How To Reach Me

May. 25th, 2016 08:47 am
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[personal profile] alexandraerin

So, it’s no secret among those who’ve tried that I’ve been hard to get in touch with lately by anyone who didn’t already have a very direct line.

The whole story goes back to early 2015, when my twitter commentary and blogging about certain ~*controversies*~ put me on the radar of some nasty people who (among other things they tried) signed my public-facing email account up for a ton of subscriptions and spam.

Clearing this out took a lot of brain cycles I would otherwise have used to keep up with actual correspondence, and there’s still a lot of junk. The fact that this makes it possible to overlook real emails in the mix is only a small part of the problem. The bigger part is how the ever-increasing inbox numbers make even looking more imposing, when I go through a period where I’m already anxious and/or depressed or feeling phobic about communication, things that happen anyway and have only been exacerbated in a very vicious cycle.

Fast forward to today, where things have gotten so bad that there are over 2,500 unread emails going back I think to the summer of 2015. I am going to start going through them in batches after I get back from WisCon, but in order to make sure that you can reach me and in order to prevent this from happening again, I’m doing two things.

First, I’ve created a new email address: blueauthor (where’s it at?) alexandraerin (I’ve got two turntables and a dotrophone) com. It’s clean, it’s functional, you can send me messages there. I’m going to start shifting stuff over to that address, and eventually my now former public email address will just forward to it.

Second, I’m giving my partner Jack Ralls access to this, so he can act as my social secretary, deal with spam, and flag things for my attention. He’s offered this before, and I’ve always turned him down because I felt guilty, but lately I’ve been taking note of how other authors handle these things and I’ve noticed that having a significant other or trusted friend act as a buffer with the world is not at all uncommon for those who can’t afford a professional service or personal assistant. As Jack points out, even if I can’t pay him anything, I make more money when I’m a functional human being and when I have more time and energy for writing, so it’s a net gain for the household in exchange for him doing the kind of labor he’s good at and enjoys, and at which I am absolutely terrible.

Now, for much of the next week, we’re both going to be 1) busy and 2) at a place with a temporarily overburdened wifi infrastructure, so I’m setting up an auto-responder at that address for now to let folks know what the deal is, and we’ll be doing similarly in other situations where we’re both kind of AFK. Better communication all around, basically.

As a final note: if you’re reading this and you already have my not-public email address – please feel entirely free to keep using it. If we’re that level of close, that’s still the best way to reach it. The “contactme” address is the one being replaced by blueauthor.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.


May. 25th, 2016 07:38 am
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[personal profile] alexandraerin

Hello! Thank you for visiting my website. If you’re here, you’ve probably got some idea who I am. If not: My name is Alexandra Erin and I’m an author, poet, blogger, and humorist. I am also, in no particular order: white, trans, female, and disabled.

I’m also a veteran crowdfunder, have been using micropatronage to pay my bills since before there were easy tools for it. After a few years in a personal and financial slump, I am trying to rebuild my career and my finances by taking better advantage of these tools. As I approach my 36th birthday next month, I’d really like to increase my audience and start making enough money to live on again.

Well, I’d say “like to”, but I mean “need to”, which means I need some help.

Here are a few things you can do to help me:

  1. This GoFundMe campaign will help me get to WorldCon this year. Many members of the WorldCon (and greater SF/F writing) community first heard my name in 2015, as I responded to the third iteration of the Sad Puppies temper tantrum with my characteristic humor and insight. Being at WorldCon would not only be a hoot and a source of potential material for more satire, it would be a great opportunity for me to network.
  2. Join me on Patreon to both financially support and gain free access to my writing. Any level of support will get you exclusive members-only access at least one new short story every month, plus an electric compilation of my writing (fiction and otherwise) produced each month. Supporting at the $10 or $25 will gain you access to my online seminars on such topics as writing by the seat of your pants, writing a story when you only know part of it, and writing when you feel like you can’t.
  3. Share this link, which is a category in which I’m posting one of my previously written short stories a day, every day, for the remainder of the month, to let readers know what I have to offer when I say I’ll give one new short story every month on my Patreon. This is my version of a PBS telethon.

Feel free to share that last link (and the other two!) in any place you wish, but if you really want to help get the word out, the best way to do that is to support my thunderclap by May 31st. Thunderclap is an app/site that allows us to coordinate a message across social media. You participate by clicking that link and then clicking the support buttons. The site will ask permission to post using your Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr account (as you choose). Do not be alarmed! This is how it works. It will only post the one message which I wrote (and which you can see and edit) when the thunderclap “goes off” on May 31st (after the last sample story is posted), as well as a message immediately to say you participated, in order to draw in more participants.

Some people wonder understandably why we would need an app to post the link, but the idea is basically to create a coordinated social media blitz, the kind of thing that normally takes a PR department and a huge marketing budget. By getting numerous people to share the link to my sample stories at the same time, the message is boosted to a larger audience. And larger audiences is what this is all about.

Also, if you’re more interested in buying stuff than crowdfunding… you can totally buy stuff from me.

  1. E-books on Amazon. (DRM free!)
  2. E-books for Nook. (DRM free!)
  3. E-books direct from the author. (DRM free!)
  4. My supplements for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. (DRM free!)
  5. Order a Make America Better t-shirt or sweatshirt. (Also, technically, DRM free!)
  6. Angels of the Meanwhile, an electronic anthology I edited that was put together to benefit the medical bills and related expenses of Elizabeth R. McClellan. Every penny earned by sales of this goes directly to her, but hey, that’s a good cause and it doesn’t hurt me any to have my work being in more hands, right? If PayPal doesn’t work for you, you can get it here instead. Oh, and… DRM free!

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

Switch Lock for Light Switch

May. 25th, 2016 09:00 am
[syndicated profile] cooltools_feed

Posted by mark

I came across this wonderful device in a little dusty bin on the counter of my local hardware store, and I think I frightened the clerk with my enthusiasm to find it. I had several situations where I needed a simple way to prevent a toggle-style light switch from being used, both at home and the office. This cool tool prevented scores of goose-chases when folks at work thought their equipment had broken when it suddenly stopped working for no apparent reason but it was only the switch-controlled outlet. At home, it locked out a three-way light switch that ended up behind the countertop microwave and occasionally got flipped, resulting in lots of trips up an down ladders to replace perfectly good light bulbs in the ceiling fixture.

This simple, clear plastic device mounts on the outside of the switch plate using the switch plate screw and physically prevents the switch from moving. You can mount it to keep the switch on or off, and it is easily removable with a screwdriver. Clear plastic works with any décor!

-- Laura Hoffman

Clear Switch Lock for Light Switch 4/pack ($8)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

Ditch “Culture Fit”

May. 25th, 2016 07:40 am
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Posted by sarah

A couple different talks at OSCON got me thinking about the unhealthy results of hiring on the basis of “culture fit”.

What is company culture? Is it celebrating with co-workers around the company keg? Or would that exclude non-drinkers? Does your company value honest and direct feedback in meetings? Does that mean introverts and remote workers are talked over? Are long working hours and individual effort rewarded, to the point that people who value family are passed up for promotion?

Often times teams who don’t have a diverse network end up hiring people who have similar hobbies, backgrounds, and education. Companies need to avoid “group think” and focus on increasing diversity, because studies have shown that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform other companies, and racially-diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform. Other studies have shown that diversity can lead to more internal conflict, but the end result is a more productive team.

How do you change your company culture to value a diverse team? It’s much more than simply hiring more diverse people or making people sit through an hour of unconscious bias training. At OSCON, Casey West talked about some examples of company culture that create an inclusive environment where diverse teams can thrive:

  • Blame-free teams
  • Knowledge sharing culture
  • Continuous learning
  • No judgement on asking questions
  • Continuous feedback
  • Curiosity about different cultures
  • Individually defined work-life balance
  • Valuing empathy

For example, if you have a culture where there’s no judgement on asking questions or raising issues and people are naturally curious about different cultures, it’s easy for a team member to suggest a new feature that might make your product appeal to a broader customer base.

The other problem with “culture fit” is that it’s an unevenly applied standard. An example of this was Kevin Stewart’s OSCON talk called “Managing While Black”. When Kevin emulated the company culture of pushing back on unnecessary requirements and protecting his team, he was told to “work on his personal brand”. White coworkers were reading him as “the angry black guy.” When he dialed it back, he was told he was “so articulate”, which is a non-compliment that relies on the stereotype that all African Americans are either uneducated or recent immigrants.

In both cases, even though his project was successful, Kevin had his team (and his own responsibilities) scaled back. After years of watching less successful white coworkers get promoted, he was told by management that they simply didn’t “see him in a leadership role.” Whether or not people of color emulate the white leadership behavior and corporate culture around them, they are punished because their coworkers are biased towards white leaders.

As a woman in technical leadership positions, I’ve faced similar “culture fit” issues. I’ve been told by one manager that I needed to be the “one true technical voice” (meaning as a leader I need to shout over the mansplainy guys on my team). And yet, when I clearly articulate valid technical or resourcing concerns to management, I’m “dismissive” of their goals. When I was a maintainer in the Linux kernel and adamantly pushed back on a patch that wall-papered over technical debt, I was told by another maintainer to “calm down”. (If you don’t think that’s a gendered slur based on the stereotype that women are “too emotional”, try imagining telling Linus Torvalds to calm down when he gets passionate about technical debt.)

The point is, traditional “cultural fit” narratives and leadership behaviors only benefit the white cis males that created these cultural norms. Culture can be manipulated in the span of a couple years to enforce or change the status quo. For example, computer programming used to be dominated by women, before hiring “personality tests” biased for men who displayed “disinterest in people”.

We need to be deliberate about the company culture we cultivate. By hiring for empathy, looking for coworkers who are curious about different cultures, and rewarding leaders who don’t fit our preconceived notions, we create an inclusive work environment where people are free to be their authentic selves. Project Include has more resources and examples for people who are interested in changing their company’s culture.


May. 25th, 2016 08:00 am
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Posted by yan

On the day that I am scheduled to see my friend Chelsea for the first time in six years, I wake up at 4:51pm to a shrieking fire alarm in my hotel room. Semi-conscious and disoriented, I leap out of bed and spin around wildly grabbing at all the things I care about – my phone and passport, the precious slip of paper that will allow me entrance to Fort Leavenworth prison, the bag of quarters that Chelsea asked me to bring – ready for an FBI raid disguised as a fire drill. Before I finish putting on shoes, the alarm stops. Slowly the wave of paranoia in my stomach grinds to a halt.

I make myself be still and breathe for a moment, reabsorbing my surroundings. I’m standing on the fourth floor of a modest hotel on the edge of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Outside the window looms a blue-grey sky, a vast horizon dense and textured like charcoal mixed with cream. The land is flat, green, fertile, midwestern. A hot humid river is all that separates us from Missouri. To people like Chelsea and me, who grew up in Oklahoma and Missouri before running away to sharp-edged cities by the sea, this place feels simultaneously homelike and suffocating.

As boring as Kansas is, you have to award it points for charm. Ex: a steakhouse across from the old Ft Leavenworth prison proudly proclaims itself “The Little Steak House Across from the Big House,” betraying no awareness of dark irony. The prison staff are all exceedingly polite and helpful, even when they are reprimanding me for not having a driver’s license, even when the receptionist mistakenly refers to Chelsea as “he” over a dozen times in a 5 minute phone call. “Now you go and have yourself a good day, honey,” they say in a warm-hued drawl as I navigate another step in the military bureaucracy, inching closer to actually being able to see Chelsea.

For the curious, here is approximately the process I went through to gain visitation access to the Ft Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks:

  1. December 2015: Chelsea adds me to her list of telephone contacts and starts the application process for my visitation, which requires evidence that we were acquainted prior to her confinement.
  2. March/April 2016: I receive a letter notifying me that my visitation was approved but a background check is required prior to the visit. Over the course of a week or two, I called at least five different offices at Fort Leavenworth to inquire about how to do the background check before flying to Kansas. Nobody really knew, so I gave up and just booked a flight.
  3. May 2016: After confirming via phone that I was on the Fort Leavenworth visit schedule, I fly to Kansas City. My trip companions and I check in at the Visitor Control Center to register our vehicle and get access passes to the fort. One of us is denied for having a non-US passport. The other two of us are given passes promptly and without background checks. After that, the two of us are free to drive on and off the army base.

If all goes well, I will be Chelsea’s first visitor since her sister in November.

At 6:20pm on May 25, we drive into Fort Leavenworth for the first time. I am surprised to discover that it is full of grassy fields, lush tree-lined sidewalks, and pastel suburban houses, not at all like a place where you would put a military prison. I wave at some joggers.

At 6:50pm, we finally find the United States Discipline Barracks, home of Chelsea’s prison cell. I walk inside and follow the signs to the visitation area. There are rules for visitation printed on the wall, which I’ve read a half-dozen times (no low-cut clothing, no short pants or skirts, 5 sheets of paper allowed, pencils and pens allowed, quarters and cash allowed in a transparent ziplock bag, no WiFi-enabled devices, no jackets, no cameras). The guard is friendly and makes light conversation with me, like all the Fort Leavenworth staff members I’ve interacted with so far. How bizarre to think that these friendly people, dripping with syrup-thick midwestern hospitality, are the same people keeping Chelsea forcibly isolated from the outside world for the next three decades.

I force out a weak smile, explain my visitation purpose in my a faintly-artificial Missouri accent. The guard sees me on the visit schedule but is concerned that my shirt doesn’t have sleeves. Apparently sleeveless shirts are not allowed, even though this isn’t printed anywhere in the rules. Fuck. He goes to consult another officer. I nervously fidget.

Thankfully, it is decided that I am allowed to enter (though I must wear a sleeved shirt next time). They let me through the metal detector after inspecting my 5 sheets of paper and ziplock bag containing 6 pencils, 1 pen, and $10 in quarters. I am flooded with relief, which quickly washes away into nervousness as I enter the visit room where Chelsea, my friend who I haven’t seen in six years, who I thought I would never see again after her arrest, is supposedly waiting.

She’s not there. Instead there’s just some grey tables and chairs, depressingly few of which are occupied by inmates and their sad-looking visitors.

And then the door opens and she walks in.

We run towards each other.

We hug, and my eyes fill with tears.

When something that you’ve convinced yourself will never happen is finally happening, there’s a moment when your brain starts to panic and desperately record every detail, fearing that this is all an illusion that will soon dissolve without a trace. So I looked at her as if I would never see her again, my heart sinking with the realization that there will probably never exist a photo of Chelsea Manning, age 28, for the world to see. It made me sad, because she looks nothing like any of the photos of her on the Internet. She looked like a hero, brighter and stronger than in all my memories, radiant with a light that makes no sense.

She was wearing a brown prison uniform that was too big for her small frame and smiling ear-to-ear. Her hair was neatly combed in a short pixieish cut, no longer than the 2-inch maximum allowed by the prison. Despite everything, she looked even younger than I remembered, with glowing skin and large blue eyes framed by elegant cheekbones. We beamingly smiled at each other for several seconds, suspended in disbelief and joy.

“So do you wanna sit down?” I say. We find a table, and smile some more, and then I ask if she wants anything from the vending machines. “Sure, I’ll get something I’m not usually able to get,” she says, picking a Mountain Dew. I pay for it using 6 quarters from my ziplock bag. I also try to buy her some sour cream-flavored chips, but the snacks machine is broken, which makes me unusually angry. I make a mental reminder to ask the prison staff to fix it.

We sit back down and talk for most of two hours without pausing. We talk about life in prison, where she spends 40 hours a week working in a wood shop and somehow finds time to take college correspondence courses, read journals, write a column for The Guardian, and work with lawyers on her appeal. We talk about her growing interest in post-quantum cryptography and the collection of books building up in her cell. We talk about the last time we met and what our mutual friends are up to nowadays. We talk about our complex relationships with family. We talk about my shoes (which she likes a lot) and the kind of music that she used to DJ. We talk about where she would live if she weren’t in prison. We talk about how she find motivation to keep going every day, even though some days her life feels unfair and hopeless. Many times, I am speechlessly awed by her curiosity and perseverance in the face of extremely messed-up, depressing circumstances.

I bring up her recent appeal to reduce her sentence from 35 years to 10 years, and she seems worried that it didn’t receive enough coverage in the press. She hopes that the world hasn’t forgotten about her.

I’m not sure what to say. Like others, I feel guilty for not doing more to raise public awareness for her case. Maybe if I’d spoken up more about how her sentence was grossly unjust, or written about the importance of her trial as a precedent for all whistleblowers, she’d be in a better place now. Instead all I could do was sit and chat with her, drinking soda in a sterile grey room while someone’s toddler screamed and cried at the table next to us.

Before I realize it, it’s 9:25pm and the guard is yelling at us that our time is up. Chelsea, a self-identified extrovert, seems sad that I’m leaving, even though I’ll be back in 22 hours for my second and last day of visitation. We say our goodbyes and hug each other, holding the embrace longer this time.

Back outside, I stand and watch the inmates’ families pile into their cars and drive home. Some of them live near the prison so they can visit their imprisoned loved one every day. I think about how strange it is that Chelsea is a hero to thousands if not millions of people, but there is nobody who does this for her.

I don’t want us to forget her at least.

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2016 brings the 20th anniversary of Forever Knight's cancellation, and our 7th annual Forever Knight ficathon! Sign-ups are open until June 25. Stories come due on September 25. Come play!

To-Do List For Tomorrow

May. 25th, 2016 12:42 am
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin

…because if I write it out and post it, I’m not likely to forget it.

  1. Pack hair stuff.
  2. Pack toiletries.
  3. Pack electronics.
  4. Pack carry-on.
  5. Pack pills.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

Yay, PG&E!

May. 25th, 2016 03:20 am
[syndicated profile] kith_feed

Posted by Jed

Yay PG&E customer service!

Got home tonight, in a pretty good mood for the first time in a while, and found a notice on my door saying that PG&E had turned off my gas. Something about being called away in the middle of servicing my gas meter? I didn't quite understand it. But it said I would have to call them and have someone come out and examine my appliances before the gas could be turned back on. I got immediately distressed and grumpy, figuring that they wouldn't be able to come out for a day or two, which would be difficult because I'm leaving town tomorrow morning (and I didn't want to leave my guests without heat). I called PG&E's service number and had to navigate through a mildly annoying phone tree.

But the person who answered the phone was friendly and polite and reasonable, and explained that they had to have someone check to make sure my home was safe before they could turn the gas back on. And I remembered the last time I tried to do anything with a pilot light and how stressful I found it, following the directions precisely but not being completely certain I wasn't going to blow up the house. And then they made clear that someone would come tonight to deal with it, and I got a lot happier. And then they apologized.

And an hour later, a friendly and calm service person showed up at my door, and apologized again, and turned the gas back on, and did a more thorough check of my gas appliances than I think anyone's ever done, despite my bumbleheaded uncertainty about things like which of my appliances were gas. And they re-lit the pilot lights, and answered questions, and pointed out a couple of small issues that could get worse later on (and suggested that I could talk with a furnace repair place if I wanted to get those items fixed), and in all ways they were polite and friendly and professional, and it was a nice experience all around. And now I can be completely confident that the loss and restoration of gas have had no ill effects.

So, yay! Thank you, PG&E!

Aspect Ratios in LEMONADE, Pt. 2

May. 24th, 2016 03:16 pm
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Posted by Ashley Blewer

Hello! I’m wrapping up this (very) brief LEMONADE series by talking about home movies! This is a little bit about aspect ratios but maybe a little bit more about preservation issues with home movies. If you haven’t, its worth catching up in Pt. 1 right here, because this picks up where that aspect ratio context left off.

The first time we see the 4:3 ratio appear, it’s a cropped image during “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” sized down from a wider shot. But shortly after, we also get these close shots of women’s faces during the Malcolm X quote. Bonus facts: this footage was also filmed in 4:3, but on film, and this clip was converted to a magnetic tape format (see the head clog squiggles at the bottom?) and then digitized  —  an example of three format errors all in one!

So all three of these are the same aspect ratio, but why do we feel differently about them? There’s some added “film grain” in these shots to intentionally give them a home-movies look, unlike the high-contrast black-and-white images of women dancing in a parking garage, which look clean, and constrained only in the context of being interspersed among the similar imagery at a wider ratio. The grain and warmed tones give it an intentional “old artifact” look (think “Instagram filter”). This filtered look comes up again during “All Night.”

But some of the clips of couples during “All Night” have an aspect ratio of 1.77:1, which fills the entire screen.

It’s likely these were shot with the same camera using the same aspect ratio, but with effects and filters added later, as well as the cropping down to 4:3. (Cropping issues aside, I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t originally filmed on film. The soft darkened edges and occasional errors look pretty legit to me.)

“Daddy Lessons” includes footage of horse-riding and New Orleans family life, given a similar “home movie feel” treatment. Pretty much all of the footage during this song, excluding footage of Beyoncé, are set in this 4:3 format.

But as a bonus within this song, there’s a real home movie of lil Bey, probably recorded on good old-fashioned VHS! Some notes of aging include image ghosting, head clog, contrast too high, and dropout — many outlined in a previous blog post about Formation specifically. But this is a good example of the real concerns for the fragility of magnetic media.

Following Beyoncé’s home movie (Beyoncé and dad) is a clip from Blue Ivy’s home movies (Beyoncé and grandpa), which moves from mid-1980s Standard Definition (and 4:3) to mid-2010s High Definition (and 16:9).

We also get to see some pre-Blue home movies from Beyoncé’s extensive archive during “All Night.”

This is a clip from a video of Beyoncé and Jay-Z celebrating wedding vows with IV tattoos. Blurry, low resolution, standard 4:3. No shade, this was probably either filmed with a MiniDV camera or using a cameraphone (my bet is on cameraphone, Peter thinks MiniDV). Just like many of the following home movies, which are fragile in their own way. Let’s talk about how!

This above clip has overly blown-out white levels. Similar to the problems with VHS (and other forms of magnetic media), it’s hard to get the contrast right. What do you expect, though? It’s not professional-grade — these are images from a consumer-grade camera. That doesn’t matter when you are looking back through your files and trying to find some lemonade-making videos to play at Grandma Hattie’s 90th birthday.

Shout out to Grandma Hattie, though, who seems to be pretty chill with having a cameo on an album that strongly features her grandson Jay-Z being called out as cheating garbage monster. This was probably filmed in an HD aspect ratio (based on other clips from the same event in LEMONADE and lack of other errors more likely to be found in other formats) but cut to 4:3 to again have a “home movies feel.”

While talking home movies, what is with this error? No, seriously, what is this?

This is footage of Tina Knowles and her husband Richard Lawson, taken on their wedding day. Very sweet. But what is this white flash across the screen trying to ruin a happy moment? I have no idea.

In between being pregnant and Blue Ivy being born, the aspect ratio (at least from what they’ve included in LEMONADE) changes from the boxier standard-definition size to something wider and larger: 1.77:1 aspect ratio and HD.  

Phone-based cameras comply with commonly-used video aspect ratios but also common still-photography aspect ratios because the camera exists as a multi-tasker, even if the ratio settings change depending on the chosen camera setting.

The above home-movie ratio is the same as the professional-grade video taken below.

This is a high-quality, HD camera shooting at a 1.77:1 aspect ratio. Your home movies probably aren’t gonna look as good as this.

But home movies aren’t always looking good, even if you are a celebrity. What’s going on with Blue Ivy here? Everything is so blocky, the lines aren’t smooth, and the color is off. Blue Ivy was born into the world of lossy compression in digital video.

So baby Beyoncé videos worry about magnetic-media-problems and baby Blue Ivy videos have to deal with digital-compression-consumer-camera-problems. Blue Ivy videos probably go straight into the archive for safe-keeping, which saves them from the turmoil of having to be recovered from outdated devices using outdated software, or other obstacles dealing with obsoleted-but-still-proprietary software, like ancient versions of iTunes. If you created a tiny version of yourself and you are capturing all those tiny-you moments with your phone, this should scare you!

It’s important to think about these problems in relation to our own home movies and our personal digital archives. Beyoncé has more than one full time archivist and supplemental archival help to do this work so her home movies are the highest quality and are given the best care imaginable, right? But they still suffer from errors due to the fragility of all audiovisual media. From the very beginning, at the point of capture, the images are imperfect, landing themselves onto fallible magnetic tape or into proprietary, binary black boxes.

As always, direct corrections to the Issues page or to me!

[syndicated profile] con_or_bust_feed

Posted by Dan B.

silvereelItem Name and Description: The Silver Eel was a one-shot fanzine devoted to Fritz Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer’s Lankhmar stories. It was published by Robert Barger in 1978. It contains an interview with Leiber, essays by Karl Edward Wagner, Ken St. Andre, Fischer, and others, and artwork by people such as Tim Kirk, Gene Day, and Liz Danforth. (The cover is by Kirk and depicts Leiber as Fafhrd and Fischer as the Grey Mouser.)

For reasons not convenient to explain I have 11 extra copies of this. You may bid on one or more copies as you prefer – please specify how many. You do not need to outbid anyone unless and until all 11 copies have been bid on – I will post here in the unlikely event this occurs.

None of these copies have been read and all are in fine shape, though some have a little yellowing of page edges and such.

Starting Bid: 20.00

Shipping: United States for free, outside the US for an additional donation which could be steep (please ask first)

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern (time zone conversions). It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. (time zone conversions, countdown) unless bids are received in the last ten minutes (learn more).

[syndicated profile] con_or_bust_feed

Posted by Dan B.

Item Name and Description: All are US editions. All have been read and the trade paperbacks have a little wear.

  • Master and Commander. Trade.
  • Post Captain. Trade.
  • H.M.S. Surprise. Trade.
  • The Mauritius Command. Trade.
  • Desolation Island. Trade.
  • Treason’s Harbour. Trade.
  • The Reverse of the Medal. Trade.
  • The Thirteen Gun Salute. Trade.
  • The Wine-Dark Sea. Hardcover.
  • The Commodore. Hardcover.
  • The Yellow Admiral. Hardcover.
  • The Hundred Days. Hardcover.
  • Blue at the Mizzen. Hardcover. This has a mylar jacket cover, and was apparently was a review copy as it has promotional material laid in.

Starting Bid: 80.00

Shipping: United States only (shipping this elsewhere would cost a small fortune)


(Click images to enlarge.)

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern (time zone conversions). It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. (time zone conversions, countdown) unless bids are received in the last ten minutes (learn more).

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Posted by Surabhi Kanga

In 2010, the journalist Rana Ayyub spent eight months undercover in Gujarat. Ayyub, who was then working for Tehelka magazine, posed as a filmmaker. She met bureaucrats and senior police officials in Gujarat who held pivotal positions in the state between 2001 and 2010. The transcripts of the sting operation, unpublished so far, form the core of her book Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up. The self-published book narrates what the officials revealed about the complicity of the state machinery in the anti-Muslim violence in 2002, as well as in “encounters” such as the one that resulted in the killing of Ishrat Jehan, and the murder of the state home minister Haren Pandya, events that accompanied the consolidation of power in Gujarat by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

In the following excerpt from the book, Ayyub recounts the aftermath of a crucial exposé, and what led her to adopting an undercover identity.


With able help from human rights activists and officers who provided me with evidence, I made one of the most sensational exposés of 2010. These were the call records of the then Minister of State for Home Affairs, Amit Shah, and top officers during the course of encounters. Accompanying the call records was a damning internal Official Secrets Act note. The minister’s activity was being monitored by the state CID and the note alleged that the encounter was a sinister plot to kill innocents and label them terrorists.

The exposé created ripples in the political fraternity. Phone calls from the CBI poured in asking Tehelka to hand them those records which were later placed before the Supreme Court. I continued to stay at Hotel Ambassador in Ahmedabad, which by now had become my second home. Located in the predominantly Muslim locality of Khanpur, this was a rather unassuming place for me to stay at. I would discover later that the state BJP office was only blocks away. I was suddenly in the public eye. BJP leaders spoke about a certain young chap called Ayyub who had made the disclosure. For some reason the idea of a female investigative journalist had not crossed their minds. I was not complaining, it only allowed me to go about my work discreetly. But this did not last long. A few days into the exposé, my phone received a text from an unknown number which read, “We know where you are.”

Life had indeed changed; from that day on I changed my accommodation every third day, from the IIM campus in Ahmedabad to guesthouses, hostels, and gymkhanas. I had begun to operate like a fugitive. By this time, landlines had replaced mobile phone communication for me. Finally having provided all the evidence I could dig up to the CBI and writing my follow-up reports, I landed in Mumbai and decided to get back to some semblance of routine.

But destiny had other plans for me. Within weeks of the exposé, the CBI arrested Amit Shah, the first serving Home Minister in the history of independent India to be arrested. It became an overnight sensation. Most of the national media parked itself outside the CBI headquarters in Gandhinagar. As expected I had to return to Gujarat and report on the developments that followed the sensational arrest.

Shah’s arrest gave a new lease of life to those police officers who had been discriminated against during his reign. Officers sent feelers to me at this time saying that they wanted to talk. Many who had earlier avoided journalists now gathered the strength to speak. While most conversations were off the record, it was clear that the encounters were only the tip of the iceberg. There was something more sinister that had been buried in the files of various cases in Gujarat. None of us were anywhere close to the truth. There was an indication that over the last decade there had been subversion of the judicial process. Those who were supposed to safeguard the lives of people had been bought over. From the riots to encounters to political assassinations, many an inconvenient truth was waiting to come out. But how could one prove any of it?

The basic rule of journalism was evidence and I had none. There were only conversations and anecdotes, off-the-record confessions. How was I to prove it all? It was then that I made the decision that would change my life, professionally and personally.

An elaborate mail to my seniors and an encouraging response from them to probe deeper was enough to set me thinking. Close to three months in Gujarat and the circumstances under which I had met those willing to help me with information was indication enough for me that the road ahead was tough. To cull the truth from individuals who were in a position of power and had chosen to seal the truth within themselves was not going to be easy. My colleague at work Ashish Khetan had made chilling revelations in his exposé in which he had stung the likes of Babu Bajrangi and other local BJP and VHP leaders as they mouthed a cold-blooded narrative of the riots in 2002. But I was not up against the rioters who would speak of their bravado at the slightest ego boost. I was dealing with seasoned, senior IPS officers many of whom had had successful stints with RAW and I&B.

These were thick-skinned diplomats; to get them talking would require the skills of an able and astute investigator armed with power and authority. I did not qualify on any of these counts. Besides the planning, the execution too had been left entirely to me. I was aware that I could not take a junior from my office for that would only mean added risk. It was made clear to me that my editors would monitor my work but everything else had to be my responsibility. Every time I sent in a transcript I would get encouraging responses from both Shoma and Tarun with phrases like “excellent, keep at it” or “stunning revelation.” While it encouraged me to probe further, the truth was that I was a lone soldier on the field. I had to look after myself and ensure that the investigation yielded honest, fact-based results.

There were people who knew the truth and had chosen to live with it, going about life as if this incident, the cold political bloodbath that had taken place in 2002 was not a part of their career. As a journalist with an investigative organisation like Tehelka, I knew every door that could have offered some help was closed to me. The only way out before me was what every journalist in the pursuit of truth uses as a last resort. Go undercover. I was all of 26, a girl, a Muslim girl at that. I have never been conscious of my identity, but when it came to a state polarised on religious lines, these considerations were to be considered judiciously. My family was to be told about it, who would I be? Would I be able to pull it off without help?

The fact that I had attended a well-known mass communications course came handy at this time. Among my classmates were aspiring actors who had carved a niche for themselves in the film industry. Actor Richa Chaddha who was my classmate and now one of the finest heroines recently mentioned in an interview that she chose my career graph and experiences as a journalist to prepare for a film that had her play the role of a reporter. That “long time no see” call was made to another actor friend I considered myself closest to. With my friend’s help, I fixed an appointment with her make-up man. The next day I was sipping chai at a suburban Mumbai studio learning the technicalities of getting myself the right wig. The make-up artist, who turned out to be a veteran, helped me with some of the ones he had stocked. The wigs made me look different, but something felt cosmetic and out of place. The wig makeover had been a non-starter.

I thought a better idea would be to focus on changing my identity altogether. As luck would have it, I found an email on a group ID that I was a part of with my ex-classmates from a colleague who had joined the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles. It felt like an Eureka moment. This was to be my identity. A filmmaker from America in Gujarat to make some sort of film. The idea was ambitious, but the possibility of it working was within the realm of possibility.

I spent the next few days studying the work of the conservatory, its alumni, the films it had made and doing research on the kind of films that had been made about Gujarat, and the subject they had most focused on. Finally, I decided to keep the subject of the film open-ended depending on the kind of reception I received from the characters I would meet in the story which had no script. I had to have a name. One which was warm, conservative and yet strong in what it had to convey.

I must confess that being a film buff did help me immensely. I love watching Hindi films and one of the films that I remembered seeing at that point was Rajkumar Santoshi’s Lajja. I had managed to watch it on a flight from Delhi to Mumbai. The strong female characters in the film were its USP, backed by powerpacked performances by its lead, including Madhuri Dixit and Manisha Koirala. In the film, Koirala played a character called Maithili who explored the lives of Indian women and caste- and gender-based suppression. Maithili was also the name of Sita, wife of Lord Ram. The name had a resonance that had stayed with me. When I found myself looking for a second name, which was common and without the snob value of some surnames, indicating neither Brahmin nor Dalit status, ‘Maithili Tyagi’ was born. My visiting card read Maithili Tyagi, Independent Filmmaker, American Film Institute Conservatory.

This is an excerpt from Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up, self published by Rana Ayyub.

The post A Lone Soldier in the Field: An Excerpt From Rana Ayyub’s “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up” appeared first on The Caravan.


May. 25th, 2016 03:09 am
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

I can’t quite figure out what to do with these. My original thought was to do a chapbook of cancer poems, and I still want to do that (thanks again to those who donated in support). Some of the poems are garden-ish, so I’ve been working on garden-themed illustrations for those four.

I was thinking I’d scan those images in for the chapbook, then mat these, and have the originals for sale at the con. But I have a fair bit of work already for WisCon, between photo prints and dried botanicals. Should I hang these four as well? I can’t tell if these are any good at all; I’m too new to drawing to be able to judge my own work right now.

I’m also not sure, realisitically, that I’ll have time to have the chapbook done well before I leave for WisCon. I’ve been having some trouble with the layout issues. I’ll take another stab at it in the morning, when my brain is less fuzzy.crocusdetailillo snowdropsillo solarizationillo solsticeillo tornado

[syndicated profile] con_or_bust_feed

Posted by Dan B.

Item Name and Description: Four books:

  • Dawn by Octavia Butler. This is a first edition hardcover. It has a little jacket wear.
  • The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor(-Mbachu). Also a first edition hardcover. This is in excellent condition but does have a remainder mark on one edge. It has been read.
  • Mothers and Other Monsters by Maureen F. McHugh. First edition trade. It has been read but is in excellent shape.
  • The Halfling and Other Stories by Leigh Brackett. Mass-market paperback, has a fair amount of wear but is intact.

Starting Bid: 25.00

Shipping: United States only (shipping this elsewhere would cost a small fortune)

misc_1misc_2 misc_3

(Click images to enlarge.)

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern (time zone conversions). It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. (time zone conversions, countdown) unless bids are received in the last ten minutes (learn more).

[syndicated profile] con_or_bust_feed

Posted by Dan B.

Item Name and Description: Ford made his reputation with short stories and these, his second, third, and fourth-published books. They are all first editions.

  • The Physiognomy. It has a little cover wear.
  • Memoranda. The page edges show some discoloration from age; Avon’s paper was not all it might have been.
  • The Beyond. The jacket has some rubbing.

Starting Bid: 15.00

Shipping: United States only (shipping this elsewhere would cost a small fortune)

ford_1 ford_2

(Click images to enlarge.)

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern (time zone conversions). It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. (time zone conversions, countdown) unless bids are received in the last ten minutes (learn more).

Poster signed by Frank Herbert

May. 25th, 2016 02:36 am
[syndicated profile] con_or_bust_feed

Posted by Dan B.

herbertItem Name and Description: A poster of the cover art to Frank Herbert’s The White Plague, signed by Herbert.

As can be seen the poster has been folded (it came that way) and is somewhat rough around the edges. On the other hand, items signed by Herbert are a bit thin on the ground these days.

The poster is 18″x24″.

Starting Bid: 10.00

Shipping: United States for free, outside the US for an additional donation which could be steep (please ask first)

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern (time zone conversions). It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. (time zone conversions, countdown) unless bids are received in the last ten minutes (learn more).

[syndicated profile] con_or_bust_feed

Posted by Dan B.

whelanItem Name and Description: A signed and numbered (102/150) print of Michael Whelan’s cover for Isaac Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn.

This was purchased not long after the book came out, hung on a wall out of direct sunlight for a few years, then stored. Unfortunately the storage area had a brief humidity issue. The print was not badly affected, but there are a few rough areas on the mat where spots were removed, and the surface of the print is slightly warped (re-matting it might or might not fix this).

The flaws are honestly nearly invisible when the print is behind glass as it should be. (Note that the original frame is not included.)

The size (with the mat) is 16″x20″,

Starting Bid: 50

Shipping: United States for free, outside the US for an additional donation which could be steep (please ask first)

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern (time zone conversions). It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. (time zone conversions, countdown) unless bids are received in the last ten minutes (learn more).

Two Chris Ware-related books

May. 25th, 2016 02:26 am
[syndicated profile] con_or_bust_feed

Posted by Dan B.

Item Name and Description: Two books:

  • The US hardcover edition of his Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth.
  • Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #13, which Ware guest-edited. This is a big anthology of comics, mostly new but with some historical pieces, plus a few articles on comics. Contributors include Lynda Barry, Chip Kidd, and too many others to list – see the Wikipedia page for the series for the full list.

These have both been read once and are in excellent condition. McSweeney’s has the jacket, which many cheap copies don’t; the jacket is actually part of the anthology since it unfolds to reveal two comics by Ware. Tucked in the jacket folds are two mini-comics, which are present.

Starting Bid: 20.00

Shipping: United States only (shipping this elsewhere would cost a small fortune)




(Click images to enlarge.)

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern (time zone conversions). It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. (time zone conversions, countdown) unless bids are received in the last ten minutes (learn more).


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