The online tax filing through the state is actually good?! As in, I stopped paper filing our taxes because calculating just the tax due in NY (not our taxable income, just, here's a number that's taxable, now what is the tax due on that) had me tearing out my hair. But I had to file a tax return for SteelyKid this year [*], and the state online version added things up and calculated tax due for me, which was great—I had to file a 1040 for her and the fillable PDF doesn't even add things for you. (It turns out I could have gotten free software to efile for her, which I will remember next year, because calculating the tax due on her federal return required a 27-line worksheet.)

[*] Okay, I didn't have to file a separate return, I could have put her income on ours, but then that would cost us more taxes, whereas filing hers separately meant zero tax due on her income. (We put a monthly amount into an account in her name for college, because Chad's college has a really good tuition benefit and so a 529 account doesn't make sense, and this year the earnings on that exceeded the threshold for filing.)

Anyway: New Yorkers! File your state taxes online!
I've just send a check-in email to everyone who signed up for the playlist exchange; if you haven't received it, or more importantly your assignment, email me at knepveu@steelypips.org ?

Also, anyone who'd like to make a treat is welcome to check out the prompts! Email me before Wednesday, April 8 with the music files, the recipient, their prompt, the song order if any, and whether it's okay to share the playlist with all the participants or just the particular recipient. When reveals come, you'll be able to see all the playlists that have been shared among all participants!

I finished this snowflake bookmark a while ago, but haven't got around to editing the pictures until now.

I modified this pattern from Kincavel Krosses to make it shorter—and as you can see, it's still really too big for all but hardcovers:

[Image: bookmark over open copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell]

I could've left the border off, but I was stitching without a hoop or frame for the first time and I was having so much fun—so fast when you're doing whole stitches!—that I kind of didn't want to stop. SteelyKid saw it as a WIP and demanded it, and she doesn't care if it's flopping out of her books, so it's fine, but yeah, I have no idea why the original design is so long and still purportedly a bookmark.

details and more pictures )

So that's that. And experimenting with stitching the hand went great—I didn't even have to think about the tension in the stitches, it just came naturally. Works less with for things with lots of quarter stitches, a.k.a. the knotwork bookmark I'm finishing now, but OMG fast on whole stitches. I'm a convert.

(If anyone wants, I can give them the edited image file I used for the pattern, because shortening it means moving the interior slightly to center it.)

(Also posted to [livejournal.com profile] cross_stitch.)

Y'all. I am boggled.

From Bujold's blog post:

I am pleased to report that a new Cordelia Vorkosigan novel has been sold to Baen Books for publication, tentatively, in February of 2016.

The title is Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

It is not a war story. It is about grownups.

And that is probably all I ought to say right now in a venue read by the spoiler-sensitive. It is, after all, a long haul till next February.

spoilers if you somehow managed to miss spoilers for Cryoburn )

So yeah, that kind of threw me into a tizzy this afternoon, which I really haven't yet recovered from. What do you all think?

Big Hero 6

Mar. 13th, 2015 09:27 pm
Okay, I spent most of the movie trying to explain the plot to the Pip, because it's really above the level of a three-year-old (SteelyKid loved it), so I cannot say I gave it 100% of my attention, but I am pretty sure it is absolutely adorable. Nothing surprising plot-wise but charming and nicely diverse (I don't know what I think about the San Francisco-Tokyo mashup, though), and I want a Baymax—but the plush ones you can buy and the movie one I can't.

(Note: does contain a significant character death, as is common for superhero origin stories.)

That I have played and liked since the last time I wrote about this. A lot of these are really well-known, but I just beat 80 Days and thus was in the mood to jot down quick notes.

  • The Room and The Room Two, puzzle-box (usually literally) games. I have zero idea what the purported story is, and don't really care, but the moving things around to open/unlock/etc. is great. I don't think there are any jump scares, despite the horror trappings, but I'm open to correction on that.
  • Monument Valley, in which you use optical illusions in impossible architecture to travel through a very pretty world. Occasionally I felt like the solutions were more brute-force than something I could reason out, but then, my spatial skills are really weak, so maybe I'm just not good enough. Beautiful, though.
  • Another Case Solved, via [personal profile] rosefox. Mixes single puzzles of different types with "cases" that use multiple puzzles (see the screenshots for examples), has actual ongoing narrative with a definite ending. Does have in-app currency for purchase but you get enough of it just by playing (open the thing up every day) that you don't need to pay to win.
  • Out There, in which you are a frozen astronaut newly-woken in the far future and trying to make your way... home? I wish it wouldn't force you to play as a straight dude, but the combination of exploration, resource management, and tiny snippets of SF worldbuilding, were pretty addictive. After I got all three endings, I set myself to visit every solar system on the map (hey, I once ran an extinctionist in NetHack, I have these completionist urges, okay)? Ended up being 181 of them. So, it's a big map.
  • Quick Logic Problems, you know, the kind with the grids that you check things off. Includes a free puzzle every day.
  • 80 Days, a choose-your-own-adventure in which you're Passepartout but in an AU world with lots more gender parity and steampunk machines. I got this free from Amazon and then, when I couldn't get it to install on my phone, bought it so I could have it on both devices. Great writing, fabulous worldbuilding (I suspect Verne is rolling in his grave at my Passepartout kissing a mixed-race man in New Orleans), slightly fiddly inventory management system, and a incentive to bone up on my geography so I can ask characters about plausible routes to take.

What have you all been playing lately? (I wish I could play Sunless Sea, but the pace and the need to be at my desk is just no good.)

Lovely person, by all accounts; not a perfect writer, but a very good and important one; and, I can't tell if this is odd or not, but the thing I keep coming back to, and tearing up over, is that of all the fiction I've read, his is the one that gave me the most tools to deal with death and my lack of a belief in an afterlife.

“I know about Sending Home,” said Princess. “And I know the souls of dead linesmen stay on the Trunk.”

“Who told you that?” said Grandad.

Princess was bright enough to know that someone would get into trouble if she was too specific.

“Oh, I just heard it,” she said airily. “Somewhere.”

“Someone was trying to scare you,” said Grandad, looking at Roger’s reddening ears.

It hadn’t sounded scary to Princess. If you had to be dead, it seemed a lot better to spend your time flying between the towers than lying underground. But she was bright enough, too, to know when to drop a subject.

It was Grandad who spoke next, after a long pause broken only by the squeaking of the new shutter bars. When he did speak, it was as if something was on his mind.

“We keep that name moving in the Overhead,” he said, and it seemed to Princess that the wind in the shutter arrays above her blew more forlornly, and the everlasting clicking of the shutters grew more urgent. “He’d never have wanted to go home. He was a real linesman. His name is in the code, in the wind, in the rigging, and the shutters. Haven’t you ever heard the saying ‘Man’s not dead while his name is still spoken’?”

Going Postal

GNU Terry Pratchett.

(Also, this is petty, but my anal-retentive self has been twitching all day seeing people quote variants of that. To be fair, “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.” is in the quasi-table-of-contents for that chapter, but damn it, I have searched the ebook and “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” is not in Going Postal.)

Okay, we've got more than ten people, let's do this.

What

Sign up to (a) get a song playlist from a person I will match to you and (b) give a songplaylist to a person I will match to you, based on prompts and preferences you both provide. The playlist should be at least thirty minutes long (no maximum), and may be "songs in a specific order" or "songs to be put on shuffle." You'll provide me with the songs (edit: by which I mean, the digital files) (and playlist order, if applicable) and then I'll distribute them to the recipient.

If you don't want to commit, but are interested by this idea, I'm asking people whether they give me permission to make their sign-ups public, in case a non-participant is inspired. You can find those here (I've put mine up as a demonstration). If you end up making a bonus playlist, email me (knepveu@steelypips.org) to let me know.

When

  • Sign up through Sunday, March 15.
  • Assignments out by Wednesday, March 18.
  • Playlists due by Wednesday, April 8.
  • Playlists distributed by Wednesday, April 15 (sooner if everyone has a playlist before then; I'm building in a week's grace in case pinch-hitters are needed).

How

Sign up at this Google Docs form. Comment here if you have questions (no DW account necessary to comment or to participate).

This is going to be so much fun, y'all. Thanks!

Chad just finished making a mix "CD" as part of an exchange run by a music fanboard he participates in, and it seemed like fun. Is there any interest in doing a playlist exchange among us all? Say, oh, at least 30 minutes; can be either listen-in-this-order or put-on-shuffle; uploading files is fine, no need for physical media; provide a loose selection of prompts & preferred/prohibited genres.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 19


I would participate in a playlist exchange as described above.

View Answers

Yes!
11 (68.8%)

Maybe.
5 (31.2%)

Only if there were some other aspect/condition not mentioned above, that I will describe below.
0 (0.0%)

Ticky?

View Answers

Ticky.
14 (73.7%)

Record
0 (0.0%)

Tape
1 (5.3%)

CD
6 (31.6%)

Thumb Drive
3 (15.8%)

Cloud
10 (52.6%)

Fix-it fic in the comments of a dark AU of Beauty and the Beast over at the Toast, in fact. (If comments collapse and the direct link to the fic doesn't work, search for my last name and then expand replies.)

Go read it!
Hey writers in all kinds of media: this summer, Chad and the Joint Quantum Institute in Maryland are hosting The Schrödinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction, which is a three-day workshop on quantum physics for writers (a la the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop). Check out his blog post for more details; applications will open Friday. Housing and breakfast+lunch will be provided (there may also be a small amount of money for travel support), and diversity is a priority in selecting applicants. Please consider applying if it sounds interesting!
Hey DW,

Chad's doing a workshop and wants to get a diverse group of participants, but hand-coding free-form demographic responses would be suboptimal in light of the number of applications he expects. For a reasonably compact gender identification list, what would you suggest? Mine was cis female, trans female, cis male, trans male, genderqueer, agender, other, decline to state; corrections, improvements, rejections?

Thanks!

ETA: thank you, people who have pointed out this list is not cool; Chad has also separately decided to go with a free-text field for this question, but I will bear the lesson in mind.
(I am trying to post when I think of things, even if they don't seem "worthy" of posts, because I want to get back in the habit.)

We took the kids to Wild Kratts Live tonight. Wild Kratts is a PBS show about two brothers who, in bookending live-action segments, meet and talk about wild creatures, and in the animated middle, put on "creature power suits" and fly around in a giant turtle-shaped ship with a tech crew of three saving animals from the obligatory villains. (I have never actually seen an episode all the way through, so this is a rough approximation.) The kids love this, though SteelyKid is starting to go off it a bit, and it must be pretty popular because six weeks ago, the only seats left were literally in the second-to-last-row of the balcony.

Anyway. The show was cheesy but hit all the kid-pleasing notes, and they had a great time. But the thing of note was the end special effect [*], which was the brothers using a "miniaturizer" they'd recovered from the villains: they said they were activating it, fog or lights or something covered their exit, and then when the stage lights came back on, there were stuffed toy versions of the brothers on the stage where they'd been standing. (Which were, of course, for sale outside.)

As the subject line says: SteelyKid (now 6.5) and the Pip (now 3.25) nearly got in a major fight over this, because she saw that they were toys, but he insisted that they'd been miniaturized. Fortunately we were able to distract them before someone started crying over this disagreement.

[*] Prior special effects included "caracal power" of high-jumping using a springboard behind a fake rock, and "orangutan power" of moving through trees by swinging on a big swing coming in from off-stage. Also the process of donning a "creature power suit" was a stage blackout while the actor went off-stage to put on a cloth costume, covered by a super-slow animation on the screen, which made me really grateful for the person who put together all the Iron Man suit sequences into one video to clear the palate.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to listen to something other than the show's theme song to get it out of my head, fold laundry, and then collapse into bed.
Chad desperately needed a break so we enlisted the babysitter and went to see this.

The nice thing about hearing about it from many different avenues is that my expectations were very low and it exceeded them. I honestly cannot say that it is a good movie, but it is less bad than I was expecting—see: very low expectations. I thought I was going to have to force myself to find things to like about it, and in fact I did not, I genuinely enjoyed myself. I think I'm going to go with "delightfully batshit" as my two-word summary.

The thing is, as many non-professional-reviewers have said, it is a straight-up unashamed id-tastic power fantasy for young women. And somewhat along the lines of what [personal profile] metaphortunate has been saying about women's fantasies WRT Fifty Shades, it's hard for me not to see the over-the-top-ness of it being devalued by a lot of critics because it's got a young woman at the center. Putting Fifty Shades aside, because that is a discussion I do not want to host for a number of reasons:

Jupiter Ascending is a secret-heir power fantasy, kitchen-sink variety, with: gorgeously expansive visuals; lots of chase and fight scenes; inexplicable scenery chewing; what I would swear is a Princess Bride homage; good momentum except for an ill-advised bureaucracy parody part-way through (it's only 2:07, which is downright speedy for a Wachowski sibs movie); non-white people who may only be in secondary roles but at least don't die for the white heroes (I wanna be Captain Tsing); and a critique of capitalism that is crashingly unsubtle but is also less insipid than Interstellar's big message. There are way, way worse recipes for a big-budget SFF movie. And, seriously: I did not have to force myself to enjoy it.

SPOILERS )

Trailers:

Ant-Man, which I continue to resent the existence of.

Chappie, which looks like a completely different movie in the new trailer. I'm still not sure it's a movie I want to see (that body language keeps driving me nuts, it's so obviously human-inna-suit), but the difference between that and the first trailer is kind of stunning.

Spy. I am allergic to the kind of comedy that Melissa McCarthy does, as I am to almost all movie comedy, frankly, but I hope she kicks ass in the movie and at the box office.

Run All Night, which looks like a positively loathsome specimen of the Liam Neeson-as-inexplicable-badass subgenre.

Ted 2. I somehow missed the existence of the first movie and I wish that happy state of affairs had continued, as I am fairly sure brain cells died in protest at watching that trailer.

Focus, which is a Will Smith con-man movie, and which I might love or loathe depending on how the tone, treatment of women, etc., shakes out.
This is the one that was a repeat from last year (panel notes), with two repeat panel members, including myself, and a new mod. It's true that the panel was very different because the mod had a very different focus, and I appreciated that difference and that the mod moved immediately to difficult questions, but at the time I wished we'd covered more ground and there was at least one question I thought the panel didn't do well by. I heard mixed opinions from people afterward, as well.

The operative parts of the description were: "Can fanfic writing and QUILTBAG activism potentially intersect? What does it mean that fans of works with cis, straight characters are looking for more variety in the fiction they consume?" And the panel was pretty much about the second part and not on the first.

a few notes )

I don't remember much else; I don't know if "um, it depends" collapses down really small in summary or I'm just forgetting stuff after a long night. But I'd like to brainstorm updated fanfic panel descriptions for next year. Four years ago at WisCon we did Fanfic 401 (operative portion of description: "bisexual invisibility, the erasure and/or marginalization of female characters, authorial intent, trigger warnings, underage audiences, and source problems"), for which I have no notes but which was too overstuffed by far; at Readercon also four years ago we did Borders (if Any) Between Fan Fiction and "Original Fiction", which was way less 101 than I expected; and the year before that, Fanfic as Criticism (Only More Fun), which could probably be less 101 than it was. Do those prompt possible topics? What else: underrepresented identities? The fic we'd like to see (some of us don't write, you know, so we just have to wist in fandom's general direction)? Speculative fiction ways of looking at gender spotted in fanfic? Promote your very fic-able fandom that has canon underrepresented characters and a low barrier to entry?
Since there seemed to be some interest about this in comments, some notes on the panel today (the Hugo reading panel was great, but I don't have a lot to say about it that wasn't said back when voting was happening):

includes spoilers for the most recent completed season )

Okay, that was a lot and now it's nearly time for dinner! What do you all think?

I'm here! I got in last night and was feeling yuck and misanthropic, so I just hid in the room, mainlining the rest of Face Off and stitching. Now I'm going to shower and register and find some breakfast.

Here's my panels:

Saturday 10:00am - The Arisia Book Club: Reading the Hugos — Literature, Panel — 1hr 15min — Marina 2 (2E)

Read this year’s Hugo-winning novel (Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie) and stories (“Equoid” by Charles Stross, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal, and “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu), and come on down to discuss!

Erik Amundsen, Christopher Davis (m), Elektra Hammond, Kate Nepveu, Jennifer Allis Provost

Saturday 2:30pm - Face Off: The Best Reality Show for Geeks — Media, Panel — 1hr 15min — Marina 4 (2E)

Plenty of geek-oriented reality shows have sprung up in recent years, but few have found the success of SyFy’s Face Off, about to head into its eighth season. With its parade of Oscar and Emmy-award winners as judges and guest judges, some truly entertaining challenges, and incredible insight into the world of make-up and practical f/x, it’s become a huge hit. Join us as we discuss what makes the show work creatively and how it’s changed the way we view special effects.

Mark L Amidon, Resa Nelson, Kate Nepveu (m), Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

Sunday 2:30pm - Queering Up Canon — Fan Interest, Panel — 1hr 15min — Marina 1 (2E)

Much fanfic has a large interest in QUILTBAG themes. Maybe your fic involves making characters of the same gender fall in love with each other, having a character established as cis turn out to be trans, or asking if Sherlock has never shown any interest in a “proper” Victorian marriage because he’s asexual. Can fanfic writing and QUILTBAG activism potentially intersect? What does it mean that fans of works with cis, straight characters are looking for more variety in the fiction they consume?

Leo D’Entremont (m), Melissa Kaplan, Kate Nepveu, Adrienne J. Odasso, JoSelle Vanderhooft

(Yes, this is a repeat from last year, and yes, I specifically told programming that I'd love to be on it again but that someone else should moderate to keep it from being a retread.)

Sunday 7:00pm - Lawyers in SF/F — Fan Interest, Panel — 1hr 15min — Douglas (3W)

In the early 1990s, veteran SF author Robert J. Sawyer pointed out that lawyers are few and far between in science fiction, and in 1997, law professor Eugene Volokh indicated the same for fantasy. Volokh insists that there’s no inherent contradiction between the legal thriller and the SF/F novel. What’s the reason for this phenomenon? Are the strict structures of the legal system anathema to the open-mindedness that SF/F requires? Or is there some other motivation entirely?

David J. Friedman, Daniel Miller (m), Kate Nepveu, A Joseph Ross

Either I have really bad luck in being scheduled against things or programming's a bit thin this year, but all the more time to browse the dealer's room and art show (which I often don't make it to until the very last day, when it's really too late) and hopefully talk to people!

Arisia

Jan. 6th, 2015 09:46 pm
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 14


Are you coming?

View Answers

Yes!
8 (72.7%)

Maybe.
3 (27.3%)

Ticky?

View Answers

Ticky.
8 (61.5%)

Novel
5 (38.5%)

Novella
4 (30.8%)

Novellette
2 (15.4%)

Short Story
3 (23.1%)



(I still don't have a final schedule, but the draft has me on a discussion about this past year's Hugo fiction winners.)
With spoilers for Broken Homes.

spoilers )

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