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I had to buy a new computer this week. The old one, a MacBook Pro hand-me-down from a friend, has always had issues with its fan and overheating, but it's started to shut down spontaneously more often while I'm working, and the battery won't hold a charge, and the power cord doesn't consistently supply power, and earlier this week it all came to a head and I decided it's finally gone from "inconvenient" to "preventing me from getting work done." Hence my first brand-new computer since 2006.

And Windows 8.

I don't have smart phone or a tablet of any sort, so the new interface really threw me. Is this what devices look like these days? Would everything make more sense if I knew how to operate a smart phone or bought a computer with a touchscreen? A few hours of experimentation and I think I've got the basics down, but I'm feeling absolutely *ancient.* I'd anticipated some hiccups in switching from a mac back to a PC, sure, and a period of getting used to a new keyboard, but the interface is going to take some getting used to.

Question: does anyone else find themselves worried about the login to their computer matching the login to an e-mail account? I feel as if those two things ought to be separate--if my account is hacked, can I not login to my own computer? I didn't see an option for logging in as a guest or a local user when I first set up--and then I downloaded about twenty four thousand items from Dropbox, ergh, which is going to make correcting that mistake very awkward, I suspect.

Two more welcome fandom distractions!

* [livejournal.com profile] hp_halloween is back! So excited about this fest--it's quick and dirty and fun, fun, fun, requiring only a 200-word double drabble by the end of the month. Head on over here to sign up. You've got until October 11.

* It's diversity awareness month over at [livejournal.com profile] hp_diversity. There'll be character-of-color recs posted every other day. Should be fun!

And, of course, a reminder that [livejournal.com profile] rs_small_gifts is back again, too, with sign-ups beginning October 11 and claiming on October 18. The lovely [livejournal.com profile] swissmarg made us some icons and banners, which are coming up soon...
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Are you ever startled by something that reminds you how old you are? I have a Facebook account that I rarely use, but every so often FB sends updates anyway, "So-and-so updated their status" or "so-and-so added a new photo to the album timeline," etc. Today that e-mail update consisted of a photo of someone I haven't seen since high school...looking exactly like his father. I'm not quite sure what to do with that. I feel as if I'm enjoying getting older, but then the kaleidoscope shifts and everything looks different.

On the plus side: fandom distractions! [livejournal.com profile] minerva_fest is about to begin posting! [livejournal.com profile] rs_games began today! And....

....drumroll...

[livejournal.com profile] rs_small_gifts, the year-end Remus/Sirius exchange, is back for its ninth year! Interested in joining me and co-mods [livejournal.com profile] mindabbles and [livejournal.com profile] sambethe in the celebrations? Sign-ups begin Saturday, October 11, and claiming will take place on Saturday, October 18.

Realizing we're in our ninth year got me thinking about how many things in life I've managed to keep up for nine years running (not many), which puts things in perspective, no?
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Shana tova to those celebrating the new year today!

A few tiny events that have thrown me off course this past week:

* After four solid months of really lovely summer weather, fall is here. I woke up last night feeling uncomfortable and disoriented, and it took me a few minutes to remember that's what it feels like to be a bit too cold at night. It's raining right now, with a definite chill in the air. Blankets come out this evening.

* My commuter train actually missed a stop last week. I was on the way home, and the train doesn't always make every stop during the evening rush hour, but as I was looking out the window, I watched a familiar station fly by. "Odd," I thought, "usually we--" and then the train slowed, and the cars filled with the smell of brake fluid, and we paused for three or four minutes before slowly backing into the station.

* I have one very old e-mail account for which I use a very old password I've never changed. (I know, I know.) Suddenly, this past week, after ten or twelve years, I can't type the password correctly--I go too quickly, or I miss a key. The universe telling me to change my damn password already, I'm sure.

Any tiny oddities in your life, flist?

ETA: Do you remember my frustration with the smoker next door? We've outlasted her! Turns out she was a doctor on a year-long rotation and has moved onto a new location. Just in case you were still on the edge of your seat after all these months...
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I think I'm getting sick, flist. My throat is aching and I felt miserable and ache-y all day. On the plus side, however, I was able to take most of the day off and do two fandom things I've been looking forward to:

* I finally signed up for [livejournal.com profile] hoggywartyxmas, the year-end exchange centered on the Hogwarts staff. Hoggywarty's in its fifth year and always produced great fic and art about the older generation. (And I should give credit not only to [livejournal.com profile] therealsnape, who does a brilliant job running it, but also to JKR, whose teachers are so vividly drawn that we can populate a whole fest with them alone. I wibble every year because deadlines come at the worst part of the semester, but this is so fun I couldn't resist. Sign-ups are open through tomorrow--drop by to join us!

I always have difficulty crafting a sign-up. Do you, too? On the one hand, I'm easy to please--there are only a handful of things I dislike in fic which generally can be boiled down to bad politics and shallow characterization, neither of which can be warned against and are rarely an issue, anyway. I love stories other folks have loved writing, so I want give an author as much leeway as possible. On the other hand, I know many of you are looking for direction in a sign-up, so I feel like my easy-going "everything's great!" isn't that helpful.

* I also read the first two fics being discussed over at [livejournal.com profile] reading221b, [livejournal.com profile] holyfant's The Speed of Objects in Motion (Sherlock/John, stunning psychological realism from an author I admire, discussed over here) and [archiveofourown.org profile] chryse's The Frost is All Over (another Sherlock/John, this time a nineteenth-century AU and a charming and self-conscious pastiche of Victorian tropes and themes discussed over here). I'm so excited about this comm--it's a reading group for fic! Fabulous concept. The big drawback to date has been the length of the fics selected, 48K for the first and 148K for the second, and even taking the day off I didn't have time to read slowly enough to savor either and didn't get to do much beyond skim the conversation at the comm. If you're interested in talking about Sherlock fic, this is a great chance to do so.
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Not tagged by anyone, but I love seeing so many new entries on the flist generated by the positivity meme* so I'm going to see if I can summon up a few good things to pass along, too. Maybe not three per day, but we'll try.

Podcast rec: Wild Ones, Live [32:52, worksafe]

I've been working my way through back episodes of a podcast called 99% Invisible, which is, essentially, a series of short segments on design in our everyday lives. I'd recommend the entire podcast wholeheartedly--the episodes are short and snappy and surprisingly vivid considering you're listening to folks talk about visual and spatial issues. But yesterday I listened to a special episode that knocked my socks off, a meditation on the relationship between people and wild animals, complete with accompanying sound track. (I know, I know, not really about design at all, but never mind.) Make yourself a cup of tea, sit down for half an hour, and enjoy this poignant and lyrical piece. You won't regret it.

* Want to be tagged yourself? The challenge is three positive things per day for five days. I'd love to hear from you...

Also, sign-ups over at [livejournal.com profile] game_is_on through tomorrow evening!
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First and most importantly, a happy, happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] minervas_eule!

A photo of a local performance venue for you... )

* We've had temps in the lower 90s F / mid 30s C here for the past few days, with high humidity and late-afternoon thunderstorms. It's been much more August-y than August itself was. We've also had three false alarm fire alarms in the past week--related, perhaps?

* Excited to see [livejournal.com profile] hoggywartyxmas back again! This event always reminds me just how deftly and vividly the school staff at Hogwarts is characterized--we don't even need the kids to have fun. (Not that we don't love the students, of course.) More information about the holiday party over here.

* Also excited to see [livejournal.com profile] reading221b, a reading club for Sherlock fic, starting up. They've got a poll open for a few hours more, if you want to have a say in which stories will feature in the first round. (And there's a category for ACD fics, if that's more your style.)

* [livejournal.com profile] game_is_on, our choose-your-own-adventure healthy living game, has wrapped up its second summer round. Want to join us in the fall? Sign up over here to join us for upcoming rounds starting Monday, September 8.
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* As part of my current regime of more-healthy living (aided and abetted by the good folks over at [livejournal.com profile] game_is_on, THANK YOU, FOLKS), I've been trying to switch from regular coffee to decaf. The catch? It's surprisingly hard to get. Two of my three grocery options don't stock decaf beans at all, and the local cafes usually make only one pot that's gone by mid morning. I can and do ask for a decaf Americano, but even that's met with some eye-rolling. Is decaf no longer a thing? Is it just my young, slightly trendy neighborhood? When did this happen?

* I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes conference Gridlock DC last weekend. I've never been to a con, but this was close to home and easy to get to. There were some great panel discussions, including one on women in Sherlock (well, the panel was on women in all adaptations, but the conversation focused on the BBC production) which cast Janine as the Irene Adler that Irene Adler didn't get to be (fascinating!) and a thoughtful paper on character development in the BBC Sherlock using themes and ideas from Harry Potter by [livejournal.com profile] drinkingcocoa, who's posted it over at her journal if you're interested in reading. (I highly recommend it, especially for its lyrical thoughts on boredom's meanings.) I was fascinated by the mix of younger folks who've clearly come to Sherlock Holmes through the movies and tv show and Tumblr and older folks who attend Sherlockian societies in the area and participate in a very different kind of fandom. It was great to see both groups interacting on the same panels and checking each other out, surreptitiously, in the hallways.

I also spent a couple hours walking around Old Town Alexandria, and I'd forgotten how lovely it is. (I didn't bring my camera, but you can get a sense of what it's like over at google images.) Even the modern buildings speak the architectural language of the eighteenth century. As a metropolitan region, DC's more similar to the sunbelt successes of the twentieth century than the older East Coast cities, but it still has neighborhoods like this.

There's a cute postcard that came with the registration packet with some Sherlock fanart--would anyone like it? Just say so in comments, and I'll PM you for your address.

* The better half is out of town this week for work, and I've got the house to myself, which means there are books everywhere. I don't even know why this is--our apartment's not that big, and usually it's important to me to keep the place tidy so there's somewhere to sit and eat. Is there anything you do at home when your family's not around, when the house is all yours?
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I'm in vacation this week in a place where I've already seen a deer, a black bear and bear cub, and a twenty-minute hail storm. The better half (who, it turns out, is significantly more in shape than I am) keeps promoting this think called "hiking." And there's very little internet.

Surprisingly, it's been fun, but it feels like an alternate universe.

Hope you're all well!
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[livejournal.com profile] lgbtq_recs wrapped up its seventh annual round today, believe it or not. The 2014 master list is over here!
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* A quick photo summary of my quickly-coming-to-an-end stay in the Boston area, since I love traveling vicariously via your journals so much.

Everything flowering and green, everywhere... )
And a shot of my canine charge... )

* Only three more days left here. I did some shopping for spices at an Indian grocery store this afternoon, since there's not one near me back home. My suitcase will smell like cardamom for ages, I'm sure. There are worse scenarios.

* And for those of you living in the US, a documentary that might interest you is showing on CNN this evening at 9:00p: journalism Jose Antonio Vargas' Documented, a first-person investigation of Vargas' life as an undocumented immigrant. Curious? I've recced it at [profile] lgbtq_recs over here.
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Very important, timely fannish news via [livejournal.com profile] musesfool: Korra, Book Three: Change is back tonight! Apparently we get three episodes now and then the series resumes on a weekly basis on Friday, July 11.

And a few links I've been meaning to pass along: [archiveofourown.org profile] toastystats's recent post Femslash: Where is it? Happy reading!
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I'm in the Boston area this week and next week dog- and house-sitting for an old friend, and I'd completely forgotten that New England can be this nice in June. Sunny, mild, blue skies, riotous gardens, so lovely. Dog days, indeed...

The neighborhood I'm staying in much the same neighborhood I lived in when I was a grad student here about ten years ago or so, and I'm shocked at how much it's gentrified. Where's all this money coming from?

The dog I'm staying with is a little white thing, a Westie, very sweet, very cute, with a vicious sense of ownership over my time and attention--I can't get on the phone or leave the house without setting her off barking. Is this a terrier thing? I've never had a dog before, so I'm a bit at sea. I'm pretty sure she knows she's competing with the other people in my life. (She's much the same way with my friend.) Fascinating.

On a fannish note, has anyone been following [archiveofourown.org profile] splix's Method Act? I'm not even sure how I found it or started following, but I'm climbing the walls with impatience for the next chapter.

And [livejournal.com profile] lgbtq_recs is still going strong! Today [livejournal.com profile] tjs_whatnot recced Torchsong Trilogy....

ETA: By the way, there's a great, thoughtful discussion on why we ship what we ship over at [livejournal.com profile] pennswoods's journal. There's no real answer to this kind of question, of course, but the comments are fascinating. Fandom and fanfic so clearly do something real and important for so many of us, and I love hearing about how that works.
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The flist was so helpful last week that I'm posting again with a question for the savvier-than-me (and I'm sure that means most of you): if I were to shop for the cheapest possible option for something portable to use to listen to podfic or podcasts while walking, what would my best options be? I don't have an iPhone (or smartphone of any sort). Is it an iPod shuffle? Is there a non-Apple option? What should I be looking for?

Other random items:

* On an exercise-related note, would anyone be interested in checking in this summer over at [livejournal.com profile] game_is_on? A weekly thing for June, July, and August, perhaps? Diet, exercise, healthy habits, whatever you're working on. Hm. Perhaps I should post over there. ETA: Done! Stop by if you're up for it.

* Via the Guardian, a quiz: Can you identify a book from its map? which reproduces maps (and plans) of literary locations and asks you whether you're familiar with the territory. I was not; only five of the ten were familiar to me. But fun, nevertheless.

* On a related literary note, an article that includes a brief list of the texts that Junot Diaz uses in a college class on world building, along with other Diaz comments on diversity in writing programs: Inside Junot Diaz's class at MIT. (Caveat: I know nothing about Diaz or the teaching of fiction writing, but I'm interested to see any list of texts notable for their world building.) What would you add here?

By the way, both citrus peels and baking soda have been tried in the garbage disposal with excellent results. (I need to buy some ice trays to try that final option, but that's next.) Thanks, all!
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Fannish announcements:

* [livejournal.com profile] lgbtq_recs started posting yesterday with a rec by [livejournal.com profile] schemingreader, the graphic novel Marbles by Ellen Fourney. Follow the community for a queer- or trans-themed rec every weekday throughout June!

* [livejournal.com profile] minerva_fest is running again this year, hurrah! This fest starts with a period of anonymous prompting (from now until June 13) and then allows claiming throughout the summer (until September 1). Stories are then due September 15. Check out the prompting procedures here and the first two days of prompts here and here.

This is a bit random but I have a couple of householdy questions:

* Does anyone else have a garbage disposal in their kitchen sink? Do you have any suggestions on cleaning it? I'm embarrassed to ask because I really do try to keep things clean in the kitchen, but I'm not sure what to do to eliminate or reduce the lingering smell of food here.

* What's the deal with these new pods for the dishwasher? For years (well, the years we've had a dishwasher, at least) I've used power that comes in boxes or a gel, and suddenly last week when I had to restock the store had only these odd blister-packs that advertised "enzymes." I've never been particularly happy with the powder or gel options--I have a hard time finding options that don't contain bleach--but this sudden change of options is strange.
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Folks, we're still looking for reccers for [livejournal.com profile] lgbtq_recs, particularly for the end of the month! Sign up over here if you've enjoyed any queer- or trans-themed media recently and want to share. And everyone can follow the community to enjoy a full month of recs, starting next Monday.

On a side-note: I've been two completely different kinds of sick in the past six days, ugh. My apologies if I owe you a comment or response--I'll be back on my feet soon.
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Those of you following [insanejournal.com profile] hp_beholder will have seen by now that this year's round was the fest's last. Like many of you, I'm truly saddened to see this chapter draw to a close. In the sense that it's basically a rare pair fest, Beholder has challenged us to take on new characters and new pairings, and it would be have been a valuable part of fandom just for that. But to me at least it's always seemed like something more, this wonderful site of creative experimentation and alternative fannish possibilities.

Have you heard of the concept of the heterotopia? It's a term devised by the philosopher Michel Foucault to describe spaces that operate outside society's usual systems of norms and values, like museums (heterotopias of time, where all cultures and all periods are represented under one roof) or honeymoon hotels (heterotopias of crisis, where couples come of age outside everyday life). Beholder seems to have been that kind of site for fandom. What if we took characters who didn't seem interesting and made them our protagonists? What if we tried to love characters who seem marginal or unlovable and reward them (to the extent that fandom "rewards" with narrative events) with sex and romance and intimacy? I think part of the reason Beholder's always been such an interesting, engaging fest has something to do with its heterotopic qualities. It offers us this alternative space that encourages us to imagine the world differently.

Thanks to our mods [livejournal.com profile] bethbethbeth and [personal profile] delphi for all their hard work, and thanks to all the authors, artists, and watchers who sustained it. I'll miss it enormously.
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Now that [insanejournal.com profile] hp_beholder has come to a close, I can admit to writing one of the two (two!) fics featuring Arabella Figg and Dolores Umbridge:

Title: Cat Ladies
Pairings: Arabella Figg/Dolores Umbridge
Word Count: 2300
Rating: PG for language and adult concepts
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *Passing mention of sexual assault*
Summary: Two lonely women with feline friends, separated by everything they think they know about each other.

When you discover the joy a warm, live kitten can bring, you may become a cat lady, too. )

Both [livejournal.com profile] kellychambliss and [livejournal.com profile] tarteaucitron correctly guessed my fic--want to leave me a prompt, character, or pairing, you two?
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[insanejournal.com profile] hp_beholder wrapped up posting this week with an anonymous masterlist, bringing yet another wonderful round to a close. Something about this fest brings out the parts of fandom closest to my heart. It's not just the good writing--though there's a lot of very good writing here, every time--but the way the fest asks us to empathize with and reward characters who challenge easy assumptions and ficcish conventions.

A few last recs before Monday's reveals:

A Short Treatise on the Social Lives of Ghosts, Cuthbert Binns/Grey Lady, Cuthbert Binns/Horace Slughorn, Moaning Myrtle/Nearly Headless Nick, The Fat Friar/The Wailing Widow, rated PG, 3200 words
The social lives of ghosts are more complex than they’re credited for.
A feather-light, masterful touch on this one, both in its humor and its characterization.

Elegy for a Goat, Severus/Aberforth, background hint of Aberforth/Albus, rated PG-13, 17,500 words.
Ab has never been fond of his brother's protégés, but he's always had a weakness for goats. He's not sure what to make of Severus Snape.
Beautifully written.

ART: Untitled Andromeda/Sybill, NOT work-safe
Lovely in its use of a just a few character attributes to convey the specificity of the scene.

Be Here Now, Antonin/Narcissa, Antonin/Igor Karkaroff, Antonin/Bellatrix, rated PG-13, 5700 words
If Antonin has learned anything in his life, it is that trust is rarely deserved, and love does not follow reason.
A fic that reworks canon around a minor antagonist. As I said in comments, it's a clever distortion of the homilies of the books ("You are your choices," "Love redeems us") and a clear-eyed look at what the "child warrior" trope really means.

Truly, I could have recced most of the fanworks at this fest. I'm feeling as if this is a sorely incomplete list of fic and art that deserve your attention. Take a look at the list yourself for more ideas! You won't go wrong.

Guessing game: You know, I can never guess the author of a fic, but it seems as if many of you have a much stronger sense of individual styles and approaches. I'm curious: did anyone recognize mine? If you want to wager a guess, I'll screen comments and reward correct guesses with a drabble.
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Enjoyed any queer- or trans-themed media recently? [livejournal.com profile] lgbtq_recs, an annual month-long comm to exchange recommendations for LGBTQ-themed stuff--books, TV, movies, graphic novels, websites, radio shows, podcasts, etc.--is running again this year throughout the month of June.

Stop by this year's sign-up post to get us started or scroll through previous years' master lists to get a sense of what folks have recced in the past. You can rec recent releases or older favorites, fiction or non-fiction, light entertainment or serious studies, whatever you'd like.

If you've never participated before, it's very informal and fun. Recs of all types of media are welcome, and you can write as much or as little as you want in the rec itself. If you can't think of anything to rec, just follow the comm for suggestions for new books, movies, etc.

If you've participated in past years, we hope to see you again! (And if you can help me get the word out by mentioning it in your own journals, I'd appreciate it.)

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