John C. Kirk
Sep. 29th, 2016
I don't post much to Twitter, mainly because I find it hard to squeeze anything meaningful into 140 characters. However, I did get involved in a brief discussion yesterday, and I'm now expanding on my thoughts here.
This all involves some PostgreSQL documentation. Here's the code sample in question:
IF demo_row.sex = 'm' THEN pretty_sex := 'man'; ELSE IF demo_row.sex = 'f' THEN pretty_sex := 'woman'; END IF; END IF;
According to @alsothings, this is a "totally unnecessary cis-heteronormative example", i.e. it's both cisnormative (assuming that everyone is cisgender) and heteronormative (assuming that everyone is heterosexual). I'm not convinced, but I'd welcome any comments from people who know more about this area than I do.
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Jul. 18th, 2016
03:51 am - Ghostbusters (2016)
Tonight I went off to the BFI IMAX to watch the new Ghostbusters film. I'll get to my thoughts (with minor spoilers) below, but first a bit of preamble.
It's fair to say that this film attracted quite a bit of controversy, even before anyone had actually seen it. Looking at the Ghostbusters page on Facebook, each time they posted something about the new film they got negative comments. E.g.
Post: "Let the ghost journey begin 3 days today!"
Comment: "3 days today people will be vomiting in disgust of this injustice to the fans"
Based on the advance publicity, there were two things we knew about the new film:
a) This is a reboot rather than a sequel.
b) The Ghostbusters are all women (as opposed to being all men in the original film).
A lot of people complained about the reboot aspect, but they were dismissed as misogynists. For instance, here's a recent article from The Guardian:
Why Ghostbros on Twitter are monstering my Ghostbusters review
"It's that latter, and vital, aspect that naysayers who have yet to see Ghostbusters will vehemently disavow as the reason they're not jazzed for the latest iteration. [..] Yet few, if any, people complained that their childhoods were being stolen when word got out that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill were going undercover for a big-screen update of 21 Jump Street, the beloved 80s show that introduced the world to Johnny Depp."
Personally, I saw the original version of 21 Jump Street once when I was a kid, but I don't remember anything about it other than the basic premise (cop goes undercover at a high school). There may be people who remember it a lot more clearly, but I don't think that it's iconic in the same way as Ghostbusters. (As Spike put it in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Who you gonna call? ... God, that phrase is never gonna be usable again, is it?") In any case, I haven't watched the remake. In a similar way, I enjoyed the original versions of Robocop and Point Break when I was at school, but I haven't watched either of those remakes either. I also enjoyed the original version of Total Recall; I have seen the remake (when I was round at a friend's house), but I wasn't particularly impressed by it. I watched the three Spider-Man films with Tobey Maguire, but I haven't watched either of the Amazing Spider-Man films.
So, if I say "I'm not enthusiastic about reboots in general, and I won't rush out to see the new Ghostbusters film", I don't think it's fair to assume that I'm lying about my motivation because I hate women. More generally, I prefer to assume good faith; you're not going to win anyone over if you refuse to engage with their actual arguments and just attack a strawman instead. (I think this is a wider issue of partisan politics. For instance, I voted "Remain" in the recent Brexit referendum, but I don't think that everyone who voted "Leave" is equivalent to Alf Garnett. Some, yes, but not all.)
If you want to read the continuing adventures of the original Ghostbusters, I highly recommend the IDW comic. It's been through a couple of relaunches, but it's all part of one ongoing story. Right now (18th July), most of the collections are on sale at Comixology: I think that 4 issues for £2.49 is pretty good value. It's worth noting that they've brought in new characters and had female Ghostbusters (at one stage the team had 3 women and 1 man) but they've done that as a sequel rather than a reboot.
Looking online (e.g. Why Ghostbusters Went With A Reboot Over A Sequel), the explanation is that Paul Feig (the director and co-writer) thought it would be a better story if the new team created their own equipment rather than having it handed to them. I can see his point, but I think it's possible to have the best of both worlds. Look at Extreme Ghostbusters: this was set about 10 years after The Real Ghostbusters, and the basic premise was that the original team were victims of their own success. They'd caught all the ghosts and put themselves out of work, so they moved onto other things. When ghosts started reappearing, a new team took over, but then they found that the old equipment no longer worked properly so they had to redesign it (e.g. the dome shaped trap that Kylie carried on her back). Looking at the trailer for the new film, they've developed new equipment that wasn't in the original film (e.g. the pistols and boxing glove), so they could still have done that even if they'd inherited the basic gear.
Also, look at the Doctor Who relaunch in 2005. This wasn't a reboot, but you didn't need to have watched any previous episodes in order to understand what was going on. The new stories stood alone, and re-introduced any relevant information (e.g. "this is a Dalek"). They only started to draw more on the backstory when they'd established the new series on its own merits. So, I think that the new Ghostbusters film could have done the same thing: all you need is the line from the trailer ("30 years ago, 4 scientists saved New York"), and you could skip over the details.
Based on all that, I figured that I'd watch the new film at some point, but I'd probably wait until I could stream it at home. However, a few friends independently said that they'd enjoyed it at the cinema: peer reviews count for a lot, so I figured that I'd give it a go. Also, I suspect that people will be talking about this at Nine Worlds next month, so I'd like to have an informed opinion. ( Read more...Collapse )
Apr. 21st, 2016
01:50 am - London mayor 2016
I haven't given much thought to the Brexit referendum yet, because the election for London Mayor is coming up first (on Thursday 5th May). As I mentioned before the 2012 election, I think it's important to distinguish between national and local policies, and it doesn't necessarily make sense to vote for the same party at different levels of government.
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Apr. 4th, 2016
12:42 am - Eddie the Eagle
Tonight I went off to the cinema to watch Eddie the Eagle. This has a similar premise to Cool Runnings: both films are based on true stories, and both are set during the 1988 Winter Olympics. (In fact, there's a brief reference to the Jamaican bobsled team during this film.) I think both films also involved quite a bit of embellishment: you can watch Lindsay Ellis' review of Cool Runnings for more info on that film, and according to the BBC, Edwards said that only 5% of this film is true. Still, it makes a good story, and it's a satisfying film to watch.
I was 13 when the actual events took place; I didn't watch the Winter Olympics, but I'd still heard of Eddie the Eagle. A few months later, The Sun printed an article on April Fool's Day: they claimed that he was attaching rockets (jet engines) to his skis, because there was nothing in the rules that specifically forbade that. They had a photo, and I actually believed the story for a few weeks. Nowadays I'd be more sceptical, both about the date and the source! The point is that it fitted in with my general impression of who he was: someone who took part, had a laugh, and always came last because he wasn't actually any good at the sport.
The basic concept of the film (and reality?) is that Britain wasn't entering anyone in the ski-jumping category, so he got in by being the only person to apply. I've also taken part in a few world championships which had similarly loose entry requirements:
- In 2008, I did the World Custard Pie Championships; our team got through to the quarter finals.
- In 2011, 2012, and 2013, I did the Brompton World Championship. My results were a bit more respectable here, but I never made it into the top 100; my best result was when I came 196th overall (out of 600-700 people).
- In 2014, I did the Winter Swimming World Championship; I finished last (35th) in my age/sex category.
Going into those events, I never expected to win anything: I was happy just to take part. However, I was also never in any real danger. Admittedly, one person died at the WSWC, but he was doing the endurance swim (450m) and my longest swim was 50m. What struck me during the film is that ski jumping really is a risky business. Even if someone finishes last, it still takes quite a bit of skill just to walk away from the landing.
I enjoyed the first half of the film, but then I heard a ringing noise in the background. It was muffled and intermittent, so I thought that it was someone's mobile phone ringing inside their bag. Then the film stopped, the lights came up, and an automated message told us that there was an emergency and we had to evacuate the building. This wasn't anything too dramatic, but I think there are lessons to learn from this.
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Jan. 5th, 2016
01:32 am - 2015 in review
Time for another yearly round-up. Here are some stats:
|Distance swum (km)||0.0||2.9||11.0||4.2|
|Distance cycled (km)||3678||3560||3209||3059|
I took up a new hobby in January: life drawing. I didn't make it to all the sessions in Croydon, but I think I have improved over the course of the year. I've posted my pictures from a few sessions (with more to come) and all of my finished pieces are on DeviantArt. Now I just need to use that practice to actually draw some new comics!
I also went down to Brighton to swim under each full moon, starting in January. Actually, I couldn't make it to one of them, but the quirks of the calendar meant that there were 13 full moons in 2015 and I went into the water during 12, so that's near enough. In July, I went off on a short cycle touring holiday around the Isle of Wight with a couple of my swimming friends: we visited each of the BCQ checkpoints (and a few beaches) and the daily distances were long enough to increase my Eddington number.
My theatre trips were fairly small scale, watching a couple of friends perform on stage in January (a panto and "The Three Musketeers"). At the opposite end of the scale, I only went to the cinema to watch the new "Avengers" and "Star Wars" films, since they'll benefit from the big screen; the rest of the time I'll wait to watch a film at home.
On the IT front, I passed a couple of new exams: CWTS and Network+. Those links both go to my tech blog; this time last year I'd "seeded" the blog by copying over relevant posts from LJ, and I put new content there in 2015. My most popular post by far was Installing dd-wrt on a Linksys WRT320N wireless router; I think that says something about how non-intuitive the installation process is! That fits into one of my other goals: I finally got IPv6 internet access at home, which is something I've been working towards for several years.
My plans went a bit awry in August, when I fell ill with acute sarcoidosis. Basically, my feet swelled up so much that I could barely walk. I spent 9 days in hospital, and I was off work for about a month. The good news is that I've now made a complete recovery.
That hospital trip unfortunately meant that I had to miss out on the biggest LARP event of the year (Renewal). However, I still attended the other 3 big events, as well as 3 faction events and a mini-meet (pub night) for my group in Bristol.
I'm surprised that my number of books is so low, but that's partly because it only counts books which are new to me (or at least the ones which I haven't reviewed on Goodreads before). For instance, after Terry Pratchett died, I started to re-read all his Discworld novels; I'm only about halfway through the series so far, but some of those books don't count towards my total. Also, I don't review individual issues of comics, only collections. 2000AD have been making a lot of their back issues available digitally, with each year available as a bundle; last year I read through all the weekly issues from 2006-2012, which kept me entertained while I was stuck in bed.
Meanwhile, I've continued to do volunteer work for St John Ambulance, and I think I've struck the right balance: I do enough to make myself useful, while still leaving time for my other hobbies and interests. This was my 11th year, so after next year I'll be eligible for a service medal.
My main goal for 2016 is the traditional one: do more exercise and lose weight. Specifically, I want to cycle (and swim) longer distances, so that I can get back to my pre-illness level of fitness. Aside from that, I'm aiming to draw at least 1 new comic and pass at least 1 more computer exam; hopefully I'll do more than that, but that seems like an attainable goal.
Nov. 29th, 2015
06:48 pm - WNBR 2015
I've been involved with the World Naked Bike Ride since 2009. This year, I took part in three rides: London, Brighton, and Bristol. I also did a few interviews to help publicise the ride and explain what we're trying to achieve.
Content warning: as you might expect, this post contains photos with nudity, so view it at your own discretion.
I wrote a WNBR FAQ in 2013 which covers the most common questions I get, e.g. "Is it legal?" and "Doesn't it hurt?" Just to restate our goals, we are:
- Protesting against car culture and oil dependency
- Promoting cycling as an alternative to driving
- Drawing attention to the vulnerability of cyclists
- Celebrating body freedom
This year was the 12th London ride, and it still continues to be relevant. For instance, here's an article from the Evening Standard: 'Oxford Street pollution levels breached EU annual limit just four days into 2015'. More recently, Volkswagen have been in trouble for faking the results of emissions tests on their diesel cars (as reported by the BBC, among others). I think it's fair to say that none of this air pollution is coming from bicycles!
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Oct. 22nd, 2015
02:56 am - Secret Cinema: Back to the Future
Last year (August 2014), I went off to a Secret Cinema performance of "Back to the Future". The basic concept of Secret Cinema is immersion: they try to recreate the world of the film (e.g. a prison environment for "The Shawshank Redemption"), and visitors have time to wander around and appreciate everything before they actually sit down to watch the film. Originally the actual film would be a secret; when you bought a ticket, you'd be given instructions on what to wear and where to go, but you didn't know what you'd actually be watching. However, the company broadened into Future Cinema, where they'd show the same film every night for several weeks (rather than a single performance), and you knew in advance what you'd be watching.
(Spoilers follow, although I'd be surprised if anyone's reading this who hasn't seen the film yet!)
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Sep. 14th, 2015
07:17 pm - 2000AD: Trifecta
I've been reading comics for a long time. I started out with the Beano when I was very young (maybe 5 years old?) then I moved onto the Eagle when I was about 10, and I moved to American comics when I went off to university at 18. I never really got into 2000AD when I was a kid; I read the odd issue here and there, but I didn't follow it regularly. However, I started buying digital issues a few years ago, and that's worked well. (I'll talk more about the iPad app in a separate post.)
I was particularly impressed by a story 2000AD did a few years ago: they managed to do something that I've never seen before in comics. I'm going to go into spoilers below; if you're willing to trust me, and you want to get the same surprise yourself, you can buy a copy of Trifecta (either paper or digital), and I'd advise you not to read the blurb.
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Sep. 12th, 2015
06:37 pm - Free stuff
I'm having another clear-out, to get rid of some of my accumulated clutter. If anyone would like any of these items (free of charge), just let me know; ideally I'm looking for people to collect from my flat in Croydon, but if I'll be seeing you elsewhere then I may be able to bring some bits along with me. I'll put this list on Freegle tomorrow evening (Sun 13th), so I'm giving my friends first dibs.
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Edit: All the comics have now been taken.
May. 31st, 2015
05:22 pm - CRU duties
As I've mentioned before, I do volunteer work for St John Ambulance, including the Cycle Response Unit. We have a Twitter account; unlike this blog (where I'm only speaking for myself), that account gives official announcements, so you might like to follow it if you're curious about what we get up to. Here are a few highlights from the past month or so, covering the events which I've personally been involved in.
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