I could interpret special days in several ways, but my first thought is Christmas. If I had to live with a different calendar system, it would be not having Christmas, in my culture THE family holiday, which would be strangest. I remember stereotypical child-excitement at Christmas. None of my family have been natural good at choosing presents, but I remember my parents always managed a mix of big-present and stocking-fillers-exciting-to-play-with-o
I don't remember perfectly, but I think when I was little, we usually stayed at home, and then for a while we alternated between at home, mum's family, and dad's family. And then for a long time we would go to mum's family, which was a big traditional dinner, slightly more "Official Fun" than my immediate family would naturally tend towards, but I've always good memories of it, of big dinner with piles of roast potatoes, and vegetarianism not being an exception; of seeing extended family; of returning to Grandparents to open presents; of playing christmas games and starting to drink sherry.
And I've snatches of fun memories from earlier. I remember making a nativity scene with paper characters that stood up, mary, and doves, and everything. I remember making giant polyhedral decorations out of old Christmas cards. I remember getting closer and closer to being able to carry an organic Christmas tree home by myself. I remember decorating the tree, and stringing the tinsel and lights and debating whether they should be all round or more at the front, and whether the top should be an angel I made at primary school (which I recognised as a bit cheesy and not theologically accurate, but my parents loved because I made it) or a large star. I remember opening a box packed with wrapping stars, with a small cast of hand puppets in, that (I think?) mum and Grandma had made. I remember all of us having the flu when we first had the computer, and trying to go to Grandparents, and me wanting nothing more than to play with it and mum wanting to sleep.
The last couple of years, Rachel and I have had family time, just us.
The other obvious special day is my wedding and anniversaries. We have plenty of anniversaries, depending how we count, and neither of us are naturally good at remembering dates, but we still love counting them off and remembering the wedding, which went about as well as it possibly ever could have done, with a few small things we wished we'd managed better, but managing our complicated meld of traditions and preferences for "we're not quite sure what we want, but we know what we DON'T want", and being a wedding which was inclusive for everyone, without implying that people SHOULD have weddings, and was the perfect leaping-off point for our marriage.
It was a banner morning for shopping. I caught the bus into the loop and picked up a few sacks of popcorn at Garrett's, which is a Chicago franchise popcorn shop that I'm pretty sure uses crack in their cooking process somewhere. My stepfather wanted some for Christmas, so it's now sealed up in ziplock bags in my luggage.
Then I went to Macy's, which is much like a fool returning to his folly, because Macy's on State is hellish at the best of times due to its ancient building layout and elevators to nowhere. But it opens at 7am on holiday shopping weekends, and at 9am was still essentially empty. I couldn't quite believe my luck but I wasn't going to push it, either, so after picking up a couple of ornaments as small gifts, I bushwhacked my way down to the basement and chilled in the food court for a while.
The nice thing about Macy's is that it connects via the Pedway to Block 37, the mall across the street, which ALSO connects via the Pedway to Daley Plaza, home of the Giant Picasso Baboon, which is where they hold Christkindlmarkt every year. For an idea of what Christkindlmarkt is truly like in Chicago, may I recommend my fanfic Christkindlfuckup. It is exactly like that.
The Markt is actually really pleasant early in December, especially before dark, but it gets busier and busier as Christmas draws near. People were actually queuing up at 10:30 for access to the ORNAMENT SHACK where all the Christmas Ornaments are sold (most of the Markt is open booths, but there are two giant ORNAMENT SHACKS where you enter slowly and do a lap while you select which hilariously hideous ornaments you wish to buy). There were also long waits for pretzels, wine served in ceramic shoes, and pastries of many kinds. I skipped it all and homed in on the kitsch, because Mum wanted a new centerpiece for the table, and then bought a fluffy hat, because I have a problem when it comes to winterwear. The struggle is real.
AND THEN I went and bought some seasonings for a cooking project at the grocery store, and had the singular experience of walking into Trader Joe's, which has a big NO PRESERVATIVES NO MSG sign outside their entry, while carrying a shaker of MSG in my backpack.
So now I am home with a new hat, a giant sack of popcorn, all the German Kitsch, a week's worth of protein bars from Trader Joe's, and a shaker of MSG.
Winning at Saturday!
The pitcher is accorded a special place among the defense. Position 1 on scorekeeping systems, they are the only position in the entire game who will be guaranteed to touch the ball for all outs. And, for that matter, all the parts of any at-bat. They are physically elevated above all the other positions in the defense, bit receive a corresponding increased share of the danger of being struck by a batted ball while defenseless, as human reflexes can only go so quickly. The delivery methods and mechanics for their pitches are wide and varied, and their personalities often come through in their pitching. They are the only players of the defense that can be "perfect" for a game, even though such perfection is a result of teamwork.
They are the only position about which the is a dispute as to whether they should bat in the batting order or whether another player should be designated to do the hitting for them. When the interleague experiment first started, much hay was made that American League pitchers would finally have to bat, and that a good time would be had by all watching them do so. Some pitchers that year recorded their first hits, RBI, and home runs of their career, which revealed to many a secret of baseball they hadn't been considering - most of the work involved in determining how far a ball will fly when stuck is done by the pitcher, not the batter. Even when they bat, they are more likely to be used to perform a sacrifice hit (usually a bunt) than others, with the intention of keeping them rested and off the basepaths.
The statistics kept for pitchers are an entirely separate category, involving how many runs, on average, other teams collect against them, not counting runs scored due to defensive errors that should have resulted in outs, how many times they have been penalized with bases on balls, how many times they have recorded outs through a third strike, and how many times they have won or lost their game. Pitchers who do not start the game often have a mark of how many times they have been able to "save" (preserve) close leads into victories for their team. Determining which pitcher is the winner or the loser, and whether a save has occurred uses its own set of rules. Generally, to be eligible for a win in today's game, a starting pitcher must not be substituted for before they have recorded fifteen outs (five innings), their team must be ahead when the pitcher is substituted for, and their team must stay ahead for the ready of the game. With many teams on a five-pitcher rotation for starters, that gives each pitcher approximately thirty-two starts every year - which is why any pitcher that can make twenty wins is both a good pitcher and has a good team behind them that can score runs early and often. Other pitchers may receive wins, as the winning pitcher is otherwise the pitcher when the winning team goes ahead and stays ahead until the end if the game, but closers (pitchers that specialise in high-velocity pitching at the end of a game to prevent the offense from getting the rhythm of the pitching) are often rated on their saves, which say that a game has to be close, their team to be leading while they are pitching, and for the lead to be preserved to the end of the game while they are pitching. Closers can mount impressive streaks of their own - Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers currently holds the record for consecutive saves with eighty-four - and are an effective weapon in the pitching arsenal.
Television cameras focus on the pitcher because of their unique role in the defense - all things, all plays, all action in a baseball game begins with the pitcher's delivery to somewhere, whether the plate or a base in a pickoff attempt. The variety of pitches at the command of the pitcher provide variance and deception in the modern game, and many pitches other than the fastball make the pitch move ("break") from one place to another, in addition to variations on pitch speed during the delivery, to make them harder to hit, with some pitchers breaking more than others. The manner of the break determines the pitch (curveballs generally break down, sliders break side-to-side, the slurve does both, the knuckleball is...random), and all pitchers at the Major League level will have at least one of these pitches at their disposal. Many good pitchers will have more, even if they are known more for one of them than the others. Pitching is one of the reasons that three out of ten is fantastic in baseball - a hitter has to hit a moving round ball with a round bat somewhere where nine people cannot catch it in the air nor collect it off the ground and throw to the base ahead of you before you get there. It's hard!
A pitcher that is firing on all cylinders can retire batters quickly and with few pitches, which is the ideal situation for a defense. Pitching takes a lot of energy and stresses the body in unique ways. The current rotation system among starting pitchers is meant to give their bodies sufficient rest in between throwing up to 100 pitches (between 80 and 100 MPH) on their outings. Many pitchers in their lives will undergo reconstructive surgery on their pitching arm to prolong their career (Tommy John surgery), which is a commonplace and routine operation in these modern times. The stresses of pitching are so well-acknowledged that the Little League system instituted hard rules about rest time required in between pitching outings and a maximum pitch cap, 65 + the at-bat where the pitcher reached 65, as a protective measure for the bodies and arms of their players.
The Tarot equivalent of the Pitcher is the Sun, completing the dyad with the Moon that the Pitcher does with the Catcher to comprise the battery. The Sun and the pitcher are both regularly thought of as the animating force for their respective institutions. Their positive aspects are things like performing consistently at a high level, being able to do what's needed without problems, having the necessary creativity to handle new scenarios as they arrive, being illuminating and warm, and taking initiative at the right times to produce results.
The is a big danger associated with the Pitcher, though, and it's one that's not always easy to see coming. A lot of people will readily proclaim that without the sun, life as we know it would not exist on Terra. Which is true - we need the radiation of the sun to warm us and brighten our days, as well as to provide the energy for several organisms, mostly plants, to start the food chain going. But in giving praise to the sun so much, we sometimes forget that we also need the moon to provide its gravity so that the tidal forces work, moving the waves and cycling the water to prevent it from stagnating too much. The pitcher needs a catcher to receive their work, to provide targets and guidance and to help the umpire with their calls.
It's easy, with the television cameras as the stardom potential and the way that sports writing and statistics tends to talk about pitching a lot, for a pitcher to start believing they are in charge of the defense, or that they are the star of the defense. The pitcher's greatest danger is hubris. Star pitchers are usually lauded for their velocity and control, and the ways in which they get batters to strike out (because, like the long ball to a hitter, a strikeout is the most exciting-for-TV thing a pitcher can deliver). If you don't have that kind of stuff, it's not likely you're going to rise in the ranks of fame. The sobering thing to remember is that a pitcher cannot win a ball game by themselves, from the mound. At some point, they have to get help from someone in the batter's box scoring a run. Pitching can only prevent runs from scoring - it can't actually score runs on its own. A pitcher that forgets that their wins are inherently a team effort risks being traded...or benched.
In my summer ball days, when I was able to pitch, I was usually one of two pitchers. The other part I most clearly remember was someone with speed and a few off-speed pitches that was quite good at getting people out. I thought of him as a good pitcher. Since I didn't have that stuff, I didn't think of myself as all that good of a pitcher, even though I wanted to do it as a relief from the tedium of the outfield. My dad pointed out something to me at the time, though, that has stuck with me and that I think is a better metric by which to measure the pitcher's effectiveness. As a pitcher, he said, my best asset was that I would throw strikes for most of my pitches. Batters would not be able to just wait me out and draw walks - they would have to swing the bat to get on base. What that meant in practical terms was that, as a pitcher, I was really only as good as the fielders I was playing with. With time and perspective, I realize that an awful lot of the pitches where contact was made resulted in a ground ball of some sort. Very few people hit my pitches in the air to the outfield. If I had a good set of infielders, I could produce a lot of outs fast by forcing hitters to hit balls. (Many of my pitching years, this was not the case.)
Evaluating pitchers by their ability to get outs quickly, and their percentage of ground ball outs, seems like a better metric for figuring out who is a good pitcher than just strikeouts. The WHIP calculation, ((Walks + Hits) / Innings Pitched) hints at this kind of metric, as each out recorded while a pitcher is on the mound counts as a third of an inning. Many pitchers will not become famous, but will be in demand for their ability to throw few pitches and collect many outs by using the field behind them. It's Boring, But Practical to do things this way. Which may describe many of the people in your life and your workplace. If you have one of those kinds of pitchers, be sure to thank them and recognise them for the consistent high quality work they do. If you don't, they might sign with another team, or they might decide they don't need to give you full-quality work any more, since you're not recognizing them or paying them enough for it.
Pitchers are unique entities on the field. Treat them with care, and they'll help you win lots of games.
The most commented-upon aspect of it is that the civilisation central to the story uses a genderless language, and so for most of the book there is no indication of characters' genders. This was interesting, but it didn't really seem to be important to the story, and so felt a little like a gimmick, in the manner of the phonetic Scots in Feersum Endjinn. Having said that, the very fact that it isn't important to the story is perhaps a point well made; and who knows, maybe it changed my assumptions about characters while reading. I am very aware that the fact that I do not find this squee-worthy is probably tied up with my own male privilege, in that it doesn't grate very much on me that most characters in space opera are explicitly male.
Ditto for the book's discussion of the nature of some forms of privilege in society and in politics; this time it was very relevant to the worldbuilding, and it was well put - if perhaps a little heavy-handed at times - but again, I imagine that those who have to deal with this more in everyday life were somewhat more overjoyed at seeing it expressed in science fiction.
I felt that the story was competent space opera, and that it had interesting explorations of imperialism, expansionism, national exceptionalism, and personal identity - especially the latter, in a context where one mind can have multiple bodies. I was a little disappointed that, despite talking about the ethics of using corpses controlled by an AI as soldiers, no attention seemed to be paid to the use of superhuman AIs as subservient "equipment". There's a good chance that the next book may go there...
Quite a lot in here reminded me of Iain M Banks: the sweeping scale, the ancient megastructure (although in what I felt was an overly stand-alone set piece), back-and-forth-through-time style of storytelling where it all makes sense near the end... it has a different emphasis, though. It might be fair to say that while Banks shows galaxy-wide culture (small c) while tracking one or more individuals, Leckie has followed one character and used them as a lens to see the large-scale culture.
Style-wise it felt a little clumsy and heavy-handed in places, but no more so than the first novels of some of my favourite authors. I shall read the sequels at some point, and I hope that Ann Leckie becomes another favourite in time :-)
THINGS I LIKE: the moments when I do get to just sit and absorb sunlight and heat and don't have to think. The plants all being sturdily enthusiastic and making there be flowers and fruit and, eventually, baby plants. Fresh raspberries and strawberries. The sea being warm enough to stick toes into. The length of the days. Long evenings. Open-air concerts and plays. Properly fresh vegetables. All the colours the sea goes. :-)
New situations are harder: when I switch to a new role (being someone's PhD student! Meeting someone's parents for the first time when it is totally unclear whether they are thinking of me as a friend or a partner!) I have to feel out the shapes that are expected of me by trial-and-error, which is stressful. Mostly I handle it by asking lots and lots of questions about what I should be doing, but that is sometimes intrusive, so I flap around feeling sadly and anxiously as though I'm a failure. It is easier for me to act within paradigms I understand, and so on.
-- actually, that's a lie, I totally do use scripts some of the time. With doctors it's more obvious if I'm helping someone else prep for an appointment, but - it's a case of running through the plausible discussion tree (time-limited conversation with constraints on topic matter) and work out what we'll want to respond under various circumstances. But - working out scripts for myself, as opposed to other people? Not so great. Mostly for that I use Captain Awkward.
Which is the how, to some extent. As for the when -- mmm. Mostly I care less about what the situation "looks" like and more about what it feels like to me; if I'm getting stressed and clumsy and feeling unsafe in terms of just working in good faith towards a mutually-agreeable arrangement (which! happens a lot! I hate capitalism!) then I will slip into a-script-(or-role)-I-prepared-earlier. It's not really about the other party, to any extent.
Hmm. Perhaps not terribly clear. Apologies.
It's been raining for the last two days, so I haven't been out of the house except to check the mail. Even then I had to pump myself up for it, because ew, wet.
Last night Brent got paid and we got to go grocery shopping! We got bread and eggs and lunch meat. I've been living off of eggs for the last week. He also bought me a Mexican Coke. And beer. He bought me beer. Not the best of ideas, but he said he was willing to spend the $7.99 on six beer to play the neurochemistry table. And they're not all the same beer either - it's six different types of beer. Well, it's a You-Pick-It combination, so I had a couple of the same. I like the New Belgium 1554. It's tasty.
I feel guilty about Brent buying me things like that.
He's hunting today - an acquaintance of ours has a wild hog problem on his land. Brent and another of his acquaintances James went to go hunt them. Wild hog is a nuisance animal here in Mississippi, along with nutria, skunk, fox, coyote and ... I can remember this... beaver! You can hunt them all year 'round here, as long as you have permission from the private land owner. (I'm the one who looked up all the information on it.)
They're in my car because Brent hasn't fixed his yet. We're fixing it this upcoming weekend if I have to do it myself. If there is even a single drop of animal blood in my car where I can find it, I am going absolutely fucking lose it. There will be Jesus-style table flipping, Scarlet O'Hara style shit fits and there may even be some serious raging going on from this Southern barbarian. And he thought I wanted him to take the cooler to keep things cold. No, I wanted you to take the cooler because it's a leak proof container! Grr! He left at 0400. It's now 1050 and I haven't heard from him. I don't know if he was planning on spending all day out there, but I don't know why he would. Best times to hunt are early morning and during the gloaming. (I used to spend an awful lot of time around hunters. An awful lot of time.)
I have been playing Mass Effect! Well, Mass Effect I finished. Now I'm working on Mass Effect 2. It's pleasing. And it occupies my mind.
So... Lord Gregor is back yet again. I seem to alternate between episodes of madly writing this epic and not wanting to look at it at all, but every time I write it I do add something substantial, with the result that the drafts of the next three stories are in pretty good shape and a significant part of the fourth is written, too.
I have finally worked out what I should have worked out a long time ago, which is that the point of divergence for this series is Ezar not sending Simon to Escobar with Aral, and that everything else that went wrong actually happened just because Simon wasn't there to keep things on track. Simon's presence... was really very important at Escobar, despite the fact that he had no idea what was going on.
Also, every time I write this series I end up dragging it off in some entirely unplanned direction. Rulf Vorhalas, who was supposed to have one scene, and Helen Vorthys, who was supposed to have exactly zero, just ended up becoming the most important and pivotal characters in the entire saga.
I also have to restrain myself from turning it into the EPIC DECADES-SPANNING VORHALAS FAMILY DRAMA, because this is an AU where there are actually enough surviving Vorhalases to have family drama, and also the Vorhalases are in that powerful yet precarious position that the Vorkosigans occupied in canon; that of the kingmakers, the family on whose strength and support the Imperium stands, over multiple generations, and that position seems to naturally lend itself to the creation of fascinating stories. At one level it's weird to write about Prince Miles growing up with Evon Vorhalas's son for a playtime companion, but it's also oddly satisfying, and of course, it makes for much plot. And meanwhile it's Gregor who gets the troubled relationship with the Vorhalases, the one with unspeakable suspicions and unforgivable deaths in the background, which is also fascinating, and dear writing brain, please remember who the titular character of this series is.
Writing an entire series of alternate!Helen Vorthys reading alternate!Duv Galeni's historical dissertations in flashbacks is not an acceptable direction to take this, either.
Because I don't object to pooling risk, but I do object to large rake-offs.
(The Affordable Care Act said that health insurance companies have to spend 80% of their income on medical care. I don't want to go so far as to regulate it. But if you make it public then people can at least take it into account when making their decisions.)
Via discussion here.
( Thursday morning. )
The walk back was refreshing. I wore the Festive Hat, fully lit up. That always gets noticed. I put it away, though, as next was the Dreaded Team Meeting. I told Purple that depending on how it went, I might or might not spend some of the subsequent time sobbing under someone's desk with vodka.
The bad news from Wednesday was that my occasionally frustrating but always well-meaning grandmanager the Randomizer, who has been in and out of the hospital over the past year-ish, will be stepping down entirely, due to illness. ( Read more... ) So while I'm concerned for him on a personal level because he's ill and stepping down because of illness is never a happy thing, I have every confidence business-wise.
So I came out of the team meeting more hopeful than I had been going in, which was not the outcome I was expecting. No vodka-desking for me!
I had the package tracking notification that the latest package in Syne's BPAL decant circle had arrived, so I set off to the mail room with a small bag of the good candy. It is always recommended to bring bribes of an edible nature to the fine folks of shipping & receiving, because they
( Read more... )
Friday was another day. I woke up midway through my sleep cycle and discovered confirmation that the vendor was in the database. However, the mobile app didn't let me edit jack shit. I went back to sleep. When I woke up, I looked for a necklace, since the star necklace wasn't going to be a viable choice. The raven one looked good.
At work, the vendor was listed, so I spent a few minutes making sure the submission was set up and sent off for approval. Then I went to lunch, a few minutes after Purple's lunch call. Purple had not found time before work to get the tire seen to, but it's a very slow leak. No telling how long the nail has been in there.
I saw the table with Purple's usual crew. I saw the cluster of tables with a whole bunch of my team, including the rare sight of the Randomizer. I went with my team. Later, having finished my burrito and refilled my lemonade, I joined Purple's table. They understood.
I did a bit more candy-distribution. Having finished my bit of the terrifying procurement thing, I tracked down some software for Brutus Cochin (as that is a vaguely known thing and also vastly less expensive). The shipping & receiving guy came by with the mail cart, which included the latest decant circle. I had some more festive cheer for him. He hugged me.
Bash ensued. It took me longer to get there this time, and it was harder finding a table. I did score one, though! Purple joined me. "It's not like your hat is visible over the wall or anything," he teased. He claimed the sort-of-occupied-looking chair after I reassured him that the reason it looked sort of occupied was because I was scaring off chair-vultures. Radius and R joined us. R was late on account of a meeting, and then had to run off to wrap up before dashing off somewhere else. Radius had a bug to be stomped. Mr. Zune was off with family. lb was off with family. phone was home minding a sleeping possibly-teenager (we're a little uncertain as to the actual age of his kid). Later, Lennon Glasses Guy came by, and that was nice. Eventually we told tales of social engineering and various exploits and bugs we have known. Lennon Glasses Guy hadn't realized that I'd worked at the domain shop in the past, which was where two of my tales came from.
Midway through it all, I got an email that made me start swearing.
"Hi Azure, The user needs to be added to CC in order to make the ticket visible to them. Please refer the attached screenshot and confirm if we are good to close this ticket. Thanks, Helpdesk Guy."
Very fortunately, I am in a position where my input is respected as a bellwether of parts of my greater organization as regards this piece of fucking software. My response was brusque and to the point.
"Not acceptable. Tickets need to be visible to users not on the CC list."
Upon getting back to my desk, I added lb's Overlady, as she is the current torchbearer for our division's good fight. We've got her back, and the pitchforks. I feel like this one is important enough to hammer spikes in to any reasonably slowly moving surface and cling to them while yelling.
There has been a squeaking sound all up in our corner for days now. One of the facilities dudes has been investigating. Unfortunately his hearing doesn't go that high anymore. Most of my department can hear it. He located some vent louvers which were oscillating when they shouldn't ought to be, and a substantial leak from a pipe on the other end of the roof. The ventilation guys have been summoned.
Chatted with Rocky some. The time to be a dick about your nerf weaponry is not when you've just scratched someone's cornea. (This was a lead engineer in a place he used to work.) It was a rough work neighborhood. Rocky carried in a large nerf gun in a duffel bag, then introduced the engineer most likely to cause trouble to the business end of it...
Purple came by to head out. He chatted with Rocky and encouraged me to tell how Tay and I used to troll the roosters by crowing out of turn at them.
I'm not sure if Purple would describe himself as "a gamer", but via a link I sent him, he wandered into Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, and reported back that he was impressed and generally in agreement with a lot of things, even though not 100% in agreement (and 100% agreement is rare for him). ( Read more... )
Bash was dinner enough for Purple, so he generally declined the concept and headed home. I picked up some groceries.
At the same time, one of the Powerline extenders I was using (to connect the study to the living room) was being intermittently dodgy. So I grabbed a new pair of AV500 (to replace the old AV200 ones), and did a before/after test with SpeedTest.net.
With the AV200 ones I was getting around 50Mb/s. With the AV500 ones:
That'll do. For this week :->
(I really should plug a laptop directly into the router and see what speed _that_ gets. With our walls, and laptops that don't support 5GHz they max out around 32Mb/s over wireless.)
Gah. I need to go for a walk later. First step : shower and get dressed.