As always, please no negativity in comments. Cut for photos of bookcases and cats.
Here is a shot of my kitchen from a month or so ago.
Here is my kitchen today. (Still need a new table and chair. That is way overdue.)
Here is my memoir bookcase, with Jewish, Chinese, and oversize books on top. (Some overflow memoirs are elsewhere.) You can tell when categories change because the alphabet-by-author starts over from the beginning. It goes something like: My Happy Childhood, My Funny Family, I Love My Family, My Fucked-Up Childhood, My Mental Illness, I Loved Someone Who Died, My Exciting Experience, My Exciting Hobby, My Showbiz Career (Dance, Music, Acting, Directing, Writing), I Live Somewhere Cool, My Civilian Wartime Experience, Let Me Tell You About Religion.
Here is my food bookcase, with Japanese books on top. They're ordered more by size than by category, but the categories are How to Cook, I Like to Cook, I Like to Eat, Regional Food Is The Best.
Like there's that Londo Mollari fan over on tumblr who thinks his actions were all flawless, and will yell at anyone who posts negative stuff about Londo, and that's like normal fan weirdness to me (at least on tumblr). It gets a bit more disturbing with the RPF people who try to PROVE their faves aren't, for example, rapist douchebags (instead of just either changing ships or declaring an AU and moving on), but again, this is my expected subset of a little too obsessed fandom behaviour. I throw up a minor "Do not engage" warning note, and move on.
But Babylon 5 fandom, if nothing else, we've got pure verbiage over everyone else.
There's someone on AO3 who has written 320,102 words and counting of apologia for the Psi Corps, more or less to the tune of all canon who says the Corps is in any way problematic is mundane propaganda, and really the Corps is perfect and a great place to grow up, and the mundanes need to stop oppressing the poor teeps. This person, at the very least, has the good sense to keep their 320k of gaslighting that secret police are good and just and Bester did nothing wrong in their own space, mostly. (The author apparently also picks fights on tumblr, but I've stayed out of the B5 corners of tumblr since the last Marcus/Susan v. Susan/Talia ship war).
So it's not like I'm surprised by today's adventure, but holy shit, someone just posted a 33-comment essay clocking in at 20,668 words (when I tried to count them on open office, the program crashed), about how the Minbari Warrior Caste did nothing wrong, and the Earth-Minbari War 100% wasn't attempted genocide in any way, and even if it was the humans had it coming. Then invoked long canon citations and statistics about the Holocaust to prove it. This was not on my fic, but on some random other person writing Naroon fic who wasn't even being critical of Naroon, just writing him in a canon compliant fashion. To which I only say: What. The. Fuck!?
Babylon 5 fandom needs another hobby besides Babylon 5 fandom.
When the Oscar nominations came out this year, I did my first-pass guesses as to who and what would take the statuettes home, and noted I would follow-up closer to time, because things change. And this year, yow, did they — A Star Is Born, the film I suspected would take the win, appears to have faded considerably in the last few weeks as it was passed over again and again by the various other awards ceremonies. At the same time, no one film has emerged as a frontrunner in any of the run-up awards.
Which means: Surprise! No one knows anything, least of all me. So for this year, I’m officially announcing that I don’t have much confidence in my predictions — use for your home Oscar pool at your own risk. That said, here are my best guesses as to who will in this Sunday:
Best Picture: I think Roma has the best chance, as everyone at least seems to like it, a lot of people love it, and at least a few think it’s stunning. For an award that is decided by instant runoff, that should be enough to get it over the line. It’s possible Green Book will come up from the outside, but if it does, expect a lot of post-ceremony kvetching about it. Maybe A Star is Born will still pull it out? But it really does feel as if its star has fallen.
Best Director: Still think it’s Alfonso Cuarón, although at this point the only director I’d say I’m absolutely sure won’t take it is Adam McKay. I’d personally give it to Spike Lee both because the film merits it and as a career award, but then again no one’s letting me vote (I think Lee still has a chance at an Oscar, however, in the screenplay category, screenplay often being the consolation Oscar for directors).
Best Actress: Still think this is Glenn Close, although outside shots from Olivia Colman and Melissa McCarthy (who I didn’t think had a chance when the noms came out) are still possible. Honestly, though, I don’t know why anyone would deny Close at this point.
Best Actor: Everyone seems to think Rami Malek has it, while my own previous guess (Willem Dafoe) doesn’t seem to be part of anyone’s conversation. At this point, unless Bradley Cooper makes a surprise comeback, I think everyone is probably right.
Best Supporting Actress: Buzz seems to be on Regina King, although I think Amy Adams still has a chance. Either is perfectly deserving.
Best Supporting Actor: Star’s fade means that the sure bet I thought existed in Sam Elliott may not be that great of a bet, and people seem to think Mahershala Ali might get his second Oscar in two years. As may be, but I’m not going to throw the towel in on Elliott yet. I think he might surprise folks. We’ll see!
It’s now winter, and none of them can fly anymore. Charlotte is away at boarding school, and Emma is rattling around Aviary Hall, lonely and unhappy. Meanwhile, fat and clumsy Bobby Fumpkins, who once flew but was always the straggler vainly trying to be a welcomed member of the group, is also lonely, eating to soothe his unhappiness without recognizing that’s what he’s doing. Emma, like the other kids, is casually mean to him, lashing out at others (not just him) to soothe her unhappiness without recognizing that that’s what she’s doing.
Bobby and Emma begin to share a strange dream, in which they fly every night over a mysterious and shifting landscape. Their shared efforts to understand what’s happening and why lead a prickly but very real friendship, which in turn leads to emotional growth and the beginnings of maturity.
I was waiting with some dread for Bobby to learn not to eat to soothe himself and so slim down as a symbol of his maturing. Neither happens, though he does develop a better relationship with food in other ways – rather than just eating compulsively and alone, he discovers that food can also be used to emotionally bond with others. This comes to a lovely understated climax when he’s unhappy, automatically grabs some peppermints, and gives one to Emma before popping the other in his mouth.
The beginning of the book is rough going due to the realistic depiction of being twelve and miserable and doing things that only make it worse for yourself and others. Once Emma and Bobby make friends, it’s much more enjoyable reading, though its pleasures are the homey ones of friends and self-discovery rather than the transcendence of flight. Their dream-flights are strange and a bit abstract; they're atmospheric but the payoff didn’t 100% work for me as the emotional weight felt like it should be on something else.
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Not as transcendent as The Summer Birds but still interesting and worthwhile.
Emma in Winter
- Wotakoi Omnibus 1 by Fujita [Jump]
- Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun Volume 1 by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey [Jump]
- A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad [Jump]
- Fate/Zero Volume 1 by Shinjiro [Jump]
- A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner [Jump]
- The Henchmen of Zenda by KJ Charles [Jump]
- The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin [Jump]
- Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire [Jump]
- The Hexworld Series 0.5-3 (The 13th Hex, Hexbreaker, Hexmaker, A Christmas Hex, Hexslayer) by Jordan L. Hawk [Jump]
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Reading goal: 187/180 (13 new this post) Prose: 106/90 (10 new this post, 60/106 short fiction) Nonfiction: 6/12 (0 new this post)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 25/50 (1 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 71/50 (7 new this post; The Henchman of Zenda, Down Among the Stick and Bones, The Hexworld series. Although I THINK A Series of Steaks, A Lily Among Thorns, and The Stone Sky might count as well?)
The NY DMV website is a joke that won't let me make an account so I can't consult that. Why would the DMV make it easy to pay the money it's extorting? Far more fun to make people worry they'll lose their license for not paying on time.
So that's $503 I'm getting hosed for. Nice that the cop in 2016 could ruin lives within mere minutes of his time. Overclocking how fast I was going? Nabbing me in a zone that doesn't have a speed limit posted? The judge will support him whenever the case finally gets heard.
I think I'll wait to see if the thing for $203 shows up in the mail tonight or tomorrow because I don't have the spoons to do a pilgrimage to the DMV right now.
Since so much of learning to read and write Chinese characters depends upon mindless repetition, writing them countless times, some bright people in the age of AI have finally seized upon a way to escape from the drudgery: training a robot to write the characters endlessly for them.
Teen bought device online and was caught out by her mother when she completed her Lunar New Year assignments in record time
Media report alerts a wider audience to the robots, which can copy text and mimic your handwriting
Phoebe Zhang, SCMP (2/19/19)
Needless to say, the news of such machines has galvanized the emotions of hundreds of millions of Chinese who have suffered or are suffering from such rote copying:
The topic on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, had been read over 13 million times by Tuesday, with more than 3,000 posts.
Most of the commenters sympathized with the girl who used such a robot to complete her demanding assignments on time, not with the mother who smashed it to bits when she discovered it in her daughter's room.
Some argued that the girl should no longer be made to copy texts at her age, while one called for education reform allowing teachers to set challenging and creative homework rather than boring the pupils and adding to their burdens.
Another asked: “Sometimes educators need to reflect on this issue, why is it we still need to do a task that can be completed by a robot?”
Even before the invention of such sophisticated electromechanical devices, desperate, clever individuals had created crude contraptions with three or four pens tied together that multiplied the writing capacity of an individual severalfold. Indeed, when I visited Monticello about ten years ago, among the many amazing belongings of Thomas Jefferson was a copying machine that enabled him to make perfect duplicates of whatever he was writing. I stared at it for quite a while, trying to figure out how the original pen and the copying pen were linked.
Jefferson's copying machine was called a "polygraph". It was designed by Isaac Hawkins (1772-1855) and made by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) in 1806 in Philadelphia. Employing the principles of the draftsman's pantograph, Jefferson's polygraph was used by the president from that year until his death. He called it "the finest invention of the present age". Jefferson actually had several polygraphs which he kept in the different places he lived. In addition to the one at Monticello, another one of them survives at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. (Source)
Returning to the current story of the writing robots in China (it turns out that there are a number of companies that produce them), it also made the NYT:
"Chinese Girl Finds a Way Out of Tedious Homework: Make a Robot Do It ", by Daniel Victor and Tiffany May (2/21/19)
As noted above, most of the online commenters sided with the girl:
“Give her a break. How meaningful is copying anyway?” one commenter asked.
“The difference between humans and other animals is that they know how to make and use tools,” another reasoned. “This young lady already knows how to do this.”
Proficiently reading and writing in Chinese requires knowing thousands of characters. Copying them repeatedly is often seen as a necessary step in learning how to write them. In addition to being tested on individual characters, they may also be asked to transcribe a literary text from memory — an assignment usually dreaded by students.
Like Bart in the opening sequence of “The Simpsons,” students can also be punished by being made to write out texts repeatedly; unlike Bart, they are often ordered to copy whole textbook chapters, not just single sentences. Chinese curriculums in both the sciences and humanities prize rote memorization.
But there's a deeper, more existential question than whether the girl was clever or not, and whether she was right or wrong to avail herself of modern technology to avoid inane toil, namely, what does this predicament say about the nature of the Chinese writing system and the efforts of people in the 21st century who have access to computers and various types of digital technology to continue to master it the way writing has been mastered in China for more than two thousand years? Is it not akin to demanding that Chinese students go back to a time before even slide rules were invented to do their math?
The writing is on the wall: technology is spelling (!) the death knell for writing the characters by hand. The shape of the future is already evident in Singapore, where the educational authorities permit (nay, encourage) students to use computers and other digital technology to write the characters for them. And I don't think it's a coincidence that tiny Singapore consistently produces a disproportionate amount of the most outstanding (in terms of knowledgeability and creativity) students in the Sinosphere.
"Writing characters and writing letters " (11/7/18)
"Copying characters " (2/11/13)
"The wrong way to write Chinese characters " (11/28/18)
"Writing Chinese characters as a form of punishment " (11/1/15)
"Firestorm over Chinese characters " (5/23/16)
"Writing Sinitic languages with phonetic scripts " (5/20/16)
"Learning to read and write Chinese " (7/11/6)
"The future of Chinese language learning is now " (4/5/14)
"Sinophone and Sinosphere " (11/8/12)
The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity (2003), by William C. Hannas
[Thanks to Alex Wang and Anne Henochowicz]
We visited my mom and her husband in Florida! It was a bit warmer than usual, mid-80s; their pool was about 70F, so the kids and Chad had a blast and I watched from the side, as usual. We took an airboat tour of the Everglades and saw little dolphins super-close; found shark teeth and shells and dogs on the beach; and generally had a nice unstressful vacation. (The air travel was not the greatest, but we didn't have to stay overnight in an airport hotel like we did coming back from our New Year's trip, so hey.)
A couple links:
jhameia said that this Atlantic article on college-admissions "rigging" angst was "an amazing, compassionate, and productive response to white people anxieties about missing out on what they think they're entitled to," and I agree.
At Hyperallergic, The Clandestine Cultural Knowledge of Ancient Graffiti.
Because G+ is shutting down, my community there is testing other social media platforms, and we've moved on to federated/distributed ones. I have a Hubzilla account on an experimental fannish instance, and also a Mastodon account that I haven't started using yet but will soon, probably. If you've got a compatible account, feel free to add me/let me know!
(I really like the idea of Hubzilla and I want someone to make a turnkey install so that I can host my own, a la WordPress, which seems vastly unlikely at the moment, alas.)
List the summaries of your own top 10 stories by kudos:
1. Glass Houses (Weiß Kreuz)
Summary: After Aya's sister dies,
2. Wake Up (Saiyuki)
Summary: Through time, they're trying to find themselves and each other.
3. Situational (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
Summary: To Hachiman’s thinking, their whatever has been moving so fast that if they were a guy and a girl by next week they’d already be married and having kids.
4. None So Blind (Saiyuki)
Summary: After Sanzo is blinded, everyone sees things differently.
5. By Remote (X-Men)
Summary: Disgusted by how most of the other X-Men are treating Gambit, Wolverine takes matters into his own hands.
6. Attention (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
Summary: A confrontation between Hayama and Hachiman goes wrong, though not as Hachiman expected.
7. Shipping (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
Summary: Hina’s shipping daydreams can be more serious than people would expect.
8. Incendiary (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
Summary: Hayama Hayato’s view on matters is somewhat different.
9. Clarity (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
Summary: Hayato makes progress.
10. Dodge (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Summary: After Julian's past catches up with him, Garak is even more intrigued.
Half of these are old, well-established fics of mine, half are from a new fandom I only started writing in less than two years ago, and out of the new fandom fics four are in a single series. Numbers 11 through 17 are in that same series.
Summary writing is hard. Having done it for 547 fics hasn't made it any easier.
If you have not yet seen the show, I highly recommend not spoiling yourself. It's not just that there's twists, it's that the entire show is a process of discovery.
Sidetracks is a collaborative project featuring various essays, videos, reviews, or other Internet content that we want to share with each other. All past and current links for the Sidetracks project can be found in our Sidetracks tag. For more links and commentary you can follow us on Twitter, Tumblr. You can also support us on Patreon.
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