Things and stuff

Aug. 24th, 2017 01:25 am
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[personal profile] stardreamer
Book review: Fire on the Mountain by Terry Bisson

This book was mentioned in a few places during all the foofaraw about the new "what if the South had won?" series. It's also an alternate history based around the Slaveholders' Rebellion, but from an entirely different -- and refreshingly new -- direction. The fork point here is: what if John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry had gone off successfully, a demoralizing strike against the slave society?

This is a fairly short book, a long novella or short novel, but it packs a lot of punch into its relatively few pages. Much of it is told in epistolary format, a combination of letters written by a young abolitionist doctor to his sweetheart and the memoirs of a man who was a young slave at the time of the raid, and who escaped to fight in Brown's guerrilla army. The latter is the great-grandfather of the protagonist in the framing story, a college professor in the independent country of Nova Africa who is slowly coming to terms with the death of her husband, an astronaut who died on the first Mars mission.

The world-building in this story is mostly incidental, a natural consequence of the author's sure hand with the prose styling of an earlier century. In the course of describing the events going on around them, the writers of the letters and the memoirs include a great deal of description also of the world in which they live(d); they come alive on the pages. By comparison, the framing story is fairly ordinary -- not boring or badly written, but I found myself far more interested in the epistolary sections.

Overall rating: 4 stars, above average. You won't regret picking up this book, and I'd love to see more stories written in the universe Bisson postulates.


R.I.P. Brian Aldiss
Aldiss was a well-known British science fiction author and editor. I never met him, nor do I have any of his books (except for a couple of short stories in anthologies), so I have no personal reminiscence to offer; however, he was influential in the genre and will be missed. You can read more about his life and career here.

R.I.P. Peter Schine
Peter was the husband of my best friend from PDS, Andrea Barach. They were married for 37 years and raised two fine children, Miriam and Nathan. He suffered a heart attack as he and Andrea were returning from a vacation. I knew him primarily thru Andrea, but I still treasure the feast-gear chest with wooden inlay on the top that he made for me when I was still active in the SCA. He was also a hobbyist gourmet cook, and it was thanks to him that I once got to sample party hors d'ouvres made with 100-year-old balsamic vinegar. (Sorry, Peter, it still tasted like vinegar, but I never told him that.) He died much too young.


This has not been a good summer for me. I've got some unidentified condition which is sapping my energy and keeping me in varying levels of pain, and what was intended to be 6 weeks of catching up with stuff around the house has turned into 2 months of doing bugger-all. It's also forced me to bail on the Discworld con, because Russ has to do San Japan and I'm in no shape to run lead. And there's no reason to think it's going to be fixed before FenCon, which means that's going to be Interesting. (Please, no armchair diagnosis. I'm being deliberately vague about this, and if my doctor and a couple of specialists can't nail it down, you're not going to be able to. GoodThoughts and positive energy, however, are welcome.) And the couple of things I have managed to do were both busts financially.


In cheerier news, I've written a Raksura fanfic. It's very short, a brief missing scene from The Harbors of the Sun, inspired by something I read in a different fic which seems to have become my head-canon.
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
My doctor's appointment this afternoon presented me with unambiguously good news. Whatever almost killed me with anaphylaxis at Readercon, it was not the shellfish for which I blood-tested positive about a week later.

I received the results over e-mail in the third week of July; for various logistical reasons having to do with incomplete bloodwork (the lab's fault, not mine; I gave blood twice and they still managed to lose part of the order) and then with the allergist going on vacation, I couldn't talk to her about them until now. Instead I got an upsetting call from a nurse or receptionist at the practice who simply told me to cut out all foods for which I had gotten positive flags (a list incidentally including tree nuts, some legumes, and a random-looking selection of vegetables) and then tried to commiserate with me about her late-breaking walnut allergy, which did not make me feel better. It was a devastating uncertainty. Eating the sea is part of being close to it. It wouldn't have mattered if I kept kosher, but speaking as someone who as a toddler intercepted two orders of shrimp tempura meant for my mother and was only bought off with a third order all my own, a full month without bivalves or crustaceans was hell, especially in summer, especially in cities by the sea. I carried an epipen and looked longingly at other people's sushi and tried to trust that the allergist had warned me that blood tests were less reliable than scratch tests and this had to be some kind of mistake. I couldn't imagine not ever eating clam chowder again.

I can eat clam chowder. As the allergist explained it, the blood tests that are used for food allergies detect the presence of antibodies, which are caused by exposure to the foods in question. They are not considered diagnostic for allergies in the absence of symptoms. I have no history of rash, swelling, shortness of breath, nausea, any of these things around eating. I do have a history of decades of seafood on a regular basis. That history explained the low positive numbers to the allergist's satisfaction: they were not false positives in the strict sense, but they were false in that they did not point to anything that pertained to my experience at Readercon. Especially since there was a much more obvious culprit in the new medication which I had taken within the classic onset window—and which I have not taken again since that night—she felt comfortable skipping the scratch tests entirely (unnecessary expense of time, money, and itching) and sending me off to eat shellfish. Allergists are cautious by nature and profession, she emphasized. She wouldn't make the recommendation unless she thought it was safe. She was just sorry I'd had to spend a month denied something that was both seasonally tasty and emotionally important to me.

So I walked into Harvard Square and purchased the seasonal lobster bao from Tom's Bao Bao and ate it and it was delicious and I waited half an hour and then an hour and nothing bad happened except that I wanted another one, but by that time I was upstairs in Crema Cafe, drinking an herbal chai latte and writing about weird British TV, so I ate a macaroon instead. Later in the evening I met [personal profile] rushthatspeaks for a return trip to the MIT Science Fiction Society and we opted for dinner afterward at Roxy's Grilled Cheese in Central Square, where we discovered their speakeasy arcade with pinball and skeeball and cabinets of video games. (We're going back when we are not each carrying large bags of books which make it difficult to maneuver between games.) It was a much, much better end to my day than I had feared.

I am still carrying an epipen and may for the rest of my life, because my body has now demonstrated that there exists at least one thing in this world to which it reacts by trying to choke me to death and that is not cool. It was a closer call than I had thought on the night. I did not correctly assess the severity of what was happening to me. God forbid, if there is a next time, I don't try to wait it out with Benadryl: I go to the ER.

But it should not be the sea that sends me there.

That deaf, dumb, and blind kid

Aug. 24th, 2017 12:10 am
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[personal profile] austin_dern

The finals! D Division, but still, finals. And the only finals still going, other than those of the A Division, on stage and just next to us and drawing a big crowd. We drew a modest crowd. The tournament official went around, asking each of us if we had a home pinball league. I answered Lansing Pinball League, naturally. Anything to get the local people in. Most of the Michigan Pinball competitors listed themselves for other, bigger leagues. But I know where my home is.

He also asked us if it was okay to stream the play. He pointed to two people who had cell phones and said that if we didn't want to be sent out over the Internet that was fine, they wouldn't do it. I have doubts that this polling method produces anything but the socially desirable response. But we all agreed that streaming was fine, not to worry. I do not know where this was streamed, or whether the video has been stored anywhere. I can only hope that the people recording were legitimately supposed to be there. Maybe it was all a hoax or prank.

My pick for the bank again. I'd be a fool to pick anything but the Cirqus Voltaire bank again, and I say so. So after a few moments wait while one of the competitors comes back from the bathroom, we're off and running to ... a dead stop as there's something wrong with Cirqus Voltaire. I miss what it was. Techs come rushing over. With the B and C Divisions finished already they aren't so over-worked now. They have to open the game up to do something to the something. The guys with cell phones stop recording every moment of this. I go to the bathroom, out of nervousness and a sense that I have to do something. If the table gets scratched I suppose we'll just play the modern-era game from one of the other two banks. Avatar would be a complete mystery to me, maybe not to my competitors. Godzilla I at least have a strategy for, but who knows how the table would compare to the two that I have ever touched? Plus I'd lose the edge of knowing how easily the machine tilts.

Needn't worry. Whatever the problem was clears up and we get to play. I fall back on the same old dumb strategy as before, and don't have any freak events of getting the ball stuck. I come in first place, not by as overwhelming a score as before, but still. BEN barely squeaks out ahead of MAL, and this guy from Sweden, LEF, comes in last. I forget whether he got surprised by a tilt.

Now I'm starting to believe I might win the division. This sort of group play works well for getting me into finals, because you never really need to win, just, play well enough not to be eliminated. But these are the last four --- last three, now --- games. It's possible to win coming in second place on every game, if other people rotate who gets first place. Starting with a first-place finish takes pressure off the rest of the round.

Mars Trek once again. I put up another mediocre game, slightly better than on my previous round. But still never getting a real good ball together. I come in last place. LEF comes in first, with 557,000, a score still below [profile] bunny_hugger's in the round that knocked her out. MAL takes second place, handily beating BEN. The tournament official looks at the state of things after two games. And looks again, and re-counts. With two games to go we are all four of us perfectly tied at three wins each.

On to Genesis. My secret is still safe and oh phoo I accidentally finished one of the body parts before hitting drop targets. I learn that my hypothesis, that I got progress on all the body parts because I hadn't started any, was mistaken; the game is just set, relatively easily, to make progress on all the parts. I feel like a bandit that I'm getting away with this. Unfortunately, what I fail to do is the ramp shot that starts multiball. It's still worth doing. BEN comes in last at 208,240 points, and MAL in third at 213,102. I get 723,800 points, not a patch on my last round but normally plenty for this table. Except that LEF got 799,260. He has six points, me five, MAL four, and BEN three. As the official notes, anyone could still win this. Heck, we could end up with a four-way tie.

Stars. The last game, maybe. If I can win the game outright I can secure at least a tie for the championship. I have to beat LEF to have my chance at it. I keep trying to make myself calm down and remember: play the simple, stupid, easy strategy. Trap the ball, shoot at the drop targets, trap again. But it's so hard not to keep the ball moving. That's so much fun. So much ... I relax a lot at the last ball, as I pass LEF's 53,270. I'm player two; I finish at 64,180. MAL does nothing at all, coming in at 32,660. And BEN ...

BEN can't win. What he can do is decide whether he gets third or fourth place. If he finishes between 53,270 and 64,180, then I take first place and LEF second. He finishes at 77,600. He takes third place, with six wins for the round.

LEF and I, each with seven wins for the round, must play a tiebreaker.

Trivia: In 1914 Poles were the largest single population (around four million) of Central-European immigrants in the United States. Source: Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World, Margaret MacMillan.

Currently Reading: A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game, Jenny Uglow.

PS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Klien Bottle, with a bonus of the Möbius Strip and some science fiction writers.

(no subject)

Aug. 23rd, 2017 09:21 pm
jhetley: (Default)
[personal profile] jhetley
A waste of time and annoys the pig . . .

how do I hate rewrites

Aug. 24th, 2017 10:58 am
tielan: (C&H: &*@#!)
[personal profile] tielan
LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.

did a meditate

Aug. 23rd, 2017 09:55 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
Did a wednesday, so it was meditation day.
we did mindfulness of breathing and I kept being distracted by thoughts of cake.
which is one of the classic hindrances, apparently.
also it was not a sitting still day.
but I like meditation.
and on the way home we went to get a cake but it wasn't there, so it is ordered for tomorrow. I think. I hope it's the same one as on the website. and if it isn't it's still a chocolate cake. and then I can invite people to have a cake, if it's any good. It might bot be because it's a freefrom cake, but if it is good probably we can all eat it, probably.

so that was a pretty good evening.

and still my birthday :-D

MOT

Aug. 23rd, 2017 09:19 pm
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[personal profile] lurkingcat
I'm pleased to report that Special Agent Kheldar passed his annual fitness check with flying colours today. He's had his vaccination boosters, a worming tablet, and a full physical. The vet reports that he is in remarkably good health for a cat of his age and that there should be no concerns about his ability to continue in his role as Head of Household Security.

Kheldar claimed that his continuing good health is down to sun patches, sleeping, and gooshy food before trotting outside for his evening patrol.

2017-08-23_07-48-36

Yay and Foo

Aug. 23rd, 2017 02:55 pm
tephra: A furry liger-ish dragon portrait in profile (Default)
[personal profile] tephra
Had to get my passport renewal in the mail, which meant a photo. Which of course meant my skin decided to break out. :P But! I managed to Do The Makeup well enough to make my skin look clear, so it is probably my least UGH! mug shot to date. So net result... yay?

Then, since I had make up on I figured I'd get some use out of it and not just go home afterward. I was the most over dressed woman returning cans at Meijer, but it gave me nearly $10 to browse with, No joy on the takoyaki flour front (foo!) but I found sugar free chocolate chips (yay!) so I bought two bags, a bag of sugar free Reese's cups, and still got almost $3 back. Another net yay from that stop.

Then I went to Payless. I don't really have a need for new shoes but I like to see what they have. I wouldn't have found those knee high boots a couple years ago if I hadn't after all. I walk in and... NO size 13s. FOO! I mostly take 12w, which they still had a few of, though not many of the 12s were also wide, but the complete lack of size 13 is dispiriting. Sure, they do let you order on the site for delivery to the store where you can try on and get a refund, but it sort of misses the whole point of being able to browse and try things on that you might not have considered (like those boots of mine). It also requires you to buy the shoes just to try them on. So no impulse shoe purchases anymore, which may be for the best, but it does kill what little fun there had been in shoe shopping these last few years.

sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)
[personal profile] sovay
I am behind on posting about politics, NecronomiCon, and movies, I am exhausted and I have to catch a bus for a doctor's appointment right now, but Brandeis University has had to close its campus because of bomb threats and I am not happy. That is my non-sectarian, quota-busting, Jewish-sponsored alma mater, with a school calendar that shifts each year to the Jewish holidays and Hebrew on its university seal. In this political climate, I have a hard time thinking it's a coincidental crank call. Please explain to me again why it won't work if I inscribe אמת on the forehead of the nine-foot bronze statue of Justice Louis D. Brandeis and ask it to lay down some old-school crusading social justice on this country.

[edit] The campus has reopened, but I'm not sure I shouldn't still do it anyway.
nou: The word "kake" in a white monospaced font on a black background (Default)
[personal profile] nou

Just a reminder that the 2018 Croydon Fun Weekend will run from Friday 26 January to Sunday 28 January.

Confirmed activities include a pervasive game and a pub crawl, while likely other activities include a soft play session, a children's craft session, a history-themed walk, and of course lots of delicious food from all over the world.

If you’re interested in helping to organise the weekend or in running any sessions, please let me know! For an idea of the general structure, see programmes from previous years: 2014, 2015, 2016.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 17


.

View Answers

Hello Kake!
14 (82.4%)

Yay Croydon Fun Weekend!
9 (52.9%)

Yay Croydon!
9 (52.9%)

Yay ticking boxes!
14 (82.4%)

Another insta-rec

Aug. 23rd, 2017 01:42 pm
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
[personal profile] cesy
http://www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk/resources/practical-guides/access-information/ has a good summary of what a venue needs to do to be accessible to a basic range of disability needs. Places like Nine Worlds and lists like Euan's Guide go a lot further, particularly for neurodiversity and complex needs, but this is a great start and easy to understand for those who are new to the subject.

Not yet autumn

Aug. 23rd, 2017 08:03 am
jhetley: (Default)
[personal profile] jhetley

Air temperature 70 F, dew point 67, overcast, wind south about 8 mph for the newspaper walk. "Cooler" and "drier" have not yet arrived. Nor has the apocalypse.

Happy Birthday to me

Aug. 23rd, 2017 11:12 am
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
I know I am only one day older than yesterday, but I am also one year older
and that makes me a nice round number
and I can reasonably expect to live as long again as I have already
which maybe might be true next birthday too
depending which graph you believe.

That's pretty much the definition of middle age then.

And I have silver in my hair and a nice relaxed shape
and basically am winning at time.

:-D

I have a birthday card from my brother, the one who writes in square shapes so it has my address on the envelope twice because it got translated. It's a nice card.

And mum phone already, to see if I was awake, which is logical in mum world and I am therefore awake now.

It's a nice shiny day and I'm scheduled to go out this evening
and many things remain possible.

Happy birthday to me.

online book rec

Aug. 23rd, 2017 01:54 am
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
Wandered across http://thefantasistmag.com/ and found some excellent novellas and short stories, if you like fantasy of varying sorts centering queer characters.

LoT ablism

Aug. 23rd, 2017 04:46 am
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
You know what bugs me?
... it's nearly five in the morning and I haven't slept, many things bug me...

but I was watching Legends of tomorrow
the episode in season one in the asylum
in the 1950s
and they explicitly say it's a bad era to be black, or queer, or a woman
but they don't say word one about mental health.

Read more... )




Now the sky is making interesting loud noises.

So, sleep maybe for later.

Eh, internet forever.

Spontaneity for the Win

Aug. 22nd, 2017 10:43 pm
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[personal profile] malkingrey
I was going to do grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner tonight, because Himself would be busking over in Berlin until 8PM, and home about 9, and grilled cheese sandwiches can be slapped together quickly.

At 8PM I got a phone call from Himself.

"I'm heading home," he said. "And I've got lobster."

It's like this: One of the regular booths at the Berlin Farmers Market sells fresh lobster. And lobster is going for less per pound right now than steak, because Maine is having a lobster glut. And Himself had enough cash in his pocket for a pair of 1.5-pound hen lobsters.

So I dug out the lobster-cooking pot that Himself brought up from his ancestral home in Bedford, NY, when he and his siblings broke up the house there after their mom died, and I looked up a recipe for lemon-garlic-cilantro butter, and when Himself got home we had lobster for dinner.

journaling in august

Aug. 22nd, 2017 06:26 pm
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
Good things today, yesterday, this past weekend:

Basically the whole camping trip. Though not the getting ready for it, which was a Thing.

Especially the ocean. Ocean!!!

The gift of time, and listening, and care.

...

Solar eclipse!!! Eclipse glasses in the mail, not a day too late. Early grumpy wake-up. Dawn while driving dark winding roads; morning by a wild river. Stopping at a camp store on a highway deep in the woods. Rambling around, looking at the sun through trees, judging angles. A book, a fern meadow, a cup of hot coffee, a path by a pond, a return just in time. Unexpected friends with a telescope!

An orange bitten circle, crescent, sliver, shrinking.

Ripples of auroral light along the road. Dusk over the pine trees, and a planet shining in twilight blue. A blazing ring around the dark circle, and light expanding to impossible brightness. The sun revealed again.

Seeing friends; visiting their farm; horses, chickens, dogs, alpacas!!!

A tuft of alpaca wool. A handful of blackberries. Cold water given in hospitality.

...

Getting some chores done. Fine sandpaper, good work gloves, and other tools. Cookies.

A favorite sweater.

Uncertainty. It may be uncomfortable, but it is a gift.

(I'm going Out East to a funeral, with S, and when I come back it'll be the new school year at work, and there's so much I was going to get done that I haven't, and so many experiences I've had that I would not have traded away. I'm not feeling ready, but I'm not totally lost either, I think...I have some hope, and some foundations to build on, and some goals, and some good reassuring things; what I don't have is clarity. I guess I'll muddle on ahead.)

...

And oh, the light...

(no subject)

Aug. 22nd, 2017 08:08 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
Today I have mostly been grumpy
which is only because the calendar is about to do a thing
and shall wear off soon.

I'm almost sure.

Today was also Cleaner Day, and everything is indeed Cleaner, except I still need to buy a new plugboard so I haven't done the vacuum cleaning.
I did run the dishwasher and do three loads of laundry, the last one drying right now, so I reckon I'm still ahead on points.

Mum also phoned to see if I wanted to go out. Because she had forgot it was Cleaner Day. And also imagined that I would want to go out on zero notice, because that sounded me like.

Grumpy.

I'm super bored and need to make a Plan, one with progress points and so forth. Something measurable.

I mean the plan where I make the house nicer has progressed steadily, but now I find I feel like I haven't done anything, so I need to figure out what would count and, I don't know, collect XP instead of gold, maybe.

Eh, it's a good time of year for starting things.

Shall try and get a reading list and do a studying, some bit of history maybe.

Or, just read through the half shelf I already got, but somehow that's never the most appealing.

I'll figure something out.

Post-eclipse complaining

Aug. 22nd, 2017 01:54 pm
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[personal profile] conuly
So, prior to the eclipse there were FAQs and news reports about people who didn't want to go out on the day of the eclipse - even before it started! - for fear that they'd go blind, or didn't want to walk their dog because the dog might go blind (not knowing not to look at the sky on eclipse day, of course) or not letting the kids out at all during recess because, you got it, they might freeze in place, stare at the sun, and go blind.

And then Trump looked at the sun without glasses. And everybody is throwing fits about what an idiot he is. I commented on one article that no, it's not likely you'll go blind if you just glance at the sun for a second*, and one person replied "but this isn't the sun, it's the eclipse!" like that's a winning argument. I mentioned to another, who claimed you couldn't see anything without the glasses until totality anyway that I'd been staring at the cloud cover impatiently before the peak, and when the clouds parted I'd gotten an unprotected glimpse of the sun and yes, I could see the bite of it - and that person went "Well, you do permanent damage at 20 seconds, so you might've been lucky". How long do they imagine it takes to see the sun when the clouds break and then look down again?

I think I've figured this out.

The rule is "You should not stare at the sun, even during an eclipse". This is a sensible rule that nobody has ever needed to tell anybody over the age of, say, six weeks. We don't stare at the sun. Even infants know better - if the sun shines in your eyes, you squint, put your hand up, and turn away. Aniamls are even smarter! No matter what happens, they don't need to be told.

But humans think we're cleverer than animals, and during an eclipse we sometimes break that rule and look at the sun because it's cool. And because the light seems dimmer, we can look longer. But it's not really dimmer - it's just as bright, it's just that some of it is blocked. So for the past year, we've had it drummed into our heads that you shouldn't look at the eclipse without glasses. Consequently, many people have internalized the rule as "You shouldn't stare at the sun, especially during an eclipse". But the sun isn't any more dangerous then. It's only our behavior that changes!

If you look for up to five seconds, you're probably fine, just like when you turn a corner and find yourself driving toward the sun. (Or look up at a flock of birds just as the clouds part and find the sun glaring in your eyes, or wake up with the sun in your eyes.) According to the only study on the subject, you're not likely to have visible damage unless you look for 15 seconds or longer... and even then, most patients improved with time.

So don't stare at the sun, but if you did catch a glimpse, whether on purpose or not, it's probably no more harmful than when you catch a glimpse of the sun on regular days.

(As for Trump, this was a dumb move, but not because of the potential eye damage. It was a dumb move because everybody and their dog, literally, knows better but he still did it on national TV. Doofus. And if he's getting any flak from it he probably blames the aide for calling attention to his behavior rather than his own foolish decision to do something everybody knows, from the very day they're born, not to do.)

* Turns out it was more like 30 seconds in his case, which is really way too long. Not that I give a fuck what that person does to his eyes.

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