Here, have a writing-related exercise

Feb. 10th, 2016 11:56 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
I can't even remember which writing advice book suggested this as an exercise, but: the idea is to write down a bunch of favorite characters and a very brief (like, 1-2 words/phrases) description of what you like about them, to get a feel for what kinds of characters you enjoy writing. Since characters are a struggle for me, I thought this might be fun to try.

Also, it's late but I'm not remotely sleepy, so it kills the time? LOL.

Read more... )

Fascinatingly, while some trends were predictable (I fall head over heels for all but the most monstrous chessmasters so fast), others were news to me (I didn't realize I liked kind characters as much as I do).

Feel free to do the exercise yourself, either in comments or in your own space, whichever makes you happier!

Last day

Feb. 10th, 2016 10:04 pm
[personal profile] telophase
Thursday is the last day for you to talk to a radioactive cat, for she's going to be sprung from the joint tomorrow evening.

With luck this treatment takes care of her thyroid problem, as it does for 95% or so of cats, and we don't have to go through a second round. But if we do, I am sorely tempted to make her an account on Chatroulette or Omegle. If she ends up getting a lot of dick pics, it'll be fine because she's a cat.

Sent from my Apple ][e

well, i should have known

Feb. 10th, 2016 03:11 pm
[personal profile] jhameia
didn't get the fellowship =/
[personal profile] sovay
Man. I am behind on everything except my actual job. Somehow that isn't the consolation I feel it should be. I have at least four movies I want to write about, three of them recent releases, and my brain feels like a blank screen. Too little sleep and too much pain. I had an orthodontist's appointment this afternoon; I am hoping it will help at least with the latter. Until then, have some links.

1. Thank you, Julian Barnes; I get interested in Shostakovich and you write a novel about him. "The book is, partly, an exercise in cold war nostalgia. But it's also, more interestingly, an inquiry into the nature of personal integrity . . . The process brings out all his characteristic qualities as a novelist—his essayistic lucidity, his preference for distillation and abstraction, his sympathetic interest in morally compromised figures, his faith in the transcendent value of art." All right, sold. I am reminded of John Hodge's Collaborators, which I still wish I could purchase on DVD.

2. JPL's retro-futuristic space tourism posters are pretty great. "The Grand Tour" looks like the Signet covers of the Lucky Starr novels I grew up with. I think Enceladus is my favorite for design.

3. I didn't realize there was any footage of New Faces of 1952 that wasn't the 1954 film version. I can't tell if this is the stage show itself or some kind of television special, but the salient points are Paul Lynde in a monologue that owes Charles Addams at least a program credit and Alice Ghostley performing "The Boston Beguine" with its inimitable romantic lament "How could we hope to enjoy all the pleasures ahead / When the books we should have read / Were all suppressed in Boston?" I should point out that I found this video in the first place because [personal profile] kore linked a Captain America filk to the tune of "Lizzie Borden." That was not a crossover I expected in my lifetime.

4. I can't believe I missed a local production of Victory Over the Sun last spring. It was even free and open to the public. Last year really was dreadful. It is a minor silver lining that at least I found Larissa Shmailo's translation.

5. Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] rushthatspeaks: the 2016 All-Candidates Debate. I apologize for the earworm in advance.

Yesterday my two-year-old niece asked me for a hug for the first time. Previously she had assented to the offer of a hug about half the time; the other half I did not hug her, because of boundaries. She would be fine with me waving hello or goodbye. This time she not only wanted me to hug her, she wanted me to hug her two stuffed animal bunnies, Purple Hop and Yellow Hop, and would not consider the farewell properly finished until I had done so. It was like the moment when a cat suddenly comes to you of its own free will. I felt very honored.

Microsoft Office for Mac OS X

Feb. 10th, 2016 04:41 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
ETA: Thank you all! Joe has agreed to authorize the purchase of Mac OS X version of Office (because it's a work expense for me) and I should be getting the keycode thingy on Saturday. The revisions I need to turn in are due at the end of the month so that should be all right if I am diligent.

What are my options here? I'm looking at Microsoft's website and so far as I can tell, the only Mac OS X (I have 10.10) option is a yearly subscription, which is a dealbreaker DO NOT WANT for me. I do not do subscriptions for mission-critical software, and unfortunately, since writing is the closest thing I have to a job, that means my word processor.

Currently on my Windows 7 PC I am using an older copy of Microsoft Word 2010, which I despise but at least does what I tell it to. I am looking at acquiring Office for my Macbook Air because said Windows PC just blue screen of death'd again while I was in the middle of revisions for an editor. :(

I don't trust LibreOffice not to munge things that require Track Changes, which editors frequently want me to use. I've also had it lose the underlines in a .doc generated by Scrivener, which HELL NO WTF.

Does anyone have a recommended source of older editions of Office for Mac OS X that are available as stand-alones and not as subscription services??? Any leads appreciated.
[personal profile] lannamichaels


A light and breezy 5 things fic where the Leverage crew takes on the breast cancer awareness industry, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of "we found cancer".

No, the fact that I have a perfect title does not mean I should do it.

(Seriously. On the way home from work today, one of the songs from the summer of cancer came on the radio, and then I had to do my car turning off ritual about six times before I could get beyond the second goddamn step and turn the car off.) (The ritual: back windows are up, front windows are up, the headlights are off, the car is in park, parking break is engaged, turn off the ignition, all sung to the tune of Hashem Is Here. I am a Bad Jew.)

(It would obviously be Parker with the cancer.)

[personal profile] yhlee
- recent reading
Jane McGonigal. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. I like the way Amazon looks at my recent purchases and suggests things--this does throw up a lot of spammy things like erotica (because I downloaded a bunch of freebies, a lot of which featured hilariously awful writing but for erotica purposes I guess I don't care? LOL), but on occasion it tosses me a gem. And this, based on my game design book purchases, is one of the gems.

McGonigal is a game designer and researcher with a Ph.D. in performance studies; it's not entirely clear to me what performance studies are, but that's all right. Her contention is that gameplay is a harnessable positive force and that (video) gamers spend more time in virtual realities because "reality is broken" and virtual realities provide more fulfilling experiences to gamers in some interesting ways. For example, she contends that people like failure when it's fun (this was counterintuitive to me, then I realized it was true--one of the funnest, albeit non-gaming, experiences I ever had was when I made a disastrous mash-up of the Angel theme song "Sanctuary," the main theme to Planescape: Torment, and "Deionarra's Theme," also from the PS:T soundtrack by Mark Morgan; the results were hilariously awful but taught me how to write a second draft that was much better), that people will voluntarily do work under certain conditions (positive feedback, clear goals, sense of agency, etc.). She talks about the characteristics of successful games such as Rock Band and World of Warcraft, then moves into the more experimental area of games that are designed for real-world impact, from Chore Wars (and here I will admit that this book inspired me to start an account on Habitica for productivity hacking) to a simulation thought-experiment, The World Without Oil, meant to engage people on a real-world problem and look for possible solutions.

This book is slightly dated (©2011) and I am skeptical of some of the game design experiments in their ambition, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I imagine a lot of experimentation will go on as designers and players figure out what's workable. Because McGonigal's goals are ambitious--to harness gameplay as a way to find solutions to real crises in the world--and even if only a few of the experiments are successful, there are a lot of gamers out there; as she points out, that's a lot of potential agency if people can figure out how to tap into it.

Mostly this makes me want to run out and design games, even though I have other obligations. :p In particular, I have a standing interest in games that distribute agency to the players; I think this dates back partly to my experiences with collaborative teaching/learning in graduate school. [1] It's incredibly difficult for me to depart from the "top-down" model of teaching/GMing where one person holds the power, although of course things have changed a lot since I first encountered Dungeons & Dragons and there are in fact game designs that make a point of distributing agency in less "traditional" ways, although I regret that I don't have much experience with them for the simple reason that the only in-person RP I get out for these days is Pathfinder Society. Which is fun! But it's definitely more in the traditional vein of tabletop RPGs. =) Anyway, I would love to design a game where it's released into the wild, with a few basic rules, and participants own what happens, with occasional injections of content maybe; I don't know, this is all very preliminary and I still owe Choice of Games an actual game, to say nothing of writing obligations, plus technology prerequisites...but I'll keep my eyes out.

[1] For those new around here, I got my master's in secondary math education at Stanford University. They are big on collaborative learning and accommodating heterogeneous classrooms. I can expand on this for the curious.
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Burr’s very first line in real time (as opposed to narrating the story after the fact) constitutes one of the best and also most retrospectively hilarious examples I’ve ever seen of a person’s entire character summed up in one line:

HAMILTON:
Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?

BURR:
That depends, who's asking?

The man won’t even commit to his own name without testing first to see how it will be received: the ultimate weathervane.

That scene and the introduction of the revolutionaries which follows is a great example of introducing people in a brief lyric that sums up the essentials of their character, which is often a good thing to do in a story with a large cast. You can give them more complexity later. Right now, the audience just needs to remember who they are and get a general sense of what they’re about.

Other than Hamilton himself, who got a lengthy introductory song, every else’s intros in the first number went by very quickly and without identifying them by name; they only become meaningful in retrospect, when you find out that the man who said, “I trusted him” was George Washington.

The doubling of Act I/Act II characters, which I didn’t even notice on my first listen until Jefferson started rapping and I suddenly realized that it was the same guy as Lafayette, makes their one-line intro work for both characters. Mulligan/Madison and Lafayette/Jefferson’s “We fought with him” is a play on double meanings: they fought beside Hamilton in Act I and against him in Act II. That must be so heartbreaking onstage to actually see the band of brothers become enemies. Not to mention Laurens/Philip’s “I died for him.” (If I was LMM, I would have made more of Laurens’ death. Maybe he does more with it onstage?)

The revolutionaries announce themselves 80s rap style, which was an era with a lot of songs that summed up as “I’m So-And-So, and I’m super awesome!” (Also lots of political songs, but Miranda seems to be specifically parodying the “Yo, I’m badass and get all the chicks” subgenre.) What’s funnier in retrospect is that Laurens and Lafayette evolve their own styles after that, but Mulligan stays in that style all the way through. When he makes his surprise re-entrance later, it’s with this:

Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction!
You knock me down, I get the fuck back up again!

His lyrics are way simpler and more straightforward than those of other characters at that point in the play. There’s no alliteration, minimal internal rhyming, and the rhyming isn’t particularly clever: Mulligan/introduction/again is an unimpressive rhyme compared to, say, destitute/restitution or any of the endlessly inventive and funny “Burr, sir” rhymes (of which my personal favorite is “You punched the bursar?”) The vocabulary is very simple. The only exception is “covenant,” but most characters in the play use a lot of very sophisticated vocabulary, not just one medium-difficult word. Compare to a completely typical Hamilton line a few songs back, in this case from Washington: We rendezvous with Rochambeau/Consolidate their gifts. Rhythmically, Mulligan’s delivery lacks the jaw-dropping speed of Lafayette (which indicates both Lafayette’s quicksilver intelligence and his fighting style that leaves the enemy reeling.)

In short, Mulligan’s musical and lyrical style is basic, but in the literal rather than insulting sense— so basic that it wraps around and becomes totally awesome. In case it’s not clear, I love him. He’s one of my favorite characters in the entire play. Also a great example of making a huge impression in a smallish role. (Though it does match oddly with his actual role in the Revolution, which is being the undercover man. Mulligan’s entire character is about “what you see is what you get,” which is the opposite of what you want in a spy. Since we never actually see or get any musical/lyrical indication that Mulligan can be anything but HERCULES MULLIGAN, it gives the impression that the Redcoats were really not paying attention.)

Mulligan’s style strikes me as both in-character and a musical joke about his type of rap and the era it came from. (Not all ‘80s rap was like that, of course, but the joke is about the part that was.) So many “I’m cool! You’re a fool!” songs. SO MANY. Blasting from boom-boxes. Blaring from car radios with the windows rolled down. Teenagers performing absolutely terrible songs they wrote themselves, complete with hand gestures that are now only used in parodies. If you were there, you remember. And also, you probably had horrific hair.

Back to the character intros! All the revolutionaries are in “Yo, I’m So-and-So and here’s why I’m cool” mode, but they also say specific things which imply a lot about themselves in a very few words:

Laurens:
Those redcoats don’t want it with me!
‘Cuz I will pop-chick-a-pop those cops till I’m free.

Laurens, the abolitionist, talks about freedom. He also mentions fighting cops, which suggests political radicalism. (Uh. I assume that means “fighting.”) It’s also a very dangerous thing to do, especially for a black man. So it foreshadows his death, most likely by gunfire. (So does “Fools who shoot their mouths off wind up dead.”)

Lafayette:
Ah oui, oui, mon ami, je m'appelle Lafayette.

Key facts about Lafayette: 1) He’s French. (There may be a nod to Les Miserables’ Les Amis in the “mon ami”):

Lafayette:
The Lancelot of the revolutionary set.

2) He’s effortlessly and genuinely the coolest person in the room, even when he hasn’t quite got the hang of English, and also a great warrior: Lancelot, the larger-than-life hero:

And then we have Hercules Mulligan:

Braaaah! Braaaah! I am Hercules Mulligan!
Up in it, lovin’ it!

Yep. That’s HERCULES MULLIGAN! Say no more.

And then a reiteration of Burr and Hamilton’s philosophies:

Hamilton:
If you stand for nothing, Burr,
what’ll you fall for?

One of the things that makes this musical endlessly re-listenable is how packed almost every line is.

First, the line is a play on a proverb, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” When I looked it up, I found that it’s of uncertain lineage… but has been attributed to the historic Hamilton. (If there is one way that Alexander Hamilton is like Yogi Berra, it’s that if some phrase of an unknown origin sounds like something he might have said, it’s liable to be attributed to him.)

Burr may stand for nothing, but Hamilton falls in the duel. But Burr falls too: standing for nothing is the basis for his clash with Hamilton, which destroys Burr too.

There’s also two interesting plays on phrases. “Stand for nothing” is reminiscent of “stop at nothing:” ruthless, especially in pursuit of a goal. That certainly applies to both men, and is exactly what leads to their mutual destruction.

“Fall for” can mean “be fooled,” as in the proverb. The direct cause of the duel was Burr’s belief that Hamilton was saying unspecified bad things about him. It’s possible that someone either lied to Burr about that, or it was true but someone deliberately informed him in the hope of engineering some sort of fight that would damage or destroy one or both men, either out of personal enmity or hope of political gain. I don’t recall this being implied in the play, but historically, I think it was a possibility. Those guys both had plenty of rivals and personal enemies apart from each other, so it’s possible.

If someone did lie to or manipulate him, Burr fell for it. The historic Hamilton certainly seemed baffled about what the hell Burr thought Hamilton was saying about him, and he normally didn’t hold back on his opinions. If he was saying insulting stuff, it would have been more in-character for him to admit it and pile on. I could imagine him saying something along the lines of, “I said a dead horse would make a better vice-President, because it’s true. That was in comparison to our current VP, who is a live jackass.” Instead, he basically said, “I don’t know what the fuck you think I’m saying about you, so I can’t repeat the details of your own fevered imagination. You’ve really lost it this time, Burr. Pistols at dawn.”

More commonly, “fall for” means “to love.” So who or what does Burr truly love? His mistress, Theodosia? His daughter, not yet conceived, who will motivate him to go ahead and take that final shot? Power, which drives the rivalry that takes both men down?

All that, in just ten words.

Civic Duty Done for the Season

Feb. 10th, 2016 12:08 pm
[personal profile] malkingrey
So, yeah. I voted in the New Hampshire primary yesterday. I cast my ballot for Hillary, because I think that in the long run she has a better chance of beating the eventual Republican candidate than does Bernie Sanders, and at this point I believe that progressive ideological purity is less important than keeping the Republicans out of the White House for another four years.

(Not that I dislike Bernie -- I think he'd make a perfectly serviceable president if he ever got elected, and if Hillary gets elected I think he'll make a splendid Veep or Secretary of Something-or-Other.)

Kasich's second-place showing on the Republican side is . . . interesting. Either he's playing a long game and working to be the last person-not-Trump standing at convention time, or he's playing an even longer game and working to be the only available sane Republican candidate in 2020. I'm kind of hoping for the latter, because he's just sane and moderate enough to drain off the votes of the surviving moderate Republicans who might be sufficiently appalled by the prospect of Trump or Cruz to vote for a centrist Democrat like Hillary.

your name is the splinter inside me

Feb. 10th, 2016 10:45 am
[personal profile] musesfool
So last night, I had half an hour to kill before I had to meet L. for the movie, so I went into what I now know is the World's Slowest Panera to get a hot chocolate. It took TWENTY MINUTES. I thought I was going to get a hot beverage and be able to sit and read for a little bit, but no, I spent most of that time on line. There were only two people in front of me, but the dude who was ordering when I walked in must have had the most confusing order in creation because it took forever to get him sorted, and even after the order had been put in, the people in the kitchen area who had to put it together came out and had questions about it. I don't even know. It's Panera! How complicated could it be?

The hot chocolate was really good, though. And so was TFA. And it was fun to see it with someone who hadn't seen it, hadn't been spoiled, and has no real attachment to Star Wars (L. is more of a Trek fan) beyond having seen and enjoyed the OT once. But the first thing she said to me when we settled in at the diner to talk about it, was spoilers )

Given Obi-Wan's appearances in the Star Wars comics, I really feel an Obi-Wan movie with Ewan McGregor gallivanting around Tatooine fighting bounty hunters and gangsters would be pretty awesome. I'm just saying. (I mean, I still want an Ahsoka movie, but I know that's never gonna happen.)

So I didn't get to see any Tuesday night TV at all. I guess it's good we've got a three-day weekend coming up, so I can catch up!

***

What I'm reading Wednesday:

What I've finished
Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, which I really enjoyed. I found the split in the goodreads reviews interesting - I don't read a lot of memoirs, so I don't know if I need to like the person telling the story, or just find them entertaining, but I found Hamilton very entertaining, and not just because the writing was so strong (though there was some occasional tense weirdness where suddenly things would be in present tense). Her stories were interesting! I mean, no, I don't understand why she hates her mother so much and yet her father - seemingly equally culpable - gets no mention at all, and I don't really get her marriage, but I loved the descriptions of that annual family holiday in Puglia so much that I don't really care? So yeah, I really enjoyed it.

What I'm reading now
How to Be Both by Ali Smith, which [personal profile] falena mentioned last week, and the library had it, so. It's...interesting. Again, really strong writing, but a little too aware of itself as a literary novel, maybe? I found it difficult going to start, but then got used to it (the use of colons in place of a lot of other punctuation is weird), though it's still slow going, but not necessarily in a bad way? We'll see if I finish it in time to get it back to the library.

What I'm reading next
This morning, I got an email from NYPL saying that The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is available, so probably that. I've heard good things, and hopefully I will like it more than I liked that trilogy he wrote (hopefully it won't have the same irritating writing tics). I guess we'll see!

***

Wednesday Reading

Feb. 10th, 2016 08:31 am
[personal profile] oracne
This week I finally got to read Young Avengers Volume 2: Alternative Cultures, which had some fun dialogue from young Loki as well as the arrival of Prodigy, who's lost his mutant powers but still has all the knowledge he gained from them. There's some nifty universe-hopping thanks to America Chavez, and Teddy is worried that unconscious use of Billy's powers might have made them fall in love.

I'm not yet done with Taking the Lead by Cecilia Tan, more my fault than the book's. I've been reading in tiny fragments of time this week, which means it's mostly been fanfiction.

In fanfiction, I read the absolutely delightful series The Hell's Kitchen Survivors' Group and Drinking Club by onethingconstant, in which the Winter Soldier meets Jessica Jones and it just gets better from there. Features much drinking in bars, and also Hawkeye and Daredevil.

Stem by IamShadow21 has a neat sf twist on Bucky Recovery which I had not seen before; apparently there was one previous story with this idea as well. It's mostly a classic hurt-comfort story, though.

Hinges

Feb. 10th, 2016 08:54 am
[personal profile] batwrangler
For reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, the screws in the bottom hinge of our bathroom door occasionally work themselves loose. We usually just add wood putty and toothpicks to the holes and screw them back in, but this time we also decided to add a middle hinge to the door.

N picked up a set that matches the existing ones as much as a gap of 40 years allows. I measured the distance between the top and bottom hinges and discovered that it was not quite 61 inches, so I marked 30 inches down from the top and 30 inches up from the bottom and eyeballed a center line between those marks. Then I marked the center of the new hinge, lined things up ... et voila! The door swings freely and the third hinge will, I hope, take some of the stress off the others.

walking too far ahead

Feb. 9th, 2016 09:25 pm
[personal profile] thistleingrey
Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me (2009): so much love for this book. I'm not sure what to say. Miranda and her mother live in a NYC apartment: one could say that the biggest supporting character is 1978 New York City as it impinges upon Miranda's sixth-grade existence. Her mother, who hates her job as a paralegal (and would have trained as a lawyer if Miranda hadn't been born during law school), practices every night to appear on $20,000 Pyramid, a show that was called $25,000 by the time I watched it during summer vacations. Miranda's best friend won't talk with her after he's punched by a random kid. Random kid, Marcus, turns out to love math and physics and to chat with Miranda about a crucial moment in A Wrinkle in Time. (That moment bothered me, too, and is part of why I always loved A Swiftly Tilting Planet best. Illogical history is different.)

As a friend says in her Goodreads review, adults can anticipate the ending more swiftly than the adolescents who're considered the primary audience; the book has won a Newbery Medal. It may reduce some of the primary effect of narrative revelations, but because the story is so well told, there are other effects for non-adolescent readers to consider which pack their own punches. Things I enjoyed especially: which character serves as the cavalry when the cavalry is called in; how Miranda's perspectives about her classmates change during the narrative, sometimes having nothing directly to do with the denouement but filling out the space she inhabits; that no one is particularly evil or particularly beyond reproach, yet everyone does or embodies at least one conventionally negative thing, casually, because it's how life is.

Brief medical update

Feb. 9th, 2016 04:50 pm
[personal profile] rachelmanija
The test I wrote about, which I was told to have immediately on a "you might need emergency surgery!!!!" basis, of course came back negative. (Well, it found some stuff - at my age, if you look closely enough at someone's body you'll generally eventually find something - but probably nothing that could be causing any symptoms.)

That same doctor also told me I needed to IMMEDIATELY schedule two very expensive, time-consuming tests for a type of cancer I had already been checked for two months previously in a different manner, because she found something that she thinks the two-months-ago test missed.

Me: "Do you seriously think this is cancer? Because there's that completely benign condition which I already told you about, which I've had my entire life and which causes the exact thing you found…"

Doctor Five Alarm Fire (reluctant): "No, I don't think it's cancer, it's probably that benign thing. But you need to get it checked immediately, because it MIGHT be cancer!"

She also strongly implied that I was in immediate risk of dropping dead of a heart attack. "Go to the drug store, buy baby aspirin, and start taking it TONIGHT!"

Considering that the disease causing actual symptoms, whatever the fuck it is, almost certainly does not involve either my heart or the possibly cancerous parts, I'm thinking she was maybe a little alarmist. (At that point, my heart had already been checked repeatedly, by multiple methods, and appears to be fine.) I think THREE completely unrelated and extremely serious diseases are just a bit unlikely, considering that I have now been scanned and tested to hell and back and no one's ever found much of anything.

The good news is that I found a GP I actually like, who is additionally unlikely to give up and refer me out for both professional and personal reasons. (She's a friend of a friend.) She has basically the same theory on the probable nature and cause of my illness that I do, which of course endeared her to me, but since she's a doctor and I'm not, she came up with a quite detailed plan for 1) investigation with that in mind, 2) treatment of symptoms in the meanwhile, 3) consults, 4) back-up plans in case the first investigations don't find anything. Very methodical. I'm encouraged.

(She also thought the Three-Alarm-Fire doctor was being a bit alarmist, on all fronts.)

Incidentally, this is something like the fourth time in the last seven months that a doctor has outright said or strongly implied that I might be dying or in imminent danger of dropping dead. This is naturally doing wonders for my general stress level.

Comments closed to prevent a deluge of "Get the cancer tests done IMMEDIATELY!" I want a second opinion on that. Those particular tests often lead to painful, unnecessary, invasive procedures that find that oops, it was the previously-known, benign condition after all.)

how i wish i was in sherbrooke now

Feb. 9th, 2016 07:34 pm
[personal profile] lannamichaels


Ah, the magic of the internet, where you can see a really great job posting, check out the benefits listing on their website which is very sparse on details, poke around for more information, and eventually use google to find the 2015 benefits brochure, and find a serious dealbreaker in their medical benefits. (with, naturally, the caveat that this was the 2015 brochure, although I really doubt they would radically change their healthcare offerings in 2016, and additional googling gave me no indication that they did.)

It's so nice to have all that information available before if I decide if I want to fight with their job application software to apply for this job.

Information not found: how much this job pays. Which is pretty important, considering I'm not wowed by their benefits. If they'd double my salary, I might be willing to take some risks. But I suspect they wouldn't be doubling my salary. :P

(Although possibly even a doubled salary might not be enough to convince me to tie myself to a healthcare network tiny enough to dance on a head of a pin along with the unlimited angels.)



...belatedly it occurs to me that my philosophy of job hunting is Not Normal. But I would rather spend the time checking to see if I would even *want* to accept an offer, rather than the much longer time it would take to do a targeted resume, cover letter, and deal with job application sites.

Of course, if job postings would just include the goddamn salary, so much more could be avoided as "that's less than I'm making right now for worse benefits", instead of me trying to guess the salary range based on their required qualifications. Because I'm a mindreader. Naturally.

recent tea

Feb. 9th, 2016 06:08 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
Thanks to [personal profile] isis for the lovely card and the tea sampler! =D I have already tried the Yogi Chai Rooibos and Turkish Licorice Mint, and like them both, especially the latter. But really, tea! Where is the bad?

Republic of Tea's Caramel Apple is nice with a bit of honey and a splash of Lactaid. (What. We tend not to buy regular milk because I can't process it, and the dragon drinks chocolate milk by preference, which I avoid like the plague.)

Tea~ =)

I have an order from Penzey's Spices incoming because I needed to restock things to brew cockamamie chai. =) It's kind of frightening how quickly I burn through green cardamom pods when I put my mind to it. (I love green cardamom. Is there a green cardamom perfume anywhere? *wistful sigh*)

What have y'all been enjoying lately?
[personal profile] yhlee
Hexarchate coloring page: Moroish Nija (for [personal profile] sovay)


Download link for full-res version for printing and coloring!

and behind the cut, Shuos Jedao coloring page )

By the way, if anyone actually does color any of these coloring pages, I'd be delighted to see scans/pics. =D

watercolor dragon )

Fallen London

Feb. 9th, 2016 02:50 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
The Feast of the Exceptional Rose!

I find myself in desperate need of:
- a Singed Playing Card
- a Buttered Chess Piece
- a Watchful Doll

for thematic reasons (my character is Jedao). I'm happy to reciprocally send stuff. Anyone? =D

Also generally open to reciprocal-gifting offers, including for Fate; I restarted a few months ago so this is a new character and doesn't have all the loot the old one did. :p

ETA: I'm good now! Thank you all. =D

(no subject)

Feb. 9th, 2016 02:11 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
My article Writing and Music Composition is up at SFWA's Blog. Feel free to comment here or there. :p

Miscellaneous book recommendations

Feb. 9th, 2016 02:17 pm
[personal profile] coffeeandink
So far I have obviously been terrible at posting more this year, but I do have some posts in progress and may even finish one someday. In the meantime, a bunch of older books I like have come out as ebooks, so I thought I'd recommend them:


  • Sarah Smith, Perdita Halley and Alexander von Reisden mysteries
    Series of historical mysteries, set in the turn of the (twentieth) century in Boston and Paris, featuring a blind pianist and a scientist with a troubled past. Elegant prose, sophisticated characterization, and very good on the lingering effects of childhood trauma -- when I do read mysteries, I tend to read for character, prose, and mood more than puzzle, and these are no exception. The Vanished Child is about a man who bears a great resemblance to a child who vanished many years ago, and how and why he impersonates the lost child. The Knowledge of Water shifts location to Paris and involves a writer very clearly based on Colette, plus a plot to steal the Mona Lisa; A Citizen of the Country focuses on early attempts at film-making in France.

    You might want to try these if you like Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January mysteries.

  • Kristine Smith, Jani Killian series
    Sf. As the series starts, Jani Killian has been on the run for over a decade. She was once considered one of humanity's brightest, a student at the alien idomeni institute in an attempt at alliance-building, which went drastically wrong in a clash between conservative and radical idomeni idealogues, for which Jani is partially blames. Smith's world-building is different from the generic default in interesting ways: neither her humanity nor her idomeni are unified fronts; Jani is from a Colony world whose antecedents seem to be Acadian and Hindu; one of the most important professions is "protocol officer," or paper-pusher, the authentication of information being one of the keys to interstellar commerce.

  • Cherry Wilder, The Rulers of Hylor series
    Unusually fine fantasy trilogy (published as YA in hardcover and adult in paperback) from the mid-eighties; makes a lot of standard fantasy tropes seem fresh by the excellence of the prose and the maturity of the characterization. Each book focuses on one of a group of first cousins, the children of three beautiful sisters called the "Swans of Lien," and the dynastic struggles in the continent of Hylor. Nicely variable in style as well: book one is third-person limited past, book two is first-person limited retrospective past, book three is omniscient present tense (slipping into past). Each book can be read independently of the others, although they work better together. There is an overall arc (regarding the sorceror who manipulates the lives of all three cousins) that only becomes clear in Book Three; earlier than that, you get the benefit of the varied points of views, in which a mysterious and ominous figure in one book is a dearly beloved friend in another, or a brilliant military victory becomes a tragic defeat.

    Wilder died some time ago; the books are being published by the Frenkel Literary Agency, so ... there's that. :(


And one new one for lagniappe:

Letters to Tiptree (ed. Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce) is a collection of letters by contemporary sf writers to James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), plus excerpts of Tiptree's correspondence with Ursula K. Le Guin and Joanna Russ; it's on sale for $.99/£.99 pretty much everywhere, including the publishers direct. I'm partway through, absorbed, interested, argumentative, and inclined to put it on my Hugo nomination ballot for Best Related Work.

(no subject)

Feb. 9th, 2016 12:06 pm
[personal profile] telophase
Program books are here. Guess it's a con!

[personal profile] musesfool
Back at work today. Sigh. but it's a short week now, and we have next Monday off, so I'll take it.

I did my taxes while I was home yesterday, and I'm getting a good refund. I might need to buy a new laptop this year, so possibly it will go towards that. We'll see. My current Macbook is going to be six next month, and it's starting to show its age.

*

X-Files: Home Again
spoilers )

Jane the Virgin: Chapter Thirty-Three
spoilers )

*

L. and I are supposed to go to the movies tonight - originally we were going to see Spotlight but it's no longer playing in the evening in our neighborhood and since it's supposed to snow tonight, neither of us is interested in traveling far from home. So we'll probably go see Star Wars; third time for me but first for her. I have to remember to buy tickets.

*

*throws beads*

Feb. 9th, 2016 08:29 am
[personal profile] oracne
Happy Mardi Gras!

3 Good Things

Feb. 9th, 2016 08:30 am
[personal profile] jjhunter
I am sick with a wretched sore throat, and will be without my personal laptop for the next few days while it's getting repaired. Here are some things making me happy at the moment (feel free to share some of your own in the comments):

1. Snow! As I have effectively no control over the weather, I feel free to take great joy in the snowstorms yesterday and Friday that have transformed Boston into a winter wonderland. The wet snow and great gusts of wind have been hard on the trees, but the overall accumulation hasn't been so bad, and it's been strikingly beautiful.

2. My poem Various Kinds of Wolves was published in Apex last month.

3. I made a variant on leek and potato soup yesterday that I'm very pleased with - in lieu of leeks, I caramelized extra onion, doubled the quantity of roasted garlic, added a tray of oven-roasted chopped carrots and turnip, and, after pureeing the lot, threw in a bunch of spinach at the end. Oh! and instead of adding milk or light cream, I added a lump of CSA sour cream at the end. It turned out very nicely.

(no subject)

Feb. 8th, 2016 11:30 pm
[personal profile] jhameia
- Made headway on the last bit of the chapter! Feeling great about it; it's coming together, and my thoughts are clearer about how it works.

- I ran into a former student today, and she actually wished me a happy new year--good for you, Ada, one ang pao for you! And walked until we hit the rec center.

Then in the Step Express class, I met another former student, who recognized me. The class she took with me was like, in 2013, and it was Theda's class, so it took me a while to remember, but as soon as she said her first name, her surname clicked for me, and she was really surprised I remembered.

- Step was good; I always forget how hard it is on the feet, even with this particular instructor.

- I'd eaten half my homemade calzone, and went back to my office to work some more and eat the rest of the calzone. It was a good idea. I think the cheese sauce isn't the greatest for my stomach, though. I rather wish I bought cereal for breakfast now.

fiber tuesday

Feb. 8th, 2016 10:49 pm
[personal profile] thistleingrey
* After some use of the Brother CS6000i sewing machine I bought last summer, I've begun pondering selling it cheaply or giving it away locally, if someone wants it. I have never needed sixty stitch types, most of them decorative, and they're not why I bought the machine---but it seems that having a little computer govern those stitches comes at the cost of good-quality, basic, unfussy stitching with reasonable tension, which I do want. Recently I've read this post on beginner-level machines. Thinking, thinking.

For now I'll buy a packet of bobbins and replace the needle on the Brother machine, since they're relatively inexpensive. Part of the tension issue is the machine's extreme pickiness about whether the bobbin and top threads match. Two colors of the same type of Gütermann thread (bought at the same time in a set) do not suit; I've spent nearly as much time troubleshooting tension and bobbin-winding as actually sewing during the last two smallish projects. The old Pfaff doesn't mind if bobbin thread and top thread were made two decades apart and are of different materials (cotton, polyester), so I don't think it's all user error.

* Reason's frog still needs three short toes. My mother's poncho has reached ~40%. Progress on MIL's laceweight scarf has slowed because the December replacement glasses cause strain---not as bad as going without glasses, but one eye's astigmatism cares when the axis correction isn't accurate.

* It is oddly difficult to find a sew-your-own bra pattern. Read more... )

[art] tonight's sketches

Feb. 8th, 2016 10:45 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
Tonight was Pathfinder card game night at Little Wars. The dragon and I both sketched (mostly life drawing for me, dragons for her).

Comments welcome.

Inked everything in Platinum Carbon Black because this stuff clogs like the devil if you let it dry up in the pen, so I basically have to use it every day once I've got it inked. (I don't use it in my vintage pens for this reason.)

Also, as a bonus, because I suck at color [1], have a hexarchate coloring page of Hexarch Nirai Kujen!



Here's the high-res version for printing.

[1] My clever scheme is that by making this a coloring page, adding color will be someone else's problem! Yeah, I don't know either. *g*

actual life drawings beneath cut )

I'll take up to three requests for coloring pages (basically, character lineart; I can't do really fancy backgrounds yet).

1. hexarchate: Moroish Nija (for [personal profile] sovay)
2. hexarchate: Shuos Jedao (for [personal profile] davidgillon)
3.

No guarantees! But you might get something fun. =)

+ / -

Feb. 8th, 2016 09:21 pm
[personal profile] kass
+ I have the Hamilton soundtrack on my phone!

- for some reason it's only the first 17 tracks

+ this means I am getting to know those first 17 tracks really well

+ especially since I spent almost an hour in the car today

- which is usually a minus, but having good music really helps (and also, I am learning more about the American revolution, so go me?)

+ and yeah, okay, I totally see why y'all have been waxing rhapsodic about this musical

+ and I have a glass of red wine in hand (a cheap but decent Spanish garnatxa negra)

+ and I am being introduced to the music of Protomartyr right now, and I like their sound

How are y'all?

(no subject)

Feb. 8th, 2016 06:45 pm
[personal profile] telophase
Why do I keep running into references to the Defenstration of Prague today? I just checked on Wikipedia, and it's not the anniversary of either of them...

travels

Feb. 8th, 2016 03:10 pm
[personal profile] the_shoshanna
I'm sitting in the Asheville NC airport, having concluded the first leg of my travels to friends and waiting to embark on the second.

My flights down were unexpectedly dramatic, and United Airlines screwed me up again, much as they did a year ago (http://the-shoshanna.dreamwidth.org/453784.html). details )

Moral: any time something interferes with one leg of a trip, reconfirm subsequent legs multiple times. And if United had anything to do with it, assume they screwed it up.
[personal profile] sovay
My flash story "Skerry-Bride" is now online at Devilfish Review. It was written in November 2013, right after I had first heard Moss of Moonlight's Winterwheel (2013) and right before I saw Thor: The Dark World (2013); I had jötnar on the brain. The story marks my second successful engagement with Norse myth in fiction, after "A Wolf in Iceland Is the Child of a Lie." Considering the Fimbulvetr 2.0 currently trying to take place in Boston, I find its timing rather appropriate.

In other writing news, Aqueduct Press' page for Ghost Signs now includes reviews, and Rich Horton thinks "The Boatman's Cure" is worth nominating for a Hugo.

I should probably go outside and shovel something. The Cape has more snow, but this is not small change.
[personal profile] musesfool
Monday sundries:

= While technically the building I work in is now open, it has no heat, so we're working remotely today. Which has its upsides: can sleep later because there's no commute, can work in pajamas, can have tv on or check tumblr during the work day etc. But ugh, I spent the first 90 minutes of my "work day" attempting to get Citrix to work and when I finally did (thanks to the IT guys who responded quickly to my emails), I still didn't have access to the thing I needed access to, so I had to do it all via Office365 anyway, and even that only worked halfway. Ugh. Technology. But I responded to all my email and scheduled a whole bunch of meetings, so now it's just having my email open and waiting to be pinged, since I can't do any of the other things I do from home.

= I posted a story yesterday:

it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive (at AO3)
Captain America; Steve/Bucky; adult; 2,005 words
Steve wants to make sure Bucky knows how he feels about him, especially after all those years they kept silent, and then all those years they'd lost.

The other day, "Badlands" came on and it's one of my favorite songs, and I was like, "There must be a Steve/Bucky story titled 'It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive'" but Google did not turn one up, so I said to [tumblr.com profile] angelgazing, don't you think that should be the title of a Steve/Bucky story? and she said, "Yes, now write it." And here we are. *hands*

And I posted it just in time for:

= THE CIVIL WAR TRAILER. And then MCU fandom collectively had a meltdown. (It was kind of hilarious to see the abrupt switch from All Star Wars to All Civil War on my dash.)

GIVE IT TO ME. I NEED IT IN MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW.

brief but spoilery squee/speculation )

IS IT MAY YET?

HOW ABOUT NOW?

NOW?

= That was basically the only worthwhile Super Bowl commercial! What the hell was that last night? I understand big names like Anthony Hopkins and Liam Neeson wanting some of that sweet Super Bowl ad cash, but aside from the wiener dogs and Helen Mirren, everything was terrible! (I didn't see the sheep who sang Queen - I was in the kitchen making lunch for the week at the time.)

Wasn't it bad enough they subjected me to Coldplay at halftime? Thank god for Bruno Mars and Queen Beyonce, because otherwise that was pretty awful. Gaga did good with the anthem, though.

= In other news, I possibly maybe impulse ordered this Darth Vader inspired jacket yesterday. It comes in my size! It's on sale! Shipping was cheap! I blame [tumblr.com profile] bedlamsbard for reblogging it. I am just saying. I can't be held responsible.

= I didn't really eat breakfast since I was wrestling with technology so if it hasn't started snowing yet, maybe I'll go get a couple slices for lunch. eta: it's already snowing, so I guess it's frozen mozzarella sticks instead!

***

(no subject)

Feb. 8th, 2016 11:44 am
[personal profile] telophase
So. Big, floppy hats for hiding from the sun, which will shade my face and the back of my neck. Note that I live in a hot climate, will be vacationing in a hot climate in the near future, and sweat a lot in the sun, so hats that show sweat stains are out.

Possibles:

San Diego Hat Company hat: http://www.zappos.com/product/8690752/color/19

Vince Camuto hat: http://www.zappos.com/product/8657404/color/3

I like this Hat Attack hat, but do not like the $90 price: http://www.zappos.com/product/8687184/color/3876

Lane Bryant hat: http://www.lanebryant.com/plus-size-accessories/scarves-hats/floppy-sun-hat/15834c18625p230184/index.pro

This Coolibar hat claims it's packable, which is good: http://amzn.to/1W7jUEs

I like the idea of being able to tie a scarf around it, thought I'm not sure I like this hat: http://amzn.to/1olrFMk

But this one's kinda nice: http://amzn.to/1Qng99E

Any other suggestions?
[personal profile] rachelmanija
I wrote part of this in a comment to another entry, but thought it might of general interest to Hamilton and/or Sondheim fans, of whom I luckily have many on my f-list, so I pulled it out and expanded it. Er. A lot.

Hamilton makes fantastic use of repetition, especially of the repeated phrase whose meaning changes with context. The most striking uses of this are “I am not throwing away my shot” (sometimes just “my shot” or “shot”) and “Wait for it.”

The historic Hamilton occupies a specific spot in American common knowledge. In my experience, before the musical came out, if you asked the average American who Alexander Hamilton was, you’d get something like this: “He lived during the American Revolution. He was… Uh…. Secretary of the Treasury, I think? Something like that, anyway. He was shot and killed in a duel with another politician, Aaron Burr. [That is probably the only thing the average American knows or recalls about Aaron Burr.] Oh, yeah, and he's the dude on the ten-dollar bill.”

What both cracks me up and gladdens my history nerd heart about the sheer unlikeliness of the entire existence of this musical is that previous to it, Hamilton was not one of America’s iconic political figures, like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson (or, in terms of people who weren’t president, Harriet Tubman or Martin Luther King.) Nor was he obscure enough to be cool. He was in the exact "One of those dead white guys" zone where people interested in his period know a lot about him, because he really was important, but the average American knew exactly what was in my paragraph above, and no more. (If they’re a leftist, they may have the impression that he sowed the seeds of making America a plutocracy but probably didn’t intend that. Or that may just be me. If I recall correctly, my grandfather hated him for exactly that reason.)

But in popular consciousness, he was just above the level of someone like Paul Revere, where everyone can spit out “The midnight ride of!” upon mention of his name, and then, “Uh… He warned everyone that ‘The British are Coming!’” (Wikipedia has this note in his entry: "The British are coming" redirects here.) And that’s it. In general, no one who isn’t otherwise interested in that period (or economics/the Coast Guard/etc) has thought of Alexander Hamilton since high school. Whereas Americans who are otherwise not knowledgeable of history often have actual opinions on, say, Thomas Jefferson. (If you’re younger than me, you probably heard a lot about his slaves. If you’re my age, he had a sort of demigod status in high school history classes, which makes his takedown in the play especially hilarious.)

You notice that the duel figures prominently in common knowledge. People who know who Hamilton was at all always remember the duel. This is probably because 1) duels are cool, 2) Hamilton was the only important person in American history who was killed in one. (I guess unless you count Button Gwinnett. But I’m pretty sure nobody counts Button Gwinnett except autograph-collectors and people who enjoy unusual names. For the former, his signature is the rarest of any of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. For the latter, just FYI, a dude named Peru Italian Blackerby Ping served in the Kansas state senate in the mid-1800s.) Anyway, just in case you don’t know or forgot about the duel, Hamilton tells you about it right in the opening number. Miranda does not want that to be a surprise.

Burr shot and killed Hamilton, and every time you hear the word “shot,” that goes through your mind. And like any good tragedy, you know what’s coming but you want to scream, “No! Don’t do it!” So “wait,” in the sense of “stop,” also brings the duel to mind.

OMG, this got long )

Many Watchings

Feb. 8th, 2016 10:34 am
[personal profile] oracne
My eyes are getting too old for tv marathons!

C. wasn't feeling great on Saturday, so I visited and we watched many things and got Thai takeout.

I am now caught up on Agent Carter and DC's Legends of Tomorrow, and I've finally seen a couple of episodes of Supergirl. Also, she showed me a recentish ep of Supernatural in which they visit a giant LARP. We finished off with the extras from the Fury Road DVD, which j00j had lent to me: ZOMG the vehicle pr0n!

Legends of Tomorrow is 3 episodes in, and seems to be improving as it goes. I found it amusing, and definitely like Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) the best because he plays his part with great verve and sarcasm, and also he has a sexy little wrinkle between his eyes (apparently my Kryptonite, as Idris Elba has one too). He and Heat Wave are totally fun, especially when they team up against someone. Brandon Routh as Atom is also great; his huge puppy-dog eyes do not hurt at all in making me believe he is both brilliant and good-hearted. I would watch more of this.

Agent Carter is getting off to a much quicker start this season; I like that the conflicts are with the agency itself as well as with the villains, and that there has been an increase in the cast's female population. I hope Angie Martinelli decides to try her luck as an actress in Hollywood.... Definitely in for the long haul with this series.

Supergirl/Kara Danvers (oh how we need some fic crossovers with Captain Marvel) is adorable, but what struck in the two episodes I saw was the preponderance of complex female characters interacting. (This should not in itself be something to be grateful for, but as things generally stand in genre tv....)

Anyway, Cat Grant (Callista Flockhart) was just terrific in both the Thanksgiving episode and the one where Kara babysits Cat's son. Cat presents as ye olde Brass Balls Woman in Power with Heart of Steel but in fact she is repeatedly shown mentoring other women and offering them pointed comments on how to get ahead, harsh but helpful. Her motives were also consistently shown to be more complex than one would expect from a stereotype. I would watch more of this, too.

Also, when will Martian Manhunter (David Harewood) be green? I was very excited that they have Martian Manhunter, but he's less funny when he's just a human-looking guy with sticky-outy ears (has anybody seen that Al Pacino "Merchant of Venice" David Harewood was in? Should I see it? I did see him in "Selfie.").
[personal profile] sovay
I can see I will have to watch It's Always Fair Weather (1955) from the top, because I turned on TCM1 and first there was Gene Kelly drawing a crowd on a New York City street by tap-dancing in roller skates (even in New York City, people notice that) and then there was Dolores Gray in a nightclub performing "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks" while literally dynamiting her would-be suitors off the stage (sample lyrics: "Thanks for losing your mind / But I've got a guy who's Clifton Webb and Marlon Brando combined") and I just want to know what the rest of the musical looks like. Cursory internet research indicates it was a commercial flop whose cynical theme of post-war disillusion played weirdly with its exuberant dance numbers, but none of that sounds to me like a reason not to find out.

For better or worse, it turns out that I recognized Dolores Gray from seeing Kismet (1955) during the period of my childhood when I watched all the movie musicals available to me, including the ones I can probably never watch again.2 When I went looking for her other work, I found this performance of "I'm Still Here." The presentation format looks like the Tonys, but Yvonne de Carlo originated the role of Dorothy in Follies (1971) on Broadway, so it must be the Oliviers—Gray played the role in the first West End production in 1987. And she knocks the song out of the park. I know it's identified with Elaine Stritch, but Gray might be my definitive version.

[edit] My mother just sent me Donald O'Connor dancing in roller skates. This world is a beautiful place.

1. I am spending the night in Lexington so as to be able to shovel out my mother in the morning. The current forecast thinks it's going to snow until Tuesday.

2. Fortunately for people who want to watch just the barn-raising dance from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), it's on YouTube.

AFKcon returns!

Feb. 7th, 2016 08:29 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

February 20-21, 2016

AFKCON is a small convention for friends (over 18) who love games, comics, movies, books, and more. Offering everything from panels to cosplay, we want to bring the experience of sharing what you love to life.

This year we'll be meeting in Guelph at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Centre!

We're pioneering a new convention style called a CrowdCon. If you’d like to run an event, demonstration, game, or panel, just log in and check the Events page to sign up today!


I will be participating!
James Nicoll is a book reviewer, blogger, game editor, cat-rescuer, and prior local hobby store owner.

He returns to AFKCON to have the following discussions:
- Tanith Lee and Why people should read her.
- So You're a Reviewer and You Went a Year WIthout Reviewing Women: How to React?
- Things you should never do at a Con or Party: Event Survival Skills 101

January 2016

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