18 December 2015

Commonweal #4 current status 2015-12-18

word count screenshot for 2015-12-18
44859 - 27966 = 16893
2015-12-18 - 2015-11-22 = 26

So about 65% of the desired rate.  Still, not nothing and much of it is lamentably philosophical.

09 December 2015

Call for typos

I have excellent readers and they send me typos and formatting infelicities so I can fix them.  (And if I've received them I have fixed them.  Thank you, one and all.)

The current idea is to publish updated epubs of  The March North or A Succession of Bad Days around about the Gregorian new year.

So if you have any typeaux or formatting niggles that you'd like to be fixed and you don't know that I have them, please do feel free to stick them into the comments should you be so inclined.

25 November 2015

The inherent illegitimacy of social power

Every now and again I get to feeling like some things are really obvious, but no one else seems to get them.  Or maybe they're too polite to talk about them.  And then sometimes I get writing fiction and bits of reality insist on intruding, or maybe vice-versa, and I get an explanation of why I cannot stand to read a lot of otherwise excellent writing.  And then I wonder if I ought to post this at all.

But, anyway; if we talk about "power" in a human social context, power is the ability to have other people not fight back when you harm them.

(If you're doing a really good job exercising power, they'll come up with reasons why they deserve to be hurt.  A mediocre job will have them come up with reasons why they cannot hope to retaliate effectively.)

Any power structure has to do two things; it has to make it unambiguous who is allowed to hurt whom[1], and it has to get itself copied into the future.

Attaching the exercise of power to individuals isn't the only way or the best way to organize society, but it's extremely persistent.

It's extremely persistent because it's simple—better usually means more complicated means more maintenance and more trouble with system exploits by defection—and because it provides a powerful motivation; no one wants to be powerless because being powerless means you get abused.

There's a big set of social and economic changes going on where the (obviously) economically superior form of organization says "let's not structure society around who gets hurt" and there's enormous pushback from the people who have power and want to keep it.

(This is why it's useless to talk about "privilege"; privilege is in the passive voice, and you don't get from impersonal historical forces to a recognition that those who now have power ought not to because there is no legitimate exercise of social power vesting in individuals.)

So one response to the helpless—refugees, the poor, anybody lacking the social connections to have a good-enough lawyer—is to hurt them.  This has (from inside that social structure) the positive feature of reinforcing the social order.

So when people get up and make calls for refusing any and all Syrian refugees, the harm to the refugees isn't a lamentable side effect of due public caution; it's the point.  It establishes who legitimately exercises power.

When people engage with art by adding layers of story, there's a ubiquitous tendency to make violence and cruelty not that character's fault because that's the character they like. This is arguably what art is for.  This context of art makes looking at the legitimacy of social power vested in individuals difficult.  (There isn't any, unless you agree that you should be hurt for the convenience or pleasure of others.  It's…awkward, to have to start over.)

This presents the really difficult question of "what else should we do?"

Social power structures depend on getting copied into the future.  Imagining an entire future is too difficult; no one can, or can expect, to be able to do that.

Fortunately, an entire future is not necessary.  Delegitimizing social power vested in individuals -- agreeing that nobody gets to hurt others because they want to (or claim they need to, or have a belief system which asserts the positive good of coercion…) -- is enough.  The result isn't predictable in detail, but is predictably better in result.

It's enough to get something better; that's success.  Control, specific foreknowledge of just what better thing can be had, isn't available and (fortunately) is not required.

[1] this is why "gender neutral" children's clothing looks like boy's clothes.  In a patriarchial culture, girl's clothes label you as someone anyone male can hurt.  Very nearly someone who anyone male should hurt.

22 November 2015

Commonweal #4 current status 2015-11-22

Word count screenshot for 2015-11-22
A bit over 8,000 words.  So I made my thousand a day.  (Not much more than the thousand a day, so it feels kind of an average week, but a good average.)  The plotty bits appear to be headed somewhere, and the protagonist hasn't gone on strike for a better writer, so it'll do.

16 November 2015

Commonweal #4, current status 2015-11-16

word count screenshot for 2015-11-16
Started getting some momentum at long last.  (You can't see directories argh and argh2 here.  Voice, why must it torment us so.)  So that doesn't really count as "from the start of November".  But I'm happy, because Safely You Deliver had an average rate around 25 kwords/month once it woke up and went live in my head.  So this feels like it might be progress.

04 November 2015

Not so bad for a phone camera

Juvenile merlin in the Hawk Hill oak in High Park
Admittedly a phone camera with some help from a spotting scope.   This was the only raptor seen at today's hawk watch; the weather being entirely gorgeous means the migrants don't hit the lake or proceed along the shoreline.  (It would be interesting to see what a hawk watch along the shore of Lake Huron would be seeing this year.  Everything still seems to be funnelling over the Detroit River.)

October did actually happen.  I got to the Ixiasoft DITA CMS conference in Montreal; it was excellent.  It's cheering to see something I was involved in the beginnings of doing so well.  There was a federal election that avoided disaster.  (It might have been a good thing; ask me this time next year, after we know what happens to C-51 and a bunch of other issues where Liberal policy is at best dubious.)  I got a bit of cycling in.  Commonweal #3, tentatively Safely You Deliver, is off to copy-edit after acquiring more unicorn viewpoint.  (I may have acquired a bit of extra gibbering.)

I have at long last managed to pull apart the various narrative threats, err, threads, which are (I think) going to turn into Commonweal #4, #5, and #6.  There's a pile of notes, chunks of actual narrative of uncertain utility, the beginnings of a formal timeline, and somewhere past 10,000 words on #4 for the... fourth? I think fourth... time.  But it has a nice simple plot now, rather than trying to get everything into the one book.

29 September 2015

Stricken with philosophy

Aoife the cat stricken with philosophy
I am guessing, but stricken with philosophy is what it looks like.  Nearly an hour of hallway patrol yesterday; there was a mighty desire to hiss under the neighbour's door at their obviously illegitimate and improper cat, but I kept being a big meanie and making that impractical.

06 September 2015

Food and Security

In the last few days, I've had email from four different progressive organizations about a drowned child from Syria.

They talk about compassion and accepting refugees and petitioning governments to allow the people trying to escape Syria into where we live, which, well, it makes me want to tear my hair.

Not because I disagree with compassion or the duty to accept refugees; those are both obvious and necessary.

Because this is just the start.

Syria's collapse isn't solely due to drought and failed crops, maybe isn't mostly due to drought and failed crops — being next to a failed state that's exporting gunmen can't help; having a despot can't help — but political difficulties can, in principle, be fixed.  The Eastern Mediterranean going very, very dry cannot be fixed.  (The Eastern Mediterranean is larger than Syria.)

California going very very dry can't be fixed, either.  Nor parts of Africa going dry, nor the prospect of the Asian Monsoon shutting down, or the discomfiting observation that folks farming up in Grey County in Ontario are trying to get the hay off in early September, rather than June.  It's not like we've got an expectation of nice ordered slow linear failure of agriculture with lots of warning.  It's not like it can't happen here; Saskatchewan grows not quite half Canada's food, and they're trending dry, as is pretty much all of Canada west of Winnipeg.

It's not like we have any reasonable expectation of being able to do anything about it once agriculture gets broken enough that even an oil executive or the owner of a coal mine will acknowledge there's a climate problem.  There's a decade or two of continuing change built in once the emissions stop; things will go right on getting worse.

Discussions of the bad effects of climate change focus on habitability; the sea will rise, and the coastal cities that hold most of humanity will have to move.  Some places may get too hot to survive in at peak summer temperatures, and people will have to leave them, or have very robust air conditioning.  Worries like that, safely distant in the future.

The most pressing worry is not safely distant.  It's happening.

Agriculture goes long before habitability does; agriculture depends on predictability so you know what and when to plant.  Agriculture depends on predictable climate so you know what crop-eating pests you're dealing with and the soil fauna work so there's a viable nutrient cycle and just a whole lot of things.

Agriculture absolutely depends on sufficient rain.

California's agriculture sector desiccating takes a fifth of American food production with it.  Yes, there's presently sufficient food surplus in Canada.  Yes, we're at 0.8C warming relative to baseline, not the 2.0C warming that's the official figure for "very bad, agriculture breaks".  (Though that 2.0 C  figure is not looking like a safe bet at this time.)

Thing is, food security goes, everything else goes, too.  You can't have a society or an economy or a culture without food security underneath it.  There's any number of unfortunate examples from as much history as we've got.  Our population is high enough that it has to be mechanized agriculture, too.  (Which means that we're desperately dependent on the cause of the problem, and really have to fix that.  Any government serious about climate change is heavily supporting not zero-emission electric cars but zero-emission electric tractors.  Which is to say, none of them.)

It's all tied together; climate, immigration, the economy, what to do about the increasing numbers of refugees the political instability in other places climate instability creates.  It all comes down to being sure people have enough to eat and somewhere to sleep out of the rain.  Continued fossil carbon extraction breaks that, and with that, everything.

So, certainly, I will be voting NDP; not because I'm comfortable with their centre-right repositioning as a party and not because they've got an adequate climate policy (it's extremely weak tea), but because it's possible an NDP government won't make our food security worse.

The Conservatives have a pro-fossil-carbon policy of making our food security worse.

The Liberals... it's possible they wouldn't make things worse.  It's possible.  Given their stunning act of political cynicism around bill C-51, I don't feel very confident they're on speaking terms with reality, though, and I'd consider them a bad bet.

I really, really want someone to vote for who is taking our food security seriously.  I have no hope of it happening in time.

10 August 2015

The Waterfront Trail

 There are a lot of good things about the Waterfront Trail, starting with "it exists".  Even understanding "it exists" to be heavily qualified by the presence of shoreline estates, nuclear power plants, and the occasional feature of geography like McLaughlin Bay.

Still, the signage.  It's small, much of it is old, and, well.

Waterfront trail signs giving conflicting advice at a turn

I'm pretty sure that whatever actually placed the signs has real trouble thinking in only three dimensions.

Bicycle at Rouge Hill GO Station
Still, I made it; take the GO to Oshawa, ride back as far as Rouge Hill.  It's a better ride than it was, with the really alarming bits of Victoria St. in Whitby replaced by some quite splendid separated trail and the Halls Rd connection to Ajax having been paved.  (Not going west past Rouge Hill is a combination of my legs voting "done" and not wanting to deal with some combination of Kingston Road and the Hunt Club hole.  Maybe the cycle route plan for Toronto will do some good about Kingston Road in a useful time frame.)

02 July 2015

Getting some use out of Canada Day

Bicycle under the Aldershot GO station sign
Didn't make it to Aldershot; not been cycling enough, and too much headwind.  But aside from the headwind and a squall or two that missed, a lovely day and not even too crowded.

I did realize that Appleby is right at the start of where the ride between Toronto and Hamilton gets pleasant again; no slight to Oakville, but the long trudge along Lakeshore and Rebecca St. -- while entirely serviceable -- isn't much in the character of fun.  So maybe I can skip the long stretch of on-street riding next time.

20 June 2015

A fondness for thistles

Blooming thistle
From a little patch of grass where the rail lines vault over Parkside drive.  In a month or two, maybe goldfinches will be eating the seeds; for now, yes, invasive, yes, spiky, but also this vivid burst of purple I'm fond of seeing.  And the goldfinches don't seem to mind the invasive.

14 June 2015

Yesterday's best bird

Yesterday was the annual Carden Count, where bunches of people haul themselves up to the Carden Alvar for a 06h00 start time and go stand on designated points and spend five minutes counting all the birds they can see or hear.

This requires somebody comfortable with GPS devices, as well as someone who can ear-bird, so I still get to be useful.

A cloudy cool morning, dimmer than usual, and much wetter; it's been raining enough to leave puddles on the surface and established mud, which is tough to do on an alvar -- and a faster spring; the prairie smoke is nearly all done blooming, and the mosquitoes were available in quantity. The expected birds, though; loggerhead shrike (I am hoping the low nesting reports are a side effect of reduced funding and thus fewer researchers, because we found a probable nest location), upland sandpiper, (winnowing) snipe, grasshopper sparrow, vesper sparrow (so many vesper sparrows), golden-winged warbler, indigo bunting, an absolutely brilliant rose-breasted grossbeak, sedge wren, marsh wren, kingfisher, hooded merganser, surprise ruffed grouse, and the inescapable turkey vultures.  (Also a kestrel and a probable distant harrier, plus an osprey on the way up.)  No sandhill crane.  Pretty good day.

But the "best bird" wasn't, it was

startlingly southern moose

Moose have been moving southward the last several decades, as the succession process of former fields gets to actual trees and the habitat starts being moose-suitable, but that's still a startlingly southern moose.  

31 May 2015

Committing book again

So it's not April and it's not quite May, either, but I've committed book again.

Available on Google Play Books

Egalitarian heroic fantasy.  Experimental magical pedagogy, non-Euclidean ancestry, and some sort of horror from beyond the world.

Available via Google Play Books.  (Google Play Books suffering mitigation for ePub downloads.)

Also available on:
  • iBooks
  • Nook -- gave up.  Nook does not play well with EPUB3.0 without introducing horrible back-compatibility features I want to stay away from.
  • Kobo
  • Inktera/Page Foundry
  • Scribd 
  • Tolino - there's no specific link; Tolino is a European device ecosystem, it looks like you have to be inside it to do anything, and I can't read German.  So I'm just going to hope any Tolino users can find the book if they want it.
  • Oyster - Oyster claims they work with Kindle Fire. 
Yes, that is the Draft2Digital list.  Yes, I will update the links as everything percolates through.  (I'm told iBooks can take weeks, and didn't want to wait.)  No, I won't be publishing on Amazon.  Amazon's thing-like-a-contract continues to be deeply alarming, while their payment mechanisms continue troubling.

I had intended that A Succession of Bad Days not rely on having already read The March North; this is a series book, you'll get more out of it if you have read the first book in the series, but it's not a tight series, this is not the same thread of the overall story, and it ought to be able to stand alone.  Various skilled and capable persons who have already read A Succession of Bad Days have expressed views strongly at variance with this hope of mine.  I can only recommend that if you try A Succession of Bad Days and feel lost, going back and reading The March North might help.

The Google version is DRM-free; the other sources all do whatever their default is, which is not likely to lack DRM.  For those who find the Google Play Books download setup incomprehensible, you are not alone and I have produced some instructions.


Caution is advised.

11 May 2015

Pelee swallows

The Marsh Boardwalk observation tower provides really excellent views of the nesting barn swallows.

Male barn swallow

Female barn swallow
I like how the female seems to be doing the maniraptoran second pedal claw thing.  I doubt the tension rod is feeling all that threatened, but maybe something is.

30 April 2015

A Succession of Bad Days, further progress update

So, not quite done yet  --
  1. send it out for critique by unfamiliar eyes -- DONE!
  2. get an ISBN -- DONE!
  3. get a cover -- DONE!
  4. copyedit -- Pass 2 and final; at greater than 50% for the copy-editor
  5. generate EPUB -- automated long since; even counting the manual zip step, requires < 30s
  6. make available -- unfulfilled dependencies.
Various (mostly micro-) organisms have been trying to kill the copy-editor.  It hasn't worked, but it has slowed things down substantially.  So no book in April, because there is no more April.

I continue to view this as preferable to "no more copy-editor".[1]

Book in May?  I continue hopeful.

[1]  There's presumably a kind of author who would feel that their robust prose was the real reason the copy-editor succumbed and mwah-ha-ha a bit.  I am not at all that kind of author.

03 April 2015

A Succession of Bad Days progress update

So, yes, I've entirely missed March. Whups.

So, anyway --

  1. send it out for critique by unfamiliar eyes -- DONE!
  2. get an ISBN -- DONE!
  3. get a cover -- Art Done, Design Pending
  4. copyedit -- 1st Pass Done, Final Pass Pending
  5. generate EPUB -- automated long since; even counting the manual zip step, requires < 30s
  6. make available -- unfulfilled dependencies.
That all said -- is there a consensus as to the best way to indicate "second book in a series" on the cover?  It's not a direct sequel and is a complete book.

(I'm going to suppose no one pays attention to the metadata indicators for series position and set them anyway.)

I expected this book would not require anybody to read The March North first, that's not the consensus of the folks other than me who have read it.

That suggests I really have to put "book 2" on there somehow. And four-dot hexadecimal notation for "2" at the end of the "A Novel of the Commonweal" banner is probably too subtle.

Anyone got an opinion about indicators of series position on book covers?

22 February 2015

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl on a large snowy branch
The F900 does its valiant best, but there's purple fringing.  (Backlight in a world of low cloud and snow.  Of course there was purple fringing.)  100% crop; owl was close but not that close.

There were five; got excellent in-flight and perched views, from a variety of angles.

So yay!, lifer, and yay! OFO walk.

(Snow buntings.  Diverse colour morphs of Rough-legged Hawk.  Mergansers. (Mergansers?) Mockingbirds.  Goldfinches, tree sparrows, kestrels, downy woodpecker, nuthatches, bluejay, crows, rusty blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds, red-tailed hawk, cowbirds, and one cold-looking starling.  Cardinals.  Other people saw tufted titmice.  One red-bellied woodpecker with a crest made out of lambent fire.)

19 February 2015

Woot! Good review Thursday!

I think James liked The March North; woohoo!

A Succession of Bad Days has been out for an unfamiliar critical read, and now another unfamiliar critical read (the people who one gets to bounce up and down and burble at about the gubbins of the world building are invaluable, but they're also not going to tell you where you've been incomprehensible quite the same way a new reader will), and ought to be winging its way to the editing processes relatively soon-like.

Doesn't look like I'm going to make a march release date, but April's not looking unlikely.

24 January 2015

HOWTO -- downloading an EPUB from Google Play Books

So a bunch of people have had trouble getting to the "Download EPUB" functionality with Google Play Books when trying to get their archive copy of The March North.

  1. If you are logged in to Google with a Google Account other than the account that bought the book, log out.  (Google gets confused about whose books to show you.)
  2. Log in to Google with the Google Account that bought the book.
  3. Navigate to  https://play.google.com/books
  4. In the left-hand vertical stack of options, click on My Books
  5. Next to the title of the book under the cover icon, there's a stack of three gray dots with hover text Options
  6. Click on the three dots; a menu will appear
  7. Select Download EPUB from the menu.
And there you go.  If the publisher put the book up using Adobe DRM, you're going to have a little stub with a permalink that goes to a DRM management setup.  In the case of The March North (and expected subsequent Tallwoods Books ebooks) you're going to have an DRM-free EPUB file.

Updated: you don't have to hover-the-cover to get the three dots anymore, they're next to the title of the book under the cover icon.

23 January 2015

Next Commonweal book -- A Succession of Bad Days

So it's about that time again.

I've got all of three written[1], people have read it, they have not informed me it is dire, dreadful, or despicable, so I can contemplate to publish Commonweal book two, aka A Succession of Bad Days. [2] Which means:

  1. send it out for critique by unfamiliar eyes
  2. get an ISBN
  3. get a cover
  4. copyedit
  5. generate EPUB
  6. make available 

Currently at "it is out for critique".

[1] I'm about forty thousand words into four.  Which bodes well for three happening on the hoped-for annual schedule.

[2] this is not a Line book; it's a go-to-sorcerer-school book.  The viewpoint finds out they're qualified to go to sorcerer school abruptly in a fashion not free from trauma, and things do not obviously improve for some time thereafter.

21 January 2015

An infrequent cat

Black cat exploring fire sprinkler pipes
Aoife does not completely approve of the ceiling pipes; they're more of an obstacle course than a real pathway, and they're way high up and lack obvious endpoints.

She is, however, entirely a cat, so some exploring still occurs.