What we'll do

One thing that was starting to dawn on me: we would see a wave of women speaking up, more than ever, which would change things in ways we couldn’t predict. The heartfelt stories suddenly popping up on “Pantsuit Nation” felt like early blogging days over again but expanded further out to a new group. Stories of past abuse or injustice, large or small incidents as women thought about their lives, their mothers and grandmothers and daughters. Despite the ways the political status quo supports already privileged white women I started to feel that a little bit more of a cultural shift was about to happen in this country with Clinton’s election. I really love diaries and the history of women’s writing. In this context for me it is touching and sad to see how difficult it is for women even now to participate in public intellectual life. So often the pattern is that women of color blaze the trail and fall hard under attack while a lot of white women professionalize up and get a dribble of token jobs.

My hope is that we will fight harder against that process and women will keep on writing and being outspoken – not in the way it might have unfolded, but as a point of resistance and awakening under whatever is about to happen (which I dread.)

Even the most privileged women don’t manage to tell their stories or truth in public (or mobilize and organize, which is what comes next) maybe in some cases because they have a fair amount to lose and are invested in the status quo. Beyond that personal investment and co-optatation we should also be aware that culture and politics can change quickly. We can’t know what aspects of our life will condemn us in the future (for example, being a landlord in some political climates has meant heavy political oppression for generations.) Early blogging or any frank public writing leaves us even more vulnerable on a political level than we might fear in our personal lives or from being trolled online.

Also I thought that Samantha Bee thing about Clinton’s life clamping down on herself and trying to mold herself into what was required by The Patriarchy was the most depressing thing ever and I felt glad I have at least some remnant of punk rock in my soul. Man that was awful. Nope nope nope. She took a pragmatic road but what a road to hell. Glad I am not a politician right now.

This is just to say that this can be a point of resistance. Maybe that is comforting – kind of like, well, So what. Keep on being out there if that’s a way you want to risk yourself. It can be small and personal but it has a real world effect. Maybe the women who began to open up in that “private” Facebook group will find ways to keep on doing something like that. I respect the ways that people find to keep themselves and their families safe. But it’s also important that we keep speaking up as much as possible. For myself I’m thinking that I stand by my own years of public writing and always will. Everyone please blog harder and poet harder, if that’s what you do.

Bad tests sink ships, or something

As a connoisseur of the caution sign, I really enjoyed these gorgeous, strange, slightly disturbing safety posters from WWII-era Britain. There are stylized warnings about driving at night, about putting an eye out with that thing, about what happens if you are very imprudent with boxes, giant boards, and ladders, and then a jolly man who is ominously having way too much fun with a sort of compressed air power gun.


Here is my new version of the “I didn’t protect my eyes” poster specially for Firefox developers,

I Didnt push to try

And another very silly new poster for developers – based on World War II’s finest modernist art –

Make sure it has tests

Really, I do love caution signs. They’re so earnest. They try very hard to be persuasive! Here are some from my Flickr collection of signs. This beautiful, detailed image of someone falling through rotten boards on a pier and then drowning helplessly is from the long pier at Aquatic Park in San Francisco.

Caution dont fall off the pier

This last one is from an old artillery testing range in Essex that you have to drive through before you can get to the incredibly dangerous and fascinating place, The Broomway. The Broomway is a submerged and mostly unmarked 6 mile long path through ocean quicksand, only usable at low tide. Did I mention the unexploded ordnance, the rapidly advancing tide, and the frequent heavy fog? Also, did I mention there is a tour that takes you over The Broomway on a giant tractor?! Sign me up!

Do not approach or touch any object or debris it may explode and kill you

Captain's log, stardate 2016-10-26

Once again I resolve to write about my work at Mozilla as a Firefox release manager. It’s hard to do, because even the smallest thing could fill LONG paragraphs with many links! Since I keep daily notes on what I work on, let me try translating that in brief. When moved, maybe I’ll go into depth.

This week we are coming into the home stretch of a 7 week release cycle. “My” release for right now is Firefox 49, which was released on I’m still juggling problems and responses and triaging for that every day. In a week and a half, we were scheduled to release Firefox 50. Today after some discussion we pushed back that schedule by a week.

Meanwhile, I am also helping a new release manager (Gerry) to go through tracked bugs, new regressions, top crash reports, and uplift requests for Aurora/Developer Edition (Firefox 51). I’m going through uplift requests for Firefox 45.5.0esr, the extended support release. There’s still more – I paid some attention to our “update orphaning” project to bring users stuck on older versions of Firefox forward to the current, better and safer versions.

As usual, this means talking to developers and managers across pretty much all the teams at Mozilla, so it is never boring. Our goal is to get fixes and improvements as fast as possible while making sure, as best we can, that those fixes aren’t causing worse problems. We also have the interesting challenges of working across many time zones around the world.

Firefox stuffed animal  installed

Today I had a brief 1:1 meeting with my manager and went to the Firefox Product cross-functional meeting. I always find useful as it brings together many teams. There was a long Firefox team all hands discussion and then I skipped going to another hour long triage meeting with the platform/firefox engineering managers. Whew! We had a lively discussion over the last couple of days about a performance regression (Bug 1304434). The issues are complicated to sort out. Everyone involved is super smart and the discussions have a collegiate quality. No one is “yelling at each other”, while we regularly challenge each other’s assumptions and are free to disagree – usually in public view on a mailing list or in our bug tracker. This is part of why I really love Mozilla. While we can get a bit heated and stressed, overall, the culture is good. YMMV of course.

By that time (11am) I had been working since 7:30am, setting many queries in bugs, and on IRC, and in emails into motion and made a lot of small but oddly difficult decisions. Often this meant exercising my wontfix powers on bugs — deferring uplift (aka “backport” ) to 50, 51, or leaving a fix in 52 to ride the trains to release some time next year. As I’m feeling pretty good I headed out to have lunch and work from a cafe downtown (Mazarine – the turkey salad sandwich was very good!)

This afternoon I’m focusing on ESR 45, and Aurora 51, doing a bit more bug triage. There are a couple of ESR uplifts stressing me out — seriously, I was having kittens over these patches — but now that we have an extra week until we release, it feels like a better position for asking for a 2nd code review, a bit more time for QA, and so on.

Heading out soon for drinks with friends across the street from this cafe, and then to the Internet Archive’s 20th anniversary party. Yay, Internet Archive!

Sideways review of "In Old Narragansett: Romances and Realities"

Read an interesting book about Narragansett. Through the ugly casual racism you can see some interesting stuff. I looked up a lot of details and learned a little about the history of Black Governors in New England and their elections. Written in 1898 with stories about people who lived 100 or so years before, another Alice Morse Earle book. And now for a random history walk through the interwebs!!!

I did find census records of some of the people mentioned including Cuddymonk, who is described as mixed Narragansett and Black (in the 1790 census as Cuddy Monk with 5 in his household; his wife Rosann is mentioned in the book but the census only lists heads of households). I looked him up since he had a distinctive name.

Anyway, the book has a bunch of stories from what is now Bonnet Shores (then Boston Neck) including a mention of the ridge where the Tower is built (The Tower is named after “Unfortunate Hannah” Robinson). (I know the area from (partly) growing up there, and the Tower was and is a really cool landmark.) In Earle’s story, Hannah is an abandoned, sickly, dying young girl returning home to reconcile with her stern, cruel father after eloping with a French dancing-master. In actual life, she had 9 children with him in Providence before she returned to her parents’ house, which kind of messes up the touching fable of her almost innocent girlhood!

Unfortunate Hannah Robinson’s dad was a rich slave-owning plantation owner in Boston Neck, who bought a woman he called Abigail. The local story as told by Earle (I can’t find any other source) is that she was a queen in Africa, and Robinson freed her so she could go back there and find her son and … bring him back to Rhode Island? OK, seems unlikely! Her son Prince Robinson became one of the Black Governors of the area. The Prince Robinson in the census in the 1800s who was a stonemason may be him or may be his son. I feel sure a bit of real research could tell. There was also a woman named Tuggie Bannock who was said to be Abigail’s daughter and who was a witch. I couldn’t find her in the census. Earle makes her sound ridiculous, which is very annoying.

As I was looking through the census I noticed the Champlins and Hazards were also slave owning plantation owners (You will recognize the names if you are from there). And also on the same page as Cuddymonk: a white governor of Rhode Island listed as Gov. Samuel Potter.

My interest is in adding dimension to the people mocked in racist fables and replacing the caricatures with something more respectful. For example the way that (what’s her name) re-wrote Sojourner Truth’s famous speech in southern plantation dialect when she did not talk that way in her life. Alice Morse Earle does the same thing to her “characters”. I think it is part of undoing white supremacy to make our histories and geography more ‘true’ and more known. Now what I mean by that could fill a book. Moving right along…..

It looked also, in my casual reading, like the Hazards and Robinsons intermarried a bunch and one of that family at least became an abolitionist and did some work to gain freedom for a guy from his town who was detained in the south assumed to be escaped slave and this led to around 100 people there getting out of “detention” ie either jail or slavery. His textile business, not unrelatedly, had to switch from cotton to wool consuming and producing since the Southerners wouldn’t deal with him anymore.

Basically over that 150 years or so, the rich white people intermarried and owned all the land, and the Narragansett and Niantic and Black people intermarried and didn’t. I notice it didn’t seem to occur to Rowland Hazard to give the land back to the still extant Narragansett people as a way of settling up.

Another Hazard that Earle refers to: Caroline Hazard who wrote essays, poetry, and biographies and who was the President of Wellesley College for 10 years. I might look for her books in the Internet Archive. Of course Earle casually mentions her as “Miss Hazard” and her incredibly famous writing. Perhaps they were friends.

It is sad that I am at least happy that Morse Earle includes people of color which leaves some clues and tiny bits of truth along with the garbage racist caricatures. Other books do much worse — for example a multi-volume set “The Early History of Narragansett” has hundreds of pages of detail of every (white) family in the area for a couple of hundred years and all their names including details from their wills but never mentions that they are slave owners leaving human beings to their children in their wills. The Black and Narragansett & Niantic people are just left out of the Early (White Supremacist) history completely. You have to work to do that kind of disappearing.

Another example: In the Narragansett Historical Society’s short description of the area’s overall history, there is no mention of the history of slavery, of black residents over the years, or of the ongoing history of the Narragansett tribe’s people.

Here is another interesting collection of info from 1700s and early 1800s on people of color in Rhode Island mentioned in letters and manuscripts: http://www.rihs.org/mssinv/PeopleofColorweb.htm

In case you were wondering about Bonnet Shores, it was mostly Wesquage Farm and Bonnet Point before the mid 19th century, thought to be called that because the shape of the Point looked a bit like the bonnet of a ship’s jib (a small sail at the bottom of the jib).

bonnet point aerial view

OK…. sometimes this is what I do with my evenings… to relax…..

Riot Grrrl documentary in the making!

It was super important for me to know about & be part of the riot grrrl movement – just to HAVE something culturally to identify with was amazing. I especially loved how multidimensional and spontaneous it was and is. People would hear the littlest thing about it and then declare they were part of it. It meant that we had context for our creative work that was lacking for us. 70s and 80s feminist work (which never stopped) for me were missing something that would include me as a young person. Here we had our movement that would refuse to devalue the cultural production & voices of young women and girls. Zines, music, discussion groups, all the amazing letters and mail art, taking punk to make it our own. It felt like an explosion of fertility & creativity!

Talking about something as history can feel wistful – like it is over. From my perspective it didn’t stop, there is nothing to have missed out on. The possibilities are endless & still going strong.

There is a new documentary in the making, GRRRL: 25 Years of Riot Grrrl and it needs our support! Please donate towards the making of this documentary!

You can see some of this work already in shorter pieces such as Lost Grrrls: Riot Grrrl in Los Angeles.

With every book on Riot Grrrl I read and every new zine I see popping up, I learn something new about how people see themselves in relation to the movement, to feminism and activism and politics. The more films and books, the better!

riot grrrl sticker

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.

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.


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?!

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


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!

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!


* 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.

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.


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.


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.