sovay: (I Claudius)
Tonight in unexpected numismatics: identifying two kinds of coins in five different writing systems for my mother. The former had classical-looking pomegranates on the obverse and were obviously Israeli because they said so in Hebrew, English, and Arabic; they turned out to be Israeli pounds or lirot issued between 1967 and 1980 and the design of a triple branch of budding pomegranates looked familiar to me because it was patterned after the shekels issued in the first year of the First Jewish Revolt (66–67 CE). My grandparents almost certainly brought them home from their visit to Israel in the mid-1980's. The latter were very worn, thin copper or brass cash and I thought Chinese, which meant the latest they could have been issued was 1911; they turned out to have been struck in Guangdong in the reign of the Guangxu Emperor, specifically between 1890 and 1908, and the script I didn't recognize on the reverse was Manchu. We have no idea where they came from. I really appreciate the role the internet played in allowing me to stare at images of different kinds of cash until I recognized enough characters to narrow my search parameters, because I don't actually read either Chinese or Manchu. I mean, I know now that the Manchu for "coin" is boo and it looks like this and the Chinese inscription on the obverse of that issue is 光緒通寶 which simply means "Guangxu currency" (Guāngxù tōng bǎo) and the reason it took me forever to track down two of those characters turns out to be the difference between Traditional and Simplified Chinese, but seriously, without the internet, that would have just been a lot of interesting metal to me.

(Me to [personal profile] spatch: "This is ridiculous. If I can read cuneiform, I should be able to read Chinese. I feel incredibly stupid." Rob to me: "You can't call yourself stupid if you're teaching yourself Chinese!")

(no subject)

2017-05-24 20:32[personal profile] skygiants
skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
I have spent the last five days rereading through Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief books at the rate of one a day, and doing very little else!

If you've missed them, the long arc of the Queen's Thief series features the three warring alt!Grecian kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia getting their act together to avoid being absorbed by an alt!Babylonian empire. The books are heavy on well-researched worldbuilding, political complexity, and third-act twists; they are light on divine influence, though the gods do have a plan and they would rather like the protagonists to stop whining about it. Books include:

The Thief: A magus, his two apprentices, a soldier and a thief go on a life-changing field trip to steal a divine king-making relic, and Megan Whalen Turner shows off her unreliable first-person narration.

The Queen of Attolia: All three kingdoms start a slapfight with each other while the series protagonist sulks in his room, except when he's stealing important political figures from other kingdoms. Megan Whalen Turner would like you to know she can dance deftly around significant information just as easily in omniscient third as she can in first.

The King of Attolia: A sweet, honest guardsman punches his king in the face, and proceeds to regret every single one of his life choices. Megan Whalen Turner's like "look, this time I'm using limited third and telling you EXACTLY what my protagonist thinks and believes at any given time, it's not MY fault he only knows like 20% of what's actually going on."

A Conspiracy of Kings: The heir to the kingdom of Sounis is like "I COULD sort out this civil war by becoming king OR I could do hard labor for the rest of my life and honestly the latter sounds more appealing?" Megan Whalen Turner returns to first person but is too busy examining questions of ethics around violence in the political sphere to put all that much effort into setting up twists.

This is the part that's spoilery for the first four books )

Anyway, yesterday I finally got to the point where I could read the just-published new book, Thick as Thieves. So this is the part that's spoilery for Thick as Thieves. )
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
After not sleeping for more than a day and a half, I stayed asleep for nearly twelve hours last night. I dreamed of walking out in the rain to watch cartoons at a historic theater in New York that could be reached by walking into Harvard Square. I almost left my bathrobe at the theater. Sometimes you get complex, imagistic dreams full of narrative significance; sometimes this happens.

I saw the news of Manchester yesterday morning. I was in the process of posting about a nearly sixty-year-old movie in which a terrorist bombing figures prominently. It would have been nice for that aspect of the film to have dated as badly as its Cold War politics, but even the Cold War politics have become popular again these days. I don't want to speak for a city that isn't mine: I wish everyone strength and safety. Title of this post from H.D.'s Blitz poem The Walls Do Not Fall (1944).

(I am not pleased that just because the man in the White House does not understand security, privacy, or boundaries, apparently whole swathes of the U.S. intelligence community have decided to follow suit.)

Some things from the internet—

1. It is not true that I had no idea any of these events were actually photographed, which is my problem with clickbait titles in general (seriously, the one with Tesla has been making the rounds of the internet for a decade), but this is nonetheless an incredibly interesting collection of historical photos. The one of a beardless van Gogh is great. The records of the Armenian genocide, the Wounded Knee Massacre, and Hitler in full-color Nazi splendor are instructive. I am way more amused than I should be that thirty-one-year-old Edison really looks like a nineteenth-century tech bro.

2. Courtesy of [personal profile] moon_custafer: "ZEUS NO." I am reminded of one of my favorite pieces of Latin trivia, which I learned from Craig A. Williams' Roman Homosexuality (1999/2010): that Q. Fabius Maximus who was consul in 116 BCE got his cognomen Eburnus because of the ivory fairness of his complexion, but he got his nickname pullus Iovis—"Jupiter's chick," pullus being slang for the younger boyfriend of an older man—after he was hit by lightning in the ass.

3. Courtesy of [personal profile] drinkingcocoa: "James Ivory and the Making of a Historic Gay Love Story." I saw Maurice (1987) for the first time last fall, fifteen years after reading the novel, and loved it. I should write about it. I should write about a lot of movies. I need to sleep more.

4. All of the songs in this post are worth hearing, but I have Mohamed Karzo's "C'est La Vie" on repeat. You can hear him on another track from the same session—covering one of his uncle's songs, his uncle being the major Tuareg musician-activist Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou—here.

5. Well, I want to see all of this woman's movies now. Like, starting immediately: "Sister of the sword: Wu Tsang, the trans artist retelling history with lesbian kung fu."
siderea: (Default)
Starts good, gets great: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's magnificent address of May 19 on the removal of the Confederate monuments from New Orleans. It's 22 minutes long, and, Americans, it's absolutely worth making the time. Beautiful, firey, and uplifting, it's worth hearing it delivered rather than reading a transcript.



Many thanks to [personal profile] heron61 for bringing it to my attention.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Anne of Green Gables proves child labour is good! And Batman proves that we don't need cops, just highly motivated oligarchs in tights.
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

I got back to Michigan late on Monday after a wonderful week in France for Les Imaginales.

The festival was amazing. The whole town participates and helps to sponsor Les Imaginales, which felt like a cross between a book fair, convention, and renaissance festival. The town is gorgeous, the food is delicious, and there were dogs everywhere–even in restaurants or sitting under a table in the book tent 🙂

I’ve posted photos from the book fair on Flickr. I’ve got a bunch more to get through and post, but I’m doing them one batch at a time.

The best part, naturally, was getting to hang out with some wonderful author friends from America, and to meet new authors, fans, editors, and fellow geeks from France and elsewhere.

It was fascinating to see the differences between French and American conventions. The panels were very different. Instead of a free-for-all conversation, the moderator asked each author a question, one at a time. There wasn’t much interaction between the authors. It felt a bit more formal, but also made sure everyone got the chance to talk and contribute. You were also expected to talk a fair amount about your book and how it related to the topic. At home, I try to avoid doing that too much, but in France, it’s expected that you’ll talk about your writing and help the audience learn enough to decide whether or not they’re interested.

Which means the best time to be in the book tent is immediately after you’ve done a panel. (I didn’t figure that out for my first panel, and probably missed some sales since I didn’t immediately go to the tent afterward. D’oh!)

I’m still trying to get caught up on everything. In the meantime, have a few pictures. (Or check out the full album on Flickr or Facebook!)

A shot of Epinal at night

Authors en route to Epinal

James Morrow and Christopher Priest

Château d’Épinal

A bit of historical reenactment? I really don’t understand French history…

My thanks to everyone at the festival for inviting me, for their hard work organizing the event, and for making this such a delightful week.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

conuly: (Default)
Finnegan's Wake (the song, that is.)

They certainly get to brawling fast, don't they? I get that the row and the ruckus has to start somehow, and that they're all a little into their cups by now, and Biddy sure is a buzzkill... but even so. I wonder if we're missing some important backstory here.

*************


Science Says: Whale of a mystery solved? How they got so big

Why the Venus de Milo Has Extra-Long Second Toes

Capybara Loves All The Animals On Her Farm

Study shows snakes, thought to be solitary eaters, coordinate hunts

Gorgeous Artwork Shows Kids With Their Superhero Shadows and Will Warm Your Frozen Heart

Welsh Farmer Accidentally Creates World's Hottest Chili

How Women Mentors Make a Difference in Engineering (Relevant link to LJ)

How New York City Is Rediscovering Its Maritime Spirit

Migrants sweep their way to integration in rubbish-strewn Rome

Wolves need space to roam to control expanding coyote populations

Grasshopper Glacier

Nevertheless, He Persisted: Tales of Masculine Perseverance

Why we have more and more days without frost

Animals still in cages a year after Buenos Aires zoo closure

In the aftermath of disaster, Haitians ask what makes a city.

Why A Surgeon Taught A Non-Doctor To Do Brain Surgery

Without ID, Homeless Trapped in Vicious Cycle

Covering Standing Rock

The 'Muslim World' Does Not Exist

In Some Rural Counties, Hunger Is Rising, But Food Donations Aren't

Cocaine Is Destroying Forests in Central America

Kurdish independence in Iraq likely 'not if but when': U.S. general

The Deportation Fears of Immigrants With Disabled Children

Federal Agents Are Now Using ‘Stingrays’ to Track and Capture Undocumented Immigrants

The Disappearing Data Project

Dubious arrests, damaged lives: How shelters criminalize hundreds of children

Police Forces Are Sending A Message To Black Suburban Residents: You’re Not Wanted

They Outnumber Refugees But Don't Often Make Headlines

The Scramble for Post-ISIS Syria Has Officially Begun

20 million people are starving and the media only cares about Trump, says UN

The story of a decades-long lead-poisoning lawsuit in New Orleans illustrates how the toxin destroys black families and communities alike.
starandrea: (Default)
Sheridan: "I never thought there could be anything worse than being all alone in the night."
Delenn: "But there is. Being all alone in a crowd."
starandrea: (writing)
In looking for an accessible (okay, entertaining) reference for The Ray Cat Solution to long-term communication about nuclear waste, I came across the wikipedia entry on long-time nuclear waste warning messages and, more entertainingly, a variety of articles about previous brainstorming on this issue.

This one from Mental Floss is my current favorite~

Offbeat Plans to Protect Nuclear Waste (With Cats)
by Rachel Kaufman

"...Radioactive waste remains dangerous to humans for at least 10,000 years. So, how do we tell people living in the far distant future to stay out of our trash? The government’s solution: some good, old-fashioned warning signs.

"Of course, coming up with such a simple plan wasn’t all that easy. To keep future generations safe, the U.S. government had to do some seriously long-term thinking. In the 1990s, when the [Waste Isolation Pilot Plant] was still being completed, federal officials convened a panel of scientists, anthropologists, and linguists to brainstorm. And just to ensure they had enough diverse minds involved, they also invited a team of science-fiction writers to join the mix.

"The group realized early on that big 'Do Not Enter' signs wouldn’t suffice for the WIPP site. After all, they reasoned, there were plenty of curses and warnings carved into the ancient pyramids to ward off grave robbers, and clearly, legions of Egyptologists ignored the pictograms and raided the tombs anyway. What’s more, it’s doubtful that folks 10,000 years from now will even be able to read modern English. Think of it this way: Only a few of today’s scholars can understand the original Beowulf without a translation, and that text is only 1,000 years old.

"Creating an ominous warning sign that lasts forever and translates for generations across all cultures wasn’t going to be easy. But as Germany learned when it faced a similar problem in the 1980s (thanks to some leaky nuclear-storage incidents), academics aren’t shy about offering out-of-the-box suggestions. One expert proposed writing a message on an artificial moon and launching it into space. Because the moon would always be visible in the night sky, the warning would be impossible to forget. Yet another expert proposed creating an 'atomic priesthood' — an elite class of people who would protect the area from one generation to the next by scaring the public with veiled threats of a supernatural curse. On the opposite end of the spectrum, one researcher suggested leaving the site entirely unmarked, reasoning that human curiosity is too powerful a force to overcome.

"But the strangest suggestion by far came from two German linguists. They argued that governments around the world should breed cats that turn colors when exposed to radiation. These so-called 'ray cats' could then be immortalized in song and legend, so that even after the scientific knowledge of radiation had been lost to the sands of time, folklore would tell of their supernatural power to change their fur in the presence of extreme danger.

"For the time being, the U.S. government has settled on a much simpler idea. Surrounding the WIPP will be a forest of concrete obelisks, etched with messages in multiple languages, including English, Chinese, Spanish, Latin, Hebrew, and Navajo. The structures will also contain a series of pictograms that depict human faces in pain. Admittedly, it sounds a whole lot like the warnings on the Egyptian pyramids. But fortunately, the government still has time to come up with a different plan. The WIPP site won’t be sealed for at least another 60 years — and that’s plenty of time to breed a ray cat."
starandrea: (Default)
A Runner's Letter to Herself, After Her First Marathon
by Amanda Epley

"...Just last year, a marathon seemed impossible. Today, you’re a marathoner.

"I want you to remember this feeling the next time you are faced with an overwhelming predicament or unforeseen setback. I want you to remember this feeling whenever you think to yourself, 'I could never do that.' I want you to remember this feeling in those quiet moments when your anxiety gets the best of you.

"When you find yourself hesitating to try something new, I want you to remember this feeling and go for it. When you encounter someone else who is working hard to reach a goal, I want you to remember this feeling and offer words of encouragement. When you take on your next challenge (and you will), I want you to remember this feeling and give it everything you have.

"I want you to tap into this feeling whenever you are afraid, or discouraged, or pessimistic. I want you to draw strength from this feeling whenever you are belittled, or disrespected, or unappreciated. I want you to summon this feeling and shield yourself from self-doubt and negativity.

"I want you to remember the blood, sweat, and tears that led up to this feeling and acknowledge that the best accomplishments in life require a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

"I want you to remember the friends who ran alongside you and lifted you up when you needed them most, the onlookers who cheered for you on the sidelines, the coaches who bestowed their wisdom and made your success their priority, and the loved ones who supported you and understood the importance of this goal – for they helped make this feeling possible.

"I want you to remember how loved you are, because none of us truly accomplishes anything alone."
starandrea: (Default)
Aaron: There are probably like 7 people on the planet that could follow the chain of conversation we're having right now.
*Andrea: ...To be fair, it's really three perfectly logical conversations; they're just intertwined to save time.
commodorified: very worried stuffed crocodile clutching a pillow (not coping)
Since I'm half-packed and we're leaving in less than 24 hours it's probably time to announce that I am coming to WisCon. (Now watch me wake up tomorrow with Lorayne's cold or something.)

I'm not signed up for any panels, I'm not volunteering this year. I'm not 100 percent sure that this isn't going to end in disaster again. Depending on how I react to the various allergens in Madison I may be very low-energy, I may be sneezy and stuffed-up, I may be spending a lot of time asleep, I may be slow and forgetful due to being low oxygen, I may recuse myself rapidly from controversy or trouble if I don't see an immediate way to be useful.

I may have to leave panels abruptly due to coughing fits. We may be leaving town abruptly to get me back to Canada for treatment. (My out-of-province insurance isn't going to cover me for another serious asthma event in the same damn' city as the last one. That's kind of the definition of 'pre-existing'). We have a plan for this. It's as solid as we can make it.

Or we may have trouble at the border and not get there at all.

Or it all may be just fine. I really don't know. There's no way to tell.

But I'm on a new med (Singulair), and taking ALL the other ones, religiously, and so far my lungs seem to be willing to stay fairly functional. I'm bringing my bike. I'm hoping to stay an extra week and see friends. I'm cautiously optomistic.

A small request: if you see me, and we're friends, and you possibly can, grab me for coffee or food or a quick chat? This is almost certainly my last WisCon for some time, and if I do have a dangerous reaction, it's my last WisCon, period.

I know that I've lost touch with a lot of you due to missing the con and generally being offline and preoccupied trying to get my health under control. I'm sorry about it, and I'd really like to connect this weekend if we can, because you all are one of the communities of my heart, and to be honest I'm coming much more for y'all than for the "official" con.

If you or someone near you is wearing scent, I may have to back away rapidly. I'm sorry.

I'm not really accustomed to being a fragile little flower, you know? I'm still working out how to handle it.

Also, if there's a volunteer task I can do, something you need help with, that you can grab me for on the spot, please do. It's hard to contribute meaningfully when you can't make any promises, and I'll appreciate any chances to do so.
conuly: (Default)
Apparently, people are looking up: Suborn, nutjob, collusion, counsel, and witch-hunt.

*giggles*

Now, class, I want you to write out the entire list three times, and then use each word in a sentence.

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