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Lazing on a summer's afternoon

August 23rd, 2016 (03:57 pm)

current location: An English Country Garden
current mood: content

Sitting in my sister's garden in the sun, just lazing and catching up.

Life is hard ;)

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DWGism [userpic]

More Trouble With Trains

August 20th, 2016 (04:14 pm)
current location: God's Own Country
current mood: Northerly

My trip North was decidedly mixed. I got over to Rochester station okay, in fact the taxi was at my front door before I got it closed - he said he was passing my road as the call went out - and had time to do a couple of things I wanted and still catch the train before the one I had planned on. First negative hit 5 minutes outside of Rochester, I was reading my Kindle and suddenly felt travel-sick. A quick bit of experimentation confirmed head-down=travel-sick and escalating neck pain, head-up=fine. Fortunately I'd packed a collar (in one of the underseat bags[personal profile] kaberett

  recommends, though I was too cheap to buy an actual Black Box), first chance I've had to use it and definitely worthwhile. Thankfully the collar mostly solved the travel-sickness and neckache+headache (and a couple of ibuprofen fixed the rest), though not being able to bend my head forward made reading slightly more of an issue. I suspected it was an issue last time I caught a train, though I was hoping that was purely down to it being a Pendolino on the West Coast Main Line, which is a tilting design, but this time it was the Kent Coast Line and the East Coast Main Line and non-tilting Javelins and 225s. So looks like that may now be a thing - the wheelchair tech pooh-poohed the idea I needed a headrest, not happy to be proved right! (Though fortunately it's limited circumstances where it applies).

The transfer from St Pancras to Kings Cross was fine and I was chatting away for a while with the guy doing passenger assistance, which may have been responsible for him announcing, when he'd been off and found the guard, "Change of plans, we're putting you in First Class" - fine by me, I'll force myself to suffer people trying to ply me with free food and drink. The chicken caesar wrap was tasty, but more wrap than anything, the white wine was very nice and I'd have had a second glass if they'd offered it before York rather than after, given I was getting off at Darlington in 20 minutes.

And it was Darlington where things went very wrong, They got me off the train fine and I was sitting waiting for the 15:54 Bishop Auckland train when I overheard the platform staff taking a message that there were major signal problems at Middlesbrough, which is where the Bishop train comes from. The woman who was doing the passenger assistance came straight over and repeated the bits I'd heard, plus that it might be 18:30 before they got anything moving. They waited 30 minutes, then made the decision to put everyone in taxis, which was about 25 of us. If they'd asked I'd have pointed out I can transfer and that the chair dismantles, but they didn't and a wheelchair taxi quickly turned up. Assuming they'd want to squeeze the maximum number of people aboard I stayed in the chair (plus I'd not travelled in the chair by road before and there was a novelty value). I wish I hadn't, it was worse even than the Pendolino, not helped by there only being one front clamp for the chair, which the driver didn't bother with. I spent the journey with my foot tucked under the seat in front to stop the chair tipping backwards every time he accelerated. I'll pass in future.

But for all that I was only about 45 minutes late, and that included pushing from the station to home as there was no point trying to ring for a taxi when they were likely all half-way to Darlington with the people who'd been waiting at Bishop!

Hopefully the return trip will be smoother!

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Heading North and Trouble with Trains

August 15th, 2016 (10:23 pm)

current location: Pre-launch
current mood: grumpy

Heading North for three weeks in the morning. I deliberately haven't ordered a MIFI SIM, so expect updates to be intermittent as my folks don't have net access and I'll need to wander over to my sister's if I want to get online. I decided against MIFI in the hope of encouraging myself to make some serious progress on the WIP.

Actually booking the train ticket to get there was an exercise in frustration. I've had enough of trying to book through SouthEastern (my local train company), who always seem to have an issue with me booking the wheelchair space, so I thought I'd try with Virgin instead as it's the Virgin East Coast Main Line segment I need the wheelchair space booking for. I'm also switching to travelling from Rochester rather than Chatham due to better access - the new Rochester station has level access between taxi-ramp and platform, Chatham is more 'Oh my god, oh my god, can I stop in time?!). On checking Virgin's online booking I found that it would actually let me book wheelchair assistance as part of the process. Score - no need to phone them! So last Monday I tried to book, got all the way to it contacting my bank for payment, and my anti-virus decided to throw a spanner in the works. So of course I needed to wait to check it had definitely failed and I hadn't been charged. And similarly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as I tried different options to persuade the AV software to behave, including changing browsers. Eventually I disabled the AV software for the transaction, only to find 1) I could now only pick up the ticket from the station (which I was expecting) and 2) it was telling me I couldn't do that. That seems to have been purely an issue with overnight maintenance, so Friday I went to finish the process.

Enter all the assistance data yet again (it wanted home number, mobile number, email, and wheelchair dimensions(?!?)), all ready to book and I thought I'd better check the seat reservations, which turned out to be the middle of the wrong carriage, both ways. and you can change to any seat but the wheelchair space), so now I have to contact Virgin online, who tell me it's because of people trying to book it for luggage and prams (except you can't book it for luggage or prams) and that I need to phone passenger assistance to book the wheelchair space. So that means I can use the online system to book all the assistance I need to get on and off the train in the chair and save having to phone assistance, but not  the wheelchair space itself. (What happens if I then find all the wheelchair spaces are already booked I have no idea). {Roll Eyes} {Headdesk} {Roll Eyes}

So eventually I got the ticket booked and picked it up from the station, but I started the process Monday evening, and finished Saturday afternoon. I knew travel would be more complicated when I switched to the chair, I had no idea it would be this unnecessarily complicated and just plain irritating!

And of course I have to hope nothing goes wrong tomorrow (current odds based on exising data of being forgotten about , not expected. or assistance turning up at entirely the wrong station, c50%)

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DWGism [userpic]


August 2nd, 2016 (01:31 am)
current location: Over There With The Geeks
current mood: Fuming

A wee bit of a twitter firestorm broke out earlier when the World Fantasy Con panels were posted and one of them was called "Spicy Oriental Zeppelins" Apparently the title was based on a 'joke' that had only every been made by the WFC Head of Programming, Darrell Schweitzer, and he'd been repeatedly warned it wasn't funny in advance.

With just about every SFF author on twitter going WTF WTC? that was quickly changed to "Outrageous Aviation Stories, Flying Pulp Oddities."

What got a lot less attention, and has been more subtly changed was another panel:

"7. Freaks, Sideshows, and Human Oddities. From “Hopfrog” to Freaks to Geek Love. Is this the last taboo, the final frontier of bad taste, or something (perversely?) alluring even yet?"

Which became

7. Freaks, Sideshows, and Human Oddities. From “Hopfrog” to Freaks to Geek Love. Is this the last taboo, the final frontier of bad taste, or a persistent archetype in literature?

Schweitzer had been warned in advance about this one as well, and specifically that it was ableist. I'm glad to see it has been changed, but I still think it's deeply problematic and I'm horrified something so negatively objectifying about disabled people ever made it out as a formally released program item.

And it's not as if this is the first issue WFC has had with disability in the last year. WFC 2015 had major access fails, never mind they had a disabled guest who had talked to them about her access needs, and then earlier this year WFC 2016 instituted a significant price rise despite disabled people telling them they couldn't book until they had published their disability access policy. The price rise had no sooner gone into effect than they published their access policy, which looked to have been written in five minutes on the proverbial back of a fag packet. I got the distinct feeling that was sheer spite.

ETA : File 770's on the story:  Outrage Greets 2016 World Fantasy Con Program Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/97180.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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Media Stuff

July 31st, 2016 (08:35 pm)
current location: I'll stick with Today, thanks
current mood: Mediated

I bought myself a Fire TV stick during Amazon's Prime Day, given it was reduced to £20. Technically it isn't letting me do anything I couldn't already do with the Kindle Fire and its TV dongle, but I rarely have the Kindle in the same room as the TV, so that hasn't been working out and I invested in Prime largely to have the extra programme choice it offers.

it's very well put together, remote about the size of an iPod, while the stick itself is about the size of a Mars Bar (note it does need a power socket). I've mostly been using it to play my Amazon-purchased music through the TV's sound system, which is the only decent one in the house, or ogling the absolutely gorgeous screensaver landscapes, but last night I finally got some time to watch stuff.

Content Warning: Here Be Spoilers

First up was the Tom Cruise vehicle Live. Die. Repeat aka Edge of Tomorrow

I did have a problem with the picture here, it was offset down and to the right, though I couldn't work out how much by, I did manage to sort it later (see below).

I wanted to see Edge of Tomorrow when it was at the cinema, but didn't get around to it. The scenario is Earth has been invaded by aliens, the mimics (thought they don't seem to actually mimic anything) who have taken control of Western and Central Europe, but have been stopped at the Channel in the west, and by Russian and Chinese forces to the east. Now equipped with powered exoskeletons, the allies need to launch a cross-Channel invasion. (A nice historical touch is that the invasion is codenamed Downfall; Downfall was the code name for the planned invasion of Japan in WWII)

Cruise is Captain Bill Cage, the proverbial REMF, an officer whose talent is for marketing, not fighting, responsible for producing recruitment ads.

When informed by the commanding general of the allies (Brendan Gleeson, looking perfectly at home in British battledress) that he'll be playing combat cameraman in the first assault wave, Cage tries to talk his way out of it, and ultimately tries to blackmail the general, as it becomes clear he's a complete coward. The blackmail attempt ends with Cage resisting arrest and getting himself tased. He wakes up at Forward Operating Base Heathrow, rebranded as a private impersonating an officer and guilty of desertion. He's promptly assigned to the mixed British-American J Squad, who are ordered to beat him 'until he can't pee standing up' if he tries anything, and the next morning he's fitted out with an exoskeleton and dragged out to the aerial armada headed for France.

The special effects are fantastic. The main part of the invasion force is in CGI created quad tillt-rotor 'dropships', and one shot shows Heathrow covered with them, and with exoskeleton clad infantry filing aboard, but flying among them are real Chinooks and V-22s and you need to know your aircraft to tell which is which. Unfortunately for the allies, what the effects show are the invasion force getting completely hammered. The aliens were waiting for them.

Cage makes it down to the beach, only to immediately see one of his squadmates crushed by a falling dropship. He tries to save a female soldier (Emily Blunt), but fails and spends most of the battle trying to work out how to disengage the safety catch on his guns. Finally reunited with J squad, he's just in time to see them wiped out by a mimic that was buried in the sand. Our first good look at a mimic shows us they're vaguely octopus like, but in motion they're like a thrashing propeller blade. Moments before the mimic kills him too, Cage triggers the claymore mine on one of the dead trooper's armour, killing them both.

He wakes up at Forward Operating Base Heathrow, rebranded as a private impersonating an officer and guilty of desertion. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Each time through the battle, Cage gets a little more competent, and eventually manages to save the female soldier, who turns out to be Sergeant Rita Vrataski, the famous 'Angel of Verdun,' who killed hundreds of mimics in her first battle. You can tell she's hardcore because she's wearing a black exoskeleton and using a cut-down helicopter rotor blade as a sword. When he explains how he managed to save her she tells him "Find me when you wake up". Then they die.

Back at Heathrow, Cage has to escape J Squad. This takes several attempts. Eventually he does manage to find Rita, and convince her of who he is. Rita reveals that she became the Angel of Verdun because she was like him, repeating the same day time after time, learning the sequence of moves that would let her survive, until eventually she lost the ability. But she and a scientist did figure out that the ability she had was acquired from the blood of an atypical mimic she killed, and that it ultimately came from the alien's central commander, the Omega, who had the ability to reset to the previous day anytime it sensed it was losing. Only no one ever believed them. Now Cage has the ability, and Rita needs to train him so that he can get her off the beach so that she can kill the Omega.

Cue a sequence of Cage being repeatedly mangled by the mimic simulators, which are a bunch of thrashing propeller blades. Eventually he gets good enough that he and Rita can make it off the beach and head off in pursuit of the the Omega, but time and again Rita is killed. Succumbing to combat fatigue, Cage absconds into London, and learns that the beach isn't the only human defeat, the aliens counter-invade while the focus is elsewhere and London falls.

In desperation Cage tries a tactic Rita has warned him about, because it always leads to 'psych wards, or dissection', and she's right, but it does eventually give them a shot at the Omega. But there's a hitch. (Of course there's a hitch!)

I liked Edge of Tomorrow, though I'll admit a certain amount of the pleasure comes from seeing Tom Cruise die repeatedly and horribly. I'm planning to watch it again now I've sorted out the picture problems.

I followed Edge of Tomorrow with the first three episodes of Constantine, the series based on the John Constantine: Hellblazer comics, previously the vehicle for a Keanu Reaves film. The opening shot is the gates to the 'Ravenscar Home for the Mentally Deranged', which was so far off centre I went to get the Kindle Fire to check where it should be. It should actually have been dead centre, but for some reason linking in the Kindle solved the problem and the picture has stayed centred since then.

Pilot, Non Est Asylum

Constantine's business card says "Exorcist , demonologist, and master of the dark arts", though as the pilot opens he notes he's thinking of getting it changed to "dabbler in the dark arts." He screwed up an exorcism, condemning a 9yo girl to Hell, and himself along with her. He's taking refuge in an asylum in Northumberland, hoping they can persuade him demons don't exist. That they aren't succeeding is demonstrated when one of the residents becomes possessed. Exorcising her reveals a cryptic message "Liv Die" Fortunately for the story's continuity Constantine knows who Liv is.

Cut to Atlanta. Where Liv Aberdine is headed home from work, or would be, if her car's electrics weren't misbehaving, shortly followed by her car falling into a gaping pit. Enter Constantine, exit Liv, convinced he's a creep. That night Liv's next door neighbour is murdered, later the murdered corpse tries to drive the mortuary van through Liv's office. This doesn't convince Liv to listen to Constantine, but seeing the ghost of her grandmother does. Constantine explains he used to work with her father, who could see ghosts and scry for problems, and that Liv is developing the same powers. Constantine meanwhile has encountered an angel, Manny, who wants him to commit himself to the Good Fight, which he hints might save Constantine's soul.

Constantine uses Liv to lure the demon stalking her into a trap. Problem solved.

He's an exorcist, she's a seer, they hunt demons!

Sorry, no. In a blatantly added-on coda, we're informed that Liv has lit out for the West Coast, but not before bleeding all over a map of the States with scryed troublespots. Meanwhile a female figure is frantically drawing images of Constantine

2, The Darkness Beneath

Liv's map takes Constantine to Heddwich, PA, a Welsh-settled mining town, where there are knockers in the mine and one of the bosses just burned to death in his shower. Within minutes of arriving he literally walks into our mysterious artist, who turns out to be Zed Martin. Despite the name, Zed is Hispanic, and desperate to know who Constantine is. Constantine claims she's trying to scam him and slips away, but not before Zed relieves him of his wallet. Resourceful lady. Finding her in his hotel room, Constantine relents for long enough to show her that she is what he calls a clairsentient, able to scry by touch. Then he gives her the slip again. It doesn't last.

After following a series of false leads, Constantine finally tracks down the cause of the problem. Someone is driving the Coblynau, the friendly mine spirits, to murder. And this is where the narrative lost me, badly. I'd already gone 'Oh, hell, no,' when a character was introduced, and I was right. The gypsy did it, and not only did the the gypsy do it, but she came onto Constantine at her husband's funeral, compounding which we have Constantine stating "There's nothing darker than Romany magic". Talk about demonising a minority!

Nor is that the only piece of poor writing. There's a claim from Constantine (who admittedly is spinning a line at the time), that he 'grew up among the pits of Liverpool' or something like that. What pits of Liverpool? The idiocy is that Matt Ryan, who plays Constantine, is Welsh and could easily have claimed to be from the Welsh Valleys, which have a far stronger mining history, spinning a link with the town's Welsh heritage (the name, a Welsh flag in the pub and the Coblynau in the mine seem to be the extent of it). There's also a line about the mine having dug too deep, when we see it it's a drift mine, by definition shallow.

3 The Devil's Vinyl.

Zed shows up at Constantine's fortress of solitude, and as Constantine needs a lift to Chicago for a maguffin hunt, she's in. The maguffin is 'the acetate', raw recording from an old sound studio that caught the moment the Devil came to take the soul of a legendary Bluesman who had sold his soul for his voice. The maguffin turns out to be a bargaining chip in someone else's deal with the Devil, with enough extenuating circumstances for Constantine to help.The problem is an old rival of Constantine's, unscrupulous voodoo priest Papa Midnite, who also wants the acetate. And when two of Papa's minions get their hands on it, things go from bad to worse as the problem with minions is they're always succeptible to someone doing their thinking for them, even if in this case it's a 60yo record.

I did love the scene where John charges to the rescue with the Sex Pistols' Anarchy in the UK blazing through his earbuds, but that doesn't outweigh the problematic portrayal of voodoo.

It's annoying, I can sense there's a good series fighting to get out, but it keeps being strangled by poor writing and low production values. When Matt Ryan plays Constantine performing an exorcism, you get a sense he really is engaged in a desperate struggle against a powerful foe, and that's what Constantine should be, but it doesn't make up for cliched and borderline racist portrayals of Voodoo and the Romany.

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New Wheelchair Update

July 31st, 2016 (04:35 pm)
current location: Sliding downhill
current mood: Encambered

Distance covered yesterday, c 900m there with a descent of 24m in the first half, pretty much braking all the way - I've reached a landmark and worn my first pair of wheelchair gloves through to the gel on both thumbs. Hands were unpleasantly hot by the time I'd slowed onto the level!

c950m back with a 22m rise, 2m of which happens in about 10m on a corner. I'd have to choose a different route if I couldn't get out and push those 10m. I in 5 is not practical. But apart from that I pushed it non stop, if very slowly in places. I did have the traditional little old lady asking if I would like a push, but she did it aboot 10 feet from the crest of a slope, and there's a straight 150m with a slight descent immediately after, so of course I whipped by her as soon as I crested it.

So total distance about a nautical mile, which I think is the furthest I've pushed apart from the couple of days in Athens (and that was all downhill).

What taking the two slightly different routes confirmed is that I have substantially more difficulty on cambered pavements, and that my left arm is only capable of getting me up a kerb with difficulty. Because of a car being awkward, I ended up doing one slope on the opposite side to usual, The side I usually do it on has flat paving, the opposite side has the same slope, but is steeply cambered, it was far more difficult than it normally is (this is where I had the little old lady intervention). It's not simply a matter of me, though, the new chair isn't great at holding a line on a cambered pavement, it has a strong tendency to turn into the slope. The clown chair was  just as bad, the GPV, with cambered wheels, made it not an issue.The particular problem I have with this is it means I need to brake with the uphill arm while pushing with the downhill, and if my dud left arm is the downhill one, this is massively less than ideal.

I rang Wheelchair Services on Friday to say I definitely need a 3" cushion as discussed (and noted) at the handover, the seat to footplate gap is too short otherwise and my legs aren't flat on the cushion. I strongly suspect they measured me while I was sitting on a 3" cushion. I'm currently using the 2" they gave me, with a 1" I had in the house under it, which makes the difference between being in intolerable pain within an hour or so, and being able to sit for at least three hours.. Apparently fixing this will need one of the therapists to ring me back and discuss it. I'll raise the camber issue at the same time. I've checked the manual and the XLT can have cambered wheels, but you need an extra part in the wheel mounting to accomplish it, rather than just adding a couple of extra washers as on the GPV, so that'll probably need to be ordered in if I can get them to agree to it.

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Linkspam: Rebooted Disability Confident is 'Shockingly Bad'

July 29th, 2016 (09:48 pm)
current location: Sitting on Mt Taken for a Ride Again
current mood: Appalled

That 'Shockingly Bad' is my quote, in fact the entire first half of the article is one long quote from me. And I wasn't just writing for effect, I commented in a side note to John Pring, the journalist whose article it is, that I'm genuinely appalled.

TLDR: A government disability scheme is so bad it can't even get the legal definition of disability right.

We used to have a scheme called "Two Ticks", which had a logo of, surprisingly, two ticks, which employers could sign up to to say they were disability friendly, in return for agreeing to five measures.Measures like always interviewing disabled candidates who met the requirements, and discussing whether needs were being met on a yearly basis. So not exactly onerous. In practise companies used to sign up, put the logo on their paperwork and do nothing as it was almost never checked (Evil Aerospace are the only company I've ever heard of having it taken off them). Needless to say it fell into disrepute.

We (disabled people) were promised several years ago that a better replacement would be along soon.

In the meantime we've had the worse than useless Disability Confident proclaiming that employers are just embarrassed about disability.

It's now emerged, they aren't confident enough to do a proper launch, that a revamped Disability Confident is the replacement for Two Ticks and will have three tiers.

Tier 1 asks companies to make a single commitment in comparison to Two Ticks five, is self assessed, and once they've sent in the trivial paper work, they get to use the new logo.

Tier 2 asks companies to sign up to several more commitments, roughly equivalent to Two Ticks, and again it's self assessed and they get a pretty logo. The commitments basically amount to agreeing to do what is already legally required under the Equality Act 2010. (Yes, that's right, Tier 1 signs you up to do less than you're already legally required to).

I thought 'well, at least Tier 3 will better than Two Ticks'. More fool me.

Tier 3 consists of getting yourself assessed on Tier 2. You can pay to get yourself assessed, but you can also be assessed by your mate whose company is already Tier 3, or your mate who runs a Disabled People User Led Organisation, even if it has no interest whatsoever in employment. Pass this and you get to call yourself a 'Disability Confident Leader' and use the appropriate logo.

They've taken a scheme that was worthless because everyone signed up for the logo and never followed through on the commitments, and replaced it with one where you don't have to make the commitments.

The other quotes in the article are interesting, even the people who worked with DWP on producing it, including a DPULO that's stopped being a DPULO and rebranded itself into an assessment company to take advantage, are describing it as a lost opportunity. While others openly say 'if we asked companies to stop being disablist none of them would sign up'.

Talk about being seen to be doing something.





Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/96307.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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Pissed off...

July 29th, 2016 (07:47 pm)

current location: Freely moving
current mood: annoyed

... with a friend of mine.

I posted a link on FB to the Indy's long and depressing article on the scale of post Brexit racism.

His immediate response, 'I voted Leave and I'm not racist and I'm sure the majority of leave voters weren't racist.' Followed by a po-faced line about how free movement of labour isn't working.

I never mentioned Leavers, or free movement, and neither did the article.

And what makes his post doubly hypocritical is half his friends work in the EU.

I reminded him that the kind of people who launch racist attacks are precisely the same the same kind who attack people like me, or him, for being disabled in public.

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Currently Reading - 28 July 2016

July 28th, 2016 (12:18 am)
current location: ex Libris
current mood: Literate

Recently Read:

Velveteen vs The Seasons, Seanan McGuire

Surviving the previous two Velveteen books has left Velma Martinez, aka superhero Velveteen, seriously indebted to the anthropomorphic personifications of Winter, Spring, and Autumn, and it's time to pay up. Vel is committed to spend one season in the Seasonal Lands with each of the three seasons, and at the end choose whether to move to one permanently, becoming one of its personifications, or return to the Calendar lands (aka Earth).

Being in debt to Santa Claus may not sound too harsh, after all it's Santa, and one of Vel's best friends is his daughter Jackie. But the big man isn't the only power in Winter, there's Jack Frost and the Snow Queen, Jackie's true parents, and there are powers yet un-named, and the seasons have been putting on their best faces for Vel when she visits, Being tested by the seasons is an altogether harsher process. One she isn't guaranteed to survive.And if Vel makes it out of Winter, there's still Spring, the season of destructive rebirth, and Autumn, the season of Halloween, to face

Like McGuire's Indexing series, the Velveteen series is structured as a chain of linked short stories, each entitled 'Velveteen vs'. Threats this time include "Hypothermia", "Santa Claus", "Spring Cleaning", and "The Consequences of Her Actions" amongst others. Scattered in among them are a handful of "Velveteen Presents" chapters as the friends Vel left behind deal with the aftermath of bringing down The Super Patriots Inc.

The theme here really is the consequences of her actions, for both Vel and her friends. The Velveteen books have always been darker than they sound, but this time the gloves are off, and not everyone will make it to the end of the story.

Velveteen vs the Seasons has what looks like a rather gaudy cover at first, but it's worth a second look when you're done. I didn't realise it at first, but all four women are actually Vel.

Definitely one to pick up from the earlier books if you haven't read them, with the stories from Book 1, Velveteen Vs the Junior Super Patriots Inc available on Seanan's site. There's a note there saying the ebook versions of both it and Velveteen vs the Multiverse are out of print for contractual reasons :(

A Red Rose Chain, Seanan McGuire

The ninth Toby Day book opens with Toby reporting her latest bit of heroing to Good Queen Arden, newly restored to the throne of San Francisco's fae Kingdom of the Mists, only to be interrupted by having the body of Arden's chancellor, Madden, dumped on them. This isn't an assassination, Madden isn't dead, he's been elf-shot to sleep for 100 years, it's a declaration of war. A century ago, Mists, under the usurper queen Toby recently deposed, fought a war against the neighbouring Kingdom of Silences, won and installed a puppet monarch, Rhys. Now Rhys wants Mists restored to it's 'rightful' queen, or it's war.

Dealing with Arden's initial panic requires Toby to get a little physical with her monarch, so when Arden needs a 'volunteer' for Ambassador to try and stop all this happening, guess who is first in line. Of course Toby isn't known for her diplomacy, she's much happier hitting things.

So it's Toby, her fiance Tybalt, King of Cats, her squire Quentin and her wierd sister May off to Silences. But with Silences slinging elf shot about, she needs an alchemist for her team, so poor chemistry professor Walter gets dragged out of his lab again. Only poor Walter turns out have been hiding things, such as being from Silences. He's not quite a hidden prince, but he's close.

Silences is a nightmare. Rhys isn't just a puppet of the usurper, he's a pure blood fanatic, and Toby isn't pure blood. She might be more fae than she started out, but she's still a part human changeling, with changeling vulnerabilities. Rhys's game isn't kill the ambassador, but nothing else is off the table (and in fact most of the attacks take place at table). And if the situation is bad for Toby, it's far worse for the changelings stuck permanently in Rhys's court.

There's no hope of bringing Rhys round, not when he's both fanatic and a puppet of the usurper, but Toby tries to stay on the diplomatic path, at least while the threats are directed solely at her. But when they stray to her friends and family the gloves come off, and this is a woman who has already brought one monarchy tumbling down. Her friends just wish she wouldn't bleed quite so much while she's doing it.

This is another solid entry in the series, there's not really any sense of where the series as a whole is going, but Toby is continuing to grow into her power, and there's a sense of every ball that's been tossed in the air still continuing on its arc. About the only thing missing this time is the Luidaeg, Toby's scary monster of an aunt, who only appears offscreen via a couple of telephone calls. But one thing is certain, the consequences of what happened in Silences are going to rattle through Mists too, and probably all of the fae kingdoms.

Red Rose Chain also has a cover that repays another look once finished. It's very subdued, but there's a wonderful amount of referencing to key elements of the story.

Up Next

Defying Doomsday, ed Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench

An anthology of stories of disabled and chronically ill folk surviving doomsday. I've started with Corinne Duyvis' "And the Rest of Us Wait," with a teenaged Latvian one-time pop-idol and her family waiting out a comet impact in a Dutch public bunker, a situation complicated by her spina bifida. I love Iveta's voice, and Duyvis (who is autistic rather than physically disabled) seems to have done a good job of her research. Iveta and I seem to have roughly equivalent levels of mobility and it seems very well done to me.

Currently Playing

The Amazing Adventures of Van Helsing

Picked up in the Steam sale for £5.20, including all three DLC sets. I'd call this a Rogue-Like, I've also seen it called a Diablo-like, but I've never played Diablo. It's a RPG/shoot-em-up in which Van Helsing and his faithful companion Kristina (who's a ghost) are called to Borgovia, home of things that go bump in the night, which is suffering an outbreak of steampunk. The objective is basically kill anything that moves, while fulfilling various missions. Presentation is basically 3d isometric, but the 3d is somewhat wasted as you can't really see the detail that's there if you zoom in. It might be better on a large screen, I'm playing on my laptop at the minute, but there tends to be a lot on screen.

It's very frenetic, but if I can manage it with my dyspraxic coordination it should be accessible to most people. About the only problem with the game is that Katrina is very cliched. Expect to be annoyed.

If you're playing in Win 10 you need to kill one of the minor Windows services or it will crash after 15 minutes (you can google that on the Steam forums), but apart from that it seems pretty reliable.

I wouldn't have paid full price for it, but for a fiver it's good value.

ETA: Webcomics

I don't think I mentioned starting to follow Shattered Starlight, which is a new comic from Nicole Chartrand, who writes and draws Fey Winds, one of my favourite comics. Set in Montreal, it's only just taking shape, with a protagonist, Farah, who is a former magical girl, now all grown up (she's 28) and out of the defender of the earth thing. Unfortunately she has a temper, and her powers, and blasting her boss through a wall and four cubicles just got her reassigned to work at Cafe Le Dead End, which is as far as the story has gotten so far. The artwork is a real contrast to Fey Winds, which is full colour typical cartoon style, while Shattered Starlight is a detailed black and white style, though with occasional highlight tinting (mostly Farah's pink hair).

Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/95796.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

DWGism [userpic]

Disability Linkspam: UK PhD Accessibility etc

July 26th, 2016 (01:04 am)
current location: On the soapbox
current mood: Informative

Professor Farah Mendelsohn (the author) mentioned this paper in the Fans for Accessible Conventions FB group (she's a well known UK fan as well as being a disabled academic) and it should potentially interest a few people: UK PhD Accessibility, A Pilot Study I don't think there are any astounding revelations, but it does collect a bunch of stats in one place and confirm there are issues.

I've been shooting off my mouth to journalists again, and seem to be responsible for the title of :

Drop in Access to Work numbers shows DWP ‘is strangling the scheme’

TLDR: Disability employment figures supposedly rising, yet the number of disabled people accessing government support to work is actually down slightly - either employers are cherrypicking people with minor disabilities, or the scheme is increasingly difficult to access. (What makes this all utterly ridiculous, government was making £1.40 in tax revenue for every pound spent on AtW, so the Tories cut the scheme).

I won't link to anything as it's more a cumulative effect thing, but there seem to be quite a few people raising questions about how accessible Pokemon Go is. I'm not really a mobile game person, but I'm not remotely attracted by a game that requires you to walk around.

Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/95716.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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