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I'm about halfway through Marcia Muller's excellent (so far) 1982 detective novel Ask the Cards a Question, and hit this passage:

". . . the chocolate bar she had eaten had been Hershey's, an excellent brand. As far as serious chocolate lovers were concerned, the best thing about Ghirardelli was the wrapper."


Don't get me wrong -- Muller (well, technically her detective, Sharon McCone, but this seems like a pretty clear example of the author speaking through the character here) is correct about Ghirardelli, especially since this was during the period when it was owned by Rice-a-Roni. But has Hershey ever in my lifetime been "an excellent brand?" I mean, sure, when I was ten (as I was when the book was released), I loved their stuff, but even by the time I got to high school, I knew that the best thing that could be said for Hershey bars is that they weren't Nestle bars. Now, it's not that Hershey's sucks, per se -- they have Special Dark, and Reese's, and a few other things I'll eat. But since the late '80s, I can't remember anyone ever really regretting not eating a Hershey's bar unless they were making s'mores.

So for folks slightly (or significantly) older than me, or who have access to that information (including via articles of the time), was Hershey's actually the sort of chocolate that a "serious chocolate lover" would ever actually crave?
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1. Readercon was awesome, as always. Lots of great people, lots of great discussions. I was on four panels (two on Friday, two on Sunday), and don't think I made a complete fool of myself on any of them. It helped that all of my fellow panelists were awesome, and when you sit on a panel with awesome people, you absorb some awesomeness by osmosis. Only one weak panelist even on any of the panels I attended in the audience (one who was both inaudible and pulled things way off topic), but not enough to undercut the overall awesomeness (and by any con standards, that's a low number). As with any con, hallway and afterpanel discussions were often as much fun as the con itself, and it's always great catching up with old friends and meeting new folks. The double-edged sword of commuting to the con instead of staying at the hotel means I wasn't as immersed at ReaderCon as I would have liked, but it was still a blast.

2. New Horizons has made it to Pluto! Nothing against work, but man, I wish I could be watching this all day.

3. No update on the @Yendi twitter account, other than that it's still working. I expect I'll never get any more info about what happened, but I'm assuming that either A) someone got annoyed that the username is the same as a somewhat famous model's first name, or B) that selfsame model wanted the username. The former allows me to give more benefit of the doubt, so I'll stick with it until I hear otherwise. A small side-effect of the suspension is that my Twitter lists got wiped, which truly sucks, and someone at Twitter, frankly, should get in trouble for both allowing my suspension, and for the fact that even an unprovoked suspension has consequences. Also, it's impossible to file a Twitter support ticket that uses the word "suspension" without being told to go to the suspended account form, even when that's not appropriate.

4. In other Twitter news, I made a little pop culture joke tweet on the @tsalmoth account last night while fast-forwarding through commercials during Dark Matter*, and twelve hours later, it's somehow at 900+ retweets. I'm reasonably sure I've made jokes that are funnier and more topical, but this seems to have become the biggest one somehow. I suspect there's probably a Big Name who retweeted me at some stage that's a factor here, but since Twitter doesn't let you easily see past the most recent twenty RTs or send email notifications for every single one**, I dunno (although Anil Dash faved it, which is pretty awesome).

*Incidentally, after being "meh" on the pilot, I'm pretty hooked on the show.

**Which makes me very dubious of contests that involve RTing.
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I updated yesterday's post, but just to quickly bring things around before heading out to ReaderCon, thanks to a signal boost from trochee, a real Twitter employee got ahold of things after two denials (with false accusations of "Impersonation") by the anonymous support folks, and my Twitter account is back. More after the weekend, when I'm not focused on the con.
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ETA: After two emails from Twitter telling me that the suspension was final and that I'd violated their "Impersonation" policy, someone signal-boosted to an actual human being at Twitter, who fixed it. This is a broken process and one that would screw over people who don't have a lucky contact. But for now, I'm glad I've got my digital life back.

So my Twitter account has been suspended for no reason I can find. My work one (@yendi), which, while it's less heavily used than the @tsalmoth one, is also more important from a professional point of view.

It was suspended overnight on Tuesday. I've gone through the proper channels, sending an appeal per their web form, waiting, sending a follow-up, etc. Nothing. And yeah, I ran through the list of posted rules, none of which (shockingly) I've broken. Hell, I don't even really piss folks off on that account (since it's not where I tend to post political or pop culture rants), focusing on educational technology and assistive tech issues.

Twitter, incidentally, has no fucking way to contact a human being. None. Yes, you can tag their support account (useless), or some one or two notable folks who work there (ditto, so far), but there's no actual customer service group, not even the ones you get with Facebook. It's more comparable to Google in its structure than anything else. At this point, it's entirely possible that an eight-year-old Twitter account that was used for professional reasons, and on which I'd built a huge personal learning network, has been taken down by an anonymous drone in an office who might well have just misclicked a button while he was masturbating (or maybe masturbated furiously after deliberately suspending accounts for no fucking reason other than personal jollies). If that sounds uncharitable, well, fuck it. Twitter has earned my lack of charity.

And here's the thing: When Google fucked up my email a few years back, while it was frustrating as hell, took weeks tor resolve, etc, I could still have walked away from the ecosystem and started anew (and in fact did, to a certain extent). Email works no matter what service you use.

With Twitter, I can't. Yes, there are other microblogging sites like identi.ca, and tons of other social networks ranging from Tumblr to LJ to even loosely-connected WP blogs. All of those are great (well, not the other microblogging sites, to be honest), but what makes Twitter work is the other people. I can leave, but that will mean absolutely nothing if everyone else is there. The same applies to Facebook, of course, and to any similar network. Basically, the service has become essential, and since we're not actually customers*, there's no "customer service" we can turn to, and no choice.

So I get to sit here and wonder why I've had a major part of my professional life swiped from me with no reason given, no one to contact, and nothing to do but wait. And there's not a fucking thing I can do about it, because Twitter has no fucking reason to give a shit that it's abusing power, and, in fact, if I do get this part of my digital life back, all I'll end up doing is embracing it again**.

Yeah, this is a wonderful fucking future we live in.
ETA: It gets worse! Literally as soon as I posted, I got a reply:

That is, frankly, bullshit. I've imitated no one, yet Twitter is accusing me of impersonation. Un-fucking-believable.

*Not news, but when a service is free, that makes us a part of the product, not the customer)

**Although I'll make sure to at least make a list of who I follow, so if I'm shafted again, at least I can try to recreate part of my digital life.
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"I need a detective, Lew. A good one."

"I don't do that anymore. Hell, I never did it very much. I sat in bars and drank, and eventually guys I was looking for would stumble by and trip over my feet. I'm a teacher now."

"And a writer."

"Yeah, well, that too. Once you've lost your pride, it gets easier, you know: you'll do almost any damned thing. You start off small, a piece for the local paper, or maybe this tiny little story about growing up, something like that. That's how they hook you. Then before you know it, you're writing a series for them."

--James Sallis, Moth

He's rapidly becoming one of my favorite contemporary crime writers.
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I'll be at Readercon next week, and on four panels (which is just the right amount -- programming at Readercon is more intense than at any other con I've been to, especially since it's one where panelists really do have to do some advance planning). Here are my panels, along with their awesome descriptions (note that I actually challenge the description of "Ghostbusting Lovecraft" a bit, and noted this in my response when I expressed interest in it.) The letters represent room names (possibly confusing, since both my Friday panels are in "F"). It's a wonderfully small con -- if you attend, you won't have a problem finding these panels, and if you're someone I know online, you should say, "hi." I'm an introvert, but do like chatting with folks at cons (and when I don't, I'm adept at making that clear).

Friday July 11
11:00 AM F Mystery and Speculative Crossovers. Meriah Crawford, Chris Gerwel, Greer Gilman, Nicholas Kaufmann, Adam Lipkin. There are many books that draw from both the speculative fiction and mystery toolboxes, in both macro ways (China Miéville's The City & the City and Peter F. Hamilton's Great North Road are catalyzed by hard-boiled murder investigations) and micro ways (urban fantasy was initially defined by its relationship to noir, now often more evident in tone than in plot). Where is this crossover most satisfying? How do magic and advanced technology open up new avenues of investigation or methods of befuddling the detectives? How have trends, tropes, and developments in each genre influenced crossover works?

7:00 PM F The Plausible Normal in Future Societies. Chesya Burke, John Chu, Sarah Langan, Adam Lipkin, Scott Lynch.
According to author Charles Stross, "If you're not doing [far-future extrapolation] to the cultural normals as well as the setting and technology, you're doing it wrong." Many far-future SF stories are set in a universe with an interstellar polity, advanced transportation technologies, and familiar political structures. The planetary civilizations they tend to portray, however, are middle-class white suburbias that barely exist now. Where are the far-future stories that explore novel and radical gender politics, religious frameworks, ideologies, fashions, and cultural attitudes? What are some tools authors can use to get out of their here-and-now mindsets and imagine a truly transformed future?

Sunday July 13
10:00 AM CO Ghostbusting Lovecraft. Mike Allen, Gemma Files, John Langan, Adam Lipkin, James Morrow. In Max Gladstone's blog post "Ghostbusting Lovecraft," he writes: "Ghostbusters is obviously taking the piss out of horror in general. But while the busters’ typical enemies are ghosts of the Poltergeist persuasion, the Big Bad of the movie, a formless alien god from Before Time summoned by a mad cultist–cum–art deco architect, is basically Lovecraftian." Unlike typical Lovecraftian protagonists, however, the Ghostbusters prevail over the eldritch horrors by exploiting the power structures and emotional connections that exist between people. Is the Ghostbusters story arc an alternative to the standard horror tropes, one that replaces fear with humor, defiance, and camaraderie? How else does it subvert our expectations of the conflict between humans and horrors?

1:00 PM G Transformative Works and the Law and You. Max Gladstone, Toni Kelner, Adam Lipkin, Sarah Smith. Let's discuss the state of transformative works today. Copyright law and case law in this area is changing rapidly, as is the way big publishing treats transformative works. Remix culture is the cutting edge of 21st-century creativity, and we are all postmodernists. Is the law finally catching up with that, or lagging far behind? Will the fate of copyright and transformative works ultimately be decided by the whims of corporations and powerful literary estates?
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So I've been doing some thinking about Starship Troopers, thanks to Chester Himes.

See, I read Himes's classic hardboiled novel A Rage in Harlem last week, and it was superb. Some over-the-top stuff (his Harlem cops, Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones, at one point walk into the police station after a brawl has broken out between cops and hookers and fire their guns into the ceiling), but also some characters worthy of Westlake, and one of (if not the) first hardboiled books written by an African-American author and featuring an almost-entirely African-American cast of characters. I do highly recommend the book (whose sequel I'm planning on picking up soon), and note that Samuel Jackson reads the audio version.

But near the end, I realized that one of the characters seemed familiar, and a quick google suggested that yes, I'd seen the movie of the same name over twenty years ago. The movie is a lot of fun, but it is, at best, loosely inspired by the novel.

Starship Troopers, of course, is a great movie, and unquestionably better than Heinlein's dated novel by any reasonable standard. But it takes a huge amount of grief for being barely inspired by the original.

And I do get that. I mean, if the title is "Starship Troopers," you, as a consumer, have a not-unreasonable set of expectations based on the book.

We can say, of course that both ARiH and ST are "inspired by" their books, but that's a term that, if accurate, isn't complete. I mean, Total Recall is inspired by "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale." But there's a stronger connection than "inspired by" in both of these works; there are themes, characters, and plot points that do connect to the work, even if they go off in different directions.

We need a good word that splits the difference. "Inspirdaption" is a terrible choice here, and "adaptspiration" isn't much better, but since people love their portmanteaus, I figure they're starting points.

Of course, we could always just get collectively okay with some linguistic drift in filmmaking, but given how upset folks get at drift in general, I don't have high hopes there. In the meantime, I'm going to track down a copy of the movie version of ARiH to see how it holds up.

ETA: After reading someone complaining about the upcoming Scream TV series, I realize that TV adaptations of movies are also fair game (Hannibal and Friday the Thirteenth come to mind).

*Adhering faithfully to the novel is not a reasonable standard of quality.
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So after rolypolypony posted lyrics I didn't recognize over on FB, I naturally had to google them*, and learned about Girl in a Country Song, which (for those of you who both avoid contemporary mainstream country as much as I do and don't click on the link for the video) is a takedown of the way too many songs treat women. I also came across the Genius lyrics page for the song, which has this comment: "I’m not sure what to think about this song. It is extremely well written but the message is weird to me. Do girls really not like being called pretty little thing. I would think that my girl loves it when I show her off to my friends. I can’t imagine how these girls react to some of the things hip hop artists have to say about women."

So he manages to show every issue the song complains about, and then tries to defend (largely white) country music by saying that (largely non-white) hip-hop is the real villain here**.


*Like Shazam, but for words.

**The fact that Genius evolved out of Rap Genius is the cherry on top here.
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Is there a term used for games that are essentially collections of different games? I'm thinking particularly of the early arcade era, and of games like Gorf, Tron, and Journey's Escape, as opposed to games where the gameplay is largely the same on different types of levels (Donkey Kong, Phoenix, etc). Time Bandit for the Atari ST (one of the truly great and sadly-forgotten games of the '80s) probably also qualifies here.

"Meta-game" isn't right, of course, since that has an entirely different meaning. There are probably some terms that could be coined, but I wonder if anyone's already done so, or compiled a list of games like this.

(And I'm talking about multiple gamestyles within one game, as opposed to something like Atari's Air Sea Battle cartridge, which had multiple but separate games but not within the context of one game.)

You could make an argument that the minigames that predominate a lot of AAA titles also fit this bill (GTA's racing games, FFX's Blitzball, a good half of Kingdom Hearts 2, etc), but in many ways, there was at least a core game here that the minigames serve as contrasts to; in the earlier titles, there's less of a central game.
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As some of you might know, for roughly the last two years, my cell phone has been the Kyocera Rise.

If someone had told me that Apple has initialed a false flag operation to make people hate Android, the Rise would be the result. It's awful. Horrible. On a hardware front, it's unresponsive to touch, it's slow, it's hard to read, it has trouble getting signals even in good locations, and its battery life is about two hours. On the software front, it crashes in almost any app, it has trouble running updates, and even basic apps tend not to work. Even basic tasks like dialing a number take minutes, not seconds.

I stuck with it because I'm using Virgin Mobile, and I refuse to pay more than $35 a month for my cell service. I don't want a $60+ bill (which is generally the only way to get a free or low-cost iPhone or Galaxy), because I want a phone primarily for texting, MBTA bus tracking, Twitter, occasional web access, and occasional phone calls. Oh, and taking the occasional picture of the dog or cats, of course.

But I finally hit a breaking point with that piece of shit, and have now upgraded to, of all things, a Nokia 635.

Yes, I'm on a Windows phone. And I fucking love it.

No, it's not high-end, but it does all the things I actually expect a smart phone to do. And it does them quickly. It gives me alerts. It lets me text (and has a swype-style interface that's much better than the Rise ever did). I can actually read the screen. Hell, I was able to actually check Mets scores on the bus yesterday!

Yeah, the ecosystem's small, but I really don't give a damn about that. I use my iPad for games, so only need one or two time-killers here. I use the same iPad for productivity (along with my Android Tablet to a lesser extent), and the few productivity apps I'd want on a phone (like Evernote) exist. I've got no real interest in streaming audio or video (and years of dealing with Android's well-known audio latency issue haven't helped), but most of the apps I'd consider on that front exist.

I'm still getting used to the interface changes -- it's not quite the "do they even have a usability team?" stuff you see in Android, but it's a noticeably different thing from the other systems. The tile updates are nice, but I'll need to spend some dedicated time this weekend ensuring I've got the right stuff on the front screen.

Anyway, I have a smart phone that's actually somewhat smart, finally! And I'm still on my nice Virgin Mobile monthly plan, meaning I'm not tying up more of our bank account than we can afford. Yay!
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