wednesday reads 'n things

Jul. 26th, 2017 04:04 pm
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[personal profile] isis
What I've recently finished reading:

Text: Empowered: Agent (Empowered, #1) by Dale Ivan Smith, which so far is the best Instafreebie book I've tried (a rather low bar). The world-building is simple but fun; it's not just that Empowered people (that is, people with superhero-type powers) exist, but it's also an alternate history - one in which Richard Nixon prevented a nuclear war from escalating into global destruction "after Washington DC had been destroyed by a Soviet nuke fired from Cuba." (So I guess Kennedy didn't stop the Soviets...) This only shows up incidentally, at least in this book, but I am charmed by Nixon being considered a hero in this universe.

Mat is a good character, an interesting woman with a skill - manipulating growing plants - that is clearly much more useful (and lethal) than anyone gives her credit for. The Hero Council choice of "join us if we can use you, otherwise you must swear to never use your power" seems rather terrible to me, a bit of shoddy world-building but I guess it's needed for the plot. Her choices and actions are reasonable, especially as circumstances paint her into a corner. I like that she has a family she cares about, and I also like the lack of romance (though I suspect one is building).

The writing is okay, not great, though it's mostly free of typos and technically adequate. There are few obvious errors (such as a character being identified by name before Mat would actually know her name) but also few flashes of brilliance. Mostly it's just somewhat flat. I didn't feel particularly pulled along or emotionally invested, and this, plus uneven pacing toward the end, contributed to a general feeling of anticlimax.

Audio: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama, which was a SYNC offering, and surprisingly enjoyable and novel for dystopian YA. This is set in an alternate future in which the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 led to the need for split-shift staffing of hospitals, a day set and a night set of doctors and nurses, which in turn proved so efficient that the division between day workers and night workers was expanded to all parts of life, formalized and codified and enforced by law. But as daylight living is more natural and presumably more enjoyable, gradually the night people ("Smudges") became stereotyped as stupid, undesirable, lesser than the day people ("Rays") - and it took me until about 3/4 through the book to realize this was a civil rights allegory.

Yes, there is some suspension of disbelief required, but no more than, say, teenagers fighting to the death broadcast on television, or a society discarding all but a hundred selected novels, songs, and films. And what makes this an actually good book is that the plot is legitimately interesting and complex, and goes in unexpected (but foreshadowed) ways. There is a romance, which is somewhat cutesy and predictable, but at least it's not a love triangle - and, speaking of YA tropes, though this is in first person it is in PAST TENSE THANK GOD.

I liked the ending, which is not pat or universally happy, and which leaves a lot of things open-ended for a sequel (or for fanfiction). I would like to have seen a more explicitly "fight the system" plot, with Sol and the other characters actively working to bring the system down - maybe this will be in a subsequent book? Finally, I ship Sol/Gigi la la la and will be nominating this for Yuletide.

The audio version also includes "Noma Girl", a prequel short story which is also available free online. It was a nice fleshing-out of incidents only alluded to in the novel, but there's no new worldbuilding or anything unexpected here. I did like the more sympathetic view of Gigi. I don't think it will make sense if you haven't read the novel.

Webcomic: For some reason I followed a link (from Goodreads, maybe?) to The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E. K. Weaver, which I'd vaguely heard of through osmosis but really didn't know anything about (I didn't realize it was a comic, for one; for some reason I thought it had to do with lesbians) and devoured it over the course of four or five days. It's a gay (m/m, and has some nsfw) roadtrip story in which the title characters get to know each other and find themselves (well, sort of). If you haven't read it, I recommend it! There is a tiny fandom, and I believe the comic was originally posted on LJ as a WIP.

What I'm reading now: Cibola Burn, the fourth Expanse book. So far I'm about 25% in and enjoying it more than the previous book, Abaddon's Gate. Also, wow, apparently all minor characters are gay in this universe, or at least every throwaway line about people being married refers to a same-sex relationship.

What I'm reading next: Now that I'm recommitted to this book series, I've got the next two on my phone.

What I've just finished watching:

Movie: I finally watched Hidden Figures, and it was every bit as awesome as I'd hoped. ♥ My mother was a chemist for the FDA before and during this era, and I realized that at least she had the advantage of being white (though she had the disadvantage of being Jewish). I can't imagine what it must have been like to have both racism and sexism barriers looming so hugely in one's life.

TV: We have finished S2 of The Expanse! I am still a little weirded out by the timelines of book series and show being off from each other. I also thought the Ganymede plot was done better by the show, but the Avasarala and Bobbie plot was done better in the books.

What I'm watching next: Nothing for a while, because on Saturday we are headed out for a week of backpacking in the wilderness and so we might as well hold off on starting anything new. I'm trying to talk B into getting a short-term subscription to HBO Now via Amazon Prime so we can watch Game of Thrones. (His objections are that a, he hates WIPs even more than I do and wants to be able to watch every day or every other day rather than waiting a week between episodes, and b, he is sure they will make it hard for us to cancel after a month or two.)

In the meantime, [community profile] remixrevival has signups through Sunday, and [community profile] crossovering has extended signups through Sunday, so if either of these interest you, you have a few more days to join up!

the world

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:41 pm
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
I don't know how to fix this.

It's almost worse that I almost, almost have myself together, but I don't quite - not to where I can really just get through the stuff I need to get through readily, or feel like there's extra energy there that I don't urgently need to use on things if I could just make myself do them. I don't have an excuse, and I don't have a plan.

The world has so many people doing terrible things.

Help me turn away from the awful?

Jul. 26th, 2017 04:58 pm
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[personal profile] kass
Ugh, y'all, I am having one of those days where just keeping my eyes open and witnessing the awfulness of my nation's government is making me feel bleak and wrung-out and helpless. And I keep opening FB and Twitter in adjacent tabs, and then after reading for a while realizing that reading them is not actually helping anyone or anything (me included) and closing them, and then a few minutes later opening them again without even thinking about it, which says something about my social media habits that I do not like. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I miss having a sense of active involvement in fandom. I have a few hours ahead of me with no kid to mind, and I obviously need to stop poking at social media (it's the emotional-intellectual equivalent of just eating endless bags of potato chips -- hours go by and then I feel sick to my stomach), and I know that once upon a time I would have seized on this time as an opportunity to make something for y'all, and I miss that. But I'm not embedded in any particular universes right now, and I feel tapped-out and devoid of ideas.

Read any good books lately, especially fiction or nonfiction that left you feeling lifted-up instead of dragged-down?

For those of you who are actively fannish, what are the things that are bringing you joy?

Did a meditate

Jul. 26th, 2017 09:46 pm
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[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
Before I went I was on the internet looking for different things to do instead, but as usual now I've been I feel better, and I'm glad I went.

We did the Kindness meditate today. This involved stopping and talking about it more than usual. I made whole numbers of sentences out loud. They may even have been coherent. We were supposed to think of kind things we have done and times people were kind to us and it kind of branched out into other kindness times and really, there is a lot of kindness in the world. Even just small baseline stuff is or can be kindness. I personally am not so much with the doing of things, so only small kindness of trying to remember to comment, but there's a lot of other kindness to go around. Which is a good thought.

Also I always start out annoyed at me because I'm full of feelings that are not the correct feeling for the evening. But then I thought about neighbour baby crying. Isn't any point being annoyed about baby crying. I mean I will be, but there's no point. Baby full of feelings, baby going to cry. Can feel kind to loud baby, can feel kind to loud feelings. They're just doing their thing. So then it's easier not to get in a feelings loop, because okay, that's a feeling, but we can feel kindness about it.

So then I spent the evening thinking kind thoughts at the world, and generally feel better.

And I'm getting better at sitting still. I mean I still can't do it, but in much less fiddly ways, so, improvement.

Nice evening.

So much for planning

Jul. 26th, 2017 08:49 pm
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[personal profile] rmc28
The first week of school holidays; a big to-do list to get done at both home and work before Helsinki; in particular a big code push early on Tuesday morning.  I had a whole carefully worked-out schedule of when Tony and I would be at work and on leave and working from home and doing childcare runs.

Early on Monday morning, I woke up very suddenly and proceeded to have a very thorough stomach upset for much of the day.  My boss is the best boss, for taking over and sorting out my Tuesday work for me.  I had to reorganise the cleaner, and my routine bone marrow appointment due today (because taking a potential stomach bug into a ward of cancer patients is distinctly antisocial) and completely redo the who-is-home-when plan for the week.

But I was at least able to work today, and (fingers-crossed) I'll be back in the office tomorrow.

The most exciting thing this week has at least gone to plan so far.  My dad made a flying visit today to collect Nicholas for a long weekend at WOMAD. His first time away from home without a parent in tow; not his first time away from both parents though, and it should be a lot of fun for them both.  I look forward to hearing all about it on Monday.

trying to keep up

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:06 pm
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[personal profile] sporky_rat

My former boss Adam (he was a good boss) has a podcast about Game of Thrones. Since he's the one that handed me the first book when Brent when to Utah in 2012, I started listening. (The exchanged was more or less like this: 'Brent's going to Utah. You're going to go a little barmy. Here, have something to obsess over that's super long and super detailed so I don't have to fire you because you can't focus.' 'Uh. Okay?' Weekend after I read the entire book at Crown List, I asked for the second book. And then I bought the entire five book set for my Nook. Yeah. I have a soft spot for these books because of that.) It's been really fun to listen to Adam and his fellow nerds talk about Game of Thrones.

I have a horrible miserable wretched sinus infection. Not bacterial, I'm not having the usual bacterial issues. Meds don't tend to do much for me anyway on a sinus infection (unless it's something to help things drain) so I'm waiting to see just how bad it's going to get before I hit the doctor up.

I think I found my copy of Adobe Illustrator and I did find my copy of Paint Shop Pro. (Super excited about that second one because PSP does much better on a complete color swap than my copy of Photoshop (the original 7.0, yo)). Hope it still work on Win10.

Brent and I have also been watching Battlestar Galactica. We've gotten to the fun part of Apollo versus Apollo! MUAHAHA.

Brainweasels

Jul. 26th, 2017 07:22 pm
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[personal profile] hollymath
Acting like a stereotypical depressed person today. Still in my pajamas, spent way too much time on twitter, only eaten pizza and chocolate today. Strangely, none of that's helped!

But in the last hour or so I walked the dog, did the smallest bit of tidying, talked to Andrew about some of the stuff that's bugging me. So this evening has been slightly better than today.

(I also found that gmail is a dick: a scary e-mail I thought I sent a whole week ago (saying "I cannot continue volunteering with this thing any more because it's too stressful I need to concentrate on looking for paid work" (well, they're both true...)) didn't fucking send so I've sent it now but have to stress again for a while about every new e-mail I get. Because yay, anxiety making me avoid confrontation.)

Front door appreciation

Jul. 26th, 2017 07:16 pm
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[personal profile] hunningham
I have been delivering leaflets (for greens, since you asked). This has given me a new appreciation of letter boxes, which I can now rank for post usability. But also, I am really noticing front doors.

Today I found this beauty. The door itself is purple, but the panels have been painted pink and there are little flowers on the panels which have picked out in a deep violet. It's wonderful.

Pictures )

Passing the hat

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:01 pm
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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
My vet has an interesting receptionist and so what I was told would be a sixty dollar trip for their shots is in fact a two hundred dollar trip. This is all part of the seemingly futile effort to find them new homes. If people could donate towards the trip, that would be great.

Don’t Blame Griggs

Jul. 26th, 2017 06:01 pm
[syndicated profile] slatestarcodex_feed

Posted by Scott Alexander

Griggs vs. Duke Power Co seems to come up a lot here as a scapegoat. This is the Supreme Court case that said companies can’t use anything like an IQ test to help in job interviews unless they can prove in court they’re not being racist. Since this is hard to prove, most people play it safe and avoid these tests.

So (opponents of the case figure) this is the reason we’ve gotten so bogged down in credential-ocracy. Along with whatever particular skill they’re going for, employers want generally smart people. They’re not allowed to test for that directly, but someone who can finish a college degree is probably pretty smart. So employers demand a college degree as a minimum requirement. And we end up with this farce of someone going $50,000 into debt to study Art History for four years so they can get a job in marketing.

This is the story, but I don’t think it’s true.

The strongest point against is that the Griggs decision explicitly places the same restrictions on college degrees that it does on IQ tests. Obviously nobody cares about this, and it turns out the Griggs restrictions aren’t that strict and most people manage to ask about college degree just fine. This changes the argument to be about whether a misinterpretation of Griggs has spread among employers, creating the urban legend that IQ tests just aren’t worth it.

But I don’t think that’s true either. Other countries don’t have their own version of Griggs vs. Duke. I don’t know too much about their labor market, but I think many of them have the same problem. This UK website starts by saying “the fight for a well-paid job without a degree is a tough one, but there are still a handful of roles out there in which you can earn serious money without a degree-level qualification,” which seems like the same over-optimistic language you might hear on a US article saying the same. I also remember that when I went to teach English in Japan – a job which required no teaching credential and only the English-speaking ability typical of any Anglophone child – they still insisted I have a Bachelor’s in something before letting me apply.

Another point against – I think it’s Griggs v. Duke-compliant to ask people their SAT scores! See Wall Street Journal:

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

I am reminded of the cover of a Joe Abercrombie novel where every time I took another look, I noticed yet another sword the character on the cover was carrying.
davidgillon: Illo of Oracle in her manual chair in long white dress with short red hair and glasses (wheelchair)
[personal profile] davidgillon in [community profile] access_fandom


The Disabled People Destroy SF Kickstarter*, to produce a disability themed special issue of Uncanny magazine, is up and running here and well on its way to meeting the initial funding goal (about 80% funded with 29 days to go).

And the first of their personal essays on disability and SF is up here, a good piece on Mental Health/neurodiversity** getting in the way of growing up to be the SF protagonist you dreamed of, that the genre allows you to be, so sitting down and setting to work to change the genre to allow for protagonists with MH/neurodiversity. I'm so glad the first piece talks about MH/neurodiversity and invisible disability, as they're the most invisible/most often cured of SFnal disabilities.
 

* If you aren't familiar with the 'x' People Destroy series, it has already done POC Destroy SF and Queers Destroy SF to significant success. I was initially a little disconcerted it's swapped magazines for the disability issue, from Lightspeed to Uncanny, but the editors of Uncanny have a disabled child and they've assembled a solid team of disabled editors for the special issue, so my worries seem unfounded.

** The author talks about a bipolar diagnosis, but then settles on neurodiversity as their preferred community label. It's a view I have some sympathy with, though it can confuse people about non-MH related neurodiversity.

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[personal profile] topaz119
Not even fandom can hold back the sick feelings that real-world news has been bringing, much less get me through calling my m.f. red-state-senators as often as I can make myself, so my IG has ballooned with all manner of OTT cooking and baking accounts. Some of them only last a couple of days, so I'm always looking for more, which is how I stumbled over So Yummy, which I swear is what Darcy from in deep with you darling is doing while she's in hiding in Wakanda. I mean, there are a lot of crazy baking blogs/IGs out there, but none of them quite hit the level of Funfetti Fried Oreos or Red Velvet Oreo Lava Cakes. Clearly, she started off coming up with this stuff to keep herself from going crazy while she's there, but now she's in a groove and monetizing it (to an offshore account, of course) so when everything gets sorted out and life can get back to normal, she's got a little nest egg + a shiny new career path, yeah? (Clint has taken to adding another couple of miles to his daily run just to keep up with all the sugar and carbs she throws at him every day. He is totally okay with this.)

(I guess it really always does come back to fandom to keep me more-or-less sane. No surprise there.)

Okay, I swore (to myself, at least) that I'd keep up with the Wednesday book meme, so let's do that, too.

finished
Hunted, Megan Spooner -- YA retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where Beauty is a hunter and spends a fair amount of her time with the Beast working out how she's going to kill him. Beauty as an archer? I was all over it, and I feel like there are a fair number of ppl reading this who would also take to the concept. And I am happy to say it pretty much fulfilled its promise, so feel free to go for it.

now
The Darwath Trilogy, Barbara Hambly -- I always forget how much I like her writing until I stumble over another of her books and get sucked in to a world that's different from all the others.

The Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman -- what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies could have been if the author had actually liked the conventions of the Regency romance he was building on. And knew how to create a supernatural world that overlays the normal one.

Midnight Riot, Ben Aaronovitch, narrated by Kobda Holdbrook-Smith -- I feel like I'd really like the book anyway, but the narration is ten shades of awesome.

When Dimple Met Rishi, Sandhya Menon -- New Adult romance that I think I'm about ready to bail on. It's not them, it's me, etc, etc, etc… I think I'm officially Too Old For This.

next
I think that Currently Reading list is more than enough to deal with for now!

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