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Paul Mitchener
Trust me, I'm a mathematician.
Trust me, I'm a mathematician.

Paul's posts


Southampton, UK (or more accurately the nearby village of Netley Abbey)
Oxford, UK
State College, Pennsylvania, USA
Münster, Germany
Odense, Denmark
Paris, France
Göttingen, Germany
Sheffield, UK

What's yours? 

Am I the only person who absolutely can't stand the TV series Black Mirror? The cynicism is too much for me.

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You probably won't recall (though I certainly do- the horror!) that issue one of the Blasphemous Tome caused me to lose my sideburns. Well, issue two has made up for it. Not only was it addressed to my true secret name, but it caused me to abruptly sprout a beard.

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I sympathise with the singer. A random lunatic sat next to me on the bus on the way home from work today.

I've now watched all of Iron Fist. I enjoyed it. It was about on a par for me with the other Netflix Marvel series. Some thoughts:

(*) I never liked Danny Rand, but did feel sorry for him. He was extremely damaged, and this came across. He was as much child as adult, and not in a good way.

(*) It touched on some deeper themes. Homelessness and isolation were big especially in the early episodes. The power of money was big throughout. That was for me the best bit. The Netflix Marvel shows all touch on certain social themes.

(*) Danny Rand, despite being the central character, never felt all that powerful or important. He was being manipulated throughout, and never felt like he was that exceptional among his peers where he trained, despite being the Iron Fist.

(*) Despite what I've just said, it was more lighthearted than most of the other Netflix Marvel shows. No torture as in Daredevil. There was trauma, but it was more fantastical in nature, and not gruelling as in Jessica Jones.

(*) It's starting to stretch belief that this is in the same city as the other shows. For such a threat as the Hand, wouldn't help be appropriate? Claire Temple's prominent role and references to other supers doesn't help here.

(*) It tries really hard not to be racist; an unintentionally racist take on the source material is easy to imagine. I think it succeeds.

(*) The fight scenes were quick and dangerous, but felt a bit stilted. They weren't a major draw, despite the hero being about martial arts.

Okay, I posted about how I was amused at people getting irate at the Oxford comma. But there's a whole great list of minor things I get miffed at which undoubtedly amuse other people, but still take on an odd importance to me. Topics include:

(*) Those stupid "scientific formulas" which pop up for such things as the optimum thickness of cream on a scone, or the most miserable day of the year, or any of that nonsense. It's obvious nonsense and suggests that what scientists and mathematicians do is gobbledegook nonsense. But my reactions may be out of proportion.

(*) "Who would win in a fight? Sauron or Darth Vader? A Star Destroyer or the Enterprise? Batman or Thor?" It's a category error. And frankly who gives a damn?

(*) Saxons having square shields in The Last Kingdom TV series. Noooo...

(*) Those stupid "mathematics" "puzzles" along the line of "1*5-7+8*4÷2=?". See the first point above. And if I'm writing a formula, I'll use brackets if needed for clarity.

(*) People who think Beowulf uses bees to kill a dragon. Noooo...

(*) Judging Shakespeare's plays as if they were novels rather than plays to be seen. And the assumption that they're all good. They're not. Some are good.

(*) People commenting on the state of science fiction when all they're familiar with is films rather than novels.

That will do for now...

I've tried really hard to feel strongly about the Oxford comma, as getting annoyed at people not using it seems to bring many people I know great joy. But, alas, I can't seem to manage the necessary strength of feeling to achieve enlightenment.

I've remembered it's nerdy 9th. Although I'm completely nerdy, all the time, not just on the 9th, maybe I should write something since I've remembered.

I wonder what though...

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Me and my lion beast.

Lion beast...Back from about 20 hours of observation at the vets after a fit. The first vet told us things looked really bad, but things now look a bit more hopeful. We'll know more tomorrow.

Me...Looking seedy after a week ill and off work, but ready to neaten up and head back tomorrow.

Books read in February:

(5) The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Karen Armstrong)
An easy but heavy read, and Karen Armstrong has thought and researched deeply about the issues here. The history is great and thorough, and opened my eyes to a lot of things, especially the Jewish diaspora. My only criticism being her reaching a little too far for sympathy with understanding some of the more reprehensible figures. Her analysis of when fundamentalist thought occurs and the basis of its form is also great, though I have some quibbles with her historical view of religious thought.

It's from 2000, so the modern part feels incomplete; a lot has happened since then!

(6) A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine l'Engle)
A children's book (and I certainly mean children rather than young adults). Science fiction of sorts, starring odd but benevolent aliens, children who really don't fit in, a world enslaved by mind control, and a cosmic and theologically themed struggle between good and evil. I had to read it after +Tom Hillman​​ mentioned it, and liked parts of it a good deal.

(7) Venus in Copper (Lindsey Davis)
Another of the author's series of hardboiled private detective novels set in ancient Rome. These are excellent, and now have really found their stride. Likeable and varied characters, an odd streak of romanticism, full of period details and atmosphere, and oh such a smooth read.

(8) A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula Le Guin)
Reread of the first of the Earthsea novels. It's a coming of age tale of Ged, a naturally talented and arrogant wizard. It's interesting for the style of magic, just how unloved the protagonist is as he grows up, and the fact that the fundamental challenges for Ged are moral ones, some of which he succeeds at, some of which he fails.

(9) The Tombs of Atuan (Ursula Le Guin)
More Earthsea. This time the story of Tenar, a girl taken away from her parents to serve the Nameless Ones as their priestess. The labyrinth, the priestess's domain always in darkness, is oh so claustrophobic and hits on some primal fears. That's clever, and so is Tenar's story and teaming up with Ged. She has her own big moral challenges to face. It feels at the end like Ged can't help her needs. Good stuff and onwards!

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