But when Minnie is hospitalized in an accident, Fidge and her phobic-of-everything cousin get trapped in the Land of the Wimbley Woos... which has been taken over by a monstrous version of Minnie's favorite stuffed animal, Wed Wabbit.
An uneven but often extremely funny children's book. The best parts were Fidge's outrage at having to deal with actual Wimbley Woos and their terrible rhymes and hunger for hugs. The parts where it played the story straight, as a more sophisticated version of the picture book's message of love and learning, were fine but a story I've read a lot. The opening chapters, in which Fidge blames herself for her sister's accident and it looks for a while like Minnie's going to die, felt like they came from a different and much gloomier book than the rest of it; the understated way it dealt with their father's death worked much better with the overall tone.
The book was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and has some interesting reviews on Goodreads as a result from people who normally don't read fantasy ever and were appalled at having to read one if they were supposed to read the entire slate. This surprised me as a number of classic children's fantasies were Carnegie Medal winners or nominees, but I guess it's gone more toward realism, or at least very very serious fantasy lately. A couple rather hopefully suggested that the book could be interpreted as Fidge having a nervous breakdown and imagining the whole thing!
(I don't think this reading is supported by the text, as her cousin is also involved and also has objective personality growth as a result; I guess maybe he could have changed as a result of observing her total breakdown or just coincidentally, but that seems unlikely.)
(Also everyone's read greywash's On Fannishness, Intersectionality, & a Whole Other Grab-bag of Entitled Millennial Bullshit, right?)
There's also discussion going on at sholio's On the Magicians season finale, between people who've been watching the show and those of us who haven't, about the specifics but also about storytelling and audience expectations.)
Anyway I don't even go here.
If you don't listen to the podcast, it's by Kevin Sonney (Mr. Ursula Vernon, if you don't recognize his name.) It's about people, and how people get their stuff done, and various ways of getting stuff done to try. The usual format is Kevin and Ursula chatting entertainingly for a bit, then they go to an interview, although the current ones don't have the chatty bits because they're traveling in China right now and pre-scheduled these interviews to go up so they're still posting each week.
I haven't listened to mine yet because I have an innate cringe at the idea of hearing my own voice, although I am somewhat curious as to how my mic setup worked.
On the other hand, I am slightly traumatized by being reminded that such a huge part of my life (which is still a huge part of my life) is now Olden Times.
1. Susabi/Ren and Koroka - basic comfort fic
2. Tamamo and Seimei - foxes, full stop.
3. Susabi/Ren - modern era, amnesia, separation
4. SP Ren - soon there will be memory scrolls. TO JOSS THIS ALL AGAIN.
Instead, work and other affairs cut in the way, culminating in me not-quite-getting the bout of strep that's been rolling around the office. The test came back negative, but since I have all of the symptoms to a significant degree, they threw antibiotics and bedrest at me to see which would start working first. Spoiler alert: Neither.
That being said, I actually did make some progress:
1. Tamamo/Orochi - 4k hip-deep in this thing please pretend you don't know me this will match up to literally no one's ideas of how either spirit should behave
2. and about 1k in the Tamamo and Seimei idea, so let's see if I can do a decent set of foxes.
Coming in a matter of days in Onmyoji, it looks to finally be the release of SP Ren / Miketsu, and I am both ready for this to be over with and in a position where I will never be ready at all. The gaming queue is packed: FF14 is wrapping up the Hatchingtide event and starting the FFXV crossover, I need to catch up on some FGO progress, Food Fantasy brought back the Amusement Park event, FFMobius has a celebration going on (not to mention ongoing new story), and there's more that I'm sure I'm missing.
To be honest, the biggest thing that's stressing me out about SP Ren's release isn't if I'll get him or not -- if I do, fantastic -- but there are two other people I know who I want to get him more. I've got any spare SP Ren shards saved for their behalf, so that means I not only want to get SP Ren, I want to get extra Ren so I'm sure my hubris will be my downfall here.
I want to get something wrapped up on principle, so maybe I can duck back into the Susabi thing long enough to get it out the door, and keep moving forward on everything else.
3/5. Historical M/M trilogy featuring a Scottish nobleman and a rising young lawyer who have a lot of sex while failing to communicate, until eventually they do.
These are nice, and doing, you know, stuff with class and with the protagonist's different ways of being queer in a hostile historical context. I think the books are a little too interested in deciding which of them is right, when I don't really think there is a right way here. But that's beside the point. The point is, the audios of these are read by a gentleman with the spectacularly Scottish name of Hamish McKinlay, who has the voice and accent of someone named Hamish McKinlay, and who thus lends these a great deal of charm.
Since enough had washed out or grown out to switch up the colors a bit, I went with "sunset." Tea Cup, the stylist, literally used a photo of a sunset to choose the shades.
I told Tea Cup that I'd wanted to have rainbow hair ever since I was eleven, and I'm finally fulfilling my dream. All the stylists were thrilled to hear that. It was a really fun atmosphere in the salon, as everyone was just so delighted to be there and be getting truly amazing hair.
Tea Cup said, "It's funny to say this, since obviously these aren't natural colors, but you really seem meant to have this kind of hair. Sometimes people come in and get looks that they thought they wanted, but then they have second thoughts and then the hair doesn't look right on them. But when someone's really happy and confident with what they want, then it always looks good on them. And that's what you got. It's a very bold look, but you're wearing it - it's not wearing you."
More below cut. ( Read more... )
2. The bookcase saga continues. To refresh your memory, one of a set of two matching bookcases arrived without the unique bolts needed to put them together. The seller refused to send replacement bolts. Amazon said they were a third party and not their problem.
I finally got the seller to tell me the name of the manufacturer of the bolts, and inquired with them. They promptly replied to tell me to take it up with Amazon. I told them Amazon wouldn't help, and got this reply:
Yes, they are a third party and we do not sell products to Amazon. They sold it to you, so they take responsibility. They should send you a new bookcase.
ARRRRRRGH. I sent them an email repeating that Amazon told me to take it up with the seller, and the seller told me to take it up with the manufacturer. At that point, either taking pity on me or wanting to stop getting messages, they promised to send me more bolts. We'll see if they ever arrive.
3. In the meantime, I gave in and ordered a replacement bookcase from the same people (I know, but it's a matching set). They sent me the matched set (i.e., two).
While attempting to drag them inside, Alex bolted between my legs and was down the stairs in literally seconds. In a panic, I rushed after him.
I should mention at this point that it was late at night and I wore only a very skimpy nightshirt with nothing underneath. Also, since I'd been in my chair at that moment, I did not have my crutches with me, something whose implications only dawned on me when I was at the bottom of the very dirty stairs I had just literally slithered down bare-assed.
With no other choice, I slithered to Alex, who luckily hadn't gone far and was lurking under a nearby bush, grabbed him, and then levered myself back up the dirty stairs, still bare-assed and now with the additional weight of a cat. Let's just say it was not the most fun thing ever.
Goddamn cats! Anyone got any ideas on how to keep Alex from bolting again? Other than locking them out of the living room every time I open the outside doors, which is not remotely practical due to the layout of my apartment. I live near an extremely busy street, so I really don't want them escaping.
The bookcases are still outside my door, so I have no idea whether or not they came with the bolts.
Features the term "skin-teeth". DID THE TEETH START IN THE SKIN AND MIGRATE INWARDS OR IN THE PHARYNX AND MOVE OUTWARDS. Also sharks. Lots of sharks.
For today's Friday Favorite, I'm reposting a review of Peter Watts' "Blindsight" (free to read online) that I wrote years ago, with a few updates. Wow, I used to write longer reviews back in the day …
"Blindsight" is a first contact story in a technologically advanced future, where humans have finally gone where they aren't biologically meant to go, which is to say, they are generating and discovering more data than their brains and meat can handle. Cybernetically augmented people act as the conduit between the technology and the people. One of these augments is the protagonist, Siri Keeton, who had half his brain removed as a child, resulting in losing much of his capacity for emotions and empathy. As an adult, Siri specializes in interpreting incredibly high orders of data and patterns, thereby acting as a middleman between humankind's incomprehensible technology and humankind itself.
Sidenote 1: this book was written in 2006, predating Apple's Siri, but you could take it as an accidental prophecy.
Sidenote 2: I'm not super on board with how Watts talks about autism in this story. It's not my place to talk about it, so I'll point you to Ada Hoffman's commentary.
One day in 2082, Earth is visited by a group of projectiles that flash over Earth and then vanish, leaving no clue behind. Siri is sent with a similarly enhanced five-man team towards the unknown, in order to investigate. The crew is incredibly complicated and interesting, all manifestations of the author (a professional marine biologist) exploring a number of neurology, biology, and cognitive science theories such as manufactured multiple personalities, sensory augmentation, and even resurrected vampires.
The first contact is a harrowing one, and as incredible discoveries about the aliens come to light, we find ourselves asking along with the protagonists the big question of the book: what good is consciousness? It's a risky proposition for an audience that is only able to process the story through consciousness. The titular real-life condition of blindsight--in which a person with blindness resulting from brain damage to their visual processing center, can nevertheless respond to visual stimuli, such as catching an object that they are unable to see--is used to convey to us how it "feels" to be a creature with intelligence but no sentience. Uncoupling "intelligent responses" from "sentience" is an interesting move, because that is one enormous question of AI: at what point could humans make a sentient machine? Can we ever tell if it is a sentient machine, due to the fact that we can never see from the machine's "mind"? "Blindsight" makes the argument that it doesn't matter. "Blindsight" says: we don't really know what thinking is, or what a soul is, or what it really means to be a sentient thing. Therefore the only logical response is to use the only measure we have of intelligence, which is that the entity is capable of learning, of pattern recognition, of improved performance, at which point this begins to sound very familiar to computer science folks.
Many people act as if the be-all end-all of machine learning, of making a "thinking machine", necessarily ends in sentience. The hypothesis posed by "Blindsight" is that such a statement is being human-centric, perhaps even sentience-centric. Rather, it is entirely possible, and perhaps evolutionarily favorable, to become extremely intelligent without developing sentience. Such organisms would not so much think as calculate, sifting and gathering through patterns and then reacting. Living in the void of space as they have for ages, crunching the pure hard data of natural physics and mathematics, they have perfected themselves. But human data is infinitely messier, often purposeless, stuffed with what entertains a sentient mind but is meaningless to a data processor.
So--who's going to win?
In the book, the reader is invited to "pretend you are Siri Keeton" and if you do so successfully, then you might end up rooting for the aliens made of pure data. And I actually did briefly, which is perhaps the highest praise a book like this can receive, and which is why I put this down as a favorite. I wouldn't say it was a fantastic emotional experience reading this book, but as a conceptual exercise I found it incredibly well executed.
We never actually find out who ultimately wins--Siri isn't there to see it--although he closes the story with a hypothesis … which I will not spoil, but which I disagree with.
The book (or Siri) posits pretty hard that humans are cognitively weaker than aliens made out of pure data, because we have the useless middleman of a consciousness slowing things down. Last I checked, humans have built some pretty spiffy machines that can crunch data at incredible speed, and in Blindsight it's advanced beyond what we can imagine today. So I truly see no reason that humans are inherently disadvantaged.
I feel like the battle of the races in Siri's mind is a metaphorical one, and ends the way that he--nearly an alien himself--finds the most comforting.
Then again, perhaps I'm doing the same thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I feel like that’s really all that needs to be said. Either this is something you immediately want to read, or not. But a few more things I liked about it…
- It’s epistolatory, told completely in the form of letters, chicken quizzes and pamphlets, to-do lists, etc.
- There are a lot of completely accurate chicken facts.
- The superpowers are used the way that actual chickens would use superpowers if they had them. They’re not superintelligent chickens, just regular chickens with unusual abilities.
- The heroine, Sophie, is biracial (white father, Mexican-American mother) and while this is relevant to the story, it’s not what the story is about. Are you or do you know a Latina girl who wants a book where someone like them is the heroine and it’s not about Issues? Do they like chickens and/or The X-Men? Then they are the perfect reader for this book.
- Honestly though anyone is the perfect reader for this book. I guess unless they hate and fear chickens.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
It's a New York security agency which she's visiting as a client, but she can also notice ways in which it's accessible for anyone who works there as well. None of the current employees are physically disabled, so she'd be seeing the potential rather than noticing someone else navigating it in a wheelchair.
Nevertheless, I persisted!
KonMari has completely changed a lot of household chores for me, from things I hate and avoid to things I actively want to do as a combination of relaxation/meditative activity and geeky hobby. (I still hate washing dishes though). Sherwood and Layla, who have both seen my apartment in various stages, can attest to how much this has changed how it looks.
Here is a set of shelves in my kitchen which had not been decluttered in twelve years. There's a huge space in the back of them which is very hard to reach into. Consequently, when I stash anything there, it tends to drift toward the back, where I can then neither see nor reach it. Otherwise I only opened it to grab a tool from the tool box.
The other day, having hired someone to run some errands for me and also take out the trash, I parked myself on the floor and pulled everything out, a task which at times involved lying flat on my stomach and using a tool to sweep things toward me. I really wish I'd photographed the floor once everything was out, because it was a hair-raising mound of trash and weird junk. I found a half-drunk bottle of Kahlua which had probably been there for twelve years. I found paper towels so old that they shattered like glass. I found a bag of birdseed that was at least ten years old, dating back from when I thought birds would come if I put out food. (They wouldn't.)
I dumped the trash in trash bags and sorted the rest. Here is the end result:
That's not exonerated! Not exonerated, not exonerated, not exonerated!!
11 instances of obstruction, oh my. And that looks a lot like a Scottish verdict on the collusion, too.
This had a lot of very thought-provoking and sensitive stuff on the historical treatment of mental illness, legal slavery vs slavery in all but name, religion, and Ben's dilemma of never having a place where he can both feel at home and not have to deal with racism. This was all neatly married to a solid murder mystery, a family drama, and tons of adventure and bonding. Hambly is really good at writing established couples who are still madly in love, and I really enjoyed all the Ben/Rose moments as well as the Ben/Rose & Hannibal. The supporting characters were vivid and interesting, as was the new setting.
The climax didn't rise to quite the batshit heights of the last one, but not for want of trying.
( Read more... )
Grimness quotient: Low, all things considered. There's a visit to an asylum which is awful and tragic, but the man running it is compassionate; it's mostly about how people just had no idea what to do about mental illness then. Some people stuck in miserable nunneries. Poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, but also lots of people just living their lives and managing to make pretty good ones despite it all.
Days of the Dead (Benjamin January, Book 7)