Just upgraded to Windows 10

To be honest I've barely managed to do anything with it so far. The first half hour I spent with it was spent trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with my touchpad, which was no longer functionally scrolling. I ended up having to uninstall then reinstall the most recent driver update. 

So far I've run into nothing but frustrations. It took me a long time to get the search box off the taskbar, and I'm annoyed that the accent color no longer changes to keep up with my current background. (I spent a long time making a set of custom backgrounds that rotate every 10 minutes, and I really liked that even when I had windows open, I saw accents all over my screen shift in tone every once in a while.)

I don't know whether I'm going to find anything to like about Windows 10. I'm not really excited about having the start menu back, so there's the one thing people seem to care about, gone. The notifications thing looks potentially pretty cool, but I don't have time to customize it tonight.

:(

Signal boost: Why Are You So Angry?

"Why Are You So Angry?" is a six-part YouTube series about the social phenomenon of GamerGate, and about anger, hate and defensiveness in general online. It's the best explanation I've seen of the difference between willful and regular ignorance, too. It's really worth the time, and I recommend checking it out.

Managing creative energy

So, I've got a few balls in the air when it comes to projects and organizations right now. This is before I start school, in a little over a month. And I'm coming up against a problem I've had before, but it's starting to feel like it actually matters now because people are paying attention to some of them.

I don't have any particularly established approach to balancing the creative energy I invest in any of these projects. Like, this week Solarpunk Press has gotten a ton of my attention, but my blog posts here have been mostly kind of terrible, and I've been running Watson's Solarpunk on autopilot. The Interstitial Arts Foundation Tumblr is still running exactly the way it did before Readercon, and I've got that mentally on the back burner until I hear from other people who are also getting involved, but I could probably be doing at least a little more to get that going. And I've done exactly one afternoon's worth of work on the NECC Observer staff handbook in the past month.

I want all these things to go well. I don't want any of them to go neglected or fade into obscurity. But they carry different impressions of apparent urgency in my mind, and different levels of task clarity. Solarpunk Press is easy: it's highly urgent, it's all my responsibility (shared with my co-editor, but there's more than enough for both of us to be busy all the time) and it's extremely specific in its tasks so I never have to sit down and brainstorm what I want to do to produce something of worth with it.

Here, on the other hand -- yeah, I'm the only one doing it, but I'm also the only one who suffers if it doesn't get done. And I don't even really suffer. I don't want my blog to start missing updates, but I don't really need it to drive a lot of traffic, either. I've been meaning to start doing Amazon Affiliate linked reviews of books, but again, I'm the only one who benefits from that so it's entirely within my moral power to ignore it. And every day, every post is a whole new type of content. Yesterday was about my personal life. The day before that was a TV show review. The day before that was about Solarpunk Press. And so on. Topics don't always leap to mind like they have today, and even when they do, they don't always flow this easily.

I don't know what to do about this. But it's a problem that's floated to mind a lot, especially since I started Watson's Solarpunk, which drew a lot of my most thoughtful posts away from here. For now I think I'm going to keep going as I'm going, but I'm aware that this is a problem, and if it gets worse I may need to pursue some sort of system change.

Today hurt

Did you know that back pain doesn't generally start when you injure your back? Apparently, instead, it starts several hours later, apparently for no reason at all!

Speaking of back pain, I spent a fair chunk of last night, and all of today, in excruciating pain. Or, to be totally fair, often only in a little pain, but in excruciating pain whenever I moved wrong.

I spent about a half an hour last night crawling to the kitchen to get painkillers, then crawling back to bed; this morning, after a few hours, and better painkillers, I could walk. It turns out walking and laying down are both better for back pain than sitting, so I stood up to work for as long as I could manage it before going back to bed.

I actually got a lot done today, for Solarpunk Press. Mainly background stuff -- we finally have a nice, neat spreadsheet for keeping track of our money. And I responded to a comment, and sent an email. (Eff yeah productivity.) (The spreadsheet was honestly like 2 hours.)

And now, I'm going to try my hardest to sleep, because every time I sleep I get to skip over eight hours of pain and get that much closer to when my tailbone stops feeling like someone's been hired to kick it as hard as they can every two hours.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (in review)

I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell today, and I liked it very much. I recommend it for both people who aren't going to read the book, and for people who have already done so. (I'm undecided on whether it'd be better to put off watching the show until you've read the book, if you're ever going to do that, but if you're not worried about it, I'd say go for it.)

There were a lot of things missing from the book. Obviously. There would have to be, because the book is gigantic. The things they skipped or simplified were, in my opinion, very well chosen -- the quantity of stuff that happened each episode was very satisfying, and while I would definitely have been on board for a six season exploration of every page and footnote of the entire novel, I understand the need to make TV shows tolerable to people who want to see a plot moving forward, and they did an excellent job of adapting for that purpose.

Strange and Norrell are brilliantly cast and played, by the way. It was very exciting to see those characters portrayed on screen.

Launch day is going really well

i haven't been at home very much today -- I've been checking on submissions from my phone and from coffee shops on my laptop -- while I get other management stuff done.

But, hey: Solarpunk Press is open for submissions! 

And I'm writing this on my phone during the intermission at a play. So I'm going to just post now. Everyone check out Solarpunk Press!

mismanagement of personal chemicals

oh nooooo

I forgot which things I already did today and which things I didn't, and I took my before-bed pills (including melatonin, which makes me sleep) before getting blogging done!

I did do a whole bunch of things today, though. There's a new post up on Solarpunk Press about volunteers (why we aren't asking for any), and I sent out a bunch of important emails. Some important emails. Seven important emails. And I made two important phone calls, and finished season 2 of Bojack Horseman.

And now I'm starting to be unable to keep my eyes open while I think about what to write, so I'll see you on Monday, when submissions open at Solarpunk Press!

Anxieties, revisited, again (and again and again...)

That's the video I watch when I get sad, and need to deal with stressful information. It's about giving up on your dreams, and dealing with the intersection of expectation and reality.

I found out over the last couple days that my future in the next year or so is going to be significantly more financially difficult than I anticipated. As a consequence of this information, I am afraid. And as a consequence of that fear, I can't get myself out of bed. So, instead of getting up today, I watched 4 episodes of Bojack Horseman. Then I closed it, and still couldn't get up, so I watched this.

I'm kind of afraid to talk about my anxiety online right now, because Solarpunk Press just went online and we're opening submissions next Monday, and I instinctively feel like I shouldn't be honest about my anxiety in any kind of professional context. I certainly haven't talked about my anxiety with any of my employers.

I really don't want to let myself do that, though. First of all, because this is my blog and I don't want to make it a hostile space for myself. Secondly, because I'm not excited about the idea of keeping my anxiety a secret for the rest of my life, and I don't want Solarpunk Press to fail, so I expect that those two realities will need to be reconciled eventually.

And thirdly, and probably most importantly, being honest about the anxiety I'm feeling, whether in public or with people close to me, has consistently been a really effective way of diminishing that anxiety, because it's a way to fact-check my fears against reality.

I'm about to be on the hook for a whole bunch of money I don't have, and I found out recently that I'm not going to be able to keep my current job when I move to Amherst. That's a really scary reality to be facing. But I'll probably be able to find work and set up a payment plan for that money and it's ultimately pretty likely that this won't all resolve in the form of a Kafkaesque nightmare.

ecognomics

I'm tired and had to deal with some stressful information management today so instead of talking about real things, I'm going to talk about ecognomics.

Ecognomics is the study of tiny, secret gnomes responsible for distributing the effects of environmental change based on a set of elaborate, cryptic criteria, including, but not limited to:

  • the degree of responsibility the target has for causing the change (the first principle of ecognomics: don't bite the hand that feeds you; the gnomes are highly supportive of, and gentle with, individuals and organizations that cause a high amount of pollution)
  • coastal spin (gnomes are dragged westward with the rotation of the earth, causing them to cluster in places like California, where they cause drought)
  • interior design (gnomes can be almost entirely repelled from a space by decorating with thick fabrics, beading, and salmon tones)

The field of ecognomics has been around for over 600 years, but has only been taken seriously as an environmental issue in the past 16 hours. It has come to dominate the national dialogue on the subjects of climate change, grassroots organizing, and home decor. (Salmon beads are very, very in this season.)

For more information, order my book, "The Gnomes of the Anthropocene," for 8 payments of 7 dollars, at 1-800-555-GNOME.

Inside Out is a really good movie

So, Inside Out is a pretty good movie.

I cried. A bunch. Whatever. It's not a big deal.

Okay, Inside Out was a really incredible movie. I'm super impressed by it.

That said, though, I can't think of anything to say about it. Like, there are tons of moments in it that are incredibly funny that I could quote, but I don't want to spoil any jokes. And there are great big things I could say about the plot, but I don't want to spoil that, either.

Maybe I'll talk more about it after it's been out for a while, and everybody's seen it.

For now, though: Just go see it. It's great. You'll cry.

IT'S ALLIIIIiiivve...ish

Solarpunk Press is up and running! By which I mean the website works and there are two posts on the official blog. (One of them's a recording of me reciting a poem.) Submissions still don't open for another week, and it'll still be over a month before we have the Patreon up, and over a month after that before we publish our first piece of original fiction.

In the meantime, we're going to be doing a lot of preparing and a lot of practicing and we're very, very excited.

Looking forward to showing stuff off

Like every other day this week, I spent a ton of time today working on getting ready for the web magazine that I'm starting very soon. We're still a little over a week away from accepting submissions, but we're probably closer than that to opening the website and telling people the URL and stuff -- which, among other things, means I can stop being so circumlocutory about what we're calling it.

I know exactly what blog post I wanna write tonight, but I'm going to be writing it for the new website and setting it to publish later. 

I'm sure this is obnoxious but it'll be over soon.

More software I wish existed: a tiny spreadsheet

I have dozens of untitled spreadsheets in my Google Drive. Occasionally I go through and delete a bunch of them, but they still pile up.

The reason for that is that, most of the time, if I need to do some kind of calculation, it's manipulating several variables within the same equation. That's really inconvenient to do with a calculator, but really easy with a spreadsheet.

So I have these files, that contain, like, a 5x5 section of sparsely occupied cells, with no labels or context, because I knew what I was calculating at the time, and I have no need to preserve any of them.

What I wish I had was a little browser popup or app that just gave me a 5x5 spreadsheet, the way an in-browser calculator works. Something that keeps track of contents while I'm using it, but dumps them when I hit the 'clear' button. (It'd also be great if it could hover over the page I'm drawing reference numbers from.)

I just tried to find one, and I couldn't find anything that wasn't more inconvenient than creating a new Google spreadsheet. (One app looked like it was exactly what I wanted, but then I downloaded it and it turned out the "app" was a hyperlink to a website with an embedded spreadsheet tool.)

Does anybody know an app like I've described? Or, alternately, can anyone make one? Windows or Chrome compatible, please :)

financial frustrations

Did anyone else know that hotels can keep a hold on your money to pay for the room, after they've charged you for the room, functionally creating a state in your bank account that resembles having paid twice as much for the room as you did?

So -- yeah. I'm broke until that stops happening. My bank says they're allowed to do it for up to 7 days.

I'm not even sure who to be frustrated with, here. Like, obviously not anyone I spoke to about the problem. The people who answer the phone at my bank and the hotel aren't responsible for these policies. They probably don't even have access to systems that would allow them to fix this. (The bank very clearly said they don't release holds on money on request, which makes a lot of sense.)

I just, like, can't conceptualize why anyone ever thought this was an acceptable way to manage this issue? Like, fine, keep the hold on my money till you're absolutely sure you're not gonna charge for damages. But don't charge me for the room and leave the hold in place. Some of us are dirt poor and don't want to live in a state of temporary negative bank balance while you let your six-day egg timer run down.

Eh. I'm tired. Smash capitalism. -Watson

General updates

I spent all day working on projects that I'm not ready to make announcements about (apart from what I've already said) so I don't have much to talk about. So, now seems like a good time to update anyone who's interested in the state of things going on in my life.

No one at Adobe has returned my email about making life management software. I can't remember whether I brought that up here.

Faith and I are getting ready to double down on effort to finish the Observer Employee Handbook, so that it doesn't fall between the cracks while we work on the magazine.

This blog's URL finished transferring -- my squarespace blog is now accessible at txwatson.com. Y'all probably noticed that by now.

Back from Readercon with news

Wow, a lot just happened.

If you follow me on Tumblr, you might have noticed that I'm gearing up to open submissions for a new solarpunk web magazine! Submissions are going to open on July 27, which I'll definitely post about here. 

I spent most of today working on stuff for that -- so I have a whole lot to talk about, but I don't want to say any of it just yet. The stuff we've already said out loud, though, is that we're going to pay $0.03/word for stories between about 2,000 and 5,000 words, to do 12 issues of 1 story a month starting in October. We'll be setting up a Patreon account in hopes of making the project self-sustaining, and hopefully of making it bigger, but we feel like even if we have to pack it in after 12 stories it's worth it to get some good solarpunk fiction out there.

Also we're gonna podcast it.

I love Readercon.


If you want to know right away when submissions open, subscribe to the mailing list at tinyletter.com/txwatson. I'm going to send exactly one email out on that list, then delete all the subscribers, so you don't have to worry about ever getting spam from me there.

Readercon 26: Solarpunk and Ecofuturism

So, I didn't end up liveblogging the Solarpunk panel. (I forgot to bring my laptop.) But here is a summary of the major points I got down in my notes and/or remembered:

Romie Stott, the panel leader, is the author of Postorbital, that Tumblr with the really cool, sometimes Solarpunk, tiny super short very brief flash fiction.

The other panelists were Jeff Hecht, who is a journalist for the magazine New Scientist, and writes occasional short SF pieces for the science journal Nature.

Michael J. Deluca is an enthusiastic environmentalist with a house covered in solar panels, and he just edited the last edition of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, a short fiction magazine put out by Small Beer Press. The theme of the issue was EcoFuturism.

Michael J. Daley is a former renewable energy activist (Not, like, no longer supports renewable energy, but no longer currently working for particular campaigns.) He's written two novels that deal with climate change and solar power. He was by far the panelist most critical of Solarpunk, but for the most part it seemed like it was less a fundamental objection than a not-his-cup-of-tea kind of thing.

Rob Killheffer is an SF/F writer, reviewer, editor and critic, who has been following the trends in climate change SF for a long time. He said he had seen mostly the kind of apocalyptic failure-mode storytelling that the Solarpunk community is specifically responding to.

They talked about the community as a fandom without a subject, or without a specific canon to organize around -- the idea that Solarpunk is a fandom for the future, or for a particular kind of future. One of the panelists (I failed to write down which) said that Cyberpunk was similar to Solarpunk in that regard -- less deliberately or self-consciously, but that Cyberpunk was at least as much about a particular aesthetic and lifestyle lived in real time as it was about the relatively small core of Cyberpunk literature.

Daley pointed out that the technology Solarpunk is dealing with is overwhelmingly tech that already exists, and that just hasn't been widely implemented yet. (He explained that he wasn't very interested in science fiction that wasn't about science that is, in fact, fictional.)

He mentioned the famous William Gibson quote, "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed."

Stott responded to the point about whether SF about non-fictional tech was boring, saying she'd heard from scientists that they were actively interested in seeing more fiction exploring the meaningful functionality of emerging tech -- that it's the scientists' jobs to create cool stuff, and other people's (writers') jobs to work out how people are going to use that stuff.

Someone -- I missed who -- mentioned Low-Tech Magazine, which is devoted to countering the narrative that every new problem should be solved by the liberal application of new technology. In particular he pointed out that the battery problem with alternative energy can be solved by using power to elevate water, which can then be poured out to generate new power.

Daley brought up the idea of grid parity -- the point at which solar panels become economically more cost-effective than running a power grid, which he suggested would be the fundamental tipping point for alternative energy.

There were a couple suggestions about the kinds of stories that Solarpunk writers might tell -- one suggestion was about a person dealing with living through an extreme weather event of the sort that climate change will definitely start to cause (and has already started to cause) in a world organized both to diminish or reverse the effects of climate change, and to help people survive in the new reality of the world in which this change did, in fact, happen, and does, in fact, cause problems. Another suggestion was for a power department -- like a fire department -- whose job is to rush out and restore power to broken personal systems in individuals' homes before their battery backup runs out, the way fire fighters rush out to put out fires before the house burns down.

They repeatedly used the words Utopia and Utopian throughout the panel to describe Solarpunk, and the criticism of that word choice never came up -- but this is a very big topic in an hour-long panel. Hopefully, this is the sort of thing that picks up enough steam to get a whole bunch of panels next year.

Blog accessibility: Color blindness

I spent a lot of time thinking through the color scheme of this new site. The yellow text in particular, I worried might be difficult to see. (I ended up going with a darker yellow for the text than I used in the banner at the top -- which worked out, because it's more legible, and it kinda ended up looking like it was the same yellow, rather than a much lighter one. Eff yeah color theory.)

But it only just occurred to me today that I hadn't actually checked to make sure that the site was readable for people with color blindness. (Which is a little embarrassing, especially because I didn't think of it yesterday while I was watching, with great interest, this YouTube video by a color blind artist about how he uses various tools to paint in colors he can't distinguish.)

I used the chrome extension I want to see like the colour blind, and it looks to me like all the page elements are pretty much as visible in any given type of color blindness as they are as I see them.

Here's a gallery of the different front pages:

Let me know if there are things on the site you can't read or see, or if there are other accessibility problems. (I'm not sure whether I correctly figured out alt text or not, so if any blind readers are having trouble with these images' descriptions, let me know.)

Short story: Smaug, MD

I was poking through my old posts and I came across this one, from the first few days of my 2013 reboot. I was glad I came across it, because this story has been floating to mind lately. It's a great dragon story, and I was thinking about digging it up to post on Tumblr.

The post was called "Smaug, MD via Daily Science Fiction." Here it is, reproduced in its entirety:


Want a good, fast short story about dragons that doesn't involve any burning villages?  Smaug, MD by Andrew Kaye is one of the coolest short stories I've read recently, and it's up at Daily Science Fiction for free.

Doctor Longtooth tapped at the x-ray images with a single gold-sheathed talon. A troubled series of clicks rattled at the back of his throat. Smoke dribbled from the corners of his mouth. "I am sorry, Mr. Callahan," his voice rumbled. "It is at stage four. And the tissue is dying."

My father stared at the images. What should have been the black shadows of his lungs were instead a foggy white reminiscent of frosted glass. "That's it then," he said, taking my hand and squeezing. "It's over. It was a good life while it lasted."

(Keep reading...)

I've joined the Amazon Affiliate Program

Well, sort of. I still have to be approved. But, anyway, I want to talk about why.

First of all: because I live under the weight of capitalism and we all have to make compromises to survive in a system that is prepared to imprison or starve us if we don't generate value for capitalists. 

Least of all: because I actually kinda like Amazon and don't mind too much sending them a little extra traffic. 

But for the important reason: I expect it'll motivate me to produce better content.

I read a lot of books, watch a lot of TV and movies, listen to a nonzero amount of music and purchasable audio products. I also use products, often products that I purchased on Amazon, or that at least can be purchased on Amazon.

I have thoughts on many of these things. Often extremely detailed, well-formed thoughts. But I don't often write them down, and when I do it's not always to the best of my ability. There are a lot of things I'm really enthusiastic about, that I want to gush about for days. I often don't.

I think that in those cases, rather than compromising my integrity, a financial motive to write the best, most convincing posts about that content is right in line with my objective.

A financial motive to blog about content also softly encourages me not to write about things I don't like, which is probably good for me.

I will do my best to stay conscious of these influences, and to avoid the perverse incentives that might be created: to encourage people to buy things they can't afford or wouldn't personally benefit from; to fail to identify important criticisms of content I'm mostly positive about; to fail to criticize content that's seriously worthy of critical attention; and so on.

Feedback on this decision is welcome.