Posts Tagged: reading

Tidbits for a Weekend’s Reading

Snowy Convict Lake Reflections

Fri. 01.11.19 – Here are a few articles to start your weekend out right. Happy Friday!

* Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

* Memo to conservatives: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez understands taxes better than you do

* A Moral Panic

“The real story of machine learning is not how it promotes home bomb-making, but that it’s being deployed at scale with minimal ethical oversight, in the service of a business model that relies entirely on psychological manipulation and mass surveillance. The capacity to manipulate people at scale is being sold to the highest bidder, and has infected every aspect of civic life, including democratic elections and journalism.”
“Frankly, as long as we continue to view the planet as an endless “resource,” as long as we uphold the rights of individuals and corporations to amass infinite wealth while others go hungry, as long as we continue to believe that governments do not have the responsibility to feed, clothe, house, and educate everyone—all our talk is mere posturing. Why do these simple things scare people so much? It is just common decency. Let’s face it: the free market is not free, and it doesn’t give a shit about justice or equality.”

* Arundhati Roy on How to Think about Empire

“And now we have the era of Trump, in which we learn that intelligence and nuance are relative terms. And that W, when compared to Trump, was a serious intellectual. Now U.S. foreign policy is tweeted to the world on an hourly basis. You can’t get more transparent than that. The Absurd Apocalypse. Who would have imagined that could be possible? But it is possible—more than possible—and it will be quicker in the coming if Trump makes the dreadful mistake of attacking Iran.”

* Why Rashida Tlaib’s “We’re gonna impeach that motherf*cker approach” is good for Congress

“One of those leading that charge is Rashida Tlaib, the new representative from Michigan’s 13th district and one of the two first Muslim women to serve in the House of Representatives – and she is wasting no time in making her voice heard. “We’re gonna go in there,” she said, speaking to the progressive organising group MoveOn just hours after she was sworn in, “and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker.”

This caused the predictable backlash of pearl-clutching from Republican circles, whose faux-outrage at the swear-word would, perhaps, have had more moral weight if they had not spent the previous three years justifying their support for a president who boasted of “grabbing” women “by the pussy,” and attacking Democrats for their “political correctness”.”

Photo of the Snowy Convict Lake Reflections taken by Ms. Jen on 01.08.19 with her Nikon D850 and a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens in Mono County, California.

Sunday Tidbits for Your Reading Pleasure…

Single petaled rose with large stames casting shadows

Above photo of a rose taken by Ms. Jen on May 26, 2018 at Castle Howard, Yorkshire, with a Nikon D850 and a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens.

The Pivot:

“Something huge is happening in the UK right now, and I wonder where it’s going. […]

Brexit was a classic example of a collusion conspiracy. Many of the named politicians and businessmen above stand to gain millions of pounds from a hard Brexit that causes the British stock market to fall. Others stand to make millions from juicy investment opportunities they were offered in Russia. We cannot know for certain what the quid pro quo for those investment deals were at this time, but I strongly suspect that support for Brexit (and more general socially-authoritarian right-wing policies) was part of it.

And now we’re seeing a rival collusion conspiracy surface. Not all billionaires stand to profit from seeing the remains of British industry sink beneath the waves, and not all of them are in the pocket of the Kremlin’s financial backers. There are a bunch of very rich, rather reclusive men (and a handful of women) who probably thought, “well, let’s sit back and see where this thing leads, for now” about 18 months ago. And now they can see it leading right over a cliff, and they are unhappy, and they have made their displeasure known on the golf course and in the smoke-filled rooms, and the quiet whispering campaign has finally turned heads at the top of the media empires.

If I’m right, then over the next four to eight weeks the wrath of the British press is going to fall on the heads of the Brexit lobby with a force and a fury we haven’t seen in a generation. There may be arrests and criminal prosecutions before this sorry tale is done: I’d be unsurprised to see money-laundering investigations, and possibly prosecutions under the Bribery Act (2010), launched within this time frame that will rumble on for years to come.” – Charlie Stross, The Pivot

Juno Solves 39-Year Old Mystery of Jupiter Lightning

Oldest bubonic plague genome decoded

Facebook confirms that it tracks how you move mouse on the computer screen

Demise of the Nation State

Clever Street Artist Transforms Ordinary Public Places Into Funny Installations

Umberto Eco’s 1999 article on ‘Ur Fascism

Here’s to Unsuicide: An Interview with Richard Powers

Writing and Reading

While I have been on my Big-Five-Oh birthday gift to myself writing retreat, I have also been reading. So far, I have worked my way through a re-read of the whole Ben Aaronvitch’s Rivers of London series and I am nearly finished with re-reading Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series (minus the more recent co-author or other author Pern books).

Why am I rereading books I have already read many times before, particularly in the case of the Pern books? I am reading them not just for the joy of the story but also to see and analyze how two authors who I admire have constructed their stories and series as a whole and from various writing perspectives.

What this past two months of reading and writing has shown or revealed to me is that I have a preference for multiple person point of view / main character stories or at least multiple threads of story interwoven over a single main character’s point of view with one story arc.

McCaffrey’s Pern books are almost always, with the exception of the YA books, multiple main characters with multiple threads of story. While Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series is from the POV of PC Peter Grant, each book weaves in multiple strands of story, including one series long story thread. One of the things that I also like about Jane Austen books is that by and large her stories are also ensemble stories, even if we see the story from the POV of one or two main characters.

The novel length story I wrote from 2015-2017, A Quiver Full, was a multiple character POV story. I started writing it as a short story for a writing challenge and it was originally written from the POV of two characters, after I expanded it to novel length – several more characters demanded their share of the conversation and stage time. After the fact, I got the feedback from a reader that it should have more of the romance of just two characters and not so much of the other stuff.

After finishing writing A Quiver Full, I printed it out, then I put it up on a shelf for a bit of aging before I reread it and started rewriting. It was six weeks on the shelf when I received the above feedback, which hit me enough of the wrong way that the first draft has stayed on the shelf and I started writing a whole new novel in December of 2017.

This second novel is from one character’s point of view. It is meant to be a humorous mildly unreliable narrator story wherein by the end the reader should be questioning if the main character really was all that and more or if we want our hero to be heroic rather than a mere man. Now more than seventy percent of the way through writing the story, I find myself longing for more strands of story – not in the novel I am writing now but in general.

Then it hit me about a week ago, as I was knee deep in my Pern reread that I prefer multiple characters with third person limited POVs in the plural to one or two main characters. I want more story, I want more points of view, and I want to be stretched. When I return back to California, I will be ready to take A Quiver Full off the shelf and start the rewrite.

But before I can do that, I have got to finish writing my one guy and his POV story.

Tidbits for Palm Sunday

The Snow, it is falling and falling this weekend in Mammoth
Sun. 04.09.17 – The Snow, it is falling and falling this weekend in Mammoth – photo by Ms. Jen with her Lumia 950

Tidbits for a Sunday afternoon’s reading:

The Art and Design of End Papers

The beautiful choral music of Suor Leonora d’Este

Thinker, tailor, soldier, spy: The extraordinary women of Ghiyas-ud-din Khalji’s harem

Erica Wilson, The Julia Child of Needlework

Which led to the Queen’s Coronation Gown and her Maids of Honor, then and now:
1. http://orderofsplendor.blogspot.com/2012/02/flashback-friday-queens-coronation-gown.html
2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2089887/The-Pippas-day-aristocratic-beauties-stole-the-Coronation-60-years-ago-Now-share-scenes-stories.html
3. http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-04-21/the-queens-coronation-day-maids-of-honour-where-are-they-now

A book review that is a good read in and of itself:The Souls of China by Ian Johnson – the resurgence of religion after Mao

“Johnson spends weeks with Taoist musicians, whose ritual performances bring the deceased “over to the other side”. He attends an unregistered Christian church in western China that challenges the party’s claim to be moral arbiter of society. He dines with celebrity Zen Buddhists, who dispense wisdom to real estate developers, the offspring of party aristocracy, executives and bank managers. He practises qigong – religious breathing exercises and meditation – with a master in an apartment block reserved for once-persecuted party elders rehabilitated after Mao’s death. With nicely understated irony, Johnson weaves the political rituals of the self-proclaimed atheistic CCP through this calendar: its conferences held in the Great Hall of the People, a communist temple saturated with legitimising ritual symbols; the intensely ritualistic departures and ascensions of communist leaders. “Like a Taoist priest,” he observes of Hu Jintao anointing a successor at the 18th party congress in November 2012, “Hu emulated an immortal … dyeing his hair jet-black to make himself look ageless, and surrounding himself with propaganda banners conferring immortality on the Communist party.””

Note to Self: Go on one of these UK walks
It’s blooming spring! 22 great UK walks

After spending so much time in Arizona the past two years, this article on living in Arizona is spot on.
Mike Powell : Why I live Where I liveZonies: Part 7
with a link to Walter Percy’s Why I Live Where I Live

Unusually strong April storm headed for Northern California this week : This storm was fun. I spent it up at Mammoth. My Instagram documents: 1, 2, 3, 4

Good Morning: Stross has a Good Poke at Steampunk

If you like to read and have been more than bewildered by the sub-genres that have spawned off of sub-genres, go read Charlie Stross’ rant on Steampunk* – The hard edge of empire.
It is a good and glorious essay/rant:

We’ve been at this point before with other sub-genres, with cyberpunk and, more recently, paranormal romance fang fuckers bodice rippers with vamp- Sparkly Vampyres in Lurve: it’s poised on the edge of over-exposure. Maybe it’s on its way to becoming a new sub-genre, or even a new shelf category in the bookstores. But in the meantime, it’s over-blown. The category is filling up with trashy, derivative junk and also with good authors who damn well ought to know better than to jump on a bandwagon. (Take it from one whose first novel got the ‘S’-word pinned on it — singularity — back when that was hot: if you’re lucky, your career will last long enough that you live to regret it.) Harumph, young folks today, get off my lawn ….

I am not a big fan of Steampunk the sub-culture, as I have only seen it in the late stages of its decline – the point where it is a fashion/identity sub-culture**. As for Steampunk the literary sub-genre, I have only read one novel that even has a bit of steampunk in it, of which the book was a tongue-in-cheek bit of romance-vampyre-regency-werewolf-steampunk-victorian-humor fluff of the best read it in three hours sort.
But then again, that is how I find myself reading many genres of fiction, I start off reading the humorous parody novels, get curious, and then start reading the ‘real’ books in the genre, which is not a bad way to find books to read.
All that to say, go read Charlie’s The hard edge of empire.
* Steampunk is a sub-genre mashup of SF/Fantasy, time anachronisms, Industrial Revolution dystopia/utopia, and sometimes with the addition of either the historical Romance and/or Vampyres & Zombies genres.
** Now as a person who has participated, with joyful abandon, in several fashion/identity/music sub-cultures, I will not condemn the folks who are having fun living the steampunk life, I am merely stating that it is not my thing (too much brown, sepia, and finicky metal bits).

Oops… I Skipped a Day

I took yesterday off from blogging, working, and all the like.
Instead I read a novel that Erika loaned me, Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger.
Soulless was an amusing mashup of regency romance genre tropes with Steampunk Victoriana plus vampires & werewolves set in an 1870s alterna-London. A very good romp. The kind of book that once one starts reading it, one keeps reading it, even when one has other things to do.
Reading an actual book broke my 2 years + daily blogging streak.
And I don’t regret it.
;oD

Kindle Publishing

The nice folks at Amazon.com have opened up the ability for bloggers to add their blog to the Kindle-world. If you are a regular blogger and would like to have the various Kindle reader folk out there to able to download and read your blog on their Kindle’s, then go register at Kindle Publishing.
The nice folk at Six Apart alerted their Twitter followers about the new Kindle Publishing option for bloggers this afternoon:

Our friends at Amazon just launched Kindle Publishing for Blogs — list your blog in the Kindle store: http://kindlepublishing.amazon.com

Why is this exciting to me? Given that I am a big fan of reading, mobile devices and blogs, this is a perfectly easy way to make sure that one’s blog reaches what possibly may be a new audience or at the very least it makes current readers of one’s blog be able to read the blog anywhere on a mobile device at their convenience.
I signed up for Kindle Publishing this afternoon and within 20 minutes I had this blog, Black Phoebe :: Ms. Jen, and The Happy Tastebud signed up as Kindle subscriptions. And in another 20 minutes after that, I had the links to the Kindle subscriptions added to both blog’s sidebar Subscribe area right next to the links to Atom and RSS feeds.
It was easy. Amazon did not require anything of me that I had not already had accomplished (description, keywords, screen shot, masthead, etc). I did not have to recode my blog nor did I have to make a device specific app, like many have done for the iPhone, but all I had to do after filling in basic information was to give an RSS or Atom feed to Amazon.
Amazon allows you to see a preview of your content as the Kindle will display it to the reader and it is not optimized for a photoblog or for the design control addicts amongst us, as the photos are very low resolution and in black & white and the typography is serif and fairly large. Also, there is no control over layout. But all of this adds up to an impetuous for me to make sure that my content is compelling regardless of the device or machine that it is viewed on.
Whether anyone actually subscribes to my blog via the Kindle or not really doesn’t matter, what does matter is that Amazon is making a wide variety of publications available to their Kindle readership and Amazon is making it easy for bloggers and other content publishers to distribute their work, which is very exciting for the mobile and handheld device ecosystem.