Twenty years ago today, the first Harry Potter book hit the shelves. I didn’t pick it up for another two years, but I could never have guessed when I did so what a life-changing reading choice it was. I already knew I wanted to be an animator, but Harry Potter gave a focus to my energies, and the compulsion to draw anything I could from the books gave my drawing skills a necessary boost before college. Putting those drawings online (starting with the one above) made me, weirdly, one of the first Internet fan artists, and the friends I made and the following I gathered from that have been blessings for which I can never be too grateful. For someone who was such a pariah in middle/high school, it still blows my mind that I’m ‘popular’ in another sphere – what might have happened to me otherwise? So hard to imagine … And yet, so many people out there have similar ‘there but for the grace of Harry Potter’ stories they could tell. What an amazing thing to have brought such a catalyst into the world. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, from the bottom of my heart, for being such a positive force!
And no, it hasn't escaped my notice that I am once again compulsively drawing a dark-haired pointy-nosed bespectacled young Englishman ... one might almost be tempted to have Thoughts on this.
Ars Technica published an article by me on Pride Day (yesterday, traditionally the last Sunday in June) entitled “Coming Out as a Slytherin.”
In the article I detail how there have been a series of “closets” whose doors I have had to kick down, from coming out as bisexual in the 1980s, to coming out as a pro who also wrote fanfic in the 2000s, to, eventually, realizing I had to come out as Slytherin, too.
In the article I talk about the pervasiveness of the anti-Slytherin bias in the books, which carries right through from Harry’s first hearing of the word through the epilogue:
“One of the magics of the Potter books for me was that as I read them, I was transported back to feeling like a kid again. … My journey as a fan… started from a childlike devouring of the books where I took Harry’s journey at face value. Harry hated Snape and Draco? I hated Snape and Draco. Harry thought all Slytherins are bad? I thought all Slytherins are bad. It’s a book for kids, right? A simplistic worldview is appropriate and comforting.”
“But the moment I leapt into fandom headlong was also when book six, Half-Blood Prince, came out. In that book, Harry keeps on thinking that Snape and Draco are villains. It’s also a book where many adult readers started realizing that Snape and Draco are victims. I went back and re-read the entire series through Snape and Draco’s eyes and what I saw was very different.”
“I guess you could say it was the Potter fandom equivalent of being woke.
Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.
I wrote a pair of blog posts for work that came out last month!
Many developers don’t feel qualified to make security decisions. In many ways, that’s a perfectly healthy attitude to have: Security decisions are hard, and even folk with training make mistakes. But a healthy respect for a hard problem shouldn’t result in decisions that make a hard problem even harder to solve. Sometimes, we need to recognize that a lot of architectural decisions in a project are security decisions, whether we like it or not. We need to figure out how to make better choices.
The posts are about how to do very simple security risk assessments on open source packages, so you can make more informed choices about what you include in your code and get a sense of what makes a library look scary to security folk. They’ve got lots of real life examples of things we’ve seen, good, bad and embarrassing, and there’s a nice scorecard at the end that you can use to help you do quick assessments of your own. There are even some cat memes included!
I’m pretty proud to be able to share some of the things we’ve learned about open source security risk with the greater world and these posts fall in the category of “things I’ve made” so I thought I’d link them here. Hope you like them!
Numbers 16:29-30If these men die the common death of all men, and be visited after the visitation of all men, then the LORD hath not sent Me. But if the LORD make a new thing, and the ground open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive into the pit, then ye shall understand that these men have despised the LORD.
'Make a new thing' is a doubled use of the same Hebrew root letters, and that root is the root used in Genesis 1 to describe God's Creation of the world, so trying to preserve some of the sense of the Hebrew we might render it 'Create a creation'. Which is terribly infelicitous, so.
There is a debate among the more philosophical commentators about the nature of miracles. Rambam holds that God set in motion the natural laws of the world- physics, in a nut shell, and then because God is the Unity at the center of creation, God is able to alter those natural laws to effectuate something outside of them. Ramban, instead, holds that all of creation is constantly and miraculously being instantiated by God and that what seem to be miraculous violations of the natural laws of physics are just naturally within God's power. Both Rambam and Ramban are incredibly subtle and complicated thinkers and it's hard to say what either meant. It's possible this is not a debate and that they're truly in agreement. I do not claim to understand their teachings, which is why this post. But let's assume this is a debate as at least a starting axiom.
There's a third position, one which is at the same time even more naturalistic than Rambam and less, or which may be what Rambam is actually saying, I'm not sure. And it derives from this moment in the story of Korach.
Pirkei Avot 5:6 : Ten things were created on the eve of the [first] Shabbat at twilight. And these are they: The mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach in Numbers 16:32]; and the mouth of the well [that accompanied the Israelites in the wilderness in Numbers 21:17]; and the mouth of the donkey [that spoke to Bilaam in Numbers 22:28–30]; and the rainbow [that served as a covenant after the flood in Genesis 9:13]; and the manna [that God provided the Israelites in the wilderness in Exodus 16:4–21]; and the staff [of Moshe]; and the shamir (the worm that helped build the Temple without metal tools); and the letters; and the writing; and the tablets [all of the latter three, of the Ten Commandments]. And some say, also the destructive spirits, and the burial place of Moshe, our teacher, and the ram of Abraham, our father. And some say, also the [first human-made] tongs, made with [Divine] tongs.
This is a really complicated Mishna that I don't understand at all, but it seems clear from the fact that the first item on the list is the mouth of the Earth that it's the phrase "Create a creation" that is the source for this logic. (I don't have the sources for all of the other things in this Mishna. I think the fact that the other two mouths are mentioned sbusequently suggests that the Earth-mouth is the source for all three of those. And I'm pretty sure there's no Torah source for the bit at the end about tongs, which is why it's just part of the 'and some say'... all that is purely Midrash Aggada) The Mishna is saying that Moses asked God to invoke a miracle of creation and this mouth that had been created at Creation and set up to swallow Korach swallowed up Korach. And it raises a lot of questions. It seems to be a response to this question of the nature of miracles, and its answer is in one sense more naturalistic than the Rambam: Not only is the world run according to natural laws set in motion at creation, but even things that apparently work outside of the laws of nature are actually naturally set in motion at creation as part of a special step in creation that took place Bein Hashmashot of Erev Shabbat.
Yet this is a hugely problematic theory for Jews because it seems to propose a completely deterministic universe where an intervention like the Earth swallowing up Korach for sinning against Moses and God can be preprogrammed as part of creation. If this is the case, where is free will? Where is Korach's ability to choose on his own whether or not to sin, if this preprogrammed miracle Earth-mouth was created as part of the Creation of the World?
Ways to Give:
dreamwaffles linked to a fundraiser for Kaye, who has been researching Rat Lungworm, a disease that almost killed her son Graham, who is now disabled and uses a service dog for everyday life. Kaye was a crucial part of the University of Hawai'i's RLWD research team and also the team trying to get legislative support and grant funding, but she's fighting medical debt for Graham's treatment and ongoing needs. You can read more and help out here.
rilee16 is still struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and is now dealing with an eye infection they need to get treatment for before their roommate and her toddler come back from vacation, so they don't infect the baby. They're raising $50-$60 in the short term for medical treatment; they also have a long-term fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.
anna-guth is a student from Germany who was recently accepted to Redroofs School for the Performing Arts in England, but her parents can't afford the full GBP24K tuition. She is raising E6.5K for tuition and school fees; you can read more and reblog here, or give directly to the fundraiser here.
echosiriusrumme is a student trying to buy her own clarinet; at present she doesn't have her own instrument to practice with but has a pressing need to practice before auditions and recitals for a Performance track next fall at her university. She has a few options lined up for between $800 and $1.3K, but needs to raise the funds to cover the cost; she is offering to repay over time any funds contributed to the purchase. You can read more and reblog here (plus find a ko-fi link) or give to her paypal here.
And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
[This was the review of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone” I posted on June 8th 1999, shortly before the release of “Azkaban”.]
It's been quite a while since I enjoyed a previously unread children's book as much as I enjoyed HP&TPS. At first, the book did seem to skip through genres quite jerkily: I think the introduction, an ugly-duckling story as with the start of, say, James and the Giant Peach, was a bit too long for a section so separate from the rest of the story. But the mystery part was excellent and I never guessed the secret. (It's an interesting point that there's no way you can be really evil if you have a stammer.) Considered as a school story... I'm not sure I can tell: the conventions for stories about boys' schools and girls' schools are so different, and good stories (such as this one) about co-ed schools are correspondingly so rare. Perhaps this is just my limited experience.
Incidentally, I wonder how much she was influenced by DWJ. The idea of the Ministry of Magic is very similar to Chrestomanci's department (though with different motives); you could perhaps draw (a few) parallels with Witch Week.
The description of the first few days at the school did get slightly irritating, because your attention kept being summarily drawn to a rapid succession of things which were (or seemed to be) just for show, without any obvious use in the story (e.g. the Choosing Hat): it was rather as though the author had invited you over to show you her holiday snaps. This is one of the places where I'd draw unfavourable comparisons with the subtle way DWJ has of doing the same thing; nevertheless, there are lots of good little ideas used well, with Diagon Alley and the Every Flavour sweets being especially memorable.
A few oddnesses: I'm sure Hermione's logic puzzle has more than one solution. The bizarre HM turned without warning into a bizarre moralist beside the Mirror of Erised (though you could draw comparisons with his behaviour by Harry's sick bed). Quidditch was rather run to death. Were there really no half-decent people in the whole of Slytherin? And by the way, I'm fairly sure I remember reading in Brewer that the Philosopher's Stone was pink and crumbly, not scarlet... hmm!
But it's also been a while since I've slowed down towards the end of a book because I know I'm going to miss the characters (cf. the Neverending Story). So I think I'll look out for the sequel... besides, I want to know whether Harry & Hermione get together :) . I'll certainly be recommending this to people I know who are sensible enough to want to read it.
[And a small claim to fame: AFAIK I was the first person to try to create a Harry Potter newsgroup.]
This is the first of our rose plants to flower.
The plant's name is Sheila.
I've been growing roses all my life.
I wear a necklace of rosewood.
In many ways, I am a rose.
Roses aren't naturally climbing plants, like bindweed or grapevines. They must be cared for, and bound to a structure. And I've learned that I need to give myself a structure, or I can't naturally climb.
I am a rose.
Roses need work. They must be pruned. The pruning is painful, but without it they won't flower.
I am a rose.
Nobody cares about dog-roses, nobody notices them, but they grow wild wherever they please. The popular roses that everyone admires are sterile and can't spread: they survive because they're grafted onto a dog-rose root. The roses nobody cares about are the roses that keep the others alive.
I am a rose.
I grew up near one of the biggest rose nurseries in the country, so everywhere there was me, there were roses too. I fell into many a rosebush while I was learning to ride a bike. I carefully grew one up the side of the house, a yellow rose with a mind of its own: soon I had to leave it to its own devices because it had grown taller than my arms could reach.
I am a rose.
When I was about six I had a dream of a concentration camp. I had been imprisoned, along with many other humans, by gaseous aliens who lived on methane. The armed guards would float around our cabins and the parade ground, terrifying us as much as they intimidated us.
Of course when you're sent to the camps, they take everything away from you: all your property as well as your dreams and your name. But I'd smuggled in one memento: a small twig of rosewood. I kept it in the pocket of my grey uniform and squeezed it tight whenever I was homesick.
One day I realised that roses have thorns. And that was the day I used the rosewood to burst and kill the guards at the gate, and run free into the outside world. One small piece of reality had torn a hole in the nightmare.
I am a rose.
Dhalgren: Sunrise is comprised of bits of text from what I assume is Dhalgren the book, accompanied by dance, light, and music, almost all of it improvised. Also, some of the music was performed on imaginary instruments. "That must be a theremin!" I thought brightly to myself on seeing one of the instruments, mostly because I don't know what a theremin looks like and therefore I assume that any instrument I don't recognize is a theremin. But it turns out it was not a theremin, because there was a credit in the program for 'invented instruments,' though I don't know whether the one I saw was the Diddly Bow, the Bass Llamelophone, or the Autospring.
Anyway, so my new understanding of Dhalgren is that it is about a city in which Weird, Fraught and Inexplicable Things Are Happening. This is not a very thorough understanding, but it's still more of an understanding than I had before. The show is composed of seven scene-vignettes:
Prelude: A brief reading of [what I assume to be] the book's introduction.
Orchid: Three women dance on a bridge and a man acquires a prosthetic hand-weapon-implement. The director at the end gave special thanks to the dude who made it, understandably so, because it very effectively exuded Aura of Sinister!
Scorpions: Gang members dance and fight in front of a building? Alien gang members? Just aliens? Anyway, some entities wrapped in glowing lights have a dance fight in front of a building; the text is from the point of view of a worried inhabitant of the building who Has Concerns.
Moons: The moon has a new secondary moon friend named George. The dancing in this section was one of my favorite bits -- the Moon did some amazing things with her light-strung hula hoop. aamcnamara pointed out later that the narration in this bit, which featured a wry and dubious radio announcer, seemed like a perhaps-intentional echo of Welcome to Night Vale. I have never actually listened to Welcome to Night Vale, but from my cultural osmosis knowledge this seems about right.
Fire: The light show took front and center in this bit about everything being on fire and also, simultaneously, not on fire. The maintenance man doing the narration is very plaintive about all of this. There may also have been dancing in this bit but I don't remember what anyone was doing.
Sex: The guy with the sinister prosthesis has an intimate encounter with two other people inside a blanket fort. I always like the blanket-fort method of showing sex onstage, it hints appropriately while allowing actors not to have to do anything they're uncomfortable with. At some point in this process the sinister prosthesis is removed for the first time, which I expect symbolizes something about human connection.
Sunrise: The characters who have previously just had sex emerge from the building and now seem to have a difference of opinion about whether the sunrise is just normal, or whether the earth is actually falling into the sun. Eventually all the characters are onstage being distressed, along with the music and the lighting -- again, really cool light effects here, especially the final overwhelming projection of light followed by and darkness.
It's a one-hour show without intermission, which we all agreed afterwards was for the best; the deeply weird mood and atmosphere would have been difficult to slip back into if one could get up in the middle to go to the bathroom. For those of you who have actually read Dhalgren, I will leave you with aamcnamara's sum-up: "It was a strange experience, but honestly could have been stranger."
Thank you for writing me a story! My childhood favorites are not sacred and I'm interested in seeing however you see fit to explore them.
Here were my prompts:
Cyber.kdz - Bruce Balan
Fandom tl;dr: Teenage adventures with dial-up modems!
I love this fandom so much. The idea of the Net as this unregulated frontier where kids could make a difference because only their actions, not their appearances, mattered. And the found family, who bickered with each other endlessly but ultimately stood up for each other when someone needed it.
The Grounding of Group Six - Julian F. Thompson
Fandom tl;dr: Just an ordinary story about ordinary kids at an alternative school involving lots of camping
My usual request for this fandom is pure trollfic: Write a fluffy school story with none of the darkness of the original canon and act like that's all that's there. To see if you can lure unsuspecting people into the ridiculousness that is this book. Basically write a fic as if the cover story from the end of the book, where Group Six was just overlooked and nobody remembered to recall them, were true.
I realize this is a deeply specific request and I am fine if you disregard it and write something that actually engages with the story as it actually exists.
Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
Fandom tl;dr: Chess and mystery and money and wordplay and family, complicated family
I love everything about the Westing Game and its twisty, emotionally complicated payoff, and would love to see more about any character.
I also have this theory... let me dig it up.
Sam Westing is involved in a car accident leading up to his disappearance which is an extremely mysterious event. It is apparently real- Sykes's limp is real, not faked, per Chris, and the only limp in the book not the result of a Turtle kick. And it results in facial disfiguration for Sam, but of a sort that is dramatic enough to render him unrecognizable to his ex-wife when he is Sandy, but not enough that he cannot mask it (presumably with makeup?) when he is in his Northrup or Eastman guise. I do not understand the import of the accident. If the accident is what changed his outlook on life, why wait 20 years after for his revenge/game/reparations?
...For Turtle to be Sam's rightful heir, she has to ultimately 'win' the game, which most straightforwardly means either a)finding the fourth or b)beating Sam at chess, which JJ and Theo never managed and nobody else in the game ever attempted. But Sam is not the kind of person who happily loses games. Sam's game is set up so that neither Turtle nor JJ nor anyone else has to win, but... what happens to Eastman's money in that scenario, if Turtle loses? Does he have to set up another Westing game with new heirs to manipulate? Is there the possiblity that this is not the first Westing game he has run? Is the quest for heirs the thing which has occupied the twenty years since Westing's disappearance?
So basically I would love to see a take on a different Westing Game, a different grasping and overly manipulative attempt for redemption from Sam Westing.
Sizzle & Splat Series - Ronald Kidder
Fandom tl;dr: Youth orchestra members, clarinetist and tubist, team up to fight crime.
Hans Kleiman is my favorite character in the series but I'll take anything with Sizzle and/or Splat. I love Kleiman's fusion of games and music, as a passionate enthusiast of both myself. I wish there were more of him, I wish he didn't have to die to impel the story's action, because his chemistry with Sizzle is wonderful.
Star Voyager Academy - William Forstchen
Fandom tl;dr: Book 1: Harry Potter at Starfleet Academy. Book 2: Harry Potter on his first mission for Starfleet. Book 3: Harry Potter is an alcoholic former Starfleet officer enlisted to make first contact with aliens
I think I'd like to actually see the war, you know? The part bizarrely skipped between books 2 and 3, where everything went to shit in utterly predictable but no less tragic ways.
i ship Matt/Justin, I ship Tanya/Justin, I ship Thor/Jason, I ship Tanya/Madison... Not so interested in Justin/Brian or Matt/Brian, I think. And I'd also love gen. Falcon fighting gen! Complicated morally ambiguous battle gen! Academy hijinks gen!
It's been ages since my last proper update. Highlights!
I got a camera for my birthday back in March...
( obligatory kitty pics )
( obligatory I-can't-stand-my-face selfies )
Then the current round of Holmestice began, PRECISELY when the Livejournal TOS fuckery hit the fan. I will not say that this round has been a clusterfuck, because I think it mostly hasn't been? But pulling off this round has been more effort and cursing than any of us planned for. Happily, I have great co-mods, and there is wonderful satisfaction in looking at ALL THE THINGS and knowing we facilitated that happening. Even if we're still trying to finish backing up the damn comm.
In early May we went to Colorado and Wyoming for a week to visit grrlpup's family. Not half an hour out of the airport, we got caught in an impressive hailstorm; Grrlpup is still wrangling with the rental car and insurance companies over how many thousands of dollars that storm is or isn't going to cost us. The rest of the trip was pretty good, but socially taxing. As always, it was wonderful to see her friends and family; as always, I was very happy to get back home again.
In June, grrlpup had her birthday. We have become my parents' generation: when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she asked that I actually do that one home-improvement task I'd been promising to do for two years. So I spent a few days bolting and screwing bookshelves to the wall, while pretending I wasn't doing any such thing.
Her: What are you doing? Are you painting boards? Why are you painting boards?
Me: [flagrantly painting boards] Boards? What boards?
( front room shelves )
Later today, crazy_marcia, for whom we crewed the Badwater Ultra and with whom I used to climb mountains, is coming to visit.
(For those who didn't know me back then, the Badwater Ultra is a 135/143-mile footrace through Death Valley and up to the top of Mt. Whitney, always held during the height of summer. And by "height of summer," I mean 120-degree heat, woot! The two mountains I've climbed with her are both non-trivial: Mt. Whitney by the Mountaineer's Route, and Mt. Rainier, which involves glacier travel, and thus is a technical climb. Both mountains are near-abouts 14,500 feet high and Exciting Shit Went Wrong on both peaks.)
Anyway, I'm weirdly nervous about seeing Marcia -- it's been an age since we last spoke, and I got lazy and fat and don't have adventures anymore, and what if she doesn't like me now??? -- but scanning back over these old trip reports, I feel very silly. We're going to sit around and gossip, not pull one of our what-were-you-even-thinking-people-die-
(Actually, given that Marcia will be in attendance, I would not be the least bit surprised if we save someone from a close brush with death later today. FURTHER BULLETINS AS EVENTS WARRANT.)
This week, I met with an attorney who came to Alexandria for an in-person interview; another attorney was the speakerphone, and they tried to join forces, but I held my ground. I finished a new first action on a Request for Continued Examination case, and, by the way, someone filed another RCE. I've basically spent part of Tuesday and the past three days on my oldest non-RCE Regular new case, on which I've made considerable progress, but with much left to do. This is the last weekend of the quarter, so I really want to finish it by 3:00 PM Monday to meet production for the quarter.
Oh, and I confirmed the abandonment of an application a little over six months after my first action rejection. It's good to have things like this fall into my lap now and then.
Hi, my name is [watersword] and my zip code is [redacted]; I'm calling to ask you to add a tally mark to your count of constituents who have called and are very angry about the Republican anti-health care bill.
Both times I was answered fairly promptly, the staffer was clearly charmed by my "I know you are on my side, I'm trying to help," and I was informed that Schumer's office has gotten ~500 calls over the past ten days on the issue (I'm not sure if that's all the offices, including Washington, or just the NYC office I called), and the Gillibrand staffer I spoke was on his ~60th call on the subject for the day. This is a horrible slog but I am going to keep showing the fuck up.
I mean, what did you, yourself, actually do to influence where you were born or bred? Unless you were a particularly ambitious embryo, the answer is “nothing”. Sure, your parents might have made some kind of effort to select your place of birth. Maybe they strove to move to better housing in a neighbourhood with better services and schools. Maybe they’re even immigrants, like my dad, and they struggled long and hard to learn their fourth language in order to integrate into their adopted country. But you? You didn’t do anything. Why are you so proud of that? Think of the things you've accomplished in your life. Isn't it far more fitting and fulfilling to be proud of those?
And why the obsession with asserting the superiority of a single identity over the others? “I’m English first and then British.” Pro-tip: Most of the rest of the world considers both of those to be synonymous with “ex-colonialist imperialist arsehole” so it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. ^.^
Here is a list of the geographically-linked identities that I consider myself able to lay claim to. I’m proud of some and not others.
- San Diegan
- Brummie (this is a new one; still feels a little odd)
Today, I think I’m proudest of being European. I earned that identity and that passport, and I’m still very pissed off that some people want to take it away.
Today is also, weirdly, simultaneously:
- the anniversary of Brexit, aka the Colossal Waste of Time and Money Foisted Upon Us by a Generation That Tore Down Decades of Painstakingly Won Goodwill with Our Neighbours and Won’t Live to Experience the Disastrous Consequences, Thanks a Lot, Dickheads.
- International Women in Engineering Day
So, to close this post, here is a peaceful photo of a woman doing some engineering.
[Keiki with freshly dug potatoes in his fist, ready to deposit them in one of the two white bowls in front of him.]
We ate our first potato harvest tonight. Yum!
( +6 )