Pixel Scroll 10/26/18 Eight Scrolls A File

(1) CRYSTAL HUFF AND ARISIA NEWS DEVELOPMENTS. During the day, Noel Rosenberg resigned as Operations Division Head and President of Arisia Inc. on the Arisia Corporate Members mailing list, per a report by Kris Snyder on Facebook.

Huff’s initial public response was:

Arisia continues to hear from program participants, for example, this group — “Public Statement Re: Arisia Convention Performances”.

We at the Post-Meridian Radio Players are committed to supporting Crystal Huff following her bringing to light the deeply upsetting actions taken by Arisia leadership to shield and promote her assailant.

As a performance group, we have long appreciated our working relationship with the Arisia convention. That relationship ends immediately, unless the called-for changes in leadership take place.

Sonya Taaffe offered a historical perspective on “Safety concerns at Arisia”

…As a member of the Readercon convention committee in 2012, I had a ringside seat when the similar failure of a convention to abide by its own stated policies led to the creation of its safety committee, the total overhaul of its code of conduct as well as incident report protocols, and the resignation of all members of the Readercon board. All steps including public statements of apology and accountability were necessary to restore the trust of a membership built over decades and burned in hours. I do not joke when I say it was a near-death experience for the convention. We still work to make its reputation inclusive, responsive, and safe, as opposed to tarnished by double standards and more tolerance for perpetrators than victims.

It is my sincere hope that the executive board of Arisia can heed the lesson of Readercon in choosing from this moment forward which kind of convention it wishes to be.

This is a more explicit version of the statement Nalo Hopkinson tweeted yesterday.


Kris Snyder, who works on Arisa and chaired the con in 2016, says “I believe Crystal that Noel violated her consent,” but sees a number of other things differently than Huff described them.

…I have received training for working with people who have been subjected to trauma and sexual violence. I have an extensive abuse and trauma history myself. I understand that it can take years to fully process a traumatic event like sexual assault or rape. I support Crystal’s right as a victim to evolve her understanding of what took place, and to make decisions later about how to handle the situation that are different than the ones she initially made.

I take issue with her characterization of how members of Arisia handled the situation. I do not like that she now demonizes people for actions (or lack thereof) that she specifically requested of them.

I don’t doubt that there were some people in leadership positions within the community that downplayed or dismissed the situation. That was not OK. I was not one of them. In 2012, when Crystal started enforcing boundaries with Noel, she sent several of us an email complaining about his actions but addressed it “To you guys as my friends and not as people in charge of things.” Once Arisia officially instated a disciplinary process in the spring and summer of 2013, Crystal was approached to make a report about Noel’s behavior. She declined, as was and is her right to do. Members of the eboard asked Crystal multiple times between 2013 and 2017 if she wanted to make a report and encouraged her to handle this through process. She said no….

(2) BOOK BURNING. “Iowa man burns LGBTQ children’s books from public library to protest pride festival”The Hill has the story.

An Iowa public library is considering legal options after a man checked out and burned children’s books to protest the city’s Pride festival and story time.

Paul Dorr posted a live video on Facebook on Friday that showed him throwing at least four books with LGBTQ themes into a fire inside a trash can, The Des Moines Register reported on Monday.

Dorr’s video was posted just before the beginning of the second annual OC Pride, a three-day weekend of “love, acceptance and pride” in conservative Sioux County in northwest Iowa.

Libraries here struggle to stock decent, recent books for kids as it is. Hhere’s a call to answer this crime by donating to the library —

(3) IT GOES ROUND. Alastair Reynolds saw “File 777” discussing “Paternoster Elevators” and says he knew about one in a familiar building that had, in fact, claimed a victim —

Years later I reasoned that the story must have been a carefully engineered rumour designed to stop people using the elevator in a way that wasn’t intended, not because of the risk of injury (or death) but because it caused problems with the mechanism, perhaps leading to the elevator shutting down or needing maintenance. I could well imagine that the authorities would “leak” a story like that just to stop students larking around and causing expensive breakdowns.

But (being a grisly sort of fellow) the File777 article prompted me to read up a little bit more paternosters and their history of accidents, and rather shockingly the first such account I read about was indeed one in the Claremont Tower, in 1975:

(4) ROLL THE BONES. Publishers Weekly has learned “‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ To Become a Board Game”.

Osprey Games will publish Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Board Game of English Magic, a game set in the world of Susanna Clarke’s novel, coming in June 2019. Players will take on the role of four principle characters from the novel—Jonathan Strange, Mr. Norrell, Miss Redruth, or John Segundus—and “travel around England and Europe, attending social engagements and performing feats of magic in the hope of becoming the most celebrated magician of the age. On their travels they encounter a host of familiar characters, from the jovial Mr Honeyfoot and beautiful Lady Pole to the extraordinary Stephan Black and the enthusiastic Lord Portishead. All the while they will be building up their magical abilities, as the gentleman with the thistledown hair is weaving his magic in the background and must be stopped for any player to have a chance of claiming victory.” The game was created by designers Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello, who have previously brought the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Marvel Universe to the tabletop. The game is illustrated by Ian O’Toole.

(5) THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Clip and keep this handy if you aspire someday to be making the rounds to promote your book: “Notes and Advice From a Book Tour”

  1. Authors: Want to make friends with the bookseller hosting you on the tour? At the end of your presentation, just before the signing part, encourage the people at the event to buy a book from the bookstore (even if it’s not your own book!). Most people at your event have probably gotten a book from the store already (and probably your book, because they want you to sign it), but some haven’t, and some people forget that there’s a high correlation between a bookseller hosting future events, and the bookseller doing well with the current events. So remind people to buy books from the bookstore at your event, and to support them the rest of the time as well.

(6) SABRINA REVIEW. The BBC’s Annabel Rackham answers a burning question: “Does Netflix’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch reboot live up to the hype?” She says the show is more feminist, but “more innocent than Riverdale.”

Whilst Sabrina in 90s-sitcom form didn’t realise she had magic powers until her 16th birthday, the new Sabrina is already well aware of her supernatural skills.

That’s not the only difference – the modern Sabrina is as Kelly-Leigh puts it, “woke”. She’s a feminist icon for a new generation of teens and is not afraid to question the archaic rules of the satanic cult she’s a part of.

Also, Sabrina’s cutting rebuttals of everything high priest Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) says is her way of bringing down the patriarchy, and I for one loved it.

(7) TOP WITCH. Vulture rates “The Best Teen Witches of Pop Culture, From Buffy to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.

Queenie, American Horror Story (Class of 2013)

Most Likely to Defect From the Coven: Queenie’s power was so great she thought she might be the Supreme, and she was one of two witches who survived the Seven Wonders, which is a pretty great reward for all the crap she had to deal with during AHS: Coven.

Activities: Witches’ Council; voodoo; practicing the Seven Wonders

Senior Quote: “I grew up on white-girl shit like Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Cracker. I didn’t even know that there were black witches. As it turns out, I’m an heir to Tituba. She was a house slave in Salem. She was the first to be accused of witchcraft. So, technically, I’m part of your tribe.”


  • October 26, 1966 — Jerry Lewis’ Way … Way Out had fun with the genre.
  • October 26, 1984 — The Terminator premiered.
  • October 26, 2015 Supergirl premiered on television.


  • Born October 26, 1934 – Dan McCarthy, the grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and colour graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice.
  • Born October 26, 1942 – Bob Hoskins, Oscar-nominated Actor from England who is famous for his quirky character roles and is known in genre circles for the Hugo-winning Who Framed Roger Rabbit (for which he received a Saturn nomination) and Super Mario Bros. He played Professor George Challenger in the most recent film version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and also appeared in Snow White and The Huntsman, Hook, the Hugo-nominated Brazil, A Christmas Carol, Son of The Mask, and as the voice of The Badger in an animated version of The Wind in The Willows.
  • Born October 26, 1942 – Jane Chance, 66, Teacher, Writer, and Lecturer who specializes in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien – with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter, for which she has received three Mythopoeic Award nominations, including Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England, Tolkien the Medievalist, The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power, and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”.
  • Born October 26, 1959 – Jennifer Roberson, 59, Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is a desert-based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed most is her Sherwood duology that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood, telling that tale from the perspective of Marian. She has been Guest of Honor at more than a dozen conventions, including a Westercon, and a novel she co-authored received a World Fantasy Award nomination. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1959 – François Chau, 59, Actor from Cambodia who is most known to genre fans as Jules-Pierro Mao on the Hugo-winning series The Expanse, but who has also had recurring roles on Lost and Gemini Division, and appeared in episodes of the TV series The Flash, Intruders, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Time Trax, The Invisible Man, The X-Files, Alias, Medium, and Awake, as well as lending his voice to numerous videogames.
  • Born October 26, 1962 – James Pickens Jr., 56, Actor and Producer who played the FBI’s Deputy Director on 21 episodes of The X-Files; he also appeared in genre films Rocket Man, Sphere, Venom, and Red Dragon, and had guest roles in episodes of The Pretender and Touched by an Angel.
  • Born October 26, 1962 – Cary Elwes, 56, Actor, Director, and Producer from England who is unquestionably most famous for his role as the pirate Westley in The Princess Bride; he alsoplayed astronaut Michael Collins in the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, voiced historical roles in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, appeared in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Ella Enchanted, Shadow of the Vampire, Saw, and Saw 3D, had parts in episodes of Stranger Things, The X-Files, The (new) Outer Limits, and Night Visions, and has provided voices in animated features and series including Quest for Camelot, The Adventures of Tintin, Hercules, Batman Beyond, Sofia the First, and Family Guy.
  • Born October 26, 1963 – Keith Topping, 55, Writer from England. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published a number of non-fiction reference works – frequently in collaboration with Martin Day and/or Paul Cornell – for various genre franchises, including The Avengers, The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written four novels in the Doctor Who universe, and co-authored The DisContinuity Guide.
  • Born October 26, 1971 – Jim Butcher, 47, Writer who was nominated for the Compton Crook Award for the first novel in his Dresden Files urban fantasy series, now up to 15 novels and countless short fiction works, which became immensely popular and was made into a TV series lasting one season. He has also written half a dozen novels in his Codex Alera series and contributed a novel to the Spiderman universe. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including an Eastercon (the UK natcon).
  • Born October 26, 1976 – Florence Kasumba, 42, Actor of German Ugandan heritage who has done films in English, German, and Dutch languages. She is best known for her role as Ayo in the Marvel universe movies Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, but she also had a role in the Hugo-winning Wonder Woman, played the Wicked Witch of the East in the TV series Emerald City, and voices a character in the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King.


(11) NO PUMPKIN SPICE HERE. In the Washington Post story, “Halloween cocktails can be lame. These Stephen King and ‘Beetlejuice’ drinks are scary good”, Fritz Hahn says two Washington bars are specializing in Beetlejuice and Stephen King cocktails for Halloween (one is having a Pet Sematary night for animals to spend time with their drinking owners).

The drinks, meanwhile, are playful and delicious, with names that will have “Beetlejuice” fans exchanging knowing looks. (They’ll be available through early November.) My favorite is the Miss Argentina, a twist on the classic Corpse Reviver #2. Blue Curacao gives it a lovely blue color — a nod to the skin of the undead beauty queen-turned-receptionist in Beetlejuice’s Netherworld — while stripes of Peychaud’s bitters are reminiscent of the “little accident” that sent her to the afterlife.

(12) IS SMOKING REQUIRED? Aliya Whiteley, in “Smoking, Science Fiction, and Addiction” on Den of Geek, asks: if you’re writing a hard-boiled sf novel, should your protagonist smoke?”  Looking at John Constantine in the comics, the movie Watchmen, and Tade Thompson’s novel Rosewater, she answers:  “Yes, sometimes.”

For instance, back in the film noirs of the 1940s and 50s it would have been inconceivable for our hero not to smoke. Look at the thick smoke hanging in the light from the projector in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) or the silhouette of Robert Mitchum, the cigarette smoke rising up and out of the French windows, in Jacques Tourneur’s Out Of the Past (1947) – it was often used as an excuse for intimacy between lovers, the camera closing in on the lips, or to bring movement to a still frame. Great directors used it as a language of its own, and it must be really difficult to decide to not use that language, as a contemporary director, if you’re making a film that deliberately uses noir elements.

(13) WHAT GOES AROUND. Bounding Into Comics, which publicizes comics from JDA and Vox Day, says industry professionals are trying to silence them.

Bounding into Comics has become the latest target of comic book industry professionals’ attempts to silence those whose opinions they disagree with.

On Tuesday, prominent Marvel and DC Comics Colorist Tamra Bonvillain (Doom Patrol, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Uncanny Avengers) issued a call to her followers to unfollow and ignore Bounding Into Comics (henceforth BiC):

(14) RAP SHEET LENGTHENS. “Fatal ‘swatting’ hoaxer faces more charges” — jerk whose swatting lead to death of a gamer had been doing it for years.

This incident arose following a dispute in the Call of Duty video game between two men. One of them owned the home occupied and rented by Mr Finch and this address was given to Mr Barriss as the place to send police.

The two men have been charged for their role in the fatal incident. Both have pleaded not guilty.

US federal prosecutors filed the fresh charges in a California court, claiming that many of the crimes were committed when Mr Barriss lived in Los Angeles.

The charge sheet details incidents in which Mr Barriss is suspected of being involved, between September 2014 and December 2017.

Many of the charges relate to fake calls about bombs planted in schools, federal buildings and universities. Others relate to separate swatting incidents, bank fraud, other hoax calls to police departments and threats of violence.

(15) THE SMELL OF SUCCESS. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports “Swedish Film Cleverly Blurs The ‘Border’ Between Reality And Folklore”.

Ostensibly, the title of the Swedish film Border refers to the internationally recognized demarcation separating one country from another. Its main character Tina (Eva Melander), after all, works at the Swedish Customs Service, where she screens those entering the country for contraband. She’s very, very good at her job: She can literally smell deceit, which, when you think about it, should single-handedly earn her portrait pride of place on the Employee of the Month wall, in perpetuity.

Of course, there’s more to it. If Border were only about Customs practices, howsoever informed they might be by nasal lie-detection, the film would be odd, but relatively straightforward — a kind of Nordic, olfactory-powered superhero yarn, maybe. Happily, this is not the case.

(16) THE WILD LIFE. Timothy the Talking Cat provides “A Helpful Guide to the Wonderful World of Mammals” at Camestros Felapton.

Squirrel: Sinister bastards who crave power and control and off-season nuts. You know they are whispering about you in the trees with their clever little hands and distracting tails.

(17) COOKIE IN A BOTTLE. Treat your palate — “Stroopwafel Liqueur”

Anyone who has visited the Netherlands has undoubtedly come across the country’s famous stroopwafels, a pair of thin, crisp waffles sandwiching a caramel filling. Fans especially enjoy the fantastic aroma that stroopwafel stands emit when making a fresh batch, and many claim that no better treat exists. However, the company Van Meer’s did not agree and decided to up the ante by transforming the stroopwafel into alcohol form.

The resulting liqueur, which won a gold medal at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, captures both the distinctive smell and flavor of stroopwafels.

(18) THE SITUATIONAL ETHICS OF DRIVERLESS CARS. Mike Kennedy says what he learned from The Verge’s article “Global preferences for who to save in self-driving car crashes revealed”, is “Why I should stay away from school zones with self driving cars around.”

“If self-driving cars become widespread, society will have to grapple with a new burden: the ability to program vehicles with preferences about which lives to prioritize in the event of a crash. Human drivers make these choices instinctively, but algorithms will be able to make them in advance. So will car companies and governments choose to save the old or the young? The many or the few?”

Researchers from MIT have published a paper (Nature: “The Moral Machine experiment”) discussing the results of an online experiment (using a platform they call the Moral Machine) to “explore the moral dilemmas faced by autonomous vehicles”. They gathered 40 million decisions across a variety of languages and cultures. The paper itself is behind a paywall, but the article on The Verge takes a look at their findings. The data itself—and the code the researchers used to perform some of their analyses—is available to the public.

PerThe Verge article, the Moral Machine asked users to:

“make a series of ethical decisions regarding fictional car crashes, similar to the famous trolley problem. Nine separate factors were tested, including individuals’ preferences for crashing into men versus women, sparing more lives or fewer, killing the young or the elderly, pedestrians or jaywalkers, and even choosing between low-status or high-status individuals.”

Millions of users took the quiz. There were some fairly universal agreements. Again, per The Verge coverage:

“[…] the study’s authors found certain consistent global preferences: sparing humans over animals, more lives rather than fewer, and children instead of adults.”

There were also some disagreements, including:

“The study’s authors suggest this might be because of differences between individualistic and collectivist cultures. In the former, where the distinct value of each individual as an individual is emphasized, there was a ‘stronger preference for sparing the greater number of characters.’ Counter to this, the weaker preference for sparing younger characters might be the result of collectivist cultures, ‘which emphasize the respect that is due to older members of the community.’”

Of course, at present self driving cars might be able to tell most animals from most humans, but haven’t a clue about most age differences—nor can they likely tell law-abiding pedestrians from jaywalkers. So, this is mostly academic at present (see, e.g., the reference to MIT, above) but sooner or later some sort of ethical decisions will probably be baked into a car’s programming. Thinking about what that should be now seems sensible.

Taking a step past the automakers themselves, though, The Verge article also asks:

“But how close are we to needing legislation on these issues? When are companies going to start programming ethical decisions into self-driving vehicles?”

[…] the problems ahead can already be glimpsed in Germany, the only country to date to propose official guidelines [Google Translate version] for ethical choices made by autonomous vehicles. Lawmakers tried to slice the Gordian knot of the trolley problem by stating that all human life should be valued equally and that any distinction based on personal features like age or gender should be prohibited. […] if this choice is implemented, it would go against the public’s strong preference for sparing the younger over the elderly. If a government introduces this policy […], how will it handle the backlash “that will inevitably occur the day an autonomous vehicle sacrifices children in a dilemma situation.”

Obviously, much more work remains to be done

(19) PROVED AGAIN. “Archaeopteryx: The day the fossil feathers flew” – Back in the day, noted contrarian (and SF writer) Fred Hoyle claimed the fossil was a fake; disproved then by analysis, and disproved now by precision scanning of fossil halves and “fitting” them together by computer.

Sir Fred was high-profile and if the idea of fakery in a transitional fossil went unchallenged, Archaeopteryx would quickly become a cause célèbre for the anti-evolution movement. And don’t forget, the museum was the scene of perhaps the biggest fossil fake of all time – Piltdown Man.

The astronomer’s accusation could not be allowed to pass.

(20) NOT BIRDBRAINS. “Clever crows reveal ‘window into the mind'” — several assembled a reaching tool out of pieces.

New Caledonian crows are known to spontaneously use tools in the wild. This task, designed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, and the University of Oxford, presented the birds with a novel problem that they needed to make a new tool in order to solve.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Orson Welles On Censoring Horror Comics” on YouTube is an excerpt from an interview Welles gave a British show in the mid-1950s where he says that he personally dislikes horror comics, but feels that they shouldn’t be censored.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 777, er, 770, contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

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42 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/26/18 Eight Scrolls A File

  1. (11)
    Quinine fluoresces, so putting a little tonic water in will make drinks – or punch – glow nicely under a black light. Doesn’t require enough that you can taste it, either.

    Here in 4295, we have black light as an option everywhere.

  2. And I am still filling in the form every time, in 4929…

    12) It’s still jarring to me to see how movies, not that long ago, took for granted the idea that we would be doing things like smoking on small spacecraft (c.f. Event Horizon). Now, that really feels only being deliberately retro, or noir or both.

    I also recall LOCKOUT, where the protagonist’s smoking was criticized by one of the characters as being out of step with the times.

  3. @Paul: That gets kind of referenced a bit in the book “Thank You for Smoking”, in which a cigarette company pays for product placement in the Hot New Sci-Fi Film, which includes an *android* smoking. (And the ridiculousness of smoking-on-a-spaceship gets discussed while they’re working out the deal.)


    Well, that’s a start. But all of the board and concom members who shielded and made excuses for the guy still need to go, too.

    And I’m mystified as to why not just Kris Snyder, but everyone at Arisia, is fixated on the sexual assault. The other reported behavior, a fair bit of it which took place at Arisia staff meetings and events, is more than enough that this guy should have been kicked out a long time ago. That Snyder fails to address this in her post is a very glaring and indicting omission.

    I feel as though all of these people are hoping that if they focus on the fact that the sexual assault didn’t happen at Arisia, no one will notice all the other abusive behavior that they’re still refusing to address.

    ARISIA: I am noticing that you’re still refusing to acknowledge all of the other abusive and harassing behavior, as if you think it’s no big deal. Get your shit together.

  5. (18) Shouldn’t the heading read “The Situational Ethics…” and “Researchers from MIT” instead of “researches”?

  6. (16) Timothy is absolutely right about squirrels. Evil creatures! Rats with fluffy tails. In 7546, we have known this for millennia, and still not defeated them completely. The Squirrel Wars have been epic.

  7. @Kit M. Harding : As I recall, the protagonist in “Thank You For Smoking” says they can explain why it’s safe to smoke on aircraft with a simple line of dialogue “Thank god they invented the something-or-other device”

  8. And in the “there’s always one more typo category, in (18) the phrase “The paper itself if being a paywall…” should be “The paper itself is behind a paywall…”

  9. @16:

    Zebras are reactionaries
    Antelopes are missionaries
    Pigeons plot in secrecy
    And hamsters turn on frequently

    (I can’t think of a filk that would improve on the original.) But Timothy doesn’t mention chipmunks (which I see more often than squirrels, despite living within city limits); they like to run across the archery range while we’re on the line, taunting us. And don’t get me started on the common cottontail, which is infernally brazen — they even ate the greens off turnips until I built a cage to keep them out.

    @17: want.

    @9: in case anybody missed the Google Doodle, yesterday (in addition to being St. Crispin’s day) was the 108th birthday of Tyrus Wong, a Chinese-descended USian artist who applied his cultural ancestry as the lead production illustrator (don’t ask me what that meant) on Bambi.

  10. (18) I always thought the ethical solution to the trolley problem was to build a better, safer trolley – and strongly regulate maintenance and speed. If you have to rely on an algorithm though, what’s wrong with having any pedestrian count for more than a lamp post? It sounds cruel to the occupants of the car, but they do have seat belts and air bags. All the pedestrians have are the iPhones they’re looking at instead of watching out for traffic.
    Also, if you haven’t seen The Good Place’s depiction of the trolley problem, go watch it; it’s horrifyingly funny.

  11. 20) Loved the crow article. They are so amazingly clever. I highly recommend one of my all-time favorite documentaries, “A Murder of Crows,” which was shown on the PBS series Nature in 2010. It shows them doing all kinds of intelligent things, from using wire clothes hangers to shape their nests (using their bodies to form the hangers into rough circles) to accurately describing the appearance of a threatening individual human (the first generation was threatened, the second generation never saw the man, but the third generation knew he was a problem when he showed up). It’s available on YouTube, and it’s one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen.

    I actually used the recognition thing myself a couple years ago. We had a pair of mockingbirds nest outside our back door, so when we went out into our backyard we appeared to be “threatening” the nest. The male attacked us every time we went out. Ann gave up on gardening that year, but I still had to take the trash out twice a week. Trying to make friends with the male by sitting outside (with my back against a wall, because he always flew at the back of my neck) and feeding him blueberries didn’t change his mind about me. He ate the berries but still flew at me the moment my neck was uncovered. So I changed the shape of my head by wearing three baseball caps with the bills facing different directions, and sure enough, he eyed me suspiciously but didn’t attack me. I would walk quickly past the nest without looking at it, and I got to take the trash out the rest of the season.

    As soon as they left I threw the nest away, and they haven’t been back since.

  12. Yay, contributing editor! Boo, I’m still not caught up – just noticed the latest title, though, so I popped in to take a bow. 🙂


    Meredith Moment: Piers Anthony’s “The Cluster Series” is $2.99 (I guess the whole series in one giant ebook) via Open Road Media (uses DRM). I haven’t read this old series; anyone rec it? Unfortunately, this sale was in some ebookstores (iBooks & Kobo) but no longer is, but is still going on at Amazon.com and B&N. I’ve read the psychedelic, bizarre “Tarot” series, but not this one, which supposedly is connected (loosely, methinks). Piers Anthony had a lot of (unconnected) SF series back in the day, most of which I’m unfamiliar with.

  13. Kendall, I think the third Cluster book ends with a pointer toward the first Tarot book (something like “His quest [research?] would lead him to the God of Tarot”), though I don’t recall much concrete connection. The Tarot books repelled me so much that I actually got rid of them, so I’ve never reread them. The fourth and fifth Cluster novels are pretty standalone, moreso than the first three.

    Oh, you asked for a rec or not. Um. Well, it’s been a pretty long time since I read them, but I did like them enough to read them more than once, years ago. I’d probably read #4, Thousandstar, again; not sure about the others. If you like actual tarot (I emphatically do NOT), it forms a big part of #2, Chaining the Lady. Being Anthony, the series has what seemed like a lot of thought put into how utterly alien forms would mate (and various degrees of consensuality therein). I had managed to mostly forget about that, but it unsurprisingly is key to the plot at several points in Chaining the Lady, and to a lesser extent in the other books.

  14. (20) New Caledonian crows are amazing. There’s a tonne more research on them and other birds written up in The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman. If you’re interested in birds and their intelligence it’s a great read that breaks down a lot of research into a very readable book. (I just finished reading it last week)

  15. Kendall, I used to read Anthony with delight. I tried re-reading the Cluster series, and to my intense displeasure, found The Suck Fairy had stopped by, been ill, and fled before cleaning up. It’s deeply sexist, misogynistic, and repetitive. IMHO.

  16. (18) Any system built with existing technology will unquestionably be designed to never let anyone die ever. Much as a spelling-error corrector never offers the wrong choice on purpose. People will still get killed sometimes–just as a spelling-error corrector sometimes suggests the wrong words–but that’ll be because the algorithm failed.

    For example, it might face the alternative of slamming on the brakes or swerving onto the sidewalk. It’d pick whichever had the lowest chance of a collision–even if that was a 1% chance vs. an 0.1% chance. The thing is, it doesn’t really know that it’s that bad. For all it knows, it’s a 70% chance vs. a 30% chance. All it’s sure of it that one is better than the other. We say that such systems do a much better job of making relative judgments than absolute ones.

    The spell checker can pick the five or six best choices (out of a hundred thousand words in the dictionary) for correcting a misspelling, but it cannot figure that any (or all) of them are bad suggestions. When you try to do that, you start losing good suggestions too.

    That said, there are problem spaces where the cost of taking no action is small and the cost of a bad action is so great that they really do incorporate logic for “rejection.” For example, systems that read zip codes from envelopes reject anything they’re not sure of and have a human being do it. That’s not going to work with cars, though; deciding not to brake or swerve is clearly worse than either, and no human could get involved fast enough.

    Accordingly, I don’t believe the trolley problem is really going to play any role in the design of things like self-driving cars. It’s just another case where people make the mistake of thinking the AI is like a human. The only ethical considerations are in the design, not in the product itself.

  17. @Greg
    Spillchuckers will never tell you it’s the wrong word for that usage. They only tell you if it’s a real word. Which is what people never remember when relying on them.

  18. book comment for those following Rowling’s new career: the latest Cormoran Strike, Lethal White, is (a) very large (~635pp, not much whitespace but cleanly written), (b) not padded (it covers some weeks around the London Olympics), (c) not particularly violent (especially by comparison to entries 1-3), and (d) almost as much about Robin as about Cormoran, and possibly better about her — she actually grows, where he doesn’t; it will be interesting to see where “Robert Galbraith” goes with these. The plot? They’re hired because a cabinet minister is being extorted, but that’s only one thread; all of the threads provide more room than the previous entries for acid comments on British classism as in Temporary Vacancy, with attention not just to the Tories but to the people who use the I’m-downtrodden card to abuse their fellows.

  19. @P J Evans It’s a bigger problem in languages like German where “anyone can see” that a word can’t have that ending in this sentence. I worked for a company that sold spell checking software back in the 1980s, and we got endless complaints about the corrector offering “wrong words.” Not misspelled words, but just not valid given the syntax of the sentence. 1980s word processors were very far from even attempting to figure out the syntax of sentences, of course.

    My favorite, though, was when a US salesman called me on the phone from a prospective customer’s site, concerned that we had a vulgar word in the dictionary. “What does REARMed” mean?” Our software had apparently offered this as one of the choices for a suggested mispelling.

    I made him spell it, and replied “I think that’s pronounced reARMED.”

    He said, “rearmed?” in an almost disappointed voice. In the background, I heard maybe a dozen people burst out laughing.

    And we got the sale. 🙂

  20. Greg Hullender on October 27, 2018 at 7:41 am said:

    (18) Any system built with existing technology will unquestionably be designed to never let anyone die ever. Much as a spelling-error corrector never offers the wrong choice on purpose. People will still get killed sometimes–just as a spelling-error corrector sometimes suggests the wrong words–but that’ll be because the algorithm failed.

    Fairly simple and predictable behaviour from autonomous cars will be easier & safer for other drivers. People will treat them as acting according to motives and intent (i.e. assuming that the car wants to x or prefers to do y etc).

  21. @Chip Hitchcock: The Cormoran Strike books seem to be repeating a familiar motif from Harry Potter: the woman or girl (Robin, Hermione) is clearly smarter than the man or boy and works harder, but the man is the main focus of the stories. Glad to see Rowling maight be breaking away from this.

  22. When a pixel’s not engaged in its enscrollment,
    Or maturing its pixellious little plans,
    Its capacity for innocent Rickrollment
    Is as great as any other honest fan’s.

    (Forgive the utter senselessness).

  23. from what I can tell, the man who was killed as a result of the SWATting was not himself a gamer.

  24. I watched the first couple of episodes of the new Sabrina, out of mild curiosity, and my conclusion is: not as bad as I feared, but not as good as I hoped. It’s trying to be both light-hearted and a bit scary, which is a tricky tightrope to walk; they do an ok, but unexceptional job in that respect. It wobbles at times, but (so far) managed to avoid stumbling badly.

    I did like it calling out the patriarchy of traditional (?) Satanism. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the old comics. But the “woke” elements of the show do tend towards white-girl-wokeness. Which is unsurprising, and probably even appropriate, but a bit disappointing. I felt they missed some opportunities to make some fairly obvious points–but they also avoided the trap of coming off as preachy, so I can’t complain too much.

    It’s good enough that I’ll probably keep watching for a while, but I’m not yet sure I’ll finish the season.

  25. Hampus, that’s adorable! And I think I spotted a faint smile on at least one model’s usually bland face.

    Jayn, love it!

  26. Danny Sichel: from what I can tell, the man who was killed as a result of the SWATting was not himself a gamer.

    The man who was killed was an innocent bystander who had nothing to do with any of the parties involved; he just happened to live at the address given by the man urging the SWATter on, who had very deliberately used an address which was not his own.

    This story was previously covered in the January 1 and June 14 Pixel Scrolls, which have links to early news articles about the incident:
    Pixel Scroll 1/1/18 Scrolled Lang Syne (item #11)
    Pixel Scroll 6/14/18 When The Scroll Hits Your Eye Like A Big Pixel Pie, That’s A-nnoying (item #11)

  27. (9) Happy Birthday to all these fine folks.

    I think the Compton Award attributed to Jim Butcher for Storm Front is an error. I had never heard of the award so I looked up the winners list out of curiosity.
    Neither Jim Butcher, Storm Front or any book of his is on it. He was probably just nominated.

  28. Lanodantheon, you’re right, that should have read “was nominated for” instead of “won”.

    The winner that year was Murphy’s Gambit by Syne Mitchell; the other finalists were Dykstra’s War by Jeffery D. Kooistra, Mars Crossing by Geoffrey A. Landis, The King’s Peace by Jo Walton, and Transformation by Carol Berg.

  29. Dykstra’s War by Jeffery D. Kooistra

    That’s a book? I’ve looked on shelves for years hoping I’d see something of his fiction. I assume that’s the whole story, or at least a whole story arc.

  30. @9: Elwes also wrote the memoir Inconceivable!; it spends more time than necessary (IMO) on hanging out with Andre the Giant, whose capacity for alcohol was even greater than his size would suggest, but it has a fair amount of juicy detail about the making of the movie as well.

    @Lisa Goldstein: I suspect Rowling thought she was writing-to-market with the Potters and the early Cormorans; she may be doing what she wants (or even what she was nudged toward) because she has no money worries and an established series. It will be interesting to see whether the shifts in this one cost her readers or increase them.

  31. Jim Butcher was a finalist for the 2001 Compton Crook Award given by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. http://www.sfadb.com/Compton_Crook_Stephen_Tall_Memorial_Award_2001

    Lanodantheon on October 27, 2018 at 5:44 pm said:
    I think the Compton Award attributed to Jim Butcher for Storm Front is an error. I had never heard of the award so I looked up the winners list out of curiosity.
    Neither Jim Butcher, Storm Front or any book of his is on it. He was probably just nominated.

  32. Two-weeks-belated thanks to @Robin Whiskers & @Ginger for the feedback on Piers Anthony’s “Cluster” series!

    Between being sick and going to the World Fantasy Convention, I’m only now getting back to my “catch on on Pixel Scrolls!” attempt. 😉

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