Posted by John Scalzi

As part of my continuing effort to justify the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription I have, I’ve been playing with my Audition audio software and learning how to use it. Today I learned how to make a multitrack file! Go me. I also played with the various filters in the software to distort and shape sounds.

All of which is to say I recorded a song today and it is very very noisy indeed. It’s “Here Comes the Rain Again,” which is my favorite song from the Eurythmics. Here it is (and no, it’s not actually nine minutes long, I don’t know why the media player says that. It’s, like, five):

Yes, that’s me singing. No, Annie Lennox doesn’t have a thing to worry about.

In case you’re curious, every noise on that track either comes out of me, or out of an acoustic tenor guitar. Audio filters are fun! Let’s just say I let my Thurston out to play, and if you get that reference, congratulations, you’re old too.

No, I’m not giving up my day job. Relax. But I do enjoy playing with sounds. This is fun for me.

In any event: Enjoy the noise.


solarbird: (Default)
Hooo, practice range time makes a huge difference learning Widowmaker play.

I spent a bunch of time on the practice range yesterday and the day before and the impact has been immediate. I had a couple of twitch headshots at lunchtime overwatch that were just nuts. Intent was there, sure, but the mechanics? Pure reflex. Twitch, headshot. Good night, Hanzo. Twitch, headshot. Good night, McCree. Go to sleep.

Plus a few more deliberately aimed headshots. I had some good numbers today. Their McCree was the only one who could get anywhere near me. But more, I'm picking up the always-be-moving part. Not perfectly, of course. But I was thinking of her as best played more still than she should be, and that's wrong. Move. Always.

Also won another couple of duels with enemy Widowmakers, and one - ugh, she was terrible. I'll have this reaction when I'm playing enemy Tracer, when they're terrible - "oh, sister, you shame us all" - and I had that today, as Widow, about an enemy Widow. And I was right. I was a factor. She wasn't. We won, and they barely even ever slowed us down.

Also also, double-kill with a venom mine. That was both a first, and hilarious. "Here, have some deadly neurotoxin I got from my best friend online. Ooh, did that sting? Thanks, I will tell her."

I really do kind of think Widowmaker and GlaDOS would be evil online friends. You know, what with the common interests in deadly neurotoxin and killing. I should learn how to say "the cake is a lie" in French. Google translate says "le gateau est un mensonge." I suspect if it's gonna get anything right, it's that.

Someone should draw them getting together at a café for cake and neurotoxin. Tell me that wouldn't be great. :D

Huh, I guess it's official. I need a Widowmaker icon.
rfmcdonald: (cats)

  • In The Globe and Mail, Elizabeth Renzetti looks at the Toronto debate on having cats indoors or outdoors. (I think the first is best.)

  • Helena Oliveira at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes how people can train their cats to make use of leashes. (Should I have?)

  • The SCMP reports on a Hong Kong prison that will allow inmates to keep cats, for the time being.

vass: Icon of Saint Ignatius being eaten by lions (eaten by lions)
He's being a terrible Dory again. (Sung to the tune of 'I'm telling a terrible story' from The Pirates of Penzance.) This time his evidence exculpatory is that I won't let him use the indoor swimming pool. (No, not the sink. And I don't have a bathtub.)

So he learned to turn the lever sort of door handles and also swing on them in such a way that he can open an outward opening door from the outside. I am pondering technological solutions. I hear there's a form of child lock that works on cats. Until then I'm leaving the lid down and putting a barrier in front of the door, but I expect that won't hold him for long.
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sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
In this next arc, we see the powerful Marquis Xie moving toward securing more power through the oblivious Crown Prince. But he’s not merely the usual rug-chewing bad guy, which makes him so much more interesting. And also unpredictable.

Meanwhile, we are getting to know Xia Dong, Princess Nihuang’s bestie, who still refuses to speak to Prince Jing. She is loyal and honest and a fierce warrior. (And she has a very, very bumpy ride ahead of her.)

Finally, Princess Nihuang is confused and intrigued by this reclusive scholar who has the power to send military aid to a province on the other side of the continent, and yet who refuses to set foot in a falling-down house . . . and we see the building emotional cost to MC when spending more time with the princess and with Jing.

The next few eps are the midpoint of act one, and reach a climax I thought really intense on the first watch. I couldn’t believe that the intensity was going to scale upward exponentially—but it does. And by intensity I don’t mean climbing body counts, which enervate me fast. I mean real, personal stakes. Emotional cost. Political layers with real cost. So much intensity, so much beauty.
Read more... )
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twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
Absurd vid prompt: for Arrow, clips from any suitable season, to the tune of 'Suite Judy Blue Eyes' by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

"It's getting to the point where I'm no fun anymore... I am sorry..."

Posted by Megan Geuss

Enlarge (credit: EWE)

A German energy company recently announced that it’s partnering with a university to build a massive flow battery in underground salt caverns that are currently used to store natural gas. The grid-tied battery, the company says, would be able to power Berlin for an hour.

The technology that the project is based on should be familiar to Ars readers. Two years ago, Ars wrote about an academic paper published in Nature that described “a recipe for an affordable, safe, and scalable flow battery.” German researchers had developed better components for a large, stationary battery that used negatively and positively charged liquid electrolyte pools to exchange electrons through a reasonably priced membrane. These so-called “flow batteries” are particularly interesting for grid use—they have low energy-density, so they don’t work for portable energy storage. But as receptacles for utility-scale electricity storage, their capacity is limited only by the amount of space you have.

Now the ideas in that paper are graduating to real-world use. EWE Gasspeicher, a gas-storage company owned by German power company EWE, announced in June that it’s looking into building the researchers’ flow battery in two medium-sized salt caverns that the company has been using to store natural gas. EWE is calling the project “brine4power,” reflecting how a saltwater brine is used in the electrolyte.

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twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
Being a fool, I have signed up to write
A tale in Stage of Fools, perhaps as practice
For the Yuletide gifting, perhaps to try
To write more now and write more easily.
I am out of practice; all that I wrote
For long months was the acts of foolish men
Enamoured of power, ignoring all else
But their wealth, their women, their greedy lust
For more, and more, and more. I hope this change
Will give me pause to think and dream again
Of a kinder life with gentler rulers
Than well-fattened boors despoiling the land,
Discouraging the people -- there, see? I need
To write something joyous or funny now,
Polish up my pentameter, employ
Wit, and play with sweet William's stories.
Where's my pen? where's the prompt? Lead me onward!

Posted by Nathan Mattise

Enlarge / Welcome to the nerdiest, most-inside-baseball TV event this side of network upfronts. (credit: Nathan Mattise)

AUSTIN, Texas—Familiar IP (intellectual property) runs rampant on TV these days no matter where a viewer turns. Netflix openly exploits its access to the Marvel universe and has a penchant for reinvigorating classic IP across medium (from Wet Hot American Summer to Fuller House). Small cable networks offer numerous examples: CW has opted for DC with Arrow and The Flash; FX has FargoSyFy has The Expanse; Starz has American Godsand on and on. Even the big networks have embraced this, and recently they can’t seem to leave vintage movies alone (whether we’re discussing Fox’s Minority Report and Lethal Weapon attempts or NBC’s departed-too-soon Hannibal).

At this summer’s ATX Television Festival, execs from major players like HBO, Freeform, Marvel, and Dreamworks took the stage together hoping to shed some light on the trend. High rates of IP recycling haven’t coincided with a lack of engaging originals (see: Stranger Things, Mad Men, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul, The Americans, GLOW, etc.). Evidently, the modern TV landscape offers room for both, so why the glut of familiar franchises? Everyone in attendance had plenty of theories.

“To start, it’s a risky business, and most of the stuff we develop just fails,” Marvel’s Grant Gish said. “But when you have a leg up—a great book, comic book, old movie, or TV show—it eliminates some of that.” Gish notes a known Marvel entity carries with it automatic audience awareness. And if network execs remain conservative when greenlighting productions, assurances of an inherent audience can go a long way.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted by David Kravets

Enlarge (credit: Linday Fox)

A divided federal appeals court is upholding a President Barack Obama-era regulation that barred e-cigarette smoking—also known as vaping—on both inbound and outbound US flights.

The US Department of Transportation officially banned electronic cigarettes on flights in March of 2016 to clear up any confusion as to whether they were also outlawed like traditional tobacco cigarettes.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives sued, alleging Congress' "no smoking" statute didn't apply to e-cigarettes.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted by Sean Gallagher

The Punch Escrow releases on July 25. (credit: Inkshares)

The teleportation accident is an all-too-common trope of science fiction. The moral quandary of teleporters as "suicide boxes" and as potential human duplicators has been grist for many science fiction and speculative fiction writers, from George Langelaan's 1957 short story "The Fly" to China Miéville's 2010 novel Kraken (and yes, a few Star Trek episodes). But that trope has been given a fresh spin by Tal Klein in his debut novel, The Punch Escrow—fresh enough that, even before its release, the book was optioned for a film by Lionsgate.

A compelling, approachable human narrative wrapped around a classic, hard sci-fi nugget, The Punch Escrow dives into deep philosophical territory—the ethical limits of technology and what it means to be human. Cinematically paced yet filled with smart asides, Klein's Punch pulls off the slick trick of giving readers plenty to think about in a suspenseful, entertaining package.

Watch out for those killer nanobots

Set in the year 2147, Punch is the story of Joel Byram, a self-described smart-ass who makes his futuristic currency as a sort of bot-whisperer. Byram works as an artificial intelligence "salter" who helps train AIs to master the art of human interaction through the use of jokes and language puzzles. He's something of an AI interface hacker as a result, and he has the skills required to linguistically trick AIs into elevating his privileges and performing tasks they'd otherwise not.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

sartorias: (desk)
Another book seems to be trying to grab me, so while I veer between ongoing projects and escaping the unrelenting heat with tv watching (more NIF later today) and reading, I'm writing notes and watching the tetris pieces fall and interlock. If they fuse, well, then, that's what I'll be doing.

In the meantime, an interesting discussion, which I hope to wring another BVC blog post out of. (It's getting hard to figure out something to write, but I committed to it, so . . . besides, it's good for me to test my ideas against others. Too easy to get locked inside my head.)

Anyway, the discussion subject was words you don't use. I don't necessarily mean cuss words you avoid, but words that have too much freight for whatever reason. Like, the discussion got started when someone mentioned that when we were growing up, nobody ever said the word 'cancer' or wrote it. Sick, ill, other euphemisms, but she felt that there was this tremendous fear around the word because it was always a death sentence, especially as the constant cigarette atmosphere around us started catching up with people at not very old ages. Saying it was impolite, like saying pregnant (expecting was the word back then), but also there was a kind of superstition like mentioning it would invite it.

Another person said she refuses to use the word 'literally' because she hears it so much, usually used wrong, that is, as an emphasizer, which she sees as sloppy language.

A third person at that discussion said that that was weird, and why avoid any word?

Thoughts?
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Posted by John Scalzi

Because sometimes it’s fun to play with Photoshop’s sliders and see what you come up with. This is what happens (in part) when you push the “dehaze” slider all the way to the right. The real sunset didn’t look like this (it looked like this), but I think it might be cool to live on a planet where the sunset did look like that, every once in a while.

Enjoy the weekend, folks.


Posted by Beth Mole

Vascularized engineered human liver tissue that has self-organized into a lobule-like microstructure. (credit: Chelsea Fortin/Bhatia Lab/Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research)

Being able to grow your own new organs may be in reach—with some cellular assembly required.

With a carefully constructed clump of cells, mice grew their own functional human liver organoids in a matter of months, researchers report this week in Science Translational Medicine. The cellular organ seeds blossomed in the rodents, expanding 50-fold in that time. They appeared to form complex liver structures, tap into vasculature, and carry out the functions of a normal liver. The critical factor in getting the organoids to take root, the authors report, was having the seed cells arranged just right.

Though the organ seeds are far from any clinical application, researchers are hopeful that they’ll one day be able to engineer larger liver organs to treat patients with liver failure or damage.

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spiralsheep: A raven (spiralsheep Raven Logo)
- Beloved of small children, canines, and corvids: two jackdaws watching me sitting on a wall, because apparently I'm more interesting than all the tourists dropping food a couple of hundred metres away (i.e. within the same birds' territory). I admire the daylight while midnight watches me....

Jackdaw curiosity, Lands End, Cornwall 05-17

- Third book in a row with a shack: "I didn't know then that the crooks were still quite near... hiding in a shack down a side turning." [Note: it's a shed in a European town, 1974.]

- Reading, books 2017: 70

59. The Wolves of Normality, Foyle Young Poets of the Year anthology, 2016, poetry. (?/5)

How to be a patriot, by Sophia Carney (full poem)

1. Plate your pain with reinforced steel;
fit it with tire treads and arm

it with the revolver you keep
in the kitchen cabinet next to the Coco Pops.

2. Exhibit your pride;
curate it like a museum display.

Soak the constitution in formaldehyde
that sticks the imperatives to the page.

Program the X-ray machine at the door to record
the shade of the visitors’ skin
in hexadecimal.

3. Press the flag flat.

Turn it to a freeze-frame
between two Perspex sheets labelled
DO NOT TOUCH.

4. Neglect to mention the pixels of
blood that appear
under UV light and human scrutiny.

Posted by Cyrus Farivar

Enlarge / Alexandre Cazes, in an undated photo posted by his stepmother, Kathy Gauthier. (credit: Kathy Gauthier)

The stepmother of the late Alexandre Cazes told Ars that she and her husband have a hard time believing what American and European authorities have said about their son as a criminal suspect. The Department of Justice said Thursday that Cazes was behind the recently shuttered AlphaBay, the world’s largest underground drug website,

The DOJ also said that Cazes was arrested on July 5 in Thailand at his home outside Bangkok and apparently committed suicide while in a Thai jail on July 12.

In a brief French-language interview conducted over Facebook Messenger on Friday afternoon, Kathy Gauthier, of Trois-Rivières, Québec, said that Cazes was always a "good boy" who had no previous run-ins with the law.

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conuly: (Default)
Turns out he got captured in the Bronx. Because of course he did! Why the fuck would he hang around Staten Island at all, much less right where he already was? Once he was already escaped, he must've kept running. I know that when I went into the city, there wasn't anybody watching the boat. Why not? Because all the cops in the city and then some were corralled in a 750 foot stretch of Stapleton!

And to top it, the charge is "escaping from custody and possessing a controlled substance and weapon" which is bad, yes, but not bad enough to justify my having to wade through a swamp of cops just to walk the dogs - much less the police breaking into my house, etc.