Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category
Haven’t posted in a while. Recently I was emailed a few links I wanted to share.
The first was shared by Rose, the URL is worth sharing:
Therein, the link describes efforts to equip robot monkey arms with a sense of touch:
“If you really want to create an arm that can actually be used dexterously without the enormous amount of concentration it takes without sensory feedback, you need to restore the somatosensory feedback,” explains Sliman Bensmaia, Chicago uni prof.
But the (convincing) explanation is unnecessary, for my exhiliration, anyway. THEY ARE EQUIPPING MONKEYS WITH ROBOT ARMS. HUMAN TRIALS ARE ANTICIPATED WITHIN THE NEXT YEAR.
We should probably reflect on the implications of this. Even the article notes,
This research is funded by our old friends at the US military bonkers-boffinry bureau DARPA, hoping to deliver better replacement limbs for American troops injured in the Wars on Stuff.
But for today, I’m just going to enjoy it.
I decided to save the next link for a later post.1 comment
One of the great parts of being a speculative fiction fan is watching reality catch up to and surpass one’s favorite authors’ imaginations — or just never take a step in that direction at all. As I’ve written before, I live in dread of the genetic-discrimination world of Gattaca, which I now fear may be here before today’s children are dead (though I’m still hoping it won’t be before I am dead).
On the other hand, I’m chomping at the bit for movie acting to become independent of the actors’ own physical attributes, as in The Diamond Age. Avatar was a great leap forward, but so was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, because that was the first time CGI tried to render human faces and skin in a way that might fool the audience, even for half-second intervals. (Remember how amazing that one-second teaser of a single eye blinking was at the time?) Avatar was not ambitious on that particular score: only the non-human characters are rendered.
But some day we’ll see a movie where all the actors are wearing suits like Andy Serkis‘s (LOTR and Planet of the Apes!), and I can barely wait, because then we’ll finally be able to have movie stars whose ability to use their faces matters more than their facial features. (My favorite part about this in The Diamond Age is the little bit about Miranda studying how to ract a character with “cat eyes,” since she in real life has “bunny eyes,” which are used differently.)
This is how my husband convinced me to see Les Misérables. I didn’t expect it to be impressive musically as compared to any stage production, and indeed I was pretty much not impressed on that score. But letting the actors sing on-camera and mixing in the orchestra afterwards is a new attempt. The actors were clearly and justifiably over the moon about the chance. So I went along promising to have an open mind in trying to evaluate whether this presages the future of movie musicals.
And does it? Well, of course, I haven’t a clue. Quite irrespective of impressiveness, Les Miserables is always overwhelming, and thus hard to evaluate. Yes, the sung sequences are obviously more immediate than in Singin’ in the Rain. But movies, movie stars, moviemaking, and movie audiences — to say nothing of acting styles — are so different now from then that it seems arbitrary to compare how the songs were recorded between the two.
What new innovations are you watching for (happily or no)?2 comments
Posted here upon request from Daniel:
Daniel A. Rabuzzi (’80, Folk & Myth major, Quincy House) announces that ChiZine/CZP (Toronto) has just published his second fantasy novel, The Indigo Pheasant, sequel to The Choir Boats (2009, also by CZP). Locus selected it as one of their “New & Notable Books” in November. Reviewers described the first volume as “Gulliver’s Travels crossed with The Golden Compass and a dollop of Pride and Prejudice,” and “a muscular, Napoleonic-era fantasy that, like Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series, will appeal to both adult and young adult readers.” Daniel’s wife, the artist Deborah Mills, created the cover art and the illustrations. Available worldwide in paper and all standard digital formats– ISBN: 978-0980941074, and ISBN:978-1927469095. For more information, please see www.danielarabuzzi.com, or Daniel’s page on Facebook. You can reach Daniel directly at email@example.com.No comments
Rolling Jubilee is about to kick off, billing itself as “a bailout of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Other comments I’ve seen on this:
I like the idea, in some ways especially the “random acts of kindness” aspect of it. One imagines there’s no way they could actually eliminate any significant fraction of American personal debt, so in some sense randomly is the ‘fairest’ way to try to help anyone. Although they will get some prety impressive ‘bang for the buck’ (in a more literal than usual sense).
This also led my husband and I to look a bit into the actual Bilblical concept of the Jubilee — which turns out to have probably made sense in ancient Near Eastern cultures for reasons including provisioning the armies. See Michael Hudson‘s article in Bible Review 15:01 (1999) “The Economic Roots of the Jubilee.”No comments
I owe Elisabeth a massive apology for some poorly considered writing of mine last winter.
I’m really sorry: it was thoughtless of me not to ask you directly first.
A standard apology probably would have sufficed had I given it when it came due, but that was seven months ago. And culpability, like Rumour, grows swiftly and fearfully. In other cases when someone else here has written something that baffles or otherwise inspires me, I have been more courteous about prior notification of what I’m thinking, so I really have no excuse for neglecting that step in February.
So, just a few more lines to throw out on the question of ‘pleasure’ and/or ‘work’ reading:
- A new short essay on Aristotelian leisure
- Franz of Sunday in the Park with George
Work is what you do for others — Liebchen –
Art is what you do for yourself
- A family member overheard someone in an airport security line complaining that he was 100s of pages into a book and nothing had happened. He turned around to see what book the other passenger was reading, and it was American Gods. My family member nearly blurted out, “What do you mean?”
- This same relative was chewed out by a friend to whom he had recommended Ilium for sending him through an 800-page “slog.” To me (and my relative), reading Ilium is much more like being poor Phaeton in Apollo’s chariot. Slog? How? I’m being dragged too fast for my feet to stick in anything!
- But one of my blockmates says he would characterize both American Gods and Ilium very similarly, simply because he would define “something happening” in a novel as “a scene advancing the main plot.”
- Huh. I never would have thought of that.
So in conclusion, I do grasp that, very often, someone else’s reading tastes utterly confuse me because I’m just not imaginative enough. And I should remind myself more often to ask before I expound, even if I can’t ask before I wonder.No comments
Oh, my. I no longer believe I die before Gattaca. This is frightening.
The NYTimes article where I encountered this news has estimates from the study team that the technology could be available in as little as 3-5 years: whole-genome sequencing of a fetus based on only a maternal blood sample and a paternal saliva sampe, with the fetal genome reconstructed from fragments in the mother’s blood.
I still think I’ll die before direct genome sequencing is used in hiring decisions. But it seems suddenly only too feasible that my grandchildren will be born into a society where parents choose to learn genetic propensities before birth, the same as today’s parents often choose to learn a child’s sex before birth.No comments
Ah, summer — warm air, long days, and plenty of sunshine. How better to spend it than with like-minded science fiction, anime, and gaming fans? Here are some of the events we’re looking at this summer. Are you planning on attending any of these, or others? Let us know!
- 6/29-7/2: AnimeExpo: Los Angeles, CA
- Hyperfocused, enormous anime convention.
- 7/4-7/8: DexCon: Morristown, NJ
- 7/12-7/15: ReaderCon: Burlington, MA
- A nice smaller convention that is like WorldCon without the crowds. Lots of good author panels. Very specific to books; no general shenanigans.
- 7/12-7/15: Comic-Con: San Diego, CA
- The giant comics convention held every year in SoCal. Very specific to comics and comics characters in other media.
- Over 120,000 people. Need to buy passes a year in advance.
- 8/16-8/19: GenCon: Indianapolis, IN
- THE big board/table game convention.
- 8/30-9/3: Worldcon: Chicago, IL
- Important sci-fi con, held around the world, where the Hugos are given out. Big pricetag, mainly panels (not a lot of other associated fandom activities).
- 8/31-9/2: Pax Prime: Seattle, WA
- The largest and most influential video game conference, created by Penny Arcade.
- 8/27-9/3: Burning Man: Black Rock City, NV
- An experiment in temporary community, filled with creativity and bizarreness of all sorts.
OK, so now I’ve had two humanities people tell me more or less categorically that non-fiction reading is not pleasure reading. (The first instance prompted much of what I’ve written here in the past year and a half; the second came initially as a comment on this weblog.) I would not have expected that particularly of humanities people, honestly. I suppose I had assumed that English or classics or folklore majors and suchlike were more likely to be into any and all reading.
In both cases there has been the clarification that the information gained (“understanding stuff about the world”) may give one pleasure “even when reading about it feels like work.” And yet … this still implies that the readers approach vast categories of written documents strictly from a utilitarian point of view—news, debate, most forms of essay, and (most pertinently to these discussions) academic and non-academic book-length works: pop science and ethnography, self-help and philosophy, history and historiography, history of science, biography, literary and art criticism, poli-sci. It truly does surprise me if the ‘not-for-pleasure’ category is that broad for either elisabeth or the grad student who told me she doesn’t read non-fiction.
I am accustomed to expansive, voracious, and usually compulsive reading from my close associates in the hard sciences and social sciences. My dad, an old-school sysadmin, keeps on hand nearly the complete œvres of Faulkner, Vonnegut, Lessing, and Erdrich (one of his most evocative comments on the last: “… so fierce that I can frankly understand her husband committed suicide“). He also keeps a personal subscription to Science magazine, setting himself the goal of understanding one article per issue (an ambitious goal that is by far not always reached). The mother of a mathematician friend had to set a rule during middle school that she would select every other book for his pleasure reading: she chose good classic YA, he plowed through the local library’s math collection. This is the same person who introduced me to The Ancestor’s Tale and, on my recommendation, read The Archivist in a day and a half. My little brother, a history-major-turned-’financial-analyst’ of whom I was seriously proud when he started (with The Fourth Hand) recommending to me books based on his own taste, is an Andrew Jackson buff who is also my original source for King Leopold’s Ghost. A chemistry undergrad friend of mine, now in graduate school, recruited friends for ‘salon’ book groups in two states in which he’s recently lived.
King Leopold’s Ghost and The Ancestor’s Tale are both written with exceptional clarity, perceptiveness, and outreach towards the audience. I have actually “grown” a favoritism for interdisciplinary non-fiction author Steven Johnson, and have wished that I had been a Harvard undergrad more recently so I could have become a disciple of Daniel Lord Smail, whose academic training is in 14th-century French legal documents, but who also is passionately advocating for historians to claim as their field all of human history, the way they used to before Western culture imagined how many orders of magnitude longer than Biblical history all is.
And non-fiction can inspire such awe—often for its subjects (Catherine of Aragon or the early epidemiological triumph of 1854 London, and more shrouded figures/incidents such as Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, and the training of medical residents), but also for the brilliance of the research (Montaillou) or the mind (An Experiment in Criticism).
Truly … people can dismiss all the vast variety of non-fiction as not intended for pleasure reading? Is this another case where I am failing to understand what kind of pleasures others seek from their reading?3 comments
The 2nd Quadrennial HRSFANS reunion will be occurring March 16-18, 2012, at Harvard, alongside the 12th annual Vericon. This is an occasion to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, to reminiscent about the past and to plan for the future–and to attend a convention featuring open gaming and open anime, alumni-written LARPs and a HRSFA-written MST3K, a masquerade ball, a charity auction, and guests including Lev Grossman, R.L. Stein, and Guest of Honor Vernor Vinge. We’ll be adding information as it comes in on the HRSFANS wiki–you can check there to stay up-to-date on all the details.
Members of HRSFANS and former members of HRSFA are invited. Guests are also welcome, provided a member assumes responsibility for their conduct and their enjoyment of the event.
All attendees are requested to register for the reunion. Anyone attending the Saturday dinner must indicate so on their registration and pay the additional cost.
Current members of HRSFA are welcome to stop by and say hi! Since we expect members of HRSFA will want to spend very little time at the reunion instead of Vericon, current student members of HRSFA are not required to register for the reunion unless they plan on seriously raiding our snack stash. So as not to draw people away from Vericon en masse, we’d like to discourage undergraduates from attending the Saturday dinner.
The reunion will host “Alumni Central”, a space in Boylston Hall where Alumni can meet up throughout the weekend. Alumni Central will be stocked with snacks and low-key reunion activities. In addition, we’re planning the following events:
- Friday night late: relax and hang out after the con in the Quincy Qube
- Breakfast with the Board on Saturday morning: Let us know what’s on your mind, and brainstorm with us about plans for the future!
- Saturday night Dinner: a sit-down dinner in Kirkland House
- Saturday night “Classy Soiree” after the masquerade ball: party in the Lowell Senior Common Room–snacks, booze, and the alumni edition of non-constitutional elections.
- Activity for alumni and their children TBA: If you’d like to be part of that discussion, contact Rose Martin, or email contact at hrsfans dot org.
You can register for the Reunion here.
You can register for Vericon here.
There are, of course, a variety of accommodations options in Harvard Square. Some of these are described below. We’ll add information as we continue researching options, and if you know of a good option we’ve missed, feel free to let us know and we’ll add that.
Short-Term Apartment Rental
We believe that the most cost-effective (though not necessarily the least labor intensive) commercial accommodation strategy is to pool with a small group of people and rent an apartment for the weekend. There are a variety of such listings here, which can often offer accommodations for 4 people at $50/person/night (give or take), in addition to common space and kitchens (for people who like that sort of thing). In order to get the best search results, I recommend the search terms “Harvard Square Cambridge MA” and guests “1″.
- In most of these cases, the budget-conscious strategy is to sleep two people in each bedroom and also some people on living room couches. Since living room couches are less private, it’s recommended that people sleeping on couches pay less per night than people with private rooms.
- In some cases, the price of the accommodation is fixed, regardless of how many people are staying there. In other cases, the owner will specify an additional charge per person over some number. You can get an idea about this from the page, but it’s always worth checking with the landlord explicitly, since the answer will often be different. In either case, you can make a calculation about privacy vs. cost-cutting when you decide how many people you’d like to recruit to share a space.
- Some of the spaces advertised on airbnb.com are actually private rooms in the landlord’s apartment or house. This may require less coordination with other reunion goers, and it may again be less expensive, in exchange for less privacy and less social common space available.
- Keep an eye on cleaning fees. Note that these rentals usually require security deposits.
- Questions or concerns about this approach to accommodations? Contact Elisabeth Cohen, or email us at contact at hrsfans dot org.
Hotels and B&Bs
For those who find the “rent an apartment” plan daunting, renting a hotel is of course easier. The Harvard Square Hotel is unfortunately closed for repairs during Vericon this year. Other options include:
Looking for someone to fill out your room in an apartment or hotel? You can post what you’re looking for here (this will involve signing onto the HRSFANS wiki, which takes about 30 seconds if you’ve never done it before).
Other Local Information
Vericon maintains information about parking, local eateries, game stores, and hotels here
The full reunion registration (including the Saturday night sit-down dinner in Kirkland) costs $60. Registration without the dinner costs $20, and registration by-the-day costs $10/day.
If you’d like to attend the reunion, we’d like you to be able to attend without cost as an impediment. The registration form includes the option to request financial assistance. If you would like to contribute to financial assistance in order to help other HRSFANs attend the reunion, that option is also available during registration. In either case, you’ll be contacted by a member of the reunion staff to discuss specifics. We will treat both financial aid requests and offers as confidential (“double-blind”)No comments
In the coming days, this may come to be known as the “Trimonthly roundup”. But for those still shivering in the depths of winter, there is hope! For spring is filled with a number of conventions and events of interest to HRSFANS; we bring them to you now, in an attempt to list and discuss events (like sci-fi or gaming conventions) which HRSFANS are going to. It is also announced on hrsfans-discuss, and the updated list is kept on the HRSFANS wiki.
Are you going to any of these events? Got anything coming up that you’d like HRSFANS to know about? Like to see other HRSFANs? Great! Just drop a note and let people know!
- 2/9-12: Capricon: Wheeling, IL. Nicely sized general SF convention. Mystery Spatula Theater 11 and Gozer Games will be there.
- 2/12-17: Boskone: Boston, MA. Put on by NESFA, a major Science Fiction/Fantasy convention.
- 2/19-20: Boston SF Film Marathon: Somerville, MA. 24 hour SF film marathon, noon Sunday-Monday. Drew G will be attending.
- 2/24-27: Dreamation: Morristown, NJ. Weiyi G, Jason B., Alden S. and Kay S. and Dev P. and Laura S. will be leading a New York HRSFANS contingent
- 3/2-3/4: Intercon L: Chelmsford, MA. The much larger sibling of Intercon Mid-Atlantic. Matt E and Mindy K are going.
: Cambridge, MA
- 3/21-3/25 IAFA: Orlando, FL. HRSFANS author Marie Brennan will be attending.
- 3/30-4/1 [ FOGcon: San Francisco, CA. HRSFANS author Marie Brennan will be attending
- 3/30 – 3/31 Emerald City Comicon: Seattle, WA. Tony V is interested in attending.
- 4/6-4/8 PAX East: Boston, MA. Like PAX, but in Boston. Kevin G is interested in attending.
- 4/6-4/8: Anime BostonBoston, MA. Ada P and Alessandro will be running cosplay events
- 4/6-4/8 Sakuracon: Seattle, WA. Tony V is interested in attending.
- 4/27 WACcon : Seattle, WA. Diplomacy tournament. Tony V will stab you.