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  1. Yesterday
  2. Have temporarily mislaid Infomocracy, so I've reread Count Zero, and All Tomorrow's Parties. Just about 10 pages into Number 9 Dream.
  3. Last week
  4. Yeah, it gets kind of weak plot-wise as it goes along I thought. Wendell Pierce is the best thing about it. The opening bike ride drew some jokes though https://dcist.com/story/18/09/04/jack-ryans-commute-to-work-makes-ab/
  5. They spelled Volkswagen wrong. Did they gather all those cars in a parking lot around here? all the white vehicles (less heat gain in sunny weather) can be dizzying sometimes.
  6. We're watching the Amazon Jack Ryan show. Wendell Pierce is in it, so worth watching (lots of other good actors, too). Good production values. Some hmmm moments, though: a US military facility in Yemen that doesn't appear to have a contingency plan for what to do when a car bomb attempts to drive through the gate, and ends up with a bunch of Marines running around like chickens with no heads. I'm reasonably confident that any base in hostile territory has drilled the shit out of that kind of scenario. There's some other derpy shit, but it's not terrible.
  7. Agree, I am about halfway through it and it is great.
  8. In a retail environment, whether it's a department store or a grocery, there is a certain amount of what we call "Shrinkage", or items lost to theft. It is an industry secret that a little over 60% of shrinkage originates internally, meaning it was stolen by an employee. the remaining 40% of shrinkage is external, meaning someone came in off the street and shoplifted. So, you could catch every single shoplifter that comes in off the street, and still not reduce shrinkage by half. At some point, you have to watch your colleagues, and it isn't easy. Sure, if it's someone you don't like, it's fun. But it never is. It's always someone you like, someone you have established rapport with, someone you might even admire. Observing fellow employees only feels dirty for, like, the first hour or two. Even if it lasts longer than that, when you do see a colleague steal, it is way more personal. The externals, they aren't aware of what you've invested in the store, in the relationships you've built and the trust you have earned. But the employees do, and it is especially insulting when they take advantage of that knowledge. Not all are malicious, some steal out of necessity, some from madness or substance abuse, but most are just opportunists who haven't learned that some opportunities are better left unexplored. The first employee I had to help arrest was a guy named Tariq. Tariq was an employee when I started, and after my first year, I had gotten pretty familiar with him. Tariq was a guitar player, as am I, and he carried his guitar to work with him every day. I didn't think too much of it, as I was kinda impressed by his drive. "I should do that..." I thought, imagining all the practice I could squeeze into the work day. After a while, though, I noticed that in addition to the guitar, Tariq usually had a bag full of clothes on his back, and, come to think of it, I never actually saw Tariq enter the store. He was just always there. So we observed Tariq on video one shift. As Tariq was in logistics, he worked a graveyard shift and had full access to the store. Following him on the camera system required both a mental map of the store, but a full knowledge of each of our over 400 cameras in the building. After an hour of observation, Tariq had been observed stealing clothes. After the entire shift, we realized he had been living in the store. Now, this might be unbelievable, but it is what it is. There are many, many areas one can disappear into in our flagship. Tariq had chosen a remote corner of the sub-basement, and had hidden his tracks quite well. We observed for a week, tallying up his theft and annotating when he left the store, which wasn't often. Usually, just to the drug store for some supplies, then back down to the sub-basement. After his shift ended, he went into the employee break room for 6 hours, then down to the SB when no one was looking. That was the most difficult conversation I had to have with anyone. It didn't help that he had developed a meth addiction and was high as a kite when it went down, and by the time Tariq told me "God told me to come in here.", the police were already enroute. After SPD escorted him off the property, he tried four or five times over the next week to get back into the store, until, finally, SPD had enough and arrested him. I haven't seen him for over a year.
  9. Just hit the floor at the beginning of my shift, having a new agent shadow me for the day, and a call comes over the radio about drug use in the Metro mens 55(restroom). Walk into the bathroom real quiet like, and listen for a second. I hear splashing in the stall nearest me, and when I kneel down to check the footwear, I see a dingy yet familiar pair of converse attached to an even dingier pair of legs. Michael's back. As he is violating a trespass order by even being in here, I figure I'll fuck his day up. In order to gain a full awareness of what I am about to step in, I peek through the crack in the door, and am fully disgusted. In disbelief, I pull my head up over the stall door to get the full picture, and my disgust is total. Because what I see, is Michael, abscess legs, heroin hands and all, washing his collection of syringes out in our toilet. It's not something you can unsee, and will fully turn your stomach if you have an iota of humanity left within. I hit the stall door with my most aggressive "cop knock", and say "Michael, that is the single most disgusting thing I have ever fucking seen. You're breaking the law even being in here, and I swear to god if you don't get the fuck out of here with that shit, you won't know what happened. You'll just wake up handcuffed to a bench. SPD is on the way." I looked at the new agent, Jason and winked. I never called the police. A bluff was enough to get Michael moving. Michael was totally embarrassed, but he kept his syringes. I mentioned there was a needle exchange, but he said they'd cut him off. I don't know how one gets cut off from the needle exchange, but someone who "cleans" their rig in the shitter can probably find a way.
  10. I had Rhesus Chart (Laundry 5) sitting at top of a pile, so figured it was last one I read. So I contrived to get book 6, 7 and 8 for Christmas. In January I read The Annihilation Score, or, as it turned out, re-read. Searching through archives here I confirmed I had already read it, so I was a little frustrated. But at least one of the advantages of reading so much is that you don't remember the fine details... Though when I got to the incident that pissed me off 1st time round I did remember. But yeah, I imagine reading book 9 if you've not read previous could be tricky - book 6 certainly had plenty of references to previous books including how some of them ended! Otherwise... Hidden Hope - Laura Amrbose - I previously read the prequel short that she gave away to her mailing list, but this is the first for sale self-published romance novella by Laura Lam under the name Laura Ambrose. Not necessarily my normal cup of tea, though I do have wide tastes and am willing to explore. In the prequel two online writing buddies meet IRL, this is set a few years later when what looked like it could be a wonderful relationship self-destructed horribly. One of the women is a SFF writer, has had a book deal, but sales aren't necessarily going well. She has saved up her money to go to London for the big con (worldcon by a different name? perhaps). There she is meeting online friends for the first time and looks like things could be great. But there is a stir surrounding the big new name, the author who sold their debut novel at auction, the mysterious person everyone is talking about... Of course when it turns out to be her ex-friend, who hated fantasy, who she introduced to fantasy, who she hasn't talked to in years it looks like things are going to get messy! Decent fun read, familiar environments of SFF writing, cons, writing, etc. The Lost Witch - Melvin Burgess - Like "We Get The Monsters We Deserve" this was a fairly spontaneous buy at the EIBF. Another YAish book. I had quite mixed feelings about this book, much of which came down to pacing. The book is in three parts, and the weighting felt problematic. The book starts with Bea, a teenage girl, during the summer holidays. The family have been away on a rain soaked British holiday, but on their way back something really weird happens. As she discovers skateboarding she forgets all about it, and concentrates on learning new skills and not being interested in the older boy who triggers the interest, honest. But the weird doesn't forget her, and gradually it is revealed she is a witch, and there is a war on between The Hunt and The Witches. Part 1 feels all idyllic, long summer days, odd things happening, with an increasing quandary to solve. Then it all kicks off and part 2 is ugly, it also is spread across a couple of years - I'm not sure to what extent the reader is supposed to buy into this part, it felt off to me the entire time, so the reveal wasn't a reveal. From there, there is the reveal, things are all thrown off again, and part 3 is all resolved in a couple of days, and I sort of thought too easily, after part 2 became a trudge. Decent and interesting in ways, but it lost me at times, and I definitely took a break to read the Stross before coming back to finish it. The Ruin of Angels - Max Gladstone - I feel there is an essay/paper to be written about Gladstone's paradigm shift in fantasy vs the gentrification of the new weird. I have a 1000 words written exploring some of my thoughts, but not sure anyone actually wants to read that. Anyway, after the completion of his numerically titled but published out of sequence, 5 book craft series, he returns to the world with this novel, set after those books. In someways I might suggest this was an epilogue - finally we visit the squid city referenced throughout the other books. The world is mostly run by crafts people, those who have harnessed the magic of gods and transformed the world, with the odd hold out where a god or two still holds on. In this city the god wars started, and the ghost of that city remains, the instigators taking eternity to die. But it is held in place City & the City'd into place by the servants of the squid god, all elder god disciple tentacle shit. Kai from Full Fathom Five arrives in the city to catch up with her sister. Things don't go to plan and Izza from the same book, originally from this city follows her. In meantime Kai meets Tara, the lead from Three Parts Dead and Four Cross Roads. The book combines the idea of ghost cities, and diving into the unseen city to retrieve artifacts, with the environmental themes of the previous books and how magic might crack the world open, devour all resources and kill everyone. Maybe. To that end there is an Elon Muskesque character building a space ship to launch and see what alternatives they have. Like all of the craft novels there is a lot of weird, interesting, magic stuff here. He mixes in contemporary stuff that makes it atypical and odder, like students playing pool, dungeons and dragons, reading comics, going to drum and bass nights. On other hand, when he essentially describes an industrial estate and uses the words "car park" I was thrown out, same as when two characters went for frozen yoghurt and had graham crackers (a pure Americanism as far as I am concerned). I don't know whether it was my reading that changed as the series went on, but I suspect it was Gladstone's world building - for all the rebels and artists, occupy movements and free runners, his main characters are essentially bankers and lawyers. Sure trading in god worship and into necromantic god accounts, but bankers and lawyers all the same. There is literally a scene in this novel where the banker sits through a power point presentation - yawn! There is also too much back fill/this is what I didn't get to in the last 5 books - culminating in a scene where two groups are chasing across a dead world, explaining the fucking plot to each other. A trudge! I took a break. I think essentially I like these books, they are bold, they change the benchmark for a genre, but damn, they could have been tighter, better, gone more for the weird and less for the suit and tie. Angelmaker/Edie Investigates - Nick Harkaway - the break I took was to re-read this. Still good fun. but darker than I remembered, more torture and serial killers, and feeling kinda bleak against current UK world. The City In The Middle Of The Night - Charlie Jane Anders - When we talked with Charlie in Helsinki she talked about her 2nd novel was going to be quite different from her 1st, and she wasn't joking. This is a weird science fiction novel, and I'll say up front: I loved it. The narrative follows two voices, initially we have Sophie, a student from the poor part of town, who has realised if she studies hard she'll not have to marry and have children. She doesn't fit in, but she steps up to protect a friend, with disastrous consequences. The city is rigid, everyone works at same time, sleeps at same time, and outside the city is death. With the set up I was initially reminded of Karin Tidbeck's Amatka, both have that uncomfortable character, in a rigid colony, where if they don't conform and fit in things will go wrong. They both have an unsettling uncertainty, that only becomes clear as you read on. We then switch to the 2nd character, Mouth, a nomad, who travels between the cities, and here we get another view of this strange city, but also that there are other cities. The narrative switches back and forth between the two characters, the catastrophe that faces this fading colony world reflected in the personal and the cruel world around them. To add to the strangeness, and that Amatka feeling, we have things that are crocodiles and buffalo, but are actually local alien and monstrous. Not easy to explain without perhaps giving away too much, but as I say, I enjoyed this a lot, really a lot. The Clown Service - Guy Adams - this was a pretty easy read, not mind blowing, but reasonably enjoyable, would read more. Toby has fucked up his career in the UK secret service, PTSD from the middle east and a fucked up mission. So he is re-assigned, as his ex-boss jokes "if we are the circus, you're being moved to the clown service." The Clown Service is a hold over, a relic, down to one active agent, and now Toby. Coming up during WWII an occult service to rival that of Germany and Russia, but not entirely believed in or relevant. Until now, of course, an enemy agent releases something uncanny, things turn to shit quickly, and only Toby can save the world! Less Rivers of London, and perhaps more Caballistics Inc or Absalom. Tentacle - Rita Indiana - This is a short book from And Other Stories, small UK publisher, tends to a lot of translated novellas, though not exclusively, a lot of their work is interesting. This certainly has an eye catching cover, and the descriptions sounded particularly promising. To a degree, I was reminded of Black Wave by Michelle Tea, also from And Other Stories, with the sense of (post-)apocalypse/die-out and gender politics. Acilde lives in post-apocalyptic Santo Domingo - earthquake, Venezuelan chemical release, oceanic catastrophe - they work as a maid to a shaman/priestess, having been promoted from sucking cock in the street. Acilde has a woman's body, but thanks to new technology it looks like they can easily get the male body they have dreamed of. Things then get weird, becoming a man, Acilde is transformed, is hailed as the shaman's chosen one, and travels in time. Or... something. We then have mix narrative, a failed art student pre-collapse is given an opportunity to make something of himself, but something weird happens, and pirates, and fuck up. And switch back and forth, and slowly a picture forms. Unfortunately I think this novella is too short, if it had been longer the idea might have been explored better, and wouldn't have relied as much on an unearned twist. It started off well, had a lot of promise, wasn't sure about the character shifts, and was disappointed by the end. Her Body & Other Parties - Carmen Maria Machado - I'd been meaning to pick this up for ages, had heard good stuff about this short story collection. She was at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August last year, couldn't make that, but thinking that there might be signed copies at least floating about afterwards I picked it up (unsigned as it turned out) at the festival. Finally got round to reading it, and these stories are really good. Maybe a couple a wee bit fuzzy, but that can also be an affect of reading too many stories by one writer so close together. Hard to explain what she is doing, on some level the stories could be straightforward - women (as lead in every case) meet men, and women, have sex, go through traumas, etc, but then other elements sneak in, like the role of women in urban legend and all the things that can go wrong, ghost stories, ends of the world. In a way I wasn't surprised to find a thanks to Kelly Link, and some other familiar names, in the acknowledgements, because while it is getting mainstream acclaim and shelved in mainstream shelves, there is something of Link's chemistry in the writing. The story Especially Heinous in particular made me think a lot about narrative and challenging the regular story form, told as it is as an episodic summary of a long time TV police procedural. The way it builds and gets really weird and dark and just brings you into the story arc is really fascinating - I loved that one, and a good number of the others. Luna - New Moon - Ian McDonald - first of a trilogy by Ian McDonald, with the third just published this week. Had this on my kindle for a while and been meaning to catch up, but with him at Glasgow's AyeWrite festival on Sunday I thought it was a good opportunity to give myself some context for that talk. Was pleased to also get chance to have dinner with Ian and Richard Morgan after the talk, thanks to mutual friends. The moon has been colonized in a way where everything is corporate, particularly run by five families, and every breath, sip, and element of data is paid for, or you die. For the most part this is the story of the Cortas, the last of the five "dragons", the upstart, self-made Brazilians and their feud with the Australian ground breaking McKenzie's the oldest of the dragons. Like most of Ian's work there are multiple characters, and through them all we see various layers of the society, the sex, the mysticism, the history, the ambition, the risk. I enjoyed this, and while I normally leave gaps between volumes of a series, it is tempting to jump onto book 2 asap.
  11. Zooming in on more of that cyberpunk city street. Working on flying cars, holographics, and trying to hone my volumetric lighting painting techniques for Neofeud 2.
  12. Fleet of Knives by Gareth Powell — A followup to his earlier Embers of War novel, the higgeldy meets the piggeldy when the Marble Armada chooses an admiral for the fleet. I sill want to like these more than I actually do, probably because they have sentient ships. They're still not a really meaty substitute for novels about The Culture though. The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith — Very strange post-apocalyptic magic meets affluenza kind of thing. I enjoyed parts of it a lot, but by the end I felt like it had dragged on a bit too long. Basically in some far-distant future Seattle-ish city, two impervious dragons have risen from the bay and are constantly circling the city, raining random fireballs on it. Everyone but the super poor and the super-rich has long ago given up and left. Those that remain are either into real estate or don't own enough to really make it somewhere else and start over. One of the super-rich kids crashes on a trash dump and is rescued by a strange, feral girl living there right before his arranged marriage. He falls in love (or at least lust) with the girl and brings her home with him when rescued. Cue hijinks. Reminds me of S P Somtow's Mallworld in many respects, although I can't really put my finger on why.
  13. I might end up working as a Florida man! *Ahem*. By that, I mean I might end up with a cybersecurity job in Orlando. I'll keep y'all updated.
  14. ❤️💀+🤖 (aka Love, Death + Robots) — One of the best sci-fi animation collections released in years and years! Run don't walk to your local Netflix streaming service to view some of them (just not with kids, because there's hella gore and nudity).
  15. Those tiny old ladies can be pretty resilient sometimes. My grandmother is 98 and has collapsed backwards off her walker and smacked her head multiple times (due mostly to inner ear disorder that causes massive vertigo attacks). She has yet to break a single bone though.
  16. Working temp jobs, still. Worked at a home/garden store this past week. Lifting bigass ceramic planting pots around (some over 100 pounds (yes, I'd team lift the big ones: I'm not that strong)). Very old lady, shopping for outdoor garden pots yesterday. She could not walk more than 100 feet with her walker before taking a rest :( I brought her two pots to the cashier, then out to her car. She exclaimed that "I hope I don't fall!" as she leaned off her walker to unlock her door. Really fucking anxiety-inducing. (She didn't, fortunately. I was bracing myself that I might have to let go of the shopping cart and catch her, tho). I *do not* enjoy being an ad-hoc orderly. I got the pots put away, and she rested on her walker, outside her car. I want to hang out until she actually got int he driver's seat (and, yes, it makes me anxious to imagine a person in her state needing to still drive :( ), but she sorta bid farewell--like, said "Have a good day," so, not wanting to be socially awkward, I let her be. Glancing back a few times as I walked back to the store, terrified I'd see her collapsed on the ground. Customer service, folks 😮
  17. Earlier
  18. Fans of progressive rock might want to make sure that they reserve a copy of issue 98 of "Prog" magazine, out on May 3rd. For, like, reasons.
  19. Nice! I desperately want my next car to be all-electric. Just waiting for them to get the range up and the price down. Like a 45k Rivian SUV or truck would be about perfect (and about half what they currently want for it too). I notice the Tesla Y is out, but an all-glass roof in AZ seems a tad ambitious, even if they are sporting a 300mi range, which is good.
  20. Switched over to a Lexus hybrid this week. 60 mpg, up from the 44 mpg I was getting with the last car. All the bells and whistles. And because it's a 2015 model, road tax is £0.00.
  21. The Gernsback Continuum vs Millenials —Mostly linking this because Charles Stross (aka cstross) drops in with some interesting comments.
  22. The 5 elements of an shoplift are: 1.) Entry. Agent sees a subject enter the store, and spots an indicator. Indicators can be many things. Furtive eye movement, erratic shopping, empty bags, "Heroin Hands" (while not an indicator of theft, an indicator of addiction, which tends to inspire theft.), sensor removal devices, anything that might indicate an intent to steal. 2.) Approach. Agent and camera operator should be working in tandem at this point, and the approach, or entry into the department should be on video, as well as the rest of the subjects visit. 3.) Selection. Subject sees and selects item for theft. 4.) Concealment. Subject conceals items previously selected. From the moment of concealment, constant visual sight must be maintained. Subjects can easily ditch an item, and if you lose sight of them, you lost sight of the item. If they ditch the item and you make a detention without arrest, you are fired. It is best to have 2 or 3 agents on the floor, and a camera operator all communicating on concealed radio transmitters. If you triangulate properly, there will always be at least two sets of eyes on the subject. 5.) Exit. Agents and camera operator have maintained constant visual surveillance from the point of concealment as the subject passes all points of sale and approaches the exit. Usually, other agents or ambassadors will have posted up outside whichever exit the subject approaches. Sometimes, you just have to go it alone. As long as the camera operator gets it on video, you can usually cover your ass from any claims made by the detained subject. Once the subject crosses the threshold, an arrest is allowed and encouraged as long as the lead agent has maintained constant visual and given the "Green Light" for the waiting personnel to move. And the last part always goes sort of sideways, but is always a little fun and exciting.
  23. CRV blew a coolant system thermostat this morning on the highway in. Luckily it was only about 38°F out at the time so I watched the temp indicator bounce wildly up and down for a while as it failed and was even wondering if it was just a faulty indicator. Stopped wondering real quick when I got into the back of a ginormous line to get on base though as the indicator immediately went all the way up past redline and steam started rising from under the hood after about 30 seconds of idling. Did a creative u-turn and got back on the high speed road down to the next entrance, which luckily only had like 3 people in front of me. Not sure what the checkpoint guard thought of my steaming car, lol. At any rate, managed to get it parked with about 5 or 8 minutes of extreme over temp and let it cool an hour before driving to the on-base mechanic. A new thermostat, new coolant hoses, flushed radiator and oil change were proscribed for a mere $500 but hopefully I can drive it home tonight at least…
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