Green Kiki

Two tweets, repackaged here

Posted both of these to Twitter over the last couple of days. Both kind of sum up my thoughts on things going on right now.

1. So yeah, violence only begets more violence. Sure. But why are you criticizing the violence that was begotten, instead of the violence that did the begetting? The riots are a natural and inevitable outcome of George Floyd's murder by the police.

2. You know, I hate the notion of looking to Reagan for anything, but while firing all the air traffic controllers was vile, I'm not sure what the downside of doing that for the police is. The baby/bathwater ratio seems to justify it.
Green Kiki

Assorted COVID-19 thoughts

Random thoughts on COVID-19:

1. Current tally of folks I know who've died from the virus is three: My middle school music teacher, the father of a childhood friend, and liamstliam. I really hope that's where the tally ends, but suspect that won't happen. If we count internet friends I haven't met (and Liam was someone I had), there's probably folks I'm not aware of, nor ever will be. I know more who've gotten it and come through (including my mom's best friend, who's nearly 80 and is a cancer survivor), of course.

2. I consider myself lucky to be able to work from home, but the money drain all colleges are feeling right now scares the shit out of me, and I dread the thought of someone deciding that cutting middle managers is a great way to save money. And I'm hugely worried about the entire industry, of course. We're a reasonably specialized school, which is great on a lot of fronts, but a lot of our specialites require some degree of hands-on or experiential learning. I worry a lot about smaller and more general liberal arts schools, too, especially with the spate of closings we've seen already over the last few years.

3. I'm a lot more worried for other industries, of course. I know too many folks who make a living from restaurants, and that industry is likely to change forever. Ditto singers/bands, actors, burlesque performers, and pretty much any other performing artist.

4. But worried as I am for all of them, I so much more worried about the folks who have decided that the "economy" is worth human lives. Even here, there are tons of folks who do not give a rat's ass about social distancing. Out in AZ, where my mom lives, she just told me that there are stories about crowded clubs already, and I don't doubt that'll be followed by a huge spike in cases (and deaths). Same with my former home state of GA. There are plenty of good alternatives - the $2K a month one the Dems floated, for example -- but the rat motherfucker in the White House and his allies like McConnell have no interest in helping people.

4.5 See all the USPS and what the Republicans are doing to it (even though it's literally a lifeline for their own constituents).

5. We have not, thankfully, had issues on the shopping front, other than occasionally not finding chicken breasts or pork chops (and even then, we still find 'em). Even toilet paper, once scarce, has been in stock at our Star Market the last few times. The only thing that seems impossible to find is Prego Marinara sauce, which is my daughter's favorite (and a good one for 'song, too, since it's gf). I have no idea why that one's gone missing.

6. While money's tight in general (a lot less income than years ago, stuff is more expensive, etc), I still try to order food once every week or two, focusing ideally on local Chinese restaurants, which were hit even harder than a lot of places. And yes, I know about the issues around Grubhub and other delivery vendors. Ours uses BeyondMenu, which is supposedly better, and also has the best damned hand-pulled noodles I've had (so if you're local, try them. It's also the chance to have something resembling a little normalcy.
Green Kiki

I'm not dead, but Facebook's algorithm should be

Still alive, which meant less two months ago than now, but was still meaningful.

Like so many people, I've relied too heavily on FB. It's actually fine in a lot of ways (speaking from an end-user POV, not any ethical issues surrounding the company), and some of its evil is on the second half of a double-edged blade (like how it's become genuinely useful for organizing events and inviting people in a way that no other tool managed).

But it also has the fucking algorithm that decides to bury posts because they link to youtube, or have more than ten words, or because you posted too often, or because someone there got drunk. And there's something fundamentally wrong about not letting people read posts in fucking order, like god intended. Twitter's moving that way, but at least lets you override it in a meaningful way.

So I figure I'll post a few things here, where they'll get no engagement because 95% of DW/LJ has stopped reading, instead of getting no engagement because a computer decided the contents didn't matter.

I actually haven't updated since I got a job again, so I figure I should mention that, too. Started after Thanksgiving 2018, at a local college that pays way less, but which has one thing my previous job had -- a boss who's competent (my last one, to be fair, had one for years until the uberboss, who's from the Tr*mp school of management, axed him). Like anyone working in higher ed these days, I'm working from home and dealing with all the usual uncertainties.

Also of note (especially for longtime readers, which I guess is everyone, seeing as I can't recall adding a new LJ/DW sub in ages), our daughter is twenty-five, out of college for a year now, and working a fulltime job as a QA tester at a local software company. She loves it and it seems like a great fit for her. Of course, she's also working from home these days.

Anyway, based on the lack of engagement, some things FB has decided the world shouldn't know about.

1. Goldfinger's fantastic quarantine videos. These are new performances of some of their classic songs, done from 5-8 houses at once. Often featuring many doggos. They're up to seven songs so far, and I love watching them all.

2. Bad Cop/Bad Cop's new song, Pursuit of Liberty. So good. I'm listening to a LOT of punk these days, and we need more contemporary and angry feminist punk bands. I've preordered the new CD, and you should, too.

3. Will Leitch has a great piece about Terry Pendleton and the nature of the MLB MVP compared to other sports. FB doesn't like MLB links if they're not getting money for them, just like with Youtube.

4. I'm reading a TON of mystery/crime these days. The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths, won the Edgar, and while it wasn't my choice (Fake Like Me was sooo good), it's very solid, and has her taking a shot at her own misdeeds from her debut novel, calling out authors who call animals in crime books. The dog in this one, does, in fact, live (which shouldn't be a spoiler to anyone with an understanding of narrative). I've also enjoyed Peter Swanson's slight meta (but really not) Eight Perfect Murders and Elizabeth Little's Pretty as a Picture. I'm reading less SF/F (which has just gotten weaker as a field in recent years), but Jemisin's The City We Became is fantastic, triply so if you're a New Yorker of a fan of Lovecraft who also recognized the problems with his works. And I feel like everyone already knows about Gideon the Ninth, but if you don't, you should. Yes, it's lesbian necromancers in space (dayenu!), but it's also so much more.

Incidentally, FB buries book recs no matter what I do. Links? Dead. Long paragraph with no links? Dead? One sentence? Dead. Three sentences plus a picture of the cover (since they supposedly like pics)? Dead. It's almost impressive.

5. The piece from Outside Magazine (which produces a ton of really good articles and podcasts) on python hunting in Florida is well worth the read.

Will probably post a more life-updatey kind of post later, with the intent of making LJ/DW a real part of my routine. Of course, I may read these words in two years and rue them. Hope everyone -- whoever remains -- is well.
Green Kiki

A few Thanksgiving deals: Book coupon, Venom, The Martian, X-Box

Thanks to unemployment and other stuff, not really putting together the daily deals this year (as you've probably noticed), but a few ones worth pointing out today before gorging:

Amazon's annual $5 off $20 book coupon is live! Use NOVBOOK18 as your code (it'll be at the link, too). This runs through Sunday.

The limited-edition pre-order blu-ray of Venom is $12.11 (69% off, nice!).

The Martian on Blu-Ray is $3.99 (77% off).

And in video games, the X-Box One 1GB with Minecraft is $199.00 (34% off), if anyone still is looking for one.
Green Kiki

On convention staffing and lacking "benches"

As some of you may know, I've resigned from my position as Assistant Division Head of Programming at Arisia, and I also won't be on panels or attending the convention at all. I won't go into why here, as I've already talked about it and I suspect that anyone following fandom knows. I want to discuss a side-topic.

A lot of the public and semi-public handwringing has been over the subject of having "benches." When there's no one else capable of doing, say, Program AV for the con, do you hire the rapist (Arisia's answer three years running, it turns out, has been "yes")? When no one else is running for President of the corporation (or when the person running against the problematic person has values you don't agree with), what happens? Long-term, obviously, the con needs to build a bench, train new people, etc. This part's generally obvious and agreed on by everyone, and there are good proposals about how to do it (mentoring, apprenticeships, etc) in lots of places. But that's the long-term solution.

Short-term, though, there are four choices if you lack a bench and don't have someone who can replace the person you need to get rid of:

Choice one is to actually run the con with the dangerous person on board. This is the decision Arisia chose to make (without making the actual danger itself known to members or most staff), and that other cons have done in previous years (see Wiscon/Frenkel). I do not consider it the right one, and it's clear that almost no one else does. Note that as a general rule, only a handful of people on staff at a cone actually will know this is happening (so while I use the blanket terms "Arisia" and "Wiscon," it's likely a small subset of folks near the top of the boards).

Choice two is to suck it up and deal without them. Yes, that means someone else is going to have to do more work, and work they're not qualified for and have to learn quickly. It means some aspect of the con will be weaker than intended. It might even mean that something doesn't take place (if only one person can run the masquerade or a certain special event, that event might not happen). It sucks, but it also ensures that the dangerous person isn't a part of the con. It's NOT, to be clear, sustainable; asking folks to work beyond their means is something that can be justified in an emergency, but not as a regular event. It's also something that some cons can handle better than others (bigger ones usually have more staff to spread around; smaller ones might have a looser structure or fewer technical requirements that require skillsets).

Choice three is to recruit a replacement. If the only person qualified and willing to handle tax issues for the dealers at the con is also someone so toxic that they're on the "do not hire" list for your con, you probably can't ask a Green Room staffer to pick up that ball. So you have to start looking at who has the skillset elsewhere. Look at the org charts of other cons, local and otherwise. Ping the people who do the jobs there and at places like Worldcon to see if A) it's something they can do, and B) if they know others who might be capable of the job. Shockingly, skilled people often know other skilled people. And if you have to, see if money can help. You may not be able to pay someone, per se, but if you can offer a comp, or even a room comp for a night or two, or something, it's money well-spent (that said, also set expectations; this is money being spent to deal with an emergency, and not something that should be expected every time).

And choice four is the nuclear one: If you genuinely can't run the con without a rapist on staff, maybe you shouldn't run the con. That can mean any of A) You personally should not run the con (because maybe someone else can find a replacement), B) the con itself should skip a year to give you more time to find a replacement, or C) the con should end. Really. It's not an ideal choice, but if you find yourself incapable of finding a replacement, or running the event without the person, your choices come down to either letting a known predator have power within the con, or not running. If you really think that the running the con with the dangerous person on staff is the better choice, you're part of the problem.
Green Kiki

The Price You Pay and pseudonyms

The Price You Pay by "Aidan Truhen" was fantastic, and is highly recommended for folks who like their thrillers full-bore ludicrous (think Duane Swierczynski's "The Blonde" or "Severance Package). I'm also fascinated by the whole "this author is actually another author using a pseudonym" thing, since I've never understood that marketing. I do understand an established author using a fake name to try something new, but that's not usually known at the time (Bachman, Galbraith, etc). Ditto for someone using multiple names to separate subgenres for their readers (Jayne Ann Krentz). But this feels similar to the KJ Parker/Tom Holt thing, which was just kind of BS.

Oh, and while I certainly don't disbelieve the theory -- put forth in the NYTimes review -- that the author is really Nick Harkaway, I'd love to know why folks seem to think that; I could see Harkway doing this, but I could also see Charlie Huston or Adam Sternbergh or a bunch of others doing it, too.

(Yes, I posted this to FB, but while no one may be around on LJ/DW anymore, at least posts still make it here in order and won't be buried by an algorithm if anyone shows up.)
Green Kiki

On the Titans trailer

So for everyone complaining about how dark and moody the trailer for the new Titans series is, do y'all remember The Judas Contract (generally considered the apotheosis of silver age Titans stories)? The storyline in which A) middle-aged Slade Wilson sends his 14-year-old girlfriend (and yes, we see them in bed together) to infiltrate the team (including seducing Beast Boy), and B) tiny Joseph Wilson -- aged roughly 4 -- gets his throat slit open with a sword? Titans during any period when people actually read and cared about the book always had some serious darkness going on (see also literally everything about Raven and Starfire's backstories). Dick Grayson cussing is hardly that big a deal.

Instead, maybe complain about DC wanting $75 bucks a year for their streaming service. That's too dark and gritty for me.
Green Kiki

Books read on vacation

Books read either in airports, in planes to and from San Juan, or on the cruise. All are recommended (other than the unnamed one, but it's not horrible, either):

1. The Parking Lot Attendant, by Nafkote Tamirat. This is a ludicrously beautiful and witty novel, even if it fails to quite stick the landing. It's the story of the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants living in Boston, and the weird and titular not-quite-cult-leader she encounters in the local community who draws her into a conspiracy involving a potential utopia. It's hard to describe, but absolutely worth grabbing, and works on multiple levels if you're familiar with the "joys" of trying to get places around metro Boston using public transit.

2. (Unnamed novel reviewed for PW)

3. What is Real: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, by Adam Becker. I mean, doesn't "particle physics" sound like a perfect topic for travel reading? Seriously, this is an excellent book, much more a science history book than a pure science one (I'm someone who hasn't taken a physics course since the seventh grade, so trust me when I say this is aimed at the general public). It's a great dive into the battle over quantum origins and the battle over the Copenhagen Interpretation, featuring all of the major players -- Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, Bell, Everett, Bohm, de Broglie, etc. -- with as much biography of them thrown in along with their conflicts and discussion of theory. Really recommended for anyone with an interest in science.

4. The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I try to read a few mysteries-in-translation every year, and having spent the last few years on French and Japanese authors, am finally swinging back to Nordic crime authors (which may be redundant, as it seems like every author from the Nordic countries who gets translated today writes crime -- see also Alvtegen, Nesbo, Larsson, etc). This book is the first in the "Department Q" series, a story of a cold case unit started for political reasons. It's much wittier than a lot of the generally-grim Nordic Noir stuff, with a solid and flawed hero and some nice twists. I'll definitely be grabbing more books from the series.

5. The Ensemble, by Aja Gabel. This is kind of a perfect little summer beach read (although I read it on the plane ride back). It's the story of the members of a string quartet over the course of fifteen years, complete with their romantic entanglements, health issues, and professional crises. It's a fun and sweet novel about love (in many forms), and probably has extra appeal for musically-inclined folks.

ETA: 6. Florida, by Lauren Groff. A fascinating and melancholy collection of stories. There are themes and repeated symbols (storms, unnamed spouses and children, dogs) running throughout, and it's the sort of collection you want to sit and let marinate in your head for a bit. Also recommended, although maybe not as cruise reading.
Green Kiki

Early January Longreads

Allison Glock's The Eight Truths I Learned From Humping Athletes, reprinted at Deadspin after appearing in GQ twenty years ago, is fantastic

At Vox, Anna North writes, Historically, men translated the Odyssey. Here’s what happened when a woman took the job.

Outside Magazine's been quietly doing some damned fine journalism over the last few years, and Ryan Zinke is Trump's Attack Dog on the Environment is a great profile of a terrible Secretary of the Interior.

Remember Jen Hatmaker, the Evangelical Christian who spoke out against Trump last year? Not surprisingly, she's taken a lot of grief from a religious movement still dominated by racist and sexist men, reports Tiffany Stanley in Politico.

In Deadspin, Emma Baccelleri's Major League Baseball's Statcast Can Break Sabermetrics is a great look at the way stats in MLB continue to evolve.

I've been following the sexual harassment situation at WNYC for a while (On The Media did a podcast on it as well), but the Splinter's David Uberti covers it as well as anyone in his piece, How New York Public Radio is Dodging Accountability for its Sexual Harassment Problem.

At Kotaku, Maddy Myers says that Tier Lists Are Full of Shit, and I can't disagree. I don't do competitive fighting games because I'm terrible at them, but the argument that people should play weird and interesting characters instead of whatever strategy guides tell you is effective but boring resonates (witness the low rank Ghost Rider, who I find nearly essential, gets in Marvel Puzzle Quest).

There's been a LOT written about Star Wars: The Last Jedi (which I loved, incidentally). Todd VanDerWoof, over at Vox, offers The “backlash” Against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Explained, a good (but FILLED WITH SPOILERS) piece talking about the different kinds of fan reactions.

Back at Deadspin, Eoin Higgins asks Why Won't The FCC Let Orphan Counties Watch Their Local NFL Teams? The answer, of course, is more complicated than sports, as are the implications for local news.

And finally, if you're a fan at all of Serious Eats (and if you like food, you should be, as it's the best site out there), Jonah Weiner at Grubstreet has a fantastic profile of J. Kenji López-Alt called Kenji Dreams of Sausage that's a must-read.
Green Kiki

Final Amazon Deals of the year: magazine subscriptions, kindle books

Two quick deals to close out the year:

The Kindle Daily Deal is on "Best of December" deals, but actually just has a bunch of random books, including Ann Leckie's Provenance for $2.99, Styron's Sophie's Choice for $1.13, and a bunch of others.

And there's a deal on magazine subscriptions, including Entertainment Weekly for $15 for digital only, and Popular Science, Taste of Home, Reader's Digest, Popular Science, or Saveur (as well as a bunch of others) for $3.99 for regular subscriptions.