's novelization of it is ::even better:: It's got Saavik's Romulan heritage, and the fact that that ensign Scotty was randomly crying over after he appeared to be a dead extra was originally a main character, and snarks, and boojums, and just all sorts of brilliance. Our shared love of this novelization is one of the original things that [livejournal.com profile] digitalemur and I bonded about.

I further recommend, although without having read them, The Entropy Effect, Enterprise: The First Adventure, and her novelizations of The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home.

Diane Duane
At some point early in our friendship, [personal profile] oliviacirce and I had the following conversation:
o.circe: What do you mean you haven't read Young Wizards? Diane Duane is AMAZING.
epershand: Of course she's amazing! She wrote all those books about Vulcan and Romulus!
o.circe: Whatever, I am better than Star Trek. Feh.

Spock's World is a rich, multifacted history of Vulcan. It's the story of Surak, who lead Vulcan to follow logic and whose teachings sparked the separation with the Romulans. It's the romance of Amanda Grayson and Sarek, and their decision to raise a son of both Earth and Vulcan. And there's also a modern intrigue that I don't really remember--Vulcan tries to leave the Federation maybe?

When in interviews the authors of the new Star Trek movie say they wanted to bring canon from the novels into the movie, I'm pretty sure what they meant was Diane Duane.

Dark Mirror is a TNG Mirror Universe novel written before DS9 brought the Mirror Universe back and did totally different things with it. It's a lot more like "Mirror, Mirror" from TOS than anything DS9 did with the universe, but it's brilliant.

Other Diane Duane Star Trek books: The Wounded Sky, My Enemy, My Ally, The Romulan Way, Doctor's Orders, Intellivore, Swordhunt, Honor Blade, Sand and Stars, The Empty Chair.

Peter David
Ok, I now break away from novels written by people who have a lot of other, more acceptable work to their name and turn to Peter David, who pretty much does nothing but franchise books and comics. That being said, I totally saw a "best of Peter David" Star Trek comic book collection when I picked up my copy of Countdown. Basically, he may do all his writing in a genre that is the sheep that even the other black sheep look down on, but he's damn fine at what he does.

The best Peter David books combine canon from multiple sources and build it into something greater than the whole, these awesome patchwork quilts of one-shot TOS situations framed in running TNG stories and made a lot more interesting than they were in TOS.

As I learned by attempting to read The Siege this weekend, Peter David is also responsible for a whole lot of the drek that people usually assume franchise novels are. Be warned. (Q-In-Law is also really bad. Don't read it. No one should ever have to deal with Q and Lwaxana Troi at the same time.)

Q-Squared is... this brilliant complicated multi-universal collapsing canon swirling thing. It's got Q, and it's got Trelaine from TOS as a sulky teenage Q, and it's got three parallel Enterprise-Ds from three parallel dimensions collapsing into the same dimension. And it's got mistaken identities and dead parents and dead children running into each other. And it's got Picard/Crusher, the best of all TNG ships, and it is just full of awesome. (There is this really awesome Smallville fan fiction that stole the concept and structure of this book but replaced Q with meteor rocks. Funny how easily that kind of thing works out.)

Vendetta is another one of those brilliant patchwork quilts. Basically, the concept is that if you trace the path of the Doomsday Machine from TOS far back enough you wind up in the Delta Quadrant, where it was made to fight the Borg. It is seriously cool. Also there is a lot of Guinan backstory, which is nice if you are a person who likes Guinan.

Imzadi is... well, the thing about Imzadi is that it's kind of the "Draco Dormiens" of Trek novels. Everyone has read it, and it's basically the Riker/Troi shippy novel of doom. Naked. On Betazed. And there's a sequel which is even worse and everyone sort of feels obliged to read but is a bit disappointed by. Um, yeah.

Other notable books
The Eyes of the Beholders by A.C. Crispin. I don't really remember the real plot, but it opens with Riker in Starfleet Academy looking at the Golden Gate Bridge from Land's End, which has forever enamored me of that particular view. And it's got Data attempting to write a novel by doing pastiches of all the crew's favorite authors.

And there was this one book about cadets at Starfleet Academy that had two main characters who were lesbians, one of whom was a Trill who was the first host for the symbiont. But I can't find its name or author and it is driving me crazy. Hopefully there will be a correction here soon.

There is no Shatnerverse.
That never happened.

Swine flu

Sunday, 3 May 2009 11:12
epershand: An ampersand (Default)
Cross-posted from the RL blog.

Like most everyone else, I've spent the last week fixated on the Swine Flu/H1N1/whatever the cool kids are calling it today. I've been reading NPR's Flu Shots blog, gossiping about #swineflu on Twitter, and speculating with not a little anxiety about that international trip I've got planned for next week.

But, geeky soul that I am, I'm a lot more excited about the epidemiological side of things than I am panicked by them. Perhaps I've been a little bit ::too:: excited by them, as exemplified by a few of my tweets earlier this week:

Does anyone want to be a cytokine with me for Halloween this year? We can storm things and kill them!


If Chuck Norris got swine flu, the resulting cytokine storm would kill everyone on the planet. He would survive.


I've been considering re-reading Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, but fortunately my aunt has loaned me John M. Barry's The Great Influenza, which is much more useful for my purposes. For one thing, it's brought home exactly how disgusting cytokine storm deaths are. My enthusiasm is dampened, for the better.

Another useful lesson from the book is that while it now looks like things on the H1N1 front are slowing down and coming under control, it's entirely possible that we could see it come back in a stronger form later this year. That's what happened in 1918, when authorities mostly ignored a minor bug that seemed to be going around among soldiers in the spring and sent them home. It wasn't until September of that year that young people started dying because their own immune systems were confused and attacking any tissue they could find.

As my aunt (who is, incidentally, a doctor) explains it--catch the flu now if you can, because it's going to mutate. If it mutates to be more mild, than you won't lose much by having the flu now. But if it mutates for the worse, getting immune now could be one of the best things you do for yourself.

(Or, if you prefer geekier descriptions of what you can do to keep yourself safe--level up your immune system by fighting the monster now. It won't take too many HPs and gives you a crucial defense come the boss level.)

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