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October 18th, 2017 10:04 pm - Sign-ups are closed
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October 18th, 2017 07:52 pm - Learning From Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports

Posted by Mike Glyer

SFWA President Cat Rambo, in “Talking About Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports, Part 1 of 2”, is joined by Steven Barnes, Maurice Broaddus, Tananarive Due, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Tonya Liburd, and Nisi Shawl for a roundtable discussion of Fireside Fiction’s reports on … Continue reading


October 18th, 2017 07:52 pm - Trump Changes Mind, Comes Out Against Bipartisan Obamacare Stabilization Bill

Posted by Kate Cox

If you feel like you’re getting whiplash just from trying to follow the healthcare policy debate in Washington, you’re not alone; the hits in this saga have been coming seemingly nonstop. After saying the federal government would no longer pay certain subsidies that make the insurance marketplace work, President Trump at first seemed to support a bill that would create short-term stability. But that was yesterday. Today, he’s apparently changed his mind and is now against it.

There’s been a lot going on in healthcare policy in recent weeks; it seems like one of the many unrelenting drumbeats of 2017. But the TL;DR of where we stand today with healthcare is:

The payments are a critical part of making the ACA work. The federal government provides cost-sharing subsidies (CSRs) to insurers to offset certain expenses incurred by health plans. Insurers receive those payments to guarantee that co-pays and deductibles for low-income Americans buying coverage on the exchange can stay low.

Cut the CSRs, and the insurers have to make up the money somewhere. And that “somewhere” is the consumer’s pocket. Absent the subsidies, premiums, co-pays, and deductibles all shoot upwards — with the effect of utterly destabilizing the individual marketplace.

And that brings us to today, when two things at once are going on.

The White House Suddenly Hates Bipartisan Bill

Trying to figure out the White House’s strategy at any given moment in 2017 is, well… let’s be diplomatic and call it a challenge.

The day the Alexander-Murray proposal was announced, the President seemed to be in favor of it. He told reporters, “Yes, we have been involved,” adding:

Lamar [Alexander] has been working very, very hard with the Democratic, his colleagues on the other side. And Patty Murray is one of them in particular.

And they are coming up and they are fairly close to a short-term solution. The solution will be for about a year or two years. And it will get us over this intermediate hump, because we have, as you probably know — we have — either have the votes or we are very close to having the votes. And we will get the votes for having really the potential of having great health care in our country.

So they are indeed working, but it is a short-term solution, so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period.

However, President Trump this morning on Twitter made very clear his personal opinion of the bill has shifted, saying that although he is “supportive of [Sen.] Lamar [Alexander] as a person & also of the process,” he cannot support “bailing out” insurance companies who have “made a fortune” under the ACA.

That’s a pretty significant shift, and it even surprised the Senators involved.

“Trump completely engineered the plan that we announced yesterday,” Alexander told Axios about the bill. “He wanted a bipartisan bill for the short term.”

Heading to Court

Meanwhile, the coalition of attorneys general who are suing the administration have also asked the courts to intervene.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra both announced today that the coalition was seeking an injunction to put Trump’s policy change on hold and make the payments continue.

In the petition [PDF], the attorneys general asked the court “to enter a nationwide temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction requiring [the federal government] to continue making the cost-sharing reduction payments required by the [ACA] pending judicial resolution of this action.”

In other words, the AGs are asking the court to maintain the current status quo — where the payments exist — until such time as the lawsuits are decided one way or the other, which can take years.

“This is no longer about a campaign promise or a punchline. The Trump Administration is willingly breaking the law by refusing to make required payments that keep healthcare affordable for millions of Americans. It is taking active steps to sabotage the Affordable Care Act,” Becerra said in a statement.

Scheiderman echoed the sentiment, saying, “President Trump’s abrupt move to cut these subsidies is reckless, dangerous, – and illegal.”

He added, “We won’t stand for it – and we’re moving to block these dangerous cuts before they do any more harm.”

Senate Traffic Jam

There are a heap of other healthcare proposals also floating around in the Senate as we speak.

There’s the single-payer, Medicare-for-all proposal co-signed by nearly two dozen Democrats out for consideration. Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (VA) and Michael Bennet (CO) also just introduced a bill proposing to add a public option that consumers could buy into through the marketplace.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the privilege of setting the chamber’s agenda. So even if a bill actually has enough bipartisan support to move through a committee and pass a vote, it won’t see the light of day if leadership doesn’t want to let it.

The Washington Post reports that the Alexander-Murray proposal stalled out in the Senate almost immediately, with “discord” swiftly “casting the plans’ viability into serious doubt.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan joined Trump in his criticism of the proposal, Politico notes, which further limits its odds of success (a bill has to pass both the House and the Senate to become law).

With Congress either unwilling or unable to take action, that leaves the ball in the court’s court, to either approve or deny the states’ request for an injunction as a next move.


October 18th, 2017 12:56 pm - you wanna be there when they count up the dudes
i was cranky last night, so i watched some tv to cheer me up. it kind of worked.

the new (final) season of Rebels started this week. looks like they're going to be releasing two episodes a week for the next month or so.

spoilers for Star Wars Rebels through season 4 premiere, and The Clone Wars re: Mandalore )


October 18th, 2017 02:39 pm - They also serve who only
As I write this, Karen’s in surgery. By the time I can post it - for I have no wifi at this hospital - we’ll be back at the apartment, and she’ll be fine. Drowsy, maybe. It’s a minor procedure, to connect a port to her bloodstream so that she can be a cyborg for a few days; local anaesthetic and a sedative, no more, but they say she’ll go to sleep.

We have a room that is ours for the duration, and all I have to do is sit in it and wait. Half my task here is waiting. (I have never liked waiting, and do it poorly.)

Outside our room in one of those windowcleaners’ cradles that hang on cables from the roof. Two men are in it with all the tools, and they are doing all the things to the wall at my back: hammering, sawing, drilling. It’s like being in the apartment, transposed to a minor key: for there they are building another tower block just next to ours, and that affords us all the noises of major construction.

I am in a weird mood, I find. I feel ... pent. Potentially eruptive. Popacatepetl in miniature. It’s just the waiting. Karen will be fine, and so will I.

I’m rereading an old favourite novel, Elizabeth Lynn’s “A Different Light”. I still hope to meet her one day, for I know she’s local and we have friends in common. (I’m also rereading “The Count of Monte Cristo”, though I have no hope of meeting Dumas. That’s on the other Kindle, back at the apartment. Reading different books on different Kindles may seem perverse, or contraindicated, but really it’s just about power management. This one, the original, a full charge lasts for weeks; t’other is a tablet-in-embryo and I only get a few hours out of it, less than my phone even.)

I thought I’d be doing more work than I am, but apparently a man can just read and shop and cook and watch TV. Maybe after this week is over, when the procedures are behind us and Karen’s just apartment-bound in neutropenia, I’ll find the mindspace again. These next few days are going to be rough: apharesis and chemo and then at last the transplant. At the moment she’s in a lot of pain - or would be, but for the shots - which they tell us is a good thing, a sign that the process is working as it should. Her bone-marrow is sending lots of stem cells out into her bloodstream, ready to be harvested, yay: but this is a painful process, and her bones ache. Tonight’s going to be the worst of that, and she’ll have the discomfort of today’s operation to deal with also. Plus a lot of stress about tomorrow, when we’ll be all day at the clinic.

Now there are weird noises happening just outside the door. Power-tool of some kind, I think. I’m not going to look. They said I can go down to the cafeteria and get some coffee, but I think I’m just going to sit here and wait till Karen gets back.


October 18th, 2017 07:00 pm - Gardens at the End of the World: John Langan’s “The Shallows”

Posted by Ruthanna Emrys, Anne M. Pillsworth

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at John Langan’s “The Shallows,” first published in 2010 in Cthulhu’s Reign. Spoilers ahead.

“The vast rectangle that occupied the space where his neighbor’s green-sided house had stood, as well as everything to either side of it, dimmed, then filled with the rich blue of the tropical sky.”


Over his daily mug of instant coffee, Ransom chats with his sole companion, the crab resident in his kitchen sink. “Crab” may just be a convenient label for the creature, which with its extra set of carapace-top limbs is no earthly decapod. Thirty yards to one side of Ransom’s house, where his neighbor’s house used to be, ripples a curtain of pale light extending as far as he can see. At the moment it displays a tropical sea seething like a pot about to boil. Fish, whales, sharks flee the center of the disturbance. Among them are beasts beyond identification, “a forest of black needles, a mass of rubbery pink tubes, the crested dome of what might be a head the size of a bus.” An undersea mountain rises, or is it the top of a vast alien Atlantis? The first time Ransom watched this “movie,” he and his son Matt wondered if the upheaval had anything to do with “what’s been happening at the poles.”

Ransom suggests that he should name the crab “Gus,” after his wife Heather’s great-grandfather. Once they thought of naming their son after Gus, but from all accounts, he was an abusive alcoholic so mean he wouldn’t take in his war-disabled son. You know, Jan, whom the old man called a “faggot” because he liked to bake.

Though Ransom’s looked away from the light-curtain, he knows what it must be showing now: a vast entity of coil-wreathed head, scaled limbs, translucent fans of wings, bursting from the risen city. It’s a thing whose sheer size and speed must “break a textbook’s worth of physical laws.” The first time he watched its rebirth, Matt had screamed “Was that real? Is that happening?”

Ransom prepares to leave the house, picking up an improvised spear (butcher’s knife duct-taped to a pole) and making a careful survey of the front yard before opening the door. Before going north two months earlier, Matt made him promise to perform the safety check every time. Nothing worrying, except the ruins across the street and the spongy hive that they once sheltered. Lobster-like things the size of ponies may have hatched from it. Matt led the neighbors who dispatched them with axes, shovels, picks. Northward, everything’s gone, road, houses, vegetation, the ground scraped down to gray bedrock. On the horizon more planes of light shimmer.

Spear at the ready, Ransom exits his house. He’s going to his garden and invites the crab to come along, which it does with eager speed. Ransom, Matt and neighbors tilled the garden together, fenced it, and dug a moat-trench around it. The crab scuttles among the carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, inspecting the plants with such intensity that Ransom’s sure that “in whatever strange place it had called home, the crab had tended a garden of its own.” He speculates aloud about calling the crab “Bruce,” which was the name Heather gave a stray dog she took in late in her struggle with terminal illness. The dog had comforted her and Matt but not for long. Its loutish owner reclaimed it five days later, locked it again in a wire pen. Heather visited the caged Bruce, from the safe distance of the road, right up to her final hospitalization.

In the garden, big red slugs threaten the lettuce. Ransom drowns them, like ordinary slugs, in beer traps. A huge blue centipede crosses his path. He doesn’t spear it, for fear it may “control” other invaders. Inky coils have attacked the beans. Inky coils with teeth. Ransom burns the affected plant and considers whether the neighboring plants can be salvaged. Fresh food’s nice, but the neighbors who went in search of the polar city with Matt did leave Ransom their stores for safe keeping.

The light-curtain beside his house begins to play another movie, featuring a cyclopean structure at sunset. Ransom’s seen this “movie” before, too, and has identified the structure as the Empire State Plaza in Albany, fifty miles north of his town. Its office buildings are decapitated. A massive toad-like being perches on the highest skyscraper. Far below, three figures flee from black torrents that sprout eyes all along their lengths and open tunnel-wide sharp-toothed mouths.

Ransom begged Matt not to go north. Who could tell what the inhabitants of the polar city would do to him? And who will Ransom talk to, without his son? Matt told Ransom to write his experiences all down, for when Matt returned. But Matt won’t be coming back. Matt’s one of the three figures the torrents devour, as the light-curtain shows Ransom over and over again.

The crab has scuttled to the top of the garden to inspect some apple trees. Ransom only glances at them. They appear to be “quiet.”

He and the crab return home. Ransom tells it that Matt used to say, “Who wants to stay in the shallows their whole life?” Ransom’s answer, which he himself hadn’t fully understood at the time, was “There are sharks in the shallows, too.”

Back at the top of the garden, the apples swing in the breeze and ripen into “red replicas of Matt’s face, his eyes squeezed shut, his mouth stretched in a scream of unbearable pain.”

What’s Cyclopean: The beans in Ransom’s garden are full of “gelid, inky coils.” Those things are almost as bad as Dutch Elm Disease.

The Degenerate Dutch: Gus, for whom Ransom’s sorta-crab (but not his kid) is named, appears to have been a bundle of delightful bigotries.

Mythos Making: R’lyeh rises and Cthulhu rises with it, heralded by shoggothim. The toadlike thing is probably Tsathoggua…

Libronomicon: No books this week. Where are those million copies of the Necronomicon when you really need them?

Madness Takes Its Toll: Gus (the person, not the sorta-crab) was a “functioning alcoholic” and an abusive jerk.


Ruthanna’s Commentary

I used to love end-of-the-world stories. It was a way of coping with the last days of the Cold War, imagining that stories could still take place Afterward. And there can be comfort in an apocalypse that grinds away the stress of daily demands and narrows your choices to those that are truly important. I especially liked the so-called cozy catastrophe, in which survivors crawl out of their shelters in neat family units to rebuild the world better than it was before, or at least closer to the author’s preferred societal organization.

Langan’s catastrophe is anything but cozy. The neat family unit’s been broken up in favor of a last-ditch save-the-world effort, failed almost before it began. And—cozy inevitably being a matter of point of view—the story’s from the point of view of the last-ditch save-the-world hero’s aging father. Nothing like parenthood to remove any last vestiges of comfort that an apocalypse might otherwise have retained.

The rise of the elder gods makes an excellent stand-in for all manner of apocalypses. (Apocalypsi? Apocalyptim? This is becoming an increasingly urgent question, folks, help me out.) Charlie Stross memorably hybridized it with the devastation of nuclear war, and in his more recent work it’s metamorphosized to cover climate change (Case Nightmare Green turns out not to be an event, but a stage of earth’s history with no end in sight) and the rise of fascism. In Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald,” it’s more like colonialism; in Drake’s “Than Curse the Darkness,” it’s a price for the overthrow of same that just might be worth paying.

In “The Shallows,” the apocalypse in question might be the plain everyday one of mortality. Eaten by a shoggoth or consumed by cancer, Matt and Heather both die. They both go down fighting for life—Matt for the world, Heather for an abused dog—and neither succeeds. Just like in real life, too, there are screens everywhere to show you the details of every ongoing disaster, over and over and over and over. Who knew that elder gods were so into mass media? (No comments section, though, thankfully. Imagine the flamewars.)

It’s a damned good story. But maybe avoid checking Twitter after you read it.

Langan does an excellent job of invoking Mythosian horrors without naming them. Ransom has no way to know that this outsized horror is Cthulhu, that one Tsathoggua, and oh that’s a Shoggoth* over there eating your kid. He just knows that he’s surrounded by forces beyond his comprehension or ability to control. And in the face of all that, he’s going to keep his garden going. And talk to his sorta-crab. Like Matt and Heather, he’s going to keep fighting for life, in the little ways he’s capable of. Il faut cultiver notre jardin. I can appreciate that.

The monsters of “The Shallows” are cosmically horrible in many ways. They’re huge, inexplicable and unexplained, beyond the ability of humans to understand or fight. But they’re human-like in at least one way: they’re vindictive. Why else show Ransom, of all people, those particular scenes? Why send those particular apples to grow in his yard? Unless every survivor has rebel-faced fruit growing in their yards, it does make you wonder. After all, if you can get the giant inhuman force to notice you, maybe resistance isn’t so futile after all.

*For all that we hear a lot about shoggothim in the Mythos, they almost never appear in person outside “Mountains of Madness.” Langan’s version are a worthy on-screen addition.


Anne’s Commentary

To start on a personal note: The full name of the Albany complex where Ransom’s son meets his death is the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza. It was indeed the brainchild of Governor Rocky, as my father fondly called him, designed to strike visitors to the New York capitol with awe as they flew in or crested the hills on the opposite bank of the Hudson River. Impressive it is. Also unsettling, especially against a flaming sunset. Architectural critic Martin Filler describes this aspect of the Plaza well: “There is no relationship at all between buildings and site…since all vestiges of the [previously] existing site have been so totally obliterated. Thus, as one stands on the Plaza itself, there is an eerie feeling of detachment. The Mall buildings loom menacingly, like aliens from another galaxy set down on this marble landing strip”

No wonder Langan chose this spot as the lair of shoggoths and their Master Toad (Tsathoggua?) Still, I have fond memories of sitting by the Plaza’s vast reflecting pool, watching Fourth of July fireworks duplicated on the glassy black water. And besides, Governor Rocky once gave my five-year-old cheek a big smack. Quintessential politician, he was an adept pumper of hands and kisser of children. We needn’t go into his other feats of osculation here.

“The Shallows” is my kind of post-apocalypse tale: up very close and very personal. John Langan addressed the aftermath of a zombie epidemic in “How the Day Runs Down,” a novella brilliantly structured like the worst-case scenario version of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Here he takes on that greatest of all possible apocalypses, the return of Cthulhu and Company. In “The Call of Cthulhu,” Lovecraft (via cultist Castro) envisions that return as a time when “mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones, free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and reveling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.” Quite a party, however (literally) burnt out the revelers were bound to feel the morning after. Langan’s vision is a much soberer one—no Boschian orgy of damnation but one man crucified, cross-affixed by the nails of his greatest fears, over and over again.

Langan’s Great Old Ones wreak mass destruction, sure, like that monstrous gray gash north of Ransom’s house. It looks like some huge hoof scuffed Earth’s skin to the rocky bone, stomped trees and roads and buildings, animals and people, indiscriminately out of existence. But the Old Ones aren’t merely mindless force. They seem to reserve some humans for prolonged, subtle torment. Ransom’s one such sufferer, stranded among light-curtain movie screens that endlessly replay not only planet-wide catastrophe but Ransom’s most personal tragedy: Matt’s violent death, only fifty miles into his quixotic journey north to the polar city. How do the “screens” work? Are they dimensional rifts disgorging alien flora and fauna to infiltrate terrestrial ecosystems? Are they also veils of some energetic fabric that serves as both broadcast medium and psychic sponge? Via the veils, all can witness R’lyeh’s rise and Cthulhu’s escape. Upon the veils, each survivor can “record” his individual horrors.

Cosmic-class bastards, the Old Ones. Unless the effect of the light-curtains on the human brain is accidental, the hallucinatory product of our own mental vulnerabilities. What about the screaming-Matt apples, though? Ransom himself doesn’t describe them to the reader—while we share his point of view, we only know the apple trees make him uneasy. It’s in the closing switch to authorial point of view that we learn what terrible shape the fruit’s taken, and that suggests to me that the new world order has deformed them, for Ransom’s particular anti-delectation.

Shades of a Color out of Space, by the way!

Now, what about the crab that is no crab, at least no earthly one? Nice parallel, how Ransom “adopts” it with as little apparent misgiving as Heather adopted the dog she named Bruce. I’d like to think the crab’s drawn to Ransom out of a mutual need for companionship. Maybe it’s a larval Mi-Go, hence both telepathic and highly intelligent, the child of Mi-Go tenders of vast fungal gardens on the mountain terraces of Yuggoth.

Speaking of gardens. As Candide tells Pangloss in the story’s epigraph, we’ve each got to tend our own, regardless of whether we live in the best of all possible worlds or the worst. Ultimately that’s the only way we can go on. Not through the heroics of a Matt, but through the grubbing labors of a Ransom. Do heroes seek heights (and, conversely, depths?) Are gardeners content in the shallows?

Oh dear, though, doesn’t Ransom tell us true when he says there are sharks in the shallows as well as the depths? Downer, if we take that to mean there’s no safety anywhere. But uplift, too, if we take it to mean both shallows and depths require courage of the swimmer, foster their own brands of heroism.


Next week we delve once again into Lovecraft’s juvenalia, and meet the angsty scion of a fallen line, in “The Alchemist.”

Ruthanna Emrys is the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series, including Winter Tide and Deep Roots (available July 2018). Her neo-Lovecraftian stories “The Litany of Earth” and “Those Who Watch” are available on, along with the distinctly non-Lovecraftian “Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land” and “The Deepest Rift.” Ruthanna can frequently be found online on Twitter and Dreamwidth, and offline in a mysterious manor house with her large, chaotic household—mostly mammalian—outside Washington DC.

Anne M. Pillsworth’s short story.The Madonna of the Abattoir” appears on Her young adult Mythos novel, Summoned, is available from Tor Teen along with sequel Fathomless. She lives in Edgewood, a Victorian trolley car suburb of Providence, Rhode Island, uncomfortably near Joseph Curwen’s underground laboratory.


October 18th, 2017 06:56 pm - Stonyfield Farm Recalls Soy Yogurts That May Be Dairy Yogurts

Posted by Laura Northrup

If you’re buying yogurt made from soy milk, you’re probably trying to avoid dairy for health or ethical reasons, including potential allergies. That’s why it’s a problem that a batch of soy yogurt from Stonyfield Farms may actually be dairy yogurt, and the company has recalled the entire lot as a precaution.

What to look for

Two consumers have complained to Stonyfield Farms that their soy yogurt containers contained dairy yogurts instead. There have been no reported allergic reactions or illnesses.

Affected yogurt cups are strawberry-flavored O’Soy yogurt cups which measure 5.3 ounces. They have a “use by” date of November 4, 2017 printed on the lid.

In a statement, the company’s “CE-Yo,” which is a job title that we are not making up, said, “While we continue to investigate this issue, we believe recalling all potentially affected cups is the most responsible and transparent choice at this time.”

What to do

The company asks people who have yogurt from this production lot to throw them away without consuming them.

If you have questions about the recall or the products, Stonyfield Farms has the amusing phone number of 800-PRO-COWS (800-776-2697) and you can also email the company at


October 18th, 2017 06:53 pm - Apple’s New Self-Driving Car Technology Spotted In The Wild

Posted by Mary Beth Quirk

Apple’s efforts to get into the self-driving car industry have been shrouded in layers of mystery and speculation for years. But at long last, physical proof that a car does indeed exist has been spotted the wild, after Apple took its autonomous driving tech out for a spin on California streets this week.

Twitter user MacCallister Higgins — who also happens to be the cofounder of a self-driving startup called Voyage — posted video of what he calls “The Thing” yesterday.

Another user replied to his thread, noting another recent sighting:

The somewhat clunky hardware — featuring six lidar sensors, several radar units, and a bunch of white cameras encased in white plastic — is mounted atop a Lexus SUV. Part of the reason the setup may seem large is that the compute stack could be located inside the roof unit, Higgins suggests in the Tweet’s thread. Other self-driving cars often put that technology in the trunk.

After major staffing shakeups in its Project Titan project in 2016, Apple was approved last April to start testing autonomous vehicles in California.


October 18th, 2017 06:34 pm - Recalled IKEA Dresser Linked To Another Child’s Death

Posted by Ashlee Kieler

More than a year after IKEA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of about 29 million topple-prone Malm and other style dressers, another child’s death has been linked to the dangerous furniture.

The Philly Inquirer reports that a two-year-old California boy was killed in May when the Malm dresser in his bedroom toppled onto him.

Another Death

A rep for IKEA confirmed the death, noting that it received information about the incident from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumerist has reached out to the retailer and the safety regulator for additional information.

According to the Inquirer, the boy had recently been put in his room for a nap on May 25 when the unsecured dresser fell on him. The boy’s father found the child trapped under the three-drawer dresser and called 9-1-1.

The death is thought to be the first to occur since IKEA and the CPSC issued the recall for the Malm dressers in June 2016.

A lawyer for the family tells the Inquirer that the parents were not aware of the recall and had not heard of the associated tipping dangers.

“The family is still grieving and requests that their privacy be respected in this very difficult time,” the lawyer, who also represented the parents of three other children who died as a result of Malm dressers tipping over, tells the Inquirer.

IKEA confirmed that the dresser involved in the California incident was not attached to the boy’s bedroom wall.

“Our hearts go out to the affected family, and we offer our sincere condolences during this most difficult time,” a rep for the company said, adding that the company continues to urge customers to anchor the furniture to walls.

Other Deaths

The California death is the eighth linked to an IKEA dresser.

In Nov. 2016, the CPSC released an update on the recall, confirming that four deaths had been linked to Malm dressers, and three other deaths had been linked to non-Malm IKEA furniture.

IKEA said at the time that it had received reports of 41 tip-over incidents involving the MALM chests and dressers, resulting in 17 injuries to children between the ages of 19 months and 10 years old.

The Recalled Dressers

The May death is just the latest in a string of incidents and actions related to IKEA’s dressers.

In June 2016, IKEA and the CPSC announced a full recall of Malm dressers and chests — along with a variety of other non-Malm items — that don’t comply with industry anti-tipping standards.

The recall came after IKEA offered repair kits and wall anchors to customers as part of a repair initiative that just wasn’t getting the job done, as evidenced by the deaths of several small children.

As part of the June recall, IKEA agreed to come to consumers’ homes to take away old dressers and hand out refunds to replace the pieces of furniture. Additionally, if a customer wanted to keep the dressers, IKEA said it would send a crew out to ensure that the piece is anchored to the wall properly.

Refunds for the dressers were to work one of three ways: A full refund would be issued if the chest or dresser was manufactured between Jan. 1, 2002 and June 28, 2016; a store credit for 50% of the original purchase price if the product was manufactured before Jan. 2002; or a $50 store credit if the date stamp is unidentifiable.

Since the recall was announced last year, the Inquirer reports that IKEA has redesigned its dressers to meet industry safety standards.

Unlike the recalled dressers, the new furniture can remain upright without being anchored when a 50-pound weight is hung on a drawer. This test mimics a toddler or young child hanging or climbing the furniture.

Call For Action

Following reports of another death tied to the recalled dressers safety advocates have renewed their call for more action.

William Wallace, our colleague at Consumers Union, tells the Inquirer that the latest incident “raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of the IKEA recall.”

Those concerns were echoed by Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger.

“We’ve been trying to pressure CPSC and IKEA both to do more,” she said. “Because this is a result of a bad recall, that more children are injured.”


October 18th, 2017 01:45 pm - I spent much of Yesterday writing this on Tumblr, so I might as well share it here, too.
Unicorn at  fountain-4Web
[Image description: “The Unicorn is Found” or “The Unicorn at the Fountain”. The second tapestry in The Hunt of the Unicorn series, from circa 1495 -1505.

A tall ornamental fountain with lion-mask spigots is spilling water into a forest stream, where animals (a lion and lioness, a leopard, a weasel, a wolf, a stag, a pair of pheasants, a pair of goldfinches, and a pair of rabbits) have gathered to drink, while a pair of ducks swim past in the stream itself.

A unicorn is kneeling on the far side of the stream from the viewer, dipping the very tip of its horn into the water (a cure for all poisons), which makes the water safe to drink.

Behind the bushes surrounding the fountain are a dozen hunters with long pikes over their shoulders, along with their hunting dogs. They are talking and gesturing to each other, discussing exactly how to kill the unicorn, so they can bring it back to the king and queen.

The towers of the royal castle can be glimpsed in through the trees in the far distance (in the upper left corner of the tapestry). Description ends.]

When I was a tiny thing (maybe I was still in kindergarten/infant school) my parents took me to see the original Unicorn tapestries in the museum, and I got to see them ultra up close (like less than a couple feet away) -- and this one is nearly 12 and a half feet (3.78 meters) tall ... almost life sized (!).

Naturally, the experience made an impression. And the tapestry I posted here made the biggest impression of all: this is what “unicorn” means to me. Throughout the rest of my childhood, I was bitter and salty about all the “rainbow-sparkle/magic glitter” unicorns with Kewpie doll eyes that were absolutely everywhere (and well-meaning friends kept giving me, "’Cause she loves unicorns!”). ...And frankly, I still am.

Why I Wish This Tapestry Were the “Famous One”:

(Rant follows -- wherein I absolutely do spoil the story [plot wise] that these tapestries tell, and where I hope to spoil [popularity-wise] the most famous medieval tapestry of them all)

(The links behind the cut lead to The Metropolitan Museum of Art's online display of each of the Tapestries)

The story of 'The Hunt of The Unicorn' narrated -- warning: there is violence, gore, and more than one animal death )

Like I said at the beginning, “The Unicorn at the Fountain” is what “unicorn” means to me. Unicorns are wild and fierce -- able to kill you as easily as slice through butter (if they must, in self-defense). But the unicorn’s first impulse is to use their magic for the good of others -- to protect all the creatures of the forest, even though doing so makes them vulnerable to attack -- even though the powers of the State polluted the stream in the first place -- even though the powers of the State wanted to steal all that magic, and keep it for itself. Unicorns still take that risk.

With great power, comes great responsibility.

And then, with great responsibility, comes great kindness.

How is that not the most radical thing of all?


October 18th, 2017 06:30 pm - Tor Mini Books Prize Pack Sweepstakes!

Posted by Sweepstakes

Tor Books has just released a handful of small-format paper-over-board hardcovers selected from their distant and recent backlist, plus a new-to-book-form story collection by Charlie Jane Anders and the first standalone edition of Brandon Sanderson’s Edgedancer—and we want to send you a set of all six books!

Before the success of her debut SF-and-fantasy novel All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders was a rising star in SF and fantasy short fiction. Six Months, Three Days, Five Others collects—for the first time in print—six of her quirky, wry, engaging best.

This miniature hardcover of the Orson Scott Card classic and worldwide bestselling novel Ender’s Game makes an excellent gift for anyone’s science fiction library.

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters. From the Two Rivers is a special edition that contains Part 1 of The Eye of the World.

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, a special gift edition of Edgedancer, a short novel of the Stormlight Archive (previously published in Arcanum Unbounded).

Perfect for an entry-level sci-fi reader and the ideal addition to a veteran fan’s collection, John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War takes audiences on a heart-stopping adventure into the far corners of the universe.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 1:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on October 18th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on October 22nd. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


October 18th, 2017 02:48 pm - Spider-Gwen #25

Read more... )


October 18th, 2017 12:49 pm - All you hear are the rusty breezes / pushing around the weathervane Jesus.
( You're about to view content that the journal owner has advised should be viewed with discretion. )

Current Music:: The Tragically Hip: "Wheat Kings"


October 18th, 2017 06:00 pm - Barbary Station

Posted by R.E. Stearns

Adda and Iridian are newly minted engineers, but aren’t able to find any work in a solar system ruined by economic collapse after an interplanetary war. Desperate for employment, they hijack a colony ship and plan to join a famed pirate crew living in luxury at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive there, nothing is as expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury—they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents and shooting down any ship that attempts to leave—so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the AI met an untimely end, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds. There’s a glorious future in piracy… if only they can survive long enough.

Barbary Station, the debut novel from R.E. Stearns, is available October 31st from Saga Press.



In her water tank, Adda shook blue dust out of her hair. Since the tank was suspended underneath the pirate compound, beneath the station’s double hull, Iridian proclaimed it safe enough without the blue antiradiation coating. Adda kept forgetting to pull her hood over her head when she left the tank, and the blue stuff that covered the rest of the compound’s ceiling and walls fell into her hair and shirt.

She piled pillows inside her workspace’s noise-canceling canopy. Though the sides were transparent beneath a thick grid of black tracer lines, it did resemble a tent. Once she’d plugged her nasal implant jack and her comp into the main unit, she triggered the comp’s countdown timer. If she spent five hours in a workspace, Iridian usually checked on her. When both of them forgot, Adda had headaches and nightmares. She placed a thin purple sharpsheet square on her tongue. While it dissolved, she inserted earbuds, which hissed pink noise and canceled out everything else.

Time to find out what I’m up against. As one of her professors used to say, Zombie AI can’t develop their own priorities, so give them yours. If she got the intelligence to interact with her, she could ask it to stop. The pirates didn’t have a workspace generator, so they couldn’t have tried that.

She lay on her back and sealed the sound-resistant generator tent. After several seconds, the sharpsheet took effect and the generator’s software accessed her neural implant net to draw her into a workspace. Her parents’ house in Virginia, before the bombing, assembled around her.

The comp glove could render small parts of the programs she worked with, but interacting with the fragments limited her view of the system as a whole. The workspace software converted the concepts and commands into visual metaphors her brain processed quickly, naturally, and more effectively with the sharpsheets’ help. Sunlight patterned down through a large, high window. All six shelves of the bookshelf beside it were full of ancient paper books, many more than the tiny collection of books that her mother had maintained. Each book represented information on the station intranet’s public front. Station administrators would be remarkably careless to leave a manual on the station’s security intelligence sitting out on unprotected intranet, but she had to check. A spiral-bound stack of paper labeled Employee Policies might be helpful.

An orange glow with ragged gray-blurred edges swam over a plain black book’s spine. The glow shrank into the words Criminals and Criminology. With dreamlike slowness, Adda pulled it from its shelf, blew the ensuing dust cloud away from her nose, and placed the book beside her bare feet.

Despite the carpet, the book landed with a sound like a massive gong struck with a hammer. Adda stilled, her hand hovering over the book. She hadn’t set any alarms like that, so who had?

When she turned back to the bookshelf, a yellow eye stared out from its back panel, in the space where the book had been.

“Hello.” She breathed slowly to keep her field of vision, already gently twisting left and right, from starting to spin in response to her excitement. It wasn’t clear how well her biological functions carried through the workspace to the intelligence. Heart rates told a lot about humans. What conclusions AegiSKADA drew from hers was something else again.

“I’m looking for your occupant monitoring archives. I’m a friend. Everyone near me is too.” She concentrated on the concept of a group of nonthreatening individuals with similar objectives and priorities. “We don’t attack friends.”

The eye didn’t blink. Its pupil was a splotch of black liquid, asymmetrical and fraying into digital static at its edges. Adda reached into the bookshelf and pressed her fingertips to the top of the panel, above the eye. The titles on the other books’ spines swam, cycling through numeric codes and names. The eye refocused on them. The human-to-AI translation software in her comp was hard at work.

“Look at me.” She concentrated on how delighted she was to meet a new intelligence. The eye’s gaze flicked from one mental construct of household objects to the next, checking each one for signs of her. It was possible that no one had spoken to it in the four years since the station had been abandoned. If it understood what she’d said, it didn’t agree with her.

AI played games with human minds. Her translator should protect her, but depending on what direction this intelligence’s development took, the translator might be outmatched.

The risk raised her heart rate. The room rocked like a boat on stormy seas. The eye focused on her, confirming its access to biometric sensors. How many had the station’s designers planted, recording every cardiac rhythm of humans within range? And where was the one recording hers, alone in an empty water tank? She shut her eyes against the swinging room and concentrated on the second question. The rocking sloshed the contents of her stomach. Whispers in static too soft to interpret brushed across her arms and thighs. She thought she heard her name, and Pel’s.

When she opened her eyes, a dark image flickered in and out of existence below the eye on the book spine. Orange specks of light near the top were probably the string of lights in the passage between the hulls.

Adda grinned. It was so satisfying to create an answer through the intensity of her question. The nearest sensor node was in the hull passage that led to the pirate compound. She didn’t know what to do about that yet, but she’d think of something.

A cardinal peeped triumphantly outside the high window. The whispers faded to silence, and a hard, squared-off edge formed against her palm. She drew a paper book out of the bookshelf with the intelligence’s eye in the center of the cover. The image of the space between the hulls flickered out.

Behind the workspace’s hallucinations, her translator had convinced AegiSKADA that she was a temporary systems maintenance technician. That granted her the most basic levels of personal security aboard the station. Leaving so much of her identity open to the intelligence made her vulnerable, but she now claimed enough clearance to review its biometric database.

Millions of records swirled around her as dust motes in sunlight, with no archival procedure. AegiSKADA had recorded over a year of the pirates’ heart rates, respiration, gait, words, and images, every move the pirates had made since they’d crashed in the docking bay below. As she watched, the intelligence accessed record after record that hadn’t been significant enough for the workspace to render before. The workspace depicted each shining mote of information for only an instant, and then the eye on the book absorbed them.

The intelligence hadn’t been accessing those records when she first applied the translator. Adda could only imagine AegiSKADA accessing the pirates’ data this way in order to select targets for investigation or attack. If she had time to think, more reasons might occur to her. It was appalling that the intelligence had so much biometric data so readily available. None of the utilization scenarios she was coming up with had positive outcomes for Sloane’s crew.

AI rarely gave humans enough time to develop viable plans of attack, and she couldn’t just watch it work. Adda slammed her hand down over the eye to stop the transfer to its active memory. The home around her flickered, with red nothing behind it, as her software struggled to block AegiSKADA from records it was already accessing.

The eye widened and widened beneath her hand. It expanded past the borders of the book representing her software barriers between the intelligence and her personal system. The eye swelled to the width of the bookshelf, then the room, before Adda could draw her hand away. And it was focused on her.

The overwhelmed translator didn’t interpret the angry digital buzz filling the workspace, but something was hunting her, had caught her scent in the red beyond the workspace’s world. It was coming, and she had to get out.

Excerpted from Barbary Station, copyright © 2017 by R.E. Stearns.


October 18th, 2017 06:27 pm - I… I think this film is… a little out of
I… I think this film is… a little out of date. Just a little though.



October 18th, 2017 06:01 pm - Texas Gothic...
...that liminal time that happens every Wednesday at 1PM when they test the
tornado sirens.

(2 comments | Reply)

October 18th, 2017 05:37 pm - Come Listen To Infomocracy’s Musical Genre of The Future, Gronkytonk!

Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Infomocracy by Malka Older Cover Crop

What does the term “gronkytonk” make you think of? Perhaps rowdy country western music, say, the Blues Brothers trying their best to fit in at Bob’s Country Bunker? You’re only slightly off—gronkytonk is the preferred music in Malka Older’s Infomocracy, and while Older was inspired by a video of Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski expressing himself through the medium of dance during a Superbowl Parade, a group of musicians has now taken the phrase and run with it, creating a dazzling musical genre of the future, today!

Infomocracy imagines a near-future in which the nations we’re familiar with in our time have broken up into a global micro-democracy—tiny sovereign states that each offer their own perks and drawbacks as they vie for citizens, who are free to change their statehood as they please. As the book’s plot hurtles towards a pivotal election, Older builds a near-future piece by piece. In this scene with Ken, a political operative for the Policy1st party, she gives us the state of the watering hole of the future:

Excerpt from Malka Older's Infomocracy


Now gronkytonk has been brought to life in our own time! Marc Weidenbaum, musician and author of the 33 1/3 volume Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II brought the genre to the Disquiet Junto. Disquiet Junto is a musical collaboration that meets online once a week to create music, but with a catch—the music is always themed, and the musicians must work within each week’s theme and follow instructions that are sent out to the group’s email list. In the past they’ve created such collaborations as “10bpm Waltz” (make super slow music in ¾ time), “Dungeons & Drum Machines” (make a track with two rolls of a 20-sided die), and “Domestic Chorus” (make music from all the alarms, buzzers, and alerts in your home). Recently they decided to create a musical genre, when they committed to making an album’s worth of “gronkytonk” songs inspired by Older’s novels!

Hypoid’s “404 (Where Have I Been)” combines the twang you’d expect in a honkytonk song with a lovely ambient hum:


Detritus Tabu3 takes a country rhythm and applies grunge and breakbeat in “GRONK GRONK GRONK”:


And itssowindy’s “Gronkytonk Nightmare” gives us a terrifying circus:


And Ohm Research gives us “Tonk,” a song that does, actually, sound like the future:

You can listen to the whole album over at the Disquiet site!






October 18th, 2017 10:53 am - Still Sick
 .. still have the cold, but it is better today *knock wood*.
It took a turn for a worse for a bit, and I ended up sleeping a day away again.

My MIL has been here since Saturday, and I've been trying to keep my distance when possible too. She's here until this Saturday, and then we'll have the house to ourselves again. 

I am so tired of this cold. I miss knowing what being well feels like. *bleh* 

Current Mood:: [mood icon] sick


October 18th, 2017 05:45 pm - 5 Potentially Harmful Chemicals Now Banned From Kids’ Products

Posted by Mary Beth Quirk

Almost a decade after the Consumer Product Safety Commission was ordered to study the potential health affects of phthalates — chemicals often used in plastic products for children — and make recommendations on what further steps should be taken, the agency has voted to approve a final rule that prohibits manufacturers from selling items that have more than a minimal level of five of these chemicals.

The CPSC voted 3-2 this morning on a final rule [PDF] that would ban children’s toys or child care items — like teething rings — that contain concentrations of more than 0.1% of diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), dinpentyl phthalate (DPENP), dinhexyl phthalate (DHEXP), or dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP).

These kinds of chemicals are usually used to soften plastic and make it more pliable. Exposure to these chemicals by children has been linked with health problems like hormone disruption and damage to reproductive development, among other serious issues.

Back in 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act [PDF] banned some specific phthalates. The law also required the CPSC to gather together a chronic hazard advisory panel (CHAP) to study the effects of these chemicals on children’s health, and to make recommendations on what additional steps the CPSC should take beyond the permanent bans that Congress instituted on other phthalates at the time.

The agency was required to issue a final rule after CHAP published its report on the matter, which it did [PDF] in July 2014. The CPSC issued a proposed rule in Dec. 2014, followed by long delays as industry trade groups pushed back.

In Dec. 2016, several groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Justice Health Alliance, and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners — filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the agency to finalize its phthalates rule. That case was settled, and the CPSC agreed to take a final vote by today, and to send the rule to the Federal Register for publication within a week of the vote.

That brings us to today’s vote, which advocates are greeting with praise.

“This is a big victory for children’s health,” said Avinash Kar, Senior Attorney, NRDC. “These chemicals in children’s toys and child care articles are a known health risk. In banning them, CPSC is following the advice of its scientific experts and doing precisely what Congress directed the agency to do in a 2008 law it passed overwhelmingly.”

Our colleagues at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, also welcomed the news.

“Consumers should be able to trust that their kids’ toys and other products are free of toxic chemicals,” William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, said. “We applaud the CPSC for putting this rule in place to protect children from the health hazards of phthalates. This rule finally fulfills the intent of Congress, which voted nearly unanimously to require the CPSC to take action almost a decade ago.”


October 18th, 2017 05:35 pm - News Post: Interior Decorating
Tycho: Gabe has managed to spread this Battle Royale disease to Kara, and it infected all the people I used to play Destiny with.  I’ve told him repeatedly: this is not the cool game to play.  He doesn’t have the receptors to collate this kind of data.  So if I want to play a game with…  anyone, I’m playing this. Gabe and I found a very nice house with a very nice view, right in the middle of the circle, so we thought hardening it might be a strong play.  What this meant as a course of action was very distinct for each of us, and we both set about doing…


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