Hugo Awards are announced

This
year’s awards
were announced last night.

Because the voting took place last June, when I had flu and the
Boston Early Music Festival and my mother got sick and died, I
didn’t blog about them the way I usually do.

There were two things LoneStarCon did differently this year
that cut into my ability to blog:

  • They didn’t really announce when the packet for voters was
    available, so it had probably been up for a few weeks before I
    downloaded it and started reading. So I only read the major
    categories (novel, novella, novellette, short story), and not
    things like related works, and I didn’t get around to watching
    any of the nominated films.
  • They also didn’t send me a copy of how I voted, and so now
    almost three months later, I can’t really tell you except for
    novel. I remember the quality being uniformly pretty good, so I
    had trouble making up my mind on almost everything.

I am disappointed with the result of the novel voting.
Redshirts won, and that was the only one I seriously considered
voting against. (You rank your choices rather than
voting for just one, and one of the choices is “no award”, so I
call it voting against if I rank something behind “no award”.) I
didn’t end up doing that to Redshirts, but I did
think the basic premise was puerile.

Other than that, I thought they were all pretty good. I hadn’t
read any Kim Stanley Robinson before, and I thought
2312 was brilliant, but that the writing was a bit
long-winded. Throne of the Crescent Moon was a
good example of a fantasy set in a non-european (Arab in this
case) environment. Blackout wrapped up the trilogy
with fewer loose ends than I would have expected.

In the end, though, I voted for Captain Vorpatril’s
Alliance
. I know I’ve declined to vote for previous books
because they were part of a long series, but this one is more
self-contained than most of the Vorkosigan books. It’s true
that you wouldn’t care about the characters as much if you
hadn’t seen them before. But the basic reason I voted for it is
that I just liked it better. It was the only one I’d read
before the packet came out, so I left it to the end, but then I
really decided I had to reread it. I’m not sure I’ll ever want
to reread any of the others.


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Column explaining Obama’s decision on Syria

Ross Douthat wrote a good column
in today’s paper explaining why Obama wants to do what he’s doing
in Syria. I don’t agree with the reasoning, but I think it’s a
better explanation of it than I’ve heard from anyone else,
including Obama himself.

You should read the whole column, but here are some excerpts:

…Of course there’s something arbitrary about telling a dictator he
can kill his subjects with bullets but not gas. But there’s
something arbitrary about any constraint we impose on lesser
powers. The point is to sustain an environment of constraint,
period — in which troublemakers are constantly aware they can only push so far before American military power pushes back.


Look: I know Thomas Aquinas wouldn’t endorse a war for American
credibility, and I know the Barack Obama of 2007 probably
wouldn’t either. But most of my post-cold-war predecessors
would, and did. And they’ve bequeathed me a world that — no matter what the headlines suggest — is more at peace than at any point in human history.

When I was trying to decide who to vote for in the
Massachusetts democratic primary in 2008, I ignored the argument a
lot of my friends were making that Hilary Clinton had voted for
the war in Iraq and Barack Obama hadn’t. I said that Obama had said he
wouldn’t have, but he wasn’t in the senate then, and wasn’t
subject to the pressures that the actual senators were, so we
didn’t really know whether he would have voted for the war.

I think this decision, and several others Obama has made since
becoming president, justify my reasoning. Having a job like
President changes you, so you have to decide who should get that
job based on how well you think the person will deal with those
pressures, and not on what the person says about what he’ll
do.

For the record, I did actually vote for Obama over Clinton. I
felt sorry not to vote for Clinton, who has more in common with me
than any other candidate in my lifetime, but the endorsements by
senators who had presumably worked with both of them swayed me.
Also the position papers on some of the tech-related issues I care
about suggested that Obama had more people in his circle who also
cared about such things. I’ve been somewhat disappointed in his
record on those issues, though, so I was probably doing what my
friends in the peace movement did on peace.

Comments now disabled after two weeks

John Scalzi wrote a
long, thoughtful post
about what comments do and don’t do for
a blog.

His suggestion was that for a blog like this one, where
comments do not contribute significantly to the content of the
site, it might make sense to disable commenting after a few days,
or even entirely.

The spam comment is one of the things that makes reading my
mail more of a chore and less of a pleasure. If you don’t have a publicly
accessible blog, spam comments like, “Wonderful blog, I have
bookmarked it,” seem to be something any human can
spot in a small number of seconds, but computers can’t catch at
all. So I thought about Scalzi’s remarks, and went ahead and did it.

Now, you have fourteen days to comment, and after that, comments
will be closed.

If you really have a comment that will add something, of course
you should feel free to let me know and I’ll open that post or put
your comment up myself or something.

Wonderful new python interface silently makes a decision for you

While I was testing to make sure the above was true, I found
that all the recent posts, which I have been making via my python
script, had the comments closed.

This turns out to be because a variable, whose allowable
contents aren’t documented (in the python documentation — they
probably are part of the API) defaults to ‘closed’. I made a wild
guess and set it to ‘open’ and that seems to have fixed the problem.

Going Postal

We had a movie night last week to watch the film of Going
Postal
. The
book
is one of the better of Terry
Pratchett’s
more recent books. (I like Making
Money
even better, but you should read Going
Postal
first.)

There were three of us — I’ve been reading everything by
Pratchett that I could get my hands on since about 1998, a friend
who is a big Pratchett fan but also a very busy man, so he’s
probably read about half of the Discworld books, and was only
halfway through Going Postal when we saw the movie, and
another friend who has only vaguely heard of Pratchett. (Also two
dogs — Sammy was sick
and Monte was feeling abandoned by both his mommies (my mother
died and my sister went to Europe), and not yet settling in well
at all.) The food was Taiwanese from the excellent restaurant across
the street.
The big hit was the octopus with mustard greens.
The beer was a selection from the Pratchett fan’s refrigerator,
heavily weighted to the barley wines.

We all (except for Monte) enjoyed the show — it’s quite faithful to
the book, so I wasn’t in any suspense. I also wasn’t so riveted I
insisted on pausing it when Monte demanded to go out and look for
his Mommy. I did leave it in my Netflix streaming queue so that I
could go back and catch up, but haven’t yet felt obligated to do
that.

When you finish a streaming movie on Netflix, you get a chance
to rate it from one to 5 stars. I usually give things that turned
out about as well as I would have expected before I watched them
three stars, but I was feeling good enough about the evening as a
whole to suggest four. The Pratchett fan suggested five, but he
hardly ever sees movies at all, so he deferred to my judgement.
The non-fan said she’d enjoyed it but prefers movies to
not have people hanging by their fingernails off of tall
structures. Having clacks towers that people get pushed off of is
pretty integral to the plot of this book, so the rest of us
declined to downgrade the move on this ground.


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Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and Coin Series

Daniel Abraham’s website has A
good synopsis of this series.

It’s projected to be 5 books, of which three have been
published. I finished the third, The Tyrant’s Law last
night.

Each chapter is from the point of view of one of four
characters. I remember finding the first volume, The Dragon’s Path, a
little slow to get into. And then I was muttering that some of
these point-of-view characters are more interesting than others.
In the second book (The
King’s Blood
), one of the point-of-view characters (Dawson
Kalliam) has died and been replaced by his wife, Clara. This is
an improvement, in that Clara is more interesting than Dawson.
Also, it removes the security you often feel in a long-running
series that of course they won’t kill off a major character. (At
least without the actor being interview in the newspaper.) George
R. R. Martin did the same thing by killing off Ned Stark, a main
character in The Song of Ice and Fire, at the end of
the first volume.

I (and apparently the Hugo award nominators) have been finding
multi-volume works really interesting these days. I always said I
liked novels better than short stories because you got a lot more
reading for the same work of figuring out who the characters are
and what their problems and relationships are. A multi-volume
series has the same advantage over a novel. Of course, some of
them can become repetitive, but with a good writer like Daniel
Abraham, it hasn’t happened yet in this series. Partly it’s because his gift
for describing places has different places to work on in each
volume. I’m also impressed that he manages to provide both more
character and more plot per page than a lot of writers do.

This series considers a lot of important questions like, “Why
do bankers have power?” and “How do wars get started?” Maybe the
last couple of books will explain how wars get ended, too. I’m
looking forward to the last two volumes.


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Sammy and antibiotics

[Sammy]
Sammy on new sofa, April 26, 2013.

One of the many difficulties I’ve been dealing with this summer
is that my dog got sick.

He’d been drinking and urinating a lot more than usual for a
couple of weeks, and then he started being very restless and
having occasional accidents in the house, which he never does.

So when we were both uncomfortable with the situation, I took
him to the vet, and explained why I thought something was wrong
(beyond him being almost 13 and arthritic), and said I hoped it
was something the vet could fix.

So first there were $450 of tests which were all negative. It
was nice to know that his kidneys were still functioning and he
wasn’t diabetic. The next step was $250 for more tests, one of
which was “not negative”. This was the antibody titre for
leptospirosis.

The next set of tests sounded really expensive, so I
decided we should act on the non-negative result we had, and I
spent $72 on two weeks worth of antibiotic. He started that last
Wednesday, and it does seem to be working. He hasn’t had an
accident since Saturday, and he had been having them almost
daily. He’s also recovered a bit of his energy.

So now the problem is convincing him that he needs to go on
taking the pills, which are capsules (three a day) containing a very bitter
powder. You or I would just swallow the capsule, and never taste
the bitter powder, but Sammy doesn’t do that. The first day, I
tried saying, “Here is a nice pill that will make you feel
better,” and he clamped his jaws shut very tight and said,
“No.”

So I put the capsules in some yogurt, and he ate it right up.
So I thought it wasn’t going to be a problem, but the second day,
he said, “That yogurt is going to be bitter. No.”

So I’ve been putting them in a stew, and that mostly works,
expecially if I surround them with a small piece of meat each.
When I finish the stew, I may try the peanut butter trick, but
I’m not sure that’s going to work better than the yogurt.

I keep thinking about my friends who call up their doctors and
get antibiotics whenever they get sick. I don’t approve of this
— I think you should have to have some kind of indication that an
antibiotic will do some good before you unleash it on your
microflora, but I would have expected to be able to get one for a
dog in less time and money than this took.

There’s a real wordpress python library now

I’m going to have to do some more programming to use it, but
it’s letting me set both categories and tags on these posts from
the command line.

Here’s the
documentation,
including how to install it.

I have a simple modification of my addpost.py script that
allows a tag as well as a category, but I think I’ll write a more
elaborate one that will allow pages and multiple tags and
categories.

Other plans include a script to go through and turn some of the
tags into categories, and modifying my addmedia script so that
wordpress knows the right mime type.

Then there might be a script that uploads a picture and a post
about it and including it with one command.

Programming is wonderful.

I’m Back

If there’s anyone there who got interested in the blog back in
2010 when I was writing a post a day about whatever interested me
that day, you’re probably bored by the way it’s been lately where
I just barely manage a post a week about what the band is
doing.

My life is in a state where it needs some rearranging, so part
of what I’m going to do is write a post a day about what I’m
interested in then. This might reveal what I’m most interested in
these days, and should be putting more or less energy into.

I don’t promise to keep this up for a whole year, but I’m
calling this set of posts circa63, because I’m starting in August
and my 63rd birthday will be next February.

I may be able to fill in some of the things I should have been
posting about, like BEMF
13
, which I would have written a lot more about if I hadn’t
had the flu just before and my mother hadn’t died just after, and
the death of my mother. I’ll also get you caught up on some
things like the chair
seat covers
I’ve been knitting, and how I’m cooking from the
farm share these days.