Chris Angelini's LiveJournal|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
Chris Angelini's LiveJournal:
[ << Previous 20 ]
[ << Previous 20 ]
|Wednesday, January 4th, 2017|
I'm a little disappointed with my reading tally for 2016; so much happened during last year that I didn't get as many chances to read as I'd have liked. Here's the (probably incomplete) list of what I read last year, culled mostly from order histories.
Magic and Mistletoe
The Dark Forest
Once Broken Faith
Full of Briars
Velveteen vs the Seasons
Full Fathom Five (Craft series)
Fool's Errand (Tawny Man)
Golden Fool (Tawny Man)
Fool's Fate (Tawny Man)
Words Like Coins
The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince
Ansible season two
Mistborn: Secret History
The Bands of Mourning
The Language of Power
The Last Steersman
The Magicians of Night
Shadows of Self
Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus
A Closed and Common Orbit
I'm Supposed to Protect You From All This
Real Food Fake Food
The Basoon King
Myths, Lies and the Half-Truths of Language Usage
The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World
Scientology: Abuse at the Top
The War of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors
Born a Crime
The Church of Fear
Forensic history: Crimes, Frauds and Scandals
1066: The Year That Changed Everything
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
One More Thing
Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground
Trust Me, I'm Lying
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas
The Barbarian Empires of the Stepps
|Monday, May 9th, 2016|
I finished the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider over the weekend. Microsoft insisted on giving it to me free a few months ago and who am I to argue?
I remember playing the first TR game back in... before the turn of the century, I think. It was interesting but not particularly compelling, so I never finished it.
That is absolutely *not* what I experienced with the reboot. The game is absolutely incredible. The sense of action, of freedom and of the sheer *joy* of discovery is very much alive in this game. Somehow, it pulls off a great rush of adrenaline without requiring fast-twitch reflexes. The game also triggered my acrophobia more often than I can count!
Rhianna Pratchett turns in a great story for this game to follow: it's the tale of a young woman named Lara who is tested and pushed to her every limit, growing into the person whose legend will one day be told (most likely in the sequels). The script and the game engine work well together to create a strong sense of empathy with the main character. You wince at her losses, you bleed when she bleeds and you share in her triumphs. Rounding it all out is Camilla Luddington's voice acting, which is the icing on an all around great cake.
I think I'd recommend this game to almost anyone who enjoys video games with a bit of action to them.
|Friday, May 6th, 2016|
Long day today; but it was for a good cause. Last night was Rifftrax: Timechasers, which was amazing and takes place in Vermont, so there's that. After that we decided to double down and went to see Civil War.
Absolutely a blast of a night. I don't think I could do this again for at least a year. ;->
|Wednesday, April 27th, 2016|
Extended my daily workout by another five minutes. Now I'm up to an even half hour. Also notched up the tension for a third of it. New trip length, 6.25 miles.
|Saturday, April 23rd, 2016|
Conspiracy theories are one of those things that pop up like weeds every day in so many different ways and its hard to avoid their influence. Just about everyone has held one or two of the smaller conspiracy theories in their lives; and a large number of perfectly rational people still believe in things that don't make much sense in the light of day.
This is largely due to the fact that we're wired from birth to look for patterns and find them wherever possible. We pattern seek because way back when, the reward for matching a pattern (say a tiger hidden in the woods) was surviving another day. False positives had little to no consequence; if you run away from danger that isn't there, you're still alive unless you run into the maw of a waiting shark or something.
It can be really hard to talk to someone about their deeper held conspiracy theories. In part, not only do we want to have matched a pattern and seen something hidden; we also want to be part of the few who have Seen the Truth and understood that which separates us from the 'sheeple' who mill contentedly around us. This kind of thinking often self-reinforces, because many theories hold that there's a conspiracy of silence going on which prevents the truth from getting out and it's all up to *us* to make sure that these dark figures don't get away with what they have planned.
Fortunately, a science writer (and totally not a lizard person) has done some math
centred around how hard it would be for a conspiracy of silence to exist and remain silent. Since, as he points out in this article, not everyone who believes in conspiracy theory is unreasonable, this might be a good way to engage with people who haven't fallen too far down the rabbit hole and are willing to take a step back and use a neutral tool like mathematics to analyze their beliefs.
This is something that I've believed in for a long time: vast conspiracies fail the smell test because the amount of work required to keep them secret exceeds how much work any group of people could reasonably do. The more people in your vast network of shadowy figures, the more people there are who might talk about it and let things slip. Thinking that someone won't have an attack of conscience or just a moment of loose lips is to fundamentally misunderstand human nature. In movies and television shows we patch this problem by having large panopticons of surveillance that alert stone-hearted assassins and cleaners to possible breaches of confidentiality; but even those would-be counter-measures involve people who are just as subject to the laws of human nature as anyone else. So I'm very glad that someone who actually groks math has sat down and crunched the numbers for us.
And lastly, remember that some conspiracies do exist. They just exist much closer to the surface than we are led to believe by popular media and our own imaginations. Conspiracies leak information proportional to the number of people in them and there's not a darned thing even the most clever plotter can do to completely eliminate that.
|Tuesday, April 5th, 2016|
As a lot of you know, one of my deepest and most abiding passions has always been tabletop roleplaying. What started as a curiosity in my early years grew into an opportunity to meet amazing people, trade narratives with them and to watch as the act of structured storytelling became more mature and cohesive. Some of the greatest people I know come out of the RPG world.
So it was with a very heavy heart (and sadly, utter lack of shock) when a friend pointed me towards this article: http://latining.tumblr.com/post/141567276944/tabletop-gaming-has-a-white-male-terrorism-problem
Sadly, she's not wrong. Tabletop role-playing is and seems intent on remaining a white male's dominion. Too many participants enjoy using gaming as an excuse to throw away social mores and act like... well... terrorists to those who aren't like them.
I hate this. I really hate this because so many people are striving to blacken the art that I love best. Over the past few decades we've seen more non-White non-Male non-CIS gamers embrace the hobby. I've really enjoyed trading perspectives with them and seeing what interesting things come out of those narratives; I feel that I'm much richer for it. And yet we still do... well, this. Something absolutely inexcusable and something beyond tolerating.
I remember participating in a game a couple years back where I was playing a female character; and throughout the game, one of the gamers' characters (a thin expy of himself) interactions with mine generally included the words 'stupid bitch' or some other gender-targeted slur. If this is what I got from just pretending to be a female for three hours I cannot imagine how much worse this person and people like him must be to actual women! I have a standing policy that he (and others like him) are not welcome in any game that I run; but that's barely a slap on the wrist to someone like that, who is no doubt emotionally rewarded for his intolerant misogyny by others in the gaming community who share his particular brand of sickness. Happy ending, though... I haven't seen this guy at any convention I've attended recently. I hope to high Heaven that he's been banned.
Speaking of which, creating spaces that are intolerant of intolerance is probably the best thing that we (gamers) can do to push back against this trend. If you're living in the Bay Area, the best convention I've ever attended (and I will move heaven and earth to never miss this con) is the Big Bad Con (http://www.bigbadcon.com/
). This convention is explicitly tolerant along the entire spectrum (gender, gender identity, sexuality, etc) and is filled with the best gamers I have ever known. Every year that I've attended this con, I've left with a few new friends and gaming sessions so intense that I can still remember them almost verbatim years later. This is a place for friends, no matter their shape or form or belief.
I want to see more gaming spaces like this created. Not 'safe spaces' but spaces that are outright intolerant of intolerance. Places where you can be celebrated for who you are rather than just tolerated because we don't wanna rock the boat. And then I want to be a part of as many of these spaces as I can, because the rewards have always been rich.
|Friday, March 25th, 2016|
Yesterday, I was listening to Nick Offerman discuss Wendell Berry (a topic upon which Nick has much good to say and has a very compelling way of talking about it); one of the things he discussed was Berry's attitude towards work. The part that struck me was his thoughts on 'pretty work'; in the sense of someone looking at what you've done and saying 'that's very pretty work'.
That's part of what I like about being in the field I'm in. When things are at their best is when I'm able to devote myself to making things not just function but function well. There's a satisfaction to writing code in a way that will prevent the need for a future refactoring... to get it right the first time, structurally. There will always be days when I have to go with whatever's 'good enough'; but when I get to put polish on my work, I get a sense of satisfaction out of what I've done and I can feel very proud of that day's work.
It made me realise that I'm lucky to be in a job that allows me to take pride in what I do and affords me the chance to put a craftperson's care into the end result. I'm not very good with my hands; I've never had a talent for woodworking or painting or anything else like that... but I can still experience that satisfaction day to day. I should really never complain about my job again.
I mean I will. Let's be honest. But I shouldn't.
|Friday, March 18th, 2016|
Finished a couple more audiobooks on the commute.
The first was B.J. Novak's One More Thing. This was an odd and entirely wonderful book that I'd picked up last year and had never gotten around to listening. It's very hard to explain what this book is about; but essentially it's a book of short (sometimes just a few lines, sometimes several 'pages') stories that are a fascinating blend between O Henry's style and the bizarrely compelling fantastical premises of the best Kids In The Hall sketches. Some of them are terribly funny. Some of them are sad. Some are thoughtful. And a handful of them are all three at once. To enjoy it, I found that I needed to just let go of my preconceptions and let the dada wash over me. Once I went with the flow, it was amazing how well the stories worked for me.
Like many audiobooks these days, this one adds value in the form of guest readers who step in to take different parts. Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Katey Perry, Emma Thompson and Rainn Wilson are amongst the guests who join Novak in reading this book. All of them are totally with the bizarre program and do a great job of bringing this book to life.
Just remember. No one goes to Heaven to see Dan Fogelberg.
The second was The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon by Professor Bart D Ehrman, from The Great Courses lecture series. Covering a topic that I've always loved, Ehrman explores the path that the Christian New Testament takes to go from a collection of letters and gospels into the twenty-seven books that are Scriptural canon today. Rather than just springing into existence, our current canon was the result of many years of Darwinian evolution, wherein books that found favour with congregations (and ultimately church founders) were copied and recopied and passed on to future generations; while those that fell out of favour stopped being copied and eventually fell out of sight. The final canon was fixed in place only once the printing press came along to allow for the same books to be printed in the same order time after time.
One of the best parts of Ehrman's lecture is that he takes pains to place the books into as much historical context as he can. While there's far more material than could be covered in just a six hour course, he tries to provide representative samples of what the various alternative gospels were all about, why they were written and the points of dogma that ultimately caused them to be rejected by various Christian communities. He also provides fascinating insight into other Christian polities who lost the battle for orthodoxy, such as the Gnostics (and if this is a topic that fascinates you, I highly recommend doing a whole lecture course on the Gnostic faiths. They're outre as heck, but they're also intensely creative and thoughtful).
My favourite part of the entire series is that he takes the time to place the Book of Revelation into its proper historical context. Today, Revelation is the only Apocalypse that we have, so we consider it something of a unique, special book. But at the time when it was written, Revelation was just one in a series of Apocalypses written in that particular style. Apocalypses were written by both Jews and Christians and the style appears to have emerged from Jewish communities as an answer to why their people continued to be oppressed and harassed despite keeping the Law. Since early Christianity was really just a sect of the Jewish faith, it got to inherit writing styles such as this.
Revelation is also explored in its historical context as a subversive writing meant to promise what would become of the oppressive Roman empire once the Christ returned to make things better (keep in mind that many to most Christians during the first century held to Paul's belief that Jesus' return was imminent). The symbolism used in Revelation is unpacked and explored for what it was meant to convey to a contemporary reader who was under that Empire's heel. While I'd sort of known the history behind Revelation before, this helped me put the various pieces together to come to grips with what the thing was actually about.
Interestingly, Revelation only barely made it into the New Testament (and made it all the poorer for its inclusion, in my opinion). It was considered too naively literal to be canonized during a time when the symbolic reading of scripture was becoming la dernier crie. Another apocalypse, The Apocalypse of Peter almost made it into the canon in its place. This book was a fascinating guided tour taken by the apostle Peter as he's shown the wonders of Heaven and the torments of Hell. Ultimately, it was rejected for the same reasons that Revelation almost got the axe: it was just too literal a story.
Peter's apocalypse had many scenes of hell in which sinners were tormented by being strung up by a body part that symbolized their sins in life: liars were hung over hellfire by their tongues; the vain were hung by their hair; and adulterers were dangled over the pits of hell by their, er... members.
I can't help but fervently wish that if Peter had made it into the canon rather than Revelation, the execrable authors of Left Behind (Jenkens and LaHaye) would have instead published a book series with the somewhat on the nose title of 'Left Hanging'. Just a thought!
|Wednesday, March 9th, 2016|
Finished another audio course on my way to/from work: Jewish Intellectual History: 16th to 20th century, taught by Professor David Ruderman.
Very interesting course; a good survey of the various movements of Jewish thought, both orthodox and secular. Had a problem with the professor that's probably just peculiar to me: I had to focus hard, or my mind would drift a little while he was talking. I've had this with other professors in the past, so I know it's not necessarily that he's boring.
I didn't realise that a *lot* of the action in this field took place in Germany over the course of quite a few years. I also got insight into some really thought-provoking ways to think about God.
|Thursday, February 25th, 2016|
Finished another audiobook on the Commute that Ate Manhattan. This one was Yes Please, by Amy Poehler. I figured that since I read Bossypants, I should read the book written by Tina Fey's comedy-wife. ;-> Also, I'm a fan of the Upright Citizen's Brigade, so I was hoping she'd have stories about that in here.
The book was marvellous. I have very little interest in what celebrities have to say, so I approached this book as a comedy bit instead; and I wasn't disappointed. Yes Please is funny from beginning to end; but fortunately, it does a lot more than just (just? comedy is hard, darn it) bring the funny. By turns its hilarious and thought provoking and sad and happy and in one place, annoying! And the whole ride was great. The book is done somewhat stream of consciousness style with her personal timeline shifting around quite rapidly when she's telling a true to life story. This makes the book less like a dry recital of history and more like you're in a car with this quirky, funny woman who's trying to recount a story to you and then she remembers something else, so she has to tell you that story so you'll understand this one and halfway through that one, there's another...
It's read by Amy herself and she really didn't phone in the performance. She's also invited along several special guest stars to do bits throughout her book. Patrick Stewart reads a haiku in those dulcet tones of his; I swear, he could make me listen to an audio of himself reading the phone book. But none of her guests overshadows Amy who is the real star of this show.
The last chapter (and disclosure, the one that I found a little bit annoying) is read live. No, they don't send Ms Poehler to sit in your car and read it (though that might be awesome.. if logistically tricky...); she read the last chapter in front of a live audience at the UCB theatre, so you get a lot of energy from the crowd. Its both a nice change and also a bit jarring at the same time... at times I stopped feeling like I was listening to a book and was listening to a Bit on stage. Which may have been the point, come to think of it... ah well.
Should you pick up this audiobook? Well, a lot depends on how interested you are in what a very funny comedian has to say. I've been a closet fan of Poehler's for a long time; and she has been in some of the best comedy I've ever seen... that that overcame my general ennui about books written by celebs. There's a lot to like here and her presentation is so much fun that I probably missed the normal things that bug me when reading a mémoire, which speaks well of her writing and vocal stylings.
Next up is another Great Courses lecture series, starting tomorrow!
|Saturday, February 20th, 2016|
I've just finished a couple more audiobooks as part of my daily commute/exercise/walk places routine. Both are ones that I'd feel safe in recommending.
The first was 1066: The Year that Changed Everything, a lecture series by the Great Courses (taught by Professor Jennifer Paxton). This was a laser-focused six-lecture series about the historical events leading up to the Norman conquest. The professor has a real love of this material and it comes out in the course of her lectures; and that's probably in no small part because the material itself is *fascinating*.
Starz? Showtime? HBO? If you're reading this, you totally need to make your next anachronistic historical drama series out of the Norman conquest. There are so many great figures and situations that you could adapt to the small screen! Plus, you won't have to go searching far for strong female characters... they're all over the place during this time period! Remember who turned you onto this money-maker, guys. Now get to it. I want to start watching this by October 14th.
The second audiobook that I listened through was Trust Me, I'm Lying by Ryan Holiday. This book essential reading material, I think, for absolutely everyone who follows the big blog networks out on that there internet. This book is partially a confession and partially a warning about how easily online news sources can be manipulated into accepting whatever narrative you wish to insert into them. Holiday was an online media manipulator for many years and goes through the many ways in which he pulled the wool over the public's eyes through the use of manufactured controversy; trading up the chain from small blogging outfits to major news networks; and feeding the insatiable maw that is the constant fight for clickthrough traffic.
The book paints a fairly dismal picture of online journalism; and the really scary thing is that it doesn't seem particularly far off the mark. Blogs make money from page views of their sponsors' ads, whether those ads are actually seen or not. This results in the need to churn out attention grabbing, seemingly important and sensational news stories and 'exclusives' to keep eyes on their stories and thus money coming in from advertisers. The responsibility for this constant churn is passed down to the bloggers who work for these outfits, encouraging them to produce news (or 'news') as often and as rapidly as possible.
Because of this need for speed, bloggers have largely embraced what's referred to as 'beta journalism', 'iterative journalism' and also 'not journalism'. The idea behind 'beta journalism' is that you put out a story the moment you hear a rumour or catch the faintest whiff that something newsworthy might exist. Then you iteratively update the story as new information comes in. In theory, this should result in an end product that's just as polished as a major news outlet's story. In practice, this means that viewers will read the story once, accept its premise and then never see the updates, because the human mind is designed to believe first and analyze after (if at all). This practice also leads to dispensing with such frills of journalism as 'verifying sources' or 'getting comments from the subject of the stories' or 'being right'.
It's fascinating that Holiday is able to trace a direct link between the arc of online news and the arc of the US printed news' historical trajectory which began with party papers, proceeded to yellow journalism and finally found some degree of respectibility and trustworthiness through the subscription news model. Blogs are currently in the yellow journalism phase of having underpaid newsies yelling their headlines as loud as possible to drown out the rest; though there is no real evidence that there's going to be any sort of transition from this phase to a subscription model, in which newspapers court returning readers through trustworthiness and are freed of the need to daily out-compete other papers by having perpetual subscribers.
And just like yellow journalism papers, blogging networks are more than happy to manufacture news when it doesn't just fall into their laps. Steve Jobs, for instance, was declared dead at least three times by blogs in the five years before his actual death. A political figure was drummed out of office because an out of context clip of one of her speeches (which was about how *not* to be racist) was edited to make it seem like she was giving a hate speech. ACORN... well, you know about the tragedy behind ACORN. Planned Parenthood... well, you're angry as hell about what's happening to Planned Parenthood. These blogging networks are passing conjecture and intrigue off as news and then doing nothing to clear up their mistakes when the truth comes out. If this doesn't sound like journalism to you... well, it doesn't to me either.
This book is highly recommended if you feel like completely ruining your daily blog check; and I think it's worth ruining your daily blog check. If nothing else, it will help you (and me, since I have not been innocent of being taken in by blog controversies, over and over and over either) think more critically about the stories you read and what you accept as news and what you instead accept as innuendo.
Two excellent audios. And only one of them made me terribly depressed about the world. Hurrah!
|Wednesday, February 10th, 2016|
Just got back from seeing The Witch, which is a movie that I've been yearning to watch for months, ever since the first trailer hit the silver screen. As some of you know, I'm an immense fan of the horror genre and I'm always on the lookout for something genuinely thought-provoking, creepy and interesting. I'm also always on the lookout for a genuinely frightening movie; but sadly *that* is something that I never seem able to find. Alas.
The Witch delivered on everything except for scaring me, however. It's a stark... often times brutal.. look at the fate of a family which unknowingly lives at the very boundaries of horrific and terrible things. While it uses the Puritanical religion of the time as a force to drive the narrative, the film actually has very little to say about religion... a turn of events that I found quite refreshing. None of the characters are simple or fall into the trap of being one-note zealots; every single one of them is a wonderful, flawed, overwhelmed human being who rely on their faith for guidance and strength in the midst of things they cannot understand. There's no real indictment of that faith here which again, is terribly refreshing. The film could have fallen into the trap of delivering a Message rather than simply telling a story and letting the viewer draw back their own conclusions about the matter.
Really, the movie doesn't preach anything at the viewer. It's an effective figurative window into people going about their lives under horrifying conditions. Just as real life rarely serves up a neatly packaged moral message; neither does this film and that makes it so much easier to become immersed in the world presented to the audience.
I'm largely discussing the movie in terms of what it doesn't do rather than what it does because this movie is at its best when you find the horror in the margins or in the absences. Commonplace and comforting things become alien and dangerous. The normal becomes uncanny; this juxtaposition helps the movie get under its viewer's skin and make things feel... wrong. The soundtrack, which is largely comprised of violin and voices, collaborates completely in this process with volume playing tricks with the movie-goer's perceptions and dissonance priming the viewer for events to come.
As a horror film, I think the Witch succeeded admirably. I'm still trying to work out a good feminist analysis of the film, though. On the one hand, it tells a classic tale of the fear of a woman's power; on the other hand, it does absolutely nothing to make that power appeal to the male gaze. It's going to take me a few days to percolate this reading in my head.
So yeah. If you like horror as much as I do, go see this movie. It may not tell a new tale; but it tells the tale it does with a fresh set of tools in its toolkit of terror. That alone makes it worthy of checking out.
|Friday, January 29th, 2016|
|You can go home again...
The other night, I set up a Chromecast audio and an old speaker set in my room. I flipped through my collection to see what I wanted to play to inaugurate the setup and came across The Best of Simon and Garfunkel (which Google Play had offered as one of its many, many free album offers). Feeling a little nostalgic, I hit play.
It really took me back. On the day that I went off to university for the first time, this album was playing in the tape deck of the family van. I'd made a copy of it the day before for whatever reason. Because I'd listened to the album over the course of the three hour drive, the songs became truly embedded in my mind.
Over the course of the next four months, I would return again and again to my copy of that album. The brooding, philosophical stylings of the artists put me in the perfect state of mind for starting a new life, filled with new experiences and learning how to be myself all over again. It reminded me strongly of the car trip up and helped to stave off homesickness because of that strong aural connection. It became the soundtrack of at least my first semester of university, if not the first year.
I haven't listened to that album since I made the move from tape to CD, lo so many years ago. Until the other night, when memory crashed over the shore of my mind and I was taken back to when I was a much younger, much different person. It reminded me of some of the best, most wonderful and terrifying and exciting times of my life.
So thank you, S&G, for having been there with me. And thank you to my parents, for playing that album en route to my new adventure.
|Friday, January 22nd, 2016|
|Be Kind To Your Introvert...
Be good to your introvert.
Your introvert isn't like you. He has a finite amount of emotional energy to spend on things like being with other people. He still has to spend these 'social calories' doing mundane things, like chatting, answering questions or just interacting.
Your introvert doesn't hate you. He just has a good sense of how much social energy he has left. He's been an introvert for all of his life and has learned what he can and can't handle. He's going to want to try to find space for himself when he feels his limits are getting close. That might mean he has to draw boundaries and force separations that you don't understand. He's sorry about that.
Your introvert will do his best to be social and if he's had a chance to recharge recently, he may really enjoy it. If he hasn't had a chance to recharge though, he may find being so very stressful. This is not him being a big baby. This is him fighting hard to not disappoint you while something inside him is screaming for mercy.
Your introvert totally gets that you don't understand how his brain functions. It's a source of endless frustration to him, but he tries to be understanding with people who seem to have endless amounts of social calories to spend. He also realises that he doesn't really understand how your brain functions either. He knows it isn't your fault that you think he's making a big deal over nothing when he says he needs some space. But please understand, no, he really does need that space. It's not an option for him to keep on being social. You need to think of your introvert like a can of coffee. Each social act he takes drains off a layer of ground coffee. When you reach the bottom of the coffee can, there's no more coffee left to give.
Your introvert probably really enjoys being social. Him being an introvert doesn't mean that he wants to be a hermit all day, every day.
Yes, your introvert gets emotional. He often gets emotional because he has an empty coffee can. He'll be just fine if you can let him recharge his batteries. He may act weird when he's emotional. That's because he may actually be panicking inside. Don't make your introvert panic. It's not good for him.
Your introvert is a person, just like you. Be good to him and he'll be good to you.
One of the (few) nice things about having a commute to work that doesn't involve a bicycle is that I'm getting to listen to my audiobooks in bigger chunks. I've been able to go through a couple of very interesting books in the last few weeks (adjusted for vacation).
The first was Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson. Jenny is a person who has led a life in which she's had to deal with a panoply of mental health issues like anxiety, depression, the urge to pull out her own hair, etc. She has taken the incidents of her life and rather than hide them, put them together in an amazingly funny and often touching series of anecdotes, which in turn help other people who have some of these issues know that they're not alone. This is the furthest thing possible from a 'tell all' book... this is a comedian mining her personal pain to deliver a series of amazing punchlines. I also highly recommend her first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened; I even more highly recommend reading both as audiobooks, as they're narrated by Jenny herself and thus contain an amazing amount of subtext and emotional resonance.
The second of my sojourn books was Scientology: Abuse at the Top, by Amy Scobee. Now I 'love' insider looks at Scientology (love is in scare quotes because the actual melange of emotions that I feel while reading or listening to these books is one of horror, sympathy and fascination... none of which is really anything close to love) because the religion does a whole lot of harm and I want to help stop it doing that harm, if only by passing on some of the human rights violations going on within the church. I've read several insider's looks at the religion over the years, but Scobee's was a very different take from what I was used to. She made it to the upper echelons of Scientology while relatively young.. and discovered that she had landed herself in a culture of fear, lies, random punishment and lost dignity (hey, just like my former place of work over the last couple of years!). Whereas you'd think that the top Scientologists would be the best off as they dined on the profits accrued by the faithful's donations, you'd be wrong. The only person at the top who enjoys any of the withered fruits of Scientology's labours is the Miscavage Patch Kid himself, David Miscavage. With a sociopath's flair, he's taken something wrong, dishonest and harmful and has made it bad! Its really hard not to wonder just how much more future damage the church is going to do under this man's leadership.
I really should get back to listening to some more Great Courses; but lately I've been in the mood for something with a bit more of a human touch.
I really didn't mean to read straight through the Steerswoman cycle of books. Really, I didn't. Just before vacation, a friend recommended the series to me and I tossed the first book onto my Kindle to read on the trip.
Four books later...
The 'problem' with these books is that they're about really smart people doing really smart things. They're about people figuring things out from base principles and following logic to complex but reasonable deductions. And they're written in such a way that the reader has some insider knowledge that, if they're clever, lets them see where everything is leading.
In short, it's the ideal series for me. If you don't mind fantasy, I highly recommend it. The only downside is that the series is not yet finished, so grumble, mutter.
Around the time that my diverticula became infected, I managed to make a big change to my life. It's been a couple of weeks now and it's still sticking, so I feel like I can talk about it without jinxing it.
Diverticulitis requires you to go on a clear liquid diet to give your tract a chance to heal. Because of this, I started to grab sparkling mineral water from the drink machine at work rather than Coke. As some of you may know, I have quite a Coke problem.
Er, to the DEA agent who just sat up and said 'heeeey...', I mean the liquid kind of Coke.
Oh wait, cocaine is sometimes injected suspended in a solution. So I mean the Coke that's really bad for you.
Um... okay. Look. I have a problem with Coca-cola, okay? Go back to trying to catch Scarface, willya?
Anyway... as the time came for the clear liquid diet to end, I approached the drink machine at work and thought to myself... 'what if I didn't stop doing this? What if I just kept turning to bubbly, fizzy, unsweetened water to keep me going through the day?'
I'm not really sure how I managed to make it happen, but I decided then and there to not go back on the Coke train. I got my fizzy water instead and went back to my desk.
Then I did the same thing the next day. And the day after that. And so on. Until finally, I was really looking forward to that harsh but lightly flavoured fizz.
I do let myself have one or two colas a week -- preferably *one* -- which I hear is a good way to stay faithful to a decision like this. Also, as part of this I've just sort of backed away from sweeter things in general. I'm watching out for sugared foods and trying to just not eat them much at all. Somehow, it's working. When I absolutely need to have something sugary, I try to turn to carbonated fruit juices which often do the trick and give me that burst of carbonation that somehow makes liquids exciting.
(Of course with carbonated juices, you have to play the guessing game that nobody wins... 'What does natural flavouring mean?'. If I correctly guess that it means 'the anal secretions of a beaver', do I win or lose? I'm thinking I lose.)
(I'm also not kidding. Google castoreum if you don't believe me. Just make sure you aren't eating anything containing 'natural flavouring' when you do)
(Also, just about everything that you don't make from base components contains 'natural flavouring'. Sigh)
It's only been a couple of weeks, so it's too early to know if this is going to have a positive effect on me; but I'm feeling hopeful! I've seen a lot of articles that say that cutting way back on sugar pays all kinds of dividends. I for once would like the stock that *splits*, thank you very much.
My next step is to adjust my exercise schedule so that it's less irregular. I'm working on getting access to the gym at work. I'm going to set aside half an hour each lunch to go there and get some movement in. On the one hand, access is proving harder to get than I expected; but on the other, my workplace has a gym, so once I get access to it I don't have *anything* to complain about.
And I haven't forgotten that I owe everyone here getting back on the C25K training. It occurs to me that the campus where I work is pretty big. Running around it might be a good way to spend those lunch hours when I'm not at the gym. Of course, I just have to overcome the social anxiety that results from trying to do something like that when you're fat. Ah well.
Yesterday, I finally realised that I was in Mega-Canadian mode and today I switched out of it for the better.
What is Mega-Canadian mode, you ask? It's a mindset that I possess wherein I go from Polite to Polite And Don't Want To Cause You Any Bother. I don't go into MCM intentionally; it tends to switch on when I'm either under stress or when I'm adapting to new situations. Like, for instance, a new job.
Yesterday I found myself waffling about pressing on a work-stoppage issue because 'oh, I'm new and I don't want to be That Guy and...' And suddenly it hit me that I was waffling about not pressing on a *work stoppage problem*.
That is, to coin a phrase, 'not okay'. And it got me to take a step back and realise that yup... I'd gotten a little bit uber-Canadian and I really needed to stop that.
I spent today in Polite But Firm mode and the difference was like night and day. While in MCM mode I managed to press a few issues forward to completion over the course of a couple weeks; in PBF mode, I was able to resolve all but two of the things that I've been blocked on.
I really hate MCM. It crosses a line between being a good guy and trying to blend in with the wallpaper. I don't want to be the guy who blends into the wallpaper any more. I have a job to do and if things are getting in the way of that, I need to get behind those things and push hard without being a jerk-face ( do you like that word? I trademarked it, so it's mine now).
I feel much better about myself today. I'm not letting myself feel unnecessary fear and anxiety. It's a great way to go into the weekend. Speaking of which... weekend!
|Wednesday, January 6th, 2016|
By scumming through my amazon purchases, I was able to put together a mostly but not entirely complete list of the books I read in 2015.
The Outskirter's Secret
All the Windwracked Stars
An Examination of Collegial Dynamics as Expressed Through Marksmanship or Ladie's Night Out
Root of Unity
John Scalzi is Not A Very Popular Author and I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels
The Bohr Maker
Mystery Science Storybook: Bedtime Tales Based on the Worst Movies Ever
The Blood of Olympus
Please Don't Taunt the Octopus
A Neurological Study on the Effects of Canine Appeal on Psychopathy or Rio Adopts A Puppy
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Two Serpents Rise
Zero Sum Game
The Three-Body Problem
The Royal Assassin
The Goblin Emperor
The Changeling Sea
Authority: A Novel
Annihilation: A Novel
The Running of the Tyrannosaurs
Ansible: Season One
Three Parts Dead
A Red-Rose Chain
The Causal Angel
The Fractal Prince
Murder of Crows
The Long War
You're Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)
Frank: The True Story That Inspired The Movie
So You've Been Publically Shamed
Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas
From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity
The Secret Life of Words: English Words and their Origins
The Dead Sea Scrolls
Introduction to Judaism
The Greatest Controversies of Early Christian History
Greate Minds of the Medieval World
Great Pharohs of Ancient Egypt
The Conservative Tradition
|Thursday, December 3rd, 2015|
|The second of the amendments
So once again, another tragic shooting has taken place in the United States. Innocent people were once again hurt and killed. Once again, those of us who live in the United States are feeling the blow of having good people killed for no good reason. And once again, the argument about the right to bear arms has been brought up in the face of trying to control the flow of arms to dangerous people.
The US doesn't need to have this argument again. The second amendment is not an absolute right because no right in its constitution is absolute. Nearly every amendment has had limitations and exceptions placed on it which implicitly states that each right is conditional; and more, this sets a precedent by which it can be understood that each right can have limitations imposed upon it for the public good.
The second amendment has, in fact, received the fewest restrictions on it... except perhaps for the third, since it has rarely been invoked in modern days. So it's really not as though US citizens' right to bear arms has been unfairly abrogated and thus everyone needs to stop picking on the poor little amendment that's just trying to do its job, gosh darn it.
It doesn't matter what side of the fence you sit on with regards to the necessity of the private ownership of guns. Its plain as day that there's nothing constitutionally extraordinary about looking to keep the guns out of the hands of Bad Guys. Let's stop debating whether or not a national conversation on gun control should be had. Let's try to just have one that makes everyone (except for the Bad Guys Who Want Guns) feel satisfied.