Go To for Posts Until Further Notice

LJ is officially giving me problems. Until further notice, please go to my website to see my posts. When LJ works out its problems, I'll be mirroring my posts from here. But for now, you'll have to just go to csleicht. I'm sorry about that. I'm working with LJ to work this out.

Con DFW Schedule

So, today is the first day of Con DFW. Sorry I'm late posting my schedule. George, the sea monster[1] in my head, kind of took up my focus. It happens.'s my schedule for this weekend.

Saturday, 11am: Lawrence M. Schoen, Stina Leicht

Saturday, 1pm: Martha Wells, Stina Leicht, K. B. Bogen

Saturday, 6pm: Choose your Destiny: Researching Alternate History
Panelists: Shanna Swendson (M), Jeremy Brett, Julie Barrett, Stina Leicht, Jeff Dawson
If you are preparing to write an alternate history, you need to choose what portion of history to write from. For instance, are you using time travel to alter the assassination of Julius Caesar? Then you need to know Roman culture and the Roman Republic. Want to see what happened if Normandy failed? Then you need to know World War II battles and the coasts of France. Research is key, and our history buffs tell you what you need to look at to get that time period just right.

Sunday, 11am: Researching the Technology Tree
Panelists: Tex Thompson (M), Scott A. Cupp, S. Boyd Taylor, Larry Atchley Jr., Stina Leicht
The Technology Tree is the path that humans take to find out technology. In other words, you need to learn how to make steel before you can make really good swords. Guns won’t fire if you haven’t learned the recipe for gunpowder – and that’s before learning the difference between corned powder and serpentine powder. Where in the technology tree is your world? How do you find out? Our alternate history experts talk about this and more.

Sunday, 1pm: Interstellar Archaeology: Part Two – The Debunking
Panelists: Mel White (M), Chris Donahue, Gloria Oliver, Teresa Patterson, David Doub, Stina Leicht
The second of two panels where we inflict discover startling artifacts of OBVIOUS alien origin. Our experts tell us how wrong the previous esteemed panelists were! Last year, Sunday’s panel thoroughly debunked Friday’s experts. Help us, they can! Confuse us, they will not.

Sunday, 3pm: Intelligence is Overrated
Panelists: Julie Barrett (M), Seanan McGuire, Paul Black, Stina Leicht, Teresa Patterson
Let’s face it: not everyone is as smart as Sherlock Holmes. If you’re not careful, your hero will have the same intelligence as you because you simply can’t think any other way. So how do you write those convoluted plans, or have your hero think in ways you never could? Our experts talk about their various methods of madness while writing.

Hopefully, I'll see you there.
[1] No results yet. But since the migraines haven't stopped I figure it's more fun to talk about them as a sea monster. Migraines are so dull. :) I predict that when the lab coats study the scan they still won't know what's wrong, but at least we'll have ruled out brain tumor. 

Getting My Head Examined

I've been having occular migraines for four five days straight. No real pain. Just some pressure, and the world's most boring acid flashbacks. Thus, the highlight of my day will be all about lying down with my head in a loud, clanking box. This should be interesting. I've never had an MRI before. I've never seen the inside of my skull (via x-ray) either. Writer Brain thinks this will be an interesting science experience because Writer Brain thinks anything new is a great source for story. It isn't wrong. It's just a weird reaction and probably not normal. Anyway, here's my sketch of today's featured events:

In related to this post news: I think I'm getting the hang of sketching on my iPad, finally. I like it! I'm using Procreate combined with Photoshop. That took a hell of a lot less time than the daisy and bee sketch did. Of course, it's less complicated. Still, I think I'll keep doodling. It's fun, and I've missed it so much.

Small rant: my morning (and yesterday afternoon) was eaten by insurance company loop de loops. I get that paperwork needs to be filed. I get that they need to be sure that the patient is getting required care. But two days of intense bullshit over a 'wrong birthdate' which was corrected quite a while ago? Also, the super sekret phone number that the doctor's office didn't have access to but the radiologist did was a dick move, United Healthcare. I know you guys are upset about Obamacare going through against your will,[1] but that train left the station. Stop while you're ahead. Repeat after me, Insurance companies should not be practicing medicine.

I hope your Friday is more fun and less expensive than mine.
[1] Don't deny it. I've documented the $30 generic asthma pills that overnight became the $80 generic asthma pills which in turn (after a few irate phone calls) became the $10 generic asthma pills--all within the span of two weeks. This was strangely timed with the initial implimentation of Obamacare. You know, that legislation that you claimed would make everything more expensive for everyone because 'government.' I felt sorry for anyone without the persistance and force of will to scream repeatedly into the phone. Database screw up, my ass.


Today's Hakkoryu class was ground-breaking in the trust department. I enjoy martial arts. It's good for me, healthwise. Practicing movement means better flexibility as I age. Practicing safe falls means I'm less likely to trip down the stairs at 80 and end up with a broken hip or a head injury. Martial arts gives me confidence in situations where I used to feel threatened. It makes me feel protected and safe. However, I only get so far before my internal what-ever-it-is applies the brakes. I didn't understand why--only that over time my motivation fades. I become uncomfortable. I stop training. I wait a while. I miss the workouts, and (let's be honest) the whole warrior culture thing. (I'm an Aries, afterall.) Then I select a new martial art school, and off we go again. Today, I figured out what the problem has been. It's trust.

There's a border between self-defence and active harm. It's fuzzy. Most people don't understand that there's having a response to a threat and then there's having a response to a percieved threat that isn't actually a threat. As a woman, I've had to deal with questioning my perceptions of other people's actions my whole life. "Did they really mean to say that? Or is it harmless internalized bullshit that we all have?[1]" "Did that man really mean to touch me like that? Or was it an accident?" "Is this a danger? Am I over-reacting? Where's my boundary? Am I safe?" I used to have to worry about this every day. Now, not as much. I'm a fulltime professional writer. Still, it's something that takes up space in my head. So much so that when I'm training one of the things that crops up is: "How much trouble will I get into, if this action is pre-programmed into my brain/body? What happens if I react and the other person never intended to hurt me?" You may not have had the experience with abusers that I've had. So, let me explain something. Abusers actively live in the in-between space. They want you to question your perceptions. Not only does it give them the opportunity to physically harm you with impunity, it gives them the extra-added bonus of psychological damage. Grey spaces are their playground, baby. And largely, I think that's the biggest problem with a majority of self-defense programs. They do not acknowledge this. They approach situations in a good vs. evil mindset. "Someone is attacking you. This is what you do." The end. There is no ambiguity in their example. Ever. Perception of danger is never even discussed, and when I've brought it up I'm generally dismissed as being too paranoid. But real life isn't like the example the trainer is giving. And if you're training in order to be able to protect yourself in real life, then being able to react with an appropriate level of force--rather than a deadly one--is a huge factor. IMHO, this is the biggest potential problem with martial arts training. I've literally had instructors tell me, "I train women separate from men for one reason. I'm training women to be deadly. I don't train men that way. Because women need to protect themselves more than men do." I understood his position. It's certainly why some men feel women should carry guns, but as I see it, excessive force causes more harm than good. It trains women to be more violent than necessary. It doesn't resolve the problem. It opens women up for lawsuits--or worse, prison for murder. I don't want that for myself. I don't want to harm others--not on purpose and not even on accident. At the same exact time, I don't wish to be harmed.

Enter today's epiphany. Hakkoryu (as it is taught in my dojo) focuses on training an automatic response that reflects the energy put into it by the attacker. The intellect is bypassed. There is no second-guessing. If you train well, you will not add to the force being directed at you. You simply direct it back. I've said that before, I know. But today I really, really got it. I can trust myself to train in this way. I can have this level of control. I know this now. Pain compliance is an option, certainly, but it isn't the first option. And I suspect the main reason this is so huge for me is because of that one little word: trust.
[1] I suspect any person who happens to be part of a minority group has that little number running in their brain.


Two Disturbing News Stories

Personally, I'm sick and tired of people stating that government is bad and that government doesn't know how to run anything and big business is efficient and magically does everything so much better. That's bullshit. Another thing I'm sick of? Hearing how government regulation is terrible and awful and should die. Here are two very fine examples of why.

Unsafe Lead Levels in Tap Water Not Limited to Flint. I have to admit that the instant I heard about the abuses of Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder, I've been waiting to hear how he isn't the only one. Look, we've been hearing about how we need to cut back on 'entitlements' for years. The GOP have had a position of power in most states for some time. It's inevitable that eventually the wear and tear put upon the system will start to show. This is just the first story. There will be more. No. This isn't the fault of government. This is the fault of greedy opportunists who saw a healthy system and got fat off trimming off pieces for themselves and their closest friends. I keep thinking of this video:

What happens when you're pushed off the chart? You die. That's what happens.

From the article: "The Environmental Protection Agency says streams tapped by water utilities serving a third of the population are not yet covered by clean-water laws that limit levels of toxic pollutants. Even purified water often travels to homes through pipes that are in stunning disrepair, potentially open to disease and pollutants." and "Both researchers and industry officials say problems extend well beyond lead. Many potentially harmful contaminants have yet to be evaluated, much less regulated. Efforts to address shortcomings often encounter pushback from industries like agriculture and mining that fear cost increases, and from politicians ideologically opposed to regulation." What is even more disturbing? The 'safe levels of lead' determination isn't based upon how safe the level of lead is. It's based upon "...a calculation that water in at least nine in 10 homes susceptible to lead contamination will fall below that standard." Most importantly:

"As Flint’s water crisis surfaced last fall, Congress was considering the E.P.A.’s effort to clarify its regulatory powers over tributaries and wetlands — the streams that supply water to a third of Americans.

Both houses passed legislation to block a new Clean Water Act regulation, the Waters of the United States rule, that aims to assert authority over those waters, which the Supreme Court had questioned in 2001 and 2006 rulings.

And Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, denounced the rule as a federal power grab.

President Obama vetoed that legislation last month, but more than two dozen states have sued to block the rule. Among their arguments: It would hurt business."

And we haven't even discussed the problem of unregulated chemicals in our water. "So, I'll use bottled water. No sweat." Think again. In any case, do you really want an "multinational" corporation which owes no allegiance to any country--there are no "multinational" laws and certainly no "multinational" force with actual teeth to restrict its greed-seeking behavior--to control assets as vital to human life as our nation's water? I think not. Governmental Protection Agencies exist for a reason. Stop pretending that they don't. Stop pretending that polution and climate change isn't a problem. It is. Above all, don't kid yourself that whatever happens to the poorest among us isn't going to affect you, Average American. That chart isn't merely a curve. It's a slide into oblivion.

Another disturbing link I happened upon was this: Leaked police files contain guarantees disciplinary records will be kept secret. From the article:

"At least as recently as 2007, if an officer in Independence, Missouri, was “involved in a shooting incident”, that officer could not be interrogated for at least 12 hours nor be “treated a suspect” unless local authorities thought there was reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime had been committed. This protocol was mandated in the local police union’s contract in a clause specifically designed for “officer-involved shooting investigations”.

In recent years, Independence has made headlines for cases of police brutality and police shootings."

The police need consequences for their actions. They have a great deal of power. Americans place a great deal of trust in their police force. But without any substantive consequence for abuses of power, our police have become a danger to the public that they are charged to serve and protect. Repeat after me: Power corrupts. You know the rest. 

Feminist Monday

Good morning, y'all. Reading for some of that bitter brew to stir up that blood pressure? No, I don't mean coffee. ;)

Today's video: Melanie Mark makes a traditional entrance after winning her East Vancouver by election.

Literature/Entertainment: Farm Kid Writes Home After Joining The Marines. Why You Might Be a Witch by Theodora Goss. For those wondering why having naked women on the covers of professional periodicals is a fucking problem, we have this: Sexualized environment. Yes, I understand the distinction between fine art nudes and shlock SF porn. No, I do not think it's funny when a passive-aggressive individual decides to use a piece of fine art to troll 50% of a professional organization's membership. That's not a fuzzy line. That's the definition of harrassment. Erin Pike Performs Only the Women’s Parts from the Most-Produced Plays in America, and It’s Brilliant. Slivers of Science in Homer's 'The Odyssey.' I don't know what to make of the name in this next link--it feels icky to me, but it's not up to me to make that call. Still, the photos are cool as shit. So, I'm linking it anyway. ‘THE GHETTO TAROT’: HAITIAN ARTISTS TRANSFORM CLASSIC TAROT DECK INTO STUNNING REAL LIFE SCENES. The exact moment ‘Suicide Squad’ fails Harley Quinn is in the new trailer. A Brief Analysis of the Locus Recommended Reading List, 2011-2015. If White Characters Were Described Like People Of Color In Literature. IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Was Hired by Mattel to Be a Real-Life Barbie. Stolen Kiss During WWE Divas Match Showcases Disrespect to Women Athletes. Three cheers for misogyny: why the world can't handle Susan Sarandon and her 69-year-old cleavage. Ain't Nothing But Ladies on the Cover of Vanity Fair's Annual Hollywood Issue. EDIT: I don't watch the SuperBowl but now I wish I hadn't missed this: Beyoncé Announces a Initiative for the Children of Flint.

General: Because racism. Melissa Harris-Perry narrowly escaped being attacked last night at an Iowa hotel during caucuses. Why wasn't more fuss kicked up about that? It's terrifying. Why aren't candidates who foment violence with Hate Speech held accountable or at least removed from the political race? Oh, right. Because racism. CHICAGO OFFICER SUES ESTATE OF TEEN HE SHOT, CLAIMING TRAUMA. WHAT the EVER FUCK? I can't even. Why should I be shocked after hearing about the arrestee that was charged a cleaners fee for getting blood on the uniform of the cop that beat the shit out of him? What My White, Heterosexual, Educated, First World Privilege is Teaching Me About Empowerment. All the terrible things Hillary Clinton has done — in one big list. You know who is making me think I should vote for Hillary? Openly misogynist BernieBros. That's who. Me? I was hoping that since we have two strong Dem candidates that this was our Pres/VP set up, right there. BOOM! I still hope that. It's the Party's smartest play, frankly. So, FFS, get it in your head WE WIN EITHER WAY. And stop the ignorance. Now. Please. Regarding this next one...FFS, people have basic needs. Going to the bathroom shouldn't result in this kind of bullshit. Either provide a gender neutral, single serve bathroom, or let people use the restroom in whichever one they feel they belong. School suspends trans boy for using boys’ restroom — after girls complained he was using theirs. I have to say, I've never had a problem with sharing a restroom with a transgender person. Ever. You know who I feel unsafe sharing a bathroom with? Straight CIS males. You know why? This entire weekly column is why. In the Safe Spaces on Campus, No Jews Allowed. Remarkable Photos Of An Elderly Love Triangle Will Challenge Your Perception Of Relationships. Dumb-ass stuff we need to stop saying to Dads. Police officer awarded $15 million after being savagely beaten by cops at his daughter's birthday party. This is progress. Here's hoping that more of the ridiculous borders for Congressional districts in the US are repealed. (I'm thinking of you, Texas.) 3-Judge Federal Court Strikes Down 2 North Carolina Congressional Districts as Racial Gerrymanders. And just so we're clear that this kind of racism isn't an American only thing: Sarah Reed: A Black Woman Victim of Vicious Police Assault Found Dead in Her Cell. In Hopes Of Retaining Women, The Military Will Offer To Freeze Their Eggs. And Problems with Pre-Pregnancy showcases my entire reaction to those panicked "Potential baby-makers should never even LOOK at alcohol!!!! Let alone SMELL IT!!" signs in American bars and restaurants. I vote we stop that bullshit now. Scientists have discovered what causes Resting Bitch Face. Let the world know that Texans support access to abortion and support each other’s decision to have an abortion.

Trigger Warning: So that settles it then – everyone’s to blame except Julian Assange. Syrian refugee women in Lebanon face heightened risk of exploitation and sexual harassment. Baylor faces accusations of ignoring sex assault victims. Ex-BU football player gets 20 years in sexual assaults

Let's Be Positive

I believe in psychology. It's a science, and it works. One of the things I believe is that whatever you look for and work for most in life is what will come to you. This isn't magical thinking. It's a practical truth. A large part of life is about perspective combined with effort. If you see things in one way, you'll behave/react to everything as if that is so. Thus, eventually making it so--if not a reality for everyone else--definitely for yourself. You miss opportunities because you don't see them. Therefore, for you those opportunities don't functionally exist. I decided that life was tough enough and stuffed with factors I couldn't control. I didn't want to hand over the one thing I could control--my perspective and effort. And that was when I learned that it's dead easy to be unhappy. It's happiness that's difficult. The nice part is, you can make happiness a habit. However, it's a lot like the physics of inertia in space. Once you've applied a great deal of energy in one direction, changing direction is hard. It requires every bit as much energy to stop going that direction and then a bit more to go in the new direction. But once you apply that new force, it does get easy to maintain. That's the theory, anyway.

Ultimately, I see myself as a practical optimist. I'm not into optimism because it's some magical cure all. There is no such thing. I'm into it because...well...I'm not interested in making life worse. Frankly, I don't understand why anyone would want to. (That's a whole other part of psychology.) Anyway, I've been thinking about how difficult it is to find positive things on the internet that don't involve a) animals being cute and b) religion and that makes me sad. The big picture is: the internet has become a dark place. It doesn't have to be. Therefore, I've decided to try to do something about that in my small way. Sooo, have some links.

There's an actual movement within psychology that is studying the science of happiness. Did you know this? I didn't. What Is Positive Psychology, and What Is It Not? Then check out Smiling and Stress. Personally, I've found that using humor to decompress from stressful situations helps me focus on problems. It's one of the reasons Dane and I made it through the bad old days without killing one another. We both use humor in this way. That's probably a big part of what makes us such great partners. Next, this book looks interesting The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice. I like that humility and empathy are a big factor in what they're talking about rather than simply religion. I've seen too many people use religion as a shortcut to morality. In my experience, that isn't how ethical behavior works. It's something you have to internalize. It's something you work at all the time. It isn't a goal that you achieve by accepting mythology as fact and then you're done. Ethics is hard work. Every day. It requires thought and consideration, not blind faith. Historically, blind faith results in extremism and attrocity.

Anyway, enough rambling. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday in whatever way brings you the most joy.

Fun Things

I finished season one of The Expanse last night, and I have to say I'm enjoying the shit out of it. So, I've finally broken down and started reading the novel. So far, it's following the television show almost exactly--or rather, I should say the show followed the book exactly. There are some minor changes, but not much. Frankly, I don't understand why they made Holden's love interest a white woman. That puzzles me, but whatever. I still don't care for Miller that much. We'll see if that continues. I'm looking forward to reading about Chrisjen Avasarala and Naomi Nagata. They are my two favorite characters, hands down. I gushed about Chrisjen on the SF Signal podcast a couple of weeks ago. She is, without a doubt, my favorite portrayal of an older woman in SF to date. She's powerful. She's intelligent. She's diplomatic. And she retains her femininity without being a stick figure. I also love that her husband appreciates her strength and supports her. From what little I've seen, they're a team, and that meshes well with my own experience of marriage.[1] Naomi? Naomi is a bad ass and a gearhead without being the stereotypical Gun-toting Fucktoy. And hey, she sports a mohawk. I love mohawks. Hopefully by the time season two comes out, I'll have finished the first and second books. [crosses fingers]
I'm still waiting for the next season of Killjoys and Dark Matter. Let's just say, I love the new Syfy. If only they'd change the name back to Scifi. [sigh]

On Netflix, I'm super happy with Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and I'm looking forward to Luke Cage, Black Panther, and Iron Fist too. Also, I'm enjoying the hell out of the latest season of Peggy Carter. (Of course she has a Bletchley Circle connection.) Marvel has clearly made me into a convert. Go, you mad bastards. May you continue to take risks and be successful. [blows kiss] DC, you go right ahead with pumping out those mostly naked fanboy fantasies. [sigh][eye roll] I suppose someone has to because, you know, women are only ever super hot, white, and crazy. All others are invisible, right?

In other news, I finished Melville's Moby Dick and enjoyed it. I've read Billy Budd too. I suppose it's inevitable that I'd like Melville. I'm a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both were Melville's influences. My short fiction read this week is The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black. On my non-fiction list are Not Abba by Dave Haslam and The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined by Steven Pinker. I'm also making my way through The Steal Like an Artist Journal because I need to find the joy in creating again. Last summer was tough one for me--creativity-wise. It happens. Time to put that behind me and move on.

Anyway, I hope you're having a great weekend. And if you have any recommendations for uplifting things on the internet, I'd love it if you'd bring 'em. :) Just no cat pics or fuzzy animals. Those are dead easy to find on my own.
[1] Dane and I have been married for going on 15 years. We've been together for 22.

Diplomacy, the Smarter Alternative

"All of my work is directed at those who are bent, through stupidity or design, on blowing up the planet or rendering it uninhabitable."
--William Burroughs

The internet has fallen on a friend of mine. Hey, it's Friday. The statisical likelihood of it dropping on someone I know is actually pretty damned high on any given day of the week. In this case, I feel she handled the situation in one of the best ways. Her apology was well written--particularly when one considers the circumstances, and she's opting to withdraw from social media for a while. That's wise. I've a great deal of admiration for Sarah and the work she does. She's brave as hell, and the work she does is important. There are certain forms of writing that I view as social surgery. Surgery is a vital aspect of healing. Sometimes, shit has to be cut out because it's killing the patient. And that's how I view certain forms of activism. When people write about volitile subjects in a thoughtful way (or in this case, provide a venue for thoughtful discourse) it is a necessary, even vital thing. Without it, change will not take place. Justified rage is necessary too. It is. One has to process emotions in order to get past them. However, at some point there also needs to be reasoned discourse. Otherwise, we stick in the rage phase of healing. Not only does healing not happen, but re-injury occurs. At the same time--particularly in the case of social change, this is not only a healing process but a learning process. We're all human beings. We're all flawed. And human beings learn best through trial and error. I've said it before and I'll say it again: mistakes bring experience. Experience brings wisdom. Value mistakes. Education isn't cheap. So, don't let those mistakes go to waste. All of these things are true. So is the need to be careful of silencing those who are on the front lines of social healing. Thus, "Be more polite!" and "Honey will attract more bees than vinegar!" are not appropriate responses.[1]

If you get the impression that healing is a complex process, you'd be right.

And that's why I'm so often reminded that diplomacy is for the highly intelligent. It's also something that SF/F doesn't seem to value much. I find that surprising. All the real work of change is done in diplomacy. War actually causes more problems than it solves. I think the SF/F community forgets that--or may never have known it in some cases. Our genre does rather unfortunately tend to portray revenge, war, and conflict as the 100% correct response a majority of the time. As a genre writer, I get why. Good vs Evil is a hell of a lot easier than puzzling over all the permutations of ethical grey areas. At the same time, I believe that fiction is where thinkers are trained. We need more thoughtful discourse on these subjects, not less. It takes practice. Perfection is not a standard that should be expected. Period. Seriously, no one is capable of doing that type of work without practice. It's absolutely necessary.

And that's why I hope Sarah doesn't shut down her column forever.
[1] Specifically, it is not appropriate when responding to those for whom the subject is directly applicable. If it is not, then yes, by all means remind them that screaming doesn't help. Because fuck that. I've no patience for people who dogpile on people for the sake of internet theater. Again, fuck that. Sometimes the internet pillory is necessary. For example, BlackTwitter. Hello, people are dying. In any instance when lives are threatened (trans women for another example) screaming is appropriate. Do not silence that. Just don't.


This morning I caught this article on, This Is How Much the Koch Brothers Hate Donald Trump. It was an interesting take on what is going on in GOP circles. It's also extremely telling. Here is a political magazine drawing attention to two very wealthy men openly discussing buying the American political process, and no one is even blinking. If anything points to Citizen's United having been a travesty, that's it.