credit -- isabellecs

People understand the idea of 'simile', right?

I wouldn't have bothered saying something, but some normally interesting locations are leaping into this fray with over-excited headlines and little rational argument: Ken Buck, a conservative candidate for Senate in Colorado, said that ""I think that birth has an influence over [homosexuality], like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice." This has prompted a number of normally sober sites such as to run around accusing Buck of some incredible comparison.

Yes, he did compare homosexuality with alcoholism. In the sense that he is claiming both are diseases that are influenced by birth/genes which individuals have power to choose how they're expressed. People are familiar with this argument about alcoholism; drawing a comparison between the two mechanisms is thus useful for debate purposes. This is entirely distinct from talking about the actual results of said mechanisms.

Basically, in my longwinded way, it annoys me that certain people in my rough ideological spectrum don't seem interested in actual good-faith debate; if someone advances an argument which is then siezed upon and irrationally screamed about, then soon there won't be any actual debate. It's just sloganeering and shouting down the other side.
credit -- isabellecs

West Coast Swing workshop

This weekend was taken up with an intense west coast swing workshop at Two Left Feet. For the uninitiated, I should point out that Two Left Feet is probably the best venue in the entire bay area for west coast swing; however, it's located out in the middle of nowhere, roughly an hour away on the other side of the Bay. So I unfortunately don't make it out there often -- once every few months, perhaps.

I went there on Saturday with the ever-delightful M around 4pm on Saturday and left there about 1:30am ; almost the entire time in between was spent on the floor (Sunday was a comparatively gentle 2 hours of dancing). There was a bit of a gender imbalance, but unlike the Peninsula, there were more followers than leaders; such a novelty is to be treasured. But they were disciplined about rotation ; I suppose that's a benefit of a non-travelling dance, in part, but it helps make sure everybody dances fairly with everybody else during the lesson.

The lessons were great; I took some notes although not enough, and got a lot of social dancing. I was a little repetitive in the social dance afterwards, and didn't integrate the lessons well enough, but I felt pretty good following it; I got at least a few style variations in with the different partners, and I had some really good dances. Somewhere either that night or on Sunday, I even started getting comfortable with a move that's confounded me for over a year, and is basically one of my favorite west coast swing moves to witness ever.

On the minus side, I was making some really stupid mistakes during some of the lessons, like just not remembering which side pass they wanted to do, screwing up the initial move into the bow&arrow position because I started rotating the person wrongly, so forth. Just not thinking far enough ahead, or having a very limited short-term memory. Le sigh.

Afterwards, I went down and had group dinner with some old friends; an unusually busy weekend for me, but a lot of fun.
credit -- isabellecs

Recent movies

Down to 488 DVDs/248 instant streams on netflix. Finished up Wristcutters: A Love Story (well done, but predictable), Californication: Season 1 (really good; watched it all in a night), Capote (not a big fan of it), Shopgirl (don't waste your time), L'Ennui (worthy of its title), and The Incredible Hulk (soooo much better than the Ang Lee monstrosity).

So I watched The Opposite of Sex tonight. I liked it, surprisingly.
credit -- isabellecs

Review: 3 Dresden Files Books

Storm Front
Dead Beat
Blood Rites
by Jim Butcher

Placeholder for reviews of those 3 books. Short summary: very fun books. Ignore the munchkinism ... this early in the series, Dresden isn't nearly as built up as he is in the last few. I devoured them all quickly, along with two previous last library trip, and I expect I'll be trying to read all 20 of 'em and at least trying out the short-lived show on Sci-Fi,
credit -- isabellecs

Review: This is Not a Game

This is Not a Game
by Walter Jon Williams

I'm convinced "augmented reality" is an invention by Science Fiction authors for benefit of their plot. They can pretend it exists since that lets them write interesting stories, and we readers can just nod our heads and read an adventure novel. At least, I'm convinced that until I see that people actually seem to enjoy "playing" Foursquare...

At any rate, much like Stross's Halting State, WJW's This is Not A Game is concerned with employees of a company that creates games that take place in the real world using a mixture of real and fake clues. For example, they might put up a billboard in a city with an encoded string of symbols; curious lookers on could end up decrypting it to be a URL. The website at that URL then presents a series of clues to some sort of mystery; some puzzles might end up pointing people to a phone number, where an actress will take a call and give the next puzzle in her dialogue.

(Aside: As I write the above, I am actually reminded of the Bill Murray film The Man Who Knew Too Little, so I guess fiction writers of all sorts like the idea. But I still haven't seen it advertised in the real world -- perhaps I just don't know where to look?)

There are basically two halves of this: in the first half, WJW demonstrates how this could tie in, if you have a good enough crew putting it on, to blend in real world events with the game, to create a more convincing illusion and to possibly solve real world issues. Then, he adds on a fantastic extension of the premise: what happens if the real world starts to get more gamelike? a corporate executive involved with the company putting on the game is gunned down in the parking lot, as they're putting on a game about a woman in peril from a shadowy corporation...

Not surprisingly for WJW, this was fantastically written to engage people -- well, me, at least. Once I started reading this, I didn't want to stop at all. However, it structurally felt odd... the two halves felt moderately standalone. The twists were also pretty predictable. Recommended to read, but not the best work to judge the fantastic WJW by.
credit -- isabellecs

Review: Kushiel's Justice

Kushiel's Justice
by Jacqueline Carey

Fantasy has served a lot of different religious traditions, from disguised Christianity like Narnia, to token Anglicism like in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel to entirely invented theistic worlds, like Chalion. But one thing it hasn't done a lot of is forked alternate worlds based on "heretical Christianity", to use a term. Jacqueline Carey's series, Kushiel's Legacy, does that in a richly imagined 11th century Europe which went different when Jesus had a son, Elua, by Mary Magdalene. This son was looked upon with disfavor by God and went traipsing around Europe with a band of rebel angels, mingling with mortals to produce a newly chosen people. These people settled in Terre d'Ange (basically, France), and became prosperous, religious, egalitarian, and libertine (the central precept of the religion centred around Elua is "love as thou wilt" -- basically, free love and few sexual taboos).

The first books of the series revolved around a courtesan Phedre, who was an anguisette of Kushiel -- think a religious masochist devoted to the angel of punishment; this book is concerned with her adopted son, Imriel de Courciel, a not too distant heir to the throne of Tere d'Ange, and his growth into marriage and first love. I mention those separately because, as the plot unfolds, the distinction matters. Unlike earlier books in the series, the writing feels less stylized period; this may be because it shifts viewpoint from an educated courtesan to a teenage boy, or may be that Carey has matured as a writer; I'll have to judge her later books to fairly judge. I somewhat miss the earlier style, though.

Without giving a simple plot summary, Imriel falls in love with someone despite being engaged to another for reason of statecraft. This is treated as potentially problematic, because the society and religion focuses on expressing love, but the religion isn't universal, and issues of national interest are exposed. It also does a wonderful job of presenting a view that love could be inculcated by circumstance, if there was a way to change the circumstances and push past existing love that would interfere.

Those who are familiar with Carey's proclivities won't be too surprised when the path Imriel travels is doomed to pain and complications. His marriage is doomed, his choices are doomed, his vengeance is bittersweet at best, and yet ... true love manages at least a win on points. All in all, I liked it; in many ways, this reminds me of some of Robin Hobb's work, but doesn't have the overwhelming angst that Hobbs puts in. It's in the intersection of alternate history, romance, and fantasy -- while there is magic in the world, it's a tool in the exploration of love and history. It's not, however, a "buy on sight" series; while I enjoyed it as I read it, I had no trouble putting it down to do other stuff, and it required a little bit of concentration to pick back up.
credit -- isabellecs

Review: The Domino Pattern

The Domino Pattern
by Timothy Zahn

This is the fourth book in Timothy Zahn's series of a private detective who has gotten involved in a galaxy-wide confrontation among various telepathic entities. The series goes to great lengths to establish a hard-boiled detective riding the rails among the stars, and I appreciate it for that. Zahn is at his worst a competent writer; I think the entire series so far has been slight but pretty fun; each book to date has definitely stood on its own, but he's trying to establish an overall character arc, and as of the latest, is showing signs that the series ending won't actually turn out the way it was forecast back in books one and two.

This manages to sketch out a really enjoyable read in individual books of about 400 pages what Peter Hamilton needed more than three times the verbiage to do in his Commonwealth Saga (there are superficial similarities in the plots, although there are enough differences to appreciate each).

I suspect there's about 3-4 more books in this series before he draws it to a close, but it's open-ended enough that he could close it on any book of his choice.
credit -- isabellecs


Yeah, that last entry was weak. It was a draft my browser kept reminding me about when I came to write a new entry, so it was acting as a logjam. I got that out of the way just so I could continue with my attempt to write again. Expect at least a few more entries this year, as I attempt to follow the Project 52 idea of at least one post a week this year. (I'm already behind, but eh).

In a similar vein, things I'd like to do:
* Read 52 new books this year. (At least some fraction of this should be non-fiction, but I don't have a clear goal of this).
* Watch 52 new films with written reviews (I have a blogspot blog where I try to post movie reviews).
* Meet 5 new people. I am not social enough, really.
* Release 2 open source projects. I don't program enough (at work, too, but as importantly, in my free time). I should be able to come up with and release at least two things over the course of the next year.
credit -- isabellecs

(no subject)

Thanks to the magic of the DVR, I'm still watching a show that aired months ago. But so it goes. Two dances I really liked this week: Dmitri and Miya's foxtrot (I tried choreographic a foxtrot to this song once with Alicia; we eventually gave up on it, because we weren't doing anything to live up to the music, were having trouble getting together, and my partner wanted to focus on her tango routine with somebody else. But eh, so it goes).

Aaron and Karina's Jive was just awesome. The results show jive ... not so incredible.
credit -- isabellecs

Movies in the background

so I was working late, with movies playing in the background, and may have figured out a way of halving this silly false positiver rate; sadly this is an obvious thing I considered about two weeks ago but let the massive pile of data distract me from. now to double check it against some validation sets...

At any rate, Sunset Boulevard is a very good movie; Marilyn Hotchkiss's Ballroom Dance and Charm School is lesser but it's also good. I really liked the last 15 minutes; they transform the movie, but not in like Memento.

So far Puccini for Beginners is pretty good, also.

(My attempt to winnow my netflix queue down from its 450+ discs plus 100 insta-watch movies must be aggressively pursued, or I shall fall behind with no chance to catch up).