21 October 2018

Ian McDonald – Luna: Wolf Moon

in Bucharest, Romania
Ian McDonald - Luna, Wolf Moon

Încleștarea violentă dintre doi Dragoni ai Lunii, Corta Hélio și Mackenzie Metals, s‑a soldat cu zdrobirea definitivă a Corta și preluarea operațiunilor lor de către învingători. Dar în climatul politic complicat, problemele de‑abia încep. Deși victorioși, un atentat asupra Crucible îl elimină pe capul decrepit al clanului Mackenzie, scoțând la iveală rivalitatea internă dintre cei doi frați moștenitori. Clanul Sun, cei care instigaseră de la început rivalitatea Corta-Mackenzie, se pregătesc pe ascuns să profite de acest război civil. Din nefericire pentru Dragoni, Pământul, o sabie rotundă a lui Damocles supraveghind nemișcat cerul Lunii, nu privește cu ochi buni turbulențele care‑i amenință aprovizionarea cu energie ieftină. O intervenție în forță din partea Consiliului Lunar ar putea limita serios libertatea de acțiune a magnaților locali. Iar undeva pe ascuns, aproape uitați în vâltoarea evenimentelor, ultimii supraviețuitori ai familiei Corta își ițesc propriile planuri de a reveni în cercurile puterii – și de răzbunare.

The day the sun goes out is the day the rules break. The rule that has protected us for fifty years; the day the terrestrial states realise they have more to gain by acting together than stalking each other with knives. This is my family’s fear, Darius; the call in the night. When it comes, everything we have built, everything we have achieved, will be taken from us because we have nowhere to run.

În numeroase cazuri e relativ greu să apreciezi corect cartea din mijlocul unei trilogii; unele par povești de umplutură înaintea deznodământului fulminant (ca Vidul Temporal al lui Peter Hamilton și călătoria în Infern a lui Bobby Dollar), altele sunt paradoxal mai bune decât restul, pentru că autorul își permite să exploreze personajele în adâncime (Firefight). Cazul de față e deosebit pentru că mi‑e greu să găsesc o deosebire calitativă față de primul roman. Regăsim același ritm alert, acțiune fulminantă, intrigi, trădări, scene spectaculoase și surprinzătoare, dar și momente de reflecție, aproape poetice. Dacă aveți impresia că prăbușirea tânărului Robson Corta de la o altitudine de un kilometru într‑un habitat lunar, care are loc în primele capitole, e ceva impresionant, n‑ați văzut încă nimic – așa cum constată însuși Robson nu mult mai târziu.

09 October 2018

Windows Central: “Lenovo’s folding Yoga Book C930 features the first E Ink keyboard”

The real magic, though, is the lower 10.8-inch full HD E Ink display that also doubles as a keyboard or notepad. That keyboard can change between keyboard layouts on the fly to accommodate different regions and languages.

To address the virtual-ness, Lenovo has the buttons slightly shift when typing to simulate movement. When combined with haptic feedback (vibration) and audio cues (both of which are configurable), typing on the Yoga Book is much better than the previous Halo Keyboard. While it is not nearly as good as a “real” typing experience, it is getting closer.

Another neat feature is the trackpad. The virtual one appears when you tap the dot below the spacebar, giving you a decently large target for moving the cursor. To save space, however, that trackpad goes away when you start to type and turns back into a spacebar.

Daniel Rubino

That’s a very interesting innovation, one I hope to see in more portable devices in the future. Having a ‘virtual’ keyboard that can adapt to different languages is very useful to people working in multi-lingual environments. While you can currently change keyboard layouts in Windows, this (obviously) cannot update the actual keys in front of you, so you still need to remember where each key goes in the secondary layouts. It’s especially difficult with special characters, as each language has its own ideas where various symbols should go, and which are important enough to be featured on hardware keys. An e-ink keyboard would make this so much easier!

07 October 2018

ScienceDaily: “Forty percent of people have a fictional first memory”

Current research indicates that people’s earliest memories date from around three to three-and-a-half years of age. However, the study from researchers at City, University of London, the University of Bradford and Nottingham Trent University found that 38.6 per cent of a survey of 6,641 people claimed to have memories from two or younger, with 893 people claiming memories from one or younger. This was particularly prevalent among middle-aged and older adults.

City University London

One of my oldest memories is a vague recollection of attending the funeral of my maternal grandmother – except… she died well before I was even born! It’s probably one of these cases when my mother spoke about it so many times, that my mind started forming images around the story as if I were actually there.

Except for a couple fragments, I have a very poor memory of my childhood, so I generally assume the few events I recall are so distorted by the passage of time as to be completely unreliable.

06 October 2018

Ars Technica: “London museum is livestreaming a key 21st-century artifact—festering sewage”

The rancid refuse was chipped off an infamous sewer clog discovered in London late last year called the Whitechapel “Fatberg”—the preferred term for such muck monsters. The complete clog clocked in as an epic 250-meter-long, 130-metric ton mass of congealed excrement and waste, thought to be one of the largest—if not the largest—fatbergs ever identified. Authorities found it blocking a Victorian-era sewer line in the eastern Whitechapel area of the city. They spent nine long weeks in a subterranean war, hacking and blasting away the hardened blob of feces, fats, wet wipes, and various other detritus.

As Thames Water authorities donned biohazard suits to do battle in the bowels of the city using pressure hoses and shovels, curators at the Museum of London smelled a fresh opportunity to document our times.

Beth Mole

When I first visited Hamburg, way back in the 20th century, there was a strange exhibit in the Modern Art Museum: a sculpture made from chocolate, housed in a transparent box, and kept there in plain sight of the visitors, as the chocolate decayed and crumbled, slowly changing the shape of the original – presumably reminding passersby of the passage of time and the futility of life (or something deep like that). This story instantly reminded me of that.

02 October 2018

The Outline: “If you message first in online dating, you might be punching above your weight”

According to research published Wednesday in Science Advances, people tend to initiate online conversation with people who are at least 25 percent more desirable than they are, based on how many initial messages they they received from other users and how “desirable” those users were themselves. Men tend to be even more aspirational than women when sending a first message. But there is only up to a 21 percent chance that the woman a man messages will write back, and that number drops as the desirability gap widens.

The paper analyzed data from heterosexual users of an unspecified “popular, free online dating service” in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle from January of 2014. The highest ranked person in all four cities was a 30-year-old woman in New York City, who received 1504 messages during the period of observation, the equivalent of one message every 30 minutes for the entire month.

Livia Albeck-Ripka

Seems like a fairly obvious conclusion: the laws of evolution and sexual selection encourage individuals to leave behind offspring better adapted than the parents. And so, we are (consciously or unconsciously) seeking out partners that we perceive to be ‘better’ than us on some level, in the hope that out children may inherit their qualities (and ours).

01 October 2018

Wil Wheaton dot Net: “The world is a terrible place right now, and that’s largely because it is what we make it”

I thought that if I left Twitter, I could find a new social network that would give it some competition (Twitter’s monopoly on the social space is a big reason it can ignore people who are abused and harassed, while punishing people for reporting their attackers), so I fired up this account I made at Mastodon a long time ago.

I thought I’d find something different. I thought I’d find a smaller community that was more like Twitter was way back in 2008 or 2009. Cat pictures! Jokes! Links to interesting things that we found in the backwaters of the internet! Interaction with friends we just haven’t met, yet! What I found was… not that.

I found a harsh reality that I’m still trying to process: thousands of people who don’t know me, who have never interacted with me, who internalized a series of lies about me, who were never willing to give me a chance. I was harassed from the minute I made my account, and though I expected the “shut up wesley”s and “go fuck yourself”s to taper off after a day or so, it never did. And even though I never broke any rules on the server I joined (Mastodon is individual “instances” which is like a server, which connects to the “federated timeline”, which is what all the other servers are), one of its admins told me they were suspending my account, because they got 60 (!) reports overnight about my account, and they didn’t want to deal with the drama.

Wil Wheaton

I’m very behind with the articles I plan to share on my blog, but hopefully the upcoming month will allow me to catch up a bit.

Anyway, a month ago (which is equivalent to roughly a century in Twitter years), there was a brief protest movement on Twitter over their slow reaction to block Alex Jones and Infowars. People threatened to quit Twitter and move to Mastodon, one of the recent wannabe micro-blogging sites. Not surprisingly, some found the medium just as toxic as Twitter, if not more. This just goes to show how difficult it is to maintain a healthy and safe environment in public, while interacting with people from all over the world under anonymous identities (not to mention bots, but I assume Mastodon is too small to have that problem yet). Many of the cases when Twitter does act are enforced by legislation (as it’s the case in Germany with blocking far-right propaganda), so the best way to improve social media is not to quit or to take your chances on another site, but to demand better regulation of online spaces. As with GDPR, smarter regulation from one part of the world could eventually influence platforms to adopt it for their entire user base.