The Calculating Stars

Winner of both a Hugo, Locus and a Nebula, this book is about a mathematical prodigy battling her way into a career as an astronaut in a post-apolocalyptic 1950s America. Along the way she has to take on the embedded sexism of America in the 50s, as well as her own mild racism. Worse, she suffers from an anxiety condition.

The book is engaging and well written, with an alternative history plot line which believable and interesting. In fact, its quite topical for our current time.

I really enjoyed this book and I will definitely be reading the sequel.

The Calculating Stars Book Cover The Calculating Stars
Mary Robinette Kowal
May 16, 2019

The Right Stuff meets Hidden Figures by way of The Martian. A world in crisis, the birth of space flight and a heroine for her time and ours; the acclaimed first novel in the Lady Astronaut series has something for everyone., On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York's experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition's attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn't take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can't go into space, too. Elma's drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

Weird paramiko problem

I had a strange paramiko problem the other day. Sometimes executing a command through a channel (via the exec_command() call) would result in an exit code being returned, but no stdout or stderr. This was for a command I was absolutely sure always returns output, and it wasn’t consistent — I’d run batches of commands and about 10% of them would fail, but not always on the same machine and not always at the same time. I spent ages looking at my code, and the code for the command running at the other end of the channel.

Then it occurred to me that this seemed a lot like a race condition. I started looking at the code for the paramiko Channel class, and ended up deciding that the answer was to check that the eof_received member variable was true before trying to close the channel.

It turns out this just works. I’ve my code running commands for a couple of days now and have had zero more instances of the “no output, but did exit” error. So, there you go. Its a shame that member variable doesn’t have accessors and isn’t documented though. I guess that makes my code a little more fragile than I would be happy with.