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Posts Tagged ‘ranty’

a quaint twentieth-century concept

My husband and I reached a point a while ago where we ought to start thinking about doing something more useful with our savings than letting them sit in a savings account. After much procrastination, we finally went to see an investment advisor to talk about our options.

During that meeting, one of the things he asked us was when we expected to retire. I forget what my husband said; my reply was basically that so long as I am healthy enough to write, and continuing to earn money by doing so, I see no reason to stop.

What I did not say to him: I don’t think I believe in retirement anymore.

I have a dreadful suspicion that fifty years from now, “retirement” is going to be seen as a quaint twentieth-century concept, an unusual social construct that existed for a little while and then went away again. There will be no retirement; there will only be dying or reaching a point where you are no longer able to work. If you’re lucky, you’ll have enough money to more or less support yourself when that latter point comes. If you aren’t . . . and a lot of people won’t be. I have far too many friends with no savings and too much debt — college- and even grad-school-educated friends who can’t find jobs worthy of their qualifications, who work at what they can get to make ends meet but god help them if one thing goes wrong. There’s no “retirement” when you can barely afford a nest, let alone put together a nest egg.

I’d like to be wrong. I’d like to see this country, and a lot of others around the world, reverse the current trend toward wealth stratification that leaves 1% with obscene amounts of money and 99% with a life plan straight out of the nineteenth century. I don’t really plan to retire, but I’d like it to be a thing people can still do when I get to that age.

In the meanwhile, I will save money, invest it wisely, and count my lucky stars that I’m in a position to try.

Join them, or step away

I’ve been feeling for a while now that I ought to post something about GamerGate, but I really didn’t know where to start. I’ve seen all these posts referencing it, but none of them went back and gave me the whole story in a way I could understand. Okay, so it’s something about ethics in game journalism? Except it’s mostly turned into terrifying levels of harassment against women? What’s it actually supposed to be about, though? When we say “ethics in game journalism,” what is that supposed to mean? Why is this such a huge deal? (Sounded like a tempest in a teacup to me.) What’s the signal that got lost beneath the noise? But every time I tried to look it up, all I found was more crap about doxxing and sending death threats and a festering pit of toxic 4chan evil.

Thank you, Jim Hines.

That’s the post I was looking for — and yet not. The post I was looking for because it gives me the whole story in a comprehensible manner, with links; and yet not, because it turns out that foundation I was digging for just. isn’t. there. From the start, it was a harassment campaign against Zoe Quinn (which has snowballed to include a lot of other women), and everything else was a veneer deliberately crafted to recruit unwitting supporters and give the whole thing an aura of legitimacy. I assumed it was an actual thing that went off the rails, as internet stuff so often does. But no: this was always its nature. It was always a vicious, misogynist campaign designed to punish women for having opinions.

It doesn’t matter whether you actually care about ethics in game journalism. Or anywhere else in the game industry. If you want to talk about that, you have to ditch this name, ditch this entire moment, and start over fresh. Because right now? Any attempt to discuss this under the aegis of GamerGate means standing up to be a human shield for the assholes. It means letting them use you. It means giving your support to the actual movement — not the ethical thing, but the misogynist one. And if you do that, you have essentially announced that you don’t give a flying rat fuck about ethics, whereupon there is no reason that anybody other than fellow sewer-dwellers ought to listen to you.

It doesn’t matter what your intentions are. There is no redeeming GamerGate. You join them, or you step away: those are your two options.

That’s the actual story.

Posner on Voter Fraud

I haven’t yet read the entirety of this dissent by Judge Richard Posner on the topic of voter ID laws in Wisconsin, but the words to describe the bits I have read are things like “searing” and “scathing.” This is a conservative judge who formerly supported laws requiring photo ID in order to vote, but his dissent is a 180% about-face that comprehensively calls out exactly what is wrong with such laws — ranging from the fact that they’re trying to solve a problem that basically doesn’t exist, to the fact that they don’t solve the problems that do exist, to the way they disenfranchise the “wrong kind” of voter.

Nor does he neglect the partisan component here: his dissent points out that all the states with strict photo ID laws and most of those with non-strict laws are politically conservative at the state level, while those which require no ID at all skew liberal. And the kinds of people who are disenfranchised by voting obstacles are also more likely to vote liberal. This is not a “both sides do it” kind of problem, where we can waggle our fingers and move on. Whether or not you agree that it is a concerted effort with the goal of stopping “those people” from voting Democratic, it is a concerted effort with that result.

Here’s a tidbit for you: the poll tax that was outlawed in 1964, adjusted for inflation, is substantially cheaper than the average cost for a low-income voter in satisfying a photo ID requirement. You may not be forking over the cash directly for the right to vote, but when you figure in documentation, travel, and time spent away from work jumping through the bureaucratic hoops, it ends up costing in the range of $75-$175. For people who are having trouble feeding their children, this is an inexcusable price.

I haven’t been following the judicial situation well enough to know what effect, if any, Posner’s dissent might have. The fact that it’s a dissent, i.e. a statement disagreeing with the ruling, suggests that it won’t be much. But I have some hope that seeing a conservative judge come out swinging on this topic might shift the winds a little. There are a number of really scummy things going on in American politics these days, but this is one of the worst: it strikes at the very heart of our ability to make things better.

The Incompetence of Samsung’s Customer Support

A few weeks ago I noticed that my Nexus 10 tablet wasn’t charging properly. I poked around online and found a number for Samsung’s customer support, so I called them up.

The lady I spoke to was very nice. We ran into confusion, though, because when I looked in the settings where my model number ought to be, all it said was “Nexus 10.” Apparently there was supposed to be something else. She gave me a ticket number and said I should call back in a few days, at which point her supervisor would have made the arrangements to put me manually into the system, which would allow them to send me a shipping label to get the tablet repaired.

Seemed good to me, so I thanked her, hung up, and waited.

When I called back, my first call got dropped. On a second try, the guy I talked to seemed to have no awareness of this having happened, despite the ticket number. He asked for my model number, and when I told him it only said “Nexus 10,” he said somebody would call me back in one to two days, after his supervisor made the arrangements to put me manually into the system, which would allow them to send me a shipping label to get the tablet repaired.

It took something more like three or four days, but I did get a call back from a woman saying there was some confusion about the lack of model number, but that she suspected the problem was that my tablet is wi-fi only, and they’re the department for tablets that are registered with a carrier for cellular service. She asked me to call her back and gave her a number.

Let me say for the record that up until this point, I feel like the service I’d received was less than ideal, but basically par for the course with this kind of thing.

That’s about to change.

Today (having been busy for several days, plus the holiday weekend seemed like a bad time to follow up), I call the number I’ve been given. It has a menu. Press 1 for mobile devices, tablets, etc. Okay. Press 3 for tablets. Okay. Press 1 for wi-fi only tablets. Progress, right? I seem to have had the wrong department before, but now I’ll get the right one. I press 1, 3, 1, and get a customer service rep to talk to.

“Can I have your phone number? First and last name? Verify your email address? Thank you. How can I help you today?”

I explain that I have a wi-fi only Nexus 10 tablet that isn’t charging properly, and I’m trying to send it in for repair.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not able to do anything about that here. I’ll have to transfer you to another department.”

. . . not sure why the people under the wi-fi tablet option can’t help me with my wi-fi tablet, but okay. But note: in the eight or so times I called this number and went through this process, I’m fairly certain that I did not get transferred to the same department each time. I’m not positive, since I didn’t take notes, but I’m pretty sure.

And here’s where things get terrible. No matter where I get transferred to, I’m in the wrong place — and it’s blatantly obvious that half the reps aren’t even listening to what I say, because when they ask what I’m calling for, I say it’s a wi-fi only Nexus 10 tablet . . . and then a little while later they are surprised to discover my tablet is wi-fi only, or a Nexus, and they’re going to have to transfer me to somebody who can help with that. One call, I get transferred four times, and I know for a fact that at least two of those transfers were to the wi-fi department. Meaning the wi-fi department sent me somewhere else (I think it was the Nexus department), and then somebody else sent me back. The rep doing the sending back apologizes and says something vague about them having trouble with their phone system. This must be true, because that call gets dropped while I’m waiting to talk to the wi-fi department again — and that is not the only time I get dropped, because I’m not calling Samsung eight times in one afternoon just for shits and giggles. I get dropped once while the initial rep is going through her opening spiel. I get dropped when I’m on hold. I get dropped when somebody picks me up from hold and asks what department I’m trying to reach. At no point can anybody give me the number of the department I’m supposed to be talking to, because apparently they don’t actually have the numbers; they only have a phone system they can use to transfer me.

I’m composing this post while I’m on hold — but not for the wi-fi department, or the Nexus department. I’m on hold waiting to tell Samsung that they have the shittiest customer service I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. I’ve been waiting to tell them this for forty minutes now, and nobody has picked up.

Basically, Samsung doesn’t give a fuck. I can’t take my device to someplace local to get it repaired, because it’s a tablet; apparently the only way I can get it fixed is to mail it to the manufacturer and wait for them to send it back. But I can’t even do that, because they can’t be bothered to meet the bare minimum standards of actually helping their customers.

I broke off writing this post because after forty-five minutes on hold, I finally got a competent customer service rep who neither attempted to transfer me nor dropped my call. She gave me a new ticket number and her extension, so that if I have to call back, I can (theoretically) get hold of her again and not be sent around the merry-go-round for the millionth time. I’m still waiting — yet again — for someone to set up whatever’s necessary to deal with the lack of model number, but I supplied my proof of purchase, so maybe this time it’ll work? We’ll see.

Not gonna lie, though. I’m not holding my breath.

The Cluster&#$@ of Xanth

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have described the Xanth series as somewhat puerile humorous fantasy that got kind of creepy about sexuality later on.

Now? I would describe it as somewhat puerile humorous fantasy that has had really awful attitudes about sexuality and gender baked into it from the start.

The change started with this post. If that isn’t enough, you can follow up with this tag, because she’s continued on into the later books (she’s partway through Castle Roogna now), giving me more than enough evidence to say this isn’t a fleeting problem. It’s pervasive. Xanth is horrible. In addition to the constant male gaze evaluating every female character (including human-animal hybrids) for their hotness or lack thereof, you have pretty women being stupid, ugly women being totally not worth anybody’s time, and the very few women who are both pretty and smart being untrustworthy schemers. You have women, countless women, who only exist to be used for men’s gratification. You have women’s protests against mistreatment being explicitly described as an act women practice to make themselves more attractive to men. You have marriage and raising a family being dreadful fates men are expected to run away from. You have men pretty much wanting to rape every woman they see, and being held up as wonderful paragons of morality when they refrain. You have a farce of a rape trial that is I guess supposed to be funny . . . somehow.

And that’s just Xanth. That isn’t even getting into his horror novel Firefly, which goes so far with the pedophilia that merely reading descriptions of the content (and the author’s justifications for same) has guaranteed I will never read anything written by Anthony ever again.

Sorry to rain on the parades of the people who remember the early Xanth books as being Not That Bad. They are. They really, really are. I mean, the original edition of A Spell for Chameleon contained the following passage (taken from that oh-so-funny mockery of a rape trial):

Bink felt sorry for his opposite. How could she avoid being seductive? She was a creature constructed for no other visible purpose than ra—than love.

Case closed.

Amazon is at it again

The one bright spot is, people are starting to notice.

In 2008, Amazon got into a pissing contest with Hachette, the smallest of the large publishers (and owners of Orbit, who published my first four novels). In 2010, it was Macmillan (owners of Tor, my current publisher). In 2012, Penguin. And now, in 2014, we’ve wrapped back around to Hachette. Books published by subsidaries of Hachette are currently shipping “in 2 to 5 weeks” — including Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, and In Ashes Lie. Is it because there’s a problem with Hachette? Are they not supplying stock to Amazon in a timely fashion?

Nope. It’s because Amazon is trying, once again, to use its market share to strong-arm publishers into accepting unfavorable terms. Unfavorable for the publishers, unfavorable for writers — and ultimately, unfavorable for readers.

This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s an ongoing pattern of behavior. It’s something people have been warning about for years, but the response has usually been that Amazon is your friend. They sell things cheaply and ship really fast (just don’t think about how they treat their employees), and hey, 70% royalties on ebooks! Except that Amazon is demonstrably willing to tank the customer experience if it will help them gain more power in the marketplace. And the more they control, the less friendly they become. They are the abusive boyfriend who systematically isolates you from everybody in your life and then, once you have nowhere else to turn, shows his true colors.

If we had better anti-trust legislation in this country, Amazon would have been stopped long before this. But we don’t, and they haven’t been.

Back when they pulled the buy buttons off Macmillan books as a “negotiating tool,” I removed the Amazon links from my website. (Mostly. Scanning the pages, I see I left the Book Depository there; I don’t know if they hadn’t yet been bought by Amazon at the time.) I’m going to go through and scrub the remainder, with two exceptions: Audible (also owned by Amazon, but they are the publisher of my audio editions) and Kindle Direct Publishing (for the BVC-published ebooks). Notice a pattern there? I’m leaving up the links where Amazon has enough power over me that I can’t just walk away from them. I don’t like it, but I don’t feel I can choose differently. More than half of my ebook sales come via Amazon, and there is no way to buy the audiobooks that doesn’t put money in their pocket.

But they don’t control everything, at least not yet. You can get my books from Barnes and Noble — ebook and print alike. They aren’t perfect, but they’re Amazon’s main competitor. Or you can buy from Powell’s. Or from IndieBound. Or Books-a-Million. Or Indigo, if you’re Canadian. You can also get my ebooks from Book View Cafe or Kobo (and by the way, if you’re the sort of person who’s motivated by Amazon’s “author-friendly” habit of paying a 70% royalty, note that Kobo pays the same, while BVC pays me a 95% royalty instead). Maybe it won’t be as convenient as Amazon; you won’t get free two-day shipping. But that convenience is the bait: they use it to shift more and more business into their hands, and then they use what they hold to change the market to benefit them.

It isn’t illegal. But it also isn’t something I care to support. There are alternatives, and I encourage you to use them.

Nine Princes Nowhere to Be Found

I am croggled to discover that Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber is apparently not available as an ebook (not commercially, anyway — my library seems to only have it in electronic format). Furthermore, if I wish to purchase the dead tree edition new, my only option seems to be buying an enormous honkin’ omnibus of all ten main novels.

I would welcome evidence that I am wrong about this, likely on account of searching when it is nearly 3 a.m. here and I need sleep. But if it is indeed as it appears: what the heck? Why has the rights-holder not made the book more widely available? This is not some obscure novel nobody’s ever heard of except academics and three Yuletide fans; it’s a reasonably well-known classic. I want to give the rights-holder money, whoever they are. But they are making it annoying to do so. I don’t want a giant omnibus; I want the instant gratification of an ebook, which I can take with me to Wiscon, and then if I like the first one I’ll probably buy it and the rest in paper. I do not want to carry a brick on the plane.

Grrr. Argh.

world’s worst ad

I play solitaire a lot on my tablet, and there’s a banner add that has been popping up on it lately which is, I think, the worst ad I’ve ever seen.

It flashes between a white bar with black text and a black bar with white text. And I do mean flashes — very nearly at the level of “isn’t there something about this kind of stimulus causing epileptic seizures?” It is phenomenally distracting. Good ad, right? Nope — because it is so. bloody. annoying. that I might light my hair on fire before voluntarily tapping it. (Nor is it in a location where I’m likely to tap it by accident.) And if you’re thinking that even annoyance-publicity is still publicity, and they’re at least getting their product into my head . . .

. . . the text of the banner is “(1) Free Game.”

That’s it. No brand name. No hint of what type of game it is. No image I might recognize if I see it again later in a less annoying context. Just a seizure-inducing, content-less banner which is so obnoxious, it’s giving me a strong inclination to stop playing solitaire entirely, so I’ll never have to see it again. Which is about as profound of an advertising failure as I can imagine.

What were they thinking?

More reasons to hate Google Hangouts

Dear Google,

I’m so glad you decided to link all of my settings to my Google account, rather than to device on which I’m using that account. Because of your decision, I don’t get to say that I would like chat notifications on my tablet, but not on my phone. I either get notifications in both places, or in neither. This is perfect! I get to choose between never seeing chat messages unless I’m on my laptop (where I use Pidgin, a wonderful program that does all the things Hangouts won’t), or having my phone pester me with pinging and buzzing every single time somebody sends me a chat message. Which is fabulous when I’m, y’know, in a public place.

This is such a brilliant move on your part. Even better than that time you decided to take away the nice Talk app and replace it with Hangouts, where I don’t get to see whether somebody’s status is Active or Away or Do Not Disturb. I just love having companies strip away utility and force me into some marketer’s pre-determined idea of how I’m going to use the program, rather than the way I was using the program. You’re doing a bang-up job of understanding your audience; if you didn’t have such a firm grasp of what we wanted, you wouldn’t be so successful at giving us the exact opposite.

No love,

Jim Hines on Correia and MacFarlane

So, there’s this.

As I said in the comments on Jim’s LJ, it took me a while to read the post, not because it’s long (though it is) but because my AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH meter kept maxing out and I would have to go away and breathe for a while before I could read any more.

I just . . . ye gods and little fishies. If you’re trying to respond to a piece on gender, and right up front you tell everybody that you’re assuming the person you’re responding to is a man and you can’t be bothered to check and see whether you’re right — even though the bio is right there at the bottom of the page, waiting to answer your question — then that’s pretty much a red flag of “Nobody should bother to listen to me on this topic.”

Because you just reinforced MacFarlane’s point. Yes, sure, she’s talking about the default of non-binary gender — but sweet baby Jesus, if we can’t even get past the default of male gender, then the problem you’re trying to dismiss is even bigger than she’s saying. Correia makes it clear, over and over again, that he is uninterested in putting anything other than the straight white male default into his stories unless there’s a “reason” for it. And apparently, “people like that exist and would like to read stories in which they exist” is not a reason. Their identities have to be plot-relevant, yo, or it’s back to the straight white men (because that isn’t a political act at all, natch). Doing anything else will make science fiction BORING and then people will STOP READING IT and that’s why the genre is DYING. Because the way to make it thrive is to cater to the comfort zone of straight white male gun-loving conservatives: only non-binary people want to read about non-binary people, and presumably only black people want to read about black people, etc, so let’s stick with what’s safe, shall we?

I mean, sure, there’s money to be had in catering to that demographic. Correia is probably not wrong that he makes more money from his writing than MacFarlane does (though I don’t agree with the follow-on implication that this makes him right and him her wrong). But the notion that the future of the genre depends on not rocking the boat? That including the full range of human diversity is automatically a MESSAGE — but restricting that diversity is neutral and value-free?

Bull. Shit.

Take care in reading the comments on Hines’ site. He says they’ve been “civil,” but there are a lot of Correia’s fanboys in there, waving the flag of their ignorance on matters of sex and gender and so forth, and straying very close to the border of getting banned.