Renewal of the race / nation

Jun. 25th, 2017 02:53 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

Jamil Anderlini in the Financial Times (6/21/17), “The dark side of China’s national renewal“, writes:

To an English-speaking ear, rejuvenation has positive connotations and all nations have the right to rejuvenate themselves through peaceful efforts.

But the official translation of this crucial slogan is deeply misleading. In Chinese it is “Zhonghua minzu weida fuxing” and the important part of the phrase is “Zhonghua minzu” — the “Chinese nation” according to party propaganda. A more accurate, although not perfect, translation would be the “Chinese race”.

That is certainly how it is interpreted in China. The concept technically includes all 56 official ethnicities, including Tibetans, Muslim Uighurs and ethnic Koreans, but is almost universally understood to mean the majority Han ethnic group, who make up more than 90 per cent of the population.

The most interesting thing about Zhonghua minzu is that it very deliberately and specifically incorporates anyone with Chinese blood anywhere in the world, no matter how long ago their ancestors left the Chinese mainland.

“The Chinese race is a big family and feelings of love for the motherland, passion for the homeland, are infused in the blood of every single person with Chinese ancestry,” asserted Chinese premier Li Keqiang in a recent speech.

This is a highly perceptive, and troubling, article that merits reading in its entirety.

In this post, I will focus on some key terms.

First of all, front and center, what is this mínzú 民族?  It can mean lots of things:  nation, nationality, people, ethnic group, race, volk.  This is not the first time that mínzú 民族 has erupted on the international stage.  One of the most notable instances was four years ago, emanating right here from the University of Pennsylvania.  The incident is well recounted by R.L.G. in “Johnson” at The Economist (5/21/13), “Of nations, peoples, countries and mínzú:  Differing terms for ethnicity, citizenship and group belonging ruffle feathers“:

DID Joe Biden insult China?  The American vice-president has a habit of sticking his foot into his mouth, and in this case, the recent graduation speech he gave at the University of Pennsylvania inspired a viral rant by a “disappointed” Chinese student at Penn, Zhang Tianpu. What was Mr Biden’s sin? Was it Mr Biden’s suggestion that creative thought is stifled in China?

You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free. You cannot think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy.

No, that wasn’t it.

The source of the insult is a surprising one: Mr Biden called China a “great nation”, and a “nation” repeatedly after that. Victor Mair, the resident sinologist at the Language Log blog, translates Mr Zhang’s complaint.

In this sentence, “You CANNOT think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy”, he used the word “nation”. This is what really infuriated me, because in English “nation” indicates “race, ethnicity”, which is different from “country, state”. “Country, state” perhaps places more emphasis on the notion of the entirety of the country, even to the point of referring to the idea of government.

Mr Mair explains:

The weakness in Zhang’s reasoning lies mainly in his confusion over the multiple meanings of the word mínzú 民族…. [M]ínzú 民族 can mean “ethnic group; race; nationality; people; nation”.  Coming from the English side, we must keep in mind that “nation” can be translated into Chinese as guó 国 (“country”), guójiā 国家 (“country”), guódù 国度 (“country; state”), bāng 邦 (“state”), and, yes, mínzú 民族 (“ethnic group; race; nationality; people; nation”).

It is clear that, when Biden said “China is a great nation”, he was respectfully referring to the country as a whole.  Yet the sensitivity to questions of ethnicity in China, especially with regard to the shǎoshù mínzú 少数民族 (“ethnic / national minorities”), e.g., Uyghurs, Tibetans, and scores of others, caused Zhang to take umbrage over something that the Vice President never intended.

In a later post about smartphone zombies, Cant. dai1tau4 zuk6 / MSM dītóu zú 低頭族 (“head-down tribe”), “Tribes” (3/10/15), I wrote:

The first word I think of when I see 族 as a suffix is Mandarin mínzú, Japanese minzoku 民族 (“nation; nationality; people”), which is formed from 民 (“people; subjects; civilians”) + 族 (“family clan; ethnic group; tribe”).  The term is a neologism coined in the late 19th century by Japanese thinkers to match the Western (especially German) concept of “nation”.

… I have assembled a large amount of material concerning the absence of mínzú / minzoku 民族 as a lexical item corresponding to “nation” in China before it was introduced from Meiji [1868-1912] Japan.

When we prefix mínzú 民族 with shǎoshù 少数 (“few; small number; minority”), we have shǎoshù mínzú 少数民族 (“minority; national minority; ethnic minority”).  Here it gets really tricky, because, as Anderlini points out in his article, there are officially 56 ethnic groups (mínzú 民族) in China, of which 55 are shǎoshù mínzú 少数民族 (“minorities; national minorities; ethnic minorities; ethnic groups”), with the 56th being the dominant, majority (over 90%) Hàn mínzú 汉民族 (“Han nationality; Han ethnic group”).  Consequently, when Chinese politicians talk about the blood of the Chinese race, it’s important to know whether they are are referring to Hàn mínzú 汉民族 (“Han nationality; Han ethnic group”), Zhōnghuá mínzú 中华民族 (“Chinese nation / people”, where Zhōnghuá 中华 is understood as “Central cultural florescence”), or something else.  In each case, we need to judge carefully whether they meant to include all the ethnicities within the sovereign territory of the PRC or in the whole world, or whether they were referring specifically to individuals of Han ethnicity within the sovereign territory of the PRC or in the whole world.  Often, for politicians, as for poets, ambiguity is desirable, or at least convenient.

There are no less than half a dozen other words for “(the) people” that are in common use in Mandarin.  I won’t go into all of them here, but will mention only one:  rénmín 人民, as in rénmínbì 人民币 (“RMB; people’s currency”) and Rénmín rìbào 人民日报 (“People’s Daily”).  This term, rénmín 人民, does not get involved with race, ethnicity, nation, and so on, but emphasizes the population as a whole.

As for “Zhongguo / China”, that too is a huge can of worms, for which see this incisive paper by Arif Dirlik:

Born in Translation: ‘China’ in the Making of ‘Zhongguo’

[h.t. John Rohsenow, Bill Bishop]

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At the child psych hospital, we have a kid who came in with a photo of his parents, freaked out when staff tried to take it away from him, said he carries it with him everywhere he goes.

Those of you who haven’t worked in institutions before are probably saying “Awww, how cute, he really loves his family.”

Those of you who have worked in institutions before are probably asking “Was there a shiv hidden in the photo frame?” And yeah, there was.

Learning to be a librarian

Jun. 24th, 2017 10:09 pm
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Posted by Mary Beard

This is not just a first world problem. It’s a first world ACADEMIC  problem. So please take it in the sense it is meant.

We have just built a new bit of book-shelf extension onto the house (thanks to the excellent Henry Freeland, Andrew Turner and Bob Button — all of whom, if you want to know, are highly recommended). The fact is that I have two shared offices half full of books, and every floor in the house is piled high. So now is the moment to take action (I am thinking about retirement when those two half-offices no longer exist) and to put the old books on the new shelves. The fact is that we are now coming to see what librarians have been working on, and trying to sort out, for centuries.

First of all, how do we manage between us (husband and me) to have so many duplicates or triplicates. When I bought (cheaply) a second-hand of the 2003 National Gallery Titian Exhibition a few weeks ago, did I not realise that we had two already (no, because they were in those unsorted piles on the floor)?

But just as pressing is the size and shape of the books. We are well used to the Cambridge University Library system of classification by size (from ‘a’ big, to ‘d’ small), but it does seem a bit self-aggrandizing to do that at home. All the same, even when you try to do it in a small way, you get clobbered.

I can’t tell you how many series of books have changed their size (that must really irritate the UL. So you start putting Penguin Classics (or Cambridge ‘Green and Yellows’) onto their own perfectly appropriately sized shelf….then ffs you discover that a few years ago they get bigger and don’t fit. Meanwhile, the Journal of Roman Archaeology and the Journal of Roman Studies have downsized, and didn’t actually need those supersized shelves allocated.

And that is before you get to all those knotty questions of classification. Does a book about the nineteenth-century history of Pompeii go with archaeology or classical reception? Blow me if I know…

… but I do know that I cant retire till I get these books sorted (I have 5 years to go, and on this rate of progress it will take me that long to have a decent few shelves).

If I have ever poured scorn on the librarian’s skill, this is the time for me to eat humble pie.

Bruria Kaufman

Jun. 24th, 2017 04:53 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

The Annual Reviews have a tradition of featuring retrospective articles by or about senior figures, and the Annual Review of Linguistics has followed this pattern with pieces featuring Morris Halle in the 2016 volume and Bill Labov in 2017. For 2018, we’ll be featuring Lila Gleitman.

As background, Barbara Partee, Cynthia McLemore and I spent the last couple of days interviewing Lila about her life and work. We’ve got more than 7.5 hours of recordings, which is more like a book than an article — and it may very well turn into a book as well, with edited interview material interspersed with reprints of Lila’s papers. But what I want to post about today is one of the many things that I learned in the course of the discussions. This was just a footnote in Lila’s life story, but it has its own intrinsic interest, and I’m hoping that some readers will be able to provide more information.

I learned that the founder of the Penn Linguistics Department, Zellig Harris, was married to a mathematical physicist named Bruria Kaufman. She worked with John von Neumann, wrote some widely-cited papers on crystal statistics in the late 1940s, published with Albert Einstein (Albert Einstein and Bruria Kaufman. “A new form of the general relativistic field equations“, Annals of Mathematics, 1955), and later wrote papers like “Unitary symmetry of oscillators and the Talmi transformation“, Journal of Mathematical Physics 1965, and “Special functions of mathematical physics from the viewpoint of Lie algebra“, Journal of Mathematical Physics 1966.

The thing that interested me most was that Bruria Kaufman also worked for a while in the 1950s with Harris at Penn, at the same time as others including Lila Gleitman, Aravind Joshi, R.B. Lees, Naomi Sager, Zeno Vendler, and Noam Chomsky. And according to this 1961 NSF report, her contributions included Transformations and Discourse Analysis Papers (TDAP) numbers 19 and 20:

19. Higher-order Substrings and Well-formedness, Bruria Kaufman.
20. Iterative Computation of String Nesting (Fortran Code), Bruria Kaufman.

I’ve found a couple of citations to these works, but so far not the works themselves.

The 1961 NSF report says that

Paper 15 gives an information [sic — should be informal?] presentation of a general theory and method for syntactic recognition. Papers 16-19 give the actual flow charts of each section of the syntactic analysis program.

where 15-19 are

15. Computable Syntactic Analysis, Zellig S. Harris. (Revised version published as PoFL I, above)
16. Word and Word-Complex Dictionaries, Lila Gleitman.
17. Elimination of Alternative Classifications, Naomi Sager.
18. Recognition of Local Substrings, Aravind K. Joshi.
19. Higher-order Substrings and Well-formedness, Bruria Kaufman.

and “PoFL I” is Harris’s String Analysis and Sentence Structure, 1962.

Aravind Joshi and Phil Hopely, “A parser from antiquity“, Natural Language Engineering 1996, explains that

A parsing program was designed and implemented at the University of Pennsylvania during the period from June 1958 to July 1959. This program was part of the Transformations and Discourse Analysis Project (TDAP) directed by Zellig S. Harris. The techniques used in this program, besides being influenced by the particular linguistic theory, arose out of the need to deal with the extremely limited computational resources available at that time. The program was essentially a cascade of finite state transducers (FSTs).

More on the history from that source:

The original program was implemented in the assembly language on Univac 1, a single user machine. The machine had acoustic (mercury) delay line memory of 1000 words. Each word was 12 characters/digits, each character/digit was 6 bits. Lila Gleitman, Aravind Joshi, Bruria Kauffman, and Naomi Sager and a little later, Carol Chomsky were involved in the development and implementation of this program. A brief description of the program appears in Joshi 1961 and a somewhat generalized description of the grammar appears in Harris 1962.  This program is the precursor of the string grammar program of Naomi Sager at NYU, leading up to the current parsers of Ralph Grishman (NYU) and Lynette Hirschman (formerly at UNISYS, now at Mitre Corporation). Carol Chomsky took the program to MIT and it was used in the question-answer program of Green, BASEBALL (1961). At Penn, it led to a program for transformational analysis (kernels and transformations) (1963) and, in many ways, influenced the formal work on string adjunction (1972) and later tree-adjunction (1975).

The paper’s bibliography cites

Transformations and Discourse Analysis Project (TDAP) Reports, University of Pennsylvania, Reports #15 through #19, 1959-60. Available in the Library of the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) (formerly known as the National Bureau of Standards (NBS)), Bethesda, MD.

So I’ll ask my friends at NIST if these works are still there.

 

10.10 Eaters of Light

Jun. 24th, 2017 04:28 pm
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Posted by Andrew Rilstone

Eaters of Light was an episode of Doctor Who. It passed the time amiably. There was nothing particularly wrong with it.

10.9 The Empress of Mars

Jun. 24th, 2017 04:16 pm
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Posted by Andrew Rilstone

Some Victorians find a crashed flying saucer. In it is a little green man; who says that if they help him, he will fly them back to Mars and let them mine for infinite wealth. He will even build them a mining machine. But he is tricking them; he really wants to defrost the Little Green Queen who is in suspended animation. This leads to a shooting war between the Martians and the Victorians. When it looks like the two groups are going to wipe each other out, one of the soldiers, who was once sentenced to death for desertion, surrenders to the Queen and invites her to kill him. This proves that huh mans are honourable (or something) and she calls the war off and sets about rebuilding her civilization. Almost immediately she gets a message from a far-away star system, saying that a fleet of interstellar space ships are coming to help them.

I wish I had come in in the middle of Empress of Mars. In fact, I wish in fact that I was a Doctor Who fan from the 1980s, coming out of suspended animation at about the half way point. Ice Warriors and Red Coats in a cave, mutually besieging each other’s base; guns going off and indistinguishable men with pith hats and mustaches crying “I am assuming command” at each other, while an Ice Queen rants things like “Sleep no more!” and “Rise my ice warriors.” No idea at all what's going on, but this is what I always hoped Doctor Who would -- just like it was before but ever so much more so. I am sure if I watch the whole episode and catch up with the last 30 years of Ice Warrior continuity it will all make perfect sense. 

But I would be working on a false assumption. I would be assuming that Doctor Who was like other TV: that scenes make sense in context; that scenes, indeed, have a context to make sense in. 

*

Battlestar Galactica created a new thing out of the wreckage of its source material. Star Wars continues to lovingly illuminate the margins of its holy texts. Cinema Star Trek is currently desecrating the corpse of its TV predecessor, but at least it’s doing so consciously and deliberately, out of some perverse parricidal hatred. The Clangers — and I will fight to the death anyone who says that the Clangers isn’t as venerable and worthy of respect as any of the above-named Big Geek Franchises — simply resumed after a pause of 43 years as if nothing had happened. I suppose you could say that it was redundant: you can’t add to perfection. On the other hand, the characters can now blink. 

What, after ten years, is Doctor Who's relationship to the series which from 1963 to 1989? What is Doctor Who for? A dozen years in, I still have no answer. I suppose "Doctor Who is a series set in a magical universe where, each week, someone has to volunteer to commit suicide in order to generate the Peace Rays necessary to defeat the baddies" might do for a definition. But it still seems paralyzed by the anxiety of influence.

I have committed myself to writing something about every week’s episode of Doctor Who, and that means that I have to think of something interesting to say each week. No one would be very pleased if I said “It was another episode of Doctor Who. It passed the time amiably. There was nothing particularly wrong with it.” 

Empress of Mars is a very good piece of Saturday night television: light, fun, stupid, entertaining. If Doctor Who were like this every week, I would be pretty happy with it; although, if Doctor Who were like this, I would probably not bother to write about it, particularly. I was perfectly happy with, say, Merlin, but I didn’t dedicate a whole lot of thinking time to it. Perhaps I am just overthinking Doctor Who. But that raises the question: what is the correct amount of thought to apply to it. Or, put another: what is the right amount of stupor in which to watch it? 

*

Metro Magazine ran a headline “Doctor Who fans delighted by classic cameo in Empress of Mars.” Maybe some of them were. But I would have gone with: "Doctor Who fans bewildered by pointless cameo in Empress of Mars.” 

There are two Patrick Troughton stories, one set in the Very Far Future, in which human scientists accidentally defrost some Ice Warriors during an Ice Age; and another one set in the Much Nearer Future where some Ice Warriors try to turn the Earth’s atmosphere into Martian atmosphere using bubble bath. There is also a Jon Pertwee story in which a group of alien ambassadors have a conference to see if a retro-medieval planet can join the Galactic Free Trade Zone. The latter story pulls off a quite nice little trick: the Doctor assumes that the Ice Warriors are militaristic fascists who have come to the conference in order to disrupt it; in fact, they have long since renounced war and want the conference to succeed. Why they do not call themselves Ice Pacifists is not explored. One of the other alien ambassadors has claws and a single gigantic eye. (It came a close second in the Doctor Who Alien That Looks Most Like A Man's Willy awards.) It is this Alpha Centuri who appears on the communication screen at the end of Empress of Mars to say “welcome to the universe” to the Ice Warriors. The voice was provided by one Ysanne Churchman who provided the voice in the original story nearly 50 years ago. She was also the voice of Grace Archer who was famously burned at the stake as a punishment for inventing commercial television. (Check this - Ed.)  This makes her, at 92, the oldest person ever to appear in Doctor Who. Like you, I said "But what about the lady who had a non-speaking part as the frozen queen in the Pirate Planet but wouldn't take her false teeth out", but she was only 76.

But why? Surely the point of the story is that the nice cowardly guy with the pith helmet has volunteered to stay behind and help the Green Martians rebuild their civilization. If a fleet of highly advanced aliens are going to come along and do it all for them, doesn't that rather takes the point away from his sacrifice? That is to say, if the message had come from Just Some Alien it would have been at best pointless and at worst detrimental to the story. But if the message comes from yer actual Alpha Centuri from Curse of Peladon, then I feel entitled to ask what follows: that the Ice Warriors in Curse of Peladon were a newly defrosted race who had more or less always been pacifists, and whose civilization had been rebuilt by the Galactic Federation? That there was a civilization on Mars, in contact with interstellar races, all through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? That the Alpha Centuri of the Pertwee era is at least hundreds of years hold and has a special relationship with the Ice Warriors since their inception?

This is not a continuity gripe. I am quite happy with the invention of new continuity or the contradiction of old continuity. By all means, please, shake up the etch-a-sketch and give us a completely new Ice Warrior continuity. I am not one of those who takes personal offense when it turns out that some beloved old Star Wars comics are no longer “canon”. 

But I do want characters and scenes and alien races to have contexts. I don't think "we thought it would be cool to have three lines spoken by someone from the 1970s" is a good reason for a thing to happen in a story.

Of course, if you doing a reboot of a beloved old franchise, you are going to drop in little tips of the hat to revered previous iterations. Getting Kirk Alyn to do a cameo in the very first Superman movie, say, or wheeling on Leonard Nimoy in the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Star Trek remake. We sometimes call them Easter Eggs, little shiny things you can look for if you want to. 

The whole of this episode feels like one long Easter Egg. 

But perhaps it only feels like that to me. Perhaps this story is intended for people who have never heard of the Ice Warriors or Peladon or Alpha Centuri, or, for that matter Queen Victoria. Perhaps Doctor Who is now entirely opaque to Doctor Who fans, because all we see are allusions and references; it's position within the now ludicrously entangled web of Doctor Who. Perhaps we are supposed to be looking at the story (the story of how the man who somehow survived being hanged volunteered to commit suicide and magically melted the evil Ice Queen's heart) and hardly even noticing the Ice Warriors. You see Green Martians, I see Ice Warriors. You see a random alien whose presence makes no sense, I see Alpha Centuri from a story which went out when I was seven years old. Mark Gatiss said to himself  “Let’s do a reverse alien invasion story — where humans invade Mars. Let’s make the invaders comedy Victorians who say ‘by gum’ and ‘top hole’. And let’s have the Doctor broker some kind of peace.” And then, very much as an after thought said “I wonder if there have ever been warlike Green Martians in Doctor Who before? There have? Well, we might as well re-use those. No point in inventing new monsters for the sake of it."

Because the alternative is much more distressing. The alternative is that everyone is a Doctor Who fan now; and everyone is just excited because there are Ice Warriors and that the lady who voice Alpha Centuri is still alive. Being a Doctor Who fan is not about feeling attached to a character, or a setting, or a style of story, but to a collection of contextless, free floating symbols. 

This is a story folded in on itself; a mobius story; a story made up of allusions to other stories (which were themselves made up of allusions to other stories.) It Tomb of the Cybermen and the Hungry Earth and the Silurians and the Curse of the Mummy and pages and page of Mark Gatiss's doubtless meticulous research into Victorian cockney rhyming slang ("what a load of gammon"). It feels to much like an exercise in lining up all your Green Martian soldiers on one side of the table, and your Victorian toy soldiers on the other side of the table and playing at war, until one of the toy soldiers zaps the queen of Martians with Peace Rays and everyone makes friends. 

I enjoyed it very much indeed. 
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One Year On: Thank You

Jun. 24th, 2017 10:56 am
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Posted by Andrew Hickey

A year ago yesterday was the Brexit vote. Which means a year ago today I had a breakdown. A year ago today was also my last day working a day job, for that reason.

My wife is a disabled, bisexual, immigrant, and one reason we chose to live in the UK rather than the US is that the rights we have under the European Convention on Human Rights made this a much, much, safer place for her than the US. When I brought her here, I was protecting her.

So when the UK voted to leave the EU (and staying in the EU was the one reason that our current Prime Minister, then Home Secretary, Theresa “hostile environment for immigrants” May had for not leaving the ECHR, so we *will* be leaving that), that meant that I had failed to protect the person I love most in the world. This was a direct, personal, failure on the deepest level of my being — whatever else I thought of myself, I was someone who protected his wife. Now I wasn’t.

I’ve never had the best mental health in the world, but that plunged me into a depression unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I spent literally two months having suicidal thoughts every single day. I spent huge chunks of the first fortnight just screaming. For the first time in my adult life I was too ill to work — yet I also wasn’t provably ill enough to claim disability benefits. I had to become a freelance writer.

(If people think I’ve been too obsessed with Brexit on my Twitter in the year since, this is why — I essentially have PTSD (undiagnosed but I think real) which is triggered regularly by mentions of this ghastly decision).

And the intervening year has had two more giant disruptions which have affected my mental health — the Trump election, which did to Holly much the same as the Brexit vote did to me, and the neverending election (which started for those of us in Manchester Gorton in *February*). I am only now, a year on, recovering my stability — hence my recent spurt in productivity.

But I have managed to survive as a freelancer thanks to knowing good people. Just before my breakdown my friend Jennie pointed me to someone who would commission the occasional script for a YouTube video from me — those scripts have paid the mortgage and utility bills, just about.

But everything else — food for me, Holly, and our dog, any occasional luxuries, emergencies like replacing my computer when it broke — has been paid for by the readers of this blog, either through buying my books or backing me on Patreon.

So I’d like to thank all of you who’ve donated money, or bought books, or posted links to my posts on social media, or done anything else to make this blog the difference between me, my wife, and my dog eating and us starving. I’d especially like to thank Jennie for her getting me the freelance work. I’d also like to thank the person who knows who they are, but who I won’t name here because I don’t know if they want their act of generosity publicised, who increased their Patreon donation *massively* after my breakdown. That person was already someone I liked and admired, now they’re someone I will literally do *anything* for.

I’m aware that some of the kinds of posts that many of you most like — the complicated, idea-based, comics and Doctor Who ones in particular, have been lacking for the last year. Those require a kind of mental state from me that it’s been impossible for me to get into while I’ve been unwell. As I’m getting better, I plan to have them return to this blog over the next few months. I hope it’ll prove worth the wait.

I also have a lot of bits of work I’ve been doing piecemeal over the last year, all of which are nearing release. I hope that the deluge of stuff that’s coming up will be a big payoff for those of you who’ve been so generous.

So, one year into my life as a freelance writer, thank you all. You’ve literally saved my life. Thank you.


Interesting Links for 24-06-2017

Jun. 24th, 2017 12:00 pm

III. (d) in Kraków

Jun. 24th, 2017 11:30 am
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[personal profile] squirmelia
I arrived in Kraków on Monday afternoon and decided to do the [community profile] flaneurs challenge III. (d), take the first left, then the second right, etc. I prefer to use the adaptation of take the first left, then take the first right, etc.

Write up and photos )

The Blood is the Life for 24-06-2017

Jun. 24th, 2017 11:00 am
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Yesterday

Jun. 24th, 2017 09:26 am
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[personal profile] hollymath
Had one of those "feel like I didn't do anything" days yesterday but I did loads of stuff.

I think I felt like that because I did spend the morning in my pajamas wasting time on Twitter. But also, I was fielding comments on a Lib Dem Voice article introducing our new group, Lib Dem Immigrants (which I am super excited about). Unfortunately, anything about immigration attracts some trolls, even if it's as innocuous as "here's a new internal party body" (I did like that we also got a comment saying "we waste too much time on internal party shit!"). I found this set of comments dismaying for an interesting new kind of separating the wheat-from-the-chaff approach to immigration: even the people telling me they want to end freedom of movement and other such things tell me that they support me having rights, and right away, because I married a British citizen. Hm.

Anyway, I eventually made myself do a bit of tidying, sort out the room booking for Plus's AGM at Autumn Conference (which I don't know if I'll be able to go to because I can't afford accommodation, which is making me very sad), call up our soon-to-be-ex-home-insurance-company which gosh that phone call made me glad of because it was agonizing, get a Plus parcel ready to post and send it off, go to the shops to buy boring things like a light bulb, stand precariously on a too-short ladder to replace the light bulb, go see my friend Katie for a couple of hours, come back via a different shop to buy dog poo bags which we were suddenly out of, and watch Lego Batman with Andrew which we'd been trying to find time and energy for all week.

That is an okay day. I didn't do all the things I wanted to do, but I did a lot of good things.

Today I'm going to see fictive-nephew (who's almost eight already, how is that even possible) in some local am-dram production, and then Games Night has restarted so I get to see my Brighouse people twice in three days! This should be a good day too.

Bizzy Baksun

Jun. 23rd, 2017 11:43 pm
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Posted by Andrew Hickey

Currently working on finishing Beach Boys Book 3 (out next week with luck), the Basilisk novel (out in the next fortnight with luck) and a short story (off to a more-patient-than-I-deserve editor early next week), a bunch of freelance commissions, and editing Holly’s book. I tried to put together a linkblog, but frankly I haven’t even been looking at enough interesting links to fill one recently. Normal posting should resume soon.


Recent Reading

Jun. 23rd, 2017 06:04 pm
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Some things I’ve read recently!

The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata

If you didn’t read Nagata’s The Red Trilogy, well, you might want to consider doing so. But whether you have or you haven’t–The Last Good Man is near-future military sf. It’s tense and compelling, and features a middle-aged woman protagonist, an ex-Army pilot who now works for a private military company. During a rescue mission she discovers something that casts a new and disturbing light on an event that she’d thought, well, not safely in the past, but over and done with and accurately understood. But she wants the truth, no matter the cost. If near future and/or military is your jam, don’t miss this.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

This is volume 1 of the Murderbot Diaries, and I suspect a certain percentage of my readers don’t need to hear anything more. Go, purchase, download! You will enjoy this.

Murderbot is a SecUnit–a security android, part organic part mechanical, that isn’t supposed to have any sort of free will. It does, though, and having achieved that free will it secretly names itself Murderbot and then works hard to hide its freedom of thought from the corporation that owns it. It doesn’t actually want to murder anyone, though. It just wants to be left alone to watch its stories. Unfortunately, someone is trying to kill the humans Murderbot has been tasked to protect.

I’m not kidding, I can almost guarantee that my readers will enjoy this. I have already pre-ordered volume 2, which is out in January.

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns

So, Lesbian Space Pirates. Out at the end of October. That may be all I need to say.

Or not. Our heroines hijack a colony ship in a bid to join a famous band of space pirates–only to discover the pirates are not, as widely believed, hiding out on Barbary Station rolling in money and loot, but are in fact trapped there by the station’s renegade AI. Why is the AI doing what it’s doing? Is it conscious? Does it matter when it’s trying to kill you?

This book is good fun. Set in the Solar System, lots of action, I really enjoyed this, and I bet you will, too.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

More Brexit polling

Jun. 23rd, 2017 09:16 pm
[syndicated profile] uk_polling_report_feed

Posted by Anthony Wells

A year on from the EU referendum there was some new YouGov polling for the Times this morning. The country remain quite evenly split over whether Brexit is right or wrong, 44% think leaving was the right decision, 45% the wrong decision. There is not much optimism about negotiations – only 26% expect the government to achieve a deal that is good for Britain, 31% expect a poor deal, 15% expect no deal at all (that said, most don’t think Labour would be doing any better – 24% think they’d get a better deal, 34% a worse deal, 20% that it would end up much the same).

Asked to choose between Britain having full control over immigration from Europe or British businesses having free access to trade with the EU people preferred trade by 58% to 42%. As I wrote in my last post, there’s a lot of variation in questions like this depending on the specific wording, but the overall picture suggests that when people are pushed to choose they do think trade is more important than control of immigration (though among Conservative voters the balance is the other way round).

On other matters, on the question of who would make the best Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn now leads Theresa May by a single point – 35% to 34%. This is the first time that Corbyn has led in the question – this is partially because of a sharp drop in Theresa May’s ratings (before the snap election she was consistently in the high 40s), but is also due to a significant increase in Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings. Again, if you look at the longer term ratings he used to be consistenty down in the teens.

Full tabs are here

I should also add an update on polling about the second referendum. In my last post I mentioned the Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday which found that the balance of opinion was in favour of having a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal. This was the first time any poll had shown this, and I said it was worth looking to see if other polls found the same. Well, so far they haven’t – Survation also had a poll for Good Morning Britain on Monday, that also had a question on a second referendum, and it found 38% of people supported it and 57% were opposed. Tabs for that are here.

[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

A paddleboarder had a run-in with an injured giant squid. Video. Here's the real story.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

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