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January Film roundup:

  • The Music Man (1962, 2003): We marathoned both versions of The Music Man. I'm attached to the 1962 original, Sumana to the 2003 remake (which you can see on Youtube). We laughed, we learned, we sang along. It's such a good musical, with the greatest resolution to a con job I've ever seen.

    The 2003 version does a couple things better—notably the mayor— but most of the actors in the 2003 version are too young for the part and look even younger than they are. Matthew Broderick doesn't have the gravitas to play Professor Hill. More like Graduate Student Hill, amirite? There's a line where he tells Marian she's "twenty-six years late" to her Lovers' Lane assignation. Kristin Chenoweth is 35 in this movie and she looks about 28. Some shots had to be redone with a stunt double because Broderick's umbilical cord was visible.

    Overall, the 1962 version is still the best. I mean, Cary Grant refused to play Harold Hill because he wanted to see Robert Preston do it like he did on Broadway. That's a hell of an endorsement. And one thing we hadn't noticed before was that Preston isn't afraid to massively camp it up when he's putting the con on River City. I guess what I'm saying is it takes judgement, brains and maturity to play—I say that any fool can fast-talk his way through the Harold Hill part, and I call that sloth.

  • The Parallax View (1974): This movie was super tense and really freaked Sumana out. I liked the way it would seem like a character was becoming important to the story and then, jump cut, they're dead now. The central concept of the movie is brilliant. The set pieces are pretty good and the final one is incredible. Recommended overall.

    Video game watch: there's a scene where a scientist is playing Pong with a chimpanzee.

  • The Pirates (2014): I was initially very excited about this story of medieval Korean pirates chasing after a renegade whale. And there's a lot of goofy action but all the fun was spoiled for me because the whale dies! Yes, the tragic destiny of this movie's majestic whale is to be graphically killed and become a CGI whalefall. Boooo. Not recommended.

    Unaccountably other people don't consider this a deal-breaker. The movie was made, Sumana recommends it, and Sarah scoffed when I mentioned the possibility that a whale's gory death was a reason to dislike the movie. I am alone! I was afraid this would happen so I went online ahead of time looking for a Whale Death Warning, but even with hindsight the best I can find it this vague statement in an Amazon review: "Also, having the movie scenes with the Mother whale and the baby were to raw and disgusting for under aged people to watch.." I'm not even sure whether this is talking about the death scene or the (completely unobjectionable) nursing scene. That's why I'm starting a new website, doesthewhaledie.com, as a public service to whales and whale allies who want to be spared these graphic portrayals. Here's the initial site mockup I used to secure VC funding:

    MovieDoes the whale die?
    Star Trek IV No! 🐳
    The Pirates Yes
    The Little Mermaid (initial establishing shot)Probably not
    That National Geographic special from the 80s OH GOD

  • Kid-Thing (2012): A modern illustration of my aphorism that the French New Wave directors made films that would be much better as genre films. You can read this film as an unpleasant indie dysfunctional-family dramedy that's mean and only kinda funny, the sort of film that considers Napoleon Dynamite a phony big-budget sell-out. Or you can read it as a really effective horror movie that relies solely on the fact that kids are assholes. Either way, it was refreshing in a Celine and Julie way to see a ten-year-old girl get the sort of screwed-up Huckleberry Finn part that usually goes to boys.

    Annie squishes a grub in this movie, and there's a dead cow, so if you feel about grubs or cows the way I feel about whales, don't see this movie. Not recommended in general, except maybe for certain real-life ten-year-olds. I couldn't find an MPAA rating, but if your kid is ready, you'll know.

    Video game watch: at one point we see Annie playing Devil World on the family TV using a N64 controller. This may appear to be a ridiculous inaccuracy, since Devil World was a Famicom game and it never even came out in America, but it's actually one of the subtlest, truest portrayals of video games I've ever seen in a movie. The "N64 controller" has AV cables coming out of it, indicating that it's an all-in-one system loaded with pirate ROMs. Specifically, it's the Power Player Super Joy III, which comes with Devil World and displays the flashing "FUN TIME" we see earlier in the scene. So the filmmakers got it absolutely right. Annie's playing Devil World on a crappy pirate Famiclone because that's the only game system her family can afford.

  • Pennies from Heaven (1981): One of the most cynical movies I've ever seen, not just that its attitude is cynical but that it thinks the audience will swallow gritty 70s cinema if we also get fabulous show-stopping musical numbers where Christopher Walken does a tap-dancing pool table striptease. (Highlight of the film.) Fred Astaire, who's unwillingly in this movie via archive footage, said (courtesy IMDB trivia):
    I have never spent two more miserable hours in my life. Every scene was cheap and vulgar. They don't realize that the thirties were a very innocent age, and that [the film] should have been set in the eighties - it was just froth; it makes you cry it's so distasteful.

    I wasn't there in the 30s, but I think someone who says "it was a very innocent age" is really making a statement about their own mental state. Anyway, this sort of gets at the problem, but it doesn't explain how Paper Moon can be a 70s-cinema movie set in the Depression that's very cynical but also funny and a great movie. Doesn't explain Sullivan's Travels.

    The secret ingredient is, again, that vague concept called "heart". Paper Moon and Sullivan's Travels have heart; Pennies from Heaven just hates musicals. But it also has to prove its technical chops to demonstrate that its hate does not spring from jealousy. And the film's technical chops are amazing, absolute first class. So the film is really good at being the thing it hates. It's like a talented lit-fic author writing a novel deconstructing the science fiction genre and then denying the book they've written is, in fact, an exemplar of a school of science fiction that flourished in the 1970s. So how about some heart with your cynicism? That's Dr. Billy Wilder's 100% reliable nostrum.

Reviews of Old Science Fiction Magazines: F&SF October 1985: The first story in this magazine is James Tiptree's "The Only Neat Thing to Do", and the introductory copy introduces the main character as "a green-eyed young woman who happens to be one of the most appealing characters you are likely to encounter in these or any other pages," and my attitude was "Pffft, green eyes, sure, we'll see about that... DAMMIT." This story's so good. It starts out with this perfect wish-fulfillment space adventure but look at the title, folks, it's not gonna end well. Argh, so good.

Harlan Ellison still hates Gremlins, in fact he says he's been getting letters from people who scoffed at his Gremlins hate but now they've seen the movie they're swallowing their pride and sending him "toe-scuffling, red-faced, abnegating appeals for absolution." I'm harboring a doubt or two here, because he's also saying other people who took his advice (and presumably didn't see the movie) are thanking him. Given that Gremlins has consistently been a well-regarded film since its release, why would someone say "Thanks for warning me off the movie I haven't seen that people still seem to like."?

But all that's in the past. In this issue Ellison doubles down, telling people not to see The Goonies due to "utter emptyheadedness", which, okay, at least it's a critique and not 'the lurkers support me in email.' Also on Ellison's shit list for this month: Rambo: First Blood Part II, A View to a Kill, and The Black Cauldron. He loves Cocoon, Ladyhawke, and Return to Oz, and who's to say he's wrong? Not me, 'cause I haven't seen any of those movies.

There's some really corny back-cover copy in one of the ads for books, but I know from experience that writing back-cover copy is the worst, so as a professional courtesy I'm not going to make fun of it. Kind of weird that most of the stories in this issue are SF or horror, but all the ads are for fantasy books.

Halley's Comet fever strikes the classifieds! There's an ad for Halley's Comet, 1910: Fire in the Sky, sort of a historical recreation by Jerred Metz. Also a "HALLEY'S COMET. TIE TAC or Stick Pin. Four color enamel and beautiful." I'm hyping up the Halley's Comet thing because I happen to own a mint in-box Halley's Comet Hot Wheels car the likes of which are currently going on eBay for a measly $5.32 used including shipping. C'mon! This is my nest egg here! I demand... demand!

Minecraft Archive Project: 201502 Capture: I've done a new capture of data for the Minecraft Archive Project, my big 2014 project to archive the early history of Minecraft before it disappeared. My goal for the refresh was to capture what has happened in the past year while doing as little work as possible, and I met my goal. The whole thing took about two weeks, and most of that was a matter of letting things run overnight. Most of the actual work was refactoring the code I wrote the first time to make future captures even easier.

Top-line numbers: I've archived another 150 gigabytes of good stuff, including 18k maps and schematics, 1k mods, 11k skins, 7k texture packs (resource packs now, I guess), and 100k screenshots. I was able to archive about 73% of the maps. Four percent of them maps were just gone, and 23% I didn't know how to download.

The 201404 Minecraft Archive Project capture contains data from four sites. The new 201502 capture is limited to two sites: the official Minecraft forum and the huge Planet Minecraft site. I started archiving maps, mods, and textures for Minecraft Pocket Edition, and was able to pick up about 5500 MCPE maps.

Now that I've done this twice without getting into trouble, I'll give a little more detail about the process. I've got scripts that download the archives of the Minecraft forum and Planet Minecraft. I find all the threads/projects modified since the last capture, download the corresponding detail pages (e.g. the first page of a forum thread--I'm only after the original post), and extract all the links.

Then it's a matter of archiving as many of those links as possible. I've written recipes for archiving images and downloads. These six recipes take care of the vast majority of items:

  • Two file hosts: Mediafire and Dropbox
  • Four image hosts: imgur, Photobucket, TinyPic, and postimage.org

There's also a general catch-all for people who host things on normal home pages, as Tim Berners-Lee intended. If your URL looks like the URL to an image or a binary archive, I will ask for that URL. If you serve me the image or the binary instead of an HTML file telling me to click on something, then I'll archive the file.

I decode most link shorteners except for the ones that make you click through ads, mainly adfoc.us and adf.ly. The 2014 archive had about 18,000 maps behind adf.ly links, and I spent a lot of time running Selenium clients clicking through the ads to discover the Mediafire links. I think that took a month. This time there were about 3000 new maps behind adf.ly links and I just didn't bother.

There are two big blind spots in my dataset, and they're the same as last time. One is mods. A lot of mods are hosted on Github and CurseForge, two big sites I didn't write recipes for. There's also the issue of mod packs, which have been steadily growing in popularity and complexity as development on core Minecraft winds down. Thanks to things like the Hardcore Questing Mod, modpacks are entering the "custom challenge" territory previously occupied solely by world archives.

There are sites that list mod packs (1 2) but I don't want to spend the time figuring out how to archive all the mod packs. There's also the problem that mod packs are huge.

The second blind spot is servers. It's theoretically possible to join a public Minecraft server with a modded client and automatically archive the map, but realistically it ain't gonna happen. I complained about this last time, but now I've done an assessment of what's being lost.

Planet Minecraft has a big server list that mentions the last time it was able to ping any particular server. There doesn't seem to be any purging of dead servers, so I'm able to get good measurements of the typical lifecycle.

Of the 136k servers in the list, 12k are "online" (The most recent Planet Minecraft ping was successful). 51k are "offline" (Most recent Planet Minecraft ping failed, but there was a successful ping less than two weeks ago) and 73k I declare "dead" (last successful ping was more than two weeks ago). It seems really weird that of the nearly half of the 'offline' servers went offline in the past two weeks, so something's going on there; maybe Planet Minecraft's ping process is unreliable, or it just takes a long time to check every server, or servers go up and down all the time.

Anyway, the median lifetime for a public Minecraft server is 434 days, a little over a year. These things go online, people do a bunch of work on them, and then they disappear. I've kind of gotten to 'acceptance' on this, but it's still obnoxious.

One final thing: I thought I'd check if I could see the result of Mojang's June announcement of rules for how you can make money by hosting servers (and, more importantly, how you can't). I wanted to see if these rules had a chilling effect on the formation of new servers or caused a lot of old servers to shut down.

And... no, not really. Here's a chart showing two sixty-day periods around June 12, the date of the Mojang blog post. For each day I show 'births' (the number of servers first seen on that day) and 'deaths' (the number of servers last seen on that day). There's a drop-off in new servers around the end of July, but then it picks up again stronger than before. I don't have an explanation for it but I don't think there's anything in here you can pin on a blog post. The Mojang rules were probably intended to go after a small number of large obnoxious servers, and everyone else either doesn't care or flies under the radar.

(Screenshot is from World #57 by Art_Fox. I didn't archive the map because it's behind an adf.ly link, but I got the screenshot.)

PS: Congratulations to Anticraft, the oldest public Minecraft server I could find that's still online, added to Planet Minecraft on February 28, 2011.

Update: I fixed up the adf.ly code and let it run for another two weeks (!), saving another 2000 Minecraft maps and 700 MCPE maps. I probably won't do this again because it's a huge pain, but I said that this time and ended up doing it out of some sense of obligation to the future, so maybe obligation will strike again, who knows.

Poems of SCIENCE! I Mean, Science: I picked up a cheap old poetry anthology called Poems of Science, figuring there'd be some good stuff. And... there was, but I had wait for the modern conception of "science" to come about, and then spot poetry about a hundred years to come to grips with it, and decide that science is interesting and not going to go away. By that time I was more than halfway through the anthology. But around the late nineteenth century some excellent poetry starts happening, and I thought I'd share a couple links.

Miroslav Holub's Zito the Magician and Robert Browning's much longer An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician are really great and work as spec-fic stories. Swinburne's Hertha is this weird humanist we-are-made-of-star-stuff mythology that's what you'd expect from Swinburne. And then there's "Cosmic Gall", a goofy poem by John Updike which I'm gonna quote in full because it's the only thing of John Updike's I've read and liked.

Cosmic Gall
John Updike

Neutrinos, they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And, scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me. Like tall
And painless guillotines they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed—you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.

The Ghost of Ghostbusters Past: Just a quick semi-technical post on how I made @WeBustedGhosts, my new bot that casts movies from an alternate history where "ghostbusters" is a stock comedy genre, sort of a twentieth-century commedia dell'arte. In particular, I did a lot of work with IMDB data that I want to record for your benefit (and by you, I mean future me).

The bot was inspired by two things: first, this video by Ivan Guerrero which "premakes" Ghostbusters as a 1954 comedy starring Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray, and Martin/Lewis. Second, the reaction of fools to the fact that women comedians will bust ghosts in the upcoming Ghostbusters remake. More specifically, Kris's endless mockery of the idea that "ghostbuster" is a job with a legitimate gender qualification.

These things got me thinking about the minimal set of things you need to make Ghostbusters. You need the idea of combining a horror movie with a comedy about starting a business. Someone could have come up with that idea in the silent film era. You need a director and four actors who can do comedy. And all those people need to be alive and working at the same time, because ghosts aren't real... OR ARE THEY? Either way, you can describe a point in Ghostbusters space with six pieces of information: four actors, a director, and a year. That's small enough to fit into a tweet, so I made a Twitter bot.

Our journey to botdom starts, as you might expect, with an IMDB data dump. I've dealt with IMDB data before and this time I was excited to learn about IMDbPY, which promised to get a handle on the ancient and not-terribly-consistent flat-file IMDB data format. Unfortunately IMDbPY is designed for looking up facts about specific movies, not for reasoning over the set of all movies. However, it does have a great script called imdbpy2sql.py, which will take the flat-file format and turn it into a SQL database.

There will be SQL in this discussion (because I want to show you/future me how to do semi-complex stuff with the database created by IMDbPY), but unless you're future me, you can skip it. Basically, for each actor in IMDB, I need to calculate that actor's tendency to get high billing in popular comedies for a given year. They don't have to be good comedies, or Ghostbusters-like comedies, they just have to have a lot of IMDB ratings.

I also want to figure out each actor's effective comedy lifespan. If an actor stops doing popular comedy or dies or retires, they should stop showing up in the dataset. If a dramatic actor branches out into comedy they should show up in the dataset as of their first comedic performance. Basically, if you learned that this actor starred in a comedy that came out in a certain year, it shouldn't be a big surprise.

Orson Wells would be great in a Ghostbusters movie, but he never did comedy, so he's not in the dataset. How about... Cameron Diaz? She rarely gets top billing, but she has second or third billing in a lot of very popular comedies. For a year like 1997 she tops the list of potential women Ghostbusters.

How about... Peter Falk? His first comedy role was in 1961's Pocket Full of Miracles, his last in 2005's Checking Out. His acting career stretches from 1957 to 2009, but he's only a potential Ghostbuster between 1961 and 2005. He won't get chosen very often, because he's not primarily known for comedy (i.e. his comedies aren't as popular as other peoples'), but it will happen occasionally.

That's the data I extracted. Not "how famous is this actor" but "how much would you expect this actor to be in a comedy in a given year".

The IMDbPY database is more complicated than I like to deal with, so my strategy was to use SQL get a big table of roles and then process it with Python. Here's SQL to get every major role in a comedy that has more than 1000 votes on IMDB:

select title.title, title.production_year, movie_info_idx.info, name.name, name.gender, cast_info.nr_order, kind_id from title join cast_info on title.id=cast_info.movie_id join name on cast_info.person_id=name.id join movie_info_idx on movie_info_idx.movie_id=title.id join movie_info on movie_info.movie_id=title.id where cast_info.role_id in (1,2) and kind_id in (1,3,4) and movie_info.info_type_id=3 and movie_info.info='Comedy' and cast(movie_info_idx.info as integer) > 1000 and movie_info_idx.info_type_id=100 and cast_info.nr_order <= 7;

Some explanation of numbers and IDs:

  • movie_info_idx.info_type_id=100 means the join against the movie_info_idx table is looking up the number of votes (id #100 in my info_type table).
  • cast(movie_info_idx.info as integer) > 1000 means that the number of votes has to be more than 1000.
  • cast_info.role_id in (1,2) means I'm only considering "actor" and "actress" roles (IDs 1 and 2 in my role_type table). I'm not considering directors, writers, etc.
  • movie_info.info_type_id=3 means that I'm looking up the genre of the movie ("genre" is ID 3 in my info_type table). Then I use movie_info.info='Comedy' to restrict to 'Comedy'.
  • kind_id in (1,3,4) means I'm only considering "movie", "tv movie" and "video movie" (items 1, 3, and 4 in my kind_type table) I'm not considering television, video games, etc.
  • cast_info.nr_order <= 7 means I'm only considering the top seven billed actors for each movie.

I run this on a SQLite database and the output looks like:

#1 Cheerleader Camp|2010|2297|Cassell, Seth|m|2|4
...

So the title of the movie is "#1 Cheerleader Camp", it came out in 2010, it has 2297 votes, and Seth Cassell (a man) was an actor in that movie and got fourth billing.

Why didn't I include television in this query? Because television on IMDB is really complicated. See, actors aren't credited to television shows; they're credited to individual episodes. But nobody rates individual episodes; they rate the show as a whole. So I had to do a separate query to determine who the top actors were on each comedy television show, and then divide up that show's votes between the four top actors. Otherwise actors whose primary comedy career is in television won't get their due.

Here's SQL to get all the roles in TV episodes:

select tv_show.title, episode.title, episode.production_year, votes.info, name.name, name.gender, cast_info.nr_order from title as tv_show join title as episode on tv_show.id=episode.episode_of_id join cast_info on episode.id=cast_info.movie_id join name on cast_info.person_id=name.id join movie_info_idx as votes on votes.movie_id=tv_show.id join movie_info on movie_info.movie_id=tv_show.id where cast_info.role_id in (1,2) and tv_show.kind_id in (2,5) and episode.kind_id=7 and movie_info.info_type_id=3 and movie_info.info='Comedy' and cast(votes.info as integer) > 10000 and votes.info_type_id=100 and cast_info.nr_order < 5;

This is pretty similar to the last query but some of the IDs are different.

  • tv_show.kind_id in (2,5) means the show "tv series" and "tv mini series", IDs 2 and 5 from my kind_type table.
  • episode.kind_id=7 is "episode". I'm joining the title table against itself, the first time as "tv_show" and the second time as "episode". The votes come from "tv_show" and the roles come from "episode".

I run this and the output looks like:

'Allo 'Allo!|A Bun in the Oven|1991|14022|Kaye, Gorden|m|1
...

This means there's an 'Allo 'Allo! episode called "A Bun in the Oven", the episode came out in 1991, 'Allo 'Allo (NOT this specific episode) has 14,022 votes, and Gorden Kaye got top billing for this episode.

I got this data out of a database as quickly as possible and bashed at it to make a TV show look like a movie with four actors--the four actors who appeared in the most episodes of the TV show.

Directors were pretty similar to film actors. for each director who's ever worked in comedy, I measured their tendency towards putting out a popular comedy in any given year. There's a very strong power law here, with a few modern directors overshadowing their contemporaries, and Charlie Chaplin completely obliterating all his contemporaries.

Here's SQL to get all comedies with their directors:

select title.title, title.production_year, movie_info_idx.info, name.name, name.gender from title join cast_info on title.id=cast_info.movie_id join name on cast_info.person_id=name.id join movie_info_idx on movie_info_idx.movie_id=title.id join movie_info on movie_info.movie_id=title.id where cast_info.role_id in (8) and kind_id in (1,3,4) and movie_info.info_type_id=3 and movie_info.info='Comedy' and cast(movie_info_idx.info as integer) > 5000 and movie_info_idx.info_type_id=100;

The only new number here is cast_info.role_id in (8), which means I'm now picking up directors instead of actors.

At this point I was done with the SQL database. I wrote the "Ghostbusters casting office". It chooses a year, picks a cast and a director for that year, and then (15% of the time) it picks a custom title. My stupidly hilarious technique for custom titles is to choose the name of an actual comedy from the given year and replace one of the nouns with "Ghost" or "Ghostbuster". So far this has led to films like "Don't Drink the Ghost" and (I swear this happened during testing) "Ghostbuster Dad".

Here's how I pick a cast for a given year: I line up all the actors for that year by my calculated variable "tendency towards being a Ghostbuster", and then I use random.expovariate to choose from different places near the front of the list (to bias the output towards actors you won't have to look up). This is the same trick I use for Serial Entrepreneur to choose common (but not too common) adjectives and nouns for its inventions. My means are 0.85, 0.8, 0.75, and 0.7, which will, on average, give me someone who's at the 85th percentile, someone at the 80th percentile, 75th percentile and 70th percentile.

This is the best I could do to recreate the dynamic of 1984 Ghostbusters where Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd were very well-known actors even before Ghostbusters, where Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis were not. At this point you might object that Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis weren't even 75th or 70th percentile. Ghostbusters was Ramis's second movie ever as an actor; I think there was an oral history that said he gave himself the part of Egon Spengler because no one else was a big enough dork. So for pure accuracy I should be doing, like, 0.90/0.85/0.35/0.30. But that gives you way too many obscure actors and the output isn't as fun. It also doesn't feel accurate, because 1984 Ghostbusters was a real movie, and all by itself it made Hudson and Ramis pretty famous actors. So now we expect "Ghostbuster" to be sort of a prestige comedy role.

A more valid point is that 0.8/0.8/0.75/0.7 also doesn't really capture the dynamic of the 2016 Ghostbusters, where all four actors are well-known but Kristen Wiig has twice the credits of the other three. So I also created an 0.85/0.8/0.8/0.75 mode, which will tend to give you more big-name ensembles.

As always, there's a lot of behind-the-scenes data munging. Going from a bunch of "xth billing in movie with y votes" entries to a single "tendency towards being a Ghostbuster" number required a lot of semi-arbitrary decisions, and I think my algorithm still undercounts television actors. Whenever there was a power law, I smoothed it out a little to increase the variety of the output. I smoothed out the overrepresentation of post-IMDB comedies compared to pre-IMDB comedies; of superstar directors like Chaplin who overshadow everyone else in their time; and of men directors vastly outnumbering women.

Representation of women comedic actors vs. men was not an issue because I followed the lead of the Ghostbusters remake. 45% of the ghostbusting teams are all women, and 45% are all men. (10% of teamups are coed, just to add variety.) There's no code that makes sure all the actors speak the same language or anything like that—I could extract that data from IMDB but it would be a lot of work to make the output of the bot less interesting.

And there you go. It's not source code, but you should be able to see more or less how I took this bot from concept to execution, and how I negotiated the tricky space between "this is an accurate representation of what would happen in an alternate universe where the primary cinematic comedy genre is films about busting ghosts" and "this is a fun output for this bot to have."

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Cogito, Ergo Sumana
Sumana oscillates between focus and opportunity

: Parties and Gifts: To what extent do you think of your open stuff contributions as gifts? Does this match up with your sense of your communities on the caring-to-combative spectrum?

several papercraft pieces I made, and gave awayTo you, what are the manners surrounding giving and receiving gifts?

In transactions without money changing hands, how do we demonstrate what we value?

Does it motivate you to think of your fanfic, your bug reports, your wiki edits, your patches, your teaching as gifts for a specific person? Or for a community?

Do the community leaders in your open stuff communities treat those artifacts as gifts? What about other participants?

What would a "Secret Santa"-style gift exchange along the lines of Yuletide Treasure or Festivids look like in the world of English Wikisource? Or Django? Or wherever you contribute bits?


(1) : More Books I've Read Recently: More book reviews from the past year or so! I am still catching up and am not done catching up.

Up Against It by MJ Locke. You can read the first 5 chapters free online. I read this fast-paced space mystery during the 2014 summer vacation I shared with Julia and Moss, and enjoyed it as a mystery/procedural, as solid hard scifi, and as a character study of the protagonist. The first time we see Jane Navio, head of the Resource Commission, she makes a tough call. She is the kind of creative, tough leader who can abandon a few likely-to-die people in order to save resources the space colony's going to need in three weeks' time. Later we see that she's a cunning, passionate, thoughtful, and empathetic leader as well -- once you've read it, talk with me about a monologue she delivers in the last few pages of the book, about work and the public eye, because when I read it (as I was thinking about the job I then had at Wikimedia Foundation) it struck me as though I were a gong. And you get space surveillance, posthuman subsocieties, and some teen drama as well, but basically I am all about super leader Jane. Incidentally, MJ Locke is an open pseudonym for Laura J. Mixon, whose work Leonard has really liked. I should pick up more Mixon.

Life Class and Toby's Room by Pat Barker. I thank yatima for bringing my attention to Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which is super great. And thanks to Sam Read Book Shop in Grasmere, where Julia, Moss, and I stopped during our walk. I saw and picked up Perfecting Sound Forever, then got to talking with the store clerk, found out Pat Barker had new World War I fiction out, and bought it. I read both of these books in spare moments while continuing the Coast-To-Coast walk, which meant I had a sort of double vision of England, seeing it in front of my face in 2014, and seeing it in my head a hundred years previous. During my Coast-to-Coast walk in 2012 with Mel, I'd basked in the hospitality of rural northern England. And I enjoyed it again when I came back last year, but I also saw it through wartime eyes -- participant and observer at once. The cosy bits of life -- board games, pub trivia nghts, jokes over breakfast -- felt like civilization, like something to protect, like "what we're fighting for." Life Class -- in comparison to Regeneration -- feels like Young Adult, perhaps because we see the journey these youngish adults take because of the war. Toby's Room has a lot to recommend it but there is a sex-related content warning that I'll put in the comments as it's a spoiler.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho (reread). So fun and funny and heartwarming and incisive. "I used to be a good girl and that was uncomplicated, but I thought complicated would be more interesting than safe." If you liked Jade Yeo, check out this interview with Cho about fluff for postcolonial booknerds, the fantasy of communicating easily with your ancestors and heritage, and her writing in general. I particularly love the bomb she drops nonchalantly: "I've always loved stories that examine the dynamics within small communities with their own rules and conventions -- Jane Austen's two inches of ivory, Enid Blyton's school stories, L. M. Montgomery's Canadian villages, Star Trek's starships." YES. Just add that last one on there. Ooof.

your blue-eyed boys by Feather (lalaietha). Via a recommendation from yatima. I read this both before and after I watched a bunch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it makes more sense afterwards (me during the first read: "who's this Sam guy?"). It's the longest piece of MCU fic I've read, but you might also like my Archive of our Own recommendations and Pinboard bookmarks.

American Taxation, American Slavery by Robin Einhorn (2006, University of Chicago Press) (partial reread). This history remains brainbending and full of astonishing anecdotes. Dr. Einhorn's particularly great in describing the importance of institutional competence in government agencies and in refuting "taxation=slavery" rhetoric. Check out this example of her amazingness.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (reread) and Iacocca: An Autobigraphy (reread). I wrote about these at the time but I did not really talk about why I read Iacocca. I was about eight, and visiting India with family, and I read voraciously. I remember reading many issues of Reader's Digest (the Indian edition, which was different from the US edition). And a relative of mine had a copy of Iacocca and I read it with tremendous interest. I had never read such a detailed narrative about grown-up work before! He used the f-word and I was SCANDALIZED. Cars, these things that I utterly took for granted, did not just emerge ab nihilo; someone had to think them up and design them and compromise and whatnot. And I think I also liked reading Iacocca -- as I liked watching and reading Andy Rooney -- because they used plain language and owned up to their frailties.

So I monologued, a lot, the way kids do, but about Lee Iacocca and Chrysler and the K-car and the Mustang and various other topics, and these Indian aunts and uncles of mine smiled and nodded and perhaps presumed I would be an automotive engineer when I grew up. And then my parents held a sort of family reunion party (the hook being "Sumana's and Nandini's birthday (Observed)"), and my uncle Ashwin gave me one of the most memorable gifts I've ever received: Iacocca's new book of essays, Talking Straight. I don't think I even knew it existed before I had it in my hands! I was SO EXCITED. I probably forgot the minimal socialization my parents had painstakingly attempted to instill in me and went off to a corner to start in on it right away. I am still laughing about this.

Incidentally, the hunger for reading material also affected me eight years later, on another trip to India, as I was preparing to return to the States. Airplanes had no seatback entertainment; you brought twenty-two hours' worth of self-entertainment resources to get you all the way to San Francisco or you explored new depths in boredom. The day before my flight, Mom took me to an English-language bookstore. I'd heard The Lord of the Rings was good, and long. The store didn't have it. But they did have this other super long book. And that's how I read Atlas Shrugged.

(Even so, somewhere above the Pacific I started skimming that Galt radio speech. It is so repetitive you could programmatically transform it into a musical score suitable for Koyaanisqatsi!)

An inflight shopping magazine that helped me discover my roller derby name ("Asian Competence").

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(0) : Director's Commentary on "Randomized Dystopia": Now that I'm not all arrrrgh I just want to launch this thing I'll talk a little more about why I made Randomized Dystopia: to help us think about how dystopian fiction (and real repression) works, and to remind everybody of rights that don't get enough airtime, like variety in breakfast

wait, no, I mean:

Freedom of association

In January, I read Courtney Milan's Trade Me, in which protagonist Tina Chen mentions how hard it is for many Americans to wrap their heads around the oppression of Falun Gong practitioners. A stripped-down excerpt, from page 9 of my edition:

I hate trying to explain Falun Gong to Westerners. Sometimes, I wish my parents had been caught up in something comprehensible, like tax reform or Tiananmen Square....

No, it's not a freedom of speech issue. No, it's not a religion, not like you understand it. It's never going to make sense to you ... It's like free exercise of ... exercise...

Milan goes into more detail on this point in an interview about Trade Me. Again, a snipped-up excerpt:

...the communist regime is very, very jealous of concentrations of power in anyone but the Communist Party. And so near the end of the '90s, there were probably millions of people who were practicing Falun Gong, and they would get together in the park and they would practice and, you know, all of this stuff, and they, the Communist Party started getting a little worried about it, because they didn’t like the idea that there were these people.... he had followers, and they don't like, they didn't like the idea of somebody having followers, so they banned the practice. And to their amazement, people protested it, and they didn't know the protest was coming. So, like, 10,000 people showed up to protest in Beijing, and they were like, the fuck did these people come from?

And that, it scared the shit out of them, basically. You know, like, all these people care, and this is just sort of like what happened with, like, almost no organizing over a weekend? This is scary. So they cracked down on it, and they cracked down on it really, really hard.

One way to understand the Falun Gong crackdown is as a denial of freedom of association (articulated as "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, to oversimplify). A totalitarian state only allows relationships that the state can surveil or break. We need not only privacy in the metadata of our group membership, but respect for our underlying freedom of association, the freedom to belong to a despised group.

But when I hear people talking about rights, including when we explore dystopias where someone's denying us those rights, I don't usually hear us explicitly mention freedom of association. We talk often about privacy, freedom of speech, reproductive and sexual freedom, fair and free elections, and judicial due process.

And so I'd also like to raise awareness (especially in the US) of more comprehensive lists of rights. In "Randomized Dystopia" I draw from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Too often in the US I hear people talk as though the first ten amendments to the US Constitution comprise all the rights we ought to honor, and humanity has done some more thinking on those topics in the intervening centuries.

Upon using Randomized Dystopia, several commenters noticed how the US falls short regarding many of the rights in the UDHR, CEDAW, and CRC. Yup.

How dystopias work

And then, in mid-March, I was talking with Sabrina Banes about current dystopian fiction, especially novels in English for the Young Adult market. She sketched out their basic themes and trajectory (and Sabrina I'd love for you to write more about your thoughts on what aspects cluster around Evil Villain Governments versus around Plucky Young Protagonists). And I realized how essential it is, as a plot mechanic, that cookie-cutter YA dystopias deny freedom of association.

Chapter 1. My parents, friends, and government tell me I can't ever go talk to Those People Over There. They're bad and wrong and subject to arbitrary arrest or execution. But sometimes I don't particularly want to be a WheelCog. But what else is there?

......

Chapter 5. So I talked to Those People Over There and hoo boy, I was spectacularly underinformed about the nature of my world, political system, and socially constructed values! [If freedom of association is limited, the author can more plausibly dribble out exposition to the reader -- it's easier to play keep-away with the MacGuffin -- and it gets easier for authorities to enforce limits on speech.]

.....

Chapter 10. Oh wow, I am one of Those People Over There. In fact maybe quite a lot of us don't fit as WheelCogs, down underneath! [If you hang out with someone, it's a lot harder to treat them as a category, an object. And once you can talk freely with an ostracized group, you might see how you are like them; your perception of your own identity might change. I believe the standard YA dystopia character development arc depends on struggles around freedom of association.]

...

Chapter 12. However this is causing certain problems with, well, every other part of my life. Time to overthrow things!

What other rights have interesting properties as plot mechanics within dystopian fiction? I hope writers find "Randomized Dystopia" interesting as a writing prompt, and I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on the interaction of rights and dystopian narrative.

Technical details

See the README in the code repository (go ahead and reuse the code and the idea -- the code is GPL). If you've never written a web application before, this kind of toy -- massage some text into structured-data form and use random.choice or random.sample to display a few selections to the reader -- is a fun starter project.

Takeaways

  1. Yeah the US is not doing so hot (and many other countries are not, either); there's a lot to be done
  2. Please write science fiction about Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 14, Section 2, Clause E of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (or, failing that, please write about insurance fraud and/or Quakers in space, so I can read it)
  3. I launched a project making fun of the tropes of dystopian science fiction just before Taco Bell did, which means I'm an influencer and available for consulting at exorbitant rates
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(0) : Randomized Dystopia: Are you tired of the same old dystopias? Why not write about tyrannies that deny different rights?

Try Randomized Dystopia!

I see a lot of repetitive dystopian fiction about denying people (often teenagers) the right to free speech or freedom of movement. But did you know that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women discuss several more ways that governments sometimes stomp on our liberties?

The next time you're writing a futuristic dystopia, hit the Assorted Abrogations page to see three underappreciated freedoms a government could quash -- until your rebellious heroes stop them! Or hit the Custom Terribleness page to make yours a specifically sexist or ageist dystopia!

Made on a lark by Sumana Harihareswara using Flask, partially based on bev-a-tron's tutorial and inspired by a conversation with Sabrina Banes and elements of Courtney Milan's book Trade Me. Thanks to Leonard Richardson for aid with deployment. Harihareswara does not endorse the sexist language of the UDHR, which was ratified in 1948, the gender binary implied by the CEDAW, or the otherwise less-than-inclusive language of these documents.

Seriously, it would rock if someone used this as a jumping-off point for a scifi short story where, say, rural women were denied equal access to artificial intelligence training.

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(1) : I Love You, Sweetie: I have the best spouse.

I spent basically the entire afternoon and evening waylaid by an inexplicable short-term illness (I would blame food poisoning except I can't work out the causality). Leonard's super solicitousness extended not just to preparing and giving me exactly the right amounts of whatever foods and fluids and analgesics I thought might help, but also to reading aloud to me from my current book (Courtney Milan's The Suffragette Scandal) when I wanted my comfort reading but couldn't bear to take it in visually. He also noted that Edward's early self-presentation to Free is rather like how Q talks to Picard, which is SO TRUE.

This is in addition to his help and reassurance last night on a programming project of mine. Deployment is terrible. I had successfully SSH'd into that machine before! I know I had! He has heard me grumble "all is vanity" in a stompy way many times, and he always gently supports me so I can change my mind. Not all is vanity. And it will be fun to launch this thing, this week I hope. I think you'll like it.

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(0) : I Invite First-Timers To WisCon: I have been to WisCon three times (2009, 2010, 2011) and I am going again this year, yay! If you enjoy my writing, you might like WisCon, and -- especially if you've never tried it before -- you should consider joining me in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, May 22-25 (Memorial Day weekend).

Smart, funny conversations. Mary Anne Mohanraj and me at a past WisCon, photo by E. J. FischerSome of my best WisCon memories are of really funny panels (I enjoyed serving on the "Must Pleasures Be Guilty?" and "Imaginary Book Club" panels, and watching "Not Another Race Panel"). Some are of friendly semistructured interaction like the clothing swap at the Gathering on Friday afternoon. And some some are of formal and informal discussions where incisive people tossed around ideas that gave me new thoughts for the rest of the year. I expect to get all of that this year, and if you decide to come, I'll happily tell you which panels/panelists/parties/workshops/etc. look promising to me!

Relevant sessions. You can create a free account to look at programming signups and indicate your interest in attending -- the deadline is March 29. The programming committee does take those numbers (how many people demonstrate interest in attending something) into account when rejecting or scheduling specific sessions. And there's an Overflow/Spontaneous Programming (a.k.a. unconference) room throughout the convention -- for topics people want to discuss that aren't on the schedule -- where we can hold impromptu sessions about vidding, open source, self-directed learning....

Accessibility lane at WisCon, photo by sasha_feather, CC BY-NC-SAGreat accessibility. I especially love the Quiet Space to regroup, the free-flowing traffic lanes marked in the hall with blue tape, and the rule that speakers use microphones so the audience can hear better. They all help me enjoy the con more, and they help other attendees, which means I can enjoy their company. And overall, I find WisCon participants care about being intersectionally feminist and inclusive (example: discussion and renaming in the Floomp dance party). Sometimes folks make mistakes, as we all do, but we apologize, and fix it, and (although I know other people have had different experiences*) I trust in WisCon in the long term and am happy to recommend it to others, including people who have never been to a scifi con before. It was my first!

First-timers welcome. The site gives you detailed directions to the venue. There's usually a first-timers' dinner (small group expeditions to local restaurants, I think), and orientation sessions, early in the con, to help first-time attendees and first-time panelists (tips) and first-time moderators (tips). If you feel better showing up someplace for the first time if you're being useful, check the checkbox to volunteer, e.g., for a couple of hours in the con suite stocking free food for everybody. And I would be happy to help you meet folks (my credentials from a shy previous WisCon first-timer).

Another world is possible. I cannot overstate how much it has influenced me to participate in WisCon, which asks everyone to influence programming, provides accessibility and childcare and a comprehensive program guide, and nurtures and amplifies feminist voices. And WisCon communicates thoroughly with its community via blog, Twitter, Facebook, an email newsletter and printed, mailed progress reports, and more. This includes talking about really difficult stuff like owning up to past mistakes in handling harassment reports and disinviting a Guest of Honor (if you've never been to a scifi convention, think "keynote speaker").

A gateway to more. I've made friends, started watching or reading new stuff, and joined Dreamwidth to keep in the feminist fannish conversation year-round.

I skipped WisCon for years basically because I had other travel commitments for work, and this year I'm so glad to be coming back. Feminists of all genders who enjoy science fiction, think about coming to Madison in May.


* Kameron Hurley posted "Burn it All Down: Wiscon’s Failure of Feminism" before the WisCon con committee permabanned a particular harasser. As this year's cochair said in criticizing the previous decision for a temporary ban, "WisCon bills itself as a feminist sci-fi con. And compared to some others that I have attended, it is definitely better at paying lip service to being feminist than any of them."


: No Longer With The Ada Initiative: As you may have seen if you follow the Ada Initiative's blog, I've left the TAI's advisory board (which I joined in 2011). I've also left its board of directors, which I joined a little under a year ago. (A reason that I was a useful addition to the board of directors was that Sue Gardner, who left the board due to time constraints, was taking with her a tremendous amount of Wikimedia expertise. Now that she has returned to the board, my Wikimedian expertise is not as critical.) This also means that I'm no longer working on the search for the new executive director, and am a well-wisher from afar for the committee -- and indeed the org.

Some past posts I've made about TAI:

Incidentally, this means I now have zero formal affiliations with any organization, and I am trying to get used to the idea that if I say something super controversial about, say, open source culture, Google Summer of Code, or Yuletide Treasure, the only fallout will be on me. I haven't really had this particular unattachedness since early 2011, and it's rather a change.


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Leonard and Sumana's personal notebook
Peer into Leonard and Sumana's mind

20 Minute Croissant Dough | Edd Kimber | The Boy Who Bakes: Genious?

http://www.geoguessr.com?v=eyJ0b3RhbFBvaW50cyI6MzIwMzUsInZlcnNpb24iOjEsInJvdW5kcyI6W1sicm91bmQiLCJsYXQiLCJsbmciLCJnTGF0IiwiZ0xuZyIsInBvaW50cyJdLFsxLDM3LjU2ODk4NiwxMjYuOTc4NTk1OTk5OTk5OTIsMzcuNTY4NTI4MjY1NDc2MDc1LDEyNi45Nzk5ODA0Njg3NSw2NDY4XSxbMiw1NC40ODkxNTksLTAuNjExMzQwMDAwMDAwMDQxMSw1NC40ODkxNDkxNDcyNDI3MiwtMC42MTE1ODY1NzA3Mzk3NDYxLDY0NzhdLFszLC0zNS4yMDA1ODksMTczLjEzODY4NSwtMzUuMjE3MjI0OTYzODEyMzA2LDE3My4xMTQ1NzYzMzk3MjE2OCw2MjQzXSxbNCwtMjMuNjkyNTA5LDEzMy44ODQ1Mjg5OTk5OTk5MywtMjMuNjg4MTUzOTcxMTM5MzIsMTMzLjg3MjQyMDc4NzgxMTI4LDYzNjhdLFs1LC0xOS45NzYyOTgsMjMuNDI4MTMzMDAwMDAwMDAzLC0xOS45NzYyNzI5NzgwMDQyMjUsMjMuNDI4MjQ4MTY3MDM3OTY0LDY0NzhdXX0%3D: Champions!

http://www.geoguessr.com?v=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: If it's in Botswana, we're gonna find it.

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Traffic
John Chadwick's weblog

the 'Go-to': Everyone has a go-to phrase, something they say when they don't know what to say. For Mary Poppins, it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, for example.

For Dalton, it's 'you're funny!'

He seriously says it to adults when they say something to him and he's not quite sure how to respond. It normally gets a laugh in response, so perhaps HE is the funny one....

[Comments] (2) a funny thing happened on the way to the playground: Kids these days:

Maggie: I got invited to Ronan's birthday! Susie/John: Who's Ronan? Maggie: A boy from school. Susie/John: Are you friends with Ronan? Maggie: No, but he invited me, I think, because I'm a good example at school and he wants to say thank you. (Editor's note: Doubtful this is true, but glad my daughter has a pure heart).

John: I'm going for a walk. Maggie, want to ride your scooter? Maggie: No, I'll just walk with you dad. John: But it's going to be a long walk. Are you sure? Maggie: Yes. If I ride my scooter, I can't talk to you about things.

Dalton: Dad, I'm tired of being the cutest. I do NOT want to be the cutest anymore. (Editor's Note: Sienna is now the cutest and Dalton is the happiest).

Legoland is a pain because Sienna can't go on anything. Unlike Disneyland, the king of all amusement parks. The kids fight in line about who gets to take their turn with me. I may not have been cool at school, but I'm officially the favorite dad in this house!

ring out wild bells: Last week I was fortunate enough to have a 5-day Thanksgiving holiday, which inevitably meant I worked 2 hours a day rather than 14. Nothing beats trying to review a Chinese tax provision with a belly full of tryptophan.

Then Sunday night I took a red eye to Florida. The hotel, weather, and ambiance were very nice, and I actually slept well on the flight. The bummer was going from 50 degree weather to 80 degree weather and back again apparently reduced my defenses and now I'm sick. And I got to work those fun 14 hours days in Florida to boot. But it sure looked nice outside.

The 3-hour time change is, of course, no friend of mine either. I'm beginning now to see the immense benefit India has by being all in one time zone, even if it means they are 30 minutes off the rest of the world.

With three kids, a spouse, a demanding job, and a plethora of hobbies, I find myself constantly chasing time. I pine for the days when I wanted time to move forward. I suppose I'll see those days again in my twilight years. Until then, I merely hold on.

the way we were: Recent life highlights include:

1. Maggie fasting for Grandpa (she is suddenly interested in fasting).

2. Watching the original Star Wars series with the kids.

3. Getting extremely irritated with my career.

4. Learning more about birds than I really care to, because Maggie is into birds.

5. Trying to identify all the seed pods on different trees in our neighborhood, again because Maggie is interested.

6. Having Dalton shanghai all my evening constitutionals with Sienna into play dates at the park in the dark (daddy I want to go on your walk quickly turns into playing at the park, because every direction we could possibly walk in, there is a park!)

7. The Primary Program. I'm glad it's over.

8. Halloween. Our neighborhood does it right! I've never seen such a concentration of homes totally into Halloween! And the best part is, being on the corner, no one comes to our house so we can all go out as a family (dressed as Wreck It Ralph. Plus an owl).

9. Enjoying a wide range of weather. Some days are sunny and 80 (in November) and some days are foggy and 65. Love them both!

10. Watching my kids grow. In particular, Sienna. She loves the stairs.

: It doesn't matter how many times we sing "Child's Prayer" in Primary, I still get teary eyed. Which is not good, since I'm the one playing the piano.

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La Vie En Rose
Rachel Richardson's weblog

I really need to check my job at the door: ...of the bookstore. The other day in Foyles I had to physically restrain myself from re-organizing some Beast Quests that were in the wrong order. Tonight in Waterstones I found myself recommending The Sky is Everywhere to someone looking for a gift for a 15 year old. What can I say? 3 years in a bookstore and old habits die hard.

Overheard in Stoke Newington:
1:"The only good thing about David Cameron"
2&3 in unison: "There's nothing good about David Cameron."
1"...is his taste in music."

Whigs and Tories: I went to a "mustache and wig" party as a Lib Dem supporter, but no one got it.

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My Seussical Life
My Seussical Life

Backward Thinking: When planning a Redbox return, I felt a fleeting anxiety that I had not hit "rewind" on my movie. That was a strange throw-back.

[Comments] (3) On that note. . .: I'm back to the blog and intend to update more steadily than in the last five years. Among other reasons, I stopped blogging because I was overwhelmed by how popular blogging had suddenly become. Does anyone else get overwhelmed by the thought of an internet audience beyond a handful of family members and close friends? I like to be a bit more off the radar, I guess. But I'm back.

Dear Mr. Fellowes:: Is this Masterpiece Theatre or soap opera disguised in period dress? Downton Abbey, how you frustrate me!

First Sweat of Spring: I did some impromptu weeding of the garden today. Actually, first I locked myself out of the house and then dug around in the dirt while I waited for the locksmith to arrive.

[Comments] (1) Ratings: "Do I make the best guacamole in the world, Mom?" Atticus asks.

"You definitely make fabulous guacamole." I assure.

"Well. . . I am for sure in the top three."

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Frances Whitney's weblog

Obituary: Here is the link to Mom's obituary, printed in the Bakersfield Californian on Tuesday. The death date is wrong, it was actually May 5, 2006

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No Day But Today
Jill Whitney's weblog

Funny things: I heard today...

"There are nice ones and naughty ones like 'Hey lets make Icecream sundaes tonight' is nice, while 'Hey babe, I'll bring the nuts and chocolate syrup if you bring the cherry' is naughty."

"Can you believe I'm seventy and still wearing a g-string?"

"I'm going to choke on my ice!" "Don't worry, it should melt before you expire."

[Comments] (2) Museum of Ancient Life: Yesterday we went to the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving point. I don't care what your philosophy is on how or when or why dinosaurs etc, existed they are still cool to learn about. I hadn't been to the museum in years but it still was fascinating to walk around. Of course my favorite was t-Rex and the giant shark. I still remember years ago when all of my cousins were in town and we pretended to throw Lorna in the shark's mouth, I ducked from the caveman skeleton that was throwing a rock, and Frances posed with the archeologists because we were sure to be related!

[Comments] (14) Precepting: Newsflash... I get to precept this semester in the ER at Ogden Regional Hospital. I am so excited!!!

[Comments] (1) lazy: I have nothing much to report except that I am LAZY. I have always known this, but I realize that I really just pretty much do nothing most of the time. I guess it's becaus I have to be so efficent at work and school, that I can't do it at home. oh well.

Current Projects: -catching up on my scrapbook. Doing ok except I haven't started BB season and I just printed 200 new pics. Yes seriously at least 200. I have an addiction. -Finishing my recipe book. I am frusterated because I can't find my 34th ward RS cookbook and it has recipes I need. Otherwise it is looking awesome. -Cleaning my room. Not doing so well, let's be honest. -Laundry. Hate it, need to desperatly do it. and for the love it's FREE finally, why don't I just do it already!?! -petting the dogs and watching TV....very good at this.

Random thought: I went to the movies (finally saw Indiana Jones) and there was a poster that disturbed me... "No children under 6 allowed in rated-R movies after 6 p.m. Keep your child safe." ummm last time I checked children under 6 shouldn't go to rated-R movies period. Not to mention before 6 anyway...

New favorite quote: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." -Anatole France

[Comments] (1) My new job: I love my new job a lot. It is a lot of fun actually. I am working as a nurse at the new Intermountain Medical (aka the Death Star or Mother ship), on the 12th floor. This building is SO tall, and the view is spectacular. I can't wait until I am a registered nurse and get to play with the IV's here, but I can do everything else as an LPN. Yay for the real world...it rocks!!

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Michelle Walch's weblog

[Comments] (3) School: So I am currently attending UVSC. I have had an ok experience and am ready to move on. Next semester I will be attending Blinn at Bryan, TX. I am very excited because I will be 2 hours away from my house instead of 22 hours!!! I am going to get a degree in early childhood education and am very pleased with my degree. I am currently reading a book that is called A Man's Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, i suggest that you do! It has changed my way of looking at things. Take care Shell

[Comments] (1) School: So I am currently attending UVSC. I have had an ok experience and am ready to move on. Next semester I will be attending Blinn at Bryan, TX. I am very excited because I will be 2 hours away from my house instead of 22 hours!!! I am going to get a degree in early childhood education and am very pleased with my degree. I am currently ready a book that is called A Man's Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, i suggest that you do! It has changed my way of looking at things. Take care Shell

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Our Family Recipes
New experiments and old favorites

() Cookie Cookie Cookie!: I was going to go to the library after Maggie's nap, but she didn't take a nap, and also it is snowing and really blowy. So, instead I made Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Cookies! If you have been blessed with one of mom's family recipe boxes, this is in there.

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
2 T unsweetened cocoa
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
16-ounce package chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Beat together sugars and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until well-blended. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. Let stand on sheets 3 minutes. Remove cookies to racks to cool.

Susie the Chef says: 16 ounces of chocolate chips is a ridiculous waste of money and chocolate chips. I put 1/4-1/3 that much. I also didn't put nuts. Even though the batter was pretty dry, I felt like the cookies had a lot of butter in them so I might use a few tablespoons less next time. Next time: yes, they were very yummy!

() Yummy in my Tummy: I've been trying out a lot of new crockpot recipes in an attempt to make feeding my family easier, faster, and yummier. Yesterday I put two chicken breasts and half a jar of spaghetti sauce (Ragu was only $1 at Smith's and I had a coupon - I haven't bought spaghetti sauce in years!) and let it cook on both settings for who-knows-how-long. I served it with whole wheat pasta and parmesan cheese and it was yummy. Probably the easiest meal I've ever made!

I also made an eclair cake at John's request. I made chocolate sauce from scratch because I only use it for eclair cake and I am out of money in my grocery budget this month. It was easy and super yummy. I couldn't find mom's recipe, so I 1/3-ed one I found online:

1/3 c. cocoa
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
Boil for 2-5 minutes.

PS: I uploaded some cute pictures of the bug to our picture blog - click on "Pictures" to the right. And read all my latest articles while you're at it!

() Taco Stack: I was a good wife and made dinner tonight. This isn't the recipe I kept the page for, but it was yummy!

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 package taco seasoning
12 corn tortillas
shredded cheese

Brown ground beef with onion in skillet; drain fat. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Place 1/4 c. meat in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Place two tortillas side by side on meat mixture. Top each tortilla with some meat mixture and shredded cheese. Repeat until each stack contains 6 tortillas layered with meat and cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cut each stack into quarters. I served it with sour cream and green onions.

Also, Tasha inspired me to make babyfood so I bought a butternut squash, baked it, and pureed it in the blender with a bit of water. It is delicious! Maggie liked it too. I'm not sure it was any cheaper though. I will have to try some other recipes.

() Apple-Cheddar Soup: I made this earlier today and it is so yummy. I think I put too many potatoes, because it was kind of chunky.

1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 T. butter
2 med. potatoes, diced
2 c. apple cider
1 t. fresh thyme
1/2 t. salt
dash cayenne pepper
1 med apple, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. milk
2 T. flour
4 oz (1 cup) shredded cheese
fresh apple slices

Cook onion in butter. Stir in potatoes, cider and seasonings. Boil. Simmer covered 15 minutes. Add apple. Simmer 5 minutes until potatoes are tender. combine milk and flour - stir into soup. Cook and stir until bubbly. Whisk in cheese until melted. Top serving dishes with apple slices and fresh ground pepper.

() Fondue for Two: Last night John and I celebrated our anniversary at The Melting Pot. Maggie got babysat by a couple in the ward with two little boys and had the best time.

We enjoyed our yummy fondue meal, but it was very expensive and now that we've done it I don't think we'll go back. We especially enjoyed the dessert fondue. The waiter told us how to make the cookie and/or graham cracker crumb covered marshmallows (just dip the marshmallows in water), so now we can just do that at home. We were thinking what a fun FHE activity that would be to do with young kids.

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[No comments] Enough of That: I got dressed this morning, but Dalton ended up staying home from school sick. So Maggie had a ride to school and a ride home. Sienna's swim lesson was cancelled. Maggie has a ride to and from her musical performance tonight. I think I'll put my pajamas back on.

Double Date: John took Dalton to Disneyland after school. Since I didn't have to worry about picking him up from school, I took Sienna to Disneyland and spent the morning. It was really crowded, with Spring Breaks happening already, but we had fun. We did a few short things, and then waited 45 minutes in line for the princesses. The same princesses we saw (TWICE) last Saturday with no wait whatsoever. Oh well.

I got John and Dalton some fast passes, and John got me and Sienna some pretzels. We had lunch together and went on a couple little rides, then Sienna and I headed home.

Disney with Jill: I managed to drag Dalton to Disneyland on Tuesday morning. Jill and I had planned on just taking Sienna, so having Dalton (lying in the stroller) wasn't a big stretch. He eventually perked up and we had a good time. We searched out some characters Jill wanted to see, then went to Toontown, where we verified that Sienna is now tall enough to ride Gadgets go-coaster. Awesome! She also went on Dumbo will Jill while Dalton began to make up for all the time spent not eating. While they were on Dumbo, Captain Hook came to find us, and Dalton scared him off with Swampy.

I took Sienna and Dalton home. Sienna took a nap and we went back to meet Jill for an evening jaunt. We watched the Pixar Play Parade, and Jill and Maggie went on Radiator Springs Racers in the single rider line. Then we played in Frozen Fun Land (first time ever sledding in flip flops, I think), danced at the dance party, got a treat and headed home. Jill was shocked that she had spent three entire days at Disney, since Tuesday was supposed to be the relaxed day. Fun times!

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Guests take over Crummy while Leonard is away

[Comments] (1) () The Eagle Has Landed: We made it. I'm writing this now via some neighbor's wireless.

[Comments] (13) () The Right To Bear Fardels: During a recent summit The Poor Man made some nonsensical remark denying that there's any humor in C.S. Lewis or Shakespeare. One of those half-drunk "contrarian = sophisticated" bits of bollocks.

In refutation, I've found my favorite (so far) joke in the Bard: Act III, Scene 2 of Hamlet, the bit about Guildenstern, Hamlet, and the pipe. Gertrude has sent Tweedlecrantz and Guildendee to check on why Hamlet Jr. is acting so crazay. Our goth protagonist asks Guildenstern to try playing a recorder.

GUILDENSTERN
I know no touch of it, my lord.

HAMLET
It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your fingers and thumbs, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.

GUILDENSTERN
But these cannot I command to any utt'rance of harmony. I have not the skill.

HAMLET
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be play'd upon than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.

In the four-hour Kenneth Branagh version this little rant is especially breathtaking.

() Geeks, Fire, and Dangerous Things: Seth and I were at Defcon in Las Vegas this weekend. Seth got our friend Praveen to bring Seth's giant Fresnel lens to the con when Praveen drove out on Saturday. The Fresnel lens is roughly 1 meter in diameter. On Sunday afternoon, as the con was winding down, we took the lens (wrapped in a black sheet for safety) out to a quiet back lot behind the convention hotel and, though the sky was overcast with a thin cloud layer so that we could not focus direct sunlight through the lens, we set some stuff on fire. Seth brought four pairs of welding goggles and two pairs of sunglasses for the group, plus safety gloves for whoever held the lens. It was about 102 degrees out, scorching hot even with the clouds, but before the heat drove me back indoors, I watched Seth and David Weekly burn a brown spot into the side of an aluminum can; turn a piece of wood to charcoal; set aflame and burn through a handful of dry grass; and light an onlooker's cigarette (placed on the ground, not in his mouth!). They also tried unsuccessfully to melt a penny and a quarter. I guess it's not as easy as I thought to burn through your money in Las Vegas.

[Comments] (1) () She's an ENIAC: From phone conversations today I gather that Leonard and Frances are visiting the American Computer Museum. In contrast, I'll be enjoying Will Franken's comedy shows tonight, whose most computer-related joke is probably his absurdist "voice command for file cabinet" bit. You can get a hint of that style in his "Show!" clip.

Note to local comics I saw in the back room of a pizza place last night: it is possible to do good spam and Match.com jokes. Please try harder.

() Mr. Joad's Wild Ride: Today Annalisa and I start our drive out west. On our first trip out, we lost a mirror in the middle of Nebraska at 80 mph, ran over a tumbleweed in Colorado, got our truck towed in LA because it was in 7th Heaven's shot, and almost rented Charles Manson's quaint Topanga getaway... here's hoping for a less exciting trip. Here's also hoping that I will be able to post while I'm on the road. California, here we come!

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The Weblog of Joe and Louise Walch

Gregg Easterbrook: The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’ - WSJ.com:

Gregg Easterbrook: The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’ - WSJ.com

Amazing story. I read about this back at BYU and still am amazed at this man's life and life's work. He wrote some interesting articles debunking neo-Malthusian histeria back in the 1970s and 80s. He's a real hero and an example of human selflessness that is rarely replicated. May he rest in peace.

Interesting quote:

Borlaug told me a decade ago that most Western environmentalists "have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things."

Epicurean Delights sans the Jail-time:

We tell our kids to "Just Say No" and yet we allow them to dump cup-fulls of this addictive white powder on their Cheerios.

Favorite quote:

Though difficult to estimate, sweet sensations evoked by sugar-sweetened foods and drinks are probably one of the most precocious, frequent and intense sensory pleasures of modern humans.

Have I been missing something?!?

Ideologyweek: News as Only We Wont to See.:

The mocking introduction “Let's try” of Newsweek’s “Our Mutual Joy” foreshadowed all one needed to know about the incredibly condescending treatment of religion by another ‘general interest’ magazine going through its death throes. In an attempt to shame (the true meaning of which, like ‘tolerance’ and ‘love’ has become unfashionably anachronistic) the vast majority of Americans who are Christian, The “living” Bible is deconstructed and vivisected to reveal the Christian’s folly. The article author asserts her moral authority in calling on Christians to strive toward ‘more just’ ideals over the ‘unserious’ drive towards “chaos, depravity, [and] indifference.”

Newsweek would have us believe that the homosexual activity practiced in days of yore condemned by Paul were nothing like the civilized and enlightened homosexual practices of today, and then insinuates that David and Jonathan were gay lovers. Perhaps things have changed; not the enlightenment of gay sex, but the corruption of true brotherly love that Paul commends to his followers.

The article then goes on to explain that the overarching theme of the Bible is acceptance, citing Jesus reaching out to the woman at the well. Nary a word about Jesus’s constant injunction to sin no more, or the real theme of the Bible which is to totally deny oneself in discipleship; not indulge in ‘needy’ relationships. The doctrine of the Bible is that because of the fall everybody has a predisposition to act contrary to our true nature of Justice and Holiness, but that we are to refuse such impulses; not embrace them.

Newsweek argues:

So the frustrating, semantic question remains: should gay people be married in the same, sacramental sense that straight people are? I would argue that they should. If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that.

Perhaps this last bit is what I find to be the most egregious error and beneath contempt. It blasphemously insinuates that God Himself just might be a homosexual and then equats the sexual impulse to skin color or gender. It is similar to the slave-trader’s assertion (to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson) that there are those who are born with saddles on their backs and others born with boots and spurs; except in this case, those born saddled are humanity and the booted master is the animal impulse. It totally rejects humanity’s agency and responsibility, and is totally antithetical to the Bible’s core message. A person who is born black cannot change that fact. A person who is born female or male will always have that identity etched on every cell of the person’s body regardless of the number of surgeries or hormone therapy. Sexuality, on the other hand, is a learned behavior which every civil society in history has regulated and restricted, and to ignore that basic fact of biology and history is not merely unserious, but dangerously stupid.

This shockingly arrogant treatment of the Bible by an author who probably has about as much knowledge of the Bible as an 18th century grammar student (or less) wends its way through blissfully ignorant aphorisms like:

Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad,

and then quotes such luminaries like “Miss Manners” and “My friend the priest James Martin.” Of course, if one only wants to obstinately promote one’s own viewpoint, then there’s no need to include people who may not be one’s friends or even have the same opinions as oneself. This is evident in the article which never includes any divergent opinion or even the treats the reasoning behind Christian (or classical pagan for that matter) opposition to homosexual marriage as anything but a silly straw-man.

What is the true reason that the majority of people in over three dozen states have voted in free and fair elections to affirm marriage between a man and a woman? It’s not hatred of Gays, OR EVEN HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH GAYS. It is the fact (one that is lost on the post-modern left) that there are essential differences between men and women. Those differences are profound and reach the whole dynamic range of the human experience. Those differences are etched on every cell in the bodies of Men and Women. To paraphrase Sartre, there is no escape from gender differences between men and women. Men and women are intrinsically, essentially, and absolutely different. Society has an interest in guarding the procreation and sustainability of itself. In so doing, society has every right to ensure that the healthy and diverse influences of both male and female are included in the raising of children. Both genders play essential and important roles in the flourishing and procreation of humanity.

When looked at from this light, homosexual marriage advocates are actually arguing not for inclusion, but for exclusion since it is they who would gloss over the important gender differences that are essential for the raising of properly socialized human beings. Homosexual men simply cannot parent with ‘maternal flair’ no matter how hard they try or how many flower arrangement classes they attend. Furthermore, the homosexual relationship is, by definition, barren. It is wholly impossible for a new human being to be created except from genetic material from one man and one woman. It should be in society’s interest, if society is to persist, to ensure that there is pairing of the right kinds of people (male and female are the only possible option) sustain civilization.

This is why I found Newsweek’s chief editor, John Meacham’s comment so utterly oblivious to reality:

“Religious conservatives will say that the liberal media are once again seeking to impose their “agenda” on a God-fearing nation. Let the letters and e-mails come. History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion.”

Excuse me? History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion? Has the cavalier John Meacham (of whom I expect better as a historian) seen the fertility rates of San Francisco? Does he know anything about the demographics of the barren Blue Northeast vs. the Red Bible belt south? Quite the contrary to John Meacham’s facile dismissal of the (procreating) majority of Americans, it isn’t gay families who will see the explosion of influence and power in the world. He should look at the statistics: the most common name of babies born in Brussels: Mohammad, Toronto: Mohammad, Amsterdam: Mohammad, Paris: Mohammad, Sweden: Mohammad. What would America look like if it were Muslims instead of the dreaded Catholics controlling the Supreme Court? Does John Meacham really think that the world is demographically moving towards total acceptance of Gay Marriage? Perhaps he should check his statistics and hope it’s the Bible-thumpers or Mormons (who are the only ones approaching Muslims in fertility rates) whom demographics will favor.

And perhaps John Meacham should check on the demographics of Newsweek, which is nose-diving into oblivion.

“Sources say that the magazine is considering slashing up to 1.6 million copies from Newsweek’s current rate base of 2.6 million, which would put the magazine’s rate base at 1 million. Newsweek declined to comment.”

Resources: Natural Law and Homosexual Marriage

A Biblical Understanding of Marriage

National Review: Newsweek Comes out of the Closet

"That Wasn't Quite the Change We Envisioned":

Certainly Obama's recent appointments to his cabinet have been reassuring as I've outlined in my previous post, but some in the Left seem to be getting a little anxious. This story from Politico sheds some light on this subject.

Salient Quote, National Security:

Now Obama’s says that on his first day in office he will begin to “design a plan for a responsible drawdown,” as he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Obama has also filled his national security positions with supporters of the Iraq war: Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize force in Iraq, as his secretary of state; and President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, continuing in the same role

Salient Quote, Economic Policy:

It’s that liberal Democrats say they’re hard-pressed to find one of their own on Obama’s team so far – particularly on the economic side, where people like Tim Geithner and Lawrence Summers are hardly viewed as pro-labor.

Good, Labor bosses have driven many of American Manufacturing jobs into the ground and resulted in poorer quality products.

I'll continue to look skepticaly at Obama, but for a Democrat who ran as Obama did during the campaign; so far so good.

Links
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Spam As Folk Art
Weird and funny subject lines from spam we've received

2014

() Spamusement's Ten-Year Anniversary: Ten years ago today, Steven Frank posted the first Spamusement comic, illustrating real subject lines from spam emails with "poorly drawn cartoons". Leonard and I loved it, and to celebrate, here are a few of my favorites. (Spamusement had an unfortunate strain of sitcom-level sexism and fatphobia but there were plenty of strips free from such annoyances.)

I want to especially mention She cant possibly be enjoying this! which Leonard and I treasure to this day every time we ask for a to-go box for leftovers, and this assortment that I suspect of being a "Cow Tools" homage.

Anyway, Steven Frank, thanks for a fun strip.

() They don't make nonsense like they used to: A single morsel of old-school link-free "what are they even trying to do here" spam slipped through my filter last week, like a Queneau assembly of our glory days here at SAFA. Enjoy, and reflect, for do we not, each of us, parallel existing roads?

From: Mars failing before completing their missions, with some failing before they even began. <brendan@orcon.net.nz>
Subject: Madagascar and take on fresh provisions before proceeding onward toward their targets further north.

David Smith, an analyst at research firm Gartner.
Many steps parallel existing roads, but others exist on their own and are classified as city streets.
Hudswell Clarke saddle tank Tubby at Blunsdon. He died in Monrovia in 1935.

() Male Gaze: Ashley Madison spam keeps telling me I am guaranteed to sleep with a married woman. I am a married woman. I sleep with myself every night, and as such, Ms. Madison has nothing to offer me -- or, conversely, perhaps I have been using the site all along unwittingly!

I find that the Ashley Madison spam specifically bothers me, not just because it implies that I am thought of as a promise-breaker, but because it implies a new vice that I'm not used to seeing in my spam. I'm used to spam insinuating that I am greedy, obese, and libidinous, but not specifically adulterous. And the heteronormative and aimed-at-men "sleep with a married woman" spam actually bothers me less than the more equal-opportunity subject lines that aim to include me. The former I can laugh off as male gaze; the latter thinks I am nudgable.

2013

() Monster Breakout Day:
  • Hey alabaastley, 80% OFF. encountered Neologisms
    I really prefer mangled portmanteaus.
  • Be ready in the morning for my new Gold pick!
    I wish you wouldn't stay up all night playing Minecraft.
  • Augmentin is your canon aimed at any infection.
    No, sir!
  • Scare people with your tool today
    Join your village's angry mob.
  • Mr. kevandd, get super prices. death
    Those prices had better be pretty damn super.
  • Monster Breakout day starting off with Monster News.
    It was just a regular day in Monster Town.
  • Do not underestimate the value of free pills
    I'm going to guess... "zero".
  • This Company keeps climbing! You may want to read this!
    "Employee Guidelines for Parachute Allocation."
  • Feel like you're under a pile of bricks? We carry Xanax and Valium
    Also bricks.
  • This May Never Happen Again!
    Oh, I think it will.

2012

() Mockworthy Recruiting Spam: I feel the urge to complain about a particular kind of spam yet feel a little uncouth doing so on my main blog. So then I remembered: Spam As Folk Art! Hi, three people who still follow this feed.

If you were a tech recruiter seeking a project manager or community wrangler, I could see how I would pop up on your radar. I'm not interested -- I'm happy at the Wikimedia Foundation -- but at least I would understand.

But recruiters who think that I must be an engineer, because I've worked on GNOME and I have a GitHub account, make me laugh.

Case 1:

Subject: Hello from redacted name of big tech company!
From: redacted name native to South Asia
Hi Sumanah,

I hope you're well. I came across your profile in Gnome Outreach program.

I hope you're well. My name is redacted and I am a recruiter here at redacted.

I am writing to introduce myself and was wondering if you would be open to confidentially exploring engineering or management opportunities with redacted.

In the event that you're happily employed, but know of any engineers of your quality who may be on the market, please don't hesitate to pass along my contact information....

First: I will notice if you misspell my name. (And you have nearly no excuse, person with name native to the exact same part of India as mine!) Second: I can think of approximately 500 engineers of my "quality" who are on the job market, because I am not an engineer. Within GNOME I worked on marketing, GNOME Journal, documentation, bug triage, and project management.

Case 2:

Subject: Web Application Engineer
From: redacted name of recruiting firm
<p>Hi Sumana,</p>

<p>Are you interested in a new job opportunity? We checked out some of your git repos and we found a job opportunity that fits your skills. Twitter in San Francisco is hiring web application engineers.</p> ....

Yes, the <p> and </p> tags were in the original. Someone wasn't counting on people who read email in plain text. And my GitHub repo has exactly one item of interest (my update to someone's README file), and within Wikimedia's git repositories I've tested the system by adding some comments to an example extension. If that means that a web application engineer role at Twitter "fits my skills" then I am a tuna fish sandwich.

Bonus case:

Speaking of "wait, plaintext?":

Well hello there, and welcome to the latest Ticket Alternative newsletter!

You've opted to receive the text version which is really boring. You can't see any of the pretty pictures we've added or be wowed by the colorful design.

So, click the link at the top of this email to view the online version and we promise to make you smile....

Thanks for reminding me to unsubscribe from the "newsletter" for a service I only signed up for to buy one measly theater or concert ticket, Ticket Alternative! (Oh, and of course, there was no link to the online newsletter in the plaintext email.)
Wednesday the Ninth of May
() Plaintive: Excerpt from comment spam today:
WHY DO YOU NEED TO FIND HER ASS ? SHE ISNT ANY DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER HUMAN ON THE PLANET. HER ASS IS WHERE EVERONE ELSES IS.
() I pity the spam target with a narrow monitor: But good question, alibaba@service.alibaba.com; I wish I knew the answer.
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Sumana Harihareswara's "MC Masala" newspaper columns, reposted
Drinking Problem: We always confused Plaza Lounge and Park Kafe. At least, Leonard did. Then again, he's the one who mixed up the J, K, and M streetcar lines in San Francisco when getting directions. Yes, they share the same terminal stops, but so do we, and that's no excuse for confusing me with Anderson Cooper. We all end in the ocean; we all start in the stream; we're all carried along by [email]@crummy.com. Whoops -- this is the start of the column, not the end. [More]
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Vitamin Talisman: "Let me tell you about raisins," the professor said, prompting chuckles and heckling in anticipation of a good line. [More]
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[Comments] (5) On death and dying: Nothing prepared me for the day one of my kids asked me why do people die?, so naturally when Lily asked me that question I was dumbstruck. We decided to buy the new Pixar movie Up. It came highly recommended by many people including Louise, who is a very tough critic. She rarely thinks anything is "really good" so I thought it really must be good.

Aaron popped it in for the kids. I was puttering around, getting things done, and still haven't seen it. It wasn't until the next day while Gunnar was napping, and Lily was watching it as I was doing the dishes. When all the sudden I heard this sad little voice and teary eyed girl peeking over the arm of the sofa almost begging me mommy, I don't want you to die. Why did Ellie have to die? When will she be back? I want Ellie to come back. I don't want you to leave. Why do people have to die? Where do people go when they die? I felt ill prepared to answer all these abstract questions in a way a 5 yr old would understand. All I could do was hug her and cry on each other's shoulder. I know it was wrong, but I promised her I wouldn't die, at least anytime soon. She was so sad and I wanted to reassure her and make her feel better.

Death is such a difficult topic and I think it is every child's worst nightmare. We talked about heaven and the resurrection and eternal families and I think we both felt better. It made me remember life is short and fragile and as a result I have not yelled at my kids as much this past week. I used to ask my mom what would you do if I died? And she would always say I would spank your little bottom. Death is something I struggle with and definitely don't want a lesson on it anytime soon. So the moral of the story is if you watch Up with your kids you might have to explain the mysteries of the universe with your kids.

[Comments] (5) for your eyes only: So last week, I tried to write a health care post about my health care of all things. A couple hours after I had posted it, my brain reflected on it and I just about died inside to think I just shared with the world my IUD problems. I quickly got to a computer and deleted it and spent the rest of the night feeling sheepish and wondering if anyone had already read my open book life.

Today, I will give it a go again, yet this time about Gunnar and with much less TMI. Gunnar's health care. My poor little baby Gunnar. I adore this little boy. I could eat him for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and still snack on him throughout the day. Gunnar is and will always be my baby. This little guy went in for his "6 month" ophthalmologist appt. He was actually a few months overdue for a proper one since the past two were right before the move and right after the move and weren't proper appointments at all. We finally got the full blown appt out of the way and have been given two official diagnoses. First, our suspicions are correct. Gunnar has intermittent exotropia. Basically, one eye wanders when he is tired or not on his A game or zoned out. He can have surgery to correct it, but it really isn't too bad yet and the Dr and I both agreed that it is something to look into when he is older like 6 or 7 when "kids start making fun of his eyes in school" as the Dr put it, since his condition is very mild right now. Kids are so mean! And they probably will make fun of him, so when he is older and if it gets worse we will look into that, but for now he is ok. Just ignore his wandering eyes if you speak with him face to face and he zones out.

Secondly, his nearsightedness is now a raging -6.50 in both eyes. A whole 1.25 higher than last dilation. He's legally blind, but with his glasses he has near perfect vision, and it is very correctable with surgery if he chooses to get lasik when he is older. All in all, it is nothing serious. He is a happy, healthy boy. Sometimes, as his mother, I wished my body had been able to make his body more perfect, but there my vanity goes thinking I am responsible for creating my beautiful children. They are Heavenly Father's children and he is just letting me borrow them to discover tremendous happiness, and just a touch of torture.

But, there it is. Gunnar's health update. He is turning 3 in exactly 2 weeks so I better get onto making his well baby check up. Then we shall see how much this boy has g r o w n!

[Comments] (2) Burr, it's cold in here: This is all quite new to me, the wearing jackets in Oct and not really letting up. In TX the year Gunnar was born, I was so excited to not have to be my largest in the summer. It may have well been summer because as I recall, it did not get cool until the day I left the hospital with him. Geez, thanks!

Oh sure you might need a zip up in the morning, but by 2:00 you were sweating. I literally NEVER EVER wore jeans from the months of May-Oct. For 6 months I wore shorts every day. Even in April and Nov, the jeans were worn intermittently. But for those 6 months I didn't even look at jeans.

Yesterday, to make more room in my closet, and because I have a large Rubbermaid labeled jeans and sweaters that needed to be unpacked (and still one in the garage), I gathered all my shorts that I haven't worn a single time in a month, and all Aaron's shorts and exchanged places in the Rubbermaid with the jeans and sweaters.

It's not that it has been too bad here, gorgeous weather actually, but if I am not dressed properly my toes and hands will be frozen by 4:00 on. In SA I remember wearing flip flops year round. If it was too cold to wear them, that's ok because I knew by the afternoon I would be fine. It goes like this in the winter-mornings and evenings it is cool. Midday is warm. For a week or two we could have a cold front and then it is chilly, but then it goes away and for 3 weeks you are left with "perfect winter weather" picnic weather if you will. And the cycle continues.

Now maybe I am a tad cold because we haven't turned our heater on past 66 degrees. Perhaps. We are trying to save money, electricity is a lot more here, and all I have to do to get comfortable again is vacuum. (Why does that job make you sweat even in the winter? You are just pushing the thing around.) OR my new favorite thing is what Aaron calls my Back To The Future vest. It is AWE--wait for it--SOME. I have it in a couple colors, and it's perfect. It keeps you cozy at the same time freeing your arms to do household chores without feeling constricted like sweat shirts or jackets do. Plus, Old Navy is having 50% off all their outerwear. (Ok, online they are not quite 50%, they are more like 30% off and they have half the color selection so go to the actual store.) Go and get you one, and if you have an Old Navy card like me, you can get it for another 30% off that making it only $14. It's that awesome.

Now I am looking for some rain boots, because every week it rains cold rain here ALL DAY LONG from anywhere between a day to 5 days straight. My feetsies get cold walking around with wet socks and tennis shoes. So if anyone one knows of awesome rain boots for cheap (you know me, it's gotta be a good deal) please let me know.

[Comments] (1) Brisk: During my early morning run today, the sweat from my hands came out on top of my gloves and then turned frosty. I could tell because I was wearing black gloves and it looked like they had been flocked a little bit. Pretty weird--I've never had this happen before. Yeah, it was cold!

There were four in the bed and the little one said: I love lazy Saturday mornings. I awoke to Gunnar's noise and decided I wasn't ready to get up for the day and that I wanted to see if Gunnar was old enough to snuggle in the morning. Lily is at the age where she will lay down for a couple minutes but I didn't know if Gunnar "got it" yet. I went and got him and brought him in the bed. He knows what snuggling is because at night he always asks for me to snuggle just a minute so when I told him that he went for it.

It's seriously one of my favorite things to do is on a Saturday morning when no one has to be anywhere, just to lay in bed and snuggle and play and laugh with the kid(s). Gunnar is the most affectionate little guy. He leaned over to Aaron sleeping and kissed his cheek and said "I love you daddy". He then snuggled into me and said "I love you mommy, you're my big boy". He calls me that because I go between saying "You're my baby" or more lately "You're my big boy" so now he calls me his big boy too. He knows the difference between boys and girls which makes it that much funnier to hear him say it.

Gunnar leaned over and was pointing to my eyes and said "eww, what's that brown stuff?" I had a little smudged eye liner on from the night before that didn't wash off and he goes "that's disgusting." lol little noodge. Lily woke up finally and came in. Then I got to really snuggle-this girl knows how to spoon. It was the complete family, all four of us in the bed spending time together. It was a great way to start off the day.

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