Monday, July 18, 2016

Even Staying Home Is A Choice

I'm of an age that I remember the Omega symbols at protests on Boston Common.

I remember waiting for the draft numbers in the lottery.

I remember the boys who didn't come back.

I remember the people who went to Canada, even though they were in no danger from the draft , because the United States wasn't the home they had before.

I remember waking up in the middle of one night, turning on the radio for music so I could sleep, and hearing the breathless chaos in a ballroom where another tower of Camelot had fallen.

I've seen my dreams fall into the abyss of systematic bigotry, public indifference, organized greed and deceit and also saw them transform into nightmares of petty violence, corruption and a wholesale theft of the public weal not seen since Tammany Hall, all under the guise of "protection" from "big government.".

I have seen first hand, in my own person, and in the lives of those I've known and loved, the effects of discrimination and prejudice.

I despaired of where my nation would go.

But now I have to force myself to dream again. With four children and a granddaughter I have no choice.

I saw the campaign of the man I wanted, who was the mirror of my dreams of youth, fall apart from misguided zealotry and manipulation.

I've seen the campaign of a woman who is qualified, but with the baggage of decades of being the subject of right-wing hatred and lies, and as a not-so-close second choice be the one who could win.

I look at what the likes of Scalia, Alito and Thomas have done to our civil rights, and I fear mightily what would be the result of three or more of their ilk added to the Supreme Court.

And there are those who declare that they will vote third-party or write-in or not at all, and I want to take their faces and shove them into the mud and slime that were the results of "protest votes" that gave us and Bush II and wars that have surpassed in length even the times of occupation after World War II.

This election will be a turning point for our country.

We can choose either a deeply flawed Camelot or The Handmaid's Tale.

I've already been told I'm not a "real Progressive" for saying to vote for reality instead of a mirage of a Miracle of Rare Device.

I know what future I will choose with my vote.

With four children and a granddaughter I have no choice.

What will be yours?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

We Have Room For All Of You. Period.

We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.

Readers are aware that I worship in the Episcopal Church these days.  Linked below is another reason why I unapologetically call myself an Episcopalian.  The U.S. House of Bishops were recently in a retreat, and have issued  a statement, that they have titled "A word to the Church," about the treatment of those who are marginalized and are being demonized in this current Presidential election season.
The Church is constrained against being for or against specific candidates in its pronouncements, so some of the pronouncements on issues may sound sort of indirect, but to me, at least, the references are to the shameful way that the GOP candidates are encouraging discrimination and violence against immigrants, refugees, people of color and the LBGT community.
You can read the full announcement here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Good Lord, What Am I Doing Here?

Recently, after << mumble >> years in the workforce, I've found that getting work has been a bit slower than usual, I've been told I'm "over-qualified," "not in touch with new computer trends," "we are concerned that if you take the position at the salary we offer  you'll leave when the economy picks up," yada, yada, yada.

So I'm back in school again.

Some  things stay the same: study groups; the vending machines are overpriced and steal your money; between 30% and 60% students desperately try to cram a full semester's worth of studying into the 2 days before the finals; and students are still taking courses that they are woefully unprepared for.

Other things change: the use of online resources; the requirement for every student to be at least minimally computer literate (we have a course for that); courses that are taken  online only; use of computer spreadsheets, presentations, etc as part of your required coursework (we have a course for learning  that); etc, etc.

But, O. M. G., they all look so young now. I don't remember them looking so young before....

Thursday, February 04, 2016

How to Woo The Job-Seeker

What with school and whatnot I'm not actively in the job market. I still get the occasional email / call from recruiters, some more tempting than others. 
Here is little bit of advice to those head-hunters out there. If you are *seriously* trying to recruit someone and not just trying a con game, in your solicitations actually say what the "7 open positions" are, and use an e-mail address that actually is a match for your described company name and doesn't end in ""

Saturday, December 12, 2015

I Look About, and I Wonder, "Just Who?"

As I have mentioned before, I'm back in college again (yes, as an undergraduate student), and as look around in class, in the halls, in the library, with the students I help as an unofficial tutor, I wonder, just which ones have been assaulted.

Because I know the stats, I have been the person who has been asked for help. I have seen too many go to campus or city police and either get the insinuation that either it was their own fault ("had you been drinking?" "what clothes were you wearing?") or that it had been consensual but she had "morning after remorse". Or that, because she had had sex with her assaulter before, *this* time it wasn't "really rape." Or that it really had never happened at all. And if something *is* done, it gets downgraded to "simple" assault on a plea, or, in the academic environment, the assaulter is under academic suspension for a semester, but isn't barred from the college grounds, where they foment gossip against the person who was attacked and show up around them in an effort to intimidate them.

I want to see their attackers punished, and to let these women (it has only been women who I have spoken to) go on with their lives. But it doesn't seem to work that way. Yeah, it's no surprise that only in 5 gets reported, and that fewer of those reports get acted upon. And you sit there, and you wonder, morbidly, like watching a train wreck:"Just who?".

This diatribe has been prompted by the recent revelation, by Stefani Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga, that she had been raped at the age of 19, and had never reported her attack.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Where Are My Nutty Nuggets? I Want My Nuggy Nuggets!

"They told me there would be Nutty Nuggets!
The stated purpose of the slate administrators in Sad Puppy HQ (well, all except for Vox Day and Tom Kratman, who have stated they want to see the Hugo Awards destroyed), is for the Hugo Awards to  supposedly reflect the "will of the people" or something.  That the Hugo Awards should reflect the popularity of works, as based on sales figures.  Or on Amazon rankings, or something.

Sad Puppy Central seem to have given up on their first justification, that there was some Super Double-Sekret Social Justice Progressive Cabal that was blocking the Manly Man Rocket Adventure Stories that they Like So Well from making either the nomination lists or the winning slots.  Except for Freer, who, I guess, didn't get the memo.

This is because they actually swamped the nomination choices.  Now, this has got to be embarrassing, if you're all fired up to crow about having Proof, I tell you! Proof! That it's all a fraud and that we couldn't get on the ballot 'cause there is no way that we could succeed in gaming the system.  There's no way that simple a cheat can get us on the ballot....

Uhh, why does the ballot look like this?

The latest reason put forth for poor prior puppy performance in the ballot is that there has been this long-running con, where each year the convention committee for the WorldCon is purposely making it hard for people to find out how to nominate and vote!  Yeah, that's it!

Well, lets look at the websites for the past 4 world cons:
  • 2011 - Renovation - 08/17/11 to 8/21/11 - Reno, Nevada
    From the front page on the convention website
    we find a link to the Memberships page.
    From the Memberships page we find a link to the "How to sign up" page
    On the "How to sign up" page we have descriptions of the membership types.  Lets look at Attending and Supporting:
    Attending:  "... This membership includes all voting rights in the World Science Fiction Society. This means that you get the right to nominate for the 2011 and 2012 Hugo Awards, and to vote on the 2011 Hugo Awards. You also may attend and participate in the WSFS Business Meeting, which is held at a Worldcon and makes the rules for the Hugo Awards and the selection of future Worldcons. ..."Supporting: " ... A Supporting Membership includes all of the rights and privileges of an attending membership except the right to attend Renovation. You get the Hugo Award and Site Selection voting rights, and will receive all generally distributed publications. This membership allows you to support the Worldcon and participate in it without actually attending the convention.   ..."  
  • 2012 - Chicon 7 - 08/30/12 - 09/03/12 - Chicago, IL
    On  the "membership" tab at the top of  convention web site's main page is a link to the "Membership FAQ"   There, under "What does my membership include" we see:" ...  You can nominate and vote on the Hugo awards and attend the Hugo Awards ceremony, plus you can nominate for next year's Hugo awards as well. You can also vote for the site for the 2014 Worldcon. ..."
    Under the "How Do I Join" heading we have a link to the membership page, When we follow that link, under membership types we find:
    Attending: "... An Attending membership includes all publications, as well as voting and attending rights. ..."
    Supporting: "... A Supporting Membership includes all of the rights and privileges of an attending membership except the right to attend Chicon 7. ..."
  • 2013 - LoneStarCon 3 - 08/29/13 - 09/02/13 - San Antonio,  TX
    On the main web page, about 2/3 down is a "quick link" to "Membership"
    There we find:
    Attending: An Attending Membership includes all publications, as well as voting and attending rights.
    Supporting: A Supporting Membership includes all of the rights and privileges of an attending membership except the right to attend LoneStarCon 3.Now this is not very informative, 'cause I want to know about the Hugo's.  But on the left sidebar we find an entry for Hugo Awards, where we find:
    "... Voting for the Hugo Awards takes place in two stages. The first stage, nomination, is open to anyone who had a Supporting or Attending membership in the previous, current, or following year's Worldcon as of January 31. For LoneStarCon 3, this meant members of Chicon 7 (the 2012 Worldcon), LoneStarCon 3 itself, and Loncon 3 (the 2014 Worldcon). During this stage, members can nominate any eligible work or person.

    The second stage of voting is the final ballot. This stage, which closed on July 31, 2013, is only open to members of the current Worldcon (i.e. LoneStarCon 3). In the final ballot, members choose among the five finalists in each category. ..."
  • 2014 -  Loncon 3 - London, UK - 08/14/14 - 08/18/14
    Main web page  .  Now this website is more problematic.  There is no quick link that tells you what the rights are of memberships.  The info is there, but you need to use a convoluted route to find "All about membership and attendance at Loncon 3"  where we find that there is no description of what the voting rights are.  In fact the only mention of voting rights for either attending or supporting memberships on that page is this bit on supporting memberships "... but is for anybody else who wishes to receive all the publications and vote in the site selection ..." which is incorrect, unless Loncon 3 included the site selection fee in the supporting membership cost.
 Of these four years, only one, Loncon 3, never makes it easy to find out what is the membership classes that can vote for the Hugo.  To me, it looks like there's no conspiracy to make this information hard to find.  Looking over these websites, The only thing I see in common is that everybody makes their own websites, the USA ones seemed to copy a lot of administrivia text, and the site design for London, at least, was considered a real low priority item.  And that leads me to believe that the lack of coherent info about what comes with the membership is an oversight to the site design team:
   "Did you put in membership and voting stuff on the site?"
   "Giles is doing that part of the site."
   "Well, where is he?"
   "Oh, he's fishing in Scotland this week."
   "Well, have him check it when he gets back."

(I was actually going to look at the last six years worth of sites, but the site for Aussicon is now home to some sort of publishing clearinghouse(?) and the Canadian one is just a stub, showing the convention name and logo and the list of corporate sponsors.)


But this also brings up another thing I keep seeing from the puppies about the WorldCon and the Hugos:  they keep claiming that they (the Hugo Awards) have been "broken" for years and they don't "mean anything" anymore, in either terms of a signifier of quality for the winners, or a survey of quality (for the nominated work)

And this brings in something that does get me ticked off:  if these non-followers of the Hugo awards don't like, and have *not* liked the Hugo award nominees/winners for the last 10 years, why the hell are they complaining about it *now?*

Let them make their own d*mn award, call it "Nutty Nuggets" or something.  They can curate, limit it to USAian writers and publishers, have the one foreign language exception Castilia put into the Charter or something and leave the rest of us the hell alone!

It's not like there's not enough prior art around to show them how it's done:  The Prometheus; the Tiptree; the Bram Stoker; The Sidewise; The Shirley Jackson Awards; The Lambda Literary Awards; The Locus Awards.

 Locus maintains a whole database of them - anybody can write to those awards administrators for advice on how to do selection and nominations. 

Hell, the Locus awards themselves are exactly what the Puppies claim they want - recognition by fandom and readers as a whole, an out-and-out popularity contest, not nominations and voting limited by membership in the WSFS rolls.  Why aren't the puppies having this to-do with *Locus?*

No, this is because the SP clique got its ego hurt.  Because they can't win an award they say they "don't care about" and because their own little Dr Evil didn't get the appreciation he wanted from the Making Light commetariat (or maybe because they didn't appreciate his sharks with laser beams?) and has been holding a grudge for a frikken decade.  Hell, even Fred Pohl and Sam Moskowitz stopped taking pot shots at each other in less time than that after the Great Exclusion Act.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

"Just this one teensy, tiny little change..."

A 2013 SF novel by Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice, introduces us to a space-faring society that, unlike modern English, has the default generative pronoun  as feminine, rather than masculine.  In fact, the culture of the main viewpoint society, the Radch Empire does not seem to recognize essential differences in roles based on the gender of the person performing any role.

There has been a *lot* of ink/electrons expended on comments about this, with opinions ranging from "I just don't like it" to "Hell, yeah, 'bout time!"  A lot of those comments, and a lot of the more in-depth analysis of this point in the  direction that this background choice must have been done to make some kind of political point.  If you were going to say this was a signifier of authorial political intent you could go two ways - either (from the fringe Right) that it's just a case of what could be called "feminist imperialism and co-option" or (from the Left) the views that this is an inevitable consequence and easier to use than he/she/it or heshe constructions and (from the far Marianas-Trench deep end of the Left pool) "Hell, yeah, 'bout time the Goddess set things straight!"))

One of the great divides in SF/F right now is between groups of readers that want to claim SF and Fantasy as purely descriptive entertainment, the epitome of escape literature, just living in shared authorial moments of the storyteller entertaining us at the fair, or in the tavern, with no other motive express, implied or accepted. You pays your pennies on the drumhead for the entertainment and that's all you want to see and hear.

 On the other side of the table or those who say that all stories have some ulterior external dimension, some subtext,  some "message."  There is no choice, there is always subtext, whether the author means for inclusion or not.  It is inevitable.

In the Interests Of Full Disclosure, I will tell you that I belong in the second camp: not from any skill at analysis, nor any training in critical literature theory, just cause it seems like the way things are.

From my viewpoint, the very act of reaching for the ability to entertain, or the ability to make any kind of contact with the intended audience requires an assumption of commonality of fundamental background points.

It's the same shared societal assumptions that leads a 17 year-old groundling boy at the Globe watching a boy player dressed in wig, gown or kirtle sees Juliet or Prospero's daughter Miranda.

The analogous Junior in high school watching the young male actor in wig and kirtle, in the same roles, lacking the innate bias about women being on the stage, sees the male actor and needs to consciously transform the perception to the male actor to the role of Miranda.   Of course, the Elizabethan groundling  would indeed find Robbie, in the role as Caliban, truly monstrous

If this background tic in Ancillary Justice (use of female as the default gendered pronoun) is not essential to the storyline, e.g.: could just as usefully use the masculine, as we do in English, as the default, does that authorial choice *have* to be political?

I don't think it has to be.

Why not view it as "this is an alternative, lets explore what this change from the norm implies for the characters and their society, and what does it provoke in the reader?"  Now, isn't that a completely fundamental trope for SF?

And, yes, what *does* the reaction, by the readers, to that single change in the society depicted, and their language choices, tell us about *ourselves?*

And, yes, what does the reaction, by the readers, to that single change in the society depicted, and their language choices, tell us about *ourselves?*

Which is another basic trope in SF.

I mean, if all you are going to do is have shoot-em-ups in starship corridors, spaceships commanded by Fine Upright Admirals and Hard-Bitten Detectives  taking appointments by televisor, why not just read Zane Grey, C.S. Forester, Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler?  The originals are usually done better, anyway, if all you are doing is copying.

But even there, in the originals, the subtext always carries a message: for Grey it was the larger-than-life legend of the American West he wanted to idealize; for Forester it was the superiority of the British class system; for Chandler and Hammett it was the endemic corruption of the political environment of the time.

Those writers may have been trying to be descriptive, not necessarily pushing a "message," 'though I suspect Hammett was being very deliberate in what his subtext expressed, but the very act of writing to those shared assumptions denies that, if the writers are going to be able to connect with the audience.

The same as those bards and storytellers in the square, tavern or campfire.  Their stories are entertaining, but they are also passing along and reenforcing the mores and other shared fundamental understandings of their society.

So, where shall we look for the future in SF?  Will we look back to the imitators of Zane Grey and say "this was their peak," or will we look forward, and view Dr. Morbius cast in the role as Propspero?