Tuesday 17 September 2013

Boston: a personal view

My "public" post on the 2013 Boston rowing marathon is End of an Era on the club blog. These are some personal thoughts. I won't make this post private, trusting to obscurity to shield me from offending anyone. Nor will I repeat what is there; this is the other bits.

What's to say? Mostly, how hard it was to organise the thing. We started off with high hopes of getting M1 together for one last hurrah, and JH wouldn't have agreed to come down were it not for that, but CW and AS were out from the start for health, WW was regrettably on holiday, so we were down 3. DR had to pull out due to "taking his daughter to uni" - that one, hmm well, Dave is a good bloke so I'm rather reluctant to criticise. But I had to drop my college 30/20/10 year reunion, which I did because I'd committed to the race. In fact scratching around for new people wasn't too hard, just a bit stressful. TW came on board OK, indeed enthusiastically, but then had to drop out. In the end we ended up with KH and UB and all was well, but... the sheer volume of email and faff!

2013-09-15 17.38.25 Here are my hands, after the race (remember I wore the very thin orange running/sculling gloves during the race, to stop the plasters rubbing off). Mostly to show me next year where I put fabric strip on beforehand, and where I got plasters. You can;t see the worst blister, which was on the inside of my left thumb. The main point of all this was that the blisters didn't stop me pulling, though they came close to doing so. As did my left hand/forearm getting close to seizing up. But ultimately the main constraint was mostly strength/endurance, as you'd hope.

After that, I could also add how good it was to have done it, now its done. We rowed well, and it was a great end to the season. It would have been nice to have had better opposition! (It would have been nice to have had a tailwind :-). Sad to say goodbye to James Howard though. Not, I trust, for the last time; but he's gone now.

What about the transport stuff? That also added to the stress. Firstly, all that nonsense with IW and the Downing trailer and the Champs ladies and our ladies and Argh! What was somewhat more irritating was that I couldn't simply pay IW £150 of my own money for the trailering; everyone else would have felt obliged to contribute, but wouldn't have wanted to, I think. To-ing and fro-ing the trailer was OK, from my viewpoint. The difficulty, perhaps, was getting the crew into place and back. I do think that Boston RC could do better in trying to facilitate a "transport exchange" of some sort.

Times: this (not the club post) is a good place to say that my 5:10 last year in Joy, when deflated by 0.94 (a correction factor coming from the average ratio of the winning times of the masX scullers, X=C..G, between 2012 and 2013) comes to 5:30, which beats the ladies 5:33 in their 4+.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Mural on the wall of my room, 2nd year at university

Here's a photograph of the photograph of the wall of my room. By Rob, depicting a scene from "The Deep", as interpreted by him from my telling him of the book. It doesn't really fit my imagination of the lake at the centre of the world, but no matter.

This was so long ago that photographs were analogue and had to be pieced together by hand. It used to hang on my wall, but has been gathering dust in our bedroom for many a moon. I considered throwing it away, but was reluctant, and Miranda wanted me to keep it.

Virata share certificate

Another in the old objects found again line. In the heady days of IPO when Virata shares soared skywards buoyed on the winds of who-know-knows-what they gave everyone in the company a "share certificate" to celebrate.

William Peter Connolley: obituary

My father read the Telegraph all the years I knew him. So it was fitting to have his obituary in there. In later years, he would occasionally note the death of some work colleague or old friend. Its a bit of a shame they spelt his name wrong, but then again everyone always does. They did publish a correction.

My mother still reads the Telegraph, after a very brief flirtation with the Graun after Peter died. I rarely read papers now; we stopped having the Graun delivered, oh, five or ten years ago? Miriam sometimes buys it for the weekend sections. If I want to read a newspaper (say, in Waitrose cafe) then I'll probably read the Torygraph or the Times; the Graun is too fluffy generally for me. But nowadays my news comes from Radio 4 news, or blogs, or the web news, or suchlike.

I kept the copy of the Telegraph for years. Today I found it in our bedroom whilst tidying; oh but a house accumulates junk when you live there for many years and don't turn things over. So many things.

Here's the text, so its findable: "CONNOLLEY. - On October 24, suddenly in hospital, WILLIAM PETER, aged 72. Formerly of Montego Bay and Kingston, Jamaica. Funeral service at St Giles Church, Cheddington on Monday October 30 at 3 p.m. Family flowers on please. If desired, donations for St Giles Church may be sent to S. R. Dillamore Ltd., 16 Old Road, Linslade, Leighton Buzzard, Beds. LU7 7RF."

Hello, good evening, and welcome

Yes, its yet another blog. At some point I'll link back to the old ones, but for now: why?

I have a "public" blog (scienceblogs.com/stoat/) and a "private" blog (wmconnolley.livejournal.com/). The latter is not entirely satisfactory, largely because its hosted in Russia and I simply don't trust them; certainly not for the long term. I only started with them because Paul was, and he isn't any more. Unlike paul I can't be bothered with my own hosting software, so I'm here. This one is mostly a diary. So some of it is friends-and-family only. Don't expect anything exciting.

If you've found me, feel free to leave a comment here.

Already, the formatting is annoying me. But I have no time to beat it into shape yet.

And google won't allow me to edit the time-of-publication of this post to keep it on top. Hey ho, so it goes.

Policy: all the posts about old photos, and so on: I'm allowed to edit them later, so add or remove memories and thoughts as I see fit.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Book review: Neptune's brood

[Originally: https://wmconnolley.livejournal.com/32970.html]

Read again: no.
Do I regret spending my time on this book: a bit.
Interest / Ideas / Novelty: moderate to good.

As usual, I'll give a way more of the plot that you'd welcome were you actually wondering about reading this book, so don't read past this introductory paragraph if you want to actually enjoy the surprises in the book. Not that there are many. Potted summary (without revealing stuff): its an innocent-abroad-stumbling-into-deep-mysteries base plot, in the same humans-are-extinct universe as "Saturn's children". Like SC that universe-idea is rather dissatifyingly handled / inadequately exploited, in that its possible to transcribe essentially all the story onto base-human terms; those rather few bits that you couldn't, directly, aren't terribly important to the plot. The nice bit is that its a far-future-with-no-FTL plot; post-humans are spreading, slowly, but in the semi-staple-of-scifi long term spaceships boosted to a few percent of lightspeed by launch lasers, so that colonisation is slow and interstellar commerce is in information not materials. That's good, and its a promising start. He allows himself a cheat: the post-people's minds can be stored in "soul chips" and they can be transmitted between the stars, to be reformed on arrival. And the book, in a sense, is about a possible sketch of how the economics of all this might work; together with a plot about how fraud might work.

Stross's Neptune's Brood: science fictional companion to Graeber's Debt is a review by Cory Doctorow; you might prefer his version. He says The ideas are so plentiful and the story revolves around such a baroque future that sometimes the story itself gets lost amid the argument. That's correctish, but over-polite: more accurate would be to say that attempting to explain the economic concepts used in the book - slow money, exchange-signing - is sufficiently complex that it can't be done unobtrusively; there are big wodges of the central character talking straight to the reader.

A few holes in the book:

* although its a grand-sweep-of-history type book, at least at the start, in the end the vast conspiracy turns out to be disappointingly personal, almost one-person. The justification for that is that it would be hard wrap up the novel otherwise; but it comes far too close to making the whole sweep of history dependent on one person, which isn't believeable.
* the ending is very abrupt (as this review says). Its as though, having used up all his ideas, he couldn't be bothered to finish up writing a proper ending. In some ways that's good - he's not wasting your time - but it diminishes the book. Again, the manner of the ending - here we have a giant battleship / industrial complex, launched 2kyr ago, with scary custom-designed fighting folk, suddenly overwhelmed in a twinkling. Such a structure would have better defences (the excuse for surprise - that they're sneaking up in a blind spot - is laughably thin); but I also don't buy the idea that it would have gone undetected itself; there's vast swathes of plausible-civilisation-infrastructure omitted / evaded.
* sending people by transmitting their mind state is cheating, I think. I was going to say its necessary for the book, and the in-universe, but now I wonder. Its necessary for the personalisation of the ending, but (see above) the ending is weak anyway. I think the book could have done without it. I don't believe you could get the interstellar bandwidth, but more important is the what-do-you-do-about-the-multiple-instantiation problem.
* although the concept of slow money is moderately well worked out (well ter be 'onest, guv, I wasn't really paying attention, just surfing on the ideas) what isn't worked out at all is how the fraud might work. That's all waves-hands-coughs-in-embarrassment type stuff.
* Something that isn't a hole, but is very briefly mentioned at the end, is "well, was this vast fraud so evil then"? In terms of the book, it lead to a vast wave of colonisation - surely a good thing. It suppressed the new AFAL drive, but that was semi-incidental sort of; indeed the AFAL is another one of the book's cheats; so pretend a universe where the whole thing was just a scam, then you can wonder: but was it a good thing? This matters, because at the end its necessary that the scammers be Bad.

So, overall, I'm disappointed. I'm still waiting for the no-FTL-no-new-physics book (its allowed to have new bio, though, so I don't mind people living a long time) that plausibly depicts an interstellar civilisation.