My job search is going much better in my dreams than in real life. I've had two very vivid dreams about jobs now, one a few days ago and one early this morning after a restless night of almost no sleep.
Tuesday, May 03, 2016
Monday, May 02, 2016
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.
Sunday, May 01, 2016
Black Gate declines a Hugo Nomination for the second year in a row. They graciously withdrew themselves from consideration last year, and they've done the same this year. However, I believe that they may have gotten on the ballot fair-and-square this year. I know I nominated them, in part because I paid attention last year and knew who they were because of their stance.
They claim they didn't have a chance to win. I dispute that. While File 770 is a great fanzine, Black Gate certainly would have been right up there too. And nobody can accuse them of being anything other than a "poison pill" or "human shield" put up by the rabids.
While I'm disappointed, I also respect them for this choice. I hope they reap the benefits of trying their best to be worthy of fandom's support.
For the record, I think that's two of the rabid's slate nominees that have declined to be puppy chow: Black Gate and Thomas Mays.
TV this week:
- The Flash: "Back to Normal" - Barry has to deal with what happened in the previous episode, while Harrison hunts for his daughter. This episode is about heroism and doing what is right, and it pulls together a lot of plot points to find the souls of a couple of our characters. Barry will always be a hero. Harrison will always try to trick and lie to get around problems. It's just how this world works. Add in the other side, with Zoom, and there's something even more interesting going on. Zoom has needs, and it's not clear how he's going to fill those needs. The freak-of-the-week was a sad little story, as well. Put together, it was a solid episode.
- Arrow: "Canary Cry" - Lots of flashbacks in this episode, but none to the island, thank goodness. With comics, death is really hard to take seriously, as we've already learned in this show. And nothing at all made that more clear than Lance's certainty that this death could be reversed. Also interesting was the mayor's attempt to get killed. What was she playing at? Clearly there's an endgame that Ollie can't see. The show has set up impossible odds to overcome, so it's going to be a strange ride to find out how this storyline plays out.
- Legends of Tomorrow: "Leviathan" - This had the feel of a final episode, not the fourth-to-last episode. The crew is running out of time thanks to their removal of themselves from the timestream, and so they go after Savage in the one place he's absolutely certain to be. And they fail. Well, that's yet to be completely determined, but yeah, they don't quite succeed, which is why there are three more episodes. Highlights of this one? The giant robot battle, which frankly was so silly it worked. Snart being all Snarty. Seriously, I think I'm falling in love with this version of Captain Cold. Rory's remarks. The way they weaponize the bracelet. What didn't work... why didn't the refugees simply flee the ship? Why didn't she tell Savage "they took the bracelet from me as soon as they captured me", which was the truth, instead of lying? And how, exactly, did Savage pull that mind-trick? It doesn't make sense to me. So, not bad, but not entirely satisfying, either.
DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
- Mar 23rd
- Doctor Who 4th #1 - This issue immediately had the feel of a Sarah Jane Adventures to me... but with it's own twists, obviously. I love the Doctor's response to the professor's big revelation. I wonder if the professor will get a chance to really travel in time? There's not been enough story to really judge this yet, but so far it's promising.
- Doctor Who 10th #2.7 - Ah, a conclusion of sorts with a massive secret that is carried on to the next issue. Lovely. My biggest complaint with this issue, and the book in general recently, has been the expansion of the cast. I can't keep track of all the characters, which has been annoying. Even so, the book managed to hold together well and keep me going. I like the Doctor sneaking away with his companions at the end. Very like him. So, yeah, a good issue.
- Doctor Who 11th #2.7 - Breaking into jail, breaking out of jail... I really want to know what The Squire is now. She's not what she thinks she is, but she's totally awesome, so where did she come from and what is her future? Abslom is pretty funny in this one, but he's going to need to be let loose on the bad guys soon, or the Doctor is going to regret it.
- Mar 30th
- Aquaman #50 - This is a very different Garth than the hip kid who grew up with Robin in the Teen Titans and went to school in Scotland. I have some issues with him being that clueless, especially as Titans Hunt reveals he was a member of that group once... but then again, maybe the memory wipe took out everything he knew about the surface world. A bit odd, nonetheless. As for Mera, her comment about ridiculous garments made them a little easier to handle for me. Originally I was very upset that she was dressing up as Aquaman, but I guess if it's a media persona thing I might be able to endure it. The federal agents were a nice, funny touch to the story. The capture was... wow. A puddle. Very cool. And the press conference was fine, I guess. But how do you handle a man who will transform into a monster with a little water added? Instant Monster, just add water.
- Justice League of America #8 - On the one hand, yay Aquaman with his trident. On the other hand, boo for Rao for killing lots of innocents by using up their life forces. Wonder Woman's frustration at not being able to finish him was interesting too. I'll never be able to hear "Great Rao!" again without thinking about this storyline.
- Back to the Future #6 - First part of a multi-parter that takes place after all the movies. I'm not surprised Marty is a little bored after all his adventures, but I am a little surprised at the plot twist that wakes him up and gets him going. I think I've enjoyed the prequel stories more, but this isn't a bad little tale.
Short story reviews:
- "The Birth Will Take Place on a Mutually Acceptable Research Vessel" by Matthew Bailey (Lightspeed Magazine Apr. 2016). It takes a little while to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Not too long. Putting aside the obvious problems with a cross-species birth of any sort, this story gets down into the nitty-gritty of what it might be like to be the first in a dangerous new situation. It's a lovely little story, ultimately happy. Not a bad read at all.
- "Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise" by Ken Scholes (Lightspeed Magazine Apr. 2016). My first thought after reading this was that I hoped he'd written more about this universe. Turns out, yup, this is his universe. I'm going to go seek out the novels now, since this is a great little introduction to this world. I'm curious to see what will happen to the characters and how the story evolves. However, this also works very well as a standalone story of a man making decisions to try to save as much as possible after a disaster. Definitely worth checking out.
- "Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands" by Seanan McGuire (Uncanny Magazine Issue 10). Wow, this is a really depressing story. Even more depressing when you realize just how stupid the mistake was and how easily it could be fixed by someone just asking the right questions or clarifying. I disagree that this is about actions having consequences... it's more about making sure you understand before you take action. I'm afraid this one will probably give me nightmares. Yikes.
- "The Sound of Salt and Sea" by Kat Howard (Uncanny Magazine Issue 10) - That's one fantastic world there, where the dead come back to walk among the living and the living both endure and enjoy it. This story set up a nice conflict, with the funeral customs and the need for a person to make sure the dead go back where they belong. What I think I'm trying to say is the world-building is excellent. Beyond that, it's a solid story with a satisfying beginning and end, and I enjoyed it a lot. Recommended.
Fortean Times #338 (March 2016). I've never been a huge David Bowie fan, nor have I ever disliked him. Until recently, he was only on the edge of my radar, not a major figure in my life or thoughts. Then a character based on him was introduced in the Doctor Who comic, and I started to look a little deeper, only to learn about his new album... then his death. That said, the cover of this issue has almost no impact on me except that I find it to be slightly creepy, but the subject otherwise is one I'm mildly interested in. The article itself covers a lot of ground, talking about his occult interests and how UFOs affected his ideas. I definitely get the sense that he was a complicated person, trying to reinvent himself constantly, but always willing to go back and re-examine. I just hope he found peace somewhere in all that madness.
The second feature article of the magazine is about a series of strange UFO reports. The Magonia Exchange, a group on online researchers using archived newspapers to hunt for interesting stories, uncovered this case and use it in the article as a way of explaining how the work of hunting down the origins of these stories happens. I love the detective work that goes into it, and I admit I ache to join them. If only I were independently wealthy and could spend my days as I wished!
The third feature is about the X-Files, a show I never watched in its original run, although I'm open to binge-watching it if I ever do become independently wealthy. The final article is about a Chilean island upon which a group of witches took control during that uncomfortable gap between self-rule and colonial attention.
Strangedays starts out with tales of Japanese taxi drivers picking up disappearing fares in the tsunami-devastated areas. There's a great photo of an "ancient Greek laptop" in a sculpture. I'd like a view from the top... is there a keyboard? Maybe then I'd think there was something to it. There's a nice round-up of stupid criminals and a report of people who can talk via whistling to communicate over long distances.
A few neat photos of cats grace the pages of strangedays, but I sincerely doubt the cats with the split coloring on their faces are chimaeras... If they are, there are a lot of them out there. I met one just like those photos just the other day here in town. There's also a bit on flat-earthers, who exist around the globe. Ha. And there's a round up of reports of people injured by meteor fragments.
The Conspirasphere has a scientific attempt to show how many people can keep a secret for how long, to prove that many/most of the more lunatic conspiracies can't possibly be true. As Noel Rooney points out, it's not going to convince anyone who already believes the world is ruled by lizards. Alien Zoo has a report on where the Loch Ness Monster might hide when people are scanning the loch. Um... right. There's also some very large worms and a bleached giraffe.
Ghostwatch is basically a review that rips apart a recent TV drama about Harry Price, then explains what it got wrong and why it's so horrible to his memory and to the concept of ghost hunters in general. Mythconceptions takes on the concept of body language, and how to tell if people are lying by the way their eyes move. Fairies and Folklore is about Bogey Beasts. The UFO Files continues to look at Rendlesham Forest.
Strange Statesmen goes over the wall and into the realm of the utterly insane. I'm not really sure what to think of this one. The Illustrated Police News is about a man who fasted for a living. Yeah, that's right, he stopped eating while on display and drew crowds and made a bunch of money. Until it fell out of favor with the masses. Phenomenomix is about, surprise, David Bowie.
A special report focuses on John Dee's library, an exhibit at the Royal College of Physicians in London. I'd love to go check it out, but I think that's a bit beyond my means. The Forum starts with a tale of what might possibly be considered mass hysteria by a bunch of boys at a church camp. The much more interesting piece, however, is the story of trying to figure out how big a cat was in some video... the results surprised the researchers, who definitely learned a lesson about judging size from what you see without much context on a video screen.
Reviews has more than one book I want to read, starting with a book about redheads and moving on to a book on Tesla. I'm also kind of interested in the Hitchcock interview documentary. The letters are lovely, and there's a full page of trees that looks like faces. I'm also happy with It Happened to Me, which has a piece that reminds me of the phantom footsteps I heard on a sleepover with my best friend as a child. Not much to say about that experience, except we thought it was her brother sneaking up on us, but when we turned on the lights, no one was there.
This was a pretty good issue of my favorite magazine. If you have an open mind and a very odd sense of humor, this is definitely the magazine for you.
Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman. This is an intriguing look at the scholarship of the New Testament, and what was changed by scribes over the years. The author even gives some reasoning why those changes might have been made. The scholarship within the book is fascinating and engaging, explaining changes without passing judgement on them. However, Ehrman apparently insulted a lot of people with his personal preface and the final thoughts, in which he declares that he believes the New Testament could not have been divinely inspired because if it was, it would have been divinely preserved instead of being allowed to be corrupted. It's a valid opinion, but one that enrages people who have spent their entire lives believing in a divinely inspired Book, meaning a lot of people have attempted to discredit Ehrman's entire book because of his opinion. Which is silly. The vast majority of the book is simply an explanation of Biblical scholarship.
Leaving off whether or not I agree with Ehrman's conclusions, the explanations are top-notch. This is how a writer needs to explain a complicated problem to a normal person. Ehrman excels at grabbing a specific example and using it to carefully peel away the layers of mistakes or misquotes to find what might have been the original text. He explains the different types of mistakes that scribes make, and notes that the vast majority of changes were unintentional - misspellings and the like. But they are changes nonetheless, and for a guy who came up through the born-again-every-word-in-the-Bible-is-divinely-inspired world, Ehrman says finding even typos in the Bible was an eye opening experience for him. As I come from a tradition that says the Bible has been altered significantly over the centuries, the notion had far less of an impact on me. I expect to see differences and changes, so much of Ehrman's book cemented my own understanding of the New Testament.
I was a little taken aback by some of the ideas, particularly about how to determine if a source is closer to the original. A lot of those bits were things I hadn't really thought about, so some of it was strange to me. Then there's the idea of hunting down original manuscripts. It actually puts the Dead Sea Scrolls into a much clearer context for me. Any earlier source of documents of the New Testament is a good thing, as it brings us closer to the originals.
There's also a good section on the different forces within early Christianity that made scribes remove or add bits to support their own theories and beliefs. From heretic groups within the religion to people who hated Christianity from without, the writings themselves sometimes reflected the problems of the times through the alterations. Ehrman makes some interesting cases for things that are and aren't original to the texts of various scriptures. He also makes a good case that the first four books are presenting entirely different stories of Jesus, based on their author's own beliefs and intents, and that reading all four testaments as if they agree with one another is a false reading. I definitely see where he's coming from on that notion.
Ehrman also has a theory about reading, which is the finale of his book. His notion is that every reader brings themself into any work. Every existing work is interpreted differently by different people simply due to our own experiences. Thus, no single reading is correct and no single reading is wrong. It reminds me of Bujold's essay on loving early Star Trek, and how the viewers of the original show worked to bring their own interpretation to it. People watching plays fill in the bits that can't be seen on stage. People reading a text fill in gaps and descriptions from what they already know and have experienced. It's how we enjoy works. And because of that, people read the same thing and get different meanings from it. The result in the time of the early scribes is that sometimes the scribe wrote what they thought the text meant instead of copying it exactly. Which should have been a no-no, but it wasn't always intentional change. It still resulted in something different being passed down than the original author meant.
If you are a person who believes the Bible is the un-alterable Word of God, then you are probably going to be either offended or depressed by this book. Considering the impact of the Bible on the Western World, anyone else should find it a very interesting look at how the New Testament came to be. I recommend it.
Saturday, April 30, 2016
My friend Lou Anders has had a short story published in Boys Life. I used to steal my brother's Boys Life magazines and read all the fiction and cartoons before he even got a chance to glance at them. I still want to read the entire comic adaptation of the Tripods trilogy... I never saw the whole thing.
Ancient footprints are already pretty cool artifacts, but now they are even cooler since professional trackers have been brought in to make sense of them. I love this type of history story... looking at a problem from a different, yet totally obvious, direction.
How about a tale of a very long-running experiment? I've heard of some experiments that have been going for many years, but this is a bit of a surprise. Seeds in bottles, buried in an effort to see how long the seeds would last.
So, Free Comic Book Day is coming. Here's some sneak peeks of Doctor Who comics. I need to figure out what comics we already ordered from DCBS so I know which ones to get when Eric and I go to the store next week.
I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading a book the other night/morning. I haven't done that for ages because I've been too responsible to risk being dead at work, for all the good it did me. But I really enjoyed the book and will be writing about it soon, probably not for tomorrow's reviews, but maybe next Sunday. It was Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon, and I strongly recommend it for any young woman, ages 8-18, who isn't very princess-y or girly and likes snakes and slugs and dirt and work. It's very good.
David Gerrold has a post about Hugo asterisks. I just want to say, the asterisks were there the instant the puppies gamed the Hugos. Putting them into physical form didn't make it any worse, since the damage was already done. On the contrary, the asterisks let some of us have a physical memento of their first time voting in the Hugos (me!) and raised money for a worthy cause. The people who were hurt by the asterisks deserved to be hurt because they are the ones who put the asterisk there in the first place by gaming the Hugo nominations. The fact that they still don't get it only proves the point. And it still amazes me that they are stupid enough to think that people gamed the Hugos before they did. The utter willful ignorance of the puppies is astounding.
Below the fold, depressing stories...
Friday, April 29, 2016
Thursday, April 28, 2016
I'm not feeling it. Usually I had to force myself through the block and write regardless, then hopefully have enough time to edit whatever I produced into something worth reading. But I don't have to do that anymore, do I? Until I get another job, I can simply not write when I'm not in the mood, which is somewhat rare.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Promising new treatment for leukemia. I hope this one pans out, but I do wonder about the patients who didn't have a positive response to it.
Here's a creepy tale of a mysterious body found after the Blitz in Liverpool.
Ancient Engineering So Advanced It Is Like Magic. I'd read about these before, but this Metafilter post brings the links together nicely. Ancient Peruvian wells served as part of an irrigation system to use wind power to drive water where it needed to go. Wow.
Atlas Obscura looks at some folks on American money. There are definitely some interesting individuals whose portraits were on currency!
Check out this way cool tale of Victorians who nearly got themselves killed by flying too high in a balloon. In their defense, they really had no clue what they would face up there.
How about a bit of girl power before I get into depressing topics?
Once again, anti-vaxxers are risking the lives of their children from complications of measles because they think they understand science better after 20 minutes of Googling than people who have been studying it all their lives. Measles was eradicated from the U.S. more than a decade ago, but because of anti-vaxxers, it keeps being brought back. If they knew what vaccines were preventing - if they only knew the pain and suffering of "childhood diseases" - those anti-vaxxers would be ashamed of themselves. But they don't, and the only way they are going to learn is when their own children suffer and die from preventable diseases, which is horrible and unfair to the innocent children. It's a pity the anti-vaxxers, who were vaccinated by their parents, won't be the ones to suffer instead.
And my other pet peeve: a woman is forced out of a hotel's public bathroom by male police officers (youtube link) because she doesn't fit their stereotype of "female" (warning, strong language in the video). She should sue that hotel. I spent half my life being told I looked like a boy because I wore baggy clothing and kept my hair cut short. Having a security guard throw me out of the bathroom while I was waiting in line would have been an absolute nightmare for me. This woman said, in comments on a post of the video, that this happened at the Freemont Hotel Lobby bathroom, "not the casino" (so I'm assuming it's in Las Vegas, maybe?) and that she wasn't expecting to have to show ID to use the restroom. Usually she just assures people she's female and that's enough. In addition, she had friends with her, so no one would be stupid enough to just assume she was male, right? Ha. The security guard with his "papers, please" attitude was disgusting. Her word alone should have been enough, but with several other women vouching for her, the fact that they threw her out is obscene. We aren't Nazi Germany and people are NOT required to carry ID with them everywhere. At least not yet. And, by the way, she looks and sounds female to me.
Obviously, I'm going to be a little obsessed with the Hugos for a bit. Even if I was still working full-time, I'd want to comment on the situation. With a little more time to spare (although job hunting is extremely time-consuming and annoying) I can say a little more.
Let's start with a report this morning that a finalist has withdrawn after realizing that the slate he willingly participated in ran the whole category. You can check out the effect the slates had on the final lists at File 770, which had some problems last night and crashed.
George R. R. Martin has weighed in on the situation. I think there's an admission in there that simply getting more people to nominate isn't going to work. He, like me, was optimistic that a larger turnout could counter the effects of the slates. While that may have worked in some categories, the rabid slates ran multiple categories anyway. I firmly believe now that EPH and, yeah, maybe 4-6, are the only way to fix the nominating process to keep people from gaming it.
The rabids this year pulled a nasty dirty trick... they picked a number of works that were likely to be nominated and put them on the slate. My guess is they think this means they can claim victory either way. If their "choice" is awarded the Hugo, they say, "Look, we nominated it!" while if it's no-awarded, they can say, "Ha, you hate your own favorites!" In addition, if the creator's withdraw their work, the rabid morons can say, "We got another SJW to quit, yay!" So there is no victory situation for non-puppies in their eyes... except.
Except I never looked at the slates before I nominated, and I put Penric's Demon on the "Best Novella" list, so I'm going to vote for it regardless of the slate. The Sandman: Overture was likely to make the cut anyway. Why wouldn't I vote for it? In the end, if those works that were likely to make it anyway get the Hugo, the rabids won't have won because they hate those works. So there is a victory situation for non-puppies... vote on merit and not because something did or did not appear on a slate.
That said, I will not read any of the crap from the rabid puppies vanity press this year. I just won't do it. If a work was published by the organizer of the rabid puppies slate, I will know not to bother with it. Not one of the things published by that press that I read last year was worth the time. I'm not going to put myself through it again. All of them will be left off my final ballot as "revenge" for making me read their crap last year.
This year I'm also excited to be working on the 1941 Retro Hugos... it's going to be a thrill to hunt some of those down. I'm a little concerned about a couple of the categories, particularly fanzine, and I hope there's something in the packet about those. The movies will be good movie night with hubby fodder, so I'm looking forward to hunting them down.
Ok, time to get to work on the job hunt.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
BEST NOVEL (3695 ballots)
BEST NOVELLA (2416 ballots)
BEST NOVELETTE (1975 ballots)
BEST SHORT STORY (2451 ballots)
BEST RELATED WORK (2080 ballots)
BEST GRAPHIC STORY (1838 ballots)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM) (2904 ballots)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM) (2219 ballots)
BEST EDITOR – SHORT FORM (1891 ballots)
BEST EDITOR – LONG FORM (1764 ballots)
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST (1481 ballots)
BEST SEMIPROZINE (1457 ballots)
BEST FANZINE (1455 ballots)
BEST FANCAST (1267 ballots)
BEST FAN WRITER (1568 ballots)
BEST FAN ARTIST (1073 ballots)
JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER (1922 ballots)
* Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.
For the record, nine of my nominations are finalists.
The finalists are in for the Retro-Hugos, and here's the full list:
BEST NOVEL (352 ballots)
BEST NOVELLA (318 ballots)
BEST NOVELETTE (310 ballots)
BEST SHORT STORY (324 ballots)
BEST GRAPHIC STORY (92 ballots)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM) (250 ballots)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM) (123 ballots)
BEST EDITOR ‐ SHORT FORM (183 ballots)
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST (117 ballots)
Note: Category has 6 finalists due to a tie for 5th place.
BEST FANZINE (63 ballots)
BEST FAN WRITER (70 ballots)
Monday, April 25, 2016
Maisie Williams crashes a Game of Thrones viewing party.
I do not want to travel on these bridges... Google Earth algorithms result in strange images thanks to texture mapping. These aren't actually glitches, they are the result of how the program looks at data.
I'm not sure I get the science behind using seawater for heating, but I'm happy to see an effort to reduce the use of fossil fuels. More here.
How about a little Flash? The Chronicles of Cisco, Part 1:
An Australian politician sets a river on fire to show that fracking isn't harmless. The only people who don't think fracking is dangerous and damaging are people who are profiting from it, apparently. It's causing massive pollution, seepage of methane, and even earthquakes. But the companies insist it's safe. Huh.
The first responses to Seattle's wage hikes ($12.50 an hour now, going up to $15 an hour by January 2018) are coming in, and prices just haven't changed. It's still far too soon to see the long-term impacts, but so far the prognosis is positive.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
No, I've only seen one or two episodes of the show. It's far too brutal for me to enjoy it. I have enough trouble getting through the books, where I can skip the violence mentally. But this is absolutely hilarious...
- Supergirl: "Myriad" - And we finally get to find out what Myriad actually is... and it's just as disappointing as I kind of expected. This episode in general had some really lame moments. Introduction of a "new" character, Kelly, just in time for her to be used as a pawn. The appearance of Superman for a brief moment, but oh so brief. Alex is extraordinarily stupid in this episode, making a choice that could only lead to heartache. And Cat's fashion choices have such a big impact? Despite all the many flaws, it was carried off by the cast, but it's still a bit pathetic.
- Supergirl: "Better Angels" - That is a totally unfair season cliffhanger. The rest was interesting enough. Ater the previous episode, it did an ok job of pulling the whole thing together and making something out of what was, at its heart, a pretty crappy storyline. The whole myriad thing was a total disappointment, as was the solution to the problem. I suspect it'll seem better in retrospect, but after just viewing the episode? Meh. I really wanted more from it. As usual, the cast is the only thing that saved the show, and the only reason I want to see more of it.
- Arrow: "Broken Hearts" - This is all about the relationship between Felicity and Oliver, moreso than any episode so far, and I seriously thought they were going to take the easy route and get them back together. The testimony of Captain Lance was impressive, but you can't help feeling there's going to be more trouble for him in the future thanks to it.
- Arrow: "Beacon of Hope" - You've got the ability to make these amazing mechanical bees and you somehow turn to crime instead of finding a way to cash in legally? And then, instead of saying, "let me join your team and go straight," you attack the one person who is most likely to be able to help you? I'm just feeling major "ug" over this one.
- Arrow: "Eleven-Fifty-Nine" - Depressing, especially that final shot. This show is often way too dark for me, this episode in particular left me cold.
- The Flash: "Versus Zoom" - A pretty good info-dump episode, filling in the back-story and making the whole Zoom thing make sense. Of course, the ending was a massive letdown, and we still don't know who the prisoner in the mask is. I'm a little curious how Zoom got back to his own world with Wally. Wouldn't he be stuck unless Cisco opened another portal? And speaking of Cisco, what a twist. He's got a whole lot of potential, but he's also remembering what happened to his other self. I would have expected him to embrace his abilities, but instead he was deliberately shying away. Nicely played by the writers.
- Legends of Tomorrow: "Left Behind" - The relationship between Ray and Kendra is deeply interesting, if only because of all the interference it is getting from both sides. Then there is Sara. She's really not thinking straight. But it was nice to see Ra's al Ghul again. And Talia? Wow. But the biggest shock was the identity of Chronos and how Snart freed himself. Yikes. This was an intense episode from start to finish, packed with stuff.
- Legends of Tomorrow: "Progeny" - Per Degaton... yup. Heading into DC legends to find the biggest and baddest of the baddies for us to gasp about. This one also lets our heroes break loose again, with a nifty battle sequence. Overall, a pretty good episode, even if everything Rip does to the timeline seems to make things worse.
- Legends of Tomorrow: "The Magnificent Eight" - I really enjoyed this one, although it was a bit too much in places. I liked seeing Kendra meet with a former self, as well. Tragedy or heartbreak? We have to hope it's heartbreak. Rory's turnaround seems a bit abrupt, until his comment that he was only ever on his own side. I loved Snart's sharpshooting and Rip's reason for not getting involved. And I figured the kid was somebody famous, just didn't guess who.
- Legends of Tomorrow: "Last Refuge" - So time is something that is malleable, but then it sets, like cement. It wants to happen, but there are points at which things can be massively altered. It seems to me that altering the timeline in the way the assassin proposed to do it would cause much more disruption than what Rip and his buddies were up to. So, we've got a show that really is riddled with plot holes, some of them even intentional. But there's a decent cast and some fun moments, so I'll forgive most of it.
- Gotham: "Into the Woods" - I fear this one might stay with me longer than I like. In short, this was intensely horrible on the Penguin side, and terrifying on the Nygma side.
- Gotham: "Pinewood" - And the whole mystery is solved, more or less. I wonder what will happen now that the truth is out there? I knew the new character was doomed as soon as we met her, but I didn't expect what happened. It was nice to see 'The Lady' again, even if she's not as nuts as Missy. Overall, a decent episode, with a properly disturbing end.
DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
- Mar 16th
- Sinestro #21 - Hey, Aquaman is on the cover! He's not inside, that I could see, but that's ok. For once I sort of liked the issue. Soranik is still my favorite of the new DCU characters. She's going to have some tough times ahead, but that's what makes her interesting. I almost see Sinestro putting her in charge simply because she is more interesting than him, just to make sure his book keeps going. Huh. Am I falling for a super-villain gambit?
- Titans Hunt #6 - This issue was just a lot more filler. All of this could have been told quicker without losing much at all. Combine this issue and the previous two, and you'd have a nice, tight story. But this? It's the same thing padded out into a cliffhanger that's not a cliffhanger. All we have that's new is an info-dump, which could have been done in a couple of pages. I'm sorry, I want to like this book, it has Garth in it, but stop stretching stories.
- Astro City #33 - Steeljack isn't stupid, but I'm not entirely sure that this move was the smartest he could have taken to get to the source of the problem. Then again, maybe it worked? But the question of motive, why people would be killed, has not been sorted out. I have a guess, which I'll hide with rot-13: Vs gur ivyynvaf ner va gur arjf naq ovt anzrf, gura gur erfgnhenag jvyy qb orggre, znlor?
- Huck #5 - He acts like he isn't smart, but he's just very very cautious. And when he gets to situations where he no longer needs caution, well... all bets are off. I do like the sheer goodness between Huck and his mother. The sheer badness of their captors makes it easier to root for Huck, as well. I have very much enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to the next issue.
- Usagi Yojimbo #153 - Ah, cucumbers. This came directly after the previous story. I'm not sure how long this story takes, but I assume there was a period of recovery for Usagi after his injury, regardless of the healing. The kappa was interesting. I'm sure we've seen them before, but it was strange to learn of a truce between the villagers and the kappa based on the favorite food. And then to learn the flooding caused problems for more than just the humans.
- Doctor Who 8th #5 - And there's another story that comes to its conclusion. This was a pretty good little run, with an interesting companion introduced with a little mystery that was nicely solved. There's a bit of that "Gangers" vibe in this one, with the notion that scientifically created life can be as real as life that apparently springs up out of evolution/whatever. I don't know if we'll be getting any more of the adventures of Josie and the Doctor, but I'd like to see more of this pair. She's pretty good as a companion.
Fortean Times #33 (Autumn 1980). Honestly, I'm not fond of the cover to this one. It doesn't mean anything to me, and it's vaguely anxiety-inducing. I'm guessing there's some massive symbolism I'm missing, but I just don't like it.
That said, the contents are another story, of course. It's somewhat humbling to read the editorial, which is about the cash-flow problems of the magazine. The subscriptions are hovering at the 1000 mark... not bad for a little mag like this. The editorial says they want to double that, to 2000, so they can reach an even keel. Again, humbling for a person reading this nearly 36 years later with a deep love of the modern version of the magazine!
This issue jumps right into the letter column, and starts with a term I've never heard of for Urban Legends: "Whale Tumour" stories. The second letter references Oshspe: The Kosmon Bible, which I seriously thought for a minute was a joke. Hoax maybe, but the letter writer took it seriously. There's several more letters, including a suggestion to sell the cover art for cash, which wasn't possible because the cover art was returned to the artist, along with the copyright. Another letter rips into the Manna Machine book amusingly, while another talks about Mt St Helens, sort of.
The first feature article is about the Enfield Poltergeist by one of the witnesses, Guy Lyon Playfair. He has some theories about polts and what might cause them, but it's pretty clear from his article that he firmly believes there's something going on there beyond mere hoaxing, and he makes a pretty good case for it. I'm sure this is one of those situations that I can't really "believe" in until I've experienced it, and from what he's written, I absolutely do not want to experience it. So I'll accept that he believed it to be real and move on to the next topic...
Which is an article about the similarities between reports by UFO abductees/witnesses. There's some interesting speculation about the true nature of such reports, but I'm slightly disappointed that more than 30 years later we're still discussing exactly the same things.
The final installment of "Gateways To Mystery" appears in this issue, with a co-writer on the article who, it seems to me, makes it a bit harder to read. Honestly, I think it kind of lost the thread of the first two parts and wandered off into unknown territory without enough of a link to make its case. There's certainly information there, but not really much sense. Deep thinking, but not very clear.
The final "feature" pieces is more stories from what was then an upcoming book, Man Bites Man that collects a lot of strange newsclippings from George Ives. Some are neat, some are just freaky.
We get another selection from Aristotle's Book of Problems from 1749, this one not quite as offensive at the ones in the previous issue. There are some clues to how people thought, such as the idea that a person who has been murdered will bleed if his murderer looks at him and that it's not a good idea to sleep on your back. Interesting for the insights.
Comix has Telly Kinex getting into trouble with his landlord for making so much noise thanks to his experiments in telekinesis, which result in him dropping things fairly often. Needless to say, Telly gets the better of the landlord. I'm becoming slightly fond of this comic. Phenomenomix is about fire in its various forms, particularly the more fortean types. Facts You Might Forget is about aliens coming to earth to educate humans, and manages to be slightly offensive while slightly amusing. I'm not warming up to this one at all.
There is a lot to look at in the Notes section, starting with coverage of Mass Hysteria cases from the era. It's easy to see the interest in the way Rickard writes about the subject: this is something he's really intrigued by. Strange Encounters had some fun reports out of Russia, while there were some cool images reproduced in the simulacra section. All kinds of different topics were covered in the Trends section, while the Unidentified section introduced readers to a new lake monster hunter.
Loren Coleman looks at giant snake sightings in the United States, and finds some fun ones. Steve Moore has a round-up of tales from China and the Philippines. Enigma Variations, about UFOs, looks at reports from school children.
Lots of good reviews in this issue, and a couple of incomprehensible ones. I'm impressed by the number of publications listed in the Classified Exchanges... these are other magazines that send copies to FT in order to get a copy of FT. There's 38 of them, if I'm counting right. Today, these are the people with websites that are kept up-to-date. It's another good issue from the past of my favorite magazine, and it only makes me more determined to get my hands on more back issues. It may be 36 years old, but the reading is still fun.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
So this isn't going to be much of a linkdump. I'll remember how to do it eventually, I'm sure!
First, today was the first day I left the house since Monday. Eric took me out to lunch and then we hit the local Bi-Mart to check some prices. Yeah, not a huge trip, but enough to get me out and about. I thought Inkwell was relieved to see me finally go, but when we got back he was sleeping under my chair. Hrm.
I also chatted with my sister a bit. Since I am no longer constrained by my job, it might be possible for me to go see my family this week. That would be nice.
I got a strange call this morning from a number I didn't recognize, and it turns out there's a recall on some veggies we purchased at Costco. I checked the batches and figured out which ones are affected. We have two large bags of peas that are in the recall. I'll be taking them back to Costco some time this week, probably.
I was impressed by this story of how someone cannot visualize and wonder how many other people perceive the world differently than I do. I mean, does my orange actually correspond to what someone else is seeing as orange? But this is even deeper. This is a completely different way of thinking. How can a person not picture things in their mind?
Speaking of picturing things, I want to see this guy's version of Aquaman.
How about a little bit of Judi Dench and Benedict Cumberbatch? I love how, once Benedict gets up on stage, everyone in the audience seems to be recording it with their tablets and phones. Lovely. I also love how he's not really sure what he's supposed to be doing... he just goes with the flow and jumps off the stage at the end.
Note: Yes, I know a new Doctor Who companion has been announced. I don't intend to talk about it much, since until I see the character in action (in more than just a teaser) I won't really know what to think. If I could have avoided the news, I would have. But those kind of spoilers are often impossible to get away from, sadly.
In more grim news, the story behind a well-known photograph, which might change your perception of the photo. Or it might not, hard to say.
Friday, April 22, 2016
... so long since I've done a proper link dump, I can't even remember how to do it! I long ago stopped reading other blogs due to time issues, and cut down my online activity to the bare minimum of what I thought I could manage quickly. I'm not sure I know how to find all my sources I used to read. It's so strange to have time again!
Ok, don't panic. I still have interests. I just haven't been able to share them.
Let's start with Popular Science's article on better batteries that were made by accident. Sometimes I think all the best discoveries must be by accident, considering how many cool things are created by experiments not working like expected. I think it's important to realize that failure in science is almost as useful, sometimes way more useful, than "success". You come up with your hypothesis, you test it, and something is wrong... sometimes that's the moment real discovery starts. In any case, these batteries, with the potential to last 400 times longer than current batteries before needing a charge, are extremely promising.
Drones are the new UFOs. Apparently, lots of pilots who hit things now are thinking those things are drones. That's an interesting twist of perceptions. Having attempted to fly a drone and failed (with a long hike involved to find and collect the drone) I have my doubts that most small drones can get up high enough to threaten planes. Larger drones... you would expect the operators to have more of a clue. Then again, not all drone operators have shown off brains so far.
Southern Fried Science enjoys some Aquaman science. Love it!
Speaking of comics, this report of sexual harassment at DC is very depressing. But I'm hoping by spreading this information, more people will have questions and maybe something will be done about it. I can dream. Comics aren't exactly friendly to women, yet. Not quite as bad as some segments of gaming, but the sexism and boys club attitude is there.
I'll finish up with a piece from Atlas Obscura on pirated research libraries. In short, journal costs can be so high that, in order to cite other recent studies, some broke scientists are turning to pirated documents to get what they need to help science progress. Of course, read that last line to see that it's not all about research.
I still maintain that copyright has been extended so long that it is now meaningless to the current generation. If copyright lasts a lifetime or longer, and it does, then nothing produced today will ever go into the public domain. This makes things that were possible only a couple of generations ago impossible, including a new Disney producing movies using classic public domain stories. I think there should be copyright, and I think it should be renewable, but I don't think it should be automatic after the first term, say 10 years. And renewal should cost some fee to maintain the database of copyrighted works. That means that works that aren't making money for the copyright holder are more likely to fall into the public domain where they can be remixed and turned into new works.
But if we continue the way we have, copyrights are basically going to become a speedbump to cultural progress, bankrupting artists who can't afford obscene fees to use music that should be in the public domain. Corporations will own most copyrights and come down hard on people who violate them, while individual authors won't be able to protect their own work from pirates because of the costs of litigation. For a reason why eternal copyrights are stupid, read Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson.
I've started using 750 Words again, and I'm going to try to keep my streak going. It was a little bit impossible when I was writing multiple stories for the newspaper every day to get myself to write for myself. I'm not sure why. For the last few days I've dabbled in some fiction ideas that have been floating in my head, including what I hope will be an MR James types horror tale... although as my first effort, it's bound to stink. But it's really fun to write for myself again.
It's still the morning, so I'm not sure why I'm blogging, except that I need to keep moving forward, and this is the way I move forward. I write.
Every day that goes by I realize how much the job was draining me and killing me, literally. I feel so much better now it's not even funny. The only problem is that now I have to worry about health insurance and money to get through the summer, which is a pain on every level. I'm fantasizing about winning the lottery or having someone pay off the mortgage, but as pleasant as those fantasies are, they don't help me solve the heart of the problem. I'll need to work out how to solve that before I go much further.
At least I'm getting some cleaning done around the house.
If I had the gumption, I'd go do a little grocery shopping today, too. But I'm feeling extremely hermit-y right now. Gotta go through my alone time. I needed this so badly I didn't realize how much I needed it. Time for myself. Time to be introverted.
I don't think I'm making much sense. That's ok. Hopefully when I go back to read this in a year or so, I'll understand where I was today and learn from it.
We have irrigation out here in this desert: that's how the local farmers grow hops and grapes and keep the cows watered. This is literally the land of beer, wine and milk. But it would be nothing but volcanic ash blowing through scrub brush if not for the water coming from the mountains. Everyone who lives in this area helps pay for the irrigation, whether they have access to it or not. The house Eric and I bought happens to have access to it, for our tiny lot.
The irrigation water comes from a box in the back yard. Originally, I thought it was just a regular concrete box with a pipe leading into it. You connect your hose to the pipe, turn on the water, and irrigate your yard. Easy-peasy. However, I think the box is actually made of metal, and last year I think some sort of critter burrowed into it, because the irrigation box filled with dirt. This is the best explanation I can come up with for why it filled with dirt, but I don't know for sure if I'm right.
All I know for sure is that we've had to dig out the pipe and the switch several times, and it's really annoying.
I tried to dig it out again this morning before watering the sunflowers, but I didn't get as far as I wanted to get. I feel like I took out a ton of dirt, but I only made a slight dent in the amount in the box. It's turned to mud, because the line from the pipe is leaking. That's not fun at all. When I reached one of the walls and tapped against it, it felt like it was buckled. I'm going to have to excavate it completely before I know for sure. I wish I could hire someone to come out here and put in a pipe and switch that are above ground so even if the box fills we can still use it, and so I don't have to bend over to turn it on.
Inkwell was extremely interested in the glove and the spade once I came back in the house, sniffing them thoroughly. He really wants to go out into the back yard. He really wants to get at the bees.
I had a window open yesterday, I think. Inkwell was next to the screen, staring at the yard, when he started barking and hitting the screen. I came over and discovered he was tracking a bee, which was clearly as interested in Inkwell as Inkwell was in it. Inkwell was going to rip off the screen to get at it, so I seized the cat and held him to calm him down. The bee took off, Inkwell complained about being held, and I decided to keep a slightly closer eye on the cat while he's in the windows.
Well, that's enough for the moment. I should get back to posting links and being my usual obnoxious self soon enough, I hope.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
I won't go into the obvious. It's all too depressing to think about.
Today I got a few things done, including reading and writing reviews for some comic books, taking care of the yard as much as I could, playing with the cat, and starting the search for a new job.
Yeah, I was going to wait until Monday, but I decided to get started today. There are a few local options that aren't completely horrible, but none that I really want to take. I found a couple of online writing mills, but again, nothing I'm particularly interested in. I'll look a bit deeper tomorrow, update my resume and start getting serious, I guess.
Other things I need to take care of include worrying about my health insurance status and possibly applying for food stamps. I hope we don't need food stamps, but if I don't find something fast, it might be wise to at least look into it again.
I also spent some of the day cleaning stuff up, washing the winter blankets to put them into storage, generally tidying the house. There's a lot I wasn't doing because I was sick and depressed from work. I hope to change that moving forward. I just hope I don't find another job that makes me sick and depressed.
Overall I'm not happy with how unprepared I was to be unemployed. I knew it was coming, but it was a helpless spiral and I was fighting so hard to try to actually be what I thought was wanted that I had no energy for anything else.
The best news is that I haven't had an anxiety attack since Monday. That's the longest I've gone without one in four months. Admittedly, they were pretty small at first, but they were getting worse every week. The Monday right before Emerald City Comicon was the worst one, with this Monday's being the second place finisher. Most of the others were less severe. I don't think I'm depressed right now, in the clinical sense. I'm a little sad about not having a job and worried about money, but that's not the same as depression.
In short, it's going to be alright, I think. I don't expect it to get wonderful right away, but I think I'm doing pretty good, under the circumstances. Now if only my fantasy billionaire would casually pay off our mortgage, life would get really cool... *grin*