Planet (Former) Advogato

This is a complement to Advogato, it is an aggregation of blogs of those who used to post on Advogato, but for one reason or another moved their blog from Advogato. It is provided as a service to those who would like to read the "greater Advogato" community.

This site works only as a Planet, it aggregates the post only, to comment on a blog entry, click on the title or time to go to the blog entry on the original site, hopefully it will have a comment facility.

May 02, 2015

Rachel Chalmers [rachel]

the winter soldier

So I did a podcast! I can’t bear the sound of my own voice but if you can, you may endure it here. I hasten to add that Sumana and Brendan are delightful and so are their voices. Like most of the people I know, they were bewildered by how completely I succumbed to Captain America fandom last summer, and wished to inquire further.

I’ve complained often, most recently in the context of Pym, about how never I or characters resembling me show up in fiction. This was a feature, not a bug, for many years. Books were windows, not mirrors. But representation is important, and eventually the lack of representation of genderqueer financiers who grew up on mining asteroids started to get to me.

Of course, when I eventually encountered myself in fiction, it was as a traumatized amnesiac supersoldier, so go figure. I mean that literally: I had to go and figure this out. It took me months to unpack why it was Bucky – and not even really MCU Bucky (lovely and brilliant as Seb Stan is) but the Bucky of chapter 2 of part 2 of Feather’s epic novel Your Blue Eyed Boys, Bucky sitting on a roof panicking because something good has happened, because he has made a human connection. (I misremembered in the podcast: this scene takes place after he hooks up with Steve.) What, exactly, about this did I recognize?

The full answer is beyond the scope of this blog but the short answer is trauma. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, a period that future rachaeologists may term my Nightmare Phase, I ran away all the time: I panicked, I fled, I lost my fucking shit. I did not know why. I thought I was just broken. Spoiler! I was, but not innately. I was a product of a society that had no better use for me than to try (and fail) to wipe my personality and shape me into a weapon.

Back then I did not have the names I have now for my child-abusing church or my rape factory of an undergraduate university. I fell for the cover story, which was that Australia was egalitarian and a worker’s paradise. It took me a long time to notice the blindingly fucking obvious, which is that Australia is ruled by cruel and complacent old money undertaking wholesale environmental destruction, and that every institution depends on the unpaid labor if not outright exploitation of women and people of colour.

This is the point at which Liz always likes to jump in and say, that’s not just Australia. Which is true. But my metal arm has the Southern Cross where Bucky’s has just one red star.

Anyway so, I have spent the last nine months or so reading up on why some people (Spoiler! Me.) have crippling anxiety and are hypervigilant and kind of agoraphobic and don’t know when they are hungry or tired or whether things hurt. Trauma is not the defining fact of my life by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a model with explanatory power, like how for example people lying to children about important things makes me feel dead inside.

Still, as Salome always reminds me, mine is a very mild case and even the things that happened to people I love were not the worst things, and have proved to be largely survivable. The only real gift of suffering is compassion, and I hope that the fucked-up things that happened will make me more patient, more empathetic, less apt to judge, more able and willing to listen.

The name winter soldier comes first from Thomas Paine’s These are the times that try men’s souls, and second from the investigations into war crimes in Vietnam, instigated by the veterans themselves. To be a winter soldier is to own the shitty things that you have done and to believe in a better world even when that seems impossible. In this sense, Steve is a winter soldier too. He’s the America I want to believe in: the supersoldier who remembers how it felt to be skinny, the superpower that remembers what it meant to be a colony. I am the mining asteroid and I am the weapon. But that’s not all I am.

May 02, 2015 12:38 AM

April 30, 2015

Michael Still [mikal]

Coding club day one: a simple number guessing game in python

I've recently become involved in a new computer programming club at my kids' school. The club runs on Friday afternoons after school and is still very new so we're still working through exactly what it will look like long term. These are my thoughts on the content from this first session. The point of this first lesson was to approach a programming problem where every child stood a reasonable chance of finishing in the allotted 90 minutes. Many of the children had never programmed before, so the program had to be kept deliberately small. Additionally, this was a chance to demonstrate how literal computers are about the instructions they're given -- there is no room for intuition on the part of the machine here, it does exactly what you ask of it.

The task: write a python program which picks a random number between zero and ten. Ask the user to guess the number the program has picked, with the program telling the user if they are high, low, or right.

We then brainstormed the things we'd need to know how to do to make this program work. We came up with:

  • How do we get a random number?
  • What is a variable?
  • What are data types?
  • What is an integer? Why does that matter?
  • How do we get user input?
  • How do we do comparisons? What is a conditional?
  • What are the possible states for the game?
  • What is an exception? Why did I get one? How do I read it?


With that done, we were ready to start programming. This was done with a series of steps that we walked through as a group -- let's all print hello work. Now let's generate a random number and print it. Ok, cool, now let's do input from a user. Now how do we compare that with the random number? Finally, how do we do a loop which keeps prompting until the user guesses the random number?

For each of these a code snippet was written on the whiteboard and explained. It was up to the students to put them together into a program which actually works.

Due to limitations in the school's operating environment (no local python installation and repl.it not working due to firewalling) we used codeskulptor.org for this exercise. The code that the kids ended up with looks like this:

    import random
    
    # Pick a random number
    number = random.randint(0, 10)
    
    # Now ask for guesses until the correct guess is made
    done = False
    
    while not done:
        guess = int(raw_input('What is your guess?'))
        print 'You guessed: %d' % guess
        
        if guess < number:
            print 'Higher!'
        elif guess > number:
            print 'Lower!'
        else:
            print 'Right!'
            done = True
    


The plan for next session (tomorrow, in the first week of term two) is to recap what we did at the end of last term and explore this program to make sure everyone understands how it works.

Tags for this post: coding_club teaching coding
Related posts: I'm glad I've turned on comments here; Huffman coding Comment

April 30, 2015 09:18 AM

April 29, 2015

David Dorward [dorward]

A self-indulgent rant about software with a happy ending

Last night I volunteered to convert a couple of documents to PDF for a friend.

‘It'll be easy’, I thought, ‘it'll only take a few minutes’.

The phrase "Ha" comes to mind.

Adobe Acrobat can't import DOCX files. This wasn't a huge surprise and I was prepared.

One a quick trip to Pages later and … one document came out blank while the other was so badly misaligned that it was unusable.

‘Never mind’, thought I, ‘there are other options’.

OpenOffice rendered both DOCX files as blank. This was not progress.

‘Fine, fine, let's see what MS Office is like these days’.

There was a free trial of the upcoming Office for Mac available. A 2.5GB download later and I had a file which would, when double clicked, make an icon appear in the dock for about two seconds before quitting.

At this point, I admit I was getting frustrated.

Off to Office 365 I went. I'd even have gone so far as to give Microsoft my £5.95 for a month of access to it, if they'd let me login. I was presented with a blank page after entering my Live credentials.

I got the same result after switching web browser to one that wasn't laden down with the features that make the WWW bearable.

Did Microsoft not want my money?

(The more I deal with DOCX, the less I like it).

By this point, it was past midnight, I was running out of options, and I didn't want to let my friend down.

Then I found the rather wonderful convertonelinefree.com (Gosh, this paragraph looks a bit spammy, it isn't though.) and I had the DOCX files converted a minute later.

So time to talk about Adobe software… in a blog post where I've been ranting about software. Brace yourselves…

I really like Acrobat CC. (Has the sky fallen? No? OK, then. Let us continue.)

I don't know what someone who has used earlier versions a lot will think of the dramatic UI changes, but as an occasional user, it is really rather nice.

It combined my two files without a hitch and did a near perfect job of identifying all the form fields I wanted to be editable.

The step-by-step UI is rather nice and makes it easy to find the various tools to edit the document.

April 29, 2015 08:17 AM

April 28, 2015

Dalibor Topic [robilad]

Next Gig: GeeCON

I'll be back in May in Kraków to speak at GeeCON - this time about JDK 9.

See you there!

April 28, 2015 10:14 AM

April 27, 2015

Rachel Chalmers [rachel]

five things to force-reboot the blog

1. I don’t know what to tell you about my father. I’m very sad.

2. I took Boo Bear the horse to a show – the same show Gunther and I prevailed at last year. Boo Bear and I did not prevail. He refused many, many times. I was mortified. The next day, with another, much better rider, he was even naughtier and ended up galloping around the ring with no rider and no bridle on. Eventually he remembered that he is lazy and walked over to Toni, asking to be taken home. Shaming as this all was, it makes a significantly funnier story than my uneventful outing with Gunther, and I have been dining out on it ever since.

3. In reflecting on this it occurred to me that Gunther is Gryffindor (bravery, daring, nerve and chivalry) and Boo Bear is Slytherin (ambitious, cunning and resourcefulness.) I ended up putting all the horses I have ever loved into their houses. Bellboy, Alfie, Noah and Rhun: Gryffindors. Bella and Ruah, Slytherin. Roland, Ravenclaw. Dear old Jackson, Hufflepuff.

4. Julia aced her first piano audition and Claire is setting up her Etsy store. I love my nerdy, awesome kids.

5. There is no fifth thing.

April 27, 2015 11:37 PM