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New Golden Gate

Tried another Chinatown restaurant, this one advertising $4.95 lunch specials. I knew the odds were poor. Mostly Caucasian customers and my food coming with only a fork didn't improve them. I had shrimp with vegetables with pork fried rice, chose hot and sour soup, and added $1 for 2 "Peking ravioli". The latter were decently tasty, the rest bland. OTOH, free tea!

There were Chinese people visiting, and Chinese-language posters on the wall, so maybe there's a division between "food for residents" and "food for Caucasian lunchtime crowd". I don't think I'll repeat.

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tax efiles

Lots of places will do free efile for federal... but then demand $17-30 for state. Turbo and HR had free state offers, but expired now. OTOH I found a HR free link off an MA site, unlike their main website. Unfortunately I'd already filed federal via Turbo, so the second file via HR got rejected by the IRS, and so they won't submit MA taxes either. So I get to do that by paper.

But next year I'll probably use HR, if I still qualify; Turbo's UI is a bit better, but HR is more generous, and gives more detailed breakdown of what's going on.

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nature specificity in art

I started reading this Japan book I got from Boskone (This Country Japan [Edward Seidensticker]); turns out to be a lot of disconnected essays. First one is about the use of nature and seasons in art, especially the Tale of Genji. Japanese art tends to be very specific, with recognizable plants, not just general foliage. Likewise, for a harem story, Genji is very aware of the seasons... though people die in a suspiciously symbolic pattern. By contrast, despite characters strolling a lot, Austen and Dickens mark nature only when (in)convenient, like preventing travel or providing a good time for a picnic.

Second essay is on Japanese conservatism: they import and imitate a lot, but don't throw out their old stuff. Still reading.

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Or at least my office.

I think I've snarked before that my company would be an IT department's nightmare. By last May the three of us were using three different VMs, Linux distros, and shells. My boss later fled SUSE for Ubuntu though a later version than co-worker W3. (He preferred old SUSE but newer ones weren't working for him.)

Today we wanted to install some new packages, and discovered that W3 had not been updating their distro, and that Ubuntu releases have a 9 month lifetime. Apparently meaning that the package repositories *go away*. W3 had been on 16.10, so by now, the next version 17.04 is *also* expired, and thus there is no upgrade path. Fun!

Boss tried to install 17.10 on VMWare, which was already annoying because 18.04 LTS is coming out in 4 weeks, but we can't wait for that. It turned out to be even more annoying, he wasn't getting shared directories working.

Fallback plan: install VirtualBox, and copy my image over to W3's computer. This turned out to work. I should have been more confident in that, since that's how I got my image onto my second laptop, and my personal laptop, and for a while I'd been running off an image on a USB stick until that died rapidly.

W3 probably doesn't care about using VirtualBox. W3 is a Windows-based web developer who was using Unity, so will care about a CLI-based Arch Linux install with XFCE4. But hey, what works. And actually, the fact that you start X from the command line makes it easier to try out different GUIs!

W3 did like the zsh capabilities I showed them, though never actually switched from bash. Maybe now's my chance! >)

While trying to do helpful research, I discovered that 17.10 had switched from Xorg to Wayland, but that was successful like Prohibition so they're switching back in 18.04, along with going to GNOME 3. I'm glad I'm not using Ubuntu any more...

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Hot Eastern

I wandered into Chinatown for dinner, and decided to be adventurous and try a basement restaurant under Avana Sushi. At first I noticed $20 special entrees, then some more like $12 ones. Then a menu of cheap BBQ or something like hot pot, mala tang. I ended up getting beef mala bang, a spicy soup with lots of 'exotic' vegetables -- lotus root and some sort of fungus and whatnot. It was pretty tasty. Medium spice had me blowing my nose a lot but not in sense-obliterating pain. Would return. Also there's an $8.50 lunch -- though there's a $5 lunch nearby. :O

The alcove to the bathrooms had a lot of poster art. Mostly obviously Chinese -- martial arts movie, something looking Maoist, others. But also one of Astro Boy, and another of Card Captor Sakura. Nice to see Sakura in a random place, and it sure did feel random.

I wondered about the owners. 'mala tang' and 'mala bang' sound like Indonesian names to me. I saw 'Shohoku', likely Japanese, on something. Also saw a poster of German beers.

There were also multiple frog-based dishes. I was not feeling that adventurous.

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comparative transportation safety

British source. Nice because it looks at per trip, per hour, and per km. OTOH it doesn't separate intracity and intercity modes -- and a 10 mph city bus is a lot different from a 60 mph coach on the highway. http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/risks_of_travel.htm

An American source, press-releasing a couple of PDFs. This leads with personal safety: you, personally, have <10% the death risk if you take transit rather than a car. http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2016/Pages/Hidden-Traffic-Safety-Solution.aspx
The linked fact sheet says cars at 6.5 deaths per billion passenger-miles, all buses (transit, intercity, school, charter) combined are 0.2

And another American one http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2011/jun/11/peter-pantuso/bus-association-head-says-buses-safest-mode-commer/
Gives 6.1 for cars, 0.5 for *commercial* buses. This implies that transit and/or school buses are below 0.2, for that to be the overall average. I'd have said "way below", but transit buses might be responsible for most of the bus mileage.

Cars kill close to 40,000 Americans a year; if we used buses for almost all local trips, that might be 4000. Or 1300. The price of car freedom is 36,000+ lives a year.

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Andy Weir webcomic surprise

Holy fuck! I just learned that the author of the Martian is *also* the author of the webcomics Casey and Andy and Cheshire Crossing", which I'd enjoyed years ago.

Edit: Cheshire is pretty solid, if abortive. I remember enjoying re-reading Casey, but I think it must pick up somewhere further down the line; the early strips are hit-or-miss gags.

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Low sugar levels

It occurs to me that I haven't bought refined sugar in years. I've generally owned (raw) honey more as an anti-hay fever placebo or something. I've bought chocolate and ice cream, but not regularly. Right now the only sweetened things in my part of the kitchen are jam for PB&J, and some honey roasted peanut butter I bought by accident because Bfresh doesn't label many of its tubs.

There are sweet things: oranges, cherry tomatoes, dates. But no candy or means for making it.

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Mental alarm and filters

I set my workday alarm for 9:30 am. Usually I've been waking up way earlier than that and not getting back to sleep, part of my general insomnia. The past two days though, I've woken up at about 9:25. *hmmm* It's not the first time my brain has shown an awareness of when I wanted to get up and anticipated the alarm.

If only it were so good about staying asleep when I want to.

Relatedly, I noticed years ago, on a day when it didn't matter if I slept through the alarm, that even the faint beeping of a wristwatch was sufficient to rouse me. The much louder sound of a garbage truck right outside my window did not wake me, assuming I was still asleep. So there must be a filter: "this faint noise has intention, respond; that loud noise is just environment, ignore."

If only I could activate that filter while awake. Chance of *getting* to sleep while the garbage truck was active, if I was already awake, was zero.

Also relatedly, I've noticed that if I feel tired in the afternoon -- food coma or something -- and lie down for a nap, not too concerned with whether I sleep or not, I'm pretty tolerant of light and noises, and often do fall asleep for a bit. But "going to bed" at night, I'm much more sensitive to little noises and vibrations, and use ear plugs all the time, and often a white noise generation (because, again, MY loud hummy noise is okay, THEIR faint hum or whispering or beat will drive me up the wall.)

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Fantasy flow charts, one female-biased: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/879zov/intro_to_femaleauthored_fantasy_flowchart/

Statistical tests for cause and effect. https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/cause-and-effect-the-revolutionary-new-statistical-test-that-can-tease-them-apart-ed84a988e
I'm told _Causality_ by Judea Pearl is also relevant.

Ancient walled cities, to crude scale. https://alexander.co.tz/experiments/walledcityscale/
And Kowloon. http://mapfrappe.com/?show=52710

From last year: how zoning laws cripple the US economy. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/opinion/housing-regulations-us-economy.html

Urbanists react to the Wakanda of Black Panther: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/the-real-life-possibilities-of-black-panthers-wakanda-according-to-urbanists-and-city-planners

RPGs: fantasy localism or microclimates: https://udan-adan.blogspot.com/2017/11/localism-adventure-as-microclimate.html

Aladdin's mother was Chinese in old pantomimes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Widow_Twankey

Guns and "self-defense": police are trained to run from attackers with knives within 21-30 feet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tueller_Drill

2015 article on early fountains. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/20/science/electricity-free-fountains.html

Rise and fall of the American SRO https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/02/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-american-sro/553946/

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non-high school anime

Lots of anime features high schoolers or middle schoolers. Or the SF or fantasy equivalent thereof. Or has teenagers who save the world. Lots and lots. But not all!

Seirei no Moribito, set in a fantasy past analogue of Japan. Main character is a 30 year old spearswoman.
Mushi-shi: the adventures of an adult guy who deals with magical insects.
Spice and Wolf: a medieval merchant and his Really Seven Hundred Year old companion.
Fate/zero: big magic fight, mostly adults.
Baccano!: crazy train robbery shenanigans.
Bunny Drop: man adopts a six year old girl. D'awwww. (The second half of the manga does get weirdly skeevy, but the anime is fine.)
Darker Than Black: weird things happened to the Earth. This comes later. Adults and occasional kid.
Restaurant to Another World: nothing really happens, with interesting characters and food porn.
Samurai Champloo: Couple samurai plus a young woman have adventures.
Cowboy Bebop: coulple guys with a ship plus a young woman plus a hacker girl have adventures.
Monster: adult doctor and psychopath and others.
Planetes: orbital garbage collection.
Record of Lodoss War: D&D game the anime.
Slayers: very different D&D the anime
Black Lagoon: thugs and a rogue salaryman.
Gankutsuou (Count of Monte Cristo in Spaaaace)
Le Chevalier d'Eon: Pre-Revolution French intrigue.
Michiko and Hatchin: adult woman and a girl she feels she has to take care of.
Ghost in the Shell: special post-cyberpunk police force.
Akatsuki no Yona: the princess is a teen, but the others are at least a bit older, and it's not remotely scholastic.
Akagami no Shirayukihime: I'm not sure how old Shirayuki and Zen are, but it feels more like college-aged fairy tale than high school.
Kino no Tabi: Kino might be high school aged, I have no idea, but the stories aren't remotely like that.

There are also some I didn't particularly enjoy, but in the spirit of completeness:

Samurai 7: seven samurai defend a village.
Sengoku Basara: a bizarre eversion of the unification of Japan.

Or one I never saw much of:

You're Under Arrest: Japanese traffic cops, IIRC.

Some are college environments, which can be like high school, but also not:

Nodame Cantabile: music college students.
Honey and Clover: art students? I forget
Genshiken: college anime/manga club.

Special mentions to:

Shin Sekai Yori, which starts before high school, and skips forward into adulthood.

As a bonus, most of these aren't skeevy, especially in the standard fanservice ways of panty shot or boob jiggle. Some have sexiness, like Horo being naked a lot, or Faye Valentine's choice of clothes, but even those feel more natural in context, and most you could probably show to non-pervy straight women or kids without feeling embarrassed or awkward. Or at least, awkward about violence or body horror instead...

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refactoring $*#&*# Python

Once again, into the Pyth circle of hell. This time trying to convert our code from Python 2 to 3. 2to3 does much fo the grunt work of print() and 'from . import', though it didn't always get the latter right. But instead of string and unicode, we now have string and bytes value types, and a strong barrier between them. And of course no static compiler to find up front when types might be mixed up. And yes, we're weak on unit tests, especially tests that exercise all possible code paths. Things seem to mostly work now, but will they under all conditions? Who knows?

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conservative tax cuts -> failed state

The Economist on the crisis in Oklahoma.

'Highway patrolmen are told not to fill their petrol tanks to save money. Those caught drunk-driving are able to keep their licences because there are no bureaucrats to revoke them. Prisons are dangerously overcrowded, to the point that the state’s director of corrections publicly says that “something is going to pop”.'

'He has also had to reduce Spanish classes and, for the tenth year running, delay buying new textbooks.'

'So dire is the shortage that school districts have found 1,850 adults without the necessary qualifications, given them emergency certifications, and placed them in classrooms.'

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links: cities improving transit

Seattle added 60,000 downtown jobs while decreasing the use of cars to get to them. https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/02/15/seattle-cut-car-commuting-downtown-while-adding-60000-jobs/

Other cities have been revamping their bus networks into higher frequency grids, using the same consultants as Houston.

Columbus: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/05/02/columbus-just-launched-a-completely-redesigned-bus-network/

"100,000 more Columbus residents will be within a five-minute walk of buses that arrive at least every 15 minutes, and 110,000 more jobs will be within a five-minute walk of transit, according to TransitCenter. Total bus service hours on Saturdays will increase 50 percent, and Sunday service will increase 120 percent."

Indianapolis: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/07/11/the-bus-network-redesign-in-indianapolis-will-be-like-launching-a-brand-new-transit-system/

"The new funding will pay to increase bus service by about 70 percent. The share of Indianapolis low-income households within a half-mile of a bus line that comes at least every 15 minutes will rise from 16 percent to 51 percent; the number of jobs near frequent transit routes will double; and all routes will operate seven days a week.

"The most remarkable element of the plan, which is scheduled to be fully implemented by 2019, is the grid of frequent bus service in the city core. The current system relies on bus routes radiating from downtown that don’t come very often, much like transit networks in many American cities that prioritize peak-hour service connecting outer neighborhoods to the jobs in a central business district."

"Currently, there are only three corridors where buses come at least every 15 minutes all day. The new bus grid will establish routes with at least 15-minute frequencies on a dozen corridors across the city"

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mothers in SF

I attended a Boskone panel on women in SF. It was mentioned that mother main characters were scarce, then that even scarcer were women for whom motherhood was not the impetus for action. Naturally I tried to make a list.

Maternal main characters:
* _Saga_. I forget their names, but the narrator's parents are the focus of action, as is keeping the infant narrator alive.
* _Paladin of Souls_: Ista. She is a mother, but it's not what she's doing.
* _Barrayar_: Cordelia's motherhood is critical.
* _Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen_: Cordelia's son is well into independent adulthood; OTOH, the story is driven by Cordelia's desire to be a mother again.
* _My Enemy, My Ally_: Ael is deuteragonist (along with Kirk) of this Star Trek novel. Her motherhood is incidental to her actions.

Maternal side (but important) or ensemble characters:
* _Children of the Lens_: Clarissa MacDougall had been active as the Red Lensman; I think she sees action again in this book, with her children grown.
* Star Trek TNG: Dr. Crusher. I think her being a doctor is important more often than her being Wesley's mom, but I've barely seen TNG, so I don't know.
* Star Trek III: Carol Marcus, Genesis scientist and mother of David Marcus.
* Nanoha (TOS and A's): Admiral/Commodroe Lindy Harlaown commands a dimensional starship; her teen son servers under her; she also adopts a girl in or after A's.
* Nanoha StrikerS: sort-of main character Nanoha adopts a child during the series, and the "best friend" whom she shares a bed with becomes "Fate-mama" as well.

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More from Winter World

Some animals such as frogs and caterpillars really do freeze solid; he describes being able to tap a frozen caterpillar on the table, before thawing and reviving it. Such animals have adaptations to encourage freezing in body cavities, while keeping ice crystals out of cells.

One moth in the high Arctic spends most of the year frozen, eating growing a bit in the short thaw period, and repeating this for years before finally finally moving from the larval stage.

A lot of it is really about dehydration. Some African moth larva can lose 92% of its water to survive the dry season; in this state, it can survive being dipped in liquid helium! He describes adding water as "instant insect."

A couple of Heinrich's chapters end on an annoying note: he seems depressed by practical studies, extolling the spiritual uplift of pure research without any practical application. I'm all for the quest for knowledge, but you don't have to put down practicality like some pre-cryptography number theorist... He also has vague moral concerns about human cryonics.

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Winter biology

I'm reading Winter World by Bernd Heinrich, an author I know from Ravens in Winter and Mind of the Raven. Some facts:

* Hibernation is pretty much about getting past food shortages, not cold per se. Animals with enough food stored up or otherwise available are happy to frolic all winter.

* Hibernating mammals rouse themselves multiple times to enter REM sleep. This can cost them half their winter energy expenditure. Apparently having a body temperature of 3 C doesn't exempt you from sleep deprivation and it's important to do something about that.

* Word of the week: sub-nivian, or beneath the snow. As in chipmunks live in a hidden sub-nivian world of snow tunnels and food caches. Wikipedia spells it "subnivean climate".

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soft-boiled eggs

I don't have a clear memory of how I was thought to cook soft-boiled eggs, which is sad given that I did it a fair bit. I have a dim memory of slipping eggs into boiling water to sit for a couple minutes, but I don't know. What I have done for years is to bring eggs in cold water to a boil, turn the heat off, and let them sit for 3 minutes. (For hard, sit for 15+.) That worked well.

Worked well with my old pot, anyway. Now I'm in a new place, with someone else's pots... so I tried making them against yesterday. "Bring to a boil" was a bit problematic, as the lid has a vent hole in it. And I let the eggs sit for four minutes because I got distracted. Result: eggs much closer to hard than soft, with no runny yolk. :(

I tried again today! I didn't even let the water come to a full boil, and waited exactly 3 minutes. Plus, instead of taking out each egg one at a time, I moved all three to a cold water bath before dissecting them. Result: some runniness, but yolks still partially hardened.

So I'm thinking the greater mass and size of the pot I'm using is a factor. Maybe there was something to the "slip eggs into boiling water" idea, though that has risks of splashing with boiling water, thus why I stopped.

Friends have suggested egg timers, though ones based on temperature sound more useful than simple timers. I can use a stopwatch just fine.

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measuring distance on maps

I'd long relied on Google Earth's ruler tool. I didn't like the hassle of installing it on the VM I'm currently using. So I looked, and found Google Maps has one! Just right-click on a point.


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Damien Sullivan

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