Archive | March 2012

Gazing into the kookie

It had never occurred to me that either Mad Magazine or Cracked were still in business. I don’t know why it wasn’t obvious that in a world with I Can Haz Cheezburger and Rob Enderle as a technology pundit, of course Mad and Cracked’s brand of juvenilia and mockery would have sufficient audience to generate some ad revenue.

Recently a political cartoon from Mad Magazine was making the rounds, “Who Said It? Mitt Romney or Mr. Burns?” And now Cracked has published David Wong’s “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women.” I think a more accurate title might have been “3 Ways Men Are Trained to Think of Women as Objects and 2 Ways That Manifests as Resentment” (or maybe “3 Ways Men Are Trained to Think of Women as Objects, 1 Way Men are Trained to Hate Themselves, and 1 Way All That Resentment Manifests”) but that isn’t quite as catchy, and wouldn’t drive as many clicks to their website.

The thing is, even with the words “boner” and “boobies” scattered throughout, the article is a decent exploration of how men are socialized to be jerks. And in the end, while it certainly doesn’t offer any solutions to the problem, at least Wong apologizes on behalf of his (our) gender for a specific set of recent rather public manifestation of the demeaning of women.

The same forces also teach women that they deserve to be thought of that way, or at least that the only way to succeed in life is to play into those expectations of the men around them.

And while Wong’s approach was focused on heterosexual men, us gay guys don’t escape those forces unscathed. We get told we’re supposed to want the girl, et cetera, and if we don’t that’s one of the ways we get threatened with “losing your man card” as he says. Some gay guys simply transfer all those demeaning notions to the men they themselves are attracted to. More seem to transfer it to guys that they perceive as being less masculine then them, or more masculine. They don’t always put it that way. I mean, yes, many will say “no fems” and refer to themselves as “straight-acting,” but they’re more likely to say “no flakes” or something similar. The ones at the other end sometimes say derogatory things about people who describe themselves as “straight acting,” but most will use other code words, like “game players” or “aggressive.”

Which just plays back into the whole messed up vicious circle.

I wish I had a brilliant point or a solution other than “don’t perpetuate this stuff,” which is just a longer way of saying “don’t be a jerk.” But I don’t.

So, don’t be a jerk (And I’m sorry so many of us are).

I love the rain

I love grey, wet days like today. Why, yes, I am aware that makes me a freak in many eyes.

I don’t care.

The rain is not coming down in buckets. We get that sometimes. Rain coming down so hard that the “rainchill” (cold raindrops hitting you and each absorbing a bit of your body tempature, dozens or scores of large icy cold drops every second) making you shiver and worse. I grew up where 25 degrees below zero Farenheit was neither unheard of nor uncommon, so I know from cold, and I don’t like the rain when it comes down like that.

This morning it was just a nice, gentle shower. Cool, chilly, even, but not cold. And not coming down so hard that I would have been annoyed if I hadn’t had a hood on my coat to pull over my head, but just exactly hard enough that I was glad for the hood.

It was a light enough rain that the sparrows were flitting from tree to tree rather than seek shelter. Crows and gulls shrug off all but the heaviest rain, but sparrows are a bit more delicate. They were out today.

The clouds were not dark, just a soft, cool grey. There was barely any wind.

I love the soft sound the rain makes. I love the steady hissing hum of the tires going by on busy streets. I love the smell of the air. It’s different that the wonderful smell after a rainstorm, but ther are hints of that coming scent in it. I love the sound the occasional larger drops make when they tap my hood or hat. I the way everything turns greener and greener as winter receeds and the spring rains transform our world.

I love the rain.

 

Old fan, new fan, faux fan, true fan

I first became (remotely) involved in science fiction fandom around 1972. Back then, before the internet, cheap phone calls, personal computers, and so on, most fannish activity was carried out via actual paper transported from one place to another through the U.S. Postal Service. For a shy, gay 12-year-old living in a teeny town in sparsely populated corner of a Rocky Mountain state, being involved in fandom meant subscribing to someone’s ‘zine (short for “fanzine,” itself a portmanteau of “fan” and “magazine”), and writing letters back to people.

Not only was this before personal computers, but this was before affordable photocopiers. Most of those ‘zines were produced on either ditto machines or mimeographs. Which were expensive and required a lot of room for both themselves and supplies. So publishers of ‘zines were generally people who either worked for a school or a church, or were good friends with someone who worked for such an institution and would allow them to use it for person projects.

The ‘zine I subscribed to was produced on a ditto machine, so I would receive three or four sheets of paper covered in pale, fuzzy bluish-purple letters. At the time, there was a controversy about what sort of person was a true fan. The particular dividing line in the debate raging in the pages of the ‘zine was whether people who did not subscribe to one or more of the professional sci fi magazines, but only read short stories when they were collected into anthologies could be considered real fans (trufan), or merely dabblers.

Seriously! Not just whether you read sci fi, but how you read it was a bright dividing line between acceptance into the community or rejection. And being a faithful magazine subscriber wasn’t enough. There were more battle lines drawn. Some readers of Analog looked down on people whose favorite was The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, while readers of World of If didn’t think much of readers of Galaxy (especially after If was bought and merged with Galaxy due to financial problems). And there were always a few older fans who angrily asserted that nothing good had been published since Astounding had changed its name to Analog.

A few years later, it was the Trekkies who were reviled as the interlopers/pretenders trying to ruin fandom. Then as the Star Wars movies became blockbusters and inspired many more movies and television series than any of us had ever hoped to see, the Star Wars fans were consider the fakes in fandom. And so on.

Lately it’s been “geek girls” (a term I use only because so many of them embrace it; shouldn’t it be geek women? or at least geek gals?)—which are fake, which are real, and why should it matter. I do think the chauvinism of a lot of geek boys is more than a little responsible for this particular phenomenon, but I also recognize the pattern going all the way back to the magazines vs anthology books when I first joined up.

Part of it is basic human nature. As social animals who evolved in small groups often competing for resources, we’re hardwired to ascertain which people are members of our tribe or clan, and to identify outsiders. Particularly for those of us who grew up in environments where being a geek meant being viewed with derision at best by our classmates, figuring out which people share our passions feels vitally important.

But no one’s life (or livelihood for that matter) is at stake.

Then there’s the arguments about the difference between geeks and nerds. I once had a guy sneeringly tell me I shouldn’t call myself a geek unless I was a programmer or worked in IT. So told I told him the first program I created that executed correctly had to be loaded into the computer using punch cards. He didn’t seem to understand my joke about what a luxury it was for him to program on a screen, where cut and paste didn’t involve actual scissors. I then casually mentioned my years as a LAN administrator and desktop support tech and hardware qualification tech even though my official job title had been about publications.

Much more recently a guy told me I couldn’t be a geek because I was an Apple fan. So I made a UNIX joke, which he didn’t get. Then I asked him to explain the difference between ∂x (delta-x) and dx, which he couldn’t. Turned out he only knew how to mechanically find the derivative of a function. He had no idea what a derivative actually was.

As funny as I may find these bits of “turn-about is fair play,” I think there is a more serious issue underlying this. I may be a bit prejudiced, since it reminds me of the time decades ago when a small (but very vocal) group became outraged when a gay couple was seen dancing together at a dance at a local sci fi convention. Or the time I bought an old collection of the best sf stories from one of the years in the 60s, only to find the editorial written by a grandmaster author of the genre that was about how “f*ggots” (his exact word) were ruining science fiction, replacing good solid science with social, psychological, and biological commentary.

The question about the so-called soft sciences vs hard is beyond the scope of a single blog entry. But the fake geek girl issue is a natural outgrowth of the false notion that there is a direct and causal link between masculinity and technical skills. And it saddens me to see some geeks buy into the notion by calling others fake simple because of their gender.

Snow and ice, sun and rain

While most of the rest of the country was jumping from winter to summer weather, completey bypassing spring, Seattle had a several days of sleet, snow, and ice.

Last week I needed my scarf, stocking cap, and gloves most mornings, but not in the evenings. Friday, particularly, was bad for the walk home. I didn’t need my coat at all, but it was more awkward trying to carry it while walking with the backpack. Saturday and Sunday I was in shorts most of the time. Though by Sunday night I was back to sweat pants and fuzzy socks even for just inside the house.

Seattle weather is weird. 365.25 days a year you need to have sunglasses handy. Eleven months out of the year you need to be prepared for some form of rain. Often it comes as a light drizzle, but deluges are not uncommon.

Used to be that thunder and lightning happened about once a decade. Lately, it’s becoming more common, especially as thundersnow.

I’ve had the habit for years of carrying my scarf and gloves in the bottom of my backpack throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Not because I ever need them in the summer, but because in the fall the transition from warm, almost summer weather to my-fingers-are-frozen takes about a millisecond, and will always happen on a random day.

I took the winter lining out of my leather coat this morning. I didn’t switch to the jacket, yet, because we’re still in the time of the year where heavy deluge-type rain is not unlikely, and the spring jacket isn’t heavy enough for that.

Despite the fact that too much sunny weather makes me cranky (and I am a complete heat wimp) I am looking forward to summer.

Which should arrive around July 12.

Brunching

As Michael pointed out when we were walking home from this morning’s brunch, this week has been full of a lot of going out with friends.

I met Katrina a few years ago when we were both on staff for Conifur. Since she was living in Oregon, we only got to see her when she came up for a staff meeting, or at the con itself. Though several times she also came up to attend Writers’ Night.

She moved much further away for a while, so many of us were very sad. But now she’s nearby, again, and she brought her guy, Terry, up to Seattle to see the sights, hang out, and so on. We met them, the Oxfords, and the Jared, at one of our favorite local eateries, Palermo. Where we had a fabulous brunch and a long visit.

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It was a weirdly productive weekend, by which I mean that it was productive, but not necessarily on the projects I had hoped to make progress. I certainly did not expect to come out of the work party with plots for two more stories about a character that was originally Mark & Kristin’s one-off! I was only going to write one, count it, one sequel to Chuck’s unexpected tale answering the question “what ever happened to…” but then, before I finished that one, an entire plot for an amusing Christmas Ghost story starring the character popped in my head, insisting on being written right now…

(Some plots do that. They’re not so much like a beautiful Greek muse inspiring you to artistic greatness as they are an extremely manic man leaning over you going “Write about me! Write about me! Write about me now or I will bloody well go away and you’ll go out of your mind trying to remember what I was!!!” So I wrote that story, and I guess there was something to it because it’s up for an award, now.)

Anyway, I had tried to circle back to the original idea for the one, count it, one, story I had intended to write about this character, and I had made some progress. I wasn’t trying really hard because there are other tales that I would rather be finishing. But then, at the meeting, while we were talking about other plotlines entirely, Chuck reeled off an alternative situation, and the next thing I knew, we were all talking about what sorts of things would happen to this character in this situation. And then Keith suggested a title. And suddenly, I knew what the plot really was for this new story (which takes place after the one, count it, one, story that I meant to write) and I knew I better write all of it down before I forgot it.

Then, we all walked up to Golden City for dinner, and while discussing something else entirely (again), someone said another title for yet another story for this character.

And as soon as they said it, I had a plot. And even better, it’s one that crosses over with another character, one I created and love writing stories for but haven’t had a new plot for in a while.

So I have gone from planning to write the one story about the character, to having written one different story about him, and I have three more in some sort of progress.

I’m not crazy. Just very slightly mad.

Meanwhile, I often put together playlists for either particular stories I’m working on, or for characters I write a lot. And I had mentioned this awhile back to Jared. Specifically that I was trying to put together a playlist for a character that he created, but that I have two stories in progress for. Which made him put together a playlist that he sent me (which prompted me to send him mine). I teased him that I thought his was way too emo, and asked how anyone could write while listening to all that downer music. He became resolved to create a different playlist, one that I could not describe in such derogatory terms.

He sent it earlier this week, and I’ve been listening to it. One of the songs he put on the list was “Original Sin” recorded by Taylor Dane for the Shadow motion picture soundtrack. And while I was humming along, I realized that I hadn’t heard the song in a very long time. I was surprised to discover that the soundtrack does not seem to be in my iTunes library. But I was quite certain that I had it, and that I had included at least this one song from it in some other playlists.

It took me about a minute to find the compact disc of the album hiding in the dusty shelves (I don’t touch the discs anymore, because I thought I’d put them all into my iTunes library). This makes me realize I need to go through those shelves and figure out which other music hasn’t been digitized.

It also makes me want to make a smart playlist that pulls out things that haven’t been listened to in a long, long time.

But I’ll do that later. Maybe tomorrow night after work.

Dreams

So there I am, laying in bed, having a very intense dream.

What was I doing in the dream? Watching TV. It was like a 60 Minutes report on a harassment in the workplace case which, according to the dream, had happened several years ago and had caused a major change in… Something.

And the attorney who had represent the poor worker when no one else would? Ellen Degeneres, who, again according to the dream, had tried to pursue a legal career before going into comedy.

In my dream, I was on the edge of my seat, rivetted by the drama in the news story. I don’t remember anything the slightest bit interesting about the case.

Isn’t my subconscious an exciting place?

I hate when I do that

So I forgot to do something with one of my deliverables at work, and we discovered an ommission. We were running this project a few bodies short in every department, and I was also having to do some tool development that had been budgetted in another project that was put on hold, so things were crazy. Several other people who should have noticed all missed it.

And my fabulous boss, who has almost a psychic ability to see problems before they happen, is on maternity leave.

Fortunately, it was discovered before things went to the customer, and we’re in the midst of fixing it, but I still feel like an idiot for letting this happen.

Things slip by us all the time, but this involved me missing the sort of thing I normally don’t. And, particularly given the medical history of three of my grandparents, any mental lapse always makes at least a small part of me panic. Is this a sign?

Or were we all just overworked, trying to do things faster than usual to get this project out of the way for new projects?

Given I wasn’t the only one who missed it, I realize it is probably the latter. Still.

I hate when I forget things.

Earlier this week, someone either in a conversation or online, mention a music album that I thought I should look into buying. I remember feelinig quite strongly that I would like to have it. I think, vaguely, that it may have been something I owned long ago… Or perhaps it featured a musician I haven’t heard in a long time? I don’t know, but I was certain I should get it, and resolved to look into it at the soonest opportunity.

And for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was.

Or, a few weeks ago at the Brony Dinner my hubby organized, someone mentioned a name which made me go, “If that isn’t a domain name, it ought to be.” and someone else thought they could think ofsome good content for it. Several someones agreed it was a great idea. “It’s not like I don’t own several domains already,” I said. “I ought to snag that one.”

Again, I don’t have the slightest clue what it was.

And I’m not completely certain that it was at the Brony meet. Maybe it was at Writers’ Night? I remember the conversation, but not who said what.

And I had one more example…. That I’ll write about just as soon as I remember what it was. ^_^

That guy

I try not to be that guy—the angry, impatient guy deeply affronted because you’re taking too long at whatever you’re doing, preventing him from getting on with his business. Ideally I wish that I could have the zen-like patience of a taoist monk. Taking what is happening in stride. Using the extra time I’m stuck waiting in line someone to think about things, or enjoy some music, or maybe play a little game on my phone.

But sometimes you are just tired, hungry, and sore. You just want to get finished with your errand and get home. So when something happens that holds you up, it’s hard to smile an wait patiently.

I came into work yesterday to some upsetting news about an oversight in a project we had just finished. An oversight that I and at least two other people ought to have caught, but didn’t. An oversight directly involved in my part of the project. We have a few days to fix things, and we quickly hammered together a plan, but it still meant that I spent the day doing something very different than I had planned, with more than a slight sense of urgency.

And I had to leave early for an end-of-the-day dentist appointment, which meant that I would be setting up my work computer after getting home from having the scary man attacking me with medieval implements drill and fill my teeth, and be productive for a few more hours. The dental appointment took longer than scheduled. An extra injection of novocaine had been required after a bit of stabbing pain happened partway through the second tooth. I just wanted to go home and collapse.

But I had the work to do. And I had two prescriptions that needed to be picked up. And a few other things that we needed at the store. Once I had picked everything up, I came to the front of the store and there were four registers open. Three had three people in line. One had only two. So I went for that one.

Big mistake.

The person in front of me was a tiny little old man with a great bush of silver hair. His shopping cart contained only one item: a 20-ish pound bag of dry cat food. The kid working the register was just handing the customer in front of Cat Food Guy her receipt and wishing her a nice night as I got in line.

The kid rung up the bag of cat food. Cat Food Guy handed the kid a couple coupons and his Store Card. The kid scanned those, then told the man price of four dollars and change. Cat Food Guy nodded, then searched his pockets until he produced a rumpled check book. Not a checkbook in a nice leather or plastic cover, just the bound bundle of checks. He had to search his pockets some more until he found a little rectangle of cardboard to slip under the carbon copy. Then he started writing the check.

Cat Food Guy muttered something about what day it was. The kid told him the date. Cat Food Guy stopped writing, looked up, and asked (well, really more of a bark than a simple question), “What did you say?” The kid repeated the date. Cat Food Guy said, “I know what day it is!” The kid apologized.

Cat Food Guy bent and started writing again for a millisecond. He stopped, looked up and said. “I’m just a little hard of hearing. Not angry or anything. People always assume I’m angry or having a bad day. I’m not. Just couldn’t hear you.”

The kid says he understands and apologizes again.

Cat Food Guy bends down again, but this time he doesn’t even get his pen back on the paper. He looks back up and says, “People don’t even ask anyone how their day is, any more, you know? They just assume!”

The kid says. “I’m sorry. How has your week been?”

Cat Food Guy, who had just started writing again, stops, looks up, and barks, “What did you say?”

“Just asking how you’ve been. Sorry, I’ll stop interrupting.”

Cat Food Guy shrugs, then goes back to writing. He tears off the check and hands it to the kid.

While the kid is typing on the register, Cat Food Guy babbles some about getting old, not being able to hear, and so on.

The kid nods while he’s working. He puts the check in the part of the register that is supposed to print on it, and pushes a button. The register spits the check back out. The kid says, “I must have done something wrong.” He pushes some more buttons, puts the check in, and this time the machine takes it. “There we go… oh, wait, now it wants me to check your ID.”

“What?”

Eventually the kid gets Cat Food Guy’s driver’s license, and tries to type in the license number, while squinting and apparently having a very hard time reading the license. Cat Food Guy is babbling something about a problem he had on the bus or something. I couldn’t really follow the gist of it.

The kid hands the license back and says, “That should do it.” And he presses another button. The register makes some noises. The kid frown. “Uh oh.”

“What?” Cat Food Guy asks.

“I may have spoken too soon,” the kid says. “I haven’t seen that message before…”

He looks up to see if the assistant manager in the next register is free. He’s not. There has been a steady stream of customers through all the registers except ours while I’ve been waiting.

“I’ll just have to ask the man—” the kid begins.

“You know what,” Cat Food Guy says. “Never mind. Just give me back my check. I don’t need this that badly.”

The kid is stunned. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I’m sure it’s just something I did wrong.”

“Not your fault,” Cat Food Guy says. “Not at all! It’s just the damn machines, all trying to take over our lives.”

He snatches the check and stomps away leaving his big shopping cart and giant bag of cat food smack in my way.

The kid looks at me and says, “I’m so sorry. Just a minute.” He gets the bagging gal to take the cart away while he takes the bag of cat food and scans it again to void the sale. He gets the assistant manager’s attention. “I’ll need you to verify the voided sale.”

Without even looking away from his own scanning, he tosses the kid a ring of keys with several laminated cards. The kid hits some buttons and scans one of the cards.

Cat Food Guy comes stomping back from nowhere. “You know what?” he declares loudly. “You can tell them to take this back and shove it! I don’t need to shop here ever again!” He slaps his store card on the counter.

The kid looks hurt. “I’m really, sorry, sir!”

“Not your fault,” Cat Food Guy says, suddenly all smiles. “It’s just those machines and the damn company!” And he storms off again.

The kid gets the manager’s attention again. “I don’t think I did it right.”

Manager steps over, looks at the register, and says. “Sure you did. Just hit enter again. See?” Then he notices the store card sitting on the counter. “What’s this? Did someone forget their card?”

The kid shakes his head. “The customer got very frustrated because it was taking so long, so now he says he doesn’t want to shop here any more. I don’t know what I should do.”

Manager rolls his eyes and expertly throws the little plastic card past the kid and into the wastebasket. “Not our problem.” And he goes back to his register.

The kid keeps apologizing while he quickly scans and bags my stuff.

I tried extra hard to be pleasant and assure him he has nothing to apologize for. Because he didn’t. I kept hoping that I wasn’t scowling or something earlier, because I had been getting pretty cranky.

I don’t blame the kid. He seemed a bit tentative at some tasks on the register with Cat Food Guy, but only at some tasks that I assume aren’t very common. For my stuff he was very fast and efficient.

I probably shouldn’t blame Cat Food Guy as much as I do. What he contributed to the delay was at least partly due to his hearing problem. I have a hard enough time trying to talk to Michael in the store, the noise from the overhead music and other customers talking can be quite overwhelming. And checks are the way we paid for everything for decades. The fact that almost none of us do anymore, that the procedures for processing them are longer and more involved that cash or swiping a debit card isn’t his fault.

Goddess knows I’ve been angry and said things to people who weren’t to blame for what I was angry about. I’m sure I’ve stomped angrily out of a place of business more times than I’d like to admit.

I think the most disconcerting thing was how Cat Food Guy kept switching demeanor. He would bark a sentence in a tone that I think any reasonable person would describe as angry or annoyed. Then turn all smiles the next sentence. I think most telling was how he said, “People always assume I’m angry or having a bad day.” If this is how he normally acts, I can see why people assume that.

I eventually got home. Michael cooked dinner while I got my workstations set up. I worked for a few hours. Sent chapters off for people to review. I goofed off a bit before going to bed. Had a really good night’s sleep.

I hope whatever poor kitty was waiting for food isn’t starving because her hard-of-hearing and cranky owner has stomped out of more stores empty-handed.

Rahirah comes to Seattle

I’ve known Barb for, like, ever [/Julie Brown Voice]. We began corresponding sometime in the dark ages because of our mutual involvement in ElfQuest fandom. We collaborated on some tales over the years, corresponded through various mediums, and found out we had a lot of other interests in common. I met her in person at San Diego ComiCon… back in the mid-80s. I’ve also become quite good friends with her wife, though I don’t believe that I’ve ever actually met Kathy in the flesh.

Barb, who is one of the very few people on the planet that I will admit is smarter than myself (seriously), is an extremely talented writer, artist, and essayist. I was glad we were able to at least get together for dinner when she came to town for a work conference.

I’ve known Fen for a much shorter time, having met through a mutual appreciation of Barb’s fanfic, only to discover that we were neighbors whose lives have almost intertwined several times, as we have a rather lot of mutual friends. I manage to see Fen slightly more often than Barb, but only slightly, which is really sad, seeing how we only live a few miles apart.

Fen, Barb, and Fen’s husband, Mitch, joined us for dinner at the ever-fun Chinook’s Monday night. Where I think Michael,Mitch, Fen, and I did most of the talking geeking about about computers and other gadgets.

But it was nice to see Barb in the flesh after such a long time.

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Testing the iOS app

I’m testing the iOS app for updating on WordPress, so I have the option of updating this blog during my lunch breaks. I could probably do it nearly as easily through mobile Safari, but the app is free. And the interface is less cluttered than the web interface.
I may enjoy updating from the iPad a lot more than my computer!

 

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