Apologies like the birds in the sky

Oct. 18th, 2017 05:29 am
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
[personal profile] sovay
I have been having an absolutely miserable night, but after venting at length to [personal profile] spatch about Brian Jacques' Outcast of Redwall (1995) I spent at least an hour reading about various mustelids online, including several species (tayra, hog badger, ferret-badger, grison) I hadn't known existed, and I think that was good for me.

(I liked ferrets. I found them clever, beautiful, charming creatures. I had had a stuffed animal black-footed ferret since late elementary school. By the time Outcast came out, I even knew several domestic ferrets in person; they were playful and I did not object to their smell. That was the novel where I realized that Jacques' species essentialism was immutable, and I felt painfully betrayed. I understood the long shadow of The Wind in the Willows, but I couldn't understand how Jacques could miss that his readers would at some point identify with Veil, the orphaned ferret kit adopted into a society of mice and voles and moles—the outsider, the one who feels there's something wrong with them for just being what they are—and then fail to see how it would hurt them to have Veil confirmed as irredeemable, genetically evil after all. He went so far as to give a morally ambiguous character a selfless death scene and then retract it a few chapters later. That ending accomplished what endless recipes for damson and chestnut and Mummerset dialect could not: I burnt out on the series on some deep level and have never even now gone back, despite positive memories of the first four books and their unique combination of cozy talking animals and total batshit weirdness. If you can't appreciate ferrets, I'm out of time for you.)

[hist] Oh, hey

Oct. 17th, 2017 11:57 pm
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
It was just brought to my attention that per the date traditionally held to be the one on which Luther nailed the 95 Theses to a church door, this Hallowe'en is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

John Henry and universal health care

Oct. 17th, 2017 11:10 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

"Muscular Christianity" is rooted in fear -- specifically in fear of the physically stronger, and more numerous, working class. Muscular Christianity took that fear and responded by saying, "We'd better starting working out."

Rest in Peace, Roy

Oct. 18th, 2017 12:30 am
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Posted by George R.R. Martin

The world became a little poorer this week. Roy Dotrice has died. He was ninety-four.

Roy first took up acting in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II, and went on to become one of the giants of British stage and screen, decorated by the Queen. He set a record for his one-man play BRIEF LIVES, and performed the key role of Mozart's father in the film of AMADEUS, among a hundred other credits. He was a supremely gifted actor.

He was also my friend. He lived in the United Kingdom and I lived in New Mexico, so we did not see each other often, but whenever we did get together, it was a delight. I will always treasure the memory of the dinner I shared with Roy and his wife Kay (who passed away a few years ago) at his club, the Garrick, a centuries-old haunt of the legends of the British stage. That was a truly amazing evening. The last time I saw Roy was in Los Angeles, however, at the party his daughter threw him on the occasion of his 90th birthday.



Many of the news stories about Roy's death identified him as a GAME OF THRONES cast member. He was that, of course. He played the pyromancer Hallyne in two episodes during our second season... and, as with everything he did, he played him wonderfully.



Truth be told, Roy might have had a much larger role in the series. When we first cast the show, he was our choice to play Grand Maester Pycelle, and I have no doubt that he would have been magnificent in that role. Sadly, health problems forced him to bow out. Julian Glover stepped up and performed admirably in his stead, but sometimes I still wonder at what might have been.

Roy's association with GAME OF THRONES runs far deeper than the television series. He was also the reader of the audiobooks of all five volumes of the series... though calling him a "reader" does not truly reflect his work. Roy performed those books. He gave every character his (or her) own distinctive voice, despite the fact that there were hundreds of them. So many, in fact, that the Guinness Book of World Records recognized him for voicing the most characters in an audibook for his work on A GAME OF THRONES, a record he still holds today (though actually I suspect he broke it himself for his readings of the later books).

I loved what Roy did on the audiobooks. He did not just read my words aloud, he brought them to life, in a way few actors could. And the fans agreed. Roy did the audiobooks for A GAME OF THRONES, A CLASH OF KINGS, and A STORM OF SWORDS, to great acclaim. When it was time to record A FEAST FOR CROWS, however, he was unavailable. Off doing a play in Birmingham, I was told. So my publishers used another reader. But the fans were having none of it. After the audiobook of FEAST was released, Random House received so many complaints that they had no choice but to go back and re-record the book with Roy, and release a second version. So of course when it was time to tape A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, there was never any question as to who would read it.

With Roy gone, I have no idea who will can possibly get to do the audiobooks for THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING. But whoever it is, they will have a hard, hard act to follow.

For all the great work he did on A SONG OF ICE & FIRE, my own memories of Roy Dotrice go back earlier, to the three years we worked together on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST for CBS. Great memories, for me; that was a wonderful show, and a joy to work on. We had an amazing team of writers, and of course a terrific cast, with the likes of Jay Acovone, Linda Hamilton, Jo Anderson, the incredible Ron Perlman... and Roy, of course, as Father. It was an honor and a privilege to write for him.



Those years on B&B meant a lot to Roy as well. Just last month, he posted a farewell messages to all the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST fans around the world. You can find it on YouTube:



Such a fine actor. Such a sweet man.

Everyone who knew him is sad today.

Where to find Mary at SiWC

Oct. 17th, 2017 07:00 pm
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Posted by Alyshondra Meacham

Surrey International Writers Conference imageMary will be at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in Surrey, British Columbia from Oct 20 – Oct 22, 2017. Get tickets here.

Here’s where to find her:

Friday, October 20

Workshop – Diagnosing Story Problems
11:30am-12:45pm
Tynehead 1

In this workshop, we look at tools to help you figure out where a story has gone wrong, and likely angles of attack to fix the problems. Plot structure, beta readers, and the dreaded writer’s block can all help narrow down the weakness in a story and ultimately fix it.

Panel – Worldbuilding (as moderator)
2:15-3:30pm
Tynehead 2

How do you bring an imaginary world to life? How do you layer the strange and fantastic on the real world in a believable way? Join our panel for a look at building cohesive, immersive worlds for characters to inhabit.

Blue Pencil Cafe Session
3:45-5pm
Fraser Room

Blue Pencil Cafe is an opportunity for you to have your work reviewed by Mary or other professional writers. Chat one-on-one about your work, or ask questions about the knottiest problems you’re facing. Appointments are 15 mins each, signups outside the Fraser Room door daily as available.

 

Saturday, Oct 21

Blue Pencil Cafe Session
10:00-11:15am
Fraser Room

Blue Pencil Cafe is an opportunity for you to have your work reviewed by Mary or other professional writers. Chat one-on-one about your work, or ask questions about the knottiest problems you’re facing. Appointments are 15 mins each, signups outside the Fraser Room door daily as available.

Workshop – Short Stories: A Proportional Understanding of Pacing
2:15-3:30pm
Tynehead 3

There are a lot of theories out there about how to handle pacing for novels, but how do you do it when you’re constrained by length? It turns out that many of the same rules-of-thumb apply, but in a proportionally smaller space they look very different. Learn how to structure your beginnings, ends, and of course, those pesky middles.

Signing
5:30-7pm
Fraser Room

Book signing and cocktail social.

 

Sunday, Oct 22

Opening Session – Keynote
9:00-9:55am
Guildford Ballroom

Mary will be giving the keynote address during this session that opens the last day of the conference.

Panel – No Write Way: Talking Process with the Whisky Chicks
10:00-11:15am
Tynehead 2

From idea generation to final draft, writing a novel consists of many stages, and every writer has their own approach to the process. Hang out with Elizabeth Boyle, Susanna Kearsley, and Mary Robinette Kowal, and learn how they each come up with their ideas, create characters, delve into research, and sit down to get those drafts written. Their methods may inspire you to try something new, but they will also prove that there is no one way to write a book.

Blue Pencil Cafe Session
11:30am-12:45pm
Fraser Room

Blue Pencil Cafe is an opportunity for you to have your work reviewed by Mary or other professional writers. Chat one-on-one about your work, or ask questions about the knottiest problems you’re facing. Appointments are 15 mins each, signups outside the Fraser Room door daily as available.

The post Where to find Mary at SiWC appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.

sausage and potato roast with arugula

Oct. 17th, 2017 04:51 pm
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Posted by deb

I realize that if you want to toss some sausages and vegetables on a sheet pan on a weekday night and roast them to crispy, self-seasoned blister, there are innumerable ways to do it. I’ve fiddled around with this broccoli and chunks of sausage; I’d intended to try a version with cherry tomatoes and garlicky croutons before my tomatoes went south. You may not need a recipe.

what you'll needlotsa shallotsready to roastan interruption arrives

But for me, so much of weeknight cooking is a random suggestion that pops into my feed that doesn’t have to be overtly revolutionary, just something I hadn’t considered before and immediately want to make before anything else. In a moment, I go from lethargically considering a bunch of options I’d rejected on previous evenings for various reasons to mentally calculating how long it will be until dinner and wishing it was now now now. Finding these moments is my primary cooking interest.

Read more »

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Posted by Canaan Merchant (Contributor)

Fairfax County's population is growing, but that isn't stopping some Restonians from organizing against the inevitable. Will fears of mixed-use buildings in Reston mean fewer opportunities for people to live close to transit and jobs?

Reston was designed to be inclusive

Reston is a unique development. It was pioneered by founder Bob Simon as a place where individuals and families could live, work, and play without the need to drive everywhere. That was a radical notion in the 1960s when the prevailing wisdom was to take advantage of the country's new highway system, but it seems prescient today.

Decades later, Reston benefited with its strategic position between Dulles Airport and Tyson's Corner. Since it's smack dab in the middle of strong job and population growth, Reston is well-suited to handle new neighbors. That's doubly true when considering the planning done decades earlier, which avoided many of the development and transportation mistakes other suburban areas made when they ignored pedestrians, cyclists, or transit when designing communities. (Case in point: Tysons Corner.)

Now Fairfax County wants to change Reston's zoning (known as Planned Residential Communities or PRCs) to allow more people to live in Reston. It's a modest proposition: the average limit will be raised from 13 people per acre to 16, and places explicitly designed at higher or lower levels won't be changed.

Only the areas in red will change. The biggest red area is Reston Town Center.



Many of the changes in Reston's PRC areas are in or near Reston Town Center, which is a dense urban area that is designed to draw people from all over the region. There are already tall new buildings being built here, and that construction pattern will continue as other surrounding parcels are redeveloped.

Changes may also come to some suburban shopping centers deeper in Reston's heart known as Reston's Village Centers. This is where most Restonians do their grocery shopping and run other errands, and these Village Centers may be renovated and redeveloped to include some housing. That's the case at Tall Oaks Center off of Wiehle Avenue, where townhomes will be built and integrated with existing commercial and retail space.

These single-story town centers could have homes, but some in Reston think that is too much. Image by David Whitehead.


Image by David Whitehead.


Image by David Whitehead .

However, opposition to new housing in Reston can be fierce–and it's no different for changes to the PRC limits. One meeting recently had to be postponed because the room selected was too small for the throng of people who showed to voice their opinion on the matter. 

How urban should Reston be?

Common arguments against redeveloping the village centers are based on how urban Reston should be. Simply put, they say, Reston is full. To put apartments on top of a Giant or Safeway would overwhelm the "neighborhood scale" of the village centers and make life too hard for current Restonians. 

There's just one problem: the prediction of a Village Center overwhelmed with people is wildly disproportional to what is proposed. Adding an additional three people per acre in some areas won't usher in an era of sardine-like crowding in Reston.

In fact, many elements of the proposed changes are already here. Placing housing close to retail is pretty standard for the area, not just at the Town Center but in the Village Centers as well. Tall Oaks Village Center is slated to begin this type of mixed-use development soon, and other Village Centers will likely begin this process organically over the next few years as leases expire and buildings need renovation anyway.

An example of a mixed-use area in the Lake Anne district of Reston. Image by David Whitehead.

Living close to shops and grocery stores wouldn't overwhelm the area's neighborhood scale. That was an explicit design criteria for Reston when it was originally planned, and it is an explicit selling point for the area today.

Keeping zoning limits low won't stop the job and family growth that brings people to the region at large. Letting people live where they can walk, bike, or take transit to their jobs or errands–rather than force them to drive for every trip–is a far better method to accommodate that growth.

The new meeting to discuss changes to the PRC is on October 23rd at South Lakes High School. Opposition to the changes will still be fierce, but it is important to remember that what is being proposed is modest–and Reston can handle it better than almost anywhere else in Fairfax County.

Sign up for updates!

Top image: A post apocalyptic vision of Reston's future. Image by Stephen Rees licensed under Creative Commons.

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Posted by John Scalzi

Today Tor Books is releasing Old Man’s War in a spiffy new “mini”-format hardcover edition: All the benefits of a hardcover book, miniaturized for your convenience! It’s available at your favorite bookstores in the US and Canada, and it’s no coincidence that it’s being released just prior to the holiday season. Stocking stuffer, my friends, and/or a nice little gift for, like, day four of Hanukkah. But you don’t need to wait for the holidays to get it. You can get it today. For yourself! And pick up several copies for friends! Distribute them like Pez! It’s the Covandu version of OMW, if you will, and if you get that joke, thank you for being a fan.

I’m delighted at this new mini hardcover of OMW because, among other things, the original hardcover run of the book, almost thirteen(!) years ago now, is actually pretty small: about 3,700 for the first printing, and about 7,700 overall. OMW really took off in the trade paperback edition a year after the initial release. As a result, the hardcovers have always been hard to find — great news for collectors, to be sure. Not so great for anyone else.

So, dear everyone else: This edition is for you. Enjoy!


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Posted by Jane Green (Guest Contributor)

The following letter was written by Jane Green, who recently moved to Pentagon City. It was first published in ARLnow on October 16. 

As a new resident of Arlington County, I left Sunday’s League of Women Voters Candidate Forum for the upcoming County Board election feeling like a burden to my neighbors.

When responding to questions about the challenges that Arlington faces to meet the demand for housing and to increase capacity for transportation, schools, and other facilities, all three candidates emphasized the negative aspects that come from new young families. Developments increase and rents go up. Trees are cut down. Schools are more crowded.

For those who have lived in the county for a decade or more, new residents are a problem to manage and an obstacle to preserving the neighborhood and community as it has been.

I would rather you see my family as an opportunity. We are ready to put down roots and be engaged in our new home. We love Arlington for its diversity and its convenience. We value the strong civic institutions that bring people together. But by neglecting to adapt to newcomers, the County is only exacerbating the housing shortage and other capacity issues.

Those who vow to “preserve the neighborhood” should remember that they are envisioning a world that doesn’t include my family or the thousands of others like us who are the foundation of a vibrant community. We want to be the future of Arlington, if you’ll let us.

Top image: Pentagon lights in Arlington, Virginia.  Image by Brian Allen used with permission.

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Posted by Bruce Schneier

A security flaw in Infineon smart cards and TPMs allows an attacker to recover private keys from the public keys. Basically, the key generation algorithm sometimes creates public keys that are vulnerable to Coppersmith's attack:

While all keys generated with the library are much weaker than they should be, it's not currently practical to factorize all of them. For example, 3072-bit and 4096-bit keys aren't practically factorable. But oddly enough, the theoretically stronger, longer 4096-bit key is much weaker than the 3072-bit key and may fall within the reach of a practical (although costly) factorization if the researchers' method improves.

To spare time and cost, attackers can first test a public key to see if it's vulnerable to the attack. The test is inexpensive, requires less than 1 millisecond, and its creators believe it produces practically zero false positives and zero false negatives. The fingerprinting allows attackers to expend effort only on keys that are practically factorizable.

This is the flaw in the Estonian national ID card we learned about last month.

The paper isn't online yet. I'll post it when it is.

Ouch. This is a bad vulnerability, and it's in systems -- like the Estonian national ID card -- that are critical.

The Big Idea: Elizabeth Bonesteel

Oct. 17th, 2017 02:07 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

Hey, you know how irritated you get when your internet access goes down? Elizabeth Bonesteel gets you. And so does her latest novel, Breach of Containment. She’s here to explain — provided your connection doesn’t suddenly go out…

ELIZABETH BONESTEEL:

We live in the woods, and that means, among other things, we have the crappiest internet service in the state*.

(*This almost certainly isn’t true. I’ve heard rumors there are towns in the western part of the state that still rely on dialup. I keep hoping that’s an ugly rumor spread by Verizon to keep us all compliant and grateful.)

People in town rely on a mish-mash of solutions. Ours is a T1 line. It’s slow (1.5 Mb up/down), and when it drops it drops for days. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of seeing Netflix give up the ghost, and then pulling up your web browser to see that progress bar just…stall.

It amazes me how much I’ve come to depend on the net—not just for news and cat videos, but for a sense of connection to the rest of the world. When the line goes down, it’s so easy to imagine there’s nothing out there at all anymore—that the silence will go on forever, and we’ll sit here alone in the woods, never discovering what’s happened to the rest of the world.

Within my lifetime, society has become dependent on instant communication.

Breach Of Containment is set roughly a thousand years in the future, where we’ve colonized a (still pretty damn small) part of the galaxy. Despite the distances, everything is elaborately connected. In addition to a network of government and military communications channels, all monitored and encrypted, there are entirely unregulated data streams over which both reliable and unreliable information fly unfettered. Most of my characters live aboard Galileo, a military starship, and they’re never disconnected from the officers giving orders. Neither are they ever free of consequences when they get creative about interpreting those orders (which happens far more often than it should).

At one point, as I was assembling this book, I thought: what if all that gets cut off? What if I dump them in the soup, and sever their access to intelligence, orders, even news of their families?

Structurally, that idea both simplified and complicated the plot. Breach Of Containment is, in many ways, your traditional are-we-preventing-or-starting-a-war adventure story. Galileo is working in an atmosphere of uncertainty and deceit at this point: some of their orders are legit, some are distractions designed to keep them out of the way of internal government intrigue, and they don’t always know which are which. When the communication channels back to Earth are lost, it suddenly stops mattering which commanding officer is trustworthy and which is a seditious traitor. Losing communications meant my characters didn’t need to waste time figuring out whether or not a bunch of tangential folks we don’t care about are on the right side or not.

But severing communications also let me play with people’s heads, and it’s no secret I love the messy character stuff. I’ve got three principals at this point, and Breach Of Containment begins with all of them stretched thin. Elena, formerly Galileo’s chief of engineering, has been out of the Corps for a year, and is feeling rootless and without purpose. Greg, Galileo’s captain, has been dutifully following orders, but is feeling less and less like his years of service have resulted in making any substantive difference for real people. Jessica, Greg’s now-seasoned second-in-command, sees most clearly the tightrope they’re walking between following potentially erroneous orders and dealing with a massive conspiracy that is almost certainly beyond their ability to stop.

Basically, I made sure everybody was tense and cranky, and then I cut their T1 line.

On top of that, I put them on a timer. There’s an armada headed toward Earth, and the big question is whether they’re intending to help, or to invade the vulnerable planet while nobody can warn them. And the only sources of information my happy crew has got? A retired Admiral who’s a gray-hat at best, a rival government’s starship and her relentlessly cheerful captain, and a nervous emissary who’s delivered a cryptic message that she seems convinced makes perfect sense. (Oh, and a talking box. I always forget the talking box.)

When you have no news and you can’t Google, how do you make your decisions?

Here in the real world, I didn’t have a smartphone until last December. (I’m not a Luddite. I’m just cheap.) Since then, the T1 outages have been far less unnerving. It’s comforting to be able to check Twitter and verify the outage isn’t part of some apocalyptic event. Sometimes I’ll even waste some data on a cat video. But every time, in that few seconds before my Twitter feed comes up, I feel that disorienting sense of being unmoored from the rest of the world. It’s not a great state of mind in which to make important decisions…but it’s not a bad catalyst for a plot.

—-

Breach of Containment: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.


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Posted by David Whitehead (Housing Program Organizer)

DC has around 14.1 million square feet of vacant office space, and 8.2 million square feet of it is in the downtown area. That’s equivalent to more than two Pentagons worth of empty offices.

The DC Council will soon consider a bill that would incentivize owners to convert a portion of that empty office space into much-needed homes.

A glut of empty office space in a region starving for housing

Since the Great Recession, the District’s office market has experienced vacancy rates above 11 percent, and the total area of vacant office space has reached over 14 million square feet. As recently as last month, the office vacancy rate in the DowntownDC and Golden Triangle Business Improvement Districts was 10.3 percent and the total vacant office space was 8.2 million square feet–almost double the vacant space at the end of 2006.

This abundance of vacant space is unlikely to decline. There are more than 5 million square feet of office space under construction, meaning that older office buildings will likely continue to be passed up by business renters.

What is more, the private sector and the federal government simply don’t need the same amount of space they once did. (There is a lot less physical file storage and rooms full of secretaries these days.) Even if an business or agency did need the space, there is plenty of cheaper competition in Virginia and Maryland. Northern Virginia has 32.6 million square feet of vacant office space, and suburban Maryland has 12.4 million square feet.

On the flip side, there are very few homes for rent or purchase in the downtown area, something particularly frustrating given the dramatic shortage of homes and affordable homes the DC region is facing.

A proposed bill aims to incentivize the residential conversion of downtown office space

In July, Councilmember Jack Evans proposed legislation that would set aside city money for tax abatements ($5 million per year for 10 years) to incentivize owners to convert their empty vacant office space into homes.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) would administer these tax abatements and negotiate on behalf of the city to incentivize the conversion of 200,000-400,000 square feet of now-empty office space, which could produce an estimated 300-400 new homes per year.

Projects would be subject to inclusionary zoning, which means that eight percent of the new homes would be made affordable to those making 60 percent of Area Median Income (meaning the rent for a 1 bedroom apartment would be capped at $1,240). Of the $5 million set aside per year, $1 million per year would be used to support this affordable housing.

Image by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons.

Why aren’t office building owners already converting to residential?

There are technical difficulties that are both expensive and onerous when you want to convert what used to be office building into a residential one. Some have to do with the construction of the actual building (such as different floor plates, etc) and others have to do with different building codes and requirements.

Nonetheless, office-to-residential conversions are happening in other parts of the region and DC, just not a lot. One is even happening very close to downtown DC in Dupont Circle.

None of these DC-area conversions have used any public incentives offered by local governments. Rather they've happened because the developer sees an opportunity to buy a building for relatively cheaper rates because of the oversupply of office space, and can still profit after the costly redevelopment.

Building owners argue that while it is profitable to make those conversions in some areas, in downtown DC where owners demand hefty rents for prime office real estate the margins aren’t worth the conversion. This bill would fill in a portion of that gap.

On the other hand, some could argue that if a conversion isn't financially viable, market forces ought to eventually take care of it rather than public subsidy. Owners could choose between selling for less or leaving the building vacant and foregoing potential rent. However, DC would lose out on potential tax revenue in the meantime.

Other cities have tried similar incentive programs. Baltimore instituted a tax abatement incentive program in 2013 to incentivize market-rate housing downtown, and New York City has a tax abatement program to produce rent-stabilized apartments.

This is also not the only bill in DC looking to transform a portion of our abundant empty office space. Another bill, proposed earlier this year by Councilmember Robert White, would establish a task force to explore the possibility of producing subsidized affordable housing in office-residential conversions.

Why not just tax the vacant properties higher?

Some offer an alternative idea to what is presented in this bill: why not just disincentivize property owners from continuing to hold onto their vacant office properties?

Right now some building owners are able to rent out just enough of their office building to maintain it while waiting for the market to turn. I would argue this is not likely, due to the regional glut and that fact that business aren’t interested in older models of office space anymore.

One way to disincentivize this behavior would be increasing the property taxes on vacant office space. DC has a vacant property tax that is applied separately to residential and office space, and it is significantly higher than what is applied to occupied homes and commercial spaces.

One issue with the strategy would be its implementation: if an office building is 10 percent rented out, do you charge a different tax rate on the 90 percent vacant part? Despite the administrative challenges of applying such an idea, would that be enough to be incentivize a better use of the space?

In the decade prior to 2008, Los Angeles took a different strategy and instead implemented an Adaptive Reuse Ordinance for downtown office-residential conversions that exempted these projects from certain zoning rules, in particular parking minimums. This policy helped to produce over 7,300 new homes downtown over the decade.

Proponents of Evans’ legislation argue that this tax abatement strategy is worthwhile. Beyond creating a more vibrant, mixed-use downtown, supporters say converting these properties into homes would bring more revenue to the city, estimating anywhere from $2 million to more than $5 million per year in net new property, income, and sales taxes. They argue that the alternative (400,000 square feet of office space that remains vacant) would only generate approximately $2-3 million per year in property taxes.

On October 20 the Committee on Finance and Revenue will hold a hearing on this legislation. What do you think? What’s the best way to get more homes and affordable homes out of what is an obvious overabundance of office space?

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Posted by Alyshondra Meacham

My Favorite BitElizabeth Bonesteel is joining us today with her novel Breach of Containment. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A reluctant hero must prevent war in space and on Earth in this fast-paced military science fiction thriller from the author of The Cold Between and Remnants of Trust—a page-turning hybrid combining the gritty, high-octane thrills of James S. A. Corey and the sociopolitical drama of Ann Leckie.

Space is full of the unknown . . . most of it ready to kill you.

When hostilities between factions threaten to explode into a shooting war on the moon of Yakutsk, the two major galactic military powers, Central Corps and PSI, send ships to defuse the situation. But when a strange artifact is discovered, events are set in motion that threaten the entire colonized galaxy—including former Central Corps Commander Elena Shaw.

Now an engineer on a commercial shipping vessel, Elena finds herself drawn into the conflict when she picks up the artifact on Yakutsk—and investigation of it uncovers ties to the massive, corrupt corporation Ellis Systems, whom she’s opposed before. Her safety is further compromised by her former ties to Central Corps—Elena can’t separate herself from her past life and her old ship, the CCSS Galileo.

Before Elena can pursue the artifact’s purpose further, disaster strikes: all communication with the First Sector—including Earth—is lost. The reason becomes apparent when news reaches Elena of a battle fleet, intent on destruction, rapidly approaching Earth. And with communications at sublight levels, there is no way to warn the planet in time.

Armed with crucial intel from a shadowy source and the strange artifact, Elena may be the only one who can stop the fleet, and Ellis, and save Earth. But for this mission there will be no second chances—and no return.

What’s Liz’s favorite bit?

Breach of Containment cover image

ELIZABETH BONESTEEL

Mysteries have made me a prologue addict.

Despite writing science fiction, I spent a lot of the 90s and 00s reading mysteries. Prologues aren’t an unusual ingredient in the mystery genre: a brief scene at the start, maybe from the killer’s perspective, maybe of some significant event that happened weeks or years or centuries earlier. A good mystery prologue provides intrigue you can’t ignore, and makes you keep reading to find out how the events of the prologue illuminate the rest of the story.

I tend to use prologues for inciting incidents that don’t look like inciting incidents. The prologue isn’t the Big Bang that kicks the story into gear. It’s an event, sometimes small, sometimes large, that renders the remainder of the story inevitable. It’s the point when the safety bar comes down on the roller coaster, and even though the riders can’t see the track ahead, they’re stuck following it to the end.

In the first book, I wrote about a catastrophic accident that rippled for decades. In the second, I wrote about a young soldier’s first experience with failure and death.

In BREACH OF CONTAINMENT, I write about a box.

Not just a box, of course. I also write about Yakutsk, a small, cold moon, where much of the story’s action takes place. I write about Dallas, a seasoned parts scavenger, who is mostly contented with life on Yakutsk, but can’t ignore their nagging unease about the small, nondescript, not-quite-inert box found on the surface. I write about Jamyung, a scrap dealer, who recognizes the monetary value in the oddity but is deeply incurious about the oddity itself.

(Spoiler: Jamyung should have been less incurious.)

My first two books had elements of traditional whodunnits (although my villains are villainous enough I don’t think the reveal is ever much of a surprise). BREACH OF CONTAINMENT has a central mystery, but it’s not about who’s behind the various events of the story. We know who’s doing what. The mystery is what’s actually going on: why these events are happening now, how they’re related, why some characters are making the choices they’re making.

All of this makes it really, really hard to talk spoiler-free about the plot, which is kind of an important thing to be able to do when you’re trying to do promotion. I’m sure I’m not the first author who’s discovered that their real Favorite Bit is a massive spoiler and they can’t talk about it at all. I can’t even tell you what the deal is with Jamyung’s box.

(Here’s a non-spoiler part of the deal: I have a thing about squares, and that weird little box is designed to be exactly the kind of knick-knack I like to have around my house. My family, on the other hand, would stare at it, puzzled, wondering what charms I was seeing that they were missing. Beauty is subjective.)

I can say that this prologue is a microcosm of the whole story: Dallas’s affection for Yakutsk, Martine’s instant attraction to the Box of Doom, Jamyung’s eye for profit over aesthetics (and also safety).

And the cold. There’s a lot of cold in this book. I am fascinated by cold but I wouldn’t choose to live in it (insert New England winter joke here). I didn’t realize until the story was finished how much cold plays into everything in this book.

But so does warmth, in all its forms. The box is warm, even after sitting exposed on the sunless surface of a nearly airless moon. Martine’s attraction to the object makes her carry it inside the domed city. Empathy for Martine draws Dallas out of a comfortably solitary existence to investigate why life on Yakutsk is changing in so many unsettling ways. Yakutsk’s people are insular, businesslike, and often violent; but despite living in a culture that’s always one bar fight away from civil war, they share deep affection for their icy little moon.

And that matters. Soon enough? Depends on your perspective. But it matters.

Prologues engender a tremendous amount of hate. We all know why; I won’t regurgitate the usual schools of thought on the subject. My own inclusion of prologues may have as much to do with my love of film as my wide reading of mysteries; they often work well on screen. (Best prologue anywhere, ever: RAISING ARIZONA. Eleven minutes, riveting, and absolutely critical to the story.)

As with many aspects of my writing, I don’t always see the significance until the whole story is finished. For whatever reason, everything important always seems to end up in the prologue. Not the plot details, of course, or the whodunit or even the whydunnit, but the theme, the motivation, the moral center. (Be fair, my moral centers are generally some variant of “be kind to each other” because really, what else is there?)

So I should stop worrying about including spoilers when promoting BREACH OF CONTAINMENT. It’s all there, in the prologue, everything you need to know. (But do, if you like the prologue, consider reading the rest as well. Because a box is never just a box, is it?)

LINKS:

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.ca

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

Powell’s

Google Play

iBookstore US / iBookstore UK / iBookstore Canada

Kobo

Elizabeth Bonesteel’s website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

BIO:

Liz Bonesteel lives in Central Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, various cats, and a lovely woodburning soapstone stove.

The post My Favorite Bit: Elizabeth Bonesteel talks about BREACH OF CONTAINMENT appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.

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Posted by Arego Mitchell (Contributor)

Do DC’s ideas for Amazon’s HQ2 make sense?

The city has suggested possible locations spread across all four quadrants that could host Amazon's second headquarters. The common theme: the required 8 million square feet of office space would be split up among multiple buildings.  (Jonathan O’Connell / Post)

The National Zoo moves forward with its garage

The National Zoo has been given permission to move forward on plans for a new 1,119-unit, 5-story parking garage. It will replace an existing surface lot, and the hope is that it will mitigate some of the parking that has overflowed into the surrounding neighborhoods as visitation grown.  (Grace Bird / Current)

A Baltimore school finds success with a “walking school bus” of kids

Every day, Baltimore kids form a "walking school bus" and walk to and from school together by forming a single-file chain with their chaperones. It keeps kids safe and lets them get active at the same time.   (Talia Richman / Post)

Some Logan Circle residents REALLY don’t want Dacha’s beer garden

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will decide within 90 days whether to issue a liquor license for Dacha's planned beer garden at 14th and S Streets NW. Residents and owners have sparred over plans for the second location, which would go atop a parking lot.  (Rachel Chason / Post)

DC rents are dropping, but not where you’d expect

Rents decreased slightly in popular neighborhoods in Northwest, like Columbia Heights, Shaw, and Dupont Circle. They've increased in neighborhoods in the other three quadrants, like Capitol Hill.   (Jon Banister / Bisnow)

Ward 8 residents march to bring attention to food deserts

Over the weekend, demonstrators in Southeast DC walked two miles from the only grocery store in Ward 8 to illustrate the reality that some residents experience in order to get groceries.  (Sasha-Ann Simons / WAMU)

The Washington Boulevard Trail could start construction this year

Phase II of the Washington Boulevard Trail in Arlington County will connect Columbia Pike to S. Walter Reed, where Phase I begins and connects to Arlington Blvd. Construction should start later this year.  (WashCycle)

Are you ready for the Museum of the Bible?

Even in a city known for its museums, the Museum of the Bible stands out. Set to open next month, a glimpse at the museum reveals high-tech exhibits, a massive footprint, and an attempt to be neutral on the Bible itself.   (Post)

You’ll finally be able to track your permits online (next year)

DC residents looking to improve their homes will be able to track their permits online by next fall. It's part of a push to give homeowners more information about the permit process.   (Selena Simmons-Duffin / WAMU)

A fake bike lane protest became real in Minneapolis

A fake protest over a bike lane in Minneapolis became real, and even drew in city council candidates. Nearly two dozen people marched (in the bike lane, it should be noted) against the painted stripes, some holding signs that said, "Nazi Lane."  (Angie Schmitt / StreetsBlog)

Comment on this article

Pull The Football - Save the World

Oct. 17th, 2017 08:25 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
Via [personal profile] rachelmanija

Are you worried about nuclear war? I am too. Keep reading for a way to stop it with one simple action.

Maybe you feel small and powerless. But many snowflakes make an avalanche. If we all move in the same direction, we'll be unstoppable. We will only fail if we choose not to act.

Trump has the power to order a pre-emptive nuclear strike for any reason - or no reason at all. He's always shadowed by a man with a briefcase of codes, called the "nuclear football," to enable him to launch nuclear missiles at any time. It would take less than five minutes from his order to the missiles being launched, and no one could stop him. Republican Senator Bob Corker says Trump is leading us into World War III. I believe him.

But we don't have to stand by and let it happen. Let's pull away that football!

Both House and Senate have bills to prevent the President from launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike without a congressional declaration of war. They're both called the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 - Senate, HR 669 - House.) Passing those bills may literally save the world.

How to save the world:

1. Contact your representatives in Congress. Ask them to co-sponsor the bill NOW, before it's too late.

2. Contact EVERYONE in Congress who might want to prevent a nuclear war. Usually people only speak to their own representatives. But with the fate of the entire world is at stake, it's worth contacting everyone who might listen.

3. Promote the Pull The Football campaign on social media. Trump isn't the only one who can use Twitter. Get on it and start tweeting #PullTheFootball.

Share this post on Facebook or Dreamwidth. Put up your own post on whatever social media you use. Ask your friends in person. If you know anyone in the media, contact them to get the word out. If you're not American, you can help by publicizing the campaign on social media that Americans follow.

How do I contact my representatives?

1. Resistbot is a free service that will fax, call, or write your representatives for you. Just text the word "resist" to 50409 to begin.

2. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the representative of your choice.

I've contacted everyone. What now?

Contact them again. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. One water drop can be brushed away. Many water drops make a flood. Call, fax, or write as often as possible. Set aside 15 minutes every day to make as many calls or faxes as you can in that time. Relentlessness works - it's why the NRA is so successful. If they can do it, we can do it.

What do I say?

Page down for a sample script. Or speak or write in your own words.

Democrats to contact:

Every Democrat not currently sponsoring one of the bills. Thank them for their courage and service to the nation, and ask them to act now to save the world.

Thank the Democrats currently sponsoring the bills. There are 57 in the House and 9 in the Senate. Especially, thank Congressman Ted Lieu (sponsor of the House bill) and Sen. Edward Markey (sponsor of the Senate bill). Encourage them to step up their efforts to make it pass.

Republicans to contact:

The Republicans listed below are the most prominent who have voiced concerns about Trump. This is not an exhaustive list. There are more Republicans who might be receptive. For instance, all the House Republicans who just voted for more aid for Puerto Rico, and all Republicans who are retiring from their seats and so not worried about getting re-elected.

Sen. Bob Corker (202) 224-3344) warned us that Trump is setting the nation on a path to World War III. If you only contact one Republican representative, contact him. Thank him for his courage and urge him to follow through on his convictions.

Rep. Walter Jones (202) 225-3415 is the only Republican to support the bill. Thank him for his courage and urge him to get his colleagues onboard.

Other Republican senators to prioritize contacting: Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Marco Rubio, and Bob Sasse.

Sample Script

Hello, my name is [your name.] I'm calling to ask Representative/Senator [their name] to co-sponsor the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 - Senate, HR 669 - House.)

I believe Republican Senator Bob Corker when he says we're on the brink of World War Three. No one benefits from a nuclear war. But we can stop it if we choose to. This may be the most important action Representative/Senator [their name] will take in their entire life. It may literally save the world. I urge them to co-sponsor the bill restricting first use of nuclear weapons. Thank you.

Thank you for reading this far! Please share the post before you go.

Weekend Accomplishments

Oct. 17th, 2017 08:14 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
Sorry no post yesterday; I woke up feeling nauseated, so I stayed home from work and slept and read all day.

1. Laundry! Two loads.

2. Attended two concerts, one Friday night, one Sunday afternoon.

3. Finished watching Defenders and helped a friend out with some stuff.

4. Bought a new black rayon shirt for choir, and hand-washed it in preparation for Wednesday night's concert.

5. Laid out clothes and chose makeup and packed my bag with choir folder and such for Tuesday and Wednesday, so I wouldn't have to do it in the mornings.

Dress rehearsal tonight; am currently eating oatmeal, and hoping this stomach unpleasantness has fully gone away.

Vallista, by Steven Brust

Oct. 17th, 2017 07:05 am
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa
Review copy provided by Tor Books. Additionally, the author has shown by his behavior that despite what I've said in previous review disclaimers about his books, he is absolutely no friend of mine.

However, quite often people who have made me sad, angry, and/or disgusted with their behavior write books that are too dreadfully written to bother to read, and this is not the case with Vallista. This is another entry in the Vlad Taltos series, and like the others it is not doing exactly the same things as its predecessors. It is expanding the universe of the series, it is messing with everything that has gone before and recasting it. It is definitely not an episodic "like this one, but more of it" entry in its series, and the trap-building nature of the vallista comes satisfyingly into play.

What was less satisfying for me this time around, and this may well come into reviewing the author rather than the book as I am trying not to do: everyone has tolerance limits on the First Person Asshole voice. It's no surprise that a substantial portion of a Vlad Taltos novel is written in First Person Asshole. Some people's tolerance is about a page and a half, some infinite; mine is, at this point fifteen books into the series, fraying. (I would also like it a lot if someone would write a study of how FPA voice shifts in a long series so that it always feels contemporary and therefore includes very mild contemporary phrasing that's almost but not quite invisible and ends up being the prose tic version of a long mystery series looking like it only spans two years and yet starting with the protagonist using pay phones and ending in them using smart phones. Someone who is not me should do that using several authors as reference. Thanks.) But Vallista also has, for very good plot-related spoilerific reasons, forays into other prose voices than that, which made it a lot easier to read just when some of the "look at me I'm clever" bits of narrative voice were not feeling quite as clever as hoped and had repeated the not-clever multiple times just to make sure you had a chance to not-laugh at it again. I liked...hard to describe for spoiler reasons...pieces of other prose voice, and the reasons why they were there.

There is quite a lot of Devera in this book. If you're here for serious forward momentum on ongoing plot arc and for Devera: here you go, this is the one you're looking for. Relationships among other characters in the series, a great deal less so, but there's a great deal of "can't have everything" going around in the world, inevitable that some of it would end up here.

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