walkitout: (Default)
Recently, Blue Origin successfully tested one of their engines, the big one.

Here is coverage at ars:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/10/blue-origin-has-successfully-tested-its-powerful-be-4-rocket-engine/

Probably should do the disclosure thing here: I used to work for the elf with the maniacal laugh. I'm about as big a fangirl as it is possible to be, since I was a customer at his other company before 1995 wrapped up, and working for it by the following spring. Every couple of days, I think of El Jefe, and go, I love you, dude! And I love the life I have, because I interviewed with you and you seemed like -- unlike a lot of other software types with entrepreneurial dreams -- you were okay with the money side of things (<-- still slightly embarrassed by how badly I underestimated him. But only slightly.). There _will_ be bias if he's anywhere in the picture.

"This engine, the liquid natural gas-powered BE-4, has been closely watched both within the aerospace industry and in military space because it uses innovative new technology, has largely been developed with private funding, and is fully reusable."

When I read this sentence, I went, weird. They left out the environmental issue. Entirely. But I don't think that was an accident, as such.

People who luuuuuurrrrvvveeee space development really don't like what rockets do to the atmosphere, so mostly, they hope that all of the people who they are trying to convince to support their outside-the-atmosphere dreams (Other Planets! Mining Asteroids! Orbital Colonies! Hydroponics! Beaming Solar Power to Earth! etc.) will fail to notice the really, really nasty shit that happens when you put a payload on top of a pillar of fire.

(The Raptor Engine, mentioned in the same article, is using the same fuel, or a very closely related fuel, as the BE-4.)

Traditionally, rockets have been fueled with Other Stuff. We never did actually do any of this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_thermal_rocket

But if you read the whole thing, you'll see that that idea was never entirely tabled, either; they just decided not to attempt it for launch from Earth.

Most _actual_ rockets have run on something that is more or less kerosene. Which sounds spectacularly weird when written down, because, wait, like hurricane lanterns? Yep, like that.

A characteristic of kerosene is that it produces a good amount of black soot when burned. And that is true even when burned in a rocket, and that black soot being deposited in the upper atmosphere is one of a number of worrisome things associated with rockets before this new generation being developed by Blue Origin and SpaceX. That black soot almost certainly will contribute to global warming; right now, few launches ("low cadence") means not a lot of soot; lots of launches would mean enough that probably we would need to factor that into global warming calculations. Other factors: alumina (which might be reflective and bounce heat out -- but probably would absorb IR and increase warming) and, worst of all, chlorine gas combining with other shit and eating up the ozone layer that we went to all that trouble over aerosols and old-school refrigerants to try to preserve.

As near as I can tell, this new generation of rocket engine won't make soot in the upper atmosphere, nor will it create chlorine oxides that eat up the ozone, nor will it do anything with alumina whatevers that are still a bit of a wild card in models. It may do something really, really awful, but if it will, I can't find any indication of that anywhere obvious. And it sort of looks like Musk and Bezos are genuinely trying to address the pollution / climate impact of rockets, along with the cost problem.

Which is basically all I'm looking for. I don't point at problems to make people _stop_. I point at problems to make sure that people devote resources to assessing and maybe addressing before progressing. Pretending those problems aren't there, or don't count, or can safely be hidden from the suspicious public does not impress me.

We still have a massive problem in terms of human exploration and development, because the shielding thing is going to be tough to solve. But if we can bring ourselves to take seriously the radiation hazards outside our atmosphere, I'm reasonably certain we can come up with a strategy there as well.
walkitout: (Default)
On October 19, 2014, I posted a very derisive take on the idea we were going to see autonomous vehicles any time soon. This was 2 years and a couple months before the “google self driving car project” was spun out as Waymo, and way before that weird lawsuit between Waymo and Uber.

The legislative environment has become substantially more autonomous vehicle friendly. As of April 2017, according to wikipedia, public road testing was legal in 23 states and DC. Driverless testing also legal in Michigan.

https://walkitout.dreamwidth.org/2014/10/19/

Let’s start with the list of why the Waymo car is the Worst Driver Ever

Waymo can’t drive in the snow.

In March of this year, Waymo was trying to drive in the snow.

https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/27/waymos-self-driving-van-heads-to-tahoe-for-some-time-in-the-snow/

Turns out, they were also testing it in heat:

https://qz.com/1029644/waymo-googl-took-a-self-driving-car-to-californias-death-valley-to-make-sure-it-could-withstand-the-heat/

(That wasn’t on my list of problems to be addressed.)

Waymo is also testing in the rain (altho it is a little worrisome that the level of rain they are testing for is in Kirkland. Seriously.)

http://mashable.com/2017/02/14/drive-ai-rain-demonstration/

In the above article, a different self driving package (retrofit) dealt with a bad human driver cutting them off at a four way stop, a broken traffic light, night time and rain.

Last week, Waymo released an update on what it could deal with. Here is Timothy B. Lee (not Tim Berners-Lee, and honestly, this Tim has caught my eye for producing head scratching nonsense several times already, so don’t trust it too much)’s take on it.

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2017/10/5-things-we-learned-from-waymos-big-self-driving-car-report/

There is a link to the actual filing Waymo did:

https://waymo.com/safetyreport/

Can handle night time and light rain (Kirkland!) but will be geo-fenced. Waymo continues to _only_ drive on its map. Apparently, Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix.

So. In much the same way that your in-laws who you decided you won’t let drive your kids around Ever Again move to places like Arizona because it’s a lot easier to drive out there, Waymo is going to release its first cars in Arizona. Because being a bad driver is a lot easier to survive there than many other places. (If you are wondering how I can safely get away with making snotty remarks about in-laws, it is because _my_ in-laws moved to Florida, so none of this could possibly be about them. My apologies if you live in Arizona. You may keep wondering what exactly I mean by that. I am, too.)
walkitout: (Default)
When A. got home, we quickly grabbed some lunch for her, left money for T. and his sitter and left for vision therapy. She really likes it, which makes this a very easy thing to add to her schedule. She only did her homework (duck and pigeon walk) one time, but it made enough of a difference that she moved on to the next homework exercise. After we drove home, we stopped at Julie's Place to play iPad games and eat burgers. Yummy!
walkitout: (Default)
One of Jesus' more offensive but realistic parables is the Parable of the Talents. I was telling R. about this one the other day. Today's email from Amazon reminded me of it, because I got a second round of credit to spend at Amazon from the publisher settlement. I got it because some of the first round of money was never spent -- so it was distributed to the people who _did_ spend their share of the first round. Truly, to those who have, more will be given to them.

And if you didn't spend your credit from round 1, well, it was probably one of those $.76 jobs that there wasn't much you could do with anyway, especially at B&N. Poor you! And you're now officially in the Outer Darkness where the weeping and the gnashing of teeth will be. While you enjoy reading your pristine used books in paper that are so cheap and plentiful these days. Doesn't sound all that bad, actually, as long as you have enough light to counteract the Outer Darkness, whatever that might be.

It was otherwise a pretty uneventful day.

ETA: Not true! I had about 5 miles of walks, and a really awesome convo with my friend K., which we had missed having earlier in the week.
walkitout: (Default)
Yep, it’s coming back.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/all/boeing-slams-questionable-airbus-deal-make-bombardier-cseries-jets-alabama-n811381

This is sort of the really in your face version of it. Making airplanes is super important if you are a military super power. It’s how you project force around the globe. You can talk boots on the ground, but the boots gotta get there, and it can’t all be on boats. The airplane industry, as a result, is highly protected. But there’s a fair amount of money to be made by undercutting on margin especially via innovation, and high barriers can stop that only for so long. The classic end run happened in my childhood / teenage years with cars: stop imports with tariffs? Fine, we’ll just make them in country instead. And, generally speaking, in the South, where the unions aren’t strong. As in, they don't actually exist.

But that isn’t even the kind of manufacturing I had in mind. It’s an important and interesting development, but while I may be from Seattle, I feel approximately the same amount of loyalty to Boeing as Boeing felt to Seattle (which is to say, not very much).

The kind of manufacturing I have in mind is moving to the US from Elsewhere (mostly China) for two reasons.

(1) As the relative value of US and Chinese currencies adjusts to reflect massive changes in the Chinese economy (it’s a slow process, but it is happening), the benefit of moving manufacturing from the US to China has reversed. Basically, the China wage isn’t what it once was. And automation these days is amazeballs.

(2) If you can automate enough of a manufacturing process to reduce the cost of labor required to a tiny fraction of the value of the end product, you don’t give a fuck _where_ you make it, at least not in wage terms. It turns out, you can get the labor cost so low, that you care _more_ about shipping costs than labor costs. At that point, it makes a lot of sense to move closer to where you are going to sell the final product.

Finally, states, local governments, the national government and other entities often create enticing packages of tax incentives and other benefits to move a manufacturer to a given location, in hopes of getting a bunch of sweet, sweet jobs along with it. Generally speaking, corporations seem to be better at hiring people to assess these deals than the politicians who create them (or maybe they just care about the bottom line in terms of dollars more, while the politicians care more about the votes, and it is really us voters who need to Step Up Our Game). That’s a powerful incentive to move manufacturing back to the United States.

Why not move to some other place in the world, cheaper than China? Well, China is already locking down a chunk of the African continent, in terms of manufacturing capacity. Governance issues can’t be entirely ignored, either, because governance tends to determine quality of labor force and infrastructure, which US businesses tend to expect more out of than Chinese businesses.

So, yep, manufacturing is coming back to the United States. But don’t be thinking that’s going to involve a lot of jobs. Because it probably won’t.
walkitout: (Default)
My subject line ran long. It is actually this:

A Few Remarks about Retail Square Footage, Home Delivery, Online Commerce, the Gig Economy and Worker Classification in the US

Just so you know, whenever I post something that starts “A Few Remarks” it goes on and on and on and on and on and on and are you asleep yet? Gone? Oh, yay. Shall we?

A number of trends have collided over the post-Great Recession period in the US economy. Boomers have well and truly quit buying Stuff anywhere, never mind at Big Box stores. There are fewer of my generation, than Boomers, much less Millennials, so it isn’t like we can pick up the slack and a lot of us buy online anyway. Finally, Millennials are only just getting started doing their own shopping, do a lot of shopping online, and because all the jobs are in coastal cities and they can’t afford any space in those coastal cities, they can’t buy much in the way of physical goods even if they do have money.

As a result, there is a lot more Retail Square Footage than our economy needs now or is likely to need in the future, a lot of that square footage is in the “wrong” place: out in deep suburbia, rather than older suburbs and the city proper. (There is also regional maldistribution, with not enough in the coastal cities that have acquired so much development in the last few years vs. in midwestern and other cities away from the coasts, which I won’t address here.)

As Millenials as a cohort age, they will more and more be parents of small children, and moving further out from the city they work in or near. If renewable energy and batteries develop as expected, they could wind up with quite long commutes again, restoring exurbia, but that isn’t likely to happen any time soon. If broadband penetrates more cities around the country, the regional maldistribution may also be ameliorated. But those are longer term trends (10+ years before the world is meaningfully different — the point at which everyone who rereads this piece laughs and says, wow, I forgot things used to be the way they were). But it is safe to say that pricing will force them to at least move a little ways further out, year by year, as more and more of them have apartments and houses and jobs.

Because of the Great Recession, and other longer-term trends, Millennials are fantastically well-educated and have a lot of student debt. They also have trouble accessing full-time W-2 employment. Many of them have participated in the Gig Economy, mostly in the form of payment for doing things that their customers _used_ to do for themselves.

Uber, Lyft etc. replaced taxis, it is true, but they also replaced a lot of trips that would otherwise have involved someone driving themselves somewhere, parking, and continuing with their trip.

TaskRabbit was recently bought by IKEA, presumably in part because people were already using TaskRabbit to replace the portion of furniture manufacturing that IKEA had outsourced to the customer in order to better take advantage of the price reduction that flat pack shipping from China offered.

GrubHub and similar meal delivery services, and Blue Apron and other meal preparation aids replace trips and tasks customers otherwise had to provide for themselves (drive somewhere to pick up takeout, or go to the grocery store to buy food and bring it home and cook it, or go to the restaurant and eat in or whatever).

What the Gig Economy offered the massively overworked, possibly overpaid but definitely time starved professional elites was a way to outsource a lot of tasks they didn’t have time for — to people who had a bunch of time and really needed some money, really, any money at all. It was all made possible by the App universes spawned by Android and Apple and their backing databases in the cloud (predictably, as Levi proved in the gold rush, the way to make money in the gold rush is by selling goods and services to the rushers -- not participating in the rush oneseslf; similarly, the money being made in this stage of tech is being made by older tech companies selling cloud services and infrastructure to the app developers, thus avoiding the legal entanglements detailed below).

As the economy continues to oh-so-slowly recover, in lockstep with the oh-so-slow payment of student debt and progression through the life arc of the Millennial generation (there are a lot of them, but the whole thing is moving remarkably slowly, what with people having fewer kids, later), it is reasonable to expect that difficulties with labor (getting labor, getting labor of good enough quality and a wage that makes the business model work) will strike earliest and hardest at the gig economy. When overworked, possibly overpaid and definitely time starved professional elites finally can take a breath and reduce their hours, there are good odds they’ll go back to doing more things for themselves. When under-employed Millennials get “Real Jobs”, they may stick with the most profitable gig side hustles, but once they have kids and are looking at the economics of a side hustle while paying for child care vs. taking care of the kiddo oneself and dropping the side hustle, some amount of side hustle is going to go away. Which will result in Gig Economy sectors of the economy to either convert to Real Jobs — or go away, depending on where the sweet spot falls between people who want to outsource their delivery, cleaning, rides, etc. and people who want the money enough to schlep for those people.

Right now, the Lawson / GrubHub lawsuit is exploring the W-2 / 1099 question. As with earlier suits in the Gig Economy which have thus far been tossed and/or settled before reaching a courtroom, the question is, is the Schlepper a contractor, and therefore can be Schlepping for multiple services simultaneously (driving for Uber and Lyft, Delivering for InstaCart and GrubHub) or an employee, and therefore can be required to be on call, in a certain area and responsive within a certain time frame, that is to say, subject to management.

Think about it: do you get to say when your plumber shows up to fix a leak or worse in your house? Or are you just pathetically grateful that the plumber shows up, fixes the problem and you pay whatever the hell the plumbers says you owe? The plumber is a contractor. I don’t think the GrubHub driver is a plumber — whether he (ETA: Lawson) is a contractor is the kind of thing that is going to be decided in court, if not in this case, then later.

There is one circumstance in which the court won’t ever make the decision: if all the Gig Economy business go away. And that can really happen. Restaurants are, in many ways, Gig Economy from the Old Days. I got rich in the .com boom, and there was an awesome Scotch bar down the street from my condo. I Loooooovvvved staggering home from an evening consuming single malt and damn fine food, and when they went under, I wanted to know why — they were not lacking for business. But they were having trouble keeping servers, who kept going off to hack HTML for startups.

One way for a company like TaskRabbit to avoid that unpleasantness is to partner with IKEA or Amazon or other companies. IKEA and Amazon sell stuff that requires some expertise in order to make use of. Normally, the customer is on the hook for connecting to contractors, but companies like Home Depot have been providing contractor services for a couple decades now (I remember using them for carpeting in the halls at my condo building back in the late 90s or early 2000s). And every home supply store since forever has been willing to refer out to decorators, contractors, counter top installers, cabinetry people, you name it since forever. Creating a seamless (isn’t that the name of one of the companies that GrubHub bought?) experience can dramatically increase the likelihood that a customer will actually purchase the product that requires installation.

This really could go any of three directions. If labor pressure eases up a lot (another Great Recession), then everything disappears, and no one does anything for a while. If labor pressure eases up a little (a little recession) then things tick along and we get more court cases. But if things keep getting better, a little faster every year, then we’re going to see real pressure on Gig Economy business models to re-price in a way that makes it possible for them to hire and retain W-2 employees. Those that successfully re-price will stick around.

Those that don’t, won’t. Because their employees will be working for someone else, and they won’t be able to hire anyone to replace them.
walkitout: (Default)
Today, I talked to my son about _Only the Brave_, which he asked if he could go see (he has already seen Lego Ninjago and the new MLP movie). I did a little research, and said that he _could_ go see the movie, but I wanted him to know that most of the people in the movie died. We discussed this further: it is based on a true story, and it isn't people killing people, it is fire fighters dying while fighting a fire. After some thought, he concluded that he did not want to see the movie after all.

I keep waiting to find out that my kids want to do something that if I were a very different sort of parent, I would have told them they were not allowed to do. Still waiting. (For the record, I've never been the sort of person to make a kid wait for food if there was food around to eat, nor have I ever been doctrinaire about what kids should or shouldn't eat, which is likely where almost all such battles occur, until kids are past puberty).

Other things I did: I researched google calendar settings, and modified mine. This is probably the only genuinely, long term useful thing I did today, since I spend time every few days tracking down spam events and deleting them, and it is basically ALWAYS google calendar at fault. With luck, I won't ever have to modify anything on google calendar again (I usually access events on my google calendar via iCal, but deleting spam events on the google calendar via the iCal interface doesn't do anything particularly helpful).

I also went for a walk with M. And I drove to Savers and Staples to drop off items that we no longer want. This particular batch of items has been sitting around for a while, because we were sick and traveling and we stalled out on the decluttering. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to restart. But I doubt it; the holiday season is about to start.
walkitout: (Default)
I watched NCIS:LA from the weekend. I also watched last Friday's TRMS.

I cleared out some things in the fridge that had been there for over a week and a half and were not being eaten. Nice to have that space back.

I went to Roche Bros, even tho I went on the weekend, because we were nearly out of things to make A.'s lunches with. I had not had a decent shopping list prepared before going this weekend; it really does make a difference. I don't impulse shop stuff I don't need -- I fail to buy things we do need.

I made muffins.

T. and I went to Whole Foods. I was planning on buying steak, but forgot. I did buy fake ice cream, fake whipped dessert topping (coco whip) and fake cheese. I also bought turkey pepperoni. I think this is my first post-Amazon acquisition completion visit. I bought several things from the bulk bins, using my mesh bags. When I got home, I was temporarily concerned that the stickers for the bulk food numbers had welded themselves to the mesh bags, but I just hadn't figured out the trick of removing the stickers. I bought lentilles du puy (french green lentils if you are me, but apparently R. learned about these while watching the Tour which went through the farming country where they are grown -- they are very pretty), cannellini beans (probably spelled wrong), black beans and black rice. I think I have coconut milk in the pantry, so there may be black rice pudding in my immediate future.

ETA: That's a pretty funny summary, if you are R. and know what I actually did with my day. Let's just say that every few minutes, his phone buzzed to tell him that his calendar (he tracks my calendar on his) had been updated. I spent the day making about a dozen dinner reservations and several hotel reservations, and then inputting a number of other reservations made in the past but still in the future which had not yet made it into my electronic calendar but were languishing elsewhere.
walkitout: (Default)
SPOILERS!

I'm going to keep this short, because I've tried repeatedly to write this review and I keep failing.

The overall structure of the novel is really like _Hawkmistress!_ by MZB: barely post-pubescent girl is about to be married off by her excessively oppressive and moralistic local culture (Holderkin are polygamous, and the only choice she gets is whether she wants to be a poor Firstwife or a well-off but no decision making Underwife). She has been taught to read (as with MZB's book, this is presented as somewhat unusual for girls) and she has learned about Heralds, which are a group of law enforcement / judges / representatives of the Queen with magical Companions (telepathic horse pluses) and she wants to be a Herald. The Wives in her family freak out (I think her mother died in childbirth so she's not a factor), Talia runs off and hides in an animal den and is found by Roland, a Companion and whisked away to the capital to meet the Queen and become a Herald.

No. Really.

Unlike Romilly's experience running away, once Talia is out of the family of origin, there is no further rapeyness involving Talia. So, yay for that! There is rapeyness involving other characters, mostly in their past, so, triggers there (and yep, the victim is wildly too young, so the pedophilia factor is present here, altho it is much reduced).

Also unlike Romilly's experience, Talia makes friends and connects with people who can teach her to use her Special Sauce. Talia conceals from those friends and others the degree of bullying she is on the receiving end of from the Blues / Unaffiliateds / Rich Frat Boy types, and is nearly killed after they dump her in a partly frozen river and she slides under the ice. Her friends and others take this all very seriously and protect her from further attacks and she recognizes how her concealing the problem contributed to it, so that's an unbelievably positive message and I'm super happy to see it here.

Like Romilly, Talia connects with the Monarch (not in exile in this case, but also threatened by Pretender(s)), and immediately gets roped into helping Save the Monarch, ultimately successfully. There is an extended period of Talia has to reprogram the Heir who has been led astray by her nanny. I have mixed feelings about this passage; I would have probably entirely approved of it when younger, but not so much now. It particularly weirds me out that no one noticed that the under nanny had been drugging the nanny in charge -- serious management issues in the Monarch's household.

On the whole, I really enjoyed the book, altho partly that was in contrast to _Hawkmistress!_ which I had _just read_, and which I had disliked in part for its relentless attacks on other women for being domestic, for being chatty, etc. This was a real palate cleanser. Talia integrates well in the domestic circle, and domesticity is shared with boys and men in this household. I also like that a lot of what Talia is good at is "relationship work". That was plausibly depicted and I enjoyed it (pace the jeez who was in charge of HR around here anyway questions).

I doubt I will read more by Lackey and here is why. (1) Friends who read a few books by her note that the formula is pretty relentless, and while one of these was okay, the pubescent kiddo going off to rescue the monarch thing wears thin real quick for me. (2) I note that some of the other books have other problems with them (there seems to be some transphobia in later books that broke the hearts of long time fans).

But I don't feel like this was a waste of time, and if I had a kid who got sucked into reading these books and consumed a dozen or more, I wouldn't worry about it, the way I might if I spotted them consuming job lots of MZB.
walkitout: (Default)
I took T. to martial arts. We parked in back this time, and we found out how to use the back entrance. So that's kind of cool. After martial arts (where he got his certificate from the belt testing), I took him to track. While he was at track, I walked to Starbucks to use the loo and get a cup of coffee. Predictably, the app was working when I got in, then while I was in line, it decided to request a fresh login, and then wouldn't accept my credentials. So I used my debit card. While I waited for the drink, I tried my credentials again ... and they worked. We stopped at Roche Bros. on the way home and got some groceries.

Murphy. Oh well.

When I got home, I took a long nap, interrupted by requests from A. to spell words for her (she was using the chat feature on a Roblox game. I think. The actual words requested were innocuous, so I didn't worry too much about the details). Then I had some dinner. I made a fresh batch of black eyed peas and brown rice; still didn't stick together correctly (R. thinks I should use white rice next time; I'm sure he is right). But it makes a nice bowl, even if the fritter aspect doesn't quite work out. I also made fresh cole slaw.
walkitout: (Default)
Hawkmistress! by MZB Review TRIGGER WARNING all the triggers

Yes, if you can think of a trigger, you can probably find it in this post or in the links which I include. This is a cornucopia of offense. If you think I’m kidding, you are mistaken.

First things first: the exclamation point is _in_ the title. Yes it is. And if that offends you, well, wait until you hear more. Because the exclamation point in the title Hawkmistress! is the _least_ offensive thing you are ever likely to encounter in or around a book written by MZB.

Here is the wikipedia entry about the novel:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawkmistress!

Here is the wikipedia entry about the author:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Zimmer_Bradley

Here is Jim Hines’ blog post from 2014, when it became widely known / unable to deny any longer that MZB didn’t just cover for a convicted pedophile husband but was instead described by her daughter as even worse. I note that while I’m a little vague on the timeline, it seems that the trigger, as with Jimmy Savile, was a positive retrospective on the deceased perpetrator, in this case a post on tor.com that has since been deleted. The comments thread is worth reading, and many of the not broken links worth following.

ETA: This missing Jim Hines link:

http://www.jimchines.com/2014/06/rape-abuse-and-mzb/

I was aware of some of the above when I _bought_ and _read_ _Hawkmistress!_, so, look, right there, I offended, too, by giving money to whoever is the beneficiary of MZB’s literary estate (Waters, probably?). AND I READ THE BOOK. You might be going, why?!?!

A friend and I had a long and involved conversation recently about Earthsea. I have significant complaints about LeGuin (BUT NOTHING ON THIS SCALE, DEAR GODDESS NO!), mostly revolving around the lack of women / girl characters who display agency. My friend mentioned MZB / Darkover as having some great female / girl / women characters and specifically recommended this one. In the conversation, we acknowledged the MZB problems, and we are both well aware of how long time avid readers frequently run up against stuff that they love as kids and are horrified by as adults. In this case, she _still_ loved Romilly MacAran on a recent reread. I had never read any MZB (I tried to read _Mists_ and bounced — more on that in a moment), or really any fantasy from my teenager years / young adulthood written by women and I was feeling like rectifying that. So I figured I’d read an MZB and I’d read a Lackey and then revisit and decide whether to continue or not (I lapped up Anne McCaffrey’s works with a spoon when young, so I didn’t need to go back and read those for the first time. And believe me, I do recognize consent issues in those books, too, altho, again DEAR GODDESS NOT LIKE MZB!).

There is another reason I read _Hawkmistress!_, that has to do with my Theory of How People Are and How That Manifests In Books. Authors are the Deities of Their Books: They create worlds, They populate them, the people within them are Their puppets. And most of this creative work is an outpouring of less-than-completely-conscious mental and emotional processes. I know all about that garbage about separating the artist from Their Art. My theory says that if someone with significant consent and other issues writes a book, those issues will _saturate_ the resulting Creation.

So. First things first: my friend is right. Romilly has Agency. When she doesn’t like something, she runs away or fights back or plots or schemes or any number of other things, but she doesn’t just lie back and Take It. She is inevitably a puppet of MZB, the deity of her book, but other than that, she is In Charge. Another example of why LeGuin’s argument about how nobody was writing fantasy / no women were writing fantasy successfully blah blah blah isn’t actually true.

Also, I stand by my thesis. And MZB is a shitty goddess. Romilly starts out having a lot of her basic nature — which her father understands — suppressed, nominally for gender role reasons, but there’s internal evidence in the book that her father has taken it substantially farther than anyone else (in terms of whether a woman could be his heir and in terms of forcing someone with the Special Sauce to remain untrained). Romilly puts up with the ratcheting up of her oppression until Dear Old Dad is about to marry her off to a pervert who hits on everything in skirts, and whose 3 wives so far have died in childbirth and who is substantially older than her 15 year old self.

SPOILERS AHOY! You know you want them. It won’t be so bad. (<— Pretty sure I mentioned, ALL THE TRIGGERS)

In the end, Gareth (the pervert) marries her younger sister (or maybe half sister — I’m not totally clear on that and honestly I don’t care). When Romilly learns of this, she feels guilty and appalled for not protecting her younger sister, but is reassured that they love each other very much and Gareth is Reformed because He Just Needed Someone to Love and Who Loved Him. Yeah, because that’s _definitely_ how it works.

IN THE MEANTIME, Romilly has run away and straight into bad winter weather, where she takes shelter in a hut with an old lady whose adult son is traveling and not around to rebuild the fire, feed her, etc., so Romilly steps in to help. Son returns and plans on stealing Romilly’s horse and killing her thinking Romilly is the boy she is dressed as. When he discovers he is a she, he modifies his plan to rapey marriage instead.

Romilly extracts herself from the situation, a little the worse for wear. She didn’t kill the guy, because she had some concerns about whether she’d be accepted at a Tower for training her Special Sauce if she’s committed murder, even in self defense. She next encounters the King In Exile (I DID MENTION SPOILERS), his Main Dude, and various followers. The various followers assume that the young man Romilly presents as is being shared by King in Exile and Main Dude.

Side note the first: homophobia. Given that MZB’s literary trust benefits her last partner, another woman, you wouldn’t necessarily _expect_ rampant homophobia in this book. Alas, you’re going to get it anyway. I did mention ALL THE TRIGGERS. The word “catamites” is used, and I’m pretty sure you can’t use that and not come across as homophobic. Earlier, Romilly’s step-mum justified Gareth’s pervy behavior as evidence that at least he’s not into other men. So at this point in the book, at least two separate characters (Alaric, and step-mum, to be clear) have emitted pretty solid evidence of homophobia. Unclear the author’s position on this.

King in Exile, it turns out, has detected Romilly’s girl-parts, but does not bring this to the attention of his Main Dude, who he knows is solely into people with boy parts. Romilly and Main Dude spend the next chunk of the book dancing around Main Dude’s interest in Romilly, and it comes across as Grooming, in part through Romilly’s Special Sauce (basically, Main Dude is Doing Him — remember, he thinks she is a he — in his dreams and she is picking up on it, altho she misinterprets it somewhat and assumes that he knows she is a she). He gives her a new-to-her cloak for the holidays and asks only for a “kiss like you’d give dear old dad” in return. Ew.

I know, you’re sitting here thinking, Walkitout, what’s wrong with a couple of young men getting it on? I got no issues with a couple of young men getting it on. But Main Dude has a son slightly older than Romilly (who she has already met and who has already come onto her and who she is lined up to marry at the end of the book, probably, because That’s Not Creepy At All) — and Romilly is about 15. I _do_ have problems with 40 year old adults and 15 year old targets of … lust or whatever.

Eventually, Romilly falls asleep in Main Dude’s bed (I’m leaving the even younger boy with the beautiful soprano Right Out of this summary, because I still don’t know what to make of all that but it creeps me right the fuck out), and he is repulsed by her girl parts and promptly drops her off with the Sword Women for training, protection, whatever. His cousin is with the Sword Women, and cousin makes a joke about "did he lure you to his bed and then recoil in shock". In case you thought I imagined the Grooming.

Now, at this point in the story, we would _want_ Romilly to basically hate men and be interested in women, and that idea is explored for all of one or maybe two paragraphs. But she has too much practice hating on women, so she rapidly finds ways to hate women with swords, bows and horses as much as she hated women with needles, kitchens and gossip about marriage. I get that there was a wave of feminism that was all about being bad at housework, typing, nursing, teaching and other female identified jobs. I get that. But if hating housework and hating to talk to women constituted feminist credentials, men would be the Best Feminists Ever. No. It does not work that way.

Romilly winds up training a bunch of horses (she meets up with her brother and there’s a bunch of other stuff, too) for the King In Exile’s army. Then the horse she trained died while she was using her Special Sauce to be in rapport with him. She goes mad, and pulls a Nebuchadnezzar, runs off, eats the grasses of the field (well, nuts and seeds and roots and so forth). She has a bunch of semi-spiritual / Wow She Has the Best Special Sauce Ever experiences, comes back to her senses in time to reconnect with the King and rescue Main Dude, who is a hostage of the Angelic Soprano's Dad who was Main Dude to the Pretender. Main Dude to the Real King is having various bits cut off him and sent to the King. Her Reward is finally being recognized as Just As Good As A Man and getting to sit in Main Dude’s lap and getting offered Main Dude’s son as a husband after she gets back from finally having her Special Sauce trained.

It might not be obvious to a casual reader what my issues are. So I will list them:

(1) This is a _very_ rapey book. First, attempt to force her to marry a much older, pervy guy who sexually assaults everything in skirts. Second, attempt to force her to marry someone basically so he can have her as a slave and also her horse. Third, much older dude grooms her thinking she is a boy. She ultimately loses her virginity to someone who has sex with her to ground her from one of her Special Sauce episodes connecting with the universe. How kind of him! Don’t worry, he dies in battle.

(2) This is an extraordinarily misogynistic book. While the main character is female (girl / woman / teenager) and she does have agency, she is repeatedly attacked by men and spends pretty much all her time thinking about whether she wants to have sex with / marry the various men she meets. (Or will tolerate sex with / marriage to the various men she meets.) When she isn’t thinking about sex / marriage with The Mens, she is hating on women: for talking to each other, for being interested in domestic things, for wanting to be with each other, for wanting the protection of numbers or whatever. She also attacks women for not being there to support her, when numerous women offer to help her and she quite viciously repulses these overtures. Sure, she came by the I Must Do Everything Myself strategy honestly (clearly channeling Dear Old Dad). But still.

(3) I don’t actually trust Romilly’s account of much of anything. I think she might have borderline personality disorder, but I’d be open to some other possibilities. She _definitely_ has dissociative events / psychotic breaks (look, you can _call_ this stuff Special Sauce, but walks like a Nebuchadnezzar, eats grass and roots like a Nebuchadnezzar, etc.).

One of the things that is _most_ appealing about this book is also its deepest problem. Romilly persists in Going Her Own Way in the face of every conceivable feedback that This Is A Terrible Idea. Sometimes, this saves her ass (gets her away from Gareth and the rapey guy with the elderly mother). Sometimes this prevents her from accessing much needed assistance (notably, training for the Special Sauce). Normally, I would just flat out like someone who was that persistent / had that much agency. But here, I question whether it is agency at all. In fact, I think, Romilly hopping from the frying pan to the fire to the nuclear wasteland is actually the author making some fairly sordid points about something that isn’t totally clear to me and I’m not sure I want to understand.

To sum up: when an abusive pedophile writes novels, the result is a bunch of creepy, mentally disturbed abusive pedophilia. So, you know, first off you might be able to _spot_ an author you want to keep your kids away from at cons if you know how to spot this kind of thing in their creative output. More importantly, you can feel confident that stopping reading the creative output of someone who is an abusive pedophile is probably a really good idea. (To be clear: I fully support therapeutic programs based on art, writing, journaling, etc. in a prison or mental hospital context to help people with pedophilia and other mental health challenges to get better. I just don't think you or I need to be reading the output.)

What I didn’t fully realize when I asked for a Lackey recommendation was that Lackey had been mentored by MZB! Speaking of frying pan into fire. Altho in so many ways, _Arrows of the Queen_ corrects a lot of what goes wrong in _Hawkmistress!_. But that review will have to wait for another post.

Many thanks, as always, to my beloved friend who loved, loved, loved _Hawkmistress!_ and Romilly MacAran. She isn't alone. A lot of wonderful women loved Romilly, and Romilly provided a really useful way of thinking about things for those women when they were young. Alas, the Romilly in their minds has only tangential relationship to the Romilly that is actually on the page. Hopefully, my unvarnished opinion here will not tarnish our friendship (I don’t think it will — she’s actually an amazingly open minded person who truly loves to experiment with ideas). I am feeling optimism that even tho I am pretty thick-headed at times, I will eventually understand in more detail what it is about books like _Hawkmistress!_ that are so compelling to some young women. Many thanks, as always, to the patience of my beloved friends who are willing to talk to me about books and how those books make them feel.

Edited to correct the fact that I consistently mis-spelled Romilly as if it were homily. Which it is not.
walkitout: (Default)
Today, I went for a walk by myself and chatted with my sister. I also walked with M. I also talked to K. which was lovely -- I got to hear about the Tableau conference she recently attended.

T. brought home his school photos, and I got those up on the wall, downloaded for the digital version, and last year's photos on the wall into the album. Hooray for process!

When A. got home, I took her back to school to retrieve the pants and socks she had forgotten on the playground and which we found in the cafeteria lost and found.

I finished off the failed hoppin john fritters (they do make a nice bowl, especially with chipotle hot sauce) for lunch.
walkitout: (Default)
Today was A.'s half day. I took her to vision therapy. She only ate a little of her lunch, so we went to an early dinner at Julie's Place after. I went for a walk with M. when R. got home.

I went for two walks around the short block by myself: once in the morning and once in the evening. I had a great phone conversation with K. during my usual noon convo time slot with J., who had a scheduling conflict. I hadn't been able to talk to K. during our usual time on Monday, because of the holiday weekend.
walkitout: (Default)
T. had a half day today. His sitter was slightly confused (not unexpected -- she'd been out for a week due to surgery, then the holiday weekend and we canceled Tuesday because of the tail end of T.'s cold) and met us at gymnastics because she forgot it was his half day.

Still not feeling 100% -- this cold is hanging on long enough and my face is feeling like I might have a sinus infection.
walkitout: (Default)
After the kids were out to school, I did a few things around the house. I went for a walk with M. My Dutch lesson was canceled due to a combination of ongoing child care issues on his side (I pre-emptively canceled child care for T., because he was coughing so much on Monday evening. R. had a bad cold a few days ago and is slowly recovering. T. and I caught a lighter version of it, but still a lot of coughing) and illness on mine. After the walk, I made chocolate chip muffins. Then I went grocery shopping. I tried to make black eyed pea, rice and veg fritters ("Hoppin' John Fritters" from the Cafe Flora cookbook) but I screwed something up and they didn't stick together at all. Which sort of matters less than you might expect. I also made salad and cole slaw. So I'm back to actually eating things out of the fridge that I have cooked myself, which is nice.

When T. got home, we discussed what he wanted for dinner and we made pizza after A. got home. I even still had salami for my side, and grated mozzarella for his (two kinds of red sauce available already open, contadina for him and NSA from Trader Joe's for me). A. had chicken nuggets and was very happy to learn I had replenished her supply of starlight mints.

I finished up more of the laundry. I dealt with mail (it was almost all for me, and some it actually required me to do something -- that doesn't happen often!).

I've been reading a lot about the MZB etc. scandal that broke a few years ago, and of course tracking the ongoing coverage of the Weinstein scandal. I have a couple book reviews to post (related to the MZB stuff, actually), but am trying to actually be sensitive for a change. No, I don't think it will work, but I can at least say I _tried_ to be sensitive.
walkitout: (Default)
We very briefly went to StoryLand so T. could do the three rides he hadn't done the day before (teacups, cinderella and antique cars). We got out right before the buckets of rain started -- it was only raining moderately while we were there.

We tried to go to GH Pizza and Greek Restaurant in Lincoln, NH, based on the multiply delivered, very positive recommendation of our dentist. However, it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so we went to McDonald's instead.

When we got home, we unpacked and did lots of laundry. I made T. english muffin pizzas. A. ate a bunch of candy from Santa's Village, and also some Hershey Bars we picked up when we stopped for gas.

The fall colors were really good this weekend. The long distance views, after our initial drive up, were not great due to rain and clouds, but the trees next to the road were consistently gorgeous, with all their leaves still on them but really great color. There is a reason we go this weekend, actually more than one: the chance of seeing gorgeous leaf colors is right up there.

I also uploaded ride photos, unpacked a box that arrived while we were gone.
walkitout: (Default)
We went to StoryLand. It was raining, but it eventually cleared up and got kind of hot. Very unexpected -- I'm used to very cold rain on this weekend, but it was in the mid to high 70s. Weird! A. and I finally watched one of the Farm Follies shows. Sort of like a longer version of the little animatronic show up next to the exit.

R. took the kids to Kahuna Laguna. Then we all went to 99s for an early dinner. After that, we went outlet shopping: Claire's and Crocs. A. wanted Shopkins. T. got another cell phone case. We all got Crocs. R. really does not like the snow boot crocs I got.

After outlet shopping, R. dropped us off at the 7 screen theatre where we watched the new My Little Pony movie. I'm not sure we've ever gone out to a movie on vacation. That was okay.
walkitout: (Default)
Today we drove to Jefferson to go to Santa's Village. We had a nice time. We did the Elfabet ggame. We went on rides (but did not play in the water park). We returned to the hotel, where I took the kids to Kahuna Laguna, the indoor water park. It was loud. I didn't go into the water but the kids did (yay! They are Old Enough!). After that, we went to Applebee's, where we had a bit of a wait and a nice dinner.
walkitout: (Default)
Today, I took my car to Village Detail to have it detailed in hopes of reducing the vomit smell / stain in the back seat to nothing. They seem to have done a good job, but I'll know for sure when the cleaner smell dissipates (<-- I had to look that up. I couldn't spell it.).

Meanwhile, I had lunch at Red Raven with R.

When the kids got home, we drove north and stopped at Common Man in Concord for dinner. They brought my Uncommon Manhattan out with a regular maraschino cherry. But I commented and they came back with three luxardos, so all is forgiven (it says _on the menu_ it comes with a luxardo cherry. Truth in advertising, people.).

We continued on to Red Jacket Mountain View where we checked in for the long weekend.
walkitout: (Default)
A. and I slept in, since she can't go to school for 24 hours after vomiting. She's fine -- it was clearly car sickness. *sigh* I called vision therapy to find out if they wanted to see her today. They don't. Surprise.

I had a nice, 2 hour convo with J., which was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. Other than that, I did some laundry today and so far, very little else. A. has been watching Powerpuff Girls all day, so I couldn't watch TRMS. We really need to get the upstairs Tivo working again.

October 2017

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 2021
22232425262728
293031    

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 22nd, 2017 09:53 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios