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I recently posted a somewhat sideways thought to twitter. Expanding the thought properly requires more than 140 characters, so I'll do it here rather than there.

Purple number one: Violet
Imagine looking at a rainbow. (If a real rainbow is available, stop wasting time reading this and go and look at it. Admiring pretty things is a vital and shockingly undervalued lifeskill.) Purple is the bit between blue and ultraviolet - since most people can't see ultraviolet, it is therefore the innermost chunk of the rainbow, fading into blue on one side, and invisibility on the other. This type of purple consists of photons with wavelengths in the rough range 380 to 450 nanometres.

Purple number two: Magenta
Now imagine looking at an LCD screen showing a picture of a rainbow. (Feel free to find one on whatever device you're using to read this if you've not practiced admiring pretty things recently.) It looks very similar, right? But your screen isn't emitting a single photon in the 380-450nm range; it isn't physically capable of doing so.

So far, this is actually entirely normal, as far as human vision goes. (Human vision, like almost everything else to do with the human nervous system, is a weird heap of barely functional kludges piled on top of other, older, kludges in a way that really shouldn't work but collapses surprisingly infrequently for something so absurdly incoherent. But that's another story.) Most colours can exist in either of these forms. So a yellow flower might be reflecting just a single wavelength in the 570-590nm range, or it might be a mixture of different wavelengths, some longer and some shorter, the average of which lies in that range[1].

And that's where purple gets unusually weird. If you want to show cyan, you mix green (longer wavelength) and blue (shorter wavelength), and your eye/brain interprets this as being something between the two. But if you want to display purple, you mix blue (longer wavelength than purple) and red (much longer wavelength). And then your brain says "halfway between red and blue is green, but there isn't any green here, so it must be something else", and shows you purple. Some of the magenta-purples you see when it does this are indistinguishable from the violet-purples that you see looking at a real rainbow. But it's possible to combine reds and blues to produce magenta-purples that (to a typical person's perception) don't match any wavelength of light at all.

There are other types of colour that can never be produced with a single wavelength of light - brown is the obvious example - but "Purple" is unusual, in English at least, in being both a chunk of the visible spectrum and a batch of non-spectrum colours.

[1] in practice, a flower is never going to be reflecting just a single wavelength. In fact, even sodium streetlights emit two, albiet two pretty close together. But imagine a flower that does, OK?


Mar. 31st, 2017 01:16 pm
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I had intended, once more, to try and get back into the habit of posting at least once a week, as the closest to a meaningful new year's resolution I was likely to manage. Squeaking my first entry of the year in just before the end of March doesn't really meet that (not-so-)lofty target, does it?

Partly, I think I've been letting "write something worth reading" be the enemy of "write something, anything". Partly, [personal profile] stripey_cat and I do both seem to have been even more low energy than usual, the last couple of months. (Some of the latter can probably be blamed on politics - which subject I'm probably going to try and avoid round here, since I already get more than enough on Twitter.)

Speaking of Twitter, I'm now working on a proper post related to this poll. Hopefully I'll get it up later on today.
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On the whole, the last few weeks have been pretty good (by our standards) in terms of stuff actually getting done. There are more shelves in the living room than there were a week ago (although most of them are as-yet unfilled), and the piles of boxes are starting to show further shrinkage. We've also switched over to our new electricity supplier (British Gas, basically because we had to go to one of the big - is it six? - and our gas supply was already with them), who rang up to apologise for the fact they wouldn't be able to switch our prey-pay[1] meter to a proper one until mid-January. They contacted us, the day after they became our supplier, to confirm that the meter change would happen, and apologise for not getting it done sooner. Makes a nice change after a year of nPower's delay and denial tactics. (Sure, I'd rather not have the six-week wait, and in the longer run we'll probably want to switch to one of the co-ops or other more eco-friendly groups, but by comparison this is pretty d*mn amazing.)

[1] this was a typo, but is sufficiently accurate I'm going to let it stay!
tigerfort: The Telephoto Lens of Sauron, for things too far away to see with his eye (Camera)
Once more winter has come; once more the solstice is past; once more I have almost completely failed to be even remotely organised. But [personal profile] stripey_cat got some (gluten-free) cooking done earlier, so we are able to greet the season with appropriately excessive quantities of baked goods!

The smaller tigers eagerly wait for the cookies to be cool enough to eat
There are giant-sized portions for all, even those who are not giant themselves!

Pico Tiger, exhausted but happy, with a very full stomach, next to the remaining half of his cookie
Pico seems not to have learned that while tigers may safely break the rule about not eating anything larger than your head, it's unwise to try and eat something larger than your entire body in a single sitting. Still, he's had a lot of (chocolate and peanut) cookie, and there's more for later, so he's definitely happy!

(As usual, larger versions of the photos on click-through)

Anyway, happy holidays, everybody, and have fun but try not to make yourselves ill doing so!

A year on

Nov. 28th, 2016 11:42 pm
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Well, a year and a month and a half, or thereabouts. Since we moved here, that is. Much of the stuff we had plannedhoped to get done in our first year remains entirely not done. Sorting out the garden? Nope. Redecorating some of the tattier rooms? Not even one. Visitors for weekends of gaming fun? We do have a (single) spare bed, and have had one visitor, but we need to invite more, and it still isn't really possible to have more than one at a time. There still isn't a useable table and the other (double) extra bed remains hidden away in K's parents' house, awaiting a point where we communally have the energy to move it. The piles of boxes are somewhat reduced, but still present in most rooms.

We do have quite a lot of books out on shelves, though, and hope to get more (shelves put up, and books put on them) by Christmas. And most of the boardgame collection is sitting on shelves eagerly awaiting the chance to be played, even if there's nowhere to play them yet.

Some of that's progress in the (oops) nearly two months since I last posted. In particular, we paid a visit to Ikea('s website) and got a bunch of Billys to go along one wall of the living room, which allowed quite a few boxes to be unpacked, making more room to do other stuff in. We also finally got a water meter fitted, and we're even in the process of escaping from [insert expletives] nPower. Hopefully, once we've switched, our new supplier will be more amenable to pressure to replace the *&!@# key-meter with a standard one. (Not least because they'll know that, unlike nPower, they can't lie and tell us it isn't possible to switch supplier while you're on one.)

So progress in the 1st year and a bit, while it feels pretty slim a lot of the time, was definitely made (and our expectations of ourselves were, as always, unrealistic, even without accounting for the inevitable post-move crash and the delays and problems caused by needing to get the place rewired).
tigerfort: The Telephoto Lens of Sauron, for things too far away to see with his eye (Photos)
I seem to have fallen off the at-least-one-post-per-week wagon again, don't I. Oh well. This isn't much of a post, but hopefully there'll be more to come in the near future; I've finally managed to get round to processing a batch of photos to start putting up. Flowers, Sunsets, and parts of the fort to come in the future, but for now have the sun hiding behind some clouds.

The sun shining out from behind, and also reflecting in, some clouds.
(Click for embiggenized - or at least less shrinkified - version)

Eye Upgrade

Aug. 7th, 2016 02:09 am
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Update, sorry, I meant update. It is almost back to normal functioning now, but I don't (sadly) have any cyberpunky extras like a built in telephoto lens or infra-red vision. My pupil is round again and dilating normally, and the related pain seems to be gone as well. The steroid drops make my vision a bit dodgy - focussing just isn't quite right for the first couple of hours after each one - but I'm dropping to four doses per day from tomorrow, which should make it a bit easier to do things that require proper binocular vision.

Once more, we say hurrah for modern medicine and the NHS!
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Why don't hazardous waste bins have "Caveat Emptier" on them?
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I've been asked if I can let anyone who is both in/near London and might be interested in it know about "a staging of Midsummer Nights Dream exploring equality, the patriarchy and LGBTQIA+". I can't really say anything more about it, since I've not seen it, but if anyone here is interested, performances seem to be every evening this week. (With a two-tickets-for-GBP10 on Fri/Sat/Sun, see here.)
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The difference a day and a huge quantity of prescription medicines make, to be more specific. (Where "huge quantity" amounts to probably less than 1/10 gram of actual drugs, but that's in quite a lot of doses of several different things.)

Relatedly, I seem to still be sucking at the more-frequent-posting thing, don't I?

medical stuff, in case you'd not guessed )
Other than that, I have mostly spent the last week or so listening to audiobooks, for some reason. If anyone would like to recommend cheerful soothing podcasts that I can download as MP3s without having to f*ck around with iThings, I'd be very grateful.
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Just a quick post nailing together some thoughts:

My working hypothesis, given the evidence from his own statements and his wife's leaked email, is that Gove genuinely stepped into the leadership campaign to stop Johnson, but also that he genuinely doesn't want to be PM. Specifically, he's entered the leadership contest because his presence gives the 1922 committee two candidates (Gove and May) that they can convincingly claim are better candidates than Johnson. That means that Johnson never makes it to the last-two-only election by members (which he might plausibly win) instead being chucked out "with regret" by a group of parliamentary colleagues who are known to loath him. (This calculation is also why Johnson folded immediately. He can't win, and defeated candidates don't get a second chance. Whether he thinks he'll get another opportunity later, or is accepting defeat I don't want to guess.)

Why does this matter to Gove? Well, it's possible that he's genuinely noticed that Johnson would be a shockingly bad PM. But I think Gove has primarily backstabbed Johnson on behalf of someone else: a certain media baron who (according to Sarah Vine) does not regard Johnson as reliably on-side. With Johnson out of the way, the final Tory leader is guaranteed to be someone Murdoch approves of, and who will ensure Murdoch gets what he wants (in the name of "markets", probably).

On the basis of this, I predict that, assuming we wind up with Gove and May as the final two, he will then announce that he's dropping out (in exchange for one of the "great offices of state"). Everything neat and tidy and controlled, with no Johnson and no need for a members' vote. (If they reckon May is a shoe-in, Gove might stay in for the appearance of democracy, but I'm not sure whether they value the appearance of democracy or unity higher.) If one of the others makes it to the final two (unlikely, IMO), then whichever of Gove or May is the official candidate stays in, though I think Gove is the more likely of the two to be knocked out anyway.
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Today's drop in the value of the pound (against the USD, specifically) was, as many people have noted, the largest ever recorded. That's true, but doesn't give a real sense of how unprecedented it is: today's drop - from day's end to day's end - was bigger than the second and third largest drops put together. If you count from yesterday's peak at the start of counting to today's nadir (ie 24-hr high to low), the Leave drop is larger than the second, third, and fourth largest currency crashes in UK history put together.

(For reference, drops two to four are the "Winter of Discontent" in 1978, the UK's ignominious exit from the ERM in 1992, and the 2008 financial crisis, in that order.)

Except that according to Krugman none of that is even remotely true. Which makes me wonder where the BBC (and others reporting the same) got their figures from, given how far off they look to be. (The BBC gives the ERM crash as 4.3%, Krugman says "about a quarter". That's a big difference!)

Correction to the correction: Krugman turns out to be comparing yesterday's single-day change with the longer-term effects of other catastrophes. The original stands. Thanks to [personal profile] ewx for pointing this out.
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Technically, it's not over as I type this, but since the 14 authorities that haven't declared their counts would all need to be in the top 15 remain vote-shares, it doesn't look good. Even in the vanishingly unlikely chance that we do edge the referendum, the country is wrecked, and the world economy looks set to follow; realistically, the singularity has arrived, just not the one we were supposed to be expecting.

I shall continue to hope for the best, but my fears have become much stronger.
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Naturally, practically the first thing that happened once the workmen had finished was that [personal profile] stripey_cat slipped on the stairs and sprained her ankle. Nothing worse than a sprain, but plenty bad enough to put paid to her plan to get started straight away on redecorating a couple of rooms. The bruising is beginning to fade, and she's starting to walk more normally again, which is good, but we're both a little frustrated by the loss of forward momentum.

However, the wiring is now done (except for the garage, which will be sorted out in a couple of weeks' time). The chandeliers have been replaced with fittings that are both more to our taste and easier not to bang your head on. The wall sockets have not increased that much in number, but they're all properly earthed, and none of them are dangling of their wires or connected to lighting circuits. And the light inside the downstairs shower[1] is now a watertight unit designed for use in a bathroom, rather than a random GU10 halogen fitting with no environmental sealing.

[1] yes, literally inside the shower cubicle. Yes, I did shower in there with the lights off, the couple of times I used it. Why do you ask?

Now I suppose I should go back to trying not to be an nPower customer. Bunch of R-soles.
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I've just updated my essay on asking about gender and titles with a note that you should never assume you can "work out" someone's gender from other information about them. I'd rather assumed this was obvious, but apparently it isn't. Oh, people.
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It seems to be a month or so since I last posted, making a mockery once more of the once-a-week target. Currently (not literally currently, it's Sunday morning! But much of last week and also of next week), the fort is full of people drilling holes in walls, pulling up floorboards, and replacing the previous owners' unique artisan wiring with stuff that complies with safety regs and doesn't give me nightmares. [personal profile] stripey_cat's social anxiety handles this sort of thing about as well as you might expect. (I may be the teensiest bit strung-out myself, one way and another.)

In the meantime, I've now had my second appointment with the audiologist. Second and last, in fact; I've been officially discharged from the clinic, to (I think) mutual satisfaction. The tinnitus hasn't changed at all over the intervening period, but I'm now able to cope with it much better than I was. Little things (some of which I'd meant to try anyway), but a big cumulative difference.
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So Sentinel News have a post doubting the idea of a Universal Basic Income, consisting of questions the author thinks you should ask of anyone who proposes it. The author asserts that people "are using Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a euphemism for their lack of understanding of welfare, the labour market, and the economy." But the questions she proposes can be asked to varying degrees about any proposed change to our current welfare system, and her comments under those headings pre-suppose that the UBI is intended to be a magical panacea. I've not met anyone who thinks that it would be a complete solution to the problems with our current system (though I'm willing to belive that such people exist, and that she's had to deal with them, because there are idiots everywhere). The real world is complicated, and full of people who are not only complicated, but also imperfect, and all different from one another in both their complexities and imperfections. You can't have a panacea for societal problems, except perhaps in the very smallest groups (though even there I suspect someone will feel hard-done-by).

Do I want a UBI? Well, I want to massively overhaul the current system to make it easier for people to get what they need (fraud is largely a non-problem, despite what some will claim), and to provide better support for those who need more - or different - than just the basics[1]. It could also stand a good deal of simplification, given how mind-bendingly difficult to understand the current arrangements are. A universal basic income could certainly be a part of such an improved-and-simplified system. Is it the best basis to work from in building one? I don't know. But it could certainly be made to work, which is as much as can be said for any other proposal I've seen.

[1] note of personal interest: my partner and I are both disabled, and need extra support because of that. Neither of us is ever likely to be able to work again. I have a very strong personal interest in ensuring a working welfare state.

However, lets go through the questions and supply some answers:
Read more... )

TL,DR? The benefit system needs reworking, as the author of the original piece admits. Any system can be distorted to punish, rather than help, the poor (as the author also acknowledges), and our current system has become seriously distorted.
Our current benefits system held out for 70 years before the context changed significantly enough around it that we need to replace it. How long will UBI last and how will it respond to changing economic and social circumstances that cannot be predicted?

That's a hard question to answer. But it isn't a question that only applies to UBI, it's a question that needs to be asked of every solution anyone proposes. Unfortunately, I suspect that the answer is actually the same in every case - we don't know, because we don't know what the future will hold. We can only do our best to choose the option that gives the best results now.
Is that option going to be a UBI based system? I don't know, but I'm not willing to dismiss the possibility, given the various promising trials around the world. Yes, a UBI by itself is not an adequate social safety net, but no single measure ever will be.

Still TLDR? The benefits system is complicated, and currently broken. It needs fixing, and a UBI could be part of that fixed system. Is it part of the "best" solution? I don't know. I don't even know if there is a "best" solution. But some UBI-including solutions could certainly work.

[NB: responses to comments likely to be slow; I've spent about two days' worth of spoons getting all this on screen since the piece was posted yesterday, and I'm unlikely to have many spare while I recover from the exertion.]
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SpaceX have just successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. From a technological viewpoint, provided that the rocket is indeed fully (or even mostly) reusable, that's a pretty big step forward. Even if that rocket can't be reused, it's a solid move towards making one that is. I was impressed.

But then I started to think about the physics of it from outside the aerospace technology angle. Essentially, what they did was this: They dropped a 25-storey building out of the sky, and used controlled explosions to land it exactly upright on a floating platform that's narrower than the building is tall, without damaging either and leaving the combined system nice and stable.

When I look at it like that, it's no longer impressive, it's incredible.

Science is awesome.

ETA: Actually, that's not quite right. The height figure I was using (just over 70 metres) turns out to be for the whole Falcon 9 rocket, rather than just the first stage. The part landing on the barge is only 44m tall, so that's only about 15 stories, not 25. Which doesn't make the achievement any less amazing.
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It seems to be about two months since I last posted - I knew I'd been thoroughly failing the one-per-week goal, but I hadn't realised it was that bad.

Mostly, things have been carrying on steadily, either level or slowly improving, since February:

  • Our cooker was finally fitted, and is very nice to have. I may have spent more of the day it arrived than was strictly necessary bouncing joyfully up and down and saying "cooker" excitedly.

  • The builders do appear to have successfully stopped the rain coming in.

  • The DWP managed to sort themselves out and start paying again, even coughing up the back payment in time for us to hand most of it over to the builders.

  • nPower continue to be both our electricity supplier and completely useless. Partly this is because they're so determined to make life difficult, and partly it's because dealing with them requires quite a lot of spoons that I often have more urgent uses for.

  • Our assorted medical conditions seem to continue largely the same.

Because of these things and, er, one or two others, I've not been online much, but will hopefully be able to pay some more attention to life now.


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