Ancillary Justice

Dec. 20th, 2014 06:09 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
This book had been impossibly hyped by many of my friends before I ever came to it, which is never a great thing for one's opinion of anything.... I didn't have the same level of squee about it as most of them, but I think I can see why the squee, and squee aside, I liked the it.

The most commented-upon aspect of it is that the civilisation central to the story uses a genderless language, and so for most of the book there is no indication of characters' genders. This was interesting, but it didn't really seem to be important to the story, and so felt a little like a gimmick, in the manner of the phonetic Scots in Feersum Endjinn. Having said that, the very fact that it isn't important to the story is perhaps a point well made; and who knows, maybe it changed my assumptions about characters while reading. I am very aware that the fact that I do not find this squee-worthy is probably tied up with my own male privilege, in that it doesn't grate very much on me that most characters in space opera are explicitly male.

Ditto for the book's discussion of the nature of some forms of privilege in society and in politics; this time it was very relevant to the worldbuilding, and it was well put - if perhaps a little heavy-handed at times - but again, I imagine that those who have to deal with this more in everyday life were somewhat more overjoyed at seeing it expressed in science fiction.

I felt that the story was competent space opera, and that it had interesting explorations of imperialism, expansionism, national exceptionalism, and personal identity - especially the latter, in a context where one mind can have multiple bodies. I was a little disappointed that, despite talking about the ethics of using corpses controlled by an AI as soldiers, no attention seemed to be paid to the use of superhuman AIs as subservient "equipment". There's a good chance that the next book may go there...

Quite a lot in here reminded me of Iain M Banks: the sweeping scale, the ancient megastructure (although in what I felt was an overly stand-alone set piece), back-and-forth-through-time style of storytelling where it all makes sense near the end... it has a different emphasis, though. It might be fair to say that while Banks shows galaxy-wide culture (small c) while tracking one or more individuals, Leckie has followed one character and used them as a lens to see the large-scale culture.

Style-wise it felt a little clumsy and heavy-handed in places, but no more so than the first novels of some of my favourite authors. I shall read the sequels at some point, and I hope that Ann Leckie becomes another favourite in time :-)
oursin: Photograph of Queen Victoria, overwritten with Not Amused (queen victoria is not amused)
[personal profile] oursin

The two Georges were more Victorian than Victoria and made mid-20th-century Britain into a nation that was prudish, dingy and insular.

Yes, I think that is a point one could make, but might one not also invoke who George V's father was and the sort of (negative) influence that might have had on How He Wanted To Be King? (I.e. not Edward the Caresser).

We note that they were both not the Designated Heir who ended up landed with the job.

I rather love the idea that Ramsey MacDonald was George V's favourite Prime Minister - we ask ourselves whether he (unlike his father) had liked John Brown... or whether there was a family love-that-Scottish-accent thing going on.

We note that the George VI bio goes with the standard narrative and doesn't go down that route which claims that far from being 'gracious, photogenic and supportive', his lady wife insisted on progenating via Artificial Insemination.

The Yankee Book Swap

Dec. 20th, 2014 10:28 am
altamira16: Tall ship at dusk (Default)
[personal profile] altamira16
A friend of mine holds an annual book swap at his parents home in Denver. He invites everyone to bring a wrapped book. The first person chooses a book from the pile. The second person can either steal the first person's book or choose another book from the pile. If the first person's book is stolen, that person can choose a book from the pile because stealing from a person who has just stolen from you is not allowed. However, there is some collusion in this game so you can create three-way swaps by stealing a book that Person A really wants so Person A steals your book opening you up to steal the book you wanted from Person B who had stolen the book you really wanted.

I went to the book store look for Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg, The Martian by Andy Weir and Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. I made this list by reading Smart Bitches, Trash Books and Nihilistic-kid's list of books he loved this year.

Having found none of that, I bought If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript by Angus Croll, and my husband bought The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart at The Boulder Bookstore.

At the party, someone had his heart set on S. by J. J. Abrams. It is a book in shrink wrap because there is another story inside of it written on pieces of paper tucked into the book. Dancing with Jesus: Featuring a Host of Miraculous Moves Board book by Sam Stall was also popular. The front and back covers had lenticular images so Jesus really did dance. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography came up really late in the game, but I would have stolen it if it had come up sooner. The Interestings: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer was stolen a lot because some people were reading it in their book group.

My husband and I came home with The Big U by Neal Stephenson, which is one of Stephenson's earlier books that did not involve 600+ pages and The Historian by Kostova Elizabeth which is something that involves Vlad the Impaler.
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
I have decided that my least favourite season is probably summer, though it was quite hard to work out: because binding becomes vastly more uncomfortable and because the UK is so staggeringly ill-equipped to handle hot weather, and it's only for a day or two at a time so you never really have time to acclimatise.(Summer in SoCal was fine! I got used to it and adjusted habits to cope! This is never possible in the UK.) It is sticky and I have to pay more attention to hydrating enough and temperature regulation is harder. (I mean, winter has its downsides - my hands get proper unhappy with wheelchairing etc - but on the whole they bother me less.)

THINGS I LIKE: the moments when I do get to just sit and absorb sunlight and heat and don't have to think. The plants all being sturdily enthusiastic and making there be flowers and fruit and, eventually, baby plants. Fresh raspberries and strawberries. The sea being warm enough to stick toes into. The length of the days. Long evenings. Open-air concerts and plays. Properly fresh vegetables. All the colours the sea goes. :-)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
Perhaps the big thing for me is that I conceptualise myself as relying not so much on scripts as on roles. Figuring out new roles to play is generally the hardest; it's easy enough at this point for me to Nice White Posh (Disabled) Lady at shops and customer service if it'll get me the outcome I want (as discussed); it is easy for me to slip very quietly into the body language that cues other people to treat me as an authority figure (which I picked up via spending time around animals); it is easy for me to step through my specific scripts for teaching. ("Okay, please tell me if I'm going either too fast or too slow - and what's your background in X/what do you know about Y/are you comfortable with the concept of Z?")

New situations are harder: when I switch to a new role (being someone's PhD student! Meeting someone's parents for the first time when it is totally unclear whether they are thinking of me as a friend or a partner!) I have to feel out the shapes that are expected of me by trial-and-error, which is stressful. Mostly I handle it by asking lots and lots of questions about what I should be doing, but that is sometimes intrusive, so I flap around feeling sadly and anxiously as though I'm a failure. It is easier for me to act within paradigms I understand, and so on.

-- actually, that's a lie, I totally do use scripts some of the time. With doctors it's more obvious if I'm helping someone else prep for an appointment, but - it's a case of running through the plausible discussion tree (time-limited conversation with constraints on topic matter) and work out what we'll want to respond under various circumstances. But - working out scripts for myself, as opposed to other people? Not so great. Mostly for that I use Captain Awkward.

Which is the how, to some extent. As for the when -- mmm. Mostly I care less about what the situation "looks" like and more about what it feels like to me; if I'm getting stressed and clumsy and feeling unsafe in terms of just working in good faith towards a mutually-agreeable arrangement (which! happens a lot! I hate capitalism!) then I will slip into a-script-(or-role)-I-prepared-earlier. It's not really about the other party, to any extent.

Hmm. Perhaps not terribly clear. Apologies.


Dec. 20th, 2014 04:44 pm
kaberett: a watercolour painting of an oak leaf floating on calm water (leaf-on-water)
[personal profile] kaberett
I am curled up on a sofa in a bay window overlooking the Ouse, on which lights are reflecting, listening to P remind himself how pianos work. His parents are through in the kitchen putting together dinner (I helped with food last night). We bimbled briefly through town this morning - along a stretch of the wall around the minster, via a cafe that served us pistachio-rose-cardamom cake - and I spent much of the afternoon napping while he caught up on marking at his desk. Over breakfast I managed to actually help with a couple of Araucaria clues - P's mother had been saving the crossword for the next time he was around. This is proper lovely.

(no subject)

Dec. 20th, 2014 11:21 am
watersword: Image of a lemon, cut in half, and a knife. (Stock: lemon)
[personal profile] watersword
Before I have to return Molly Stevens' All About Braising to the library, allow me to (1) commend it to those of you who like cooking, (2) draw particular attention to the chicken braised with pears and rosemary, which I made last night with [personal profile] zopyrus and which we both loved, and (3) write down the names of the recipes I am planning to try. )


Dec. 20th, 2014 02:48 pm
[personal profile] strangecharm
Part of my (what [ profile] barakta calls) "criptax" was paid today by me not noticing in Asda that one of the things I'd bought didn't make it into my bag until I got home.

I fucking hate that Asda has been taken over entirely by self-service tills because I'm so shit at them and they stress me out so much. And today it was super crowded and I felt under pressure to get out of the way before I'd had a chance to notice I'd left something behind.

It only cost a pound and it was the least important thing I'd gone to buy, but I'm still unduly upset. Probably didn't help that the short walk to Asda and back was full of cars trying to run me over.

I'm feeling, somehow, particularly "blind" lately and it's really getting to me. I'm finding it really hard to manage how miserable I am about this objectively tiny thing.

But I'm about to go out to my own birthday party, and I've rarely been more ready for cake and friends and silliness than I am now. That'll be good.
andrewducker: (The Truth)
[personal profile] andrewducker
I'd love it if insurance companies had to make it clear how much of the money they took in as premiums was paid out again to policyholders.

Because I don't object to pooling risk, but I do object to large rake-offs.

(The Affordable Care Act said that health insurance companies have to spend 80% of their income on medical care. I don't want to go so far as to regulate it. But if you make it public then people can at least take it into account when making their decisions.)

Via discussion here.
azurelunatic: Azz and best friend grabbing each other's noses.  (Default)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
I stayed up a bit late Wednesday night because duty called. (Duty in the form of Yuletide. Love to Hippos.)

Thursday morning. )

The walk back was refreshing. I wore the Festive Hat, fully lit up. That always gets noticed. I put it away, though, as next was the Dreaded Team Meeting. I told Purple that depending on how it went, I might or might not spend some of the subsequent time sobbing under someone's desk with vodka.

The bad news from Wednesday was that my occasionally frustrating but always well-meaning grandmanager the Randomizer, who has been in and out of the hospital over the past year-ish, will be stepping down entirely, due to illness. Read more... ) So while I'm concerned for him on a personal level because he's ill and stepping down because of illness is never a happy thing, I have every confidence business-wise.

So I came out of the team meeting more hopeful than I had been going in, which was not the outcome I was expecting. No vodka-desking for me!

I had the package tracking notification that the latest package in Syne's BPAL decant circle had arrived, so I set off to the mail room with a small bag of the good candy. It is always recommended to bring bribes of an edible nature to the fine folks of shipping & receiving, because they crave that mineral appreciate it. It was at this point that I learned that the notification is slightly inaccurate for our setup, as the arrive notice is when it hits our post office, and then our team goes over there in the morning and picks up the mail, and it didn't hit the post office endpoint until noonish. So it would arrive Friday. I delivered the candy anyway, admired their bubble wrap snowman, and walked back.

Read more... )

Friday was another day. I woke up midway through my sleep cycle and discovered confirmation that the vendor was in the database. However, the mobile app didn't let me edit jack shit. I went back to sleep. When I woke up, I looked for a necklace, since the star necklace wasn't going to be a viable choice. The raven one looked good.

At work, the vendor was listed, so I spent a few minutes making sure the submission was set up and sent off for approval. Then I went to lunch, a few minutes after Purple's lunch call. Purple had not found time before work to get the tire seen to, but it's a very slow leak. No telling how long the nail has been in there.

I saw the table with Purple's usual crew. I saw the cluster of tables with a whole bunch of my team, including the rare sight of the Randomizer. I went with my team. Later, having finished my burrito and refilled my lemonade, I joined Purple's table. They understood.

I did a bit more candy-distribution. Having finished my bit of the terrifying procurement thing, I tracked down some software for Brutus Cochin (as that is a vaguely known thing and also vastly less expensive). The shipping & receiving guy came by with the mail cart, which included the latest decant circle. I had some more festive cheer for him. He hugged me.

Bash ensued. It took me longer to get there this time, and it was harder finding a table. I did score one, though! Purple joined me. "It's not like your hat is visible over the wall or anything," he teased. He claimed the sort-of-occupied-looking chair after I reassured him that the reason it looked sort of occupied was because I was scaring off chair-vultures. Radius and R joined us. R was late on account of a meeting, and then had to run off to wrap up before dashing off somewhere else. Radius had a bug to be stomped. Mr. Zune was off with family. lb was off with family. phone was home minding a sleeping possibly-teenager (we're a little uncertain as to the actual age of his kid). Later, Lennon Glasses Guy came by, and that was nice. Eventually we told tales of social engineering and various exploits and bugs we have known. Lennon Glasses Guy hadn't realized that I'd worked at the domain shop in the past, which was where two of my tales came from.

Midway through it all, I got an email that made me start swearing.

"Hi Azure, The user needs to be added to CC in order to make the ticket visible to them. Please refer the attached screenshot and confirm if we are good to close this ticket. Thanks, Helpdesk Guy."

Very fortunately, I am in a position where my input is respected as a bellwether of parts of my greater organization as regards this piece of fucking software. My response was brusque and to the point.

"Not acceptable. Tickets need to be visible to users not on the CC list."

Upon getting back to my desk, I added lb's Overlady, as she is the current torchbearer for our division's good fight. We've got her back, and the pitchforks. I feel like this one is important enough to hammer spikes in to any reasonably slowly moving surface and cling to them while yelling.

There has been a squeaking sound all up in our corner for days now. One of the facilities dudes has been investigating. Unfortunately his hearing doesn't go that high anymore. Most of my department can hear it. He located some vent louvers which were oscillating when they shouldn't ought to be, and a substantial leak from a pipe on the other end of the roof. The ventilation guys have been summoned.

Chatted with Rocky some. The time to be a dick about your nerf weaponry is not when you've just scratched someone's cornea. (This was a lead engineer in a place he used to work.) It was a rough work neighborhood. Rocky carried in a large nerf gun in a duffel bag, then introduced the engineer most likely to cause trouble to the business end of it...

Purple came by to head out. He chatted with Rocky and encouraged me to tell how Tay and I used to troll the roosters by crowing out of turn at them.

I'm not sure if Purple would describe himself as "a gamer", but via a link I sent him, he wandered into Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, and reported back that he was impressed and generally in agreement with a lot of things, even though not 100% in agreement (and 100% agreement is rare for him). Read more... )

Bash was dinner enough for Purple, so he generally declined the concept and headed home. I picked up some groceries.

Yuletide again

Dec. 20th, 2014 01:09 pm
ceb: (squee)
[personal profile] ceb
I am getting THREE Yuletide stories! This is wildly exciting, I am becoming incoherent.

(no subject)

Dec. 20th, 2014 12:33 pm
oursin: hedgehog in santa hat saying bah humbug (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] hafren!


Dec. 20th, 2014 11:54 am
andrewducker: (The Question is not "Is She Gay?")
[personal profile] andrewducker
Looks like Virgin has finally upgraded our internet speed.

At the same time, one of the Powerline extenders I was using (to connect the study to the living room) was being intermittently dodgy. So I grabbed a new pair of AV500 (to replace the old AV200 ones), and did a before/after test with

With the AV200 ones I was getting around 50Mb/s. With the AV500 ones:

That'll do. For this week :->

(I really should plug a laptop directly into the router and see what speed _that_ gets. With our walls, and laptops that don't support 5GHz they max out around 32Mb/s over wireless.)
yvi: picture of Faith's face (Buffy - Faith)
[personal profile] yvi
By now, I have pretty much been sick (with various stuff) for three out of the last seven weeks. I also haven't really seen the sun since... Sometime in mid-November? I pretty much only left the house for working and out of these seven weeks even that wasn't the case for 9 days of sick leave. This is getting me down big time and while watching Netflix can be nice (currently binging "Call the Midwife" and "30 Rock") I am getting what in German we call Lagerkoller. Cabin fever.

Gah. I need to go for a walk later. First step : shower and get dressed.

Buy ALL the groceries!

Dec. 20th, 2014 12:40 pm
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
This is a crosspost from Chez Skud. You can comment here or there.

Remember when, back in the day, I used to post pics of my market haul? I was inspired by the excellent book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats which shows photographs of families from around the world with a week’s groceries.

Well, today I did what passes for a Christmas shop at my place, which is to say I went to the shops with the main intention of buying tasty things to see me through the next week or so, and without being too finicky about the budget. I wound up spending $93, which is about the national average for an adult’s food for the week, but way more than my usual (which is half that or less). That’s okay; I got lots of tasty stuff, plus I restocked a few pricier items that I’ve run out of lately.

groceries laid out on a table

The full haul: $93 worth.

Read the rest of this entry  )

(no subject)

Dec. 19th, 2014 07:34 pm
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
[personal profile] synecdochic
All the best fine dining establishments offer a cat snoozing on the chair next to you to accent your meal.

Read more... )

Today has been great

Dec. 19th, 2014 11:49 pm
ceb: (squee)
[personal profile] ceb
I had a day booked off work today, during which I sorted all the remaining Christmas presents, ate steak frites, visited the Whipple, had coffee and cake, investigated laptops, got home to find a Lego Research Institute waiting for me, and hosted another lovely Yuletide writing thing (at which I betaed a story and wrote two drabbles, one of them collaborative, and almost everyone finished their stories).

Actually yesterday was pretty nice too. One of my study co-ordinators gave me a Christmas present, I won some very pretty cake tins in the Christmas party raffle, and one of our receptionists picked me to ring for help when she was stuck in traffic (a double-edged sword but quite flattering).

Tomorrow promises cake decoration and a preformance of some Edgar Allen Poe stories, so will probably also be good.

100% glorious Yuletide success

Dec. 19th, 2014 11:33 pm
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
[personal profile] rmc28
Both my assignments are finished, named, and uploaded. 

December Talking Meme: sci-fi

Dec. 19th, 2014 10:24 pm
falena: (can't take the sky from me)
[personal profile] falena
[personal profile] juzo_kun asked Science fiction? Just curious about your opinion on the genre as a whole.

Sci-fi and I have a bit of a weird relationship. I mean, whenever I hear the sci-fi label used to describe a book or a film or tv series my first reaction is 'this is not going to be my cup of tea' and then, most of the times, I end up liking it.
I honestly do not know why I do this every single time. For example, most of my circle here on DW has been raving about Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice and I've been on the verge of buying it off Amazon at least a dozen times, but never went through with it because of this vague 'not gonna like it' feeling.

I think my first encounter with sci-fi was when I was in middle school and I found a bunch of Asimov's books in my mother's bookshelves. I remember devouring the Foundation series. I think I should probably re-read them, it's been almost 20 years.

The sci-fi person, in my family, is my mum, so I also remeber that one of the first series of films we watched in English together, back when I was in high school and I finally was able to understand films in English, was Star Wars.

I seem to be particularly partial to certain subgenres, like space opera, considering one of my all-time tv series is Firefly and, though I got to it very late, I really liked the Vorkosigan saga.
Battlestar Galatica, despite its issues, still holds a very dear place in my heart.

If dystopian stories can be considered sci-fi, then I'm a big fan of those.

Other than this, I don't know what to say. I am not a big expert on sci-fi. I haven't even read all of the classics, for example Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein or Philip K. Dick.

Delusional? Aspirational? or what?

Dec. 19th, 2014 09:09 pm
oursin: My photograph of Praire Buoy sculpture, Meadowbrook Park, Urbana, overwritten with Urgent, Phallic Look (urgent phallic)
[personal profile] oursin

I was reading this interesting piece about sex positivity and critical analysis, and encountered the following about What Men Want:
they always tell me that they want a partner who’s down for whatever and wants it all the time.

Okay, in context that is really young men who have probably not done a lot of reality-testing about their desires and fantasies.

On one level this is a shallow sexist dream which is not even about a partner who is actually 'down for whatever' and 'wants it all the time': what they actually mean is a partner who is down for whatever they want to try or have seen in porn, and wants it whenever they do.

I think if they found a partner who did want it all the time, even when they did not, and whose downness for whatever included whatevers that were way outside their own comfort zone, they might find themselves to be seriously discomfited.

(Some years ago I read a literary sort-of sffy type of novel in which someone was putting something into the water supply, or something like that, so that women were going into oestrus: and the protag's wife started being unusually periodically sexually forthcoming, but not, I thought, in a way that to me mapped to 'woman with imperative desire for her own gratification' rather than 'male fantasy of male gratifications performed'.)

I also wonder a bit about the context, and whether this is expressed in public or private, but generally, is this really at bottom about a certain and possibly aspirational model of masculinity which is about being the kind of man who needs someone who wants it all the time and will accommodate any whatever that crosses his mind. (There is a sharp comment in, if I recollect aright, The Female Eunuch, apropos of a male-gazey novel, and the extremely sexually-gymnastic female love interest, and how a woman like that is actually some kind of comment on the macho-macho qualities of Our Hero.)

I feel another woman/car analogy coming on, whereby the fast sporty car thing is also about performing a certain kind of masculinity.

I do think the writer of that piece might have interrogated the kinds of expectations and attitudes that affect men and get expressed in statements similar to the one quoted.

(Not sure how coherent this is - Friday evening, long tiring week.)

hairyears: (Woolly Monochrome sketch)
[personal profile] hairyears
Does anyone remember the Trafigura toxic waste scandal a couple of years ago?

Dust off the newspaper cuttings, or look up that link: it - or something like it - will be news again, soon. Or worse, not news: secretly disposed of, and silently killing people.

A bit of background on 'Tank washing'... )
The short version... )
So my prediction is: the recent tumble in crude oil prices will have extremely negative environmental effects.

There will be other effects, and I won't have heard of them - would anyone else like to chip in?

December days: Languages

Dec. 19th, 2014 07:50 pm
cjwatson: (Default)
[personal profile] cjwatson
[personal profile] angelofthenorth asked me to write about languages. I've already written about programming languages this month, so while I do believe that natural languages and programming languages have important common properties and that it's worthwhile for PL designers to think about concepts from natural linguistics, I'll stick to natural languages here.

tá m'árthach foluaineach lán d'eascann )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!

My book xmas tree

Dec. 19th, 2014 12:14 pm
writerlibrarian: (Default)
[personal profile] writerlibrarian
I put up my tree this morning. I made myself a book tree, as a librarian does.

Some of the books were in my to read piles, some are recent grabs from the weeding bin at the library, some are library books on loan. *g*

I got two light garlands and put my cards around. My cats are curious and have pushed the cards down already but so far so good.

My xmas book tree


Dec. 19th, 2014 04:13 pm
[personal profile] strangecharm
There's a lot of "I'm done with work for the year!" joyousness being mentioned on my facebook, which is fair enough really! But it makes me a little wistful that I don't have a job to be on holiday from, or even any plans except to make a cake for my birthday party tomorrow.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

As someone who is quite thoroughly Not A Sports Guy, I always figured it would take me about two years’ worth of effort to properly appreciate any given sport.

The reason I say this is because one day, I was watching the Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour on streaming TV with my daughter Erin.  The Pro Tour is where professional Magic players – yes, such creatures exist – get together to shuffle up decks of collectible fantasy cards and play a strategy game against each other for a prize pool of $250,000.  And it’s a big enough thing now that there’s professional coverage, with commentary.

And the Pro Tour is an especially fun time for Magic players, because they have just released a new set of about 300 cards, all of which do different things, and so there are new strategies that nobody but the pros have foreseen.

I was watching with Erin, who was perplexed – she’s played games of Magic with her Dad, but never been to a tournament – and so I went, “Oooh!  This is exciting because this guy’s trying to make a Maze’s End deck work.”

“…what’s that?”

“If you get all ten lands of a certain type into play, you win.  It’s a pretty dubious strategy, honestly.  Getting ten lands is a big hurdle.  So his whole strategy is going to revolve around trying to gum up the ground, drawing out the game for as long as possible.”

“But you’ve never seen this deck.”

“But I know that’s how it has to work.  And the other guy, well, he has to apply more pressure, because the longer the game goes, the worse it gets for him.  So he has to commit lots to the board in order to try to kill the other guy before he ‘goes off’ and wins.”

“Okay.  That makes sense.  So he just goes all-in and tries to kill the guy?”

“No.  That’s first-level thinking.  If he commits too much to the board, and this guy plays with board-sweepers that destroys all of his guys, then he loses on the spot!  And this Maze’s End guy almost certainly plays with board-sweepers because of that – well, he might not, his mana base is stretched thin as it is.  But so this other guy has to attack as quickly as possible, without putting down so much that he can’t recover if this Maze’s End deck – which we don’t know what cards are in it for sure – wipes out everything on the field.”

Erin looked at me admiringly.

“Well!” she said.  “I think we know where all your sports knowledge went!”

And the truth is, when I watch Magic, I’m watching with probably 70% of the skill of a professional Magic player.  I’m not nearly good enough to play in PTQs – because the skill level of a Magic pro player is incredibly high – but I have edited what’s widely acknowledged as the best book on Magic strategy ever written, and was thanked by the author for fact-checking him and suggesting improvements.  So when I watch Magic, I do so as though I am playing – what card would I play next?  What’s my line of attack here?  Oh, he did something different, he’s better than me, what am I missing?

And I assumed that sports fandom was the same thing.

I’d played football videogames, and was immediately baffled by the massive number of plays I could select from.  There were 150 options, each presumably for a different situation to favor different player strengths, and I didn’t understand them.  I knew the basic rules, but what I needed to know to properly savor the game was to know which huddle was correct based on the game state, and which strategy was most likely to achieve the immediate objective.

If I knew all those strategies, then I could enjoy the game the way that others did.  I’d be able to anticipate the next play, to take full appreciation of just how difficult making that pass work was, and….

…well, that was a lot of work.  Magic, I’ve picked up incidentally over seventeen years or so.  I didn’t play football, or baseball, so my ability to understand its nuts and bolts had been accidentally hampered.  If I had, then I’d know when you needed to use the ol’ knuckleball and the infield squeeze.  And then I’d enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played.

Imagine my surprise when my friends Nathan and Ian told me that probably 60% of the baseball fans had practically no more knowledge than I did right now.

They just liked going out on a sunny day and watching their team win.


But, they assured me, it was true.  Most fans don’t get the fine bits of football they way I do Magic.  They have a couple of people they root for, and maybe some guys on their fantasy league they’re hoping get in the yards, and of course GO OUR TEAM.  But do most people understand the reasons for the 150 plays that can be made?  Do they watch the field as though they were the coach, determining what the next play should be?

No.  They’re just happy to watch muscular men smashing into each other, and cheering when someone makes a great catch.

I’m still a little weirded by this, actually.  I assumed that football fandom was akin to an apprenticeship, where one packed in the knowledge so one got the payoff.  But no, Nathan referenced XKCD’s story generation cartoon, where people go to games to see narratives played out (even as they don’t understand all of the factors that go into those narratives), or to enjoy the weather, or to BEAT THOSE GUYS.

I have no reason to think he’s wrong, but man.  That’s weird to me.  And Ian said, “No, you could learn everything you need to know to enjoy sports in maybe a month.”

And my answer, which makes me feel even more freakish, was “No.  I couldn’t learn everything I needed to know to enjoy sports in a month.  But I’ve just learned how I enjoy things is totally at odds with the normal crowd.”

Once again, Ferrett is a freak.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Miscellania at large

Dec. 19th, 2014 09:31 am
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[personal profile] legionseagle
So farewell then, Mandy Rice-Davies . Apart from supplying the basis for a vast number of Flanders & Swann's jokes ("There's no smoke without fire. Nil combustibus pro fumo.") she also supplied my father (the fourth anniversary of whose death was on Wednesday) with his favourite habitual saying, "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?"*

(My mother's favourite saying was, "She was a good [ ] as [ ]s go, and as [ ]s go, she went." It was not for some considerable time that I realised this was Saki and I'm not sure if Mum knew the source or not.)

Anyway, it's a great shame she had to die so comparatively young.

In other news, the silly season seems to have come out for people being loudly and aggressively Wrong about Writing on the Internet. First, someone over at fanficrants went off on one about how
Over many years of reading fanfic, I've come across my fair share of authors who misuse words to various degrees. Mostly not even to the point where I can't hit the backbutton fast enough, just to where I can't help wondering whether they've ever paid attention at all in language class -- specifically, when they were told about Dictionaries, And How To Use Them.

Sometimes, it's simply a case of confusing homophones (eg. "rein/reign"), or not listening closely enough to the proper pronunciation (eg. "dominate/dominant"). At other times, an author may just want to impress their readers with their Mad!Skillz of vocabulary (aka Thesaurus Abuse©) and just succeeds in looking exceedingly foolish because quite often they're getting it oh-so-wrong.

However, when the word in question only has a passing acquaintance (at best) with what the author means to say, and isn't even a real word ... then I start looking for fat hardcover dictionaries to throw at said author's head. Repeatedly.

Oh, the word that sparked this rant over an otherwise decently-written fic? Was "dubitatively". For "dubious"**. *sigh*

Of course, when various people pointed out that if the fat hardcover dictionaries in question included the OED, say, "dubitatively" could be found to be a perfect genuine word with a clear Latin root, from which it had not fallen far over the centuries, she swapped quick as lightning into automatic "Thesaurus Abuse" mode and accused the author of using a word they didn't need to use, just to show off. It reminded me rather of the occasion when having had a rather frustrating argument with someone in comments to someone else's journal I expressed my exasperation as "Frankly, I've met less viscous pig-shit" and she then ragged me (to the point of creating a specific icon to do it) about how ignorant it was not being able to spell "vicious".

But that paled into insignificance besides the story of the poor bloke who had his book taken down from Amazon on the basis that it contained hyphens:
“As quality issues with your book negatively affect the reading experience, we have removed your title from sale until these issues are corrected ... Once you correct hyphenated words, please republish your book and make it available for sale.”

How some fuck-witted jobsworth can unblushingly use a phrase like "negatively affect the reading experience" while criticising someone else's use of English boggles the mind. Also, since when has the hyphen been outlawed? First they came for the semi-colon...

Put it this way, anyone proposing to write about the African-American experience or books set in Guinea-Bissau, Baden-Württemberg or, for that matter, Ankh-Morpork had better avoid doing it via Amazon Kindle. And no doubt the platform would get its finks in a nottle with Wodehousian surnames, let alone anyone out of the Almanach de Gotha.

Of course, they're blaming an over-zealous text bot. They would.

But Amazon Kindle don't even manage to get the "To Err is Human, to really fuck it up requires a computer" award of the week, let alone of 2014. This goes to Sony , who have been complaining bitterly that they've been hacked by North Korea but have somewhat belatedly had to admit that, by including a large number of files in a file marked "Password" it was possibly a bit less James Bond and a bit more Johnny English when it comes to espionage.

*I do know - as this makes clear - that the form my father preferred is a slight misquotation, but it sounds better. When the aphorism sounds better than the truth, print the aphorism.

** Given that so far as the OP let on, the original use of "dubitatively" in "he said dubitatively" (we don't get the full context so I'm hoping for the full-blown Tom Swifty: "I'm not entirely convinced by your argument," he said dubitatively.) she was flat wrong about "dubious" being the correct word, also. Dubiously, maybe.

Wrapping up the year

Dec. 19th, 2014 08:16 pm
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[personal profile] skud
This is a crosspost from Chez Skud. You can comment here or there.

It’s a cliche to blog about how seldom you blog, so I won’t. Instead I’ll just take the opportunity to reflect a bit on 2014 in terms of my home life.

It’s been a dog of a year. It’s been difficult to focus on anything much, let alone communicate about it. The first half of the year I was buried in personal stuff, and the second half of the year had more of that and then a lot of travel and busy-ness piled on top.

Most days I’m happy if I eat regular meals. I’ve had some great food this year, but mostly it just seems like a slog, trying to balance my body’s need for fuel, my inner self’s food-related hangups and issues, and the logistics of having food in the house, and having space and time to prepare it. I’ve had to cut myself a fair bit of slack on convenience foods and on food waste. Sometimes it’s better to buy a pile of fruit and vegetables just so I have them as an option, even if in the end I don’t eat them all and some of them wind up in the compost. Or to open a jar of something perishable so I can eat well now, even if I’m going away tomorrow or the next day and know I can’t finish it.

When times are hard I just keep trying to slog through it, do what I can, and remember nobody’s standing over me with a clipboard awarding points or writing down criticisms in red pen.

Some things I cooked/ate this year and didn’t post to the blog:

broad beans and leek from the garden, with ham, on homemade sourdough

broad beans and leek from the garden, with ham, on homemade sourdough

salad with red rice, sprouted lentils, tomato, kale, fetta, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts

salad with red rice, sprouted lentils, tomato, kale, fetta, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts

nettle soup

virulently green nettle soup with potato and ham


nachos with black beans and fresh jalapeno peppers from the garden

birthday lunch of ethical pork and beef ribs, corn bread, and coleslaw (eaten in a blanket fort! best birthday lunch!)

birthday lunch of ethical pork and beef ribs, corn bread, and coleslaw (eaten in a blanket fort! best birthday lunch!)

I’ve been doing a lot, a lot, of knitting and other crafts. Not least because I’ve had periods where all I can do is watch soothing TV and do something calm and repetitive. I’ve not been good at posting about it, though, nor updating Ravelry, and I have to admit that I’ve been casting on an awful lot of things for the “whee!” feeling of a new project, and not completing them. By my count I currently have at least 17 WIPs, most of which haven’t yet hit the “half done” mark.

I’ve instituted a kanban board on the wall of my living room for my craft projects (with an extra, innovative “> 1/2 DONE” column, because casting on and then putting it aside is a big issue for me) so I can see how many I have to finish. Sadly, it doesn’t work all that well to stop me casting on new things, because I just conveniently “forget” to add a sticker for the new project. Sigh. Oh well, at least every so often I can bring it up to date and it helps me remember what I have going, better than a pile of mystery project bags in the coffee table drawers ever could.

A week or so back I decided to try and reduce my WIPs considerably. My new rule (and let’s see how long I stick to it) is to have one large and one small/portable project out and work-on-able at any time, choosing the easiest to complete at any given time, according to the debt snowball method. Right now I’m working on a pair of fingerless mitts made from the tail ends of two colours of Mountain Colors Bearfoot, and a deathly dull product-knitting slog: a black hoodie in Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 8 ply and in mostly stocking stitch. Both are made-up patterns, the hoodie being vaguely EPS-based, and the mittens basically just tubes with thumb-trick thumbs.

half-finished black hoodie

boring hoodie of boringness

red and brown striped fingerless mitts in progress

slightly less boring, but only just

My only escape from the “get through some bloody WIPs” effort is that I’ve told myself that I can knit hats for charity using wool from my charity-knitting basket, which I gathered up from all the odd scattered places and put in one pile last week. A hat usually takes about 2 evenings and is a quick distraction if I really must cast on something new. There’s at least a dozen hats worth of wool there, or roughly one for each reasonably-finishable project on the WIP list. (Some of the WIPs aren’t reasonably finishable, as they’re things like a mitred sock yarn blanket that will take years to gather odds and ends to make, or are super low priority, like the charming half-finished Scandinavian cross stitch table runner I found at a craft swap day — I have no qualms about that sitting quietly where it is for a long time.)

As for the garden… it’s a mess, and I’m late with planting everything, and that’s okay. I’m eating from it if not every day, then definitely every few days, and I have tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant coming along nicely for later in the summer. No clipboard, no red pen, right?

One thing that has been going well for me is that I’ve been making a pretty steady practice of getting rid of stuff. Somehow I’ve got to a point where it gives me a good, clean feeling to finish something and not have it any more, or to put something unused in the pile for the op shop (which seldom gets bigger than I can carry in my bike basket). Yesterday I had a momentary bout of “what if I applied for this amazing job and had to move house again?” and it made me think even more about how much stuff I have that I don’t need. I’m not going to apply for the job, but it did give me a kick in the pants about all my stuff.

A friend’s recently been talking up a decluttering guru who talks about getting rid of things that don’t spark joy, and it’s been good for me to think of my excess stuff in that way. It makes it much easier to say “no”. I don’t think I’m anywhere near Japanese minimalism (lol, no) but it does make it easier to get rid of things I’m keeping out of a sense of “ought”.

Finally, today I got a cleaner in, and she’s going to be coming regularly. I’ll be interested to see how much it changes my sense of overwhelmedness and whether it helps me get back on a more even keel with some of the other stuff I want to spend my energy on. I’ll give it a few months and then evaluate the costs/benefits; it’s a big chunk of my fairly tight budget, but I hope a worthwhile one for my mental health, which in turn is good for my so-called “actual” work.

I’m not going to make any new year’s resolutions, because they don’t work well for me. But here’s hoping 2015 is a good one!

The 100, 2x08

Dec. 18th, 2014 11:39 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
[personal profile] oyceter
Apparently I am watching all the CW shows, all the time now. (Well, not Jane the Virgin yet, but it's next.)

I wanted to write up a general post before this, but I got stuck, so maybe some other time.

Spoilers )

(no subject)

Dec. 18th, 2014 11:43 pm
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
[personal profile] staranise
I'm at my parents' house in Edmonton for the holidays. They point out that it is quite warm for the season at ten below freezing! I point out that this is still a 20 degree differential from Victoria's ten above. But no, I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth; I'm glad it's not minus thirty or forty.

I have ABANDONED MY CAT. She is ALL ALONE with no one but my five roommates to care for her. HOW WILL SHE COPE???

This is my first meeting with my parents' new kitten, Gallagher. He is the most hyper, friendly, curious cat I've ever known; I suspect him of using cocaine. Oh my god.


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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