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Well, apparently today is Pi Day* and the fantastic Marcus de Sautoy's latest podcast gives us a comprehensive roundup of the history and properties of pi.

I feel a sense of irrational delight.


*3.14... only works if you're American, really.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Nicholas Courtney has died at the age of 81, after a short illness.

He will be much missed - not only was he superb as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, but he was the honorary president of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, a regular and charming participant at conventions, and by all reports a thoroughly good chap.

Video tribute below the cut: some of the Brig's many Crowning Moments of Awesome )
arachnekallisti: (act her age)
The Fifteen Character Meme. It goes like this:
1. I make a list of 15 fictional characters.
2. You post questions about entertaining situations they might get into (such as "6 and 7 walk into a pub. What do they order and where do they sit?" or "How do 4, 7 and 15 cope with a zombie apocalypse?").
3. I answer the questions.
4. You try to guess who the 15 characters are.
5. I post the list of the ones you guess.

All right? Then let's play.

The list of characters, with correct guesses included )

And we're done! Good guessing, flist!
arachnekallisti: (Default)
The Leverage/WH40K crossover.

No, really.

Featuring the adventures of Lord-Captain Nathan Fforde, of the Rogue Trader ship Leverage; his Seneschal, Sophia Devereaux; Arch-Militant and former mercenary Colonel Eliot; Explorator Hardison ("It's the age of the Magos, baby!"); and a woman known only as Parker, who was thrown out of the Callidus Temple for not being good enough at the social skills bit.

Their plan: to save the Imperium from itself by reviving Roboute Guilliman.

"Let's go steal us a Primarch!"

(Now I just need a plot and tedious things like that).
arachnekallisti: (Default)
I'm actually rather looking forward to the festive period this year. Time off work, chance to catch up with friends and relatives I don't see much of, an excuse to give people I like some nice things, and some parties. Sounds good to me.

Anyway, Obscure Christmassy Songs That Are Not Completely Naff. Some exist, and here they are. (The absence of Pogues is not because I don't like "The Fairytale Of New York" - far from it - it's because I'm assuming you know about it already.)

1. Half Man Half Biscuit - "It's Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas"
A sweet, dreamy melody that sounds a bit Cocteau Twins, and kids singing carols. Offbeat even for HMHB, but a defiant celebration of having fun even if it isn't very cool. The video is filmed in and around the Wirral, and I shall stop before I go off on another Northern Pride kick.
2. Kate Bush - "December Will Be Magic Again"
It's Kate Bush being all sort of perky and otherworldly. Like one of Santa's elves as reimagined by Brian Froud and Tim Burton.
3. St Etienne featuring Tim Burgess - "I Was Born On Christmas Day"
Bright, euphoric synthpop with just enough in the way of bells to sound festive without being syrupy. Invigorating like a clear and frosty morning.
4. Zombina and the Skeletones - "A Chainsaw for Christmas"
The eternal problem of the well-intentioned but utterly unsuitable Christmas present gets a psychobilly/bubblegum pop/B-movie treatment. Squick and gore warnings as regards the video. Very festive.
5. Jonathan Coulton - "Chiron Beta Prime"
A Christmas circular from a family enslaved by robots in deep space, to an incredibly perky tune. Probably the best Christmas song about a dystopian future ever.
6. Goldfrapp - "Winter Wonderland"
A gorgeous, sparkly, ethereal synthpop cover. Perfect for the Dr Who Christmas fanvid :)
7. The Kinks - "Father Christmas"
A department store Father Christmas gets mugged by a teenage gang. Christmas with a side of class war.
8. The Vandals - "Oi To The World"
A ska-flavoured punk appeal for tolerance, forgiveness and a bit less bloody racism this Christmas. Are you listening, Daily Mail?
9. All About Eve - "Last Christmas"
A sweet, wistful version, all mist and snow. Pleasantly melancholy.
10. The Darkness - "Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)"
Justin Hawkins does his quasi-parodic rock god thing to great, and transcendently silly, effect here. The obligatory bells and childrens' choir blended with the Darkness' trademark falsetto vocals, swooping guitars, lycra and knob jokes. I can't go through Christmas without listening to this.

Videos under the cut )
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Soundtrack is your friend. VNV Nation generally makes everything a bit more epic, as does E. S. Posthumous:.

Perhaps the best choice is Gary Numan's Exile, given that it's an industrial concept album about the War In Heaven. Adds absolute shedloads of epic even if you're trying to cope with Graham McNeill's writing style.

Note 1: do make sure you have your MP3 player set to cycle through tracks by artist, not by artist in order. Fulgrim with a soundtrack by Half Man Half Biscuit was just... unsettling.

Note 2: if the novel in question is Battle for the Abyss, hit the absinthe. You may end up hallucinating a plot and characters.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
A new meme (ganked from [livejournal.com profile] daphnie_1): name any character you know (or think) I might be familiar with, and I will tell you 10 things that are my own personal canon about them.

It will, at least, make my lunch hour a bit more exciting.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
I kind of collect weird cover versions. I love them for the same reasons I love bizarre crossovers and cracktastic AUs where everyone's a gerbil. I want to see exactly how far a skilled artist can push it with a song, how far they can go with making the same tune and lyrics convey something entirely differently. Ideally, I'd want the cover version to be as different from the original as possible, and still awesome.

Top Ten: cover versions
1. Florence and the Machine - "Addicted to Love"
Turns the original's smugness into a dreamy slow build to some blazingly confident vocals and flashy piano work. Stunning.
2. Patti Smith - "Gloria"
Another slow burn here. Patti Smith has this amazing, scratchy voice with this kind of snarl to it, and this is punk as all hell.
3. Marsheaux - "Pure"
The original is sweet in a slightly twee way. This is playful, otherwordly, and lucent.
4. The Clockwork Dolls - "The Final Countdown"
It's a ridiculous, bombastic song, and therefore an ideal candidate for a flamboyant steampunk reworking with lots of violins.
5. The Raincoats - "Lola"
Having "Lola" sung by a female voice, especially one with Gina Birch's frayed round the edges DIY punk vibe, adds a whole new interesting layer of genderqueerness to the whole thing. There's a story in my head here, kind of like Tipping the Velvet updated for the punk era.
6. The Genitorturers - "I Touch Myself"
I think it was one of Kit Whitfield's essays that pointed out the D/s subtext in Twilight. Gen's cover brings out the powerplay in a song about adolescent sexual obsession. The Labyrinth vid was picked to really drive the point home. So to speak.
7. Ecstatic Frog - "On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At"
It's a techno bellydance version of a darkly funny Yorkshire folk song. How is that not awesome?
8. Tori Amos - "Raining Blood"
Tori Amos is good at covers. Really good. Turning a thrash metal anthem into something cold and creepy good.
9. Joan Jett and Paul Westerberg - "Let's Do It"
Y'know, there really is a hidden vein of punk in Cole Porter. The songs may be slick and sophisticated on the outside, but the lyrics are all about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. I got this one off the Tank Girl soundtrack - much like the movie, it's not deep, but it is fun.
10. Johnny Cash - "Hurt"
The last song Johnny Cash ever released. It's agonisingly perfect for him. Even Trent Reznor admits that this is Johnny's song now.

Videos under the cut )
arachnekallisti: (Default)
1. Baen Books have released a CD with the new printing of CryoBurn, the latest Miles Vorkosigan novel, which contains a full set of the Vorkosigan Saga and some cool extras. The really shiny thing is that they're also allowing free downloads of this CD as a promotion, and a load of other free SF novels. Which should keep you going for a while.

2. Black Library have also started releasing free ebooks. So far they've got First and Only (Dan Abnett, Sharpe in space, awesome) and Nightbringer (Graham McNeill, Ultramarines, becomes a bit more interesting if you read it with slash goggles on) available, and also some short fiction (including a short story by Sarah Calkwell, who is one of the better Space Marine fanfic writers).

3. The Clockwork Dolls, a rather fantastic steampunk band, have made three of their best songs available for free download here, and there's also their rather fantastic cover version of "Don't Stop Believin'" available.

ETA: And also their cover of "The Final Countdown".

4. Cries of the Planet is Vernian Process' steampunk remix of the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. FREE STEAMPUNK FFVII. DO WANT.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
"It is possible to articulate both the wild, unrestrained optimism and eventual disappointment and betrayal of my entire generation in one word - jetpacks."
- David J. Gunkel
arachnekallisti: (Default)
So now the thesis is handed in and I can start writing for fun again. It's not like I don't have any ideas - I've got four cracktastic epic crossovers planned out, and there's always Amaurot to finish off. I just seem to have a bit of a mental block about putting words together so that they convey a narrative.

On one front, I'm planning out my Deathwatch campaign now, which is getting me used to thinking in terms of characters and settings and connected series of events. This is not the hard bit. The hard bit is actually communicating them by means of typing words on a screen. Or writing them on a piece of paper, if I feel like getting old-school about it.

So, flist, help me out here. Post me some prompts, or suggest me some writing exercises. You know which fandoms I'm into (if you're at all uncertain, TNG or Who are safe bets), and I can also do RPG character related fic. Kick the right hemisphere of my brain until it works again.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Benoit Mandelbrot died on Thursday night of pancreatic cancer, aged 85.

Mandelbrot was one of the first people to use computer visualisations to explore mathematical objects, and the first to find a practical use for the idea of the Hausdorff-Besicovitch dimension, the idea that some objects could be thought of as having fractional dimension. Fractal geometry has had applications in all sorts of areas of applied mathematics, from earthquake data to population dynamics. Mandelbrot even applied his ideas to explaining the global financial crisis.

Mandelbrot kept on working and teaching right up until the end of his life. Here's his talk from TED this July:



He will be much missed.
arachnekallisti: (Science!)
I've just been thinking over the fandoms I'm really drawn to, and it occurs to me that one thing they have in common is incredibly intelligent characters: Sherlock Holmes, Miles Vorkosigan, the Doctor, Batman, the Culture's Minds, Q, Agatha Heterodyne, Willow, Toshiko, Romana...

The question is, how does one go about writing characters like that? At the baseline, you've got the ones who are at the top end of human intelligence, and then you're off into the realm of the superintelligences.

I think it was Vernor Vinge who claimed that authors cannot write convincing characters who are smarter than themselves: if you could work out what a really smart person would do in a given situation, then you are as clever as that really smart person.

The problem with this particular point of view is that authors can cheat. )

Any good ones I've missed? Any more caveats on how to deploy those three?
arachnekallisti: (Default)
On 26th September 1983, Lietenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov saved the world.

A newly-installed satellite early warning network had misidentified reflected sunlight from high-altitude clouds as the launch of five US intercontinental ballistic missiles. Petrov deduced that five missiles would make an unlikely first strike, and based on that and the lack of corroborative radar evidence, decided that he'd rather not risk nuclear war. He was first praised for making the correct judgement call, then reprimanded for not following procedure, and later quietly retired to the town of Fryazino. The story didn't come out until the mid-90s.

Interviewed for a documentary in 2008, Petrov said "I was simply doing my job, and I was the right person at the right time, that's all." The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists records that after the incident, he went home, drank an entire bottle of vodka and slept for 24 hours.

Tell everyone. He deserves to be more famous.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
So my copy of the Deathwatch main rulebook arrived today, just before I left for work. About bloody time!

Expect a proper review later, when I've had a chance to look at it properly. It's a pleasant reminder that there is Life After Thesis. Observations so far:
1. Not that impressed by the cover art, which shows a Space Marine with really weird posture, but the interior art is as lovely as I'd expect from a 40K RPG.
2. The armoury chapter: dear Emperor, that's a lot of ammo types.
3. There are indeed rules for spitting acid and eating your enemies' brains to get their knowledge. The Adeptus Astartes: giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "crack troops".

So I just need to finish my thesis and then I can start writing up a campaign next.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
1. [livejournal.com profile] amy_wolf pointed me at this fic by [livejournal.com profile] annlarimer. It is babyfic. Sherlock babyfic. And it is BRILLIANT and HILARIOUS and WRONG.

2. Hungover Owls. Ignore the captions, the pictures speak for themselves.

3. Anton Vowl of Enemies of Reason continues to post occasional bits of fluff in between taking down tabloid!FAIL. My favourite is probably his definitive list of animals beginning with O (although if you ask me ocelots beat EVERYTHING) and his work towards a biscuit hierarchy.

4. An answer to the question "do tigers like catnip?" Contains much footage of large vicious predators being adorable. Also, ocelots.

5. The Improbable Island. It's a text adventure MMORPG. I have only played it for about ten minutes, but it has me horribly fascinated already. I think I shall finish it post-thesis.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Well, I'm still in Thesis Hell right now, and all that's keeping me going is caffeine, Final Fantasy VII slash and synthpop. I love synthpop. It forcibly alters my brain chemistry and makes me feel all perky and motivated.

Top ten: encouraging happy synthpop tunes
1. Marsheaux - "Empire State Human"
A rather inspired cover of a particularly silly Human League song. And a shameless power fantasy for the shortarse.
2. Goldfrapp - "Alive"
The 80s never ended. The vid is hilarious - sparkly vampires, you're doing it right. And you can only get away with it if you're Alison Goldfrapp.
3. Dragonette - "Take It Like A Man"
Unbelievably catchy hook, incredibly kinky lyrics, and a chorus that sounds a bit like Abba. What's not to like?
4. Marsheaux - "Pure"
The track that first got me fangirling Marsheaux. Another fantastic cover version, this time making a rather twee Lightning Seeds song into something sweet and otherwordly.
5. Freezepop - "Less Talk More Rokk"
Deserves some kind of award for Best Riff In Synthpop. Also one for Best Use Of Mice In A Pop Video.
6. Ladytron - "Burning Up"
A smoky, ominous wall of distortion with a kind of mad obsessive intensity. Also featured in an episode of "Fringe", if you're interested.
7. Covenant - "Dead Stars"
Sleek, stylish, incredibly danceable.
8. Goldfrapp - "Ooh La La"
Flashy, glam, discoey. Simple but incredibly catchy. And references Baudelaire in the lyrics.
9. Marsheaux - "Popcorn"
Another Marsheaux cover version. Because they are rather good at them. A coldly glittery version of the synthpop standard.
10. Erasure - "Drama!"
Starts off subtle, goes for the slow burn, then erupts into a fullblown dancefloor anthem with brilliantly arch vocals.

Videos below the cut. )
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Satoshi Kon, director of Perfect Blue, Paranoia Agent and Paprika died last Tuesday, of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 46. He wrote one last rambling but extraordinary statement on his death, which his family posted posthumously on his blog, and which has been translated into English here.

We've just lost an incredibly talented artist, and the world will be poorer without him.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Thesis is getting done, slowly and painfully. I have all sorts of bits and bobs that just need assumbling into a Thing that Makes Sense. Taking Lord of the Rings as an allegory for a PhD, I think I'm midway through Mordor and recovering from being bitten by Shelob right now.

Anyway, downtime! I should have some. So here are the first lines of fifty songs from my current playlist (note: I skipped the ones in Japanese). Guess the title and artist. I'll strikethrough when they're correctly guessed. Then try it yourself. Fun!

ETA: Answers at the bottom for the curious.

Cut for the sake of your friends page )
arachnekallisti: (Default)
I am in the middle of thesis crunch time. It would be easy to despair. Fortunately, I have been pointed at things that made me laugh and thus prevented me from giving up hope. These things include:

1. Anton Vowl from Enemies of Reason on "Why do I love my ironing board?. I sympathise. I am also strangely fond of my ironing board. I can make cloth flatter with it. This makes me feel In Control.

2. Jane Austen's Fight Club is hilarious and awesome. And features Lizzie Bennett and Fanny Price fighting in their underwear.

3. A cautionary tale from [livejournal.com profile] fanficrants about the importance of good proofreading. It is very plausible that Sirius Black's middle name might be Orion - it's his father's name, it fits with the whole star name thing. The only problem is that it then takes one typo to plunge us into the alternative universe in which the Blacks saddled their son with the middle name Onion. As, presumably, some kind of Slytherin version of the Boy Named Sue.

I kind of want this to be canon now.

ETA: Also, a fox just wandered into my back garden, prowled around for a bit, came right up to the French windows and gave me a Look, then cleared off. And that was quite cool.

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