It's been ages since my last proper update. Highlights!
I got a camera for my birthday back in March...
( obligatory kitty pics )
( obligatory I-can't-stand-my-face selfies )
Then the current round of Holmestice began, PRECISELY when the Livejournal TOS fuckery hit the fan. I will not say that this round has been a clusterfuck, because I think it mostly hasn't been? But pulling off this round has been more effort and cursing than any of us planned for. Happily, I have great co-mods, and there is wonderful satisfaction in looking at ALL THE THINGS and knowing we facilitated that happening. Even if we're still trying to finish backing up the damn comm.
In early May we went to Colorado and Wyoming for a week to visit grrlpup's family. Not half an hour out of the airport, we got caught in an impressive hailstorm; Grrlpup is still wrangling with the rental car and insurance companies over how many thousands of dollars that storm is or isn't going to cost us. The rest of the trip was pretty good, but socially taxing. As always, it was wonderful to see her friends and family; as always, I was very happy to get back home again.
In June, grrlpup had her birthday. We have become my parents' generation: when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she asked that I actually do that one home-improvement task I'd been promising to do for two years. So I spent a few days bolting and screwing bookshelves to the wall, while pretending I wasn't doing any such thing.
Her: What are you doing? Are you painting boards? Why are you painting boards?
Me: [flagrantly painting boards] Boards? What boards?
( front room shelves )
Later today, crazy_marcia, for whom we crewed the Badwater Ultra and with whom I used to climb mountains, is coming to visit.
(For those who didn't know me back then, the Badwater Ultra is a 135/143-mile footrace through Death Valley and up to the top of Mt. Whitney, always held during the height of summer. And by "height of summer," I mean 120-degree heat, woot! The two mountains I've climbed with her are both non-trivial: Mt. Whitney by the Mountaineer's Route, and Mt. Rainier, which involves glacier travel, and thus is a technical climb. Both mountains are near-abouts 14,500 feet high and Exciting Shit Went Wrong on both peaks.)
Anyway, I'm weirdly nervous about seeing Marcia -- it's been an age since we last spoke, and I got lazy and fat and don't have adventures anymore, and what if she doesn't like me now??? -- but scanning back over these old trip reports, I feel very silly. We're going to sit around and gossip, not pull one of our what-were-you-even-thinking-people-die-
(Actually, given that Marcia will be in attendance, I would not be the least bit surprised if we save someone from a close brush with death later today. FURTHER BULLETINS AS EVENTS WARRANT.)
That one KSR about how if you send a generation ship filled with the learnedly ignorant, colonization will surely fail aside, are there any SF novels recent enough to use the exoplanets we now know of as settings?
Some things I’ve read recently!
The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata
If you didn’t read Nagata’s The Red Trilogy, well, you might want to consider doing so. But whether you have or you haven’t–The Last Good Man is near-future military sf. It’s tense and compelling, and features a middle-aged woman protagonist, an ex-Army pilot who now works for a private military company. During a rescue mission she discovers something that casts a new and disturbing light on an event that she’d thought, well, not safely in the past, but over and done with and accurately understood. But she wants the truth, no matter the cost. If near future and/or military is your jam, don’t miss this.
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
This is volume 1 of the Murderbot Diaries, and I suspect a certain percentage of my readers don’t need to hear anything more. Go, purchase, download! You will enjoy this.
Murderbot is a SecUnit–a security android, part organic part mechanical, that isn’t supposed to have any sort of free will. It does, though, and having achieved that free will it secretly names itself Murderbot and then works hard to hide its freedom of thought from the corporation that owns it. It doesn’t actually want to murder anyone, though. It just wants to be left alone to watch its stories. Unfortunately, someone is trying to kill the humans Murderbot has been tasked to protect.
I’m not kidding, I can almost guarantee that my readers will enjoy this. I have already pre-ordered volume 2, which is out in January.
Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns
So, Lesbian Space Pirates. Out at the end of October. That may be all I need to say.
Or not. Our heroines hijack a colony ship in a bid to join a famous band of space pirates–only to discover the pirates are not, as widely believed, hiding out on Barbary Station rolling in money and loot, but are in fact trapped there by the station’s renegade AI. Why is the AI doing what it’s doing? Is it conscious? Does it matter when it’s trying to kill you?
This book is good fun. Set in the Solar System, lots of action, I really enjoyed this, and I bet you will, too.
Mirrored from Ann Leckie.
"The Game of Rat and Dragon" has stuck better in my memory, but at some point in college I was delighted to discover that there were more Instrumentality stories. The one that I remembered, years later, as being particularly interesting was "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal." Peculiarly, I remembered that it had an unusual narrative structure/format, but not anything useful about its plot. Cue yesterday when I actually reread it, having checked out the posthumous collection When the People Fell from the library, and being bemused to discover that this story was almost certainly, before I ever heard of fanfic on the internet, my introduction to mpreg.
A spoilery discussion of the story follows beneath the cut.
 My high school library's sf/f holdings were very eclectic. They had a couple decades' worth of Analog under Stanley Schmidt. I read every page of every issue available, and remain fond of the zine although I have not read it in over a decade. They also had old classics like John Wyndham's Re-Birth, amusing curiosities like a litcrit book on the best fantasy novels by Michael Moorcock (possibly with a co-author; I no longer remember) in which he immodestly listed his own Stormbringer, a number of old Nebula anthologies, and a copy of Harlan Ellison's (ed.) Dangerous Visions that I read two or three or four times before someone else stole it or, more charitably, checked it out and lost it. (Years later, I still think Philip José Farmer's "Riders of the Purple Wage" was insufferably boring, and Delany's "Aye, and Gomorrah" makes zero sense when you are barely aware of what sex is.) They had Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, which is where I encountered them. On the other hand, the librarians were very friendly, and for a number of years, because my sister and I were the only ones who made use of the request box, we pretty much got them to buy whatever we wanted to read for the year.
( Read more... )
But! At least the road trip is happening. We're not going to have as much time as I'd hoped, but it should be good nonetheless. If he can get a couple days off work, we should be able to extend the trip until we have about as much time as we had last time.
We leave the 15th, and return either the 24th or 26th, depending on whether he can find someone to cover for him. I have offered to comp him for lost income (ah, the beauties of a tech job).
We are not going anywhere exciting. The goal is to check off the remaining continental states we haven't been to, aka the boring ones (sorry not sorry).
For him, lucky bastard, this is just Arkansas and North Dakota.
For me, this is Arkansas and North Dakota AND ALSO *deep breath* South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. And DC, the only vaguely interesting place we're going.
My family's rules for states (or countries) visited have always been: flyovers don't count, but any on-the-ground technicalities count! My mom putting one hand/foot in each of the states at the Four Corners counts. My dad's 15 minutes in the Detroit airport count. Layovers where you don't get off the plane count! My friend's and my 15 minutes in a car passing through the tiny southwest corner of Montana between Idaho and Wyoming on the way to Yellowstone counts.
So we will be doing a lot of border-tagging. If we pass the "Welcome To" sign, it counts!
Here are our current plans, assuming he gets the time off work.
I fly to meet him in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he will have been visiting family. We rent a car and head off into the sunset.
We pass through SC, AL, and MI on the way to Louisiana. We were going to visit New Orleans, but given that he's already been there and the main attraction for me was seafood, and given how tight on time we are, we're planning to bow to my shrimp allergy and give it a pass, which will buy us another day or so for the rest of the trip. So we'll just tag the LA border and head up to Little Rock, where he wants to visit the Clinton Presidential Library.
Then the scenic route through the Ozarks, and a lot of weaving across the borders to check off midwestern states for me. I was going to just do this for North Dakota, but he wants to visit Bonanzaville ("a pioneer village with 12 acres, 43 historic buildings, 400,000 artifacts, and millions of memories. Bonanzaville is operated by the Cass County Historical Society, with a mission to collect, display and interpret artifacts relevant to the history and cultural heritage of the Red River Valley.")
Then we detour to Wisconsin, because his family has a timeshare near a lake there, and he coauthored a volume on the local history of the lake and the surrounding community, which delayed his dissertation by at least three years ago, and he wants to show me the area. I imagine it will be scenic, am hoping for good hiking, and will try not to get eaten by bears.
Depending on how we're doing on time, maybe a quick visit to Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthplace, in WI not far from his lake. If we don't have time, though, I don't mind, as the only place she lived I really wanted to see was De Smet, and we did the tour there on the big cross-country road trip.
Then south, to catch Kentucky and WV on the way to DC. We'll actually spend a day or two in DC visiting museums, and then we'll check off my remaining eastern seaboard states on the way back to Boston, where he will catch a plane back to LA.
Stay tuned for any impromptu detours and sightseeing we come up with along the way! (Last time, it was the fortuitous* realization that Niagara Falls was totally on our route.)
* And I do mean "by chance"--we passed a sign for a Niagara Cave in Minnesota that made me decide to look up exactly where Niagara Falls was, on the suspicion that it was near our route, and it turned out we were passing through Buffalo, so we gave it a visit.
Other than a somewhat jolting experience at the opening ceremonies, which made it clear yet again that many of those who have always assumed their perfect safety in any circumstance (and who thus find argument entertaining) simply do not comprehend the paradigm for those who have always had to be wary, to at least some degree, while maneuvering in public spaces. I trust that learning happened.
After that, things went so very well. So many great conversations, over delicious food. Interesting panels, lovely weather. Another thing occurred to me: I so seldom get that quick-back-and-forth of conversation, as my social life is about 95% online, that I found myself frequently behind a couple steps. At least, I think it's due to that and not (I hope) to me dulling with age.
The con was splendid right to the last moments: my return train was to leave Mpls. at ten-ten that night, and I did not particularly look forward to sitting at the Amtrak station for six hours, but I didn't have the discretionary cash for adventuring about. However after delicious ice cream sundaes (yum, yum, yum!) carbonel generously offered to take me home, then drop me at the station, though it was not even remotely in her way.
My six hours passed so pleasantly it was emblematic of the entire weekend for me: after the fast pace it was so nice to sit quietly, watch some BBC animal planet documentaries . . . and, to my utter delight, the resident kitting--after doing considerable showing off by leaping to wall and ceiling beams and down again--curled up in my lap to purr. When you realize that I rarely get to see cats except in youtube vids when the news is too fraught, you will understand how that was the perfect close to an excellent weekend.
Thence an equally lovely train trip back, much reading and some writing achieved.
And this morning, I hauled my aged bod to yoga, for a much-needed session. This last couple weeks has been all about the head. Exhilarating, but not good for the bod. I used to be so active, until the arthritis turned all my joints into a constant ache; now exercise is something I have to do, so I've some tricks to keep my lazy ass in gear.
Anyway, it occurred to me as I sweated and stretched that the fundamental good of yoga is to strengthen all those muscles we otherwise do not notice that hold the body upright. Especially someone like me with rotten posture (I've had the child-abuse shoulder hunch all my life, and when young fought against it in dance, constantly hearing, "Shoulders down, Smith!" The only time I didn't have it was in fencing, oddly enough) it's easy to turtle. But I feel much better and stronger overall when I keep up with the yoga.
So--that, and to my desk to catch up!
A bit of writerly stuff to pass on: an indie writer I met through a fantasy bundle project last summer, C.J. Brightley, has put out a call for fantasy stories of the uplifting sort, and asked me to pass it on. Submission data here.
Friday is almost finished with this first draft…
- Dogs acting weird
- Glass blowing/glass art video compilation (I find this stuff ridiculously soothing to watch.)
- Redditors design the worst volume sliders possible (The curling one made me laugh)
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Prompt: "Shuos pranks."
with apologies to the black squirrels of Stanford University campus
Jedao and Ruo had set up shop at the edge of one of the campus gardens, the one with the carp pond and the carefully maintained trees. Rumor had it that some of the carp were, in addition to being over a hundred years old, outfitted with surveillance gear. Like most Shuos cadets, Jedao and Ruo would, if questioned, laugh off the rumors while secretly believing in them wholeheartedly--at least the bit about surveillance gear. Jedao had argued that the best place to hide what they were doing was in plain sight. After all, who would be so daft as to run a prank right next to surveillance?
"Lovely day, isn't it?" Ruo said brightly.
Jedao winced. "Not so loud," he said. His head was still pounding after last night's excesses, and the sunlight wasn't helping. Why did he keep letting Ruo talk him into things? It wasn't just that Ruo was really good in bed. He had this way of making incredibly risky things sound fun. Going out drinking? In itself, not that bad. Playing a drinking game with unlabeled bottles of possibly-alcohol-possibly-something-else stolen from Security's hoard of contraband? Risky. Some of those hallucinations had been to die for, though, especially when he started seeing giant robots in the shape of geese.
Fortunately, this latest idea wasn't that risky. Probably. Besides, of the many things that the other cadets had accused Jedao of, low risk tolerance wasn't one of them.
"Not my fault you can't hold your drink," Ruo said, even more brightly.
"I'm going to get you one of these days," Jedao muttered.
Ruo's grin flashed in his dark brown face. "More like you'll lose the latest bet and--" He started describing what he'd do to Jedao in ear-burning detail.
At last one of the other first-years, puzzled by what Jedao and Ruo were doing by the carp pond with a pair of fishing poles, approached. Jedao recognized them: Meurran, who was good at fixing guns despite their terrible aim, and who had a glorious head of wildly curling hair. "Security's not going to approve of you poaching the carp," Meurran said.
"Oh, this isn't for the carp," Ruo said. He flicked his fishing pole, and the line with its enticing nut snaked out toward one of the trees.
Meurran gave Ruo a funny look. "Ruo," they said, "the fish are in the opposite direction."
"Please," Jedao said, "who cares about the fish? No one has anything to fear from the fish. That's just nonsense."
"All right," Meurran said, sounding distinctly unimpressed, "then what?"
Come on, Jedao thought, the nut is right there...
As if on cue, a black squirrel darted down from the tree, then made for the nut.
Ruo tugged the nut just out of reach.
The black squirrel looked around, then headed for the nut again.
"Oh, isn't that adorable?" Meurran said.
"Don't be fooled!" Ruo said as he guided the squirrel in a figure-eight through the grass. "Why would the commandant be so stupid as to rely on carp, which can't even leave their pond?"
Meurran glanced involuntarily at the pond, where two enormous carp were lazily circling near the surface, as if the carp, in fact, had a habit of oozing out onto the land and spying on lazy cadets. "You're saying the squirrels--?"
Ruo continued to cause the squirrel to chase after the nut. "It makes sense, doesn't it? Everyone thinks the black squirrels are the cutest. They're even featured in the recruitment literature. Damnably clever piece of social engineering if you ask me."
Meurran was starting to look persuaded in spite of themselves.
Meanwhile, as Ruo made his case, Jedao leaned back and studied the squirrel with a frown. The local population of black squirrels was mostly tame to begin with and had proven to be easy to train with the aid of treats. (Ruo had made Jedao do most of this, "because you're the farm boy.") But while Ruo and Meurran argued about squirrel population dynamics, Jedao caught a slight flash from behind the squirrel's eyes--almost like that of a camera?
He opened his mouth to interrupt.
The squirrel made an odd convulsing motion, and the light flashed again, this time directly into Jedao's eyes.
Jedao closed his mouth, and kept his thoughts to himself.
From left to right, for the curious: Waterman 52V, Webster Four-Star, Scriptorium Pens Master Scrivener in Red Stardust, Conway Stewart Churchill in Red Stardust, Aurora 75th Anniversary, Nakaya Naka-ai in aka-tamenuri, Wahl-Eversharp Doric in Kashmir with #3 adjustable nib, and Pilot Vanishing Point Twilight.
Meanwhile, I swear I am writing flash fic right now. This caffeine is taking an unholy amount of time to kick in...
Senate Republicans have finally released what appears to be the draft text of H.R. 1628, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”
It’s 142 pages, and to be honest, I’m having a hard time deciphering it all. (Not a lawyer or a legislator.) But here are some things that stood out at me…
Elimination of the individual and employer mandate. (Pages 10-11)
Tax repeals on medications, health insurance, health savings accounts, etc. (Pages 25-29)
This includes the “Repeal of Tanning Tax” on page 29.
The continuing attack on abortion rights.
“Disallowance of small employer health insurance credit for plan which includes coverage for abortion.” (Pages 8-9)
“No Federal funds provided from a program referred to in this subsection that is considered direct spending for any year may be made available to a State for payments to a prohibited entity,” which is then defined as an entity providing abortion services except in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger. (Page 35)
According to a USA Today analysis, this bill would:
- Reduce or eliminate most subsidies for individuals and families
- “Eliminate the ACA’s requirement that insurers can’t charge older customers more than three times what younger customers pay for the same coverage. Instead, those in their 60s could be charged five times as much, or more.”
- Eliminate penalties to large employers who choose not to offer health insurance. (Elimination of the employer mandate.)
- Make it easier to drop coverage for things like maternity care and mental health issues.
CNN points out that the bill would also:
- Defund Planned Parenthood for a year.
- Require coverage of preexisting conditions. However, it also lets states “waive the federal mandate on what insurers must cover… This would allow insurers to offer less comprehensive policies, so those with pre-existing conditions may not have all of their treatments covered.”
A PBS article says the bill would:
- Cap and reduce Medicaid funding, and allow states to add a work requirement for “able-bodied” recipients of Medicaid.
- Provide $2 billion to help states fight opioid addiction
- It preserves health care for people with preexisting conditions (with the potential exceptions noted in the CNN bullets, above), and allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan through age 26.
- It expands health care savings accounts.
- It provides a short-term stabilization fund to help struggling insurance markets.
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release their report on the senate bill next week. The CBO estimated that the House-passed bill would result in 26 million fewer insured Americans by 2026, and would cut the budget by $119 billion over the same time. (Source)
Nothing here is particularly shocking. I’m glad I and my family can’t be kicked off our insurance for our various preexisting conditions…though some of those conditions might no longer be covered, which sucks. It would hurt the poor, the elderly, women, and the mentally ill, among others. None of my readers will be shocked to hear that I think this is another step backward. The ACA was far from perfect — it’s like a patient with a broken leg, but instead of trying to fix the broken leg, we’ll just throw them through a woodchipper, because hey, it’s cheaper!
It looks like this may be a tight vote, which would make this an excellent time to call your Senator.
Please keep any comments civil. I’m angry about this too, but I don’t have the time or the spoons to moderate fights and nastiness today. (Which probably means I shouldn’t have posted this in the first place, but I never claimed to be that bright…)
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
1) What makes a good potty? The number of variations is overwhelming. We want something pretty simple, I think: looks like a toilet, no branded characters, doesn't play music, sits on the floor, is basically a bucket with a seat. In the more distant future we'll need one that folds up or goes over the toilet seat or something, for when we're on the road, but right now this is just for Kit to examine and contemplate and get used to the idea of.
2) Like most 18-month-olds, Kit is full of energy. Unlike most 18-month-olds, Kit can barely walk unassisted and can't run or jump. They've only just started climbing around on the most low-level playground equipment and are very uncertain; they can get up five steps to the top of the baby slide but haven't yet sorted out how to slide down it. When they can't burn off all that energy, they get very agitated and fussy. How do we help them get something like vigorous exercise on the weekends? So far my only idea is to take their walker wagon to the park so they can toddle along at a fairly fast clip for longer distances than our apartment allows—there's a good smoothly paved straightaway there—but that's a pain because the sidewalk between here and there is very uneven and narrow, so I'd have to figure out some way to carry the (heavy, bulky, non-folding) wagon while pushing Kit in the stroller, and that may surpass my own physical limitations. Maybe a lightweight folding medical-style walker? Is that a ridiculous expense for a kid who probably won't need it anymore by the end of the summer? And what do we do when it's not park weather? The nearest real play space for kids is the Brooklyn Children's Museum and it's kind of a haul from here—two buses, and you have to fold the stroller on the bus. They can only crawl around our apartment for so long.
EDIT: We did have a great dance party to the B-52s on Sunday—their pure sincerity is a perfect match for toddler sincerity, plus a good beat—so I should remember that's an option for indoor days. Friends on Twitter and elsewhere also suggested walking while holding Kit's hands/arms; playing follow-the-leader movement games ("Stretch WAAAAAY up high! Now bend WAAAAAY down low!") or doing movement to songs; setting up a tumbling mat and big foam blocks to climb on if we can get some that fit Kit's room (need to measure the open floor space); getting a cheap flimsy lightweight doll stroller to use as a walker in the park.
I'd really appreciate any suggestions on either or both fronts!
If I were to attempt CHEESECAKE  pinup art of a hexarchate character for lulz, it should be
Kel Cheris 
someone else I will name in comments
ticky the EXTREMELY DISAPPROVING tocky
 May or may not feature CHEESY partial nudity.
 The incomparable telophase once did me a sketch of blonde, busty Cheris with her space ferret because I kept joking that I would get a cover featuring blonde, busty Cheris with her space ferret. (Hexarchate AU...?!)
(In real life, I'm working on an art assignment...ahahahahaha.)
(Dear Louisiana: PLEASE STOP RAINING. At least it isn't downpouring enough that I feel that I have to pack for emergency evacuation, it's just raining drearily, but...)
Fig and Ibid will likely have to be re-homed.