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Si, and I like potatoes.
For the first time in a few years, took a dive into my LJ account to see what accounts I hadn't friended back, and clearly missed a bunch of legit requests amidst the spam. I've friended a bunch of folks I know back, although for accounts that don't seem to have been updated in over a decade, I'm assuming those are abandoned (although I realize some folks don't post, but still use LJ to read and comment). But if I missed you and you're a real active LJ person and not a spambot, let me know (since LJ userinfo pages can be incredibly vague for identifying people). At least a few of these were accounts I'd assumed I had already friended, and since there were nearly 200 accounts I hadn't friended back, I'm sure I've overlooked some.

(Not crossposting to DW, since I'm actually caught up there.)
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Amazon's got a one-day sale offering $8.62 off any $50 order (celebrating a Harris Poll ranking). Only available for another six hours, so grab it while you can.
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Okay, folks, I'll go ahead and try to crowdsource this, since I'm not finding answers any other way.

As anyone who's gotten emails from me recently knows, Gmail has decided to double-send every email I send. Actually, it both double-sends it (so you'll get two copies), and gives me an error message saying it couldn't be sent (thus leaving both two sent copies and a draft in my mailbox). The actual error message reads: "Oops... a server error occurred and your email was not sent. (#78282)"

In an ironic twist, Google is useless for finding what that error means.

This happens on every web browser version of gmail on every computer, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and even IE on a Windows laptop I used at Arisia. It does not happen on the gmail app for my iPad or my Windows Phone or on Thunderbird (but dammit, I like using the gmail interface).

Other data: The only Lab I have active is the Calendar widget. No apps authorized other than the ones like the iPad app that need it. Changing themes does nothing. None of the options I found searching (most of which involve browser cache) work, not surprisingly (since it's obviously not my browser).

Oh, and my work gmail is configured exactly the same way as my personal one, and it doesn't have any problems even on the same browsers.

Anyone have any thoughts/experience with this?
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One of Amazon's Daily Deals is on sub-$5 Magazine subscriptions. And one of those is Teen Vogue, which has somehow become the source of some of the best anti-Trump reporting out there, for $4. There are lots of other good deals (New Yorker, Bon Appétit, Wired, GQ, etc), but that's the big one. Note that for magazines that include print/digital choices, only Woman's Health includes the all-access pass (the others are print-only). The subscriptions range from a few months to a year in length.
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Oh, hey, since it's coming up in two days, I should probably post my Arisia schedule, right?
I'm on three panels this year, because being an ADH, shockingly, takes up a huge amount of time. So when I'm not on a panel, figure I'll be in the Green Room, The Gaming Room, or Program Nexus.
As for my panels:
Friday at 8:30, (Marina 4): Archie Comics (moderating)
Saturday at 5:30 (Douglas): Curmudgeon Panel 3: Season of the Curmudgeon!
Sunday at 8:30, (Adams): The Wicked + The Divine
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I've been crossposting to LJ and DW for years, and have no intention of stopping. But it does seem that a bunch of people are fully abandoning LJ for DW, which likely means I'll be doing more reading of my DW friends page (instead of my current model of going directly to the four DW-only pages I knew of and reading them; that doesn't scale well). So if you're someone who's reading me on DW, and I haven't friended you back? Leave me a comment to let me know. And if you're reading this on LJ and are moving over to DW, feel free to add me there as "yendi" and I'll add you back (I think I'm up-to-date and will continue to be so on new folks there).
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I read a lot in 2016. Not counting graphic novels, comics, magazines, online articles (including some longreads that approached novella length), and other miscellany, there were still probably a good 150 or so books that I devoured (making me the distant second most-read person in our house). Most were some flavor of "good" or "interesting" (there were a few exceptions, because sometimes whether a book is good or not hinges on a last-third writing choice, but if I hate a book after an hour of reading, I don't throw more time at it*).

Anyway, here's six fiction and six non-fiction I enjoyed. Not necessarily the "best," but ones I still think others should read. I limited my list to 2016 books, although I certainly read from other periods (probably my favorite read last year was Nabokov's Pale Fire, which is brilliant enough that I don't understand why it's not talked about and taught more, as it may by my favorite piece of postmodern lit). I hate saying these are the "best," since I liked so much, and it's not even fair to say they're my favorites, since things like my mood are big factors in how I feel about things. Just twelve books I really liked, and wish more folks would read so I could have more conversations about them.


I am Providence, by Nick Mamatas. I really wanted to write a full review of this, but never found the time. While the obvious comparison point for this book are the Jay Omega books of Sharyn McCrumb, this actually felt like less of a send-up of fandom than of "pro"dom within the Lovecraftian community (and the blurred lines that have led to almost everyone involved in Lovecraft fandom to be able to claim some form of "pro" in their title). The concept is that Panossian, an author with an uncanny resemblance to Mamatas (but often in a "road not taken" sense -- this version did have a novel that mashed up Lovecraft and another classic work of literature, but never really found any success after that) is murdered at a Lovecraft con, and his roommate (and first-time attendee) attempts to figure out what happened. Mamatas takes the neat twist of alternating Colleen chapters with ones told by Panossian as his corpse lies on the table and his brain is slowly starting to fade. It's a fun take on the "have the victim tell his tale" thing, and appropriate in this setting. While the satire is first-rate, it's only part of the story, and the book exists (and has to exist) as a solid murder story as well, one that should work for folks not familiar with either Lovecraft or (if they're really lucky) his fandom. While it doesn't feel like it's meant to be a complex puzzle-box mystery in the vein of John Dickson Carr or Yukito Ayatsuji, it does have a couple of solid twists, and works really well as a character-driven piece of mystery fiction, with a huge bonus for anyone who's spent time in fannish communities and needed to get the stink (metaphorical and often literal) off afterwards.

The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz, and What Remains of Me, by Alison Gaylin. I read a LOT of good crime fiction/thrillers this year**, but these two stand out as examples of authors who leveled up. Lutz tells the story of a woman who has been on the run for years, and suddenly has to leave her safe haven again. The mystery of her backstory unfolds slowly as she winds her way across the Midwest, leaving even more bodies behind. Gaylin's story, like Elizabeth Little's witty Dear Daughter from a couple of years ago, is about a woman released from jail after being convicted of murder, but goes down a very different path, keeping things darker and generally more serious, but with a cast of brutally broken characters. I don't want to dive too deeply into either plot, but both are well worth grabbing.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp. Years ago, I read a bunch of the licensed horror movie books from the no-defunct Black Library label from Games Workshop. They ranged from great to terrible, often, not surprisingly, depending on the author. One author I'd never heard of before was a guy named Jason Arnopp, who wrote a witty novel about Jason, a pair of serial killer cultists, and yet another serial killer masquerading as an FBI agent, all of whom converge on a resort hotel. It was ludicrously fun Grand Guignol stuff, and randomly this year, I decided to google to see if he'd writen anything else. Turns out he had, and the book had just come out, complete with blurbs from people like Alan Moore. So I grabbed it, and it was good (and thankfully, felt nothing like recent Moore). It's "found footage," in the sense that it's the journals of the titular journalist, a British gonzo reporter who wants to be the next Hunter S. Thompson, but is, in the end, really just a textbook example of toxic masculinity who gets himself caught up in his own reporting about possessions and seances. But it's a lot more fun than that paragraph makes it sound, even as the characters suffer more and more horrible fates.

You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott. I almost feel like I'm cheating with this one, because Abbott leveled up years ago, and gets the national attention for her books that she deserves (incidentally, she and Lutz are both writing for HBO's upcoming TV show The Deuce). She's actually no longer what I'd think of as a thriller or mystery author at this point, instead writing literary mainstream books in which the death is almost secondary or even tertiary to the rest of the story. This tale, about the parents of a teen gymnast, is just incredible (and clearly incredibly well-researched), and came out at just the right time (right before the Olympics) to make it both painful and wonderful to watch the events.

Blackass, by A. Igoni Barrett. This is another of those books that's incredibly hard to describe. It starts with a Kafka-esque moment, in which Furo Wariboko, a Nigerian, wakes up to discover that he's now a white man. But even in a majority-black country, white privilege means that he's cast up in society, not down, as the result of the change. But of course, he's still adrift, and eventually runs into a character named Igoni, who just happens to be a writer. The book is technically genre, of course, but it's really a look at race and gender and cultural imperialism, with some fun postmodern touches and multiple well-developed narrative voices. It's also blazingly funny and cutting, and a hell of a fast read.


Eight Flavors, by Sarah Lohman. I knew I was going to love this book as soon as I saw Lohman present at the Museum of Science earlier this year at a Gastropod program. The book did not disappoint. It's a look at eight flavors in American history, including pepper, vanilla, garlic, and siracha, and how they all changed American cooking. It's basically culinary anthropology and history along with some science, and Lohman's a great storyteller as well as researcher. Basically, if you enjoy food, you should read this.

Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve, by Tom Bissell. I'm not religious, but I do love me both mythology and literary history along with good travel writing, and that's what Bissell (who I know mainly for his video game journalism) delivers here. Bissell (a lapsed Catholic) decided to visit the tombs (or alleged tombs) of the twelve apostles, and along the way, he takes some deep dives (based off a huge amount of research) into the oft-conflicting stories about them, as well as the huge amount of early mythology and apocrypha that arose around these people (many of whom have almost no canonical personalities). He mixes some great personalities into the stories, from the martyr-obsessed nun at one church to the Palestinian taxi driver who takes Tom and his friend through hidden backroads so they can witness a locked-down protest first-hand.

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, by Glenn Weldon. I'm a huge fan of Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour, as his style of nerdery mimics mine pretty strongly. This witty book isn't about Batman per se (although it certainly does have its share of actual history), since that's been done before. Rather, this is about how Batman influenced and was influenced by the culture of the world. Weldon is snarky and laugh-out-loud funny, and really knows his stuff, and fans of Batman in any form (or even of just good writing) should grab this.

A Burglar's Guide to the City, by Geoff Manaugh. This is my second Gastropod-related book (Manaugh is the partner of one of the podcast's hosts), although I discovered the book when Sarah Weinman wrote a rave review. It's actually almost more an architecture book than anything else, a look at how buildings are viewed through the eyes of criminals and those who try to stop them, so things like access to balconies and basements and all the cool heist things you see in movies, and how people try to prevent them. It's a true crime book with some hysterical stories (the number of criminals who are smart enough to find their way into buildings, but dumb enough to leave trails when they leave, is astounding), and one had me examine every building I saw for a while to see if there were things designed to prevent access (or poorly designed and thus offering easy access). Fans of capers should read this one.

Sex with Shakespeare, by Jillian Keenan. Keenan rather famously came out as a spanking fetishist a few years ago in the New York Times. She's now written a book that's a mix of a memoir and literary analysis. Like many people, she's been reading Shakespeare for a good chunk of her life, and like many folks, she's found parallels in some of the characters and situations. As she discovers her own sexuality (and follows professional and personal pursuits) over the years, she has imaginary conversations with characters from the plays, and adds her reading of many of the plays through a kink-based lens, with varying degrees of success (although her reading of Helena in Midsummer as a masochist, or Lear as a sexual predator, are compelling). But it's her own story (which also includes some childhood abuse, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and some international travel) that keeps this moving along so well.

Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It, by Larry Olmstead. This sounds like a book that's going to be all about how you should avoid artificial sweeteners and the like, but it's not. It's actually a book about the history and development of a lot of foods that have now been devalued by counterfeiting, ranging from Parmesan cheese to Kobe beef to Champagne to seafood. It covers the legal and the ethical issues involved, and while I'd known about some of this (I read and posted links to the Tampa Bay Tribune expose of restaurant fraud last year), there was a lot of new info here (spoilers: pretty much any sushi you eat at any local restaurant has some degree of fraud involved other than maybe the tamago). Bonus: Mario Batali takes it on the chin for committing food fraud in the first chapter.

*The exception being Andrew Vachss's increasingly terrible series of Cross novels, which are so gloriously awful (and yet self-assured) that they're almost a master class in what not to do as a writer, but which at least read quickly.

**Like, looking at my list and only including "thrillers" (as opposed to the Abbott book, or detective fiction by folks like Ace Atkins or mysteries like the one by Mamatas), I could probably have put together a list of twelve thrillers I loved.
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So last night we watched the first two episodes of Good Behavior. It's a fine show so far, if very dark (like, if you're comparing it to the other con artist show TNT's known for, Leverage, it's about as dark as that show was fun). But one thing that kept nagging at me during the entire episode is that Michelle Dockery speaks in the exact same voice that Hayley Atwell uses on Conviction (whose latest episode we'd literally just watched immediately prior to GB).

Since both actress are British and portraying American characters (but very different ones), it feels like this is either the new coached American accent, or there's some overlap in their training. And it's more than just an accent -- they speak with the same actual voice, with a sort of whiskey-soaked throatiness that's also not a part of either of their natural speaking styles. The closest comparison I could make is Michelle Monaghan in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Since Monaghan is from the Midwest, I could see that being the goal, maybe? Although Atwell's character is supposed to be upper crust East Coast, and Dockery's character is implied to be from Appalachia.

It's better than what I thought of as the previous accent, a sort of faltering New Jersey thing that only Hugh Laurie could actually pull off, but a lot of other actors tried and failed and sounded like they came from nowhere (the worst ever being Louise Lombard during her run on CSI).

Additional notes:
- Dockery's accent slips less than Atlwell's does. I adore Atwell, but she cannot sustain the American accent for an extended period, and it's frustrating.
- That said, there's a sequence during the first episode in which Dockery's character puts on a cloyingly awful Southern accent that I assumed was meant to be awful, since that's usually the American accent British actors do best (see Liz Taylor, etc).
- Conviction, which has been canceled even if the network won't acknowledge it, is a better show than it has a right to be, and in a world where quality rules, it would have outlasted a lot of other new shows (although it's still monumentally flawed at times).
- While I'm really impressed by the first two episode of Good Behavior, I'm curious as to how well the show can keep things up. But Dockery's every bit as good here as she was playing Susan Sto Helit (and I hear she also had a good run on some other show, too).
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My current read is Carrie Fisher's The Princess Diarist, which came out in 2016, and has this passage:
I've told the story of getting cast as Princess Leia many times before -- in interviews, on horseback, and in cardiac units -- so if you've previously heard this story before, I apologize for requiring some of your coveted store of patience.

Damn, that "cardiac unit" comment feels like a kick to the gut.

As with any of Carrie's books (fiction or nonfiction), I do highly recommend it. The world's a lesser place without her

ETA: And there in the acknowledgements at the end:
For my mother -- for being too stubborn and thoughtful to die. I love you, but that whole emergency, almost dying thing, wasn't funny. Don't even THINK about doing it again in any form.
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Most of these have been around for a while, but good longreads hold up. Yes, I should probably have sorted these by category, but frankly, too many of these can fit into more than one category, and too many would be easy to dismiss that way (the Katie Baker piece would surely have been categorized as either "sex" or "sports," when it's so much more, for example).

Anyway, for all that 2016 was a trashfire in so many ways (Trump getting elected by his racist cohort, everyone we love dying, etc), there was some fine writing. You should enjoy fine writing while you can.

Over at Buzzfeed, Isaac Fitzgerald (who I'd already heard speak to the topic on the late but awesome Intersection podcast) writes the Confessions of a Former Fat Kid. As a former fat kid (and current fat adult), this one sparks a LOT of thoughts for me (especially as someone who had a mother who both had her own struggles with weight, and continues to shame me over mine). Obviously, this is all about body image and weight, so take that into account if those are things you'd rather not read about.

I'm not even sure how to categorize this excellent piece (and book except) from David Reid over at Longreads, other than to let the title -- Postwar New York: The Supreme Metropolis of the Present and its even better tagline -- "Forty labor strikes on one day, French existentialists on the loose, and a 50-foot G.I. blowing enormous puffs of REAL smoke" -- speak for themselves.

I've raved about Film Crit Hulk plenty of times before, and this piece -- THE REVENANT, MAD MAX, And The Nexus Of Cinematic Language -- is superb. Some folks understandably find FCH columns tough because of the all-caps writing, but I find I get used to it after about a paragraph.

Back in the last century, there was an awful company called Tiger Oil that was run by a horrible man named Edward Davis who was pretty much every "asshole CEO" cliche you could imagine. These are his memos, which are funny as long as you can forget that real people suffered through this shit. For folks who prefer not to read image files, the transcripts of all the memos are at the bottom of the page.

Maddy Myers always writes incredible pieces, but her Professional Fake Nerd Girl piece on "booth babes" and cosplayers from last month is one of my favorites.

And to end by REALLY going down the rabbit hole, Pew Research has a huge piece (sadly broken up over multiple pages, but there's a link to the complete PDF on the side) called
Long-Form Reading Shows Signs of Life in Our Mobile News World.

In the New York Post, Dana Schuster and Georgett Roberts write about The Crazy Crash of NYC’s Hottest Vegan, a tale of celebrities, chefs, and larceny that feels like the NYC version of a Hiaasen story (except it's true). Any piece that includes the quote “she’s the vegan Bernie Madoff" is generally one I want to read.

In New York Magazine, Max Read asks, Did I Kill Gawker? His answer is a touch self-serving, but it's still worth the read. As is the Ad Age piece by Simon Dumenco arguing Never Mind Peter Thiel. Gawker Killed Itself, which makes an entirely different argument (which you can probably surmise).

Yeah, oral histories are overdone on the internet these days. But I still love The Go-Go's Recall the Debauched Days of Their Hit 'We Got the Beat' 35 Years Later: 'We Were a Five-Headed Monster', put together by Rob Tannenbaum over at Billboard.

Anyone following the stories about Caster Semenya probably should read The Life and Murder of Stella Walsh, Intersex Olympics Champion, also by Tannenbaum, this time at Longreads.

At The Atlantic, Ed Yong writes about How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology. The headline's a little misleadingly Buzzfeedy in its anti-academia implications (since the Guy From Montana is also a PhD), but the piece is fascinating.

In Men's Journal, Damon Tabor writes Lost in the Jungle: The Search for Cody Dial, reads like a mix of true crime and outdoor adventure, and is riveting (if heartbreaking).

At The Federalist (seriously), Marc Fitch's piece Inside Our National Zombie Nightmare Lurks The Politics Of Horror Fiction is a great overview of the field.

It's from a while back, but over at Deadspin, Katie Baker's The Confessions of a Former Adolescent Puck Tease is, in spite of the salaciousness (and hockey-centricity) of the title, actually a great reminiscence on the internet of the '90s.

Speaking of sports stories that are fascinating even if you don't care about sports, Welcome to the Big Time, in ESPN's Outside the Lines, is a fascinating deep dive into the rise and fall of FanDuel and DraftKings, two internet startups that did the sort of stupid and unethical things that make people long for the late '90s and the first internet bubble. Bonus feature: In this, we learn that DraftKings has its origins in Watertown to some degree. When the cops aren't illegally shutting down our entire town in a manhunt, we're a hotbed of shitheel ethics!

Complex's list of The Best Rapper Alive Every Year Since 1979 is awesome and makes a great case each time (noting the runners up).

I Kickstarted my first novel, sold 1,319 books, and made $4,369.14 (so far) — and so can you (maybe) (under fairly specific circumstances) is one of the best and deepest looks at what it means to kickstart a novel (and why it really won't work for most people), brought to you by the guy who writes The Comics Curmudgeon.

Over at Vox, Laura Saetveit Miles writes about how Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve racked up prizes — and completely misled you about the Middle Ages. Given how hyped this book was, it's amazing I didn't see more about this article when it broke.

As I've mentioned before, my all-time favorite computer game was Dungeon Master for the Atari ST, which is a genuinely groundbreaking game that is still a blast to play. Here's a great two-parter, with one section on the history of Dungeon Master (and FTL, the company behind it), and one on the game itself.

Outside Magazine has produced some amazing reporting (and podcasts) over the last year or so. This piece on what happened to Eastern Airlines Flight 980 (lost decades ago) had me hooked.

Related to that, Lauren Larson has a great piece at GQ about Robert Jensen, the Man Who Cleans up After Plane Crashes.

And finally, the 24-year-old Coca-Cola Virgin is a first person essay about someone who managed to never taste the soda as a kid attempting to ensure that her fist experience is perfect.
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