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Comment: Re: Redshirts vs. Old Man's War (Score 1) 156

by billstewart (#47726175) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Guess you and I are on opposite sides of the fence about Scalzi. I read Old Man's War, and while it was well done, it didn't grab me at all. Most military sci-fi is pretty soulless. Redshirts started out looking like it was going to be a fun Star Trek parody, but then went into a bunch of totally new directions. It wasn't my first choice of the nominees that year, but it way exceeded my expectations.

Comment: Re:So, what controversy? (Score 1) 156

by billstewart (#47726127) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Correia seemed to be trying to rudely bully a lot of people to make it clear that he doesn't like all of you politically correct liberal liberal liberals out there in the publishing business. He was the one who brought Beale in to offend anybody who's even vaguely possible to offend; I don't like people doing that at parties I'm attending. (He also ran a campaign slate for nominees, which is pretty much not done (except every publisher saying "hey, vote for all OUR stuff.") I assume they did that together, but I don't know either of them. Their other main slate-member was Torgerson, who writes Mormonish mil-sci-fi. (He also threw the Schlock Mercenary comic in as a graphic work, which I found quite enjoyable back when it was originally nominated but which wasn't eligible as a 2013 work, so I thought that was tacky.)

Beale's fiction wasn't, in my opinion, Hugo quality, but it would have been ok in a pulp magazine back when those were the dominant form. His personal writings are so creepy that I can see why anybody willing to vote for his work would get criticism; reminds me of the "Vote for the Crook" election in Louisiana a few years back. Correia's writing is entertaining, in a mostly cartoonish way, and I'm ok with that. Not super deep, moderately fun if you like the stuff. Torgerson's work was so utterly soulless I ranked it below Beale's.

Comment: Re:Pick a different job. (Score 1) 445

Embrace mediocrity and find another outlet for your creativity.

This is among the worst advice for programmers I've ever read. And it's pointless advice because it's where the majority of programmers already are.

Oh, I certainly agree that clever code is a bad idea, but you should never stop thinking creatively about how to make your code better. Focus it on finding ways to structure your code that are elegantly simple and obvious, on finding the perfect name for that variable, function or class, one that precisely captures the meaning and intent -- and if there is no such perfect name, focus it on finding ways to refactor your code so that there is a perfect name. Programming -- done right -- is an inherently creative task, and the scope for beneficial creativity is vast.

This even applies at the micro level. It's almost always the case that any handful of lines of code that contains branching logic can be structured in several different ways. Take the time and try each of them! See which is most concise, which is most readable, which highlights one aspect of the logic flow or another... and then spend some time deciding which aspect will be most important for the next programmer to read it. Think about how you can write code a little bit differently to eliminate -- and visibly eliminate -- important classes of functional or security bugs.

One of the more important insights I received, after nearly 20 years as a professional programmer, was that comments are evil. Comments are a hack to work around the failure to write code which is sufficiently clear and expressive (note that I'm talking about inline comments, not comments used to generate documentation). When I find myself typing a comment, I step back and look for ways to improve naming, or refactor, until the comment is no longer necessary.

Those are just a few examples, there are many more. Programming, like any art, is a never-ending opportunity for learning and improvement, because perfection is unachievable. Doesn't mean you shouldn't try, though. I can already hear the complaints "But I don't have time for that crap, I have deadlines, and..." that's just another set of constraints to be optimized. When time is tight, I focus on simplifying and making absolutely sure that my code is bug-free and has thorough automated tests, because there isn't any time for extended debugging.

Never, ever settle for mediocrity. One of my proudest days was when another programmer whose skills and code I highly respect called my code the cleanest and clearest he's ever read. I strive to impress my colleagues (and I work with some of the best) with clarity, simplicity and elegance. Sometimes I succeed, mostly I fail... but I always learn in the process. After 25 years, I think I'm learning more every day now than I did when I started. The lessons are more subtle and far less obvious, but I think they're more valuable.

Comment: Ideological right-wing whiners don't speak for me (Score 1) 156

by billstewart (#47726069) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Sorry, I'm a Libertarian, from a relatively conservative background (which is not at all the same thing as a right-wing background, so I guess I was the "wrong" type of conservative for you), and I'd much rather read good writing by somebody whose politics I disagree with than bad writing. There are writers who really need gatekeepers to keep them from wasting my time, and there are good writers who still need editors to rein them in (how did Neal Stephenson get to burn a Baroque Cycle worth of paper?) or to help them fix stuff that isn't working. Small presses or big presses can both do that, while electronic publishing usually means "self-publishing" by people who might know to hire a copy-editor, which isn't the same thing at all. And while Charlie Stross* is a socialist who hangs out with Paul Krugman, his economic writing is great stuff; I'm planning to finish Neptune's Brood after reading the Hugo nom excerpt.

Publishing on dead trees is a tough game these days - it has to compete with TV, video games, and the Web and other internet distractions for readers' time, bookstores are dying, getting people to sit down for an entire novel is harder than it used to be, and forget trying to make a living as a short-story writer now that the pulps are gone and the remaining outlets can't pay as much a word. "Hollywood accounting" is more of a problem for writers selling to the alternate-publisher press than the traditional houses.

And yeah, there's too much formulaic dreck out there; Sturgeon's Law hasn't changed, and many publishers are still willing to make literary decisions based on what they've been able to get bookstores to buy, but that's no different for Baen's mil-sci-fi writers than for the urban-paranormal subgenre or the million Tolkien imitators.

* (Yes, Charlie's published in London, and mostly only later in New York, because of the international publishing rights weirdness, but most of the other Scottish SF writers are fairly radically socialist just to annoy people like Anonymous Coward.)

Comment: "New York" was London this year - Orbit Excerpts (Score 1) 156

by billstewart (#47725923) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

BTW, you might not have noticed, but three of the five nominees for the Hugo novels this year were published by Orbit Books, in London. The ideology that marked them was "Hey, we don't want to lose book sales by giving away free copies in the voting packet, let's just do excerpts!" Correia's trilogy was published by Baen, and the Wheel Of Time series, 15-or-so volumes, which got nominated as a single work, was published by Tor, both of whom included the entire sets, which I liked much better. (In Correia's case, Volume 3 was the new work that was actually nominated, but including the first two made it make a lot more sense.)

Excerpts didn't do the job for me. It's not just that I'm grumpy because I'm cheap and consider getting the nominated novels part of what makes it worth paying for the voting membership*, but it also affected how well I could judge the work before voting. For Stross's book, which I was planning to buy anyway, it was enough; for Mira Grant's, it probably was (though so far it doesn't look like as strong a work as the Feed series.) But I know both of their work and have read most of their novels, so I've got some idea of where they might be going; Ancillary Justice was Leckie's debut novel, and while the excerpt was enough to get some flavor of her writing skill, and see some of the things she did in the first few chapters, it's a bit of a slow start, I didn't get sucked into it, and also I can't yet tell whether the main character is just an interesting and complex post-human or a totally creepy slave-taker.

* The package includes the Hugo novels or excerpts, the Campbell-nominated works (mostly novels), all the shorter works, most of the graphical material, a lot of short stories in this year's short-form editor award, a really amazing related-works section (this was a good year for that), all for the cost of a supporting membership for the upcoming Worldcon, which is usually about $40. You get to nominate for the Hugos if you bought it in time, and you get to vote on the winners.

Comment: Re:Tactics unsuccessful? (Score 1) 156

by billstewart (#47725591) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Yes. People talked about them. They got to whine to each other about how all the liberal feminazis voted against their immensely well-written books for political correctness reasons; I ranked them low because of the writing. They were pretty much going to do that anyway. Maybe they kept some better-written works from getting on the ballot (but there's usually lots of competition, and certainly was this time.) Maybe Correia will get some more book sales (a friend who likes his writing says that the trilogy that got nominated wasn't his best work; so far I've found it to be readable escape-fiction, fun if not deep.)

Having heard some of what Beale's written when he's blathering misogynistically about whatever vile tripe he's blathering about, I'm not going to buy anything that will pay him any money or even read more of his writing online. But I did give his nominated work a fair review (wasn't Hugo material; would have been ok as a story in a pulp magazine, back when there were more pulp magazines around.)

On the other hand, Torgerson's work surprised me - while his two pieces had much better writing mechanics than Beale's, they were utterly soulless non-introspective pieces of formulaic bland. Mil-fi isn't my favorite genre, but this isn't close to being Honor Harrington (which I liked) or Scalzi's Old Man's War (meh, and I like his other writing), or even up to the quality of one of the freebies given out at the previous Worldcon, where the author obviously at least enjoyed obsessively describing the spaceship which Our Guys were going to go Fight Aliens with.

Comment: Re:That's not quick? (Score 1) 58

by fermion (#47725373) Attached to: How Does Tesla Build a Supercharger Charging Site?
It is 500 miles from Galveston to Oklahoma City. That is 10 sites if placed every 50 miles along the major highway. That means they could have a major traffic area of Texas wired for the Tesla with six port charging stations in less than four months

There a seven Buc cees flag ship stores, where everyone in Texas stops for at least a half an hour to get gas and a Dr. Pepper Icee. That is three months to wire one of the most popular tourist traps. The other locations may not be big enough to hold a charging station, but lets say another six months more months to wire those that can.

So what we are talking about is in six months with enough crews the major populated parts of texas could be wired for Tesla. The parts of Texas that can afford a Tesla, given the three out four cars at many intersections are mercedes or high end volve, that seeing a Maserati, a Lotus, especially a Rolls Royce is not uncommon. Where every city has at least one highly regarded dealership that sells these 100K+ autos. And yet instead of building infrastructure that would encourage the population to buy a Tesla, a population that has the money to buy a second electric car, they whine like babies because the laws don't conform with their expectations. Rather than creating a demand, they blame regulation for their problems.

Before they started trying to extort states taxpayers o pay for their construction costs I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Now it is clear that they are failing to the old regulation card, instead of profiting with innovation.

Comment: Chris Hadfield's Space Oddity missed by 3 votes (Score 1) 156

by billstewart (#47724647) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

It hadn't occurred to me to nominate it, and unfortunately didn't occur to enough other people, so it missed the short list for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form by about 3 votes (usually only the top 5 nominees get onto the ballot, occasionally 6 if there's a tie or fewer than 5 if not enough works meet the "5% of nominations" threshold.)

An actual astronaut, in space, performing a classic science-fiction-themed song, named after one of the most influential SF movies? It so totally belonged on the ballot, because [expletive deleted] we're living in the future!.

Of course, a few other works I liked, and works I haven't read yet by authors I like, also didn't get on the ballot, but that's normal.

Comment: Re:Grammar Flaming As A lifestyle... (Score 1) 29

by billstewart (#47724531) Attached to: Interviews: Andrew "bunnie" Huang Answers Your Questions

First of all, this is English. You can do just about anything you want. Even more so if you're a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist.

Second, using "they" as a non-gendered third person pronoun referring to a singular antecedent has been in documented use for at least 600 years. It's no worse an impedance mismatch than using a gendered singular third person pronoun, and no matter what your middle-school English teacher taught you, English grammar isn't Latin grammar, nor is it modern German grammar.

Third, you should be using lead-free solder these days anyway (and while it is a lot less cooperative, inexpensive soldering irons today are better than cheap soldering irons were when I was a kid.)

Comment: Re:sure it would (Score 1) 460

by frovingslosh (#47722845) Attached to: Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

If only there were some kind of search website that, with a few key words, would find such lists for you.

Failing that, you could install the Lightbeam plug-in for Firefox and then see the shocking number of sites that get visited in addition to the websites that you want to visit. It is pretty obvious that some of them are providing the advertising. Even for those who are not, do you really need or want the site that you go to to tell other sites about you by simple links in website that force you to fetch stuff from them? I never use Facebook, will never have a Facebook account. Why do so many different websites think that they need me to get traffic from Facebook? (Even websites that show no Facebook link or logo on them often do this.)

However, I'll be nice and get you started. Put two lines in your HOSTS file that read

127.0.0.1 doubleclick.net

127.0.0.1 ads.doubleclick.net

and see how nice things get from just that. I learned to do this over a decade ago when some "adware" that I was using not only was delivering ads from doubleclick (which I would have been fine with) but was providing a back door for doubleclick to install other stuff on my system and it was regularly crashing my system. I blocked downloads from doubleclick and my problems went away. Doubleclick has since been sold to Google, but if Google is going to enrich the weasels who were doing that I see no reason to let doubleclick traffic back into my system. (Guess where a lot of Slashdot ads come from.)

Comment: Re:So? Old news. (Score 1) 48

by TheCarp (#47722005) Attached to: Experimental Drug Stops Ebola-like Infection

> Or are there enough people out there who have been exposed within three days and are as of yet symptom free?

Well that number seems to be increasing every day. So that is a positive um right?

Actually I think the way you do it is with a double blind in a population that is already likely to be exposed, or likely to be exposed soon.... then watch for whether the people vaccinated with the real deal vs the placbo get infected at higher rates.

Since you don't even know if it works, its not like you are actually withholding treatement on those with the placebo, and its a population you expect to have some cases anyway. So if it works, it could protect some of the population and allow for others.... if it doesn't work, any new risks they are exposed to are only from the drug itself, as long as you can weigh that against the risk and outcomes of ebola infection.....

Essentially I think the only viable population is medical professionals themselves who work with Ebola patients, and family of patients who just recently brought their family member to the clinic. That is mostly because any cases that are found have to be isolates asap and so there is no possibility for any real control group outside the clinics/centers.

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