Frances Hardinge: I can try axe-throwing or canoeing and it could be research

The Costa award-winning author of The Lie Tree on why she has Nerf guns in her study and how the writing life is both isolating and liberating

Describing my typical writing day would be a lot easier if I actually had one. Whenever Im asked what hours I work, I explain that I aim for nine to five and miss. The degree to which I miss varies wildly.

This isnt a deliberate strategy. I have great respect for authors who keep to a rigid schedule, and turn out the same number of words each day. (One such writer has promised that, after their demise, I can eat their brain in the hope of gaining this particular superpower.)

For the little its worth, heres the blueprint for my writing day: I rise early, gallop enthusiastically to the gym, return to clear all outstanding emails, then work diligently until evening, at which point I clock off, sleekly complacent with the progress I have made.

Most actual days bear no resemblance to this whatsoever. When my partners alarm goes off in the morning, I drag myself out of bed, with all the grace and good humour of a lobefin hauling itself over jagged shingle. I appear to be naturally nocturnal, but I try very hard to stay diurnal, so that I can interact with the adult world in a vaguely useful fashion.

Sometimes I have to fling on clothes and rush straight out. For a breed of introverts, writers seem to spend a lot of time appearing on panels, being interviewed, making keynote speeches and even stammering answers on radio or TV. Its a life full of strange contrasts. One day Im standing on a stage in front of a whole school or a literary festival crowd, the next Im alone in my kitchen, laying out a Post-it note timeline for my story, and shouting at it when it doesnt work.

Even when Im at home all day, my productivity varies wildly. If I have a muse, she apparently has to be bribed with heart-juddering quantities of caffeine, then bludgeoned with deadlines. Writers groups keep me relatively honest the day Im due to show work to my group, Im suddenly a lot more productive. When the submission deadline for a book looms, I go into panicky overdrive. For weeks I work past 2am each night, sometimes as late as 5am.

I usually write in my study, which doubles as a store room. Water pistols and Nerf guns hang from the hooks on the door. All the bookshelves are full, and there are so many boxes of books piled on the floor and furniture that I sometimes worry about the floor giving way. One of the cupboard handles is festooned with brightly coloured lanyards from book festivals and conventions.

To silence the siren call of Twitter, I often turn off our internet. I seldom listen to music, unless I associate a particular song or album with the book, in which case Ive been known to listen to the same track on a loop for days. (My partner has bought me some very good headphones to preserve his sanity.)

A fulltime writing job can bleed into evenings and weekends, but the flip-side of that is the freedom. If its a beautiful day and Im getting nowhere, I can drop everything and go for a 10-mile walk, untangling the plot knots in my head as I go. Were a stones throw from the Thames path, and only a couple of miles from Richmond Park. Its a curiously green part of the city. Herons nest on the little river islands, feral parakeets flock and chatter, and for a while our lawn had a dead patch because a fox kept curling up there to sunbathe.

Theres also nothing to stop me visiting the heart of London during its weekday lulls, or meeting other authors for tea or expeditions. A writers job is isolating by its nature, and breaking up my day helps to stave off stir craziness. I can visit strange places on impulse, and try new things falconry, axe-throwing, canoeing etc. Any of this might turn out to be research.

I always know that Ill have to make up the hours, and that the frantic late-night writing sessions await, but it feels like a waste not to make use of my freedom. After all, if I wanted a steady, sensible job where every day was the same, Id probably be doing something else.

In brief

Hours: between two and 17
Words: between seven and 7,000
Refreshments: between two and six cups of tea, strong enough to arm-wrestle
Times Ive turned on the internet to research something and ended up on Twitter: four

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge is published by Macmillan.

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This new law will let Californians know for sure they’re not supporting puppy mills.

The puppies and kittens in your local pet store are pretty cute. But knowing where the adorable animals come from can be heartbreaking.

Many animals sold in pet stores come from “puppy mills,” large-scale commercial breeding operations that put profit over animal welfare, resulting in unsanitary conditions, cramped cages, and inhumane practices.

A dog rescued from a puppy mill by the South Carolina National Guard. Photo by Maj. Cindi King, U.S. Army National Guard/Wikimedia Commons.

The ASPCA estimates that there are as many as 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, with similar operations also existing for cats and other animals.

In California, at least, some of those operations are about to go under. On Oct. 13, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill designed to put an end to puppy mills in the state.

Starting in 2019, California pet stores will be banned from selling animals that come from puppy mills.

California pet stores will be required to obtain all their dogs, cats, or rabbits from shelters or rescue organizations instead of breeders. Violators will face a $500 fine.

“This legislation is a big step forward for animals in California,” said Jennifer Scarlett, president of the SF SPCA, just one of many animal welfare organizations — including The Humane Society and the national ASPCA — that support the bill.

“We are grateful to Governor Brown for putting his stamp of approval on a state policy to dry up funding for this inhumane industry,” said The Human Society president Wayne Pacelle.

Some are afraid the bill might go too far though.

Opponents of the bill, such as the Pet Industry Advisory Council, claim the bill removes consumer protections and it’s unfair to demonize all breeders.

It might also inadvertently make it hard for pet stores themselves to find animals, PIAC warns, since shelters are not required to work with commercial pet stores. Boris Jang, a pet store owner in Santa Ana, California, told The New York Times he thought the bill was coming from a good place, but worried it still might put him out of business.

The bill also prevents more responsible, humane private breeders from selling to pet stores, although the breeders can still sell to prospective owners directly.

Breaking the supply chain that funds these operations means California might be the first state to eliminate puppy mills within its borders — and ultimately, that’s a good thing.

More than 230 cities and counties in the United States have enacted similar laws to ban the sale of puppy mill animals, but this is the first statewide law in the United States.

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Woman seeks career advice on the tech industry, gets the sleaziest reply

It’s a sad state of affairs when a woman reaches out for career advice from an industry influencer, and instead finds herself on the receiving end of inappropriate messages.

When 18-year-old Lydia Jones contacted a male entrepreneur for career advice, the conversation quickly took a handbrake turn into creepy territory.

Jones’ says she wanted a steer on entering the tech scene in London as her start-up Trooops is based in the north of England and she’s found it “very hard” to find people “willing to help” with growth and funding in that area. Jones told Mashable she reached out to the man after seeing him post “numerous times” in the London Startup and Entrepreneurs Facebook group.

“I simply asked him if he could introduce me to any mentors or advisors in London for growth and funding,” says Jones.

But, the conversation that followed wasn’t quite what she had in mind:

Image: lydia jones / mashable composite

The entrepreneur began by asking her age, then her relationship status, and if her “BF” helps her.

When Jones responded that she is gay, the man replied, “Are you quite open about your sexuality?”

When she said she was, he followed up by asking, “So men don’t turn you on at all?” Jones replied stating that she thought he was a “businessman,” to which he replied, “I’m also a human being too right?”

Mashable reached out to the man involved. He agreed to comment anonymously, confirming he sent Jones the messages. But he also defended his behaviour:

Image: rachel thompson / mashable

“In the end I didn’t say much else because I found out that it wasn’t appropriate to ask her even though she said she was open,” he said. “The digital and text word can be misunderstood” but if “this was said in person it wouldn’t have been a big deal,” he added

“Richard Branson said all publicity is good publicity so I’m glad she’s spreading my brand around. I haven’t committed a crime here,” he continued. Asked if he could see how his messages could be perceived as inappropriate, he said: “Sure it’s inappropriate if she doesn’t admit “yes” to being sexually open.”

Image: rachel thompson / mashable

“If you heard me talking in person you’d know I’m a nice person and I’m a very open conversationalist,” he added.

When asked about sexism and harassment in the tech industry, Lydia Jones says there is an “overall vibe” she gets when she contacts people “on a daily basis.” She says she senses a reluctance to “help females and especially someone aged 18”.

An all too common problem

In April this year, a study found that sexual harassment is “common” in the tech industry. According to the research by the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll, one in 10 women in tech experience unwanted sexual attention.

Sophia Matveeva, co-founder and CEO of the Style Counsel app, says that Jones’ story is “not surprising.” Matveeva says that when she was raising her first round of funding for the app, she was talking to people from a “vastly male-dominated industry” who didn’t understand female products.

She says sexism in the tech industry is “huge,” but there’s also an issue with the way networking is conducted. “Networking with investors a lot of whom will be men puts you into territory which is very difficult,” says Matveeva. She says that when you’re raising funding, it’s normal to want to be “pleasant and charming” but she’s conscious that as a “single woman going to dinner with a wealthy man,” she’s in put in a tricky (and potentially vulnerable) position.

Lydia Jones isn’t convinced that this problem is going to go away anytime soon. “In my opinion, this vibe wont really change until we have a female founder / CEO of a platform on the same scale as a Airbnb or Twitter. But it should not have to be that way for women to be heard,” says Jones.

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18 Yahoo Answers questions that will make you say ‘WTF?’

Yahoo Answers is a mixed bag of useful information, helpful commenters, weird advice, and most of all, really, really dumb questions.

In search of some thoughtful answers, users post their most desperate queries, hoping a kind soul will shed some light and wisdom. But those important questions aren’t always, let’s say, well thought out. Luckily, Reddit is a gold mine for finding the most head scratching requests.

We think we’ve hit the jackpot with these 18 unusual Yahoo Answers questions.

1. Uh…I don’t think that’s how it works.

2. The answer is two really, really long words.

Image: MMD_57/reddit

3. Yes, this is how tomato sauce is born.

4. I think you got it.

5. Just…why?

Image: Darksrae/reddit

6. Yeah science, WHY CAN’T WE?

7. May the odds be ever in your favor.

8. Huh. Never thought of this before.

9. You’ll need a lot of storage.

10. Just want the batter back.

11. Damn, we missed the day Earth was visible from Earth.

12. Valid question.

13. We are always Russian in the morning.

14. Eat?

15. Please be pacific.

16. It’s what makes fries so tasty.

Image: xtiba/reddit

17. Send us a postcard.

18. Ew.

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The Mooch barely last a full work week as White House communications director

The Mooch barely lasted a week in Trump’s White House.

Image: Mashable Composite: Getty Images

Incoming White House communications director and noted Wall Street 2 star Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci has been fired technically before he even started in the role.

Scaramucci was tapped as the new White House communications director just 10 days ago, which prompted White House press secretary Sean Spicer to resign.

On Monday, the White House released a statement announcing that Scaramucci was leaving and wished him “all the best.” The New York Times reported Donald Trump had removed the former Wall Street executive from his new role. Apparently the decision came from the brand new chief of staff John Kelly.

His removal also comes after an unhinged interview with New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza came out Thursday. Some gems from that conversation included: Im not Steve Bannon, Im not trying to suck my own cock” and “The swamp will not defeat him, with Scaramucci referring to himself.

Scaramucci’s start date was officially Aug. 15, per the White House announcement about his appointment on July 21.

This is one of many switch-ups in recent weeks. Chief of staff Reince Priebus just resigned on Friday.

Looks like the swamp most definitely did defeat him.

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Driving Teslas Model 3 Changes Everything

If you’ve ever driven Tesla’s flagship vehicle—the $140,000 Model S P100D—you’ve experienced an unparalleled version of driving power. Zero to 60 in 2.3 seconds punches you back in the seat while making the stomach turn somersaults. Some people live for that feeling. I’m not one of them.

Sure, driving a fully loaded electric beast is as thrilling as the fiercest roller coaster—but not everyone wants their daily commute to be the Kingda Ka. After taking one of the first drives of Tesla’s new Model 3 last week, I came away thinking that CEO Elon Musk has finally delivered an electric car for the everyday road tripper like me.

The Model 3 still has plenty of pickup, effortlessly jumping from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds in the upgraded version I test drove, which gets a stunning 310 miles on a charge. It’s nimble, comfortable, and has tight steering that’ll keep you grinning. The seats embrace you in a gentle hug that feels a bit more geared for road trip than racetrack. It’s the Model S on a diet, making up in practicality what it loses in extravagance.

And I haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet.

The fact that this car still looks, drives, and feels like a Tesla—at a starting price of $35,000—shows how far the Silicon Valley automaker has come. It’s still an expensive vehicle for many of Tesla’s biggest fans, and compelling options packages will drag a lot of stretch spenders into uncomfortable territory. But at current battery prices, Tesla is setting a new standard for value in an electric car—which of course was Musk’s plan all along.

Step Inside

Source: Tesla

The minute you approach the Model 3, you realize you’re in for a new sort of car experience. The auto’s elegant, flush door handles swivel into your palm with the light press of a thumb. The ethereal swoop of metal feels surprisingly solid.

The car doesn’t have a key, or a key fob. Instead it syncs to your phone through a bluetooth connection and will automatically unlock as you approach. The backup in case your phone dies or you need to hand it off to a valet is a thin key card that you can keep in your wallet. Swipe it on the car’s B pillar to unlock it, and place it on the center console to turn the car on.

Washington Post

Stepping inside the cabin, I quickly realized that my assumptions had been all wrong. I’ve seen a lot of spy shots of Model 3 prototypes online, and the interiors always appeared to be flat, spartan, and lifeless. Not so. The lack of gauges on the narrow dash is refreshing. The solid strip of open-pore wood gives the space warmth, and the glass roof makes the the cabin feel like an atrium. The forward field of vision—uninterrupted by knobs, lights, and levers—is expansive.

Tesla is getting better at building cars. Unlike early versions of the Model S and X, the Model 3 is built to be a daily driver, with plenty of cupholders, door pockets, and console storage. The materials of the arm rests and doors feel ready for abuse. And the stitched synthetic material used for the premium seats is different than leather, but not inferior.

Shots Fired

BMW and Mercedes should be concerned. This automobile is clearly targeting their market. Since Musk handed over keys to the first 30 cars on Friday, I’ve heard a lot of people trying to compare the Model 3 to GM’s all-electric Chevy Bolt (known as the Opel Ampera-e in Europe). Although they’re similarly priced and both run on batteries, the parallel ends there. The Bolt is an economy gasoline car that’s been electrified; the Model 3 is, well, something altogether different.

Tesla aims to sell 500,000 electric cars next year. In order to succeed, it will have to tear down the artificial distinction between a “car buyer” and an “electric-car buyer” and go straight at the heart of the $35,000 sedan class: the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The Model 3 is Musk’s missile aimed at this target.

“We finally have a great, affordable, electric car—that’s what this day means,” Musk said, when I asked how he was feeling about the launch. “I’m really confident this will be the best car in this price range, hands down. Judge for yourself.”

Two Battery Versions

The Model 3 comes in two battery types: standard and long range. In a break from the past, Tesla wouldn’t disclose the size of its two battery packs. Instead, going forward, the vehicles will be identified by the miles they can drive on a charge, and the cars will lose their exterior badges that indicate battery size and premium performance options. This way, Tesla will get more credit for the efficiency gains it squeezes out of its motors and design, instead of being judged by kilowatt hours alone.

From the outside, a $35,000 Model 3 will look no different than a $57,000 fully loaded version. The company plans to make the same transition with its Model S and Model X platforms later.

Here’s how the two versions break down:

Standard Battery:

  • Price: $35,000 (not including government incentives 1 )
  • Range: 220 miles (EPA estimated)
  • Supercharging rate: 130 miles in 30 minutes
  • Zero to 60 mph time: 5.6 seconds

Long Range Battery:

  • Price: $44,000 (not including government incentives)
  • Range: 310 miles
  • Supercharging rate: 170 miles in 30 minutes (Same as Tesla’s Model S)
  • Zero to 60 mph time: 5.1 seconds

The bigger battery is a gamechanger. Only one other electric car in the world has broken the 300-mile range barrier: the most expensive version of Tesla’s Model S, an ultra-luxury car that starts at $97,500. The new Model 3 has won Tesla the trophy for cheapest range for the money, defeating the $37,500 Bolt, which is outclassed by the Model 3 in virtually every category.

Each year the battle for cheap range gets a little bit more intense, as this chart shows:

Another indicator of Tesla’s battery and efficiency improvements is its weight. It’s only 150 pounds more than the Mercedes C-Class, even though it’s actually a smidge bigger and has more passenger and trunk space. Five years ago that would’ve been impossible.

The Model 3 has a lot of room for a car its size, and the space is put to good use. With my legs fully extended in the passenger seat, a six-foot tall man still had room to sit comfortably behind me.

The car has the best storage room in its class—15 cubic feet divided between the front and rear trunks. But for anyone hoping to use the Model 3 as their sole means of transportation, the biggest hang-up might be the trunk’s opening. I brought a tape measure with me, and the opening measured 18.5 inches tall and 42 inches at its widest. That’s pretty standard for a small sedan, which is to say, not great. Most Americans have grown accustomed to larger SUVs and crossovers, and the utilitarian hatchback has been embraced by Europeans for ages.

Forty Model 3s and a bank of Superchargers
Photographer: Tom Randall/Bloomberg

But let’s get back to the driving. As I hit a gently twisting road near Tesla’s factory, where the launch party for employees would later be held, I flipped on Tesla’s Autopilot. The road lanes were poorly marked, but the car had no problem smoothly tracking its course and slowing when traffic demanded it. This is the best Autopilot I’ve experienced since the company split with partner Mobileye last year, though I didn’t have time to give it a proper vetting.

Tesla made an interesting choice to add Autopilot to the car’s main shifter. Flick it down twice, and Autopilot engages. It feels more integrated with the regular flow of driving. Autopilot has come a long way in recent weeks, but still has a long way to go for Tesla to justify the $8,000 it’s been charging since October for Autopilot and a set of yet-unseen features called “Full Self-Driving Capability.”

Ready for Camper Mode

Last year I wrote about a subculture of Tesla drivers who go camping in the back of their cars. It sounds crazy at first, but the car’s massive battery can maintain perfectly controlled climate all night while only losing about 7 percent of the car’s range. With the glass canopy overhead and the view of the stars, it’s a great way to enjoy national parks without the bother of a campsite. I tried it myself and loved it.

With the new Model 3, there’s great news for those Tesla campers and others who like to haul long cargo. The seats of the Model 3 fold completely flat, and with the front seats in their most forward position, the back bed measures an impressive 6 feet 9 inches long (206 cm). This is a car that’s dying to be slept in.


Though being able to camp in your car is fun, staying safe on the road is of significantly greater importance. Tesla aspires to be the world’s safest automaker, and the Model 3 is no exception. While the final safety scores by ratings agencies aren’t out yet, some of the evaluations have already been conducted. The video below compares the side-impact test of the Model 3 against the Volvo S60, which is considered to be one of the safest cars on the road.

“In the Model 3, you’re fine,” Musk said. Meanwhile, “the Volvo is wrapped like a burrito around a coat hanger. It’s not good.”

Despite all of these achievements in range, technology, and safety, Musk sounded grave about the road ahead. “The biggest challenge that we face here is ‘S Curve’ manufacturing,” he said, describing a ramp up of production that starts slow, then increases dramatically before tapering off. “That ‘S’ portion is us going through hell, basically.”

A Special Hell for Tesla

Musk reiterated his projections of a very slow start in the next few months and then increasing rapidly to a rate of 20,000 a month by the end of the year, and 50,000 a month by the end of 2018. It’s an aggressive schedule that would more than double Tesla’s total production rate in six months, and then quintuple it by the end of next year. Musk alluded to this challenge at the launch event when he joked to a sea of cheering employees, “Welcome. Welcome to production hell.”

In the last three weeks, Tesla built 50 Model 3s, according to Musk. Waiting behind those initial customers is a list of more than 500,000 deposits, at $1,000 each. Musk says people who put down deposits today won’t get their cars until late 2018.

Here’s his best guess for how the rest of 2017 will play out:


The key obstacle, of course, is making all of these cars quickly enough and without the problems that plagued the launch of its more complicated Model X. Tesla is counting on everything going right at its car plant in Fremont, California, as well as its massive battery factory under construction near Reno, Nevada. Musk previously said that 2 to 4 new plant locations will be announced by the end of this year.

The $35,000 standard Model 3 version won’t be available until Fall. The longer-range version is available now, beginning with the thousands of Tesla employees who placed reservations last year. A $5,000 premium options package includes an all-glass roof, open-pore wood decor, premium sound, heated seats, and first class seat materials. A dual-motor, all-wheel drive Model 3 will be available in the Spring.

I asked Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer responsible for the Models S, X, and 3, what are his favorite design elements of the Model 3. He didn’t mention the curves and angles, the elegant fold-in door handles, or the maximal use of space.

Instead he talked about the “ambiance of the car”—the “beautiful, clean, minimalistic interior that will let you focus on the driving.”

“The interior is nothing like any other car out there,” von Holzhausen said. “It’s incredibly advanced” and “will age gracefully.”

For a person who hasn’t seen the car, that’s probably a vague and unsatisfying answer. But after driving it, riding in it as a passenger, and climbing all over the backseat and trunk trying to take its measure for a future camping trip, I really couldn’t have said it better myself.

Read Next: The Future According to Elon Musk

The Model 3 has arrived.


  1. The U.S. government provides a tax rebate of $7,500 for electric cars. Some states offer additional incentives. In California and New York, for example, a base Model 3 might cost as littleas $25,000.

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