The fundraiser stuff was in two smallish boxes, one of which only contained a beef sausage thingy and so didn't weigh very much. I told the cab dispatcher where we'd be waiting, but he neglected to tell the cabbie. Fortunately, he guessed the front entrance, and we'd positioned ourselves where we could see cars on both loops approaching that (there's one for buses and one for parents dropping off/picking up, but when there aren't buses there, cars can use either).
We had friends over to play games last night. We played a cooperative game called Star Trek Five Year Mission that Scott's planning to run at UCon. We missed a lot of details the first time through. I didn't play the second game because they wanted to do the timed version. I didn't want to deal with that. Instead, I took a short walk and recaptured the Ingress portal down the street. I managed to get a silver (second level out of five) badge for making fields.
I had intended to go out this morning, but Scott's sister texted me with an invitation for Cordelia to go out to a concert this evening, and I spent quite a long time trying to coordinate that (including reaching Cordelia to make sure she even wanted to go). I can only assume that my niece intended to take a friend and had that friend cancel at the last minute. I didn't ask.
I've written 1200 words today, just not on any of my established WIP. Because I needed a new, half completed story. Really, I did.
It is a response to Lovecraft, but Kirkus describes it as "essentially a story about identity, found families, wrapped in a cozy mystery. With magic. And monsters. Except the monsters are not exactly who you expect them to be."
Anyway, it's a good show so far. It's about the fortunes of a grand hotel in London just before the Blitz begins, a bit Upstairs Downstairs/Downton Abbey kind of vibe, but in the 40s. And googling it now to find out the name of the actor (Steven Mackintosh) I discover that it's been cancelled after one season, because this always happens with new series I like the look of. Oh well.
And I suspect that it is Very Much Not Done to yell 'Speak up' or 'Use the Mike' when someone is giving an important formal lecture signifying professional advancement.
Maybe my hearing is getting even worse than I thought? Or maybe that lecture theatre has really crap acoustics.
(Speaker is a lovely person who does lovely work, and I bought the book that was also being launched and had it signed, but I was really rather frustrated by the actual lecture.)
But at least there were some really lovely visuals which were entirely relevant to the topic on hand.
Also put in a bit of a strop by the young person who checked my name off the list, and said 'join the queue', waving in the opposite direction to where it turned out the relevant queue was forming.
But I did see two people I knew (besides speaker) and did a little bit of catch-up with them, so I have socialed more than I recently have.
I'm going to Japan in November! I'll be there for two weeks, divided between Tokyo, Kyoto, and Fukuoka. The last is a city further south than I've been before, with some very pretty day trips.
I'm going to use AirBnb, which I also haven't used before, but it looks pretty great. I have two lovely apartments all to myself for cheaper than a hotel room would be, and one room in a house with a lady who cooks breakfast, has a friendly toy poodle named Piccolo, and says understatedly, "I am a former hotelier who worked in the five star hotel. I think I can assist you well during your stay."
Any of you done anything fun in Japan?
A goat-herding dog refused to leave his goat flock -- and they made it it through the fire, and even enlarged the flock by a couple of deer fawns.
This is the sequel to last year's charming Flying. It's not a bad book, but it highlights the perils of sequels rather clearly. Flying has a clear emotional arc and core: Mana is figuring out what the heck is going on with aliens and enhanced humans and her place in the world, but her relationship with her mother and her friends is rock solid. In Enhanced, the central mystery is far smaller in scale. The basic facts of the world are known and we're down to figuring out the details. Mana's mother is out of commission, and her relationship with her friends is shaky for most of it.
Possibly worse, her combination of cheerleader and superpowered (enhanced, as in the title) individual really doesn't get a chance to shine for a full three-quarters of the book. Mana is scared, uncertain, and on the defensive--which is fine, but it's less fun to read about than Mana discovering, exploring, and kicking butt.
There are some new aliens, some new government agencies, some new developments in the world. But in general this feels like a little more of the same but less so. A de-escalation in some senses, a holding pattern. I still believe that Jones has somewhere to take Mana and her pals Seppie and Lyle, and this book is a fast read to get to the next step, but...we're not at the next step yet, and I don't really feel closer.
Please consider using our link to buy Enhanced from Amazon. Or Flying.
Sean B. Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo. Evo devo is, generally speaking, bullshit, but Carroll is someone I heard at Nobel Conference, and he goes beyond Just So Stories; he is a good egg. And he talked in general in this volume, stuff that one could find anywhere and probably already knew if one had the slightest interest, but then also about insect wing patterns, and the insect wing pattern stuff was interesting, so basically: skim to get to the insect wings.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance. Kindle. I had had such smashing success with 19th century novels lately! (Oh my Middlemarch.) And this one is set in a Fourierist phalanx and I thought, brilliant, lovely, let's do that then, perhaps I love Hawthorne now too! Oh. Oh neighbors. No. No not so much. Poor Mr. Hawthorne. I read all the many many pages of Middlemarch, and North and South and Framley Parsonage and so on, and never once did I think, well, poor lamb, I suppose you can't help it, it's like being born before antibiotics. And yet with The Blithedale Romance I caught myself thinking that on nearly every page. Because it was the only way through, the other alternative was to shake him until his teeth rattled and send him to bed without supper, two punishments that would not occur to me without 19th century novelists, thank you my dear Louisa. So: he goes on at great length about how men have no tenderness really, and there is a bunch of maundering stuff about women's work and the purity of women and how bachelors have to obsess about whether the women around them have known marriage before (hint: nope, obsessing on this topic is completely optional), there is a Dreadful Secret, he abandons all interest in the Fourierist phalanx except as background noise...oh Hawthorne. Oh Hawthorne no.
Ursula K. LeGuin, Searoad. Reread. I first read this when I lived in Oregon. I keep learning things about characterization from it, how she creates a seaside town one person at a time, how the stories link and twine and inform each other. This time, thanks to a conversation I'm having with Marie Brennan, I thought about how differently it would read if the stories were in a different order, how a character is shown novelistically though the structure looks like short stories.
Carter Meland, Stories for a Lost Child. This is a literary science fiction novel in an Anishinaabe tradition; the way that Meland uses the rhythms and patterning of language are not at all the same as the way Gerald Vizenor does in Treaty Shirts, and having more than one is really nice, I want more, yay. Stories for a Lost Child goes forward and backward in time, contemporary teenagers trying to figure things out, a grandfather writing with stories previously barely dreamed of, a space program, past pure water, all sorts of elements that fold together.
Mary Szybist, Incarnadine. This is a poetry collection focused--not in a religious-inspirational way, in a literary way--on the Annunciation. The image, the idea of the Annunciation threads through these poems, beautifully. They are beautiful poems. I was beginning to worry that they were all going to be beautiful poems and none of them were going to be heart-touching for me--that I was going to nod along and say, yes, beautiful, well done, but never, oh, oh, would you look at THIS one--and then, and then there was Here There Are Blueberries, so: oh. Would you look at THIS one.
Carrie Vaughn, Bannerless. I had previously enjoyed some of Vaughn's short stories but not really been the target audience for the Kitty books, so I was really excited at what a complete departure this is. It's a police procedural of sorts, with flashbacks to the (sorta) cop's young adulthood. It's also a post-apocalyptic novel, with a catastrophe that has led people to seriously consider their resource usage. And it's also a relationship story that, because of flashback structure, allows the protagonist to grow past her teenage relationship, to change and be an adult. For a short novel, there's a lot going on, and it all fits together and wraps itself up by the end. Pleased.
I called the landlord yesterday, left a message about it. There's construction going on on the floor below me, but I asked one of the guys if they're working on the plumbing and he said no.
It's still doing it.
How worried should I be? What scenarios could be causing this?
• What are you reading?
Notes from a Feminist Killjoy, by Erin Wunker. It's a bits-and-pieces book, but all the bits are in conversation with other writers, and with reality; even its bittyness recalls how Tillie Olsen would carry a sentence in her mind, polishing it in scraps of time between interruptions, through a day of women's work, a day of no peace, no privacy, no silence, no solitude.
When I started this book, I wanted to write something unimpeachable. Something so clear and objective, it could be a little dictionary or translation phrase book for how to speak a feminist language and live a feminist life. I wanted what many other writers -- the many-gendered mothers of my heart -- had already written. I wanted A Room of One's Own, Sister Outsider, Willful Subjects, Islands of Decolonial Love. I wanted Feminism is for Everybody and The Dream of a Common Language. I wanted No Language is Neutral.
I wanted books that had already been written by people whose experiences of moving through the world are different -- often radically so -- from mine.
I got stuck.
I read some more.
I remembered that I tell my students that reading and writing are attempts at joining conversations, making new ones, and, sometimes, shifting the direction of discourse.
I sat down at my typewriter again.
• What did you recently finish reading?
George & Lizzie, by Nancy Pearl.
Lizzie agreed. "I remember reading a novel in which one of the characters, a college professor, was writing a book on the influence of Emily Dickinson on Shakespeare and how his colleagues always misheard it and thought it was the other way around. I wish I could remember the title, because talking about it now makes me want to read it again. It's so interesting to think about. Do you think we read Shakespeare differently because of Dickinson's poems?"
I remember reading that too! It was by David Lodge, I think Changing Places? I read it about the same age Lizzie did. Not at the same time: I'm maybe ten years older than Lizzie. But, like Lizzie, I grew up in Michigan and went to UM and struggled with depression most of my life and, as a young woman, tried to claim my sexuality in ways that were bad for me and for the people I interacted with. Lizzie feels real to me, is what I'm saying, and I'm okay with the fact that the people around her are kind of one-note because the problem this book is about is: if you can't stop being sad about your shitty childhood even though your life is no longer shitty, if you can't stop punishing yourself for bad choices that you made long ago, if you can't stop trying to change something that happened long ago and wasn't in your control even then. . . then how do you stop?
[Lizzie says] "They're your thoughts, right? How can you not think them?"
Marla struggled to answer. "I don't know, but people do it. I think I let go of things, or at least try to. You have to, really, otherwise you're weighted down with all those cumulative bad memories. James and I used to talk about that baby missing from our lives, whether it was a boy or a girl, whether we could find out who adopted it, whether we'd ever forgive our parents, why we didn't just say 'Screw you' to them back then and get married after I got pregnant. I mean, you know, it was so present. It was always there in our lives. But if we kept that up there'd be no place for anything else. And now we just acknowledge all that awful stuff happened, that maybe we made the wrong decision, that we were just kids. We were just kids. You have to forgive yourself eventually, right?"
Lizzie's husband George got famous by explaining that, while pain is inevitable, suffering is optional, but his explanation doesn't work for Lizzie. George doesn't seem to understand that, for some people, that's liberating, but for others, it says that your suffering was your choice and therefore your fault. I'd offer Lizzie Season of Mists, because "you don't have to stay anywhere forever" worked for me, but how a story works depends as much on the reader as on the story.
Which is not to say that we shouldn't do our best to write good stories. This one has a stupid editing oversight that dumped me right out:
[Marla:]"I love you Lizzie, and always will. And I will always, always, keep your secrets. But this, what this means to you and George, is an important secret. It's not the equivalent of a little white lie. It'd be like me not telling James about the abortion."
[Lizzie:]"But James knew about the abortion, he was with you when you had it."
"Don't be deliberately naive, it doesn't become you. You know what I mean: some other James I was involved with."
What abortion, I wondered? Was there an abortion as well as a baby given up for adoption? When?
No, it must have been changed from an abortion to an adoption at some point. Which was a good change: it's believable that Marla would find it harder to move on with her life after carrying the baby for nine months, while knowing that there was a person out there that she felt responsible for but had no ability to protect. But leaving evidence of the change in the story made me notice how flat all the other characters are, how they are the way they are in order to serve Lizzie's story.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, by H.P. Lovecraft.
Then I realized I can just pay for the labs, which is the only part I really want anyway, and that's a third the price and a one-day-a-week commitment.
She said she'll consider it.
It's not necessary for her to take a Regents in August (fully nine months earlier than any of her peers...), I'd just like her to.
Also, finally figured out what cake I'll bake tomorrow for her birthday. How does rosewater and ginger sound? If I ever find my rosewater, I mean. It's because I read this article, but anyway, it's a good idea. I've been rocking the rosewater lassi lately that I get at the supermarket.
The Microbes That Supercharge Termite Guts
For ornery shelter cats, 2nd chance is a job chasing mice
What Star Wars taught scientists about sperm
Inside The Weird Texas Tradition of Enormous Homecoming Corsages
Book's challenge: Can you do squats like Justice Ginsburg?
Why a New Zealand Library’s Books Kept Vanishing, Then Reappearing (Happy ending!)
How Domestication Ruined Dogs' Pack Instincts
Star Wars themes, but with the major and minor reversed. (This is like the Mirror version of the music, I guess? I can just picture evil Tom Paris on classic movie night in the Holodeck, rubbing his beard as he watches this version of the trilogy, the one in which the mighty emperor defeats the puny rebellion.)
Hero dog: 'Animal guardian' saves 8 pet goats, orphaned deer from wine country fires
Filling the early universe with knots can explain why the world is three-dimensional
Baba Yaga on the Ganges
Why Parents Make Flawed Choices About Their Kids' Schooling (My experience tells me it's close to impossible to explain to people that a school that starts with high-performing kids and ends with high-performing kids is not doing as much as a school that starts with low-performing kids and ends with kids that are in or approaching the middle. They just don't understand, or want to understand. Also, Stuy is overrated.)
Judge orders government to allow detained teen immigrant's abortion (Only read this second link if you want to be stunned and horrified by the world's most ridiculous anti-abortion argument ever.)
Understanding the coevolving web of life as a network
Fish Depression Is Not a Joke (Sad ending. Journalist should've rescued Fish Bruce Lee.)
After victory in Raqqa over IS, Kurds face tricky peace
Despite potential trade sanctions, Kurds continue with exports
China Is Quietly Reshaping the World
Lawsuit: Bighorn sheep threatened by domestic sheep grazing
As anti-drug push's toll grows in the Philippines, so does church's pushback
The true cost of a plate of food: $1 in New York, $320 in South Sudan (Sorta - the prices are adjusted in a weird way to account for different spending power)
Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics
Why Are Prosecutors Putting Innocent Witnesses in Jail?
The Crazy Flood of Tech Revelations in the Russia Investigation
The Russian Troll Farm That Weaponized Facebook Had American Boots on the Ground
No, US Didn’t ‘Stand By’ Indonesian Genocide—It Actively Participated
The Trump Administration Is Letting Americans Die in Puerto Rico, Nurses Say
Trump’s Dangerous Spin on Puerto Rico’s Suffering
Hurricanes Make the Need to Dismantle Colonial Economics in the Caribbean Increasingly Urgent
The Danger of President Pence
A Gun to His Head as a Child. In Prison as an Adult.
Chilling Photos of the Hundreds of Thousands of Rohingya Fleeing Burma
I've been watching Discovery, and so far I'm cautiously hopeful. I've seen a lot of negativity about the show online, but I think most of those complaints are overlooking two key points:
1. Since the story is serialized, we won't know the end of the story until sometime in the Spring. At the end of Episode 4, people were furious that Starfleet officers were torturing the tardigrade in order to make the ship go, but of course, in Episode 5, we saw them realize that, deal with it, and let the tardigrade go. Fiction demands some sort of conflict or drama, and Star Trek had some pretty terrible stuff going on in the middle of episodes, but those things would be fixed by the end. But for Discovery, the end isn't until the Spring, so yeah, there will be some terrible stuff happening. I think we need to wait until the end of the story before judging.
2. This is the first series in which the captain isn't the main character. Lorca seems like a pretty shady fellow, and his utilitarianism is not what we expect from a Starfleet captain. I grew up on Jim Kirk, so I want my captains to be morally exemplary and downright heroic. :-) But Lorca isn't the main character; Burnham is. So Lorca has to be shady in order to give Burnham the chance to be morally exemplary and downright heroic. :-) We have seen evil or insane Starfleet captains in the past -- think Captain Tracey in "The Omega Glory" or Commodore Decker in "The Doomsday Machine" -- but those weren't OUR captains, so they weren't as disturbing as Lorca is. But I think at some level, Georgiou is "our" captain, and Burnham's job will be to find her way through the moral minefield that is the Klingon war.
I don't mind that the ship looks way more modern than Kirk's ship, even though the series is set ten years before the original series. I think modern audiences would laugh at TOS-era gadgetry -- even though I, personally, LOVE that old ship -- so the makers of the show pretty much HAD to update the look. They kept the old-style communicators and phasers, and that's heartwarming enough for me. :-)
I've also heard a lot of people complain about the use of the F-word in Star Trek, but it didn't bother me. The word wasn't used in a hostile or aggressive fashion; it was used to geek out over how cool the science was, and I think that's actually a pretty Trekkian use of the F-word. :-)
The first episode that really FELT like Star Trek to me was Episode 4, but boy, did it ever! Of course, "The Devil in the Dark" is one of my favorite episodes, and Ep 4 mirrored a lot of that. I loved it that Burnham fended off Lorca's and Landry's calls for her to weaponize the tardigrade and worked on UNDERSTANDING it, instead. And of course, understanding it proved to be the key to getting the ship where it needed to go in time to save the mining colony. Because this is Star Trek, and understanding will always be more powerful than fear, hatred, or aggression. :-) That, right there, proved to me that it was really Star Trek.
I've seen people say that Landry's death was stupid, which made her death bad writing. Her death WAS stupid, but that didn't necessarily make it bad writing. I thought her death might be a message. Landry was all "Grr, kill, kill!" and she died the stupid and pointless death that hotheads often do. The message "So don't be an aggressive hothead" was left as an exercise for the viewer. :-) Plus, her death removes Lorca's principal supporter in his own aggressiveness, isolating him on his own ship. This may have interesting consequences down the road....
In Ep 5, I loved it that Burnham was seriously troubled by the tardigrade's pain and that she worked with Stanmets and Culber to try to get the tardigrade released. The scene where the tardigrade was released was lovely.
I also loved the scene between Saru and Burnham where he explained why he was so angry at her, and she gave him Georgiou's telescope.
I was thrilled to see Star Trek's first regular gay couple. I was surprised, though, that Stanmets and Culber didn't seem to have that much chemistry, given that Rapp and Cruz have been friends for years. But maybe that's just the way Stanmets is. Or maybe it has something to do with the tardigrade DNA and with whatever was going on with the mirror. :-)
I was troubled by Lorca's actions in the prison; I imagine if Kirk had been imprisoned with Harry Mudd, he'd have said something like, "Much as it pains me to admit it, you ARE a Federation citizen" and rescued Mudd while bad-mouthing him. :-) But I think we're supposed to be troubled by Lorca.
The producers of Discovery have made it clear (in interviews) that they want the show to be both excellent science fiction and social commentary about recent world events, especially Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. I gather that the Klingons are supposed to be stand-ins for Trump supporters and Brexit voters, and I imagine the wrong-headedness of "Remain Klingon" will become clear over time. :-) They haven't said this, but I suspect that Lorca is the producers' attempt to help those of us on the Left understand how those on the Right lost their minds. :-) I guess we'll see.
Anyway, the first three episodes were set-up and scene-setting, but now that they're behind us, both Ep 4 and Ep 5 have felt like worthy Star Trek to me, and I look forward to seeing where the show is going.
I love it that Burnham is a xenoanthropologist, since I think understanding alien cultures is the coolest part of Star Trek. But then, I lost my heart to a particular pointy-eared alien when I was eleven years old. :-)
The movies have never felt like real Star Trek to me -- neither the regular movies nor the reboot ones -- because movies always tilt the action/character development balance WAY over towards the action side. I'm thrilled that Discovery is giving us some character development, and it seems likely that we'll get more and more of that as the season unfolds.
So now that the set-up is over, and we're moving deeper into things, I'm enjoying the show. I'm trusting that the producers DO know their Star Trek and WILL either use the disturbing stuff to make a point or will have one of the good characters heroically fix the disturbing stuff by season's end.
I think the fact that it's on a streaming service is actually a GOOD thing for the show. If it were being broadcast, it would have to chase ratings, which means a lot more appealing to the lowest common denominator. Stupid humor, inappropriately sexualized costumes for female characters, dumb plots -- Star Trek: Discovery doesn't have to have any of those things, because it's being made for fans who are serious enough to pay for the show. CBS has thrown a TON of money at this show, and the sets, costumes, and effects are all top-notch. They even filmed on location in Jordan -- JORDAN, not the Vasquez rocks. :-)
Are you watching? If so, what did YOU think of it?