little moments of alienness and not

Sep. 25th, 2017 09:10 am
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
Years ago, when Leonard was writing Constellation Games, he named the various alien species after different human words for "alien" or "foreigner". So there are Aliens, Foreigners, Farang, Gaijin, Extraterrestrials, the Others, and so on. One species of them is the Auslanders; later a German-speaking friend told us the spelling of the plural ought to be Auslender.

Today I was rereading a little chunk of Lake Wobegon Days and came across Keillor referring to Ausländers, and was reminded of that moment years ago. And then just after that was the passage about Flag Day, and I was catapulted far further back, to fourth grade and the first time I read (or was read?) any of this book. I was in a Gifted and Talented class in an elementary school in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, with that teacher who had a chunk of the Berlin Wall in her classroom. Did she read that to us or did I read it by myself?

Saturday I was on the 7 train back home from Maker Faire and I was sitting near some girls who -- as they happened to say aloud, in their conversation with each other -- were 12 or 13 years old. I am about three times their age. Yet I wanted them to look at me not as an alien grownup but as someone they might be like. They all have smartphones and evidently deal with boys sending them dick pics. And they act blasé about it; I don't know how they actually feel. The next day I talked about this with the people staffing the table next to mine. One of them suggested that boys have always done sort of body-part-display to girls less as a sexual come-on and more as a thrill-of-the-forbidden act, with dick pics as analogous to mooning. We joked about the dedication of an imaginary man from a previous century who worked in rotogravure or lithograph or woodcut. Or at least, like, Matthew Brady or someone using silver nitrate film.

cue "Ashokan Farewell"

My dearest Elizabeth. Tonight the Union Army rests. We know not what battle the general will order us to tomorrow. But know that my love for you is the wind that calls your name through the trees. Here's a dick pic. I had to sit for five hours for the army portrait painter boy to make this.

Sergeant Cowling was killed at the Battle of Bull Run.


I was laughing pretty hard by the end of this.

Maybe one reason I like laughing with others, and making others laugh, is because it is a kind of proof that we are not entirely aliens to each other.

Weather

Sep. 24th, 2017 03:51 pm
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
[personal profile] elainegrey
Wait, what, hurricane Lee??

Dinky Hurricane Lee not a threat to land

Dear Dr Jeff Masters, should you really taunt a storm like that? Especially if it's come back from being dismissed as "done"?

Also, Tropical Storm Pilar? Where did N go? (Ah, whew, that's an East Pacific storm.)

And Jose, still?? "After 70 advisories, enough is enough," said the NWS on Friday. Indeed.

(no subject)

Sep. 24th, 2017 03:24 pm
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
[personal profile] elainegrey
Hi incomplete sentence, i see you now.

I've no idea what i was surprised about yesterday.

It looks like autumn. I went out for maybe 15 minutes. It's not hot, but i am dripping wet. Ah, i've calibrated. Apparently it is, "85°, Feels like 86°" outside. I was mowing with the reel mower, so that's some exertion.

I called my Grandmámá this morning, after examining some of my "oughts" in therapy this past Wednesday. I ought to call her, i tell myself, because i want her to know i care about her. But 9 am -- which is apparently the good time to call her -- comes and goes with my attention on other things. Just before Hurricane Irma, i decided Sunday mornings would be good. It's not a work day, but since i'm headed off to Meeting it's not as fluid and Christine-focussed as Saturdays.

So i called, and it *is* a good time to talk to her, because we actually talked for almost a half hour. She shared stories she's shared before, but new ones too.

I was talking with "oughts" with my therapist because I want to thrive. My therapist asked, have i ever ... thriven?

(thrives, thriving; past throve |THrōv| or thrived; past participle thriven |ˈTHrivən| or thrived) from Old Norse thrífask, reflexive of thrífa ‘grasp, get hold of.’

We talked a little about college, when "adulting" was novel and i was successful at it. Now i reflect on bad habits that could be graduating from college, i ache when i see Christine trampled by elephants again. [1] ... and since i am committing to examining my thoughts for distorted thinking -- even if i have procrastination habits that are decades old, i have also gone through periods of success and vibrant creativity. It will happen again.

Leaving my therapist, i thought about Laughingrat and her frustrations with cognitive therapy. There is a frame where "I'm thinking wrong" is just one more thing wrong with yourself, and it's so easy to stand in that relationship with the distorted thinking practice. I don't think i could successfully do this work if it wasn't for some of the far more somatic work i did some years back. I'm learned then how to have compassion for myself in a way that's hard to describe. In a way, i think Noelle coached me in a mindfulness practice that never mentioned the mind and focused on my body. This practice with disordered thinking will, i hope, be another mindfulness practice, this time focusing on my mind.

[1] For new readers, to give my spouse Christine some privacy and to yet talk about my experience of her experience, i refer to what's going on with her as "elephants," as in "the elephant in the room."

Yard today

Sep. 23rd, 2017 07:01 pm
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
[personal profile] elainegrey
Missing Christine who is off to the Charlotte film festival. Her sister is at another, smaller film festival this weekend, in Hickory, NC. My eyes and ears said it was a beautiful autumn day, but - ugh, try and do anything and the humidity made itself known.

I realized a good order of landscape projects would be to remove the azalea from the tiny "courtyard" -- the little pocket of landscaping on the north side of the house walled to the west by the garage, the north by the kitchen and the east by the entry porch. It's not large enough or fully enclosed, but it's distinct enough a space to need a name.

After trimming the azaleas far back - to essentially stumps -- the ferns were all visible, and i could easily pull out the native-but-annoying false nettle. I also gently pruned the azaleas on the other side of the front porch, and "renovated" the lilac by cutting back all its elderly trunks to the level of all the sprouts coming up around the base. I also took out the butterfly bush: i'd found seedlings elsewhere. Nope, i'm focusing on the native pollinator plants, thank you.

Now the front seems much tidier -- as the lilac and butterfly bush were both scraggly things. We've talked about having something sculptural in the "courtyard." When we find the right thing, the remaining azalea can be removed.

Now that that was done, i moved some pipsissewa (aka spotted wintergreen, Chimaphila maculata) and some of the moonwort/grapeferns (Botrychium spp) from where the driveway routing will take them out to the courtyard.

I spent much of my inside time reading about all the species of Botrychium i could, traversing various keys, and deciding i mostly have Botrychium biternatum but might have one Botrychium dissectum.

I've been surprised that it wasn't until now that i

--== ∞ ==--

It turns out the FLora of North America is accepting gifts to sponsor the illustration of a plant. It's $200 - http://floranorthamerica.org/node/410 -- Lupins are available right now...

Meanwhile, Carrie is restless so i'm streaming PBS shows on deer to keep her entertained. I think i'm not going to feel guilty about entertaining her with videos.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

Ah, Culture what would SF be without you? Probably vastly poorer and leaving us without suitable similes for things like Asher's Polity series.

Anyway, this is a Culture novel that has multiple strains of narrative, somewhat inter-related (even if it's not always that obvious). It is also a story about love, about sorrow, what constitutes good and evil. And possibly slightly about the responsibilities you have as a civilisation, for your past and future actions.

One strand is a composer, who's of a race of predators (the Chelgrsomethings), but who has now solidly decided that his former home memetope is no longer for him at all and has emigrated to a Culture Orbital.

Another strand is a Culture anthropologist/biologist/something who's way out in a weird "I am made entirely of gas" planet but not really a gas giant (ultratech, weirds everything, you know).

A third strand is a Chelsomething military, on a secret mission. A mission so secret that not even he knows what it is.

And then stuffs happen, in unimitable Banksian style. Possibly not the best first introduction to The Culture (mine was Player of Games, then Excession if memory serves me right), but probably not the worst possible.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

Third book in Saunders' Commonweal series, wherein we see more of what we saw in the second book, and get to know what happens to a (relatively) small economy, when you introduce several orders of magnitude of difference in capability. Yes, it involves people discussing difficult things. No, it does not feel like "as you know, Bob".

All in all, if you liked the first two books, this is probably well worth chasing down, trapping in your book-trapping trap, then stun it for long enough that you can read it before, like the book it is, it turns around and devours you from the eyes inwards.

Or, at least, that is what I imagine books are, in the Second Commonweal. At least the really vicious ones.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
I posted on my other blog about supporting a new New York City Council bill that would require city agencies to publish source code used to make decisions.

On MetaFilter, I posted about a transparency case pending before a California appeals court; the EFF and ACLU have submitted amicus curiae briefs saying (to simplify) that the right to due process includes the right to inspect source code used to convict you. Evidently the creator of the closed-source DNA testing software doesn't think so. As is often the case on MetaFilter, there are very lucid explanations in the comments regarding complicated technical issues.

And I really like the photo I used to illustrate the potential for algorithmic bias.

(no subject)

Sep. 19th, 2017 06:56 am
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
[personal profile] elainegrey
Saturday i worked in the yard, mainly eradicating stiltgrass and stands of Boehmeria cylindrica (False nettle, by which they mean "non-stinging nettle") by mechanical means.

Boehmeria cylindrica clearly reproduces successfully, so i want to get rid of it in a number of places where it is "weedy." On the other hand, it is native, so i should find some place(s) for it to thrive. I see one resource claims it prefers sandy or loamy soil: i wonder if there's actually loam in the places it is growing. I generally assume everything is clay.

So, in the first area of work there was the manual pulling out. The stilt grass is about a meter high, and heaven only knows what has made a home in the thick stands. I've not seen any snakes yet, but spiders and toads and bright green leafhoppers seem disrupted. I found one milkweed growing in the stand, Asclepias variegata (White milkweed) or A syriaca (common milkweed): that was delightful! And i found a good number my current favorite little plants: moonworts (or grapeferns). These have a single frond, and then a spore bearing structure lifted like a flag above the solar panel that is the leaf. This 2014 literature review describes them as rare but (at least) one species is definitely common here. I believe i've had success transplanting them, despite comments about them being challenging. I take that to mean that the interdependence with fungi is supported over the small distances in which i have moved them. Transplanting to potting soil would likely be bad.

I also rediscovered one of the colonies of Goodyera pubescens (rattlesnake orchid). It too is usually accompanied by the warning against transplanting because of the mycorrhizal interactions: i may try moving some to some places i feel i can more easily protect from trampling over time.

Later in the day i used the sling blade and the weed whacker and the lawn mower. The mower can deal with the tall stands, but i don't want to hit hidden stumps, any more than i already do. The weed whacker gets the grass all tangled in the drive: it's not a particularly good tool on the tall stands.

I grew a little disappointed in the lawn mower repair. I don't think the mechanism for raising and lowering works the way it is supposed to: it's as if the front is now at a fixed height. The lawn mower repair process was so distressing for Christine, i don't want to bring it up. But, fie, it was useful to have the great range in height.

--== ∞ ==--

Sunday began with me breaking the stylus on my phone. The version of the Galaxy Note i have was reported to have a stylus issue in that if you inserted it in the storage bit backwards, it would jam and there was little that could be done. Now i understand: while one can pull out the stylus, the little springy top, like the "clicker" on a retractable ball point, breaks off and jams in, disrupting whatever signal the phone has to turn on the pen functioning. I am glad that the new note has been released but i believe it is a bit larger than this phone - so my nice case wouldn't be used. And we bought this phone outright. After spending some time thinking about it, i decided that i am ok giving up the stylus and just using the phone as any other phone for a while longer. All the critical phone functionality still works, and i can always take a pad of paper outside with me.

If i were doing real field work, i would have a reason to spend the money on a new phone, i don't really now.

And there's also the question of the iPad, which has superior drawing applications, and whether i really need a second digital pad (that's smaller and lighter and "always" with me, sigh).

I worked myself up into other dithers on Sunday morning as well. Things i hadn't done for Meeting, baking for meeting for business potluck with a recipe that i hadn't used before, realizing i hadn't really left time for the longer than expected baking time, discovering i didn't quite have the right quantities of ingredients, running late....

I indulged myself the rest of the day after Meeting, going to a historical society presentation (the president is a member of Meeting as well) and reading a novel (a Maisy Dobbs mystery). I finished the book after dark and needed to take Carrie for her walk, so i went into Pittsboro and walked her on the streetlamp lit sidewalks. I think Carrie was delighted with the novelty, and i enjoyed it too. It will be agreeable to walk there this winter.

Monday was a long work day, mainly meetings. We had the first visit of the young woman we have hired to clean our bathrooms. She's incredibly professional, and someday she'll finish her vet school training and will take her professionalism on to her own vet practice. Until then, i think we'll be delighted with her help.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

Second book of Saunder's A Book of the Commonweal series (that's what's on the books, calling it a trilogy feels a bit weird, since I have vague recollections of a fourth book on the way). it takes plce not long after the events in the first book. I don't think it's ever explicit, but I'm thinking "weeks to a few months".

We're primarily following Edgar (occasionally just "Ed") who starts the book just waking up from a coma, feeling very weird indeed. And there's a really good reason for that. It turns out that Edgar has spent most of his life having his magical power completely consumed by a metaphysical (and probably also physical) parasite. And now it's been taken out because that's what you do with parasites. And now there's a problem, because Edgar is too old for traditional wizard training to work. But too powerful to not be trained, otherwise things like "death" (and occasionally "mayhem") happens.

And so an alternative is found. We follow Edgar and his fellow students through approximately the first year of training, learning more (much more) about how magic works, as well as how the Commonweal works.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

This is Saunders' debut (as far as I'm aware) book. My recollection of this, when it came to re-read it, was "stuffs happened" and that was pretty much it. The book is... dense. Informationally speaking, that is. I can't, to be honest, tell you that I'm sure if the narrative voice is first person or just extremely tight third, but it's one, the other, or switching between those.

Anyway, this is a book set in the Commonweal. And, I hear you ask, what is one of those. Well, it would've been cool if there was an explanatory chapter, but there is't. So, as far as I have inferred, the Commonweal is the creation of the Wizard Laurel, about 500 years ago, as a general "I am so fed up" reaction to the last, what, several many thousands (hundreds of thousands, possibly) years of sorcerous rule (basic pattern: "magic user gets powerful, kills the previous ruler; mass sacrifices and brain squishing ensues", then repeat with the magic user from the previous sentence switched to the ruler position). So, the obvious solution is something that pretty much looks like representative democracy, with a heavy dose of enforced resource equality.

Now, some of that Commonweal information is gleaned from the next two books. Where was I? Oh, yes, as we start the book, it seems as if one of the neighbouring "we keep cycling through previous ruler and mass sacrifices" areas has decided that it is Really Time to enter the Commonweal, in force, and we get a first row seat to the experience of a small band of brave people trying to force the invaders back (or, as the case MAY be, keep them outside the border).

All in all, pretty good reading.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

This is the third book in Sanderson's "first Mistborn trilogy" (there now seems to be ore than one, which is fine, I should try to remember looking into perhaps get hold of the first one). All in all, this is a series that plays on your expectations, but not in what I would consider a malicious way.

I did find it quite interesting to notice the things I did and did not remember from the first time I read the trilogy, there were vast chunks that had just left my mind, but other things were relatively as I expected. Memory says I last read this some 5-6 years ago.

[ bookmonth ] 2017-08

Sep. 16th, 2017 11:18 am
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Book list )

A linear extrapolation says 124.5 books by year's end. August was pretty much a miss in the "reads lots" department, with travel that was full of sufficiently interesting distractions that, well, this ain't just been a month for reading (also, perhaps, signalled by being about two week's late wit hte monthly summary).

ARGH.

Sep. 15th, 2017 02:35 pm
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
[personal profile] elainegrey
Complaints follow.

So, the poison ivy that grows 70' up the trunks of a dozen plus yellow pines. Yeah, i should get rid of it, yeah i've had irritations from little starts where i weed whack and mow, but, you know, it's actually a good bird food. (Admittedly, that's part of the problem and why it spreads.)

And the ticks. Ticks are terrible vermin, vectors for awful illnesses. But they are manageable, and seasonal. Dress right, be vigilant, etc. Give the pets their flea and tick treatments. Keep the grass mown. And if we got Guinea hens or chickens, they'd hunt those ticks down.

The spiders. SHUDDER. I really don't like spiders. But something happens here as autumn hints at an arrival: blam, the big orb weavers really get going. And webs across the driveway and the doors... shudder. And there's one of these three inch long Carolina Writing Spiders in bold yellow and black with her gorgeous web out at the compost pile. Uuuuuggggghhhhhh. I give her very wide berth. She's been there DAYS. Then there are always the wolf spiders. I'm getting pretty ... calm in negotiating access with them. I swear one was observing me as i was planting in the garden, waiting to see if i was going to get too close. She scurried away another two foot with her egg sack. But the spiders are the enemy of my enemy. And birds eat them.

I don't mind the few black racers and other snakes i've seen. My understanding is black racers will take on copperheads, so they're on the list of allies. Christine is very distressed by snakes, but she's coming to terms with them just as i am coming to terms with spiders.

But now, now.... [much swearing] fire ants. At least they aren't the invasive South American fire ants, just native red stinging ants.

Cool things

Sep. 14th, 2017 09:48 pm
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
Max Gladstone: "What happens when it’s so difficult to understand the people we live beside—or the people we love—that we can’t help them? That we don’t even know how to help each other?"

These awesome photos of Sloane Stephens!

Some useful information on the General Data Protection Regulation which will affect many of us starting May 2018.

"ProPublica would like to hear from people who have expertise in some facet of the health insurance industry." And then they will do investigative journalism on it!!

Upcoming New York City Council bill on algorithmic transparency:

g. Each agency that uses, for the purposes of targeting services to persons, imposing penalties upon persons or policing, an algorithm or any other method of automated processing system of data shall:

1. Publish on such agency’s website, the source code of such system; and

2. Permit a user to (i) submit data into such system for self-testing and (ii) receive the results of having such data processed by such system.


(If Legistar's RSS feeds work, [syndicated profile] nyc_algo_bill_feed should let you track further actions on it.)

on the hair bounty

Sep. 14th, 2017 12:52 pm
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
So I saw the news story about Martin Shkreli getting punished for posting online and offering USD$5,000 for a strand of Hillary Clinton's hair. And it gets at a bunch of deep primal or overlapping things, doesn't it?sexist bullying )

Oy

Sep. 14th, 2017 08:02 am
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
[personal profile] elainegrey
Irma irma irma....

I did spend some good time outside this weekend. Our septic area is looking clear, and i even found some flowers that i had planted in May including a purchased goldenrod I bought last April.

Spent time with my parents after Meeting on Sunday. My dad was still beside himself about his mother in the Tampa area. On Monday she still had power, and all is well with most of the family down there. One uncle was out of power, but it sounds like that's it. Monday after work i was going to walk both Carrie and my parents. They came over at 5 pm on the dot, just as it started to rain. Christine was kind enough to walk Carrie, who showed off her stylin' yellow rain coat, while i chatted with M&D. I was tired from a late night watching Irma, so, after reading a draft of Christine's latest book review i retired.

Yesterday i worked on writing a script to generate a UML (Unified Modeling Language) diagram of some of our team's java code. I ended up having to count whether curly brackets, which delimit nested sections of code, were open or closed and there's still a great deal of imperfection in the diagram generation. On the other hand, i met my need. I do hope i can find a good excuse to run the script on some other code, both to continue to improve it and to get some return on the investment. I worked late on it, so it was well dinner time by the time i stopped. We needed to do a grocery run, so we ate out at a new-to-us-place, "Moon Asian Bistro." I had a rare challenge of not knowing what i wanted (i wanted food FAST as i was hungry), so i ordered the hibachi shrimp, following Christine's lead. It hit the spot. We then spent a little too long at the grocery, buying many indulgences for Carrie.

Late night.

So, i'm feeling a little dislocated. I think i'm going to try and do a little planning and email tonight -- try and get some perspective on priorities like some banking tasks, and miscellaneous household to-dos.

Although the temptation is to skim the Diana Gabaldon Outlander e-book that i borrowed ....

And so i did that, having another late night. I feel rebooted, as i usually do when i read for hours at a stretch. I am also a little cranky because the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court SciFi quality slowly slipped into bodice-ripper territory. I was skimming to finish, but haven't quite. It looks like the sequels run on and on, so i'm not sure it ever finishes.
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