meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Bittercon: Do Aliens Use Base-10?

Here's another interesting panel topic from Mile Hi Con: the invisible assumptions that may be in our worldbuilding. Like the fish being unaware of the water in which it swims, we often don't even notice certain elements of our daily experience as being cultural, and assume them as universals.

The title refers to the fact that most human cultures count by tens and multiples of tens -- most likely because we have ten fingers. However, it's not even a human universal -- there are cultures that count by twenties (found even in English in such formal and rather old-fashioned expressions as "Four score and seven years ago..."), and the Babylonians used twelves and even sixty as bases for numbering.

And from the Babylonians came our system of dividing the day into two sets of twelve hours, AM and PM, and subdividing the hour into sixty minutes and the minute into sixty seconds. Again, something that is easy to simply suppose as a universal, but isn't necessarily true even in historical human societies here on Earth (see traditional Chinese timekeeping)

On the other hand, keeping with familiar conventions helps make writing more transparent and sensible to the reader. Much as you'll be writing your story in present-day English, even if your characters speak a language with no grammatical gender, aspect instead of tense, and prepositions formed from nominal phrases, presupposing the invisible translation of certain basic things like numbering system and time system for your fictional world may well make it more reader-friendly, especially if your POV characters are part of it, as opposed to Terrans visiting an alien world, where the differences accent its alienness.
  • Current Location: home
  • Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
  • Current Music: "Paperback Writer" by the Beatles
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Writing Progress and Non-Progress

Yesterday I did some various things related to our merchandise. However, I did get a little more writing done on "Friendship Doesn't Die."

Today we went to the breakfast at one church, then the lunch at another. In the afternoon I took a nap, and then we went to what was supposed to be a meet-and-greet from the local sf club at a Voltron mini-convention. However, it wasn't much of an event, so we came home and had supper. Now I need to get some writing done.
  • Current Location: home
  • Current Mood: tired tired
  • Current Music: "Time" by Pink Floyd
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Bittercon: Always Keep Nerd Fighting: Understanding Fandom as a Social Movement

This panel from the Mile Hi Con programming schedule is a look at fandom as a gateway for organizing social activism. Most conventions have a charity that they raise funds for, whether it be a health-related one like the American Cancer Society or a local no-kill animal shelter (a perennial favorite of furry cons). But some fans go beyond merely donating money through a charity auction, and get together as groups to act directly, whether it's cleaning up litter in their community or making themselves available for disaster relief operations. Which raises the question of what is it about fandom that leads to these sorts of activities?

Humans are social beings -- we need one another, and we need a sense of acceptance in our community. And fandom has often provided a community of choice for those who are repeatedly rejected by their communities of proximity. As we find acceptance with like-minded people, we start wanting to help other outcasts to find us -- and from there it's not that huge of a leap to reaching out to people who are in other kinds of distress, whether it be staffing a mental health line or helping clean out and rebuilt homes damaged by a natural disaster.
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  • Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
  • Current Music: "Fixing a Hole" by the Beatles
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meow, cat, Siamese, catty

A Bittercon for Mile Hi Con

Mile Hi Con is an old-school literary science fiction convention held each year in Denver, Colorado. Although some of my online friends go there and I'd love to get to see them in person, it's just too small of a convention for it to be feasible for us to go to it. So why not have a Bittercon for it, and talk about some of the interesting panel discussions right here online, where distance is no object.
  • Current Location: home
  • Current Mood: sad sad
  • Current Music: "Money" by Pink Floyd
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Is It Time to Ban Non-Compete Agreements?

It used to be that non-compete agreements were relatively rare, and generally confined to fields in which employees were working with sensitive or highly valuable information such as proprietary processes. However, recently non-compete agreements have been spreading downward, even to minimum- and near-minimum-wage jobs such as cooks at pizza parlors, or hairdressers and barbers. It seems that employers are wanting to ensure that they will see return on their investment of training a worker by making it difficult or impossible for that person to get a job that's equal to or a step up from what they have.

Now a Senator is proposing a ban on non-compete agreements except in some very limited and specified situations. It's being argued that non-compete agreements actually harm business in the long run, by hampering the free flow of skills and ideas through an industry and thus slowing innovation.
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  • Current Mood: nerdy nerdy
  • Current Music: "Taking Care of Business" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
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meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Crazy Weather

It seems hard to believe that, just two weeks ago, it was 90 out and we were running the air conditioner. As I was getting ready for the trip to Archon, I was running around in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.

And then the cold front came through that night and put a stop to the record-breaking heat. Out comes jeans and jackets, for Archon and for the convention that followed. We switched from air conditioning to heating season.

Today it barely got into the 50's, and with the biting wind, I decided it was time to dig out my winter coat. We may get some warmer weather later this week, but I'm thinking it'll still just be jacket weather, rather than short sleeves. We're definitely moving toward winter, and it's time to get ready.
  • Current Location: home
  • Current Mood: cold cold
  • Current Music: "The Best of Times" by Styx
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

And that was the Imaginarium Convention

We're home, critical bookwork is done, and I've even begun the process of unloading merchandise. Far too much merchandise, since we sold almost nothing this past weekend. It's a shame, because on paper the convention looked like it should be a perfect market for our books, which are now just sitting around in piles since the bottom fell out of the online market for them.

Instead, most of the members spent their time at panel discussions and class sessions. It didn't help that the hotel and convention center were really, really grotty -- compared to when we did ConGlomeration there in 2016, it looks like the owners have stopped maintaining it. We did sell a few books and some other stuff, and got to see some friends we haven't seen since we haven't been able to get to ConGlomeration. But we didn't get halfway to the cost of our tables, let alone the cost of gas down to Louisville and back. At least we used loyalty program points for our hotel stays, so we didn't have that expense. But we also lost a weekend when we could've been doing other, more productive things like working on my websites.

On the whole, it was a big disappointment, and I don't see us ever going back again.
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  • Current Mood: sad sad
  • Current Music: "Money" by Pink Floyd
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meow, cat, Siamese, catty

New Protections from Hidden Cameras and Microphones

Are your devices watching you? With the growth of the Internet of Things, the presence of tiny cameras and microphones in everyday devices such as thermostats and doorbells have become a cause for increasing concern. Although they can help homeowners increase home security, if they are not known to the owner, they can allow companies or even the government to spy on users, even in parts of the home where one usually expects complete privacy.

A US Senator from Colorado is proposing a bill that would legally mandate the disclosure of all products containing microphones and cameras. The idea is to ensure that consumers can exercise a knowledgeable choice when purchasing devices, since not all manufacturers use the inclusion of cameras or microphones as a selling point.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Senate may have bigger fish to fry this session, and the bill is given little likelihood of passing.
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  • Current Mood: nerdy nerdy
  • Current Music: "Games People Play" by the Alan Parsons Project
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Library Accessibility Fail

It's a sad fact that many libraries in historic buildings have significant issues with disability access. As a result, there's often a tension between maintaining the historic structure and remodeling to add accessible features such as elevators and ramps.

However, new construction has no such excuse, and a recently opened library is leaving people scratching their heads, wondering what were they thinking? After almost two decades of design and construction work, the new Hunter's Point library in Queens has opened, and it's an accessibility disaster. Several floors of their fiction collection were built alongside a beautiful open staircase -- with no alternative means of access for patrons (or librarians) with restricted mobility. The photograph looks lovely, but as soon as you realize those floors are out of reach to a significant segment of the user population, that architectural beauty becomes a kick in the teeth.

Worse, there's no practical way to retrofit that area for an elevator, or repurpose it for storage. It looks like the best they're going to be able to do is put some kind of permanent art display in there, so that people can admire something in that space that doesn't need to be approached to be enjoyed.

Still, it's a loss for everyone.
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  • Current Mood: sad sad
  • Current Music: "When I'm Sixty-four" by the Beatles