Tuesday, 16 January 2018

ooh look, another idiot spam journal request

Another day, another spam academic request:
Dear <co-author's name>, 

Greetings and good day.

I represent EnPress Publisher Editorial Office from USA. We have come across your recent article “Preface: EmergeNET4: engineering emergence” published in Natural Computing. We feel that the topic of the article is very interesting. Therefore, we are delighted to invite you to publish your work in our journal, entitled Journal of Computer Hardware Engineering. We also hope that you can join our Editorial Board. Please reply to this email if you are interested to join the Editorial Board.

I look forward to hearing your positive response. Thank you for your kind consideration.

Best regards,

Chloe Hill
Editorial Office
Journal of Computer Hardware Engineering
Usually these ridiculous spam requests refer to a paper that has nothing to do with the topic of the journal.

This one refers to the preface to a journal special issue, that has nothing to do with anything other than the rest of that issue!

Yet, somehow, it is so "very interesting" that it entitles me (or maybe just my co-author?) not only to publish in their "journal", but to be on their "Editorial Board".

Yeah, right.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

TV review: The Librarians, season 1

Flynn Carsen [Noah Wylie] is The Librarian, charged with care of The Library and all its magical artefacts – sort of a more book-oriented Warehouse 13. (Apparently this follows on from where the Librarian films leave off, but I haven’t seen them.) While tracking down a magical artefact, Flynn runs across Colonel Eve Baird [Rebecca Romijn] on a counter-terrorism operation. She later receives a mysterious invitation to become The Guardian. They discover previous Librarian candidates are being killed off, so go to rescue the last remaining three: Jacob Stone (an Art History geek pretending to be a redneck), Cassandra Cillian (a maths genius with a brain tumour), and Ezekiel Jones (a thief). The villain Dulaque [Matt Frewer, channelling Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom] is behind the deaths, and at the end of the pilot, the Library is lost, Flynn goes off the find it, and Eve and the three Librarians-now-in-Training are left holding the fort (or rather, the Annex) with grumpy factotum Jenkins [John Larroquette], pursuing the Artefact-of-the-Week.

This is mild fun, and definitely improves after Flynn goes off on his own quest: Wylie galumphingly overacts, and the way he frantically pulls books off shelves … shudder.

The episodes strengthen as the various characters bed in, and stop being simply stereotypes. There is actually a season arc, and some of the seemingly-disparate episodic adventures come together in the season finale. But it doesn’t quite gel: it can’t make up its mind if it is slapstick humour or mystical thriller, and falls rather uncomfortably between the two. So I’m not sure if I’ll be venturing into season 2.

For all my SF TV reviews, see my main website.

Friday, 12 January 2018

book review: Effective Python

Brent Slatkin.
Effective Python: 59 specific ways to write better Python.
Pearson. 2015

This excellent little book will make you a better Python programmer in many ways. It comprises 59 different recipes of how to use Python more effectively. These range from programming in the small – such as using slicing, list comprehensions, generators, enumerate, zip – to progressively larger issues – such as exceptions, keyword arguments, custom containers – then on to trickier concepts – such as metaclasses, threads, coroutines, built-in modules – to programming in the large – such as reliable pickling, docstrings, packages, unit testing, profiling, and finding memory leaks.

Each one of the recipes explains the issue, discusses one or more solutions, with examples and discussion of tradeoffs, and concludes with a short list of the things to remember. The discussion of various tradeoffs gives great insight into the underlying issues, and the examples are well chosen and very useful.

Even if you follow only a few of the recipes, you will find they make your Python coding more effective. If you follow all 59, your code should fairly fly! Highly recommended.

For all my book reviews, see my main website.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

get over the rainbow

No more rainbows!
Now tell me the spectrum beats a perceptual colourmap...

[h/t Christian Ledermann > Scientific Python]

For all my social networking posts, see my Google+ page

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Amazon search fail ... or is it?

Rather aggressive and incorrect auto-correct by Amazon’s search bar:

Despite it searching not for what was asked for, but for what it thought was asked for, it nevertheless found what was asked for.  So only semi-fail.

Interestingly, searching just for “judith merril” does not result in “merril” being changed to “merrell”.

Computers.  Doncha just love ’em?

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

is spam bad for your teeth?

I just got an email invitation.  I’ll quote it in full (I’m beyond the days of saying that I’ve deleted information to protect the guilty.)

Dear Dr. S. Stepney,


The purpose of this invitation is to formally invite you to the upcoming Conference World Congress on Dental and Oral Health, which is going to be held during April 09-11, 2018 at Las Vegas, USA.

It will be an honor if you would like to share your in-depth knowledge and research about and education. Dental 2018 will focus on Exploring the Possibilities in shaping the future of Dental and Oral Health” and aims at bringing together the professors, researchers, and students in all areas of Dental Education and Challenges and to provide an international forum for the dissemination of original research results, new ideas and practical development experiences which concentrate on both education and practices.

Your invaluable guidance and support as a Speaker to Dental 2018 will play a crucial part in making this a memorable event. We are confident that you will enjoy the Scientific Program of this upcoming Conference.

For more information Visit:   http://www.globaldentalcongress.com

We look forward to welcoming you to the USA

With Regards

Mary Frances
Program Manager
Dental 2018
Science Access

Disclaimer: This is not a spam message, and has been sent to you because of your eminence in the field. If, however, you do not want to receive any email in future from Dental Congress 2018 then reply us with the subject “Opt-out”.

Let me think.  How genuine might this be?  Hmm.  Well, I know nothing about dentistry.  (Apart from the fact I should go to the dentist rather more frequently than I do.)  So, yes, I think that confirms it.  It’s a spam invitation (despite that peculiar teeny Disclaimer).

I can guess why I got it, though.  I happen to be a co-author on a paper in the British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (not the journal I publish in with any great frequency, I have to say).  But even the most cursory look at the title, let alone the abstract, would show the paper is nothing to do with dentistry (or even that much with oral and maxillofacial surgery specifically), but is rather on HCI, about a new technique for self-assessing patient quality of life.  So the request seems to be from a particularly naive spam-bot.

I wonder just what this invitation might imply about the quality of this particular conference and its speakers?

For the uninitiated, who don’t already have inboxes and spam filters full of these kind of things, Adam Ruben has a very nice blog post about ways to spot them.  (I have received invitations to speak at genuine conferences, and I can say that the emails are nothing like this in style.)

Oh, and also, “in-depth knowledge and research about and education”?

Sunday, 31 December 2017

film review: Rogue One

Now, that’s what a prequel should be like!

As a young girl, Jyn Erso sees her mother shot and her engineer father taken by Imperial troopers. A decade later she is an embittered young criminal, on the run from everyone. The Empire wants her to put pressure on her father. The Rebellion wants her to stop the Empire getting her. Then a pilot defects from the Empire with news that could mean a new hope for the Rebellion. Jyn Erso, along with a motley crew of rebels, finds herself engaged in a desperate race against time.

This is written for, and by, Star Wars original trilogy fans. There are lots of little call outs to events in those films, and a couple of space battles in the original style. The plot explains two big questions from the original: How did Leia get hold of the Death Star plans? Why did the Death Star have such a ridiculous weakness? And it manages this without introducing too many new questions, although it does introduce a new series of gloomy muddy planets. Nowadays it is a bit harder to fully engage with an armed insurrection quite as whole-heartedly as in the more innocent days of 1977, though.

One great piece of continuity is Peter Cushing reprising his role as Grand Moff Tarkin from the 40-year old original. Not a bad trick given that Peter Cushing died in 1994. That’s what CGI can do nowadays: take one actor, and plaster the face of another over the top. The face worked brilliantly, but the eyes seemed a bit glassy. They played the same trick at the end with Leia, but that was more uncanny valley territory: a grizzled old face in the gloom is easier to fake that a young unlined face in full light, it seems. Mom Mothma also recurs, recast with a good look-alike. Darth Vader was a bit easier to recast behind that black mask, but still has his great James Earl Jones voice.

Speaking of Leia and Mom Mothma, does this film, with its female lead, pass the Bechdel test? Opinion is divided: the young Jyn does briefly talk with her mother at the beginning, but they are talking about her hiding from the men coming for them. Later, Jyn addresses the Rebellion council headed by Mom Mothma. Are they talking to each other, or is Jyn just addressing the assembled, overwhelmingly male, crowd? Even if it can be argued a technical pass, it does needs to be argued. The crew Jyn flies with is all male. About the only other women are another council member, and a couple of fighter pilots, who get a few lines. Would it have killed them to have had another woman in the crew? Or even to have had Jyn’s mother be the abducted engineer? Ah well. Baby steps.

Technically, and plot-wise, the film is great. Not as good as the original (but what is?), but much superior to the prequel trilogy. (We probably should have watched it in the cinema to better appreciate the space battles and mushroom clouds, though.) The plot of Rogue One finishes just before that of Star Wars starts. It’s a very satisfying prequel that adds to the canon.

For all my film reviews, see my main website.