# 30 Dec 2016, 02:06PM: On LiveJournal:
I've posted to MetaFilter about some recent goings-on at LiveJournal; if you have an LJ account you should probably take a look.
# 27 Dec 2016, 11:43AM: Yuletide 2016 Recommendations:
Every year the Yuletide fanfic exchange delivers a bounty of fun transformative works concerning books, movies, songs, games, news stories, and other parts of our media landscape. I myself have, as they say, committed fanfic a few times, but right now I'm much more a reader and cheerleader than a fiction-writer. I have only started on this year's harvest but I already have some favorites to recommend:
A hopeful story, using "Expert judgment on markers to deter inadvertent human intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant" (you know, "Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.") to tell a ghost map story. (If you want more hope about far future human civilizations, try the fanvid "Dance Apocalyptic" which cheered me this year. And here's more fic about those waste markers.)
This fairy tale, about children and destiny, stands alone so you can read it even if you've never looked at the illustrations that inspire it.
There was once a land, long before and far away from these troubled times, where every child was born with a desire and a destination marked upon them, so that they might know what dwelt in their future. Upon their left hand, a symbol to represent what would give them the greatest happiness in their life. And upon their right hand, a compass that would lead them in the direction of where their desire might be found.
If you liked Hail, Caesar!, perhaps you wanted to revel in the loveliness of Hobie Doyle, who is an understated instance of the Captain Carrot/Middleman/Captain America/Agent Dale Cooper archetype.
The Ghostbusters get a call to a theater built in 1925, and Patty Tolan really shines.
"The War of the Worlds and All That" is a Jeeves and Wooster story that has aliens and mentions Gussie Fink-Nottle and the scripture knowledge prize Bertie won in school, and it's a bunch of fun. And if you're missing the sartorial scheming, enjoy "Jeeves and the Christmas Socks". (I grew up on Wodehouse and on the Fry and Laurie adaptations -- relatedly, here's a sweet story about Tony and Control.)
It's been a while since I read Jurassic Park but "A Strange Attractor in a Stable System" gets Ian Malcolm's voice so right.
If you enjoyed the 1941 movie Ball of Fire (particularly relevant to Wikipedians, incidentally), how about a crossover story that includes The Middleman? And, speaking of The Middleman, "The Extraterrestrial Elf Emergency" includes a paragraph I adore:
"We don't have Christmas on my planet," they said plaintively, through a translator box at the base of their throat. "All our holidays are about military victories and death. Christmas seemed fun."
This Mulan story makes the Disney movie make more sense in ways I had not even thought before.
If you enjoyed Good Omens then perhaps you will like one or more of the three different stories in which those characters enact their own version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia".
I've never seen the 1944 film Gaslight but this story, set after the film, is about bravery and recovery and resilience and I drank it deep and felt nourished.
No, she thought. I must stop being afraid and bear this until it is done and then, then I'll consider what to do next.
I also enjoyed stories transforming Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Fresh Off The Boat, Arrested Development, Arrival, Baby-Sitters Club, and the Mahabharata. And I haven't finished this year's Yuletide yet. Thank you, authors and organizers!
# 02 Dec 2016, 09:30AM: Answering the Phone:
In one of my earliest internships, I volunteered in the local district office of my state Senator (that is, the guy who represented my area in the upper chamber of California's state legislature). I reordered and rearranged informational brochures for our waiting area, I filed, I took phone messages, I think eventually I graduated to writing drafts of replies to constituents for the staffers to revise and send. I volunteered there for a summer, which means that my time there overlapped with the Senate's recess, so I remember a lot more constituent service calls than policy calls -- and the district offices probably got fewer of those calls than the Sacramento office did, anyway.
One day, someone called and said something like, "I'm calling about the Senator's ethics violation." I had never heard anything about this and said "I'm sorry, which ethics violation is that?" to which the caller said "You mean there's more than one?!" I sputtered and put them on hold and took a message or transferred them to a staffer, which I clearly should have done as soon as I heard the tone of their voice and their general topic of inquiry, but hey, inexperience.
Within a few days, there was a letter to the editor in the local newspaper that mentioned this call and named me (I'm pretty sure misspelling my name) while excoriating the Senator and our office. My boss and colleagues sympathized and told me these things happen, and basically reassured me that this was not a black mark on my Permanent Record.
Decades later, I'm calling my local city councilmember, my Senators and my Representative who represent me in Congress, and related offices, spurred by emails from NGOs, aggregators like
"We're His Problem Now" or Wall of Us, and local meetings. And sometimes I stumble over my words, not sure whether they want my name first or my message. But when the intern on the other end of the line says "I don't know what her position is on that; could you call back in 15 minutes? All the staffers who would know are in a meeting right now," I can smile and say "Yes, I can, and I know how it is, I've been on the other end of this call, it's fine." And at least I know I'm not utterly blindsidingly frustrating to deal with. I know, empirically, that I am not as bad as it gets.
# 27 Nov 2016, 08:55AM: Clover:
On Sundays I make omelets. Today's omelets included three diced cloves of garlic.
"I wish to make you aware that we are basically in a garlic ratchet. I will be increasing the number of cloves of garlic involved in our Sunday omlets basically ad infinitum. In sort of a manigarlic destiny approach. So if at some point you find it's going too far, well, file a complaint with your local consulate."
"Well, since I am the one who buys the garlic, I think I can pretty effectively --"
"Oh, that's where the executive orders come in. You think you control appropriations?"
"Are you going to draw from the Strategic Garlic Reserve?"
"There's a slush fund."
(I see that I sort of went from early US President to ... emperor? ... to modern US President over the course of this flight of fancy.)
# 08 Nov 2016, 03:34PM: Podcast Recommendations:
Podcasts I've been enjoying listening to recently include the following (I have not made my way through the back catalog of all of these, by the way):
- "Politically Reactive" with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu: funny interviews about current political events. A favorite episode: their interview with Rachel Maddow.
- "How I Built This" from NPR, focusing on how people built new endeavors. A favorite episode: The story of Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica.
- "Our Debut Album", in which comedians try to write songs. A favorite episode: "King of the Deep".
- "Say Why to Drugs" with Dr. Suzi Gage and Scroobius Pip, in which they share the current research on the effects of various drugs. (The bit of the intro where Pip says "pro-truth and anti-myth" has extra reverb or something and I adore it.) A favorite episode: caffeine.
- "Wolf 359", a scripted scifi podcast about a spaceship where things are getting sketchy. Listen from the first episode, but note that things get much more Battlestar Galactica-y starting in season 2.
- "The History of Philosophy in India", by Jonardon Ganeri and Peter Adamson. A couple favorite episodes: on the Mahabharata, and on women philosophers in ancient India.
- "Song Exploder", by Hrishikesh Hirway -- in each episode, musicians talk about how they made a particular song or score, and you get to hear the early components and drafts, and then you hear the finished piece. A few favorite episodes: Garbage ("Felt"), Weezer ("Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori").
- The Recompiler podcast, by Christie Koehler, on current tech events and interviewing interesting people in tech. A favorite episode: interview with Heidi Waterhouse.
- "Track Changes", from Postlight (a consultancy in NYC), in which Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk with each other and/or guests about tech and design stuff. A couple favorite episodes: parts I and II of an interview with a guy who was a big cheese at Microsoft and who has good deadpan.
- "Looking Sideways", about many aspects of making things. A favorite episode: an interview with Deb Chachra.
- "StartUp", from Gimlet Media, telling the behind-the-scenes stories of people starting businesses. A favorite episode: "Shadowed Qualities" (although I think it won't hit you as hard if you haven't listened to previous episodes about Gimlet Media and founder/host Alex Blumberg).
- "Election Profit Makers", in which friends (one of whom is David "Get Your War On" Rees) rant about the 2016 US election season and swap tips about how to bet profitably on the election. I found out about this via MetaFilter and my Dreamwidth acquaintances and have barely listened so far but enjoyed what I've heard.
# 08 Nov 2016, 10:46AM: Election Day:
I voted today.
Starting Saturday, and for a bunch of Sunday and Monday, I phone-banked and text-banked for the Clinton/Kaine campaign. I also caught up with a few aunts and uncles of mine to remind them to vote, and to ask them to vote for Hillary Clinton.
One aunt of mine has stage IV cancer. It's inoperable. She has trouble getting around but her son will drive them both to the polls tomorrow. If she can't get out of the car, poll officials will come to her and bring her a ballot.
Today I put on a pantsuit and went to our pollsite to cast my ballot. We got there maybe fifteen minutes after the polls opened. Already a long, quiet line curved around the block, under early light in a clear sky.
In New York State: watch out for the so-called "Women's Equality Party".
In New York City: The official government poll site locator site will also tell you your electoral and assembly district, which might help you bypass the first queue when you get to your polling place.
Everywhere in the United States (and for US citizens abroad): IWillVote.com helps you confirm where you'll vote and learn voting requirements (such as whether your state requires you to bring ID).
Several US states have same-day voter registration so you can register and vote today.
If you're having trouble voting, you can call the Election Protection Hotline.
- 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) -- English language hotline
- 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) -- Spanish language hotline
- 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) -- Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog
- 1-844-418-1682 -- Arabic language hotline
Spanish speakers in the US can also text VOTA to 47246 for voting help.
Now: more phone-banking.
# 02 Nov 2016, 11:09AM: Book Catch-up:
I need to catch up with my book reviews or at least log some of the books I've read and liked. I have some notes going back more than a year -- I'll do a very uneven and incomplete recounting just to start catching up.
In mid-2015, for instance, I read and enjoyed several stories in the Kaleidoscope anthology, Andrea Phillips's Revision, Jennie Crusie's Bet Me and Welcome to Temptation, a big chunk of Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation, about a third of Charles Platt's interview collection Dream makers: the uncommon people who write science fiction, and more. And I reread Losing Joe's Place by Gordon Korman. I remember the first time I ever read Losing Joe's Place, in a childhood bedroom in Stockton, to calm and entertain myself after a scary episode of Unsolved Mysteries. It still holds up as comfort reading.
This year I reread Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy). I'd read them as they came out but this was the first time I read them all in a row. As I mentioned in a Making Light comment which is a longer review of the third book (but I softened my view upon rereading), I thought the shape of the books' narratives was interesting -- the first book is like an arrow, and the second is like a V, going from spaceship (and functional community) to space station to planet and back again. What's the third one like? Another commenter, TexAnne, said: an orbit. Yes. These are books about power-over versus power-with, about an unreliable narrator, about the Borg as protagonist, about complicity, and -- Ancillary Sword especially -- trying to give up privilege when it's superglued to your hand and won't come off (Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal takes on that same issue and it's a reason I'm fond of them both). The most resounding and heartbreaking bit of Ancillary Sword is Queter saying that she can make you look at it. Zeiat's demonstration of cakes and counters -- how we socially construct differences & sameness -- has an enthusiastic explication by JJ Hunter. I'm reminded of the comparison in Emily Nagoski's book Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life of us and constellations -- the effect of having the same parts, but arranged differently, can be tremendous. (And there's now a fan trailer for the Imperial Radch books!)
More as logging than as reviewing: I haven't yet blogged here about reading Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, Known Associates by thingswithwings, Hold Me and other recent works by Courtney Milan, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, Making Conversation by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, the Hamilton book, Zen Cho's The Terracotta Bride, Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings, Jeannie Lin's The Lotus Palace, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl written by Ryan North, Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, part of Breaking the Bow: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana, and probably other books. And I want to note that in the last year I've reread, or reread most of, Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon, Travels by Michael Crichton, Zodiac by Neal Stephenson, American Taxation, American Slavery by Robin Einhorn, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury, A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman, and Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary -- plus probably other stuff I'm not remembering off the top of my head. I read Octavia Butler's Parable of the Talents and Parable of the Sower, one of which I'd read before and one of which I hadn't. Bracing, and inspiring the way that memoirs of successful activists can be inspiring.
Right now I'm making my way through Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize lecture, "Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems", and Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge.