justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
[personal profile] justira posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
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What's a Word Worth is a new column by [personal profile] justira about the mechanics of writing. In this column, I examine the actual writing of every single book I read, focusing on how it conveys meaning and whether the writing works for me as an editor, reader, and fellow writer. My analysis will be based on the Peircian semiotic framework, explained in the first few posts of the column.

"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference."
—June Jordan, Technical Difficulties (1994, p. 197)

So! New column! And I thought I'd start things off by digging into how words mean.

What exactly do I mean by that? What does it have to do with evaluating writing? Well, when I write the word "cat", how do you know what I mean? What kind of cat do you imagine? What would an alien imagine? Or, when I say "this is blue, that is red", how do you know what "this" and "that" refer to? (Or what "blue" and "red" are, for that matter!) When a writer writes, "this surgeon is a butcher," how do you get the idea that this surgeon is really bad at their job, rather than actually being someone who cuts up animal meat for food on the side? Metaphor is a powerful writing tool, and I can tell you how it works.

Language can also be used to signify belonging to a group and draw group boundaries — think of the boundaries drawn by use of the word "queer". Who's allowed to use that word? To refer to themselves? To others? Who objects to the term? Are they part of the same groups? Language is a key resource for asserting and realizing group identities to achieve social and political goals(1). Similar mechanics in turn can be used by authors to signify belonging to a certain school of SFF, or by characters in dialogue to show they belong to specific groups or classes.

My degree is in linguistics, and I wrote my undergraduate thesis on semiotics(2), which, put plainly, is the study of how words mean; this background informs all of my thinking as a writer, reader, and editor. I plan to use this column to analyze writing, and I wanted to let you into my process and background. Plus, I think this stuff is fascinating. So! The first few posts in this column will rehash the first chapter of my thesis for a general audience, and I will refer back to the concepts and terminology when I finally dig into analyzing authors' writing.

Just to be clear, you don't have to read through all this semiotics stuff to understand my breakdowns of other people's writing. However! I want to share this stuff because (a) it's my passion and I find it fascinating and (b) I find it to be a useful framework for analysis. So if you're curious, read on!

First, some housecleaning: some of you may have heard of semiotics before, or semiology. This was almost certainly the dyadic framework of Saussure. The semiotics I'll be covering here is the — in my ever so humble and biased opinion — much more interesting and accurate triadic framework of Peirce. I'll explain the differences later, but just wanted to be clear up front: this isn't the signifier/signified Saussure stuff you may have seen before.

Now we're ready to go!

Signs and Meaning

Semiotics is the study of how signs mean, how sign processes work, and how signification and communication happens. But what's up with that definition? First of all, what is a "sign"?

Well, that depends on who you ask. For our purposes: A sign is anything that stands for something else to someone, somewhere, in some capacity. If you think that definition is broad, then good! It is! Words are a type of sign. Actual literal signs, like bathroom signs or road signs, are a type of sign. Emoji are signs. A footprint can be a sign, because someone can read it to mean that someone stepped foot there, and perhaps make guesses about the characteristics of that person, like their weight and shoe size. Signs are a very broad category!

So how can we have any idea how signs mean if they're such a broad category? Don't all those different types of signs mean what they do in completely different ways?


There is actually a very sensible system underlying the chaos. In the Peircian semiotic framework, there are basically three ways signs mean what they do. Peircian semiotics provides a powerful, articulate vocabulary and framework for understanding and analyzing how meaning is made and understood(3).

Peirce vs. Saussure on the Sign

Saussure and Peirce had very different conceptions of the sign, and before we go forward I want to make sure we're properly oriented.

Saussure's sign is dyadic, consisting of the signifier — such as the sound of the word "dog" — and the signified — the idea of dog triggered upon exposure to the signifier. But why, when hearing "dog," do I think of dogs, or a particular dog? The link between signifier and signified is arbitrary: that is, it is due to a social convention rather than any "natural" connection. Saussure made much of the arbitrariness of the signifier-signified relationship, because, come on, isn't it kind of weird that we all think of more or less the same sort of thing when we hear a certain collection of sounds or see a certain collection of written shapes? So far, so good, but Saussure dismissed as uninteresting any other modes of signification. So remember how I said road signs, emoji, and footprints are all signs? We can interpret emoji, for example; could an alien? Well, Saussure thinks they're not something linguistics should study; he finds them boring(4).

Peirce doesn't. And seeing as those kinds of meaning are part of how powerful things like metaphors work, I think Peirce is right.

Saussure's approach to signs and signification emphasizes autonomous, arbitrary systems and takes language as the primary and ideal model of such system. Peirce thinks there's more to it.

Peirce defines a sign in the broadest and most flexible terms as something that stands for something else to somebody in some capacity (CP 2.228)(5)(6). As such, anything can and does function as a sign as soon as someone takes it to mean or refer to something. There is no inherent meaning to a sign: it only functions as a sign once someone is there to interpret it. Moreover, for Peirce, the sign itself is not a self-evident idea or entity but a catalyst for an effect(7), such as the alarm I feel when I hear a police siren or the certain idea that springs up in my mind when I hear the word "cat". Both of those are signs; both are catalysts for effects. A fundamental premise here is that the sign has to create an effect, called the interpretant, within the living being who is the recipient of the sign: nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign by someone. This premise precludes the abstract assigning of meanings as in Saussure; there is no inherent meaning in a sign, only meaning in context.

This immediately raises questions about sentience, sapience, aliens, what have you! (I told you this would be interesting from an SFF perspective.) So who can interpret a sign, giving it its essential sign-ness? Now, if any of you are getting shades of quantum mechanics, well! You are quite right!

For those unfamiliar, there is a famous quantum mechanics experiment called the double-slit experiment or the two-slit experiment. You shoot particles, like photons or electrons, at a screen with two slits in it, and observe what pattern forms on the detector on the other side of the screen. If the electrons act as matter, they should go through one slit or the other and form two bars on the detector, corresponding to the two slits. If the electrons act like waves, they'll go through both slits and form an interference pattern of many light and dark bars. Now, if you only look at the detector on the other side of the screen, you'll see an interference pattern, meaning the electrons are acting like waves. Which is weird! Electrons are matter! However, if you set up some way to observe the electrons and detect which slit they go through, you will get the two-bar pattern. Whether the electron acted like a particle or a wave depended on whether it was being observed. This is known as collapsing the wave function. So who counts as an observer? There is actually a pretty cool book about exactly that question: The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka. If the weirdness of quantum mechanics interests you, I recommend that book. I'll probably also cover the writing in it in this very series.

So in quantum mechanics, everything is about potential: an electron has the potential to act as a wave or as a particle, depending on whether it is observed or not. Similarly, according to Peirce, something can have the potential to act as a sign, and only becomes concretely a sign if it is observed and interpreted. We'll return to the question of how exactly this process happens — how the wave function of a sign is collapsed by the act of signification — in a later installment in this series.

Peirce's framework will provide us with a way of classifying signs according to how and why they mean or signify, but it is important to remember that the categorization of any given sign is not inherent, but is instead dependent on the context and the interpreter. Peirce's theory of signs was meant to illuminate how people experience the world, and make concrete the very process of thought. That's right: semiotics describes not just how words mean, but how thought occurs. Such is the process (note that this is an activity, not an idea per Saussure) of semiosis, where one sign effects an idea that in turn becomes a sign for a different idea, and so on. This is semiotic chaining, which models, among other things, the process of thought. It also models writing and reading.

The Main Trichotomies: The Three Modes of Being

First up: everything with Peirce is about threes, triadic relations, trichotomies. So expect lots of groups of three coming up!

Peirce's semiotic framework depends on the central categorization of all phenomena into three modes of being. This basic trichotomy is the organizing principle by which the rest of Peirce's semiotics framework is structured. I'm going to outline it briefly here, then come back to it after the other posts in this Peirce series, once we have a lot more examples to work from.

There are, then, three modes of being: Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness. Firstness is the realm of pure quality and possibility. Firstness exists in and of itself, without relation to and independent of any second entity or particular instance of those things — just the idea or quality of them. Firstnesses are simplex and immediate, and we also never meet true Firstness in our mundane world. Examples might be blueness or Americanness or fear independent of any particular instantiation. It is highly significant to note that Firstnesses are not necessarily "natural" or themselves non-semiotic: Americanness, for example, is socially constructed and socially relative. Blueness, for that matter, is socially constructed, too: there is a whole body of work on colour relativity and the idea that how we not only name but perceive colour is culturally influenced. In fact, there's evidence that humans didn't even see the colour blue until relatively recently, and even things we're used to thinking of as blue, like the sky, are culturally influenced.

There is a very powerful corollary to this: who is it that determines these categories? Who says something is "the same" enough to be part of the same general idea? We're having debates right at this moment about "Americanness": who can count as an "American" and what "being an American" means. For this, I refer to the quote at the top of this post: "There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." The power to determine membership in a Firstness is great indeed, and it belongs both to everyone and to specific individuals like lawmakers, politicians, tastemakers, and other influential people. This is power.

But that's Firstness. There is also Secondness. Secondness is the realm of existent objects, the experience of actual fact, of pure reaction. Secondness is a relation between two entities, unmediated by any third entity. Tables, chairs, roses, spoken words, and everyday objects also partake of Secondness, being instantiations of Firstnesses, and necessarily include and embody Firstness, as a red rose embodies the quality of redness. An instinctive reaction of pure startelement is Secondness. If I were to react to something large and dark with pure, thoughtless fear, I would be experiencing Secondness.

However, if I stopped to think about it (thus mediating my response), I might be able to consider why I am afraid and what exactly it is that I'm afraid of. This is touching upon the realm of Thirdness Thirdness involves the mediational capabilities of a thinking entity to form general, law-like relationships between two other things. This is the domain of habit, reflection, and, indeed, representation — as we will see, representation necessarily involves mediation between an object and what the sign stands for. When we habitually associate, by convention, one thing with another, we partake of Thirdness. So for example associating the word "dog" with the idea of dog is Thirdness. I will explain this in further detail in future posts, where I can give more examples. So, coming back to our example: Although earlier I experienced Secondness in the form of unreasoning fear at seeing a strange, large, dark shape approach, when I realized it was my faithful dog, whom I associate with safety and protection, this association and its effect of calming my fear was due to Thirdness.

This foundational trichotomy underlies and informs the rest of Peirce's semiotic. Don't worry if it seems a bit vague right now: future posts will give further examples. Equipped with this basic categorization, we can move on to another central trichotomy: that of the sign-relation itself.

The Main Trichotomies: The Sign-Relation

A sign-relation is composed of three basic semiotic elements(8): the representamen, the object, and the interpretant. (Fig 1.1). The representamen is what we commonly call the sign. If we look at a weathervane and assume it indicates the direction of the wind, then the weathervane itself is the representamen. Likewise, if I were to say the word "dog", referring to a certain type of domesticated mammal, and it brought to mind for you the idea of a dog, then the word "dog", my particular use of it in that instance, is here the representamen. Representamena are a kind of Firstness, as they exist in and of themselves. Though a representamen only functions as a sign in the full context of representamen-object-interpretant, its existence as a thing with the potential to mean something is independent of any other element.
 photo semiotics-fig-1.1-sign-relation_zpsimbgws0k.png
Fig 1.1: The sign-relation (from Turino 1999:223).

The object is the entity stood for by the sign, the thing to which the representamen refers, or the thing that caused the shape of the sign. It can be a concrete object, such as a particular dog, or an abstract idea, such as the idea of dog in general. When I say "dog", do you think of a particular dog, or of dogs in general? This is a question we'll come back to later. For the weathervane we discussed earlier, the object is the wind that caused it to turn in a particular direction. Notice that objects cannot be accessed directly, but must be referred to by a representamen. Even the act of seeing something, which we might think of as a natural and non-relational act, does not directly access the observed object. When I look at a horse, I do not see the horse itself, but rather the light that has bounced off the horse's form and into my eyes. This light-image is my representamen for the object, the horse itself. We will return later to this dyadic relationship between sign and object in great detail, but for now it is only necessary to observe that, because this relation is dyadic, it is Secondness.

The interpretant is the effect of the sign in/on the observer, what we might call the "sense" or meaning made from the sign. This can be a feeling (a Firstness), a physical reaction (a Secondness), or a complex idea articulated in linguistic terms (a Thirdness). If we take "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a whole as a sign, then it might create in us feelings of pride or hatred; cause us to cry or smile or feel anger; or bring to mind complex ideas like "home", "country", nationalism, patriotism, or imperialism(9). The interpretant involves a triadic, mediated relationship with the sign and object; it is a type of Thirdness.

This is the fundamental structure of the sign-relation. There are further categories for types of signs and the kinds of relationships that exists between representamena, objects, and interpretants. We'll get to these in the next posts, and this will allow us to talk about exactly what goes on when something acts as a sign.


For now, here is a review:

Anything that stands for something else to someone in some capacity. Words, bathroom signs, and weathervanes are all signs.

The process by which a sign creates the effect of an idea in the mind of an interpreter.

Something that exists in and of itself; a quality or possibility. Redness and Americanness are Firstnesses.

A relation between two entities, unmediated by any third entity. An existent object, experience of actual fact, or pure reaction are all Secondnesses. Concrete examples would be a table or a reaction of startlement. Secondesses embody and instantiate Firstnesses, as a red rose embodies the quality of redness.

A mediated, law-like relation formed by a thinking entity between two other objects. Associating the idea of dog with the word "dog" is a Thirdness. Most linguistic relations are a type of Thirdness.

What we commonly call the sign. It has the potential to refer to something, but does not actually act as a sign until it is interpreted.

The entity or idea to which the representamen refers.

The effect created by the representamen in the interpreter (the thinking individual observing the sign).

Thanks for reading!


  1. See, for example:
    (back to text)

  2. Specifically, my thesis was a semiotic analysis of rape in the legal system. It looked at how language related to law and gender, and how rape was spoken about in the law and in the courtroom. It was called In Her Image: Iconic Modalities Driving Law, Gender, and Cultural Perceptions of Rape, and it's available here if you want to read it. (back to text)

  3. Unfortunately, it has also yielded a terminological complexity that has limited the degree to which distinctly Peircian semiotics have penetrated into linguistics at large and the general audience. Some of Peirce's terms and ideas have leaked into the general vocabulary of anthropology and linguistics. But of these few, most are used with gross imprecision and lack of understanding ("icon", "index", "symbol"), or, when they are used correctly, without the benefit of the framework in which they are rightly embedded ("type"/"token"). The type/token distinction, for example, leaves out the third term ("tone") that forms the trichotomy. This is a significant error because Peircian semiotics is grounded in triadic, rather than dyadic, relations. (back to text)

  4. Saussure, F. d. ([1916] 1983). Course in General Linguistics. London, Duckworth (back to text)

  5. By scholarly convention, references to Peirce's Collected Writings (1931-58) are formatted as: CP volume.paragraph. (back to text)

  6. Peirce, C. S. (1931-58). Collected Papers (8 vols). Cambridge, Harvard University Press. (back to text)

  7. Turino, T. (1999). "Signs of Imagination, Identity, and Experience: A Peircian Semiotic Theory of Music." Ethnomusicology 42(2): 221-255.

    Take note that Peircian semiotics can be applied to music! How cool! (back to text)

  8. Sign-relations are, of course, not the only examples of triadic relations. Peirce uses acceleration as another example of a genuine, irreducibly triadic relationship: "Now an acceleration, instead of being like a velocity a relation between two successive positions, is a relation between three." (CP 1.359). (back to text)

  9. Or, if you know the rest of the verses, racism. (back to text)
oursin: Pciture of hedgehog labelled domestic hedgehog (domestic hedgehog)
[personal profile] oursin

I knew I had a few life-admin/domestic things this week: dental hygienist appointment, parcel to pick up from the depot because they put a card through the door last week, go and look for new sitting room chairs -

And I thought, why not, now that booking is opened and I am doing all this life-admin business, schedule my flu-jab -

And I thought, post office depot is not 100 miles from network provider's most local store, I could go there and buy myself a new phone since I am doing no good at all at their website.

So: I have lovely shiny toofypegs.

I have picked up my parcel.

I have a shiiiiny new smartphone that turned out to be cheaper if bought in-store, and has ported over my number without trouble, though I am still getting to grips with it more generally.

And then:

I got in and thought, that's funny, it's that sound as if the tank is refilling -

And then I looked out of the kitchen window and saw a stream of water spouting out from under the gutter from the cold-water tank in the not very accessible loft.

So I rang partner, and then contacted British Gas Homecare (with which our policy also covers plumbing) and booked someone to come tomorrow as it didn't seem urgent-urgent though something that needed attending to fairly soon -

And then went to meet partner so we could go and look at furniture (we think we have spotted some chairs that Will Fit The Bill, though a bit dearer than we had anticipated) -

And when we got in, partner went up into the loft to see if he could at least do something temporary, and it is no longer gushing out but it is coming in at great speed -

So partner is currently sitting up there like the little Dutch boy and we are waiting for an emergency plumber within the next few hours.

The situation is complicated in that the stopcock for the house appears to be in the downstairs flat, the occupants of which are currently out. There is a mains stopcock outside in the pavement, but that is for us and next door, and also, I think one needs some special thing to turn it off?


And in connection with domestic concerns, saw this article about the rise of the inept motherhood trope, which of course, my dearios, is by no means a new motif, come on down, Provincial Lady and a vast number of jolly columns in women's magazines, and Jill Tweedie's Fainthearted Feminist, and probably several more that I have forgotten.

Pokémon Go: Week 10

Sep. 27th, 2016 02:04 pm
nanila: me (Default)
[personal profile] nanila
For various reasons, I'm planning to reward myself with a very, very long Pokéwalk when I'm in London this week. Are you still playing? Has anyone just started? All types and levels of squee are welcome in the comments.

  • I HATCHED A LICKITUNG! From a 5k egg I picked up in the USA, I think.
  • I also hatched another Vulpix. I’m still not in reasonable candy number/walking distance to a Ninetails, especially with several other candidates that are 5 candies or less from their first evolution.
  • I popped a Lucky Egg and deployed the Spreadsheet of Evolve. I now have: Kadabra, Abrok, Machoke, Primeape, Gloom, Parasect, Graveler and Rapidash.
  • I didn’t even get to the 16 Pidgey evolutions before the Egg ran out, but did them afterward and reached Level 24.
  • I maxed out the Kanto medal with the latest set of evolutions. 102 registered in the Pokédex.
  • Very close to maxing out the Collector (2000 Pokémon caught!), Scientist and Backpacker medals.
  • I now have two Gyarados. So many Magikarp. But it’s worth it because the end result is another beautiful blue dragon. My new dragon is CP1800+ and over 400 kg. Ginormous.
  • Most of the way to silver medals in the following, but assume achieving gold is probably not a sustainable goal: Fisherman, Ruin Maniac, Hiker and Hex Maniac.
  • That said, every time my interest begins to wane, I have a trip to London and I get hooked all over again.
  • I walked my Ponyta for 27 km until I earned a fire unicorn. O gorgeous Rapidash. Such a shame that to stroke your mane and tail is to set one’s hand alight. <333
  • Currently walking my Omanyte. Three candies to Oma-something-or-other!
  • This past weekend I was walking with Keiki in a Poké-rich location. I came across a gym headed by a CP400-ish Pidgeotto and thought, aha, I can take this before Keiki gets bored in his pushchair, so I’ll just have a quick play. No sooner had I installed my Rainer (Vaporeon) atop the gym than a door nearby opened and a boy rushed out. “Was that you?” he demanded. “Er, yes,” I replied, taken aback. “That was my best Pokémon,” he replied, crestfallen. “Oh, um, sorry,” I said. There was a pause. “Tell you what, I’ll drop a lure on that Pokéstop and maybe you can catch something even better.” I did, and he pootled happily back inside, thereby hopefully mitigating the Adult Woman Accidentally Ruins Child’s Day scenario. WHOOPS

(PS I made a thread on [personal profile] littlebutfierce’s A Wild Love Meme Appears. I don’t normally do these things but I could use it right now so if you feel like saying a Nice Thing or two I’d appreciate it, thank you.)

(no subject)

Sep. 27th, 2016 09:39 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] curtana!

Daily Happiness

Sep. 27th, 2016 12:52 am
torachan: ewan mcgregor pulling his glasses down to look over the top (ewan glasses)
[personal profile] torachan
1. It was ridiculously hot today, but very dry, so it didn't feel as awful as it might otherwise have done. (The poor kitties were clearly unhappy with the heat, though.)

2. I got the house vacuumed (so much cat hair!) and also got a lot of scanlation stuff done.

3. I posted manga!

4. I woke up to sweetie kitties in my bed this morning.

torachan: (shibito no koe wo kiku ga yoi)
[personal profile] torachan
I'm still looking for someone to clean and typeset this series with me. If you're interested, please let me know! I will be able to get it out much faster if I'm not doing everything myself.

Title: You Will Hear the Voice of the Dead
Original Title: 死人との声をきくがよい (Shibito no Koe wo Kiku ga Yoi)
Author: Hiyodori Sachiko (Uguisu Sachiko)
Publisher: Champion Red Comics
Genre: Shounen
Status in Japan: 8 volumes, ongoing
Scanlator: Megchan's Scanlations + HotCakes
Scanlation Status: Ongoing
More Info: Baka Updates

Summary: Sickly Kishida Jun has the ability to see ghosts, but in his opinion, it's a stupid power and nothing good ever comes of it. Considering the number of grisly situations he seems to find himself in after the ghost of his childhood friend Hayakawa Ryoko starts following him around, he may have a point.

Chapter Summary: Kishida's cousin wants to photograph the ruins of an abandoned amusement park with a gruesome history. What could possibly go wrong?

Chapter 3: The Ferris Wheel of Death
oursin: Photograph of Stella Gibbons, overwritten IM IN UR WOODSHED SEEING SOMETHIN NASTY (woodshed)
[personal profile] oursin

On the one hand we have Introverts! Get Over Yourselves! Get Out There And Socialise! (do we think that the writer thinks that MANNERS would also require submitting to unwanted embraces from relatives, etc? because it would Hurt Their Feelings if you didn't.)

This intersects just so much with the standard female obligations to grease the wheels of social life.

On another, we have these people who want small talk to be banned. Well, I am no great fan of small talk, which I am very bad at, but I also resist the ukase to speak only on those topics traditionally Banned in the Mess (sex, religion, and politics, as I recall).

Also, this reminds me all too much of Mr Mybug going around asking women 'do women have souls', which he presumably thinks makes him look DEEP.


And in other news, have spent far too much time over the past day or so endeavouring to give my mobile phone provider moolah so that I can have a new phone with more memory and, I hope, a better turn of speed, and I keep getting a transient message saying 'Please check the page for the following errors', without, you know, actually describing what the errors are, after I have put in my card details and clicked continue and it shows all the signs of transaction going through.

Several attempts, tried different cards, different browsers, and if doing it via tablet made a difference. Also ringing my card provider to confirm that their initial security block had been lifted.

I tweeted about this and so far the response has been, does your local store have the model in stock? (they do, but I can't even do click and collect. Also, I was rather hoping not to have to trek to a physical shop.)

Tell me again that this is a society of instant gratification.

cimorene: Screencap of an iChat conversation bubble that says "Dude?" (wtf?)
[personal profile] cimorene
I think the ideal regular social event would be a combination knitting circle and Dungeons and Dragons (actually I've read some random stuff on the topic and think it should actually be Pathfinder, but I have no direct experience of either).

My sister agrees, but Dallas to southwest Finland is just too much distance to manage that. I mean, there's videochat tabletop gaming, but the 8-hour time difference would be murder.

We both don't actually know how to play D&D and have never played even though our dad was a DM when he was in high school and college. Honestly, I feel betrayed that he never taught us in person.

My sister and I agreed that the best way to set up something like this would be to find a local knitting group and then canvas it for people who could be converted to the idea, but that depends on someone else in the group knowing how to play and being happy to teach you. If the person who wanted to organize it knows how to play, it would kind of remove the difficulty.

My sister is way ahead of me here because she has actually attended local knitting circles multiple times in her life - I don't think she has one now, but she used to go to one in Louisiana. I've been talking about wanting to go to one, but been too socially anxious, since before she was inspired by my example to teach herself to knit. 😕 Of course, language and culture issues add to my social anxiety and even if they didn't raise the initial bar to Just Doing It to insurmountability, socializing in Finnish as I would then have to do would be both mentally and emotionally tiring, much more so than just doing social things that make me anxious in general. Of course, conversing regularly in Finnish would be mentally tiring because my Finnish isn't fluent, so logically the practice would be good for me, but that doesn't make it less daunting.


Sep. 26th, 2016 12:17 pm
finch: (Default)
[personal profile] finch
“What are you doing out here?” I’d heard the door. I didn’t have to open my eyes to know it was her. I was laying on my back on the front walk, letting the cold from the stones seep through my flannel shirt and my skin and my subcutaneous fat, and settle in the space in my chest.

Moping, I didn’t answer. Sinking into the earth, and failing even at that. “Thinking.”

“It’s cold.”

“It is?” It was an honest question; I hadn’t really felt it. Autumn was coming on slow, but it was coming.

I felt tiny hands on face. “Wake up, Daddy. Bye, Daddy.”

“Bye?” I opened my eyes and my daughter was right there, bent over my face and giggling.

“She wanted to go to the park,” my spouse explained. “I thought maybe you could get some writing done.”

I sat up like a glacier retreating. “Thanks.”

“Do you have something to work on?”

“I’m open to suggestion,” I sighed more than answered, and she gave me a peck on the cheek.

“You’ll think of something,” she insisted, confident. “Remember the conversation we had earlier?” Then she and the baby were gone, and the house rang with her silence.

I turned the earlier conversation over in my head and wondered what I had to add. Sure enough, my thoughts sorted themselves like salt through a shaker and I hurriedly began to type.

The post Voices appeared first on Jack of Many Trades.

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Daily Happiness

Sep. 26th, 2016 12:50 am
torachan: a kitten looking out the window (chloe in window)
[personal profile] torachan
1. The ants got better for a bit but then SO MUCH WORSE, so I finally tried the suggestion of putting the catfood plates in a dish of water and it seems to be working. Also has the bonus of catching 95% of food scraps in the water, making for less cleanup. (Molly likes to stick her hand in the food and eat off her hand, which is super cute but doesn't work particularly well with cat paws, so a lot of food gets outside of the bowl.)

2. It was hot today and supposed to be even hotter tomorrow, but then is supposed to drop pretty dramatically in a day or so, so I'm really hopeful this is just one last heat spell and not the start of a super hot autumn like last year.

3. The second half of the week is going to be sooooo busy, but at least I get tomorrow off. I'm looking forward to sleeping in and relaxing.

4. Look at this sweet sleepy Chloe.


Sep. 25th, 2016 09:33 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

As we got in latish and exhausted on Friday, no Saturday morning rolls.

However, we stayed in on Saturday evening and I cooked us dinner: roasted marrow-bones (Waitrose sells split marrowbones and they are not at all dear) with capers; and then a bozbash of onion, aubergine, okra, red and green bell peppers, chickpeas and chopped dried apricots.

Today's lunch: Plaice fillets with coriander butter, with sweet sprouting cauliflower, which I cooked according to the roasted broccoli with garlic recipe, mangetout peas stirfried with star anise, and La Ratte potatoes roasted in goosefat.

Currently in the oven: Psomi loaf, with mixed seeds rather than just sesame.

Adventures in Jewish leadership

Sep. 25th, 2016 04:18 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
Over the course of this weekend:
  • A young Russian Orthodox man told me I was a beautiful mother and he wished that I could be blessed with many children if I didn't have them already. At this point, all he knew about me was that I am female, and I had just led an impromptu ten minute discussion on the opening saying from Ch 2 of Pirke Avot, the section of the Mishnah on ancestral ethics.
  • An elderly Catholic man asked me to show him all the key parts of the synagogue's architecture and furnishings so that he could see what was similar to his church. I was a little reluctant since the reason we were in synagogue was for a memorial service and it didn't seem quite the moment for touristing, but he didn't actually ask in the middle of prayers and the regulars said it was ok to give him the tour.
  • A secular woman decided that since I know how to say all the "special words in Hebrew" I should also make the decision about whether it's ok to cut corners in making tea for large numbers.
  • A middle-aged Jewish widow gave me a huge bouquet of roses to thank me for leading the prayers for her late husband's stone-setting.
So, um, I definitely feel appreciated, even if some expressions of appreciation are more welcome than others...

Creating Traditions

Sep. 25th, 2016 11:58 am
finch: (Default)
[personal profile] finch
We hadn’t actually made plans for Mabon.

In and of itself, fall equinox isn’t a big holiday for either of us. However, the fiber show that falls on this weekend is one we’ve attended every year since we first moved up here. It was the very first one we attended together, in fact.

To the toddler, we extolled the virtues of looking at sheep, at rabbits, at llamas. She enjoyed the livestock at an earlier event this summer, and was looking forward to it. The rabbits ended up being a hard sell, but she loved the sheep and the llamas.

Coming out of the livestock barn, I spotted a gentleman working on something in one of the booths. I pointed him out to my wife, and when we got there they wanted to look in. The booth was full of handmade brooms, and as we walked by he completed one.

My spouse already has a ritual broom, and I asked if they needed a new one.

They didn’t, but we both noticed that the baby was quite taken with the brooms. My spouse noticed that there were a number of half-size brooms likned up, so they asked the baby which she liked.

The baby tried two or three before settling on the next one almost from the moment it was in her hands. She eagerly swept at the surface of the grass as I paid, and then carried the broom herself for quite a while, sweeping or twirling it in her hands.

I think the best traditions and holidays tend to arise organically. This was already a tradition, and adding a first broom only adds to it. The baby has a ritual tool she can grow into. And this holiday will be a little more special going forward.

The post Creating Traditions appeared first on Jack of Many Trades.

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Daily Happiness

Sep. 25th, 2016 01:01 am
torachan: palmon smiling (palmon)
[personal profile] torachan
1. One of my favorite former co-workers stopped by the store today and we got to chat for a bit. He'll be there three days next week, too, to help with a small remodelling project that's going on. (He still works for the company, just a different location.)

2. I managed to get a fair bit of translating done today, including finishing up the last of the "must do" stuff for this month. (I hope to still get a couple more things finished, but the major ones are done.)

3. The kitties were sooooo cute this morning. Chloe often likes to sit on the bathroom counter and watch "kitty TV" as we call it (aka looking out the window at birdies and such), but this morning they were both sitting there together. ♥

"On The Subject of Noncon Fanworks"

Sep. 25th, 2016 12:34 am
sailorptah: (Default)
[personal profile] sailorptah
An excellent essay about darkfic and sexuality (cw: author discusses her own trauma/abuse history). Centered on Sherlock fandom, though the general ideas apply no matter what characters you're writing about.

I wanted to highlight this part:

If, instead of normalizing the existence of fics that portray noncon and underage, we make these themes taboo, if we pathologize them, if we require noncon works to be kept in a separate archive, if we insist that it be labeled with derogatory terms like “rapefic,” then what will happen is that writers who think that their work has “a bit of dubcon” in it will not tag it as such, in the hopes that it will fly under the radar and they won’t be banished to the leper colony with the filthy rapefic fans. This will have results that neither the responsible creators and consumers of noncon, nor the people who dislike it and categorically oppose it, want: that someone who doesn't want to see noncon will see it.

I wrote the above paragraph close to a year ago, and my predictions are already coming true. I have seen noncon and underage fanworks being posted without appropriate tags and warnings. Some of these inadequately tagged fics are being posted by the same people who accused me and my fellow gender politics panelists of being rape apologists and pedophiles. The creators of these works defend them as being somehow different than the works the so-called rape apologists create, because they themselves were underage when they drew the fanart or wrote the fic, or because the work features the right” pairing, or the “right” kind of non-consensual situation, or because they don’t “eroticize” the noncon aspect, or because there’s a sufficient amount of comfort to offset the hurt, or for any number of other reasons.

It's framed as a prediction, and maybe with respect to Sherlock fandom it is, but for fandom in general it's nothing new. I remember wrestling with the same kind of cognitive dissonance more than a decade ago:

"Okay, I like stories where characters get hurt, but that's a Bad Thing to enjoy. But I also like the emotional payoff when characters are rescued at the end! So when describing this, I should emphasize the rescue part. Imply that any scenes with pain and suffering are just a necessary evil on the way to the morally-acceptable payoff. Or, hey, maybe don't mention the suffering at all."

That mindset not only discourages people from warning for dark story elements, it stifles the general discussion about them, so that even if you want to warn, you can't pick up the vocabulary to do it well.

I remember one fic of mine -- it had a brief sex scene, and it was consensual, just incredibly unhealthy. Potentially very upsetting! And the only warning I put on it was a general sexual-content label. Partly because I was erring on the side of what looked more Morally Pure, but also because it was neither "non-con" nor "sex that is positive and affirming and healthy in every way" -- and I didn't have a handle on how to articulate the situations in between.

Fandom in general should be a place that helps people figure this stuff out, not a place where people get shamed and shouted down for trying.


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