Puns and wordplay welcome, the worse the better. Long, short, contorted, obscure, whatever. Filthy OK, but must use cuts and some kind of content warning. Likewise triggery. Visual puns OK, but must have description in an alt= tag. Likewise, recorded audio or video puns need a transcript of some kind. (I'm not deaf or blind, so leaving the specifics open, but if you don't know what's needed, be prepared to take those who do at their word, and accept contributions if offered.)
Clean or filthy, puns will likely break your brain over time and cause copious amounts of pain. If you can't live with that, you probably shouldn't be reading this comm.
Marriages used to be about property and politics. Your families decided who’d benefit the most from this family merger, and then you were committed – not because you were happy, nobody really expected happiness, but because betrothal was a glorified business contract. Breaking it brought troubles for everyone. Best to tough it out.
The cultural legacy of that can be seen in the way we overvalue long-term relationships. Watch the way performers work a crowd: they’ll always ask a couple how long they’ve been married, and if the answer is sufficiently long, they’ll always relate that number breathlessly to the crowd: “Twenty-five years!” And the crowd will cheerfully applaud because these two people have been together a long time and long is good.
But stability comes in all forms, and only some of them include love.
Some twenty-five year relationships are the sort where they don’t really like each other, but they’ve learned to sort of slide past each other as much as possible. And if you watch, you’ll see the survival mechanisms for that: the half-listened to conversations, the eye-rolling shrug whenever someone notes something annoying about their partner, the weary willingness to do all of the chores their partner’s too incompetent or disinclined to do.
Some stability involves living almost separate lives, with two different friends groups because these two people want entirely different things. Some stability involves hanging out with each other because they don’t have any other friends, and going to a movie you hate with someone you don’t care for is still theoretically better than being alone.
Some stability involves great gaps in communication, the arguments you never have because if you open up that seal then this relationship is over. So you don’t discuss the kids you wanted, or the sex you wanted, or the life you wanted, because that would destroy this stability. Some stability involves constantly bickering about those unachievable goals, tossing the blame back and forth like a hot potato, a never-ending state of trench warfare.
Some stability involves shaping yourself to the role: breadwinner. Dutiful housewife. Business partner. Maybe you discovered at some point you didn’t want that role, but it’s better to carve off the parts of yourself that don’t fit than potentially rock the boat.
And a lot of stability involves confusing fondness for love. Human beings are hard-wired to form attachments to the things they rely on: soldiers have been known to sentimentally risk their lives in battle to rescue a bomb-defusing robot whose whole function was, literally, to stop them from risking their lives.
If you hang around someone for long enough, you often grow fond of them – maybe their quirks are irritating, but they are known quantities and you have discovered the workarounds. You’d miss them if they left, not necessarily because you like them, but because you’ve come to expect them – kind of like the way your new phone looks weird if you’ve lived with a phone with a crack in the screen for long enough.
But fondness isn’t love. It isn’t an active quantity. Fondness is just something that accretes like a tarnish on a penny, often arriving whether you’ve worked to get it or not. Love is a happy expectation, something that puts a spring in your step – fondness is just sinking back into the couch and realizing it hurts your back in the way that it’s always hurt your back, and the part of you that craves routine is happy for the hurt.
And you’ll see people in long-term relationships going, “I love them.” And while I’m not quite willing to write off fondness as not a form of love, I will say it’s one of the lower grades thereof. They don’t have a lot of love in these kinds of relationships.
What they have is stability. They know what’s going to happen today, and tomorrow, and the day after. It’s not great, but they’ve learned how to bear it. It’s going to stay this way for as long as they’re willing to stay, and leaving it might mean they get something worse.
And they get applause. People cheer. People are thrilled to meet people who’ve been together for so long because length is good, you’re supposed to stay together, it’s like being thin in that sometimes being thin is because you’re so goddamned sick you can’t eat but hey we all want thinness and we don’t care how we get it.
These people have stability.
They long for happiness.
Unfortunately, for them, in this circumstance, the one is the enemy of the other.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
I don't know whether to be shocked at her lack of faith in me, or flattered that she thought I could make up a word like that - and its definition - on the spot.
So I told her what it meant. I'm not sure she's entirely convinced.
I am amused to note that as soon as she went back to her desk, my five nearest neighbours, who have been watching the password parade with some interest since yesterday afternoon all confessed that they had thought the same thing.
What do they teach them in these schools?
Reset to start. 4/9 sit alone, filling gaps.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Same result.
Plane looks half-empty, though.
Try on a different device.
User thinks, "what the hell, first of all: we need to fly" and clicks "ok".
I disagreed. I'm too .. substantial to sit between other folks. Aisle or window, no problem. But not between other people. So I interfere. Change my seat to window, one row further to the front. No problem. I print my boarding pass.
Communication ensues. I click around and get sensible seats for everyone (eg. noone sits alone).
We do a little digging.
Oh, it's only iDevices that get shitcanned - regardless of browser. 'droids? Fine! WinDOS? Fine. LeeGNUnix? Fine! Even on Crackberry: fine! (Set the User-Agent to ""Fuck you sideways, with a 2x4": fine!)
Couldn't happen to more deserving folks. I'm perfectly OK with this concept.
Nobody wants to read these emails, or to fulfil said requirements. Even I don't want to read the email. But if we don't fulfil these requirements, we risk losing funding.
So I resort to bribery. "If you've read this far, come and claim your chocolate!", I used to say at the end of emails. This served as a useful measure of who was actually reading my emails, too. But my scientists are clever, and they don't want to read boring emails, so they started scanning to the bottom and looking for promises of chocolate without doing their required reading first.
So then I started burying offers of chocolate elsewhere in the email. Alas, the main result of this was that nobody read the emails or claimed the chocolate.
Today, I tried a different approach. I explained at the start of the email that yes, this is a boring email, but that they must read it. And I told them that this included old people as well as new people, because everyone has been being naughty about admin tasks. And then I said:
"Somewhere in this email is a word that is not connected to anything else. This is your CHOCOLATE PASSWORD. Come and see me and tell me the password and there will be chocolate."
And this, my friends, is why I have had a parade of scientists in my office all afternoon, attempting to pronounce the word 'antidisestablishmentarianism'.
They may or may not have read the email in full. I buried the word halfway through the second-last paragraph, though, so I'm quite optimistic.
But if nothing else, it's been great for *my* morale...
I'm not signed up for any panels, I'm not volunteering this year. I'm not 100 percent sure that this isn't going to end in disaster again. Depending on how I react to the various allergens in Madison I may be very low-energy, I may be sneezy and stuffed-up, I may be spending a lot of time asleep, I may be slow and forgetful due to being low oxygen, I may recuse myself rapidly from controversy or trouble if I don't see an immediate way to be useful.
I may have to leave panels abruptly due to coughing fits. We may be leaving town abruptly to get me back to Canada for treatment. (My out-of-province insurance isn't going to cover me for another serious asthma event in the same damn' city as the last one. That's kind of the definition of 'pre-existing'). We have a plan for this. It's as solid as we can make it.
Or we may have trouble at the border and not get there at all.
Or it all may be just fine. I really don't know. There's no way to tell.
But I'm on a new med (Singulair), and taking ALL the other ones, religiously, and so far my lungs seem to be willing to stay fairly functional. I'm bringing my bike. I'm hoping to stay an extra week and see friends. I'm cautiously optomistic.
A small request: if you see me, and we're friends, and you possibly can, grab me for coffee or food or a quick chat? This is almost certainly my last WisCon for some time, and if I do have a dangerous reaction, it's my last WisCon, period.
I know that I've lost touch with a lot of you due to missing the con and generally being offline and preoccupied trying to get my health under control. I'm sorry about it, and I'd really like to connect this weekend if we can, because you all are one of the communities of my heart, and to be honest I'm coming much more for y'all than for the "official" con.
If you or someone near you is wearing scent, I may have to back away rapidly. I'm sorry.
I'm not really accustomed to being a fragile little flower, you know? I'm still working out how to handle it.
Also, if there's a volunteer task I can do, something you need help with, that you can grab me for on the spot, please do. It's hard to contribute meaningfully when you can't make any promises, and I'll appreciate any chances to do so.
This is a book about swords. It is pretty much just about swords and swordsmanship, through history and in the modern day. I don't think I cam say much else about it, apart from possibly "there are some things that Hank Reinhardt say about some swords that I do not agree 100% with".
Fairly often, when renationalisation of the railways is discussed, a neat little pie chart turns up showing some small percentage of income goes on TOC profits (here is an example: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/
As far as I know this is true, but what pops up next is the assertion that only that small percentage is to be saved by renationalising the railways. That seems to be totally untrue, as a bit of a peek at the other slices of the pie chart will reveal.
First of all, there's a much bigger chunk (11% in 2014, 7% now) marked "leasing trains". Do the rolling stock companies (ROSCOs), which were of course created out of British Rail, make a profit? You bet they do. Their surplus is about 20%, so there's another 1.4% right there.
Secondly, there's "interest payments and other costs". There was a bit here about how the TOCs are probably hiding some profits via (say) borrowing money from associated companies in countries with less corporation tax, but as far as I can make out all the interest payments are made by Network Rail. There is a pretence that Network Rail is not just a bit of the government, and that compels it to borrow money at a higher interest rate than the government would.
(However, the ROSCOs may well be posting an artificially low surplus, either through such tax avoidance or via the private equity practice of buying an asset with a loan secured on that asset. That would represent yet more profit that doesn't show up on the pie chart.)
Then we have staffing costs (25% of the pie chart). Fragmenting the railway has added untold layers of bureaucracy; the ROSCOs have staff to deal with leasing the trains to the TOCs and the TOCs have staff to deal with leasing the trains from the ROSCOs. The TOCs have staff to deal with Network Rail and Network Rail has staff to deal with the TOCs - a lot, because a train cannot simply be delayed now without a careful apportioning of the costs arising from that delay. A vast management tree is essentially duplicated across 20-odd TOCs (yes, it would be a bit bigger in a company the size of BR, but there wouldn't be 20 of it). It's hard to obtain any decent estimate of this (I would be intrigued to see figures on the relative number of officebound staff employed by BR and the current system, but I suspect they are well hidden) but it's hard to suppose it's too small a proportion of that 25% to show up.
So I think two things are true; the proportion of the railways' income that is lost to the structures of privatisation certainly is not 1.9% - it must be at least as high as 3.3% if we add the ROSCOs' profits in - and there is every reason to suppose it is considerably higher, even if it is hard to know exactly how much.
Finishing up the novellas with two which thankfully had nothing Lovecraftian about them. What is with the Lovecraft stuff this year?
A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson is a love story centering around Aqib, a Royal Cousin in the Kingdom of Olorum and Lucrio, a soldier and part of the Daluçan embassy. They meet and fall in love and this is a bit of a problem, because the men of Olorum are absolutely not supposed to have relationships with other men.
I liked this book a lot. It is, however, almost impossible to usefully talk about without spoilers, especially since I know that many people have very strong (and justified) feelings about reading yet another tragic gay romance, so I am going to tell you whether it has a happy ending or not under the cut.
At this stage, my ballot will be Bujold first, Ashanti Wilson and McGuire next, though not necessarily in that order. These three stories were all enjoyable, did not bore me at any point, and I would read them again. Johnson comes 4th, because while I enjoyed the beginning and ending and loved the main character, it did get tedious in the middle (possibly because it was trying to follow the Lovecraftian original). Miéville comes fifth, because it might have been a good story but I found it opaque and unpleasant, and Lavalle is in last place, because it was unpleasant and wasn't even opaque enough to give me distance from the unpleasantness! Also, I think it really did require a knowledge of Lovecraft to enjoy it. I don't know what would have made me enjoy the Miéville, but at least it stood alone.
I think I'll tackle some of the non-fiction next, as I have a story to write, so I need to starve myself of new fiction for a few days. I might even give myself a few days off from the ballot entirely – after all, I've done five categories already, and may not even be doing the film/TV episode ones, so I'm doing quite well for time.
Me: y'all know me. Lunatic, infovore. Gender: no thank you. Pronoun set: plural-they.
Partner: a witty, kind geekfolk, fascinated by books and shows and links and sports and hardware and eking every last ounce of usefulness out of old gear. I have known them for about 10 years at this point. Infovore. Gender: has a lot of oppressive constructs which should be BURNED THE FUCK DOWN while not endangering the vulnerable folks who depend on some of its supportive ones. Pronoun set: anonymous-they.
Metamour: has been seeing my partner since February-ish. Met them over a game of CAH; knew they had to be friends when they had pretty much the same answer. Witty, beautiful. Likes baking. Gender: woman. Pronoun set: she/her.
Tay-Tay: my younger (biological) sister, and soon to be my roommate. I say she is my "baby" sister but she's actually a year older than my partner. Violinist and general ball of energy. Short and tiny; I can kind of lift her in one arm so she can be on eye level with my partner. Gender: probably woman-ish and she likes kicking over gender norms and dancing on top. Pronoun set: she/her.
The Kitten: a small, loud, grey indoor lap cat who loves my partner and will punch people who try to pet her without her permission. Previous owners declawed her. She is food-insecure, and cannot be left to free-feed. She's antisocial to other cats. She does not like Master Jerkface very much at all. She is most often found perched on the back of my partner's desk chair and getting hair on their jacket, on my partner's lap with her tail in their face demanding to be petted, or on top of them when they're asleep.
Master Jerkface (and other equally unflattering nicknames): the abusive ex of my beloved partner. I hope to not meet them. Gender: they have one. Pronoun set: as used here, anonymous-they.
The Man-Child: Tay's boyfriend, who I didn't hear about in the context of a Relationship until September 2016, literally as I was coming back from the Oakland radiation oncology department. Musician, outdoorsy hiker type. A few decades too old for man-childishness to be excused. Gender: man, probably. Pronoun set: he/him.
Team Partner: a bunch of people who came together to help my partner in their hour of need. They include:
an old internet friend of mine who reads the Vorkosigan books
a friend of theirs
The first hosts: one of my partner's former co-workers who went into tech and her husband
The second hosts: another co-worker-ish person and her husband
Assorted now-local friends of mine include:
Mr. Zune: a former co-worker from Virtual Hammer who is now at the SEA-TAC outpost as his career was portable
Mr. Zune's Girlfriend: got a dream job in the Seattle area
tygerr: an old friend and Listee
tygerr's wife: an excellent and fun geek lady
Carnelian: a friend of mine from the late 90s; we had various different paths in life but now we're talking again and comparing notes.
Terezi: Carnelian's daughter, who infamously needed two stacked baby gates to keep her contained as a toddler. Now a proud teenage tumblr bb. (I haven't seen her in Many Years, but I'm likely to run into her more often now.)
Various #dw, #dw_kvetch, and #lj_s folk!!!
Fortunately I keep records, so I can see how many cash withdrawals I've made per year since 2002:
54 2002 61 2003 59 2004 57 2005 43 2006 27 2007 27 2008 33 2009 24 2010 24 2011 16 2012 10 2013 9 2014 10 2015 9 2016 2 2017
Now part of that is because I don't go down the pub as frequently, and I no longer buy a sandwich for lunch (both mostly cash activities for me), but it's pretty clear how little I use cash these days!
There’s a lot of advice swirling around out there on “How to talk to your partner” – a thousand techniques to chip past their defensiveness, speak loudly enough to be heard, be nice enough to encourage niceness.
And it all falls short if your partner sucks.
Truth is, there’s basically two types of partners: The ones that care about how you’re feeling, and the ones who don’t. And sometimes the partners who care about how you’re feeling do need to be approached in the right way to maximize their compassion, but…
There’s a lot of deluded people who have partners who legitimately do not give a shit. And those people are endlessly convinced that their partner is a bank vault, just packed with love if only they can find the right tutorial to pick the locks, and they are endlessly blaming themselves because they somehow didn’t unlatch the great wellspring of tenderness that lies within them.
There’s not an approach that’ll help there.
And these people will point to their partner’s sporadic kindnesses as though these isolated incidents are a treasure map leading to the great stockpile of sympathy. But the truth is, almost everybody’s nice occasionally, if only by coincidence. Sometimes these unreachable partners want to make love when you do, but that’s not proof that they’re good to you, it’s proof that occasionally disparate agendas can line up like an optical illusion of kindness.
So the first part of establishing any real communication is ensuring that your partner actually gives a shit about you personally. Do they react with concern or exasperation the first time you raise an issue? Do they look for ways to write you off as a nut because it’s more convenient to them? Do they have a history of dropping partners whenever they prove troublesome?
Because yeah, you can – and should – work on presenting your problems in a kind, nonconfrontational way. But chefs work on great food presentation, and even they realize it won’t make a full man hungry.
First rule: Make sure they care about you.
Everything you do after they fail the first rule is, unfortunately, doomed to fail as well.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
China Miéville - This Census Taker. This one didn't work for me. I'm not sure whether that's my fault or Miéville's, but I found it very frustrating to read. It has quite a strong style (and I admit, I prefer my prose transparent), and is quite poetic, and the narrator has the infuriating habit of changing from 'I' to 'the boy' or even 'you'. I am sure that this is intentional, but it dragged me out of the story every time.
Which was not, on the whole, a terrible thing, because I wasn't enjoying the story very much.
( Read more... )
The Dream Quest of Vellot Boe, by KM Johnson, was much more my thing! It starts with a women's college that feels much like the one in Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, only it is set in a dreamland. A student has eloped with a man from the waking world, which risks shutting them down, and so Vellot, former adventurer and now a Professor of Mathematics goes in pursuit.
( Read more... )
Review: Sector General, by James White
|Series:||Sector General #5|
Sector General is the fifth book (or, probably more accurately, collection) in the Sector General series. I blame the original publishers for the confusion. The publication information is for the Alien Emergencies omnibus, which includes the fourth through the sixth books in the series.
Looking back on my previous reviews of this series (wow, it's been eight years since I read the last one?), I see I was reviewing them as novels rather than as short story collections. In retrospect, that was a mistake, since they're composed of clearly stand-alone stories with a very loose arc. I'm not going to go back and re-read the earlier collections to give them proper per-story reviews, but may as well do this properly here.
Overall, this collection is more of the same, so if that's what you want, there won't be any negative surprises. It's another four engineer-with-a-wrench stories about biological and medical puzzles, with only a tiny bit of characterization and little hint to any personal life for any of the characters outside of the job. Some stories are forgettable, but White does create some memorable aliens. Sadly, the stories don't take us to the point of real communication, so those aliens stop at biological puzzles and guesswork. "Combined Operation" is probably the best, although "Accident" is the most philosophical and an interesting look at the founding principle of Sector General.
"Accident": MacEwan and Grawlya-Ki are human and alien brought together by a tragic war, and forever linked by a rather bizarre war monument. (It's a very neat SF concept, although the implications and undiscussed consequences don't bear thinking about too deeply.) The result of that war was a general recognition that such things should not be allowed to happen again, and it brought about a new, deep commitment to inter-species tolerance and politeness. Which is, in a rather fascinating philosophical twist, exactly what MacEwan and Grawlya-Ki are fighting against: not the lack of aggression, which they completely agree with, but with the layers of politeness that result in every species treating all others as if they were eggshells. Their conviction is that this cannot create a lasting peace.
This insight is one of the most profound bits I've read in the Sector General novels and supports quite a lot of philosophical debate. (Sadly, there isn't a lot of that in the story itself.) The backdrop against which it plays out is an accidental crash in a spaceport facility, creating a dangerous and potentially deadly environment for a variety of aliens. Given the collection in which this is included and the philosophical bent described above, you can probably guess where this goes, although I'll leave it unspoiled if you can't. It's an idea that could have been presented with more subtlety, but it's a really great piece of setting background that makes the whole series snap into focus. A much better story in context than its surface plot. (7)
"Survivor": The hospital ship Rhabwar rescues a sole survivor from the wreck of an alien ship caused by incomplete safeguards on hyperdrive generators. The alien is very badly injured and unconscious and needs the full attention of Sector General, but on the way back, the empath Prilicla also begins suffering from empathic hypersensitivity. Conway, the protagonist of most of this series, devotes most of his attention to that problem, having delivered the rescued alien to competent surgical hands. But it will surprise no regular reader that the problems turn out to be linked (making it a bit improbable that it takes the doctors so long to figure that out). A very typical entry in the series. (6)
"Investigation": Another very typical entry, although this time the crashed spaceship is on a planet. The scattered, unconscious bodies of the survivors, plus signs of starvation and recent amputation on all of them, convinces the military (well, police is probably more accurate) escort that this is may be a crime scene. The doctors are unconvinced, but cautious, and local sand storms and mobile vegetation add to the threat. I thought this alien design was a bit less interesting (and a lot creepier). (6)
"Combined Operation": The best (and longest) story of this collection. Another crashed alien spacecraft, but this time it's huge, large enough (and, as they quickly realize, of a design) to indicate a space station rather than a ship, except that it's in the middle of nowhere and each segment contains a giant alien worm creature. Here, piecing together the biology and the nature of the vehicle is only the beginning; the conclusion points to an even larger problem, one that requires drawing on rather significant resources to solve. (On a deadline, of course, to add some drama.) This story requires the doctors to go unusually deep into the biology and extrapolated culture of the alien they're attempting to rescue, which made it more intellectually satisfying for me. (7)
Followed by Star Healer.
Rating: 6 out of 10
It was beer bash day at Virtual Hammer, and my last one. My former manager's last day had been the week before (onward and upward). I was skeptical of the food choices, as the theme was "pizza party", and I was aware of what the "catering pizza" was like.
By 2pm, when the maintenance guy hadn't shown up for the pre-departure inspection, I called the office. I didn't want to miss beer bash. He came through at 2:45. No major issues, and maybe X place would be good for the moving pod, but it was a hard problem. (In this case, "major issues" is holes in walls, destroyed appliances, etc. I am sure there will be "minor issues".)
I headed for beer bash, slightly melancholy. (My partner urged me to try for not too much sadness.) I chatted with Nora, of course. I walked briskly up the path, but paused at the duck pond to take a few last pictures.
Purple called just about then, as he was about a hundred meters behind me and wanted to catch up. He had a new-ish teammate with him, someone of a delightfully compatible sense of humor.
We grabbed some pizza (fortunately, there was sufficient pepperoni pizza, as the veggie pizza was laced with bell pepper), and contemplated the desserts.
1) Streusel pizza, an uninspiring-looking cinnamon-sugar crumb on something flat and pale.
2) Brownie pizza, with toasted mini marshmallows and peanut butter cups.
3) Popcorn with some red coating on it; this would prove to be mostly spicy.
4) Cookie pizza, chocolate chip with frosting, coconut shreds, and walnuts on top.
#1 looked like a waste of carbohydrate. #3 looked like not-dessert (and upon tasting, was indeed not-dessert).
I texted my partner with the descriptions of #2 and #4, and got back some incredulous punctuation. I loathe peanut butter, and have an oral hypersensitivity reaction to walnuts. (It burns and the lining of my mouth peels off. It's great.) My partner has complementary reactions: oral hypersensitivity to peanuts, and loathes walnuts.
Purple and his teammate and I had a lovely time in one of the tucked-away back tables. There was a lovely view out the windows. We talked about squirrels (Purple's noticed that modern squirrels know how to freeze and duck for cars), bees (Purple's childhood home had a prodigious amount of comb removed from a wall), the nature of "Netflix and Chill", and other such things.
Eventually, Ms. Antisocialest Butterfly called, and we figured out dinner. I spotted the cute receptionist across the upper quad, and said goodbye. We wandered back down to the lower quad, and Purple wrapped up. I dropped some spare buttons from the 2015 department conference, because I didn't really need that many as keepsakes, and someone at work might think they were cool.
We headed off for dinner. Goodbye, campus in the hills. You were beautiful, and I met so many lovely people there. Perhaps I'll visit again someday.
Ms. Antisocialest Butterfly had been delayed in leaving for dinner, because as she was heading out, there was a machine overheating, so she'd had to spray the fans with compressed air and such. I was careful to avoid "blowing" jokes at first. The restaurant had the air conditioning cranked up high, which had likely been appropriate in the heat of the day, but was less and less appropriate as the air cooled. I put on my jacket. Purple ran out to his car to grab his button-down shirt.
The on-table tablet thing behaved itself this time, by which I mean Ms. Antisocialest Butterfly was able to look at the drinks menu and pick out something, and then we were able to aim it away from us without it blinking. I got a sip of Purple's drink, which was just about the right amount. (Two would have been an okay amount too, but it was a little sour for me.)
Ms. Antisocialest Butterfly has picked up a new online game, where she is now known as "Finger." Most of the obvious jokes were less made than they were implied. She observed that it's very important to not (as someone had) leave the punctuation out of the greeting "Finger, my friend!" What happened was that she'd joined the game and picked a nickname; some dick had immediately taken offense to her basic existence. She'd argued that this was the internet, perhaps she didn't exist at all! Perhaps she was just a disembodied finger, typing. And thus her new name.
Purple walked me to my car. We chatted about this and that, and the move. I'll be fine. I tend to pre-react, rather than post-react. (Purple post-reacts.) My partner and I have good communications. I'll be sad to leave California, but not heartbroken like I was about leaving Darkside.
We set the date and time for our last dinner: Tuesday night, in the hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean place where they treat us like family. I'll want to say goodbye there, too.
What am I looking for?
a) Acknowledgment of the effect, and regret. (Regret is one of the apology languages.) Something happened and I was hurt; in an intimate and trustworthy relationship, I want them to know how I was hurt, and why it was hurtful. (Late to an event, hurt feelings, stubbed toe, irritated, etc.) Since they need to care for my well-being, I feel that it's appropriate that they regret my well-being was affected.
(In an untrustworthy relationship, giving them more information on how they have hurt me just gives them ammunition to hurt me further. If you find in your life that there are people where you don't want to let them know that you are hurt or how, contemplate your options for reducing those people's access to you.)
b) Root-cause analysis. What are the factors that led to this happening? Some are the responsibility of the person. (Accepting responsibility is one of the apology languages.) Sometimes there are factors that are nobody's responsibility, or are the responsibility of entities who are in no position to have things changed as a result of the incident. (A terrible day at the DMV is not likely to be solved by anyone saying "Hey, this was terrible.")
c) Making restitution, if appropriate. (Making restitution is one of the apology languages.) A date can often be rescheduled. Doing something nice and out of the ordinary is a mood-lifter. Fixing or replacing the broken thing. Sometimes there isn't really anything that can be done to make it better, and that probably should be acknowledged.
d) Failure prevention. (In the listed apology languages, "genuinely repenting" seems to fit this the closest.) With root-cause analysis and knowledge of the effects, we can use those to plan to avoid circumstances where this comes up again, and make a plan for mitigating the effects if it does come up again.
In my present primary relationship, my partner always genuinely regrets the hurt. They don't always understand why it was hurtful, so that portion often involves a lot of discussion. (And I can contribute to things going better by being more flexible in when and how that discussion happens.) The root cause often involves things that have grown out of traumatic experiences and situations in our past, which is ... fun. Restitution hasn't been a huge factor.
Root cause analysis and failure prevention tend to slide together, even though I have them listed as separate steps. It's at the failure prevention step where, like magic, I start calming down and feeling incredibly secure and loved. Since some of the factors involve trauma, the failure prevention often involves the slow process of healing (with and without the assistance of professionals), and my understanding and forgiveness of those things.
We're learning how to fight well and safely, and I love them so much.
Have finally decided to join the 21st century and bought a chunk of cloud storage for some offsite backups; specifically the Google offering, which integrates well with the rest of its services. Have also discovered and used RClone, which a rather genius piece of work - effectively rsync for various cloud storage vendors. Apropos, a made a talk proposal for OpenStack Australia Day which has been accepted.
Other major events in the past few days has been organising for the AGM of the Victorian Secular Lobby, writing up the major events of 14th and 15th weeks of Lord Dampnut, US President, and attending a great wine tasting at University House for Klein Constantia with a selection of South African and French Savoy wines. The Vin de Constance was pretty amazing; it was sweet liquid gold and with a price to match (on special for a mere $137 for 500ml) .
First cab off the rank was Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire. I've actually read this already, but it was a pleasure to re-read it. The basic premise of this story is that sometimes, the children who go to Narnia, or Oz, or Fairyland, or Wonderland, or the Land of the Dead, don't want to come home. But they do anyway, and then what can they do? ( Every Heart a Doorway - Seanan McGuire )
The second novella I read was The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor Lavalle. This story is dedicated 'For H.P. Lovecraft, with all my conflicted feelings'. I haven't read any Lovecraft, so the only things I know about him are 1. Horror; 2. Cthulu; 3. Racism. All of which, needless to say, I know only at second hand.
( The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle )
OK, I think that will do me for now. I desperately need to read something which I don't have to think critically about! I shall return to these reviews in a few days.
Oh, and speaking of reviews, I have another one up at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I finally managed to draw a RITA nominee that I actually liked! And in the Romantic Suspense category, of all places...
if i were to make a mix and call it autobiography, this song would be on it. i recognise myself in there. or something recognises me.
( lyrics )
I feel very much better now that I know I have him, and will feel even better after seeing Mom's guy on the 30th.
You folks have probably heard a lot about “Net Neutrality” lately, but you may not be clear on what it is, how it’ll change your Internet life, or what you can do to keep it in place. And to be honest, I’m not qualified to speak about it.
But my friend Paul is.
Paul Goodman (@PaulOverbite) is Senior Legal Counsel on the Telecommunications and Technology Team at The Greenlining Institute – which is to say he’s been on the front lines battling the telecommunications industries for years, and he knows exactly what companies like AT&T would do if people like him weren’t there to stop him. (Some of the things he’s told me about have been horrifying.)
So I’m gonna ask him to explain Net Neutrality to you through a phenomenal historical metaphor, and have him tell you why all isn’t lost yet even though yesterday’s headlines were indeed bad.
Ferrett was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to write a blog post about the importance of net neutrality—the principle that your internet service provider (ISP) can’t control what content you access or devices you use on your broadband connection. As you may have read, on Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiated the process of eliminating the current net neutrality rules. Unfortunately, there was a fair amount of misreporting on the issue, leading to headlines like “Net Neutrality Rules Eliminated” and “FCC Kills Net Neutrality” and “Masked Man Throws Net Neutrality into Vat of Acid, Creating Green-Haired, White-Skinned Madman.”
However, net neutrality isn’t dead yet—but today’s vote was a clear sign that it’s in the Trump administration’s crosshairs.
To really understand the importance of net neutrality, you first need to understand Green Books. Green Books, common in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, were travel guides for African American travelers. These books listed locations where food and lodging were available to African Americans, and, more importantly, listed places where African Americans would be refused service, falsely arrested, or murdered. The Green Books listed huge swaths of the country where there were no services available and where, accordingly, African Americans couldn’t go.
Think about that for a minute. Specifically, consider the enormous amount of power that white people had over black peoples’ lives. If you were black, white people could stop you from travelling to, or through, large parts of the country. So if you were more than a day’s drive away from friendly territory, you couldn’t visit your family. If you were a travelling salesman, there were large parts of your sales territory that you couldn’t visit. If you wanted to go to your state capitol to ask your elected representative for help, you might not be able to—not because you didn’t have the ability or resources, but because white people actively worked to keep you from doing so.
One group of people had control of a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure, and used that control to prevent African Americans from accessing economic, social, and political opportunities.*
Today, we’re facing the same scenario. A small group of broadband providers controls a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure — the national (and international) telecommunications network. That control gives ISPs an enormous amount of power. The Internet is the way that we communicate with our friends and loved ones, find jobs, contact government services, and get information. Net neutrality protections ensure that you, not your ISP, decide how to access the network, what content you view, who you communicate with, and which viewpoints you can express and support.
Under the current net neutrality rules, your broadband provider can’t discriminate against particular Internet content. For example, Comcast owns NBC-Universal. Comcast would prefer that you watch NBC shows, rather than shows from other content providers like HBO, or ABC, or Netflix. Comcast is also an ISP, and has the ability to deliver Internet traffic at different speeds and service quality, so Comcast could deliver NBC content in high-definition, while making videos from HBO look terrible. Net neutrality rules make sure that doesn’t happen.
In 2015, the FCC, which regulates what I call “communications services” and you call “telephone, cable TV, and broadband service,” imposed the most robust net neutrality protections in U.S. history. If you haven’t noticed, since then, we’ve had a few changes in our government. Under new leadership the FCC wants to roll back all of the robust net neutrality protections we’ve come to rely on. In anticipation, ISPs and conservative groups have been sending out a deluge of misinformation and dropping off huge sacks of money at policymakers’ offices.
There’s only one group that can really push back, and that group is us.
I know we’ve all got a lot on our plates lately, and we’re all battling on multiple fronts, but I would really like you to understand that the fight to save net neutrality is critical. Many marginalized groups—people of color, LGBT folks, Muslims, to name just a few—don’t have access to traditional outlets for getting their voices heard. The Internet is often the only tool that we have to communicate, give and receive support, and organize. Without a free and open Internet, we will lose our ability to make our voices heard, share our positions and strategies, and work for real change. We cannot let that happen.
The FCC is currently taking comments on its plan to eliminate net neutrality, so please go here and tell the FCC to keep the existing net neutrality protections in place. Additionally, please reach out to your elected representatives and ask them to keep the Internet open and free—a five-minute phone call might just convince your rep to vote against the repeal.
* – Incidentally, that discrimination continues today in our telecommunications networks. Years of business decisions by telecommunications providers about where to build or upgrade their networks have resulted in a disparate impact on communities of color—on the whole, communities of color disproportionately lack access to broadband services, and where those services are available, they are unaffordable and the service quality is terrible.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
Another graphic novel read in my lunch break! Can I have four categories done and dusted by tonight? Of course I can!
So, next up was Saga, Volume 6, by Brian K Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples and lettered by Fonografiks. I wondered how I'd go with making sense of this one, since it's volume 6, but I actually quite liked it. The characters were strong, and I could mostly tell them apart, and there didn't seem to be too many factions going on (though again, factions and politics - is that a big trend at the moment, or have graphic novels always been about warfare and politics and tribalism?). This particular story centred around a couple who are of different and enemy (but apparently cross-fertile) species, who are trying to find their daughter again. She seems to be locked in some sort of prison camp / re-education kindergarten, and if anyone finds out who she is they will try to kill her. The why of this is presumably in previous volumes. There was a bunch of stuff I didn't quite follow which clearly related to the overarching story, but the central narrative of this story was quite nice, and I enjoyed reading it. Possibly the more so because it fit in so nicely with my enjoyment of the Vaughn short story... I apparently like narratives where supposed enemies are friends and working together.
Again, I don't feel any particularly strong need to read more of the story (and for goodness sake, if you are reading it, don't read it at work. There were several pages I had to turn quickly without reading because those were images I just could not have on my work computer), but I did like it. It has just overtaken Paper Girls and is sitting in second place, after Ms Marvel.
Fingers crossed, I'll be able to read The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse than a Man, by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, between work and my hair appointment today, and I will post the review then...
OK. I started The Vision. I got nearly halfway, and was finding it OK (and for once, having no difficulty telling characters apart), but then there was a scene with someone doing something terrible to a cat who looked quite a bit like Mystery, and that was it for me. I'm afraid I'm not going to read any further into that one, because I don't need more pictures like that in my head (the cartoonist draws cats really well, and that doesn't help), and I really wasn't enjoying it enough to risk it. I don't know how I can possibly judge this one, so it just won't go on my ballot.
My delving into Graphic stories for this year is officially over.
My departure from the Bay Area is May 31st.
The moving pod(s) will be with me from sometime May 26 through sometime May 31st.
I am driving to Tacoma with some of the stuff that's too delicate or otherwise unsuitable to be trusted to a pod. (Alcohol in the trunk. My computer. Stuff I'll need to survive for a week or so without things from the pod. The ancestral tea set from Dad's mom's side of the family, eventually destined for Ev. The box with the paper volumes of my journal.) The drive often takes two days; it's possible that I may accomplish it in one go, though I haven't yet driven it. (I did the Phoenix/SF drive in two days the first time, and one day on the two subsequent trips.)
The plan for Tacoma is:
* some sort of long-term pre-payable hotel for the first ~month, keeping in mind that I'll be off at Open Source Bridge for part of that, too
* two specific call centers to apply to
* look for a ~year lease
* look for a better job
Oh yes, and: see my partner and metamour on a regular basis.
This is earlier than I thought I'd be going, but it was suddenly time.
My world is boxes. Company would be welcome but is not necessary, and the number of sitting surfaces in here is drastically lower than usual.
NK Jamison - The City Born Great. This is a story about the birth of New York, not in the sense of its founding, but of its birth and coming to awareness as a sentient, living being. The protagonist is, for want of a better word, the city's protector and its midwife, which is a bit tricky, since they (I'm not actually sure if gender was ever specified) are decidedly underprivileged - homeless, hungry, and black. I loved the bits about singing to the city, and graffitiing by circles in a black so dark that it looked like a hole so that the city could breathe through these new ventilations. NK Jamison clearly loves New York the way I love Paris. There is a nice poetry and sense of history to this story, and I love the concept. I like this story very much.
John C Wright - An Unimaginable Light. I went into this one a little prejudiced, because I know that Wright is associated with the Catholic end of the Rabid Puppies. I tried very hard to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Alas, this happened on page 2.
The kneeling girl did not look like a robot. She looked like a love goddess. Her face was piquant and elfin, her eyes danced and glittered. Her lips were full, her smile ready. She was pulchritudinous, buxom, callipygous, leggy. Her torso was slender, and her abdominal muscles as well defined as those of a belly dancer, so that her navel was like a period between two cursive brackets. Her hair was lustrous, and tied in a loose knot at the back of her swanlike neck. Hairy eye, and skin colour were optional. She was, of course, naked.
Oh, of course she was. And Mr Wright needs to put down his thesaurus now. And also wash the hand that wasn't holding the thesaurus because I think we all know where it has been. Ick.
This story seems to be a philosophical argument about who is truly human disguised as a short story about a man interrogating a robot, with rather pretentious styling. It is also a fable about how moral relativism is stupid. And how PC culture is oppressive and whiny and microaggressions are just about people bullying people who have *realy* morals. It is not as clever as it thinks it is. However, it is heavy-handed, pompous and sexist, and it also gets sadistic and rapey in the middle, which is just lovely. Also, Wright never misses an opportunity to remind us of the robot's shapely form or flirtatious gaze. Bleargh.
Then we have a plot twist! And theology! And our constantly objectified heroine – who turns out to be called Maria, because that's just how subtle John C Wright is – isn't a robot at all! The interrogator was the robot all along, but he didn't know this! Oh, my shock, it is so shocking! Of course, the way he discovers this is that Maria gets executed in a particularly gruesome and painful way because apparently this is the best way to convey that Love is the most important value and that without religion people will obviously make terrible, sadistic choices.
(Also because Wright's Catholicism is big on suffering, but it's better if women suffer, especially if we get to describe their shapely limbs in detail while they do so.)
Also, this plot twist kind of makes a lot of the rest of the plot illogical. Because the whole bit about the interrogator being turned on by hurting Maria is revolting enough when he is human, but makes absolutely no sense if he is a robot, especially as he is apparently following Asimov's three laws of robotics.
I think this one is a clear No Award for me. It's pretty terrible.
Alyssa Wong - A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers. This one is very good. The protagonist keeps trying to change time so that she can save her sister, again and again. So many permutations of one event, but not enough. It reminds me a lot of Kate Atkinson's novel, Life after Life, actually. It's sad and sweet and rather beautiful. It's going to be tough to choose between this and the Jemisin. I think the Jemisin is more original, though. And I do have a thing for sentient objects.
Carrie Vaughan – That Game We Played During the War. This story is set in the aftermath of a war between the telepathic Gaantish and the non-telepathic, but very practical, Enithi. A Enithi former nurse who looked after Gaantish prisoners of war (who had to be kept sedated to frustrate their telepathy) comes to visit a former prisoner, and former captor, and friend, who is now in hospital, recovering from wounds received in one of the last battles of the war. Oh, I love this. Not least because I want to read the romance novel that I am convinced is hidden behind and around this story.
I love that they have developed a way to play chess - which is of course tricky with telepathy involved. Calla, the Enithi nurse, thinks about all the moves Valk could make, but does not think about her moves, and in fact often moves at random, because it's the only way to hide her strategy from Valk, and also, the randomness drives him up the wall. I admit to finding this especially appealing because I am a horrible chess player who gets overwhelmed by possibilities and thus also moves at random, only I do that most of the time. I also love the implications for how soldiers and prisoners and captors think about each other in this war, and the ways in which fears don't match up with reality. But most of all I love the friendship in this book, which transcends war and enmity. This is such a kind, affectionate sort of story, the perfect antidote to John bloody Wright. It reminds me of Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honoor, in all the best ways. I want to read more of Vaughan's work. This is going to the top of my ballot.
Brooke Bolander – Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies. A sadistic killer decides to make a harpy his victim. It doesn't end well for him. This story is pretty clearly inspired by reading one too many stories about the 'distraught father and husband' who murdered his family, or the 'promising young man' whose bright future is being put at terrible risk by the fact that he raped someone (thank goodness for judges who won't let him suffer too badly for twenty minutes of action!). It is full of rage, as is appropriate. It's a good story, but there are a lot of good stories this year, and I prefer friendship and wonder to rage, so it's probably going to be low on my ballot. But can I just say how delightful and refreshing it is to be forced to put a good story low on my ballot because there are so many good stories and they can't all be at the top?
Amal El-Mohtar – Seasons of Glass and Iron. Another one that I love! This is a subversive, feminist fairy tale, so I am all over it like a RASH. The girl with the iron shoes (and I love how she reflects that the boys get seven league boots and slippers that make them invisible, while the girls get shoes made of molten iron or slippers that make you dance yourself to death) meets the girl on the glass mountain (who really does not want any of the suitors who fall in love with her, then shout horrific abuse at her when they fail to win her). I love how each heroine can see the injustices in the other's story so easily, but cannot see the injustices in her own. And the ending is obvious and inevitable and utterly appropriate. This is totally the story I wish I'd written.
At this stage, I'm having trouble deciding on whether to put Vaughan ahead of El-Mohtar (mostly because I love Vaughan too much, and feel like I love it for the wrong reasons) (but I still love it more because that's who I am), but Jemisin is definitely third, Wong is fourth, and Bolander is in fifth place. Woe is me, I shall have to read the Vaughan and the El-Mohtar stories again, just to be sure of who should go first...
Fourth book in McGuire's InCryptid series. We're folloing the "Tanner girl" and the "Price boy" all the way to 'Straya, where there's a wee were problem. As in lycanthropy. Not a good thing, in an ecosystem as hostile, and fragile, as the Australian.
Um. I guess I culd say more, but that's pretty much all I would need to know to go "READ NOW!".
This is written in a somewhat comedic style. If it wasn't for the plot, I'd not hesitate for a second to call it a "comedic fantasy". But the actual plot is, well, somewhat serious.
We follow Gerald Dunwoody, Wizard Third Grade (from inference, any less brilliant and you're not a wizard) who, as the book starts, is an inspector for the Ottosland Department of Thaumaturgy, off to inspect missing safety inspection paperwork from Stuttley's, one of the finest manufacturers of specialist wands there is.
Well, things do perhaps not go as well as they could, one thing leads to anotherh, stuffs escalate and the nexxt thing you know, you're the Ryal Court Wizard in New Ottosland, in the middle of a desert. Remember I said "comedic fantasy" up there.
All in all, eminently readable.
I'm a bit torn on where to rank this one. The artwork was really, really lovely, my favourite of all the books so far, but this didn't help me recognise characters, alas. Which made it very confusing - when you have lots of factions and have trouble telling which is which, that's a problem. And it was way too dark for my taste – highlights include torture, lots of maiming and killing, people being eaten, and babies being threatened with horrible fates. This is another story which I would have enjoyed more in novel format, I think, except that it is so VERY much not my cup of tea. But at least in novel format, I would have had fewer visuals in my head.
So yes. My instinct is to rank it higher than Black Panther, because of the artwork, even though Black Panther was just confusing, as opposed to confusing and distressing. But I haven't decided yet.
My tram reading was Paper Girls, Volume 1, by Brian Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, coloured by Matthew Wilson and lettered by Jared Fletcher. I liked this quite a bit. It had a sort of 1980s feel to it, which was appealing, and centres around four teenage girls who are delivering newspapers when there is... an alien invasion. Or maybe a time traveller invasion. With multiple factions. Hooray, more politics! I found the characters mostly easy to tell apart (though two of the girls kept looking very alike to me), but I still spent a lot of this story feeling confused. I'm beginning to think that perhaps I am rather stupid. Then again, time-travel plots tend to require you to get to the end of the book before everything makes sense, and this is clearly just the start of the story.
This is definitely at second place on my ballot so far, after Ms Marvel, but ahead of the other two. Part of me would like to read more, because I did like the characters, and I always like a good time travel plot, but I'm not sure I'm willing to make the investment of time required. I didn't love it, and the artwork did not excite me. And the weird near death experience stuff didn't quite work for me. I think there is also possibly some religious subtext going on (apple computers = apples + fruit of knowledge; heaven and hell in dreams; a bearded guy who looks like a cliché cartoon of God in an apple T shirt, who is in charge of judging people), but I'm not too sure where it is going, and feel a little wary...
Next up, I'm probably going to read some short stories, because they are more public transport friendly, and return to the graphic novels tomorrow evening.
Brought the car to the mech this Monday, for reasons of summer tires and small repairs (one windscreen-washer-outlet b0rken, mount for the emergency triangle b0rken). Got it back yesterday. Oh, hey, party @mech today. Cool. On the way there something in the front suspension (or with the axle mounts/cuffs) started to loudly creak, so we just left it there.
And the SOs motorbike needs a new battery (actually already in my backpack, just need to fill & charge it).
But sum of actually working vehicles in this household: zero.
(For Friday, I plan on at least waking the toys from winter slumber.)
This will cost 201 Euros for a 2-berth cabin, so... anyone else on the same dates fancy splitting the cabin?
I probably plan to do the rail bit in one vast 24 hour splurge (there are some overnight trains, albeit not sleepers) but of course a ferry cabin-mate need not do the same train journey.
I've already looked through and voted on the professional and fan-art, some of which was really lovely. I especially liked Elizabeth Leggett and Likhain in the fanart category, and was quite taken with Galen Dara, Chris McGrath and Victo Ngai in the professional artist category. Though, now I think about it, I think I actually preferred Leggett and Likhain to any of those three.
The latter was an interesting category to judge - I found that I tend to judge cover art on a) whether it's pretty to look at (I'm really not a very visual person, and know nothing about art, so that's the best I can do), and b) whether it suggests a book I would like to read. So the first three on my ballot all fell into the 'very pretty' category, and the last three, which did not appeal strongly to me, I really judged by how likely I would be to read those books. Which meant that John Picacio came last, not because he is a poor artist - none of them were, as far as I am able to judge - but because his covers said '1950s pulp SF with hardly any female characters' to me. Julie Dillon, who is, I suspect, objectively not necessarily a better artist had books that screamed 'fun, but not very well-thought-out fantasy or light SF with plenty of female characters, and I'd probably feel embarrassed to read this book, but I'd still love it', and Sana Takeda - who I felt didn't quite belong in this category, as she was the only one doing graphic novels rather than covers - came fifth on the grounds that her work said 'graphic novels, probably quite good ones, but I don't really like graphic novels'.
Which brings me to the graphic novels. Let me start by saying that I really do not enjoy reading graphic novels - I tend to find it hard to pay attention to the graphics, and I feel like I'm not getting enough plot-per-page to carry them around as reading material. (Yes, I'm a philistine, but I like my stories neat. So I'm not a great judge for this category, but that's not going to stop me voting in it!
I started with Black Panther Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, by Ta-Nehisi Coates and illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze. I am the wrong audience for all graphic novels, because of the aforementioned non-visual-appreciatingness, but also because I have terrible trouble telling the characters apart. I just can't hold their faces in my head very well, and so I find the plot hard to follow. This was even more the case here, because the plot appeared to be complicated and political, and something that I would probably have rather enjoyed if it had been the start of a novel, but as it was, I couldn't figure out which faction was which and who was allied to whom and why. Also, I found the narrative style a little irritating - very rhetorical and portentuous, which only works for me if I am quite invested in a story.
Rather a pity, because I've read and enjoyed a number of Ta-Nehisi Coates' essays, and I was hoping to enjoy this more.
My second graphic novel was Ms Marvel Volume 5: Super Famous, by Willow Wilson and illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa. I came to this one with high hopes, having heard a bit about Kamala around the place, and I was not disappointed. It's heaps of fun, super cute, and the ending is adorable. Nice plot about an evil development company using drones and evil magic potions to take over the town, but it's really all about the characters (who I can actually tell apart! Hooray!). Kamala has a whole network of family and friends who are clearly people with their own stories, and her story is as much (if not more) about her relationships with them and her difficulty juggling all her responsibilities as it is about her superpowers. And there are some great one-liners. I love the whole concept of a superhero with physics homework and boy problems, and I'm always up for witty dialogue, so this one is a win for me.
I may even have to overcome my aversion to graphic novels to read more of it. Maybe.
Long enough that I am afraid of forgetting someone on the list, actually.
I don't know what's going on this year, but I think it should stop now.
MrsMadProfessor has pancreatic cancer which has spread to her liver. TheMadProfessor is not coping well. I am torn between wanting to be supportive (I really liked MrsMadProfessor, though I haven't seen her for a couple of years) and being afraid of being sucked back into the nightmare of TheMadProfessor if I say anything that can possibly be interpreted as an offer of administrative help.
(TheMadProfessor has been moved around a lot since I left, through four different Divisions where he has been covered by at least six different admin people. Every time he moves to a new one, he tries ringing me for help because he doesn't quite trust the new person, and I have to chat to the admin in question to get him sorted out. So the tar-baby factor is strong here.)
I don't know what to do with this.
I'm going to send MrsMadProfessor an email of course, and when I find out which hospital she's at, assuming she is in hospital, I'll send something appropriate.
But seriously, this year can just stop it.
So I play videogames for the story, and Persona 5 is the best story I’ve seen in… well, maybe ever. I used to say that Planescape: Torment was, hands-down, the strongest narrative in videogames – and after playing through ninety hours of Persona, which had almost no slow spots, I may have to replay Torment just to see which is best.
Yet I’m debating recommending Persona to my friend Mishell Baker.
Now, Mishell is obsessed with Dragon Age and Mass Effect – she’s played the games through multiple times so she can hear every line of dialogue. And we’ve nerded out about videogames on Twitter before, having long conversations about ZOMG THIS CHARACTER and WHAT ABOUT THIS PLOT TWIST – and I want her to play Persona so I can hear her reaction.
And yet Persona’s a little face-punchy.
Which is to say that Persona is, unabashedly, the story of a straight guy. Which I have zero problem with – I think every type of character deserves a storyline, including straight cis dudes.
But that straightness permeates the game; literally every female character but one is romanceable. There are a sum total of three LGBT characters in the game, and two of them are joke characters who show up twice to sexually harass one of the straightest guys in the game. The third is a bartender of fluid but undefined gender, who is presented as a sympathetic, competent character…
But none of the Confidants you interact with – i.e., the people who have storylines – are gay or bisexual, or do they even appear to be aware of the concept. (One of the main characters clearly has something going on with their sexuality, but nobody mentions this or ever follows up on it.) Everyone is paired off into M/F boxes, and are all expected to act likewise.
And the game is literally about how society chains you into misery by forcing expectations upon you. Thematically, you’d almost expect a discussion of someone’s sexuality. Yet the game itself is overwhelmingly straight to the point where, if aliens learned about humanity from this ninety-hour game, they would not even know that gayness existed.
Here’s the issue:
Persona 5 was so good in everything else it did that you could go for hours before being reminded that oh, yeah, this game has weird issues with LGBT erasure and mockery. I’d be into it, into it, into it, and oh. There we are again.
And Mishell writes magnificent books – seriously, try Borderline – that do deal with gay and bisexual characters because that reflects her life. Like me, she can’t write a book without LGBT characters because LGBT people are her friends and why would she write a book that casually negates their existence?
How would she react to a game that, in a hundred hours filled with deep characters, has gay characters that occupy less than ten minutes of the game?
That’s a syndrome Ann Leckie once likened to going to a great restaurant with awesome food and occasionally the waiters punch LGBT people and women in the face. The straight guys, who don’t get punched, are like, “What, don’t you care about the quality of food?” and can’t understand why people might want to eat at a restaurant where they’re not tensed for elbow blows.
And Persona 5 is punchy as hell. It’s a quality storyline that requires some punch-dodging, if you’re gay, because there’s a difference between “A straight guy is the lead character in this story” (which is great) and “A straight viewpoint has nearly eradicated any concept of homosexuality in an otherwise-complex storyline that has beautiful things to say about love and being true to yourself and the costs of standing up to do the right thing” (which isn’t).
Persona 5’s story is beautiful, and glorious, and meticulously thought out. But to Mishell, who does speak out on LBGT issues a lot?
I don’t know how much it would punch her in the gay rights. I think it’d hit her a lot harder than it did me. It might change the game from “A beautiful story” to “A weird alt-history where people like her friends don’t exist.”
And it wouldn’t have been that difficult to alter Persona 5. One gay friend might have done it – hell, fandom’s pretty much decided he’s gay anyway, might as well have made a statement within the game. One conversation about someone investigating their sexuality. One acknowledgement that all male teenagers might have other urges than to go after the hot blonde with the killer body (or maybe that one female character also wants that hot blonde).
It would not have changed the central story one whit, and yet it would have avoided throwing punches.
Which is a shame. Because that small omission is the difference between me thrusting Persona 5 out to everyone I know, going, “HERE PLAY THIS OH MY GOD” and “I really loved this, and I think with some qualifiers, you might too.” It’s that difference between mindless, squeeing fanboying and a work I have to ponder whether I can recommend.
As it is, I think Mishell might very well like it regardless. If she reads this article, she’s at least braced for it. She might be able to boot up Persona 5 and go, “Okay, yeah, I know we’re not getting that, but I can compensate for the rest.” Or she might decide not to play the game because, sometimes, getting that disappointed when the rest is that good is somehow worse.
And I think, again, that it wouldn’t have taken much to be inclusive. I don’t think a talking to a few gay or bi characters in-depth would have ruined it for straight guys, or at least straight guys who aren’t ragingly homophobic. I don’t think you would have had to change much of the dialogue, even.
But there it is: Persona 5 is a great game. So much that I can froth out a thousand words on it. I recommend it highly. I think it’s brilliant.
I just wish I could say “It’s brilliant” instead of “It’s brilliant, but.”
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
We've just change our Internet Service Provider. After many years with Optus, there were a couple of events (technical primarily) that were making the relationship shaky, but the clincher was when they wouldn't support Firefox on Linux with the given reason being that only a few people use it this "old" operating system. Well, we've shifted to iiNET, and although there was a bit of a hiccup with the setup, they've done the right thing in terms of compensation etc. In other home life news finished our tax today for the last financial year, a weird timetabling that apparently is ATO approved. Their administrative procedures are a mystery to us mere mortals. Finally, just in case anyone thought I wasn't nerdy enough, I've been using this great Android app which effectively gives one a command-line interface for operating one's phone. Accessing applications with the autocomplete shortcuts and easy of file system navigation I find are its principal advantages.
I've previously read mst of the shorts in this volume, but there were a few that I hadn't previously read. Not sure if I simply read an earlier edition, or have read then in other collections.
This is a bunch of shorts and one or two novellas set in Asher's Polity ('Grim meathook Culture'), so if thats not your thing, you're likely going to dislike these.
Review: The Raven and the Reindeer, by T. Kingfisher
|Publisher:||Red Wombat Tea Company|
Once upon a time, there was a boy born with frost in his eyes and frost in his heart.
There are a hundred stories about why this happens. Some of them are close to true. Most of them are merely there to absolve the rest of us of blame.
It happens. Sometimes it's no one's fault.
Kay is the boy with frost in his heart. Gerta grew up next door. They were inseparable as children, playing together on cold winter days. Gerta was in love with Kay for as long as she could remember. Kay, on the other hand, was, well, kind of a jerk.
There are not many stories about this sort of thing. There ought to be more. Perhaps if there were, the Gertas of the world would learn to recognize it.
Perhaps not. It is hard to see a story when you are standing in the middle of it.
Then, one night, Kay is kidnapped in the middle of the night by the Snow Queen while Gerta watches, helpless. She's convinced that she's dreaming, but when she wakes up, Kay is indeed gone, and eventually the villagers stop the search. But Gerta has defined herself around Kay her whole life, so she sets off, determined to find him, totally unprepared for the journey but filled with enough stubborn, practical persistence to overcome a surprising number of obstacles.
Depending on your past reading experience (and cultural consumption in general), there are two things that may be immediately obvious from this beginning. First, it's written by Ursula Vernon, under her T. Kingfisher pseudonym that she uses for more adult fiction. No one else has quite that same turn of phrase, or writes protagonists with quite the same sort of overwhelmed but stubborn determination. Second, it's a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen."
I knew the first, obviously. I was completely oblivious to the second, having never read "The Snow Queen," or anything else by Andersen for that matter. I haven't even seen Frozen. I therefore can't comment in too much detail on the parallels and divergences between Kingfisher's telling and Andersen's (although you can read the original to compare if you want) other than some research on Wikipedia. As you might be able to tell from the quote above, though, Kingfisher is rather less impressed by the idea of childhood true love than Andersen was. This is not the sort of story in which the protagonist rescues the captive boy through the power of pure love. It's something quite a bit more complicated and interesting: a coming-of-age story for Gerta, in which her innocence is much less valuable than her fundamental decency, empathy, and courage, and in which her motives for her journey change as the journey proceeds. It helps that Kingfisher's world is populated by less idealized characters, many of whom are neither wholly bad nor wholly good, but who think of themselves as basically decent and try to do vaguely the right thing. Although sometimes they need some reminding.
The story does feature a talking raven. (Most certainly not a crow.) His name is the Sound of Mouse Bones Crunching Under the Hooves of God. He's quite possibly the best part.
Gerta does not rescue Kay through the power of pure love. But there is love here, of a sort that Gerta wasn't expecting at all, and of a sort that Andersen never had in mind when he wrote the original. There's also some beautifully-described shapeshifting, delightful old women, and otters. (Also, I find the boy who appears at the very end of the story utterly fascinating, with all his implied parallel story and the implicit recognition that the world does not revolve around Kay and Greta.) But I think my favorite part is how clearly different Greta is at the end of her journey than at the beginning, how subtly Kingfisher makes that happen through the course of the story, and how understated but just right her actions are at the very end.
This is really excellent stuff. The next time you're feeling in the mood for a retold and modernized fairy tale, I recommend it.
Rating: 8 out of 10
However, growing popularity revealed a few quibbles and platform issues, until eventually even the original LJ coders bailed out of it. I had grown disillusioned with the way LJ was run - when the platform was sold to a Russian media company in 2007 - and things had steadily gone downhill until I decided to migrate my journal away from them over to Dreamwidth in 2012. For those who still read my LiveJournal, I enabled cross-posting so no one really missed anything. Still, I understandably focussed more on Dreamwidth
Then LiveJournal changed their Terms of Service (ToS) user agreement last month, and that was the final straw.
( Details within... )
So, with my refusal to agree to
Either way, 16 years later, I guess it's farewell to LiveJournal.
A friend came over for dinner tonight, so I tidied the living room and dining room before she got here, and did the dishes after. Now everyone's asleep and the house is tidy and the dryer is humming and it's so peaceful. We had really good conversation, full of belly laughs and deep feelings, and the late-night calm is the perfect counterpart to an exuberant evening.
Everyone's mostly asleep, anyway. Kit's working up to unassisted walking, and that tends to come with sleep disruption. They've been whimpering in their sleep a lot, and sometimes fully waking up. They don't generally need anyone to come in—they're a pro at self-soothing to sleep, and very good about doing it on their own if they can—but it's clearly not super restful sleep, and they've been pretty tired during the day.
All the adults in the house have also been sleeping badly. This morning I went to bed at 5, woke up at 8, and then went back to sleep and had a really horrifying nightmare about the end of the world. ( TW for solar apocalypse ) And then I woke up going ????????. Eventually I went back to sleep and had another dream about going around the city with some friends I hadn't seen in a while, and that dream also tried to turn into a nightmare (about it being our last hurrah before I died of heart disease that I'd allowed to go untreated) and I refused to let it. I don't often have conscious control of my dreams but for that one I explicitly would not let the scarybad storyline happen. So that wasn't terrible, at least, but it was not what one would call a restful night.
And J's had awful insomnia, and Kit's whimpering sets off the monitor and wakes X up. J and I have suggested giving up the monitor altogether, because if Kit actually yelled X would hear it through their bedrooms' shared wall, but X doesn't think it's time for that yet, so I think we're going back to me turning their monitor on when I go to bed, rather than them having it on all night. Anything that helps any of us sleep is a good thing.
I'm going to do the last of my chores and get to bed; I have Kit-time tomorrow afternoon while X and J have a date, and it'd be nice to get up early enough for some family time before that starts. Maybe if I go to bed a little earlier, I'll sleep better. Stranger things have happened.
tron_comm is a new community for fans of Disney's TRON universe! We are still quite small, but we are always looking for new members! Right now there are weekly fanfiction recommendations, and there are some plans in the works for a celebration of TRON's 35th anniversary this coming July! Please check us out if you enjoy any and all aspects of the many-splendored TRON universe!
It was a *raging* success.
( Party time! )
And tonight is the first of the semi-finals (Australia screens the semi-finals at 7:30pm on the Friday and Saturday nights and the final on Sunday night, as well as showing them live at 5am on the actual days, making the weekend into a festival of Eurovision), and thus the first of my four Eurovision parties at home. I anticipate that these will be much quieter, and also more fun for me personally, than the work one.
Which is good, because I'm pooped.
In non-Eurovision news, I am so incredibly relieved and happy about the results of the French presidential election! So nice to have an election where people did not vote for the fascist! Vive la France! I did like the New York Times article about France retaining the right to claim intellectual superiority over Americans. Not just the Americans, I must say. I do think that we on the left of politics are very bad about voting pragmatically - if someone doesn't inspire us, we seem to find it hard to hold our noses and vote to keep the terrifying fascists out. I wonder if this is an inevitable risk of a political leaning that tends to attract the young and idealistic? I mean, I'm lucky – living in Australia, I can vote for the tiny, idealistic party of my choice, and preferential voting means that I still get to put the fascists last, but I would hope that if my only choices were John Howard and Pauline Hanson or not voting at all, I'd show up and vote for John Howard. Even though I feel dirty just saying that.
I've written another story! And I really like this one, so you should read it! It's called The Lion, the Witch and the Railway, and it's riffing on Beauty and the Beast, and is rather sweet, I think. And it has a lion at the Gare de Lyon, so really, what's not to like? It was an interesting one to write, because I knew how the plot had to resolve, but had no idea for quite a while how I was going to get there, and then I realised I'd set up an interesting possibility with a little detail in the very first part of the story, and it all came together. Also, I got to make a terrible joke about 1066 And All That, which is really entirely unnecessary to the story, but I couldn't resist it.
I've also had another of my RITA reviews published on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. It's not my best work – I was trying to review the story without creating spoilers, and it seems that all I did was confuse everyone. I didn't like the book much, either – I felt as though it was trying to do three separate things and thus not committing very well to any of them. One review left, and it's written and just waiting to be published, and that one is of a book I didn't expect to like but actually enjoyed enormously, so that will be fun.
And that's about it. I need to go make cake pops now, so happy Eurovision, everyone, and may the act with the most naked backing dancers win!
(Or, alternatively, Australia, but I don't think Isaiah is a patch on Dami Im...)