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May 04, 2008
Restoration drama
Posted by Patrick at 07:18 PM * 1 comments

Our story so far, as documented over the last day and a half: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Short version: Our server fell over hard. Smoke came out. Disks and motherboard did what all hardware eventually does. Which was a great time to discover that the backups I’d been making were, ahem, flawed. The last good backup—home directory and MySQL database—was made on March 1; thus the antiquity of the posts below.

With amazing help from Abi Sutherland, who hosted emergency discussions on her own blog—and with an enormous amount of help from dozens of Making Light readers who scoured Google, MSN Search, Yahoo Search, their own browser caches, and in some cases even their own open tabs—we appear to have collected almost the entire two months’ worth of lost posts and comments. What remains is to get it all wedged back into the MySQL database so that it shows up properly on the site. Plus a miscellany of small tasks, like figuring out why the particles, sidelights, blogroll, commonplaces, etc., aren’t appearing in our sidebars. And setting up a proper cron-based regular backup strategy like we should have done years ago. And, quite possibly, moving to WordPress. We’re going to need a bunch of help with all of this.

Our thanks also to Annette and the other helpful people at Hosting Matters, who have been everything one could want from a hosting service at a moment like this.

More after we’ve had a bite to eat. Simply sorting through and processing the torrent of stuff we’ve been emailed in the last 36 hours has us pretty much exhausted. But thank you. And you can probably take a break at this point—we’ll let everyone know when (and if) we find we’re still missing some piece of the Lost Months.

March 01, 2008
Department of Who’s Surprised?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:53 AM * 14 comments

Attorney general declines to investigate Bush advisers

WASHINGTON (CNN) — U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey Friday said he will not ask a federal grand jury to investigate whether two top Bush administration officials should be prosecuted for contempt of Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday asked Mukasey to look into whether White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers committed contempt of Congress in the investigation of the 2006 firings of several U.S. attorneys.

Pelosi said the two were unresponsive to Congress’ inquiry, while the White House argues that contempt laws don’t apply to the president or any of his staffers who invoke executive privilege.

Mukasey, a Bush appointee, agreed.

“The department has determined that the noncompliance by Mr. Bolten and Ms. Miers with the Judiciary Committee subpoenas did not constitute a crime,” Mukasey wrote in a letter to Pelosi.

“Therefore the department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute Mr. Bolten or Ms. Miers.”

What options does that leave? Other than impeaching Mr. Mukasey, that is.
February 28, 2008
Open thread 102
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:16 PM * 165 comments

I had a story idea this afternoon, kind of a mashup between the Brothers Grimm and Larry Niven. Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers meets The Robber Bridegroom, with zombies.

It goes something like this.

Back in 1983, there’s this young couple living in Seattle. And late one night the zombies come, sneaking unseen through the Art Deco lobby of the building, creeping into their apartment. They seize the man and are about to eat his brains when the woman stops them.

She has the Voice, you see. Natural authority over all beings. Purest luck. And she offers them a trade. Part of her living mind, enough to keep them going for years, if they’ll spare her husband. And she’ll teach them how to feed that piece of herself so it stays sharp.

They accept, and she gives them her wakefulness. The zombies devour it, and one human’s wakefulness is powerful enough to energise a good dozen of them. Then the couple teach them about science fiction. They explain unreliable narrators, dish out samples of Joseph Campbell, even let the undead try their first argument about time travel paradoxes. The zombies leave at sunup, electrified, hyperconscious.

She sleeps for three days straight.

The couple moves on, finally ending up in New York, and their uncouth housebreakers follow. The two humans become publishers, paying a Danegeld in science fiction to keep the distributed spark of her mind active. At home they keep hamsters, little-known defenders against all unnatural foes.

Eventually, though, it’s not enough. The spark is fading, and the zombies are hungry again. In a last desperate move, the couple establish a website, a zombie trap to feed her lost wakefulness. And to their delight, it works; the revenants feast on poetry, puns and politics in full measure. They brighten up again, shamble less, move to New Jersey. The threat is lifted.

But others are watching. Others have noted how a piece of a living mind can revivify the undead. And they watch the blog, with its population of tasty commenters. Perhaps, they reason, they can duplicate the Seattle revenants’ success…

It’s only a story idea.

What’s that noise? Something is scraping against my darkened window. Excuse me while I go check…

Hugos, 2008
Posted by Patrick at 01:41 PM * 45 comments

Those of you who regularly nominate and/or vote in science fiction’s Hugo Awards probably don’t need to be reminded, yet again, that this year’s deadline for nominations is midnight PST at the end of this coming Saturday, March 1. Or that you’re eligible to nominate if you’re either a member of the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention in Denver, or were a member of last year’s convention in Japan. Or that if put it off until the last minute based on the idea that you can nominate online, you may not be able to get through.

So I won’t dwell on any of that. But I will mention that among the things I nominated was, in the “Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” category, Paul Cornell’s two-part teleplay “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood,” a two-episode Doctor Who story which I found startlingly affecting. Within the constraints of cheesy, cornball old Doctor Who with all its implausibilities, and of sci-fi TV with its need for regular, formulaic fight scenes, Cornell manages a story about memory and mortality which is genuinely moving and, at times, scary as hell. If you get the opportunity, check it out.

(Yes, this marks, I believe, the first time I’ve ever expressed a strong opinion about the TV-episode Hugo category. How we change.)

February 27, 2008
William F. Buckley, dead
Posted by Patrick at 11:51 AM * 377 comments

“The central question that emerges…is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”
—William F. Buckley, National Review, August 24, 1957
There’s your “refined, perspicacious mind” for you. The one that, we’re told, “elevated conservatism to the center of American political discourse.” Racism and power-worship—and, from first to last, uncompromising defense of the idea that society should be structured into orders and classes.

A poisonous, wicked man. Good riddance.

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