Monthly Archives: August 2015

We failed to win a single battle, but we won the war! (Hugo Awards edition)

Well, we went through a lot of popcorn this year, didn’t we?

I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I’ve never paid much attention to the Hugo Awards before this year. I read the sci-fi I enjoy and I’ve never cared whether or not it won any awards or not. The only reason I paid any attention this year was because of the extremely unusual events related to the Hugos.

In short, a small group of people and an even smaller group of hardcore trolls decided that they didn’t like the way the Hugo awards were run and decided to use a legitimate but asshole-y tactic of lockstep nominations of a certain slate of books to ensure that they won awards. It turns out that most voters disagreed wildly with their tactics and voted not to give an award when the only nominees were on slates.

John Scalzi posted an excellent recap of the results and I agree with the majority of what he has to say:

The Hugo vote against the Puppy slates was not about politics, or cabals, or one species of science fiction and fantasy over another, no matter what anyone would like you to believe — or at the very least, it wasn’t mostly about those things. It was about small group of people acting like jerks, and another, rather larger group, expressing their displeasure at them acting so.

That’s how I read the results as well. I can’t know the intentions of all the voters, but the ones I’ve spoken to have said much the same thing as Scalzi. One person who read it very, very differently is Lou Antonelli:

They proved Vox Day right when they nuked five of the most important Hugo categories rather than let “the wrong kind of people” win them. He said they’d do that all along, destroying the credibility of the award, and they did.

Let’s do a little analogous thought experiment here.  Here’s a one question, multiple choice quiz:

What is the spiciest food in the world?

A) Wonder Bread

B) White rice

C) Frozen peas

D) A potato

E) None of the Above

For my money, the obvious answer is E and I suspect that’s true for you as well. I do not see how it can possibly damage the integrity of the quiz for most voters to select “None of the above.” Likewise, it is entirely possible, I would even say likely, that in every category where a slate was nominated, the best candidate for the award wasn’t on the ballot. If that’s the case, then the only way to maintain the integrity of the award is to vote “No award.”

And as for “proving Vox Day right…” I suspect Antonelli is aware that literally everything in the world proves Vox Day right. Day is the trollish alter ego of Theodore Beale, who may be a lovely person, but his Day character is a piece of work. He’s not a liar; he goes way beyond that to something I’d call “anti-truth.” If a liar punches you in the face, they might say “I didn’t do it!” An anti-truther would say “No, you punched me in the face!” Day will claim victory no matter the outcome in every event because he’s a persona designed to infuriate people, not to engage in thoughtful debate. As such, he has no commitment to any belief or any facts.

Anyway, the idea of claiming victory when all of your nominees are defeated is a little disingenuous. For that to be the case, then having their candidates walk away with awards would have been a defeat, and that’s just nutty. Even a child would see right through that one.  The awards emerged with their integrity intact and the Puppies roundly (and, for the most part, deservedly) defeated.

That doesn’t mean the Hugos are out of the woods Eric Flint’s post-mortem has some very wise words of warning:

Fact Three. Yes, there is a problem with the Hugo awards, but that problem can be depicted in purely objective terms without requiring anyone to impute any malign motives to anyone else. In a nutshell, the awards have been slowly drifting away from the opinions and tastes of the mass audience, to the point where there is today almost a complete separation between the two. This stands in sharp contrast to the situation several decades ago, when the two overlapped to a great extent. For any number of reasons, this poses problems for the awards themselves. The Hugos are becoming increasingly self-referential, by which I mean they affect and influence no one except the people who participate directly in the process.

This is essentially the complaint of the Sad Puppies before they were co-opted by their Rabid brethren. It’s a valid concern, but I don’t think the fix for a failure to reward popular books with a Hugo is to bulk-nominate even less popular works. That seems to kind of defeat the purpose, doesn’t it?

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Was Ramsey Offside? (Arsenal vs. Liverpool)

Short answer? Yes. Absolutely, demonstrably, yes.

Now, most pundits, as well as referee Graham Poll, say that Ramsey was not offside and that the goal should have stood. They have years and years of experience behind them, but I have geometry and video evidence and there’s really no questioning it: Ramsey was slightly, but unquestionably, offside.

Let’s use the (regrettably low-res) still from the Daily Mail:


This shot is presented as evidence that Ramsey is onside. He appears to be directly level with Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel (or at least Skrtel’s rear end.) Appearances, however, can be deceiving. The lines on the pitch are parallel, but because the camera doesn’t line up with any of them, it’s tricky to determine exactly who is where in relation to each other. For example, the Arsenal player in the foreground appears to be further towards the Arsenal goal than the player on the ball. But…notice that the player on the ball is to the left of the line on the pitch, while the player in the foreground is to the right of it.

In this case, perspective is everything.

Here’s a crop of the area near Aaron Ramsey, blown up 400%. This makes for a lousy image, but it’s better for our purposes:


It still looks as though Ramsey is barely onside and if one didn’t both to correct for perspective, one might think the linesman got it wrong. But how to correct for perspective? I’m going to use the easiest, ugliest way possible. First let’s select the unoccupied area at the bottom of the image.


This is a section of the penalty box line. It is exactly the same angle as the line at the top of the penalty box. Now, let’s hastily and sloppily remove most of the grass:


This is the angle of the line we should be using to determine Ramsey’s position relative to Skrtel. Actually, it should be a little more severe since Skrtel and Ramsey are further away from the center of the camera than the penalty box line, but it’s by a pretty negligible amount. Now, all we need to do is paste this line between Skrtel and Ramsey:


First of all, note that this line is exactly parallel to the penalty box line. The inside of the line touches Skrtel’s rightmost point (nope, I’m not gonna say it.) Then notice that the inside of the line hits Ramsey is to the left or Ramsey’s rightmost point. His shoulder, and part of his chest, are closer to the goal than any part of Skrtel. Let’s go ahead and draw a thin red line and extend it just to be sure:


A line parallel to the penalty box, drawn from the tip of Martin’s Skrtel’s buttocks, goes right through Aaron Ramsey and actually hits him about where his neck meets his shoulder. Based on the photo on the Daily Mail site, Aaron Ramsey is offside.

The reason I chose this simple method was because it’s super-easy to reproduce. I didn’t do anything to create the result I was aiming for. Anyone could do the same thing, and they’d come up with the same result.

Or, if you were lazy, just skew the image 12 degrees to the right to make the penalty box line a vertical line, then drop a vertical line on Skrtel’s kop end:


Same result. Ramsey is slightly offside. Honestly, it’s so close, I don’t know how a linesman could be expected to get it right. I don’t think either club could seriously argue the call. It’s really that close. But, so many people are piling on about the call being “wrong” that I just wanted to point out that the evidence says otherwise: The linesman got it right; Poll and others got it wrong. Ramsey is offside.

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Republican Debates: Good television, good work from Fox, unfortunate group of candidates

Well, that was surprisingly diverting, wasn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t expecting the aggressive nature of the questioning. It wasn’t anything remotely resembling a debate, but it was interesting and, in the end, I think a very profitable evening for the GOP. I think Fox did a good job working with a group of candidates ranging from mediocre to bizarre. Yeah, I said it: Fox did a good job.

Megyn Kelly was the biggest winner, in my not even a little bit humble opinion. She’s the only Fox employee who can ask tough questions of Republicans and get away with it (who can forget her withering remarks to Karl Rove on election night?). The tactic of asking difficult questions of the candidates this early in the campaign cycle is, in my opinion, a slyly clever strategy. It gets the candidates’ weaknesses out in the open so they aren’t subject to “gotchas” when it’s time to take on the Democrats.

Interestingly, many of the candidates took issue with the line of questioning after the debates. The Trump, Paul, Cruz, Christie, and Walker fans all felt like their candidate had been singled out for especially rough treatment. Of course, there’s this weird tendency for pro-establishment candidates (and conservatism is nothing if not pro-establishment) to try to run as maverick outsiders, so maybe they were just trying to position their candidate as “they guy the insiders are afraid of!” If so, it came off as a little disingenuous. I hate to invoke bogeymen at this early stage, but if you’re financed by the Koch’s? You ain’t an outsider and no one’s afraid of your candidacy.

Don’t ask me to tell you which candidate “won.” They debate format was so scattershot and each had such different agendas that trying to declare a winner seems like a pointless exercise. For the most part, they stayed in character: Trump blustered. Paul raged. Kasich and Carson were calm and reasonable. Jeb! was Jeb minus the exclamation point. Huckabee and Cruz both sounded reasonable while saying some seriously batshit stuff. Christie was the Jersey Giuliani. Walker acted like “being selfish” is a family value (he scares me more than any of ’em.)  They were very much themselves. Everyone appealed to the people who already liked them. I doubt any of them made inroads with people who weren’t already behind them.

The ratings for Fox last night were fantastic. They should hope with all their might that Trump sticks around because he brings an audience if nothing else. I think it was a good night for the Republicans. They got challenged a little more than they expected, but they had a huge number of eyeballs and none of them flubbed their lines enough to drive away their supporters. Sure, it was a terrible debate (as far it being an actual “debate” is concerned) and I agreed with approximately nothing that was said, but I think they achieved their goals.

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Taking a deep breath before returning to the fray

You may have noticed that the year-long election season is starting to pick up steam.

You may also have noticed that the Republican debates are set to being Thursday.

You may even have noticed that Donald Trump, of all people, is the current leader in Republican polls.

Now that the Hugo Awards voting is ended and the Rabid Puppies have been unmasked as unremarkable trolls who don’t actually believe anything, the next item on the agenda is watching the circus of the GOP nominating process. I do not take this responsibility lightly. I just needed a breather before embarking on what is sure to be the silliest of silly seasons.

I’m up for this. Who’s with me?


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