this ain't livin' ([syndicated profile] thisaintliving_feed) wrote2016-05-28 06:18 pm

What I’m learning in my West Wing rewatch

Posted by s.e. smith

On the first of the year, I started rewatching The West Wing, in keeping with the fact that this is an election year, and I thought it might be intriguing to watch the show to see if it held up, after being off the air so long. Now, that rewatch is drawing to a close — yes, I timed it with the California primary — but you can read my entries about it on my Tumblr. I’m not going to rehash the fine details of the show here — feel free to meander through my Tumblr archives if you want discussions of every single episode — but there’s a broader takeaway that I’ve been turning over in my head.

For a certain generation, The West Wing is really a pop culture touchstone, and I’m a member of that generation. I remember watching it while it was airing, feeling it as the counterpoint to a political regime that felt really broken and troubling. Much of the show took place over the course of the Bush years, and President Bartlet was a striking counterpoint to the conservative, warmongering, destructive Bush Administration. While President Bush was riding the economy into the ground, Bartlet was pushing for peace accords. While Bush was condoning torture and other abuses, Bartlet was agonising over the decision to assassinate a foreign leader at the head of a corrupt, abusive government (not, I think, one of Bartlet’s finest hours, to be frank). While Bush was fiddling, Bartlet was doing things.

I grew up with an incredible sense of idealism about politics — when we lived in the United States, our house was the polling place for many years, something I know I’ve written about ad nauseum, but it’s because it played such an important role in my life. It meant a lot to me to see people coming to vote, to make a huge spaghetti dinner at the end of the day, to listen to election results slowly trickling in over the course of the day. Presidential elections in particular were my favourites, representing a chance for critical, radical change, and Bush was elected while I was in college, all of us slumping in bitter disappointment when the Supreme Court handed him the presidency.

That was a moment of real disillusionment for me, one of the turning points that pulled me away from a planned career in politics and into other things. At the same time, The West Wing was rising to fill a void, imagining a different world, a different presidency, and I was swept into it.

There are a lot of problems with The West Wing, as anyone speaking honestly about the show should be able to admit. There was a fair amount of sexism, it made a lot of trip-ups with respect to race, and it struggled with other issues. No pop culture is perfect. But at the same time, it did some radical and amazing things. It projected ideas about what a presidency could be and how the tools of the White House could be used if people were ready to occupy it with integrity. Bartlet pushed through unimaginable things during his time in the Oval office. Those things stood in sharp contrast to what was actually happening in the Oval. And, of course, The West Wing successfully elected a Latino president shortly before the United States elected a Black president.

There’s a lot of talk of The West Wing being predictive, and the running joke that ‘there’s a West Wing episode for everything,’ one I tend to crack even more this year because the show is so much on my mind. But at multiple times over the last few months, I really have thought ‘oh, this reminds me of that West Wing episode when…’ as I watched a Supreme Court justice die, a series of primaries battle themselves out, Republicans toss around the idea of a brokered convention. These were all things I connected with through the show, not just as someone living in the United States and participating very directly in the political systems.

So does the show hold up, all these years later? Honestly, yes. The last episode aired a little over 10 years ago, on 14 May, 2006. Ten years later, the technology and costumes certainly feel a bit clunky, but the level of predictive commentary is incredible, from concerns about opening tech backdoors and compromising on privacy to battles over finding a Supreme Court justice who will satisfy conservatives and liberals alike without compromising and ending up with a tepid moderate.

Politics has always felt very circular, but The West Wing highlights that, reminding me that people were undertaking the same battles in 1996, 1986, and further on back. Change happens so incrementally that it’s hard to identify over a ten year period, and this is perhaps an important lesson for viewers. I’m interested to see how Scandal will perform over the course of a decade, in the same spirit of pop culture and television consumption (I would note that Scandal carries its own West Wing notes). We see these big, dramatic sea changes in US politics, but we don’t talk about how they were created through a quiet, steady series of nudges and pushes to set up the final moment.

Life in the bowels of politics isn’t a very pretty place, and a lot of the work of people who enable social change goes unnoticed and unappreciated, while public figures get to bask in the glory. The West Wing was a celebration of those people and the small daily work that they do, and I like to think that it cultivated greater respect for them, and a greater awareness that so much is happening behind the scenes to enable dramatic cultural shifts.

Image: White House, Hannah Rosen, Flickr

Original article: What I’m learning in my West Wing rewatch

©2016 this ain't livin'. All Rights Reserved.

elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
elainegrey ([personal profile] elainegrey) wrote2016-05-28 08:25 am

(no subject)

HI, long busy week. Here's Christine's last travel log entry:

Greetings from Pittsboro!

Sorry for the delay in this final entry to our travel log but after we were fortunate enough to have our truck promptly repaired in Kingdom City, MO[1] we decided to make a big push through to our destination. This took us through St. Louis, MO where we saw the famous arch in the rain and bid so long to Interstate 70 and hello to Interstate 64. A long, unexpectedly desolate, ride across across southern Illinois and Indiana ensued until we stopped for lunch in Dale, IN. Around dinner time we caught a glimpse of Louisville Slugger Park (again in the rain), crossed the Ohio River (see attached), and made our way through the Daniel Boone Forest of Kentucky to Charleston, WV by 11pm.

To the chagrin of restless felines (who were ready for the now established routine of pausing for a motel where they could have a peaceful meal and sleep in a bed) we then pushed through the night on the West Virginia Turnpike to arrive Thursday morning at 5:25am to pull into our driveway and watch the moon setting over our house. Ross and Marie Bush arrived to meet us with the keys and a hug.

After a few hours sleep, our first day in Pittsboro involved misc. security system hijinks [2] and HVAC issues but after a good night sleep we are in place for a long weekend with all major utilities back online (or offline in the case of the "security" system) as they should be.


Thanks for your support and encouragement across the country. We made it safe and sound and look forward to seeing each of you soon.

Christine & [Elaine]

"There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous."
--Hannah Arendt from The Life of the Mind.

[1] We have blown out the heater and the mechanics by-passed it. Could something have gone wrong at the 11,000 Rocky Mountain pass to do that? Eventually we were overheating, not quite adding enough coolant, and limped into Kingdom City (named for Kingdom Oil, apparently). I was prepared to hear we had a blown head gasket.

[2] We triggered a fire alarm trying to understand the system, and it was still hooked up to the monitoring company. We expect the bill for the false alarm will go to the previous owners, the people of record at the alarm company. Then we had to get the previous owners to ask that the monitoring be stopped. Christine disconnected it all on Friday. I've been watching the arrest log fro the sheriff for a few weeks. Best i can tell there are dozens of invisible people who are cited for Failure to Appear.

[3] Yay the air conditioning cooled down the place! Then it stopped. All the moisture pulled out filled up some line triggering an auto disconnect. We had it back working before Friday heated back up.

I've inventoried a stack of invasive species on the property: Japanese honeysuckle, tree-of-heaven, autumn olive, and Japanese grass. While i have put in over an hour each morning in the yard, it's clear i'm calling the guy in the classifieds of the local paper to come clear the septic field and get rid of some of the large trees-of-heaven and then i'm calling the Goat Squad.

I've got my loppers and machete and will get the mower tomorrow. My sister was an angel and mowed the yard for us.
spiralsheep: Flowers (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
Humph ([personal profile] spiralsheep) wrote2016-05-28 11:21 am

In which there are flora and fauna, common and rare

Beware of the sheep!

1 Beware of the sheep, Herefordshire Beacon, 05-16

Probably Selatosomus aeneus, a rare-ish "click" beetle in metallic turquoise and blue armour.

2 Selatosomus aeneus (probably), one of the "click beetles", Herefordshire Beacon 05-16

No triffids but only innocent plants that won't eat you. )
lady_curmudgeon: (feel the love)
lady_curmudgeon ([personal profile] lady_curmudgeon) wrote2016-05-27 10:29 pm

Thirteen years gone...

...since my Dad's soul took leave of this Earth that early Tuesday afternoon. It's a rare day that goes by that I don't think of him for some reason. I love and miss him dearly.

no title

Here's a long piece I wrote up on Facebook seven years ago on the sixth anniversary...

"I've been thinking a lot about what to write about him today. Do I write about how he died? Do I write about how much I still miss him? Do I write about his life? Do I write about it all? I need to write something...

He was a quiet man with a dry, sarcastic wit that often exceeded his high school education. I referred to him in later years as a big, grumpy teddy bear. He liked to hunt deer and was a member of the NRA. He loved to argue politics. He was a rabid Packers fan. He was a hard worker; when I was a toddler he worked two, sometimes three jobs to support us so Mom could stay at home and take care of my brother and I. He was devoted to his granddaughter. His favourite foods were blood rare steak, peanut butter, and wild green onions (separately, not together.;)) Much to my mother's chagrin at times, his favourite beverage was beer. His favourite music was both Country AND Western, with bits of bluegrass, folk, and classical music mixed in. He loved a good polka, too.:) He read the entire newspaper almost every day.

He was finally working at a job he really loved when he died. He worked at a nursery, sitting on a tractor all day cultivating between the rows of the planting yards and mowing the nursery's vast lawns. My brother hooked him up with the gig, and they worked together from time to time. It's where he died, of a sudden cardiac event, not totally unexpected, but a shock nonetheless. I'm glad it was quick, and at a place he wanted to be.

I've always been a Daddy's girl. Our relationship could be rocky, but I still could safely say that I had him wrapped around my little finger. On my wedding day, we danced to "Daddy's Little Girl" and he sang to me while he danced. When the song was over, he whispered in my ear "I meant every word." (Mom later told me he sung that song to me a lot when I was a wee sprite, but, sadly, I don't remember it.) Though my marriage eventually failed spectacularly, I will always cherish that moment.

The grief of his death diminishes as the years pass, which is a good thing. He wouldn't want any of us to grieve his loss for so long. But I still miss him, especially on days like today. The almost healed scab of grief lifts a little on days like today...

Despite his faults, he was a good man. He wasn't always the best father and husband, but I think, generally speaking, he tried to do his best by us. Though I didn't always feel it and I daresay I never expressed it, I was proud that he was my Dad. I still am.

Later on I'll hoist a beer or two in his memory. He always scoffed at my snobbiness when it came to beer, and I'm sure he'll be scoffing as he watches over me tonight as I toast his memory.;)

I love you very much, Dad. I wish you peace and happiness where ever it is you're hanging out these days, and I hope you're with those you loved on this Earth who passed before you and have passed since you left us."

Sigh. Where did those thirteen years go off to? :/
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
rachelmanija ([personal profile] rachelmanija) wrote2016-05-27 12:56 pm

Dragon’s Luck, by Lauren Esker

Note: This was written by Sholio, a friend of mine, and I was one of the betas. The sphinx ship was my suggestion.

A gecko shifter secret agent joins forces with a dragon shifter gambler to fight crime aboard a ship shaped like a giant sphinx, while also playing in an underground, I mean illegal, high-stakes poker match. Cue hijinks and every trope ever.

A charmingly over the top fantasy adventure with a bit of romance, but definitely action with romance rather than the reverse. Great action, great characters, utterly cracktastic, and really, really funny. Part of a series about shapeshifter secret agents, but the books are all standalones and you can easily start here. If you liked Marjorie Liu’s Dirk & Steele series, you will like this.

The heroine, Jen Cho, is an adrenaline junkie caffeine addict gecko shifter secret agent who enjoys rock climbing in her spare time and spends much of the book clambering over unlikely places in both human and gecko forms. Jen is hilarious and her unflappable POV is the best.

The hero, Lucky, unsurprisingly has the power to influence luck, which is one of my favorite mutant powers and is played out in consistently entertaining ways. (He can apply it with a purpose, but unless he’s trying for something vey specific, he doesn’t know how it will work. For instance, “Leave the window open” will make the window get left open. But “help me win this fight” could do just about anything.) He is also a dragon shifter, but the way this works is pretty original and clever, not to mention often quite funny.

I don’t want to ruin the hilarity of their meet-cute, but it is truly hilarious. I’ll put it behind a cut, but if you think you might want to read the book, don’t click.

Read more... )

Most of the book is set aboard a giant floating sphinx on which a secret, illegal, incredibly high-stakes poker game is being played. Despite the total ridiculousness of this, so much thought went into the details of how all of that might actually work that it feels weirdly credible.

The supporting cast all feel like real people with lives and motives of their own, down to ship workers who appear in one scene and have two lines.

During the climax, almost everyone aboard the ship is high as a kite for plot reasons, and while the heroes and villains are having their dramatic final battle, they keep having to dodge random people attempting to pet their hair or tell them all about the pretty pink bubbles.

Fluffy and delightful. Definitely a read-in-one-gulp type of book.

Dragon's Luck (Shifter Agents Book 3) is only 99 cents on Amazon!
this ain't livin' ([syndicated profile] thisaintliving_feed) wrote2016-05-27 06:53 pm

Animals aren’t toys to discard when they’re broken

Posted by s.e. smith

I have a lot of very strong feelings about how we treat animals, socially — the way a culture takes care of its animals is a strong indicator of how it treats those who are unable to advocate for themselves. Animals in the US are by and large treated as property rather than living beings, and there’s also a certain amount of belief that they’re almost disposable. When they’re sick, or no longer entertaining, or you’re moving, you can just dump them, and it doesn’t matter, because, after all, they’re just animals.

There are a lot of complex social challenges surrounding people and pets, with class being a pernicious issue — people with limited economic resources may feel like they cannot afford to care for sick or injured animals, or may not be able to be choosy when it comes to finding pet-friendly housing, which is less available and more expensive. But some of these issues are created by society, and the fact that people don’t know about solutions that are ready to hand is deeply disturbing. Even shelter directors and veterinarians don’t necessarily provide people with resources they can use to keep their animals, despite evidence that people may be deeply upset by what they see as ‘the only choice.’

Leila often comes up for me as an example when I’m talking about this. When I first brought her home, she and Loki didn’t get on at all, and they got a bit internet famous for it. Over time, they mellowed a bit, but they still fight to this day — and for a long time, when Loki attacked Leila, she would pee in terror, which was suboptimal. She still sometimes does it, usually when she feels trapped, and I’d lie if I said it wasn’t frustrating. It’s frustrating to find random deposits of cat pee. It’s frustrating to have to replace upholstery and throw things out.

For a time, Leila was on antianxiety medications in the hope that they would help, and they did — they definitely helped get her over the hump of being abjectly terrified, and now both cats largely roam the house, though I keep the bedroom closed during the day due to an Unfortunate Incident. At varying points, people have suggested that I should get rid of her, as though she’s a piece of trash that I can crumple up and toss.

Leila, it should be noted, was abandoned in a foreclosed home, where she was trapped with another cat for at least a month before the sheriff rescued them and brought them to the humane society. Both cats needed extensive medical treatment for fleas, worms, and other medical issues. That’s a traumatic experience to live through, and when I adopt animals, I take it very seriously — I think about their known issues, and whether I’m willing to commit to them for life. I made that choice when I adopted her, and turning around to surrender her again is personally abhorrent — especially because it would traumatise her even more.

Antianxiety meds are relatively inexpensive, but there’s another simple solution: Diapering. Diapers are used widely on cats with paralysis and poor bladder control, as well as cats who have a problem with ‘excitable urination,’ like Leila does. It’s easy to learn how to diaper cats and it radically improves everyone’s quality of life. The cat doesn’t have to experience the humiliation and distress, and the guardian doesn’t have to wonder where the next pee land mine might lie. Diapering, in point of fact, saves lives, because it means that cats aren’t being killed just because they can’t control their bladders.

Yet, people with cats who sustain injuries that make bladder control difficult aren’t necessarily told that they have options. Instead, they’re advised to euthanise or keep their cats in enclosed areas. This isn’t necessarily the result of malice on the part of care providers or shelter personnel, but ignorance, or sometimes the belief that guardians aren’t ready to take it on. Even in the face of evidence that people are very committed to their cats and very willing to take on a little extra care to keep their cats healthy, independent, and happy.

Notably, ASPCA research shows that when people turning up to surrender their pets are provided with information about free and low-cost veterinary care, housing options, and other resources, the vast majority decide to keep them. Trashing people who surrender their pets is a simplistic kneejerk reaction — many people think they are doing the responsible, necessary, and reasonable thing by taking their pets to a facility where they might get a second chance. They do so because of a failure to communicate, a lack of information about available resources, not because they are cruel or don’t care about their pets, and socially, we need to be simultaneously expanding these resources to help more animals, and providing better outreach and education.

Cats like Leila aren’t disposable, to be ditched at the shelter when they turn out to be imperfect. She may drive me up the wall sometimes, and I may mourn the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent replacing things she destroyed, but when I adopted her, I made a commitment to her, that she would never be abandoned again, that she would be treated with respect and dignity. If that means making her wear a diaper at night, so be it.

Original article: Animals aren’t toys to discard when they’re broken

©2016 this ain't livin'. All Rights Reserved.

nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
Mad Scientess ([personal profile] nanila) wrote2016-05-27 09:11 am

Five days of photos: Day 3/5 + Friday's Unscientific Poll

Keiki is very excited about daisy-picking.

And now, a Very Important Waffle question, triggered by disagreement in waffle perception between myself and my British partner.

Poll #17498 Important waffle question
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 49


View Answers

They're mostly a breakfast thing
13 (26.5%)

They're mostly a dessert/pudding thing
11 (22.4%)

32 (65.3%)

lavendertook: (Default)
lavendertook ([personal profile] lavendertook) wrote2016-05-26 10:04 pm

Twin Birthdays!!!

Happy Birthday to two very wonderful hobbit folk, my dear friend [ profile] jan_u_wine and [ profile] addie71!!! I hope it is a fine one and you have a great long birthday weekend! Here's some pretties and critters in your honor I saw the past week:

Mountain laurels--opening a little late this year due to our cold rainy May until this week.

A very mellow frog I saw today who wanted to send birthday greetings along.

Read more... )
spiralsheep: Reality is a dangerous concept (babel Blake Reality Dangerous Concept)
Humph ([personal profile] spiralsheep) wrote2016-05-26 08:02 pm

In which there are various status quos and remixes thereof

- Quote of the [current reading]: Al Ewing, current writer of superhero comics The Ultimates amongst other notable work (New Avengers, 2000AD &c), "Science and exploration feels like something very positive, a general good - it helps mitigate some of those moral concerns. I think an emphasis on expanding knowledge makes the team a lot more interesting and sympathetic than, say, a mission to beat people up in the name of preserving the current social order." P.S. Also, according to the art in The Ultimates the fundamental building blocks of reality are shaped like classic Lego bricks. :-D P.P.S Lucky for me the art in New Avengers is so bad or Marvel might be taking my money for the first time since last century. No, rly, BAD, e.g. at one point Songbird's unnecessary flesh-coloured vulva-shaped thigh-gap actually GLOWS. Now I shall sit here waiting to see who cracks and asks for the link first, lol. /supervillain tendencies

- Who let that nixel drive the Bat Mech?! And why did the Lego designer include lolzy headlight nipples?

Who let that nixel drive the Bat Mech?!

- Reading, books 2016, 72.

62. Shining Stars, Astro City vol.8, by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson. SIGH. This volume begins with a story including anti-Black anti-African Islamophobia, and African/Islamic slaving is repeatedly foregrounded but USian slaving is never mentioned despite the USian setting and history (although, to be fair, Mr Busiek prefers future history to anything before the 1930s, GEE I WONDER WHY THAT MIGHT BE?!). And the book ends with utopian Silver Ageism slipping in and out of unintentionally dystopian rah-rah-rAmerica. All that isn't a healthy combination, although I don't think the Islamophobia was intentional as much as the creators playing with stereotypes they don't sufficiently understand because they've never been on the receiving end of their impact. I'm hoping this is a temporary outbreak of fail and not the point at which Mr Busiek starts indicating he wants Black people and feminists people who aren't white to get off the planet lawn, which I used to think he wouldn't fall into, SIGH. (2/5 unexpectedly, my favourite story was the one about robotic Barbie Beautie)

Two better Astro City books and another mixel remix. )

Who let a nixel drive the MCPD mech?
this ain't livin' ([syndicated profile] thisaintliving_feed) wrote2016-05-26 06:23 pm

Prison labour and the 13th Amendment

Posted by s.e. smith

The 13th Amendment is a curious little beast. Abolishing slavery in the United States was, we can generally agree, a rather good idea, and in 1865, this beaut was duly ratified and entered into full force of law. But it came with some distinctive caveats, and a sharp indicator that no matter what the law says, slavery is still alive and well in the United States. Until the problems of the 13th Amendment are addressed, no one can be said to be truly free in a nation where people in fact perform involuntary servitude on a daily basis, and those within the nation benefit from people treated like human capital on a daily basis.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” the amendment declared, “shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” While the outright ban on chattel slavery was critical, the amendment didn’t go nearly far enough, thanks to that one little weasel phrase: ‘Except as a punishment for crime.’ Thanks to those six words, ever since the 1860s, states have been taking advantage of forced labour to perform a variety of tasks from road maintenance to making license plates, and in recent years, they’ve also licensed out that labour, allowing prisons to profit tremendously by ‘leasing’ their prisoners to third parties.

Prisoners don’t have a choice when it comes to whether they work or not, though in some prisons they can exercise some freedom in terms of the work assignments they accept. They’re expected to work as part of the terms of their sentence in a culture with a ‘do the crime, do the time’ attitude that says prisoners can be subjected to anything on the grounds of their convictions. People lose tremendous civil rights when they go to prison and people parse this as acceptable because, well, if they wanted to retain their civil rights, maybe they shouldn’t have committed the crime in the first place.

Setting aside the fact that innocent people go to prison on a routine basis. Setting aside structural inequalities that make it harder for some people to access a competent and comprehensive defense. Setting aside unfair sentencing policies and in some cases mandatory sentencing laws, which tend to disproportionately target some populations more than others. Setting aside the fact that prisoners are already deprived of liberty, and face conditions like being trapped in solitary confinement for the slightest perceived infraction. Setting aside the fact that prisoners have limited access to health care.

Prisoners are punished with limited access to books and other media. They are punished by being disenfranchised. They are punished with terrible food. With limited access to the outdoors. With restrictions on whom they can associate with and when, including their own families. Imprisonment, the government informs the public, is necessary both for protection, and for providing stern lessons to people who break the law and need to be reminded of the consequences for it. Rehabilitative justice is not part of the American mindset.

And part of this ‘justice’ includes the practice of forced labour. Prisons require inmates to work for pennies on the dollar (sometimes several dollars an hour, depending on context and setting). While prisons are expected to provide inmates with basic amenities, many of these earnings go to things outsiders would think as pretty fundamental, like saving soap and other simple toiletries, menstrual supplies, the occasional book or magazine. Prisoners are not exactly sending money home to their families to provide financial support in their absence, nor are they banking up money to use when they get out of prison and need to reestablish themselves in the community. Consequently, systems of intergenerational poverty are created, as people cycle in and out of prison, trapped by institutional structures they can’t fight.

At the same time, the state profits tremendously by having a pool of free or very low cost labour. Maintenance on a huge range of government infrastructure is performed by prisoners, who collect garbage, fight fires, perform road repairs, and much more. Third parties can request prison crews, and for-profit prisons have a very intimate relationship with companies that pay a handsome sum for prison labour — most of that sum, however, remains in the hands of executives, never reaching the pockets of the prisoners who did the work.

The 13th Amendment says that this is completely okay, that forced labour is simply part of the price people pay when they commit crimes. Advocates for prison reform and an end to labour abuses have called foul on this practice repeatedly, with limited response — what we effectively need is another amendment, something that would be extremely challenging in a hostile political climate where it’s barely possible to pass even a basic, noncontroversial law, let alone an amendment that would fundamentally alter a huge component of the prison system.

This is an example of the routine injustice that passes behind prison walls without any social or cultural awareness or engagement. Forced labour is happening to someone else, someone far away, someone who probably deserves it anyway if they’re in prison, right? These attitudes inevitably result in pushback when reformers try to say that no, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, and while it may be in the Constitution, it goes against the stated ideals and practices of this country, and we should do better.

Image: Rally at Chowchilla, Daniel Arauz, Flickr

Original article: Prison labour and the 13th Amendment

©2016 this ain't livin'. All Rights Reserved.

lady_curmudgeon: me August 2011 (me August 2011)
lady_curmudgeon ([personal profile] lady_curmudgeon) wrote2016-05-26 04:47 am

Throwback Thursday...

Since I'm up for awhile right now anyway...why not do a Throwback Thursday post? Here's to hoping it works, LOL. The picture was locked down for some reason, but I just unlocked it and made it public in the album so it should work...

The Way Back Machine goes all the WAY BACK to fall of 1989 today. Here, my painfully thin self rocks the early manifestation of my current hairstyle, hanging out with my peeps in the Parkside Association of Wargamers (PAW) War Room located then on the L4 room of Molinaro hall at UW-Parkside. I was not yet a student there, but many of my friends were. I'd become a student in the fall of 1990. Good times... :)

Fall, 1989
boxofdelights: (Default)
boxofdelights ([personal profile] boxofdelights) wrote2016-05-25 05:18 pm

packing problem

Packing for Wiscon. One carry-on, one laptop bag, one CPAP. No checked bag. Can fit a paperback in the CPAP bag.

For signing, I could take:

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
The Chaos, by Nalo Hopkinson
The New Moon's Arms, by Nalo Hopkinson
Liar, by Justine Larbalestier
Magic or Madness, by Justine Larbalestier

trade paperbacks:
A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar
Midnight Robber, by Nalo Hopkinson
The Salt Roads, by Nalo Hopkinson
Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson
Skin Folk, by Nalo Hopkinson
Sister Mine, by Nalo Hopkinson
Elysium, by Jennifer Marie

Probably not polite to ask an author to sign more than two books.

What to bring for the book swap? Here, the problem is that most of my books are still at my husband's house, and that's where most of the books that I am ready to part with would be. I've got a duplicate copy of Karen Joy Fowler's Sister Noon -- perfect. I've got White Horse, by Alex Adams, which I thought was terrible but maybe someone else won't. If I ever want to read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World again I know that I will always be able to find a copy. That'll do.
this ain't livin' ([syndicated profile] thisaintliving_feed) wrote2016-05-25 06:45 pm

Talk of a renter’s tax credit is distracting pablum

Posted by s.e. smith

Being a homeowner comes with a lot of advantages. One of them is preferential treatment on tax returns, which allow homeowners to claim a number of tax credits depending on their exact situation and state — certainly maintenance and mortgage servicing on a primary property qualify for deductions, and landlords can also deduct expenses related to their rental properties, as these amount to business expenses. This may be intended to incentivise homeownership (and penalise renters) but it also creates fundamental inequalities, because not everyone can afford to buy a house, but everyone needs a place to live, and some renters pay highly for their housing.

In some states, and in some settings, people may qualify for certain tax credits or deductions (my home office qualifies as a deduction, for example). In most cases, though, renters pay their landlords’ mortgages for them or just generate profits, and it’s money down the drain, rather than an investment in home equity. With class issues a rising problem across the country, and more interest among a frustrated public in leveling out the playing field, there have been some little whispering rumblings of the possibility of a broader renter’s tax credit.

That sure sounds nice. I certainly wouldn’t mind being able to directly credit my entire rent against my tax liability (or, for that matter, to deduct it from my income). On the surface, it sounds an awful lot like something that I should support, and I do to the extent that the unfair balance between renters and homeowners must be remedied, and this could be a component of the process. It’s not going to fix huge social divides, but it may allow renters to retain a little more of their income to manage costs of living or even, potentially, to start saving up for down payments on houses of their own, if that’s something they want to do.

But the thing is that this is another example of distraction, misdirection, and sleight of hand. Politicians and prominent figures suggesting this kind of thing are counting on poor, working class, and lower middle class people to jump on it, because it sounds so appealing, and like such a natural thing. Finally, we get some parity with people who own real estate, rather than being treated as lesser because we rent, whether we are forced to do so or opt to do it because we aren’t interested in buying for whatever reason.

This is an example of the kind of tactics that have so effectively maintained social inequality in the United States, though. With a cake sitting on the windowsill, someone throws us a few crumbs, and we’re supposed to be excited and grateful. Thank you so much for thinking of the downtrodden! Your generosity is commendable! Without you, we would surely be lost and rudderless! We aren’t offered a seat at the table, but it sure is nice of them to let us into the building, isn’t it? Be sure not to touch anything, though, because your dirty hands might smear the nice fixtures.

Sure, a renters’ tax credit would be nice. But more substantively, changing the tax code would be better. Addressing loopholes and exploits would be better. Shifting the balance from income to capital gains would be better. Holding people and corporations accountable for vast profits that aren’t taxable or are easily shifted around to conceal or reduce tax liability would be better. Creating a better tax structure would be better. Raising the poverty line would be better. Raising the minimum wage would be better. Doing something about skyrocketing housing prices would be better.

Confronting the fact that the vast majority of people in the US have no money in savings would be better. Tackling financial illiteracy would be better. There’s a whole host of things that should be coming before a renters’ tax credit, things which would make a broad, substantive difference and improve quality of life for people in the United States. Saving money on taxes would certainly be nice, but that’s not where it ends, and base appeals that use taxes as an instrument are transparently awful.

Look at the Bush “tax refund” which was designed to get poor people all excited so they’d go out and spend money, the “refund” that miraculously turned into a “penalty” once it ended, for example. Rather than addressing the economic problems that were contributing to the inability to afford the basic costs of living, the Bush Administration pushed through a relatively small tax refund that would increase returns for a single year. It turned out to be especially damaging for taxpayers who weren’t familiar with the situation and counted on the same refund the following year, only to be confused when they got less than they were expecting from a grudging Treasury already moaning about the national debt.

It’s an election year, so I expect to see a lot of bold promises that are also made with really transparent and often gross motivations. I’m used to that sort of thing, and so are many other observers. But it makes me twinge with irritation when people try to take advantage of voters who are desperate, who are less able to interrogate and fact check information, who are stressed and busy, who see a dangling piece of fruit and grab at it because their lives are so constricted and difficult. A politician who says she’ll give renters a tax credit gives people something concrete and easy to hang on to — a politician who says she’ll fix the broken financial system is less interesting.

Image: corner for rent, Anjan Chatterjee, Flickr

Original article: Talk of a renter’s tax credit is distracting pablum

©2016 this ain't livin'. All Rights Reserved.

lady_curmudgeon: me August 2011 (me August 2011)
lady_curmudgeon ([personal profile] lady_curmudgeon) wrote2016-05-25 11:27 am
Entry tags:

State of the Pam: remember that cat bite?

Yeah, remember when Lars bit my thumb back on 1st March? Well, he left a nice hole in the very base of my left thumb nail. And, that hole has been growing as it's grown out...

If I don't keep a bandaid on it, the lifting nail catches on everything, so I've had to keep it bandaged for the last...oh, I'd say month and change to protect it from ripping off. It's currently at least a quarter of the nail completely loose with about another quarter showing that it's unattached but not swinging in the wind, as it were. Hard to explain without a visual, and I daresay I won't be able to get a decent picture of it, so you'll just have to try to imaginate what it looks like. ;o)

Anywho, I figured about two weeks ago that it was at least time for ol' Dr. G (my GP) to give it a looksee and let me know if it was ready for some office surgical removal time or if it was a wait-and-see sort of thing. Call and talk to the nurse about it, she talks to Dr. G and he refers me to a dermatologist??? Really??? He can't look at and remove something as simple as a mostly loose thumb nail? That's a procedure that sounds very GP doctor-ish...

Okay, so yesterday I finally get around to calling the recommended dermatologist. Their office is transitioning over to electronic records keeping and are limited on how many clients they can see per day, so Dr. *name* won't be able to see me until July 15th. I can't wait that long, thank you for your time. Call Dr. G's nurse back. Get the number for a Large Dermatology Practice in Naperville. Phone drone is all like "we don't do that sort of procedure here, but I'll see if one of the docs is willing to do it." One is, but Dr. *different name* is booked out til the end of June. Call back Dr. G's nurse. I finally get an appointment to be seen by his partner doctor today at 1330.

Why the everlasting hell couldn't we have just bypassed all of the dermatologist rigamarole and just either had partner doc or Dr. G himself see me to look at this damned thing in the first place? To say that I'm at least mildly annoyed is a serious understatement. UGH!!!

I will let you know the status of my vacating thumb nail after my appointment this afternoon...

lady_curmudgeon: (Lars)
lady_curmudgeon ([personal profile] lady_curmudgeon) wrote2016-05-25 09:17 am

State of the Lars: tentatively optimistic?

The trip out to VCA Aurora was a busy one. It included an ultrasound and a complete renal evaluation. The following is a summary from the summary we got from the internal medicine service.

Physical Examination: Coat is unkempt in appearance, patchy loss of hair or thinning hair; oral exam presents mild to moderate dental tartar; abdomen is distended and mild discomfort on palpation; cardiovascular presents stage II/VI parasternal heart murmur (this is down from a stage IV/VI heart murmur previously--must've been previously misdiagnosed somehow at VCA Aurora, as our regular vet has always insisted Lars had a stage II vs stage VI)

Diagnostic imaging: abdominal ultrasound revealed small left kidney with moderate renal pelvic dilation (we already knew this from last year's ultrasound--this kidney is basically thought to be non-functional); the right kidney has caudal infarcts which appear to have worsened since the last ultrasound; crystals noted in the urinary bladder (not stones as Dr. E and Dr. L thought); the renal pelvis contains a single stone; pancreas is mildly thickened in comparison to previous studies; mildly hyperechoic liver.

labratory testing: paraphrasing the tech-blood gas analysis came back as being unremarkable; blood glucose came back as hyperglycemic under their parameters at 217. We consider hyperglycemic to start around 250 for Lars ever since his hypoglycemic event back last February, so at 217 we personally consider that to be a pretty good number; kidney values: BUN at 45 and Creat at 2.6--on Saturday they were at 66 and 3.7 respectively, so both of those numbers have come down nicely with the daily 100 ccs of subcutaneous fluids.

Blood pressure: normal at 140/90 This is important because cats in renal failure tend to have high blood pressure.

Pending tests: PTH/Ionized calcium; urine culture and sensitivity; urinalysis

Diagnosis**Open for urinary straining: cystitis vs. urinary tract infection
**Stage II Chronic Kidney Failure
--Renal calculi (stone) with no evidence of obstruction
--Renal infarcts (right)

medication: No medications prescribed or changed today. Continue any previously prescribed medications/treatments as directed.

diet: A renoprotective diet is recommended (ha, good luck with that)

TL;DR: "The ultrasound performed on Lars today shows a single non-obstructive stone within the pelvis of the right kidney. There are suspect crystals in the urinary bladder. There is no sign of urethral obstruction. We are sending urine out for analysis to determine the presence of a urinary tract infection.

"As we discussed, the increased chronic elevation of calcium can cause an increased risk for soft tissue mineralization and stone formation. Once we receive additional blood work we may suggest medication changes."

So after all of that, and A Lot of $$Money, no blockages were found and Lars' kidney values are actually improving again. Figures, right? :o/ Regardless, it was worth the peace of mind to rule out The Worst Case Scenarios. Now we get to wait up to seven business days for the pending results; the ionized calcium test gets sent to a university in Texas if I'm not mistaken, so...yeah...

I think the best part of the day, aside from the most wonderful news of decreasing kidney values and no urethral obstructions, was the vet tech telling us what a good patient Lars was! He was so good, in fact that they didn't need to sedate him for the ultrasound! That's a bit unusual as far as I've heard. I'm still so very proud of my good boy!! :o)

I will definitely keep you all posted on how things progress!! :o) Thanks again for all your support, good thoughts/mojo/prayers/etc.
this ain't livin' ([syndicated profile] thisaintliving_feed) wrote2016-05-24 06:01 pm

Sorry, but good media doesn’t come cheap

Posted by s.e. smith

Not all that long ago, if you wanted to read a magazine or a newspaper, you had to subscribe to it or pay a one-time fee for an issue — the New York Times looks particularly interesting so you grab a copy, you enjoy reading The New Yorker, so you get a subscription. Or you hit up the library, which provides it for customers through its own subscription. Even with subscribers and customers, most media organisations also had to include advertising, because they couldn’t support themselves entirely. Some also received charitable donations and grants, depending on their missions and eligibility for various social supports.

With the advent of the internet, that changed, slowly at first and then more quickly. People wanted free access to everything, including archives — including those that stretch back over a century, requiring painstaking digitising and huge amounts of server space. They wanted not just print media but images and streaming video. They wanted it without paygates and without advertising, without sponsored posts, without requests for donations. And they wanted much more of it, as the sheer volume of media produced today is an order of magnitude larger than that produced in prior years — the New York Times is updating constantly to accommodate readers, for example, and NPR’s website features a host of supplementary content that goes far beyond its on-air programming.

The balance between providing people with information and trying to make it as free as possible has always been tough, because people who work in media need to make a living. Journalists deserve to be paid for their work because it has intrinsic value and they in turn have other life needs they need to pay for — groceries, rent, utilities, books, research materials. So do editors, technical staff, photographers, producers, videographers, and all of the other people who make newsrooms run. Then there’s the infrastructure of the media itself: The overhead of all those offices, those servers, the outside support, the janitors, the secretaries, the people who enable the daily work of a media outlet.

I’m sorry to say that good media doesn’t come free. It can’t. I wish we could intrinsically value information and say that it should be readily available at no charge to anyone who wants to access it, but that deprives the people who are ferreting it out, analysing it, producing it, and packaging it. Those people need to be compensated, and the framework that makes their work possible needs to be supported. Many people don’t like paywalls — I understand why that is, there are definitely some publications I don’t read because I can’t afford a subscription, but on the same token, I recognise that if a site doesn’t have a paywall, it needs to run advertising. To have sponsored posts. To solicit donations, if it’s operating as a nonprofit, to apply for grants, if eligible — and in addition, individual journalists may seek out their own sources of independent funding to work on projects.

This issue has been raging back and forth for some time, but recently I’ve encountered a real uptick in self-righteous irritation at journalists for daring to want fair compensation for their work, and at media organisations for trying to make that possible while covering other expenses. The attitude that media should come totally free is outright disrespectful to journalists, and it’s unbearably frustrating coming from the left, which likes to call itself socially progressive, aware of labour issues, concerned about bringing information to light when it would otherwise remain hidden. The very journalists who are making it possible for them to know about key social issues are being repeatedly slapped in the face every time they moan about paywalls, complain about advertising, or whine about requests for donations.

Producing media is fiendishly expensive. Even something ‘simple’ like an opinion editorial — like this post — requires years of experience and familiarity with the subject, writing skills developed over years and sometimes decades, the ability to conduct research, sufficient resources to set aside time to do it, and the tools to convey it to a reader, whether it be electronically or otherwise. This is work. It’s all work. And it’s notable that new media has a lot of women, and that many of the expectations to work for free or at substandard wages fall specifically upon women in journalism.

You don’t ask a dentist to extract a tooth for free, or complain when your surgeon sends you a bill. When your accountant expects payment before she’ll file your taxes, you pay up. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t express fury that the produce has price stickers on it, and when you attend a concert, you accept that the price of admission comes in actual real money. The same should hold true for media and other things people expect for free, but it doesn’t, and there’s a fundamental disconnect and real disrespect there that is deeply troubling.

In the heated insistence that media organisations offer everything up free of charge, free of ads, free of sponsorship, free of requests for donations, people are utterly devaluing media and they’re also making a request that is functionally impossible to grant. Maybe we made a mistake when we started giving things away, but it’s more complicated than that — for when we give things away, people usually complain about them for different reasons, many of which revolve around compromises of quality that need to be made when no funding is available to raise standards.

Consumers need to start thinking more carefully about the choices they are making, and what they’re really thinking when they do things like complaining about monetising efforts on the part of media organisations. Would you like to work for free, and be continually insulted for suggesting that maybe you deserve payment?

Image: Newspapers, Allan Foster, Flickr

Original article: Sorry, but good media doesn’t come cheap

©2016 this ain't livin'. All Rights Reserved.

spiralsheep: Martha laughing (Martha Laughing)
Humph ([personal profile] spiralsheep) wrote2016-05-24 05:59 pm

In which there are maxi romantic manga and mini Romantic mountains

- Most bizarre book title of the [random time period]: "Helena Bonham Carter 191 Success Facts: Everything you need to know about Helena Bonham Carter". Altogether now, "191??" /I swear I was googling for Alan Plater plays

- Reading, books 2016, 70.

Brianne's blingtastic airsled

58. Dramacon, vol.1, by Svetlana Chmakova, is a graphic novel written and drawn in western manga-style. The plot is a romance drama with added DRAMA, set at an anime convention, lol. A significant amount of the emotional storytelling is through exaggerated facial expressions, which I found well drawn and communicative. The protag's love interest is disabled/disfigured (although he wears sunglasses not an eyepatch). Warning for an attempted rape, although it's a decent depiction within the context of this style of storytelling and the unrealism is mostly in how well supported the victim is afterwards: (detailed warning, highlight to read) the would-be rapist is the victim's boyfriend/established sexual partner and she successfully fights him off then asks for and immediately receives assistance from fellow con-goers (end warning). (3.5/5)

Two more Dramacons and two more Lego caps. )
copperbadge: (fandom compass)
copperbadge ([personal profile] copperbadge) wrote2016-05-24 11:33 am

(no subject)

Also! I almost forgot, I have a new PO Box number because I was tired of getting yelled at every time I checked my post office box. So the 15151 number is now a thing of the past; my shiny new address is:

PO Box A3309
Chicago, IL 60690

ENJOY IT. I plan to!