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January 30, 2011
…or assuredly we will all hang separately
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:35 AM * 92 comments

I could take over the universe with this army if I could ever get all their weapons pointed in the same direction.
—Aral Vorkosigan, Shards of Honor

Philip Pullman is angry. He’s angry about cuts to library funding, which the British government is instituting as part of its austerity measures. And he’s angry at the mitigation suggested: that local communities bid for funding and use volunteers to close the gap.

The first problem is that the communities with the spare resources (time, money, cars, computers) to organize the bids and provide the volunteers are the ones that need their libraries least. Employed people can buy books. People with spacious housing need fewer public places to take their children. People with cars can drive to a more distant branch.

But there’s a deeper problem, too: not everything should be fair game for market-style competition, for an approach where people can only win if others lose.

What I personally hate about this bidding culture is that it sets one community, one group, one school, against another. If one wins, the other loses. I’ve always hated it. It started coming in when I left the teaching profession 25 years ago, and I could see the way things were going then. In a way it’s an abdication of responsibility. We elect people to decide things, and they don’t really want to decide, so they set up this bidding nonsense and then they aren’t really responsible for the outcome. “Well, if the community really wanted it, they would have put in a better bid … Nothing I can do about it … My hands are tied …”

And it always results in victory for one side and defeat for the other. It’s set up to do that. It’s imported the worst excesses of market fundamentalism into the one arena that used to be safe from them, the one part of our public and social life that used to be free of the commercial pressure to win or to lose, to survive or to die, which is the very essence of the religion of the market. Like all fundamentalists who get their clammy hands on the levers of political power, the market fanatics are going to kill off every humane, life-enhancing, generous, imaginative and decent corner of our public life. I think that little by little we’re waking up to the truth about the market fanatics and their creed. We’re coming to see that old Karl Marx had his finger on the heart of the matter when he pointed out that the market in the end will destroy everything we know, everything we thought was safe and solid. It is the most powerful solvent known to history. “Everything solid melts into air,” he said. “All that is holy is profaned.”

Of course, Pullman is British, and socialism is not yet a dirty word in the UK; one can quote Marx without being mistaken for Mao.

But there are good grounds to critique the valorization of winner-take-all, loser-in-the-dust competitiveness, even within the rather constrained limits of acceptable economic discourse in America. Russell, one of my favorite bloggers on Obsidian Wings, made a lovely argument in the comment threads the other day:

The *normal operation* of economic markets makes some people poor. Not because they are lazy, or fail to take initiative, or lack foresight, or have insufficient gumption and moxie. Just because.

It’s just what happens. Ask Vilfredo Pareto.

Since *that is what happens* when free economic markets do their thing, and since we want more rather than less free markets, if we have any intelligence or basic sense of responsibility at all we will take steps to mitigate the harms that flow from that.

If we fail to do that, we are being irresponsible. If we fail to do that because we only like the upside of the free market, and are content to let other folks absorb the downside, then we are in fact the freeloaders. If “freeloader” is too harsh a word, feel free to read that as the more neutral economic term of art “free rider”.

I like it. Just as those who benefit from roads should pay for the costs of the roads (construction, maintenance, end of life), so those who benefit from the capitalist system should* pay for the costs of it. And one of those costs is the natural rate of unemployment. It’s not oppositional, any more than paying for the candy bar before you walk out of the supermarket is oppositional.

My own much less eloquent take on the matter is something I said recently about Left and Right in American politics. It is also true of rich and poor:

One of the lessons of many years of marriage is that there are no win-lose solutions, not in the long term. If one partner “loses”, in the end, the whole thing founders.

There are plenty of reasons for deep divisions within our societies. I know this. I know it’s not possible to make common cause with people who deny our humanity or our agency, and it’s not acceptable to throw others under the bus to work together. But there’s a further step that Pullman, and russell, and I are all reluctant to take: that it’s okay that we’re at loggerheads. That the arena is a good use of our energies and our joy. That this is how we do things.

Stuff that.

* This all depends, of course, on the belief that the way to “win” in life is to follow the rules, rather than break them and not get punished.

January 29, 2011
De Ægypto
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:07 AM * 113 comments

It’s worth mentioning that I, like Scalzi, don’t know nearly enough about Egypt to blog intelligently about it. And I’m really not in a position to try to remedy that in realistic timescales.

I do have the resources to read intelligently about it. Mother Jones, Al-Jazeera and The Guardian are all doing good reporting with helpful background links.

My conclusions, such as they are: it’s a big country with a long and distinctive history. It’s neither Iran nor Tunisia. The fact that it borders Israel, and where it does so, affects everything visible and invisible about the situation. And a government with the same guy in power for 30 years is probably not hugely democratically accountable.

Closer to home, I think we’ve been supporting too damn many people who aren’t democratically accountable for us to keep preaching self-determination. I’d rather scrap the former rather than the latter. And I’m not enamored with the idea of governments shutting down the internet.

January 28, 2011
Babylon 5: Kobayashi Maru
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 10:40 AM *

How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn’t you say?
—James T. Kirk

One of Babylon 5’s great strengths as a series was its ability to tackle difficult ethical questions without lapsing into Wheel of Morality style resolutions. Sometimes there’s a right answer, but you know that no one will choose it. And sometimes there’s just no good outcome possible, and all that the characters can do is hang on to their honor as the disaster unfolds around them.

The next two episodes are a salt and pepper set, one of each of the above types, on the same theme: what, if anything, is more important than life itself? And who gets to choose, who gets to judge, when our answers vary?

Both of them suffer from a surfeit of palmed cards in the setup. The questions themselves may be subtle, but the way they’re presented to the audience is not. I think this is yet another weakness in early Bab 5: it’s hard to set out a nuanced problem from a standing start each time.

January 23, 2011
Babylon 5: Hate Leads to Suffering
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:07 AM * 47 comments

Ambassador, I have traveled far and seen much. And what I have seen is that all sentient beings are best defined by their capacity and their need for love.
—Shaal Mayan

The next two episodes make a logical pair, in that the events in them spring from the same underlying problem: a growing fear and hatred of aliens in the human community. The roots of the movement are on Earth, but there are branches and fruit on Babylon 5 as well.

It’s interesting, in kind of a painful way, to watch these in the present American political context. The Homeguard and its ilk feed on nativist feeling, playing on fears that alien influences are corrupting human society. It’s a multi-faceted movement, with places for the uneducated and the intellectual alike, rife with conspiracy theories, accusations of treason, and simplistic loyalty tests.

My impression of the mid-Nineties is that the anti-immigrant strain of American life was weaker than it is now. The movement was less evolved, and the ways that these dark sentiments work in polite society were less widely known. So one can almost read the portrayal of the Homeguard as a science fictional prediction, a casting-forward of then-present trends, and then evaluate it against our more recent understanding.

It helps, in doing this, that the episodes don’t suck. This is a relief.

January 22, 2011
Among Others Spoiler Thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:12 AM * 70 comments

So some people have finished Among Others and probably want to discuss it, while others who intend to read it are still awaiting copies and hope to find out what happens for themselves, in their own time.

Here’s a thread to discuss the startling revelation that Mori is the long-lost daughter of Lady Dedlock but was stolen away to avert a prophecy, that her voyage on the ship Rosebud with the butler—whose hobby is making chairs—culminates in a maiming battle with her long-lost father, and how she then masters the twin arts of law and cross-dressing to further her adventures.

Wait, did I say that in my outside voice?

(People may also be interested in this Livejournal entry, where Jo answers questions in deep and spoliery ways.)

January 20, 2011
Babylon 5: Hearing the Voices
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:20 PM * 110 comments

[W]e are discussing a TV show on Making Light, a blog run by several close friends where we can talk about writing and politics.
Steven Brust

There’s a subtle technique to bringing a reader into a story; Jo Walton dubbed it “incluing”. Because the rule show, don’t tell doesn’t always cover introductions. Sometimes you have to tactfully mention something the viewer needs to know but isn’t yet aware of. It’s a fine line: too much of it too obviously, and the characters jaw each other dead rehashing things they are already entirely aware of. Not only does it rob the story of momentum, but it’s also deeply annoying. You’re an idiot, says the author, and need a good firm whack with this here clue-stick to figure out what’s going on.

Babylon 5 has a terrible case of it in the first half of the first season, both in the micro and the macro. The series of Problem of the Week episodes that follow Midnight on the Firing Line are fractal patterns of patronizing exposition, from their existence in the first place through their carefully character-revealing plots, and right down to their excruciating dialog. A wiser writer would have dropped us into the big plot and trusted us to figure out the personalities on the fly.

This entry will use the first five PotW episodes to rant about the problems of excessive exposition; feel free to join in in the comments. There’s enough summary here that you can skip the episodes completely, or watch them as worked examples of incluing gone horribly wrong.

January 19, 2011
Movies ***SPOILERS***
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:12 PM * 161 comments

On the day between Arisia and move-in day at Curry College, we had some down-time. We spent it at a motel in Merrimack, NH. Very close to the Merrimack Cinemagic all-stadium-seating theater.

So, I played The Movie Game. That is, you walk into the theater, and see The Very Next Movie Showing (that you haven’t yet seen). In this way, I saw five films.

To lead off, I want to rant about Tangled.

January 18, 2011
Among Others
Posted by Patrick at 04:28 PM * 163 comments

As a senior editor at Tor Books and the manager of our science fiction and fantasy line, I rarely blog to promote specific projects I’m involved with, for reasons that probably don’t need a lot of explanation. But every so often a book compels me to break my own rule. And Among Others by Jo Walton, officially published today, is such a book.

Like many novels that are a little hard to describe, Among Others is a lot of different things, some of which wouldn’t seem to work together, and yet they do. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a classic outsider tale. It’s at least partly autobiographical—yes, an autobiographical fantasy novel. It’s about solving a fantasy problem through science-fictional modes of thought. Most of all, though, it’s an absolutely incandescent depiction, through its first-person protagonist Mori, of what it feels like to be young, smart, a bit odd, and immersed in the business of discovering great science fiction and fantasy—and rewiring one’s consciousness thereby.

I am not Welsh or female, I do not walk with a cane, and I do not have a dead sibling or a parent who wants me dead. I never attended a boarding school, my family is far-flung and American, and I have never (to the best of my knowledge) conversed with fairies. And yet to a startling extent Among Others feels like a book about the experience of being me when I was, like Mori, fifteen. This turns out to be a fairly common reaction to reading Walton’s novel, at least among the kind of people I tend to know. It is quite possibly the best thing I have ever read about the way people of our ilk, when young, use books and reading to—in the words of Robert Charles Wilson—“light the way out of a difficult childhood.”

Wrote Gary Wolfe in Locus:

I don’t believe I’ve seen, either in fiction or in memoir, as brilliant and tone-perfect an account of what discovering SF and fantasy can mean to its young readers—citing chapter and verse of actual titles—as in Jo Walton’s remarkable and somewhat autobiographical new novel Among Others. Late in the novel, when the spirited 15-year-old narrator Morwenna Phelps is assigned Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd in her English class at the English boarding school to which she’s been more or less exiled, she concludes her somewhat snarky response to it by commenting, “He could have learned a lot from Silverberg and Delany.” By this point we’ve already gotten accustomed to Mori’s precociously sharp running commentaries on the SF novels she reads voraciously and uses to construct a safe haven, a kind of culture in exile both from her problematical family and from the staid adult world—including Hardy—for which she feels the disdainful impatience of the bright adolescent. What is remarkable is not only how Walton evokes the capacity of fiction to preserve wonder and hope in a dispiriting world, but how she conveys this, as with the Hardy comment, in the opinionated but not quite fully-formed voice of a teenager discovering these works at the tail-end of the 1970s, which comes across as a kind of Golden Age of SF in Mori’s narrative, with Tolkien already established as canonical, Heinlein just entering his cranky late phase, and Le Guin, Zelazny, and Tiptree, along with the historical novels of Mary Renault, coming as astonishing revelations to a young British reader. […] Among Others is many things—a fully realized boarding-school tale, a literary memoir, a touching yet unsentimental portrait of a troubled family—but there’s something particularly appealing about a fantasy which not only celebrates the joy of reading, but in which the heroine must face the forces of doom not in order to return yet another ring to some mountain, but to plan a trip to the 1980 Glasgow Eastercon. That’s the sort of book you can love.
Among Others is available as of today, in hardcover and (alas, only for North Americans or those capable of electronically emulating North Americans) as an e-book on the various platforms. If any of the above sounds interesting to you, I ask you most humbly: Please buy this book and make it a success. The book deserves it. The world deserves it. But most of all because you will love this brilliant, perceptive, utterly transformational book.

(The above crossposted to, where you can also read an excerpt from the novel itself.)

The Legion you don’t want to join
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:41 AM * 32 comments

On this day in 1977, Dr. Joseph E. McDade discovered the cause of a mysterious flu-like illness that had killed 29 people at an American Legion convention the previous year.

The epidemiological effort was conducted under intense media and political pressure. A swine flu scare earlier in the year had led the Ford administration to start a program of mass inoculation, which it then suspended after reports of severe side effects. Toxic chemicals were blamed, particularly after nickel from autopsy scalpels was mistaken for a causative agent. There was speculation about secret agencies and genetically engineered weapons in the Cold War. Congressional hearings were held.

The causative agent, aerobic bacteria of the genus Legionella, was found in the air conditioning system of the hotel. It also occurs in ice machines, pools and fountains, water cooling systems, humidifiers and windscreen washers in cars.

New York Times retrospective article here, with links to PDFs of contemporaneous articles. More technical account here.

January 14, 2011
Babylon 5: Midnight on the Firing Line
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:48 AM * 136 comments

A person, a place, and a problem. Action and movement. Often a time of year or a time of day.
These are not bad things to get into the first chapter. If you can get ‘em onto the first page, even better.
Learn Writing with Uncle Jim

And so we begin. The show starts at shift change on an orbital defense station, with a surprise attack by unidentified ships. That very first scene is like a Tarot card of the series: succession of powers, war from peace, enemies recognized just too late, death.

JMS has a lot to do in this first episode. He’s got to establish as many of the major characters as he can, using as little cardboard as possible. He has to make us feel at home in the setting, both physical and cultural. At the same time, he must get the plot and conflict moving.

These goals sound more contradictory than they are. If he can prove that their conflicts have momentum and history, he’ll be a long way to creating realistic characters out of the funny-looking people in their weird clothes. Answering why? gives him who?, what? and where? if not for free, at least at a deep discount.

He also has to signal to us the audience that this is not episodic SF. We can’t forget what’s happening now, because it’s going to influence what happens next. Actions will have consequences. Promises will be made that must be kept. Remember Chekhov’s rule about plotting? One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it. Chekhov’s guns are promises of plot to come, and Straczynski isn’t shy about strewing them around the characters’ mental spaces.

January 13, 2011
Babylon 5 Rewatch: A Dream Given Form
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:04 PM * 166 comments

It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war, by creating a place where humans and aliens can work out their differences peacefully. It’s a port of call, a home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens, wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal…all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it’s our last best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5.

In the world of science fiction TV, Babylon 5 is generally considered the first of the modern* story-arc series. It’s a genuine departure from the “Wagon Train to the Stars” paradigm that Old Trek created. I don’t think we’d have had Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the Battlestar Galactica reboot without it and Deep Space Nine to convince the studios that genre audiences had long attention spans and an appetite for moral complexity.

For me personally, Bab 5 was the the TV series of my mid-twenties. I watched it as I settled into married life and into the strange rhythms of being an expat. I watched it as my professional life and a good deal of my interior life fell apart. I watched it as I built both back up and started to become who I am now.

And then I never watched it again.

But I realized this past November that I wanted to go back through the whole series, to see how it looks to a 40 year old. I’ve grown up enough, and seen enough of the real world, to more deeply appreciate the themes of failure and redemption that run through it. And I’ve become more aware of the technical side of storytelling; another thing I’m doing right now is reading Learn Writing with Uncle Jim. Straczynski planned the series as a novel-length story, and I’m interested to see the techniques he used to tell it.

Or perhaps it will be pyrite: fool’s gold. Perhaps the Suck Fairy will have visited it in the 16 years since it first aired.

It also strikes me that it might be amusing to blog this process. I’m not planning on going episode by episode, but rather tackling it in somewhat larger chunks of plot. I don’t know how many people on Making Light are fans, or have seen it, and might be interested in discussing it. But I can’t think of a more interesting community to try such a thing with.

Babylon 5 Rewatch: Index
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:44 AM *

This is an index for all of the Babylon 5 Baywatch Rewatch posts.

Season One: Signs and Portents

It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war, by creating a place where humans and aliens can work out their differences peacefully. It’s a port of call, a home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens, wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal…all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it’s our last best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5.

January 11, 2011
Dead On Arrival
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:34 PM * 82 comments

It’s January, and that means it’s time for a Making Light Tradition, the Second Annual Winter Zombie Song Fest.


I’m shamblin’ in the snow
Just shamblin’ in the snow
I got off the slab
With a tag on my toe.
When there’s growth of demand
(Says John Maynard Keynes)
You’ll supply what I want
‘Cause I’m hungry for brains.
We’ll see who survives
If you run for your lives:
A chainsaw won’t help,
Neither will guns or knives.
I lurch to and fro
Very scary although
I’m shamblin’
Just shamblin’ in the snow.

January 09, 2011
All of my opinions about the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
Posted by Patrick at 06:45 PM * 347 comments

(1) She’s my parents’ congressperson. They’re active members of the Oro Valley Democratic Club. They share multiple mutual friends with her.

(2) The picture of me and Teresa at the bottom of our little-read home page? It was taken by my mother in a park that’s a block away from where the shooting happened.

(3) The way things are now, my parents seriously wonder whether they ever want to attend another public political meeting. Talking to them yesterday afternoon, I didn’t have anything encouraging or reassuring to say.

Good posts on this subject: John Scalzi. Digby.

I’ll change your heart into green grass, and all you love into a sheep
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:45 PM * 160 comments

I was struck by a thought today, while reading yet another Internet Conservative defending rant radio and the ethics of hatemongering.

Our political conversation is a shared resource, which none of us owns and all of us benefit from. It’s how we decide where to bestow our votes, our source of information about the world and how we as a nation fit into it, our debating-ground for how our lives are led.

There are people who get money and power from this shared resource: politicians and pundits work the ground of our discourse for profit. But though there is some money and power to be obtained from working it honestly and sustainably, there’s more to be made by exploiting it. Lies and vitriol, hate and hysteria, populism and tribalism all pollute the political atmosphere even as they allow the people who use them to profit. They take the benefit, but we all pay the cost.

Sound familiar? It’s the Tragedy of the Commons.

The issue I’m talking about isn’t really yesterday’s shootings in Arizona. That, and the subsequent explosion all over the internet, weren’t even our political Love Canal or Three Mile Island. They’re but a single bald patch on our common grazing grounds. What I’m getting at is different. It’s a bigger, systemic problem.

And I don’t have a solution. The usual result of the Tragedy of the Commons seems to be privatizing the common resource, which always sounds to me like fixing crumpled origami with a blowtorch.

On a dark day like this, I think there is no solution. A political system critically dependent on a resource vulnerable to this failure mode is doomed. You can finesse a few centuries out of it, exploiting inefficiencies of communication and historical sub-legal norms to restrict the exploiters and polluters for a time. But in the end, greed finds its level. Selfishness wins out again.

Counterpoints welcome.

January 08, 2011
Posted by Patrick at 07:10 PM *

Many of you have seen this by now, but just to bring Making Light’s front page up to date with the rest of our online neighborhood: Elise is out of the hospital. Whew. Her thoughts here.

Open thread 152
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:09 PM *

Ignorance, though not in the same category as fire and water, is a great destroyer of books. At the Reformation so strong was the antagonism of the people generally to anything like the old idolatry of the Romish Church, that they destroyed by thousands books, secular as well as sacred, if they contained but illuminated letters. Unable to read, they saw no difference between romance and a psalter, between King Arthur and King David; and so the paper books with all their artistic ornaments went to the bakers to heat their ovens, and the parchment manuscripts, however beautifully illuminated, to the binders and boot makers.
—William Blades, “Enemies of Books, Part 5: Ignorance and Bigotry”, Printer’s Register, October 1879

Any parallels to the present day are left as an exercise for the commentariat.

Back to Open thread 151

Growing enthusiasm
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 12:47 PM *

I reckon every office has That Guy‡.

I mean the contagious enthusiast; you know the type. He talks about his underwater basketweaving by the coffee machine, and the next thing you know you’re looking at online wicker suppliers and wondering if your bathtub’s the right shape. One of them can turn an entire office into a herd of rock climbers, or single malt whisky drinkers, or Proust fans.

My team’s incarnation of That Guy is into sprouting. He has special stacking boxes for keeping the sprouts from sitting in the water and going sour. He gets his seeds from a particular shop in England. He not only has all of the books on sprouting, but holds considered opinions on which ones are particularly good.

So one morning a couple of months ago, he was telling me about his sprouting while I was making my tea, and I mentioned that my parents used to grow bean and alfalfa sprouts. To the contagious enthusiast, this sort of bridge-building small talk is the equivalent of an engraved invitation. Unsurprisingly, I found his spare sprouting boxes, a little tub of mixed seeds, and the best of the sprouting books† on my desk the next morning.

Now, I strive to be both polite and truthful*, and I knew I would have to try the whole thing out in order to be able to discuss it with him afterward. So I soaked a handful of the seeds in water for the requisite 8 hours, then spread them on the trays of the sprouting box and sprayed them morning and night. Two or three days later, the box was filled with sprouts.

I decided to try a couple raw while I figured out what to do next.


The next thing I remember was looking at the empty sprouting box and feeling strangely…healthy.

I’ve tweaked and fiddled with the setup since then. I returned the boxes, because they seemed to foster mold growth. And I went and found my own sources of beans that don’t require me to cross the Channel, or even the IJ. But I’m now running a small farm on one of the shelves of my bindery and eating a bowl of fresh sprouts every day. It’s cheap (maybe €5 a month), requires about a cubic foot of space, and provides a fresh and crunchy source of vitamin C.

So at the risk of being That Blogger, let me tell you what I do.

The beans for my sprouting mix come from the local ethnic grocery store. I buy the following in 500g bags:

  • Red mung beans
  • Green mung beans
  • Whole brown lentils
  • Dried chickpeas

That Guy had more varieties of lentil in his mix, as well as sunflower seeds, but my source doesn’t supply such exotica. And this assortment works for me. I store the smaller beans mixed together, but keep the chickpeas separate. Otherwise they tend to float to the top of the box.

Every couple of days, I take a handful of the small-beans mix and a handful of chickpeas and put them into a peanut butter jar. I rubber-band a piece of tulle netting over the top, then rinse the beans a couple of times with cool water. I fill the jar most of the way and let it stand for about 8 hours to soak. Then I drain the water out.

I rinse the sprouts with fresh water and let them drain every morning and evening thereafter. Between rinsings, the jars lie on their sides on one of my bindery shelves. Two or three days after that first soaking, I get to eat a bowl of sprouts and feel healthy, thrifty, virtuous and smug. When the jar is empty, I wash it and the tulle and start again.

Two jars run in staggered parallel give me around a cup of sprouts a day, which is about as much smugness as any one person should be permitted. I understand that if you leave them to drain for a bit more time, sprouts can be kept in the fridge for a few days, but I’m prone to just eating them and growing more.


‡ no, not that That Guy; that’s what restraining orders are for.
† in addition to being very informative about the process of sprouting, it has a useful and interesting chapter on coming out as a sprouter during the dating phase of a new relationship
* these values do come into conflict from time to time, but that’s another story

January 06, 2011
Update on Elise
Posted by Patrick at 04:07 PM *

Having read the previous post and its comment thread, and having confirmed with Elise that she doesn’t mind having her medical stuff discussed on Making Light, Elise’s attending physician Dr. Salman Azhar has asked that we note two points of fact.

First, it really was a stroke, not a TIA.

Second, the fact that they were able to administer the anti-clotting TPA so soon after it happened was critical to the fact that, so far, the tests have shown practically no permanent damage.

This has been a public service announcement. Learn to recognize stroke in yourself and others.

(Elise wishes to report that in the throes of the actual event, she was tempted to just lie down and see if the symptoms would go away, but as she put it, “I then realized that Soren would kill me.”)

Teresa adds:

Elise may not have realized it, but just lying down was not an option. By the time she was mumbling about “Soren will kill me,” I’d already phoned 911, and the EMTs were on their way.

The episode started with her telling me that she was seeing differently out of each eye. If that had been all, I might have been persuaded that she just had a migraine coming on. But right after that she got mumbly, her sentences got shorter and lost their cunning, her ideation went flat, and she repeated three or four times that something was happening and she Didn’t Like It.

Diagnosis is easy when people can self-diagnose. When they can’t, they may still be aware that something isn’t right. Elise is normally a clear and forceful speaker. If something’s bothering her, she calls it by name, often in colorful detail. Yet here she was, repeatedly saying a thing that was vague and without force but somehow still troubled-sounding. That made my ears prick up. When she added a minute or two later that she was feeling “prickly” on one side of her body, boom, I was on the phone calling 911. And when the dispatcher asked how old Elise was, and Elise couldn’t remember the answer, I knew I’d been right to call.

Dr. Azhar’s message is still giving me the post-emergency shakes: my god, it really and truly was a stroke.

January 05, 2011
Another exciting night in the ER
Posted by Patrick at 12:54 PM * 229 comments

Many of you know our friend Elise Matthesen, longtime Minneapolis fan, musician, writer, and creator of art jewelry. Elise has been visiting us in Brooklyn, as she often does.

Late last night, at our apartment, she suffered a sudden impairment of vision accompanied by a strong and lateralized headache. Teresa called 911 and the three of us rode in the back of an ambulance to Lutheran Medical Center, where they’re now saying they believe what happened to her was a small stroke.

She’s still in the hospital; we don’t know how long for. She’s comfortable (if very tired) and seems unimpaired in speech or thought. In keeping with the usual hurry-up-and-wait hospital routine, we’re waiting for word from the Real Doctor, which may come down this afternoon.

Needless to say, various plans for today and the rest of the week are up in the air and will continue to be up in the air until we know a bit more. We’re posting this on Making Light on the theory that this is one of the best ways to get the news out to most of our and Elise’s friends.

(I just showed the above to Elise—I’m actually at the hospital right now—and she cocked an eyebrow and growled “Add ‘I Say Hi.’” She really is herself. More news as we have it.)

January 01, 2011
The Future is Here!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:00 AM *  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Welcome to the second decade of the Twenty-first century!

“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”

—Oscar Wilde

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