Several very boring (except maybe the neighbor) hassles below.
( neighbor )
( collection threats )
( back pain, TaskRabbit, wall damage )
( databases )
( stepdaughter's internet )
( dentist paperwork )
( eye exam )
The Statue Beneath the Sea
Once upon an ocean, a statue dwelled beneath the waves. In days past the statue had been brightly painted and crowned with gilt, with jewels for eyes and jewels set in its magnificent wings. It remembered dancers crowding its plaza and lovers exchanging promise-poems beneath its benevolent gaze, parades of helmeted youths and prophetesses giving speeches in the sinuous language of time unwound.
It had never met the general whose victories it was meant to commemorate, although it knew that some statues had that privilege. But it had their smooth face and their smile, and even though the jewels of its eyes had long ago been stolen by treasure-scavengers, it had something of the general's vision. It knew the stories of the general and their honored lover the lady scholar, and how they had built the old city to a precipice of grandeur.
Those days had passed long ago, however, and the wars of weather-mages had sunk the city below the sea. No one now living remembered the city's name the way it had been spoken by its inhabitants, although it lingered in distorted whispers and siren-songs that wound through the tides. The statue remembered its people and yearned for whatever scraps of myth it could gather from the gossip of gulls and sailors.
The fish and the anemones, mindful of the statue's melancholy, spoke with it little. In truth it would have welcomed their chatter. But when it asked them for stories of war (in honor of its general), they could only share tales of cannonades and blood staining the foam, so different from the swift chariots and dust-clouds it knew of, and its melancholy only deepened.
At last an entourage of dragons, distant cousins of the Dragon King Under the Sea, visited the sunken city. One of the dragons, hardly more than an eggling as dragons reckon time, especially liked to explore vanished civilizations. She was particularly taken by the statue's eroded marble surfaces, seeing in them the litany of years gone and years to come.
The statue told the dragon of its vanished city, and its general's victories--more fable than truth by this point, not that there was anyone to correct it--and the dragon listened eagerly. She began telling the statue's stories to the sharks and the seahorses, the terns and the turtles. Soon the creatures of the sea came to listen to the statue as well, and to honor it with their tribute.
It wasn't long before the statue's old plaza was surrounded by nets woven of pirates' beards, and strands of coins marked around the rim with praises to octopus gods, and bits and pieces of filigree armor snatched from soldiers fallen overboard. The creatures of the sea, not to mention the dragons, began frequenting the statue's plaza, and carrying out their own ceremonies there.
While the statue knew that the people it had once known would never return, and that the old city was dead in truth, it found some comfort in seeing a new one arise where the old had been.
I still have not seen the orange kitten I was warned could be an issue. It's afraid of people but likes to tussle with older cats. I expect Ibid will like this and Fig will not.
I found this wonderful dancer with a hoop--and this young man doing same..
I'm glad I sprung for the hardcopy of this for two reasons: one, I like to mark up my nonfiction, and two, its formatting! The left-hand page in every two-page spread is text; the right-hand page has an illustration related to the material on the left-hand page. While the illustrations are not technically the most accomplished, they are generally extremely effective communicative cartoons or diagrams.
This book comes with a ton of blurbs, and Cory Doctorow's--"Does for games what Understanding Comics [by Scott McCloud] did for sequential art"--pretty much sums up how I feel. I've read other game design books that were insightful, or thorough, but the Koster is accessible and very interesting in its approach to what makes games games, and how to make them fun (in the instances where that's a thing--cf. Brenda Romero's Train).
One of Koster's arguments is that "with games, learning is the drug" (40)--a game that interests us is one that strikes the necessary balance of not too easy (Tic-Tac-Toe, for most adults) and not too hard (multiple failure modes possible, depending on the individual--witness me and chess or go ). He suggests that games (and play, which is common in a lot of young animals!) are an artifact of how we try to learn survival skills, and moves forward into making suggestions as to how to move the form forward into values/skills more suitable for the modern era than "kill things" or "jump over things" or "search for all the things."
 Joe gave up on teaching me go when I told him I have severe difficulty with visual patterns. In fact, I am starting to wonder if aphantasia just screws me over for this kind of game in general. :p
There's also a particularly interesting chapter on ethics and entertainment where he discusses the difference between the game system and the flavor/dressing:
The bare mechanics of a game may indeed carry semantic freighting, but odds are that it will be fairly abstract. A game about aiming is a game about aiming, and there's no getting around that. It's hard to conceive of a game about aiming that isn't about shooting, but it has been done--there are several gmaes where instead of shooting bullets with a gun, you are instead shooting pictures with a camera. (170)
The bare mechanics of the game do not determine its meaning. Let's try a thought experiment. Let's picture a mass murder game wherein there is a gas chamber shaped like a well. You the player are dropping innocent victims down into the gas chamber, and they come in all shapes and sizes. There are old ones and young ones, fat ones and tall ones. As they fall to the bottom, they grab onto each other and try to form human pyramids to get to the top of the well. Should they manage to get out, the game is over and you die. But if you pack them in tightly enough, the ones on the bottom succumb to the gas and die.
I do not want to play this game. Do you? Yet it is Tetris. (172)
In general, Koster has a background in game design AND writing AND music, and he draws on all three in his analysis of games, as well as other disciplines (e.g. psychology). It makes the book a scintillating read. I can't believe I waited so long to read this--but it was exactly what I wanted to read last week, so hey. Highly recommended.
Prompt: hexarchate, "calendrical sword."
Ajewen Cheris and her girlfriend Linnis Orua paused outside the shop. A banner of ink painted onto silk fluttered in the flirtatious artificial breeze. Orua had grown up on a station with less naturalistic ideas of aesthetics, and found this dome-city with its aleatory weather nerve-wracking. She still spooked whenever there was a wind, which entertained Cheris because Orua also had long, luxurious waves of hair that rippled beautifully. "We were always told to be aware of strange air currents as a possible sign of carapace breach!" Orua had protested when Cheris teased her about it.
"Blades for All Occasions," Cheris read. She had been saving for this moment throughout the first two years of academy, and practicing for it besides. Orua didn't understand her fondness for the sport of dueling, but she had agreed to come along for moral support.
"Well, no sense in lingering outside," Orua said. She grinned at Cheris and walked forward. The door swooshed open for her.
Cheris followed her in. A tame (?) falcon on a perch twisted its head sideways to peer at her as she entered. The falcon was either genetically engineered or dyed or even painted, although she wasn't sure how she felt about any of those alternatives: its primary feathers shaded from black to blood red, with striking metallic gold bands toward the tips. It looked gaudy as hell and quintessentially Kel.
Orua was busy suppressing a giggle at the falcon's aesthetics. Cheris poked her in the side to get her to stop and looked around the displays, wide-eyed. Her eyes stung suspiciously at the sight of all those weapons, everything from tactical knives to ornamented daggers with rough-hewn gems in their pommels and pragmatic machetes.
But best of all were the calendrical swords. Deactivated, they looked deceptively harmless, bladeless hilts of metal in varying colors and finishes. Cheris's gaze was drawn inexorably to one made of voidmetal chased in gold, with an unusual basket hilt. It was showy, extremely Kel, and an invitation to trouble. Only a cadet who had an exemplary record and was an excellent duelist would dare carry such a calendrical sword. And besides, the lack of a price tag told her there was no way she could afford it even if she could, in honor, lay claim to such a thing.
Cheris sighed, then looked up into her girlfriend's eyes. "I wish," she said, her voice soft.
"Let me help you pick," Orua said, ignoring the sales assistant who was watching them imperturbably with his arms folded behind his back.
Cheris blinked. "I thought you didn't know anything about dueling?" she teased. Orua paid more attention to the special effects and makeup on dueling shows than the actual dueling.
"I don't know anything about dueling," Orua said, as the sales assistant radiated disapproval. "But I know a lot about you." Her eyes turned sly, and Cheris hoped that Orua wouldn't get too specific here of all places. She grabbed Cheris's hand and tugged her along to a completely different display. "Look!"
At first Cheris wasn't impressed by the calligraphy-stroke plainness of the calendrical swords on display. Then she saw that that the metal evinced a faint iridescence, like that of a raven's feather. She particularly liked the one whose textured design incorporated the first digits of the base of the natural logarithm.
Orua stooped to whisper right in Cheris's ear, "Tonight I'm going to see how many digits of that number you can recite before I get you to--"
"I'll buy this one," Cheris interrupted, very loudly, and pointed.
Unseen, the sales assistant and Orua exchanged winks.
( Cut for tedium. Commentary below the cut )
"I can confidently say I've never called her."
Anybody who's been reading this blog for any length of time has seen how I am about phone calls. I AVOID them!
"You don't try building a dog run for a one-off."
This was an allusion to the landlord in May claiming to me that he had no idea how bad the problem was, he thought it was a couple of one-offs. I am HIGHLY skeptical, since he's the one who told me about the previous tenants and their attempt to build a dog run to deal with the extent of the mess, which I here remind him of.
But since he has finally taken action, I see no need to go on the offense against him.
"when the grass was so high the landscapers had to get a ride-around mower"
That was insane. The landlord came over for repairs, did a double take when he glanced out the window, and I immediately started going, "I can explain! There's a story!" And the story was basically that she kept saying she was going to mow, then that she was going to hire someone, then that they showed up, refused to go back there without a ride-around mower, which they couldn't fit through the side yard, and we tried to get the phone # of the landscapers out of her so we could help, pay for them, find a different contractor, etc. and she refused to give us any info and kept putting us off. Standard operating procedure for her, this was just the worst instance in terms of grass height.
And this is someone who has apparently had 2 rent checks bounce, had her electricity and gas cut off for non-payment, and claimed to me she had no idea why the electricity was broken and sent me down into the basement to check the breakers, because she refuses to go into the basement. Not an ideal tenant.
Like, I'm sympathetic if you don't have the money to pay rent, utilities, or lawn-mowing services. But don't ignore my attempts to meet you halfway, refuse repeated offers of money from me for years, and then smash windows because I eventually go over your head to the landlord.
Also, as I keep pointing out, smashing a window does not lend credence to your claims that I'm the unreasonable one here.
I really hope she moves out, either voluntarily or because her probation has turned into a hard non-renewal after the window incident. That was some scary stuff. (She hasn't done anything violent since then, but at the time, we had no idea how far it was going to escalate.)
We didn’t make it down to see totality, but my part of Michigan got about 80% eclipse coverage today, which was still pretty sweet. My son and I went to a library presentation this morning, where I was reminded about pinhole viewing, which led to this:
I’d ordered a solar filter for the 100-400mm lens on the camera. We also had some eclipse glasses from Amazon from a few weeks back.
I took a little over a hundred pictures, and was able to stitch some of the best into an animation.
Those black spots are sunspots. All in all, I’m pretty happy with how this turned out!
I also stitched together a static time-lapse, and added back a bit of color the filter stripped out. (Click to enlarge this one for a much better view.)
Didn’t get much else done today, but I’m okay with that. And maybe for the 2024, we’ll be able to make it down to see the total eclipse!
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Alas, I have this novel to work on. :p 2,000 words on Dragon Pearl today! (I'm doing revisions, but I had to rip out a few chapters that weren't working and replace them with all-new ones, always thrilling.)
She does not clean up after her dogs. There are usually at least a dozen piles of dog poop lying around in the yard.
She has insisted on taking full responsibility for mowing. I would do half the mowing, but I don't want to be picking up after her dogs. So when she said she would handle the mowing, I let her. But she doesn't mow very often. The weeds are not infrequently knee-high.
Neither of these things is good on its own, but the combination is awful.
The yard used to have a construct that was an aborted attempt at a dog run, started by the previous tenants in my unit, because they were so fed up with the dog mess. As I just said in an email to my landlord, you don't do this for a one-off. You do this if you're desperate.
So the yard is basically unusable.
I registered complaints for three years, which my landlord always met with "hire someone." In May, after a lot of attempts to work things out with the neighbor, I finally told him I was hiring someone, and taking half the cost out of rent, because I would mow if there weren't dog poop everywhere.
That lit a fire under his butt. He said cleaning up after her dogs was not my responsibility, nor was paying someone else to. He sent her a written reminder of her lease obligations to clean up after her dogs and share in lawn responsibilities.
She improved a little in terms of lawn mowing (in terms of how often the landscapers came over), but not in terms of dogs.
I sent a detailed update of the changes and lack of changes a couple weeks ago. He sent her an email saying he had decided not to renew her lease at the end of September. That if everything was perfect until the end of September, she could stay, but if she ever did it again, she was out, no more get out of jail card.
She was FURIOUS. (I am seriously eliding three years of efforts on the parts of me, my partner, and my stepdaughter to reach some sort of compromise with her, to cover half the costs of landscaping, etc., that she has consistently refused. Fortunately, some of these efforts were made in email, so I have a written record.)
She came home early from work, slammed the front door so hard it shook the house, and banged around. My partner and I were chatting when we heard the sound of breaking glass. We raised our eyebrows and went, "Is she breaking things?"
We figured she'd either accidentally knocked over a glass jar or something in her banging, or she was deliberately smashing her own stuff. Clearly furious, but not a problem per se.
Then my partner went outside. She found the neighbor sweeping up large shards of glass on the porch. Then she realized the window-sized glass pane in the front door was broken. The neighbor's unit is now open to birds, mosquitoes, etc. (We're talking probably 18 x 24 inches.)
We're not sure if she threw something through the window, or just knocked over a coat rack, but WOW. What if someone had been standing there? The landlord is now trying to get her side of the story.
The whole saga has been unfolding in a fairly dramatic way. As I reconstruct it:
Landlord emails neighbor with notice of non-renewal of lease.
Neighbor leaves a tearful message on my voicemail asking if I know why she's being evicted.
Neighbor calls landlord for explanation.
I email neighbor asking if she got clarification.
Neighbor sends me furious email saying she will clean up after her dogs but will not share lawn or snow responsibilities any more.
Neighbor comes home, bangs around, breaks window.
The weirdest part is the part where she went from asking me if I knew why she was being evicted (which the landlord said is technically not an eviction, but a non-renewal with 30+ days' notice, since she's month-to-month), to, when she found out, being furious with me.
I mean, I tried to work out the yard situation with her directly, without involving the landlord, in May. She ignored all my emails.
Then she got a warning from the landlord in late May about cleaning up after her dogs and mowing more frequently.
Then today he tells her (he forwarded the email to me), "The ongoing struggle with cleaning up after your dogs and your share of the lawn mowing is affecting our other tenants ability to enjoy the yard.
"We [he and his wife, co-landlord/landlady] really wish we were not in the position to need to take this step. This time, and this time only, we will reverse our decision if yard work and dog cleanup is kept up-to-date from here out. Should it become a matter of contention with our other tenants again, we would need to reinstate this decision."
Like, how was it not obvious that I had complained again? How was it, "I have no idea why the mean landlord is evicting me but maybe my friendly neighbor can explain" to "OH, it's the NEIGHBOR who's mean" in less than an hour?
That's what the warning was for. Also, he explained in the email notice. How did she not make the connection? I don't get it.
Anyway, waiting to hear back from the landlord on new developments. I really hope she moves out.
Also, I had to take half a day off work unexpectedly today to deal with this drama, and it's making it impossible to focus on what I really wanted to do today after work, which was write Finnick fic. (Yeah, I'm working on another story, or at least I'm trying to.)
Cannot cope, off to Mordor.
If you like that, you will like this book. It's one of those slim but pithy volumes that precisely captures a time, a place, and a state of mind.
I've always had a fascination with ballet, ever since my second-grade teacher offered a trip to see the Nutcracker Suite (it was at least ten years before I realized that the second word was not "sweet") to her top three students. I had no idea what that was, other than that it was clearly desirable, so I went all-out to make sure that I'd get the prize. I was sufficiently enchanted with The Nutcracker and the general air of specialness surrounding the entire experience that I begged my parents for ballet lessons, at which I lasted something like three sessions. I don't recall the exact problem, but based on my age I'm guessing that there was too much standing around.
After that I confined myself to reading ballet books, which was more fun that actually doing it. Had I tried when I was older, I might have stuck with it for longer. Based on Bentley book and everything else I've read about ballet dancing, it has an austere, stoic, boot camp, push your limits atmosphere that would have really appealed to me if I'd been three to five years older. And then I would have gotten my heart broken, because I am not built to be a ballerina.
Winter Season beautifully depicts the illusion shown to the audience and the reality experienced by the dancers, and how the dancers live the illusion as well. It's got all the fascinating details of any good backstage memoir, without bitterness or cynicism. Even as it ground down her body, Bentley never stopped loving ballet; she seems to feel that she was lucky to have the chance to live the dream, just for the opportunity to spend a few minutes every day being the perfect expression of her body and the choreographer's art.
Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal, with a new preface
And I will place the next bit under a cut in case you just want to read about Winter Season. As opposed to ass. ( Read more... )
We watched the crescent, came back in, and people on TV in Oregon were watching the sun shadow retreat. I came up to get back to work, reflecting that it was so very nice to pass through the kitchen and tv area and not be hearing the words "terrorists" "Nazis" "Republicans" or "Trump." So very nice.
I wonder if any of the people involved realized it would still be going two generations later?
( Read more... )
It encapsulates both the jaw-dropping awfulness and bizarreness of the Orange Supremacist era, and the extent to which the mainstream media has gotten so appalled that they're dropping their usual false equivalency. I mean the old "both sides have a point," which works when both sides DO have a point, but does not when you're talking about Nazis vs. anti-Nazis or Cheetolini vs. human beings with empathy. Also, it made me laugh.
Yesterday post-rally hederahelix and I were discussing this.
"It's just so surreal," she said. "Hey... Is that a camel?"
I looked over. The U-haul next to us had a giant camel painted on the side.
Below the camel, as if in explanation of why a U-haul would be decorated with a giant camel, were a few lines of Wikipedia-esque notes on camels, something like "A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as "humps" on its back."
When I started it, I didn't realize how exactly it was the book I needed to be reading right now. I had been struggling with a few aspects of trying to teach myself statistics. One is that most approaches are very theoretical, "let's derive some formulas" things, that might teach you *how* to perform a statistical test, but not *when* to. I thus constantly found myself wondering when I was supposed to use a t-test vs. a chi-square vs. Fisher, and baffled as to why none of my sources or online courses were explaining this.
I also have a difficult time following things that are pure derivations or proofs. It requires working in a linear fashion, bringing the utmost of your concentration to bear on each and every line, and actively working through the problem on your own. And every line is pretty much an equation, with no words, or else very confusing words just discussing the terms in the equation. And you're effectively screwed the moment you don't understand something--you won't be able to understand anything that comes after it.
I can understand math very well when someone explains it with words and I can ask questions, but if I have to stare at line after line of equations interspersed with occasional incredibly dry "it follows from X that Y," my eyes glaze over while I struggle to figure out exactly how it follows.
This is frustrating, because I actually really enjoy math. I was very good at math class, to the point where I got a math degree and was always at or near the top of my class, but I am extremely bad at teaching myself math. Some people apparently can do this; I can't. Or at least I haven't figured out yet what self-teaching approach works for me.
What I really wanted was something more conceptual, with lots of words, and fewer equations. To get started with--I'd like to progress to the equations eventually.
I also had a problem where all sources of statistical knowledge used more terms that I didn't know (even if I'd heard of them, I didn't have a firm grasp on their precise meaning) than I did, and any time I went to look them up, the definitions also used more terms that I wasn't familiar with than that I was. Ignotum per ignotius.
So the Handbook was a godsend. The intro opens by saying, "For most biologists, statistics is just a useful tool, like a microscope, and knowing the detailed mathematical basis of a statistical test is as unimportant to most biologists as knowing which kinds of glass were used to make a microscope lens." This is exactly where I wanted to start!
It is apparently, which I didn't realize when I started, a reference book explaining what statistical test to use under what circumstances. Every chapter opens with a sentence such as "Use Student’s t–test for one sample when you have one measurement variable and a theoretical expectation of what the mean should be under the null hypothesis." Hallelujah!
And the tone is very chatty and the examples memorable. For instance, "You might think that if you set up an experiment where you gave 10 guinea pigs little argyle sweaters, and you measured the body temperature of all 10 of them, that you should use the parametric variance and not the sample variance. You would, after all, have the body temperature of the entire population of guinea pigs wearing argyle sweaters in the world."
This is a good *intro* to statistics. If I work through it, maybe I'll be ready to move on to something more technical.
I am also glad that I reread Garth's Tolkien and the Great War before rereading the Books of Lost Tales, as it helps to have some of the biographical context of the poems that occur in BLT, and also just because it's a book I've always found rewarding (I was going to say "enjoy", but, well...). I also took the opportunity to reread Flieger's "Gilson, Smith, and Baggins", which I highly recommend--on the influences of Tolkien's WWI experience in his fiction. Flieger at her best is very interesting.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional composer! I did not go to conservatory. I am an interested amateur. My background is seven years of more or less classical piano, including a few years at the Houston Music Institute (relevant because they taught some theory and basic composition), a few years of viola, and years of screwing around on basically every instrument I could get my hands on, including three summers of classical guitar, mandolin, soprano recorder, pennywhistle, ocarina, and diatonic and chromatic harmonica. (Harmonicas actually get pretty complicated, more complicated than I personally can deal with--different tunings, cross-harp, slant-harp, etc. I only know the basics. ) This kind of jack-of-all-trades-ism is not great if you want to be a performer, where you really ought to become expert in your chosen instrument(s), but it's not awful if you want to compose.
 To anyone who doubts that the harmonica is a "real" classical instrument, I present to you Villa-Lobos' Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra with soloist Robert Bonfiglio [Youtube], which is the recording I used to have before the stupid fucking flood. That's a chromatic harmonica, BTW; you can tell because of the use of the chromatic slide in some of the ornaments. More information. I will FIGHT anyone who tells me the harmonica is not a REAL INSTRUMENT.
Further caveat, I am only discussing Western music. I don't know enough about non-Western traditions to tell you anything useful about them. I compose more or less neoclassically because that's what pleases my ear and I feel no need to be innovative in a technical/theoretical sense. (Schoenberg's twelve-tone system is brilliant from a technical/theoretical sense but I cannot usually stand listening to it except in the limited context of certain kinds of film/TV scoring. I wouldn't listen to it for fun.)
And for yucks, I have perfect pitch, which in almost all contexts is either useless or an active hindrance (I am a suck liar and let's just say that I avoid a cappella performances and first-year string players like the plague--there's such a thing as good a cappella, but unless you are Carnegie Hall good I don't want to risk it), but has limited applications in the realm of music, ahahaha. For most applications relative pitch is hell and away more useful. (I actually get interference between relative and perfect pitch, which sucks.)
Anyway, let's talk a little about the fundamentals of music from the standpoint of composing.
I keep telling people that composing for orchestra is not hard. Composing for orchestra well is hard. Because it's true! It's a lot of things, true, but you can break it down into components. I'll talk a little more about this below.
Music is about patterns--creating tension with different dimensions of pattern, then resolving it. In terms of pitch, you only have twelve of them repeating across various octaves to work with! But because you can combine the pitches in different ways, you can come up with different melodies. Speaking in terms of standard music notation, that's the "horizontal" dimension. And pitch is combined with patterns of rhythm--units of time. ( cut for length and tl;dr )
Okay, I am out of brain and I'm not sure any of this even makes sense to anyone who is not me. :] I am happy to answer questions (or, if you compose music yourself, talk shop!).