"Home away from home"

Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:07 am
rosefox: A bearded man in a yarmulke shouting L'CHAIM! (Judaism)
[personal profile] rosefox
Selichot )

Rosh Hashanah )

It's genuinely disorienting to encounter all these spaces where I don't have to educate anyone or fight to be seen for who I am. Other people have already done that work, and leaders have clearly been receptive to it. (Rabbi Lippman is queer, but I don't assume that cis queer people will be welcoming to or understanding of trans people, especially nonbinary trans people.) I get to just show up and be a human being in human community. What an immense privilege. What a gift. Honestly, that might be the thing that gets me to stick with this—just the pure pleasure of being in a place where I didn't personally have to claw out a space for myself.

Josh met me and Kit in the park and we walked for a while (GMaps Pedometer says I walked 3.2 miles today, most of it pushing a heavy stroller with a heavy toddler; my feet and arms are very tired). I teased him that he should be glad I didn't make him meet the rabbi. But this is my thing, really. Maybe it's my latest three-month hobby. Maybe it'll be more than that. We'll see.

Bigotry and Pen Pals

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:48 am
lydamorehouse: (yaoi)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
I have written here, in the past, about how I have suspected that some of my International Pen Friends, who have sent me "rejection" letters, after a few back-and-forths, might have done so because I chose to come out to them as a lesbian. I have no ACTUAL proof, of course.  No one has ever written to say, "I'm sorry I can't write to you any more; you are a disgusting queer."  Mostly, they say, "Oh, jeez, look at the time. I committed to writing to you, but suddenly I can't because.... uh, BUSY.  HONEST." Yet, these letters (I've gotten two) would IMMEDIATELY follow my telling them that, yeah, actually "Shawn" is a lady, and my wife.

Now, I should be clear, I've had a number of success stories. My pen pal in Netherlands who loves "F.R.I.E.N.D.S." has a lesbian daughter, so coming out to her was a no-brainer. Both of my Australians could care less. Another one of my German pen friends is clearly a LITTLE prickly about it, but my sense is she's kind of prickly about a LOT of things. :-)

But, here's a new piece in the puzzle of "What is up with the conservative streak in pen friends?"  

A couple of entries ago, I explained FBs (Friend Books).  Several days ago a random person in Maryland who found my name on a FB, sent me a pile of them.  Most of them were half-way full and this Maryland correspondent had included her name in all of them, like you do.  However.  One of them was from that someone I shall call "Cass," who started one for herself.  She had a long entry on her front cover about the various things she was interested in and things she'd be willing to swap, all very typical stuff.  Then she adds, "I am bi, open-minded pen pals only, please." 

No one had added their name.

Not one soul.

Not even the person who sent it to me, who had put her name in literally every other FB.

Despite a plea from Cass that the FB be "passed quickly." 

I know I live in the era of Trump, when people boldly and proudly wear their bigotry on their sleeves. Yet, pen palling, by its nature, seemed to me to be the sort of hobby that would naturally attract people who were interested in other people. It's a hobby that requires you to talk to strangers. The entire POINT of pen friends is to reach out, sometimes across international borders, with a hand out in friendship.  

Of course I wrote to Cass. I sent her a picture of my family, a short introductory note that suggested that we could be pals, and sent her a pile of FBs to "swap," hoping that somewhere in all of them, she would find someone else who would write back.  I added my name to the FB that she started and sent it on to a friend who I know is open-minded, even though she isn't part of the pen palling community.  

But, I don't entirely understand it.  I mean, yes, pen palling is an old-fashioned kind of hobby. I guess maybe that 'old-fashionedness' lends itself to certain stereotype of a stay-at-home mom, who is lonely... but I still don't see how that lends itself to "eew, gay!" Also what are these people worried about? That we're going to write long letters detailing our sex lives?  No, I'm just as boring a pen pal as anyone else. I talk about my failed garden projects and my cats.  Do you suppose other pen pals are worried about being hit on?  Even though I explain I am MARRIED with kids.

It's weird and baffling, and it makes me sad.

(no subject)

Sep. 20th, 2017 04:31 pm
ada_hoffmann: picture of the robots R2D2 and C3P0 from Star Wars (neutral - droids)
[personal profile] ada_hoffmann
Late, and short - the last month or so seems to have gotten away from me, as months often do - but here are my favorite short works that I read over the summer.

Caroline M. Yoachim, "Carnival Nine" (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #228, May 11). A story about a world of wind-up toys who only have a certain number of "turns" per day. The metaphor for disability is so apt that at first it almost feels too on-the-nose, but by the time the story settles into the complexities and difficulties of its characters' adult lives, it's become compelling and really good.

Maddie Phelps, "Ocean Heart" (Strange Horizons, July 3). I have trouble expressing what I think about this one - a poem about boundaries and pressure, about choosing what we make of ourselves, about knowing one's own depths. It's good.

JY Yang, "Waiting on a Bright Moon" (Novelette, Tor.com, July 12). Gorgeous and vicious, this is the story of a rebellion against a space-empire that turns queer women into magical transportation devices. There is magical singing, and space wizards, and characters in desparate circumstances finding love where they can. (And - be warned - the most grisly execution scene I've read in a while.) A story of the risks people take and the meaning they find for themselves in the face of intense oppression.

What are You Reading Wednesday?

Sep. 20th, 2017 08:44 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
 Did I read anything this week?  I'm actually not sure. I _do_ have a pile of things that I'm planning on reading, however.  Does that count?

What did I do INSTEAD of reading? I wish I knew. Part of this, I think, is getting back into the "Back to School" mode.  Mason was sick with a cold late last week (he missed school on Friday), and then Shawn promptly caught it.  So I've been doing a lot of nursemaiding.  

Ugh. Work just called. They wanted me to go into New Brighton's' branch tonight and work 5 to 8.  I probably should have said yes, but I work both tomorrow and Friday.  

Also? It's MasterChef's finale tonight.

I know this sounds stupid, but ever since Mason was very small we have, as a family, been fans of MasterChef.  It's the one network TV show we actually tune in for.  All three of us gather in the TV room upstairs and adjust the rabbit ears so that we can watch the show.  It's not even all that great. Most people would probably prefer The Great British Baking Show or Iron Chef.  Not us. We're faithful to Gordon Ramsey and his disappointed looks and rants about things that are "rawr." 

For once, too, the contestants left standing at the end are all weirdos.  There's one white guy, but he's fully tattooed, bleach blond, and heroin-addict skinny... and a super-odd, with very Italian-American from Brooklyn accent.  Currently, I'm rooting for Jason, an Asian-American guy who comes with a male partner, kind of BECAUSE he's gay (though he is one of the most cheerful people they've had on).  The other contestant is Eboni, a black woman from Chicago.  We like them all.  This is one of the few times where we won't be disappointed with whoever wins.

Skipping work for TV, though?  Probably I'm going to hell.

More on the iOS 11 update

Sep. 20th, 2017 06:26 am
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
I learned last night that apparently my iPad can take the update, so apparently it is an iPad Mini 2. So that's cool. And I may go ahead and risk upgrading my phone. I'm pushing my departure back to Thursday from Wednesday: I didn't get everything done that I needed to do, including reviewing five long boxes of comics in case there's anything that I want to keep (possible but not very likely), and the difficulty of loading my car since I recovered four banker boxes of comics from my storage unit yesterday afternoon. I'm not sure if it's all of my comics, I know there's three or more long boxes at my parent's that I'll deal with when I get there, but that'll be a vast bulk of them and a lot of space recovered.

On top of that, only 3 hours of sleep last night. AND one of the nose pads fell out of my reading glasses. Found the nose pad, fortunately I have a spare screw from a previous broken set of reading glasses.

I forgot to mention a new feature of iOS 11 that should be interesting: you have a Do Not Disturb mode for driving: anyone texting you receives an autoreply saying that you're driving and will get back to them later. I like that. Definitely appealing when you're about to set out on a 500 mile drive. I'm doing a different outbound route that a friend says is much more picturesque, so we'll see. It's also rather cellular dead, which causes me a slight amount of apprehension. Just need to fuel up and hit the restroom before hitting that 200 mile stretch.
jemck: rune logo from The Thief's Gamble (Default)
[personal profile] jemck


As someone who’s been reading SF for over forty years now, I’m fascinated by the different ways life on Mars has been portrayed over the decades. My earliest encounters were through books like Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet, H.G Wells’s The War of the Worlds, and in my early teens, C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet. Alongside such fiction, I remember reading about Mariner 4 in my grandfather’s National Geographic magazines. So I already knew that real scientific discoveries meant these enthralling stories were impossible. That didn’t matter. Mars fascinated me.

That’s still true today, as books on my shelves by Alastair Reynolds, Andy Weir and James Corey attest. The film of The Martian and the TV adaptation of The Expanse series are merely the latest depictions of Mars that I’ve enjoyed on screen, from Flash Gordon through Doctor Who to Babylon 5. I’m still reading National Geographic, and any articles I see elsewhere discussing the real practicalities of sustaining human life on our near neighbour. Then there’s the ongoing exploration of Mars by the Opportunity rover. Go robots!

So now I want to write my own story set on Mars. It’s the ideal setting for me to explore a notion that’s been coming together in my imagination thanks to several recent popular-science articles that I’ve read. The last piece I needed was the invitation to write a new story featuring the Ur Bar, the eternal, time-travelling tavern from the ZNB anthology ‘After Hours’.

So now all I need is this year’s ZNB anthologies Kickstarter to fund. At the time of writing, we’ve got a week to go, and we’re just over two-thirds funded, so there’s $6333 still needed. Do take a look, if you haven’t done so already, and flag the project up to friends who might be interested. There are three anthologies to choose from, and to consider submitting something to, if you’re a writer yourself. You can get involved for as little as $7.

If you’re really keen, there’s a tuckerisation up for grabs. Do you fancy giving your own, or someone else’s, name to my story’s protagonist?

thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
Maybe that was midnight Cupertino time, I don't know. Regardless, both of our iPads are too old, as is my wife's iPhone 4S. That leaves my iPhone 6 as the only device that can run it, and since I'm about to head for Phoenix and I won't have my iMac with me for a system restore should something glitch, I think I'll hold off a bit. For that matter, the new MacOS is supposed to drop in a couple of days, and I won't be upgrading to that until I get back from Phoenix, so I'll probably just do a device upgrade frenzy when I get back.

Some of the features in iOS 11 are pretty cool. I like the 'press the power key 5 times to disable the fingerprint reader', definitely cool. It doesn't materially affect me as I don't use the fingerprint reader to unlock my phone, but that's OK. And they've apparently made the reverse video mode more intelligent for not reversing images, which is good. I really wish they had an override for web pages and such so you could force white letters on black background, for example. That's what I love about Ars Technica and hate about most others, I find white on black to be much easier on my eyes.

But I DO NOT like updating my phone apps over WiFi (as I wrote about last week), I thought loading apps through iTunes was easy and one-stop syncing. They've just increased the hassle and it's likely to increase the time between me doing updates from daily to weekly or monthly or whenever. Which increases potential security vulnerabilities, which ticks me off. iTunes should be a framework that supports plug-ins, then all they'd have to do is write a plug-in that reads the app store for just iPhone/iPad/Watch apps, and re-casts them in to the iTunes framework. It's still just one app store, it just looks like two.

Twits.

GET OFF MY LAWN! Kids these days.

(In a totally unrelated incident, I got "Sir'd" last week! I was sitting in a barber shop waiting for my guy to finish with his current client, and the other guys started talking about horror movies. I'm not a big horror movie fan, so I didn't participate until later. Now, this barber shop is an actual barber shop, not a hair salon, run by 30-somethings with tattoos up to their necks and possibly beyond, smoking their e-cigs and playing that reissued Nintendo Classic that came out last year when they're slow. I don't really care. So what if they're young. I piped up about some movie, I don't remember what, throwing in my $0.002 worth, and this one barber later comes over and apologizes, saying that he didn't know that he had an older gentleman in the shop and they wouldn't have been talking like that if they'd known! Yes, dude, I'm 55, and some day you'll be there, too, if you're lucky. Maybe I'm moving towards the far side of middle-age, but trust me, though I am growing older I definitely have not remotely grown up. In my headspace I'm still a 30-something, though my body constantly reminds me that I am not. I laughed at him, reassured him that I was not offended, then told them a pretty grizzly story about a quietly spectacular suicide that happened while I was working for the police department. The crime lab was in the basement as was computer services, and the car that this guy offed himself in was so pungent that finally I told my boss that I'm taking off for the day. The fire department later used that car as burn practice.

I'll go in to no further details, unless people want it, in which case I'll put it in a new post under a cut.)
pameladean: (Default)
[personal profile] pameladean

This is very long and detailed, so I’m going to try to put in a cut tag.

All right, I can't get that to work, not if it was ever so. I'm sorry.

 

On Tuesday Raphael and I went to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. The forecast was for a sunny, almost windless day with a high of 87. The air quality was moderate. I complained about this the day before and Raphael asked if I'd prefer not to go. But Sherburne is actually a good place to go on a less than perfect day, because there's a seven-mile wildlife drive with stopping points for viewing whoever happens to be around; also a tiny oak savanna (1/10-mile loop) trail and a prairie trail with an oak grove in the middle with a bench (1/2-mile loop). And it's September; hiking season will be over at some point.

We got a late start but arrived with about five hours of daylight ahead of us. Sherburne is near Sand Dunes National Forest, and its soil is also sandy. It's a lightly rolling landscape full of marshes, pools, and prairie, broken by lines and clumps of trees. You drive through a short stretch of mature restored prairie to reach the actual wildlife drive. It was awash in blooming goldenrod and blue and white asters and rich brown grasses.

 We stopped at the Oak Savanna Trail and had a sandwich, read the list of plants presently blooming (six kinds of goldenrod, four kinds of white aster, two kinds of blue aster, rough blazing star, and boneset) and then walked out on the tiny boardwalk. We examined what looked like an abandoned bald eagle's nest through one of the spotting scopes provided, and then started looking at spreadwings (yet another kind of damselfly) in the tall grass that the boardwalk runs through.

 Here is an image of a spreadwing that one might see in Minnesota, though I don’t know if that’s what we did see.

 http://museum.unl.edu/research/entomology/Odonata/lere.html

 A flicker of motion in the distance caught my attention, and I looked up to see three sandhill cranes landing across the prairie near the road we'd come on. "A family," said Raphael, looking through the binoculars. "See the juvenile?" I did see the juvenile, which did not have all its red in yet but was almost as large as its parents. The cranes started walking through the grass, not unlike herons stalking through shallow water; occasionally they would bend their long necks down and poke around in the grass roots, and occasionally one of them would make a sharp dart and come up with food and swallow it.

It was hard to decide whether the cranes were more awesome through binoculars or just as tall shapes against the pale road and prairie, bending and straightening, wandering apart and together again. If you didn't look through binoculars you could also see meadowhawks darting around, the spreadwings rising to catch tiny insects and settling again to eat them, the unexpected wind shaking the oak leaves and the grass and the asters. From time to time a darner moved across the larger prairie, veering after prey or just powering along.

At last a truck came fairly fast along the road, raising a cloud of dust, and the cranes paused, considered, opened their huge wings and rose up, gawky but graceful, and flew away low over the grasses. We went back to looking at smaller wildlife

I was trying to spot a spreadwing through the binoculars when I saw what looked like an animated tangle of brown grass. I said to Raphael, “There’s some kind of mantis there!” and when Raphael expressed astonishment, I added, “It’s very stick-y,” which allowed Raphael to come up with the actual name: It was a stick insect. It took a few moments for me to describe its location and for Raphael to see it, and then I had trouble finding it again through the binoculars, but it was busy clambering around against the wind, so we did both get a good look at it. It was only the second stick insect I’d seen in Minnesota. The other was at Wild River State Park. That one was much larger and was rummaging around in a pile of leaves at the edge of the parking lot. This one was fascinating because its camouflage was so great, and yet it did have to move around, so you could differentiate it from the grass if you worked at it.

We’d arrived in the deep of the afternoon when smaller birds are quiet. We heard a few goldfinches murmuring, and a phoebe carrying on, and a chickadee. We left the boardwalk, admiring the asters waving in the non-foreseen but welcome breeze, and walked around the oak savanna loop. The little oak saplings tangled among the other shrubbery were already starting to turn red. White asters poked their flowerheads through leaves belonging to other plants, to startling effect. Autumn meadowhawks floated and hovered and darted, snatching up gnats from the clouds around them. We had seen a monarch butterfly in the asters while we were eating our lunch, and also a dark-phase swallowtail wandering over the grass; now we saw a painted lady butterfly.

We made an attempt to leave, but a darner landed on a drooping dead branch of an oak tree right in front of the car. The sun was behind it and we couldn’t get a good look without tramping heedlessly into the prairie, so we didn’t, but its silhouette was lovely against the brilliant sky.

 We drove on, past tall browning and reddening grasses, clumps of goldenrod, clouds of asters. Darners flew up from the sides of the road and zoomed away. We found at the turning that the refuge had reversed the direction of the wildlife drive since we were there last, which was momentarily confusing; but we found our way, and stopped at the Prairie Trail. I pointed out some thoroughly spent plants of spotted horsemint. We’d seen it in bloom, if you can call it that, at William O’Brien. It’s a very weird-looking plant. Here’s a photo:

 https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/spotted-horsemint

 This observation continued my inability to accurately provide the names of things; I’d just called it horsemint and Raphael reminded me that that particular weird plant was spotted horsemint. There are other horsemints, but they don’t look so strange. As we stood looking over the rise and fall of the little prairie, with folds of alder and sumac, and lines and whorls of different grasses and goldenrod, all truly starred with the blue and white asters, I said that I loved how big the sky was at Sherburne. Raphael noted that it was a slate-blue just now; we assumed that was the haze of the wildfire smoke all the way from the west coast, a somber reminder of far too many things.

 We took the grassy path, startling small grasshoppers out of our way and stirring up meadowhawks from the tall plants and shrubs. We saw a monarch; we saw a painted lady. Passing through a little grove of young alders, on almost every tip of the dead trees intermingled with the living there was a meadowhawk perched. They swept upwards, snatched a gnat or fly, landed to eat again. Raphael showed me how to identify a female autumn meadowhawk: they have a definite bulge just below the thorax, which was easy to see against the sky. Darners zipped past from time to time. If it was a green darner we could usually tell even from just a glance. The others were mosaic darners, but harder to identify in passing.

 I think it was as we approached the oak grove that we started seriously trying to identify the grasses. We’d known big bluestem, aka turkey-tail, for years. After seeing it labelled repeatedly here and there, I could pick out the charming clumps of little bluestem, just knee-high, with their pale fluffy flowers lined up and catching the light. We’d looked at an informational sign at the trailhead, but its drawings of Indian grass and switch grass didn’t look right. Raphael pulled up the photo of the sign about grasses at the visitor center at Wild River, which had struck both of us at the time as much more informative than other attempts to depict native grasses; and we could suddenly identify Indian grass after all. It has a long, narrow rich brown seed head with varying degrees of spikiness; some are quite streamlined and others are tufty and look as if they need combing. And we felt more confident about the switch grass with its airy spreading seed heads.

 Raphael pointed out a beetle on the path, maybe a Virginia leatherwing, and then realized that it looked like a moth. A little research when we reached the oak grove and sat down showed that it was a net-winged beetle, and the entry even mentioned that it looked quite a bit like a leatherwing.

 The bench we were sitting on was made from boards of recycled plastic. At some point Raphael had had enough sitting and went ahead a little way just to see what was there. I’d noticed when I sat down that there were verses from the Bible printed on the back of the bench in some kind of marker. On the left was the passage from Matthew that begins, “Come unto me you who are weary and heavy-laden,” and on the right the passage from John that begins, “For God so loved the world.” These might have been written in different hands. But the passage in the middle was definitely in a different hand, and began, “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine.” The ending of the passage was a bit smeared and I couldn’t read all of it, but at the bottom the name “hunter s. thompson” was clear enough. I followed Raphael and relayed the beginning of the passage. “Hunter s. thompson!” said Raphael, going back to the bench with me. “It’s from <i>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</i>.” Raphael looked this up too, and showed me the unsmeared passage on the cellphone.

 Giggling a bit, we went on our way. We were now well around the loop and into the straight stretch back to the car. From the other side I’d pointed out a lovely layering of grasses, goldenrod, a narrow cleft of willow scrub, and a candy-red line of sumac. Now we came to the sumac from the other side. On the path in front of us was a butterfly. “What is that?” said Raphael. “It’s a Red Admiral,” I said confidently, but it wasn’t. It was another Painted Lady. Raphael consolingly told me that they were both Vanessa, very closely related, but the Red Admiral is very common in Minnesota and I was chagrined that I’d misidentified something else as that.

 We came to a little stretch of boardwalk over a marshy area. On a shrub was a shimmery amber-tinged odonate. I pointed it out to Raphael. It turned out to be another autumn meadowhawk, though it looked as if it ought to be an Eastern Amberwing, or at least a Band-Winged Meadowhawk. It had perched on a bit of red-stemmed dogwood, just to be extra-cooperative. We went on through the cattails and willow, past a minute patch of open water and up onto the grassy path again. Raphael pointed out that where the path climbed back out of the tiny marsh there was a nice view over the rest of the open water and the winding marsh with more willow, and cattails, and a shrub we should have known but didn’t. (I briefly misidentified it as more red-stemmed dogwood, because it was my day to misidentify everything; but it had deep purple stems and leaves just starting to turn reddish.)

 On our right for the end of our walk was the brilliant sumac and the cleft of alder saplings, all their leaves fluttering and twinkling in the wind and sunlight; on the left a long slope of prairie grasses interrupted by goldenrod and asters. More darners sailed by. The sky had lost its smoky cast and was a fine late-summer deep blue. We came back to the car and Raphael began to drive away, but I exclaimed at the sight of a big clump of stiff goldenrod covered with pollinators. We didn’t get out, but looked our fill from the car. Big bumblebees, a Ctenucha moth, beetles, ambush bugs. Once Raphael started reading it, I had to edit this entry to correct the Ctenucha moth's name and type, so have another link, since they are very handsome:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ctenucha_virginica
 
There’s one more trail you can actually walk along, near the end of the wildlife drive, but there was a sign at the beginning saying that it was flooded. Before that we drove past long stretches of marsh, open water, and rolling prairie, all patched with clumps of trees. From time to time there would be a wider spot in the road, sometimes a formal space big enough for three or four cars, with a bench or two, or a platform over a low spot with spotting scopes and some informational signs about the wildlife; others just a metal platform with railings, where you could stand and look over the water. We tentatively identified the spot where we’d once common moorhens, which are not so common that we weren’t deeply excited. We’ve also seen muskrats and various ducks in these locations, and once there was a gigantic cloud of mosaic darners all brown and yellow – I seem to recall that some of them were lance-tipped darners, but I may be wrong. This time we heard water birds making a ruckus, but couldn’t see them. Darners came by in about the density that they had been all the while. Over one platform we saw what turned out to be a northern harrier; these guys have an amazing acrobatic flight, and they’re reddish on the underside and bluish on the back. I excitedly called this one a kestrel, which would be smaller and have the colors reversed: bluish on the underside and red on the back. We also very clearly saw a nighthawk with its white wing bars, though the sun was still up.

 We also saw some cedar waxwings fly-catching from a tree with a dead top, and heard a yellow warbler.

 At last we came to a stretch of water, islands, and snags so large that it had two separate viewing-spots. From the first we saw several groups of large white birds. I thought the first were swans, but they were white pelicans. There were also some swans, however. We came finally around a curve of the gravel road to an observation station in a little oak grove, overlooking the far side of this large sheet of water. This is where most of the dead trees are, and here, to our delight, we saw as we’ve seen before several times a very large number of cormorants. The sun was setting by then, off to our right. The sky was pink and the water reflected it. Many cormorants were roosting already, but some were still coming out of the water; they would land on a branch, sometimes settling and sometimes glancing off several different trees before finding one that suited them, or one in which the other cormorants accepted them. It was hard to be sure. Then they would spread their wings out to dry, looking as if they were practicing to be bats for Halloween.

 We found the swans and pelicans we’d seen from the other viewing station, though it was getting pretty dark by then. Cormorants still flew up into the trees and spread their wings. Through binoculars you could see the ones that had folded their wings now preening their breast feathers. Some of them had pale necks and brown fronts rather than being entirely black. I mentioned this to Raphael, who looked it up in Sibley and confirmed that those were juvenile cormorants.

 It was getting quite dark by then and the mosquitoes were starting to think about biting us in earnest. We drove past two more pools; beside one two groups of people we’d seen pass earlier, a third car I didn’t recognize from before, and a man using a wheelchair were standing and gesticulating. We pulled up and got out. The water and trees were lovely in the twilight, but we didn’t see any wildlife. The solitary man went away in his wheelchair, the unfamiliar car left, and we followed, watching the varied texture of the grass and flowers fade away into the dark.

 

Pamela

The Secret Subculture of Pen Pals

Sep. 19th, 2017 05:46 pm
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
Today, in the mail, I got a thick envelope from someone I didn't know in Revere, MA. Most of my pen pals from the International Pen Friends (IPF) are, well, international... so I was curious what this thick envelope might contain. I opened it up and out came a veritable ton of what are called "Friendship Books" (FBs.)

I couldn't figure out how I'd been gifted with this "bounty," until I discovered that one of the FBs was started for me, by one of my German pen pals.

Friendship Books are hard to explain. Wikipedia has an article about them, but it doesn't entirely do them justice. The ones I've seen are small, a quarter of a sheet of paper in size. They're handmade, often very crudely--nothing more than colored paper, side-stapled together.  On the front is a person's name and address.  This little booklet is then sent on to pen pals, each of them writing their name and address in it, and passing it along to one of THEIR pen pals, almost like a chain letter, except the idea is to fill the booklet up with people interested in receiving new pen pals. Once the book is filled, it's sent back to the person whose name is on the front/top.

EXCEPT.

There's all these unspoken rules.  Sometimes people send FBs just to see how far they'll go around the world before they come back, so, if you're using the FB to find more pen pals, you have to examine each entry carefully. Some people will just sign their name and something like, "Waving from Cleveland Ohio, and passing on!" 

There are all these codes involved: SNNP (Sorry No New Pen Pals) or NPW (New Pen Pals Wanted) or LLW (Long Letter Writer) or AS (Answers Some), as opposed to AA (Answers All).  They will often include date of birth, because a lot of pen pal seekers want to converse only with people their age. They'll also list the languages they're comfortable writing in--which has been frustrating for me. I've been trying to land a Japanese pen pal, but the ONE I spotted in a FB only wanted pen pals in Korean.  (You may be scratching your head, but international pen pals often use correspondence as a way to practice/keep up on their English/foreign language skills.)  I also actually saw someone who listed, and I kid you not, Esperanto as one of the languages they'd correspond in.  People will include lists of interests: puppies! Unicorns! Heavy Metal music! (or, another one I saw from a different Japanese FBer "I love Jesus!")

But, so I got this huge pile and for the first time went through several of them looking for the words "FB and slam swappers needed" which meant that they were willing to accept FBs, because, honestly, I kind of hate the pressure of having a bunch laying around that I haven't sent out yet.  This is the other way in which these remind me of chain letters, honestly. I have this weird sense of "AH, I should do something with this immediately!"  Anyway, I managed to unload a bunch of them that way.

I have to admit to enjoying reading through these things, strange as they are.  When I was showing these to my friend Naomi today, I read one of the longer ones in which this person wanted to swap: "FBs, postcards, teabags, magnets, bookmarks, pocket letters, ATC, flip books, washi." And, suddenly we were like, "What are pocket letters??"

So we Googled it and found that pocket letters are a crafter's answer to pen palling. You thought this was about writing to people? NOPE. This is a f*cking art form!  Pocket letters are where you fill up a nine-pocket trading card protector with cute things, like stickers, tea bags, pictures, or whatever you like and then send them to someone who will send something similar to you. You collect them in a three-ring binder, kind of like scrapbooking for strangers.

It seems kind of cool.  I may have to try it.

I feel like if I go deep enough into this pen palling culture, I'll be ready to write an exposé for Vanity Fair or Teen Vogue.
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
Apparently. In March they brought in the company that is investigating the May-July breech. These seem to be the same intruders.

From Slashdot:
Equifax Suffered a Hack Almost Five Months Earlier Than the Date It Disclosed (bloomberg.com)
Posted by BeauHD on Monday September 18, 2017 @05:20PM from the earlier-than-expected dept.
Bloomberg is reporting that Equifax, the credit reporting company that recently reported a cybersecurity incident impacting roughly 143 million U.S. consumers, learned about a breach of its computer systems in March -- almost five months before the date it has publicly disclosed. The company said the March breach was unrelated to the recent hack involving millions of U.S. consumers, but one of the people familiar with the situation said the breaches involve the same intruders. From the report:

Equifax hired the security firm Mandiant on both occasions and may have believed it had the initial breach under control, only to have to bring the investigators back when it detected suspicious activity again on July 29, two of the people said. Equifax's hiring of Mandiant the first time was unrelated to the July 29 incident, the company spokesperson said. The revelation of a March breach will complicate the company's efforts to explain a series of unusual stock sales by Equifax executives. If it's shown that those executives did so with the knowledge that either or both breaches could damage the company, they could be vulnerable to charges of insider trading. The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the stock sales, according to people familiar with the probe.

In early March, they said, Equifax began notifying a small number of outsiders and banking customers that it had suffered a breach and was bringing in a security firm to help investigate. The company's outside counsel, Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding, first engaged Mandiant at about that time. While it's not clear how long the Mandiant and Equifax security teams conducted that probe, one person said there are indications it began to wrap up in May. Equifax has yet to disclose that March breach to the public.


https://it.slashdot.org/story/17/09/18/230234/equifax-suffered-a-hack-almost-five-months-earlier-than-the-date-it-disclosed

The Bloomberg original story has auto-start videos.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-18/equifax-is-said-to-suffer-a-hack-earlier-than-the-date-disclosed

BookFest St Louis–this weekend!

Sep. 19th, 2017 08:04 am
ann_leckie: (AJ)
[personal profile] ann_leckie

So, here I am in St Louis and if you saw yesterday’s blog post you might have noticed there are no St Louis dates on the tour.

BUT.

Thanks to Left Bank Books, there’ll be an event in the Central West End called BookFest St. Louis. There will be lots of writers there, and the vast majority of panels and whatnot are free! (I think there are, like, two exceptions.)

There’s going to be a Science Fiction panel at 5pm on Saturday, September 23, with Charlie Jane Anders, Annalee Newitz, Mark Tiedemann….and me!

If you are in St Louis this weekend, come to BookFest! Left Bank Books is a lovely store with a very nice SF section and worth visiting on its own, but just look at all the folks who are going to be here! Do come to the CWE this weekend if you can!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

Provenance Tour

Sep. 18th, 2017 03:30 pm
ann_leckie: (AJ)
[personal profile] ann_leckie

So, starting next week I’ll be traveling! And here’s where I’ll be:

Tuesday September 26

Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA at 7 PM
(With Spencer Ellsworth, author of A Red Peace)
17171 Bothell Way NE, #A101
Lake Forest Park WA 98155


Wednesday September 27

Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA at 7:30 PM
5943 Balboa Ave. Suite #100
San Diego, CA 92111
858.268.4747


Thursday September 28

Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA at 7 PM
1520 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831-423-0900


Friday September 29

Borderlands Books, San Francisco, CA at 6 PM
866 Valencia St.
San Francisco CA 94110
415.824.8203


Saturday September 30

Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO at 7 PM
2526 East Colfax Avenue
Denver CO 80206
303-322-7727


Sunday October 1

BookPeople, Austin TX at 5pm
603 N. Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78703
512-472-5050


Monday October 2

Uncle Hugo’s, Minneapolis MN at 4pm.
2864 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407


Tuesday October 3

A Room of One’s Own, Madison WI at 6pm
315 W. Gorham St.
Madison, WI 53703
608.257.7888


Wednesday October 4

Joseph-Beth, Lexington KY at 7pm
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
161 Lexington Green Circle
Lexington, KY 40503
(859) 273-2911


Thursday October 5

Pandemonium Books and Games at 7pm
4 Pleasant Street
Cambridge MA 02139
Phone: 617-547-3721


Saturday October 7

New York ComicCon

Autographing at 4:00 (Autographing Table 24)
The New Classics of SF (With N.K. Jemisin) in 1A18 at 5:15


I’m looking forward to seeing everyone! Come say hi if you can!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

Announcing MONSTERS IN MY MIND

Sep. 18th, 2017 03:35 pm
ada_hoffmann: photo of me out in the snow wearing a heavy coat and laughing (Default)
[personal profile] ada_hoffmann
 I've kept this under wraps a little too long, but it's definitely happening.

In mid-October I will be launching my debut collection, MONSTERS IN MY MIND, with NeuroQueer Books.

This will be my first book-length published work. (My agent assures me that, for the purposes of publishing novels, my first novel will still be considered a debut work. I made this deal before I signed with her.) It will contain dozens of the short stories, flash stories, and poems that I've published since I first began to write for publication, as well as four new full-length short stories, one very scary new microfic. and six new poems.

NeuroQueer Books is a very small outfit, but there are some very good people there who really "get" me as an author. MONSTERS IN MY MIND is, accordingly, a small project - I have no illusions that it will make me wealthy, etc - but one with a lot of love in it, and one that I am tremendously excited to be about to share with my friends and fans.

There will be a book launch party during Can*Con 2017 in Ottawa - exact time TBD as Can*Con finalizes their schedule - with a reading, delicious baked goods, and some awesome monster-plushie and stim-toy door prizes, so if you are in the area or were considering going there for Can*Con already, please do stop by.

The launch date is only a month away, and so very soon you will be seeing more on this topic, including a TOC reveal, a cover reveal, more about the launch party, notes on the stories and poems in the collection, as well as a song pairing for (at least) each full-length story. When pre-order and/or plain normal order options are available, I'll be posting here about that as well.

Random Monday Writing Thinks

Sep. 18th, 2017 07:47 am
lagilman: coffee or die (Default)
[personal profile] lagilman

One of the interesting joys of the current story-series is that I'm NOT writing a broken or restricted character - I'm writing a character who has gotten his shit together & is taking on a new, out-of-comfort-zone challenge because he chooses to.

Because the story doesn't end when the broken bits of a POV character are repaired/justified.  Interesting stuff happens after, too. And we don't have to break them a second or third time to make it interesting.

Kintsugi is about the repaired form as a whole, not just the golden seams.

This post possibly brought to you by reading too damn many "hero/ine is broken in order to BE the hero/ine" story.  Which are good and necessary stories, but not the only ones we should be telling.

How Best to Buy Provenance

Sep. 16th, 2017 03:48 pm
ann_leckie: (AJ)
[personal profile] ann_leckie

Hey, Provenance is officially out and for sale less than two weeks from now! I don’t know about you, but I’m excited!

And I’m starting to get folks asking me how they can buy the book in a way that will be of most benefit to me. And just like last time, when Ancillary Mercy came out, the answer is “whatever way works best for you.” Seriously. It’s all good, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll be posting details of my various tour stops soon–I’m looking forward to seeing everyone!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
A proof of concept of this was revealed some months ago when a Burger King TV commercial said "Siri, tell me about the Whopper". Maybe it was Hey Google, I don't remember. Anyway, it was rapidly blocked, then BK came out with another commercial and they had a little war back and forth. And BBC apparently tries it with "Hey Siri, remind me to watch Doctor Who on BBC America." I was particularly amused at "Hey Siri, remind me to watch Broadchurch on BBC America" during the final episode of the series. I burst out laughing when that ad aired and had to explain it to the spousal unit. And as Sam Clemens said, or is alleged to have said, 'Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog: you can do it, but the frog isn't good for much afterwards.'

Well, the Chinese have found another way: pitch the audio above the range of human hearing. The microphones can still catch it, and the command works. Now, I don't have voice-activated Siri on my iPhone, I have to hold down the button because I find that, for me, for the most part Siri is garbage. I don't think it's my enunciation, but maybe it is.

Makes me wonder if they'll put in a filter to cap mic input to 18-20 kHz or so to prevent this sort of abuse.

I read about this last week, perhaps on the day that I went down to help out that medical practice with their ransomware attack. The clinic was handling their last patients of the day, and the office manager was running the front desk, and was using his iPhone with Siri voice commands. He looked a little shocked when I told him about this attack.

https://apple.slashdot.org/story/17/09/06/2026247/hackers-can-take-control-of-siri-and-alexa-by-whispering-to-them-in-frequencies-humans-cant-hear

Here's the Slashdot summary:

Chinese researchers have discovered a vulnerability in voice assistants from Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Huawei. It affects every iPhone and Macbook running Siri, any Galaxy phone, any PC running Windows 10, and even Amazon's Alexa assistant. From a report:

Using a technique called the DolphinAttack, a team from Zhejiang University translated typical vocal commands into ultrasonic frequencies that are too high for the human ear to hear, but perfectly decipherable by the microphones and software powering our always-on voice assistants. This relatively simple translation process lets them take control of gadgets with just a few words uttered in frequencies none of us can hear. The researchers didn't just activate basic commands like "Hey Siri" or "Okay Google," though. They could also tell an iPhone to "call 1234567890" or tell an iPad to FaceTime the number. They could force a Macbook or a Nexus 7 to open a malicious website. They could order an Amazon Echo to "open the backdoor." Even an Audi Q3 could have its navigation system redirected to a new location. "Inaudible voice commands question the common design assumption that adversaries may at most try to manipulate a [voice assistant] vocally and can be detected by an alert user," the research team writes in a paper just accepted to the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
and apparently did not have an IT background. Her LinkedIn profile has been deleted, and apparently an effort is being made to purge her from the internet. It won't be entirely successful, but it'll slow information retrieval down. The article mentions that she spent 14 years in industry, we don't know in what industry, which means she could have picked up a fair amount of IT knowledge, but not as much as if she'd studied IT and gotten a degree and a CISSP cert.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/equifax-ceo-hired-a-music-major-as-the-companys-chief-security-officer-2017-09-15

https://it.slashdot.org/story/17/09/16/0244211/equifax-cso-retires-known-bug-was-left-unpatched-for-nearly-five-months


Also, scammers are calling people at random, claiming to be Equifax, wanting to verify your information. Obviously Equifax has better things to do right now than call you. Just hang up, don't give them your name or the time of day.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/09/ftc-opens-equifax-investigation-says-beware-of-equifax-calling-scams/


ETA:Apparently the Internet Archive Wayback Machine never cached her LinkedIn page, more's the pity. It says it has a page from September 9, but nothing is retrieved when you click on it.

Let's talk about the Equifax hack

Sep. 15th, 2017 04:37 pm
thewayne: (Default)
[personal profile] thewayne
It is indeed a doozy, perhaps the largest data privacy leak in history. Equifax has been collecting information on people for decades, and they do it without our express permission. But at the same time, they are used for credit scores and to generate bank decisions for our getting loans and such. Yet I never signed a contract with Equifax allowing them to collect information on me.

And they have, through zero fault of my own, personally screwed me over.

A couple of years ago my wife and I decided to shop car insurance. Our current insurer was doing some corporate shenanigans that we didn't care for, and it should have been possible to shave some bucks off our premiums, and it never hurts to shop. I called the car club AAA, we ran through my information, and they told me that they couldn't take me because I had three accidents on my record. I'm accident-free. Equifax had taken three accidents OF MY FATHER, whose name is Andrew Donald, and put them on my record, where my name is Donald Wayne. We lived at the same address some years back, but I was living in New Mexico at the time of the accidents and have never owned a Buick. As it happens, we were born in the same month, but not on the day and clearly not in the same year. No two digits in our birth date or year are the same. There's no reason to conflate us and put the accidents on to my record, except for pure sloppy processes.

So I have a pretty poor opinion of these credit bureaus.

What happened to Equifax is pretty simple. They built their data framework on an open source software package called Apache Struts. Like virtually all software packages, bugs are found and patches are issued. A particularly big problem with Struts was first patched in March, but the intruders were in Equifax's system from mid-March through July - approx 2.5 months. Thus it is perfectly reasonable for Equifax to blame open source software for its breach. [sarcasm off] Struts is a framework for Java programs to run either on servers or web browsers, and after updating the framework you have to recompile literally hundreds of programs, and doing that would be a tremendous PITA, but it MUST be done, otherwise shit like this happens. Apparently some management at Equifax didn't like to pay overtime, and now they have to cope with a tremendous amount of shit.

In some late-breaking news from this afternoon, Equifax's Chief Information Officer and Chief Security Officer are both "retiring", proving that for once, shit started at the top. In "there is occasionally some justice, or perhaps there will be" news, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the breech. It will be interesting to find out what they learn, assuming they ever issue a report. I wonder if Congress will hold public hearings. The breech is being compared by some news agencies to Enron. According to the Reuter's story, "Shares of Equifax fell 2.4 percent on Thursday and trading volume hit a record high. The shares have lost 32 percent since the company disclosed the hack on Sept. 7.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer compared Equifax to Enron, the U.S. energy company that filed for bankruptcy in 2001 after revelations of a widespread accounting fraud."


But you see, this is not just a problem for people in the USA. Equifax holds information for people in Canada and Mexico. And Argentine, and possibly other Latin American countries. And the BBC is reporting that 400,000 UKians have information that was compromised in the theft, but their information exposure was minimal and should not lead to identity theft. Well, we'll see about that! In Argentine, apparently Equifax's software used the highly-[in]secure account/password combination of admin/admin.

This is one of my favorite stories, and it may be behind a paywall since it's from the Wall Street Journal. Here's the Slashdot summary:

Equifax was lobbying lawmakers and federal agencies to ease up on regulation of credit-reporting companies in the months before its massive data breach. Equifax spent at least $500,000 on lobbying Congress and federal regulators in the first half of 2017, according to its congressional lobbying-disclosure reports. Among the issues on which it lobbied was limiting the legal liability of credit-reporting companies. That issue is the subject of a bill that a panel of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the industry, discussed the same day Equifax disclosed the cyberattack that exposed personal financial data of as many as 143 million Americans. Equifax has also lobbied Congress and regulatory agencies on issues around "data security and breach notification" and "cybersecurity threat information sharing," according to its lobbying disclosures. The amount Equifax spent in the first half of this year appears to be in line with previous spending. In 2016 and 2015, the company's reports show it spent $1.1 million and $1.02 million, respectively, on lobbying activities. While the company had broadly similar lobbying issues in those years, the liability matter was new in 2017.

The title of the story is "Equifax Lobbied for Easier Regulation Before Data Breach", it's by Michael Rapoport and AnnaMaria Andriotis. f you do a little searching, you might be able to find a copy.

Now, the breech itself is extremely bad. If you were compromised, and there's a very good chance that you were, then the information that was stolen includes: your full name, social security number, previous addresses, list of jobs, all sorts of amazing things. Information about you that never changes. Information about you that you use to apply for credit cards, loans, mortgages, JOBS. The best thing you can do is to approach all four credit bureaus and put a FREEZE, not monitor, but FREEZE your credit. That means that no credit can be taken out in your name without postal correspondence going back and forth with your house. No credit reports can be pulled. It's about the best that you can do. Brian Krebs has an excellent post that he has to pull out a few times every year to discuss this. Definitely worth a read. Me? I'm unemployed. Banks would have to be idiots to issue credit under my information, still, I plan on freezing my accounts.

But that's not the worst.

For reasons unknown, Equifax had credit card transaction information, 200,000 transactions worth dating back to last November, sitting on their servers, apparently unencrypted. Massive violation of PCI compliance rules.

And who knows, there may be more yet to come.

I won't bother providing links to the stories about your surrendering your right to sue if you signed up for their monitoring service, that's been rescinded. There were at least two class-action law suits in development, along with a couple of States Attorneys General beginning investigation.

One more thing to mention: an op ed piece by Bruce Schneier, a very well-known and respected expert on encryption and privacy. He has some facts wrong, I think he wasn't as well-versed on the scope of the breech as perhaps he should have been when he wrote it. But at the beginning of the piece he talks about how the public are not customers of Equifax, we are what is being sold, and we have no say in the matter. And there are THOUSANDS of data brokers out there that we can't come close to naming all of them.

Equifax's feet will be in the fire for some time, I imagine.

Trick or Treat Exchange

Sep. 15th, 2017 08:09 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
I just found out that AO3 has a Trick or Treat Fic Exchange

Every year I participate in one way or another in Yuletide, which is an annual fan fic gift exchange that was, according to Fanlore, started in 2003.  I've only been doing it for, maybe two or three years, being, as always a latecomer to fandom.

I often forget to sign-up on time, so the past couple of years I've enjoyed being what they call a "pinch hitter." Yuletide is very strict about gifts. If you're supposed to be getting one, they do NOT want you to wake up on Christmas morning with an empty in-box.  But, life happens. Sometimes someone who promised a fic literally gets in a car accident or finals week crushes them.  So, there's a hoard of volunteers, myself included, who take up the slack. A gifter is supposed to default by a certain day and the pinch hit lists start showing up in my in-box. But, batches come all the way up to the night before.  It's kind of an amazing process. I also use the pinch hit list to write what are called "treats" where you can just go ahead an write something to someone's request as an extra.  I have done this in the past for very weird fandoms, like the person who really, really wanted a Munchkin Cthulu fic (although that may actually have been assigned).

Point is, I love pinch hitting. I often write fic fast enough that getting an assignment for 2,000+ words the night before is no big deal. 

The Trick or Treat Exchange also looks fun. The requirement is tiny, 300 word minimum?  The other thing that seems to be fun about the Trick or Treat Exchange is that, unlike Yuletide, there is no popularity restriction.  (Yuletide focuses on fandoms that have less than 1000 works of fic posted on Archive of Our Own.)  So, for instance, I saw that Bleach was listed for the Trick or Treat Exchange (thanks to me, Bleach has WAY TOO MANY fics otherwise... and, I'm kidding, of course. It wasn't just me, I'm sure Bleach had over a thousand fics years and years before I joined.).  The point is, for the Trick or Treat Exchange, I could potentially ask for or write a Bleach fic.

So I am tempted. The exchange i currently open and I am considering.  I'll have to read the rules carefully to see if it's something I'm really up for.

I'm pretty sure the fans of my never ending fic soap opera would be furious to find me off writing treats for other people, when they've been so patiently waiting for an update.  

Anyway.

Happy Friday everyone.  

lagilman: coffee or die (Default)
[personal profile] lagilman
Watching "Some Kind of Spark" on PBS, and it is having the multiple effect of a) making me homesick, b) making me thoughtful about the ideas of passion, practice and perfection, and c) wishing once again that I were capable of reading music.

Watching kids realize that what they want is going to be a lifetime of hard work, internalize that knowledge, and then go after it, is a lovely thing.



(before anyone offers advice on c, don't. Dyscalculia makes reading music an exercise in nothing but frustration for me)

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