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Student of Trinity

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    the big Hilbert space
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  1. I hadn't kissed anyone except relatives at twenty, either. I got married at 28; we just had our twentieth anniversary. Until I met my wife, my social life was sparse at best and heartbreaking at worst. That was partly because finding an intimate relationship is just difficult, and partly because I made poor choices about how to spend my time. I didn't take seriously enough the fact that finding an intimate relationship is difficult. I assumed too much that it would just magically happen, so I hardly gave it a chance to happen. I should have been a lot more pro-active a lot sooner. I ne
  2. With 22 answers, the poll results are consistent with having 9 respondents rank the three powers Shapers-Empire-Pact; 7 rank them Empire-Shapers-Pact; 3 rank them Empire-Pact-Shapers; 2 rank them Shapers-Pact-Empire; 1 ranks them Pact-Shapers-Empire; and no-one picks Pact-Empire-Shapers. The poll results for these four questions provide enough information to work out exactly how many people believe in each of the six possible rankings — if one assumes that everyone has answered in terms of a single-valued power ranking of all three powers, and has kept all their answers consistent. If some
  3. My writing project is still slowly going along. It will eventually end up as at least one finished novel. I don't really have a lot of time to work on it, but I hack away when I can. Sometimes I plunge ahead writing; sometimes I step back, frown, and gun down darlings. Up to a point I have high standards, but I'm not trying to write a Great Novel; just write something I like. If you want to make money from writing, I am no-one to advise you, but I can recommend writing a novel as a hobby. It's fun. What was originally going to be one book has expanded into a trilogy. First I cut it into tw
  4. I've been busy for a while; too busy to play Spiderweb games, and hence, ultimately, too busy to really keep up with the Zeitgeist here. But sometimes busy-ness defeats itself. Like when you're procrastinating on an overdue grant proposal. A while ago here I described my experiments in running radically stripped-down pen-and-paper role-playing games for nieces and nephews. (Take-home message: pets must not die.) This was apparently one of the pebbles that eventually led to the mighty avalanche of AIMHack. Here's an update that might add a useful twist. This summer's game was: Zombie Ap
  5. I've mostly finished reading Germany: 1866-1945 by Gordon A. Craig. I've pretty much hacked my way through it, not because it's hard going, but because I have it in the German translation from the original English, because it was a lot cheaper on Amazon and I thought I'd give it a try. Turns out there are a lot of fancy words in this level of written German. Plus some unfamiliar ones that aren't fancy. It turns out that 'arg' is a German word. It means something like bad or sore, which seems appropriate enough, but I've never heard it spoken. Coolest thing I've learned: the nickname for Hi
  6. I don't know much about US-Mexico things. I lived four years in New Mexico, but NM was NM before it was American, and I lived for seven years in Boston, which is northeastern and rich and liberal about everything; about everything, it's all three of those things. Writing about any kind of underprivileged group is academic low-hanging fruit. Somebody has to write about cultural differences, and everybody who can ought to write about injustice; but wherever there's fresh meat, vultures gather. You can get tenure and promotion, book contracts and celebrity (of a sort at least) by writing a tr
  7. So I wrote a 130K-word first draft in a year, and I thought I'd try to finish the second draft in a second year, but that deadline passed four days ago, and I wasn't even close to making it, despite a lot of steady work over all that time. I did manage to hammer out an improved version of the most difficult part. The revised version held together and I thought I was over the hump. But then I asked myself, Why did this take so long? It took so long because it was hard. I thought that was okay; sometimes writing is just hard, I thought. But now I think that this was hard in a bad way. I was
  8. I think it might irritate me, even if I admired how well it was done. In an abstract way I can acknowledge the skill of someone who does a great job smacking me in the face, but that doesn't mean I want to pay them for it.
  9. I worked on my novel for about a year and half using Apple's Pages app. It gave me no problems even as the story stretched well past 100,000 words. Pages is a general-purpose word processor and doesn't claim to be optimized for writing novels in particular, but it's robust and easy to use. I liked that it wasn't anything more than that. I knew about fancy-pants apps like Ulysses or Scrivener, that offered all kinds of corkboard views and index cards and stuff. I was afraid of them. I thought they would be great tools for someone who wanted to be writing a novel — as opposed to someone who
  10. Each of the three LOTR volumes is divided into two 'Books'. Book 4 is the second half of The Two Towers. I haven't read much of anything in quite a long time. I'm writing my own book, and since I have a real job beside that, my writing has taken over my reading slot. I've been a compulsively voracious reader for most of my life, but I mind not reading much less than I would have expected. I think I may always have been one of those readers for whom reading was in large part about scouting out the space of possible books, to prepare my attack.
  11. After writing quite a lot more of this story than I had at the point of my November 2012 post "Cordite and steel and everything nice", it seems that Anastasia works quite well as a character. The people who have read my drafts so far are all family members, so they're an easy crowd, but everyone seems to really like Anastasia. Liking the protagonist is really important, especially when she's also the narrator. An unlikable narrator-protagonist makes the whole book painful, but with a likable one even a broken shoelace can raise a bit of suspense. My second protagonist-narrator, Thomas, was
  12. The middle of that post was also dense but intriguing, but I have snipped it because nobody's going to read it again quoted so soon, and in order to ask: Does all the stuff I snipped add up to being fun to read? I ask because I'm just not in the market right now for fiction as arduous self-education. I already have all the challenging intellectual projects that I can handle. What does it mean to not "pander to the whims of readers"? Letting Little Nell die? Or being hard to understand? There must be millions of grumpily self-published authors who proudly say that they refuse to pander to
  13. Transparent books are even harder to read, though.
  14. That's a good graphic; that's about what it's like. Oh, maybe not entirely. If you can keep some sort of perspective, enough to not start imagining that you know everything because you know your one thing, you can maybe transfer a kind of meta-knowledge from your tiny specialty to almost everything. You know what it's like to understand something, and you know even better what it's like to not understand something but kid yourself that you do. So you can maybe recognize those things when you read something even well outside of your own field. It won't be the material that you know, but the
  15. Yeah, UK education narrows the fastest of the systems I know. I'm not sure it compensates enough by getting deeper faster, too, or if that would really be a compensation, anyway. Presumably the assumption is that you can pick up a broad but shallow education by yourself, just be reading Wikipedia or something, so you may as well go narrow for your formal training. That's maybe not a bad idea, if people actually do it. For all the limitations of North American education, you can stay quite broad until quite late. A typical bachelor's degree with honors (so four years, and the normal prerequ
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