Events have conspired to render this a bit less organized and a lot more rushed than I meant, but I'm moving my blogging over to a wordpress blog. I'm going to still following everything I've been following over here (mostly through google-reader feeds) and I've moved the archives from the last four or so years over there.
I'm doing this early because I want the grown-up looking blog up while I cover the Madison protests and stuff. First entry is already up over there.
For anybody wondering, this is part of a bigger project to streamline my Project Manager / Consulting / Realtor professional online presence (which gets a monopoly on my real name) and my Genuinely me / Political / Writer net presence, which has been Anaea forever, and will continue under my now offical pen name of Anaea Lay. I'll blather about this all at some point if people care, and when I'm not distracted by real life being way cooler than fiction.
I have really got to stop being pleased when I abruptly change jobs.
Or, perhaps more accurately, I need to stop having jobs where it's pleasing to abruptly change them.
I just finished N. K. Jeminson's 100,000 Kingdoms. I've been looking forward to reading this for a while - it's description sounds like a book written for me. Having read it, I am now a little concerned about the possibility that I might someday meet N.K. Jeminson. (I actually could, we're on at least one privateish mailing list together) The reason I worry about this is because depending on how effective my censors are that day, the conversation could very well go like this.
Me: If I eat your liver, will I absorb your powers?
Me: I want your prose. Is your prose-power centered in your liver?
Nora: Are those fava beans?
You see, there are some books where, as I read them, I get completely distracted by how very, very jealous I am of how very, very gorgeous they are. I can cope with this perfectly well for the books where their only redeeming quality is that the prose is pretty. Nice writing isn't enough to make a book worth reading. But then you run into books where they've got everything else going on too, rich characters, a fascinating world, a plot rife with deep conflict and high emotion that doesn't touch on melodrama, and, well, I get a little jealous. Or a lot jealous. Gone with the Wind took me two months to read, because I kept having to stop and figure out where Margaret Mitchell is buried.
At least with The 100,000 Kingdoms I was so busy loving every bit of it while I was reading that it wasn't until I stopped reading to do things like brush my teeth or go to work that I realized there really was only one acceptable ending for the book (which it delivered beautifully) and that I'm a deeply, deeply twisted person. Yeah, this was a book so engrossing that the only reason I called any of the reveals was that I was responsible and went to sleep in time to be a coherent person at work. That doesn't happen very often. I mentioned immersive reader mode when talking about the Vinge stuff - I was still in it a good hour after I finished the book.
And that's all I'm going to tell you about it. Because I could give you all sorts of details, but I wouldn't do it nearly as well. And it's fairly short, so when it eats your soul, at least you'll get it back soon.
I really adore it when somebody else says what I'm thinking, except better. Also, China Mieville kicks ass.
I feel like lately, when I've been trying to search for recommendations, Google just tries to sell me things. Instead of taking me to places where people are talking about the subject or thing or whathaveyou, I wind up with Amazon product pages, or lists of retailers who sell varieties of the thing. My search methods haven't changed - I'm still generating keywords to search with the way I always have, but Google's been doing a crappy job of returning what I want. I am not used to this. It's becoming frustrating.
Has anybody else noticed this, or is my google-fu just getting outdated?
Despite it being Valentine's day, I managed to get reservations at a tasty restaurant for dinner. The table next to me had a pair of middle aged ladies. Like me, they were in full white-collar professional dress - pumps, diamond stud earrings, makeup requiring more than five minutes to apply along with the business jacket and button down blouse - so I take it they were also stopping for dinner after work. I am not sure what these ladies do, but it touches on politics somehow.
Their conversation - liberally dotted with deserved exclamations about how yummy the food was - caught my ear while they were talking about Hillary Clinton. "The media gave her so much slack when she teared up, and now look at her. She can do anything she wants. That's revenge." I've not gotten to hear a conversation about Hillary Clinton had by her contemporary supporters that wasn't tainted by the presence of a younger woman in need of vetting and indoctrinating. What would I'm sure normally be a frank and interesting conversation, if I'm known to be listening, picks up a subtext of, "That's the kind of woman who made you possible and you owe her and you'd better know it," except when it isn't subtext and the ladies in question just say it. Should any ladies prone to having that conversation be reading this, please note: I found the untainted conversation a lot more intriguing, so I actually listened this time.
They went on from there to talking about local politics in Cleveland. I don't know anything about the local politics; I don't live here and I won't be spending any more time here come June so I don't care. But then the lady sitting across from me leans in close to the other one. "You know, I was talking about this with XXX earlier. And she'd been talking with YYY. She says they're getting committee together. She's going to make a run for Mayor." "Oh, really?" says the other lady. "Don't spread it around yet. They don't want it leaked before they announce."
I don't even remember the names for XXX and YYY, so I couldn't leak it if I wanted to. But I'm so very, very amused. That's got to be one of the most fascinating conversations I've eavesdropped on in a long, long time.
I finished Julian Comstock last week. I was really looking forward to it, both because it was highly lauded last year, and because I utterly adored Spin. I have an incredible weakness for stories that are slow and simple, building up to a climax that is astonishing, wonderful and a bit surreal. Howl's Moving Castle the movie is an easy example of doing that perfectly, and if you've got a few more hours, so is Spin. Which is why, a week later, I'm still bummed that I didn't adore Julain Comstock.
Below this line, I spoil setting, characters and premise. I saved the lj-cut to hide spoilers about the ending.
The subtitle is A story of 21st Century America, and herein lies what was probably the biggest problem for me with the book. It's set in a post-apocalyptic future where society collapsed with the loss of oil and a Christian fundie church based out of Colorado Springs has risen to power over a US that includes Canada, and looks more like Imperial Rome than its republican predecessor. In short, a frighteningly plausible future for a tale of (mis-)adventure and coming of age. Yet it feels extraordinarily 19th century, from the way movies have deteriorated into a combination of film reels and live performances, to the language that reads like a 19th century novel written with modern sensibilities. This was definitely done on purpose, and it was done well, but it's a choice that made it extremely hard for me to get into the book. I wanted it to be alternate history instead - which would have savaged the plot as is - and it consistently insisted on being set in the future.
The prose style wouldn't have been quite so frustrating if the 19th century tropes hadn't affected the plot, especially early on. All of our introductions to the Dominion church read like familiar lampooning recycled from Twain et al, and I found myself getting frustrated that there was nothing new there, no added depth. The matching to 19th century standard went so far as to include widespread illiteracy among the lower classes, despite being just a handful of generations away from current times, with a major Protestant church in power. If Catholics had taken over, I'd be able to buy it, but Protestants have always been a force for literacy, what with people needing to be able to read the bible so they know
which parts to quote out of context what to believe.
In short, I spent a lot of the book distracted by needing to nit-pick the scenery, which was a problem.
Another major problem for the book, at least for me, was that it's meant to be funny. And it was, starting around page 200. Up to that point most of the humor was at the exclusive expense of Adam, the narrator, but it didn't quite make it past the "frustratingly naive" standard and into "amusingly naive" territory until well into the narrative. Once it got funny, it got quite funny - everything with Otis (a giraffe living in Central Park) was fabulous, and Calyxia (Adam's rebellious, Québécois wife) was a gem. When I say funny, I mean giggling by myself in a restaurant, face-palming on a plane funny. It's possible that it just took me 200 pages to get over the prose kicking me and it was funny the whole time. If so, I'm very sad the prose kicked me that long.
Why did I keep reading it when I was halfway before it hooked me and found most things up to that point annoying? Well, it's got to do with the other problem I had with this book: It felt an awful lot like Spin. I was hoping for another slow build to stunning climax. I got a gesture toward that. I also got another story about an unusually intelligent, powerful, enigmatic man ( Vague spoilers for the endingCollapse )
My biggest reaction to the whole thing is to be various degrees of uncomfortable with how much of the coverage involves questioning whether the protesters should be doing what they're doing, because a regime change might be bad for us. This could be madness on my part, but I don't really thing the Egyptians have any obligation to protect US interests. It'd be nice if whatever they do works out for us, and it'd genuinely suck if crazy Islamo-fascit-terrorist-jihadi-boogeymen took over Egypt and started fights with Israel, but I'd kinda prefer coverage that goes into detail about who the the players are, what the landscape looks like, and the likely outcomes of various possibilities. NPR's done some of that, but on the whole, meh.
However, if we're going to focus on outside narrow interests, then there's one thing we should all remember: Anderson Cooper got punched in the head. Go Egypt!
(Yes, it happened last week. Yes, I'm still really pleased by it. I've wanted to punch him for years.)
Everything else aside (and most of my bitching would be about what wasn't there) there's one thing I think everybody ought to remember about this speech. The first line to get a standing ovation, the very first moment the audience was moved to get out of those cushy chairs, was about the kid who won the science fair.
None of the pundits are going to talk about that, so I just wanted to point it out. Us geeks, we are winning.
I am tired of anecdotes about Real! Live! People! Oh well.
I've had it hammered home to me over the last year, particularly in October, that not everybody made it out of their childhood with a stick up their ass about making optimized decisions and squeezing the bleeding life out of every last penny. This is strange to me, but since many of the people who caused the hammering seemed just as confused about how I do it as how I do, because I'm in a state of chronic abject boredom, and because I just solved a nasty little problem that illustrates this perfectly, I'm going to ramble on the subject.
For reasons we will not get into now because it involves inordinate amounts of cussing and threats of physical violence, my ex-employer yanked my COBRA health insurance coverage six months early, and waited until last week to tell me. That'd be far enough after having done it that I have no way of going back and making it unhappen. So I've had to condense the process of finding new health insurance that I was going to begin in February so as to have it ready in June into a single week. Fortunately, when you call people and say, "My jackass ex-employer has screwed me, I need insurance," they jump rather quickly. So here I am, a week later, with a choice of a bajillion different plans, most of them from my current insurance as an individual policy, plus four shiny new ones I'm eligible for because I'm a Realtor. I need to pick one today so I can get the application in with plenty of time for processing by Feb 1, or I don't get coverage until March. This, this is a nightmare.
Optimized problem solving to the rescue!
( I get pedantic and boring under the cutCollapse )
Up to this week Cleveland has not used the new body scanners regularly. I've nervously spotted an occasional random passenger sent through but for the must part the scanners just sat there, menacing but roped off. Until just now.
Today there are two lines after the boarding pass check. One goes through the metal detector, the other through the scanner. I got sent to the second line. Before going through, while I'm trying to decide whether I'm more or less likely to get myself arrested by going with the flow our demanding an alternative, I asked a TSA agent how I could get to do the metal detector instead. I have to get into the other line. The one reserved for employees and first class passengers.
I am exquisitely pissed.
I fly more often than the known safety threshold for going through those scanners, but without a special ticket that doesn't even exist for my flights, I get the pleasure of risking cancer, the thing I'm least interested in dying of.But rich people on bigger flights are clearly no threat so they shouldn't have to take the risk.
Fuck you, Cleveland TSA.
Goodie, I get to write more letters to authority figures who don't give a shit about rational rules.
I've just finished reading A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. I'm just about twenty years late to the party here, but the part where I missed just about everything published between 1985 and 2004 is a known bug, patch in works. I'm mentioning my tardy party attendance because I know I'm not the only one to have missed these two particular books, and that's a shame. They're excellent.
A Fire Upon the Deep is the book I was 40 pages into when I had the book-lust crisis over my shiny new copy of Name of the Wind. The tie-breaker gave it to the book I hadn't read before, and I'm pleased. A Fire Upon the Deep is smart and entertaining in the immersive, fleshed-out way of books that aren't just fun, but rich. There's a subtlety of world building here that's missing, say, from Moon's Vatta's War series, though I tore through that at a similar pace. Vinge's real accomplishment, the one it takes reading it for the first time twenty years later to notice, is that his conception of the internet is 1992's, with text-based message boards, and the world was built so well that I believed a far post-singularity future would have a less mature network. I was convinced enough of the distances between places, of the alienness of the aliens, of the physical limits of his worldd that running across future bandwidth that makes late-stage dial-up look rapid didn't throw me out of the world. And I'm told my tolerance for that kind of world breaking is absurdly low.
( Bored at work means extended non-spoilery ramblingsCollapse )
Reading through comments I got on a draft of a thing I run across one that goes roughly like this: "You got the words backwards. The sentence as is doesn't make sense unless the character is a lesbian."
The character is a lesbian*. That was the sentence I was hoping would clue in readers in case they glossed over the part where she was kissing girls in the previous scene.
Note to self: Too subtle is not a virtue. Stop it.
*Except nobody would call her that, because it's the future as dictated by me, and in my future there are no rednecks and vocabulary makes sense. People have noticed the missing rednecks too...
So far, there's been no disaster. I think this is because I've don't just about everything possible to pretend it isn't happening short of being blatantly rude to the people who care. For posterity, and to remind me later when the inevitable horror strikes, here are the good things that happened this Christmas.
1) Don and I finally bought that hot tub we've been talking about buying since we got the house*. It should get here late next week or early the following week. My angry knees will be thrilled.
2) My sister bought me hard-cover copy of Name of the Wind. I've been lusting after buying myself a hard copy version but refraining because I keep buying trade paperbacks, then giving them away, and ultimately I think that's good. But I want it. In hard cover. So she basically did the perfect present-giving thing of giving me something I want and will enjoy, but would not have actually bought for myself. I don't think my present to her was that perfect. I'll have to make sure to do better for her birthday.
3) The Dr. Who Christmas special not only didn't suck, it was actually really fun. And I continue to adore the steampunk visual aesthetic. It's so darned pretty. If I ever meet Stephen Moffat, I shall have to careful to modulate my overwhelming gratitude so as to not freak him out.
The downside for this year I think will probably come from work, where they didn't want me to go out to Cleveland this week but said I could work from home, then don't appear to have any work for me to do. I am faithfully doing everything I can to make sure I earn my keep, but I'm billing for 40 hours one way or another, and it's their own damn fault if they can't get their act together enough to give me something more productive than playing with my cat. I just took a year off, I do not need a week off for a holiday I loathe. Grr.
But hot tubs! And books! And Dr. Who! Yay, happy self-indulgence.
*I've been talking about buying it. He's been not arguing, which could mean anything from disdain to cheerful consent. I did get verbal consent before ordering it, though it's possible Sylvie coerced him. Go Sylvie.
See, I'm not the only one who finds them interesting as photograph subjects.
- I have already broken a year long streak of naturally not sleeping more than nine hours, by sleeping for 14 last Friday.
- insomnia is back, probably induced by the part where I'm getting up at 5:30am according to my internal clock, when I'm not getting up at 4, and going to bed responsibly in preparation. I'll make it through tomorrow, and pick up a little slack over the weekend, but I am screwed for next week. That revelation back in June about how what I really need is a job that'll let me keep to my natural sleep cycle was sheer brilliance I'd have never stumbled upon were I not particularly well rested at that point.
- Have already started back at the gym. It was an inevitable consequence of spending ten hours a day on my ass at a desk, and several more in cars and planes. My sleep marathon on Friday brooked interruption only for nasty spasms, because apparently my calves think that running a fever and not being able to breathe is not an acceptable excuse for waiting a week to start. At least the bike has a good place to perch my book.
- I'm still on the tail end of that cold, but tonight's the first time I've taken anything since detoxing on Friday. (Does anybody else take 36 hours to stop feeling high from cold meds?) The only reason I took anything tonight was because I skipped the gym to catch up on other stuff and I am not going to make it much longer with the cold and without endorphines.
- I am embarrassingly late with sending my comments from last wg out to people. The time where I've been awake and coherent, but not at work has been very...nonexistent. I should have done them before the contract, but I was busy finishing up a book draft because I'm no fool, I saw my descent into gibbering incoherency coming months ago. At least I held it together enough to give coherent oral feedback at the meeting. Or I did a good enough impression of it that everybody else was too polite to say otherwise.
- I got all of my Christmas shopping done in time for shipping deadlines, barely, and I was so tired and in denial about still being sick that I'm not sure I did it right and I'm afraid to check
- I feel much more positively toward Cleveland as a whole and my hotel in particular than I did last week. Then again, I knew I would; there was no chance of me liking anything last week. I don't think there is a route that'll get me to work in less than half an hour from the hotel, though, so if I don't magically morph into a morning person over the weekend, I'm going to have to scout for something closer. I can handle a trek for evening activities a hell of a lot better than I can handle a morning commute.
- I am bored out of my ever loving skull. Would these people get their acts together and give me some actual work to do, please? What do I have to charge for the thought of having me just sit there to be so outrageously expensive that I don't have to constantly beg for something else to do? Because I bloody well need to be charging that, whatever it is. Last time around it was miserable because I suspected there were better things I could be doing with my time. Now I know there are. And since apparently a snow flurry is enough for everybody to stay home rather than come in to work, I haven't learned the office politics well enough to figure out who needs help on the sly and will take it. This is my life until June. *whimper*
Idi's home alone tonight, and will be again for the first few days of next week. I am ignoring the paranoid voice that says I'm coming home to a sick cat next Thursday.
I liked today's story on daily science fiction. (No link, sorry. Way too hard to do that on my phone. Go look it up yourself.) I find a lot of the flash they publish fairly mediocre and today's was not. It was in fact good enough to get me thinking about the nature of flash fiction as a story telling medium and what the pieces I really like have in common.
I'm horrifically sleep deprived, have been high on cold medicine for days and am feeling hung over from them now, so this is probably incoherent or patently wrong, but I think the trick is that good flash isn't a story st all; it suggests a story that then happens in the readers head instead of on the page. Has anybody waxed more eloquently on this thought for me so I don't have to flesh it out myself?
Am in Cleveland. Am sick and inclined to whine about everything, but not so sick that I can't realize how very unjustified that is. I timed my morning perfectly, walking straight from the taxi at the airport, through security with no wait, and directly onto my plane. Had the perfect amount of time at my connecting airport to eat breakfast and put on makeup. I have crossed the line from reluctantly making an effort just so people can't say I don't to having an actual cosmetic routine thingie, as of today. I think the sacrifice of dignity is worth it because nobody seemed the least bit interested in my age today and I all around got treated like a competent grown-up. I went to great effort to make sure my appearance this week would establish me as too old to doubt, but I'm thinking I needn't have bothered. This time around I'm here because these people have realized they desperately need my skills, not because a vendor they don't respect much sent me along to patch up problems they won't face up to. On the third hand, not looking flushed with fever and like I've got a pair of black eyes because I got up so early I practically didn't sleep means I didn't undermine my advantage, either.
Today was boring, and I expect at least the rest of the week and likely the rest of the month will be. But at the worst, I'll spend six months bored and then it's over, maybe forever. And in the meantime, the Residence Inn loves my lingering platinum status so much I got upgraded to a suite that has two bedrooms, each with a king sized bed and full bath. There are three times as many televisions in this suite as there are in my house. There's a voice in my head that wants to whine about being sick and bored, but it can go hang out in the other room. I'm going to bed.
Anybody looking for a good article about the Mono Lake bacteria that covers the science well without getting hyper academic? I've got one for you right here.
My shiny new contract starts Monday and it occurred to me that since the software I'll be working on doesn't support a Linux-based working environment, I ought to resurrect my Windows partition on Ifrit. And hey, there was a new release of Ubuntu in October and I should get around to upgrading while I'm at it. So I figured I'd spend a couple hours, first doing the upgrade, then performing some Windows Voodoo. The upgrade worked beautifully. I logged into Ubuntu just long enough to make sure it was still there, back up a couple things I forgot about before doing the upgrade, just in case, and then switched over to letting the Windows recovery partition do its thing.
So of course somehow, while Windows was supposed to be recovering itself, it instead destroyed my entire hard drive, rendering it so unreadable even my dark arts couldn't do much more than choke at the sight of it. In case anybody wanted to hear my opinion of Windows again, it's a petulant bitch and I do not like it.
One shiny new hard drive later (twice the capacity of the original and for less than $50, so it could have been worse) I have bummed a Windows startup disc off Sylvie (since my only means of recovering Windows went up in smoke with the hard drive; that's some really thorough design you've got there, Microsoft), installed Windows on the new hard drive, installed the shiny new Ubuntu on the hard drive, and soothe my irritated nerves by hacking my Ubuntu display into my preferred minimalist glory. I've opted for a white and gray look, breaking from my long tradition of black, black and more black with maybe a dash of red. Once I've done all the display tweaking I can do without going into config files, which I am much too brain dead to risk, I decide it's time to go make Windows safe for the world. I'll install a better browser, a better firewall, some virus protection, maybe some anti-spyware stuff, you know, the things one has to do to keep their Windows machine safe from itself.
There's just a problem. You see, Windows can't for the life of itself find my networking hardware. "Wireless card? What's a wireless card?" it says to me. Ubuntu can surf the web with my wireless card before I've even installed it, but Windows is fuzzy on the concept of network. It's not even sure it knows what a network is, but would I like to install software from a disc given to me by my ISP? (To be fair, this is XP, but like hell am I buying Windows 7 or putting Vista on a netbook. I have a legal copy of XP, it works, if petulantly, I'll stick to it) It literally took me twenty minutes of desperately searching through the drivers manager to realize that I am not in fact stranded with no recourse, but the same machine can get to the internet if I switch OSes, download the driver I need, put it on external media, then boot back for the install.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I've just used a Linux install to rescue a Windows install from failure to cope with hardware. We've come full circle, except now the roles are reversed. I'm going to slap the next person who says they won't use Linux, because they want something they can install which "just works." Why? Because it's ten hours later, and I have to reboot again to see if maybe Windows will recognize my hardware now so I can look prepared when I show up to work on Monday.
P.S. Thank god I didn't decide this could wait until Sunday.
ETA: Either this is the latest stage of a vicious nightmare, or the network drivers do now work. I just have to keep telling this rassfracking system to stop being so bleeding helpfully unhelpful.