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My Little Program: Recursion Is Magic

One of the DP problems I alluded to in my last post is minimum edit distance: how many one-letter changes does it take to turn text string A into string B? Skiena gives a simple recursive solution, which is described incorrectly in the text but correctly as code. I'd coded my own version in C, and it worked, slowly. Then I memoized it by hand and it worked, much faster. Then more recently, as I practice Python by translating my C and Perl programs into it, I did a Python naive code, which worked, slowly. Then I memoized it with the lru_cache decorator, and it worked much faster. All is well.

But often you'd want to know an actual path of edits to make, not just how long the distance is. Skiena gives a full DP solution, filling one table of 'cached' lengths and another one of 'last moves', which you can then use to reconstruct the path. Skiena himself says it can be a bit tricky to get the boundaries and such right. I decided to try to get paths myself, but with the recursive version.

At first I was thinking in terms of last-move tables too, and worrying that I might need the memoization table hidden by the lru_cache. But then I thought, "no, this is all wrong, I should be thinking about a pure recursive solution first." And in a flash it came to me: the best path is the previous best path, plus whatever the current move is. Plus a base case, of course. That's it! Like all good recursive solutions it feels magical or cheating, like you're punting the work somewhere else indefinitely, but it does work, with pretty transparent code. Yay! Magic!

But magic has its price. I tried timing the code as inputs scaled, especially making two strings of length N and doubling N. "Oh no, it's exponential! Nx2, time x8! No wait, that's cubic, whew." But the algorithm is supposed to be quadratic, O(N^2) not O(N^3).

Well, I can guess why. Recursive programming makes clear and correct code easy, at the cost of often slinging copies of lists or strings around. If there are N^2 steps but each one is taking N steps of its own to copy or hash a string, that's cubic. And it looked like my code was copying path strings a lot; also, memoization works by hashing arguments, I think.

So when I was lying awake in bed thinking on the problem, I imagined this post was going to be a happy story of how I made a couple of tweaks and got my running time down. Sadly, that has not been the case. The string arguments never change, so I lifted them out of the function that gets memoized, but that didn't make much difference. Maybe it was already looking at their addresses and not their contents? I also tried building my paths up in lists rather than strings, but so far that's not correct. I suspect some sort of reference collision but haven't solved it yet, even by returning whole-list slices. And as a side project, I tried making a more concise version of the string-path code, but it took twice as long. I've clawed some of that back but it still takes 30-40% more time than the original.

I was surprised to find that avoiding using the min() function, even on an array of 3 items, in lieu of chained if..then, made a big difference. I'm guessing any function call is expensive.

I'm having bad flashbacks to my one 'big' Haskell class project (in an algorithms class, even), which was clearly non-optimal but also really hard to improve from its original form.

Well, today's frustration about code optimization aside, I can still be happy that the recursive path-finding magic works. The next related project is whether I can find similarly simple solutions to the related problems Skiena adapted his DP solution to solve, like approximate substring matching.

Also good to know: for deep recursion, you can and in fact have to modify Python's stack and recursionlimit in your code, no apparent need to mess with ulimit from the shell. Right now I'm setting the recursionlimit as a function of N...

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learning stuff and grousing about it

So, I'm finally looking for software jobs again. As part of this I've been studying Skiena's algorithms book, figuring fundamentals were more important than details of some language. OTOH, between intensive study, the stress of a phone coding interview, and lack of sleep, the last few days I've decided to do something that doesn't take thought, like learn Python.

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links: Bernie, bus, taxis, Japan, etc.

I'm tired and lazy. Here's some things I found interesting.

Nacreous clouds seen in UK.

Couple pieces on "Bernie bros" and sexist attacks on Hillary.
And is Bernie ready for Republican attacks? For being asked unfair questions like why he wants to destroy the economy and turn us into Venezuela, or why he thought socialism was cool during the Cold War? http://www.vox.com/2016/2/3/10903404/gop-campaign-against-sanders
Speaking of Venezuela, the rationing is so bad even lines are being rationed. And the economy czar doesn't believe in inflation. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/29/venezuela-is-on-the-brink-of-a-complete-collapse/?tid=pm_business_pop_b
But to be positive: Bernie's Fed agenda http://www.vox.com/2016/1/26/10829888/bernie-sanders-federal-reserve

Harry Reid saved the renewable energy revolution.

How Houston improved bus ridership "for free": sparser network of higher frequency buses, in a grid rather than radial pattern. http://www.vox.com/2016/1/28/10852884/houston-bus-ridership

How Likud won the 2015 election in Israel. http://www.vox.com/2016/1/28/10861560/israel-election-amit-channel-2

From last April, one article on how taxi medallions prices have dropped due to Lyft and Uber. http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2015/04/07/as-uber-lyft-hire-more-drivers-taxicab-medallion-values-tank.html

A trippy 9 minute history of Japan. The Reddit comments linked to by Vox are good glosses. http://www.vox.com/2016/2/3/10905274/japan-history-video

Purported evolution of fairy tales. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35358487

Memoization in Python https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1988804/what-is-memoization-and-how-can-i-use-it-in-python

Thread on previews of a new edition of the Blue Rose RPG http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?775100-Blue-Rose-previews

Obama's reform of federal solitary confinement http://www.vox.com/2016/1/26/10834770/obama-solitary-confinement-changes

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A lesson in bacteria

Cook pasta. Leave the pasta in its water in case you want to make soup, scooping out pasta as needed for other dishes. Leave pasta in its water in the pot on the stove (physically, but gas off), figuring it can't go bad in a day, right? Discover 18 hours later that no, it does have an off smell already.

This happened years ago with a rice and lentil thing, actually: left it moist on the stove, it smelled bad a day later. In both cases, it's a gas stove with a vigorous pilot light, so there actually is some heat input even when 'off'. Also in both cases, the food was warm, whether from the pilot light or from vigorous biological activity or both. I suppose I could experiment, with the pot moved somewhere else. (And not the top of the fridge.)

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The Great Slowdown and the myth of progress

Do we live in a time of accelerating progress, or one of slowdown and diminishing returns?  I used to think the former, for years have thought the latter.  It seems to boil down to whether you pay attention to computers or to everything else, like speed or energy use or the general conditions of life.

Krugman reviews a book arguing most of the big transformation happened between 1870 and 1940.

For support, I add Tom Murph's old post, comparing 1885 to 1950 to 2015.

And finally, a 2013 article talking particularly about America's great slowdown.  It invokes both the 1700s first industrial revolution and the late 1800s second revolution, saying the second happened to pick up right as the first tapered off, so by sheer luck we had an extended run of rapid growth.

Edit: I'd note this isn't a claim that there'll never big transformation. True AI could well be big, though not necessarily positive for most of us. Advanced biotech could be cool. But they're also distant. I'm not seeing anything analogous to electrification of the home, people moving off the farm and then out of the factories, etc. LED lights are neat, but they just lower electricity bills a bit, they're nothing as radical as going from candles and oil to the electric bulb. See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/437656.html#comments

Cool timelines

The blog "Wait but why" has some cool timelines of people.  Not exactly a new concept, so there's IMO an excessive amount of verbiage describing them, but the charts themselves are neat.

He's also a neat version of zooming out on time.

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Urban fantasy science fiction

I don't know how choate these thoughts will be, but let's try. So, there's urban fantasy, a genre I am aware of but not steeped in. Fairies or wizards or vampires, usually living in the dark corners of something like the modern world. "Buffy", Neverwhere, The Gypsy, Agyar, most magical girl anime (Sailor Moon et al.), World of Darkness RPGs, etc. Sometimes the supernatural comes into the open, like Anita Blake or Sunshine.

I know of one example of 'urban fantasy' of the past: the series starting with Midnight Never Come, with a faerie court living under Elizabethan (and later) London.

But how about the future?  If we can have vampires lurking around the modern era, why not in a future society?  Captain Kirk and Vampires ('real' ones, not the salt kind).  Captain Janeway and magical girls.  Well, there are some practical problems, like anticipated future surveillance, but still, for a lot of beings with access to some sot of Otherspace and/or camera-fuzzing magic, that's not that big a problem.

So now I'll list what I know that sort of fits this, in various ways.

The most obvious is "To The Stars", set around 2450 CE of the Madoka universe, where magical girls have been covert until the last 20 years, and the fic is heavily about both magical girl society and the SFnal society they live in.

Sailor Moon itself has that Crystal Neo-Tokyo that Usagi rules over 1000 years in the future.  I don't know much about it though.

There's a fanfic I didn't read much of, blending Fate/stay night with Macross Frontier, and Emiya Shirou on the Frontier shortly before it runs into the Vajra aliens.  He's a mage in secret, so it fits.

"Buffy" had Fray, the Slayer of the year 3000 or maybe 2200, vampires mistaken for just another mutant, and genuine 100% magical demons not being as weird as the mutant fish-boss Fray works for.

Vampire Hunter D is kind of like this, though post-apocalyptic in feel.  Vampires existed, came out, took over the world and ruled it as Nobles, then got overthrown?  and D runs around killing monsters for the sake of farmers who are homesteading it with solar panels and force fields and laser home defense systems.

Nanoha takes place in our time, but achieves a similar feel by switching place: we start in Tokyo as another secretive magical girl thing, and end up in a sort of magical Starfleet in other dimsnesions? worlds?  Instead of To the Stars' immortal MGs living into the future where they work in the military, our heroines simply emigrate to a more advanced and technomagically open world where they work in the military.

Vampire Winter is in my notes, though a bit different: WWIII happens, nuclear winter happens, a vampire discovers he can go out in the attenuated daylight (yay!) but that this puts the sustainability of his food supply at risk (uh-oh), and acts on that.

Part of the interest is in magic and high tech interacting, so I'll mention Sunshine, which has a hilarious line about master vampires who can't go out any more using kickass VR rigs instead.  And using e-mail a lot.  There's also Shadowrun, at the tail end of what I'm thinking of.

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A lifetime in your pocket

Say an ebook is 2MB size; most are maybe half that.

5000 such books takes 10 GB, which is 1/6 of the 64 G SD card I added to my phone.

At 100 books a year, 5000 books is on the order of the number of books I'll read in the rest of my life, including re-reads. And that's with 1/6 the card and oversized files.

From another angle, say you can read 400 words a minute, and you read continuously for 100 years; that's 21 billion words in a century. Kind of a ridiculous upper bound, but let's run with it. At 100,000 words per book, that's 210,000 books, which at a more reasonable megabyte per file would take 210 GB. That's still overestimating file sizes -- I have a 200,000 word fanfic stores as a 1.2 MB ePub -- and reading time, by at least 3x -- so combing them puts us under 40 GB.

We're not at the point of having the Library of Congress in our pockets. We are at the point of having a lifetime's worth of reading in a pocket.

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random thoughts

For some reason, this morning I thought about astronaut health, and how much it must suck to have a cold in zero gee. Let alone diarrhea. I wonder if they're quarantined before being sent up.

I've been reading more Holmes stories. One early thought was "he has his own wikipedia!" More accurately, his own encyclopedia, or almanac, or such. Books of clippings or other notes on people and things, which he can look up. Or have Watson look up.

I was at a Holmes panel at Arisia One panelist thought Holmes would have trouble adapting to new circumstances, or to computers; another thought he was superlatively adaptable and would love computers. "He has his own database already!" I agree with them. I mean, he might not take to computers a thing in themselves, because he's Crime Geek, but insofar as they could be useful to him? Yeah.

Cambridge has jumped onto the plastic bag ban-wagon, despite the lack of clear evidence of plastic bags being environmentally worse than paper bags, overall. I find paper bags shittily worse at being able to carry groceries home reliably if walking, never mind it raining. I wonder how many banners have cars and thus can smugly drive their bags home.

I've always wondered about the wolf-wheat association in Spice and Wolf. Wolf tail -> wheat head seemed the connection. At another panel at Arisia, I remembered Inari being the goddess of rice and foxes, and I suddenly wondered if Spice and Wolf is simply an off-by-one analogy: fox : rice :: wolf : wheat. But then I found a post saying there used to be traditional wolf:wheat associations in Japan. http://www.eugenewoodbury.com/foxwolf/kitsune.htm


The D&D SRD has a cute 404 page: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/

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Books of the new year

_How not to be wrong: the power of mathematical thinking_, Jordan Ellenberg -- already reviewed. Also the only one of these I read on paper. The rest were ePubs on phone or laptop.

(re) means "re-read" in my private book list.
Uh, so I guess minor spoilers below.

_A Thousand Leagues of Wind, the Sky at Dawn_, Ono Fuyumi (Eugene Woodbury translator) (re) -- fan translation of the second Youko novel of the Twelve Kingdoms series. Still good overall, though the ePub I was reading had a lot of text-level errors. I used to send him corrections back when I followed his translations chapter by chapter... oh well. Still funny in several places.

_The Coin_, Muphrid (re) -- A Haruhi Suzumiya fanfic. At 100,000+ words it definitely qualifies as a novel. It captures the feel and tone of the original novels very well, even while making up a voice for Haruhi herself, who is not a POV character in the novels. So doubly impressive. And it's addressing "Haruhi learns she has powers", so triply so.

_A Study in Scarlet_, Arthur Conan Doyle -- The title is familiar, but the content was at best ambiguously so. Not sure if I never read it, or read some massively abridged version as a kid, or just forgot it that thoroughly. To my surprise, it's the first Holmes story, just over novel length (43K); I'd have thought it started as short stories. Serialization, I guess... Notes:
* Holmes wants to go listen to some woman violinist, Norman Neruda
* A ring is found and handed over to the first caller, no "can you describe it" check
* Villainous Mormons! Based on real rumors. Doyle apparently later said "oops" about that.
* Written 1887, set... estimates vary between 1881 and 1884. Putting Holmes stories on a timeline is a sanity-destroying project, apparently.
* I think it's noteworthy how Holmes and the police separately telegraph Cleveland, Ohio, in a rather casual way, to ask about their victim/suspects.

_Dragon Ship_, Lee and Miller. One of the later Liaden novels. I've now read all other than Trade Secret. As usual, a fun read; I think of these books as candy. I dimly recall, possibly erroneously, some fans griping that while the books are steeped in egalitarian romance, it was heteronormantive. No more! There was male-male in _Dragon in Exile_ or _Necessity's Child_, and female-female in this one. Probably in an earlier one I don't remember, given how Theo and Kara fall on each other. That said, I don't recall any same-sex lifemating, or marriage, vs. FWB.

Though if anyone in this series ends up with a harem, Theo seems a good candiate: Kara, Win Ton, and her ship. I guess her dad has posthumous bigamy in his future, too.

Yes, posthumous.

Hmm, I don't have an icon that's specifically bookish. Have a Hodgell instead.


Edit to add: f/t ratio!
Nonfiction: 0%

Fiction: a bit complicated
* female author, male translator. Fuyumi wrote the story, Eugene wrote all the words I read. Author hopefully dominates in influence, but.
* fanfic author of unhinted gender. Demographics of fanfic authors and people who hide their gender suggest female.
* Doyle is not complicated
* Neither is a married couple, really

Roughly even?

The POVs aren't:
* 3 girls
* 1 girl
* Watson
* Mostly Theo, but also Kamele and Miri (F), Bechimo, Win Ton, Clarence and Uncle (M).
f/t ~= 3/4 by book, or 5/6 by major character.

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Shocking flaws in Star Trek

From Memory Alpha on the Menagerie:

Now, confined to a wheelchair, Pike is disfigured and cannot speak, though his mind is unimpaired. His sole means of communication is a flashing light with an accompanying beep: once for yes, twice for no.

You know, given that this was made in 1966, and that Gene Roddenberry had served extensively in the military, I would bet good money that someone involved in production had heard of Morse code.

(The episode description gives no hint of his communicating anything other than Yes or No.)

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book: How not to be wrong, Jordan Ellenberg

I bought this popular math book at B&N, for my quasi-niece G2, for lack of anything obviously better on the shelf. I read it before turning it over to her, and it was fun; I think I would have liked it at her age (12) though I'm not sure if she will. Of course, it was less eye-openingi for me now: I've taken classes on Bayesian statistics, I've given talks on voting systems, I've read about the file drawer problem or the exponential stockbroker scam. Still, I did learn some things.

A big one was what he calls "don't talk about percentages of things that could be negative." More specifically, say the US adds 18,000 jobs one month, and Wisconsin adds 9,000 jobs. Does that mean Wisconsin was responsible for 50% of US job growth? The governor of WI would like to say so. But say that California added 30,000 jobs -- does that mean it was responsible for 166% of US job growth? Uh... The trick being that the US number is a net sum of positive and negative (say Texas lost 21,000 jobs) numbers; taking percentages of that is meaningless.

Another example: it's said that the top 1% have taken 93% of US income growth. Sounds pretty bad. But the next 9% might (I don't recall the numbers) might have taken 20% of income growth. Uh oh... we can balance this by actual reductions of income in the bottom 90%. So this is better and worse: more people are doing well, but the rest are actually falling behind, not just standing still. But the "middle class" would probably be less outraged by learning that they were also doing well.

Berkson's Fallacy was something I'd vaguely heard about, but forgotten. It's explained well at the link (by him, even), but the short version is that two independent variables can look negatively correlated if you select for either of them. Like, if you notice nice people or hot people, you'll find that of the people you notice, many hot people are jerks. But this needn't mean hot people are actually prone to jerkiness, just that you ignore plain jerks.

You can extend that to any two variables of desirable things. Niceness and richness, niceness and political agreeableness... say I put up with people if they're personally agreeable or politically agreeable; this will lead to my thinking that my political allies are unfortunately prone to being jerks, when it's more that I ignore opponents who are jerks.

A couple of geometrical statistics I hadn't know: correlation being the same as elliptical eccentricity, and Pearson correlation being the cosine of the angle between two vectors. Simple that way, ugly as an algebraic formula of the components.

Also, correlation is not transitive, the way that Dad and Mom are both related to Baby but not each other. Portfolio 1 might be IBM and Apple, correlated with P2 which is Apple and Honda, but not with P3, Honda and GM.

Reminders of the ubiquity of regression to the mean, and of the variance of small populations, are always useful.

Slime molds apparently suffer a voting paradox. They like oats and dislike light, it makes sense that you can balance them between a big pile of oats in the dark and a bigger pile under a UV lamp. It makes less sense that if you add a small pile of oats in the dark, the mold starts going for the big pile in the dark.

'hazard' comes from the Arabic for dice.

He talks a bit about the damage done by the cult of genius, when those magical moments of insight and revelation take a lot of work beforehand to prepare your brain.

Proof advice: try to prove it by day, disprove it by night. (More applicable if you don't know if it's true or false.) Might get insight into why it has to be true, or find out you were wrong all along.

Condorcet wanted the Rights of Man for women, Hilbert refused to endorse the Kaiser in WWI, and defended giving Emmy Noether a position.

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cold and soup

Some friends get bronchitis or sinusitis or ear infections repeatedly. I seem to go for colds and minor sore throats. Like now, and last October. Sigh.

Nice thing about being home again: shower head taller than I am, with decent pressure. And never having needed to use a toilet plunger.

I've never really made soup. I don't know how, though I know some paths involve "boil a chicken carcass, then strain" which sounds like way too much icky work. I've tried for stewy things but they turn into pilaf-like things as the water gets absorbed. Just add more water? Eh.

But, sometimes I try to fake it, like today. I made pasta the new way, just covered in water and turning the heat off after boil, and caught the starchy water when I strained, then poured some back over the noodles, along with oils and spices. Later I realized that if I'm going to do this I could just skip the straining step, and add spices earlier so they come out into the water more. Even so, it was decently tasty and soupy. And could mean less salt than in canned soups, though I'd actually have to think about the salt added for pasta cooking to verify that.

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Instability of the Ming Emperors

Following my posts on England and the Byzantines.

Copying from the first post: "I'll put in codes at the end of lines. P for Peace, in my opinion; p for challenges to the rule. I don't count foreign wars, or extra-familial foreign invasion. I for the succession passing as Intended, i for not. The latter probably implies a peace failure before or after. ? for ambiguity -- are plots caught by the secret police worth counting as a threat to the peace? If the crown passes to the rightful heir because the heir took it by force I count that as 'i', since no one intends to be killed or deposed."

Hongwu, founder. Chosen son died of illness. -I
Jianwen, grandson. Fought uncles, was overthrown by one. pi
Yongle, uncle. PI.
Hongxi, eldest son. Died very quickly. PI
Xuande, son. PI
Zhengtong, son. captured by Mongols, so brother took over, but he refused to abdicate on return, Zhengtong eventually over threw him. pI?
Jingtai, brother regent-usurper. p-?
Chenghua, son of Zhengtong. Concubine aborted or killed most of his children. P?I
Hongzhi, surviving son. "the sole perpetually monogamous emperor in Chinese history". PI
Zhengde, son. Died childless. PI
Jiajing, grandson of Chenghua. So cruel his concubines plotted to kill him. P?I
Longqing, son. short reign. PI
Wanli, son. Political fight over succession that undermined governance. PI
Taichang, son. died after a month. PI
Tianqi, son. Illiterate carpenter. Uprisings, sonless. pI
Chongzhen, brother. Rebellions, Manchu invasion. pi

I have to say this does seem a lot more stable than the other two. Given the number of sons from concubines, surprisingly little interfamilial fighting. Caveat: Chinese pages probably get less Anglophone attention than English ones, so it's possible there's a bunch of rebellions not mentioned in the short biographies, turning some P into p.

I didn't make many notes of these because it wasn't the point here, but cruelty and incompetence got mentioned a lot, as did emperors going on strike and refusing to do their work, or at least show up personally for meetings.

It's possible Chinese heavy civil service and other institutions add a lot to monarchic stability.

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Christmas in LA

Instead of six weeks in Chile, I'm spending three weeks in LA. Also, for I think the first time ever, I'm all alone on Christmas Day. This isn't a tragedy: for family reasons, my hosts celebrated Christmas up to three times already (including stocking morning) and have scattered for a fourth time elsewhere, leaving me holding down the fort. It was surprisingly lonely the evening they left -- I live alone normally, but I guess the contrast got to me -- but I've adapted back to the joys of sleeping in and other things you can do alone.

I went for a long walk today -- I think it's only twenty minutes to a spot where you can see the downtowns of Glendale, LA, and Burbank -- and I note that Glendale on Christmas is a lot less dead than Cambridge on Thanksgiving. I can't tell if it's similarly *relatively* dead, compared to normality, but even on obscure residential roads there was a fair bit of continuous traffic. Though I guess I can tell that Brand, the main commercial street, was probably deader than I'd guess even a Sunday would be.

Walgreen's was open, and there's a couple things I wanted. At first I was going to wait until tomorrow, so as not to reward them making people work on a holiday, then I thought that they sell medical stuff so have an excuse, and the stuff I wanted is loosely medical, though not urgent. As it happens, their pharmacy is not open, nixing that excuse, and the checkout girl said she's not being paid extra -- sounded like you have to work there a year to get overtime on a holiday. I'm pretty sure the girls at Trader Joe's have said they get overtime just for working Sundays. Walgreen's also seemed pretty busy, both from what I could see and what she said.

Lots of neat house styles, more diverse, or at least different, than in Cambridge. But everyone having a yard has an unfortunate knock-on effect: there are no public parks or spaces with benches, not like the ubiquitous playgrounds and parklets of Camberville and Boston. I sorely noted the lack after an hour in the hills.

Seeing all the cars somehow reminded me of a bright guy in high school making an observation about car colors. I think he'd noted a shortage of yellow or orange cars; anyway, I remember that making me count cars in dealer lots years ago, and IIRC finding that white > black > red >> anything else. (That's lumping various grays and silvers in with white and black.) Here, the grayscale spectrum seems overwhelming, with white leading; I don't think there was a single hue in the Walgreen's parking lot. I do wonder if white or silver are usefully reflective while parked in sunlight, or if the car soaks up lots of heat anyway.

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translation audiences and honorifics

So there are various philosophies of translation, how literal or high level you should be, how much to preserve meaning vs. experience. For example, samurai daimyo and ninja could be translated as knight lord and assassin. This would make them seem more familiar to European cultures and preserving or 'translating' the experience -- after all, samurai isn't exotic to Japanese people -- at the potential cost of shades of meaning, and the exoticness that might be why someone wants to read the translation in the first place.

One specific disagreement I've seen is over Japanese honorifics: -san, -chan, -kun, etc. Pro translators seem to pride themselves on full naturalization, turning -san into Mister and relatives, -chan into endearments if anything, and such. Anime/manga fans generally prefer preserving them, and that has taken over professional manga translations, which now usually have an honorifics guide in the front. I prefer that myself, as I can easily see uses of honorifics that would be hard to translate without contortion[1], and it's not much work to have learned them.

But I realized, part of it may be due to the difference in intended audience. Pro novel translators probably assume that theirs may be the only novel from that language read by many of the readers, and aim to minimize the work expected of the readers. Anime/manga fans generally read or watch many such works, often trying to learn Japanese for real themselves, so for us, the not very large amount of work in learning is amortized among many works.

[1] One example: it seems easy to translate Gingko-san as Mister Gingko, or Hayate-san as Miss Hayate. But what if someone's gender is unknown or non-binary? You've got a choice problem in English that simply doesn't exist in Japanese, where -san can apply to anyone or anything.

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Take that, Nanowrimo

Michael Moorcock on writing 60K novels in three days. Granted, part of the secret is prep work. http://www.wetasphalt.com/content/how-write-book-three-days-lessons-michael-moorcock

Relatedly, Stross on why modern SF novels are longer: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/03/cmap-5-why-books-are-the-lengt.html Old constraint of magazine serialization, new one of US hardcover binding and non-linear response to pricing. We also learn that the UK uses glue (misleadingly called 'perfect') binding for everything, while the US still mostly sews its hardcovers.

A comment there leads to a Kipling poem, something of a shaggy dog pun poem.


Unrelated humor:

Retweeted William Germano (@WmGermano):
She decided to teach postcolonial theory instead of seventeenth-century poetry.
Because, well, you know, easier Said than Donne.

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gun deaths down, gun violence up

Well, this is interesting. It's often said that gun homicides have been going down, so gun violence is a decreasing problem. https://news.vice.com/article/gun-deaths-have-plummeted-in-the-us-but-that-doesnt-mean-theres-less-gun-violence?utm_source=vicefbus says gun violence has actually stalled; the fall in deaths is due to increasing medical care. I have a data source I check with ( http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates2001.html ); it only covers 2001-2013, but lets you zoom in on various factors -- and yes, it has non-fatal injuries from gun assaults *increasing* over the period. Possibly modest increases in suicide and "legal intervention" injuries too, though it's hard to tell. Possibly a decrease in accidental deaths, or a decrease then increase, I didn't check every year.

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earbuds, bicycling, Martian

I. Headphones
I keep buying cheap earbuds and they keep breaking mysteriously. I'm not sure this is avoidable, even if you spend lots of money. Well, there is some alleged "Rugged" model out there. I figure as long as they're cheap enough it's okay, but I searched anyway, and found good reviews for the Panasonic Ergo-fit TPM 125. Also some others. Not necessarily for ruggedness, but for sounding good and fitting well at a $10 price point. And Panasonic has a good reputation with me, I've liked all few of their products I've owned (a walkman tape player, a VCR) compared to alternatives. And Consumer Reports rated them very highly for reliability a while back.

OTOH I also like instant gratification, and when I popped into a Dollar Tree the other day, I found earbuds there (despite what the two employees I asked thought) for, yes, a dollar. I bought three different ones.

One is technically over ear -- not like a muff, just hooks that go over your fleshy bit. Sounds okay but not that comfortable, and pops out when I try to wear my actual noise muffs over them. The second one sounded okay but smelled of plastic so strongly that I got paranoid about cheap Chinese products and put it in my spare room to air out. The third one I opened too and left to air as well.

Then I decided to go by Panasonic. Never seen them in a store so away! to Amazon! Next day wasn't that much more compared to basic shipping, so I indulged, and they came tonight. Sound fine and fit well, yes; nothing's going on for me to judge their noise isolation properties. And they don't smell toxic.

Keep in mind I'm no connoisseur, so feel free to be skeptical about my ideas about "sounds fine."

II. Bikes and pedestrians
So when I'm a pedestrian, I hate it when a bike zips by me at speed. "What if I'd stepped to the side for some reason?" I wonder. So when I sidewalk -- which I do a lot, because cars are scary -- I try to pass peds considerately, with enough space that I'd miss them even after a big sudden step sideways. If I can't I slow down a lot; if they look particularly fragile or unpredictable (senior, child, dog) I slow down even more, to pushing with my feet if need be.

OTOH I admit that from the other side, sometimes you can model the ped so that they seem predictable and you don't have to be that chary. Today I had an example: I was taking my safety-cut (I'm not sure it's a short-cut) across Harvard's extended campus, and a woman was crossing from left to right. Totally unaware of me, but given the paths and visibility, it totally made sense that I could zip by her on the left with little risk.

III. The Martian
I read the book a while back and liked it. I've heard the movie is good and sort of thought I should see it. When I realized it had left the Somerville theater (which is nice and walkable) I realized it was starting to fade and I should go see it Now. Happily I got two friends to come with me to the Alewife/Apple Cinmea. It was pretty good. They cut out at least two crises from the book, and may have jazzed up the final intercept a bit, I'm not sure. I'm still skeptical that Martian storms are at all like that. But good. I cried. I was disappointed they cut Mark's boobies emoticon/leet after they told him he was live.

As for the theater, I miss Somerville. Or Kendall. We had to buy tickets from the concession stand, waiting for her to finish getting food for other people. While there's a certain labor efficiency, it's also inefficient for people not planning to buy stuff. And she refused to give me a cup of water. I don't know if they'd have let me bring in a backpack with a water bottle inside. Oddly, there seemed to be lots of other employees standing around doing nothing.

I'm fairly sure that Kendall gave me a cup of water when I asked, and I don't remember grievances against it or Somerville, so probably either got cups or brought my backpack in.

The three of us stood in the lobby talking about it for a bit; right after the other two split off a woman asked me what we'd just seen. I guess we sounded animated and excited, I'm skeptical she was randomly hitting on me.

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A Winter Peril

I've discovered something, that I'd think I'd have noticed before, but don't recall. Maybe because I put away my bike by now, or slept through the day and only biked at night -- hell, by *now* I've usually been on a plane to Chile, in recent years.

The something being a an extra effect of the short days and low sun: it's hard to bike in daylight without sun in my eyes. There's like a couple hours around noon. "Winter sun in eyes" sounds familiar, "making it impossible to bike" doesn't.

I did find a fix of sorts. When I bought my current glasses, I got transition coating, but also clip-on sunshades. I've hardly ever used the shades, since the coating + hat + sun avoidance has generally sufficed. But they've always been quitely in their case in my backpack, so when I got frustrated today, I brought them out, and hey! it helped! Obviously doesn't if the un comes over the glasses, but it worked on this route.

Score one for hoarding.


As for what I was out for today, Harvard has an associated Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, on the same block as Grendel's. Through Dec 11th there's an exhibit of photographs of blacks from Victorian Britain. http://www.coopergalleryhc.org/upcoming-black-chronicles-ii/
Gallery is free. Also closed Sunday, so only readers who get get off some time T-F will be able to see it.

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Damien Sullivan

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