A Shooting Star Hydrangea with Pointsettias

I love Christmas. It’s the best time of the year as far as I’m concerned. No matter what is going on in my life, Christmas always energizes me and makes me feel alive. I fall in love with my world and the people in it again. That spirit keeps me going for the next 12 months until it is renewed the following year.

At least, that’s how it used to be. This year, well I’m just not feeling it. I’m watching my collection of Christmas movies and for a while I feel the start of that uplifting spirit and then I read the news — or go out shopping. That’s when the spirit just sort of drains away.

It’s little things. The cashiers at the stores smile but it doesn’t reach their eyes. They don’t look at you. I’m obviously female but I’m usually called ‘Sir’ — really. It you can’t be bothered to look at your customer perhaps you can come up with phrases that don’t rely on gender identification.

It’s being cut off in traffic, for a parking space, having doors let go when you’re just a few inches shy of being able to take over. I always make a habit of holding a door for the person behind me or open it for the person in front if they are having problems. It’s just manners. What’s happened to us?

People just seem so angry all the time now. I understand the feeling; I really do. It’s hard when you listen to the talk of hate and bigotry being spewed on the airwaves lately. But really. All humans share this world and we really should strive to make it a better world. We can’t do much but we can take the time to hold an elevator for someone coming toward it when we’re right there by the button. To open a door for someone — male or female. To smile and wish someone a good day.

Life is a series of moments and if each of us will make the effort to smile and do a bit of kindness every day, to think of the things we’re thankful for each night before falling asleep, maybe you’ll help someone else have a good thing happen to them they didn’t expect. They’ll pass on that good feeling and maybe inspire someone else.

Small acts of kindness can build until maybe, just maybe, the Grinch-y feeling will go away for more of us.

Now, I wish each of you a good day, and restful evening, and an even more joyous tomorrow.

Yesterday, we finally decided to do something to decorate for Christmas. The Shooting Star Hydrangea surrounded by Poinsettias has brightened up my living room. Now maybe I can begin to get in the Christmas spirit — I think I’ll put another movie in the player and believe that everyone is looking to make the world a better and kinder place for humans of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

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We had planned to leave early on Sunday but, when we looked at the program for the morning and early afternoon we knew we’d be stay ’til 2 pm. So we got up early, packed, took everything out to the car, ate breakfast, and checked out of the hotel. And just made it to our first panel.

Wish Fulfillment for Happy Adults

9:00 AM – Wish Fulfillment for Happy Adults.
Panelists: John Benson, LJ Cohen, Ann Tonsor Zeddies, Sheila Williams, Betsy Mitchell.
Description: Wish fulfillment for teenagers and wish fulfillment for adults with happy stable lives are necessarily going to be different. Speculative stories are great for navigating the trickiness of coming-of-age, but there’s precious little for those who are already of age and have started to prioritize comfort over adventure. Female readers in particular often turn to romance novels for stories about families and love and kindness, and to mysteries for stories about grown women with agency and purpose. Can speculative fiction draw in those readers by fulfilling different sorts of wishes?

One of the participants said something that struck a nerve with me. As we grow up, we make choices and the choices we make narrows the field. We chose to work for good grades or not. We chose to go to college. We choose a mate and marry. We choose to have or not have children. We choose a career. Each choice narrows the possibilities of the field for the next choice point. Thus, perhaps adults read to see what different choices or different lives than are own would be like.

On the other hand, young people may read to see what might be the results of various choices that they face.

There was the discussion that adults read for comfort and young people read for adventure. I think both — yes, both are true and not true. Personally, I read for my job. But I read for adventure, a change of scene, to gain new ways of looking at things, and for more adventure. I also — when under high stress — turn to stories for the comfort they offer — knowing how it will turn out, enjoying spending time with characters that I like, spending time in a world/time/culture/universe different from my own.

Palantir in Every Pocket

10:00 AM – A Palantir in Every Pocket.
Panelists: Chad Orzel, Daryl Gregory, Ted Chiang, Jeff Hecht, Ken Liu, David Shaw (leader).
Description: In Charles Stross’s “Not a Manifesto,” he writes that the 21st century is “by turns a cyberpunk dystopia and a world where everyone has access to certain kinds of magic. And if you want to explore the human condition under circumstances which might plausibly come to pass, these days the human condition is constrained by technologies so predictably inaccessible that they might as well be magic. So magic makes a great metaphor for probing the human condition. We might not have starships, but there’s a Palantir in every pocket.” This suggests that urban fantasy, which literalizes the “magical” aspects of modern life, provides valuable tools for examining and reflecting the experience of living in the simultaneously glorious and terrible present day. But to what extent does urban fantasy fall prey to uncritically accepting key elements of the here and now instead of exploring and debating them? If urban fantasy is a mirror of the present, are we standing too close to that mirror to see ourselves clearly?

When does technology become so advanced it is considered magic? Or, does all technology we don’t understand seem like magic. Most of us can’t explain how the internet works, but we use it. Does not knowing how something works necessarily mean we’re afraid of it? I don’t think so.

One panelist said something that resonated with me. When I first use some new app or technology, I often try to figure out how it works. I come up with a scheme that makes sense to me with my technical background. Sometimes later I must do some actual digging into code and learn more about it — that’s when I begin to think it’s magic — because a lot of the code doesn’t make sense for what the output is. Eventually, I may have a deeper understanding of what’s under the hood, but in the in between space where my schema and the actuality doesn’t match and the real digging into the bits/bytes begins that where it all looks like smoke and mirrors.

Good panel that raise a lot of interesting ways of looking at technology and our relationship with it.

[Paul’s addition] Both a GPS unit and a pair of 7 league boots are items that anyone can use. Most people have absolutely no idea what goes on inside other than “satellites in orbit” and “spells” respectively. So exactly why is one accepted as Magic, and the other is blithely dismissed as mere technology?

Who Owns SF

11:00 AM – Who Owns SF?.
Panelist: Jim Freund, Diane Weinstein, Kathryn Morrow (leader), Judith Berman.
Description: Writers, fans, and reviewers can all feel a sense of ownership for the genres they love. But different feelings of ownership from different perspectives can clash, leading to litmus tests, competing definitions, and unresolvable arguments about what lies at the heart of a genre. We’ll examine the ways that social power structures influence the question of who gets to define the genre, and discuss paradigms other than ownership—such as exploration or collaboration—that might help readers overcome their differences and learn how to share.

This panel was an interesting discussion of who has ownership of SF. Nothing was solved but some of the history of SF was brought up to lay some ground work for the discussion. The teapot tempest of the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies and the Hugo Nomination Process was touched on also.

Concepts of Privacy in SF

12:00 PM – Happy Goldfish Bowl: Concepts of Privacy in Speculative Fiction.
Panelists: Jim Freund (moderator), Tom Purdom, Meriah Crawford, John Benson, Ian Randal Strock.
Description: Speculative stories and novels have explored and challenged the concept of privacy by positing technology, magic, laws, and societal changes that bring shadowed parts of a person’s life or thoughts into the spotlight—or help them stay hidden. Some portray universal openness as the goal (Spider Robinson’s Telempath) while others dread it (Isaac Asimov’s “The Dead Past”). How have depictions of privacy changed over the decades, and how have those depictions influenced the development of privacy-challenging speculative elements such as telepathy and the omnipresent AI?

This topic has been popular lately at conventions and, while the basic topic is the same, the discussion around that base topic seems to differ from convention to convention.

Our privacy is being eroded by technology and ourselves. Some people use all kinds of tactics to avoid others being able to track them on the internet, while others don’t seem to care what is out there in the wild about them. One member of the panel, said that you shouldn’t make it too difficult to find you because if another ‘naughty’ person that has the same name and you can’t be separated from that person by available data you get tarred by the same brush.

On the other hand, it is fairly easy to hide in plain sight as there is so much data that sifting through it for a specific person or item is time consuming and difficult. Aggregate data for groups is easier to deal with — or not.

All in all, a nice discussion with no real conclusions as you’d expect from the topic.

Transformative Works and the Law and You

1:00 PM – Transformative Works and the Law and You.
Panelists: Sarah Smith, Toni Kelner, Adam Lipkin, Max Gladstone.
Description: Let’s discuss the state of transformative works today. Copyright law and case law in this area is changing rapidly, as is the way big publishing treats transformative works. Remix culture is the cutting edge of 21st-century creativity, and we are all postmodernists. Is the law finally catching up with that, or lagging far behind? Will the fate of copyright and transformative works ultimately be decided by the whims of corporations and powerful literary estates?

This was basically a panel on copyright. Some of the history of publishing and the differences between European and US copyright was touched on. Also touched on was the issue of using items that are no longer under copyright protection (in the public domain).

Somehow, the discussion veered to a discussion of literary executors and how to protect your works after your death. Some interesting examples of where things can go wrong were pointed out. Suggests that a writer’s literary executor should be one person and that person should be someone familiar with your work and what you want done with it. (Cautionary tale was an author whose family didn’t like what he wrote and will not allow reprints.)

Again, a good discussion that opens up new things to think about.

All in all, we had a good time at Readercon and signed up for next year before we left. Next year is in a new hotel.

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Our day started bright and early as programming began at 9 AM. So, arise in time to be pressed and polished with moderately open eyes, and at least not tripping over our feet. Muffin and tea for each of us and off to the first program item.

Zombies as a Crisis of the Ecosystem

9:00 AM – Zombies as a Crisis of the Ecosystem: A Holistic Perspective.
Panelists: John Benson, LJ Cohen, Meriah Crawford, Catt Kingsgrave, and Gwendolyn Clare.
Description: Zombie plagues, like all pandemics, are ecosystem crises. What aspects of the human ecosystem make it possible for such a plague to spread? (Long distance air travel, say, or science fiction conventions.) What would its effects be on agriculture, infrastructure, labor availability, public health (aside from the plague itself), telecommunications, and other elements of human civilization? Where most disaster novels zoom in on the struggles of a few people to survive such a crisis, we will zoom out and consider large-scale, long-term questions.

Each of the panelists had some knowledge of the topic and could add their own bits of knowledge to the conversation. Basically, the discussion among the panelists was fairly free-ranging regarding the interconnectedness of our infrastructure and its vulnerability to disruption.

We, as humans, have come to rely on our technology. If a zombie outbreak occurred we would rapidly lose our transportation, GPS, electricity, water, and thus most of our food supply. In times past there would be storage facilities, but now we rely on ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing and delivery so the slimmer stockpiles of food and replacement parts would run out pretty quickly.

Depending on how the contagion would spread, rate of transmission, time between infection and showing the symptoms, things could happen over a very quick period. First responders would probably be the hardest hit and then people would be without general medical care personnel.

Then how would people react — bond together to survive, or every person for themselves? Would people panic and violate quarantine? If it was nationwide or worldwide how could you quarantine anyone? How would it end? Would the disease run its course? If it was a virus would it just start up again as those who survived came out of hiding?

This raised the question of how would civilization be re-established. If the outbreak lasted long enough, who would know how to grow crops, butcher a pig (or other edible animal, and would they be infected also), fuel would run out (how would people access what was in storage tanks). We’re on the cusp where most books are electronic; would the libraries survive the chaos and would they have the reference and how-to books needed to learn survival skills. What about medications? They’d run out and you’d need people who knew herbs and how to use them.

Most stories don’t deal with the psychological effects of the outbreak on those who survive. What happens after is rife with story possibilities.

10:00 AM – The Bookstore.
We decided to spend the next hour in the bookstore. We got to talk to a few friends while checking out the books. As usual we bought way too many books from Larry Smith since Paul remembered to bring his list of his already owned Girl Genius books so he could pick up what he was missing. I picked up a book that struck me as being different and interesting (aren’t they all) — even though it is volume two of a Steampunk series.

Wen Should We Argue with Reviews

11:00 AM – When Should We Argue with Reviews?
Panelists: Amal El-Mohtar (leader), Adam Golaski, Michael Dirda, Resa Nelson, Vinnie Tesla.
Description: When is it appropriate to argue with reviews of your own work? The usual rule is “never”—but that “never” is a one-size-fits-all solution to an increasingly complex issue, especially when the categories of reviewer, reader, and writer are increasingly blurred. Is “appropriate” the same as “advisable”? What are the limits and ethics of responding to or arguing with reviews?

The general rule is that an author should never argue with a review. The panel thought this was a good guideline, but that no one rule covers all cases. One of the panelists said that a bad review was used as a blurb on the back of the panelist’s book because, to his mind, it stressed the factor that most people would find to actually be a good reason to read the book. Another panelist mentioned seeing a negative review of a book the panelist had read, and commented on the negative review in the panelists own review of the book because the panelist felt the review was more about the reviewer than the story.

In an age of social media the edges between reviewer, author, and readers have gotten fuzzy. Twitter, Facebook, and others allow people to read all about a person and their life without actually meeting them. Does that knowledge impact expectation when a reader picks up a book — whether that reader is a fan or reviewer. What if the reviewer is a ‘friend’? Mention was made of an author who didn’t like a review of the book that the author wrote, who then posted the reviewer’s name and phone number and asked fans to act in the author’s defense. Does that cross a line?

Personally, unless there’s a factual error in the review, it is probably best to just let it go.

At noon, Paul and I decided to go to different panels. I attended Insider Tips and Tough Truths of the Publishing Industry. Paul attended and will add his comments about the panel he attended, Our Panel of Experts….

Insider Tips and Tough Truths of Publishing

12:00 PM – Insider Tips and Tough Truths of the Publishing Business.
Panelists: Neil Clarke, Brett Savory, Gordon Van Gelder, Sheila Williams, and David G. Hartwell.
Description: SF/F publishing can seem intimidating and shadowy from the outside. This panel of experienced professionals in the field—authors, editors, agents, and others—will shed light on some of those dark corners and share insider secrets and other key information about the current state of the industry.

I’m going to just list some of the items the panel mentioned. Many of these items have been mentioned in books on writing but they really do need repeating.

* When submitting a story or book to an editor, mention that you’ve looked at other books/stories edited by this editor/press and feel it would be a good fit. Make sure that you actually did your research and that it does match with other things that have been published by this editor/press.
* Make your cover letter or pitch specific to the editor not ‘to whom it may concern’
* Don’t list all your previous rejections in your cover letter.
* Know your market. Don’t send a short story to a book publisher. Don’t send a novel to a short story publication.
* Real excellence will trump everything else but don’t count on it because it may not be as good as your friends and relatives tell you it is.
* Don’t resend a story that has been rejected to the same market unless you’ve been specifically asked by the editor to fix ‘x’ and then resend. If it is not clear, they didn’t ask.
* When sending a cover letter, keep it short. Include your name, mailing address, and correct email address.
* Editors share stories, so if you do or say something negative/awful/insulting about an editor or press they will hear about it. Same thing goes if you post it online.
* No agent is necessary for short stories, but are very, very helpful for novels.
* Most of the editors on the panel don’t like to get short stories that got rejected for an anthology — and they usually know about the anthologies that are collecting stories and can tell which one your stories might have been rejected from.
* Every editor wants to be the one to publish a new author. If your story is well written and interesting it has a chance provided you’re also professional in how you approach the business end of submitting your story.

Our Panel of Experts

12:00 PM – Our Panel of Experts….
Panelists: Chad Orzel, Scott Andrews (leader), Gwendolyn Clare, John O’Neil, Bud Sparhawk.
Description: Having trouble creating your world? Are there social complexities or changes in scientific laws that are confounding you? Bring your very specific questions about worldbuilding in your current project, and polymath scientists will do their best to answer. No advance sign-ups; five minutes of answering per question.

As stated in the description, this panel was more of a question and answer session, with people in the audience explaining problems they’d run into in their writing, and getting some suggestions on how to get over them. Naturally, being put on the spot did not exactly result in in-depth or rigorous answers, but the panelists managed to do a good job of pointing people in, if not the right direction, at least a direction they could work from.

Questions ranged from:
* Passing on knowledge from one generation to another, when there are no teachers available to hold the knowledge.
* Physical ways to actually make bizarre nano-tech aliens seem real enough to be believable.
* How to fix problem with 0g in asteroid mining.
* Time travel paradoxes.

The last one was interesting, given that the panelists, in general, believed that paradoxes in time travel weren’t really a problem. That almost all the time (you can create real ones if you try hard enough), paradoxes get resolved if you just look at them from a different frame of reference.

Programming from 1 pm to 3 pm didn’t really catch our interest that much. After that it was interviews with the guests of honor but we decided to go eat lunch. Then do some walking at the mall since we’d been sitting all day. By the time we got back it was the dinner break and there wasn’t any panels scheduled for the evening. From 8:30 – 9:30 there’s a Most Readerconnish Miscellany but it also didn’t grab us. We decided to write up the day, read for a while and make an early night.

Tomorrow is the last day of the convention and once we leave to head home we’re looking at a 10-12 hour drive. An early night is looking pretty good from here.

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Thursday evening, Readercon has a few program items that are available to anyone who shows up whether they are members of the convention or not. It’s sort of a come and get a taste of the convention. Those who enjoy themselves and then want to attend can purchase a membership on Friday when registration opens. So, far, even though we always plan to arrive in time to attend a few of these items, we’ve never made it in time or, by the time we finally get in, we’re so tired we just check-in and sleep. Didn’t manage to break our missing Thursday events streak yet.

We got up this morning, checked registration hours, and found they didn’t open until 10 am (programming beginning at 11 am). So we managed to get in line while it was quite short (since we’d pre-registered last year before we left). We picked up our registration packet and name tags and sat down to figure out what we’d like to go to.

This is the first year in a while that I have not been on programming, so it was nice to be able to just attend panels for a change. There were, as usual, a few times when there were two things I’d like to see at the same time but then that’s life.

NOTE: Panelists are listed in order, left to right as they appear in the panel photo.

SF Mystery Crossover Panelists

11:00 AM – Mystery and Speculative Crossovers.
Panelists: Meriah Crawford, Chris Gerwel, Greer Gilman, Nicholas Kaufmann, and Adam Lipkin (leader)
Description: There are many books that draw from both the speculative fiction and mystery toolboxes, in both macro ways (China Miéville’s The City & the City and Peter F. Hamilton’s Great North Road are catalyzed by hard-boiled murder investigations) and micro ways (urban fantasy was initially defined by its relationship to noir, now often more evident in tone than in plot). Where is this crossover most satisfying? How do magic and advanced technology open up new avenues of investigation or methods of befuddling the detectives? How have trends, tropes, and developments in each genre influenced crossover works?

Since I’m an avid reader (and reviewer) of speculative fiction and mysteries, I was looking forward to hearing what this panel thought of the crossovers. Speculative fiction and mysteries each have many subgenres and one thread of the discussion was on whether some areas overlap more/easier then others. Urban fantasy seems a natural crossover since usually the main character in urban fantasy fits in very well with the role of the noir mystery main character.

When you think about it, most stories have a mystery of one sort or another at their core, so crossovers would seem natural in many cases.

I think it was Greer Gilman who said something like, speculative fiction elements can make the similes real. It stuck with me because it seemed such a potentially interesting idea for writers.

SF and challenge of Climate Change Panelists

12:00 PM – Writing in the Anthropocene: SF and the Challenge of Climate Change.
Panelists: Vandana Singh, Michael J. Daley, Max Gladstone, Gwendolyn Clare, and Michael J. Deluca (leader)
Description: Science fiction and fantasy have often dealt with fictional apocalyptic scenarios, but what about the real-world scenario unfolding right now? Climate change, or climate disruption, is the most challenging problem faced by humankind, and some have called it a problem of the imagination, as much as economics and environment. In the wake of the latest scientific reports on what is happening and what might be in store for us, we’ll examine how imaginative fiction conveys the reality, the immediacy, and the alternative scenarios of the climate problem.

Most of the panelists felt that the problems were those of the conflict between Science and Culture. Science is conclusive, but the culture is one of ignoring the problem. We need to change the culture in order to begin to deal with the problems. Regardless of how we got to this state, we need to address the ramifications of climate change and how it is going to impact life as we know it.

There are many interconnected issues that need to be dealt with. But we need to realize that change is coming and whether it is apocalyptic, or only mostly so, or would we as a species choose to act to see that we change enough to mostly adapt to the changing environment.

The basic question is what do you do when the culture doesn’t want to listen to or believe in the science?

Ethics in Reviews Panelists

1:00 PM – It’s Actually About Ethics: Reviewing the Work of Colleagues and Friends.
Panelists: Kathryn Morrow, Jason Heller, Liza Groen Trombi (leader), Elizabeth Hand, Jonathan Crowe.
Description: How do we develop a culture of reviewing and criticizing writing within genre communities where everyone knows everyone else to varying degrees? What are the ethics of engagement when we’ve shared ToCs with the people we’re reviewing, or been published in the venue we’re reviewing? What about when we’re friends with the authors, editors, and publishers whose work we’re reviewing? At what point is it appropriate to disclose relationships, and at what point is it appropriate to recuse oneself from reviewing? Is full disclosure enough of an assurance of good practice? How full is full? What other considerations should we include?

Basically, it seemed to come down to the fact that no one rule fits every situation that could arise. Whether or not to recuse oneself from reviewing an item is always something that reviewers deal with.

Panelists said that the focus should be on the text and that a grounding the journalism ethics would be helpful. (I’m leaving out names of who said what since I don’t have exact quotes so the above is my memory of what was said.)

Future of SF Magazines Panelists

2: 00 PM -The Future of Speculative Magazines, Part 3.
Panelists: John Benson, Neil Clarke, Leah Bobet, Scott Andrews (leader), Ellen Datlow, and Sheila Williams.
Desciption: At Readercon 20, there were two very well-attended panels that looked at the future of magazines: “The Future of Speculative Fiction Magazines, Part 1: Print Magazines,” and “Part 2: Online Magazines.” Six years later, we return to this issue to discover what worked, what didn’t, whether magazines are any better off, and what the near future might hold.

I didn’t attend the previous two panels on this topic but managed to catch this one.

* Things that didn’t work were usually those that weren’t adaptable.
* Making money from donations or advertising is problematic.
* Pay walls don’t seem to wok.
* Pay for convenience models do seem to work.
* Kickstarter as a business model doesn’t seem to work but for a single project it does much better.

By 3:00 pm, I couldn’t stand sitting any more so my husband and I decided to go to the mall and walk for a while to loosen up my cramping leg muscle and get something to eat. So, the next panel we attended was at 6 pm.

Solarpunk Panelists

6:00 PM – Solarpunk and Eco-Futurism.
Panelists: Rob Kilhefer, Michael J. Daley, Michael J. Deluca, Jeff Hecht, Romie Stott (leader).
Description: In August 2014, Miss Olivia Louise wrote a Tumblr post proposing the creation of a new subgenre: solarpunk. Solarpunk, sometimes called eco-futurism, would be set in a semi-utopian future visually influenced by Art Nouveau and Hayao Miyazaki, and built according to principles of new urbanism and environmental sustainability—an “earthy” handmade version of futuretech, in opposition to the slick, white, spacebound surfaces of 1980s futurism. Solarpunk blogs have since proliferated, as Tumblr users like SunAndSilicon create and aggregate concept art and brainstorm solarpunk’s technological and societal shifts, enthusiastically building a shared-world fandom with no single owner or defining central text. For some, building solarpunk is an escapist fantasy. Meanwhile, in San Francisco there have been meatspace conventions to develop some kind of manifesto, with the hope of eventually moving realworld society in a solarpunk direction. What, if any, are the precursors to this kind of grassroots genre creation? Is it an inevitable outgrowth of fan-funded niche publishing through crowdfunding? Is solarpunk’s locavore pro-tech optimism in the face of climate change a distinctly Millenial backlash to Gen-X dystopias? And can the inevitable contradictions of a crowdsourced utopia survive the rigors of critical reading?

More discussion of climate change and culture. Is solarpunk a movement similar to cyberpunk? Will it be able to show us more than just a post-apocalyptic future or a hopeful one where people come together to solve the problems we’re facing now.

Lots of discussion with plenty of ideas but no real (not should there be) answers to what will grow out of this literary (political) movement.

How intelligent are we Panelists

7:00 PM – How Intelligent Are We, Anyway?
Panelists: Judith Berman, Ted Chiang, Gwendolyn Clare, Alex Jablokow (leader), John O’Neil.
Description: Countless science fiction novels include intelligent beings, whether aliens from another planet, artificial intelligences, or uplifted animals from Earth. But what does it really mean to be intelligent? Will reason and self-awareness automatically emerge in a sufficiently complex mind? Or is there something unique to humans that makes us different? How have different authors and novels answered this question in the past?

This panel was a lot of fun — mostly for the play of ideas among the panelists. Some random statements:
* Humans learn from what has gone before rather than starting from scratch every time.
* Intelligence feeds adaptability.
* Physiological differences between animals and humans may have had an impact on development of intelligence.
* Short discussion of relationship between intelligence and consciousness.

There’s a lot of think about in this topic and the panel only touched the surface but it was stimulating to the audience judging from my reaction and the questions from the audience.

By this time I was in too much pain from my cramping leg to go on to the next item we wanted to see. So, retired to our room for a soak of the muscle and to write up the day. There’s a good selection of panels to attend tomorrow and I really look forward to them.

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Those of you who read my blog know that I’m a sucker for anything Jane Austen. I happened to stuble across this — new to me — movie of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice updated to modern times. It takes place in Utah and manages to keep true to all the character with a twist here and there in the plot. The link is to the full movie on Youtube.

Pride & Prejudice — Comedy, Romance full movie

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It seems that for the last several months every weekend was taken up with chores, meetings of one type or another, running errands, or dealing with some problem or inconvenience. Anyway, this weekend we ran all our errands yesterday. So, today I’m catching up on database entry, email checking/clearing/answering/sorting by priority, and updating my next week’s To Do list.


Four days ago, our ‘new’ rescue cat, Simba, went out to get some fresh air and didn’t come back. We’d been calling for him every few hours, and getting more and more worried for him. As of this morning, we were finally admitting to one another that we probably weren’t going to see him again. Temperatures had been pretty low during the night so we hoped he’d found an emergency back-up family (as cats often do). But it’s been fairly warm the last couple of days, so if he was snoozing on someone else’s hearthrug, we figured he’d come around to see to his food bowl. So, reluctantly, we figured he was just gone. So, not expecting to see him again after four days, this afternoon, he came back. Our older cat, Emnot, isn’t too happy with Simba’s reappearance though.


Simba has a medical condition and so he’d been four days without his meds. His left eye was dripping like a faucet (his medical problem) and he was starving or so he said/indicated (you know what I mean). He seemed healthy (except for the dripping eye) and very happy to see us. Can’t help but wonder where he was while he was missing. So, the first thing we did was put the extra collar on him (he came back without one). Before you ask — yes, he’s chipped. But we get him break-away collars and the one we put on him today is his fifth. And we put collars on the grocery list to pick up a couple more spares. I’m sure he’ll be needing them.


We’re watching a Season 3 marathon of Dr. Who. We just bought Season 4 but will finish 3 first.


Today was household chores and baking day. Wash is already done, folded, and put away. We baked Chocolate Coconut Scones, and Banana Nut Muffins. For the first time in a what seems like ages, I’m warm since the oven has been on most of today. Now that we’ve got goodies to eat, I’ll have to be careful, because hubby and I are back on calorie watch. But we will be indulging in an ignore-the-calories day for Valentines.


I’ve dug out my sock in progress and need to figure out where I am on the heel and work on it once we sit to watch another episode of Dr. Who. Also, got Divergent from Netflix so need to watch that soon too.


Except for the insomnia, or was it the headache, that woke me up at 4 this morning, and having to play catching up on work stuff it’s looking like a good restful day. The crazy starts again tomorrow.

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Manga Classics: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo; Adapted by Crystal Silvermoon. Illustrated by SunNeko Lee. ISBN: 978-1927925164, Udon Entertainment (August 19, 2014). List Price $19.99 / Amazon $16.57.

I should confess that I’ve never actually read the original version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I always thought I knew the gist of it. It was about the the revolution in France in the time of Napoleon. There were two lovers. A corrupt officer of the government had a vendetta against a man somehow related to the lovers — or one of them. And a miserable time was had by all.

So, I read through this manga and was totally surprised at the details of the story. Like any modern person I turned to Wikipedia to read the summary of the story and found that it matched the Manga. Maybe now I’ll skip the movie — though I do love the music.

Basically, Napoleon Bonaparte has been defeated and the economy is crappy. People don’t have enough to eat, jobs are scarce, and the law is extremely strict. France had a guilty until proven innocent view of justice. Since it is very difficult to prove a negative, many, especially the poor, found themselves in prison.

The story follows several different people and moves forward and backward in time to bring each of them into the story and up to where the threads of their story weave into the main story line. This makes for some odd disconnects until you realize the story isn’t continuing, but going off on a tangent to come back to the point you were at later.

Jean Valjean had been released from prison but since all his papers labeled him a convict his chances of getting work were slim. He was even refused to be allowed to purchase food or lodgings with what little money he had out of fear that being involved with him would get them in trouble with the law.

Through a series of convenient events, he manages to gain some funding to pass himself off as a wealthy man. Then to pay things forward, he sets about to do good for those who live in his community and work in his businesses.

Fantine had been dumped by her lover when she had a daughter, Cosette. And so she was unable to find work because of her loose morals. She sought work, and found people who she thought would take good care of Cosette for her while she worked. It was expensive, but she thought it was a better life for Cosette.

Javert, a police office/military-type, hated convicts and felt that they could never be reformed, and therefore must always be returned to prison, whether they did anything wrong or not. He’d once been Valjena’s jailer and when he thought he recognized him — he began to be obsessed with hunting him down and seeing he was returned to prison.

These are the major characters. Through other circumstances, Valjean promises Fantine to raise her daughter and take care of her. He and Cosette then proceed to move about, always a step ahead of Javert and doing what good works they can where ever they lived. Of course, as Cosette grows up this becomes more and more difficult as she attracts attention as does their wealth.

Will Cosette find love? Will Valjean be able to give her into another’s care? Will Javert ever give up his crusade to find and punish Valjean? Can he ever be convinced that convicts can be redeemed? Into this steps the revolutionary uprising among the students of Paris. This is actually a minor side note of the story, but one that is important to bringing all the pieces together.

The artwork is wonderfully detailed. The characters can be individually identified — which I find very important. The story unfolds smoothly — except for those flashbacks and flashforwards I noted previously.

All in all, I believe that if you’ve been interested, this is a great way to become familiar with the story and the characters. It’s well adapted and illustrated and a great way to get a taste of classic literature if you don’t want to spend the time reading the original works.

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Cover of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Story Adaptation by Stacy King. Manga: Classsic Literature. Morpheus Studios (Illustrator), Shane Law (Illustrator), Po Tse (Artist). Udon Entertainment (August 19, 2014). Price: $19.99.

Stacy King has adapted Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a manga-reading audience with illustrations by Shane Law, Po Tse, and Morpheus Studios. Whenever a story is adapted for a different media format, choices must be made in order to use the strengths of the new media to tell the story. Overall this adaptation is beautifully done. The basic storyline is intact and the artwork is beautifully rendered as you can tell from the lovely cover image (though the interior artwork is all in grey scale).

The basic story is a love story that threads its way through horrible first impressions, misunderstandings, pride, and prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters of a country gentleman and his wife, is insulted when she overhears Mr. Darcy’s response to his friend, Mr. Bingley, urging Darcy to dance with her. Mr. Darcy is actually shy and uncomfortable in crowded social situations but she doesn’t know that at the time. Later Mr. Darcy realizes that she’s witty, educated, and not fawning over him; thus, he finds himself falling in love. Meanwhile, she is fed a lot of balderdash about Mr. Darcy from a man who has “all the appearance of goodness” and makes a grand impression on all he meets. There’s also a secondary love story involving Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s older sister, and Mr. Bingley. As with most love stories things work out in the end but the journey is what makes the story a classic and loved by many no matter what format it takes — book, film, and now, manga.

Still, the problem with adaptations is that choices need to be made. This time the story is told and shown to be set close to the period in which Austen originally wrote it. However, the societal mores of the time depicted in this version do not match those that existed during this time period. For example, in the version of Longbourn shown in the artwork, no member of the Bennet family would be answering their own door let alone folding the linens; there would be servants to do such work.

It was a time when the distinctions of class were kept to and there were many rules of behavior that now-a-days we’d find archaic and maybe even silly. Upper class single women could not write to an unrelated male unless she was engaged to him. She’s have to write to his mother or sister and leave it to them to pass on the information. People could not simple talk to another person — they had to be formally introduced first. In fact, public venues such as assemblies usually had a designated person who was responsible for introducing people to one another if they were not yet acquainted and wished to meet. There are many instances where modern social customs are referenced that would, in the original work, be offensive to the characters of that time period. This may bother readers who are familiar with the original Austen work and time period — new readers reading Austen for the first time would most likely not even notice these issues.

However, if you read this version and enjoy it, you may want to read the original Austen novel on which it is based because the actual story is one that transcends the time in which Austen wrote. It’s universal appeal is why her works live on. Not only have her novels been adapted for film, manga, and classic comics, but they have, by other authors, been updated to modern times and still they resonate with readers.

Overall, this is a wonderful adaptation and a great way to interest new readers in classic literature.

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