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The student-directed seminar instantiation of my class is looking more and more likely. My thinking about it is starting to infect my negotiations of academics more generally, examples from science fiction novels cropping up in the paper on gender identity (I'm supposed to be) working on right now. Not entirely by coincidence, I've been especially interested lately in reading fiction that lends itself to that sort of analysis.
Elizabeth Bear, By the Mountain Bound
Charles Stross, The Jennifer Morgue
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness (reread)
Maureen F. McHugh, Mission Child
Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren
China Miéville, The City & The City
Months are long sometimes! I remember those first two books but not as things that I've been reading recently; the back of my mind puts the LeGuin through the Miéville in a block together and expects those to fall somewhere nebulously before. Anyway, I'm just going to say things (at more or less length) about the last three on the list, but I could expand on anything if someone were curious. (Have we been here before?)

Mission Child is my new favourite McHugh. I've only read one other before but I don't care.

I used to think of Delany as a novelist that I admired more than I enjoyed, but now on the basis of the last two I've read he's turning out to be one of my favourites. I first heard of him when an online quiz suggested that he was which science fiction author I was, which would have been in 2002 or 2003, since I remember writing about it in my weblog; so, in the tail end of my teenage. At that time I picked up Dhalgren, bounced off it within a couple of pages, and came away with this impression of what it was like: a plotless prose-poetic experiment detailing a series of mysterious encounters between an unnamed protagonist and a series of equally opaque others.

Turns out that's not what it's like at all! Even though it would be easy to describe it that way. It's full of undreamy specificity, a post-apocalyptic story exploring the way that, in the wake of civilization-collapsing calamity, the people still there immediately reconstitute civilization, as they work out consciously and publicly how to live together. There's a lot about being an artist and a lot about being an artist's creation: there's one strange occasion on which the protagonist interacts directly with Delany, which I would have thought self-indulgent if anybody described it to me, but which comes across both deft and creepy. There is a lot of creepiness; the book is partially also a kind of horror story in which the horror is not being able to trust one's own memories or perceptions. On the back-cover blurb it's described as a work of "American magical realism", which I'm not sure is accurate or is not an oxymoron; but it might be magical realism by Jo Walton's taxonomy, which holds that fantasy has internally consistent laws by which magic operates, while magical realism has magical things take place because they are emotionally appropriate to the moment. One of the things that Delany does with that is to build up a sort of vocabulary of associations with certain recurring images, so that there's a sense of the frightening and/or the numinous about them despite our never understanding what they actually imply is going on. This is difficult to explain without examples, but the examples on their own, isolated from the rest of the text, probably wouldn't carry enough weight to make it any more explicable. Anyway, I really liked it.

The City & The City was just nominated for the Hugo, which doesn't surprise me. (It's nice to be a little ahead this year! I already had a hold on Boneshaker, too. Of course I don't end up reading everything I take out of the library, so don't be shocked if it doesn't show up here.) It felt very Hugoish, by which I mean that it was built around a clever speculative premise that was essential to the plot, intelligently explored, and such a new and yet such an obvious story element that after you've read it it transforms in a small way your conceptual vocabulary. The specifics of the plot are well-enough done, but it's the elaboration on the central idea that kept me fascinated. It made me think a lot of Judith Butler -- it's about the performativity of nations, how they're socially instantiated and in that sense real, but at the same time things that could be troubled and disrupted by performing differently, which is precisely why there are such strong socially punitive reactions to those who begin to do so.

Which could lead me rather suddenly on a tangent about nationalism more generally, with reference to the recent proliferation around here of enormous Canadian flags and to Stephen Harper's distressing tendency to respond to criticism by saying that "Canadians don't care about that," but it's late and this here is a long enough entry for now, so I'll content myself with mentioning the possibility and go to bed.
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Happy year! 2010 semiotically speaking has acquired increasingly dystopian associations from a Canadian perspective, but maybe semi-omnipotent aliens will turn Vancouver into a tiny sun. Actually that wouldn't really help.
George R. R. Martin, The Armageddon Rag
CJ Cherryh, Destroyer
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison (reread)
Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase (reread)
Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (reread)
CJ Cherryh, Pretender
CJ Cherryh, Deliverer
Sara Ryan, Empress of the World
Somewhere in the middle of the month there I was evidently taken over by the urge to read about Harriet Vane for a while. I had forgotten what a lovely and assured prose stylist Sayers was, particularly in Gaudy Night, which in its own quiet way I think might be one of the best novels of the 20th century. I would like to read it together sometime with Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, with which it has a surprising amount in common (so perhaps it's not surprising that I should like it so much).

Speaking of Pamela Dean, I read The Empress of the World on her recommendation. There is something about both of the principals being women that breaks down my detached resistance to romantic tropes in a way that's very pleasant. (But the romance in this was not mindless or uncomplicated, and I've kept thinking about it since.)

When Rachel was here I introduced her to cryptic crosswords, which she got good at much more quickly than I did back when I first started. In the process of some incorrect speculation we came up with our own clue, "Editorializes to the trees. (6)"; later I encountered in a published crossword a very similar clue with the same answer, but I like our wording better. It is possible that we are nerds.

I've got out of the habit of linking things I write from this weblog, in part because I write things to link (or for that matter entries from which to link) so relatively rarely these days. But I did write a song and a poem I'm pretty happy with in 2009, so there's no reason not to get around to mentioning them.
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Okay, right. So the year between Septembers 1st 2008 and 2009 composed and comprised the third year running of the book-logging initiative that now dominates this weblog. It definitely contained the least reading of any year so far, with my first record of a month containing no novels at all, and a couple of the others showing only one each. In all, I read 48 books this year, of which there were 25 I hadn't read before.

In the spirit of [ profile] angrylemur's not-exactly-a-meme of a little while ago, 29 of those books were by women (with 14 unique female authors, as compared to 10 male) but only four were by people of colour. Widening the scope to admit PoC protagonists raises the latter number to 6, which is really fewer than I expected.

Now it's October. September was a good month for reading; I'll post about it hopefully tomorrow.
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This is where I'd ordinarily do my book reporting, but I actually didn't read any full novels in June this year. I know; pre~tty weird! Today was my mother's birthday and in celebration we went out as a family to watch All's Well That Ends Well at Bard on the Beach, which really is a lot more palatable if you read Helena de Narbon as a mad scientist throughout.

A couple of weeks ago I got Tori Amos' first album, Little Earthquakes, which is amazing and harrowing both in ways suggested but unmatched by her later records I'd heard. (I've been a Tori Amos fan since I was, like, ten; how did I go so long without hearing this? But there is so much important music I haven't sought out even yet.) It's been making me think, among other things, about the ethics and politics of cross-gender musical covers. Tori is known for these, although there aren't any on this album in particular. As a class, I really like them, the curious* tension in hearing somebody sing about a gendered experience which is at odds with the way I'm inclined to interpret their voice, and I've often thought of doing some myself, if I ever become a musician in some more proper sense; Noe Venable's "Prettiness", say, or Ani DiFranco's "Two Little Girls", which I really like to sing. The trouble is that the relationship between genders isn't symmetrical. Men in art historically have done a lot more of being allowed to speak for themselves, and women have done a lot more of being spoken for or otherwise relegated to the third or second person. So while both ways it can do some really interesting work of redefinition, when women sing men there is a natural weight towards that redefinition's being subversive, whereas when men sing women the natural weight is towards its being an appropriative act of erasure. And there are similar issues of sexism it would also be hazardous to ignore. Track two of Little Earthquakes has a refrain that goes, "She's been everybody else's girl; maybe one day she'll be her own." I really can't think of a way for a man's voice to sing this without adding an element of dismissive paternalistic judgement.

(* Or, to use a synonym that also has an appropriate technical meaning, 'queer'.)

I had a related experience a while ago with the Bikini Kill song "Rebel Girl". When I discovered it I really liked it, and fantasized a bunch about performing it and dedicating it to people, because I thought it captured something of how I felt about a lot of my female friends, and how I'd approached befriending them at least in my head. Later, I saw a documentary about the Riot Grrrl movement and how the scene was in part a conscious attempt to create a feminist safe space in response to the misogynistic character of a lot of punk shows the principals had frequented, and looking at the song in this light I realized that it was quite obviously an anthem specifically of female solidarity, which I had managed to completely overlook before because my immediate response to it was to overwrite it with the blithe interpolation of my masculine self.

Some time after that I was talking to a friend about this and I said something pretty similar to that last sentence, and she asked me why I didn't try using my feminine self instead, which was interesting because it bespoke a whole paradigm of gender that I'd kind of forgot existed, the whole new-agey thing (not a pejorative) where certain energies and characteristics are coded 'male' or 'female', and everyone has both and although they are generally encouraged to consider the ones aligned with their sex assigned at birth to be predominant, you're sort of incomplete if you haven't accepted and incorporated both. I can see how this is appealing, and why my friend thought that it might help soothe or even solve my difficulty (and I should clarify that I totally think the differences between men and women cultural or otherwise are not enough to prevent us from being allies, in feminism or any other arena! Well, except maybe misogyny. Hopefully that's all obvious). I find it personally dissatisfying for a few reasons, including A) that it's weirdly essentialist, taking genders to be absolute and universal categories that persist in roughly the same way over time to such a degree that even being a characteristic possessed by a woman is not enough to make it a female characteristic, and really I think of gender stuff as being way more constructed and mutable than that and would prefer ways of talking and thinking about it that reflect this; and B) it allows guys who are being called on their privilege to obfuscate by going like, no, you see, I'm in touch with my feminine side, so really to claim that I have male privilege is limiting and denies this whole aspect of myself!

No, actually, even if we accept this paradigm then people who are treated (and primarily conceive themselves) as men still have an ethical obligation to grapple with our privilege, because regardless of what qualities we have on the inside we're still members of the male political category, which is, yeah, kind of raised up relative to people who don't fall into it (though the intersection of other oppressions can complicate things). It's like, recently I've been realizing that my sexuality is, like everyone's, very weird and specific, and that the fact that it can be subsumed into the notion of 'heterosexuality' in its broad shape has actually been pretty limiting to me, because it caused me to assume that it was heterosexuality, this uniform thing that I shared with all the other straight people, which meant that I spent a lot of energy rationalizing some of the things specific to me in ways that didn't actually help me understand them at all. But the fact that I'm starting to identify as straight only in a pretty qualified way, and to recognise how heterosexism has actually harmed me personally, doesn't mean that I don't have straight privilege. Since I'm a cisgendered man whose attractions are mainly to women, I have a whole bunch of it whatever I call myself, and it continues to behoove me to recognise that.

So, yeah, I'm not sure what I'll do if I'm ever actually performing music on a regular basis. In the meantime I have an eye infection and it really itches, so I'm going to post this and then put some drops in it in lieu of just shoving my finger in there, which my willpower assures me I am not supposed to do.
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I think I'm willing to say that Hoko's is the weirdest venue in Vancouver, but that might be naive of me.

That was the second-to-last La La Boom Boom show. At the one this past Friday, at the much less surreal Cafe Deux Soleils, they were preceded by a pretty good band in a similar genre, all five of whom were men with full beards. As we were joking about this, I realized that all of the males at my table had prominent facial hair as well. Then I looked over at the next table, and the one past that... When I first let grow my beard, I had the impression that I was bucking convention slightly, doing something quaint and out of fashion. It may be that the fashion has changed, or that my view was skewed then by the fact that most of the people I knew were teenagers, or that my view is skewed now from going among mad people bohemians and philosophy students. But I do seem to encounter a lot more of us than I subconsciously expect to, culminating here with turning out to be hugely in the majority (I think there may have been more people with beards than without at that concert).

Months go quickly, don't they? I'll be twenty five in a couple of days. I am cautiously failing to have any sort of quarter-life crisis, though other sorts of crises might be lurking. But what I'm getting at is that we're nearly halfway through November, so here are my October books.
Peter Watts, Blindsight
Jo Walton, Half a Crown
I'm rereading Vlad Taltos, so next month's accounting will be at least five times as long.

A little while ago I was reminded of that article about the mythology of Miami street kids, so I went and found it again. I remembered it being fascinating, and it is, but I hadn't remembered how patronizing it was. The stories would make a wonderful background for a fantasy novel (and probably have, by now), but it's clear that those telling them take them seriously -- or at least with the quasi-serious willingness to entertain possibility that I remember feeling when friends told me elaborate ghost stories. There is a real and solemn religious potency here, which the narrative voice, earnestly pitying and blithely psychoanalytical, tries, and fails uneasily, to confine to the cutely make-believe. And the writer is clearly revealing Mysteries, granted her in confidence; one girl is described as happy and relieved to have shared what she knows, but it seems unlikely that another, who is quoted as saying, "Every girl in the shelters knows if you tell this story to a boy, your best friend will die!", understood at the time that her words were going to be transcribed and put out where thousands of boys, including this one, might encounter them. Did they get her permission for that at any point? It seems like they maybe didn't think they had to; elsewhere, we're told that, "The first names of ... children in this article have been used with the consent of their parents or guardians."

(This is all assuming that the reporter didn't make the whole thing up, of course; I haven't done much research outside the article itself.)

Since I suspect that this article constitutes a desecration, I'm kind of conflicted about whether I ought to be linking to it. But I wanted to complain about it, and my academic scruples rebel at criticizing something without letting people go see what I'm talking about. As well, I'm actually glad that I got to read it -- that the information was gathered and put where I could access and learn it, for all that I'm uncomfortable with the manner in which that was done and presented -- so it would feel a little hypocritical to decide to keep it out of the epistemic reach of others.
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Kate Beaton's Steven Harper looks somehow much more Prime Ministerial than he does in the real world; I think it's the Diefenbaker jowls.

So, it's election time! I am going to assume the reader's general familiarity with Canadian politics, because I am more interested in complaining than in educating, and it's kind of late. A day in first-past-the-post is a day for thinking about strategic voting; with less than eight hours to go before I'll be riding down to our polling station, most of which I'll presumably spend sleeping rather than deliberating, I'm still not sure which way to go. As faithful readers may recall, my MP was kicked out of the Liberal caucus about a year ago over allegations about campaign finance irregularities (for which I understand that he was later acquitted). After a while as an Independent, he recently joined the Green Party, as a result of which you may recall that Elizabeth May was able to participate in the televised leaders' debate. (Yes, I live in that riding.) Since this is the only riding with an incumbent Green MP, it seems like it's likely one of those ridings in which the Greens stand the best chance of getting someone voted in, so it's not a useless vote; plus, I am more persuaded by their platform than I am by anybody else's; and really, I have this slightly ignoble interest in keeping Blair Wilson around just so that I can see what he does next.

On the other hand, this is traditionally a riding closely split between the Liberals and Conservatives; I think that Wilson won it by less than a thousand votes, out of about fifty thousand cast in 2006. So although it's possible for those who dare to vote Green to get a Green candidate, it seems rather more likely that we'll split the vote just enough to get a Conservative. Back on the first hand, though, I hate choosing for that reason. I'd like to resist the tendency toward two-party systems as much as possible. Although Stephane Dion is definitely my preference of the two likely candidates for Prime Minister (and I think that he'd be not just relatively but objectively a good one), a while ago he was widely quoted as having said that "a vote for the NDP is a vote for the Conservatives"; and while I don't know the precise context in which he said that, it seems pretty clear that he didn't follow up with, "and therefore our voting system is obviously defective and as Prime Minister I'll make it a priority to fix it". (Ms. May, by contrast, mentioned during the debates that one of her first acts, were she to become Prime Minister, would be to implement some form of proportional representation. Yes, this is in her self-interest as a third party leader, but it's also in the interest of voters, so don't the other leaders feel at least a little embarrassed?) It is a traditional Liberal tactic to try to scare me into a compromise vote this way; even if that didn't irritate me, I do try to make a general rule of taking the more dangerous but more potentially rewarding way out of prisoner's dilemmas, which in this case means voting for candidates, rather than against them.

But the Georgia Straight thinks that I ought to vote Liberal, and Elizabeth May herself arguably agrees. I do think that a Conservative majority would be rather terrifying, and another minority still pretty deletirious. My conscience remains divided.
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1: Okay, here's an entry.
A. S. Byatt, Possession
Steven Brust, The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars
Laurie J. Marks, Water Logic
Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
(Steven Brust actually has two middle initials. He just chooses not to use them.)

So I managed to be kind of responsible, though not as much as this list might imply, because a bunch of that time not spent reading was spent doing stuff like visiting Rachel and watching television. (Surprisingly impressive shows that I am currently in the middle of watching for the first time: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Princess Tutu, and Farscape.)

2: I wonder whether word is starting to get around, yet, among people who weren't at either of the shows so far, that La La Boom Boom is good? Because they're really good. I mean, not just by the standards of people one happens to know.

At their show on Friday the band invited me to stand next to them while they played and shake an egg-shaped shaking instrument. I was really nervously ambivalent about this (which probably didn't look at all like a big deal to anybody else in the room), but I'm glad that I did it, because it was a lot of fun.

3: Am I the only Canadian who likes having elections?
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I voted (via the handy web service) in the UBC AMS elections yesterday; I might probably have not organized myself to do so, except that an acquaintance of mine is running to be a senator, so I had to actively decide whether or not to vote for him, which required looking up his platform and his online rhetoric and those of his opponents, and once I'd done that, I was interested, and there are online profiles with links to campaign sites for all the races right there by the place where you vote, so it wasn't at all out of my way to vote for the other offices, too. Since doing that, I've been wondering about the campaign posters up on bulletin boards all around the school. Mostly they all say, "Vote for Tony Glunton!" or what-have-you, without any reference to Mr. Glunton's positions on the issues*, so I'm not sure what good they're supposed to be doing. The candidates may have the idea of making their names stick in our heads when we come to the polls, but I keep hearing reports to the effect that there's woefully little participation in the elections, and so I rather suspect that most people who vote are either doing so because they're already affiliated with one of the candidates or else because they are a nerd about democratic participation (or in my case, both) -- and under the first circumstance, they're already decided, and under the second, they'll poke around enough for those subliminal impressions to be swamped by others more relevant.

(* With the exception, I should acknowledge, of the girl whose campaign for student president is based around the argument that students should stand up for ourselves against the deplorable "war on fun" being conducted by the university, where 'fun' is apparently synonymous with 'alcohol'.)

Another possibility, since it's a first-past-the-post election, is that they want to be seen to be advertising because then those of us who might be inclined to vote for them will feel as though they stand a chance of having sufficiently many other people vote for them as well. But this seems to fall over for similar reasons: since just about everybody running has information right there on the voting site, it's not like being low profile elsewhere means that nobody will consider you, and -- perhaps again because so many people apparently don't vote -- I certainly haven't got any sense of the zeitgeist favouring or ignoring any particular candidate so as to influence me tactically either way. So I guess that either I or they must be confused about the realities of this election; since I only just started paying attention, I admit that it's probably me.

Meanwhile, I want to complain about the candidate (for 'VP External') who has the phrase "Put A Free Man In Office" all over all his promotional materials, because I think that that slogan is really stupid. It doesn't mean anything. I mean, okay, it's a play on his given name -- 'Freeman' -- but it seems to me that a pun really ought to have at least two meanings, at least if it's going to be released repeatedly into the public with a job in marketing, and actually there are no slaves running this year that I'm aware of. (His opponent, whom I voted for based on her interesting pitch rather than on the fact that this dude annoys me, is not a 'free man' only by an accident of modern english grammar.)
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I've been seeing some people do that thing where one reposts the first sentences from the first entry of each month. It occurs to me that if I did that, every single one would be a variation on 'here are some books I've read'; there is something kind of heartening in that. I didn't know if I was going to stick to this book-tracking thing, when I started. (Of course, there has been that paucity of other content to moderate my sense of achievement.)

Which reminds me, somewhat belatedly: Brendan asked me about Bull's Territory and Vernor Vinge in general. I spoke in carefully vague terms about the former, but the first paragraph of my response does contain a spoiler about the general direction of the plot in A Deepness in the Sky.

As many Bobs already know, IDEC is going to be in Vancouver this summer. David, who is (surprising no one) one of the major people taking charge of the organization, has asked me to write a short page for the rather inchoate website, explaining the notion of a democratic school; I'm having some trouble working out the phrasing. The effort has me thinking about my tendency to habitually underestimate just how radical a notion this actually is.

It's been a long time since I talked about Windsor House in my weblog. )
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I've written reports on Spook Country and The Screwtape Letters for J. et. al, and on The Privilege of the Sword for Brendan alone.

My sister had a story picked up by the Globe and Mail! (I unfortunately can't link to it online because apparently one has to pay for it.) It's all about how the little northern city she's living in now is a hotbed of immorality and disease. You might be able to read many more scandalous details about her experience there right now, if she had yet got around to setting up the weblog she talks about. She says that the main thing preventing her is that she can't think of a good title/account name, and is apparently not amenable to my solution of putting in a very basic placeholder title and never bothering to come up with a better one. (Hey, if it worked for Windsor House...) "Why don't you put up a call for title suggestions on your deviantart or something?" I suggested a couple of weeks ago on the phone. "Why don't you do that?" she riposted, somewhat illogically. "The people on your weblog seem like they would be good at that sort of thing."

So here you go. Does anyone have a good title idea for my sister's hypothetical blog which, if she likes your idea enough, she might feel motivated to start? Her name is Tess and she is a 21-year-old newspaper reporter who will probably be especially amenable to suggestions drawn from Tegan and Sara or Be Good Tanyas lyrics.

The other day I saw the tail end of a Conservative attack ad against Stephane Dion. I haven't been paying attention: is there going to be an election? Our local MP -- the only winning candidate I've ever voted for -- just resigned from the Liberal party amid allegations of campaign finance law violations (is it a sign that I'm used to BC politics that I'm not even really upset about this? At least he didn't switch parties immediately after being elected), so I wonder who they would find to run instead.
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Since reading cola's recent post I've been thinking again about how a lot of people become disillusioned with or (as she says) prejudiced against wikipedia. The usual reason, and one of the most compelling reasons, seems to be that wikipedia is an environment where, if you're determined enough, bullying, and being so obnoxious that others give in so that they don't have to deal with you anymore, are pretty effective tactics for getting your way.

So, mostly what I want to talk about (especially since I'm not hugely knowledgable about wikipedia as a specific community; most of my information on the subject comes from watching Rachel) is this tactic, and how, unfortunately, it's actually pretty difficult to set up a discussion environment where it isn't effective. Trolls and other disruptive posters; the possibility of keeping those in line by appeal to some governing authority figure, like a moderator or an admin; the alternative possibility of effecting changes in culture, which is hard. More musing than conclusion. )

So in fact I don't have an adequate solution; sorry, internet. Now I'm going to go home and eat.
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I met a man named Dean, once. I didn't know much about him, except that he was of first nations ancestry, and had been born and spent most of his life physically a woman; because of this latter circumstance, he sometimes visited with newly-come-out young transgendered people, to offer practical advice and encouragement. That's where I encountered him -- he did this for the person I am closest to who is transgendered[1], and I was there, providing moral support.

Two of the things he said about his own experience stuck with me, because they were surprising and unfair. One was that, when he started to transition, he received a lot of anger about it from people he knew in the feminist community, even to the point of some women who had previously been fairly good friends cutting off contact because, "I don't have men in my life". The other was that, from everything he had seen, it was a lot more difficult in general for female-to-male transsexuals to get their psychiatrists' approval to take hormones, etc., than it was for most male-to-females. "People are happy to let you move from a position of power to a position of powerlessness," he said. "But they don't want to let you go the other way."

I historically have a pretty basic idea of what motivates people to transition; that they feel, very clearly, that their mind has a gender that doesn't match their body's, and that disparity is very upsetting. A while ago I was thinking of those things Dean said in light of that, and I thought, in order to think that this is a reasonable course, you have to have a position on gender moderate between two extremes. You can't think that the differences between the sexes are so important that the borders between them are inviolate, either because each has their place, or because they're naturally at war, or because to modify one's body and behaviour so is going against nature. (This seems to include, among others, the people who were unfair to Dean.) At the same time, you can't think that the differences between the sexes are cosmetic and meaningless, because in that case, why should this be important? Why does it matter which body you have?

More recently, though, I've been wondering if my own view is not accommodating enough (or, for that matter, sufficiently complex). In one of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan novels, there's a character who goes to Beta Colony to get the surgery to become a man. One of the things I thought was fascinating about that character was that there was no indication that she'd always felt like she was a man, or like her femaleness was wrong. Her motives seem to be equal parts curiosity and the desire for political sway that was otherwise, on her backward planet, denied her. That I found her decision sensible and sympathetic, then, suggests that I don't really think that a disparity of gender-identity is the only reason why it's sound to have these procedures available, though I certainly think it's a good one; I've probably thought of and discussed it in those terms mostly out of a sort of laziness, because it's simple and straightforward, and because, being so obviously and viscerally sympathetic, it's easy to defend.

On Beta Colony, the surgery is widely available and easily reversible. (I don't know whether the government will sometimes pay for it, as ours does.) No outside permission needs be sought. They actually clone the relevant parts and systems, so that they are not only fully functional and convincing, but actually fertile. (Here and now, the methods we have for approximating penises, in particular, are extremely rudimentary.) When I read these things, I think: the future will be better.


[1]: My policy is not to identify this person in public, or to individuals who don't already know who it is, out of respect for their privacy and their desire to be seen as they see themselves. If you happen to know who it is, I'd appreciate it if you practised the same sort of caution in my comments.
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I don't like the heat; longtime readers and acquaintances have probably heard me remark before on my wimpiness regarding non-temperate temperatures. This was probably instilled in me by Vancouver, and it's certainly one of the reasons I appreciate it here, because as hot as I am, I would almost certainly be hotter in just about any of the places I've traveled to. Nonetheless it is too hot. I've started sometimes wearing shorts in public, even though I'm convinced that whenever I wear shorts I basically look like the hit men in the latter part of Pulp Fiction.

I do like the way it feels to step outside at 9:00 at night and have the sky still be light, like it's on my side. I'd forgotten how nice that is. And I like the leftover warmth of the air, in the early nighttime, when the sun is finally down.

I wanted to write something in response to this long and interesting post by Jo Walton, but I've put it off for a while, and now I can't recall everything I wanted to say. My own background is that I have no talent for lying, but I used to do it habitually, anyway; this stopped feeling necessary when I came to Windsor House and my environment stopped being hostile, and so I was able to gradually phase most of it out, the same way I worked my way free of the habit of lashing out at people physically. There's still the occasional inclination left over, to simplify an explanation unnecessarily, or to pretend I don't understand something when I do. (I'll bet that gets annoying! If it's any consolation, I sometimes really don't understand.)

One nice thing that having been a habitual liar does, at least for me, is to provide a firm residual habit of keeping track of what I think is actually true. This doesn't mean that I'm incapable of deceiving myself, but I'm at least able to make it difficult, and to correct myself early if I notice myself saying something that doesn't seem accurate.

Ms. Walton's main reason given to avoid being a liar is what she after Shakespeare calls the 'tangled web', the way that, having lied, it is necessary to maintain that lie, and to keep track of it, and to shore it up with others, and to let people be invested in it, all of these things, if you don't catch it immediately and you don't want to lose anyone's trust. And that's very stressful, and it can often lead someone to tell the sort of lies that are really harmful, because they hurt or attack someone. I agree that that's a good reason. It's a matter of responsibility to oneself; your quality of life gets a lot better, at least in my experience, when you're mostly describing what you really think is so.

What I think I wanted to talk about is that I think we have a responsibility to each other, too; Jo Walton doesn't really touch on this, and maybe she'd even disagree. The thing is that lying is a prisoner's dilemma: the same way that it makes our lives better to feel like we can safely go around telling the truth, it makes our lives better to have those around us doing the same thing -- and, conversely, if we're being honest but nobody else around us is, we're probably even worse off than we would be otherwise. So it seems to me that at least as important a reason to be truthful is to create an environment where it's safe for other people to be truthful, which is a useful environment to have for the obvious reasons that it makes it a lot simpler to communicate with words, or to cooperate to solve problems. (And, in addition to and tangled up with that, there's just my visceral sense of justice.)

Neko Case is playing in Vancouver, tonight; I'd really like to see her (Zulu says it's not sold out yet), but I probably can't justify it. It's getting into the July birthday run, and I am relatively broke.
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I don't have a great deal of faith in Stephen Harper as a leader; back when he was leader of the opposition, I thought that most of his arguments were outright bizarre, and I've never heard of an important political position making someone saner. I remember, though, in my Canadian Politics and Government class, learning that Prime Ministerial hopefuls have a tendency to campaign to curtail the enormous power of the office, and then, when they get in, completely forget to do that, because the power is much too useful. So it's pretty impressive that he actually seems to be doing it after all.

("I worked with Stephen Harper for five years and never once did he, in that time, eat a baby," he told the newspaper.)

Yesterday passed through, got late and ended much sooner than I've been used to, all of the reasons for which are probably variants on "I'm back from Japan". I'm jet lagged, and recuperating; I got up later than I have been, and didn't have any larger schedule of the day to conform to; I'm in an environment that doesn't require a great deal of consideration or concentration for me to interact with. Here are some things I ought to do before much more time surprises me by passing:
  • Finish my Buddhism reflections journal, two very short essays, and a website showcasing pictures of animals, so as to properly complete the academic portion of the Japan program.

  • Start looking for a job.

  • Shop some more for my sister's birthday. Actually, I did that yesterday. (In addition to which I brought her a stuffed Totoro from Japan.)

  • Start partaking of the advantages home has over abroad (other than my own computer), especially including the company of people I know here who aren't in my family. I miss you guys!
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Wouldn't it be cool if it turned out that David Emerson actually were Stephen Harper's worst enemy -- if he were a mole, working to topple the new government from within? He would have to stand by, to hear himself called oathbreaker and worse, and offer only the most facile of justifications, because to truly defend himself would be to blow his cover, and undo all his careful work. He would do it for his country, and cry only in private.

Alas, it doesn't seem very likely.
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I got up early this morning to get a ride down with my mother to vote, and so I am very sleepy today; it's a little unsettling how much quietly harder that makes it to think. I have this vague idea of my mind and my identity as things that exist and operate without usually being bothered much by physical constraints; that it's possible, and even the normal way of things, to be so perfectly clear-headed that I'm hardly there at all. I know, when I consider it, that this isn't true, but it's strange to be reminded how completely.

I don't think I've talked to anyone who isn't conflicted about how they're voting today; there are a lot of dilemmas, prisoners' and otherwise. In the case of my most central dilemma, I'm still not sure that I made the right choice, though I've been thinking about it for weeks. But it makes me cheerful to have done, even so; for some half-rational reason, voting is a lot of fun.


Dec. 7th, 2005 03:01 pm
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"An armed society is a polite society."

I'm not sure what one does about this. Although I tend to like gun control laws, in concept, of course passing a law against something isn't really a very effective way to keep it from happening. What's needed is a general culture of not-guns - and although I'd have some idea how to go about it in a community of about the size and good will of Windsor House, on this sort of scale I really don't know how to get that back, once it starts to go.

This isn't what I expect from Vancouver.
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I need to figure out what I plan to do this coming Summer; there are two trips that I might take, both of which would be awesome, so it's sort of an antidilemma*. First, there is Otakon '06, which, it looks like, is intended to play host to another great convergence like 2004's, and at which my attendance has been strongly suggested by some people I'd like to see. Second, there is a program at Langara where I could go to Japan for three weeks and study Buddhism.

(* Since they're also very likely mutually exclusive, it of course also contains the ordinary dilemma of having to give one of them up, but I hope you'll understand why I prefer to think of it this way.)

Let's look at how they compare. Japan is clearly preferable in terms of destination, because, Japan! Baltimore is too hot, and besides, I've been there already. It also wins out on the formal activities of the thing; con panels can be fun, but they clearly don't compare to wandering about Japan, visiting temples and talking about religion. (Have I mentioned Japan?) On the other hand, there is price - the Langara trip would cost me $2350 even before tuition and airfare, whereas all of Otakon could probably be done on less than $1000 - and - the real reason that Otakon isn't ruled out already - company; Marilee is going on the Japan trip, but she would probably be the only person I know, and Otakon is a chance to hang out with several awesome friends of mine I almost never get to see.

Does anyone reading this want to attempt to convince me one way or the other? Especially those who plan attendance at Otakon, since that is, at this point, a little bit the underdog?

The assorted otherwise:

Pictures J Pictures! The wedding pictures are still being sorted through.

Music/Circles I Know The first New Pornographers album began recording at the Gate; the latest one, I've just noticed, contains the musicianship of Todd McDonald, of The Winks and former Windsor House fame (also, Jim is thanked). The album is really good.

Election The Liberal government fell on Monday; yesterday morning, on the way to school, I saw the first few federal election signs already up. I guess that everyone was ready.

I have no idea yet how I intend to vote among the three parties that are not the Conservatives.


Oct. 24th, 2005 07:53 pm
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Among the election signs beginning to crop up in my neighbourhood is one that says,

So I guess he got elected the first time around.

(Tess says that the upcoming municipal election may include another STV referendum, but I'm not sure that I believe that; it doesn't seem to make much sense.)

When I first grew a beard, I felt quite as though I'd been quietly inducted into the universal fraternity of bearded men. Even when I'm clean-shaven, nowadays, when I see a guy with a beard on the bus my first thought is, "Ah! There is one of my fellows," before I remember that I'm incognito, and he won't see the same.
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The result of the STV referendum was 57 point something for, 42 point something against, or so I'm told; the threshhold was 60%. It still feels like a victory. I hope that the new(ish) government notices the majority there and feels obliged to make further overtures in the direction of reform, or that, failing that, the other parties call them on it.

I went out yesterday and bought the most recent Ani DiFranco album, which is awesome (and an old, cheap Sloan album, which isn't bad). I don't understand how this woman can release 1d2 albums a year for fourteen or fifteen years and still have so much of it be this good and this intelligent. I want to meet a girl who plays guitar like Ani does and marry her and get her to write guitar parts for all my songs.


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Andy H.

February 2013

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