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Tuesday, July 4th, 2017 07:50 am

When i was listening to the biology & genetic lectures a few years ago, i was astounded by new realizations. The key has to do with how DNA is NOT a blueprint, a description of the final structure. It's much more like computer code, with all the cruft that developers often leave in a great big system, code that used to do something important, but the output is no longer needed. Somehow activate that code path, and the code can still execute. On the other hand, since the system has evolved away from that need, it the code does execute, it's not necessarily going to behave as it did originally.

DNA doesn't execute in a vacuum: chemical and physical signals affect what segments of the DNA will be activated. The embryonic environment has a huge impact on the gene expression in a developing organism -- i can't find a recent article i read about how poverty-stress of a mother can be expressed in the cognitive pathway development of the child, thus providing a physiological basis for poverty changing the way one literally thinks.

(In Butler's Wild Seed, one of the characters could "examine" the DNA of a creature and then express the creature. My awareness of how gene expression works triggered a momentary collapse of my suspension of disbelief.)

So, i pondered, what if an organism was exposed to primordial compounds, compounds that don't exist in the oxygen rich environment of today? What parts of the "junk" DNA might be activated? What might happen next? (Could an alternative being be in the DNA that could be expressed with the right primordial signals?) Keyword for more research: epigenetics.

" It’s for sure that there are many biosynthetic-looking gene clusters found in these species that don’t seem to be turned on most of the time, which makes one think that under the right conditions you could perhaps elicit some “break glass in case of emergency” structures that might be well worth seeing."

Derek Lowe, July 3, 2017

Why, yes, exactly.

[The group] ran all sorts of stress experiments on the organisms to see if any of these caused some activity. As it turns out, exposure to etoposide and to avermectin, both quite toxic to the organisms, caused some of these biosynthetic pathways to turn on, and several new compounds emerged, including one with antifungal activity and some that appear to be cysteine protease inhibitors.

Hint: Wikipedia relates that "Cysteine proteases... are enzymes that degrade proteins."

Organic chemistry and genetics are so incredibly amazing to me. I envy nascent scientists -- so many of these discoveries have been since i was in school. To be entering the fields with this landscape as a foundation....
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Sunday, July 2nd, 2017 08:29 am
The end of last week featured a great deal of demotivated being. I think i understand it: a biological nadir, the joys of the self assessment at work, long weekend anticipation. I picked up two digital speculative fiction books from the library: I checked out Haldeman's Forever Peace and then my hold on Butler's Seed to Harvest came available. That's actually an omnibus edition and I have read Wild Seed & Mind of My Mind. I'm drawing the line at Clay's Arc some chapters in, partly because i need to get up, partly because I'm really tired of Butler's characters.

It's remarkable, given the semi-random selection i made from Overdrive, how very similar the concepts are in the two narratives -- and yet how very different. Race, with African American and African characters, is featured in both books, as is a sort of change of humanity. Butler's focus on slavery is far more prevalent than in Haldeman's, and i've been left with a great deal of discomfort. (And, after reading Butler's Fledgling, i feel the ground well explored.) I guess the power dynamics of manipulation and enslavement is a more accurate description of Butler's theme, not slavery outright.

I think the two books would be a little more comparable if Haldeman had kept going and described the post "humanization" world. In Butler's "Patternist" world, there was a clear hierarchy within the powerful. Haldman's optimism -- that there is a way to overwhelm the viscous part of human nature and bring compassion and love forward -- stopped at the point where the narrative gets challenging (but perhaps less dramatic). Would he have described a Quaker-like governance?

Butler's focus on manipulation exhausted me, but it's made me poke at Forever Peace and its focus on violence: am i missing something? I feel like i'm watching a magic trick where the violence is the misleading distraction. It might be a difference in scale. The powers in Haldman's narratives were governmental and global scale; the two "Patternist" books were much more interpersonal, concluding with a couple thousand.

I'm thinking about reading the nonfiction work The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters. It seems to argue for a fractal quality of ecological rules. Perhaps i could phrase that as "Life is life at any scale." I need to think about how that sort of fractal view meshes with the concept of emergent properties of complex systems. Hmmm, most of my learning about nonlinear mathematics and properties of chaotic systems was absolute ages ago. I bet there's some synthesis of understanding, a correlation between the concept of emergent properties and strange attractors.

This comes to mind because there may be some fractal similarity between Butler's communities and Hadleman's global consideration, human dynamics aren't linear.

I was watching the first episode of season 4 of Sherlock, where he makes some statement about if all the threads were known, everything is determined. Poor writer, missing the point of Lorenz's butterfly (and on the smallest scales, dice are everywhere).
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Monday, March 13th, 2017 03:08 pm
Apparently, when you boil the violets (Viola sororia) with the sugar to make a violet simple syrup, the color turns out emerald-y -- or as Christine put it "yellow striving towards blue." Recipes indicate i would have had more success had i steeped the violets in hot water, strained them out, then made the simple syrup.

Speaking of V sororia, there's no violet flavor to speak of.

We had snow! Started Sunday morning, we were able to gaze at it, go for a walk in it, make pancakes & hot cocoa watching it, and it was gone after lunch.

Sick on Thursday. Meh.

Took Wednesday off, in solidarity. Wasn't very productive (probably due to onset of cold). Drove to a historical oyster bar with my Dad & Christine and had a little bit more birthday celebration with a peck of lightly steamed oysters.

Didn't do much adulting on Saturday. Read two of "The Sharing Knife" series by Lois McMaster Bujold. I feel it misses the strength of the Chalion series, but it's an admirable series. Most of the demerits for the November-April relationship are redeemed by a comment about laundry in the second book.
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2017 07:19 am
Similar to my reflections on Trump and Loki some weeks back is David Brooks' reflection The Lord of Misrule.

While i admire Brooks resolution, it's not clear it follows.

Also, this documentation of Trump's network - thank you :

I have apparently misfiled Buzzfeed in my mind as silly listicles, but seeing this article about Dylan Roof it's clear i need to file it as also a good resource.
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Saturday, December 17th, 2016 07:15 am
Mystery: Microsoft is certain my browser is in Sweden. I remain perplexed. Looking up my IP address on a number of the sites returns a scattering of locations in eastern North Carolina. Hmph.

I've been reading two memoirs of late:

Kaufman, Wallace. Coming Out Of The Woods: The Solitary Life Of A Maverick Naturalist. 2000.

Lanham, J. D. The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature. 2016.

Both share stories of intimacies with a landscape very similar to where i live now. Lanham writes of a piedmont landscape in South Carolina, while Kaufman writes about, literally, across the street and down ... a quarter of a mile? I picked up Lanham because of an essay he wrote about birding while black, Kaufman because i wanted to learn about the history of where i live. Last night i read much of Kaufman's book and realized how the two narratives offered intriguing points of comparison.

First, over my evening's readings i've grown to find little respect for Kaufman. He strikes me as a narcissist. I wonder how much of the affinity i feel for Lanham is that he's another southerner and Kaufman is a Yankee, despite living in North Carolina since his graduate student days. Lanham also grew up on the land, a more intimate farming background than i did, but one i recognize and my father would recognize. Kaufman is -- well, was -- a back to the woods romantic.

Lanham's story is the arc of his growing up and his family, and his deep roots on a patch of red clay in South Carolina. In some ways, i can read much of his story with great familiarity. My parents moved around a good bit as i was growing up, and they built homes (at one point, they had their own home building company). Lanham's story is of a single place and the work of efficient and sustainable use of their land. The forces of work and family shape Lanham, and he shares that. The force of race is there, too, not hidden, and yet ... i still feel more akin to Lanham than to Kaufman. Kaufman did not come from wealth, did not have class privilege from birth, yet the privilege that seeps out of Kaufman's narrative is revealed by its absence in Lanham's story. I don't know if i would have felt it if i hadn't been reading Lanham at the same time. Kaufman has a little awareness, i think...
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Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 08:40 am
Observing the wheel of the year has not been very active on my part. Last night i didn't feel like bestirring myself from the house, and did not drive up to see the pumpkins on the Old Bynum Bridge. Instead we watched the new Ghostbusters. I found it amusing but a little weak: i have a suspicion that there was interesting narrative left on the cutting room floor in order to keep special effects. The multitude of hat-tips to the original were delightful.

I've ordered two books about the area, one about trying to drive a small economy from the person who started the biodiesel plant and another about someone who apparently was "back to the land" in the 70s. I feel a little guilty ordering books as i have not read the book i bought at the beginning of the month: The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature. Instead i do things like read the 1937 soil report for the county -- which was interesting in its snapshot of the county's way of being. (I ought to find the county soil reports for where my Dad grew up.)

I'm hoping i haven't killed the mother plant of candystripe moss phlox. I recently moved it from its container planting (since i hadn't decided where it should go) to a spot where we had filled in one of the many annoying holes with (clean) kitty litter clay. I then put the phlox on top. I think the issue is one of watering -- the weather has been very dry since the hurricane. My one consolation is actually 13: the number of rooted plants I have from the mother plant.

In depressing work news, the competent security guy has left the company (well, last day is tomorrow), which means we're left with the tedious fellow who has failed to impress me with any sort of context or systems awareness. Christine helped me characterize the remaining fellow: he's a bureaucrat.
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Saturday, April 16th, 2016 06:49 am
I started using Zotero a year and a half ago to track botany research and Quaker resources. Over time, i expanded my use to where i am recording much of my reading, particularly when there's an interconnection but not a direct outlet. For example, this week's research into what to grow over a septic system is not reflected here.

For your amusement, this week's entries from Zotero:

* “CardioZen : Cardiac Coherence Everywhere | Apps | 148Apps.” Accessed April 9, 2016. http://www.148apps.com/app/593054863/.
** This app is related to the Huffington post article about the vagus nerve and vagal tone.

* Cordeiro, Monivette. “How an Orlando Data Scientist Is Helping #BlackLivesMatter Make the Case against Police Violence.” Orlando Weekly, March 23, 2016.
** I think i'd run across this article earlier, and was finally bookmarking it. More in the efforts to fill the data gap about police violence.

* “Focus-Stacking Season.” In the Moment: Michael Frye’s Landscape Photography Blog, April 11, 2016. http://www.michaelfrye.com/landscape-photography-blog/2016/04/11/focus-stacking-season/.
** I've been using focus stacking for macro photography, but here i learn a well respected photographer uses it in landscape images. He also recommends software other than photoshop's stacking tool -- and my latest efforts with photoshop and focus stacking have been highly manual.

* Harris, John. “Should We Scrap Benefits and Pay Everyone £100 a Week?” The Guardian, April 13, 2016, sec. Politics. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/13/should-we-scrap-benefits-and-pay-everyone-100-a-week-whether-they-work-or-not.
** I'm fascinated by this idea (Universal Basic Income, UBI), and had no idea it is a thing. There's a bit in the article about job loss due to automation: see Derek Lowe.

* Hill, Kashmir. “How an Internet Mapping Glitch Turned a Random Kansas Farm Into a Digital Hell.” Fusion. Accessed April 11, 2016. http://fusion.net/story/287592/internet-mapping-glitch-kansas-farm/.
** I have worked one one application that uses the MaxMind software, and have some GIS training. The technical challenges MaxMind faces in design and how users interpret the software aren't discussed in any detail; this is a lesson in design decisions and unintended consequences.

* Hoffman-Andrews, Jacob. “The Why and How of HTTPS for Libraries | Library Information Technology Association (LITA).” Accessed April 11, 2016. http://www.ala.org/lita/https-for-libraries.
** I just wanted to save the reference documents; i did a little presentation myself on https some time back at a local code4lib meet up.

* Lowe, Derek. “The Algorithms Are Coming.” In The Pipeline, April 12, 2016. http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2016/04/12/the-algorithms-are-coming.
** It's somewhat embarrassing to have an organic chemist's blog on my reading list and no physicists, but DL writes well and covers a wonderful breadth of topics. I saved this one, though, because of the interrelation of automation and the reading earlier in the week about the Universal Basic Income. Once upon a time there were jobs for people to do the calculations now done by calculators: here's another broad swathe of work that may be replaced.

* Mellichamp, Larry, and Will Stuart. Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden. Portland, Or: Timber Press, 2014.
** This is saved just as a book i might want to get out of the library in NC or buy used. I have no excuse to buy this new.

* Munz, Philip A. A California Flora. Berkeley, Calif: Univ. of California Press, 1973.
** This is one of my surprisingly large collection of flora (systematic books on all the plants of a region). I don't quite have one cubic foot of them. Once upon a time i was advised that having multiple flora is helpful in identifying plants, because one author will focus on a distinction that another won't. Since weedy nonnatives can be just as hard to distinguish (filarees come to mind) and they may be found on either coast, taking 50 lbs of California flora back to NC isn't that crazy. (Once in a box, books now have an easily estimated dollar cost. $50 to ship the cubic foot collection of floras, another for the graphic novels/comics, and the moving estimator expects we have 60 boxes of books.... )

* Russell, Gerard. Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East. First Trade Paper Edition edition. New York: Basic Books, 2015.
** On the books to get list, linked to a review, see below.

* “Scientists Hacking Our Nervous System Discovered Something Incredible.” The Huffington Post. Accessed April 9, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/29/hacking-the-nervous-syste_n_7469526.html.
** Click bait titles are SO embarrassing. This is about how the vagus nerve plays a part in immune system responses. Intriguing.

* “The Great God Pan Still Lives | The Revealer.” Accessed April 9, 2016. http://therevealer.org/archives/20527.
** Review of Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms

* “The Irish Friend, 1837-1842: Excerpts from the Pioneer Quaker Newspaper,” n.d.
** I received an email invitation to buy this book. Not sure i want it -- i ought to read the actual Quaker periodical to which i subscribe first! Nonetheless, an interesting document, so i saved the sales blurb.

* “Viewpoint: Why Bathrooms Matter to Trans Rights.” BBC News. Accessed April 13, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36000356.
** Helpful education piece

* “We Asked Cops How They Plan to Enforce North Carolina’s Bathroom Law.” Mother Jones. Accessed April 11, 2016. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/04/north-carolina-lgbt-bathrooms-hb2-enforcement.
** Keeping track of NC's HB 2

* Whoriskey, Peter. “A Man’s Discovery of Bones under His Pub Could Forever Change What We Know about the Irish.” The Washington Post, March 17, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/17/a-mans-discovery-of-bones-under-his-pub-could-forever-change-what-we-know-about-the-irish/.
** Interesting discovery that feeds into my general curiosity about genetic genealogy and human migrations.
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Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 10:04 am
I've told folks at Meeting, work, some local friends, and Facebook about the move. There are some other folks, too, who i need to tell.

[ ] folks who are part of meeting but are not there frequently

--== ∞ ==--

On my list of things to do, i have my forgiveness practice to exercise. The biggest target for forgiveness, i suppose, is the Governor of NC and the legislature. Christine checked and our representative to be protested the law. These aren't helpful targets, though: i don't feel any particular need for "revenge," just voting the fellow out. The Democratic candidate for governor is the current attorney general, about whom today's headlines read, "Attorney General Roy Cooper Says His Office Won't Defend Discriminatory HB 2."

I suppose i could work on forgiving the "new director" of years ago. Again, though, i'm not sure i see anything to forgive at this point. I don't know that i need to respect him, and again, this isn't about reconciliation.

--== ∞ ==--

This reminds me that i am listening to Debt: the first 5,000 years by David Graeber. It's been fascinating as he rebuts the economist "myth" that money evolved out of barter. His argument is that debt was the first "invention" in human relationships and that money was invented to simplify debt accounting. His arguments are based on ethnography and history and not on theory. One revelation, he argues, is that debt evolved hand in hand with a threat of violence and governments. His observations (so far) are that much of the exchange within communities were gift and "favor" exchanges where individuals kept track informally: sharing, essentially, was how communities met the needs.

I guess right now i'm curious to find reviews of this book by experts. I've found a Marxist review that points out that Graeber doesn't critique capitalism. No critique though of any of his historical interpretations other than not examining class. The beginning of a comparative legal review behind a paywall said Graeber avoids legal language and dismissed some sort of negligence.
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Thursday, January 14th, 2016 04:52 pm
Yesterday was a Quaker day - midday Nominating committee meeting, evening Care & Concerns. I attended Nominating because the committee was going to grapple with some of the changes that are being proposed, and as associate clerk i showed up for the other.

We had a somewhat challenging issue brought forward, mixing race, mental health, gender, aging. YOICKS.

I was home lateish for me and was up this morning barely in time for the 9 am Eastern PrivacyCon. Which then started somewhat late. Distance attendance had me more engaged with others than if i had been there in person, thanks to twitter. The twitter space was far more diverse than most twitter conference threads i follow. Ah, diverse politically and indignation wise, that is: there was the guy who was indignant that no non-researcher engineers were presenting research papers, the "any regulation is bad" crowd, the K Street shills pushing their "Privacy Panic" paper every hour, and a bunch of Pro Palestinian (i think?) protesters. Universal snark when the FTC apparently sent an email to 900 people, with all the email in the To: field. The FTC speaker apologized first thing.

Listening (when the stream wasn't stuttering) and reading privacy papers all day, particularly without my usual slow transition from sleep to engagement, has me all brain-full.

--== ∞ ==--

Meanwhile, Christine is getting the truck smogged and the title for the truck straightened out. Our mechanic had NOT smogged it and she's quite cranky about it. Hrm, looks like it is the seller's responsibility: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/vr/smogfaq#BM2537 .

--== ∞ ==--

I had about a half hour in the car yesterday to listen to Seveneves, thanks to the committee meeting. I'm not sure i can buy the seven races narrative: just because your family has a grudge against another family rarely seems to create a barrier to the next generation's inclination towards procreation. (Apparently geneticists don't buy it either). I don't spend that much time listening -- one to three hours a week, i suppose, given my variable number of days with a commute. I've three unspent Audible credits and other un-listened to books.
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Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 08:46 pm
I don't quite know why i haven't written.


Let see: we bought the truck, we're in the process of selling the Accent. We had it detailed, and Christine posted it to Craig's List. We were slammed with folks who wanted to see it -- then Christine realized she'd calculated the bluebook value for a car two years older. At the higher price, everyone was scared off. She realized that she ought to get it smogged before selling and deal with tags and all sorts of details. So, Helen on Wheels isn't gone yet, but will be soon.

I spent a great deal of time virtually in Death Valley, reading reports of the 2005 flower bloom and then realizing this year may be just as amazing. A friend and i have been talking about going: we now have our hotel reservations and I've two different photographer's guides to Death Valley requested from the library. I chose the weekend closer to the new moon, and i've checked when and where to see the Milky Way.

I'm quite excited!

--== ∞ ==--

Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business went well on Sunday: we are asking Meeting to consider taking risks and changing. The process has been well handled: i think people are ready to take on change.

--== ∞ ==--

I've had many thoughts about making patterns for spoonflower. I realized i could make a pattern collection using the "native" color palette and then make a variation with an "on trend" color palette each year. The "native" palette could persist, while the trendy colors could be retired. Complimenting the patterns could be a pattern of quilt squares that used more photo-real images (such as more complete images of redwood trees, or details of bark and so on, without the adaptations needed to make seamless repeats. Another complement could be a photo-real border, like a horizon of trees.

Meanwhile, i am procrastinating on exporting photos from lightroom to submit for two gallery shows. Some sort of anxiety blocking me there.

--== ∞ ==--

Tonight i finally got to the Seven Eves part of Seveneves. I had a very hard time listening to the politician in the second part of the book. Had i been reading, i am sure i would have skimmed the dialogue, just enough to register the creepy twisting of reality. Listening, i had to experience all the creepy twisting dialogue which i found depressing.

While the narrative features constant digressions to explain physics to make everything very concrete, i realized that how the robots convert the iron of the asteroid into manufactured iron was NOT explained. The little iron foundry did not get a digression. Or maybe it was so far at the beginning of the story i've lost track -- but i really don't see how the little robots made the iron wall.
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Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 01:00 pm
Still listening to Seveneves. Not much progress as commutes are blessedly short right now. I think i'm past the parts where Ivy is having to struggle with her apparent leadership failures, as the Earth is now "gone." The issue of women in leadership positions and appearances comes close to a sore spot that isn't healed. So, i'm back to enjoying it. I wonder how long the book would be if Stephenson didn't instruct you in every detail. Instead of going over the various types of radiation, the various ways they interact with matter, etc and then explaining the concern of the captain, etc (while also explaining how reading logs works), the narrative could have us inside the cabin by now!
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Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 05:30 am
I don't often have trouble sleeping, but i drifted into wakefulness far too early this morning. I'm trying to balance "being up" with keeping the light off, not making tea, etc.

My brain was mulling over Seveneves, the 30 hour epic audio book. It's not much of a spolier, i think, to share that i am pondering the ways the “arc cloud” and “Izzie” (the international space station) will experience catastrophe such that there are seven eves. The last ten minutes of my drive home last night was outlining the statistical probabilities of various scenarios.

This book is obviously very very long because Stephenson obviously wants to provide you with detailed knowledge of everything. Before the ways in which catastrophe could be handled (and, presumably, it won't be one of those, specifically) a character was moving through the station in what was apparently a narration of a map and the details of where everything is stored.

I don’t know that this is engaging in the way i want to be engaged. Also, many characters. Trying to track but it's hard in audio book form. The gender dynamics (faithfully reproduced) is a little triggering, i think, as well.

Maybe i'll restart Dawn to Decadence.
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Friday, November 27th, 2015 09:40 am
Two weeks of out of the usual activities! Travel led to much media consumption.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, via Audible. It took me a while to get used to Celeste Ciulla's reading performance. She was careful in her intonations as Breq, the AI, and I first found it off-putting. I slowly realized how valuable it was for me: i would have read Breq's speech rhythms as my own (as best fit the writing) and would have not had the somewhat alien experience. In retrospect, I deeply appreciate hearing the book read to me as enriching my experience. The theme of guilt and setting things right was quite engaging, particularly in a text that is aware of privilege, both of the reader's world and the created world . While the narrative ends with plenty of room to explore more of the universe, i'm not sure how led i am to follow Leckie in her further explorations.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, via Audible. Listening Length: 31 hours and 55 minutes.
I listened cross country, and i'm still in the pre-cataclysm period. I've found the Neil deGrasse Tyson character just a *touch* distracting. I hadn't put a name to the entrepreneur character. Other reviews say Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. Richard Branson came to my mind, although I think he has better people skills than the character in the book admits to having. I think i will listen at higher speed if i ever want to be finished with it.

Portal by Eric Flint & Ryk E Spoor, via Baen. This is the third in a trilogy that i did feel led to complete. (Perhaps because it was clearly a trilogy as opposed to a series.) Both the first book (Boundary) and Seveneves address the NASA vs corporate space flight question in a way that makes me wonder why it didn't seem to come up in The Martian. This third book continues, resolving the international (underhanded) competition narrative, and brings to a closure the arc of discovery. There's certainly MUCH room for the discovery to continue, and it nags at my mind: why would you leave now? But the narrative has a strong reason for the closure it provides. Indeed, i suspect it would take inhuman endurance for the characters to stay focussed on the discovery and not on their own physical needs (such as for some time in gravity!)

Valentine & Hart Books by Missy Meyer, via Kindle. I found her husband's kinda Mary Sue-ish Magic 2.0 series to be peasant geeky diversions, so i thought i would give this series a try. It's a fun conceit, and the "bad misleading government" narrative might give way to something with a bit more grey, but i don't think i will read any more in the series.

Tanyth Fairport Adventures, by Nathan Lowell, via Kindle. Unlike the Valentine & Hart series, i will read more of Nathan Lowell's Tanyth Fairport. Clearly set in a familiar context where women have gendered restrictions, the narrative provides for those women to be recognized by me as having strength, wisdom, and creativity without the addition of the supernatural. The supernatural is introduced, but in a world where the magic is expected to have been in the past. I look forward to the unfolding of how Tanyth comes to understand her experience. I enjoyed Lowell's Solar Clipper Trader Tales a great deal, particularly due to his attention to the practical details. I joked about how many times in the Solar Clipper tales that characters put their coffee cups into the dishwasher. Here, too, characters do dishes and attend to mundane practicalities in a way that seems natural to the narrative and delightful to this reader.

2001: Space Odyssey : It leaked out to Christine i'd never seen this. Thus, last night we watched. There were a multitude of places where visual designs reminded me of other movies (Star Wars), movies made after this one came out. That, and some of the visions of the past-future, were fun to reflect upon. Ma Bell videophone booths were entertaining, after using FaceTime a short time before with my sister's family. Paper instead of tablets, the formal dress of scientists (insert hilarity here). The inside of the earth to space station shuttle plane looked like the insides of current airplanes -- except empty. The lack of crowds and noise and bustle in the concourse and the empty spaceliner seats to the space station seem implausible. (The cost of extras, i wondered?) I often think of movies as being short stories: this seemed more like a poem. The last 25 minutes or so has a great deal of visual special effects. I wish i knew how it felt to see those effects in a world where they were done prior to computer animation. (It's similar to my wish to know what it felt like to experience the opening notes of Led Zeppelin I's Good Times Bad Times) The color palette and different effects are now familiar from Tron , Doctor Who, and countless other movies and shows. What did it feel like to be in a dark movie theatre to see that for the first time?
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Sunday, November 1st, 2015 02:42 pm
DELIGHTFUL: http://www.tor.com/2015/09/01/excerpts-sorcerer-to-the-crown-zen-cho/

I finished the audio book version of Sorcerer to the Crown last night. The Regency magic politics is charming and delightful. The main characters each have a quality of otherness that both drives the tension of the narrative as well as deepens the experience. The author describes one of the characters as "not particularly nice," and i initially bristle. Yet, when i look at my bristling i realize that this is Zen's point: when women aren't "nice" there is a price they pay -- but good heavens, we all know that "nice" is a trap.

Slipped into myself there for a moment.


Last night in the baylands. I'd been captivated by the way the Russian Thistle caught the fading light the night before, so we went out again to get the shot.

I gave it a try at least.

I've been very aware of the holiday, taking it in my contemplative stride. Very little of the candy and tricksters entered into our weekend.

Baseball, though. We have the MLB subscription and are watching the games the next day. We seem to miraculously be missing the scores and are enjoying just as much as if we were watching live. More so, actually: watching when we want to and being able to pause is pleasant. I should admit, Christine is mainly watching, and i'm present while it plays.
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Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 06:37 am
Thanks to Joe Decker via Facebook, I have read a fascinatingly creepy sf short story via my library's subscription to EBSCO.

Start with http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2015/09/finding-hugo-worthy-short-fiction.html to understand what the site is doing.
Then find http://www.rocketstackrank.com/p/magazines.html#LibraryAccess to discover the various ways to access the magazines.
Then off to http://www.rocketstackrank.com/search/label/Ratings to find the stories.

What i find interesting is that the analysis shows Asimov's stories declining in the award finalists, yet, of the eight stories with a five ranking, four are from Asimov's.

Lightspeed seems agreeably accessible (collections of issues sold as eBooks) however.

Not like i spend much time with fiction these days.
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Monday, September 28th, 2015 12:50 pm
In light of the -- SQUEEE -- surface water (brine) on Mars paper, i did some reading about the Atacama Desert (thanks ArsTechnica). An excellent overview paper is

Azua-Bustos, Armando, Catalina Urrejola, and Rafael Vicuña. “Life at the Dry Edge: Microorganisms of the Atacama Desert.” FEBS Letters 586, no. 18 (August 2012): 2939–45. doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2012.07.025.

Google maps supports visits, with some local photos and Wikipedia has many articles of varying brevity regarding features of the desert.

The most delightful thing i learned is how algae and other bacteria form colonies under quartz rock. (Domes!) The quartz transmits some light, cuts out the UV that zaps many bacteria with in days at the altitude, and provides a surface for fog condensation.

Oh, and the algae that live on spiderwebs in some of the caves in the "twilight zone."

Read more... )
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Friday, May 1st, 2015 07:02 pm
Junco keeps visiting the deck as if expecting Beltane festivities.

Hummer visiting the scented geranium. Christine speculates it's wondering about the amazing heating pad.

Finished graphic ... novel? ... The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. More cogs and footnotes than I imagined possible. Truth and fiction dancing together to the progressive chunk-a-chunk of steam powered machinery and the chattering rise and fall of Victorian gossip.

(Hummingbird battle!)

I'm also enjoying Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose by Naomi Shihab Nye again. It was like finding a box of fabulous chocolates unfinished (without the sad dusty bloom old chocolate gets). I can imagine that poetry does go stale, but this poetry has not.

(I think there are three hummers fighting now.)
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Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 06:59 am
Last night we watched the documentary on James Cameron's expedition to the bottom of Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench. There were critters and, while the camera gazed lovingly at them for moments, the narrative quickly skipped over any details. The focus was on the expedition itself, which was interesting from an engineering project management point of view and from a human interest point of view. Project management: really? You schedule the ship to arrive before the submersible is ready? Oh to have the edited footage that the scientists analyzed for critters and just gaze at the depths for an hour or so!


Does the website from National Geographic link to scientific papers about the trip? No. Are there papers? Yes. I read the paper about the community patterns last night. I found the microbial mats paper this morning. There were also big -- giant! -- amoeba called xenophyophores - i hope to find a paper on them.

I delight in Google Image search as an assist when reading that scientists prior to the trip "identified several distinctive features that characterize hadal communities including a) dominance of certain groups like the actinians, polychaetes, isopods, amphipods, echiurids, and holothurians, b) lower representation of non-holothurian echinoderms, c) insignificance or lack of fish and decapod crustaceans and d) mass-occurrence of holothurians at maximal trench depths."

I'm realizing that these days i read fewer books but delight in reading various science papers as topics catch my interest. Instead of book lists, i now use Zotero to collect the citations for both the professional documents and my diversionary reading. A browser plug in, Lazy Scholar, helps me find full text on occasion, although this morning i note that it can't find the full text of the paper presented in full on the Science Direct website. I will blame Elsevier (which always produces a satisfying sense of self righteousness).

Off i go to day two of the internet identity workshop, hoping to return this evening not feeling exhausted by the pressure of so many people talking and presenting myself as a competent being. I am tired of feeling so tired, which does seem a depression symptom.

Cameron, James. Deepsea Challenge. National Geographic Entertainment, 2014.

Gallo, Natalya D., James Cameron, Kevin Hardy, Patricia Fryer, Douglas H. Bartlett, and Lisa A. Levin. “Submersible- and Lander-Observed Community Patterns in the Mariana and New Britain Trenches: Influence of Productivity and Depth on Epibenthic and Scavenging Communities.” Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 99 (May 2015): 119–33. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2014.12.012.

Munroe, Munroe. Lakes and Oceans. Webcomic, April 9, 2012. http://xkcd.com/1040/large/.

Nunoura, Takuro, Yoshihiro Takaki, Miho Hirai, Shigeru Shimamura, Akiko Makabe, Osamu Koide, Tohru Kikuchi, et al. “Hadal Biosphere: Insight into the Microbial Ecosystem in the Deepest Ocean on Earth.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, no. 11 (March 17, 2015): E1230–36. doi:10.1073/pnas.1421816112.
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Saturday, March 28th, 2015 08:34 am
My resting yesterday was enforced by the fortuitous arrival of the ebook copy of Polychrome by Ryk E Spoor, as a kickstarter reward. It was just what the doctor ordered, and kept me still, removing awareness of my cold, for hours. I'm not familiar with Oz beyond the MGM movie, and found myself comfortably introduced to a new universe. How much was Spoor and how much was Baum? I don't know. I get the sense that the connection to the Norse worlds is Spoor's, and i enjoyed that. The book currently has an April 8 Release date per kickstarter.

This morning we have bright blue skies with wispy clouds. There's a family of crows nesting near by, again, which means we will have a rowdy gang of youngster crows later this summer. They make for entertaining if loud neighbors.
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Monday, February 23rd, 2015 12:58 pm
Morgan, Colleen. “Where Are the Female Contemporary Archaeologists?” Middle Savagery. Accessed February 23, 2015. https://middlesavagery.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/where-are-the-female-contemporary-archaeologists/.

Todd, Zoe. “An Indigenous Feminist’s Take on the Ontological Turn: ‘ontology’ Is Just Another Word for Colonialism (Urbane Adventurer: Amiskwacî).” Uma (in)certa Antropologia. Accessed February 23, 2015. http://umaincertaantropologia.org/2014/10/26/an-indigenous-feminists-take-on-the-ontological-turn-ontology-is-just-another-word-for-colonialism-urbane-adventurer-amiskwaci/.

So, for every time you want to cite a Great Thinker who is on the public speaking circuit these days, consider digging around for others who are discussing the same topics in other ways. Decolonising the academy, both in europe and north america, means that we must consider our own prejudices, our own biases. Systems like peer-review and the subtle violence of european academies tend to privilege certain voices and silence others. -- Zoe Todd