December 28th, 2015

politics

Links I found interesting for 28-12-2015

orac

My year on Twitter, by @nwbrux

Since my last roundup on 29 December last yer, I have emitted 4,011 tweets (up from 3,337) and gained 778 followers, taking me to 3,172 from 2,394, including a net gain of 45 on election night (8 May).

By far my most successful tweet was a New Yorker cartoon which I got somewhere off the Web and launched on Twitter at the end of March; it got hundreds of retweets then and then got a significant further signal boost when a major Spanish tech blog (@microsiervos) picked it up in August.

I can't claim credit for the content, but I can claim credit for 709 retweets (with an aggregate number of followers of 1.38 million, second best of the year), 378 likes (best of the year) and 17 replies (also best of the year).

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While I've been glad to share interesting or timely content, I've been much less good at participating in conversations on Twitter. I have got drawn into some long exchanges, but they were mostly about the Hugos and generated more heat than light. Here's hoping for a more enlightening year in 2016...
books

Hark, A Vagrant!, by Kate Beaton



A collection of Canadian comics artist Beaton's pieces, mainly from her website, mainly on literature. I love the Brontë sisters piece that opens the collection and have linked to it before; I must admit some of the other material didn't tick my personal boxes, and I also felt that the author isn't always trying very hard with the art - perhaps that's part of the point, but it spoils my enjoyment. Still, there are enough fun moments here to justify it.
doyle

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua

Back in the summer of 1991 I was finishing up my M Phil in Cambridge, and dropped in one day on my supervisor, who at the time was the curator of the Whipple museum of the history of science. He welcomed me into his office, shuffled through some manuscript papers with strange cylindrical diagrams on them, and flourished them at me: "These," he said, "are Charles Babbage's original blueprints for the Difference Engine." He had a tendency to do that. I remember one seminar on Newton where he brought in an authentic 17th-century widget, "just like Newton would have had", and showed the original owner's notes of how it had been used, almost casually indicating at the end that the original owner in this case had in fact been Isaac Newton. We would occasionally see the then Lucasian Professor, a post previously held by Babbage and Newton, trundling through the cobbled streets in his motorised wheelchair.

This book is a true delight - another web comic, now collected and edited in hard covers, exploring the possible alternate nineteenth century if Lovelace and Babbage together had built the Difference Engine (strictly the Analytical Engine) and therefore implemented computer programming over a century early. Queen Victoria, the Duke of Wellington, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, George Eliot, Sir William Rowan Hamilton and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson all make guest appearances. The whole thing is meticulously footnoted. I literally laughed until I cried at the revelation of the identity of Coleridge's Person from Porlock. This is absolutely and firmly getting my nomination for next year's Hugo for Best Graphic Story, and for anything else I can nominate it for as well.