A New Award for Old Words

Sep. 26th, 2017 12:26 am
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Posted by George R.R. Martin

Saturday was fun. I drove down to the beautiful Tamaya Resort on the Santa Ana Pueblo, north of Albuquerque, to attend the annual gathering of the HWA... no, not that HWA (the Horror Writers Association, who had their own gathering in May on the Queen Mary), and no, not that other HWA (the Historical Writers Association) either... but the newest HWA, the Historical Writers of America. My faithful minions Lenore Gallegos and Marisa X. Jimenez came with me.

Tamaya is just stunning, and the food was amazing for a hotel banquet. The company was great as well. I love a good historical, and I was pleased to meet some of the people who write them. And my dear friend Melinda Snodgrass was the featured speaker after the feast.

And then they gave me an award: I'm the first (well, one of the first) recipient of the PastWords Award for Historical Fantasy. HWA had a rather handsome bronze trophy made up, with a writer and a reader flanking an hourglass. I'm told the award was designed by Gage Prentiss, the artist who designed the H.P. Lovecraft Statue that's to go up in Providence (for more info about that project, see here: http://www.weirdprovidence.org/statue.html )

The other winners of this year's PastWords Awards were a distinguished lot, whose number included Larry McMurtry and Congressman John Lewis, both of whom I would have loved to meet. Alas, neither one was able to attend.

Here's a shot of Melinda and me at the awards banquet with HWA founder Theresa Guzman Stokes (who goes by 'Soni'), and a close up of the award.

It was a fun evening.

If you'd like to know more about the Historical Writers of America, they have a website here: http://historicalwritersofamerica.org/

I do think they need to change their name, though. All these HWAs are confusing. Way back when, I was actually a founding member of the horror writers group under its original name: the Horror and Occult Writers League, or HOWL. A much more original and creative name, I thought, but they got stuffy and opted for 'dignity.' They should go back to HOWL, I say... and maybe one of the historical groups should call itself the Historical Authors instead of writers, which would make them HAA... but then they'd get confused with a comedy writers organization... oh, well, I don't know.

In any case, I appreciate the award, and all the kind words about my work. It's kind of cool to learn that even writers of honest to god real historical fiction and non-fiction enjoy my own fake histories.

Meow Wolf Conquers Las Vegas

Sep. 25th, 2017 11:35 pm
[syndicated profile] grrm_feed

Posted by George R.R. Martin

Meow Wolf invaded Las Vegas last weekend.

No, not the historic old railroad town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, where Doc Holliday and Hoodoo Brown once prowled the streets, but that gaudy newcomer in the desert, Las Vegas, Nevada.

As part of the weekend festival called Life Is Beautiful, Meow Wolf took over an defunct motel and redid the courtyard and all the rooms in their own surreal and inimitable style.

You can see some of the rooms here:

Alas, alack, I gather that Life Is Beautiful only lasted the weekend (life, it would seem, must go back to being whatever it is the rest of the year), and the Meow Wolf installation was only temporary, so if you missed it, you're out of luck.

(I would have told you earlier, but I did not know myself).

There's still plenty of time to come to Santa Fe and see the original Meow Wolf, however.

And if you can't, well, cross your fingers -- Meow Wolf may soon be coming to a city near you.
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Posted by John Scalzi

There was thread over at Metafilter this week talking about book sales and author earnings, including a link to a study that purported to chart author earnings, based on sales at Amazon.  I have to admit I had a bit of a giggle over it. Not because it was attempting to guess author incomes, which is fine, but because the methodology for estimating those earnings came almost entirely from trying to estimate sales of the authors’ books on Amazon, and extrapolating income from there.

Here’s the thing: For non-self-published authors, the correlation between annual book sales and annual “earnings” as a writer can be fairly low. As in, sometimes there is no correlation at all.

Confusing? Think how we feel!

But let me explain.

So, I’m a writer who works primarily with a “Big Five” publisher (Tor Books, which is part of Macmillan). For each of my books, I’m given an advance, which in my case is paid in four separate installments — when I sign the contract, when I turn in the manuscript and it’s accepted, when the book is published in hardcover and when the book is published in paperback. This is fairly typical for most writers working with a “traditional” publisher.

Once the advance is disbursed, my publisher owes me nothing until and unless my book “earns out” — which is to say, the amount I nominally earn for the sale of each unit (usually between 10% and 15% of each hardcover, and 25% of the net for eBook) exceeds cumulatively the amount I was offered for the advance. Once that happens, my publisher owes me for each book sold, and that amount is then usually disbursed semiannually…

usually. There could be other complicating factors, such as if the royalties of the books are “basketed” (meaning the contract was for two or more books, and the royalties are not disbursed until the advance amount for every book in the “basket” is earned out), or if some percentage of the royalties are held back as a “reserve against returns” (meaning that some books listed as sold/distributed are actually returned, so the publisher holds back royalties for a payment period to compensate).

Bear in mind that most publishers try to offer as an advance a sum of money they think the book will earn, either over the first year in hardcover, or across the entire sales run of the work. Which means that if the publisher has guessed correctly, it will never have to shell out royalties. Sometimes they guess poorly, which means either they paid too much for an advance or not enough; in the latter case, that’s when the royalty checks come (please note that even if a publisher pays “too much” and the advance isn’t earned out, it doesn’t mean the book wasn’t profitable for the publisher — their bottom line is not necessarily heavily correlated to the author’s advance — nor does the author have to pay it back).

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that for a non-self-pubbed author, often none of their annual earnings from a book are directly related to how many of those books sell in a year (or any other specified time frame). In fact, depending on how the advance is paid out, three-quarters or more (even all!) of the author’s earnings from a book are disbursed before the book has sold a single unit.

Like so:

Book is contracted: 40% of the advance (“signing installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0.

Book is turned in and accepted: 20% of the advance (“delivery and acceptance installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0

Book is published in hardcover: 20% of the advance (“hardcover installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0 (there may be pre-orders, but the sales don’t usually start being counted until this time).

Book is published in paperback: Final 20% of the advance goes to author. Books sold to date: Hopefully some! But even if the number is zero, the final installment gets paid out (if so few books are sold that the publisher foregoes the paperback release, there’s still usually the contractual obligation to pay out).

Note these advances can be paid out over more than one year — I once got a final installment for an advance roughly six years after I got the first installment (it was a complicated situation). Likewise, once the book starts selling, it can be years — if at all — before the author starts earning royalties, and even then, thanks to the reserve against returns, what the author gets in those semi-annual royalty checks is not 1:1 with sales for the period the check covers (note: this sometimes works to the benefit of the author). Also note: Those semi-annual checks? Often cover a period of time located in the previous fiscal or calendar year.

All of which is to say: For a “traditionally published” author, at almost no point do what an author’s yearly earnings for a book directly correspond to how the book is selling in that particular year.

(Is this bad? No, but it needs paying attention to. Authors tend to love advances because they’re not directly tied to sales — it’s money up front that doesn’t have to be immediately recouped and can help tide the author over during the writing and the wait for publication. But it also means, again, that it can be years — if at all — before money from royalties comes your way. Authors need to be aware of that.)

To move the discussion to me directly for a moment, if someone tried to guess my annual earnings based on my yearly unit sales on Amazon (or via Bookscan, or anywhere else for that matter), they would be likely be, well, wildly wrong. At any moment I have several books at various stages of advance disbursement — some contracted, some completed but not published, some published in hardcover and some published in paperback — a few all paid out in advances but not earned out, and several earned out and paying royalties.

Add to that audio sales (another set of advances and royalties) and foreign sales (yet another) and ancillary income like film/tv options (which are not tied to sales at all, but sales help get things optioned) and so on. Also note that not all my sales provide royalties at the same rate — a lot will depend on format and how many were previously sold (if they are in print or physical audio), unit price (if they are eBook or audio files), and on other various bits that are in contracts but not necessarily disclosed to the wide world. Oh, and don’t forget my short fiction and non-fiction!

Basically, my yearly earnings as an author are a delightful mess. I’m glad I have an accountant and an agent and a very smart life partner to help me stay on top of them. These earnings have almost nothing to do with unit sales in any calendar year, and more to the point, never have, even when I was a newbie book writer with a single book contract to my name. I signed my first book contract in 1999; since then I have yet to have a year when my earnings from being an author approach anything like a 1:1 parity with my book sales in that same year.

Does this matter? Well, it matters if you are, for example, trying to extrapolate what “traditionally published authors” make based on their annual sales, and are then comparing those “earnings” to the earnings of self-published authors. It’s ignoring that these are entirely different distribution systems which have implications for annual earnings. I don’t think one is particularly better than the other, but a direct comparison will give you poor results. Note also that’s true going the other way — applying “traditional publishing” income models to self-published authors will very likely tell you incorrect things about how they’re doing economically in any one year.

(And as a further note: Do likewise be aware of the caveats for anyone trying to extrapolate self-pub/indie annual author earnings from Amazon as well. It misses direct sales, which for authors who ply the convention circuits can be significant, and also may not fully incorporate how Amazon deals with payments in its subscription models, which are handled rather differently than actual sales, and which (unless it’s changed very recently) come from a pre-determined pot of payment rather than a straight percentage of sales. Hey, it’s complicated! Almost as complicated as the “traditional” model.)

Here’s one thing I suspect is true: It’s possible to make money (sometimes a lot of it) as a traditionally published author, or as an self-published/indie author — or as both, either in turn or simultaneously, since, as it happens, there’s no deep ideological chasm between the two, and generally speaking an author can do one or the other depending on their project needs, or their own (likewise, it’s possible to make almost no money either way, too. Alas). It’s not an either-or proposition.

But yes: Here is a grain of salt. Please apply it to anyone who tells you they know how much any author (traditional or self-pub/indie, but especially traditional) is earning in any year, based on Amazon sales, even if they’re  limiting it to Amazon sales. They’re just guessing, and you have no idea how far off their guesses are. And neither, I strongly suspect, do they. Only the actual authors know, and most of the time, they’re not telling.

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Posted by Claire Jaffe (Contributor)

WMATA is planning to change or alter many different bus routes across the region, including the 50 bus route down 14th Street that we successfully advocated for earlier this year. You can find the whole list of routes here.

This is the time to speak up for better buses in our region! Come out to the public meeting next Tuesday at Metro Headquarters Building (600 Fifth Street NW) where you can weigh in on the changes. The open house begins at 5:30 pm and public comment is from 6 pm to 7 pm. Sign up to testify and make your voice heard for better bus service! 

And don't miss our next Greater Greater happy hour with Young Professionals in Transportation (YPT) this Tuesday, September 26 from 6 to 8 pm at The Midlands in Park View. Want to join us? RSVP here!

Tuesday, September 26: How, why, and where people work is changing. More and more people are moving to urban areas to work and many are teleworking or working from co-working spaces. Who will benefit from the evolution of work and who gets left behind? Head to the "Future of Work Forum" at the WeWork Wonder Bread Factory (641 S Street NW) at 3 pm to hear from a host of speakers on this fascinating topic. 

Wednesday, September 27: The Long Bridge is a rail bridge that connects SW DC to Arlington, VA. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are working to improve the bridge. Come to a public meeting on Wednesday from 4 to 7 pm at DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Building (1100 4th Street SW, Room E200) to get the latest on the project and learn about the potential Long Bridge alternatives.

Thursday, September 28: Similar to problems in a lot of cities, a lack of affordable housing, fair wages, and access to a quality education have made it hard to foster inclusive development. Head over to "Unlikely Allies: Inclusive Development" on Thursday at 6:30 pm at Impact Hub DC (419 7th Street NW, 3rd Floor) to hear and learn from advocates and organizations working to ensure inclusive development here in the nation’s capital.

Saturday, September 30: When we talk about appealing, livable neighborhoods, Alexandria’s Del Ray, northwest of Old Town, gets a lot right. What role have entrepreneurs, local architects, and zoning tweaks played in the evolution of the neighborhood? What does the future hold? Join the Coalition for Smarter Growth for a walking tour on Saturday to get the inside scoop. RSVP for details. 

Next Saturday, October 7: Our Metro system needs dedicated funding. But how we get there is still complicated. Get clarity on the who, what, where, and how, of Metro funding advocacy at a forum on Saturday, October 7 from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (4301 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington) hosted by the Coalition for Smarter Growth and the League of Women's Voters. Martin Di Caro is moderating part of the forum. RSVP today!

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Posted by Payton Chung (Editorial Board)

In certain corners of DC, flocks of construction cranes are busy assembling dozens of apartment towers from scratch – while other neighborhoods look much the same as they have for decades. This imbalance is quietly undermining the character and continuity of DC's urban fabric by eroding the physical, economic, and social diversity within neighborhoods. Yet DC's planning policies explicitly encourage this pattern when they single out a few areas to develop all at once, while exempting other areas from growth.

There are subtle reasons why it's not a great idea to funnel all of the District's growth into just a few central-city areas. From an urban design standpoint, "instant neighborhoods" rarely have the visual or social diversity that many people enjoy about urban places. Great neighborhoods evolve as a mixed collage of uses, buildings, activities, and people over time – resulting not just in a more interesting place, but also a more enduring one.

One common complaint about areas like Southwest Waterfront, Crystal City, Golden Triangle, and even Capitol Riverfront is that they "look generic." They're filled with large, boxy buildings that were all built within a relatively short period of time, and thus responded to the real-estate market pressures of that one particular era. Suburban tracts filled with identical houses, whether in Olney or Bowie or Chantilly, face similar criticisms.

The Tiber Island residential complex in Southwest DC replaced eight blocks of rowhouses. Image by the author.

The renowned urban theorist Jane Jacobs sternly warns against building "instant neighborhoods" in her classic text The Death and Life of Great American Cities – not because they look generic, but because they stifle the diversity that she felt was the defining characteristic of cities:

Large swatches of construction built at one time are inherently inefficient for sheltering wide ranges of cultural, population, and business diversity... It is hardly possible to expect that many really different types of dwellings or their buildings can be added at any one time... There are fashions in building. Behind the fashions lie economic and technological reasons, and these fashions exclude all but a few genuinely different possibilities in city dwelling construction at any one time... As soon as the range and number of variations in buildings decline, the diversity of population and enterprises is too apt to stay static or decline, instead of decreasing.

Even some of the Modernist architects whose work Jacobs abhorred shared her skepticism about applying redevelopment in sudden and sharp bursts. Cloethiel Woodard Smith, one of the chief architects of the Southwest Urban Renewal Area, echoed Jacobs' understanding of architectural fads, saying, "This whole business of a large-scale urban renewal program reflects a moment's thinking in time."

U Street's many small buildings were built over many years. Image by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons.

Our greatest neighborhoods grew up over time

By contrast, beloved urban neighborhoods like Old Town and Shaw evolved slowly, as generations of both small and large buildings layered over centuries into a fine-grained urban fabric. A mix of buildings of different sizes, uses, and ages display the eclectic handiwork of different architects, builders, and owners. This makes for a livelier experience than an area laid down by a handful of big firms. These mixed areas also turn out to be better at fostering the economic and social variation that defines great cities.

A diverse building stock also accommodates a fuller diversity of human activities, which ultimately turns out to be a significant economic strength, according to research from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In its "Older Smaller Better" report, since expanded into an "Atlas of Reurbanism," the Trust found that older neighborhoods had better economic performance across a range of factors: "The higher performance of areas containing small-scale buildings of mixed vintage suggests that successful districts evolve over time, adding and subtracting buildings incrementally, rather than comprehensively and all at once."

The report compared blocks that generally had smaller buildings of mixed ages to blocks that had larger and newer structures (a category that also includes both much of downtown and the single-family areas at DC's fringe). In DC, the report found that smaller, mixed-age blocks had 80 percent higher population density and 93 percent more jobs in small businesses – even though the larger/newer areas are home to most of the District's jobs.

Diverse buildings can more easily adapt over time

That same lack of building type diversity makes instant neighborhoods less resilient to change than more slowly developed neighborhoods just as a monoculture tree farm is less resistant to pests, drought, or fire than a biodiverse forest that's constantly regenerating itself. Jacobs writes:

Neighborhoods built up all at once change little physically over the years as a rule… The neighborhood shows a strange inability to update itself, enliven itself, repair itself, or to be sought after, out of choice, by a new generation. It is dead. Actually it was dead from birth, but nobody noticed this much until the corpse began to smell.

For example, Crystal City's forest of high-rise office buildings proved to be a convenient place to house the booming defense industry in the 1980s, but left the neighborhood highly vulnerable when the Pentagon decided to move its offices elsewhere. To fill that gap, local planners and developers want to fill in the area with different uses and smaller buildings.

A tree farm. Image by Gnome J via Flickr licensed under Creative Commons.

A similar problem applies to housing: Just as people inexorably age, so do the neighborhoods they call home. All of the units under construction today necessarily respond to the demands of today's housing market, owing to what Jacobs called "fashions in building." In 2017, this means small high-rise apartments, aimed at young renters living in small households. These are certainly needed to house today's burgeoning population of singles, but may not be what the housing market demands 20 years from now – but by then, today's hot neighborhoods will be built out, and infill development of future housing types will be that much more difficult.

This "cohort effect" means that homogenous neighborhoods tend to rise and decline together, which is not a recipe for neighborhood stability. Currently, 42 percent of Capitol Riverfront residents are Millennials, almost twice the national rate. That makes sense, given that its apartment buildings began signing leases just as thousands of Millennials began moving to the District. The Millennials are the children of a previous demographic bulge, the baby boomers, whose attachment to their large suburban houses is also creating challenges for the communities where they live.

Crystal Drive in Arlington. Image by Daniel Lobo licensed under Creative Commons.

DC's comp plan tried to stop neighborhood evolution

If communities are better with mixed building ages, then why does DC build so many "instant neighborhoods"? That turns out to be exactly according to plan. The District's comprehensive plan set out to "encourage and facilitate new development" within 25 designated "Land Use Change Areas". Most of the rest of the city was designated as "Neighborhood Conservation Areas," where the plan "anticipated... maintenance of existing land uses and community character." In other words, their existing buildings will be joined by very few new buildings — and certainly no substantially different buildings. Perhaps not coincidentally, the homes of the most vocal citizens are usually slated for "conservation," rather than "land use change."

This policy keeps new buildings from refreshing the Neighborhood Conservation Areas to help them adapt to new circumstances, preventing their building stock from gaining diversity. This policy has also steered most new buildings to the Land Use Change Areas, many of which have seen so much new construction all at once that their building-stock age diversity has diminished as well.

Instead of bifurcating the city into lots-of-change and no-change areas, Jacobs urged that the built environment in both established and growing areas should gradually and continuously evolve:

Some of the old buildings, year by year, are replaced by new ones—or rehabilitated to a degree equivalent to replacement. Over the years there is, therefore, constantly a mixture of buildings of many ages and types... Densities should be raised—and new buildings introduced for this purpose—gradually rather than in some sudden, cataclysmic upheaval to be followed by nothing more for decades. The very process of increasing densities gradually but continually can result in increasing variety too, and thus can permit high ultimate densities without standardization.

A broader and more balanced approach to growth would accept that all neighborhoods – like the world around them and the people within them – are always going to change. It would make sure that all neighborhoods share the rewards and responsibilities of growth and change, including new and denser buildings. It would admit that no amount of intelligent design can ever match the beauty of evolution when it comes to creating a forest, or a neighborhood, or a city.

Top image: The Capitol Riverfront certainly fulfilled its designation as a Land Use Change Area. A more balanced approach might better encourage urban diversity. Image by the author.

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Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

A few months ago, I met a cute new person and we clicked pretty well from the start. We both had another primary partner at the time and we often talked about those relationships as well as (of course) many other things. After a while, he and his primary broke up, and he was pretty devastated by it. I didn’t mind that he was a bit more “down” when we spent time together, and it seemed only natural to me that he talked about his break-up feelings sometimes. I still don’t mind those things.

Now here comes the difficult part: I feel like this relationship is getting more and more asymmetrical. I’m busy with a demanding job and an active social life (and I like it that way), and he has a lot of time on his hands. He has made it clear that he’d prefer to spend much more time together than we currently do (including weekend trips and the like), while from my perspective we’re close to “too much”. He is way ahead of me with things like “I love you” (WAY too early for me!). I feel like I have to be “on” at all times when we’re together, because he always seems worried that I’m not being enthusiastic enough and something must be wrong and don’t you like me anymore?

He’s had a bunch of personal issues come up lately, and he’s generally pretty unhappy right now. I find it really hard to find a balance between being kind to a person I like, and setting some “don’t make me responsible for your happiness!”-boundaries. I understand anxiety and sadness and insecurity, because I deal with plenty of that in my own life, but it feels like he’s subconsciously weaponizing these things to demand my time and attention. He often says things like:

  • “you’re the only good thing in my life right now”
  • “I feel like everyone is rejecting/leaving me lately”
  • “I’m not doing so well,
    Please view this post in your web browser to complete the quiz.
    , can I come by tonight? I need comfort”
  • “I’m dealing with so much shit that I can’t carry it on my own”
  • “You give me so much strength when we spend time together”

I really like this guy! We have a lot in common and we’ve had fun times together. I would love to see him once or twice a month for many moons to come, and for us to grow closer over time, but right now I feel like I’m under siege and I have to focus on setting boundaries and finding new ways to say “no” all the time and it’s starting to suck the joy out of what (I hope) could be a genuinely fun and rewarding relationship – through good times and bad.

Can I salvage this? How can I communicate with him in a way that does NOT say “I can’t handle people who have negative emotions ever”, but rather “it feels like you’re using your emotions against me and that’s not cool”?

Thank you!

You’re absolutely right to see a litany of “you’re the only good thing in my life” and “everyone else is rejecting me (so you won’t, won’t you?)” statements as being red flags of codependence. I’m not sure the end result of my advice is “fun new relationship is salvaged!” but I think you do have a good opening here to have an honest talk with him about getting help in handling hard life stuff and the reciprocity & seriousness of your relationship.

There are two separate conversations to be had here. I’m not sure in which order, so, use your judgment.

Conversation #1:

[Partner], I can see that you’re really suffering right now as you [grieve the loss of primary relationship][handle this recent raft of difficult life stuff]. I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all and I think it’s time to find some more support for this stuff. Maybe a trained sounding board – like a therapist or counselor – can help you process all of this.

There is a 99.99% chance he will feel insulted and hurt that you are fobbing him off on other people instead of investing deeply in his emotional well-being yourself. Get ready for some intenso responses involving “You are tired of me and you are going to reject me like everyone else” + 1,000 reasons that therapy/counseling is impossible/useless/too hard for him. This is because:

  • He is primed to feel rejected right now. Everything that isn’t “I love you come over right now and let me comfort you my dear boy” = rejection.
  • You are sending him to other people instead of wanting to deal with it yourself. (That’s okay! Just, acknowledge the truth of that so you don’t fall for the negging when it comes).
  • Mental health system is imperfect and it does take a lot of resources and energy to find a good fit and treatment that can work for you. It’s a hard thing to do when you’re feeling great, never mind when you’re feeling terrible. It’s okay to acknowledge the imperfections in the mental health system and also remind yourself that those difficulties don’t automatically make his emotional well-being your sole problem to deal with on demand in real time.

Follow-up script:

I know this sucks and that’s not what you wanted to hear. You’re right, I am telling you that you need to find other people besides me to lean on, and you’re right, the mental health system can be really difficult/annoying/expensive. But I am not comfortable or prepared to continue being your main sounding board about this stuff. I think your problems are real and serious and that taking them seriously might involve bringing in a trained listening person for a little while. Think of it as giving yourself the gift of a safe space to unload and process all of this that’s 100% focused on you, a little time in your week where you have permission to feel as sad and lost as you need to feel and get all the feelings out so you can start to heal and deal with them.

Get ready for a question like “So I guess I’m not allowed to talk about serious stuff or feelings with you anymore?” (It’s 99.99% coming)

Your script: “That’s not what I’m saying, but I am saying that I don’t want the time we spend together to be all about [Serious Feelings Stuff and Comfort]. I am asking you to find and take advantage of some alternate avenues for support and comfort, so things with us can be a little more balanced than they have been.

Chances are he will not like it. He likes his comfort to come with a side of romance/sexytimes and whyyyyy should he make an effort to find a therapist when he has youuuu? But you’re doing a kind thing by being honest about your limits and directing him toward something that actually has a chance of making him feel better.

Conversation #2 

Sometimes the answer to “I had a terrible day, can I come over and be comforted” is simply “Sorry, not tonight.” And then you put your phone away and focus on what you originally planned to do and he finds a way to self-soothe somehow. If he deals with that well, then maybe it can get better.

That doesn’t mean there is no big conversation to be had. He wants to say “I love you” and plan weekends away and remind you that you’re the only great thing in his life and it’s making you feel crowded and overwhelmed. Time to talk about that. Maybe time to also talk honestly about the way you do polyamory, like the fact that you have someone in your life that you consider to be a primary partner and that there is a hierarchy there maybe not of feelings but in terms of how you allocate time/vacation days/long-term relationship planning, etc. It seems like your relationship really worked when he had that in place too but now things have become unbalanced. This conversation might mean that y’all create something new together over time or it might mean that he and you find out that are unsuited to each other.

The thing where he wants you to be “on” and show that you are sufficiently enthusiastic seems to be the best entry point for this conversation, as in, the next time he makes you you feel that way it’s time to talk about what’s up: “Listen, I like you a lot, and I like you enough that I can make space for you to be sad and grieving right now but that also means that you make space for me being tired or having an off night or for not exactly mirroring your enthusiasm back to you. For example, we’ve only known each other a short time and I’m not ready for ‘I love you’ yet. I would love to get there someday but I need more time. When you say ‘I’m the only good thing in your life’ I know you mean it as a compliment but it feels like pressure. Also time we spend together is already about the maximum time I have to spend with you in a given week. Like of course it would be nice to spend ‘more time’ together, but I can’t do that without breaking other commitments that are pleasurable and important to me. I need you to understand that and focus on enjoying the time we do spend together.

Then, say the thing that’s the elephant in the room: “I feel like you want me to take the place of [Former Primary Partner] in your life, and that’s an okay thing for you to want on an emotional level, I get it, but it’s too much/not the right fit for me/not what I signed up for/making things unbalanced between us. I care about you a lot and I want to find a way to keep this going, so, how do we build something that is enjoyable and true and emotionally supportive without me feeling so pressured and you feeling so rejected?

He’s not going to like hearing this because it’s going to feed into the story he is telling himself about how everyone rejects him. Also there maybe is no balance between “Ideally we’d hang out once or twice a month, forever” and “LOVE ME!!!!!” But if you can’t talk honestly about this stuff and you keep feeling suffocated and overwhelmed, the thing is not going to work. “I’m at the limit of what I have to give you in terms of time and affection” isn’t what any romantic partner really wants to hear, but it’s important information if it’s the truth. The truth can hurt but it can also help us make good decisions about how to take care of ourselves. He may decide that what you have to offer is not enough for him. You may decide that what he wants is just not compatible with what you want and need. That would be painful, but I have to think that it’s better than letting him continue to build this fortress of need around you while you’re looking for the escape hatch.

Reminder for commenters: Spell out the whole word “polyamory” please.

[syndicated profile] gr8r_gr8r_wash_feed

Posted by David Alpert (Founder)

On Wednesday, September 20, DC three private, dockless bikeshare companies debuted in DC: Mobike, LimeBike, and Spin. A fourth, Jump, is launching Monday with electric-assist bikes. A group of GGWash contributors including Tony Goodman, Tracy Loh, and Canaan Merchant took the three already-launched services for a spin (or a mo? or a lime?). Here were our reactions:

How the bikes compare

  • Gears: Mobike and Capital Bikeshare use 3-speed bikes. So are the LimeBikes I tried, but apparently some are 8-speed bikes. The 3-speed ones I rode are geared lower (not as fast) than the Mobike or CaBi bikes, so they're likely to be a bit better on hills but you'll mostly just be using gear 3 in flat areas.

    The Spin bikes, meanwhile, are single-speed. One speed might be okay in the flat central part of DC (but even there, I definitely missed the extra gears) but I doubt it'll fly in the hillier rest of the city. And if Arlington allows these, you'll need gears to get up those hills at Rosslyn (and others)!

Spin (left), with standard wheels, and Mobike (right), with 5-spoke wheels. Image by the author.

  • Construction: All of the bikes are heavier than most personal bikes but lighter than the rugged Capital Bikeshare bikes. It's too early to know how durable the bikes will be, but the general business model for the companies involves replacing them more often (2-5 years). I did already have some rides on all platforms where some bikes felt smooth and some weren't as smooth.

    The Mobikes are clearly more custom-engineered than the other dockless entrants. Instead of standard bicycle wheels with the net of metal spokes, Mobike wheels are a single piece of metal with 5 heavier spokes. Representatives say the method comes from automobile design and makes it unappealing to steal the wheels, since they won't work on other bikes. And Mobike puts most of its brake and shift lines inside the frame, so they're less likely to get cut. The Spin bikes, on the other end of the spectrum, had one line which snapped together and you could disconnect them easily. 

This snaps apart easily. (We snapped it back together, of course.) Image by the author.

  • Seats: Mobike and LimeBike have a lever in front of the seat you pull to lift it up and down. The LimeBike's mechanism has a spring, so it pops up easily but takes some force to push down. The number one complaint about the dockless bikes has come from tall riders. Neither of those two bike seats rise up high enough for people over about 6 foot to ride comfortably, and I heard secondhand of one very short person who said none of the seats go down quite far enough. So depending on your body type, you might find some or all to be infeasible or uncomfortable.

    Toby Sun, CEO of LimeBike, says this has been their number one type of feedback, and forthcoming bikes will have a different seat mechanism that can go higher. The Spin bikes have a standard quick release type seat. It does go higher, but to my surprise, you can pull the Spin bike's seat out completely. I hope that won't mean there will be a lot of seatless Spin bikes lying around! 

The Spin bike's seat comes out entirely. (But we put it back in.) Image by the author.

  • Handlebars: The LimeBikes have more of a "beach cruiser" swept-back handlebar style. Capital Bikeshare, Mobike, and LimeBike all have a more upright design than most personal bikes people use for commuting; LimeBike puts the rider even more upright. Whether that's good or not will be a matter of personal preference.

Image by the author.

  • Baskets: All three bikes have four-sided wire baskets in front. Some contributors said they prefer that to the CaBi baskets, which only have two sides and require you to strap things in with the bungee cord. (Of course, that's better if you want to carry something long and thin!)

    The LimeBike baskets are slightly larger than the others, which Sun says is a selling point for their bikes. The Spin ones are a bit smaller, with Mobike in the middle. The Mobike basket has one bonus: a fold-out cup holder.

Mobike's cup holder. Image by the author.

  • Sounds: The bikes have an alarm which sounds if they're moved more than a few feet. Companies bill that as a tool to keep people from stealing them.

    The Spin one is really quiet, and wouldn't deter anything. Mobike's is louder but still doesn't play for that long; I'm not sure if that will really deter much. (Of course, if it went on for a long time, that could be annoying if someone just moves a bike that's in the way!)

    LimeBike's alarm is the most compelling: a voice actually says it will call the police if you move the bike. (I hope they didn't call the police when I moved one 3 feet to get a better picture!) They also play a little jingle when you unlock them. The first time, it's fairly long, and I was worried that it'd be super annoying, but it's short the rest of the time and kind of endearing.

How the apps and services compare

  • Pricing: Mobike, LimeBike, and Spin all offer 30-minute rides for $1. Mobike and LimeBike (use code HELLODC for LimeBike) are offering free rides until the end of September. Single rides on Capital Bikeshare are $2 (though single rides make up less of CaBi's business model).

    Mobike requires you to put in some money (at least $1) to start using the app (and you have to put $1 on to get the free rides). LimeBike lets you sign up and take a free ride (even after September) without entering any credit card information, and Spin requires a credit card but you don't have to pre-pay.

    Mobike and LimeBike offer  discounts if you put more money on the account: for $5 you also get a free ride; $10, it's three free rides, and for $20, six.
  • Memberships: Besides the single-ride charge, LimeBike and Spin offer monthly memberships for $29-$30 a month. (Compare that to Capital Bikeshare's $85 annual membership; $30 a month comes to $360 a year or over four times the price.) 

    Mobike doesn't have memberships, but it has a "points" system where you earn points for taking rides, reporting broken bikes or bikes parked in bad spots, or inviting other people. But if you do bad things like "abandoning the bike when intercepted by police," you lose points. The wording suggests you can get cheaper rides if you have a higher score, but it doesn't specify if that's happening now or what discount you get.

Image by the author.

  • Payment: All of the apps take regular credit cards. Spin takes ApplePay as well, while the other two do not.
  • User interface: The Mobike app also feels more spartan in its verbosity and a little clunkier in some subtle ways. For instance, my Wi-Fi was flaky, and when I, say, clicked the button to add money, it just did nothing; when I turned off Wi-Fi, it worked fine. But basically, the apps are about the same. Some people have reported trouble getting the apps to show the bikes. I've noticed there tends to be a lag between loading the map and the bikes appearing, but none of the apps show an icon telling you it's still loading, so you might not know if there are no bikes or just no data yet.
  • Privacy: The Mobike and LimeBike apps initially seem to require that you give them permission to track you even when you're not using the app, at least on iPhones. If you say "no" to the prompt to let it have your location even when not using the app, then the map won't scroll to your area.

    For any app, is a bad privacy practice which Uber just abandoned after forcing it on users earlier this year. But actually, you can set them to only see your location when using the app (a better setting): for iPhones, go to Settings, Privacy, Location Services, then pick the app and set Allow Location Access to While Using the App. Then it works fine.
  • Geofencing: You're not supposed to lock up the bikes on National Park Service land, like the Mall, or outside DC. I was able to do it anyway on both Mobike and LimeBike, the only two I tried doing this for. The Mobike app shows a boundary around DC excluding the Mall and related federal lands, while the other apps don't have the line. But the line doesn't appear to have actual functional effect.

This LimeBike let me lock it in front of the White House, where it shouldn't be. (I then moved it.)

It seems some LimeBikes, at least, have already been spotted on the wrong side of the Potomac:

According to Sun, the LimeBike CEO, rather than having the software prohibit locking in the wrong place, they instead just will send a rebalancing crew to remove bikes that are parked where they shouldn't be. They sent one to pick up these bikes in Arlington, for instance.

Needed: A single app

I installed all three apps on my phone, but it's annoying to switch between them just to see which company has a bike near where I am. There's an open data standard, called GBFS (General Bikeshare Feed Specification), inspired by the similar GTFS standard for transit which lets all kinds of apps tell you what transit lines are near you and when the vehicles will arrive.

So far, the companies do not support GBFS, but representatives for some of them said they are considering it. If the companies did support GBFS (either because they choose to or because regulations require it, which they should), you'd still have to open that company's app to reserve and pay, but at least you'd be able to find the nearest bike on a single app, or maybe a TransitScreen. And, researchers could analyze things like which services have good availability in various parts of the city.

16 feet is a lot when you're looking for a bike

I found myself wandering around the intersection of 15th and K for a while, where the Mobike app clearly showed a bike (it appeared literally in the middle of K Street, where it definitely was not). I never found that one, actually, but ended up at a different cluster a block or so away. The app lets you make the bike "ring," but if it did, I certainly couldn't hear it over the truck, car, cafe, and construction noise at a bustling downtown spot like that.

All of the services deal with this problem, because GPS is only precise to 16 feet. CaBi stations are big, and hard to miss. A single bike, if you just know it's somewhere on one side of the street or the other along the block, can be a tricky game of "find that bike."


The permit to operate in DC requires all of the dockless systems to have bikes in all wards of the city. LimeBikes are now all over, while the other two still seem to be concentrated in the central part of DC, and as of Monday morning I can't find any Mobikes or Spin bikes east of the Anacostia (or in upper northwest or northeast).

Bikes in Ward 8 as of Monday, September 25, around 9:30 am. Image by the author.

It's still early, but this is something to watch. 

CaBi still matters

Ironically, on launch day I passed a Capital Bikeshare bike just parked on the sidewalk as if it were a dockless bike. Sorry, CaBi bikes didn't all turn dockless.

Image by the author.

CaBi isn't yet going to disappear. As above, if you're a frequent user, the $85 annual unlimited membership can be a great deal (ride more than once every 4.3 days and you save money over the dockless companies' per-ride charge). CaBi might have to drop its $2 single-trip price, though.

CaBi is still the only operator in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Montgomery County, and soon Prince George's County and the City or Fairfax. And while it's still too early to really know, there still aren't a lot of dockless bikes in low-density parts of the city.

What have your experiences been? I'll also be trying electric bike service Jump soon and will post my thoughts.

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GPS Spoofing Attacks

Sep. 25th, 2017 01:23 pm
[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

Wired has a story about a possible GPS spoofing attack by Russia:

After trawling through AIS data from recent years, evidence of spoofing becomes clear. Goward says GPS data has placed ships at three different airports and there have been other interesting anomalies. "We would find very large oil tankers who could travel at the maximum speed at 15 knots," says Goward, who was formerly director for Marine Transportation Systems at the US Coast Guard. "Their AIS, which is powered by GPS, would be saying they had sped up to 60 to 65 knots for an hour and then suddenly stopped. They had done that several times."

All of the evidence from the Black Sea points towards a co-ordinated attempt to disrupt GPS. A recently published report from NRK found that 24 vessels appeared at Gelendzhik airport around the same time as the Atria. When contacted, a US Coast Guard representative refused to comment on the incident, saying any GPS disruption that warranted further investigation would be passed onto the Department of Defence.

"It looks like a sophisticated attack, by somebody who knew what they were doing and were just testing the system," Bonenberg says. Humphreys told NRK it "strongly" looks like a spoofing incident. Fire Eye's Brubaker, agreed, saying the activity looked intentional. Goward is also confident that GPS were purposely disrupted. "What this case shows us is there are entities out there that are willing and eager to disrupt satellite navigation systems for whatever reason and they can do it over a fairly large area and in a sophisticated way," he says. "They're not just broadcasting a stronger signal and denying service this is worse they're providing hazardously misleading information."

[syndicated profile] gr8r_gr8r_wash_feed

Posted by Matt Gontarchick (Contributor)

Greater Washington’s economic future depends on better transportation

A recently-formed group of local business executives say the Washington region is lagging behind other large metropolitan areas in a few key indicators. They say transportation networks must improve for the region to stay competitive.  (Robert McCartney / Post)

Curbing gentrification in Anacostia with a community land trust

Some worry that opening the 11th Street Bridge Park in 2019 will spark huge increases in Anacostia's property values. The park's creators have established a community land trust that is already purchasing land parcels to help keep homes affordable.  (Mary Hui / Post)

High-speed ferry system could ease regional congestion

A proposed high-speed ferry system that would connect the District to Prince William County could ease congestion in the region, offering commuters an alternative to jammed roadways and packed train cars.  (Luz Lazo / Post)

Businesses in Purple Line’s path say compensation is insufficient

Business in the path of the future Purple Line say that the $60,000-maximum compensation package that Maryland offers comes nowhere near recouping relocation costs.  Many business owners are immigrants without a financial safety net.  (Katherine Shaver / Post)

The region isn’t cooperating on Amazon’s HQ2, other issues

Hope that the region's jurisdictions would come together in a joint bid for Amazon's second headquarters has largely faded away. It's a sign of a persistent trend against cross-jurisdictional unity that makes it difficult to address critical regional issues like Metro funding.  (Aaron Gregg / Post)

Montgomery makes a “sober” bid for Amazon’s HQ2

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett says the county would be a great pick for Amazon's second headquarters due to its educated workforce and transit network. Leggett also mentioned Shady Grove, White Flint, White Oak and Rock Spring as potential sites.  (Andrew Metcalf / Bethesda Beat)

Selling a skeptical public on more housing

Putting a human face on the effects of a restricted housing supply and communicating its impact on local businesses could help address housing shortages, argued GGWash's David Whitehead at a recent panel discussion.  (Jeremy Harper / Urban Land)

App scores cities by car-free friendliness

A new app called MobilityScore helps users understand how easy it is to get around without a car. It breaks down transit options available within a one-mile radius of any given location and gives a score ranging from zero (no mobility choices) to 100 (excellent mobility choices).  (Eillie Anzilotti / Fast Company)

Hogan’s highway widening might worsen congestion

Smart growth advocates are unhappy with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's plan to widen the region's major highways and introduce HOT lanes because it will only make congestion worse. State officials say bus and rail system don't go far enough to address traffic problems.  (Martin Di Caro / WAMU)

Bowser announces bid for a second term

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced her bid for reelection in 2018, pledging to ensure that all District residents benefit from the city's economic prosperity and touting gains in affordable housing. She has no opponents to date.  (Peter Jamison / Post)

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Win One, Lose One

Sep. 25th, 2017 12:19 am
[syndicated profile] grrm_feed

Posted by George R.R. Martin

Life is... messy... on this football Sunday.

The Jets won. To the astonishment of all, or at least of me. What's more, they won in dominating fashion over the Miami Dolphins. Does this mean they are a much better team than expected, and a contender for the playoffs? Hoo hah. If you believe that, perhaps I can interest you in buying the Bayonne Bridge. What it really means is that there is no team team in the NFL so bad that Jay Cutler cannot make them look good.

So Gang Green won't go 0 - 16 after all. Instead, hey, maybe they will make it to 4 - 12. Thing is, at 0 - 16 they would have the first overall pick in the draft and a shot at the franchise qb they have been looking for since Joe Namath. At 4- 12, all the good qbs will be gone and the Jets will be facing the future with the same cast they have now.

That being said, it is always nice to watch the Jets beat the Fins, our original rivals.

As for the Giants game... Big Blue could very well finish 4 - 12 as well. After trailing 14 - 0 and looking lifeless, they came roaring back to take the lead, but could not hold it. When the defense plays great, the offense does nothing. When the offense comes alive, the defense fails. And really Odell, the catches were great, but what the hell was with that first "celebration?" Stupid.

No, not a good Sunday in football land. A gut-wrenching loss, and a win that will hurt more than it helps. This looks like a looooooooooooooooooooooong season.

Keeping up

Sep. 24th, 2017 07:05 am
[syndicated profile] rkirstein_blog_feed

Posted by Rosemary

Given that I don’t post here on my blog in any kind of a formalized schedule, how can you make sure you never miss a post? Because, every now and then someone out in the offline world will mention to me that… well, that they sort of check on my blog every now and again […]

Out For the Weekend

Sep. 23rd, 2017 03:54 pm


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