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Bela Lugosi's Dead, Jim Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "ewx" journal:

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April 18th, 2016
09:34 pm
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West Highland Way

naath is taking a long walk in Scotland. She's sent some photos:

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February 23rd, 2016
02:35 pm
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Colorful Security Question

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red/black_concept describes a notation sometimes used when discussing confidentiality:

  • red denotes signals carrying secret plaintext;
  • black denotes signals carrying ciphertext.

Is there any generally agreed coloring for the analogous integrity question? i.e.:

  • a color which denotes signals where integrity matters (or maybe this is "all of them" and we don't need a specific choice of color); and
  • a color which indicates a signal with cryptographic integrity protection of some kind.

Non-color visual notations also welcome for several reasons:

  1. things still get printed in monochrome;
  2. color vision is not uniform among humans;
  3. using too many color notations at once leads to angry fruit salad rather than clear diagrams.

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February 14th, 2016
11:04 pm
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Happy Saints Cyril and Methodius' Day

Since it’s the feast of day Saints Cyril and Methodius, it occurred to me to wonder who else has a script named after them. pseudomonas chipped in and we came up with the following:

  • Tironian notes, a shorthand system attributed to a Roman scribe called Marcus Tullius Tiro from the 1st century BCE. This seems to be an alphabetic system with an aggressively compositional character leading a large number of distinct signs. It was used in medieval Europe.
  • The Manichaean alphabet (technically an abjad), a descendant of the Aramaic script used in the Persian empire (the original one that caused classical Greece so much trouble) and supposedly the creation of the prophet Mani. Mani was the founder of Manichaeism, an early competitor to Christianity that failed to attach itself to any imperial power and seems to have subsequently been persecuted out of existence.
  • Cyrillic, a C9th descendant of the Greek alphabet attributed to the brothers Cyril and Methodius, a traditional attribution apparently supported by explicit reference in a papal bull that unfortunately I can’t find a copy of (much less translation into something I understand). It remains widely used for Slavic languages.
  • Braille was invented by Louise Braille in the C19th as an improvement on the unusably difficult Night writing, originally invented for the purposes of silent communication among soldiers. I often see this in public places and of course the use case has not gone away.
  • Pitman shorthand, invented by Isaac Pitman in the C19th as a phonetically system for writing quickly. Gregg shorthand and Duployan shorthand also date from the same era and there seem to be a number of other shorthands with people’s names attached, and I lost interest chasing down variations on this particular theme. I’m not sure how widely used these systems are any more.

Things that didn’t quite make it:

  • Ogham, an early medieval Irish script attested from the C4th but probably somewhat older. Mythologically attributed to the god Ogma. I rejected this because I wanted people with scripts named after them, not scripts with a probably fictitious attribution to someone who didn’t actually exist.
  • The Gupta script, used for writing in Sanskrit in the Gupta Empire in India (roughly contemporary with the Roman Empire). The script is only indirectly named for an individual - in fact is is named for the empire, which is in turn named after the Gupta dynasty. I rejected Georgian scripts for the same reason.

pseudomonas is mentioning more on IRC but it’s getting late…

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January 25th, 2016
10:40 pm
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Latest Humble Books Bundle
Humble Comics Bundle 'Creators Own Worlds'. About a day left so I’ll post pint-sized reviews now rather than waiting any longer.

Bitch Planet Vol. 1. The setting is a world where patriarchy is more overtly the basis of society; the president is called “Father” and women are imprisoned for the most trivial breaches of strict gender roles. The plot is largely set in a prison, where it can focus on systematic oppression and attempts to live within a corrupt, brutal and tightly circumscribed environment. But the planet of the title refers to the fact that apparently space travel is easy enough to ship these convicts to a prison located on some other planet - yet puzzingly this doesn’t seem to have made any other difference to society (at least as far as we see it). Some good characters.

Descender Vol. 1. Haven’t read this yet.

Free Issues Courtesy of Image Comics. Haven’t read this yet.

Image Comics Humble Bundle Preview Book 2016. Haven’t read this yet.

Injection Vol. 1. Magico-technological thriller. (Magicological?) The computer stuff mostly didn’t make me roll my eyes, which sounds like a low bar but in practice isn’t. I found the presentation a bit flat but the story was interesting enough to make up for it.

Invincible Compendium (Issues #1-47). Haven’t read this yet.

Jupiter's Circle Vol. 1. 1950s-ish superheroes with 1950s-ish flaws (gay, has affairs, alcoholic, etc). Watchmen did it better.

Just The Tips. Satirical sex and dating advice from the people responsible for Sex Criminals. Funny.

Kaptara Vol. 1. A small group of humans get stranded on an alien world. Very reminiscent of the Flash Gordon film. Humour with occasional darkness. Not bad but not great.

Low Vol. 1. End-of-time submariners attempt to navigate sea monsters and human monsters to save the world, which seems to have less clothes and less immortals than you might otherwise expect. The artwork sometimes emphasizes prettiness over clarity but I coped.

No Mercy. A group of students are in a bus crash somewhere remote. Relentlessly depressing.

Nowhere Men Vol. 1. A small group of superstar scientists degrade over the years from successful and positive collaboration to struggle and the creation of monsters. Lots of flashback. I found it hard to follow.

ODY-C Vol. 1. The Odyssey in space with female characters. More artwork emphasizing prettiness over clarity. Lots of narration, which would normally be a bad sign in a comic, but it gets away with it.

Outcast Vol. 1. Haven’t read this yet.

Phonogram Vol. 1. Magic and 1990s indie bands. Would particularly suit a reader who didn’t need most of the four-page glossary at the end (none of it about magic) but I enjoyed it nevertheless

Phonogram Vol. 2. Haven’t read this yet.

Rat Queens Special: Braga #1. An orc wants something more than orcish conflict. *shrug*

Saga Vol. 4. By volume 4 you should probably know whether you like this or not. I do.

Saga Vol. 5. Haven’t read this yet.

Self-Obsessed. Bounced off this almost immediately.

Stray Bullets #1-41. Unsympathetic people doing horrible things ... I nearly put it down, but I persevered and got to some more engaging characters. There’s nearly 1,200 pages here so don’t expect to get through it in a single sitting.

Sunstone Vol 1. Two women enter into a BDSM-based romance. Nicely drawn.

Trees Vol. 1. Mysterious alien trees plant themselves on earth, causing chaos and destruction. Most of the story is about the various characters development rather than the trees; some of them are sympathetic and interesting but others unexcitingly horrible. If anything I was more interested in the idea of volume 2 about three quarters of the way through than by the end.

Virgil. Revenge fantasy involving a gay Jamaican police officer.

Wayward Vol. 1. Tokyo urban fantasy. A teenage girl moves to Japan and finds she has magic powers and meets similarly equipped peers. Together they struggle against creatures from Japanese folklore. Nice artwork, good characters. Huge appendices containing background on all the things they run into.

Wolf Vol. 1. Los Angeles urban fantasy. European folkloric monsters this time. Not bad but not as good as Wayward.

Wytches Vol. 1. Black magic in rural America. I found the artwork a bit chaotic but the story was enjoyable.

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January 17th, 2016
10:47 pm
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Purple!
naath has purple hair now!

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(In fact since before Christmas, I'm just behind on posting photos.)

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10:46 pm
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Daftness
You see a lot of this design around Cambridge, I think invariably at floor level. Also Herons, though I've not been recording those.

On Tenison Road

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10:41 pm
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Centre for Computing History
We visited the Centre for Computing History in October. Although a bit haphazard in places there's a lot to look at and much of it was familiar.

naath playing Atic Atac. You run around a castle collecting keys (to get through doors) and the fragments of a quest object. I spent a lot of time playing this; I remember one of my brother and I finishing it though I can no longer remember which of us did so!

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January 11th, 2016
09:22 pm
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Alas
I reached for 1. Outside first, because of course I would. A concept album and I love the concept; aurally while I like the music, it’s the lyrics that I’m really here for. Some of my favourites:

(i) “Oh, Ramona - if there was only something between us
If there was only something between us
Other than our clothes


Something I have thought about a number of people over the years.

(ii) “Something is going to be horrid” ... BOOM CRASH HALLO SPACEBOY

A fantastic audio cut, at a key point in the story - if it was a film this would be the last time we saw Baby Grace Blue alive (nonlinearity permitting).

(iii) “Watching the young advancing all electric

A lovely image, and always makes me think of the explosion of personal electronics in the years since. Laptops, iPods, smartphones, Fitbits, and it’s not over yet.

(iv) “I started with no enemies of my own
[...]
I’ve been dreaming of sleep ... and ape. men. with. metal. parts.


Ramona gets the best lines, consistent with her role, and the delivery of the latter in particular is fantastic. The implication that someone might have to - or want to - borrow someone else’s enemies, until they could organise some of their own, is a marvellous one.

Rolling Stone wrote, admittedly among some more sensible things:

It’s too bad that Bowie and Eno don’t allow themselves the luxury of a straightforward pop song until the very end. You have to wade through 19 tracks of conceptual mischief to get to the simple melodic development and swelling chorus of “Strangers When We Meet.”

Fucking philistines. The conceptual mischief is the whole point. For a review from someone who actually got it, see the second review here (by Iai).

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December 29th, 2015
05:08 pm
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Two TV reviews
The Killing. Lengthy subtitled Danish police procedural, in which Copenhagen detective Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) becomes obsessed with solving the horrific murder of Nanna Birk Larsen.

There are some fairly engaging characters here. Lund’s self-destructive obsession is very well portrayed, and Troels Hartmann (Lars Mikkelsen) political machinations under fire are enjoyable.

I guessed fairly early on who was the most likely killer although of course I wasn’t sure until late whether this was the kind of story where you see the perpetrator from the start or the police eventually track them down while they’re mostly off-screen.

The biggest problem, and it’s a recurring one, is characters who spend much too long being stupid, for instance inexplicably preferring to get tangled up in a murder investigation instead of than tell the police what they were really up to (which rarely turns out to be anything that the police would be very likely to care much about). In general, failure to communicate is an ever-present theme. I think they were aiming at with all this is “no-one is what they seem” but, to be effective, that needs a bit more than just clamming up for unconvincing reasons.

The series would also have benefitted from being a bit shorter, for instance by ditching one of the false leads, either completely or by having someone given the perfectly reasonable explanation for their superficially mysterious behavior up-front rather than taking a few episodes over it.

Top of the Lake. A more compact story set in a remote part of New Zealand. 12YO Tui Mitcham turns out to be unexpectedly pregnant and then ups and disappears. Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) investigates.

Griffin is not as self-destructive as Lund, but instead mostly struggles with her own history. Tui’s monstrous but complex father Matt (Peter Mullan) dominates every scene he’s in and is the most interesting character here, producing several surprises over the course of the series.

The final episode packs rather a lot of resolution into a small space, satisfyingly tying together a lot of threads but leading to a bit of a change of pace from its fairly relaxed predecessors.

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November 8th, 2015
09:38 pm
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Is there a well-known name for this?

From time to time I and colleagues find ourselves extending some function in C in a way that requires extra arguments. Often this happens in a context where it's impractical to change all the callers (for instance, because some of them are in customer code) so the extended version of the function gets a new name and the original name just calls that with some default value of the new arguments.

For instance I might go from this:

int refine_glorp(glorp *g) {
  /* refinement */
}

…to this:

int refine_glorp(glorp *g) {
  return refine_glorp_ex(g, 0);
}

int refine_glorp_ex(glorp *g, int arg) {
  /* extended refinement, based on arg */
}

Is there a well-known name for this transformation?

A colleague who did this a week or so ago started out with 'decapitation' but changed his mind to 'recapitation' on the grounds that he was really adding a second head to the function rather than removing one. But neither of us knew if there was already a name for this.

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