April 23, 2014

Imogene Heap's Goofy Magic Music Gloves

Since I'm neither a musician nor a computer programmer[*], these don't excite me personally (I imagine using them--for me--would be as frustrating as the goddamned Nintendo Power Glove), but OMFG do I ever wanna buy a pair of these for Girl Talk!

Imogen Heap's musical gloves - Boing Boing


And, for those who don't know Girl Talk, please go seek enlightenment *now.*

Continue reading "Imogene Heap's Goofy Magic Music Gloves" »

April 18, 2014

QUICK UPDATE: I've got a novelette in the July/August issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION #SF

Hey All,

Been sitting on this news for a bit, but happy to now share that my mostly-math-and-also-something-very-much-like-a-transporter-plus-marathons-and-Nebraska-and-wheelchairbound-air-travel novelette will be in F&SF this summer. The rest of the issue looks pretty rad, too:

July/Aug F&SF Contents Announced | C.C. Finlay | ccfinlay

In alphabetical order by author, these are the twelve stories that will appear in the July/August issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction:

William Alexander, "The Only Known Law"

Charlie Jane Anders, "Palm Strike’s Last Case"

Paul M. Berger, "Subduction"

Haddayr Copley-Woods, "Belly"

Sarina Dorie, "The Day of the Nuptial Flight"

Annalee Flower Horne, "Seven Things Cadet Blanchard Learned From the Trade Summit Incident"

Cat Hellisen, "The Girls Who Go Below"

Alaya Dawn Johnson, "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i"

Sandra McDonald, "End of the World Community College"

David Erik Nelson, "The Traveling Salesman Solution"

Dinesh Rao, "The Aerophone"

Ian Tregillis, "Testimony of Samuel Frobisher Regarding Events Upon His Majesty's Ship Confidence, 14-22 June, 1818, With Diagrams”

Some notes:

"Five Tales of the Aquaduct" by Spencer Ellsworth was also purchased but it didn't end up fitting into the issue due to length. (I bought too much!) It will appear in a future issue.

The cover story is going to be Charlie Jane Anders's "Palm Strikes Last Case."

The Annalee Flower Horne story is her first professional fiction sale. If you know her, go wish her congratulations -- it's been very hard for her to sit on the news this long!

My blog post about the submissions process and how I chose these stories can be read here:http://www.ccfinlay.com/blog/nectar-for-rejectomancers.html

FYI: If you're interested in the ins and outs of fiction submissions (i.e., ALL WRITERS), Finlay's blog post (linked above) is very worth your time.

April 16, 2014

President Dad (for better or worse)

I continue to write a column for the Ann Arbor Chronicle. This month I covered the President's visit to Ann Arbor. He mostly came to talk about minimum wage, but we mostly showed up to See the Man Himself (as is oft the case with these Presidential types), so that we could say that we were there, and had seen the guy in person (*hint* he's the tiny dude in the middle of the pic to the left), and could tell you what kinda guy he is because of that.

But what kinda guy *is* he? Well:

What is the PotUS? For one thing, apparently, he is a Dad. And I don’t just mean to say he’s the biological father to Sasha and Malia; there hasn’t been childless PotUS since James K. Polk (who, Batmanishly, took on a nephew as his ward – so you could argue there’s never been a childless PotUS). I’m talking about the Nature of the sitting PotUS. George W. Bush was a “Cool” Big Brother – which is to say half rake, half bully. His father was a Study Hall Proctor. Reagan was, obviously, a Hollywood Actor. Clinton? He was an Elvis. And the current PotUS is a total Dad.

The PotUS arrived in his shirtsleeves, because he was ready to Get Down to Business and Hit Us with Some Straight Talk about wages and stuff. The PotUS complimented us as good-looking, and commended our work ethic and academic achievements. He seemed to legitimately admire the quality of the prominent sportsball players in the audience, which pleased the audience a great deal.

Then, like somebody’s dad, the PotUS cajolingly admonished us to sit down – which might have seemed sort of cryptic to home-viewers, because the crowd was cropped out of the shot. Everyone had given a standing ovation upon his entrance, and then remained standing. Many folks were standing on their rickety folding chairs – which any dad will tell you is dangerous, and bad for the chairs. C’mon, guys; settle down. I’ve gotta talk to you about something important.

This was all in the first three minutes and thirty seconds of his speech.

. . .

More here: The Ann Arbor Chronicle | In It For The Money: Presidential Stinkburger

April 10, 2014

I've got a new time portal story in ASIMOV'S! #scifi #braggadocio #FREE

My novelette "There Was No Sound of Thunder" is in the current issue of ASIMOV'S! It's a big, fat time travel story and features--among other refinements--the Parable of Too Many Hitlers. The issue is on newsstands now. For the digitally inclined, you can essentially get a free copy of this issue for Kindle (since a new Kindle subscription has an automatic free 30-day trial--although the $2.99/month subscription price is a pretty good deal; hours of top-notch SF for the price of a big fancy coffee). You can read reviews of the issue on Goodreads, and write your own if you fancy.

Another story set in this universe--"The New Guys Always Work Overtime"--was in ASIMOV'S last year, and is now available as an ebook (with a slick-ass cover by Jacqueline Sweet, bless her dirty heart).

You can buy that story basically anywhere ebooks are sold or get a FREE copy by email.

April 09, 2014

Which Most Effectively Evokes the Baseline Sexism Built into Low-Wage/Public Settings? #aJokeIsWorthAThousandSnarks

Just sayin' . . .





April 07, 2014

The PotUS and Minimum Wage [UPDATED!]

On April 2, 2014 the President of the United States came to the University of Michigan to speak about minimum wage. I covered The Event for the Ann Arbor Chronicle, but didn't at all speak to the nominal topic of these remarks (i.e., minimum wage), because I don't feel that events like these are really at all about substantive discussions of policy. They are about handshakebabykissSMIIIIIIIIILEgoBlue!!!--and the PotUS perforned admirable in this regard.

But for those who read the column and really *do* want to think more about minimum wage, here are some articles that have influenced my thinking (with commentary). I also touched base via email with Adam Stevenson (an econ lecturer at U-M mostly known for his work on the labor and tax ramifications of same-sex unions). The sense I got from Stevenson--who describes his position as "pretty orthodox," basically running along the lines of what you'll find in any halfway decent Econ 101 textbook--is that increasing minimum wage is in no way the clear win-win the PotUS was pitching to his 1,400 gathered listeners on April 2:

1) Increasing the minimum wage obviously HELPS folks who already have minimum wage jobs (i.e., employers don't start eliminating job when the minimum wage increases). These workers will have more money, and will spend it on stuff. Economic growth!

2) Increasing the minimum wage HURTS people who are unemployed and basically only qualified for a minimum wage job (i.e., when the wage floor goes up employers avoid staffing vacant minimum wage jobs and creating news ones). These non-workers will continue to have basically no money, and won't buy stuff. Misery!

2a) The bulk of minimum wage workers are "teenagers and the elderly" [UPDATE: It turns out that this is a pretty contentious statement; details below] Stevenson mentioned this because minimum wage issues can at least in part explain the very high (~25 percent) unemployment among these potential workers, and tends to indicate that raising the minimum will make things even worse for those folks. I'm mentioning it because in his speech the PotUS said that "the average age of folks getting paid the minimum wage is 35." I believe this is likely true--because the *average* of 17, 17, and 70 *is* 35--but it doesn't mean that many 35-year-olds necessarily earn the minimum wage. Using a mean average to get folks thinking about a median or mode average is a classic How to Lie with Statistics tactic, and the PotUS deserves to be called out on it.

3) No one can really say what the net effect of #1 and #2 are, despite hundreds of academic papers trying to get at just that. The most famous (cited 1500 times, according to Stevenson, and mentioned in the NPR pieces I included among my resources) is a 1994 paper by Card and Krueger, which found no meaningful job destruction when the minimum wage was raised. "This paper launched a thousand responses, many of them quite critical of the methodology. Most subsequent papers do indeed find a negative employment effect, which reinforces the idea that it's hard to say what the net effect of the min wage is." Stevenson goes on to recommend this "readable (if slightly technical) paper by Dave Neumark, one of the country's major experts in the area. Neumark tends to be critical of the Card and Krueger paper I mention above, but I think he gives all sides a reasonably fair shake."

4) Increasing the minimum wage is a crummy way to "help the poor." Noting Stevenson's point in #2a--that the bulk of minimum wage workers are teens and older workers--relatively few minimum wage workers are "supporting" families in the way we tend to picture when someone says "helping working families." What *does* "help the poor" and "support working families"? Quoth Stevenson: "The EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) is a much bigger, better, and direct way to achieve the same goals. Things like subsidized health care, child care, etc. would also be of much larger practical impact."

In other words, since we have every reason to believe that futzing with the minimum wage is a crummy way to actually help working families and "think of the children" (see #4), then the real question is whether the individual joys and trickle-down-ish benefits of a higher minimum wage (#1) are large enough to cancel the individual misery and deadweight losses (#2)? Stevenson's conclusion:

The likelihood that the benefits of increasing the minimum wage outweigh deadweight loss "is not clear empirically, and the simple theory (let me stress the many connotations of the word SIMPLE) suggests that there must be a net loss."

Continue reading "The PotUS and Minimum Wage [UPDATED!]" »

April 02, 2014

The Public Library: America's Most Beloved--and Transparent--Taxing Entity

I continue to write a monthly-ish column for the Ann Arbor Chronicle. This most recent installment is a 2600-word love letter to local libraries. It begins:

Say a precocious child – like Glenn Beck, for example – asks you how much the library costs. The library is, after all, readily confused with a bookstore (because it is full of books) or NetFlix (because they let you have stuff for a while, but expect it returned in good condition).

What’s your answer?

Probably the first thing that comes out of your mouth is that it’s free – which makes sense to the child (and, evidently, Glenn Beck). After all, the kid never sees you pay anyone there, and (assuming your household finances are like mine) it is also likely often a place you go to have fun and get stuff after you’ve explained that you can’t buy this or pay to visit that on account “We don’t have the money for it.”

But we’re all grow-ups here – even Glenn Beck – and we certainly know that the library costs something [1], we just don’t know how much (or, evidently, who foots the bill). If pressed, we’d wave our hands and say that the library is probably funded (note that passive voice!) by some sub-portion of a portion of our property taxes, plus a little Lotto money and tobacco settlement, multiplied by the inverse of some arcane coefficient known only to God and the taxman, or something – yet another inscrutable exercise in opaque bureaucracy.

But it’s not that way at all.

. . .

And goes on from there, with footnotes and charts, a picture of my tax bill, links to videos of Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart--we've got it all! Make sure to check the comments for my 1000-word (!!!) drunken clarification/addendum. Enjoy!

The Ann Arbor Chronicle | In it for the Money: Your Public Library

March 25, 2014

TWERKTASTROPHE!

Or maybe the "Twerkpocalypse"? We can only hope that this is the harbinger of a golden age of twerksploitation films.

In any event, I *love* this goddamn song.

Video: This Video Is Madness: DJ Snake & Lil Jon - Turn Down For What


(via William Gibson's twitter feed, a font of all that is good and right in this sordid little Internet)

March 19, 2014

Paint Your Nails, Change Your Habits

Here's the thing about habits and rituals: They are enormously evolutionarily advantageous. We are cognitive misers; making decisions and remembering things take energy (which is finite), and forgetting things can be very costly--even deadly. So, we're primed to form habits, because they offload this effort. The productivity books and blogs are full of anecdotes about Famous Admirable People establishing rituals to free up their headspace (e.g., Einstein had a closet full of clothes that all matched and never wore socks; he could just dress at random without putting effort into choosing garments).

Any task that you can initiate in under two seconds[1] is not perceived as requiring effort; it easily slips into habit and automation: Putting on a seat belt, switching off a light, grabbing some M&Ms from a bowl on someone's desk, glancing at a cellphone.[2]

As this little list makes obvious, there are up and downsides to this mechanism, as an unhealthy or downright dangerous habit can form and ossify just as easily as a good one.

So, I love that this guy's nail-polish hack--by creating a consistent distraction--effectively increases the cognitive effort of the habit up beyond the threshold, so the automation falls. Maintain this consistent cognitive load, and the habit softens up and becomes far more susceptible to modification.

Red Thumb Reminder - YouTube

Continue reading "Paint Your Nails, Change Your Habits" »

March 12, 2014

"Any one of us would hate to be thought of as the worst thing we ever did." @kohenari

I continue to write a monthly column for the Ann Arbor Chronicle. My February column (which came in so late it actually ran in March) is a sorta interview I did with Ari Kohen (Schlesinger Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Nebraska, author of books, human rights activist, researcher generally known for his work on heroism/moral decision making, basically solid dude, and chum of mine from auld lang syne).

Although Woody Allen's alleged 1992 rape of his seven-year-old adopted daughter is the inciting incident for that conversation, the column itself is *not* about Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow, rape, fame, patriarchy, or the law.

It *is* about how we should think about our interactions with those who transgression, and the pitifalls of the psychological standards we use to decide when (or if) we'll accept a transgressor back into our midsts. Quoth Kohen:

I consistently tell people, when I talk about the death penalty and people on death row, is that it’s troubling to judge someone by the worst thing he ever did, and say “This is the measure of the man.” This is a point I got long ago from Sister Helen Prejean, she says it all the time, that any one of us would hate to be thought of as the worst thing we ever did. I think there’s some merit to that. I think most people want to draw a line and say “Well, not when it comes to murder; murderers are murderers and that is the most relevant fact about them,” and they’d make the same case about child rapists, or pedophiles, whatever; that’s what you are.

But I try – and it’s stressful – but I try not to think of people that way, not to think of people as monstrous, and not to think about people as being that worst thing, but as having made terrible decisions and having made atrocious mistakes, or having acted on terrible impulses. It’s difficult, and it’s one of the hardest things to talk to people about when you talk about criminals and people in prison. [. . . ] Because, generally, free people think of themselves as being very, very different from [criminals and] incarcerated people, that there’s a fundamental break between someone who is in prison and someone who is not in prison. [. . .] The idea that they could, or that someone they love could be, in prison is a shocking idea, because they are categorically different. . . .

Much more here: The Ann Arbor Chronicle | In it for the Money: Crimes and Misdemeanors

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About the Author


David Erik Nelson is a freelance writer and former high school teacher. His fiction has appeared in Asimov's, The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded.

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