Category Archives: My mind is a scary place

Moving day

So after thinking it over for a while I  decided to create a new primary site for myself (yes, I love wordpress.com. but I wanted something that would give me both a bit more freedom in terms of plugins and customization, and the ability to monetize my site). Anyway, you can find the new site here: http://witha2ist.com

Oh yes, and as if that weren’t enough I also have a new book out. It is Of Shards and Shadows, the revised version/ sequel of The Shadow Walker.

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Religious fanatics making the world less friendly one encounter at a time

Okay, so this is about a rather silly encounter I had yesterday. In the grand scheme of things it didn’t even rate as ‘minor’, but it still bothered me: I was walking my dog when a woman approached me to ask for directions. I pointed her in the direction, but rather than leaving me alone, she told me she was an evangelist and started following me around. I tried to tell her that I really wasn’t interested, but no matter what I said I couldn’t shake her. From the outside I have to admit that the whole encounter was probably funny as hell, as I was basically going around in circles, but the last thing I wanted to do was to bring her home with me (a puppy would probably have had better luck). Anyway, in the end I told her that I respected her beliefs, but that I asked her to respect mine, and walked away (taking a rather long detour I could ill afford, as by then I really, really had to pee).

As I said, it was a trivial incident, but the thing is that the next time someone asks for directions I will probably be more inclined to keep going than to lend a hand. That was that woman’s ‘good deed’ for the day, her way of making the world a better place.

Firefox’s latest annoying ‘improvement’

ARGH! That about covers my reaction to the latest Firefox update that was forced on me and millions of others in the past couple of days (that would be the jump from 42 to 43). So what’s my problem with the blasted thing? Basically that in their infinite wisdom the developing team saw it fit to option to undo a feature redesign that had first been foisted upon us back in version 33. I’m talking about the search bar’s redesign that left us stuck with a different input mechanism -and a really annoying grid of icons- rather than a drop down list of search engines. As I said, while the redesign had been around for about a year, up until a few days ago you could fix that one by going to about:config, and setting browser.search.showOneOffButtons to false. That is no longer an option.

Now, that grid looks very pretty… provided that you don’t have any search engines that don’t have a custom icon, and that you don’t have any that share the same icon(you want to be able to search wikipedia in more than one language? Good luck trying to figure out which one is selected. You want to have the option to search Project Gutenberg by either author or title? Ditto), but if the grid is not working for you, well, that’s just too bad… or at least that would be the case if you were left at the tender mercies of the development team. The good news is that that’s not necessarily the case. The bad news is that the solution calls for the use of an extension. I’m talking about Classic Theme Restorer, whose only reason for being is to… undo the damage these frequent updates do to the user experience (look for this option in the ‘General UI’ tab).

Don’t get me wrong, while I hate bloat -and I’m not too keen on change for change’s sake- I don’t want my user interface to be stuck in the last millennium, and there are plenty of new features I am actually grateful for. It’s just that there are some instances in which designers should realize that reversing the old ‘it’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ to read ‘it’s not a feature is a bug’ is not the best way to make a better product.

Walking a fine line

I admit I sometimes enjoy reading fanfiction. In fact that’s where I first got the writing bug, and while I agree that some (most?) of it can be pretty awful, there are some hidden gems that are well worth taking the time to actually find them. Anyway, this post is about one thing that’s driving me crazy. No, it’s not restricted to fandom, but that’s one place in which it is particularly noticeable. I’m talking about the proliferation of trigger warnings.

Yes, I understand that there are things some people might find disturbing, and there are some instances in which a heads up can come in handy, but lately these have been taken to the extreme. What some authors don’t seem to realize is that there is a very fine line between a trigger warning and a spoiler… and the same goes for author’s notes. If you want to apologize for not updating in a couple of years, fair enough, but if you want to go into detail about the intricacies of your writing process, or something else related to the story in question please, please, please  put your author’s note at the end of the chapter, where it’s easier for your readers to skip it (and where chances are that they’ve already read the chapter in question and they’ll know what you are talking about) not at the beginning… and also, call me old-fashioned, but while there are a few warnings that are customary (major character death, rape/non-con, slash [i.e. same-sex pairing], and maybe explicit violence and child abuse), I believe that anything beyond that is bound to do more harm than good.

Okay, getting down from my soapbox now, it’s just that trigger warnings are a great way to trigger my rage. Just a warning.

Easier isn’t always better

Yesterday I was doing a bit of housecleaning in my bookmarks, and in addition to a million dead links I found a few old favorites that predate the advent of social media. Most of these have long since been abandoned (and in their pages too broken links are legion), but one thing that struck me was the care that went into putting them together, the depth of knowledge they contained… and the fact that they are ad free. Granted, many of these were/are maintained by universities, but the thing is that back when maintaining a site meant learning html, and an update was a major undertaking. It was something to be proud of, and it showed. That gave rise to sites such as:

Bibliotheca Augustana (world literature in the original language)

Visualizing Chaucer (one of a number of Robbins Library Digital Projects)

The Camden House (Sherlock Holmes)

The thing is that visiting those sites reminded me of what the web was like in the early days, and while there is no denying that social media has some advantages, the fact that pretty much anyone can post anything without giving it much thought hasn’t come cheaply. In fact my little trip down memory lane was a rather painful reminder of the web we lost as a result… and of the fact that easier isn’t always better.

Sticky people

So December is upon us, and with it comes the specter of the impending family gatherings, so I have a question: how do you deal with sticky people? No, I don’t mean the ones that stick to you like glue (though tips on how to deal with those would also be appreciated), but rather those that annoy you to the point that you want desperately to say something, only you know opening your mouth is bound to backfire (besides, it’s not like they ever listen), so you are reduced to replaying an imaginary conversation in your head time and time again.

Any tips on how to evict them from your mind, preferably before they drive you absolutely crazy?

Barking mad ‘science’ (in defense of homeopathy)

This post has been buzzing inside my head for a while. I has to do with a video I came across a couple of weeks ago that really bothered me, but with the attacks in France, and everything else that’s been going on in the real world lately, it just felt too trivial to write about. Anyway, now that some time has gone by the time has come for me to try to get back in the rhythm of things, so here it goes.

This one has to do with homeopathy, or rather with the way in which its detractors go totally insane as soon as the h-word is mentioned (they basically react as if it were a particularly nasty, and an unusually long, four-letter word). Now, before we go any further, a bit of a disclaimer:

My relationship with homeopathy is a complicated one. My father’s a doctor, as are a number of other members of my family, so I grew up in a world in which the notion that ‘homeopathy is nonsense’ was a given, then two years ago something I had a problem a medical professional that caused me to reexamine some of my beliefs (okay, she was a vet, my thirteen-year-old dog was having a number of age-related issues, and I was not to sure about how she was approaching the whole thing). There was one aspect in particular that, while not terribly serious from a medical perspective, I found particularly annoying: my girl had become incontinent due to an estrogen deficiency. Seeing how she can usually be found curled up on the couch behind me as I write, it was beginning to look like my choices were to evict her from what had always been her spot (i.e. to punish her for being sick), or to resign myself to spend my days sitting in a pool of urine. As you can probably imagine, neither one of these options sounded particularly appealing. The vet suggested hormone replacement therapy, but I wasn’t quite ready to walk down that path, not without a second opinion anyway. The way I saw it, her incontinence was a condition that presented a number of characteristics that called for a different approach. In a nutshell, it was  a chronic problem that was likely to stay with my girl for the rest of her life, but at the same time it was not a degenerative condition where an aggressive intervention was a must. That gave me an unexpected bit of leeway, so I decided to try everything, beginning with the least aggressive option, and moving up from there… and even if it went against a lifetime of indoctrination, I decided to give homeopathy a fair shot (it was, after all, the least aggressive option). No, I didn’t go to Petco, and grab the first product off the shelves, what I did -knowing that I was dealing with something I knew absolutely nothing about- was to get in touch with a homeopathic vet, and set up an appointment. The outcome? Forty-eight hours later the problem was gone, and I was flabbergasted. So where do I stand? Well, my common sense is still telling me that homeopathy shouldn’t work, the evidence of my own eyes tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it, and two years later I’m still trying to figure out how exactly does the placebo effect work on a dog. Continue reading Barking mad ‘science’ (in defense of homeopathy)