new meez, default
LJ just tried to force me into their ugly "new Friends Page feed", with no obvious way to go back. So I poked around a bit and figured out how to fix it. Go to your Profile page, then to "Edit Profile", and from there click on the "Edit Viewing Options" link (in the text, not on the navigation bar). You'll see a box for "View other journals and communities in my style" -- make sure it's checked. You may also want to change the "Site view" setting from whatever they've changed it to back to Horizon. Doing both of those things gave me my regular friends page back.

Meta: I've noticed, over the course of my life, that people tend to fall into one of two classes: those who like change every now and then "just because" and those who like to get things set up the way they want them and then keep them that way. My mother was a furniture-rearranger. Every so often she'd get a bug up her butt about wanting the house to look different, and we all got to help her push huge pieces of furniture around the rooms. I consider that to be a complete waste of time and effort. I'll shift furniture around until I reach what I think is an optimum arrangement; after that, the only time anything gets moved is when something new is added and I have to find a new optimum arrangement.

For some reason, damn near every major website -- Facebook is the worst, but LJ and Google and Flickr do it too -- seems to think that all of us are in the "random change Just Because" group, and I wish they'd STOP. Or at the very least, make changes opt-in, y'know, as in good programming practice standards.

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Russ Field adventures

In our last episode, Our Hero had arranged to swap an event in Tulsa for one in Dallas that was half the distance, and gain 2 days of prep time thereby. Cue the Russ Field...

First, Thursday, which was supposed to be a heavy-printing day. Except that he can't print when the GODDAMN CELLPHONE is going off every half hour! Some People, it seems, don't understand the concept of, "You can yammer at him on the phone all day OR you can have your shirts, but not both." This pushed the printing late into the night, when he was going to have to be up at 4 AM to leave for Dallas, and he still didn't get everything done that he was supposed to have done.

So Friday morning he's on the road at 5AM, to get to the con at 9:00. (Scott had gone over on Thursday and done most of the setup already, so Russ only had a couple of boxes of shirts and the cash-register setup and a few other things.) I got up around 10:00... and a few minutes later I get a text. The timing belt on his car gave out 3 blocks away from the con. There was a public parking lot right there, and someone helped him push the car into it and get it into a space, so at least the car wasn't going to be towed. But he had to push everything from there to the con hotel on the cart, in the heat. After some discussion, it became obvious that the only real solution was for me to buy the part (he told me exactly what to ask for, so that was easy) and run it up to Dallas, stay the night there, and drive back home Saturday morning. Oh, but he also wanted me to bring 2 other things, neither of which was where he told me they were, and both of which when located were difficult to extract. But I got it all loaded up, and then I had to get gas, and by then I was in the middle of the Friday-leaving-early rush hour and several sections of I-45 were stop-and-go for miles.

Got up to Dallas, found the parking lot without trouble. Russ already had the old belt off by the time I got there, and installing the replacement was a matter of about half an hour. We checked into his hotel, got some dinner, and then had to drive out to Scott's place and swap Russ' car for Scott's van, which he would drive for the weekend and use for loading out. Oh, and one of my brake lights was out, which Russ wanted to fix immediately before I got a ticket, but that was a matter of a few minutes.

Saturday morning I got up early and got back on the road home. Was making pretty good time too, until I got to Conroe and saw a sign saying, "FREEWAY CLOSED AT HARDY TOLL ROAD". I wouldn't have minded taking the Hardy Toll Road, but the backup from the exit was about 4 miles long. I got off and spent too much time dicking around with the surface streets, thinking surely I'd get to something I would recognize. I didn't. Eventually I gave up, got back on the northbound freeway, and got off at TX 242, which I knew would take me to Hwy 59. It was a surprisingly pleasant drive -- the road is fully paved and well-maintained. Got to 59, headed south... and 2 exits later everyone was being detoured onto the feeder road because of bridge maintenance. But at least that traffic was relatively light; the outbound traffic was the same kind of clusterfuck that I-45 had been. And so I finally got home, and even had time to do some of the things I'd planned to do on Friday.

For Russ, the rest of the weekend went smoothly. Until he got all the way back to the freeway after swapping off vehicles Sunday night, and realized that he still had the keys to Scott's van in his pocket. Oops. Instead of getting home at a reasonable hour, he ended up having to cat-nap his way back and got in at 5 AM.

And that brings us to Monday, which was supposed to be the second heavy-printing day. Until our power went out shortly before 3:00, and we didn't get it back until after 8:00. Something took out one of the major transformers that covers both the western end of our street and part of the street behind us.

At this point, Russ will be lucky if he has a third of what he'd wanted to print for restock. I swear to ghod, this trip is cursed. And I'm going to insist that he bring along the heavy-duty toolkit, because at this point I don't trust my car not to act up somewhere along the line. We're still in reasonably good shape as long as we can get on the road by noon on Tuesday. GoodThoughts for no more travel drama would be very much welcomed!

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Things and stuff

new meez, default
Russ, Saturday night
ApolloCon happened. Prep for NASFIC has interfered with my writing a report, but my photos are up on Flickr; I'll probably end up writing the report on my laptop in the car. The good news is that everything seemed to go smoothly; the less-than-good news is that neither Russ nor I made much money in the dealer room. Unofficial scuttlebutt has it that we ended with decent financials, so there will be an ApolloCon next year. The question is whether Russ will be asked to run it again... and whether he'll consider himself able to do so if asked. But that won't be discussed until the wrap-up meeting, which will be sometime after NASFIC.

I can haz new (to me) computer! It's taken some time to set up properly, and there are probably still a few glitches yet to be discovered, but it's a lot faster than my old machine, and it runs Windows 7 instead of Windows 8. By the time I'm ready to upgrade again, M$ may have stopped trying to make every computer work like a tablet.

Russ Field effects: Originally, we were supposed to have 2½ weeks after ApolloCon to get ready for NASFIC. But then we had to go on the waiting list, and Russ got tapped to do Tokyo in Tulsa for Scott. But then some tables opened up, so now we've got 2 events on successive weekends, and coming home between them didn't look practical. That cut us back to a week and a half of prep time. Then UofH dropped an order for 865 shirts on him; even though they're a very easy print job, that's significant printing time. Russ wanted to work on that over the holiday weekend. As we were leaving the house to pick up the blanks... my car wouldn't start. (Fortunately, all the boxes would fit in his car, so we were still able to make the pickup.)

Well, that pushed my car to the top of the crash-crisis-priority list. The presenting problem turned out to be an easy fix -- a wire that had gotten out of place and was grounding out on the frame -- but while working on that, he decided we might as well also replace the collapsed motor mount that had been producing a lot of noise and vibration in the ride. And while working on that, he discovered that my front brake pads and front tires were both badly worn; one of the tires was in the process of developing a tread separation, and you have no idea how grateful I am that THAT didn't happen over ApolloCon weekend! And he thought perhaps he'd also fixed the problem that's been making the Check Engine light come on, but no such luck. But all that ate about a day and a half of the holiday weekend, so he didn't get the UofH printing done, and by the time he finished that it was going to be touch and go how much of his own printing he'd be able to get done before leaving.

So there was much discussion, and the upshot of it is that Scott is doing Tokyo in Tulsa, and Russ is doing SGC in Dallas, which Scott had been going to do himself. This means that Russ gets both Thursday and Monday to work on his own stuff, yay! It also means I don't have to go to Tulsa (and will be here on Sunday for Bagels), and that our cat-sitter will only have to come in for 1 week instead of 2. And we can get from here to Detroit in good time if we leave early on Tuesday morning.

We're going to have to isolate Kitsune in the front bathroom while we're gone. The other cats, especially Catgirl, are still pestering her; we hear a squabble or two every day, even when we're right there in the room -- and the other cats know they aren't supposed to do that, and will bolt and hide as soon as a human yells or gets up to come over. With no one in the house at all except the cat-sitter twice a day... that would be likely to be nasty. D doesn't have a problem with this -- in fact, it was her suggestion after seeing what went on while we were at ApolloCon.

I've been in a jewelry-making mood for a few days -- these three bracelets, plus some earrings and a few beaded bookmarks, and another wire-and-bead-kumihimo bracelet. And an attempt at a wire-wrapped pendant using coin pearls that came out only acceptable (as in, okay to wear but not to sell) and will probably be handed off to Russ, but was "proof of concept"; I'll be doing more things in this style.

Speaking of jewelry-making, I'll be running 2 make-and-takes at NASFIC; they're labeled as "Beaded Earrings" but I also have cellphone-charm leashes and pendant cords in the supplies, and bracelet-sized memory wire if anyone is feeling particularly ambitious.

Trivia: apparently I can fold between 4 and 6 shirts per minute, depending on how much fiddling I have to do to get them laid out right. Russ was bringing in half a case (3 dozen) at a time on the UofH job, and it was taking me 8 to 10 minutes to fold that many.

At any rate, the next couple of weeks are going to be very busy indeed. Hope to see some of you at NASFIC!

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Independence Day

celebration, joy
Some years back, in one of the Usenet newsgroups I used to frequent, someone posted a "warm fuzzy" description of her town's big 4th of July festival, complete with speech by minister and group-sing of "God Bless America". This prompted a fair amount of discussion on the group, during which I mentioned that it would have been nice had the festival been a little more inclusive. I was promptly called a killjoy, over-sensitive, accused of advocating the removal of all religion from public life, and told that I should go find a REAL offense to be offended about. Other people came to my defense, and it turned into quite a multi-sided discourse. Along the way I came up with the following, which I thought (and several other people from all sides of the discussion agreed) seemed to convey the point I was trying to make very clearly. So I thought I'd repeat it here.

Some 30 or 40 years ago, black people started raising a fuss because almost all children's books -- those in the public schools, and those in most libraries -- contained only illustrations of white people (except for the occasional janitor). They said that the effect of this was to marginalize and exclude black people from mainstream society; in effect, to make them "non-persons".

They were told that they were being ridiculously over-sensitive; that this was just the way things were, and it wasn't hurting anybody; that lack of inclusion wasn't the same thing as exclusion; that they should go find some REAL offenses to fuss about. But they didn't stop fussing.

Nowadays, if we were to pick up a children's book set in contemporary America and find only illustrations of white people, it would seem very strange. We would recognize that the book did not accurately reflect the society in which we live. Black people, and Middle Easterners, and Indian/Pakistanis, and Asians, are no longer "non-persons".

I have a dream -- and some hope of actually seeing it in my lifetime -- that one day it will seem just as strange to think about going to a public patriotic event and hearing only one religion mentioned, for the same reasons. I would like to live to see an America in which Muslims and Hindus and pagans and Buddhists and atheists are not, effectively speaking, "non-persons". But I also know that it will never happen if people like me don't fuss... because right now "Oh, that's just the way things are, and it's not hurting anyone."

In aid of this, I have stopped wearing red-white-and-blue for 4th of July. Instead I wear rainbow colors, because that seems more evocative of the America I want to live in.

Also, I have taken to promoting an alternative Pledge of Allegiance. I believe this was originally composed by Barry Gold.

I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, and to the Republic which it established: one nation from many peoples, promising liberty and justice for all.

We have a way to go yet on fulfilling that promise, but I haven't given up hope yet. And while the Constitution is still open to interpretation, it's less corruptible than a symbol that can be assigned any words someone wants to give it.

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Gem show!

I debated even going to the Intergem show this time; I wasn't sure there was anything I needed. As usual, once I got there... there was. Among the more interesting scores:

- Two nice wooden displays. One is a multi-short-necklace display that will go in with the outdoor displays, because it's heavy enough not to blow over easily. The other is a wooden hand-and-wrist carving that will work well for taking photos of bracelets.

- Two strands of "green pyrite" 6mm rounds. It's real pyrite, but with an olive-green cast that I hadn't seen before; until I looked more closely, I thought it was olive-green goldstone (which I would also have bought, if it had been).

- A nice strand of matte-finished agate, in a flat diamond shape. I'm a sucker for pretty matte-finished stones.

- Some base-metal chain, suitable for steampunk stuff.

- Carved-stone pendants, rectangles of some brownish stone with dinosaurs carved in relief on them. Russ spotted those, and patiently went thru the entire bin looking for more of them -- there weren't many in the mix.

- Sterling and vermeil chain, because I'm using more of it these days.

- 18" twisted-silk pendant cords, which are damned hard to find -- I ordered a batch from Rings'n'Things (no length specified) and they turned out to be 16" instead. They were out in the retail section, but I got a deal on 100 of them. Unfortunately, the one color they didn't have was black! When I start putting my pendants up on Etsy, I'm going to use these as the default "comes with" cord, and have my 20" sterling chains available as an upsell.

Also, the owner at Bowerbirds said she would probably be needing help at the Quilt Show and would I be interested? Checking the schedule shows that (1) I don't have anything else that weekend and (2) Russ is going to be on the road for Scott anyhow, so I told her to count me in.

In related news, I'm very close to actually having a jewelry-photography setup! I realized that if I could clean off the "makeup vanity" area in the back bedroom, it would work for all but my largest photo-booth setup, and be away from helpful kitties. Admittedly, a lot of what was piled up on it has just been shifted to some other pile of clutter, but about half of it was actually put away, and I'm down to the last bits and pieces. I'll post a picture of the setup once it's set up.

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Things and stuff

new meez, default
Lee and Franz
We made time to go to Franz's opening concert at the Texas Music Festival for the first time in a couple of years -- this comes around at a bad time for us, since it's right when ApolloCon preparations are ramping up. The program this year was Mahler's Symphony #2, with nothing else because it's a long piece. I'm not much of a Mahler fan, but Mahler sort of bridges the eras between Romantic and Modern, and at least the first 3 movements of this symphony are more to the Romantic side. The first movement had a lot of cello-and-bass-in-unison melodic lines; Russ said it would make a good movie soundtrack, and I have to agree. The second movement is a very pretty waltz, and the third is a lively dance. After that it goes more into what I expect to hear from Mahler, including a fair amount of "wall of sound" with enough dissonance that I can't parse it very well.

Franz seemed somewhat less energetic than usual on the podium; I found out afterwards that he had been very sick for most of the week leading up to it, and was basically running on determination and adrenaline and other people's energy -- he's a very strong Extravert, which is useful in that particular situation. At least after the festival is over he'll have a chance to rest for a while. And I finally got Russ to take a picture of the two of us, something that for some reason I'd never thought about the other times we've been to one of his concerts.

I now have a bunch of e-books on my smartphone, most of which are among my personal favorites -- the things I can re-read over and over again. And I notice something, because I also have print versions of these books with which I am extremely familiar. I have yet to look at an e-book which does not have at least half a dozen editing and/or formatting problems. Sometimes it's a typo, sometimes a word left out altogether, sometimes a blank line in the middle of a paragraph or (more likely) in a piece of verse, sometimes a line break in the middle of a sentence. Not to say that print editions never have this sort of thing, but AFAICT it's a lot more common in e-books.

ApolloCon flyering continues apace despite distractions and interference. I've done most of my section, and hope to have finished the catch-up round by the end of this week, which is just about right. Have also had some good help from a few volunteers for the outlying areas. Having the maps makes the process a lot less stressful, although it's still wearing.

Speaking of ApolloCon, check out our programming schedule. And that's just the preliminary grid; the finalized one should be up in the next few days. Our programming director says we're "stuffed as full as a Thanksgiving turkey" with awesome panels, gaming, and events. I'm really looking forward to the con!

We had a brief but pleasant visit from sdorn and family, who are relocating from Tampa to Tempe and stopped for one overnight in Houston. I see Sherman at GAFilk, and Katherine has been there as well the last couple of years, but I hadn't seen Elizabeth since moving here. It was nice to spend several hours sitting around and catching up!

Linguistic note: "app" seems to have become a general term for any kind of program, whether on a smartphone/tablet or a laptop/desktop. This makes sense, because there's always been a distinction between "system software" (the operating system) and "applications software" (programs you run on the system), and "app" itself is short for "application".

Blair is in the final stages of buying the house she's currently living in. Her neighborhood is about to get a light-rail route, which means that property values are going to zoom, but they haven't yet; if she buys it cheaply now, she'll be able to realize a really good profit in 5 or 6 years. Or just stay there until someone makes her an offer she can't afford to refuse.

We've given in to necessity and started putting small separate dishes of food and water over in Kitsune's territory. From the way she's been tucking into the food, it's pretty clear that some of the others have been bullying her away from the communal food and water dishes. While Mouser will sometimes go up there and eat some of her food, the others don't, which is good. On the good side, we haven't had any inappropriate-elimination issues since we started doing that, so it's a small enough price to pay. And interestingly, she's been coming down and exploring the rest of the house a bit more frequently as well. I'm sorry that it took so long for us to figure out that she wasn't getting her fair share of the food.

My decluttering step for the day was going thru 3 different piles of socks, matching up pairs which had become separated, and putting the matched pairs in the sock drawer and the still-unmatched ones in a bag. I have no idea how I've ended up with THREE right-foot ninja socks and no left-foot ones! Or how I've managed to lose one of a pair of bright-orange Halloween socks. Russ says he needs to check underneath the dryer and see if any of them sneaked out that way.

I'm getting a new computer! It was becoming more and more obvious that my current one (~ 6 years old) was no longer up to the standards of today's Internet, plus it's a Windows XP machine and support for that platform has been discontinued. So Russ found a refurbished HP DC7900 with Windows 7 at Micro Center for under $200, and he's been slowly setting it up. Because my current hard drive was also getting a little long in the tooth, I grabbed a new 1TB drive at the same time (the refurb came with only a tiny one) -- I could have gone up to 2TB, but I'm only using a quarter of the space on my current 1TB, so there was no point. I'm hoping that this makes my Flickr account a little more responsive; I've been completely unimpressed with their Shiny!New!Interface, which Keith says "appears to be trying to recreate the download speed of the old modem days".

We went to one of the open houses at TX/RX Labs. It was impressive! We'd like to join, but there's a cost issue. The cheapest membership that would be practical for us is $20/month, and the one that would be most useful to us is $40/month. We'll be discussing it, and I want to see what they do with the new crafting area they're getting ready to set up. Joining would get us the use of some fairly expensive pieces of equipment -- not just the 3D printers they had at ComicPalooza, but also things like metal lathes and woodworking equipment, and a big laser cutter. But it will depend on how much use we think we'd get out of those things; the hot ticket may be to take some of their classes first. And some of them aren't very cheap either! But at least they're mostly only a 1-day commitment.

Getting ready for a busy few weeks. ApolloCon will be the weekend after next; then we have a weekend off, then Russ is doing Tokyo in Tulsa for Scott. But since that would only give us 1 day (at most) of turnaround before having to leave again for DETCON1, I'm going to go along to Tulsa; we'll have everything we're taking to Detroit already loaded, and will leave straight from Scott's place after bringing his van back. This gives us a more leisurely trip up, and possibly an extra day on the front end to do some sightseeing (depending on the setup schedule). Then we may take another day or two after the con, if we don't get the day on the front end. Effectively, we'll be at least 2 straight weeks on the road. But after that things slow down quite a bit... and we'll need the break by then!

And last but not least, we've found a new place to hang out -- Neil's Bahr, down behind the George R. Brown (on Walker near St. Emanuel). Yes, the name is a deliberate physics pun, and it's heavily targeted to geeks; there are several video-game consoles and a multi-game arcade machine, racks of comics and some books, and the TV is usually showing something SF-oriented (it was The Fifth Element when we were there). Walking into it was almost like walking into a con. They've got a decent selection of local beers, and at least one cider that Russ will drink. No food, but they had a guy on the patio grilling and selling burgers and hot dogs with a wide selection of condiments. Survey says: worth checking out!

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On White Male Entitlement Syndrome

I don't know what I can say about the latest episode of White Male Entitlement Killing that other people haven't said first and better. I do find it creepy that just last week I was engaging in an argument on someone else's blog with a guy who said pretty much the same kinds of things the killer said in his videos, only at a lower level. The "I'm so nice, and women only want to date assholes" thing, the "women lie to me all the time" thing, the anger that he can't get past the "friends" level with any of the women he hits on... it was all there, laid out in neat little lines. His last comment (before I GTFO) was: "I'd rather be an asshole who gets laid than an invountarily celibate nice guy." Can you say "assigning himself to the wrong end of the equation"? His problem isn't lack of assholism, it's that he hasn't yet reached the level of status required to be an asshole and still get laid.

I would be much happier if this kind of event didn't come up in the news so appositely every single time I get into that particular argument with somebody. And yes, Not All Men -- but IMO, men who use that kind of language are self-tagging as being a much higher risk for eventually "snapping" and becoming a news item themselves -- a rapist or a misogynist killer. Not to mention being generally creepy fuckers who are deluding themselves about how "nice" they are.

The killer thought of himself as a "nice guy".
[He] probably gave off every single sign, handsome, rich, smart, beemer, aside, that he was maybe a catch, but then there was this other thing, every woman looks for, and in him, everyone saw. And you know what? He proved every woman who rejected him exactly right. Brava, ladies. He was exactly what you thought ... And if he was a poor, poor, unfuckable boy before, I'm very sorry, but his killing women because he was so mad pretty much confirms his unfuckability. And very much confirms why we shouldn't feel sorry for him now.

There are plenty of guys out there who will say that sure, they like women, when what they actually mean is that they like to fuck women. These two things are not by any means mutually exclusive, but they're not by any means the same thing either, and women can tell the difference.

The rise of Not All Men. Until sometime in the last year or two, the most common derailing tactic in discussions of things like rape and sexual harassment was some form of "But what about TEH MENZ?" (generally expressed as "But this happens to men too!"). Now, quite suddenly as these things go, it's "But not all men are like that!" The intent of any of these derails is the same -- to shift the subject of discussion from women to men, and to demonstrate how men's hurt feelings are more important than women being sexually harassed/assaulted -- but the focus is different.

Speaking of Not All Men, here's the best illustration I've yet encountered of why it's a derail and a topic hijack:

Here's a big bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them contain poison -- arsenic, or strychnine, or cyanide. Go ahead, take a handful. Not all M&Ms are poisoned! Not even most of them! And even if you get a poisoned one, you might not get anything worse from it than a tummyache. What's wrong with you? Why are you being so MEAN about my M&Ms?

If you're a man who wants to do something to help, here's one thing you can do easily: Frown. It can be hard to feel like you're the only guy who's willing to speak up when your buddy makes a rape joke or says something rude to that girl at the con -- but frowning is easier, and sends the same message: "I don't agree with you. This is not okay." If you feel that you can speak up, the key phrase is, "Dude, NOT COOL."

Re-linking because it's still useful: Schrodinger's Rapist. Which is now also Schrodinger's Mass Murderer, because you can't tell which entitled white guy* will react to being sexually rejected by getting out his gun and going on a rampage either.
(Note: that 1-in-60 figure in the article actually turns out to be low. There's now a body of evidence** to the effect that it's more like 1 in 20, and that very few of them stop at just one rape. Which they will cheerfully self-report as long as the word "rape" is not used, and only the behavior described.)

* Why do I keep saying "white guy"? Because I don't deal in the unmarked case. If there were a bunch of black or Latino or Middle Eastern dudes committing mass murders, you can bet that their ethnicity would be prominently mentioned in every single article about the phenomenon. But the guys who actually do this are overwhelmingly white, and somehow that generally fails to be noted.

** PDF; see page 2.

This is a really good description of how rape culture works. I do take slight issue with the last part; I would have written it more like, "And he thought about how hard it would be to protect her from other men, and the lessons he would have to teach her about how to monitor her own behavior to keep herself safe." Because that's generally how it works.

There have been several other articles I'd like to link here, but I didn't see them when I could keep track of where they were. One was an op-ed written by a black woman, in which the "entitled white male" factor was much more discussed than usual. One was about the ways in which nerd culture reinforces the "nice guy entitlement" meme. One was by a man who starts out by saying that he's not a misogynist, but slowly comes to the realization of all the things he does which arise from the male-entitlement culture, and ends by saying, "I don't want to be a misogynist, and I'm working on it". If any of you recognize these and can provide me with a link, I'll add them in.

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ApolloCon: Call for Street Team help

new meez, default
It's getting close to ApolloCon, and that means the Street Team needs to start distributing flyers around the city. If you don't have any idea where to start, I have maps. :-) I can meet you to hand off flyers, just let me know when and where.

Inside 610: (I'm doing this, but I wouldn't say no to some help)

Heights area

Montrose / Westheimer area

Rice / West U. area

Downtown Houston

River Oaks / Galleria area


Outside 610: (I really need help with these)

North Houston

West / Northwest Houston

Southwest Houston

South Houston

East Houston

Color codes for the markers: Blue = not done yet; Green = flyers have been left; Red = don't ask (reason noted); Yellow = temporarily unavailable. I'll need to know where you've left flyers so that I can update the map. If you come across any other places that are willing to take flyers, let me know and I'll add them.

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Happy NOT Mother's Day

new meez, default
Those of you who have chosen motherhood and are happy with it, and those who have (or had) close, warm relationships with your own mothers, I'm glad for you. But you are not the only people around, and my concern today is with the others.

For all those who have chosen, for their own good reasons, not to walk this path -- or who have wanted but been unable to bear children -- only to be told every year that they are worthless because they have not reproduced, no matter how much good they have done in the world...

For all those who have suffered under the myth that "of course ALL mothers LOVE their children" -- in the teeth of direct evidence that your mother did not love you, or should not have had children at all...

For all those whose mothers have been sources of pain rather than joy, denigration rather than support, relentless criticism rather than caring...

For all those whose relationships with their mothers are fraught, and are sick and tired of being told that you MUST "love and honor" a person who brings nothing but drama and anguish to your life...

For all those who find this day more of a burden than a blessing...

You are not forgotten. And you are not alone.

If there is a woman who has had a positive impact on your life, and who is going to be ignored and/or treated as a second-class citizen today because she hasn't procreated, this would be an outstanding time to tell her that you appreciate what she's done for you.

And something new for this year: the original Mothers' Day proclamation by Julia Ward Howe.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe

Interesting... first that the name itself has been changed, and secondly that the entire focus of the day has been corrupted. What was originally intended as a powerful anti-war statement has been turned into just another Hallmark Holiday.

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Book-signing, with added costumes

books, reading
I have dranon to thank for my evening's entertainment tonight, because he sent me a note that Marie Brennan and Mary Robinette Kowal (henceforth referred to as MB and MRK) were doing a signing at Murder by the Book. They're on tour with their latest releases, The Tropic of Serpents and Valour and Vanity respectively.

MB's book is a sequel to A Natural History of Dragons, which Keith shoved into my hands during my recent visit; two chapters in, I was saying, "Okay, there's going to be a trip to the bookstore while I'm here, because I want my own copy." MRK's book is the 4th story in her "Regency with magic" series, of which I have read the first from the library but not the others.

Brennan and Kowal
I arrived at the store just in time to buy my copies of the new books and find a seat before things got started. The authors are doing this tour in costume, which is pretty damn cool. MB's dress was late Victorian in style, black-and-white figured satin bodice and bustle with a skirt and tightly-fitted jacket in a heavy claret-colored fabric. MRK was wearing a much simpler Regency empire-waisted dress in a blue-and-white print, which she said she had hand-stitched herself ("It's research, right?"). By an odd coincidence, I was also wearing a blue-and-white print dress, which amused MRK as we chatted after the signing.

Each author did a reading from the book they are currently working on (not the one just released), and they both had "show and tell" items as well. MB had various bits of "dragon" skeleton to pass around, including a complete skull (probably that of an immature crocodile) and a really huge claw (could have been anything, but it made me think of Deinonychus). MRK had some "captive glamour" spheres, which she explained would not work under artificial light (very pretty art glass), and she also did a shadow-puppet show for us, which she said was a favorite of one of her characters.

After the readings they took Q&A from the audience. They answered questions about their outfits, their writing styles, how they do their research, and all sorts of other things. MB told a story of looking up giraffe skeletons at 2AM to find out how their vertebrae fit together. MRK explained how she keeps her language sounding properly period, which was fascinating. She put the text of everything she could find written by Jane Austen into concordance-generating software, which then gave her a list of every word used by Austen -- which she uses as her spellcheck dictionary. When it flags a word, she then goes to the Oxford Historical Thesaurus, which provides a list of synonyms in order by date of earliest citation; this allows her to choose a synonym from the proper era.

I asked a question which actually relates to a different book, but for which my Google-fu had been unable to provide an answer: whether or not "sea diamond" was a period term for aquamarine. They got almost-identical expressions of "How interesting!" and in nearly-perfect unison pulled out their tablets and said they had no idea, but would make a note and look it up. So if you see that term showing up in one of their books, now you'll know where it came from! :-)

After the Q&A was the signing proper, which moved along fairly briskly. I stuck around until they'd finished, because I wanted pictures of them but didn't want to delay other people. In the process of waiting/wandering around the store/looking at the shelves, I found a copy of a Terry Pratchett juvenile, which I bought for Russ. When I got home, he said this was one of the books he'd had but lost during Ike, so now I'm especially pleased that I noticed it. I also came home with a pretty carved-sandalwood fan; MRK was handing them out as souvenirs.

All things considered, it was a remarkably pleasant evening.

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