Masterful use of the passive voice

As I walked up to the bus stop this afternoon, I noticed that P was wearing her coat, yes, and snow pants, and hat and mittens … but not something else she left the house with this morning.

“Oh, Abba,” she said brightly as I approached. “My backpack was left at school.”

“Was left at.” I can’t tell if it’s my inner copy editor, my outer parent–or realistically, both of them in chorus–that had me put my head in my hands and groan.

“You’re not. That’s okay!”

On the way to the bus stop yesterday:

P: “Abba, why are the days getting shorter?”
A: “Well, Piper, let’s talk about this tonight. I’ve got a great idea to explain this, using our globe and a flashlight.”
P: “Okay! That sounds great!”

[The school day passes. Dinner, teeth brushing, jams on. Kate is reading to Syd in the next room; I have assembled our globe, a flashlight, a piece of string, a measuring tape, and a bright light source on a stand.]

P: “Yes!” (fist pumps)
A: “Well, let’s start out with the globe … you see how it’s tilted … and it goes around the sun … and here’s the shadow of the … darn, the light’s slipped … okay, can you put your finger on the spot where … wait, find Madison on the globe … put a piece of tape there … now turn the globe … wait, I’ve got to change the light … maybe we should start by looking at the globe from the top … ”

[15 minutes of basically pure HERP DERP fumbling from me, later]

A: (long pause)
A: “You know what, Piper? I might try this again another time. I don’t feel like I’m doing a very good job explaining this.”
P: “You’re not. That’s okay. … Do we still have time to read a chapter in The Doll People?”
A: “Absolutely.”


Charlie Stross on consistency in magic UX, and the diminishing of hackability

From the inimitable Chuck Stross, a short post that’s ringing in my head about modern SF/F writing and our collective expections of magic, given our tool-using nature: Not a Manifesto – Charlie’s Diary. (includes a quote from Max Gladstone, below)

Old-school fantasy is a genre of the unknowable. Magic in Tolkien’s works is big and vast and ancient. His characters relate to that magic with awe, with fear, and occasionally with love. No one tries to hack the One Ring. Certainly no one tries to build a new one! People acquire the One Ring, or the Palantir, and use each within its limits.

But consider the smartphone I have in my pocket.

No single human being knows how to make this phone. I acquired the phone, and I use it. People who know more about the phone can tell it to do more things than I can, but they’re still bound by the limits of the hardware. A few communities are dedicated to modding and hacking phones like mine, yes, but for most people most of the time a smartphone is a portable magic mirror. We make mystic passes before the glass, address the indwelling spirit with suitably respectful tones, and LEARN THE FUTURE. (“Siri, what will the weather be like tomorrow?”) The same thought experiment works for many modern technologies.


film of the day's events, developed quickly for review