# 01 Jun 2009, 07:07AM: Opportunity Cost Plus World Market:
I have some fuzzy thoughts burbling about: stories that shore up our identities, communication and vulnerability, accounting for post-scarcity in decoding flirtations (and markets, and marriages as analogs to patents), ableism, and how the unnoticed limits of every presentation medium, including face-to-face, color our perceptions of each other. Note to self: say interesting things about those topics.
# 01 Jun 2009, 11:40AM: Your Essentializing Obsessions:
John Darnielle, whose prose sounds a little like Steve Schultz meets Ta-Nehisi Coates, on someone's new album:
I love things with personality. Sometimes people use the term as short-hand for "filled, to a fault, with quirks," but that's not what I mean....
One hopes. Sue me: I'm a hand-wringer by nature, and I hate to think of indie dudes getting further encouragement for the idea that it's somehow romantic to wear your essentializing obsessions on your sleeve.
Just Saturday I met someone new and asked nonchalantly, "What are you obsessed with right now?" And my sister and cousin reminded me that this sounds like rather a personal question. But it sounds so sterile to ask, "what are your hobbies?"
# 02 Jun 2009, 01:04PM: Dude, Where's My G'Kar?:
I miss watching Babylon 5 for the first time.
# 02 Jun 2009, 01:47PM: Wearing Out HREF:
Empirically, at least a few folks seemed to enjoy my panel participation at WisCon. Some links that came up during a panel on representing our stories in genre fiction: Tempest's plea to genre authors, they're trying to fail the Bechdel test.
As long as I'm being all linky, partially for my own recordkeeping: Jess, Chris.
# (1) 03 Jun 2009, 02:56PM: Failure And Imagination:
As it scrolls off my blog's front page: this entry borrows "informational topology" from the excellent science fiction novel Blindsight by Peter Watts, available as a free ebook from his site. If you have not already watched his awesome vampire domestication PowerPoint, I urge you to check it out (and then put on some Target Women to recover from the darkness).
Blindsight is fairly dark. It's a book positing that the future is more complex and terrifying than we can imagine. So rereading it is either a fantastic or a terrible match for me when I feel helpless. Especially since Siri Keeton is, in his secretarial, synthesist capacity, unpleasantly like a certain type of project manager.
# 04 Jun 2009, 08:05AM: Post-POST:
Scott Rosenberg has been on a roll recently, with blog entries like "Once more into the pay-wall breach: No gravedancing edition":
[Y]ou can get some revenue from readers, and there's nothing wrong with trying; but if in doing so you cut yourself off from the rest of the Web in any way, you are dooming yourself to irrelevance and financial decline. Don't make your content less valuable at the instant you're telling people it's going to cost them more to get it.
Relatedly, "It's not the pay, it's the wall":
The problem is that the steps publishers take to maximize revenue end up minimizing the value and utility of their Web pages. Building a "pay wall" typically means that only a paying subscriber can access the page - that's why it's a wall. So others can't link directly to it, and the article is unlikely to serve as the starting point for a wider conversation beyond the now-narrowed pool of subscribers.
In other words, when you put up a pay wall around a website you are asking people to pay more for access to material that you are simultaneously devaluing by cordoning it off from the rest of the Web. This makes no sense and is never going to work to support general-interest newsgathering (though it can be a perfectly good plan for specialty niches).
Scott speaks from experience here. He helped found and run Salon.
His new book on the history of blogging, Say Everything, comes out in a month and I'm looking forward to it. Leonard's been blogging for over ten years, and I met him via his blog, so I have a vested interest in the subject. In preparation, he's created a 5-minute video on the question "who was the first blogger?" in which he briefly goes mad and babbles about cave paintings. I'm pretty sure he did it on a Mac because I recognize GarageBand's Suspense Sting #3 or whatever in the first twelve seconds.
In a completely unrelated note (except that Scott as a tech-scene anthropologist would be well-placed to do this) the first person to make a really good joke comparing polyamory to Scrum will get at least fifteen sprints of fame on LiveJournal. Update: Wait, no! Scrum and LOLcats.
# (2) 04 Jun 2009, 11:18PM: Possibly Another Post-WisCon Reentry Letdown Post:
Sometimes I forget that various friends of mine will have different frames of reference than other friends have. "mpreg? Is that a file format, like mpeg?" "Maybe you explained open source before, I don't remember." "What's 'cisgender' mean?"
However, all my friends seem tolerant of my nearly involuntary filking. For example, any mention of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character Gul Dukat makes me sing, to the tune of "Eye Of The Tiger":
Heading to work!
Looks like it's time for oppression
And the tune currently stuck in my head, to the tune of They Might Be Giants' "Particle Man":
Tentacle porn meets mpreg porn
They have a fight
# 05 Jun 2009, 08:58AM: On Reciprocity: One To Many To One:
How can I reconcile the awesome company or person you are with the fact that you made a partnership with little ol' me?
Could it be that I am exactly as important to you as you are to me? Which imbalance direction would worry me more?
How do I filter through all my 2am insecurity so I can match my behavior towards you, and my behavior in general, to the principles I care about?
What do we owe each other? Is it even useful to talk about obligation or deservingness? When am I beating myself up as a lazy substitute for treating you fairly? Is asking that just recursive meta-martyrdom?
As open as you are, as much as you let me backstage, will my insane curiosity about your inner life ever be fulfilled? Will I ever know you?
Could it be that you want to know me just as deeply as I want to know you?
# 06 Jun 2009, 10:11AM: Hajj:
Wow. Leonard and I have gone to MoCCA (a comics festival/expo) every single year we've lived in New York! This year I plan on seeking FREAKING KATE BEATON, Brian Wood, Sarah Glidden (will probably buy How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less), Raina Telgemeier, and Randall Munroe & Ryan North & Jeph Jacques. Jane Irwin, one of my two WisCon roommates, gave me a bunch of recommendations as well (I heard about Glidden from her), so I will probably be wandering the stalls (today or tomorrow) with a dazed look and a printout. But please say hi if you see me!
Three out-of-town friends are also here this weekend. Logistics ahoy!
# (1) 08 Jun 2009, 12:34AM: On Desire And Vulnerability, Like Everything Else I Write These Days:
The scariest question is "What do you want?"
The first time anyone seriously asked me, "What do you want?" it was a teacher, after I'd gibbered at her about a boy and asked for advice. She was moving around a desk near the door side of the portable classroom. She tossed the question at me, exasperated, under the fluorescent lights. I was gobsmacked. I had no answer.
Just now, talking with Sarah, we kicked around some answers to "what do you want," and realized that lots of them are recursive or palindromic.
What do you want? I want to be wanted.
What do you want? I want not to want.
I know what I want; I want to be known.
I want to know myself.
"I want to tell you what I want."
I want you to want to know me.
What do you want? If I tell you what I want, you know how to thwart me, you know the black hole that distorts my beliefs and behavior, you know who I really am.
Or, worse, you might give me what I want.
And then who am I?
P.S. No wonder it's terrifying to ask myself what I want. I might be listening to the answer, and might carry it out!
# (6) 08 Jun 2009, 07:23PM: Rhythm Methods:
Seeing the trailer for "Surrogates" put me onto this escalator:
- I don't say "philosophical zombie" nearly enough
- In the future, a "horse of a different color" will be a "brain in a differently-colored jar"
"Brain in a Jar," to the tune of the Saturday Night Live classic "Dick in a Box":
One: Twist open a jar
Two: Put your brain in that jar
Three: Make her wire up the jar
And that's the way we do it
- You can also sing "Ahmadinejad" to the tune of "Dick in a Box"
- Any phrase that scans like "I'm rockin' the suburbs" will also fit "American Woman," and possibly vice-versa
- The titles of both Gravity's Rainbow and Mason & Dixon are truncated double dactyls, thus rendering them suitable for either "American Woman" or "Rockin' the Suburbs" filking
I'm Masoning Dixon
Just like Thomas Pynchon did
I'm Masoning Dixon
Except that he was talented
Stay away from mee-eee
You're a complex reeee-eeead
# (2) 12 Jun 2009, 06:11PM: Should I Go to Think GalactiCon?:
I had such a great time at WisCon that I'm now considering sneaking a weekend at a like-minded science fiction convention: Chicago's Think GalactiCon, two weekends from now (the end of June).
This year's Think GalactiCon is the second, following an inaugural con in 2007. The programming schedule, the activities (intro to LARPing, block printing), and the general attitude look right up my alley. And I can afford it, especially if any Chicago-based friends want to put me up (although renting a hotel room wouldn't be a hardship).
I met Isabel and other TG organizers or con-goers at WisCon, and they made lots of encouraging noises. It really looks like they're trying to take the WisCon vibe and focus to a new level, working on all the -isms: sexism, racism, classism, imperialism, speciesism, ageism, ableism, homophobia/transphobia, and so on. Panels include:
- Anarchism and the Superhero: Anti-Crime Direct Actionist or Enforcer of the State?
- Gender and Sexuality in Fan Fiction
- Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations...Or Not? [Star Trek]
... as well as multiple panels specifically about the current discussion around issues of race in genre fiction. "Race & Ethnicity in YA," "RaceFail '09," "Cultural Appropriation," and "Why Are These Brown People Harshing My Squee?" (That last title makes me guffaw even more than the WisCon panel title "Something Is Wrong on the Internet!" did.)
So, I can afford it, I could probably swing a half-day off work to travel late Friday, I know and like a few people who are going, and I'd probably enjoy the conversations. On the other hand, July 3rd-18th I'll be off in Europe on business, so pumping more travel in less than a week prior might be exhausting.
Musings and suggestions welcomed!
# 12 Jun 2009, 08:57PM: Let's Hear It For (Labors Of) Love:
Here is another narrative of my WisCon: something I learned from editing and publicizing Thoughtcrime Experiments, and what that makes me want to do next. It's long (the longer the post, the more I feel I'm leaving out), but there's some filk silliness at the end. (Title hat-tip to the Smokin' Popes; cue up Destination Failure while reading this, it'll take about that long.)
I arrived with ten copies of Thoughtcrime Experiments and nearly immediately gave away or sold them. I probably could have sold fifty, if I'd had them. I made about 200 copies of my flyer (seven-megabyte PDF, used a canned iWork Pages template) and people eagerly took them. I got to show contributor Alex Wilson Erica Naone's reviews of the stories, including her review of his "The Last Christmas of Mrs. Claus." In the "Was It Good For You?" panel, I mentioned three stories that made me feel unusually at-home: Connie Willis's "Even the Queen," my fellow panelist K. Tempest Bradford's "Élan Vital," and Mary Anne Mohanraj's "Jump Space" from the anthology I just published, squee!
Throughout the convention, people sounded receptive when I chattered about the anthology. Several people told me how exciting they found our project, and a few made noises about following Leonard's instructions and conducting the experiment themselves. And a few people said: "what are you doing next?" or "when you do it again next year..." A flattering boost and a natural assumption, but not a completely justified one.
Do I want to do it again? Good question!
In the "Was It Good For You?" panel, I observed that some editors and authors start with a vision they need to express (my nickel version of auteur theory), and some start wanting to respond to a community's need for certain viewpoints or stories. The way Leonard and I divided up anthology work reflects that division. He did line edits, pushed for more variety in the art, exhausted himself tweaking the layout to perfection, indeed conceived the project in the first place. I publicized the call for submissions, recruited artists, read slush and wrote rejections, and promoted the finished book electronically and in person.* My revealed preferences: sociable work. I want my work to make others happy. (When we got the first galley proofs from CreateSpace, I said it's real. But the reality of the literary marketplace is socially constructed, and foisting Thoughtcrime publicity onto hundreds of minds at WisCon transmuted the book into something more real.)
But how many people experienced any happiness from Thoughtcrime Experiments? A few thousand downloads and page hits, maybe ten thousand fleeting "oh it's neat that they did that" impressions. Is that enough? Would I spend my energy on a sequel anthology for a readership of less than, say, fifty thousand?
I mean, when I promoted the call for submissions, and when I went to WisCon, I couldn't help but see how many quality small presses and mags our genre enjoys. Shimmer, Goblin Fruit, GUD, Ideomancer, Small Beer, Electric Velocipede, Clarkesworld, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine**, Strange Horizons***, Verb Noire, Aqueduct... I'm just going off the top of my head. Some are electronic, some are print, some are more regular than others, but it's not like any one part of Thoughtcrime is new. Rejected Quarterly plus Creative Commons licensing (already done by Stross/Doctorow, not to mention Strange Horizons & others) plus easy online reading (several abovenamed pubs) plus good payrates (several again) plus gumption (passim). Thoughtcrime is a tiny fish in the pond.
When I see us in context, of course we've gotten maybe 4 emails of praise and 10 blog mentions from people who don't know us. What kills me is how little attention all these presses get. If Leonard weren't an author seeking markets, he wouldn't have started Thoughtcrime, and I wouldn't have heard of most of these presses and magazines. I'd see Tor's and Orbit's stuff in the bookstores, and maybe if BoingBoing or Tor.com or Making Light**** said something really positive about a particular story online I'd go click.
The ease of publishing doesn't mean readers automatically get hooked up with content they'd enjoy. Publishing is a binary switch, off to on, and new technology makes it cheaper to pull that switch. But publicizing -- marketing -- is analog, and really lossy. I'll only persuade a percentage of my desired audience to go read x, and I'll only ever hear about the fraction of that percentage that somehow signals back. Logs and analytics just tell me about impressions, not lasting impressions.
I am like the googolith person to observe, "it's a shame awesome indie stuff doesn't get as much mindshare as the mainstream does! It is almost as if having a large, established, for-profit publishing apparatus is good at turning capital into reputation, accessibility, and distribution!"
But just as I should be less in love with originality when appraising my past work (so what if Thoughtcrime did no one new thing? It combined a bunch of those things for the first time and it's a damn fun read), I don't have to put auteur-y novelty first on my priority list when allocating my future efforts. Why should I just turn five or nine stories from 0 to 1 on the publishing meter when I could get thousands of great stories from 1 to 2 or 5 or beyond?
Well, that "beyond" would be pretty tough. One assessment that sounds oppressively real: "The problem for SF writers and publishers today isn't that there's not a mass audience for high-end SF storytelling; it's that there are immense numbers of other diversions on offer for those hundreds of millions of people." Why should a person read at all, and if she reads why should she read the particular work I adore and want her to read? What particular need would I be uniquely fulfilling in her? Because that's where marketing starts: identifying or arousing a need.
I can reckon how a person might go about increasing the mindshare of any given indie scifi publisher among people who already consider themselves scifi fans. It's never been a better time to be a publisher or a cheapass reader; Amazon, Bookmooch, ManyBooks, Goodreads, DailyLit, the Kindle, blogs like Tor.com and BoingBoing, and other resources help hook up readers with the abundance of awesome fiction that already exists, for free, online. (If you are a cheapass scifi reader and you are saying, "Where do I start? SHOW ME THE FREE STORIES," Futurismic's Friday Free Fiction weekly roundup will get you started.)
Indie publishers still need a little marketing to get into many of those channels. Search engine optimization, some tech hairdressing, and time writing the equivalent of press releases come to mind. I can see a path to getting a rabid scifi fan to taste something new. I'd grow the market a little (rewarding!), but also displace the readership of my rivals, Big Publishers and other small presses (kind of disheartening!). I actually don't know how zero-sum the economics of this project would be, and am curious; I'd want to collect a lot of metrics, and set a quantitative goal in hopes of avoiding existential despair.
But the project of turning nonreaders into occasional sci-fi readers, and occasional readers into rabid readers? Unsolved and incredibly exciting. I'm wondering who else is doing this, and how; comments welcome.
I would like to make the pie higher, as the saying goes. Thoughtcrime Experiments will never be a huge slice of it in any case, and I'm not so delusional as to think it's objectively the tastiest portion.
So Leonard and I have different ideas for what's next (not that either of us is about to start anything; our jobs, writing, travel, friends, worries, etc. are consuming us for now). He's tentatively interested in doing what Brendan dares us to call Again, Thoughtcrime Experiments. I'd help again if he wanted. We found stories we loved and made them more real, and I love doing that. But my ambitions point me in another direction: scaling up.
* It wasn't till like three months into Thoughtcrime that I realized I was following in my parents' footsteps. My parents did a zine! Amerikannada, the literary magazine my parents ran for several years, printed fiction and nonfiction by the Kannada-speaking diaspora in the United States. The Amerikannada logo was a hybrid eagle-lion. They've been editing and writing and celebrating Kannada literature for decades, but I remember Amerikannada specifically because I got to help with kid-friendly mailing chores. After Leonard and I had an argument about art direction, I felt like I'd unlocked a memory of another editorial argument, conducted over my head as I pasted stickers to envelopes in the rec room of the first California house. I have no idea whether that's memory or invention, and indeed know nothing of how Mom and Dad divvied up the work, ran submissions, decided on timetables, or made any of those editing/publishing decisions I now find fascinating. I should ask them.
** You can sing "Andromeda Spaceways" to the same meter as "American Woman." As long as you're here: "Goblin Fruit" works as "Stacey's Mom" ("Goblin Fruit / is made of hemp and jute") and I always want to sing "Clarkesworld" to the tune of "McWorld!" from those old McDonald's ads.
*** Strange Horizons is a special case all on its own. When I started realizing that they've been publishing quality fiction and nonfiction weekly for more than seven years, paying pro rates, and generally been ahead of every curve I thought I was exploring, I couldn't believe that I hadn't been a fangirl earlier. I'm feasting on archives now, especially their reviews. You can start with Anathem and Little Brother, and then see if you find this analysis of Ted Chiang's work and this West Wing analysis as thought-provoking as I do.
**** I have been reading the Nielsen Haydens for like six years or more. Patrick and Teresa taught Leonard at Viable Paradise, and Patrick gave Leonard advice before we launched the anthology. We thanked them in the acknowledgments to Thoughtcrime. Teresa reminds me of my late mother-in-law, Frances, in a lot of ways. And yet, and yet.***** Nora speaks better than I could.
***** I meant to write about WisCon racism discussions weeks ago. Explanation seems impossible, so I'll sum up. Thank you, Rachel Chalmers, for putting my head straight when I saw you in January. Thanks to all the antiracists who have put spoons into this discussion, in education and anger both. And thanks to WisCon 33 and its participants, for being the place where I had drinks and panels and meals with uncountable fans of color. (Pleasantly disorienting: the meal where I was the only heterosexual and the only monogamist but not the only woman or person of color.)
My perspective on race in fiction has shifted. The short edition: if you write or edit or critique fiction, looking out for lazy racism is no longer optional. Analogies: 1. The feminist infrastructure is strong enough that sexist writing gets a bunch of flack, and the antiracist infrastructure is getting there. 2. An antiracist lens is going to be a usual mode of critique from now on. This is part of the new normal. The discourse has shifted. Someone trying to pretend this is a fad or a personal attack is like the RIAA lashing out to protect business models that no longer work. Some thoughts on problems and solutions in an upcoming post, I hope.
# 13 Jun 2009, 12:43PM: Chivvying Myself:
Let's see if I can make it to: lunch with a new friend, a blog meetup, a friend's concert, and a birthday party within about 10 consecutive Saturday hours.
# (2) 15 Jun 2009, 01:45AM: I'm On Dreamwidth:
I've joined Dreamwidth as "brainwane", in case you're there and want to give me access to your super-secret friends-only Colbert Report fanfic.
Quiz: If you are attentive, you can probably find my two commonest usernames in the URL of this page or within the text of this entry. Do you know a third username that I briefly used in the 90s?
# 15 Jun 2009, 02:41AM: Various Links:
Should have been catching up on work, reread bits of Anathem and wrote instead. Let's see if I can go to sleep once I've posted this:
Erica Naone's infodumping links reminded me of an old MC Masala column of mine:
"So we just end up where we started, with cockamamie theories and broad generalizations."
"Not true," Robin said. "We're on top of the Empire State Building."
"That's not what I meant," I said, idly watching Tom Hanks swat King Kong off a ledge.
Goats Enjoy Living In Their Own Tower. Leonard and I marveled at all the varied stresses and intonations we can use to infuse different meanings into that headline. Goats, not other animals! Living, not working! Their own tower, not a rental! On it, not around it!
BitBlinder looks interesting as a partial alternative to the Tor onion router.
All-purpose stalling questions, divided by industry/topic!
I'm chewing on Danny's interesting thoughts on agency and the ease of transitioning from watcher to participant.
Search expert Matt Cutts advises journalists on how to improve their careers in the age of search.
Until Xeni Jardin posted about it in BoingBoing, I didn't realize that Tiller's clinic was one of only three in the country serving women who learned of catastrophic health issues late in pregnancy. Just another reminder that Roe v. Wade is a dead letter if, in practice, women can't get the care we need.
# (1) 15 Jun 2009, 12:04PM: Horrifying Book Title:
The Fun-Minute Manager. It's real.
# (3) 15 Jun 2009, 12:26PM: In Which I Request Things Of You:
So, two things I'd like to ask of my readers:
- Call me out on it if I'm saying something that's racist, or sexist, or transphobic, or dismissive of entire religious communities of practice, or ableist, or otherwise bad ally behavior. Nora Jemisin rightly (and nicely) called me out on using the derogatory term "lame" when I was in a panel she was moderating at WisCon. Until WisCon, I never quite took seriously the idea that people with disabilities might mind that slur. Now I do and I'm trying to replace it with "bogus," so in print or in person, if I slip up, let me know. Email rather than public comments would be nice. I don't currently intend to rewrite history but from now on I want to be more sensitive.
- From now on, tell me when, in public writing, I'm wearing my subtext on my sleeve and don't know it. Tee hee I'm being so lyrical and cryptic about my work or personal issues! NO YOU'RE NOT, YOU'RE JUST PLAYING COY & WE CAN ALL TELL ANYWAY. Email strongly preferred. Again, I'm not going to turn into a revisionist, even though some of my columns and blog entries make me wince like anything.
To those of you who have been doing the needful already: Thanks! To others: feel free to start!
Fun fact: according to my NewsBruiser stats, the most common words (and their number of uses) since I started blogging in 2000 are:
# 15 Jun 2009, 09:19PM: Simplification:
I just realized that my previous entry reduces to "Please pull me aside and tell me if I'm making a fool of myself." Which is, in general, something I'd like my friends & well-wishers to do.
# (3) 15 Jun 2009, 10:56PM: "It Is Our Choices, Harry, That Show...":
If I really wanted to be with-it and hip to the NYC speculative fiction scene, I'd attend all sorts of relevant events. Instead: Clojure talk, social tea, watching original Star Trek films II, III, IV, and IV, Central Park rock-lounging, dentist, co-writing productivity session in a coffeeshop, watching PBS broadcast Chess in concert, and, uh, real work if I play my cards right.
# (1) 15 Jun 2009, 11:34PM: Who Needs Reddit:
For about seven years, after college, I felt my glibness slipping away. Words escaped the tip of my tongue. I thought I was getting older and dumber.
Since WisCon, I haven't had that sensation once. I've been writing more and making more intellectual connections, and my speech is denser and more allusive. I can expand on fancies more easily. Who needs ginkgo biloba?
In my hyperlinky mood, then, selections from my linkfeed as stored on Delicious.
Actual Manuscript Workshop Comments reminds me of Billy Collins's poem "Workshop".
Medical identity theft is the ID theft that can kill you.
Pre-Loving v. Virginia, my marriage to Leonard (who is white) would have been illegal in some US states.
Comparing personals sites: "On Craigslist, people say what they want; on Nerve or OK Cupid, they say who they are, and you infer the rest."
You can sing "Brain in a beaker" to the rhythm of "Smoke on the Water."
FutureMe lets people write letters to be delivered to their own email addresses at a set future date. Some letters are public. Teenagers and deployed military personnel show up a lot. A heartbreaking story with a funny postscript, one in which the author refers to past & future selves together as "us" (as opposed to the 1st-person-singular and 2nd-person-singular modes that most authors use), and a really dark one.
Kris's chilling and effective horror story about children's TV and internet forums.
If you deal with nonprofit logistics, you should know about CiviCRM, a free and open source web-based membership and donation management system designed for non-profits.
And I'm too late to Daisy Owl to be cool, but a couple of my favorites: Movie Night and Hey Now. Apropos of the latter: the best way you can spend $5 at a bar (such as Sissy McGinty's on Steinway in Astoria) is to put it into the internet jukebox and queue up 12 iconic pop songs from the 1990s. Green Day, Smashmouth, 4 Non Blondes, Nirvana, Billy Joel, and No Doubt selections will ensure that an entire table of twentysomethings will sing together and bond for half an hour.
# 16 Jun 2009, 08:25AM: Eye-Scalding Green For A Good Cause:
My parents lived in Tehran for a few years in the seventies, before the revolution. They spoke Farsi and had Muslim coworkers, neighbors, and friends. My dad was a civil engineer. The saying is that mechanical engineers build weapons and civil engineers build targets.
It's been thirty years since 1979 and the people of Iran are saying, "Enough." And it turns out software engineers build weapons, too.
# (3) 16 Jun 2009, 02:30PM: On Dentistry:
I went to the dentist last night, specifically at the NYU College of Dentistry. I actually prefer the dental school experience to many private practice dentistries. The wait in the waiting room is shorter (2 hours per appointment actually spent in the chair, rather than an hour in intermittent waiting plus an hour in the chair), I get treated by eager-to-learn dentists in training rather than bored, laconic hygienists, and the student dentists are thorough and communicative. And they offer a 6pm-8pm slot. Very few private practices do.
Young student dentist Stringer was the one to phone me up to set up an appointment. He was more deft, gentle, and patient than several DDSes I've patronized. "Oh, you build up a lot of calculus here, because of your salivary gland. I have that too," he confided. He checked in with me about whether the ultrasonic cleaning dealie was running too hot and hurting me. "I don't like to use it, I don't think it's gentle enough," he said. He handed me the suction wand: "Raise your hand if you need me to stop so you can suction."
In further stereotype-demolishing, Stringer does not play World of Warcraft (nor does he wear Ira Glass glasses). My cousin-in-law-in-law Aaron, husband of Kristen, is on the road to full Dentistdom and enjoys WoW-style games. [pun about grinding omitted]
I told Stringer what his last name means in journalism; in retrospect, he has a new occupational surname, like Smith or Cooper.
I get curious about others' occupations. Firefighters, CAD designers, directors, transcriptionists, silversmiths, pastors, teachers, full-time caretakers, taxi drivers, deli owners, X-ray technicians, soldiers, construction workers, dentists. How does doing your job change the way you interact with others?
# (6) 16 Jun 2009, 10:54PM: Readers' Choice:
Vote in the comments: you want my thoughts on New York City as religion, or you want me to finish and post the lyrics to "Ahmadinejad" (a song to the tune of "Dick in a Box")?
# 16 Jun 2009, 11:43PM: I'd Let You Watch, I Would Invite You:
When I was a slip of a girl in Stockton, California, I saw a college production of Chess and found it very entertaining, though lyrics like "the queens we use would not excite you" whooshed over my head entirely. If I hang out with friends tomorrow night and watch the telecast on PBS, I'm sure I'll discover additional layers and chewy bits.
And yet! Tomorrow is also the best of the Sci-Fi Screening Room! Seven bucks, music, trivia, free snacks, prizes, and 99 minutes of obscure video one can't find on Netflix or YouTube. From a reminder email:
The killer line-up features MORE clips than ever before.
Michael Ironside as Batman
Pia Zadora singing
Baragon battling Frankenstein
Live Pac-Man playoff
Video Game PSAs
The robots of Chopping Mall
The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island
The Transformers/Boogie Nights connection
And the saddest clip of The Incredible Hulk.
Whether I choose one or the other, I'm choosing to watch prerecorded video with an entertaining live context. Right now I'm leaning towards a scarcity heuristic. Chess is one monolithic piece that I can record on my PVR and watch again later, with friends if I can scrounge some up. The Screening Room has multiple elusive offerings, and it's not like I could get Kevin Maher and his special guests at will. Interesting how the value-added aspects of remix culture work.
# (1) 17 Jun 2009, 12:00AM: Like Twitter, But All In One Handy Package:
Recent out-of-context quotes, nearly all from my sent emails:
Zenophiliac: someone who never quite gets anything done.
Not just A men, but like 5 men to that.
They can't all be gems used in lasers.
I got typed during a party at WisCon and am probably an ENTJ, or possibly an ENTP, or ENFJ, WAIT THIS IS HOROSCOPES WITH 4 BONUS OPTIONS.
Obama saying cautious things that display our desire for free & fair elections, while preserving our ability to engage with Iran no matter who wins this fight: dictionary definition of diplomatic.
Bibimbap is like the Mahabharata -- everything's in there.
Regular vegetarians need to be able to point at PETA and say "well we're not THAT" in an Overton window-expanding way, like MLK was to Malcolm X.
[Re: Swine flu] I'm moving to Madagascar.
# (10) 17 Jun 2009, 09:25AM: Clothes Make The Man Feel Old:
Reflection upon dressing this morning: I've owned these pants for nine years. I bought them in that church basement thrift shop on...Dana? Bowditch? in Berkeley. Huh. I think I've had that purple tee shirt for more than half my life.
How old is the oldest piece of clothing that you regularly wear?
# (5) 17 Jun 2009, 09:34AM: The Cool Old Rhetorical Technique That's Sweeping The Discourse:
From yesterday's co-working session:
Toby was working on her novel. In one scene, she got stuck: she wanted to express one character's mental response to what another character said, but not actually state it out loud as "What she thought of what he had just said was blah blah blah."
I suggested paralipsis, perhaps in the form "she narrowly avoided saying [x]" or "'That's terrible,' she didn't say." Common examples of paralipsis: "I'm not going to say 'I told you so'" and the "I come to bury Caesar..." speech. I ended up bringing out A Perfect Vacuum by Lem as a reference.
It worked! Paralipsis: I don't have to tell you how great it is.
# 19 Jun 2009, 09:05AM: 9AM And We Have A Quote Of The Day:
"I think the construction of gender in snowmen is beyond the scope of what I understand."
Update: "There's a new movie that a lot of people are going to compare to Eternal Sunshine."
"Is it Eternal Sunshine?"
"Then there can be no comparison."
"That's all right."
"'Cause I'm saved by the bell."
"Worst medley ever."
# 19 Jun 2009, 06:05PM: "...if I could make it stay...":
Hugo Schwyzer today posted a short poem that struck me, "One of the Butterflies" by W.S. Merwin. When you're Surprised By Joy(TM) it passes through you, and you're always everlastingly too late to cherish that moment. Mark Twain said he could live on a good compliment for three weeks; to me, the joy of a compliment is like a dish of ice cream in front of me. I can't stop myself from eating it all as fast as I can, and then it's gone. I get terrible mileage.
All I'm left with is the empty bowl, the wish to feel that way again.
Those memories I most love won't be stewarded; they slip through my fingers like last week's dreams; they leak out the holes of my Pensieve faster the harder I press on them.
One wonderful thing about being with Leonard is that every day we're together, there's some small moment when we look at each other and our eyes soften and we smile and think, I am so lucky. I love you. You make me happy. We often say it, but sometimes we don't have to. Entropy falleth on the just and the unjust alike, the sieve empties gracelessly, but love keeps falling in, and sometimes even the sieve overflows. Love is a renewable resource.
# (7) 20 Jun 2009, 09:45PM: LiveJournal People, I'm Ten Years Late To Your Party:
Update to this entry: if you are on LiveJournal and want me to be able to read your friendslocked Google/Microsoft slash or whatever, you can add my externally created fake LJ account id to your permissions list. The relevant ID to add is http://ext-194791.livejournal.com; evidently brainwane.dreamwidth.org won't directly work.
The LJ feed for this very journal is http://syndicated.livejournal.com/sumanah/. That feed is also known as "the reason I have to take out smartquotes, accents, and weird hyphens every time I copy and paste something into a new post." When that feed acts broken and doesn't update for more than five days, usually that's why.
I have 23 subscribers on LJ? Since there's no way for me to see a list of all of you, feel free to delurk and *wave*.
# (4) 24 Jun 2009, 05:29PM: Distractions & Discoveries:
Dave Bort, a friend of a friend of a friend, used to do these awesome comics. A selection of my favorites:
Music that's been cheering me lately, other than fanmix CDs that Cabell gave me at WisCon: Songsmith remixes. I'm completely serious.
Songsmith vs. Queen: "We Will Rock You" as bossa nova? A big-band Songsmith of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl". Bluegrass Eminem. "Synthpop is so 2008, so for 2009 the Killers are setting a new trend in light jazz." And best, Will Smith doing a bluegrass "Wild Wild West."
By the way, it turns out that when several of my friends give me access to their private LiveJournal entries in the space of a day, that day gets eaten, because I am obsessive enough to go through and read a few years' worth of job/relationship/hobby/family angst RIGHT THEN.
Sometimes I have trouble pulling that trick where I tell myself, "come on, just do this task for 5 minutes." Maybe that's because my brain knows that if I start, I'll work for hours!
Time to go back to that. Just five minutes...
# 26 Jun 2009, 04:33PM: More Anthology Notes:
Two weeks ago I posted a long entry about Thoughtcrime Experiments (a scifi/fantasy anthology Leonard and I edited), the market for and marketing of short speculative fiction, and my interests in future projects. I mentioned that small publishers can market to readers via new technologies and communities, at the cost of some sweat and little or no money.
Case in point: In case you didn't want to deal with CreateSpace, you can now buy a print-on-demand paperback of Thoughtcrime Experiments for $5.09 directly from Amazon.com. (Note to self: figure out how to tell Amazon that Leonard and I are not the book's authors but its editors, and that people can download the Kindle version for free.) We've also shown up on GoodReads and LibraryThing.
I encourage anyone who enjoyed a story in the anthology to Delicious, Facebook, Tweet, Reddit, Digg, blog, mashup, podcast, email it around, and otherwise share your enthusiasm. Reviews on your blog or on LibraryThing/Amazon/Goodreads/etc. are very welcome and I should do a review roundup post next week.
Each story stands alone on its own page with its own URL. I assume that reading the anthology as individual webpages, or as a PDF/mobile ebook, or as a paperback, influences whether people see each story as standalone or as part of a whole. I wonder which view is better for this anthology, where there's so much variety in subject and style.
I also have some new, if weak, stats. Leonard usually articulates these kinds of musings on his own blog, but in this case I'm the one who broke out the spreadsheet a while back to get a very rough sense of the Thoughtcrime Experiments gender/ethnicity breakdown. (I was prepping for my WisCon panels.) Out of 200 distinct authors who submitted pieces, author names look like:
14 Hard to tell ---- 7%
59 Female ---------- 30%
126 Male ------------ 63%
186 White ----------- 93%
14 Nonwhite --------- 7%
Of course, that's going by the names authors gave us, which might have been pseudonyms, and I can't tell anything about whether authors are transgendered or cisgendered from their names, and many people of color have names that I read as white. I wish I'd tried harder to recruit nonwhite authors; I wrote to a few relevant blogs/mailing lists/workshops/interest groups but not as many as I could have, and I got several bounce messages I should have followed up on.
We published nine stories. I believe four were by women and five by men, and at least two of the nine authors were people of color. Rachel did us the kindness of posting a review in a LiveJournal community whose goal is to get readers to consciously seek out books by people of color. Again, yay Internet!
# (4) 27 Jun 2009, 09:44AM: Nuts On My Pocky Like Grains Of Sand:
There are party games and then there are game parties. Last night: played Cartagena and Settlers of Catan for the first time, and got people addicted to Catfishing. Met Neil Sinhababu, who last year created a site explaining the ridiculous things we could do for the cost of the Iraq War, like buy two iPhones for every single person in the world. Also met a woman who works for Peter Jennings's widow; in her office there is a photo of the late Mr. Jennings, topless, holding a huge fish.
Traditionally in Cartagena, the player who most resembles a pirate goes first. Bill, a white guy with a huge beard, was the obvious candidate. But then I pointed out that modern-day pirates, in the Indian Ocean or near Indonesia, more resemble Neil. And then Scandinavian-looking Dennis noted that he most resembled a plausible member of the Swedish Pirate Party.
Settlers of Catan is a lot of fun. I nearly won! I should probably get over my distaste for learning new complicated tabletop games, because for ten years I've been going to parties and missing out when they brought out Catan.
Note to self: when trying to get someone to trade you a card you want, suddenly hitting on her or suggesting that "the game will get more interesting if you give me that sheep" or "I'll give you another card for it later, I promise" are not workable tactics.
# 28 Jun 2009, 03:46PM: Four Cool Stories:
Tim Pratt's genre-subverting Another End of the Empire, Jeff Soesbe's quiet and moving Apologies All Around, Jennifer Linnea's eerie glimpse Second-Hand Information, and Sergey Gerasimov's hella Russian The Most Dangerous Profession.
# 29 Jun 2009, 03:04PM: Travel Schedule:
I'm going to the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit next week. Developers, managers, and other free software enthusiasts in the GNOME and KDE communities get together on the Canary Islands, which are technically part of Spain but sit off the coast of Africa. Then I spend a week in Cambridge, England, working alongside my fellow Collaborans. Yup, it's all for work, and I won't even think about bringing a suit (other than a bathing suit).
# 29 Jun 2009, 04:15PM: Getting (Irrelevant) Things Done:
I am bikeshedding my own yak-shaving. This should win an award.
# 29 Jun 2009, 11:19PM: Poker Tells & Sideshows:
I nearly laughed out loud just now at some dialogue I wrote:
"Yes! Tell me more!"
"Show, don't tell."
Cogito, Ergo Sumana by Sumana Harihareswara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by emailing the author at email@example.com.