delphipsmith: (the road)
Reveals are up over at [profile] sshg_giftfest, so I can now cop to being the author of the following:

Title: Riddles in the Pub (fest site) (AO3)
Word count: ~7700
Summary: Having retreated to a small town in Scotland to get away from unwanted publicity, Hermione is surprised to discover someone there who shares her love of a particular author.

Being a Tolkien fan from way back (we won't say how far back), I really enjoyed giving Snape and Hermione free rein to argue, discuss, and debate various aspects of Tolkien. My recipient, [profile] lenaa1987, was also entirely pleased, which makes me very happy indeed :)
delphipsmith: (allyourbase)
There's a kickstarter for a role-playing game called "Papers & Paychecks" (launched by [livejournal.com profile] tcpip) in which participants play -- you guessed it -- employees, managers and interns at a tech company :)

The game was reviewed by Cory Doctorow (author of the brilliant short story "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" among other things), and his review gave a link to the original cartoon/joke that spawned the idea of the game, which I'd never seen. It's from the first edition of The Dungeon Master's Guide:



Doctorow's review also mentioned a very funny series of YouTube short in which a knight, an elf, a cleric, and others play a similar RPG. Here's the first one:


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Finally, one of the comments to Doctorow's review included a hilarious cartoon featuring little robot people and an RPG about online bulletin boards ("You are checking up on a forum topic you started yesterday, when suddenly a Ravening N00b posts: 'U R TEH GAY FAGOT!'").

Enjoy :)
delphipsmith: (Solo odds)
Mr Psmith and I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Saturday.



I have still not recovered from the utter joy and the deep trauma.

If you've seen it you will know what I mean.

Woah.
delphipsmith: (George scream)
Good Thing the First: I am caught up on reading [livejournal.com profile] mini_fest, yay! So many wonderful little stocking stuffers, and one or two more substantial offerings. My favorite so far is a Minerva/Severus piece entitled Dark and Deep. Doesn't that title make you want to go there right now and read it?

Good Thing the Second: Real life is FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY slowing down, and I am so looking forward to getting back on LJ more. Since October when we moved house, it's just been one thing after another and woah, am I ready to slow down a little. I can also take on more of the mod-ly burdens for [livejournal.com profile] sshg_giftfest, which to date have been shouldered almost entirely by the valiant [livejournal.com profile] amorette, whom I owe big time for doing SO much more than her fair share. She is a true rock!

Good Thing the Third: Mr Psmith graduates tomorrow!!!! I am so proud of him I can hardly stand it :)

Good Thing the Fourth: This, shared with me by a fellow nerdgeek at work today. There are no words for how very much I love this:

delphipsmith: (magick)
Today I discovered the Multilingual Folk Tale Database. Not only does it have almost 5000 folk tales, fairy tales and fables from all over the place -- 5th century Greece, 13th century Holland, 19th century Germany -- you can view them in their original language or side by side with a translation, so you can practice your middle Dutch or your 5th c. Greek.

DanishEnglish
"Hvad vil du nu med det fyrtøj," spurgte soldaten. "What are you going to do with the tinderbox?" asked the soldier.
"Det kommer ikke dig ved!" sagde heksen. "None of your business," said the witch.


Don't you love that the Danish word for witch is "heksen"?

It also incorporates the Aarne-Thompson-Uther (ATU) classification system, with descriptions, so you can go from a classification to representative stories, or from a story to its classification type. For example, The Devil's Three Golden Hairs is ATU 461.

I know, I know, this is SO geeky, but I love it. The only drawback is it's heavy on Western Europe and Scandinavia (thank you, Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm). There are a scattered few from Africa and South America but not many, and nothing from China, Japan, Russia, or the Middle East. Not all the stories have an English version, either So if you know any folk tales from Japan, or if you speak Hungarian, Polish, Icelandic, or Danish, hop on over there and get to work!
delphipsmith: (Hepburn)
Apparently the 60th anniversary edition of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, which I don't own but clearly need to possess, includes a new coda by the author. It is a masterpiece of literate laceration, in which he excoriates the obsession with political correctness which, taken to its extreme, leads to everything sounding just like everything else.



For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conservationist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mormons like not my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intellectuals wish to re-cut my "Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" so it shapes "Zoot," may the belt unravel and the pants fall...

Read the full text here, and tell me what you think.
delphipsmith: (elephant)
A tachyonic antitelephone is a thing.

Reading fanfic can teach you valuable life skills.

Rush Limbaugh really is a complete and utter ass. (OK, that one I pretty much suspected already.)

Zombie migration patterns can be mathematically predicted.

I have to make this. SOON.

[livejournal.com profile] nursedarry sent me the coolest wine EVER. reH tlhIngan wo' taHjaj!!

(click to embiggen)
klingonwine1 klingonwine2

Also, there are still some free books left!
delphipsmith: (Solo odds)
Little known fact: Stephen Colbert has been a Star Wars fan two weeks longer than anyone else. That and his encyclopedic knowledge of Tolkien are only two of the reasons I love him. Also, he can explain why the new light-saber design won't cause you to lose a hand :)


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delphipsmith: (HPvsTwi)
So, you know how when you do an LJ entry there's that field off to the right labeled "location"? And you know how it becomes a clickable link to Google Earth once you post your entry? Check out what happens when you put "Hogwarts" in as your location :)
delphipsmith: (gumbies)
Cool: What fire looks like in zero gravity

Cool but makes my head sort of want to explode: Some infinities are bigger than others

Creepy but also still cool: A lyre made out of a human skull

Creepy and really, really not cool: Major fantasy/sf author Marion Zimmer Bradley (Mists of Avalon, etc.) allegedly abused her own daughter for years; see here and here. So disappointed and sad...*

*Edited for clarity, sorry for the ambiguity of original sentence

PCA WOW

24 April 2014 10:17 pm
delphipsmith: (GilesLatin)
So I went to the Pop Culture Association conference in Chicago last week and WOW because IDEAS!!! I came home with pages and pages and pages of notes from every panel I went to, and lists upon lists of topics I now want to research and write about. I will share all the things here, but I don't have time to do it justice until this weekend (and I may have to spread it out over several days so as not to bore y'all).

Suffice to say:
♥ ♥ ♥ IT WAS AWESOME ♥ ♥ ♥
delphipsmith: (modern quill)
LetterMo2014squareI wish I'd heard about this a week ago, because this makes me a week late getting started, but I want to participate in Mary Robinette Kowal's A Month of Letters. I love what she says about it: "When I write back, I find that I slow down and write differently than I do with an email. Email is all about the now. Letters are different, because whatever I write needs to be something that will be relevant a week later to the person to whom I am writing..."

To do this properly, I need 20-22 people to send things to, so if you want something -- a letter, a card, a postcard, a small marsupial with a stamp on its back, whatever -- please leave a comment and PM me with your address. I'd love to actually make my target of something every day in February. I have offline friends and family who can fill in the gaps, but I don't know if I can get to 22 without you, so help me out!

In other news, Marvel Comics has launched a site to send superhero geeks into a frenzy: a humungous comic books image archive spanning 75 years. And it comes with an API so clever codey type people can do neat things with it!

Ka-Pow! Marvel Opens Massive Comic Book Images Archive And API To Fans, Developers

The API -- which will include comic book artwork, character histories, creator insights, and expanded stories -- will grant members access to an expansive database of Marvel's library of 75 years of comics, including over 30,000 comics, 7,000 series, and 5,000 creators. This move gives developers the tools to create their own Marvel-based apps and digital offerings...

And for the francophiles in the audience, we have "Farting Angels and Ass-Slapping Aristocrats: A Web Archive Reveals the Weird Side of the French Revolution":

Shackles broke, kings fell, and heads rolled. The French Revolution was one of the most dramatic social explosions in history, and its aftershocks still ripple through Western culture 200 years later. And now, thanks to the French Revolution Digital Archive, any Francophiles with an Internet connection has access to over 14,000 newly released images from the bloodbath. Quel bonheur!

This one appears to be saying that teeter-totters are miraculous, but perhaps I'm misinterpreting...

Also OMG DID YOU SEE BIG BANG THEORY TONIGHT?? (Warning: Spoilers if you click through) First time ever a tv show has actually made me gasp :)
delphipsmith: (thinker)
Just discovered not one but TWO interviews with one of my favorite authors, Ted Chiang! If you don't know Ted Chiang, you are missing out on some truly stunning work. He's a technical writer by trade, but on the side a writer of science fiction or possibly fantasy or perhaps speculative fiction, depending on your definition). A consistent theme of his work is the interplay between science, religion and magic, and many of his stories explore the places where these three intersect or blur into one another. This also happens to be a big interest of mine, so of course I devour anything he writes. As someone famous once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and Chiang's stories often play with this idea, pushing the boundaries or rather showing that the boundaries are perhaps fuzzier than we think. You can read several of his stories, including the wonderful "Hell is the Absence of God," here.

In the first interview, he says this:

There is a similarity between science and religion in that they're both attempts to understand the universe, and there was a time in the past when science and religion were not seen as incompatible, when it made perfect sense to be both a scientist and a religious person. Nowadays there is much more of an attitude that the two are incompatible. I think that's sort of a 20th century phenomenon.

I find this an interesting observation. Time was, in the not-so-distant past, one could be both a good Christian and a good scientist (*koff*Jesuits*koff*). Even during the Enlightenment, a scientist working diligently to fully understand the natural world was not (necessarily) seen as a threat to belief in God but as paying tribute to it, by uncovering new marvels and demonstrating the incredible complexity and beauty therein. Likewise, no scientist felt obligated to denounce religion as a bunch of hokum and say that anybody who believed it was a fool. But these days it's not uncommon to run across some fairly strong rhetoric that makes the two seem fundamentally (ha ha) incompatible, such as the anti-science stance of some on the far right.

On the other hand, just last week I learned that my former home state is trying to remove evolution from the curriculum on the grounds that science IS a religion, so perhaps the two are closer than we think...

But I digress. I was talking about how masterfully Chiang explores this in his writing. I don't want to give away any spoilers (because I REALLY want everyone I know to go and read him for themselves!), but the best examples are in his collection Stories of Your Life and Others. The title story manages to combine alien linguistics with the problem of free will AND will make you cry, an impressive feat for a single story. "Tower of Babylon" and "Seventy-Two Letters" are excellent examples of the religion of magic, or the magic of science, or the science of religion, however you want to think about it, each with a twist at the end that makes you go "woa..."

To leave questions of religion aside, the last story in the book is particularly pertinent to women, I think, since we live in a society that places an abnormal priority on female beauty, and one narrow form of it to boot, with photo-shopped models and the constant selling of beauty products. The story is called "Liking What You See: A Documentary" and is about a near-future invention that allows people to switch off their perception of whether a person is beautiful or not. (This is not as far-fetched as it sounds -- scientists are increasingly fine-tuning their knowledge of where in the brain things happen.) The story is written as a documentary, with interviews with college students, parents, scientists, religious figures, business people (advertising!), etc. all arguing for or against it on one or another grounds. All of the interviews are interesting, but the most poignant is perhaps the main character, a college-age girl trying to decide which is right for her. Like most of Chiang's stories, the purpose is more to make you think rather than convince of a certain way of thinking. It's fascinating and eerie and discomfiting all at once.

In the second interview, which actually was first since it was in 2002 and the other one was in 2010, he has this to say:

[M]agic is always esoteric, whereas science and technology are fundamentally egalitarian. Magic's something for the few, the elect, the anointed, or someone who has a gift, but science is ultimately amenable to mass production, so we can all enjoy the benefits.

What do you think about this distinction, of magic as elitist and science as egalitarian? If, for example, in the world of Harry Potter, some mutation made everyone magical, would it no longer be magic since it's available to everyone? Or what if magic were attainable by anyone willing to work really hard, or pay a certain price?
delphipsmith: (George)
1. Kenneth Branagh (squeee!) will be directing a live-action version of Cinderella. Helena Bonham Carter plays the Fairy Godmother (so, presumably, not a crazy hag -- surprise! Though she's also playing Miss Havisham, so maybe this is an anomaly).

2. Chickens: the Steadi-Cam of the animal kingdom

3. Miss Piggy wearing the Hope Diamond. Yup, the actual Hope Diamond.

4. The Secret Life of Bees and The Necromancer's House (yeah, I need to write a proper review, but trust me on this: they're both -- in very different ways -- fantastic.

5. New Pope rocks.

6. Queen + physics = Bohemian Gravity:

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delphipsmith: (GilesLatin)
Pottermore Sorting Hat Quiz
Your Result: Ravenclaw 79%
 
Congratulations! Welcome to RAVENCLAW HOUSE. Our emblem is the eagle, which soars where others cannot fly; our house colours are blue and bronze. We pride ourselves on intelligence, creativity, individuality, wit and learning, and our common room is found at the top of Ravenclaw tower, behind a door with an enchanted knocker.

Traits: Intelligence, wit, creativity, imaginative, curiosity, individuality and eccentricity.

Notable people: Luna Lovegood, Cho Chang, Professor Flitwick.
 
Slytherin 64%
 
Gryffindor 55%
 
Hufflepuff 47%

Eeek...

1 March 2013 11:32 pm
delphipsmith: (George scream)


I applied to Clarion West. I'm scared now.
delphipsmith: (Sir Patrick Captain)
Those of you with a mathy turn of mind will be interested to know that it's actually command gold that loses the highest percentage of its wearers, not the stereotypical expendable red shirts. But sciences and engineering are still the safest. Go Spock!

And since we're in a Star Trek moment, please enjoy the ten most awesome things that happened during ST:TNG's 25th reunion. (TWENTY FIVE. Wow do I feel old. So imagine how Jonathan Frakes feels!!)

Also, Patrick Stewart has made the NRA's enemy list (and is apparently quite proud of it). He's also been attacked by some sort of squid/fruit hybrid, but I'm sure there's no connection.

Oh, and Mississippi finally banned slavery.

That is all.
delphipsmith: (bazinga)
Yep. Really. Specifically, Dr Karen Norberg, of the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, spent a year knitting an anatomically correct replica of the human brain. Why, you ask? I don't care, I just think it's awesome.
delphipsmith: (bazinga)
A team of Brazilian biologists has discovered a new species of orchid bee and they have named it Euglossa bazinga. According to Dr. André Nemésio, a biology professor at the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, "The idea was to honor actor Jim Parsons and his brilliant interpretation of Sheldon Cooper. The show exaggerates a little bit, but in a sarcastic way, it shows how things do happen in the academic world," he added. "It is fantastic!"
I am tickled pink :)
delphipsmith: (waka waka bang splat)
The hashtag #natesilverfacts has been trending on Twitter since Election Night. Here are some of the best:

@weldonwk: Nate Silver wasn't born, the probability of his existence just increased #natesilverfacts

@edyong209: Immense RT @TrojanScientist: Before going on a date, Nate Silver calculates the prior probability of reaching third Bayes.

@petridishes: Han Solo lets Nate Silver tell him the odds. #natesilverfacts

@edwardbenson: Nate Silver escaped from a Prisoner of War camp by shrugging and making an independence assumption #natesilverfacts

@Smedette: Nate Silver can recite Pi. Backwards. #NateSilverFacts

@clarklab: Statistical margin of error will now be referred to as “Distance from Nate” #natesilverfacts

We also have the (fictitious, one hopes) #drunknatesilver ("Last night, I walked onto a maternity ward and pointed out the 53rd President of the United States. #DrunkNateSilver").

Then there's the hilariously over-the-top parody account @fivethirtynate, which has gems like this: "@fivethirtynate: Molten variables hiss and roar. On my mind-forge, I hammer them into the greatsword Epistemology. Many are my foes this night!"

Also, some people think he's a witch :)

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