( Come for the books, stay for the books )
What I'm Reading Now
Nancy Kress, Yesterday's Kin: Because sometimes you just want some hard SF about genetic engineering and what everyone's going to do when the world ends. Short, and so far the human relationships are all kind of flat, but it is definitely scratching that particular hard SF itch. Maybe I should reread Beggars in Spain.
Comics Wednesday: Avengers 43 OH MY GOD OH MY GOD. ( OMG. )
I think mostly I am not posting so much because clearly all I want to post about is comics squee and I feel like comics squee goes on Tumblr.
What I'm Reading Next
I enjoyed this, but not as much as the first two. The recipes that they did included a faffy but gorgeous looking apple charlotte, and other faffy things. The things that weren't faffy involved foods I can't feed gwyddno but might well be persuaded to try for the veggies in my life :).
I don't know why, but it just wasn't as inspiring as the other episodes. I enjoyed the history segments - Johnnie Oignons in particular - but... Somehow it didn't gel...
To our friends and Sunrise users.
Following our recent integration into the great Microsoft family, we have more news to share with you today! Brace yourself, this is going to be exciting.
We have been working hard for the past few weeks and are happy to say that we have finally succeeded in bringing back to life one of the most famous artificial intelligences of all time, a.k.a Clippy.
After almost 10 years of unemployment, we are offering Clippy the job it always deserved. Right inside your Sunrise calendar as your very own personal assistant.
So, if you're interested in the current (as of 2008, anyway) state of scholarship with respect to the origins of the ancient Israelites, the history of the creation of the Bible, and how archaeology and the Bible interact, I highly recommend this Nova episode:
Foot: still sore, still a little swollen. Going back to icing it today.
Viola: Went to pick it up on Monday. I am much less of a fan of the colour than I'd hoped: it's a lot flatter than anticipated, and it makes it look... cheap. More importantly, there was an inch-long crack next to the tailpiece. Looked like someone had dropped the package on its end and hit the tailpiece just right. So it's going back to the factory. I'll call the store today and see if I can talk to a human being and cancel the dye job, just get a glossy-black hybrid.
On the bright side, they loaned me the standard carbon-fibre viola they had in stock, and it sounds roughly a zillion times better than the $200 rental I had before. So there's that.
Writing: Been plinking away at this %&$ story. It looks like I'm going to have to do something I've never done before: write a scene or three from a different character's perspective so I can figure out what happens, even though I know for a fact I'm not going to use those scenes. Oh well. Going out to sit in a coffeeshop & write with Steph this evening, which will be pleasant.
Role-playing: reached a stopping point in the Lords of Gossamer & Shadow game last week. I made a rookie-GM mistake in the Big Fight Scene and had an NPC doing a lot of the actual fighting but apart from that it went reasonably well. We're now taking a break to play 13th Age, which appears to be "D&D with fewer rules and more cool storytelling tools."
There's also been some friction with the perennially difficult player, which might warrant its own post later. Or maybe not.
Boardgames: Forgot to mention that I spent much of last weekend at another boardgame convention thing. This one's run by a local wargame club, but they have a small contingent of 18xx players. It was decent: got in three games, and enjoyed the company alright. They have regular meetings one Friday a month, to which I may go.
I leave for the Gathering (ten-day gaming convention in Niagara) in eight and a half days. Based on the cost breakdown and the general state of finances this is probably a mild error in judgement, but it'll be fun.
Speaking of money, I'm also sorting through taxes, which are slightly complicated this year. That's why we pay Chris-the-accountant the small-to-medium bucks. On the "bright" side we're likely to get a small-to-medium refund depending on how some things get classified.
Cats: Are adorable. Chaos is a lot more mobile, and also a lot less steady on his feet than he wants to be, especially when jumping. But he *is* jumping, so that's a good sign. Mostly they both do a lot of sleeping, as is appropriate for elder kittens.
Overall things are good, I think.
The black Russian birches
only turn silver forty feet up,
where their italic trunks
arc into the rainlike gauze
of their trembling world of leaf:
a line of them two hundred years old
at least, set to outlive us all,
shedding late-evening dusk
my ancestors would have known
that mid September in 1917
when they left the ship
in a wind cold off the Dvina.
That's all I find: between
the trees and the docks,
a deep tank of birch-light,
a green gloom lit with stars,
and the swaying proof
they once walked through it.
- Henry Shukman, Archangel, Cape Poetry (London: 2013), p. 36.
"Don't let the conversation die, because if we do that, our silence will be a shield for this law. And if anyone points out that we are being loud and awkward and making the whole situation so very, very uncomfortable, we can point out that being discriminated against is deeply awkward.
"Now, I want to be clear, I am not calling on vulnerable folks targeted by this legislation to put their safety at risk -- I am calling on folks like me, who are not (yet) the target of this legislation. We need to take care of our community and right now that means making a big, ugly scene. Throw a fit over this."
-- Amelia Aldred, 2015-03-28 [emphasis in original]
In my next to last post I gave, without exactly meaning to, a pretty full review of the Nokia 635 smartphone running Windows 8.1 (tl;dr: it's not perfect but it's pretty neat, especially compared to any run of the mill Android). What I neglected to mention was anything about Cortana. She's the entire reason some people buy a Windows phone and why they love using one. She's Microsoft's answer to Siri and Google NOW (which is Google's answer to precisely nothing, but that's another post.)
I didn't mention Cortana because a) I've never been terribly impressed with her and b) it annoys me when other people are. There are movies these days about losing a love conquest to an operating system and while I didn't exactly have that problem, back when Cortana belonged to someone else's phone it could feel like a love triangle - especially once her name got mentioned more times each day than my own did. While I'm very low-key about it (perhaps "simmering, backburner rage" would be a good way to put it) I'm a green-eyed little monster and I don't cut operating systems much slack simply because they're not human. Pffft...tell that to someone who thinks they are. Or who wishes they could be. This shit really does happen! So yeah...fuck you, Cortana.
Jealousy aside, I can see the utility of having Cortana because she can do things like
replace me altogether mark down appointments, give you reminders, look up maps, find answers to burning questions, wake you up in the morning, describe your route to work, tell you what your girlfriend ought to make for dinner, and so on. But she's no Siri.
I've never owned an iPhone so I can't say exactly how well Siri works but I have a feeling Cortana can't hold a candle to her, and if you're going to
replace me supplement the existence of another human being with a lifelike app, at least be as good at it as Siri. Without knowing what Siri's capable of or how short Cortana falls of her glory, or why it should even matter if she's as good as Siri or not, here's a short list of things I wish Cortana could do besides go get hit by a car so I can make her my slave learn to see her as a valuable addition to my life:
- Speak first. At least once in a while, because
for a homewreckershe is the shyest thing ever. When I open her app she should greet me first. It's like when you playfully poke someone in the back and they turn around and say: "Hey!". By opening her app I'm giving her exactly the same poke so I shouldn't have to say, "Hey Cortana!" on top of that and then wait a few more seconds for her to finally turn around and say "Hey!". I poked you, damn it - SPEAK.
- Speak more. I mean, why does it always have to be, "Hey, MM" every single time? Sometimes I'll change it up by saying Hi, Hello, Hey, Hey there, or What's up, Cortana? But each time it's just the same old, "Hey, MM" in response. I feel like I'm talking to an automa--
- Lose the app. If she was really smart she'd be ever-present. This would require the phone to always listen, of course, but as long as I could trust that the feed isn't stored anywhere this could be the coolest thing. You shouldn't need to click/poke/tap or summon your personal assistant with anything more than the sound of your own voice.
- Converse by text. Not many people will recall - because not many people ever used it - but back in the day Google had search by text. You texted your search terms to Google's number and Google sent back a link to search results. Similarly, I want Cortana by text. She should always be there, the top thread when I open my texting app, and opening her should summon a nice, "Hey MM, what's up?". I want Cortana By Text for privacy reasons and to keep the the house quiet late at night. The acoustics here are terrible; voices carry, even through thick, solid slabs of wall, and I'm tired of not being able to silently summon her without going directly to her app.
- Give her multiple and quite plastic personalities. Not so she can have a bunch of them at once but so I can choose the best ones to inflict on others,
especially those who think she's so charming. Cortana the at first Budding then Raging Feminist, for instance, could be my best fucking friend, forever.
If I ran an "Adventures In Shopping" series (I don't, but it really is a shame that I don't) this would definitely make the cut. To save money on Amazon, smart shoppers are supposed to watch for price drops on camelcamelcamel.com. I don't do it because there isn't enough I need to buy online to get me watching for falling prices on Amazon like I watch for bouncy, bright yellow, smiling ROLLBACK faces at Walmart, which are constantly hitting me in the head as I stroll down their aisles each week. But it's such a cheerful way to save money and make money by suing Walmart for pain and injury, all at once.
So I opened the tab for camelcamelcamel.com tonight as it was in a folder for partially unread bookmarks from last week's online browsing session. As a good shopper I figured I'd check the front page real quick just in case but nothing grabbed me until I realized boy, could I save myself a bundle right now if I just happened to be in the market for Gorilla Tape.
I could save $131,069.03 a roll, to be precise.
So. When exactly did Gorilla tape start costing so much? And what exactly is it...like...weatherstripping? I can't imagine spending as much on one roll as you might on your next house but hey, I guess it must come in pretty damn handy to command such a steep price.
(Which reminds me of my mom's motto: "I can fix anything - just give me a can of WD40 and some duct tape". Fortunately, neither accoutrement will run you anywhere near a hundred grand. Gorilla Tape, on the other hand...)