Last Monday, I lost a temp job that was supposed to last another two months. It paid pretty well, but I was only just catching up with my bills when I had to spend about $700 on repairs on my car in the last couple of weeks. Which would have been fine, if the job hadn't suddenly ended out of nowhere.
I don't start my unemployment payments for another two weeks and I'm already behind on rent and my electric bill. I literally have nothing left in my bank account until then. I was going to try and save up or raise some money to take a few months after my temp job ended to try and make writing and podcasting my main job, but this sort of came out of nowhere, and the car stuff didn't help.
Anyway, if you can and would like to help in the short term, my PayPal is here. If you can, thank you SO MUCH.
Read Ann Leckie's Provenance (in ARC. It's coming out on the 26th of September.) Spider mech, spider mech, does whatever a spider mech does. (Disconcert people, mainly.) This is in the same universe as the Radch trilogy, but in a different region and with different characters, voice, and tone. I have some friends who couldn't get into Ancillary Justice, wanted to like it but found it too hard going, and I would be curious if this one worked better as an entry point for them.
Leckie's repeatedly cited Cherryh as an influence, and if you think of the universe the Ancillary books are set in as like Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, a big canvas covering a lot of territory in time as well as space, then this book in relation to its universe is a bit like a railway junction. It opens some new routes, introduces some new important players, but the most important universe-scale historical events (as opposed to system-scale or planet-scale or individuals) are offstage.
To say more about voice and tone: the Radch books are in first person, and that person is Breq, who is... Breq. Over two thousand years old, and even if you consider the destruction of Justice of Toren as a kind of rebirth, by the point we meet her she's a hypercompetent badass who's been surviving on her own in her single body for nineteen years. Also she's not a human, so there's that.
Ingray isn't Breq. She's very much human (and has an entirely reasonable terror of AIs,) a lot younger (I don't think her exact age is stated, but early twenties would be my guess,) and infinitely less sure of herself. She's also spent her entire life to date having her head messed with by her shitty family. My first two impressions, right from the first three chapters of this book, were: one, you can really tell the author was spending a lot of time in airports when she wrote this; and two, Ingray has the sort of family life where the closer your geographic proximity to your relatives, the more difficulty you have with being a decent person. The rest of this book bore this out (I mean the family, although there were definitely more airport-equivalent scenes too.)
If you're one of the people who disliked Breq because she was "too perfect" (I disagree with you about her being perfect, but) you might find Ingray and her smaller scale problems (compared to entire empires and species) more relatable.
If the Radch trilogy is about personhood and the fight to be recognised as a person when you don't fit a society's definition of who counts as a person, then Provenance about growing into oneself not as a person (that was never in question for Ingray) but as an adult (a coming of age that, by contrast, Breq never had the luxury of needing.) And if the Radch trilogy is about resisting societal/systemic forces, Provenance is about resisting social, personal pressures (family and peers.)
Finished Aliette de Bodard's The House of Binding Thorns. And after this and Provenance I'd like a short break from books about difficult family situations, please! I liked this better than The House of Shattered Wings, but the tone was still bleaker than I usually go for. Characters I particularly liked: Madeleine, back from the previous book; Thuan the dragon prince, and Berith and Francoise the Fallen/human couple trying to manage outside the Houses. Grandmother Olympe, the elder of the community where Berith and Francoise live, was also pretty great. And I warmed more to Asmodeus than I did in the first book.
Unfortunately, I think I'm the wrong audience for this. The things The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns do well (decayed elegance, gothicism, Paris, fallen angels), they do really well, but they're not things I particularly love (I don't dislike them, they're just not my catnip.) So, like, I can't actually rave about these books, but I do want to wave them really hard at people who do love those things.
Some zines I ordered from Rooster Tails's Etsy store showed up, and he kind of threw in a bunch of queer fanart glossy note cards (maybe to make up for a delay, idk, I'm not complaining!) and they're so beautiful and I didn't know I needed a picture of Daria holding Jane's hand and saying "I hate you the least," or adorably cartoony Finn smooching Poe, or cartoony Gabrielle climbing Xena like a tree, but I definitely did need those things. Now I'm trying to decide whether to keep or send to people.
The zines are #my gender is..., three tiny A6 cardbound volumes made in response to answers people gave the author when he asked people to fill in the blank.
Mainlined 17776, which is web based multimedia rather than comics, but I'm putting it in this category because what everyone's comparing it to is Homestuck. It's about satellites watching football in an unimaginably future, but also post-scarcity/post-singularity anxiety and Millennialism (as in epochs, as well as as in snake people) and play as the ultimate point of human existance, and it's funny and elegiac and cool and reminds me of David Foster Wallace in some ways.
That said, it is worth talking about who's at the centre of this narrative. No, not robots. No, not humans. Americans. White, suburban, minivan-driving, 80s-and-90s-born Americans. So conflated with the essential nature of humanity that they don't even notice they're doing it. Even the probes are two American probes and one European (but not Russian) one. I mean, Mangalyan does exist, you know? And so does Chang'e 2 and Kirari. And Libertad I and Fajr and... I mean, not all of those are still in space, or left Earth's orbit, but they could. Not to mention that it's science fiction and at the present date JUICE is still in development, why not a future Ghanaian or Iranian satellite mission? Which is not even my point, my point is that the regressive fantasy that the humans fall back into when faced with the crushing boredom of their eternal lives is... the 1960s and 1970s but without the race riots or Stonewall or Watergate.
It's still a good story/multimedia work/thing, and I still enjoyed it. I just... that particular nostalgic fantasy makes me very tired sometimes. And no, not tired in a way that makes me want to give up on the weary work of human endeavour/struggle/progress to take refuge in looking back down at the things that are really important to us/humanity, i.e. a sport which people in my country don't play.
TV and Movies
Watched the first episode of Black Sails. Was unimpressed. I hear it gets better, though. Flint's fury at the stolen log page reminded me of this.
Gave my sister the Hamilton soundtrack for Christmas last year or her birthday this year (I forget which -- my gift-giving punctuality standards are seriously slipping at the moment.) Success: she's hooked. Very hooked.
Third week of hexarchate_rpg. So far haven't panicked and run away yet (me, not my character) so that's good.
Still playing Binding of Isaac. In one especially good run, I met Isaac's mother for the first time, and defeated her! Which meant that, next time I got to that level, defeating her led to having to climb into her womb and fight more monsters there. Which... is definitely a narrative choice a person could make.
Started playing Hexcells, a puzzle game; not to be confused with Hexels, a different puzzle game. The latter is like 2048 but in three directions not two; the former is kind of like a griddler/nonogram, but in three directions and its own specific language of clues. Played all the way through Hexcells, then started Hexcells Plus. Got the Perfectionist achievement for the original Hexcells. Then Hexcells Plus. Then started Hexcells Infinite, and am at 90% of that.
The problem with me and Hexcells is not the logic. I'm not super great at the logic, but with time and effort and occasional appeals to online walkthroughs I can succeed (usually by speaking the chain of logic out loud over and over because I can't hold the branches in my head long enough otherwise.) The problem is that that one of the achievements is to do all the games with zero (or only one) mistakes, and the way my brain works (or the way my working memory doesn't work) it's very easy for me to make one stupid error too many and ruin an hour of work. Which is really frustrating and upsetting. At least Hexcells Infinite lets you save your progress. The first two games didn't, so if you need a break before finishing the level, you have to leave the app open.
The compost bin is full. That took about three months to fill a 220L bin. I had to look up what one does once the bin's full. Leave it to cure for a month or so while starting a new bin, apparently. Or alternatively, lift the bin off the compost (it doesn't have a bottom) and set it down next to the compost, shovel whatever still looks like vegetable peelings and cat litter back into the bin, and use whatever just looks like soil to grow things. (But not herbs and vegetables, because this is cat litter compost, so it's contaminated with toxoplasmosis. This compost can nourish pretty flowers and Native Plants To Encourage Local Species.)
Baked scones. Also tried out a couple of recipes from my long backlog of bookmarked Recipes To Try Someday:
- Jack Monroe's Queen of Hearts jam tarts recipe. Not too bad given how seldom I make pastry. If you have fifty grams of butter and a scant cup of plain flour and some jam, this is an okay thing to do with those ingredients, but the scones were better.
- AoM Bratwurst Sandwich. This contains one thing I eat normally (mustard), one thing I've had decades ago but haven't cooked with (bratwurst), and two things I hadn't had before (sauerkraut, pumpernickel.) The bratwurst and mustard and sauerkraut were good. The pumpernickel... yeah, no, next time I make this I'll just use a dark rye.
I could have adapted to the flavour, but its lack of structural integrity meant that according to the Earl of Sandwich litmus test this is not even a sandwich. (i.e. "I pretend I am the original Earl of Sandwich. I have asked for non-bread foods to be brought to me inside bread, that I might more easily consume them one-handed while gambling. This does not enable my wretched regency habits. This is not what I asked for. I do not deign to grace it with the name of my house.")
This would fall apart in his hand, scattering boiled rye grains all over his elaborate necktie and playing cards.
Admittedly, the degree of difficulty was higher for me since I had to eat it one-handed while fending off a very interested black and white cat with the other hand.
Broke my daily meditation streak at 219 days. Very pissed off about it, in a not zen at all way. The last time this happened it was at 149 days. Forming habits is hard for me. (This is not a request for reassurance or advice. Especially not advice.) Took four days off meditating out of pique.
Have been fighting a lot these last few days. At first I thought Beatrice was the main instigator, but last night while she was aggressively licking Dorian, I saw him nip her.
He hasn't learned to lift the toilet lid yet, but it's hard for me to remember to leave it down since my already established habit was to close the door but leave the lid up.
Teleportation: A great idea, but with some practical… problems. It’s a physics thing. In this Big Idea for The Punch Escrow, author Tal M. Klein wonders, what if you could solve those problems, not with physics, but with another branch of human intellectual endeavor entirely?
TAL M. KLEIN:
F#*%ing transporters, how do they work?
It was the Ides of March of 2012. I had just started a new job and was chatting with a co-worker about lens flare. Specifically, I was ranting about J.J. Abrams’ penchant for gratuitous lens flare, using the Star Trek reboot as an example, when all of a sudden the conversation was interrupted by our CEO.
“It’s bullshit!” he shouted.
(He wasn’t talking about the lens flare.)
Our CEO wielded a PhD in Computer Science and was using it to fight with Star Trek, or more specifically its transporters. He went on to monologue about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, explaining that the position and the velocity of an object couldn’t both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory, and in the highly improbable likelihood that somehow someone did manage to circumvent the uncertainty principle, they’d still have to contend with the no-cloning theorem, which stated that it was impossible to create an identical copy of any unknown quantum state.
Here is what I heard: “Teleportation is impossible because physics.”
Now let’s be clear, I’m not a scientist. What I am is a product man. I build and market technology products for a living. Having bet my career on startups, my brain senses opportunity where others see impossibility. In fact, whenever anyone tells me I can’t do something, my mind automatically appends a “yet” to the end of their statement.
My favorite author growing up was Larry Niven. This fact is germane here because the first thing that came to mind during the CEO’s aforementioned monologue was a Niven essay entitled Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation, part of a collection called All The Myriad Ways. Niven’s spiel on teleportation explored the pros and cons of the myriad ways (see what I did there) we might achieve commercialized human teleportation. The science was interesting, but what I remembered latching on to as a kid was his take on the anthropological impact of teleportation.
Niven’s itch was akin to what angered my CEO: If we discount for Star Trek’s technobabble and defer to actual physics, then every time Scotty teleported Captain Kirk he was actually killing him in one place and “printing him out” somewhere else.
This destructive teleportation variant of the twin maker trope has been explored almost ad nauseum. Though there are several good stories and movies that address the existential problems teleportation could introduce should it ever become a viable transportation mechanism, none have adequately presented a marketable solution to that problem — at least none that might pass muster with an anthropologist.
How come nobody ever discussed how society might come to adopt teleportation in the first place, I wondered. Science fiction seemed to lack a scientifically plausible teleportation mechanism that could be deemed safe enough to commercialize in the near future.
So, I decided to solve the teleportation problem — with marketing!
In my day job as a chief marketing officer, when I’m asked to play out this kind of go-to-market strategy problem, I use a game theory methodology known as Wardley mapping; an augmentation of value chain mapping. The “product” came in the form of the Punch Escrow. It’s the MacGuffin that makes teleportation safe and thus both scientifically and anthropologically plausible. The value of mapping in predicting the future is based in pragmatism. If we can assess what components of tech will become commoditized in society, we can envision innovations that build on those commodities in alignment with basic needs, making their commercialization more plausible.
Consulting with a real life quantum physicist, I used the Wardley mapping approach to understand the teleportation problem and then solve for it: When someone teleports, the Punch Escrow is a chamber in which the they are held — in escrow — until they safely arrive at their final destination. That way if anything goes wrong during teleportation, the “conductor” could just cancel the trip and the traveler would safely walk out at the point of origin as if nothing happened.
But how does one market this scenario given the very obvious twin maker issue?
A capitalist society will always want to get from point A to point B faster and on-demand. I don’t think anyone would argue that safe teleportation is a highly desirable mode of transport. The Punch Escrow makes it possible, and International Transport (the company behind commercial teleportation in the 22nd century) effectively brands it as “safe.” To wit, critics of early steam locomotives avowed that the human body was not meant to move faster than fifty miles an hour. Intelligent people with impeccable credentials worried that female passengers’ uteruses might be ejected from their bodies as trains accelerated! Others suspected that a human body might simply melt at such speeds. You know what? It didn’t matter. People wanted to get from point A to point B faster, train tycoons marketed to that desire with implied underpinnings of safety, and trains took off.
Just as locomotives didn’t transform our world into a dystopia, it stands to reason teleportation won’t either. Yes, people die in train accidents (not because their organs fly out of their orifices, I should add), but the benefit is anthropologically perceived as greater than the risk. Same goes with commercial flight. Of course you’ve heard the axiom, “If God had meant man to fly…” — that didn’t seem to stop droves of us from squeezing into small flying metal tubes in the sky. Today, we face similar fears with autonomous vehicles, but I’m certain that the marketers will calm our nerves. I believe within a generation the notion of manual driving will seem as esoteric a means of getting around as a horse and carriage. Maybe the same will be said of teleportation a century from now?
Need a challenge? Here we go, let's head for the kitchen today and think about bite-sizing our way to progress. Set your challenge by taking into account time available and spoons left at the point at which you're going to do this and by assessing your starting point.
Suggestion 1 - pick a work surface and figure out what needs to happen for it to be in 'ideal condition' - clearing and packing away items to leave it empty? Cleaning the surface in some way? Be realistic - if the work surface is huge, don't tackle it all in one go, break it into sections and tackle one. Consider the ways of doing this - most important area first in terms of future use, most visible area, easiest to tackle area to provide the encouragement of progress quickly, worst area first because you've got the time and energy to make a good dent in what needs doing - you know best. Set a timer and go for it, how much can you get done?
Suggestion 2 - Open a cupboard and tackle a shelf - first identify anything that doesn't need to be there (our of date, wrong place, unwanted) and remove those items. Next step is to either move everything in there to wipe down the shelf (if you think this is necessary - this may depend on the contents of the cupboard that you pick) or to go straight to organising the contents in a useful/pleasing/practical fashion. If it's a food cupboard, remove anything that out of date and health harmful but also identify items which need to be used up quickly and bring them to a more prominent position to encourage yourself to use them up.
And with that I shall leave you and head to work for the day - I'll be back this evening to cheer, if anyone else can cheer and encourage please do.
Since Thursday! This is a damn miracle, that's what it is.
And today we ordered me a motorized standing desk, because the (antique by now, it belonged to my grandparents) dining table I've been using as a workstation for my laptop and two monitors for the past three years was never a good idea. I'd never found an office chair that was tall enough to be comfortable at that table, and that doesn't take into account that any one that was even close enough to use at that table meant my feet didn't touch the ground.
So! Standing desk, arriving this week. It's a good thing I finished The Great Decluttering: The Workdesk over the weekend. (Well, almost finished. I still have to haul some boxes of things out from underneath the table, but that should be relatively easy. Plus the Stroppy One is going to help me.)
Aaaaaand I've finally FINALLY accepted that I need to carry smaller/lighter purses with less stuff in them. Yes, I've said this before (every couple of years, I think?), but it has been made very clear to me that I absolutely have to do this and stick with it. I'm currently making a shoulder strap for a vintage velvet handbag I have, which should be just large enough for me to carry the essentials:
- Powder compact and two tubes of lipstick.
- Tiny pill case of anti-anxiety meds.
- Tiny notebook.
And maybe, just maybe, my mini multi-tool and tiny sewing kit. What? I actually end up needing those two things fairly often.
NO HEADACHE. I don't think that will stop being astonishing to me any time soon.
--I had these notions of finishing a fic for this round of smallfandomfest, but it wraps up at the end of this month, so...ha ha ha no. ^^; But hey, I got it started and made some actual progress during nanodownunder, and unfilled smallfandomfest prompts remain available for claiming past the round when they're prompted, so it's not like I won't have another chance. I just liked the idea of doing it now.
--I haven't taken pictures yet, but when we were out watering the garden a couple of days ago, there were the beginnings of blossoms on one of the two clematis plants!
--Amidst all the political awfulness, personal stuff, cute gifs, and book-blogger chat, my Twitter feed has been full of people being gleeful about "Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator"--enough so that I briefly pretended I don't have something like 100 unplayed games and can't remember the last time I played anything and went to check it out. I was saved by an impulse buy by the fact that the game's currently Windows- and Mac-only; I do still have a Windows partition for games, but realistically, I also can't remember the last time I booted into it for anything but StarCraft. (And that wasn't terribly recently. I did buy at least the first of the SCII Nova mission packs, but I don't remember how far I got.) (Separate parenthetical: I've preordered the remastered original StarCraft, so for that, booting into Windows will undoubtedly happen. Unless it magically runs under WINE.)
--I need to keep reminding myself that Rogue One is on Netflix until I finally watch it (having literally slept through most of it in the theatre, which was not the movie's fault!). I should also rewatch TFA sometime in the next few months.
--It turns out Black Sails is shorter than I'd been thinking in two ways: I'd somehow had the impression it's five seasons, not four, and I also hadn't realized the seasons are so short (eight to ten episodes each, I think?). All of a sudden bumping it up to basically the top of my to-watch list (which seems to be a good plan, judging from how many people I know are in love with the show) is a way less daunting prospect.
Via sgamadison, an update on Stargate Origins: be aware that the new digital episodes are only going to be ten minutes each.
"A Woman, Explaining Things". [Sarah Gailey on the casting of the thirteenth Doctor]
"Towards a Definition of “Fanfiction”: 3,564 people took our survey. Here’s what we learned". [Fansplaining]
"Does God exist in the Marvel Universe?" [Salon]
"Akiko Higashimura's Princess Jellyfish Manga Ends on August 25". [ANN]
"Radical Cartography" is...hard for me to describe. Very cool things with maps...and stuff...?
"All of my work on the “Irish slaves” meme (2015–’16)". In case you ever need to debunk the "but the Irish were slaves too!" crap that some flavors of racists like to whip out.
"Gratitude for Invisible Systems: One way to improve democracy is for more people to appreciate its complex technological underpinnings".
"My Father Spent 30 Years In Prison. Now He's Out". This is lovely and heartbreaking.
"Updated Syllabus for Journalism 101". [McSweeney's]
"This Is How Tough It Can Actually Be To Follow High School Prom Dress Codes". [Buzzfeed]
Via bell, "When Your Teacher Keeps Saying You Can’t Draw Cats, But Your Paintings Are Photorealistic".
"Make a Magical Carpet Cat Hammock With an Old Towel".
"This Guy Spent A Year Exploring The Subculture Of Competitive Punning".
"How to Fall Down". [Lifehacker]
"Sapphic Stories || Around the world". "Sapphic Stories – Around the world does not intend to be a rec list that is ultimate and finalized, but just the beginning of a search for more pluralized stories. There are many other stories out there that we need to look for. Still, I believe that this post could be a nice start so that people can recognize these stories set in the places they grew up in or to know more about what it means to be sapphic in other places. This list contains F/F fiction books, books that have at least one women who feel romantic/sexual attraction to women, short stories, anthologies, and nonfiction about how it is to be LGBT+ in some places of the world."
"tim walker photographs all black cast for alice in wonderland themed pirelli calendar".
Via dine, "Superb Cut Paper Artworks by Pippa Dyrlaga".
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a weird book. I liked it, some parts of it quite a bit, but it's a weird book. I think I started out with the wrong expectations; I'd just read a YA book, and the cover of this one looks like a YA novel. It's also told from the perspective of someone who believes her plastic dragons can talk to her, so initially I thought I was going to be reading a YA fantasy novel.
Pretty quickly, though, the book veers into adult territory; the protagonist Sarah is actually in her thirties, and there's a fair amount of sexual content, including mentions of child prostitution, although none of it is graphic or detailed, just alluded to.
This is set in some sort of possibly dystopic future, but we don't get a lot of details about the world because everything comes from Sarah's very limited POV. That's actually one of my favorite parts about the book--the way the author lets little details about the world slip through (everybody uses some kind of credit system, hovercars are a thing, etc) without really explaining anything.
Another part I really like is that Sarah can speak to inanimate objects. At the beginning of the story, the reader thinks she's hallucinating and then gradually comes to realize that she truly can hear her plastic dragons and other objects speak. I also like that Sarah falls in with a group of marginalized people who have banded together to protect each other and live together in what sounds to me like an abandoned chemical plant. Their society is based on the Jungle Book, and is very cool if also very disturbing in many ways.
So, pros: very cool world building, very interesting protagonist, very interesting plot.
Cons: mentions of child rape and child prostitution, consent issues, really bizarre (dated?) understanding of autism (the story begins with Sarah in an institution, and she's believed to be autistic because she was mute as a child and now can only communicate in quotations from stories that she's memorized)
Recommend with reservations.
View all my reviews
Superb cut-paper art.
Roman roads in Britain as if they were the Tube -- a map. Thanks to nineweaving.
A 19-year-old memo, buried in stuff since Ken Starr stopped hassling Clinton, states that it is possible for "a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties..." Send in the clowns!
And, btw, I am so grateful for those new gutters. The old ones dripped, and it would wake me at any hour, and I would lie there trying to hear directionally and figure out if the drip was outside the house or under the roof. I can sleep now!
( D&D )
I recently found a book again that I'd searched for for years: "Bloodrights" by N. Lee Wood. I was prepared to be disappointed, but to my happy surprise I still like it a lot. It's harsher than I remembered, especially in regards to the cost of striving for power. The surprising reveal at the end made me look at much of it in a different way and made me like it even more. Yay trope subversion. ( Spoiler )
I liked Antonya and many of the other characters, and rereading the book now there are several scenes that I now much better understand the id buttons they pushed (esp. Kerrick & Morgan.) Also, something I'd forgotten about which was a nice surprise, queer people exist and are, while not completely normal, not a big deal.
Politics, because it's unavoidable: The current situation in Poland is scary, it shows how easily things like that can happen. That the protests appear to have had some success is encouraging but not more than a silver lining.
There are so many countries were democracy is under attack…
In Austria I'm trying to focus on the push-back against the surveillance program, but I'm scared about the new government after the next election. The outcome seems almost certain and it would be a bad one imo, but as we've recently seen in the UK a lot can change during an election campaign, so we'll see.