Friday, May 23, 2008


Not much in the way of posting lately, as I've been preparing for the apartment change. If all goes well, (i.e., if the landlords can get the electricity turned on by then), I should be all moved in by Tuesday. (I'll have Internet at the old place until Monday.) If not, there's always friends' places, the library or cafes with WiFi to stay connected.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Folk rock on!

Spirit of the West and Great Big Sea are both playing free concerts in Buffalo this summer!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blurb spoilers

There's a review over at Parenthetical of Inkheart. I haven't read it, but probably should; she generally steers me right with respect to YA lit, and anything that can be compared to The Neverending Story, The Last Unicorn and the Time Quartet is going to be right up my alley.

Apparently, though, the book jacket reveals a twist or two too many:

You’ll find out if you read the flap or any reviews, but I think the book would have been more enjoyable if I hadn’t known the premise before I started.

I encounter this fairly often; the most recent example being The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Sure, I probably would have guessed the spoiler anyway, but having it confirmed in advance is just annoying. Orphans of Chaos sticks out as well in this regard; the setup of the paradigms, which the characters discover over the course of the first part of the book, is neatly encapusalted on the book jacket.

The basic rule these days seems to be that anything that's not from the last third or so of the book is fair game for being revealed. However, a lot of books put a major twist somewhere between halfway and two thirds of the way through. But I get the impression this is a new thing; I certainly don't remember being spoiled for, say, Bridge to Terabithia. Most of my elementary school class was outraged at Paterson's "betrayal"; if the book cover had hinted at that the book would lose most of its impact.

Google Groups turns up a discussion of the topic at rec.arts.sf.written as well.

What are the most egregious blurb spoilers you've encountered?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dear Google,

Is it too much to ask that the Blogsearch feed for "feminism" actually have some posts by feminists?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Apartment: hunted.

Looks like we might have found an apartment! It's up in Amherst, by the campus. If all goes according to plan, we should be moving in there in two weeks.

Positives about the new place: it's close to campus and to friends; we can actually invite people over without them having to drive for half an hour to get there. The area has a lot more appeal as well, with better supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, etc. The one thing we are giving up is having a Borders/Seattle's Best close by; the nearest one is about 10 minutes away in Cheektowaga.

Downsides: like pretty much every apartment in that area, it's more expensive than the old place, and it's about a 10-15 minute walk to and from the bus stops. That's not much of a problem in June, but I may be wishing I still had a bus stop outside my front door come January.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Intentional Sex Torts

Deanna Pollard Sacks' article Intentional Sex Torts has been made available for downloading.

It's a good article, though I wish the abstract was a bit more successful in communicating to non-lawyers that the idea of "fraudulent inducement of sex" is proposed as a matter of civil law than criminal law.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I always preferred Ultima, myself

Seriously, what century are we in here?

The charge from the school district — Wizardry!

Substitute teacher Jim Piculas does a 30-second magic trick where a toothpick disappears then reappears.

But after performing it in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land 'O Lakes, Piculas said his job did a disappearing act of its own.

"I get a call the middle of the day from the supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, 'Jim, we have a huge issue. You can't take any more assignments. You need to come in right away,'" he said.

When Piculas went in, he learned his little magic trick cast a spell that went much farther than he'd hoped.

"I said, 'Well Pat, can you explain this to me?' 'You've been accused of wizardry,' [he said]. Wizardry?" he asked.

(via Echidne of the Snakes)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Pornographer's New Clothes

The Apostate provides a takedown [arguably NSFW] of a "nude in public" porn site, one that apparently tries to portray itself as sex-positive:

It would be innocent and non-political if the nudity was equal opportunity and not sexualized. This is explicitly sexualized and there is a definite taint of exploitation to it. MRA types call us prudes when we point these things out and say that we disapprove of nudity and would have everyone wear burkas. That’s patently false. We simply disapprove of the same-old sexism — women in the service of men — dressed up to look like open-minded “sex positivity.”

I'm hardly a socialist, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that commercial of sex work simply doesn't work, at least when the money is going to people other than the ones being sexualized; the financial incentives simply create too much of a conflict of interest.

EDIT: In the wake of a UK bill criminalizing some forms of pornography, Red Pepper has put up a selection of opinion pieces on the subject.

Intentional sex torts - the reactions

Well, that post on Feminist Law Profs about intentional sex torts was received about as well as expected.

I'm not going to directly link or quote the more misogynist follow-up blog posts. If you're really interested, there are follow-up posts at Above the Law and Women's Space. But the arguments can pretty much be summed up as follows:
  • Of course it's not rape! As long as you're not physically violent, it doesn't matter if your partner would want to have sex absent the fraud--anything goes.
  • Employing fraud for the purposes of getting laid is a natural, unavoidable practice.
  • Fraud is part of the "thrill of the chase." If everyone were honest, dating would be a lot less fun.
  • But women do it too--they hath one face, and make themselves another! Because wearing makeup and a push-up bra is totally the same thing as saying you're not HIV-positive!
  • If we outlaw fraud for the purposes of getting sex, we must outlaw similar torts for the purposes of refusing sex, like giving someone a fake phone number.
  • This is just the government sticking its nose into your bedroom again.
  • This is really anti-feminist, because it assumes women don't have the capacity or responsibility to take care of themselves.
And, of course:
  • They're just ugly/man-hating/jealous that nobody wants to sleep with them.
  • If we didn't accept this, nobody would ever get laid!
What's so complicated about the idea that you shouldn't have sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with you? (If you want to criticize the idea on legal grounds, that's one thing, but how can anyone defend the practice on a moral level?)


Nick Montfort of Grand Text Auto clues me in to Planet IF, an aggregate blog about interactive fiction. Most of the blogs represented there are ones I read already, but it's nice to have a distilled feed.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Intentional sex torts: fraud as rape

Deanna Pollard Sacks has a short article up on Feminist Law Profs about the state of "intentional sex torts"*, specifically the increase of currency in the idea that fraudulent inducement of sex is rape.

While I wholeheartedly support that principle of not having sex with anyone who's not totally interested in having sex with you, I wasn't aware fraud-as-rape had been codified anywhere in the U.S.; apparently it's the law in four states (Alabama, California, Michigan and Tennessee, a motley group to be sure) and may soon be the law in Massachusetts. I haven't checked out the actual statutes, so I don't know what the standard for fraudulent inducement is; I suspect it's still a pretty high bar.

I have a minor quibble with this bit, though:

Thankfully, this mentality appears to be dying out. In a world filled with dangerous sexual diseases, it is particularly important to protect women’s rights to protect their own bodies, not just against physical violence, but against fraudulent inducement of sexual decisions and all of the dangerous consequences that can result from a lack of truly informed consent to sexual relations.

I think the focus on STDs and "dangerous consequences", while it might win short-term support, is counterproductive. It's not wrong because your partner can get sick or pregnant, it's wrong because it's a violation of basic autonomy.

* (I don't know why she uses that phrase, when what we're dealing with is apparently criminal law, not civil.)

You are not your bookcase

Megan Hustad at Salon writes about how we over-rely on media in online profiles. To paraphrase the line from High Fidelity, it's what you like, not what you are like. The issue was also visited last month by the New York Times (along with a good discussion at Feministe.

I'm certainly guilty of this. My OKCupid profile is still mostly a list of media, and I'll certainly ogle someone's bookshelves in person - while acknowledging that they're not always representative. (Mine certainly aren't; for a bookworm I don't actually *buy* a lot of books these days. The Books application on my Facebook profile is a much better sample.)

And I believe there *is* something to it - not that tastes have to overlap, but that because media is important to me, if someone appears to particularly avoid reading any SF, for example, that's gonna put a strain on things.

But I think the panic in Hustad's article is a bit overblown:

We're also keeping our distance from a whole array of cultural output because we think it sends the wrong message about who we are and what we want to be.

In Hustad's "pretentious literary circles," perhaps. Personally, if I'm scanning someone's bookshelf and I don't see any sort of "guilty pleasure" reading, I'm going to assume that either (a) it's "fake," assembled to impress guests rather than hold the books they actually read, or (b) they really don't have all that much in common with me.

Apparently the secret shame of most bibliophiles in Husted's social circle is self-help; she gives several accounts of people hiding self-help books as if they were porn. I'm not sure if this is because, as Hustad implies, they're shamefully lowbrow, or simply because it's seen as broadcasting one's flaws. (I don't have much in the way of self-help books, but that's less because I don't find the concepts interesting and more because Internet forums scratch that particular itch.)

Of course, I'm not writing articles for trendy Internet magazines, so I don't have too much at stake when it comes to people evaluating my tastes.

EDIT: Apparently Megan Hustad has published a self-help book targeted at the literary set. Color me disappointed that this was never actually acknowledged in the article.