Behind the curves

E. Catherine Tobler, writer — and, since 2006, editor of Shimmer magazinebids farewell to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America:

It began with issue #200 of the [SFWA] Bulletin — all right, #199 if we want to get technical. It began with the Resnick and Malzberg Dialogues, a long-time feature of the publication. It began when two men sat down to have a dialogue about editors and writers of the female gender. How fantastic, I thought, because I, being a writer and an editor and female, had a keen interest in such things. I love reading anthologies such as Women of Wonder (and its sequel) and seeing how women impacted and contributed to this forward-looking and -thinking genre I love. I hoped they might include the women who inspired me and introduce me to many I hadn’t yet discovered.

That’s not what I found. I found a dialogue that seemed more focused on how these “lady editors” and “lady writers” looked in bathing suits, and that they were “beauty pageant beautiful” or a “knock out.” I am certain no condescension was intended with the use of “lady,” but as the dialogues went on, I felt the word carried a certain tone — perhaps that was a fiction of my own making. As I listened to these two men talk about lady editors and writers they had known, I grew uneasy. Something wasn’t right.

“Now mere appreciation of someone’s appearance does not imply anything,” said a guy who puts up two Rule 5 posts every week. I have reference to me.

Still:

Because we ask to be called “editors” and “writers” and not be singled out, determined, judged, praised, looked down on, or slighted because of what sexual characteristics our bodies may display does not mean we hate what we are. We are writers. Period.

This is one of several discussions that ensued outside SFWA, and Tobler herself commented on Reznick and Malzberg on her Twitter account. It was quite a bit later, though, that I came up with the one line that I thought summed up the whole semi-debacle: “James Tiptree, Jr. was unavailable for comment.”

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Meanwhile in West Yorkshire

Councillors in Richmond Hill, Leeds have decided that your street address cannot be 4 anything:

The Chinese word for death sounds similar to the number 4. This has led to superstitions surrounding that digit (known as tetraphobia). In China, for example, floor numbers often skip the number 4.

Under Richmond Hill’s street-naming and address guide, the number 13 — which some consider unlucky — is currently not used for street numbers and Ward 1 Councillor Greg Beros, who presented Monday night’s [13 May] motion, thinks similar steps should be taken for the number 4.

The vote of the Council was five to, um, four. Fortunately, all other problems in Richmond Hill have been solved.

(Via this @syaffolee tweet.)

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A personal connection

My father, had he lived, would have been 86 tomorrow. (He made it to the far side of 79, which is nothing to sneer at.) By all accounts, he’d had only two Great Loves: my mother, who died in 1977, and a woman whom he’d been working with for several years, whom he married a couple of years later. Fidelity notwithstanding, though, he’d admit, if you pushed him, to a Celebrity Crush: singer Joni James, three years his junior, who was a major force on the pre-rock pop charts in the early 1950s.

Joni James

There’s not a lot of Joni on YouTube, but this kinescope gets the gist of her appeal:

Also a fan: Snoopy, who once, after a kerfuffle with a neighborhood cat, told the interloper: “Just don’t ask to borrow my Joni James records again!”

Incidentally, I’m not giving away any family secrets here: all us kids, including Joni and James, knew about it.

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Standing water

Residents, you may be sure, can’t stand it, even with the storms gone and the sun shining. The North Canadian River’s best-known segment, through central Oklahoma City, used to be practically mowable in dry summers; reshaped and renamed the Oklahoma River, it now looks almost like a picture postcard of a river, except for the couple of days a year when they clean it out.

East of town, though, it’s a real river, and if you dump half a foot of rain on it in a short time, it’s going to act like a real river. There’s a flood gauge west of Harrah, on Luther Road north of 23rd Street. The water is typically about five to six feet deep. About 9 pm last night, it rose to 11 feet, the point at which the National Weather Service starts issuing bulletins. (The US Geological Survey actually maintains the gauges.) Flood stage is 14 feet. In a couple of hours, the river had risen to 18 feet, and was heading higher; it touched 21 feet briefly today, and is forecast to reach nearly 25 feet, about three feet higher than it’s been any time during the last quarter-century.

Now this area is almost entirely rural. Still, being under 11 feet of water is not good, and Harrah proper may be affected. Downstream, the city of Shawnee is about to get it in the neck: 24 feet forecast by tomorrow, six feet above flood stage. Says NWS:

Serious flooding will hit homes and require evacuation of the community east of Beard Bridge on the south side of the North Canadian River… the floodwaters will bring dangerous currents… and depths up to 6 feet… over agricultural lands and rural roads in Pottawatomie County near Shawnee.

There’s probably an inch and a half of water in my office right this minute — no way am I coming in on a Saturday just to look — but that seems pretty insignificant by comparison.

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Under pressure

It “splits a family in two, puts people on streets.” You don’t want to know what it does to me.

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Quote of the week

Daniel Greenfield (Sultan Knish) offers advice on repelling one of the scarier urban presences:

Reports that Bloomberg can be kept away by wearing cloves of garlic are untrue. Bloomberg can stand exposure to garlic and sunlight. However anything with a lot of calories will send him fleeing into the night. If you walk down the street wearing a string of ketchup packets around your neck, no Bloomberg can harm you. If you light up a cigarette while doing it and swig from an open bottle of liquor, you can hear his thin keening cries of pain drifting up or down all the way from 77th Street.

If you find yourself being chased by Bloomberg late at night, instead of trying to run, bend down and erase a bicycle lane. Bloomberg will compulsively redraw it, leaving you free to enjoy your evening.

Hmmm. I wonder if Jones Soda might be interested in producing a garlic-flavored soda? (Then again, we can always import some from Korea, though the 0.25-liter packaging won’t faze Bloomberg in the least.)

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Fark blurb of the week

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Drown and out

So I cranked up the weather reports, and there was a storm of Biblical proportions running more or less parallel to I-40 in Canadian County. At that angle, I calculated, it should miss me by at least two miles.

And then, of course, it turned toward me, making a beeline for Penn Square — and it would have to pass over me to get there. Too late to run. I improvised a lean-to tent with the bedding, which I figured afforded me about a 10-percent chance of survival, which was 10 percent better than I stood otherwise. The last thing I tweeted was a prayer of sorts.

And then, for no reason I can imagine, it resumed its original course, due east, and never came close to me, although the rain — two inches in an hour — was ferocious. There was hail, though not enough, and not big enough, to make much of a dent in anything. The ground levels off behind the house, so there was a bit of water coming in through the back door, which opens into the garage, and maybe a little seepage around the edges of the slab.

At this writing, thunder continues, the rain has slacked off a bit, and, well, this post obviously wasn’t sitting in the Draft folder all day.

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Bully for you

We will probably never get rid of bullying entirely, and that’s fine with Morgan:

I dread a future in which there’s zero bullying. Not that I’d miss the bullying — I’m wondering what else got zeroed out while we were getting rid of the bullying. I was forced to show some resourcefulness when I got bullied. Had I not been bullied, I would not have been forced to develop the qualities I developed, and there’s nothing special about me there at all. This is actually a very common situation. So are the kids more capable of learning, and approaching maturity with some genuine grown-up ability, in a zero-bullying environment in which they’re spared from the distractions that come with bullying? Or, does this make them into thin-skinned sensitive little useless geldings, fated to waste away their twenties in their childhood bedrooms which are crammed full of trophies and plaques awarded just for showing up?

See also: Rebecca Black, who took a lot of crap early on, and who isn’t thin-skinned in the least. Not anymore, anyway.

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Over to you, Miss Pie

“Prancercise” is the buzziest of buzzwords this week, having made it even to the outskirts of Equestria:

I go to conventions dressed as my favorite pony (Twilight Sparkle, duh), and my room could easily be mistaken of that of a five year old girl’s due to all the MLP collectables I’ve acquired.

The one thing that the new My Little Pony franchise has not really taken into consideration is the health of their fanbase. Friendship is great, but what good is it when you are lethargic and flabby? That is where Prancercise comes in.

I first discovered Prancercise while surfing the popular website Reddit. Granted, people were posting links to the author’s video for the sake of mocking it, but something in the freedom of her movements spoke to me. Underneath that crisp, salmon-colored jacket and those tight white leggings was a kindred spirit. A spirit that had been sent onto this earth to spread friendship, cheer, and prancing.

Take a look for yourself:

I expect an actual MLP:FiM animation illustrating this technique within a week, probably featuring Pinkie Pie.

(Via American Digest.)

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Pick up some juice on the way

Tesla Motors says, and we quote, “We want to encourage Model S owners to take road trips.”

To this end, they’ve placed charging stations dubbed “Supercharger” at, um, eight locations so far. This will not, of course, do me any good if I were to undertake one of my epic road trips in a Model S, which, at around 80 grand, I can’t afford anyway.

This is the rollout pace:

Today – 8 stations
Summer 2013 – 27 stations
Fall 2013 – Most metropolitan areas
Winter 2013 – Coast-to-coast travel via I-80
2014 – 80% of the US and Canada
2015 – 98% of the US and Canada

The Bureau of the Census, I submit, has a somewhat different definition of “metropolitan” from Tesla’s.

Anyway, we’re promised two Superchargers in Oklahoma some time in 2014, or perhaps shortly thereafter: one in OKC, one near Elk City. A third, up in the corner around Vinita, should follow a year later. (Route 66? But of course.) Price of this service to owners of the Model S: “Superchargers will be free to use for Supercharging-enabled vehicles for the life of Model S.” However long that may be.

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Softer, worser, slower, weaker

Not so deft, guys:

(Thanks to Twitchy.)

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Scenes of horror and gore

After nearly 40 years in Oklahoma, I’m prepared to state that under any set of conditions, with your choice of observation techniques, the atmosphere does whatever it damn well pleases.

So to me, this looks like a good bet:

Concern about global warming will persist until it’s replaced with concern about global cooling. The policies we must implement immediately to stop certain catastrophe will remain the same.

The next step, I suppose, is concern over global stasis: “We’re not getting the temperature variations we used to!”

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Punch it

Microsoft says the controller for the new Xbox One will stand up to years of abuse by button-mashers:

[T]esting is still continuing, although the design has been finalised, and that the latest batch are withstanding over 3 million button presses — way over the target — and way beyond the 10-year projected lifespan of the new console.

Still undetermined: the life of your screen after you hurl this burly controller at it because the console just exhibited the New and Improved Red Ring of Death.

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It was their doody as artists

Or you might think it was just a load of crap:

Difficult territory is a cornerstone of the visual arts — so artist Mikala Dwyer knew it would be confronting [Friday] night when she invited Balletlab dancers to empty their bowels as part of a performance at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

The two-hour act saw the six dancers, masked but naked beneath sheer garments, move around a room in the gallery before sitting on transparent stools and performing — only if they were moved to do so — what is usually one of our most private and rarely discussed daily acts.

Not rarely enough.

(Title of course inspired by Dawn Eden, who has since gone on to better things.)

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Rebate and switch

Last year, CFI Care (not its real initials) sent out a form letter to the effect that this wasn’t going to be an issue for them:

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers in the individual and small group market to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they receive on health care services and activities to improve health care quality (in the large group market, this amount is 85 percent). This is referred to at the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule or the 80/20 rule. If a health insurer does not spend at least 80 percent of the premiums it receives on health care services and activities to improve health care quality, the insurer must rebate the difference.

This year? It’s an issue. Upon doing the actual calculations, they discovered that they had in fact forked out a hair under 78 percent, and therefore would have to issue rebate checks — or, alternatively, would have to credit the appropriate sum against this year’s premiums. I assume they did the latter, since I have received no such check and since there was relatively little wailing and/or gnashing of teeth in the front office this past January at renewal time.

Possible downside: should the carrier meet the 80-percent spec next time around, the expected premium increase might look even bigger than it really is.

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