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pjthompson July 11 2014, 16:54


Random quote of the day: 

“Even sleeping men are doing the world’s business and helping it along.”

—Herakleitos, quoted in 7 Greeks Translated by Guy Davenport


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

dsmoen July 11 2014, 15:21

The Samuel Delany / NAMBLA Conversation

Will Shetterly takes on the hard questions.

It was posted on my birthday, and I didn’t read it in full then, and I’m not going to tonight. Maybe after my edits are done, but that’ll be a few weeks.

This is long (~8,000 words).

My initial take, without reading for nuance or depth:

  1. There are some hard issues explored (and it needs all the trigger warnings).</p>
  2. Delany’s got some good points—except that I’d argue that rehabilitation is only possible if someone genuinely wants rehabilitation. If you read, for example, MZB’s own deposition where she refuses to answer questions about whether a child (of unknown age) was old enough to consent—it’s clear that she had her answer and would stick with it even if it cost her more in the civil suit. That’s not the kind of person who would be rehabilitated. (I agree with Chip in that I’m anti-death penalty, except possibly in cases where murders are committed on multiple occasions. I believe anyone can be pushed past their breaking point once; it’s the people who went there more than once that I feel differently about.)

  3. I tend to look at childhood trauma on a logarithmic scale. I’m going to abstract here. Let’s say someone had as similar background to my own: being battered a lot as a child and teen (and more than once having bruises because of same), gaslighted when the stepmother came into the picture, difficult family relations. Let’s call that an 8 on a 1-10 scale of childhood badness. Let’s say that said person had a similar young experience to Delany’s with the super. Because the home situation is so bad, a relatively positive contact wouldn’t register as negative (because, for that kid, it might be a 5 on that scale), where if one had a normal (1 on 1-10) background, it might feel like the most traumatic thing ever.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t harmful.

On the other hand, I tend to take at face value what people say about their own perceptions of their own experiences, so long as it’s not something that’s scientifically disprovable.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

theferrett July 11 2014, 15:02

On Expunging Creepers From Conventions, Or: Why The World Is Exceedingly Complex

While pretty much everybody lauded the Geeky Kink Event’s attempt to keep sex offenders out, there were many who groused that the Sex Offender list was not a ban list for conventions.  And some asked a question I’ve asked before, which is, “Why don’t more conventions band up to create an officially shared blacklist?”

That’s a good question.  Let’s break that down in some detail.

The first thing you need to understand about fan conventions is that the people attending them tend to see cons as this monolithic corporate entity – and why not?  They bring thousands of people together!  They rent a whole damn hotel!  They decorate, they cater, they hold parties, they hold concerts!  These conventions must be professional organizations!

Whereas the truth is, most cons are run on a shoestring budget, barely making back their costs, about one bad event away from going broke.  They’re also all staffed by volunteers; I know few conventions that have one full-time salaried employee, let alone a board full of them.

No, unbelievably, the cons you love are most likely run by people in their spare time – all those guests booked for you in the two hours they have after they get home from work, all those investigations held on weekends when you’re out watching movies and they’re dealing with convention feedback.  Cons are not so much the “MegaCorp funds the grand ballroom gala” as “An Amish barn-raising.”

If you have fun at conventions, ponder this and thank the crap out of your local con-organizers.  Better yet: volunteer.

But this does mean that while conventions mean well, and the people are dedicated, they’re working with volunteer effort – which is to say that yes, the Literary Track that went so well last year is now in danger of going to shit because Louise moved to Minnesota and she was the only one who knew everything.  And she didn’t leave notes.  The guy who knew how to find the good hotels has to work double-shifts because of his new kid.

Conventions are not one entity, but rather a constantly-fragmenting hive mind composed of well-meaning people doing this in the corners of their life.  And as such, cons are good at doing what they’re passionate about, but it’s hard to say “Fred, you must follow these rules and regulations” when Fred gets to say, “Or what?  You’ll tell me not to come here, and I’ll get my weekends back?”

The fact that conventions get anything competent done is, in fact, a testament to the goodness of the human race.  Again: volunteer.

But when conventions are saying, “How do we keep these molesting dorks out of our con?” they’re often a bunch of not legally trained, not experienced people.  At this stage in time, yes, “Keeping cons a harassment-free space” should be a priority for everybody.  But when you see a con doing something spectacularly stupid, it’s often because Joe New Volunteer With More Enthusiasm Than Brains got put into a slot that, sadly, nobody else was stepping up to fill.

…did I mention “volunteer”?  Okay.  Good.  We’re done with that.

Anyway, so hopefully now you see your average con not as a sleek Porsche, but more like a soap box racer made of old popsicle sticks held together with duct tape.  They all strive to be the best, and many of them manage it, but they are constantly battling attrition and resources to make the magic happen. The fact that the magic happens at all is a miracle.

So anyone who wants to devise an official “blacklist” shared among not just one of these constantly shifting volunteer organizations, but many of them, is trying to herd cats.  The person they’re supposed to talk to each year about this may change as people shift positions, and Jackie who was totally stoked for this safety drive may have given up cons and moved on to Burning Man, and now who are you supposed to talk to at ConSternation?

Who knows?

But even once you get past that very considerable hurdle, you have the big issue: How do you compile a list of ban-worthy harassers?

Keep in mind, many people who get harassed – or even out-and-out raped – do not want to talk to people at the con.  All they want to do is leave this experience behind, and “testifying to a group of strangers” – even strangers inclined to believe in them – is not a part of their healing process.

And let’s say someone gets physically assaulted at your convention, and talks to a group of her friends.  The friends go to you to report what they’ve heard, but there’s no physical evidence or eyewitnesses.  And you’re willing to take her word for things, in fact are perfectly primed to toss this asshole out on just one word from her… but she won’t talk to you or anyone official at the con because she’s freaked and doesn’t feel like reliving the day.

Do you blacklist someone based on second-hand testimony?

Some say “yes,” some say “no,” but that’s a tricky goddamned call.  In fact, banning the dude in the absence of testimony may actually make the victim’s life worse, because people are going to ask “So why’d he get banned?” and gossip will flow, and now the victim’s name will be out in circles she may not want them out in.

It’s not simple.

And – again, remember, cons are each composed of messy well-meaning volunteers – what crimes get you banned for life?  If you say, “Well, we’ll come up with a clear list of bannable offenses” and break it down in detail, well, you have just started a large board argument at every convention you’re asking to join over “Whether these rules are acceptable to us or not.”  (Quite possibly with the obligatory sides taken of “Too strict” vs. “Not strict enough.”)  And like every law, you’re going to come across situations that aren’t covered, because creepers creep in new and not-so-exciting ways all the time.

Yet if you take the alternate route of, “Well, you know what’s acceptable,” remember: well-meaning volunteers.  They might not.  Or they might not feel comfortable enough to ban people based on “gut feels” and hence default to not-banning when they damn well should.  It could be that your ban-list creates a false sense of safety, which is, in a way, even worse.

And then you get into the whole mess of “How do you report this stuff?”  The initial instinct may be to say, “Well, we won’t reveal any details, of what happened, we’ll just ban them.”  And congratulations!  You have just become the TSA’s “No-fly” list – a mysterious shadow cabinet that holds secret trials and doesn’t tell you what you did.  Even if you’re really good at weeding out creepers, you’re going to cause drama among people who don’t trust organizations. And as we all know, cons never have attendees of libertarian bents with deep mistrusts of authority.

Or maybe you give some vague details. Yet as organization after organization has discovered, people can put together stories from the vaguest hints.  You run a very good risk of inadvertently outing a victim.

Yet either way you go here, private or public disclosure, you run the risk of legal action.  Banned douchebot may not take well to being ejected from one convention, but he’s unlikely to go nuclear.  But if this project gets successful and banned douchebot is banned from not just one convention but most of the fun gatherings on the Eastern Seaboard, he may well get a lawyer and decide to see what he can shake loose.

And yes: you will probably win the court case.  But you’re very naive if you think “winning the court case” means “JUSTICE SERVED PIPING HOT!” Remember, cons are run on shoestring budgets, often only carrying maybe $500 to $1000 in profits over to the next year.  Douchebot doesn’t have to win the court case, he just has to force TinyCon to pay out in legal fees.  Too many legal fees, and they go broke.  And that’s a concern.

Is it any wonder a lot of cons just rely on whisper campaigns?  Even though they’re closely dependent on reputation, fragile, and can break all too easily?

None of this is to say that cons should not attempt to fling out the creepers, of course.  They should.  And most do try.  But because people criticized using the Sex Offender registry as a blacklist and asked, “Why not just use a customized one?”  And this is why creating a really good list is an honest-to-God struggle.

The real world is complex.  We struggle with very serious problems that don’t have easy answers.  And a lot of cons have been trying to provide better alternatives, with some success, and the fact that they achieve any headway at all is laudable as fuck.  Applaud them.  Contemplate how much work is ahead of them at making cons into safe spaces.  Understand that mistakes happen, and happen for these reasons, and should never ever happen, but even as you hold their feet to the fire understand all the vectors for error they’re juggling.

Now.  If you’ve run a con and got any good tips for keeping people out as a convention (and not the usual true-but-not-particularly helpful “Tell everyone to be eternally on their guard!”), then share.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/418992.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
swan_tower July 11 2014, 14:59

A Year in Pictures – Hippodrome Obelisk

Hippodrome Obelisk
Creative Commons License
This work by http://www.swantower.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This obelisk is Egyptian (as you can presumably tell from the hieroglyphics), but it stands in the Hippodrome of Istanbul. I had very little time for photos there, unfortunately, because our tour included a couple of women who had apparently missed the part where it said there would be walking, and moved at a snail’s pace while complaining the whole time. But I got what I could, and this is one of the results.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/667996.html. Comment here or there.
prettygoodword July 11 2014, 14:29


meliorism (MEEL-yuh-riz-uhm, MEE-lee-uh-riz-uhm) - n., the belief that the world can be improved through human effort.

It's supposed to be understood as a middle way between optimism (the world is already good) and pessimism (world bad) -- it's not good yet, or at least not good enough. In practical terms, most pessimists understand it as a form of qualified optimism. Coined in 1877 by novelist George Elliot from Latin melior, better, the comparative of bonus, good.

maryjdal July 11 2014, 12:38

No subject

The almost full moon was gorgeous last evening and explains so much.  I have a few issues I have to deal with  - so glad my sister is coming up this weekend. I hope she enjoys herself. But I think I need her just to ground me with family again because it has been over a year since I was last home and when I stay away too long - everything starts getting lost in translation.
I talked to my dad the other day and he sounded so good… I was happy… but then I started talking to my sister (another one) who I probably keep in touch with the most in my family but it is 90% through our blogs – so I guess I started searching for a better connection and she was helpful and answered my questions and was being sweet but for the life of me I just couldn’t connect and I guess it threw me.  Maybe it is because i only know the blog part of  her now. And it wasn’t her – it was just me that couldn’t find the connection I wanted -- and so she said something small but it made me feel the distance and so I took it out on her.  And she is just not the type you can do that to.  She is soft spoken and cerebral and well … I guess a fatalist.  And that is not a bad thing but it was just hard to get my point across – probably because I really didn’t have one.   A case of more “defense” than “sense” – Anyway, between the lot of us we have more shields than a medieval army.
I have much to do – have to wake my daughter – she is going to drive us to the grocery story this morning – and I will try very very hard not to show any anxiety so not to screw up this continuing learning experience for her -- because she is a good driver but you know…. She is very new at it and I’m afraid. J
spikesgirl58 July 11 2014, 11:46

Who's up for a Friday Five?

These questions were written by lordameth .

1) Of the various cultures, ethnicities or nationalities you belong to, which most strongly do you consider yourself?

2) Is there a culture you cannot claim heritage from but which you feel quite close to?

3) What's one language you wish you knew fluently?

4) If you could move anywhere in the world and be guaranteed a job, etc, where would you go?

5) If you had a time machine, and could witness any one event without altering or disturbing it, what would you want to see?

1. I'm half Scottish and half French, but I consider myself Scottish (except for the temper part of me, fiery, at best)

2. Hawaiian

3. Japanese

4. Tarunga, New Zealand or Avatura, Rangiroa

5. The building of the Great Pyramid of Giza

And now it's your turn!
spikesgirl58 July 11 2014, 11:34

From Svetlanacat this time

You are a Swan! (your score: 29)

Characters: Tereus, Kalia in the Aspect of Crow trilogy

Powers: Foretelling future through dreams, dream-walking

Swans are idealistic, open-minded, and passionate. Your good nature often leads people to think they can take advantage of you, but they should be careful—beneath that serenity lies a fighting spirit. Your love is fierce and unconditional, fueled by the certainty that it should last forever.

Best matches: Wolves, Horses, Otters

Watch out for: Cougars, Foxes, Hawks

The link is here:
dr_phil_physics July 11 2014, 05:54

HBO 28 -- The Princess Bride -- Willow

Twenty-eighth session: The Princess Bride
On the greatest films ever made -- perfect cast and every single line is quotable. The Science Fiction list includes Fantasy, but this movie wasn't there. Instead it was listed under Romance. What? This movie is about pirates, sports, fighting, fencing, torture, miracles, revenge. It isn't about kissing. What were they thinking? Oh wait, it's listed under Comedy. Never mind...

It not a long movie, which makes it being edited for television even more of a tragedy. Last summer Hope College's Knickerbocker Theatre ran a series of free films and Mrs. Dr. Phil and her middle sister went off to see it. I, of course, didn't have a summer last year, so I missed it on the big screen.

Mandy Patankin, Andre the Giant in his greatest screen role, Cary Ewles, Robin Wright, Carol Kane & Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, Fred Savage -- the decision to make a wrapper story that explicitly mentions the book. Priceless.

"Promise me anything... I want my father."


I know a number of people who love this 1988 collaboration between Ron Howard and George Lucas, with yet another James Horner score. Back then I was in grad school -- not sure that we saw it in the theatre. I think we rented it in Laurium, but I think the VHS tape was damaged. So I don't remember much about this film besides a viewing on cable maybe ten years ago.

Opens with a sort of Moses story and the biggest village of little people I've seen since Oz or perhaps Middle Earth.

Didn't get too far, so finish tomorrow.


This must be the week for entropy. Yesterday it was the case of the missing packing. Today it was the hole in the PICC line dressing, as one of the sutures decided to poke through. Spectrum Home Nursing came by in the morning to redo the dressing. Some six weeks in, the stitches are just deciding to itch. Have checked the area around the PICC line and there's no redness, no swelling, no heat.

Tina was going to come close to 8am, so I'd have plenty of time for the morning IV. Alas, no good battle plan survives contact with the enemy. Tina called saying she'd gotten a page regarding a more serious case. No problem, but I didn't get to start the IV until after 9:30am.

And it was a gas day, so I had to fill up the Blazer. Regular was $3.56.9/gallon, less a 5¢/gal discount coupon. Naturally, just four hours later, as I looped through Allendale to pick up some Flonase, gas dropped to $3.47.9/gal. Of course it did. At least Mrs. Dr. Phil got the lower rate.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics July 11 2014, 04:50

HBO 27 -- Braveheart -- Virus

Twenty-seventh session: Braveheart (conclusion)

Always hard to watch the execution, but it leads to Robert the Bruce finally taking charge.

The score is one of a series of great scores by James Horner in the 90s -- Braveheart, Titanic, Zorro, Apollo 13, Deep Impact -- which I have on CDs and often use for writing music. Zorro is very good for grading. Zzz-slash! And the photography, the Highlands, the huge armies and battle scenes. Historically inaccurate? Sure. So what. Hollywood cares not for such things.

Definitely a movie to see over and over.

The listing in the printout didn't give a year, just a title and a running time, so I wasn't sure which of several possibilities I'd get. Turns out it actually wasn't an Ebola, anthrax, plague or killer flu at all. No, we are the virus.

I first ran into this 1999 film maybe two years ago on cable. Huge Jamie Lee Curtis fan, excuse me, The Right Honourable Jamie Lee Curtis, Lady Haden-Guest. And Donald Sutherland makes another HBO Film Series appearance as the drunk and greedy captain of an ocean going tug. Plus one of the Baldwin boys.

It's a terrible movie, with a few cool visuals. They had a real satellite ship, the USNS Vandenberg to stand in for the Russian ship prior to it being sunk to create an artificial reef, I believe. Apparently some of the Cyrillic lettering is still on the ship.

Next up The Princess Bride, because... oh hell, who needs a REASON?


Complication on Wednesday, or at least a potential one. We're doing daily bandage changes on my foot and part of the dressing is a little piece of hydraferra blue (or something like that). But when Mrs. Dr. Phil unwrapped my left foot, she couldn't find the little piece of packing. We know there is some undermining around the wound -- not serious at last report -- but could the piece of packing have slipped under the thick heel skin? That could cause problems like when a surgical sponge gets left inside.

So the Wound Clinic uses a room nearby to examine HBO patients. The doctor and nurse came over from across the street and I had my foot looked at. Couldn't find the piece. As near as we can tell, it probably fell off while Mrs. Dr. Phil was dealing with some tape stuck to her gloves and tossed with the old dressing on Tuesday, so there was nothing to find on Wednesday. The hydraferra blue is moistened with saline solution before being applied and the deep color drains out as the blue is absorbed. There was a little piece of hydraferra blue in the trash can, which was still suspiciously dark in color, so I think this is a good explanation.

And everyone said I did the right thing in calling the problem in. I don't need any more setbacks. (grin)

Dr. Phil
barry_king July 10 2014, 22:43

Where the Slow Waves Crawl and Your Angels Fall

So I've got my foot wrapped up and lots of ibuprofen in my system, and I'm sitting down in the basement of a church registering people for archery classes when a notice comes in that an anthology, The Sea has just been released from Dark Continents Publishing, which is an interesting little publishing house with an international cast of characters, including Nerine Dorman, who is a South African writer and editor.

In it, I have a retelling of the Marie Celeste myth, "A Cruel Intemperate Sea" which works on the theory that of the casks of alcohol in the hold, the leaky, empty ones, have a role. As do vengeful spirits of the sea.

By co-incidence Dark Continents also just published a book, Erased by Liz Strange, who is also a Kingstonian, and her editor was also Nerine. Perhaps it's something in the water.

Anyhow, it's out now and available at the usual suspects:

mrissa July 10 2014, 22:22

The Causal Angel, by Hannu Rajaniemi

Review copy provided by Tor.

This is the sequel to The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince, and I recommend that you start with them. You might be able to pick up what qupting is and what the gogols are and all the other elements of Rajaniemi’s world from context, but I think it would be pretty rough going, honestly; these are pretty idea-dense books to begin with, and it’s probably better to start with Jean le Flambeur at his own beginning.

I do find that sometimes I pick up a book and am reminded immediately of what was initially charming in the series, and this was one of those. Jean’s early interactions, trying to keep juggling a great many flaming torches to find Mieli and fix everything and keep a young Matjek happy, made me smile, went very quickly, made me want very much to keep reading. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the ending, and there was a Moomin along the way. (I can be bribed with Moomins. I can even be coaxed past a very brief and virtual zombie appearance with Moomins. Especially NOT SIMULTANEOUSLY.) But it was the beginning of the book that made me say: ah, yes. This is why I was happy to pick this series up and dive into it.

So: there is zooming around the solar system, there is forming and reforming oneself and one’s environment, there is working around what one thought one knew. There are reversals and betrayals and coming back for people and lots and lots of zoku jewels. There are iterations and considerations of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. It has, in short, the things that one has been looking for in one of these books. And if you haven’t been looking for one of these books, go back and start. They’re nerdy good fun, and they’re not very long. And now there are three of them.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

dsmoen July 10 2014, 22:09

False Assumptions About Names

I loved this article about names four years ago, and it continues to be relevant.

There are entire novels in the comments.

As someone whose name is frequently misparsed (my name is “Saoirse Moen, Deirdre” not “Moen,Deirdre,Saoirse”), I feel their pain.

Yes, the article is written for programmers, but it’s still useful for writers. We all carry assumptions about names.

Offhand, I can’t remember what language it was that someone filed a bug about where they had to use a non-Unicode font. Even Dhivehi/Thaana was added to Unicode in 1999, and that’s a pretty obscure script. (pic) I just remember being pretty impressed that there were still living languages where that was the case.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

asakiyume July 10 2014, 19:21

Very reduced connectivity for the next few days

In a couple of hours I'm heading to my dad's house, and then on Friday I'm driving with him to Readercon (though, we will not arrive until quite late--in time for his panel, though). Since I have no laptop, I will likely not be posting or responding to comments until sometime on Monday.

I hope your next few days are bright and beautiful--or shady and cool, or thunderous and dramatic, depending on your own preference--and I'll catch up with everyone next week.

pjthompson July 10 2014, 16:40

Running with the pack

Random quote of the day:

“You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: ‘You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.’”

—Sir Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

seanan_mcguire July 10 2014, 16:35

Lafferty Air, now boarding.

The random number generator has spoken, and the winner of two signed books by the awesome MUR LAFFERTY is...

apocalypticbob !

Please send me an email via my website contact form, so that I can pass it off to Mur and get this party started.

Thanks to everyone who entered. If you've been looking for some summer reading, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Shambling Guide to New York City. It's a heck of a lot of fun, and it's always nice to discover a new author with an awesome body of work.

Go forth, and read!

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