Read 26 Indy Reading Challenge for 2014

Early in January of 2014, Indy Star Reporter Michael Anthony Adams issued a challenge to Indiana residents for the new year:

New Year’s resolutions are rarely acted on. I’m guilty of it, and you’re guilty of it. The trick is to have support, which is exactly what #Read26Indy is. But instead of having a few friends hold you accountable for your vows, you have an entire city.

The pledge: I’m calling on every Hoosier to read 26 books in 2014. Think of it as your informal education, a collective challenge. One book every two weeks. That’s 20 pages a day (if you figure that the average novel is 280-300 pages long). When you start a book, let everyone know about it on Twitter by using the hashtag #Read26Indy. Feel like telling us what you’re drinking while you’re reading? Have at it, but use #Read26Indy. Can’t stand a character? Want to rant about it? #Read26Indy is your pedestal. The point is to read. Like Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad.”

Can’t decide what to read? Tweet it out. #Read26Indy has already gathered a large following, and people are eager to tell you about their favorite books. I’ll also be keeping this page up-to-date with what I’m reading and I urge you to join our Goodreads group, #Read26Indy, to discuss your picks with other readers.

Part way through January, they mentioned that comic books count! I could finish in a couple weeks if I include them. For my personal challenge, I’ll note comic books but not count them against my official total. I’m going to pin this post to my main page and update as I add titles throughout the year.

So far my finished titles are:

This Is How You Lose Her
Author: Junot Diaz
Rated: 4 stars. Very well written with strong characters. I just had a hard time identifying with the protagonist, because all of his problems came through his own self-absorption.

The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Rated: 5 stars. Everything I love about reading – being so caught up that I forget the rest of the world exists, wanting to highlight whole passages and re-read whole sections, frantically looking up quotes and references to get at additional layers of meaning – all come together here. The book I set down after the I finished the last page is a completely different one than I thought I was reading after the first chapter, and winding up in a different place than I expected and yet feeling like it all made sense and could be true is, I think, a hallmark of a truly skilled author.

Hawkeye: Little Hits, Vol. 2
Author: Matt Fraction
Rated: 4 stars. Smart and sardonic, the story of a hapless hero who seems to swing and miss an awful lot. Beautifully drawn work.
The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender
Author: Sam Killermann
2022 update: – I’ve since come to understand that Sam Killerman is a cisgender man who co-opted the work of many transgender people to put together this guide, and unfortunately he makes money on it at the expense of the people who originally wrote the work. Rated: 4 stars. Available as a free ebook, so no reason not to pick up a copy. Worth reading for the discussion of the fallacies of The Golden Rule alone – Killermann suggest replacing “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” with the more thoughtful “do unto others as they would have you do to them” and his logic is impeccable; he challenged (and improved!) one of the basic principles I’ve always followed.

But the book really shines when it leads you through understanding of gender and especially how people who don’t conform to the male/female gender binary see themselves in the world. It’s eye-opening and will change your perspective in a healthy way for yourself and the people around you.

Veronica Mars: An Original Mystery by Rob Thomas: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Vintage)
Author: Rob Thomas
Rated: 3 stars. Iffy. It didn’t advance the story threads that were left open in the movie at all.
Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man
Author: Chaz Bono.
Rated: 3 stars. I understood Chaz’ story a lot better, and had a lot of sympathy for what he dealt with in coming to terms with his gender identity. I had trouble relating to some of the ways he spoke about transitioning, because he rejected completely and didn’t identify with any female experience from his life. I think in contemplating my own gender identity I feel an ownership of both feminine and masculine experiences and identities, so the way Chaz wrote about things seemed foreign to me. After reading this I watched the documentary “Becoming Chaz” and related a lot more to what Chaz was saying as he transitioned on screen. In some cases that seems hard to put into words, but when Chaz speaks with his own voice it’s easier to understand.
The Actor’s Guide To Murder
Author: Rick Copp
Rated: 1 star. This is a terrible book and I’m not going to link to a sales page for it. It’s incredibly transphobic – in fact it’s worth spoiling the “mystery” – the killer is a trans woman who commits murder to pay for her transitions. Because of course those crazy trans folks will go nuts and murder people in order to transition. Just a piece of crap writing all around.
The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel (P.S.)
Author: Helene Wecker
Rated: 5 stars. A delightful read by a first-time author. Very impressive.
The Woman Upstairs
Author: Claire Messud
Rated: 4 stars. I have a friend who disliked the ending, but I loved it. I was afraid it was going to be a tragic book throughout, but was happy to find that was not the case.
Tony’s Treasure Hunt
Author: Holly Peterson
Cute children’s book that I happened to buy a single framed page of several years ago. Tony finds a series of clues and follows them to find a treasure.
Seating Arrangements
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Rated: 4 stars.
Funny, exasperating, self-absorbed white people who behave outrageously while convinced they’re proper and upstanding. It seemed very realistic to me. Not sure why there are so many angry reviews about this book on goodreads. Certainly the characters were idiots, but they were engaging idiots.
Mrs Queen Takes the Train: A Novel
Author: William Kuhn
Rated: 3 stars.
An upcoming book club selection, so I’m bound by the first and second rules of book club – “Don’t discuss the book before book club” I’ll circle back and write a review after.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
Author: Robin Sloan
Rated: 3 stars
Another fun light read. It prioritizes using technology and computers over doing the work yourself, and seems to promote the idea that reading is done strictly for data gathering purposes. A very google-like approach to books that entirely misses the point. As does Google, in general.
The Secret History
Author: Donna Tart
Rated: 4 stars. I enjoyed the storyline but didn’t really care for any of the characters, even the protagonist. A bunch of jackasses, all of them. It’s well-written and smart but I feel some impatience at stories where there are literally no sympathetic characters in sight. I supposed there are groups of utter jerks out there, but why bother with them? Do we need to hear their stories?
Miss Buncle’s Book
Author: D.E. Smith
Rated: 4 stars.
When I picked up this funny little book to read the back cover, I was dismayed to find that it was very like a story I was writing myself about a woman who writes about her neighbors in a smash hit book and then has to weather the storm of their consternation. I was a bit put out, actually, until I realized the story was originally published in 1936 and reprinted recently with a very charming cover. I suppose I can’t be too upset that someone had the same funny idea I did 32 years before I was born. And my story only starts there and then gets pretty racy, where this book remains charming and sweet throughout. The characters are sharply drawn and the controversies are small, the conceit of a book within a book is nicely recursed with yet another book being written by the characters of the book inside the book inside this one, and there is a rather outrageous denouement with a kidnapping that it’s fairly easy to forgive given that they satirize it themselves. They only think the didn’t tie up was whether the Mrs. Goldsmith’s dilemma with the bakery buns solved itself; they leave you to return to the beginning and work it out yourself.
Continue ReadingRead 26 Indy Reading Challenge for 2014

children’s treasure hunt book with clues in pig latin

I bought this framed page of a children’s book several years ago, and I’ve been trying to track down the book it came from without much luck.

Silver Box Mystery

If you happen to recognize it, please let me know. I’d be really grateful.

UPDATE: The fine folks on Goodreads helped me track down the source – it’s Tony’s Treasure Hunt
Continue Readingchildren’s treasure hunt book with clues in pig latin

Batwoman writers leave DC Comics over ban on same-sex marriage

J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman — longtime writers of the Batwoman comic book — are leaving DC Comics over a dispute about editorial changes to their planned story lines, including being forbidden to show the main character marrying her same-sex partner. Cross-posted by the authors to both author sites:

Unfortunately, in recent months, DC has asked us to alter or completely discard many long-standing storylines in ways that we feel compromise the character and the series. We were told to ditch plans for Killer Croc’s origins; forced to drastically alter the original ending of our current arc, which would have defined Batwoman’s heroic future in bold new ways; and, most crushingly, prohibited from ever showing Kate and Maggie actually getting married. All of these editorial decisions came at the last minute, and always after a year or more of planning and plotting on our end.

In response to questions about the issue, J.H. Williams clarified:

Batwoman Kiss

DC Comics has had serious problems in the past with public disputes with authors over comic book story lines. In December of last year, the comic book company fired fan favorite Batgirl writer Gail Simone only to turn around and rehire her after an embarrassing public backlash. Simone didn’t delve too deeply into specifics, but did say that last-minute editorial decisions and push-back on treatment of a transgender character were involved.

Back in 2010, DC Comics also had difficulties with the previous Batwoman writer/creator Greg Rucka over editorial control of his work on Batwoman. Except for saying ‘he realized that he “needs to [tell] the stories he wants to tell again,” rather than getting complacent at DC,’ Rucka didn’t get specific about what the issues with DC were, but in retrospect it seems safe to speculate that Batwoman’s love life may have had something to do with it.

DC Comics has also been embroiled in controversy about same-sex marriage issues in the past after they hired famous homophobe and same-sex marriage opponent Orson Scott Card to write a single-issue of a Superman comic. Public backlash caused the book to eventually be put on permanent hold when no artist was willing to work on the book due to the publicity.

For DC Comics, this is a fuck-up of epic proportions. The blog DC Women Kicking Ass suggests that it’s not necessarily a problem with homophobia but an anti-marriage-in-general stance on the part of DC, since they’ve broken up Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane and some other prominent super-hero marriages. I’m not sure whether I believe or care if that’s the issue. Another set of tweets between authors Gail Simone and J.H. Williams support that theory:

Tentatively, my plans are to keep getting Batwoman through the end of Williams/Blackman’s story arc – issue 26 – but after that, I’m going to cancel it. Based on the news over the next few days about this, I’m probably also going to cancel – right away – every other DC title I’m currently getting. I’m not going to continue supporting a company that seems to have such a public problem with gender and sexuality issues. I have better places to spend my money – like Marvel and independent publishers.

UPDATE: the only official statement from DC Comics, so far:

They may wish that, but it isn’t the case. The fact is that one of the only same-sex marriages in comics was just banned; there’s no way it could be about anything other than sexual orientation. It has huge implications. It was, as I said above, a fuck-up of epic proportions.

Continue ReadingBatwoman writers leave DC Comics over ban on same-sex marriage

Indiana House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR-6) Marriage Discrimination Amendment

Yesterday, State Rep. Eric Turner filed Indiana House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR6) – the Marriage Discrimination Amendment in the Indiana House. It was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. You can track the status of the bill at this link.

SECTION 1. The following amendment to the Constitution of the State of Indiana is proposed and agreed to by this, the One Hundred Seventeenth General Assembly of the State of Indiana, and is referred to the next General Assembly for reconsideration and agreement.

SECTION 2. ARTICLE 1 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF INDIANA IS AMENDED BY ADDING A NEW SECTION TO READ AS FOLLOWS: Section 38. Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

The second sentence of this bill has a terrible effect on ALL unmmarried couples, not just same-sex couples, in Indiana. In other states, similar language has been used to strip away spousal abuse laws for unmarried partners, leaving domestic partners who are not married vulnerable to violence with no legal protections.

This is the second trip for this bill through the Statehouse; it was passed in a previous year. If it is passed again this year, it will be added to the ballot to be ratified as an amendment by the public.

1) To figure out your district and state legislators visit this link: District Look Up and enter your address. Contact information – usually a phone number and the legislator’s website – is listed. Call their 1-800 number, or visit their website and find contact information for an email.

June UPDATE: Although the bill was introduced into the legislature, it did not make it out of committee in the 2013 legislative season. Lawmakers indicated that they preferred to wait until the Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act were announced.
Continue ReadingIndiana House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR-6) Marriage Discrimination Amendment

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Bill introduced in the Indiana State legislature this week:

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

The analysis of this bill by Indy Democrat Blog: “Where to begin? It’s pretty easy. Almost everything in this bill is designed to reduce the power of Democrats in Marion County. From reducing the power of the County Commissioners (the Marion County Treasurer, Assessor, and Auditor) to deleting the At-Large seats on the Council, this bill would, as it stands now, reduce the power of the City-County Council in one majorly blue county.”

This was a bill requested by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to try to control the city-county council. It significantly tilts the balance of power in city government to the mayor and gives them unprecedented and unnecessary control of the city. It’s out-of-bounds.

1) Spread the word: Make sure your friends and family know about SB 621 and how it hurts our city by eliminating the independent power of the City-County Council and the elimination of the four at-large Council seats.

2) Call the Mayor: Media reports have made it clear – Mayor Ballard requested this proposal. Call his office and let him know that you oppose SB 621. His number is (317) 327-3601.

3) Call your state representative and senator: This bill will be heard in the Indiana General Assembly – call your state rep at (317) 232-9600 and senator at (317) 232-9400 and tell them you oppose SB 621.

2013 Update: This bill was passed by the Indiana State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence.
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Things I Won’t Do Again

AKA, my “Fuck It” list. Inspired by Unclutterer, who was in turn inspired by Amy KR.

I will never again:

  1. feel guilty for not attending every event I’m invited to.
  2. feel guilty for finding a new home for gifts I’ve been given if they don’t work well in my home.
  3. allow negative people to suck up my rare free time.
  4. be a negative person who sucks up the free time of others. < == hard! I'm trying!
  5. purchase something without asking “do I really need this?”

2012 Update: Going through my drafts folder, I found this old post from Aug 24, 2010 that I never put up, but should have.
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Wonder Woman and Superman? Why?

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Entertainment Weekly reveals that in an upcoming issue of the Justice League, Wonder Woman and Superman will start knocking boots.

Wonder Woman and Superman Hook Up

Yup. From the reaction I saw on Facebook and the comments at DC Women Kicking Ass, fans don’t seem to be into it, and it doesn’t break down across male/female gender lines the way discussions often do when it comes to the topic of female super heroes.

DC Women has some great points in their article; they’ve basically devalued Lois Lane, who used to be a prominent female character at DC. They’ve made Wonder Woman subordinate in ways that are out of character, and it’s especially a problem for Wonder Woman given that they’ve already trashed her origin story.

I’m not really a fan of it. I don’t think he’s good enough for her, and think she belongs with Steve Trevor. It really depends on how serious this whole thing is – are they just macking on each other for one issue as a stunt, or are they really going to be together? But at the same time, I ignore the Justice League anyway, because I really don’t care that much about hanging out with the boys. I only care about her main title, such as it is. I added it to my pull list in the beginning because – it’s Wonder Woman. She’s the original, the coolest, the girl I fell in love with on the television. I’ve pretty much disliked the entire 52 reboot of Wonder Woman, though; it’s crappy Greek mythology, crappy feminism and where the hell are the bad guys? Could we fight some crime, please?

But I’ve had serious second thoughts about dropping Diana from my pull list. It almost feels sacrilegious to say so, but I’m thinking the guys in charge at DC really don’t get it, and may never get it.

UPDATE: NPR has a hilarious take on how Wonder Woman and Superman would get along as a couple, presented in text message format. Sounds a bit like they don’t agree with the pairing either.
Continue ReadingWonder Woman and Superman? Why?

Pondering feed readers

Do people use feed readers anymore? It seems odd to me that this never quite caught on in a big way amongst people I know. I use a feed reader and I know my wife does, but other than web geeks, I’m not sure many other folks do. Maybe it’s not simple enough? How do people keep up with blogs and other regularly updated content, though, without one?

Feed Reader Categories
My feed reader categories for various syndicated content

I know there are some sites – Boing Boing, Jezebel/Gawker/io9, and others where I don’t bother with a feed; usually because their content is updated too frequently to keep up and I know that I don’t want to see every post because their content is in the range of ‘skimmable’ and not ‘deep research’.

And then there are some sites that don’t publish their full posts to their syndication feed — I purge them from my feed reader immediately for that reason. If they’re pretty good they’ll get a bookmark, but they’re usually on probation for being traffic whores.

I should probably investigate people’s use of syndication feeds; it seems like I read that this was on the decline somewhere, but I don’t recall the link. I know that Twitter and Facebook have buried their RSS feeds. I can still usually construct a Twitter one based on the ones I had in my reader before they hid them, though. Facebook has pretty much wiped theirs out.

2022-03-12 Update: Twitter and Facebook obviously killed their RSS feeds because they needed their algorithms to filter you news for maximum effect on your psyche. And we all got hooked into social media and stopped blogging altogether. This is such an interesting post in hindsight.
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Bike Trailer Cart Project

Hell, now that I have to blog for real instead of just saving links, I may as well go for broke. Here’s something I’ve been working on lately – making a cargo trailer for my bike out of an old kids bike trailer. I picked one up for $3 at the Goodwill Outlet. That’s a nice price if you’ve ever gone shopping for kids bike trailers – even if they are beat up and crappy, people generally want $20 bucks for them on craigslist.

The first thing I did was strip off the ragged cloth cover stuff to expose the frame.

Bike Cart Project

Then I started looking at how the upper supports worked. I didn’t think I needed all the framework on top, and I wanted a wider area for the wooden deck, so I flipped some of the frame to the outside of the cart.

Bike Cart Project

The frame, dismantled and reassembled. I kept a couple of upright supports to attach some side panels of some sort to.

Bike Cart Project

We had some scrap tongue and groove boards in the garage from when we had our balcony porch floor repaired, and they were the perfect size.

Bike Cart Project

So I fitted some together.

Bike Cart Project

I ended up taking a brief detour through the basement to assemble various tools I’d need to put the wood deck for the trailer together. If you are interested in starting a tool business, by Clicking Here you can learn about various tools and run your business effectively. Stephanie’s dad has given us lots of tools over the years; he’s very concerned that Stephanie be able to do things for herself, so he has basically outfitted our basement with every power tool a gay girl could desire. He’s kind of a lesbian dream dad, actually. Here are some of the things we’ve been given:

These are all various drill bits and screw driver bits for the 7 drills we own.

Bike Cart Project

Chisels, files and planes.

Bike Cart Project

Box 1 of 3 boxes of clamps. For the sake of brevity, I’ll refrain from posting the other two pictures of clamp boxes.

Bike Cart Project

For all your cuphook and eye hook needs. I will need some of these for cargo nets.

Bike Cart Project

Every size of vice grip you could need. We can certainly get a good grip on our vice around here.

Bike Cart Project

Tool detour finished, I screwed together the deck boards and sanded them down. I thought about trimming some of the boards to get them all exactly the same width, but decided it looked sort of cute with ragged edges. I also cut out slots where the upright pieces of the frame will fit in.

Bike Cart Project

After sanding everything down, I put a coat of water sealant on the boards to help preserve them since they’ll be out in the rain.

Bike Cart Project

After letting the water sealant dry for a week, I started painting. I don’t know if I really needed to paint it, but I’ve been dying to paint something this bright blue color I found in the basement; Cerulean Blue, according to the can.

Bike Cart Project

And that’s where I am on the project – I have one more coat of paint for the wood and then I’ll be able to attach it to the frame. After that I’ll have to figure out exactly what I want to do about side panels. I have some plastic lawn chair webbing from days gone by that I can create a frame for, or I could attach wooden slats for the sides. I may go with the webbing to avoid extra weight; I want to be able to pull the trailer easily.

UPDATE: the mostly-finished cart is here…

Mostly finished bike cart

Basically, I just strap everything down with bungees right now. I still haven’t figured out how to finish the sides.

2022-03-12 Update: I never actually attached this to my bike, and I sold it to a guy in 2019 through Facebook Marketplace, and he was delighted by it.
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Cooler than Dick Tracy

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Dick Tracy Watch Ad
Dick Tracy Watch Ad

When I was a kid I thought it was the coolest thing that Dick Tracy could call people on his watch and see them on the tiny TV screen, and I thought it would be awesome if, some day far in future, I could have a watch like that that really worked.

Dick Tracy Watch
Dick Tracy Watch

I was reminded of that today by

Flying Cars

Yeah, I can talk to people on video from a device I carry in my pocket – that is awesome. But it’s even cooler that Dick Tracy couldn’t play Angry Birds.

2022-03-12 Update: Eleven years later, now I can talk to my watch. I am Dick Tracy.
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