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Your chicken, your egg, your problem

[No comments] ████: Like today's algorithmic creativity tools, many NaNoGenMo projects take as their grist the results of other peoples' creativity and hard work: years, even centuries of work. My own In Dialogue and Amazon Prime are manipulations of public domain texts, and for Alphabetical Order and Brutus and Cassius, at the close of the scene I took the entire English literary canon as my input. Linked By Love mined thousands of books for their back cover copy—by far the most difficult part of the book to write. For 2022, I've created a NaNoGenMo work that reuses no one's text but my own.

████ is a blackout piece made from the text of my unpublished novel, Mine. I've redacted every word that shows up in one of my two published novels, Constellation Games and Situation Normal. You'll see lots of names, places, technical terms, odd digressions on Cleopatra and zucchini, punctuation, and (I assume) typoes. That's it.

This is an appropriate source text since Mine is a story about people preserved as the things around them are erased, and then juxtaposed without context. But really, I could tell you it was about anything and you'd have to believe me... for now.

Stress Response: As promised, the November/December issue of Analog includes "Stress Response", a Ravy Uvana story in which Judicant Uvana helps a young human who went into space believing it would be a big, fun adventure... and who still believes that at the end of the story! Have fun!

The big change I made after my writing group critiqued "Stress Response" was explicitly explaining why the stress response happened; no one got it and without that crucial piece of information the story feels like watching someone else's vacation slides. Many, many times my writing group has told me "Leonard, you need to explicitly explain the thing instead of expecting us to figure it out."

Two more stories of mine are coming up in Analog: "Meat", the first Ravy Uvana story I ever wrote; and "Race to the Bottom", a flash piece that explains why everything is so terrible. Both coming out next year, I guess? I've deposited the checks!

October Film Roundup:

  • The Man from the Diner's Club (1963): Who says product placement is new? This movie is product placement. Gets a decent amount of comedy out of the concept of credit cards, some out of super inaccurate models of how 1960s computers work (Desk Set is way more forward-thinking), and there's a whole gamut of pratfalls and physical comedy. A fun watch overall. IMDB trivia spreads rumors that the film was originally intended as a Jerry Lewis vehicle, and Danny Kaye is maybe a little too old for this shit, but I just can't believe Jerry Lewis in any kind of white-collar profession. Even when his character's rich, like in The King of Comedy, it's clear he got rich being a clown.

    Sumana recently showed me an old Mad About You episode where Jerry Lewis plays a billionaire, but it's very unclear how this "billionaire" acquired his wealth because he never shows any business acumen; he's always goofing off at his desk, trolling people and buying social media sites and so on. You see how Jerry Lewis has taken over this review of a movie he's not even in? Ludicrous.

    The poster slogan for this movie is "You'll be hanging from the laffters at the funniest picture since money went out of style!", and I want to register that you can reuse this slogan when making comedies in a post-scarcity society. I may not live to see if, but I know it'll happen one day.

  • The Cutting Edge (1992): A fun film that combines the two cinematic obsessions of the 1990s: Howard Hawks-esque hate-to-love rom-coms, and athletes playing the wrong sport. More training montages and less actual figure skating than Yuri on Ice kept me from getting sports bored. One of the rare films that suffered the "surely the Soviet Union will still exist by the time out movie comes out" problem.
  • Gorky Park (1983): This film did not have that problem. I liked the police procedural elements but once the political conspiracy is revealed it seems relatively penny-ante, though I guess that too is realistic. The sets (indoor and outdoor) are great and there are a number of excellent comic relief characters, including Ian McDiarmid as a nutty professor.
  • Titanic (1997): The film I felt like I'd seen, but I'd really only seen a big chunk of the first, less interesting half. The epic runtime of Titanic makes more sense if you see it as two movies: an upstairs-downstairs romance followed by a Miracle Mile-esque thriller of betrayal, personal cowardice and societal collapse. That second movie is really compelling, the first movie I found a little dull, but I admired how it carefully shows you everything that's going to be destroyed in the second half.
  • The Afterlight (2021): The film with no IMDB page, and the first once I saw in the theater (at the museum, natch) since Gravity in March 2020. There are certain scenes that get written into one screenplay after another, certain shots that are reused verbatim across the history of film, and this movie mashes a lot of those up into something that can get pretty hypnotic. The unique constraints around the showing of this movie make it difficult to see, but it's worth seeing if it comes to your town; there's a fun twist at the end and the closing credits are touching.

[Comments] (1) September Film Roundup: It's an rom-com Roundup this month, with lovers being reunited and old public domain British source material galore!

  • Saving Face (2004): I keep forgetting to mention this film, which we saw months ago, and this is a good month to remember it. I don't remember much about it but it was a good watch, and as I recall the family dynamics were treated very realistically.

    When I was thinking of this movie it really reminded me of Kal Ho Na Ho, but I think that's mostly because they were both set in Queens in the early 2000s. Saving Face was actually filmed in Flushing!

  • Fire Island (2022): I'll be very disappointed if it turns out the working title of this movie was not Prejudice and Pride, and that it changed to its current, boring title by studio interference. I have not read the source material, and had a lot of fun during the movie listening to Sumana speculate about who was who.

    I was intrigued by the scene where Bowen Yang's character cringes out at a party by narrating a 'gay Star Trek' SNL sketch starring Jason Bateman. I assumed this was a meta reference to an actual SNL sketch Bowen Yang was in, but it looks like it's referring to a sketch from 2005 that is not viewable online. This implies Howie saw that sketch on broadcast TV when he was, like, 15, and it was formative for him. It took some research to unravel this, but I can now say that was a good character beat and not just an in-joke.

    PS: There is a Merry and Pippin in this movie.

  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999): The Taming of the Shrew is one of the trickier Shakespeare plays to adapt into a modern setting, and although I thought this movie as a whole was only so-so, I liked its approach to the central issue of shrews and their taming. The two main characters effectively 'tame' each other by adapting into more suitable partners for each other, and isn't that what happens in a lot of rom-coms, and real relationships?

    The film ends with a helicopter shot of a band playing on the roof of a building, but it's not like the Beatles rooftop concert, they're way up there and there's no way anyone can hear them on the ground. And then the helicopter swoops towards the band in what IMDB trivia confirms was a terrifying experience for them. Where are they going to run? They're on a roof!

    10 Things I Hate About You was turned into a TV show, but the only actor to reprise his movie role was Larry Miller, who plays the Baptista role. This seems to happen pretty often. I assume everyone gets right of first refusal, but the stars see it as an imposition on their time and only the character actors see it as a regular paycheck.

    Finally, I want to note that during this film I came up with an all-time great riff: "I've found her celebrity crush list! Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamil... Cesar Romero?"

A quick Television Spotlight: we watched Only Murders in the Building, which I think gets much better in season 2 as they stop trying so hard to ape the form they're parodying (which resulted in lots of boring subplots) and lean in to wacky, nonsensical comedy (which resulted in me enjoying a Martin Short performance for the first time ever). I will say that season 1 was more effective at the Hitchcockian finger-wagging where they try to shame you for enjoying the thing they're showing you, but no one actually enjoys that—you're being shamed!

We also watched all of The Goes Wrong Show in the space of a coupel days, and see Sumana's review for that. Just really, really funny. I appreciate that the fictional actors all have consistent characters that lead to different styles of comedy as things Go Wrong.

August Film Roundup: By chance I ended up watching all of August's films without Sumana, so this is a bunch of films from my huge cinematic pile of "Sumana probably won't like these." And I think I was right!

  • The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962): I admit I mainly watched this movie because the title sounded kinda dirty for a 1962 Hollywood film, and I wanted to see what they'd try to get away with. In fact, I suspect this is why most of the people who've ever watched this movie decided to watch it. They don't try to get away with very much. There are some good jokes, but if you watch to the opening credits you've seen a lot of them. Then you can enjoy the classic 1960s animated opening credit sequence, and move on with your evening.
  • Raffles (1939): Another film watched in the spirit of "how much can they get away with?" I read The Amateur Cracksman in the early 2000s and liked it a lot, but the mood of the stories—jewel thieves are awesome and jewel owners have it coming to 'em—seems irreconcilable with the Hays Office diktat that Crime Doesn't Pay. How would the film end? Would they tack on a jarring ending that restored the tottering edifice of conventional morality? Sort of: the ending is ambiguous. A decent ending, though. Way better than the ambiguous ending of The Devil And Miss Jones. David Niven is fun, and I enjoyed the odd moment where the cops take a break from not solving crimes to watch cricket on the office TV. Relatable!

    Rififi (1955) is famous for its 30-minute silent heist sequence, but there's an eight-minute heist sequence in Raffles that's got just one line of dialogue—kind of a test run.

  • The Black Godfather (1974): What if Michael Corleone had a social conscience? I guess it might go like this, but this film's "get the drugs off the streets" plotline seems copied from other blaxploitation movies and not an attempt to critique or rip off The Godfather (1972). (The other guy's definitely Vito Corleone, though.) Although this isn't a good movie overall, there are certain parts that are disproportionately good given the low budget. Half the stunts are cheesy MST3K fare, but half are really impressive and well-executed. There's a sequence shot in a coffin warehouse (SYMBOLISM) where the titular Black Godfather makes heavy use of his portable suitcase phone. They built a sci-fi Dick Tracy-esque prop out of a suitcase and a telephone and a tape recorder, and it looks pretty believable. Stuff like that.
  • Repeater (1979): I forgot everything about this movie, including why it was in my queue, and I stayed mystified for the first five minutes (7% of the running time!) but eventually I figured out that Repeater is a British parody of/homage to the French New Wave. It's got a strong Celine and Julie go Boating feel, and if you start both movies Repeater will end around the time Celine and Julie gets interesting, so it's got that going for it. But it's always got a little bit of British snark that isn't present in the very sincere Celine and Julie or, let's say, Truffaut's parodies of American genre film, which is what they were really going for here. That said, I had a good time. There are bits that are super pretentious and some that didn't seem to fit the movie at all, but also some really good... I don't know the filmmaking term for those little vignettes that you string together when your movie doesn't have a through-line, but some good ones of those. Bonus: a pre-Young Ones Alexei Sayle.

    Old video game notice: there's a pretty long montage set in an arcade in (I assume) Wales with lots of fruit machines and novelty games as well as some kind of Space Invaders electronic thing and a Cinematronic Space Wars cabinet.

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Cogito, Ergo Sumana
Sumana oscillates between focus and opportunity

: Another Swath Of Recent Reading:

Some more books I've read fairly recently.

Some time ago, while looking for Diane Duane tie-in novels to read, I found out that she wrote seven technothriller novels for young adults within the Tom Clancy's Net Force series. I've now read Death Match (I think reissued as Own Goal) and Safe House. They're a lot of fun! In particular, Death Match has some very accurate descriptions of what it's like to learn a second programming language, audit code, and deal with software supply chain concerns.

Once I heard that Charlie Jane Anders was working on the adaptation of Y: The Last Man, I thought "I'd like to see that" which reminded me that I might enjoy rereading the graphic novel. I did -- I think this was the first time I'd read the whole series in less than a day, so I followed some background details, visual motifs, and so on more than I had before. I cried once more in the last book -- oh how modern-day social media would have erupted at [spoiler]! Even though the TV adaptation has now been cancelled, I may still go watch the one season to see how they handled trans characters.

Also recently I read Alison Bechdel's newest graphic memoir, The Secret to Superhuman Strength, which was fun and funny and perhaps more personally relatable (for me) than either of her previous memoirs; I am attempting to get back in touch with the part of me that loves physical movement and strength and agility, and sometimes I have been, and Bechdel's journey isn't anything like mine but it still resonated.

My Lunches With Orson is a ride. Found via this Kottke.org post. Orson Welles, near the end of his life, complains, tells stories, self-sabotages, and offers a grudge-based history of a half-century of cinema. I will particularly remember the conversation in which he completely shoved away a promising opportunity -- that he needed -- because he didn't like the flicker of an expression on an HBO executive's face. I think it's kind of fascinating that Welles kept wanting to make work in film, a medium that required tons of collaboration, but burned bridges like it was his job. Maybe there's an alternate universe where Welles worked with a partner he could trust, starting in the 1940s -- someone he'd listen to when they said "wait, let's finish this first before you fly to another country". And I wish Welles, who wished other filmmakers would riff on F for Fake and borrow its cinematic language, could have lived long enough to see filmmakers do that -- once the means of production and distribution caught up.

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded is thought-provoking. Each chapter stands alone and I'm not all the way through it yet. A quote from Andrea Smith:

...the [nonprofit-industrial complex, NPIC] encourages us to think of social justice organizing as a career; that is, you do the work if you can get paid for it. However, a mass movement requires the involvement of millions of people, most of whom cannot get paid. By trying to do grassroots organizing through this careerist model, we are essentially asking a few people to work more than full-time to make up for the work that needs to be done by millions.

From Dylan Rodríguez:

arguably, forms of sustained grassroots social movement that do not rely on the material assets and institutionalized legitimacy of the NPIC have become largely unimaginable within the political culture of the current US Left.

From Paul Kivel:

The loss of vision that narrowed the focus of men's work reflects a change that occurred in other parts of the movement to end violence, as activists who set out to change the institutions perpetrating violence settled into service jobs helping people cope.

Kivel's chapter, "Social service or social change?" has many good "questions to ask yourself". And Madonna Thunder Hawk's chapter "Native organizing before the non-profit industrial complex" has a thought-provoking case study of what activists using a much more fluid volunteering model can accomplish.

Road Fever: A High-Speed Travelogue by Tim Cahill is a fun ride. I enjoyed the suspense of "will these two guys break the Guinness world record for driving the length of the Americas?" In particular, memoir about a stunt like this is nice because you get suspense but you're not actually worried that they're going to die in the undertaking. Cahill's an entertaining travel writer who lets us see his vulnerability around, for instance, feeling insecure about his masculinity when taking driving advice.

We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by adrienne maree brown and Malkia Devich-Cyril is a small book I think I'll want to reread every once in a while. Like the pieces I rounded up on MetaFilter a while back regarding accountability and call-outs, and like Conflict Is Not Abuse by Schulman, We Will Not Cancel Us makes me aware that an audience is not a community, and that many groups I spend time in are not communities and are gonna have a much harder time meaningfully helping with accountability and repair.

Relatedly: Just today I ran into this reaction to highly populated online settings:

I think it makes sense to treat much of the internet as fundamentally adversarial, exploiting unpatched bugs in the human mind. Don't get got.....

Over the last few years I've slowly left all the massive public communities like hacker news and spent that time instead on regular video calls with distant nerd friends and hanging out in small communities that have a strong focus on actually making things.

and thought about this post about invite-only code-sharing groups.

Where do I want to spend my time? What do I want to invest in and build? Given that I'm going to spend some amount of my time in the ocean and some in tidepools, what proportion should I spend in either, and how should I shape and choose the pools I'm in? I'm chewing on this.

I really enjoyed Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown but only recommend it to you if you are, at least a little, a hippie. Pam Selle's review gets at why. I read this on a short sojourn in the outdoors and recommend that approach.

A great recent discovery: the fiction of Kate Racculia. First I read her Westing Game-inspired Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts, because of this book review, and found it funny, incisive, moving, clever, really insightful about human lives, sweet, and celebratory of ridiculous joys. Then I moved on to Bellweather Rhapsody and am now reading This Must Be the Place. Racculia writes novels about knocked-around people who sometimes make ill-judged decisions and find odd emergent relationships with each other, and -- like Philip K. Dick -- gives us the interiority of those characters and makes it comprehensible and relatable. In every book, sprinkled throughout, are little articulate crystals about particular kinds of experience that I don't think I've ever seen another author describe. My old lit teacher Mr. Hatch told us that literature is about different ways of being human, and I'm enjoying how Racculia does that.

Another recommendation from skygiants and at least one other online acquaintance led to me reading Evening Class by Maeve Binchy. It's sweet and engaging and suspenseful in a soap opera-y way. If you like multi-perspective braided narratives, check it out.

I've read a few T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon novels or collections over the past couple years -- very solid fun/comfort/laughs, often centering on gruff people doing hard things because they need doing, discovering their own talents and making unexpected friends. (Kingfisher is a pseudonym for Vernon.) A Wizard's Guide To Defensive Baking is fun, and Swordheart to me is particularly memorable because of the pragmatic, sensible, helpful priests of the White Rat.

Some time ago I started Celia Lake's gentle magical romance Mysterious Charm series with the first book, Outcrossing, and enjoyed it, and have now read the next two in the series. Sensible adults making considerate decisions and planning and speaking so as to achieve tasks while reducing inconvenience and hurt to others! What a concept! Very soothing and recommended.

I thought I would like Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful more because I am rather a fan of The Great Gatsby. I found it a little disappointing perhaps because my hopes were wrongly configured (thinking that the author would find a way to insert this story into pre-existing dialogue without changing ANY of Fitzgerald's dialogue). But it was vivid and sharp.

And I read a bunch of the finalists for this year's Hugo Awards and to me a standout was P. Djéli Clark's Ring Shout. Harsh and visceral, didactic in the best way, and vividly atmospheric.

Filed under:


: Sign Up Now For Free Maintainer Skills Workshops: OpenCollective logo Maintainers of open source projects often need help learning how to address issues such as "how do we recruit and promote project members?", "what do we spend our money on?", and "how do I finally have the difficult conversation I've been putting off with that one contributor?"

So, starting in early 2022, I'm running eight videoconference sessions -- a combination of workshops, training, co-working, and discussion -- that you can sign up for right now! OSC will "offer a limited number of places to leaders of projects hosted by Open Source Collective on a series of coaching, training, and workshops designed to work through these issues and to begin building a library of documentation." OSC is sponsoring this so it'll be free of cost to participants.

You're eligible if you are part of an open source project fiscally hosted by Open Source Collective. And in the sign-up form you can mention what challenges you're currently facing, and what problems you're looking to solve, so we can customize the topics we cover and the session structures we use.

If you're eligible and interested, please sign up by about December 9th, so we can start scheduling.

Edited to answer common questions: I anticipate that these won't be recorded, but I will be developing documents/resources based on the sessions and OSC will publish those under an open license.

And, in case you're interested, but not affiliated with OSC: these workshops are a pilot. Depending on how they work out, I'd be happy to discuss similar courses/sessions with other orgs! I'll know more around February (after we've done 2-5 of the sessions), and would be glad to discuss then.


(1) : A Cool Thing That Could Exist: Recently I read Tim Cahill's entertaining Road Fever, a memoir from 1987. Cahill briefly mentions the news of Black Monday intersecting with his road trip, which reminded me that Black Monday plays a much larger role in Michael Lewis's autobiographical Liar's Poker.

Thus -- I am not going to make this, but some enterprising digital humanities person with access to, like, the Google Books and Amazon ebook datasets could theoretically do it:

An interactive way to explore all the memoirs/autobiographies/diaries/letters ever published for references to things happening on particular dates. So you could see a sampling of different things people around the world noted down on or regarding a particular day -- like, wouldn't it be interesting to read, side-by-side, what Jawaharlal Nehru, Johnny Cash, Jane Jacobs, and Junichiro Koizumi had to say about August 6, 1945?

If this already exists, lemme know.


: Health Insurance & Retirement Plans For Open Source Maintainers: This is huge.

The Open Collective Foundation has just announced: "OCF now offers employment options to initiative workers—with health insurance!" As that page says: "Initiatives fiscally hosted by OCF can have employees, with access to benefits like health insurance. Costs related to employment are paid from the initiative's budget, with OCF as the employer." (Employees must be based in the US.) And through the OCF's benefits provider, employees can also opt into 401(k) retirement savings plans.

This is such a huge step forward for open source sustainability, in particular for projects with key contributors in the United States. Let's talk about why!

Contents:

  1. Open source and fiscal hosts
  2. The United States, employment, retirement, and health care
  3. What you can now do via OpenCollective
  4. What this unlocks

Open source and fiscal hosts

A "fiscal host" is a nonprofit organization that helps out charitable endeavors by giving them certain kinds of legal and financial infrastructure and services. Here's why they exist:

If you start a mutual aid food pantry in your neighborhood, or a meditation meetup that turns into a real community, or an open source software project, eventually you'll likely need to find ways to take in and spend money without having everything go through one person's personal bank account/PayPal/Venmo. And sometimes you need a trademark to protect people against imitators, or you'd like for the domain name and the fridges and the storage unit to actually be held by the group and not just the founder.

In the United States, this means creating or getting help from a "legal entity" -- a corporation or some other organization that is registered with the government. And if you want to ask for donations or apply for grant funding, people often expect or require that your organization is a registered charity, often referred to as a "501(c)3", which means that donors can deduct their donations from the yearly taxes they pay.

It is hard and annoying to set up a 501(c)3 organization! You probably need to pay a lawyer and accountant to do bits of startup paperwork, appoint a board of trustees and have regular meetings, and so on. Sometimes this burden is way more than volunteers want to take on -- and if you mess up the recordkeeping and fall behind in tax filings, it's a real headache to catch up.

So some nonprofit organizations offer "fiscal host" (also known as "fiscal sponsor") services. Just like it's a big pain to set up your own datacenter and so a lot of people instead rent server time from Amazon Web Services or Heroku, a lot of small projects get a membership with a fiscal host to get access to legal and financial infrastructure. In this analogy it's like getting a dorm room instead of building a stately manor. The fiscal host covers its own costs by taking a percentage of donations given to member projects.

In the arts, a popular fiscal host is Fractured Atlas. In open source software, you'll see NumFOCUS, Software Freedom Conservancy, and others.

Open Collective is particularly interesting here because its fiscal host service is fairly turnkey -- the application process is pretty streamlined -- and because a fiscal host within it, Open Source Collective, serves as fiscal host to nearly three thousand open source software projects. I would be surprised if there's another fiscal host out there that supports more.

The United States, employment, retirement, and health care

Your open source software project, once you're set up as a member project at a fiscal host, can now receive and spend funds. Great! So you can register domains, buy AWS credits and laptops and plane tickets, pay contractors...

Right, yes, you can compensate people for their labor, but in the US, the way you compensate them gets complicated. Because it's fairly easy to hire someone as a contractor ("freelancer"), but hard to hire them as an employee. And to talk about the difference I need to talk about how weird the United States is. In short: being hired as a "full-time" employee (usually at least 30 hours of work per week) usually gets a knowledge worker (such as a programmer) a lot of concrete benefits that would be unavailable, inconvenient, or more expensive if they were hired as a contractor, in particular concerning health care and saving for retirement. If you've been in the US workforce for several years you can probably skip this.

The United States, compared to approximately all other countries that have its level of wealth and infrastructure and so on, is completely strange and deficient in how we deal with healthcare and retirement-type care for senior citizens. A lot of this stuff is tied to employment here.

First: retirement. (I'll cover it first because healthcare will take longer.) How are people in the US supposed to support themselves after they stop working? Through a patchwork combination of stuff.

  • You can save and invest "normally" in bank accounts, real estate,* securities, and so on.
  • Some people get pensions (the employer keeps paying them after they retire) but far less than half the workforce can count on this, for various reasons.
  • Since 1935, we've had the Social Security program. Starting in one's 60s, almost every US worker is eligible for Social Security payments, and you get more if you earned more during your working lifetime. Some people can also get Supplemental Security Income. Many politicians scare voters by saying that Social Security is in crisis and that you will not be able to depend on it actually paying you any money by the time you retire.
  • Since the 1980s, under Internal Revenue Code Section 401(k), there's a special kind of account called a "401(k)" where a person can make contributions to be saved/invested towards retirement. An employer can sweeten the deal by "matching" your contributions up to some amount, such as $5,000 per year. A 401(k) must be employer-sponsored -- that is, you can't do it just by yourself -- and you usually only get access to 401(k) benefits if you are a full-time employee. But there are alternatives called Individual Retirement Accounts which a person can create independently. It's a bit complicated but, when changing jobs, one can often "roll over" a 401(k) from one employer to another so that you have one big growing account rather than a bunch of little ones. The money in a 401(k) or IRA account gets invested in a securities portfolio; the accountholder gets to make some choices about what to invest in. You and your employer contribute the money "pre-tax" (it's deducted from your taxable income, so you pay lower income taxes) and you can't withdraw money, till you retire, without paying tax on that withdrawal -- but there's often a one-time tax exemption where you can take money out to use when buying a home.

That last item, sponsorship for 401(k)-type account and possibly some employer matching for contributions, is basically what a knowledge worker in the US now expects as a part of an employment benefit package. (And I don't love it! I don't love being handed a bunch of poker chips and directed to the casino that is Wall Street and told: go invest your retirement savings! You're in charge!** But that's the current state of play.) If no organization is your employer, then you have to do a bunch of workarounds to get a similar means of saving for retirement, and you miss out on the possibility of employer-matched contributions.

And then there's healthcare. How are US residents supposed to pay for doctor visits, medicines, and so on?

This gets super complicated as you can tell by just skimming the table of contents for the English Wikipedia entry on "Health insurance in the United States". But to painfully summarize: instead of paying out-of-pocket for medical stuff, most people have a health insurance policy, and their health insurer decrees what is approved and what's not, what bills the individual has to pay, etc. And insurance companies negotiate down the rates for what they pay for stuff, compared to the "standard"/"out of pocket" rate, so uninsured people -- generally least able to afford healthcare! -- actually get the highest bills! The main ways people get health insurance in the US:

It's way too complicated! Even people eligible for government-subsidized insurance often don't know how to get it! "More Than 6 in 10 of the Remaining 27.4 Million Uninsured People in the U.S. are Eligible for Subsidized ACA Marketplace Coverage, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program"! Costs have gone way up because for-profit insurers came into the industry and started raising premiums! We spend way more per person on health care than in other comparable countries and the quality and speed of care we get is less! And even insured people end up with huge medical bills -- medical bills are the number one cause of people in the US going bankrupt, which means selling or liquidating all your assets to pay your creditors!

And I haven't even gotten into the huge pain of choosing or changing health insurers and policies! Any given doctor, hospital, procedure, or medication may be covered by some health insurance policies but not others, and it can be tedious or even impossible to find out ahead of time whether a particular insurer will cover something! If you switch insurers, you'll sometimes have to find a new general practitioner or specialist! If your GP or a specialist stops taking your insurance then you have to scramble to find a new one! (Yes, this includes mental health practitioners!) This is particularly awful in rural areas with few doctors, or places where the only health facility around is affiliated with a religion that prohibits care that you need!

There's nearly a century of politics I haven't gotten into here -- the main thing to understand is that middle-class people in the United States are, reasonably, pretty scared of being really poor during our final years, or of being ill and really poor due to huge medical bills (which is way more likely if you don't have health insurance). And the main way we protect ourselves against those outcomes is by getting employed someplace that will give us employer-sponsored health insurance coverage and a 401(k) account.

If you make your wages as a contractor instead of as an employee, then it's harder and more tedious and more error-prone and more expensive to arrange for health insurance coverage and retirement savings. And you're less protected against changes in health insurance costs and thus against the headache of switching insurers. This basically is also true if you run a tiny business and are self-employed. And the precarity is particularly scary if you're disabled, or if your spouse or child has expensive health needs.

And so: if an organization wants to hire someone, to compensate them for labor, some people will only do it as an employee, not as a contractor.

But it's tedious and expensive to get set up to employ someone and give them those benefits, and to fund and administer those benefits on an ongoing basis! In contrast, there's very little paperwork needed to pay someone as a contractor. And that brings us back to open source projects....

What you can now do via OpenCollective

Thus: In the United States, the need for reliable health care and health insurance causes a tremendous number of open source contributors to have to take full-time jobs with employers. Sometimes these employers hired them to work on their open source projects, but more often, they're working either 0% or a very small percent of the time on open source, and they're working most of the time on proprietary software. So they squeeze in open source maintenance work during vacations, nights, and weekends.

A big focus in open source sustainability right now is finding ways to pay the maintainers. Instead of maintainers scrambling for nights-and-weekends spare time to maintain software, we should get them wages that would enable them to spend their core labor hours on open source maintenance. And though some companies and academic institutions are interested in employing particular maintainers full-time, it's probably more resilient if projects can take in relatively smaller donation streams from many sources, and combine them to hire maintainers.

But all the fiscal hosts and similar services I'm aware of that serve open source projects -- until now -- only let you pay contractors, not employees. They did not, until now, help member projects get employee-level benefits for individual laborers.

Until now.

Now, an open source project fiscally hosted by OpenCollective "can have employees, with access to benefits like health insurance. Costs related to employment are paid from the initiative's budget, with OCF as the employer." Employees must be based in the US. They're using Justworks, a company that helps small businesses provide employment benefits. In particular: 401(k) retirement plans and health insurance coverage.

So your open source project can gather donations via the OpenCollective platform, then use them to hire a US-based employee -- who reports to the project as a whole, not just one company, yet gets the benefits and at least some of the stability of a traditional employee.

Open source maintainers in the US now have substantially greater freedom to leave their jobs, go independent, and still protect their health and their future.

What this unlocks

Look at what's already happening with people who don't have to worry as much about health insurance. Check out Freexian, which is an effort where Debian developers club together and get sponsorship money, so they can each spend a certain number of hours each month consulting on really important parts of Debian software and infrastructure. A lot of those people who can take advantage of that are in Europe, or are in other places where health care isn't in question. So they can choose contracting work (or switch back and forth between full time employment and consulting, or combine flexible contracting with a stable part-time job) a lot more easily.

So now this possibility opens up more to US-based open source maintainers. We can better crowdfund and recruit US-based programmers and other workers to work on under-produced under-supported infrastructure, like Debian, or autoconf, or various glue libraries.

All the stuff we've been trying to do with grants, Tidelift, GitHub Sponsors, and similar initiatives: they're more likely to succeed, because more people -- both existing maintainers and apprentices willing to learn -- will be available to hire. If you run a program like Django Fellows, where you pay contractors to support the project through community management and code review, you can now expand your candidate pool and recruit US workers who want to work as employees.

And! we can better crowdfund and support innovative research, possibly in directions that big companies don't love. Indeed, we can better invest in FLOSS software that has no commercial competitor, or whose commercial competitors are much worse, because for-profit companies would be far warier of liability or other legal issues surrounding the project, such as youtube-dl.

More generally: any given open source software project that has a substantial user base now has a better chance at being able to hire one of its US contributors to provide ongoing maintenance and support. And so more projects will be able to sustain themselves with user support, instead of burning out unpaid volunteers and stagnating to a crawl and then a halt.

Some of this I'm basically copying and pasting from the "what if we had universal healthcare" section of my talk "What Would Open Source Look Like If It Were Healthy?" Because this is, potentially, a huge step for the health of open source.

I do consulting to help open source software projects get unstuck. Sometimes I advise them on which fiscal host or funding platform might suit their needs. The advice to get set up on OpenCollective has just gotten more attractive, and I hope other startups and nonprofits in the space pay attention. Adding this benefit to more fiscal hosting or funding services would be a tangible and significant way to improve open source contributors' freedom.


* There are a bunch of strange financial and tax advantages to buying a home, so one way people save for retirement is by buying a home, so they'll own it free and clear after retiring and won't need to pay housing expenses. When we say "buy" we usually mean "pay an initial payment called a 'down payment' to the seller, take out a loan called a 'mortgage,' move into the home, and gradually pay off the mortgage over 30 years." Yes, 30 specifically. Employers who want their benefits packages to help with this aspect of retirement planning might offer -- as Electronic Frontier Foundation does -- interest-free second mortgage loans for up to a portion or percentage of a home's price.

** Daniel Davies talks about pension "reform" in case you want some more thoughts.


: The Narrow Trash Talk Window: Sometimes I am playing a game in a competitive manner with friends. Our shared cultures sometimes include "trash talk," playful insults offered among players that are meant to express comfort and camaraderie and creativity while firing up the competitive spirit. I think.

I came very late to the level of security necessary to really understand and enjoy teasing directed at me. I remember a specific moment in 2007 when a friend jokingly called me the b-word, and I understood: Oh! He doesn't really mean it! And him calling me that is an expression of and deepening of our friendship, because he counts on me to trust and understand him enough to know he doesn't mean it! And I generally don't insult people (at least, not on purpose!) so that skill isn't one I have well-honed.

So, when I do try to imagine trash talk, my insults either go way too florid and comedic ("Are you waiting for the pyramids to crumble? Did someone dip your fingers in concrete before this game?") or too cutting and possibly hurtful ("Hey, it's really unlikely you would win this anyway, because you're starting from a poor socioeconomic foundation and you went to a bad school!"). Or it just ends up being genuine feedback ("You're slow because you keep looking for the perfect move instead of a good-enough one!").

This is not a particularly dire problem nor one I really need to solve.

Filed under:


: New York City General Election 2021: A few resources that helped me decide how to vote in the New York City general election this year:

Candidate ratings by the Judiciary Committee of the Queens County Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association for judicial candidates

Questions around whether judicial candidate Soma Syed supports LGBTQ rights

What the five ballot proposal questions mean and who's endorsing what side of each

Who's on the ballot for mayor besides Adams and Sliwa

And a shout-out to The City for their mayor match quiz which helped me decide my vote in the primary (especially given the ranked-choice option)!


: Some Recent Reading: I've recommended several short scifi/fantasy stories I've enjoyed by posting about them on MetaFilter.

In addition, here are a few notes on some books I've recently read.

I read the harrowing memoir Year of the Nurse by Cassie Alexander. She's a registered nurse in an ICU in Northern California, and her contemporaneous writings from early 2020 through mid-2021 show us the risks and the costs and the waste of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's piercing, edifying, darkly funny, sad, and a clear, loud warning about the damage done to our health care workers. Recommended but of course watch your own mental health while reading -- content notes for discussion of death, of course, and also suicide. A few quotes:

where's the drama in an endless cycle of competent people doing competent jobs?

(from early in the crisis): This feels a lot like being drafted for a war that some people still don't even believe we're in.....It's not going anywhere. It's endless. Like knowing that you're being chased by a steamroller and someone's gone and nailed down both your feet.

Do you realize if they get more than 50 cases in South Korea, they shut everything back down? They treat every life there like a treasure.

I can usually bounce back with a day off and gardening. But my bounce is getting stiffer and the boxes I compartmentalize all my shit into are getting very full.

Me, this morning, watching my traveler that I'm training pull out an old N95 to use from their backpack, because she thought we wouldn't have enough PPE: "Darling, put that away and WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA."

I think you shouldn't be able to opt out of a covid vaccine until you've seen five people die of covid at a hospital. Like up close and personal. Their last 72 hrs. times five.

[what she aims to give families around a deathbed]: enough time to say good-bye and hopefully circle around to the story-telling part of things, laughing about memories and sharing photos. Where it's not about the dying person in there anymore -- it becomes about knitting together those who will be left behind.

How are we, the sane ones, to take this? Knowing that people around us would gladly chum the waters with our countrymen for sport?

[her first time seeing her friends in person since February 2020]: starting to sob, "You all lived. You all lived!"

... since 2016, the average hospital turned over 83% of their RN workforce, due to a combination of churn and burn at the lower end of the experience scale, and older RNs retiring out.....We kept coming to work because we trusted in, believed in, and wanted to help our coworkers....until I and other nurses stop picking up extra shifts, at my hospital and so many others, upper management will never learn....

There's just going to be a gap of a few years in there, post-covid-times, where you shouldn't trust any nurse that's too excited to be working.

I'm still mad that last year happened the way it did, when it didn't have to. I'm mad that serving a mad king "broke" me. But mostly I'm mad that so many people died who didn't have to. 

An amazing read that I wish didn't exist [if you read this, Cassie Alexander, I think you understand].

In fiction:

I'm friends with Benjamin Rosenbaum so I was looking forward to his new novel The Unraveling. I had a good time but I wanted the constant idea-flourishing that I get from Rosenbaum's nonfiction speaking and writing (e.g., on college and on hacking games you play with your kids), and I got that in the first third or half of the book. Then, in the second half or last third of the book, I knew where things were going and it felt like a kind of familiar story. But it's an interesting read with some ideas and one character who will stick with me, and feels like it's going to be a 2021 must-read for people who want book-length speculative fiction that plays with gender. I think it might feel brain-breaking to readers who haven't read any of Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series, or the 2nd and 3rd books in Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy.

(Speaking of which, the last of those Terra Ignota books, Perhaps the Stars, comes out in a few weeks, so maybe I'll go reread the first one and read the second and third so I can catch up. I also saw there's a new Neal Stephenson book coming out pretty soon, and once that would have led me to literally take time off from work to read it the day of release, and instead I'm looking at this blurb and saying like "oh no are you a climate change denier now? please say no.")

I enjoyed the anthology It Gets Even Better: Stories of Queer Possibility. Lots of sweet sci-fi and fantasy stories, some more moving and some more funny, starring queer people. For a taste, read Aimee Ogden's reprint "Venti Mochaccino, No Whip, Double Shot of Magic": "his coffee comes with a nice cantrip that'll help him send all his emails for the next week with zero typos and exactly the right number of exclamation marks." I always enjoy rereading Zen Cho's "The Perseverance of Angela's Past Life" and I had a took note of "I'll Have You Know" by Charlie Jane Anders, "unchartered territories" by Swetha S., "Frequently Asked Questions About the Portals at Frank's Late-Night Starlite Drive-In" by Kristen Koopman, and "The Cafe Under the Hill" by Ziggy Schutz. The most memorable pieces: "Sea Glass at Dawn" by Leora Spitzer and "What Pucks Love" by Sonni de Soto. "Sea Glass at Dawn" tells the warm and loving story of dragons helping a human figure out how to control a new talent for fire. "What Pucks Love" illustrates the worries and joys of a relationship between an asexual person and a person with a strong sex drive, using a telescoping story structure to lovely effect.

Speaking of happy stories, yay for romance novels -- engaging, sweet, attentive to interiority, valorizing courage and care! I read some Alyssa Cole (An Extraordinary Union: An Epic Love Story of the Civil War, Loyal League #1, plus Let It Shine which was more memorable and visceral for me) and enjoyed that. I've now started Celia Lake's gentle magical romance Mysterious Charm series with the first book, Outcrossing, and enjoyed it and will probably read more.

Division Bells, a romance by Iona Datt Sharma, stands out because it stars bureaucrats trying to draft and pass a bill concerning renewable energy, and goes into lovely detail about the workings of the British Parliament, and brings that signature Datt Sharma emotional texture -- deft glimpses of indirectly expressed grief and melancholy and attentive care and hope -- to a Happy-For-Now romantic triumph.

And I've just read a really awesome romance, For The Love of April French by Penny Aimes. Aimes is a trans woman, and one of the protagonists, April, is a trans woman navigating romance after having been burned before. This novel reminds me of Courtney Milan's Trade Me in its realistic treatment of work in the tech industry, and it reminds me of Becky Chambers's work in its lively cast of supporting characters. And it goes places I haven't seen before in romance -- I haven't read that much romance that incorporates kink communities and negotiation, and Aimes's work felt very accessible to me -- and I'm eager to read more of the author's work.

I am unfortunately not super interested in reading further work by Andrew Hickey after reading his The Basilisk Murders (The Sarah Turner Mysteries, #1). The premise -- people start dying during a singularity/cyberlibertarian/longevity conference on a private island and a skeptical journalist tries to solve the murders -- sounded great! But Sarah Turner's characterization is wobbly and the narrator's choices of what to tell us leave me consistently unsatisfied, and the dialogue rang hollow. I started to wish I were rereading one of Nicola Griffith's Aud books instead.

Ah, that reminds me: sometime in the past year I read Nicola Griffith's gripping, propulsive, addictive detective series starring Aud Torvingen (The Blue Place, Stay, and Always). As page-turning as candy and as deep as a meal -- stories of love, grief, work, sex, achievement, vengeance, cities, disability, and slow true friendships. Here's Griffith talking about what Aud represents to her. If you read the first two books then have a hard time finding the third, you can borrow Always via the Open Library (do not look unless you've read the first book, as the description for Always includes spoilers for The Blue Place).

More soonish.

Filed under:


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Leonard and Sumana's personal notebook
Peer into Leonard and Sumana's mind

20 Minute Croissant Dough | Edd Kimber | The Boy Who Bakes: Genious?

http://www.geoguessr.com?v=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%3D: Champions!

http://www.geoguessr.com?v=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: If it's in Botswana, we're gonna find it.

2013 June
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La Vie En Rose
Rachel Richardson's weblog

I really need to check my job at the door: ...of the bookstore. The other day in Foyles I had to physically restrain myself from re-organizing some Beast Quests that were in the wrong order. Tonight in Waterstones I found myself recommending The Sky is Everywhere to someone looking for a gift for a 15 year old. What can I say? 3 years in a bookstore and old habits die hard.

Overheard in Stoke Newington:
1:"The only good thing about David Cameron"
2&3 in unison: "There's nothing good about David Cameron."
1"...is his taste in music."

Whigs and Tories: I went to a "mustache and wig" party as a Lib Dem supporter, but no one got it.

2010 June
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My Seussical Life
My Seussical Life

Backward Thinking: When planning a Redbox return, I felt a fleeting anxiety that I had not hit "rewind" on my movie. That was a strange throw-back.

[Comments] (3) On that note. . .: I'm back to the blog and intend to update more steadily than in the last five years. Among other reasons, I stopped blogging because I was overwhelmed by how popular blogging had suddenly become. Does anyone else get overwhelmed by the thought of an internet audience beyond a handful of family members and close friends? I like to be a bit more off the radar, I guess. But I'm back.

Dear Mr. Fellowes:: Is this Masterpiece Theatre or soap opera disguised in period dress? Downton Abbey, how you frustrate me!

First Sweat of Spring: I did some impromptu weeding of the garden today. Actually, first I locked myself out of the house and then dug around in the dirt while I waited for the locksmith to arrive.

[Comments] (1) Ratings: "Do I make the best guacamole in the world, Mom?" Atticus asks.

"You definitely make fabulous guacamole." I assure.

"Well. . . I am for sure in the top three."

2012 March
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Jabberwocky
Frances Whitney's weblog

Obituary: Here is the link to Mom's obituary, printed in the Bakersfield Californian on Tuesday. The death date is wrong, it was actually May 5, 2006

2006 May
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No Day But Today
Jill Whitney's weblog

Funny things: I heard today...

"There are nice ones and naughty ones like 'Hey lets make Icecream sundaes tonight' is nice, while 'Hey babe, I'll bring the nuts and chocolate syrup if you bring the cherry' is naughty."

"Can you believe I'm seventy and still wearing a g-string?"

"I'm going to choke on my ice!" "Don't worry, it should melt before you expire."

[Comments] (2) Museum of Ancient Life: Yesterday we went to the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving point. I don't care what your philosophy is on how or when or why dinosaurs etc, existed they are still cool to learn about. I hadn't been to the museum in years but it still was fascinating to walk around. Of course my favorite was t-Rex and the giant shark. I still remember years ago when all of my cousins were in town and we pretended to throw Lorna in the shark's mouth, I ducked from the caveman skeleton that was throwing a rock, and Frances posed with the archeologists because we were sure to be related!

[Comments] (14) Precepting: Newsflash... I get to precept this semester in the ER at Ogden Regional Hospital. I am so excited!!!

[Comments] (1) lazy: I have nothing much to report except that I am LAZY. I have always known this, but I realize that I really just pretty much do nothing most of the time. I guess it's becaus I have to be so efficent at work and school, that I can't do it at home. oh well.

Current Projects: -catching up on my scrapbook. Doing ok except I haven't started BB season and I just printed 200 new pics. Yes seriously at least 200. I have an addiction. -Finishing my recipe book. I am frusterated because I can't find my 34th ward RS cookbook and it has recipes I need. Otherwise it is looking awesome. -Cleaning my room. Not doing so well, let's be honest. -Laundry. Hate it, need to desperatly do it. and for the love it's FREE finally, why don't I just do it already!?! -petting the dogs and watching TV....very good at this.

Random thought: I went to the movies (finally saw Indiana Jones) and there was a poster that disturbed me... "No children under 6 allowed in rated-R movies after 6 p.m. Keep your child safe." ummm last time I checked children under 6 shouldn't go to rated-R movies period. Not to mention before 6 anyway...

New favorite quote: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." -Anatole France

[Comments] (1) My new job: I love my new job a lot. It is a lot of fun actually. I am working as a nurse at the new Intermountain Medical (aka the Death Star or Mother ship), on the 12th floor. This building is SO tall, and the view is spectacular. I can't wait until I am a registered nurse and get to play with the IV's here, but I can do everything else as an LPN. Yay for the real world...it rocks!!

2008 September
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Michelle
Michelle Walch's weblog

[Comments] (3) School: So I am currently attending UVSC. I have had an ok experience and am ready to move on. Next semester I will be attending Blinn at Bryan, TX. I am very excited because I will be 2 hours away from my house instead of 22 hours!!! I am going to get a degree in early childhood education and am very pleased with my degree. I am currently reading a book that is called A Man's Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, i suggest that you do! It has changed my way of looking at things. Take care Shell

[Comments] (1) School: So I am currently attending UVSC. I have had an ok experience and am ready to move on. Next semester I will be attending Blinn at Bryan, TX. I am very excited because I will be 2 hours away from my house instead of 22 hours!!! I am going to get a degree in early childhood education and am very pleased with my degree. I am currently ready a book that is called A Man's Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, i suggest that you do! It has changed my way of looking at things. Take care Shell

2006 April
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Our Family Recipes
New experiments and old favorites

() Cookie Cookie Cookie!: I was going to go to the library after Maggie's nap, but she didn't take a nap, and also it is snowing and really blowy. So, instead I made Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Cookies! If you have been blessed with one of mom's family recipe boxes, this is in there.

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
2 T unsweetened cocoa
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
16-ounce package chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Beat together sugars and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until well-blended. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. Let stand on sheets 3 minutes. Remove cookies to racks to cool.

Susie the Chef says: 16 ounces of chocolate chips is a ridiculous waste of money and chocolate chips. I put 1/4-1/3 that much. I also didn't put nuts. Even though the batter was pretty dry, I felt like the cookies had a lot of butter in them so I might use a few tablespoons less next time. Next time: yes, they were very yummy!

() Yummy in my Tummy: I've been trying out a lot of new crockpot recipes in an attempt to make feeding my family easier, faster, and yummier. Yesterday I put two chicken breasts and half a jar of spaghetti sauce (Ragu was only $1 at Smith's and I had a coupon - I haven't bought spaghetti sauce in years!) and let it cook on both settings for who-knows-how-long. I served it with whole wheat pasta and parmesan cheese and it was yummy. Probably the easiest meal I've ever made!

I also made an eclair cake at John's request. I made chocolate sauce from scratch because I only use it for eclair cake and I am out of money in my grocery budget this month. It was easy and super yummy. I couldn't find mom's recipe, so I 1/3-ed one I found online:

1/3 c. cocoa
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
Boil for 2-5 minutes.

PS: I uploaded some cute pictures of the bug to our picture blog - click on "Pictures" to the right. And read all my latest articles while you're at it!

() Taco Stack: I was a good wife and made dinner tonight. This isn't the recipe I kept the page for, but it was yummy!

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 package taco seasoning
12 corn tortillas
shredded cheese

Brown ground beef with onion in skillet; drain fat. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Place 1/4 c. meat in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Place two tortillas side by side on meat mixture. Top each tortilla with some meat mixture and shredded cheese. Repeat until each stack contains 6 tortillas layered with meat and cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cut each stack into quarters. I served it with sour cream and green onions.

Also, Tasha inspired me to make babyfood so I bought a butternut squash, baked it, and pureed it in the blender with a bit of water. It is delicious! Maggie liked it too. I'm not sure it was any cheaper though. I will have to try some other recipes.

() Apple-Cheddar Soup: I made this earlier today and it is so yummy. I think I put too many potatoes, because it was kind of chunky.

1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 T. butter
2 med. potatoes, diced
2 c. apple cider
1 t. fresh thyme
1/2 t. salt
dash cayenne pepper
1 med apple, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. milk
2 T. flour
4 oz (1 cup) shredded cheese
fresh apple slices

Cook onion in butter. Stir in potatoes, cider and seasonings. Boil. Simmer covered 15 minutes. Add apple. Simmer 5 minutes until potatoes are tender. combine milk and flour - stir into soup. Cook and stir until bubbly. Whisk in cheese until melted. Top serving dishes with apple slices and fresh ground pepper.

() Fondue for Two: Last night John and I celebrated our anniversary at The Melting Pot. Maggie got babysat by a couple in the ward with two little boys and had the best time.

We enjoyed our yummy fondue meal, but it was very expensive and now that we've done it I don't think we'll go back. We especially enjoyed the dessert fondue. The waiter told us how to make the cookie and/or graham cracker crumb covered marshmallows (just dip the marshmallows in water), so now we can just do that at home. We were thinking what a fun FHE activity that would be to do with young kids.

2008 February
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Susie's Leaning Tower of Chocolate
Susanna Chadwick's weblog

[No comments] Well Visits: The younger three went in for a well visit. Arthur is the heaviest of any of our kids ever.

Arthur (7): 49 pounds (41%), 4’2” (83%)
Sienna (10): 59 pounds (12%), 4’8” (75%)
Dalton (13): 85 pounds (16%), 5’3” (61%)

Cheer Camp: I signed Sienna up for a cheer camp at the high school, much to her dismay. We knew she would totally love it, and we were right, even though she complained and didn't want to go and insisted she wasn't going to do the associated cheering at the football game. Maggie, John, Addy and I went to the football game to see her cheer and to watch the band half-time show. It was a lot of fun, and we weren't sad to leave after halftime.

Where’s the Beef?: I prepped Arthur by letting him know I was making his beloved beef stroganoff with ground turkey. He peeked into the pot where I was browning the meet and declared I was lying. So, backfire, I guess? He gobbled it down as usual.

He also came into the kitchen recently and asked “where’s the beef?” which started John and I off laughing.

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[Comments] (1) () The Eagle Has Landed: We made it. I'm writing this now via some neighbor's wireless.

[Comments] (13) () The Right To Bear Fardels: During a recent summit The Poor Man made some nonsensical remark denying that there's any humor in C.S. Lewis or Shakespeare. One of those half-drunk "contrarian = sophisticated" bits of bollocks.

In refutation, I've found my favorite (so far) joke in the Bard: Act III, Scene 2 of Hamlet, the bit about Guildenstern, Hamlet, and the pipe. Gertrude has sent Tweedlecrantz and Guildendee to check on why Hamlet Jr. is acting so crazay. Our goth protagonist asks Guildenstern to try playing a recorder.

GUILDENSTERN
I know no touch of it, my lord.

HAMLET
It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your fingers and thumbs, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.

GUILDENSTERN
But these cannot I command to any utt'rance of harmony. I have not the skill.

HAMLET
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be play'd upon than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.

In the four-hour Kenneth Branagh version this little rant is especially breathtaking.

() Geeks, Fire, and Dangerous Things: Seth and I were at Defcon in Las Vegas this weekend. Seth got our friend Praveen to bring Seth's giant Fresnel lens to the con when Praveen drove out on Saturday. The Fresnel lens is roughly 1 meter in diameter. On Sunday afternoon, as the con was winding down, we took the lens (wrapped in a black sheet for safety) out to a quiet back lot behind the convention hotel and, though the sky was overcast with a thin cloud layer so that we could not focus direct sunlight through the lens, we set some stuff on fire. Seth brought four pairs of welding goggles and two pairs of sunglasses for the group, plus safety gloves for whoever held the lens. It was about 102 degrees out, scorching hot even with the clouds, but before the heat drove me back indoors, I watched Seth and David Weekly burn a brown spot into the side of an aluminum can; turn a piece of wood to charcoal; set aflame and burn through a handful of dry grass; and light an onlooker's cigarette (placed on the ground, not in his mouth!). They also tried unsuccessfully to melt a penny and a quarter. I guess it's not as easy as I thought to burn through your money in Las Vegas.

[Comments] (1) () She's an ENIAC: From phone conversations today I gather that Leonard and Frances are visiting the American Computer Museum. In contrast, I'll be enjoying Will Franken's comedy shows tonight, whose most computer-related joke is probably his absurdist "voice command for file cabinet" bit. You can get a hint of that style in his "Show!" clip.

Note to local comics I saw in the back room of a pizza place last night: it is possible to do good spam and Match.com jokes. Please try harder.

() Mr. Joad's Wild Ride: Today Annalisa and I start our drive out west. On our first trip out, we lost a mirror in the middle of Nebraska at 80 mph, ran over a tumbleweed in Colorado, got our truck towed in LA because it was in 7th Heaven's shot, and almost rented Charles Manson's quaint Topanga getaway... here's hoping for a less exciting trip. Here's also hoping that I will be able to post while I'm on the road. California, here we come!

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[Comments] (1) Being an example of the believers (Timothy): I taught SS Lesson 41 the other week, which covers a lot of stuff (they all do), but I chose to focus on what it means to be a believer. Literally every time I sat down to prepare for this lesson, I ended up on a Mormon blog to re-hash recent events. It became a real distraction. I finally began to discipline and focus myself about two days before it was time to give my lesson. I was literally a wreck; I had no direction for this discussion.

Then I had an idea. On the chalkboard that Sunday, I wrote four names on the board: Nephi, Laman, Moses, and Emma Smith. The names of four believers, two brothers from the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament prophet responsible for re-establishing Judaism and Israel after the Egyptian captivity, and the wife of the first modern day prophet of the LDS church.

Under each name we listed their attributes. Then we had to collectively agree on one word that best fit each person: Nephi was recognized for his valiance; Laman for his worldliness; Moses as a lawgiver; Emma for her longsuffering. We then discussed that under the umbrella of attributes assigned to the term "believer" is the individual brands that follow. So the question becomes, what will be our individual brand as a believer? Will it be attributable to the Word of Wisdom, will we choose to be known for keeping a set of laws, or will it be for our zeal, or love, our compassion, etc? None of these is right or wrong per se, though there may be an individual answer that is better for us. The takeaway: play to your strength as a believer, and use your brand to make the world a better place.

This exercise literally lasted the entire length of the class, about 30 minutes (we were cut short due to the overrun of the Primary Program that day). I walked away feeling much better about life, and am particularly looking forward to my lesson next Sunday on the Epistle of Peter. Should it be successful, perhaps I will post more.

The manual, I might add, contained none of this, which is what I love. The prophet sets the curriculum, but I get to wrestle with the Spirit on the who, what why, and how (when and where are also outside my jurisdiction). It's been a great blessing in my life to study the material and try and direct the material in a direction that can be beneficial to many, including myself. I'm grateful for this calling.

[Comments] (4) Why I stay: It's probably safe to assume no one reads this blog anymore, because I don't post very often. I normally find Instagram to be my safe place, because who doesn't love pictures of food, cats, cool scenery, and the like, without the vagueness, fighting, and incorrect doctrine that is Facebook?

But today something happened, and I feel like talking about it. Perhaps this is the perfect outlet; I get to say it, and no one will read it, and thus no one gets offended (again, a huge perk of not being on Facebook).

My Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has added to its handbook a new category of apostasy: same sex marriage. Now children living in SSM families cannot be baptized until they are 18, and until they disavow the sins of their parents. While the former makes me wonder, and the latter makes me curious (the who, what, when, where, why and how of the disavowal intrigues me), on the whole I've added one more reason to my list of why the Church just plain no longer works for me.

That being said, I stay. Don't get me wrong. I've often thought about leaving, if for no other reason than to make a point. The point being: you are wrong, and I therefore shun you. But really, that's a silly way to make a point. The Church continues without me, and I lose a part of me in the process.

So I stay. I stay because, despite this policy (the same policy exists for children from polygamous families by the way), despite the PR embarrassment we call Prop 8, despite the fact that we oust those that question things, despite the fact that Republicans=Mormonism, despite the fact that no one can give a good answer for why women cannot hold the Priesthood, despite the fact that I never knew until July that Joseph Smith married a 14 year old girl and translated the book of Mormon with a brown stone inside a hat, despite the lame attempts to explain the Priesthood ban as anything other than the flaws of good men, this is my home.

I currently have the calling of Gospel Doctrine teacher. Which means, during the 180 minute church block, I am effectively in charge for 40 minutes of that time, roughly 25%. I have spent the last year, during our study of the New Testament, to use this time to achieve the following: (1) Focus more on Christ and less on silly things that often takes up valuable church space, including missionary guilt, defending the family (whatever that means; no one wants to abolish families), and pornography for the 5,000th time; (2) Challenge the class to read the scriptures with fresh eyes, to see things they never saw before, even though they've read the stories since they were children; (3) Contribute to a class environment where their voice can be heard (ie, I'm a facilitator, not a lecturer); (4) Help us feel the Holy Ghost in class, and follow its promptings to be better people the next six days.

I personally believe I fail at this more than I succeed. But the fact is, I currently have the opportunity/responsibility to be the change I want to see in the church. And that is way more powerful than walking away and being forgotten within a week.

I also stay because I don't have all the answers. So while I currently am at odds on probably 20 or so doctrinal and/or procedural aspects of the church, I recognize that I could be wrong. And until I receive my own personal revelation on these matters (something I'm working on, but for personal reasons seems to take time for me), I just can't write it off. The truth is, despite these obstacles, the church has been good to me. I've learned inside this church the joy of giving, the humility of receiving, to wonder and awe at the notion of sin, forgiveness, and the atonement, and to find purpose in mortality. And while I know I could have learned these elsewhere, I learned them here.

So I'm sticking with my Church. Because I believe I have a part to play. I can show people by the way I live my life that the Church tent is big enough for all, that the Church is not threatened when people bring their questions or their baggage along for the ride, and that the Church can still be a safe place where compassion is the rule and not the exception. So I stay.

test: test

the 'Go-to': Everyone has a go-to phrase, something they say when they don't know what to say. For Mary Poppins, it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, for example.

For Dalton, it's 'you're funny!'

He seriously says it to adults when they say something to him and he's not quite sure how to respond. It normally gets a laugh in response, so perhaps HE is the funny one....

[Comments] (2) a funny thing happened on the way to the playground: Kids these days:

Maggie: I got invited to Ronan's birthday! Susie/John: Who's Ronan? Maggie: A boy from school. Susie/John: Are you friends with Ronan? Maggie: No, but he invited me, I think, because I'm a good example at school and he wants to say thank you. (Editor's note: Doubtful this is true, but glad my daughter has a pure heart).

John: I'm going for a walk. Maggie, want to ride your scooter? Maggie: No, I'll just walk with you dad. John: But it's going to be a long walk. Are you sure? Maggie: Yes. If I ride my scooter, I can't talk to you about things.

Dalton: Dad, I'm tired of being the cutest. I do NOT want to be the cutest anymore. (Editor's Note: Sienna is now the cutest and Dalton is the happiest).

Legoland is a pain because Sienna can't go on anything. Unlike Disneyland, the king of all amusement parks. The kids fight in line about who gets to take their turn with me. I may not have been cool at school, but I'm officially the favorite dad in this house!

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Gregg Easterbrook: The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’ - WSJ.com:

Gregg Easterbrook: The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’ - WSJ.com

Amazing story. I read about this back at BYU and still am amazed at this man's life and life's work. He wrote some interesting articles debunking neo-Malthusian histeria back in the 1970s and 80s. He's a real hero and an example of human selflessness that is rarely replicated. May he rest in peace.

Interesting quote:

Borlaug told me a decade ago that most Western environmentalists "have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things."

Epicurean Delights sans the Jail-time:

We tell our kids to "Just Say No" and yet we allow them to dump cup-fulls of this addictive white powder on their Cheerios.

Favorite quote:

Though difficult to estimate, sweet sensations evoked by sugar-sweetened foods and drinks are probably one of the most precocious, frequent and intense sensory pleasures of modern humans.

Have I been missing something?!?

Ideologyweek: News as Only We Wont to See.:

The mocking introduction “Let's try” of Newsweek’s “Our Mutual Joy” foreshadowed all one needed to know about the incredibly condescending treatment of religion by another ‘general interest’ magazine going through its death throes. In an attempt to shame (the true meaning of which, like ‘tolerance’ and ‘love’ has become unfashionably anachronistic) the vast majority of Americans who are Christian, The “living” Bible is deconstructed and vivisected to reveal the Christian’s folly. The article author asserts her moral authority in calling on Christians to strive toward ‘more just’ ideals over the ‘unserious’ drive towards “chaos, depravity, [and] indifference.”

Newsweek would have us believe that the homosexual activity practiced in days of yore condemned by Paul were nothing like the civilized and enlightened homosexual practices of today, and then insinuates that David and Jonathan were gay lovers. Perhaps things have changed; not the enlightenment of gay sex, but the corruption of true brotherly love that Paul commends to his followers.

The article then goes on to explain that the overarching theme of the Bible is acceptance, citing Jesus reaching out to the woman at the well. Nary a word about Jesus’s constant injunction to sin no more, or the real theme of the Bible which is to totally deny oneself in discipleship; not indulge in ‘needy’ relationships. The doctrine of the Bible is that because of the fall everybody has a predisposition to act contrary to our true nature of Justice and Holiness, but that we are to refuse such impulses; not embrace them.

Newsweek argues:

So the frustrating, semantic question remains: should gay people be married in the same, sacramental sense that straight people are? I would argue that they should. If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that.

Perhaps this last bit is what I find to be the most egregious error and beneath contempt. It blasphemously insinuates that God Himself just might be a homosexual and then equats the sexual impulse to skin color or gender. It is similar to the slave-trader’s assertion (to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson) that there are those who are born with saddles on their backs and others born with boots and spurs; except in this case, those born saddled are humanity and the booted master is the animal impulse. It totally rejects humanity’s agency and responsibility, and is totally antithetical to the Bible’s core message. A person who is born black cannot change that fact. A person who is born female or male will always have that identity etched on every cell of the person’s body regardless of the number of surgeries or hormone therapy. Sexuality, on the other hand, is a learned behavior which every civil society in history has regulated and restricted, and to ignore that basic fact of biology and history is not merely unserious, but dangerously stupid.

This shockingly arrogant treatment of the Bible by an author who probably has about as much knowledge of the Bible as an 18th century grammar student (or less) wends its way through blissfully ignorant aphorisms like:

Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad,

and then quotes such luminaries like “Miss Manners” and “My friend the priest James Martin.” Of course, if one only wants to obstinately promote one’s own viewpoint, then there’s no need to include people who may not be one’s friends or even have the same opinions as oneself. This is evident in the article which never includes any divergent opinion or even the treats the reasoning behind Christian (or classical pagan for that matter) opposition to homosexual marriage as anything but a silly straw-man.

What is the true reason that the majority of people in over three dozen states have voted in free and fair elections to affirm marriage between a man and a woman? It’s not hatred of Gays, OR EVEN HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH GAYS. It is the fact (one that is lost on the post-modern left) that there are essential differences between men and women. Those differences are profound and reach the whole dynamic range of the human experience. Those differences are etched on every cell in the bodies of Men and Women. To paraphrase Sartre, there is no escape from gender differences between men and women. Men and women are intrinsically, essentially, and absolutely different. Society has an interest in guarding the procreation and sustainability of itself. In so doing, society has every right to ensure that the healthy and diverse influences of both male and female are included in the raising of children. Both genders play essential and important roles in the flourishing and procreation of humanity.

When looked at from this light, homosexual marriage advocates are actually arguing not for inclusion, but for exclusion since it is they who would gloss over the important gender differences that are essential for the raising of properly socialized human beings. Homosexual men simply cannot parent with ‘maternal flair’ no matter how hard they try or how many flower arrangement classes they attend. Furthermore, the homosexual relationship is, by definition, barren. It is wholly impossible for a new human being to be created except from genetic material from one man and one woman. It should be in society’s interest, if society is to persist, to ensure that there is pairing of the right kinds of people (male and female are the only possible option) sustain civilization.

This is why I found Newsweek’s chief editor, John Meacham’s comment so utterly oblivious to reality:

“Religious conservatives will say that the liberal media are once again seeking to impose their “agenda” on a God-fearing nation. Let the letters and e-mails come. History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion.”

Excuse me? History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion? Has the cavalier John Meacham (of whom I expect better as a historian) seen the fertility rates of San Francisco? Does he know anything about the demographics of the barren Blue Northeast vs. the Red Bible belt south? Quite the contrary to John Meacham’s facile dismissal of the (procreating) majority of Americans, it isn’t gay families who will see the explosion of influence and power in the world. He should look at the statistics: the most common name of babies born in Brussels: Mohammad, Toronto: Mohammad, Amsterdam: Mohammad, Paris: Mohammad, Sweden: Mohammad. What would America look like if it were Muslims instead of the dreaded Catholics controlling the Supreme Court? Does John Meacham really think that the world is demographically moving towards total acceptance of Gay Marriage? Perhaps he should check his statistics and hope it’s the Bible-thumpers or Mormons (who are the only ones approaching Muslims in fertility rates) whom demographics will favor.

And perhaps John Meacham should check on the demographics of Newsweek, which is nose-diving into oblivion.

“Sources say that the magazine is considering slashing up to 1.6 million copies from Newsweek’s current rate base of 2.6 million, which would put the magazine’s rate base at 1 million. Newsweek declined to comment.”

Resources: Natural Law and Homosexual Marriage

A Biblical Understanding of Marriage

National Review: Newsweek Comes out of the Closet

"That Wasn't Quite the Change We Envisioned":

Certainly Obama's recent appointments to his cabinet have been reassuring as I've outlined in my previous post, but some in the Left seem to be getting a little anxious. This story from Politico sheds some light on this subject.

Salient Quote, National Security:

Now Obama’s says that on his first day in office he will begin to “design a plan for a responsible drawdown,” as he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Obama has also filled his national security positions with supporters of the Iraq war: Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize force in Iraq, as his secretary of state; and President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, continuing in the same role

Salient Quote, Economic Policy:

It’s that liberal Democrats say they’re hard-pressed to find one of their own on Obama’s team so far – particularly on the economic side, where people like Tim Geithner and Lawrence Summers are hardly viewed as pro-labor.

Good, Labor bosses have driven many of American Manufacturing jobs into the ground and resulted in poorer quality products.

I'll continue to look skepticaly at Obama, but for a Democrat who ran as Obama did during the campaign; so far so good.

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Drinking Problem: We always confused Plaza Lounge and Park Kafe. At least, Leonard did. Then again, he's the one who mixed up the J, K, and M streetcar lines in San Francisco when getting directions. Yes, they share the same terminal stops, but so do we, and that's no excuse for confusing me with Anderson Cooper. We all end in the ocean; we all start in the stream; we're all carried along by [email]@crummy.com. Whoops -- this is the start of the column, not the end. [More]
Filed under: ,
Vitamin Talisman: "Let me tell you about raisins," the professor said, prompting chuckles and heckling in anticipation of a good line. [More]
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Weird and funny subject lines from spam we've received

2020

() Sentenced: The subject line on this one was ordinary - "Get the Most Out of the WiFi You Pay For" - but the content, aside from the spam links, was a genuinely engaging sequence of sentences:
She wondered what his eyes were saying beneath his mirrored sunglasses. They say that dogs are man's best friend, but this cat was setting out to sabotage that theory. Im working on a sweet potato farm. Grape jelly was leaking out the hole in the roof. The blinking lights of the antenna tower came into focus just as I heard a loud snap. It took him a while to realize that everything he decided not to change, he was actually choosing. Twin 4-month-olds slept in the shade of the palm tree while the mother tanned in the sun. She could hear him in the shower singing with a joy she hoped he'd retain after she delivered the news. Dan took the deep dive down the rabbit hole. She lived on Monkey Jungle Road and that seemed to explain all of her strangeness. Greetings from the real universe. They throw cabbage that turns your brain into emotional baggage. The fish dreamed of escaping the fishbowl and into the toilet where he saw his friend go. The best key lime pie is still up for

debate. Random words in front of other random words create a random sentence. It was a really good Monday for being a Saturday. The paintbrush was angry at the color the artist chose to use. In hopes of finding out the truth, he entered the one-room library. I caught my squirrel rustling through my gym bag. Carol drank the blood as if she were a vampire. He is no James Bond; his name is Roger Moore. The tattered work gloves speak of the many hours of hard labor he endured throughout his life. The beauty of the sunset was obscured by the industrial cranes. He wore the surgical mask in public not to keep from catching a virus, but to keep people away from him. The thick foliage and intertwined vines made the hike nearly impossible. Having no hair made him look even hairier. I am counting my calories, yet I really want dessert. It's much more difficult to play tennis with a bowling ball than it is to bowl with a tennis ball. He decided water-skiing on a frozen lake wasnt a goo

d idea. Shakespeare was a famous 17th-century diesel mechanic. As he looked out the window, he saw a clown walk by. He was sitting in a trash can with high street class. It's not possible to convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising it infinite bananas when they die. If you like tuna and tomato sauce- try combining the two. Its really not as bad as it sounds. It took him a month to finish the meal. Mary plays the piano. He would only survive if he kept the fire going and he could hear thunder in the distance. Today is the day I'll finally know what brick tastes like. If any cop asks you where you were, just say you were visiting Kansas. Weather is not trivial - it's especially important when you're standing in it.

Leonard suspects this is generated by GPT-3.

2016

() Yes: A spam today began:
yes, this is fudong machinery manufacture co., ltd a a professional and experienced supplier
I enjoy the prefix "yes," here. It reminds me of product placement in old-time radio ads, or of the way Stephen Colbert introduced the terrifying drugs from Prescott Pharmaceuticals in "Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A."

2014

() Spamusement's Ten-Year Anniversary: Ten years ago today, Steven Frank posted the first Spamusement comic, illustrating real subject lines from spam emails with "poorly drawn cartoons". Leonard and I loved it, and to celebrate, here are a few of my favorites. (Spamusement had an unfortunate strain of sitcom-level sexism and fatphobia but there were plenty of strips free from such annoyances.)

I want to especially mention She cant possibly be enjoying this! which Leonard and I treasure to this day every time we ask for a to-go box for leftovers, and this assortment that I suspect of being a "Cow Tools" homage.

Anyway, Steven Frank, thanks for a fun strip.

() They don't make nonsense like they used to: A single morsel of old-school link-free "what are they even trying to do here" spam slipped through my filter last week, like a Queneau assembly of our glory days here at SAFA. Enjoy, and reflect, for do we not, each of us, parallel existing roads?

From: Mars failing before completing their missions, with some failing before they even began. <brendan@orcon.net.nz>
Subject: Madagascar and take on fresh provisions before proceeding onward toward their targets further north.

David Smith, an analyst at research firm Gartner.
Many steps parallel existing roads, but others exist on their own and are classified as city streets.
Hudswell Clarke saddle tank Tubby at Blunsdon. He died in Monrovia in 1935.

() Male Gaze: Ashley Madison spam keeps telling me I am guaranteed to sleep with a married woman. I am a married woman. I sleep with myself every night, and as such, Ms. Madison has nothing to offer me -- or, conversely, perhaps I have been using the site all along unwittingly!

I find that the Ashley Madison spam specifically bothers me, not just because it implies that I am thought of as a promise-breaker, but because it implies a new vice that I'm not used to seeing in my spam. I'm used to spam insinuating that I am greedy, obese, and libidinous, but not specifically adulterous. And the heteronormative and aimed-at-men "sleep with a married woman" spam actually bothers me less than the more equal-opportunity subject lines that aim to include me. The former I can laugh off as male gaze; the latter thinks I am nudgable.

2013

() Monster Breakout Day:
  • Hey alabaastley, 80% OFF. encountered Neologisms
    I really prefer mangled portmanteaus.
  • Be ready in the morning for my new Gold pick!
    I wish you wouldn't stay up all night playing Minecraft.
  • Augmentin is your canon aimed at any infection.
    No, sir!
  • Scare people with your tool today
    Join your village's angry mob.
  • Mr. kevandd, get super prices. death
    Those prices had better be pretty damn super.
  • Monster Breakout day starting off with Monster News.
    It was just a regular day in Monster Town.
  • Do not underestimate the value of free pills
    I'm going to guess... "zero".
  • This Company keeps climbing! You may want to read this!
    "Employee Guidelines for Parachute Allocation."
  • Feel like you're under a pile of bricks? We carry Xanax and Valium
    Also bricks.
  • This May Never Happen Again!
    Oh, I think it will.

2012

() Mockworthy Recruiting Spam: I feel the urge to complain about a particular kind of spam yet feel a little uncouth doing so on my main blog. So then I remembered: Spam As Folk Art! Hi, three people who still follow this feed.

If you were a tech recruiter seeking a project manager or community wrangler, I could see how I would pop up on your radar. I'm not interested -- I'm happy at the Wikimedia Foundation -- but at least I would understand.

But recruiters who think that I must be an engineer, because I've worked on GNOME and I have a GitHub account, make me laugh.

Case 1:

Subject: Hello from redacted name of big tech company!
From: redacted name native to South Asia
Hi Sumanah,

I hope you're well. I came across your profile in Gnome Outreach program.

I hope you're well. My name is redacted and I am a recruiter here at redacted.

I am writing to introduce myself and was wondering if you would be open to confidentially exploring engineering or management opportunities with redacted.

In the event that you're happily employed, but know of any engineers of your quality who may be on the market, please don't hesitate to pass along my contact information....

First: I will notice if you misspell my name. (And you have nearly no excuse, person with name native to the exact same part of India as mine!) Second: I can think of approximately 500 engineers of my "quality" who are on the job market, because I am not an engineer. Within GNOME I worked on marketing, GNOME Journal, documentation, bug triage, and project management.

Case 2:

Subject: Web Application Engineer
From: redacted name of recruiting firm
<p>Hi Sumana,</p>

<p>Are you interested in a new job opportunity? We checked out some of your git repos and we found a job opportunity that fits your skills. Twitter in San Francisco is hiring web application engineers.</p> ....

Yes, the <p> and </p> tags were in the original. Someone wasn't counting on people who read email in plain text. And my GitHub repo has exactly one item of interest (my update to someone's README file), and within Wikimedia's git repositories I've tested the system by adding some comments to an example extension. If that means that a web application engineer role at Twitter "fits my skills" then I am a tuna fish sandwich.

Bonus case:

Speaking of "wait, plaintext?":

Well hello there, and welcome to the latest Ticket Alternative newsletter!

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Sunny 9
Kristen Smith's weblog

[Comments] (5) On death and dying: Nothing prepared me for the day one of my kids asked me why do people die?, so naturally when Lily asked me that question I was dumbstruck. We decided to buy the new Pixar movie Up. It came highly recommended by many people including Louise, who is a very tough critic. She rarely thinks anything is "really good" so I thought it really must be good.

Aaron popped it in for the kids. I was puttering around, getting things done, and still haven't seen it. It wasn't until the next day while Gunnar was napping, and Lily was watching it as I was doing the dishes. When all the sudden I heard this sad little voice and teary eyed girl peeking over the arm of the sofa almost begging me mommy, I don't want you to die. Why did Ellie have to die? When will she be back? I want Ellie to come back. I don't want you to leave. Why do people have to die? Where do people go when they die? I felt ill prepared to answer all these abstract questions in a way a 5 yr old would understand. All I could do was hug her and cry on each other's shoulder. I know it was wrong, but I promised her I wouldn't die, at least anytime soon. She was so sad and I wanted to reassure her and make her feel better.

Death is such a difficult topic and I think it is every child's worst nightmare. We talked about heaven and the resurrection and eternal families and I think we both felt better. It made me remember life is short and fragile and as a result I have not yelled at my kids as much this past week. I used to ask my mom what would you do if I died? And she would always say I would spank your little bottom. Death is something I struggle with and definitely don't want a lesson on it anytime soon. So the moral of the story is if you watch Up with your kids you might have to explain the mysteries of the universe with your kids.

[Comments] (5) for your eyes only: So last week, I tried to write a health care post about my health care of all things. A couple hours after I had posted it, my brain reflected on it and I just about died inside to think I just shared with the world my IUD problems. I quickly got to a computer and deleted it and spent the rest of the night feeling sheepish and wondering if anyone had already read my open book life.

Today, I will give it a go again, yet this time about Gunnar and with much less TMI. Gunnar's health care. My poor little baby Gunnar. I adore this little boy. I could eat him for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and still snack on him throughout the day. Gunnar is and will always be my baby. This little guy went in for his "6 month" ophthalmologist appt. He was actually a few months overdue for a proper one since the past two were right before the move and right after the move and weren't proper appointments at all. We finally got the full blown appt out of the way and have been given two official diagnoses. First, our suspicions are correct. Gunnar has intermittent exotropia. Basically, one eye wanders when he is tired or not on his A game or zoned out. He can have surgery to correct it, but it really isn't too bad yet and the Dr and I both agreed that it is something to look into when he is older like 6 or 7 when "kids start making fun of his eyes in school" as the Dr put it, since his condition is very mild right now. Kids are so mean! And they probably will make fun of him, so when he is older and if it gets worse we will look into that, but for now he is ok. Just ignore his wandering eyes if you speak with him face to face and he zones out.

Secondly, his nearsightedness is now a raging -6.50 in both eyes. A whole 1.25 higher than last dilation. He's legally blind, but with his glasses he has near perfect vision, and it is very correctable with surgery if he chooses to get lasik when he is older. All in all, it is nothing serious. He is a happy, healthy boy. Sometimes, as his mother, I wished my body had been able to make his body more perfect, but there my vanity goes thinking I am responsible for creating my beautiful children. They are Heavenly Father's children and he is just letting me borrow them to discover tremendous happiness, and just a touch of torture.

But, there it is. Gunnar's health update. He is turning 3 in exactly 2 weeks so I better get onto making his well baby check up. Then we shall see how much this boy has g r o w n!

[Comments] (2) Burr, it's cold in here: This is all quite new to me, the wearing jackets in Oct and not really letting up. In TX the year Gunnar was born, I was so excited to not have to be my largest in the summer. It may have well been summer because as I recall, it did not get cool until the day I left the hospital with him. Geez, thanks!

Oh sure you might need a zip up in the morning, but by 2:00 you were sweating. I literally NEVER EVER wore jeans from the months of May-Oct. For 6 months I wore shorts every day. Even in April and Nov, the jeans were worn intermittently. But for those 6 months I didn't even look at jeans.

Yesterday, to make more room in my closet, and because I have a large Rubbermaid labeled jeans and sweaters that needed to be unpacked (and still one in the garage), I gathered all my shorts that I haven't worn a single time in a month, and all Aaron's shorts and exchanged places in the Rubbermaid with the jeans and sweaters.

It's not that it has been too bad here, gorgeous weather actually, but if I am not dressed properly my toes and hands will be frozen by 4:00 on. In SA I remember wearing flip flops year round. If it was too cold to wear them, that's ok because I knew by the afternoon I would be fine. It goes like this in the winter-mornings and evenings it is cool. Midday is warm. For a week or two we could have a cold front and then it is chilly, but then it goes away and for 3 weeks you are left with "perfect winter weather" picnic weather if you will. And the cycle continues.

Now maybe I am a tad cold because we haven't turned our heater on past 66 degrees. Perhaps. We are trying to save money, electricity is a lot more here, and all I have to do to get comfortable again is vacuum. (Why does that job make you sweat even in the winter? You are just pushing the thing around.) OR my new favorite thing is what Aaron calls my Back To The Future vest. It is AWE--wait for it--SOME. I have it in a couple colors, and it's perfect. It keeps you cozy at the same time freeing your arms to do household chores without feeling constricted like sweat shirts or jackets do. Plus, Old Navy is having 50% off all their outerwear. (Ok, online they are not quite 50%, they are more like 30% off and they have half the color selection so go to the actual store.) Go and get you one, and if you have an Old Navy card like me, you can get it for another 30% off that making it only $14. It's that awesome.

Now I am looking for some rain boots, because every week it rains cold rain here ALL DAY LONG from anywhere between a day to 5 days straight. My feetsies get cold walking around with wet socks and tennis shoes. So if anyone one knows of awesome rain boots for cheap (you know me, it's gotta be a good deal) please let me know.

[Comments] (1) Brisk: During my early morning run today, the sweat from my hands came out on top of my gloves and then turned frosty. I could tell because I was wearing black gloves and it looked like they had been flocked a little bit. Pretty weird--I've never had this happen before. Yeah, it was cold!

There were four in the bed and the little one said: I love lazy Saturday mornings. I awoke to Gunnar's noise and decided I wasn't ready to get up for the day and that I wanted to see if Gunnar was old enough to snuggle in the morning. Lily is at the age where she will lay down for a couple minutes but I didn't know if Gunnar "got it" yet. I went and got him and brought him in the bed. He knows what snuggling is because at night he always asks for me to snuggle just a minute so when I told him that he went for it.

It's seriously one of my favorite things to do is on a Saturday morning when no one has to be anywhere, just to lay in bed and snuggle and play and laugh with the kid(s). Gunnar is the most affectionate little guy. He leaned over to Aaron sleeping and kissed his cheek and said "I love you daddy". He then snuggled into me and said "I love you mommy, you're my big boy". He calls me that because I go between saying "You're my baby" or more lately "You're my big boy" so now he calls me his big boy too. He knows the difference between boys and girls which makes it that much funnier to hear him say it.

Gunnar leaned over and was pointing to my eyes and said "eww, what's that brown stuff?" I had a little smudged eye liner on from the night before that didn't wash off and he goes "that's disgusting." lol little noodge. Lily woke up finally and came in. Then I got to really snuggle-this girl knows how to spoon. It was the complete family, all four of us in the bed spending time together. It was a great way to start off the day.

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