Shelf-cleaning

I just finished doing something that I have a hard time doing, for various reasons that wind tightly down into the psyche of my Asperger’s Syndrome: cleaning books from our bookshelves. We added six books and removed twenty-one, which really represents two new books, four books replacing twelve books, and nine removals. This gives us the room we need to add another dozen or so books that have been patiently waiting.

bookshelvesAs a child, I had to get rid of books for simple reasons: we were moving, or I’d long since passed the stage of needing picture books but I did need the shelf space. As adults, Stephanie and I have more complicated reasons for getting rid of books:

  • They are falling apart. These books are disintegrating, whether through lots of use or simply because they were never well put-together (I salute you in memory, my first run of The Belgariad, bought in high school as the first fruits of my labors at McDonalds). These are the easiest to deal with, because we simply place them on our wish list, purchase replacements, and swap them out.
  • They take up too much space. In our new house, we have a fixed amount of wall space (stupid modern construction techniques using larger windows) for book shelves. As a result, we’re now in a mode of “one comes in, one comes out.” I really dislike this, so one technique we’ve been using to get more bang for the buck is buying omnibus editions to gain back shelf space.
  • They are not getting read. Even though I have read every book in my library, there are some I don’t end up re-reading that often – or when I do, I discover that my skills and needs as a reader have advanced and the book no longer is a compelling part of my library. Removing these books from the collection requires a great deal of effort to overcome the inertia of nostalgia.
  • We purchased them second-hand, but want the author to get paid. The more I learn about the publishing industry and the more contacts I make in the author community, the more personal it becomes for me to make sure that these people are able to make a living by writing. Book sales are the best way to do that – new books, back list books, whatever.

Sometimes, we combine some of these reasons. We have recently begun to replace many of our favorite books (Eddings, Brust, Bujold, Cooper, Engdahl, Weeks, and more) with as many omnibus editions as we could. This way we replaced tattered books, gained back shelf space, and made sure the author keeps seeing royalty statements. Honestly, I wish omnibus editions were more of a thing. As we can, we’ll replace hardbacks with paperbacks (or likewise) to ensure a given series is consistent and takes the least amount of shelf space.

Tonight, I’m removing books from my collection for a much different and more painful reason: I no longer wish to support the author. I’m not going to name specific authors – the reasons for doing so are between me and Stephanie and no one else – but there are some people who are so toxic in some area of their lives that we no longer wish to support them. Although the money we spent for their books is long gone, removing those books from our shelves is a tangible way to detach our lives and fates from theirs. It helps us close the open loops in our minds that would otherwise urge us to buy their books. However, getting rid of these books sucks; it takes a lot of energy and there is/will be a mourning period. For so many years, books were my greatest friends. Getting rid of books that you have accepted into your life and given a home to feels like turning out the family pet, or possibly one of your kids.

If you think that’s a juvenile or overblown sentiment for a grown man to express, all I can say is that the concept of books and writing got wired into my soul at a very early age, and yes, sometimes books mean more to me than people. If you can’t or won’t understand that, I cordially extend to you the benison of I don’t give a shit.

Local Date Night, @SoundersFC edition

This last year Stephanie helped me become something I never thought I could be: a soccer fan.

Wait, let me rephrase. She got me interested in football. Although soccer is the original and correct name, most of the rest of the world just knows it as football (or futbol if you are from a country whose primary language is a Romance language). It’s only here in North America where we refer to gridiron football as just football.

At any rate, Steph used to play as a goalie when she was growing up and has retained a love of the sport. She used to follow the Seattle Sounders FC matches via Twitter until we moved last fall and got hooked back up to Comcast as our Internet provider. While our package doesn’t include access to ESPN and ESPN2 (where MLS broadcasts national games), it does include JoeTV and Q13 Fox, the local Seattle channels that carry Sounders games when they aren’t being nationally televised. (As an aside, remind me to rant about the stupidity that the FCC permits some other time.) So this year, I got things set up so Steph can watch the Sounders games, and inevitably started sitting next to her with my Surface on my lap while she watched. Then I started asking questions. Then I started recognizing players. Then I started figuring out what the hell was going on. Really, in about three games, I understood 95% of the rules – more than I understand to this day of American football.

At that point, Sounders games became time to spend together. I’d already gotten Steph a Sounder shirt; she got me one, and got us both scarves. And then the World Cup happened. HOLY CRAP people, with all the games being televised over ESPN3/Watch ESPN, and viewable within the ESPN app on our Xbox 360, it was easy to keep games on all through the month of world soccer awesomeness. With two of the familiar Sounders faces on the US Men’s National team, it was natural to watch and cheer them on. Even when they were eliminated by Belgium in the Round of 16, I was invested in the final results. In between the World Cup games, the Sounders had moved into the US Open Cup season, so I streamed those from my Surface to our TV (thanks to the HDMI plug and the Sounder website streaming video). I had become a football fan.

Today, we watched the final struggle of Germany vs. Argentina, then tried to figure out what our options were for watching the Seattle vs. Portland game (broadcast on ESPN2). Steph finally remembered that a local pizza joint, Sahara Pizza, had advertised that they were showing all of the World Cup games. They have gluten-free and dairy-free options on their menu, so Steph called them up to see if they would be showing the Sounders game tonight. They said yes…so we had ourselves a date night.

Here we are, dressed up in our Sounders shirts, practicing for our big day next weekend when we go see the Sounders live in their exhibition game vs. Tottenham.

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My name is Devin L. Ganger, and I am a football fan.

Is All About That Bass Skinny-shaming?

For the past several days, Stephanie and I have been severely afflicted with one of the catchiest earworms we’ve ever caught: Meghan Trainor’s debut song “All About That Bass”, which is a playful yet serious romp through doo-wop, Motown, and modern pop. Music aside, though, it’s gaining attention because of the uncompromising body-positive message the song delivers:

Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top!

The video for the song is beautifully directed by Fatima Robinson and features a diverse array of dancers and artists, including guest star Sione Maraschino (who is famous in Vine circles). In short, on the surface it seems like a great song: catchy music that skillfully blends old and new, uplifting lyrics, diverse cast and crew. What’s not to like?

The song has gotten some pushback as it has gained in popularity (what viral song hasn’t?), but from a somewhat unexpected quarter: detractors say the song is skinny-shaming. That is, its body-positive message is only for people with plus-size bodies and everyone who is slender and attractive according to currently popular standards need not apply. And I confess: when Stephanie and I first heard the song, this was our concern as well, because of these words in the second verse:

I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
Naw, I’m just playing
I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell you
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top!

At first blush, this sounds like the “skinny bitches” are cast into the outer darkness and Meghan’s message is only for the girls like here. But if you watch the video, you’ll see this isn’t so. That diverse group of dancers (including the skinny brunette) are all equally lauded as beautiful throughout the course of the video. If Meghan and her director meant to exclude people, they did a poor job.

I’m pretty sure that the disconnect here is that Meghan’s trying to say multiple things at once, which is hard enough in prose, harder in rhyme, and damned difficult when set to music (if you don’t think so, you are cordially invited to try). With a lot of today’s music, the writers don’t try for nuance or complexity…so perhaps we’ve gotten out of the habit of listening for it, substituting binary polarities for critical thought. Here’s what I pull out of that verse:

  • Judging people based on their size creates an environment rife with misperceptions about body image and self-worth
  • People that you and I perceive as skinny are in fact often extremely worried about their (mis-perceived) body image
  • Words matter. Saying you’re “playing” when using a criticism or insult doesn’t take the sting away, so pick your words carefully.

Did Meghan actually accomplish packing all that nuance in? I’m not sure, but kudos to her for trying – something not enough artists are doing these days, it seems. This large person, however, feels that Meghan’s song is all-inclusive and inviting (not skinny-shaming), so give it a listen and tell me what you think.

Meet the New Corporate Overlords @CohesiveLogic

Just a brief announcement (you’ll be hearing more about it later) to let everyone know that I’ve found new employment with Cohesive Logic as a Principal Consultant. Jeremy and the rest are good people and I’m happy to be hanging my hat under their shingle. We’ve got some exciting stuff coming down the pipe, and while I’ll still be focusing on Exchange, I’ll have the opportunity to broaden my skill set.

Let’s Test It!

I’ve been studying karate for nearly five years now, and I don’t think I’ve shared this story before. When we’re sparring, students are required to wear the appropriate protective gear. No head shots, for example, if you’re not wearing head protection. For males, a sports cup is mandatory, for reasons that probably don’t require elaboration.

When I was buying a cup, I had no clue what to get. The only sports I’d done as a kid were one season of track in high school and some Pee-Wee/Little League baseball. I’d never had to deal with a cup before. I’d heard lots of horror stories about them: they were uncomfortable, didn’t fit, and didn’t really keep blows from hurting as much as they reduced the pain to manageable levels.

No, thanks. This geek did some research and came up with the Nutty Buddy. This was a cup whose inventor stood by his product by taking 90mph fast balls from a pitching machine to his crotch. After reading around, I was sold. It was more expensive, but hey, not feeling soul-crushing pain is worth it, right?

Here’s what happened next, as I sent it to Nutty Buddy:

My order arrived on the day of a sparring class. That night, I prepped for class a little early so I could figure out how to get my Nutty Buddy put in place. Having bought the “Build Your Own Package” option, I had everything I needed, and soon I was all dressed in my gi, ready to go. I walked out from my bedroom to the living room to pick up my gear bag and was met by my son, then 11 years old. “Do you have it on?” he asked eagerly and I nodded. “Great, let’s test it!” he said as he executed a perfect front snap-kick to the boys. It was a great kick, too – one of those kind you can’t be thinking about, you just have to let it rip. He immediately realized what he’d done and started apologizing, but was shocked when I laughed. The only thing I’d felt was the shock. The Nutty Buddy lived up to the hype, and I knew it was worth every penny.

No matter how prepared you are for life, sometimes you only know whether something’s going to work by just doing it.

Blues Brother

Right at the end of December, I decided that January 2013 would be my year of just saying “Do it.” The first thing I said “do it” to was getting my hair dyed blue, like I’ve been wanting to for over a decade. That Saturday, I walked into my hairstylist for my normal haircut, and came out with a little more.

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My blue-green hair in December

I loved the cut and the color (a blue-green-silver mix), and after two weeks it had faded to a soft cotton-candy color of blue. However, it just kept on fading. Time for a refresh, so back in to my fantastic hairstylist, Liz!

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My partner in crime

This time, we dropped the green and mixed the blue and silver in nearly equal proportions. The result is vivid now, but we think it’s going to be fantastic after some fading!

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Move over, IBM

The best part of this experiment is that if I ever get tired of looking like a dry-erase marker, I can simply shave it off. It’s not like that’s a new look for me. The plan, though, is to keep experimenting with fun colors and settle down on a few favorites.

Alaric’s Fundraising Progress

Just wanted to drop a quick note to you all to keep you updated on Alaric’s progress in raising funds for his 2013 Summer of Awesome. I’ve created a static page that you can go to and will keep it updated until our goal of $5,000 is met. That’s not to say that I won’t be reminding you all about it here and on Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis, but I wanted to condense all the major details down to one place.

Update: We’re around $1,365 or so, give or take some pending funds from current fundraising efforts and some pledges we’ve not yet receiving but are expecting. Thank you to everyone who has helped us out so far!