The world’s become a little duller today

Terry Pratchett, Discworld series author, dies aged 66 | Books | The Guardian.

I don’t remember my first Pratchett book, but it didn’t take me long to accumulate pretty much the entire collection.

Like every book nerd, I’ve kept a quotes file that grew over time with tiny bits of text I liked. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a wordsmith like him should figure prominently in it. Here’s one, from Guards! Guards!

It was amazing, this mystic business. You tell them a lie, and then when you don’t need it any more you tell them another lie and tell them they’re progressing along the road to wisdom. Then instead of laughing they follow you even more, hoping that at the heart of all the lies they’ll find the truth. And bit by bit they accept the unacceptable.

And here’s a neat bit of Pratchett trivia: when he was knighted, he forged his own sword, infused with bits of meteorite.

I’m re-reading some old favourites again (starting with Jingo, and moving on to the other Watch novels). Here’s a good reading guide for those getting started.

Quote

Melancholy

Suddenly for no earthly reason I felt immensely sorry for him and longed to say something real, something with wings and a heart, but the birds I wanted settled on my shoulders and head only later when I was alone and not in need of words.

― Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

Heretics

image source: http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/display_title.asp?ISBN=9780330535861&Author=Storr,%20Will

I’ve decided to stop playing games and pick up books again. My daughter is 10 months old and is imitating everything I do, and I want her to stop patting my 3DS and pick up a book instead. My unread pile isn’t very huge, but didn’t look too appealing. So I made a quick trip to my favourite bookstore and picked up a few new books. Richard Dawkins’ autobiography was one of them. Heretics, by Will Storr, was another. I’m less than a 100 pages in but already liked it enough to write about it.

Heretics is a kinder book than the ones I’m used to. Storr tours the world, meeting people with.. odd beliefs, from creationists to UFO nuts. Anyone who (like me) has spent hours arguing with friends and family on skepticism, the placebo effect, rationality and so on, will notice how stubborn and defensive people can get when pushed to a corner. The facts don’t matter to them, and perversely, make them less inclined to change their minds. It’s not often you see a mind changed when faced with convincing data.

An excerpt stood out, early in the book:

I consider — as everyone surely does — that my opinions are the correct ones. And yet, I have never met anyone whose every single thought I agreed with. When you take these two positions together, they become a way of saying, ‘Nobody is as right about as many things as me.’ And that cannot be true. Because to accept that would be to confer upon myself a Godlike status. It would mean that I possess a superpower: a clarity of thought that is unique among humans. Okay, fine. So I accept that I am wrong about things — I must be wrong about them. A lot of them. But when I look back over my shoulder and I double-check what I think about religion and politics and science and all the rest of it… well, I know that I am right about that… and that… and that and that and — it is usually at this point that I start to feel strange. I know that I am not right about everything and yet I am simultaneously convinced that I am. I believe these two things completely, and yet they are in catastrophic logical opposition of each other.

The book goes on to explore why otherwise intelligent people delude themselves into believing things that are so obviously not true to the rest of us. Well worth a read (so far). As a plus, the book is also a lot funnier than I expected, and there’s more than one laugh-out-loud moment when Storr undergoes some excruciating ritual or the other to get into the minds of these people.

Basic Twisted echo server

Nothing mind blowing here. I’m playing with Python’s twisted engine, and here is a slightly modified server from their home page example:

from twisted.internet import protocol, reactor
 
class Echo(protocol.Protocol):
    def dataReceived(self, data):
        newdata = 'reversed: ' + ''.join(reversed(data.strip())) + 'n'
        self.transport.write(newdata)
 
class EchoFactory(protocol.Factory): #build an Echo object for each connection
    def buildProtocol(self, addr):                                                                                      
        return Echo()
 
reactor.listenTCP(8000, EchoFactory()) #register a callback
reactor.run()

Run the script and telnet to port 8000 of this box. This is what it looks like:

Connected to erdos.
Escape character is '^]'.
hello
reversed: olleh
reverse this!
reversed: !siht esrever

The example is also here, with a more detailed explanation of the basics.

The API reference helps to see what methods need to be implemented while sub-classing one of its classes.

V for Vita

image credit: venturebeat.com

image credit: venturebeat.com

Things have been going well at work for me, so my wife gifted me a cool PS Vita! She’d bought me a 3DS some time back, and I’ve found handhelds are pretty much the only way I can game these days.

The box came with the God of War collection. I sped through part one already, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The memory cards are pretty pricey, so I had to settle for a 4GB card. I’ve signed up for PS Plus as well, and the free games are pretty good (Steamworld Dig, Binding of Isaac).

 

I spent quite some time pouring over reviews, after which I bought Soul Sacrifice and Gravity Rush. Both seem to have pretty long single player campaigns, but I’ve not spent enough time on either to give a full review.

soulsacrifice_art_bosses_cerberus_mp-600x350

image credit: forbes.com

As a somewhat-Nintendo enthusiast, it’s nice to see the other platforms for a change. The PS Plus subscription is the biggest change. The catalog seems nice enough to keep me occupied for quite some time, and the cheaper prices definitely encourage exploratory purchases.

Recommendation: Buy.