Obon 2017

Aug. 20th, 2017 06:02 pm
lydamorehouse: (Renji 3/4ths profile)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
 Eclipse? Shemclipse! Today was Como Park's annual Obon festival. Bon is, of course, celebrated differently here in the US and Canada than it is in Japan. If we had stayed until dusk as we have in past years, we would have seen the lantern lighting festival.  But, today is TOO HOT and we decided, instead, what we wanted to do was eat our way through the park.


shaved ice

We started with shaved ice (kakigōri) and octopus fritters (takoyaki).  Takoyaki is Mason and my ALL TIME favorite Japanese street food/appetizer.  We then when on to have 'burned chicken' (yakitori), several types of dumplings, and a few misses like the chicken sausage skewer.  I really wanted to get taiyaki, afish-shaped pancake, usually filled with adzuki, red bean paste--BUT the local vendors all make the taiyaki pancakes into ice-cream cones--and ice-cream is a no-go for me, alas.  

I stopped by the calligraphy booth to see my former-language instructor, Tetsuya and he wrote out 'rakuda' (camel) in Japanese for me.  (There's a story and it involves me breaking down and shouting in class, 'Exactly WHEN will I use the word, sensei??!!") There were a bunch of demonstrations, but it was ungodly humid and hot and so we watched a few taiko (the big drums) performances, but did I mention how miserable it was?  

So we raced back to the air-conditioned car and home.  

40 Years Ago Today

Aug. 20th, 2017 04:56 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
The United States of America, then an independent nation, launched Voyager 2

I wonder if any of the people involved realized it would still be going two generations later?

Read more... )
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Dear Senator Johnson:

I am very disturbed by your reaction to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, August 11-12. You made a statement condemning "hate and violence" initially, but since then, you seem determined to make everyone forget that the rally ever happened, that white men carrying Nazi flags, making Nazi salutes, and chanting Nazi slogans marched through an American city--and that a woman is dead because one of them thought he could get away with ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in broad daylight.

What's even worse is your reaction to President Trump's appalling speech. You have said you "don't think" Trump is a racist, although you can't offer any reasons for that belief, and the most negative thing you have yet said about his speech is that "it didn't move us closer. It certainly didn't put the issue behind us."

Senator, it's not clear to me what you think the "issue" is.

You have not spoken out against the racism of the rally. You have not condemned the white nationalist principles of its organizers. You haven't even gone so far as to say that you are anti-fascist. This isn't hard, Senator. "Nazis are evil" is not a complicated or difficult concept. And yet it's one you don't seem to grasp.

You want us to "put the divisive issues off to the side" and "accentuate the positive." By which you mean, you want there to be no consequences of this Nazi terrorist action. You want those of us who are not white men to, once again, swallow the insult and injury offered to us because we are being "divisive" by pointing out that these alt-right Nazis want us dead and are demonstrably ready and willing to kill us themselves.

That's what the fuss is about, Senator. That's why some of us are so unreasonable as to not yet be ready to "put the issue behind us."

Moreover, your call for unity is alarming. I'm willing to extend you the benefit of the doubt--perhaps you genuinely don't know this--but the root of the word fascism, and the concept at the movement's core, is the fasces, the bundle of sticks that is stronger together than any one stick would be by itself. Fascists are all about unity, and when you call for "unity" in the wake of a fascist attack, and when it is clear that by "unity" what you mean is that non-whites and non-males need to sit down, shut up, and stop rocking the boat, I think a person is justified in wondering what you, yourself, think about fascism.

So that's my question to you, Senator. Are you pro- or anti-fascist? It's a very simple question, requiring only a one sentence answer.

I eagerly await your public response.



[ETA: I have emailed this letter to Senator Johnson, and will send a hard copy tomorrow. Plus I have sent a shortened version of this letter both to my tiny local paper and to the Capital Times.]

UBC: Schiff, The Witches [audio]

Aug. 20th, 2017 08:53 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
The Witches: Salem, 1692The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


[library]

To get it out of the way, I hated the audio book reader. HATED. She sounded like a local TV news reporter doing a "human interest" story (smugly supercilious, like she finds it all too precious for words), and she had this way of pronouncing sixteen ninety-two that drove me UP THE WALL ("Sixteen ninedy-twoo" is the best rendering I can give; it made me understand why non-Americans can find American accents grating.) When quoting anyone's testimony, she over-emphasized and poured sincerity over the words like maple syrup over pancakes, making everyone sound like Gertrude, who doth protest too much. And The Witches is a VERY LONG book, so I was trapped with this woman's voice for a VERY LONG TIME. (I would have stopped, except that I sincerely wanted to hear the book, moreso than I wanted to get away from ther reader's voice, but it was sometimes a very close call.)

Okay. Aside from that.

This is really an excellent book on the Salem witchcraft-crisis. I don't agree with Schiff at all points (e.g., she's clearly following Breslaw in her assessment of Tituba's testimony, and I don't agree that that's the tipping point of the crisis), but she has done something that no one else writing on Salem has done, and it's something that needed doing. Schiff traces the relationships between the participants and she traces the history of those relationships back from the 1690s to the 1680s to the 1670s. Boyer and Nussbaum made a start at this sort of analysis in Salem:Possessed, but Schiff demonstrates how limited their analysis was, as she examines the web of relationships between afflicted persons, accused witches, judges, ministers, all the way up and down the social ladder from the indigent Sarah Good to the governor of the colony, Sir William Phips. This is a researcher's tour de force, and Schiff is a good, clear writer whose explanations are easy to follow, even when heard instead of read.

My biggest quibble with her is the same quibble I have with almost all scholars who write about Salem. She ends up making it sound like the entire thing was a series of nested frauds rather than the result of anyone's genuine belief in witches and witchcraft. I've talked about this in other reviews, how to a modern reader, it seems almost impossible that it could be anything but fraud and how hard-bordering-on-impossible it is for us to understand, much less enter into, the Puritan worldview, their sincere belief that they were at the center of the cosmic struggle between Go(o)d and (D)evil (sorry, can't resist the wordplay) and their sincere belief that the Devil was real and walking in New England. Puritanism was a culture that enshrined delusions of persecution/grandeur and in that culture witchcraft made sense in a literal way it doesn't in ours. And some of it was fraud. Some of the afflicted persons confessed as much. But fraud alone did not kill twenty-five people (19 were hanged, 1 pressed to death, 5 died in prison, 2 of them infants), and that's the weak spot in Schiff's otherwise excellent book.



View all my reviews
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS JeannetteIn the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


[library]

This was extremely entertaining, and taught me a great deal about the WACKED-OUT science of the late 19th century, with its paleocrystic seas and thermal gateways. It also provides excellent competence porn, as George De Long, his chief engineer George Melville, and the ship's doctor James Ambler were all insanely good at their jobs, and had plenty of opportunities to show it in the two years the U.S.S. Jeannette was trapped in the Arctic pack ice. (There's a fabulous piece of CSI: Jeannette as Dr. Ambler tracked down the cause of the lead poisoning that was slowly killing the crew.) 20 of the 33 members of the crew, including De Long, died in Siberia after exhibiting more epic heroism than should have been allowed to end in failure (but history, unlike fiction, does not care about your heroism), and the Jeannette's voyage remains eclipsed by the Erebus and the Terror

Trigger warning: aside from the ghastly deaths of De Long, Ambler, and most of the crew, horrible and cruel things happen to sled dogs, polar bears, and innumerable Arctic birds.

The audio book reader was competent and mostly a pleasure to listen to, except for his habit of raising the pitch of his voice when quoting women's writing and lowering the pitch of his voice when quoting men. This makes all the men sound excessively MANLY, and makes Emma De Long sound like a simpering idiot, when it's clear she was anything but.



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UBC: Reis, Damned Women

Aug. 20th, 2017 07:51 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New EnglandDamned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England by Elizabeth Reis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I hate starting a review with "this book was meh," but . . . this book was meh.

Reis' thesis is that in seventeenth-century Puritan New England, when everyone was obsessed with scrutinizing their souls for signs of damnation or salvation, and when a central event in a person's life was likely to be their conversion testimony (you stand up in front of the church you want to join and tell the church members how you came to realize that (a) you were a sinful crawling worm and (b) God had chosen you to be among the Elect regardless), while men tended to say that their sinful actions corrupted their souls, women were much more likely to say that their corrupted souls led them to sinful actions. She talks about how this led (or might have led) to women's confessions of witchcraft--if you view sin as a continuum, and if your corrupted soul means you cannot deny that you are sinful at heart, then how can you be certain that you aren't a witch?

Reis proves her thesis, and it's a subject I'm quite interested in, but the book itself just . . . meh. It was a book. I read it. If you're researching the subject either of Puritan witchcraft or the experience of Puritan women, it's definitely worth reading. Otherwise, not so much.



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yhlee: Alto clef and whole note (middle C). (alto clef)
[personal profile] yhlee
A couple friends let me know that talking about composing for orchestra is, in fact, something that might be of some minor interest and also I am taking a break from working on Dragon Pearl while the Dragon borrows my laptop (which is my writing machine), so.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional composer! I did not go to conservatory. I am an interested amateur. My background is seven years of more or less classical piano, including a few years at the Houston Music Institute (relevant because they taught some theory and basic composition), a few years of viola, and years of screwing around on basically every instrument I could get my hands on, including three summers of classical guitar, mandolin, soprano recorder, pennywhistle, ocarina, and diatonic and chromatic harmonica. (Harmonicas actually get pretty complicated, more complicated than I personally can deal with--different tunings, cross-harp, slant-harp, etc. I only know the basics. [1]) This kind of jack-of-all-trades-ism is not great if you want to be a performer, where you really ought to become expert in your chosen instrument(s), but it's not awful if you want to compose.

[1] To anyone who doubts that the harmonica is a "real" classical instrument, I present to you Villa-Lobos' Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra with soloist Robert Bonfiglio [Youtube], which is the recording I used to have before the stupid fucking flood. That's a chromatic harmonica, BTW; you can tell because of the use of the chromatic slide in some of the ornaments. More information. I will FIGHT anyone who tells me the harmonica is not a REAL INSTRUMENT.

Further caveat, I am only discussing Western music. I don't know enough about non-Western traditions to tell you anything useful about them. I compose more or less neoclassically because that's what pleases my ear and I feel no need to be innovative in a technical/theoretical sense. (Schoenberg's twelve-tone system is brilliant from a technical/theoretical sense but I cannot usually stand listening to it except in the limited context of certain kinds of film/TV scoring. I wouldn't listen to it for fun.)

And for yucks, I have perfect pitch, which in almost all contexts is either useless or an active hindrance (I am a suck liar and let's just say that I avoid a cappella performances and first-year string players like the plague--there's such a thing as good a cappella, but unless you are Carnegie Hall good I don't want to risk it), but has limited applications in the realm of music, ahahaha. For most applications relative pitch is hell and away more useful. (I actually get interference between relative and perfect pitch, which sucks.)

Anyway, let's talk a little about the fundamentals of music from the standpoint of composing.

I keep telling people that composing for orchestra is not hard. Composing for orchestra well is hard. Because it's true! It's a lot of things, true, but you can break it down into components. I'll talk a little more about this below.

Music is about patterns--creating tension with different dimensions of pattern, then resolving it. In terms of pitch, you only have twelve of them repeating across various octaves to work with! But because you can combine the pitches in different ways, you can come up with different melodies. Speaking in terms of standard music notation, that's the "horizontal" dimension. And pitch is combined with patterns of rhythm--units of time. cut for length and tl;dr )

Okay, I am out of brain and I'm not sure any of this even makes sense to anyone who is not me. :] I am happy to answer questions (or, if you compose music yourself, talk shop!).

bookspoils!

Aug. 19th, 2017 06:04 pm
yhlee: Drop Ships from Race for the Galaxy (RTFG)
[personal profile] yhlee
Returned books to library. Got these from the booksale shelves for 5 cents apiece (they were 1 cent apiece but I told the librarian to keep the 8 cents of change):

- Star Trek tie-in novel Ishmael by Barbara Hambly--I read this a long time ago and like Hambly :)
- Star Trek tie-in novel Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan \o/ I read this a few years back and also thought it was lovely! I'm really thrilled to own my own copy, in decent shape for a library discard even, although it means the library didn't want it anymore. -_-

What are some of your favorite recent libraryspoils/loanspoils/bookspoils?

ETA: Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm sad I woke up from a dream involving an animated TV series of P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath. I'm several books behind in that series (at this point I might as well wait until it's all out before rereading the whole thing from the start) but would that not be awesomesauce?!
lightreads: a partial image of a etymology tree for the Indo-European word 'leuk done in white neon on black'; in the lower left is (Default)
[personal profile] lightreads
The Lawrence Browne Affair

3/5. He is a reclusive nobleman scientist who is probably on the autistic spectrum; he is a new manservant come to hide from his criminal past.

Nicely executed but not something that will stick with me. It’s not a fair comparison because the two books are about entirely different things, but K.J. Charles’s master/servant is far more complex, painful, and electric. This book isn’t intended to be painful, and its complexity is unobtrusive, undemanding. Which is a feature, not a bug, in a lot of circumstances, so there’s that.

Neighborhood Antics

Aug. 19th, 2017 08:41 am
lydamorehouse: (ichigo irritated)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
 Our neighborhood, Midway, is often, as we say here in Minnesota, "interesting." Last night, around 7 or 8 o'clock we heard a lot of swearing outside.  Now, I have to admit, this is a common enough of an occurrence that I didn't think much of it at first, but it went on and on and on. To the point where, if nothing else, I wanted to stick my ear to the open window to find out if it was the kind of argument where the cops might have to be called.*

Of course, my whole family, being terrible gossips, all joined me as we strained to hear what our neighbor is yelling about.  We quickly determined that it was "Boat Guy."  We have nicknames for all our neighbors that we know by sight, but which we haven't yet had an opportunity to be introduced to. Boat Guy lives at the end of the block, opposite us, and has a fishing boat that he dotes on. Unfortunately, he always parks it in the street. This is a little annoying, because, lately, our block has been filing up with the cars of the people who work at Hour Car and NEC (the Neighborhood Energy Consortium.) I particularly hate the NEC people because they drive their cars into our neighborhood, park in front of my house, and DRIVE OFF IN COMPANY VANS. I might also be less annoyed with an Energy company's employs parking their cars all over, if their business weren't a block and a half from a Green Line stop and a bus didn't have a stop LITERALLY on their corner.  

So, anyway, we can clearly see Boat Guy roaming up and down the street swearing up a storm because some f*cker f*cking had his f*cking boat f*cking towed and he was f*cking mad about it.  He was literally trying to call people out by saying "I know who you are!" and "I'll make you have to pay $200 by slashing all your tires."  He raged up and down the street, even once turning on his radio super loud to try to get people's attention I'd guess, until his wife came out and said, "That's enough, honey. Come in."

I feel for Boat Guy, honestly.

It's not okay for him to park his boat on the street. It takes up two spots AT LEAST and I'm pretty sure there are regulations about where boats are supposed to be stored.  But, if his house is anything like ours, he doesn't have a decent garage, IF he has one at all. Hardly any of the houses in our neighborhood have off-street parking options.  In fact, a lot of my neighbors on this side have been using the empty grass lots on the other side of the alley to park their cars in because parking is SUCH a pain around here.  His alley, like ours, ends in a pretty abrupt t-interection so I'm sure it's a pain to even try to get his boat up and down the alley... even if he did have space for it.

I can't speak for the rest of the neighbors, because obviously someone called the parking police on him, but I'd take his boat over all the stupid strangers parking on my street.  He's usually very conscientious about moving it around so that it's not always blocking the same house.  

This is only going to get exponentially worse when the soccer stadium goes in.



-----
*A note: There was a time when I used to call for anything that seemed long-lasting. Now, given the current climate, I rarely do this unless someone actually threatens violence or the other person involved says something along the lines of 'don't you dare hit me.' 


yhlee: rose in a hexagon (hxx emblem Andan)
[personal profile] yhlee
I've been zigzagging between S1 and S2 because the Dragon didn't want to watch S1 (too much interpersonal drama for her taste) so I was watching S2 with her up till her bedtime, and going back to finish S1 with Joe.

cut for spoilers? )

(ahahahaha my husband gets the joke in my moodicon tonight but I wonder how many other people will get it?)
yhlee: Sandman raven with eyeball (Sandman raven (credit: rilina))
[personal profile] yhlee
I did not finish this book not because I thought it was poorly argued or poorly written, but because, despite it being very interesting, I just cannot brain this right now. (I'm under deadline for a novel.)

Heath Fogg Davis is a trans man and associate professor in political science at Temple University, and his book, Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? suggests that there are many situations in which clinging to gender categories is not necessary and even counterproductive. The context appears to largely be USAn, although I only got a little way into the book so that might not be true of later chapters.

The book opens with the case of a public transit system in Philadelphia that used to issue passes in both male and female variants. It begins with the dilemma of a trans woman who bought a female pass, only to be bounced off the bus because the bus driver judged her not to be a "real" woman, so she bought a male pass, and was bounced off the bus for not being male. At that point, she's screwed--what does she do? But trans people weren't the only one hit by this--a lot of cis people who didn't match certain bus drivers' preconceptions of gender presentation/appearance were also sometimes denied passage.

Davis then goes on to examine the reason why bus passes even had this designation to begin with. Apparently the stated intent was to reduce fraud--basically, each person was supposed to buy their own pass, and they were trying to prevent husbands and wives from sharing a single pass. Except, of course, if you look at the problem and the "solution," it makes no sense--you could easily still have fraud with two people of the same "sex" (whatever that means, a topic Davis takes up later) sharing a pass. So basically the "solution" screwed a lot of people, was intrusive and humiliating, and didn't even solve the problem.

The chapters in this book are:

Introduction: Sex Stickers
1. The Sex Markers We Carry: Sex-Marked Identity Documents
2. Bathroom Bouncers: Sex-Segregated Restrooms [1]
3. Checking a Sex Box to Get into College: Single-Sex Admissions
4. Seeing Sex in the Body: Sex-Segregated Sports
Conclusion: Silence on the Bus
Appendix: The Gender Audit: A How-to Guide for Organizations

[1] I lived for two years in a dorm in undergrad that had co-ed restrooms. Nothing bad happened. My dad would have blown a gasket if he had found out, though. :p

I only got through the intro and the very beginning of chapter 1 and what I saw looked encouraging and thought-provoking, but please don't ask me what's in the rest of the book because I genuinely don't know. I'm going to return this and hope to check it out later when I have more brain so I can think about the issues properly; it's good knowing the book exists so I can return to it at some later point.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
Who gets to read "Riddles in the Dark" when reading The Hobbit out loud. =>

(I thought I was all set to read it to the Pip, since Chad got to read it to SteelyKid! But, foolishly, since chapter 3 is pretty short, I let the Pip talk me into just a little of chapter four last night . . . without checking how much of chapter 4 was left, or asking Chad to save chapter 5 for me.)

(Last time I read even-numbered chapters through chapter 12, then Chad read chapters 13 & 14 together, so I did odd-numbered from fifteen on; which, to be fair, now that we're back on me doing even-numbered, means I get to do the spiders and Smaug again, which were great fun. Still! "Riddles in the Dark"!)

Fig

Aug. 17th, 2017 05:48 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Can maintain disdainful detachment even as another, unfamiliar, cat thoughtfully grooms Fig's hind paw.

Face Off through 1.5

Aug. 16th, 2017 11:47 pm
yhlee: hexarchate Andan blue rose (hxx Andan)
[personal profile] yhlee
Note: I've been spoiled for the winner of S1 because I started with 2.1-2.2, both of which I rewatched tonight because the Dragon wanted to watch the show with me, and she wanted to skip S1 because she couldn't stand the backbiting. The Dragon loves art (she's in Talented Art in school) and I think it's really good for her to be exposed to this show since she's enjoying it, and I hope she finds the discussion of aesthetics inspiring. But mostly we're watching it for fun. =)

Read more... )

Meanwhile, in happier news, guess which household's preordered hardcopy of Starfinder RPG arrived today?! =D =D =D I'm not convinced by most of the class/character artwork (some of the gun designs are atrocious--why the fuck would you make a scope design that undulates?!) but the environment/matte painting is gorgeous. I oohed and ahhed over the illustrations for the different homeworlds in particular.
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