mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-10-17 08:41 am

Book rec: Sebastien de Castell, Spellslinger

 This looks like another "young outcast discovers his powers" book.  Wow, is it not.   Trust me. In the very first scene, Kellen needs to fight a magecaster's duel.  

There are three requirements to earning a mage's name among the JanTep.  The first is the strength to defend your family.  The second is the ability to wield the high magics that protect our people.  The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen.  I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn't be doing any of those things.

And we're off, into the duel.  Kellen's problem is that he doesn't have magic.   This is not a survivable problem.   But Kellep does have a very, very clever mind.  In a lesser book, Kellep would discover his magic and wipe the floor with his opponent, winning the acclaim of the crowd. 

This is not a lesser book.  Spellslinger is actually about a young outcast discovering and creating his own moral fiber.  Kellep's struggle, although he doesn't realize it early in the book, is to become a decent human being in an indecent society.  This is a far more interesting coming-of-age story than you usually get.   When the Mysterious Stranger shows up, she's not a kindly wizard mentor.  She's (possibly) not a wizard at all. She doesn't teach Kellep: she gives him opportunities to teach himself.  Kellep acquires some new resources, but they are challenges as much as gifts.

Oh, the Mysterious Stranger kicks ass.  I can't say more, because it would be a spoiler.  She is compelling and ambiguous and funny and tough.

The characters are engrossing.  The worldbuilding is unusual and clever. It's partly based around an original variant of a Tarot deck, but is in no way woo-woo; the cards do not predict your future, but (sometimes) illuminate your choices. The cards are playing cards, but are also a weapon.   The cards have nothing to do -- as far as we know -- with the magic of the JanTep.

The book itself is gorgeous, in a way that made me extremely nostalgic.  The red-and-black cover has two line drawings of the main characters, presented as a face card. (Don't look too closely at Kellep; it's a spoiler.)  Red is used as a spot color, very effectively.  There are interior illustrations of relevant Tarot cards at the beginning of each section.  And the page edges (forget the technical term) are red!  Taken as a whole, the book looks a bit like a deck of cards, which is, I'm sure intentional.

Here's the catch.  There (as of time of writing) no U.S. or Canadian distributor of Spellslinger or its sequel, Shadowblack.  If you're in North America and want to read them, you'll have to order from the, in my experience, reliable, fast, and cheap or an equivalent.

Note: de Castell's Greatcoat books are also awesome.  If you like the Musketeers books, you should love them.  The nice thing is that they preserve the essential "three duelists against the world" spirit without either copying the plots or being pastiche-y.  The second nice thing is that the author is a stage fight choreographer and is able to communicate fights clearly to the non-fighter (me).
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-10-14 09:54 am

A Voice From The Attic: Ambrose Bierce's Write it Right

Nothing ages faster than style guides; the language moves on while the guide continues to shake a fist at the previous generation's shibboleths. (Lookin' at you, Strunk and White. Fowler is at least funny.)

Today, I give you Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right, published 1909. There are gems on every page, but here are a few:

A for An. "A hotel." "A heroic man." Before an unaccented aspirate use an. The contrary usage in this country comes of too strongly stressing our aspirates.
Note that this means he thinks you should say "HOtel". Some people (*cough*fuddyduddies*cough* still agitate for "An heroic", but I've never seen anybody objecting to "A hotel".

Chivalrous. The word is popularly used in the Southern States only, and commonly has reference to men's manner toward women. Archaic, stilted and fantastic.
I kind of love this. Boy, would Bierce hate "kind of".

Every for Ever. "Every now and then." This is nonsense: there can be no such thing as a now and then, nor, of course, a number of now and thens. Now and then is itself bad enough, reversing as it does the sequence of things, but it is idiomatic and there is no quarreling with it. But "every" is here a corruption of ever, meaning repeatedly, continually.
Good old false etymology.

Some forgotten slang and dialect:
Avoirdupois for Weight. Mere slang.
Clever for Obliging. In this sense the word was once in general use in the United States, but is now seldom heard and life here is less insupportable.
Decidedly for Very, or Certainly. "It is decidedly cold."
Gent for Gentleman. Vulgar exceedingly.

So. Tell me your favorites!

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-10-13 10:01 am

Poem help!

Does anybody remember a prose-poem about a young man who is determined to see the truth of everything?  The important part is the ending, in which the man, grown old, looks into the eyes of young men and sees a kindly old gentleman who is fond of sunsets.   The last line is something close to

"That is what he saw in the eyes of those wicked young men".

I thought this was by Stephen Crane.  Does anybody recognize it? 
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-10-05 01:21 pm

It's all about the algorithm

Turkish doesn't have gender markers on pronouns.

Try this.

1. Go to
2. Select English as the language in the left-hand field.
3. Enter
she is a babysitter
he is a doctor
4. Select Turkish as the language in the right-hand field.
5. Click translate.
You get
o bir bebek bakıcısı
o bir doktor
6. Select the button with two arrows above the top right of the left-hand field. This reverses the translation and translates back from Turkish to English.

Have fun.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-10-02 11:13 am
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There's a mystery series in this ad

Via Lee Jackson's wonderful Twitter:

Lady detective cyclists
LADY CYCLIST DETECTIVES - SLATERS' have an army of lady cyclist detectives throughout the kingdom for confidential services of all descriptions. Consultations free. - HENRY SLATER, Manager. 1, Basinghall-st. London. E.C.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-29 01:55 pm
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Great moments on Twitter

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-29 07:52 am

More code than Bletchley Park

Somebody on Twitter just approvingly linked to a screenshot*  of an article** Viewing With Alarm readers of YA.

Banned Books Week, that annual festival of cloying liberal self-satisfaction beloved by people who like the idea of reading more than they do actually sitting down with Edward Gibbon [e:***] or even Elmore Leonard.   
A.k.a. proper male writers.

"Read a Banned Book!"
Which one? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion? David Irving's revisionist histories of the Second World War? William S. Burroughs' sustained fantasy of torture, sadomasochism, animal cruelty, and child rape, Naked Lunch? The Douay-Rheims edition of the Bible?
Only one of which has ever been banned in the U.S., where Banned Books Week is celebrated.   As far as I know, neither Protocols nor David Irving have been banned anywhere in the English-speaking world.

In my experience, those with the strongest emotional investment in Banned Books Week tend to be people whose idea of literature is something called "Y.A.," [sic] which they can continue to enjoy well into their 20s, plus whatever they found themselves forced to slog through as liberal arts majors in college in between tweeting and watching prestige cable and old Buffy reruns on Netflix. These are people with cartoonish conceptions of history, in which the vast sweep of human affairs, the march of technological development, the fluctuations of wealth, the accumulations of capital, the misery of wars, the famines and floods and massacres, have been an inexorable progression culminating in America in 2017, where reading a pornographic pastiche of children's fiction called 50 Shades of Grey is an inalienable right.

Count the dog-whistles:

1.  YA, whose breakout mainstream successes include The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter.  There are, of course, YA successes written by people who identify as male  -- John Green for one -- but many of the mainstream breakouts were written by women.  Ironically, Hunger Games has a great deal to say about the fluctuations of wealth,  accumulations of capital, the misery of wars, massacres, and so on.  Harry Potter has a lot to say about oligarchy and the misery of wars.  Twilight ... um ... the inherent heteronormativity of many love triangles?  Okay, it's a reach.

2.  Old Buffy reruns.  Not as feminist in the rear-view mirror as it appeared to me at the time, but so promoted at the time, and celebrating female heroism.  

3.  "a pornographic pastiche of children's fiction called 50 Shades of Grey"  I admire the economy of this.   Fanfiction ("pastiche of children's fiction"), YA (Twilight is most definitely not for children), and 50 Shades, a book that was notoriously consumed, avidly, by adult women.

Conclusion: things that women read, write, and watch are bad and unserious.

There's also a heapin' helpin' of generalized Viewing With Alarm.

Unfortunately for them, when you actually look at the lists, you realize that virtually none of the books being trotted out has ever truly been banned. It is not an act of censorship in any meaningful sense for a school librarian to decide that, on balance, it would be better if children did not have unfettered access to lurid, often illustrated, stories about drug use and underage sodomy. 
Attributing decisions that, notoriously, are made by school and library boards -- hence "banned" -- to individual librarians.   The decisions that get nationwide attention aren't librarians failing to buy; they're public pressure to prevent already-bought books from being read.

Increasingly, many of the works in question are not even proper books but rather so-called "graphic novels," which are novels in the same sense that the MoonLite BunnyRanch in Mound House, Nevada, is a farm. What are these things doing in school libraries in the first place except contributing to the now probably irreversible dumbing down of American education?
"I refuse to read the 1992 Pulitzer Prize winner about a Holocaust survivor, an award-winning memoir of growing up female in Khomeini's Iran, or another memoir of growing up lesbian with a closeted gay father that not only made "best book" lists but was made into a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical."  That last, of course, was written by Alison Bechdel, the popularizer of the Bechdel Test.  All of these books are whorehouses and should not be in school libraries.


* Screenshots on Twitter are such an appalling accessibility loss.   
** Ban Banned Books Week
*** As I afterthoughted on Twitter, if you actually wanted to read Roman history, as opposed to English literature or historiography, you'd be reading Mary Beard, not Gibbon.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-28 08:46 pm
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Not this year: Yuletide

 I was trying to gen up the enthusiasm to write a Dear Yulegoat letter, and I realized I'm just too tired.  The well has been dry, past dry, sucking water down into it, for awhile, and 2017 just keeps dragging on, each day worse than the last one way or another.  (We've had three separate Urgent Care visits in the last two months, plus two medical crises for my parents.)

In an abstract way, I'm pleased for the fandoms I've nominated, but rationally, I can't  see myself writing anything in the next three months.  I can't even muster the energy to write the letter.   It doesn't feel like a relief to drop out (or not drop in); it just feels like a thing, another bullet falling in the tower.

Better luck next year.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-16 02:58 pm
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Afghan question for knitters

My next big project -- after daughter's afghan, which is now nearly ten years old -- may be a historic afghan pattern by Anne Orr.  It's Tunisian crochet in a worsted-weight yarn (modern equivalent to period "four-fold Germantown").   If I want an afghan I can wash as necessary, throw across couches, throw across laps, lather rinse repeat -- in short, one that will stand up to wear and time, what yarn do you recommend?  This is not a good time for Susie's Heirloom Hand-Dyed Handspun, because the finished product is 57" x 45", give or take gauge. Cheaper is better, but not so cheap as to be itchy or unpleasant to knit  I'm leaning acrylic for durability and washability, but I'm happy to hear what you'd use.   The primary colors are black, grey, and white, with a cross-stitch pattern in tapestry-weight yarn over the top.

Here's a color reproduction from the Dover reprint.   Here's a black-and-white picture of the original afghan, which Katharine Cornell worked on nightly in The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-13 11:46 am
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My 2017 Yuletide noms

Les Trois Mousquetaires | The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (a.k.a. books only)
Milady de Winter
(open slot)

Golden Age of Piracy RPF
Anne Bonny
Mary Read
(open slot)
(open slot)

Greatcoats Series - Sebastien de Castell
Falcio val Mond
Brasti Goodbow

This year, for me, it's swashbuckling all the way! I will do a pimp post later; let me know if you have people you want in the open slots.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-08 12:26 pm
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Yet more Equifax

 The attorney general of New York has protested to Equifax, and they have "clarified" that the waiver of rights to sue only applies to the security-monitoring service itself, and not to the existing security failure.

Expand the last question in the FAQ (  to see this clarification.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-08 08:07 am
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Equifax update: Don't sign up for credit monitoring!

You're fine if you use the existing form to check if you're affected, because it doesn't ask for a waiver.  However, don't sign the form Equifax offers for credit monitoring.  In the fine print, it waives your right to join class action suits. 
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-07 04:50 pm
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Are you American? The Equifax leak

Equifax just leaked personal info including any or all of birthdates, addresses, Social Security numbers, and/or credit card information for roughly half the adult population.

No.  Really.

To check if you were affected, go here:

If you get a date back, you *were* affected; set yourself a calendar reminder to go back to the site on the appropriate date and register for ... something yet to be determined. 

Equifax has known about this since July 29th.  The CFO and two other senior executives sold big chunks of stock three days later.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-09-02 03:52 pm
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Need inspiration? Stith Thomas online!

 If you're a scholar of folklore, Stith Thomas is an honored name.  He created Motif-index of folk-literature : a classification of narrative elements in folktales, ballads, myths, fables, mediaeval romances, exempla, fabliaux, jest-books, and local legends.   This is and was the Dewey Decimal system for folklore.  

T11.4.4. Love through seeing marks of lady’s teeth in fruit which she has bitten

T11.6. Wish for wife red as blood, white as snow, black as raven.
T85.4.1. Ring of Fastrada. (Tove‘s magic ring.) Lover keeps body of dead mistress (wife) intact by means of magic ring. When ring is removed from her finger, the body immediately decays and he is cured of his love. 

A full six volumes of Stith Thomas will set you back a pretty penny.  But the University of Alberta has put it online!  Hurrah!
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-08-28 10:14 am
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Fencing neep

Oh, look at this fencing club preserved unchanged since the late 19th century. 
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-08-27 05:30 pm

Bliss for history buffs

Green's Dictionary of Historical Slang,  all 3+ million words of it, is available free online.  Without a subscription, you can only search individual words or browse alphabetically.  You can't see the etymology and cites (damn it), but it's still a fun resource.  49 pounds (oog) for the full megillah if you aren't affiliated with an academic institution that subscribes.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-08-25 08:20 am
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Screenshot for posterity: GCHQ* endorses LGBT legend

Endorsement of Alan Turing footsteps


#AskGCHQ We've got a great support network for LGBT staff and you get to walk in the footsteps of Alan Turing ^B

As a friend of mine murmured, "Perhaps skip some of the steps."

* Wiki: The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the British government and armed forces.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-08-21 09:24 am

That Whedon Thing

I gave up on Joss Whedon, Male Feminist Icon, after the first episode of DOLLHOUSE.   I was creeped out by FIREFLY's Madonna/whore thing, but somehow I reasoned around it.   The revelation that he's been using that reputation to predate on women is horrible, but not a shock.

When I read Kai Cole's statement -- do read if you have somehow missed it -- I kept flashing on the pivotal conversation in Gaudy Night, in which Harriet and Peter talk about spouses who have eaten each other, and whether there is such a thing as a marriage in which nobody is eaten.  Kai Cole was and is an architect.  Starting, by her telling, with Buffy, she dedicated hersef to  emotional labor for Joss Whedon, including producing projects that he worked on.  Harriet Vane would tell you that Whedon ate Cole.  And, going only by the direct quotations Cole gives, when Whedon confessed to her, he praised himself -- told her what a powerful stud he was, and that it wasn't his fault he was surrounded by "aggressive" actresses.

Whedon's public response to Cole's statement:

“While this account includes inaccuracies and misrepresentations which can be harmful to their family, Joss is not commenting, out of concern for his children and out of respect for his ex-wife.”

Let's unpack this.  

1.  Whedon cheated for over a decade, but Cole is the one who's hurting their children.
2.  Whedon used feminism as a tool to get laid, but now he's showing Cole respect.
3.  Cole has direct quotes from Whedon's letter, showing exactly who he is, but the account "includes inaccuracies and misrepresentations"

So.  "You're a bad mother, and I could explain how much you're lying, but I won't because unlike you I'm a good father and respect the children and you."

Whedonesque, bless them, have gone read-only and shut down.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-08-17 08:20 am
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No more cakes and ale (race edition)

I follow an excellent curated list of reporters. Thrown in as the token conservative is Salena Zito. Zito's claim to fame is that she called Pennsylvania and thus the nation as going for Trump early, and she was right. She has positioned herself as the voice of Forgotten Non-Urban America. (This reached hilarious levels when she toured "non-urban America" and counted in, not only a commuter suburb of Gary, Indiana, but people who actually commuted to Gary.)

Today, Salena retweets a 1994 post in which she explained it all to us, race edition. (Save for nausea before clicking.)

Briefly, the essay says that a black family moved into her white neighborhood in 1969. I'll let her explain it.

Race in Pittsburgh, as in many industrial cities, was volatile in 1969. Society was changing rapidly for whites and blacks and, as with most change, some people reacted with fear, others with anger, and many with no brains at all.

In typically horrible timing, government-enforced integration coincided with Lyndon Johnson's “Great Society,” which bulldozed iconic ethnic neighborhoods — tearing apart lifelong experiences, communities and ways of life — in favor of public housing.

It was supposed to compensate for past injustices but it merely punished one community to make amends to another.

No mention that the "iconic ethnic neighborhoods" included black neighborhoods, of course, or the neighborhoods -- almost certainly including Zito's -- whose sale contracts forbade the owner to sell to a black person.  No, that neighborhood just mysteriously grew up all-white.

Thanks to my parents, the Chatmans weren't considered “black people.” They were just new neighbors, and we did what we always did when someone new moved onto the block — baked chocolate-chip cookies and delivered those to their home.
Three months later — after spending our days jumping rope, playing tag and all of the other things that 9-year-old girls do — a brick shattered the Chatmans' front window; another smashed their car's windshield, and the perpetrators, a couple of teenage boys, tried to burn a cross on the lawn.

“Your dad chased those young teens ... he caught all of them, single-handedly, and held them for the police,” Carnisa recalled. “I remember him telling them how ashamed he was of them.”

And everything was okay then! And Carnisa, her black friend,  repaid her by saving her from a black riot in high school! And therefore:

So the solution to our nation's racial discourse should be handled by us individually, one person at a time — and not by exploiting bad deeds done by both sides that only further the hatred.

Note that it never occurs to Zito that Carnisa had to go to school with the brothers and sisters and friends of those boys who burned a cross.  Or that there were other people who put their resentment of "tearing apart lifelong experiences" into words and action.  No.  Zito made friends with Carnisa and they're still close friends and that's what everybody should do!  And nobody (among Zito's friends) considered the Chatmans black, so that made everything better!

You won't read an essay that better encapsulates the belief that individual virtue is better than collective action.   With a triple scoop of  white privilege.

e:  Chaser.  Mother Jones finally does what nobody else is doing and interviews rural black voters.

Turner’s mom, who cleans houses in town for a living, went to work a couple of days after [the election], and her employer, an older white woman, brought up the results of the recent election. The two had talked politics before—Turner’s mom is a Democrat, and her employer is a Republican. “Well, you might as well come and live with me now,” the employer said. “You gonna be mine eventually."

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
2017-08-13 08:02 pm
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Not entirely sure my parents sent me to college for this...

 I was playing the admirable game "West of Loathing" when I had to solve a number puzzle where I had to add up pressing buttons with different values (411,295,161) to reach a specified total of 3200.  I button mashed, then said, to hell with this, this is a linear programming equation, plugged it into Wolfram Alpha, and solved for x,y,z.

God bless technology.

P.S.  If you enjoy puzzle games, silly humor, and combat that can be dialed back so that even the slowest-trigger-fingered in the West -- that would be me -- can play it, try West of Loathing.  I find it engaging, focusing,  and soothing, in times that need some soothing.