So, fuck it, I guess tomorrow I'm downloading the source to the Apache one and making it work for Google App Engine. How hard can it be?
So, fuck it, I guess tomorrow I'm downloading the source to the Apache one and making it work for Google App Engine. How hard can it be?
This morning I got in my car outside my B&B in the centre of Enthuizen, and went to find the Zuiderzee Museum. I saw a brown sign pointing in a surprising direction, given where I thought the museum was, and followed it on the basis that signs know best. It took me to an entrance, and after parking I realised that this was simply a car park and ticket office, attached to a pier where they put people on a boat that goes around the outside of the town to the museum. By this time I was committed to paying €5 to leave the car park, so I grinned wryly and spent some time on a boat trip that left me at the museum entrance, a few hundred metres from where I'd set off from....
The museum was a little like the open air museum from two days ago, only it specifically featured buildings from around the Zuiderzee. The indoor part was perhaps the most interesting, with a lot about the economies of the coastal towns and with a hall full of traditional ships. Unfortunately I was fighting a throat infection and thus not really in a paying-attention-to-exhibits mood. :-/
Around midday I set off south, which was uneventful. I passed through the heavily populated bits of the country without leaving the motorway, and a few hours later arrived at an exhibition about the Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier, which is the pair of movable gates that project the waterway on which Rotterdam lies. Finally, an exhibition about this stuff that was worth visiting! Delta expo: €20, and crap. This exhibition: €2 (presumably government subsidised), and good. And that €2 got me a ticket that was valid for return visits all year. Perhaps because this bit is relatively new, it's still worth shouting about?
Content-wise, it was good, with a bit about the specific barrier here and a bit about water management in .nl in general. The barrier is... big. Really big. When I looked up at it out of a window in the visitor centre, my first thought was of the coastal wall from the beginning of Pacific Rim :-) (OK, so it isn't actually *that* big - but the gates have to be tall enough to sit on the bottom of the river and stick out above the water, so...). It is a Very Cool Bit Of Engineering, and I would love to be here for its annual test closing some day.
This exhibition had an interesting approach to translations: things were only printed in Dutch, but there were QR codes on many of the display boards that led to audioguides in many languages. They provided a wifi network so that anybody could use these without a data plan (it was actually obligatory, since the audioguides weren't on the internet at all... despite not using private IP ranges). It's a great idea, wihch avoids anybody having to choose which one or two languages to provide translations for, but it was let down a little in the execution by not covering everything - so for somebody like me who is interested in details, there was still a lot of trying to get the gist of the Dutch displays.
Well worth a visit, as much for getting up close to the barrier as for the exhibition itself. I think they run tours that get you even closer, but the only English-speaking one of the day had departed before I got there.
So, that's pretty much my trip. Some general thoughts:
- With the honourable exception of Flevoland, this land is not flat. What it is is engineered. There are plenty of ups and downs, but they're mostly there for a reason; after a couple of days, especially in Zeeland, I found myself starting to see the land in contours and - not what is high or low directly, but what is encircled by what. It was an interesting realisation.
- Language: I was actually surprised at how many young Dutch people I met who didn't speak much English. That isn't to say there were a lot, but there were more than expected. I'm not sure whether this relates to the fact that I was visiting fairly "out of the way" places that probably don't get a lot of foreign tourists, or whether it's simply a reminder that the people from a country that we meet outside that country (or, indeed, in English-speaking communities on the internet) are a self-selecting sample.
- In general, I think I did a bit to much on this trip. There was a lot that I wanted to see, and I always seemed to be skimming it. If I were doing it again I'd cover half as much ground and spend more time.
 This isn't a criticism, of course - we Brits don't get to criticise people on language, for obvious reasons.
 Except for German ones, for some reason. They seemed to be everywhere.
The post would still go through, and everything works fine - except that I end up with an error in the logs, and the status of that post is an error message rather than "Yay! You posted a thing!".
So, on the grounds that my code is perfect, I assumed that Wordpress.com was somehow doing something that timed me from there end. Clearly, in retrospect, this was a very stupid thing to think.
Because the _actual_ answer is that the default timeout for a URL fetch from Google App Engine is 5 seconds. And the WordPress site is taking about eight seconds to make the post and then tell me it has.
And there's no way for me to change the default. And the library I'm using lets you change the timeout for some transports, but not the one that AppEngine supports - even though App Engine supports setting the timeout.
And it turns out that this project, which is the one that all Google searches take you to, if you search for "XML-RPC Java", is no longer supported, and hasn't been updated since 2010.
So my options are:
1) Download the source code for an unsupported library and update it myself.
2) Switch libraries.
Both of which sound awful, but the latter sounds slightly less awful.
I may spend half an hour being repeatedly killed by Manus instead.
The deadline for site selection is 24:00 PDT on Monday 10th August 2015.
Yesterday evening to the Tate Modern (late opening) to catch the Sonia Delaunay exhibition, which finishes next week, and take in the Agnes Martin one as well.
Not perhaps an entirely ideal combination - after the Delaunay Martin looks a bit washed-out perhaps (limited muted palette, very minute differences, etc), but the other way round Delaunay possibly would look garish?
Though both largely about the abstract, could hardly be more different.
V different personalities too: Delaunay seems to have been at the centre of groups of like-minded creative artists in various fields all her life, ran a business bringing Simultaneist (?sp) design to textiles etc, whereas Martin was a reclusive minimalist who gave up art for significant periods.
This evening to the National to see Everyman with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the eponymous role.
Please note the fake cactus on the table as a statement against fake flowers :p I call it 'the South American rainbow cactus', because of the lovely colours. When I saw it in the shop I thought it was so incredibly ridiculous, that I fell in love with the stupid fake plant instantly and had to have it!
For me, that misunderstands what 'agency' is.
The closest explanation I have is that agenda is like 'forward' in dressage. Forward isn't just about movement towards a goal, it's an attitude A horse can canter along fast and not be 'forward', while on the other hand 'forward into halt' is a perfectly sensible instruction: 'forward' means to move with energy and purpose, with a readiness to move off again. Zooming along out of balance and going 'flump' in downward transitions is the antithesis to 'forward'
Agency likewise isn't about power. Agency is about purpose, about mindfulness, and any character - even a powerless one - can have it. The canonical example is Miles Vorkosigan, drugged and tied to a bed, who evaluates the things he can do (non-spoiler: not many) and then uses what tools he has to shape the situation to the best of his abilities: just by deciding when to open his eyes and when and how loud to groan, whether to try and catch sleep and recover or stay alert and overhear enemies, whether to accept food and medications without resistance, whether to fight his restraints... turns out that even drugged and tied to a bed there are a lot of decisions Miles can, and DOES make.
And now think of all the 'powerless' women who turn up in novels who 'can do nothing' to shape their world? If Miles can shape HIS world, then everybody can. Not all of the time - exercising agency takes spoons - but most of them can at least some of the time.
For me, giving characters more agenda needed a shift in my attitude, and a deliberate effort to look for things they *can* do.
Trivial example: Teenager doesn't tell parents of supernatural event, stumbles into danger.
Rewritten with Agency: Teenager does not tell parents of [event] to protect parents, who are going through hard times, and decides to investigate themselves.
Really not much change, not even in the outcome, but in the first example things 'just happen', in the second the character makes deliberate choices.
Example from my WIP: Firtal goes to the library, looks things up, observes a potential bad guy
Rewritten with Agency: Firtal goes to the library to look something up, observes a potential bad guy and constructs a narrative of researching a red herring so he can observe them some more.
Will he make useful observations either way? Probably. But in the first example, they feel like coincidence - he just happened to be in the library when - while in the rewrite they now feel earned: yes, he happened to be there, but then he took stock of the situation and did something about it and used his skills TO make those observations. And suddenly I have a protagonist who is protagonising, not just reacting.
The longer I look at this the more I wonder just how far 'agency' and 'the special sauce that makes a character into a protagonist' are apart, and if they are different at all. The inability to see how minorities *can* be the protagonists of their own stories, even when they don't hold power, is a shortcoming in the writer, but the good news is that it can be learnt.
Im still learning, one scene at a time, but it's amazing how much more _satisfying_ scenes with agency are.
(ed.: The first draft of this used 'agenda' throughout. Changed to 'agency' as that's the more common term. Oops, brainfart.)
No. Scratch that. Start over.
Somebody stole my phone.
I placed it on a table in the back of the Asmadi Games room, under my necklace and some scissors. I turned away to work on setting up for my Ridiculympics event. The phone, and only the phone, was missing when I came back a few minutes later.
We turned on "find my iphone", we tracked it (it's been in the same location pretty much since it was stolen, has not changed in the slightest), Sparr used the "make a noise" thing to ping it as he walked all around the area (literally 75 times --I get an email every time he did it) we set up a message, all nothing.
Bullshit icing number one: Lex_of_Green and I, with mom and Barb and some other folks, did a Fucking Awesome Mad Max cosplay photoshoot this afternoon. Which ended less than an hour before my phone was stolen, and I was so busy with GenCon work I didn't even have time to upload any to Twitter.
(There were a lot of photos on a lot of cameras, but damnit, everyone got a slightly different set.)
Bullshit icing number two: Y'all remember my schedule? I will not be in Boston again for almost a month. I am traveling all the fuck over *and* I'm at a con where I'm trying to logisticate with people I like.
(I will be in Chicago with mom, which, being as I'm on a family plan, is optimal for getting a new phone -which we can potentially do- or renewing my old phone --which I again can potentially do. Yes, I have Nyota with me at con right now, don't ask, it's a total coincidence.)
Bullshit icing number three: I was signed up to attend one and only one specific event this entire convention, the Dead Gentlemen's Gamer's Live Improv Show. It was at 6:00 tonight. My phone went missing at about 5:45. I opted to look (using mom's phone which GPS'd to my phone) real quick. Late turned into 7:15 and "fuck it, I have an event to run in half an hour anyways" and I missed the whole thing.
(K is friends/coworkers for much of Dead Gentlemen. There will be other opportunities, *good* opportunities someday, probably better than the ones most people get.)
And when it comes right down to it...my family can afford to get me another phone. It won't even be a strain. If this particular disaster had to happen to anyone, well, I can take the damage easier than 95 percent of everyone. Losing the photos sucks --but thanks to iCloud I only lost three days, and some of the GenCon photos I had sent to friends or tweeted, and I can get them back sometime later.
I prayed. Directly and with words, which I only rarely do, and to all three of my gods at once, which I *never* do --specifically, Athe and Gaea occupy literally opposite physical spaces in that one is a goddess of the outdoors and nature and the other is a goddess of human ingenuity and creation. The only thing I could think to sacrifice (which didn't seem either cheap or unreasonably expensive for what is a thing that can honestly just be a bad thing) was my bile, my cynicism, my need for vengence, my quiet dark hatred of "there's 100 ways that we can bruise each other" and "people fucking suck".
"I will be kind." I whispered. "I will not stop being kind".
In this space, what that means is you can call the specific person who did this an asshole. But you can't swear vengeance on them, you can't threaten to hurt them, you can't swear you'll "make them pay!" Probably their life has been less good on the whole than mine is, probably something has gone seriously wrong if they think it's okay to steal phones and I am sad for that.
And you can't tell me people suck, and you can't tell me that the world is awful, and you can't tell me "this is what you get for leaving your phone on a table in a crowded game room". Because I believe in a world where the people in a nice friendly joyful environment like Asmadi do not do that.
I will make that world by leading by example. I will be kind.
(it is my sacrifice and not yours, you can do those things if you really want. But I would feel uncomfortable, and I would feel grateful if you don't try to commiserate with me by emphasizing that we damage each other.)
(I think I would prefer not to have helpful suggestions on this thread? I have not detailed quite everything I've done, but me and Sparr (and mom and Chris and jere7my) are all smart people and all have given their best advice, and I'd like to have a space where I don't have to say over and over "yes, tried that". If you really care, go tell me helpful things on the Facebook thread or on Twitter or something.)
I think that humans, like our cities, are fractally interesting. A person or a community can be quite bland and boring when viewed large, but that surface impression is not the same thing. The closer you look, the more you find things that are complex and fascinating and amazing.
We spend a lot of time wanting to sum up, to label, to take people in at a glance. To write people off. The same with the places they live, I muse as I spend time this summer in small no-account towns in an extraneous province of an ignorable country. I was sitting in a friend's back yard tonight, watching apples fall from her tree, thinking about all the secret hidden places you don't see if you look quickly, roughly, from a distance; they only open up to patient and careful eyes.
People don't always show you from the outset the way they peel vegetables, the way they learned to spell, their moments of grace and resilience. Those things are learned slowly and often they're hidden pieces of knowledge. There are things you'll never know about people and places until you, say, meet a local scientist who can tell you that the local variety of dandelion shows genetic drift from the variety that grows in the sidewalks of a city fifty minutes down the road. The most interesting parts are hidden away in unreadable alphabets or in houses or in skin. and it takes work to find and decode them.
Between the TA losing my work in one class and the instructor refusing to accommodate medical absences consisting of two. days. of class in the other, I just do not care anymore about what grades I get. I am very unlikely to do anything that requires a high GPA in college, and what I learned in the CS class is that I actually hate programming, so I don't even need the prereq required grade there.
The research for my final papers was actually fairly interesting, though. I wrote the short one on the connection between medical theory about women and contemporary gender ideas in the (European) early modern period, and the other about the legal status of alchemy through its history in Europe. I may post them, along with the other term paper I'm sort of proud of from last fall, when my grades are back and I no longer have reason to think my professor might google the text to check for plagiarism.
I was reminded that I should probably feed my special interest in theology more often doing the research for the second one; a lot of European law was theocratic in the middle ages, so there was a lot of reading about whether alchemy was theologically permissible (spoiler: almost certainly not, but I don't think the reasoning would be used today since it folds under contemporary science the Catholic church does not dispute).
Basically, there was the idea that art could not create a perfect copy of nature, because to create truly perfect natural objects was the sole domain of the Creator; there was also the idea that believing in the transmutation of species (of metal) was analogous to heretical belief that witches could change their species (into animals), which ecclesiastical law said was just as bad as actually being a pagan. That also rested on the idea that that power was only that of God. In either case I don't think anyone's likely to defend the assertions involved today, since we now can make perfect copies of "natural" objects like metals, and we know exactly what goes into them to prove they're perfect copies.
The secular law on the subject was mostly concerned with the fact that if the church said that wasn't possible, then anyone claiming to do it was passing off fake gold as real gold and possibly minting counterfeit coins with it. Which was okay if the sovereigns did it, but not if anyone else did. (Henry VI apparently ordered the arrest of all alchemists not working for him.) There were also some later fraud trials where various Holy Roman rulers hired alchemists to create gold for them and then had them tried for fraud when they were unable to do it. There alchemy wasn't technically illegal, but doing it for pay de facto was since none of them could ever succeed. At least if you were doing it for a duke it was illegal, anyway.
The whole time I was reading those cases, I was actually thinking it would be kind of cool to write a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin where either the daughter is an alchemist's daughter who works in his shop, and he boasts of her abilities to the wrong ruler, or Rumpelstiltskin is a (successful?) alchemist and rescues her after the spinning boast.
Thoughts probably not presented particularly tidily.
One theme that showed up quite a bit in the comments was roughly, ~I think Lewis wrote the Narnia Chronicles as Christian allegory to instruct Christian children about their faith, not to evangelize non-Christian children~
This makes a few assumptions:
1. The Narnia Chronicles are Christian allegory.
2. Lewis wrote the Narnia Chronicles with a didactic purpose.
Lewis himself has some interesting things to say that shed light on what at least he thought he was doing.
( Lewis on Christian elements in the Narnia Chronicles, with comments from me )
Now some thoughts in another direction.
In Lewis's explanations of the Christian elements in the Narnia Chronicles as "let's suppose" rather than "allegory", he describes the "let's suppose" element as including ~Suppose Christ became incarnate in a world like Narnia~.
The interesting thing is, I don't think Aslan becomes incarnate in Narnia.
He's flesh-and-blood and has a body, yes. He's not a mere appearance.
But. He is never born. He has no mother. There's no Narnian Nativity story. No Narnian Theotokos. When he shows up in Narnia at the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he seems to come straight from his Father. And there's no indication that his bodily existence at that time is in any way different from his existence at the beginning of the creation of Narnia in The Magician's Nephew.
So, despite Lewis's framing of the Narnia stories as involving ~what if Christ became incarnate in that world~, I really don't think Narnia has an incarnation.
Which ... from an Eastern Orthodox point of view, is pretty big. The Incarnation is at the core of the Orthodox understanding of what Christ did - the Orthodox understanding of the death and resurrection and ascension of Christ don't work without the incarnation.
And I'm kind of amazed to notice this for the first time - and I'm glad reading liv's post and comments led me in this direction. Wow.
That was my PT office returning my voicemail of the day before, saying that yes I could come in at 9:30 instead of 2:30, so I said "see you then" and made tea. I wanted to reschedule because it's hot here again, and I wanted to get back without standing out in the heat waiting for the bus.
The physical therapy went quite well, except for the glitch where I angrily explained that I need not to be given contradictory instructions: one of the interns was having me do an exercise, and another interrupted while I was doing it to tell me to do it differently. But the ankle and wrist are both continuing to heal, and the shoulder-strengthening program continues on course. (I did have to ice the shoulder yesterday evening, though.)
We microwaved frozen Indian food for supper, because it was too hot to do anything resembling cooking. Fortunately, cattitude has found a brand that is, if not impressive, actually food, and sells at least two dishes that are flavorful but not pepper-hot, so I can eat them.
We went to bed slightly late, but were thoroughly asleep when the building fire alarm went off at about 12:40 a.m. We pulled on clothes and shoes, grabbed our cell phones, and walked downstairs and out. My ankle didn't like that, but was okay once I found a place to sit down. (It's hurting some today, but I'm not sure of causality.) This time the firefighters went into the Safeway; the downside of living in the same building as the 24-hour supermarket is that it increases the number of fire alarms. It's not as bad as living in a dorm where all the rooms have fire alarms and almost nobody knows how to use them, but the alarms freshman year were less likely to go off when I was sound asleep.
When we got the all-clear we came back up, calmed the cats, made herb tea, and played Scrabble. It was a quarter to two when I went back to bed. I got up six hours later; between that and the heat, I made a point of doing my proofreading in the morning. I did find time this afternoon to look at the Hugo nominees for semiprozine and come up with a plausible 1, 2, 3 ranking among Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. ("Plausible" in this case meaning that I didn't read any of them all the way through; I've sent the Hugo packet samples, and the sample for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, to my kindle for later, but "later" will be after the ballot deadline, which is now 6.5 hours away.)
The Judgement of Gods and Monsters is a thoughtful story about how a society creates the balance between being fully peaceful in peacetime, and being able to defend itself in wartime; how it deals after the war with those who committed violence within it.
I like the main plot of the story, but I also like how some of the background details (family structures, command structures, current technology) are not like the current white Western default, which builds the sense of this being a different place very effectively.
Archana and Chandni by Iona Sharma
Indian wedding … in space! I loved it, from the convincing portrayal of enduring culture into the future, to the spaceship sibling, to the wedding couple and the feeling of family. Just lovely. I have to thank karaspita who linked to it. (and now I have Yet Another source of short fiction to fail to keep up with, yay!)
Alnwick by Iona Sharma
Also brought to my attention by karaspita; this time about a bureaucrat in a British space program getting called out of a tedious party to respond to an accident affecting one of the key staff. I really like how the characters and the background culture feel completely real and believable, and the overall feeling is optimistic.
(and at this point I looked up the author’s website, realised that Nine Thousand Hours which I wrote about last time is also by Iona Sharma and think maybe I rather like this author?)
Noise Pollution by Alison Wingus
I really like the worldbuilding this story, where music is magic and there’s evil/chaotic noise that has to be fended off with singing, or at least a walkman playing some good music. Lots of fun. (and oh hey the author also writes comics)
The Totally Secret Origin of Foxman: Excerpts from an EPIC Autobiography by Kelly McCullough
It’s pretty much what it says on the tin: another variant on the superhero origin story, complete with former friend/nemesis and unexplained arrival of powers, but done well and interesting me enough to stick the imminent novel-in-the-same-universe on my wishlist.
Kin, Painted by Penny Stirling
I read this because the accompanying artwork was by Mia, whose work I adore. I’m often find highly stylised writing puts me off, if I’m noticing the style more than the story, but I think here the style and the story work together well and I enjoyed reading this, and admiring how Mia’s painting fits it so well.
(And Lackingtons looks interesting, if by its focus on stylistic writing, somewhat outside my comfort zone. I didn’t have enough short story publishers to keep up with, clearly!)
Born on this day in 1713 to Ferdinand II, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel and Princess Antoinette of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, Charles Guelph I, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel (my toy,wikipedia). Grandfather of Caroline who married George IV. Charles tried (unsuccessfully) to improve the finances of the Duchy and when he failed his son took over. He founded what is now the Technical University of Brunswick.
I do rather resent that the racist misogynistic political campaigns calling themselves Sad/Rabid Puppies drained a lot of my pleasure and enthusiasm for Hugo-voting this year, so I fell back on bad habits of being deadline-driven. However I think I’ve managed to look at and form opinions in more categories this year than I ever have before.
( Read more... )
Diana Wynne Jones
Emily St. John Mandel
Kevin J. Anderson
A few notes: Ilona Andrews is a pen name for a husband and wife team, so it appears on both lists. I suspect in total page count the count would lean more heavily male, because of all the Butcher. But I'm surprised how close it is to 50:50 on author count. I doubt that would have been true a few years ago. 7/32 are authors of color, ~20%.
After paying up I headed to Urk, of which more in a minute, but rather than taking the fast route I did most of the distance along the dike at the edge of one of the Flevoland polders. I was struck again by the extreme flatness, extending into the distance without another dike in sight, but also by how clearly the land on one side was lower than the sea on the other. I wondered how it would feel to know that the land that you live on, and from, only exists so long as supplies of diesel and/or electricity are available for the pumping stations. In practice I realise that much else of what we take for granted would fail far more quickly and dramatically than polder drainage if we ran out of fuel - I imagine it would take days or weeks for things to get badly waterlogged, except perhaps at the fringes - but land is something so fundamental, at least in my world view....
I also noticed a vast number of wind turbines all over this part of the country, made even vaster by the flatness and hence their visibility from a very long way off. I wondered whether the attitude had been "eh. Everything else is artificial...", but apparently not; there is opposition, and there's even a local term that is particularly applicable in flat regions, which apparently translates to "horizon pollution".
Urk struck me as a place that has suffered over the last hundred years through no fault of its own. Initially a small fishing community on an island in the Zuiderzee, first the sea was dammed off, so they had to travel much further or adapt to fresh water (both happened - there's a local freshwater fleet and a deep-sea fleet as well). Other islands worry about fixed road links changing their character, but Urk's concerns went a step further in the 1940s, when the Noordoostpolder was drained out from behind it, making it part of the mainland. At least it was still on the coast (of a freshwater lake), unlike some other settlements. I can imagine that by this point, the national government probably wasn't too popular with the locals... and when the authorities tried to enforce environmental regulations related to fishing in the 1970s there were riots. The town has retained a distinct identity, to the extent of being considered insular by many - as well as heavily religious and socially conservative, which perhaps fits well with the history.
Today, from wandering through, I got an impression of a number of overlapping populations in Urk. There's still a fishing community, both of the deep-sea type and of local traditional vessels. I wonder whether the latter is a sustainable industry, or whether it's old men in their old boats? Then there are a lot of Prim and Proper homes; small cottages immaculately kept. My initial impression was that it was somewhere for those who like things Just So to retire to, but friends have suggested that outsiders aren't sufficiently welcome for that! Thirdly, amongst the pristine front gardens and painted shutters, are those people who have embraced the tourists and opened shops and restaurants. I wonder whether there's conflict there? There's a significantly-sized commercial harbour, and in addition to the fishing boats it houses offshore wind service vessels. I imagine there must be some wind farms in the IJsselmeer?
After wandering Urk for a couple of hours, and seeing a couple getting married in the little lighthouse there, I returned to Kampen in the hope that enormous and over-proportioned church that I had noticed last night would be open by then. It was, and somebody was practicing on one of the two (!) pipe organs. The church was impressive, and the music was nice too :)
The next stop was back on the polder, to meet online-friend P, with whom I share a professional interest in water management, at the obscure attraction of the Waterloopbos. Before computer modelling, when planning major water engineering projects, large scale models were built and tested in this area. It's overgrown now, and the result is woodland with many small streams, some of which have curious brick structures and little sluices in them. It could have been really interesting, but unfortunately it was badly signposted and some of the few explanatory notices that did exist seemed to have little to do with the things that they were in front of. A bit of a disappointment in that regard, but still a pleasant stroll through some woodland - which, incidentally, I wouldn't have guessed was less than seventy years old if I didn't know when the area was drained....
There's a theme emerging here, after this and the Delta Expo. The Dutch, as a nation, are rightly proud of their expertise and achievements in civil engineering and water management. But they're not good at talking about it, or showing it off. The Delta Expo didn't really exist any more. The Waterloopbos was unadvertised, nearly unsigned, and neglected. The signs and guides were only in Dutch, and apparently not terribly clear even to those who could read them. I wonder whether this stuff is so much accepted, and part of the way things are, that it's not seen as remarkable any more.
After this visit P and I parted ways, and I continued north in order to drive over the Afsluitdijk - which I can now pronounce, if not correctly, then recognisably, but I still have to look up before spelling. Prior to the Delta Project - started in the interwar period - the Zuiderzee works are the other major bit of Dutch coastal engineering. They resulted in the polders that I've spent the last couple of days visiting, but before that was the seperation of the Zuiderzee from the Waddenzee and hence its conversion into the freshwater IJsselmeer. This was accomplished by means of a 30km dike, and I drove along it. Mostly it was just a very, very, very straight length of motorway, with water on either side. I did pause at the first set of locks, which had a "Afsluitdijk Information Centre". Confirming to the theme above, it was closed. Considering when it was completed, this dike was (still is) a remarkable piece of engineering... but it's difficult to appreciate its scale from ground level, or even the modest height of the observation tower provided. The only way to get a feel for it, at least for me, is to consider that it took over 15 minutes to cross at motorway speeds.
Incidentally, something that I've noticed in the last few days is parking areas, marked "Carpool", in the middle of nowhere close to motorway junctions. That's a really neat idea.
Tonight's B&B is less lavish, but it has a very peaceful garden. I am sitting on a bench in the warm evening, with a small grey cat licking me and an enormous, friendly, gentle and fluffy white dog sitting on my foot. Also a lot of mosquitoes feasting on my blood, but one can't have everything.... Incidentally, the me of ten years ago would have been pretty uncomfortable in this situation. I've become a lot better with animals.
 Incidentally, it was only this morning that I saw "IJssel" spelt with the capital J on a sign - and realised that since "IJ" is a single vowel, it makes sense to capitalise the first two letters together. Dutch friends: is this a normal way of doing things?
Vaguely apologizing in an e-mail the other day for my lack of having replied to e-mails for months, I mused that it's been kind of a strange year for me. His reply started
Strange years happen, eh? I feel like I've had a couple of those recently, when people have asked me what I've been up to and I flat-out have NO ANSWER, even if I just went on a helicopter ride that afternoon. It didn't feel like tunnel vision, it felt like something else...what do you call it when you buy groceries and then are completely surprised to see them when you open the fridge? Not that I'm saying this is extensible to your experience, but it's what my most recent strange years have been like: I *have* been doing stuff, but somehow it all fails to get properly flagged.I feel well on my way to old-biddy (biddy is the feminine form of coot, right!)-dom myself. And I have long thought that my problems started (though I don't know whether this was a cause or an effect) with failing to process things that happen to me, failing to flag them or sort them out exactly as plok says here. It's bugged me a lot that I was never able to write much about the two "tracks" of my life I was working on through the whole first half of 2015 and, now that I've got them sorted -- as much as they're going to get for now, anyway -- I still want to write about them, partly to update the people who read about how I'm doing here but largely for my own benefit: I feel stuck. And the reason I haven't written much -- a near-complete inability to focus or concentrate, a tiredness that cannot be fixed by any amount of rest or good eating or exercise -- is dragging me down still further itself.
I don't really know how that happens. It seems like maybe I'm reading my current emotional state for memory? Like, I forget about the trip and the work and all the peak (or trough) moments, all I can think of is the book I'm reading or how I have to buy toothpaste or how I'm a bit hungry...hmm, or maybe I'm reading *past* emotional states for memory, something that happened last week that I haven't adequately sorted through. "What have you been up to?" Well, I've been wondering why I seem to be short a couple of pillowcases...really need to get up to my parents' house and take care of a couple things anyway, maybe I'll look for them there?
"Uh...but didn't somebody tell me you just won the lottery?"
Oh yeah, and I won the lottery...the thing is, I remember the last time I *saw* those pillowcases, but I don't know if it was last week, or last month...
But at least if I'm already like this now, I don't have to worry about turning into this when I'm an old coot, eh?
To have this articulated for me with the words I cannot find these days, to know that this is a thing that happens to other people too, is an immense relief to me.
Today, The Lancet released the results of a large field trial of a vaccine against Ebola [...] The results were so good that the trial itself has been stopped, and the vaccine is now being used to control the spread of the disease.
Atul Gawande @ the New Yorker: The Score
The question facing obstetrics was this: Is medicine a craft or an industry?
Stephen Engelberg @ ProPublica: Editor’s Note: ‘Dr. Abscess’ and Why Surgeon Scorecard Matters
[Surgeon Scorecard] marks ProPublica’s first attempt to make data available about surgeons.
Jaime Lowe @ NYT Magazine: ‘I Don’t Believe in God, but I Believe in Lithium’
Scientists say it took three minutes following the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, for the first three elements to emerge — helium, hydrogen and then trace amounts of lithium, atomic number 3.
Peter Watts @ Rifters: No Brainer.
Lewin’s paper reports that one out of ten hydrocephalus cases are so extreme that cerebrospinal fluid fills 95% of the cranium. Anyone whose brain fits into the remaining 5% should be nothing short of vegetative; yet apparently, fully half have IQs over 100.
In better news, 10 months after leaving my previous glasses on the plane, I finally got myself new ones. It's weird at the moment, but it's also nice to finally be able to see details again. My sight isn't too bad, so I really only need glasses for seeing things in the distance when driving and it wasn't unsafe without them or anything, but having the option to use them is good.
And now I am off work for two weeks. Yay!
For example, this URL:
takes you to my profile page.
( two ways to make links )
In Dreamwidth and most other online writing spaces, a bare link automatically becomes clickable. I prefer bare links because
- They’re easier to type, test, and proofread.
- They simplify working around link rot.
-Four of Courtney Milan's Brothers Sinister romances, which were a lot of fun, in general, and not at all cringeworthy in the way they told stories about relationships. The obstacles to romance were meaningful and different. I think my favorite was the Suffragette Scandal because it pushed the timeline down the road a few years and showed all the different outcomes, but it wasn't just an excuse to do so. The main storyline was interesting on its own terms, and so the background catch-ups to all the other marriages was effective without being obtrusive.
-Veronica Mars: Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Jennifer Graham and "Rob Thomas". Given how much more I liked this than the movie, I'm fairly convinced Thomas had little to do with it, other than approving the limits of canonical deviation. More Mac and Wallace than the movie, a lot less Logan than the movie, a compelling Veronica/Keith story, a compelling Veronica/Lianne story, fun cameos from Weevil and Cliff and Dick and a few others... and in general, a story about the costs of giving up New York that worked for me a lot better than the movie and made skillful use of the movie's time jump.
-Books 8-11 of the Dresden Files. No, I have not made it to Skin Game yet, and will be leaving it off my ballot in any case for Puppy reasons, but I'll keep at it.
Books that I am in the middle of:
-The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon, which got off to a rollicking start and then lost me. It's about a future where smart phones have technologically advanced to the point where they're essentially auxiliary brains, and then their software catches a bug which gives users some sort of SFnal aphasia. Graedon made the dubious decision to try to represent this in text by randomly replacing words in her narrators' narration with nonsense words, and since this is a progressive aphasia, it gets worse and worse the deeper I get into the book. Protip: If you're going to try to make me read a book full of nonsense words, they'd better at least be puns like in finnegans Wake. I'm still trying to finish it, but my motivation to finish has vanished.
-Changes by Jim Butcher, book 12 of the Dresden Files. In which changes happen. No, I mean, in which Harry finally gives into one or several of the temptations to power that he has systematically denied for every book up to this point, in the name of rescuing a daughter he never knew he had. It's pretty interesting to watch the process happen, and to realize it's been happening for several books: Harry is turning into Gandalf, or if not precisely Gandalf, into a Gandalf-type wizard. He is unrelatable because his building power is now substantial enough that his goals are inhuman. I don't think I've ever actually seen a story do this part of the journey... wizards are almost inevitably either novices figuring out their powers, or inscrutable masters of powers beyond the ken of man. (Though I've been told that the third book in Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy more explicitly covers this territory)
-Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews. Gritty urban fantasy set in Atlanta. True, it's a later book in the series, but 20 pages in I already was liking it more than the Dresden books. The city is more present, the sense of community stronger, the characters more believable, the danger more scary.