Of cogs and rivers

May. 4th, 2016 11:23 pm
gerald_duck: (Duck of Doom)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
Hmm. I seem to have developed a prurient interest in the whole Top Gear debacle.

I'm not sure why. I guess in part I ended up watching some episodes a couple of years ago, partly I remember the heyday of the magazine, which appears to have been the spiritual predecessor to the Clarkson/Wilman refresh of the television series.

Yes, it was inevitable that Clarkson would have to go, once he'd punched Oisin Tymon. But that has left the BBC with a colossal and unenviable headache. It's fairly obvious they're not going to make something with the entertainment appeal of the Clarkson/Hammond/May/Wilman iteration of Top Gear — the challenge is to make something that's at all good.

More specifically, there are a bunch of national versions of Top Gear around the world, replicating the formula for various cultures and languages. Up until now, people have preferred the original British Top Gear, even dubbed. Can the BBC make a new season of Top Gear with an all-new lineup that people around the world still prefer to their own variants?

Superficially, Evans and Clarkson have similarities. Both are controversial petrolheads, love-or-hate Marmite personalities. But Clarkson is actually a journalist by profession, and that matters. Also, while both seem to be somewhat broken people, Clarkson appears to be driven by an urge to communicate and entertain, comfortable with the confrontational public image he's cultivated. Evans seems more insecure; he wants the public to love him. With many people, he succeeds, partly because he's prepared to give generously of himself in the process.

I remember back in the Don't Forget Your Toothbrush days, the week that the star prize was Evans' own car. That didn't feel rigged — I reckon it really was his car on offer. And I remember him selling a bunch of his stuff on Camden Market. And now I see his answer to the best-car question in this Q&A… oh. In some ways that story is reminiscent of Clarkson rushing to see his dying father, but in others it feels rather more raw, uncomfortable and vulnerable.

The different character is borne out in his reaction to the furore over that ill-advised hooning on Whitehall. I think I see the devastation of someone desperate to be universally liked who's being criticised.

Such yearning to be liked is potentially appealing, but seems to lend much of what he does a certain vacuousness. That aside from the obvious consideration that committees could never manufacture the kind of chemistry we see between Clarkson, Hammond and May.


So the risk is not so much that Chris Evans will be bad per se, more that he'll be a little lacklustre, while at the same time very sensitive to public opinion on the matter. He's had serious emotional trouble in the past and putting him on the spot like this seems almost cruel.


On a happier note, Matt LeBlanc seems a safer bet. Some say he's too American and not enough of a journalist, but he clearly likes cars, he clearly drives well, and he's perhaps more stable and personable than Chris Evans. Armed with the right vehicle and the right script, he could be pretty good. (Unfortunately, Wilman and Clarkson probably took the scripts with them…) Sabine Schmitz is almost a no-brainer: generally awesome, superb driver, light-hearted and willing to attempt absurd automotive feats. Chris Harris seems to be a very handy motoring journalist, though rather dry: stern and factual like old-school Top Gear rather than an entertainer.


But it's worth comparing this season's first trailer with one for season 19. At first glance, they're from the same stable, with the same styling, but the old trailer is more diverse, more intriguing, more surreal, less relentless. Chris Evans: "Feel the heat, baby!" Jeremy Clarkson: "Hello, I've accidentally painted er… a gentleman's sausage on a storm drain."

Meanwhile, Clarkson, Hammond and May have demonstrated (1, 2) what they can do even without driving anything.


I suspect Clarkson, Hammond and May are going to fare the better of the two. I just hope Chris Evans doesn't crash and burn as a result. I do wonder how the chemistry might work between Matt and Sabine. (Hmm… both on and off screen!)

Meanwhile, having already suggested "Transmission" as a name for the new CHM series, I noticed someone else suggest the somewhat niftier "Continuously Variable Transmission". My own second offering, for a web-based show about piss-artists driving cars fast, is "Sliders and Knobs".

Reading Wednesday

May. 4th, 2016 04:05 pm
naath: (Default)
[personal profile] naath
read:

Cut. Which is a very graphic memoir, and not at all an easy read. Hibo Wardere is now an anti-FGM activist, I hope she (and others doing the same work) succeed, I'm not sure how I can help.

Trixter, Dearest, and Messenger by Alethea Kontis. Continuing the series that began with Enchanted. These are enjoyably fairy-tale stories. (Trixter is more of a novella, and Messenger is a deleted-chapter from Dearest and barely a short story)

reading:
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I've seen this recommended all over the place, so far I'm finding it fairly interesting.

forgot about previously:
while I was walking a very long way I listened to the audio book of House of Shattered Wings by Alliete de Bodard. Which I found interesting but not as good as some of her other stuff.
azurelunatic: Danger: High Energy Magic Use Area. Stick figure firing wand; pentagram.  (high energy magic)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
* You do not do a smol summon to all the trickster gods you can dig up sigils for simultaneously and go "HAAAYYYY I'M A SEEKER" for similar reasons to why you do not post publicly to facebook, twitter, and 4chan simultaneously going "HAAAYYYY PARTY AT MY PLACE HERE'S THE ADDRESS" while @-ing a few choice contacts. That is how you get more infosec d00ds than you know what to do with on your lawn and hacking your launderizer; similarly, you don't necessarily want a certain redhead and a certain fan of well-targeted fruit to take up camp in your pineal gland without that you thought things through very, very carefully beforehand.

* I can, in fact, still use coffee as a divination aid.

* Does anyone know a deity or two who might be associated with shit sandwiches and/or lemonade? No, seriously. The deity who is your boon companion when you go "Well, this is certainly a shit sandwich that I have here!" and/or also the entity for "Welp, these are some lemons; I guess it's time to find a big pot and some sugar." Asking for a friend.

* Tumblr is great for creating new mythology. However, anything that tumblr says are true historical fax, double-check that with other sources.

* 90s web design is not an immediate disqualification for a pagan informational website. Presence of information which can be easily debunked via actually qualified historical sources, however...

* Libraries are a thing.

* Divination can be super helpful at some things, but when you're doing it for yourself, you're going to get a lot of internal noise from what you're wanting to happen. Thus, divination is a reasonable way to explore what you personally in fact actually want...

* For fuck's sake, do not get a tattoo on your actual body honoring Bacchus without thinking things through super carefully.


or, in other words...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_Don%27t_We_Get_Drunk
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/deadkennedys/toodrunktofuck.html
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
[personal profile] tajasel
I received Dreamwidth points because I was using the domain forwarding feature and it's, for perfectly good reason, no longer available - and because I have a seed account, they couldn't just extend my subscription. But I don't think I have ever used points except to gift them to people either, so that's what I'm doing with these ones too.

If you are in need of DW points, or you know someone who is, please leave a (screened) comment here telling me who and as much as you feel comfortable saying about why ("I'm broke and really value DW's paid features" is a perfectly good reason, as is "They would just make me happy"!), and next Monday, I'll divide up the points between people who can use them better than me. I can't promise to give points to everyone, as I want to give enough to each person that they'll be useful, but I will do my best.

Bored game geek

May. 1st, 2016 12:56 am
gerald_duck: (lemonjelly)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
I've had an account on BoardGameGeek for many years now, mainly because you had to register in order to access downloads and high-res images. But in the past year or two, I've drifted into using it more avidly. I contribute to the forums, rate the games, keep details of what I own, etc.

The interface, you might notice, presents a lot of information in a very compact format. The style is quite unreconstructed, very turn-of-the millennium. But that's fine: at least I can tell when I'm looking at a BGG window, and a bit of effort climbing the learning curve is rewarded by convenient access to a very rich feature set.

All well and good.

Except… they've now gone and changed the style of the pages about individual games. Suddenly, it's all a bit… generic. And the information density has gone waaaay down. And it doesn't match the rest of the site. And you have to scroll and click all over the place to get anything done. And the "responsive" design means no two people see the same thing, so all the people trying to discuss where to find everything now are talking at (very) cross purposes.

As a particular vexation, they've gone and moved the information the users contribute down to the bottom as a "Community Wiki" section that is truncated and faded out. As one might expect, that contains all the stuff that the site's users reckoned it was most important and helpful for people to see. In the case of Pandemic Legacy, it includes links to FAQ threads, various frequently-duplicated polls, etc. For lots of games, it includes the information on how many of what kind of card sleeve are required.

Many, probably most, existing users are very sad at the dumbing down, the genericising, the de-emphasising of the content contributed by the community. So far, that's falling on deaf ears.

The overt motivation was allegedly that their research showed a lot of people landing at the site via a Google search for a particular game, who went away again rather than clicking through to other parts of the site. But… that's not an unsuccessful visit. People came to know about a thing, learned about it, left happy. Indeed, that's one of my commonest usage patterns. The suspected subtext is that they're trying to shift away from the community model and towards a vehicle for promoting publishers' games and earning commission by steering people to online shops.


Hohum.

The trouble is, I've seen this all before. Livejournal made exactly the same mistakes, of trying to ape Facebook, of prioritising bringing in more users over keeping the ones they had, of valuing the revenue streams too highly and the contributors too little. As a result, it's a shadow of its former self. (If you're even still here and reading this: Hi!)

When Livejournal's pre-eminence took a beating, some people lost interest, others have wandered off to a plethora of rival blogging platforms. The benefit that came from having a coherent ecosystem has been lost. The same can happen to BGG.

And it doesn't feel as though BGG's shift of emphasis can even work. If I Google waitrose cambridge, 217gbp to usd, kevin bacon, MSFT, stromness weather, 2**32-1, paris to madrid, hungarian for my hovercraft is full of eels or any of countless other kinds of thing, rather than just giving me search engine hits, Google provides a specialised response.

Given all their existing technology, how long would it take Google to do the same for board games if the mood took them? A couple of days? How well would they present the result compared with BGG's new effort?

I really wish BGG would, to use vile management speak, recognise its core competency — what it's best in the world at, what makes it special — and return to nurturing that.

Apart from anything else, it does kinda say "geek" in the name.

ten good things

May. 1st, 2016 12:13 am
kaberett: Clyde the tortoise from Elementary, crawling across a map, with a red tape cross on his back. (elementary-emergency-clyde)
[personal profile] kaberett
1. Rose lemonade. Read more... )

2. Pad thai. Read more... )

3. Orphan Black. It turns out that I am still very emotionally invested, okay: I have to keep pausing it to squeak. (I also paused it to stare, narrow-eyed, at the perplexing geology, and then to, um, take a screenshot. to keep staring at. later.)

4. Cyanocitta stelleri (Steller's Jay), and #dreamwidth, who identified the source of this image in particular for me. Excellent blue; ridiculous crest.

5. Aphelocoma californica (Western Scrub Jay). Also an excellent blue.

6. This hedgehog, which tumblr thought it was important for me to see.

7. A Brief History Of Tax Evasion In Britain (Or: Panama Is For Posers, Now Brick Up Your Windows).

8. Check, Please! fandom is giving me lots of people-adoring-each-other to roll around in, and is also giving me lots of really thorough and thoughtful incredibly iddy fic ([personal profile] staranise wrote a really detailed soulmates AU that I just want to smoosh my face on, okay?).

9. An amble round the charity shops in the sunshine this afternoon yielded a film and a gift, in addition to, you know, the part where I got sunshine.

10. I am having a possibly ridiculous number of Feelings about continuity-of-community and shit about this thing in passing, and I... really need to be asleep so I'm not even slightly going to go into the details in any depth now, but I've been having A Rough Week Or So on several related topics so this was A Good, alright.

ALRIGHT. Sleep. xx
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
... I've announced the next contributor weekend, which is running on the 14th and 15th of May!

If you have requests for specific flavours of cake, now is a good time to make them :-)
kaberett: A sleeping koalasheep (Avatar: the Last Airbender), with the dreamwidth logo above. (dreamkoalasheep)
[personal profile] kaberett posting in [site community profile] dw_dev
Hello folk!

A reminder that I am running a Dreamwidth contributor weekend on the 14th of May, with spillover to the 15th. To get a sense of what goes on at these events, you can take a look at the November event summary and the February event summary.

If you need the physical address, please let me know and I'll PM it you along with instructions on how to get here by public transport. This is not the same address as the last time I hosted, so please do make sure you know where you're going!

If you'd like to attend remotely, find us on IRC or add me on Skype (ekabrett): I'm intending to have a spare machine running a video Skype call to interested folk from the corner of one of the rooms from about 11am on the Saturday (i.e. if you're attending in person and would rather not participate in the Skype call this will be avoidable).

More logistics! )

Love at gunpoint

Apr. 30th, 2016 12:07 am
gerald_duck: (duckling loop)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
It's easy to assume that, given the people who read this, if I talk about the gun situation in the USA I'm preaching to the converted. It's obvious that the rate of gun crime there, the murder rate there, is horrific.

And people talk about gun controls as the solution. Now, in the UK we do have tight regulation of guns, but that's plainly not the entirety of the issue. The NRA is eager to point at countries like Switzerland, where lots of people have guns. Guns aren't the problem, they say. (Never mind that Switzerland and every other halfway peaceable nation actually has a fraction of the number of guns the USA keeps in circulation.)

So what is the problem? Here's one part of it.

From time to time in the USA, the police stop someone for a routine matter and end up getting shot to shreds. Each time that happens, people point and say "See? That's why the cops always have to stop everyone at gunpoint, and have to shoot at the first hint of trouble." I saw a story along those lines a few weeks ago, but I can't track it down now; it's a frequent narrative, though, and I found a couple of others.

Conversely, in the UK, when Raoul Moat shot a police officer in the face, everybody was shocked and appalled, but few people reacted by suggesting we routinely arm the police and force people out of the car at gunpoint whenever we ask them to stop their car.

And I still remember this story from 2004, comparing and contrasting the UK and US behaviours in Iraq.

It turned out that the way to be safe in Iraq was to get out of the car, take your helmet off, and interact with the locals. Not to drive through as quickly as possible in a Humvee.


And this is the problem in the USA: if everybody has the attitude that the way to be safe is superior firepower, there will be a never-ending escalation. If the inexorable descent into Hell is ever going to be stopped, somebody, somewhere, has to be willing to interact with a fellow American without having the bigger weapon.

Paradoxically, in order to be safe, people have to be prepared to let themselves be vulnerable. Trust has to be mutual; the invulnerable has no need to trust, so nobody trusts the invulnerable. In a great many parts of the world, the police and the army understand this, through a mixture of training, discipline, principles and culture.

This is another example of what I've labelled the Platinum Rule in action: the relationship between the police and the public is a multipolar trap. The police can co-operate with the public or defect from them through the sights of an RPG launcher; the public can co-operate with the police or defect with small arms fire every time they're stopped for a defective tail light. Somewhere along the line, one side has to co-operate with the other even though the other side might still defect. The right-wing politicians in the USA (and elsewhere) see a failure to co-operate with the police as a moral wrong, and put the blame for the current predicament on the criminals. But wait a minute: why are we expecting bad people to be the first to do the right thing?

Of course, it's easier to maintain that trust where it exists than build it where it does not. Right now, in the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough inquests, parts of the UK police have… some work to do. This article gives a useful historical perspective. There is talk here, as in the USA, of a few bad apples, but I get the impression the situation in the USA is orders of magnitude worse.

Can you actually put in somebody's job description "walk unprotected into a horribly beweaponed crime-ridden slum and try to restore law and order"? Not really. It's a lot to ask of someone. I know I'd hesitate to do it myself. Being an effective police officer when things have got that bad is more of a calling than a career.

It needs doing, and nobody's brave enough, self-sacrificing enough, to do it. Otherwise, things will go from bad to worse, again, some more. Then the need will be more acute and the prospect more scary.

It increasingly feels as though the USA is stuck in its multipolar trap, as though the process will continue "until human ingenuity cannot possibly figure out a way to make things any worse". A lot of nations, a lot of people, around the globe hate the USA; perhaps one should pity them instead?
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
for my own records, more than anything else...

Read more... )

State of the Sebastian

Apr. 29th, 2016 11:31 am
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
You know that three-legged stool model where if possible it’s best to only make major changes in one of the legs of home, relationship, and work at any given time? I seem to be doing remarkably well right now, considering that I’m encountering a certain amount of complicatedness in all three.

The relationship stuff is simplest - [livejournal.com profile] obandsoller and I are rock solid, before anyone worries; but for a little while I let myself get my hopes up about a possible something with someone else, and then that didn’t pan out (yes, that’s the sad thing I referred to in the last post). I’m okay, and have bounced back remarkably quickly, but it’s been an undercurrent of uncertainty and anxiety as well as hopefulness for the last couple of months, which takes energy.

House stuff is hard work and infuriating. We found a place, and we knew that our maximum price was higher than the vendor’s minimum, so we were confident that we’d reach an agreement, but then the vendor got cold feet and it fell through. And then we found another place and had an offer accepted and got pretty excited, and now that’s been stalled for weeks and we think isn’t going to happen. And then we found another place and made an offer way above the asking price but were still outbid… And it’s getting a bit tiring, not knowing when it’s all going to be sorted out. I mean, we’ll find somewhere eventually, and once we get to the other side we’ll have a shiny new house and we’ll never have to move again, and it’ll be great. But still, it’s a bit tiring.

A similar undercurrent of uncertainty remains at work. My contract ends in a few weeks, at which point I’m having some surgery and will definitely be taking a bit of time off to recover, but I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing afterwards. My client has indicated that he’d like me to come back in some capacity, but so far has been rather unforthcoming on the details, and although there’s nothing terrible per se about my role at the moment, I’m getting quite bored. There are definitely more interesting projects that I think I could take on, but it remains to be seen whether my vision and my client’s are in concert, and the longer I go without knowing, the less engaged I feel, and the more inclined to just go “Sod it, time to move on”.

But as I indicated at the start, despite having a non-trivial amount of stress and uncertainty to manage, I seem to be bearing up extremely well. I know how lucky I am, being in a position to buy a house in London at all, and having the amount of freedom of choice about where and how I work that I have, and knowing that whatever else happens in my love life I’ve still got this incredible, affirming, enriching partnership with Ramesh. But often knowing that on paper doesn’t stop stressful things from being incredibly draining and clouding out that sense of fortune and gratitude, and that doesn’t seem to be happening this time around.

Tidying continues!

Apr. 29th, 2016 02:09 am
azurelunatic: Azz and best friend grabbing each other's noses.  (Default)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
The apartment is yet again entirely topsy-turvy, but in a continuingly more productive vein, as I am after completing the swap-bed-and-computer-desk project.

Wrapping up the post-conference work, and ramping up the applications again.

I have a cleaning goal: I would like the apartment to be presentable-to-Certain-Parties by the 13th. I think it's progressing in that direction, but you could not entirely prove it by one day's moved furniture. (I suspect that with a few modifications the current state would work, but I'd also like, you know, a few more places to sit. Although the idea of someone sprawling in characteristic fashion on my bed has its charms.)


This morning involved the dentist, and an obnoxiously deep filling (and a very annoyed nerve). I wound up taking a substantial afternoon nap because my brain could Just Not Even. (This also happens after eye appointments involving dilation, I find.)

Quick links--

Apr. 28th, 2016 05:35 pm
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
Anyone interested in doing Kew the Movies with me? I've booked tickets for myself and a friend for the Star Wars showing already, but I'm happy to have others join us and I am 100% up for seeing any of the other showings (Jurassic Park, Mean Girls, and Labyrinth). I am similarly up for potluck picnic dinners.

On the heartbreaking difficulty of getting rid of books:
After all, the romance of minimalism relies on invisible abundance. The elegantly empty apartment speaks not to genteel poverty, but to the kind of hoarded wealth that makes anything and everything replaceable and available at the click of a mouse. Things and the freedom from things, and then things again if you desire. If you miss a book after getting rid of it, Kondo consoles, you can always buy it again. Dispose and replace, repeat and repeat.


What should student doctors learn about sexual healthcare? This survey is being run by the University of Oxford:
We are redesigning courses for medical students to teach them what they need to know about sexual and genital health. If you have experience of going to the doctor for these issues, including asking about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, screening, or any concerns about your genital or sexual health, we would like to hear from you.


I am spending a lot of time at the moment watching two eaglets grow up.

Reading Wednesday

Apr. 27th, 2016 04:48 pm
naath: (Default)
[personal profile] naath
read: collapse (Diamond). Interesting case studies but very repetitive analysis imo

Reading: Cut (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29540497-cut) This is not a pleasant read.
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
[personal profile] sophie posting in [site community profile] dw_dev
As a reminder, the Dreamhack machine is going to be taken offline at some time between 1am EDT and 6am EDT on April 28th for up to an hour, as the datacenter will be doing maintenance work!

You can use the links in the above paragraph to check when this is in your local timezone.

Mood and executive function

Apr. 25th, 2016 01:43 pm
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
Something I need to get better at is remembering how profoundly mood can affect my ability to do practical and useful things, and applying that to my model of other people. The effect of depression and related mood disorders in this arena is something I mostly grok, even though it’s been a long time since I suffered more than the most transient and trifling of depressions, but I’m currently a bit sad about something specific*, and it’s taken me rather by surprise how much of a similar effect it’s had in terms of making it hard to get out of bed and go to work and do my chores and be sociable with delightful people.

For the last few months I’ve been overwhelmingly more functional and productive than I ever had before, and it felt quite robust, so it’s a little surprising to find it this fragile. I mean, it hasn’t crashed down to zero - I managed to lift weights and cook dinner and play bridge yesterday, and although it took me a while to get going this morning, I’ve still made it into work and got a reasonable amount done so far; but it has felt like far more effort than I’d become used to. I expect it’ll sort itself out over the next few days, and if it doesn’t then all the tools I used to become more functional are still there if I need them to get back again, but I think it’s probably good for me to realise that no matter how resilient I feel, there are definitely still squishy bits really quite close to the surface.

I’m also uncomfortably aware that there have been times when thoughts along the lines of “why can’t so-and-so just pull themselves together and get on with things” have been closer to forming than I might like to admit, and although I think I’m usually fairly good at nipping them in the bud with a reminder that different people have different capabilities and needs and responses, perhaps this experience of how quickly capabilities can change even within one person will make them less inclined to reach the point where that nipping is required.

*which is just one of those unfortunate things which is absolutely no-one’s fault, and was handled as decently and kindly as possible by everyone involved, so just in case anyone is thinking of feeling anything resembling guilt about this sadness, don’t you bloody well dare.

Icons update

Apr. 24th, 2016 03:34 pm
azurelunatic: Alaska Nanooks logo. (hockey)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
New:


Icon: Alaska Nanooks logo, which is a chiaroscuro image of a stalking polar bear (Nanook) in front of a giant blue and gold letter A.

Keywords: hockey, nooks.

The Nanooks are my home team, and I've been reading a lot more Check Please! which satisfies my need for a sports fandom with lovely queer characters and romance, without the risk of faves who irl turn out to be suuuuuuuuuuuper problematic.


Keyword updates:


Icon: text: "I have banned people from my journal for commenting in purple"
Text is mostly tiny black computery font, except for "in purple" which is magnified and purple.

Previous keywords: bitch, purple

General uses: when I'm being very and possibly irrationally cranky/picky about something, and when other people's way of doing things brushes up against my boundaries, I tell them, and they keep doing the thing

Current keywords: bitch, your font is problematic



Icon: a photo of a polished piece of rainbow fluorite. The central stripe is a very pastel lavender with a hint of blue-green, the top stripe is light purple, and the bottom stripe is a rich sweet blueberry purple.

Previous keywords: fluorite, huggy rock
Current keywords: fluorite, huggy rock, purple

New companion!

Apr. 24th, 2016 10:46 pm
such_heights: amy and rory looking at a pile of post (Default)
[personal profile] such_heights
Yesterday the new Doctor Who companion was announced and everything looks delightful.

two minute clip under the cut + images )
azurelunatic: Azz and best friend grabbing each other's noses.  (Default)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
So I headed off to phone's party! phone lives not that far away from the conference venue, and the party was already swinging pretty vividly when I got there. I found parking (leaving a space behind me) and came in, bearing a small potted rose and the tray of sandwiches. The apartment was cheerfully decorated visible from outside with some delightful purple fairy lights. The level of sparkle visible from without was only a hint at the level of sparkle within. phone's boyfriend answered the door. He is an elegantly flamboyant man of a certain age, with a flair for striking outfits and costumes. On this occasion he was wearing a skin-tight silver jumpsuit with a mesh sweater over top and also amazing high-heeled silver holographic boots. He was not the only person wearing a super-sparkly outfit that night, as there was a guy in a long robe and top hat both made out of flat-sequined silver fabric (with reflectors larger than my beloved late disco ball dress, but similar). There were all sorts of colored sparkly lights. I got a drink and found a chair in the corner, where I wound up chatting with Jen, who has a small flock of chickens and a number of amusing (and occasionally terrible) stories involving them. Exactly my kind of person. Her husband was also at the party. phone tried to troubleshoot the rainbow fairy lights.

I texted Purple to let him know I was there, since I hadn't seen him. He texted back to say he would be there in about 20. And in about 20, I saw his silhouette through the patio door, and then he was coming out back and saying hi to phone and taking his accustomed place next to me. We had a silly exchange and he ruffled my hair. When he wandered off to grab a drink after a while, the party shifted around, and a small crowd gathered in my corner. I noticed him come back with drink in hand, notice the crowd, shrug, and strike up a conversation with someone near him. I wasn't bothered: Jen and I were getting on quite well.

Jen is a non-techie. phone's boyfriend is a non-techie. Jen, Jen's husband, phone's boyfriend, and I got in a discussion about some of the ways that conversations involving techies can go. The phrase "I need sympathy, not troubleshooting" can be key. (I looked fondly over at the very nicely sympathetic techie holding the neon green drink, holding forth on some topic with phone.)

The party shifted again, and sight lines between Purple and me were restored. We flashed an ironic wave at each other, and Purple made a semi-apology for not having come back directly that matched my assessment. (And, again, I'd been having a great time talking to Jen, so it wasn't like I was completely on my own at this party, even though I knew three, now four, people there out of quite a few more than four.)

It turns out that not only was Jen's husband at the party, but Jen's husband has known phone for years and years and years online, and has also known Purple for years and years, but this was the first time they'd met in person. The meeting was pleasing to both of them, and I was delighted to witness it.

It began to get chilly, so everyone went inside. I had already passed my step count for the day, so standing up was not the best idea for my back, but it was the best idea in light of the crowd. I wound up in the kitchen chatting with Jen's husband, tucked comfortably in a corner at Purple's elbow. There was enough light, finally, that I could see what was on my plate. I sighed and showed Purple some diced bell pepper. He laughed at me, and explained to Jen's husband that I had been in an un-merry war with work catering over bell peppers.

Jen's husband changed places with phone's boyfriend, and desserts were sampled. Someone found the raspberry bars; Purple nabbed one; I asked if he could pass me one; he handed me the first while claiming another for himself. Raspberry bar relay. Despite my back's complaints, it was nice being there: insulated from the most intense bits of crowd, but still engaging.

phone wandered up and chatted with us while his boyfriend circulated. People started filtering over to say goodnight to phone and wish him happy birthday, including the guy who had been wearing the disco ball robe until he'd changed back into street clothes.

At length the party size shrank, until at last it was phone and his boyfriend, Jen and her husband, Purple, and me. I was in one corner of the couch, Jen was curled up next to me, and eventually her husband sat down at the other end. "Fuck" is not just a spice, it's punctuation, except most editors would take a red pen to that many punctuation marks. It turns out that when Jen and I get going, we might sort of feed off each other a bit. phone likes it when I swear about the helldesk software, because when I get going, I really get going. Sometimes I get somewhat creative beyond the mere f-bomb, too...

At one point someone claimed that the iPad was not a data entry device; I declared that one could helpfully render it one by means of a portable keyboard, and that I had one in my pocket. Purple claimed that I had too many things in my pockets. Someone, perhaps phone, made a "Precious" joke, and my hand diverted its path. I had been going for the pocket that contained the keyboard. I was now going for the shorts pocket with the little brocade box with the mirror inside: the one that just that morning I had loaded with a few BPAL vials, a USB stick, my pair of shiny peacock earrings, a lip balm, and other bits of jewelry that I hadn't wanted to wear while possibly hauling tables around at the conference. Including -- I held a shiny silver ring aloft. phone cracked up.

Shortly after midnight the party broke up. Purple had parked right behind me, so we walked out together. He stuck around while I fished through three bags in search of my satnav, which I found in the last place I looked for it, then very carefully dodged the spikes in my hairdo after hugging me goodnight. I'm not usually quite so spiky!


To say "this party was better than any of Shawn's parties" demeans this party merely by the comparison, but that's the only referent I have for some of the vibe. This was what Shawn's parties wanted to be when they grew up.

(conference) okay where do I start

Apr. 24th, 2016 03:54 am
azurelunatic: Azz and best friend grabbing each other's noses.  (Default)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
Let's start with the Internet of Shit. I had an Internet of Shit moment right before going to bed, which resulted in me on the phone with Belkin going "I don't have time to give you my name and email, I just want to turn off my light so I can go to sleep and I don't want to move two shelves" in the most pathetic of tones. I have a relatively ancient iPod Touch which won't run the latest version. In the not-latest version, which I have, when there's a "cloud outage" there's a friendly notice that you can still use the app to control your switches on your local network. Except ... the notice covers over the controls entirely, and it's iOS and unlike Android there's no motherfucking back button. And however you clear running apps from memory in whatever old-ass version of iOS I have, it wasn't how the customer service agent was describing. After a few rounds, we tried rebooting. That worked.

Then I woke up about 15 minutes before my alarm, and very sensibly stopped reading a thing in the middle of the thing and went off to the conference when my snooze-alarm told me that I had 1 hour until setup started.

I got there 15 minutes early from the planned unlock time. I saw another little (white?) car pull up and it was the chair emeritus.

By the time someone got there to let us in, about 6 of us, maybe more, had gathered. I chirpily spun it to CE as "having crucial hallway conversations", which made her laugh. (Context: she had no idea how to pose this in a helpful fashion.)

The morning got off to a rough start because nobody quite knew what they were doing, and everyone was duckling-ing after me, but fortunately past-me had Written Lists, and also had printed them out, and had broken things done in terms of tasks as well as roles, because I had foreseen that Morning Stuff might have an over-abundance of people trying to do one role and not enough of any of the others, so I sort of decreed that Morning Stuff would have everyone pitch in until people and food started showing up.

I think I was right about needing to buy bowls, for the record. :-P

The food arrived and that was okay. People started checking in and that was okay. The paper check-in list worked like a charm with no terrible woe, and having a ticket type that said essentially "Volunteer - Check in with Azz" served to redirect everyone who was a speaker or volunteer to check in with me after doing the normal check-in! Which was good!

I am so proud of my volunteers. They came together and did the thing, and even when I was completely incoherent from trying to do all the things at once and make all the decisions at once, they followed my lists and I was able to delegate them to do things! All I had to do was say "Yes, that needs doing. You, do #1. You, do #2." and people did it!!!

Instead of 3 tables for the 3 lower-tier sponsors, there were 2. It being bad form to make people share a table, I liberated 2 of the little round tables from the speaker green room, hauled them out, got someone to help me scootch the two beverage coolers onto separate round tables, then carried off the 6' table to the sponsor area of the lobby to deploy.

We were missing a dedicated person on the food, but I was able to fill in at the expense of having someone not at the front desk 100% of the time. It worked partly because there was a recruiter table there, and it was a group that is on long-standing great terms with the organization. So there was that! We needed someone at the front because the event space was not super private -- randos would barge up, and would occasionally wander back to try and scam free food.

The event did not start on time. The first panel ran over. These combined made the carefully-crafted morning schedule go kerplooie. My amazing room wranglers sailed right on through and set timers to follow the timeframe, and everybody was okay. I needed to print 3 sheets of "and this is what is in this room when" instead of 2 -- one for each entrance, plus one for the room-wrangler.

Just before lunch, we'd nearly run out of bottled water, and were down to our last half-bag of tangerines. I was summarily dispatched to Costco, and picked up two flats of bottled water and two bags of tangerines. I think I could have safely have got 3. I had very good luck with parking (partly because I decided to try for the furthest-away spots) and got there and back in record time.

Lunch arrived during the second passing period (of three), so the schedule pivoted: grab lunch now, hit third tech talk, then have a brief social-and-food-if-you-missed-it-earlier window and then dive straight the fuck into the workshops.

There were vegan-and-gluten-free meals which they'd got from the shop across the way; we worked it by setting the whole paper bag on one of the lesser-traffic tables and writing "VEGAN & GLUTEN FREE" on the bag in Sharpie. This way it was visible to people who'd need it without asking, very clearly reserved for people who needed it, and not sitting there and looking visibly delicious for people who ignore signs.

Midway through the afternoon, about an hour before the earliest time the tea (coffee and tea and cookies and mini bundt cakes, with non-gluten-containing chocolates and tangerines and Kind Bars) was set to arrive, R was fading fast and complaining that she needed sugar. (She had also underslept.) I towed her gently along after me into the green room and retrieved some fruit jellies for her, from my Magic Bag of Trader Joe's Food Which I Made Sure To Get So Nobody With Atypical Dietary Needs Would Starve. She started to perk up, and eventually did cave and had coffee.

The workshops let out early, so tea time happened a little scattershot, and everybody piled into one room for the last panel and wrap-up. I started packing up and breaking down, knowing that it would be a while and otherwise I wasn't doing anything else. I used the now-empty trays from the cookies to separate the leftover sandwich halves into more easily carried portions that someone might take home without worrying about where to put it or if they were going to get through all of those. I claimed one. (After lunch they went in the fridge. Thank goodness for fridges.)

Various people stayed to help clean up. The actual most involved part was me sorting out my stuff back into its boxes, because I had brought A Lot Of Things, many of which were useful. See: tape, label maker, markers, other tape, other markers, and gods know what else.

([twitter.com profile] acidhelm rocks, incidentally.)

There was a small convocation in the parking lot and then we-all split our separate ways. R had been invited to the party at phone's, but was too tired and was going home directly. My way was in the direction of the party at phone's. ;)