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Saturn’s frigid moon Titan has a curious atmosphere. In addition to a hazy mixture of nitrogen and hydrocarbons, like methane and ethane, Titan’s atmosphere also contains an array of more complex organic molecules, including vinyl cyanide, which astronomers recently uncovered in archival ALMA data. Under the right conditions, like those found on the surface of Titan, vinyl cyanide may naturally coalesce into microscopic spheres resembling cell membranes.
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Posted by Tor.com

The Murders of Molly Southbourne optioned for film

Just in from Deadline: Hollywood, Tade Thompson’s forthcoming Tor.com publishing novella The Murders of Molly Southbourne has been been optioned by Cathy Schulman’s Welle Entertainment. They reported, “Schulman will produce Southbourne as a feature film with Krishnan Menon and Adam Stone (Sleepless, The Voices) at Phenomenon Entertainment, who brought the project to Welle. Brendan Deneen (Gangland Undercover) and the book’s editor Carl Engle-Laird will serve as executive producers through Macmillian Entertainment.”

The Murders of Molly Southbourne is a dark, twisted story that kept me up late the first night I read it and has haunted my imaginations ever since,” said Carl Engle-Laird, editor at Tor.com Publishing. “I’m thrilled to see what they will do with it, and look forward to more people sharing my plight.”

For as long as Molly Southbourne can remember, she’s been watching herself die. Whenever she bleeds, another molly is born, identical to her in every way and intent on her destruction. Any instance of bleeding—a scrape, a scuffle, and every month for a couple of harrowing days. And so, she has been trained in how to destroy the mollys first. Molly knows every way to kill herself, but she also knows that as long as she survives she’ll be hunted. Growing more bitter, she finds herself wondering whether it’s better to kill herself or be killed by the inescapable horde

The Murders of Molly Southbourne will be available October 3 from Tor.com Publishing.

(no subject)

Jul. 28th, 2017 11:21 am
baranduin: (Default)
[personal profile] baranduin
Oh happy day. Usually when the Senate votes in the middle of the night, it doesn't mean anything good for people. But not last night! Thank you Senators McCain, Murkowski and Collins. And thank you to all of US who continue to call our congresspeople's offices, sign petitions, show up in person at marches and other protest events, and put our money where our mouth is.

Bahubali fans -- check out this video of President Obama reacting to the Bahubali 2 trailer (there's a large number of mostly USian reactions to various Bahubali videos, they're all gold).

Speaking of Indian film/tv -- I've got a bunch of looong TV series from some of the classic ancient texts. These are on Netflix if you're interested:
1. Dharmakshetra (retells the Mahabharata in a celestial court, the actress playing Draupadi is amazing)
2. Buddha (biopic with something like 56 episodes!)
3. Ramayan (retells the Ramayana, also something like 56 episodes).

All with English subtitles.

Happy Froday!

Tomorrow morning I'm going for a personal consult for building a yoga practice for myself. It's at a place called Maya Whole Health, about 10 minutes from the house. The funny thing (at least to me) is that I'll be going to the same location where I usually get my massages, at Advanced Holistic Health. Apparently they've been sharing some facilities due to a flood several month ago. Now if only Alison would come back, I could get back on track with that (she says probably August/September, which makes sense because the Seahawks will be starting up training camp in August).
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A new study has found that walnuts in the diet change the makeup of bacteria in the gut, which suggests a new way walnuts may contribute to better health.
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The push to develop treatments for Alzheimer's disease has yielded a greater understanding of the disease, but has failed to generate successful new drugs. To blame are the many undefined subtypes of mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer's disease. But if scientists grouped people with similar types of cognitive impairment, they could more precisely test the impact of investigational drugs.

of course

Jul. 28th, 2017 02:14 pm
nanslice: (Default)
[personal profile] nanslice
Wow, Dream Daddy fandom has already sent a fanartist into hiding by sending her death threats, all because she drew the daddies genderbent. The DD twitter account commented on it.

Why is fandom like this now? :\

Djoser Joseph Osiris

Jul. 28th, 2017 05:52 pm
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Posted by Scott Alexander

My recent move has already paid off in terms of increased access to the Bay Area intellectual milieu, by which I mean wacky outlandish hypotheses about completely random stuff. The other day a few people (including Ben Hoffman of Compass Rose) tried to convince me that Pharaoh Djoser was the inspiration for the god Osiris and the Biblical Joseph. This sort of thing is relevant to my interests, so I spent way too long looking into it and figured I ought to write down what I found.

The short summary is that the connection between Djoser and Osiris is probably meaningless, but there’s a very small chance there might be some tiny distant scrap of a connection to Joseph.

Djoser, who ruled Egypt around 2680 BC, was a pretty impressive guy. Egypt had been unified by one of his predecessors a few generations before, but they’d let it get un-unified again, and Djoser’s father was the one who reunified it. Djoser inherited a kingdom of newfound peace and plenty – and made the most of it, starting lots of impressive infrastructure and religious projects. His chief minister Imhotep was famous in his own right as a polymath who invented medicine and engineering (he may also have been the first person to use columns in architecture). He was later deified for his accomplishments. Djoser and Imhotep cooperated to build the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

Osiris was a legendary god whose worship was first recorded around 2400 BC. The legends say he was a wise and benevolent Pharaoh of Egypt in some unspecified distant past before being killed by his brother Set. One thing led to another, and he eventually ended up as the god of death and resurrection and the underworld. Scholars have long debated the exact origins of the Osiris cult, and tend to attribute it to some historical memory of something or other but disagree viciously over the details.

The argument I heard for Djoser inspiring Osiris hinges on a couple of points (there may be others I didn’t get). First, the times sort of match up – this legend of the wise king Osiris first appears just a century or two after Djoser died. second, Djoser was a big fan of an Egyptian symbol called the ‘djed’, a weird column shape thing. Djoser included djeds all over the step pyramid he and Imhotep built together, and may have kind of had an obsession with the thing (and why shouldn’t he? – if I helped invent the column, I’d talk about it a lot too). Meanwhile, the djed is traditionally considered the symbol of the Egyptian god Osiris. And third, if you’re going to deify a pharaoh into the god of death and resurrection, the beloved and powerful ruler who invented the first pyramid sounds like a pretty good candidate.

I think this argument is probably wrong. For one thing, although nobody can prove Osiris existed before the death of Djoser, everybody suspects that he did. In The Origins Of Osiris And His Cult, Egyptologist John Griffiths appeals to some early inscriptions that might name Osiris, and concludes that

There is a strong likelihood that the cult of Osiris began in or before the First Dynasty in connection with the royal funerals at Abydos, [although] archaeological evidence hitherto does not tangibly date the cult ot an era before the Fifth Dynasty

A common consensus is that he began as a local deity of the city of Busiris and (as mentioned above) the necropolis at Abydos. Djoser has no connection to either city, and in fact was the first king not to be buried at Abydos. His building a pyramid is less impressive than it sounds; all the Egyptian rulers were into building big tombs, and he just took it to the next level.

Djoser liked djeds, but so djid lots of Egyptians. They were popular long before Djoser and remained popular long after him; among their many fans may have been such pharaohs as eg Djedkara, Djedkheperu, Djedkherura, and Djedhotepre. The djed started out as a general fertility symbol, later became a symbol of the god Ptah, and only became fully associated with Osiris a thousand years after Djoser’s djeath. This makes it hard to argue Osiris got associated with the djed because of some cultural memory of Djoser.

This is kind of weak evidence against the theory – a speculation that Osiris is older than he looks, a little bit of confusion around when Osiris became associated with his sacred symbol. But it was a weak theory to begin with, so weak counterevidence convinces me.

So let’s get to the more interesting claim – that Djoser inspired the Biblical Joseph.

This comes from a monument called the Famine Stele, written two thousand years after Djoser’s death but telling a legend that had grown up around him. According to the stele, in the time of Djoser there were seven years of famine. Djoser asks his chief minister Imhotep for help. Imhotep investigates and finds that the problem is related to the god Khnum. He prays to Khnum and offers to worship him better, and Khnum appears to him in a dream and says that okay, he’ll make the crops grow again. Djoser and Imhotep repair Khnum’s temple, the famine ends, and everyone lives happily ever after.

The parallels to the Joseph story are pretty apparent. A seven year long famine. A Pharaoh who begs his chief minister to do something about it. A dream that provides the solution. Sure, the crocodile-and/or-ram-headed god Khnum gets left out of the Biblical account, but that sounds like just the sort of thing the Hebrews would conveniently forget.

There are some other differences, of course. The Joseph story involves seven years of plenty before the famine; the Imhotep story doesn’t. Joseph gains his chief ministerial position because of the famine incident; Imhotep is already in charge when the famine begins. God gives Joseph a rational planning strategy; Imhotep uses divine intervention directly. But isn’t there still a suspicious core of similarity here?

Creationists think so. They get really excited about this connection since it seems to link the Bible to a verified historical event (for values of “verified” equal to “someone made a stele about it two thousand years later, and in fact after the Bible itself was written”). Back during the presidential campaign, Ben Carson got soundly mocked for saying the pyramids were silos for storing grain. Everyone attributed this to his warped fundamentalist Christian view of history, but nobody thought to ask why fundamentalist Christians seized on this falsehood in particular. The answer is: if the pyramids were grain silos, then the link between Joseph (whom the Bible says built grain silos) and Imhotep (whom Egyptian records say built pyramids) becomes even more compelling.

Awkwardly for the creationists, this doesn’t even match their own hokey Biblical history. There are various different Biblical chronologies, but they mostly date Joseph around 1900 – 2000 BC – too late to be Imhotep, who lived closer to 2600. Also, don’t tell anyone, but the Bible is probably false.

Atheists have a better option available – they can claim that the Egyptian legend of Imhotep inspired the Israelite legend of Joseph. This is the strategy taken by a Ha’aretz article, which first roundly mocks any identification of Imhotep with Joseph, saying that this makes no sense and is totally stupid, and then adds:

There is a consensus among the majority of biblical scholars that the Joseph story dates, at the earliest, to the 7th century BCE, namely 2700 years ago. Many Judahites were residing in the Nile Delta at the time, as proven among other things, by the existence of a replica of the Jewish First Temple in Jerusalem on the island of Elephantine. It seems these Judahites may have been behind the adoption of the Imhotep tale as an Israelite story.

It doesn’t cite which scholars it’s talking about, or explain why they suddenly backtracked from their “there is no connection between Joseph and Imhotep shut up you morons”, but the overall point seems pretty plausible. Remember, the 7th century would have been just a few centuries before the Famine Stele was written, and the Djoser/Imhotep famine legend might have been popular in Egypt around this time. It sounds just barely possible that some Jews might have rewritten it with an Israelite protagonist the same way a bunch of pagan goddesses and even the Buddha ended up as Christian saints.

(or, for that matter, the Egyptians could have rewritten the Bible story with an Egyptian protagonist, although it seems less likely for cultural transmission to go that direction given the two cultures’ relative sizes.)

Or maybe none of that happened. Wikipedia’s article on the Famine Stele points out that a seven-year famine was a weirdly common motif all across the Ancient Near East, citing eg the Epic of Gilgamesh:

Anu said to great Ishtar, ‘If I do what you desire there will be seven years of drought throughout Uruk when corn will be seedless husks. Have you saved grain enough for the people and grass for the cattle? Ishtar replied. ‘I have saved grain for the people, grass for the cattle; for seven years o£ seedless husks, there is grain and there is grass enough.’

I don’t know if all of this derives from the same proto-Near-Eastern source, or whether seven year famines are just sort of a natural kind (compare all the different cultures that have something like “may your reign last a thousand years!”). But it warns us against leaping into accepting this too quickly. This is especially true in the context of atheists’ haste to believe things like “Christ is just a retelling of the Osiris myth!” or “What if Moses was really just Akhenaten” that later turn out to not really make that much sense. Part of the lesson I wanted to teach with Unsong is that this sort of thing is too easy, and therefore we need to increase our guard. I don’t know how to weight this, but maybe say there’s like a 30% chance

As a perfect example, here’s a completely insane work of Biblical apologetics claiming that a totally different pharaoh associated with djeds corresponded to the Biblical Joseph.

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Posted by Jen Williams

There are a couple of things you should know about me before I tell you this story. The first is that I’ve been a fan of Stephen King for as long as I can really remember. I think my first of his books might have been Needful Things, and from there I would borrow as many as I could from the library, heaving home huge stacks of those doorstops with their black covers and lurid fonts. The second thing is that I have a terrible tendency to read things in the wrong order. It’s not a deliberate quirk—more that I have a relaxed attitude to sensible chronology. I think this was also something I picked up from being a big borrower of library books; I would take whatever book happened to be on the shelf at the time, regardless of whether it was the next one I was supposed to read or not.

Now I must take you back to 1997. My mum had gotten into the habit of buying me two things at Christmas: whatever hardback Terry Pratchett book happened to be out, and whatever hardback Stephen King book happened to be out. That year, it was Wizard & Glass, which my mum merrily bought and popped under the Christmas tree, not realizing that it was the fourth volume in King’s The Dark Tower series. And let’s be fair, it didn’t worry me too much. I was, after all, the person who started reading The Sandman with The Kindly Ones. I was a maverick. A loose cannon.

If you haven’t read Wizard & Glass, it’s actually quite an unusual entry in King’s strange fantasy/horror/Western series, as it mostly takes the form of a lengthy flashback to the main character’s youth. Roland, the last gunslinger, knight errant and total badass, is suddenly 14, and we are introduced to his first companions, and his first (and only) true love. This being Stephen King, terrible things are afoot, and the climax of the story is a heady mixture of tragedy, violence, and weird magic.

I loved that book, and of course I went back then and read the rest of them, including The Drawing of the Three, which went on to be one of my favorite books of all time. Years passed, I left school, went to art college, and we saw the publication of Wolves of the Calla and Song of Susannah—but more significantly for me perhaps, I finally persuaded my mum to get a dial-up internet connection. It was a new century, and I had discovered these fancy new things called “internet forums.” On them, people gathered together to argue violently about the things they really loved. It was great! Full of enthusiasm, I immediately signed up to three: one for people with crushes on animated characters, one for fans of Samurai Jack (I’m sure those two aren’t linked), and one rather sprawling forum for people who wanted to discuss Stephen King’s masterpiece, The Dark Tower series.

I look back on those days very fondly. Forums don’t seem to be as lively now, possibly because we already expend so much energy on things like Twitter and Facebook, but back then I would be up all night on the forum, embroiled in arguments over how the series would end, who should play Roland in the film (years away at that point), or exploring all the possible clues sown throughout the rest of King’s books. I made a lot of very close friends, and as with all forums, experienced a fine array of ridiculous dramas and flounces. Twitter dramas are all well and good, but I miss the days when people would make a banner for their profile featuring some underhanded reference to a long-running argument.

wizard-glassIt was the first time that books had brought me to an entire community. It wouldn’t be the last, of course, but I’ll always remember the Dark Tower books, and specifically Wizard & Glass, with particular fondness—it was my first real experience of discussing books with lots of other rabid fans, and I’ve no doubt it deepened my experience of Mid-World, with all its attendant weirdness.

The vast majority of users posting there were American or Canadian, with just a handful of British members. Inevitably perhaps, our little handful of Brits ended up bonding, and I even agreed to meet up with one chap in actual fleshspace. Back then, even relatively recently, meeting someone “off of the internet” felt like an especially wild thing to do, and I vividly remember waiting for the rain to stop at Charing Cross station, wondering if I were about to meet a serial killer. Well, twelve years later, I’m pleased to report I’ve yet to find any dismembered bodies scattered about the flat—although admittedly it could be difficult to tell—and we are very happy indeed, thank you very much. Although the question of who will play Roland in the film version has now finally been answered (woohoo Idris Elba!), for old time’s sake we do occasionally revisit that old discussion—he still insists it should be Pierce Brosnan, to my unending horror.

This article was originally published in January 2017 as part of our “The One Book” series, in which authors discuss a work that is particularly meaningful to them.

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their cat. A fan of pirates and dragons from an early age, these days she writes character-driven sword and sorcery novels with plenty of banter and magic, and she has been twice nominated for a British Fantasy Award. The first two books in The Copper Cat trilogy, The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost, are available now from Angry Robot. Jen is also partly responsible for Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, a social group that meets in London once a month to celebrate a love of fantasy. The Ninth Rain, the first book in a new trilogy, is due to be published in the UK in February 2017, and she is partial to mead, if you’re buying.

rhoda_rants: (gerard)
[personal profile] rhoda_rants
On September 11, 2001, a young, struggling artist in New York was on his way to work when the World Trade Center fell. Like many of us who were shocked, saddened, and unmoored by the attack, he took a moment to reevaluate the direction his life was going. He decided to leave his job and start a rock band. His name is Gerard Way, and that band was My Chemical Romance. These days, he's an Eisner-winning comic book writer and curator of DC's new Young Animal imprint, the inaugural comic for which is his own reboot of the Doom Patrol series. But that turning point in his life and the staggering success he enjoyed because of it is why people like me know his name.

Doom Patrol Vol. 1 book cover; links to GoodReads page

Doom Patrol, Vol. 1: Brick By Brick--a subtitle that is horrifying once you have the context for it, by the way--is a kaleidoscopic fever dream of singing telegrams, sentient robots, a space ambulance that leaves a rainbow jetstream in its wake, a missing cat, time travel, alternate universes, and evil doppelgangers. If any of that sounds weird to you, you're not alone. One of the most common criticisms I've seen floating around is this "Whaaaaaat is even happening right now?" confusion and dismay over the plot and concepts in Doom Patrol. Apparently some readers found it too outrageous to follow. I did not have that issue, but honestly that might say more about me than it does about the comic as a whole. I've chosen to believe it means I'm on the right wavelength.

The main protagonist is Casey Brinke, a new character written for this reboot, along with a handful of others who eventually team up with the other members of the original Doom Patrol from the 1960s. (No sign of Elastigirl yet, but I have a feeling she’ll turn up.) Casey drives the flying ambulance, which begins its life as a regular ambulance, which is actually a living entity that calls itself "Danny" and starts talking to her, then reveals itself as an entire hidden pocket universe (it started out as a single street and had to take extra measures to protect itself), and finally turns into a time-traveling space bus because Casey is secretly the superhero Space Case, who can travel through time and alternate dimensions at the speed of AWESOME.

Read More. . . )

Bullet Journals

Jul. 28th, 2017 01:53 pm
fellinara: (Jedi Order)
[personal profile] fellinara posting in [community profile] bujo
Hi Everyone! I'm pretty new to bullet journalling and am looking at getting a Leuchttrum 1917 journal. Amazon has them on Prime for just shy of $20. I'm currently using a small temp bullet journal for August to get an idea on what spreads and collections will work for me and which ones are not really. I see that these journals/notebooks (also Moleskine and a few other brands)use a system of type of journal(??) such as A5, A6, etc. New to the bullet journal movement, I am not entirely sure what that means. I figured if anyone knows, it will be here.

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Blue light emitted from digital devices could contribute to the high prevalence of reported sleep dysfunction, suggests new research.
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If it's the thought that makes a gift count, here's a thought that can make your gift count extra: Get a little something for yourself. Research shows that gift recipients are happier with a present when the giver got themselves the same present.
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A study of lead service lines in Flint's damaged drinking water system reveals a Swiss cheese pattern in the pipes' interior crust, with holes where the lead used to be. The findings support the generally accepted understanding that lead leached into the system because that water wasn't treated to prevent corrosion. Researchers say the findings underscore how important uninterrupted anti-corrosion treatment is for the aging water systems that serve millions of American homes.
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Two de-identification methods, k-anonymization and adding a 'fuzzy factor,' significantly reduced the risk of re-identification of patients in a dataset of 5 million patient records from a large cervical cancer screening program in Norway.
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Serving first does not impact winning in tennis tiebreaks that follow the ABBA sequence. In fact, the sequence should be considered in other sequential contests, such as soccer penalty shootouts or even presidential debates, according to a new report.
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Posted by ARRAY(0xa753150)

But Beijing is often sidelined in international collaboration, and U.S. laws against collaboration slow efforts down

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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Posted by Christopher Intagliata

The North American walnut sphinx caterpillar produces a whistle that sounds just like a songbird's alarm call--and the whistle seems to startle birds. Christopher Intagliata reports.

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Spared by fate

Jul. 28th, 2017 06:27 pm
selenak: (Branagh by Dear_Prudence)
[personal profile] selenak
...and I don't mean the latest attempt to repeal the ACA, because that particular sparing came through hard work by people who made phonecalls, Senators Murkowski and Collins putting people before party and McCain proving he has a sense for cliffhangers and drama.

No, I just discovered that back in ye early 90s when the first three Bernie Gunther novels were published, successful and thus considered for movie versions, the two actors in consideration for the leading role were Klaus Maria Brandauer (wrong accent and wrong size, but could see him having pulled it off, acting-wise)... and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thank the universe for small favours the world was spared that one. Nowadays, HBO has aquired the rights to the novels and Tom Hanks wants to executive produce (though again, thank you, universe, for favours, he's too old to play Bernie Gunther now except for the late 50s settings. Also, he's wrong for the part. Nothing against Tom Hanks in principle, but not in this role, at any age.

Since I believe in constructive criticism: I can see Max Riemelt (Wolfgang on Sense8) as Bernie Gunther, and since after the wrap-up movie (yay!), there will be no more Sense8, he's available. Advantages: actually German, actually from Berlin, actually the right age for Bernie Gunther in the 1930s when the series starts (and it's easier to age someone up than to age him down, especially if that actor has to play action scenes), and fluent in English which I assume (since HBO is producing) the series will be shot in. Also, he can do sardonic and increasingly self loathing.

(if it has to be an international movie star, Michael Fassbender would also do.)

(Going to actors who don't speak German and aren't at least half-German: Kenneth Branagh would be good for older Bernie, but just would not be believable anymore for a man in his 30s.)

Meanwhile, have two fanfic links in two different fandoms:

Spider-man: Homecoming:

Just a kid: Both a prequel and a fleshing out to and of canon - covers Peter from Ben's death to the movie. Great voices for all the other suspects, too.

Babylon 5:

The Book of the Dead: in which the Centauri afterlife turns out to be far different than what Londo had expected. Also features a great G'Kar, Timov and Vir!

(no subject)

Jul. 28th, 2017 12:48 pm
the_rck: (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
I tried increasing the humidity on my c-PAP last night, and it turned out to be a mistake. I slept about two hours then got up to use the bathroom. At that point, I started sneezing uncontrollably, and my nose started running. I wasn't able to put the c-PAP back on and didn't sleep much the rest of the night because of the problems breathing (which are pretty much the same problems I had when I took the humidity down to 3). I guess 4 is where I need to be. It's not ideal, and still gives me some problems, but...

I'm probably going to lie down after I post this. I'm debating whether to try sleeping on the couch or to go in and join Scott in the bedroom. I've got about three hours before Cordelia gets home. If I sleep that long and am on the couch, I'll be where she can find me. If I'm in the bedroom, not so much.

Cordelia has stated that this working all day thing is hard but that she likes working with the little kids (five and six year olds). They all apparently think she's quite old, that fourteen isn't possible because it's too close to their ages.

I still haven't heard if my stepfather will be able to get treatment for his eye next week. I'm not sure that my mother will even think to tell me, so I should call this weekend and ask. I also want to find out if she'd like me to sit with her during the procedure (I might even be able to drag Cordelia along).

I'm hoping to cook a turkey breast in the instant pot tonight. I kind of suspect that it's not thawed all the way through yet, however, so it may have to wait another day or two. I have no idea what Scott will eat in that case. All we've got, leftover-wise, is the lentil soup that probably made Scott sick (He had hives, so there was some sort of allergen in there).

I'm making progress on my Captive Audience story, but I have a central motivation plot hole that I have to fill in somehow. There aren't any comments at all on the beta post for the exchange, so I can't go that route.
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The protein amyloid beta is believed to be the major cause of Alzheimer's disease. Substances that reduce the production of amyloid beta, such as BACE inhibitors, are therefore promising candidates for new drug treatments. Scientists have recently demonstrated that one such BACE inhibitor reduces the amount of amyloid beta in the brain. By doing so, it can restore the normal function of nerve cells and significantly improve memory performance.
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Researchers have discovered an important part of the mechanism involved in how chromosomes are pulled apart during cell division, so that one complete set goes into each of the new cells.
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Posted by Heather Rose Jones

Friday, July 28, 2017 - 09:00

There are two approaches to fairy tale retellings: ones that re-map the original story as a whole into a new setting that shifts the reader’s vision to a different angle, and ones that take the original premise as a jumping-off point then map entirely new territory thereafter. Walking on Knives by Maya Chhabra is definitely of the second type. The jumping-off point is not one of the more sanitized versions of The Little Mermaid, but something much closer to Hans Christian Andersen’s original, complete with hazard to one’s immortal soul and the virtues of physical suffering. Readers who expect a feel-good romance rather than a hard-edged tale of impossible moral choices and unbreakable magical contracts may find themselves off balance.

We have, as a given, the unexplained desire of the mermaid for the prince whose life she saved—a desire so strong she is willing to face enormous risks, sacrifices, and suffering for the merest chance of success. We have the foreign princess who is willing to take credit for the prince’s rescue. But throw into the mix a sister to the sea witch, who has her own goals and desires and is willing to make her own ruthless bargains to achieve them. And crucially, we have a tacit acceptance of same-sex attraction that needs no special pleading or justification.

The story is not about romance, but about working through misunderstandings and barriers to communication. It’s about negotiating your way out of a maze of bad alternatives and choosing which consequences you’re willing to accept. And it’s about the pain that comes from forcing consequences on other people when there is no clean way out. I found the plot delightfully unexpected and challenging. Once it diverged from Andersen’s road map, I had no idea where it was going to take me, but I was satisfied with where I ended up.

The prose style is ambitious, though not always successfully so. There is a wavering between a more formal fairy-tale style and unexpected shifts into colloquial language. Flights of description sometimes veer into excess and I occasionally stumbled over words being used outside their expected meanings. The story has the substance of a fresh and individual voice and I expect that, with practice and maturity, that voice should come into its own.

Walking on Knives may be ordered from Less Than Three Press.

Major category: 
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Posted by Sweepstakes

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

We want to send you a galley copy of Curtis Craddock’s An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, available August 29th from Tor Books!

In a world of soaring continents and bottomless skies, where a burgeoning new science lifts skyships into the cloud-strewn heights, and ancient blood-borne sorceries cling to a fading glory, Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs is about to be married to a man she has barely heard of, the second son of a dying king in an empire collapsing into civil war.

Born without the sorcery that is her birthright but with a perspicacious intellect, Isabelle believes her marriage will stave off disastrous conflict and bring her opportunity and influence. But the last two women betrothed to this prince were murdered, and a sorcerer-assassin is bent on making Isabelle the third. Aided and defended by her loyal musketeer, Jean-Claude, Isabelle plunges into a great maze of prophecy, intrigue, and betrayal, where everyone wears masks of glamour and lies. Step by dangerous step, she unravels the lies of her enemies and discovers a truth more perilous than any deception.

Comment in the post to enter!

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Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Jason Friday the 13th camp counselor machete mask horror movie tropes

It started late last night (as all good horror tales do) with a simple request: Sam Sykes tweeted yo, can you help me out at Chuck Wendig. The other author’s response—hey what do you need—made us briefly think we were about to witness a postmodern text conversation posted in public for a combined 90K followers, but then it escalated:

I don’t know if I told you but I recently became a camp counselor

that’s cool

it was going super well but there’s some kind of crazed serial killer roaming the grounds right now

And instead what unfolded was a delightful Twitter thread cheekily riffing on horror tropes from the point of view of (spoiler) the guy who’s prooobably the killer but also the protagonist.

An emotional roller coaster not just for the guy standing around with a machete in one hand and, apparently, his phone in the other, this mini-story is a great example of “weird Twitter”: an irreverent, rambling joke with multiple punchlines. A key sample:

Sam Sykes Chuck Wendig horror movie thread Twitter

Read the whole thing and steer clear of any masked camp counselors.

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Posted by Brian McClellan

I signed my first writing contract at the beginning of 2012; a three-book deal for The Powder Mage Trilogy with Orbit Books. The trilogy was sold off the strength of the first book, Promise of Blood, as well as a several page summary of the two subsequent books in the series. At the time of the sale I felt like I was in a pretty good place—I had ambitious plans for the second and third books with new viewpoint characters, new cultures, and a whole different continent to explore.

I started writing the untitled book two later that year and immediately ran into a problem: I hated everything that I wrote.

I didn’t want to continue writing a book that I actively disliked. But I had signed a contract based on this summary and damn it, I was going to stick with it. I worked over the course of several months, pounding my head against the keyboard to build a narrative around all the cool ideas I had sketched out, but it just wasn’t clicking for me. My agent and editor would check in on me once in a while and I’d pull the whole “yeah, yeah, everything is great, go away please” routine like a defensive teenager.

At this point I had been with my agent for a little over a year and a half, and to be honest I was still kind of terrified of her. I was young, with little sense of self as an artist or businessman, and my interactions with my agent were limited to either her telling me to keep editing before she’d submit, and witnessing the obvious witchcraft of her taking Promise of Blood to auction. I did not want to admit to her that I was in a spiral of awful on book two.

When I did finally break down and confess what a hard time I was having (something I should have done many months earlier), she told me something that blew my mind: I didn’t have to stick to that original summary for books two and three. I just needed to write a damn good book.

I feel kind of sheepish admitting all this, because it seems so obvious looking back. Of course my editor just wanted a good book. But as can sometimes be the case that single assurance changed my whole outlook on the project and I was determined as ever to do well. My agent asked for a deadline extension for me and I threw out everything I had written or summarized up to this point (the better part of a 180,000 word novel) and started completely from scratch.

Now that I had tossed out the faulty summaries I needed to figure out why they were faulty. I knew that Promise of Blood ends with a victory for our heroes and I had this idea that I wanted to raise the stakes on a worldwide level. I’d dropped a few hints in Promise that I wanted to follow up on, widening the scope of the books to include a distant empire and intrigue that spanned the globe. But when I tried to write all that the plot seemed to ramble incoherently.

At this point, I fell back on a favorite brainstorming technique of mine: to take a piece of media—book, comic, movie, anime, TV show, etc—and dissect it to figure out what it did right on a purely technical level. Because I was having trouble with a sequel, I turned to one of the most famous follow-ups of all, The Empire Strikes Back.

What did Empire do right that I was struggling with? First off, it didn’t introduce a whole new unknown entity. It stuck with the conflict it had already developed—namely the empire versus the rebellion—and it focused on raising the stakes. Sure, our heroes had destroyed the Death Star, but in Empire our perspective is pulled back to show that it was not as big a victory as we thought and now things were about to get real. So my task on the new draft was to cut out all the over-ambitious junk that I had originally plotted for book two and focus on how the main conflict that I had already developed could continue to advance.

So how would I do this? Despite continuing with the established conflict, Empire introduced new plot elements, new risks, new character development for the heroes, new side characters and villains. We got a glimpse of the Emperor, the sense that things were so much bigger than we ever imagined, but we still focused on our heroes and their adventure.

I often tell prospective authors that a balance of the familiar and the unfamiliar is key in developing science fiction and fantasy. But this applies to more than just initial worldbuilding. It also applies to the expansion of an already existing universe and this was the problem that Empire Strikes Back helped me pinpoint. I had been trying to go too big. I was throwing so much at the reader that even I, the author, couldn’t keep track of it.

So I continued to cut overly-ambitious ideas and focus on the central story and the main characters and villains. And I didn’t stop with just book two, The Crimson Campaign. My newfound freedom to work on the story I wanted rather than the story I thought I had to tell extended to the final book of the trilogy—and a much easier book to write—The Autumn Republic.

Many of you might be scratching your heads and wondering how the heck I got published in the first place. This is all story-telling 101. Shouldn’t I have figured all of this out way back when I first pitched books two and three? Maybe. But real life is rarely that simple. The idea of writing a sequel (let alone the third book in a trilogy) was utterly foreign to me and now that I’ve finished all three books I can look back at that initial pitch and see what I was doing right—focusing on plot escalation and character development—and what I was doing wrong—trying to escalate by widening the scope of the plot instead of focusing on the established conflict. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for all the trees, and learning from a successful franchise like Star Wars helped me do exactly that.

Poder Mage trilogy Brian McClellan

The Poweder Mage Trilogy— Promise of BloodThe Crimson Campaign, and The Autumn Republic—are available from Orbit Books.
This article was originally posted in February 2015.

In addition to being the author of the Powder Mage Trilogy and a variety of related short stories and novellas, Brian is a beekeeper and avid player of computer games. He lives with his wife in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Posted by ARRAY(0xaa9e8b0)

With climate change, more frequent and heavier rains may wash more nitrogen into waterways

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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Posted by tim

This selection of vintage colored photos can give you idea what a summer vacation for a Soviet person could look like. “Citizens of USSR have a right for a vacation” says the slogan on top of the gate. via
hrj: (Default)
[personal profile] hrj

There are two approaches to fairy tale retellings: ones that re-map the original story as a whole into a new setting that shifts the reader’s vision to a different angle, and ones that take the original premise as a jumping-off point then map entirely new territory thereafter. Walking on Knives by Maya Chhabra is definitely of the second type. The jumping-off point is not one of the more sanitized versions of The Little Mermaid, but something much closer to Hans Christian Andersen’s original, complete with hazard to one’s immortal soul and the virtues of physical suffering. Readers who expect a feel-good romance rather than a hard-edged tale of impossible moral choices and unbreakable magical contracts may find themselves off balance.

We have, as a given, the unexplained desire of the mermaid for the prince whose life she saved—a desire so strong she is willing to face enormous risks, sacrifices, and suffering for the merest chance of success. We have the foreign princess who is willing to take credit for the prince’s rescue. But throw into the mix a sister to the sea witch, who has her own goals and desires and is willing to make her own ruthless bargains to achieve them. And crucially, we have a tacit acceptance of same-sex attraction that needs no special pleading or justification.

The story is not about romance, but about working through misunderstandings and barriers to communication. It’s about negotiating your way out of a maze of bad alternatives and choosing which consequences you’re willing to accept. And it’s about the pain that comes from forcing consequences on other people when there is no clean way out. I found the plot delightfully unexpected and challenging. Once it diverged from Andersen’s road map, I had no idea where it was going to take me, but I was satisfied with where I ended up.

The prose style is ambitious, though not always successfully so. There is a wavering between a more formal fairy-tale style and unexpected shifts into colloquial language. Flights of description sometimes veer into excess and I occasionally stumbled over words being used outside their expected meanings. The story has the substance of a fresh and individual voice and I expect that, with practice and maturity, that voice should come into its own.

Walking on Knives may be ordered from Less Than Three Press.

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Posted by Gail Carriger

The last time I went to San Diego Comic Con was also the first time I went to any Comic Con. Back in 2012 it was utterly overwhelming. It’s gotten even more overwhelming. Nevertheless it was a feast for all things, eyes, nose, ears, and feet.

Memorable moments of the con, L-R, T-B:
1. Tea (a lovely strong unsweetened chai) at BOTH my Mysterious Galaxy signings. (I am SO spoiled.) 2. Vamping it up in leopard print. 3. Showing off my new scarf (thank you Amanda Panda), a delightful gift. 4. Familiar much beloved faces.

I survived by…

  • Leaving at least a half hour to get anywhere.
  • Mostly walking in flats and only donning heels for the actual events & photos.
  • Eating my bodyweight in fro-yo and salt & vinegar crisps, but not a whole lot else.
  • Not doing any parties. I was too exhausted each night (I’m getting old, my darlings), and a good number of my particular friends no longer go to SDCC – it’s a young person’s game.
  • Using my octopus parasol pretty constantly when I was outside, but parasols can be a difficult in that kind of crowd.

(I actually have now ordered this folding umbrella meets parasol as an all occasion steampunk option. I will let you know how it goes.)

Defining moments:

Well I won the 60 Secs with Sci-Fi Authors game. (I generally suck at such things, so I was overly chuffed to win.)

My favorite part of comic con, by far, was seeing my readers both familiar faces and a few new ones. I also met the author of The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg, who was LOVELY. Have any of you read her book?


Speaking of books:

My most unexpected moment might have been accidentally hand selling multiple copies of Uprooted while hanging out at the Mysterious Galaxy booth, because I couldn’t stop talking about it. (You can take the girl out of the dealer’s room but you can never take the dealer’s room out of the girl.)

Mysterious Galaxy has pretty much everything of mine signed right now, so give them a ring or drop them a line if you want something with the hand scribbled penmanship of yours truly.

The Clothes!

Here is an overview of all my outfits. I’ll be covering each one in detail over on Retro Rack.

Vote for your favorite! 

Which was your favorite of Gail's Outfits at SDCC 2017?
Poll Options are limited because JavaScript is disabled in your browser.

Meanwhile USA and CAN can pick up the ebook of…

Soulless on sale for $2.99!

And that’s all the madness for now!

As ever yours,

Miss Gail

{Coop de Book: Gail’s monthly read along for July is The Sumage Solution by G. L. Carriger.}


  • Meat Cute ~ A Parasolverse Short
    Status: Rough draft complete. Layaway.
    Possible anchor short story for Secret Project A or SS collected/omnibus in 2018 0r 2019.


The Sumage Solution: San Andreas Shifters #1 by G. L. Carriger
Contemporary m/m paranormal romance featuring a snarky mage and a gruff werewolf. Hella raunchy. Super dirty. Very very fun. Spin off of Marine Biology.

Can a gentle werewolf heal the heart of a smart-mouthed mage?


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

This Airplane Gadget Makes Flying Long Distances In Coach Almost Bearable

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

The Food Pyramid for Writers

Book News:

Books Glorious Books says of Crudrat:

“Cravats, humour and kickassery are a given (it is Gail Carrier, after all). This time, Maura isn’t one of the upper crust. She isn’t anyone. It’s an interesting dynamic; the nastier side of human nature and classism are addressed. The world is creative and delightfully ridiculous, and the character dynamics fun.”

Quote of the Day:

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? There’s a wiki for that!


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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