Goldman: FOMC Preview

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:25 pm
[syndicated profile] calculatedrisk_feed

Posted by Bill McBride

The FOMC will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, and no change to policy is expected.

Here are a few brief excerpts from a note by Goldman Sachs economist David Mericle: FOMC Preview
We do not expect any policy changes at the July FOMC meeting and expect only limited changes to the post-meeting statement. The statement is likely to upgrade the description of job growth, but might also recognize that inflation has declined further. We think the statement is also likely to acknowledge that the balance sheet announcement is now closer at hand.

Looking ahead, we continue to expect the FOMC to announce the start of balance sheet normalization in September. We see a 5% probability that the next rate hike will come in September, a 5% probability that it will come in November, and a 50% probability that it will come in December, for a 60% cumulative probability of at least three hikes this year.

(no subject)

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:31 pm
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[personal profile] the_rck
Scott's response on giving away the crock pot was "Hallelujah!!" We just have to figure out an easy way to transport it. Our cleaning lady is thinking that she'll bring a sturdy bag and take one piece a week. I think the base the lid are light enough to go together, but the stoneware inserts are really, really heavy.

I ended up not writing yesterday. The afternoon and early evening got devoured by insurance related stuff. There's a receipt I can't find that I'm about 60% sure I submitted for a claim, but I can't find any indication on the Aetna statements that they ever got it. I also haven't managed to find it in any of the places I keep those receipts.

Then, while we were eating dinner, our power went out for about an hour and a half. Scott and I decided to go out in search of some sort of dessert, but the first place we tried had too long a wait for seating. The second had already closed for the evening. We went to Plum Market for the half price baked goods and then ended up at Wendy's for frosties. After we had paid, they handed them to us with straws, telling us that they were out of spoons and that, if we really wanted, they could give us forks instead of straws.

Cordelia's pediatrician told me that I will have to talk to the sports medicine people about guidelines for what she can safely do in gym class. I really hope they don't need to see her in order to do that because there's pretty much zero chance that they could see her for that before October, not the way non-emergency appointments go at the U.

(no subject)

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:30 pm
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[personal profile] the_rck
I'm looking for suggestions for story idea generators that might appeal to Cordelia. She says she wants to write but has no ideas. Anything I suggest is, naturally, too parentally tainted to be interesting, so I thought maybe some of those generators that slap ridiculous ideas together might help.

I don't play with them much, so I have no idea what's out there or how to find them.
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Posted by Emily Asher-Perrin, Molly Templeton

Lois Lane, Man of Steel

The current superhero landscape is filled out by a group of people who are deeply committed to keeping the public smart and safe—journalists. These are the vigilant men and women responsible for reporting on the world’s new status quo now that folks with powers, enhancements, and ridiculous amounts of money are taking to the streets to uphold justice and… counter the ever-growing threats coming from outer space. And the criminal underground. And the criminal overground.

But some of these tireless reporters come off more authentically than others. Some of them can clearly write, or are being mentored to that end. Some of them work at papers and magazines that operate in a realistic fashion and hold them accountable. So who is the most believable journalist chasing down superpowered leads? Let’s take a look at our current crop.

Note: We are only looking at journalists who are currently working their field in superhero television and film. No editors. They can have their own party. Ranking takes two sets of criteria into account—how good they seem to be at their job, and how realistically their job is presented—each on a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best). (You will notice that the realism of a job can vary greatly even within the same fictional universe.) Let’s get to it, starting with the lowest scorer…

 

Clark Kent (DC Cinematic Universe)

Clark Kent, Batman v Superman

I suppose we could argue that Clark is still in his learning phase, but that doesn’t explain a few very important things. Such as… how did he even land his job at The Daily Planet in the first place? We know that prior to this he worked a bunch of odd jobs all over the place, and we have been given no indication of training or education in the journalism department. So unless he straight-up faked his resume (which shouldn’t really pan out if you’re trying to get hired by a major newspaper, since they should be checking references and demanding clips of your work), there’s no reason for Clark Kent to have this job at all.

What’s better is watching Clark proceed to be terrible at the job that he shouldn’t even have all throughout Batman v Superman. Perry White tells Clark to cover a sports event, and Clark doesn’t even pretend to bother. He’s worried about some snapshots he’s received from an anonymous Lex Luthor, and this triggers his Batman obsession. He has to be told who Bruce Wayne is, though. Guess he’s not big on knowing the names of famous people who might have the kind of money it takes to be a Batman. So, he never turns in his assigned articles and he argues with his editor about what he should be covering when he has zero experience? Guess it’s probably good that Superman “died” in BvS, so Perry didn’t have to fire him.

Skill: 3
Realism: 5

 

Iris West (The Flash)

Iris West, The Flash

Iris West … is not much of a journalist. She has minimal training. She got her job because she wrote an incredibly cheesy blog about the Flash. She’s do-gooder, but she doesn’t understand the first thing about journalistic ethics. She’s moderately good at looking into things when it’ll help Barry, but never seems to have an assignment from her job at Picture News. Sure, the paper got a minor plotline in the first season, but that was because Barry was dating Iris’s coworker, not because Iris’s job is something the show has ever spent time taking seriously. It’s insulting to Iris to half-ass her supposedly meaningful career, and insulting to actual journalists to pretend that this is how journalism works. (Not that The Flash is alone in this, but truly, Iris’s “career” is one of the worst depictions of fictional journalism.)

In a recent episode, Iris discovers that Barry has seen her death a few months in the future (conveniently timed to the season finale, naturally). Certain she can’t die yet, she throws herself into a situation involving arms dealers—a desperate ploy for a journalistic legacy. Iris wanting her life to mean something more than her relationship with men is a great motive for a perpetually underused character. But to wedge this into a season when Iris has never even gone to work makes it just lip service. Iris’s career is this lumpy sad chair sitting awkwardly in the corner, being dragged out when The Flash needs something to rest a snippet of plot on. (Just go with it, ok?) She’s been saddled with a crappy blog, a should-I-date-my-editor-boss mini-plot, and now a sudden surge in her passion for journalism—none of which the show has bothered to develop believably. The Flash requires Iris to be constantly in Barry’s orbit, which means she can’t have her own life unless circumstances are very, very dire. In short, she’s a plot device, not a journalist. Just let the woman do her job! Or maybe start by learning how to do it.

Skill: 2
Realism: 6

 

Karen Page (Daredevil)

Karen Page, Daredevil

On the one hand, Karen is essentially adopted by Ben Urich and groomed to follow in his footsteps. And once he gives her some much needed training, Karen turns out to be great at the investigation part of journalism. She digs deep into records and talks to witnesses and listens in on conversations. She knows that her old employer is dirty and works to expose them; she figures out where Wilson Fisk’s mother is being kept to question her; she can tell that something isn’t right with how the Punisher’s story is being told. She has amazing gut instincts and is clearly being wasted at Nelson and Murdock (mostly due to the fact that they don’t seem to do a lot of lawyering once half of the firm is busy getting his parkour on every night in Hell’s Kitchen).

On the other hand, the idea that Ben Urich dies and Karen—who has no formal training and no actual journalism experience whatsoever—gets his job and his cushy AF office all because his editor seems to think that ‘the kid’s got the stuff’ (that’s how they say it, right?) is painfully absurd. Not only is hiring Karen to a senior reporter’s position a huge and pointless risk, but… you’re saying that no one expected to move into that office once Urich died? Most of the staff are confined to cubicles, but this new bright-eyed cutie swoops in and essentially takes over Ben Urich’s entire corner of the paper? This is a joke. There is absolutely no way that several less-senior reporters aren’t spending their coffee breaks sobbing in an office supply closet over this move, or threatening to pack up and move to another paper. To top it all off, Karen seems to be a frankly awful writer. The first piece that Ellison encourages her to write has no reporting in it whatsoever. It’s just a little essay about Hell’s Kitchen being home or something. So maybe not.

Skill: 6
Realism: 3

 

Kara Danvers (Supergirl)

Supergirl 2x12 "Luthors" television review

Kara’s just a little fledgling reporter, so it’s hard to know—yet—where to rank her on this list. She only started as a reporter after a long bit of first-season soul-searching, when Cat Grant, bless her heart, gave Kara the freedom to figure out what it was she really wanted to do at CatCo. It just so happened that Kara’s desires lined up perfectly with Cat’s prediction: that the girl of steel should be a reporter.

And to her credit, she’s finding out that being a reporter isn’t something you suddenly are, but something you have to learn. She has the requisite cranky editor (Snapper Carr! SNAPPER! Sorry, it’s just so apt) and, in combination with Supergirl’s access to crime scenes and DEO intel, is in a great position to do good work. Just as soon as she gets over that pesky tendency to get super invested in her subjects. What’s endearing about Kara-the-person—she’s big-hearted, she throws herself into things, she knows how she feels about the world—is exactly what terse (but secretly supportive) Snapper has to train out of Kara-the-journalist, who is still learning the difference between a reported piece and an opinionated tirade.

Also, she’s a terrible speller with a tendency to run-on sentences. But she’ll learn. Sure, Kara often has to fly off to fight evil at a moment’s notice, but she has the slight advantage of being able to fly there and back before anyone’s really noticed she’s gone. Her absences from the office are a tad more believable than some people on this list (coughcoughIrisWestcough). She’s not about to challenge Lois Lane in a journalistic showdown, but that’s the point: she’s doing something she’s not already super at, and that takes time.

Skill: 5
Realism: 4

 

Christine Everhart (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Christine Everhart, Iron Man

The most aggravating thing about Christine Everhart is that she contributes to a bothersome fictional trope: journalists who sleep with their interview subjects. (Sure, this is technically true of Lois Lane in the DCEU, but that happens after she writes her piece on Clark, not while it’s ongoing.) Which is annoying because it’s unethical from a professional standpoint, and also because we very rarely observe men who commit this same faux pas in fiction. When we meet Christine, she’s giving Tony Stark a hard time for war profiteering, and he counters by offering her a chance to jump into bed. She goes for it, for some reason, and is then customarily shown the door by Pepper Potts the next morning. In the next Iron Man film, Christine is subject to a lot of tasteless comments by both Tony and Pepper while hanging around with Justin Hammer for the purpose of the interview, though she does still ask Pepper for a quote for her piece in Vanity Fair’s “Powerful Women” issue.

Her mistreatment lands with more of a sting perhaps because a key contribution of hers is often overlooked; it is because she blindsides Tony Stark at a charity ball—showing him pictures of the refugees from Gulmira, where his recently-deceased friend Yinsen came from—that he decides to rebuild his armor and take responsibility for the actions and creations of his company. In effect, a well-informed, persistent journalist is responsible for Tony Stark becoming Iron Man in the first place.

Skill: 8
Realism: 7

 

Susan Williams (Arrow)

Susan Williams, Arrow

When we first meet Susan, she takes no shit. She’s reporting on the fledgling mayoral career of Oliver Queen, and she’s not pulling any punches. It’s so refreshing! Everyone else who points out what a crummy job Oliver does, either as the Arrow or as the mayor, either works for him, is related to him, used to date him, or can otherwise be talked down. Susan’s scary. Thea tries to get her to lay off, but her plan backfires. There is no appealing to Susan’s squishy side; she just doubles down on her criticism.

If only that lasted. It’s not long before Oliver convinces Susan to give him a month without “an attack,” which is a crappy way for the mayor to view legitimate criticism from the media. Not long after that, they start dating, because apparently the rules of fictional journalism rarely deter anyone from sleeping with their subjects. But there’s obviously something else going on with Susan, who gets into a Twitter war with a Russian journalist, doesn’t stop researching Oliver’s past (notably his time spent in Russia), and has a telling brand of vodka in her apartment. Journalistically, she’s got the skills and the temperament to be a journalistic force, but it’s impossible to tell yet whether she’s doing her job or … working for someone other than a television station.

Skill: 8
Realism: 8

 

Ben Urich (Daredevil)

Ben Urich, Daredevil

Ben Urich has been doing this job his whole life—he’s an excellent reporter, investigator, and probably everything else you can think of. He’s the best at putting up shelves, and petting dogs, and drinking stale office coffee. It just seems likely, okay? We know for a fact that he has spent the many years of his career exposing corruption and helping people in his city. The clippings in his office show that he’s been covering super peoples right from the start—there are even clippings dealing with Hulk’s rampage through Harlem in his office. Ben is around to show us the state of journalism today, a heavy hitter for decades who is now asked to write puff pieces because that’s what sells in the age of clickbait headlines. His editor Mitchell Ellison is practically begging him to write up subway colors instead of looking into bad men. And he gets killed for all his hard work, a very real danger for people who get too close to big truths and anger the powerful.

The only truly unrealistic thing about Ben’s job at the New York Bulletin is that fact that Ellison seems to think that the big bucks for reporters are now in blogging. He has illusions about “kids” sitting in their Brooklyn apartments in their underpants and pulling down more money than either he or Urich do. Clearly, he’s never met the kids working the blogosphere because there is no universe where your average blogger makes loads more than a trained journalist, unless said journalist is under- or unemployed. But in the a world where modern journalism is rediscovering its purpose and its voice on a massive scale, where we are learning all over again how important it is to have journalists holding organizations and individuals accountable, Ben Urich is emblematic of our times.

Skill: 10
Realism: 8

 

Lois Lane (DC Cinematic Universe)

Lois Lane, Man of Steel

Say what you want about how respectfully the DCCU has handled Superman and Batman—in Lois Lane, we can still hope for the future. Here is a woman who doesn’t mess around. She knows how the investigative part of investigative journalism works: checking sources, interviewing witnesses, pulling threads together. She figures out who Superman is before anyone even cares because she’s just that good at her job. And no one manages to figure it out afterward, even once the people of the world are suddenly interested in the big blue boy scout. She doesn’t betray her sources and give away who Clark is, even when she’s taken into custody by the FBI, and then the U.S. army. Her integrity settings are cranked to maximum all the way.

Lois Lane has won the Pulitzer Prize. Lois Lane argues with her editor about whether or not he should print her work—they actually speak to one another about the problem with putting out a story that is mostly conjecture. Lois Lane leaks her piece about the kind alien she has been tracking to a website that she thinks is garbage, but will at least run what she wrote… because she thinks it’s super important that the world know that aliens are real. (And it turns out that she’s right, it’s super important.) Lois Lane gets in trouble for that, by the way, because that’s how contracts and accountability work, so she’s suspended without pay. Lois Lane occasionally blunders because she has one of the world’s most difficult jobs, but she’s the best at it. And from the snippets of her work that we actually hear aloud, her writing is thoughtful and actually sounds like something you might read in the newspaper. She frequently shows more desire to Get It Done than Superman does. And she should because Lois Lane is one of the primary figures that reminds Clark Kent of exactly why humanity is wonderful. Lois Lane loves her job, and her job matters. All hail the queen.

Skill: 10
Realism: 9

This article was originally published in March 2017.

A couple of requests?

Jul. 21st, 2017 01:22 pm
selenay: (Default)
[personal profile] selenay
It's Friday and Jodie Whittaker is still playing Thirteen. I TOLD YOU I WOULDN'T BE OVER THIS SOON.

Anyway, my requests are teeny tiny ones. Apparently now that I've given up on LJ entirely, I've lost the good icon sources.

Can anyone point me to some Thirteen icons? I know ya'll have them, because I've seen some, so point me that way?

And if anyone has some good Bill icon sources?

Actually, if anyone knows where the Doctor Who icon makers are posting to on DW that would help *so much*.

I have posts I need to write. Posts about England/Worldcon trip plan (less than two weeks, OMG!) and arranging meets, an AMA post, probably MORE Doctor Who thoughts. But right now it's hot and humid and my ridiculous big fluffy cat keeps sitting on me and so my brain is too fuzzed out to make them.

(no subject)

Jul. 21st, 2017 05:05 pm
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[personal profile] lexin
I read an entry from [personal profile] brithistorian which came originally from [personal profile] spiralsheep.

I welcome all of the following types of comments on ANY of my entries:

- Single term comments, e.g. *hugs*, yay, yes, no, thanks, this, seconded, like, +1, &c.
- One or two word comments.
- Otherwise brief comments, e.g. single sentences.
- A comment that is a punctuation mark to let me know you read, e.g. a full stop, or an asterisk, &c.
- A comment that is a punctuation mark to express your response, e.g. ! or + &c.
- A comment that is an emoticon(s) to express your response, e.g. \o/, <3, :), :(, :-D, ;-), :-P, &c.
- Long, wordy comments. Feel free to ramble away....
- Comments on related topics, conversational asides, and tangents generally.
- Incoherent comments. Most of us have both posted and had practice reading incoherent comments!
- Commentors conversing with each other is also welcome. I like hosting a place where people can interact.

I also welcome:

- Comments on older public entries.
- Comments on VERY OLD public entries.
- Comments from people who are not subscribed to me.
- Comments from people who I’ve never met.
- Comments from people who haven’t talked to me for a while.
- Comments from people who’ve never talked to me.

How I reply to comments:

- I usually try to reply to comments.

If you need to know anything else then I recommend asking as a more productive strategy than speculating. ;-P

***

I don't mind arguments as long as they don't descend into name calling. I do ask that if you make a comment you stick around to defend your point of view, and don't drop a lighted match into the petrol of life, and then slope off.
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Posted by Sweepstakes

We want to get your paws on send you copies of three new Planet of the Apes books from Titan! Two lucky winners will each receive War for the Planet of the Apes: Official Movie Novelization by Greg Cox; War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations by Greg Keyes; and Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone, a collection edited by Rich Handley.

In War for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

In War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations, Caesar and his apes are still recovering from the takeover by renegade ape Koba. Caesar is desperate to avoid war with the humans, but this is a faint hope, as his enemies are about to receive military reinforcements headed by the ruthless Colonel McCullough.

And in Tales from the Forbidden Zone, a who’s who of modern writers present sixteen all-new tales, exclusive to this volume, set in the world of the original films and television series.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 11:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on July 21st. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on July 25th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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Posted by Jerome Stueart

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 took a lot of risks with the “idealized future” of Roddenberry as written into Star Trek’s DNA, adding nuance to Starfleet ideals by incorporating human desires and failings into the narrative. Some praised it for being more real, more relatable; some criticized it for being “too dark” and showing Starfleet in a bad light.

One thing I enjoyed was that in the midst of the Star Trek Universe’s science-and-tech-centric STEM paradise, DS9 showrunners made the captain’s son, Jake Sisko, a writer. We science fiction writers love our astronauts and engineers, but I was thrilled to see 14-year-old Jake developing into a writer and storyteller. They gave him a familiar writer’s journey: he dabbled in poetry, moved into short stories, then novels, and along the way he became a journalist, a war correspondent (echoes of Hemingway and Crane), and published a collection of essays about living under Dominion occupation, as well as a semi-autobiographical novel. By committing to Jake’s arc through the whole series, DS9 brought into broader relief how the series honoured storytellers.

Storytellers

ds9-storytelling01

For me, the whole series rests on the inherent conflict of a storytelling people who have been occupied and oppressed, and who fear they will not be allowed to live by and embrace their stories again. Even as they hated the Cardassian occupation, they fear a Starfleet science-first “occupation” will destroy their cultural identity before they are able to recover a sense of stability.

DS9 is very careful to respect Bajoran beliefs and stories. The belief in the importance of cultural perspectives—bound up in a culture’s stories—permeates the show. Aspects of alien culture are learned and interpreted through their literature—the characters discuss Cardassian novels, Klingon poetry, Bajoran scriptures, and the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition as ways to understand each other.

DS9 presents the radical idea that we understand each other through our cultural stories. This is why, I think, DS9’s decision to focus on Jake’s development as a writer is such an interesting idea. In the Star Trek universe, we have always been led to believe that a career in Starfleet was the highest ideal to which an intelligent being could aspire. Look how often new species took the uniform. Or how many times it’s been demonstrated that science and technology solve everything. But Jake would rather focus on trying to understand his characters, on language and moving words around, than get to work fixing upper pylon #6. One starts to wonder if maybe there’s a purpose for a writer in a 24th Century so fascinated with its own amazing technology—can professional artists be as important to our future as Starfleet?

Far Beyond the Stars

ds9-storytelling02

“Far Beyond the Stars” is DS9’s strongest statement about writing, and highlights the writer’s journey Jake Sisko’s been on.

The episode tells of science fiction writers in the 1950s attempting to create stories that would help imagine a better life for those limited by society. Benjamin Sisko appears as a black writer named Benny Russell struggling to create a story in which he is represented, far in the future—to create a Ben Sisko that is a captain of a space station—and he is thwarted by society’s prejudice (and that of his publishers) when the issues containing his stories are pulped before they can be read by the public.

This episode works as a key for understanding Star Trek as an entire phenomenon.

Metafictionally, it suggests that we, too, are a storytelling culture trying to create stories that imagine a better life for those limited by society. Star Trek is our way of trying to create a blueprint for the future. By casting Ben Sisko as Benny Russell in the 1950s, the show forges a clear link between Star Trek (the series) and minority writers struggling to envision the future for themselves.

Jake Sisko and Benny Russell are both urban writers in the mold not so much of Hemingway and Crane but of Samuel R. Delany, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison—artists trying to envision a future, trying to illuminate the present, talking about life under the Occupation, telling their stories.

The ripples of the past portrayed in this episode lead inexorably toward all the struggling competing voices of the DS9 storytellers (Bajoran religious storytellers, Cardassian politicians, Klingon Poets) who are trying to envision themselves into better places.

Writing the Future

ds9-storytelling03

The preacher in “Far Beyond the Stars” exhorts Benny to “Write those words! Let them see the glory of what lies ahead!”

DS9 knew that what Star Trek has always done best is provide a model for how we could be—and lets us hope that we’re moving in the right direction. DS9 understood that Star Trek itself is an ongoing struggle to envision a better future…the kind of future that Martin Luther King believed in enough that he asked Nichelle Nichols to stay in a role she initially found limiting. Science Fiction can be our dream of a better future for all races, all nationalities, for people of color, the LGBTQ community, women, the differently-abled, for the economically disadvantaged, for all of us—we can craft that future.

The place for writers in the future is in the lead—as Visionaries, Historians, Critics, Memoirists—telling our stories so that humanity can work together with compassion and understanding—even in the 24th Century.

Writers are the STEM jobs of a culture: they tell us how a culture works.

We need them.

Because even in our spaceships of the future, DS9 knew we were still going to be made up of different cultures, living and working together, hoping to be understood. Writers like you and me and Jake Sisko will be chronicling and giving expression to all the voices, and learning how we can best fit together on a path to new worlds.

This article was originally published January 2017.

Jerome Stueart is the author of a collection of stories, published by ChiZine, The Angels of Our Better Beasts. He lived and worked in Canada’s Yukon Territory, but now teaches writing, doodles beasts, looks for bears, and lives in Dayton, Ohio.

Prompt for 2017-07-21

Jul. 21st, 2017 11:15 pm
sacredporn: Kris Allen icon made by Sacred Porn (Default)
[personal profile] sacredporn posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is "nothing lasts forever".
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Posted by Bill McBride

From the BLS: Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary
Unemployment rates were lower in June in 10 states, higher in 2 states, and stable in 38 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Twenty-seven states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and 23 states and the District had little or no change. The national unemployment rate, 4.4 percent, was little changed from May but was 0.5 percentage point lower than in June 2016.
...
Colorado and North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rates in June, 2.3 percent each. The rates in North Dakota (2.3 percent) and Tennessee (3.6 percent) set new series lows. ... Alaska had the highest jobless rate, 6.8 percent, followed by New Mexico, 6.4 percent.
emphasis added
State Unemployment Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the current unemployment rate for each state (red), and the max during the recession (blue). All states are well below the maximum unemployment rate for the recession.

The size of the blue bar indicates the amount of improvement.   The yellow squares are the lowest unemployment rate per state since 1976.

Note: The larger yellow markers indicate the states that reached the all time low since the end of the 2007 recession.  These ten states are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The states are ranked by the highest current unemployment rate. Alaska, at 6.8%, had the highest state unemployment rate.

State UnemploymentThe second graph shows the number of states (and D.C.) with unemployment rates at or above certain levels since January 2006. At the worst of the employment recession, there were 11 states with an unemployment rate at or above 11% (red).

Currently no state has an unemployment rate at or above 7% (light blue); Only two states and D.C. are at or above 6% (dark blue). The states are Alaska (6.8%) and New Mexico (6.4%).  D.C. is at 6.2%.
copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
I still have to review Extra Virginity as well, but I actually liked that one, so it will take longer to compose….

One of the things I did get done yesterday between work, the ball game, and the Epic Sunburn, was finish a slim book of short stories called A City Equal to My Desire by James Sallis. This wasn’t a book that was recommended to me, which means I don’t have to feel bad about truly disliking it. I found it in a keyword search on the library website for books about ukuleles, and it has a short story called Ukulele And The World’s Pain, which admittedly was one of the better stories in the book despite still not being very good.

From what I can tell, he did pick the best story out of the book to develop into a novel, “Drive”, but it is very obviously unfinished in short-story form. Sallis has a couple of ongoing problems in the short story collection, one of which is that he tends to skip the vital information you need in order to know what the fuck is going on. And not in a “the blanks slowly get filled in” way, or in a “your imagination is more terrible” way (though there is a little of that) but just in a way where like…he says something that you understand to be vital to the story but which is missing context, then spends like a page describing the fucking diner someone’s sitting in, and by then any context forthcoming doesn’t get linked back. It’s like being in the middle of a paragraph when you hit the photo plates in an older book – yes the photos are very interesting thank you but I need to finish the thought you were sharing with me before I go back and look at them. I think maybe he thinks this is challenging the reader but it’s not, it’s just annoying and makes what are otherwise interesting premises totally opaque. I shouldn’t need to work this hard for a story about a hit man who decides not to kill a politician. 

If the book had a more cohesive theme in terms of the stories, it might be more readable – he clearly enjoys building worlds and then doesn’t quite know what to do with them once he’s built them, so if this was an entire book of “weird and different worlds” ala Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, I would buy in more fully and I think he would have put a little more elbow in. But it’s not. It’s mostly “here’s a really interesting world and a person living in squalor in it does something while being in it”. Also he appears to be fascinated by describing things that are shaped like pi. And a lot of times it feels like he read a wikipedia article on something and wanted to share some knowledge, so he just kind of built a half-assed story around his wikiwander. 

And all of this I would probably let go if say, it was something I was noticing in a fanfic writer, or someone who was just starting out, or someone I felt was genuinely trying to get a point across. But there’s this inexplicable sense of arrogance to the collection, a sort of smugness to it that in professional writers drives me up the goddamn wall. Stephen King sometimes falls into the same trap, where it feels like the author believes they don’t have to respect their readers because they are The Writer. 

The thing about volumes of short stories is that you keep reading it because sometimes there is a real gem. And there are one or two good stories in the volume, but I don’t know if they’re worth the rest of it. 

So my review I guess is mostly me being annoyed, but it boils down to “If you like short stories in the SFF Noir genre, give it a whirl, but if you’re bored with a story none of them get better, so feel free to skip to the next one.” 

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For anyone who might be interested, Pixar has Pixar in a Box on Khan Academy.

It's primarily directed at film writing, but I think it can be used for all types of narrative storytelling. I've been listening to The Art of Storytelling video series.

It starts out with "We are all storytellers," (I'm there still) which I think is an admirable point and has a number of their creators talking about their amateur efforts and how they got started, like Betty and Veronica fashion fanart. :)

It leads to characterization and story structure, and while I don't know that visual language is going to be terribly helpful to us print writers, it might give good ideas for descriptions of scenery to go around dialogue. There are also lessons and activities that you can do, should you choose.

(I can't find closed captions on Khan Academy, though. That's my one quibble thus far.)

One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is still this graphic: Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling.

No, I'm not saying they have to be YOUR rules too. I'm just saying I find the list as a useful set of way to help me go through one of my stories and figure out what's not working and what I need to do to make it work. Or sometimes, for me to just let go and stopy worrying at something, and maybe come back to it later.
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archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - search - about
July 20th, 2017next

July 20th, 2017: This comic is inspired by... THE PLANET MARS!!

Thanks to everyone who backed my Kickstarter! I'm super stoked about the book and I can't wait to get it out there. Hooray!

– Ryan

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Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Orlando Jones officiate Syfy geeky weddings SDCC 2017

Some networks set up themed Escape the Rooms for comic conventions. Syfy went the pop-up wedding chapel route… with American Gods’ Orlando Jones officiating!

Fan couples are invited to “wear the one ring” or renew their vows at the Geek Love Chapel. The Hollywood Reporter has already profiled a few nuptials, from a pair of Star Wars fans where the bride wore a Poe Dameron dress (we approve) to Sharknado star Ian Ziering, who surprised his wife with a vow renewal.

Speaking of anniversaries, this is all part of Syfy celebrating 25 years; the pop-up chapel is just one attraction, alongside cosplay makeup stations and a karaoke bus. And it’s all legit: Jones tweeted proof that he’d been ordained, and told THR why the whole thing makes him feel all warm’n’fuzzy:

Marrying fans at the Syfy Geek Chapel is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever done. Everyone follows the same path to fandom: You read or watch a story unfold as your heart races, you laugh, you cry, you fall in love and become a fan. I will forever be in Syfy’s debt for not only partnering with me and my Cosmunity app, but boldly going where no network has ever gone before. Celebrating 25 years of Syfy by putting fans center stage and sharing in one of the most magical moments in a person’s life pays more than lip service to the idea that #ItsaFanThing.

Orlando Jones is the SFF godfather we do not deserve.

Photo: @SYFY

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Posted by Michael Livingston

So “Dragonstone,” this season’s first episode of HBO’s enormously popular series Game of Thrones, was a welcome relief from too many months without our beloved characters. I enjoyed it, as I always do. Good times.

There’s one part, though, that was a bit of a shit show.

And no, I don’t mean Sam’s montage or Ed Sheeran’s cameo.

(I’m kidding, Ed! Your Hobbit theme remails one of the best things about those films.)

SPOILERS Ahead.

It was the part at the end of the episode: Dany’s arrival at Dragonstone.

Shall we begin?

Let me first say: this was cool. We’d been waiting for this moment since the show started. Dany’s been waiting almost her entire life. The visuals were stunning. The build-up, I thought, was perfectly on point. I applaud the amazing writers and directors for letting the moment unfold so deliberately. Spending such a long time on long shots without dialogue is rare in any entertainment these days, but it was perfect for the moment. Well done.

Only….

Where the hell is everyone?

Crickets.

Yes, I know Stannis “Burn the Babies” Baratheon left Dragonstone and took off to the north with his army (to get his ass kicked). But are you telling me he left nobody behind? Not even a token force in arms? And even if he didn’t do that—I’m putting on my historian hat now—there should still be people there.

(In the book chronology, of course, people most definitely are there: Stannis left Rolland Storm behind as castellan, and Ser Loras Tyrell subsequently destroyed him and seized the islands for the Iron Throne. This is because George R.R. Martin knows his history and is The Man.)

Look: Dragonstone is an important place in Martin’s world. Politically, culturally, strategically, if you want to rule Westeros you’d be well-served to hold Dragonstone. And it is, as we know, a truly massive fortification on a rock in the middle of the open sea. Both its size and its location present tremendous difficulties to anyone who might want to hold it, much less anyone who might want to seize it.

And that’s precisely why it’s so nonsensical that Dany finds Dragonstone deserted in the television show.

It might seem an odd analogy, but think about Dragonstone as a modern-day aircraft carrier. (Yes, I know that the island can’t move, but bear with me.) If you’ve ever toured an aircraft carrier, even a relatively small one—like the WW2-era USS Yorktown here in my beloved Charleston—you know that they must function as cities unto themselves. They can hold a lot of combat personnel, but they must also hold an enormous number of non-combat personnel to support all those folks: doctors and dentists, cooks and cleaners, mechanics and many more.

Take all that and multiply it a few times over and you might get something like the non-combat army that’s needed to support an army like the one Stannis had on Dragonstone. We’re talking thousands of laborers and tradesmen and people of every stripe.

Yet when Dany arrives they’re … gone? All of them? She sees not a single soul on the island. The gates at the shoreline are unlocked. The gates of the palace itself are unlocked. The doors all the way through to Stannis Baratheon’s super-secret war-council room are unlocked.

Echo! (Echo!)

As a historian, I nearly choked.

Not only did Stannis not leave anyone behind … he didn’t even bother to bolt the doors?

Even aside from the fact that he was a glowering child-burner, I figure the dude deserved to die just for that.

Historically speaking, a good military leader doesn’t leave good military positions open for just anyone to waltz in and take them. As I said, I know Stannis was “all-in” to go help in the north. I get that. But this is still nonsense to leave it unoccupied.

Think about it like this:

If he lost and escaped the north, Stannis would need a place to retreat. Since few places are more defensible than Dragonstone, he should have left a small force there.

If he won and came down from the north, Stannis would not want to give his enemies places to hold him off. Since few places are more difficult to attack than Dragonstone, he should have left a small force there to prevent enemies from moving in.

I mean, sure, Stannis is a religious zealot and so maybe he thought that when the Lord of Light said “Go North, young man” His Flameness meant literally everyone including the beggars and so he got every friggin soul off the island and figured, well, ol’ Fires Himself will protect the place so I don’t need to bother locking a door or anything and yeah sure that’s stupid but Stannis is, as I said, a fundamentalist zealot …

Okay, maybe…but then not one person decided to move in after he left? Like not even some poor fisherman from Rook’s Rest who looked out across the water as they all sailed away and thought to himself, “Hey, you know what beats living in this leaking straw-roofed freaking mud-hovel? Living in there.”

I can buy a lot of nonsense in my fantasy, my friends, but this I cannot abide.

Speaking of Dragonstone, I saw some discussion online about people thinking it’s strange that the fortification’s gates opened inward instead of outward—they thought that inward-opening gates would be easier to knock down with battering rams than outward-opening ones would be, and thus HBO’s inward-opening ones weren’t “realistic.”

The medieval doors of Castle Garth. (Party on! Excellent!)

Interestingly, this is a detail that the Game of Thrones gang nailed. Medieval gates opened inwards, and for a number of good reasons.

1. Humans can push things better than we can pull them. It’s easier to push a gate shut than to pull it shut. This is especially true under attack. If you’re pushing the gate shut, the gate is protecting you; if you’re pulling it shut, you’re totally exposed.

2. If someone is trying to open the gates, having them open inward allows you the option to barricade the gate. Outward-opening gates have no such option.

3. If a gate opens outward, then its hinges would be on the outside, which is … um, sub-optimal for defense to say the least.

Anyhow, here’s hoping HBO hits more of these realistic medieval notes in future episodes of this “medieval” fantasy… and fewer empty-headed empty castles.

(H/T to Jack Cranshaw, who suggested on Facebook that I discuss medieval Dragonstone matters. Hey, why aren’t you following me on Facebook? Or on Twitter?)

gates-hellMichael Livingston is a Professor of Medieval Literature at The Citadel who has written extensively both on medieval history and on modern medievalism. His historical fantasy series set in Ancient Rome, The Shards of Heaven and its sequel The Gates of Hell, is available from Tor Books.

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a photo of an unborn elephant in the womb - cover for a list of unborn animals still in the womb

Producer Peter Chinn used a combination of dimensional ultrasound scans, tiny cameras and computer graphics to create these truly mesmerizing images. But lets face it… They are still a bit creepy. 

He did this project for a National Geographic documentary that aired several years ago. Now mind that they are not actual photographs, this is digital images in what the unborn baby relatively accurately looks like.







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Tagged: pictures , unborn , newborn , animals

when the sun burst through the sky

Jul. 21st, 2017 10:05 am
musesfool: Stephanie Brown as Batgirl (can't hardly wait)
[personal profile] musesfool
I spent last night reading fic where Jason and Cass turn out to be biological siblings, not just adopted siblings, and squee!, that is one of my favorite Batfamily tropes. Plus, there was some awesome Jason-Cass-Steph bonding which I feel canon has repeatedly cheated me out of, even though they would get along like a house on fire (literally, probably, given Jason's involvement and enjoyment in blowing things up). Plus there is some hilarious snark at poor Tim's expense that made me laugh out loud repeatedly. Oh Tim. (There will be recs at the end of the month as usual, but here and here for those of you who are impatient and also not following my pinboard.)

Also, yesterday, my consolation birthday present arrived - a beautiful red patent leather Love Moschino tote bag (wow, there were three left in stock when I ordered mine and now there are none! I'm glad I got there in time!). During the whole epic search for a new bag, I coveted a red patent leather bag, but couldn't find one (or, rather, couldn't find one that was less than, like, $800 and while I'm profligate, I'm not that profligate), since I guess they aren't in style right now? Except it's red patent leather so I can't imagine how it could go out of style? But whatever. On a whim on Wednesday, I checked Zappo's to see if there were any available, and lo and behold, there it was. It's beautiful. It's big and kind of unwieldy (and unpleasantly sticky against the bare skin of my arm in the heat), but I don't care, because it's gorgeous.

Bosses 1 & 3 both admired it as I unpacked it from the box, and they were like, "Are you going to save it for special occasions?" and I said, "Hell no!" (note: I did not actually say "Hell no!" I just said, "no! I bought it so I could use it! Because it is beautiful!") And I recommend to all of you to use your beautiful and special things rather than waiting for some mythical special occasion to crop up, because frequently, you will be waiting forever and never get to enjoy the beautiful thing you bought for yourself. Using a special bag/wearing your beautiful new shoes/opening that expensive bottle of wine - they can all make a regular occasion special, and I recommend you do that rather than wait for some occasion arbitrarily deemed "special" enough to break out the fancy lipstick or whatever. Live your best life whenever you can, people!

***

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