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maunderings of a meandering mind

Below are the 25 most recent journal entries.

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  2018.03.26  17.09

The scene: Harvard Square or equivalent -------- A European town center; or a par;, or even a shopping mall:  someplace people gather and meander. A busker starts performing. A minute later, another musician joins in. And this builds until the crowd find themselves in the midst of a full orchestra....

That describes enough youtube videos to make a genre. And this is my new favorite flashmob orchestra video:  Enjoy!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/322866.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2018.03.15  00.03
An odd wrinkle...

Yesterday I read a feature story — I wish I could remember where. It started with a vignette from a woman's life: How, when she was a little girl, she'd rushed to her grandmother's house around the corner after school one day, to lose herself in the book she'd just been assigned to read: A Wrinkle in Time. The author went on to relate a few details of the sort guaranteed to make anyone who has ever been a young reader enchanted by a book grow misty-eyed.  I was quite charmed by fifty or so words in.

And then, the kicker: The girl's grandmother was Madeline L'Engle.

I was a voracious reader when I was little — but somehow my reading didn't include many of the books my friends all remember fondly. I was 28 when a girlfriend introduced me to Winnie the Pooh; ten years ago another introduced me to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Those were delights to discover as an adult, as were quite a few others. And it was clear by a few paragraphs in to the article that A Wrinkle in Time would be as well.

So I bought the e-book. But for some reason didn't get a chance to start it until about two hours ago.

I'm enthralled. Not only is the me reading the book today totally loving it — but as I read, I'm feeling the enchantment the ten-year-old me would have felt if he'd read it then. As a passage strikes a chord, I glance at the wall, a fleeting image in my mind's eye. And simultaneously, the memory of what I would see laying in my childhood room, glancing up at the low sloping ceiling and imagining the scene in my ten-year-old-mind's eye.

I can only imagine that this will grow more delightful as I go on. And if by any chance any of you haven't read it: Though I'm only two chapters in, I can recommend it unreservedly. Let's read it together!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/322573.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2018.02.27  23.06
Vihart: Peace

Recreational mathemusician Vihart has long been one of my favorite Youtubers. With this video, she enters a new realm.

Watch. Listen. And be awed.

And then watch the making-of video — at the end of which you'll get to listen while watching the same video again in a different geometry. And be trebly awed.

Seriously. Even if you never watch videos. I've never been more bowled over.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/322401.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2018.01.27  23.25
Youngstown Ohio?

I'm looking for someone to check out a used car for me near Youngstown, Ohio. (Which is, in terms of places more likely to be on my friends' mental maps, about 80 miles SE of Cleveland or NW of Pittsburgh — or an hour west of Cooper's Lake Campground.)

Some of you will remember (and most of the rest will have heard me go on about) the best car I ever owned, my '93 Plymouth Colt Vista.1 In 2000 I traded mine in, and I've been looking for its equal ever since. I thought I'd found it five years ago, when Ford introduced the B-Max in Europe. But then Ford's US management essentially said "All that stuff about One Ford and being a world car company? Ha-ha! Fooled ya!"

Which is about when I set up searches on various used-car websites. Until now, everything they've turned up that might have been worth checking out has been at least 1000 miles away. And if I'm going to travel somewhere to buy an old used car — and then try to drive the car back — it's got within the distance I'm willing to take a Greyhound. Potentially twice. Which Youngstown is right on the edge of. But before I buy the bus ticket, I want to have some assurance that I might not be setting off on a fool's errand. Hence wanting to find someone local to scope the car out for me. Ideally it would be someone who knows a good local mechanic to take the car to for a checkover. I would of course expect to pay this person a reasonable amount for their time. f you know someone in that area who might be into this sort of thing, please let me know.

Thank you. You may now point and laugh. :^)

1Also sold as the Mitsubishi Expo LRV or Eagle Summit Wagon: A small car that fit in the footprint of a standard econobox, but had a sliding rear door and enough space inside for both your friends and your hobbies. Like a minivan, but bonsai!, to quote Siderea.  Ray Magliozzi, my mechanic, also had one and considers it the best car he ever owned. After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/322218.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2018.01.25  11.43
Saints preserve us from marauding wirecutters!

The only thing keeping me from switching to FIOS at this point is that I don't want to put our copper pair at risk. My Google-fu has thus far failed to find me a clear signal amidst all the noise on this topic, so I figured I'd ask the hive mind: Does anyone know the magic incantation to utter when ordering FIOS from Verizon that will result in them installing it while leaving our copper pair (and the POTS that runs over it) unscathed? A talisman, as it were, to protect copper?

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/321942.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.12.31  17.29
Sorry to miss you!

Happy New Year, everyone! I've decided to forgo parties tonight, and want to let those of you I consequently won't see know I'm sorry to miss you. I also want to let people know that this is not a matter of avoiding social interaction out off depression.

At least, I don't think it is. :^)

I loathe driving in Boston, and never more than NYE. And this year, instead of living a ten-minute drive from any party I might end the night at, it's more like a half-hour. (I moved to my friend Mike's house in Newton last summer.) And I'm loathe to screw up my hard-fought progress toward maintaining a regular sleep schedule. All of which adds up to staying home tonight being the smart move.

Again, sorry to miss you. And Happy New Year!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/321777.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.12.17  23.05
Pithy Latin phrase?

Those of you who've studied Latin and/or Rhetoric: When Foo argues for Bar, and Quux replies by making negative statements about Foo, we say that Quux's argument is ad hominem — a handy term for an all too common phenomenon.

Now imagine that Foo argues for Bar, and Quux responds by making negative statements about Bar — i.e. Quux responds to the substance of Foo's argument with a substantive argument against it. Wonderful! This is civil discourse.

But then Foo responds as if Quux had attacked them personally.

Such taking of a substantive disagreement as if it were a personal attack is common. More common than actual ad hominem attacks.

My question for you is:

Is there a pithy Latin phrase for this phenomenon?

I've seen many discussions fail because of this. And even more never happen from fear of it. (I'm thinking particularly of workplace discussions here — not least because I first became aware of this phenomenon many years ago at a former employer.)

Don't take criticism personally is a useful thought to keep in mind when someone disagrees with you. But a pithier phrase would be better — especially one in Latin or Greek: Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.* You don't actually see very many ad hominem arguments among adults, and I suspect part of the reason is that we have that convenient name for them. (Also because we all learned very young that only losers engage in ad hominem arguments.)

So: Anyone know of anything? If not, is your Latin up to coining a new rhetorical term?

* Everything sounds better in Latin.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/321335.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.12.06  19.15
Two quick questions for Boston folks

Unrelated, save that both involve an in-person handoff:

  1. Gardeners:  Could you use a small bottle of Pyrethrin Garden Insect Spray Concentrate? I have most of a half-pint; free to good home.
  2. Anyone going to Canada in the near future:  I have CAD125 that I'd gladly swap someone for a dollar less than whatever xe.com says it's worth in USD.
    Cambridge Trust, where I've been banking for 25 years now, periodically has signs in the branches mentioning that they do currency exchange for customers, and can often do them the same day. So I didn't worry much about bringing some CAD back. It didn't occur to me that this convenience might come at an enormous premium until I walked into a branch the other day and they offered me roughly USD20 less than I'd paid for that CAD125 at my sister's credit union a week before. (And no, the exchange rate is nothing like that volatile.) I'm willing to keep it in my travel wallet til next time I go to Canada rather than take that hit, just on general principle. But if someone has a use for it soon, I'm sure I can also find a use for the just under USD100 it's worth right now.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/321177.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.12.05  18.32
Please help me Christmas-shop for my nieces

I spent the last half of November in Saskatchewan (roughly 52°20′ N, 106°40′ W), visiting my sister. And having a truly fantastic time — so much so that I didn't even find time to start any posts about the trip while I was there. I've been back five days, and I'm grinning ear-to-ear just thinking about it.

But I'm going to resist babbling about the whole trip right now because there's a part I want to highlight and ask my friends' advice about: Two of the greatest delights of this trip were meeting my nieces, D (15) and K (13). Both are mentally agile and very clearly enjoy exploring what their minds can do. And my immediate concern is what do I get them for Christmas?

(Those of you still within shouting distance of your own teens, I'd especially appreciate your thoughts.)

D is a writer, and nearly talked my ear off a outlining the fantasy/mystery/romance book (trilogy? series?) that's currently running riot in her imagination. So obviously, I want to give her books.

She's not as widely read as she could be, and entirely uninformed as to what the life of a writer might be like. And I know the perfect book to help on both those fronts: The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction, by Neil Gaiman. That was decided the moment I mentioned him and it was clear she'd never even heard his name.

I also want to give her some fiction. And my initial thought is give her one of Gaiman's novels, if only because I'd feel a bit odd telling her Here's this collection of minor non-fiction, much of it about writing, by this fantastic fiction writer you've never heard of. But you're on your own to discover his fiction! But I'm totally out of my depth when I try to think which of his novels is appropriate to a 15-year-old girl who's lived a sheltered life in a socially-conservative Christian home. And I don't have time to re-read his entire oeuvre.

My first day there, I mentioned to the 13-year-old, K, that I'd heard she was into math. And the next thing I knew, she had me generating dozen-digit numbers for her to multiply by hand with an enthusiasm that reminded me very much of myself at about her age.1

I opened my laptop and started checking her in a Python interpreter. When her answer to one problem was off by a single digit in the middle of a 15-digit string, I started writing a quick script to step through the problem, and her eyes lit up. Soon enough she was playing around in the interpreter herself, trying arithmetic operations in various combinations to the point where I began wondering if I was going to have to explain floating-point to this kid who hasn't even seen single-variable algebra.

Her enthusiasm was totally delightful, and I want to cultivate it. One of my missions on this trip was to upgrade and configure remote administration on my sister's Mac. On which, it turned out, she was using < 5% of the available storage. So after watching K take to coding like a fish to water, I also created accounts for the whole family and made sure K understands the rudiments of the terminal. So I can certainly spend time with her remotely and help her find toys to play with. But I have no thoughts about what to give her for Christmas anywhere near as specific as I do for her sister.

Is there a good teach-yourself-Python book or online curriculum for teens?2 A book of fun math puzzles that might expand her horizons a bit beyond arithmetic? A (well-enough supervised for her parents to approve) online community for teens just discovering that they might be math geeks that I could maybe buy her a subscription to? If you found that you had a mathematically talented younger relative going to a lousy school without a lot of stimulation or any real peers, what would you want to give her?2

1Or rather, she reminded me of myself a couple of years younger: she's in eighth grade and they're multiplying fractions.

2Bonus points if it's for Python 3. (It makes no sense to me to start a novice off with Python 2 at this point.)

3Take a pass on this question if you're Salman Khan: I know Sal's answer, and have already turned K on to Khan Academy :^)

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/320839.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.11.14  19.21
Lend Luggage?

Edit: Nevermind. All covered, thanks to Abbe (who I don't think has an account here).

Short form: Does anyone want to lend me a rollaway bag til Dec? One you're okay with leaving to the tender mercies of baggage handlers and the TSA, please.

One I can pick up tomorrow?

Long form: I'm flying out on Thursday to visit my sister for the first time in more than ten years. I've had my tickets for more than a month, and have for all that time thought I had done all the necessary planning and had everything in order for the trip.

@MrRogers{Can you say hubris, boys and girls?}

Okay, that's hyperbole. But until a few minutes ago, I was quite sure I'd seen my rollaway go into the very back of the big closet in my room when I moved in. I was wrong. There's a ratty old LL Bean book bag the same color as my rollaway (i.e. black) that I must have somehow misparsed when I saw it among the first loads to go into the closet back in August.

I can make the aforementioned ratty old book bag and my current book bag. But it will be a much less annoying trip with a rollaway.

So, if you have a rollaway you won't miss if it's away for a couple of weeks, and it's realistically possible for me to pick it up tomorrow (or possibly tonight), please let me know. I'll be keeping an eye out here, but if you could txt me at 617 901 6954 as well, that will get my attention quicker.

And thank you for even considering it. Which I assume if you've read this far, you did.

You may now point and laugh :^)

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/320600.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.10.20  11.49
Gord Downy

It's always such a churn of emotions when I discover an artist by way of their obituary.

If only I could turn the clock back 35 years and follow his career from the start....

Canada was very fortunate to have such an artist. And badly cheated to have him taken from their midst before his time.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/320330.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.10.13  13.22
Strange pleasures in a strange world

It's almost a pleasure these days to hear someone in the media says something utterly baffling — and that person isn't the President of the United States. In this case, a reporter for France 24 English, in a YouTube video entitled "Video: Dried-up Aral Sea springs back to life"

Up until the 1950s, it was a sixty-eight thousand kilometer square mile lake.

Yeah, it makes me feel a little guilty to make fun someone presumably not a native speaker for a bit of fractured English. But it's not just the on-air guy: This is the polished product of a news network. With English in their name. I think that makes it fair game for pointing-and-laughing. A cheap shot, yeah. But at fair game...

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/320154.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.10.10  02.32
A view from inside the puzzle

I'm floored — totally floored — by this TED talk. I just finished watching it and now I'm sharing it immediately — without taking time to think analytically about it or write a considered introduction. I never do that. But I feel compelled to share this immediately. If you're an adult with ADHD, watch it. I wasn't able to pause it or take my eyes away or be distracted by anything around me. I don't even think any distractions got enough conscious attention while I was watching it for me to be aware of pushing it aside.

And now I'm going to go to sleep and let my unconscious mind roll it around awhile.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/319842.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.09.26  00.42
One last picture from my iPhone

This will probably be the last photo I take with my iPhone:

I was thinking of calling it Amazon packing robot fails again: I've long assumed that Amazon boxes with one little thing in a box at least twice the necessary size in each dimension were packed by robots whose algorithms needed an overhaul. An assumption predicated on the belief that no human would pack a box so poorly.

But the past couple of years have wrought havoc on my optimistic view of my fellow humans: In a world where people can be so casually reckless as to vote for a Brexit or a Donald Trump, it seems foolish to imagine that there aren't plenty of people who take no pride whatsoever in their work. And that a person in a crap job packing a box so lamely is at least as likely as a programmer having so little pride as to let code go into production that would have a robot do that packing job.

Bur I digress. And that way madness lies.

As I am a few days from becoming an Android user, I have some questions that I hope some of you can help with. One of the things I'm looking forward to is hackability. Am I anywhere close to reality when I imagine that the core telephone functionality might be scriptable? Providing an API that would let me script how incoming calls are handled? Maybe something along the lines of

if not callerID | (callerID not in myContacts & callerID not in myPlacedCalls):
    ring = silent
    ringtime = 1
    VMgreeting = dontKnowYouLeaveMessageMaybeIllCallBack.ogg

Please, please may it be so. Starting about two years ago, being on the national do-not-call list seemed to stop having any effect. First it was a few spam calls. Then they began to outnumber real calls. Eventually I stopped answering calls if my phone didn't recognize the caller. But every once in a while — for instance, most of the day today — I'm expecting a call from a number I can't know in advance. So today I was answering all my incoming calls. And, like every time I've done that for more than half a day in the past year, I answered a call from what turned out to be a spammer. Today, three of them. I've learned to ignore the phone manners my mother inculcated in me, and just hang up on those people. But I hate having to do it. And after every day like today, the irritation I feel on a normal day when I take my phone out of my pocket a number I don't recognize grows. Being able to just script ignoring those calls would be fantastic.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/319550.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.09.22  15.42
Harry Potter and the Destruction of Character

Earlier this afternoon I did something I rarely do: Post a comment on a youtube video. I'm a veteran of USENET flame wars, so not much phased by the knuckle-dragger insults a thoughtful comment often draws there. But BITD, my newsgroup comments were also likely to yield worthwhile replies. Youtube, not so much.

But comment I did. And then did something I do even more rarely: Shared the video on Facebook. And now I want to share it with you as well. Starting with my FB introduction:

I've read a lot of excellent essays about art — literature, film, theater, even music. I've read a lot more that was crap, of course (or at any rate, started a lot more that was crap, before giving up in disgust). The point being that I know what well-crafted criticism is. And this video essay on how JK Rowling's characters — especially Hermione — changed from book to film is one of the best pieces of criticism I've ever seen. Well worth watching.

And the comment I left on youtube:

Thank you for a tremendously well-observed and thought-provoking close-reading. The Devil's Snare episode was one of my favorite parts of _Philosopher's Stone_ from the first time I read it. And when the movie came out, I leaned forward in my seat and literally waited with bated breath for URupert Grint to say "Are you a witch or what?" And left the movie muttering something about "best line of dialog in the entire book, and _they left it out?!_"

But I entirely failed to see it as part of _any_ larger pattern, let alone the sevaral you bring out. Good criticism is rare. In producing a piece of excellent criticism that's also entertaining and perfectly true, you've hit the trifecta. Great work. Thank you.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/319404.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.09.20  01.44
What phone?

Short Form

Six months ago, I was all set to replace my iPhone with a OnePlus 3T as soon as my iPhone's deterioration demanded. Then they announced the OnePlus 5. And I started seeing the first negative reviews of a new OnePlus phone I'd ever read. But they were still shipping the 3T, so I wasn't worried.

But now my iPhone's deterioration really is starting to demand that I replace it. And I appear to have been deceived about the OnePlus 3T still being available.

So I have a couple of questions for folks with Android clue.

Long Form

As I mentioned last week, my iPhone is on it's last legs and I've decided to switch to Android. I also decided, early in my current ride on the carrier-subsidized-phone-with-two-year-contract funhouse-ride, that the next time I bought a phone I was going to actually buy a phone. I've long thought that would be preferable in principle, and about when I was gritting my teeth and signing the contract my current iPhone came with, I started hearing buzz about OnePlus.

My memory (not confirmed by reading the Wikipedia article, FWIW) is that part of that buzz was about their US business plan being to sell directly to the consumer, forcing US carriers to get serious about supporting BYOD customers. Misunderstanding or not, it predisposed me to pay attention to OnePlus and to reviews of their phones, while none of the other Android phone manufacturers have garnered much attention from me.

And those reviews — as I remember them, at least — were consistently impressive. When my iPhone started giving me trouble earlier this year, the OnePlus 3T had just come out a few months earlier. And people were falling all over themselves to talk about how good it was. So it went to the top of my list of phones to look at when I could no longer nurse my iPhone along. An otherwise empty list.

Then in July they released the OnePlus 5. And the reviews were not entirely stellar. Certainly not the hosannas the 3T had garnered on its release. But I wasn't too concerned: given things like the Midnight Black Limited Edition page, with its conspicuous "Buy Now" button in the center of the page, it seemed clear that OnePlus was planning to continue shipping the 3T alongside the 5 at least into autumn.

I don't generally go for the leading edge unless I see a potential upside that well over-balances the potential downside. And for smartphones, I haven't seen that in 15 years — not since the Sony-Ericsson P800 was leading-edge. To my way of thinking, the OnePlus 3T is just about exactly in the trailing-edge sweet spot. And that limited edition Midnight Black: the cherry on top! So for the past six or eight weeks I thought I had a solid plan for when it came time to punt my iPhone.

But now that day's arrived. And it turns out that actually clicking that "Buy Now" button takes me to a page that — disappointment #1 — lists only the other two other colors. And — disappointment #2 — says, next to each,

Out of stock

And going back to that Limited Edition page and looking more closely, I find near the bottom:

Sold out
This limited edition release is no longer available in your region.
Disappointment #3.


  • Am I grossly over-reacting to the bad press the OnePlus 5 has gotten? (I'm certainly over-reacting. The emphasis here is on grossly.) Should I just buy a OnePlus 5 and stop gnashing my teeth?
  • Are there other Android phones readily available new, unlocked, and with full warranties, that are comparable to recent OnePlus models? Comparably priced? If so, which? Would you recommend any of them?
  • While no longer available directly from OnePlus, the 3T is still available from third parties. Some ostensibly new-in-box. None, that I've found, with any sort of warranty. At prices not much different, and sometimes more, than OnePlus' retail prices when they were available. Run screaming? Approach with caution? Does anyone know of a reliable vendor, perhaps in the tradition of small Japanese companies that help Americans get Japan-only products without having to personally fly to Japan?

Thank you!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/319084.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.09.12  22.03
Leaving Apple's warm embrace

My now nearly four-year-old iPhone has been flaking out on me with increasing frequency for several months, and for variety of reasons I've decided to replace it with an Android phone. One of those reasons is that Apple's warm embrace increasingly feels to me like that of a boa constrictor. And today That concern became less general and more specific when a friend posted about their difficulties sending SMS messages to a friend who recently punted their iPhone. Apparently it is a known problem that when you switch from an iPhone it becomes difficult or impossible for someone who is also using the Apple ecosystem to send you SMS messages: Apparently — I'm hypothesizing at least as much as remembering here — Messages.app takes over when two iPhones SMS one-another, and if one person switches to a non-Apple phone, that person has to jump through some hoops with the Apple infrastructure or their iPhone-using friends' messages will go only to that person's Messages.app instances (wherever they happen to have it running, or possibly nowhere) but not to their new phone as SMS messages.

I'm writing this here not least as an aide de memoire because I don't have time to look into it in detail right now. If one of you happens to know of good guide to switching from an iPhone to an Android phone without getting entangled in this mess, please leave a pointer in a comment. Thank you.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/318832.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.08.03  19.31

I just returned the U-Haul trailer that's been following me everywhere I went for the last six days. With which moving out of my Arlington apartment, which I'd originally planned to be out of by June 30, is done. Finished. Ended. Over.


After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/318671.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Mood: satisfied

  2017.07.13  14.03
More Help Wanted

Damn, it's been a month since I posted. Things are looking up in general — I started what's already a much longer post maybe three weeks ago about a small round of good luck, not least of which is the place I'm moving to, and I've been adding to it in fits and starts since. But right now, I'm really pressed for time. So ... later!

My Help Wanted post a month ago yielded amazing results — thank you! I couldn't be happier with the people I hired to help me on y'all's recommendations. But of course the problem with people who are good is that they tend to also be busy. In particular, the two-man crew who've been doing the tote-that-barge, lift-that-bale work will next be available to me on Tuesday July 18. But I could really, really use some help bringing stuff up from the basement this weekend. So if anyone knows anybody who'd be up for that kind of work and might be available on short notice, please let me know.

And thank you!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/318208.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.06.18  15.54
12-Year-Old Mormon Girl Comes Out As Gay In Front Of Her Entire Church

I don't know anything about being religious — it's utterly foreign to me. But I do know a thing or two about being articulate, and about being brave. This sincerely religious young woman is articulate (remarkably so, given her age and the circumstances), and brave (by any measure), as she stands before her congregation and speaks truth.

Unfortunately one of her church's pastors cut off her microphone before she finished. but if you watch the video through, you'll here the last few paragraphs as well.

(Commentary elsewhere on the net asserts that the pastor shut her down because he disapproved of the content of her remarks. I do not find the evidence in the video entirely conclusive on that point: For all I know each speaker gets an allotted time, and the pastor's usual way of informing people they've gone over time is to cut off the microphone. So I'm not making that claim. But it's out there, and I didn't think I should ignore it either. But I also think it's a distraction: Mormon pastor cuts off 12-year-old's mike when she comes out to her congregation is doubtless better clickbait than the original title. But it shifts the focus from a noble act to a cowardly one — and shifts our our response from ennobling to ignoble.)

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/318090.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.06.16  16.55
Not getting email notification of replies

I just discovered that I haven't been receiving email notification of replies to my posts on Dreamwidth anything like consistently. Like, only about 30%. I'll be replying to the just-found soon.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/317883.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.06.13  18.27
Help wanted

I need to hire a couple of people to do some fetching and carrying. Where by some I mean probably three to five full days over tne next two or three weeks1.

Obviously if any of you know someone who's in shape to do hard physical work all day and would be interested in doing so for a fair hourly rate — cash — please put me in touch with them. But that's not my only question for the hive-mind.

I know that people looking for work as casual laborers gather early in the morning in places that people in the habit of hiring casual labor know to look for them1. What I don't know is where around Boston those places are, and how early people gather. Do any of you?

1  I thought I'd found someone. I was wrong. In the mean time, while trying to find the contact info for the two people I hired for this last time, I remembered why, four years ago, I hadn't bothered making sure not lose their contact info.

2  I did this myself the summer I was 18. If you've ever heard me talk about walking in cork boots on bundles of logs floating in the bay while a crane operator lowered cable loops for me to guide under my end of the bundle and then keep guiding while the crane slowly took up slack til we were sure of a good grip — and then jump to a different bundle and make sure I was well clear of the logs before they cleared the water — that sort of casual-labor mart is how I got that gig. So the thought of hiring a crew that way has a certain sentimental appeal.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/317685.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.06.12  17.29
Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Chris Ridell and Amanda Palmer at Hay-on-Wye, 2017

First off, if you don't know about Hay-on-Wye or the Hay Festival (which I expect is the case for most of my American readers), you can learn what you need to give this post context in fifteen seconds from this photo essay. If you don't linger over the pictures.

So I'll see you in ten minutes of so. Don't worry; I'll wait.

At this year's Hay Festival, two of Britain's finest finest writers, Neil Gaiman & Stephen Fry, spent an hour enjoying one-another's company. On stage in a packed hall. With a national television audience. While the UK Children's Laureate, the amazing illustrator Chris Riddell, set up stage right, illustrating both the speakers and the stories they were telling, with a camera on his easel to show us — and the house — what he's drawing.

In spite of starting with over five minutes of a card saying this live stream will start shortly and an introduction that was fine for the live audience but that you've more than covered by reading this far, the first hour was some remarkable television. Neil and Stephen engage one-another in the the kind of conversation that only two such brilliant artists — artists who genuinely admire one-another's work — can have; each reads us a story from his current book; they even take a few questions from the audience. All punctuated with occasional laughter and applause for what Chris is drawing real-time.

Then Amanda Palmer joins them. For only about their last eight minutes on stage. Most of it, Amanda reading one of Neil's poems. A poem about science. A poem — and a performance — that brought tears to my eyes.

If you watch none of the rest, do yourself a favor and watch the last 8m30. In those few minutes, Amanda Palmer gives one of the most compelling spoken-word performances ever. Seriously. I speak as a connoisseur of the form.

Or do yourself a bigger favor, and watch the whole thing, starting at 5m15.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/317212.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Mood: pleased

  2017.06.04  23.23
It's the real thing: the kindness of strangers

Correction (23:59): I'd only read about the first half of the New Yorker article when I posted this, and misparsed the paragraph mentioning the Samaritans as indicating the txt crisis line was a project of the Samaritans. It's not, but it might as well be: It's clear that the people doing it are the real deal.

This just came across my facebook feed, and I wanted to share it here as well:

Just a little FYI:

Did you know that if you text "home" to 741741 when you are depressed, suicidal, or just needing someone to talk to, a real Crisis Counselor will text you until you are good? Everyone doesn't like talking on the phone. Spread the word.

It's a free service.

Please share the heck outta this.

Because I know it's not uncommon for a depressed person to be suspicious of kindness from unknown quarters, and the above doesn't say anything about who would be on the other end of the txt, I thought I'd see if I could find out. My first thought at that point being "I wonder if it's the Samaritans?" @google{samaritans 741741} yielded a New Yorker article that both confirms it's the Samaritans, and is so compelling in its own right I had to share it as well:


A new counselling service harnesses the power of the text message.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/317026.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


  2017.05.22  23.04
A Happy Birthday

Today was my birthday — and I felt pretty good about it, which hasn't often been the case in the past several years. My internal life has been getting better in a slow but steady and I think sustainable way for the past several months. Last week I got to see my dear friend Matthew — who's far more a brother to me than the biological one ever was — for the first time in five years or more. Which meant I also finally got to meet his wife and their nearly-three-year-old child — who I learned are both delightful in their own right. I've been on a bit of an endorphin high the entire week.

So I woke up today primed for good things, and by mid-afternoon three of my favorite people on Earth had phoned to wish me a happy birthday. I was on the phone with each for at least half an hour of pure delight. (Well, mostly delight: in each conversation the topic of how our public discourse has come to be dominated by trumpery reared its ugly head — and in each we agreed it was too depressing to talk about. Which has probably also contributed to making my day better, as it left me resolved to steer clear of news all day as well.)

It's the ordinary human things that make life worth living, and this year my birthday has been marked by noticing how rich I am in those. Thank you, every one.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at http://xela.dreamwidth.org/316493.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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