Friday, August 29, 2014

Our Minnesota State Fair trips—mostly, seed art!

Emma and I only made two trips to the State Fair this year. I brought along my old iPod and took a few pictures, which I rarely do because my general philosophy is that you can experience an event or record it. And okay, if experiencing recording something is your idea of fun, fine, but it ain't mine. So most of our State Fair experience is not recorded here.

Emma does like to take pictures sometimes. On our first trip, she decided to take pictures of things that amused her, so I decided to take pictures of her taking pictures. (Yes, inside, I'm still thirteen.) If she posts hers, I'll add a link.

Click pics to bigify them.

A warm-up picture that I like, even if it's not in focus.

My favorite picture of Emma taking a picture.

Just because.

 Emma realizes I've been taking pictures of her taking pictures. (That sign amused her.)

Steampunk made it to the fair.

Dr. Who did, too. In seed art, like the next few pics.

I wish I had a better picture of the piece on the right. Emma thought it would inspire a great book cover.

Anti-racists have yet to convince Minnesota's Asian community that "Oriental" is offensive. (ETA: As noted in a Twitter discussion, I don't remember hearing anyone refer to a person as Oriental in ages. But the word is still very common in business names.)

Butter sculptures being carved of Princess Kay and the princesses of the Milky Way. No, I didn't move—the platform rotates so everyone can get a good look at art in progress.

A bird of prey at the DNR area.

Emma and Betsy Pucci Stemple.

Proof that Republicans are stealth socialists.

A selfie.

A twofie.

This is a horribly unrepresentative record of our time at the fair. Maybe next year, I'll take pics of what we eat. Which always includes deep fried cheese curds in the food hall, honey lemonade, honey ice cream, all the milk you can drink, and craft beer. We had the beer-battered onion rings at the Ball Park Cafe for the first time, and they were mighty fine. But really, it's the greatest state fair. You can't go wrong.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

All I care to say about Anita Sarkeesian, the tl;dr

The tl;dr: Everyone should be treated with respect, but the social justice community has a Munchausen syndrome problem, so we should always question their claims, especially when those claims add to their fame and their bank account.

The longer version: All I care to say about Anita Sarkeesian

ETA: I italicized the first part of the first sentence for people who read too quickly. As for the second part, learning to question may be life's most important lesson. If you question your opponents, question your allies too. Ashley Todd and Meg Lanker-Simons had very different politics, but in both cases, it was right to want some proof from them.

ETA 2: Well, if I did want to say something more about Anita Sarkeesian

ETA 3: Hmm. And if I said more about Anita Sarkeesian, I would cite this.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Russia, what's better, what's worse—a note by Rachel Rubin

In a message (shared with permission) Rachel Rubin wrote,
I am writing this in Moscow, and thinking about our conversation about Russia's before/after. I have been asking everyone old enough to remember to tell me one thing that is better, and one thing that is worse. It's actually been really painful, if fascinating--all the senior citizens with pensions gone, etc. One street artist (incredibly gifted) answered the question for a long time, summing up, "Well, now we have all these things (cars, cellphones, etc.) that we didn't have before. But now we are all about those things."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Socialist Bible: What does "the poor will always be with you" mean?

Capitalist Christians love to cite Matthew 26:11: "For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always." The saying references an older saying that capitalist Jews like, Deuteronomy, 15:11: "For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land."

So long as there are natural disasters, there will always be poor people. When a disaster occurs, the victims need to helped generously, with hands wide. These sayings have nothing to do with perpetuating systems of economic inequality. They simply acknowledge that we will always need to help when help is needed.

This post was inspired by What Jesus knew about income inequality (Opinion) -, which takes an approach that philanthropists like, but which Jesus's saying about the two mites rejects.

Luke 21:1-4  "And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had."

Excluded by intersectionality

Over at my other blog, I've been doing a series of short posts recording cases that were overlooked by most identitarians because they involved white men, the people who are excluded by the bourgeois theory of intersectionality: Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage: excluded by intersectionality. Maybe they'll become an article someday; maybe they'll be useful for someone else.

And if there's anyone reading this who hasn't heard of SJWS, two points:

1. I envy you.

2. Social justice warriors are not social justice workers. Social justice workers work offline for justice and believe in treating everyone with respect; SJWs do not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

a simple rice cooker meal: polenta and black beans

For one:

Put 1/4 cup polenta and 3/4 cup water in rice cooker. Drain a can of black beans. When the polenta is done, add half the beans to the cooker, put the other half in the fridge for something else, like making this again in a day or two 'cause it's simple and delicious. Leave the beans and polenta on the warm setting for a couple of minutes while you get something to drink. (I had white wine.) Stir it up, put it on a plate or bowl, season to taste—I hit it with Cholulua hot sauce. Nomlicious!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Perhaps this will become my annual post about awards

History tells us there's no connection between what wins and what's remembered. Well, except for the winners that make people say, "What drugs were popular that year?" For example, generally considered the worst book to win the Hugo: They'd Rather Be Right, remembered only for a distinction few writers desire.

It is a greater honor to be nominated than to win. Only the pettiest people will quibble with whether something deserves to be nominated, but most people will wonder why the winner won. I say "most people" because most of the time, perhaps all of the time, the majority does not choose the winner. The largest minority does. In some scenarios, like judged awards, the winner can't be the work that was most loved, because the most loved works also tend to be the most hated. In those situations, the winner is the one that most judges can agree on, so the result is not "best" in anyone's opinion but "most innocuous".

That said, there's no shame in winning an award, so if you won one, yay, you!

A 1968 statement by economists on income guarantees and supplements

ETA: Guaranteed Income's Moment in the Sun.

Marvin Gaye - Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

I was reminded of this by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Race, class, and people killed by cops

I just came across Local police involved in 400 killings per year:
Nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012, according to the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI. On average, there were 96 such incidents among at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police.
Another article suggests the absolute number of killings is higher. From Americans Killed by Cops Now Outnumber Americans Killed in Iraq War:
In the last decade alone the number of  people murdered by police has reached 5,000. The number of soldiers killed since the inception of the Iraq war, 4489.
What's missing so far is a class analysis. Are most people killed by cops poor? In the US, 2/3 of the poor are white, so if one out of four killings by cops are black victims killed by white cops, there may be no racism. There may just be class warfare.

But we don't have the statistics to know. What we do know is that you're more likely to be killed by a cop than by sharks or terrorists.

Bonus fact: The US obsession with security may cause an additional 500 deaths per year. From Is Airport Security Killing 500 People a Year? | Science Blogs | WIRED: "The increased automobile deaths due to people deciding to drive instead of fly is 500 per year."

ETA: Kareen Abdul-Jabbar's The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race | TIME

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Tangled Lands—now available as an ebook!

I've lightly revised this. I confess, I have mixed feelings about the book. Like The Gospel of the Knife, it's not entirely to my satisfaction, and yet, there are bits I'm proud of, and it has its fans, which pleases me enormously. At Goodreads, a reviewer said it's "tightly written" and a few people gave it five stars. It's a very odd prequel to Cats Have No Lord. Someday I may write a sequel because this book implies something about the world of Cats that is not, in the author's opinion, true—it only seems that way to the point of view characters.

It's $2.99 (cheap!). Currently, it's at: The Tangled Lands

Barnes & Noble: The Tangled Lands

Smashwords: The Tangled Lands

It should show up elsewhere soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to write characters of a different gender than yours

At Star Trek Writer's Defense of Diversity in Sci-Fi Is Damn Near Perfect, PV said,
I don't think I could ever write a convincing same-sex relationship. I'm just not wired that way. But I totally support and encourage those who do - even if that kind of relationship doesn't interest me personally. The reason is simple, if we want a better world for ourselves, we have to have a better world for everyone. It isn't always easy or practical, but it is possible. For me to have my life the way I want it, others have to be able to have their lives the way they want them. And so long as those lives can exist in harmony, without interfering with each other - then we have created an environment where there is a better world.
I replied,
Speaking as a straight guy who has written same-sex relationships, it's easy with one huge caveat: you write the characters, not their gender. If you don't understand that, you won't write convincing relationships of people of your own gender, let alone people of other genders. And to be a writer, you've got to be able to write about everyone. That may sound scary, but the answer there is simple, too: do the research to learn how those characters' lives were shaped differently than yours.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What's missed by people who only see race: the growing household wealth gap

From The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less - "The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially."

While it's true that for many historical reasons, class in the US is racially disproportionate, the reality today is simple. The net wealth of Obama, Herman Cain, Oprah, and every rich black person increased along with that of rich whites and Asians. The net wealth of poor and middle-class whites, blacks, and Asians decreased. What appears to be an economic racial problem requires a class-based solution, as Martin Luther King noted in his support of Universal Basic Income.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A surprising number of writers fail to see that Amazon's Readers United used an Orwell quote correctly, or More evidence irony is dead

I got the infamous Amazon/Kindle Direct Publishing/Readers United letter, read it, and shrugged. My position hasn't changed since I wrote that the butcher and the meat market are fighting, and they both say they're doing it for the cows.

But an astonishing number of people are claiming Amazon misquoted Orwell. (I noticed this at io9's A New Chapter In The Amazon/Hachette Battle, then saw many more examples when I googled in search of Orwell's full quote, including posts at the New York TimesTechcrunch, and Gawker.)

You can read the full letter at An Important Kindle request, if you wish. Here's the relevant bit:
With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution — places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if "publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them." Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.
Here's the full version of the Orwell quote: “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them."

Orwell was exercising his sense of humor by saying that if publishers had any sense, they would do exactly what publishers are trying to do in the ongoing fight with Amazon. Hachette and the other big publishers are showing that they now have the "sense" to "combine against" Amazon's demand for cheap ebooks "and suppress them." Publishers want to be able to price books as expensively as they please. The textbook market is a fine example of what happens when publishers have a captive audience: university texts can cost as much as $300.

While I'm sure there are other sensible comments out there about the Orwell quote (or at least, I pray there are), the only one I've noticed was John E. O. Stevens' comment at Amazon Gets Increasingly Nervous | Whatever:
Re: the Orwell quotation. That is taken from a review of Pengiun reprints in 1936. Orwell also says that “In my capacity as reader I applaud the Penguin books; in my capacity as writer I pronounce them anathema.” He was torn about a market of cheap reprints rising up. Contrary to the way that Amazon contextualizes his remark, Orwell wasn’t talking about something utterly new; cheap books had been around for awhile. He was referencing a particular use of the book type. Orwell’s comment reflects the bookselling economy of his time; he was worried about writers getting paid even as he said that the Penguin books were “splendid value for sixpence.” Orwell thought this trend “would be a fine thing for literature, but it would be a very bad thing for trade.” He’s really ambivalent, not some snarling enemy of inexpensive books. Amazon did Orwell a disservice by using that quotation the way they did.
I think there's less ambivalence in that than John does. Orwell was a socialist living in a capitalist society. He would look at the current fight and know exactly why well-paid authors who are dependent on big publishers are throwing fits in the service of the people who send them checks twice a year.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Rich People Values: fly homeless dog to new home

I love dogs. But rich people's choices will never stop amazing me. A recent example: Dog That Walked 30 Miles To Get Rejected By Owner Now Getting 5-Star Treatment And New Home:

The doggie's name is now Lady again, and her new owner is Helen Rosburg, also known as the author Helen Rich, a tattooed, art-collecting legatee to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune, and who according to dispatched an assistant to collect the pup
The story resonated online and with Rosburg, who had recently lost her senior black Labrador, Granny, said her assistant, Barbara DiCioccio. 
Rosburg, 65, contacted her staff to rescue the dog from the Chautauqua County Animal Shelter in Sedan, Kansas. At 4 p.m. Thursday, her assistants Chet Ragsdale and Barbara DiCioccio boarded a jet to Kansas to pick up the dog; they returned about 10 p.m.
“We don’t mess around here,” DiCioccio said. “We get things done.”
The cost of the flight alone could have turned a homeless person's life around.

ETA: I spotted this story on the same day that I spotted this: The 1% May Be Richer Than You Think, Research Shows - Bloomberg.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why Guardians of the Galaxy is not a superhero movie

Please note that you can probably break any of the following traits of superhero stories to create one. But break them all? I think not.

A superhero story:

1. Is about heroes and villains whose distinctive clothing sets them apart from ordinary people.

2. Is about characters who are best known to the public by their pseudonyms.

3. Is set on Earth, usually in the present.

Now, what's interesting to me is that being super isn't necessary—costumed vigilantes like the Phantom and the Batman broadened the definition of "super power" to "exceptional human power".

Guardians of the Galaxy is about a group of uncommonly capable people who have to defeat a great menace, but if that's your definition, Firefly, Star Wars, Buffy, and Galaxy Quest are superhero stories.

Then again, I heard that to kids today, any book is a novel, so, fine, Guardians of the Galaxy is a superhero movie.

Damn clouds.

ETA: Something I said on Facebook: Green Lantern in space is a scifi cop story. Green Lantern on earth is a superhero story. Part of it is the surroundings: superheroes exist in a mundane reality, not a fantastical one. They are the fantasy element.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy—my quicktake, no spoilers

I give it a 9 out of 10. What's strange is I don't think it's objectively as good as several other Marvel movies, yet my desire to see it again soon is stronger than it was with those movies. Maybe it's the popcorn effect: you're ready for more sooner.

If you like science fiction adventure comedies, you'll probably like this—it's a little Firefly, a little the best of Star Wars, a little Galaxy Quest. It will appeal to superhero fans, but it really isn't a superhero movie.

The script is a bit heavy-handed in a few places. That's okay, because those moments don't last for long.

The weakest performance is Zoe Saldana's. She looks great, but her take on the character seemed a bit soft. I didn't know what to expect from Karen Gillan, which may be why I was most impressed with her. Everyone else does fine work.

The Nova Corps is far more male than necessary. The Night Witches proved women can be mighty fine pilots in wartime.

Bring on the sequel!