Pixel Scroll 9/26 10 Things I Slate About You

(1) Pablo Vazquez has identified himself as another San Juan in 2017 NASFiC bid committee member — he is one of the bid chairs — so you can add his name to the list.

The formal launch is at ContraFlow/DSC in New Orleans next weekend. There is a Facebook page – San Juan in 2017.

(2) A great read about trying to make a game based on Lovecraft that wasn’t so dismal as to be unplayable – “Lovecraft on the Tabletop”.

The story of the development of this tabletop RPG of Lovecraftian horror, soon to be renamed Call of Cthulhu, is one of the more fascinating and inspiring case studies in the annals of gaming history. The end result reverberates to this day not only through the world of tabletop gaming but also through its digital parallel.

(3) An archaeological find has added 20 lines to the Epic of Gilgamesh:

The new T.1447 tablet, according to the article Back to the Cedar Forest: The beginning and end of Tablet V of the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgameš published in June, 2014 is:

  • The revised reconstruction of Tablet V yields text that is nearly twenty lines longer than previously known.
  • The obverse (columns i-ii) duplicates the Neo-Assyrian fragments which means the Epic tablet can be placed in order and used to fill in the gaps between them. It also shows the recension on Tablet V was in Babylonia, as well as Assyria and that “izziz?ma inappat? qišta” is the same phrase that other tablets being with.
  • The reverse (columns v-vi) duplicates parts of the reverse (columns iv-vi) of the late Babylonian tablet excavated at Uruk that begins with the inscription “Humb?ba pâšu ?pušma iqabbi izakkara ana Gilg?meš”.
  • The most interesting piece of information provided by this new source is the continuation of the description of the Cedar Forest:
  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu saw ‘monkeys’ as part of the exotic and noisy fauna of the Cedar Forest; this was not mentioned in other versions of the Epic.
  • Humbaba emerges, not as a barbarian ogre, and but as a foreign ruler entertained with exotic music at court in the manner of Babylonian kings. The chatter of monkeys, chorus of cicada, and squawking of many kinds of birds formed a symphony (or cacophony) that daily entertained the forest’s guardian, Humbaba.
  • The aftermath of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s slaying of Humbaba is now better preserved.
  • The passages are consistent with other versions and confirm what was already known. For example, Enkidu had spent some time with Humbaba in his youth.

(4) Sigourney Weaver is in the Ghostbusters reboot – a cameo, presumably, but nobody has revealed whether she’s reprising her original character.

(5) “Bing Watney Home!” is not a File 770 typo, though you could be pardoned for thinking so.

Bing Maps is doing “real time” tracking of Astronaut Mark Watney’s journey across Mars to the Schiaparelli Basin, a stage in the effort to rescue and bring him back to Earth.

And Microsoft is promoting itself and The Martian movie with a contest called “Hacking Mars”.

It’s the year 2035. Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. The best minds on Earth are joining together to help him survive. What would you do? One small, unmanned spacecraft will carry the winning solution to Mars.

Check out how to #HackMars and bring Watney home. Submit your design for a chance to win $25,000 and a trip to Microsoft to experience HoloLens. Deadline for submissions is October 13, 2015, 11:59PM EST.

There are three challenge categories. The first is —

Stay alive

A primal human motivation is survival. We all have physiological needs like air, water, and food.

Mark Watney finds himself stranded on Mars. He has no way to contact Earth or his crew. It’ll be four years before a manned mission can reach him. Watney doesn’t have nearly enough food to last that long. He has to make a decision, survive on Mars or perish.

Mars is incredibly cold, unpredictable, and has many ways that it threatens human life. If an emergency comes up Watney must either solve it or die.

For this challenge, design a solution that helps Watney sustain the basic things that every human being needs to survive. This could include ways to grow food, filter air, and produce water.

(6) Back in the dismal real world, claims are being made that the bones of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa have been discovered.

Historical records suggest that Gherardini, who spent her last years in the Sant’Orsola convent in Florence, was laid to rest at the site. On Thursday, researchers announced that carbon-14 dating showed the bones they found in the convent date from around the time that Gherardini died, in 1542, when she was 63.

“I’m convinced it is her,” Silvano Vinceti, an art historian who led the research team, told The Telegraph.

The next stages of the investigation will prove highly challenging. Some scholars say that as dozens of bodies were buried beneath the convent over several decades, the remains could belong to someone else. So, DNA samples will need to be taken from the bone fragments and compared with DNA extracted from the remains of two of Gherardini’s children. Those remains have been badly damaged by flooding in the tomb in the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata in Florence.

And even if the bones are proved to belong to Gherardini, scholars are divided over whether she really was the model for the “Mona Lisa.” The absence of a skull has also thwarted efforts to reconstruct the face of the noblewoman, making it nearly impossible to compare it to the painting.

Your mileage may vary, but I find this to be nothing more than a grotesque job of grave robbing. The notion of finding a skull to reconstruct in order to compare it with the face in the painting seems a pretty dim piece of scientific wishfulness – as if the reconstruction could surpass the work of a painter who had the living subject available.

(7) Amanda S. Green devotes a whole post on Mad Genius Club disputing John Scalzi’s analysis of the Author Earnings Report but refuses to link to his post, drawing all her Scalzi quotes from Chris Meadows’ TeleRead article instead. Is this some kind of pretentious purity ritual? Like people who will only quote Vox Day based on what’s transcribed here? I’m not a big fan of laundered quotes. If you want to reference the person, link the primary source. You’ve quoted the guy – his words are in your head. You get no credit for cooties avoidance.

(8) The National Endowment for the Arts blog has listed “Our Top Ten Ray Bradbury Quotes”.

  • “‘Stuff your eyes with wonder,’ he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.’”
  • “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
  • “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
  • “We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.”
  • “I spent three days a week for ten years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of ten years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
  • “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
  • “I’m never going to go to Mars, but I’ve helped inspire, thank goodness, the people who built the rockets and sent our photographic equipment off to Mars.”
  • “Don’t worry about things. Don’t push. Just do your work and you’ll survive. The important thing is to have a ball, to be joyful, to be loving and to be explosive. Out of that comes everything and you grow.”
  • “I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.”
  • “You’ve been put on the world to love the act of being alive.”

[Thanks to Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

125 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/26 10 Things I Slate About You

  1. Meredith –

    The Constitution says:

    3.3.7: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Yes, film festivals count as publicly presented.

    Works can get an extension. The WSFS business meeting extended the eligibility of Predestination this year due to a similar issue.

  2. @ULTRAGOTHA

    Yeah, plan A is to track down the usual proposal wording for that and convince people to co-sign it. Once I’ve seen it and if I think it’s any good, of course. 🙂

  3. @ Meredith:

    Ripperology is a side interest of mine (hard to avoid when crime, social change, upheaval etc. in Victorian times is a special interest) – yes, occasionally new theories pop up. Most of them are pretty silly, though.

    Also a side interest of mine. And, yep, most of them are pretty silly.

    Philip Sugden, author of The Complete Jack the Ripper (the best Ripperology book I’ve come across), points out that not even the lead detectives on the case at the time ever agreed about who their chief suspect was. All of them had a different “favorite” for it. When there’s essentially no forensic investigation tools (1888), and no remaining forensic evidence that isn’t heavily contaminated (almost 130 years later), and none of the detectives on the case ever agreed on or coalesced around a particular suspect or theory… I agree with Sugden that the answer will never be known.

    Which means most of the nonfiction theories will be pretty silly. But at least it leaves the door wide open for fiction!

  4. Laura Resnick: There’s a whole “do not link” custom built on the rationale that one does not want to increase blog traffic to a website they find repellant. Frankly, I don’t get it. What do I care if someone else is so pathetic that he builds his ego on the number of hits his website gets? So what? The site is not getting PAID for those hits.

    It’s not just number of hits — to my mind, that is small change. It’s much more about the Google Page Rank algorithm, which determines how high a website places in searches. The GPR algorithm, which is highly complex and utilizes dozens or even hundreds of attributes, uses as a major component the number of other sites which link to a given website.

    Now, back in the early days (2002 or so), this was a pretty large, unmitigated part of the algorithm. Of course, people who studied high-ranking pages to determine what they had in common with each other — and what they had that lower-ranking pages didn’t — figured this out pretty quickly. Hence the growth of “link farms” and “link swaps”.

    In response to that, over time Google refined the GPR algorithm to became much more sophisticated. It was programmed to distinguish between link farms/link swaps and genuine links from real sites — and the higher the PR of the linking site, the more PR mojo it lends to the sites to which it links.

    So now, a significant part of Google Page Rank is how many other high-ranking websites have “genuine” links to your website. File770, for instance, has very good GPR mojo: it’s the middle of the 3rd page in results for “science fiction fanzine”, the top of page 3 for “Hugo Awards”, the middle of page 2 for “sad puppies”, and the middle of page 3 for “science fiction news”.

    Thus, every time File770 includes a link to VD’s website, it boosts the PR of that site just a little bit, making it appear just a tiny bit higher in Google search results. This is why people (including me, when I post comments here) use 3rd-party anon sites like donotlink.

  5. JJ, fair point.

    In which case, in Green’s blog criticizing Scalzi’s essay, the appropriate thing to do would be to do what I do in my Nink column (which is not an online forum–it’s print and PDF, distributed only to members and paying subscribers), which is write an attribution along the lines of, “In his blog post titled xxxx, John Scalzi says” or “in an essay he posted on dd/mm/yy, John Scalzi says,” etc. So people can easily find the original material, despite having no link.

  6. Laura Resnick: In which case… the appropriate thing to do would be to… write an attribution along the lines of, “In his blog post titled xxxx, John Scalzi says” or “in an essay he posted on dd/mm/yy, John Scalzi says,” etc. So people can easily find the original material, despite having no link.

    I absolutely agree. Quoting (or pretending to quote) someone without giving the reader the ability to check the source material is seriously poor practice. But then, we are talking about MGC.

  7. Simon Bisson: Squat is the goddess of parking spaces

    I’m having a frisson of recognition because my mother was literally the only person I’ve ever known who spoke of Squat.

    Are you familiar with the chant of propitiation? [am not quoting, yet am hoping this may help trace back to the origin]

    And do you know of Leap, the goddess of passing lanes and intersections?

  8. Laura Resnick on September 27, 2015 at 7:41 pm said:
    JJ, fair point.

    In which case, in Green’s blog criticizing Scalzi’s essay, the appropriate thing to do would be to do what I do in my Nink column (which is not an online forum–it’s print and PDF, distributed only to members and paying subscribers), which is write an attribution along the lines of, “In his blog post titled xxxx, John Scalzi says” or “in an essay he posted on dd/mm/yy, John Scalzi says,” etc. So people can easily find the original material, despite having no link.

    Yes, but that would be assuming she wants people to go look at the original article, rather than just get all het up about her strawman.

  9. Rick K and McJulie, I don’t know where either of you live, but Christopher Moore is going to be Guest of Honor at Windycon in the Chicago suburbs in November about 7 weeks from today). http://www.windycon.org.

  10. In which case, in Green’s blog criticizing Scalzi’s essay, . . .
    Yes, but that would be assuming she wants people to go look at the original article, rather than just get all het up about her strawman.

    They’re already setting up for Mr Scalzi to repudiate trad publishing and go totally e-pub at which time they’ll call him hypocritical and ‘remind’ him of his previous position. Failing to admit that he’s always been both trad and e-pubbed, of course. That’ll just get in the way of their narrative.
    The amount of energy some of them like Dave Freer and Jeff Duntemann put into their hating is amazing.

  11. Squat, the god of parking, is a Bay Area thing? Hm. Lifelong San Francisco Bay Area resident here, and I never heard of Squat until told of it by a Los Angeles-area acquaintance. My informant assured me that Squat’s favorite offering is a virgin sacrifice. She (my informant) honored Squat’s preference by intonation of the ritual chant “Thank you, Squat! Your virgin is in the mail!” whenever she (with Squat’s valuable assistance) found a parking space.

  12. They’re already setting up for Mr Scalzi to repudiate trad publishing and go totally e-pub at which time they’ll call him hypocritical and ‘remind’ him of his previous position.

    That would be a good trick, since he’s in month 2 of a 10 year contract with Tor.

  13. In addition to the other reasons already noted, use of DoNotLink is indicated when you’re linking to a site run by someone you have reason to suspect might make malicious use of whatever information they can glean from their server’s “incoming traffic” statistics. Doxxing is a thing, and while an IP address is not necessarily 100% informative about the meatspace entity associated with said chunk of data, an IP address can nevertheless be useful to the kind of person who thinks SWATting people they don’t like is a great source of LULZ.

  14. The site is not getting PAID for those hits (until/unless the blog owner sells ad space, I suppose). And VD’s experience (someone whose site people are often unwilling to link to), plainly demonstrates that high traffic (which he regularly claims to have) on a blog doesn’t translate into selling books, getting publishing and subrights deals, getting elected to the SFWA BoD, not getting kicked out of SFWA, getting a Hugo Award, making a success of any of your ventures, or earning income.

    Part of this is that VD regularly claims to be “popular” (cue “The Lurkers Support Me In Email”) on the basis of his site’s traffic, suggesting that this is a more important factor than his lack of success as an author, cackling supervillian, or actual human being. Of course, he ignores or censors out any suggestion that the eyeballs viewing him are of the same quality as those viewing a freak show, or those of drivers slowing to stare at a pantsless man gibbering and dancing by the side of a freeway.

    Thus donotlink.

  15. @Laura Resnick

    “So people can easily find the original material, despite having no link.”

    As others have said, in the MGC world, this is a feature, not a bug. They’re actually quite averse to linking to outside their usual circle, and require that you get moderator permission before providing links in your comments.

  16. Harold Osler on September 27, 2015 at 8:36 pm said:

    They’re already setting up for Mr Scalzi to repudiate trad publishing and go totally e-pub at which time they’ll call him hypocritical and ‘remind’ him of his previous position.

    Conservatives generally tend to have a very hard time understanding that circumstances can change over time. And that often the appropriate response is for people to change their opinions and behaviors when circumstances change.

    (As Keynes put it: “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”)

  17. Since my Blue Badge (disabled parking thingy) ran out a few days ago while I wait eternally in bureaucracy purgatory, I’d quite like a good-parking-spot fairy right now. Normally she wouldn’t be that useful though.

    Now, a the-ebook-you-want-is-always-on-sale fairy… That would be brilliant.

    (Or maybe a the-nanoblocks-kit-you-want-will-always-be-available-with-Prime-shipping fairy… Oh, a medical-professionals-will-always-understand-the-reason-for-the-appointment fairy! The-dishwasher-will-always-have-space-for-one-last-thing fairy. So many possibilities.)

  18. There are a few pieces of mistaken information being offered here about DoNotLink.

    DoNotLink affects exactly two things: search engine rankings and referrer information. The first has already been discussed more or less accurately. The second means that if someone clicks the link, Evil Site’s web server logs will show that they came to Evil Site from DoNotLink rather than from wherever the link was offered.

    It does not do anything else. A person who clicks the link and ends up on
    Evil Site is now reading the content of Evil Site in the usual way, meaning that 1. their IP address is still just as visible to Evil Site as it would otherwise be, and 2. they’re still included in pageview statistics.

  19. @Cubist: I was born in Oakland and lived in the SF Bay Area for more than 40 years, and I have never heard of Squat until today.

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