Randomness for 2/11

1) An alternate history of “Flappy Bird” a successful game that was pulled from sale because of the gamers abused its creator.

2) Marvel opens its image archive and api to the public. I’m pretty sure this is cool, and if I were ten years younger I might understand why.

3) Calvin and Muad’Dib. Calvin & Hobbes cartoons with quotes from Dune to replace the dialog.

4) Teddy Roosevelt’s 10 Rules for Reading. Sensible guy.

5) Male artist creates art show with woman’s art, doesn’t feel he needs to name her.

6) An Infinity of Alternate Batmen.

7) Well, Valentine’s Day is coming, and this tumblr has created Valentine’s messages from actual comments on Pornhub. NSFW, obviously.

27 Jan 2014, 9:25am
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Randomness for 12/24

Not Christmas-related. Isn’t that a relief?

1) Skyrim mod replaces dragons with Thomas the Tank Engine. Video. Maybe that should be in a story seeds post.

2) Mountain goats climb nearly vertical dam for the salt.

3) Iron Moon. Video. via Kurt Busiek.

4) The world’s largest mall has an occupancy rate of less than 1%. via Fred Hicks.

5) How long it takes a typical worker to earn as much as their company CEO makes in an hour.

6) Story Corps, Animated. Video. If you have been listening to Story Corps here and there, you’ll know why this is something not to be missed. If not, Story Corps is a project where two people sit with a microphone to permanently record (for the Library of Congress) a personal story from their lives. If the news has you thinking people are mostly awful, Story Corps will change your mind.

7) Chief O’Brien At Work.

23 Dec 2013, 6:26am
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Six Things Make A Post


2) Ten Things Food Banks Need But Won’t Ask For. At first I thought it was a little late for me to be posting this, but then I smacked my forehead. People are hungry all year round, not just during the holiday.

3) At first, I thought this was satirical, but when I saw that it was Conservapedia, I believed it. Those people are too far gone to satirize: Extreme right wingers rewriting Bible because it’s not conservative enough.

4) Why Marketers Fear The Female Geek. As a marketing category, “geek” is not truly going to come into its own until every kind is welcomed.

5) U of C study demonstrates that “drug-sniffing” dogs do not actually sniff drugs. What they actually do is respond to the K9 officer’s signals on when to alert, essentially giving police the power for warrantless searches.

6) Downtown Seattle’s PERSON OF INTEREST technology. Okay, so it’s not quite POI, but what the SPD has installed (and won’t talk about) is creepily invasive.

25 Sep 2013, 8:00am
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In Case You Need To Get Your Rage On, Part 2

You know what’s fun? A government empowered to steal your personal belongings (your car, your house, your cash, your jewelry) for trumped up reasons, and makes it impossible to get them back. And it’s all perfectly legal.

Even better, if you’re curious about a real-life villain that would be too smarmy for fiction, just read through to the very end. Team Drugbust! Team Jesus! If you’re on those teams, you can do anything at all and you’re still a virtuous person.


17 Jul 2013, 6:28am
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Five Things.

1) OMG, another terrorist attack in England! But maybe you haven’t heard of it because it was an attack against a mosque.

2) We only just started watching GLEE on Netflix (and I didn’t much like it) but we were all saddened to hear that one of the stars died of a drug overdose.

Media reports keep saying “He had just spent a month in rehab to break his addiction” as though it’s a shame that rehab failed him, but what few people say is that the risk of death by overdose is incredibly high after an addict has been clean for a while. Their tolerance drops, and when they fall off the wagon they go back to pre-rehab levels of drug use. That can be lethal with lowered tolerance.

I realize it could be undermining to say: “We don’t want you to fall off the wagon, but if you do…” but someone ought to warn people.

3) And of course there’s the Zimmerman verdict, which… Christ.

Not only are you well aware that many people are afraid of you—you can see them clutching their purses or stiffening in their subway seats when you sit across from them—you must also remain conscious of the fact that people expect you to be apologetic for their fear. It’s your job to be remorseful about the fact that your very nature makes them uncomfortable, like a pilot having to apologize to a fearful flyer for being in the sky.

It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn’t come back from twenty-four down.

To paraphrase a great man: We are what our record says we are. How can we sensibly expect different?

4) There’s a growing movement for people to boycott the movie ENDER’S GAME because the author of the novel is a wackadoodle homophobe who done work for the NOM and has, in the past, advocated revolution if the same-sex marriage became legal. Lionsgate acknowledged the issue in their own official response, but I like this response better.

Personally, I doubt I’ll be seeing the movie myself but I was already meh on it before I heard about the boycott. Color me skeptical of stories about child soldiers. Besides, if I’ve already skipped the sequel to the rebooted Star Trek, Epic, Oblivion, and a bunch of other half-baked summer fare, I really can’t see myself stealing writing time for this film.

5) In much lighter news, JK Rowling published a book under a pen name, which was just outed last week.

I’ve talked about this a lot on Twitter and it’s hard to summarize everything for this space. Personally I think it was a smart thing for her to do; a pen name gives her the freedom to write without expectations. No one is comparing her books to the last Potter book, no one expects a huge event out of it. It’s just her doing what she wants.

Now that it’s out, of course, it’s like the blind wise sages describing an elephant: Some people think she tried to abandoned her fans, some think she proved that publishing is all (or mostly) about luck, some think it’s all about how a few bestselling authors dominate the market and make things incredibly difficult for new and midlist authors.

And then there’s this:

Which I think is hilarious.

9 Jul 2013, 7:40am
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The Banality of SFWA

So I was reading Darin Strauss’s The Banality of Butter: What Hannah Arendt Can Tell Us About Paula Deen in The Atlantic Wire and I reached this section:

… sometimes what we call evil — and what can bring about the most horrible outcomes — can often more accurately and simply be thoughtlessness of a sort. That is to say, people, and communities, are often no good at the kind of abstract thought that helps us understand the experience of others. [italics original]

This lesson comes from Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, and as Strauss says in his Atlantic article, it’s absurd to compare what Paula Deen did with what Eichmann did.

I’d like to pause here to emphasize that: for Strauss, the point here is not to compare what Deen did with what Eichmann did, and I have no interest in trying to compare what serial harassers inside SFWA or other convention spaces with what Eichmann did. That would be absurd.

But the way that communities react to these issues is very much to the point. Deen’s supporters have refused to acknowledge that her behavior was worth condemnation, or that their assertion that what she did was no big deal stems from a cultural abscess that should have been lanced a long time ago.

Another quote:

Again, Arendt was perhaps the first to write coherently about the trouble communities have in seeing the world as being something other than what they have been conditioned to see — without any kind of cultural empathy.

Isn’t that what we see from the harasser-apologists? People with no empathy for the way women are treated in their shared spaces, and who think women should just suck it up, or laugh it off, or consider that maybe possibly kinda could this all be a misunderstanding?

It seems to me that there are few more effective ways to rile up a bunch of people than to puncture their self-image as people of virtue.

26 Jun 2013, 9:11am
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DOMA Cracks

Today’s SCOTUS decision overturning the Defense Of Marriage Act is more than welcome, it’s long overdue. Clinton should never have signed it, but the further we get to fairness and justice in the U.S., the more intense the pushback. The nice thing is that “gay marriage” can be simply “marriage” for now, as far as the federal government is concerned.

Speaking of pushback, the Voting Rights Act was struck down yesterday. This is bad news for voters in NY, CA, and the other states affected by that law, but it’s also a rallying cry to the rest of the country. There’s no excuse for making black voters wait twice as long as white voters in this country. Jim Crow may be gone, but historic injustice remains.

So the work isn’t done. Same-sex marriage legislation needs to be passed in states all across the country. National legislation that ensures convenient access to voting booths nationwide needs to be enacted, not just in the parts of the country covered by the VRA.

We can do this. It’s up to the people to create a just society; no one will do it for us. If you want to know what to do, writing a personalized letter to your elected representatives–even if they’re far on the other end of the political spectrum from you–is surprisingly effective.

3 Jun 2013, 12:18pm
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SFWA Bulletin and sexism in the genre

I’ve been following the fight over sexist content in The Bulletin and sexist content in the genre in general, but I hadn’t planned to comment on it any more than I already have.

However! I want to drop a couple of relevant links and make a point I haven’t seen elsewhere. First, the links:

My very complicated reaction to issue 202 of the Bulletin by Mary Robinette Kowal encapsulates a lot of what I’ve been thinking about the whole shit smear. SFWA is not required to put out sexist commentary and the fact that it does (or simply lets it slip through the editorial sieve) is a major distraction from the good work it does. Her whole post is worth reading.

Ben Rosenbaum asking Malzberg and Resnick to be better people.

Ann Aguirre came into the professional part of the field only a few years before I did, but the sexism she details is ridiculous. Worse, if you read down to the ETA on that post, you see that she’s still getting vicious emails that include rape threats. I can’t stand that this bullshit is still going on.

Finally, I just want to comment on this quote from Mike Resnick in his most recent column:

The next question is: is this an overreaction to attempted censorship? The answer is simple and straightforward: I don’t think it’s possible to overreact to thought control, whether Politically Inept of Politically Motivated or merely displaying the would-be controller’s personal tastes and biases

For the record, the “attempted censorship” is the online criticism he and the magazine that published him has received. Never mind that criticism is not censorship; the point here is that Resnick thinks that only his speech should have power. He seems to think the people who criticism are welcome to do so as long as nothing comes of their speech: no one can be swayed by the points they make, no one can have their minds changed. If Resnick’s editor sees the criticism, thinks they have merit, and ends the column, that’s “censorship” and must be fought.

Which is bullshit, obviously. Speech has consequences. Speech sways the opinion of others, and maybe–just maybe–that might have an effect on your life. Resnick has that power; he’s going to have to get used to the idea that others have it, too.

17 Apr 2013, 11:07am
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As news media announces an arrest in the Boston bombing…

Let me link to this article in the NY Times: Richard Jewell, 44, Hero of Atlanta Attack, Dies

When the name of the person arrested has been released, do not rush to Facebook to harass people with the same name. Do not start digging into the personal lives of complete strangers to see what dirt you can find or what political prejudices you can confirm. Jewel was harassed for months simply because a newspaper said the FBI was investigating him. Police asked him to sign a confession they had written up as a “training exercise.” In truth, his life was ruined.

And he’s not the only one.

The modern news media may be in a headlong rush to share every rumor or minor development, but we don’t have to follow. We’d be better off spending time with people we love or writing to our members of Congress about pending legislation. The last thing this country needs is to crowd-source our criminal justice system.

4 Apr 2013, 6:42am
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A Proposal for SFWA and Other Writers Re: Publisher Bankruptcy

One of the worst things about the Night Shade business is that a publisher going into bankruptcy takes all their books with them. Even if a writer’s contract specifies that the rights revert to the author upon bankruptcy, that clause can’t be enforced because the bankruptcy court seizes those rights as one of the few (if not only) asset the publisher has.

It’s a little more complicated than that, as stated in the link in my previous post on this subjects, but that’s the basics. If a publisher goes bankrupt, in all likelihood a writer’s publishing contracts will be sold off to a third party without any input from the writer.

That’s just a matter of the law, though, isn’t it? Couldn’t legislation change that?

This is something I’d like to see SFWA (and other writers groups, and writers in no group at all) take up. Surely there are legislators on the federal level who are sf/f fans. Does anyone know who they are? Who their favorite writers are? I would bet that a contact from a writer they admire might persuade them to introduce legislation protecting right of reversion contracts.

18 Mar 2013, 9:58am

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Ten Years Ago I Turned Away From My Ideals And Supported Evil

Ten years ago tomorrow was the start of the Invasion of Iraq. To my shame (not chagrin, not embarrassment. Shame.) I was an early supporter of the war.

I had long believed that war never be taken on as an adventure overseas, but I let myself be turned by the propaganda leading up to the attack. Did I believe the evidence supporting the presence of WMDs? No, actually, but I thought Hussein needed to allow inspections to continue. Did I believe Iraqi oil reserves were part of the reason we went to war? Yes, of course I did, but I thought there was good to be done anyway.

Which is completely ridiculous. Of course it is. How often are the tools of empire and destruction put of a positive use?

What’s more, I was a grown man who knew better. So what happened? I let myself get caught up in all the talk of chemical weapons used against Iraqi citizens and “rape rooms.” I let myself be convinced that the Iraqi people would be grateful.

At the time, there were anti-war marches in the streets. I remember looking out my window at them as they passed the office building where I worked: they were the usual far left hippie types with their giant puppets, long hair, and birkenstocks. They agreed with me that the war was about oil (a stance that was sneered at in the media at the time) but they were sure it was a huge mistake.

Of course they were right. Of course they were. At the time I thought their protests were ridiculous and self-marginalizing. They seemed more interested in confirming their cultural cred as outsiders than in winning people to their side. The civil rights marchers in the sixties wore coats and ties; these people were in tie dye and sandals that showed their dirty feet. These people don’t represent me.

And that’s utterly ridiculous. They weren’t trying to represent me. They were warning us that the nation was about to make a huge mistake, and they were 100% correct.

Shortly before the invasion, when talk of war was ever-present, I remember Hans Blix coming to the media to say that Hussein had knuckled under and agreed to allow inspections again. I spent half a day foolishly thinking that the invasion planning had done it’s job… until Bush administration officials declared that it was too little too late and the invasion was going to happen anyway. That’s when I realized what an immature asshole I’d been, although I still held out thin hope things would turn out all right.

It didn’t.

What I realize now is that I should have been out in the streets with those protesters. I should have held on to my beliefs and my mistrust and marched against the war. It’s not the responsibility of political protesters to make themselves palatable to me; it’s my job to recognize right from wrong and speak out about it.

Randomness for 1/1

1) The 50 Worst Columns of 2012. So many trainwrecks.

2) What would cities look like without light pollution? h/t Richard Kadrey

3) Outtakes for ST:TNG Season 2. Video.

4) Politics in 2012, in graphs and gifs.

5) WW2: Full of ridiculous plot holes. h/t James Nicoll

6) The lowest-grossing theatrical release of 2012 goes to Christian Slater’s latest. It was a one-week release, though, and averaged more than “The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure.”

7) Oldest and Fatherless: The Terrible Secret of Tom Bombadil. An oldie but a goodie.

14 Dec 2012, 10:29pm
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Reforming U.S. Gun Laws Will Be The Work Of A Generation

The shooting in Connecticut happened early this morning, but late enough that I was already away from home with my internet turned off when the news hit. It was only after work was done and I was connecting to the cafe wifi that I found out what had happened.

It’s awful and unbearable. That goes without saying. It needs to stop, too. That also goes without saying.

Remember MADD? That was Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Before MADD formed, drunk driving was a thing a whole lot of people did, and there was a “Let them sleep it off in jail” attitude, assuming the cops liked you. I remember reading editorials from men who didn’t understand why everyone kept talking about drunk drivers as if they were bad people. Gosh, it’s just friends out to have a good time!

MADD changed all that. It took time. They argued with people who wanted the status quo. They spoke about lives lost. They talked about common sense.

Nowadays, drunk drivers are treated like people who put other people’s lives at risk. The culture changed. We need to do the same thing with guns.

A friend of mine suggested that the idea we could regulate (or even eliminate) guns in a nation with an estimated 300 million of them was an impossible task. It sure can seem that way, even to pundits writing about the success of buy-back programs in other countries, but if we don’t start now, we’ll never finish.

Maybe it’s the novelist in me, but the way to finish a long, difficult task is to begin immediately and work hard for an extended time.

A good place to start would be these facts about guns and mass shootings in the U.S.

A good thing to do would be to write to your representative and your senators. Write to your governors. There are many simple, sensible things the United States could do to reduce the endless string of gun deaths in this country: Every gun must be registered. Every gun must be insured. If a person is caught with an unregistered, unlicensed weapon, that should be a felony.

The first time it happens wouldn’t have to involve jail time, if there were no other laws broken. A fine and suspended sentence would be enough. And of course, felons in most states lose their right to vote during their sentence and in a few states for long after that. Maybe that would finally end the practice of denying former convicts of their voting rights.

It won’t be easy and it won’t be perfect. No system ever devised by humans can function perfectly. The real choice here is what flaws we’re willing to accept. Are we going to continue with mass murders all over the news and 30-some thousand gun-related deaths a year? Or are we finally, finally going to start changing things.

Added: Per a suggestion on the LiveJournal mirror for this blog, consider also supporting the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

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