How do you make sweet potato pie

A friend told me that one of her friends was looking for people’s favorite sweet potato pie recipe, and asked if I could share mine. The problem for me is that sweet potato pie is one of those things I learned how to make my helping one of my great-grandmothers and one thing all three of them had in common is that measuring cups were at best guidelines. They eyeballed a lot of ingredients in recipes and then adjusted as they went along. So when I make one of those recipes I tend to do it the same way. If I make biscuits from scratch, for instance, I pour some flour and butter and salt and milk (buttermilk if I have it) together and start kneading—then, depending on the texture I might add more flour, or more butter, or more milk and so on until it feels right (you add the baking powder last so it doesn’t start doing its think while you’re still mixing).

So, I’m going to describe how I make it, taking my best guess as to the relative quantities of the ingredients.

1 pie crust
2 large sweet potatoes
2 eggs plus 1 egg (or the equivalent egg whites)
1 can of evaporated milk
1/2 stick of butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-3 tablespoons molasses
1-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg*
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves*
1/8 teaspoon ginger*

*if you have pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice, just do a teaspoon of that

1. Lightly rinse the sweet potatoes, then put them in a large pot with enough water to fully immerse them. Add a pinch of salt to the water and put over medium heat. Let it come to a boil, then let it boil for at least 20 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a fork in one of the sweet potatoes. Try to push it in the full length of the tines. If the fork goes in real easy, they’re done. If it goes in a little ways easy then you feel resistance, let it keep boiling another 10 minutes, then check again.

2. Once they are done, turn off the burner and position a colander in the sink. Pour the pot out through the colander. While the potatoes are still hot turn on the cold water. Let the cold hit one of the potatoes for no more than half a minute, then move the faucet over so the water is still flowing, but not flowing on the potatoes. Pick the partially cooled one up and put it and your hands immediately under the cold water. Now start rubbing with your thumbs. The skin (and a thin, slightly darker colored layer of the potato) will simply rub off. This is infinitely easier than trying to peel them before you boil them, I assure you. Drop the peeled potato into a large mixing bowl. Pick up the second potato and do it again.

3. This is usually when I turn on the oven so it will be preheated by the time we are done with the rest.

4. With a potato masher, start mushing the potatoes. Pour in the evaporated milk, mash/stir some more, then the butter, then the sugar, then the molasses and spices.

5. Note that I have listed variable amounts of vanilla and molasses. Unfortunately, this is one of those places where I adjust. What I do at this point, is pour in (eyeballing it, not measuring) a little bit of molasses, then mix, and once it’s mixed in, if the color isn’t right, I add more. Similarly with the vanilla, I pour in about a teaspoon, then stir it around, and if it smells right, I don’t add more, but if not, I add more.

So I will suggest that you add a bit of molasses and vanilla, stir it in, and take a taste. If it tastes like sweet pie filling, then you’re good. If you think you want a little more of the molasses bite, add some. If you want more of the vanilla mellowness, add some.

6. Now, the eggs. If you’re using actual eggs, crack two of them and dump them into the filling. Then crack the third and separate the yolk from the white, and add the third yolk to the pie. Put the third egg white in a small container for later. The white will be used with the crust in a minute. If you’re using egg beaters or packages egg whites, measure out whatever they say is the equivalent of two eggs and put that the filling, then stir up.

7. Once all of those ingredients are in, set the filling aside for a few minutes to breathe. I honestly don’t know if the filling actually breathes, but that’s what Great-grandma said is happening.

8. The oven should be pre-heated by now. I usually just buy frozen pie crusts. I used to always make my own crusts from scratch (another recipe I learned from my grandmas), but honestly, I can’t taste the difference, so I don’t do that any more. Whether you made the crust yourself or are using frozen, coat the crust in its pan with the egg white reserved back at step 6 using a pastry brush (or just more eggbeaters/white from the package). With a fork, punch a bunch of holes in the bottom of the crust (if you’re using one of those aluminum pans, don’t poke through the foil!). Stick the crust in the oven for at least five minutes. You want it to dry out a little, but not to fully cook, yet.

9. Take the dried crust out of the oven, pour in the pie filling. you may have too much from your crust/pan, depending on the size of the potatoes. I like to put the excess in ramkins and cook them separately as little tarts.

10. Put the pie into the oven and cook for at least 2 hours. Check for doneness by sticking a tooth pick in. If the toothpick come clean, it’s done. If you see any of the filling clinging to the toothpick let it bake some more. I usually check at 15 minute intervals starting at the 2 hour mark.

Once it’s done, let it cool. Later, serve with whipped cream. Lots, and lots of whipped cream.

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So today is our wedding anniversary…

© 2017 Gene Breshears

We don’t pose together often, so here is us last Christmas Day.

Today is the six-year anniversary of the day we stood in front of many of our loved ones and exchanged vows. We were pronounced husband and husband and I cried. We didn’t pick this date. The voters of Washington State picked our wedding date. Because we’d been together for more than 14 years when our state approved marriage equality by a vote of the people—by a wider margin than any of the other states who approved it that year. And because sometimes this things get taken away (see the entire Proposition 8 nonsense in California in 2008), we went in on the very first day same sex couples could pick up a marriage license, waited the required three days, and then had a ceremony at the home of some of our friends.

Not that we weren’t both deliriously happy to be doing it, and while we weren’t like some of those couples who had been together for more than 50 years and were finally getting to tie the knot, it wasn’t a date we had picked.

That’s just another thing that is awkward about our society’s history with queer rights. Michael mentioned that he was just recently trying to explain to a co-worker that we have several anniversaries: the anniversary of our first date (Michael and been a friend to Ray and I for more than a couple years when Ray died, so our first date was not the first time we met), the anniversary of when we moved in together, the anniversary of when we registered or domestic partnership (and we had a small party with friends), and then the wedding anniversary.

Due to cultural conditioning, the wedding date was the one that felt most dramatic. And I know that all couples have significant milestones before they officially tie the knot. But it is a very common thing, when one is meeting a new straight couple, to ask how long they’ve been married. And even if you phrase it differently, 90-some percent of the time they will respond with, “we’ve been married X-years.”

Even though marriage equality has only been existent in this state for six years (and nationwide only three), I’ve still found myself being asked by people, “How long have you been married?” And the first few times when I just said the number of years, yes, people were shocked that we had only been together such a short time. So I’ve started automatically answered, “We’ve only legally been married X years, but we were together for nearly 15 before we could get married.” And sometimes people respond to that with confusion, and then incredulity when I tell them that same sex couples couldn’t legally marry before then. Even some people who think of themselves as open-minded and supportive of gay rights don’t understand that marriage equality is a very recent thing.

Which, given all the media attention and the millions of dollars worth of anti-gay political advertising put up in each state when votes about domestic partnerships or marriage were in the works, seems a little weird. How could they miss all that Sturm und Drang?

Oh, well.

And so, while today is our sixth anniversary, and just thinking about it and looking at all the pictures our friends took that day makes me cry, we’ve actually been together for 20 years and 10 months, or 250 months, which may explain why we finish each other’s sentences and so forth.

He’s the most wonderful man I know. I really, seriously can’t quite understand why he puts up with me, let alone loves me. But I’m eternally grateful that he does.

Happy Anniversary, Michael!

Weekend Update 12/8/2018: Guilty men sometimes face consequences.

Doonesbury, © 22 October 2017 Garry Trudeau: The Flashback Edition.

Click to embiggen: Doonesbury, © 22 October 2017 Garry Trudeau: The Flashback Edition.

Once again, a bunch of significant news dropped after I queued up this week’s Friday Five, and I just cannot wait until next week to share it. And, as is usually the case when I post these weekend updates, to comment (sometimes at length) on the new news. And some of this week’s is just, “Wow!” Buckle up!

First, thank goodness for the rule of law: Neo-Nazi Found Guilty in First Degree Murder of Heather Heyer at Charlottesville White Supremacist Rally. Remember those rallies, with those alt-right jerks chanting Nazi phrase while waving their tiki torches? You know, that ones that Trump called “fine people” and at another part referred to as “us”? And there were counter-protesters (the people Trump called “them” in the same sentence) who were there to speak out against hatred and genocide and so forth? And then there was the asshole who drove his car into the crowd on counter-protesters, injuring at least 35 people but worst of all, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The neo-Nazi behind the wheel of that car was arrested, charged with murder, among other things, and this week the jury returned their verdicts (plural):

James Fields found guilty on all 10 counts, including 1st-degree murder, for ramming car into a group of peaceful counter-protesters following Charlottesville white nationalist rally in 2017.
—NBC News report

Not everyone is happy with this development. There was a lot of commentary on the alt-right/neo-Nazi/InCel/Men’s Rights Advocates side of various social media very angry about the first degree murder charge, especially. I actually laughed out loud at some of the comments. It’s always enlightening to watch people who pride themselves on logic demonstrate their ignorance and irrationality. Painful, but enlightening.

But first, the link above is just a news brief, the BBC has a more indepth story: Charlottesville driver Alex Fields Jr found guilty of murder as does the Washington Post (though the paywall may thwart your reading): Self-professed neo-Nazi James A. Fields Jr. convicted of first-degree murder in car-ramming that killed one, injured dozens.

Those online lawyers are trying to claim that the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to hurt people because of a meme he shared on social media three months previously of someone running liberals down with this car. That is not what happened. Instead, prosecutors showed the jury video of Fields sitting stonefaced in his car with the engine idoling, watching the counter protestors (who were all some distance away), and then, throwing his car into reverse, backing as far as he could on the street, throwing it into first, and peeling out aiming for the crowd. He wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t confused. He intentionally backed up so he could have more space to get his car up to as high a speed as possible when he hit it.

He drove 500 miles to participate in the rally. When his mother found out where he’d gone, she texted him urging him to be careful. He texted back (shortly before driving into the crowd): “We’re not the one who need to be careful.”

There was a lot of video (because it’s a big protest and people have their phones and Go Pros and such out), and numerous witness statements that there was no one standing near his car. Contrary to the tales his supporters are telling each other, he wasn’t surrounded, no one was yelling at him, nothing.

Yes, the Instagram post about driving over people was also part of the narrative for premeditation, but it was a tiny part. There were other conversations and comments made in the days leading up to the rally. And, of course, that chilling text message to his mother.

So, his intent to cause harm is established by his words shortly before the act, and the very deliberate act of slowing backing up to get more running room with the car. And twelve people on that jury came to a unanimous decision that the prosecution had established his intent to harm and that he had planned to do it before hand. An important part of premeditation isn’t just that it’s planning in advance, though. Part of the reason we think of premeditated murder as worse than an impulsive act of passion, is an opportunity to change one’s mind. I don’t know the precise jury instructions this jury was read, but the typical text from the judge includes that bit about premeditation: did the defendant have an opportunity where he could have stopped and decided not to go through with it, and then went ahead?

He could have, at any point during the backing up and staring at the crowd decided not to do it.

One of the other crimes he was found guilty of was fleeing the scene of the crime.

His defense team tried to disprove the intent argument by saying he was immediately remorseful, et cetera. But, he fled the scene. Sure, once he was tracked down and arrested he was sobbing, but I think we all know that he was upset because he had been caught.

Of course, Fields wasn’t the only alt-right jerk found guilty…

Takeaways from a frenetic week of Mueller filings: the special counsel left a series of public hints that prosecutors are closing in on President Donald Trump and his inner circle and Mueller Plays Truth or Consequences: In a slew of filings, the special counsel and Justice Department prosecutors slap (and praise) the witnesses who are making their case against Trump. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York made a bunch of filings in federal court this week. The filings are related to the previously made guilty pleas of Trumps former campaign manager, his former lawyer, and his former National Security advisor.

So what does it all mean? Each of the three men has already pled guilty to serious crimes. Each made a plea deal to cooperate with Mueller’s invistigation, the U.S. Attorney’s investigation, and “other related prosecutions.” That latter is one of the few public hints we’ve been given over the 80-some weeks of the Special Counsel’s investigation that information is being shared with state (and apparently international) justice departments. That latter is important not just because of more crimes, but it has been a signal that even if Trump rushes in and tries to pardon everyone, it won’t keep the men out of jail. Presidential pardons have no effect on state criminal charges, nor of international ones (as are likely to be brought by various European countries we can assume since Trump’s banking associates were raided last week over there).

While a lot of people are focusing on the anonymous Individual-1 named in the filings (which is clearly Trump himself), and the fact that the men have already made statements and provided evidence that Individual-1 participated in their crimes, what I find a bit more interesting is that all three of these men’s cases came to this point today, and how very different they are. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, according to the filings, has cooperated fully since he plea deal–everything he has told prosecutors has been able to be verified. So both Mueller and the U.S. Attorney are asking the judge for leniency on his behalf for the crime’s already pled guilty to.

Trump’s former attorney, who months ago bragged that he would take a bullet for Trump, on the other hand, has sometimes been less than cooperative. He has continued to lie about some things that the prosecutors can prove are lies. He has, on the other hand, provided a lot of evidence that Individual-1 committed a number of crimes related to the recent election. So, the prosecutors are asking the court to not go nearly so lenient on him, but don’t be too harsh, either.

And then there’s the former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Manafort has lied and lied and lied in indisputable ways. So both prosecutors are recommending maximum penalties for all his crimes.

This is a strategic action. It warns all of the other people who are being or are about to be questioned by either the Special Prosecutor or the U.S. Attorney, that if you don’t cooperate, they will bring the hammer down. And if any Trumpkins are reading this and thinking smugly, “until the president shuts it down,” well that’s not easy. Yes, Trump has been maneuvering to shut Mueller down, but so far he’s been unsuccessful. And while I don’t think the Senate Republicans are yet ready to hold Trump to account if he fires Mueller, stopping the U.S. Attorney is much more complicated, and nothing the alleged president can do prevents a jurisdiction like, say, the New York State Attorney General, pursuing charges against many of these people. It doesn’t stop the Congressional Democrats, who are about to take control of that chamber, from holding hearings including asking a fired Mueller to come tell the public everything he found out.

I don’t think it is at all a coincidence that as this was coming to light that Trump went on a lengthy, angry, foul-mouthed attack on Twitter directed at his former Secretary of State. I think he’s starting to realize that he has backed himself into a corner, and the people he counted on to protect him are all going to behave like Flynn if they find themselves in the crosshairs. Donald Trump’s entire existence has just been set on fire

Right now, I just hope the country survives long enough for us to see a bunch of his inner circle carted off the prison.


Regarding the cartoon I illustrated this post with: I probably should do a new Sunday Funnies post about this site, but if you want to learn more about Trudeau’s long running comic, or just catch up, you ought to check out Reading Doonesbury: A trip through nearly fifty years of American comics

Friday Five (consensus edition)

© Greg Perry

It’s Friday! It is the first Friday in December!

It’s been an odd week. For instance, my bus commute is on one of the Rapid Ride lines. One of the things about the Rapid Ride buses is that all of the doors open at each stop, and most of the stops are equipped with a pay station so that passengers with a bus pass or pay card can pay before the bus arrive. Makes each stop faster, but also puts people on the honor system. So there are random teams of Fare Enforcement officers who board buses and check everyone’s passes while the bus continues. Normally I only see Fare Enforcement about once a week. This week, every single time I rode the bus, Fare Enforcement boards. And each time they found two people who hadn’t paid, who were then written up with a ticket. The best was coming home Monday night, though. A Fare Enforcement crew got on the bus just before we pulled out of downtown. They found two people, then they got off the bus at a later stop (where they wait for the next bus). Then, about 100 blocks later, a second crew got on the bus, and they also found and ticketed two people (and they were different people, because the others had left the bus by then). Fun, eh?

Enough of that. Welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: five stories about one of the sweetest holiday specials Jim Hensen’s Muppets ever made, the top five (IMHO) stories of the week, five stories about writing and reading, five stories about awful people, and five videos (plus notable obituaries).

This week in Emmet the Otter:

For the First Time Ever This December, Two Jim Henson Holiday Favorites Hit the Big Screen: ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ and ‘The Bells of Fraggle Rock’.

Paul Williams unearths lost ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ Muppet soundtrack: ‘One of my favorite things I’ve ever done’.

Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas Soundtrack Gets First Ever Release.

Oscar Winner, Paul Williams, Talks Jim Henson, Muppets and Music on Tom Needham’s Sounds of Film.

‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ turns 40: An oral history of Jim Henson’s holiday Muppet musical.

Stories of the Week:

Exclusive: Sparkly, opal-filled fossils reveal new dinosaur species.

Osiris-Rex: Nasa probe arrives at Asteroid Bennu.

Latest House results confirm 2018 wasn’t a blue wave. It was a blue tsunami.

ACLU Files Suit Against School That Won’t Allow a Student Gay-Straight Alliance to Call Itself ‘Gay’.

Ocasio-Cortez shreds Mike Huckabee: ‘Leave the false statements’ to your daughter.

Writing and Reading:

“Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture” by Barbara Ashford .

“The Revision Machete” by Derrick Boden .

Hard Enough.

Through a Painted Door: An Ode to Children’s Science Fiction/Fantasy Art.

Better Worlds.

Awful People:

Milo Yiannopoulos’ debt crisis .

Republicans Brazenly Gut Voting Rights in Lame Duck Before They Lose Power.

FRAUD: North Carolina GOP Allegedly Destroyed Absentee Ballots.

Handgun reported stolen in 1990 found atop Seattle police officer’s locker.

Far-right terrorism in North America, Europe increased even as terrorism deaths declined: Report.

In Memoriam:

Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley dies at 63.

Podcast: What It Felt Like to Live Through the George HW Bush Presidency.

Dead Poppy. “one thing that’s been left out in this rush to praise Bush as the Greatest Single-Term President in History or whatever other superlatives you wanna toss out there in the encomiums of doom is that he had no fuckin’ choice when it came to legislative goals except to do some rational shit. He had a Democratic House and Senate for his entire term.”

Videos!

The Danish National Symphony Orchestra – For A Few Dollars More (Live):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

‘Captain Marvel’ Official Trailer #2 (2019):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Jingle Bells | The King’s Singers:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Making Christmas (from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’) – Pentatonix:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Tom Goss – Gay Christmas – This video is for those who have felt like an outsider on what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. If you don’t feel at home this holiday season, I hope you can spend time with those that love you for all that you are:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Doubling-down isn’t how you make sf/f for everyone… and being southern isn’t a license to condescend

Emerald City gatekeeper from  1939 Wizard of Oz asked, "Just who do you think you are, honey?"Although I already covered some of this last Thursday (Stop digging, don’t you see how deep you already are?), another incident has come to light that makes it even more clear that there are sadly a lot of people committing one of the most classic blunders—no, not that one about going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line—no, this one is from the Nixon era: it isn’t the crime that brings you down, it’s the cover-up.

I’m speaking metaphorically, though. I am not trying to imply that anyone has committed a crime, nor that they are trying to hide it. In the case of the Silverberg incident, while there was plenty that is of the gatekeeper-y style of racism/sexism (not to mention the bigoted trope of calling any marginalized person who is being anything other than deferential “angry”) in the original offense, the real problem came when he wrote about how he isn’t racist or sexist—using racist and misogynist arguments to do so. So, the original comments could have been apologized for as thoughtless or ill-considered (and hypocritical), the denial just made the unexamined misogyny and racist presumptions undeniable.

Turns out two weekends ago at LosCon Greg Benford got himself in a similar problem. Mike Glyer at File770 has several posts with statements from several people and there’s a lot to unravel, but the upshot was that Benford made a number of dismissive comments about works written by one black woman in particular and younger-than-him women writing sf/f in general during a panel, and then during the question-and-answer portion of the panel a pro sitting in the audience tried to call him on it and there was much yelling and recrimination.

The convention staff’s inconsistent handling of the subsequent complaints from multiple people in the panel are generating a lot of pedantic argument and deflection. I don’t feel like re-litigating that, I want to focus on the dismissive words and the problems there. The topic of the panel was supposed to be to discuss who the future Grandmasters of SF/F might be. One of the statements Benford made as part of a general dismissal of a lot of stuff being written today was, “If you write sf honey, gotta get the science right.”

A lot of people are trying to defend Benford by saying that everyone else is being bigoted against southern people by taking offense. They are making the claim that “honey” is used as a polite term to address a stranger in many social circumstances in the south. And they are right to an extent, however, it is not always polite, nor is it an entirely ungendered term, as Benford’s defenders are trying to claim. Straight men in the south never use “honey” to address another man, it is always gendered. Queer men can use it either way, though straight men are quite likely to take offense if a man refers to them as honey. Women can use the term to people of any gender and often it is considered a polite form of address, but it depends on the context.

An older woman might indeed address a younger person as “honey” if they are either asking them to do something, or suggesting that the way the younger person is behaving might be inappropriate for the situation, and so forth. The younger southern person would not take offense, and neither would anyone listening. Southern culture does have a very strong strain of respecting one’s elders, for one thing; the term “honey” in this case signals a difference in social standing. But if the significantly younger person were to call the older woman “honey” in the answer, she would be affronted, and other people overhearing would all agree that the younger person was being rude. Because this is inverting the social standing: the younger person’s use of the term “honey” in such a case signals that the older person doesn’t deserve the respect ordinarily accorded to elders.

If a man uses the term to address a woman who is not a close family member or intimate partner, it also signals a difference in social standing. But depending on the context, the difference being asserted might be simply that the man believes that all women naturally must defer to him. While it might sound friendly, it’s definitely got a message of “respect your betters (and that would be me)” about it.

As another old white bearded guy from the south, I have also used the term “honey” when addressing someone who wasn’t my husband. And as a queer man, I have used it without regard to gender. But I also have had friends explain to me that it just amps up the condescension when I do that. I didn’t consciously intend it, but once it was pointed out, I realized I have to learn to stop saying it, because they are right. Not just that it sounds condescending (which it does). And also not just that it can hurt someone to be talked down to that way whether I intend it or not (which it does). But also because now I know both of those things.

So, since Benford identifies as straight man originally from the south, we can safely infer that his off-the-cuff remark was aimed solely at women writers, and that it was more of an admonishment than friendly advice. It also is a bit of classic gatekeeper BS that conveniently is never used to disqualify any science fiction written by straight white guys. Something that John Scalzi pointed out in a chuckle-worthy way:

https://twitter.com/scalzi/status/1068581430840737795

Another of my favorite authors, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, started a thread (which others contributed to) that gives more examples of science fiction written by white guys where the science is very, very wrong, but no one of Benford’s camp would ever say wasn’t sf.

https://twitter.com/silviamg/status/1068549863866953728

Read the whole thread here.

Another Benford comment that was directed at a specific author is even worse: asserting that a trilogy which recently won three Hugos in a row isn’t all that because “psychic powers to control the earth and earthquakes had already been done in the fifties.” Which is another favorite gatekeeper trick to exclude people. Never mind that every one of Benford’s own books could be boiled down to a single “idea” that someone had written many years before he started being published. But that’s the nature of gatekeeping: rules are stated in a way that sound like an objective criteria, but aren’t applied to works by white straight cisgendered men.

But others have also explained that a bit better. Annalee Flower Horne did a twitter thread explaining how “the notion that ideas and tropes can never be re-used in SF and that anyone trying must be new here would be funny if it weren’t such an insidious tool of exclusion.”

But at this point I’m still just describing Benford’s original offense, and not how he dug himself even deeper into the hole. I’m not going to link to it because it’s hosted on sites that I refuse to give any support of. But his response boiled down to accusing everyone else of being too sensitive and lamenting the so-called victim culture. Ah, yes, that tired old chestnut! Every classic blunder deserves a classic racist/misogynist/homophobic dog whistle, I guess. But just to be clear: if you claim that other people are being too sensitive, all that really means is that you’re offended because you think you should be able to disrespect whoever you want and never face any consequences for it.

I didn’t do as good a job last week about explaining one aspect of why this doubling-down is not just pointless, but also ethically wrong. Fortunately, Brianne Reeves did a much better job:

“Imagine this.

You are at a playground. A gaggle of four year olds is running about. One of them is not paying attention and accidentally sends another plummeting off the equipment and into the asphalt. Suddenly, there is screaming and crying. Mothers race to the scene.

What do you do next?

You fix the wound as best you can, and the child apologizes. Not necessarily for the shove, but for the inattention. They didn’t *mean* to cause pain, but their lack of awareness meant that another is in pain.”

I mentioned above the time when a friend called me out for using the term “honey” in a condescending way. I wasn’t intending to belittle the person I was talking to, but intention isn’t an exculpatory factor. My friend was hurt by my words, and that is on me. More importantly, once I have had this explained to me, the onus also is upon me to avoid such thoughtless words again. It is tough breaking old habits, I know. I have screwed up since that was pointed out to me, but the answer isn’t to blame my friend for being overly sensitive. The onus is on me to keep trying to do better, and apologize sincerely when I mess up.

It’s also galling when a professional writer, of all people, tries to claim that words don’t matter. They do. We should take pride in taking responsibility for what we say and write.

To absent friends…

Today is World AIDS Day. Each year, I spend part of the day remembering people I have known who left this world too soon because of that disease.

So: Frank, Mike, Tim, David, Todd, Chet, Jim, Steve, Brian, Rick, Stacy, Phil, Mark, Michael, Jerry, Walt, Charles, Thomas, Mike, Richard, Bob, Mikey, James, Lisa, Todd, Kerry, Glen, and Jack. Some of you I didn’t know for very long. One of you was a relative. One of you was one of my best friends in high school.

I miss you all. It was a privilege to know you.

The theme of 2018 for the World Aids Day campaign is “Know your status.” A huge number of people still think of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) as a gay disease, when world wide the majority of people infected are straight women and children. Various health organizations have begun recommending the HIV screening become part of routine medical tests administered to everyone, to reduce the stigma of getting tested. Particularly since we have better ways of stopping the spread of infection than in the past, and with modern treatment, being infected is no longer a guarantee of death at an early age.

But you can’t get treated if you don’t know you have it.

Friday Five (puppies and wooly mammoths edition)

It’s Friday! It is the final (and fifth) Friday in November.

Today is the first of my string of Fridays off. For many years now, when I can, I have been taking the Friday between the Thanksgiving holiday and New Year’s Day off. Having a string of three-day weekends leading up to Christmas makes shopping and decorating and other holiday prep a whole lot easier.

Welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five (IMHO) stories of the week, five stories from the realm of science and sf/f, five stories of the blue wave, five stories about awful people, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and my blog posts).

Stories of the Week:

Rising from the ashes.

A Dutch church is holding non-stop services for a refugee family.

Why legal pot is forcing some drug dogs into retirement.

What is ‘Judeo-Christian,’ anyway?

Layoffs Begin At NRA’s Media Arm.

Science and Science Fiction stories:

Dog finds ancient woolly mammoth tooth in Whidbey Island backyard.

‘Siberian unicorn’ walked Earth with humans.

Humans ‘off the hook’ for African mammal extinction.

Twitter bans misgendering and deadnaming in pro-trans move.

A Note on Robert Silverberg.

This Week in the Blue Wave:

Black Voters Propelled Blue Wave, Study Finds.

Congress’s incoming class is younger, bluer, and more diverse than ever.

House Progressives Are Set To Wield A Lot Of Power In 2019.

Last undecided House race is in California; here’s the latest midterm tally.

The 2018 blue wave included quite a few LGBT wins – even though voters are still wary of gay, trans candidates.

Awful People:

He Says He Got Away With 90 Murders. Now He’s Confessing to Them All.

Salvation Army slaps ‘gag order’ on employees so they don’t talk about LGBTQ issues. Because when people find out their bigoted policies, they donate to other, more worthy causes.

GM Lays Off 14.7K North American Workers, Puts 5 Plants Up For Closure.

Trump gets ‘raging hot angry’ every time a staffer tells him something is ‘against the law’.

Alexander Acosta gave Jeffrey Epstein the deal of a lifetime.

In Memoriam:

Harry Leslie Smith was a gift. I’ll miss him.

“World’s oldest rebel”, wartime hero, author, activist and fierce defender of the NHS – RIP Harry Leslie Smith.

Harry Leslie Smith dead: ‘World’s oldest rebel’ dies aged 95 after long fight for the poor.

Harry Leslie Smith: War veteran who spoke out against austerity, the far right and Trump.

Andrew Burt (1945 – 2018). Appeared in classic Doctor Who, Blake’s Seven, and various other shows.

‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ Creator Stephen Hillenburg Dies at 57.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 11/25/2018: Pictures and headlines.

Don’t stop writing!

Stop digging, don’t you see how deep you already are?

Videos!

The Original Cinematic Universes (how certain unrelated historical films can be viewed like a franchise):

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MARVEL || Lions Inside (collab w/ djcprod):

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Once Upon A Deadpool | Official Trailer:

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“The Story Continues” Featurette | Mary Poppins Returns:

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Gwen Stefani – You Make It Feel Like Christmas ft. Blake Shelton:

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Stop digging, don’t you see how deep you already are?

“Friendship is not about people who act true to you face. It's about people who remain true behind your back.”

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Shortly after the last Hugo ceremony, a kerfluffle happened when a member of the Old Guard made some less than nice comments about one of the winners on a mailing list consisting of several hundred people. At the time I posted on twitter that, “An old white guy who used a Hugo awards speech to make an extended dick joke has no business calling anyone else’s comments vulgar.” So let’s do a summary:

N.K. Jemisin is the first author to win the Hugo for best novel three years in a row. These three best novel Hugos were not her first awards. Several years ago when she won another award, a person who has since became a notorious racist provacateur who happened to be an officer of the Science Fiction Writers of America at the time used the society’s official mailing list to send out racist and sexist comments (calling Jemisin, an African-American author, a “savage” was not the worst part of the comments). He was ousted from his position at the time, but subsequently from his own publishing house and blog he proceeded to rally people to harass Jemisin and every other non-white, non-male, non-straight science fiction/fantasy author he could identify who was getting positive attention.

So, when Jemisin won her third Best Novel Hugo in a row, she made some comments about the harassment campaign. Comments that the vast majority of people who saw the speech thought were funny and apt. They weren’t angry comments, they were triumphant. And she is hardly the first award winner to mention obstacles that had to be overcome in order to even be a nominee for the award.

But one member of the old guard of sf/f (Robert Silverberg) didn’t like the comments, and on a mailing list that he thought was private (but come on, hundreds of members!) he made comments that were racist, misogynist, dismissive, and hypocritical about Jemisin’s speech. He characterized her comments as vulgar, graceless, and angry. Which, as I commented above, is pretty rich from someone who used the speech at a previous Hugo award ceremony to make a long, elaborate (and worst of all, not funny) dick joke. Never mind the weird anti-semetic thing at another Hugo ceremony, nor sponsoring a weird conspiracy-theory petition about a sci fi organization a few years ago. Since these remarks came to light, various other professionals in the community came up with other examples of him being misogynist.

Further, while admitting that he had never read any of her stuff (despite being a Hugo voter who gets a free copy of each nominated work each year that most of the rest of us voters use to read before we cast our ballots), he indicated that he was skeptical that she deserved the awards.

Here’s the thing: if you are not a member of a marginalized community, and you tell a person in that community that they should tone down what they are saying about their own experience being discriminated against? You are guilty at the very least of mansplaining. Which, in case you don’t know means:

explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer.

Here’s the other thing: if you’re a long time Hugo awards participant but you can’t be bothered to check out the work of someone who has won several times recently, yet still feel entitled to opine on whether they deserve any of the awards, it’s time for you to hang up your hat and go out to pasture.

This has become part of the conversationn so many months later because Silverberg contacted the publisher of the fan news site, File 770, all upset because he thought some comments others had made about his comments were libelous. Let me state for the record that, as a person who has professionally been involved in libel cases and sat through long convoluted conversations with lawyers about libel, those comments aren’t anywhere close to libel. At all. But, because he felt that way, he demanded that the publisher post his 1500 word essay about racism and sexism to reply, and oh, my goodness, talk about being deep in a hole and deciding to dig yourself deeper!

A few words of advice: if you ever begin any paragraph with the phrase “I’m not racist” everything that comes after is a lie. It you say “I’m not sexist” again, that is a lie and everything that follows it is. But, even worse, if you try to defend yourself by saying, “Some of my best friends are…” You have just demonstrated that you are so deeply steeped in ignorance on the topic that you should be too ashamed to ever show your face in public again.

It is impossible to grow up in a society without absorbing that society’s racist, sexist, sectarian, and homophobic prejudices. The best any of us can hope for is to not be intentionally racist or sexist or homophobic; learn from our mistakes and keep trying to do better.

Silverberg hasn’t helped his cause with this essay. And besides the complete lack of awareness, another issue is the self-victimhood. He—and a lot of people defending him—make a big deal about how his original comments were made on a mailing list that he thought was private, and therefore he is the victim because his privacy was violated. First, let’s turn to Miss Manners on what one should do if something you said in private gets leaked to the public:

Admit your wrongdoing. Don’t try to blame it on being misheard, the vendetta of other people, or her paranoia. If you said the wrong thing and you were caught out, fess up – however painful it might be. Don’t put it off – do it right away, in private if you can.

It doesn’t matter if he thought it was a private conversation. It was bigoted commentary, period. And if his private comments become public, the only honorable thing to do is admit that what you said was wrong. Period.

I’ve blogged many times about bigots who don’t think they are bigots for all sorts of misguided reasons, including this one: the mistaken idea that if you don’t say it to someone’s face on purpose, somehow it isn’t racism/sexism/homophobia/whatever. You can’t claim to be an ally when you are trash talking the person behind their back. You can’t claim not to be a bigot when you are spouting bigoted things out of earshot of the people in question. How hard can it be to understand that?

Silverberg is an author whose work I have written positive things about. And I’m an old, white-bearded sf/f fan just like him. I understand that he sincerely thinks he’s the victim here. I also understand that he couldn’t be more wrong, and it just makes me feel a lot of pity for him and his ignorance.

But let’s try to close an a more upbeat note:

Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist – Avenue Q – Original Broadway Cast:

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Don’t stop writing!

The phrase "You should be writing" over a picture of author Neil Gaiman

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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is nearly over. I hit the NaNo standard goal of 50,000 word over the weekend, though I still have a ways to go before I hit my personal goal of 66,000 (attempting to break my previous record of 65,591). This year’s project has involved writing some scenes multiple times from several perspectives—the most egregious one having now seven different versions, which is fairly amazing since it really consists of just two characters. Another scene that was written five times at least involves four active characters and one passive observer, which makes the multiple versions make a bit more sense.

There are some who would say this isn’t in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, and certainly not in line with advice I have often given people who are stuck: to just write the next word and keep moving. Since each time I have redone a scene I started from scratch, I think this counts as legitimate first draft activity. I’m not revising, see. And if someone thinks this is a form of cheating, well for years I was a member of the NaNoWriMo Rebels. The original rules specified that you not write a single word of the story before the stroke of midnight on October 31. So I was a rebel because I was usually trying to finish one of more works already in progress. So if my multiple tellings of the same (or substantially similar) scenes is cheating, I guess I’m a rebel again.

My progress as of last night.

On the other hand, there is a scene that is told twice which I intend to go into the book that way. The reader will first seen the end of a battle from the point of view of the main villain of the story, as he arrives when most of the fight is over and tries to figure out what’s happening. Then in the next chapter the reader will see the beginning of the battle from the point of view of one of the protagonists and learn quite a bit more. And I think it works quite well.

We’ll see what the readers think.

Weekend Update 11/25/2018: Pictures and headlines

There is just so much weirdness in the world that I could comment on, but I don’t even know where to begin.

© 2018 Matt Wuerker/POLITICO

(Click to embiggen) © 2018 Matt Wuerker/POLITICO

Trump administration to pull troops from border just as migrant caravan arrives — proving it was all a stunt.

Don’t forget the troops missing Thanksgiving with family in service of Trump’s political stunt.

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Trump rips retired Adm. William McRaven for not capturing Osama bin Laden sooner.

Retired Admiral McRaven repeats: Trump’s media attacks ‘greatest threat to our democracy’.

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Cindy Hyde-Smith sent her daughter to a private school created to help white kids bypass integration – It’s the latest detail that gives context to the lynching “joke” from the US senator from Mississippi..

Walmart asks Mississippi’s Hyde-Smith to return donation after ‘public hanging’ comment.

Cindy Hyde-Smith has embraced Confederate history more than once in her political career.

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Finland baffled by Trump’s comments about raking leaves to prevent forest fires.

Folks in Finland churn out hilarious memes mocking Trump’s raking comment.

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Poll: Democratic voters back Pelosi as speaker by wide margin.

Republicans declared war on Nancy Pelosi — and she won.

The liberal civility fetish explained:

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