Crisis of Authorial Confidence
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mjperson
Ouch. It was so disappointing that I'm still reeling with it.

I've been reading a book.  It's not supposed to be wonderful according to the reviews, but it was square in the center of my personal genre, so it's pretty much required reading.

The Lost Starship, by Vaughn Heppner

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Starship-Vaughn-Heppner/dp/1500986194/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480450623&sr=8-1&keywords=last+starship

Having assembled his ragtag band of fugitives, drunken washouts, and regulation wavers, Captain Maddox of the Star Watch has finally brought his team to the powerful Sentinel, a vast automated starship left over from an ancient alien war, and humanity's last desperate hope against the alien invasion that is rolling towards Earth.  (Most of you can see why that's in my genre.)

Having overcome countless obstacles, they were finally there at the Sentinel's hatch, and ready to brave the dangers within.  In a stirring moment, the Captain officially invites them all to lay aside their mutual distrusts, and unite as one crew, pledging their lives (and fortunes and sacred honors, presumably) to each other with the goal of saving humanity.  One by one they overcome their distrust and agree to join him.  For humanity!

The captain turns each of them, and in a reverent whisper, administers the Star Watch Oath...  

after the oath, they head in.

I can only imagine that the author looked inside himself and just couldn't write the words of the Oath.  He couldn't find the grandeur of the scene he had set up, and so he just punted...   I still can't believe it.    The words!  Tell me the words!

Surgical recovery, day 2
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mjperson
Well, the treasonous organ has been removed and eliminated as an example to any other organs who might have been considering stepping out of line.

They told me that with modern surgery techniques, recovery goes quite smoothly over just a few days. It's been only two so far (48 hours since returning from the hospital) and I suppose that is true, but it seems so much slower. I find I can't concentrate on any particular thing for more than a few minutes at a time, so I can't really do any work. Even trying to binge watch something on Netflix has me losing the thread of the plot midway though every episode.

Getting out of bed, moving to the kitchen and fixing myself a cup of soup completely exhausts me and sends me right back to bed.

Plus, I count the hours between the various pain medications.

All of this, leads to a sort of timeless feeling that is dragging the recovery period out in my mind if not necessarily in reality.

But again, it's only been two days, so I guess I should try to just suck it up. Time will pass.

Weird coincidence in GKK land.
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mjperson
So, last night, I noticed for the first time that Ysabel and the Fionavar Tapestry both end with the same sentence. That's obviously not a coincidence. What is a coincidence is that while we were assembling the new dome this afternoon, I was listening to my students talking. One of them was complaining that a book her mother gave her was infuriating. Apparently, there were these two characters, Kim and Dave, who had deep and mysterious back stories which were pivotal for the entire plot and yet went completely unexplained...

Honor or Miles (A rant requested by firstfrost)
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mjperson

Cruises and sitting on a jury both involve a lot of waiting, so I've been plowing through the Vorkosigan books firstfrost is making me read. She presented them initially as, "like Honor Harrington but good," which of course miffed me as a Weber fan, but I'm reading them.

After four books, I do have to say that Bujold appears to have a greater command of the language than Weber does, and I might like her general style more. The characters are deep enough to be interesting, but the plotting! My god. Each book lurches from one implausible coincidence to the next. I just finished The Vor Game, where someone had the coincidence generator turned up to 11. "Oh no, now I'm in prison in the middle of nowhere. Look, it's my emperor in the next cell! What is he doing here?" What is anyone doing here?

Plots were resolved by direct application of the Hand of Fate at every opportunity. Honor may be turned up to Mary Sue levels of competence on occasion, but at least she always has a plan. One that you could defend to your superiors if you had to. I totally understand the Imperial Security commander Illyan's pain. How this Miles guy survives any of this is beyond me. The fact that he seems to save the world while doing so is just inexplicable.

Tags:

Daylight Savings Time
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mjperson
Does anyone actually understand where DST comes from? I don't mean that as in its saving energy in the 70's root, but where does it come from right now?

All the studies I've seen say it doesn't actually save us anything. It's a huge pain for some of our best industries, and no one likes losing yet another hour of daylight in the fall evenings.

So, who is the giant deep pockets supporter of DST with enough pull to not only have congress keep it around, but keep monkeying with the date? I'd believe it if we enacted it years ago as an attempt to save energy and were just stuck with it ever since if the congress just never got around to getting rid of it. But they constantly fiddle with it. They don't fiddle with anything unless someone with deep pockets tells them to, so who cares that much about it to actually keep it from dying?

Car Shopping, the way it should always be...
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mjperson
I went car shopping today. It was fabulous. The last time I went car shopping, it was a pretty intensely annoying experience. It was filled with strange theater, where there were good guys (salesmen) and bad guys (managers) did battle with each other to get me a good price and/or screw me over...

Today, I walked into the dealership and opened with, "I have absolutely no ability to affect the price/financing or service and warranty contracts at all. I am simply here to decide which vehicle I want, with what features. Then MIT purchasing will contact you and do all negotiations. I get no input into that process at all. I just pick the car and then forward them to you."

With that on the table, it was a pleasure. They didn't bother with any theater; they didn't pester me with foolishness at all. They just showed me cars, and told me about them. I took them for test drives, asked about features, examined cargo space, and talked about what was physically available. The two times when the salesman went into some pre-programmed spiel with prices or financing terms in it, he remembered, cut himself off, apologized, and got back to showing me cars.

I wonder if there's a market in that. Professional car price negotiator. The car-wanter gets absolutely no look into it at all, and tells the salesman that his "buyer" will contact him once he has chosen a car. The negotiator gets the best deal he can *AFTER* all the options have been decided upon and there's no annoying "I'll throw in floor mats if you take the extended warranty..." nonsense making the whole price matrix 10-dimensional.

It certainly made the process nearly painless for me. A HUGE change from last time.

Call the irony police
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mjperson
I've been on a bunch of cruise ships, thanks to my family's tendency to have joint vacations on them. Generally, there is a priest on-board and he gathers 20 of us or so up in some lounge or card room or cooking area and celebrates mass here and there throughout the week.

I just got back from the largest cruise ship I've been on yet, the Freedom of the Seas. It's apparently like the 3rd largest currently sailing. I was really impressed with it. It was so large that it actually had a fully appointed chapel in amongst the extra upper decks. Of course, the very first cruise ship I've been on with a chapel was also the first cruise ship I've been on without a priest. Sigh.

How Things Change...
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mjperson
I was discussing my observatory and recent results with my faculty sponsor earlier today and I was really struck with how we're watching science advance right before our eyes here.

Five years ago, observing extrasolar-planet transits (when a planet around another star passes in front of its parent star as seen from earth) from my observatory was a PhD thesis.

Four years ago, someone observed them as part of their Masters thesis.

Two and three years ago, students observed them for their Bachelors' theses.

This year, a student observed several for his semester project in the observing class.

In a few years, I'm sure I'll have people observing these things just to train them on how the telescope works...

It's quite amazing watching these observations evolve.

Horrible Murder with Friends
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mjperson
So, I don't like movies of the genre: "A bunch of people die horribly in the woods/neighborhood/whatever because of the serial killer/monster/whatever who hunts them down one by one." I recall that I did in middle school and early high school, but by the time I got to college, I was completely done with that. Ick.

Therefore, it's really hard to sit around having people tell me, "No, you absolutely *must* go see Cabin in the Woods." I mean, I clarify with them explicitly, "I don't like people get horribly murdered in the woods movies," and they respond with "Normally, yes, but this is the people get horribly murdered in the woods movie that was written for you."

So, in the end, I went. Because that's one of the good features of having friends right? So they can be out sampling the world and reporting back to you. You probably shouldn't just ignore them.

It turned out it was great and I really enjoyed it. There was a total of about 10 seconds all told where the camera lingered just a little too long on the horrible killing, but in the end, they were right. This was the people die horribly in the woods movie for me.

It's good to have friends smart enough to know when to say, "Just go to the movie. We promise."

Apparently, they won
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mjperson
Remember those light mounts installed in all of our offices I was annoyed about? Well, the hackers finally had their meeting with the department head.

The results:

  • The display creators will inform EAPS’s Department Head and Administrative Officer before they put anything on the display, and they will need explicit approval as to whether the material can be displayed or not. (NB We agreed that this does not need to go beyond the Head and AO so as to ensure the important aspect of surprise.)
  • If anything needs to happen to any of the lights, an MIT official will enter the office with explicit prior approval of (and scheduling by) the particular office dweller.
  • If anyone in EAPS has a request to display something, they agreed to help, subject to the limitations of the display. If there is such a request, it should go through the EAPS Department Head or AO.
  • While there is no set frequency as to the usage of the display, it will not become commonplace.
  • To minimize the need to interfere, the "organizers" kindly asked that the light modules remain on the windowsills and kept plugged in if at all possible. If the room occupant wishes not to have the light on, the small button can be pushed to disable the lights for the night. This will minimize the number of rooms that would have to be entered in order to make sure all of the modules are working correctly before a display goes up.
  • Violation of any of these terms will nullify the agreement and no further displays will happen.

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