Miss Manners: Holding Doors in the 21st century

This actually came up recently – a friend was ranting about “chivarly” (in a good way to a feminist) – but clearly this needs to be said many, many more times. It isn’t hard…. I promise.

Dream by Day

Anyone who knows me, knows I have strong opinions about holding doors. A lot of my guy friends complain that the rules are “always changing” on them and I have to say, I don’t entirely agree. There IS a problem that there are people playing by different rules. But within those people – the rules are consistent.  I propose a simplification of “holding the door” and the first thing to be aware of: gender doesn’t matter.

Let me say that again – stop looking at gender as the reason you should (or should not!) hold a door. I think part of the problem has long been that there are too many rules to decide who and when a door should be held. I live by a simple set of rules:

  1. Am I in the way if I hold the door for them?
  2. Am I improving their day by holding the…

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Review: Moist Von Lipwig

I can finally review this trilogy since I finished it over the weekend.  I’ve read and re-read Going Postal and Making Money for years, but somehow I never got around to Raising Steam.  Moist was my real intro to Discworld and Terry Pratchett.  Then I went back and red Guards! Guards!  I’m working my way (slowly) through the Witches books.

But I hold a special place for Moist.  He’s awful in a lot of ways.  Like really a bad person who wants to be selfish and greedy.  At least in the first two books.  Now, he also has a strong internal set of morals and ethics – his own which no one else would ever agree with but…

So Going Postal is probably my favorite of the three.  I thoroughly enjoy seeing Moist struggle with his desire to run away and his determination to do something interesting.  The character is “forced” into his position but never loses agency or personality.  In Making Money, he’s somewhat resigned to living “by the law” but still determined he’s a crook and crooked.

It’s Raising Steam that fell apart.  Firstly, Moist was barely the protagonist.  And none of the characters really felt like they had great agency.  I feel like you can see Pratchett’s alzheimer’s throughout the book.  Lord Vetinari isn’t tricksy or snide.  He’s… human.  He never felt “human” in the other books.  It didn’t feel like he had that “I already knew that” suave demeanor.

In a book that revolved around the dwarves Captain Carrot wasn’t mentioned.  Not even a “this is why he’s missing” side comment – nothin’ just…. missing.  Adorabell felt like a trophy rather than a partner (or a person with her own agency).  Goblins were used throughout as a deus ex machina.  It’s a shame because there is an awesome core plot and Pratchett wrote awesome characters earlier in his career.

Overall, I would 100% recommend Going Postal and Making Money but not Raising Steam.  Just skip that last book.  Leave Moist on 2 books and be happy about his progress through them.

Review: Audiobook Players

This review is specifically how these players work with Android Auto (AA) in my Kia Sorento.  I can’t speak as an authority that Android Auto is the same everywhere, so this is definitely MY opinion.

There are technically 5 different audiobook players I have used/do use during my commute.  I’m really only going to review 4 however since Overdrive is pushing towards Libby – either way this is the library, so 100% free (well, paid for by our taxes).  Both Audible by Amazon and Google Play Books require you purchase your books (Audible having a subscription, Google Play doesn’t).  Lastly, the mostly-free option of Librivox.

Libby

love getting books from my library.  I do not love Libby.  This app is awkward. It only recently (like maybe this summer) finally updated to even work on Android Auto.  And it’s…. usable.  The controls are all-but useless (the skip is worthless in the car – it skips too much – I made this mistake once).

The worst thing is the launch.  Libby doesn’t remember I was just listening to the damn book. I have to push the icon for audio (because Libby was my last used app on AA).  I then have to OPEN the menu, pick my book, and click “resume.”  GOD FORBID I am running around doing errands jumping in and out of the car at various stops – I have to do this EVERY TIME.

It exists but it is NOT user friendly.  If it wasn’t linked to the library books…. I’d probably skip it.

Audible

Ok, so disclaimer here, I haven’t used my Audible in about 2 months – I’ve got like 3 books stacked up on it, but I’ve had library books that were on hold that came available and I had to splurge through like 3 audiobooks in 6 weeks.  So they could have updated, and this is definitely the most out-of-date app for me to say “I used this ‘recently,’ I swear.”

But it’s a good app. It works and registers I was reading a book.  On the AA launch page I can just hit “play” and it resumes my book.  I don’t think I ever had to skip around a book for anything, if I did it was so easy I don’t even remember it.

Their subscription prices are also (in my opinion) competitive.  I think the average audiobook is about $20.  There are a decent number that are $10-15, but there are also a bunch that at $30-40. So for $15 you get 1 and $21 you get 2 books per month.  At $21 each of these books is $10.50 – which is well below any average for audiobooks.

Google Play Books

This might be my favorite interface.  Not because of anything really unique, but very simply for one setting.  The speed.  You can set/change the speed of the reading on Android Auto.   So if the reader is a bit slow (I’m looking at you Michael Kramer) you can reset to 125%, and then when it switches (*ahem* Kate Reading) comes on switch back to 100% speed.  I don’t always remember, but if it’s bugging me that day – it’s easy.

Now, the downside is the 100% must-buy-the-book-at-list-price.  Now, they also seem to run lower average prices and deals regularly/all-the-time.  I also use Google Rewards to earn credit.  Now, this credit might get me one audiobook every six months – but still!  For telling Google where I really was (or more likely wasn’t…) I get ~$0.20 each week.  Maybe.

Librivox

I am going to give a lot of leeway for Librivox.  If you don’t know Project Gutenberg and Librivox – you need to.  These groups take books/writings that are in the public domain and put them out for free.  Gutenberg in text, Librivox uses volunteers to make audiobooks. Their app can be free – and supported by ads, or for $1.99 you can get it ad-free.

Really, there are several “weaknesses” to Librivox, but the only one in the app itself is it’s memory.  I know of once I was most of the way home and someone called me – interrupting the book.  When I got off the phone I went to resume and…. it had reset to where I had been at the beginning of my commute.  It took a few minutes to get back to my spot (or at least close).

The downside to volunteers is the quality.  Some readers are really amazing.  Some of them suck.  Sometimes it’s their pronunciation (people shouldn’t fake accents), sometimes it’s clearly they are using less-than-professional equipment (echos and breathing).  I try to be patient with these things, but there has been at least one book I had to either muscle through bad readers on certain chapters or give up because there was only reader and she was awful (that particular one she didn’t understand commas, periods or inflection).

The interface itself isn’t bad at all, again – nothing too special.  All the interfaces for Android Auto tend to be very simplistic (I mean, the goal is to be driving, not paying attention to your book).

Writing: Fixing Clue

This game has a huge plot hole that has always bothered me.  IF I am the murderer, why would I be helping solve the murder?  Theoretically, my “character” knows they committed murder – but I, the player, do not (unless the rare time you get your own card at the beginning and know you’re innocent)

Clue, the board game, was originally conceived in 1949 – so we’re talking a game that’s 69 years old.  The hay-day of board games when manufactures were figuring out how to manufacture those tiny pieces reliably and ship them…. Monopoly was 1935, Scrabble 1948, and Candyland was published in 1949 as well.

In case you’ve never played it, the premise of the game is that six people were invited to a house and the host ended up being murdered by one of 6 possible weapons. The six guests are then trying to solve the murder.  But one of these guests WAS the murderer – they know right??

The players don’t.  So if you’re playing “Miss Scarlet” (the red piece) and she’s the murderer- YOU don’t know and you’re trying to solve the murder YOU committed!!

So, I was watching someone play Clue in Minecraft on YouTube and thought about it – what if.  What IF.  Instead of these rich hoity toity people trying to solve it themselves – what if they hired a bunch of investigators! See, the murderer wouldn’t be able to say “well, not ME” because that would have been obvious.  AND they (of course) couldn’t TELL the investigator they hired.  There, plot hole fixed!

Next time (if ever) I play Clue, I am going to use this alternate storyline – at least in my own head even if the other players won’t join in.

Writing: NaNoWriMo

Le sigh.  I want to do NaNoWriMo but with everything going on in my life…. hell 500 words a day has been challenging much less 1,667.

I am pregnant which is one of the most exhausting experiences of my life.  The only other time(s) in my life I slept this much was when I was SICK – bronchitis, pneumonia, and influenza.  It’s almost scary how exhausted I am so much of the time.  How much a nap every day means I get to stay up until the uber late hour of 9pm….  and even that “staying up” is staying awake watching YouTube or anime – NOT doing something actually mentally stimulating.

My husband and I are embarking on tearing out our kitchen (ok, paying someone else to do it) and master bathroom.  It’s been a thing already and we haven’t even touched anything yet – so far it’s just been the shopping around/comparisons and dealing with an incredibly poor communicator at our bank… (I am going to have quite the bit of feedback once we finish this stupid loan process!)

Work for both myself and my husband has been incredibly busy.  I know he’s sometimes frustrated how exhausted I am and the slack I’m putting out is so much falling on him – but end-of-year is always busy for me and this year is no different.  I easily have 5 significant projects (not massive, but quite diverse) to be working on.  And keeping all these projects in the air when I am exhausted has been…. I occassionally feel like I’m rubbing shoulders with Atlas. So things like “dinner” and “dishes” and “laundry” and “the mail” have been falling more on him than I think they should.  I apologize to him, and he is being a saint about not complaining but I know I’m NOT carrying my weight right now.  And his work is incredibly busy as well and I’m having to interrupt to ask bank-related questions.

So my NaNoWriMo goal (unofficial) will be to write 15,000 words this month.  I hate that this is challenging – but right now…. I am going to give myself grace that there is a lot going on and if I can’t do this dishes I might have to give up 1,000 words in a novel too.

Politics: Ga Amendment 1, Portion of Revenue from Outdoor Recreation Equipment Sales Tax Dedicated to Land Conservation Fund Amendment (2018)

This is another easy one.  This initiative allows Georgia to use sales tax from sporting goods to be put in a trust fund for conservation.  Honestly, my mind was made up when I saw it was supported by The Conservation Fund, The Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Park Pride, and The Trust for Public Land.  Several of those organizations I would trust to support this law if they thought it would actually be useful –  not just a squeeze on people to get money for other uses.

It also will expire in 10 years and can be extended in 10-year increments.  I like laws that expire.  I think there should be a constitutional amendment for any law to have to be re-written/extended in X time.  Any law older than N should be automatically expired (ie those funny laws from the 1800s that are just weird now).  Now, should that be 5, 10, 50, 100 years? I dunno.  I’d want to hear other opinions to settle on that number.  I’d be happy just starting the conversation.

Anywho. This was another easy one – a yes.

Manners: “Caravan” language

I don’t really want to talk about the racism inherent in the discussion of “brown” people “invading” our country.  The UN did a good job talking in broad terms, there are articles comparing it to conversations/books in the mid-1900s, and calling out politicians for using racist language.  It’s definitely part of this conversation, but there is something I want to address that I haven’t seen before.

There has been a lot of conversation in the news about this “caravan” coming up from Central America.  And I realized the other day – this is coded language.   And let me start by defining “coded language” – it is terms or phrases that are designed to bring forth certain cultural images & context (negatively).  Collins English dictionary defines it as “If someone is using coded language, they are expressing their opinion in an indirect way, usually because that opinion is likely to offend people.”

An example of “coded language” is Thug.  (I hate this word so much).  When you read that word – what was the image which popped into your mind?  Was it a young white man sitting on the steps of a college reading a magazine of big-busted ladies with a beer in the other hand?  No….?  What About Frat Boy?  Did that bring forth an image of a young black man leaning on a graffiti-covered wall smoking a cigarette?  NO?

You mean those words are coded to infer an image of a specific type or kind?  That is coded language.  When a news caster talks about “illegal immigrants” or “terrorists” or “protecting family values” – they are inducing an image of something designed to be scary.

Caravan is coded language. You may not even be aware of it, but I was listening to Fox News (yes, I do) and something clicked. I wish I could find the clip, but they said something like, “we’re supposed to believe all these people are just poor and escaping something awful.  You know, like a life a crime and wandering”  Some of it was the image it invoked in MY mind when they said caravan next:

image from Stardew Valley wiki page

Wait, that isn’t anything like the actual images of this “caravan” that’s marching up from Central American escaping death, poverty, and persecution.

image from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/migrants-central-america-caravan-mexico-guatemala-honduras-border-1.4872060

So wait, the image it invoked in me comes with a lot of cultural context.  Gypsies.  So in case you don’t remember, Hitler killed ~200,000 of these folks in his “racial cleansing.”  And don’t think this is “ancient history.”  The genocide is continuing in a new way – taking away their children or not-so-coded language.  This isn’t new or special.  “Gypsies” – the Romani people – “Travelers” – whatever they might be named, have been hated, feared, and hunted for centuries.  Literally.

The symbolism of a group with centuries of persecution isn’t an accident.  Words applied to these refugees are “mob” and “caravan” for a reason and it is coded to incite fear of them in people.  It invokes centuries of cultural coding that “gypsies” (and I am so sorry I keep using that term – I know it’s offensive – but I think it’s important to iterate my point!) are thieves and con artists and scoundrels.  And again, this isn’t ancient history, the TV show The Riches aired in 2007.

So when the news calls this a “caravan” they are purposefully inducing cultural images of thieves and grifters and rapists and murderers… And I wish more new anchors who wished to be supportive would stop calling it a caravan or “so-called-caravan” because that still engenders the negative imagery around the group.  They are refugees.  Call them refugees.  Call them a coterie or a posse (those both have positive connotation in my mind!)  Call it a parade!

I think I am going to start calling them a flock.  As a Christian, this is the only term I think we should use for a group of people in need of care, protection, food, shelter, support… So when you hear people talk about the “oh so scary caravan” correct them.  Call them out on it – this isn’t a caravan.  It’s a parade.  It’s the saddest, most depressing parade the Western Hemisphere has seen in a century and we should be ashamed we aren’t awaiting them with open arms, warm blankets, and kits of food, medicine, and water.