The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation


"Coming of age stories for girls are YA. Coming of age stories for boys are fine fiction." #

14 March 2017
Puzzled Pint for February 2017

The puzzles for 14 February were themed "Valentine's Day".

More: A very mixed bag of puzzles.

Overall, just scrapes a Third Class set.

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12 March 2017
Ed Sheeran: record maker

This blog deems the sales chart to be the chart of record. So we're going to mention ROPRA's claim that Ed Sheeran has "nine of the top ten ROPRA singles in the chart made up by ROPRA", and file it with other press release puffery.

However, comparing apples with apples, we do find that Ed Sheeran has an unprecedented domination of the charts. Four of the top seven singles in the real and accurate sales chart this week. That doesn't quite beat Frankie Laine's record, he had four in the top six on Hallowe'en 1953. But no-one since has managed to place four tracks in the top ten at the same time. This is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

Ed Sheeran puts six into the top twenty. This has never happened before. The prior best was five, by Bill Haley and the Comets (four weeks in 1956), Elvis Presley (two weeks in 1957), Michael Jackson (after his death in 2009), David Bowie (after his death in 2016).

Ed Sheeran puts nine into the top thirty. This has never happened before. Seven for Elvis (two weeks in 1957) and Jacko (one week in 2009).

Thirteen into the top forty ties the all-time record with Michael Jackson, in the immediate aftermath of his death.

Michael Jackson put fourteen into the top 50 for two weeks in 2009. All sixteen of the tracks on Ed Sheeran's land in the top 50. This is a record. All of it, in its entirety.

(More: Detailed scores from 1 to 100.)

There has been much discussion elsewhere about how "the charts are broken". That may be the case, but this is an utterly exceptional example. Do not legislate on the extreme: make rules for the everyday, and enjoy these once-in-a-lifetime exceptions.

This week, Ed Sheeran is a cultural phenomenon we can compare with The Late Michael Jackson. And he's still alive to tell the tale.

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25 February 2017
Six: She Moves Through the Fare
  1. Nick Tyrone on the left's choice: community or liberal. Are we to divide into little interest groups, or allow people to conduct themselves? Are we to be humans, or small beings?

  2. Good to see The New European will continue indefinitely, and good to see it get attention from Neiman Lab. We buy a very occasional copy; the substantive critique of our notes on the early editions remains. We need more hard news, there's not enough nuts-and-bolts sport. The paper is great on opinion and travelogue, but lacks a news core.

  3. Bob Lefsetz has been on a visit to Belfast. The influences of Van Morrison, the lived lives of Ash. And a paean to Belfast child, a song by Simple Minds. Tom of the E Wing reviled the song; we think it has much more merit.

  4. One very strange year at Uber, Susan Fowler's account of rampant sexism and a macho culture. We're glad not to use the company.

  5. Indian, an Eg and Alice hit that slipped through the net. One of the last songs we remember from John Slater's seminal show on BRMB: it was like The Evening Session, but with a focus on bands we might see locally.

  6. Two religious pieces. John Pavlovitz decries the errors of evangelicals: White American Christians, You Let the Wolves In. And over at Christian Today, a revealing interview with Michael Gove.

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21 February 2017
Puzzled Pint for January 2017

Hamilton. So far as we're concerned. it's the first part of the football team best known for its youth scheme. When they fail to score, it's Hamilton Academicals Nil Academicals nil.

But we digress. This month's puzzles are, apparently, inspired by a musical theatre production of this name. What do they sing about in Scotland's former industrial zone?

(More: Some puzzles were good, some were better)

Overall Enjoyed this lot, and it's an achievement to be a Second-class set of puzzles. (We don't expect to award a First-class, ever.)

But one question remains: what has any of this got to do with Hamilton?

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12 February 2017
The sweet Snell of success
More United polls its members on whether to back Gareth Snell (Lab) in the Westminster by-election for Stoke on Trent Central.

This blog is a member, we have a vote. What does Gareth Snell stand for?

(Show your working! What is the candidate's record, and how can we interpret the evidence?)

A NO vote would be coloured by this blog's inept local MP. A YES vote would back a candidate who is wrong on at least one key value. But we have to work with what we've got: Snell is flawed, he's not as bad as the others.

And so we decided to vote YES, support Snell. Not through much enthusiasm, but to demonstrate that we want More United to be bigger than one party, and to help find the limits of our ability.

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2 February 2017
Ten more britpop bands

Lyrique Discorde posted ten top britpop bands of the 90s. Lots of love for Sleeper and the Longpigs, excellent.

From this side of the pond, we have a slight problem. When we think of britpop, we think of Ant and Dec, the Spice Girls, Eternal, East 17, Robson and Jerome. All of them brit, all of them pop, none of them "britpop" as the term is usually known. That's reserved for bands and acts preferred by Radio 1's influential Evening Session, by the New Musical Express (Incorporating Accordion News), by Chris Evans and Caitlin Moran.

We riff off Laura's list, and add another ten.

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26 January 2017
Puzzled Pint for December 2016

Dungeons and Dragons.

How we score? Start at 6 for each puzzle, deduct marks for ambiguous solutions, deduct marks for cultural specificity, add or deduct marks for style and artistic impression. Average the puzzles together - meta counts double - and equate to an Oxford degree. 7 is First-class, 6 is Second-class, 5 is Third-class, 4 is Fourth-class, anything less is refund territory.

Location - Simple logic puzzle to visit all 16 locations once, collecting coins and keys. Only after laying out the items did we figure that "moors" is meant to be a homophone for "Morse". 6.

Suiting Up - clues are right, wrong, total, shift, and initial letters of the owners. We're looking for some but not all of the elements, and we need to work out the elements in a suit of armour. The puzzle relies on another weak homophone, and requires a particular accent to work. We'll class that as culturally specific, and knock off a mark. 5.

Memorising Spells. Prompts are "carefully arranged", "central", "combination of two ideas", "in order". A nice idea, let down by details. Not clear that we enter precisely one letter per square (a monospace font for the scrolls would have helped.) Some of the two-word descriptors were disputable. And the typeface for the descriptors is difficult enough right-way up, and very hard to read on its side. +1 for idea, a generous -1 for execution. 6.

Turning Undead. Putting things in their boxes, but to get from that to the solution is a leap of faith. On-theme for a puzzle involving clerics and ghouls, but off-theme for a fair puzzle. +1 for idea, a miserly -2 for style. 5.

Picking Locks. Sets of five boxes says binary, pigpen bottom left, 2x3 says Braille, and top-left we didn't spot by inspection. That gives four words: the spacing top left suggests Morse, but it took a while to work out how. We can see this would frustrate a decent solver, but an ace would solve it at speed. The answer is a combination of English words but doesn't look like an answer, not sure that's quite on. Slightly generous, +1 for style. 7.

Meta - You Slayed the Dragon. See, here's a problem. The sequencing makes for a very good middle-difficult puzzle on its own. Associating the attacks with the weapons is not straightforward - Excalibur is a magical weapon, it deals magic. A good idea, perhaps not as solid as it might be. And given the difficulty, that hurts. -1 overall. 5.

Overall, a Third Class set. Lots of good ideas, let down a little by the execution.

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24 January 2017
Livejournal in Russia

From the You Asked Us files...

So... should I be leaving LiveJournal because its servers just went to Russia and they have regressive anti-LGBT laws, or no need to worry?

This blog knows there were earlier opportunities to leave. All stem from Six Apart being utterly useless. Most are irrelevant to this discussion. Two are not.

[For completeness: 1) Six Apart buys; 2) Six Apart puts adverts on; 3) Nipplegate]

4) December 2007, when Six Apart sold out to Sup. We always had to assume that the NSA would hack into Livejournal accounts. Now, the FSB was also going to lay its hands on the information.

5) January 2009, when Sup closed down development in California. At this point, it became inevitable that data would be collected in the CIS eventually; the only surprise is how it took eight years to make the move.

We must assume that GCHQ is taking a carbon copy of everything posted from this neck of the woods, and leaking this to the CIA, and from there it goes to the FSB through the usual channels. This is unethical, it's almost certainly illegal, and we'd be happier if they stopped. But this is not specific to Livejournal.

But should people leave Livejournal?

It's not for this blog to say what someone else "should" be doing. We don't know other people's situations, and we're not comfortable jumping into situations we don't understand.

That said, actions have signals, signals allow judgements. These are the broad lines we'll use.

A) For a general Western audience, Livejournal is dead. Wouldn't recommend that new internet users start there. Conclusion: anyone using Livejournal is likely to be established on the internets.

B) Moving is a pain, and it reduces people's audience for a time. Some will never get all the audience back.

C) There are ties amongst people who still use Livejournal. In particular, it is still easy to lock posts to a controlled audience. Conclusion: anyone using Livejournal is likely to have strong ties to other users.

D) Livejournal supports the Poutine regime. Conclusion: anyone using Livejournal is supporting that regime of dubious legitimacy. Corollary: anyone using Livejournal between 2001-9 was also supporting a regime of dubious legitimacy.

Final score: anyone using Livejournal has an unusual and long-standing situation. For this person, the benefits outweigh the costs and relative isolation.

Is there a working alternative to Livejournal, hosted in a "country" (usual Osman definition) that is less up itself? We're not aware of that alternative.

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