Monday, May 02, 2016

Some links and a rant

NASA is trying to grow potatoes on Mars. According to a Wall Street Journal article, scientists are trying to find a potato that will grow at cold and low-pressure conditions, and is also good for food. Of course, they can't grow in the open air on Mars:

the temperature averages minus 84 degrees Fahrenheit, with lows of minus 284 degrees, according to NASA. It has high levels of radiation and over 60% less gravity than Earth. Its atmosphere has 96% carbon dioxide, with only a tiny amount of oxygen. Then there are the dust storms and salty water.
Still, to test the soil conditions, scientists are planting crops in soil from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in southern Peru. If the tests are successful, then a simulator will be made that mimics the conditions the plants would endure in a dome on Mars.

When I first read this headline: Wolverines Are Now Being Trained to Find Avalanche Survivors, I thought it was some sort of Marvel Comics promotion. D'oh. No, it's an actual effort to use wolverines, the actual animals, to hunt for people in avalanches. Wolverines are small, smart, and work well in the snow. The trick is getting the wolverines to imprint on humans soon after birth, as well as breeding them in captivity.

My friend Michael Sensei went spelunking and took some photos and video of Yugen Cave. Makes me want to head up to Bellingham and visit that cave I went to with friends once.

Children have been doodling all throughout time. I love these scraps of art by a 7-year-old boy named Onfim living in 13th century Novgorod, Russia.

Optical illusions are not universal, which was a surprise to me. There's a couple of examples of how people perceive illusions differently in the article. Be sure to read the comments, lots of insight and some corrections there.

This documentary sounds fantastic. I wish I lived near enough to an IMAX theater to go see it.

George R. R. Martin has an epic response to a writer who thinks, for some bizarre reason, that because Martin once purchased a story from him that Martin must therefore love everything that writer has ever written. The reasoning is so twisted and wrong it hardly bears giving any thought to, but Martin calmly and completely demolishes it and the writer (who, incidentally called Martin a liar, to boot). Nicely done, Martin.

Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens has a round-up of people's responses to being included on this year's rabid puppies slate. Many asked to be removed and were not. Some support the rabids. Because this year the rabids included "human shields" in their slate, the overall situation is much more complicated than last year, in which a near-total rejection of the slate was reasonable, as very few of the nominations were Hugo-worthy. This year the rabids included works that would certainly have made it to the final ballot... but other good works were still kicked off. Voters are going to have to decide if it's more important to them to punish the slate or more important that a good work get the Hugo. It will not be an easy choice.

One last Hugo rant after the fold. Feel free to skip it.

It's curious to me that people are upset at my schadenfreude regarding folks offended by the Worldcon asterisks.

First of all, I'm a nobody. I had nothing to do with the asterisks. I got one to support the cause Gerrold was raising money for and as a memento of the first Hugos I voted in. That's my only link. As for my career: I'm not a successful writer, popular reviewer or even a well-known fan. I'm a big-mouth with a blog. A nobody. My opinions matter just as little as the average person on the street.

Second, the intent of the asterisks was never to offend. The fact that some people took it that way shows a lot more about them than it does about the people who created the asterisks. In retrospect, it could have been handled gentler, true, but the asterisks themselves are wooden coasters made by robots with lasers. The asterisks honor Terry Pratchet's legacy (and tendency to put asterisks with footnotes in his work) while serving as an acknowledgement that the 2015 Hugos were not normal. Taking offense at a coaster? Wow. Thin-skinned indeed. I hope nobody gives them a souvenir plate or something.

Third, the vast majority of fandom suffered a much greater and more painful indignity at the hands of the puppies. The puppies intent was to offend, unlike Gerrold and the asterisks. The puppies set out to purposefully hurt other fans in pursuit of their notion of "fairness"... in which they take all the prizes because no one else's idea of what is "good" is valid. I took offense at "Wisdom from My Internet", which was not science fiction or fantasy and should never have been on the ballot, and yet 236 people nominated it and 491 people voted for it to cause as much offense as possible.

But let's faint and cry over the offense caused by a wooden coaster.

I am not a nice person. I've never claimed to be a nice person. And I can't help it if I feel schadenfreude when people who hurt me and my fandom, people who constantly insult me and call me names, who claim my tastes are awful because I supposedly don't like the same things they do - when those people are hurt in turn by something that their own actions brought to pass. I'm supposed to pity them? If I were a saint, sure, but I'm not. I'm a normal human being who is tired of being called "SJW", "CHORF" and whatever other nonsense the self-described "puppies" can come up with. And so, yeah, I don't feel any pity for those who were involved in the puppies actions, even those who later tried to distance themselves from those actions, if they were hurt by the asterisks. Lay down with mutts, don't complain about your flea bites.

Nor do I feel pity for people who benefited from the puppies slates last year. They became a Hugo nominee by gaming the system and almost all of them did not deserve the spot on the final ballot. By the time the Hugo ceremony rolled around, those people should have been aware that they'd gotten their place on the ballot through dishonesty. Did they really think that fandom, which is made up of a lot of people with lots of different, but strongly-held opinions, was going to just automatically respect them? After they willingly went along with the puppies? There's a reason the people who withdrew from the final ballots, even after deadline, are respected - while those who stayed on the ballot are not. Denying a place on the final ballot to a deserving work (that didn't game the system) caused, and causes, a great deal more offense and hurt than some thin-skinned folk got from a wooden coaster.

So yeah, no pity. I'm sorry some fans treated some of the puppies nominees badly in person. But after those nominees encouraged and supported the destruction of the 2015 Hugos by participating in gaming the system, then failed to withdraw their nomination when the extent of the damage became clear, I can't feel sorry when those same nominees take offense at a wooden asterisk that wasn't even meant to be offensive, only to acknowledge the events of the year.

If I were a better person, I could feel regret over it. But I'm not, and I won't. Fortunately, my opinion is almost meaningless in this. I'm a nobody. The person whose opinion actually matters, David Gerrold, apologized. He's a much better person than I am, regardless of how often he claims he's a curmudgeon. Pay attention to him, not me. I'm just a loud-mouthed fan with a blog.