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Posted by Chris Hoffman

These days, it seems like every Windows user has heard about CCleaner. It’s widely recommended, online and offline—but this week, it acted as a piggyback for malware. The real question we should be asking is: do you really need CCleaner in the first place?
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Posted by John Scalzi

Well, specifically this silly person said I would never earn out [x] amount of money I got as an advance, and also that I would in fact never see [x] amount of money, because of reasons they left unspecified but which I assume were to suggest that my contracts would be cancelled long before I got the payout. As [x] amount of money seems to suggest this silly person is talking about my multi-book multi-year contracts, let me say:

1. lol, no;

2. [x] was not the sum for any of my contracts (either for individual works or in aggregate) so that’s wrong to begin with;

3. It’s pretty clear that this silly person has very little idea how advances work in general, or how they are paid out;

4. It’s also pretty clear this silly person has very little idea how advances work with long-term, multi-project contracts in particular, or how they are paid out;

5. Either this silly person has never signed a book contract, or they appear to have done a very poor job of negotiating their contracts;

6. In any event, it’s very clear this silly person has no idea about the particulars of my business.

Which makes sense as I don’t go into great detail about them in public. But it does mean that people asserting knowledge of my business are likely to be flummoxed by the actual facts. Like, for example, the fact that I’m already earning royalties on work tied into those celebrated-yet-apparently-actually-cursed contracts. Royalties, I’ll note for those of you not in the publishing industry, are paid out after you earn back an advance.

How am I getting royalties on a work tied to contracts that this silly person has assured all and sundry I will never earn out? The short answer is because I’ve earned out, obviously. The slightly longer answer is that my business deals are interesting and complex and designed to roll money to me on a steady basis over a long period of time, but when you are a silly person who apparently knows nothing about how book contracts work (either my specific ones, or by all indications book contracts in general) and you have an animus against me because, say, you’re an asshole, or because of group identification politics that require that I must actually be a raging failure, for reasons, you are prone to assert things that are stupid about my business and show your complete ignorance of it. And then I might be inclined to point and laugh about it.

In any event, this is a fine time to remind people of two things. The first thing is that I have detractors, and it’s very very important to them that I’m seen as a failure. There’s nothing I can ever do or say to dissuade them against this idea, so the least I can do is offer them advice, which is to make their assertions of my failure as non-specific as possible, because specificity is not their friend. I would also note to them that regardless, my failures, real or imagined, will not make them any more successful in their own careers. So perhaps they should focus on the things they can materially effect, i.e., their own writing and career, and worry less about what I’m doing.

Second, if someone other than me, my wife, my agent or my business partners (in the context of their own contracts with me) attempts to assert knowledge of my business, you may reliably assume they are talking out of their ass. This particularly goes for my various detractors, most of whom don’t appear to have any useful understanding of how the publishing industry works outside of their (and this is a non-judgmental statement) self-pub and micro-pub worlds, which are different beasts than the part I work in, and also just generally dislike me and want me to be a miserable failure and are annoyed when I persist in not being either. Wishing won’t make it so, guys.

Bear in mind speculating about my business is perfectly fine, and even if it wasn’t I couldn’t stop it anyway. Speculate away! People have done it for years, both positively and negatively, and most of the time it’s fun to watch people guess about it. Even this silly person’s speculation is kind of fun, in the sense it’s interesting to see all the ways it’s wrong. But to the extent that the unwary may believe this silly person (or other such silly people among my detractors, and as a spoiler they are all fairly silly on this topic) knows what they are talking about with regard to my business: Honey, no. They really don’t. They have their heads well up their asses.

Or, as I said on Twitter:

And actually the dog has been in the same room as my contracts, so in fact she might know more. Keep that in mind the next time a detractor opines on my business.

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Posted by thingsthatareawful

It’s Bad Advice Tuesday over at The Establishment – 12 September 2017:

Read the Bad Advisor’s response to this astounding jerkbag and two other letters, here.

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Posted by thingsthatareawful

It’s Bad Advice Tuesday over at the Establishment – 5 September 2017:

Read the Bad Advisor’s response to this letter writer and two other fools here.

Help, My Father’s Hair Is Upsetting

Sep. 18th, 2017 05:53 pm
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Posted by thingsthatareawful

From Bad Advice Tuesday at The EstablishmentAugust 29, 2017:

Read the Bad Advisor’s response to this douchebag, plus a creepy dad and a helicopter parent, here.


Sep. 18th, 2017 05:51 pm
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Posted by thingsthatareawful

* flails *

* lays prostrate at the collective feet of the Bad Advice Nation *

Lo how the Bad Advisor has failed to update her tumblr! We shall correct this forthwith.

Here’s Bad Advice Tuesday - August 22, featuring the most discreet of lovers:

Read the Bad Advisor’s response here.

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Posted by Jason Kottke

For Vox, Phil Edwards profiled The Black List, an annual listing of the best Hollywood scripts that have yet to be produced.

Phil Edwards has a chat with Franklin Leonard, the creator of The Black List, Hollywoods’ famous anonymous survey of unproduced screenplays. The Black List isn’t a guarantee that a script will be produced, however, it does give overlooked scripts a second shot of getting on the big screen. A handful of academy award- winning-films found their second chance on the Black List. And in an industry brimming with multi-year contracted sequels, and well-established franchises, the Black List survey has become one of the few places in Tinseltown where one-off scripts have a chance to make it to the big screen.

Scripts that have gone on to be made into movies include Spotlight, Argo, Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, and a Mel Gibson talking beaver movie I’d never even heard of.

Tags: Hollywood   movies   Phil Edwards   video
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Posted by Jason Fitzpatrick

One of the big things that makes Stardew Valley such a magical gaming experience is discovering everything for yourself, but that doesn’t mean that aren’t some spoiler-free tips and tricks to help you get started.
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Posted by Jason Kottke

Prince Oleomargarine

To Mark Twain’s posthumously published works, add one more: a book for children called The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine. Twain jotted down notes for the book — which was discovered a few years ago in the Twain literary archive — but never finished the story. Doubleday bought the rights and worked with Philip and Erin Stead (an author and illustrator, respectively) to complete the story and turn it into a book.

In a hotel in Paris one evening in 1879, Mark Twain sat with his young daughters, who begged their father for a story. Twain began telling them the tale of Johnny, a poor boy in possession of some magical seeds. Later, Twain would jot down some rough notes about the story, but the tale was left unfinished…until now.

Plucked from the Mark Twain archive at the University of California at Berkeley, Twain’s notes now form the foundation of a fairy tale picked up over a century later. With only Twain’s fragmentary script and a story that stops partway as his guide, author Philip Stead has written a tale that imagines what might have been if Twain had fully realized this work.

The Steads introduced several changes to the story, including making the book’s hero black. This New Yorker piece by Mythili Rao explores how much artistic license should be taken with a story that ultimately has Twain’s name on it.

“I was surprised by that,” Bird told me, when I asked him about the Steads’ interpretation of the character. “I just didn’t see the textual evidence for it. If Mark Twain wanted to make somebody black, he would make them black. He was not shy about dealing with matters of race.” When Twain told his daughters bedtime stories, he often incorporated household objects or magazine illustrations in the narrative. In his journals, he wrote, “The tough part of it was that every detail of the story had to be brand-new — invented on the spot — and it must fit the picture.” (Susy, in particular, was an “alert critic.”) The journals suggest that Johnny, a recurring character in Twain’s bedtime stories, was based on a rather clinical William Page illustration of the male figure that the Clemens daughters spotted in an April, 1879, issue of Scribner’s Monthly magazine. It seems likely that neither Twain nor his daughters imagined Johnny as the Steads do.

Tags: books   Erin Stead   Mark Twain   Mythili Rao   Philip Stead
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Posted by Chris Hoffman

Modern mobile browsers allow you to reopen tabs you’ve recently closed, just like desktop browsers do. In Apple’s Safari browser for iPhone and iPad, the feature is a bit hidden—but it’s there. You can also reopen closed tabs in Google Chrome and other third-party browsers on an iPhone or iPad.
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Posted by Sweepstakes

Emma Newman’s second Industrial Magic novella, Weaver’s Lament, is available October 17th from Tor.com Publishing—and to celebrate, we want to send you a galley copy of it, along with a copy of the first book, Brother’s Ruin!

The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect.

When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.

In Weaver’s Lament, Charlotte is learning to control her emerging magical powers under the secret tutelage of Magus Hopkins. Her first covert mission takes her to a textile mill where the disgruntled workers are apparently destroying expensive equipment. And if she can’t identify the culprits before it’s too late, her brother will be exiled, and her family dishonoured…

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on September 18th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on September 22nd. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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Posted by Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

Last week’s blog post was a fast pass through a large number of Mirror Dance’s middle chapters, and between that and having now actually reread the entire book, I’m finding it much less terrifying; the torture scenes are still lurking out there, but they are no longer lurking stealthily. It turns out they’re pretty close to the end. But now that I’ve found my peace with it, the truth about Mirror Dance is still that I would like to read something else.

This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

There are very few parts of this novel that I don’t appreciate on some level. I almost always hate reading about frustrated male sexuality, but that’s really about me, not about Mark, Miles, or Mirror Dance. I think it would be great if one day someone rescued some clones off of Jackson’s Whole without getting handsy with at least one of the rescuees. Again, that’s really about my preferences as a reader; I’m sure many readers got through those scenes without muttering “my what big boobs you have” under their breath. I could have lived quite happily without Miles ever having sex with his cryo-revival specialist (who got permission from her grandmother first, which tells you something about the Duronas that I’m not sure I needed to know). These are minor quibbles.

From an artistic and literary standpoint, Mirror Dance is an unquestionably great work. Its middle and late chapters mark Aral and Cordelia’s return to the center of the action, through the lens of the long-lost son they have just met. And they are gorgeous. All of the difficulty, awkwardness, and pain involved in rebuilding the Vorkosigan clan with this new addition is rendered with stunning care and concern from multiple perspectives. Bujold’s characterization is richer than ever, and Mirror Dance is studded with small gems like the scene where Cordelia’s desperation drives her to ask Mark if he has a psychic connection to Miles. He does not, and she immediately turns her attention to more pragmatic plans – mortgaging some family land to buy him a ship so that he and the Dendarii can continue the investigation of Miles’s disappearance on Jackson’s Whole.

Other treasures include a brief exploration of Illyan’s feelings about ImpSec Headquarters. ImpSec is a miserable excuse for a building, designed and constructed to be unpleasant and uncomfortable, by the first lord Dono Vorrutyer. The sole member of the Vorrutyer family who has already appeared in this series raised some very serious questions about the family’s values and child-rearing practices. The Vorrutyers who appear in later volumes are more interesting and more redeemable (and one of them is also named Dono). They don’t seem to see architecture as an important part of their family legacy. Illyan’s antipathy towards ImpSec headquarters will reach its dramatic nadir until Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. Illyan’s discussion of architecture (he nearly defected when he saw the intelligence building on Escobar) flows neatly into an argument between Illyan and Mark – Mark suspects that Illyan isn’t giving the search the search for Miles his undivided attention. Illyan has concerns about the possibility that Mark did something to Aral and has to tend to the ordinary business of the Barrayaran Empire. He tells Mark he has his best available man heading the investigation of Miles’s disappearance on Komarr (I don’t recall anyone ever saying so, but I want it to be Duv Galen), and that ImpSec can walk and chew gum.

This last segment of the book brings the return of Miles’s POV. He has amnesia, which complicates his recovery from being dead. The Duronas are desperately hoping that he is Admiral Naismith, because they believe that Naismith can get them off-planet. Mark’s analysis was correct, but when he finally finds Miles, Mark is kidnapped by Ryoval and Miles by Baron Fell. Miles has the presence of mind to avoid blowing his cover when his memory finally returns.

Miles’s journey here is a relatively sedate one. Fell is planning to sell Miles to Ryoval, and keeps him (and his increasingly short-tempered personal physician) safe until a price can be negotiated. Miles uses the opportunity to free one more clone, the dangerous Flowerpot, who poses as the doctor and joins the Duronas. Miles’s exploration of his romantic relationships revolves around the question of who would crash a lightflyer for him. Dr. Durona would not. Elli Quinn would, without hesitation, she just might strangle him later.

The limits on Miles’s suffering highlight the depth of Mark’s. Bujold describes Ryoval’s torture in brief, but evocative strokes. Most of the hideousness I remember, I created by filling in the details for myself. It’s still too much – it has to be to justify the fracturing of Mark’s personality into its protective components Grunt, Howl, Gorge and the nameless Other. This last emerges as Killer when Mark crushes Ryoval’s larynx with a kick, and then stomps him to death. Despite the brutal violence of the only available methods and Mark’s use of a surgical drill to ensure that Ryoval’s brain can never be transplanted, and the removal of Ryoval’s hand to deal with palm locks, I don’t remember this scene as excessively graphic. Ryoval deserved it. Elena pledged herself to Mark as Armswoman, and she destroys the tapes Ryoval made of Mark’s torture at Mark’s request – he doesn’t want his mother to see them.

Miles has a beautiful conversation with Bel here, about Bel’s mistakes and future options. Leaving the Dendarii isn’t the end of the world, it seems, and Miles will miss Bel terribly. We return to Barrayar in time for Winterfair, where Mark and Kareen dance together.

Is there more to this? Yes. I’ve glossed rapidly over a stunningly intricate work of art. It’s one of Bujold’s best. It is the darkness you need to truly appreciate the light. And now I am moving on. Join me next week when we start Memory, the book where Miles starts again from his beginnings and never breathes a word about his loss because that’s all classified anyway, and have you heard about his personal chef? You’re about to!

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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Posted by mark

I have had this Bissell Spot Clean Pro Carpet Cleaner now for a few years and it has made my life so much easier. With three dogs one of them is always coming in with muddy paws, having an accident, or who knows what else. With the Bissell Pro Carpet Cleaner I no longer use spray bottles of carpet cleaners which never seemed to work and sometimes left the carpet worse off than before. You simply add water and some cleaning mix to the device, it sprays a mix down then vacuums it up, removing the stain and sucking the dampness out so no spot remains. When done you empty out the dirty water container, rinse it and you are ready until the next accident. The unit is small and light making it easy to grab whenever you need to clean the carpet.

-- Joe McManus

Bissell 3624 SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner ($129)

Available from Amazon

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Posted by JenniferP

Video description: The Bangles cover Big Star’s September Gurls in Pittsburgh in 1986.

It’s time for the monthly thing where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are actual questions. This feature is generously funded by Patreon supporters.

1 “How to stop a neighbour and hubby putting me down every time I walk past

Ugh, your husband is being a giant asshole, and it’s time to tell him straight up to knock this behavior off. “Stop doing that. It’s rude, disrespectful, and it hurts my feelings.” If he won’t, you’ve got Husband-problems more than you have Neighbor-problems.

2 “What does it mean when a girl says focusing on school right now after you say your feelings

It means she did not enthusiastically say “Yes, I feel the same way, let’s definitely date each other!” It means she’d rather focus on school than go out with you. Interpret it as “No.”

3 “Anonymous STD notification letter.”

National treasure website Scarleteen recommends InSpot  for sending an anonymous e-card and has a good how-to guide on doing this kind of notification. Australia has a service called Better To Know that lets you notify partners of possible Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) anonymously via text or email. In both cases, you enter info, the person gets a message that lets them know that they may have been exposed to an STI (+ there’s a way for you to enter which ones) and should get tested. There’s a good roundup of similar services in this article.

If you’re feeling blue and alone in this, the Netflix show formerly known as “Scrotal Recall” (now renamed Lovesick) is a romantic comedy about a man who must notify past sexual partners about possible chlamydia exposure.

If you don’t want to go anonymous, a simple text or phone call that says “Hey [Sex Friend] I recently tested positive for ________. You should get checked out, too” is a very kind and ethical thing to send. The more we all remove stigma and shame around STIs, the better job everyone can do taking care of ourselves and each other.

4 “My boyfriend mom prophesied that we are not meant to be together.”

Translation: Your boyfriend’s mom does not want you to be together.

What do you and your boyfriend want?

5 “When some knocks on door and says the Lord compelled them to stop and talk to you.”

Translation: The someone wanted to stop and talk to you.

What do you want?

6 “How to decline a neighbor asking us over


“How nice of you to think of us, but no thank you.”

7 “What to do when your friend sets you up on a blind date and the guy’s interested in her.”

Acknowledge the awkwardness, have a good laugh together, tell the guy “good luck, dude, tell her how you feel and maybe we can avoid this sitcom nonsense next time” and go home with your dignity. You didn’t do anything weird.

8 “Should you invite girls of interest to your party


Throwing a party is a great reason to invite someone that you might be interested in romantically over. That person can meet your friends, see your place, everyone can see how everyone gets on together, you can get to know each other better without having it be a DATE date, etc. Why not?

Now, girl(s) plural is an advanced move, but again, why not?

9 “What do you do when your daughter owes you money and is not paying you back but takes vacations and spends a lot

Ugh, this is a hard one. Here are some steps for dealing with friends and family members who are not good/prompt/conscientious about paying back loans,

a) Assume that you won’t ever be repaid. Take whatever steps you need to shore up your own financial well-being so that you’re not depending on that money. If you do manage to collect it it will be a happy thing.

b) Ask the person to repay you what they owe. If you bring up fancy vacations or their other spending they will get automatically defensive, so skip that part in your request (even if it is relevant to the issue). Why skip it? You don’t need the story about how she bought the tickets long ago or how they were really a gift from a friend and you don’t want to give her a reason to feel judged and aggrieved (even if judgment is warranted). The vacation money is spent. It’s not coming back. She knows that you know that she knows that she owes you money. Just be simple and direct and ask for what you need:

Script: “Daughter, you still owe me $______. When can we expect repayment?” or “Daughter, you still owe me $_______. Can you repay me by (date)?” Brace yourself for the wave of defensiveness and excuses that is coming. Do not, I repeat, do not get into the details of her spending or her excuses or reasons. Just repeat the question. “Okay, so, when can you get the money to me?

c) Don’t lend this person any more money. You may or may not ever get the money back, but you can definitely control whether you lend them more. You now have a lot of information about how they’ll behave when you lend them money and you both have a hard, awkward lesson. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior here, and “I’m sorry, Daughter, I don’t feel comfortable lending you money since you didn’t pay me back” is a situation your daughter created, not you.

I hope you get a good result. Also, general thought, if you are going to lend money to friends or family, it’s a good idea to put something in writing: How much, what it’s for, when & how will it be paid back. Your script can be “Let’s just write it down so we all know what the agreement is and I never have to bug you about paying me back.

10 “Etiquette of peeing when surfing.”

We are people of action and lies do not become us: In the unlikely comedy of errors that lands me on an actual surfboard in an actual body of water, there is no way on earth my enthusiastic and prolific middle-aged bladder is gonna be able to wait until I swim to shore, find a land-based bathroom, and peel off my wetsuit in time to pee decorously in a toilet. This seems like a “it’s a big ocean” and “that’s between you and your wetsuit” issue to me, but maybe an actual surfer has insight?

11 “How to make girlfriend move out to Colorado.”

You do not make. You ask, and then she either moves or she doesn’t.

12 “I have to leave the Midwest or I will die but my husband thinks it’s all in my head.”

Ok, this seems like a REALLY specific situation and we are DEFINITELY missing context here but what if I said “Even if it were in your head, is your need to go so great and so urgent and so necessary that it’s worth going alone, even if that’s a difficult & sad decision?”

13 “Dating female academic awful

It certainly can be, since the prospect of relocation is always hanging over the whole deal.

14 “He said he wants to do his own thing and maybe see other people.”

Translation: “I am planning to see other people and have less energy/focus/time/interest for a relationship with you.”

It’s a prelude to a breakup, possibly one where “he” either wants you to be the bad guy and actually do the breaking up or where he’d like you to stick around in his life but in background/low-priority mode.

15 “My 23 year old son looks so unattractive, but he won’t shave or cut his hair

[Bad Advisor] Well, it’s definitely 100% his job to make sure his face and body look attractive and acceptable to you, his parent, at all times so definitely be sure to bring this up as often as possible! Your concern, constantly expressed, will only bring you closer together as a fellow adult human strives to please you in all things, including and especially the hair that is growing on his personal face and body where he lives and you do not.

Also, to be on the safe side, hide all of your copies of the musical about this very question, lest he get ideas about fur vests, naked dancing or protesting the Vietnam War.

It is not only your business but your duty to set this young man straight. [/Bad Advisor]

16 “What does it mean if you ask for a guy’s phone number and his response is he is antisocial

He did not want to give you his phone number, or, if he does/did, he is warning you that he doesn’t want to actually hang out. Try again, another dude, another day.

17 “Fucking past due invoices.”

Fucking the worst.

18 “Girlfriend of 11 years is leaving me

Wallow. Fuck Around. Do The Thing.

Repeat the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear to yourself.

(Or not, as it suits you).

19 “Angry that my husband allows his parents to come whenever they want

This would make me angry, too. His family may have a drop-in culture or agreement and expectations, but you do not, and therefore the family that you and your husband make together does not. There are several conversations/actions that need to happen if they haven’t already (and maybe they have and need to happen again):

a) “Husband, I want your folks to feel and be welcome in our house, but to make that happen I need some advance notice. Please ask them to call first and ask if we’re free, and please check with me before you say yes.” 

b) “In-Laws, I really want you to be and feel welcome in our house, but I need more advance notice than you’re accustomed to providing. Just dropping by, even when I’m happy to see you, really stresses me out. I know this is different from how you do things in your family, but I need you to call first and ask if I’m free or if now is a good time. Thanks!” 

c) “Husband, I know I’m somewhat ‘changing the rules’ on your family, but I really need some consideration here. Back me up.” 

d) When they just drop by anyway and your husband isn’t home try: “Oh, too bad this isn’t a good time, I’m just stepping out” + LEAVE (go to the library or run errands or something, just take a drive around the block on principle). Btw if they have keys and are in the habit of just letting themselves in, put the chain on when you’re home alone. Teach them that you won’t drop everything because they came over.

e) When they just drop by anyway and your husband is home, “Oh, too bad, this isn’t a good time, I was just about to take a nap” + HIDE (in your bedroom with the door shut  – keep books handy – and let him do whatever work of entertaining them). Risk seeming unwelcoming and unfriendly. You ARE unwelcoming…to people who invite themselves over.

This didn’t start overnight and won’t go away overnight but in my opinion it’s a battle worth picking.

20 “How to agree a girl for fucking if she dislikes doing it.”

Find someone else to fuck. Someone who likes doing it. Someone who enthusiastically likes doing it with you.

What the fuck, people.

21 “Got an apology from my ex after 15 years

That had to feel weird.

Whether this was welcome or unwelcome contact, there’s one important thing you should know:

It doesn’t obligate you to do anything or feel anything or re-open any kind of contact with this person. If you want to talk to them, ok? You could say “Thanks for the apology, I forgive you and wish you well” if that is true of how you feel.

But if you’d rather let the past stay in the past, you can 100% delete the weird Facebook message or whatever and go on with your life.

22 “Did the date go good or bad?”

This is a great question. You can’t control whether another person will like you, so after a date ask yourself:

  • Did I enjoy myself?
  • Was I relaxed and comfortable with this person?
  • Could I be myself around this person?
  • Did the conversation flow?
  • Did I feel like the other person was on my team, helping the date go smoothly and laughing gently at any awkward moments? Or did the awkward silences turn into awkward chasms on the edge of the awkward abyss?
  • Did the other person seem at ease and comfortable with me?
  • Was the actual time we spent together fun/enjoyable/comfortable/pleasurable?
  • Was it as good as spending time alone doing something enjoyable or with a good friend or do I wish I’d just spent the evening at home?
  • Was I bored? Checked out? Apprehensive?
  • Was it easy to make plans?
  • Do I feel like the person was listening/paying attention/engaged?
  • (If kissing is a thing you’re interested in) Can I picture myself kissing them?
  • Am I looking forward to hanging out again?
  • Were there any red flags?*

If the date went well for you, where you enjoyed yourself and felt good, ask the person for another date. The rest is up to the other person.

If you can get in the habit of checking in with yourself about your own comfort and enjoyment levels during and after dates, even a “meh” date can be useful because you’ll know more about yourself and what you’re looking for.

*Bonus list of some of my personal First Date red flags from back in the day when I bravely put on clean shirts and lip gloss and met strangers from the Internet for drinks:

  • Was the person I was meeting generally congruent with the person presented on the dating site and during any prior conversations? If you’re “single” on the dating site and suddenly “planning to get divorced btw we still live together and no one at work knows we’re separated so I’d appreciate your discretion” when we meet, if you’re 28 in all your dating site photos and 58 in person…it was not going to work.
  • Did the person monologue the whole time?
  • Did I feel like I was monologuing the whole time at someone who just shyly stared at me and nodded? (The Silent Type is a great type and it may be your type but experience tells me it was not mine).
  • Did I feel like I was an unpaid nonconsensual therapist while someone shared everything about their life?
  • Did the person constantly talk about their ex & exes?
  • Was literally everything they said a complaint about someone or something?
  • Were these complaints at least funny and entertaining?
  • In these complaints was nothing ever their responsibility? Was it just a long list of Ways I Have Been Wronged By Others with a subtext of Surely You Have A Duty To Not Disappoint Me Like Everyone Else Has (Now That You Know My Tale of Woe)?
  • Ugh, mansplaining, especially politics or philosophy, how movies get made, the “authenticity” of whatever food we were eating, the makeup & history of the neighborhood where I lived and they did not (for example when I failed to pick the “most authentic” taco place in Pilsen or Little Village), telling me why everything I liked was actually overrated.
  • Talking during movies. No.
  • Taking me to some sort of performance and then critiquing how much it sucks into my ear in real time. No.
  • Overfamiliarity, over-investment. “I can’t wait to introduce you to my son, he’s going to love you!” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing innuendo & sex talk too soon, like, “I just got a new bed, it’s very comfortable, you’ll have to come test it out with me later heh heh.” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing it with the touching. If dinner and a movie remind me of how my cat likes to constantly crawl all over me and make annoying biscuits everywhere it’s too much touching!
  • Negging of all sorts, especially “I don’t usually date ________, but you seem really cool.” (Bonus Nope!!!!! if the blank includes fat people, feminists, “women who seem really smart”)
  • Constant contact, expecting constant texts/calls/emails before we’ve even met in person, all up in my social media biz, “liking” every single photo/comment going back through the archives. It feels good to be seen and not so good to be surveilled.
  • Neediness  – We literally just met, so, surely there is someone else in your life who can drive you home from dental surgery or hold your hand while you put your dog to sleep or fly home with you to your father’s funeral or weigh in with you about whether you should accept this job offer? (All true stories of actual things actual men wanted me to do after a few emails and one hour-long bar or coffee date). I will move mountains to take care of people I love, when, you know, I have had a chance to figure out if love them.
  • Casual, “ironic” sexist or racist comments, dropping code sentences like “I hate all the political correctness these days, I feel like I can’t say anything.
  • Bringing your feature screenplay to the date for me to read.

Your Mileage May Vary, as the great saying goes. My list doesn’t look like anyone else’s and I may have had stuff on there that is not necessarily a problem in itself or not a problem for you, or where there are exceptions to be made (I did drive the guy home from dental surgery as a human favor for a fellow human being, I just didn’t date him more) or that are just differences in styles and interest levels. It’s not meant to be universal and it’s about compatibility with you vs. any one thing being Good or Bad.

I’m including the list because I developed it over time by paying attention to what made me feel good, comfortable, safe, relaxed, happy, excited and what made me feel the opposite.I stopped asking people “Is this normal/cool/okay thing when you date?” and started asking “Am I good with this?” and “Am I delighted by this?” Those experiences (and the decision to be picky about second and third dates) helped me avoid some entanglements that would have been fleeting at best and draining at worst, and it helped me know “Just Right” when I saw it.

We focus so much on the auditioning aspect of dating – Am I good enough? Does the other person like me back? – that our own comfort and needs and pleasure can get lost right when we need them most. It was a good date if you enjoyed yourself and felt good and did your best to be kind and considerate. It was a bad date if you didn’t enjoy yourself. Whether a good date will lead to another one is up to more than just you.


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Posted by Emily Nordling

A year after their release of Ursula K. Le Guin’s complete Orsinia works, the Library of America has released a stunning two-volume set collecting the author’s most famous sci-fi works. The Hainish novels and stories do not unravel like a traditional series—the author even chafes at their common designation as a “cycle”—but they are, at least, connected by a shared universe, pieces and fragments of a shared history, and an ethos of exploration and compassion that is arguably the touchstone of Le Guin’s entire oeuvre. The Hainish worlds (including our own Earth, or Terra) were propagated millennia ago by the people of the planet Hain, and are now gradually reuniting under the interplanetary alliance of the Ekumen. From anarchist revolution to myth-inspired hero tales, the stories of the Hainish planets are as wide and variable as their inhabitants. And yet it was only a matter of time that they be collected in one place.

The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, both included in Volume I of the collection, are two of Le Guin’s most widely read, studied, and praised works of fiction. Placed alongside some of her earliest novels and lesser-known stories, the novels are cast in new and stunning light. They become pieces of a story bigger than themselves. Doubt is thrown on their truths and authoritative readings. Where other compendiums and collections might serve to build a more solid and definitive world-building project, Le Guin’s stories become weirder and more complex when placed side-by-side. This strangeness—in a collection whose theme is often uniting under strangeness—is as fitting and thrilling as it is messy.

[More thoughts on authority, plus the Table of Contents]

I wrote in my review of the LoA Orsinia collection that the new edition lent Le Guin’s fictional European country a certain authority or reality. It has been noted time and time again that Le Guin’s works are anthropology-inspired; but maps, timelines, linguistic notes, and shared cultural touchstones make the collection feel even more like an anthropological study than it would on its own. It should also go without saying that a large, well-regarded publisher like LoA all but inducts its selections into an American literary canon (however problematic the concept of a canon might be). The Orsinia collection thus becomes an authority text not just because of its realistic claims to a fictional history and culture, but because it is definitive and well-regarded by a literary elite. This all holds true for the Hainish collection as well. No matter that planets like Werel and Yeowe are more obviously unreal than the nation of Orsinia—they are presented in a minimalist designed hardback edition with appended notes on their language and natural history, and are as real as any fictional pair of planets could hope to be.

And yet Le Guin cheerfully troubles her own waters. She freely admits in the collection’s introduction and appendices that she never intended the stories to form a canon, and that she changed her mind multiple times in the thirty plus years of their writing. Universe-changing concepts like mindspeech appear and disappear, depending on the story. Timelines are muddled. Gender roles and social commentaries shift and flow. If you read the Hainish novels and stories over the course of thirty years, or even over the course of one, it might not be as noticeable. But reading them as a collection is its own unique experience. For one thing, readers will see the tides of change in our own twentieth century history reflected in Le Guin’s changing ideas (her 1987 redux of the 1976 essay “Is Gender Necessary?” is an amazing example of this). They’ll find a naturally talented author sharpening her skill over time, honing her voice into something unique and vital. They’ll also hopefully discover something that the Hainish stories were saying all along: that there are no authoritative texts, and that we create meaning piece-by-piece, story-by-story, even when those stories are contradictory.

Maybe the best example of this is the last story in the collection, Le Guin’s 2000 novel The Telling. The somewhat graceless and rushed novel seemed to me at first to be a bad note to end on. It hurries along plot points in favor of heavy-handed social commentary, and its ending leaves a lot to be desired. But, thematically-speaking, the novel also perfectly wraps up the rest of the Hainish stories. In it, the protagonist Sutty struggles to complete her work as a historian of the Ekumen while on the planet of Aka. She has arrived on the planet after a cultural revolution wiped out much of their peoples’ written history and literature; a new language has replaced the old, and a ceaseless push towards scientific progress has eradicated philosophy and religion. Authority, on the new Aka, is delivered from the top-down. Gradually, Sutty uncovers the Aka that has gone into hiding, a religion most accurately called the Telling. In the Telling, people share stories with one another—sometimes contradictory, sometimes short and sometimes epic. The morals of these stories are not always clear, but their meaning is this: to listen, to share, and to collect.

The LoA Hainish collection, like the history of Aka, lacks a central or hierarchical authority. The meanings it presents are many and various, and open for interpretation. The fact that the stories sometimes contradict one another or change throughout their tellings, is not a flaw, but instead their central strength. Even without the beautiful meanings that it unfolds, the LoA Haicollection would be worth seeking out for purely aesthetic and practical reasons. But rest assured, too, that you’ve never read Le Guin’s Hainish tales quite like this.

The full table of contents, along with the dates of publication and featured Hainish planets are listed below.

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels & Stories is available from Library of America.
Read Le Guin’s new introductions to both Volume One and Volume Two of the collection here on Tor.com


Table of Contents

Vol. I

  • Introduction
  • Rocannon’s World (1966, Fomalhaut II)
  • Planet Of Exile (1966, Werel)
  • City Of Illusions (1967, Terra)
  • The Left Hand Of Darkness (1969, Gethen)
  • The Dispossessed (1974, Anarres | Urras)
  • Stories
    • “Winter’s King” (1975, Gethen)
    • “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” (1971, World 4470)
    • “The Day Before the Revolution” (1974, Urras)
    • “Coming of Age in Karhide” (1995, Gethen)
  • Appendix
    • Introduction to Rocannon’s World (1977)
    • Introduction to Planet of Exile (1978)
    • Introduction to City of Illusions (1978)
    • Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness (1976)
    • “A Response, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti” (2005)
    • “Is Gender Necessary?” Redux (1987)
    • “Winter’s King” (1969 version)

Vol. II

  • Introduction
  • The Word For World Is Forest (1972, Athshe)
  • Stories
    • “The Shobies’ Story” (1990, M-60-340-nolo)
    • “Dancing To Ganam” (1993, Ganam)
    • “Another Story Or A Fisherman Of The Inland Sea” (1994, O)
    • “Unchosen Love” (1994, O)
    • “Mountain Ways” (1996, O)
    • “The Matter Of Seggri” (1994, Seggri)
    • “Solitude” (1994, Eleven-Soro)
  • Story Suite: Five Ways To Forgiveness
    • “Betrayals” (1994, Yeowe)
    • “Forgiveness Day” (1994, Werel)
    • “A Man Of The People” (1995, Yeowe)
    • “A Woman’s Liberation” (1995, Werel)
    • “Old Music And The Slave Women” (1999, Werel)
    • Notes on Werel and Yeowe
  • The Telling (2000, Aka)
  • Appendix
    • Introduction to The Word for World Is Forest (1977)
    • “On Not Reading Science Fiction” (1994)

Emily Nordling is a library assistant and perpetual student in Chicago, IL.

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Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Robert Jordan America's Tolkien

On September 16, Brandon Sanderson commemorated the tenth anniversary of Robert Jordan’s passing with a heartfelt blog post on his website. Sanderson expressed the difficulty of marking a day of loss, especially that of “a mentor I’d never met.”

Describing the Wheel of Time author as “an almost mythical figure,” Sanderson nonetheless was able to distill Jordan’s legacy into a simple but deep anecdote: “Robert Jordan taught me how to describe a cup of water.”

Sanderson elaborates:

It seems a simple task. We all know what water looks like, feels like in our mouth. Water is ubiquitous. Describing a cup of water feels a little like doing a still life painting. As a child I used to wonder: Why do people spend so much time painting bowls of fruit, when they could be painting dragons? Why learn to describe a cup of water, when the story is about cool magic and (well) dragons?

It’s a thing I had trouble with as a teenage writer—I’d try to rush through the “boring” parts to get to the interesting parts, instead of learning how to make the boring parts into the interesting parts. And a cup of water is vital to this. Robert Jordan showed me that a cup of water can be a cultural dividing line–the difference between someone who grew up between two rivers, and someone who’d never seen a river before a few weeks ago.

A cup of water can be an offhand show of wealth, in the shape of an ornamented cup. It can be a mark of traveling hard, with nothing better to drink. It can be a symbol of better times, when you had something clean and pure. A cup of water isn’t just a cup of water, it’s a means of expressing character. Because stories aren’t about cups of water, or even magic and dragons. They’re about the people painted, illuminated, and changed by magic and dragons.

Read the entire piece here.


Sep. 18th, 2017 05:00 pm
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Posted by Annalee Newitz

Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.

Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.

And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

Annalee Newitz’s science fiction debut Autonomous is available September 19th from Tor Books. Read chapter 3 below, and check out additional excerpts at the Tor/Forge blog and on Boing Boing.



Chapter Three
Private Property

When does the thinnest smear of genetic material left by spilled blood finally evaporate? At some point it becomes invisible to human eyes, its redness dimmed by water and the mopper’s crawl, but there are still pieces left—shattered cell walls, twists of DNA, diminishing cytoplasm. When do those final shards of matter go away?

Jack watched the rotund blob of the mopper as it swished back and forth across a pinking stain that had once been a red-black crust on the floor of the control room. A blue glare of water-filtered sunlight came directly through the glass composite in the windows, blinding her until she dropped her eyes back down to the stain. She’d disposed of the body hours ago, its legs lashed to the cement blocks. By now, it would be frozen deep under the water.

Jack hadn’t had to kill anyone for a long time. Usually, in a tight situation, she wasn’t in the middle of the ocean. She could run away instead of having to fight. She ran a hand through the salt-stiffened tufts of her hair, wanting to vomit or cry or give up again in the face of the hopeless, endless pharma deprivation death machine.

That last thought make her crack a self-chiding smile. Pharma deprivation death machine. Sounded like something she would have written in college and published anonymously on an offshore server, her words reaching their destination only via a thick layer of crypto and several random network hops.

Black pharma smuggling wasn’t exactly the job she’d imagined for herself thirty years ago, in the revolutionary fervor of her grad student days. Back then, she was certain she could change the world just by making commits to a text file repository, and organizing neatly symbolic protests against patent law. But when she’d finally left the university labs, her life had become one stark choice: farm patents for shitty startups, or become a pirate. For Jack, it wasn’t a choice at all, not really.

Sure, there were dangers. Sometimes a well-established pirate ring in the Federation would find a few of its members dead, or jailed for life—especially if a corp complained about specific infringements. But if you kept a low profile, modest and quiet, it was business as usual.

But not usually business like this: cleaning up after a guy she’d killed over a bag of pills and a bot.

Where the hell had he even come from? She gestured for the sub’s local network, flicking open a window that gave her a sensors’ perspective on the mottled surface of the ocean from a few feet below. Nothing but the occasional dark hulk of icebergs out there now. Maybe she’d really started to lose it after all her years of vigilance? He’d exploited some obvious hole in her security system, fooling the ship’s perimeter sensors until he was on board and stuffing boxes of her payload into his rucksack. Selling a bag of those dementia meds wouldn’t have gotten him much more than a year’s worth of euphorics and gambling in some Arctic resort right on the beach.

The dead fusehead was the least of her problems right now, though. Jack needed to figure out whether something had gone wrong with her batch of reverse-engineered Zacuity. She still had some samples of the original drug she’d broken down to its constituent parts, along with plenty of her pirated pills. Jack tossed the original and pirated versions into her chem forensics rig, going over the molecular structures again with a critical eye. Nothing wrong there—she’d made a perfect copy. That meant the issue was with Zacuity’s original recipe. She decided to isolate each part of the drug, going through them one by one. Some of them were obviously harmless. Others she marked for further examination.

Jack finally narrowed the questionable parts down to four molecules. She projected their structures into the air, regarding the glittering bonds between atoms with a critical eye. A quick database search revealed that all of these molecules targeted genes related to addiction in large parts of the population. Jack paused, unable to believe it.

Zaxy had always placed profit over public health, but this went beyond the usual corporate negligence. International law stipulated that no cosmetic pharmaceuticals like productivity drugs or euphorics could contain addictive mechanisms, and even the big corps had to abide by IPC regulations. Her discovery meant that Zacuity was completely illegal. But nobody would figure that out, because Zaxy was rolling it out slowly to the corps, keeping any addictions carefully in check. When Zacuity came out of beta, the drug would be so expensive that only people with excellent medical care would ever take it. If they got addicted, it would be dealt with quietly, at a beautiful recovery facility somewhere in the Eurozone. It was only when somebody like Jack started selling it on the street that problems and side effects could be magnified into something more dangerous.

Jack was torn between rage at Zacuity and rage at herself for bringing their shitty drug to people without health resources. Hundreds of people might be eating those pills right now, possibly going nuts. It was a horrific prospect, and Jack wasn’t prepared to deal with the enormity of this problem just yet. Reaching into the pocket of her newly washed coveralls, she pulled out some 420 and sparked it up. Nothing like drugs to take the edge off drug problems. Besides, she had unfinished business with that bot behind the locked door of her cargo hold. He might prove to be unfixable, but at least that wasn’t her fault.

Jack expected the bot would still be in the same spot where he collapsed, eyes wandering under the control of some shit algorithm yanked off the net. But he wasn’t. Jack squinted, trying to figure out why the bot was huddled into a shadow where the wall met the floor. She’d started the ship moving again, and bubbles slid past the dark portals.

He was sleeping.

Suddenly Jack realized why the bot could look so beaten up but still show no signs of an alloy endoskeleton. This wasn’t a biobot—it was just plain bio. A human.

She leaned against the bulkhead and groaned quietly. A damaged bot was almost always fixable, but a damaged human? She had the goods to repair a mutating region in his DNA, and purge his body of common viruses, but nothing could fix a wrecked cognition. As she pondered, the hunched figure sat up with a start and stared at her with eyes whose emptiness was now far more awful than bad software. She wondered how long he’d been indentured to the dead thief. There was a number branded on his neck, and he’d obviously been following orders for a long time.

The 420 gave Jack a kind of philosophical magnanimousness, and with it a sense of resigned obligation to this kid. It wasn’t his fault that his master had decided to rob an armed pirate in the middle of nowhere. She’d do what she could to help him, but that wasn’t much.

“Do you want some water?” she asked. “You look like you could use it.”

He scrambled up suddenly, grabbing the edge of a crate to keep his balance, and she realized he was actually rather tall—taller than she was, though so malnourished that his height made him seem even more fragile. If things got dicey, it would be no trouble for her to overpower him, snap his neck, and toss him into the airlock.

“Please,” he said. “And food, too, if you can spare it.” His English accent was pure middle-class Asian Union, which wasn’t exactly what you expected from a kid with a brand on his neck.

“Come on, then.” Jack touched his shirtsleeve lightly, careful not to hit exposed skin. She led him down the spiral staircase from the control room into the wet lab/kitchen, where she booted up the cooker and gestured for broth and bread. He sagged into her chair at the tiny table, the wings of his shoulder blades showing through his thin shirt as he hunched over and stared at his hands.

She put the food in front of him. “I’m Jack.”

He ignored her, taking a sip from the bowl, then dunking the bread in and biting off a chunk. Jack leaned on the counter and watched, wondering if the kid even had a name. Families with nothing would sometimes sell their toddlers to indenture schools, where managers trained them to be submissive just like they were programming a bot. At least bots could earn their way out of ownership after a while, be upgraded, and go fully autonomous. Humans might earn their way out, but there was no autonomy key that could undo a childhood like that.

“I’m Threezed,” he responded finally, breaking Jack out of her spaced reverie. He’d swallowed about half the broth and his face didn’t look quite as blank as it had before. It was hard to miss the fact that the last two numbers branded onto his neck were three and zed. That scar was his name, too. Jack folded her arms over the sudden stab of sympathy in her chest.

“Nice to meet you, Threezed.”

Excerpted from Autonomous, copyright © 2017 by Annalee Newitz.

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Posted by Jason Kottke

66-year-old William Reed was born colorblind. For his birthday, his family bought him a pair of Enchroma sunglasses, which allows wearers with red-green colorblindness to see colors. His reaction when he puts the glasses on for the first time is something else, especially when you consider how grumpy and curmudgeonly he starts out. I lost it when he started rubbing and clapping his hands together and waving his arms…he is feeling all of the feels right there.

Tags: color   crying at work   video
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Posted by Justin Pot

We’ve been clear: Mac users should ditch Chrome for Safari. It offers much better battery life, better performance, and content filters are way better than ad blockers.


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