Some brief reviews

Dec. 8th, 2016 08:18 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
Dr Strange
Good, fun, Marvel movie. Suffers from all the failings you'd expect (hero's story that's too close to Tony Stark's, dodginess around Tibet/Nepal and replacing a major Tibetan character with a white one), but on its own terms is solidly entertaining, had an ending that didn't fall into the usual traps, and was gloriously pretty whenever magic was involved. Most fun I've had with a Marvel Movie since Winter Soldier. 7/10

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Harry Potter spin-off set in 1920s New York. Eddie Redmayne came across to me as a cross between David Tennant and Matt Smith, but that's no bad thing, and I enjoyed this a fair amount. It's not amazing, but it does have a lot of sensawunda, and lays the ground for apparently _five_ movies. Spoilerish thoughts, encoded in ROT13:
Tryyreg Tevaqyrjnyq pna nccneragyl svtug n ybnq bs jryy-genvarq Nhebef gb n fgnaqfgvyy, ohg Arjg pna (ng yrnfg) fvatyrunaqrqyl fheivir uvf nggnpx? Naq ur gheaf hc va Arj Lbex whfg nf fbzrbar vf nobhg gb tnva pbageby bire na Bofphen? Zl thrff vf gung Arjg vf n uvtuyl pncnoyr ntrag, frag ol Qhzoyrqber gb znxr fher gung Tevaqyrjnyq vf ceriragrq sebz trggvat jung ur jnagf. 6/10

It was a proper science-fiction movie! By which I mean that it bore some resemblance to the written science fiction fiction I love, being largely about exploring an interesting idea in the way that only science fiction can. Not everyone I know loved it, but the majority of them thought it was marvellous. Aliens arrive, and our viewpoint character is a linguist trying to understand them. I've seen it twice at the cinema, and there are so many lovely moments in there about the difficulty of understanding one another. Not perfect, but ambitious in all the right ways, and well worth seeing. Also, you should totally read the short story, available as part of "Stories of Your Life, And Others" by Ted Chiang. 9/10

Disney does Polynesia. Gorgeous scenery, lovely songs (although largely not memorable), nice plot, good characters, and well worth watching. Lots of it was fun, the resolution wasn't what I was expecting, and I had a thoroughly good time. Not sure it's going to stay with me, but I will definitely be enjoying a second watch when it hits the small screen. 7/10

OnePlus 3
My new mobile phone. Which doesn't suffer from the flaws of my old mobile phone (basically: lack of memory), and works very nicely. Being able to draw a V on the screen to turn on the flashlight is a nice touch, and the fast charging is great. Basically, a great top-of-the-range-last-year phone for only £300. I've not really found anything wrong with it yet, other than it being very slightly larger than I'd like (about halfway between the 5X (perfect size) and the 6P (definitely too large for me).

This film could be used as a test. If you think it's a delightful story in which two people are brought together by the power of fate then you're a terrible person who should never be allowed anywhere near any kind of machinery or device that might cause harm to others. If you think it's a terrible story about two awful people who must not be allowed to ruin the lives of anyone else, and must therefore date each other, then your opinions are probably generally trustworthy.
John Cusack is a guy who will cheat on his girlfriend within seconds of meeting another woman, Kate Beckinsale is a woman who believes the universe has opinions about who she should sleep with. This would be fine if the director didn't seem to think this was a lovely story, and that the universe works this way. Which I don't mind if you play it with a certain level of knowing whimsy and magical realism (LA Story is one of my favourite movies), but it's awful if you play it straight. -173/10

LA Story
God, I love this movie. It makes it clear that we're in fantasy land really early on, and doesn't take itself even slightly seriously, except when it needs to. Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant, Richard E Grant, and Sarah Jessica Parker are all clearly having a marvellous time making it, and I grinned the whole way through. 17/10

Lara Croft GO
Turn-based puzzle game starring Ms Tomb Raider. Got it on my mobile phone, and have been enjoying working my way through the puzzles. Nothing too complex, but nicely presented, and only £1.50. Well worth picking up if you spend much time on the bus.

You're The Worst Season 3
I introduced Jane to You're The Worst so that I had someone to watch season three with. We binge-watched the first two seasons, largely at her insistence, and they continue to be great TV about two people who should never be in a relationship with anyone. Funny, smart, well-written, and self-aware. Then we watched season 3. The first half wasn't as good as the first two seasons - the writers treated the characters as cartoonish versions of the people we'd gotten used to. And then, about halfway through, it got its mojo back, and proceeded to rip my heart out through my chest. Marvellous stuff. 6/10 for the first half, 9/10 for the second half.

I haven't seen this yet. Yes, I know, I'm a terrible person. I score 0/10.

I just spent two days there. It was good. The train museum was a fascinating slice of British history - particularly comparing the train carriages which had belonged to various members of the royal family over time. We enjoyed walking the walls too. And the Christmas market was nice. And the hotel we stayed in had enough electrical sockets, an event unheard of in my existence. 7/10, would happily go back for a couple of days at some future point.

10/10. Would snuggle again.

(Because there are loads of different things in here, if you're going to leave a spoiler-ridden comment then be a lovely person and ROT13 it, so that people can read about the other ones without bumping into spoilers.)

George by Alex Gino

Dec. 8th, 2016 01:05 pm
[personal profile] my_secret_book_journal

George is a 4th grade trans girl. Over the course of the book, she comes out: first to her bff Kelly, then to her mother, then to her brother. Kelly, who is a generally delightful and positive character, rolls with it almost immediately. George's mom is freaked out; something that's revealed in later chapters is that the whole family (mother, brother, absent father) have assumed for many years that George is gay, and have all long since accepted her as gay, but trans is sort of a bridge too far.

The self-acceptance / coming-out plot hangs on the structure of a classroom play: Charlotte's Web. George wants to play Charlotte, and actually auditions for the part, although she's slapped down by her (otherwise sympathetic) teacher. Kelly gets the part instead, and George opts for stage crew over the part of Wilbur. But there are two performances, and Kelly and George conspire to pass off Kelly's costume and send George on stage as Charlotte for the evening performance. People are astonished but it all works out.

In the final chapter, Kelly's uncle offers her and a friend a trip to the zoo -- he lives in another town and has not met George, so at Kelly's suggestion, George puts on some loaner clothes from Kelly and spends a day at the zoo as Melissa. The uncle (and everyone else at the zoo) are none the wiser. George's mother also says she's going to take him to a therapist; it's clear she's going to find someone sympathetic, and George notes that she has read on the Internet that the first step in transitioning is usually to go to a therapist so this is definitely progress in the right direction.

For the most part, this book felt a little connect-the-dots-y but it is (I think) the first middle-grade chapter book about a trans kid, or at least it's the first middle-grade chapter book about a trans kid to come from a major publisher.

There are a couple of really nice moments when George comes out to her family. Her brother, over mashed potatoes, assures her that he already knows she's gay and is FINE with it. ("I don't care. My friend Matt is gay. It's no big deal.") She then tells Scott the real secret: "I think I'm a girl." Scott is silent, eats some more mashed potatoes, and then says, "Ohhh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. That's more than just being gay. No wonder [mom's] freaking out." And then they talk a little more, he says "oh" again, he asks tactlessly "So, like, do you want to" -- he made a gesture with two fingers like a pair of scissors--"go all the way?" and then finishes off with, "Weird. But it kinda makes sense. No offense, but you don't make a very good boy."

I liked this whole scene: Scott has been set up as the super-boyish teenage boy to contrast with the very, very girly George, but he's shown to be very definitely nurturing (in a teen-boy way) -- there's an earlier scene where George is very upset and Scott invites her to come play Mario Kart. He kind of serves as a proxy for some of the readers in this scene (it's a way to discuss gender confirmation surgery the way kids would describe/understand it.) I like that Scott has to take some time just to think this new information through, but that he also affirms George. (Kelly is initially baffled when George comes out to her, but goes home, Googles, and comes in the next day having read ALL THE THINGS.)

The really lovely bit comes at the end of the chapter: "Scott snuck glances her way too, but where Mom's eyes were filled with concern and confusion, Scott looked at George as if his sibling made sense to him for the first time."

The other bit I liked a lot: there's a bit where George winds up in the Principal's office for getting into a fight with a bully. George scans the posters on the walls, and there's one with a rainbow flag and the words, "Support safe spaces for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth." George spends the rest of the meeting staring at the sign.

During the play itself, it looks like the teacher is going to intervene during a scene change, but the principal comes up behind her and whispers something into her ear, and she backs off. At the end, the principal approaches George and her mother to praise what a great job she did and to say, "Well, you can't control who your children are, but you can certainly support them, am I right?" She then gives George a hug, tells her again what a good job she did, and whispers, "My door is always open" in George's ear.

Anyway. It's a quick read and it's definitely good to have this book out there.

This will never not make me smile

Dec. 8th, 2016 05:20 pm
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
Got my first holiday card* this year, from [ profile] starbrow. Inside there is a very nice message and a signature on the right side of the card. On the left side is just written

* I've seen a few "if you want a holiday card let me know" posts. I have been rubbish at answering them because I was hoping I could offer reciprocal cards this year...and it turns out that is in no way a possibility. Sad times. But if you are still willing to send a card to someone who can't send one to you, please add me to your list because I love getting cards and I really need more cheerful things right now. Will happily give out my address if you need it.
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Welcome to another Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auction!

Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464. Every tax-deductible donation helps them continue to provide support, advocacy, and education.

Today’s auction is for a signed set of all four TWIXT books. But wait – there’s more! Metcalf also has a pile of “own voices” and books she’s offered to donate to a local shelter and/or children’s hospital in your name. The higher the bidding, the more books she’ll donate!

  • $25: Two books
  • $35: Three books
  • $45: Four books
  • $60: Five books
  • $75: Six books

Dawn Metcalf's TWIXT series

About Book One: INDELIBLE:

Some things are permanent. Indelible. And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room-right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world-a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep and a life that will never be the same. Now Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one-his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future … and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies … THE TWIXT!

This auction is open to U.S. residents only.

How to bid:

  1. Minimum bid is $25. Bidding starts the moment this post goes live!
  2. Enter your bid in the comments. Bids must be a minimum of $1 more than the previous bid. (No bouncing from $20.01 to $20.02 to $20.03 and so on.) Make sure to include an email address I can use to contact you.
  3. Each auction will run for 24 hours, starting at noon Eastern time and running until noon the following day.
  4. To discourage last-minute sniping, I’ll wait until 10 minutes after the last bid to close an auction.
  5. If you want to be notified about other bids, check the “Subscribe to Comments” box when you bid.

Winning the auction:

I’ll contact the winner, who will then donate the winning bid to Transgender Michigan. You’ll forward me a copy of the receipt, at which point, I’ll contact the donor to arrange delivery of your winnings.

About Dawn Metcalf:

The role of Dawn Metcalf will be played by the tall brunette in the off-the-shoulder, floor-length leather straitjacket. Makeup by Clinique, buckles by Jada Pinkett-Smith, hair by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. She is an LGBTQIA Sex & Gender advocate and the author of YA fantasy books LUMINOUS and the TWIXT series.


Don’t forget about the DAW Raffle!

My publisher, DAW Books, has agreed to contribute:

6 Tad Williams Bundles: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.

6 DAW December Release Bundles: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).

At any time between now and the end of the fundraiser, donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at-, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.” Each week, I’ll pick at least one donor to win their choice of either a Tad Williams or a December Release bundle from DAW.

You can donate more than $5. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle. This is separate from the individual auctions. Winning an auction does not count as a raffle entry.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Worlds in Worlds

Dec. 8th, 2016 04:36 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker

Showing off the kind of thing you can make in the Quill VR art package.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

I don’t know how many people will attend in the Christmas rush – but if you’re in the Cleveland area this Saturday and feel like watching Julie Andrews in heart-swooningly close detail on our Ultra 4k television, we are hosting the sing-a-long this Saturday afternoon.

Details are on Facebook, or just email me to ask me what’s up!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

(no subject)

Dec. 8th, 2016 10:52 am
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen

I am on the tail end of what was apparently an extremely extended case of salmonella poisoning. Fun. I had just enough cope to make it through work every day and then go home and get slept on by a cat, so I basically missed the entire month of November.

The timing of it has also given me a conditioned nausea response to mention of certain current events (altho tbf that might not be entirely the salmonella's fault) so I went mostly internet cold turkey and will probably be less around on social media for awhile yet, at least until my digestive tract and I trust each other enough to start taking risks. Right now I am just aspiring to be able to make the yuletide deadline.

I have been catching up on my fiction reading, though, so if you want proof that I'm alive I am updating Goodreads.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

My Uncle Tommy did volunteer work in Greenwich Village back in the early 1980s, when I was a teenager. He brought me along to help, which made me feel very grown up; I was eleven, and yet here I was stamping envelopes, doing data entry, working in an office.

I loved my co-workers.

They were all really funny guys, flamboyant, and they treated me like a grownup – which was to say they made jokes I didn’t get, and didn’t footnote. After the volunteering shift we’d all go out to a bar, and they’d sneak me into the corner – very grown up – and they’d drink beers and tell theatrical stories while my uncle gave me a roll of quarters and I played Donkey Kong Junior.

I loved them. They were bold, unashamed of their lisps – which was critical to a kid who’d been to vocal therapy to lower his squeaky voice – and they all dressed super-well.

I did not realize they were probably gay until I was almost thirty. That’s when someone said, “Man, the AIDS epidemic totally destroyed the gays in Greenwich Village,” and I thought, “Man, I hope all of my Uncle’s old buddies from Greenwich Village are okay WAIT WHAT”

I had all the pieces. But nobody had specifically called them gay. And I didn’t think that I was the sort of kid who hung around with gay dudes while I was eleven, so even though I had all these facts – a pretty much all-male volunteer squad in Greenwich Village, the stereotypical gay voice, flamboyance, great dressers all – they never coalesced into “Teenaged Ferrett hung around with gay dudes.”

(I called up my Uncle Tommy to confirm they were gay. They were. My Uncle was not, but he apparently did very well with the few women who volunteered with the organization.)

Yet that’s how life happens sometimes: you can have all the pieces, and not put them together because nobody gave you the word. I’ve had friends who took years to realize their Grampaw wasn’t allowed to be alone with them because he was a pederast. I’ve known folks who didn’t realize their parents were swingers despite copious evidence because it never occurred to them their parents could be swingers.

Sometimes you can be bathed in evidence of a plain fact and not recognize it because you don’t believe you’re the sort of person that fact applies to. I was just an ordinary kid from the suburbs, and at the time “gay people” were this wild minority – I didn’t think of myself as the sort of kid who had wild adventures with Greenwich Village Queens, let alone of myself as the sort of kid who’d idolize them. Likewise, my friends had ordinary childhoods with loving parents and the concept that their mom and dad were those swinger people just didn’t fit the mold.

You can have all these pieces lying about, unassembled. Until someone gives you a name. Until someone tells you that yes, you are that sort of person, you just didn’t think of yourself as that person until now.


Does anyone who had a good upbringing think of themselves as “the sort of person who gets raped”?

I see people confused by delayed accusations: Yes, they were raped, but how could it take them time to recognize what happened to them? And much like my gay buddies as a kid, they had all the evidence but it didn’t seem, somehow, to apply to them. This wasn’t a Hollywood rape where a stranger barged into their house – this was a friend, someone they loved, and maybe they said very nice and kind things before and after the assault. Maybe they still like their rapist, or want to like them.

They had all these pieces of evidence – mainly, the fact that they didn’t want to have sex, and yet someone did things to them against their will – but that doesn’t make sense because they’re not the sort of person who’s a rape victim, and they feel terrible a lot but this hasn’t destroyed every last happiness in their life like everyone tells them it should, and so they know something bad has happened but that word “rape” doesn’t seem to apply because they’re not that sort of person.

Until all the evidences finally click into place and they realize that, sadly, they are.

Which is not to say that every person who gets raped is unaware; some are. The most toxic misunderstanding of rape is that there can be only one “accepted” reaction to it, and anything else indicates that the rape didn’t really take place.

Alas, people have all sorts of different reactions to life-changing trauma; look at any funeral, where some people withdraw into silence, and others need all their friends to party with them, and still others need to vent angrily about the injustice. There’s no singular script to grief, which means there’s no “right” way to do it.

But some rape victims get slammed by people because they should have known what happened right away. “Why didn’t they know?” And the answer is, for those people, that their vision of themselves did not encapsulate the sad concept of “I can get raped,” and as such they had all of these pieces of evidence lying around unassembled, waiting for that one key that would tie them all together.

It could be argued that they should have known. And they probably would have known, if it was someone else this happened to. But some times you’re blind to the events of your life simply because the evidence contradicts who you think you know who you are, and waking up to the person you actually are takes some time.

Especially when that person isn’t someone you ultimately want to identify yourself as.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Bashō and the crow

Dec. 8th, 2016 12:53 pm
green_knight: (Abandoned)
[personal profile] green_knight
[profile] puddleshark posted a comparison of two translations of haiku, and I was intrigued enough to google a little because one set resonated much more with me than the other.

Sometimes, you hit a motherlode. is a paper discussing the translation of this one, popular, haiku: there are 32 *further* translations in the appendix.

The article goes over every part of the original, discussing both form and content, the use of punctuation to fulfil the function of the kireji ('cutting word')... it's thorough.

And I feel I've levelled up my japanese, haiku, and translation skills just by reading it.

The livejournal version of this post has a picture of a blackbird taken in winter: not quite the same, but the nearest I'll get to a poetic coincidence.

Interesting Links for 08-12-2016

Dec. 8th, 2016 12:00 pm

Haven't ranted thus for a while

Dec. 8th, 2016 09:59 am
oursin: Books stacked on shelves, piled up on floor, rocking chair in foreground (books)
[personal profile] oursin

A fairly interesting article on the revival of the Book of the Month Club - not quoting the massively naff headline - but there was one passage when I was going END TIEMZ B HEER!!!:

[T]he Club is fueled partly by an active presence on social media. Members regularly post photographs of themselves — or their pets — with their purchases. Also popular are “book bentos,” artsy photo displays of club books arranged with objects relating to their themes or subjects.

Y O Y???? In the time it takes to do that, you could be reading.

As a palate-cleanser, here is some shelf-porn that seriously presses my button to ring my bell: 16 Floor-to-Ceiling Bookshelves That Will Make Your Jaw Drop. This pretty much gets it (though who are those philistines who have objets d'art in space where they could fit MOAR BOOX?), unlike the various poncey interior design notions I have ranted about over the years, where clearly the persons designing them never read a book and treat the whole question as one of aesthetics.

[Links via [personal profile] umadoshi]

vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

This is Butcher's first book in a new series (The Cinder Spires to be precise). It does use a multi-POV structure (6? 7? a surprisingly high number). Basically, it's Age Of Sail, with magicallyetherically-powered air ships. And human-level-intelligence speaking cats.

Al in all, a pleasant yarn, looking forward to another instance of this series, in the fullness of time.

Cooking for myself

Dec. 8th, 2016 09:38 am
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
[personal profile] kht asked "What do you like to cook for yourself when you're low on time and energy?".

I'm afraid the answers to this are fairly boring. I don't get nearly as much pleasure out of cooking if it's just for me, so a lot of the time when I'm on my own in the Northampton flat I practically live on fresh filled pasta with a bit of grated parmasan and olive oil, and then fill up on fruit to make sure I'm getting enough vitamins. My other staple is scrambled eggs, which I sometimes add rice wine and soy sauce to, and eat with a croissant, and sometimes do with just salt on pepper, served with marmite covered toast.

When I feel like making a tiny bit more effort I'll make egg-fried rice, which I can throw vegetables into, or I'll make a stew (onions, garlic, various root vegetables, lentils, pearl barley (or buckwheat if I want it to be gluten free), cabbage or other green leafy veg, stock, red wine, dried herbs, spoonful of marmite), which takes about 15 minutes of work, and then just sits and cooks, and makes great leftovers.

Currently Reading - 8-Dec-2016

Dec. 8th, 2016 03:58 am
davidgillon: Text: You can take a heroic last stand against the forces of darkness. Or you can not die. It's entirely up to you" (Heroic Last Stand)
[personal profile] davidgillon

No standard print media since the last update, that was just last Sunday, but I accidentally got sucked into re-reading some Schlock Mercenary. Schlock has been running daily since 12-Jun-2000, which makes for a very large archive - it just completed book 16, so a post the other day suggested a few potential starting points for people. The earliest suggestion was the start of Book 10, so I followed the link to remind myself which one that was, and, erm, started reading. From 29-Feb-2008. 3025 strips in three days. Eek!

What rereading them revealed is just how good a storyteller Howard Tayler has become, there are bits buried at the start of books that illuminate things that happen a year or more later in our real time when the story reaches the end of the book. It''s often difficult to remember those when reading them daily, but they really show up in a reread.

Ostensibly about Schlock, the series developed into an ensemble cast:

Schlock - Cheerfully amoral 'Carbo-silicate Amorph', a sergeant in the mercenary company Tagon's Toughs. A shapeshifter, he keeps being mistaken for a 1.5m pile of manure. Occcasionally bright, commonly childlike, mostly violent.
Captain Kaff Tagon - Commander of Tagon's Toughs. Inclined to appear a bit dim, but actually very good at what he does. Which still doesn't stop him wedging his foot in his mouth with predictable regularity
Commander Kevyn Andreyasn - Possibly the smartest biological sophont in the galaxy. Has repeated revolutionised technology (and started galaxy spanning wars as a result). Resident Mad Scientist.
Ennesby - Formerly the AI running a virtual boy band, now Tagon's snarky adjutant.
Petey - Formerly the AI running the Tough's starship, now the face of the Fleetmind, a hivemind of starship AIs that control the Plenipotent Domain, the galactic superpower, which is running the war against the dark matter Pa'anuri of Andromeda, a war Kevyn accidentally restarted. Appears as a koala-like hologram,
Ebby, Legs, Andy, Nick, Elisabeth, Chisulo - the other members of Schlock's squad, with Ebby in command. Nick's the only human, and he makes Tagon look bright. Eventually designated as Xeno Team.

Book 10: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse

The Toughs get a new job - escort a shipment of relief supplies to the artificial world of Credomar (a cylinder about 6km in diameter and 40 in length, with a population of 5 million). But first they pick up a few new recruits, including 18 year old roboticist Para Ventura. To a large degree Book 10 is about Para finding her place in the Toughs

So how difficult can delivering a few supplies be? Very, it turns out, when Credomar is factionalised over control of the food supply, the contract says they have to distribute the supplies, and the docks are out of action. With 65 megatons of supplies to unload, they should be done in about 25 years. That's when Para repurposes a damaged tank as the eponymous Longshoreman Of The Apocalypse, which promptly proclaims that it, LOTA, is too mighty for puny pronouns. When things go wrong, the Toughs have to launch a desperate raid to sieze a stock of antimatter, Para finds herself alone against a mob, and LOTA siezes a solution to the problem.

And meanwhile, there's the puzzle of Credomar's wierdly inefficient design.

Book 11: Massively Parallel

After accidentally bending their ship and its AI in Credomar, the Toughs have to split up to make enough to cover wages while it's repaired.

Schlock, Elisabeth and Chisulo get a job at the circus. As Chisulo is an uplifted elephant and Elisabeth looks like a elephant-sized gorilla they aren't entirely out of place, though Carbo-silicate amorphs are old news, which leaves Schlock playing janitor. They're undercover to investigate a murder, but something smells very off about their employer.

Kevyn, meanwhile, is back off to Credomar, King LOTA wants an evac mechanism for the city's inhabitants, and Kevyn is the inventor of the teraport. Things get murkier when they figure out the smoking gun of just why Credomar is so inefficiently designed, Are they building a safety mechanism, or unlocking a weapon of mass destruction? And can they trust LOTA?

And for Tagon and most of the company it's the humiliation of being reduced to mallcops. In Mall One, a rotating spacestation, full of open spaces and plagued by a mysterious set of urban runners. There's only one way to catch them - train the Toughs in Parkata Urbatsu, the martial art of urban running. Meanwhile, is Nick about to get a girl, and which girl is it going to be, the mysterious blonde spy, or the fast food clerk?

And all the strands braid back together again with a desperate mission into the heart of an enemy-held asteroid to rescue Kevyn's clone, and Tagon's dad. Of course neither are exactly helpless - never underestimate a man with a remote-controlled headless monkey and a bandolier of grenades.

Book 12: Force Multiplication

An earlier book saw the Toughs stumble on a deep black UNS intelligence operation, one that they only got out of alive by agreeing to have their memories altered. Petey now has a way to reverse that, and it's time for the Toughs to remember what really happened, what really never happened, and who did it to them. One of the not-memories is the wedding of Doc Bunny Bunnigus and the Reverend, which means doing the whole thing over.

Given the need to speak to her (not-)mother-in-law, Bunny quickly decides on a field trip to check up on Shep, one of the Toughs' retired soldiers. Given Shep lives in a rough habitat, she takes Schlock, Para, Legs and Ennesby along with her, and hires Kathryn (that would be the mysterious blonde spy) to ferry them there. Things rapidly escalate as they discover the whole habitat is under the control of the mysterious Professor Pau, who doesn't like doctors, but has a medicine to cover every eventuallity. With Shep kidnapped, it's up to them to get him back, and Kathryn may have just the skills they need. Well she would have if she hadn't just defaulted on the contract she signed, giving Schlock the right to eat her.

So it's Kathryn vs Schlock in the bowels of Haven Hive, and Kathryn turns out to be unexpectedly resourceful. But then she stumbles onto what's really going on, and she's not about to let that go unanswered. Even if it means a chance of running into Schlock again as the Toughs make their move to free Shep.

Book 13: Random Access Memorabilia

The Toughs are hired to provide security on an archaeological dig, the dig being on an artifact, Oisri, that's so old it has a planet wrapped around it. The problem being Oisri is potentially so valuable it may be worth throwing entire fleets at them. Fortunately the Toughs have an answer for that, an autofabricator with a large pile of dirt going in at one end and lots and lots of missiles coming out at the other. That takes care of the overt threat, but leaves covert routes open, including nano-warfare, which it turns out Tagon has a history with.

It actually turns out the major threat is on a more human scale when one of the scientists accidentally rips his head off, then gets up again. The Toughs are up against Redhack, the culmination of the intelligence project they stumbled on. It was supposed to be a means of immortality, now it's a weapon, turning people into killing machines, and the only way out may be to kill everyone the Toughs signed on to protect.

Meanwhile, there is a spy aboard their ship.

Book 14: Broken Wind

Kathryn is back at Mall One, bonding with Tagon's dad over a little urban running, when they run into an alien with a job for both Tagons and the Toughs. Which is when Karl Tagon finds out his son has blown up yet another UNS battleplate; time to get everyone out of Dodge before they're scooped up by UNS intelligence. That includes Kathryn's urban runners and Alexia Murtaugh, the mercenary/cop who took the blame for what went down in Book 12.

Meanwhile the Toughs are facing up to the news their ship was totalled when its AI went berserk during the events at Oisri. Petey wants them to retire, and some of them are seriously tempted, the Plenipotent Dominion is a post-scarcity society, thanks to having turned the galactic core into a power generator. If money isn't an issue, then boredom may be, and when Karl Tagon turns up with a gunship and a job, he finds his son and the Toughs ready to board. Of course there is the small matter of the gunboat refusing to answer to anyone but the spy who betrayed them.

The job the Oafans have for them is a bug hunt, but the scale of the bug hunt wasn't actually as clear as it might have been. Eina Afa, the ancient spacestation that needs delousing, is big enough you could stuff the Moon and Mars inside with room to spare. The job gets fairly rapidly rescoped as a biological sampling mission, but then the station's old defences wake up, and they're stuck trying to find a way to talk down yet another berserk AI.

Book 15: Delegates and Delegation

The Oafans send an embassy to Sol in Ennesby's new ship, with Captain Murtaugh and  Xeno Team along as security. Of course, diplomatic credentials or not, there's a certain intelligence agency that may consider the Toughs to know too much. If they knew what the Toughs really have in mind they'd nuke them from orbit, as the only way to be sure.  This time the Toughs aren't going to revolutionise technology, they're going to revolutionise society.

Of course theirs may not be the only revolution people have planned. So it's up to the Toughs, a UNS ship designer, and a killing machine in a body he doesn't own to save the day and stop the UNS descending into civil war. (With a little help from a 750kg uplifted Polar Bear).

Book 16: Big Dumb Objects

The Toughs are still helping get their new home in the Neofan Freehold (aka Eina Afa) up and running. There are cities to be built in a day (okay, two), judiciaries to be created, and ancient librarians to be resurrected to see if they know enough to save the Galaxy (they don't, but they do know where the index is). Fortunately money isn't an issue when you have an ancient spacedock stuffed to the gills with millions of derelicts whose trans-uranic hulls are individually worth a fair fraction of the annual GDP of Sol system. And in between times, there's an archive Petey needs looting access to, which rapidly descends into a crime-scene.

But everything comes together when the science team stumbles onto the location of an ancient Oafan 'world forge'. Only one problem, it should be the size of Saturn, and it's been squished down to the size of Earth. Plus someone's already living there.

Fortunately the Essperrin are perfectly willing to sell access, for a ship or two. They would even be cute, as knee-high space ant-butterflies, but for their habit of 'improving' any technological system they can get their hands on. And their senior commander can't help noticing how much portable worth the Toughs new ships represent....

Over-Arcing Thoughts

I don't quite know how far back Howard Tayler has had the Schlock arc pinned down, but it's been clear for a while that the core arc is the Redhack technology and what functional immortality is going to do to society. The roots of that arc stretch right back into the very earliest days of Schlock Mercenary, when it was still primarily a daily strip and a long story arc was a month. The stories above represent the arc moving into the end game (Tayler's said as much), which is perhaps obvious when Book 17 is called A Little Immortality.  There's still the war against the Pa'anuri to resolve, and will Petey end up a benevolent god, or a tyrant, but I think those are the backdrop against which a more human story plays.

Schlock went through the same art evolution as a lot of webcomics, in fact it's early art is much more basic than a lot of comics start with. Tayler himself says: "Seriously, don’t start people at the beginning. Just don’t."  But if its art has evolved further than most, I still think it's the storytelling that has come furthest. That goes for characterisation too. Earliest Schlock had almost no female characters, but current Schlock has 5 female command characters out of 10 and several significant female characters in the enlisted ranks. Schlock doesn't just beat the Bechdel test, it has military operations being entirely run by female officers (the male officers are almost entirely absent from Book 15), and other female characters getting together to talk about the spaceships and robots they're designing and building. Kevyn, the resident mad-scientist, is regularly mocked by Para, who is simply better with robots and AIs than he will ever be (and Elf, his partner, is often the more practical engineer) Meanwhile Tagon started out as almost a buffoon, and he still has his foot in mouth moments, but he's now convincingly a commander to be reckoned with.

Howard Tayler is right, the Schlock archive is huge and intimidating, but I think it's worth the investment. Personally I might start with Delegates and Delegation to see if it appeals, the story is relatively self-contained even if some of the motivations won't be. That will leave you in a good position to work forward from there to the leading edge of the story, and you can go back and pick up the older stories at your leisure.

silveradept: The letters of the name Silver Adept, arranged in the shape of a lily pad (SA-Name-Small)
[personal profile] silveradept
[It's December Days time! There's no overarching theme this year, so if you have ideas of things to write about, I'm more than happy to hear them.]

Playing in a small ensemble develops the ear of a player more than playing in a large one, assuming that there is enough skill in the player to be able to hear what is going wrong. It is only recently that I feel like I have managed to develop things with that I can start hearing what others presumably always have been.

I'm not exactly a player that has had a lot of private lessons or elite group playing. And I don't really do a lot of practicing for lack of time and lack of seeming difficulty in many pieces. There is virtue in holding out long notes to build endurance and tune the ear to what the actual pitch is. I don't really have that.

I do, however, feel that there's an underappreciated thing in playing less than first parts on a regular basis. After you get out of the first few years where everyone is playing mostly the same thing into actual pieces, much of school bands is about trying to get to the first part so that one can play the actually interesting part of the piece. (This is usually the fault of bad piece selection by the conductor.) Second (and third) parts in these situations are often relegated to long notes that build the chord structure underneath the melodic line or the pluck of the offbeat (or on beat) oohm-pah underlying the march or the faster-paced music. Which are...necessary, but not necessarily interesting to the easily-bored teenager.

Better pieces with more complexity actually pass the melodic line around among the instruments and their parts. There's still a lot of pluck going on as well as whole note sequences, and long stretches of rest while woodwind instruments play runs that are only possible with keyed instruments, but things are better. In any case, much of the time I took in university probably improved technique and ability and the ability to produce volume on demand, but it wasn't as good for developing my ear, necessarily. But the pieces are better there, as well.

Which finally loops me back to the current day and my current group - mostly one or two people to each part, in an environment of musicians that have finally learned the importance of being able to engage in dynamic contrast. I've been told that the second and third parts have importance in the whole piece for my whole life, but it's only recently that I've been able to actually hear why. I'm not sure if I was finally able to get over myself, or whether I'm finally in a small enough group to feel important enough, but the texture of the part now comes through where it didn't before. And I can hear the difference when the part is present and when it isn't.

Funny how the things that everyone says with adult wisdom don't always come into existence until you've achieved some sort of adulthood. And they usually arrive after having been fought over and resisted and otherwise told to get lost. It could be equally a loss of ambition and a gathering of wisdom that allows me to finally hear the whole and realize how important my part is to the success of the piece.

So I highly recommend being in both a lead part and a supporting part for your endeavor. Being in support and seeing yourself as valuable is the more difficult operation. Always the more difficult option. But if you can do it, you will be rewarded in great ways.

new year's

Dec. 8th, 2016 02:40 am
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
[personal profile] synecdochic
I keep forgetting to mention -- we will not be holding New Year's Eve at chez Faultless Pajama this year, because we will be out of the country! (It's a birthday year that ends in 0 for me, so we're taking a big trip: 3 days in Hong Kong, 14 days cruising through southeast Asia, 2 days in Singapore.) The best prices were over Christmas/New Year's and not over my birthday week, weirdly enough, so we're leaving next week. (OMG I am so excite.)

We plan on bidding 2016 good riddance somewhere far away from here, but will be back hosting again next year. :)


Dec. 7th, 2016 10:07 pm
steorra: A cross that looks like a star, or vice versa. (christianity)
[personal profile] steorra
From an Orthodox Christian point of view, I don't think the category of supernatural is a good one.

The problem is that, at least as it's usually used, it draws the dividing line in the wrong place. Typically the supernatural category would include God, angels, and demons, as well as various other stuff.

From an Orthodox Christian point of view, the fundamental distinction is between Creator and created. The Trinity is on one side of this line, and everything else is on the other side - humans, rocks, animals, angels, etc. Sure, the angels (for example) are bodiless/immaterial, unlike humans, animals, rocks etc. But like us and unlike God, they are still limited, created beings.

The only way I think the category of natural/supernatural could work from an Orthodox point of view is if its sense were adjusted to fit the Orthodox division - if all of creation is natural, and only God, being uncreated, is supernatural.

We do have, within creation, distinctions between created beings that are material (e.g., humans and animals) and created beings that are immaterial (e.g., angels). We also have distinctions between created beings that are rational (e.g., humans and angels) and created beings that are irrational (e.g., animals) ("rational" is possibly not quite the right concept here). But those are secondary divisions, after the primary division between Creator and created.


As I write this up, I'm reminded that when I first learnt about Orthodoxy, it was a surprise to me that Orthodox thought does not see angels as fundamentally higher than humans, but rather the reverse. Here's how Metropolitan Kallistos Ware explained it:
According to the Orthodox world-view, God has formed two levels of created things: first, the "noetic", "spiritual" or "intellectual" level, and secondly, the material or bodily. On the first level God formed the angels, who have no material body. On the second level he formed the physical universe—the galaxies, stars and planets, with the various types of mineral, vegetable and animal life. Man, and man alone, exists on both levels at once. Through his spirit or spiritual intellect he participates in the noetic realm and is a companion of the angels; through his body and his soul, he moves and feels and thinks, he eats and drinks, transmuting food into energy and participating organically in the material realm, which passes within him through his sense-perceptions.

Our human nature is thus more complex than the angelic, and endowed with richer potentialities. Viewed in this perspective, man is not lower but higher than the angels; as the Babylonian Talmud affirms, "The righteous are greater than the minstering angels" (Sanhedrin 93a). Man stands at the heart of God's creation. Participating as he does in both the noetic and the material realms, he is an image or mirror of the whole creation, imago mundi, a "little universe" or microcosm. All created things have their meeting-place in him.
(The Orthodox Way, by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. Revised edition. Chapter 3: God as Creator.)

Not worthy?

Dec. 7th, 2016 09:38 pm
azurelunatic: We're about to set a weirdness baseline the likes of which the planet has never seen.  (weirdness baseline)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
Poll #17774 Proving a point to someone
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 28

On the worthiness of partners (this would be my primary partner, who I started seeing *formally and officially* in September)

They are worthy of dating Azz
12 (42.9%)

They are not worthy of dating Azz, sorry
0 (0.0%)

I don't know one or both of these parties well enough to answer this
14 (50.0%)

My response to this cannot be summed up in a radio button, and I should comment
2 (7.1%)

And furthermore!

They make Azz happy
21 (75.0%)

Azz makes them happy
10 (35.7%)

Their ex is a screaming toolbag
13 (46.4%)

I'm just glad nobody's in serious denial anymore
9 (32.1%)

I'm just glad nobody's cheating on anybody anymore
9 (32.1%)

What about Darkside, though?
0 (0.0%)

What about Purple, though?
2 (7.1%)

What about sithjawa, though?
0 (0.0%)

What about [attractive denizen of a certain continent], though?
1 (3.6%)

Let's hear it for polyamory
20 (71.4%)

At last, someone with a strong enough Weirdness Field to date Azz!
6 (21.4%)

At last, someone with a strong enough Weirdness Field to date this person!
3 (10.7%)

It's disconcerting the way Azz is around much less on the public internet
9 (32.1%)

Fuck cancer forever
26 (92.9%)

Nobody is allowed to marry anybody (until at least 2020)
3 (10.7%)

Why does Azz have to move to the Pacific Northwest, though?
3 (10.7%)

19 (67.9%)

18 (64.3%)

Reading Wednesday

Dec. 7th, 2016 10:41 pm
slashmarks: (Leo)
[personal profile] slashmarks
I am once again trying to go really fast since I haven't reviewed anything since October. NaNo happened.

Persistence of Memory – Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Erin is a teenager with schizophrenia and DID barely controlled by medication. After a couple of years out of locked wards, she's just started school at the public high school and lives every day of her life in terror of losing control. But there's magic involved in her insanity, and after she wakes up in the body of a vampire who is not happy about it, it's coming after her.

Reread of a book I loved as a teenager. Disappointing but not horribly so. I know enough to notice the history errors now and they made me sigh, would probably like the portrayal of magic-induced DID including an arc where the people involved end up working together in the climax and living together more peacefully afterward if the author didn't find it mandatory to add in one sentence in the epilogue implying integration was inevitable. Prose kind of clumsy but not terrible. This book helped me survive my teenage years in the psych system, though – I mean, how many books are there where the protagonist goes to school half the day in a locked ward that aren't issue novels? -- so it's definitely not all bad.

Binti – Nnedi Okorafor

The story starts when Binti leaves her home against her parents' wills to seek education in a university off planet. But something on board the ship goes badly wrong, and she alone is able to prevent another catastrophe.

I know a lot of people liked this, since it won a Nebula. I did not, and I am disappointed, as it comes from an author I like. This was a novella that badly needed to either be a short story or have much more of a plot. As it is, Okorafor kind of gives the impression that she's trying to carry it solely on the basis of the protagonist being from a weird and interesting culture, which I think is kind of unfortunate with a real world ethnic group, and the alien biology and culture, which needed more detail to work. I also found the emotional arc of the second half wildly implausible – I mean, come on, she just stops caring about all of her friends? That said, I'm not sorry I read it; it's science fiction that deals with themes of indigenity and cultural isolation even if I don't think it was quite successful there, and as per usual I like Okorafor's actual prose a lot.

[SPOILERS AHEAD] I think it would have felt more like it had a plot if, say, the conflict with Binti's family was more of an arc, or if she had more difficulties at the university to solve, but the plot didn't go there. The emotional arc and plot that were there might have carried it if it weren't for the ambiguous way Okorafor treats the aliens and the weird tenor of Binti's reactions; I think they either needed to be played a lot more for horror or suspense, with Binti struggling more to prevent a second catastrophe and not becoming attached after, or Binti needed to somehow prevent the first massacre before so many people died. I know that horror would undermine the connections Okorafor was trying to make, but I think the unstoppable, indiscriminate massacre of civilian children already did that. And Binti's apparent unconditional forgiveness later and lack of grief after the first few days broke my suspension of disbelief badly.

Ancillary Justice and sequels – Ann Leckie

I loved this so much, devoured over a thousand pages in three days and skipped class so I could get to the library before it closed loved it. It was like candy, I swear. Intellectually interesting candy. I'd wondered before I read it if it would be one of those idea novels that are interesting in theory and painful to get through, but I think the series is the best new thing I've read all year, actually.

The world building is probably one of the biggest non-subjective strong points for me; every planet and station has a different culture, even ones that are ostensibly part of the Radch, and those cultures are actually different and feel fleshed out; even if you get a few glimpses and not much more, they paint an illusion of a three dimensional world just around the corner. There are holidays, religious rites – Leckie gets paganism like I don't think I've ever seen another sff writer get paganism – clothing variation within variation, gender variation, coming of age rites and music traditions and cultural food, all of those things that real people have and fictional people so often lack. The single gender pronouns things was really not intrusive at all; it was dissonant in a few places where it was meant to be brought up, because the POV character was experiencing cultural clash and it was dissonant for her, but the rest of the time it flowed naturally.

I also really loved all of the characters; they have genuine ethical crises that mostly avoid feeling forced or like they've been reading twenty-first century literature, they have arcs and attachments to each other and complexity; war criminals have children and lovers they adore and are still war criminals, this often doesn't happen in fiction. Leckie also happened to hit like a dozen tropes I love in a few people, so there's that. The antagonist is incredibly well done, and I love how the main character just keeps flat out refusing to buy into her worldview or melodrama but can still never quite escape the game board, only refuse to play.

I think in terms of plot and structure, the first book is definitely the best put together; the second has a mild case of middle book which didn't stop me from enjoying it, and while the third is stronger it doesn't quite have the put together whole feeling the first one does. By then, though, I didn't really care, I'd have read five hundred pages of Breq and Seivarden taking up interpretive dance if Leckie chose to write it, so I'm not saying that to detract from the endorsement at all. I keep thinking of new things I love and want to rave about, but I'm going to stop here.

The Dyke and the Dybbuk – Ellen Galford

Kokos, a dybbuk, takes on a curse set by a jilted lesbian on her lover when she submits to an arranged marriage in eighteenth (?) century Poland in a Jewish village, then is exorcised and stuck in a tree by a wonder rabbi. A few centuries later, she's freed, and back on the case with the single remaining descendant, an out, feminist lesbian Jewish woman named Rainbow. The usual tricks aren't going to work, though, so Kokos instead decides to make her fall in love with a religious girl in hopes of getting her to do something really crazy – take up religious life.

Another reread, comfort reading while I recovered from getting my wisdom teeth taken out. The plot of this was more coherent than I'd remembered, but only slightly; don't read it for the plot. Read it for Galford's prose if you like it, and the obscure references and absurdly entertaining string of scenes. Galford is definitely an acquired taste, but she's one of my favorite writers on the basis of two books. Warning: contains a couple of unnecessary nasty remarks about bisexuality.
monanotlisa: Kara, smiling her adorable Looks Like A Cinnamon Roll smile (kara zor-el - supergirl)
[personal profile] monanotlisa
I can only echo Victoria P. and bemoan the fact that AO3 was down for quite a while, so it's even harder than usual to gauge whether anyone liked what I penned down as a follow-up fic:

Hide Away in Daylight (3245 words) by monanotlisa
Fandom: Supergirl (TV 2015), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (TV), DC Cinematic Universe, Marvel Cinematic Universe
Rating: General Audiences
Relationships: Kara Danvers/Skye | Daisy Johnson
Characters: Kara Danvers, Skye | Daisy Johnson, M'gann M'orzz, Alien Entity, Alex Danvers, Maggie Sawyer
Additional Tags: Minor Alex Danvers/Maggie Sawyer, Fluff, Domestic Fluff, Aliens, Canon Related, Episode Related, Hurt/Comfort, Comfort, Crossover, Crossovers & Fandom Fusions, Cuddling & Snuggling, Domestic, Warm and Fuzzy Feelings, Feelings, Female Relationships, Female Characters, Canon Character of Color, Fix-It of Sorts, Food, Humor, Kissing, Protectiveness, Romance

Hat-tip to [personal profile] st_aurafina, who introduced me to the beauty of a fluffy take on Kara/Daisy -- you should read both chapters of her tale first and then segue into mine. My story is not as good as hers, but it gets the job done. :)

random updates

Dec. 7th, 2016 06:55 pm
cofax7: XKCD boom de yada (Boom de Yada)
[personal profile] cofax7
I realized I haven't posted much lately. Hard to be encouraging when Voldemort seems so intent on just burning everything down.


Anyway, I went on vacation last week: had some great meals, saw some friends & family, and saw the Chicago production of Hamilton! Which was awesome. Just, really full of energy and its own slightly-varying interpretations of the characters.

I came down with a bad cold over Thanksgiving, fought it back while on vacation, and today it appears to have revived and has taken up residence in my sinuses. So I left work early to go home and sleep in my cold house (it was 50 degrees!), and the Mucinex does not appear to be working. Argh.

Anyway. Life continues on; my Nemesis continues her bullshit, my boss is pessimistically supportive, and the new hire we made an offer to in frigging August is finally starting on Monday. My coworkers and I have a running group-text in which we mourn the election results and mock Voldemort, but it doesn't really help deal with the despair.

Between the election and the Ghost Ship fire, there's not much to be happy about in the real world right now.


Fannishly, I did see Moana last week, which was lovely if not earth-shaking.

I'm a few episodes behind on Pitch and Brooklyn 9-9. Really need to binge on Underground soon. Oh, and I watched Stranger Things when I was cocooning after Thanksgiving. That was very fun, although I suspect I would have found it more powerful if they'd showed much less about what was actually going on in the DOE facility.


So, on to the Reading Wednesday report.

Just Finished: Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks, for book club. An interesting look at John Brown and his family over the 20 years prior to Harper's Ferry. Seemed oddly relevant, where the main question is how civil resistance to oppression slowly turns to violence -- even when the violence is not directly against the oppressor. I'm not sure Banks answered the question, because he gives the narrator (Brown's son Owen) such a tortured emotional history that the violence seems more to derive from that than from his understanding of the national moral stain of slavery. Unless, I guess, that is the point? Anyway, it was interesting, but hella long, and the women were all barely 1-dimensional, much less 2.

Also just finished Spinster by Kate Bolick, which was more specific about her personal history than I was looking for. But still interesting, and it made me want to read more Millay.

Currently reading: Le Guin's Gifts; I needed a palate cleanser with some hope in it.

Up next: probably Cloudbound by Fran Wilde.


OK, I have to finish with this, because it will make you happy. Alan Tudyk records his lines for Moana.

New toothbrush!

Dec. 8th, 2016 02:14 am
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
Used it for the first time this evening. Amazing soft bristles, felt like little pixies were massaging my gums.

Adj + Noun Gratitudes

Dec. 7th, 2016 06:09 pm
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
Plush octopus.

Fixed car.

Homemade bread.

Hot drinks.

Sunny cold.

Cozy radiator.

reading wednesday

Dec. 7th, 2016 07:35 pm
watersword: Matt Bomer as Neal Caffery in White Collar (White Collar: big pond)
[personal profile] watersword
The mountain of kept memory / Rachel Neumeier. Neumeier's latest! I am hoping that the heroine's mother's absence is explained very soon.

Bitter greens : a novel / Kate Forsyth. I read this a while back and accidentally took it out again; it reminds me of Jeanette Winterson, in its mostly-successful attempt to fuse fairy tales and historical moments.

Luke on the loose : a Toon book / by Harry Bliss. Got this for my tutee; it's super cute. I suspect a child who love the Pigeon books would ADORE this one.

Breath of Earth / Beth Cato. There is a hell of a lot of infodump in the first chapter and if it doesn't ease off ASAP I am going to have to ragequit.

The Mask of Apollo / Mary Renault. I am charmed by Nikos. I am very very amused by how Renault manages to get him to Every Important Moment in this narrative By Total Happenstance, and yet there are still a lot of events-reported rather than witnessed.

Lord of the changing winds / Rachel Neumeier. I am both side-eying this one and very hopeful, because the heroine seems super Aspie to me, so if Neumeier pulls this off, I will be thrilled. (Also I hope she follows through on how queer the hero is for the king. Because he is SUPER QUEER.)

Oh Dear

Dec. 7th, 2016 05:30 pm
jjhunter: Watercolor of daisy with blue dots zooming around it like Bohr model electrons (Default)
[personal profile] jjhunter
I'm generally very facile with numbers. Unfortunate degree of utter exhaustion unlocked today: it took me four tries to punch in my conference code correctly for a call I was leading at work.

(Granted, I'd gotten through a full day's work beforehand, including some moderately complex data merging and a number of fiddlely coordinating to-do's in preparation for the call, and the call itself went fine, but that was an unnerving degree of short term memory scrambling - I had it written right in front of me in digit batches of 4-4-2.)
green_knight: (Business)
[personal profile] green_knight
In the beginning, there were people copying software from their friends and any public computer they came across.

Then there were more elaborate serial number schemes, must-have-floppy/CD-in-drive, bit copy apps, dongles, outcries, putting so much extra stuff on the CD that it was worth buying the app for the extras alone, even more outcries about how piracy kills software development, giving away 'lite' versions on cover CDs, online activation with draconian detection mechanisms, software bundles where for a few dollars you can grab a whole bunch of apps (both pay-what-you-want and otherwise)...

... and now there's another new way of getting your app in front of people: a service called 'Setapp'. It seems to work a little like the Humble Bundle Monthly: you pay $10 a month, and you get an as yet unspecified amount of apps.

This is not a scheme to rent software (looking at you Adobe, whose products I will never again buy because you cannot buy them anymore and which I shall not rent because I like my software to work offline), but more of an auto-subscription to a bundle.

Right now, it's in beta, and the app is a bit rough but perfectly usable. (I've just filed a lengthy report.)

On the positive side, it's in open beta, and you can - as long as you have a Mac - sign up on, and see whether this is a service you'd be interested in. Personally, I find that I own about half of the apps already (bundles), but there are some interesting ones in the lot. They seem to be a mixture of productivity (Aeon timeline), Utilities, special interest, and simply odd things. There's two mindmaps, for instance, and several markdown editors and snippet managers.

For me, the effort has been worth it: I discovered Sip, which lets you sample any pixel and gives you not just the CSS value, but any number of ways to translate a colour into Swift.

Given how busy Apple's Appstore is, and how bad the interface and search facilities are, I am not surprised that developers are looking for new ways of reaching customers. One of my decluttering tasks at the moment is logging all of the software I have acquired from bundles. Most of it I have not used; sometimes I find a gem that becomes surprisingly useful, but mainly, they're just sitting on a backup drive (because there are too many to keep them on my smallish drive).

There's not a single developer that has lost out through the bundles - I would not have bought any of those apps at full price if I hadn't managed to snag them in a bundle - but there are some developers that have gained, because I am now upgrading or buying other apps from them, and recommending their apps to my friends.

I suspect that my experience is far from unique. The existence of this new service seems to support that.

A woman of her time

Dec. 7th, 2016 08:43 pm
hunningham: (Default)
[personal profile] hunningham

I have been reading Cloud Cuckoo Land by Naomi Mitchison

This is a historical novel about the Peloponnesian wars, written in the 1920s, and so good & also so relevant that I’m having to stop and gasp for breath occasionally because ALL THE FEELZ. Mitchison is very aware of the faults of Athens, the harm done to colonies and allied cities, abuse of power by demagogues, but she frames the struggle between Sparta and Athens as one between democracy and totalitarianism. Escapism this is not.

Have a taster:

All his life afterwards, when Alxenor remembered that next five minutes, his whole body would tighten, fishes clenched, face twisted up to drive it out. The thought of it would come suddenly into his mind when he was quite happy, in the middle of a party, say; then for a little time he could say nothing to his neighbour, food or wine only sickened him till the memory was beaten back, till he could crush down that self somewhere in his brain which had so silently reminded him. But sometimes, if it came to him in the very early morning, when everything is terribly grey and learn, he would have to think it out, sentence by sentence till he could almost hear his brother’s laughter running int his ears.

Or here, picking a paragraph more or less at random.

And then, in the middle of it all, Hagnon saw in his mind’s eye a little picture of his sister shut up there in her house, sitting disconsolate with her hands in her lap, and her heart closed against him for ever. But that was nonsense after all; and the Agora was real all round him, and freedom had come back to Athens! Only, underneath it all, it was as if he was wearing a rough shirt, or something . . . just a little uncomfortable . . .

Also, if anyone ever starts excusing some ugly attitudes with “man of his time” then I will remember that Naomi Mitchison was a woman of her time and drop her collected works on their feet. There were a lot of works, so it would be a good thud.

Wednesday still has the ick

Dec. 7th, 2016 06:56 pm
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished The Age of Scandal - and with additional fat-shaming of Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark! No, underwhelmed entirely by this.

Lead Me Not - rather slow, though the setup did rather require that everything moved very tentatively. I wanted more about the twin sister - even if that was a really terrible idea for getting her twin brother to come to terms with his sexual orientation, there was enough there that it seemed like there might be a story.

Latest episode of Tremontaine.

Tanith Lee, Greyglass (2011) - what was really great about this - characteristically late mode Lee - was the way she does the unheimlich in the ordinary and the banal - barely needs any supernatural element, and could be put down to 'all in the mind'?

Anne Charnock, A Calculated Life (2013) - this was, I think, a freebie or a special offer that someone or other recommended. Very good. Small detail work. One or two slightly info-dumpy places, but mostly it's done very subtly. Melodrama eschewed.

On the go

Marjorie Senechal, I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science (2012): I think this was a freebie in the category of Academic Press 'we can't/won't pay you for giving us a report on this ms/book proposal/encyclopedia article, but you can have £/$XXX-worth of our books!' I'm finding it slightly irksome - there's a certain amount of rather consciously fine, or intended to be fine writing (a touch creative-writing class) + a fair amount of 'my research I show u it'. Also, has various instances of getting it wrong ('First Division' in UK prisons c. 1917 didn't mean you were a nob, it meant a certain class of offence not of common criminality, one of the suffragette issues was about trying to get suffragette prisoners into First Division), missing the point, and infelicitous word choices (I don't think 'home-schooling' has the right connotations for 'educated by governesses in the days when girls often weren't sent to schools anyway'). And had that thing where, although author has found out a lot (see 'my research I show u it') I suspect I know enough about quite a lot of the cast of characters to a) wince and b) know more - e.g. 'How could she not mention that Bertrand Russell's elder brother was banged up for bigamy after a trial by his peers, i.e. the House of Lords?' (and I bet he didn't serve that sentence in the First Division) and 'given all the other peripheral matter you mention, surely is worthy of note that Elizabeth von Arnim was Katherine Mansfield's cousin?'.

So I'm rather reading it with my little nitcomb in my hand, in my hand.

Up next

Not sure.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Welcome to another Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auction!

Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464. Every tax-deductible donation helps them continue to provide support, advocacy, and education.

Today’s auction is for a brand new flash-fiction story written for you. That’s right, author Stephanie Burgis will write a story for the winner of the auction about any of the characters from her published novels – the winner gets to choose! You’ll let her know which character should be the protagonist, and Burgis will write it within a month of getting the commission. You can find all of her published works on her website.

Burgis reserves the right to share it with other readers later, but it will belong to the winner alone for the first month after she sends it to you.

Cover art for Kat Incorrigible Cover Art for Congress of Secrets Cover Art for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

This auction is open to anyone in the world.

How to bid:

  1. Minimum bid is $10. Bidding starts the moment this post goes live!
  2. Enter your bid in the comments. Bids must be a minimum of $1 more than the previous bid. (No bouncing from $20.01 to $20.02 to $20.03 and so on.) Make sure to include an email address I can use to contact you.
  3. Each auction will run for 24 hours, starting at noon Eastern time and running until noon the following day.
  4. To discourage last-minute sniping, I’ll wait until 10 minutes after the last bid to close an auction.
  5. If you want to be notified about other bids, check the “Subscribe to Comments” box when you bid.

Winning the auction:

I’ll contact the winner, who will then donate the winning bid to Transgender Michigan. You’ll forward me a copy of the receipt, at which point, I’ll contact the donor to arrange delivery of your winnings.

About Stephanie Burgis:

Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband and two sons, surrounded by mountains, castles and coffee shops. She has published over thirty short stories for adults and teens, as well as an MG Regency fantasy trilogy, known in the U.S. as the Kat, Incorrigible series and in the U.K. as The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson. Her first two historical fantasy novels for adults, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets, will be published by Pyr Books in 2016, and her next MG fantasy series will be published by Bloomsbury Books, beginning with The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart in 2017.


Don’t forget about the DAW Raffle!

My publisher, DAW Books, has agreed to contribute:

6 Tad Williams Bundles: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.

6 DAW December Release Bundles: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).

At any time between now and the end of the fundraiser, donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at-, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.” Each week, I’ll pick at least one donor to win their choice of either a Tad Williams or a December Release bundle from DAW.

You can donate more than $5. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle. This is separate from the individual auctions. Winning an auction does not count as a raffle entry.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

(no subject)

Dec. 7th, 2016 11:13 am
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[personal profile] seekingferret
L'Amour de Loin composed by Kaija Saariaho, in Robert LePage's Met Opera production

The first opera staged at the Met in a hundred years that was composed by a woman!!! (YES, THE MET WAS ACTUALLY MORE PROGRESSIVE A CENTURY AGO THAN IT IS NOW.) No cookies for you, Peter Gelb.

I remain uncertain how I feel about it. Saariaho's musical palette tends toward microtonalism/spectralism, which is kind of a mixed bag for an opera. In terms of conjuring an atmosphere, setting a mood, her music is very effective. I wanted more melody, though. And I say that as someone whose favorite opera is atonal. I don't need melody in my opera, but I wanted it more in this one.

I'm also unsure how I feel about the story. There is plot, though not much of it- the French troubadour Joufre has given up his womanizing ways and devoted himself to writing brilliant (complex, ambiguous, microtonal) love songs in praise of a woman he has never met, across the sea- the perfect woman. Troubled by this change, his friends try to console him, but he is inconsolable until a pilgrim tells him that she has met the woman. The pilgrim becomes an inadvertent go-between, bringing word of this love from afar back and forth between the two until Joufre decides he must set sail and meet his true love, Clemence. Tragically, the sea voyage brings him near to death, and he dies shortly after setting eyes on her and confessing his love to her for the first time.

It's a vision of love I'm uncomfortable with. To my mind, love must be relational, it must be built in the interactions between people. Love from afar in this fashion does not make sense. It's also to a certain extent a vision of love that the opera expresses discomfort with, as in a fabulous aria where Clemence re-sings one of Jaufre's love songs dedicated to her and then goes through the litany of ways in which it fails to describe her, and wonders if it is possible for her to ever live up to it. This was my favorite moment in the opera. But in the final act, when the lovers meet at last and then Clemence comes to terms with her grief at losing him, this skepticism about love from afar is not present. It is a beautiful piece of music about grief and lost love, but it is anchored in the most crystalline bad-opera-love I've ever seen. Afterward, I compared the final Act to the last act of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. The conclusion of L'Amour de Loin is mercifully shorter, but it is similar in its commitment to treating terrible, fixated non-relational love as being the most romantic thing in the world, and the destruction of that love as being the most tragic thing in the world.

The most striking thing about the opera was LePage's staging, which set millions of addressable RGB LEDs across the stage in ribbons and magnificently animated them as a constantly moving sea on which the action took place. Combined with Saariaho's tone painting, the effect was remarkably vivid, the kind of spectacle you go to the Met to see.

December Days: Day 7: For SCIENCE!

Dec. 7th, 2016 04:56 pm
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
Magnet + iron filings
Photo of a grubby optical table with a piece of chipboard on top of which are two dipole magnets stuck together under a sheet of white paper with iron filings sprinkled on top to show the magnetic field lines. Also on the optical table: a magnetometer, a multimeter, two small magnets, a forming machine and a bean bag. You know, the stuff you usually find on an optical table. Or not.

Anyway, I did this demo for a TV programme today. It's going to be about the end of the Cassini mission, and the segment features my Big Boss, who does all of the talking. I had originally envisioned a sophisticated demonstration involving a magnetometer and an oscilloscope, and instead I ended up sprinkling iron filings on different permutations of magnets for three hours. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ C'est la vie!

Dear brain

Dec. 7th, 2016 11:13 am
watersword: Clint Barton shooting a crossbow as he falls off a building. (Avengers: Clint)
[personal profile] watersword
Why did you feel the need to present me with a dream, fully-plotted, about Clint Barton being brainwashed (again) and dating a Mossad agent? There are so many problems with this scenario I don't even know where to start.

Love and puppies,

(no subject)

Dec. 7th, 2016 08:39 am
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
[personal profile] staranise
So I've been missing Dreamwidth/Livejournal lately, but also feeling a bit out of the habit of blogging--that is, I think, "What should I write? What's the use in writing? What would actually connect with the people I want to connect with?"

So, anyone with ideas: let me know?

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 53

What kind of stuff would you be interested in me writing about

View Answers

Narratives of how my life is going
46 (86.8%)

Personal introspection (psychology/trauma/spirituality)
49 (92.5%)

Meta about psychology and culture
50 (94.3%)

Squee and speculation on my current fandoms (Check Please, Yuri on Ice, etc)
34 (64.2%)

Fanfic and stories
32 (60.4%)


Feel free to elaborate in comments!

Mini book reviews

Dec. 7th, 2016 02:30 pm
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
The life-changing magic of tidying up - Marie Kondo
I thought the 'life-changing' nature was overstated, and the scale of the difference it made to the writer is largely a function of the kind of person she is, rather than a generalisable rule. It was also steeped in the privilege of wealth, and I think would be incredibly frustrating to read for someone who doesn't have the disposable income to discard things easily.

That said, I thought the core idea, in which one declutters not by following a set of rules for things to get rid of (e.g. anything I've not used for more than a year goes), but instead having the simple positive rule for what to keep of "does this thing inspire joy", is certainly an interesting perspective. I do plan on having a fairly major declutter after we've moved house, and I suspect it will be somewhat informed by that idea.

The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician & The Master Magician by Charlie Holmberg
I can't remember why I picked these up. It's a trilogy set in a magical version of 19th century London, about a young magician coming into her power. It was diverting enough that I bothered to read the 2nd and 3rd books, but to be honest just barely, and only because I wanted something very low effort to read whilst I was feeling under the weather. It was a fairly standard coming-of-age quest narrative, with some rebellion against the magical authorities of the day. A slightly squicky romantic subplot between the protagonist and her mentor was the only thing that made it more interesting, and not entirely in a good way.

Kaddish in the absence of a minyan

Dec. 7th, 2016 12:44 pm
lethargic_man: (capel)
[personal profile] lethargic_man
Jewish communal prayer is traditionally recited in the presence of a minyan, a quorum of ten adults. When a minyan is not available, certain prayers—Kaddish, Bār’chu and Kedusha (along with reading from the Torah with blessings)—cannot be recited. Today’s custom is not to say anything here when there is no minyan present, but I was fascinated to discover the first ever siddur, the ninth-century Seder Rav Amrām, gives versions of each of these (with no explanation) for the solo davener. And the first one, at least, is fascinating, with an extended quotation from the literature of Merkavah mysticism.

I thought it might be nice (having previously googled for a translation of the first of these texts, and only been able to find bits of it) to make these texts available for small prayer groups, where not having a minyan is a real possibility; so they can use them as a study resource to fill the slightly awkward gap not being able to recite Kaddish or Bār’chu can leave, or to recite them in part or entirety.

So here's the first one for you; watch this space for further contributions. And please do let me now if you have found any mistakes, or would like to collaborate on this project.

EA Global write up (part two of two)

Dec. 7th, 2016 09:39 am
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
Part one here. (This is unprompted, and I only have a couple of questions in the pipeline, so more very welcome.)

After the keynote, the next couple of sessions I went to were mini-workshops given by the Center for Applied Rationality, each introducing a practical technique to improve your thinking. These were brilliant, and made me really want to go on their full course at some point. The first technique, dubbed Double Crux, was aimed at making discussions with someone you disagree with focus more on finding the truth together than on convincing your interlocutor. This is something I try to do anyway, but having a specific set of practical steps to follow should make me more likely to actually do it. The second workshop introduced an iterative technique to make plans more likely to succeed by imagining that you'd failed and addressing the likely failure modes in advance.

After a break for lunch the next session was a pair of talks, the first of which had the biggest impact on me of anything else at the conference. It was called "Look, Leap or retreat", and the core argument was that when trying to choose between a high probability/low impact or a low probability/high impact proposition, in which your confidence in your assessments of the probabilities is itself low, doing more research is likely to be higher value than choosing either immediately. Based on this I've been doing a lot more research and thinking about my giving, and will be making changes shortly, although I am still wavering between various organisations.

The second afternoon session was called "Lessons from Starting Organisations", which pretty much did what it said on the tin, and there were a few useful ideas, but a lot of it was quite generic. One point that I did find interesting was the comment along the lines of "Don't assume that because you're smart and you've been successful at some things you'll automatically be an expert at everything straight off the bat. In particular, management in hard." I found this relevant because I spent a lot of the weekend being conscious of how terrifyingly young everyone was - it was probably the first time in my life where I felt I stood out as being well above the average age - and I think that this is something that could end up biting the EA community in the arse. There're an awful lot of bright young things, and rather less experience in the wider world.

Dinner was at a nearby Thai restaurant, and involved fun conversations about rationality and learning techniques. After dinner there was one more session, "A Conversation about Motivation", lead by four speakers who are closely involved in the EA world. This was a real eye-opener, and clearly not just for me. There was a lot of very frank discussion of feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, and serious mental health issues, and the way people had dealt with them. Once the conversation opened up to the room it seemed like everyone had a story to tell, and although I left at the end of the session as scheduled, many people stayed behind, and several people said then or later that it had been the most important part of the weekend for them.

Afterwards there were semi-structured pub conversations, but I was feeling quite peopled out by then so went back to my B&B to read and then sleep.

And then in a moment of incompetence I set my alarm for the appropriate time on Monday morning instead of Sunday, and managed to sleep through the talk I was most interested in the next day. I felt like something of a fool then, but was still feeling a)really quite overpeopled, b)not overwhelmingly enthused by the remaining sessions I had planned to go to, and c)as though I'd already got more than enough value from the conference so far to have made it worth going. So I went home and closed the door and played my piano and read and felt entirely good about that decision.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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