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[No comments] March Film Roundup: Just finished some rewrites for a novel, so... time to do more writing! At least you get to see this stuff right away!

  • Heaven Can Wait (1978): I saw this a couple months ago but forgot to review it. I remembered it when Sumana mentioned the admiral in Mary Poppins who fires a cannon from the top of his house every day. The millionaire in this movie has his servants fire a cannon every day! Is this a common thing? Is this why rich peoples' houses are spaced so far apart? Or maybe there was one obnoxious dude in Beverly Hills who did this and a lot of movies from the 60s and 70s are mocking him.

    Moving on to the film itself: Elaine May's screenplay is really funny and misanthropic, except the last act, which seems written by someone who's a lot less funny and doesn't hate humanity at all. Thus, I left the theater disappointed and in a mood to forget that I'd ever seen this movie. There is a character in the last act who randomly drops dead just so the plot can work out, and I admit that is both funny and misanthropic, but not the kind I want to support with my ticket purchase. But up to, I'm gonna say, the 100 minute mark (the length of a normal, sensible movie), Heaven Can Wait is a great comedy.

  • Captain Marvel (2019): Another month, another Marvel movie. I really liked seeing 90s LA—a little bit of home! And I know just enough about Marvel canon (from reading She-Hulk) to appreciate the little twist. Downsides: although this is a space opera Marvel movie it focuses entirely on the parts of that toolkit I don't care about: the galactic empires with their huge cities and clashing militaries. Are these the same people who dragged down Guardians of the Galaxy? (Answer after checking wiki: they are one such group of people. Geez.) Bring back garbage planet! (In fairness, there is a garbage planet here: the Earth.)

    Near the end, when the villain... well, he's not 'the' villain, he's pretty minor, sort of an Assistant Undersecretary for Villainry, but real annoying. He's trying to taunt Carol into hand-to-hand combat, clearly setting up an Indiana Jones moment where she bypasses the fight scene by zapping him with her superpowers. The taunting goes on for a while, and before long I was pounding my fists on the theater armrests quietly chanting "Zap! Zap! Zap!" She does zap him eventually and it's cathartic. Anyway, I offer "Zap! Zap! Zap!" as an all-purpose attempt to fast-forward a narrative to its inevitable conclusion. Hasn't worked yet, though.

  • Wings of Desire (1987): I was skeptical about this one, and saw it for two reasons: 1) Sumana wanted to see it, 2) Peter Falk. I'm glad I saw it. It's moving, humane, thought-provoking, beautifully shot, Peter Falk is a perfect choice. I don't have a lot to say because (as I feared) this film doesn't have a whole lot of plot. But I loved it anyhow; that's how good this is.
  • Some Like It Hot (1959): This was my third viewing, the first on the big screen, and just to get it out of the way, this movie is funny as heck. Okay? That's a given. Top tier comedy. Big recommendation.

    Now, I want to discuss two other facets of this movie: one good and one bad. The good is that this movie shows a character discovering their queerness and struggling to understand it, and the attitude of this 1959 Hollywood movie is total acceptance. I won't presume to try to fit Jack Lemmon's character's journey into modern categories, but it's clearly different from what Tony Curtis's character goes through, and Some Like It Hot is 100% sympathetic to it. The last time I saw this, I hadn't seen enough other old movies to realize how unusual this is.

    The bad: the gangsters. Compared to the rest of the movie, the gangster plot is sloppy and lazy. The gangsters provide the thanatos that you want in a Wilder movie, but it's not well integrated. Just feels like a bunch of stereotypes and coincidences and references to other movies now forgotten. I'd like to see an edit that loses the gangsters after the speakeasy scene, but I don't know if you could do it without new footage.

  • Us (2019): This had a ton of cool ideas, but I'm feeling some regression to the mean after the all-around fave Get Out. This was less science-fictional and more like a normal horror movie, with all the fridge logic that implies. I admit I don't watch a lot of normal horror movies so I don't know whether certain things are innovative here. Like, I have the feeling that a lot of horror movies take place over one night and end with the sunrise. Whereas in this movie, when the sun comes up it's just an act break and a change to a different horror subgenre. There's also some Edgar Wright type stuff where horror is filmed as though it were comedy; that's probably pretty common? Overall this was decent, but my "seeing it live in a theater" experience was nowhere near what I got out of Get Out.

February Film Roundup:

  • Black Panther (2018): It's a superhero movie, but with a difference: Wakanda is great! As usual, I have a limited interest in the people solving their problems with fight scenes. But I totally want to see the effect on the MCU of Wakanda stepping onto the world stage! When Iron Man shows up, we know it's a one-off. We're not going to have everyone flying around in suits. But Wakanda is a full scale science-fictional invasion of a world like our own, the sort of thing for which I longed in Thor: Ragnarok. I definitely want to see this.

    But apparently everyone dies in Infinity War, so it won't happen and I watched this movie for nothing? Man, no wonder it got snubbed for Best Picture. You think they're going to make a sequel to Green Book where an alien kills everyone?

  • The Wandering Earth (2019): a.k.a. "Liu Lang Di Qiu". Finally, we've found it: a good version of Armageddon. Could this be the one that heals the wound? It's got the scope: the plotline of the first half of the movie is repeated four thousand times across the planet, but we only see the struggles of one group. It's got the visuals, solving a common problem of 'realistic' science fiction by turning Earth into both an alien planet and a dingy space station. It's mostly stupid, as befits a blockbuster, but really clever in a few places. You may think that Deep Impact is the good version of Armageddon, but as someone who recently saw part of Deep Impact while getting a haircut, I say nay.

    Downsides: the action scenes are way too long and I found them hard to read for similar reasons to Armageddon. Like Interstellar, this movie continually reminds you of the better movies it's ripping off, and in fact it's the same movies, plus Gravity. Special caution to doesthewhaledie.com premium subscribers: there's a dead whale in this, but it's been dead for a really long time. Like, are we upset by a whale fossil? There's got to be some limit, right?

    Old video game watch: the black market guy is playing Contra on a Famiclone. Yes, even in post-apocalyptic deep space, the 80s classics never die. Also, Zhou Qian has eight Zelda heart stickers on the chest of her spacesuit. It's never explained, but talking it out with Sarah afterwards, I speculated that it's like the kill marks on your fighter plane, except Zhou Qian hates killing, so they're tally marks of the lives she's saved.

  • The Net (1995): Like Antitrust, this movie has a bad technical rep. Sumana and I saw it because of this bad rep, in search of cheesy fun. (Here's her review.) But apart from the McGuffins, it's not too bad. The basic point is totally accurate; in fact the movie now seems prescient in some ways.

    The McGuffins are real nonsense, though, and the film has some ghost jokes, a la Clueless. Sandra Bullock's character buys pizza and plane tickets online and we were like "hmm, yes, an interface such as that would have required Javascript, which wasn't around yet" instead of "damn, what a NERD!"

    Overall, this was the expected cheesy fun, and it reminded us of The Parallax View (1974), a much better thriller that's also a better metaphor for the destructive power of the Internet.

  • Sweet Charity (1969): This month's pleasant surprise. A cynical musical, but not nihilistic like Pennies From Heaven, with snappy Neil Simon banter. It's pretty long, but set pieces keep it moving, and outside of the first scene there's no real villain.

    The choreography is incredible, all designed to point out how ludicrous the human body is. The "Big Spender" number looks like something Bertolt Brecht or Fritz Lang would do. One of them Weimar guys. I guess it makes sense since Bob Fosse would go on to do Cabaret in 1972.

    Sumana and I were disappointed by the ending, which the best thing you can say about is it's faithful to the musical and not the cop-out alternate ending that was filmed in case of studio interference. While playing our frequent game of "fix the bad media thing" (most recently deployed on a terrible Star Trek: Discovery episode) Sumana came up with a much better ending: bring back Ricardo Montalban's character, not to swoop in and provide replacement romance but to pull Oscar aside for a man-to-man. It's the sixties, brother, Women's Lib is on the way, and Oscar needs to get over his hang-ups and just marry the girl.

    Don't sleep on the elevator scene. Pure comedy niobium!

  • Funny Face (1957): I don't know what Discovery's computer sees in this one. It starts off fun with a couple good numbers, but rapidly becomes dull. The idea that Audrey Hepburn isn't model material because of her "funny face" is ludicrous. Also the funniness of her face is strictly of the "you had to be there" variety, and that whole concept is grafted on from a different musical. But not grafted in a cool way, like in Face/Off. Seriously engaging with continental philosophy would have made the film interesting, but that didn't happen--Empathicalism here is the humanities equivalent of the computer in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

    The final blow: the poster for this movie says "Presented in a real new dimension in motion picture entertainment". Are they trying to trick people into thinking this is a 3D movie? Cause it's not. Although there is a scene where someone throws spools of cloth at the camera, a classic "gratuitous 3D" technique.

The Art of Python: For a couple years Sumana has been mixing up the tech conference experience by adding aspects of performance and dramaturgy to her talks (see e.g. Python Grab Bag and Code Review, Forwards and Back). Now she's scaling it up by running an arts festival at this year's PyCon North America: "The Art of Python". You can submit proposals until the end of the month — music, dramatic performance, visual art, and so on.

I would love to see this became a regular feature of technical conferences. Many aspects of programming can't be expressed in traditional talks (xkcd does a lot of this), and it's also just fun to talk about programming in ways other than lectures—I like to do it in fiction, for instance. If you're interested, check out the CFP!

January Film Roundup: Howdy-doo. I've completed my collection of Coen Brothers movies and I'm ready to pass judgement on the oeuvre as a whole. Also saw some disappointing Bollywood epics with Sumana. Let's get started!

  • Raising Arizona (1987): This one's on the 'goofy' side, and it's fun. IMDB trivia says this was made to be as different from Blood Simple as possible, and those two movies do span the early Coen dramatic range.

    I initially assumed that Gale and Evelle were a gay couple and was disappointed when it turned out they were brothers.

  • Barton Fink (1991): I saw this in, like 1998, and then I saw it again with Sumana in July 2012, just before I started Film Roundup as a regular series. So I almost Film Rounduped it last time, but not quite. A little frustrating. But Barton Fink is a great arthouse movie, and it's fun to watch up to three times. The first time you're going in cold. The second time you know the trajectory and you catch all the foreshadowing and symbolism on the way. The third time you know what you're going to catch and there's a kind of second-order pleasure in seeing it all come together.

    Don't get me wrong: I'd rather be watching it for the second time or even the first. But Barton Fink remains a real pleasure. The Buscemi/Goodman/Turturro triumvirate is in full flower, and it's great.

  • Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): I love the period-ness but I can't stand the main character. Like if the Dude just complained in the bowling alley instead of trying to get his rug back. This guy's got a bunch of friends he doesn't deserve and he mistreats 'em all, but not in an innovative way, just regular entitled jerkiness. And I'm not into the music. This is a movie that shows you the ending first because that's the only part with any action, and doesn't even make it clear it's a flash-forward—seems like a decision made in the editing room.

    John Goodman as Roland Turner steals what little of the show he's in. A weird side note: Turner's henchman is named Johnny Five, an anachronistic, irrelevant reference to another movie that I don't think even Thomas Pynchon would try. It's just inexplicable. If I'm ever at a Q&A with the Coens I should make this my Q.

  • A Serious Man (2009): The project finale! Another period piece, more enjoyable overall than Llewyn Davis. Takes a while to get going and the main character is another sad sack, but at least he's trying. Or maybe it's not even that he's "trying" but that bad things really are happening to him.
  • Main Hoon Na (2004): a.k.a. "I'm Always Here." A Bollywood classic that blatantly mixes Tom Clancy-type thriller and goofy college romcom. It... is okay, but if I'm going to sit through a three-hour movie I want more than "okay". Sumana and I had more fun riffing than watching the movie itself. There is a really good part during the closing credits, where the crew gets to be on-camera goofing off. The producer signs a big novelty check, etc.

    Fun, spoileriffic fact: the main villain in this movie dies the same way as the main villain in Raising Arizona.

  • Manikarnika: The Queen of Jansi (2019): This movie's got an undercurrent of Hindu nationalism that's kind of disturbing. Sort of reminded me of Ken (1964), but it's a live grenade instead of a museum piece. The action scenes are not all that was promised; we expected more aunties with swords. Also the British accents were all over the place, which was very distracting. During the movie I thought they'd cast a group of Eastern European backpackers as the British officers. But from what I can tell, those parts went to American and Australian actors living in India. Not that my British accent is great. I'm not volunteering.

    And now, the conclusion. For the first time in Film Roundup history I'm giving rough numeric scores to movies, just so I can compare my overall opinion of the Coens' works against the IMDB consensus:

    Graph comparing my opinions of Coen Brothers releases by year to IMDB ratings for the same movies.

    Survey says the Coens consistently produce above-average work but had a slight dip in the 2000s. What I learned from this project is how much value I put on the 1990s Coens in particular. The six movies from 1991 (Barton Fink) to 2001 (The Man Who Wasn't There) are my favorites by far, and include some of my favorite movies of all time. But apart from that ten-year stretch they're not really making movies for me. I don't think these movies are "bad" necessarily, but I like specific things and there was a magical period where the Coens were really into those same things.

    For the record, here's my ranking, with my faves at the top:

    1. The Big Lebowski (1998)
    2. Fargo (1996)
    3. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
    4. Barton Fink (1991)
    5. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
    6. Blood Simple (1984)
    7. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
    8. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
    9. Raising Arizona (1987)
    10. Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
    11. No Country For Old Men (2007)
    12. Burn After Reading (2008)
    13. The Ladykillers (2004)
    14. A Serious Man (2009)
    15. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
    16. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
    17. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
    18. True Grit (2010)

    Some miscellaneous notes on the films as a whole:

    • There's a stock character who I really like whenever they show up: the highly eloquent, super-polite character. Buster Scruggs, Professor Dorr, Ulysses Everett McGill, Charlie Meadows and Maude Lebowski to some extent. Maybe there's a character like that in The Hudsucker Proxy, it's been a while. Most of the time this character is a villain, but Troy Nelson is my favorite thing about Inside Llewyn Davis—just a really nice square with his head screwed on straight. Which I guess makes him the villain in that topsy-turvy movie.
    • In the moral calculus of Coen Brothers movies, the worst thing you can do is leave someone to die. It doesn't come up every single movie, but I believe there's a consistent pattern. This is how you find out Buster Scruggs is a bad guy. Llewelyn Moss leaves someone to die in No Country for Old Men and it's the only thing that makes him feel bad in the whole movie. The only non-self-centered thing Llewyn Davis does in his whole movie is check on Roland Turner when he ODs. Arguably "leaving someone to die" is what kicks off all the problems in A Serious Man, if you're determined to make the prologue have something to do with the movie.

      In real life, actively killing someone is worse then leaving them to die, but in Coen movies homicide doesn't usually have a moral dimension—it's the "shit" in "shit happens". Most of the body count is accidental, or else caused by Bad People like Anton Chigurh, characters who we know won't have any moral growth. The morality play happens afterwards, in how the survivors deal with it. The leaving-for-dead scenario is a good way to give big dilemmas to characters who would never realistically kill someone.

The Crummy.com Review of Things 2018, Part Two: Again, taking this post as an opportunity to discuss some things that maybe should have had their own entries, but let's take what we can get, huh?

Audio - Two recently discovered podcasts are worth your time. Farm to Taber, which focuses on the nuts and bolts of sustainable agriculture, and Gimme That Star Trek.

There are a ton of Star Trek podcasts that go episode-by-episode, but who has the time? In fact, I record an episode-by-episode Star Trek podcast and don't even release it, that's how much respect I have for your time. (If you do have the time, try Treks and the City.) "Gimme That Star Trek" mainly talks about the larger themes of Trek and ancillary material like the comics. Try "Is Starfleet Military?" and see if it grabs you.

Games - The Crummy.com Game of the Year is "Slay the Spire", which delivers my favorite part of roguelikes—emergent properties coming from random combinations of a large set of items. Honorable mention to "Dead Cells", which doesn't have much combo going on but is a fun feat of procedural generation.

I got a Switch in 2018 and haven't done anything super unusual with it but I have had a good time with the first-party games, especially "Breath of the Wild". I know I swore off Zelda games but the huge open world and side quests of Breath of the Wild made it easy to swallow the main arc, where a kid goes to four dungeons. "Nintendo games are fun" is an accurate but boring thing to say, so I'll say it but not dwell on it.

On my phone, I had a great time playing a game called Freeways, which I think will appeal to people who like Mini Metro. To me the darkness, the lonely desert, the directions identified only by highway numbers, brings back the nighttime Central California landscape I drove as a teenager. Honorable mention to Holedown. Dishonorable mention to another game that I won't name, which is a really good game but turns into gacha hell if you dare try to complete the main storyline.

Personal accomplishments - I finished a draft of Mine but it needs some serious work and I don't want to think about it right now, so moving on... I started putting my short fiction out there again and sold a story! ("Only g62 Kids Will Remember These Five Moments" from back in 2016.) Presumably will be published this year. Wrote five stories in 2018: "The Blanket Thief", "Why You Deserved to Die", "The Universe Pump", "The Wheel of Chores", and "The Procedure Sign". Got a good feeling about three of those, at least.

I'm coming up on the five-year mark of the Library Simplified project. It's an uphill battle, and 2018 didn't bring the breakthroughs I was hoping for, but we are making progress and there's no technical reason why this thing can't work, so I'm still hopeful.

The year in bots: I was mainly focused on other things, but I was inspired by the Internet Archive's holdings and API to create four new bots: Junk Mail Bot, Yorebooks, Podcast Roulette, and Almanac for New Yorkers, which premièred on January 1.

"Almanac for New Yorkers" is a replaying of an "urban almanac" for 1938 by the Federal Writers' Project. Advice on when to plant soybeans is replaced by info on what's playing at Carnegie Hall, and it's all written with that dry midcentury American wit that is better-known today from the WWII Army field guides these people would be writing in a couple years. There are two more of these -- 1939 for New York and 1938 for San Francisco -- so if the Almanac proves popular this year, I'll queue up another chunk for 2020.

Okay, I think that covers everything. If not... I'll just write another blog post! See you around!

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Cogito, Ergo Sumana
Sumana oscillates between focus and opportunity

: Design, and Friction Preventing Design Improvement, in Open Tech: This month a Recurser I know, Pepijn de Vos, observed a concentration of high-quality open source software in the developer tools category, to the exclusion of other categories. With a few exceptions.

I understood where he's coming from, though my assessment differs. I started reflecting on those exceptions. Do they "prove the rule" in the colloquial sense that "every rule has exceptions," or do they "prove the rule" in the older sense, in that they give us an opportunity to test the rule? A few years ago I learned about this technique called "appreciative inquiry" which says: look at the unusual examples of things that are working well, and try to figure out how they've gotten where they are, so we can try to replicate it. So I think it's worth thinking a bit more about those exceptional FLOSS projects that aren't developer tools and that are pretty high-quality, in user experience design and robust functionality. And it's worth discussing problems and approaches in product management and user experience design in open source, and pointing to people already working on it.

FLOSS with good design and robust functionality: My list would include Firefox, Chromium, NetHack, Android, Audacity, Inkscape, VLC, the Archive Of Our Own, Written? Kitten!, Signal, Zulip, Thunderbird, and many of the built-in applications on the Linux desktop. I don't have much experience with Blender or Krita, but I believe they belong here too. (Another category worth thinking about: FLOSS software that has no commercial competitor, or whose commercial competitors are much worse, because for-profit companies would be far warier of liability or other legal issues surrounding the project. Examples: youtube-dl, Firefox Send, VLC again, and probably some security/privacy stuff I don't know much about.)

And as I start thinking about what helped these projects get where they are, I reach for the archetypes at play. I'll ask James and Karl to check my homework, but as I understand it:

Mass Market: NetHack, VLC, Firefox, Audacity, Inkscape, Thunderbird, youtube-dl
Controlled Ecosystem: Zulip, Archive Of Our Own
Business-to-business open source: Android, Chromium
Rocket Ship To Mars: Signal
Bathwater? Wide Open? Trusted Vendor? not sure: Written? Kitten!

The only "Wide Open" example that easily comes to mind for me is robotfindskitten, a game which -- like Written? Kitten! -- does one reasonably simple thing and does it well. Leonard reflected on reasons for its success at Roguelike Celebration 2017 (video). But I'd be open to correction, especially by people who are familiar with NetHack, VLC, Audacity, Inkscape, or youtube-dl development processes.

Design: Part of de Vos's point is about cost and quality in general. But I believe part of what he's getting at is design. Which FLOSS outside of developer tooling has good design?

In my own history as an open source contributor and leader, I've worked some on developer tools like PyPI and a linter for OpenNews, but quite a lot more on tools for other audiences, like MediaWiki, HTTPS Everywhere, Mailman, Zulip, bits of GNOME, AltLaw, and the WisCon app. The first open source project I ever contributed to, twelve years ago, was Miro, a video player and podcatcher. And these projects had all sorts of governance/funding structures: completely volunteer-run with and without any formal home, nonprofit with and without grants, academic, for-profit within consultancies and product companies.

So I know some of the dynamics that affect user experience in FLOSS for general audiences (often negatively), and discussed some of them in my code4lib keynote "User Experience is a Social Justice Issue" a few years ago. I'm certainly not alone; Simply Secure, Open Source Design, Cris Beasley, The Land, Clar, and Risker are just a few of the thinkers and practitioners who have shared useful thoughts on these problems.

In 2014, I wrote a few things about this issue, mostly in public, like the code4lib keynote and this April Fool's joke:

It turns out you can go into your init.cfg file and change the usability flag from 0 to 1, and that improves user experience tremendously. I wonder why distributions ship it turned off by default?
Wikimedia and pushback: But I also wrote a private email that year that I'll reproduce below. I wrote it about design change friction in Wikimedia communities, so it shorthands some references to, for instance, a proposed opt-in Wikimedia feature to help users hide some controversial images. But I hope it still provides some use even if you don't know that history.

I wanted to quickly summarize some thoughts and expand on the conversation you and I had several days ago, on reasons Wikimedia community members have a tough time with even opt-in or opt-out design changes like the image filter or VisualEditor or Media Viewer.

  • ideology of a free market of ideas -- the cure for bad speech is more speech, if you can't take the heat then you should not be here, aversion to American prudishness etc., etc. (more relevant for image filter)

    • relatedly "if you can't deal with the way things are then you are too stupid to be here" (more applicable to design simplifications like Media Viewer and VisualEditor)

  • people are bad at seeing that the situation that has incrementally changed around them is now a bad one (frog in pot of boiling water); see checkbox proliferation and baroque wikitext/template metastasis

  • most non-designers are bad at design thinking (at assessing a design, imagining it as a changeable prototype, thinking beyond their initial personal and aesthetic reaction, sussing out workflows and needs and assessing whether a proposed design would suit them, thinking from other people's points of view, thinking from the POV of a newcomer, etc.)

    • relatedly, we do not share a design vocabulary of concepts, nor principles that we aim to uphold or judge our work against (in contrast see our vocabulary of concepts and principles for Wikipedia content, e.g. NPOV, deletionism/inclusionism)

      • so people can only speak from their own personal aesthetics and initial reactions, which are often negative because in general people are averse to surprise novelty in environments they consider home, and the discourse can't rise beyond "I don't like it, therefore it sucks"

  • past history of difficult conversations, sometimes badly managed (e.g. image filter) and too-early rollout of buggy feature as a default (e.g. VisualEditor), causes once-burned-twice-shy wariness about new WMF features

    • Wikimedians' core ethos: "It's a wiki" (if you see a problem, e.g. an error in a Wikipedia article, try to fix it); everyone is responsible for maintaining and improving the project, preventing harm

      • ergo people who feel responsible for the quality of the project are like William F. Buckley's "National Review" in terms of their conservatism, standing athwart history yelling "stop"

I haven't answered some questions: what are the common patterns in our success stories (governance, funding, community size, maintainership history, etc.)? How do we address or prevent problems like the ones I mentioned seeing within Wikimedia? But it's great to see progress on those questions from organizations like Wikimedia and Simply Secure and Open Tech Strategies (disclosure: I often do work with the latter), and I do see hope for plausible ways forward.


: Recurse Center, What Really Works And How We Know: I participated in Recurse Center (formerly Hacker School) in 2013 and in 2014, and emerged a better programmer, a calmer and kinder person, and a more confident learner. Gender diversity was part of the quality of that experience:

When part of the joy of a place is that gender doesn't matter, it's hard to write about that joy, because calling attention to gender is the opposite of that....

But, as Nick Bergson-Shilcock says in "What we've learned from seven years of working to make RC 50% women, trans, and non-binary", "We focus on diversity so Recursers can focus on programming.":

In April of 2012, we announced our goal to make RC 50% women. Seven years later, we are close to reaching an improved version of this goal: 48% of new Recursers in 2019 so far identify as women, trans, or non-binary. This post is a summary of what we’ve tried, learned, and accomplished over the past seven years, as well as our overall strategy and why we choose to prioritize this work.

Bergson-Shilcock's case study shares stats, what didn't work, and what they don't know yet -- the people who run RC are consistently like this, and this writeup exemplifies their judgment, integrity, and foresight. Even when I've disagreed with RC's faculty, I have always come away from the disagreement with my trust in them intact or increased. How many institutions could I describe in that way? Not many.

One last thing -- I've recently been trying to avoid saying "community" when I really mean group, set, school, industry, project, or workplace, and Bergson-Shilcock's articulation is gonna help me do that and to value substantive communities:

Having a genuine community requires that people know the other people around them, and that everyone shares some fundamental values and purpose.


: PyCon NA, !!Con, and WisCon: I'm back in New York City, and preparing to travel a bit; May is my big conference month this year.

I'll start the month at PyCon North America in Cleveland, Ohio, practically the whole conference, 1-9 May. I'm co-organizing The Art of Python, an arts festival -- several short plays, plus a fanvid and live music -- the night of Friday, May 3rd. And during the sprints, 6-9 May, I'll be concentrating on the world of Python packaging and distribution, e.g., PyPI.

I'll go home to New York City, then go to !!Con 11-12 May, where I am not organizing or speaking or suchlike.

And then I'll be at WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin, for the whole convention, 24-27 May plus a little extra on either side. I will once again be the comedy auctioneer for the auction on Saturday night that benefits the Tiptree Award -- if you have something to donate to the auction, please let us know by 15 May. I may not make it to the Floomp or the vid party. I will probably be on a few panels; several panels are still seeking volunteer panellists (sign up by 19 April). I do plan to be at the Gathering and the Dessert Salon (heads-up, changes to Dessert Salon entry flow).

If you're going to be at any of these events, perhaps we can share a beverage! If you want to make sure that we do that, let's actually set up at least a tentative appointment soon, so I can put it in my calendar.

I will be more responsive to emails and text messages than to social media while at these conferences, and in particular, I may see mentions and direct messages on Mastodon but I probably won't see mentions or direct messages on Twitter. Also, I am pretty forgiving about being called mispronunciations of my name, but here's a recording in case you want help -- I also respond to "Vikki" which is the fake name I use with strangers at restaurants. And I will probably not hug you unless we know each other well.


: Availability Update for April: I'm going to be off social media a lot between now and about April 14th. Please email if you want to reach me - https://www.harihareswara.net/ & https://changeset.nyc/#contact have my address - but I will probably be slow & terse in response.


: Expectations, Toil and Sludge, Discovery, And A Lot of Handwaving: I have an inchoate tangle of thoughts I'll spill out into this sandbox for thinking -- sometimes on this blog you get well-organized how-to guides and analyses, and sometimes you get "what constellation do these points make?".

My cri de coeur on the unnecessary fiddly and risky labor of everyday life got quite a lot of people saying yes, THAT to me. A friend pointed me to Cass Sunstein's recent piece calling this sort of thing sludge, but only today did I remember a Jon Carroll piece I love that includes:

I wrote radio advertisements for the Mercury News that were read at the halftimes of San Jose State football games. I ran a kind of Keno-like circulation promotion game; I had to check thousands of entries a week to see if the numbers matched the ones I had previously drawn.

As I did, I repeated a sentence that had stuck in my head from some political science class. I thought it was from Marx: "Man shall be saved from repetitive labor." Maybe Marx did say it; silly man.

And that reminded me that, in DevOps, they call that kind of work "toil". Work that we need a human's judgment to do is fine; work that could be automated away is toil, and we should minimize and automate it. And sometimes the powers that be aren't willing to prioritize that work, perhaps because they don't care enough about the problem or about the burden of addressing it, which helps you understand Liz Fong-Jones saying: "I'm focusing my EDII work on making tech a *safe* place to work with adequate career advancement opportunities before I'd recommend it. I'm done with pipeline work and diversity toil."

So far, so clear, but this is where everything gets tangly, for me. I want to liberate myself from toil and sludge, and there are ways to dissolve the sludge in money or cleverness, like by hiring a virtual assistant, or negotiating a car purchase via email without having to quarrel with a sales rep in person or on the phone. And where there is unavoidable toil and disappointment I need to accept it and move on. A change of expectations can be its own kind of liberation. But I need to not just liberate myself! The classic serenity prayer asks for the serenity to accept the things one cannot change, the courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. But it's dynamic, not static, right? One also needs the discipline to make sure to check again later, to possibly un-accept a thing that turns out to be changeable, or the reverse....

Maturity seems to be a discovery of the things I can't do that I thought I could, and the surprising things I can do. There are core parts of me that will not change, like a tendency to want to feel helpful that can get in the way of actually making a dent in things. And then there are the things I find myself telling my friends (while being careful about advice): did you know this is a thing you can do? You can submit multiple talk proposals, not just one, to most tech conferences. You can submit a play, even if they haven't said specifically that they want plays. Sometimes you can negotiate a layoff. You can tell your professional network that you'd like to serve on a nonprofit board, in case anyone's looking to fill a seat. You can move, you can leave, you can, you can.

And some toil you can skip! And within that: some toil you can just skip, and it's fine. And then there's toil that, if you skip it, someone else has to pick up after you.

This is big and complicated and political and philosophical and whatnot. I should eat dinner.

Filed under:


: It's Not Just You: Malka Older writes:

here's the thing about "adulting": so much of it is entirely unnecessary. I have spent so many hours on health insurance and I only know because I lived in another country that health insurance can function perfectly well without that tax on my time.

Or take tax returns, which we spend time and money doing, even though they could be vastly simplified because the govt already has most of that data. Like the forms they make you fill out at the border even though most of that info is already in your passport (no forms in EU)

all of these tasks that we are taught are inevitable parts of being adult in an advanced society exist either because our society is not as advanced as it pretends or because it has advanced in the direction of making things easier for capital and harder for labor (or both)

Older's point, echoed in Anne Helen Petersen's January piece "How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation", reverberates in my life today: a ton of fiddly expensive-if-you-make-a-mistake labor has emerged or shifted onto the middle class's shoulders, without commensurate logistical, psychological, or financial support for that shift.

This came to mind today because some of us were talking about the anxiety of booking travel. Well -- Back In The Past we paid travel agents to do this sort of thing, learning all the complicated routes and fare trends and quality standards! (And even further in the past, people rarely travelled and we assumed that, of course, travelling to another city would take at least days if not weeks or months of preparation!)

Expectations around planning, decision speed and responsibility, and focus that used to only apply to executives with secretaries now apply to all knowledge workers. And I am struck by how many skills we are expected to have, as adults in 2019 middle-class America, that NO ONE HAS EVER HAD BEFORE, basically.

Here, manage e-mail, a.k.a. this endless TODO list that grows without your input.

Here, resist the best gambling temptation ever invented, which is on the same device you are expected to carry at all times. (When I talk to nonprogrammers these days, I take the opportunity to apologize on behalf of my industry. Email management, calendar management, and internet harassment - all of them are so much more of a burden than they have to be, because we have not done well enough.)

Here, make plans based on the most volatile future anyone has ever had. (And Do Your Bit regarding the greatest collective action problem there is, fighting global warming (which means: decide what Your Bit is, and feel good enough about that decision that the emotional miasma doesn't taint all the rest of your hours.))

Be as decisive as a 19th century tycoon, as nurturing to your family as a TV mom, and love your body as you are (but surely you could fix xyz).

You can't do it all; no one can.

I mean, heck. The other day I saw an ad for a Wells Fargo app feature called "Control Tower" where the use case is, specifically, "you pay monthly subscription fees for things you don't use - this feature helps you find those things so you can go cancel them". Wells Fargo specifically developed/tested/deployed this feature and made an expensive polished TV ad and paid for it to be broadcast (or in this case used as a web ad between acts of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), because it's going to be that profitable a product differentiator, because millions of people get confused/misled into recurring fees, because "deceiving us has become an industrial process."

I don't have a solution. But at least I can try to keep this in mind, when the overwhelm starts to get to me. It's All Too Much not because I am inadequate, but because standards for my class's behavior have risen faster than we've built the infrastructure and prosthetics we'd need to meet them, and because of an unequal distribution of the benefits of the information revolution.

Filed under:


(2) : Steerswoman Series: If you have never read Rosemary Kirstein's "Steerswoman" book series I envy you because I just read them and it was such a thrill ride. Here's the first chapter of the first book as a free online read; you can buy the existing quartet as paper or ebook via her sidebar.

I need to concentrate on client work and Art Of Python prep and backlog-grinding right now, and yet I heard about these books and started and finished all of them within two weeks -- it was that immersive kind of reading that took me back to being a teenager, grabbing 5 spare minutes to get through a few more pages while walking from the subway to my destination. I was living this Nathan W. Pyle comic.

To quote the blurb/marketing copy for the first book:

If you ask, she must answer. A steerswoman's knowledge is shared with any who request it; no steerswoman may refuse a question, and no steerswoman may answer with anything but the truth.

And if she asks, you must answer. It is the other side of tradition's contract -- and if you refuse the question, or lie, no steerswoman will ever again answer even your most casual question.

And so, the steerswomen -- always seeking, always investigating -- have gathered more and more knowledge about the world they traveled, and they share that knowledge freely.

Until the day that the steerswoman Rowan begins asking innocent questions about one small, lovely, inexplicable object...

Her discoveries grow stranger and deeper, and more dangerous, until suddenly she finds she must flee or fight for her life. Or worse -- lie.

Because one kind of knowledge has always been denied to the steerswomen:

Magic.

Friendship, adventure, science, kind people finding stuff out, wonder, humor, dramatic irony, close observation that feeds into the protagonist's mystery-solving, skill-sharing, road trips, conversations about problem-solving and "what the heck is going on here" that feel like rooms I've been in.... it's wonderful and I in particular want to call your attention to this series if you fit any of the following criteria:

  • You like The Good Place
  • You enjoyed Andreas Eschbach's The Carpet Makers
  • You gave up on Stross's Merchant Princes series because you didn't care about what would happen next
  • You are a technologist or scientist (here's an essay she wrote about the series, noting that we are all discoverers)
  • You enjoy stories about women's friendships
  • You enjoy stories where people of all genders and races intermingle without their genders or races getting in the way of what people think they can do or be
  • You enjoy stories where some characters have physical disabilities and are portrayed realistically and respectfully
  • You find that a lot of scene descriptions in fiction, especially fantasy, feel unmotivated and slow the story down (most of Kirstein's scene descriptions serve character and plot!)
  • You think of yourself as someone who has historically preferred science fiction to fantasy
  • You've vaguely heard about these books but thought they were out of print (recently Kirstein got the rights back and reissued them!)
  • You're hungry for a story where the protagonist has the analytical and observational skills of a scientist-detective and is not a misanthrope

If you have not read these books, AVOID SPOILERS AND READ THE BOOKS IN ORDER, starting with The Steerswoman. Avoid also the paperback covers from the original print run as they contain spoilers!

If you've already read these books, I offer these links for your delectation:

Huge thanks to Zack Weinberg for recommending these as excellent fluff.

Filed under:


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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=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%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

[Comments] (1) Being an example of the believers (Timothy): I taught SS Lesson 41 the other week, which covers a lot of stuff (they all do), but I chose to focus on what it means to be a believer. Literally every time I sat down to prepare for this lesson, I ended up on a Mormon blog to re-hash recent events. It became a real distraction. I finally began to discipline and focus myself about two days before it was time to give my lesson. I was literally a wreck; I had no direction for this discussion.

Then I had an idea. On the chalkboard that Sunday, I wrote four names on the board: Nephi, Laman, Moses, and Emma Smith. The names of four believers, two brothers from the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament prophet responsible for re-establishing Judaism and Israel after the Egyptian captivity, and the wife of the first modern day prophet of the LDS church.

Under each name we listed their attributes. Then we had to collectively agree on one word that best fit each person: Nephi was recognized for his valiance; Laman for his worldliness; Moses as a lawgiver; Emma for her longsuffering. We then discussed that under the umbrella of attributes assigned to the term "believer" is the individual brands that follow. So the question becomes, what will be our individual brand as a believer? Will it be attributable to the Word of Wisdom, will we choose to be known for keeping a set of laws, or will it be for our zeal, or love, our compassion, etc? None of these is right or wrong per se, though there may be an individual answer that is better for us. The takeaway: play to your strength as a believer, and use your brand to make the world a better place.

This exercise literally lasted the entire length of the class, about 30 minutes (we were cut short due to the overrun of the Primary Program that day). I walked away feeling much better about life, and am particularly looking forward to my lesson next Sunday on the Epistle of Peter. Should it be successful, perhaps I will post more.

The manual, I might add, contained none of this, which is what I love. The prophet sets the curriculum, but I get to wrestle with the Spirit on the who, what why, and how (when and where are also outside my jurisdiction). It's been a great blessing in my life to study the material and try and direct the material in a direction that can be beneficial to many, including myself. I'm grateful for this calling.

[Comments] (4) Why I stay: It's probably safe to assume no one reads this blog anymore, because I don't post very often. I normally find Instagram to be my safe place, because who doesn't love pictures of food, cats, cool scenery, and the like, without the vagueness, fighting, and incorrect doctrine that is Facebook?

But today something happened, and I feel like talking about it. Perhaps this is the perfect outlet; I get to say it, and no one will read it, and thus no one gets offended (again, a huge perk of not being on Facebook).

My Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has added to its handbook a new category of apostasy: same sex marriage. Now children living in SSM families cannot be baptized until they are 18, and until they disavow the sins of their parents. While the former makes me wonder, and the latter makes me curious (the who, what, when, where, why and how of the disavowal intrigues me), on the whole I've added one more reason to my list of why the Church just plain no longer works for me.

That being said, I stay. Don't get me wrong. I've often thought about leaving, if for no other reason than to make a point. The point being: you are wrong, and I therefore shun you. But really, that's a silly way to make a point. The Church continues without me, and I lose a part of me in the process.

So I stay. I stay because, despite this policy (the same policy exists for children from polygamous families by the way), despite the PR embarrassment we call Prop 8, despite the fact that we oust those that question things, despite the fact that Republicans=Mormonism, despite the fact that no one can give a good answer for why women cannot hold the Priesthood, despite the fact that I never knew until July that Joseph Smith married a 14 year old girl and translated the book of Mormon with a brown stone inside a hat, despite the lame attempts to explain the Priesthood ban as anything other than the flaws of good men, this is my home.

I currently have the calling of Gospel Doctrine teacher. Which means, during the 180 minute church block, I am effectively in charge for 40 minutes of that time, roughly 25%. I have spent the last year, during our study of the New Testament, to use this time to achieve the following: (1) Focus more on Christ and less on silly things that often takes up valuable church space, including missionary guilt, defending the family (whatever that means; no one wants to abolish families), and pornography for the 5,000th time; (2) Challenge the class to read the scriptures with fresh eyes, to see things they never saw before, even though they've read the stories since they were children; (3) Contribute to a class environment where their voice can be heard (ie, I'm a facilitator, not a lecturer); (4) Help us feel the Holy Ghost in class, and follow its promptings to be better people the next six days.

I personally believe I fail at this more than I succeed. But the fact is, I currently have the opportunity/responsibility to be the change I want to see in the church. And that is way more powerful than walking away and being forgotten within a week.

I also stay because I don't have all the answers. So while I currently am at odds on probably 20 or so doctrinal and/or procedural aspects of the church, I recognize that I could be wrong. And until I receive my own personal revelation on these matters (something I'm working on, but for personal reasons seems to take time for me), I just can't write it off. The truth is, despite these obstacles, the church has been good to me. I've learned inside this church the joy of giving, the humility of receiving, to wonder and awe at the notion of sin, forgiveness, and the atonement, and to find purpose in mortality. And while I know I could have learned these elsewhere, I learned them here.

So I'm sticking with my Church. Because I believe I have a part to play. I can show people by the way I live my life that the Church tent is big enough for all, that the Church is not threatened when people bring their questions or their baggage along for the ride, and that the Church can still be a safe place where compassion is the rule and not the exception. So I stay.

test: test

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!

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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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Wendy and Skunk: Maggie and Dalton's latest musical theater group did Peter Pan. Maggie was cast as Wendy and Dalton was Skunk, one of the Lost Boys. Maggie did an amazing job learning all her lines, all her choreography, practicing her songs, and being a leader to the younger kids in the group. I was very impressed and proud of her. Dalton had some funny lines, and he had a good time hanging out with a group of the other cast members.

We were going to take a break, but one of my friends talked me into letting Maggie do the next play - Frozen - so her daughter could do it with her. I think they'll have fun.

Monday Morning: This morning after dropping Sienna off at kindergarten, Arthur and I went to Fisherman’s Cove to look for sea glass and play in the caves. When we got back, I did 30 minutes of Pilates - carefully curated to avoid hurting the cyst on my tailbone. Then I had just enough time to vacuum and shower before picking Sienna up.

Fun and Fury at Del Taco: Maggie and a handful of her friends wrote a skit and performed it at the school talent show. I guess it was based on YouTube jokes and memes, so I completely didn’t understand it, but Maggie ran around on stage yelling free food, so I still laughed. I’m impressed with their initiative, creativity and bravery in doing it.

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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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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.

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

2016

() Yes: A spam today began:
yes, this is fudong machinery manufacture co., ltd a a professional and experienced supplier
I enjoy the prefix "yes," here. It reminds me of product placement in old-time radio ads, or of the way Stephen Colbert introduced the terrifying drugs from Prescott Pharmaceuticals in "Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A."

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.
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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]
Filed under: ,
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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