Posts Tagged ‘sxswi’

Vacation with Saturn and proplyds

I'm in the parking lot of a motel staring at spectacular red and buff cliffs! It's the Kaibab Limestone and the Coconino sandstone and that other red rock formation I forget the name of. Spiky little lizards are playing on the fence next to me.

After a great but exhausting week at ETech and SXSWi, I'm on vacation in Arizona with a rental car and no particular plan. Last night in Sedona we picked up a flyer in the Super8 lobby, for Evening Sky Tours which I pictured as a couple of old retired guys out in a parking lot picking up some spare cash for new lenses by showing off their amateur astronomy knowledge. While this was close to the truth the Adventure was run in a scarily businesslike and professional manner and rather than being a once a week or sporadic deal it was clearly a real job. Three guys pulled up with a trailer or two full of telescopes with a D**'s mount sort of a huge wooden box like a box kite with mirrors stuck in and lenses and spotting scopes stuck on! They had a row of folding chairs with wooly blankets laid out. Reclining lawn chairs would have been more the thing.
The main dude went around in a bossy way reminding his employees the telescope flunkies to "tell 'em what they're lookin' at". It was excellent. They did an especially good job of saying "In Africa" or "In the MIddle East" when talking about the names of stars and the history of astronomical discoveries.

As the Milky Way began to slide into our consciousness we saw a few satellites and every time I wanted to scream "Satellite!!!" Might have done just that. We had out our G1 Skymaps at first but put them away so as not to be assholes. I knew Orion, Taurus, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, the Big Dipper and North Star, and that is about it. With luck I can spot Cygnus and the Corona Borealis. Zond-7 knew where Sirius was, which impressed me. I guessed where Gemini was, but got it wrong. Then I did what one of the astronomy dudes suggested and learned "Arc to Arcturus" and "Spike to Spica". Now I know a new thing!

The Night Sky Adventure dudes explained what we were looking at very well and were patient and sweet about all the questions. It was a little hard to get them to go into any depth. But it was light years better than going to a planetarium!
Stuff we saw: M51 which is sort of colliding or interacting galaxies, M3 (a globular cluster), M81 and M82 together (they affect each other with tides!), the Beehive Cluster, the Pleiades, a red dwarf star among the Double Cluster,  Mizar A and B and Alcor, (The horse and rider!), Saturn and 5 moons, and a bit of the Orion Nebula where the Trapezium is. We looked at Sirius through a polarized filter to see its spectral lines.

Later, the Wikipedia entry on the Orion Nebula turned out to be incredibly great; hello, iron tipped glowing blue "bullets" of supersonic incandescent gas. It just got more and more extreme and crazy in the descriptions. Keep reading. It gets better and better. Like this:

The green hue was a puzzle for astronomers in the early part of the 20th century because none of the known spectral lines
at that time could explain it. There was some speculation that the
lines were caused by a new element, and the name "nebulium" was coined
for this mysterious material. With better understanding of atomic
physics, however, it was later determined that the green spectra was
caused by a low-probability electron transition in doubly ionized oxygen, a so-called "forbidden transition".

In between lurching up from my wheelchair to peer through telescopes, I kept saying over the things we'd seen, so that I could look them up later. "You must have studied this!" one woman said in amazement. "No…. I'm just repeating to myself what the guy just told us…"

I don't mean this meanly, but I have forgotten how dumb most people are. Or maybe not dumb but just, without the most basic snippets of information about things like what a moon or a constellation or a galaxy is. Compared to our amateur astronomer hosts Zond-7 and I were just a couple of people who grew up liking science magazines and who might read the Planetary Society blog once in a while. But the people around us, holy crap. One lady was asking what it meant for something to be a moon. As we explained (super nicely) she *got it* that moons go around a planet, and planets go around the Sun, and so the moons are also going around the Sun at the same time, but with extra wiggling. I could see her getting it, even in the dark! Zond-7 explained very clearly to someone else what it meant for Saturn to be in Leo (which it was). Earlier, someone else went "Is there a thing called a .. a 'quark'?" and boy howdy did I feel like Mr. Peabody just able to say "It's a tiny elementary particle" Zond-7 asked if she meant quasar, but she meant quarks which were mentioned in a movie she saw. When I hung out with large feral packs of theoretical physicists I noticed how they would speak with disdain of washed-up media whores meaning anyone who ever talked to the press or wrote a popular science article. Meanwhile I wish popular science was more popular and more people would learn how to explain (with strangeness and charm) what a quark is to a regular person.

Anyway, I was struck by how much people don't know. We don't need to know it, people go around and function and are smart as anything, but I forget that most people don't care for some of the things I like to know. And I was struck by the thought that I am used to being around people who do know and who have a fairly huge internal database of random knowledge not applicable to their daily life. The people who came to the astronomy event were self selected to be people who were interested and curious and willing to learn stuff, unlike the general population. I am not trying to be judgmental on people by saying this, it is just that I felt a gulf suddenly between my assumptions about what's in people's heads all around me, and what actually is. Heather Gold at SXSWi in her talk show at Plutopia touched on this rather sweetly when she mentioned the movie Powers of Ten and said "You know, like that thing you do in bed when you're a little kid, where you imagine you're in your address, St. Louis, Missouri, United States, North America, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, like that? … and the crowd just kind of stared at her…. As Heather did, I assumed everyone did that! Did you? But no – not everyone spends hours poring over photographs of galaxies and nebulae and reading encyclopedia articles. I have not felt like a freak for having a lot of book learning for a long time, not for years. As a kid that was a hard lesson – I thought all reasonable people would automatically know what mitochondria were, and so on.
This crowd, the idea of spectral lines was going to be so completely over their heads that it was impossible for the guys to explain anything. I was glad they showed it anyway.

Meanwhile, I don't know the parts of an engine or how to fix a toilet or knit a sweater or take someone's blood pressure as probably the people on our Star Tour do know.

Saturn's moons freaked me out the most. They just hang there. The light reflected from Saturn shades them like our Moon is shaped and shaded by Earthlight. They were more surreal to me than Saturn itself, because they looked so three dimensional.

There is a flythrough of a 3-D model of the Orion Nebula! Can't wait to try it!

When we get home I have a book called Agnotology waiting for me which promises to be about theories of Not Knowing. What don't we know? And why don't we? And how does that affect us?

One last note, Zond-7 asked one of the astronomy dudes how many stars
were in a galaxy and was told a trillion.  He gently drew out the guy a
little more and then shut up. Later in the car he told me that the
trillion stars theory was in the process of being debunked, as it is
based on "a trillion solar masses" but like 99.999 % of that is dark
matter so there are likely not a trillion stars in the galaxy at ALL.
Speaking of Agnotology!

If you are wondering about a proplyd you may go read the article on the Orion Nebula! Happy pointless knowledge voyage!


estate sale apron… thanks, dead lady
Originally uploaded by Liz.

My cold is getting worse. Oh misery!

But I’ve made the best chicken stew with dumplings ever! It is not often that I bust out my apron and even more rare that I record my domestic moments here in the gleaming phosphors of Internettiness. The recipe blog has come over me. Doom to you all.

Earlier today I got my recipes on from one of my very favorite cookbooks!

No seriously, the chicken stew came out so well. I’m recording it here so that I remember how to do it again. If I cook anything right it’s totally an accident.

* 2 chicken breasts, frozen, broken off a block of it in the freezer and defrosted in microwave and sawed into large chunks
* a handful of “baby carrots”
* 2 pounds of red new potatoes quartered
* a big box of chicken broth
* some water maybe 3 cups or so
* parsley, oregano, rosemary from garden. a handful.
* half a batch of bisquick dumplings made with milk

Throw it all in slow cooker on high for a long time. The house will smell nice. Put the dumplings in about half an hour before you’re going to eat it.

I mashed the chicken pieces up in the bowl so they were nice and shreddy and there was a chicken shred and potato and dumpling emulsion going on. Salt lots of it and some pepper. The dumplings were doughy and tough like al dente pasta in the middle and melty on the outside. The broth was thick with the melted bits of dumpling and floating potatoness. It was like a chicken pie. But better, because it was fucking SOUP.

Yay for the slow cooker — without it, most food I try to cook just burns up, because I forget it’s there till the smoke fills the house.

I also made rye bread.

Moomin invented a beautiful invention today. He was saying how Kel (from First Test, the first “Protector of the Small” book) is kind to all small things like sparrows and also smaller people who get picked on. And that he would like a flock of sparrows in his room for pets, but if he had them, he would invent the sparrow toilet with a button they would peck to lift up the toilet lid and another one to flush it so that his room would not be covered in sparrow poop. I suggested it would work with pulleys and gears. He gave me a funny look. Then we laughed at the word “poop” for like 20 minutes.

I am all hot to see this movie: Girls Rock!.

Please someone tell me that Obama still has a chance to win this fucking thing. I wanted at least Texas. BAH.

Zond-7 is at FanceeTech poncing around with all the Internet socialites and I wish I was there, but if I had been, I would just have been ill and miserable and frustrated. SXSWi will also happen without me there since I prudently was trying not to travel all over the universe with my crippledass carcass this spring. And I missed the arty public access TV thing last night because of being sick. But it’s okay. WisCon and BlogHer will rock my world in the summer. I will eat delicious chicken soup and feel mildly pouty and read this awesome trashy SF novel. (Deathstalker. Trashtastic.)

Reading thinking talking

Brow piercing!
Originally uploaded by Liz.

I forgot to write last week about the Three Rings party – they are a company that makes a game called Puzzle Pirates – but anyway I had a good time at the party, played Rock Band for the first time which is more fun than I thought it would be – sucking me into the absorbing world of trying to beat a video game while also giving a little adrenaline boost of the fear & high of performing and making an ass of myself. It turned out I was weirdly good at singing the two songs I knew on the list, “My Sharona” and “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. My only regret is not getting to sing Enter Sandman. Bring on the 80s badness and I will sing it. I also loved the giant tentacles all over their office, and the pirate decor, and the tiny cozy room with leather couches and the scotch hidden inside a globe, and the fancy pool table. I met some people mostly that I didn’t know but one that I remember from SXSW.

Rook had jury duty this week and though he has not been picked yet has had to sit there for most of the week listening to the lawyers throw people off for some rape trial that sounds very heinous. The defense throws off people who say they trust the police. Huh.

I worked a lot and kept exhausting myself completely. But I have not collapsed from it and seem to be successfully pushing myself to get stronger and stronger. In January even after un-diagnosis I didn’t feel like I trusted that I would really get better. Now I have a lot more faith in it. I’m still in pain but it isn’t crushing pain. For so long I was going around most of the time struggling not to just lie down and gasp like a fish out of water. Very zombie-like & climbing-mt.-everesty. Now it is back to the level where I don’t have a lot of stamina, and my leg hurts and isn’t working right, but it’s not like destroying my fucking soul. Man, it was bad. I feel like I’m only realizing how bad, as it gets better.

Yesterday we played with a tiny helicopter. The rotors break very easily! If you get one, just order a 6 pack of replacements. Don’t delude yourself that they’ll last.

Today was fabulous and I am just reading a tiny book about Os Cangaceiros…. details and links to come soon. And all of a book of comics, “Cat Getting Out of a Bag” which I highly recommend to anyone who likes things like “What’s Michael”. I read most of Solove’s book and I have to say I loathed it. Expect that rant as well – I ranted but it was midnight and I think editing is in order before I post. Then as a fabulous antidote I read some bits of the Clay Shirky book (Here Comes Everybody) which took the bad taste out of my mouth. I did some basic Python lessons mostly from Seth’s email from his lesson last week, and if he does another email with this weeks’ lesson I’ll do that too… it’s fun. (I am doomed to know only a little bit of baby steps in every single programming language ever.) Anyway… the really nice thing other than spending most of the day in bed was walking a block to Body Manipulations where I got my eyebrow ring put back in. I got that piercing in 1991 in San Jose done in some skeevy tattoo parlor by a guy named Eddie. By some odd chance he hit a minor artery. Blood went spurting out like crazy and I bled for half an hour, soaking a lot of paper towels. It was fascinating and didnt’ hurt. Of all the piercings I’ve had that is the one that never hurt or got infected – maybe because it bled so much? Anyway, I had the ring out for some of the MRIs I had in December, forgot to put it back in, and then couldn’t manage to stretch the hole.

So today I got it re-inserted – with a new cheap steel ring – and ordered a super satisfyingly fancy gold one with a bit of opal which is so tiny that choosing its color was pointless but I agonized anyway and chose a microscopic bit of black opal. Perhaps to someone at close range in the proper light it will look like rainbows… I can’t tell.

Then was able to say “Hey, look, the zine store, let’s go there!” and go with crutches to stand around and then sit on the floor looking at zines and books. That was a milestone to be able to walk and do something at a whim and then walk back to the car. Only 1 block radius, but still, pretty great.

I’m off soon to pick up Moomin and Hamster. Hamster’s spending the night! I hope to lounge a lot more tonight and do some more python lessons, read zines, and late at night when kids are asleep, watch The Wire.

Loop the loop

Northwest Houston is completely freakazoidal. New housing developments, as always, have sprung up in cow fields, as they do every time I visit and come back in 6 months. Shacks and mobile homes, cow fields, strip malls, scary churches, billboards littering up the scraggly-pine ditches.

Moomin is showing me his new cars. Blackjack, Devil, Green Flame, Nightflame, Ice-olate, & Waterwing are racing down their cheesy plastic hot wheels racetrack propped up by Winston Churchill’s diaries. Those diaries have seen a lot of action. The two wooden snakes I got him have not been named yet, though there was discussion in the car of possibilities: Snakey, Writhey, Rattler, Slithery. Then I explained about SXSWi and my dad made up great sarcastic internet buzzwords. Anything I said, he was all like, “Oh yeah? Well, but does it have globally Web 2.0 dynamic activation socially proactive blogging mashups?” Which was making my mom scream.

Now I’m eating slabs of sharp parmesan and provolone while my mom cooks chicken cutlets and my dad makes plátanos and black beans. Moomin’s reading a comic book. Naturally, I dive into my computer. I’m no help in the kitchen.

Me: Arrrgh. So what’s your wireless network name?
Dad: What? The…
Me: (louder, slower) Your WIRELESS NAME. The name of your network.
Dad: The name of the wireless network.
Me: Yes. Okay, it’s okay, nevermind, just, if you knew, that would be handy.
Dad: I don’t know that it has a name.
Me: Yeah it has a name.
Mom: Oh! Should we name it? How about “Netty” or “Wirelessy”. “Computery”.
Me: Hahahah! “Wireflame”.
Dad: It might be, “Wireless 209”
Me: Ah. Yup. So is your password (petname)? Or is it the (childhood-fictional-kingdom) one?
Dad: *bridling* It might be.
Me: Nope… hmmm.
Dad: It might be XXXX.
Me: Oh cool, now I know your ATM card password too.
Dad: It isn’t!
Me: Just kidding!

My family’s so awesome!

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Catching up

I’m really having to learn to schedule in down time for myself.

Thoughts flying by… on poetry, what writing is to me and has been, on intimacy, on many different people I’ve gone out with, lived with, been in love with, in the past. Looking at myself and trying to evaluate who I am. Complicated thoughts about religion and also romantic love and what people use them for. It all seems like very weird magic.

The blog class went well – I had fun – I wrote about it elsewhere – I’m exhausted – my other class was also good. & the office hours. & the grading was also fun and a challenge.

I see that teaching takes too much out of me for me to really think about anything else (as I was warned by many people). I could not switch from thinking about it to working on other work today though I tried. I fell asleep for about an hour… completely worn out from my day and a half of grading and teaching and teaching prep work and debriefing and the mental composition of emails or long comments I will never actually send to the students in response to both their writing work and the content of their essays.

So this semester will be okay, but very tiring. And then I don’t want to continue… I could teach the occasional weekend class, though. In the summer I could do a longer blog class and perhaps a wiki class.

Moomin and I went to the park and at random met the nice teacher from his school who’s on maternity leave so we had a long fierce school gossip. Then to Ep’s house for tea with her and Jo. I collapsed in a sprawly heap on the couch and couldn’t be coherent. Too exhausted and plus, at the park, it got cold and pain hit me again in a giant wave.

I’m finding that the rainy painful days exhaust me and so I think that on them, I should respond and plan in some extra periods for short naps. Really… again… I’m lucky that it didn’t happen until this month, this winter… and winter is almost over and then I’ll be fine. Also I have been very happy that once again I didn’t get the flu and I haven’t had bronchitis. I think this might make a whole year without prednisone. I have to be careful at sxsw, making sure to sleep as much as I can.

I printed out things for work and looked at them, gearing up for tomorrow when I hope to get some actual productive synthesis going.

Aching toes, good teaching day

Teaching was fun today. I handed back papers & was a bit nervous about that. What if the people who made a D+ were terribly upset? It seemed okay though and I am sure they can do better with more attention and effort…

We broke into groups & I went around and talked to everyone – for the “process writing” brainstorm. I think it went well.

My virtue of improvisation is also a flaw. Flexibility, but uncertainty.

Next week, more process writing and then a summary day to look back at what we’ve done and what we know. The week after that, I’m hoping for computer lab time to do blogging (we’ll sign on and make accounts, do a one-sentence test post, and then a writing exercise online, posted, & then another exercise to comment on other people’s posts.) I’ll go to sxswi then for a week – And March 14 class starts up again with the unit on research & argumentation.

A lot of physical pain today. I had a long nap in the afternoon. The winter is definitely getting to me and my joints aren’t happy. My whole left leg, foot, hip, etc were fucked up today. My knee is swollen and starting to make grinding noises. I need to get on celebrex as quick as possible. Allergies are bad too.

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Inspired by the smell of hockey pucks

Wow, I thought my assignment today was a dud because everyone was shy and unresponsive when I did the participatory write on the board parts of class. But actually their writing from today was the best ever!

I had them do a short “describe something with each sense” exercise (lifted from JM’s teaching materials) and then I talked a bit more, extracting examples from them. (Which were good examples of color, mood, analogy/metaphor.) I talked about mood and style and emotional content of a piece and how it can be persuasive and get the reader to feel what you want them to feel. Then a 10 minute exercise to describe a place. We had a break, I talked a bit more & then sprung it on them to describe the same place but with an opposite mood. So, there were a lot of blank and terrified stares during this process but they all wrote like crazy. A lot of the people who were very stuck on other writing assignments went nuts with this one and waxed poetic about sports. I didn’t know that sports were so … sensual. I guess it makes sense. Wow. Why isn’t there more sports poetry? “Touch: the strong hold of the keeper when she approaches the ball – the soft cotton of our jersey – the roughness of the field” That’s so beautiful!

And a lot of emotional and very sweet stuff. I think that’s why no one wanted to volunteer their sentences. Because they were all about hugging their moms or how much they love their little sisters and how they always think sadly of their grandmas when they eat some specific food or how the rain on the sidewalk makes them moody but happy at the same time. RAD.

I feel proud that I’m getting so much work out of them! It’s kind of amazing that I’m just like “Okay, now do this!” and they do it. We are doing a ton of in-class writing, because I want them to disinhibit and warm up quite a lot right at the beginning.

I have moments of despairing a little that I can do this and stick with it and do a good job but now I’m buoyed up. Tonight I have to also grade their long papers and so for the first time must write “D” or maybe even “F”. 8-( and that will be really hard for me to do and quite depressing. I will try my hardest to pep talk them into believing it is not failure but is just pointing out where they’re GOING to do better… they are all making an effort and have a good start.

The textbooks sort of blow. They’re okay, but I wish they were shorter.

(update: no… it’s too much… i can’t possibly get the papers back to them by Wednesday! omg!)

To do
right now: hot tub, then sleep early
– sxsw panel descrip short & long
– talk w odin (chat?)
– groceries (no probably not, must wait till wed. after teaching)
– class outline (overview of assignment suggestion, brainstorm in groups, walk around to help,
– respond on wiki list
– fiddle some more with filters, add more lists
– must go to stanf. library for that one poem for 5 fing. review (oops, forgot)
– to work by 10
– to sf and work more out of cafe
– date (yay!)

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Life is complicated

Yesterday I went to “work” because out of town people were still here and I really wanted to hang out more and get to know them in person more, before they scatter to the winds, AIM, and IRC. There was going to be game playing, but they had all been up till 4am and so were sluggishly computerbating en masse. I did learn how to tear a phone book in half and played a quick game or 2 of ice towers. I also fiddled around on paper with some reorganization of ideas for the “work” web page which I’m dying to put into practice, even if only roughly at first.

Then home a bit where I seemed to dive back into working, to some extent… I don’t even remember what I did… I made Moomin some food and we all had lunch. A short breathing space. Not enough.

& off to the tea party but first went to meet B. at a cafe. yeah that cafe. i like it… what can I say… must i apologize? The coffee’s good and I like it that i run into a million people i know there. Which I did… saw Irina and her friend Erin…. and ran into Caraja who was looking angelic and ethereal in her outfit for wwd. She gets very tense and buzzed up beforehand and works on her stuff for it even more and writes way more for it so I didn’t want to interrupt her – we hung out quietly – I know what that feeling is like and I get it too before performing for anything – i only do well if I can isolate a bit and get that sense of focus and concentration. Then B came and we geeked out a tiny bit and had coffee but a_ I didn’t want to distract Caraja and b) I was embarrassed to have whatever serious conversation was going to happen, in front of her. So as we left B said that the conversation was a bad one and she had done something shitty. Eep…I braced myself for something horrible such as “fuck off, I’ve reached my limit, and the shitty thing i’ve done is to say in the first place i was okay with this.” But no. Instead she had read a bunch of my emails with X. Well that was depressing and made me feel sort of over-drama-ed, and yet I could also understand it, and mainly I could see that she was in a state, from having done it — that she was very miserable. And feeling guilty and bad about herself. b/c of past trust issues she, well… I’m sure everyone can grok why one would… I used to feel very fierce about my paper journals and that I would instantly break up with anyone who violated that. It’s funny but I don’t feel that way any more, I think because I have less that’s private and more that’s out there. But I still need that privacy. Honest to god, without going back to look, I can’t remember what I had written anyway. And was more immediately concerned with, whatever it was that was written, did it fatally upset/violate/ruin anything or was there any boundary crossed or lie exposed and apparently there was not. So that’s good to have clear, I guess. And perhaps the foolish quality of the emails moved B to the extremes of pity because she was like “OMG… you know… those boundaries? Um nevermind.” I was glad about that but still a bit freaked out. I think we were both moved by mutual compassion for each other’s human idiocy. That’s all for the good… Compassion is important… So is being able to be idiotic. (Insert Kirk-like speech about how compassion and idiocy are what makes us Human.) (I find that I do feel different and strange… and like there had been a nice island going on that is no longer private. And I had liked it. So am sad and unsure how i feel now, which I didn’t expect. ) Then we talked a whole bunch and I learned a bunch of her side of various things and issues and background and xyzzy’s background which was unbelievably fascinating and a little appalling and made me think about who I tend to like and particular patterns. Probably I’ll say more about this later but our conversation delved heavily into class and privilege and the good and bad and resentful and lovely results it can have. We also talked about various poly issues like nre and feeling like the boring partner at home and I talked about how then, if the nre-infested partner is nice to you, you feel like it’s sort of false or suspicious or out of pity or masking or a smokescreen. But, ideally, it is not. Now for example xyzzy the other day was like, “omg you’re coming over i must go clean the bathroom” in partial sarcasm at the partial seriousness. “Well then, better clean it just enough, but not too much so as not to look as if you did it specially for me, you ass.” Xyzzy is the sort of lovely quick person who understood that even before I said it and even as he said what he said. And of course that is appalling because even the tiny seed of feeling like one might be about to want to clean the bathroom extra for one’s new crush is guilt-inducing because obviously one SHOULD lovingly clean the bathroom and primp and do some extra bathing, or whatever whorish things one does, for one’s actual partner who lives there, to impress them, and this leads to the realization of one’s mistakes and idiocy and ability and desire to fix that. So ideally the result of that tiny seed of guilt is that one converts it by internal alchemy into realizing that one actually should, and does, and will, clean the bathroom extra for THEM and that that is actually an important part of love and partnership. So that is part of the cool thing about being poly – you have moments where you realize things like that. Right??? Or, one feels it and then acts even more guilty or (if me) defiantly anti-guilty. (One of my many failings.)

I feel complicated, and part of how I work that out is by writing this junk and so… there. I hope that was all sufficiently cryptic for everyone. I bet if I ran an analysis of this blog, paragraph length would correlate with heinousness of content.

The tea party was for yarnivore. Oh how awesome she is. I have a strong feeling we could have stayed up all night babbling (sort of like how I feel about elswhere, and … well lots of other people really… ) And I flirted very heinously with many people and sort of couldn’t help it. I was a little bit hyper and giggly from coffee, exhaustion, and general tension. Yes… when slightly freaked out, I get *perkier*… it’s weird. Vito_excalibur was there! And she’s one of my favorite people ever! She told me to read: blindsight by peter watts and what passing bells – fanfic sequel to A Deeper Season by lightgetsin on LJ. Will link and will do. I tried to persuade her to read Gormglaith and we talked about the Naomi Novik books. As usual, I admired her eyelashes in a swoony secret way. This other dude P. that I met at othermag things and who is writing (wrote?) his dissertation on taxes paying for copyright use (or whatever the real term for that is) told me to watch a video about writing process and computeryness which I tagged on delicious… which looked interesting but potentially like it would piss me off over the moon and require much critiquing and ranting, so, we’ll see. Then I flirted some more, because when I start flirting and people flirt back and I like them, that’s what happens. And described some crazy ideas to G. who was like “I could make that!” Also he liked my ideas on fictional characters and could see the beauty of surfing other people’s rpg characters and how the secret half-elf furry bards of the world would all find each other and go off to their own very specific conventions and find true love.

Then off to wwd where we had a fabulous time and I met my uncle who i haven’t seen in a long long time. We grew up together and are about the same age and when I was little I totally looked up to him. We would play spies and car demolition derbies and would battle the tide with our intense sand-castling, and I read his countless Alistair Mclain books… like “Ice Station Zebra”. I liked how at lunch today he said that his frantic sand castle building and hard work on a pointless effort against an implacable enemy was the story of his whole life and sort of formed his personality. I met his wife for the first time; she is a bit shy b/c of language barrier i think, and is a fashion designer from colombia. They might move here if my uncle manages to close this deal (going deeply into debt) to buy this other dude’s music teaching studio. (He’s a guitar teacher and an amazing musician.) The other nice thing hanging out w/ him was the general sense of family sense of humor and a thing which I would characterize as arty transgressiveness and maybe a slight tendency to be insane, which comes out in all of us except my dad in varying degrees. (Family lore has it that the H*insons are the nice, sane side. And the Hemulen side has this shifty criminal artistic wild taint to it. This sort of genetic theory is bullshit but that’s how it goes in the story. You know how families have an “identified patient” or scapegoat in psych jargon? OUrs has an “identified sane person” instead and is completely opposite.) I was feeling even more tense about suddenly outing myself even further to my uncle (as poly etc) and about the completely over the top all-sex-all-the-time content of wwd this month and his ability and his wife’s to deal with that. They seemed amused yet overwhelmed. Then they really wanted to come along for the ride for the rest of the evening. Which was a taqueria for quick food and then a whiskey tasting party which was incredible… C. and F.’s huge floormat polar bear shaggy drooling newfie dog… whoa amazing… i’ve never seen a dog that huge and snuffalupagusy, but i liked it more than i liked most dogs. It was such a huge calm beast. Maybe they feed it tranquilizers in the 20 lbs of raw meat it must eat per day. I tasted a whiskey that was like licking a campfire or accidental cigarette ash, and it was strangely good. Then a sweeter flowery-er one. The names are lost to me. A. and I had a funny conversation about our poly blob and how it had just solidified in some very odd universe-contracting way and how possibly our blob now kicks the ass of the Muffy-blob of the south bay. I did not know we were in blobular competition but now realize a) we need a cult leader; A. can be the power behind the throne and cp can be our figurehead b) there are pieces missing in the puzzle and someone has a duty to fill them; we decreed who had to do that puzzle-connecting and who was nebulously connected and had to be knit tighter in. I love this sort of completely awful and funny conversation… Really, there will never be a blob but there is certainly an interesting and ever shifting cloud or network. I went out to the porch to do a little bit of connecting and much-needed brain-dumping with xyzzy… Later as I was leaving I felt a surge of knowing just where Caraja’s head was at and a palpable wave of how bad she needed to be home in her pajamas coming down from the performance high and whiskey imbibing and we hugged and promised some movie-watching later this week. I really like knowing people that well and the moments when I realize where they’re at and how far it is from particular appearances or impressions other people have of where they’re at.

Today, work in morning, catching up, blogging a bit (here in draft form) and emailing and looking at all the things i need to do. There are a lot, and I’m behind. end of Feb. I have a 1.5 hour blogging class to teach and must make a handout, and I want it to be good. And also end of feb. a lecture on translation stuff which I’d like to do well on and not pull out of my ass. I feel that “work” is going to eat my life completely because it’s interesting and absorbing and there’s a ton to do that I won’t be able to stop doing or thinking about… crap… (but it’s good.) So am panicked a bit about the other projects. The translation zine re-print is going to have to be pushed back to april and i have to tell the guest editor that asap. i need also to prep with “Layne” for sxsw in early mid march. there was another grant deadline but that might fall by the wayside…. And there is working for src which was nice but also… uncertain. one day or evening a month maybe… I am behind in all my ‘official’ blogging and will have to think on what to cut, which is upsetting but has to happen. (I could like, blog once a month everywhere still, but … that is probably not the thing to do.)

Then we went to the city to meet Minnie & Vim and my uncle & his wife and walked around the Haight, had lunch, & went to the beach. We talked to a kite buggy dude… and Moomin drew a road in the sand that went to the edge of the world AND BEYOND.

I just spent hours ignoring Moomin and working on stuff for my class. It turned out to be really the next 3 classes or maybe 4 because I kept changing my mind about what I was doing in what order. UGH. I lost the thread a bit of the class’s arc. I will hope now not that they all pass the class but that they all improve visibly. And i hope anyone who works and improves will pass. I have assigned and graded stuff every single class. And as I build a picture of what they can do and still aren’t getting, I’m trying to figure out how to teach what is missing and it’s super hard because they are all missing different pieces. At this point I want to pause and look back at each one of them, one by one, and tell them “YOU need to read chapter 2. And YOU need to go study comma splices and brainstorming. And YOU over here, you need to practice extracting what the main topic of something is.” That would be possible but would take me ages and ages to do properly. I’m worried. Also I’m worried that I’m not slow and coherent enough.

Trust me that this brain dump is more than necessary despite the hour and a half it took me to write and all the things i have to do. Plus, we have to entertain Iris, who lives to decrpyt this sort of thing and to write me back 20 page letters with instructive stories about her own life and stunning snarky insights about mine.

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Pan’s Labyrinth and the geek book

I spent all day grading papers – with a brief visit & gossip with the badass mamas. V. who works at the cafe is in another English class and asked me to give her my papers for mine – and I said I’d read her essays. (How not, after she has nicely made me food for the last 2 years.) 8 of 31 students (there are 2 more) will fail the final or will be *right* on the edge if they don’t utterly haul ass and take extra writing labs and tutoring and study. I’d say that 3 of them will fail anyway – they just are not there yet for one reason or another.

So I hope they take my advice! It’s immediately clear about who will be able to do it and who won’t. I can’t tell how hard people will work, for all the students in the middle range of ability. It depends on if they pay attention and practice the work. If they just try a little bit they’ll mostly pass the class. And some of them have fabulous potential, so I hope they have time & inclination to try hard.

Signed up on thanks to Andy… It’s nifty!

Last night I saw Pan’s Labyrinth with C. – we wrote a bit in a cafe and had dinner first – weird taiwanese dumplings with beef and mushroom, the dumpling part being very sticky glutinous rice flour – & the movie was AMAZING… I really loved it — the hideous intensity – And I agree with C. that I kept expecting it to sexualize the girl – but it didn’t & that was awesome in itself – Warning – this movie will mindfuck you completely! There were many places I couldn’t watch – esp. the torture – and a bit of the horrible thing with the eyes in its hands. ANYWAY it’s an amazing movie – please don’t miss it – I should review it in depth & coherently on feministsf, later when I have 2 brain cells to rub together –

Rook is making up some awesome stuff & background for our new game – chinese & korean dragons – alternate history – etc. and z_amber is chiming in with more of it (matriarchy!)

I need to grocery shop & get stuff for Moomin’s science experiments – I remembered to buy plane tickets for sxsw – cheap!! – must get Moomin the graphic novelly biographies and histories – test tubes and holder – beakers, and 2 lab coats (extra for when a friend is over) – and do some more organizing of mail folders for new mailing lists – and get a new rss reader set up (I am fed up with bloglines)

Then – can’t wait – the reading for the geek book! 7:00 pm: Reading for She’s Such a Geek, at Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia St. — with editors Charlie Anders and Annalee Newitz, and contributors Jenn Shreve, Ellen Spertus, Corie Ralston, Kristin Abkemeier and Jessica Dickinson Goodman. Check out

Then I have a hot date. 😎

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My day underneath the drooling at gadgets

It was a long amazing day – after coffee, making Moomin’s lunch, a bit of email checking, I went off to R1tual Roasters in SF, intending to do some blogging and then call Z. but he was already there. About 8 million digressions-all-at-once later, which was extremely pleasant – I love talking with people who are enthusiastic and intuitive and who talk a lot and don’t mind mutual interruptiness – I can’t even remember all the details but we talked about baroqueness, community, spaces between where stuff happens, games that don’t make sense but that are fun to play, role-playing games, narrative theory, research, more about nonsense, and open source software, and other things, but I am the soul of discretion so I will not mention them. I suggested a debutante ball and hazing party. Though I’m debutante-predator and hazing-master enough for anyone new to town. Can’t remember the last time I had such nice instant conversational chemistry with someone… I wonder how long we could talk in a marathon conversation without running out of things to say? Then off to Macworld where people seemed drained of all soul and spirit after the mass hypnosis and catharsis of seeing Steve Jobs in the flesh; like the aftermath of a rock concert but without actual drugs or beer. (iBeer? iBong?) On camera suddenly I said ditzy things for the hell of it; had no opinion on the iphone but said that i’d buy it, it looked nifty. (And I would if it were maybe $250 which is what i heard it was, but not for double that, which is what it actually is.) I swept through the entire exhibit hall looking at everything – talking to random people – continuing to want to buy the Circus Ponies software – fighting the urge to do it right away – And blogged a bit in the blogger lounge, which was a good idea,…. talked to Max / Myriam who I know from Sf lit stuff and from mailing lists and LJ – she has a new tech / gadget mobile blog, tnkgrl Mobile. LL found me in there and we bounced off. I bounce – she sort of slinks and ferrets and pops up here and there – unexpectedly – like a sea monster or a secret agent – It is charming. We looked at the space thing and ran around some more and then went off to lunch. She tried to take me to Empress of China, a restaurant on the 6th (and top) floor of a building that started out with 2 floors of Chinese department store. You have to (or, we did because it is her habit to go underground and pop up again, as noted above) But they were closed for the interlude between lunch and dinner. Lunch at uninspired but okay pho place nearby; talked about maps and manifolds and software and mailing lists and conferences and the conference and lord knows what all I went on about, blog stuff, blogher, sxsw, my own projects, because I had had a lot of very strong coffee. But I felt magically entertaining. She then took me to a secret public-accessible rooftop garden that you get to by going through a fancy mall. ON the roof we began to inhabit an extended flight of fancy about What Would Secret Agents Do, or what would happen in a game or a comic book or an action movie; which roofs to jump off of with a parachute or where the helicopter would land, grappling hooks, telescoping poles, squads of incompetent CIA agents and police and army guys who never look up. I began to wonder for the 2nd time today whether I was on a date. We exited the mysterious rooftop through the Ralph Lauren furniture store which was ridiculously fancy and then turned into a sort of under-building tunnel and clothing store and stairs going up; room after room; I couldn’t stop giggling and then we popped up again on another street. Fun! I became exhausted though and my knees all hurty. Hot chocolate – resting – more mild conferencyness – Then had sushi with Caraja – And then home – where Rook is messing with a script he wrote to interpret the motion sensor on his laptop – and also planning out stuff for his rpg coming up (Macho Women with Guns).


In between all that I had another bazillion ideas and thoughts which seemed of great importance at the time.

I am still obsessed with that space software and how they should really really write an open API for it or at least license it to some decent gaming company which would do that; then people would write space wars games, and natural disasters and asteroids crashing into planets and terraforming and economic games about mining the asteroid belt; and would build (LL’s idea here but then mine too) imaginary SF planetscapes and universes, so we would get Ringworld and Trantor and such, so you could fly through them and build more cool as shit stuff, or go visit Burroughs’ Mars or all the other Marses ever created, because you KNOW people would come and build it. I told all this to the CEO-looking guy and the guy who wrote the app. Free ideas! They should give me a copy of it and then squirrel off and follow my orders; thanks, dudes! You’ll thank me for it when you sell the whole deal to some space mmorpg and become zillionaires. All I will have is the glory of having thought of it and blogged it first, like when I invented the blue-footed boobies tshirt, and hats with ears.

Horrors, we thought of the ads on the moon… 5 bucks a month, buy an ad on Trantor…?