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Posted by Sara Stamey

Last time (May 13 blog post), Thor, Bear dog, and I hiked above our nearby Lake Whatcom to an overlook. This time, taking advantage of another sunny day, we loaded up our bikes and took to the Hertz Trail that runs along an old railway track along the east shore of the lake. The former Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railroad (established in 1902) was used to transport logs as well as coal from the Blue Canyon Mine at the south end of the lake. Bear loves a chance to really run as we zip along the dirt track shimmering with sunshine through the fresh spring leaves.

The trail, which runs about 3 miles along the lake, starts among old cedars in a shady stretch.

We love the green tunnels opening up to views of the lake.

All the plants (here bracken ferns) are bursting this time of year with fresh energy. It feels as if we’re soaking up that spring zing!

Bear dog loves to munch on the fresh grasses.

Almost to the end of the trail:

Ready for a picnic. Bear lets us know that grass is not enough. “I’ll be happy to help out with that leftover chicken salad.”

Bear, normally a rather dignified beast, suddenly gets very excited about the waves stirred up by the wind, and plunges in to snap at the water. He doesn’t like to swim, though, so quickly scrambles out.

Steep cliffs border the trail, with rocky outcrops.

Runoff creeks tumble down from the slopes.

Now that it’s an official park, there are two fancy new bridges crossing the creeks. We used to just hop over the rocks in the creek beds.

I still experience surreal moments after moving back to my home town of Bellingham, WA, after many years as a nomad in far-flung parts of the globe. When I was growing up, our “far corner” of the Pacific Northwest was pretty much off the radar, and much of the surrounding area was undeveloped. The old trail along the lake was mostly overgrown and involved a tricky “secret” access and some bushwacking, but offered serenity and privacy for skinny-dipping. These days, our county population is growing quickly, and we’re an outdoors-adventure destination, so it’s almost impossible to find solitude on hikes. We avoid outings on the crowded weekends.

The trail head now features an informational kiosk with local history, some dating from the late 1800s when my great-grandparents on my mother’s side settled here. The years have brought good changes, including a reduction of clear-cut logging and no more coal mining that involved abusive labor practices, lynchings, and riddling underground Bellingham with miles of unstable tunnels.

All things considered, I feel blessed to live in this beautiful place with sea and mountains and forests (and plenty of rain to keep it all green). What kinds of surreal moments have you experienced on a return to your own home town?


You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has just received a second Cygnus Award, for Science Fiction. To celebrate, for the month of May it’s on special discount here on our online bookstore at just 99 cents!


Fess up

May. 27th, 2017 12:04 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Which of you mentioned "cultural appropriation" to Orson Scott Card?

Also, are Irish accents really as hard as all that for Americans to understand?

Thursday 26 May 1664

May. 26th, 2017 11:00 pm
[syndicated profile] pepysdiary_feed

Posted by Samuel Pepys

Up to the office, where we sat, and I had some high words with Sir W. Batten about canvas, wherein I opposed him and all his experience, about seams in the middle, and the profit of having many breadths and narrow, which I opposed to good purpose, to the rejecting of the whole business. At noon home to dinner, and thence took my wife by coach, and she to my Lady Sandwich to see her. I to Tom Trice, to discourse about my father’s giving over his administration to my brother, and thence to Sir R. Bernard, and there received 19l. in money, and took up my father’s bond of 21l., that is 40l., in part of Piggot’s 209l. due to us, which 40l. he pays for 7 roods of meadow in Portholme. Thence to my wife, and carried her to the Old Bayly, and there we were led to the Quest House, by the church, where all the kindred were by themselves at the buriall of my uncle Fenner; but, Lord! what a pitiful rout of people there was of them, but very good service and great company the whole was. And so anon to church, and a good sermon, and so home, having for ease put my 19l. into W. Joyce’s hand, where I left it. So to supper and to bed, being in a little pain from some cold got last night lying without anything upon my feet.

Read the annotations

Welcome to Books: FMK

May. 26th, 2017 01:08 pm
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[personal profile] rachelmanija
[personal profile] melannen has been culling her bookshelves by playing "Fuck Marry Kill" via poll. In the interests of doing the same, and also getting back to posting more book reviews, I have decided to join her. (I am doing "fling" rather than "fuck" just because my posts get transferred to Goodreads and I don't want EVERY post of mine on there littered with fucks.)

How to play: Fling means I spend a single night of passion (or possibly passionate hatred) with the book, and write a review of it, or however much of it I managed to read. Marry means the book goes back on my shelves, to wait for me to get around to it. (That could be a very long time.) Kill means I should donate it without attempting to read it. You don't have to have read or previously heard of the books to vote on them.

Please feel free to explain your reasoning for your votes in comments. For this particular poll, I have never read anything by any of the authors (or if I did, I don't remember it) and except for Hoover and Lively, have never even heard of the authors other than that at some point I apparently thought their book sounded interesting enough to acquire.

Poll #18415 FMK: Vintage YA/children's SFF
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 40

The Spring on the Mountain, by Judy Allen. Three kids have magical, possibly Arthurian adventures on a week in the country.

View Answers

13 (41.9%)

8 (25.8%)

10 (32.3%)

The Lost Star, by H. M. Hoover. A girl who lives on another planet hears an underground cry for help (and finds chubby gray cat centaurs if the cover is accurate)

View Answers

18 (56.2%)

9 (28.1%)

5 (15.6%)

The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, by Penelope Lively. Lucy visits her aunt in Hagworthy and is embroiled in the ancient Horn Dance and Wild Hunt.

View Answers

24 (66.7%)

5 (13.9%)

7 (19.4%)

Carabas, by Sophie Masson. Looks like a medieval setting. A shapeshifting girl gets accused of being a witch and runs off with the miller's son.

View Answers

16 (48.5%)

8 (24.2%)

9 (27.3%)

Of Two Minds, by Carol Mates and Perry Nodelman. Princess Lenora can makes what she imagines real; Prince Coren can read minds, but everyone can read his mind. (Ouch!)

View Answers

17 (51.5%)

8 (24.2%)

8 (24.2%)

Why you deserve it

May. 26th, 2017 01:24 pm
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[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

I have just finished watching season 1 of Skin Wars on a friend’s recommendation. It is very very far from my usual sort of thing: it’s a reality show that’s a competition in body painting. My friend promised that it was very low on the interpersonal cattiness/drama, with lots of very skilled work and a certain amount of people learning stuff about their art, learning from each other. New art and learning? Hey, I’m there for that. And I was immediately hooked, and I will definitely watch the other two seasons, especially since my friend is a person who would have warned me if there was a lot of body-shaming weirdness in store.

One of the things that fascinates me is that the artists involved in this were often financially struggling–it’s not a fast route to fame and fortune–and they had pretty well-entrenched justifications for why they deserved success that were not always easy to dislodge by circumstances that really should have dislodged them. Examples:

I have put in the time. I have worked long hours. This is a competition with firmly set time limits, around each piece and around the competition as a whole. Each artist gets literally exactly the same amount of time. There are no examples of artists putting their feet up and being done early, and beyond that here is absolutely no way for anyone to put in more time than anyone else. Eventually this got clarified to:

I have put in the time. I spent my whole life learning this. Finally someone turned to the person who kept repeating this and said, how old are you? and determined that they were very close to the same age. And that they had both spent their whole life learning it, so…yeah. Not a distinguishing feature. I’ve seen both of these at conventions, though: I have devoted more time to science fiction than the other people at my day job! And I’ve seen a certain amount of it in various factions in the field who are convinced that they are the ones who are truly, deeply devoted–and that that kind of devotion has to be what matters. (Spoiler: it does not have to be. Sorry.)

I need it the most. My living conditions are worse than other people’s without recognition. There are indeed need-based scholarships for various types of study, and I’m very glad. But they’re usually clearly labeled, and “I like your art a lot” and “I think you need money” are not actually the same thing–and “you should like my art a lot because I need money” doesn’t actually work very well.

I need it the most. I poured my heart into this piece. “You should like my art a lot because I need validation” does not turn out to work better than “you should like my art a lot because I need money.” It is often a great idea to pour your heart into art. I recommend it. Then make more art and pour your heart into that. Also technique at the same time.

I have the most technical skills. Ever heard a pianist play Hanon? They are finger exercises. They are finger exercises, they are to make you a technically better pianist, and nobody plays them in concert because they are no fun to listen to. (Or play. Freakin’ Hanon.) Okay, okay, they have a certain hypnotic power, they can be impressive, but…at the end of the day if you are showing up and playing Hanon, nobody is buying your book, your painting, or in the most literal sense, tickets to your piano concert. (Freakin’ Hanon.)

It is apparently really, really hard to say, “Mine is good. Here is what I did well. Look at this part. I deserve this because mine is really good art. I combined the technical and the creative, this has thought and feeling and everything it’s supposed to have, and who cares whether I picked up those skills in two minutes or ten million hours, who cares whether someone else thinks that they are overall better than me and paid their dues more than me, here is the thing I made, it doesn’t come with dues, it comes with awesome.”

It is even harder to say, “I don’t know what’s missing. I did everything right. It’s just not happening for me. Can you help me see what’s going wrong in my piece?” And sometimes there are ten million answers, and sometimes there’s one answer, and sometimes there…isn’t. And sometimes the artificial contest structure of a reality show has made something happen that reality doesn’t support, it has made a thing where there is a winner and a loser where actually in a group of ten there might be three pieces that really work and four that don’t and three that meh, or ten that meh, or any other combination of numbers.

But the attachment to previous explanations of why you deserve it, the strength of that: that really got fascinating for me, and I will be riveted to see whether that continues for future seasons.

(no subject)

May. 26th, 2017 01:28 pm
jhetley: (Default)
[personal profile] jhetley
People like the concept of collective guilt. It's kinda like original sin, applied to a subset of humans.

Doing better—on average.

May. 26th, 2017 03:04 pm
[syndicated profile] wavewithoutashore_feed

Posted by CJ

The high bloodpressure is dropping back into the pre-hypertensive and the ‘normal’ range. Which is good. But it’s not all that—I was dizzy yesterday. So it’s that AND the ears, for which I have an appointment — in June. Sigh. But I’m feeling a lot better. Jane’s been doing a huge amount of yard work, in which I show up and snip a few judicious snips, and wash a pond filter, big deal. She’s moving basalt chips and rebuilding the lotus pond edge. WHich is looking great.

I can however do the cooking and kitchen and such, so I am. Cooking with both sodium and carb restriction is entertaining, but we had an experimental substitute last night—sometimes I’ll put several weird things into a potentially bland dish to see which ‘surfaces’ as a good taste, which is neutral, and which you would’t want.

So I tried, on pork, caraway seed, celery seed, cooking sherry, black pepper, coriander, sage, and very little salt, and came to the conclusion that caraway and possibly sage and black pepper were the best tastes in the lot, celery seed and sherry the worst combined with the others, and so I’m going to try making my own caraway-heavy pork sausage.

Work on the books is going well, however: this is our first time working in sequence, Jane in total control of Alliance Rising now, myself in the rough stage of the new Foreigner book, with discussion and input from Jane, and we are thus getting quite a bit of work done. Todd is working on the new Foreigner cover, for the book I turned in last fall, and I like his sketch, so things are buzzing along.

A Cake Wrecks Correspondence

May. 26th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by john (the hubby of Jen)

"A Typical Day Of John Checking E-Mail"


Thank you for choosing Cake Wrecks for such an important occasion! I'd be delighted to offer you a quote, but first let me show you a few of our most popular Sesame Street cakes, so you can pick out your favorite.

(Please note that for copyright reasons we can't actually call these Sesame Street characters, but I'm sure our versions will look VERY familiar. ;))

"Huge Bird"

"Oreo Monster"

"Trash Head"
aka "Mr. Can-'Do"

And "Petrified Elro"

Or for a little extra, you can get all four characters together!

[plastic faces not included]


We also have some new "Bieber-licious" character cookies your son is sure to love:

Prices vary depending on the cake's size, flavor, and age, so just let us know how many people you'd like to feed and how picky you are about "freshness." Delivery is free within a twenty mile radius, but keep in mind our delivery guy moonlights as a mobile pet groomer, so there's always a SLIGHT chance of pet hair - but really, that almost never happens. (Which reminds me: Billy gives our customers a 15% discount! Just FYI.)

Let me know which cake you'd prefer, and thanks again for choosing Cake Wrecks!

- john (the hubby of Jen)





Thanks to Todd T, Julie B., David & Debbie B., Jennifer G., Anony M., & Cynthia for actually making it through our contact page without thinking we make all these cakes ourselves.


Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

New Worlds: The History We Live In

May. 26th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Marie Brennan

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

This week’s post is brought to you by a patron request! The topic suggestion had to do with conveying historical complexity, which is itself complex enough that it can’t be answered in a single post. When I cast about for a specific angle to hit first, I landed on . . . architectural history, of all things. (I blame my research reading.)

How can buildings convey a sense of history, politics, and change over time?

Let’s start with ancient ruins. As any reader of the Memoirs of Lady Trent knows, I have a soft spot for these, and certainly they lend themselves well to fantasy or certain kinds of space-faring science fiction. Whether it’s Stonehenge in England or Karnak in Egypt or Chichén Itzá in Mexico, the remnants of ancient civilizations are a clear sign of time’s passage. Is the ethnic group that created them still around, or have they “vanished” through migration, conquest by an outside power, or simply changing so much they’re no longer meaningfully the same people? (Roman and Islamic influence radically altered Egypt, but contrary to the way it’s usually described, the Maya didn’t disappear; they’re just not living in those cities anymore.) Do the local people know what purpose the site originally served, or is it a mystery now, the subject of folkloric invention or scientific investigation?

And what state is the site in, anyway? Some kinds of architecture (stone) survive reasonably well even without maintenance; others (wood) will vanish pretty quickly, leaving behind only traces. The environment will affect this, of course, through erosion and moisture-based decay. But people affect it, too, by stealing away building materials for re-use at other sites. Why go cut new stone from a distant quarry when you could take already-dressed blocks from a nearby abandoned building? Ditto for fired bricks and even large timber beams. If you’ve ever seen an old ruin in Europe and wondered why it was built out of mortared rubble, you may be seeing the infill of the wall, left behind after the nice facing stones were removed. Which means you can wind up with fragments in the oddest places: I read an article some time ago about a Norse runestone found serving as the threshold of a farmhouse, and the Rosetta Stone was used as fill when a Mamluk sultan built the site known as Fort Julien or the Fort of Qaitbey. Decorations or inscriptions can signal that components of a structure have been moved from their original location.

This kind of repurposing can happen to whole buildings, too. These days the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) in Istanbul is a museum; before that it was a mosque; before that it was a Greek Orthodox basilica. The Pantheon in Rome once honored all the gods, as the name suggests, but in the seventh century it became a Western Christian church instead. Over in Japan, many Buddhist temple properties were once manor houses, donated by some pious aristocrat hoping to better their karma for their next life. And during the English Civil War, Parliamentary forces stabled their horses in the nave of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Sometimes repurposing happens because the original use has been forgotten, but more often it occurs because that original use is no longer necessary or desired. It can even be a form of ideological warfare, the victor deliberately overwriting the loser’s history and habits with their own.

Speaking of victors, buildings can also be a way of commemorating history. Triumphal arches, columns, stelae, and so forth are a really blatant example of this: structures that often serve no practical purpose apart from putting a giant sign on the landscape saying THE DUDE WHO COMMISSIONED THIS WAS AWESOME. Memorials do the same thing, but in a less self-aggrandizing direction. Nothing says you can’t combine advertising with use, though, which is how you get temples, palaces, hospitals, and even smaller things like fountains that bear the name or statue of the wealthy person who arranged for their construction. (And if you don’t think a fountain is an important public service, you’ve never thought about the effort required to obtain water when it isn’t piped into your house.) A building may not be just a building; it can also be a reminder of historical figures or grand events, keeping the memory of those things alive in daily life.

Even on a more modest scale, architecture can communicate history, just through changes in fashion. When I was researching the Onyx Court series, architecture was an inescapable part of how London changed over time. I started with Tudor half-timbered buildings; then, after most of those burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, civil codes mandated the use of much less flammable brick; then the classical inspirations of Palladianism overran the place.

a triptych depicting a half-timbered house, a brick house, and a Palladian house

Can you tell the difference between these?


More recently I’ve been reading about the history of Japanese architecture, with shifts from the early shinden style to the later shoin style and then the influx of Western materials and methods after the Meiji Restoration. None of which is the kind of thing I’m likely to lecture the reader about in the story — but that doesn’t mean it won’t show up at the edges. A book on minkan (folk) architecture comments on how those buildings came to be seen as dark and lacking in privacy; similar complaints were directed at Tudor buildings. A passing line in a description can convey the sense that such things are old-fashioned by the time of the story. Meanwhile, newfangled styles might be admired as au courant or decried as silly fads.

And the driving forces behind those changes? Those convey history. Conquest from the outside, which brings the invader’s styles in, or conquest of the outside, which inspires a hunger for “exotic” innovations. Increased trade can bring new materials like marble or fine wood, while the loss of external trade during the Tokugawa period influenced Japanese architecture to be frugal in its use of resources. Country A admiring Country B often means that A begins aping the fashions of B, like the popular kid at school creating a trend for certain articles of clothing. You don’t need a historical lecture to imply these things happened; you just need a throwaway line about Lord Sycophant tearing down his unfashionable Old Dynasty manor to build something in the popular new Usurper style, or a nouveau riche merchant flaunting her wealth with cypress imported from the colonies. Your streetside flower-seller might ply her trade at the base of a column from imperial days, and have one-sided conversations with the conquered people carved into its exterior.

Take a look at the world around you. How many buildings commemorate the past in some way? How many retain traces of their previous purpose, through an overlayer of more recent adaptation? Unless you live in a brand-new development (which, to be fair, you may), there’s more of it than you might think.

The Patreon logo and the text "This post is brought to you by my imaginative backers at Patreon. To join their ranks, click here!"


The World of Tomorrow

May. 26th, 2017 12:52 pm
[syndicated profile] charlie_stross_diary_feed


I'm thinking of writing something set in the mid-21st century and asked Charlie if he had any good resources for futurism on a ~30 year time scale. And lo and behold, a guest post appeared.

Now, I'm not much of a futurist, or really any kind of futurist in the formal sense. But I like to think I can see where things might be going, so here's a brief rundown of what I'm anticipating we'll see by mid-century.

TECHNOLOGY - A fractured Internet and radically decentralized social media are the name of the game. This is the cyberpunk dystopia you were promised, but without all the messy brain surgery and skulljacks. Getting data across certain national borders will be difficult. Getting news out during a blackout might, in some countries, be worth your life. Most countries that style themselves as free may resist government control of the Internet, but it’s unlikely that they will be able to do much more than maintain zones where the old rules apply. The Great Firewall of China is going to be a popular model. Alternative national networks that are inherently biased in favor of the state might prove to be another.

Even in countries that prefer to be mostly hands-off about their networks, legislation and policy changes will be put in place to harden their population against psy-op attacks like the one that has crippled America. The dream is already dead: in 30 or 40 years we’ll see what has grown from the corpse. Drones will be ubiquitous of course, as will anti-drone technologies to clear the airspace in an emergency.

POLITICS - Expect socialism, anarchism, and other direct challenges to capitalism to make a roaring comeback in the developed world.

The Washington Consensus relied upon Washington to be a reliable broker, and the loss of faith in American leadership due to the Trump Administration will be seismic in scale. By 2050, America has vastly degraded herself from her position of supremacy in January of 2001, but she is likely to retain a cultural influence that is far out-sized compared to her paltry 460 million citizens (already in fourth place after China, India, and the EU).

The global cultural impact of a resurgent Left in the famously right-wing United States may end up being one of the signature features of the new era, if for no other reason than our cultural productions might be one of our few remaining viable exports. It might not be cinema and TV shows by then. It might be hepatic enabled VR that let’s YOU fight the strike breakers in front of the Ford Motor Company gates! Feel that Pinkerton’s skull crack under your Louisville Slugger! Oh yes, the resurgent American socialism is going to be drenched in Americana, tip to tail. (At least it will be if I have anything to say about it!)

But, of course, America will as usual be a trailing indicator.

This shift is well underway in Europe already, and with a few more decades to develop it may become a big deal, historically speaking. I haven’t seen much discussion of how this dynamic will play out in Asia. It may be in places where the economy is still developing to a Euro/American level, these appeals will be less persuasive, but I kind of doubt it. It’s going to be a major controversy everywhere. International boundaries will continue to blur but will not disappear.

WAR - Modern war is horrifying in its expense and violence. This will be ever more true, and the extreme costs of the highest end weapon systems might paradoxically make them less vital in a strategic sense. Sun Tzu identifies the highest form of strategy as learning how to win without fighting, and when a single squadron of fighters costs a sizable fraction of a country’s GDP, their incentive to get creative with how they achieve their contested objectives has never been higher. We see that with Russia’s campaign of election meddling already. This will formalize as new type of international conflict. Perhaps there will be a new word for it, or perhaps we will simply change the definition of war to “a political conflict in which one side has decided the other’s interests are immaterial and not to be considered.”

When it does come to violence, I think we will see a pattern where much of the fighting will be conducted with low to medium cost weapons systems, and a few high end bits of kit meant to act as a force multiplier. How might this look in practice? Consider an urban guerrilla outfit which manufactures its own ammunition out of smuggled raw ingredients and feeds this into their 3D printed infantry weapons. They have as many riflemen as they want, but for antitank defense they rely on foreign missiles dropped off in the night by friendly special forces helicopters.

One caveat to this: many of the world’s most powerful economies have been sheltering under the enormous US defense budget for generations. With Washington no longer reliable, that may not be the case for much longer. But 2050, we may see large standing armies with fully modern equipment in places where they haven’t been seen in generations. If that’s the case, expect the first three weeks of any major conventional war to be an absolute bloodbath…and then the guerrilla phase starts.

For a historical example, look at the Battle of the Frontiers in World War 1. A lot of illusions were shattered at enormous cost of human life, and both sides then scrambled to improvise new tactics and technologies to counter the revealed status quo. Think of that, but without the trench warfare. Imagine instead if France had been conquered, and then immediately gone into a kind of medium-high insurrection against the occupation forces instead of surrendering. Now add in the Internet, foreign meddling, long-standing internal conflicts coming to a boil, and that will be the pattern for major conventional conflict.

And if fourth generation nuclear weapons ever get off the drawing board…it’s not gonna be pretty.

ENVIRONMENT - The shift to renewables will be all but complete, and pollution cleanup technologies might be a big growth industry, pushed heavily by China, who have a real strong incentive to figure out how to pull heavy metals out of the water and soil.

Antarctica is past the point of no return. Many coastal cities have flooded. To openly be a global warming denialist in some places on Earth is to take your life in your hands. By 2050, I expect at least high profile one climate related assassination to have occurred. Carbon capture technology is one of the highest priority areas of research, and scientists are also scrambling with a way to capture the other greenhouse gasses as well. Geo-engineering initiatives have significant political clout by now. People see the problem and they want it FIXED. Animals are being sampled so they can be cloned back into being after they go extinct. In some places, eco-preservation is almost a mania. The last few stubborn hold-outs in denial are likely to be radicalized and violent by now. See above for how that’s gonna work out for them.

I don’t expect the panic reactions to the Earth visibly starting to fall apart to work. We’re gonna get several nasty surprises. Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 had a plausible future history for how this argument might play out. Green cities of vertical farms, a smaller human population living in automated comfort, and a re-wilded countryside is an ideal that’s already attractive to some. It will only get more attractive as time goes on.

HEALTH - The permafrost has already begun to melt. Surprise, it’s smallpox! Or if not smallpox, some other damn thing nobody’s had to have antibodies for at any time in the past half million years. The death toll might be high, but one hopes a crash program of inoculation keeps this from being the civilization killer that some fear and others hope for. See the movie Contagion for what I’m thinking will happen. We get pandemic scares all the time (We’ve had like three just since I graduated college nine years ago) and sooner or later the bugs will get lucky. Stem cell therapy, 3-D printed organs, CRISPR, etc, are really coming into their own and helping people live longer and at a higher quality than ever before, if they have the money.

I do not expect much in the way of sci-fi flavored biotech, if only because the real problems that these technologies will be bent toward will be more subtle, but more important. Developing a new way to culture bacteria, for example, would be an obvious application of biotech that doesn’t exactly move the average heart to excitement, and yet would be as consequential as the discovery of penicillin.

Look for several medical breakthroughs of this sort in the next few decades, but be warned you may not live to see their full benefit because immortality isn’t fucking happening for people who are already alive. Who is the most enthusiastic about cheating death? Silicon Valley types who have never met a real limit in their life, that’s who. Don’t let their privileged delusions pollute your thinking. What is much more likely to happen is that upper class people will begin living much longer than has historically been the norm, but lower class people will find their life expectancy cut. Hey, remember when I said socialism was gonna make a comeback?

And that’s it. That’s my list of thoughts about where we will be by mid-century. I think there’s going to be at least one really big black swan event, and probably at least one major conventional war like the one I suggested above. What did I leave out? What did I get wrong?

It's raining, it's pouring

May. 26th, 2017 08:24 am
jhetley: (Default)
[personal profile] jhetley

The old man is no longer snoring. Air temperature 48 F, wind NNE about 10 mph, dark and rain, heavy at times. Weather radar offers us a gap in the swirl coming up. Maybe.

05/24/17 PHD comic: 'The trick'

May. 26th, 2017 02:28 am
[syndicated profile] phd_comics_feed
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The trick" - originally published 5/24/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

[syndicated profile] neilgaiman_feed
posted by Neil Gaiman
I met Sara Benincasa eight years ago, when she interviewed me in a bathtub. (I was in the bathtub. Sara wasn't even wet.)

She's an author and comedian and the sort of person who has strange ideas and acts upon them. So when she tweeted me the other night and asked me if I would read the Cheesecake Factory Menu live, if she raised half a million dollars for the charity, I did not ask any of the obvious questions (like, why would I read the Cheesecake Factory Menu aloud? or Who would want to hear this? or even How would you ever make that much money for something so unlikely?). Instead I said I'd like the money to go to Refugees, please, and sure. ( And I added, "If you get to a million dollars, I'll also read the entirety of Fox in Socks after the Cheesecake Factory menu.")

And then Sara did something even more unlikely. She set up a page to allow people to donate at Crowdrise.com... and people started to donate. Lots of them.

It's been up a couple of days since then, and we are (as I type this) 8% of the way to the target at over $42,000. It's started to be picked up by newspapers -- here's the LA Times,  and the Boston Globe, and even the Guardian.

And I will do my own bit for it. I will put up something unique to this blog.

Probably you are thinking, will he write about his time on the Red Carpet at Cannes for HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES?

It is not that. (But here are costume designer Sandy Powell, channeling Ziggy Stardust, and star Elle Fanning eating colour-coordinated macaroons.)

Perhaps you are thinking, Will he perhaps post photographs of Gillian Anderson as Media in the next episode of American Gods incarnated as Ziggy Stardust also eating colour-coordinated macaroons?

I will not. I do not believe such photos exist. 

Instead I will put up photos of my elf-child, Ash. I will see him on Saturday, and the Cannes red carpet would have been much more fun if he had been on it.


Whether or not I get to read the Cheesecake Factory Menu in public (or Dr Seuss's tonguetwisting Fox in Socks) I will be doing a few more readings and talks this year. Tickets are going fast:

07 Jul 2017
Dallas, TX
09 Jul 2017
Washington, D.C.
10 Jul 2017
Hartford, CT       

Each of these should be links to the event -- all of them are solo me just reading and talking and answering your questions, except for the Hartford one, where I'll be interviewed by the NYPL's very own Paul Holdengraber.

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green_knight: (Konfuzius)
[personal profile] green_knight
3 pose sketches

I'm kind of amazed that these are my drawings, from reference images (but not traced): they look recognisably like human bodies, and while I'm not happy about the heads - there have got to be better ways of suggesting heads and faces, all I manage is awkward - I am starting to capture the human form with a few bold lines and I'm liking the results.

This is nothing short of miraculous.

The number one tool for this has been the practice of lines: straight lines, C-curves, S-curves; learning to draw them boldly and confidently and more or less where I want them to go. Combine that with a drawing course that teaches you to apply these lines boldly, to capture the energy of a human body rather than trying to find exact lines, and suddenly I get the feeling that I'm doing the right thing (just need to work out a lot of details) rather than doing something completely hopeless.

And yes, I am currently sourcing my poses on body-positive blogs: I don't find the 3D dummy all that interesting to draw, and seeing pictures of squishy bodies looking fantastic is a really useful exercise for me.

Between this My mental model

and the above is a month. And while I have practiced _some_ drawing, I have not practiced anywhere near enough drawing to justify the improvement, which kind of confirms what I've worked out anyway: if I can find a way to work that suits my learning style - kinesthetic, Gestalt-oriented - I find most things relatively easy. (I'll never be _great_ at this drawing thing, but I think I can get to 'competent' from here). If something is presented in a way that makes no sense to me - if I am trying to learn sequentially and if the practices is stressful - I can suck terribly badly and feel that I'll never get there.

The answer to that is not to practice harder. Practicing things that are stressful is counterproductive for me. Looking for 'the right way to learn' is, of course, a path with a very obvious failure mode - never applying oneself, and always looking for 'the right' method that will miraculously get you to where you want to be, without having to put in any of the work, but while, in principle, I am extremely opposed to that idea, I have to admit that _it works for me_.

And it's hard to talk about this without sounding like I'm bragging. I'm all too aware of my artistic shortcomings; I'm a perfectionist, I can see a dozen things wrong with every drawing I make and I'm fully aware that there's probably a dozen more that I can't see because I'm not trained _enough_, I can only draw the poses I see, not any other possible poses, but when I started this six weeks ago I thought that maybe in a year I'd be able to draw like this: confident lines with recognisable results. And I'm willing to bet that if I had stuck to techniques that don't work for me, tasks that seem unsurmountable, exercises that stress me out, that make me feel completely incompetent and like I will never learn - I would not have reached this stage yet, if ever.

This, in short, is why learning styles matter, and why we need to take responsibility for our learning, and find out what does and doesn't work, and insist on finding resources that resonate: there are no shortcuts to becoming skilled, but if you can follow a straight path instead of floundering around, you *will* learn things in a reasonable amount of time, whatever that thing is.

Talent might get you there faster, by more paths, and take you further, but the right teaching will get you places surprisingly quickly and painlessly.

I can't wait to continue with my courses and learn more; I just wanted to bounce a little at how far I've come.

Wednesday 25 May 1664

May. 25th, 2017 11:00 pm
[syndicated profile] pepysdiary_feed

Posted by Samuel Pepys

Took physique betimes and to sleep, then up, it working all the morning. At noon dined, and in the afternoon in my chamber spending two or three hours to look over some unpleasant letters and things of trouble to answer my father in, about Tom’s business and others, that vexed me, but I did go through it and by that means eased my mind very much. This afternoon also came Tom and Charles Pepys by my sending for, and received of me 40l. in part towards their 70l. legacy of my uncle’s.

Spent the evening talking with my wife, and so to bed.

Read the annotations

[syndicated profile] science_at_nasa_feed

Posted by ckaiser

From penguins to plant stress, the 2016 Annual Report highlights the many innovative ways our partners use Earth observations to support their projects and activities.

News Article Type: 
Sunday, May 14, 2017 - 17:07

Mission Statement

Reading, writing, plant photography, and the small details of my life, with digressions into science and computing.



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