(For some California local definition of 'morning'!)
About 30 minutes ago one of our databases (sb-db03) locked up and stopped serving traffic. This was an active database, so the site quickly stopped when it could no longer serve requests. Alas.
I have failed us over to a backup database and now everything should be working again.
I'm not sure yet what happened to db03, but am currently investigating and will update this post if I come up with a root cause for the problem. Edit: It's back up and doesn't have any visible problems. Disks are fine, data's intact, etc. The graphs and logs show nothing. We'll have to keep an eye on it and see if it manifests further issues.
Sorry for the trouble, please let me know if you still see any problems!
22. I done a book! \o/ (In other news: waiting rooms are boring.)
I read Selected Poems by C. Day Lewis. I usually avoid collections in which the author has been allowed to choose and arrange their own poems but Lewis' preface indicates that he understood what he was doing (although I don't know enough of his work to accurately judge whether or not he achieved his intention well). Lewis' reputation as a poet has declined with time and this volume doesn't include many poems I'd want to quote at people in their entirety but Lewis' deliberate choices of lyrical language mean there are many images and phrases that will stay with me:
"a brown mare / Drinks her reflection." From The Double Vision
"Then I turn the page / To a girl who stands like a questioning iris / By the waterside, at an age / That asks every mirror to tell what the heart's desire is." From The Album
O Dreams, O Destinations, sonnet 2, by C. Day Lewis
Children look down upon the morning-grey
Tissue of mist that veils a valley’s lap;
Their fingers itch to tear it and unwrap
The flags, the roundabouts, the gala day.
They watch the spring rise inexhaustibly -
A breathing thread out of the eddied sand,
Sufficient to their day: but half their mind
Is on the sailed and glittering estuary.
Fondly we wish their mist might never break,
Knowing it hides so much that best were hidden:
We’d chain them by the spring, lest it should broaden
For them into a quicksand and a wreck.
But they must slip through our fingers like the source,
Like mist, like time that has flagged out their course.
"To settle like a bird, make one devoted / Gesture of permanence upon the spray / Of shaken stars and autumns;" [...] "Her home is soon a basketful of wind." From O Dreams, O Destinations sonnet 9 (You can hear Lewis read the whole sonnet sequence on youtube.
I am especially fond of his playful lyrics Jig and Hornpipe, and also very much appreciate the social commentary he was trying to achieve in Two Songs (and hit what he was aiming at although I think he missed a perfect bullseye because his middle class, male perspective was too skewed to see his subject with complete clarity).
It seems fitting that one of Lewis' best known and poetically most successful works, from which the epitaph on his gravestone is taken, is a lyric about love and death (written for his lover Rosamund Lehmann in 1944, when there was too much death and not nearly enough love).
Is It Far To Go?, by C. Day Lewis
Is it far to go?
A step - no further.
Is it hard to go?
Ask the melting snow,
The eddying feather.
( Full text of Is It Far To Go? )
2. I did get quite a bit done at work today and should be able to get even more done tomorrow, since there's only a handful of new invoices on Saturdays, most of which are bakery ones which don't need anything done except to be filed.
3. I got some free hiyashi chuka from work. I don't know why, but there was a big box in the fridge of noodle packages and sauce packages and a sign that said to take some, so I did. And then I had some for dinner. :D
A couple of weeks ago, Greenheart Games was all over the news for their indie tycoon game, Game Dev Tycoon. In order to prove a point about piracy, Greenheart's Patrick Klug seeded a cracked version of the game to various torrent sites, with a twist: the cracked version became unplayable after a certain amount of time, thanks to in-game piracy destroying your revenue. Cute, but ultimately it felt like a bitter stunt instead of a genuine opportunity -- it was just an opportunity to lecture people about piracy, instead of looking for a way to convert pirates into customers.
I much prefer the approach taken by Posthuman Studios, publishers of the hit pen-and-paper RPG Eclipse Phase. I've talked about Eclipse Phase before, as a setting I'd love to see as an MMO, but it's also a fantastic (and award-winning) tabletop game. Eclipse Phase is set in a high-tech post-apocalyptic future where humanity has abandoned Earth and spread throughout the solar system, and it covers everything from transhumanism, horror and conspiracy to straight-up sci-fi adventure.
And what makes Eclipse Phase really special, IMO, is Posthuman's approach to its customers and fans. Eclipse Phase is licensed under Creative Commons, which means that fans can freely hack the game, modify it, post their work online, and even share the entire game with anyone they think might like it. Hell, Posthuman themselves even seeded the full core book to various file-sharing and torrent sites.
And it's worked. Despite being available for free, with no stigma of piracy and active publisher encouragement to share copies of the PDF, players and fans of the game have been happily handing over their money both for PDF and hardcopy books ever since Eclipse Phase first launched. In the words of Adam Jury, a Posthuman Studios founder,
[N]o publishing company can successfully fight piracy. The RIAA hasn’t, the MPAA hasn’t. Piracy is going to happen unless we say “nope, you can’t pirate our stuff, cuz we’ll just let you give it out!” — and that makes the file-sharers like us and buy from us. I don’t think pirates are evil and immoral people. I know many people who pirate many things and these people also buy many things. They just tend to buy only things they already like. So, of course, giving away your material will only work if your material is good quality!
I'd much rather have someone read our game for free and not like it than buy our game and not like it. In the first case, they’re only out their time. In the second case, they’re out time and money and are more likely to resent us and/or not buy any other games we may release.
Furthermore, Creative Commons isn’t just about "downloading for free;" it’s about giving fans permission to hack our content and distribute those hacks. Permission to do the things that gamers naturally do, without fear of lawsuits or complex legalese or requiring our approval. Our fans have built and distributed complex character generation spreadsheets, customized GM Screens, converted our books into ePub/mobi format, and all sorts of neat things. When they do things like this, that gives us guidance as to what we should be doing: because fans aren’t just saying they want something, they’re putting their time where their mouth is ... a strong indication that they and other fans would be willing to pay for those things if we produced them.
This has always struck me as both a smart business decision and a humane one, and Eclipse Phase's success has proved that it's the right way to go. Treat people with respect, and it pays off. There is no need for gamers to pay for Eclipse Phase, but they do, because people are willing to pay for what they like.
And this point is proved with Transhuman, the Eclipse Phase Player's Guide (and next EP release). This is the first Eclipse Phase Kickstarter and it's been handled with Posthuman's typical approach to operating their business. Transhuman is in Open Playtesting, so Kickstarter customers can check out the book before they pledge. The pledge rewards packages are generous and well-considered bundles. And one of the early Stretch Goals was to give Transhuman's freelance contributors a 15% pay raise - a very humane and generous offer in an industry where freelancers (and most creators) earn very little for their work.
It probably comes as no surprise that Transhuman reached its funding goal in twelve hours and is at 530% of its goal as I write this. The success of Eclipse Phase's business model is a counterpoint to - and lesson for - publishers in any industry. Treat your customers with respect, don't assume they're going to rip you off, don't try to wring every cent out of them, and sell them a quality product: your customers will become fans, and they'll throw money at you.
As a postscript, I encourage you all to check out the Transhuman Kickstarter. If you're interested in pen-and-paper games or simply good science fiction, a twenty dollar pledge will net you the Eclipse Phase RPG and the Transhuman Player's Guide in PDF format, and there are a range of other pledge rewards offering more of the Eclipse Phase product line as well. Frankly, I'd have given them money even if I weren't a fan of Eclipse Phase, because I strongly believe that their approach to business is the right one, and I think that deserves my support. And the more success enjoyed by Eclipse Phase and other games like it, the more likely other publishers are to sit up and take notice, and accept that you don't have to treat your customers like criminals to make money.
Note: There's just over four days left on the Transhuman Kickstarter as I write this, so if you're interested, don't forget to check it out this weekend!
Let's take a look back, shall we?
Yahoo should never be allowed to buy anything good ever again. There is a very strong case to be made that Yahoo is, in fact, why the internet cannot have nice things.
Damn, Tilden Park has a lot of green leafy things at this time of year.
I have successfully identified three birds I saw (chickadee, steller's jay, mallards), identified two more that I only heard and didn't see (because ravens and turkeys are distinctive enough even for me), recognized five plants (thistle, blackberry brambles, eucalyptus trees, scotch broom, ivy) and one bug (mosquito hawk).
Three more bugs to ID (swarm of little flying gnat-ish things, two tiny hopping things I saw on leaves--one green, one red and black); bunch of birds that I heard that I have no chance in hell of naming; bunch of unfinished salad, most of which is probably poisonous.
Also, after my first attempt to use a cellphone to capture visual data, I have gained new appreciation for photographers.
I voted pitch, but, I would support the purchase of new ones (World Book still produces printed editions). Getting kids used to the idea that there is a marvellous world of informative books, not all of which have been digitized, is a good idea. But for the new generation, we'd need a new set. I was born in 1987, so I grew up with those encyclopedias. I loved them, but was infuriated by their insistence that the USSR was still a thing, or their inability to explain how the Internet worked.
We used those books a lot. At least once a week, dinner conversation would discover a point of argument that could only be resolved by sending a kid running for the appropriate encyclopedia volume. I remember roaming the house on rainy days in a state of utter boredom, until I'd pick a volume up and browse through it for entries that caught my eye.
I'm already building a shelf of my library with books more acceptable to children, since if I host my nieces or nephews I'd like for my place not to be the arid wasteland of uptight furniture and nothing fun to do.
Did anyone else read encyclopedias for fun? Using myself as a reference point for normal childhood is always tenuous, since I also read the dictionary front to back, and I know not many other children did that.
Summary: Telepathic bonds aren't all they're cracked up to be.
Pairings: Pepper/Natasha, vague Pepper/Natasha/Tony
Main Characters: Pepper Potts, Natasha Romanov
Warnings: somewhat dubcon [Natasha and Pepper telepathically share sexytimes between each other without letting Tony know while he is mid-sexytimes with Pepper]
Spoilers: Iron Man 3
Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine.
Author's Notes: Written for the Female Character Trope Fest. Prompt was Natasha/Pepper, telepathic bond (of the unwanted and awkward sort).
Canon is a little bit skewed, basically pretend that final scene before the credits of Iron Man 3 didn't happen.
("Oh you have got to be kidding me.")
2. Ugh, even though I didn't actually take any time off work (just rearrange my days off) somehow it feels like I didn't work for ages and have tons of work piled up. How can so much work be piled up when I worked the same number of hours as usual? (Well, yesterday I did take off two hours early, but only two hours!) I know it's a combination of having to do a lot of cashier stuff recently, plus all these internet outages we've had, combined with a bunch of extra work coming in such as price changes for what feels like every product in the store, but my inbox is just really ridiculous. I did manage to get a good chunk taken care of today, and organised what's left. Tomorrow is a big delivery day (which means more invoices to add to the pile), but there's not anything particular I need to do, so hopefully I should be able to just sit down and concentrate on all this backlog.
3. I finally got my $50 iTunes gift card in the mail today! Still not sure what I want to do with the bulk of it (and of course I don't actually need to use it all now), but I did buy Luxor, Luxor 2, and Tetris. (Which altogether was only $3. XD)
4. After the horrible, horrible heat of Monday, it's cooled down quite a bit again. I really do not want to be getting hot weather just now (or ever, really, but I know it's inevitable). The extended forecast has it in the mid to high 60s through the end of the month, so hopefully that will hold true.
5. It's my first payday with my new raise. Extra money, yay! :D (Especially yay after all the extra spending I did while Irene was here. ^_^;;)
Bert, meanwhile, has just finished his second round of anti-nauseants, so we'll see if he starts puking again.
We are a fun, fun household right now. But we're cute.
( ADORABLE CAT PICTURES )
This book is preoccupied with men's fear of being unmanly. This can make it hard for someone who thinks there's nothing unmanly about being gay and there's nothing wrong with being unmanly to read sympathetically. I do like watching people make their way through serious constraints. It is interesting to see how many things are charged with unmanliness. Ralph, Laurie, and Andrew are each working with two strikes already: Ralph and Laurie are gay and disabled, Andrew is gay and a conscientious objector. Will any of them incur the third strike of admitting their feelings or asking for help? Are they all doomed to sorry solitude?
I sort of accept the truth of this summary--and am rather amused by it--while wanting to go "but-but-but!" at the same time. Among other things I do find it fairly easy to read the novel sympathetically, so perhaps that bodes ill for my views on gayness and masculinity? I don't know.
2. Saw Irene off at the airport tonight (I'm really glad Alexander was able to take us, so I could actually say goodbye at the airport rather than having a shuttle pick her up and saying goodbye at the house, even if they don't actually let you up to wait with people at the gate anymore). We had a really fun week and I wish she didn't have to go, but it will be nice to not have to do anything (except go to work).
3. Oh! And we were poking about on the Wii U virtual console and Super Metroid was on sale for THIRTY CENTS!!! Normally $7.99. Super Metroid is one of my favorite SNES games and really one of my favorite games, period. I'm really thrilled to find it for so cheap! I also got an NES Kirby game for the same price. Pretty sure I played it back in the day and I do like Kirby, so 30 cents was a steal for that, too, even if not quite as exciting as Super Metroid. :D (Also exciting was the fact that it accepted by credit card this time. This is actually my first time buying anything from the virtual console because I'd tried before with the Wii and it kept giving me errors with my card even though I double-checked what I'd entered and I knew there was nothing wrong with the card.)
What are you currently reading?
All I Asking for Is My Body, which I mentioned last week. I read the first chapter and then have had almost zero time for reading, so I didn't get any further. It is only 100 pages, though, so I will probably finish it up this coming week.
Also near finishing 7 Seeds vol. 24. It is so awesome! Just when I think things can't get better, Tamura-sensei manages to blow me away with a totally new twist.
What did you recently finish reading?
Only thing I finished was Aozora Yell 11, which was enjoyable as expected.
What do you think you'll read next?
I grabbed Aozora Yell 12 at Asahiya last weekend, so probably that. Also I forgot there was no Jump last week because of Golden Week, so I am actually not a week behind, but I did download the new issue and need to read that. I also got Tera Girl 3 when I got Aozora Yell, so maybe I'll read that and vol. 2.
Review: Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2011
|Issue:||Volume 35, No. 7|
Williams's editorial is a mildly interesting piece about story titles. Silverberg's column is a more interesting (and rather convincing) rebuttal of the joke that fiction authors are "professional liars," combined with an examination of a fake and fantastic 14th travelogue that (at least in Silverberg's telling) was widely believed at the time. The precis of Silverberg's argument is that lying requires an intent to deceive, which is a property of deceptive memoir writers but not of fiction authors.
Di Filippo's review column, as usual, is devoted almost entirely to esoterica, although I was moderately interested to hear of Stableford's continued work on translating early French SF. None of it seems compelling enough to go buy, but good translations of early works seem like a good thing to have in the world.
"Day 29" by Chris Beckett: The conceit of this novelette is an interstellar travel system akin to a transporter that allows near-instantaneous travel between worlds. The drawback is that all memories from somewhere between 40 and 29 days before transit up until transit are wiped. The progatonist is a data analyst who is about to travel, and therefore by agency rule is required to stop doing work on day 40 before transmission since he can't be held legally liable for anything he has no recollection of doing. (I would like to say that I find this implausible, since one could always keep records, but it's exactly the sort of ass-covering regulation that a human resources department would come up with.)
The premise is quite interesting: what do you do during that period that you're going to forget? Beckett wisely mixes Stephen's current waiting period on the colony world with his diary of his original waiting period on Earth the first time he went through the transmission process, and the latter adds greatly to the reader's appreciation of the weirdness of the forgotten interval.
Unfortunately, this is a story more about psychological exploration than about plot, and Stephen just isn't very interesting. The telepathic but possibly nonsentient aliens add weirdness but not much else, and the ending of the story provided little sense of closure or conclusion for me. A good idea, but not the execution I wanted. (5)
"Pug" by Theodora Goss: Since I grew up with a pug, I have a soft spot for a story featuring one; sadly, though, this story has insufficient pug in it. This is a quiet fantasy (Asimov's calls it SF, presumably on the basis of parallel worlds and a hypothesized scientific explanation, but it reads like fantasy to me) featuring Victorian girls, including one with a bad heart. They discover a hidden door to other versions of their world and do some minor exploration. There's little or nothing in the way of plot; the story is more of an attempt to capture a mood. It's mildly diverting, but I wish it had gone somewhere more substantial. (5)
"Dunyon" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: A Rusch story is often the highlight of an issue, and this is no exception. The protagonist is the owner of a bar in a space station that's become a combination of a refugee camp and a slum. War and chaos have created desperate people, most of whom are attempting to find some way to resources and get out of the bottom of society. The story is about a rumor: a mythical system named Dunyon that's safe and far away. And it's about how people react to that rumor. There's nothing particularly surprising about the direction the story goes (it's fairly short), but Rusch is always a good storyteller. (7)
"The Music of the Sphere" by Norman Spinrad: I've had mixed feelings about Spinrad's fiction (and some of his essays), but I liked this story, despite its implausibility. It's set in the near future, featuring an expert in cetaceans and dolphin perception and a composer obsessed with both loud music and classical musical style. Just from that description, you can probably predict much of the story, but I thought it had some neat ideas about dolphins, whales, and alternate perception and aesthetics. (Note: neat, not necessarily biologically plausible.) Enjoyable. (6)
"Bring on the Rain" by Josh Roseman: In a change of pace from the rest of the issue, this is a post-apocalyptic story of caravans of wheeled ships traversing a scorched and ruined landscape in search of weather systems and rain. The feel is of an inverted Waterworld, but with more emphasis on military tactics and cooperating fleets. The transposition of fleet maneuvers to huge ground vehicles adds some extra fun. The plot has little to do with the background and is a fairly stock military adventure scenario, but it's reasonably well-told. The story feels like an excerpt from a larger military-SF-inspired adventure, but the length keeps the quantity of tactics and maneuvering below the threshold where I would get bored. (6)
"Twelvers" by Leah Cypess: This is a sharp and occasionally mean story of adolescent cruelty and alienation. Darla is a "twelver," a child who was carried an extra three months in the womb using newly-invented medical technology because of a belief in the advantages this would bring in later life. Unfortunately for all those who used this technique, what it also brought was a preternatural calm and an unusual reaction to emotions. Darla finds it almost impossible to get upset at anything, and that, of course, prompts the cruelty and abuse of other children. Most of the story is a description of that abuse, leading up to Darla stumbling into a nasty solution to her immediate problem. It's all very believable (well, apart from the motivating biology), but I didn't enjoy reading about it, and I'm certainly not convinced that the ending will lead to anything good. (5)
"The Messenger" by Bruce McAllister: This is a very short time travel story, where time travel is used to try to unwind old family pain. This world follows the unalterable history model: no changes to the past are possible, and anything you do in the past has already happened. The mechanics are mostly avoided. Instead, McAllister concentrates on his mother, his father, and their complex relationship. I would have needed a bit more background on the characters to care enough about them for the story to be fully effective, but while the heartstring-pulling is kind of obvious, it's still a solid story. (6)
"The Copenhagen Interpretation" by Paul Cornell: This is the most ingenious of the stories in this issue. It's set in a future world that extends what seemed to me to be pre-World-War-I great power politics, although there may be a hint of the Cold War. Great nations have reached a careful balance of power, and spies and secret services work to sustain that balance. The progatonist is one of those agents, making use of advanced technology like space folds in the service of a cause that he doesn't entirely believe in. Cornell mixes in mental conditioning, artificial people, space travel, and even aliens (maybe) in a taut thriller plot that, for me, gained a great deal from the unexplained strangeness of its background. If you like diving into the deep end and following a fast-moving plot against a background of strangeness, this is the sort of SF you'll enjoy. (7)
Rating: 6 out of 10
I bought a bottle of wine with a friend on Sunday, and we only drank some of it that night. Over the past few days, as my head filled up with an itchy, fuzzy noise, as my body got less real and my heartbeat more loud and my memory shot, that wine has started singing. Because when I drank it (being a lightweight, it didn't take much) the fuzz just turned into a low, rolling thrum that was so much nicer to deal with. I actually found myself having a glass of wine as I prepared lunch yesterday.
And then I thought, ooooh no. Baaaad idea. And dumped the rest of the bottle over steak cubes this afternoon.
I've also coped by taking one meeelleeeon pictures of my cat. Because he is so adorably cute. I may picspam at some point.