Three sentences about 2017-07-22

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:12 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
A very recreational day today! Played Niagara with the kids in the morning, which was mostly fun but a little stressful, as it ran long we had to get to shotokan, Q still struggles a little with figuring out exactly what cards he needs to play to get the effect he wants, and he got very, very frustrated at the end when one of his plans went awry. :^( We'll keep workin' on it, but we might take a break from this game in particular for a bit. Then to shotokan, which was weirdly deserted -- only three kids in Q's class (and one of them showed up halfway through), where there are usually eight or ten or more, and only one in Junie's, where there are usually at least four to six. People on vacation this week? Who knows. Anyway, the kids had fun, and we then came home for lunch, before heading out to the pool at Russell Field for some swimming. Had a very good time there too, although there was one scary part when Q jumped in off the side into water that he didn't realize was over his head, while I was watching him but not right there, so I swam over at top speed to rescue him. He was splashing and flailing around, but seemed otherwise fine, but jeez dude, do not jump into water over your head eh. :^p Anyway, we took off after one of the period pool checks, and I then showered and headed over to Ruth & Gavin's for a gaming and birthday party type event for Gavin. A game of Dominion had just started when I got there (as well as three other games in progress), so I watched that and chatted for a bit, until pizza arrived and a couple of games ended. I then played Can't Stop, in which I personally DID NOT STOP, because, you know, that's the name of the game, a strategy which the other players found hilariously bewildering. I did not win, but had fun maintaining my moral purity and amusing the more serious players. :^) I then played a new-to-me game called Las Vegas, which was interesting and fun but seemed *really* random at the end of each round -- there were interesting decisions to be made, but in each of the three rounds, my decisions were completely wiped out by a fairly unlikely die roll (sometimes mine, sometimes another player's), so, I dunno, I guess that strategizing your way into the best position when the random smiting starts happening is sort of fun, but I think it would have been just as fun without quite so much "oh and then he rolled triple threes so your whole position is wiped out" at the end. I might try it again, but probably wouldn't suggest it. I then played in two games of King Of Tokyo, which Amy and the kids had played at a previous gaming thing at Chaos's, but I hadn't before; I liked it a lot, the theme is silly but the game seems very well put together, with a lot of interesting choices, plus some good variability in the special cards. It was 22:00 by that point, so we said our goodbyes at that point. I didn't get quite as much "playing games too advanced for the kids" action as I migh thave liked, but it was nice to play games with grownups for a change. :^)
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Posted by Tom Limoncelli

Networking geeks: Google made a big announcements about BBR this week. Here's a technical deep-dive: (Hint: if you would read ACM Queue like I keep telling you to, you'd have known about this before all your friends.)

Someone on Facebook asked me for a "explain it like I'm 5 years old" explanation. Here's my reply:

Short version: Google changed the TCP implementation (their network stack) and now your youtube videos, Google websites, Google Cloud applications, etc. download a lot faster and smoother. Oh, and it doesn't get in the way of other websites that haven't made the switch. (Subtext: another feature of Google Cloud that doesn't exist at AWS or Azure. Nothing to turn on, no extra charge.)

ELI5 version: TCP tries to balance the need to be fast and fair. Fast... transmitting data quickly. Fair... don't hog the internet, share the pipe. Being fair is important. In fact, it is so important that most TCP implementations use a "back off" algorithm that results in you getting about 1/2 the bandwidth of the pipe... even if you are the only person on it. That's TCP's dirty little secret: it under-utilizes your network connection by as much as 50%.

Backoff schemes that use more than 1/2 the pipe tend to crowd out other people, thus are unfair. So, in summary, the current TCP implementations prioritize fairness over good utilization. We're wasting bandwidth.

Could we do better? Yes. There are better backoff algorithms but they are so much work that they are impractical. For years researchers have tried to make better schemes that are easy to compute. (As far back as the 1980s researchers built better and better simulations so they could experiment with different backoff schemes.)

Google is proposing a new backoff algorithm called BBR. It has reached the holy grail: It is more fair than existing schemes. If a network pipe only has one user, they basically use the whole thing. If many users are sharing a pipe, it shares it fairly. You get more download speed over the same network. Not only that, it doesn't require changes to the internet, just the sender.

And here's the real amazing part: it works if you implement BBR on both the client and the server, but it works pretty darn good if only change the sender's software (i.e. Google updated their web frontends and you don't have to upgrade your PC). Wait! Even more amazing is that it doesn't ruin the internet if some people use it and some people use the old methods.

They've been talking about it for nearly a year at conferences and stuff. Now they've implemented it at,, and so on. You get less "buffering.... buffering..." even on mobile connections. BBR is enabled "for free" for all Google Cloud users.

With that explanation, you can probably read the ACM article a bit easier. Here's the link again:

Disclaimer: I don't own stock in Google, Amazon or Microsoft. I don't work for any of them. I'm an ex-employee of Google. I use GCP, AWS and Azure about equally (nearly zero).

Three sentences about 2017-07-21

Jul. 21st, 2017 09:59 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
Better progress on the daunting project! Matt and I finally sat down and really wrote down all the stuff that needs to happen, and in what order, and started to scheme about who's going to do it, and I now feel like I have a much clearer sense of what specific critical parts I need to get done no seriously really soon now, and what complicated and possibly vague and TBD parts can wait until after that (by which point they'll be much less vague and the Ds will have B). Just in time for the weekend, and then a week on call, of course, but still. Enough is written down that I think I can do it.

I'd stopped at Home Depot on the way to work to pick up a plumber's snake, and then used it to unclog the shower drain, which it did nicely, pulling up a ball of hair approximately the size and shape and general appearance of a standard-issue mouse rodent. (It was in fact hair, though, and not a mouse rodent that had somehow crawled into the shower drain, which ew.) Played a good game of Robot Turtles with Q, did Junie's bedtime, and now it's my bedtime.

Three sentences about 2017-07-20

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:08 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
More halting progress on the big daunting project, but I haven't fully destroyed its dauntingness yet. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe being on call next week will set me back to square one again, we'll see. :^p Made Thai yellow curry chicken and peas and carrots for dinner, forgot to buy the garlic naan, made rice instead. The shower drain is clogged, and plunging and coathangering didn't help (and might even have hurt, oddly), boiling water may have helped a little but hasn't fully cleared it out. Will plunge some more, and maybe either call a plumber or go buy an actual plumber's snake, tomorrow.

making space to be creative

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:32 pm
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Posted by Wil

One week and about ten hours ago, I decided to step away from Twitter for a little bit. The specific details aren’t important, and I suspect that many of you reading this now are already nodding in agreement because you grok why. But I took it off my phone, and I haven’t been to the website on my desktop since. For the first 48 hours, I spent a lot of time wondering if I was making a choice that mattered, and thinking about how I wasn’t habitually looking at Twitter every few minutes to see if I’d missed anything funny, or to see the latest bullshit spewing forth from President Fuckface’s mouthanus. I was, ironically, spending more time thinking about Twitter since I wasn’t using it than I spent thinking about it when I was.

It started out as a 24 hour break, then it was a 48 hour break, then it was the weekend, and here we are one week later and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything important. I feel like I’ve given myself more time to be quiet and alone, more time to reflect on things, and I’ve created space in my life to let my mind wander and get creative.

I’m not creating as much as I want to, and I’m starting to feel like maybe I’ll never be able to create as much as I want to, but I’ve gotten some stuff done this week that probably wouldn’t have gotten done if Twitter had been filling up the space that I needed.

Here’s a little bit from my blog post that became a short story that grew into a novella that is now a novel, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything:

My mother was leaning against her car, talking with one of the other moms, when we arrived. My sister was throwing a Strawberry Shortcake doll into the air and catching it while they watched. I walked out of the bus and across the blazing hot blacktop to meet her.

Willow, catch!” My sister cried, sending Strawberry Shortcake in a low arc toward me. I caught her without enthusiasm and handed her back. “You’re supposed to throw her to me!” Amanda said, demonstrating. Her doll floated in a lazy circle, arms and legs pinwheeling, before falling back down into my sister’s waiting arms. The writer in me wants to make a clever reference to how I was feeling at that moment, about how I could relate to Strawberry Fucking Shortcake, spinning out of control in the air above us, but it feels hacky, so I’ll just talk about how I wanted to make the reference without actually making the reference, thereby giving myself permission to do a hacky writer’s trick without actually doing it. See, there’s nothing tricky about writing, it’s just a little trick!

It’s still in the first draft, and I may not keep all or even any of it, but after putting it aside for months while I was depressed about too many things to look at it, it feels so good to be back into this story.

Oh, speaking of writing, I got notes back from the editors on my Star Wars 40th anthology submission. I thought that, for sure, they’d want me to rework a ton of it, but all they asked me to do is change a name! And they told me it was beautiful! So I’ve been feeling like a Capital-W Writer for a few days.

And speaking of feeling happy for a change, Hasbro and Machinima announced that I’m a voice in the next installment of the Transformers animated series, Titans Return. And it feels silly to care about this particular thing, but Daily Variety put my name in the headline, which made me feel really, really good.I’ve always felt like the only thing that should matter is the work, and that the work should be able to stand on its own … but that’s not the reality even a little bit. Daily Variety is the industry’s paper of record, so when it chooses to put you in the headline of a story, people pay attention and it matters in the way that can make the difference between getting called for a meeting, or the last ten years of my life as an actor.

It’s also a good reminder that, even if I’m not getting the opportunities I want to be an on-camera actor, it is entirely within my power to create the space I need to be a writer.


Three sentences about 2017-07-20

Jul. 20th, 2017 12:41 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
Got some stuff done at work, still finding the big-daunting-project aspect to be intimidating, but continuing to throw myself at it, and eventually I'll get on top of it. Played a couple of games with Q before bed, Go Fish and Memory Game, the latter of which he's quite good at, although it's generally close (and last night I think we tied twice in a row). Fell asleep on Junie's floor doing her bedtime, went to bed early myself.

Three sentences about 2017-07-18

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:40 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
Back to mostly normal today. Q's foot owies still hurt, but he could tolerate a sock and a shoe this morning, and was off to camp. It was Wacky Water Day, but he managed to mostly avoid getting wet, go him. I had a sluggish start to my morning, but got some stuff done at work, including a variety of satisfying but not high-priority help-other-people-with-stuff type things, and finally eventually a better sense of what I should actually be doing right now. As it turns out, it's a big daunting project of the sort that I tend to struggle with and have a hard time starting, but I'm in a pretty good position right now to say fuck it and get started, and it's always easier to keep moving once I'm going. So, tomorrow, that! Meanwhile tonight, I coaxed Q through a bath, working on mostly keeping the foot owies out of the water, then washing them a bit at the end, then getting everything re-bandaided again afterwards. He is a good little thing. (Junie is also very excellent, but I had less to do with her specifically this evening. :^) They're asleep now, and I'm gonna turn in nice and early too, and hopefully improve my odds of anything good happening tomorrow.

Three sentences about 2017-07-17

Jul. 18th, 2017 03:27 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
Monday Monday! Both kids are doing ABGC day camp this week, but Q's foot was hurting enough that putting on a sock was painful, much less a shoe, so he stayed home, and I dropped Junie off so that Q wouldn't have to go out at all in the morning. Did a bunch of "figuring out what next" type stuff at work, which was good, although I still feel like I'm not sure what exactly *I personally* am supposed to be doing right now, which is not ideal. Home, dinner, a bath for Junie, an extra bandaid for Q on one of the scrapes that we hadn't bandaided before (but which had been bothering him more after all), and some more Hat Full Of Sky before bed. Caught up a bit with Amy after that, until the power went out in our neighborhood; we stayed up a little longer with the laptops and phone hotspots to keep us online, but then headed to bed.

Approximately weekly diet report )

Three sentences about 2017-07-16

Jul. 18th, 2017 02:52 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
More kids, more kids! Dim sum first this morning, celebrating Otavia's birthday, attended by Otavia & David & T, Alyssa & Kon & M & S, and the three of us. At China Pearl, where we hadn't been in a while, but which was perfectly suitable as far as we were concerned. The main difference we cared about was that the sweet layer on top of the baked pork buns (cha siu bao?) was a dry yellow stuff that I should probably know what it is but don't (yellow bean paste?), rather than sticky and clear. It was all yummy, in any case. :^) After that, we headed over to Three (Or Four) Playgrounds Park, aka Thompson Elementary, where we met Junie's friend E from ABGC camp, and mostly played in the water on the splash deck. We also bumped into a fellow incoming Hardy kindergartner of Q's, who we'd met at a playground meetup a few weeks ago, so he had some instant buddies to run around with too. A very good time was had by all, until Q scraped up his foot something awful -- I didn't catch all the details, focusing on bandaging him up, but I think he was running barefoot on some of the asphalt and stumbled or some such thing. He ripped a flap of the skin on the tip of his big toe off, and had probably dix or eight other abrasions on the foot of varying degrees of ouchiness. :^( I put a couple of bandaids on at the park, got him home, and we gave the whole foot a thorough (and really painful for him, poor guy) washing with soap and water after dinner, which he did not like one tiny bit, but was very brave about despite hating every second of it. First, though, Jeff and Jenizie and Chaos came home with Amy from Readercon, and we played some games and had some pizza, which was lots of fun. Chaos and Jenizie and Jeff and I played Wiz-War, which I liked a lot, the new set seems pretty solid, compared to what a mess of vagueness and contradictions previous editions have been. Chaos won that, in a suitably close and competitive battle. Then we split into two games, including the kids: Jenizie and Junie and I played labyrinth, which Junie won, while Amy and Jeff and Chaos and Q played Aquarius in the other room (so I don't kow what the outcome was there). Amy and I put the kids to bed, and the grownups then played Niagara, which I won with four purple stones. We said goodnight after that, and got to bed not too late I believe.

Three sentences about 2017-07-15

Jul. 17th, 2017 08:32 am
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[personal profile] irilyth
A busy Saturday full of kids! Shotokan in the morning, where Junie got her second stripe on her purple belt, go her. Home for a quick lunch; we then dropped Junie off at a playdate at a friend B's house, and then Q and I headed over to Joey's park to meet up with his friend A. They ran and played and had a generally good time, and then we threw a frisbee a bit towards the end, which was fun. We also saw JDMS and Z there on a playdate of their own. A had to leave at 15:00 or so, but Q and I stuck around for another hour after that, a big chunk of it with one of us shooting the outdoor volleyball at a goal formed by the posts of the fence around the tennis courts there, while the other played goalie. Both sides of that were fun, but it'd had gotten pretty hot over the course of the afternoon, so we were pretty tuckered by the time we finally headed out. Picked up Junie at around 16:30, and headed to Friendly's for dinner, with the usual tasty array of fast ish food and ice cream for dessert. Home after that for some baths and bedtime, including a bunch of Hat Full Of Sky. I then stayed up stupidly late working on a Button Men thing that turned out to be a big waste of time, but meh, that's how it goes sometimes, so. Trip Report Links

Jul. 18th, 2017 01:30 pm
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[personal profile] jss
I'm back and have posted my trip report on a day-by-day basis:Miss all y'all. See you next year, I hope!

Book: In Such Good Company

Jul. 17th, 2017 08:54 pm
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[personal profile] rem

In the book In Such Good Company Carol Burnett focuses on the eleven years of "The Carol Burnett Show," telling how the show came to be, describing what it was like to make it, answering questions she received often, and talking about the many talented people she worked with.

There's some overlap between this book and her previous book This Time Together, but that's to be expected. Frankly, I'd rather hear her stories twice than not at all. She also spends time describing particular sketches. Some people might not be into that, but I liked it. Specific to the audiobook, there are audio clips of several cast members from interviews, so you get to hear their voices as well.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and I'm glad I got to listen to it.

johnny sokko and his flying robot

Jul. 17th, 2017 11:22 pm
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Posted by Wil

A young boy aids in the fight against a mechanized terrorist organization as the sole controller of a prototype giant robot.

I couldn’t sleep, so I wandered into the weird and comforting landscape of UHF television’s modern equivalent, which in this case is a digital antenna station on 56.4 here in Los Angeles, called Comet TV*

For the next half hour, I watched this magnificently bizarre thing called Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. As far as I can tell, there’s this little kid called Johnny Sokko, and like all the other kids in school were all “Johnny Sokko, you’re a stupid face!” so he was like “h*ck you guys, I’m going to get a giant robot and live on a boat for some reason. Oh, and also, I’m like 8 or whatever, and I’m in charge of a giant flying murder machine. So watch your step, bitches.” Johnny gets this this giant robot who flies, and he controls him by issuing commands into a gold wristwatch. Instead of telling the robot to breakdance for his endless amusement, Johnny cries a lot and makes the robot save the world from a squid guy or something who lives in a sunken spaceship, adjacent to a pineapple under the sea? It’s all a little fuzzy in the translation, I’ll be honest, but I think I got the gist of it.

Anyway, I probably made some of that up, but this is all true: There’s a Flying Robot who is vaguely Egyptian. There’s a Gargoyle Gang, the Emperor Guillotine, a military group of children who are called Team Unicorn and are the only thing between Earth’s survival and intergalactic destruction for some reason, and all the bizarre 1960s Kaiju visual effects you could ever hope for. The music is exactly what you want it to be, and at one point, an entire freeway overpass is destroyed, because who among us hasn’t wanted to do that!

A quick search on a few of the Internets made it clear to me that I was not just way late to the party on this (the short I saw was originally released in Japan in 1967, as Giant Robo because obviously) but I am also discovering this literally decades after it became popular with the cool kids. So if you’re like OH GREAT WIL WHEATON THANKS FOR WASTING MY TIME WITH SOMETHING I ALREADY KNEW ABOUT now you can feel like a jerk because it’s new to me, Roland. It’s new to me!

It’s weird, and fun, and overflowing with potential audio samples, so I thought I would share it with you today. Here’s what I think is the first episode, in which we meet Johnny Sokko, the Flying Robot, an unsettling sea monster, and more:

There are several collections of Johnny Sokko films at the Internet Archive. I guess you can also buy remastered DVDs if you want to go that route (though I strongly believe that the faded and aged look of the originals at is a significant contributor to the charm of the thing.)

Good luck. We’re all counting on you.

*It’s owned by the profoundly evil Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which is a giant bummer. You can buy evil offsets by supporting ACLU and SPLC, if it makes you feel better.

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Posted by Tom Limoncelli

My new column in ACM Queue is entitled, "Four Ways to Make CS and IT Curricula More Immersive". I rant and rail against the way that CS and IT is taught today and propose 4 ways CS educators can improve the situation.

The article is free to ACM members. Non-members can purchase an annual subscription for $19.99 or a single issue for $6.99 online or through the Apple or Google stores.

Book Recs, Signings, and Stuff

Jul. 17th, 2017 07:54 am
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[personal profile] marthawells
Signings and Stuff

* Here are some photos of me and Rachel Caine at our signing at Murder by the Book: We had a good crowd, even though it was pouring rain and there were tornado warnings.

* Here's a post from me on Writers Read: about what I'm reading now (actually what I was reading when I wrote the post)

* And I'm not in this article but I know all these people:



(If you've been following my book rec and new book listing posts for a while, you may have noticed this already, but while most book lists emphasize books by popular straight white men, this one emphasizes everybody else. I include books by straight white men, but in about the same percentage that other book lists include everybody else. I also try to highlight books that are less well known.)

(I only link to one retail outlet in the book's listing, but most books are available at multiple outlets, like Kobo, iBooks, international Amazons, Barnes & Noble, etc. The short stories are usually on free online magazines.)

* Short Story: Children of Thorns, Children of Water by Aliette de Bodard

* Stranglehold by Rene Sears
Morgan Tenpenny has retreated from her painful, magical past, choosing to live quietly as a guardian of one of the gates between worlds. But her sister Gwen is married to a lord of the High Court of Faerie-and when Gwen asks her to protect her nieces, it's time for Morgan to emerge from her seclusion. The gates to Faerie have inexplicably closed, and no one knows why...

* Revision by Andrea Phillips
Mira is a trust fund baby playing at making it on her own as a Brooklyn barista. When Benji, her tech startup boyfriend, dumps her out of the blue, she decides a little revenge vandalism is in order. Mira updates his entry on Verity, Benji’s Wikipedia-style news aggregator, to say the two have become engaged. Hours later, he shows up at her place with an engagement ring. Chalk it up to coincidence, right? Soon after, Benji’s long-vanished co-founder Chandra shows up asking for Mira’s help. She claims Verity can nudge unlikely events into really happening — even change someone’s mind. And Chandra insists that Verity — and Mira’s newly minted fiance — can’t be trusted.

* Short Story: Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang

* Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy (Laksa Anthology Series: Speculative Fiction Book 3) edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak

* All Things Violent by Nikki Dolson
Soon the ambitious Simon introduces her to Frank Joyce, a man who would teach her how to become a stone-cold professional killer. Laura learns her deadly trade and earns her money. Twenty-six years old and she thinks she’s found her happily ever after. Sadly it all falls apart when Simon leaves her for another. Now some other woman, blonde and polished, all shiny and new, is living Laura’s happy life.

* Telling the Map by Christopher Rowe
There are ten stories here including one readers have waited ten long years for: in new novel-la The Border State Rowe revisits the world of his much-lauded story The Voluntary State.
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Posted by Naomi Parkhurst

This is part of my rewrite of my secret code instructions. It won’t make sense if you don’t read the rest of the series! It has to do with using one of my encoding methods in a non-geometric shape.

Making rectangular code grids is entirely arbitrary, though it’s a good place to start since it’s easier. However, there’s a range of reasons why one might want to chart code grids as different shapes, from it being impossible to make good lace from any of the rectangular ones, to just plain feeling like it.

There are many shapes that can be tiled across a flat surface; the only limitation for code grid purposes is that you be able to figure out how to turn it into graph paper squares. So far I’ve designed stitches with diamonds with three different ratios: 1:1 (square), 1:2 (half as wide as it is tall), and 3:2 (the number of stitches is half again as big as the number of rows.) In all cases, the ratio is based on the number of stitches in proportion to the number of right side rows. I’ve also done a six-sided shape (not an exact hexagon). Many other shapes would be possible, but I’ll leave them up to you.

Here’s how it works.

I usually work with a diamond that’s been cut in half vertically (because I like to mirror my stitch patterns). I mark off the end of each row of the diamond with a square to help mark the outline of the diamond. While this isn’t really going to be decipherable as code, I still like to do this where possible, at least during the encoding process. It also helps me tile the final stitch pattern.

The only one of my charting methods that works non-rectangular shapes is Method 4. I start at the bottom, and count as usual, but the end of the row comes in a different place for each line.

Here’s Peace again (I’m using the telephone keypad numbers again: 73223), laid out on three different diamonds, and also on a deformed hexagon. In each case I show the half version, and then mirrored, and then tiled into a rectangular stitch pattern. (Click on any of them to enlarge.)

peace half square diamonds 1

peace half square diamonds 2.png


peace skinny diamonds 1peace skinny diamonds 2


peace crescent diamonds 1


peace crescent diamonds 2

peace hexagons 1

peace hexagons 2

After doing the layout, the colored squares (that aren’t black) get deleted before turning the whole thing into a stitch pattern.

Note: this particular method is one of the versions of my technique where this becomes not really a secret code anymore, as it becomes less and less reasonable to expect someone to decode the results. But it does make an interesting basis for creativity.

Three sentences about 2017-07-14

Jul. 17th, 2017 08:20 am
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[personal profile] irilyth
Heading into a weekend of kids! Amy's going to Readercon for the weekend (well, during the days), so I worked from home today, and wrangled some kids. I picked up Junie after the last session of her day camp for the week, an Arlington Community Education arts & crafts program "Fairy Habitats", in which they built daollhouse house sized things out of various wood, cardboard, plastic, and cloth materials, including furniture and decorative bits as well. We brought that home, and she hung out and read while I got a bit more work done. We then went to pick up Q from his, "Young At Art" at the Arlington Center For The Arts, where today was the end-of-week performance, in their case of a song they'd been working on. The theme was transportation type things, so he also had a bunch of art along those lines, a train and a car and a hot air balloon. Home, mac & cheese for dinner, and then probably some games or something, I was too zonked to write at the time and have now forgotten. Amy got home in time for some bedtimes, which was nice because there had been some fightin' and sorrow, but we ended on a pretty good note.

Still time to RSVP to NYCDevOps...

Jul. 16th, 2017 04:50 pm
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Posted by Tom Limoncelli

This month's NYCDevOps meetup speaker will be Martín Beauchamp talking about "Clos Networks for Datacenters". You don't want to miss this!

  • Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
  • Time: 6:30 PM
  • Location: Stack Overflow HQ, 110 William St, 28th floor, NY, NY

Space is limited! RSVP soon!

Capitalism and housing

Jul. 16th, 2017 11:35 am
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[personal profile] mindstalk
In which I argue that the lack of affordable housing indicates something horribly wrong, and not with capitalism as such.

Have you heard of Walmart? Of course you have. What are they known for? Providing lots and lots of cheap shit. Also for bullying local governments and squeezing suppliers, but that's not the point here, which is: cheap shit. They have nicer competitors: Target, Kmart, Dollar Stores.

Plane seats are jammed and humiliating but also cheaper than they ever have been, modulo gas prices.

You can spend thousands of dollars on a fancy bicycle, or less than $100 on a cheap one.

Stores are full of cheap, if sometimes unhealthy, food.

You can spend under $13,000, or maybe $12,000 on a new car, or over $100,000 on a luxury sports car.

Many of us wear cheap clothes, "from Third World sweatshops"; others spend $thousands on elite designer clothing.

You can get a watch for $15, or $1500. They'll tell time about the same.

Our economy is full of selling cheap stuff to the masses and expensive stuff to the rich, and various things in between, (sometimes including selling cheap stuff for higher prices, if you can pull off price discrimination.) Because that's how you make the most profit, not by only making luxury stuff.

But in housing, particularly in some markets, it's said that developers are only building luxury housing. If true, why would that be? Why would housing be unlike every other part of the economy?

"Everyone needs housing, so they can extort you." Nope, that won't fly. Everyone needs food and clothing, and in the US lots of people need cars.

"They're just chasing profit." But the point of my examples is that there's tons of profit in non-luxury goods and services. Walmart is *huge*, with its founder's children inheriting $20 billion each of accumulated profit.

And in fact, if you look around the world, you do see cheap(er) housing options. Mobile and manufactured homes for the individual, pre-fab housing for soulless but cheap developer tracts, microapartments that cut living space to 100 square feet, SRO hotels that go further by making you share bathroom and kitchen (if any), granny apartments. In cheap land markets (prefab housing in surbuban developments) and expensive ones (microapartments in Tokyo and Hong Kong.)

But not in Boston, or San Francisco. Why not? Is there something about those places that makes developers spontaneously ignore non-luxury demand? Or is something, like zoning laws and permitting processes, preventing them from doing so?

If you know me, you probably know my answer: the latter. But if you don't like that answer, what's your alternative? Why don't we see Walmarts, Spirit Airlines, $15 watches, and $13,000 cars of modern urban housing?

February 2017

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