Thursday, August 17th, 2017 10:45 am
Super-nervous about chapter six (just posted).

I always worry about tearing it, you know? In the showbiz sense. Breaking credibility, within a context, even if that context is pretty incredible (in the sense of not credible) to begin with, like Overwatch. And I kind of feel like I'm dancing up to that line with that chapter, with Venom as a character.

If people make it through Terrifying in Flight, I think chapter seven ("Is It Good Enough For You, Still?") will clarify some things. Angela thought, in chapter six, "that's a lie," and she was correct. But I can't put that in front of chapter six, I can't say, "trust me here," because, well, y'can't do that, it doesn't make sense.

Questions of identity float around in Old Soldiers, and this is part of that arc, and and and and.

Scary.
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 10:36 am

[AO3 link]

"Letting us take the first shot, then?" Gabriel Reyes asked Venom, eyeing the new intel sent along on sideband. "We got Sombra's location reports - thank you."

The Talon assassin nodded. "Yeh. I..." she frowned. "Gabe, luv, I'm gonna get this out there. I voted no. But I lost, so I'll go along."

"I appreciate that." Reyes gave Oxton a considering look. "You sure, though? The way you stormed out..."

The assassin nodded. "I've got my reasons, and I've made my promises - to Amélie - and I keep 'em." Just ask G/C Henderson, she thought, Oh wait, you can't, he's dead. The memory made her smile, just a little. Small but lasting comforts.

"Glad to hear it. Thank you," replied the tactical advisor. Promises to the Widowmaker? That'd do it. "We collectively - all of us at Overwatch, Tracer possibly excepted - want to bring him to justice, intact. Not just have him disappear again."

Lena "Venom" Oxton snorted, a little. "Might be right about Tracer. But for us - well, it's better than nothing."

Reyes breathed out. Good. "I'm putting together some plans, based upon your intel - and ours." He brought his right hand to his chin, thoughtfully. "I just wish we had a sniper. Closest we've got is Mei, and she's good with that ice pistol of hers, but it's not the same thing."

Venom thought about the problem, and a solution. Would Amélie be okay with it? Yes, she thought so. With the right conditions attached. Maybe even... proud. Let's float it. "You might. Have a sniper, I mean."

Gabriel tilted his head and stared into the screen. "...Amélie's suddenly willing to work with me?"

"No," Venom said. "But I am."

"Since when are you a sniper?"

Another snort. "C'mon, mate, how long have I been with the world's best sniper? Like I've told Winston - she teaches me her tricks."

"I can't see how you have the patience for it. How good are you?"

"I'm good, mate. Not Amélie good, but... good. Very good."

Gabe looked dubiously at her, through the screen. "How very good?"

Venom thought about it. "I keep a list of better snipers than me, right? Amélie's on top, of course; Zhanna Orlov's below her, Shimada Hanzo a few steps down, all that."

She's good enough to keep that list? he thought. But aloud, he kept it to, "Sure."

"Everyone on that list keeps a list like it. Amélie's still on top, but theirs has a question mark, down... maybe below number ten? But on the list."

"And that's you?"

Venom smiled. "Can't confirm that, luv. But."

"You willing to demonstrate that at the embassy?"

"Maybe. There's conditions." She looked thoughtful, glancing down to the side. "I have to check with Amélie. She might veto this."

"Why?"

"Reasons."

Gabriel nodded. Talon secret tech, or something like it. Fair enough. "Let me know. It sure would be nice to have a sniper available."

"Aye aye."

-----

Two days later, Tracer appeared on the balcony outside Winston's office, in the usual tangerine and white. She waved towards the glass door, and Winston started to let her in, then stopped, blinked, and stepped back.

"Honest, luv, it's me," came her voice through the door speaker. "Horizon Angle Delta Vector Seventeen Nine Seven Nine Banana Clown."

"Pictograph?"

"Waves."

The gorilla opened the door, still wary, and Lena Oxton stepped inside out of the sunlight. In the office, she looked less blue around the edges, thanks to the warm lighting overhead, but the tint was still there, and her goggles had a fleet of extra red eyes, in mobile plates, along the sides and top. "I wanted to arrive dressed as Tracer, so's nobody'd notice, but..." She pressed buttons on her grapple, now equipped with familiar and frightening extras, and her suit changed to black and green. "Mockingbird reporting for sniper duty."

"Lena, what did you do?!"

She smiled in a broad way, most unlike her spider, and most like herself. It helped, a little. "Nothin' permanent. I swear. This is just what I look like when I'm a sniper."

Gabriel and Angela came up the stairs to the ambassador's office, and froze in their tracks at Winston and Lena. Angela shrieked a little, and Gabriel shuddered. "That... that is... deeply disturbing. Lena, are you still you?" asked the doctor.

Gold-tinted eyes - regular brown still visible underneath, if you looked closely - darted to Dr. Ziegler. "Guess I shoulda warned ya, huh? Yeh, it's still me in here." Her voice was the slightest bit slower and lower than usual, but clearly still hers.

"What have you done to yourself?!" Angela leaned forward, and Mockingbird stepped fluidly back, with an ah-ah-ah finger motion. "Sorry, doc, no scans. That's the rule if I'm gonna be here like this."

"I wasn't going to. Is it, is it..."

"Permanent? Nah. Nothin' to it, really. Some drugs, some other tricks."

That's a lie, thought the doctor. "Why?!"

"All the sniper traits. Night distance vision. Stability, in motion. Patience - well, for me, anyway. Stillness, too - I can stop my heart for three minutes in this mode and be just fine. But I keep my twitch reflex, and the energy I store up is barmy! I won't need to eat for four days. Which is good," she joked, "'cause don't ask me to read a menu in the dark right now."

Gabriel shook his head back and forth. "Your whole organisation is not right in the brain."

Mockingbird laughed, a very Tracer-like laugh, and that, too, helped. "When we're on the range, I'm gonna be even scarier. I'll ramp down my emotions s'more and turn the spider all the way up." She brought up her vizor's extensions, and her goggles' primary field went dark red.

Winston reached out to her, without words, and she took his hand. "Or maybe I won't." She reset the vizor to standard mode. "Didn't think you'd be this fruck out, big guy. It's okay, honest."

"You weren't here when Amélie killed Gérard, you don't..." He felt her hand. "You're cool to the touch," he said, quietly.

"Not that cool. Just enough to avoid bein' picked up on infrared. Won't fool the best models, but it helps."

"Please say you aren't turning into Amélie. I... I don't want you turning into Amélie."

Mockingbird snickered, saying, "Well, they do say married couples start to look alike," and activated the vizor again.

"Lena, no! Be serious! I don't want to lose you."

She smiled, waved the magnifiers away, and held her friend's hand against her face. "Aw, luv, no. I like who I am. This is fun, but not... as fun. It'll all go away later. But right now, you need a sniper." She lowered his hand, and patted his shoulder. "I can shed most of this in about an hour, if I really need to."

"That's all it takes?" asked the Swiss doctor.

"For me? Yeh, in an emergency. I can throw 'bout half of it off in under a minute, if I really gotta - but it hurts like the dickens."

Gabriel shook his head. Crazy people, Talon - all of 'em. "Where's your rifle?"

Mockingbird, it seemed, had Lena Oxton's famous half-grin, and she flashed it, and flipped her pistols. "Right here." She popped them together, they locked, and the barrel extended. From a pouch, she pulled out a surprisingly conventional-looking scope, which snapped right on top. "But: ground rules. One: no scans. Sorry, doc. Two: I'm not Tracer, I'm Mockingbird. Stick to it, I mean it. No "Lena," no "Tracer," not outside this office. Three: nobody, and I mean nobody, touches my tech but me. Anyone does, I walk away completely, and for good. No more Mockingbird, and" - she said this slowly, and clearly - "no. more. Tracer. either."

She waited a moment to make sure all that had sunk in. "These are the terms. Otherwise, I leave now, no harm done, and Tracer comes back tomorrow wondering if she missed anything. Agreed?"

"Le... Mockingbird, this cannot be good for you," said Angela. "I promise, just a circulatory..."

"No," the sniper said firmly. "None."

The doctor sighed. "You are not the only one here who experiments with her body in extreme ways. You are stressing it more than I think you know. I want to help."

"We do this before breakfast, luv. But, y'know, if you ever want to switch teams, you could do all the scans you..."

"I don't think so," the doctor interrupted. "But how am I going to know how to treat you in the field, if necessary?"

Mockingbird tipped her head, and smiled. "I'll give you this." She held up a small memory card. "Complete treatment protocols for anything that has to happen faster than a Talon extraction team can reach me. You can have it once everything's settled."

"I insist that I be allowed to practice these protocols. At least the physicality of them. In battle," she did not really have to say, "it matters."

"Ah, yeah! As long as your nanos aren't taking samples, that's fine."

"And may I please, at least, examine you later? When this is over? To be sure you've handled this well? Your own doctors may want that data."

Mockingbird thought about it. The compassion was genuine, she was pretty sure, but so was the desperate curiosity to know how all this worked. There would be things for her to find, later, but little she wouldn't've had a chance to see before, and she'd be looking in all the wrong places... good enough, she decided. "They'll already have it, but - deal."

"Thank you." The doctor looked a little bit relieved, if still more than a little concerned. "I accept."

"Winston? How 'bout it?"

"Gabriel, are you willing to work under these conditions?"

The former Blackwatch head nodded. "I've worked under way worse than this. I'm good. Uh, I... accept the terms?"

"Oh, right," said the assassin, "This has to be for the whole organisation." She switched to Tracer colours, and said, "On behalf of Overwatch, I, Lena "Tracer" Oxton, agree to the terms of Mockingbird's service," before switching back. "Sounds like a bloody software license, don't it? That just leaves you, Winston. And Mei, but she's not here yet."

"I don't like it," said the gorilla. "But... deal. No scans, no handling, no anything."

Mockingbird smiled. "Brilliant!" She tossed Angela the memory card. "Have fun with that. The rest of us - let's go shoot some wings off mosquitoes!"

-----

"You know, as a sniper, I'll be going for the head shot," Mockingbird said over Overwatch comms, launching herself high into the air with her grapple. They'd started at the indoor range, but she got bored with 50 metre shooting and started coming up with creative ways to undo target clips with bullets, and the army's outdoor range was much more interesting. Still carried by momentum on the way up, she twisted left, and took the head off the first target dummy.

"We've been over this," responded Gabriel, watching as she took the head off a second target on the way down, before even landing on her cliffside perch. "We want him alive." He took notes that started with 'Terrifying in flight.'

"And we want him dead," she retorted. "I want him dead. Don't get me wrong, Gabe, I'm here, I'm goin' along with your plan, but alive's not the sniper's job." From that upper perch, she hit three for four on moving ground targets. Two headshots, one ricochet shot that missed, a follow-up direct shot leaving a grazed neck. That last one would walk away, with medical aid. "Damn."

'Never really stops moving,' the new Overwatch tactics expert added to his notes. 'Highly mobile.' "We just want the tactical visor gone."

She spun around from her nest and ticked a faceplate off the sixth target dummy. "And that's a headshot."

"Tracer, just..."

"Tracer's not here, luv."

"Mockingbird."

"Hiya!" She triggered reload, and launched herself to the second perch. He noted she wasn't jinking at all, no teleports, no rewinds, just running, moving with the grapple, and nothing else. Still all about movement, though.

Bang, target down. "No additional shots after the visor's gone." He could almost feel her dirty look from the ground. Bang, another ricochet shot, target missed.

She landed, swore, and took a second shot on the second target, moving within her section's perch point for a direct shot, taking the dummy down. "Not even to save another agent?" She ran a strafe pattern against moving dummies, bang, bang, bang. Four for three, including a domino shot. All perfect.

Jesus, she's good, Gabriel thought. Maybe not Amari good, those ricochet shots aren't working, but... Aloud, he said, "Except to save another agent."

"Short day for me, then." Another reload, and she launched herself into the air, diving to the final shooting perch. Gabriel surprised her with three airborne targets. Bang, down, bang, down, bang, bang, down. "Seems a shame if I have to get all gussied up." She landed and rolled to the third sighting point.

"A short day would be very, very good indeed."

Three fast targets, running along the ground, zagging, all with faceplates - the most human of them all. Three shots, three faceplates off, all targets down. "My way would be even shorter."

"Mockingbird. Please. I know what you are. Don't make it harder."

Lena Oxton breathed in, carefully. She wondered, occasionally, how long she could make this Talon-Overwatch joint arrangement last, and this was one of those times. It's for the best, she reminded herself. If, occasionally, a right pain in the arse. "Sorry, Gabe. I'm workin' so hard to remind everyone it's me in here, maybe I overdid it a bit. Is that it for the first round?"

"Yeah, that's the first set. What'd you think?"

"I liked the surprise skeet, that was fun! But I was sloppy. I can do better, if I drop the banter. And nothin' returned fire!"

"This is a target range, not a combat simulator, what'd you expect?"

"Might fix that."

"If we had the money. You're supposed to know that."

"Maybe Tracer's supposed to know that - I'm not."

Right, he thought. "Mockingbird, secure weapon, and return to start. We'll reset the range for another round."

"Gotcha!"

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 09:20 am
I thought of an easier way to explain why the eclipse shadow travels west to east, even though the moon travels east to west through the sky.

First, here's the general picture from the perspective of the sun, when looking down at the solar plane from above:
The earth revolves around the sun in a counter-clockwise direction, completing a full circuit about every 365 days.
The moon revolves around the earth in a counter-clockwise direction, completing a full circuit about every 28 days.
The earth rotates around its own axis in a counter-clockwise direction, completing a full turn every 24 hours.

Here's the general picture from the perspective of a spot on the earth at the equator, when looking up at the sky:
The sun revolves around the earth in an east to west direction, completing a full circuit every 24 hours.
The moon revolves around the earth in an east to west direction, completing a full circuit about every 24.5 hours (I hope I calcuated that right)

Now to explain why the solar eclipse shadow goes west to east:

Imagine you are standing on the north side of an east-west street, facing south.
The moon is a person walking on that street from east to west.
The sun is another person walking on that street from east to west, except that they are walking slightly faster than the moon, and emitting a bright light.


When the sun is still a fair bit behind the moon, the shadow that is cast from the moon due to the sun's light will point towards the west.
As the sun starts overtaking the moon, walking behind the moon compared to the observer, the shadow that is cast points towards west-northwest.
As the sun continues passing behind the moon, that shadow changes direction, towards to the northwest, then north, then northeast, then east-northeast.
So even though both the sun and moon are going east-to-west, the shadow goes west-to-east.

Maybe that is totally obvious to other people? I mean, it seems pretty obvious to myself now that I've explained it.

.

It's actually more complicated than that, of course.

The sun's path does go from east to west rather consistently, even though during the summer, the path is higher in the sky (northeast -> northwest) than during winter (southeast -> southwest).

But the moon's path is more dynamic, as it doesn't revolve in the plane of the equator. It may rise in the southeast and set in the northwest. Or it may rise in the northeast and set in the southwest. (right? I haven't ever really paid much attention to the moon's path, but I must have learned that somewhere.)

Because of that, based on the images I've seen, instead of the moon crossing the sun from right to left, during this eclipse, it will cross it from lower right towards the upper left.

So in the above example, the moon would be on a different street, at an angle to the other street, and the streets would happen to cross each other right at the point where the sun was walking behind the moon.
(although what angles the streets need to be at, and which direction the moon is going on its own street is a bit difficult for me to visualize right now.)
..

I guess it's time to create a new eclipse tag for all these entries, and to rename the eclipse tag I used on a single other post in reference to the software called "Eclipse".
Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 09:46 pm
There is a kind of shot - a trick shot, really - called a domino shot. It's where you hit two targets with a single bullet.

I'd noticed in Annabots that I seemed to be getting some double-kills with single shots, and poking around, I'm under the impression that domino shots are actually a thing in-game.

I think I got one yesterday. Temple of Anubus, on offence, second point, I'm hanging out on my favourite perch, shooting onto the point, really kind of waiting for my team to get back out there as we'd captured part of the point but then got stomped.

I see some movement on the point, and I fire one shot in - Double kill.

I think maybe I got my first domino shot in quickplay.
Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 09:19 pm
I haven't realised how much I've been missing weightlifting. I mean, sure, it's nice enough while you're doing it, but for just hours after you just feel like unf. Or at least I do. Love it.

A couple of days ago, I was talking offline about how I'm improving as a Widowmaker, but I'm not able to shift a game the way I can by showing up as Tracer or D.va? Today I did it.

Dorado, on attack, started as Tracer. They weren't ready for a Tracer at my grade, and we charged pretty well for the first 95% of the first leg, 'till they figured out I was the problem, then we still managed to nudge it to the first objective before we totally got shut down.

So I switched to D.va, and they weren't expecting a D.va of that grade either, but once again, figured out who to focus on, and we charged for 95% and then had to struggle for the last bit, and I brought it home nudge and boop at a time.

But that was it, right? They brought out a Bastion, and D.va's not a good counter to Bastion, and I think they must've swapped another hero, because they were seriously pushing us back to the third spawn point, and I'm thinking, "...I... I really feel like I need to bring out Widowmaker here. I really do."

And so I said fukkit, I did. And started knocking out the Bastion over and over and an eight-person kill-streak later, we're 95% of the way to the third and final point.

Which is, again, when they figure out where I went and started hardcore targeting me and we lost. Plus, indoors on the third stage of Dorado is a terrible, terrible place for Widowmaker, so what did you expect, really? But while we were outside, I was an unstoppable killing machine as Widowmaker, and for the third time, shifted a match from "hopeless" to "edge of victory."

I have no illusions about being able to do it regularly - yet - with Widowmaker. My aim is still super-spotty (tho' the time I'm putting in on Annabots is clearly helping across all heroes) and I don't know all the places to be and not be. But I have now done it, once.

Progress.
Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 10:13 pm
The local news mentioned that the downtown population could double to a million people, from all the people coming here for the total eclipse. And that cell phone service may be affected, due to bandwidth problems from all the extra people. That's something that wouldn't have occurred to me. They advise people to text instead of calling, to save bandwidth.

.

One thing I'm curious about is whether during totality, it will be dark like during the middle of night, or only somewhat dark like when the sun has just dipped below the horizon at dusk, or if it won't even be as dark as that.

I could look it up. But that would be like watching spoilers :-)

I wonder if the street lights will come on.

I wonder how many people will be driving vehicles during totality. I wonder how many people have to work and won't even have an opportunity to go outside to look. I wonder if store employees will have to stay inside. I wonder if people are going to be shopping instead of watching it. I wonder if employees and even managers are simply going to abandon their posts for a few minutes, in order to experience this once in a lifetime event. I wonder if surgeries and doctor's appointments have been scheduled during totality. I wonder if some people just don't care about it. I wonder if some people think it's too hot to go outside just to look at the sky.

I wonder if it will be raining... :-(
As of now the forecast indicates a clear morning, then partly cloudy til 2pm, then a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Totality here is at 2:42pm.

.

This morning I looked in the sky and found the moon in the general area I expected it to be. This afternoon during my lunch break, I looked and wasn't able to find it again. I wonder if the sky is just so bright during midday that a crescent moon is very faint and hard to see. Or whether it was hiding behind one of the clouds.

.

Aaaannnnd I just noticed that I wrote "left to right" a couple times in my prior post, when I meant "right to left". As if it wasn't confusing enough without me flubbing the words too. I fixed it now.

.

Hah. I found another reason it's good I decided to work from home on Monday. At my home, totality will last 20 seconds longer than it will at my work, because my workplace is further from the center line.
Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 11:56 am
so I'm finding in my reading and desire to read, that I've developed what I'm calling book paralysis. This is not the first time this has happened, but I'm noticing it keenly enough that I thought I might write about it today and see for how many of you this might also apply occasionally.

Currently, I have at least two books on my Kindle that I'm working through.. in reality, I have quite a few others waiting, but I wanted to see about making progress on these two, and one is a classic. I know many of you have read it. But it is a bit long and it is ok, though as I read it, I find that I look at how much more I have to read and for all the crisis and convolutions of the first half of it, it feels odd that I'm only halfway through it. It is dragging in it's own way, like an orgasm that you feel building and building, but stubbornly refuses to pitch itself over the edge. Will I be able to keep up the momentum to get to a point where the book pulls me in deeper on its own and gives me reason to voraciously consume the rest? Or am I going to have to circle and circle around it enduringly hoping that the payoff and pain will be worth this work? It has currently sat unread for weeks now.

Another book I've started but almost immediately stopped reading was a nonfiction book. One that might prove to help me be a better human, but which seems written from the perspective of the already enlightened and not from one like me who is still debating the merits of change much less committed to getting there. I say it is very fluffy, but what I guess I mean by that is that ideology presented in the book is very well regarded, but the text feels very cheerleadery and I find myself turned off by it. We're going to teach you the way of things, but we're going to make sure you drink the koolaid first. That has sat unread one or two chapters in.

So those were the two books on the docket. I suspect I will want to start a third so I keep moving forward on things I want to read, but in the meantime, the feeling of leaving those two books sitting... idle... leaves me not wanting to open my Kindle. It's odd. It is a sense of guilt of abandoning these things. One I want to read (as difficult as the text seems to be making the story), and one I need to read but kinda can't. Instead of removing them from my Kindle, they sit there taunting me, and turning me off the idea of reading altogether. It's.. interesting. I understand the mechanisms at work, and I've finally decided to face it head on and deal with the issue by 86ing both books and picking up the next thing I truly want to read and enjoy. I may trim out the on-deck list as well. I figure those books will always be available to grab later, and in the meantime, I won't feel this weird guilt and aversion to picking up my Kindle.

In their place, I have the first of the Bern Saga series by Hugh Howey that I'm looking forward to starting. It is older than his Silo series and some of the newer stuff yet, but I've heard good things, and I'm looking forward to it.

On the topic of Hugh Howey, if you have not read the Silo series, I highly recommend it. The Wool Omnibus is a great place to start. Also, the Beacon short stories are also delightful.
Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 12:02 pm
I know the answer to the question in the subject: no more than two days, and possibly only one. The accounts receivable department, or whatever it's called, of the IRS must be the most efficient organization in the entire US government.

I mailed a four-figure back tax payment on the 7th to Ogden, UT via the usual first class mail. It was cashed on the 11th. There's no way it took fewer than two days to get there.
Tags:
Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 10:31 am
The biggest problem I'm having with writing Old Soldiers is that while it is a widowtracer/venommaker story, it's not completely widowtracer/venommaker-focused, so I'm not writing about them literally all the time and I'm kind of wishing I was.
Tags:
Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 09:49 am

[AO3 link]


[All dialogue in «angle quotes» is translated from the Spanish]

«Whatcha doin', Spooky?»

Jack Morrison looked up upon hearing Leticia Delgado's question from where he sat with his notebook. Paper, pen, overstuffed chair - old school, like he was. «Updating the dossier.»

«On your old friends?» she asked, putting away her phone, and grabbing an orange off the counter separating the small kitchen from the small living room.

«They're not my old friends,» he growled. «But this attack by Amari, and this fake Overwatch news - maybe it'll help fit some more pieces together.»

Leticia nodded, peeling the orange. Morrison had been hauling that notebook around as long as she'd known him. He'd never let her look at it, and she'd never pushed too hard. But she'd been curious, and if he was going to open up a little, well, it beat sitting around, anxious and bored. «Why you so obsessed with this new Overwatch, anyway?»

He shook his head. «It's not Overwatch. The real Overwatch - my Overwatch - went down with me, when Talon moved against us.»

The street fighter cocked her head to her left. «I thought that was the UN.»

Morrison snorted. «Talon, UN - it's all the same thing, has been for a long time. Early 2068 - a few months before the Slipstream exploded - that's when I started to realise what was really happening, what was going wrong.»

«Talon,» she said, before biting into a wedge, «...controls the UN?»

«Talon proxies. Maybe mind controlled, like Lacroix, maybe conscious traitors, I don't know. But they're pulling the strings. I just have to find them all, cut them all down, show the world what they've done.»

«I know they're terrorists, but that's what they call us, too...» She swallowed the piece of orange.

«They really are, though. More than anyone knows. More than anyone understands. But I'm the one who's seen it.» He poked at his notebook. «I'm the one who's figured it out.»

«You got evidence?» She peeled threads off another piece of the orange. «I mean, if they're that kind of dangerous...»

«It's everywhere you look, once you start to see it. Start with Gérard Lacroix's murder - Talon eliminated him as soon as he got too close. You think he was their mole? Of course not. He just knew too much.»

The young Los Muertos gangster bit into another wedge. «I don't even know who that is.»

«You...? Yeah, I, guess you wouldn't. You'd've been, what, 12? 13?» He chuckled. «Gérard Lacroix was head of Overwatch's anti-Talon task force. Good man. Murdered in his sleep by his wife - or rather, by whatever thing Talon put in his wife's head after they took apart her brain.»

«Wait. I've heard part of this story... are you talking about la blue girl?»

«The killing corpse? The purple assassin? Yeah. The Widowmaker. Second-best sniper in the world. I was friends with the woman they killed to create her.» He flipped to the Amélie Lacroix section of his notebook, filled lately with his notes on her partner, the teleporting assassin known as Venom. «I'm not sure who they killed to create her girlfriend. I thought it had to be Lena Oxton, somehow back from oblivion, because...»

«Lena Oxton... the Widowmaker's girlfriend? Wait, you think the hero of Old London is the spider's sidekick? Really?» Laticia snorted. «Put this in your notebook, I heard about it from the old squad leader. Those two showed up at an arms show together a couple years ago, right? Got disrespected by a some anglo Texans, and killed like a dozen people just to make a point. They're not...»

«I know. The girlfriend part, that's what made me think it might've been Lena.» He tapped the page with the tip of his pen. «Still think it might be. Just can't figure out why they'd keep the lesbian angle. I didn't even think Amélie liked girls, not that there's anything left of her in that machine. But it has to be important, for some reason.»

Hoooo, she thought. This is kind of nuts. «I'm sorry about your friends, Jack. But this - it's a lot to take in.»

Jack looked up at Laticia, and nodded. He trusted her. He hadn't trusted anybody in a long time, and he didn't trust the trust, but it was still there. «It's a lot more to live through.»

She let out a little bit of a 'heh,' and replied, «This's why you don't talk about your past much, huh?»

He nodded, flipping through pages, adding small notes in tinier text. «One of the reasons.» He dotted a couple of lower-case Is and put the book down. «The part I can't get past - there is just no way that the real UN would ever have moved against us. Not like that. They'd never have shut me down, not us, we mattered too much. Not even with that bastard Gabriel turning on us, turning on me...» He'd run through the story too many times in his own head even to get angry anymore. «I don't know whether they brainwashed him or reconditioned his mind or whether he just got bought out, but he turned on us. All those lies at the hearings, all that slander, all those leaks...»

«I remember that part,» she said, finishing the last of the orange.

«Big news, even to the tween set?»

«We watched the hearings in school.»

The solder smirked. «Not surprised - schools are about control. But all that propaganda aside - we mattered too much. The real UN - an uncompromised UN - wouldn't've shut us down. Never.»

She tapped her fingers, one, two, three, four, on the table, working out bits in her mind, before sweeping the peels away. «So... if Talon took over the UN, then...»

He nodded again, this time, approvingly. She gets it, he thought. «Then they have control over a lot of the governments, too. Deep state agents, fingers in key parties, big and small.» He picked the book back up, made a few more notes, and closed it again. «But I'll get it all out there, sooner or later. Once I have it all figured out. Then everyone will know, and we can start to put the world back together.»

The soldier looked down at his empty mug, feeling all talked out. «Hey. You mind making some more of that coffee?»

Delgado looked quizzically at Jack Morrison. «My coffee?»

«Who else's? I can't make it the way you do.»

«You can't... you hate my coffee. You always dump it out, and by the way, you still owe me new beans.»

«I don't hate it, I...» and he remembered, oh, yes, he kind of did, didn't he? No, that's not right, he loved her coffee. Nobody else could get it quite right, particularly not that white-haired... he shook his head, no, that doesn't make sense. «I'm getting used to it. It's kind of growing on me.»

«Ha!» She grinned. «I'll teach you how to appreciate good food yet, gringo. If I do this, you can't pour it out! I have to make a whole pot, or it comes out too weak, like yours. Just, you know, not as bad as yours. Which is terrible.»

«Wouldn't dream of it,» he groused, and stood up. «While you make that, I'll go out, get some more beans. I do owe you.»

«It's been quiet long enough, yah, I think it's safe.»

He nodded his agreement. «You heard anything from Araceli?»

Laticia shook her head, checking her phone again. «No, not yet. I'm worried.»

«Afraid the Maras got her?»

«Worried they might've.»

«I hope not. She's no soldier, but she's... a pretty good kid.»

Delgado smiled, surprised. «Thanks, Spooky. That's the nicest thing you've ever said about her.»

Morrison looked through the edge of the blind from the gang house. Twilight, and all clear - at least, as far as he could tell. Amari doesn't double-dip, he thought. We should be fine, for now. «I'll be back in a few minutes,» he said, throwing his gun over his shoulder. «With dinner.»

«No hunting in city limits!»

«Not even for tacos?»

«Okay, maybe for tacos. You know the kinds I like?»

«'Course I do,» said the soldier, opening the door. «If I'm not back in 15 minutes - leave, and don't look back.»

«Don't have to tell me twice!»

«I won't.»

Monday, August 14th, 2017 11:11 pm
This morning, I started wondering why the eclipse will be seen on the west coast before it is seen on the east coast.

I know that the earth spins counter-clockwise (towards the east) when looking at it from above the north pole. And that the moon travels around the earth in the same counter-clockwise direction. And that the earth spins relatively faster. It does a complete rotation (360 degrees) in 24 hours, whereas the moon only travels 1/28th of the way around the earth (360 / 28 ~= 13 degrees) during that time.

So how can the moon's shadow travel from west to east? Isn't the earth spinning into the shadow and out of it in a clockwise west to east direction (the same as it always spins), and so the shadow should appear to move from east to west, just like the moon appears to do in the sky?

According to the answer on PhysLink.com, it has something to do with the moon's orbital velocity being greater than the earth's. But according to this orbital velocity formula, it seems that anything closer to the earth (ie. the earth's surface) would have a greater orbital velocity than something further away (ie. the moon). So that answer seems to be wrong or badly worded, maybe. Of course, if we simply consider velocity, the moon does travel a further distance through space than the earth's surface does, in the same amount of time. But what does that have to do with the eclipse? If it were a race, the earth would still win, rotating faster than the moon revolves.

Here's another page (cached, as the original eclipse2017.org page isn't responding - the website must be swamped) that tries to answer the question. Some of the commenters on that page seem to have the same confusion as I do.

Here's another page (Washington Post) that tries to explain it. Again talking about the speed of the moon compared to the earth.

Watching the various NASA visualizations didn't explain it well to me, because of how the videos keep shifting perspectives. Even in this animation, it looks like the sun must be moving from behind the viewer, to make the shadow move like that.

I think I may finally sort of understand it, but my explanation doesn't match any of the answers I read. So it's probably wrong. But... as the moon moves across the sun from right to left (as seen from the earth while facing south), it's shadow as seen from the earth changes direction. First it points towards the west, then straight, then towards the east.
And while the moon itself, from the earth's perspective, doesn't move far in the sky (and due to the earth's rotation, even appears to be going to the west*), it's shadow moves much faster... that must be why the answers keep mentioning the speed of the moon.. they must be trying to say that the speed of the moon's shadow across the face of the earth matches the moon's speed in space. I suppose that is logical, even though it isn't very intuitive to me**.

* But the sun appears to move to the west faster than the moon, so the moon does still cross the sun from right to left, even though they are both moving to the west.

So the moon's shadow moves quickly from the west to the east.

Right? Maybe? Sort of?

** Because the moon doesn't move in a straight line, but rather circles the earth. And those x-thousand miles per hour it moves up in space only correspond to y-hundred miles down on the earth... Oh jeez, now I'll start doubting my above explanation again...

Ok, thinking about it more. The shadow moves west to east like I explained above, because the moon crosses the sun from west to east. The speed of the moon through space around the earth affects the speed of the shadow, but it's not a direct x = y equation. The faster the moon moves across the face of the sun, the faster the shadow sweeps across the land from west to east. Since the shadow is sweeping through an arc (sort of), the far end of the shadow will pass a different distance during that time, depending from how far away you measure it... which for us is based on the distance between the moon and earth. So the speed of the shadow depends on that distance, and on the speed of the moon's revolution, and on the speed of the earth's rotation, and the size of the earth, etc. And it is complicated more because the moon moves in an elliptical orbit, not just straight past the sun, etc.

Now it makes sense to me. If I'm wrong, feel free to tell me which of my logic is wrong.

.

On a related topic, how long will totality last, across the U.S.? It will start on the west coast around 10:17am (1:17pm eastern time). It will end on the east coast around 2:48pm (eastern time). So for one and a half hours, the shadow will sweep across the country, from coast to coast.

Within that time period, based on the 3 to 4 hour time difference between the coasts, the earth only rotates about half the same distance.

But actually, the earth and the shadow are moving in the same direction... so if the earth weren't turning, the shadow would traverse the distance even faster.

2017/08/16 Corrected some words above. I was mixing up the words "right" and "left", even though I was visualizing it correctly. I'm used to thinking of the west coast as on the left side and the east coast on the right side. For the above, my perspective is from the center of the county looking south. So the west coast is on the right, not the left.
Although since the sun will be pretty high overhead during the eclipse, "left" and "right" aren't good words to use to begin with.
Sunday, August 13th, 2017 10:42 pm
I bought some eclipse sunglasses on Tuesday. Seems like I did it in the nick of time, as they are becoming scarce around here. I got some cheap cardboard ones, and some slightly less cheap 2x magnification cardboard ones (I ordered the latter from Best Buy in the morning, and picked them up after work. When I checked the website in the evening again, they were sold out.) The glasses are neat! You can look at the midday sun while it's high in the sky! What you see is a nice orange disk. That may not sound special, but it's neat to be able to look straight at the sun without it being sunrise or sunset. I'm not sure I could see any sunspots or flares with these glasses, but they should be fine for watching the eclipse. As long as we are lucky and have clear skies. The forecast isn't looking good so far... a 50 to 60% chance of thunderstorms all day on the 21st till 8pm. But things may change, and even with thunderstorms, there might be a break in the clouds. (please, pretty please, at least during totality, please?)

I've been debating whether to work from home that day, or go in to work like usual and take my lunch break during the total eclipse. Now I think I'll work from home... that way I can occasionally check what is broadcast from the other parts of the country that experience the eclipse before we do.

I replaced the pull-chain light switch for the light fixture on Qiao's ceiling fan with a 3-way pull switch. Now we can turn on either 2 or all 4 lights, where before you could only turn on all 4 at once. Now while sitting on the sofa, we can turn on only the 2 lights which face towards the other direction, so that the room isn't uncomfortably dark, but without as much glare from above as before. When we want more light, we can turn them all on. Previously, I had replaced the lamp shades and bulbs, but it was still too bright for me.

One of the metal spines on my umbrella broke. I can't think of any simple way to fix it. It's a fairly new umbrella which my neighbors gave me recently, as thanks for looking after their dogs while they were on a trip. A nice lime-green color with reflective edging. I can't bear to throw it away. I couldn't even bear to throw away my old umbrella yet.. On it, the fabric had worn out and had holes. I cut the fabric off that one, and still have the metal umbrella skeleton. It's pretty useless, slightly dangerous, but looks neat.

My dad has been researching his side of the family tree. It's amazing what you can find in old census records. This FamilySearch website is run by the LDS church, and lets you search records for free. There's an 1885 census from the state of Nebraska, with an entry for my grandpa's father and grandfather. We also found 1870 and 1880 census records which seem to match, but there are some discrepancies which we haven't been able to explain yet. We found that the Nebraska Historical Society has microfilms of church records from the area my grandpa's grandpa lived. Those records don't seem to be online anywhere. My dad contacted them, and they have a volunteer who will check the microfilms for us, even translating from Latin! How nice is that?
Sunday, August 13th, 2017 07:08 pm
I never thought I would unironically throw the horns, but I did last night at a benefit for the Satanic Temple at Substation. The ST is the organization that stands up for separation of church & state with great panache by inserting themselves into, say, prayers at high school football games (here in the Puget Sound area) and putting up goaty statues alongside the Ten Commandments on public property (Oklahoma, as I recall).

I gotta love that, so of course I showed, courtesy of R. I knew a few of the performers, including a lovely friend of Diminutive's. But the Satanist MCs said, "We're not promoters," and that was painfully evident during a couple of the interpretive dance numbers - really. However, the tunes live & otherwise were good, the black clad crowd had fun, and everyone threw the horns during the little ceremonial bit at the beginning.

Oh, and as surprisingly as sunrise, Eliza Gauger from Friday night was there with copies of her book. I saw her just minutes after I'd excitedly told R about it.
I have my real name on my Twitter profile, and as a result the Hubbell Trading Post followed me. I'll save you the trouble of googling it: it's a trading post at Ganado, AZ on the Navajo reservation and, at least formerly, several satellite posts. It was founded by a cousin of my great grandfather's, and my great grandfather and my grandfather and their families lived and worked at several of the trading posts at various points in their lives.

In 1965, shortly before she died and before I was born, my great grandmother Penny wrote her life story, fifty-seven neatly typed pages. Most of it deals with life at the trading posts. I offered a copy to the Hubbell Trading Post and they accepted it. I've got it ready to mail, with a fair warning about the racist bits - I re-read it yesterday - plus a few stories about my grandfather that Penny didn't write about.
From the weekly phone call with Mom, a bit of subversion from her. First, some background: my Evil Sister has moved to Texas, leaving my niece E behind to get the resident's break on college tuition. Mom had a picture of me - the real, female me - out where where E could see it. Mom asked E if she knew who that was, and she said no. Mom gave her the straight dope. E looked very closely at the picture, and when Mom said I was living as a woman, E said, "Good for her." So at last I have verification that the cat is out of the bag.

I'm amused, and I don't blame E a bit if she doesn't really give a damn: Mom reminded me that she was in a car accident a few weeks ago, for which she's struggling to pay bills, and she starts college in a couple of weeks. And of course I'm proud of my mother. I don't even care what her motivation was. A straight woman of nearly eighty from a small town in the Blue Ridge mountains just struck a blow for trans acceptance, and that is pretty nifty.
Saturday, August 12th, 2017 06:36 pm
After dinner & dessert with the Tickler & friends, I went to the book launch party for Problem Glyphs by Eliza Gauger. (Her last name rhymes with "pager". I'd been pronouncing it wrong.)

Gauger is an illustrator. A few years back, she asked people to submit their problems and she would draw a sigil to fix it. Yes, that's a little bit woo, and the drawings certainly look woo with their rich symbolic vocabulary and mythological allusions; Gauger's love and knowledge of several different mythologies are deep. Gauger says that she herself hasn't been into the woo since her teens and I never was, of course, but something about those drawings makes me keep wanting more. It seems almost like engineered magic, black and white drawings that are always mirrored. She's done hundreds so far, with no end in sight.

My favorites among the sigils are the more recent ones with more details and higher concepts: a cephalopod's tentacles drawing a map of land, or a sewn-together bride of Frankenstein holding giant sewing needles with lighting passing through the eyes.

One thing that's absolutely arresting about the drawings is the problems that got submitted: everything from scholastic angst to surviving rape to mental & terminal illnesses. Gauger, who's no stranger to mental illness or sexual assault herself, says she gets migraines from reading them sometimes, which isn't all that surprising.

Like so many artists she says she doesn't like talking about her art and isn't that good at it. I can attest that the second half of that is bullpuckey. She's really articulate, both in writing and in answering questions off the cuff. I can remember oh, almost fifteen years ago when she was an irritant to the Elder Goths on the Board. She's matured a lot.

Lots of People in Black were there, a few of whom I knew. I felt almost like a big city Bohemian. I now have my copy of the book, pre-ordered way back, signed by the artist, plus a small raffle prize.

Have I submitted a problem? Yes, and you know damn well what it is. As I told her, she may have drawn the sigil without my knowledge because a) I keep finding more of them in various corners of the internet, and b) she hasn't published, electronically or otherwise, anywhere near all of the ones she's drawn. There were even some in her slide deck that I'd never seen before.

Queer? Yes. Cute? Shyeah! Available? I don't think so, and that's a damn shame, quite possibly.
Friday, August 11th, 2017 09:03 pm

My grand Camp Violon Trad + Memoire et Racines Quebec adventure is sadly now concluded, but now at least I can have the fun of telling you all about it! So now let us begin the blogging!

I can’t give you a day-by-day report of every single thing that happened, though I took a bunch of notes in various forms throughout the trip, and I’ll be relying on those to write these posts. I did have wifi access at Violon Trad–but it was erratic and, well, I was kinda busy, so I didn’t try to do constant reporting of what was going on. So I took a bunch of notes instead on my phone and some in hand-written form as well.

This post is intro and will be all about just organizing to go on the trip!

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

Friday, August 11th, 2017 05:09 pm
Eats with m'boy the last couple of nights. It's a little mysterious to me why pho tastes so good, but I know why my chicken in white wine reduction doesn't suck: years of practice, good ingredients.

Making progress on my birthday party plans. Banquet permit obtained, as is my booze shopping list. I've been trying to get in touch with a caterer I know for a recommendation. He doesn't do that kind of gig anymore, but he knows who does.

And now for something completely different: superstition. Remember my split toenails that have been healing slowly and painfully? Well, that's gone on for more than a year and a half. I suspect that the US political situation won't get better until I no longer get stabbing pains in my toes, which I predict will be right around the time of the solar eclipse. The right one is comfy in the boots I just bought, and soon the left will be too.

If this entry is too dull, I promise you there are weekend shenanigans planned.
Friday, August 11th, 2017 09:05 am
This chapter is below a cut because the rating on this story has been adjusted upwards, and this chapter is NSFW. It's not particularly explicit, either, but still. As I said on AO3, I have not been flagging this story with archive warnings, but I will say that I categorically do not write non-con and I do not write underage. Those will not appear in this story. Continue reading (NSFW) )
Thursday, August 10th, 2017 12:22 pm
This is a follow-up to my article "Refusing to Empathize with Elliot Rodger: Taking Male Entitlement Seriously".

As I mentioned initially, Lundy Bancroft lists a number of tactics abusive men use in conversations. In Why Does He Do That?, he notes that when one of the abusers he works with attempts to use one of these tactics on him or another group participant, and Bancroft calmly names which tactic it is instead of reacting, the abuser usually gets even angrier. So in that spirit, I thought I would compile a list of responses to my article and classify them according to the abuse tactics they use.

Here is a subset of Bancroft's list of conversational abuse tactics in p. 145-146 (n.b. all page-number references are to Why Does He Do That?)

  1. Sarcasm
  2. Ridicule
  3. Distorting what you say (this was one of the most common responses I saw, in which the interlocutor would make up a caricature of what I wrote and then attack that, instead of engaging with the actual ideas).
  4. Accusing you of doing what he does, or thinking the way he thinks (AKA projection, as discussed on p. 142)
  5. Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority -- "defining reality":
    When Mr. Right decides to take control of a conversation, he switches into his Voice of Truth, giving the definitive pronouncement on what is the correct answer or the proper outlook. Abuse counselors call this tactic defining reality. Over time, his tone of authority can cause his partner to doubt her own judgment and come to see herself as not very bright. (p. 82)
  6. Not listening, refusing to respond -- I've rephrased this as "dismissal", since the original list was concerned with in-person conversations where one person can literally ignore the other. Online, the equivalent of this is not ignoring, but replying in a way that doesn't at all engage with the content, rather labeling it in ways that create negative sentiment without actually trying to refute ideas. Dismissal is not ignoring (it's great when people ignore things they don't like or don't care about!) -- the effort that the abuser puts in to communicate "I didn't read this, I didn't think it was worth reading, but I'm still going to attack it" shows that it is important to them that the person being abused not be heard. (Compare Kathy Sierra's "Trouble at the Kool-Aid Point" and my own previous discussion of false dismissal.)
  7. Changing the subject to his grievances
  8. Provoking guilt
  9. Playing the victim
  10. Name-calling, insults, put-downs. I'm calling out "insulting intelligence" as its own subcategory:
    The abuser tends to see his partner as less intelligent, less competent, less logical, and even less sensitive than he is.... He often has difficulty conceiving of her as a human being. (p. 63)
    One of the primary rhetorical weapons used against underrepresented people in tech is that we're not intelligent, and indeed, that was a large part of what made the original manifesto abusive.
  11. Threatening to harm you
There are others, but I listed the ones that are most relevant to online conversations. And I would add two more:
  • Demanding explanation, where the interlocutor asks for more justification either in ways that make it clear they didn't read the entire piece, or didn't read it carefully, or don't actually want to debate and are just asking in order to steal attention. Sort of like a human denial-of-service attack. The person demanding explanation is like the type of abuser Bancroft describes as "Mr. Right":
    "Mr. Right tries to sanitize his bullying by telling me, 'I have strong opinions' or 'I like debating ideas.' This is like a bank robber saying, 'I'm interested in financial issues.' Mr. Right isn't interested in debating ideas; he wants to impose his own." (p. 83)
    "It is frustrating, and ultimately pointless, to argue with someone who is certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that his perspective is accurate and complete and that yours is wrong and stupid. Where can the conversation possibly go?" (p. 144)
    Demanding explanation is abusive because it's deceptive: the abuser who demands an explanation holds out the promise that he is reasonable, he can be persuaded, and the conversation can go somewhere positive if you just explain more. In reality, he is not open to being changed by what he hears, and is just trying to waste your time and/or entrap you for more abuse. Demanding a 1-on-1 conversation also reflects entitlement to the time and attention of the writer, who has already provided plenty of explanation. It is pretty obvious to me when someone is asking questions out of genuine openness to change, and when they're doing it in a rude and entitled way.
  • Gaslighting; Bancroft discusses discrediting extensively (p. 125, p. 146) but doesn't call it out in the above list. "You're too sensitive", "You're overreacting", and -- when not justified, other than by the purported oversensitivity of the writer -- "You can't make that comparison, it's ridiculous" are all forms of gaslighting. They attempt to make the listener doubt their own perceptions and judgment. I included gaslighting comments under "ridicule", but it's worth pointing out that this is a common and insidious form of ridicule, since it seems superficially reasonable (of course we all think that nobody should be too sensitive, or react too much, though the boundary for how sensitive it's acceptable to be is rarely discussed).

The analysis

I read:
  • All of my mentions that were replies to tweets (from me or other people) linking to "Refusing to Empathize with Elliot Rodger, or that linked to the essay without replying to me.
  • Two comments on my Dreamwidth post that were screened and that I deleted.
(I excluded a lot of mentions that could also have gone on this list, but were replies to tweets unrelated to the essay. My favorite one of those, though, was a response to a picture I posted of a display of boxes of LaCroix sparkling water, which said something like "looking for something to drink so you can get fatter?")

The following table lists all but one of the responses, along with the abusive tactics each one employs.

There was one response that didn't use any of the abusive tactics above. It was illogical (blaming Marc Lépine's actions on Islam because Lépine's father was Algerian), but may have been written in good faith, even if it was ignorant.

So in short:

  • 27 critical/negative replies
  • 26 out of 27 use at least one abuse tactic identified by Bancroft; most several
  • The remaining one is illogical / primarily based on religious stereotyping.
  • No substantive criticisms. At all.
I am often wrong, and many times, people have had critical things to say about my writing. Sometimes they were right. Often, they were non-abusive. But something about this essay drew out many abusive responses, while no one had a genuine intellectual criticism. When you call out and name abuse, a way that you can tell that you were right is that the abusers get more abusive. I'm sure there are places where this essay falls short, logically, or could be better expressed. But no one has pointed them out.

CW: verbally abusive comments; slurs )

Conclusion

The dominance of abuse in the negative responses to my piece doesn't prove I'm right, of course. It doesn't prove there's no good argument against my core theses, and it doesn't prove I didn't make any mistakes. But given that a lot of people were so eager to debunk my article, if there was a good argument, don't you think one of them might have found one?

I think giving names to abusive conversational patterns is extremely powerful and I think it's important to distinguish between criticism and abuse, and notice when the only thing people can seem to muster up in response to anti-abuse discourse is more abuse.

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Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 11:22 pm
I will not eat all the Firework Oreos in one sitting.
I will not eat all the Firework Oreos in one sitting.
I will not eat all the Firework Oreos in one sitting.
I will not eat all the Firework Oreos in one sitting.
I will not eat all the Firework Oreos in one sitting.
I will not eat all the Firework Oreos in one sitting.
Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 06:27 pm
[personal profile] ivy sent me a bag of Fireworks Oreos! I haven't tried them yet: will after dinner.