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Jan. 14th, 2016


Song from GaFilk

GaFilk is really due a longer con report but for now I'll just say that one of the highlights of the weekend was getting to perform my new song The Golden Door with my friend Lauren (a new filker; this was her first con) onstage, with the lovely and talented Judi Miller providing ASL interpretation on the fly in the inimitable fashion that won her a well deserved Best Performer Pegasus Award.

It is well known among filkers that you will forget what you are doing if you watch Judi during your performance, so I am very glad that Alice kindly recorded it on Lauren's phone, and Lauren uploaded it to YouTube so that I could watch it now.

I don't know how to imbed it, so I'll just put a link to it here: YouTube video of The Golden Door.

The Golden Door
lyrics by Catherine Faber and Emma Lazarus
melody by Catherine Faber 2015

My parents came from Holland, a better life to find,
Full of hope, as many came before.
In the flower of their youth they left their families behind
To make a new together on this shore.
Two among the thousands who sought a wider sky
Where Liberty has made a welcome here;
She stands in New York Harbor and holds this message high
Its meaning somewhat tarnished, but still clear:

Give me your tired your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teaming shore
Send these the homeless tempest tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Some came here for adventure, and some to look for gold
And some in chains, with all that that entails.
From all our imperfections, a nation did unfold,
For home is where the heart at last prevails.
Words in every language, skin of every hue
Where these got slender welcome, that's our shame,
For folk of every country gave Liberty her due
Each brought their dish to potluck as they came

America is mighty, too strong to yield to fear
Too strong to bow beneath some bloodstained thumb.
People fleeing carnage should find safe harbor here
Their children strengthen what we will become.
Let voice on voice be lifted in welcome and in song
Immigrants have built this country's crown.
We still proclaim the message that stood so high so long.
Nor will Liberty's proud tablet tumble down.

Give me your tired your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teaming shore
Send these the homeless tempest tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Dec. 31st, 2015


The Year That Was, The Year That Will Be.

2015 Was the year that I:

Recovered from being so desperately sick in December of the previous year.

Learned more Dutch, including translating about 2/3 of Wee Free Men into Dutch.

Got a commission to build an instrument case.

Got more involved in local music, including starting a regular musical meeting at the library's new meeting room, attending a regular open mic/jam, and getting a real bodhran. This has included making new musical friends, one of whom is interested in filk.

2016 is the year that I will:

Exercise at least six days a week.

Practice or create music at least six days a week.

Finish that instrument case.

Learn more Dutch.

Nov. 1st, 2015


The guitar case

So I've been working on making a guitar case (it's a commission) using pretty much the same techniques I used to build my Octave Mandolin case last year.

Now part of my build process was building a lid that would fit exactly over the case by building the lid actually *on* the case--using the rest of the case as the form I glued the lid together over. Since I'm using the hot glue method of holding the planks together while the glue between the strips dries, this means that once the lid is fiberglassed it is still held to the body of the case by multiple dots of hot glue. Last time I did successfully whack the lid off but it took quite a while and tore the lid a bit in the process.

Okay so this time I made a couple of modifications. Modification one was that the columns that held the two layers of the jig apart actually touch the outside of the jig, which made it easy to drill small holes through the sides of the case and into the columns. I screwed long screws into these so that they poked out of the sides. By propping up the case (soup cans under each screw,) with the lid on the bottom side, suspended over the workbench, I now had a way to support and secure the case while whacking down on edge of the lid.

Modification two was that while gluing the strips together, both for the sides of the case and for the lip, I used dots of hot glue on every other strip, instead of on every strip. This meant half as many glue dots to break to get things lose.

Yesterday was the moment of truth. I set up the jig as I'd imagined. I have a picture of it at my flickr, but flickr no longer gives me code I can imbed in this page. If you'd like to see it, it's here:

And it worked fine! Balanced on three soup cans (with plastic underneath in case the cans didn't stand up to the pounding) it was stable enough and held the lid nicely suspended so that I could use a wood mallet and a short straight piece of 2x2 to whack the lid off. It took me less than five minutes all told. The cans were fine and I put them back in the kitchen cabinet. It was sooo much easier than the last time I took a lid off.

With a little luck it will be that much easier to get the jig out also; we'll see when the time comes.

On the down side I still tore the fiberglass in a couple of places. I wonder if it would be better to cut the lip strips 1 and 1/4 inch long instead of 1 inch. Maybe that would give a little more space to let the strength of the fiberglass distribute the force of the blow.

But I can fix those little tears so you won't be able to tell where they happened.

In the meantime using half as much hot glue has really sped up the cleanup on the inside also. I've put in about an hour on it and I think I'm about half done. It looks like I'm nearly done but I always end up cleaning up little fiddly details that take longer than you would think. I bought a dremel tool that has sped up that clean up a lot also--it doesn't mind sanding hardened dookie shmutz (expoxy mixed with sawdust, used to fill gaps between the top and the lip before fiberglassing.) It has the texture of peanut butter until it hardens so it can droop and run and need to be sanded smooth, and the inside of the lip is hard to get to so my other alternative is hand sanding which takes quite a bit of time.

So that's where I am on that. The next stage on the lid will be fixing the tears/finishing smoothing the inside, fiberglassing the inside, and the next stage on the body of the case will be removing the screws, and drilling out and plugging the holes they left.

In other news I have my good bodhran back and have been working on playing it a bit, trying to work out ways to make the techniques Brenda showed me work on my comparatively tiny little drum. I can't help but notice that Amazon has actual Irish bodhrans for sale, with the cutout so you can snug them. "The cutout" means part of the rim is cut away so that you can trap the drum between your forearm and your ribs (called snugging it) to hold it steady while you let go of the handle and damp the drumhead in various ways with your left hand from the back of the drum while holding the beater in your right hand to strike the front of the drum. This lets you get different tones out of it. I can't snug my drum very well--partly because it has no cutout and partly because its diameter is about 4" smaller than a regular bodhran and also I am tall with long forearms which doesn't help--and have been using different combinations of free fingers to touch the drumhead while holding the drum handle, but that changes the tone in a more limited way.

Maybe I'll ask for an Irish bodhran for Christmas.

Also I have poked google repeatedly looking for a bodhran beater with rubber balls on the ends like Brenda has because that one was very bouncy and fun, but I can't find one so far. They don't seem to be a regular thing. The shopsmith can be a lathe, though I haven't set that up yet, so maybe I could make my own beaters, but I'm not sure how I'd go about attaching rubber balls...

Oct. 28th, 2015


Home from OVFF

I am home from OVFF and starting to get my sleep debt under control. I had the good fortune to be reasonably well-slept before the con (probably due to having mostly given up caffeine) which helped, but I never sleep as well at cons and tend to resort to caffeine during them to be able to function which means the problem gets a bit worse and a bit worse till I had to have almost 3 cans of diet Mountain Dew for the drive back.

But I had a great time. I was joyfully reunited with my best bodhran (or bodhran-substitute) which I had left in Canada by mistake on my trip this summer, and which Tom and Sue Jeffers kindly retrieved and drove to the con for me, in time to take it to my rehearsal with Andrew. I played bodhran on The Dolls in the Pegasus Concert, as part of Andrew's little ad hoc band, and I think we did a pretty damn good job. The Pegasus Concert as a whole was excellent and I had a very hard time making my choices on the ballot--there were a couple of categories where I just didn't choose at all, and left it up to the other Pegasus voters.

The next morning I went to the Taking Your Music On The Road workshop/panel and the Spice Up Your Strumming workshop, both of which were very interesting. The latter was unfortunately scheduled against Alexa Klettner's concert so I only caught the last half of it, but I enjoyed that very much. Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps gave a concert to celebrate the release of their new CD, which was also lots of fun. I had a lovely dinner with good company, including a couple of kids who have grown to the point where they have interesting contributions to make to the conversation, which was sufficiently informed, friendly and wide-ranging that it didn't occur to me to worry about the Pegasus Awards.

In general it seemed like there were more young fen at this con than at previous ones--both in the sense of kids and in the sense of younger grownups. This trend makes me happy.

After dinner I hung out around the raised area where the Pegasus Banquet occurs, to hear the results. My choices had been: Best Time Related--Gabriel Gray's Song, Best Adapted--Threes Rev 1.1, Best Classic Filk Song--Ship of Stone and Best Filk Song--Somebody Will. In Best Performer I couldn't decide and in Best Songwriter--well, I was up for that and I felt like I had a conflict of interest, so I left that in the lap of the Hugo Pegasus voters (thank you, Gary), prepared to accept their verdict and be happy for whoever they chose. Because, really, when the competition is Barry, Randy, Kari, and Eva, it's an honor to be considered their peer.

By now you probably know who won. Precious Moments by Phil Allcock, Grabthar's Silver Hammer by Steve MacDonald (Steve got all wordless; it was so cute) Jeff and Maya Bonhoff for Best Performer, Captain Jack And The Mermaid by Meg Davis, and My Story Is Not Done by Seannan McGuire. All very worthy winners and congratulations to each and every one.

And me. I walked up the steps to accept, and remembered something someone had said in the Mark Bernstein's Powderfilk Biscuits (give shy filkers the courage to stand up and sing) workshop, "it's about what you come to the filk circle for?" and Mark saying something like "I'm an atheist; for me the circle is sacred space."

So I said something rather disorganized about I come to the filk circle for communion; and thank you very much I'm deeply honored.

And spent the rest of the con wandering around in a glow while many people congratulated me and said kind things. I attended the Shallow End Filk which went swimmingly--I'm always glad to hear new filkers, and we had a good batch this year. That meant missing the song contest, which was a pity, but so it goes. I then went off to the Fiend Filk because I knew Peter would be at that and I wanted to meet him so we could jam, and had a lovely time there, including singing Least of My Kind because I had the bodhran handy and had been practicing on bodhran for a month for the concert, and thus could do a decent job of it.

Then Peter and I repaired to an empty room to jam properly, picking up Mary Bertke and Alexa on the way and discovering a bass player (whose name I have forgotten but I would like to play with him again; he was fun) already there when we arrived and Yehuda (from Israel--and he bought a couple of CDs--my first sale to an Israeli fan that I know of!) and Mary Crowell showed up shortly after. We jammed for a little bit--I felt like I wasn't doing a very good job on the mando, perhaps because I had spent most of my practice time on other things for the past month--but hopefully everyone had fun and then we switched to a more conventional circle and I got Alexa to do My Berlin again, because I heard it in her concert and loved it. It was originally written by someone else in German but she translated it to English, which is no simple job even with prose, and I'm very impressed she made such beautiful lyrics.

Sunday I declared myself an honorary kid and went to Stone Dragons' kid concert. About halfway through I was apparently declared an honorary Stone Dragon and summoned to perform, which was fun. Then I went to the dealers room, and bought CDs from Bill Roper and Barry Childs-Helton, and a couple of books from Larry Smith, who I was happy to see there, since I knew he'd been in a car crash. I got California Bones and Updraft.

I went to Jodi Krangle's concert but had to duck out of the Farewell Jam halfway through because it was just too loud. I enjoy trying to play along but my ears can only handle so much. Maybe next time I'll try sitting on the opposite side of the room from the drum kit and the PA system.

Alexa had been very friendly so I had put myself forward enough to ask her to dinner Sunday evening and she said yes, so she, I, Alice, and Peter went early to the Mongolian Barbecue. Donald was supposed to come too but we had enough people I kind of overlooked that he was missing when he wasn't in the group by the door; my bad. He called me when he got back from shopping and came out to the restaurant to join us, though.

Alexa was very curious about the fried oreos, which I had never had either, so we got a plate of them for dessert to share out among everyone. It was sort of like a hot donut with an oreo filling, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup on the side. Tasty but I wasn't sorry to be sharing it with so many people.

After that we came back for the Dead Dog Filk. I noticed that signals were getting crossed and a few people seemed to be getting frustrated, so I took it on myself to direct traffic as much as possible when I saw people trying to get in, though I faded pretty early, sang my swansong and took myself off to bed.

And Monday was driving. But hitting the road early monday meant the traffic was very light, and we could enjoy the autumn foliage in daylight all the way south to my place.

And I have a nice new idea for a song which I'm working on. We'll see what comes of it.

Oct. 3rd, 2015


I am alive

Yeah, I haven't posted in ages. I'm hoping to get back into the habit. I'm going to ease back in by not telling you all the stuff since last time because that would take a long time and makes the kind of barrier that keeps me putting things off.

So today I joined the Friends of the Library, and also helped mind the booth that the Friends have at Old Time Saturday, which is a regular thing in my small town, the first Saturday of October.

Now October is usually lovely weather--comfortable temperatures, dry, with that wonderful blue blue sky we only get when the summer haze is gone. The trees are turning, the mosquitoes have died, if you're only going to come to Tennessee one month in your life, make it October.

Unfortunately we caught the backwash of Hurricane Joaquin (I think that's how it's spelled) and so it has been raining for two days solid. I wore jeans, hiking boots, my leather jacket, my winter hat with the brim and the earflaps that tuck inside and took the extra large umbrella to go to mind the booth.

I needed them all. A scarf and wool socks wouldn't have gone amiss either and really the hiking boots need new soles. If anybody had been selling hot chocolate instead of popcorn and snow cones, they'd have made a killing, except that the attendance was way down this year--it wouldn't surprise me if half the people present were minding a booth or associated with someone who was. Some of the booth-minders didn't even come.

In other news I have decided to try to learn tremolo. I hate it--I've only ever heard one mandolinist who could do it without sounding obnoxious and they were a professional who played classical music--but it appears to be key to developing other techniques that I do want to be able to do. So I found a youtube video by someone called "hardrockgrrl" who appears to know what she's doing and have a systematic approach I think I can copy. It looks like it will take a couple of months of daily practice to get out of the obnoxious zone but I think I can do that.

And in other other news I'll be playing bodhran at OVFF, which wouldn't be any biggie but I want to be able to hit a particular tempo and then change it to another particular tempo and do that several times, so I have a fair amount of bodhran practicing before me also.

So that's what is up with me.

Jul. 28th, 2015


Posting quick

You know, I haven't posted in just about forever. And at some point I'll get back to what I was doing but for now I just want to observe that I am cutting and sanding wood strips (white pine) for a new project. I used a bandsaw to do the cutting, which worked...okay and now I'm using a conical sanding wheel (very shallow cone, but this lets you sand the edge of a board, or the side of a strip 1) smooth and flat and 2) to a desired width) to sand them all.

And let me tell you, there is an astonishing amount of sawdust involved. I'm only about half done and I have completely filled a shopvac vacuum bag. When I quit work today I was sawdust to the elbows; I had safety glasses over my glasses and my glasses were still hazed with sawdust. I had sawdust dusted on my hair and caked in the sweat on my neck. I vacuumed myself off and then went outside and brushed myself off with the little brush for the dust pan and I still made Kip cough when I walked through the kitchen.

Hopefully I can finish up the sanding by Thursday.

May. 25th, 2015


Hugo Reading: Puppy Picks, Championship B'tok

I've been kind of busy with studying Dutch, and cleaning house, but I just finished another Puppy Pick and I'm ready to talk about that.

Championship B'tok.

This is a chunk of a novel. It looks as if someone picked out chapters, say, four through six, labeled them "novelette" and mailed it off. I can only hope that Analog is publishing it as a serial or something. The backstory is filled in to some extent, but the business end has been haggled off and the raveled ends haven't even been woven back into the story. I thought a puppy had chewed off the ending for _Flow_ but this is worse.

The character(s) we start out with is left on a cliffhanger two pages in. We never find out what happened. Another major character disappears a few pages before the end. We never find out what happened there either. The story also ends with one group about to ambush another. Repeat after me: and we never find out what happened.

Closure? What is closure?

For the record, B'tok is a chess-like game that some aliens play and also a metaphor for political maneuvering and espionage.

And I think I know what the Pups liked about it (well, they liked that it was on a slate, but I think I know why the slate-makers, whoever they are, chose it): it has two explosions.

If it had been a whole story there would have been some point to this; the characters are cardboardy but since they don't try to have any serious relationships their 2D status does not get in the way, and I liked what he did with the alien language. (The aliens don't have verbs--which is pretty damn alien, I agree--and in their conversations with each other this is pretty faithfully followed, and yet you can still tell exactly what they mean. Not bad.)

However it is meant to be judged as it stands and my answer is that is not a story; a story has an end.

May. 10th, 2015


Hugo Reading: Puppy Picks: _The Journeyman In The Stone House_

So a whole novella of Puppy material is a bit indigestible, so I took a rest by just reading a novelette: _ The Journeyman In The Stone House_ by Michael F. Flynn, published in Analog, (I'm guessing Brad has a subscription to Analog, maybe?)

This one was a bit better. There is one woman character, even if she isn't present for much of the story, who actually merits a name and has a few lines, so go Mr. Flynn. While nothing like parity, it is a significant step up from _Flow_. The main characters, Teodorq and Sammi are reasonably fun, even if the main conflict and means of resolving it are stereotypical dominance issues. The hints of multiple cultures meeting at a single stress point were also kind of interesting.

I suspect this of being a part cut out of a larger story, (Teodorq and Sammi met a stranded AI which has commissioned them to find its people, I think) and pretty much zero progress is made on that, nor do the main characters seem to care either way. There is some joking around with a door that might be either very funny or rather childish depending on your personal inclinations.

This is apparently a story within a series, which hurts its ability to stand alone, in my opinion, especially at the end, but I suppose if you have to choose so much of your short fiction from a single magazine, that's going to leave you making some tradeoffs.

Verdict: one of the better Puppy Picks so far. It really couldn't hold a candle to any of my choices, in my opinion, but I'm grateful for the respite.

May. 9th, 2015


Hugo Reading: Puppy Picks: Flow

So I have been working my way through the Hugo Ballot, since some of it is available free on the Web. As people who have been paying attention to the Hugos know, most of the nominees were chosen by Brad Torgersen and Vox Day (and possibly Larry Corriea, John C. Wright, and Sarah Hoyt helping them.)

I will be voting everything that appeared on a slate below No Award this year. Those who don't understand why are free to check out my posts on how slates distort the nomination process, Part 1, as well as Part 2 and Part 3. I make no promises about how I will handle slates next year as the Puppies logical next step next year is to slate people and works they hate that they believe have a chance at the Hugos.

However I said I would read the Puppy picks, and I will. There are two reasons for this, first, what if Puppies are right and they actually have a line on good works and authors I have overlooked? Second, I expect the fight for sixth place to be hard and bitter, and how will I know which works to put there if I haven't read them?

So, one of the Novellas that the Puppies picked for the best of the best of conservative science fiction (or whatever they're calling it these days) is _Flow_ by Arlan Andrews Sr.

This is a story about a man, who joins the men who take icebergs downriver (never mind how difficult it would be to ride an iceberg down a wild river without overturning it and killing yourself) to sell them to the men in the warmlands city below, who have wild and mysterious things like sunshine and mirrors and ancient artifacts that the men use to catch icebergs. If you're noticing a lot of men in this recounting and a paucity of women, let me assure you that there are women; they are there for the real people to have sex with them. One of the women even has a name, but I'm not sure if she counts since she's the main character's mother. She doesn't actually appear, or do anything, or say anything to anyone. The unforgettable (unforgettable because, unlike the women the main character is used to, she has breasts) woman the main character has sex with (twice, yet!) in the warmlands city does not actually merit a name, as I recall. Nor does she do anything else.

If you easily accept the idea that the only thing women in the city are doing that is worth mentioning is having sex, the rest of the story is . . . a little lacking in the end department, as the character does rappels off a cliff toward an unknown but apparently higher tech land below as an ending to the story. Aside from that it's not particularly bad, which makes it a standout among Puppy picks so far.

The "women only having sex" thing made me wonder was Mr. Andrews was like, so I went and had a look at his interview with Brad Torgersen. (For those who understandably don't follow Mr. Torgersen's blog, he has been writing puff pieces for the various successful Puppy Nominees.) In this interview Mr Andrews mentions "I still look for new ideas, new concepts, things I would never have thought of, cool technologies, new kinds of human relationships."

Women as only entities for having sex... does not really strike me as a new kind of human relationship but there wasn't really anything else in this story that seemed to fit that bill either, so perhaps it seems new to Mr. Andrews.

May. 4th, 2015


Slowly getting better and Hugo Voting.

I spent most of last week pretty sick. Coughing like crazy, and a snot monster took up residence in my nose and for several days I was also nauseated so I wasn't eating much, though I did manage to stay hydrated this time, go me.

Now I am only garden-variety sick, but the chores have piled up while I wasn't able to get to them.

On the other hand, the Hugo Voting opened, so I have put in my preliminary votes. The way the Hugo voting works I can change my votes right up to the last minute, as I read and ponder more of the things. But I wanted to make sure my anti-slate protest would register even if I got hit by a car tomorrow (not that it's very likely, but still) so I put No Award first in all the Puppy-locked categories, and the non-Puppy contenders (if necessary in a random order, since in some cases I haven't read everything yet) and No Award in Puppy infested categories.

Thinking about the Graphic Novel category was fun: there was only one Puppy in that category, and I bought all the nonPuppy nominees to kind of make it up to myself about the Puppies, so I'm going to discuss that one in more detail here.

They were all fun. I don't read graphic novels much, mostly because they are so expensive they are just out of my price range as a regular thing. This is kind of a pity, as I wouldn't mind reading more of this kind of thing.

4) Sex Criminals. This one starts with a strange premise. For one young woman, time stops when she has an orgasm. She can walk around and do things and everyone else is just frozen in time. It turns out she's not alone in this capacity, and one day she meets a compatible partner--with a penchant for transgressing against societal norms during this period of frozen time. He talks her into committing a crime and things go from there.

3) Rat Queens. An all-woman D&D party. Fighter and cleric, magic user and rogue. But the town they live in is having a hard time living with their increasing destructiveness and contempt for the local community norms, and someone is sending them into situations that are getting harder and harder to survive. I haven't quite finished this one yet.

2) Saga Volume 3 I have read the background on this one, because Volume 2 was nominated last year. This is an interesting saga that follows the fortunes of two star-crossed lovers--soldiers on opposite sides of an inter-planetary war who loved, and accidentally started a family. Higher ups (on both sides, I think) want this inconvenient Romeo and Juliette pair--and especially their abomination of a baby--dead, and the killer for hire on their trail turns out to be easier for the reader to sympathize with than one might think.

1) Ms. Marvel. The new Ms. Marvel is a Muslim girl from New Jersey, trying to balance her family's expectations of a good girl's place with her own belief, inculcated by her father, that to save one life is to save the world entire. On her side, weird shape-shifting powers granted by a passing night mist, and a good friend with a knack for inventing. Ranged against her, a supervillian who is apparently running a drug ring, if I understand this right.

So that has been cool.

I have also read (most of) the short stories. These are all Puppy noms, and are going after No Award in any case, but I am reading them to find out what the Puppies think is so great they are willing to resort to a slate to shove it on the rest of us. However one of the short stories is not available on the internet, so I will have to wait for the voter's packet.

Note that any Puppy nom that doesn't get into the voter's packet or isn't otherwise available free just doesn't get read as far as I am concerned. I will be God damned if I will give a penny to someone who used a slate. I will read them, and that out of the goodness of my heart, but if you used a slate to wreck the Hugo nominations to make money you can just go to Hell.

Apr. 30th, 2015


Getting better

I had a wonderful time at FKO (and bought a new instrument, a single course mandola, which I have named Duckling.) It was so *nice* to be around people who understood what was going on with the Sad Puppies! I debuted a new song (about the Puppies) but not the angry one.

I would put it up here, but when I came home Kip had a cold... which I promptly caught, and which has the dubious distinction of being the worst cold I have had in a very long time. Somewhere in there it turned into nausea again, which most of the victims of this cold haven't been getting. But. I am feeling better today. Still feel like collapsing into a chair and shutting my eyes now and then, but I am washed and dressed, and played my mandolin a bit. I still can't sing worth a darn but when I'm back in voice I will put up my new song.

The mimmoths are up to something, but they won't say what. *looks suspicious* I have not been keeping proper track of them on account of being sick, drat it.

Apr. 6th, 2015


How A Slate Distorts The Nomination Process, Part III

So the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies Slate, between them, locked up the nominations and locked everyone else out of a lot of the categories, to the Puppies great glee and celebration.

However a couple of books came out last year that are *right* up the Sad Puppies' alley. They are Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2, the second part of a comprehensive biography of Heinlein, greatly admired by Sad Puppies (and he used to be on of my favorite authors also, by the way) and The Three-Body Problem, a hardest-of-hard SF novel by Cixin Liu (which I haven't read myself yet, but which I hear is excellent.)

Both are well thought of, including among fans who are not Sad Puppies, and both would have had a very reasonable chance at the Hugo Ballot in a normal year, the Heinlein bio in the Best Related Work section and Three-Body Problem in the Best Novel section.

I saw Larry Correia admit in a comment on his blog that he would have added the Heinlein bio to the Sad Puppies slate if he had known about it. I saw Vox Day admit in a comment at File 770 that he would have added The Three-Body Problem to the Rabid Puppies Slate if he had known about it.

Neither did, however, and the two slates made it impossible for other fans to put either work on the ballot.

Because slates don't just hurt those poopy heads on whatever you have designated the "other side." They hurt every non-slate work--emphatically including works the slate makers would have loved, if they had just permitted the other nominators to put them on the ballot.

This is why slates are so destructive to the normal nomination process that I feel they cannot be tolerated. I will be putting every slate work below No Award on my ballot.

Apr. 4th, 2015


How a Slate Distorts the Nomination Process Part II

I went through the post at Torgersen's blog where he solicited suggestions from his readers for what works to put on the Sad Puppy III Slate.

41 people suggested, among them, 35 books (and quite a few other things, but I haven't analyzed the other fields yet.) The most popular books got 3 "nominations" each--there were four of these. Then there were four more books that got 2 nominations each. And the remaining 27 got one nomination each.

So in a group of Sad Puppies--whose tastes might reasonably be expected to overlap--the most popular works were getting less than 10% of the vote. More than two thirds of the works were only getting one vote each.

This is what I mean when I talk about normal nominations being thinly spread over a large group.

Brad curated these into a list of only five books--and those books go from less than 10% of the vote to something close to 100% of the vote.

*That* is what a slate does. It multiplies your nominating power by ten or twelve.

In addition to the Sad Puppies Slate, there was also a Rabid Puppies slate, run by their friend and fellow conservative Vox Day. I disregarded this slate in the past because Vox Day could only drum up about 70 nominations last year even with the Sad Puppies helping, so I assumed since he wasn't on the Sad Puppy slate this year he wouldn't play a big role.

I suspect he thought so too; the rumor is that he invited the Gamergators in. I can tell you for a fact that he claims to be one of their leaders--I saw him do that over at File 770. I thought he was exaggerating to make himself look bigger, but looking at how well the Rabid Puppy slate did in the Hugo Nominations, it's certainly plausible that he invited outsiders in, and the Puppies have a lot in common with GG. Again, voting a slate, you have ten times the voting power; he wouldn't have had to attract more than a couple of hundred people.

This is why, despite the Sad and Rabid Puppies being a relatively small portion of the Hugo Nominating public, they were basically able to shut the rest of us completely out of the nominations for

Best Novella
Best Novelette
Best Short Story
Best Related Work
Best Editor Short Form
Best Editor Long Form

There is only one non-Puppy nominee for

Best Fanzine
Best Fan Writer
Best Professional Artist
Campbell Award (not a Hugo)

and two non-Puppy nominees for

Best Novel
Best Fancast
Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form
Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

There are three non-Puppy nominees for

Best Semi-Prozine

And four for

Best Graphic Story

The Best Fan Artist category appears to be entirely clean.

I don't know about you, but I was not put on this earth to be a patsy for the Puppies, meekly choosing which of their favorites to crown the "best."

This is the situation that No Award was invented for. I intend to at least start reading everything (I need to decide on that coveted sixth place slot), but anything on a slate will be going below No Award.

I joke about "that perennial scrappy contender "No Award"" but this really might be her year to take home, not one Hugo, but several.

I am too tired to type out all the names. File 770 has several collations; "nominees not on any slate" is the last before the comments

[later edit] For those coming in from nwhyte's journal, there are other parts to this essay. Part 1 is here: "A slate distorts what people read" and Part 3 is here "A slate shuts out works the slate-makers didn't know about." [/later edit]

Apr. 2nd, 2015


On The Value Of Thirty Seconds Of Research (TSOR)

One the Sad Puppies was referring to someone as a CHORF. There was no explanation on the page, so I googled for the meaning.

Apparently for the Sad Puppies it means cliquish, holier than thou obnoxious reactionary fanatic. Brad Torgersen coined it to describe non-Puppies. I will leave that irony there for the enjoyment of the reader.

I guess he, and the people who picked it up from him, didn't even bother to check if that acronym was used for anything else first. To find the Sad Puppy meaning, I had to restrict the Google search to the past week. The older, and more widely-used meaning is "Christ on a rabbit farm!" Which is beautifully appropriate.

So when you see someone using it in the Sad Puppy manner, you can say "Chorf! They don't even know how to use Google!"

Mar. 31st, 2015


How A Slate Distorts The Hugo Nomination Process.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Sad Puppies, my previous post gives a brief overview.

There are those among the Sad Puppies who will vociferously tell you that of course they read everything on the Sad Puppy 3 Slate before nominating it, and of course they also read other things, and they nominated their honest opinions and not the slate at all.

Let us suppose for a moment that this was not only true, but true for every Sad Puppy Hugo nominator. It doesn't make much difference. Why?

Because the Sad Puppy slate distorted what Sad Puppy fans read in the first place.

Let us suppose that the average Sad Puppy reads fifty books a year--not an unreasonable amount. And let us suppose that of those fifty books, ten of them were published in 2014. This actually strikes me as rather generous; I am a voracious reader and I was making a deliberate effort to read books published in 2014 because I knew going in that I intended to nominate, and I think I only managed nine.

Let us suppose the same is true of the non-Puppy Hugo voters--they also, on the average, read ten books published in 2014.

For the Sad Puppies, five of those books were on the SP3 slate, and the other five were sprinkled roughly randomly over all conservative science fiction published in 2014. If only ten works of conservative SF had been published in 2014, this would make no difference, but it was much more than that.

For the non-Puppies, all *ten* of those books are sprinkled roughly randomly over all the (let's say non-conservative, for the sake of argument) science fiction published in 2014. If only ten works of non-conservative SF had been published in 2014... yeah, we've been over that.

If we assume, for the moment, that conservative books on and off the SP slate are roughly equal in quality and that once a book is conservative, Puppy tastes are randomly distributed, 50% of the Puppy nomination "votes" go to five slate books, and the other 50% of Puppy nomination "votes" are spread over all non-slate conservative books published in 2014.

This gives slate conservative works an enormous advantage over non-slate conservative works. Each of them gets nominations equal to 10% of the total number of Puppies right off the bat, even if all the Puppies do is *read* the works in question and nominate what they honestly think is the best, without fear or favor, neither consciously and unconsciously influenced by slate approval. A non-slate book gets maybe 1% of Puppy votes under the same circumstances.

In actual point of fact, the votes will tend more to the slate than that, especially to the originators of the slate, since the Sad Puppies originally got involved because they like those authors, and give more than random weight to those authors recommendations.

In the meantime, non-Puppy fans are spreading their nominations out thinly over hundreds of works, without having a slate of five works to read that focuses a large fraction of their reading attention on a small fraction of the total SFF published in 2014. All their books get maybe 1% of non-Puppy votes.

Now in practice we have other patterns overlaid on this. Reviews and word-of-mouth buzz mean that some portion of the books we read are not randomly distributed over SFF, and relative quality means some portion of our votes are not distributed randomly over the books we have read.

But even so, it makes no difference if the Puppies are only using the slate as a reading guide; it still distorts the nomination process by changing what they read. And it also would make no difference if the Puppies put some liberal works on it for cover--it would *still* distort the nomination process. About the only way for it not to distort the nomination process would be for Sad Puppies to put only works on it that would win on their own. At which point, of course, the Sad Puppy slate would be useless, because it would make no difference.

But making difference is precisely what they want to do.

Mar. 29th, 2015


Hugo Rumpuses

So you may remember the Sad Puppies, who think that science fiction is being destroyed by women and minorities. They long for the good old days when science fiction was about manly men rescuing beautiful women from bug eyed monsters, or manly men locked in manly struggle with other manly men. (Cat pauses for a moment to admire, in a purely platonic way, the bulging muscles peeping through the torn clothes of the manly men as they struggle.)

However for some reason minority characters cannot be manly men or beautiful women, and have the additional deadly characteristic of making the exact same story instantly dull (for the Sad Puppies) unless you have a good reason for them to be minority characters (like, he's going to go under cover as a slave in the next book to gather information; of course he has to be black.)

They're also very fond of explosions and guns.

They think one of the symptoms (or perhaps the cause; treating a symptom wouldn't make much sense) of this moral decay of society is that the Hugos have been going to Books They Don't Enjoy, due to a lack of explosions and guns. Or, wait--Ancillary Justice had explosions and guns. I guess they don't enjoy the books due to the presence of women and minority characters.

Their solution is to game the system. While non-Puppies spread their reading and nominations thin over all the good SFF published in 2014, the Puppies only have one place to check for suggestions--the Sad Puppy slate. So the slate skews the nominating, giving the Puppies much more nominating power than they would have had without that unifying focus.

And this year, the Puppies have been trying to own the nominations. If they can nominate all five members of a category, they can leave the Hugo Voters to choose among only Puppy alternatives.

The Hugo committee contact authors of nominated works privately before making the public announcement, to give them a chance to decline the nomination (as Neil Gaiman did last year, and as Terry Pratchett did in the past.) Some of the Puppy authors have not seen fit to keep that information private, as requested. So we know that, for example, "Wisdom from my Internets" is a Hugo nominee.

"Wisdom From My Internets" is available on Kindle, so you can get the first part as a free sample, which I did. Basically if you set Rush Limbaugh into a "Notebooks of Lazarus Long" format, removing the science fiction from both, you'd have created "Wisdom From My Internets." If the first part is typical (and not, say a bunch of chat-room messages that a werewolf PI is sorting through to figure out who stole the orbital laser plans from the robot ambassador) apparently Sad Puppies want to give this work a Hugo for, basically, repeatedly spelling the president's name with a zero. We will see whether the non-Puppy Hugo voters agree that this cleverness deserves one of science fiction's major awards.

Mar. 15th, 2015


New song

Reddit is doing something cool: inspired by Terry Pratchett's depiction of how the names of the dead were sent home by clacks along the Grand Trunk Line on Discworld, they are working out ways to do the same for Sir Terry here in the real world.

And that inspired this song: Send Him Home

The mp3 is linked at the top left, just under the title.

Mar. 12th, 2015


New Song

I upgraded my operating system, and in the process broke the program I used to maintain my website. So I have no way to put the tune up for this--I am in fact in the process of downloading the fix for Finale, so I can write out the tune. But as a place holder:

Into The Reaper's Care
lyrics and melody by Catherine Faber 2015

Sunlight would pour like molasses,
And over the DiscWorld creep
From the heights of the mountain passes
To the lard mines below it would seep

Part of our myth is this lovely land
And deep in our hearts we all know
That the elephants hold up the disc, and stand
On the back of the Turtle below.

I've ridden his books like a rover
From hub highest clifftops of gray
To the edge that the ocean spills over,
In eight-colored rainbows of spray

Into the black does the ocean fall
Veiling the elephant's limbs
The turtle, of course, stands on nothing at all,
But raises her flippers and swims

Sunset must pass on this spinning blue ball
No matter how golden the light
Death is a bedtime that comes to us all,
Sleep softly, Sir Terry, good night..

In Memoriam Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

Mar. 10th, 2015


Hugo Nominations: Today Is It

If you had a Loncon (last year's Worldcon) membership or supporting membership, I hope you will nominate for the Hugos this year. Your membership number and PIN to let you do it will have been e-mailed to you a couple of months ago (I search "Hugo" in my mailbox to bring it up; "Sasquan" would probably work too.)

Anyway, I intended to write about this earlier, but I have been hard at work finding novellas (there aren't very many of those, you know? And even fewer are free to view on the web. And a couple that everybody else liked left me "meh") and so I'm only now getting around to it. Nothing like a deadline to get me moving.

If this post reminds you of something you've already read and you realize you want to nominate, great!

Best Novel
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet: Broadway Books
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: Tor
Lock-In by John Scalzi: Tor
Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear: Tor
Acillary Sword by Ann Leckie: Orbit

Best Novella
Hath No Fury by Kat Howard: Subterranean Press Magazine
Sixth Of The Dusk by Brandon Sanderson: Writing Excuses Anthology
The Man Who Sold The Moon by Cory Doctorow, Heiroglyph Anthology
Unlocked by John Scalzi: Tor.com
Trading Rosemary by Octavia Cade: Masque Books

Best Novelette
A Litany Of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys: Tor.com
Grand Jete (The Great Leap) by Rachel Swirsky: Subterranean Press Magazine
Ten Rules For Being An Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind) by Holly Black: Lightspeed Magazine
Each To Each by Seanan McGuire: Lightspeed Magazine
Girl In Wave, Wave In Girl by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Heiroglyph Anthology

Best Short Story
Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon: Apex Magazine
Toad Words by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon): Squash Tea / Toad Words And Other Stories by T. Kingfisher
When It Ends He Catches Her by Eugie Foster: Dailysciencefiction.com
Daughter Of Necessity by Marie Brennan, Tor.com
Cold Wind by Nicola Griffith, Tor.com

Best Related Work
Invisible: Personal Essays On Representation in SF/F by Jim Hines: (ebook released on multiple platforms)
Tropes Vs Women: Women As Background Decoration by Anita Sarkeesian (video http://www.feministfrequency.com/2014/06/women-as-background-decoration-tropes-vs-women/)
Post Binary Gender in SF: An Introduction by Alex Dally McFarlane: Tor.com
A Report On Damage Done By One Individual Under Several Names by Laura J. Mixon: (web page) http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/a-report-on-damage-done-by-one-individual-under-several-names/
What If? Serious Scientific Answers To Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Best Graphic Story
Girl Genius And The Beast Of The Rails by Phil Foglio, Kaja Foglio and Cheyenne Wright: Airship Entertainment
Stand Still Stay Silent by Mina Sundberg (web comic http://www.sssscomic.com/)
Shlock Mercenary: Broken Wind by Howard Tayler: Hypernode Media
Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Image Comics
Saga Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Image Comics

Best Fanzine
File 770, Mike Glyer
A Dribble Of Ink, Aidan Moher
Chaos Horizon, Brandon Kempner
Lady Business Renee, Anna, and Jodie

Best Semiprozine
Strange Horizons, Nial Harrison
Daily Science Fiction, Michelle Lee Barasso and Johnathon Ladan
Apex Magazine, Lynne M. Thomas
Lightspeed Magazine, John Joseph Adams
The Book Smugglers, Anna Grilo and Thea James

Best Fan Writer
Laura J. Mixon (for her non-paid writing, see above in best related)
Liz Bourke
Natalie Luhrs
Abigail Nussbaum
Kameron Hurley

Campbell Award For Best New Writer
Helene Wecker
Octavia Cade
Mina Sundberg (yes, it's a comic; so? As far as I know, a comic writer is a writer.)

I hope you will keep these fine entities in mind as you nominate for the Hugos, or check your nominations one last time. The voting ends at midnight tonight (midnight pacific daylight time, I think.) It's fine if you want to nominate different entities than I did; but please nominate.

Mar. 5th, 2015


Lent, Chocolate, and White Male Authors

So, I gave up chocolate for Lent.*

I got the idea that giving things up for Lent is about challenging yourself, and about freeing yourself from something that has gotten too tight a hold on you. (Maybe that's wrong; this is my first time Lenting, so I might not be getting it right--but that's what I thought was involved.)

I love chocolate. I don't need the good stuff--any Hershey bar is enough to fulfill that craving. As a direct result I'm pretty sure I eat more chocolate than is good for me; I eat (ate) chocolate every day. If I'm down to the last day's candy bar, I go to the store to get more. But not too much more because if I have too much chocolate in the house I don't just eat chocolate every day; I eat lots of chocolate until I run out.

You can see why this might be falling under the heading of "things that have gotten too tight a hold on you." So I decided to give it up for Lent.

I'm going to be honest here, it has been kind of tough. A couple of days ago I saw Girl Scouts selling cookies by the entrance to the grocery store. I had just seen one of those "girl scout cookies support communist lesbian feminist baby-eater I-don't-know-what" messages, so in the interest of supporting good things, I walked straight over with a big grin and bought a box of lesbian thin mints and a box of feminist tagalongs. I told them to keep the change from the $20 as a donation and strode happily into the store... before I remembered that I had given chocolate up for Lent and both these kinds of cookies are covered in chocolate. Crap.

There was a short but uncomfortable period of considering various options while my anticipation curdled to dismay. Realistically I was not going to have the cookies in the house but save them until Easter. Know your limits; not happening. I considered making an exception for Girl Scout Cookies because Good Cause but decided against it. I considered asking to switch types but realized I would just resent the non-chocolate cookies as poor replacements. So I took the cookies back to the Girl Scout table and asked them to send them to the troops.

And then went into the store and bought myself a pint of blueberries purely as consolation. Which is part of a larger pattern--since I can't have chocolate I have branched out in the treat department. I have had some hard caramels, some butterscotch candies, dried dates and dried apricots, licorice and grapes... the world is full of possible alternatives, most of which I had been ignoring to choose among the chocolates.

Furthermore when I go through the checkout line, I have to pass the impulse treats laid out at the end of the checkout stand. And I can't help but notice, now that I can't have chocolate, how nearly all of them *are* chocolate. Hershey Bars, Kit-Kats, M&Ms, Rolos, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, the only thing that isn't at least partly chocolate is the Payday bars. I never paid attention to that until this Lent, when denying myself the easy, habitual chocolate stripped my senses bare of habit and let me notice these things.

Are the chocolate companies happy that I've given up chocolate for Lent? They appear to be content with the knowledge that no matter what I give up, millions of other customers are making a bee-line for the chocolate. And realistically, come Easter morning I will be back to eating chocolate with the best of them. So I doubt they care, being grownups, and not noticeably insecure.

Recently Tempest Bradford (whose name seems poetically just at the moment) challenged her readers to stop reading the straight white male authors for a year. I bet doing such a thing is like giving up chocolate--that it's hard, but it reminds you of all the other alternatives out there, and also makes you aware of how the straight white male authors occupy a disproportionate amount of the store shelves and the impulse buy territory down by the cash register. Unfortunately a lot of Sad Puppy authors don't seem to be as grown-up about it as the chocolate companies. Perhaps they are not as confident that their customers will be back when Lent is over.

I am too lazy to really take up her challenge. But I am going to make an effort to seek out women authors and authors of color I hadn't previously read. Because chocolate is nice, but it's important to remember that there are a lot of other possibilities out there, and the easy impulse buy territory obscures that.
*No, I am not converting. Nope, not considering it. This is about the Lenting not about the religioning.

Feb. 22nd, 2015


(no subject)

My LJ-friend, elisem is having a jewelry sale.

I have one of her pieces, which she kindly gave me several years ago, called "All The World Is A Library." It is a pendant with a round stone with layers of stormy whites and browns, with a green eye-shaped spot peeking through that makes me think of Jupiter, and of a story about a dragon librarian.

Check it out!

Feb. 16th, 2015



So we're having weather tonight at my house (in the sense of "climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.") It was supposed to snow a few inches today, instead we got little tiny round globules of ice for a while, then freezing rain. It seemed to be melting this afternoon, but now we're getting real freezing rain again.

Since freezing rain seems to mean different things in different parts of the country, I will clarify that this is a Pacific Northwest type of freezing rain, also called a silver thaw. Supercooled water (should be frozen but it hasn't realized it yet) falls from the sky in droplets that freeze as they hit, building up to a layer of clear ice all over everything. It can be inexpressibly beautiful if the sun comes out, like living in the middle of a chandelier. It can also, especially when melting, which it tends to do fairly promptly, become so slippery that sometimes you can't even stand upright. In times of desperation, go for the lawns; you will tend to break through the ice crust there, and can get more traction. Also a lawn is softer to fall on.

A silver thaw increases the weight of every branch, every twig, every powerline. I have been hearing branches coming down, and am not sure our power will last the night. Not a big deal if it doesn't; we have camping equipment if necessary. But in that case I may be cut off from the internet for a few days.

Stay safe and warm, people.

Feb. 11th, 2015


Just stuff.

I wrote two more songs yesterday, bringing me to a total of four for the month. Unfortunately that means I am behind and also I don't have any of them really in singable form yet, though "Sad Puppies" comes closest.

I worked out today and I just didn't feel as strong as usual. And now I feel all tired and stuff. Going to bed early will probably cure that.

I did Dutch basically all morning, first translating 3 1/2 pages of Uncle Piet's book, then reading it with Dad, then going over The Boy In Striped Pajamas (in English) with my cousin's daughter Maaike, who is Dutch and is studying English in school. As part of that I tried to translate about two paragraphs into Dutch. It was *hard* and Maaike had to help me a lot. But I think it is good practice, and hope to continue doing it. But my brain felt tired afterwards.

I am thinking about going to bed early tonight.

Feb. 10th, 2015


Amazing Web Comic

So asg_qa_s7 introduced me to Stand Still Stay Silent, and I have been reading it two hours past my bedtime and am finally tearing myself away. It is a post-apocalypse story set in and around Denmark. It's... mostly about a team of explorers that get sent out into the ruined areas that are not safe for humans, looking for pre-apocalypse tech and especially books (though they're going to smuggle the books back into civilization and sell them on the side.)

I'm really enjoying this story. As in I should have gone to bed two hours ago.

Post-apocalypse, with beautiful and goofy nordic protagonists, and grade A military cats! Check it out!

Feb. 4th, 2015


Doing better

I am still getting better form being sick in December. I lost a lot of strength--I suspect partly to lying around limply for a month, and possibly also partly because weakness is a symptom of high thyroid. And the bounce in my step was gone. (I normally bounce rather a lot when I walk; people have been known to tease me about it. One of the first signs that something is wrong is that I lose my bounce. This happens even before I start walking more slowly.) And even when I was back up to doing my full walk my feet hurt rather a lot. And my bad knee hurt too, which wasn't the case before I got sick. That was surprising because any reasonable person would think that losing fifteen pounds would make them hurt less, rather than more.

So to get my strength back I started going to the gym. I would ride the recumbent bike for half an hour for cardio and to warm up, and then lift weights. Now it has been easily two or three years since I seriously lifted weights, and I had to start *much lighter* than I remembered. But I included in my routine the balancing-on-one-foot exercises I used to recover from knee surgery and later back surgery. Balancing on one foot works muscles all the way from the bottom of your feet to the top of your spine.

And boy did it make my feet tired. They work like crazy to keep my center of mass over my single foot toward the end of the minute balancing.

I also included some of my other back exercises while I was at it, because I do my weight-lifting exercises in twos to save time. So I'll do one set of bench presses, then a set of squats, then a set of bench presses, then a set of squats, instead of sitting around between sets of bench presses. I needed some non-arm exercises to fill in, and the back exercises fit the bill.

But I have been able to increase my weights twice, I *think* I am holding steady at my new weight, my back doesn't hurt in the mornings and I've been able to cut my acetominophen in half. The bounce in my step is back at least part of the time, and my feet don't hurt when I go for my walk. Go me!

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