Hugos

I’m enjoying reading George R R Martin’s take on the drama that is the 2015 Hugo awards. I’ll link to the boingboing summary as a launching page not because I think Cory has a clear-eyed, unbiased view of the situation (he doesn’t, even though I agree with him), but because it also links to an interesting set of blog posts by Bruce Schneier’s posts on voting systems, and I kinda love that stuff.

I’m a one-time Worldcon member who didn’t vote for the Hugos. I’m occasionally tempted to join as a voting member because you get free ebooks of all the nominees, but then I remember I never bother to read the pile of books I already own.

The Hugos are a clique. The clique is Worldcon. People who are popular regulars at Worldcon by and large get the nominations and win the trophies. But the Hugos are Worldcon’s. It’s their award. It’s weird to be in the room where they’re handing them out, because you kinda feel like you’ve crashed somebody else’s prom when they’re handing out prom king and queen awards. If you don’t go to prom or even to that school, I don’t really see how you’d expect to win those particular popularity contests.

I mean, they nominate stuff like video tapings of the previous year’s Hugo awards ceremony. Everything except for the fiction awards is kind of a joke. A good-natured joke, generally, but I’m not going to be looking to the Hugos to tell me what’s a good comic to read or movie to watch.

Now, you could argue whether the “most prestigious science fiction literature awards” should go to the prom kings and queens of Worldcon, but Worldcon is the hub of science fiction book fandom. Very good writers go there. If you’re a serious science fiction writer and you’re not going there, one has some justification to question your dedication to the field. And they do care about the quality of the work. And the Worldcon people do actually take the fiction awards very seriously. So I feel a bit sad that they’ve had this happen to them. Because the people rushing in to vote don’t care about the Worldcon community or history or whatever. They’re doing it for the lulz.

2014 Waterloo Municipal Elections

With minimal ado, this blog endorses the following candidates in the municipal races I get a say in:

I’d love to endorse some school board candidates, but I have to admit I’m not well-enough informed to publicly commit to endorsements. School board is really important and I wish I had time to dig into it. Good, critical evaluation of candidates would also be really valuable because it’s so hard to come by. But I don’t have it. I suck, basically.

As if to contradict myself, I have some less well-informed opinions of other races around the region. If you’re interested in them, check out my Sticking My Oar In section.

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The 100,000,000-year-old moon

[Peter Capaldi on the moon]

So on this week’s Doctor Who episode, the Doctor asserts a couple times that the moon is 100 million years old. This, along with a lot of other Jack Kirby-esque science nonsense, irritated a great many viewers. Like this respected and lovely local author on Twitter:

In our universe, the moon is about 4.5 billion years old, give or take a few hundred million–there’s still some debate. That information isn’t hard to find. However, I assert he did look it up.

[The History of the Universe]

The Doctor Who universe isn’t our universe. In the Doctor Who universe, the arrival in the moon in orbit around the Earth is a specific and important historical event. It did two things: its sudden appearance in the sky convinced the Silurians (aka Homo Reptilia. SCIENCE!) to go into hibernation to avoid the impending doom it almost certainly portended (see: Doctor Who and the Silurians), and it destabilized the fragile Earth-Mondas twin orbit, sending Mondas drifting into interstellar space (see: The Tenth Planet and, in particular: Spare Parts).

Putting it at about 100 million years makes some sense for the Silurian timeline (moreso than the Doctor Who History of the Universe’s assertion that the Silurians’ ancestors survived and evolved 20 million years after the Earthshock extinction event that killed the dinosaurs). And it suddenly appearing as described in those stories is nicely in line with what is revealed about the moon in Kill the Moon.

So yeah, the age of the moon, to me, was a delightful callback to previous adventures. The nonsense about the increased mass of the moon was a bit more irritating, but I’ll give them a pass for not wanting to pay for all that wire work.

Update! 2015-05-05 Writer Peter Harness confirms on this week’s Radio Free Skaro, episode 474, that the 100 million year age of the moon was, in fact, a deliberate reference to Doctor Who and the Silurians. Validation!

Star Wars: Clone Wars

Life Size Ahsoka Tano StatueI’d kind of dismissed the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series, because I didn’t see a need for it what with the already pretty awesome Clone Wars series by Genndy Tartakovsky. And also because, seriously, people, nobody likes the prequels. Why do we need to dwell on them?

But I think Clone Wars managed to redeem the prequel trilogy for me a little bit. Oh, it’s still terrible, but they kind of help show how it might have been good if George had actually hired a real director or something.

The best part about Clone Wars, hands down, is Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s padawan introduced by the series. She’s feisty, brash and hot-headed, like the prequels were desperately trying to make Anakin, but she’s also deeply moral and just and kind. She gives Anakin something to care about that’s not his horribly dysfunctional relationship with Padme. And she’s fun. Oh god, it’s so refreshing to have a Star Wars that’s fun again.

Her morality causes conflict. With the Jedi, with Anakin and with herself. But she comes through, mostly doing the right thing when she can, and doing her best when she can’t.

The series does a bunch of other amazing things even when Ahsoka isn’t on screen. The Clones become actual characters you care about. All the political machinations start making some semblence of sense. You see how things like trade embargoes (somewhat simplified) affect actual people. Jar-Jar is still a (mostly) useless buffoon, but everyone’s in on it now and rolling their eyes along with you. I didn’t hate the Jar-Jar episodes! They kept Assaj Ventress from the 2003 series and she’s still awesome.

It’s not perfect. The Jedi are still inexplicably dumb. The politics, while amazing for being coherent and relatable, are clearly simplified for the kids watching. Legend of the Galactic Heroes, this ain’t. And they almost completely avoid the mystical Jedi stuff, gloss over anything about what it means to fall to the Dark Side or how any of that stuff works, much like the prequels. With one notable (tho odd) exception. Which is a shame, because all that stuff is what I loved thinking about playing Knights of the Old Replublic or the West End Star Wars RPG.

None of that overshadows how great the characters are (even Anakin sometimes), or how much fun it is to watch.

I should also note that it gets pretty dark towards the end. Fair warning: characters die. Ones you care about. Not Game of Thrones dark, but surprising for a kids’ show. Not that I don’t think kids could handle it, and I thought it was great what they pulled off. But it surprised me.

I gotta say, I recommend it. Clone Wars made me love Star Wars again. And I’m really looking forward to Star Wars Rebels.

@NewEatsKW

[COMING SOON] Up until a couple months ago, I’ve been pretty tied up with Kwartzlab. Kwartzlab is awesome and I loved serving on the board, but being an administrator was taking away from actually making or doing things.

Way back in February, the lab hosted Open Data Waterloo Region for Open Data Day. For a while, a coworker (Mark Sherry, @alfedenzo) and I had been kicking around the idea of using the Waterloo Region Food Inspection dataset and using it to figure out when a new restaurant opens in town. So when Open Data Day happened, that’s what I worked on.

(Video by Bob Jonkman. For whatever reason, that ogv video sometimes doesn’t work so great for me in GStreamer. But you can click on the little Internet Archive icon at the top and download to play in VLC or something. It’s going to be me unpreparedly rambling regardless).

It was mostly done at the time and I uploaded the code to github. Mark pulled it down and pretty much rewrote it. And then I came along and added some twitter API stuff, figuring out the basics of OAUTH for no better reason than I wanted to figure out OAUTH (basic authentication would’ve worked just fine).

But it still languished for a while. Mark was running it every week and sending me updates about what restaurants it uncovered.

Then the Kwartzlab board elections came along and I decided not to run again. Not coincidentally, I decided I wanted to dust off old projects and actually ship some. NewEatsKW was the first one.

Last night it tweeted its first tweet all on its own.

It would’ve been sooner, but there haven’t been any new restauarants in the dataset in weeks. I still need to do a bit of work to get it running in a cron job where it can download the data from the Region itself, but it works and I’m happy with it. Despite being a weird combination of being both horrendously slapdash and ridiculously overengineered.

And so far it’s made something of a splash, picking up nearly 40 followers on its first day.

Hurray! I’ve got some ideas of things I can do to make it better, but for now I’m happy that a small, simple, useful thing finally made it out the door and into the world.