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Si, and I like potatoes.
I'm reading David Graeber's generally excellent* The Utopia of Rules, and it's reminded me of a pet peeve of mine with much of the publishing industry.

Folks, I do not give a flying fuck what your style guide, your academic advisor, or anyone else says. If you have notes appended to the text that are digressions, additive text, anecdotes, or anything other than basic bibliographic information, they should be fucking footnotes. Period. Maybe, if you've got really short chapters, you can get away with using end-of-chapter notes. But fucking endnotes? Fuck that shit. Your work of pop academia is not a fucking Choose Your Own Adventure, and my reading experience should not include keeping my finger inserted between pages 234-235 so I can flip back and forth every time you want to make an aside.

I realize this is likely a publisher issue as much as anything else (and probably not the author's fault), but it is so fucking annoying. Usability is a concept that applies everywhere, not just in technology (where, incidentally, this is less of an issue generally, since services like Kindle can handle moving between notes and text gracefully).

*Although anyone who writes "ATM Machine" repeatedly deserves a solid whack with an LCD display.
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I have tabs. They need closing and sharing.

1. Dan Lyons -- of Fake Steve Jobs fame -- was fired from NewsWeek a couple of years ago, and went to work marketing for glorified spam firm Hubspot, where he realized that all the cliches about startup culture were true. Mind you, I'm a fan of at least one thing he criticizes (walking meetings -- they can be damned useful, and not just when scripted by Aaron Sorkin), but some of the stuff discussed is horrifying (note that this is an excerpt from an upcoming book, so is lighter on details than you might expect). The coda -- that two HubSpot execs were fired (or quit before they could be fired) when they attempted to use possibly-illegal means to stop the book from getting published -- will likely lead to another fascinating read one day.

2. Buzzfeed, which has been on fire lately, especially with their Reader section, manages to make me care about something I'd never thought I'd care about: How Jennifer Garner Went Full “Minivan Majority”, by Anne Helen Petersen.

2.5 Other great things from Buzzfeed lately include a breathtaking story by Helen Oyeyemi, a fascinating by Sarah Weinman on one of the country's first mass-shootings, and a heartbreaking piece by Ian Carlos Crawford on finding a friend (and former lover) dead.

3. Patrick Klepek writes a piece interviewing the people who upload torrents. This one's more a medium than a long read, but is still interesting (although I'd love to get a sense from folks who torrent in other areas than just video games).

4. Sponsored content (content co-produced by an editorial group for advertising purposes) is a longtime thing in journalism, and the results aren't necessarily qualitatively bad (Slate and GE, for example, gave us The Message, a genuinely engrossing science fictions serial podcast). But Jacob Silverman's essay on the process at The Atlantic (which has a bad track record there to begin with, as he notes) definitely makes it sound ugly.

5. I am more terrible at the game of go than I am even at chess, but this article by Melissa Hillman at Quartz analyzing the games Google's AlphaGo played in its famous match earlier this year is fascinating nonetheless.

Bonus: It's not a longread at all, but here's Hannah Keyser at Deadspin on why butter crocks are a crock of bullshit.
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With fans clearly craving more, and a renewal imminent, I've managed to get a copy of the TV Guide descriptions the six episodes featured in 2017's Season 11 of The X-Files

S11E1 "Renewals" You liked Lauren Ambrose? We're upping the Six Feet Underness of the show by adding Mathew St. Patrick! You know, Keith, the only black character from that show? Yep, after twenty years, the X-Files finally has black character who isn't an alien. Or do we? Oh, wait, we forgot about Kersh, but don't worry, we totally won't make St. Patrick a one-note character just there to be hated. You have our word! Oh, and we gave this episode a snappy title that could be meta. You like that, right?

S11E2 "Jose Chung's Back to the Well." This one has everything! D&D references, men in black, surprise celebrity cameos (you kids still think Dean Cain's a big deal, right?), metatextual BS, and Mulder masturbating to a Sasquatch. A real live one, not a video.

S11E3 "Cotton-Eyed Joe" Mulder convinces Scully to investigate a series of weddings that are getting called off at the last minute. Scully suggests that this is just fucking normal in the 21st century, but her foolish female skepticism is once again shattered, as they encounter a mysterious being whose "smile was his gun." They eventually solve the case by visiting genius.com and finding the secret messages in a Rednex song.

S11E4 "Chinchilabeast." Chinchillas. One of the few creatures that hasn't been the subject of an episode yet. Also, this will be the episode with the transphobic jokes shoehorned into an otherwise entertaining episode.

S11E5 "Phoning It In" Shit, I don't know. There are some bees, and the Cigarette-Smoking Man working with yet another unexpected traitor (spoiler: Doggett), and maybe someone with with awkward social skills who seems monstrous but turns out to just be protecting something else and it all ends in tragedy?

S11E6 "My Struggle III" Mulder just says "fuck it," rips off his mask, and reveals that he's Adolph Hitler, just like Hate-Monger did decades ago. The remainder of the 42 minutes is just Chris Carter curled up in a ball, sobbing and shouting, "why couldn't I get Vince Gilligan back?" As the show fades to black, we see the words "to be continued." You try to leave your house, but opening the door leads to an impenetrable void. You are trapped, forever, just like Carter.
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If you somehow don't have them, Amazon's doing a one-day sale on the complete Buffy for $49.99 (75%off), and the complete Angel for $39.99 (71% off). That's about $7 a season for Buffy and under $8 a season for Angel.
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There's not a lot I can add. But a few things:

picture behind the cutCollapse )
That revenge shitting was really bad. If you took Bash in a cat carrier in the car, he'd meow in protest, then shit in protest. Every trip to MSPCA for his eye herpes also ended with the docs needing to clean him off.

We thought they might have gotten his age wrong when we first got him. He was so damned playful. Obviously, they were right, alas.

He ate pork. When Elayna would eat pork tenderloin for dinner, she'd cut off the edges, and Bash would have a fucking feast eating the scraps.

And as recently as last week, when we got a Star Wars cat teaser toy, he was happy to chase and attack it.

Here's what I wrote on Facebook yesterday:

"Murder Cat, aka Bash, aka Count Sebastian Ampersand Vorcattigan, passed away at the age of 15. For all his malice (most often manifested when he'd chew on people's hair), he was as loved a cat as there was, and even often loving himself. We adopted him as a twelve-year-old who still acted like a kitten, and he gave us three wonderful years. We'll miss him so damned much."

Originally posted by shadesong at RIP Murder Cat
In early 2013, we had no intention of getting another cat. We'd lost Jack the previous August; then we lost Victoria in February.

And then newly-solo Max started caterwauling all night, every night, out of sheer loneliness. He needed a buddy. We weren't ready, but we saddled up and went out, on my birthday, to acquire a cat from the MSPCA.

His original name was Bunz. Yes. Ridiculous. We first called him Ampersand, then Sebastian, which went straight to Bash. And, later, Murder Cat. And Jerkface. Because omg was he a trick cat. Kitten-playful and sweet in the shelter, but, well, a Murder Cat at home.

He was 12 when we adopted him. Everyone was like "Are you sure?" Yes, we were; at the time, we were thinking of him as a companion for then-17-year-old Max, and this was before Max's kidney disease diagnosis, so we thought a few years together as buddies would be good. Average Maine Coon life expectancy is 12-15, and he was going to be an indoor cat; Siamese can live to 20. It was a good bet. But Max took ill that summer, and died right after Thanksgiving.

And Bash? Oh, Bash. Bash was a revenge shitter, a nervous traveller, a biter of hair and arms, trouble all the way down. Bash had a bump on his chin - $600 of tests later we found out it was acne. Bash got eye herpes. EYE HERPES. We shuttled him back and forth to the veterinary opthalmologist for months. We medicated him multiple times a day. He fuckin' hated that. We all have scars. He started shit with the other animals we eventually acquired. He swatted at Nicky and chased Whisper. He pissed on my bed. He ate every piece of plastic that entered the house. He was a giant furry asshole.

But he made this sweet "murr" sound whenever you touched him. And he had the world's floofiest belly and gigantic paws and that stunning ruff. And he would let me - for brief amounts of time - pick him up and snuggle him in my arms like a baby, tummy exposed. And he had a mighty purr, and loved it when we had company - he would walk right up to any guest and regally demand to be worshiped. Which the guest always did, because he was a beauty, and he *would* be sweet before he bit you. He's the first cat my toddler niece ever met, and she fell in love with him.

And she won't remember him.

Bash seemed fine last week. He acted totally normal when Sioban and Emily came over for dinner on Wednesday, I remember that. Emily took selfies with him. He demanded petting from Sioban.

During Arisia this weekend, Elayna noticed that he wasn't eating.

We made an appointment for Wednesday late afternoon, because it's the first time we could - we can't leave Nicky unattended in the cone (which comes off tomorrow), and Wednesday's the vet's only open-late day. We thought maybe arthritis had dimmed his appetite. Maybe cancer. Oh, Bash, getting expensive again.

He stayed under the dining room table all day yesterday. I kept checking on him. At 1:00, I saw he was having difficulty breathing; I texted Adam "Can you get home earlier today? I'm really worried about him." I hit send.

And Bash cried out, and I ran to him and scooped him up in that baby-snuggle position, and he left. Instantly.

We were bracing ourselves for Nicky, with that risky surgery. We've been joking that Bash is too mean to die. At the very least, we figured he'd put us through a protracted illness.

No one expected this. We're still in shock. The girl-cats knew; Nicky is just distressed because he can tell everyone else is.

Bash was an asshole cat. I used to look at him, shake my head, and say "I don't love you."

And then I would lean in and whisper "actually i do love you, don't tell anyone, it's a secret."
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My schedule for Arisia (where I’m thankfully not as over-scheduled as I’ve been in the past) coming up on MLK weekend. As always, I’m hoping to spend plenty of the con in the gaming room, and will hope to see folks throughout the weekend.

Friday

5:30PM Supergirl!

Although not (as of yet) connected to the rest of the TV DC Universe, the new Supergirl show is both a hit, and a blast to watch. We’ll talk about the first half-season of the show, what it means to have a positive female hero on the small screen as a headliner, and how the creators are reinterpreting a familiar mythos through an amazing new lens. We’ll also discuss the verve Melissa Benoist brings to the title role, and the dual roles played so well by Laura Benanti.
Gordon Linzner (m), Crystal Huff, Sharon Sbarsky, Adam Lipkin, Cassandra Lease

10PM

Wait, That’s Not in the Sci-Fi Section!

A look at the NYT bestseller list clearly shows a lot of genre work that isn’t being marketed as science fiction of fantasy. David Mitchell has never been called an SF writer; Ben Winters has won the Edgar Award for his SF, yet we don’t hear about him in genre circles. The lack of labels can help these authors find mainstream success, but how can we find out about genre work that’s not marketed as such?
Walt Williams, Mark W. Richards, David G. Shaw, Adam Lipkin (m)

Sunday

10AM

DC Comics 1985 to 1995: A Decade of Epic Change
For ten years at DC Comics decisions were made and books were published that would redefine what mainstream comics were capable of. Crisis on Infinite Earths brought us the reboot. Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns gave us the “grim and gritty” aesthetic. The debuts of Swamp Thing, Hellblazer and Sandman helped establish the Vertigo line. Our panelists will discuss this decade and how it could affect comics in the future.
Glenn Hauman, Ken Gale, Adam Lipkin (m), Alisa Kwitney Sheckley, Joey Peters

1PM

Arisia Curmudgeon Panel 2: Curmudgeon Harder!
Last year, we told you why things that “everyone” loves, from Middle Earth to Star Wars, from Gaiman to Whedon, suck. But one panel wasn’t enough time for all the loathing we feel. This year, expect more vitriol, snark, and actual media criticism at this wide-ranging panel.
Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez, Mark Oshiro (m), Shira Lipkin, Adam Lipkin
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1. Kingdom of Loathing: Since I took my hiatus, KOL started doing yearly rewards for standard ascensions (with limited access to old content while in Ronin, similar to the way M:TG runs things). So I've now completed my first standard (as in, not hardcore or a challenge path) ascension since maybe 2010? It's fascinating, because things like pulling items from Hangks are so not on my radar, it's harder than HC is. But I'm enjoying it, and will be doing all six standard paths (and then doing each in HC, since there are separate yearly rewards there).

2. Marvel Puzzle Quest: They just introduced a Champions mechanic for maxed-out characters, and I'm liking it so far (even if its cost me all my spare ISO-8). Once a character's a champion, you can rejigger their powers at any time (which means that for Black Panther, for example, I was able to finally get him to five levels in his best power without waiting for that last cover), and each cover you use to level them once they're a champion gets you a prize. I snagged Legendary tokens that in turn got me Nick Fury, Jean Grey, and Professor X covers today, and my Fury is finally strong enough that he was able to win the Legendary mission today (which then got me a 4* Deadpool). So yeah, really enjoying it, and now I have a lot more incentive to scrap for ISO again.

3. Neko Atsume: I have pictures of every cat but Sassy Fran. Dammit.

4. Plants vs Zombies 2. I'm at level 27 on Vasebreaker Endless. Woohoo! I basically just play Vasebreaker and the daily challenge. I still haven't won the actual "game." If they ever offer I, Zombie for PvZ2, though, I'm totally there.

5. Lara Croft Go. I beat both the original levels and the expansion, which means I could delete it from my iPad. As with The Room 3, this is an amazing puzzle game, but at over a gig of space, took up too much room to keep on the device permanently. But I highly recommend it if you've got some spare iTunes credit.

6. Disgaea 5: Haven't had a chance to play on the PS4 in ages, alas, but I'm about 3/5 of the way through the main game, and loving it.
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Not surprisingly, I continue to have thoughts on the MLB Hall of Fame:

1. Griffey was a lock, and his election is well-deserved.

2. The fact that it took four years for Mike Piazza to get elected is a fucking crime. Full stop.

3. As long as Ty Cobb remains in the Hall, the fact that Curt Schilling is, well, Curt Schilling should not be a reason for him to be on the outside looking in. He's worthy.

4. Also, Clemens and Bond belong in the Hall.

5. Jeff Kent most certainly does not, and any writer who'd only vote for Kent and Griffey shows incredibly incompetence.

6. Tim Raines not making it next year would be so sad. He belongs, but has only one more shot. If he had two years, he'd be a lock.

7. Jeff Bagwell will clearly make it in next year. As he should.

8. The bias against recent players continues to be an issue, although purging the nearly 100 voters who hadn't covered MLB in years was a huge start. But limiting folks to ten votes is also a problem. There a lot of legit HOF-worthy candidates this year (Junior, Piazza, Schilling, Clemens, Bond, Raines, Bagwell, Alan Trammell (who, like Jack Morris before him, is now done on this ballot), Edgar Martinez), with others (Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner) being worth having a conversation about.

9. OTOH, voters who had ten slots and wasted any of them on David Eckstein or Mike Sweeney are grossly unqualified for their jobs.

10. Looking ahead, only Pudge Rodriguez, of the folks joining the ballot, would get my vote. I'm tempted to say he should wait five years out of spite for how the voters treated Piazza, but that's hardly his fault.
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I've failed once again to actually record everything I read in 2015. Yay, consistency!

That said, a quick glance at my library history, PW records, and my memory suggests that I probably read about 150-200 books, and about another 200 graphic novels.

A few notes:

1. I've been really lax on reading nonfiction this year. Maybe no more than ten books (most of them frontloaded at the beginning of the year, like the literary equivalent of joining a gym in January and not going after March)? I do read a lot of my nonfiction online, but good long articles (and yes, there are great ones out there) and personal essays are not the same as actual books. I want to change that in 2016. I've also fallen down on short fiction (maybe about fifteen collections?), but honestly, don't feel as bad about that. I do read some short fiction online, but I find that I prefer not reading fiction on the web (see more on that later). The fact that, to be frank, most of the online publications are generally less than compelling (excluding Clarkesworld and Apex and a handful of good crime zines) doesn't help, but it's more an issue of format than content, first and foremost.

2. I went really into mystery and crime this year, even more than in previous years, although it was generally a grazing approach. I only downed one entire series (Lauren Henderson's Sam Jones books, which required using both university and Minuteman ILL, because the first two books are REALLY hard to find), but otherwise read books by a bunch of folks both familiar (any year a new Quinn Colson or Kinsey Millhone book comes out, I read it), and new-to-me (with the exception of Patricia Highsmith, all of the folks in Sarah Weinman's awesome Women Crime Writers collection were new to me, even though I clearly should have read Laura ages ago, since I adore the movie; it's embarrassing, as well, that I'd never read Amanda Cross or John Dickson Carr before 2015). I also went for some international works here -- there's great stuff being translated from French, Norwegian, and Japanese -- and expect to continue that trend in 2016 (and contra my point in #1 above about being lax on short fiction, I just took the anthology Passports to Crime out of the library, and the first story, which I read on by bus ride home, is fantastic). I have a lot of thoughts on crime/mystery tropes, subgenres, etc that might lead to a few blog posts.

3. I read about 35 books this year for PW, mostly SF/F/H and some romance (all romance was "romantic suspense," which is romantic shorthand for "mystery.") Some of them were really good, some of them were insultingly terrible.

4. I re-read no books this year. I don't think I've re-read anything that wasn't by Pratchett or Zelazny in a decade. If I want a comfort re-read before bed, I'm more likely to opt for graphic novels or comic strip collections (and even then, that's rare). I find that there's too much good stuff to spend what little time I have reading something again, although I do recognize that certain works might benefit from my being in a different place in life (while others might suffer). And yes, I know that some works are really so brilliant that they need multiple reads. I'm not disavowing the habit, just saying I don't see myself doing much of it.

5. Speaking of Pratchett, I still haven't read The Shepherd's Crown. Denial is a powerful tool, even when you're aware of it.

6. I'm strongly contemplating getting a Kindle (probably a Paperwhite). About 2/3 of my review books are ebooks, and a bunch of others are also available easily electronically. The iPad really does create eye strain, and now that the Paperwhite is up to 300dpi, I think I might need to bite the bullet. Most reviews say that using Calibre to convert ePubs is relatively painless these days. I also know there are options for using Instapaper and Pocket with the Kindle, which may make me more likely to read both fiction and longread articles there.

7. Oh, genre stuff? Eh. I'm generally unimpressed by the state of the genre, but there are really good exceptions. Books I'd recommend from this past year: SevenEves, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, The Fifth Season, The Mechanical, Last First Snow, Signal to Noise, The Rabbit Back Literature Society (the last is not technically from this year, but the English translation is). There's surely other good stuff out there, but I'm generally pickier now than I used to be. With a very small list of exceptions, I'm less inclined to seek out older works (outside of the last couple of decades) in genre that weren't already on my radar.

8. While I read a ton of graphic novels, I'm generally only a fan of a few current series: Morning Glories, Saga, Phonogram, Wicked + the Divine, No Mercy, Chew, a handful of others. I bounced hard off one hugely overhyped series (and will just point to a perfect review of it by Sarah Horrocks), enjoyed a handful from the Big Two (Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel, Injustice: Gods Among Us), but none enough to convince me that management at the Big Two need to go, and soon. Frankly, the collection I probably enjoyed the most was Archie vs Predator.

9. Best book I read this year that wasn't a 2015 release (or translation) The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster. It's literary fiction in a detective's outfit, and quite brilliant, even if you're not from NYC.

10. Consider this my annual pledge to actually record all of my reading. Like all resolutions, expect it to be worth the paper it's printed on.
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