Wednesday
Jul042018

Provenance

Hurray! I've now read all of the novels on the Hugo ballot! Just one novella and one novelette left to go and I'll be done reading everything on the slate. Yay!

So anyway, this book is a bit of a space adventure about a young woman trying to best her brother at basically life in order to become their foster mother's heir. She mucks it up a lot. And she's so naive it makes me twitch.

The book has plenty of tension as the political drama unfolds, involving rogue alien starship captains and very strange ambassadors. I think this is the part of the book, along with the painfully naive MC, that made this book a bit of a slog for me to read. The plot was a bit simple and I kept looking for the twist and there was never really much of a twist until the end and by then I was expecting it.

I guess this book was too fluffy and predictable for me. Though I really REALLY liked how all the characters strove to treat each other with dignity and respect. And I especially liked that when one of the enby characters took on a new name, e refused to interact with anyone who didn't call em by the correct name. (e and em are the pronouns the author chooses for enbies in this book. it took some getting used to but wasn't a big deal)

Anyway, I can see why so many people loved this book and why it would get a Hugo nod, but it just wasn't for me.

Friday
Jun152018

The Life You Can Save

So I finished this book over a week ago and have put off reviewing it while I tried to process it and look into some of the suggestions it has to make, since the book was published 10 years ago and things change. But I think I'm still too furious and maybe even a little hopeless to adequately talk about this book. If you're angry over recent events and want to do more to help, this book (or website, see below) are a great place to start. There's always action we can take.

This book is about what wealthy nations, and well-off individuals within those nations, can do to help alleviate (and maybe even wipe out) the worst of global poverty. If you need convincing that this is even something we should care about, the book has some really good philosophical arguments that covers all the major rebuttals to helping others.

And I was shocked at how little we need to give (if everyone making a certain income were to give a certain very small percentage of that -- see image below) in order to make a tangible difference in global poverty rates.

I've never needed convincing that we should help. It's just always hard to know how to help. Particularly, how to tell if a charity will use the funds it receives adequately and efficiently and whether that charity's help is actually doing any good.

Thankfully, the book provides some excellent resources in finding efficient and effective charities in the fight against global poverty. The author even has a website to facilitate finding the right charity and cause. If you're like me and want to help but don't know where to start, start here: https://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/

If you want to help but don't think you can really afford it, still check out the website and maybe the book too. There are lots of ways to give.

If you don't think you need to help, you're probably a bad person stop reading my blog. And maybe read the book and rethink your priorities.

For me, I don't have a lot of spoons or time (I already volunteer a lot elsewhere) but I've got more than enough money. My household does just fine. So I give financially. We happily pay our exorbitant taxes and will happily pay even more if we know those taxes are going to social programs that help those who don't have what we have (and that help us the next time one of us ends up needing it).

Digression: When my daughter's birth was a complicated one that involved many forms of intervention and then she spent her first week in NICU. The only thing we had to pay for was parking. Even the midwife was covered by OHIP. I will never not happily pay my taxes.

I'm trying not to be holier than thou here, but I'm short on spoons lately so I'm just going to be blunt about all this. The book encourages people to talk about what they give. It gives examples of different organizations where members are devoted to giving and some give away half their earnings. The book stresses that talking about giving helps normalize it. I guess it acts as a stepping stone from being locked into consumerism to being more generous.

There are always stupid expenses we sink money into that with a little reprioritizing, we can funnel that money somewhere else. Don't be Bezos and hoard billions at the expense of others. You're (probably) not a dragon. When your needs are met? Consider helping meet someone else's needs.

Honestly, I'd love to live in a society where people wear their wealth on their sleeve not by the stupid fancy car or oversized house or whatever other garbage we waste money on, but instead in showing off how much they've given. That might be a little perverse, but if it helps people I don't actually fucking care.

Anyway, I've been giving to a lot of charities for a long time. This book only recently helped me start looking into better ways to give globally. Last year, my household donated somewhere in the ballpark of $10,000. I'm too lazy to dig out the tax receipts to give you the exact amount, but 10k is close.

I donate monthly (between $10-$35 each) to several charities. I'm now up to giving over $145 per month to charities. And then I occasionally give larger one time donations when I've got a larger sum to give. When I start thinking about new crap I don't need, I give the money to charity instead.

Okay, here are the charities I give to fairly regularly (some of them are monthly, others get a lump sum once or twice a year): Amnesty International, ACLU, CNIB, HBSPCA (where I got one of my dogs), Heart & Stroke, my daughter's school, KWHS (where I got another of my dogs), the bursary program at my university, NaNoWriMo, Planned Parenthood, RAINN, Reception House (KW refugee centre), Sobriety Centre, SPLC, UNCR, Worldbuilders

Yes, I recognize some of these charities are not the greatest. I'll probably start redirecting some of my more local giving toward international charities combating poverty. But I won't stop caring about arts programs and dogs. Heh.

The charities I've started giving to more recently, as a result of this book and talking with the friend (Cat London) who recommended it to me: OxFam and Kiva, where I'm giving five $25 loans to women in some of the world's poorest countries. I need to look into some other options and charities, but I plan to give more. Either five more Kiva loans or upping my monthly donations to OxFam (or both).

That amount of giving hasn't cut into my well-being at all. I spend less on stuff I don't need. I go to the library more since one of my biggest expenses has been books. I've started getting clothing custom tailored since I'm more likely to actually wear it instead of having a wasteful closet full of stuff I hate, plus for me (as a plus-size woman) tailoring costs the same as buying off the rack anyway. (And then I get to support local and the quality is infinitely better anyway.) I recently dropped off at Goodwill a huge box full of clothing I wasn't wearing.

Before people come at me about it, I understand that I'm extremely privileged. I don't expect everyone to give as much as I do. But if you're reading this from a computer or phone, you're also more privileged than probably half the world's population. And if you're just scraping by financially, remember there are other ways to give. You can always donate your time or stuff you're not using.

For those of you doing fine, consider giving financially. The book had a handy guide to giving based on income:

That maybe seems like a lot. If you're resistant or hesitant, browse the website or flip through the book. Take a closer look at where you're spending your money and ask yourself if you really need some of the stuff cluttering up your house. And no one's saying you have to donate nearly this much. Every little bit helps.

Anyway, the world is on fire, but here's one more tool to combating the flames. Go forth and do something good.

Monday
Jun112018

Binti: The Night Masquerade

This is the final installment of the Binti trilogy and I'm definitely sad that it's over. I just love the characters so much! I've seen the author sum up this trilogy as book 1: girl leaves home; book 2: girl returns home; book 3: girl becomes home. It's over-simplified and utterly perfect.

Throughout the series, Binti has been struggling to be more but to still fit in, to still be one of the Himba people even though she's broken basically all of her conventions. I love that as Binti grows, she forces those around her to grow with her.

This is a fantastic close to the series, though I do hope there will be more of Binti later, with her band of new friends/family out in the wider galaxy being a bunch of math genius badasses. Binti's existential crisis is, if not wrapped up, at least at a point where Binti can move forward. But I hope the author finds new ways for the character to grow so readers can continue to share in her adventures.

Anyway, all of the really good praise I've had for the other two books applies to this one as well. And it's so hard to talk about the book without spoilers that I'm just going to insist you go find it and give it a try.

Monday
Jun112018

Raven Stratagem

This is the second book in what I believe is a trilogy (or maybe series) and it was definitely much better than the first.

In this book Jedao/Cheris have taken over a swarm (like a regiment) under the pretext that only they can stop the Hafn invaders behind the invasion of the fortress in the first book. No one really trusts them, though the swarm's general and all her people don't have much of a choice.

And that's about as much as I can say without utterly spoiling the book. The characterization is better in this one, and the whole ploy by Jedao/Cheris is fantastic. While I was pretty sure of what was actually going on, the author did a fantastic job of making me doubt myself.

There are a lot of great themes going on in here too, about free will and redemption and what it means to be human. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. So if you got through the first book and are unsure about this one, I definitely think it's worth a try.

Monday
Jun112018

Wintersmith

This was a Tiffany Aching book in the Discworld series and it was pretty good. Granny Weatherwax's scheming remains my favourite part of the book, but that should be obvious by now. I didn't really feel like this was as strong as some of the others, though. It's got a lot of the same old.

Anyway, Tiffany has gotten herself tangled up in the story of the seasons, the dance between winter and summer, and ends up with the Wintersmith out to get win her affection the only way he knows how... by burying everything in snow and ice.

All while Tiffany is still navigating the duties of witching and trying to learn from Granny's unorthodox lessons.

This one was shorter on humour than some of the others and I also didn't find it as deep emotionally. Still a good read for Discworld fans.