The Chemist, a review



The Chemist is the latest novel from Stephanie Meyer.

The plot deals with a former intelligence officer who specialized in interrogations, but who is now on the run, and her efforts to uncover the people behind the plot to have her killed.

That’s the plot.

The story is about an extremely intelligent yet emotionally shut down woman who has to learn to trust, and accidentally falls in love.

That’s the story.

A large percentage of the words are devoted to lengthy descriptions of chemistry and spycraft that somehow never actually tell the reader any specific details of chemical compounds or anti-surveillance measures.

I have read a *lot* of fanfiction in my life. One of the hallmarks of a lot of fic — not most, but a lot — is where an author handwaves all the details of setting because a) the presumed audience already knows the setting from the canon text and b) the presumed audience doesn’t really give a shit about the setting details, let’s get to the angst, h/c, and sex please.

This novel feels like au fic of a spy novel, when I have not read the original text. All the emotional beats are here. ALL THE EMOTIONAL BEATS ARE HERE. So much time is spent on the characters and the looks they give, or how they are guessing the other people feel, or whathaveyou. And so much prose is spent on weirdly-detailed-yet-vague descriptions of chemical compounds.

At the end of it all, what we have is an oddly chaste romance novel, with torture and murder, in which the author declines to ever really establish the setting completely.

Tl;dr: If you like spy au fics, you’ll enjoy this novel.



We celebrate the victories

Y’all probably heard yesterday — the Army Corps of Engineers has determined that they will not put the oil pipeline by the Standing Rock reservation and under the Missouri River until further research is completed.

This is a win.

It’s a small win — yes, the pipeline may yet be approved. Yes, the oil companies may just start drilling and pay the fines. Yes, Trump may reverse all this.

But it’s a win.

Thousands of indigenous people, with support from all sorts of activists including hundreds of military veterans, stood for *months* in the path of the drills. They camped in terrible weather, with no sanitation. Their supplies were blocked and stolen. They were set upon by police. Some were seriously injured.

Yet they stood.

With active, radical, peaceful protest on one side and intensive litigation on the other, the pipeline has been brought to a halt.

There’s a meme going around, saying that the U.S. government signed over 500 treaties with the indigenous people of North America, and have broken every. Single. One. Do I think this pipeline promise will last? No, I do not.

Then why, why do I count it a win?

Because the future is unknown and unknowable. Because mercy and justice and faith may yet prevail. Because cynicism is not the same as despair. Because sometimes you’re going to fail and fall no matter what, and how you go down is the only thing you can control.

So stand with dignity, and purpose, and resolve, and take the win when it comes. Act as if you matter. Act as if your life has meaning and effect. Behave in the way you want to be remembered.

Don’t despair.

Take the win.



December 1 2016

Today is the first day of the Advent calendars in our house. I am trying to not ponder Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming,” in this holiday season. What rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem, indeed.



Things I did yesterday:

1. Called my senators to ask what their statement is on Jeff Sessions.

2. Talked to my son about alarm clocks, and why he just has to suck it up and get in the habit of using them.

3. Tried to call the White House about Standing Rock, couldn’t get through, emailed instead.

4. Decided to not default on Yuletide, yet.

5. Am carefully listening to the audiobook of The Age of Reagan: A History. It’s very dry, and I have to really pay attention, but it’s fascinating.

:fistbump: Solidarity.



People’s History of the United States, The Twentieth Century (Abridged)

I recently finished listening to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, The Twentieth Century (Abridged) on audiobook.

If you are at all interested the in recent one hundred years of uprising, resistance, and revolution in the U.S., I highly recommend it. It’s an overview, to be sure. But I know that, for me, the U.S. history I learned in school stopped at about 1945. This book gives a great summary of the anti-war movements, the prison strikes, the women’s movement, the anti-nuclear protests, and the parts of the civil rights movement that were not peaceful singing together.

Just, y’know, in case you were wondering how civil uprisings are made.

No special reason …



Getting involved in local politics


Like many of you, I have … recently … made a personal commitment to “get more involved in local politics.” And, like many of you, I have always been super-vague about how this is done.

Let me tell you.

It is *way* easier than you are thinking.

The first thing I did was Google “St. Paul City Council.” Which returned this.

I don’t know if your city will have such an easy website, but, holy buckets! There’s a big BUTTON halfway down the page that says CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS.

If you click on that is gives you a spreadsheet. Now, I spent about an hour clicking around on that, trying to figure out what everything was. I read a lot of slightly confusing pdfs. But the upshot was, the next public hearings were going to be on last Wednesday evening.

So, I went.

If you are planning to attend a city council meeting, remember that there is likely security at the building. Leave your pocket knife, wallet ninja, and fancy belt with the enormous buckle at home. DO print out the agenda ahead of time. DO highlight or circle the item you are there for, and make sure you know its number. DO make sure your phone is charged.

Bring a pen. Take notes. (Or, you know, live-tweet it as a form of note-taking. Ymmv.) If you want to get involved, you will want to know what views the various councilpersons hold.

And, the thing is, they are not shy about expressing their views. I mean, that’s what they are THERE for. To represent their Wards, to express their views, to guide and SHAPE the city. Like, that’s the POINT. So, stop imagining that awkward group project where no-one wants to be there and everyone refuses to make eye contact.

Instead, imagine your city council as a lively discussion between Daenerys Targaryen and her advisors. Less murder and bloodshed, sure, but one councilperson I saw DID call his fellow councilperson childish and immature. Like, on camera and in front of the assembled audience. It was highly entertaining.

I genuinely recommend attending at least ONE council meeting for your municipality. See your government at work. It’s a weird balance between endlessly fascinating and numbingly tedious. But it’s how the world gets made!




Ebook: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson

audiobook: A People’s History of the United States: Highlights from the Twentieth Century Audible – Abridged by Howard Zinn, narrated by Matt Damon

Movie: FTA an anti-war documentary. “Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and a collection of performers and musicians put together a touring satirical revue to perform at coffeehouses and parks near American army bases for G.I.’s opposed to the war in Vietnam. The tour was called F.T.A, which to anyone familiar with the military meant “F— The Army,” but also construed by some as “Free The Army”.”

Game: Civilation VI, Simpsons’ Tapped Out, Pokemon Go

Podcast: Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap
Generation Why