stdesjardins: (Default)
As usual, I went to the Toronto International Film Festival this year. I saw a total of 36 movies over 11 days, and less than a third of them were complete duds. (I may, perhaps, not have done an outstanding job of picking movies this year.) Of those that were excellent:

Those that were excellent )


Aug. 3rd, 2017 06:12 am
stdesjardins: (Default)
This was written in response to one of the daily challenges on the Writing Excuses cruise: to write a 250-word story about useless superpowers.

The second-best thing about telekinesis is not having to carry keys. (Most people think mechanical locks would be easier to open, but that isn’t true. Tripping a solenoid is easy, if you know where it is; turning tumblers takes more control and more strength, and I’m pretty weak, I can only shift a gram or two.)

The absolutely best thing about telekinesis is flossing. I haven’t had popcorn stuck in my teeth since I was twelve, when I got my powers. Dislodging plaque is harder, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it. The trick is not to rush. I can clean my entire mouth in thirty-five minutes, and when I’m not using my teek for anything else I do, over and over again. I have the best teeth. (I still brush every night. No matter how clean your mouth is, you need fluoride.)

Naturally, I became a dental technician. My parents don’t understand why I wanted to be a tech instead of a dentist, but, honestly, cleaning teeth is just way more fun. At work I clean teeth the old-fashioned way, of course, with a little stealthy extra. More probing than cleaning, really. When I find a problem, I make sure we get extra-good X-rays. If they’re not scheduled for X-rays, I give them a little push:

“Oh, did that hurt, Mrs. Kovacs? Let’s have the dentist take a look at that.”

I love days when I get to be a superhero.
stdesjardins: (Default)
I've deleted my LiveJournal account; their new, formally homophobic terms of service are unacceptable. User name changed from stevendj, which used to be an uncommon enough string for me to use everywhere, to stdesjardins, which is what I've ended up using instead.
stdesjardins: (Steven)
I have made a table showing what effect E Pluribus Hugo and 5 and 6 would have had on the Hugo nominations this year and last, using the reports provided to the WSFS Business Meeting.

Looking at the table, I see I inadvertently misled the Business Meeting: I said the sixth finalist would be a non-slate work 75-80% of the time, based on the 2015/16 data, and it actually seems to only be about 66%. I must have misclassified something or miscounted while I was trying to read the report on my cell phone. I think the argument I presented to the Business Meeting is still sound, but less strongly supported by data than I claimed, for which I apologize.
stdesjardins: (Steven)
I attended all four sessions of this year's WSFS Business Meeting (12 hours), helping shepherd two Constitional amendments to ratification. I really don't like thrusting myself into public notice, but it seemed important.

This is going to be long )
stdesjardins: (Steven)
This was the first session of Indie Games on Demand that I played at this year. The way it works is that maybe 8-12 GM's each list two games they're prepared to run, and then the people who want to play get in line to pick the games they want to play in. When it's your turn, if nobody's signed up for a particular GM yet, you can pick one of the games and the staff will cross the other one off, or you can add yourself to a game that somebody's already chosen. Once a game fills up, the staff pulls the card.

I picked Magic, Inc., a scenario using Lowell Francis's home-brew playing card Fate variant, because I've played with Lowell before and he has a talent for light comedy RPGing. The premise is that you're playing low-level workers in an obscure corner of a large, magic-oriented bureaucracy, and your goal is to do as little work as possible. This session went a little oddly because one of the players, the last one to sign up, thought he'd signed up for the ninja game that was Lowell's other option, and he waited twenty minutes to say anything. At that point, it was too late to switch to another game, so he made the best of it, but it obviously wasn't a style of game he was comfortable with, and Lowell felt that it threw him off as a GM. (I personally thought it wasn't as bad as Lowell thought, as a player I felt like the players who were really into it gave me plenty to interact with, and looking back I thought it was one of the highlights of my con.)

Accounts Unreceivable )
stdesjardins: (Steven)
I spend most of Origins at Indie Games on Demand, but they don't start running games until Thursday, so I signed up for a few specific events on Wednesday. Kuro was the first game I played at Origins. In fact, I played it even before I picked up my badge, since they decided not to open Registration until 7 a.m., and my game was at 8:00. (I bailed on the line and promised to give the GM my event ticket later.)

Kuro )
stdesjardins: (Steven)
The Saturday night session at Origins was the best session of the year. I'd finished dinner early and gotten a good position in the Indie Games on Demand line, and since I hadn't had a chance yet to play with Rich Rogers, who is always delightful either as player or GM, I planned on signing up for his Legend of the Elements game, an Apocalypse Engine game based on shows like Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender. I've never seen either show, but I have seen wuxia and martial arts movies, so I felt prepared.

Shortly after I signed up, a volunteer came over and told Rich that there was a group of four players who wanted to join his game, which had a cap of four players. Rich told him that was fine.

Everybody Loves Tomo )
stdesjardins: (Steven)
I've told most of this story on Twitter, but now that it's less painful to type I'll expand and preserve it in the form of a journal entry.

The main reason typing has been hard is that I tripped and fell about a week and a half ago. I was sitting at a table at Studio Theater, waiting for a play to start, and when I got up from the table I caught my foot on the table leg and tumbled over, slamming into a concrete floor. I didn't hit my head or otherwise seriously injure myself, but I was in enough pain that I decided that I didn't want to sit through the play, so I went downstairs to the box office, changed my ticket to a later performance, and went home. The worst of the impact was on my left (dominant) arm. My shoulder was extremely stiff for a couple of days, even though I was gulping down slightly more than the recommended dose of ibuprofen, and even now it's not 100% back to normal.

But the more dramatic incident came a couple of days later. One of my fingers has been bothering me for a couple of months, with occasional-annoyance levels of discomfort, and a little bump that sometimes gave a jolt of pain when I brushed against it. My hypothesis was that this was a pin from one of my old hand surgeries working its way loose from the bone, a hypothesis that was confirmed Tuesday night when the tip of the pin broke through the skin. I briefly considered trying to pull it out with tweezers—that's basically how they removed the pins that were supposed to come out after surgery—but decided that I maybe I should consult an actual medical professional, especially since I was able to make an appointment online with a doctor at my PCP's office for first thing in the morning.

Incidentally, that thing Wolverine says, about how when metal claws burst through your skin it hurts every time? Not true.

Turns out the doctor wasn't a big fan of the "pull it out with tweezers" plan. She dabbed some antibiotic cream on it, put a gauze bandage on, wrote me a prescription for oral antibiotics, and arranged an appointment with a hand surgeon. I went and got X-rays that afternoon, then went early the next morning to see the hand surgeon, who dabbed some antiseptic on, grabbed a pair of tweezers, pulled out the pin, and put a band-aid on. The pin was about an inch long, and perfectly smooth and straight, so I didn't even feel it come out. When I took the band-aid off, an hour or so later, there wasn't even a speck of blood on it.

Someone expressed surprise on Twitter that they didn't need to replace the pin. That really isn't necessary; the pin is only there to hold the bones in place until they heal. After that, it doesn't do any good, but it doesn't do any harm either, so they just leave it in there.
stdesjardins: (Steven)
I'm fine, just an FYI.

As I was going down the Dupont Circle escalator, I noticed some people ahead of me starting to climb back up the escalator. As I got closer, my eyes started to sting and fumes irritated my nose: I knew I couldn't climb up the escalator faster than it went down, so I started climbing down the escalator as fast as I could, so I could get onto the up escalator. It got pretty unpleasant, but I didn't feel like I was in danger of passing out or anything, it was just unpleasant.

Up top, I thought about walking home or getting a cab. While I was thinking it over, I saw one woman sitting on the sidewalk, obviously having trouble breathing, while a friend tried to help her. He asked her if she wanted an ambulance, and she nodded, so a bystander called 911. A little bit later, she vomited, and I volunteered to wait with her while her friend dashed to CVS and got some wipes. The woman who was on the phone with 911 also went into Panera and got some paper napkins and a cup of water. After a few minutes, she began to feel better, although she still wanted to go to the hospital to get checked out (and her friend did too, although he wasn't affected anywhere near as much).

I went up to the Metro employee who was standing at the top of the escalators, stopping people from going down, and asked if there was going to be a shuttle bus. He said that the station *wasn't* closed, but the police were questioning a subject down below in the station, and I had to use the other entrance. So I guess it wasn't a fire, as I had thought, just some jackass setting off some sort of gas bomb.

I ended up having to blow my nose a few times, but aside from that the fumes didn't have any lasting effect. So not terribly serious, as far as I'm concerned, but at least a couple of people were more seriously affected.

Update: It turns out to have been pepper spray.
stdesjardins: (Steven)
Prior thoughts here.

This is the second part of my irregular series of fiction-reading notes, meant to be consulted when I'm trying to decide on Hugo nominations next year.

story ratings )
stdesjardins: (Steven)
The 2016 Hugo finalists are being announced in a few minutes, making this the perfect time to post my thoughts on fiction eligible for next year's award.

(That sounds like a joke, but isn't. Up until the nominating deadline, I was only reading fiction published last year. After nominations closed, I made an effort to catch up on what I'd missed, so I would be better prepared for next year. Once the finalists have been announced, I'll be busy for a while reading those. So: summary time.)

I ended up rating everything I read from zero to five stars, depending on how likely I am to put it on my nominating ballot, and whether I'd recommend it to others. Five stars means it's almost definitely going on my ballot, four stars means it's a strong contender, three stars means it's probably not going on my ballot but I'd recommend it, two stars are the mass of good stories that I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend, one star are stories that I would recommend against reading, and zero stars are stories that the author should feel shame for having written. Nothing so far has gotten zero or five stars.

long list of stories )
stdesjardins: (Steven)
I think I'm just about glutted on short fiction. I won't say my ballot choices are final, but aside from a novel or two, I'm not eager to do much more reading.

ballot choices )

Also worth noting, Abigail Nussbaum posted this list of her Hugo picks. This came to my attention because some idiots were giving her crap for saying she'd mostly read stories that were available for free online; it seems worth noting that, even though there's no overlap between her short story/novelette picks and mine, she has picked what I consider to be strong stories, and her fifteen choices include stories from nine different publishers, which is more diversity than I managed. You could do worse for suggestions.
stdesjardins: (Steven)
Since my last post, I've read most of the Asimov's Reader's Choice nominees, most of the special Queers Destroy Science Fiction! issue of Lightspeed magazine, and some of the Nebula nominees and the new fiction in the Stories For Chip collection.

I've added the novelette "Jamaica Ginger" by Nalo Hopkinson and Nisi Shawl (from Stories For Chip) to my ballot. The Molenstraat Music Festival, one of the Asimov's Reader's Choice finalists, is also going on my novelette ballot, although it's a pretty shaky fifth place. In general, I felt like the Asimov's stories suffered from blandness: they seem to be stories written for an audience that wants stories like they've been reading in Asimov's for the last thirty years, whereas I'd much rather encounter something novel and unexpected.

There were also several good stories from Queers Destroy Science Fiction!Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar, "How to Remember to Forget to Remember" by Rose Lemberg, and "The Astrakhan, The Homburg, and the Red Red Coal" by Chaz Brenchley, which might have made my ballot if I'd liked the ending more—which I at least considered for my ballot. At this point I've found at least six stories for each of the fiction categories (Dramatic Presentation excluded) that I'd be happy to put on my ballot, so it's getting harder and harder for stories to even make it to the consideration stage.

In the Graphic Story category, I've added The Wicked + The Divine vol. 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McElvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles to my ballot. (Volume 3 is also eligible, but I think Volume 2 is a bit stronger.)

I've given a bit of thought to the criteria I've been using to nominate stories. I've considered tactical voting—dropping works like Ariah, a novel which hasn't gotten much attention, and "Jamaica Ginger", a story from a respected but not hugely read anthology, which have no chance of making the ballot, in favor of works that I think are strong, deserving works that do have a chance—and rejected it. Maybe I might drop a fifth-favorite work with no chance in favor of my sixth-favorite work when I have just a very faint preference, but in practice I've had a pretty firm gut feeling which works belong at the top of my list, and I'm not going to go against that instinct.

I've also observed a preference for stories that seem to prefer kindness to brutality. The world of Ariah is as ugly as the world of And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead (a Nebula finalist by Brooke Bolander), but the characters of Ariah are trying to create pockets of peace and virtue in an unjust world, while the characters in the Bolander story are just trying to be better at killing people than the people who want to kill them. I don't object to stories set in bleak backgrounds, but I do want there to be forces in that world acting towards progress, even if only in the scope of their own personal influence.

Incidentally, one of the perks of backing James Nicoll's Patreon is that I can occasionally suggest books for him to review. He recently posted a review of Ariah.

(First part of my Hugo thoughts here.)
stdesjardins: (Steven)
Up and Coming, a massive sampler of fiction from Campbell-eligible authors, is now available as a free download. 1.1 million words of fiction from 120 authors.

I noticed that Iona Sharma, one of the authors I'm considering for a novella nomination, is in her second year of Campbell eligibility, so I've added her to my ballot in that category.

Further updates to my original nominating post as reading progresses.
stdesjardins: (Steven)
I've been making a special effort this year to cast a full (and fully informed) Hugo nominating ballot in at least the major categories, for reasons that should be obvious if you've been following the controversies of the last couple of years. (If you haven't, well, it's a Long Story™.) I've done quite a lot of novel reading, and much more short fiction reading than usual, and have come up with a large number of excellent stories I can recommend.

Recommended reading )

The ballot deadline is the end of March, so I have time to do more reading before then.


Feb. 13th, 2016 07:07 pm
stdesjardins: (Steven)
Today is the first time since I was three years old that the Supreme Court hasn't been controlled by a majority of Republican appointees.
stdesjardins: (Steven)
I played three RPG's during DC Gameday, a local mini-convention, last weekend. Two of them were all right, but nothing particular memorable. The Dust Devils session, though, was a complete blast and one of the most memorable RPG's I've played.

session report )
stdesjardins: (Steven)
The deadline for Hugo nominations is Tuesday, and, as usual, I am woefully behind in reading short fiction. I have read about 80% of Long Hidden, a very good anthology about underrepresented viewpoints, but I still have no novellas and only one novelette on my shortlist. Ordinarily, I would simply skip the categories I was poorly read in, but a group of conservatives is trying to get a slate of crap nominees on the ballot through block voting, and they might well succeed. (I wouldn't object to a recommended reading list, but actual block voting is very different and in my eyes very scummy. Last year, they got several crummy stories on the ballot, which mostly finished behind "No Award" in the final voting.) I feel obliged to help increase turnout, which hopefully will help counter at least slightly their tactics, and maybe reduce the amount of garbage I have to read before casting my final ballot.

There's a strong crop of novels up this year. My Real Children by Jo Walton is spectacularly good, and I also enjoyed The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison tremendously. Steven Brust's Hawk is a solid entry in the Vlad Taltos series, which fully deserves "cumulative achievement" bonus Hugo nominating points. I would like to read The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu before the nominating deadline, but I'm not sure if I'll make it. (More translated fiction on the Hugo ballot, please!) And I'm considering adding the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Van Der Meer (eligible as a whole, since it comprises a single story) and The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher, which I would be sad to see beat out any of my three favorites, but which is still a fun book I wouldn't mind getting some notice.

I plan to read at least one novelette and one novella each day until the voting deadline, drawing on recommended reading lists, preferably more. So far the only one on my nomination list is Ken Liu's "Knotting Grass, Hidden Ring", from Long Hidden.

So far my three favorite short stories from Long Hidden are "Neither Witch Nor Fairy" by Nghi Vo, "Ogres of East Africa" by Sofia Samatar, and Marigolds by L. S. Johnson. They'll be on my ballot unless something bumps them off.

There were a lot of good comics last year. Right now my list contains The Order of the Stick: Blood Runs In the Family by Rich Burlew, The Shadow Hero Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, Silver Surfer: New Dawn by Dan Slott and Michael Allred, Widdershins vol. 4: Piece of Cake by Kate Ashwin, and Atomic Robo vol. 8: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener. I'm particularly fond of the first two.

For Fan Writer, I'd like Abi Sutherland, of Making Light, to get her due. James Nicoll has also been doing really good work on his review site.

If you have suggestions for me to look at in the next couple of days, particularly for short fiction or some of the categories I haven't mentioned, feel free to mention them in comments.
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