We rented some goats at work to help clear the grass.
‘Some’ being that many. One of them is a baby!
Here is an open thread to disengage from the news of the day, and be like the goats.
Major Major began writing at Balloon Juice in 2018.
Several somebodies here recommended Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief to me recently. I just finished it, and–thanks! Just what I needed. I especially liked the artful lack of exposition, which always stands out in a genre known for the opposite.
But it got me thinking about doing another book recommendation thread. I think this Saturday seems good. There was a suggestion to focus on a narrow genre, and was wondering if anybody had thoughts. Thoughts?
The Quantum Thief also got me thinking about Cowboy Bebop, probably due to the preponderance of artful Martian capers. I kept hearing this song in my head.
Thanks for reading. You may now have a picture of Samwise, who likes to sit on rectangles.
p.s. Anybody pick up Battle for Azeroth?
John Rogers is a Friend of the Blog, co-originator of the “27%” crazification factor, and creator of (among other things) the show Leverage (2008-2012). For those who don’t know, Leverage is about a team of grifters and thieves who turn their considerable talents to defrauding corporate criminals. (It’s fun, good-hearted, and a bit silly; you should watch it!).
Leverage first aired when I was twenty-three and fresh off working for the first Obama campaign. Well, being young and jobless in that era, I had lots of free time to read about politics and watch television. I can’t remember if the plots seemed ridiculous to me at first or not. Soon enough, though, I knew that only half the show was unrealistic. White-collar crime really is as widespread and banally-accepted as the show portrays. But, of course, there’s no strike-team of good guys stealing the money back.
Anyway, I saw this and figured I would share:
1/ The one thing gratifying about the publicity around Rep. Collins insider trading & the massive fraud/corruption of Trump and his Cabinet members, is that the insane levels of unprosecuted white collar crime we found while writing LEVERAGE are entering public consciousness
— John Rogers (@jonrog1) August 11, 2018
3/ If a “black market economy” is an economy that exists around skirting the law, then the entire economy is a black market economy. That research was an unending parade of sociopaths made successful in a system optimized for them.
— John Rogers (@jonrog1) August 11, 2018
5/ Even the creation of the phrase “white collar”, rather than the more useful comparison of “systematized rather than spontaneous theft” is a pillar of this worldview.
— John Rogers (@jonrog1) August 11, 2018
6/ tl:dr It’s good a show ends when the phrase “cleansing white fire” is the first thought of your day, every day, when you wake up.
— John Rogers (@jonrog1) August 11, 2018
Leverage is off Netflix and Hulu right now, or I’d fire it up… There is also a tabletop RPG version I’ve always wanted to try.
I put the remember-me checkbox back on the desktop site*, so now you have to humor me. ?
*(If you would like to use the remember-me checkbox on your mobile device, you’ll have to scroll all the way down and request the desktop site.)
This caught my eye while browsing the local news: Why Do San Francisco Psychics Need Permits From the Police?
Fortunetelling isn’t just mentioned in the San Francisco police code. It gets its own section — starting with a rundown of all 70 things SFPD counts as fortunetelling.
This includes: clairvoyance, cartomancy, phrenology, tea leaves, tarot cards, coffee grounds, crystal gazing, astrology, palmistry, telepathy, and placing or removing curses.
“Fortunetelling,” the police code reads, “shall also include pretending to perform these actions.”[…]
The application process for a San Francisco fortunetelling permit involves a background check, fingerprinting and even a public hearing. The fees are just under $350 — more than a permit for a masseuse, but less than one for a tow operator or walking-tour guide.
Unlike other Bay Area cities that require fortuneteller permits but don’t explain why, like Benicia and Lafayette, San Francisco says these permits are to help fight fraud. The police code says the regulations should “protect the public by preventing people who have been charged with deceptive practices from having easy access to persons who may be vulnerable to fraud or confidence games.”
Of course, when it comes to fortunetelling, the very notion of fraud is a subjective one.
Well, as long as it helps.
The S.F. District Attorney’s Office has received zero complaints in the last couple of years. The SFPD wasn’t able to say how many reports it has received about this kind of fraud recently, because fortunetelling fraud is not a unique category of crime it tracks.
Next, a shameless plug! Speaking of urbanite occultists, my new short story is now available for free online if you’d like to read it.
Last night, Murray called with another bunch of prophecies, so Yonatan Kaplan hasn’t slept yet. He stayed up preparing dossiers on some doomed socialites instead. Now it’s a little after dawn, Friday morning, and he’s standing in line outside Fox’s Bagels with a thermos and a tote bag. He’s shaky from too much caffeine and too little sleep, but he doesn’t regret it. The socialites will die this weekend, according to Murray, and Murray’s got a good track record. When they do die, the obituary writers will call the Morgue—The Pre-Morgue Clipping Service, Yonatan’s business—to buy the dossiers, expecting the usual thoughtfulness and prescience. So it had been best to begin the work immediately.
The line shortens when a gaggle of tourists leaves Fox’s. Yonatan steps forward, fills his thermos lid with hot tea, and covers a yawn with the hand still holding the thermos. He thinks back to Murray’s sneering tone when he ‘apologized’ for calling so late, his fake sadness that Yonatan would stay up all night working. It doesn’t matter if Murray made a lucky guess or if it was knowledge from Murray’s divine gift—either way, it’s rude to mock a man for doing his job. Yonatan takes a big drink of tea and frowns. Fucking prophets. They’re nothing like what you read about.
Extremely loosely inspired by an exchange between NotMax and BillinGlendaleCA, as I recall. Share and enjoy, if you like.
A very special cat turned four today. 8/8/18 is an auspicious date, at least according to Chinese numerology, so maybe this means that Samwise’s upcoming year will be his best one yet.
We got him before he was one, from some lovely people who nevertheless should not have adopted a kitten. This was what he looked like when they got him:
As far as I know that is the oldest picture of Samwise. By contrast, here he is last fall, on the top of the same structure:
He spent most of his day lazing around the house and trying to get up on my lap while I worked. At first I thought it was because he loved me, but it turned out he’d just detected a twist-tie hiding on the desk, and wanted to play with it. Although he then spent some time lying in front of my monitor, pawing at the HDMI cable, so maybe he wanted toys and attention.
Every year, my husband jokes that we should get Samwise a live mouse for his birthday, so he can unlock his true potential. I settled for a special can of duck pâté from the pet food store across the street. There’s no knowing what Sam might do once he developed a taste for fresh mammal blood, after all.
One last picture, from this afternoon, below the fold.
I figured we could use a fresh thread.
I’m headed to New York right now, sort of. My flight is delayed so I’m writing this from the terminal. So here is some miscellany. First, and relevant to me, something that our own Mr. Anderson retweeted.
To all of the haters that said this day would never come pic.twitter.com/BbJ45MZ4Fw
— Ruth Ann Crystal, MD (@CatchTheBaby) August 4, 2018
Second, I picked up an anthology of classic apocalyptic short fiction from the library (This Way to the End Times, ed. Robert Silverberg). It is a fun/dispiriting read. I thought you would all enjoy this striking description from The New Atlantis by Ursula K. LeGuin (1975).
The six o’clock All-American Broadcasting Company news announcer announced that peace was at hand in Uruguay, the president’s confidential aide having been seen to smile at a passing blonde as he left the 613th day of the secret negotiations in a villa outside Katmandu. The war in Liberia was going well; the enemy said they had shot down seventeen American planes but the Pentagon said we had shot down twenty-two enemy planes, and the capital city — I forget its name, but it hasn’t been inhabitable for seven years anyway — was on the verge of being recaptured by the forces of freedom. The police action in Arizona was also successful. The Neo-Birch insurgents in Phoenix could not hold out much longer against the massed might of the American army and air force, since their underground supply of small tactical nukes from the Weathermen in Los Angeles had been cut off. Then there was an advertisement for Fed-Cred cards, and a commercial for the Supreme Court: “Take your legal troubles to the Nine Wise Men!” Then there was something about why tariffs had gone up, and a report from the stock market, which had just closed at over two thousand, and a commercial for U.S. Government canned water, with a catchy little tune: “Don’t be sorry when you drink/It’s not as healthy as you think/Don’t you think you really ought to/Drink coo-ool, puu-uure U.S.G. water?” — with three sopranos in close harmony on the last line.[…]
The news also said that they plan to halt the tidal waves in Florida by dropping nuclear bombs where Miami was. Then they will reattach Florida to the mainland with landfill. They are already advertising real estate for housing developments on the landfill.
Third, Samwise. He took a liking to my backpack while I was packing last night. Perhaps he wanted the pin, but, having cat feet, had to settle for being near it.
(Yes, I own an Ikea futon.)
Hope everybody has a good Pacific Daylight Time afternoon!
I suppose now’s as good a time as any for an open thread.
I had a bit of a rough day. Nothing in particular happened; I was just exhausted the whole time. Well–the three-hour meeting probably didn’t help.
Anywho. On the train ride home, I saw a tweet that reminded me of Cole’s Sesame Street thread from yesterday:
my favorite thing about Sesame Street is that everyone’s more concerned about Oscar being a grouch than the fact a vampire lives there
— Reverend Scott (@Reverend_Scott) August 1, 2018
…which reminded that I had some quality grimdark cat content to share…
Honour the days to come when man is but a memory. I’m eagerly awaiting those days of eternal void. pic.twitter.com/HTI61WB2EV
— Black Metal Cats (@evilbmcats) August 1, 2018
…and wouldn’t you know it, later in the evening, I had a nice photoshoot with a similar-looking cat:
The one okay part of today, other than this lovely picture, is that I am now a published fantasy author. The magazine responsible is available here; mine is the first story. It will be available free online starting Friday. (Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll find a way to work it into a post then too.)
Caption contest?? And open thread!
When I was a kid, we got a big kick out of the McDonald’s Monopoly game. You know, where little plastic tags are on the packaging, and when you peel them off, there’s Monopoly pieces or instant-win codes on them? Anyway. My older brother was convinced that it was a scam, that all of the big-ticket winners were fakes. McDonald’s put them there, the story went, to trick people into thinking that winning was possible.
As it turns out, from about 1995-2000, almost all of the big-ticket winners were fakes, but they weren’t put there by McDonald’s. The chief of security at the company that printed the tags was stealing them, and laundering them through dozens of associates. The Daily Beast has a crazy long-read up detailing the rise and fall of said security chief, the real Hamburglar, Jerry Jacobson.
Before each bi-annual game, Jacobson arrived at the drab Dittler Brothers’ office at 5 a.m to observe their Omega III supercomputer making the McDonald’s prize draw. He watched the printing presses that roared for 24 hours a day for three months, using 100 railroad cars of paper to print half a billion game pieces. . . Jacobson observed technicians applying the “INSTANT WINNER!” stamp to blank game pieces, and pioneered random watermarks that deterred counterfeiters. He locked the winning pieces in a vault behind coded keypads and dual-entry combination locks. It was Jacobson who personally scissored out the high-value game pieces and slipped them into envelopes, before sealing each corner with a tamper-proof metallic sticker. In a secret vest, of his invention, Jacobson transported the winning pieces to McDonald’s packaging factories across the country.[…]
The 1980s was America’s “decade of greed,” and it was Jacobson’s job to create instant millionaires. Playing God was intoxicating, as was holding a stranger’s fate in the palm of his hands. . . It was a thrill to protect the Monopoly promotion, and only a natural part of his job to consider the system’s fallibilities. But soon the temptation to steal had become irresistible.
One day in 1989, at a family gathering in Miami, Jacobson slipped his step-brother, Marvin Braun, a game piece worth $25,000. “I don’t know if I just wanted to show him I could do something, or bragging,” Jacobson later admitted, but he just needed “to see if I could do it.”[…]
The judge sent him to jail for 37 months. He did not pass go.
Apparently the reason this didn’t capture our imagination as the White Collar Trial of the Century is that the trial began on September 10, 2001.
It’s well worth a read, if you’re looking for something to pass the time in what’s left of your evening. Me, I have a Scalzi out from the library I need to tend to. Open thread!
Hello and welcome to Recommended Reading, a new twice-monthly feature where we discuss books that we like, and offer suggestions to others about books that we think they might like.
Today, I would like to say a little something about the Eisner-award-winning comic epic Bone.
Published in installments from 1991 to 2004, Bone is now available in a single 1,332-page volume. It tells the story of the Bone cousins, three Pogo-esque slapstick scam artists who get run out of Boneville. They become separated and lost in a mysterious valley where, as it turns out, a high-fantasy epic war is brewing. There ensues love and hate, laughter and tears, unnecessarily-long homages to Moby-Dick, and stupid, stupid rat creatures!
This is the graphic novel I recommend to people who are looking to get into graphic novels.
It’s approachable because it rests on the familiar elements of epic fantasy and the Sunday funnies. There’s obviously much to love if you are already a fan of the form, too. The art is both functional and stunning. Finally, it contains my favorite dragon: The Great Red Dragon, a chainsmoking, world-weary thing with puffball ear fringe.
The overall feel will be familiar to fans of Terry Pratchett. 11/10 highly recommended please read.
We also have a special guest recommender today, one of the only other Juicers known to have met Samwise–ruemara!.
- Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia – a fairly amazing and complex heroes journey, see review here
- The Last Policeman – the only police book I want to see made into a series, review here
- Chew, the graphic novels – weird, gruesome yet somehow fun, graphic novel series about Tony Chew, a cibopath. That means, “gets psychic flash on whatever he eats”. Yeah, a steak can be pretty horrible for him. No posted review for the graphic novels, but here’s a link.
What books are you bursting at the seams to share? Or maybe you’re looking for something to read–please ask, the hive-mind would be happy to help!
(If you go looking for any of these books on Amazon, remember to click through the Balloon-Juice affiliate link to get there.)
First a quick update about the Carr Fire in Northern California. It’s still spreading, and they’ve sent the Global SuperTanker–the world’s largest firefighting airplane–to help fight the ‘absolutely terrifying’ ‘fire tornadoes.’
So stay safe, everybody up North from me. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with evacuating, even if it’s just out of an abundance of caution.
Now then. Samwise the Brave has fallen asleep. Without his supervision, us hoomans are free to do as we please. Open thread.
Hello, my pseudonym is Major Major Major Major, and I am, apparently, a blogger.
As many of you already know, I’m a prolific commenter here. (For those who didn’t know that, now you do.) Recent-ish-ly, I’ve been working with Alain on various improvements to the site. These efforts kept hitting the same snag: developing anything for a system you don’t have access to is terrible. So Alain gave me the keys to the production server. Somebody had the bright idea to give me the keys to WordPress too, so here we are.
I know I’m supposed to say something snarky here, but I really do think it’s kind of an honor, so hey, thanks!
Now. Before you complain about the site in the comments, let me say that we are aware there are many issues. We might even be aware of yours! But BJ is nobody’s full-time job, so, well, you know how triage works.
As for posting, I’m going to keep that light. As Alain mentioned, I’d like to start a twice-monthly series where we can all talk about good books to read. I may do the first one on Sunday. If there’s interest, I may also start a feature where we can talk about video games. Let me know. Finally, I may jump in with a west coast late night open thread on evenings where there’s a need.
Bio and pet pics below the fold…
I’m a web developer in San Francisco with an enormous cat named Samwise and a husband named something else. Generationally, I’m an early millennial, which basically means I’m a digital native but I don’t understand Snapchat. I am on Twitter though, so if that’s your thing, feel free to follow me. It’s mostly art and nerd humor, programming stuff, and the expected politics of a neoliberal shill.
(Speaking of my Twitter account, my identity is obviously not a secret, but my name is very rare and I ask that you not use it here in text.)
I am also apparently a writer, in the sense that somebody recently paid me for a short story, which comes out next Friday. I’m also working on my third novel, which is the first good one I’ve written.
Without further ado: Samwise!