Changes this year: a Community Organizer track during the Friday unconference, more extracurricular activities, and "a new track to explore how activists are using technology, how open source communities are supporting activists, and how other open source and activist communities intersect."
Presentations, panels, sets of lightning talks, workshops, or other session types are welcome.
Presentations can fit either a short- or long-form slot. Short-form presentations will receive a 45 minute session, and long-form will have 1 hour and 45 minutes. Pick the format that best fits the scope and style of your presentation.
[Call for proposals]
I trimmed some brush around the purple-and-white garden.
The pear tree is blooming. Both goji berry bushes survived the freeze earlier and are putting out leaves. Pink buds are appearing on the redbud trees.
Weather today is chilly and wet, intermittently drizzling.
When I dubbed my current politics posts with the tag "wartime thoughts", that was not originally intended as a general statement about the political arena. I've wound up using it more generally, but it was originally planned (before the gush of events distracted me) to be a series of posts on a specific topic, to make a specific point: we are already at war, a propaganda war. And the enemy are way the bloody hell ahead of us.
This was inspired by a moment on the WBUR call-in show "On Point", shortly before the election. One caller started matter-of-factly talking about how the show was of course being controlled by Project Mockingbird, and Tom Ashbrook, the host, completely lost his shit -- it was the only time I've ever heard him out-of-control angry. Which made me curious, so I Googled "Project Mockingbird", and quickly found myself in this weird parallel dimension of websites parroting all sorts of insanity. It was the moment when I finally realized where the bloody hell the Trump phenomenon had come from: in this parallel universe, Trump is right. (Or at least, not so obviously crazy.)
I'm reminded of that original inspiration by this brilliant article by Kate Starbird, a professor at the University of Washington. It's long, but you should find the time to read it in detail, because it is describing one of the primary causes of what's going right now. It outlines how her lab originally set out to do some analysis of the way that "alternative narrative" rumors spread after crises, and wound up consequently delving into the structure of what I think of as the "alt-net" -- the collection of websites and feeds that are the backbone of the alt-right movement.
This is seriously scary shit: while she keeps things carefully factual, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that what looks like an agglomeration of kooks are in fact a very principled and organized project to undermine Americans' collective sense of reality. On the surface it all appears to be authentic and independent opinion and reportage, but the cross-links are too deep to put much credence into that. There's a lot of very clever psychology at work here, focused on convincing readers that there is a gigantic conspiracy composed of the mainstream media, conventional government, the Jews, and so on, and that these plucky little websites are the good guys who are just trying to expose the truth.
(And while she never quite comes out and says it, the connections to Russia are kind of screamingly obvious. It is likely over-simplistic to say that this is just a Russian plot, but they are almost certainly deeply involved.)
This stuff is dreadfully important background, because it goes a long ways towards explaining the apparently-incomprehensible mindset of many core Trump voters. It isn't that they are stupid or insane, it's that they have been very carefully converted to a view of reality that is deliberately at odds with everything you and I know to be true. Their reality has been hand-crafted by some talented artists to be at least moderately self-consistent, and provides easy answers to many problems that, in reality, are just plain complicated. It's a reality view that is comforting, and therefore easy to believe, not least in that it provides for nice clear Enemies.
And through all of it, I'm left horribly curious about one key question: I honestly can't tell if Donald Trump is in on the joke. I mean, this is being run by a bunch of master manipulators. And I have a nasty feeling, based on his outbursts, that Trump is the Manipulatee-in-Chief...
Right now -- such are the joys of the freelance life -- it's still up in the air whether we'll be doing the con in extreme shoestring mode or have at least a bit of leeway for nonessentials. (At least the hotel's complimentary full American breakfast takes care of two meals for the weekend, which helps to stretch out the shoestring.)
But if you're in Albany NY this weekend in a congoing mood, you could always drop by and listen to Himself do his presentation on "100 Years of Dead Magicians" on Saturday night.
What I read
Josh Lanyon, Fair Game (2010) m/m romantic thriller (I guess), following a rec from someone somewhere. It was okay - though I'd fingered one character as at least dodgy and concealing something quite early on - but I'm not inspired particularly to continue reading the series.
Robin Stevens, First Class Murder (2015).
On the go
Simon Brett, The Killing in the Café (2015).
Charlie Fox, This Young Monster (2017): 'hallucinatory celebration of artists who raise hell, transform their bodies, anger their elders and show their audience dark, disturbing things'. I did that somewhat reprehensible thing where one sees something in an indie bookshop that one should be supporting, and then goes away and gets the ebook a) because it's cheaper and b) because Boox We Are Too Menny and I am trying to cut back, not with entire success, on introducing more actual books into the household, at least until I have undertaken the long deferred purge.
Dunno: I am in that state of mind vis a vis reading in which I have a massive tbr pile that includes things that I definitely want to get to, and yet keep getting distracted by other people's recs, thing I picked up in the charity shop, etc.
Oh yes, and had a thought that one of the reasons I did not get on with that Patricia Craig book was that our tastes do not seem to mesh: she either did not read or disliked some of the canonical works of my childhood, and liked things about which I was meh (I never got on with Just William, one would like to think that I already detected the misogyny, but I think it was the style that turned me off in my youth).
Here's an interesting article about "adtech" -- those automated algorithms that companies like Google and Facebook use to spy on you and serve up advertisements that they think you will respond to. The major upshots are:
- Adtech is at best wildly ineffective, and at worst actively damaging, for brands that are trying to advertise.
- The core precepts of adtech is going to be illegal in Europe starting next year.
I'm not sure how accurate all this is -- it sounds a tad self-serving in favor of traditional advertising, so I take it with a grain of salt -- but I suspect there's a substantial grain of truth in it. It clarifies a distinction that the tech world has been trying very hard to blur, between direct sales and branding. It appears to me that adtech works a little for direct sales, but I suspect the article is right that it's inappropriate for serious branding.
I find myself ever more glad that Querki's business plan is specifically not built on the "spy on the users for purposes of advertising" model, which is looking ever more rickety. Asking people to pay for a service is old-fashioned, but it at least makes sense...
We'll see how it goes. In the mean time, my body is amazed at what it's like to not play TF2 for an entire day. We've been to Trader Joe's and to the Mecca that is Original Tommy's, and eating my single cheese, extra chili, hold everything but the slab of fresh, local tomato, please.
It was amazing. My stomach is still uneasy about what I did, but... a price well worth paying. *laughs*
We got out to the Santa Monica pier at night, walked it and ate a churro. Got to see the fishing was good on the end of the pier, and got some good steps in today. It's a break from the gaming...
We made it into the top 16, didn't make the top 8, however, who were in the play offs. We do, however, have a chance to go into silver from steel. There are a few new players who want to join our team after one person left and the other just got less interested in the game itself. The personality mix is far more volatile, now, but the talent involved is much better. My mentor says that I'll do fine in silver, with him to help me learn and use his experience to help us, too. And we have one of his good friends as a team mentor as well.
So it's going to be a little crazy. So I'm taking time away from my rig, and I'm going to try out a few significant changes to see if I can't get my aim to be both better and hurt my right hand/wrist less. And we'll see...
But the time away is going to be essential for the change, and I'm going to have to sleep and rest away from the computer as much as I can. So we'l see how it goes.
by Dialecticdreamer/Sarah Williams
part 2 of 3 (complete)
word count (story only): 1392
:: This story takes place around dawn on Saturday in the Maldives, which is dinner time (around 5pm) where Shiv is. ::
back to part one
to the Danger and Discovery Index
on to part three
“Because they're expensive?” Shiv grumbled. Tolliver remembered being nineteen and constantly hungry, without the boost of a soup's metabolism. He nudged the Parmesan over, only to have Shiv shake his head at it.
Tolli shook his head sharply as he focused on Shiv's words. “No. They're rescued animals, Shiv, which means they're jittery around new folks. Too many humans have abused them in the past for them to trust easily. But, that makes them really good therapy animals for some of the veterans we know. That's one of the things we do regularly, and we make a little money from it. However, if you don't want to push, I can understand that, too. You've only got what, roughly eight weeks left until you're out?”
( Read more... )
Contact me via private means if you wish; my gmail address is pretty easy to guess from my username, and I have been known to use Dreamwidth private messages as well.
Their smell, though, coaxed loose by the precise and insistent raindrops, seems stronger and sweeter than on a bright day. Beyond the familiar peppery scent, something in them admits finally to being flowers.
There's a good cedary smell tonight, too, like a new fence, a young smell maybe also lifted up out of old wood and stain by the water's alchemy.
A fat black-and-white cat surges like a storm cloud into a foggy window, as if responding to me, but not looking at me.
There is a hole worn right through the concrete here, near the new sidewalk, showing through to the storm sewer like a wound.
This was a long day, and not a happy one, but these small witnessings are more than compensation; they are a clear rain that drives the ugly fragments into the gutter, down the drain, out into the great night-soaked ocean.
Though sometime I may have to retrieve and make sense of them, right now I am just grateful for a small clear space.
Choose a fic and 1 (or more) question(s) from the list below:
1: What inspired you to write the fic this way?
2: What scene did you first put down?
3: What’s your favorite line of narration?
4: What’s your favorite line of dialogue?
5: What part was hardest to write?
6: What makes this fic special or different from all your other fics?
7: Where did the title come from?
8: Did any real people or events inspire any part of it?
9: Were there any alternate versions of this fic?
10: Why did you choose this pairing for this particular story?
11: What do you like best about this fic?
12: What do you like least about this fic?
13: What music did you listen to, if any, to get in the mood for writing this story? Or if you didn’t listen to anything, what do you think readers should listen to to accompany us while reading?
14: Is there anything you wanted readers to learn from reading this fic?
15: What did you learn from writing this fic?
My fanfic (from Yuletides past, mainly) can be found here at Ao3. Or here at Teaspoon, where I last added anything from Doctor Who seven years ago.
Or you can peer into the depths of a tag called ‘fanfic I’ve written.’ There’s one Firefly fanfic down there somewhere, and quite a few drabbles for that and Buffy from back when I was starting to dabble in fanfic for the first time.
My sister and I went to see the Power Rangers movie this past weekend.
You may think this was due to some nostalgia on my part. It’s not: I never watched the show, never had any of the toys, only vaguely knew it was a thing. My previous attachment to Power Rangers was nil. But the trailer looked fun and I’d done a whole lotta adulting over the previous couple of days, so off we went, even though my sister said that “everything Haim Saban touches is covered in a layer of Cheez Whiz.”
This led to us formulating the Cheese Theory of Adaptations.
At the low end you have something like the G.I. Joe movie. Was it cheesy? Yes — but it wasn’t good cheese. In fact, it was pre-sliced American cheese, and we’re not even sure the film-makers remembered to take off the plastic wrapper before offering it to us.
On the high end you have the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Which is also incredibly cheesey — but you find yourself saying, “dude, is this gruyere?” We’re talking high-quality cheese here, folks. The sort you can eat without feeling ill afterward, and even want to eat again.
The Power Rangers movie isn’t gruyere, but my sister and I agreed that it’s a good, decent cheddar. The weakest part of it was the obligatory Mecha Smash Fight at the end; by putting all the heroes into mecha, you restrict 90% of their opportunities to act, because the close-up shots of them mostly consist of them talking and then being shaken around their cockpits. But the good news is that the mecha part only comes at the very end of the movie, because the writers were far more interested in spending time on character development. These Power Rangers are a bunch of messed-up kids, and they aren’t able to “morph” (manifest their color-coded suits of armor) or control the mecha until they sort out some of their messes. That runs the risk of being pat — an After-School Special kind of story — but it isn’t, because “sort out” isn’t the same thing as “get over.” Nobody learns a Very Important Lesson and is thereafter rid of all their issues. Resolution comes in the form of honesty, of admitting they’ve got problems and trusting one another with their secrets. It lends weight to the idea that they have to work as a team; you can’t do that when you’re afraid to show your true self to your teammates, very real warts and all.
And there’s something to be said for throwing your entertainment dollars at a movie that shows a broad cross-section of the teenaged world. The Red Ranger and team leader appears to be your usual whitebread sports hero (and in the TV series that’s apparently what he was), but he’s got a history of sabotaging himself in disastrous ways; the introductory scene ends with him wearing a police-issued ankle monitor after a high-speed chase and subsequent wreck. He’s the only white member of the team. The actress playing the Pink Ranger (whose color palette has shifted closer to the purple end of the spectrum) is half-Gujarati, and her character is in trouble for having forwarded a sexually explicit photo of her friend to a guy at school. The movie shifts things around so that the black character is no longer also the Black Ranger; he’s the Blue Ranger instead, and on the autism spectrum, while the Black Ranger is Chinese-American and taking care of his seriously ill mother. Finally, there’s been a fair bit of press around the fact that the Yellow Ranger (played by a Latina actress) is the first LGBTQ superhero in a feature film.
So like I said: a good, decent cheddar. The characters are vivid and interesting, their problems feel very real, and the resolution on that front isn’t too tidy or simplistic. The villain and the throwdown with her are the least interesting parts of the whole shebang, but they don’t take up too much of it overall. It was a fun way to spend my Sunday afternoon.
I feel as though at some point some ancient and secret confraternity of editors has codified the guidelines of slushomancy, and I hope someday they let me in on it: next year will be heavy on space squid, say, with a chance of light pastiche storms. I'm not sure you could use it to predict real events, although it certainly has about as much randomness included as any yarrow stalk or marrow bone.
There are a few trends that have become clear, of course. More fantasy than science fiction, always, always. Sad lesbians, or lesbians in romances that don't work out for one reason or another, are very in. People who write excessively effusive cover letters have frequently never learned how to use spellcheck. Every so often there will be a story I absolutely love which is simply completely wrong for the magazine, and I will have to write a very sad note reading Dear X, this is amazing, there is nothing wrong with it, I love it, have you tried a mainstream lit mag/a horror magazine/an erotica anthology? I always fear they won't believe me, is the problem with that.
Also, every so often we get actual answer stories, stories written in direct response to and in conversation with other works in the field. What fascinates me about these is which works people choose to respond to. I mean, more than fifty years on we are still getting direct replies to 'The Cold Equations'. That's a sub-genre of its own, people who object to something or other about 'The Cold Equations'. Which is fair, except that at this point I suspect it has all been done. There's that, and then responses to Ender's Game are a subgenre (one which has become more impassioned since Card proved to be... the kind of person he is), and then responses to 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas'.
We do occasionally get really good response stories. I'm not inherently against the idea of publishing them. But the problem with response stories is that you don't just measure their quality against your own standards, you measure them against the original, and while that isn't a horrific problem with Card or 'The Cold Equations', I feel bad for people who are directly attempting the prose style, let alone the story structuring, of Ursula K. Le Guin. Probably the best way to go prose-wise with an Omelas response would be to be as different as humanly possible, because direct comparisons are going to be odious. Unfortunately, this memo has not reached many of the writers in question.
Ah well. You can't make an Omelas without breaking a few egos.
Yet another case in which a bloke who has committed significant violence against a woman, of which there is no possible doubt, walks free (well, suspended sentence) apparently on the basis that it would ruin a promising career if he went to jail. (Which it does turn out he was somewhat less than truthful about.)
And okay, I have been seeing these sorts of cases for a very long time now, and one might even have hoped that this sort of thing would have come to an end -
And we note that it is very, very rare for anyone in the legal system or even in the reporting, to express any concern over the damage done to the woman's potential through injuries, long-term effects of trauma, etc.
So, I was thinking about this, and what came to mind was a famous 'gotcha' argument popular among the anti-abortion forces c. 1970 or so, which was to posit a particular case of mother with several children, family straits, disease, and when anyone remarked that it seemed a clear case for termination would go 'aha! you have terminated Beethoven!' (there may have been other instances: that is the one I remember).
Because women's lives have no value except for the male offspring they bear... (though statistically, very few of those are going to be Beethoven*).
A thought which would have led me to hurl against the wall, except that they were library books, far too many works of sf/fantasy in which a woman underwent various adventures and travails and this was not to fit her for her own role as The Chosen One, it was to get her in place to bear The Chosen One.
*Given all the relative advantages in terms of education and parental investment, relatively few men have ever been Shakespeare/Newton/Beethoven/etc. I will also reiterate here my argument that Great Male Leaders were not necessarily able to outwrestle all the men they lead, it was not about simply physical superiority.
Any suggestions for the rest of us? What helps motivate you?
Good luck and cheers to you all! I hope your midweek goes well, progress is made and that you find something to be proud of.