oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

I.e., this week has been mostly getting the new computer to do those things which it ought to do, and leave undone those things which it ought not do -

Among which the most disturbing was the discovery this morning that Thunderbird was marking ALL, yes ALL, incoming mail as Junk and also as Read, fortunately I did discover that this was happening.

There has also been wrestling with getting to be able to talk to the MyCloud as part of my home network rather than via a remote interface connection.

There was the oops, I needed to do a backup of This Thing, That Thing and The Other Thing from the old computer, and having to sort that out.

There is all the finding the passwords and activation codes for things for which I entered a password when I first activated the thing, and never since.

There is also the loss of some things - don't seem to be able to have the little slide-show widget thing of photos on my desktop, chiz - and finding that the new versions of things are Not What We Expect - the new Kobo Desktop App is quite horrid.

But on the whole, we are reasonably satisfied with the New System - its speed in particular is commendable.

However, I am annoyed with Opera, which I was intending using as my secondary browser to avoid Microsoft and Google, but the main thing I wanted a secondary browser for was so that I can log into The Other DW Journal without logging out of this one, but Opera, for some reason I wot not of, insists on autofilling the login screen with the details for this account rather than the other - la, 'tis tedious vexatious.

(no subject)

Aug. 17th, 2017 05:37 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] negothick and [personal profile] quiara!

Culprit identified....

Aug. 16th, 2017 09:11 pm
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[personal profile] flick
While weeding the back garden (this time with gloves on), I found another mystery plant, this time with white flowers, and Mike identified it as self-seeded nicotiana, the sap of which the internet confirms can cause skin irritation.

Fortunately, my diagnosis of the blisters as big but minor was correct: they've come off, and the skin underneath is undamaged. I'll have to remember that in future!

Wednesday is positively summery

Aug. 16th, 2017 03:53 pm
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished The Color of Fear: up to usual standard.

PC Hodgell, The Gates of Tagmeth: these have definitely succumbed to a kind of Dunnett syndrome, in which there is some huge mysterious meta-arc going on, occasionally alluded to, but each episode deals with some particular problem that Jame (mostly) has to face (there were a few other viewpoint sections in this one) in the foreground and doesn't seem to be advancing the longer game particularly. On the other hand, kept me reading. On the prehensile tail, so not the place to start. (Are there really only 8 books in the Kencyrath sequence? only I have been reading them for decades, so it seems more.)

JD Robb, Echoes in Death (2017), as the ebook had finally come down to a sum I consider reasonable for an ebook. The mixture as usual, pretty much. Okay, not the most sophisticated of mystery plots, I got this and the twist very early on, but it's the getting there, I guess.

On the go

Discovered I had a charity-shop copy of PD James, The Private Patient (2008), the last of the excursions of Dalgleish, which I had not already read for some reason - possibly because I wasn't at that time sufficiently keen on PDJ and AD to shell out for a trade paperback.

Up next

Dunno, really.

Current events

Aug. 15th, 2017 10:30 pm
filkerdave: (oh good god)
[personal profile] filkerdave
We used to agree that Nazis were the bad guys.

Marrow mountain...

Aug. 15th, 2017 08:59 pm
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[personal profile] flick


Sigh. And the early tomatoes have blight (although the later ones, farther from the polytunnel door, seem clear so far).

Home now, all well (other than Mike coming down with a cold). Will catch up on email over the next day or so....

Slightly worryingly, just after coming in from picking veg I noticed a couple of big-but-minor blisters on my fingers. I did pull a couple of weeds (without gloves) while I was out there, but I'm now wondering which of them were noxious.... There was something unfamiliar with purple flowers. Hmm.
oursin: The stylised map of the London Underground, overwritten with Tired of London? Tired of Life! (Tired of London? Tired of Life!)
[personal profile] oursin

London garden bridge project collapses in acrimony after £37m spent.

And I can't help wanting to say to Boris J that in Ye Bygone Days when people built follies they did so on their own estates and with their own money (though on reflection this was probably ill-gottens from the Triangle Trade and dodgy dealings in India) and didn't ask the nation to pay for them.

(And aren't there already memorials to Princess Di? How many do we need?)

And, you know, it's a pretty idea and in theory I am there with Thomas Heatherwick that 'London needs new bridges and unexpected new public places': except that that is not a part of London that required Yet Another Bridge, there are so many that taking the boat journey along that stretch of river is more like going into a tunnel.

Also, it was not properly a public space:

a link that would be privately run, would be able set its own rules for access, and would close at night and be available to hire for private events.
Not dissimilar from those gardens in London squares to which access is by residents' key. I do not think that is a definition of 'public' that would have been assented to by those urban planners and reformers creating parks and spaces for the benefit of the inhabitants of the metropolis.

I am also boggled by the suggestion that the river is not already pretty much 'centre-stage' in our great city.

I think Mad William would have had things to say along the lines of

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.
and whether if crowds flowed over the bridge, so many, common and routine usage would have meant that
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

I might go along on the line suggested by this to comment that what good is a garden bridge if the land lies waste?

(no subject)

Aug. 15th, 2017 11:19 am
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[personal profile] beeswing
“On their last night together, Tilo and Musa slept with their arms wrapped around each other, as though they had only just met.”

— Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

(no subject)

Aug. 15th, 2017 09:25 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] jcalanthe and [personal profile] muckefuck!
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[personal profile] stonebender
Looks like tomorrow I go back to Stanford to try again for the lumbar puncture. After last week's attempt there was talk about using the CT to do my lumbar puncture, but that takes a lot of radiation. Using the CT on a regular basis doesn't sound like a good solution. Connie recommended that we try again with a doctor who successfully did my puncture before (actually my first lumbar puncture). So I will be in Stanford tomorrow at 11:30 AM for a second attempt on my third dose. Then I have a month before I have to take the final loading dose.

We did ask Connie about how the delay in getting my third dose will affect the effectiveness of the treatment and they just don't have data for that. She and Dr Day are optimistic that this won't be a problem. We also talk to her about getting pain meds to help with the pain of laying on the table for so long. She's concerned with how the pain meds will affect my breathing. On her suggestion, I'm trying Vicodin tonight to see how I feel. If it goes well I'll take another Vicodin before the procedure. If it doesn't, I'll do what I have been doing and gut it out.

Reading: Murder on the Ballarat Train

Aug. 14th, 2017 07:53 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
In the third of Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries, Phryne and her companion, Dot, are taking the night train to Ballarat when Phryne is woken from a doze by the smell of chloroform, and discovers that their first-class carriage has been filled with cholorform and that one of the passengers, an elderly lady, is missing. When the missing passenger's body is discovered, her daughter hires Phryne to find her mother's murderer, and Phryne also takes on the task of trying to find the identity of a young girl with amnesia who was found on the same train.

The identity of the murderer was glaringly obvious, but the question of evidence and alibis takes up more time, while the subplot about the amnesiac girl takes a bit more unravelling. The feminist slant of the previous novels remains strongly in evidence here, with Phryne continuing to take down exploiters and abusers of women in the course of her cases, and there are a few knowing nods to other novels; the allusion to Murder on the Orient Express is obvious, but I also spotted a reference to the Megatherium Trust which sets the series firmly in the same world as Peter Wimsey. The series continues to be entertaining feminist fluff and definitely high on my list of comfort reads.
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

So, farewell then, printer which has been with me some dozen or so years, also previous computer.

Take it away Bessie Smith:

The usual sturm und drang over setting up the new All In One Computer and the printer which purports to be wireless, but refuses to connect thusly: however it will connect by cable.

Though alas, all the USB ports are on one side of the computer, the one away from where the printer has to go (unless I do some major rearranging), but I think I have contrived.

And of course, various other things still to get sorted.

But, getting there, sorta.

Culinary

Aug. 13th, 2017 08:58 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

Bread during the week: a Standen loaf, v tasty.

Saturday breakfast rolls: brown grated apple with molasses and ginger: using up two bags of flour probably a) rather more wholemeal than strong white b) probably quantities a bit more than usual; also using up ginger so these were quite gingery.

Today's lunch: small whole sea-bream baked in foil with ginger and lime; served with purple crinkle-cut sweet potato fries, garlic roasted sweet-stem cauliflower and bellaverde broccoli, steamed samphire tossed in butter, and padron peppters.

[personal profile] chance
So apparently a while back a book called The Black Witch by Laurie Forest was at the center of some internet drama which was kicked off by this review back in March. I hadn't heard about any of the drama when I bought the book and had no idea that it was a book about a racist who learns that her opinions are wrong. (I thought it was going to be a book about someone who doesn't end up being a chosen one.)

So, the story is about Elloren who is basically the granddaughter of Hitler (if the Nazis had won) and the great-great-great-granddaughter of Hitler crossed with a T-Rex. Hitler T-Rex basically invented a religion where their people were the oppressed chosen ones and set off to smite all their enemies. And what Hitler T-Rex didn't do, Grandmother Hitler finished the job and increased the size of their country 10-fold and they became the new local super-power.

Elloren grew up in a country where the victors wrote the history books so she's well indoctrinated in their biased view of history and it's all backed up by their religion. And to put a cherry on top, her parents died in this war so of course she has an interest in believing they are heroes.

Elloren is painfully naïve (and frequently annoying). Her (evil and powerful) Aunt wants her to get engaged to another powerful family to ensure her purity and to make a powerful alliance. Also because if Elloren isn't the latest Hitler, then hopefully she will give birth to the new Hitler (the Titular Black Witch.)

It's true - there is a whole lot of racism in the book (and sexism) and quite a lot of it comes from the main character. It is not subtle. I can entirely appreciate how this is a deal breaker for people.

Elloren is largely clueless rather than cruel, but that doesn't really matter and I think Sinyard's criticism that this is book written for white people is spot on. Though I disagree that it's meant for white people who think they aren't racists so they can get a cookie. Rather, I'd suggest that it was written to allow white people to recognize that they are being racists and to show the harm that comes from it.

This is not to say that the book actually hits that mark, but I think that's what it was going for. It undercuts itself in a number of ways:

Elloren gets treated poorly by a number of people from other races which enables her to feel the victim - it doesn't make me empathize with her (and I think it was meant to) and clouds the message I think Forest was trying to portray.

Elloren also has quite an easy path. Even when she does things that ought to be unforgivable, she gets forgiven anyway. I think this book would have been quite a lot stronger if there had been real consequences to Ell Oren's actions. When you say or do something hurtful, sometimes the only thing you get is the lesson not to do it again. Saying you're sorry doesn't guarantee forgiveness (and it shouldn't)

Most annoyingly, Elloran is still jonsing for Lukas at the end of the book even though he's a jackass.

So, about that review, I agree with some of it, but it also unfortunately cherry picks its quotes. For example in one of the most horrifying scenes in the book, Lukas (the man who wants to marry Elloren) threatens the kitchen workers who have treated Elloren poorly, culminating with threatening to send a child to a work camp where she will be worked to death.

Sinyard quotes the following:

"But what's the alternative? To let them bully me? To let them kick me and slap me and threaten me with further violence? No, it's better to make idle threats, if they now fear me.

I may be devoid of magic, but I'm Carnissa Gardner's granddaughter, Vyvian Damon's niece and favored by Lukas Grey."


And concludes "Elloren feel fully justified in the way that Lukas threatened an entire scene of workers"

But the paragraph immediately following the quoted section is:

For the rest of shift, I try to cling to my roiling fear and anger to bolster myself and justify Lukas's actions, but it's impossible to hold back a fierce wave of sickening guilt. And I'm careful not to meet anyone's eyes for the rest of the shift.

Elloren feels basically the opposite to what Sinyard asserts - she tries to justify it in her head and fails and feels ashamed and guilty because of what Lukas did on her behalf.

Or when Sinyard describes the scene when Elloren learns of the Silkier trade:

pg. 52-54. Elloren sees the Selkie for the first time. She's locked in a cage and is being sold as a pleasure slave. Her aunt explains that she's actually a seal with a human skin and she's just a wild animal, so there's nothing to worry about.


Yes, her aunt does say that, but right from the beginning it's clear that Elloren's Aunt is a jackass. Elloren is very upset to see the selkie in a cage and what actually comforts her is when her aunt says the following:

I am completely and utterly against the Selkie trade and am doing everything I can to wipe it out." She pats my hand reassuringly.

But even with this, the shock and horror lingers:

I nod silently as my out points out her favorite shops and historical landmarks, but the face of the Selkie stays fresh in my mind, and I can't shake the chill I now feel for the rest of the ride.

It was clear to me that her aunt was deliberately trying to obscure the fact that the selkies were used as sex slaves and it's clear from the text that the aunt's solution probably isn't something that Elloren would actually like. The book isn't suggesting that the aunt's point of view is good, and clearly Elloren remains upset about seeing the selkie in the cage.

I can understand people rage quitting this book, but honestly where I ended up was mostly bored. The world building is thin, the pacing is terrible and Elloren is a pretty annoying Mary Sue.

Hippo, Birdie, Two Ewes

Aug. 13th, 2017 09:00 am
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[personal profile] onyxlynx
 to [personal profile] n6tqs  and [personal profile] daydream !  Happy day!
emceeaich: Big rocks from outer space solve many problems. (boom)
[personal profile] emceeaich

The outline for my remarks on The Expanse and politics at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.

  • Warnings
    • Spoilers through 2nd Season of the TV Series (Caliban’s War)
    • Will talk about both books and TV series
  • Who am I
    • Emma Humphries
    • She/Her
    • Programmer and Project Manager, 20+ years experience
    • 29 years in fandom (28 WisCons)
  • Format: I’ll talk for 25 minutes or so, and then we’ll have a discussion for the remainder of the time we have
  • What is The Expanse?
    • ASK: how many of you have read or watched?
    • Series of Novels and TV Programs
    • James S. A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)
    • Future history of the Inner and Outer Solar System
  • Why talk about politics?
    • Because SF has been the acceptable place to talk about politics
  • Subjects
    • Queer/Non-binary/Trans representation
    • Populism
    • Universal Income
  • What I’m Not Going to Talk About
    • Race
    • I’m going to suggest you start with the Black Girl Nerds podcast who have been recapping and discussing the TV Series
  • Why The Expanse
    • I love space opera
    • I adore the women in this show
      • Naomi Nagata: Ship’s Officer and Engineer
      • Bobbie Draper: Gunnery Sgt in the Martian Marines, who trains under one Earth Gravity
      • Chrisjen Avasarala: UN Undersecretary who knows where the bodies are buried
      • All represented as women of color in the TV show
      • All flawed, but real characters, I empathize with
    • I stan for Chrisjen
    • I love to hate on Holden
      • But, honestly, can anyone stand Holden?
      • Miller’s stuck with him because of alien machinations
      • What does Naomi see in him?
  • Queer/Non-binary/Trans representation
    • The good, there are gay and lesbian characters
    • The bad
      • Heteronormative relationships
        • The Martian ambassador and his husband
        • Annushka "Anna" Volovodov
        • A settler couple on Illus
      • Two hundred years in the future, and the nuclear family is still the norm
        • Holden’s family back on Earth, a poly-cule, are considered weird/aberations
      • No non-binary or trans characters
      • The non-normative relationships and characters are the thieves, rebels and sex workers
  • Populism
    • Definition time!
      • A type of political discourse which posits an “authentic people” in opposition to “a privileged elite.”
      • In left populism that’s often the workers vs the wealthy
        • debates on distribution of wealth
      • in right populism it’s white people vs everyone else
        • debates on who is and isn’t part of the “nation”
    • The OPA is a populist movement with both right and left characteristics
    • Anderson Station, and Illus are left populist actions
      • Workers, abused by Inner Planets wealth and corporations standing up to power and paying with their lives, and/or using violence as a means
    • But the OPA has a right-leaning side which is terrifying
      • We see it at the end of Season 2 where the economic populism gives way to an nastier ethnic populism
      • In the 2nd Season a Belter Ship, carrying evacuees from Ganymede to Tyco Station, puts all the people from the Inner Planets out the airlock
      • It will only get worse in later books
  • Universal Basic Income
    • Also known as Social Income, or under the UN in the world of the Expanse, “Basic”
    • There’s a body of economic research that finds evidence for giving people direct cash assistance as the best way to support people
    • Basic income, in and of itself is not sufficient
      • You need universal access to healthcare
      • In “Churn,” for example, we see the UN handing out substandard/palliative-only care
    • A well-implemented Social Income system, with healthcare (including reproductive healthcare), transport, and housing can provide a stable base for people to build on
    • In the world of the Expanse, the social income system is geared to subsistence and governability
  • Scorecard
    • LGTBQ+
      • Needs more work
      • Tell me why all your queer relationships are heteronormative
      • As a queer dyke, I want to see relationships like the ones I see in my community in the here and now, or at least understand why they aren’t there
    • Populism
      • Yes, this is a honest portrayal
      • How populism, unchecked, can go from a liberation struggle to genocidal violence
    • Social Income
      • A pessimistic view
      • Is this in the service of story, people struggling to escape a dismal earth? Or a libertarian view of the role of the state?

Reading: Mansfield Park

Aug. 12th, 2017 12:59 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
After reading Kindred, which is about slavery in the USA a short time after Jane Austen was writing, I decided to re-read the one Jane Austen novel which explicitly mentions slavery, Mansfield Park.

I actually first read Mansfield Park recently enough that my thoughts are on LJ, and my opinion hasn't really changed; I know a lot of people dislike Fanny Price, but I still find her sympathetic and relatable, and her quiet determination in the face of pressure to accept Henry Crawford's proposal (and, indeed, the careful observation which allows her to understand Henry's character in a way that no-one else, except perhaps Mary Crawford, does) is all the more impressive for coming from a character whose life has shaped her into a person who always puts other people's wants and needs before her own. Yes, a shy, anxious, insecure heroine isn't as fun as a sparkling, witty Lizzy Bennet, but Fanny feels very real and I found it easy to care about her predicament. I do wonder if some of the dislike for Mansfield Park comes from people expecting a fluffy romance and not getting that, because while none of Jane Austen's novels are actually fluffy romances (honestly, I can't think of one that isn't really an anti-romance when you look at it closely) Mansfield Park is one of the hardest to see that way; although Fanny does end up with the man she is in love with, he isn't in love with her and they have a marriage of best friends rather than a grand romance.

I also really enjoy the glimpses of the wider world we get in this novel; Sir Thomas's business interests (and yes, the slavery that his wealth is founded on), the Navy in the Portsmouth scenes (which feel as though a Patrick O'Brien novel could be taking place only a few yards away). Like all Austen's novels, it also has interesting things to say about the position of women in English society in the early nineteenth century; the experiences of Maria and Julia Bertram, Mary Crawford's catalogue of the woes of her friends' marriages, and the pressure exerted on Fanny herself to marry Henry, despite her conviction that he is fickle and insincere (and while I think she is probably too hard on Henry, because she is so much in love with Edmund, his attachment to her clearly isn't all he would have her believe it to be), all show how constrained women's lives were, how the crucial question of marriage, answered on the basis of very little real information or knowledge, would make or break the rest of life.

I'm not sure I can have a favourite Jane Austen novel; there were moments during this re-read when I thought maybe Mansfield Park was my new favourite, but then I remembered Persuasion and Northanger Abbey; Pride and Prejudice is justly acclaimed a classic, and I really like Emma too, so I think all I can actually say for it is that it's definitely in my top five, though they are all so close, and the only one I think I actually like less than the others is Sense and Sensibility.

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Maureen Kincaid Speller

August 2017

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