A wild augmented reality appears!

As I went up the hill to get groceries today, from across the street I hollered “Well hey there! I see you’re catching a Pokémon!” to a guy in front of the Bernal Heights library. He barely even turned to look at me as I rolled up but he giggled and replied “Yep, lots of Zubats in this neighborhood!” Just a normal conversation between strangers apparently taking a photo of a blank wall of a public building!

I am level 4, I have an egg in the incubator and am all hot to get to the point where I can fight a Pokémon in my local Pokégym. Sorry but you will all have to get used to people talking like this. Welcome to the future.

As I have played Ingress for the past 3 years a bit obsessively I am very happy Niantic has this massive success. And also proud that some of my portals and photos and descriptions are integrated into Pokémon Go. I still prefer the elegance and game balance of Ingress, and the interesting social behaviors and structures that have evolved for it. (I can go to any city, and find Ingress portals and talk to its players; instant social group.) But I can see cool potential and the greater mass appeal of the new game built on the bones of Ingress data & infrastructure.

I know people will hate on this game for many reasons. It’s popular (yet dorky) for one. It will make people mad that others are doing something pointless. Its selfies will infuriate the grumpy people who hate the idea of self-portraits. People will inevitably walk into buses and off of cliffs and cause poké-stop-while-driving accidents. But I love this moment, the huge surge of cultural awareness as the game spreads. By tomorrow, people will start writing mainstream articles explaining the entire phenomenon or discussing why you should or shouldn’t let your kids play the game.

For me it is a beautiful and historic moment as it feels like a level up for mass participation in a virtual or augmented reality. This has plenty of potential for good and bad. It will spark people’s imaginations, even as it drives us further into ubiquitous surveillance of our location data and habits. Part of the cool thing is it creates a shared imaginary world and a geographic overlay to our real world. Combined with the powerful impulse we have to collect things and know trivia it will be a collective and somewhat guilty pleasure of people who have the money and privilege enough to have a lot of data bandwidth on their mobile devices. And who don’t mind handing even more of their data over to “the cloud”.

We can build strong memories and shared experiences that stay with us for years in game play. That will be enhanced by using the geography of the world around us!

Unlike the bohemian and esoteric pleasures of ARG-ing this is a swift popular movement of millions of people joining the game. It’s huge! I expect it to very rapidly become a placeholder or touchstone for people’s fears and dreams about technology. We will see a sort of mythos develop around it like the way you can see nuances and divisions in how people approach the idea of Minecraft. Something that they use as a container for the idea that young people these days, or whoever, aren’t properly politically engaged or doing the correct things or are sheep following pop culture; and/or an activity that is frightening, incomprehensible, t hat makes us vulnerable; and/or a social technology that could unlock something like the collaborative power of flash mobs.

The first attempt to make a game like this I am aware of was called “Pod” (annoyingly hard to Google) in the early/mid 90s. It was a small handheld device, like a tamagotchi gadget, on which you could collect parts to build little insectoid robots. In theory you would come across other Pod players in the real world at random and could trade parts in order to evolve your robo-insect things. I don’t remember how they communicated with each other. I only came across a random stranger to trade Pod pieces with once, in a mall in San Jose, after many months of carrying it around. The Pod was supposed to somehow be educational about the idea of Darwinian evolution! At the time this game was very exciting, but it didn’t pan out.

Anyway, we aren’t yet all walking around wearing dystopian headsets but I expect more AR overlays to come, maybe historical details so you can step through time on the map where you’re walking, maybe layers that are more artistically complex (though ludic complexity is also art!) or overtly political.

Related posts:
Posted in internet, inventions | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Six month celebration: Sojourner!

This may look like just a badge in a silly game, and that’s what it is. The “Sojourner” platinum badge in Ingress, for hacking a portal once per day over continuous days without interruption.

sojourner-ingress-badge

Within 24 hours I have to get to a place in real world geography, where there is an Ingress “portal”, a game location you can only affect if you are within 50 meters of it by geolocation services. For me that means I go one block away from my house, in either direction, either up the hill to the Good Prospect Community Garden, or to the corner on Mission to “No Temas, El Señor Está Contigo” which is a mural on the front of a tiny local storefront church.

So to me, my Sojourner badge for hacking a portal every day for 180 days, is also a beautiful marker that I have been mobile and healthy enough to leave the house every single day for the last six months. I’ve been looking forward to this milestone! If I “failed”, it is okay, it means I was very ill, or not physically able to get up and down the stairs, and that happens and it’s not always under my control. (And that will happen again, I’m not getting any younger. ) Some days, it has been a case of “OMG, it’s raining, and cold, and I don’t feel well, but…. I could still make it to the corner and back on my scooter”. The badge motivated me that little bit.

It feels like a nice moment of celebration anyway, I am happy that I’m at this level of ability and mobility. It also take confidence to leave the house by myself when I am at low points. I talked over the idea of “leaving the house every day” as a measure of quality of life for myself, last year with my super nice therapist who works with people with chronic pain and disability. I feel satisfied with myself and proud.

Personally I have to watch out a little with this sort of gamification, for example, having a FitBit made me want to push myself too hard to walk more than was good for me. For personal comparisons of activity level but it may have been negative as well to keep seeing my 900 or 2000 steps compared to people who aren’t disabled. Under 1000 steps means barely walking enough to get to the bathroom and get myself tea and mostly being in bed. (Likely means I am scooting around the house sitting on a walker seat.) Above 1000 means functioning well walking around the house, doing a little housework and so on. 2000 and a flight of stairs means doing a load of laundry in my basement/garage, or simply leaving the house! (“Steps” can mean …. shuffling very tiny steps, weight shifting. Not like striding around. )

The Fitbit’s data tracking was useful and I may try using it again, as it was good to just show a doctor or physical therapist how my usual levels of activity changed, in a crisis. Without that kind of information they may not understand that “using a wheelchair” is not just one state of being and how much varying levels of mobility can impact a person’s life. I like the style of the Sojourner badge a lot as a positive and achievable measure for myself over a long period of time. Maybe I can make it to a year for the Onyx badge?!

Related posts:
Posted in disability | 1 Comment

That Zarro Boogs feeling

This is my third Firefox release as release manager, and the fifth that I’ve followed closely from the beginning to the end of the release cycle. (31 and 36 as QA lead; 39, 43, and 46 as release manager.) This time I felt more than usually okay with things, even while there was a lot of change in our infrastructure and while we started triaging and following even more bugs than usual. No matter how on top of things I get, there is still chaos and things still come up at the last minute. Stuff breaks, and we never stop finding new issues!

I’m not going into all the details because that would take forever and would mostly be me complaining or blaming myself for things. Save it for the post-mortem meeting. This post is to record my feeling of accomplishment from today.

During the approximately 6 week beta cycle of Firefox development we release around 2 beta versions per week. I read through many bugs nominated as possibly important regressions, and many that need review and assessment to decide if the benefit of backporting warrants the risk of breaking something else.

During this 7 week beta cycle I have made some sort of decision about at least 480 bugs. That usually means that I’ve read many more bugs, since figuring out what’s going on in one may mean reading through its dependencies, duplicates, and see-alsos, or whatever someone randomly mentions in comment 45 of 96.

And today I got to a point I’ve never been at near the end of a beta cycle: Zarro Boogs found!

list of zero bugs

This is what Bugzilla says when you do a query and it returns 0. I think everyone likes saying (and seeing) “Zarro Boogs”. Its silliness expresses the happy feeling you get when you have burned down a giant list of bugs.

This particular query is for bugs that anyone at all has nominated for the release management team to pay attention to.

Here is the list of requests for uplift (or backporting, same thing) to the mozilla-beta repo:

more zero pending requests

Yes!! Also zarro boogs.

Since we build our release candidate a week (or a few days) from the mozilla-release repo, I check up on requests to uplift there too:

list of zero pending requests

PEAK ZARRO BOOGS.

For the bugs that are unresolved and that I’m still tracking into the 46 release next week, it’s down to 4: Two fairly high volume crashes that may not be actionable yet, one minor issue in a system addon that will be resolved in a planned out-of-band upgrade, and one web compatibility issue that should be resolved soon by an external site. Really not bad!

Our overall regression tracking has a release health dashboard on displays in many Mozilla offices. Blockers, 0. Known new regressions that we are still working on and haven’t explicitly decided to wontfix: 1. (But this will be fixed by the system addon update once 46 ships.) Carryover regressions: 41; about 15 of them are actually fixed but not marked up correctly yet. The rest are known regressions we shipped with already that still aren’t fixed. Some of those are missed uplift opportunities. We will do better in the next release!

In context, I approved 196 bugs for uplift during beta, and 329 bugs for aurora. And, we fix several thousands of issues in every release during the approx. 12 week development cycle. Which ones of those should we pay the most attention to, and which of those can be backported? Release managers act as a sort of Maxwell’s Demon to let in only particular patches …

Will this grim activity level for the past 7 weeks and my current smug feeling of being on top of regression burndown translate to noticeably better “quality”… for Firefox users? That is hard to tell, but I feel hopeful that it will over time. I like the feeling of being caught up, even temporarily.

liz in sunglasses with a drink in hand

Here I am with drink in hand on a sunny afternoon, toasting all the hard working developers, QA testers, beta users, release engineers, PMs, managers and product folks who did most of the actual work to fix this stuff and get it firmly into place in this excellent, free, open source browser. Cheers!

Related posts:
Posted in mozilla, open source, planetmozilla, work | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Plowing through heaps of books

Braindump of some of the books I’ve read lately, or at least, since my last post about books. Lots of science fiction and fantasy here as usual with forays into history, science, and “literary fiction” though for me to go near that without barfing it had better be great.

* The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson. I loved this! So beautiful! Do that thing with language! Break my heart! And with intense, queer as hell soldierly camaraderie. Tantalizing backstory (those ancestor aliens/gods…) I didn’t want this book to end!

sorcerer-of-wildeeps.jpg

* My Brilliant Friend, and the others in this series of 4 books by Elena Ferrante. Oh, my god! Brilliant and awful and amazing! I was shattered into pieces and had to rebuild myself and my own politics. By the last book (when they are old) I realized I could only barely grasp the depth/breadth of things because I am not old enough yet. (If you are the sort of person who has talked about realizing you have to be 30ish to get the idea of Middlemarch, and you are now older than 30ish, please go for these books immediately!!!) I need more people to read into book 4 so I can discuss it deeply. I have feelings here people. And those feelings can be summed up like, “Did she really — omg — she did! No. But yes. NOOOOO” You will not stop having epiphanies here. Deeply fucked up in the best way. You know how you realize that over the ages every human society has intoxicants, and that we need them to get through the heinous pain of life unless we are some kind of mystical saint (which is its own sort of intoxicant anyway)? It is because things are truly as fucked up and confusing as these novels represent them !!!!! There is no way to avoid it if you have half an eye for complexity.

* All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. Fabulous! Nerdy guy Laurence who builds time machines and AIs who joins Not-Elon-Musk futurist geek team, and his childhood sort-of-friend Patricia who talks to animals and goes to wizarding school, meet again as adults in San Francisco and try to prevent the impending magico-technological apocalypse. I love their friendship with each other and how they develop their own groups of weird talented chosen family. Playful, intense, and cool! I also really like how all the bits of science fiction and fantasy you would expect or take for granted are elided. Instead of rehashing the tropes of magic school or whatever, Charlie takes SFF assumptions and builds something weird and new over all the things that don’t have to be said, like a lacy bridge of fanciful awesomeness.

(Note, I think I suggested the connection with Conference of the Birds. But I can’t actually remember if I did. Seems likely! And I liked how that idea came back at the ending)

* Woman with a Blue Pencil: A Novel by Gordon Mcalpine. Epistolary novel where a young Japanese-American man from the West Coast sends chapters of his detective novel manuscript to an editor in NYC. His detective starts off as a Japanese American professor but then the bombing of Pearl Harbor happens and the editor demands a more palatable hero, who the author creates in palpable anger and grief as he and his family are imprisoned in an internment camp. The original detective’s story continues in parallel as he is written out of the acceptable publishable story. It is a disturbing science fictiony metaphysical novel. Interesting, tightly written and structured book, really elegant. I was in awe of the clever structure.

* Black Wolves by Kate Elliott. This is a new series in the same world (a few years on) as the Crossroads series, which I adore, and had to go back and re-read once I read Black Wolves! (They reward close re-reading!) If you feel that epic fantasy like say, Songs of Fire & Ice could just be better.. and less of a rehash of the genre… and like, do more interesting things with gender dynamics…. Read Crossroads, and this new series! So good! Also kind of a mindfuck and a criticism of not just the genre but why we come to the genre and what we want from it… (I like that a lot.)

* Crystal Society, by Max Harms. I got really excited about this because it is weird. If you read a lot of SF and you want to explore some ideas, here are some good ones! This is the story of AI’s subroutines and their very rational market internal to their own brain, and I really wanted to like the AI in its parts and together as a whole, and am rooting for it against the scientists who made it and who worry that it will be a sociopathic entity and then it it is both likeable and a sociopath and I was very weirded out! Fun exploration which reminded me a little bit of the weirdness of the web novel “Ra” but a lot more competent at making a human-enjoyable plot.

* The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. Fabulous!!!!! I will never forget the journey across the horrible ocean road!

* City of Stairs and City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. Excellent fantasy series. Sorry to be brief, there are lots of reviews, neat worldbuilding. Heroic women!

* The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Another great fantasy book about empire and (de)colonization, with a great heroine, by a dude, that doesn’t feel like it was written by a dude, in a good way.

* South Texas Experience: Love Letters by Noemi Martinez. good book, good poems, delicate but solid, keep an eye on Hermana Resist Press!

* A bunch of books by Jessica Day George (Castle Glower series). A young princess who is soul-bonded with her family’s castle, which moves pieces of itself and builds new rooms every Tuesday. Griffins, magic, moving between worlds and the sort of AI-like castle. Very sweet. Also, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, an enjoyable version of Beauty and the Beast.

* Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. Cowgirl/ranch hand Nettie Lonesome is basically a Slayer. But more interesting. I enjoyed this – A Western with an excellent punch.

* The Antagonists (books 1 and 2), a series about a wheelchair-using superheroine (superantiheroine?). Burgandi Rakoska tells an engaging, satisfying story! Writing is a little amateurish so don’t go for it if that bothers you (I think it is charming). The drama is awesome and the way that the heroine uses her crip powers and insight, SO GOOD. In book 2 they go to hang out with King Arthur, who as you can imagine, is an asshole and a half. One of the superhero trials they have to undergo is enduring a chamber of pain. Hahahah! Yay! Now there is something I would have a superpower in. (King Arthur runs out screaming in like 30 seconds.) I am looking forward to Rakoska’s next series about kids in a paranormal school that sounds like it will be much more infused with disability politics & experience than, say, X-men.

* Nearly all the Vorkosigan books (re-read) in order by the timeline of the series (About 12 novels)

* All the Expanse books by “James A. Corey”. Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abbadon’s Gate, and Cibola Burn. I guess there will be more. And I will probably read them because I do love space opera and the women characters don’t 100% suck. Rant ahead: I could not help but notice the heavy reliance on space hookers for atmosphere to give a gritty frontier/port feeling. There are seriously space brothels in every chapter and it is sort of like the annoying feeling when every TV show or movie has to have a scene in a strip club. Not even for fanservice but to signify something … How is everything “equal” and there’s lots of politicians and engineers and pilots and military robot exoskeleton wearers who are women but somehow 90% of the women in space are hookers anyway? Eh!!! I got so annoyed I started highlighting all the whorey bits. Good news, they stopped relying on that so much in the later books. But something is always so wrong with women’s agency in these books. I was very annoyed no matter the good efforts and halfway decent characters! Still I ate up these books like candy and also watched the TV show. To assuage my feelings I started writing a poem from the point of view of the very interesting, intelligent, ambitious, activist minded, technologically capable space hookers, who are FRIENDS.

* Alastair Reynolds, Poseidon’s Children trilogy. I love Reynolds’s books a lot but loved these less than usual. Kind of boring. I got very annoyed with everyone in this one family from Tanzania, spaceships, coldsleep, various world governments, and most of all, elephants. What is with being super obsessed with your great great great great etc. grandmother who you would barely share any genetic material with anyway, no matter how famous and great she was, and no one is really that important (I am allergic to Great Person theories of history) Endless rehashing of moral qualms. Please kill that million people for the greater good, or don’t. But don’t tell me how you’re thinking about it, then have the character tell someone else they’re thinking about it, then have them tell a third person all about it, as if the reader hasn’t heard it already, and then have someone else hold the first person to task for not telling them, and then finally do the morally questionable thing or don’t…. Whatever, JFDI!!! Still, good and with some juicy ideas like the uplifted elephants, the artilects, the creepy giant whale woman, all the cool tech, the Evolving robots who take over Mars, but could have been compressed severely. Also it struck me weirdly that someone would constantly be thinking “Ah…. AFRICA…” You are from a specific place, right? (Which happens to be the bit with Kilimanjaro and elephants and dramatic sunsets in a sort of timeless safari park except Kilimanjaro has a railgun coming out at the top.) Would you describe your feelings of longing as being about an entire continent, whether you’re under the ocean, or on Mars, or in some star system? Do people do this? I have never thought romantically about the entire continent of North America; am I weird? Well, look, anyway, House of Suns is still one of the best SF books ever and you should buy it and read it. The Prefect was also unusually excellent and sparky with newness.

* Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. More with generation ships and checking out the nearest planet around another star. Lots of politics of how we are to govern the generation ship and its environmental and resource difficulties and then rather like in that one Helen M. Hoover book you realize things may not be working out quite right. Honk if you like process.

* Several trashy feminist paranormal romance novels by Zoe Chant, about curvy paramedics who are friends with each other and all end up dating some sexy, feminist, shape shifting ex-Navy Seal were-bodyguards of different animal backgrounds, who respect them for their amazing skills. Much hurt/comfort is to be had. Truly worth a read especially if you get all the way to the hilarious tongue in cheek one about the sexy were-meerkat Hollywood reporter/detective. OK they are all tongue in cheek but… Meerkat was over the top silly. Start with the bear one; I laughed and laughed when the bear bodyguard has green and brown furniture to remind him of the forest, and cooks a great middle of the night breakfast for his curvy paramedic client!

* Several of the lesser known and not so popular novels by Anthony Trollope because I was in the mood but have read the Palliser and Warden novels too many times already. Ralph the Heir (maddening!) Mr. Scarborough’s Family, and I can’t remember the others and can’t be bothered to go back and look as they were dual editions. I like Trollope a lot.

* To Hold the Bridge. Really brilliant short stories by Garth Nix. I acknowledge the weird brilliance of the Sabriel books (necromancer, boarding school, demon cat, weird talents) while still being a little annoyed by them without being able to explain why. The short stories really grew on me. I went back to read all the Sabriel books and liked them better the 2nd time around.

* The Strange Crimes of Little Africa by Chesya Burke. Detective novel set in Harlem in the 20s. Our heroine Jaz Idawell (hehehehe) is BFFs with Zora Neale Hurston and they solve murder mysteries! What more is there to say. I enjoyed this! I had read Burke’s book of short stories, Let’s Play White, and enjoyed it some years ago; I’ll definitely read whatever else she writes when comes out in book form!

* A lot of books by Kazuo Ishiguro, I think all the books. I liked the first one I hit, Never Let Me Go, and resolved to read everything by Ishiguro. Then they started on the whole to annoy me and feel unsatisfying. Good but, not all that.

* The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. I read this, because it had good reviews, but honest to god I can’t remember any of it.

* Bassel: Behind the Screens of the Syrian Resistance.

* The Biography of a Grizzly. What it says on the tin.

* Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle (and several others, but they got boring) Historical fiction.

* The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave. Good and naturally super horrible and sad too.

* All the Dance to the Music of Time books again. (last fall) Still good.

* Abducting a General: The Kreipe Operation in Crete. I liked Fermor’s story of walking across Europe in the 30s but by the time he wrote this he just seemed creepy.

* Some fairly terrible jane austen pastiches by Carrie Bebris but I read them all anyway because I was sick

* Some much, much better, fabulous Jane Austen homages/continuations, by Sherwood Smith, who is great and brilliant. If you have a mood where you want to re-read Mansfield Park, do it! And then read Jane Austen After. Two alternate endings to Mansfield Park! Tie-ins to her other novels!

* There are more books, but I would have to go poke through my past orders since I deleted lots off my Kindle already.

If you have book recs for me, please let me know! I need a steady stream of fuel to burn here because of general insomnia and reading very quickly.

Related posts:
Posted in books | 3 Comments

Noticing women mentioning women

I started reading Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes with Wikipedia in the other hand to get different perspectives on all the people Ansary mentions and the stories he tells about the history of Islam and various political figures. At some point this evening I got up to the Moghul Empire and while looking up Babur, felt very excited that his diary is famous. I love diaries and memoirs. While you can get a lot from an overview of history, it’s even better to go straight to some original texts. Well, to translations of them. There were a few versions listed online and on Amazon. I was hoping for a recent version for Kindle that would have decent footnotes and that might have left in any racy bits about crushing out on youths in the marketplace. But the only kindle version was from the turn of the last century. Translator Annette S. Beveridge. I bought it and interrupted my reading of Ansary to dive into the textual mind of Babur.

But first there is a 400 page history of Babur by Beveridge. She opens with a description of how Babur learned everything important from his mother Qut-luq-nigar who was well educated and accomplished. And from his grandmother Aisan-daulat and his older sister Khan-zada. About Khan-zada, Annette says tantalizingly, “Her life-story tempts, but is too long to tell; her girlish promise is seen fulfilled in Gul-badan’s pages.” As you can imagine, I immediately interrupt my reading of Beveridge’s introductory explanations of the important women in Babur’s life to look up all of them, Gul-badan, and Beveridge herself, promising myself that if Beveridge doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet, she will soon.

She did have one and I scurried around adding some corrections to it (it left out that she translated the Baburnama… and she is mentioned in her husband’s article but incorrectly as a translator of Hindu rather than of Persian and Turki) and link-ifying her name elsewhere to point to her article. It turns out she also translated Gulbadan, Babur’s daughter and Akbar the great’s aunt, who wrote the biography of her brother Humayun (the Humayunama) including some of her own and her other relative’s histories.

gulbadan

From Annette’s gloriously boring 400 page preface to her translation of the Baburnama she is revealed as being extremely scholarly, at least it sounds like it! She compares different versions of the Baburnama and is very excited about the Haidarabad Codex.

I may interrupt this book and this blog post now to go read her translation of Gulbadan since in my mind this is basically a 16th century Princess Diary (even if she is writing about her brother).

If you know my interests in history and literature you’ll laugh, because this is so very right up my alley, it’s like catnip for me. (i.e. my projects like Building a Digital Feminary, or my anthology of translations of work by women poets) It will be very interesting to read Gulbadan’s thoughts and Annette’s layers of added meaning as she was a champion of women’s education and, well, at least their right to education (if not to suffrage) as she campaigned to found a women’s college, Hindu Mahila Vidyalaya (School for Hindu Women), later Banga Mahila Vidyalaya. I have no doubt there were hideous colonialist aspects to this, but I also liked reading about her struggles against sexist dudes who wanted to limit women’s education. What I mean though is that whatever mythos she was looking to construct of the elite womanhood of empire, that will likely be revealed in her framing of the Moghul royal women as educated, literary, and “civilizing” influences on the men of the ruling class.

Ansary’s history of the world centered on the Islamic world will be enhanced several layers more deeply by my following these threads of the shadows of the women who by the time it is hundreds of years later and halfway around the world in dusty books, are often left to unnamed roles or relegated to the footnotes. How nice it is to see their names, imagine their lives, and read their translated words. Even when we don’t know their names we know they were there and can work to add them into the dimensions of our mental landscape of history. For me, it is something like an absolute faith or belief — “you were there” and to read some writing like this is deeply validating. (for my own mythos, you might notice, which may be something like, “women can, and do, find each other’s work and make some kind of connection, and pay attention to each other, despite thousands of years of oppression which leads women to do otherwise, across time, cultures, and languages” so that even if I am embedded in the problems of imperialism and translation some form of resistance is there in the process or the result).

Meanwhle, yesterday was Ada’s birthday party, which we all worked a lot to make happen and make it interesting. It was a sort of role playing puzzle game or scavenger hunt in Glen Canyon park. The two teams of teenagers and children ran around the park for hours, guided by Ada and Milo, finding clues, translating the runes and unscrambling the words to give me and Danny (the guardian stone dragons of the hidden amulet) a passphrase. Then, a (confused and confusing, but great) battle between the two teams and the rebels, which was a combat card game a bit like Magic the Gathering, invented and designed by Ada and Milo and drawn by Ada. Puzzles by me, booklet and team badges designed by my sister Laura.

dragonthorne_card_game

Today the children have been gaming and reading the monster manual all day, and they cooked chocolate chip pancakes for themselves and brought breakfast in bed to Danny, on a tray nicely set up with a bud vase with flowers from the garden. I think Milo may have been the cook and Ada the tray-fixer and flower-picker.

This, on the one morning I sneaked out to the cafe to translate. I am about 2/3 of the way through my raw rough draft of Carmen Berenguer‘s new book Mi Lai which should be published later this year or early next year by Cardboard House Press. It is an exciting book and I’ll have more to say about it soon.

Related posts:
Posted in boats, books, education, translation | Leave a comment

Pak protector in utility vest

Sometimes when I’m bitching about joint pain Danny points out I am probably becoming a Pak protector. Uncanny since I really love wearing vests and eating sweet potatoes and would love to be the superintelligent fighting machine protector of entire planets, ringworlds, or whatever, while fixing and inventing things and reading libraries full of books.

Anyway, someone stole my tool bag which was crammed full of many years full of useful things. My mini soldering iron and my tiny level and well, nearly everything. The less useful tools are in the house in a tool drawer if you feel like coming to take them to complete my inability to fix things. OMG! Anyway, I have been slowly researching and plotting my new tool collection. Everything will be either very nice, and tiny as possible so it fits my hand and is maybe super ergonomic, or old, well made, vintage tools with really nice heft and design that I will magically find in garage sales and flea markets. I may go with the technique of having several canvas rolls with pockets, inside a big bag without a lot of separate compartments.

Today I went off to go to Workingman’s Headquarters which is that shop run by two old guys in the Mission (planning to just explain my list of tools and trust to the one of them who is nice’s judgement) I had been planning to stay in bed most of the day but the sun came out and I felt so tempted to wander around. Since the shop was shut I got a burrito and sat in the amphitheater-like area in the back of the 24th St. BART plaza listening to cheerful music and watching people. I nearly got a chair massage but instead I was looking at all the people with kind of janky old wheelchairs and who were having trouble carrying their stuff while on crutches. I took some notes on what I thought people might need for repair or modifications but didn’t go around talking with people, I want to think about it first and try some things out.

While on crutches myself I arrived as many people do at the idea that you can have a drink bottle with clip attached to your pants or belt or backpack loops. Mine would clank around but I got used to it. It is too hard otherwise to carry a drink. I also wore my keys and bus pass around my neck or on a Key-Bak type of device (which always makes me think of my friend Sabina since her grandfather invented it).

I was also thinking of talking with Corbett the other day about putting d-rings and webbing on available bits of wheelchair, and knob things to keep my backpack from slipping off my seat back, and how I was talking with Claire about Design Patterns and how there are mobility/accessibility patterns and antipatterns. Most crutches and many chairs lack places to attach or hook other things. You can go into a bike store and find things designed to clamp around bikes. Some of these work with wheelchairs and some don’t. Anyway, attachment points, or attachability, should be a design pattern for mobility equipment.

When you enter the Cripsterhood you should be issued a crapton of sticky backed velcro, cable ties, duct tape, hose clamps, pvc pipe lengths, and bungee cords along with your Durable Medical Equipment!

My foam padding with velcro strap and buckle hack is still KIND OF working on my TravelScoot front pole. Looks gross but it protects my knees from being bruised on the adjustable clamp. I also have a wire frame water bottle holder I got from a bike shop clamped on with velcro straps. The image in my mind here was that I want several rings or hooks that stick out from the scooter frame, so that I can attach stuff to them. I am not sure what. A beer opener would be a good start.

At the hardware store I came up with the idea of getting some cheap pipe straps, bending them around the scooter frame tubes, and fastening them with eyebolts or s-hooks. I tried it out and it worked pretty well. A 2-hole pipe strap is curved in a half circle and meant to be fastened to a flat surface. Instead I fastened it to itself. The size I got cost 50 cents and the eyebolt a dollar fifty. That is probably cheaper and less messy than velcro in the long run. Now I can hang something from a keyring or keyback or carabiner from my scooter steering column. I may do the same at many points around the frame to see how that works out. The problem is that it sticks out and the end of the bolt is a bit too long. A shorter bolt or a plastic cover to screw onto the end would improve the design.

I also wonder if the bolts might get in the way when people are folding or carrying the scooter. The nice thing is I have not had to drill into the scooter frame and taking off the eyebolts is super easy if I don’t like them.

While I was hypnotized by mobility gear at the BART plaza and wandering around the hardware store aisles I also realized I could fix my loose footrests. The foot rests on my TravelScoot fold upwards for compactness, like folding bike pedals. I often want to fold them upwards on the bus so that the sticking out bits won’t trip anyone. They are floppy and tightening them didn’t help. So, I found some neoprene washers intending to put them inside the footrest joint.

This didn’t quite work as planned since even after I got the bolt out, the pedal itself would not come out. I think if I had several more, and stronger, hands, I could have bent the metal a little and popped out the footrest. Since I don’t have either I just put the neoprene on the outside of the joint on both sides of the bolt. Hey! It now holds the pedal nicely folded upward. But when I look at it, clearly it isn’t going to last. I think one or two metal locking washers would be a better fix if I have to stick to the outside of the joint.

footrests flipped up

I got a lovely new tiny vise grip which is much better than trying to do this with an adjustable wrench or needlenose pliers like every other time I have messed with this beast. Yay vise grip! It’s so cute. The few tools that escaped are in the Mozilla Taiwan bag that I got at our last work conference which had chopsticks in it. Mini hex key with just 2 sizes (one perfect for scooter), 2 screwdrivers, pliers, scissors etc. And now my new best friend the tiny clamping thing.

tiny vise grip

The best way for me to tighten this (keeping in mind my hands hurt and are not strong) was to carefully stick the vise grip on the bolt, set it, then put a screwdriver through the eyebolt and turn it like a sort of handle or lever.

Meanwhile today Danny messed with our servers and Ada and Milo designed a card based combat system for her birthday party’s LARP’s climactic battle. Zach came over to get his packages and we discussed tools and comic books and I cooked him an omelet. His sound engineer guy is now hanging out at Noisebridge and Zach made him a glowing programmable LED sign with his DJ name on it (I only saw photos.) It was a nice day…

If you have tools to recommend to me, please have at it in the comments!

Related posts:
Posted in disability, inventions | 5 Comments

Weird patters

In El Farolito today by 24th and Mission it was crowded but everyone was super smart about negotiating the narrow lanes in between the ordering counter and the tiny narrow tables. After I ordered I went to wait for my burrito by the door and the trash cans and newspaper rack where other people were obviously also waiting for their magic you-win-a-delicious-burrito number to be called since it got me out of the narrowest part of the aisle. Unlike many other crowded situations no one was bashing into me or acting like I was in the way and I felt at home and happy… Everyone just sensibly edging by each other very politely. I think it helped we are all salivating with desire for our food while staring through the sneeze shield at vats of carnitas and beans.

Then from behind! A patter! A rare but hideous, sugary voiced patter didn’t just pat me but kind of slid her arm around my shoulder from the back and down my arm. “Do you need me to move things so you can get out?” she cooed as if I were 2 years old. I recoiled in horror and turned around. What is in this gross woman’s mind! What the fuck! I didn’t have a snappy reply but just said “No I’m waiting for my burrito… like everyone is…” Then a couple seconds later I said “You know, if I needed help to get out, I would say excuse me to the people I needed to get past!! Like people do!” and put some extra WTF into my incredulous look.

I wish the patters would quit their bullshit. Offering help… ok I guess, though I was to any person of sense, I was obviously waiting in a crowd of other people waiting who were all holding little numbered receipts and idly looking around. But what is with the hug and arm slide from behind. Gag me!!!!

As she left I realized that the guy a few people behind me, nearer the door, was with her and she collected him with the same tone of voice and hug and that he was developmentally disabled. I then was extra annoyed that she talked to him like that too and that must be her special “disabled people voice”. I then had a hilarious image that maybe she just interacts with every person that way and is from the Planet of Alien Sugar Hugs. I imagined her sneaking up behind the line of burrito making dudes and giving them a snakey little hug as she condescendingly ordered her burrito. I would pay to witness this scene. Anyway, it made me start mysteriously laughing as I waited for number 93 to come around.

Related posts:
Posted in disability | Leave a comment

Making a puzzle scavenger hunt

I spent most of today working on the map and puzzles for A.’s birthday party in the park. My sister is drawing kick ass badges for the two teams, the Dragonthorne and Bloodsphinx clans, which will go onto the little booklet with map and runes and the doggerel that contains the hints. Her designs are so cool that I want to also print temporary tattoos for the clans.

I re-read the entire Vorkosigan series last week (or so) and now am re-reading Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds so that I can catch up on this series which is now a trilogy, Poseidon’s Children.

Also up soon on my reading list is Crystal Society by Max Harms, which sounds very amusing!

My mom is visiting and we went to spend an afternoon at Land’s End and Ocean Beach. Perfect day for it!

liz-purple-sunglasses

Danny and I also went out and had a drink at Virgil’s Sea Room where I was also able to groove out to a band next door at El Rio (great bar but too crowded for me to get around well in my scooter) playing Cuarto de Tula. We went over to Ruben’s cupcake house where he fed us thin mints or something and made us watch horrible videos like Becky and Joe’s Creativity Song and the fucking brilliant ad for Cloaxia. Make yours a bird hole!

I am just over halfway through my first draft of translating Mi Lai by Carmen Berenguer. I’m getting to the poems about San Francisco and a long one about being on an airplane (a theme I particularly love).

Meanwhile, I am reading Altazor by Vicente Huidobro in the original and with Eliot Weinberger’s translation. I learned a lot reading his translations of Octavio Paz in the 80s and it is cool to see how he approached Huidobro. Of course I love the end bits where language flies free. Nothing is more fun to translate than the untranslatable!!

Related posts:
Posted in books | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Looking backwards from the Wave Organ

Today (ACTUALLY A MONTH AGO… I thought I already posted this) I had a specially fabulous time as I realized I was up at 8 or so while everyone else would sleep till at least noon. My sister was up for adventure and came over to take me driving around. We went to the Wave Organ. I thought I knew what it was and that it was some sort of art and sound thing by the historic ships. No!!! Totally different thing. We fooled around taking pictures and game-playing by the sea wall and then got to the end of a long long jetty.

The Wave Organ was very cool looking, not making any noise at low tide, but super beautiful, made of big slabs of granite and marble which I guessed might be from buildings from the 1915 Exposition but which turned out to be from an old cemetery. After we were there for a little while and I was considering walking around I realized there was a ramp down to lower levels. That was an amazing feeling. I felt really open and free and peaceful and safe. I was not going to annoyingly hurt myself attempting to clamber down there, or feel sad and pissed that I was wisely NOT hauling myself or limping or crawling to the fun bits of the park. Unexpected extra awesomeness.

wave_organ

My sister sketched in the sun while I sat in the little cave-like seat working on a poem about spaceport hookers. (Not even making that up.) We drove off, pausing to look at the Palace of Fine Arts, had lunch, drove through the Presidio to a scenic overlook, saw the “Spires” giant sculpture (neat but kind of underwhelming) and came back the long but nice way along the beach highway. I have been prudent in not doing too many things most of the time so it felt like a huge treat to go all over town and see things on a sunny day.

To get to the Wave Organ I could take the 49 and then 30 buses, or the 49 to the 101 bus and get off at the Palace of Fine Arts on Baker and Broderick. From there it’s a couple of blocks to cross to the marina and a sort of donut shack. There’s a pretty accessible bathroom there too. Then if you go far to the right down the jetty, past the St. Francis and Golden Gate yacht clubs, the wave organ is at the very tip of the jetty.

Thoughts on the past year. Lots of stuff happened! I changed jobs, went to Mexico twice on vacation with Danny and the kids, and went to Paris (with my sister), Orlando, and Whistler for work. I changed teams at work, and was release manager for two Firefox versions, 39 and 43. Mobility and health were about the same as usual, holding steady with small ups and downs. I had a few weeks on medical leave as I suddenly came down with shingles and there were definitely some low points with weeks in the ankle cast boots, but otherwise ok! I hung out with my fabulous family. I read a lot of books. Played a bunch of Ingress, did some swimming in the warm pool, scootered around in my TravelScoot, bought a new bed.

I wrote an article for The Recompiler and I feel sure wrote and published some other things (???) Maybe not though, maybe just a lot of interviews (“feminist hacking”, Double Union). I gave some talks but no really big ones. I performed some long poems at a show in Berkeley, “Iapetus”. I didn’t write any code or do any translation, sticking to more long weird experimental poems. Felt burned out on activism. But I do what I can and rallying round to support people in my usual way. I’m very lucky to know so many talented and amazing and loving people.

Our sweet cat Dyson died from ongoing kidney issues. After some months of cat-lessness we ended up adopting the first cat we got as a foster from the SPCA; Dashboard who is lively a young Siamese.

We had Thanksgiving & Christmas at my sister’s house in Oakland which as usual was super relaxing as they cook a ton of nice things and there are board games, cats, chickens, videos on a huge screen, general cosiness.

Last night we had a small party at a scale we could handle at our house. People dropped by all evening. We all worse sprouts on our heads. Some of us drank a non-alcoholic drink called a “Brain Fuzz” (lemon soda and ice cubes, with whipped cream on top). In general we made a mess with the blender, fruit, ice, chocolate, and some very gross “food” spray paint that you spray cake frosting with. Pro tip: it is really disgusting if you spray it on crushed ice.

One of my issues for the year has been slowing down a little. I worked on saying no a bit more, taking on fewer projects, going out less, trying to scale my life better to my physical ability and pain levels so I don’t burn out. Working less in the evening, writing less in the evening too, and instead, reading a lot in bed with periodic bustling around. I have gone out of the house every day for the last month (this is REALLY great).

Resolution type of things for 2016: Keep on with my attempt at balance of realistic activity, work, and rest and creativity. Swim and do pilates. Keep practicing languages in Duolingo steadily. Do some writing about work stuff. Write physical cards and letters to friends. Write with Milo and support the kids and Danny in their goals and generally make our lives nice. Work on my poems. Do a few new translations. Usual trickle of publishing things. Finish a new zine (the wheels one, or the Ida B Wells one, both in progress.) Edit Wikipedia occasionally as is my wont. Move along with project for producing that song by friends (more on that later). Support some more small artistic projects if I can. And, I will travel at least twice for work (London and Hawaii). Small steady progress seems like the key. Maybe a few more days off here and there when NOT sick and in pain would be helpful. While I am built more for emergencies and heroic bursts (creatively, in how I like to work) my body and mind can’t take it so I have to be really careful to be satisfied with smaller bites of … whatever it is… life… things… action… doing stuff… and not go with wild energy and enthusiasm until I drop. What if I didn’t do new stuff and projects all the time? Well, I’ll worry about that when I have to. I’ve been at that point and had to accept it many times. Right now I’m in between, holding steady!

Related posts:
Posted in san francisco, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quick fix for my scooter

Yesterday taking BART over to the East Bay I realized not for the first time that my scooter seat is too low. One of those items on my list of things to do for months: measure the post and see if I can easily take it off and replace it and figure out where to get that exact size of metal post. My leg is doing that thing where electric shocks buzz down it every few seconds. Sometimes sitting up in the wrong position sets it off and a cascade of weird back spasms means that one or both legs are basically in hell.

I went to a tiny bike repair shop down the street from me, Heavy Metal, where I heard they are friendly about wheelchair repair. The guy there worked with me to get the post off. It was surprisingly tough; there’s no way I could have done it myself! After a bit of knocking it with a hammer we clamped it back onto the scooter base and then were able to lift the seat from the top of the post. As I hoped, it was a standard diameter. He had perfectly sized replacement post just lying around. But if not then we could have cut one down shorter.

seat post for scooter

the new post is much longer

Now I have a lot of flexibility in the seat height. My knees aren’t over bent and my back is straighter in the chair. I feel a bit taller talking with people who are standing up, and that much more visible to drivers while I’m crossing the street.

If you look hard at the picture you can see I have sprinkled the scooter frame, battery, and seat back with blue and white “accessibility” logo stickers. (You can get them pretty cheap on ebay or amazon). I think this has helped a little bit to get across to random strangers, bus drivers, and so on that I am not riding a hipster toy for fun.

Also crossed off my giant to-do list: made a dentist appointment, made a pain clinic appointment, scheduled delivery for new mattress. Not yet crossed off: Take some painkillers and a nap.

travelscoot-jr

a small mobility scooter

Related posts:
Posted in disability | Tagged , , | Leave a comment