It’s taken years and years, but I’ve finally gotten myself a webhost and, to kick things off, have moved the majority of this blog over to its new location: http://blog.fuzzyworld.net/

At the moment, almost nothing is setup. Most of the posts have been copied, but that’s about it. Hell, the YouTube videos seem to be broken. Those might be fixed soon. But all of that is moot at this time, as the main point is that this blog will now have a new address. This address will still work, but no new posts will be made after today.

Science fiction can be generally divided into two camps: soft and hard. (There are good Wikipedia articles on both, and this post isn’t really about the concepts, but I’ll still give short summaries. Specifically, these summaries will indicate my own thoughts on the subject and the angle from which I am approaching this topic.)

Soft sci-fi deals more with the “fiction” aspect, relegating science to a distant second, third or whatever place. The science here is probably not going to be as thoroughly researched, if at all, and similarly will not be explained, except with an off-hand phrase tossed in at the last moment.

Had sci-fi deals with, or has a special focus, on the science behind the story. The science is either pivotal to the plot or is thoroughly researched and is (or, at least attempting to be) accurate.

I am more a fan of hard sci-fi. I like my science to be consistent and logical. Nothing ruins a story quite like bad science, as Hollywood has been kind enough to demonstrate. That’s not to say that I don’t read or enjoy soft sci-fi. “Replay” is certainly soft, in the sense that no explanation at all is given for the underlying phenomenon. The same goes for S.M. Stirling’s “Conquistador” and “Island in the Sea of Time”. (Nevermind the fact that I didn’t really care for those books, which was unrelated to them being soft sci-fi, but was rather caused by them being identical, long and boring books.) “Jumper” and its related books are also particularly soft (especially “Reflex”, which begins with the absurd assumption that “jumping” is contagious!), yet I love them dearly.

Still, I prefer something more grounded in science, and usually something possible. Yes, I realize there’s a bit of a contradiction in claiming an affinity for possible science-fiction, but that’s what I have. Let me explain.

Consider Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama”. The spaceship imagined in the novel is entirely possible, if not with our current state of technology then with some technology. Similarly, “2001: A Space Odyssey” presents space travel and the AI constructs (HAL and the Monolith) that are entirely possible. (In both novels Clarke took leaps in the conclusion, with inertia-less travel of “Rama” and the StarChild of “2001”, but these are minor instances and are still possible, albeit with technology we have not yet discovered. And, of course, we have not yet shown that any of this is impossible…)

Similarly, Stross’ “Accelerando” series of short stories is deeply rooted in current or around-the-corner science. Which is what draws me to (as well as terrifies me about) the series. And, just like Clarke, Stross takes a small leap in imagining a galactic router in orbit around a brown dwarf. And, once again, we have not shown that this is something that is impossible.

Niven’s Known Space works are also someting that I would consider “possible”, though he does take more leaps, such as with teleportation technology (not FTL, since it does operate at the speed of light), the near-indestructible General Products hulls (described as a single molecule bounded with energy fields) and the scrith material that makes up Ringworld (umm, sufficiently advanced technology?). All of these I can accept since (a) the technology presented is self-consistent, (b) is not a deus ex machina and (c) the technology may be possible.

So, after that huge lead-in, what do I want to say? Simply this: I can’t plot soft sci-fi. Here I am, sitting around with oodles of time on my hands, attempting to think of a short story to write, and I can’t seem to come up with anything that’s not based on real (or around-the-corner) technology. Gah! It’s frustrating! Every idea I come up with, every what-if scenario, I dismiss it immediately if I can see no way for it to be possible. And that’s really not the spirit of writing sci-fi, now is it? One shouldn’t keep coming up with ways to foil a story, to put holes in their own concepts, to consistently, time after time find ways that something just won’t work. The spirit of sci-fi is one of possibility. The eternal question of what-if is invariably answered (by actual authors, not by this hack) with a resounding “hell yeah”. The concepts are pushed upon the reader with an authoritative voice, one that almost resounds from the heavens, as if spoken by Zeus himself, and firmly convinces the reader that what they have just glimpsed is not a fantasy but a reality.

Oh well, c’est la vie. Back to “Cryptonomicon”.

Currently listening to The Seed (2.0) by The Roots.

Gah!

Yeah, that’s all. Nothing more. Just lamenting the lack of an Xbox 360 for the next two weeks.

Oh fine, here’s an unrelated… thing: Eddie Izzard, mass-murdering fuck-heads, tea and cake.

Mathematician 1: I have three sons. Their ages add up to 13. [Looks around] And the product of their ages is equal to the address on that building there.

Mathematician 2: Anything else?

Mathematician 1: My oldest son has red hair.

Mathematician 2: Ah, I know their ages.

What are they?

A husband and a wife of 30 years are being interviewed and are asked how they managed to keep a family together all this time. The wife responds: “It’s all about a clear separation of labor. My husband makes the big decisions and I make the small ones. I choose what’s for dinner, what school our kids attend and what house to get. My husband decides when to declare war on China.”

This really should not have come as a surprise for me, but I was amazed at how different people can interpret the above joke to further advocate their own personal views and opinions. Meh.

The mirror test (Wikipedia article here) is a method of measuring self-awareness by verifying if an animal is able to recognize itself in a mirror. But, really, I don’t see this as anything monumental. It’s not so much testing self-awareness as testing the complexity of the physical model that the organism maintains. (What I am here calling a physical model is the conceptual model of the world we necessarily maintain in our minds. This is the model that allows you to, for instance, walk around your house without concentrating too much on your surroundings, as you know where everything should be and was, the last time your model was “updated”. Unless you have little furry creatures in your house and they are liable to run under your feet.) The mirror test seems to only gauge if the subject’s physical model is robust enough to properly map the external environment to self when faced with contradicting visual input. Nothing more.

Currently listening to Pink Floyd.

Count Smallington, originally uploaded by FuzzyGamer.

Count Smallington, or Gosha as he is known to his family

This is my first attempt at using UFRaw. Don’t have access to Lightroom2, so have to make do. And I have to say, the program is really quite something. It has as many image controls as Lightroom (at least, the major ones), but it is more difficult to use and doesn’t have a great interface, but in a pinch – money or time or simply availability – it’s a great solution.

More of the Christmas 2009 set are here.

Tried to write haiku, failed when couldn’t count syllables. Is there a damn trick to this? The poem started with “the freaking kid”. Is “kid” two syllables or one? Can’t tell.

The kid behind me keeps kicking the seat. Freaking kid. He used to kick my neighbor’s seat, but then the neighbor said a few words to the parents. And now I get to put up with this nonsense. Such is life?

Started reading “Cryptonomicon” just now… What the feck? Did the kid just drop one? Certainly smells like it. I hate flying.
Anyway, started “Cryptonomicon”. Got to the part where Lawrence is having that strange dream while Turing gets an umlaut. Decided to pause. Don’t really care for the strange-dream portion of the book. Can’t wait for Randy’s introduction.

Tried to code a bit, but small lunch tray and the relative proximity of others’ elbows made this a “fail”. So now I get to plan what features my GPS logger app will have instead of actually coding it.

Coding’s more fun.

Listening to Bon Jovi right now. Will switch to Pink Floyd soon enough. Forrest was right, “Wish You Were Here” is a better album than “Dark Side of the Moon”. Though only in the “if I listen to a million and one albums, 500 thousand will be DSotM, 500 thousand and one will be WYWH” sense. Still.

Q:What’s worse than a kid kciking your seat?
A: A smelly kid kicking your seat.
Q: What’s worse than a smelly kid kicking your seat?
A: A smelly, crying kid kicking your seat.

Should be in Chicago in twenty minutes. Rather “should have been”. Or “should have be”? What the hell is the tense form for a late flight?

The following is a PowerShell script that I wrote to change the Power Plans on my laptop. The script checks which plan I’m currently using, either “Power saver” or “High performance”, and switches to using the other one. I find this functionality helpful, as I can simply create a single shortcut on the desktop (or wherever) that can be executed to instantly change the power plan, without bothering to go through menus. Plus, it’s an excuse to play around with PowerShell.

Code after the jump.

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