Archive for the Personal Category

dA Fail

Posted in Personal with tags on May 29, 2016 by davidnm2009

So I decided to change my username on devArt. That’s needed doing for a while now. I bought one of the three-month Core membership things, on the grounds that £10 isn’t a huge amount of money, even for me, and I have no intention of renewing it anyway, so the damage is limited if it all goes wrong. I’ve been wanting to retire the ‘davidnm’ identity for several years now, for lots of reasons, and it felt like this was as good a time as any to start that.

So off I went and I made the purchase.

And I’m deeply unimpressed with the results.

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Sideways To Zero

Posted in Fanfiction, Personal, Science, Speculation, Writing with tags , , on December 29, 2013 by davidnm2009

I don’t think I’ve written anything about StZ yet, have I?

The funny thing is, the asari are one of my less-favourite aliens in Mass Effect. I’ve never tried ranking the various aliens by how interesting I find them, but I suspect they would be somewhere down the list. Certainly not at the bottom, but not very high up either.

(In case you’re wondering, the winner is the krogan. Headbutting FTW! Also I think krogan armour looks better than any of the others, with some of the turians as a close second. And the krogan have such a wonderfully tragic and compelling backstory, as well. Epicness and all of that.)

So, how come I’m trying to write a fic focused entirely on the asari?

Well. I do have something of a feeling of missed potential with them in the ME universe. There are interesting-sounding things we hear a lot about, but never really see. Asari democracy – just how exactly does it work? How do the various factions and interest-groups – Justicars, matriarchs etc., the various cities – all interact? What about asari science? We get told a lot about it, but never really see that much, even with Liara.

Instead, in ME1, the asari do sometimes feel a little bit like Fanservice: The Species. I often get the feeling that I’m some sort of six-sigma outlier as male gamers go, but actually, I would have preferred it if Liara had talked less about sex and more about her research. In fact, throughout 1, Liara is actually fairly vague about what it is she does. To be fair, this gets redressed a bit in ME3, particularly if you have the ‘From Ashes’ DLC. (Also, a minor grammatical gripe … shouldn’t that be ‘From the Ashes’?) I found this odd, as most real-world academics have a very hard time shutting up about their specialist subject.

The only asari world we see in detail is Illium, and the whole point of that planet is that it’s a freak. Its society is presumably entirely-abnormal, as are its governance arrangements. It is presumably relatively little of a guide to the more ‘normal’ asari lifestyle. Again, in fairness, one bit I did like was the conversation with the Tracking Officer on Illium, about Samara. The attitude she describes toward the Justicars did feel like something that had come out of an alien culture and an alien society, what with her evident surprise that anyone might consider the Justicars’ actions questionable and so forth.

The Thessia mission in ME3 is more frustrating than enlightening. The implications of the Prothean beacon on Thessia are staggering; perhaps the real reason that Liara is having trouble with her career in 1 is actually because real asari ‘science’ actually consists of going and asking questions of the magic beacon, and interpreting the results? A sort of glorified tea-leaf reading, or a 40K-style intellectual cargo cult. One can imagine a scenario where the senior matriarchal academics are quietly laughing at all the young grad students and post-docs, who are running around trying to do that ultimate oxymoron, original research… But again, this is only explored to a limited extent. (Also, the Thessia mission turns into yet another annoying Cerberus event – it was never really about the asari, it turns out. Rather it’s just another platform for the dreadful Kai Leng to put on a performance, and for TIM to be irritating/tedious in public once more. Sigh.)

Also, how exactly did a supposed direct democracy manage to keep a secret like this for so long? It does seem to imply some sort of fundamental contradiction, lurking somewhere inside asari society. And where are the Justicars in all of this? Do they have an opinion? Would they have an opinion? Or would they consider something like this ‘above their paygrade’? We never get told.

All of these things have bugged me.

Plus, I have a mental image stuck in my head. (I kind of wish someone would paint it.) When the first asari came onto the Citadel, and they found the Relay Monument, how did they react to that? What did they see? What did they say? How did they feel? (For that matter, relatedly, when the Reapers harvested the Protheans, how come they didn’t recognise the Relay Monument for what it was? They of all people have no excuse for not recognising a mass relay! Bad cuttlefish, no biscuit.) None of these things get developed in any detail.

So these questions are a lot of what’s driving ‘Sideways’. In addition, I also have an interest in the more general theme of ‘science and society’. Here in the Real World(tm), our whole attitude toward science and technology is a contradictory mess. We seem to want the shiny consumer toys, but not the theoretical knowledge under them. Except when we do, in the sanitised ‘gosh and wow’ form that TV documentaries pretend to give you. And then there’s the whole confusing, festering mess that is the collision between scientific and religious ideas. Being a former scientist, I’m interested in exploring this theme. And the asari, with their purported technological advancement and supposed super-consensus democracy, seem to offer one means of doing so.

So yes; these are the ideas that are going on underneath ‘Sideways to Zero’. I hope that I’ll be able to develop them further over the New Year. I’ll probably fail – when was the last time I finished anything? – but it’ll be a fun process 🙂

And (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), here’s the link to the fic. If any of this sounds interesting, please feel free to have a look!

Sideways To Zero, Chapter 1: A Failure of Funding.

Oh Dear

Posted in Fanfiction, Personal with tags on December 28, 2013 by davidnm2009

Well, that’s an awkward discovery.

It would appear that my main email provider has been eating emails. I’m not sure precisely when this started, but it seems to have been since at least July. It may have been earlier. The funny thing is, I did think my inbox had been a bit quiet recently. Unfortunately this year has been rather chaotic – to put it mildly – and it simply hadn’t occurred to me to investigate any further.

When I finally discovered what was going on, I recovered about 40 lost emails. Those are just the ones that I’ve been able to recover; as it’s a webmail service, I believe they get auto-deleted after 90 days or so.

So, if you see this and you believe that you should have had a reply from me, you’re probably right. My apologies!

Firebase Condor Strikes Again

Posted in Personal with tags on December 1, 2013 by davidnm2009

Those of you who are also Mass Effect fans will probably wince at the mention of the name ‘Firebase Condor’. The notoriously-glitchy multiplayer map does have a bit of a bad reputation, from ammo boxes that do nothing to any number of stuck spots where your character just can’t move, to the dreaded ‘Hazard Condor’ frozen-at-the-loading-screen error.

For what it’s worth, I actually think it’s quite pleasing visually – moonscapes FTW! – although that said, I think I speak for most people when I say I would’ve preferred ‘Firebase Palaven’.

However, Condor does seem to be a place where weird stuff happens. Earlier I was hosting some Gold matches, and the PUG roulette wheel landed on Menae. Halfway through the match, this happened:

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After The End

Posted in Personal with tags , on November 25, 2013 by davidnm2009

Last week, a long saga reached its ultimate terminus: I formally-graduated from the PhD.

The ceremony was at St Albans Abbey, a beautiful ancient building right at the heart of St Albans. The ceremony itself lasted a couple of hours; to my surprise, the doctoral thesis titles were read out, and the Vice Chancellor actually talked to us. I felt nervous as I had no robes – there were problems with my booking for the event (of course), so I wasn’t able to get registered in time to order a set. Luckily no-one commented on it, although I’m sure it was noticed.

Myself and the other astronomy doctors were sat behind a massive stone column; we could only see the proceedings via way of a 1984-style telescreen! Ironic given that it was happening only yards from where I was sat, but it might as well have been on the Moon for all that we could see.

Anyway, it’s all completed now. I have the fancy-posh certificate, the Very Final Ever copy of the thesis has been deposited with the Research Archive and there is nothing more that should happen or indeed can happen. Since the whole thing has been such a protracted struggle, this feels rather strange. It’s a bit like that feeling when you leave the house and realise you’ve forgotten something, but you can’t quite remember what. There’s that odd, nagging sensation of something that’s not quite right.

The PhD course has been an interesting few years, certainly. I’ve certainly learned a lot, some of it even about science. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is when not to tolerate a bad situation – I can think of at least a couple of things I should have done that would have led to a much better experience. I suspect these sorts of regrets might be universal to all courses of postgraduate study, though. A research degree is an enormous undertaking, and not really something that you can ever be fully-prepared for.

I’ve discovered several things about myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. To my enormous surprise, it emerges that I’m a competent public speaker. More strangely than that, it emerges I actually enjoy it, too. I’ve gained an insight into the real inner workings of scientific research. (People talk more about jobs [those that there are] and budgets [especially when such things are unavailable, which is frequently the case], and rather less about the ‘gosh and wow’ stuff that you see on TV documentaries.) I’ve also made friends and been to new places.

There’s not really much else to say, I suppose, except ‘Goodbye to the past’!

Not Living In The Fridge

Posted in Personal with tags on June 8, 2013 by davidnm2009

Canidae 1.0 isn’t the only electrical device in my vicinity that has broken recently. In fact I seem to chalking up quite the body-count of dead appliances recently.

I’ve been in my current apartment since August 2008; nearly five years now. It’s surprising how the time has passed – it doesn’t seem like that long!

Anyway, the white goods have been here longer than I have, with the exception of the washing machine. (The original one blew up in 2010; I’ve never known a washing machine to endure more than three years of regular use.) It’s fair to say that the surviving devices are showing their age.

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Relationship Counselling

Posted in Fanfiction, Personal, Writing with tags , , on October 4, 2012 by davidnm2009

(Here is a small bit of fanfiction I wrote the other night. It was originally posted at; here it is, complete with the formatting that FF ate. It’s quite short, about 900 words or so, and here is the entire thing, as it’s complete.)

Synposis: Post-Control ending, Liara has to deal with an awkward interpersonal situation. Sometimes decisions have consequences…

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