a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
other gardeners 
20 September 2017 13:04
bridgetmkennitt: (Default)
I'm at my car service people because I'm slightly overdue for my 30k checkup and I want to keep my car healthy (which, I should have probably known about the 30k check, but eh). It's $500 and I'm wincing hard, but I don't want my car to die on me and I drive it a lot for work and school, so I have to suck it up.

Still sucks!

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I may — and may is the operative word — be about to hit a lucky break in my job search. I have a strong contact with a longtime associate of a hiring manager in a small office, which recently posted a position with requirements I technically meet. I’ve applied to the position and gotten the promise that my contact will recommend me personally in glowing, specific terms. It’s possible that they have someone else in mind already and won’t interview me … but if not, it’s a promising coincidence.

The problem is that I’m well aware the position is well out of the realm of my previous experience. I have education in the field and some transferrable skills from a previous position, but this posting is not entry-level and I’ve never done the specific tasks named in the job description. I believe I can stretch myself into the role, but how do I come across as someone who has that capacity in the interview stage? I am more questioning the emotional side of this than the skills side. When you see a junior candidate and say “this person would take a lot of managing, but it’d be a worthwhile pleasure to bring them up to speed,” what are you looking at?

Well … to be totally blunt, it’s not something experienced managers say a lot of. I did sometimes think that kind of thing when I was a newer manager, but then you learn pretty quickly that “this person would take a lot of managing” means “this person would take a lot of time that I won’t be able to spend on other important things.”

That’s not to say that there isn’t real pleasure in coaching a junior employee and helping them grow. There is! It can be incredibly satisfying, particularly when the person is eager to learn and genuinely interested in the work, takes feedback well, and appreciates the investment you’re making in them. But when other candidates are better matched with the role, “it will be fulfilling to watch this junior candidate grow” doesn’t usually justify the significant additional time it would take to manage them.

That said … it’s more of an option with some types of positions. If the role is relatively junior and doesn’t require specific hard skills, it can sometimes make sense to hire for potential. That’s especially true in fields where soft skills really matter, and where training will be more a matter of weeks than months. And it’s even more true when the other qualified candidates are just okay, rather than excellent. There are a lot of junior-ish roles where hiring a smart, driven, enthusiastic person without a ton of relevant experience but who can learn quickly is better than hiring someone with relevant experience but less of the other stuff. (But there are also a lot roles where you really need both.)

If it’s the kind of role where that’s in play, the types of things that could tilt it toward a less experienced candidate are: smarts, humility (so you know you have a lot to learn and want to do it), an ability to learn from feedback (and a strong interest in getting it), work ethic and drive, natural interest in the work, personal warmth (this doesn’t mean being bubbly; it just means forming warm connections with people), courtesy and consideration for others (this matters more than you’d think in this context, particularly at junior levels), and a track record of getting things done (even in totally different contexts like extracurriculars or another field). Depending on the position, specific talents can really matter too, like writing or relationship-building.

Also! The fact that you’ve never done the specific tasks listed in the job description isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re wildly under-qualified. I’d pay more attention to the qualifications they’re looking for — if they’re not listing “experience doing X” there, they may not care as much about that as you think.

Good luck.

how can I increase my chances when I’m under-qualified for a job? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

Last fall, my firm hired an employee who I had referred for the same position that I have. This employee was just fired last week (after nine months with the firm). Apparently, the people she worked for felt she was somewhat lazy and was not keeping up with her work. Should I apologize for referring an employee (I received a referral fee) who ended up being fired? I realize you don’t *have* to apologize, but I feel bad about the situation. What would you advise? Should I apologize or just let it go?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

when the employee you recommended gets fired was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

Over the last year, a once close friend of mine and I have been experiencing the African Violet of broken friendship. We had been through a very intense multi-year creative work project together, and after the project finished and she moved onto another job, we kind of drifted apart. For my part, I felt that sometimes she could say very unkind or cruel things. I noticed about two years ago that I was working very hard to win her approval, and felt very anxious if I didn’t get it and recognized that this friendship had become a bit unhealthy. I still valued many things about my friend, and thought that by setting some boundaries I could change the dynamic. After any incident where she said something unkind (for example, that half of the work on my part of the project was not my own work, which really hurt my feelings) or been judgmental (for example, negatively commenting on the dynamics of my relationship with my partner or how much I was eating and snacking during the intense project), I would take some space. Over the last couple of years my confidence has grown, not just in this area but in many other areas of my life, and I have been able to deal with some anxiety issues I had and learn how to set boundaries.

She started mainly hanging out with some different friends, and although we were still in touch, our conversation was becoming more and more surface-level. Anytime I suggested meeting up she would be really vague or say no. I was quite hurt at the time that she didn’t seem to want to hang out with me anymore, but I knew that we had just been through a really intense period in our lives and maybe she needed her space. There was always room for our friendship to get renewed further down the line. Before yesterday, we hadn’t been in contact for about four months. There wasn’t anything particularly negative about our last contact, it just tailed off.

I recently got a new job that I am very excited about and yesterday, in a whatsapp group she is also part of, someone congratulated me on my new job. About an hour later I got an feelingsemail from my friend. It’s not a nice email. It’s basically a bitter rant about how I have changed as a person. She said she didn’t recognize me anymore and how she had become fed up of what she perceives as my faults, and me being distant, over the last two years. She said that she didn’t deserve this kind of behavior from me and that she had never thought I would cut her off like this, although she had seen me do it to others (I don’t know where this comes from, I haven’t cut any one off apart from one girl back in high school which was 15 years ago!). In her mind, I am the bad guy, and it doesn’t sound like she is open to listening to anything else. She did say congratulations about the new job at the end.

I want to reply in a kind and compassionate way, because there were many things I valued about our friendship. We were so close, and I miss her. However, I don’t know what to say or how to respond to this email. I understand she sent it in a fit of overwhelming feelings, and underneath the accusations and manipulative statements, really she’s just sad about the loss of our friendship. I am open to being friends again, and rebuilding our relationship but it can’t be like this. I want to acknowledge the email, but I don’t want to get caught up in back and forth about who did what, or act in a way that says I think this email is acceptable, or apologize for things I haven’t done. How should I respond to this feelingsbomb? Should I even respond? How can people respond kindly and compassionately to feelingsmail in general?

Best wishes,
I’ve got feelingsmail

Dear Feelingsmail Receiver,

Your friend is projecting all over the place and all over you, a behavior where you take the stuff you are doing (especially stuff that you feel guilty about or ashamed of or upset about) and assign that behavior and the blame for it to someone else. Like the thing where you kept trying to make plans and she rebuffed you is now all about how you’ve abandoned her. Interesting.

Also Interesting: The less time you spend with her, the happier and more confident you’ve become over time.

Interesting Indeed: A really happy moment for you (congratulations on your new job!) has become the catalyst for her to criticize and accuse you of being a bad person and a bad friend. Not cool.

I don’t know how you repair that. It sounds like the way you’ve been drifting away from each other has been organic, with you taking care of yourself by taking space when you need it, and her choosing the company of other friends over you when she needs that.

Now she wants you to apologize and accept all the blame for the fact that your friendship isn’t as close as it was, and she also wants you to chase her. Do you want to do any of those things?

In your shoes I might just write back “Wow, okay??? Thanks for the good wishes at least. As for the rest, I miss spending time with you, too,” and just ignore the steaming pile of Feelings and Accusations. And then I’d let the ball be in her court to follow up, either to apologize or to suggest a time to get together.

I predict she will find this answer from you somewhat maddening and not see it as the face-saving mercy that it actually is, but that’s not your fault or your work to do to deal with. You don’t owe her a point-by-point response to her projection or the emotional catharsis she sought at your expense. (Note: You don’t actually owe friendship or any response at all to someone who sends you such a mean, rude message!) If she comes back with an apology or invitation to grab lunch or coffee, that will give you some useful information and if she comes back with renewed vitriol about what a terrible friend and person you are that will also give you some useful information.

If you do eventually sit down and address the issues in the friendship someday, you could say “Well, I’d been feeling like you didn’t want to hang out with me, so I stopped pushing and gave you space. I guess we’ve been mirroring each other.” It’s true and is neither an accusation nor an apology.

You can also ask her “Well, in a perfect world, where we have exactly the kind of friendship you want, how would you like this to work out?” and see what she says. In a difficult conversation where there’s a risk of getting stuck in a back-and-forth “It’s your fault”/”No it isn’t” about the past, this question can prompt people to stop and articulate a positive vision for the future. What’s the best case scenario where you get to recover a friendship that works for both of you? This “workable” version may be a very tiny, small-doses thing or no friendship at all, but I think this is your best chance for finding out if anything here can be saved.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I report to a C-suite level executive, “Bob” (where Bob’s boss is the CEO). I manage Bob’s schedule and generally coordinate our department’s projects under his direction. However, Bob is one of the most unavailable, unreachable bosses I have ever seen. He is very clearly a verbal processor (likes thinking out loud to an audience) and hates writing his thoughts or instructions via email … which would be fine, except his business travel can put him out of the office for weeks on end. When he does communicate via email, it’s only after A DOZEN OR MORE emails have been sent to him asking for answers on the subject. Even then, Bob’s replies often consist of “Thanks for the prod … will get that to you by end of day,” and then he doesn’t provide the answer he just promised. Because of this, projects can be delayed by days or weeks.

Since I manage his schedule, I know full well how many hours per day he’s truly unavailable (i.e., in meetings or on a plane) and I can promise you he does have plenty of down time, during which he could presumably be working on these answers to emails. What’s more, I have access to his emails and can see just how much comes in and goes out (hint: my own inbox/outbox is astronomically busier than his is, yet I keep up with mine just fine).

I’ve tried scheduling phone check-ins with him, but he is notoriously bad at keeping appointments with his staff. I’ve tried flagging emails in his inbox, but they just pile up into a backlog. I’ve tried responding to emails myself on his behalf (with his permission), but much of it is over my head and really needs his input. I’ve tried sending just one email a day, listing priorities from the team in short bullet points, but these go ignored. I’ve mentioned to Bob that his lack of communication is stalling projects and causing unease among the staff, but his behavior remains the same.

What’s the deal? Why is Bob so unresponsive to the needs of our team (and other internal and external contacts, for that matter)? He really is a genuinely kind boss (not cold and aloof) and seems to want to keep his thumb on the pulse of the office — on those rare occasions he makes it to our meetings, he shows genuine interest in everyone’s work and provides great insight into projects. So it’s not likely that he’s checked out and searching for another job or something. He’s just not getting it.

What can my team and I do? We are all increasingly bitter over this situation.

I wrote back and asked, “When you’ve told him that his lack of communication is stalling projects and causing unease among the staff, what has he said in response?”

He’ll acknowledge what I say and nod understandingly but without seeming to really grasp the seriousness of it. He’ll say things like, “The team might need some help from you and I in relaxing their frenzy on this project” or “Maybe I need to be a bit more present so the team doesn’t get so worked up over this stuff” … but then he won’t follow through, so the pressure just keeps building and the discontent keeps rising.

I tell myself if Bob isn’t concerned about these projects, maybe there’s nothing to worry about. But the staff bitterness is what concerns me most, and I feel like I’m failing to get across to him the gravity of the situation (one all-star employee in particular has spoken of looking for work elsewhere if Bob doesn’t change his ways).

Consider this an excellent lesson in focusing on what’s within your control and letting go of the rest.

You have done everything here that a good assistant should do: You’ve flagged important emails for him, gotten his permission to respond on his behalf to keep things moving, sent him a daily list of priorities, used bullet points so he can quickly see what’s important, and talked to him about the situation it’s causing on the staff. If you hadn’t done each of those things, I’d tell you to.

But you’ve done everything within your control to do, and he’s not changing. That means that at this point, the only practical step for you is to emotionally disconnect. It’s up to him now. You can’t force him to do things differently. If that means that he ends up with a bitter, disengaged staff, that is a problem he has created and will need to deal with. If he loses good employees because of it, again that’s a problem that he created and will need to deal with. (And while that will suck for your team, it might be what needs to happen in the long run.)

This is not a situation where morally you must find a way to solve it no matter what, like “Bob is keeping people locked in their offices and not feeding them, and they are malnourished and slowly starving.” That’s not to say there won’t be ramifications for the people on your team — at a minimum, working for a manager like this sucks, and at its worst could end up affecting them professionally, like if they have fewer accomplishments on this job than they’d otherwise have. But at this point, it’s not yours to solve. (Which is good, since you can’t!)

As for why Bob is like this, I’d guess a combination of incompetence, severe disorganization, and inability to understand his impact on others and/or lack of understanding of what his role as a manager requires of him (which itself is a form of incompetence).

There is a chance that Bob is right that people think there’s more urgency around these things than there really is … but if that’s the case, it’s on him to clarify that with people, not leave them in a perpetual state of stress and worry. So either way, he’s not doing his job.

Really, the only thing you could try that you haven’t already tried would be one final, more serious conversation with him (especially if you sugarcoated the message when you talked to him previously). You could say something like, “I know we’ve talked about this before and I won’t keep pushing it, but I do want to tell you one final time that I think this is causing serious problems on the team. People are frustrated to the point that they’re becoming bitter, and I worry we’re going to have a real culture problem here soon and may start losing good people over it. I’m happy to help any way I can, and I want you to be aware of what I’m seeing.”

From there, though, this is on him and the best thing you can do for yourself is to get really, really clear in your own head that it’s out of your control and that you’ve done what you can and can’t do more.

You might decide that you don’t particularly want a job where this is how things operate (and you’re more likely to figure that out if you let yourself stop banging your head against the wall and see more clearly what you can and can’t change). Or you might decide that it’s not ideal but you can deal with it once you don’t feel pressure to solve it. Either one of those will be a better path than trying to solve something you have no control over.

my boss is unavailable and it’s driving us all mad was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

20 September 2017 09:20 - Annie's Mailbox: Man only half there
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
Dear Annie: I am 23 years old and have been dating "Tom" for two years. He works in a demanding job that requires an extensive amount of travel. He's away almost six months of the year.

When Tom isn't traveling, he's with me during the week, but spends most weekends going places with his fraternity or visiting his parents. This means for the six months he's in town, I get perhaps one weekend.

We are saving for a house, and Tom's constant recreational travel is cutting into our budget. I want our couple time back, as well as time to take care of things at home. I've suggested compromises (such as two weekends away and two weekends home), but things always come up that he "has to do." Two months ago, I was let go from my job. That same afternoon, Tom left on a trip with friends that could have easily been cancelled. I can't use those same weekends to visit my family because they are too far away, so I spend a lot of time sitting home alone.

I know nothing unsavory is going on. Tom is a wonderful guy. I have no intention of leaving him. I knew when we met that his job would require a lot of travel, but these personal weekends are difficult for me. I know he hates being inactive or staying home, but it seems excessive. How can we come up with a workable solution? -- Home Alone

Dear Home: Tom thinks he already has a workable solution and has no incentive to compromise. After all, he sees you all week. Right now, his schedule is a minor hardship for you, but if you marry and have children, it will be a major problem. You'll have to revisit this issue then.

Meanwhile, we are never in favor of sitting home alone moping. Please find things to occupy yourself during the weekends when Tom is absent. Look for part-time work. Take classes to bone up on your skills. Go biking. Accompany him when he visits his family, and get to know them better.

Posted by Richa

Vegan Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan Crumb. Easy 1 Bowl Pumpkin Cake, topped with Chai Spice Pecan Streusel. Just 15 mins prep. Soft, Spiced, Delicious. Vegan Pumpkin Crumb Cake. Soy-free Recipe. 

Vegan Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan Crumb. Easy 1 Bowl Pumpkin Cake, topped with Chai Spice Pecan Streusel. Just 15 mins prep. Soft, Spiced, Delicious. Vegan Soy-free Recipe. | VeganRicha.com

Fall Baking has begun. Are you ready for things Pumpkin and Squashes! Even if you aren’t this Coffee Cake will put you in the mood. Amazing Pumpkin Spice Cake layer topped with a cardamom cinnamon Coconut Sugar Pecan layer that bakes up to a golden crusty buttery crumb. Ready when you are. 

This is a fabulous fall cake. It is soft, pumpkiny, spiced and has a beautiful crumb with pecans. I add a bit of cardamom to the crumb which elevates the flavor even more. You can also bake these into muffins. Pumpkin Pecan Crumb Muffins or a slice for Breakfast. Lets get to it.

Continue reading: Vegan Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan Crumb

The post Vegan Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan Crumb appeared first on Vegan Richa.

20 September 2017 11:00 - The Blood is the Life for 20-09-2017
miss_s_b: (Default)
solarbird: (tracer)

Sorry this one took so long. I'm not good at large action sequences, and this chapter was difficult to write, mostly because of that. I was trying to keep it gamelike, in that it would be evocative of a failed charge onto take a point with a payload on it in game, as opposed to a realistic infantry scenario. I hope it works.

If nothing else, it's way longer than most of my chapters, so at least nobody's being short changed. ^_^

[AO3 link]

The opportunity came sooner than expected. An arms shipment, escorted by Los Muertos, task force almost certainly to be led by Jack Morrison - or, as it seems they called him, the white ghost.

Jesse McCree had been the one to catch the rumour, talking with some of his old Deadlock Gang contacts, who, turns out, would be happy if a rival gang did not get to run goods through their territory. And so, they passed the news to him, and he passed it to Amélie, who passed it to Venom, who gave it to Overwatch, and Gabriel Reyes, who built a plan.

Mockingbird lay atop the crest of the hill, silent, even her breath inaudible, even to herself, even she wasn't entirely sure she was bothering to breathe right then, as the small three-vehicle convoy stirred itself, beginning its early-morning trundle out of the two-building ghost town that had once called itself Cloverdale. There had been more here, once, before the climate warmed, but really, it had ended before then, a former bit of a farming town, a little store, a dance pavilion, enough water - just - for a bit of crop and cattle raising, but now, even that last was gone, which is, of course, why they were all where they were.

The sniper had been in her nest since two days before, had watched the convoy trundle its way across the desert and to a stop, loading out into the little stone ruin, and calling it a night. She had not slept; she did not need to, for this watch. Once everyone had tucked themselves in so nicely, so quietly, she'd then confirmed via radio to Gabriel that Jack Morrison was, indeed, in the front truck, and that they were not, in fact, transporting refugees or undocumented workers - there were no innocents to get in the way. Just a simple cargo delivery - maybe the weapons, maybe a side delivery before the main delivery, no way even to know.

Not that it mattered, really.

She watched as the convoy slowly rode its way west, towards her and past burned out soil, past former farm gates, now collapsing along the road, the paint bleached in the sun. She took in a breath, just enough to speak. "They're on their way."

Gabriel's voice in her ear. "Do you have the target?"

Lena allowed herself the smallest of smirks. Less than a kilometre. No breeze, at all. Crystal clear skies. Do I have the target. Honestly, Gabe. But she kept it to herself. "Target confirmed and moving into go/no go. Do I have go?"

Reyes ran through the numbers one more time in his head. Everyone in position for the ambush. A lot more fighters on the Los Muertos side - more than they expected, and it bothered him - but only one hard target. The gang side wouldn't be trying for a capture - they'd be shooting for kills, without hesitation - but Overwatch had surprise on their side.

"Nearing optimal range, Gabe. Go or no go?"

Who knows when we'll get intel even this good again, he decided. "Action confirmed. All team, on my mark - go."

Venom - no, Mockingbird - smiled the spider's smile, and pulled the trigger. Morrison's head jerked to the side as the tactical visor went flying out across the desert in pieces, and he swore, loudly, in Spanish, blinded by his own blood, but not really hurt, despite the proximity of the bullet. The transport vehicle swerved, blocking the road forward, but did not fly out of control, and seconds later he was shouting orders to his team as the Overwatch group moved in from the northeast, from the dried-up spring.

"Visor down," the sniper confirmed, as Mei threw up a wall behind the convoy, Gabriel lay down fire blowing out the front vehicle's tires, and the unlabelled Overwatch carrier blared its orders to drop weapons and be commandeered. Pharah charged into the air, letting loose with a series of rockets aimed at vehicle engines, as Mockingbird readied for a spray of long-range discouragement fire from her position, to keep the grunts under cover. She grinned as she watched the Los Muertos gangsters circle their vehicles and swarm for weapons, and then her grin froze as Jack darted away from her sight, without a visor, then reappeared on the other side of the transport vehicle, with one.

What th'...?! She looked back towards the wreckage of the visor. Yes, there, pieces, still on the ground. She called into comms, "Gabe, he has a second visor somehow, watch it!" just as Jack triggered the device, visual overlay screen appearing almost instantly, knocking Pharah out of the air just as she'd disabled the third vehicle. Mockingbird adjusted her sights and took a second shot, surely hitting him dead on, but somehow apparently not as he just kept shooting through the visor, after briefly jerking to the left.

She waited for a third shot, and Jack's head popped up again, again through the front transport, behind two windows. Mockingbird reacted instantly, and fired. Her vision seemed to blur, and suddenly, it was a Los Muertos grunt splayed out across the sand, her head smashed, and Jack Morrison was still firing.

Nobody's that lucky, she thought, coolly. Something's going on.

Los Muertos got a shield generator running as Mei threw up another wall while taking bullets to the shoulder and chest, saving Gabriel, who had also been hit and hurt by the barrage of bullets. Pharah limped back into the air, got off a single rocket knocking Morrison down, and went down again herself almost immediately, Mercy flying to her wife's side. Gabriel, Mockingbird, and - a moment later - Mercy's fire kept most of the rest of the Los Muertos fighters ducking for cover, as Winston leapt down, shield in place over the wounded Mei, Tesla cannon keeping braver Los Muertos back, as Athena flew in as pickup for the injured.

"Gabriel, Tracer here," Mockingbird shouted into comms, trying to force some emotion back into her voice. "Mockingbird's hit this guy in the head three times and he just shakes it off, something is very wrong. We need to..."

And then Jack fell to the ground, unconscious, and an older woman's voice came over the Overwatch comms, saying, "He's down, but it won't last more than 30 seconds. Get your wounded out while you can, and regroup at my position. Tracking beacon enabled."


"A second visor?!" Gabriel - limping, but mobile - looked incredulously at Mockingbird as the small Overwatch strike force mended its wounds at the beacon site deep in the hills to the north. "He can't have a second visor. It's unique to each soldier. It was wired into his brain."

"Don't care," insisted the woman in black and green. "I shot the first one off, just like we planned it. It was on the ground, in pieces." She folded her arms. "My sight takes pictures, I can show you."

"But a second visor - that's not possible," Gabriel insisted.

"I know I hit him. I know I did. Three times. There's something we've missed, Gabe. This should've been easy and it was a disaster."

"You look very familiar," said the older woman with the beacon, looking with narrowed eyes at the younger sniper.

Mockingbird blinked, and looked over to the older woman, finally realising who she was seeing. "...no question of it on my side," she said, recovering. "The legendary Ana Amari, in the flesh. You're supposed to be dead. What the hell, mate? And how'd you get on our comms?"

Gabriel glanced away from Mockingbird and brushed dust off his hands, looking resolutely unsurprised. "Ana, this is our sniper specialist, callsign Mockingbird. Mockingbird, this is Ana Amari, apparently not dead."

Ana snorted at her former Blackwatch friend, and gestured over to Mockingbird. "You think that can replace me?"

"You have been dead since 2069," said Winston, stepping in between the new and the old, "as far as we knew." He gave Reyes a look, a look that said they would be talking about Reyes's lack of surprise in the very near future. "She's an independent contractor willing to work with us, and we're happy to have her service."

"I know that kit," said the Egyptian, with a sideways glance back to the younger woman. "And I know that blue tinge. Working with Talon, are we, now? Maybe Jack's not so crazy as I thought."

"Not with Talon, luv," Mockingbird lied. "But I always buy from the best. No second chances in this game. 'Cept for you, apparently. And Jack." She looked around at Angela and Gabriel and Ana, and frowned. "And apparently all you old lot."

Amari glanced disdainfully at the young assassin, then returned to ignoring her, looking back to Gabriel. "And where's the so-called Hero of Old London supposed to be, then?"

Mockingbird glared, anger a flash across her face. No, she told herself. Lena's not here. Ana's trying to provoke you. Realising that, she found she didn't even need to bring up the web further to keep control. It's a game. She knows, she just wants us to admit it. Spill the beans, grams? Not likely.

"We all thought it was for the best if she stayed out of any direct action involving the man who left her to die in the Slipstream." He looked directly into the sniper's eyes. "Knowing you're here, I'd say that was the right call."

"Afraid she'd lose her cool, get hurt?" She made a little unimpressed sound, a kind of pffft. "And yet here you hand whatever they've made of her" - she waved at Mockingbird, without looking - "a sniper rifle. You're fools."

Lena almost spoke up, then almost laughed, but kept her expression flat. Nice try, she thought. "So I shouldn't ask for your autograph, then?"

Winston shook his head at Mockingbird's verbal jabs, and Gabriel crossed his arms, with a frown. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Ana. More importantly - where the hell have you been all these years?"

"Really? You're going to keep up this laughable facade?"

"Whatever. You gonna tell us where you've been all this time?"

Amari glared. "No. But I will give you this." She pulled a small memory card out of a coat pocket. "It's video and notes from a... previous attempt to solve the Jack Morrison problem. If you're going to try to kill him, I need you not to make things worse."

"We aren't trying to kill him," Winston said, taking the card. "We're trying to bring him to justice."

Amari spat at the ground. "There's no justice for what he did, or for what he's become. I thought you understood that."

Well, thought Mockingbird, there's one place we agree. She found she didn't like the agreement. "That's what I thought, too. Maybe I ought t'reconsider the point."

"Does it always make this much noise? Maybe it should be reprogrammed again."

"ENOUGH OF THIS." Mercy glided down from the flat spot on the hillside above, where she had been tending to Mei and Pharah, watching since Ana showed herself, stunned to see her mother-in-law, of all people, reappear from the dead - not her way, but alive and well the entire time.

"Angela, why are you mixed up in this idiocy? I thought you'd know better."

The field medic marched over to the old military officer, and slapped her across the face, hard, staggering her back. "You dare show your face? You dare act like this to my friends, after what you have put us through?!"

"Woah!" interjected Mockingbird, jumping forward to restrain the doctor. "Angela, no! It's fine, she's just horrible!"

"No," she said, looking back, and shaking her arms free, "it is not fine!" She turned back to the old soldier, and pointed to Pharah, unconscious, but recovering. "She mourned you. You ignored her as a child and she loved you anyway and then you died and she put it behind her and now you are here and alive and she is here and wounded and you have not even acknowledged her existence?!"

"I've done what has been necessary, and I've stayed out of the way of the medic while she works. Fareeha will understand that."

"Will she? I hope not! But I will make sure she knows. I will make sure she knows everything. Including how horribly you have just abused our Mockingbird. 'It?! '" She shook herself, as though fluffing feathers she did not have, except in her wings. "You call her an it?! She is a person, not a tool, and you have become a monster."

Quietly surprised, Lena's heart tore, just a little, at the medic's furious defence. "Doc, really, it's fine, she's just digging..."

"I know what she's doing," Mercy said, not looking at Lena. "And I don't care why." She turned to the openly astonished Reyes and Winston. "We should get the wounded out of American territory as soon as possible. They will not be happy with our actions today."

"I agree," said Reyes, taking the opportunity. "Ana, we can pick this up later. Do any of your old dropboxes work?"

"No. Do yours?"

"Boxburg does."

"I'll leave a contact point there, then."

"Thanks. And... thanks for helping out."

"You're welcome. Maybe next time we can work together, make sure the grown-ups are in charge."

Mockingbird's face showed absolutely no sign of emotion, and her hands did not tighten visibly on her rifle.

"We'll talk later," said the former Blackwatch head. "Team - back to the ship. Mockingbird, give Mercy some help with Mei; Winston, I wouldn't mind a little help myself. Let's roll out."

The Lunar gorilla offered his friend an arm, as Mockingbird turned towards the Chinese scientist with a curt "acknowledged." Behind Venom's mask, beneath the web, the assassin roiled viciously, but no hint of that storm made it outside.

Maybe I've got more than one problem to solve, she thought, as she guided the semi-sedated Mei up off the ground. Maybe I've got two or three.

20 September 2017 08:04 - Not The Leader's Speech - UPDATED
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
Many Lib Dems really love The Leader's Speech. It's the traditional end to conference, and sitting in a hall full of likeminded people while the leader's platitudes wash over you is some people's idea of fun. Equally, many of us dislike it intensely. The social pressure to clap in the right places* is intense, and as a liberal who decries conformity it makes my skin crawl. Also, if the leader says something you don't like and you then walk out, it creates negative publicity.

So there are several sets of lib dems who avoid going to The Leader's Speech. Many just go get on the train before the big rush. I know of one group who have a rather sweet tradition of going to get ice cream while the Leader speaks. The Awkward Squad goes to the pub.

It started when Cleggy was Our Glorious Leader. You may recall that I had one or two policy differences with Cleggy**. One conf, and I can't remember which one, I attended the leader's speech, like a good lib dem, and walked out about half way through utterly furious with something or other he had said, thinking "sod this, I'm off to the pub". When I got there I discovered a dear friend was already there. He explained that as he knew Cleggy was bound to say something really annoying, what he did was go to the pub, download the text of the speech, and work out which point he would have walked out anyway. I thought this was an excellent idea, and have been doing it ever since***, and the group of likeminded curmudgeons doing the same has gradually grown over the years.

Fast forward to yesterday.

There's a bunch of us in the pub. One or two would have walked out at the "single market is ok" bits of the speech. I'd have made it past that, but only a couple of paragraphs, the bit about having achieved equal marriage would have been my breaking point****. Anyway, we were all happily chatting away and discussing things and it was all good.

... The problem was when Vince turned up. Yep, that's right, The Leader turned up to Not The Leader's Speech. Apparently it was some photo call to do with a motion we'd passed earlier in the conference.

I wouldn't have minded, but he didn't even get a round in. Bloody Yorkshirefolk, they're all the same*****.

So, I am now carefully researching pubs in Southport for Spring Conference to find one that's 1, good and 2, less likely to be crashed by the sodding leader. It doesn't half put a crimp in avoiding the leader when he turns up all smiles and handshakes.

ETA: Caron has posted about this on lib dem voice now. Countdown to po-faced condemnation in five... four... three...

*and even to stand and ovate. People who don;t stand and ovate in the "right" places often get glared at, or even tutted at.
**although as a human being I find him perfectly personable and likeable.
***Except for Tim Farron's first speech. Tim knows/knew all about Not The Leader's Speech, and made me promise him that I would go to his first one. I warned him that this would mean actually walking out if he said something walkout-worthy... Thankfully he didn't. But none-the-less I didn't go to any of his others. I'm just not a keynote speech type person.
****See here for the big rant about that one. There was a big chorus of groans about this in the pub - "Oh FFS we have to train ANOTHER leader and his staff not to do this..."
*****I am allowed to say this being Yorkshire myself
19 September 2017 23:18
jhameia: ME! (Default)
I don't really know what I did with my day after my morning walk and lunch... I answered some emails?? I read half a book?? I tried making a scrunchie?? IDK IDK IDK it was not successful I used the wrong kind of fabric... scrunchie fabric must also be elastic, not just the elastic core! Too bad... it's so cute! Maybe I can make some fabric jewelry?

Had a bit of a scare with a notice from the Registrar's office stating that because I didn't pay my fees (I did, but it was filing fee status stuff) I was de-registered. I had to get myself registered again and make sure I got my contract for my TAship, and that'll process my fee remission. I am hoping that this will also include non-resident tuition, because that would be $10000 and it would suck. Once that is done I can apply for program extension for my I-20 and then get down to the business of applying for OPT.

I DID get a dissertation defense date: October 11, 3pm - 5pm. The same day as a department party. Hoo boy. I also got comments from Dr. Brevik-Zender, so tomorrow I feel pretty confident about starting a bit more revisions. I'd like to incorporate the comments about including neoliberalism as a framework which informs the discourse of steampunk, although that involves... learning how to talk about neoliberalism. I sort of understand how to talk about it as an overarching ideology but most of what I read about it tends to get wrapped up in talking about economics and government, whereas I need to gear my discussion of it towards how it affects discourses of individual choices and masks institutional frameworks as freedom. I also need to tighten some of my analysis to make sure I'm not doing a lot of summary.

I have stomach issues again. The only culprit I can think of is the rice I ate, and the cookies I got from the store. I've eaten these cookies before with no issue, but that was WAY before the Metformin, so....... maybe my body just hates certain kinds of sugars now?? I may never return to eating cookies with impunity??

Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit more productive??

Posted by Ask a Manager

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworkers are terrible tippers

My office has recently transitioned to a system that allows employees to order lunch with a company stipend of $20. Unfortunately, some of my coworkers will spend almost every cent they have on food and tip as little as 75 cents. As the receptionist, it’s my job to receive deliveries, and I feel terrible getting orders that are only tipping 5%.

I’ve spoken to our COO, who set the price limit, asking that we put in a 10% automated tip, but she says that she does not think the company should dictate how we spend our stipend. I feel it’s unethical to tip so much lower than the accepted standard, and it has upset me to be tacitly endorsing it. Is this just something I should let go? Do I have any additional recourse?

You could send out a reminder that people should be tipping at least a few dollars on each delivery order (and perhaps mentioning that if your office becomes known for miserly tips, it will impact the service you all get), but beyond that, if the COO isn’t willing to require it, there’s probably not much else you can do, unfortunately. Your coworkers are being kind of terrible in this regard though.

2. Slacker coworkers may ruin remote work for the rest of us

I work at a large law firm that allows telecommuting for attorneys and paralegals (billers), but there is currently no telecommuting policy for any staff. Due to a recent move and a three-hour increase in commuting time (it didn’t look so bad on paper), I’ve been lobbying management to work from home for a couple of scheduled days a week. The position is ideal since 90-95% of my work requires me to be sitting in front of a computer anyway.

My direct manager and the office manager are both fine with the idea because I’m considered a “model” worker and have years of solid performance on record. The sticking point, however, boils down to the question, “What if a ‘mediocre’ worker in the same department asks to telecommute? What criteria can we point to in order to refuse them without creating friction in the office?”

I suppose it’s considered bad form to tell someone they’re a goof-off and can’t be trusted. Understandable. Finding arguments to allow someone to telecommute is easy, but reasons for refusing someone that particular perk (without the risk of being considered “mean”) seem harder to come up with.

It’s not really bad form to tell someone they’re a goof-off and can’t be trusted if that’s the case. I mean, you wouldn’t say it exactly like that, but your managers actually aren’t doing their jobs if they think that about a staff member but haven’t told the person.

Ideally, managers in your office should be comfortable saying, “I’d want to see sustained higher performance from you before considering a remote work arrangement.” Or, “Given the areas we’ve talked about you needing to improve in, I don’t think is the right time to have you work from home.” Or, “I’m willing to approve remote work for people with a long track record of outstanding performance, but I don’t think you’re there yet. I’d want to see you improve in XYZ first.” Managers should exercise that kind of judgment and should be transparent with people about it.

But if they want something more policy-like to point to, they could always decide that to be eligible for remote work, you have to have been with the company X amount of time and earned outstanding ratings on your last performance review, or something like that. I don’t prefer doing it that way because it takes away some independent judgment from managers and potentially limits them in ways that aren’t ideal, but if they really want objective criteria, that’s where I’d point them.

3. What to say in response to “I’m sorry” from employees

I’m in a supervisory position, managing student employees at an office on a college campus. I think my question applies to just about anyone, however.

When the student employees are late to work without notice, or fail to show up for a shift, most of the time they do apologize for their lapse in responsibility with a simple, “Sorry I’m late.” My problem is, I struggle with how to succinctly respond when the infraction doesn’t warrant a formal sit-down. If someone is ten minutes late to their shift, and they haven’t been late before, when they come in and say, “I’m sorry I’m late,” I don’t want to say, “It’s okay,” because it’s not really okay — they do need to be on time. But I don’t want to lecture them on their first or even second minor infraction: “I accept your apology, but please bear in mind that timekeeping is an important aspect of your job.”

As in the rest of life, when someone says “I’m sorry,” and it’s not “okay” but you want to convey that you recognize that they recognize they messed up, what’s the best thing to say? “Thank you for apologizing”? “I accept your apology”? Both seem kind of stilted to me.

With something like being 10 minutes late, I’m a fan of “Everything okay?” That signals that the lateness is noticed and it’s enough of a thing that you’re expressing concern, but without making it a Big Serious Conversation over 10 minutes. Of course, if it happens multiple times, then it actually is a more serious conversation (assuming precise punctuality really matters in their jobs — if it doesn’t, you should let it go because 10 minutes isn’t a big deal unless there’s a specific reason it’s a big deal). That serious conversation would be something like: “I’ve noticed you’ve been coming in late for your shifts. I actually need you to be here exactly on time because of ___. Can you do that going forward?”

But failing to show up for a shift altogether is a different thing. That shouldn’t be glossed over with an apology. You should treat that as a real infraction.

4. Filling out job applications for someone else

My boyfriend has a disability that makes it difficult for him to handwrite for any extended period of time. He can do it, but it can cause him pain or make it difficult to use his hands for some time afterward. He works in IT, so very rarely ever has to handwrite anything extensive.

He’s been job searching lately and a few places require applications to be filled out by hand. Just like I would normally do medical or other paperwork for him, I’ve been filling them out for him. I have pretty “girly” handwriting and if they do have him sign or date anything, they’ll likely notice the handwriting is different.

Is it really a bad idea for me to fill these out for him? If not for his disability, I wouldn’t, but I still don’t want him to look bad or lazy to employers. What are your thoughts?

Are they definitely requiring that these be filled out by hand? If it’s just the presence of a paper application that’s making you think that, it’s actually possible that the’d be fine with him typing his answers. (Assuming people don’t have typewriters anymore, he’d first need to scan it to get an electronic copy.)

But if they’re specifically saying “fill this out by hand” (which is weird), I’m worried that they care about it for some reason … in which case it’s not ideal to have it filled out by someone who’s obviously not him since they’ll wonder who filled it out and why. However, it’s not the kind of thing where reasonable employers would toss the application in outrage, and if they ask about it, he can explain that he has a disability that makes it painful to write by hand for any extended period.

5. Working for a company with no internet presence

I just made a move from a major metropolitan area to a small rural one. Everything about my job search has been really different (I’m in the mental health field) and as a result I’ve made many mistakes on the way. I had a really good interview with a company that I liked but there was one strange thing about them – – they don’t have a website and they have a very small internet presence. In this field this is highly unusual, and it’s also unusual for this area. It’s a busy clinic and the person I met with said they’ve never needed a website to get clients. My question is: I will likely be at this job for a few years and then probably move on to something else (hopefully back in said large metropolitan area). Will it hurt my job prospects later if I work somewhere with no internet presence?

Nah, probably not. Employers aren’t usually looking up candidates’ past companies online. As long as you have references they can reach, you should be fine. (If you ever needed to prove their existence, you could presumably do so through things like business cards, brochures, an advertisement, a reference in a local “best of” list, or so forth. It’s very, very unlikely you’ll need to use that stuff, but it won’t hurt to have it on hand.) Plus, you’ll be able to explain why they don’t have an internet presence, which is probably that they’ve built their business through word of mouth and referrals.

my coworkers are terrible tippers, slackers are ruining remote work for the rest of us, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

19 September 2017 23:02 - as I was walking...
julian: Picture of Julian Street. (Default)
Actually, I was settled in one place, come to think.

Anyway, so Cambridge (the College) has moved, and unexpectedly postponed the start of classes for a week due to what seem to have been electrical and networking issues, so classes only just started. (I did various Useful Things at home during the week, but, confronted with an extension of my vacation, I also shrugged and vacated some more. I went to Nut Island one day, and then World's End over the weekend, after which I had the entertaining experience of watching the fog roll in on Nantasket Beach. Rarely does it happen so clearly. Also got to watch the sunset at the endpoint of Hull. Mmm. Waves.)

Getting back to the point, here, it's already become clear from three days' worth of evidence that if I leave campus at a certain point, I will miss my useful bus home. It's not like I'm doing it on purpose, it's just, the way class and the subway and the busses work out, I barely miss the last bus before they transition from every-20-minutes-or-so, and hit the valley of the one bus that's a 40 minute wait. (After that they're every half hour.)

Since my various travels of August and September disrupted my gym routine (and then I was sick for a few days), and I haven't gotten back into it, what I have been doing lately is walking more. Running into this bus valley enables me to mutter and, rather than waiting in irritation, I stop by the grocery store/food co-op, and then am able to walk 3/4 of a mile or so until the next bus comes. (The way to do this is to walk until I see the inbound bus coming, at which point I stop at the next bus stop and wait for the outbound return, because to be caught between bus stops would be *annoying*, yo.)

In this particular instance, I had just stopped at the bus stop and was (I admit) looking at my phone when a guy coming out of a cross street whammed into the woman driving on the main street, right in front of me. (Durnell Ave at Washington St. No one cares but me.)

More detail than one needs on an accident. )

So! Good deed completed, I left and went down to the bus stop with a bench, and hung out reading until the bus came.

Waffling over classes. )
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
It occurs to me I haven't looked at the Heavy Gear rules in a long time....
20 September 2017 00:14 - What are you reading Wednesday?
zhelana: (Firefly - girls)
What have you just finished reading?

The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-boats by William Gerouxby - I don't understand why this book was called seven brothers, Mathews is a county, not a family, and the book was about a much larger segment of society than seven brothers. Nonetheless, it was a fascinating look at a mostly forgotten part of WWII, and men who had a higher mortality rate than every military branch except the marines.

What are you reading?

One Way or Another by Annette Laing - No progress this week

The Jews of Khazaria by Kevin Alan Brook - I wonder if part of the reason we have so little information about these people is that they competed with the Russians, and eventually, the Russians won? I'm only 28% of the way through this book, which is surprising because he never references the idea that he'll introduce more evidence after chapter 8 and I'm already on chapter 6.

2 Kings - There's a lot of murder and death going on. I think it's succession wars?

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink - This book is more oriented towards businesses than I was expecting. It's still interesting, because it talks about ways to motivate people and stuff, but I am not the intended audience.
20 September 2017 00:03 - Dream Date
zhelana: (original - aliens)
What would your dream date be like?

I would go to a beach and talk and then go on a dinner cruise and see dolphins jumping while we ate good food.

the rest )
19 September 2017 23:22 - administration update
egret: cat (brideydots)
 I expanded the list of interests in the profile, because it was mostly a list of cat breeds. No pedigree required at [community profile] cats !

Although of course pedigreed cats are also celebrated!

I switched to a cat-themed style, although I am open to the idea of improving it if anyone good at styling communities is interested in donating their efforts. I like all your ideas so far and hope this community will grow and become a resource.

That said, I will share that my older cat's health crisis has reached a very sad point and I will be saying goodbye to her on Friday. So I may not be on here that much over the rest of the week and weekend. But I will be back -- I will have one cat (in icon) remaining! 

19 September 2017 22:40 - Mostly Weekends 2018 WIP
fandomonymous: Gray @ on black background (Default)
Some things are already being semi solidified hahahahwhat.

Read more... )
pameladean: (Default)

This is very long and detailed, so I’m going to try to put in a cut tag.

All right, I can't get that to work, not if it was ever so. I'm sorry.


On Tuesday Raphael and I went to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. The forecast was for a sunny, almost windless day with a high of 87. The air quality was moderate. I complained about this the day before and Raphael asked if I'd prefer not to go. But Sherburne is actually a good place to go on a less than perfect day, because there's a seven-mile wildlife drive with stopping points for viewing whoever happens to be around; also a tiny oak savanna (1/10-mile loop) trail and a prairie trail with an oak grove in the middle with a bench (1/2-mile loop). And it's September; hiking season will be over at some point.

We got a late start but arrived with about five hours of daylight ahead of us. Sherburne is near Sand Dunes National Forest, and its soil is also sandy. It's a lightly rolling landscape full of marshes, pools, and prairie, broken by lines and clumps of trees. You drive through a short stretch of mature restored prairie to reach the actual wildlife drive. It was awash in blooming goldenrod and blue and white asters and rich brown grasses.

 We stopped at the Oak Savanna Trail and had a sandwich, read the list of plants presently blooming (six kinds of goldenrod, four kinds of white aster, two kinds of blue aster, rough blazing star, and boneset) and then walked out on the tiny boardwalk. We examined what looked like an abandoned bald eagle's nest through one of the spotting scopes provided, and then started looking at spreadwings (yet another kind of damselfly) in the tall grass that the boardwalk runs through.

 Here is an image of a spreadwing that one might see in Minnesota, though I don’t know if that’s what we did see.


 A flicker of motion in the distance caught my attention, and I looked up to see three sandhill cranes landing across the prairie near the road we'd come on. "A family," said Raphael, looking through the binoculars. "See the juvenile?" I did see the juvenile, which did not have all its red in yet but was almost as large as its parents. The cranes started walking through the grass, not unlike herons stalking through shallow water; occasionally they would bend their long necks down and poke around in the grass roots, and occasionally one of them would make a sharp dart and come up with food and swallow it.

It was hard to decide whether the cranes were more awesome through binoculars or just as tall shapes against the pale road and prairie, bending and straightening, wandering apart and together again. If you didn't look through binoculars you could also see meadowhawks darting around, the spreadwings rising to catch tiny insects and settling again to eat them, the unexpected wind shaking the oak leaves and the grass and the asters. From time to time a darner moved across the larger prairie, veering after prey or just powering along.

At last a truck came fairly fast along the road, raising a cloud of dust, and the cranes paused, considered, opened their huge wings and rose up, gawky but graceful, and flew away low over the grasses. We went back to looking at smaller wildlife

I was trying to spot a spreadwing through the binoculars when I saw what looked like an animated tangle of brown grass. I said to Raphael, “There’s some kind of mantis there!” and when Raphael expressed astonishment, I added, “It’s very stick-y,” which allowed Raphael to come up with the actual name: It was a stick insect. It took a few moments for me to describe its location and for Raphael to see it, and then I had trouble finding it again through the binoculars, but it was busy clambering around against the wind, so we did both get a good look at it. It was only the second stick insect I’d seen in Minnesota. The other was at Wild River State Park. That one was much larger and was rummaging around in a pile of leaves at the edge of the parking lot. This one was fascinating because its camouflage was so great, and yet it did have to move around, so you could differentiate it from the grass if you worked at it.

We’d arrived in the deep of the afternoon when smaller birds are quiet. We heard a few goldfinches murmuring, and a phoebe carrying on, and a chickadee. We left the boardwalk, admiring the asters waving in the non-foreseen but welcome breeze, and walked around the oak savanna loop. The little oak saplings tangled among the other shrubbery were already starting to turn red. White asters poked their flowerheads through leaves belonging to other plants, to startling effect. Autumn meadowhawks floated and hovered and darted, snatching up gnats from the clouds around them. We had seen a monarch butterfly in the asters while we were eating our lunch, and also a dark-phase swallowtail wandering over the grass; now we saw a painted lady butterfly.

We made an attempt to leave, but a darner landed on a drooping dead branch of an oak tree right in front of the car. The sun was behind it and we couldn’t get a good look without tramping heedlessly into the prairie, so we didn’t, but its silhouette was lovely against the brilliant sky.

 We drove on, past tall browning and reddening grasses, clumps of goldenrod, clouds of asters. Darners flew up from the sides of the road and zoomed away. We found at the turning that the refuge had reversed the direction of the wildlife drive since we were there last, which was momentarily confusing; but we found our way, and stopped at the Prairie Trail. I pointed out some thoroughly spent plants of spotted horsemint. We’d seen it in bloom, if you can call it that, at William O’Brien. It’s a very weird-looking plant. Here’s a photo:


 This observation continued my inability to accurately provide the names of things; I’d just called it horsemint and Raphael reminded me that that particular weird plant was spotted horsemint. There are other horsemints, but they don’t look so strange. As we stood looking over the rise and fall of the little prairie, with folds of alder and sumac, and lines and whorls of different grasses and goldenrod, all truly starred with the blue and white asters, I said that I loved how big the sky was at Sherburne. Raphael noted that it was a slate-blue just now; we assumed that was the haze of the wildfire smoke all the way from the west coast, a somber reminder of far too many things.

 We took the grassy path, startling small grasshoppers out of our way and stirring up meadowhawks from the tall plants and shrubs. We saw a monarch; we saw a painted lady. Passing through a little grove of young alders, on almost every tip of the dead trees intermingled with the living there was a meadowhawk perched. They swept upwards, snatched a gnat or fly, landed to eat again. Raphael showed me how to identify a female autumn meadowhawk: they have a definite bulge just below the thorax, which was easy to see against the sky. Darners zipped past from time to time. If it was a green darner we could usually tell even from just a glance. The others were mosaic darners, but harder to identify in passing.

 I think it was as we approached the oak grove that we started seriously trying to identify the grasses. We’d known big bluestem, aka turkey-tail, for years. After seeing it labelled repeatedly here and there, I could pick out the charming clumps of little bluestem, just knee-high, with their pale fluffy flowers lined up and catching the light. We’d looked at an informational sign at the trailhead, but its drawings of Indian grass and switch grass didn’t look right. Raphael pulled up the photo of the sign about grasses at the visitor center at Wild River, which had struck both of us at the time as much more informative than other attempts to depict native grasses; and we could suddenly identify Indian grass after all. It has a long, narrow rich brown seed head with varying degrees of spikiness; some are quite streamlined and others are tufty and look as if they need combing. And we felt more confident about the switch grass with its airy spreading seed heads.

 Raphael pointed out a beetle on the path, maybe a Virginia leatherwing, and then realized that it looked like a moth. A little research when we reached the oak grove and sat down showed that it was a net-winged beetle, and the entry even mentioned that it looked quite a bit like a leatherwing.

 The bench we were sitting on was made from boards of recycled plastic. At some point Raphael had had enough sitting and went ahead a little way just to see what was there. I’d noticed when I sat down that there were verses from the Bible printed on the back of the bench in some kind of marker. On the left was the passage from Matthew that begins, “Come unto me you who are weary and heavy-laden,” and on the right the passage from John that begins, “For God so loved the world.” These might have been written in different hands. But the passage in the middle was definitely in a different hand, and began, “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine.” The ending of the passage was a bit smeared and I couldn’t read all of it, but at the bottom the name “hunter s. thompson” was clear enough. I followed Raphael and relayed the beginning of the passage. “Hunter s. thompson!” said Raphael, going back to the bench with me. “It’s from <i>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</i>.” Raphael looked this up too, and showed me the unsmeared passage on the cellphone.

 Giggling a bit, we went on our way. We were now well around the loop and into the straight stretch back to the car. From the other side I’d pointed out a lovely layering of grasses, goldenrod, a narrow cleft of willow scrub, and a candy-red line of sumac. Now we came to the sumac from the other side. On the path in front of us was a butterfly. “What is that?” said Raphael. “It’s a Red Admiral,” I said confidently, but it wasn’t. It was another Painted Lady. Raphael consolingly told me that they were both Vanessa, very closely related, but the Red Admiral is very common in Minnesota and I was chagrined that I’d misidentified something else as that.

 We came to a little stretch of boardwalk over a marshy area. On a shrub was a shimmery amber-tinged odonate. I pointed it out to Raphael. It turned out to be another autumn meadowhawk, though it looked as if it ought to be an Eastern Amberwing, or at least a Band-Winged Meadowhawk. It had perched on a bit of red-stemmed dogwood, just to be extra-cooperative. We went on through the cattails and willow, past a minute patch of open water and up onto the grassy path again. Raphael pointed out that where the path climbed back out of the tiny marsh there was a nice view over the rest of the open water and the winding marsh with more willow, and cattails, and a shrub we should have known but didn’t. (I briefly misidentified it as more red-stemmed dogwood, because it was my day to misidentify everything; but it had deep purple stems and leaves just starting to turn reddish.)

 On our right for the end of our walk was the brilliant sumac and the cleft of alder saplings, all their leaves fluttering and twinkling in the wind and sunlight; on the left a long slope of prairie grasses interrupted by goldenrod and asters. More darners sailed by. The sky had lost its smoky cast and was a fine late-summer deep blue. We came back to the car and Raphael began to drive away, but I exclaimed at the sight of a big clump of stiff goldenrod covered with pollinators. We didn’t get out, but looked our fill from the car. Big bumblebees, a Ctenucha moth, beetles, ambush bugs. Once Raphael started reading it, I had to edit this entry to correct the Ctenucha moth's name and type, so have another link, since they are very handsome:

There’s one more trail you can actually walk along, near the end of the wildlife drive, but there was a sign at the beginning saying that it was flooded. Before that we drove past long stretches of marsh, open water, and rolling prairie, all patched with clumps of trees. From time to time there would be a wider spot in the road, sometimes a formal space big enough for three or four cars, with a bench or two, or a platform over a low spot with spotting scopes and some informational signs about the wildlife; others just a metal platform with railings, where you could stand and look over the water. We tentatively identified the spot where we’d once common moorhens, which are not so common that we weren’t deeply excited. We’ve also seen muskrats and various ducks in these locations, and once there was a gigantic cloud of mosaic darners all brown and yellow – I seem to recall that some of them were lance-tipped darners, but I may be wrong. This time we heard water birds making a ruckus, but couldn’t see them. Darners came by in about the density that they had been all the while. Over one platform we saw what turned out to be a northern harrier; these guys have an amazing acrobatic flight, and they’re reddish on the underside and bluish on the back. I excitedly called this one a kestrel, which would be smaller and have the colors reversed: bluish on the underside and red on the back. We also very clearly saw a nighthawk with its white wing bars, though the sun was still up.

 We also saw some cedar waxwings fly-catching from a tree with a dead top, and heard a yellow warbler.

 At last we came to a stretch of water, islands, and snags so large that it had two separate viewing-spots. From the first we saw several groups of large white birds. I thought the first were swans, but they were white pelicans. There were also some swans, however. We came finally around a curve of the gravel road to an observation station in a little oak grove, overlooking the far side of this large sheet of water. This is where most of the dead trees are, and here, to our delight, we saw as we’ve seen before several times a very large number of cormorants. The sun was setting by then, off to our right. The sky was pink and the water reflected it. Many cormorants were roosting already, but some were still coming out of the water; they would land on a branch, sometimes settling and sometimes glancing off several different trees before finding one that suited them, or one in which the other cormorants accepted them. It was hard to be sure. Then they would spread their wings out to dry, looking as if they were practicing to be bats for Halloween.

 We found the swans and pelicans we’d seen from the other viewing station, though it was getting pretty dark by then. Cormorants still flew up into the trees and spread their wings. Through binoculars you could see the ones that had folded their wings now preening their breast feathers. Some of them had pale necks and brown fronts rather than being entirely black. I mentioned this to Raphael, who looked it up in Sibley and confirmed that those were juvenile cormorants.

 It was getting quite dark by then and the mosquitoes were starting to think about biting us in earnest. We drove past two more pools; beside one two groups of people we’d seen pass earlier, a third car I didn’t recognize from before, and a man using a wheelchair were standing and gesticulating. We pulled up and got out. The water and trees were lovely in the twilight, but we didn’t see any wildlife. The solitary man went away in his wheelchair, the unfamiliar car left, and we followed, watching the varied texture of the grass and flowers fade away into the dark.



19 September 2017 22:40 - 89F - 66F : Sunny
zhelana: (potter - look)
Today was not a very good day. I had a horrible nightmare last night, and woke up exhausted. I only stayed up for 30 minutes before deciding to go back to sleep. Then I woke up 2.5 hours later to the alarm. It was time to take the cats to the vet. I trapped them, and shoved them in carriers, which they were very vocal about expressing their hatred of. We drove to PetSmart for our 3:00 appointment. When I left, at 4:30, without having been seen, the 2:00 appointment was still there and hadn't been seen either. I had places to be so I set a new appointment, and left. Now I have to traumatize the cats again, next week, and I'm sure when I put them in carriers they think they're going to get dumped back at the pound because that happened to them several times before we got them, and more than half the times of their lives they've been in a pet carrier they've either ended up at the pound, or a new home. So I'm sure they're scared shitless of this whole process. Of course, I would never get rid of my kitties, but they don't know that.

So anyway, then I went to meet Klepto at Starbucks. I wrote about 500 words in an hour and a half, and then decided to come home and take a nap because my brain was not cooperating. I slept for about 2 hours, then woke up and read the internet for a bit.
19 September 2017 22:03
the_rck: (Default)
Cordelia's having some pain at the hinge of her jaw, so Scott and I will be taking her to the dentist tomorrow afternoon. She also says her teeth are cold sensitive. I suspect that she's clenching and/or grinding at night since that's generally what gives me that sort of trouble.

I like Scott being awake and energetic in the evenings, so that's a positive for working third shift. The negative is that I have to be super quiet all day so as not to risk waking him. I'm even hesitating to make tea because of the noise of the whistle.

My left elbow is hurting a lot. Even when I'm not using the arm or hand, it sometimes hurts enough to make me mutter. The doctor recommended cold packs, but those hurt worse while I'm applying them and don't make things better after, so I'm wondering if I should try heat. That will be a bit harder because Scott moved my rice pack, and I'll have to find it. The elbow is bad enough to wake me if I move wrong, but I discovered this morning that, if I lie on my right side with a pillow between my arm and my body, the damned thing doesn't hurt. It's not ideal because I'm still feeling too warm most of the time and because the rest of my body doesn't like staying in that position, but it's better than nothing.

I have pulled out my sling. It can be useful in reminding me not to try to pick things up with that hand, but it also seems to make things worse in the long term. There's something about the angle and about how close in to my body the sling is that just doesn't work right. Possibly, I need a sling that holds the arm about three inches out from my torso.

I think that I have a solution to the problem of my c-PAP headgear sliding off-- I loosened the straps just a tiny bit, and now the dratted thing stays in place better. It's counterintuitive, but I've had it that way for two or three nights now, and it is better.

Sleep is still not great. Halcion has an effect, but it's not what my doctor said it would do. The stuff is supposed to be very short acting and hit me like a ton of bricks. It doesn't make me more immediately sleepy, but I am tending to stay asleep longer before I wake up to pee. The downside of that is that I'm getting up for that too close to when I have to get up for the day to be able to sleep again. When that's ten minutes, it's not such a big deal. When it's more than an hour... That's enough to matter.
19 September 2017 17:40 - Anthology kickstarter recommendation.
brooksmoses: (Default)
For those of you who haven't heard of it, David Steffen has been doing an annual collection of short stories, novelettes, and novellas called The Long List Anthology, collecting stories from the Hugo "Long List" -- the stories that were nominated for the Hugo but didn't get quite enough nominations to make it into the small list that goes on the voting ballot.

There are lots of good SF stories being written these days, printed in a wide range of places, and the first two editions of this collection have been full of really good ones.

I mention this now because the Kickstarter for the third edition has just opened. You can get e-books of the first two editions there as well as ebook and print copies of the third edition.
mrissa: (Default)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Review copy provided by Haikasoru Books.

This is one of the weirdest books I’ve read in a long time. The Bamboo, the creatures in it, are described as vampires, but they’re really more grass monsters who eat human carrion. They’re described as scary, but I’m not particularly scared by them so much as baffled by their strange, secretive, hierarchical laws. (For me, this is a feature, not a bug.) And on basically every other page, I’m left saying, “What? What?” (Again, a feature, not a bug.)

There are three sections varying widely in time, with different protagonists. Even within the sections, the timeline swings wildly, spending pages on a conversation translated lovingly to attempt to show what level of formality the Japanese conversation used (oh, a losing battle) and then going over forty years in a single line. I would say that it’s full of plot twists, but that sounds very linear, very straightforward, as though things are following one upon another with logic–it is full of plot twists the way the dream you are trying to remember from two nights ago is full of plot twists. “And then you what? Why? Okay.”

And then the grass monster reached the end of their life and exploded into flowers. What? Okay. No, different section, they ate someone who they thought was abusing a prostitute. What? Okay. If that’s not okay with you, you should probably move along, because that’s what there is here, a whole lot of angst and monsters and randomness, and some of you are saying, gosh, no thanks, and some of you are saying, sign me on up.

Please consider using our link to buy A Small Charred Face from Amazon.

19 September 2017 18:45 - Books read, early September
mrissa: (Default)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Alex Alice, Castle in the Stars Book One: The Space Race of 1869. Discussed elsewhere.

Hassan Blasim, ed., Iraq+100 Discussed elsewhere.

Chaz Brenchley, Dust-Up at the Crater School Chapter 7. Kindle. Plotty, moving forward, full of dust storms and schoolgirl antics, as one would expect for this project.

Marie Brennan, Maps to Nowhere. Discussed elsewhere.

George Eliot, Middlemarch. Kindle. And this is what happened to my early September. Middlemarch is surprising; it is delightful. It is one of the longest classics of English literature, and it is a joy to read. I kept thinking that I would want to leaven it with bits of something else, go off and take a break and read something in the middle of it. I didn’t. (I mean, I always have a book of short pieces going. But other than that.) While I was reading Middlemarch, I kept wanting to read Middlemarch, and when I was done reading it I wanted more of it. The only thing of its size that’s at all comparable in my attachment to it is John Sayles’s A Moment in the Sun, and that does not have the passionate following Middlemarch has–wherever I mentioned it I found that friends and strangers were ready to share my delight in this wandering intense chatty behemoth of a book. I’m discussing it with a friend who’s reading it with me. I’m not sure I have a lot to add for the general audience except to say, it’s funny, it’s intense, it’s gigantic emotionally as well as literally, it makes me want to read more George Eliot, it makes me want to read its giant self all over again. It is in some ways exactly what you would expect and in other ways nothing like what you’d expect. It is thoroughly itself. And oh, I love her, I love George Eliot so very much. I’m glad I read such a quotable thing when I was past the age of needing to strip-mine books for epigraphs. I can do that later. I’m glad I could just relax in and read this first time.

Masha Gessen, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. I enjoyed another of Gessen’s books and picked this up because the library had it, more or less on a whim. And it gave me a perspective on modern Russia that nothing else has, particularly on its criminal justice system. What the prison system is doing there, what trials are like, what sorts of things are prioritized, what and who counts, what and who does not. Enraging, illuminating. There are some things Gessen just takes for granted you will know about feminist art theory and punk, but I think it may still be interesting if you don’t? but even better if you do. Also, if you have a very strong high culture/low culture divide, read this book and have that nonsense knocked out of you. Not that I have an opinion about that.

Ben Hatke, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. Discussed elsewhere.

Steve Inskeep, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab. This is very much in the popular history category: short chapters, many things explained on a fairly straightforward level. Not a lot of delving deep into the obscure corners. However, Inskeep does a fairly good job of switching back and forth between the lens of the European settlers turned recent Americans and the lens of the cultures of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and especially Cherokee people in the region he was discussing. One of the things that this particularly underscored for me is how quickly the European/American settlers viewed the land as traditionally theirs in that part of the south: the beginning of the Cherokee Trail of Tears was twenty-three years before the US Civil War. Even the earliest of the resettlements was only thirty years before. So in some parts of the Deep South, there were indeed plantations that had been going for generations–but in large, large swaths of it, the land they were fighting so hard for was land they had just taken from its previous owners basically five minutes ago. References to traditional way of life in that context are basically like talking about GameBoys and other hand-held gaming devices as our traditional way of life: they are bullshit. I think the way we are taught this period of history in American schooling encourages us not to think of that. I will want to read much deeper works on Andrew Jackson’s presidency. In this case I will say: Inskeep is not trying to paint him as a great guy or not a racist…and I still think he ends up going too easy on him. But it’s a good starter work for this period, I think.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Language of the Night. Reread. The last time I read this was before I was keeping a book log, which means also before I was selling short stories regularly. I was a lot less prone to argue with assertions about fantasy not needing to compromise then. (Oh nonsense, of course it does.) But one of the things that makes Ursula LeGuin a great writer is that she argues with her past self, too. She evolves. She evolves in the course of this collection. And I think she’d be far happier with people thinking and arguing than uncritically absorbing anyway.

Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch. So…I didn’t mean to go straight from Middlemarch to a book about it, but the other thing I had from the library, I bounced off, and…I wasn’t ready to be done. This is Mead’s memoir entangled with a bit of biography of Eliot. There are places where Mead is bafflingly obtuse (some areas of gender politics and the writing of sexuality, notably, but also the difference between a character who is fully human and a character who is generally sympathetic), but in general it is short and rattles along satisfyingly and tells me things I want to know about George Eliot without telling me too many things I actively didn’t want to know about Rebecca Mead.

A. Merc Rustad, So You Want to Be a Robot. This is a solid and heart-wrenching collection. It’s impossible to pick one true favorite because there are so many good choices. Definitely highly recommended, Merc hits it out of the park here. And they’re just getting started.

Gerald Vizenor, Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles. This is when Vizenor was just getting started, and gosh I’m glad I didn’t get started with his early work, because…why, oh why, did so many men of the seventies–particularly men who wanted to claim they were ecologically minded without doing much about it–pick the same direction for their demonstrations of their own sexual daring? Well, Vizenor grew out of it. But it’s a one of those. The person who wrote the afterword was sure that objections to it would be because people thought Indians couldn’t be like that! and no, it’s that it’s trite, it’s exactly the kind of trite sexual objectification of women–especially Indian women–that you’d expect from “seventies dude trying to be sexually shocking.” He got better. I’m glad.

19 September 2017 15:37 - Catching up on New Worlds
swan_tower: (Default)

My Patreon is trucking along, but I haven’t been good about linking to it here. So have a list of recent posts!

This week’s post (sneak preview!) will be on rites of passage, followed by a bonus post on the theory of worldbuilding, since that’s one of the funding goals we’ve reached. Remember, this is all funded by my lovely, lovely patrons — and if you join their ranks, you get weekly photos, plus (at higher levels) opportunities to request post topics or get feedback on your own worldbuilding!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

19 September 2017 04:01 - Gaze

Posted by Robot Hugs

New comic!

The new greypup is coming around, but certainly has some adorable eye-shyness.


19 September 2017 14:53 - non-binding poll
yhlee: heptagon and flame (mirrorweb) (hxx emblem Liozh)
Because I realized there's no point in my writing prequel-to-hexarchate (or even prequel-to-heptarchate [1]) stories about all-new characters if nobody wants to read about all-new characters in the story collection. :]

[1] I had this great idea about the heptarchate's founding but.

NOTE: I make no guarantees.

Poll #18837 hexarchate story collection
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 33

What *existing* characters would you like to see more stories about?

View Answers

Shuos Jedao
23 (69.7%)

Kel Cheris
26 (78.8%)

Shuos Mikodez
17 (51.5%)

Kel Brezan
17 (51.5%)

Kel Khiruev
16 (48.5%)

Andan Niath
5 (15.2%)

Nirai Kujen
12 (36.4%)

mystery POV #1 from Revenant Gun that Yoon evilly refuses to divulge
12 (36.4%)

servitor POV #2 from Revenant Gun
17 (51.5%)

someone else that I will mention in comments
3 (9.1%)

ticky the tookie tocky
11 (33.3%)

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I am a frequent long-term contractor at a very small company. There are two owners, two full-time employees, and a handful of freelancers and interns at any one time. The owners are wonderful people whom I enjoy spending time with, but they have a practice that some coworkers and I feel conflicted about: they expect us to eat lunch with them in the office every day. And pay (and shop) for it.

They send a tin around every week to collect our lunch payments, which supposedly are based on how much we are paid (my expected weekly contribution is $40). We take turns shopping for the lunch and assembling it. The owners think this is wonderful “family” time and feel it’s an added benefit for those who work there. On your first day, they say, “This is what we do for lunch” and after that, you’re locked in.

The problem is that sometimes we don’t want to all eat lunch together and feel pressure or worry about appearances if we decline. I’ve only known one freelancer who didn’t participate, and they said things like “Does he not like us?” “Is he anti-social?” So you pretty much have to participate or you’re sort of an outsider.

I’d be happy to do it sometimes, even more than once a week, just not always. What’s troubling is the expectation that everyone participate every day. Is there any kind way to inform the owners that something that they clearly love isn’t working for everyone? They would be hurt if they knew that some employees just want to get away for an hour.

They think this is “family time”? Are you perhaps all related?

If not, this isn’t family time, and it’s bizarre that they’re calling it that.

For the record: Workplaces aren’t families. They can be places where people have close, supportive relationships and genuinely care about each other, but unless they’re using a dramatically different business model than most employers in the U.S., they’re not families. They’re paying people to be there, and those people would not show up otherwise. Workplaces don’t typically inspire (or warrant) the sort of loyalty that families do, and families don’t typically fire people or lay them off.

This is more than semantics. It can have real ramifications for employees, because it generally means that boundaries get violated and people end up feeling like they’re supposed to display inappropriate amounts of commitment and loyalty, even when that’s very much against their self-interest. And it’s usually the employees who bear the burden a lot more than the company. Turn this around, and try to imagine an employee saying “but we’re like a family!” when her boss gives her critical feedback.

Anyway, that rant aside, the best thing here is to be straightforward and matter-of-fact. You can do that on a case-by-case basis, or you can do it big-picture.

If you do it case-by-case, then on days you don’t feel like eating with everyone else, just say, “I’ve got some errands I’m going to run today so I won’t be joining you in the kitchen. See you in about an hour!” Say it cheerfully and like of course it’s no big deal, and hope that they’ll respond with some degree of reasonableness. (I know they were all weird and sad about the freelancer who didn’t eat with them, but it sounds like that was every day, so maybe they’ll pull it together and get through the shock of you doing it less frequently? If not, you’d need to decide to just be okay with the fact that they’re baffled by your absences.)

But I think you’d be better off addressing it big-picture. That’s potentially more awkward, but it’s more likely to get you a clearer resolution. Ideally you’d get a group of coworkers to say this with you so that you’re not out on a limb by yourself, but if you can’t, it’s reasonable to say it on your own too. You’d say something like this: “It’s nice of you to set up these group lunches, but can we do them less often? Sometimes I/we need use my/our lunch time for other things — running errands or even just taking a walk — and it feels like a big deal to not attend. What if we switched to doing them once a week instead so that people can use their lunch break in different ways if they want or need to?”

Of course, that’s not even getting into the (seemingly required?) lunch payments. If you succeed in getting these lunches cut back to weekly or less, you may not need to. But if would be entirely reasonable for you and your coworkers to say, “You know, we don’t want to be locked into spending $40 on lunches every week. Can we switch to a system where we fend for ourselves so that people have more control of their lunch budgets? We could still do group lunches occasionally — maybe weekly or monthly? — but it would be easier on us if we brought our own food rather than shopping for the group and preparing it together.” That’s not really addressing the issue head-on (although certainly the money/shopping/prep part of this is a weirdness in its own right), but it’s an option if your sense is that it’ll go over better.

my office makes us cook and eat lunch together every day was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’m a new manager at a small nonprofit I’ve worked at for about 2 years. My role recently expanded to include managing a small team of two full time staff and an intern, who perform duties that were unfamiliar to me before. Overall, the transition has gone well and I have good individual relationships with each person. However, I am really struggling with our new every-other-week team meetings. I feel like I’m the only person talking, and staff facial expressions and body language make me feel like they hate being there. It’s stressful for me and in some ways I find it quite rude.

I think I’m following good meeting etiquette – I keep the meetings short, always have a printed agenda, ask for feedback about everything, and one of the staff takes notes. But when I ask for feedback, suggestions or other business, they just stare at me. These staff/interns are all fairly reserved and young (oldest is 23) and I worry that because I’m outspoken and their boss, they take everything I suggest as law, when I want discussion and feedback.

It’s worth noting that prior to the org restructure, this team was largely unsupervised and underdeveloped. They never had one-on-one supervisions, team meetings, learning goals or reporting requirements, all of which we now have — so a lot of things may feel new and unfamiliar. Even now, due to the nature of their roles they still work fairly independently on a daily basis. I feel like they don’t understand the general point of having team meetings and are not used to continuous improvement processes, etc.

I’m not sure how to get them comfortable and engaged. Icebreakers feel cheesy in meetings that are often just three people. What can I do?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

how can I get my staff to talk in meetings? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

19 September 2017 12:26 - Guns and Roses
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

The restaurant. Normally when one describes a restaurant it’s about the décor and the food, right? Um, I’ll say it was beautiful and romantic and great because that’s what it was supposed to be but I don’t actually remember what the food was like or how it was decorated. I mostly remember the obsequious service.

Maybe it wasn’t more obsequious than usual, but all I wanted to do was be left alone and instead people were nonstop checking on us, telling us things about the food, asking if we wanted more of this or that, you name it. They weren’t being unprofessional–it wasn’t like they were taking our pictures or asking us for autographs–but it was like every person who worked there wanted to make sure they got to serve us.

Read the rest of this entry » )
19 September 2017 10:15 - Highlander Exchange
muccamukk: Joe in front of Notre Dame Cathedral (HL: Joe in Paris)
Anyone know if this is running this year, and if it'll be on LJ? And if it is on LJ if people who deleted their LJs can participate?

ETA: [community profile] hlh_shortcuts. And it will be run entirely on DW. Last year sign ups started end of September. I really rec this fest as it's extremely welcoming and the mod is great.
19 September 2017 09:56
rachelmanija: (Default)
I just spent several minutes trying to figure out where the hell the mysterious rustling noises were coming from.

One of my cats (Alex) was entirely hidden within the depths of a shoebox-size Priority Mail box. He has just now emerged, and his sister Erin has vanished inside.

No cat photos because I don't have an X-Ray camera.
19 September 2017 16:02 - Difference of Mind

Posted by Editor

A Reading List of SF/F Books with Mentally Ill Characters

by Erica Satifka

According to the World Health Organization, one out of every four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Considering this, it’s important that when characters with mental illness are featured in one’s writing, the subject is treated with sensitivity and accuracy. Novels that portray such disorders well can make a huge difference.

Em Kalberg, the protagonist of my debut novel Stay Crazy, has paranoid schizophrenia. As I researched the novel, I found that there were very few positive representations of people with schizophrenia, and not just in speculative fiction, but everywhere. The vast majority of the time, characters with psychotic disorders are monsters or killers. These negative depictions have real-world consequences for people with schizophrenia, leading to fear and marginalization. In Stay Crazy, Em deals with the horror of the dimension-eating alien creature that dwells underneath her workplace, which she can’t even be sure is real due to her condition. On top of this, she has the social stigma of being “crazy”, which is enhanced by living in a small town where everyone knows each other’s business. Em can’t rebuild her life until she can be sure of her own mind, and the pressure of the aliens and stereotypes nearly destroys her. While I’m pretty sure there aren’t any aliens, Em’s struggle against the stigma of mental illness is all too real, and I did my best to reflect that respectfully throughout the text.

Here are fourteen other novels, novellas, or short story collections that prominently feature characters with mental illnesses or trauma:

Borderline by Mishell Baker

In this debut urban fantasy novel, Baker mines her personal experience to provide the story of Millie Roper, a woman with borderline personality disorder who gets drafted into a secret organization. The Arcadia Project acts as liaisons between the Faerie world and the equally glittering land of Hollywood, and each member of the group has a mental illness. Baker deftly shows the ways Millie, who in addition to BPD is a double-leg amputee from a suicide attempt, finds that her mental illness both interferes with and enhances her work with the organization.

Bullettime by Nick Mamatas

Dave Holbrook, victim of school bullying and bad parenting, is headed down a dark path. Tempted by the idea of shooting up his school, he receives divine intervention in the form of Eris, the Greek goddess of discord. She shows him the various routes his life could take, and Dave must decide for himself whether or not mass murder is the solution to his problems. Mamatas’s intriguing novel explores the ramifications of abuse and neglect, but it is no Afterschool Special.

The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Reality blends with fantasy in this story of India Morgan Phelps, a young woman with schizophrenia. Through use of a non-linear timeline and stream-of-consciousness passages, Kiernan intimately shows the struggles going on through Imp’s mind as she tries to uncover the story behind a mysterious woman she encountered late one night. Imp’s circling thought patterns and hallucinations make this both an effective horror/fantasy novel and a fascinating glimpse into psychotic disorders.

Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro

After being branded as a child-murderer, detective Andrea Cort is drafted into investigating a homicide in an artificial ecosystem called One One One. Due to her trauma, Cort is brusque and unwilling to make friends, but she must work through her issues to uncover the culprit… and maybe get to the bottom of the incident that led to her case of PTSD. Castro paints a realistic picture of the effects major trauma can have on a person, and the ways in which they can use their mission to overcome it.

Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick

In an alternate 1994, Mars has been colonized, but corporations care more about the profit found in its land than the mysteries of the planet itself. Jack Bohlen is a handyman, who fled to Mars after a breakdown on Earth made living in its crowded cities intolerable. Jack meets up with a troubled little boy named Manfred, who forces him to reexamine his own demons. While many of Dick’s novels delve into the topic of mental illness, this one more than any other illustrates a neuroatypical character with stunning sensitivity and three-dimensionality. Much of the medical information in this book is outdated, but the themes still shine.

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

John Wayne Cleaver, a teenage sociopath with a serial killer fixation, creates rules to keep himself on the straight and narrow. When a real killer emerges close to home, John uses his instincts to hunt down the culprit, with his therapist a much-needed stabilizing force. Wells’ supernatural crime novel explores the seemingly contradictory idea of a sympathetic sociopath, and explores how John’s mental differences keep him from connecting with other human beings.

An Oath of Dogs by Wendy N. Wagner

In this science fiction mystery, an agoraphobic corporate worker named Kate Standish travels with her service dog Hattie to the lush, fertile world of Huginn. But a murder has been committed in the colony right before her arrival, and Standish and her colleagues must get to the bottom of things. Wagner handles her protagonist’s agoraphobia with sensitivity, vividly describing the anxiety Standish feels in the open spaces of Huginn. Her service dog is also an integral part of the plot, showing how their bond allows Standish to function even in a tightly-wound situation.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

In a dystopian America, Lauren Olamina develops a new religion called Earthseed, its goal the evolution of humanity through space travel. Lauren also lives with a condition called hyper-empathy, which causes her to literally feel the pain of others, which is instrumental in her development of Earthseed. Lauren and a motley band of refugees travel from the ruins of Los Angeles, seeking safety, and Lauren becomes a leader despite – or maybe because of – her hyper-empathy.

Planetfall by Emma Newman

The newly born colony in which Ren Ghali has spent most of her adult life is thriving, but she isn’t. Unbeknownst to her fellow colonists, Ren suffers from hoarding, a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder. When a stranger enters the colony, everyone’s life is thrown into disarray, especially hers. As she tries to keep her secret, Ren is confronted with the secrets from her past that led her to start hoarding, and the fate of the colony itself hangs in the balance. Newman treats her character’s mental illness with sensitivity, and the anxiety Ren feels in her everyday life feels all too real.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

In a typical YA fantasy novel, a group of quirky teens battle monsters and save the day. But Ness’s clever inversion of this trope instead focuses on a group of “normal” high school seniors who have to deal with the fallout of the supernatural happenings around them, while helping each other get through the last days until graduation. Narrator Mikey Mitchell is one of them, but his final weeks are interrupted by a flare-up of his obsessive-compulsive disorder. Funny and touching, this novel perfectly balances a realistic depiction of anxiety with a meta-take on genre literature itself.

Shelter by Susan Palwick

A sort of near-future family drama, this novel takes place in a world where altruism is medicalized, AI are demanding human rights, and much of the population has been wiped out by a devastating virus. One of the protagonists, Roberta, spends a lot of time in therapy to overcome her extreme altruism. The other major character, Meredith, has some “issues” of her own, largely stemming from her father being the first human to be uploaded into a computer. Palwick expertly shows the way these two troubled women’s lives intersect, and how people live in a uniquely structured futuristic world.

Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts edited by Susan Forest

This Canadian short story anthology features nineteen stories about neuroatypical characters, covering a wide range of mental differences. Though many stories are set in the far future or in a secondary world, their problems still ring true, and show a wide diversity of disabilities. While some of the stories focus more tightly on the theme of mental illness, others simply show the protagonist surviving in their world. No two stories in Strangers Among Us are too much alike, and the anthology features well-known authors such as Kelley Armstrong, A.M. Dellamonica, Gemma Files, and many others.

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

A group of troubled outcasts are brought together for group therapy – but their demons aren’t done with them yet. All five members of the group carry trauma from various brushes with the supernatural: cannibal killers, a creepy cult, and a serial killer who carves messages into his victim’s bones. Gregory explores the ways in which trauma can shape one’s present, such as drug addiction and an escape into virtual reality. The group therapy itself is also a focus of this novella, showing the ways in which these five survivors help one another to grow and change, and defeat the revived monsters of their respective pasts.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Connie Ramos, a Mexican-American woman in 1970s New York City, has been recently institutionalized and threatened with psychosurgery. But her hallucinations are actually visions of the year 2137, where racial and sexual equality have been achieved, and mankind lives in harmony with the Earth. Flipping back and forth from a utopic future and a painful present – and a third nightmare future – Connie must decide whether to take steps to make the paradise come to pass, while living with her own demons and avoiding the medical establishment that isn’t on her side.

Mental illness is a fact of life for millions of people in the United States alone, and it’s important that fiction reflects this reality. By reading books that show mentally ill characters in a sympathetic light, readers can expand their ideas of what these characters are capable of, and make the world more welcoming. Likewise, writers who wish to write about a disorder they don’t have (or even one they do) would do well to seek out both fiction and non-fiction about it, and remember that their characters aren’t just defined by their mental health. Happy reading!


Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her British Fantasy Award-nominated debut novel Stay Crazy was released in August 2016 by Apex Publications, and her short fiction has appeared in ClarkesworldShimmerInterzone, and The Dark. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats. Visit her online at www.ericasatifka.com.


Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I just graduated college in May, and landed a full-time job in my hometown in the perfect field for me, thanks to your help with resumes and cover letters! However, this job has turned out to be very different from what I expected — namely, there is no semblance of work-life balance, and I was hoping you could help me figure out what to do.

Some background: my job is at an agency where our clients are working almost 24/7. I specifically didn’t want to work in that field because I hated that 24/7 work in previous internships — something I mentioned during my interview. But I was assured that working at our agency was much less demanding.

Boy, do I feel like my interviewer (who is now my boss) told me wrong. In my first four months at this job, I have stayed late at least two nights every week, been forced to stay home both days all weekend to wait on client approval for content, been literally woken up by phone calls on holiday weekends to work, and am now (understandably, I hope) scared to make any advance plans because I’m worried I may have to drop everything and work. One time, I waited an hour to reply to a request outside of working hours because I was at a movie, and was given a pretty stern talking-to by my boss.

I’ve asked coworkers about how they manage work-life balance, or avoid situations like being chained to my laptop all weekend. People mostly laugh when I ask about work-life balance, and the best advice I’ve been given is to take my laptop with me everywhere, and use my phone as a hotspot (a service that my company does not pay for).

I’m really struggling with what to do here. I know the logical answer is to talk to my boss, but I’m worried I’ll get the same sort of laughed off reaction that other coworkers have given me. I like my company and the work we do, but I can’t work non-stop like this. While I don’t mind having high expectations set for me or working a little extra since I’m new and still trying to make an impression, this feels excessive. I have no work-life balance, at all. Family members who I consider mentors have told me to look for a different job, but I feel like I have to stick it out for at least a year, and since I love the results of our non-stop work for so long, I would want to stay longer if I could make this work.

I wrote back and asked, “When you say you’ve had to stay late two nights every week, how late is it usually?”

I usually have to stay about an hour past the time I’m supposed to get off.

Huh. Okay, that changes things for me. Based on the letter, I was expecting it to be hours and hours.

Staying an hour late twice a week isn’t a big deal in a lot of fields. Even in fields that don’t have particularly crazy hours, staying an extra hour two nights a week is pretty normal for many professional jobs (to the point that it wouldn’t even be considered working late).

Things get iffier with some of the other details. Getting a stern talking-to because you took an hour to respond to an email over the weekend is not normal or reasonable, assuming that there wasn’t something unusual going on where you should have known to be on high alert.

Getting woken up by work calls on holiday weekends — it could go either way. If someone is calling you at 7 a.m., that better be a serious emergency. But an 11 a.m. call on a holiday weekend in a field where it’s known that work sometimes happens outside of regular work hours — it might not be an outrage, if it was for something that really couldn’t wait. (On the other hand, you should be left alone on weekends if it’s not time-sensitive.)

Staying home both days one weekend to wait for client approval … it’s a thing that happens in some fields. If it’s rare (and it sounds like it’s only happened once), it can just be part of a professional job, even in fields that aren’t constantly hectic.

So this is a tricky question to answer because, unless there are details that didn’t make it into your letter, this doesn’t actually sound like working non-stop. It sounds like a lot of professional jobs that are busy but not insanely so. With the exception of the lecture when you were at a movie, this is the kind of thing that you could encounter in a lot of other jobs, even if you change fields. So that’s one perspective to have on it.

That said, given the movie lecture and the fact that your coworkers laughed when you asked about work-life balance, I’m betting that there are other details that add up to something closer to non-stop. If that’s the case, then yes, I would start looking around at other jobs. You know that you don’t want this kind of schedule, you knew that before you took this job and thought that they’d assured you that you wouldn’t have it here, and it’s making you miserable. You’re allowed to leave!

You said you feel like you have to stick it out for a year, which I assume is because you’re trying to avoid looking like a job hopper. But you’re not going to look like a job hopper if you have one short stay. Job hopping is about a pattern of behavior, not leaving quickly one time. It does mean that it’ll be important that you stay at your next job for a while, but you don’t need to be miserable in this job out of some notion that you’re obligated to stay a year. (Also, for the record, one year is still really short in most fields. A pattern of one-year stays would be a problem, and aiming for a year is not the right goal if you’re trying to avoid that. Read this for more on that. But that doesn’t sound like it will apply here, since this is your first post-college job.)

You asked about talking to your boss, and you could certainly try that, but if this is how your office works — and especially if this is how your field works, which sounds like the case — I’m doubtful that much will come of that. If these are the hours and this is the culture … well, these are the hours and this is the culture, and there’s some risk of looking out of touch.

So I’d start looking around and see if you can find a better fit. Before you make any moves, talk to people who work in whatever field you’re thinking of moving into so that you have a really realistic understanding of the norms around hours. You probably know about the fields with truly crazy hours (law, politics, advocacy, PR, and a bunch of others), but there are a ton more where a few extra hours a week and the occasional weekend isn’t going to register on anyone’s radar (and thus won’t get mentioned when you ask an interviewer about work/life/balance). So you want to really dig into the norms of any field you move toward — not just with your interviewers, but with people working in that industry. Good luck!

I’m a recent grad and feel like I’m working too much was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

19 September 2017 08:04 - BookFest St Louis–this weekend!
ann_leckie: (AJ)

So, here I am in St Louis and if you saw yesterday’s blog post you might have noticed there are no St Louis dates on the tour.


Thanks to Left Bank Books, there’ll be an event in the Central West End called BookFest St. Louis. There will be lots of writers there, and the vast majority of panels and whatnot are free! (I think there are, like, two exceptions.)

There’s going to be a Science Fiction panel at 5pm on Saturday, September 23, with Charlie Jane Anders, Annalee Newitz, Mark Tiedemann….and me!

If you are in St Louis this weekend, come to BookFest! Left Bank Books is a lovely store with a very nice SF section and worth visiting on its own, but just look at all the folks who are going to be here! Do come to the CWE this weekend if you can!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

19 September 2017 11:17 - Well, I survived.
miss_s_b: (Default)
I did GLEEEE and it felt like it was a good one and I got a whole four hours' sleep and I chaired the first debate of the morning (link here for those in the UK) and it didn't all go horribly wrong and nobody tried to suspend standing orders on me.

The next thing is Not The Leaders' Speech. Which, the way things are going, will be in the sodding directory by Spring.
18 September 2017 22:39
jhameia: ME! (Default)
Yesterday I went into Box Springs again. There's a fence between Box Springs and Islander Park on Linden, the wall of which is the pipe through which I usually scootch. But this time I wanted to see if I could find the other end of the fence which the Metrolink put up which cuts off easy access from Big Springs Road to the "C" trail. It took me a while, but eventually I found a trail that winds out near the intersection of Watkins and Mount Vernon, right into the parking lot of the Riverside STEM Academy, which I hadn't even realized was a thing.

I was pretty pooped afterwards though. I meant to go back out to do a raid after lunch, but thought I'd lay down for a twenty minute nap which turned into two and a half hours. Ooops.

What I did get started on which was semi-productive was fixing up my jeans. The smallest pair of jeans from several years ago (probably when I first moved here) fit, but it had gaping holes in the inner thigh area (as one does). It was really comfy and I didn't feel like giving it up, so I basically double-patched it: inside and outside. That's some reinforcement in the places which get the most friction, and hopefully this will hold up. I think it'll work out well.

Today I spent puzzling out how to alter my jacket sleeves. I think I undid my stitches on the left sleeve about 8 times trying to make it lay down right. Finally I gave up on the idea of it looking perfect, since it's not going to be visible anyway, and having it so the outer layer lay down okay. I think I did all right. I'm actually not entirely sure where the sleeve should end, but when my arm is relaxed at the side, the sleeve comes up to the wrist, which I think looks professional.

I got frustrated about halfway through, and went out for lunch to Pho Vinam. I think I ate too much, though. I probably didn't need to eat half the meat on the plate, and should have just tried for a third instead. I was yawning the rest of the day, and had to lay down for a while, but I otherwise persevered, and I now have proper jacket sleeves. The right sleeve took about 5 tries. SIGH. On the bright side, I think I can say that my slip stitch is improving.

I dug around my fabric stash looking for jeans material, which I could have SWORN I had somewhere, because I wanted to patch the other two pairs of old jeans (they don't fit well, but they can't be easily pulled off my hips either). I decided to use some fancy embroidered scrap to patch the inner thighs of one of my jeans instead. I feel they're fairly visible to anybody staring at my butt, but maybe this will give me manic pixie dream girl vibes.

I'm still not caught up with Night Vale (which I can only listen to when my hands are otherwise occupied by crafts) and frankly I should really vacuum my bedroom.

Tomorrow if I wake up early enough, I'll definitely try for another 5k walk. The mornings have been amazingly foggy so I don't want to lose that opportunity.

I did, however, find the book in which I had started re-writing my steampunk romance novel, so I'm gonna see what I can puzzle out of it tomorrow. Maybe I'll go downtown and do some writing? At least least get re-acquainted with this second draft of the novel.
18 September 2017 22:12 - Meme Answers
muccamukk: Matt, arms spread wide, wearing a red shirt that says "I'm Not Dare Devil" with a candy-strpe cane with mistletoe on end (Marvel: Not Daredevil)
Character List
1. Amanda (Highlander)
2. Boromir (The Lord of the Rings)
3. Colleen Wing (Daughters of the Dragon)
4. Doc Holliday (Wynonna Earp)
5. Éowyn (The Lord of the Rings)
6. Jefferson Jackson (Legends of Tomorrow)
7. Joe Dawson (Highlander)
8. Kaulder (The Last Witch Hunter)
9. Misty Knight (Daughters of the Dragon)
10. Murderbot (All Systems Red)
11. Nala (Sinbad 2012)
12. Sara Lance (Legends of Tomorrow)
13. Sinbad (Sinbad 2012)
14. Wynonna Earp (Wynonna Earp)
15. Xavier Dolls (Wynonna Earp)

The questions: )
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