Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I Can’t Believe I’m Denouncing Racism in 20-Freaking-17

I’ve held off on blogging about this for the last couple of days, primarily because I’m trying to focus on YA science fiction and relevant matters like my struggles trying to write it. Writing about how we shouldn’t discriminate against black people, or why we should definitely discriminate against Nazis, doesn’t feel like science fiction.  It feels like history from before I was even born. 

I wasn’t around when we whooped the Nazis in 1945, and I wasn’t around in the 1950s when we had to send in freaking combat troops so that black people could eat lunch at five and dime stores. Come to think of it, I wasn’t around in the middle ages and therefore have never had a reason to speak against burning witches. I wasn’t around during the days of the Roman empire, so I have no reason to protest the gladitorial games. 

And yet here we are, in 20-freaking-17, with our newsfeeds full of stories about businessmen and generals and former presidents denouncing the current White House occupant for sucking up to Nazis and white supremacists. Following a “Unite the Right” rally at which one of our homegrown Nazis pointed his car at a crowd of human beings and floored it – occupant can’t seem to collect the cojones to denounce this man, as he tiptoes around allegations of bad behavior on “many sides.” 

I have been very lenient about my free speech opinions in the past. I allowed that we on the left can be censor-happy and screechy. However, with regard to white supremacists, I stand shoulder to shoulder with every screechy censor-happy leftist in the world. Every brave Allied warrior who helped defeat the Nazis too. This stuff doesn’t count as free speech any more than farting and belching does.

So from now on, I only believe in free speech that consists of actual expressions of coherent thought. Demented vocalizations, deliberate incitement and Hitler quotes fall under noise ordinances. Marching through the streets waving torches and chanting “blood and soil” … that’s something akin to a performance artist like G.G. Allin who craps on the stage and eats it, except without the “artist” part.

Call it Free Speech 2.0. There is now a style manual, with requirements such as moderate volume, complete sentences, coherent thoughts and peer-reviewed cites.  Speech that is not submitted in the proper format is hereby rejected. That's how it's going to work in my house/brain/blog, anyway.

Occasionally the – properly formatted – arguments of the neoright can get my attention. I pride myself in being a fair-minded and tolerant person. Although I do have huge biases (mainly against people who refuse to read books), I can be sympathetic to their claims of having their religion bashed, their heroes mocked, their communities ignored (but isn’t that what they want – low taxes and ignored communities?). I go out of my way to avoid the temptation to make villains that are lazy caricatures of religious bullies and moral conservatives.

When it comes to opinions that certain types of people should have their rights curtailed based on their innate DNA … nope. That's incorrect and offensive. First of all, there’s the Constitutional part about being created equal, which obviously has more to do with souls and metaphysics than literal capabilities.   

Secondly, the part about white supremacy is garbage. White supremacy is not in any protected class whatsoever. Yes, I’ve read up on human biodiversity and all the non-reproducible junk science associated with it, plus I do 23andMe, which briefly classified me under the one-drop rule and is now identifying me as 100% Northern European, under the maternal haplotype of J1c1a.  You can’t get much whiter than that, so since white supremacists -- by their own logic -- have to heed whatever I say unless they have whiter DNA and a higher IQ than me, I’ll use up all my imaginary supremacy points to state with genetic authority, that white supremacy is a crock of shit and people who believe in it are full of bad genes and low IQs and foul temperaments and poor hygeine.  

Superior people are well-learned and even-tempered. They have better things to do than marching through the streets waving tiki torches, identifying with the losing sides of tragic wars.  They don’t scream abuse and threats and incitement like shit-flinging gibbons. They don't claim that the reason they're screaming abuse/threats/incitement is because they are extra smart and superior.  And they don’t drive into crowds. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Writing Science Fiction About Science

Figuring out how much science to stuff into science fiction is a subject I spend considerable amounts of time worrying about. In my initial novels I’m proceeding nice and slow, throwing in a little chemistry here, a little periodic table there.  I’ve got plenty of bioengineering handwavium (e.g. the ultraviolet light is very harsh in the future, but we’ve engineered ourselves to have more impermeable skin) but at the same time, I’m busting myths, especially with regard to clones.

I came across this piece by Nancy Kress about the science in science fiction and the part about clones resonated – thanks to bad science fiction, people think clones are telepathic, or have bizarre mind-melding powers, or will cheerfully surrender their organs to their donor upon demand.  Fact of the matter is that cloning is merely an artificial way of making large numbers of identical twins.  In fact, my story has a good guy that is part of a delayed set of artificially-increased natural twins and several bad (and good) guys who are members of a nation of clones. I’m trying to approach that particular subject with some nuance.

One of my science fictional pet peeves has to do with another point Ms. Kress notes: the overwhelming amount of science fiction that has a “don’t trust science because it’s evil” theme.

I particularly noticed it in Jurassic Park.  The camera lingers over the initial shot of the brachiosaurs while ethereal music plays … 

and moments later, the film is snottily denouncing its audience as empathy-lacking savages for wishing they could visit the brachiosaurs too.  It’s an old theme, one that goes back at least as far as Icarus and his wax wings.

So I’m being reactionary, and trying to write science fiction about people that have good, beneficial relationships with science.  Without throwing in a bunch of telepathic clones or other examples of the kind of BS that raises my blood pressure.

I got my start in science writing not from fiction but from summarizing evidence from experts of various disciplines like medicine, physics, metallurgy. Since the summaries were being read by opposing scientists I had to be precise enough to completely capture the technical impact of what they were saying, and since they were also being read by non-scientists, I had to strive for clarity and lack of jargon.

As a result, when I write about science, I tend to think of it as providing some jury with a chain full of logical steps. That’s only one of many approaches. Some writers prefer to unfurl the science like colleagues at a conference, or like professors lecturing to students.  There are a few that just assume anyone coming close to their science fiction already has at least a Masters, and they’ll launch right into esoteric concepts.

It all depends on your audience. The more understandable your science is, the larger your potential audience. One important thing to realize is that a lot of scientific knowledge doesn’t translate to other disciplines. Your botanist isn’t going to intuitively grasp biomechanics, and a brain surgeon doesn’t necessarily know how to hack computers, and therefore you need to kind of calibrate your scale as far as the kind of people you’re hoping to meet at book signings later on.

That’s the real purpose of writing, you know. To attract the kind of people by whom you wouldn’t mind being surrounded. Nice, fun, smart people who understand the health benefits of showering – these are often people who are into science. Encourage and entertain them at every possible opportunity and you will be rewarded.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hugo Award Winners!

Here's File 770's complete list of them.

N.K. Jemisen won best novel again. This was one of the books I failed to read. Last year I voted for her in a spirit of "this is some quality writing and the author seems like a good person so I'm gonna vote for it even though I thought it was nihilistic in that particular early 2000s way that sets my teeth on edge."  I couldn't do it twice, but I assume her writing is still of very high quality.

My pick, the Becky Chambers book, came in dead last, having offended the kind of people who enjoy the kind of nihilism that sets my teeth on edge. I'm kind of sad about that, but I'm happy that at least some of these nominees are stories I find enjoyable.

"Every Heart a Doorway" won novella. More pouty angst, here to reassure you that there are a gazillion portals, and they're not all that magic, or that wonderful, and all they really do is make you sad and crazy, which is the normal way to be, so when you're fantasizing about cavorting in Narnia or Redwall or the lands beyond the Phantom Tollbooth or Nevernever Land -- or the gothy land of the dead, which is where the protagonist goes, where everyone wears dark colors and holds real still -- just remember that you're nothing special and life sucks anyway. *flips hair, runs into room, slams door, composes poetry*

"The Tomato Thief" won! I loved TTT. And not just because author Ursula Vernon has a jackalope on her book cover while I've got one embossed on my skin!  There are important stakes -- the best tomato sammich in the world!  The character cares very much about those stakes!  And does something affirmative in pursuit of them!  Instead of standing around mutely and passively while horrible things happen!

"Seasons of Glass and Iron" won short story, and I briefly wrote it off as one of those stories where characters sit around eating symbolic fruit, which to me smells of a calculated attempt to win the hearts of professors and editors (as opposed to civilian readers).  Maybe I owe it a second look.

The Le Guin book beat the one by Silverberg, which is fine by me. I voted for Silverberg's in part to demonstrate to the Puppies that it's not about dislike for non-liberals, since Silverberg identifies as a conservative libertarian and still managed to do some gracious presenting at the Puppyfest Worldcon. I love Le Guin too, and am thrilled she's still getting major awards.

Arrival beat Rogue One and Deadpool and Moana and Hidden Figures and other worthy movies.  Sheesh. I refuse to see this one based on the Wikipedia summary and discussion I've heard. Aliens come to share their language, which is a literal tool/weapon and can change your consciousness just by speaking it, while foolish barbarian earthlings run around doing tragic macho posturing in response.  The same kind of thinking that shuts down lecturers, burns books and criminalizes particular alphanumeric sequences.

Today I was reading an article by my comrades at the ACLU about why they were defending the right of conservative gasbag Milo Yiannopoulos to run his mouth. And I agree with them. I have no problem with people declaring their beliefs in public. Once they make threats or encourage others to commit crimes it's a different ballgame. No, I don't think their saying terrible things normalizes it, not as long as people have the right to object. No, I don't think words are weapons that change your brain and give you psychic powers. Thoughts can change your brain; words are how we express them.

And it's sort of funny how strenuously I'm objecting to even seeing this movie, when it's linguistics sci fi, for frog's sake, and I love linguistics!

All right, maybe I'm still salty about Moana.

The Expanse won best TV show. I will have to investigate that to see if it's something I would like. [How Charon watches TV: repeated word of mouth inspires her to Google TV show and read synopses of a few episodes, complete with spoilers, before deliberating on whether I feel like watching.]

This post is getting way too long to summarize the rest, aside from the Campbell Award going to Ada Palmer. I like that. I like Ada Palmer.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Crazy Men With Nuclear Weapons

My books make no predictions whatsoever regarding the rest of this century. I’m fast-forwarding all the way to 3748, when technology is high and travel is complex. So I have no idea whether Donald Trump got into a pissing match with Kim Jong Un and triggered a nuclear war back in 2017 in my artificial timeline. Or whether it'll happen in this one. 

One thing both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump seem to agree on is that San Francisco shouldn’t exist, so maybe killing us will bring them together and help them bond despite their differences.

Other targets that have been mentioned include Hawai'i and Guam. You already know how I feel about Hawai'i, and I would also be mighty irate if Guam got hit, even though I’ve never been there. We’ve already done enough to that long-suffering island.

I’m not a particularly suicidal person. I have my moments of gloominess, but I very much enjoy being alive and partaking of life’s pleasures. I’ve probably been an asshole to friends struggling with depression because I have absolutely no tolerance for that negative mindset where someone wants to argumentatively declare how much everything sucks. And yet I feel like I’ve accomplished most of what I want to accomplish in life, and more, and everything from here out is bonus material.

It would suck if I didn’t finish my trilogy, of course, but there’s enough foreshadowing for people to figure out how it ends, assuming it ever acquires any fans. Plus there’s that whole post-midlife-crisis career writing exciting science fiction which would no longer exist in this timeline, but that would be your loss, not mine.  You’ll just have to figure out how to get yourself over to the alternate universe where Bernie Sanders won if you want to read them. 

Other than volume three of the trilogy, I don’t have a lot of loose ends. I have one very distant and very young relative whom I hope survives, prospers and has plentiful offspring, but we’re not in contact and I don’t really know him. I do have a cat, who will hopefully be sleeping in my arms when the bomb vaporizes us. If he should somehow outlive me, hopefully concerned bystanders will make sure he finds his way to the rescue where I got him before he devours my corpse. He’s a very picky eater, so it might not occur to him that I’m edible until I’m full of botulism. Everyone else in my family is old and has already lived their lives, although I’d be bummed if the missiles took out their portions of California instead of mine. 

I don’t believe in life after death. I’ve known several people that died, and not a single one came back to show me their ghostliness after it happened. I’ve had coincidences regarding remembering them, but I do believe in coincidences, in fact, I think they happen all the time.

I think it’s pathetic that we’re having nuclear war scares again. That was happening around the time I was born, and I grew up under its shadow, living in a place surrounded by military bases and the Arizona Memorial, which inspired horrible nightmares when I was little. For a moment there it almost looked like we were moving toward a world ruled by intelligence and fairness and respect for human rights and rule of law, but I guess not.

Regardless, I’m going to keep pretending that’s the case, and writing novels that take place in a world where it does indeed happen.  Because stubbornness is one of my most enduring qualities.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Further Opinions on the YA Dogpiling Thing

I read a little further into the controversy, wondering if I was being jacked around by some writer’s hit piece against the dreaded SJWs.  I saw lots of thoughtful commentary from a variety of angles. The gist is that people didn’t like having to wade through a lengthy section showing the hero’s bigoted and unenlightened upbringing before getting to the juicy part where she casts it all off and moves in a different direction. Some of the critics thought it felt like the writer was having too much fun writing the bigoted-upbringing parts. That’s probably a valid criticism. Some of the reaction to that seemed a little excessive.

Some of the critics also seemed overly concerned with purity. One commenter wanted to feel represented within the first several pages of a story … I couldn’t do it, I like Watership Down too much. I respect her wish to only read books about people like her, though (and henceforth swear I will never write any).

It all made me wish people would be less mean to each other, so we could have actual discussions instead of spite voting and dogpiling.

Oh hey, some rebuttal already

The plot thickens!  Another article alleges that the last one I linked was a hit piece which included "hate-links."  A comment about layers upon layers mentions the initial article is dog whistling.

Either I'm falling for a bunch of fake news here or I'm knowingly entering a community that has all kinds of dysfunctional drama in it, and now I definitely can't say I wasn't warned.



The adapter arrived and monitor is now securely bolted to my bracket and floating at eye level, an arm's length away, just where I like it.

But before that happened, while it was right in front of my face, I watched Rogue One on it, plus the episode of Game of Thrones with the dragon attack scene. Holy moly. I may never go to a theater again.

The Dogpilers of Righteousness

It’s an article entitled “The Toxic Drama of YA Twitter” and it explains why I’m lazy about publicity, and Twitter. I have no desire whatsoever to jump into the moshpit with these kids, and I often wake up wondering why I can’t just like soppy litfic books like all the other old ladies. Instead of toying with the wrath of irate mobs that aren’t quite clear on their reasoning.

I’ve written at length about my own politics so I’ll try not to rehash much; I’m innately liberal, but I was raised by conservatives, until I left home to hang out with libertarians, and commies, and then I discovered I kind of like hanging out with people that are on the religious or political fringes. Sometimes I can code switch and sometimes I forget. I don’t like fundamentalism, whether it’s Christian, Muslim or Marxist.

I’ve had my own drama with people who might be deemed Social Justice Warriors. I’d be at some gathering when some snotty millenial would prance in, looking for deviations from political correctness that would serve as their ticket to try and dominate their elders. Usually I had some card to play – I wrote X, I hang out with Esteemed Liberal Y, my carbon index is lower than yours. I often get the feeling that the people that lacked cards – and received a retaliatory shunning or firing or social excommunication – are not only still seething about it but make up the majority of the Trump voter base.  Just a hunch. 

So this article starts out talking about a book that’s apparently an urban fantasy regarding a character who gets woke at college. And a reviewer objected to the mustache-twirling racist villains because they’re racist. While accusing the author of being a white person that wants to act non-racist. And apparently this resulted in many Twitter pile-ons. My head spins.

I almost want to start dissecting my own writing as a defensive reaction. Let’s see, brown people, fourteen points each, subtract twenty for the white dude, if I just add a disabled lesbian here I can max out my high score. But I’m not that kind of girl. I am a girl who was exposed to ideas about diversity and colonialism at a fairly young age, as well as a girl who grew up as a non-majority surrounded by extremely intelligent nonwhite people, and that background informs my writing. There are definitely problematic things here and there, such as the way Sonny initially acts like an ass toward a person who ends up being his close friend, and the way he tends to stare at boobs. Possibly I’ll end up sacrificed on the altar of Twitter over these things.

It’s not really about me, though. Watching people being threatened generally tends to make us pull inward and do a security check, and that’s why people make threats. I remember once looking at a news story about a kid who got teased for having ears that stuck out, and a parent made some kind of heroic sacrifice to get them cosmetic surgery, and I just wanted to spraypaint “it was never about the ears” on their driveway.

It’s about the social dominance, and I say that as a kid who attended a different elementary school every year and can’t remember any of the teachers’ names. Also as a grownup who just read an article about someone that wrote a 9k word attack against another bougie for appearing racist when they could have invested that keyboarding power into, I don’t know, writing stories that aren’t racist, or doing pro bono legal work or helping the indigent fill out forms. 

That’s a personal philosophy kind of thing right there. Positive action, not negative reaction. That’s why I persevere at writing YA stories, even in a rather hostile climate.

Maybe eventually I’ll even get over my anti-publicity sentiments and get to work promoting this stuff.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Authors and Cons

I found this cool article by Francesca Barbini of Luna Press about authors and cons. At the moment I'm wistfully gazing at social media as people head off to Helsinki for Worldcon. I love Worldcon but not enough to brave expensive international travel for it.

If everything goes smoothly and I don't get nuked by that North Korean guy over my literary references to the United States of Korea, which totally exists in my fictional 3748, I intend to spend my golden years traveling around to conventions and nattering with the other science fictioneers, thus subsidizing my meager travel expenses.

She's not much for comic cons, while I'm still deliberating. I'm looking forward to San Francisco Comic Con on Labor Day weekend, and Hawaiicon right after that. Both have heavy media con features but also have material for writers and creatives. I think comics people might actually be more interested in my work than traditional book people, and one of my secret goals is to find people to collaborate with on comics or games. My style is very visual, even though I'm all about the words.

Some interesting things to think about!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trending: the "New Optimism"

I just read this Guardian article about the New Optimism -- something that interests me as an artist.  It ties in with the material in my books, and the path I want to take with my writing.

[The New Optimists] argue that it says more about us than it does about how things really are – illustrating a certain tendency toward collective self-flagellation, and an unwillingness to believe in the power of human ingenuity. And that it is best explained as the result of various psychological biases that served a purpose on the prehistoric savannah – but now, in a media-saturated era, constantly mislead us.

The article mentions a few "controversial" aspects of being a new optimist, such as faith in progress and support for the status quo that brought us to this point.

I have to say, I'm guilty of both. While I'm a little leery of faith in progress due to its association with some kind of Hegellian upward spiral separating the "refined" from the "heathens" and "savages" and "barbarians", I decided years ago, for myself, that whatever rottenness lay at the foundation of this society where we live, I am in complete agreement with certain of its current values, such as universal rights, which arose out of centuries of sordid bloody misery and initiated the notion life didn't need to be that way. I think it benefits us to explore that rather than moaning and shrieking about tearing it all down.

My fictional future world gets along under a variety of socioeconomic constructs isolated by geography. One country has plantations with robotic slaves, another is inhabited by tech-shunning farmers, there's a tourist trap where capitalism is very much celebrated, and a futuristic city that is one of several "postcash" enclaves, while some people lead disembodied lives in virtual reality. Everyone realizes they need to band together to prevent nature from slapping the species out of existence, and everyone has the basic right to be fed and housed and given medical care as needed, although standards vary. That's my inclusive vision, which has space for conservatives, liberals, optimists, pessimists and sentient sea cows. I guess you can count me as one of the artists inspired by the New Optimism.

Dazzled By My New Monitor

Yesterday, which happened to be Friday, I came home to a bunch of weirdness on my computer, with windows open and a Nine Inch Nails shuffle playing, and I attributed it to either clashing auto-updates or my cat walking over the keyboard, since it basically looked like every icon on my desktop had been clicked a few times. I’m not going to attribute it to a virus just yet, but I am going to make a few backups. 

My monitor was hot – the weather was generally hot, with the newspaper comparing it to Hawai'I, interspersed with cold blasts of northwestern fog, resulting in humid weather switching between sweaty/stuffy to chilly/damp. Everything on my screen had a faint reddish cast, and was looking a little blurry.

I keep back up computer peripherals in the closet. A legacy from my game addict days. If my trackball or keyboard or whatever were to expire at 9:30pm, I could just unwrap a new one, without any potentially traumatic downtime. Unfortunately, my backup monitor didn’t have HDMI. I spent a moment reflecting on whether I could deal with a weekend of low resolution while ordering one on Amazon, or whether I had become the sort of spoiled princess who requires constant HDMI.

A few moments later I found myself standing on the corner, waiting for the Muni bus to Best Buy, a swift and lovely trip via the Presidio forest and the Golden Gate Bridge. In a bad mood nevertheless, because I don’t really like shopping in places with lots of visual distractions.

Now, due to this creature

I computerize from a couch (so that he can lie next to me with his head on my lap), equipped with a keyboard tray and a monitor on an arm which floats in front of my face at an adjustable distance. At one time, every monitor had four screwholes on the back where I could affix my arm, but that was back in the days when you could get perfectly good cheap monitors at Office Depot for $20. These days they cost more than TVs, which reminds me that I still haven’t gotten around to buying a TV.  And most of them lack screwholes. The only one I found with screwholes was a 24” curved gamer monitor, substantially bigger than my old 19” monitor.

And since the screwhole distance is much smaller on the monitor than on the vice grip arm, I’ve ordered an adapter from Amazon and it’ll arrive Monday.  In the meantime I have a super HD curved monitor Right In My Face, resting on the keyboard tray.

It would be overwhelming even if I didn’t have a magnificent left-sided cluster headache brought on by some plant blooming in the Presidio forest and/or the shopping experience in general and/or the freaky weather and/or the fact my house was painted this week and I’ve had the windows all sealed up.

Any minute now the headache pills will kick in, and the idea of a giant curved HDMI screen in front of my face to accompany the suspended speakers that dangle at ear level will be super awesome, and I’ll cue up Rogue One or Moana or something. Tomorrow night’s Game of Thrones should be interesting.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


So I have this cousin, according to 23andMe. There’s a strong physical resemblance, so I don’t doubt it. There are a few interesting similarities: we’re both adoptees, we’re both animal lovers, we both like astrology and our birthdays are close in proximity. We both have law-related careers.

And we’re both authors, but very different kinds of authors, which is why I pulled the rip cord. Her latest book is an autobiography, which has lots of five star reviews. I’ve read it and would not give it five stars. She’s written a lot of books, plus she’s a musician, with a self-published album of piano music where she covers songs like Free Bird.

Watching her rack up friends and followers and 5-star reviews was interesting, particularly since I’m a slacker with none of same. I’ve had a few people come up to me and tell me they really like my stuff but so far I’m reluctant to hustle reviews out of them, even though I’m well aware That’s How It’s Done. According to the How It’s Done wisdom you have to capture peoples’ emails, and regularly bombard them with ads, and friend them on Facebook, and engineer yourself a healthy selection of five-star reviews. I've never liked doing things How It's Done. Maybe my perspective will change someday.

As far as I’m concerned, the point of writing is to attract people with like minds. My cousin is aggressively marketing to her people and I'm going about it in my way by being more quiet and targeted. She’s going for quantity, I’m looking for that one fan that’ll drop my name into the whisper vortex at the right moment. 

After a few brief weeks of being in the fascinating situation of having a wicked nemesis relative, she did something that crossed one of my personal lines, and no, it wasn’t entirely about politics but they played a part. I took a machete to the relationship, which was a little tough because I was curious about some of these other cousins she’d assembled in this huge group. I’ve got lots more 23andMe cousins though, and the others that I’ve Facebook-friended seem really nice and probably wouldn’t trip any of my interpersonal boundary triggers in a million years.

It was interesting while it lasted! Maybe I’ll write about it someday. 

I can totally explain why there's a jackalope tattooed on my flesh ...

It all has to do with Kansas City.

You may recall I went there last year, for Worldcon. And while I was there I had a brief panic attack in the airport. I was seated next to a Muslim woman at the time. I could tell she was a Muslim woman because she was wearing a ski parka with a hood, in August, and the only reason for that besides insanity would be to stay modest without looking scary.

I started thinking about this tattoo on my hip. I got it back in the '90s, kind of an abstract green swirly thing that (to me) represented the chaotic forces of nature. I figured it would make a good band logo if I ever managed to have a band that lasted long enough to get a logo. Alas, the tattoo lasted far longer than any band I've ever been in, and it was the reason for my Kansas City panic attack: "What if I go to the hospital, or even just to the hotel jacuzzi, or possibly merely pass in front of the airport scanner, revealing my tattoo to the red staters?  Will they automatically assume it means I'm in a satanic cult and lock me up in solitary for three or four years, or just beat me to death and claim it happened because I was jaywalking and littering at the same time?"

These thoughts didn't invade my head last August, before I knew some of the things I know now about the beliefs of red staters.  In fact, the state of Missouri was recently subjected to a travel warning issued by the NAACP. I will concede that this anxiety may be exacerbated by the media, but NPR is a relatively sober source. The fact I've been living in my San Francisco bubble for decades might also come into play, but at least here I'm pretty sure they're not going to extrajudicially execute me for having a weird tattoo, because practically everyone here has a weird tattoo, or possibly something even weirder.

After reading A Close and Common Orbit, my Hugo pick, where two characters have a philosophical exchange about tattoos as the place where mind and body intersect, I decided to just go get it done. The old-fashioned tattoo parlors of my youth where heavily-inked dudes would cheerfully draw a quick picture on your carcass have mostly been replaced by hipster sanctuaries where people book watercolor-style backpieces months in advance, but after a little scouting, I found this place called Let It Bleed (hey, that's one of my favorite albums) that does old-fashioned American-style tattooing. I asked the dudes in there what was best for covering a swirly thing, and they recommended a shaggy beast.

Given my recent art-buying experience at Baycon, and given that I've been cheerfully pwning people as Jackalope in various Blizzard games for the past decade, and given that there was a bar right up the block named Jackalope, complete with a Jackalope-shaped gobo light that dances on the sidewalk after dark, the choice was obvious. I ordered a shaggy jackalope with floppy ears, and I got one.

I don't think there's anything quite as all-American as a jackalope. Not even a bald eagle -- they have those in Canada.

Lose Hundreds of Cousins, Gain a Jackalope

Technology has enabled me to cut off more relatives with one swift click than ever before, and I am grateful. I’m not going to discuss it any further than to say that due to conflicting views, I have parted company with my distant-genetic-cousin that resembles me, who found me on 23andMe, and the group of several hundred cousins she assembled.

I did stay friends with one cool cousin from that batch (she saw the Beatles live once), plus several civilized and refined genetic cousins who have excellent taste in food and music. But yeah, I won’t be attending any large reunions. I wish everybody luck. I’m just allergic to this whole “family” concept, apparently.

On the bright side, I found a new restaurant. They only serve macaroni and cheese, but they serve it several different ways. They’re not anywhere near as awesome as my former favorite restaurant, the one that used to serve me carrot halwa (sniffle), but they’re pretty good. 

I realize my bloggage frequency plummeted over the last month, but getting older was exhausting, and so was recovering from my birthday present to myself -- a pet jackalope.