Posted: 20th January 2019 by Cheap in Hunting, Outdoors

I was never a hat person until I started hunting.  Wearing a blaze orange hat is a requirement* for hunting in Missouri.

However, it turns out that a hat is functional beyond making me visible to other hunters.  For one thing, it keeps you warm.  Keeping your head warm will do more to preserve body heat than anything else you can do.  If you wear the right kind of hat, it can keep the elements off of you head.  I became a believer in wide brim hats the day it started raining one-inch rain drops while I was rabbit hunting.  I was wearing a boonie hat that day, which wasn’t the most ideal thing for the heavy rain, but it did fairly well, and the benefit was instantly obvious.

My favorite hunting hat now is a blaze orange crushable felt outback hat.

In recent years, I have tried to incorporate hats into my non-hunting routine.  I have settled on a couple of wide brim hats for keeping the rain and snow off my head.  I have a safari hat made of sealed garment leather, which is a good match for my leather jacket.  I also have a black crushable felt outback hat much like the orange one.  Wearing either one with a rain repellent jacket is essentially as good as carrying an umbrella.

A few years ago, I bought a wide brim straw hat to keep the sun off.  I was planning a road trip through the desert, and I wanted to be prepared for a hike through the desert in case my vehicle broke down.  Finding a good straw hat turns out to be difficult if you want something with some style but don’t really want a cowboy hat.  I settled on something that was like an extra-wide safari hat, with a completely flat brim.  I didn’t break down, but the hat proved useful elsewhere on my trip, especially in Arizona at the Grand Canyon.  I’ve worn the hat many times since.  Keeping the sun off is pretty useful, especially at the outdoor shooting range.  I took the hat with me last year on my disastrous camping trip in Texas.  During the haste of my evacuation, I ended up dumping a bunch of gear on top of it and crushing it.  It became badly deformed, and some of the straw was broken.  I decided it was a lost cause, and I planned to buy a replacement, but I didn’t throw it away.

When the weather begins to get warm again, I am going to shave my head.  I unquestionably have my father’s bald spot, and it has gotten bad enough to be unattractive.  For most of my life, I had planned to deal with it by shaving my head.  I would have done it last year, but my hair stylist reacted as if I was discussing suicide, and she convinced me to try some product they had in the salon for promoting hair growth.  The product did nothing, and months later I’m still in the same position.  So anyway, once I shave my head, hats are going to be more important than ever.  In preparation, I thought I should do something about my straw hat situation.

I haven’t found a replacement in the local stores.  The store that sold the first one to me didn’t have any more.  Today I thoroughly searched the internet.  Hats just like mine are available (for more money than I remember paying before), but what I really want is an outback hat.  I searched high and low, and I couldn’t find one I liked.  Straw outback hats, yes, but not with a brim as wide as I want.  Leather outback hats with four-inch brims, yes, but they’ll be unbearably hot to wear in the sun.  I started looking at custom hat makers.  That lead me to videos of hat makers showing how they make their hats.  Then I started to think about making my own straw hat, and I looked for videos on how to do that.

And I learned how hats are shaped: with steam.  Not just by the manufacturer.  Some cowboy hat stores (?) buy hats that are unshaped, and they shape them in the store according to the customer’s specific preference.  I watched a video of a man doing this, using nothing more than a steamer and his hands.  If he can do that, can I reshape my crushed straw hat?

It turns out that I can.  I boiled some water in a pot with a lid that is vented on one side, and I used it to soften the parts of the hat I wanted to reshape.  I got the crease out of the brim.  I more or less unmangled the rest.  The broken straw is still broken, but it blends in much better now.  I even managed to give the brim an outback curve, which it hadn’t had before.  It isn’t perfect.  It still looks a bit dilapidated.  I am currently thinking about how I can make it better.  However, it looks good enough to wear again.  For free.

(* It is required during the regular firearms deer season, but it is not required for most other hunting in Missouri.  Nevertheless, it is a very good idea for most other hunting situations, especially upland game hunting in close groups.)


Posted: 6th January 2019 by Cheap in Camping, Cycling, Fiction, Filmmaking, Outdoors, Television, Travel, Writing
  • When I had first heard about Skyward, it seemed interesting, but I ultimately decided not to read it.  Brandon Sanderson is an amazing author who has become one of my favorites, and the description of the story was definitely interesting, but when I found out it was YA fiction, I decided to pass.  My recent reads of YA fiction have left me disappointed.  However, when Christmas came along, it seemed like an ideal gift for my oldest niece.  And if I was going to do that, maybe I should read it myself, too.  So, I did.  And it was really quite amazing, easily on par with Sanderson’s typical quality.
  • I read the screenplay for Trumbo, and it was really good.  The humor was funny right there on the page.  The moving parts brought tears.  I was astonished at how good a screenplay could be in its raw form.  Then I watched the film.  It was a real let-down.  Awful, perhaps non-existent directing.  Uninspired editing.  Jay Roach has directed some successful comedies, but maybe he doesn’t know how to do drama.  As I see it, they took an excellent script and a cast of capable actors, and they turned it into a less-than-mediocre film.  Not surprisingly, the film lost money, even with only a $15 million budget.  Then again, Bryan Cranston was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, and both Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren were nominated for Golden Globes.  They did have some moments, but from my read of the script, they were the wrong moments.  The parts of the script that jumped off the page with their brilliance were lifeless on screen.  Perhaps I should go through this exercise with a few more films before I cast judgement.
  • Mr. Robot made waves by breaking the conventional rules of composition in cinematography.  They had a specific story-telling purpose for doing this, and it kind of worked.  However, there are now a whole crop of naive cinematographers wanting to duplicate these shots, just because they think it’s cool, without actually understanding the purpose of it.  Pine Gap was shot this way, and not to its advantage.  I have already had a couple of DPs on my own amateur films wanting to throw in “Mr. Robot shots” for no particular reason.  I’ve read the analysis of this technique, and I figured I should watch the series.  Unfortunately, I know a thing or two about computers and data security.  The show, or at least the beginning of it, is about hacking, but it’s so full of nonsense that I can’t stand watching it.  In episode 4, they actually had the audacity to make fun of 90’s hacker movies.  I’ve seen enough to evaluate the cinematography, so now I’m done watching it.  On the other hand, Mr. Robot also relies heavily on voice-over to relate the inner thoughts of the protagonist, which differ widely from his external dialog.  It has me wondering if I can’t use the same technique to make a film about loneliness.
  • Throughout my life, I have spent quite a bit of time in the Missouri Ozarks.  However, the Ozarks also span portions of Arkansas and Oklahoma.  I have mostly decided that this year, I will take my Spring vacation in the Arkansas Ozarks.  I think I will camp mainly in the Ozark and Oachita National Forests.  There is a long list of sights to be seen within this area, and I am sorting through them and prioritizing them now.  I may also sneak over and check out the Oklahoma Ozarks.  It won’t be a glamorous vacation.  Instead, it will be an easy one, with relatively little driving.
  • I am just starting Elantris, which is Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel.  I’m not ready to call his characters two-dimensional, but let’s say they are simple.  This is a subject that concerns me, because it I find it to be one of the major factors in making or breaking the quality a novel.  Perhaps more importantly, I want to be able to avoid this problem in my own writing.
  • I finished Shetland, or at least the three seasons that Netflix has online.  The accents are so thick, it should almost count as a foreign language film.  I would have to say that the third season was the best.  This is undoubtedly because they took six episodes to explore a single mystery, rather than wrapping things up in two episodes.
  • I just hiked nearly nine miles at Walden Springs, my first time there.  The trails are mountain bike friendly, and there were many cyclists on the trail.  It has me thinking about getting a mountain bike.  My hybrid/utility bike could handle some of the trails, but not all of them.  It could also be a good bike for taking to the beach, if I ever try that again.

Unrealistic Characters

Posted: 4th January 2019 by Cheap in Fiction, Writing

I am just starting Elantris, which is Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel.  I’m not ready to call his characters two-dimensional, but let’s say they are simple.  This is a subject that concerns me, because it I find it to be one of the major factors in making or breaking the quality a novel.  I have stopped reading David Weber’s Honor Harrington series for this reason.  Perhaps more importantly, I want to be able to avoid this problem in my own writing.  Which means I need to figure out what it is that I don’t like about these characters.

Chapter 3 of Elantris introduces a new character in the first paragraph.  After one paragraph, I already don’t like him.  How can I find a character to be lacking in realism in just one paragraph?  It’s not absence of realism, which could come later in the story.  It’s because Sanderson has offered us an unrealistic character.  A caricature.

None of Arelon’s people greeted their savior when he arrived.  It was an affront, of course, but not an unexpected one.  The people of Arelon — especially those living near the infamous city of Elantris — were known for their godless, even heretical ways.  Hrathen had come to change that.  He had three months to convert the entire kingdom of Arelon; otherwise Holy Haddeth — lord of all creation — would destroy it.  The time had finally come for Arelon to accept the truths of the Derethi religion.

WTF?  Alright, so perhaps the author is trying to make the point that religious people are illogical.  We’re supposed to believe that there is a character who intends to convert an entire kingdom to some other religion?  That he is confident he will succeed?  No.  That’s just not realistic.  Even if we accept he is following the orders of his higher power, real people are filled with doubt and anxiety, especially when tasked with the impossible.

We’ve already been introduced to Raoden, who is a prince but is otherwise bland and completely mediocre.  We are presumably supposed to believe that this completely average person is going to solve the mystery of his curse, and we are additionally supposed to believe that he will succeed where others have failed because no one else actually seriously looked for the answers.  (I’m assuming here, because I haven’t read that far.)  We’ve met Sarene, a smart and confident princess (?) who has just come to a new land and discovered she is locked into a marriage contract with a dead guy and must never leave this new place.  We’re supposed to believe she is going to accept this turn of events in stride and with a calm, optimistic attitude.  (Aw, shucks.  My life is ruined.  Oh well.  It’s for the good of the kingdom.)  We’ve met King Iadon, who despite being on shaky ground politically, is simply an insensitive jerk for no reason.  And we’ve met Ashe, who is just a hovering, glowing, disembodied intelligence.

What’s wrong with these characters isn’t that we don’t know what makes them tick.  It’s that we already know a little about their motivations, and they are acting contrary to those motivations.  If we were in these situations, we wouldn’t act this way.  No one we know would act this way in these situations.  No one we’ve ever heard of would.  So they are weird and unrealistic, and there’s been no acknowledgement within the book that they are weird and unrealistic and perhaps an explanation or a mystery will be forthcoming.  Ashe doesn’t acknowledge that Sarene is taking this strangely.  Sarene isn’t surprised that a ruler, who necessarily depends on others for his power, is an unthinking asshole.  Sarene isn’t blown away emotionally by the situation she has found herself in.  Hrathen has no reasonable doubts that maybe his mission will not go well.  That’s what those characters should do and feel in their situations, but they don’t.

So it’s not really that these characters are simple, or two-dimensional, or distilled examples of some stereotype.  They simply aren’t behaving or thinking true to their own character.

Instead of putting a character into a situation and letting the character drive the story, the author has already plotted the story, and now he is forcing the characters to move through the plot points, oblivious to whether those actions are natural for those characters.

I don’t think I have completely solved the overall question.  For example, this is not really the same as David Weber’s problem.  He really does write characters who are stereotypes.  Dean Koontz justifies the nature of his characters, except that there are way too damn conveniently many of them (extreme good guys and extreme bad guys), and they defy the bell curve (in other words, he needs more normal people in his stories).  Robert Heinlein writes characters who are unrealistically rational because he wants to live in a world of rational people.

I need to keep thinking about this.

Doctor Zhivago

Posted: 1st January 2019 by Cheap in Fiction, Film

I was young when I first saw Doctor Zhivago.  It would be fair to say that I didn’t really understand it.  Primarily, I remember a series of visuals, and perhaps the music.  I had watched it a few times since.

It wasn’t until this year (well, last year now) that I read the book (the English translation).  Thought he plot was similar, the emphasis of the book was very different from the film.  After finishing the book, I re-watched the film.

To compare the book to the film, I must first decide what the book was about.  As with much literature, the central message of the book doesn’t jump right out at you.  You might say it is a love story, albeit a non-traditional one.  The author and the protagonist both have a tendency to value and emphasize the beauty of life happening around them, and there is some philosophical discussion in the book about this topic.  The book contains what seems to be a realistic depiction of the hardship of life during and after the revolutions.  However, while it does not whitewash these things, it also does not seem particularly critical about them.  There was only the barest hint about government suppression of poetry.  The author was Russian, with Russians being the intended audience (though publication was not allowed by the Soviets, and it was ultimately published in Italy).

The film was made in western Europe by British filmmakers and released in 1965, the height of the cold war.  Naturally, the screenplay emphasized and added scenes and dialog depicting the darker aspects of Soviet authoritarianism.  None of the philosophy made it into the film, and though there were moments intended to show Zhivago’s appreciation of beauty, none of these were verbalized.  Instead, the film follows the core plot of the novel, emphasizing breathtaking visuals and hauntingly beautiful music.  The film is clearly anti-Communist, while the book is simply a frank depiction during those times.

Incel and Feminism

Posted: 30th December 2018 by Cheap in Feminism, Men and Women, Philosophy

Ever since the Toronto van attack brought the Incel movement into public awareness, people around me have periodically made statements expressing bafflement at their violence, rationale, and rhetoric.  Indeed, their violence, rationale, and rhetoric — or at least the sensational bits pounced upon by the media — are illogical.

However, it has occurred to me that feminism has the same kinds of detractors, for basically the same reasons.  As far as I know, no mass murders or violence have been carried out in the name of feminism.  However, feminists do put out some horrific rhetoric, including espousing and rationalizing violence against men.  Many people, both men and women, fail to understand feminism, or disagree with feminism for the wrong reasons, simply because the people who call themselves feminists do a very bad job of representing feminism.

The End of e-Books

Posted: 18th December 2018 by Cheap in Cuisine, Fiction, Filmmaking, Television
  • I have been watching a fair amount of Netflix television, the sort that comes as a single season of four to eight episodes, once referred to as a miniseries.  A lot of them have been smart murder mysteries and/or political thrillers, and a lot of them have come from the UK or Australia.  Mindhunter, Secret City, Bodyguard, Marcella, The Kominsky Method, Shetland, and Pine Gap.  Their biggest strength has been that they are well-written.  I’ve also been watching the Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War, which has been informative and made me re-think things I already knew.
  • Speaking of Pine Gap, Tess Haubrich.  Yowzers.  A tall, broad-shouldered brunette.  In Pine Gap, she is presented with a fairly natural look, and an adorable bob.  Looking her up, there are mostly photos of her dressed in black and wearing bright red lipstick, much of which has her in longer, more traditional hair.  I have to say, I prefer her Pine Gap look, where she is striking and unique.  Her Hollywood glam look seems rather run-of-the-mill by comparison.  Anyway, I may need to go watch her in some other things.  An Alien film I hadn’t seen?  A small part in The Wolverine I’ll have to look for?  Yes, please.
  • The Consuming Fire, the second installment in John Scalzi’s Interdependency series, was pretty good.  After putting David Weber on hold for four years, I read Flag in Exile, which fairly well nailed the coffin shut for him.  I love the central character, but most of his characters, particularly the villains, are terribly two-dimensional.  His formula is as obvious and predictable as ever.  And he doesn’t know the difference between “insure” and “ensure”.
  • My Kindle, the original Paperwhite, is disturbingly slow, undoubtedly because of updates installed on it.  I’ve been thinking about upgrading.  My options right now are a Paperwhite 4 or an Oasis 2.  The Paperwhite 4 has a clearer screen, is waterproof, and is probably faster.  The Oasis 2 is also waterproof and has a slightly larger screen, but the screen size is still smaller than a mass-market paperback, it actually has less battery life, and it has a goofy shape for which I can’t get a decent cover.  I would have to shell out $150 or $250.  Meanwhile, books for Kindle tend to cost 10-25% more than physical books, and I can’t easily lend them to anyone.  I’ve already been buying paperback when it’s cheaper than electronic, partly out of protest.  However, I am beginning to warm up to the idea of ditching e-books completely.  It was a great idea that failed in execution, and I don’t see any reason I should continue to coddle Amazon.
  • Which leaves me to wonder again about local independent booksellers.  There are so few around.  There are a couple that I still need to try.
  • For Thanksgiving this year, I repeated the tradition I set out last year.  The stuffing recipe was much better this year.  Someday perhaps I will perfect it.  I just finished baking another pumpkin pie, because once a year is just not enough for pumpkin pie.
  • I bought a Cricut Maker, which I have wanted to get for a little while, especially after my experience with 3D printing.  I finally got it to make sign lettering as set decoration for a short film.  (I made the letters, but then we ended up not using them.)  I will probably use it for making binder covers and book marks, and I’m thinking about making gift tags right now.

Bump Stocks

Posted: 18th December 2018 by Cheap in Firearms, Philosophy, Politics

The Justice Department, under the direction of the NRA’s boy, President Donald Trump, has moved to reclassify bump stocks as machine guns.

I should begin by saying that I do not own any bump stock, and I have never fired a weapon equipped with one.  I think they are a silly toy, and I have never been interested in them.  To quote Colonel Townsend Whelen, “Only accurate rifles are interesting.”  I was surprised, saddened, and angered by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, and I won’t shed any tears about a bump stock ban.  I am, however, concerned about the broader implications to gun rights and the rule of law.

Federal law clearly defines “machine guns” (more properly known as fully-automatic firearms).  Bump stocks clearly do not fit that definition.  The ATF has already said so unequivocally.  Bump stocks were, in fact, created specifically in response to the law.

The ATF is a regulatory agency, part of the Justice Department.  They do not define the law.  However, they do formulate and publish legal opinions which are used to guide their regulation of gun dealers and manufacturers.  By themselves, these legal opinions do not have the force of law, but if a licensed dealer or manufacturer defies these opinions, it will mean trouble for them, a loss of their license at minimum.

Since the law has not changed, the legality of bump stocks has not really changed.

What has changed is anything within the authority of the ATF.  Licensed dealers and manufacturers, mainly.  The ATF does have the authority to charge individuals.  However, the court is obligated to follow the law, not the ATF’s rules.  If bump stocks do not fit the definition of a machine gun, then an individual cannot be successfully prosecuted for owning a bump stock (not registered as a machine gun).  Such a case would certainly be undermined by the ATF’s own previously published opinions on the matter.  It seems unlikely that the ATF would actually file an indictment they know they can’t win.

The ATF might murder you, though.

In practice, licensed gun dealers will have to stop selling bump stocks.  If there are any licensed gun manufacturers who are making bump stocks, they will have to stop.  The ATF and the Justice Department will undoubtedly threaten all of the bump stock manufacturers, and I expect most of them will cave in and shut down their businesses.  It remains to be seen whether any will stand and fight (in court).  It would be a gamble for the Justice Department to actually take a case to court, since the law is clearly on the side of the manufacturers.  However, it would be a gamble for the manufacturers as well, as it would cost a great deal of money and risk a conviction.  Even if the manufacturers won, their legal investment could be for nothing if the law is subsequently changed.

As for individual owners, a rule change really offers no opportunity for a grandfather clause or a meaningful grace period.  The rule must take effect 90 days from publication.  Since civilians cannot register fully-automatic firearms made after 1986, and bump stocks were invented after that, anyone in possession of one after that risks action from the ATF.  An individual owner facing prosecution by the ATF may be protected by the law, but there are no guarantees in court.  Just ask Brian Aitken.

UPDATE: There is already a lawsuit seeking an injunction.

The Ozarks

Posted: 5th December 2018 by Cheap in Outdoors, Travel

[This is not about the Netflix series.]

All my life, I have lived in the St. Louis area, which is at the northeast corner of the Ozark Plateau.  A great deal of my outdoor life takes place in the Ozarks.  The Mark Twain National Forest is scattered throughout the Missouri Ozarks.  My favorite nearby hiking trails are all in the Arcadia Valley area and the St. Francois Mountains.  When I was young, my family often camped at places like Big Spring, Alley Spring, the Current River, and the Silver Mines because they were nearby.

The bounds of the Ozark Plateau can be easily identified by the terrain.  Geologically, the plateau is an uplift dome, eroded by myriad ravines and hollows into steep hills.  Just for kicks, I clicked on the Terrain view of Google Maps to look at the Ozarks.  This revealed that the most rugged terrain is located in Arkansas, in the areas of the Ozark National Forest and the Ouachita National Forest.

I have never been to either of these places.  I am thinking I may have to plan a trip there, perhaps next spring.

The Devil Wears Prada

Posted: 2nd December 2018 by Cheap in Fiction

It is usually the case that “the book was better,” but not in the case of The Devil Wears Prada.

Actually, the novel and the film are very similar, and the film is a rather faithful rendition of the book.  However, the end was subtly different, resulting in a profoundly better story.

The Devil Wears Prada (the novel) is the story of a girl who gets a job that is unreasonable and essentially impossible.  It gets crazier and more difficult, until finally she quits.

“The Devil Wears Prada” (the film) is the story of a girl who gets a job that is unreasonable and essentially impossible.  It gets crazier and more difficult, until finally she masters it, and then she quits.

The book is a detailed depiction of a crazy job.  The film is a story of personal and professional growth.  In the book, the conflict is resolved by quitting.  In the film, the conflict is resolved by growing to meet the challenge.  Then she grows some more by realizing the job is stupid, and she quits as a moral choice.  All they really changed was the end, and that only slightly, and yet it completely recast the meaning of the entire story.

Some Strong Female Characters

Posted: 2nd December 2018 by Cheap in Fiction

There is more than one kind of strong female character.  It would not do justice to them to attempt to categorize them.

That said, there is one strong female character I find to be cheap and cliché: female characters who behave like men, especially stereotypically stoic men.  I’m not saying such that’s wrong, or that such women do not exist in real life.  I’m not even saying it makes bad fiction.  However, I do feel like it makes for a poor role model.  It’s bad enough that men are expected to force down their feelings to do what is needed.  It seems to me like a bad idea to tell women they need to do that to be strong.  Women have strengths of their own, including their ability navigate feelings, and women can strong without being masculine.

Anyway, I wanted to list some strong female characters in books I’ve read.

Honor Harrington (David Weber) is strong because she does what is right, even when it’s difficult.  She’s rather unfeminine in general, and much of what is written about her is about coming to terms with being a woman.  David Weber’s characters and storylines are a little simplistic, and while Honor Harrington is the most richly developed character in the series, there’s not much subtlety.

Cardenia Wu-Patrick / Grayland II (John Scalzi, The Interdependency) knows a little about being a leader from her father, and she knows that her people need her.  Her femininity is not suppressed.  That said, she is a strong person more than specifically a strong female.

Murderbot (Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries) is a sexless cyborg, and probably shouldn’t be in this list.  However, most of the women in my science-fiction book club admitted that they tended to think of it as female.  Take from what what you will.  Murderbot is strong because it is designed to be, despite some debilitating anxieties.  Over time, we also see that it is strong because it needs to be for the humans it cares about.

Winter Ihernglass (Django Wexler, The Shadow Campaigns) learns strength through experience in battle, and of necessity as a woman masquerading as a man in the military.  To a large extent, this is a story of a woman behaving like a man, but there is justification in this case, because the story explores gender identity.

Cordelia Naismith (Lois McMaster Bujold, The Vorkosigan Saga) has a strength that is revealed gradually.  Initially, she is the captain of a science vessel, a peaceful mission from a planet at peace, working where no trouble is expected.  A few books later, she is the wife of an important ruling family, and she is literally collecting the head of her enemy, not so much because of the politics (which are significant), but to protect the life of her unborn child.  She is a strong mother, a strong leader, and a strong woman.  There is not a hint of stoicism or behaving like a man, and I think it is telling that Cordelia Naismith is written by a woman.

The Aiji-dowager Ilisidi (C. J. Cherryh, Foreigner) is not the protagonist of this series, but she is a certainly a strong female character.  She is outwardly strong, presenting a position of ferocity and indomitable leadership.  She does this simply because it has always been the key factor in her success and the survival of her house.  Her inner thoughts are never revealed to us, the reader, but there are hints that she has normal doubts and fear that she masters.

Essun (N. K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth) is another character whose strength is derived from her need to protect her child.  She does possess what is essentially a superhuman power, and this does give her some advantages, it is also a cause for fear and self-loathing.  We see her for some time before she is a mother, and I would have to say that she is not strong then.  She is somewhat stoic, but this is clearly about her state of mind, and she is definitely not taking on a masculine role.  Essun is a complex character, and she is written by a woman.

Peri Reed (Kim Harrison) seems like she is supposed to be a strong character, and yet she’s not.  She is a skilled fighter, and she can rewind time.  She is backed by strong resources and other skilled fighters.  However, she really has little or no strength of character.  She is kind of a spoiled, selfish brat.  I suspect this was intended to be an intentional character flaw for her to overcome, but it made her character unlikable and the novels unsatisfying.

Breq / Justice of Toren (Ann Leckie, Imperial Radch) is a sexless AI trapped in a woman’s body.  She is the picture of stoicism, behaving like a computer.  While she is technically a woman, in many ways she is not, and I wouldn’t call her a role model for a strong female character.  She experiences feelings at times, but when she does, they are far off and foreign.  She experiences even less of sexuality.  This character is only one of the ways by which Ann Leckie has us thinking about gender.  As for strength, she pursues her goal with the doggedness of a computer, and an angry computer at that.  Her goal is revenge, inspired by an AI’s sense of love and tragedy.

Rachel Morgan (Kim Harrison, The Hollows) is an excellent example of a strong female character.  She is very real, with real fears, anxieties, and doubts.  She is strong in a variety of ways, and yet she mostly does not think of herself as a particular strong person.  Perhaps more important to this discussion, many of the strengths she demonstrates are real, actual strengths that women possess.  She has and nurtures strong bonds with her friends, and those friends add to her strength.  Her feelings and her empathy are turned to her advantage repeatedly.  She is far from stoic, and she is definitely not acting like a man.  Rachel Morgan is written by a woman, who gifts her with a very real woman’s inner voice.

Andrea Sachs (Lauren Wiesberger, The Devil Wears Prada) ends up a strong character (in the film).  She learns competence and confidence, and at the end of the film, she walks away a strong female character.