ashnistrike: (lightning)
 This is a test of what happens when I post at Dreamwidth and attempt to crosspost on Livejournal. If you are able, please comment on one or both so I can test that functionality as well.

I am not leaving LJ. However, recent events suggest that back-up and redundancy are good.

ETA: Okay, what happens if I update? And will the link to the original post appear now?
ashnistrike: (lightning)
We just lost [ profile] tamnonlinear. To depression and MS and fucking Donald J. Trump.

She is not the first or only loss these past two days, just the first loss of someone I knew. I know there will be others. May their names be blessings, and curses against their enemies, and protective scars on the foreheads of those who still live to fight.

If you are ideating, know that you are loved and needed, and that when you aren't feeling strong enough to march by our sides we'll carry you. We'll all be carrying each other, sometimes, these next few years.


Nov. 9th, 2016 10:32 pm
ashnistrike: (lightning)
I am feeling very shaky on words right now. Maybe I'll have better ones tomorrow, when I've slept more than I did last night.

It is okay to mourn, to cry, to feel numb and stare blindly into space, to be angry, to throw yourself immediately into organization. Now is not the time to apologize or feel ashamed of your reactions; now is not the time to expect others to react as you do. Only remember that we dare not despair for long.

I always knew that the good times don't last and hatred waxes again, that we build and lose and build a little higher next time, that the good times are worth making but the loss comes eventually to some generation. And yet somehow, until about 1AM last night, I held onto the hope, even the expectation, that the burden would not fall on my generation. And I'm ready to fight even harder for a civilization that values everybody--where it's one of the good times for everyone. Something we hadn't yet made, but were working towards, were getting closer... maybe I'll live to see the rights and protections regained that we still have in this moment. Maybe my daughters will live to see us do better.

When I write stories, I write about people working together across differences, overcoming fear, facing darkness with courage--because that's the humanity I know and understand. That feels important tonight, and maybe tomorrow when I've slept I'll find the strength to write that truth again.

I wrote Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land, in part, to say that true homelands, civilizations, countries, are carried in the hearts and actions of those who count themselves as citizens. Not in Aslan, but in Puddleglum's realization that it's better to act like a citizen of Narnia even if Narnia only exists in your imagination. That feels important too.

And still my tongue is dry with fear, and my stomach too twisted to eat more than a few bites. Maybe tomorrow, trying to find words won't hurt so much.


Jun. 27th, 2015 09:59 am
ashnistrike: (lightning)
...was a very strange, very good day. We're legal. Oh my god, we're legal.

We can visit relatives in Michigan, friends in Louisiana, and not worry about what happens if one of us gets sick. We can confidently drive our daughter through any state in the union. And people are getting married who've been waiting for decades in Texas, in Georgia, in Arkansas... and that 82-year-old couple in Atlanta can finish growing old together and know that they'll be able to take care of each other with the state's help rather than obstruction.

What's weirder is that ten years ago we were a boogyman that the bad guys could reliably use to scare out their voters, and the 'good guys' didn't dare speak well of aloud. And yesterday people were literally dancing in the streets around the country, lighting up the Empire State Building--the president gave a speech about how awesome our marriage is--newspapers around the country printed updated maps of where same-sex marriage is now legal and the New York Times covered the page above the fold with same-sex couples kissing.

There's still so much left to do.  There's always more work to do--but it's so rare to win a battle that we should celebrate when we have the chance. And it's not unpleasant, but extremely startling, to have most of the country celebrating with us.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
We aren't following our usual Black Friday tradition of going hiking, because there's a foot of snow on the ground and S is 8 months pregnant.  Instead we're following our new Black Friday tradition of hanging around the house and writing and yakking and maybe playing chess if we feel really ambitious.  But not acting smug about it, because this article kind of schooled me on the similarities between Black Friday and the Hunger Games.

Both B's and C's schools had 'traditional' Thanksgiving pageants this year and both came home with construction paper "Indian headdresses."  Alas, neither is old enough to emulate Wednesday Adams on the matter.  I was disappointed, because I'd somehow gotten it into my head that, in the decades since I was in elementary school, most places had picked up a clue and stopped doing that.  Apparently not.  Now pondering the best suggestions for alternatives, as every good behaviorist knows that you're more likely to get someone to stop doing something if you can suggest something better in its place.

Option 1: Follow a slightly older tradition.  Go back a hundred years and make Thanksgiving more like Halloween or Carnival.  Dress up and parade through the streets, and put on a wider variety of costumed pageants.  Minus the "dressing as caricatures of other countries and classes" bit.

Option 2: Go back to the holiday's real origins, and put on a pageant about Abraham Lincoln trying to figure out how to heal the country post-Civil-War.  Still problematic, given the general failure to do so in the years since, but more historically accurate and includes the opportunity for everyone to dress up representing their own cultures and talk about how they've contributed to the country.

Option 3: Teach about real cooperation between Europeans and American Indian nations and have kids put on plays about the syncretic communities that sprang up shortly after contact--the ones where plague survivors took in runaway slaves and Europeans who found Puritan life too constrictive, and where "kidnapped" women for some obscure reason refused to go back when their families tried to rescue them.

All historically accurate, and all still fun and positive.  I know there are good reasons to focus on non-positive things on Thanksgiving, but given how most kids' families celebrate they are not going to go for that.  And for families where the holiday really is a rare opportunity for feasting and togetherness, or for people who aren't descended from colonists and aren't benefiting from the current system, pretty seriously not cool anyway.  Guilt-focused curricula that assume everyone is rich and/or white are starting to piss me off almost as much as curricula that just ignore the problematic bits.  Erasing your audience isn't better than erasing history.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
As I get older, I've learned to appreciate people who actively work on their shit--as opposed to ignoring potential problems and pretending everything is just fine.

The extremely diverse DC suburb where I live is planning a series of community discussions about whether we have any cop-civilian tension, and what to do about it if so.  I haven't noticed any, but I'm female and pretty white-looking--I plan to sit in the back of the room and listen.

Apparently our police department did receive a humvee through that horrible military-surplus-for-police program.  The city council had just said no to a bunch of things that cost money, and felt like "free equipment" was an easy thing to say yes to.  We use the humvee for snow removal, so we don't just want to get rid of it.

One of the proposals on the table, therefore, is to repaint the humvee as an art car in order to reduce the potential for testosterone poisoning.  This, explained the neighbor who's planning to host one of the discussions, would "better reflect community values."

Which is true.  I do love this town.  It's far from perfect, but it's actively working on its shit.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Okay, it's time to do a pass for smoking, and for the minefield that is women's choices of hats (or no hats) in 1949.

Does anyone know:

...whether smoking would have been permitted in a library--in this case an ivy league academic library? bookstores?

My instinct is what the hell are you thinking, but I can only just remember what it was like to have everyone smoking inside in the first place?  (It sucked, that's what I remember.  But people mostly got used to it.)
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Elizabeth Bear ([ profile] matociquala) has an excellent guest post on SF Signal, about disability in science fiction--why it's worth including, how to do it right, and how to do it wrong.  I read it with interest, both because it's a topic that interests me in general and because it's a topic that shows up in my own stories.  I like playing with how deficits get defined, and by who, and how much trouble comes from an actual physical or mental issue versus how much comes from the way society handles it.

But, so, anyway.  The first comment--actually, the first 3 or 4 comments--is S.M.Stirling "pointing out" that within a hundred years we'll have a perfect understanding of biology, and therefore we won't have disabilities, so why should we write about them.

Obviously one could argue with every assumption in that very weird statement.  From a purely scientific standpoint, for a start... since we've never reached a perfect understanding of any other field of inquiry, we have no data points to infer how long it will take in biology.  Nor do we have any reason to suppose that perfect understanding equals perfect control.  We understand computer programs pretty well, after all, having created them.

Also, I just went to a seminar on neuroscience data, and we were all really excited by a database that mapped the physical shape of 13 neurons in the hippocampus.  They had 2000 human neurons total.  Not all from the same human, you understand, or connected to each other.  I'm sure we'll get better at this over the next few years, but from a Bayesian standpoint I would bet a fair amount that perfection will take longer than a century.

But, so anyway.  Circumstances did not permit me to get in a neuroscience slapfight on Tuesday merely because someone was wrong on the internet, and by the time I got back someone else had done it.  Instead, I decided to take Stirling's scientific postulates for granted--we will have a perfect understanding of biology, and perfect understanding allows perfect control--and asked what disability would look like under those circumstances.
Read more... )

ETA: S.M. Stirling, not Steve Brust. Apologies to Brust, whose name was in my head because I just got excited about the publication date for Hawk.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Tell me awesome, worrisome, trivial, or terrifying details about modern Rome?
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Retrieved from a conversational tangent, last, night, that went in a different direction.  What art are you willing to travel for--that is, spend longer on the road than you do experiencing the art?  For me, this usually means that something is not only transcendently wonderful, but relatively rare.  The three that I can think of are

  • Live performances of Spem in Alium, Tallis's 40-part Motet. I've managed to stumble into a performance once, looking for free things to do on my birthday one year in Amherst, and haven't managed to come within 500 miles of one since.  Recorded, the motet is a particularly beautiful example of multi-choral singing, and doesn't come remotely close to the experience of sitting in a circle of 40 voices weaving in and out and around each other, creating a complete universe out of song.  I haven't yet tried Janet Cardiff's 40-speaker installation, currently at the Cloisters.

  • Live performances of Sassafrass's Sundown opera.  I've caught parts of it live, most notably at last year's Vericon, which I actually went to instead of a Spem in Alium performance the week before.  Sassafrass comes across more fully in recording than the motet, partly because the lyrics are a larger part of the point, but live still makes a difference.

  • Dale Chihuly installations. Chihuly does things with blown glass that are beautiful and eldritch and possibly batrachian and gibbous.  But in a good way.

I would travel for Cirque du Soleil, but the barrier is more often money than distance.  I would travel for Shakespeare if I had to, or for Hudson River School paintings, trilobite fossils, or new books by my favorite authors.  Fortunately not all beautiful things are rare.  However, there's a particular delight in managing to track and experience something that still is. 
ashnistrike: (lightning)
I'm trying to come up with a list of SF authors who write frequently about climate change, communications technology, or both--and preferably who connect these to justice and societal change. I need the info for an upcoming conference on climate communication, scheduled for August in DC.  (Yes, I know.  But it's our mosquito-infested swamp.  And it will be cool inside!)

I'm quite positive that this conversation already took place at Wiscon and I missed it, probably while I was at the Imaginary Book Club or something.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Home from Wiscon after a wonderful but exhausting weekend.  Nameseeker drove, and is continuing on now into the depths of Texas for an epic rescue mission with [ profile] robling_t.  I flew out on my own and flew back with [ profile] pageofswords, with whom there was much hanging out over the course of the con.

We were delighted to room with [ profile] papersky, which resulted in much fascinating conversation and not much sleep. The entire room was obsessed with the Sundown Kickstarter, so we would walk in to happy cries of "Nine thousand one hundred twenty five!" and so on. (And congratulations to [ profile] gaudior and [ profile] rushthatspeaks on what we hear was a stunning theatrical performance--not being there was the one thing we regretted about being at Wiscon.) We also got to hang out with [ profile] brynnya & Gary, [ profile] natlyn, [ profile] almeda (mostly in the car), [ profile] oracne, [ profile] redbird, [ profile] truepenny, and a wide variety of other people whose LJs I can't remember just now because I haven't had much sleep.

Excellent panels on urban planning and justice, creating when busy, the difficulty of actually ripping a bodice, unusual family shapes in fiction and real life, and awesome medieval women who don't show up in enough history books--Black Agnes, OMG.  The Imaginary Book Club, with several books that I rather wanted to read--[ profile] elisem's "classic Mpreg military SF" Cradle Corps was a standout.  The Haiku Earring party resulted in the usual haiku, the semi-usual sonnet, and a few hundred words added to the novel in progress on which I'd been stuck.

More after I've had more sleep.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
The best music you've never heard that some of you have never heard, in spite of the fact that I've been playing it for everyone I know whenever I get the chance, is Sassafrass's Norse Myth song cycle.  They've taken all the soap opera and hidden themes and secretly-rooting-for-Loki in the eddas--and turned it into amazing, thoughtful, passionate a capella, with harmonies that would challenge the cast of Rent. I drove 10 hours in March to listen to them give a one-hour concert.  I did this instead of driving the same 10 hours to hear Tallis's 40-part motet the previous week.  This is transcendent stuff.

And at last, at long last, the Kickstarter is open for Sundown: Whispers of Ragnorak.  CD, DVD, and full-on costumed opera.  Go, listen to the samples, and sacrifice some silver to Loki.
ashnistrike: (writing)
Disclaimer: I'm not necessarily in a position to write the post I want to write about Debt.  I read it as a 20-hour audiobook while driving from Louisiana to DC, and there were several points where I wanted to hit pause and stare off into space thinking about it for a while, but was driving and didn't try to negotiate my visually-based MP3 player interface, and then he said something else really interesting that I would have liked 10 minutes to process... Not to mention that I'm not in a position to double-check any of what he wrote.  I'm planning to reread in hard copy as soon as possible.  Which is not something I normally say about 20-hour audiobooks.  Onward.

This is one of those centrally interesting books that not only deliberately intends to entirely reshape your worldview, but is worthy of doing so.  1491, and to a lesser extent 1493, both fall into this category.  Unlike those, Debt is written from a foundation of a recognizable modern political perspective, one related to Occupy and the related anti-globalization protests (though as it points out the "anti-globalization" movement is entirely mislabeled).  Having some sympathy with those movements myself, I spent the whole book on the edge of hair-trigger skepticism whenever David Graeber came near them.  For the most part, though, the book is nuanced, thoughtful, and deeply embedded in real economic history.  [ profile] papersky's lovely review, much more thorough than this one, gives several examples--places where he tears apart economic myths through reference to anthropology. 

Read more... )
ashnistrike: (Default)
So this was not the most Hallmark of Passovers--fortunately, Hallmark has yet to fully co-opt Passover.  Bobby spent a good part of the seder with gastrointestinal troubles, which made for a lot of interruptions and parents getting up and down with him.  He spent the rest of the seder alternating between misbehavior (trying to blow out the candles) and cuteness (insisting on answering rather than asking the four questions).  But it's meant to be a family ritual, and we had family and friends happy to help out and participate, lots of good food, good discussion, and good questions.  In some sense the seder spread out through the whole day--S and I talked about how "freedom" is used in modern political discourse, and A and I got into a debate over whether Jews are permitted to question G-d's morals, all well before we sat down at the table.

And speaking of ritual prep, S did something wonderful.  For the past few years, she's insisted on getting the fancy round matzah for the seder itself, even though we use the ordinary square box matzah for the rest of the week.  The round matzah make perfect sense to me intellectually: they are hand made, and look like they were baked in a hurry on a hot rock.  But they've never quite had the same emotional resonance as the square crackers I grew up with.  This year, though, we discovered that there's a lot more demand for fancy round matzah in DC, and if you don't buy them a couple of weeks in advance, you don't get them at all.  So S, in cooperation with [ profile] page_of_swords, did something she's been talking about for years--they actually made matzah, right in our kitchen. 

The rabbinic rule for matzah is that you can have no more than 18 minutes between water touching flour and putting the bread in the oven.  Ostensibly this is too fast for free-floating yeast to start the rising process; it's also numerologically significant in some fashion.  In fact, it turns out to be just the right length of time to be doable, but still feel genuinely rushed.  This is the bread of haste.  It's the simplest, most primordial flatbread that you can make in a modern kitchen--flour and water dough, thrown onto a baking sheet, cooked briefly in the oven and brushed with olive oil and salt for flavor.  It's perfect.  It's nothing like what I grew up with, but it tastes right anyway--all the ritual's emotions invoked by one of the most basic foods of civilization.

For the record, we used our bread of haste at the table, but we did not use it for the hidden afikomen.  Hiding a prototypical-but-oily pita-chapati-tortilla in your child's bedroom is not effective ritual.
ashnistrike: (Default)
Back up to a normal reading speed--I should start doing these monthly again.

A Dance With Dragons--mild spoilers, and general statements about the series that will come as no surprise to anyone who's actually read Martin ever )

All Men of Genius by Lev Rosen--no spoilers )

I don't normally mention beta-reads here, because it's not like they're available for everyone else to read.  But I feel I can safely predict that [ profile] gaudior's as-yet-untitled first novel will be available for the rest of you to read at some point.  At which point, you should read it.

Cradle to Cradle by Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart--nonfiction )

1493 by Charles Mann--nonfiction )

The Tempering of Men by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette--no spoilers )

The Wooden Star by William Tenn--no spoilers )

The Zanzibar Cat by Joanna Russ--mild spoilers for "When It Changed" )

Fostering Sustainable Behavior by Doug McKenzie-Mohr & William Smith )

A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham--slightly vague spoilers )

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.  Comfort reread.  Gaimans that I have read and loved many times are never going to disappoint me.

The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner--nonfiction )

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge--no spoilers except for a description of one awesome alien species )

Other media Consumed:

Shadow Unit and assorted podcasts )

Total Books: 13
Recent Publication: 4/13
Rereads: 1/13
Recommendations: Someone on recommended All Men of Genius.  My boss recommended Cradle to Cradle.  Both [ profile] papersky and [ profile] rushthatspeaks recommended A Shadow in Summer; sorry, guys. [ profile] papersky also recommended A Fire Upon the Deep; thank you!  My old boss lent me The Logic of Failure about six years ago, but this is my own copy because I didn't get to it until now.  Which says more about my old job than the book, really.
New Music: none
New Media Produced: More on both the Aphra Marsh story and The Jester's Child.  A couple of papers for work, which actually seem to be having some effect.
ashnistrike: (Default)
The pictures from our tour of the old DC sand filtration plant are up in a set on Flickr.  Many thanks to S for putting in descriptions.  It's an awesome old Industrial Ruins of Elfland site.
ashnistrike: (Default)
I've got an article up at This Big City about a plan to make Chicago's downtown massively more sustainable.  This was a lot of fun to work on.  It's a very ambitious plan, and looks like a very good idea--if we can only get a decent mayor out of February's elections who'll support the thing.
ashnistrike: (Default)
The world has always been about to end.  When I was growing up, it was World War 3.  It was the most well-documented of modern wars, so we all knew the shape of the thing.  Someone would mistake a flock of birds or a computer error for nuclear warhead, and they'd launch all their missiles, and then the other side would launch all their missiles, and that would be the end.  Depending on your literary bent, a few people might survive in bomb shelters, their children growing up as very well-armed mutants.

Charlie Stross has pointed out that World War 3 is topologically equivalent to the return of Cthulhu.

The most common nuclear war/Cthulhu/cometary impact/Rapture story (if such things leave room for stories) is the cozy catastrophe.  A few survivors band together.  Civilization has fallen away, leaving small tight-knit groups to guard their resources and each other.  They live with medieval technology and whatever additions they've been able to cobble together from the instructions in preserved encyclopedias.  S. M. Stirling's Change books (which I love, it should be said) are the epitome of this form--all the distraction of radiation and so on is forgone, replaced by an unknown force that prevents the use of technology above a certain level.  The world is ruled by Pagans and SCAdians.  This is quite common in cozy catastrophes, by the way: the reader's favorite groups, unappreciated in our impersonal modern civilization, turn out to have exactly the skills required in the new world.

A lot of people think about climate change and/or peak oil in the familiar terms of the cozy catastrophe.  They find response strategies appropriate to the Rapture.  Get away from civilization.  Start a homestead.  Learn to keep bees and milk goats.  Assume that cities will fall apart and crowds will riot, and that your best bet is to be far away from targets.

But climate change is not topologically equivalent to nuclear war.  Nuclear war is (mostly) all or nothing.  There is one dramatic event; you have to get through it, and then lay low during the aftermath.  And there's no missing it.  When the bombs fall and the dead rise, everybody will know, and everybody will react. 

Climate change is slow and incremental.  It has already started; the effects are measurable and perceptible.  Some people notice, and some people don't, and some people who notice aren't yet alarmed.  No one riots.  Fuel prices rise slowly, but the fuel itself doesn't disappear overnight.  When peak oil comes (or when we realize we've overshot it by 20 years), access will decrease slowly.  If we're not careful, we'll get to a very bad place, very slowly--but people who are in a very bad place don't react like people who are surprised.  They don't panic, and things don't collapse so much as disintegrate or simply change--slowly.

So, no riots.  No return to medieval technology, either.  Medieval tech levels depend on a low population density, as much as modern ones depend on a high population density.  And if we implement any solutions, no matter how imperfect or inadequate, many of them will be high-tech solutions.  There will be beekeeping and wind farms.  There will be solar-powered laptops.  There will be sustainability coordinators calling you through the carefully maintained cell phone network to let you know that electricity is rationed tonight and you need to turn off your lights at 8.  There will be cities with local food grown on green roofs, and country homesteads networking with people around the world for efficient organic gardening techniques, and people going hungry because we don't have the resources for artificial fertilizers, and a ban on plastic packaging because we need that oil to make sterile medical supplies. 

If we survive this, it's not going to be in isolation.  It's going to be in, and because of, civilization.  This problem is too big to handle in small homesteads with no connection to the outside world, or in 100-person tribes of east African plains apes.  All of the solutions I've seen--not just the ones that will minimize the warming, but the ones that will help us adapt to it--depend on the resources of a large and reasonably well-coordinated civilization.  We currently have one of those.  We also have people who are trying to tear it down, who insist that it's not good for anything.  These are also, in many cases, the people insisting that climate change is not a real problem.  This is not a coincidence.

So that's what I've learned.  Much as my society drives me crazy sometimes, I am inextricably intertwined with it.  I cannot get through this by myself.  I cannot huddle off the grid and wait for the storm to blow over.  The evidence very strongly supports the idea that we are all in this together.


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