marcusmarcusrc: (goat)
2014-09-04 05:26 pm

Another post about Epic Fantasy series...

When I was still an undergrad, and regularly spent time in MITSFS, I had at least passing knowledge with all the major fantasy series (and even some of the more obscure ones, like PC Hodgell's God Stalk... which, I note, after publishing 3 books between 1982 and 2006, has gone on a spree of 4 books in 8 years... which maybe I'll track down and read now). Not so true for books post graduation (though I did read the first couple Game of Thrones books before they became cool. Do I get hipster sf cred? Or is "hipster sf cred" self-contradictory?). Anyway, one of the major series that I totally missed was Steven Erikson's Mazalan series.

So... I picked up the first one a few weeks ago. And found it... not really my cup of tea. It is billed as being like Glen Cook's "The Black Company", and, indeed, that's probably the closest analogue I can think of... but I enjoyed the Black Company (despite some drawbacks) and I felt like the Mazalan book had less cohesion and more confusion. The thing that I found most annoying was that it seemed like characters changed allegiances willy-nilly with little support in the text - at best, there were allusions to off-screen events and information that apparently were important but often these events were either unclear to the reader or, in those instances where the reader knew about them, it was unclear how the character knew or why it would have been sufficient to change their minds.

I did feel like the book improved somewhat over its course, so I am considering trying a second one, but... maybe I have better things to do with my reading time. Does anyone want to try and convince me one way or the other?

(in related news, the Shadows of the Apt series has finished. I quite like the series as a whole, though it appears I differ in this from several of the people I would have expected to like it. I did find the last book felt hurried, as if the author had set up a bunch of potential hooks in previous books and then chose to skip them because he wanted to be done)
marcusmarcusrc: (goat)
2014-01-27 08:50 pm

good playreading plays?

So, a couple months ago I hosted an Arcadia playreading party in DC, and a lot of my friends here really enjoyed it and have been pestering me to host another one. So... the question is, what play? My ideal play would have multiple central characters, a number of supporting characters, a decent number of female roles, and not too challenging language-wise (e.g., probably not Shakespeare, and maybe light-hearted plays over deep dramas). Hapgood came to mind because it is an obvious Arcadia sequel (yay for science in plays!), but it is only 8 roles, so could be, wise LiveJournal hivebrain, what else can you suggest for me?
marcusmarcusrc: (goat)
2013-04-04 10:57 pm

The Wisdom of LiveJournal and Smartphones

I figure it is about time for me to join the world of the smartphone enabled, and before leaping into it, I thought I'd check the collective wisdom:

Given that I am a mac-user and a Verizon customer, are there any good reasons not to go with the default of an iPhone5 and a verizon plan?

More detailed questions about choices and apps behind cut )

Thanks for your thoughts.
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2012-11-09 12:11 pm


Those of you who are my facebook friends may have noticed some posts by me about various voting issues - bemoaning my lack of Senator or Representative, for example - but also pointing out what I think is an interesting paper by a family friend of mine on gerrymandering (google stephanopolous gerrymander to see a few of his articles).

The recent election, and the Republican majority in the house, demonstrates the results of gerrymandering quite nicely: I did a quick calculation on Pennsylvania, and determined that though a majority of Pennsylvanians voted for Democratic House of Representative candidates (50.7% to 49.3%), the state as a whole elected 13 Representatives to 5 Democrats.

One question I have is that, while the PA gerrymandered districts look ridiculous, would fixing them actually solve the disproportionate representation problem? After all, urban centers vote 80 to 90% Democrat, and most mapping schemes, whether by geographic compactness or by "spatial homogeneity" (see the Stephanopolous Law Review article), are going to keep the urban area as an intact entity. So I think even a neutrally designed PA map will end up having a Republican advantage. Another option that Stephanopolous raises is multi-member districts - this seems like it would help improve the fidelity of representation (and could possibly be combined with some kind of preferential voting system), make third parties more viable, and reduce extremism.

marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2012-11-01 12:13 pm

Price Gouging and other such issues

I have a number of economic/policy/market imperfection posts that I've been tempted to post about for a while. In the wake of Sandy, a friend's post about hour-long lines at a gas station in NJ, and a Slate article that was surprisingly close to my own view on it, I'm going to address Price Gouging. Hopefully more to follow.

Read More )
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2012-08-12 01:33 pm

Cooperative Strategy Games

I've played two cooperative strategy games in the past couple weeks, and it highlighted some game design issues for me. Read more )
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2012-07-13 06:13 pm

Portland people?

Do I know anyone who lives in Portland who might put up a guest for a night or two?
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2012-04-23 06:58 pm


So, my mom has gotten hold of the forwarding bug, and in return, I have taken to consulting snopes fairly frequently in the hopes of limiting the wrongness that is being forwarded around the internet. Recently, she forwarded a document which accused aspirin of being responsible for a very large number of deaths, mainly due to the very large number of aspirin consumed, with blood thinning being the mortality factor. My google-fu failed me: while I was able to come up with a large number of websites citing the deaths (including some accusing aspirin of 1918 Spanish Flu mortality), none of them were what I considered to be reputable sources, and in contrast, I was unable to find any reputable sources which discussed the aspirin mortality claim either pro-or-con.

(the aspirin-Reyes syndrome link seems more solid, as do the benefits of aspirin for several conditions)

Any of my medically-competent friends want to weigh in here?
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2011-10-07 10:21 am

Crime & Leadishment

An interesting paper was brought to my attention today... remember the whole freakonomics thing about linking abortion rates to violent crime reductions 20 years later? Well, apparently, there may be another factor at work in the crime rate decreases of the past 2 decades: lead abatement.

Now, I admit that I am probably predisposed to think this is a good paper because it matches my preconceived notions of "EPA good! Pollution bad!" And I haven't really dug into the numbers. If you want the key results, I'd suggest reading the abstract and then skipping all the way to Table 6 on pg. 59 (the panel results data) and Figure 5 (pg. 70).

Extended discussion of the results of Table 6 )
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2011-06-16 08:36 am

Oh Canada, even you?

If even Canada has riots over the results of a sports game with burning police cars and looted stores, how can we ever hope that areas of the world with real issues (eg, the middle east) will ever stop the cycle of violence?
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2010-12-21 08:54 am


badastronomy was right: a green laser pointer is an amazing tool for stargazing purposes. Sadly, my particular one doesn't like the cold weather and eventually stops working (though it was briefly shone a weak red... that was kind of weird). Also, lunar eclipses are neat.

Betelgeuse is also surprisingly red. I don't know that I'd noticed that before. I mean, it is a _red_ supergiant, but.. its really red.
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2010-10-08 02:36 pm

For humor-enjoying paper submitters

Journal editors with a sense of humor:

(mind you, I'm currently doing the journal merry-go-round with reviewer responses on a couple papers, and it is exhausting...)
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2010-09-27 03:28 pm

Home Chemistry (and other stuff) experiments

Back when I was doing chemistry demonstrations for schools and stuff, I found a series of great books by a guy named Shakhishiri that had tons and tons of good demonstrations. Recently, I found that he has a webpage that lists a bunch of the easy, can-do-at-home ones:

(Sadly, I am still on the lookout for a good carbon dioxide/heating experiment: most of the ones on youtube turn out to have a fatal flaw in that they are picking up the different convective properties of CO2, not the different radiative properties: see, 'Climate Change in a Shoebox: Right result, wrong physics" which was a nice paper demonstrating this error by using Argon as a control gas. IR camera experiments do work, but don't have the same visceral connection as seeing a temperature difference)
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2010-05-20 05:51 pm

Summary of Climate Change Policy Philosophy

The CBO director has posted a nice summary of the tenets of a good climate change policy:

I appreciate the nod towards non-market solutions as well as price-based solutions (a common example of why more than just a price signal may be required is the "principal-agent" problem, where, for example, a landlord has no incentive to put in insulation because the tenant pays for the heat - or alternatively, in apartments like mine where utilities are included, I have no market incentive not to use excessive heat and or air conditioning because my landlord pays for it).
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2010-05-20 01:25 pm

Changing Last Names

I had a discussion with a colleague at work today about changing last names (don't know how we got there given that I know our conversation meandered through unions, climate change, Paris, and workplace performance reviews). Two things I hadn't really thought about before:

1) Keeping one's own name: I'd known that it means having a tough decision about what last name one's kid will have: what I didn't realize is that apparently for traveling on airplanes, this requires that the parent with a different name have a certified letter of some kind attesting to relationship with the kid to prove they aren't kidnapping it.

2) I had seen in a couple places proposals for academic publishing to tag every author with a unique identification number: the rationales I remembered hearing were to improve the ability to do author searches in the literature by avoiding confusion of people with the same name, problems with misspellings, and not needing to care about inclusion/exclusion of a middle initial: probably listed in the standard rationales, but I'd never made the mental connection, was that if an academic chooses to change his or her name this would enable searches to still pull up all their articles, which would eliminate one of the arguments for not changing names.

Just some musings. I lean towards being a "keep your name" sort of person - I like my own last name and identify with it and at least at this moment would be hesitant to change it even if that would add a greater sense of "family togetherness" or whatever (I'm assuming that for me, this would only come up in the context of marriage), and it would seem weird to me to have someone who had always occupied a space of -theirfirstname- -theirlastname- in my head to suddenly become -theirfirstname- -mylastname- though I suppose I would get used to it... I also often have trouble remembering whether or not my friends who have gotten married have changed or hyphenated their names or not, which occasionally makes life difficult when I try and write them postcards... Also, keeping names constant makes it easier to find people I've lost touch with even if they've gotten married in the interim (though I suppose maybe we could start using our journal personal identifier as a social identifier too... I mean, my name is unique so anyone can google and find me, but other people are much harder to find online. And I presume some people are quite happy with that status quo. But that's another issue entirely...)
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2010-04-11 12:08 pm

netcdf on os X?

I don't suppose anyone on my friends list has installed netcdf on OS X? I keep getting errors like

"ranlib: archive member: .libs/libnetcdff.a(netcdf.o) cputype (7) does not match previous archive members cputype (16777223) (all members must match)"

when calling the make command... (configuring seems to have worked right after finding that I had to set FFLAGS=-m64)
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2010-04-02 09:27 am

Science Fiction Cagematch The concept is so-so amusing (science fiction characters in an NCAA-like bracket match-up). Sadly, the fans seem to keep voting for Drzzzt (do people seriously like drow protagonists that much? I thought they just existed for webcomics authors to make fun of). But the fact that Patrick Rothfuss, George RR Martin, and Naomi Novik actually wrote some snippets for this website - priceless!

(but... what are they doing on this website when they could be writing their next novels???)
marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
2010-03-28 10:12 pm

Connie Willis

Connie Willis betrayed me... she'd never written anything that didn't stand on its own, and so when I reached the end of Blackout (her new novel) I was kind of shocked that everything was left hanging... and the next book doesn't come out until the fall!!!

On the other hand, I did read her cute novella "Inside Job" on-line, so that gave me a bit of my Connie Willis fix.