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Dec. 31st, 2009 @ 08:46 pm Moved
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I'm not sure if anyone is even reading this journal anymore, but if you are, I've moved over to my Dreamwidth account, where I hope to blog more than I have been these past few months.

You can comment on Dreamwidth journals by using OpenID, or if you'd like to get an account of your own, I have a couple of invites. Just comment and ask.
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Oct. 21st, 2009 @ 03:09 pm Indignity upon indignity
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Work is about to make me snap, but, rather than run through the office screaming, I decided to take a short coffee break to buy a latte from the cafe downstairs. I ask them to put the drink in my personal mug, which saves them from using a disposable cup (and also saves me 10 cents).

After I pay and leave, I look down and realize that my 16-ounce mug is filled to the brim with liquid. Which means that my tall (12-ounce) latte, which is supposed to be composed of 1 shot of espresso + milk + foam, has become 16 ounces composed of 1 shot of espresso + milk. In other words, a mug full of warm milk that looked at a coffee bean and ran away.

Thanks, barista.

Yes, this is immature and hyperbolic whining. It's for the sake of catharsis rather than me expecting any sympathy.
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Oct. 1st, 2009 @ 01:23 pm An overdue 5 happy things post

Because it's been way too long since I've made one, and I really ought to right now for all the things that are weighing on me (nothing catastrophic, which is even more reason to focus on the good things).

1. I'm at work and getting paid for it. This is a happy thing for many reasons, both irreverent (I'm stealing a few minutes to write a blog post, for one) and not (I have income, health insurance, other benefits ...).

2. I went to see Wicked at The Paramount on Sunday with [info]ratzeo, [info]lunapome, and [info]music_enforcer. We had great seats, the cast was fantastic, and I had as much fun as I did the first time I saw it live (I was wondering if the effect would be lessened by the fact that I'd seen the show two years ago).

3. My copy of The Mermaid's Madness, second book in Jim Hines' princess series, arrived yesterday, when I expected it wouldn't be released for a few more days yet.

4. I've recently been working on creating epic-level abilities for my D&D character (based on Crusader schools from The Book of Nine Swords, if anyone is interested), which is the most creative activity I've done in awhile. It's been nice, and gives me confidence that I might get back to creative endeavors yet.

5. I'm off to eat my lunch, which is a leek and potato soup I made after [info]shadawyn's entry reminded me of how much I like it (plus linked to a nice and easy recipe). It turned out a little too thick, I think (more like ... very light mashed potatoes than soup), but it's tasty and the weather is perfect for it.
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Sep. 14th, 2009 @ 07:37 pm Laughing is better than the other option.

"Hollywood Casting Cheat Sheet."

How to avoid discussions of transphobia and sexism.

No comment needed, I think.
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Sep. 10th, 2009 @ 10:34 pm The Stepsister Scheme by Jim Hines
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First, some context: I first heard of Jim Hines when I found his LiveJournal during RaceFail, and appreciated his voice as one of the few white authors who spoke sense, and who also owned up to the gaps in his knowledge. So while I have resolved to support more authors of color by buying their books, I also picked up The Stepsister Scheme with confidence that I wouldn't want to bang my head against a wall or throw the book across the room.

The premise of the book itself is a lot of fun: a retelling of popular fairy tales (some Disney version, some not), wherein Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty are essentially secret agents for the queen of Cinderella's home nation. Our POV character is Danielle (Cinderella), who is new to all this business and only got pulled in because her stepsisters kidnapped her husband, Prince Armand.

The book took a while for me to get into, for a couple of reasons. First, it's a mix of comedy and drama, which is more lighthearted than what I usually go for. The comedy isn't slapstick, though, and Hines makes you smile without trying to impress the reader with his wit all the time, so I ended up enjoying it once I got into the flow of the book.

Second, I had to feel out the book to see how high my defenses needed to be. (It's something I always have to do, but sometimes books answer the question early on by being very clearly status quo - for instance, fantasy that is squarely in the Western tradition, usually medieval-ish setting, where everyone is white and straight and there might be strong female characters but no grappling with feminist issues. For better or for worse, that tells me early on to lower my expectations for the book, but at least then I know the book will entirely avoid issues of race and sexuality, and I'll need to tolerate only the omission rather than a royal fucking up.) The Stepsister Scheme, as a reworked fairy tale(s), indicates early on that there will be questioning of the norm. So Danielle is Cinderella - but she's not the demurely feminine Disney version who sings a lot and doesn't get angry. Is she Liberated (in the mainstream-fiction's-interpretation-of-feminism sense)? She's uncomfortable being a princess - just because it's different from what she's used to, or does she question the fact that there are peasants laboring away for her luxury? Does she accept pretty dresses and motherhood without question? And so on.

High expectations? Sure, but I don't apologize for having them when I'm sharing the money that could be dedicated to underrepresented authors. And when these questions actively affect my reading enjoyment, the whole reason I buy books in the first place.

A brief overview on my verdict regarding these and other questions: cut for mild spoilers )

really spoilery )

Damn, but I had a lot to say about this book. And I even cut it down a bit. I think I'm having a little Joss Whedon Syndrome here - I feel like I'm close to really loving the work, and because of that my defenses are accordingly lowered and my expectations are accordingly raised. (See above re: omission versus fucking up.) I want to support a book that is aimed at mainstream readers and accessible to younger (teenaged) readers and also assumes that the wife being the husband's savior, or that the women being both heterosexual and homosexual, needs neither preamble nor excuse. I have high hopes that this is a book I'll be able to describe someday as, "a relatively weak start to the series, but still quite enjoyable, and man do the rest of the books really realize the potential here and get awesome ..."

I actually really think you all should read this book, and I highly encourage you to purchase it rather than borrow it (for similar reasons as I encouraged you to buy Silver Phoenix).
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Sep. 2nd, 2009 @ 10:22 am See icon.

*snort* Yeah, that's about right.
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Sep. 1st, 2009 @ 08:38 am Referendum 71
Current Mood: pissed off

Fellow Washingtonians: Referendum 71 has been announced to go on the November ballot.

"R-71 backers are seeking to overturn a law passed by the Legislature this spring that granted same-sex, registered domestic partners, along with straight couples with at least one partner older than age 62, the same state benefits as married couples."

There is hope that the referendum will be disqualified because it doesn't have enough signatures - it gathered 121,617 (the requirement is 120,577), but some of those signatures may not legally qualify.

Of course, that still means that there are about 120,000 homophobic fuckwits in my state who are willing to tear down the civil rights of other human beings. GTFO my state, thanks.

And remember: if R-71 does make it to the November ballot, you need to VOTE! And vote YES to KEEP domestic partnership rights.
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Aug. 31st, 2009 @ 09:15 am GMH
Current Mood: smug

At [info]nekokoban's recommendation, I found GivesMeHope and put it on my Google Reader, so now I get a handful of hopeful true stories every day.

Today I found my own progressive fan version: Sparkymonster GMH!
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Aug. 30th, 2009 @ 08:45 pm Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
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I highly recommend that you all read Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia [note: some spoilers in the review excerpts], and I'll talk about why in a bit.

However, I also really want you to buy Silver Phoenix, for two reasons:

- Cindy Pon is a first-time published author, and while it's always important to buy the books of authors you want to support, I especially want to do it for this author whose career is one book old.

- An editor rejected the book, not on the strength of the writing, but because he said that "Asian fantasy does not sell." FUCK THAT SHIT, and let's show him that it does.

On to the review: Silver Phoenix is a Chinese historical fantasy about Ai Ling, a 17-year-old girl who seems normal for the daughter of a scholar - except, early on in the book, we learn things like the fact that Ai Ling can read and write, that most girls her age are already betrothed, and that her father was banished from the imperial court in disgrace. When her father goes missing during a trip to the capital city, Ai Ling does what any teenaged fantasy heroine worth her salt would do: she goes to rescue him. On the downside, she runs into demonic monsters along the way. On the upside, she also discovers her own mysterious abilities, meets a handsome and honorable stranger named Chen Yong, and eats some delicious food.

(I have to say, one of the things I love about Ai Ling is her voracious appetite. A kindred spirit! ;D She also describes most of her meals with delicious details, which of course I strongly approve of. Even if it did make me hungry at times when I could not access delicious Chinese food.)

Her journey itself is a lot of fun, and she meets a wide variety of fantastical creatures (not all demonic) along the way. The plot is pretty straightforward, but there's enough mystery to keep it intriguing, and enough adventure to keep it exciting.

One of the things that gave me the biggest thrill while reading this book was the fact that I was reading about a Chinese girl in (fantasy) China, and it was all perfectly normal. Ai Ling and her family are more or less traditional, and (not but) she is also an independent, intelligent heroine worthy of being a fictional role model. Unlike books that borrow East Asian elements for exotic flavor, the Chinese culture didn't feel tacked on or paraded around for our amusement/condescension/appropriation/judgment. Ai Ling's strengths are not presented in contrast to, or rebellions against, her more patriarchal than "us" culture. The habits and customs of the people in the book are described just like, oh, "normal" Western European fantasy books describe Western European (-analogue) cultures. It was very comfortable to read this book.

Somewhat relatedly, Ai Ling is feminine in a comfortable way as well. She isn't the only nurturing one, the only soft-hearted one, the only passive one, or the only scared one of the main characters. She does dress and wear her hair in typical feminine fashion - she doesn't challenge gender roles in a radical way - but she isn't a Girl Character (clearly distinguished from the Boy Character), if that makes sense.

mild spoilers )

really spoilery )

Do read this book - buy it if you can - and keep an eye out for the forthcoming prequel.
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Aug. 28th, 2009 @ 09:33 pm "If Black Women Were White Women"

"What if suddenly, instantly, the power of white femininity were transferred to black women?"?

Read this article. Wow wow wow.

(It's modeled off of Gloria Steinem's "If Men Could Menstruate," which the author links to here if you haven't read it.)
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Aug. 27th, 2009 @ 01:04 pm Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
Current Mood: hungry
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I was a big fan of Jacqueline Carey's original Kushiel's Legacy trilogy, and have started her new Kushiel trilogy, but I completely missed that she had a standalone* book coming out. Luckily I ran across Oyceter's review of Santa Olivia and picked it up. I finished it awhile ago, but haven't gotten around to posting a review until now.

At first glance, I was tempted to think that Santa Olivia was Carey's attempt to throw her hat in the paranormal romance/urban fantasy ring, what with the cover that features a shadowed, tough-looking young woman. But that's a shallow reading - for one, we follow Loup, the main character, from childhood through her teenage years over the course of the book, so she's not your typical paranormal romance heroine. Santa Olivia also feels less ... slick? ... than the types of paranormal romances that are currently popular - there is no leather, no gunfights or swordfights, no snazzy magic or epic destinies. It's just Loup, a girl trying to make things a little better in her town. Despite the "urban" of "urban fantasy," you don't see a lot of books that deal with contemporary urban issues (though one exception I've found is L.A. Banks' Vampire Huntress Legends). While Santa Olivia's premise is fantastical, I liked the verisimilitude of Outpost No. 12.

You can find a summary of the book here, so I won't go into the plot. Instead, I'll say that I really enjoyed the book, despite it being quite different from what I've come to expect from Carey. No flowery prose, no intensely convoluted political intrigue, and relatively little sex. There is some sex, and some mystery, but both the writing and the world feel more spare than the lush setting of the Kushiel books. The story is on a much smaller scale, and it worked well.

One point that made me squee is that Loup is POC - more than that, she's multiracial! Granted, Carey doesn't spend much time developing Loup's ethnic identity; rather, any meditations on race and ethnicity are subsumed into the Outpost in general, and its relationship with the U.S. Still, this is worlds better than the exotification and Othering of the non-white analogue nations in the Kushiel books (I loved those books, but ... man).

mild spoilers )

really spoilery )

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. A little post-apocalyptic, a little urban fantasy and/or sci-fi, a little coming-of-age, all blended together into an enjoyable book.
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Aug. 17th, 2009 @ 11:25 am Link-blogging

The people and their cultures: POC and the movies: With the movie "adaptation" of Avatar, a lot more people are becoming aware of the problem of whitewashing in the media, or, as unusualmusic puts it here, "stealing our stories and retelling them with white people. Dressed in our cultures. Which are then considered exotic." What people then need to understand is that The Last Airbender is part of a pattern - a tradition - of white people hijacking other people's stories for their own glory, and Avatar is just the most recently high-profile example of this. However enraged The Last Airbender makes me, it's ultimately only one of many such battles.

If anything I said above comes as the slightest surprise to you, you would do well to read this article. It's beautifully thorough, and explains why this is too persistent to explain away as "unintentional," or "not a big deal," or "just looking for the best actor to play the part."

The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck: This is how casual misogyny from the men we love pushes us to make the call of "Swallow shit, or ruin the entire afternoon?" on a daily basis, and how the result is to make us - not hate, which would be easier both for us and for the anti-feminists - but mistrust them. We're "[n]ot fearful; just resigned - and on my guard."

This dynamic translates almost point-for-point to other oppressions, as the writer herself points out. If you are male, white, cisgendered, straight, abled, and/or middle-class, please read this and think about the people you love who are female, of color, transgendered, queer, disabled, and/or poor.

I love you, but there are times I have to defend myself against you.

I know you love me, but there are times you have to defend yourself against me. I will do my best to make myself trustworthy every day.
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Aug. 12th, 2009 @ 06:57 pm "If women would just say what they want!"
Current Mood: dissatisfied

Been seeing the topic of Nice Guys being brought up a lot lately (if not that exact term, the general subject of how [straight] guys are at just such a disadvantage with women, and it's really not their fault for whatever skeevy options they end up turning to, honest). For instance, see this Salon article.

Been wanting to write about it, while also being paranoid about my writing and/or the potential public response to my writing to put a concerted effort into it. But. I don't want to go completely silent, so here we go.

One of the premises that I've seen bandied about is that a Nice Guy isn't creepy for hanging around in hopes that a woman who has never expressed romantic interest in him will suddenly admit that, yes, she has wanted this man all along ... It's the fault of the woman for never telling him that she isn't interested in him, and "stringing him along."

"If only she would be honest and say 'no' immediately, the guy wouldn't get his hopes up and be hurt when she led him on! If only she would say what she wants!"

And when you put it that way, well, yeah. Who doesn't want their (potential) dating partner to be honest about their feelings? Why don't women say no? Yes, we fear angry and/or violent reprisal sometimes, but for your everyday decent guy, that's not typically an immediate concern. It sounds like we're just chickening out of telling the truth.

Except that this is a specific scenario, in which the woman's (lack of) interest is a given fact, and the only question is whether or not she'll be honest about it.

And a woman's level of interest isn't always trusted as if it were a given fact. We're questioned and mistrusted and undermined all the time. In the case of Nice Guys who we're not interested in, this comes in the form of questions like, "Why don't you like him/me? He's/I'm such a nice guy!" "What do you mean he's creepy? He's just attentive. Isn't that what women want?" "Why don't you just give him a chance [or, if they've already tried dating, one more date]?" The woman only thinks she isn't interested, but really she isn't being charitable enough. She just needs to be less picky, less bitchy. The implication is that the woman's taste, intelligence, emotional maturity, or expectations are at fault. This criticism can be belittling or increasingly hostile as the exchange continues. Think of the "nice" guy who tries to pick up a woman at a bar, and, when she turns him down, tries to "convince" her to change her response.

So, it's true that women aren't always met with (immediate) anger when they say no. Instead, they're met with distrust, and the assumption that they don't really know what they want. And then if the woman gives in, gives the guy another shot, and still doesn't like him (because that was her actual feeling all along)? Then she's been a tease.

So our options are: say no, be disbelieved and have our opinions belittled, give up and continue on with the guy, then be called a tease.

Or: just tolerate the guy, then be called a tease.

Quite an appealing set of options we've got, there.

(For a longer, more thorough article that explicitly links these socialized behavior patterns to sexual assault, see this post from Fugitivus.)
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Aug. 10th, 2009 @ 08:34 pm [NTGC] Give Me Liberty Or ...
Current Mood: geeky
Tags: ,

Title: Give Me Liberty Or ...
Length: 14 tracks + omake, 59 minutes
Notes: Because of my compulsive need to over-explain everything, each track listing is followed by a "why" section that describes relevant parts of Nexus' life. I actually found it pretty useful to write these out, because they allowed me to flesh out and streamline Nexus' character. I think reading the post might help people to better understand things that I haven't expressed through roleplaying, because of lack of either opportunity or skill.

Speaking of over-explaining: I picked the title because of this strip from A Softer World. Or, as I think of it, "If Nexus were a webcomic"!

Also, beware that the choices and order of the songs are based on a (roughly) chronological overview of Nexus' life, rather than an attempt to keep a consistent style or smooth transitions. If it sounds musically incoherent - well, that's because it is.


'Wait. Give me liberty or give YOU death. How about that?' )

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Jul. 30th, 2009 @ 09:58 pm Who hates the heat?
Current Mood: amused
Tags: ,

Kershach hates the heat. )
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Jul. 21st, 2009 @ 10:43 am That counts as motivation
Current Mood: sleepy

So I'm back at work from a weekend in Vegas. As you might imagine, I'm not particularly excited to be here.

However, I did just find out that I got my annual raise, which I thought was going to be skipped this year because of the budget cuts. Woo for that!
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Jul. 1st, 2009 @ 04:41 pm Blargh

Every so often (more often in the summer, less in other parts of the year), my job requires me to work a 12-hour day. Which wouldn't be so bad, if at the end of today I didn't need to be presentable for the public and recordable for (online) posterity. >_<

However, this does mean I get to leave a couple of hours early tomorrow, right before the 3-day weekend for the Fourth of July. That's what I'm clinging to in order to get through the day.

(I keep meaning to be more active with this journal, but I didn't intend to bring it back just for wangsting. Oops.)
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Jun. 18th, 2009 @ 08:53 am My life is exciting

Last night when I was going to bed, [info]ratzeo had just bid me goodnight and was about to leave the room when we heard yelling outside our window. [info]ratzeo took a look outside, said that it sounded like a cat had gotten out, and left to see if he could help.

Soon after he did so, there was a *WHUMP* and much scrabbling as the cat in question hurled herself at our window and started scaling our screen. (Let me tell you, I'm glad we knew that the situation involved a cat, because if I just heard yelling and then something slammed into my window in the dark, I would have shat a brick.) I think I yelled something inane like, "I found her!" and went to grab my glasses, but before I could do so, all of the cat's jumping and clawing caused our screen to pop out, and she hurtled through the open window into our bedroom.

Lost Cat went shooting into the living room, I grabbed my glasses, and then she came shooting back with a Kershach chasing her. >_<

(I think, though, that Kershach wasn't trying to attack her, but was just terribly excited at all the fuss and the strange cat. When she ran into the bathroom and hid, he stayed outside, pacing and looking around eagerly, with his tail up and ears forward. He was probably just confused as to why she was so freaked out.)

Lost Cat hid in the bathroom, doing the scared-cat-yowl, and [info]ratzeo went in to get her. He coaxed her out and she let herself be picked up, so he took her to the balcony, which has access to the street and where one of her owners came to meet us. Of course, the moment she was taken outside, Lost Cat flipped the fuck out and started clawing [info]ratzeo, trying to get away. He managed to give her to the owner, but she was still freaked and went the opposite route, digging her claws in and refusing to let go. The other owner arrived and was eventually able to get Lost Cat to remove her blades from human flesh, leaving only two of the four humans bloodied - in pain, but not seriously injured.

It turns out that the cat was from an apartment on the floor above us, and somehow knocked out their window screen and fell to our balcony. It seemed like she was an indoor-only cat who was severely freaked out to be outside (not to mention having fallen out a window), and was also quite small, so could have been young as well. This would explain why she was so unhinged. I wish we'd thought to wrap her in a towel when [info]ratzeo picked her up, but she was relatively calm while she was in the apartment, probably because it was indoors.

[info]ratzeo is fine, though I went D: D: D: a lot at his wounds. He'll have some impressive battle scars for a few days, but nothing deep. Kershach is also fine, though he remained very alert to strange noises for awhile - he was totally chill, though, and flopped around a lot begging for pets. I'm not sure if the excitement made him happy, or if he wanted reassurance that we weren't getting a replacement cat or something. :P In any case, he got lots of pets and some treats, and was a happy purring lump for the rest of the night.

My exciting life. o_o
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May. 23rd, 2009 @ 03:10 pm [NTGC] Inhuman Nature
Tags: ,

Title: Inhuman Nature
Characters: Nexus, Luth, Drannor
Word Count: ~4200
Summary: A changeling, a nexi, and a ghost elf walk into a tavern ...
Notes: RP with [info]lunapome after the adventure in Calimport.

Luth's super-secret origin revealed! )
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May. 20th, 2009 @ 10:59 pm [NTGC] Guidance
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Title: Guidance
Characters: Nexus, Bardheid, Drannor
Word Count: 1100
Summary: Two short conversations in the Calim Desert.
Notes: [info]ratzeo's fault for sending me the first snippet of dialogue, which inspired me to write a short fic.

Living and dying, from three perspectives. )
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