Passengers vs “50 Girls 50”

Spoilers: Minor for Passengers, Major for 50 Girls 50.

In late 2016 the movie passengers came out staring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. The movie is set aboard a sleeper spaceship and the plot centers around the two leads characters waking up early. I won’t say more about movie but there is summary of the plot in the wikipedia entry for the movie. You can compare it to the comic below to see the similarities and differences.

When I first saw the trailer it reminded me of a Sci-Fi comic I read years ago, others noticed it was similar and gave a name of the comic as “50 Girls 50” by Al Williamson. I couldn’t find a summary of  short story so I thought I’d write it up here.

50 Girls 50 by Al Williamson – Plot summary

The story is a 6 page comic with one off characters. It is set in the distant future aboard a spaceship making humanity’s first journey to a nearby star. Since the trip will take 100 years the the crew/passengers of 50 women and 50 men (hence the title) will be frozen for the whole journey. However the freezing technology used only works on a person once, if you attempt to refreeze somebody they will die.

The plot of the story is partially told though flashbacks but I’ll tell it is chronological order.

The main character is Sid who before the voyage starts is attracted to one of the other passengers Wendy. Wendy notices his attraction and they get together. After a time Wendy has proposition for him. She suggest that Sid sabotage the Deep-freeze (D-F) units so that  he wakes up early. He can then wake her up and they can wake up the others one at a time and “make them our slaves”

Sid however as his own idea. What he wants to do is just have a series of girlfriends. He’ll set his clock for two years out. Then he will wake up Wendy and live with he for a while, when he gets tired of Wendy he will get rid of her and move to the next girl and so on.

Once the voyage starts things go to Sid’s plan. He thaws out 2 years in but instead of waking up Wendy he decided to thaw out Laura first. He then pretends to Laura that they both accidentally thawed out.

“Almost a year” later he gets tired and Laura, shoots he with a “Paralyzer” gun and stuffs he back in a Freeze-chamber to die.

He then prepares to wake Wendy. First he sets the Ships clock to say they will reach the destination in 3 years to give him enough time to get tired of Wendy. Things don’t go according to plan however when Wendy wakes up:

Not really a happy ending for anyone, although it is not like Sid or Wendy really deserved one.

 

Donations 2016

Like last year I am doing all my charity donations at once and blogging about it. The theory with doing it all at once is that is it more efficient and less impulsive, while blogging about it might encourage others to do similarly. Note that all amounts are in $US

I found one downside of doing it all at once (especially around midnight) is that my bank suspended my card for suspicious activity. All sorted out with a quick phone call though.

Once more this year I gave the majority of my money to those charities recommended by Givewell. This year instead of spreading my donation evenly among the top charities I followed their recommendations ( See right sidebar on the link above ).

Next were a series of Open Source projects, trying to concentrate on software I use:

And some tech content or advocacy groups

Additionally I gave some money to MSF via a campaign by Zeynep Tufekci highlighting Yemen

Hoping to do the same again next year, feel free to recommend other organizations you think might be a good place for me to donate towards. I’m thinking about

Priorities for 2016

This is a almost New Years resolutions page but not quite. It is a list of the stuff that will take priority over other things in 2016

  • Chess – Aim to play regularly in tournaments, do weekly coaching and study at least 7 hours per week on tactics, endgames and openings.
  • Programming – Continue improving my programming skills, finish the book I am on, do a few exercises and create a few things
  • Blogging – At least 1 post each month to both my personal blog and the Auckland Chess Centre website
  • Driving – Get my Restricted Driver License
  • Reading – Read books (not online) at least half an hour per day
  • Health – 7500 steps every weekday plus get to goal weight
  • Conference – Run successful Sysadmin Miniconf at Linux.conf.au 2016

Stretch Goals – If I am keeping up with the above

  • Start working my way through Shakespeare’s plays
  • Do a couple of new website projects I’ve been putting off
  • Watch a 2-3 of hours of TV each week.

Studying for Driver license test with Anki

In 2014 I decided to do a bit or work to finally get my New Zealand driver license. The first step towards this was passing the theory test which is a 35 question test given on computer. You have to get at least 32 questions right to pass.

After spending a bit of time looking at the roadcode book I decided to go with just learning the questions. I did this by:

  1. Buying some of the official practice exams
  2. Grabbing other questions for unofficial sites
  3. Entering some other questions manually from the books

I took all these questions and created a Anki Deck. Anki is some spaced repetition software that I use to learn things. I tell it to ask me a few new questions every day, if I get them wrong it asks me again tomorrow, if I get them right it asks me again next week. Gradually as I learn something it asks me less often (see the more technical explanation here)

A typical question on an Anki deck looks like these screenshots:

Screenshot_2015-12-10-21-05-24 Screenshot_2015-12-10-21-04-24The left on the left shows me being asked the question. Once I pick my answer I look at the actual answer (see rightmost screenshot)

If I get it wrong I get the card again in 10 minutes and depending on how easy I judged it if I got it right I’ll only see it again in months.

I ended up entering just on 400 questions and told Anki to give me 5 new cards every day plus whatever old ones I had to review. After a few months I had gone though all the questions and had a good feel for them. I also did some of the official practice exams.

Eventually in December 2014 I sat the exam and got 100 percent correct.

I’ll make my deck available at the link below. There are just over 400 cards in it, some with pictures. There are a few duplications but no errors as far as I am aware. They are current as of late 2014 (including the give-way rules change that year).

To use them you’ll need a copy of Anki and it is probably easiest to use the desktop edition to import the file and then use an Ankiweb account to Synchronize to a copy on your phone.

Download NZ Driver license Theory Anki Deck (2MB .apkg file)

Donations 2015

Up until a couple of years ago my main charity was a regular payment to Oxfam. However I cancel this after I decided I disliked their fund-raising methods and otherwise read they were probably not in the top few percent of charities. Since then I’ve been tending to do things all in one go.

I just finished doing this year’s so I thought I’d document it here. It does feel a little weird to post about it but I’ve seen others do it. The theory I guess is that you the reader might be convinced that giving to charity is a good thing and do likewise.

My main donation was to the the top four charities rated by GiveWell:

  • Against Malaria Foundation                   $US 150
  • Schistosomiasis Control Initiative         $US 150
  • Deworm the World Initiative                  $US 150
  • GiveDirectly                                                 $US 150

Next were a series of Open Source projects

  • Debian                                                              $US 50
  • Freedesktop.org                                              $US 30
  • LibreOffice                                                       $US 30
  • OpenBSD                                                          $US 30
  • Python                                                              $US 30
  • Gnome                                                              $US 30

Interestingly enough I hadn’t originally intended to donate to LibreOffice and Freedesktop.org but Debian handles donations via Software in the Public Interest and those two showed up on the same donation page.

and some others

I thought about a few others including The Internet Archive, Anki and Mozilla. Perhaps next year

Reading the Lord of the Rings aloud

The reading project that I am working on is a re-read of the Lord of the Rings. I’ve read the book/trilogy around a The_Lord_of_the_Rings_Trilogydozen times over the years but the two main differences this time are that I am reading it aloud and that I am consulting a couple of commentaries as I go. The references works I am using are The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion and the The Lord of the Rings Reread series by Kate Nepveu. The Companion is a fairly large book (860 pages) that follows the text page by page and gives explanations for words, characters and the history/development of the text. These can range from a simple definition to a couple of pages on a specific topic or character. The reread has a quick synopsis at the start of the article for each chapter and then some commentary by Kate followed by some comments from her readers (which I usually only quickly skim).

I started my read-aloud on February 15th 2015 and I am now ( April 7th ) just past the half-way point ( I completed The Fellowship of the Ring on March 27th) . My process is to read the text for 30-60 minutes ( I’m reading the three-book 1979 3rd edition paperback edition, which amusingly has various errors that the Reader’s Companion points out as I go) which gets me though 5-10 pages. I read aloud everything on the page including chapter titles, songs, non-English words and footnotes. A few times I have checked the correct pronunciation of words ( Eomer is one ) but otherwise I try not to get distracted. Once I finish for the session I open the Reader’s Companion and check the entries for the pages I have just read and at the end of each chapter ( chapters are usually around 20-30 pages) I have a look at Kate’s blog entry. I try an read most days and sometimes do extras on weekends.

One thing I really need to say is that I really am enjoying the whole thing. I love the book (like I said I’ve read it over a dozen times) and reading it aloud makes the experience even better. The main difference is that I do not skip over words/sentences/paragraphs which tends to happen when I read normally. So I don’t miss phrases like the description of Lake Hithoel:

The sun, already long fallen from the noon, was shining in a windy sky. The pent waters spread out into a long oval lake, pale Nen Hithoel, fenced by steep grey hills whose sides were clad with trees. At the far southern end rose three peaks. The midmost stood somewhat forward from the others and sundered from them, an island in the waters, about which the flowing River flung pale shimmering arms. Distant but deep there came up on the wind a roaring sound like the roll of thunder heard far away.

LOTR_Readers_Companion
Nor do I skip the other little details that are easy to miss, like Grishnakh and his Mordor Orcs leaving the rest of the group for a couple of days on the plains of Rohan or the description of country leading up to the west gate of Moria. Although I do wish I’d seen the link to the map of Helm’s Deep halfway down this page before I’d read the chapter as it would have made things clearer. The Companion is also good at pointing out how things fit in the chronology, so when somebody gazes at the horizon and sees a cloud of smoke it will say what event elsewhere in the book (or other writing) that is from. You also get a great feel for Tolkien’s language and words and his vivid descriptions of scenes and landscape (often up to a page long) such the example above. Although I do find he uses “suddenly” an awful lot when he has new events/people break into the narrative.

The readers companion is a great resource, written by two serious Tolkien scholars but intended for general readers rather than academics. Kate Nepveu’s articles are also very useful in giving a more opinionated and subjective commentary. I would definitely recommend the experience to others who are fans of the Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure how well it would work with other books but certainly it enhances a work I already know well and love.

At the current rate I am expecting to finish some time in June or July. The next project I’m planning is Shakespeare’s plays. I am planning on reading each one (multiple times including possibly at least once aloud) and watching the BBC Television Shakespeare and other adaptations and commentaries. My plan is that I’ll cover the majority of them  but I’ll see how I go, However I’d like to at least get though the major ones.

Parallel Importing vs The Economist

Simpson-economistFor the last few years I have subscribed to the online edition of  The Economist magazine. Previously I read it via their website but for the last year or two I have used their mobile app. Both feature the full-text of each week’s magazine. Since I subscribed near 15 years ago I have paid:

Launched Jun 1997   US$ 48
Jun 1999            US$ 48
Oct 2002            US$ 69
Oct 2003            US$ 69
Dec 2006            US$ 79
Oct 2009            US$ 79
Oct 2010            US$ 95
Oct 2011            US$ 95
Mar 2014            NZ$ 400 (approx US$ 300) 

You will note the steady creep for a few years followed by the huge jump in 2014.

Note: I reviewed by credit card bill for 2012 and 2013 and I didn’t see any payments, it is possible I was getting it for free for two years 🙂 . Possibly this was due to the transition between using an outside card processor (Worldpay) and doing the subscriptions in-house.

Last year I paid the bill in a bit of a rush and while I was surprised at the amount I didn’t think to hard. This year however I had a closer look. What seems to have happened is that The Economist has changed their online pricing model from “cheap online product” to “discount from the printed price”. This means that instead of online subscribers paying the same everywhere they now pay slightly less than it would cost to get the printed magazine delivered to the home.

Unfortunately the New Zealand price is very high to (I assume) cover the cost of shipping a relatively small number of magazines via air all the way from the nearest printing location.

econ_nzecon_us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So readers in New Zealand are now charged NZ$ 736 for a two-year digital subscription while readers in the US are now charged US$ 223 ( NZ$ 293) for the same product. Thus New Zealanders pay 2.5 times as much as Americans.

Fortunately since I am a globe-trotting member of the world elite® I was able to change my subscription address to my US office and save a bunch of cash. However for a magazine that publishes the Big Mac Index comparing prices of products around the world the huge different in prices for the same digital product seems a little weird.

Books for Sale – Part 2

I’m doing a book clean-out. The following are all for sale. Remainders will be given away to charity or something. Pickup is from either my house (Dominion Rd/Balmoral, Auckland) or my I can meet during the week near my work in Wyndham Street in the Auckland CBD.

Prices as mark, discount if you want to by more than 5 or so. Links may not match the exact edition I am selling.

If you are interested in any please contact me via email ( simon@darkmere.gen.nz ) or over twitter ( @slyall ). Sale will run to end of April or so.

See Part 1 for more books

Business

Commentary / Opinion / Speculation / Politics

Technical

Travel / Misc

 

Books for sale – Part 1

I’m doing a book clean-out. The following are all for sale. Remainders will be given away to charity or something. Pickup is from either my house (Dominion Rd/Balmoral, Auckland) or my I can meet during the week near my work in Wyndham Street in the Auckland CBD.

Prices as mark, discount if you want to by more than 5 or so. Links may not match the exact edition I am selling.

If you are interested in any please contact me via email ( simon@darkmere.gen.nz ) or over twitter ( @slyall ) Sale will run to end of April or so.

See Part 2 for more books

Science Fiction / Fantasy

Deryni Books by Katherine Kurtz, all paperbacks of used quality unless otherwise named.

  • Deryni Rising – $4
  • Deryni Checkmate – $4
  • High Deryni – $4
  • Camber of Culdi (2 copies) -$4 each
  • The Bishops Heir (Hardback, ripped jacket) – $4
  • The Quest for Saint Camber – $4
  • The Deryni Archives – $4

Science Fiction Short Story Collections

Sci-Fi Novels

Other Fiction

History

Another run in with the Electoral Commission

After already having trouble Electoral Commission banning photography in polling places I now get a threatening email from them.

Yesterday I made this Tweet:

 

and today I get the following email

Subject: Electoral Commission complaint – London exit poll posted on Twitter account

Dear Simon,

The Electoral Commission has received a complaint with regard to an exit poll being taken and then published on the Twitter account of @slyall. We understand that this is your Twitter account.

Under section 197(1)(d) of the Electoral Act 1993, it is an offence to conduct a public opinion poll of persons who have voted (exit polls). Section 197(1)(d) states:

197 Interfering with or influencing voters
(1) Every person commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 who at an election—
(d) at any time before the close of the poll, conducts in relation to the election a public opinion poll of persons voting before polling day

In order to assist the Commission in considering this complaint, could you please provide the following information:

1.         Who conducted the exit poll and when was it conducted?
2.         How did you receive this information?
3.         Any other information you believe to be of relevance to the Commission’s consideration.
4.         How you might remedy this matter.

Can you please provide the above information by 5pm, Friday 19 September 2014. In the first instance, to avoid further complaints, you may wish to remove the Twitter post.

Please telephone me if you wish to discuss this further.

Update

I replied with:

I saw this:
http://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/2gidem/kiwi_did_exit_polling_out
side_london_embassy_note/

and copied it to twitter.

I have no further knowledge of the photo or poll or the people who took it
or even if it actually took place.

and did nothing else. A couple of days later he emailed me with.

Thanks for getting back to us. The Commission understands that the original
tweet in respect of the exit poll has been removed and the Commission is not
taking any further action on the matter.

Thanks again for prompt reply which was much appreciated.

which was a little strange since neither me nor anybody else had removed anything. A little weird and one reason I don’t feel confident with these guys running voting over the Internet.