November 2012

I know at least one of my LJ friends will have sympathy with this one. I’ve received the proofs for a new journal article(*). While most of the comments are reasonable there’s a pair that are rather stupid when taken together. In the paper we reference this paper:

Dick , A . R . and Brooks , M . J . ( 2003 ) Issues in automated visual surveillance . In: Sun e t al (eds .) .

which as anyone who udnerstands referencing can see then cross-references:

Sun , C . , Talbot , H . , Ourselin , S . and Adriaansen , T . (eds). ( 2003 ) Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Digital Image Computing: Techniques and Applications, DICTA 2003, 10 – 12 December 2003, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia . CSIRO Publishing .

The copy editors have separately asked:

Please provide further publication details in the reference Dick and Brooks (2003).


Reference Sun et al (2003) not cited in the text. Please cite in the text, else delete from the reference list.



(*) From my web page “News” section about this paper: A joint paper with Dr James Ferryman of the School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading has just been accepted by Security Journal. The pre-print of The Future of Video Analystics for Surveillance and Its Ethical Implications is available from the The Open Depot. (an academoc networking site) has an interesting alert service whereby they email anyone whose page is accessed with a referrer URL from one of the main search engines, and give the search terms, the search engine and, where available (from the web server log of rather than from the search engine), the country from which my page was accessed. It’s interesting to see how people find me and from where. Yesterday I got such an alert where one of my papers was found via a search on a minor paraphrasing of one of the significant sentences (i.e. not a linking piece of text but one of the presentations of the core ideas in the paper). Thinking about how I’ve worked in the past, I suspect this was an academic checking for plagiarism in a piece of student work that has made them suspicious.

The final installment in Robinson’s Science in the Capital story is to my mind the weakest of the three books. An American friend once called The West Wing “Liberal wishful thinking on screen”. This book is somewhat like that as well. There are intertwined plots about an NSF-turned presidential bureacrat (adviser to the President’s science adviser) who struggles with a brain injury leading to an inability to make decisions (and the need to make a decision whether or not to have the surgery to try and correct it) while simultaneously the same man is having an affair with a spy (linked to a friendwith links to the intelligence community as well); a presidential aide (think Sam Seaborn from the West Wing) struggling with raising a young family; Tibetan buddhists re-initialising Shambala near Washington, DC; the battles against global warming both scientific and political.

The subplots more or less work individually but I think there’s too many of them and they tie up too neatly. While there’s an acknowledgement that averting everything bad about global warming by the end of the book isn’t feasible I find this way too optimistic about whether US politics will ever be able to face up to the reality of climate change, even with the serious weather consequences in the first two books. There’s also a distinct lack of timing about the book in the tech. Unlike in Antarctica (which I’m now re-reading, more on that later) where he at least makes an effort to project the tech slightly, in this it could easily be 2012 from the tech available. Perhaps it’s meant to be a parallel world in which global warming has progressed slightly faster and this is 2012 (well, 2007 when the book was written, anyway).

The whole trilogy is interesting but not spectacular. Certainly far from my favourite Robinson and lacking the deep sparks that made the Three Californias books so brilliant.

So, for once I’m moved to do a non-book review blog.

The week before last I cut my finger. About a 1cm long shallow slash just below the last joint of my right index finger. So, this kind of things happens all the time, and why am I blogging it? Well, because I gut it on some cheese. Wow, that was some sharp cheese!

I made soup last night with some kabocha (Japanes squash variety with inside flesh pretty much like a pumpkin but with a green skin) and with some satoimo (also called taro, under which name you might have seen it outside Japan in restaurants, particularly in slices for tempura). This is a relatively common dish for me these days. The recipe is based on a leek and potato base (which can be used for all sorts of other flavourings like asparagus). I just substitute some kabocha and satoimo for the  potato. The particular satoimo I had in is one with a purple flesh as well as purple skin (most of the ones available in Japan are purple-skinned but have pale yellow flesh). Combined with the orange kabocha flesh this usually makes for a yellow/orange soup. However, the purple flesh meant that, like mixing all the colours of plasticine together, the result was pretty much brown. A slight purple-tinged brown in this case, but definitely brown. Very tasty, though.

I’m now mostly back to my normal diet now. At least I’m able to eat high residue foods like Weetabix and brown bread again. I’m still being quite careful with spices, working my way back up to chili, via increaing amounts of pepper and ginger in things. I’m still avoiding Indian (I had an Indian the evening before my colitis attack and while I’m fairly sure it wasn’t the direct cause, I am pretty sure the spices did not help) and Thai so far, and only using tiny amounts of (fake)wasabi in soba dipping sauce and sashimi soy dipping sauce.

I had one of those odd coincidences last night. I bumped my little side table with my leg as I sat down and spilled some coffee. A very small amount got onto the TV remote controller, though I was fairly sure it was only on the surface and didnt get inside at all. We were watching an episode of Once Upon a Time at that point, so I didn ‘t need the TV controller, only the media player controller, until after the episode. It didn’t work. So, figuring it was a coincidence I swapped out the batteries for a pair in my laptop bag, as they were the closest to hand. Still no joy. I left it until this morning to see if it was moisture inside, but still no joy. Before trying to replace the unit, I tried with a fresh set of batteries from the cupboard and it worked. The batteries in my latop bag must have been there too long or were used ones I’d put in there while travelling at some point and not taken out. Ho hum, at least I didn’t find this out after buying a replacement controller.

The second book in Robinson’s Science in the Capital trilogy. There’s definitely some wish-fulfillment going on here, with scientists in an adventure with global warming and left wing politics in the US. Definitely mundane SF with a bit of magic realism dropped in as the “one impossibility” allowed. I wasn’t as happy with this book as the first one. A majority of this is taken up with Frank as the main viewpoint character and as the story went on I found him less and less sympathetic (and I found him the least engaging of the viewpoint characters in the first book). There’s a side plot about him being romatically involved with a spy that reads rather false compared to the realism of much of the rest (the magic realism aside). still, generally well-written and it cracks along at a decent pace, but maybe a bit much filler to get to the finale, which I’ve now started (Sixty Days and Counting, review coming soon).

Having fallen so far behind on reviewing I’m going to try to keep up with what I’m reading now rather than trying to catch up in order. Forty Signs of Rain is the start of Robinson’s “Science in the Capital” trilogy about climate change, starring a cast of very well drawn people n the NSF, a congressional office and a biotech startup. It was written in 2004, well before MacLeod’s Intrusion but shares some interesting parallels with that one – married with young children protagonists, biotech companies, climate change leading to European cooling and rising sea levels. There’s just a hint of mysticism in Forty Signs of Rain (less than Intrusion) but it might build up over the trilogy. There’s a flashback to Robinson’s earlier Escape from Kathmandu with the story also featuring Tibetan Buddhists from Shambahla.

This is an excellently written piece of mundane SF. It doesn’t even have the one miracle piece. Somewhat like his earlier Gold Coast (partof the Three Californias trilogy) this is a “if this goes on” tale, though the direction thigns are heading are looking more like they could lead to “The Wild Shore” than the Gold Coast future. It’s unusual these days to have scientist protagonists (early SF like Doc Smith had hero adventurer scientists, but Robinson features working scientists who worry about funding, political inteference, political fallout and the philosophy of science.  While we’ll see how the trilogy pans out, this is an excellent start.

If I’m feeling up to it I’ll tackle “The Years of Rice and Salt” and “2312” after this trilogy but they’re both hefty single volumes, though as a trilogy these three outweight them. Strange that as I’m still a little convalescent from the colitis, (and. in fact just come down with a moderately bad head cold yesterday and today) I feel up to tackling a trilogy of about 1200 pages but not 650+ (Years) or 550+ (2312). I also have still never read his Mars Trilogy though I’ve read most of the rest of his work. Maybe I’ll re-read Antarctica as a warm-up to the Mars Trilogy, soon.

Between travel (Worldcon in Chicago, followed a week after getting back by a trip to the UK for a conference) and then getting seriously ill (major colitis attack) I’ve gotten well behind on my book reviewing, though I’ve been reading a lot as I convalesce. However, I felt moved to review this latest read ahead of trying to do a catch up on earlier reads.

This should have been Ken MacLeod’s masterpiece. His 1984 (he’s described on a cover quote as a modern Orwell). Unfortunately he had a wonderful idea and failed in the execution. This is mundane SF and includes the one allowed magical idea. Unfortunately it’s this magical idea that makes this merely a reasonable read instead of 1984 for 2012. The magical mcguffin element turns what should be a clear clarion call against the direction of travel of the UK particularly (but also much else of Western civilisation) in the risk versus freedom debate (going way too far in reducing risk and denying people’s freedoms, and actually causing greater harm in fighting the risks in many ways) into something of a damp squib. Instead of a clear example of how far a society with supposedly its own citizens’ safety and security at heart could become the threat itself, the characters are saved by a desu ex machina from the consequences of minor infractions and over-reaction by the authorities. Worth reading if you’re a MacLeod fan, but he’s written better in recent years (Learning the World being his last, so far, space opera, and The Restoration Game is a wonderful paranoid political SF novel which reminds me of Halting State/Rule 34 and Declare simultaneously).