mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 I am going to be doing a full review later.  For Christmas, I asked for Linda Przybyszewski's The Lost Art of Dress.  I am reading it with interest.  It is the kind of  history where you'd much rather read the author's research sources than her book.   For one thing, she constantly refers to her sources as "A Dress Doctor" or "Two Dress Doctors", and then you have to look in the back for the name of the woman who said X or Y or Z.

Anyway, full rant later.  Here's a representative bit.

 The Dress Doctors took their ideas, reworked them into the Five Art Principles—harmony, rhythm, balance, proportion, and emphasis—and applied them to dress. As a glance around any college campus will prove, studying the principles of art changes how a person dresses. While the law faculty members in their neat, dark suits appear ready to testify before Congress, and the Romance language professors dress with a certain je ne sais quoi , it is the art historians whose subtle color schemes, unusual accessories, and artfully groomed heads draw admiration. There is one exception to this rule: art historians who study ugly things. If a professor’s specialty is the life and work of an old man from Alabama who made murals out of carburetors and teaspoons, no one looks to her for fashion tips. For the rest of us, there are the Five Art Principles.

(For the record, Dr. Przybyszewski is a professor of history, not of art history.)   

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 My alumnae organization has seen fit to invite me to "an event this week focused on building your personal brand with career expert [name deleted]", which is actually  a St. John Knits trunk show.   St. John Knits last qualified as "power dressing" some time during the 1990s.

I am sorely, sorely tempted to show up in my middle-aged overweight straight-out-of-Berkeley flowing cottons and say "Have at it, lady!"   THe major thing holding me back is that I don't want to associate with the sort of alumnae who think this is a cool idea.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Melissa Clark's New York Times recipe for skillet cornbread.  (Complete with ghastly perky video, if you can stand it)


12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup maple syrup
2 ¼ cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal, fine or medium-coarse grind
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Selected quotes:
  • Some cornbread falls on the light and fluffy side of the spectrum, sweet enough to pass for dessert. Then there is crisp, lean and salty cornbread, nearly as savory as the fried chicken that often goes with it. This recipe splits the difference.
  • Crisp-edged, maple-syrup-spiked and tender-crumbed, a buttered slice works equally well with a drizzle of honey or with hot sauce, or both if you just can’t decide.
  • Pay attention to the scent wafting around the kitchen. When it smells like chestnuts roasting on a street corner in December, immediately pour the butter into a bowl to stop the cooking.
If you watch the video -- and I recommend being up-to-date on your insulin first -- you'll discover that Clark chooses both the cornmeal grind and the whole-wheat flour because they add sweetness.

Bless your heart, honey, if you want a cake, make a cake. 
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
My God, that was bad. A potpourri of bad, with each element stinking up the place, independently, so as you move around the room you are constantly catching new pockets of distinct stink. We're talking Last of the Time Lords bad.

spoilers )

In summary: What a great season, but I don't understand why it contained only two episodes ("Mummy on the Orient Express" and "Flatline", if you're curious.)

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Jennifer Kloester, Georgette Heyer.

Never read biographies of your favorite writers. Jennifer Kloester builds on the research Jane Aiken Hodge did for her Heyer biography; Kloester has the great advantage of full cooperation from the Heyer family, and complete access to Heyer's letters. The book is well-written and enlightening. Kloester has done substantial original research, including scanning British periodicals page-by-page to track down forgotten Heyer short stories. Kloester tends to gloss over, or at least excuse, Heyer's prejudices and crankiness, but she scrupulously presents the evidence before drawing her own conclusions.
Converts are often the most zealous enforcers of the formal strictures of a religion; similarly, the most ardent enforcers of a hierarchy are often those in the middle, the ones who see any progress by those below them as a threat to their own hard-won positions. Georgette Heyer was one of these. Heyer was the granddaughter, on one side, of a Russian emigrant -- almost certainly a Jew, although there are no records of this and the family never spoke of it-- who worked his way up from being a warehouseman to a businessman; on the other side, of a family whose money came from a successful tugboat company. Heyer came, in short, from Trade, and from families that had fought their way up to Trade from the working classes. Heyer's novels, on the other hand, laud the inherent superiority of the nobility.
For instance, In These Old Shades, a noble girl and a peasant boy are switched at birth -- it's a Heyer novel, there's usually cross-dressing -- and each child demonstrates his or her inherent class throughout rearing. At the climax, the peasant-raised-noble is greatly relieved to lose the position of heirdom to a great French title and to retire to a farm, while the noble-raised-peasant gets to marry a fellow noble who recognized her probable parentage at sight. That's standard Heyer, and TOS is one of my favorites of her books.. When I read Heyer's letters, I am reminded that this wasn't just Heyer's id-fantasy: it was how she really thought the world did and should should work.  A tobacconist's assistant and fan once wrote Heyer complaining about a speech in a modern novel that included the line "It's always been my dread that he might marry something [sic] out of a tobacconist's shop so you can imagine what a relief to me it is to know that he's had the sense to choose a really nice girl. Not that I'm a snob, but there are limits, and young men are such fools." Heyer commented on this letter to a friend: "I can see not the slightest reason for encouraging her. I don't write for that kind of person, after all, & if she chooses in future to ban me from her library list it's all the same to me. What is more, there is nothing to be said. I should regard it as a major tragedy if my son were to marry a tobacconist's assistant." Kloester comments:
Although [Heyer] held to the idea of a natural social hierarchy, she also recognized the capacity for vulgarity in any individual regardless of class [ha!] and frequently depicted dishonorable aristocrats alongside principled lower-class characters [Note: vulgarity is different from honor. ] Ever class-conscious, in Horsham society she felt herself to be on the same social plane as those who moved in "county" circles, despite the fact that she did not own an estate, hunt, or even farm her own land. [And also despite the fact that she moved household every few years.'] ... Georgette's particular kind of snobbery was rarely overt -- she was much too private for that -- [huh?] but it is implicit in most of her public and private writing.

Kloester, a thorough researcher, cites one of Heyer's childhood favorites, The Red Deer.
But the Hind looked grave. "We are never unkind to the Trout, she said, for they belong to the peat stream but you must never become familiar with them. Fallow Deer, I believe, treat them as equals," and here she looked very proud, "but we do not. They are a lazy lot of fellows whose forefathers would not take the trouble to go down to the sea, whereby they might have grown into noble fish with a coat as bright as the moon on the water. But they would not, and so they have remained small and ugly, and they never lose their spots. You must never be rude to them, for that would be unworthy of a Red Deer, but you must never make great friends with them ."

In short, the tobacconist's family should have swum ... I don't know, into somebody else's oviduct?

Two generations previously, Heyer's paternal ancestors had been peasants in Russia; her mother's family owned tugboats; and yet she considered herself infinitely above a tobacconist. She had a similar pull-the-rope-up attitude toward feminism. Although Heyer spent most of her life supporting her husband, her widowed mother, and her brothers, she was firmly convinced that women were less intelligent and less competent than men. She thoroughly disliked Dorothy Sutherland, the editor of Woman's Journal, for the very good reason that Sutherland rewrote and retitled Heyer's novels, without consulting the author, when she serialized. Whenever Heyer spoke of Sutherland in her letters, she referred to Sutherland as "that Sutherland Bitch" or "the S.B." So far, so normal; a bad or unsympathetic editor is a nightmare for any writer. When Heyer wrote to a friend after Sutherland refused to buy a novel Heyer had edited to Sutherland's request, she commented "Saving your presence, she is treating me to a startling example of the folly of Woman at the Helm."
Seen from the outside, Heyer's personal life is as unfair as most Victorian authoresses' [term deliberate]. Heyer's beloved father, collaborator, and friend dropped dead of a heart attack in 1925, when he was 56 and she was 23 . He didn't leave much money; Kloester doesn't address why there was no insurance. Heyer's mother made no attempt to support herself. Heyer's eldest brother, Boris, then 18, had both hemophilia and what was perceived as pure irresponsibility (but sounds, from a distance, like mild bipolar; he had mood swings). Both of them had to be supported -- in a separate household, because Heyer didn't get along with her mother -- for the remainder of their lives. (Heyer's youngest brother, Frank, was thirteen when his father died, and did grow up to be an independent adult.)  Furthermore, Heyer's husband, Ronald Rougier, had a great deal of trouble finding a career that would support his own family, far less his in-laws.  Rougier had been trained as a mining engineer, but he never made the big strike.  He then invested in two different businesses that didn't go much of anywhere. Unlike Boris, Rougier wasn't irresponsible; he was simply, like thousands of other returned veterans, struggling in the postwar economy. In 1936, when Rougier himself was 36, he decided to try for the career he had wanted as a young man and began reading for the Bar; this meant three years without any income at all, and with heavy additional expenses. (He eventually became a very successful barrister and was made a Queen's Counsel in 1959, so the studies for the bar were a wise investment.) Heyer spent more than a decade as the principal support for six people, all the while ardently supporting the idea that women were innately less competent than men. Not surprisingly, she had a nervous breakdown in 1935; in the three years since her only child's birth she had "moved house twice, written six books, endured periods without domestic support, suffered several episodes of severe financial strain, and committed herself to writing seven new novels."    She was carrying immense burdens, including trying to  pay the expenses of an upper-middle-class household on a middle-class income, while writing frothy comedies of manners.   
 My fundamental problem when reading Heyer's letters is that I just don't like her, and I'm quite confident that she wouldn't have liked me. 
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Via james_nicoll:

E. Catherine Tobler tells us that the current issue of F&SF has only male authors

And guess what the theme of this issue is?
The issue reacts to Internet intolerance of difference by gathering what the editor describes as “stories that deal with touchy themes or go beyond the bounds of Political Correctness.” In other words, the issue contains stories selected for their potential to offend. The issue reflects an editorial decision to present thought provoking subjects and perspectives in the full knowledge some of the stories have the potential to elicit negative responses.


Let it blaze!  Let it blaze!  For we have done with this "education"!

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
God that was stupid. STUPID STUPID STUPID. STUPID AGAIN. And the Doctor went from simply rude to actually cruel.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 ... a decision whose wisdom is becoming more and more and more apparent the longer the current debacle goes on.

The significant discussion is going on in the personal dreamwidth of [personal profile] antarcticlust , here.  Two different concom members have spoken. I want to call your attention. to a comment by jamiam, also a concom member. Excerpted; the full response is at the link under "call your attention".

 "The concom was initially presented with the Frenkel subcommittee's decision on July 15, with the following preface:
This statement has been sent to Elise Matthesen and Lauren Jankowski, per their request. We are also circulating it to the concom for your information and advance notice; while we welcome your comments, this is the final document and it will not be changed at this point."
No comment.

"Wiscon itself was and is in danger this weekend, both as a concept and in practice. Various individuals from both sides are contemplating quitting the concom in sheer frustration, when the concom is already badly understaffed. A few of us are starting to think "burn it all down" makes sense. What's the point of a "feminist" convention if it can't listen to its own community and protect that community from harm? "
What indeed, asked jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.

" has made clear to the rest of the concom how the subcommittee could have arrived at the decision it did: by consciously omitting most of the relevant information about Jim Frenkel's history in the SFF community, and by (apparently?) failing to discuss much of the information that was requested from Wiscon members for the purpose of making this decision."
Well, that's certainly a solutiion.  To what?  I dunno.

"Antarcticlust was the right person for the job because she understood the need for someone to do it, and she had a plan, and she was willing to spar with reluctant and established concom members to get it in place before W38. Antarcticlust is a career academic, and the plan was based on the well-established academic model for dealing with harassment cases. Of course, this model has known flaws, and (in hindsight) I think the subcommittee system failed in a pretty typical fashion. "

The flaws in the academic model are not so much "known" as "notorious", witness the social media and mass media coverage -- including a front-page article in the New York Times! --  this Spring.  I bring this up because antarcticlust has repeatedly referred to her academic expertise as proof of her competence.    I would expect a person with academic expertise to be intimately familiar with, not just the flaws in the model, but the ongoing scandals directly attributable to this model.
Two down in the [personal profile] jamiam  comment thread; jamiam is once again speaking:

" I'm involved in STEM and academia as well as SFF fandom; I can tell you a hell of lot more people are impacted by the abuse that goes on in academia and STEM fields right now, and there are a hell of a lot more interesting words printed on the topic of how to deal with it in those fields."
And let their mothers lean from the upper windows and cry, "Let it blaze! Let it blaze! For we have done with this 'education!”   -- Virginia Woolf.  
Let it blaze.   I have done with this 'feminist convention'.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Dr Clare Jackson of Cambridge University "argues that the Stuarts, more than any other, were Britain's defining royal family."  (That's the tagline of the show, on BBC Two's page.

[In the coming century, seven Stuarts will rule the three separate kingdoms of  over Scotland, England, and Ireland]  Through bloodshed and civil war, they will refashion them into the Great Britain that we know today.

Entirely by accident and in many cases against their will.

They are the first family of Great Britain.  They are ... the Stuarts.

I have no idea what that first sentence is supposed to mean.

“His distant cousin, the childless Queen Elizabeth”
HIS FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED.  Sigh, pause, open Google Docs window.
Today, we tend to take the modern kingdom of Great Britain for granted…
AHAHAHAHAHA referendum . (Note:  This series aired in January 2014.)
[at Berwick, James I and XI declares that Scots and English should become brothers] “That would require a leap of faith, and would require them to become more intimate with one another.”
Hey, I consider centuries of raiding, killing, and marrying each other pretty damn intimate.  Ask anybody on the Borders, or read the superb The Steel Bonnets by George Macdonald Fraser.
“but he was the first fully to confront confront the new religious tensions brought about by the Protestant Reformation”
That would be news to Mary, Queen of Scots, looking back on her long, mutually enjoyable relationship with John Knox.
“James was a wonderful wordsmith ... It must have been quite unnerving for the English MPs, after decades of taciturn Tudor rule, suddenly to have a Stewart king in their midst, engaged in a massive PR exercise.”
[insert Tilbury speech here]
“England’s Kings and Queens had a troubled past in Ireland.”
No shit, Sherlock.
“[Tyrone and Tyrconnell's] destination was  Spain, a Catholic superpower, but it was what  they left behind troubled James most: a power vacuum that stretched across the north of Ireland.
Because Spain had no history at all of supporting Catholic revolts.  no, no.  He just didn't want a power vacuum in Northern Ireland.
James set up a scheme to send loyal citizens from his other two realms to live in Ireland.  
Er… way to plaidwash.
They were given land, the land of the earls, and it was called plantation.  The land was also used by the native Irish population. who herded cattle and moved with the seasons.    [photos of an Irish cattle auction?!?!?]
...In the darkest, most impenetrable part of the Gaelic north, James knew he would need help.
...Ironically, during the early years of James’s reign, Ireland was more settled than it had been, or would be, for centuries.  James had done what previous English monarchs had failed to do: planted something stronger than army.  James had planted an idea.  The idea of loyalty.
I could quote much more of the narration about Ireland, but I’m losing the will to live.
“But why would someone give a suit of armor to a fourteen-year-old?”
Oh, I dunno, it's not as if kings had been doing it for centuries.

INTERRUPTION:  In my googling for examples, I was devastated to find out that the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Mass closed in 2013.   Aiiieee.
“[Prince Henry]  is a kingdom united, in flesh and blood, the first British prince.”
… I think his father might disagree with you.
“How would Charles convince?  How would he control?  If he was unable to speak properly?”
Like his father, you mean?  Whose not only had a speech impediment ("tongue too big for his mouth") but  whose habits  of spitting and drooling during speech you seem to have overlooked?
[in the context of Charles I's visit to Spain in the attempt to marry the Infanta] “This is Corpus Christi, … the body of Christ in the form of a communion wafer being paraded through the streets." [street shots of Corpus Christi in Spain] "In the 17th century,  it powerfully confirmed how central the Catholic religion was to Spanish identity.  And today, it seems as if little has changed.  It’s certainly like nothing I’VE ever witnessed before.”
... Don't get around much?
“Corpus Christi is a massive assault on the senses.”
“[Charles I]  controlled his church through bishops, and kept dissenting voices out.”
King James I and VI: If you aim at a Scottish presbytery, it agreeth as well with monarchy, as God and the devil. ... No bishop, no King!
"[the Kirk] had become a wellspring of Scottish identity since the departure of the Royal Court.  You might say it had become a law unto itself."
I’m assuming that the Royal Court whose departure you’re referring to was Mary, Queen of Scots heading off to France ?  
"[The National Covenant of Scotland]  To my mind, it was a traditional way of registering serious discontent.  A yellow card, if you like.  An invitation to Charles to reconsider his religious policy.  Charles, however, regarded it as an outrageous attack on his authority."

That would be the one that offered him conditional allegiance, as in ". And because we perceive that the quietness and stability of our religion and Kirk doth depend upon the safety and good behaviour of the King's Majesty, as upon a comfortable instrument of God's mercy granted to this country for the maintenance of His Kirk, and ministration of justice among us, we protest and promise with our hearts under the same oath, hand-writ, and pains, that we shall defend his person and authority with our goods, bodies, and lives..."
“The three kingdoms had been united under their first Stuart king.”
Er,  Ireland?  Seriously?
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 The Laboratorium says that it unequivocally  violates The Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, that it passed an IRB (!!!), and that it was funded with Federal money.   Why did it pass?  “on the grounds that Facebook filters user news feeds all the time, per the agreement.”
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
that Facebook's recent manipulation of its customers wouldn't pass any ethics review board known to man.  How good that it's private enterprise doing research on non-consenting participants,  especially research that might harm its participants.  I would love to know how Cornell and UCal's committees passed this, or if they were even consulted.
In an study with academics from Cornell and the University of California, it filtered users' "news feeds" – the constant flow of comments, videos, pictures and web links that are prompted by other users in their social network. In one test, exposure to friends' "positive emotional content" was reduced, resulting in less subsequent positive posts of their own, and in another exposure to "negative emotional content" was reduced and the opposite happened. It concluded: "Emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks."

Edit:  direct link to study.
In an experiment with people who use Facebook, we test whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence  our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.


Jun. 23rd, 2014 11:01 am
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Hubster and I started watching the 1997 feature-length adaptation of The Woman In White last night.  We gave up after ten minutes.  I was already upset that Marian was not only played by a pretty woman, but was made up as a pretty woman, thus butchering a premise.   We switched to Midsomer Murders shortly after a 5-minute scene (in a feature-length movie!) was taken up by Walter discussing the death of Lizzie Siddall and Rossetti's burying his poems with her corpse.

First, and most important, when you're adapting a novel as jam-packed with plot as TWIW, interpolating scenes about nothing in particular is really stupid.   

Second, TWIW was published in 1859, while Lizzie Siddall didn't die until 1862.  Indeed, she wasn't even Mrs. Rossetti until 1860.

Postscript:  Oh, wow, did we dodge a bullet.  I just looked up that adaptation on Wikipedia, and here's the last scene:

Back at Limmeridge, the sisters' uncle Fairlie makes a public announcement that Mr. Hartright was falsely accused. It is revealed that a conspiracy led to Laura's name appearing on Anne's grave marker and to the false imprisonment of Laura. Hartright announces his engagement to Laura, who has been restored to sanity. Laura and Mr. Hartright marry and have two children. At the end, Marian reflects that her father's abuse of Anne's mother started a cycle of abuse. Marian picks up her niece and prays that the cycle has ended.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 Here's the guy featured in the latest issue.  My comments in italics. I'm sparing you the pictures, but suffice it to say they live up to the text.

What I do instead of carrying BS stuff in my bag 
James Altucher is an entrepreneur, chess master, investor, and writer. At least, that's how he introduces himself.  His writing has appeared in major national media outlets Bets  this includes at least one Gawker property?  and his blog has attracted more than 10 million readers since its launch in 2010. His latest book is called The Choose Yourself Stories.  Available from CreateSpace now!
 I don’t like to carry bags just in case I need my hands quickly for hand-to-hand combat or very quick mountain climbing.  I... I can't even. When lives are at stake I don’t like to take chances. Which is why I have found a 600% increase in my productivity by wearing a doctor’s lab coat including the items I put in the pockets of the lab coat.
Doctor’s coat. I wear a doctor’s lab coat whenever I’m outside the house and often when I’m inside. Like in airports, restaurants, walking around town.
The reason?
It’s comfortable. Good for all weather. You can get one cheap on the “World Wide Web.” (“Triple dub” for those in the biz.) If by "the biz" you mean
The big pockets let me put any electronic devices I might need (an iPad mini, for example, plus waiter’s pads <see below>)
People actually do treat me like a doctor. A title I have earned through my hard work and years of practice.  If someone said, “I need a doctor” I would not be able to help See above re hard work and practice unless it’s easy stuff in which case I can say, “I’m not a doctor” and then perform CPR or mouth-to-mouth or Heimlich, which are all easy to learn. But 99.9% requests for a doctor are usually things where you can just give placebic information if you didn't do the time, you have NO IDEA whether placebic information is called for; real doctors ask multiple questions to rule out serious illness  and say “You’ll be OK” which I know because of watching House (I picture myself as Mathew Fox from the TV show Lost while I say it since it often worked for him on the show).  Yes, I always take my life advice from the behavior of fictional characters.  I'm downloading  Hannibal season 1  right now.  But the reality is, people move out of the way if you are an airport and walking around in a doctor’s coat. Is this unfair? Well, I never claim to be a doctor. I just let people assume I am, and practice medicine when the fancy takes me.  I’m just wearing a doctor’s coat because I like how it feels, looks, and the functionality of it. But if it has other benefits, which it does, I’ll take it.
What I carry in my doctor’s coat
As mentioned, a doctor’s coat has huge pockets. If I wanted to, the largest thing I can probably carry in a doctor’s coat is a baseball glove for a really huge hand. But I don’t need that. I don’t even play baseball.   Aren't I a card?
Here’s what I need and what I think has helped me and even saved my life on numerous occasion. I have a new phrase to describe these types of items that are in my coat. I call them “Life” “Hacks”. Feel free to use that phrase since I don’t think I will trademark it.   How droll.  What a card!
$2 bills. I have thousands of $2 bills. I always tip with $2 bills. How come? Because then people remember me. They always say, "God, it's that pretentious jerk again"  “Whoah! I’ve never had one.” Sometimes they don’t know where to put the $2 bill in the cash register. There’s no slot for one. They might call over the manager. And that in no way complicates the life of somebody trying to get by on minimum wage. Everyone might say “What’s happening over there?”  Yes, I am desperate for attention, any kind of attention.  Pull my finger!  Ahahahahaha!. This is a side effect of the $2 bill. But the next time I come into an establishment, I’m remembered. This is good for restaurants, dates, poker night with friends, even for paying at the local deli.
I find whenever I move to a new town this is a quick way to make friends. I’m very shy and this gets people talking. This has been also very good on dates. Nobody ever forgets the guy with a roll of $2 bills.  God knows they try, but that which is seen cannot be unseen.
How do you get 1000 $2 bills? Simple. Go to the bank, they order it from the Federal Reserve, it takes about 5 days and then they call you up and give you your money. By the way, then the bank never forgets you either.  "Look, Sadie, it's that bozo again."
Everytime I’ve ever moved since 1986 I’ve used this trick and it works. Quickly everyone remembers who I am.  "Look, Jennifer, it's that bozo again!"
I’ve even tried writing notes to waitresses on the $2 bills, complete with my phone number. This trick HAS NOT worked for me.  "Oh, God, Sarah, I got another note from that bozo.   And he undertipped again."
However, one trick for dates. Have a roll of $2 bills. Then have a single $100 bill on the outside. Pay the bill with the $100 bill, then from the back, tip with the $2 bills.
I hate to say it, but that trick works.
Waiter’s pads. I have about 300 waiter’s pads. I order them for about 10 cents a pad in bulk on restaurant supplies websites.
How come?
I like to write ideas on pads. I write down at least 10 ideas a day. The idea muscle is a muscle like any other. If it’s not exercised, it atrophies. And given the quality of the ideas I'm passing out here, it would be a tragedy for that muscle to diminish even more.  My electron microscope only goes down so far, y'know? If it’s exercised then within six months you’re an idea machine. Try it. It’s amazing what happens. Don’t keep track of the ideas. Please God, don't. Just become an idea machine.
Why a pad? A screen messes with your dopamine levels. [citation needed] I like the visceral experience of putting pen to pad.
Why 10 ideas? Four or five ideas on any theme is easy. It’s the final five or six that makes the brain sweat. This is how you exercise the idea muscle.
Why specifically a waiter’s pad?
It forces you to be concise. A waiter’s pad is small lines. You can’t write a novel there.  A grateful world rejoices.
It’s a great conversation piece in meetings. Once I pull out the waiter’s pad someone always says, “I’ll take fries with my burger” and everyone laughs. Again, I’m shy so it’s a good way for me to break the ice.  "Look, Kevin, it's that pettifogger again."  "Sarah, stop using W.C. Fields slang."
In restaurants, when you pull out a waiter’s pad, guess what? Waiters treat you better. 
Many waiter’s pads have the shapes of tables at the top of each page. I’m bad with names so if I’m at a meeting I pick the table that matches the one I am at and I write the names of the people around the table.
Most people at meetings have their expensive leather pads. I paid 10 cents for my pad. I come across as frugal when I use a waiter’s pad.  Or at least weird.
The other day in a cafe I was working and someone potentially violent Definition left to the beholder.  I'm guessing at least one of nonwhite and homeless.  came up and asked me for money. I held up my waiter’s pad and said, “I’m a waiter, do you want to order something?” and they sort of looked at me and grunted and then walked away.  Something everybody else who interacts with me does; I've never quite figured out why.
iPad Mini.  Now that's novel and original.  The iPad mini covers my entire computing needs except in mornings when I’m writing.  On my waiter's pad.
I don’t really use the iPad Mini to do anything serious. When I’m outside there’s almost no reason for me to check email or social media. And I NEVER read news.
You are what you eat. And when you ingest media, it usually can’t be digested properly by the brain. (Although I read Boing Boing and or a good book.)  He reads his own fucking website.  I have no words.
BUT… the most important thing I do with my iPad Mini and the one thing which has helped me in a million situations is….  
Shove it up my fundament and twist?
I watch standup comedy before every meeting, date, dinner, media appearance, conversation, public talk.
I watch Louis CK, Daniel Tosh, Anthony Jeselnik, Jim Norton, Andy Samberg, Seth Rogen, Marina Franklin, Ellen, Bo Burnham, and maybe a dozen others.
How come?
I have a lot of inhibitions when I meet people. I’m scared and somewhat introverted. Standup comedians are the best public speakers in the world and I think they are the most astute social commentators on the human condition.
So the reasons I watch them before most social encounters (personal, professional, media)
  • It gives me a boost of energy. My “mirror neurons” Which may or may not exist are going to feed off of their boost of energy for at least 1-3 hours after I watch them.
  • It gives me material. I won’t steal from a comedian. Oh. But the reality is: good artists plagiarize, great artists steal. Except when I do. And at the very least, I often improvise based on material I heard a comedian said. I’m not competing with them. I’m just on a date. Or a business meeeting.
  • Studying the subtleties of how comedians get laughs: their timing, their voices, their silences, the way they look at the audience, the way they move across the stage, the way they benefits from the comedians who came before them, AND their actual commentary about life, helps me in my many interactions with people.  Fortunately, most of these interactions end  quickly; I've never been quite sure why.
What I don’t carry in my doctor’s coat? A phone. I never talk on the phone. I have a hard time hearing people on the phone and then I don’t know what to say to them and feel very awkward. Did I mention I'm shy? Plus, not carrying a phone helps me avoid email, etc.  Er... except when my iPad Mini is connected to WiFi?
All of the above may make it seem like I’m a loser in many respects. ... I'll just leave that here.  I don’t deny this. These are like crutches to me to help me survive in a world that’s increasingly hard to process.  And God knows I'm not trying.
But they work.  "Oh, look, Cecilia, it's that boz -- oh, damn, he's coming this way.  You pretend to laugh, I'll spill my drink on him."
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 The Guardian has done an excellent investigative series proving that the Thai shrimp industry is founded on slave labor used to produce fish meal.   "Slave labor" here is not a metaphor: people are bought and sold, kept in captivity, and killed on whim.  (Don't buy Thai shrimp.)

Labour has responded saying that industries should be forced to "declare any use of slavery in their supply chains".  You may think this is pretty weaksauce, until you read the Tory response.

David Cameron's spokesman said on Wednesday it was up to consumers whether they choose to eat prawns that had been produced through the work of slaves.

Roll that one around in your mind.  
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 WisCon has disgraced itself.

Inciting event (from memory) at 2013 WisCon:
  • Two women, Lauren Jankowski and Elise Matthesen, report, independently, being harassed by Tor editor James Frenkel.   Elise Matthesen, has witnesses.  (I forget whether Jankowski does.)
  • Both report the harassment to the ConCom.
  • An online uproar ensues; eventually James Frenkel is fired by Tor.
Report from 2014 WisCon  by Natalie Luhrs (do read it, as well as Lauren Jankowski's Tumblr post):
  1. Jankowski shows up at WisCon to find Frenkel as an official volunteer.
  2. Frenkel spends the con explaining to people that he's there to prove he's "really a nice guy".
  3. Jankowski complains to security.  She is told that (A) her report from 2013 has been lost and (B) Elise Matthesen asked that no further action be taken on her 2013 report.
  4. Online anger at Frenkel's presence; WisCon ConCom promises to report back to attendees after everybody's been home and they can think it over.
  5. Jankowski posts angrily on Tumblr.
  6. Matthesen contacts Jankowski and says, no, she certainly did not withdraw her report.  Jankowski apologizes.
  7. Luhrs posts angrily on her blog, Radish Reports.
  8. WisCon issues an official statement full of waffle and minimizations.  "We could talk about how these reports fell through the cracks, and why we are dissatisfied with penalties in situations where penalties were imposed..."  Yes.  That would be a very good idea.  And it turns out that WisCon's official preparation for sexual harassment at this year's con was "Changes prior to the recently concluded Wiscon 38 included establishing a member advocate position as an ongoing liaison for the reporters, making the safety chair a year-round function to avoid losing track of reports which arrive just after a con during the transition to new chairs and a new committee, and setting up a standing harassment policy subcommittee to improve both our published policies and our internal procedures"  We note that in fact a report was lost track of, and that the subcommittee's and member advocate's positions don't seem to have materially affected what happened at WisCon 38.
So.  The "feminist" (sneer quotes intentional) convention WisCon not only "lost" reports of harassment but lied to one harassee about another attendee's attested complaint.

Fuck this shit.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)

(some parts of this were originally posted as comments over at James Nicoll’s.)

Do not buy this terrible, terrible book.  I spent $1.99 on it, and that money would  have been better used had it been sliced into a fine chiffonade and sprinkled over the cat dish.

Sword of the Lamb begins with an infodump. Not just any infodump, but five pages (all pages are denominated in Kindle screens, sorry) of Lord Elor Ussher Peladeen writing a letter stating the following:

  1. Whoa.  I’m about to be killed by the bad guys.
  2. I’m not going to run away and join your underground, because the aforementioned b.g. would follow me and destroy you.
  3. My wife and son are going to die with me, but she's nobly resigned.
  4. You can have my money.
  5. Somebody’s going to be wiping your underground outpost from the records.
  6. Man, I am so dead.  Soooo dead.

You’d think all this could be wrapped up in a manly and understated page, perhaps two if you wanted to let the upper lip tremble a trifle.  But, no, we have to hear about the Crest Ring of Peladeen that he took from his father’ dead hand, and how his wife wouldn’t go to her relatives instead of dying, but they probably wouldn't take her in anyway.   Then again, there’s his son, but his wife thinks he’d probably die anyway too.   Oh, and the soon-to-be-dead guy is on “the Helen estate on Castor.  That planet is less hospitable to human life, and invading armies, than Pollux.”  We never hear from this character again.    Five pages of text to establish that there’s a society of the Phoenix rebelling against the lords of the Concord.  But, hey, every book needs some setup.

The next chapter is extracts from the journal of Richard Lamb.  He, too, is about to die, an old man at age 19.  Once upon a time he saw a Bond (peasant) revolt, and it was awful.   Okay, I like Richard Lamb, he seems interesting, I’ll stay.

Next we're in the head of Theron Rovere.   He is a teacher who is being fired by the noble family he works for. Theron has bravely taken responsibility for a paper he did not write, but which would cause his protege, who did, to be punished.   As a result, Theron is  being handed over to the cops in his protege’s place.   After the conversation with the parents, Theron heads off to bid farewell to his students, the heirs to the house.  Before he tells his students that he must leave them forever, Theron makes with a pop history quiz.   The action -- such as it’s been to this point -- stops dead for thirty-nine (39) pages of world-building.   All of those thirty-nine pages are exchanges like

“What stars has the Concord explored?”

“Kruger 60 A and B, Van Maanen’s star, and Altair.”  

Alexand added, “The Concord also sent expeditions back to Sirius and Procyon.”  

“That’s right, Alex," Rovere said.  "When was the last Concord stellar expedition?”

Did I mention 39 pages?   The only events so far in this very long book (we’re 6% in) is that one character has written a letter saying he’s about to die, another character has remembered a peasant revolt, and a teacher has talked with his employers about why he’s being handed over to the police.  Then we get the pop quiz.  This is the sort of book where the author has worked very, very hard on the world-building, and she’s damned if you’re going to overlook it.  If she had to think it out, you have to read it.   

75% of the way in the hero has joined the Resistance mentioned in the opening infodump.     
He asks “Exactly where am I?  Geographically, that is.”

“You’re in the southern hemisphere of Pollux, latitude about twenty-five degrees, longitude thirty degrees west of the Leda meridian.  You’re on -- or rather, under -- the island of Fina, a name which also applies to our little community.  It’s one of a number of small islands at the southern tip of the West Pangaean continent.  We’re near the Comargian Straits between the Selamin Sea and the Polluxian Ocean.”

Right about here is where a normal person would be breaking eye contact and remembering that he’d left the hydro-fluid running in the closed-circuit electrostatic sanitizer.   Not our hero.  “That suggests more questions, such as how did I get from my touch-down point near the equator to twenty-five degrees south in the ten minutes in which I was drugged?”

Such a good question.  Maybe something is about to happen.  

“But I assume that’s one of the questions you can’t answer now, or I wouldn’t have been drugged.”  He smiled in response to her brief laugh, then, “At least I’m oriented spatially now. …”

And there, I fear, I must leave them; my tears are shorting out my Kindle.

But wait, there’s more!   Note the deft and sensitive handling of ethnicity in the future.

"James Neeth Cameroodo, Lord of Mars, tall, stringently lean, the hint of negroid structure in his dark face revealing his racial origins as the leopard of the House crest revealed its geographic origins in Terra's Sudafrika."

"...the man who entered was a marked contrast to Cameroodo. Sato Lao Shang's racial heritage was oriental; he was slight of body with wizened features and a balding head, yet he carried himself with profound dignity."

The love interest has "Shang heritage" and looks like  "a Selaneen doll; something so exquisitely fragile it should be encased in plasex as the finest Selaneens always were." She, and the hero's mother, are smart women who pay attention to the world; all the other upper-class ladies are stupid and talk about nothing except fashion and love affairs.

More quotations, because I don’t see why you shouldn’t suffer as I have. There are nuggets of characterization like

"Ben was silent, thinking of Rich, she knew, the sadness in his eyes out of character in that tough face that usually epitomized so fully the SSB major, even when he was out of uniform, as he was now."


“They were all uncomfortable, even Marien Dyce, Chief of Computer Systems, whose sturdy figure and matronly features always made her seem immune to uncertainty.”

In a tender moment, our hero is trying to obliterate himself in meaningless sex with Elianne, who is hot but stupid.  

"he looked into her eyes, cloudy green, and she smiled; a slow, sentient smile."  I assume this is a thinko for “sinuous” or possibly “simian”.

"He reached out for that consummatory limbo, past conscious reaction, past thought, in extremis, where the center of motivation dissipated into every cell of his body, and he no longer had to think--only feel and act and react and act and feel; a complex of instantaneous perception and response, his consciousness so narrowed there was no awareness of Elianne except as an inseverable adjunct of his own body."

It’s so hard to decide whether to act, react, or feel in any given situation.   Good thing he’s past conscious reaction. Elsewhere in the book, our hero is overcome by the emotional horrors of his situation

“He recoiled, quivering, assaulted with peals of sardonic laughter.  And what merciless god sent this clawing beast -- the black angel of grief?

"The ebony wings pounded the air, the talons locked in his flesh, and if he didn’t scream, it was only because his lungs couldn’t find air enough.   And if he didn’t weep, it was only because he hadn’t yet surrendered.   Tears would be the white flag of defeat.

"And death … or something like death.

"Something he couldn’t name.”

All of that was a metaphor, by the way.  I’d have been ecstatic if there’d been an actual clawing beast, and not just because our hero’s twisted limbs would now be carpeting the page like tortured driftwood.  Oh, damn, I think Wren‘s writing style may be catching.

In summary:  the writing is wretched, both at the sentence level and at the structural level.   The characters are uninteresting.   The worldbuilding is omnipresent and tedious beyond belief. This book is Book One of the Phoenix Legacy; if I were you, I'd take that as a threat.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Note: I'm linking to the Guardian rather than the New York Times because the G is not (yet) paywalled. 
George RR Martin has said that omitting scenes of rape and sexual violence from the epic Game of Thrones series "would have been fundamentally false and dishonest", as fans express mounting concerns about the graphic way certain scenes from Martin's novels have played out in the television adaptation.
But Martin told the New York Times that although his books are epic fantasy, they are based on history (the series is loosely inspired by the Wars of the Roses). And "rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day".
"To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too). Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil," the author said.
History, according to Martin, is "written in blood", and although Westeros – the fictional continent where the series is set – is not "the Disneyland Middle Ages", it is "no darker nor more depraved than our own world".

Dear George R Fucking R Martin:

There is a lot of stuff in the past. Rape. Murder. Incest. Unkindness to children. We get that. You're writing a dark fantasy. We get that, too.  Nobody said -- not even once -- that your works, and the TV show derived from them, should never have a rape. I know that's a fun point to debate, because it's obviously wrong.

Let's look at what people are actually saying. They're saying "The TV show is adding rapes where rapes weren't before." They're saying "Rapes are being used as casual plot development". They're saying "When women are raped, the rape is shown from the male viewpoint, and staged to emphasize the women's bodies."   In short, they're making points about authorial choices.   Unlike you, they're making limited, targeted points.  This rape was gratuitous.   This rape was shot in a titillating way.

As many, many people have pointed out, Westeros may not be the Disneyland Middle Ages, but it's certainly not the real European Middle Ages.   No magic.   No years-long winters.   No fricking dragons.    That means that you are choosing, deliberately, to introduce elements incongruous with history.   Furthermore, you are picking and choosing elements from European history -- and Orientalism, but let's not go there -- as they suit your purposes as an author.   Don't present your choices as inevitable truths.   They aren't.   You've chosen  to use rape, in particular, as an  illustration of Things Being Bad and People Being Evil.    The TV series, in turn, has taken scenes in the book that were, at least, ambiguous, or didn't contain rape at all, and made them explicitly rapeful.   You choose where the authorial point of view focuses; the TV series chooses where the camera is pointed.   All of those choices spring from the culture you live in; they aren't some sort of Platonic self-creating ideal.  

We aren't overreacting when we criticize those particular choices as they occur, and when we notice culturally-driven patterns in those choices.   We are reacting.  Our analysis is just as valid, and just as appropriate, as the analyses of people who work out the ecological consequences of long winters, or the troop emplacements at the Battle of Blackwater.  We're fans.  We analyze things.  It's what we do.   

To drop down from the abstract plane, the TV series Game of Thrones uses women's naked bodies as interior decoration, in a way that it does not use men's naked bodies.   The TV series Game of Thrones uses rape as a plot device in ways that the source did not.  I, as a consumer, don't enjoy those parts of a series I otherwise enjoy.   I would rather have my raisin pie not be 15% moose turds.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla, resigned after it became widely known and disliked that he had given money to California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. Since then, there have been many wouuld-be even-handed "if this goes on" and "but what about the other side's point of view" and "what does this mean as a general rule" essays.

These essays obscure the point that before a decision becomes a general rule, it is a response to a particular circumstance. If you remove enough of the characteristics of that particular circumstance, the decision ceases to be itself.

"What if they fired the head of GM because she'd given money to Planned Parenthood?"

That is not what happened.

1. is not GM. is the for-profit arm of a nonprofit organization, the Mozilla Foundation.'s job is to raise funds for that nonprofit organization, an organization much of whose work is done by volunteers. Some of those volunteers, including entire software projects, withdrew their support after Eich was appointed CEO.

2. Brendan Eich didn't make an arbitrary political statement. He donated money to a campaign whose (successful) goal was to take away an existing civil right. Let's emphasize this. Same-sex couples in California had the legal right to get married thanks to a court decision. Prop. 8's goal was to take away those people's legal rights. Donating money to a campaign to deny civil rights is qualitatively different than "taking a public position". Not all forms of speech are equivalent.

3. Mozilla has made a public statement supporting (among other things) marriage equality.

The decision that it was not appropriate for a senior official in a volunteer-dependent organization to have helped deny rights to an entire class of those volunteers is not an unreasonable one. In order to make it a dangerous general precedent, you have to strip away the inherent properties that identify the decision.

tl;dr: Ignore pundits who want to appear even-handed and dispassionate.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Mark Bittman, the food columnist for the New York Times, has discovered the glories of cruise ships. I'll wait right here while you go get a drink.  

Are you back? The great thing about cruises is that, if you're the food columnist for a major newspaper, you can travel for free! Mr. Bittman recommends the experience wholeheartedly.

Nevertheless, my first journey took some gearing up to, because cruising is so easy to put down. I was like that: too sophisticated to consider it.
If there's one promising start to a New York Times lifestyle article, it's the writer explaining that he is far, far too New York to consider this exotic and foreign -- but not in the sophisticated, world-traveller way -- experience.  Within a few sentences, we know, the finest in upper-middle-class condescension will be on tap.
Many of the common complaints about cruise ships ring true: The best of the entertainment is boring. Most of the food is mediocre, and it’s usually about as opposite of “local” as you can find... The excursions are rushed, timid, overpriced. Many of the ports have nothing in them worth seeing. The companionship is limited. (The best cruise joke I know: “This cruise has the oldest passengers I’ve ever seen. And most of them brought their parents.”) There are the risks of illness, although my experience is that the industry has become germophobic and ships seem safer than most workplaces, contagion-wise. Then there’s the issue of safety, although there’s not much to worry about. You might hit rough seas, and even become seasick.
Sign me up, baby.   "I am a professional food writer, but I've decided mediocre food isn't all that bad."
Some other things I have found: In general, the prices are not unreasonable, especially since they’re often discounted.
"But so much of it!"

The service is usually excellent, especially compared with hotels and restaurants on land, at least most of the places I frequent.
"I, Mark Bittman, need to get out more."
The food is as abundant as you’ve heard, generally better than that in most hotels; furthermore, after a few days, you can probably strike a deal with a friendly cook to customize it as you like.
"...if you're the food columnist for the New York Times."

There’s also an odd level of equality: Everyone spends time in the public spaces, and those are shared, although there are no doubt exclusive lounges for the highest-paying passengers. Much of the food, too, is the same for everyone.
"It may be mediocre, but I am comforted by the knowledge that nobody else is getting anything better."

But there are two other factors that make cruising not only unusual but uniquely satisfying, at least to me. ... It is simply that the “floating hotel” means that your vacation is structured like this: You get onboard; you unpack; you never change rooms again; and yet you go different places. Effortlessly. ... it’s an incomparable luxury to put your suitcase under the bed and not think of it for days or, if you’re lucky, weeks. To keep your toothbrush parked in the same place; to not search for your cellphone charger among your belongings; to leave your magazines in a stack; to recover from jet lag once, at most — all while actually traveling — this feels inconceivable.
Allow me to introduce you to the concept of vacationing in a short-term apartment or house.  I bet you could  discover this while reading any travel essay in the New York Times in the history of mankind.   Protip: Search for "Tuscany".  

At the beginning of those seven days, we — I was traveling with my wife — were cautious. Seven days at sea? With these people? And yet, these days were fantastic.  [it. mine]
No comment.

These are hours spent staring at passing islands or shorelines, wildlife, the sky and sea.  
Fair point.  

These are hours spent not doing these things: reading, catching up on long-term projects, binge-watching shows that everyone else watched two years ago.  
What, you didn't bring any books or DVDs?   (Leaving aside the concept that reading is a chore.)

Time slows, warps. One sits inside looking out, the banality of the ship framing the sublime nature of the landscape. Often, the ship’s roll is soothing, as if you were placed in the hand of a walking giant. The sound of the ocean is constant; the salt air breezes through every opening. The “culture” is so middle-America (even on non-American cruise ships, it seems), and demands so little that you can actually think. What a change.  
[it. very very much mine]

And then you go eat dinner.
"Which, as I may have mentioned, is substandard."

I always thought Mark Bittman's cooking column was substandard, but that's just me.  Perhaps it's because I am (although living in California) middle-American.


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