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Before I forget...

Wednesday 29th June, cooling breeze, clouds gathering.

Up to the British Library yesterday, to join a panel called Aliens and the Imagination, but I'll have to imagine most of it, as I was waylaid (delightfully, I love adventures) by a torrential rainstorm and a lightning strike, and forced to take a wandering ride in a swish coach requisitioned by National Rail, around the Sussex countryside, before finally, by a pleasing coincidence, catching a train to the Ufologists meet from East Grinstead, home of the Church of Scientology. I just caught Gareth Edwards presentation on "How I made Monsters" and it was very cute, sort of the 21st Century version of Blue Peter "I used a wiggly piece of string and it really looks like giant tentacles, if you squint a bit". Except with creative use of library of basic digital effects, bit of photoshop and that, it really did! Impressive can-do attitude.

Anyway, before I forget, I promised I'd post my 100 word vampire story, inexplicably passed over by Timmi Duchamp when she was choosing stuff for The Universe Of Things. It genuinely is posted on my website, but you'd never find it without a search party:

The Vampire

(An Internet Romance)

He admired her wit; guessed at beauty. At first she spoke through software agents, soon her blood was sweet. She was a princess, he a creature of the night. The virtual world was their wonderland, their passion was exquisite, they agreed to meet. His prey could be a hairy-fisted trucker, what does the body matter? Souls unite.The restaurant was bright, cool fountains played. He wore his cape, she wore the wreath of flowers she had promised. He saw her eyes light up with joy, but he walked away forever. She was twelve years' old, and he was not a monster.

Also before I forget, it's Clarion Write-a-thon time again, and here's the URL:

It'll be fun, and it's a good cause. All proceeds go to supporting student scholarships and investment in future courses.

Either/Or:Progress vs Utopia

Tuesday 21st June, a grey solstice, not raining right now, & warmer than the last few days. Awful slugfest going on in the pretty flowers I admired last post.

Either/Or? In support of the guest blogpost I did for the British Library Out Of This World Blog (Perfect Worlds), I've put up the notes and images for the presentation I did at the Danish national convention a couple of years ago (that's Copenhagen in the keynote photo, btw). Musing on the real world history of Progress versus Utopia in the years since the Declaration of the Rights Of Man, and on the reflection of this history in the mirror of science fiction. Here's the link:

You may think the format looks sinisterly familiar. Yes, I did. I gave them a Powerpoint!
(Well, I thought it was funny...)

Never Again

Friday 17th June, a dark and stormy morning.

Here's one of those links I should have added earlier this week: the Never Again anthology, published by Grey Friar press, edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane. A stellar collection, a passionate statement from the writers of the weird. The storynotes posted by simon marshall jones are well worth looking at.

Anyway, if you are in Brighton and can make it to the Amnesty Bookshop on Sydney Street 7.00pm to 8.30pm tomorrow evening, you will be rewarded with readings by Tony Richards and Roseanne Rabinowitz (but not, unfortunately, Lisa Tuttle, who can't make it).

Lauren re-joined the wild, yesterday evening, and that makes five. There'll be a pause now. Lauren's been by far the most forward of the Next Generation of hiphops (the first being the Liszt Concert Six, as you'll remember). None of her brothers and sisters even has back legs yet.

Rain, wonderful rain. Suddenly the garden is flowery again, first time since April really. And my tuberoses have finally deigned to make an appearence, so I should be happy but why can't we have any flashy bits. Flashy bits all over the weather map last night, what did Brighton do wrong? It's so unfair.

The Elms: This Anomalous Region I Live In

Tuesday 14th June, clear blue morning after a wet (good!) stubbornly cold (have they really broken the Gulf Stream? #file under fantasists, be careful what you wish for) and ominously windy weekend... a handful of swifts hawking high over the valley.

Apparently two of the great elms in Preston Park fell in the strong winds on Friday night, which does not mean we had a hurricane here, it probably means the trees were on the way out anyway. I can hope they'd reached their natural span (and therefore not infectious, just sadly cannot ever be replaced), but on the way to the station on Thursday, up to London for Gabriel's final recital at Trinity, we spotted this ringed tree from the bus. It's that dreaded time of year again. I went to have a closer look yesterday, and saw what the Dutch Elm Disease watch calls "flagging", which doesn't mean exactly what you think, it means a visible flag of dry dead leaves, on an otherwise okay-looking tree, showing up brown in the green of early summer foliage. This means the tree must be felled, as it is a danger to its neighbours, and there is no treatment, no cure. It's awfully sad. It hurts, and I'm not alone in feeling this way. I've seen people, just any old people in my part of Brighton, where the remaining elms round the Level are such an icon, touch a condemned elm, and just stand there, poor thing, so sorry. When I was taking this photo, same thing happened, just another passer-by, so sorry. Everything must go. What would be my perfect world? It's gone, and I'm afraid its not coming back. It was the one where we could look at the trees, at the natural world, and think I'm ephemeral, you are forever.

There's a site where you can sign up to be a Dutch Elm Disease Volunteer. I've done that, even though I'm guessing it only means walking around in this last, failing refuge, and spotting another doomed tree, but I don't expect to be called. It'll be like the time ESSC asked for lookerers to watch the sheep on our bits of urban downland. They'll be snowed under.

Gabriel's recital was lovely. The boy done reasonably good, he felt and we felt. Lot of beer and white wine, with the young people and Philip Fowke, their teacher: sunshine and showers, roses on the walls of the Brewery Garden, and so long, the Old Naval College, the River, the glittering towers of the Isle of Dogs. The everlasting period-setting film crew invasions (If it wasn't Little Dorrit it was Johnny Depp.)

A Links round up seems to be called for, looking at my inbox:

Writers, if you didn't like the Google Book Settlement and cheered at its apparent defeat, you should check this out, from the indefatigable Gill Spraggs who is still on the case. All is not well.

Fairytale enthusiasts, on Seven Miles of Steel Thistles Kath Langrish is starting another round of her "Fairytale Reflections" from a posse of illustrious authors (and eventually Ann Halam). Terri Windling kicking off.

&the BartoBar crew have captured Al Reynolds this time

Not going to bother telling you about 38% and Health Reform. That one seems to be over.

I thought there were more but never mind. Enough, for now.

Meeting The Beasts

Tuesday 7th June, a cool and rain-washed morning, me returning to my desk after a long, fun & very refreshing weekend. Finally got the photos I took of Ai Wei Wei's Summer Palace animals processed off my phone onto Picasa. I took these the day I went up to London to do the item on Woman's Hour on "is sf still a male dominated genre?". (I hope the flurry of media interest in that question has passed. Every time I've been asked, I've felt more strongly that this is a UK fandom issue, it isn't for me to address & I really should not be commenting). But anyway, not all bad: I have Woman's Hour to thank for getting me to Somerset House before the 26th June, which was a real favour. Iwish I'd taken at least one of the whole Fountain Court, but I didn't think my camera phone could handle the pitiless, brilliant light of noon that day (which was when I got there), so I only snapped a few of the beasts for form's sake. Unexpectedly successful.

Yet another example of what a false path reverencing the randomness of art is. Art Is Not Random. I did wonder why Brave Ai had decided to make these charming Chinese Zodiac animals (i think I liked the Rat best), but then, duh, made the historical connection. I remember the Looting of the Summer Palace from researching Rainbow Bridge (this is how I learn most of what I've ever learned about my world, so you see, writing sf is good for something); and the bronze animal heads, lost among so much precious national treasure. The Opium Wars are less than a huge deal to me, being spoiled for choice, among so many shameful military operations in my country's past & present...but that incident still means something to China. And here they are, reborn, beautiful and compelling simplicity. Why on earth have the Chinese put this patriot, this great artist, so eloquent for his country, in prison? It's really nuts. Hm, that didn't quite come out right... no more nuts that putting so many others in prison, no more nuts than China's defiant devotion to the death penalty.

Frog culture update: Dre and Lil' Kim have now joined Biggy & Shakira. Dizzee, an exceptionally lively little rascal, will be making his debut in the swamp this evening. & That's all the survivors of the Liszt Concert Six, not a bad rate. What a tiny operation this is, compared to Mother Nature's way, and the way things used to be even in our small garden, but ah well.

Have re-viewed Inception, and now know exactly when I lost interest 1st time, it's that interminable Lara/Bond snow fortress sequence, there comes a point when you think, sorry, but I'm just bored now... But that was a long way in, after all, and the byplay between (fantasy science) exposition and the special effects really fun. Didn't mind the comic book plot either & found most of the ensemble extremely watchable. Still didn't like the Dreamlike Lost Wife And Kids strand (soon to be reprised in Shutter Island). The problem is that "Mal" is never seen in life, only post-mortem as a figment of Cobb's imagination. Making her, by definition, no more interesting than any of the other dream-artefacts that look like people, and all the time spent on her story bit empty.

Strange hauntings of modernity#: Sunday afternoon, the Great Escape panel team had a conversation, sparked off by Andrew Copson, about our late entry/general lack of interest in twitter. This had the weird effect of causing me to twitter in my head all the way home, eg This Great Western sandwich is so vile, I wonder how old it is, and how the bread became so dank and tacky... But there were hundreds. I tweeted one of them, posthumously as it were, just to mark the moment. Probably the last twitter will hear from @annhalam until Avaaz's next poke.

The Great Escape/The Games

Monday 30th May, cold and grey and still no rain for the south east.

As You Like It on Friday night was great, the birds sang, the wind even died down. We were almost warm on our rug, and glad to be groundlings (though I think actual C16/17 groundlings stood up, or walked about like promenaders?); those who had brought chairs being condemned to what looked like rather chilly isolation. The Great White Silence was grim in parts, especially the counter-tenor singing Abide With Me, and although I remembered them fondly from Ponting's book "The Great White South", I wd have to agree with those who have complained there are too many penguins & not enough sightings of Scott. But a fascinating record, amazing survival of early film-making. Didn't make it to the Freedom Picnic after that, as the hour was getting late and the weather so miserable. & so farewell Brighton festival, for another year. Absolute stand-outs for me were As You Like It, and Lief Ove Andsnes at Glyndebourne, but Craig and Max's set at The Foundry (was, Pedestrian Arms) pretty nice too.

Howthelightgetsin#n: have just posted "The Games" on my homepage. This is in response to a briefing discussion with Rhian Sanville last week, on "The Great Escape" panel about Fantasy. It's a long essay, and of course long out of date, but NB even in 2002: How strangely far we've come from the deserts of the mid-C20th, when only a few oddly talented and/or unhealthily obsessive adults could still process fantasy at all. And the way my thirteen and fourteen year old respondents were well aware that His Dark Materials in print was far richer than the games that currently obsessed them, and impossible to compress.

Bold As Love On Kindle

Friday 27th May, weather hasn't changed.

When I discovered, about a month ago (thanks to Boing Boing) that Amazon Kindle had made its restrictive practices optional, the time had come. It seems to have taken ages, despite being a very simple process, but anyway, here's the first wave: the second editions of all five of the Rock and Roll Reich books are on Kindle.(The link to Kindle UK is on the sidebar to your right nb).

Next wave will be Ann Halam's mid-period backlist (from Dr Franklin onward, Orion has the e-rights).

The older books, eg the Daymaker trilogy, will take a little longer, because they'll have to be scanned. It'll be a while before Escape Plans gets the treatment I'm afraid.

Besides Attack the Block, I've been watching Heimat 1; also looking forward to Inception, which lovefilm has just sent me. I had great expectations when it came out, but then felt what I'd seen was just a caper with fancy special effects that were (fatally) not v. well integrated with a rather slight plot, shades of The Matrix in fact. So I'm keen to see it again.

& of course Brighton Festival. This evening As You Like It outdoors, Beaufort 6 breeze and cold grey clouds, just so we know what the joy of exile in the forest really feels like. We'd better wrap up warm.

The Higgs and I: A Science Fiction Writer's Apology

Friday 28th May, weather same as it was an hour ago, minus some wind chill and plus a few reluctant drops of rain.

The Ultimate Particle? Back in 1984, I think, (of course, I was a mere child at the time) I found out about the Higgs Boson -and bubble universes, and the possibility that we're living in the middle of a cosmic void (fooled by lensing effects that seem to show a busy neighbourhood)- in a series of articles for New Scientist by Stephen Hawking. The science fiction novel I wrote under the influence of these things is called Escape Plans, an adventure set on a far future alternate Earth. Very little read, it's just too impenetrably geeky, as obviously I had to strip out all identifying features such as terms like "Big Bang" "Standard Model" "Higgs" "waves" and so forth. Also, I was convinced I had to write it in a special SPACE RACE COMPUTERESE jargon I had devised...

I decided I would bite the bullet and re-read it myself, first time in twenty-odd years, and I have tracked down the Higgs Boson passage, see below:

"A long time ago," I said, "there was a lab assistant called EAROM*, a highly skilled science Code Reader. She was working on a project to librate the mass of the universe. As you know, that's impossible. The equations just won't stabilise. For a while after we discovered we were in a trapped region this was looked on as a hopeful line of research. EAROM imagined an esosteric particle with a property called co-presence-"

"Connection," murmured Dat

"Sorry. An esoteric connection. The 4-dimensional mass of these particles, or connections -or this connection- would make up the balance. EAROM said that if these particles existed they must exist in the whole universe. If you see what I mean. Not just in our area. I suppose Yolande thinks Millie must have co-present particles in her, and that this proves we have them too. We have to find them, and that's the way it's done."

Himem frowned.
Dat smiled.

"You've described the Intersection, Alice. The solution that all Subs hope for... In the beginning light and matter were one. Something tore them apart, and in that event we were trapped here. The Intersection is what closes the gap again..."

*Electrically alterable read only memory. All the characters had computerese names, the high class folks had acronyms, the underclass had instructions, mostly from Basic.

Anyway, just thought I'd share that with you.

On a more intelligible note, we went to see Attack the Block last night and it is FANTASTIC. The best rollercoaster ride I've had at the movies in a long, long time. Never a dull nanosecond, truly. In Wyndham Tower, by Ballard Street, one dark Bonfire Night in South London, a heroic battle is fought and won. Very lively triffids this time round!

Speak Friend, and Enter

Friday 28th May, cold grey and blustery morning.

Have just spent about three quarters of an hour studying the Serendipity support pages in abstruse depth, trying to figure out how to link from my blog to the Gwyneth Jones Kindle store entires, bewildered by the fact that I seemed to have had no problem last time I did this and consistently failing to notice the bit where it says "Some plug-ins are very simple". Hahaha. Very funny.

NB, comment from Alison Smith, sorry you've had to wait for a response. I'll get back to Mme de Stael soon

Fracking Unlikely: Protect the children of Fukushima

Thursday 26th May, cold grey and blustery. That's Chris the climber, by the way. The swift box is up, and now we have to advertise, with our "swift cries" CD, and see what happens. Yesterday evening, while I worked, the swifts were hawking after insects in a gulf of blue beside me, shrilling faintly, black arrow wings trilling, but so few of them. Ah, well. It's an act of hope. Two more froglets made it to the fourlegged stage, but sadly Christina fell by the wayside, as sometimes they do. Shakira released on Tuesday, same location as Biggy (who has been seen since release, looking lively though very tiny, so that's good to know).

So now I'm told that the fracking off the coast of Lancashire is perfectly harmless, and fools like me ought to shut up and trust the Energy Industry. Don't we know there's a war on? Well, yet I do, but my war is not about fighting for the shareholders' right to large dividends. Nor yet the people's god-given right to cheap fossil fuel energy. You see, I'm not an expert. I don't know exactly how the methane got into the drinking water around the US fracking, to such an extent that the water would catch fire if you applied a matchflame, and I don't know how the toxic chemicals got into the ground water (is there some kind of by-catch of non-fuel gaseous compounds? That has to be released to wander off wherever it likes?). What I do know is that the Deep Water Horizon spill was not an "Act of God", it was an act of human error and human negligence, driven by human greed, arrogance and contempt for regulation. This has been publicly acknowledged. Likewise, the meltdown at Fukushima... (oh, come on, call a spade a spade). My god, you can say "the risks are small", but how would you like to live there, and be one of the people wondering if your little child would be one of those get the cancers? Anyway, Fukushima wasn't an "Act of God" either. It was an act of not replacing dangerously obsolete technology, in a blatantly high risk situation. Driven by same forces as above. Okay, I know the Nuclear Industry is doomed to high risk situations, and that problem is bound to get worse (without any acts of deliberate malice, if that distinction means anything), it's the nature of the beast, given a reactor's huge appetite for water, but that's not my fault, and if the insurance against accidents would be cripplingly expensive, that's for a reason. Really, if you were my eighteen year old son, Nuclear Power Industry, and you were trying to convince me it was okay for you to drive without insurance, because honestly, there's never going to be a problem what do you think I should tell you?

So no, I don't trust you. Try behaving like grown ups, and I might. Oh, but wait, which grown ups?

The trigger for this renewed spluttering is here:

And the petition about Fukushima is here:

Welcome to Heaven

Monday 23rd May, cold grey and blustery. Still no rain for the South of England.

Welcome to Heaven, sisters and brothers. Or maybe hell, who knows. Of course, what is puzzling those people who think they are the Chosen who failed to get Raptured, to one or the other of those destinations, is that they don't know that really, everyone got raptured, but they are now mere shadows (maybe without souls, like vampires?), left with the rest of us to make sure we damned, or blessed, don't spot that the end of the world really happened...

This whole 21st century zeitgeist thing is getting amazingly baroque, don't you think? And however weird, the US heartland is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Me, wherever I am, I'm happy because Gabriel and Alex won the John Halford Contemporary Music prize for a pianist and composer duo last week. Down for the weekend, he played the Stockhausen for us yesterday. It's mysterious how a Stockhausen piano piece manages to be so gripping, it's like magic. And Alex's piece is great, it's a river, see, flowing into a lake, but the lake is a mathematical lake.

I would probably follow Gabriel anywhere, & so would Peter, but I'm really glad it's this strange, compelling C20 music. My ears probably couldn't take a lot of death metal at their age

Anyway, I just thought I'd tell you I've posted The Grass Princess, my World Fantasy winning story, which I've been meaning to do for a while.

Going to put the swift box up today, and if we survive that, more later.

Fracking Impossible

Tuesday 17th May, weather the same as last week:thick grey cloud, breaking to sun, cool air, chilly nights. Six weeks since we've had significant rain in the south of England. Even the dimmest and chirpiest of weather persons have stopped congratulating us.

I haven't seen much of the swifts, but I'm not extra concerned, I don't know what they do but we don't see much of the few who still return, in poor weather. I've still ordered my swift box, because I promised myself I would, and intend to risk life and limb (well, somebody's life and limb) affixing it high up and in shade, under our eaves. Symbol of good faith.

Avaaz, 38degrees, RSPB, Soil Association, Compassion In World Farming, the roll call grows. Uganda death penalty for gays got offed, at least a respite, now what? I'm looking for somewhere to register my protest against the fracking wells off the coast of Lancashire, so far no petitions: only found the local group and WWF.

The Alchemists. Now this is a puzzle: Cameron discovers Green (again), & starts making a noise about his Super Renewables agenda, at the same time as he's eagerly encouraging and handing out permissions for the worst form of fossil-fuel barrel-scraping yet devised. He's going to prove how GREEN he is, by injecting viciously toxic chemicals into Lancashire's drinking water. Hard to believe, eh? It's happening, right now. What on earth's going on? Please, don't attempt to believe both, you'll hurt yourself. It's simple, really. One of these two projects is a complete fabrication, a con trick feeding on the follies, vanities and vices of mankind, most notably greed-induced credulity. Guess which.

On a more positive note, the first froglet of the year has been launched. Biggy, always the most hench of the LC5, got his or her four legs last Friday, and proved so anxious to leap out of the bowl we transferred the little escapologist to the swamp (was "Wildlife Pool") on Saturday. Bon voyage, Biggy. NB, call me superstitious, but there is not a Tupac tadpole.

Summer, summer

Wednesday, 11th of May. Still morning, neither warm nor cool, a quilt of gilt and grey cloud. Tantalising feel of water in the air.

Both the yellow roses are in fine bloom, Chris the climber and The German Rose. These are nicknames: Chris was bred by a man called Chris, the German has a fugitive scent like fragrant German wine. The pears and plums have set, pears already decimated by cursed tree rats. Greenhouse is a wilderness of desperate seedlings, triage well overdue. I vow I will, will, save some of their lives today.

Where have I been all this time? Well, I was on holiday, and it was very nice thank you, but then other things happened, for instance my cat Ginger has been poorly, which means a lot to me. She's better now & I hope she stays off the sicklist. Also Brighton Festival previews, inc a private view last Friday, over the hill and across the Park in leafy Surrenden, where I actually bought a painting! (Ha, no I didn't, I couldn't afford the painting, but am now proud possessor of a short-run print of Lost In A Rage, by my friend Jacq Aris.) & the world has changed dramatically, of course. Not. You will have noticed that Osama Bin Laden has been offed, unfortunately rather not James Bond style (in the sixties, these things were managed so much more discreetly); and the response of the US President will have chilled some. We must conclude that it takes worse, darker times than the spasms of our current global politics, to wake the spirit of humanity. It took the Thirties (which were not nice!), six years of war, and an industrial scale genocide in the heart of "the Developed World" to get to Nuremburg. Shall we congratulate ourselves that the evil is no longer "banal", it's all exciting and video-gamey these days? Don't think so.*

May I draw your attention to Fukushima Prefecture? One of those inconvenient wars that has been purposefully forgotten, eh? So, if I'm so clever, do I have an answer to the awful energy gap? YES I DO. USE LESS ENERGY. That's not a sackcloth and ashes austerity programme, it's a wide open field for investment, enterprise, ingenuity.

Enough of this frivolity. My freebie-sheet for "How The Light Gets In" turned up in my inbox yesterday (or maybe last week? Things have been a little slack at this desk). I never know what to do, am I supposed to ask for one small piece of cake, like a good girl, or should I check a variety of boxes, on the assumption that most of the talks/events will already be subscribed by paying customers. Anyway, I've chosen The Islamist Inquisition Maryam Narnazie (really keen to hear her) (Event 307); Cyborg Nation Kevin Warwick (Event 309); the Shooting Star Party on Saturday night & following DJ night; a Platonic breakfast walk along the Wye on Sunday morning (Event 341), and Genes, Memes and Temes, Susan Blackmore, (Even 339). & me, I'm only scratching the surface of the second weekend. I think you can tell from this greedy buffet plate how spoilt for choice you will be yourselves, if you decide to add this fest to your summer plans.

*Eerie thing about the Nuremburg sites, they all home in on the "banality of evil" quote (which used to drive me nuts when I was a young writer and it was very popular in uksf circles). And then they go on to make the German war criminals sound so much more like Barrack Obama, David Cameron than say, any Feudal Despot nutcases of North Africa and the Levant, ostensibly perfectly normal, decent men, "they couldn't fully appreciate the human consequences of their career motivated decisions". Ouch!

And the swifts are back. They arrived here last Friday.

How The Light Gets In

Maundy Thursday 21st April, weather same as it was twenty minutes ago, possibly even a little warmer.

How The Light Gets In, the Philosophy and Music Festival at Hay on Wye, last weekend in May first weekend in June, is open for business. What's it for? I'm not totally sure, but it slightly reminds me of those Cyberfuture happenings at Warwick U., way back in the early nineties, strange cyborg goings on, live body modification and rough-cut neurological experiments, partnering deep and knotty Edge of the Future debate. Here morphed with a tentshow Music Festival... Almost sounds like Rivermead, in Bold As Love; except without the squalor. Or the violence, I assume. Check it out, the line-up is amazing.

I'm going to be there, panel-talking beside the illustrious about the ordinary and the fabulous (I think), and about particle physics if you can believe it (well, I can be the silly one, and I do have a tenuous imaginary connection). Don't know if I'll be sleeping in a tent.

When did you last cry...?

Back in Brighton again. The sun is shining, it's incredibly warm. I should be making hay, but I think I'll stay in doors and work at my desk.

When did I last cry? This morning, when I read a report of the systematic abuse of doctors and nurses who are treating wounded protestors in Bahrain. I write letters for Amnesty International Urgent Action: to put it bluntly, that means not the most urgent or dreadful abuses of human rights, more those acute cases where the Urgent Action team senses the possibility of movement, if a rush of protests can be organised. Somebody just got snatched, or some evidence has turned up about the detention location of a long-lost disappeared person (or a body) etc. But nothing like this, this is powers beyond. This is the heart of darkness doing what the hell it likes, while the so-called West sc**ws around in hapless Libya, by arrangement.

Precious Bane. I wish it was gone, I really do. AND YET I still drive my car, occasionally.

At least Bradley Manning is out of his torture cell.

And Avaaz is gaining ground, global grassroots

If anyone in our so-called government has the gall to send me one of their Happiness Quizzes, I am definitely going to spoil my ballot.