Monday, April 17, 2017


Update from the educational front lines:

A student called me "benevolent" --- to my face.

Context does not excuse this breach of the "I am an implacable monolith demanding only and exactly the highest degree of intellectual rigor from you" façade. Perhaps I will have to reconsider my open-door-and-visible bowl-of-candy office policy.

This post's theme word is honeyfuggle, "to deceive or swindle, especially by flattery." Attempts to honeyfuggle your professors are charmingly inept and ineffective.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hugo nominees 2017

The Hugo finalists for 2017 have been announced. The slight changes in the voting procedure have modified the style of voting and the sorts of ballots that are produced: this one seems to have succeeded along the metric of "a diversity of authors, not just one slate advanced by a particular sub-group of voters." Huzzah!

As always, I am trying to read all the materials. I've been doing more reading now that all term-time grading is off my plate, so I am, if not catching up, at least falling behind at a slower rate. (For once, I'm slightly ahead --- I have already read (although of course not blogged yet) Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky.)

Best novel:
Best novella:
  • The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  • Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • This Census-Taker by China Miéville
Best novelette:
  • Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock
  • “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
  • “The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde
  • “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong
Best short story:
  • “The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin
  • “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong
  • “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander
  • “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn
  • “An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright
If you're interested in how far I got in the read-all-Hugo-nominees in previous years, check out 20162015, 2014, 2013, 20122011, 2010, 2009. I do gradually go fill in the links to my reviews as I read these, but they're all incomplete and this one probably will be, too, for awhile.

This post's theme word is edacity, "greediness, good appetite." This reader's verbal edacity knows no bounds, though her timely posts are not only bounded but quite finite.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Problems with self-reference and recursion (Aronson's sequence)

The most delicious, frolicksomely frustrating things to think about are the problems which reference themselves. Recursion is such a twisted mind-trap. Having just exposed my class to the joys of the halting problem (animated video explanation), and using it to show that all sorts of other problems cannot be solved --- one of the duties of professorhood is teaching students how to solve problems, but the peculiarities of my work are that I teach students which problems they can't solve --- I was delighted to read a snippet about Aronson's sequence:
‘T’ is the first, fourth, eleventh, sixteenth, twenty-fourth, twenty-ninth, thirty-third …
Here's the introduction on Futility Closet.

Here is Aronson's sequence on the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (one of my favorite sites!).

I want to know how the sentence ends, but of course the sentence can't end as long as I'm stuck thinking about the way I expect it to end. I'm sure that some sufficiently proficient linguist-mathematician team could come up with a satisfactory, and finite, end to the sentence. I'd buy that book!

This post's theme word is pabulum (noun), "bland intellectual fare: insipid or simplistic ideas, entertainment, writing, etc." Using the word "fare" makes me think of other food analogies. The collection of results stemming from Gödel's (In)Completeness Theorems are savory intellectual nuggets, with not a morsel of pabulum.