Posts Categorized: ideas + opinions

Weekend Tidbits or an Ode to Hedgehogs, Water, and the Deep Time of Trees, plus a few Con Men

Hedgehogs, UK Politics, and general understated Amusement in this Metafilter post: “1566 seems very recent, but the hedgehog was around before then”
Transcript of MP Rory Stewart’s hedgehog defense in Parliament in 2017.

Of all the possible Tory MPs possible to be the next Prime Minister, one can only hope that the Conservatives will vote for Mr. Stewart and not Mr. Johnson.

Why Water is Weird

Black, Hot Ice May Be Nature’s Most Common Form of Water

This Evangelical Prayer-Coin Grift Is What the Age of Trump Is All About

“The Wall Street financiers and C-suite lords-of-the-universe have made a Faustian bargain of their own, simply accepting that the President of the United States will have regular bouts of public insanity and upend the post-World War II geopolitical order because the Dow is up and taxes are down. This will not end well for them or for the Evangelicals, because everyone who gets in bed with Donald Trump ends up debased and disgraced. Often, he convinces them to do it to themselves. “

Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden
Toxic masculinity—and the persistent idea that feelings are a “female thing”—has left a generation of straight men stranded on emotionally-stunted island. Unable to forge intimate relationships with other men, it’s women who are paying the price.

A landmark malaria vaccine has been rolled out in Malawi

This Graphic Shows the Best Air-Cleaning Plants, According to NASA

The Art of Blooming Late

Winning the Peace

Trees of deep time are a portal to the past : The vanishing groves
A chronicle of climates past and a portent of climates to come – the telling rings of the bristlecone pine

Tidbits for a Thursday, Pre-Weekend Reading

Spring Hillside

May 2, 2019 – Here are some links for your pre & weekend reading. Enjoy. Photo above taken by Ms. Jen in early april while on a walk through Irvine Regional Park in California

What’s the Opposite of a Cellphone Photo?

Fintan O’Toole: Are the English ready for self-government?
Westminster chaos affords preview of Britain standing alone with its demons

Why can’t Trump make deals? No one trusts him anymore

Why Russia’s Economy Is Headed for Trouble
A lack of real reforms and a hyper-dependence on oil has prevented the emergence of a healthy, diverse economy.

The Killing of Hypatia

Instead of shaking all over, I read the newspapers. I listened to the radio. I had my lunch
Excellent long form piece from Irish writer Colm Toibin on cancer.

14,000-Year-Old Piece Of Bread Rewrites The History Of Baking And Farming

How Cheese, Wheat and Alcohol Shaped Human Evolution
Over time, diet causes dramatic changes to our anatomy, immune systems and maybe skin color

Oldest Cheese Ever Found in Egyptian Tomb
Italian researchers also found traces of disease-causing bacteria in what they believe is probably extremely aged cheese.

For the Love of Money

Raw and Red-Hot
Could inflammation be the cause of myriad chronic conditions?
Hashim Aslami Has Just One Word for Afghan Farmers: Saffron

Gene Wolfe Turned Science Fiction Into High Art
He worked as an engineer developing the technology to make Pringles potato chips before embarking on a prolific writing career. Known as the Melville of science fiction and celebrated for his inventive and challenging work, Wolfe died on April 14 at age 87.

The Racial Bias Built Into Photography
Sarah Lewis explores the relationship between racism and the camera.

James Comey: How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr
Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.

Lunachicks Recall Fighting Sexism with Sisterhood

Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers
As the birthrate plummets in South Korea, rural schools are emptying. To fill its classrooms, one school opened its doors to women who have for decades dreamed of learning to read.

More Dreams

Fri. 11.09.18 – Last night I had more bizarre dreams that bordered on nightmarish. It was truly cold here in Mammoth, with the low of 12F / -11C, and El Coache’s heater worked overtime to keep the internal temps around 54F / 12C. As a result, every time the heater cycled back on – loudly – I vaguely woke up. When one is roused from sleep on a regular basis, one tends to remember most of the dreams from the REM sleep one does get.

In last night’s case, it was dreams of other people hitting my rental car and me being stranded with a rental car employee yelling at me about my insurance. Somehow, in each dream, Family Hernandez (Alex, Paige, the boys, and Penny Laine) showed up to drive me home and rescue me from bad rental car employees.

My brain on anti-histamines and being woken up by an RV heater is a rather frightening place. And yes, with all of my serious allergy problems of recent years, I am a daily or twice daily anti-histamine taker – I like living.

I am renting a car next Wednesday and plan to pull two sets of rental car insurance, just in case – as Alex and Paige may not be available to pick me up.

Furthermore, I am wearing ear plugs tonight.

Sunday Tidbits for Your Reading Pleasure…

Single petaled rose with large stames casting shadows

Above photo of a rose taken by Ms. Jen on May 26, 2018 at Castle Howard, Yorkshire, with a Nikon D850 and a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens.

The Pivot:

“Something huge is happening in the UK right now, and I wonder where it’s going. […]

Brexit was a classic example of a collusion conspiracy. Many of the named politicians and businessmen above stand to gain millions of pounds from a hard Brexit that causes the British stock market to fall. Others stand to make millions from juicy investment opportunities they were offered in Russia. We cannot know for certain what the quid pro quo for those investment deals were at this time, but I strongly suspect that support for Brexit (and more general socially-authoritarian right-wing policies) was part of it.

And now we’re seeing a rival collusion conspiracy surface. Not all billionaires stand to profit from seeing the remains of British industry sink beneath the waves, and not all of them are in the pocket of the Kremlin’s financial backers. There are a bunch of very rich, rather reclusive men (and a handful of women) who probably thought, “well, let’s sit back and see where this thing leads, for now” about 18 months ago. And now they can see it leading right over a cliff, and they are unhappy, and they have made their displeasure known on the golf course and in the smoke-filled rooms, and the quiet whispering campaign has finally turned heads at the top of the media empires.

If I’m right, then over the next four to eight weeks the wrath of the British press is going to fall on the heads of the Brexit lobby with a force and a fury we haven’t seen in a generation. There may be arrests and criminal prosecutions before this sorry tale is done: I’d be unsurprised to see money-laundering investigations, and possibly prosecutions under the Bribery Act (2010), launched within this time frame that will rumble on for years to come.” – Charlie Stross, The Pivot

Juno Solves 39-Year Old Mystery of Jupiter Lightning

Oldest bubonic plague genome decoded

Facebook confirms that it tracks how you move mouse on the computer screen

Demise of the Nation State

Clever Street Artist Transforms Ordinary Public Places Into Funny Installations

Umberto Eco’s 1999 article on ‘Ur Fascism

Here’s to Unsuicide: An Interview with Richard Powers

Writing and Reading

While I have been on my Big-Five-Oh birthday gift to myself writing retreat, I have also been reading. So far, I have worked my way through a re-read of the whole Ben Aaronvitch’s Rivers of London series and I am nearly finished with re-reading Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series (minus the more recent co-author or other author Pern books).

Why am I rereading books I have already read many times before, particularly in the case of the Pern books? I am reading them not just for the joy of the story but also to see and analyze how two authors who I admire have constructed their stories and series as a whole and from various writing perspectives.

What this past two months of reading and writing has shown or revealed to me is that I have a preference for multiple person point of view / main character stories or at least multiple threads of story interwoven over a single main character’s point of view with one story arc.

McCaffrey’s Pern books are almost always, with the exception of the YA books, multiple main characters with multiple threads of story. While Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series is from the POV of PC Peter Grant, each book weaves in multiple strands of story, including one series long story thread. One of the things that I also like about Jane Austen books is that by and large her stories are also ensemble stories, even if we see the story from the POV of one or two main characters.

The novel length story I wrote from 2015-2017, A Quiver Full, was a multiple character POV story. I started writing it as a short story for a writing challenge and it was originally written from the POV of two characters, after I expanded it to novel length – several more characters demanded their share of the conversation and stage time. After the fact, I got the feedback from a reader that it should have more of the romance of just two characters and not so much of the other stuff.

After finishing writing A Quiver Full, I printed it out, then I put it up on a shelf for a bit of aging before I reread it and started rewriting. It was six weeks on the shelf when I received the above feedback, which hit me enough of the wrong way that the first draft has stayed on the shelf and I started writing a whole new novel in December of 2017.

This second novel is from one character’s point of view. It is meant to be a humorous mildly unreliable narrator story wherein by the end the reader should be questioning if the main character really was all that and more or if we want our hero to be heroic rather than a mere man. Now more than seventy percent of the way through writing the story, I find myself longing for more strands of story – not in the novel I am writing now but in general.

Then it hit me about a week ago, as I was knee deep in my Pern reread that I prefer multiple characters with third person limited POVs in the plural to one or two main characters. I want more story, I want more points of view, and I want to be stretched. When I return back to California, I will be ready to take A Quiver Full off the shelf and start the rewrite.

But before I can do that, I have got to finish writing my one guy and his POV story.

Tidbits for Your Weekend Reading

Encounter with the Infinite:
How Did the Minimally Trained, Isolated Srinivasa Ramanujan, with Little More than an Out-of-Date Elementary Textbook, Anticipate Some of the Deepest Theoretical Problems of Mathematics—Including Concepts Discovered Only after His Death?

Ms. Jen says – Well written article on Srinivasa Ramanujan, culture, math, and life by Robert Schneider

Gut Microbes Combine to Cause Colon Cancer, Study Suggests

Tales of the Forest

Turning our fairy tales feral again

Beyond the Gaze: Reclaiming the Female Form After Nochlin

An Illustrated Guide to Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

Eau de Nil, the Light-Green Color of Egypt-Obsessed Europe

Glaucous, the Greeny Blue of Epic Poetry and Succulents

Mormons want to save the Republican party’s soul. But is it too late?
Ms. Jen says – I believe the Republican Party may be beyond amendment.

The Virtues of Willfulness: How Fairy Tales Teach Us to Look for Truths Beyond the Simple Stories

Monday Tidbits to Start Your Week Off

Here is a hodge podge of reading links I have been saving in my tidbits folder for you:

Astronomers strike gold – and platinum – as they watch two neutron stars collide

Kodak’s First Digital Moment

In Amish Country, the Future Is Calling

“Lizzie said she was upset by how people had become so attached to their phones.

“People are treating those phones like they are gods,” she said. “They’re bowing down to it at the table, bowing down to it when they’re walking. Here we say we don’t bow down to idols, and that’s getting dangerously close, I think.”

Professor Kraybill said such insights were not unusual among Amish people.

They “are more savvy about the impact of technology on human interactions than most of us are,” he said.”

The Trump Conundrum: Four Factors Sending The Donald Into a Rage/Shame Spiral

The Danger of President Pence

“Trump’s swerve did the unthinkable—uniting Coulter and liberal commentators.”

The Great Nutrient Collapse

“As best scientists can tell, this is what happens: Rising CO2 revs up photosynthesis, the process that helps plants transform sunlight to food. This makes plants grow, but it also leads to them pack in more carbohydrates like glucose at the expense of other nutrients that we depend on, like protein, iron and zinc.”

10 Phrases that Originated in the Middle Ages

The Secret History of Dune

Trump’s Warning to Mueller Proves, Again, That It’s All About the MoneyIt always has been.

How to Kill a Dinosaur in 10 Minutes

In a Warming World, Keeping the Planes Running

Learning to Learn: You, Too, Can Rewire Your Brain

Landscape Photography focusing and Aperture tips from Spencer Cox at Photography Life:
https://photographylife.com/why-hyperfocal-distance-charts-are-wrong
https://photographylife.com/how-to-choose-the-sharpest-aperture

Dancing On My Own :

“As a young person trying to break into a male-dominated field, I spent my 20s afraid of being perceived as a froofy little girl, and acted accordingly. I was a hardcore feminist who’d nonetheless listened to the boys in my MFA program as they mansplained their Raymond Carver tattoos. I consciously practiced not speaking in uptones. I worried I had vocal fry. I limited ballet talk to visits with my mom. I wanted so badly to be taken seriously that I sought others’ approval at the expense of my own.
Oh, we live in a country that hates the dreams of little girls? I thought. Well, I’m going to become a fucking ballerina.

After the election, I lost my patience for this almost overnight. I was furious. Tamping down the desires of my inner five-year-old girl finally felt like the self-effacing erasure it had always been. How many ways do women edit and adjust themselves every day to exist in a world that hates them? I wondered. For me, it had already been too many, and for too long.

And so I began actively returning to the things I’d always loved but had dismissed as too feminine, too froofy, too much. Ballet was one of them.

Oh, we live in a country that hates the dreams of little girls? I thought.

Well, I’m going to become a fucking ballerina.” – Megan Burbank