Podcast: October Poetry

This month had some awesome poetry to go along with the awesome fiction.  Also, there’s a lot of poetry since Septemer had an extra Monday and that poem got rolled in with the October poetry.  More content for you!  Because we love to give you things!  Check it out.

Some of the features making this month’s poetry podcast particularly special: 3/5 poems read by the poet, mermaids (!), skulls, birds…the content is basically a long list of things I like.  It’s really neat when that happens since nobody cares what I think when it comes to picking the content.  It’s a present nobody even meant to give me, and I get it anyway.

Happy Monday, y’all.

Review: The Legend of Korra

I liked Avatar: The Last Airbender, though with reservations.  Most of their comic relief for most of the show was annoying, not funny.  The whole first season was fluffy and full of too much kiddie-show filler.  They fumbled the ending.  But they did plenty of things really well, and overall, I liked it.  So much, that I was pretty enthusiastic about getting to see the sequel.

Man, did they ever learn from the first series.  The pacing was tight and relentless.  Possibly too tight, there were a couple episodes where I felt like an extra minute or two would have given them room for the characters to believable draw the conclusions or make the decisions they wind up making instead because PLOT.  But I was willing to take it in exchange for the extremely lean, intense viewing experience.  Having the main cast of characters a few years older was a huge improvement, too.  Not only did I take their agency and emotional lives more seriously, but since they were older, I trusted the threats of danger against them more.

The lesson they seem to have learned most well, though, is villain control.  The secondary villains aren’t allowed to steal the show from Amon, and Amon is both clever and powerful enough to be convincingly threatening.  He also has a point – is anybody on the city council not a bender? And yes, the degree of worship centered around bending athletes are problematic, especially when you see the attendant bullying tied in there.  And teaching chi-blocking is illegal, flat out? What the hell?  I can see assaulting somebody via chi-blocking being illegal, but the skill set entirely? Uhm…not cool, Republic City.  Not cool at all.  Of course you have a fervent anti-bending movement on your hands.  You deserve it!

And that’s half my big complaint about the show.  It doesn’t, at any point, acknowledge that Amon has a point and concede that things do need to change. Instead, they go for and extremely ham-handed, clunky, unconvincing, “Hey, since Amon is a bender he’s not at all credible, and his entire movement turns on him even though that’s not remotely how it would go at all but the writers couldn’t be bothered to come up with a better solution.”  How many socialist and communist movements had kids of privilege at the forefront?  MOST.  It’s a fact of history that the downtrodden are often a little busy being downtrodden, and movements get enough legitimacy to get noticed when somebody with better resources/mobility/freedom gets involved.  Amon being a bender wasn’t the least bit surprising – my early theory was that he had a shard of Avatar soul or something something, and after the reveal about Tarrlock’s blood bending switched to, “Super-advanced blood bending, also, not actually permanent.”

My other big beef is with the Korra-Mako-Asami triangle.  They were doing so well, and then when Asami figures out that Mako is fond of Korra she starts doing the obnoxious, pouty, “Oh noes!  My boyfriend has feelings for another woman, therefore I must be all rejected and feel like he doesn’t actually have feelings for me even though he’s chosen to be with me.” Argh!  And then, instead of having a conversation about it, or pointing out that while she respects that he’s chosen her, not telling her about swapping spit with another person is a serious relationship-foul, she gets catty.  Because that is the only response a woman has available to her.  Or something. Bolin can do a dignified mope and get over it, but Asami, who has less reason to be upset, has to behave poorly for some reason. The reason is, I suspect, shoddy writing. With the resolution of the series was chock full of.

Look, I don’t expect a kid’s cartoon to suggest polyamory as the solution to anything.*  I don’t expect American television to do it anywhere except, perhaps, HBO, and then they’ll do it with too many tits.  But watching my peers tear themselves apart because they were interested in more than one person at a time and sincerely thought that made them bad, deceitful people was what got me thinking about the issue in the first place.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a kids cartoon to say “Hey, it happens.  All the feelings are real, legitimate things.  What counts is the choices you make, and whether you deal with them well.” Telling kids that what they’re going through as kids is normal and acceptable and here’s a good model for how to deal with it is the point of media targeted at children, if we must give it different goals from other media.

If I come across as extraordinarily irritated by the show, it’s because it was so, so very good, right up until it decided to stop trying, stop making interesting choices, and turn into just another kids cartoon full of bad relationship models and anti-communist propaganda.  None of the kids in the demographic the show was targeted to were even alive while there was still a Soviet Union.  Could we find a new lazy short hand for evil, please?

I still strongly recommend people who liked the first series watch it, and people who didn’t like the first series might want to check it out anyway, depending on their reasons for not liking it.  But they fumbled the ending, hard. Hopefully with the next three seasons they’ll learn how to fix that problem, too.

*And it’s not the solution to this issue, either.  Mako-Korra is a terrible romantic relationship. Korra and Bolin have much better long term potential, even if Mako is way, way sexier.

Sentient Domain: Chapter 16

This chapter is eligible for winning bonuses in the Sentient Domain Game. An index of all relevant posts can be found here.

 “Captain Dessik is on a call coordinating the other captains. She says to come on over to deliver the program and she’ll meet you then,” came the voice of the Harper’s mate.

Pavi rubbed her eyes and pulled herself up from her chair. She’d been coding almost nonstop for two days. She was looking forward to getting underway to slip through the blockade. While everybody else dealt with the actual piloting and fighting, she was going to be asleep. But they couldn’t do that until Pavi had all of their computers synced with the same code and she didn’t trust Linda to transmit it faithfully.

The hack she’d put together was particularly clever, even if she was the only one around to appreciate it. The computer on the Harper’s Cry was a pseudo-extension of Mike. It wasn’t quite awake because Dessie didn’t want an undomesticated AI running her ship and Pavi couldn’t bear to domesticate even a fission branch of Mike. Pavi had spent six months nursing the hardware on the Harper’s Cry into its state of semi-sentience, then frozen it there, dreaming just below the threshold for consciousness The only code she’d borrowed came from Mike, there was nothing of the Aydan-machine in it. It helped that most computers, including the one on the Harper’s Cry, had everything they needed for sentience except awareness of it. Continue reading “Sentient Domain: Chapter 16”

Sentient Domain: Chapter 15

This chapter is eligible for winning bonuses in the Sentient Domain Game. An index of all relevant posts can be found here.

“Welcome back, boss,” Linda said when Rita reached the top of the canyon.

“Thanks,” Rita said.

Pavi and Donegal’s shuttle waited just twenty meters from the edge of the canyon.

“Didn’t you have to stop at the tarmac?” Rita asked.

Pavi shrugged. “Didn’t have time to hike and figured if we lost the shuttle you’d give us a ride back.”

“Sure, as long as that means you’re giving us a ride to our shuttle now,” Rita said.

“Leave it. The Whimper can’t take an extra shuttle anyway,” Pavi said.

“As you wish, Admiral,” Rita said. Continue reading “Sentient Domain: Chapter 15”

I Blame Scott Walker for My Hair

This is what my hair looked like in May of last year.


Unbraided, it went to my waist.  Shortly after this pictures was taken, I started shedding.  A lot.  A whole lot. Too much.  This is what my hair looks like now.


It’s safe to say that I cut it with prejudice.  It was so thin and unhealthy I am not the least bit upset it’s gone, though this whole being massively curly and having a mind of its own thing it’s started doing is very much not okay.  (For the record, the length has always been part of my oppressive regime to force my hair into compliance with my whims.  Also, I like my hair long.)

There are any number of things that could be blamed for the changes in my hair.  Afterall, not even ten years ago, I’d never had a split end, and those became routine once I moved to Wisconsin.  I’m old enough that while I’m nowhere near old, aging is definitely within the realm of things that are happening and changes to hair are part of that.  And I did spend the first half of last year working a perhaps less-than-relaxing amount.

I’m going to go ahead and blame Scott Walker.  Fucker took my train, rule of law in my state, and my hair.  If I’m right, the odds of getting my hair back are pretty good.  Needless to say, if I don’t find a new no-effort oppression regime, I shall very much be cheering for that.

P.S. This post mostly here to show of my shiny new author photo.  But, “I took an author photo because JJA told me to,” isn’t a very good story.

P.P.S. Look at me, cracking jokes about Recall stuff.  Nine months later.  It’s like I’m maybe someday going to stop wanting to nuke everything associated. Progress!

I made this: Part 2

So it was that with the unfailing support of my friends and family, I went out and purchased wood.  Not just any wood, but solid oak boards from a local lumbar yard.  Being me, and knowing my inability to keep numbers in their proper sequences in my head, I did the wood shopping with a spreadsheet.  I had it prepped with formulae for the necessary relationships of the various components, so it could spit out how many boards I’d need and what lengths to cut them at.  Rather than forcing the wood to conform to a pre-set clutch of dimensions, I opted to have my dimensions conform to the wood.

Then the lumbar yard guy was just a touch impatient and starting making suggestions and I placed my order from numbers in my head based on numbers he’d just told me, not the ones in the spreadsheet.  Pay attention, gentle reader, for this, really, was the one mistake I made in the whole process.  Nearly everything else was just a consequence.

There was just a touch of mayhem, trying to get the wood into my car.  I didn’t think to measure my trunk or anything like that, and the plywood for the backing flat out wouldn’t fit, and the boards for the sides didn’t really make it, either.  That’s a picture of the boards for the shelves in my trunk.  As you can see, they’re about as long as the trunk can manage.  In my defense, I’d only owned the car for a week at this point.  On the other hand, the trunk wasn’t the only pertinent space I didn’t measure.

The boards started as 9ft boards, so I decided to build a 9ft bookcase.  The ceiling in my den is, uhm, not 9ft high.  Change of plans, 7ft bookshelf!

Since the plywood got sawed in half in order to fit into my trunk, I had to cut the top few feet off twice.  That’s a picture of me making sure that my measuring on the second board matched my measuring on the first board.  I was so very not going to screw up because I didn’t measure carefully enough.  Also, T-square thingies are made of magic and why did nobody tell me about them before?  They cause straight lines, even from me.

After shortening all the necessary boards, I started tediously measuring carefully to pre-drill the holes in the various boards so they’d align just so when it came time to do the screwing.  This is a step I’ll do differently next time – forget the measuring, line the boards up like I’m putting it together and do the drilling on the spot.

Remember that mistake I made at the lumbar yard?  I figured it out while I was doing the pre-drilling.  You see, the boards for the top and bottom were supposed to be slightly longer than the shelf boards.  I did not get two boards cut slightly longer; they were all shelf length.  Another problem solved through application of circular saw.  But how?  I could totally figure that out in my head, and the result would be a lot of saw dust and the laughter of my friends.  Oh no.  I laid that sucker out.

After carefully getting all of the boards to stand on their sides, I determined that the easiest way to fix the problem was to make the shelf slightly narrower and shorted than intended, screwing the top and bottom boards inside the outer boards instead of above and below them.  That left me with just over an inch of extra width on the plywood I’d have to take care of.  But trimming one piece of plywood gave me much less margin for screw up than trimming all five shelves, or so I thought.

Apparently, plywood doesn’t like to have just a bit sawed off the long edge.  It splintered a lot and the saw, which had done an excellent job of following my beautifully straight lines, was not so straight.  I directed it outward, figuring it would be easier to get rid of extra material on the edge than to add some back in if I cut too much.

After that, it was time to screw everything together.  Which meant redoing most of the drilling, because all the careful visualizing and measuring in the world meant that none of my pencil marks lined up, none of my drill holes lined up, and, oh yeah, the drill bit I’d used was ever so slightly too small.  Make all the libido jokes you want; by the time I was done, I was really tired of screwing.

I had a bookshelf.  And it stood up!  I let it stand like that for fifteen minutes, just to make sure it wasn’t going to topple over.  Then I did more screwing and installed the shelf brackets.  I slid the shelves in and they fit!  The only problem was the part of the plywood backing that was too wide.

I went to town on that with a reciprocating saw and a sander.  Did not get it smooth, but got it smooth enough.

Then, because I was tired, and because none of the tools I used belonged to me and their owner was moving away the next day, and because all that was left was to varnish it and there was no rush, I put the shelf on its side and left it in my garage for two three months.  Because summering in my garage during a hot, humid, Madison summer could never cause complications for unvarnished wood furniture.

Tune in next time for the hilarious conclusion.

Car Shopping Part III: The final chapter

Things are resolved and, as promised, I’m outing the dealer with my final review.

I bought the car from Mad Motors on E Johnson, and I am not at all pleased with them.  Within 48 hours of buying the car I’d discovered that the electronics in the rear passenger door were wonky, and the clips necessary for holding the guard under the hood in place were missing.  The car couldn’t be driven.  Paul, the nice man who reminded me of my grandfather, assured me that he’d send his mechanic out to install the clips in my driveway so I could then drive the car to the dealership to have the window and door fixed.  This was Sunday.  Nobody would be able to come until Tuesday, because their mechanic doesn’t work on Mondays.  “Fine,” I tell him.  “Get the clips installed before I get back from New York on Thursday, and I can bring the car in Friday morning to get the door fixed.”

I was supposed to get home around 10pm Thursday night, and wanted to be at WisCon around 1pm Friday, but worst case scenario, walking from the dealership to the con was doable.  Except I got home closer to 3am, which meant all the things I was going to do at home on Thursday night had to get done Friday morning before the con – also, I hadn’t slept much.

Being cynical by nature, the first thing I do Friday morning is crawl under my car to make sure the clips have been installed.  They haven’t.  So I call Paul, who assured me before buying the car that any problems like this would get taken care of, no problem.  “I don’t want you to be unhappy,” he said.

Apparently that doesn’t apply to phone calls at 10am on a business day.  “I’m still asleep.  Call this other number.  I got in very late last night,” he said.  Not as late as I did, I’d wager, and I’d be damned before I’d ever tell a customer to bugger off because I’m still asleep.  But Paul doesn’t care whether or not I’m happy anymore, I’ve already bought the car and here it is, a week later, and it’s not like I can drive over to him to complain because I can’t drive the car.

I call the other number and talk to the mechanic. He claims he hasn’t heard about this yet and, frankly, I believe him.  He says he’ll show up in an hour to fix it.  An hour and fifteen minutes later there are two guys in my driveway, and I pull some weeds while they poke around under my car and install clips.  “We’ve only got three, but they should hold it for you to bring the car in on Tuesday,” he says.  “Is the car safe to drive this weekend?” I ask.  He assures me it is, so I don’t have to juggle trying to get to WisCon on the bus which, over a holiday weekend, would suck enormously if it’s even feasible.  (Getting there would have been possible – I’d have had to take a taxi home every night.  $$)

I drop the car off on Tuesday, go home for a few hours, go back to pick it up.  The window and door work.  The plastic cover is still in place.  They burned a quarter tank of gas and added ~30 miles to the car.  I’m not sure how they pulled that off since I’m pretty sure all they had to do was replace a fuse.

The most frustrating part of this is that if I’d bought the car off a random guy on Craig’s List, this wouldn’t have happened.  I’d have taken the car to a mechanic to get inspected and known what needed repair ahead of time.  Working with this dealership was actually worse than working with random Joe Shmoe.  I am not happy, and certainly wouldn’t do business with these guys again.  I’m not going to complain directly to them – I’m not sure how much more clearly I can express my displeasure than I did when I said, “Now I can’t drive the car, send a tow truck here now and get this fixed ASAP,” and I doubt they care.  I’ll just be posting reviews in all the places I looked for ones and couldn’t find anything.

Once more, that’s Mad Motors on 12010 E. Washington Ave.  I worked with Paul Levinson.  Don’t call him before ten, he’ll be asleep.

Car shopping part II

Thursday was the day – I was going to find a car, or bust.  I needed to get the car this weekend, because I’m spending next weekend at the People’s Brat Fest and at WisCon.  After that, well, I’ll still need a car, but have no ride with which to go acquire one, so that’ll be awkward.

Being the sometimes compulsive planner that I am, I started lining up appointments to look at cars on Monday.  I knocked out all of my work by 2:30, and the car shopping got serious.  First stop, Schoepp Motors, because I had an appointment nearby, but time to kill.  The weather was nice, I had a mission with parameters established.  I figured the worst I was in for was getting little lady’d.  Oh boy, was it ever more hilarious than that.

I got there right as NPR was announcing that the state senate passed the voter ID bill, so I sat in the car to hear the end of that and cuss a bit.  Before I got the chance to get out, a tall Wisconsin native ambled over to ask if I “needed service.”  How do I know he was a native?  Because he was blond, had a beer belly, and looked like a he played football before retiring to drink beer and eat brats.  Thus is the native male identified.  “Yeah, sorry, just listening to the news,” I said as I got out of the car, feeling somewhat foolish for driving up to car dealership to sit in their parking lot and cuss.  No way is this guy going to take me seriously now, right?

Except he was drunk.  I smelled it before I observed it, but yeah, he was well into his 3pm Thursday cocktail hour.  He tried sending me over to their mechanic before I made it clear that the service I needed was help, you know, buying a car.  “Post turn of the century, keyless entry, under 8k is preferable but I can go up to 10k for the right car.”  This was when he started walking, wobbling, and I was sure my booze-hating nose wasn’t picking up on leftovers from the day before.  Also, smoker.  I did not get within three feet of the guy for the rest of my time there – he reeked.

Now, you know and I know that I’d been flirting with a few 12k cars because my head gets turned by tight turning radii and zippy engines, and I expected a used car dealer to start showing me 10k cars work on bumping me up to the 12k category – that’s why I gave him the range I did.  I’m still dedicated to buying something much cheaper off Craig’s list, but what’s the point of going to a dealership if I’m not going to let it complicate things by introducing me to something sexy just outside my desired budget?  None, I tell you.

Instead, this guy pulls out a crumpled sheet of paper with a list of the cars he has on the lot and slurs his way through telling me how much more car I can get for 10k.  “That’s in my budget,” I assure him.  The he squints at the paper, starts stabbing it with his finger and slurs his way through “I don’t think I can help you.  There’s nothing here.  I don’t think I can help you.”  Oh I am so tempted to get existential on him.  Instead I point to a malibu for just over 10K and ask him about it.  He shows me the trunk, waves vaguely at the interior, tells me it’s got great mileage, then goes back to shaking his crumpled list and telling me, “I don’t think I can help you.  I can’t help you.”  Never did man speak truer words.

I ran away with a great deal of dignity and reserve.

The best bet of the true Craig’s List appointments was a 2006 Hyundai Elantra.  It had good mileage, one prior owner (and adorable Russian man who was selling it because his daughter in college did’t stop drinking after he laid down the law) with meticulous maintenance records, and driving it depressed me.  Thinking about buying it depressed me.  I’m getting depressed reflecting on the car.  It was fine.  There was nothing wrong with it, it had everything in my basic requirements.

Sometimes, the basic requirements are not enough.

My last appointment was with a guy named Paul.  I wasn’t really sure what was going on there, because my Craig’s List search was limited to private owners, but this car, a VW Passat, was at a dealership on the east side I’d never heard of.  “Must be some sort of consignment dealership,” I thought to myself, and spent portions of the day fantasizing about how neat a consignment dealership must be, and the cool business planning etc. it must involve.*

It’s not a consignment dealership at all, but a tiny lot surrounding a one-garage mechanic that holds about ten tightly packed cars.  Paul is the owner/salesman guy.  He’s friendly, extraordinarily low pressure as used car salesmen go, and handled it very well when I thanked him for being sober.  Also, he did a really good job of not letting on that he could smell blood when I was trying to not let on that I was really enthusiastic about the car.  I’d never driven a German car before.

The Beltline is not the autobahn.  This is a tragedy, and will likely end in getting my license revoked, because I so very bought that car.

I did the responsible thing and waited a night to think on it.  I did all kinds of research on the Passat, and did everything I could to research Paul and his dealership.  Google knows it’s there, but nobody has said a thing about it anywhere, and Paul doesn’t appear to exist on the internet at all.  He reminds me a lot of my grandfather, which either means he’s just a nice, charming sales guy, or a total scam artist, and I decided a distinct lack of people screaming about scams must be a good sign.

Which is why I didn’t freak out when, five minutes after driving off the lot on Friday I noticed that the rear driver’s side window doesn’t roll down properly and, once down a bit, doesn’t go back up without a lot of jiggling.  I just drove right back and said, “Paul, we’ve got a problem.”

No, I didn’t freak out until today, when the plastic cover under the engine fell part way off and started dragging.  Apparently all of the bolts from the front are missing, and it had finally worked its way loose.

Paul is very sorry, doesn’t know how that happened, and his mechanic will come to my house to put the bolts back in when he comes in to work on Tuesday.  I’ll be out of town for my sister’s graduation.  And hey, Paul’s mechanic might just be sloppy, missing the same window I missed testing on Thursday, and forgetting to put the bolts back after examining under there.  (It was very clean, I’m sure he’d been in there)  If this is the end of it and things are in fact fixed on Friday by the time I want to be at WisCon, then I got a good deal and I’ll post Paul’s last name and dealership to give them good google-juice.  If it’s not, well, either way, a google presence will be established.  I’ll definitely be more motivated to make it a big one in the latter case.

*Yeah, I find business planning amusing, what of it?  Stop judging me, I can feel it.