jueves, 27 de marzo de 2008

Writing Stuff

Apex Digest #12 is out! Dear Diary is in it! It's a special double issue with a cool cover! Go buy!

Ok, now that I've gotten the squee moment out of the way, let's proceed to other things:

I signed up for SFWA and sent out the contract and proofs. The photocopies were crappy, but I don't own a working copier and there aren't many places where I can get a photocopy in my neighbourhood. I hope the accept my mangled copies as evidence enough.

Which takes us to the second point. Brace yourselves: I am not a particularly neat person. I seem to attract more entropy than is my due: my shoes wear out faster than a normal person's, my clothes bleed colors in the wash, and don't even get me started on the three or four times a year when I try to wear makeup.

Sometimes I think there's a fundamental rule I'm missing, one of those things people learn implicitly in kindergarten which make it unnecessary for their mothers to warn them that "you should not eat your classmates" (Intended Heinlein reference there). M says "I'm hard on things", meaning, the coffee maker you gave me for Thanksgiving? It'll still be working by Christmas, but it might look a little... tasered? burnt? melted? You get the idea.

Most of the time there's nothing particular I've done wrong in order to hurt the things in my life. Malfunction just seems to gravitate towards me, like bad handwriting (1). Hence, the bad photocopies at the shop today. I didn't even make them myself; there's no way those can be blamed on me, but I still have the nagging feeling that if one of the perfect people had gone to get her contracts and table of contents copied, she'd have walked out of there with a readable version.

(1) The whole point of this post is to make excuses for my poor handwriting. I'm sneaky like that.

miércoles, 26 de marzo de 2008

"A More Perfect Union" in Spanish: "Una Unión Más Perfecta"

I've noticed that people were finding my blog by searching google for Spanish translations of Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union". When I posted the previous entry, I tried to find a Spanish version that my non-English proficient friends might find easier to follow, but at the time, I could only find the youtube video with subtitles.

Now, thanks to Antonio Semeco, there's a translation. It's surprisingly good, considering this wasn't an easy text to translate. Most of the strenght of the speech carried over into Spanish.

Check out the pdf translation.

In case you want to watch the speech, but need Spanish subtitles to help you along, here's the video, courtesy of Cuban for Obama. You can watch it here or zip over to his blog and watch it over there.

miércoles, 19 de marzo de 2008

A More Perfect Union

I just finished listening to Barack Obama's speech "A More Perfect Union". I live in the wrong continent and I don't know much about US politics. I don't know how revolutionary this speech was or whether race has been dealt with before with so little extraneous crap by a US politician of Obama's stature within the past 20 years.

I've done some googling but I'm afraid I can't assess the reactions to this speech without knowing what's being said in the main TV networks and papers. Googling is great, but if you don't have a global picture it's hard to contextualize the snippets of info you can glean from the net.

Basically, I'm asking for a favour: link me to reactions that you think embody the general buzz out there. I'm drowning in extreme opinions, and I want to know what most Americans think about this. Because I really really want Obama to be our next president, and I'd hate to get my hopes up for nothing.

I've embeded the speech in case someone still hasn't seen it.

Man, I wish Spanish politicians spoke like this. It might not improve the scene, but it'd sure make it more interesting to watch.

martes, 18 de marzo de 2008

Meme it!

Many people are aware that long-sightedness (is that the correct term?) hits pretty much everyone once they're over 50, but little people know that the ear is also affected by age in a condition called presbycusis. High frequency sounds are lost first, and sounds that only children and young adults can hear have been put to commercial use, eliciting pesky questions from people concerned about http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7240180.stm">children's Human Rights.

But most important, the mosquito device has created this meme (which I got from Scalzi's blog). How old is your ear? Go ahead and find out.

The mosquito device was made for the likes of you. You are probably begging to make the noise stop!

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that I can hear is 18.8kHz
Find out which ultrasonic ringtones you can hear!

lunes, 17 de marzo de 2008

Cheating in Spanish and American Politics

Over at Susie Bright's blog there's a great post which illustrates some of the difference between Spain and America in the public's perception of their politicians' private lives, cheating, in particular. Bright swaps a few emails with a correspondent from El Periodico, who is baffled by the wives standing next to their teary politician husbands when it's time to apologize for a sex scandal.

I highly recommend this entry to anyone trying to understand Spanish politics, Spanish marriage or even dirtier subjects, like domestic violence in Spain.

Quoting the journalist:

It's hard for me to imagine a political wife in Spain standing by her man in a press conference.

First of all, our politicians' private lives are not as important as in the US. For instance, the presence of the wife in the election campaign is not as common as here.

I'd go even further and state that using a politician's wife "a la US" in a campaign, would quickly backfire. People would be wondering what exactly she was doing speaking at a meeting when she doesn't have a high political position. It'd be seen as opportunistic and cheesy. Our current wife-of-President looks great on cam, and yet they still keep her out of the limelight and use her only on very specific occasions. The wife of the loosing candidate in the last election was a complete unknown (to me) until she appeared in the tribune with her husband when he conceded the election--sparking rumours that maybe she was going into politics. If you're on the tribune, you're there for a reason, and the only reason Spanish journalists could think of was that she might be running for something. Because who in their right mind would subject themselves to public scrutiny just to have the man look good?

Some years ago, an important member of the conservative government left, and eventually divorced, his wife. He married a twenty-something he met in a party convention. He cheated on his wife before leaving her. Later, he left this second wife and married a third woman. It was a gossip story for the gossip press, not a political story for the serious press. He did not resign at all, and nobody asked him to. Both cheated wives gave interviews, to be sure, but to the gossip media.

We care so little about people's private lives that I don't even recognize the politician in question. Oh, I could look it up, of course. But I'm not going to. Because I don't care.

It is not that Spain is not sexist. It is indeed (at the end of the day, we invented the words 'macho' and 'machismo').

Sadly, yes.

But, as you said, in our ancestral Catholic culture, the woman may "belong" to the man, but the man must fulfill his duties with her; she has "some rights." One of his duties is to protect her. It is already enough of a burden for her to have been cheated on. She does not need to appear in front the whole country as the humiliated wife.

It's more than that. In Spain we have a strong "what will people think?" attitude to morals. Ie: cheating on your wife is bad, but cheating on your wife and then having everyone know about it along with sordid details is unforgivable. A Spanish wife might let him come back home after he cheated , but not if he was stupid enough to be caught on T.V. But then again, he'd never be caught on T.V. because nobody would care enough to make a scandal out of it (except the gossip rags, but I doubt they could keep things going for more than a day or so--it'd blow over fast).

One last point: as an ancestral machista society, Spain thinks that whatever happens at home stays at home, even if we are talking about a politician.

This means that politicians are seen only in their political roles, and not necessarily as role models for good husbands/lovers/etc.

On the other hand, the fact that whatever "happens at home stays at home" means that issues like abuse and domestic violence are hidden. It's taken a lot of time to have laws that consider domestic abuse as a crime. Above all, it was hard (and sometimes it is still) to consider this abuse as something that must be rejected, and dealt with in the public sphere, not only at home.

I couldn't have put it better.

The key to Spanish politics:

Politician's here aren't demi-gods
Respectable people keep their private lives' private. You're not expected to drag out your family even when you have one and it's to your advantage. Politician's kids never appear on T.V. Period. I guess there's a deal with the press involved and so far it's worked well.

That's the reason why nobody pities the celebs' who end up on the gossip pages. True or not, there's a strong sense of they were asking for it that keeps people from empathising.

sábado, 15 de marzo de 2008

Godtouched in Hebrew

Bli-Panika wants to reprint "Godtouched".


Another step in my world domination plan has been completed.

jueves, 13 de marzo de 2008

Apex Digest 12 is out

And it's got my story "Dear Diary" in it.

Go buy! It's available in Canada and the US in B&N, Hastings, Chapters, and Joseph-Beth Booksellers, as well as through the Internet, of course.

lunes, 10 de marzo de 2008

Votes trump Prayers

Right now, in an interview with Telecinco, Zapatero made a memorable statement:
Thankfully, in a democracy, votes trump prayers.

Let's rewind a bit. Sarda, a comedian asked him in a Q&A what he thought of the newly elected head of the Spanish bishops and remarked that the President should know that the bishops must've been praying for him to loose for the last week or so. At which point, Zapatero said the "Votes trump prayers" bit. I bet anything it makes it to tomorrow's papers.

Spanish General Elections 2008--The Day After

The election was called around 22.30 last night.

The Socialists won again, although the PP gained a few seats in Congress. Abstention was 24.68% compared to 2004 when it was 24.34%, so overall voter turnout was high (as I said in the previous entry, the 2004 election was atypical).

Some interesting data points:

Abstention in the Basque Country reached 35.10% almost 10 points higher than 2004. The reason this is important is that the parties that don't condemn the terrorist group ETA were illegalized. Since they couldn't be on the ballot, they asked their supporters to abstain. Now, they're going to claim all of the abstention to their side, which is blatant exaggeration. But, obviously, this 10% increase is bad news.

The Socialists didn't get absolute majority which means they're going to need help to govern. After such a hard campaign, I doubt they can agree with the PP on anything, so the smaller nationalist parties are once again going to play a role. We'll have to wait and see what kind of alliances spring up from the election and what kind of concessions will come from that.

Votes in Spain are calibrated by region. This is something that was put in the Constitution of 1978 to give the smaller nations that are integrated in Spain some additional power. At this point in History, I think maintaining this system is a mistake. Andalucia is way poorer than Cataluña. Their votes should at least count the same.

As a result of this you have several small nationalist parties who will be fundamental in governing for the next four years, while IU, with 4% of the vote, gets less than 1% of the seats in Congress. Same thing for Rosa Diaz, whose party, UPyD was the fifth group in number of votes but will only have one seat in Congress.

Speaking of Rosa Diaz and UPyD. She funded this party less than 6 months ago and she's done surprisingly well in the elections. I'm happy to see some fresh blood in what is looking like an increasingly bipartisan political scene. It looks like her party is taking a centralist and anti-nationalist stance. It won't work, and I don't agree, but I'm glad some new ideas are being thrown in there. They're also in favour of limiting mandates. With Chaves (Socialist) having been in power in Andalucia for a quarter of a century, this certainly seems to make sense.

Well, that's it for now.

domingo, 9 de marzo de 2008

General Elections- Spain 2008

Despite the terrorist attack last Friday, the General Elections are proceeding normally.

Turn-out appears to be pretty high, just a couple percentage points lower than '04 which was a particularly high turnout year because Al Qaeda had just killed over 200 people in the Atocha train bombs and the Government was making a mess of trying to pin it on ETA.

High turnout is supposed to favour the Socialists (PSOE). A couple weeks back, a PP politician admitted to the Financial Times that they sought to increase abstention, since that would appear to favour them. The left-leaning electorate seems to be prissy. They stay at home when things aren't perfect and aggressive politics turn them off. The PP has headed a very harsh opposition during these past few years turning the political arena into a perpetual spat that makes every-one's heads throb. I guess it helps them secure their hardliners, but they need the moderates to win. The results today will show whether they are making a mistake. They are no friends of mine, but I kind of pity the moderates in the party, who are hurt by all this mudslinging.

I voted. I wonder what my American friends would think of our voting facilities. I voted in a school, around 6 pm, and the little pink slips of the Senate and white slips of Congress had begun to mingle nicely, although there were a couple people making sure that you could find the ballot you wanted. Due process was ensured, of course, but there was none of that protocol that goes on in French elections, for example, where you're supposed to take at least two slips and fill out your envelopes in a private booth (insuring that nobody can tell who you've voted for). Here, a couple of us were scrambling for the ballots for our party of choice. It was all very relaxed and I didn't see any private voting booths (although I'm certain I would have found them had I asked).

The stupid senate slips were so big that they had to be stuffed into the envelopes which then had to be stuffed through the narrow slits of the voting boxes. The girl who did mine seemed to have become proficient at it. In Spain, you don't put your own ballot into the box, someone from the table is in charge of doing it for you after they've correctly ID'd you and said your name out loud. After the ballot is inserted, the people on the table usually say "votes". Today, the women on the table seemed to be too tired of the whole jig and they just slipped the ballot in without a word.

I'll keep you updated. The election booths closed 18 minutes ago and results should start trickling in a couple of hours.


For those of you who don't know much about Spanish politics:
PSOE: ruling political party. The "S" stands for Socialist although they aren't much of that nowadays. Moderate lefties, they legalized gay marriage last term.

PP: right wing. They've become hard core in the last four years.

viernes, 7 de marzo de 2008

ETA Murder

Less than 48h before the general election, the terrorists have killed again. It'd been a while since the last killing, although I think this may be more because the police had a good streak than because ETA was going soft.

An armed man walked up to Isaias Carrasco and shot him three times, two on the chest, once on the throat. The ambulance people managed to get him alive to the hospital but he died there.

Isaias Carrasco lived in Mondragón and operated a toll booth. He belonged to the Socialist Party and he'd been an elect official for the town of Mondragón for a few years, although last year he wasn't re-elected and didn't get bodyguard protection. He made an easy target and the fact that he wasn't even involved in politics anymore (not even the low-level politics of small town government) didn't seem to worry the terrorists.

I wonder what they were trying for. Killing someone right before the general election might help the opposition Popular Party. I don't see why ETA would want the Popular Party to win, unless their hard-line rhetoric suits them by creating a half-arsed "justification" to their wanton bloodfest. On the other hand, since they've killed a Socialist, there might be a bit of a sympathy vote that might otherwise have stayed home. Abstention hurts the Socialist Party more than it does the PP and this might help to mobilize people.

I don't know. ETA has never had much logic behind their actions. When all it takes to kill is a psychopath with a gun and another psychopath waiting in the getaway car, logic soon goes the same way as morals.