Today’s New Toy: The Pixel 2

My Samsung Galaxy S7 has been getting the crashies for the last couple of months, so that (and the persistent “new tech” itch I have) was a signal for me to move on to a new phone. I considered one of the Galaxy 8s, or the Note 8, but I’m not sold on the 18:9 screen ratio — not the least because I’m annoyed they don’t just say 2:1 — and also they’re beginning to get goofy big. Both of these problems also plague the Google Pixel 2XL, which also has various screen issues. The Pixel 2, on the other hand, is nicely sized for someone of my particular hand width, and largely has the same innards as the Pixel 2XL, including what’s consistently now considered the best cell phone camera out there, with the ganky screen. So I’m giving it a shot.

The (very) early impression, a few hours in: It’s pretty and speedy and is I think probably the smallest phone I’ve had for a while. I didn’t think I’d get a smaller phone that the S7 Edge, but so far it’s not a problem, and is easier to palm and play with. The Pixels have this thing where you squeeze the sides and Google Assistant pops up; I’ve played with it a little and it seems more like a novelty than anything else, but we’ll see where that goes. It’s weird to squeeze a phone, though, and the haptic feedback makes it feel like it’s giving way and you’re breaking it a little (you’re not).

The Pixels also come with Android Oreo, which is a selling point but which is not (yet) hugely different than the Android Nougat experience. There’s no headphone jack but it comes with a dongle, which is fine. There are two reasonable nice front facing speakers on the thing, which are also nice. This occasions bezels on the top and bottom of the phone, which some reviewers found aesthetically displeasing, but which I don’t really care about. The screen is bright and more than pixel-dense enough. The camera, as advertised, is very good.

Overall I’m not displeased with my purchase. I’m about to go on a business trip so we’ll see how it performs then. If I have any major issues with it I’ll let you know.

New Books and ARCs, 11/3/17

Somehow, the books find me! (It’s actually because the publishers send them to me. It’s a pretty sweet deal.) Lots of good stuff in this stack; let us know in the comments which of these books seem especially interesting to you on this Friday afternoon (or, uh, later, if you see this later).

Rocket Man (Thumpy Asteroid Mix)

I recently picked up Reason 10, which is a music creation software suite, mostly because I thought it would be fun, in my voluminous free time, to make some music. The software is pretty complex and almost certainly more than I can handle, particularly now when I’m actually finishing up a book; nevertheless I made enough progress today that I thought I’d fiddle with it this evening and see what I came up with.

What I came up with: This version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” which I created by recording myself on playing a guitar and then running it through various virtual machines inside the Reason software.

With the exception of the bass drum beat, everything else started off as me strumming a guitar, so that’s neat. It’s kind of wacky what you can do with basic sounds these days. This bears exploring further… after I finish my book. Until then, enjoy this.

Weinstein, Ratner, Toback, Etc

Another day and another dude in the entertainment industry accused of sexual assault and harassment: Today it’s Brett Ratner, who six women accused of impropriety in a Los Angeles Times article, including actress Natasha Henstridge, who recounts an encounter two decades ago that basically amounts to rape, and Olivia Munn, toward whom Ratner has been pretty much a horny shit for more than a decade now. It’s been a pattern that once a few substantive accusations are out there more come forward (see: Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Bill Cosby), so I don’t expect the next several days are going to be very happy ones for Ratner. Nor should they be.

I imagine it’s likewise a very uncomfortable time for a lot of men in the entertainment industry right now, as they search their own pasts, recalling incidents that they are probably hoping to God are not dredged up toward the light of day by the women (or men! Or non-binary folk!) they’ve been horrible to, as the “whisper network” stops being whispery and starts talking out loud and unafraid. Ratner is the most recent powerful man in this particular barrel, but it’s deeply doubtful he’s going to be the last.

I don’t doubt it’s uncomfortable for everyone else in the industry, too, for all sorts of reasons. Let me explain it in personal terms: Currently I have several projects in various stages of development for television and film, mostly with people I’ve met with and liked but fundamentally know very little about except through the scope of their work. I am praying that none of them has been carrying on as a creepy, harassing piece of shit. Because, aside from all the very serious problems with that, there’s the extra added concern of what it will mean for the aforementioned projects, which would then have a radioactive person attached to them who no one will want to do business with, if not for ethics then for optics. I have ethical and also purely business-related reasons for hoping my associates are not fucking creeps. Multiply my position by everyone in entertainment right now, and you see the problem.

(And to be fair, the problem is in both directions: The people I have my options with know me mostly through my work, too. They don’t know what I’m doing in the rest of my personal and professional life, either, or whether or not I’m a creepy creep who creeps creeptastically, and my creepularity has simply just not been revealed to them — the “whisper network” doesn’t reach to where they are. I’ve not been asked to attest that I’m not a harassing piece of shit. They’re taking it on faith that I’m not.)

So basically everyone in entertainment right now, you could say, has the smallest inkling of what it’s like to be a woman in the entertainment industry, and not to know whether the person you’re meeting with will blow up your project or your career because of their behavior. Let’s not overextend the simile — the chances I or lots of other dudes will face a “casting couch” situation to get a project made approaches zero, for example — but certainly the question of “who are you really and how will who you are hurt me and my goals?” is one lots of people are asking in a different way these last several weeks.

On a vaguely-related note, someone sent along a bit from a detractor of mine who was hoping that I would be outed as a harassing creep because wouldn’t that be perfect, ha ha ha. Which will tell you two things: One, I don’t need to seek out people saying awful things about me because people feel free to send those along, so I have a crowd-sourced clipping service of people being shitty to me; and two, my detractors are terrible people.

This fellow is going to be disappointed, I think. Consent is important to me, and historically speaking I’ve been able to take “no” for an answer. Likewise I make an effort not be a harassing shithead of a dude (spoiler: It’s not that difficult to make that effort). I try to live my life so that people don’t feel like I’m just waiting for the right moment to be a creepy fuck to them.

With that said: Are there times I might have made someone uncomfortable, or said or did something they found creepy? Yes, probably! I’m not perfect and as I’ve written about before, the decision as to what’s creepy rests with the other person, not me (or you). So it’s certainly possible something I’ve done or said rang some worry bells in someone else’s head, and they prefer not to be near me or have anything to do with me. In which case a) totally fair, and b) I’m sorry.

Which is all easy to say, mind you. One of the things that the recent weeks has done is to cause me to go back and really look at how I have interacted with people, particularly women, over the years. I can think of times now where I’ve revised my opinion of my past actions downward (how I dealt with my long-term crush in high school is one example — I used to think it was puppy-dog swoonish and now I think it’s a little sad and creepy), and others in more contemporary times where I feel like I can do better and will try to. I think at least some of my detractors are of the opinion that I hold myself up as a paragon of perfect behavior and thought, and, well. Let’s just say I live in my own mind and know it better than they do. Trust me, I’m so not perfect. But I do try to be decent to people, and that’s a constant process.

(I do have a useful rule of thumb, with my actions toward other people and with life in general, which is: Is this something I’d tell Krissy about? If this answer is anything other than “yes, of course, unreservedly,” then there’s a problem, which, incidentally, is a cue for me to talk to her about it right then. You would be surprised — or possibly you wouldn’t — at how useful this rule has been over the years. You may also assume that there’s very little my wife doesn’t know about me.)

To go back to the entertainment industry, none of this is done yet: More people (mostly dudes) are going to be exposed for their harassing and assaulting actions, and even more people are going to have their lives and livelihoods thrown up in the air because of the fallout. It’s necessary but it’s going to be a mess. And it all could have been easily avoided. All it takes is not harassing, assaulting or treating other people like shit. Try doing that, entertainment dudes! You’ll be (tragically) surprised how effective it is.

Doing My Part for ACA Open Enrollment Awareness

Reposting here a tweet I just made:

For those of you who can’t see the tweet for whatever reason: It’s ACA Open Enrollment time! The current administration has both drastically cut the length of time for the enrollment period and the funds available to advertise it, because the country is currently run by a petulant asshole who wants to sabotage a useful program that his predecessor created. Enrollment begins today and runs through December 15th, and if you want to enroll, you can get started at this URL:

If you don’t already have coverage, folks, get covered. It’s much better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. And by and large you can still find pretty good plans for reasonable prices, despite the efforts of the current administration to mess with that. Get to it.

Two Years of Scamperbeastery

Two years ago on this date Krissy, Athena and I went over to a neighbor of my mother-in-law’s with the intent of getting a kitten from a litter his cat had birthed. We ended up getting two, since they were small and also the kittens had clear affection for each other. The kittens became the Scamperbeasts, famed of blog and Twitter, and individually Sugar (the gray one) and Spice (the orange one).

It doesn’t particularly feel like two years have gone by, I think in no small part because the Scamperbeasts are relatively small adult cats, smaller than Zeus is, or Lopsided Cat or even Ghlaghghee were, so to me at least they still seem kittenish, or at least adolescent. They still live up to their names — they get the zoomies at unfortunately early hours and will suddenly bolt into and out of rooms for no discernible reason at all. They haven’t slowed down a bit.

They do have distinct personalities. Sugar is the affectionate one, who daily parks herself across my chest while I’m trying to, you know, write, and who loves to be held and petted, but tends to be shy with strangers. Spice, on the other hand, is friends with everyone but not a cuddler, and has decided it is her duty to show me her butt every morning like a furry alarm clock. Both are very friendly with Daisy, who mothers them.

They are also both expert mousers, killing a large number of rodents, especially this time of year, when the agricultural fields around us are harvested and the various creatures who lived in and near them start eyeing our house as a possible place of warmth and food. This is where I remind people that I live in a rural part of the county and all our cats are working animals as well as pets, and pest control is a real thing that happens.

But they certainly are cute, too, which is how the internet knows them and appreciates them. We like that about them, too. It’s been a good two years with the Scamperbeasts and we look forward to more of them. We’re glad we brought them home with us. They seem glad to be here.