Simon Bisson: Friends' Entries

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28th August 2016

pgdf, posting in theinferior4 @ 5:46pm: Heinlein in the (Counterfactual) Sixties
Yet another entry from John-Henri Holmberg.

rfmcdpei @ 4:58pm: [ISL] "Last mammoths on Alaska island likely died of thirst"
CBC reported on the grim findings of the researchers who determined why the mammoths of Alaska's Saint Paul Island, last of their kind, died out.

St. Paul Island's mammoths were a vulnerable population that probably never numbered more than 30, [one researcher] estimates. Pinpointing the cause of their extinction "just sort of underscores the precariousness of small island populations to what seems like fairly subtle environmental change."

Even today, the crater lake that the researchers studied is only a metre deep. The researchers drilled through the ice in winter, into the layers of sediment deposited on the bottom of the lake over thousands of years.

There they found mammoth DNA, spores of fungi that can only live in the fresh dung of large mammals like mammoths, and the remains of aquatic insects that contain chemical information about water levels over the lake's history.

Together, the data pinpoint the time of extinction at 5,600 years ago — about 900 years after the date of the youngest mammoth remains ever dug up on the island — and chronicle the deterioration of the lake during the last days of the mammoths.

The result doesn't just solve a longstanding mystery about a puzzling extinction.

It may also be a warning about the seriousness of a problem that has never been linked to extinctions in the past, but is relevant for human communities in our own age of rapid climate change, rising seas and a coastal flooding[.]
rfmcdpei @ 4:56pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Radical Flâneuserie"
3 Quarks Daily linked to Lauren Elkin's article in The Paris Review looking at the experience of women wanderers in cities, the flâneuses, and the ways in which their experiences are guided and limited.

There’s something so attractive about wandering aimlessly through the city, taking it all in (especially if we’re wearing Hermès while we do it). We all, deep down, want to detach from our lives. The flâneur, since everyone wants to be one, has a long history of being many different things to different people, to such an extent that the concept has become one of these things we point to without really knowing what we mean—a kind of shorthand for urban, intellectual, curious, cosmopolitan. This is what Hermès is counting on: that we will associate Hermès products with those values and come to believe that buying them will reinforce those aspects of ourselves.

The earliest mention of a flâneur is in the late sixteenth century, possibly borrowed from the Scandinavian flana, “a person who wanders.” It fell largely out of use until the nineteenth century, and then it caught on again. In 1806, an anonymous pamphleteer wrote of the flâneur as “M. Bonhomme,” a man-about-town who comes from sufficient wealth to be able to have the time to wander the city at will, taking in the urban spectacle. He hangs out in cafés and watches the various inhabitants of the city at work and at play. He is interested in gossip and fashion, but not particularly in women. In an 1829 dictionary, a flâneur is someone “who likes to do nothing,” someone who relishes idleness. Balzac’s flâneur took two main forms: the common flâneur, happy to aimlessly wander the streets, and the artist-flâneur, who poured his experiences in the city into his work. (This was the more miserable type of flâneur, who, Balzac noted in his 1837 novel César Birotteau, “is just as frequently a desperate man as an idle one.”) Baudelaire similarly believed that the ultimate flâneur, the true connoisseur of the city, was an artist who “sang of the sorry dog, the poor dog, the homeless dog, the wandering dog [le chien flâneur].” Walter Benjamin’s flâneur, on the other hand, was more feral, a figure who “completely distances himself from the type of the philosophical promenader, and takes on the features of the werewolf restlessly roaming a social wildness,” he wrote in the late 1930s. An “intoxication” comes over him as he walks “long and aimlessly through the streets.”

And so the flâneur shape-shifts according to time, place, and agenda. If he didn’t exist, we would have had to invent him to embody our fantasies about nineteenth-century Paris—or about ourselves, today.

Hermès is similarly ambiguous about who, exactly, the flâneur in their ads is. Is he the man (or woman?) looking at the woman on the balustrade? Or is she the flâneur, too? Is the flâneur the photographer, or the (male?) gaze he represents? Is there a flâneuse, in Hermès’ version? Are we looking at her? Are we—am I, holding the magazine—her?

But I can’t be, because I’m the woman holding the magazine, being asked to buy Hermès products. I click through the pictures of the exhibition Hermès organized on the banks of the Seine, Wanderland, and one of the curiosities on view—joining nineteenth-century canes, an array of ties, an Hermès purse handcuffed to a coatrack—is an image of an androgynous person crossing the road, holding a stack of boxes so high he or she can’t see around them. Is this flânerie, Hermès-style?

rfmcdpei @ 4:54pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Walking the grid of freedom"
I love Kalypso Nicolaïdis' autobiographical essay at Open Democracy about his experience of Manhattan's liberating grid of streets. Beautiful writing, lovely photos.

Freedom is the original promise. Once upon a time, we were born to a thousand paths…

Most lessons in life are learned the hard way. Some, however, are learnt with delight. Such has been Manhattan’s gift to me, a lesson in freedom, courtesy of a grid dreamed up 200 years ago.

I am new to the city, the alien progressively giving way to the resident – a transient resident, alas, a freed mother making a home away from home for a little while. But lessons, like fairy tales, never leave us as long as we continue to tell them.

We learn freedom from its boundaries. From the constraints we encounter and respect, and from those we create and overcome. From the limits to what we can do and from the infinite possibilities we find within. And so from home to school to work, every morning I walk the grid. Well, my little piece of the grid. 15 streets to cross and seven avenues. I know every sidewalk and every corner along the way by now. But I will never walk every one of the 13 million possible paths on my diagonal – life is just a taster. As it is, I tend to retrace a dozen favourite ones. Our brains are like fields that have been ploughed for a thousand years, a few synapses programmed to ignite along familiar sinews, all other options long left dying along the banks. Freedom as a neuronal illusion.

"Loyal watchers-over us, familiar hanger-ons, ubiquitous incongruities: New York’s wooden water towers."
And so my story goes. Freedom on the grid, it first seems, comes from never having to stop. Never having to plot one’s trajectory ahead: so many crossings and no obstacles on the way. Red Hand on the street, take the avenue. Red Hand on the avenue, take the street. The Walking Men push me along. No need to decide, my feet have taken over. I can walk fast, free to roam on automatic pilot, free to buy into the choices made in my stead. The grid is its own GPS, three minutes per avenue, one per street. It is the destination that matters. I will be there in 32 minutes. Freed from calculations and hesitations, I can let my mind wander. Back in Oxfordshire where I usually live, I can walk any which way I like through my endless meadows of forgotten paths. My little choices here and there, to avoid a bank of buttercups or take the sun sideways, now seem random, pointless.

To be sure, my Manhattan power-walk hits hindrances on the way. Take the myriad doormen who seem to wait for my passing by to spray the pavement in front of their building. Admittedly, I smile. This is my little bit of Greece-on-the-Hudson, my father would feel at home. Still, it can be slippery, you know! Each one seems to have perfected a different strategy. Respectfully turning the jet away on Fifth, waiting till the last second to avoid you on Park, turning it off on 18th street, ignoring you, semi-circling around you, aiming above you, what’s next? And will that little bit of pavement really be shinier tomorrow? In this silent game, I wonder whose freedom is being tested anyway.

In truth, the no-obstacles walking mode cannot last forever. Next thing you know, you can no longer roam with purpose and determination, dedicated to the exhilarating path of least resistance between streets and avenues. Choice manages to creep in on the grid, forcing the switch from automatic to manual. No cars in sight. Do I take the street or the avenue? Some symbiosis of feet and mind picks sides in that drop of time. Or with cars stopped on all sides, Hands beckon in both directions. One invitation almost expired, Hand flickering in its last attempt to draw you out early. The other not yet extended, Hand lingering to the last (I have never seen two Walking Men, one just born and the other not yet dying). Perilous options, tyranny of small decisions. Street is easy, but an avenue is worth more than a street. Is there time – what are the other walkers doing – should I risk it…
rfmcdpei @ 4:51pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Sarnia mayor invites 1,500 American ‘invaders’ to return to city as tourists"
MacLean's carries this Canadian Press article reporting on one official response from the southwestern Ontario city of Sarnia, across the border from Michigan, to an event that saw more than a thousand Americans swept across to Canada.

The mayor of an Ontario border city that was unwittingly visited by 1,500 wayward Americans over the weekend said he’d like them to come back someday — but this time with money, clothes and passports.

“I think we can use this to boost tourism from our neighbours,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. “Come for a visit, we’ll take care of you and this time you can stay longer.”

Bradley said it cost his municipality more than $8,000 to deal with the wave of unexpected visitors who were on inflatable rafts and boats — attending the annual Port Huron Float Down — when they drifted off course Sunday due to high winds and strong currents.

But Bradley is not asking for that money back, although a fundraising campaign — started by an American — had raised more than US$2,300 by Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it’s a wonderful gesture,” Bradley said. “The City of Sarnia can survive — our budget is over $130 million a year and we can absorb these costs — but the gesture that they appreciate what happened is important and welcomed.”
rfmcdpei @ 4:48pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Tunnel Visions: The KC Streetcar"
Returning to his blog, Toronto writer Andrew Barton writes about his experience of Kansas City's new streetcar route. He approves of it. Can it be made to heal a wounded downtown? One has hope, after reading his account.

Every once in a while I hop out of Toronto, land in some other city with some other light- or heavy-rail transit system, and look around at different ways of getting around by rail, whether it's on the ground, under it, or above it all.

Cities aren't supposed to be hollow. Cities are meant to be vibrant places, full of people doing popular things - otherwise, what's even the point of the city existing at all? Nevertheless, over the last seventy years, North America has seen many of its cities hollow out. Some managed to hang on; some, like Toronto, ended the 20th century better off than they'd started. Some, like Kansas City, Missouri, are trying to climb back up.

Like other major North American cities, Kansas City operated a substantial streetcar network in the years immediately following the Second World War, at its height running nearly two hundred PCC streetcars on a system comparable in length to Toronto's, today. Also like most other major North American cities, Kansas City dismantled its streetcar system in the 1950s as suburbanization and ubiquitous automobile ownership demolished its foundation. Kansas City was especially vulnerable to this because, hell, look at a map - aside from the rivers that frame downtown, there are no appreciable geographic barriers anywhere around it. Kansas City had room to sprawl, and so it sprawled. Rapid transit was hard-pressed in dense cities; in the midcentury Midwest, it didn't have a chance. Some of KC's streetcars found second lives in cities like Toronto or San Francisco, but plenty of them ended up just being scrapped.

That was how rail transit in Kansas City stood for nearly sixty years, but it's different now. North and south, cities are rebuilding lines that previous generations tore out. As I write this, Kansas City is home to the newest streetcar system in North America - and it'll only be that way for another couple of weeks, until Cincinnati's starts running in early September.

I was in Kansas City to attend the 74th World Science Fiction Convention earlier this month, but I was sure to make time for a brand new streetcar.
rfmcdpei @ 4:43pm: [URBAN NOTE] "TTC operator slashed with 'edged weapon' at Eglinton station"
CBC reports on a sad crime committed at Eglinton station. I only hope the person responsible will be apprehended soon.

A Toronto Transit Commission bus driver was slashed with an "edged weapon" at Eglinton station after leaving a washroom early Saturday.

Const. David Hopkinson, spokesperson for the Toronto police, said the TTC operator was cut by a man when he exited a bathroom, he tried to defend himself, and protective gear he was wearing took the brunt of the edged weapon.

The assailant pulled a silver handgun on the operator, who was forced back into the bathroom. The operator then locked the bathroom door and the assailant fled on foot.

The assailant is described as a white man, about six feet tall, 180 lbs, with shaggy, short brown hair and scruffy facial hair. He was wearing a black hoodie.
pgdf, posting in theinferior4 @ 3:45pm: Griffith in the (Counterfactual) Sixties
This one is actually by my pal John-Henri Holmberg.

las @ 3:26pm: My tweets
pgdf, posting in theinferior4 @ 3:03pm: Swanwick in the (Counterfactual) Sixties
rfmcdpei @ 2:20pm: [BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • James Bow shares his photos from Airport Road.

  • Centauri Dreams reports on a SETI candi9date signal form a nearby star in Hercules.

  • Far Outliers reports on how the Japanese named ships.

  • Joe. My. God. quotes one Trump backer, Roger Stone, about his desire to move to Costa Rica to escape Muslims if Hillary wins.

  • Noel Maurer debunks the Maine governor's provably false claims about the race and ethnicity of people arrested in his state on drug charges.

  • Otto Pohl considers the relationships of the Kurds to the wider world.

  • Language Hat notes the discovery of a new, different Etruscan-language text.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Russian war in Ukraine is setting the stage for a second round of the Russian empire's dissolution, and argues that Muscovy's sack of Novgorod set the stage for Western-Russian suspicions.

mdlbear @ 10:30am: Done last week (20160821Su - 27Sa)

Moderately productive. Two "publishing events".

  1. Sex and the Single Link is up on my "formal" website, This is, despite the clickbait title, an article about the joy of singly-linked lists.
  2. MakeStuff is up on GitHub. This the first of several projects I intend to put up there; it's the collection of makefiles and scripts that powers all my websites. You can see it in action here.

Apart from that, and a bunch of Quora answers, not a whole lot going on. One my Quora answers led to a good discussion on the comment thread. Fairly prodctive at work, though as usual not quite as much as I wanted to be.

One particularly interesting article for the programmers in the audience, Developer Differences: Makers vs Menders, which seems to describe me fairly well.

Also of note, the first episode of the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Podcast: Ordinary Women by Heather Rose Jones (hrj on LJ) is up.

Notes & links, as usualCollapse )

[Crossposted from, where it has comment count unavailable comments. Comment wherever you prefer; anonymous comments are allowed on DW only]

Current Mood: ok
ffutures @ 6:11pm: Today's boot sale bargains...
A very dead Pentax SP1000 with a no-name 28mm lens for a fiver
A working Praktica MTL3 body with 50mm f1.8 lens for a tenner
A set of canon-fit manual extension tubes for a quid.
And a Psion Organiser CM with 16k memory module for a quid.

If I can't make some profit from that lot I'm really not trying...
nwhyte @ 6:28pm: Dido Queen of Carthage, by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe
While on holiday, I read the complete plays of Christopher Marlowe, my first encounter directly with his work. It was very interesting; I know Shakespeare to a certain extent (I read/listened to the entire canon a few years ago, starting here), and was struck by both the similarities and the differences between them. Marlowe died, of course, just as Shakespeare was getting started; experts trace several direct references to Marlowe's works in Shakespeare's plays.

I have some general thoughts about Marlowe, but I am going to save them to the end. First, I'm going to write up the six (or seven) surviving plays here, one by one, giving you my conclusions at the end.

I'm starting therefore with:

Dido, Queen of Carthage

Second speech of third scene (Act 2 Scene 1):
ACHATES: Why stands my sweet Æneas thus amaz'd?
This is the first play printed in the Complete Works although it's not clear if it was the first historically performed or written, published only the year after the authors death. Mostly it's a dramatisation of the Dido story from the Æneid, which would have been been well known to the audience (quite a different situation from the other plays where the stories are more original).

But Marlowe (with input from Nashe) bulks up two elements in particular. First, he gives Dido herself lots more to do and say than Virgil did. She is his only strong female protagonist, and although she is hopelessly and irrationally in love with Æneas (who is not such an attractive character here) this is not because she is a weak woman, it is because she is being toyed with by the gods; having been set up in a difficult situation by divine caprice, she otherwise retains agency to the end.

To the core love story, Marlowe adds a number of other romances (again, unlike his other plays and unlike the original story). Most obviously, the play opens by showing us the man/boy relationship between Jupiter and Ganymede. But there are other non-standard relationships too, and I'm struck that Marlowe was not playing them for laughs but as real situations in the terms of the story.

I wasn't able to find any audio or video of Dido online. That seems a shame to me; it's not too complex and I think would be particularly good on audio. It was apparently first written (or at least first performed) by child (=teenage) actors. The Marlowe Society has a good overiew of it here.
darkpoint @ 3:34pm: [Potd] Limestone

greygirlbeast @ 12:09pm: Howard Hughes, More Shit
Yesterday, I emailed the editor for whom I was trying to write "Beyond the Laughing Sky," and I bowed out of the book. The deadline was fast approaching, and I explained that, realistically, given this dry spell, this bout of writer's block, this What-The-Fuck-Ever, it was unrealistic of me to think I could actually complete that story now. I think I felt relief for about two minutes, and then I just felt like shit. There is no relief in admitting defeat. I hope to try and come back to the story, someday.

Cooler weather today. I think we're going to RISD.

On average, I spend a good fourteen hours a day in this room, which is about eleven feet by eleven feet. And, for the most part, that's the way things have been for the last eight years. Eight years and three months. Nine summers. I would imagine it's a bit like prison, only I do at least, in theory, have the freedom to leave this room whenever I wish. Still, I would imagine most prisoners get quite a bit more exercise than I do, and that most of them have more robust social lives.

We watched a bit of the Dresden Dolls show streaming from Coney island last night and reminisced about a Dolls show at the long-defunct Echo Lounge in Atlanta, twelve years ago, 16 October, 2004.

We finally finished Series 8 of Doctor Who last night. It's taken us two years to get through it. But, to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the final two-parter, "Dark Water" and "Death in Heaven." It helps that the former begins with Pink getting hit by a car. I took that as a step in the right direction. I desperately hope Series 9 is better, and I hope that the show recovers when it is finally free of Moffat. It has survived worse. Oh, and now it is canon that Time Lords can switch sex from one regeneration to the next, so there's that.

Aunt Beast

Current Mood: angry and tired and scared
realthog @ 12:05pm: My tweets
ann_leckie @ 9:57am: Cards Against Significant Species

Y’all may remember, the other day I mentioned playing a customized Cards Against Humanity in Lieutenant Awn Elming Memorial Park. The person who brought it was kind enough to let me take the deck home, and now if you find yourself wanting to play CASS, either online or in person, well, click this link and you’ll find several ways to do that. Scroll down for links to various ways to play online, or download a pdf of the cards you can print on regular paper and cut out, or even (if you’re feeling extravagant) pay someone to make them into nice cards and mail them to you.

When I expressed my ignorance as to how the “play online” part worked, I got this back from badgerterritory:

it’s very easy to play it online!! i don’t know if this is the only way, but the way we do it is to go to and then you pick a server. you set up a username, and then it’ll take you to a place where you can set up the game. once you have the game set up, it’s very easy to invite people, and the cardcast site has a command you can use to add the deck! once you put in the command, the deck is loaded and you can start the game.

It looks like there’s also an app you can add to Chrome or to your phone, too. I haven’t tried any of it and don’t know how the various methods work, but it looks like fun, and not just for this particular customized deck.

Meantime, have some screenshots of a game from a couple weeks ago:







Incidentally, some of the response cards are in-jokes. #not for AL is the tag Tumblr users put on posts about the books they would prefer I not read (I’ve got that tag blacklisted), and “Cousiiiin” is a reference to this lovely bit of fan art. No doubt there are others I don’t recognize because I’m not in on the joke myself. At any rate, it was great fun to play.

Also incidentally, at first there were just a couple of us playing so we pulled one card off the “response” pile every turn and threw it in with the couple of others. We decided that was Station’s card. We kept it up even after the number of folks playing grew, because of course Station was playing, but also because actually, Station was winning.

There is also a special rule for this deck, if you wish to play it this way: If you draw more than two “Anaander Mianaai” cards (there are quite a few in the deck, as is only appropriate) you may discard and redraw all but one card. You are now stuck with that card the entire game. This situation never came up, so I don’t know how that plays, but there you go, in case you want it.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

rfmcdpei @ 10:28am: [PHOTO] Around the Long River Church, Avonlea Village, Cavendish
The Long River Presbyterian Church, built in 1874 on the western end of the Island's North Shore for a Scottish Presbyterian community, would have decayed into ruin if not for the chance of L.M. Montgomery having attended service there on numerous occasions, when she was with her family in the area. The church was moved to Avonlea Village, where it was eventually rebuilt.

In 2008, Teresa Wright wrote in The Guardian of Charlottetown about how this Church was going to be made into a theatre, for local drama and music. This new incarnation succeeded--there is currently a nightly music show scheduled--but I wonder what the church's founders would have thought of their sacred building's second life. Apparently, as one history placard I photographed recounts, the introduction of music to services was controversial.

Long River Church #pei #cavendish #avonleavillage #longriverchurch #latergram

Welcome in cardboard #pei #cavendish #avonleavillage #longriverchurch #latergram

These history placards introduce the church to visitors.

History, 1 #pei #cavendish #avonleavillage #longriverchurch #latergram

History, 2 #pei #cavendish #avonleavillage #longriverchurch #latergram

The wooden beams stand exposed, over the stage and above the pews.

Looking at the stage #pei #cavendish #avonleavillage #longriverchurch #latergram

Looking up #pei #cavendish #avonleavillage #longriverchurch #latergram

Looking up, 2 #pei #cavendish #avonleavillage #longriverchurch #latergram
james_nicoll @ 10:00am: Macroscope by Piers Anthony

Macroscope by Piers Anthony

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
rfmcdpei @ 9:53am: [PHOTO] Eight photos from the Bloorcourt Arts & Crafts Fair (#bloorcourtfestival)
I was off work yesterday evening early enough to catch the last hours of the Bloorcourt Arts & Crafts Fair, on Bloor Street West east from Dufferin. Even at 6 o'clock, there was still a healthy crowd on the streets, looking at the vendors' displays or eating and drinking on the patios or just hanging out. They only began putting away the inevitable bouncy castle by 7.

West on Bloor past Concord #toronto #bloorstreetwest #bloorcourt #bloorcourtfestival

Organic cotton dresses #toronto #bloorstreetwest #bloorcourt #bloorcourtfestival #organic #cotton #dresses

Angofest #toronto #bloorstreetwest #bloorcourt #bloorcourtfestival #angola #dance

Bloor beyond Havelock #toronto #bloorstreetwest #bloorcourt #bloorcourtfestival

Garage sale #toronto #bloorstreetwest #bloorcourt #bloorcourtfestival #romancatholicism #statue #christianity #stanthonys

Beehive #toronto #bloorstreetwest #bloorcourt #bloorcourtfestival #bee #beehive #insects #honey

Bouncy castle #toronto #bloorstreetwest #bloorcourt #bloorcourtfestival #bouncycastle #bouncy #castle

Moving the cell #toronto #bloorstreetwest #bloorcourt #bloorcourtfestival
bart_calendar @ 2:20pm: Dave Grohl Playing With Prophets Of Rage
Because, of course Dave Grohl is playing with Prophets Of Rage.

irregular_comic @ 10:11am: Irregular Webcomic! #3521

Comic #3521

"Whence" is a cool word.

Basically, it simply means "from where". You can just do a search and replace, replacing every instance of "whence" with "from where", and things should read correctly.

In particular, the correct usage is, "I shall return you whence you came," since this translates to, "I shall return you from where you came." You don't need an extra "to" or "from" anywhere.

"Whence" is one of a class of so-called pro-forms in English - a set of inflected pronouns which includes such words as "whither", "yonder", "thither", "thence", and "whomsoever". Many of these have dropped from common modern English usage, but they're still hanging around if you want to make use of them.

feorag @ 12:00pm: My tweets
marypcb @ 12:00pm: My tweets
sbisson @ 12:00pm: My tweets
supergee @ 9:01am: Happy birthday, blognak
nwhyte @ 8:56am: Death and disability
One of B's housemates died last week. He was 40, and just didn't wake up one morning. Like her, he would have been unable to tell anyone that his tummy felt sore, or his chest felt tight, or his head felt funny, and of course it might not have made a difference anyway. (I assume that the necessary investigations into cause of death have been made, and I don't expect to hear the outcome; we're not his family.)

I went to see B yesterday for the first time since our holiday (and obviously the first time since her housemate died). She was, simply, sad, and wept tears of grief beside me as we walked in the gardens. I'm sure that she knows that a sad thing has happened and that the chap who used to sleep over there isn't there any more; I'm certain that she will have picked up on the mood among the carers, who of course are devastated. The cliche is that autistic people lack empathy; this simply isn't true.

B doesn't do cuddles, but I was glad to be able to take her out for a small change of scene. I drove her to a couple of favourite walking spots but, while she enjoyed the drive, she wasn't interested in leaving the car (this is normal enough if she is feeling under the weather) and then required a lot of persuasion to go back to her house at the end of the trip. Again, I'm not terribly surprised that she wasn't rushing back to the awareness of a new absence.

B's own lifespan should in principle be the same as anyone else's, meaning that she may well outlive us by a couple of decades. On the other hand, she too may miss out on diagnosis of some life-threatening condition because she cannot tell anyone where the sore bit is. Neither of those thoughts really helps me sleep at nights.
nwhyte @ 8:00am: Interesting Links for 28-08-2016

How a Self-Published Writer of Gay Erotica Beat Sci-Fi’s Sad Puppies at their Own Game

(tags: disability sf )

A Pocket Guide To Northern Ireland

For WW2 US Servicemen. Hilarious!
(tags: Northernireland wwii )

Radical Futures and Conservative Sensitivities

Great deconstruction of the issues around SF today.
(tags: sf )

Exonerating Milosevic: A Futile, Destructive Cause of Global “Anti-Imperialists”

Alas, it still needs to be spelled out.
(tags: war kosovo bosnia serbia )

27th August 2016

kevin_standlee @ 11:59pm: 2016 Worldcon Road Trip Day 12: Green River UT to Wendover NV (with Lots of Rocks)
Once we decided to go home via the faster route via Wendover rather than via Ely, the more direct route would have been via US-6, roughly paralleling the D&RGW (now Union Pacific) Railroad. However, we've driven that way before, and things we read yesterday about Interstate 70 in its final run to its western terminus in Utah led Lisa to suggest that we follow I-70 west to explore the San Rafael Swell, so we did. As Lisa did all of the driving, I had time to take lots of pictures.

Leaving Green RiverCollapse )

Devoid of services west of Green River I-70 may be, but not devoid of scenery, especially if you like impressive mesas.

Silly Hobbits to Climb Into Those MountainsCollapse )

I took a whole lot of photos of the passage through the Swell, which I have posted to their own album on Flickr.

At Salina, we left I-70, which runs a few miles farther to the southwest where it terminates at I-15 near Richfield.

Through Utah, Bound for Northern NevadaCollapse )

The Red Garter is a bit of a disappointment after all of the Holiday Inn Express properties, even somewhat lackluster ones like the one in Green River UT. There is no fridge, the rooms are small, and there is no elevator, so we had to lump our bags up to the second floor. But there is a bed and a bathroom, and we don't need a whole lot more tonight.

Tomorrow, we go home. I think it's about time, too.
Current Mood: tired

28th August 2016

marycatelli, posting in bookish @ 12:05am: City of Lightning
The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne Volume 2: City of Lightning by Kaja Foglio and Phil Foglio

Agatha adventures! Spoilers for earlier books ahead!

Read more...Collapse )

27th August 2016

james_nicoll @ 11:26pm: Today I learned (2)

There is an ebook of this influential work, which I have never read. It was published by Pickle Partners Publishing earlier this month.

Who are Pickle Partners Publishing? I cannot seem to find a website.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
nwhyte @ 10:36pm: Saturday reading
Watership Down, by Richard Adams (finishing up at a chapter a day)
Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge
The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 4, ed. Usman T. Malik
Brother and Sister, by Joanna Trollope 

Last books finished
The Sea and Summer, by George Turner
Planet of Judgement, by Joe Haldeman
Les Lumières de l'Amalou, by Christophe Gibelin and Claire Wendling
The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Vol 3: This Mortal Mountain

Last week's audios
You Are the Doctor, by John Dorney
Come Die With Me, by Jamie Anderson
The Grand Betelgeuse Hotel, by Christopher Cooper
Dead to the World, by Matthew Elliott

Next books

Even Dogs in the Wild, by Ian Rankin
Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Short Trips: A Day In The Life, ed. Ian Farrington
rfmcdpei @ 4:12pm: [BRIEF NOTE] On tonight's conjunction of Venus and Jupiter
From's Calla Cofield:

Just above the horizon, Venus and Jupiter will appear so close to each other that, from some locations, the two planets will almost seem to touch. The next time Venus and Jupiter will get this close will be in November 2065.

[. . .]

Viewers all over the globe should begin looking for the two planets shortly after sundown, just above the western horizon. Be sure to find a viewing location where the horizon is unobscured by buildings and trees.

For viewers in the northern U.S. and Canada, the planets will appear only about 5 degrees above the western horizon. A clenched fist held at arm's length is about 10 degrees wide, so look for the two bright spots of light about a half a fist above the horizon.

[. . .]

The best views of Venus and Jupiter will be from the East Coast of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, the planets' closest approach will take place before sunset, at about 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT). But about 30 minutes after sundown, the light should fade enough to make the two planets (which will still be quite close together) visible to skywatchers. (The sight of these two bright planets apparently converging is so breathtaking that some people think it could explain the Star of Bethlehem story from the Bible.)

At their absolute minimum, the two planets will be separated by 4 arc minutes, where 60 arc minutes equals 1 degree. To get a better idea of how to measure celestial distances, use the Big Dipper for reference: The middle star in the handle of the Dipper is called Mizar, while the faint star just above it is called Alcor. These two stars are separated by 12 arc minutes.

On the East Coast, some viewers may be able to catch the planets separated by as little as 5 arc minutes. On the West Coast of the U.S., the planets will be separated by between 6 and 12 arc minutes. Viewers in North and South America will see the planets grow farther apart as the night progresses.

From Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait:

Closest approach (what astronomers call the appulse, but is more colloquially and commonly called a conjunction) will be on Saturday at 22:00 UTC (18:00 Eastern U.S. time), and at that time they’ll be an incredible four arcminutes apart. That’s only one-seventh the width of the full Moon on the sky!* In fact Jupiter appears half an arc minute across, so Venus will only be about eight times Jupiter’s diameter away!

[. . .]

The conjunction is cool not just because it’s pretty (and it is). It’s also rare. The planets orbit the Sun, moving at different speeds. They all stay in pretty much the same plane—it’s usually called the plane of the solar system—and we’re in it too, so the planets move more or less along the same path in the sky. But not exactly the same path, so they pass each other at various distances. A close pass is pretty rare and in fact this is the closest any two planets get all year.

It’s also cool because of the physical reality of what you’re seeing. Venus orbits the Sun closer than Earth, and it’s on the other side of the Sun right now. So you’re looking past the Sun (which is 150 million kilometers away from us) to Venus, which is about 230 million kilometers away. Jupiter is a staggering 950 million kilometers away!

What amazes me is that even though Jupiter is more than four times farther away, it still appears three times bigger than Venus. That’s because Jupiter is ridiculously huge, a dozen times the diameter of Venus.

My only question is whether, by 8:30 tonight, I should be down by the waterfront, or up Dufferin towards the escarpment.

26th August 2016

darkpoint @ 11:59am: [POTD] Time for lunch

27th August 2016

darkpoint @ 7:58pm: [POTD] Not a bad view to start the day

james_nicoll @ 3:34pm: Today I learned
That the sound made by a lashing tail of a cat face to face with a squirrel calmly grooming itself on the other side of a window can under the right circumstances be audible a floor away.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
feorag @ 7:33pm: My tweets
pgdf, posting in theinferior4 @ 2:07pm: Smith in the (Counterfactual) Sixties
rfmcdpei @ 1:30pm: [URBAN NOTE] Two links on the questionable prospects of the Arctic port of Churchill, Manitoba
Scott Gilmore of MacLean's wrote in the atmospheric Abandoned Churchill" about the distress of people in the northern Manitoba port of Churchill, a perpetually promising port on Hudson's Bay, that their port is being shut down.

I flew up to Churchill in a small private plane, with a map in my lap so I could trace our progress north.

This is a good way to appreciate how vast and empty this country is. Churchill is as far from Winnipeg as Toronto is from Nashville. From the cockpit, on a clear August day, the pilot and I could see for more than 100 km in every direction. It was simply forest, muskeg and hundreds of lakes, most left nameless on my map. But it did show the occasional mine, fishing camp or radio tower, and each of these was marked with the same bracketed annotation: (Abandoned).

We began our descent just as Hudson Bay appeared on the horizon. The town sits on a narrow point of land bounded by the sea to the north and the Churchill River to the south and west. The first visible landmarks were the grey stone walls of Fort Prince of Wales (abandoned 1782) and the white grain elevators of the Port of Churchill (abandoned 2016).

The massive superstructure of the port is visible from everywhere, and the main street ends right at its gates. When I pulled up in my rental pickup, these were open—the guard shack empty.

Other than the concrete elevators and the loading gantries there was not much to see. A rusting tugboat sits on blocks. There are no train cars waiting to be unloaded, and no ships to take on cargo. Other than seagulls and the wind, it was quiet.

At 4:30 p.m., though, a few people began to emerge and walk toward their cars. This was the last shift, leaving for the last time.

In the National Post, Brian Hutchinson's "Port in a storm" also looks at length at the dire situation for the town. Without the port--something that might well be useful in time of global warning--what point is there to keep Churchill, isolated in the far north, functioning as a community?

Bobby deMeulles sits at his usual perch, next to a window at the Reef coffee shop, keeping an eye on Churchill’s main drag, and beyond that, the town’s old train station and the tracks.

This time of year, railway cars filled with prairie wheat should be rolling past the station for the port of Churchill, 500 metres down the line on Hudson Bay. There are no grain cars today.

There haven’t been any all summer, because Canada’s only deep-water Arctic port — the only port of consequence along 162,000 kilometres of northern coastline — has suspended all grain shipments, a decision made by its Denver-based owner, OmniTRAX Inc.

DeMeulles figured something was up, long before the company announced last month it was halting port operations, save for the movement of local freight to small communities further along the Hudson Bay coastline, mostly in Nunavut.


A private transportation company with most of its holdings in American short-line railways, OmniTRAX Inc. claims none of its regular grain suppliers wanted to do business at Churchill this year. “The grain season for 2016 has passed the solutions stage,” it says. Townsfolk wonder if it ever really tried to salvage the season.

DeMeulles understands how things are done in Churchill. He spent 60 years working at the port, receiving grain, cleaning it, running the elevator. He retired just four years ago, when he turned 75. “I worked until I couldn’t work no more,” he says. “I was well looked after.”

But things looked bleak, well before OmniTRAX pulled the plug on the current shipping season.

“We’d always know how many ships were nominated (coming to the port) well ahead of summer,” deMeulles explains. “We’d first start to hear about the nominations in March. Grain would starting coming up in railcars around the June 15. If you don’t hear nothing, and you don’t see nothing, and there’s no grain coming, you know something’s wrong.”

He shakes his head. “It’s a terrible thing, for a small town.”
rfmcdpei @ 1:28pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Why Toronto loves nostalgia events right now"
I'm not sure that I agree with the argument in Amy Grief's blogTO article. Or is it that I don't want to agree? What does it say about us now that we seek to revisit our childhoods in adulthood?

It might be 2016, but it feels an awful like the 1990s in Toronto as local venues keep hosting throwback dance parties, themed nights and other retro events that aim to appeal to a millennial audience eager to relive their childhood.

And no one seems to do it better than the Gladstone. The West Queen West hotel used to host colouring book nights and it just launched a weekly event dubbed 90s Kid Tuesdays - an evolution of its Lego and Lagers night. This iteration not only has Lego, but also Pogs, giant Jenga and 90s music.

Tara McCallum, the Gladstone's director of marketing, thinks these themed nights give young people a chance to relax and bond over their childhood memories. "It was in our lives, a really carefree time. And a time of being tacky and a time of shitty music that was awesome," she says with a laugh.

Beyond 90s Kid Tuesdays, the Gladstone made headlines earlier this year with its annual Come Up To My Room art and design exhibition. Why? Because artists Sarah Keenlyside and Joseph Clement painstakingly recreated Ferris Bueller's bedroom and people went nuts for it.
rfmcdpei @ 1:25pm: [URBAN NOTE] On the struggle of North Preston to rebrand
Douglas Quan's National Post article "North Preston, N.S., is synonymous with a notorious pimping gang. Now residents want to reclaim its name" looks at how the largely African-Canadian Nova Scotia community of North Preston is trying to recover from the terrible PR associated with a violent human-trafficking gang.

One of the first things you notice when you enter this community northeast of Halifax is a large billboard that tells you you’re in “Canada’s Largest Black Community.” It’s followed by a slogan: “We’ve Come This Far by Faith!”

The second thing you notice is that just about every driver here acknowledges oncoming drivers — even strangers — with a wave of the hand.

It’s not the welcome you expect in a place that has repeatedly been described as the birthplace of North Preston’s Finest, a violent gang that specializes in trafficking young women and girls as young as 14 in the sex trade.

The community came under scrutiny last month when Edward Delton Downey, the prime suspect in the slayings of Calgary mother Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter, Taliyah Marsman, was linked in several media reports to North Preston’s Finest.

Talk to residents, even local police, and they insist the claims about a criminal gang originating in North Preston are exaggerated, misleading or manufactured by outsiders who don’t know their community.

They point to North Preston’s more famous sons and daughters: Olympic boxer Custio Clayton, basketball star Lindell Wigginton, young lawyer Shanisha Grant and singer/songwriter Reeny Smith.
rfmcdpei @ 1:22pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Would Germany Be Wealthier if Berlin Didn't Exist?"
Feargus O'Sullivan at CityLab noted a recent study observing that Berlin, unique among major European capitals, is poorer than the national average. This does highlight Berlin's particular problems, he suggests, but also notes the extent to which Germany outside of its capital is prosperous.

Germany would actually be better off without Berlin. That, at least, might be the skim-read conclusion to be drawn from a challenging new report from Cologne’s Institute of German Economy. The report, released Tuesday, notes that Germany’s per capita GDP would actually be higher if Berlin and its population were removed from national economic figures.

[. . .]

Before we look at why Germany’s figures skew differently, it’s worth looking more fully at the figures the report provides. They don’t, for instance, actually suggest any inherent relation between the size of a capital’s contribution to national GDP and the overall prosperity of a country. Of all capitals surveyed, it’s actually Athens that shows the greatest national dominance. If that city and its habitants were removed from national figures, then Greece’s GDP per capita would drop by 19.9 percent. The Paris region shows similar levels of national contribution: its absence would slash French per capita GDP by 15 percent. In the U.K., no London would mean a drop of 11.2 percent in per capita GDP. A Madrid-free Spain’s per capita GDP would drop by 6 percent, while even Rome—known for playing second fiddle to the economic powerhouse of the North Italian Plain—would cause Italy’s per capita GDP to drop 2.1 percent if it were removed from the country’s economy.

It’s only in Berlin that these figures appear to suggest Germany would actually be better off without it. Removing Berlin and its residents from German economic tallies would, according to the report, actually boost the country’s per capita GDP, albeit by a meager 0.2 percent.

The reasons for this are as distinctive as Berlin’s standalone negative performance. Certainly, a rather sluggish economy doesn’t help. Without its capital status, Berlin might be just another rustbelt city, an ex-industrial metropolis whose swing towards an economy based on the service, technology, tourism and creative sectors has (as so often is the case) failed to fully compensate for the decline of the city’s industrial base. It’s not for nothing that Berlin had until recently a reputation as a cheap place to live. Prices long remained low because jobs were often scarce and wages relatively meager. As of this July, Berlin’s unemployment rate of 9.5 percent was the second highest (after Bremen) of any German federal state. If there is a loser hidden behind Berlin’s relatively poor performance, it’s unemployed, underpaid Berliners who are struggling despite living cheek-by-jowl with the government of Europe’s most powerful country.

Berlin’s unusual performance is still arguably as much an example of the strength of Germany’s regions at the weaknesses of the city itself. While in other countries, capitals suck in all the wealth, talent and investment, Germany remains a mosaic of prosperous cities scattered throughout its territory. Its largest metropolitan area (as opposed to its largest city) is not Berlin but the huge Rhine-Ruhr region, an industrial conurbation that’s home to over 11 million residents. Munich and Hamburg are both major economic and cultural centers with higher median wealth than the capital, while the heart of continental Europe’s finance industry is in Frankfurt. The Federal Constitutional Court is in the modest city of Karlsruhe, while the city with the highest per capita GDP is actually Wolfsburg, home to Volkswagen.
rfmcdpei @ 1:19pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Man lay low for five decades believing he was illegal"
The Toronto Star's Nicholas Keung tells the sad story of a man who hid from the Canadian government for five decades in the belief he lacked legal immigrant status, only to find out otherwise. I'm not sure if this story can be used to indicate anything, policy-wise; it sounds almost too extreme.

For more than half a century, Steven Dugalin believed he didn’t have legal status in Canada and could be deported at any moment.

Decade after decade, the now 77-year-old Mississauga man tried to stay under the radar, working in construction jobs, even living in a motel, fearing if he was picked up by immigration he’d get the boot.

[. . .]

“If it wasn’t for the government’s mistake, saying I was here illegally, I wouldn’t have had to endure the hardship,” says Dugalin, who came to Canada as a government-sponsored refugee from Hungary in 1957. “This has ruined my life.”

Dugalin said he’d been told by immigration officials that he’d lost his permanent resident status after being convicted of breaking into houses in British Columbia in 1959. He says he was hungry and was only stealing food.

“There was a group of us. We didn’t speak English. Nobody had jobs. We were homeless, hungry and desperate,” said Dugalin, who was among 37,000 Hungarians admitted to Canada after the 1956 Soviet invasion.

The truth about Dugalin’s actual immigration status wasn’t uncovered until 2012, when Toronto lawyer Barbara Jackman picked up his case and found the government records that proved he had maintained his permanent resident status all along.
rfmcdpei @ 1:15pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Gay Caribbean man granted refugee status after three year fight"
Daily Xtra's Arshy Mann notes the happy news that a GLBT refugee claimant from the Caribbean has secured refugee status.

It took Rolston Ryan, who now lives in Toronto, six legal proceedings, include two trips to the Federal Court, to finally be acknowledged as a refugee.

“He suffered harassment, discrimination and violence in St Kitts amounting to persecution,” wrote Michele Pettinella, the member of the Immigration and Refugee Board who decided his case. “He did not receive adequate protection from the state when he reported a violent attack.”

Ryan, who was stabbed and beaten in St Kitts because of his sexual orientation, escaped to Canada in 2013 after he was threatened with a gun.

Unlike some LGBT asylum seekers, Ryan’s sexual orientation was never in doubt. Instead, immigration officials argued that there wasn’t any evidence that St Kitts and Nevis was unable to protects its queer citizens.

This is despite the fact that gay sex remains illegal in the island federation and can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
papersky @ 1:03pm: Reeds
The reeds beside the water whisper still
Old secrets long entrusted, Midas's ears
And Caesar's wife, the wind that hears
Bears sussurus away and always will.

Tall reeds that bend, that fall before a knife,
What secrets do you know and still keep well?
Your whispering heads are bent and will not tell
What you could say that still might touch on life.

Oh reeds, in green, and brown, and summer gold,
New secrets learn from me, new words to rhyme,
Whisper to winds the tales thus far untold
By reeds or people, rocketships that climb
And long-lived lives, and answers that unfold,
Among the hopes and dreams of future time.

(This one wasn't going to be a sonnet, and then it was. You know, some people are very interested in the difference between science fiction and fantasy. I am too.)

Brought to you by my excellent Patrons at Patreon, and so was yesterday's even if I forgot to say so.
james_nicoll @ 12:40pm: A statement from World Fantasy Con
No idea how this will look so have a cut

Read more...Collapse )

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
cherylmmorgan @ 9:40am: Whisky Tasting Redux

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

As Twitter followers will know, last night I attended a whisky tasting given by the fabulous folks at Independent Spirit in Bath. Chris Scullion is enormously knowledgeable about whisky and always worth listening to. Last night’s tasting focused on things that were new in stock, so it was a bit of a mixed bag.

There are a couple of things I want to mention from last night. The first is the question of non-proprietary bottlings. Normally whisky distilleries are incredibly protective of their brands. Nevertheless, casks of malt whisky do sometimes find their way onto the market. Mostly these are sold with made-up names, though the disguise is often tissue-thin. Once in a while, however, the independent bottler will do a really good job and the distillery will allow the use of their name. The final whisky in last night’s tasting was a 7-year-old Talisker from Douglas Laing which does bear the distillery name. Very nice it was too.

One of the malts in the tasting was a Tullibardine. That’s not a well-known distillery, but it is notable for two reasons. Firstly the bottles carry a date of 1488. That’s the year in which King James IV of Scotland stopped by to purchase beer for his coronation. Making whisky is a much more recent activity at the site, but the distillery still proudly trumpets its royal connection.

Tullibardine, however, is no longer Scottish owned. The current owners are a French family who are primarily in the wine business. Their name is Picard, and we all know what that will mean some time in the far future. For now, however, it just means that they have access to some very interesting barrels in which to mature the whisky. The malt that we had last night was the Tullibardine 225, which is matured in Sauternes casks. That gives it a very different, and very fruity, flavor. They also do the Tullibardine 228 which is matured in Burgundy casks. Personally I prefer the 225, but they are both very interesting.

My thanks again to Chris for a fabulous evening. If you do happen to be in Bath, do pop into the shop and say hello.

realthog @ 12:06pm: My tweets
james_nicoll @ 11:56am: The thing that caught my eye about this post
Is that the very first comment was nuked:

Comment removed; consult our Moderation Policy for guidelines.

I bet even without having seen it, I can make an educated guess why.

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