Wednesday 15 November 2023

The Coton Pavillion Rebuild of 2005/6

DSCN4695-ross-on-sofa The Coton pavillion rebuild was a thing in... 2005/6, gosh that was a long time ago. At the time I (I think I...) started a blog about it, called Run by an account called "sofaman". And so it sat, for many years. I wonder if it is now owned by Ross? Google tells me it may soon be disappeared as no-use-for-ages.

So I made an archive of it, and this post to link to it. My pix on Flickr.


Congratulations to Ross Chandler.

Monday 13 November 2023

Book review: Murder on the Orient Express

PXL_20231112_132325906~2 A classic, of course. See wiki for tedious details of the plot and so on, that I won't trouble myself too much with.

I enjoyed reading this; it is an interesting story well enough told. It is pleasant to be drawn back to ye olde dayes when pipe-smoking colonels came back from India via Stamboul abord the Orient Express. I think that AC doesn't dwell on that too much, it perhaps being sufficiently obvious; but only (I think) a modern film adaption we are not drowned in opulence, it's just there1.

From here: caution, spoilers.

Towards the end, as Poirot unwinds the event, a thing become clear that in a way should have been much earlier: that the train is improbably full, and this itself is a Klew. This has been introduced earlier, rather nicely, well before we think we should be looking out for clues. And another, that to some extent smooths over some awkwardnesses: because the snowdrift has upset plans, but nonetheless the event goes ahead according to script: there are so many people involved, who cannot be seen to plot with each other,  it cannot be replanned.

Set against that, we have the improbability of both Poirot and the director of the line (conveniently there to allow Poirot authority) being on the train. Ah well, unavoidable perhaps. I feel that the plot being driven by Americans Yet Again is lazy of her. Oh, and having Mr Evil speak French is odd, since he so obviously can't. I think the Poirot sometimes speaks English-as-French, and this is sweet, but sometimes is swept into idiomatic English, and this is careless.


1. But then again, as time goes by, the main interest in these stories is as reflections on bygone times. People travelling from "Mesopotamia" and so on. So a little dwelling on the physical infrastructure would be good.

Thursday 9 November 2023

Book review: the Forever War

PXL_20231108_205142378~2 A nice little blast from the old days. Goodreads likes it, as it should (my recollection is that the rest of the series is duff, though). Its kinda hardish scifi, overlaid on Vietnam-type US soldierly thinking (e.g. to improve morale, the army has mandated that the soldiers say "fuck you sir" when dismissed).

The hardish element largely works, as long as you don't peer too closely (finding planets around a collapsar would be pretty tricky, why would you build a base on one anyway when you could more conveniently operate in space; I think he's a bit casual about quite what accelerations are in place; I never even tried to check if his mooted accelerations matched the distances / times required. Oh, and while his spaceships have engines capable of generating n gravities thrust, those are the main engines, and wouldn't be capable of manoevering at anything like that thrust).

The fighting described is a sort of sketch of how such fighting might go; it is a fairly short book so the details are thin, but this is OK; you can supply your own.

The final twist is nice, and adds to the pointlessness of the whole thing, which is so to speak the point.

Oh yeah the title: due to time dilation on the way to the jumps, much objective-so-to-speak time passes. This gets him a bit of social commentary on how-things-change. His guesses now don't look so good (general homosexuality to avoid overpopulation is fun, but doesn't now look plausible), but again this is not real problem. The idea of collapsing down to just one clone now doesn't seem like a very good idea from any perspective, particularly genetic diversity but also diversity of thought.

Friday 3 November 2023

C++ lambda pointers

 Every now and again I get surprised by C++. TIL that if you want to write:

    auto l = [] { std::cout << "I like goats\n"; };
    l = [] { std::cout << "I like boats\n"; };                                 
then it doesn't work: the compiler complains
error: no match for ??operator=?? (operand types are ??main()::?? and ??void (*)()??)
You're trying to overwrite the lambda, and you can't. You want "l" to be a pointer. You can have this if you write
    void(*l)(void) = [] { std::cout << "I like goats\n"; };                                                  
but that's tedious: you have to remember the deeply confusing C function-pointer syntax; and when you're gaily tossing off complex lambda's in the middle of code, it's worse. But it turns out that you can write
    auto l = +[] { std::cout << "I like goats\n"; };                                   
and the "+" magically converts the lambda into a pointer-to. This stackoverflow post "explains" it. Fiddling around with std::function probably works too.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Book review: All the Colors of Darkness

PXL_20231101_181132105~2 This is a nice enough Olde Tyme story, notice the four shillings price on my cover picture. By Lloyd Biggle Jr. who I know of - you remember the name - but I can't think of ay of his other stuff that I've read. Unlike With a Strange Device which is really a detective story posing as scifi this one is actually scifi, and it has a crude moral theme, of aliens-judging-Earth (see-also Conviction by Aldiss), or even fellowship-under-the-skin. Goodreads doesn't seem to have any interesting opinions.

You're unlikely to run across this, so I'll tell you the story: UT Company have invented a matter-transporter. Unaccountably they completely fail to think of the infinite-energy possibilities (transport stuff upwards capture the PE) or even the military, and instead boringly use it as a people transmitter. The legal difficulties are obvious, but laughably they shrug them off - they have offer insurance, which they get from a company they've told there will never be any claims, so its all very cheap. WTF? Also laughably they prefer people to freight. Never mind, it is necessary for the story. Which is: they start losing people, but, only people with fake IDs. They hire a PI, who noses around and ends up following one such, and ends up... on the Moon. Woo. Seeking to persuade the now-revealed-to-be aliens to talk, he accidentally blows up their power plant. Despite the explosion being large enough to be seen from Earth, he and the aliens survive, albeit in a restricted environment with little spare air. While they're getting to know each other, the USA prepares a new Moonbase, which it will put by the site of the explosion, so they can expore it. We wave away some considerable implausibilities here, but this allows Our Hero to steal a space suit and save his alien-now-chums, and allows one of the aliens to teleport to their base on Earth, and everyone is saved. Also, the aliens realise he is a Good Egg, which is nice for humanity. Also, he has his memory consensually erased, which is a bit weird, but may be necessary for the rest of the series. Which I won't be reading.