Banner Arrived

Sep. 25th, 2017 04:30 pm
kevin_standlee: (WSFS Logo)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
The small WSFS Banner that we have been hanging from the front of the Business Meeting head table since the 2015 Worldcon commissioned it has made it "home" to Fernley. I didn't want to fold it because it would get creased, and the poster tube wouldn't fit with my luggage. (I was within a few grams of the limit as it was.) So I mailed it from Helsinki on August 16, paying €32.90. It arrived in Fernley today, 40 days later. I was starting to worry. Of course we don't need it until next August, but I did want it to get here.

Also in storage with me is the Gavel of WSFS until I can do something to make its storage box more obvious. One of the reasons I think we lost the previous gavel was that its storage box was too plain looking and it was lost in the clutter.


Sep. 25th, 2017 08:34 pm
[syndicated profile] kill6billiondemons_feed

Posted by Abbadon

Hey all!

I’m very proud to announce the first test release of a side project I’ve been working on for some time now, LANCER, the Mech RPG.

You can pick up, read, and download a test copy here for free. Give it a read, try playing it, and let me know what you think. If you’re into military sci-fi, Titanfall, Destiny, comic books, the Halo series, BattleTech, or all forms of Giant Robot media, you might love the hell out of it.

Sunday at the Ren Fair

Sep. 25th, 2017 12:10 pm
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
 Mason's friend Rosemary had never been to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival before, so, despite the 90 F / 32.2 C degree temperatures, we decided to take her on Sunday.  Likely filed under "things you didn't know about Lyda" is the fact that, back in the late 1980s, I used to work as a performer out at the Ren Fest. I wore a big, red, curly wig, a costume sewn by my mother, and went by the stage name "Nut Meg."  (You can't actually see my face very well in this photo. I may have to find another one. But this is me, in either 1987 or 1988--I believe those are the only two years I worked as a performer out there.)

old photo from 1987 of Lyda in costume out at the MN Ren Fest

But, at any rate, because I used to work out there, I made two teenagers get up early so that we could arrive in time for 'opening gate.'  One of the things Rosemary, who is a HUGE fan of the Minnesota State Fair, wanted to know is, why did Mason and I like Ren Fest better?  Her point, which is a valid one, is that they're a lot the same: crowded, expensive, food oriented, and full of stuff you don't really need to buy, but that is fun to look at.  For me, the answer is the entertainers.  The shows--but particularly things like opening gate--are these dorky, improv experiences.  Opening gate is a free show and, technically, so are all the others (though the performers pass hats because at lot of them do make their living doing the Ren Fest circuit.)  There isn't anything quite like that at the State Fair. 

Plus, my people are there.

In fact, Mason summed up the difference pretty succinctly:  "It's nerdier."  

And, that's really it.  I would probably like the State Fair, if it was the nerd fest Ren Fair is.  Don't believe me? While we were waiting for the opening gate show to start (I always miscalculate how long it will take me to get from St. Paul to Shakopee.) I noticed this guy:

Ren Fair Deadpool

Ren Fair Deadpool is exactly the kind of person who would never cosplay at the State Fair. What does State Fair Deadpool even look like?  (Okay, probably now that I've asked, someone has done this and knows EXACTLY what Minnesota State Fair Deadpool would look like.) But, the point is, Ren Fest is like a science fiction/fantasy  convention with a middle ages theme, outdoors, that lasts for several weekends, plus great food.  I literally don't know why anyone would go to the State Fair, when you can have the State Fair x Nerds = Ren Fest.

Plus, what was the thing that Mason and Rosemary loved the most?  "Zilch." Zilch is this performer who tells fractured fairy tales in Spoonerisms.  This is such a nerd thing, I can't even.  There's so much to see, too.  We also watched Fandazzi do their fire dancing:

A woman in Renaissance costuming dancing with a fire rope--or a rope on fire, however you'd like to imagine it.

It's kind of hard not to have a good time out at Festival, IMHO.  I mean, it was so hot I was SWELTERING, but I really wanted to stay until 4:30 pm so the kids could see Zilch do his version of Romeo & Juliet, since they're both studying that in English this year. But, I just couldn't make it. How I used to pull full day performances out there, I have no idea. This may be why I only lasted a few years. (Actually, I know it's why.  Working Fest was the only time in my life that I had a doctor hand me a prescription with one word on it: "Sleep.")

Also, for the first time since the 1980s, I actually sat through the entire jousting show. That's actually a kind of amazing thing.... they really do run at each other in full gallop and break their lances. It's very clear that some of it is staged, but, even knowing that, doesn't diminish the excitement of it.  

Alas, I only got a still shot:

the jousting show, wth one of the "knights" on the ground spoiling for a fight.

Anyway, that was my weekend. How are you?


Sep. 25th, 2017 05:59 pm
miramon: (Default)
[personal profile] miramon
OK, that was weird. I rage-posted because my new phone didn't turn up and they sent me a photo apparently showing that they had left a card in the delivery van. I posted here, on a couple of review sites, on DPD's own site and on Twitter. My phone then appeared 3 hours late accompanied by an incoherent explanation about how all of the drivers' routes had been mixed up today and he was really sorry.

I guess I'm just glad I've got the phone.
[personal profile] galacticjourney
[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]

by Gideon Marcus

There are two poles when it comes to how science fiction magazines like to fill their pages. The Fantasy and Science Fiction approach involves lots of short stories -- it makes for an impressive Table of Contents and a lot of bite-sized pieces. Analog tends toward the other extreme: its stories tend to be novellas and serials, and you only get 4-5 piece of fiction each issue. As a result, the average quality of any given issue relies on a very few pieces. With Analog, if you don't like several of the authors, you're pretty much out of luck (and 50 cents).

The October 1962 Analog is, fortunately, not that bad, but a wide swath of it is taken up with a pretty lousy novella. If I'd started with it, I don't know if I'd have made it to the rest of the magazine. It's a good thing I read from the back first...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

Building Our Own Molecular Machines

Sep. 25th, 2017 12:58 pm
[syndicated profile] in_the_pipeline_feed

Posted by Derek Lowe

Let’s talk about enzyme envy. That’s what we organic chemists experience when we stop to think about how every complex natural product in the world is synthesized so much more quickly and efficiently than we can do it. All those crazy multiple rings systems, those bizarre heterocycles, huge macrolides, and dense arrays of stereochemistry are cranked out at ambient temperature, under aqueous conditions, on a time scale of minutes to hours. Oh, and they’re made offhand, in the background, as time permits, while the cells and organisms themselves are otherwise occupied with the even more startling business of being living chemical systems. Envy? It’s more like enzyme terror, when you really think about what’s going on.

Now let’s talk about nanotechnology. Not the press-release stuff, I mean hard-core nanotech. The dream of assembling molecules and materials to order, atom by atom, has been around for some years now, and it largely remains just that: a dream. Eric Drexler and others have taken a lot of grief for maintaining that such things are possible, and to be sure, I have trouble myself with the real atomic scale this-carbon-goes-right-here level of the idea. But what about “this acetyl group goes right here?” That is, small-molecular scale versus atomic scale? That is exactly what every living cell on the planet is doing right now – that’s enzymatic chemistry, and I see no reason why we can’t get smart and capable enough to do the same sorts of things ourselves, and more.

That leads up to this new paper, which is a big (but small) example of just that sort of thing. A group from the University of Manchester reports the system shown above, which is basically a molecular-sized stereoselective synthesis machine. You put that unsaturated ester together on the left-hand side, and the first step is an olefin cross-coupling with it and acrolein dimethyl acetal. Now comes that “rotary switch” in the middle. If you treat the molecule with trifluoroacetic acid, it deprotects the acetal, and the acrolein now is set up to do a tandem nucleophile/electrophile addition under the influence of the chiral prolinol group. That reaction is done in solution, as stereoselective synthesis fans will know, but you only really get the syn isomers.

This system will give you both, and both enantiomers, depending on the reaction conditions. Depending on the conditions (time spent treating with trifluoroacetic acid, or with triethylamine afterwards), that hydrazone in the middle can go from E to Z putting the acrolein aldehyde in range of either the (S) or the (R) prolinol, at your choice. That forms a chiral iminium, whereupon you add a thiol nucleophile. The iminium is now released, and you have your choice again of whether you want the hydrazone in the middle to be E or Z. Whichever one you choose, you now form an enamine intermediate and bring in the electrophile (a highly activated Michael acceptor, 1,1 phenylsulfonylethylene). That does the second bond formation, and reduction with LAH releases the ester linkage and frees the product as a primary alcohol. You end up with two chiral centers, and you can choose which of the four diastereomers you want by moving the hydrazone switch around during the reaction sequence.

OK, we’re not all going to be making compounds like this next week – fine. This system is set up with every bias possible to make it succeed (such as a terrific thiol nucleophile and a terrific sulfonyl electrophile), and it doesn’t produce pure stereoisomers out the other end, even with that. Rather, you get ratios from about 80:20 to about 60:40 (although, to be sure, the solution methods to do this reaction don’t always do much better, and they can’t give you all four isomers under any conditions). The point is not that this is a wonderful new stereoselective reaction that we can use to make chiral products; the point is not the chiral products themselves at all. The point, of course, is that this thing has been designed to give you such chiral products, in a programmable fashion, and that it can indeed switch states on command to give them to you. It’s a machine – a very small machine, with limited inputs, but the first computer circuits were also very small machines with limited inputs, too.

The scientific and engineering challenges are similar – how to make these things work more reliably and how to scale them up to greater levels of complexity and utility. It’s going to be harder for chemistry than it was for computation, since our computers, fundamentally, are all about moving 1s and 0s around (throwing on/off switches over and over in increasingly complicated ways). That made the development of processing circuits more straightforward, as difficult as it was in reality to get all that to work. Organic synthesis has a lot more letters in its alphabet than just A and B, and its processes are a lot more irreducibly complex than binary logic is. But that just means that it’s a trickier problem, not that it’s an insoluble one.

I think this work points to one way around the difficulties: try, whenever you can, to reduce the key steps to binary ones. The heart of this molecular machine is that hydrazone, which can point in this direction or in that one, which makes all the difference. If we develop these and other spatiotemporal switches to be faster, more responsive, more reliable, and more orthogonal to other functional groups, we can adapt them (as this paper does) to do some fairly complicated chemistry by positioning our other reagents in the appropriate places. Some of these things are already out there in the literature (azo groups or other double bonds that isomerize photochemically, pH-responsive hydrogen bonding groups, and others). We can take our cues from the biochemical world, which uses both of those just-named processes, and how, and we can design new ones that no living cell has ever gotten around to. Cells, when you get down to it, build incredible synthesis machinery, but it’s bespoke stuff: it does what it does with fantastic speed and precision, but if you don’t want exactly what it does, you’re out of luck. What we’re after is are tougher, more general solutions: machines that will make whole ranges of molecules, the way we tell them do, with (ideally) the ability to be switched around to different functions as needed.

T. Ross Kelly and Marc Snapper have a good commentary on this paper in the same issue of Nature.

It is commonplace to dismiss seemingly impossible ideas, such as Drexler’s molecular assemblers, out of hand, and the use of such devices in chemical synthesis might indeed never find favour. One could further argue that Kassem and colleagues’ “programmable molecular machine” is more contrived than ingenious. But given that the most recent chemistry Nobel prize was awarded for the design and synthesis of molecular machines, those who dismiss the concept of molecular assemblers should heed the lesson of Lord Kelvin’s infamous 1895 pronouncement that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”.

As opposed to some other similar statements that get quotes, Kelvin apparently really did say that, as well as saying (in 1900) that he didn’t think there was anything new to be discovered in physics. Anyone who watched a bird knew that heavier-than-air flight was possible; the question was whether we could figure it out ourselves. The attempt to make molecular assemblers – which is, after all, the attempt to make our own enzymes, when we know that enzymes exist – is the same sort of problem. The molecular-machine folks (last year’s Nobel!), who care about rendering fundamental ideas and processes into molecular form, and the more traditional synthetic organic chemists, who care about what products any new reaction or machine can produce for them, can find common ground in building such things. Bring on the molecular machines!



Note: All opinions, choices of topic, etc. are strictly my own – I don’t in any way speak for my employer

[syndicated profile] sharktank_feed

Posted by Sharky

Management gives this IT pilot fish responsibility for naming the new server that runs a real-time operating system for control software -- and fish has an idea.

"I decided to let the programmers decide what to name it," says fish.

"One programmer got his buddies together and they stuffed the ballot box with 'Mongo,' the guy in the movie Blazing Saddles who rides an ox and punches out a horse -- very strong and not very bright. So that's what we wound up calling it.

"Then every time any issues or comments about the Mongo server came up in team meetings, we had to put up with the same tired jokes and quotes from the movie: 'Mongo good,' 'Mongo like candy,' 'Mongo only pawn in game of life'..."

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

New Book on Robert A. Heinlein

Sep. 25th, 2017 08:34 am
fjm: (Default)
[personal profile] fjm
I think most people who used to follow me on LJ are now on facebook but I am cross posting just in case.

After my book on Heinlein went beyond a length that most academic publishers could manage (it may be around 500 pages) I decided to go with a Crowdfunding publisher called Unbound. They can keep the price down to affordable levels.

Of course I would love it if you bought the book:

ebook £12
ebook and hb £35

But what I really need is signal boosting. Please copy and paste.

Monday's story!

Sep. 25th, 2017 12:00 am
murgatroyd666: (von Zinzer Peeved)
[personal profile] murgatroyd666 posting in [community profile] girlgenius_lair <― edited

I wonder who else walks these mean streets of Mechanicsburg?

Comforting Weekend

Sep. 24th, 2017 06:25 pm
kevin_standlee: (Wigwam)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
I am so predictable in some ways. This morning I once again walked down to the Wigwam to have breakfast, which I enjoyed even more because I paid for it with the money I won from their casino the previous morning off a free-play coupon. Then I walked to the Frontier Fun Center and bought five games of pinball, proceeding to play a total of twelve, which is a pretty good win rate even by my standards.

Around the time I got home, Lisa was ready to start work on today's bout of home projects, which involved her putting herself in harm's way up on the roof on a necessary project that will make things better when it was done. My job was to fetch supplies and tools to her and to call 911 if she fell off the roof, which fortunately she did not. The roof work is perhaps 25% complete, and we'll do more as time, weather, and energy permit.

When we quit for the day, we had an early dinner and then went out for a walk. This is one of the best times of the year for that. The days aren't too short, but the weather is comfortable.

Hotumn, they've taken to calling it

Sep. 24th, 2017 08:10 pm
flemmings: (Default)
[personal profile] flemmings
Others have remarked the oddity of not turning on the central AC until summer is over, I shall just say, blessed blessed central AC.

C.S Harris does a great deal of research for her Regency detective series. I'm therefore a little puzzled at her aristocratic detective threatening to call in the services of the Bow Street Runners for a crime committed in... Shropshire. Evidently the Runners aided investigations outside London, but Shropshire is an awfully long way from the Home Counties.


Sep. 24th, 2017 11:41 am
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
[personal profile] thnidu
From Digg, 0:52

Here's A Bush Full Of Kittens Playing Peekaboo Because You Deserve To Feel Happiness
[personal profile] calliopes_pen
Yesterday, the bill arrived for Comcast. We expected this month’s bill to still reflect things from before we cut out watching cable due to whatever reason, but no. It’s better than that. This month, we seem to owe nothing, and we have been credited $65. So…next month the bill should be $5 once that's subtracted, until this returns to the expected $70 in November, I suspect.

Odd, but nice for once.

Meanwhile, as I hunt for a new computer, I realized that just in case of any emergency that requires me to go—either due to being forced to travel out of state again, or not—it might be best to search for laptops. So I’ve been looking at the HP* Pavilion 17 inch sort, since that’s held up well for Dad. He hasn’t had any problems with his, since he got it in 2013.

And since I prefer Windows 7, I purchased an OEM for Windows 7 Professional 64 bit, which should arrive sometime next week. I’ll use it once I have an appropriate laptop actually in my possession. I have also done in depth research of the Intel CPU, which one would allow an installation of 7 over 10, and which ones wouldn’t. I think I’ve figured that one out. I have far too many links gathered for all the steps to everything, so that’s what I’ve been doing this week! I also gathered all relating links to drivers that still support Windows 7 in either the CPU of Intel or AMD.

I also asked questions at Reddit, Seven Forums, Tom’s Hardware Forum, and Bleeping Computers so that I would have everything straight. As a side note, from one of those I gained the alternative of the Acer Aspire desktop, should other ideas not work. So that’s why I’ve been a bit quiet—research!

And on a non computer note, The Collinsport Historical Society has their round-up of everywhere that Dark Shadows can be found this Halloween season. If only I had Decades and TCM, I would be so happy on October 28th.

*We have a local place that works on all things HP, so if anything happens, straight to the manufacturer it can go.

Working Weather

Sep. 23rd, 2017 08:46 pm
kevin_standlee: (House)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
With Autumn's arrival, we have reached one of the windows on which we can work on the many tasks around the property at Fernley House where we neither freeze nor melt. The weather today was essentially perfect for working on some jobs that we've been avoiding all summer and about which I will write more later when the full project is concluded. But after roughly eight hours toiling away at it, Lisa and I were both tired, sore, and hungry, so we got cleaned up and went to the Black Bear Diner for dinner. After dinner, Lisa won $5 on her favorite slot machine, which she kindly gave to me to help pay for part of the dinner.

If we're not too sore tomorrow, we have more jobs to do. There are only a few weeks of good weather before it starts getting too cold and the days too short for us to get much done, so we have to make the most of what we have.

Too hot

Sep. 23rd, 2017 08:35 pm
flemmings: (Default)
[personal profile] flemmings
Had a lymph drainage massage today. Made me overwhelmingly sleepy.

In light of the recent additions to the Points series, I now find the Marlowe sections of The Armor of Light much more Astreianty than before. Not exactly a sketch for Eslingen, but a less positive version of same.


jennlk: (Default)

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