Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Almost Killed Me

The Other Half and I are now four episodes into The Killing (the Danish original, natch), and so far I'm not quite seeing what all the fuss is about.  Which isn't to say I'm not enjoying it - I am.  The plot is interesting and well-paced (though with sixteen more hours to go, I wonder whether I'll feel that way by season's end), and there are some great characters in there - Meyer and Theis particularly.

At heart, though, the show is easily expressible by entertainment maths as follows:

The Killing = Twin Peaks - humour + drive - demons + a desire for closure.

Neither of those additions is a bad thing, of course, and maybe the show is a bit funnier in the original Danish, but I'm not yet seeing this as anything more than a very solid modern TV show.  I hear that AMC have dropped the ball spectacularly with the American remake (most significantly by stretching the case over two seasons and an extra six hours), which is a shame, because it would interesting to see if the show would get so much praise without it coming out of a country with comparatively little reputation for good TV.  Either way, the new The Wire, this is not.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Veep Pick: Quachil Uttaus?

Shorter Rick Santorum: if only academics could have been as pious and difficult to corrupt as politicians.

Obviously, the fact that vast swathes of the Right (American and British) despise me for my job title alone is nothing new.  I do believe though that this is the first time I've been unfavourably compared to a profession so ignoble it makes me feel Colombian drug lords get a bad rap.  At least they don't try to argue that forgiving their moral and legal lapses is in the public interest.

That said, though, I really am enjoying watching Santorum's campaign.  I figure he's pretty much toast tomorrow, but in the meantime, it's hilarious watching him ahead in multiple states according to multiple polls, despite him literally having said that American protestants are working for Satan.  These people would vote for Cthulhu if he promised to eat the liberals and abortion doctors first. 

(Though obviously, if Cthulhu actually took the Oval, four years later whichever Republican voters remained alive in the ghoul-haunted ruins of America would argue that the scourging of mankind was due to the president being too moderate, and our best hope now was that Hastur would beat Cthulhu in the primaries.)

Friday, 24 February 2012

Your Brilliant Posts Are Full Of Sucking

This is a truly awesome post, of the kind that the web should have more of.  And, of course, in keeping with all internet traditions, having lavished praise upon the post, I'm now going to rip holes in it. 

Drum's quick calculations ignore two very important aspects of Death Star construction.  First, assuming a constant increase in GDP over 500 years is all well and good, but it fails to take into account that over those five centuries, steel will become more expensive, not just due to inflation (which I assume Drum is accounting for by assuming a "real increase"), but due to the increasing scarcity of the metal itself.  Even with a super-advanced recycling system, we'd start to face some fairly steep rises in the price of steel once we start building interstellar fleets.

More importantly, Drum has come up with the estimated cost of building 0.01% of a Death Star on ten thousand different planets.  Unless he's hoping to launch those pieces at pre-arranged times calculated to allow the entire set to arrive in the same system thousands of years later, to then be assembled using superglue and sellotape, I'd suggest there are some fairly major costs that are being waved away here.

Radio Friday: Sorry About The Snakes

I've been on something of a Mountain Goats kick lately, partly because Jamie was kind enough to give me Heretic Pride for my birthday.  This is from their latest, All Eternal's Deck, which is frankly quite uneven, but has a few exceptionally solid tunes on it.  This is the best.

(And don't worry, serpent-haters.  They're hardly important to the song, and no-one was stupid enough to try and bring any on-stage with them. This isn't the St Patrick's Day parade.)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

1.8 Free At Last!

I would apologise for the comic being absent for so many months, but frankly, it's given you all a very accurate sense of how long matriculation took me to sit through back in '98.

 1.9                                                             1.7

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Corollaries To Conservative Crapulage

Shorter Dana Loesch: you can't be raped if you've previously had sex voluntarily, with someone else.

Ah, 2012.  Truly we are in the midst of a second Enlightenment.

Immediate corollaries include, but are not limited to:

1. Rohypnol isn't a date-rape drug if she already uses sleeping pills;

2. It's not sexual assault if you've seen her scratching her own arse;

3. You can't be mugged if you've donated money to charity; [1]

4. Identity theft only happens to people who don't tell their friends where they live;

5. You can't object to being stabbed if you've had your ears pierced; [2]

6.  It's fair game for a paper to tap your phone if your agent has ever spoken to a journalist on your behalf; [3]

7. It isn't torture if anyone in the world has voluntarily done something more uncomfortable to themselves; [4]

8. Dracula's only crime is to not check his victims suck their fingers after getting a paper cut.

The concept of consent: ruining the arguments of proudly sadistic imbeciles since time immemorial.

[1] I stole this one.
[2] And this one, from Charlie Pierce.
[3] This, of course, has actually been argued.
[4] And this.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Glazed Expressions

Looking perhaps rather incongruous alongside my collection of GW models I don't have anywhere to pack away yet, here are the pottery pieces The Other Half and I painted last weekend.

How cute is that dragon?  Clearly he's a bit down because he's been woken up when all he wanted was a quick nap.  That's the downside of all those singing mermaids: you can never get any decent shut-eye.

Of course, it's also possible he's sadly asking why he doesn't have any wings.  To which the answer, obviously, is "Wait until pubety, Lockheed."

(Yes, I called him Lockheed.  Like any of you are surprised.)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Send In The Clouds

It's entirely possible I'm forgetting something, but I do believe Cloud Atlas is the first book I've read that was even shortlisted for Man Booker.  I was persuaded to leave my normal literary hunting grounds by the fact I was given this book as a birthday present (a few years ago - I'm running badly behind), and because its giver VM promised me at least one third of the story would take place in the future, and therefore be cool.

And cool it is, in the main.  It strikes me as more of an experiment with form, rather than anything else.  The novel is made up of six connected short stories in which the nth story, rather than following on from story n-1, is actually nestled inside it.  Only the last story to begin, "Sloosha's Crossing an' Ev'rythin' After", runs from beginning to end uninterrupted.

All of the short stories within themselves are at minimum fairly good ("The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing" and "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish" are the weakest offerings here, the former of which is interesting rather than entertaining, whilst the latter is entertaining, but too long for what it contains), and at best are genuinely very impressive ("An Orison of Somni-451", "Sloosha's...")  Moreover, as has been noted elsewhere, the difference in tone, setting and language across the stories is remarkable, especially since Mitchell barely puts a foot wrong.  Barely two pages go by without someone saying something very smart, or pretty funny, or both.

So it clearly works as a short story collection.  By arranging them as he has, though, Mitchell is asking us to judge the work as something else again, and I'm not convinced that he's persuaded me.

First of all, the internal justification for this unusual set-up struck me as overly cute.  Each story is being read or watched by a character in the following story, and so the interruptions track with the point where those characters were forced to break off.  I guess you could argue that this feeds into the theme on interruptions that runs through the stories, but really, what is fiction but descriptions of interruption?  "Life is what happens when you're making other plans", as John Lennon said.  So I don't think there's any thematic justification.  As I've said, it seems more likely (I've not read any commentary from Mitchell on the subject) that this is merely experimentation with a new structure, which makes the weak explanations for some of the interruptions ("This book has been broken in half", "I must have left the rest of the manuscript back in London") rather more annoying than anything else.

Leaving aside the mechanics involved, though, there are other two questions - really one in two parts - to be considered: what does Mitchell do with the structure to justify using it, and how well does the book link the narratives into a whole?

On this front Mitchell has mixed success.  The main conceit, that five of these six characters are reincarnations of the same soul (the sixth is presumably an exception, since his life overlaps considerably with that of another, and he lacks the tell-tale birthmark that the others share) would be on its own terms a fairly poor link, which is to say, essentially no link at all.  Any collection could claim the same, with only the insertion of a few extra lines here and there, and with careful choice about when each character lived and died.  The repeated theme of the exercise of power upon those who cannot feasibly resist is also not enough (which is not to say that said theme isn't deftly handled, for all its lack of originality). 

On occasion, Mitchell goes further, and begins to take full advantage of what his structure allows.  Phrases that seem innocuous or obvious in one story take on new meanings when another is completed.  A character will pass comment on a previous story and change our own take on it, giving a new context when we return to it.  There's also, without wishing to give anything away, something very powerful in the setting of the final story to begin, given what we know of the fifth story, and still more power once both stories have ended.

For every such moment, however, there are at least two in which Mitchell pokes fun at his own enterprise (two stories are dismissed by their readers as either not realistic, or just flat-out not very good).  One story, set in the mid '70s, takes place in a fictional US State, Beunas Yerbas (some have assumed Beunas Yerbas
is just a fictional city in California, but since it's described at one point as Beunas Yerbas, BY, the state must be fictional as well).  Does that make every story in the progression just as "unreal"?  Or is that story a fictionalised account of "real" events?  Whether you find this kind of metaphysical horse-play interesting or not is a matter of taste, but at the very least, I'd think it might have been worth using the links between narratives for something a little more useful.  Maybe this is just Mitchell letting us know he's not taking any of this too seriously.  Indeed, one character has a similar idea for a piece of his own, and confesses to us that he's not sure whether it's "Revolutionary or gimmicky".  Reassurance that the author is in on the joke?  Or an admission the author isn't convinced that any of this will hang together?  I've no idea.

In any case, if this is the metric by which we are to measure it, Cloud Atlas is certainly not revolutionary.  On the other hand, it is certainly too well-constructed to be accused of gimmickry.  I'd be tempted to suggest "lightweight" as a more apt description; a whole only fractionally more than the sum of its parts.

Of course, they are very good parts, and I'm not immune to the argument that maybe that should be enough.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Friday 40K: Bigger Lizards

Technically, this Salamanders dreadnought isn't quite finished, but I can't find my vehicle transfer sheet so this will have to do.  I think I've finally gotten my blending to a half-decent standard.

Meanwhile, an evil wizard has bought himself a nice cloak:

and the seas of the Warhammer World are plagued by entirely black pirate ships.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Retroactive Repression

Whoops!  I see Smilin' Mitt Romney is in trouble again over his wacky pals in LDS Church having another go at posthumously baptising Holocaust victims.

The most generous reading of this activity is that it's rather shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.  A rather more accurate appraisal is that it's a classless refusal to let the dead rest with dignity or to respect the scars of unimaginable horror left upon an entire people.

To return to the political ramifications, however, I think this will turn out to be just as bad news for Newt Gingrich as it is for Grey-Temples Galt.  After all, you'd think he'd be desperate for the LDS to get far enough into their disturbing mission so that he could tell people - as an Actual Historian, of course - that the majority of the victims of the Nazi death machine were actually Christians (obviously, Politifact will judge the claim "mostly true").

After all, if you're going to keep playing the victim card, you might as well go all the way.

(Except of course that they are already.  Warning: only the first of those links won't make you want to gargle lava.)

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Saviour's Day

Happy St Skeletor's Day, my vitriol-flecked brothers and sisters!

"Anarchy Is Awful, I'd Best Be In Charge Of Everything"

Shorter Sayeeda Warsi: "We need to battle those who fear multiple identities by imprinting a single identity upon the UK, and the best way to create space for religious minorities is to promote the one religion that not one of them shares!"

Note the switcheroo Warsi is trying to get away with here, by the way.  Minority religions must be respected by the state, therefore a secular state is bad, therefore a Christian state must be good.  The fact that there's plenty of reason to believe that a Christian state could end up worse for minorities is never considered.  The same logical progression could lead one to conclude that since being warm is good, living in Scotland is bad, and therefore moving somewhere else, such as Greenland, must be good.

(Another formulation would be the old Yes Minister line about politician's thought processes: something must be done, this is something, therefore we must do it.  Except in this case, of course, it's not so much that something must be done, as the current situation isn't considered perfect in all respects by all people simultaneously).

I suppose one could argue that it's possible that literally any state religion would be better than no state religion, but that formulation seems far too close to the idea of "anyone but atheists" so beloved of sophistic American politicians and that awful film Contact.  And whatever else you want to say about the idea that people of all religions should be able to join forces against the non-believers, it's difficult to believe that in that scenario, it would be the "militant secularists" who'd be the people holding too much influence.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Gradual Thaw

Another Valentine's Day has shuffled into existence, and I continue to be defiantly in favour of this entirely made-up celebration.  And even if you generally view this day with cynicism or misery, there's at least one reason to smile this time around.  What better Valentine's present could you give to a group of people than to tell them at long last they can marry whomever they like?

This year, The Other Half and I once again celebrated Valentine's Day a little early, much as we did Christmas - the price one pays for a long distance relationship with parents at opposite ends of the country. Rather than buy presents this year (both of us suffering from paranoia that we're terrible gift-choosers, though that's certainly not true of her, and there is evidence of this across the blog), we headed to a little studio in Leamington Spa where you can paint up pottery, and leave it to be glazed and fired.  Hopefully by this time next week I'll have a dragon painted by TOH, and she'll have a mermaid daubed with pigment at random by my clumsy hands.

Anyway, happy Valentine's Day to those who want my blessing, and for everyone else, I hope the preparations for St Skeletor's Day are progressing apace.  I'll leave you with my twisted idea of what constitutes a love song.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Priorities, People!

I know what you're thinking:

That costume is a total anachronism!  That's clearly the original Death Star on display, which was destroyed before the introduction of the TIE Interceptor!

It's particularly exasperating because it would have been easy to fix.  Just cut away part of the hull to make it clear this is the Death Star from Jedi.  Sure, it would mean flashing an awful lot more leg, probably some arse too, but how could that be a problem?  It's not like these people are all weirdos!


(Actually, that's the world-famous and utterly lovely Llama God, who I've known for several years and has never once threatened me with a giant blue penis.  He does a mean Sookie Stackhouse impression, too.  Having said all that, this is only the second most disturbing costume I've seen him sport.)

(h/t Kudos)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

"Oh, Forget To Mention, These Guys Aren't Human Either"

Hmm.  Well, that was certainly different.  For reasons that will likely be obvious to those who saw it, and indescribably spoiler-heavy for those who haven't, it's debatable whether this episode can be reviewed at all.

I'm bored right now, though, so I'll give it ago.  As intimated a few lines above, what's below the fold is massively spoilertastic, so tread carefully.

Hot Air

Good news for climate change truth-seekers: wind farms increase global warming!  And all it took for the facts to emerge was a single brave scientist, and some of the words in his report.  Don't look at all the words, though! That just confuses the issue!  Look at some of the words.  A few of the words.  One or two of the words.  And maybe change some of the others.

Then you'll see the perfectly obvious!  Global warming, which isn't happening, or at least certainly isn't being caused by people, is happening right now, because of people we don't like!  We were right all along!  This proves climate change is bullshit, just like thalidomide proved that pregnancy is actually really easy.  It's now clear GW is all a big hoax, except for this one tiny part which is definitely real because it'll piss off the hippy left! 

Repeat after me: people don't cause climate change, liberals do.  Even though climate change isn't real.

I'm glad we cleared that up.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

"I Have Every Right To Be An Utter Tool!"

I haven't said anything about the Komen Foundation shitstorm here because, so far, bloggers across the pond - and with profiles I am both envious of and scared to imagine - have entirely got it covered. In brief, for those that haven't come across this story: the Komen Foundation. a charity for breast cancer, reached critical mass regarding how many conservatives were on their executive board, and all of a sudden, they decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood, an organisation which helps the very poor with access to cancer detection, but also helps the very poor with access to abortion.

Unsurprisingly, this led to a massive outcry from an awful lot of people who kind of assumed when they gave their money to a breast cancer charity that said charity wouldn't pull funding from organisations who are fighting breast cancer, and wouldn't do so with so little warning that the move could plausibly have a body count attached to it.  The original reason for pulling the funding made no sense, a couple of days of coming up with increasingly implausible alternative excuses didn't make any sense either, and the Foundation have reversed their decision, though in a fairly weaselly way that can best be summarised as "We reserve the right to be intolerable fuckers in the near future, so don't get comfortable".

Much of the progressive blogohedron in America is delighted, because as they see it the vicious, callous Republicans (the woman directly responsible for this decision once ran as a GOP candidate, so the label applies) had finally managed what was increasingly seeming impossible: pull something so despicable public opinion would pound them into the ground.

Of course, not everyone is happy with this turn of events: 
[Y]ou’re on notice: If you currently donate to PP, you may never stop doing so... In the NROHQ kitchen just now, Charlie Cooke wondered aloud, and here I paraphrase: “Does anyone on the Left even ask the basic question of whether a private charitable organization has the right to dispose of its money as it sees fit?” But in fact, that anyone thinks there is a question here is a sign we’ve already lost. (h/t to LGM for providing the above link).
It's been pointed out by others how breathtakingly hypocritical this whining is, given that the same publication was just days earlier celebrating how conservatives had managed to shout and scream enough to cause Komen to drop PP funding in the first place. I'd also note that PP provides women with vouchers that allow mammograms etc. to be performed elsewhere for cheap/for free, which means that saying the organisation "does not provide mammography" is about the same as saying that my insurance company does not provide a new TV after the last one gets nicked.

What I really wanted to mention, however, is that this is another example of a conservative trick we've discussed before.  Alas, I still don't have a snappy title for it, but it goes like this: if liberals hate something, argue it isn't illegal.  If conservatives hate something, argue it should be illegal.  Even if the NRO hadn't just finished arguing that brow-beating a company into doing their bidding isn't awesome, the argument that the Komen Foundation had the right to be cowardly gitchimps is entirely beside the point.  The people excoriating them have the right to complain.  They have the right to stop paying the Komen Foundation money.  They have the right to call for and organise a boycott (interesting how all that "free market" bullshit suddenly disappears the instant a company actually responds to consumer pressure from liberals, huh?)

And, of course (and I can't believe I have to point this out, but some people are very, very stupid) Maloy has the right to object to all of that, as well.  Then I have the right to determine his objections as coming from a disingenuous idiot who no-one should ever have shown how to access the internet.  This sort of dispute is, one would hope, supposed to be settled, or at least discussed, using actual arguments.  Stating that no-one has broken the law is the exact opposite of that, an attempt to suggest that argument itself isn't necessary, that until Congress makes it illegal for companies to do what they want with their money, no-one should criticise a company for what they do with their money.

Of course, were Congress ever to pass such a law, it would be ludicrous to expect Maloya and his NRO cronies would shut up.  And you know how I know?  Because Congress did pass a law saying organisations have the right to provide abortion services, and those turdwelders couldn't fall over themselves fast enough to congratulate KF for refusing to put up with it.

Refusing to give money to an organisation because they're not conservative enough: the right of a company.  Refusing to give money to an organisation for being too conservative: "left-wing gangsterism".  One side wants the things they dislike to be banned.  The other recognises the importance in keeping the things they dislike legal, but will call it bullshit all the same.

Remind me which party harps on about small government and the protection of freedom?

A Favour To Fools

I'm still having a little trouble adjusting to being a statistician.  Nominally, I'm half-statistician, half whatever-I-want-so-long-as-I-keep-publishing, but that was an arrangement worked out before it was known (or at least, known by me) that my first major project would require a degree of un-fucking so extensive it almost makes me sympathetic for whomever is running the Kormen Foundation's PR wing right now.

Still, as little as statistics grabs me as compared to probability theory, it's clearly a very important field.  After all, it's thanks to the power of statistics that I can see through high-level political analyses like this one
As Mitt Romney dominated the Florida Republican primary Tuesday night, he also captured the bulk of the votes from Latinos in the state, with 54% of their ballots... [T]he independents there who voted for [Obama] in 2008...will be the prize in the November election... Obama -- who starts with a 60% lead among all Latinos in state polls -- may end up battling Romney over the growing Latino vote.
Now, I know what you're thinking, with your pathetic, unscientific minds.  You're all like: ZOMG!  54% is close to 60%, oh noes!  I mean, this shit seems airtight, doesn't it?

Oh, how I pity you people, scrabbling around in the dirt, waiting for someone with Godlike powers of deduction - I'm not saying my skills are Godlike, that's for history to decide - to peel away the layers of reality and reveal the truth, nestled in some hyperdimensional pocket reality that you would have no hope of reaching were it not for the warp-drives of the statistical mind.

Let me lay down some truth on you.  60% of Hispanics say they'll vote for Obama.  54% of registered Hispanic Republicans voted for Mitt Romney.  The missing number that none of you will have thought of, because of how only someone as smart as me could possibly think of it?


Only 31% of registered Hispanic voters in Florida are Republican!

Are the deep complexities of this baffling situation slowly swimming into focus?  Perhaps you require further hand-holding.  No, don't apologise: I don't mind.  It's the only way you'll learn.  Obama current carries 60% of the Hispanic vote, which we'll assume, hardly unreasonably, means 60% of the registered Hispanic vote.  Mitt Romney carried 54% of the 31% of registered Hispanic voters who identify as Republicans.  That's less than 17%  of the total registered Hispanic population (Lopez could have worked this out from the numbers he included in his own colum.  Alas!  If only CNN had access to calculators!).

Clearly we can assume many if not all of those Republican Hispanics who chose not to vote for Romney when offered Gingrich, Paul or Santorum instead will choose Romney when their only other viable option is Barack Obama.  Indeed, if they all choose Romney then - let me just check my figures using the super-charged Mathematron that is my mind - he could carry 31% of the vote from Republicans alone! Against a mere 60% for Obama!  To reiterate: ZOMG!

Oh, but what about the independent voters, Lopez wonders?  They, after all, are the "real prize" [1]. And if 54% of Republicans like Romney, then how can we know how popular he is with the the constantly obsessed-over swing voter?

Well, maybe we can do some approximating using actual numbers that actual Lopez put into his actual column, like an undergrad who knows they have to include their sources even though they can't wrap their feeble minds around what their betters were saying in the first place.  38% of the registered Hispanics in the state are Democrats, leaving 31% of them unaffiliated. Let's assume every Democratically registered Hispanic will vote for Obama - that means that if the election were held today, 71% of unaffiliated voters would go for the 44th President.

That number again: 71%.

Of course, that number might be too high, but that would only be possible if registered Republicans were planning to vote for Obama as well, which ain't exactly bad news for the Democrats.

Tell me again how the Hispanic vote might be a hurdle for Obama, would you please?

You're welcome, the internet.  Man, but do I need a cigarette...

(h/t Balloon Juice)

[1] It's been said before, but it's a source of continual irritation to me that so much time and energy goes in to working out how best to court people too fucking stupid to have decided whether they want to vote for the guy who'll slash taxes on the rich, dismantle the safety net for the very poor, and announce his arrival in the Oval Office by bombing every brown person between Tunisia and Turkmenistan the instant he's sat down, or alternatively some or none of those things as soon as he's told not to by Donald Trump.  I realise there are people out there who really like all of those fucking bullshit alternatives of shittiness, but I can't understand how there are people who just aren't sure.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A Tale Of Cocktails #22B

Dennis the Menace (redux)


1 oz peach schnapps
1 oz Malibu rum
3 oz pineapple juice
3 drops Grenadine

Taste: 8
Look: 7
Cost: 8
Name: 8
Prep: 8
Alcohol: 5
Overall: 7.5

Preparation:  Shake the schnapps and Malibu along with crushed ice.  Strain into a Collins glass and add the pineapple juice.  Pour Grenadine drops in slowly, down the inside of the glass.

General Comments:  Having been less than impressed by this cocktail in the incarnation tried at the weekend, I decided to attempt one of the common alternatives.  This is definitely the superior drink.  You lose very little by not adding in the cranberry, and the Grenadine provides the cocktail with something a little more interesting in any case.  The density of the syrup also means both that the drink looks prettier, and that it gets gradually sweeter as you reach the bottom.  That's not to everyone's taste, admittedly, but I'm always a fan of cocktails that go through distinct stages as you drink them.

It's also now clear to me how this cocktail got it's name.  It still makes no sense for the previous variant, but - and I can't believe I didn't realise this at the time - it's clearly a reference to the American Dennis the Menace:

Obviously this is the inferior Dennis, but I suppose there's a bit of a shortage of black and red drinks, and probably better names for them in any case.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Next Year: Kittens Bad, Wasps Good

My baffling obsession with the morass of stool water and maggot-filled black jism that is the contemporary Republican Party is finally retroactively explained today: not only are they anti-puppy, they're also pro-snake.

(For context, my girlfriend has pretty bad ophidiophobia, as well as being even more of a dog lover than I am.  She actually mentioned Florida's python infestation to me yesterday, and told me they were trying to get something done about it.  My immediate thought was that I could probably guess why she had to use the words "were trying" instead of "had begun".)