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Variations on a theme (the Great Board Games Desensitisation Process post), by [personal profile] kaberett. If you love card/board game socials, or if you are reluctant to play card/board games with others, this is worth reading.
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Years ago, when Leonard was writing Constellation Games, he named the various alien species after different human words for "alien" or "foreigner". So there are Aliens, Foreigners, Farang, Gaijin, Extraterrestrials, the Others, and so on. One species of them is the Auslanders; later a German-speaking friend told us the spelling of the plural ought to be Auslender.

Today I was rereading a little chunk of Lake Wobegon Days and came across Keillor referring to Ausländers, and was reminded of that moment years ago. And then just after that was the passage about Flag Day, and I was catapulted far further back, to fourth grade and the first time I read (or was read?) any of this book. I was in a Gifted and Talented class in an elementary school in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, with that teacher who had a chunk of the Berlin Wall in her classroom. Did she read that to us or did I read it by myself?

Saturday I was on the 7 train back home from Maker Faire and I was sitting near some girls who -- as they happened to say aloud, in their conversation with each other -- were 12 or 13 years old. I am about three times their age. Yet I wanted them to look at me not as an alien grownup but as someone they might be like. They all have smartphones and evidently deal with boys sending them dick pics. And they act blasé about it; I don't know how they actually feel. The next day I talked about this with the people staffing the table next to mine. One of them suggested that boys have always done sort of body-part-display to girls less as a sexual come-on and more as a thrill-of-the-forbidden act, with dick pics as analogous to mooning. We joked about the dedication of an imaginary man from a previous century who worked in rotogravure or lithograph or woodcut. Or at least, like, Matthew Brady or someone using silver nitrate film.

cue "Ashokan Farewell"

My dearest Elizabeth. Tonight the Union Army rests. We know not what battle the general will order us to tomorrow. But know that my love for you is the wind that calls your name through the trees. Here's a dick pic. I had to sit for five hours for the army portrait painter boy to make this.

Sergeant Cowling was killed at the Battle of Bull Run.


I was laughing pretty hard by the end of this.

Maybe one reason I like laughing with others, and making others laugh, is because it is a kind of proof that we are not entirely aliens to each other.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
I posted on my other blog about supporting a new New York City Council bill that would require city agencies to publish source code used to make decisions.

On MetaFilter, I posted about a transparency case pending before a California appeals court; the EFF and ACLU have submitted amicus curiae briefs saying (to simplify) that the right to due process includes the right to inspect source code used to convict you. Evidently the creator of the closed-source DNA testing software doesn't think so. As is often the case on MetaFilter, there are very lucid explanations in the comments regarding complicated technical issues.

And I really like the photo I used to illustrate the potential for algorithmic bias.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
Max Gladstone: "What happens when it’s so difficult to understand the people we live beside—or the people we love—that we can’t help them? That we don’t even know how to help each other?"

These awesome photos of Sloane Stephens!

Some useful information on the General Data Protection Regulation which will affect many of us starting May 2018.

"ProPublica would like to hear from people who have expertise in some facet of the health insurance industry." And then they will do investigative journalism on it!!

Upcoming New York City Council bill on algorithmic transparency:

g. Each agency that uses, for the purposes of targeting services to persons, imposing penalties upon persons or policing, an algorithm or any other method of automated processing system of data shall:

1. Publish on such agency’s website, the source code of such system; and

2. Permit a user to (i) submit data into such system for self-testing and (ii) receive the results of having such data processed by such system.


(If Legistar's RSS feeds work, [syndicated profile] nyc_algo_bill_feed should let you track further actions on it.)
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
So I saw the news story about Martin Shkreli getting punished for posting online and offering USD$5,000 for a strand of Hillary Clinton's hair. And it gets at a bunch of deep primal or overlapping things, doesn't it?sexist bullying )
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cross-posted to [site community profile] dw_community_promo

This month marks the ten-year anniversary of book review community [community profile] 50books_poc, which started on LiveJournal and migrated to Dreamwidth. From the profile description:
The point of this comm is to read works by people of color. (Preferably fifty of them! Or more!)

There are three ways to participate in the comm. Choose what best suits you:

  • Do the 50 Books Challenge: read fifty books by authors of color in the course of a year. Read your books, count your books, and post your write-ups/reviews/impressions.
  • Do a variant of the challenge: commit to fifty books, but take more than a year if you need to. Or read fifty poems or short stories in a year. Or don't set a target number, but keep count of the books by authors of color that you read in a year. Or some other variant that makes sense for you and pushes you to read more authors of color.
  • Skip the counting/challenge aspect, but post recommendations and/or reviews, and otherwise encourage people to read works by authors of color.

    Basically, we just want people to read works by authors of color. We’re pretty open to any degree of participation that furthers that end. We don't even care which books you read, so long as they're written by authors of color. You can read fun books. Easy books. Books that make you happy. Books that get your kink on. They just have to be by authors of color.

With 1500+ entries and 500+ structured tags, the comm offers a ton of recommendations in the archives.

We had a slowdown in 2013 or 2014-2017, but this year a number of participants have been reviving the comm with reviews and discussion of, for instance, Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, Alaya Dawn Johnson's The Summer Prince, and Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad. Come join us!
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So there's a six-part miniseries on Amazon Video right now called Comrade Detective. It purports to be a rediscovered buddy cop show from mid-eighties Romania, Eastern Bloc propaganda/entertainment. It isn't; it was filmed in Romania in 2017, with Romanian actors, and then dubbed into English by actors like Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nick Offerman, and occasionally guest stars like Debra Winger and Daniel Craig.

Leonard heard about it on Twitter and suggested we try it. I thought it was going to be sort of a longform SNL skit. And then I thought it was going to be kind of a nostalgic buddy cop show with a few jokey swipes at Cold War anti-American propaganda. And now we've watched all but the last episode and I think the show is doing, or trying to do, something much more interesting, and is using and critiquing the copshow form better than Life on Mars did.

It's useful to me to think of Comrade Detective as having four audiences (1 & 2 being Watsonian and 3 & 4 being Doylist):

1. the in-universe Romanian political censors
2. the in-universe Romanian citizenry (purportedly the main audience for the show)
3. the actual main audience, mostly middle-class US residents
4. Amazon corporate & media critics

Audiences 2 & 3, plus some of 1, are reasons that people do or say things in Comrade Detective (e.g., claiming that the Romanian healthcare system is the best in the world, or arguing that health care is more of a fundamental human right than freedom of religion); audiences 1 & 4 are reasons people don't.

But I want to watch the final episode before I make strong claims. Anyone else here watching?
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Every ... year? or so, Leonard and I find an offer for a free month of Netflix and take it, and watch a chunk of Netflix-only stuff, then cancel. For instance, we did this when Season 4 of Arrested Development came out.

Evidently a bunch of other folks have caught on that the current White House bears a strong resemblance to the Bluth family. In particular: "'House of Cards w/ the characters of Arrested Development' is th most accurate description of our current political situation i've ever seen".* And indeed I am also catching up now on House of Cards (I'm a few episodes through Season 4), which I find is just as escapist now as The West Wing was during the Bush 2000s. As Jonathan Sterne pointed out in July 2001, The West Wing was Star Trek in the White House: beyond The West Wing's "kind of wish fulfillment, where the people at the top of the executive branch actually believe in what they're doing and work on principle", The West Wing also, like Star Trek, is "stories about the ambitions of the professional-managerial class". Well, I guess I feel about House of Cards now as Leonard felt about Dave (1993) when watching it in 2007 ("Well, this president sure is a jerk, and he cheats on his wife, but at least he didn't start a disastrous war or have people tortured."). In its fantasy of competent governance and, you know, "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue" and so on, House of Cards has really achieved the effect of "Slytherin West Wing" in at least one viewer (me).

Anyway, so, I just watched several episodes that have dream sequences that bored me, and now I'm asking myself what it is about dream sequences and monologues that makes it easy for me to label them "self-indulgent". Maybe it's because I can imagine myself as the writer, banging out a scene and loving it more as an expression of my own fantasy than as an integrated and effective component of the communicative act. Maybe it's a genre/medium expectation that I should reexamine. Anyway, reflecting.

Leonard does not watch House of Cards; he is watching the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 which I tried a little of. Those of you who enjoy MST3K: what proportion of the jokes (during the movie) do you find funny? Leonard has a whole taxonomy of MST3K jokes and I wonder whether it is really as hard to find good observational/commentary jokes, 3 times a minute for the length of a bad movie, as he seems to think. I guess I could try it myself and see I DO NOT NEED MORE PROJECTS I REJECT THIS EXPERIMENT GET OUT OF MY HEAD

* If you look back you'll see further and deeper Arrested Development comparisons going back several months, e.g., from mid-November, "2016 is the worst Arrested Development/House of Cards crossover fanfic I've ever had to live through". Oh, and for fun: "America right now is what you'd get if Dan Brown tried to write a Le Carré novel."
brainwane: The last page of the zine (reconcile)
I'm getting slightly better at a certain kind of habit formation or habit change, the kind Mel writes about here -- so, like, I start noticing that I'm about to do a particular thing as a response to boredom/fear/other stimulus, and so I let myself do that, as a conscious choice, but I tell myself that not next time but the time after that, I'm going to make a different choice, and then the time after that I'll do the unconstructive thing. And then each day I decide that the next day I'll choose to do that thing slightly fewer times. And over time the habit fades. Or for a website where I spend time unproductively, I'm getting more in the habit of using LeechBlock.

For predictable cues that works. But sometimes reminders come at you sideways, you know? Like, walking through an airport, on my way to a flight home, and seeing that there's a flight boarding to a different city, and what if I could just get on that plane and talk to them and it would all be okay?

A little ways into my last community management job, I told someone that my two main tasks were to create processes that scaled and to inculcate empathy in others. Uh turns out this is basically always applicable on micro and macro and intra levels.

Selves! Argh!

media

Jul. 13th, 2017 08:36 am
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Experienced recently, keeping it short here more as a log than as reviews:

Reading:
Nicola Griffith's Slow River on an accurate recommendation from [personal profile] watersword. So good. Wow for the realistic abuse content, ggggnnnnnngggh for the competence in water treatment facility management scenes. I feel like people who liked China Mountain Zhang, for the personal journey stuff and the mundane futuristic scifi stuff and the emphasis on physical labor and managing complicated processes, might be likely to also like this.

(Reread) a few Tamora Pierce books from The Protector Of the Small quartet for comfort. Still comforting.

All the Birds in the Sky: finished, LOVED everything except the last 10 pages which were just okay.

Started Hild and am having a tough time getting the world into my head.

Am most of the way through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which is fairly breezy.

A bunch of Jon Bois stuff which is SO GREAT.

Visual:

In Transit, documentary, loving and unexpected. Way more about people and way less about the train itself than I thought we'd see. I had a lot of nostalgia for my times on the Empire Builder.

Schindler's List -- saw this for the first time. Stunning, of course. I'm glad I saw it on the big screen. I am glad I saw it on a Friday night when I'd had a good day and I didn't have anything in particular to do the next couple days.

Jurassic Park -- awesome and fun, maybe my 3rd or 4th time seeing it. I could probably see this once every 12-18 months.

Steven Universe -- all caught up now, love the songs, love Lion, amazed and surprised every few episodes.

A Man For All Seasons -- saw this in high school I think? So many good burns in this movie, and a fascinating portrayal of an actual conservative.

Wonder Woman -- better as an Event than as a movie (in contrast some movies don't have to be Events, like, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever or whatever). The message the movie wants to speak is in direct opposition to the basic visual and structural form of a tentpole superhero blockbuster film. But there are fun bits.

Yuri!!! On Ice -- I'm glad I saw this and I respect it a lot but I don't love it. I think that it's the restaurant that doesn't punch you in the face for a bunch of the intended audience, and I'm not part of that audience.

Audio:

Leonard's podcasted conversations with our friend Lucian about 90s nostalgia -- I enjoyed Lucian's recurring "because Kurt Cobain" explanations of his teenage quirks.

Jon Bois

Jul. 9th, 2017 11:57 pm
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I need to go to sleep, but:

There are some people making speculative fiction right now who don't get enough mainstream attention, in my opinion, or even enough attention from the circles of feminist scifi fans I generally hang out with. Like, some of you know about them, but others don't, and if you don't, I feel an urge to shake you by the lapels as I tell you about them, to ensure you are fully aware. Like, Alexandra Petri is consistently doing really interesting speculative work in her Washington Post column. Alexandra Erin's "Women Making Bees in Public" is an amazing piece about the necessity of being fierce and spycrafty in order to be a woman, about bees, about unexpected beauty, and about doing a chunk of work every day and witnessing what emerges.

And Jon Bois does some digital humanities writing and videos (often using the lens of sports history to dig up interesting stories and statistics), and writes fiction, again, often using the lens of sports to think about meaning, uncertainty, loss, and kindness. Jed's blog post about Bois's fiction pointed me to a few of his pieces and I'm just enthralled -- The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles is 40,000+ words and is complete, and 17776 is in serialization right now (here is a MetaFilter thread where I'm discussing the chapters as they go up).

His work is so loving and he's so consistent about making connections, stories, ideas that feel immediately real and of-course-it-would-be-like-that, finding the alien in the familiar and the familiar in the alien. The humaneness, that is what I am trying to get at. I need to sleep -- I hope you give him a try.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
I recently saw and loved the new movie The Big Sick and shared some thoughts about it on MetaFilter. Kumail Nanjiani is just so consistently excellent. Some of my favorites among his standup routines: on Benjamin Button, on Call of Duty: Karachi.
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From "An Excerpt From My Definitely Not a Presidential Campaign Book" by Alexandra Petri, Washington Post, June 5, 2017:


People always ask me what I'm passionate about, and I tell them the following story: When I was a little kid, my grandmother took me to see an injustice. I got so mad! I threw my red white and blue popsicle down on the ground. My grandmother picked it up and said, "Winner, these colors are sacred. Never let them drop." And I said, "I know, Grandma, but I don't like to see injustice!" and she said, "That's just the world we live in. Unless you grow up and devise common-sense policy solutions to do something about it. And don't forget the men who died to give that right to you, and proudly stand up to defend her still today."

....

I think sex is bad unless it falls into one of the five categories below that also conveniently align with my policy proposals:

-- you are thinking about tax reform during it
-- other people are having it and you are vocally disapproving of it
-- at least one of the people involved is committed to being a great dad
-- it involves one willing participant who is a male celebrity
-- it is binding Americans together and serving to restore our common values


So one way I know that I am hopelessly sentimental about civic virtue and so on, and that part of me is an utter sucker for "common-sense policy solutions"/"binding Americans together"-type rhetoric, is that even this parody makes me mist up a little bit. Also I have literally cried (albeit on an airplane) at a Doritos ad that championed bipartisanship.

(As a young'un I came across a copy of Art Buchwald's I Never Danced at the White House and read it and thus learned about Watergate. Art Buchwald was a political humor columnist for the Washington Post. I am imagining some twelve-year-old girl in 2039 reading a Petri collection, getting about 30% of the jokes and enjoying it a lot.)

(Also I should look up whether there is critical scholarship discussing Alexandra Petri, Alexandra Erin, the Toast work of Mallory Ortberg, and whoever else is doing .... this kind of thing in this era. *handwave*)
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
Post-WisCon, I have a new hairdo (a pretty butch sort of fauxhawk) and my spouse and I have started watching Steven Universe. We're around the beginning of Season 3 I think which means we just saw the episode that had the duet-with-piano "Do It For Her". Is it just me or is that the song (so far) that sounds most like it could fit into a Broadway show? Like, change the words a little and it could go into Wicked?

(Also the theme tune just switched to a new arrangement and I am still getting used to this.)
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
I was waking up today and was glad my phone was in the other room. I'm trying to do that, to not have my phone right next to me when I wake up, because it's so easy to stay in bed and surf the net.

And I realized that it really does feel like the internet is a big hole that I leap into every day and then need to crawl back up all the time. And I do my work on the internet so I need to wear a harness to keep me from falling too far. Protective gear, like anyone doing anything dangerous.

("The abyss is no Sunday swan ride," as one Steven Universe character has said.)

I have sometimes referred to Twitter as an attention casino. And that is true and it's a metaphor that helps remind me that there is someone else specifically working to make money off other people's addictions and that the experience is designed to keep me there in the hopes of intermittent reward. But this sinkhole metaphor reminds me that it is the nature of the Internet to be an endless sink to fall down, and that I can wear a harness to help keep myself safe. And therefore I have just installed Leechblock on this machine.

Meditation would also count.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
learned today:

* installed Go, and thus learned a little about Go package installation
* remembered some things about Python virtualenvs
* it doesn't matter what directory you're in when you run a psql command to, for instance, create a new PostgreSQL user
* when helping a newer team member who seems to be floundering, it really does help with overwhelmption to say "ok, is this a list of all the problems you are facing? ok, let us address them one at a time" and then knock off the easy ones first
* petl is a Python library to make it easier to extract, transform, and load data
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I've written a MetaFilter post curating links to some interesting thinking from the past 40 years on how we do accountability in progressive groups -- from Jo Freeman and Joanna Russ discussing "trashing" in the US feminist movement to people in the last few years and weeks talking about times to get on the phone, making trusting relationships for accountability, and lessons from Occupy.

Consider checking it out.
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