30 April, 2011

Cantina Quote o' The Week: Archilochus

The fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog only one.  One good one.
-Archilochus, Iambi et Elgi Graeci

This will always and forever be one of my favorite ancient Greek quotes of all time.  Of course, I knew bugger all about hedgehogs when I first heard it.  Now I know what he was referring to:

Much later, thanks to Terry Pratchett, I also learned that the hedgehog can never be buggered at all.

You may remember Archilochus from one of his more famous poems on battlefield valor:
Some barbarian is waving my shield,
since I was obliged to
leave that perfectly good piece of equipment behind
under a bush.
But I got away, so what does it matter?
Life seemed somehow more precious.
Let the shield go; I can buy another one equally good.
An eminently practical man, rather like the hedgehog he admired.

29 April, 2011

Los Links 4/29

It's been another week in which there's just way too much awesome stuff.  I need to find someone who will pay me to do nothing but sit around and read it all.

Let's get right to it.

Doctor Oz Gets His Arse Handed to Him

Science-Based Medicine: A Skeptic In Oz.  In which Dr. Steven Novella describes the experience of appearing on Dr. "Woomeister Supreme" Oz's show, and why Dr. Oz is so very, very, horribly wrong about, well, everything.

Respectful Insolence: Steve Novella on The Dr. Oz Show: Dr. Oz has become Kevin Trudeau.  For those who just can't get enough, Orac's not-so-respectful insolence is just the thing.


About.com: Where Things Come From: Rock Materials.  Something not many of us think about, but probably should do.

Science-Based Medicine: Without Borders.  In which Mark Crislip kicks the arses of quacks without borders as only he can. 

Throught the Sandglass: Sunday sand: Easter ooids.  Geological eggs.  Too awesome!

NeuroLogica Blog: Consequences.  All those who think there's no harm in folks falling for alt med, magical thinking, and anti-vaccine silliness, or who know those who think there's no harm, need to read about the consequences.  It's important.

Glacial Till: Meteorite Monday: Stony-Iron Meteorites, or space rock bling.  Meteorites are beautiful!

Geotripper: Rockslide on Highway 140 Near Yosemite (Video).  Okay, too cool - Garry caught a slide in the act!

jfleck at inkstain: Is it about the alfalfa? Thinking Like a River Basin…  We're going to have to think big to solve water issues.

Boing Boing: Meet Science: What is "peer review"?  I love this "meet science" idea.  Great way to introduce folks to the basics!

Research at a Snail's Pace: We don't need no stinkin' sieves.  You need a good giggle, don't you?  Yes, you do.  Go watch the video and laugh.

Wired: Space: Medicine's final frontier.  Ed Yong's fabulous feature.  Read it!

The Guardian: Backwards step on looking into the future.  In which Ben Goldacre takes the science journals to task.

JAYFK: Hell to the no! Chemical-free chemistry kit.  The latest and greatest in childhood toy dumbfuckery.

Context and variation: #scimom and me.   Kate Clancy is a superwoman.  No, seriously.

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Individual neurons go to sleep while rats stay awake.  This will make you look at sleep deprivation in a whole new light.  Also, for those sick to death of the royal wedding buzz, this.

New Scientist: Push to define year sparks time war.  Lessee, learn something important about dates, get a Doctor Who reference, and watch physicists vs. geologists.  What's not to love?

Pharyngula: The true story of the Archaean genetic expansion.  This is what creationists do with scientific research.  Researchers and public, take especial note.

Laelaps: Apples and Orangutans.  Science bloggers, journalists, and interested bystanders need to read Brian Switek's tale of two conferences.

Earth Science Erratics: Impact and Geology: spherules rule.  It's not just craters that tell us about the Earth's impact history.

Highly Allochthonous: Hydrologist + professor = Anne’s answers to career profile questions.  Loved learning about Anne's career and the routes that can take a person there.


AZCentral: Gabrielle Giffords' doctors, husband share details on her progress.  It's remarkable how far Gabby's come.  Round of applause for the doctors who not only saved her life, but her mind.

Mother Jones: The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions.  You didn't think it was a coinky-dink that so many Con governors and state houses were attacking unions, did you?

My Left Wing: Revolution 2.0 Outline RFC.  Woozle's got some ideas for getting power back in the hands of the people.  Comments desired.

Angry Black Lady Chronicles: Dear Media: Fuck You with my Trusty Rusty Pitchfork; An Open Letter to the MSM.  Best rant of the week.  Stay for the "Fuck You Symphony."


Almost Diamonds: The Support of New Atheism.  In which Stephanie Szvan explains to the thick why New Atheism supports all atheists.  Also, this.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Emperor’s New Nakedness.  In which David Barash puzzles over why, now that everybody knows the emperor's nekkid, so many are trying to shut up the folks who aren't afraid to say so.

Advocatus Atheist: R. Joseph Hoffmann Needs to Apologize to Atheists.  In which Hoffman's ass is thoroughly (and deservedly) whupped.

Cosmic Variance: Hell.  In which we're reminded that hell is one of those horrific ideas that only becomes socially acceptable when religion's involved.

Choice in Dying: The Shoals and Shallows of Easter.  Eric MacDonald reflects on Easter, and all of the ridiculous nonsense involved.

[weird things] so how is all that accommodating working out?  This post pokes accommodationism so full of holes it's a wonder anything's left.  Oh, wait - nothing is.

Why Evolution is True: Murders: God vs. Satan.  The tally might surprise you.  Then again, maybe not.

ABC: With friends like these: Atheists against the New Atheism.  Russell Blackford's response to Ruse and other haters of the Gnus.

AlterNet: One More Reason Religion Is So Messed Up: Respected Theologian Defends Genocide and Infanticide.  No, seriously, he does.  And people wonder why Gnus are so impolite to religion.

Women's Issues, Society and Culture

Steve Cuno: How a single word change can make cruelty seem OK.  Even when it's really not.

The Tightrope: On gender roles and pink toenails.  It's not just about the appropriate shade for boys' toenails, but about society's hatred for girly things.

Slate: Nervous Nellies.  Feeling anxious, ladies?  You might want to give nurture a piece of your mind.

Harvard Gazette: The secret lives of boys.  And while you're at it, nurture has a lot to answer for in the stereotypical male department, too.

Faruk Ateş: Translation of General Misogyny to Uncomfortable Truth.  One of the most masterful takedowns of white male idiocy I've seen in a while.

Slate: Beware the In-Laws.  Christopher Hitchens on the royal wedding.  Brutal and refreshing.

A Gay Girl in Damascus: My father, the hero.  Harrowing and inspiring, all at once.


Dean Wesley Smith: Think Like A Publisher #9.5… The Secret of Indie Publishing.  Hint: it involves writing a lot.

Writer Beware Blogs: The Interminable Agency Clause.  Know it. Hate it.  Have it stricken.

A Brain Scientist's Take on Writing: An Experimental Psychologist's Take on Beta Reading Part IV: Results and Conclusions.  Livia Blackburne's conclusion contains lessons for us all.

28 April, 2011

Sedimentary Sentiments

Right.  So, Callan Bentley's pointed out that we in the geoblogosphere haven't had a good meme in a while.  My Doc Holliday instincts kicked in.  "I'm your huckleberry.  That's just my game."  So let's have a meme.  Love and sediments.  Give me a sedimentary rock or structure you're sentimental about.

I'll begin:

Sedona in miniature
That rock there is a microcosm of Sedona.  I'm not sure what formation it came from.  Could be the Schnebly Hill Formation, or a fragment of sandstone from the Supai Group.  I picked it out of a creek bed during that memorable physical geography field trip many years ago.  It delighted me because it looked like the contact between the deep red rocks of the Schnebly Hill Formation and the blazing white of the Coconino Sandstone.  More likely, that white bit at the top just represents a long soak in the creek, but still, a girl can dream.

It's a piece of my history.  It represents scientific discovery, and childhood, and ancient worlds.  Just a tiny thing, fits in the palm of your hand, but it stands for something enormous.

This is the place I once called home:

My Valley
If you look to the left, down in the dip, you'll see the red tile roof peeking through the trees.  That's my old house on Mountain Shadows Drive.  We didn't have much of a view down there, but if you walk up the hill a bit, opposite the steep bit where my idiot dog slept in the road one night and ended up at our friend the vet's office with my dad and the vet sewing her up while drinking beer (true story), you'll find yourself facing a panorama that has made many a photographer scream for joy.

That little round mound in the foreground is Sugarloaf, a lump of the Schnebly Hill Formation that looks a bit like a flying saucer landed in the middle of the West Sedona suburbs.  UFOs are big in Sedona, but for some reason, the UFO freaks didn't hang round Sugarloaf.  They all thought the aliens lived in Bell Rock instead.

The enormous mass on the left is Grayback, imaginatively named because the back of it is mostly gray, or so I've been told - I've never actually seen the back of it.  To the right is Coffee Pot Rock, which looks remarkably like one of those old coffee percolators.  I spent a good amount of my time in the shadow of those rocks, scrabbling around at the base of Sugarloaf, sliding down the loose and crumbly walls of a deep gully cut in the shales and mudstones of the Hermit Formation, upon which Sedona is built.  Where I'd grown up, in Flagstaff, dirt was tan or brown.  Down here, it was a deep, dark red, so very red that it could stain white clothes rust.  I'd come home coated in the stuff.

Those rocks were the only solid thing in my world back then.  We'd just moved down from Flagstaff, where I'd spent the vast majority of my young life.  My parents had almost gotten divorced, and while we were there, my mom had her first bouts with bipolar disorder.  I had very few friends.  I was surrounded by people even stranger than my mother (at least she had the excuse of an actual psychiatric disorder).  Little wonder, then, that I spent so much time alone in the wilderness, sometimes with my friend Crystal in tow, exploring every nook and cranny of those old red rocks with their white Coconino Sandstone hats.

They were alien to me, in a way: I identified with the volcanic peaks of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, where I'd spent the happiest years of my life to that date.  There was something almost too beautiful, too surreal, about those magnificent red rocks.  I didn't know what they were back then.  Didn't know I was surrounded by ancient beaches and dune fields and floodplains.  But I knew they were something special.  Sometimes, they were even friendly.  Their texture, slightly rough, gave my sneakers good purchase as I scrambled up steep cliffs on impossibly narrow ledges.  Some of the finer-grained sandstones made for good nail files in the field, for those times when I broke a fingernail climbing.

Those red rocks loomed.  They were solid, stolid, and steady, and yet could change in an instant: in the angle of the sun, in a passing cloud, in a dusting of snow or a soaking of rain.  Their colors shifted through a million shades.  I don't know how to describe the intensity of that color, how it's never quite the same from one moment to the next.  It doesn't feel like a human setting.  It's something primal and almost painful.  You are this drab little thing among it, until the colors soak in to you, and it makes you a part of it, some little wild thing scurrying in the shadow of monoliths.

Some people got interested in geology, living there.  Some people turned to crystal magic.  And some got obsessed with UFOs.  It can be hard to tell whether the local business folk are laughing at or with the UFO nuts, but they do take full advantage:

Moi avec UFO fountain at the diner
Holding that little lump of stone in my hand brings it all back: the taste of Permian dust in my mouth, gritty on my skin.  The deep red earth, in turns silty-soft and sandy.  The ancient-world smell of wet slickrock after a high desert rain.  So many long drives down from the Rim, watching as gray basalts turn to cream-colored sandstones and finally, dramatically, to rusty-hued sand and siltstones.  The coolness of that crack in the earth, tracing the Oak Creek fault, as the creek ran alongside the road, soft sound of wind and water through the open window, and the scent of all that boisterous green life - something you don't get in many places in Arizona.  Blackberry brambles and sycamores and ferns, earthy and sweet, demanding you fill your lungs to the bursting again, again, again.  And under it all, the slightly-sharp, hot, impossibly old smell of lithified landscapes.

Sentimental?  Yes, I should think so.  How could I not be?

There's one word for landscapes like this, and it's the name of a road in Sedona:

Inspirational Drive
Those are some of the sediments that I love.  What are yours?

27 April, 2011

Not For Wise Readers Only

I've got the outline for ye olde geology book posted for Wise Readers only.  If you're regretting your decision not to be a Wise Reader about now, there's still time!  Just send a request to dhunterauthor via Yahoo. 

Even if you don't take that plunge, though, you've still got a chance to shape the book.  Isn't that exciting?  And all you have to do is let me pick your brain.

I've got questions, you see.

Geology professionals and students: 

What are words used commonly in geology that trip laypeople up?  What terms do you find yourself having to explain (or at least sum up) every time you discuss this stuff with a layperson?  What are terms, phrases and words you believe the public at large should be aware of?  What words do you find laypeople misunderstanding because their common usage is completely different from the way they're used in geology or science in general?  What stumped you when you first started studying geology?  Favorite geology words?  That sort of thing.

Interested laypeople:

What scientific or geologic words really throw you off?  Confuse, confound or otherwise baffle you?  Are there words you've heard that you don't quite know the meaning of, but would like to?  If scientific language is a stumbling block for you, why?  Don't be shy about admitting it - believe me, I'm among those interested laypeople who stop dead at certain words and says, "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

Half the fun is in finding out.  Hence, this book. 

Right, then.  Hit me.

26 April, 2011

Dana's Dojo: Time Dilation

Today in the Dojo: When it's appropriate to give "show" a right proper boot in the arse and let "tell" have the floor.

"My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip." 
     -Elmore Leonard

Show vs. Tell has become one of those sacred commandments of writing, and there's plenty of folks out there who would burn you at the stake for disobeying it.  Dramatize, we're told.  Show don't tell.  Every writer's magazine and book rack will have copious words devoted to this golden rule of writing, so I imagine it's going to shock the hell out of you when I tell you to sod showing.  Tell vs. Show, how's that for anarchy?

Let me explain.

25 April, 2011

Seattle Area Folks: Come to Science!

Friend and fellow Pharyngulite Andy McMillan is giving a talk this Wednesday night at UW.  It's called "Shining a Light on Protein Shapes," and is bound to be enthralling:
Proteins are responsible for most biological functions, and understanding their shape can tell about how they work (or don’t work in the case of illnesses). A common way of studying proteins is to look at changes in fluorescence from the protein when it changes shape, but the reason why this fluorescence is affected is not always obvious. I am using a combination of experiments and computer simulations to try and understand how changes in a protein could result in changes in fluorescence. 
You know howI know it's gonna be enthralling?  Because when we went to Blind Guardian last year, Andy was talking about his work.  Had to shout out the details over some very loud heavy metal, and I almost didn't want Blind Guardian to come on until he'd finished, even though I could only hear about half of what he said and understood about a quarter of it.  People: he made fluorescing proteins more interesting than my favorite metal band


So I'm gonna go see him, and if you're in the Seattle area, you should do it, too. 6:45pm.  Johnson Hall, Room 102.  Be there or be sad you weren't.

Accretionary Wedge #33: Now Available!

Okay, well, it has been for days now, and I'm only just getting to announcing it.  But just in case you hadn't heard, Accretionary Wedge #33: Geology and the Built Environment: Past, Present, Future is up at Geological Musings in the Taconic Mountains.  Excellent stuff.  Get over there and get your geo build on!

Tomes 2011: About Bleedin' Time I Finished a Book" Edition

I know it doesn't seem that way, but I'm still reading.  It just hasn't been much.  There are these times when the Muse takes over, and I can't concentrate on anything other than my own work, and maybe the show or movie or what have you that prompted the outburst of creativity.  I read a page or two of someone else's work, and then I can't read any more, because it makes me want to jump back on the computer and get on with things.

So it's taken half of forever to finish some books, but finish them I have, and here they are.

24 April, 2011

Los Links 4/22

Okay, yes, late.  Stuff happened.  Better late than never, right?

Seeing as how it's Zombie Jesus Day, let us begin with Atheism for once.

Choice in Dying: Self-Examination and Confession…..  This is how Eric MacDonald writes when he's sick as a dog.  He can still think complex critical circles around theologians.  Fear him.

Why Evolution is True: Forgive me, Father, for I have touched myself.  Jerry Coyne took on Holy Week as only Jerry Coyne can.  And while you're at it, don't miss his Sin of the Day series: Blasphemy, Divorce, Homosexuality, and Fornication.

Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: How I see the "New Atheism" Parts One and Two.  Attention New Atheist bashers: read these before you bleat on and on and on.  It will save you some embarrassment.

And now, on to the Science!

Neuron Culture: The Allure of Gay Cavemen.  In which Eric Johnson gives media hype the proper boot to the arse.  Also, Ariel casts out Caliban is not to be missed.  Shakespeare and science, people, need I say more?

Hudson Valley Geologist: Do scientists and creationists simply look through different glasses?  I'd say theirs are Groucho Marx glasses, but I don't want to disrespect Groucho Marx.  Seriously, though, this is an excellent post on why, as Steve puts it, "Interpretations of evidence, like glasses, aren't all equivalent.  Some are just nuts."

Science-Based Medicine: The World Has Moved On.  In which Mark Crislip gives HuffPo homeopathy-for-radiation-poisoning shite the fatal beating it deserves.

Mountain Beltway: Explore the DGMR rock garden.  Want this rock garden.  WANT!

Glacial Till: Meteorite Monday: Iron Meteorites.  You know what I love about Meteorite Mondays? There's always something there that makes me sit up and go, "I did not know that!" 

Neurotic Physiology: Experimental Biology Blogging: Getting Scientists to Speak Up in the Animal Research Debate.  Some powerful stuff on how to respond to animal rights insanity.

Speaking of Research: Waking up the Neighbors: A Neighborhood Response to Animal Rights Extremism.  Excellent advice as well.

Bad Astronomy: Gorgeous galaxies celebrate Hubble’s 21st birthday.  Hey, Hubble's old enough to drink!  Get drunk on some beautiful science with it.

The Lay Scientist: Planet of the Apes. Not monkeys, apes.  This is seriously one of the funniest things I read all week.

Science-Based Medicine: Suffer the Children.  Harriett Hall reviews a book every parent should read.  Like, now.

Eruptions: Certainty vs. Uncertainty: What "Supervolcano" teaches us about science and society.  And here you thought you couldn't learn anything from cheesy Hollywood films.

Looking for Detachment: Mirage on the Desert.  Mirages are cool.

Reading the Washington Landscape: More to Ponder Regarding Tsunami Risk.  I hope officials are listening to Dan McShane, because if not, we could get horrifyingly wet.  Plus, video that will make your heart plunge.

Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week: The World’s Largest Dinosaurs @AMNH.  A fascinating inside look at the new sauropod exhibit.

And now, let us talk about Writing.

Punctuated Equilibrium: In Your Own Write: The ten rules for excellent writing.  Aimed at science writers, supposedly, but definitely relevant to every writer's interests.

Sam Harris: How to Get Your Book Published in 6 (Painful) Steps.  Advice from someone who's been there.

Jim C. Hines: Comic Amusement.  Print and post on your wall.

A Brain Scientist's Take on Writing: An Experimental Psychologist's Take on Beta Reading Part III: Data Collection.  Now we're down to the nitty-gritty.  All writers planning to make use of beta readers (and that should be all of you), take note.

For once, let's not bury Women's Issues down near the very bottom.

Life is Thrilling: Au Contraire.  Etiquette, Aunt Mary, and what might be lurking in a lady's pocket.

Richard Dawkins Foundation:  Woman, know thy place.  Paula Kirby's no-holds-barred approach to the way religion treats women.

After that brutal smackdown, I think we're ready for our Politics, wherein Paul Ryan's plan to fuck the country up the arse gets the respect it deserves.  Which is to say, none.

Daily Kos: A Truly Sick Part Of Ryan's Kill Medicare Plan That You May Not Have Heard About.  Those who aren't yet seniors but planning to become one someday should take especial note, because you are one among many the Cons are trying to fuck up the arse.

Paul Krugman: Let’s Not Be Civil.  And you thought it was only Gnu Atheist bashers who were all about teh tone.  Paul Krugman gives the tone argument the short, sharp smack it deserves.

The Atlantic: Undoing Medicare: The Real 'Death Tax'.  Speaking of tone, did that title sound too harsh?  Tough.  It's accurate.

Ezra Klein: The scariest thing I’ve ever heard on television.  The depths of Michele Bachmann's stupidity are truly, truly astounding.  Ezra explains why we should all be afraid.  Very afraid.

Balloon Juice: Albert Einstein was a Friend of Mine, and I Can Tell You, Representative: You Are No Albert Einstein*.  Tom Levenson absolutely destroys the dumbfuck Con who tried to recreate Einstein in his own sick, twisted image.

Think Progress: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer Blocks Tea Party Legislation With ‘VETO’ Branding Iron.  The title says it all.

Grumbleweed: Return To Sender (Shredded).  Perhaps the greatest letter ever written to Gov. Scott "Fuck all y'all" Walker.

Think Progress: Florida’s GOP House Speaker Pushing Court-Packing Plan To Neutralize Democratic Justices.  Cons are really outdoing themselves on this whole naked power grab thing.

And, finally, ye olde Miscellany.

Comics Alliance: Ask Chris #53: Batman vs. Harry Potter.  Anyone who's ever played the "Which awesome character would win" game will love this.

Geek Dad: GeekDad's daughter remakes the game of chess.  I want to play by her rules, but she'd kick me arse.

The Pleonastic Rants of C.S. Daley: What’s With The Geek Hate?  It appears the premiere of GoT really brought the haters out of the woodwork.

I Am Establishing A Position On The Internet: Untitled.  For all those who wanted to see NYT reviewers with dumbshit ideas about fantasy and women get the smackdown just one more time, here ye go.  Thank you, Woozle, for sending us there!

My Fair Scientist: The Deep Well of Major Clinical Depression, Part Eleventy-Four.  This is a rant everyone should read, especially if they want to understand something about racism.

Slobber and Spittle: Sunday Photos(s).  You know you want more cherry blossoms.

Fossil Freeway Redux

So last year, remember, one of the first adventures we engaged in was a little jaunt along the Fossil Freeway.  What?  You don't?  You don't recall every single word I've ever written?


Well, go read that post, then.  And then click this link and listen to the song "I Am A Paleobotanist,"  because yea, verily, it is teh awesome, and you all deserve a chance to get your science geek on with rock and roll.

And for extra science singing madness, if you haven't already, don't miss Christie Wilcox singing "Extinction's a Bitch."  Then immediately go follow her on Twitter, because if she hits 2,000 followers by May, we'll get more songs!

(Tip o' the shot glass to @Laelaps.)

(And yes, for those who were wondering, I don't expect you to recall every single word I've ever written.  It's just that the opportunity for melodrama was knocking, and I answered the door thinking it was Jehovah's Witnesses.  There I was, expecting entertainment... le sigh.)

23 April, 2011

Cantina Quote o' the Week: Sydney J. Harris

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

 -Sydney J. Harris

I know two things about Sydney J. Harris: the above quote, and that he ended up on Nixon's shit-list Mark II.  Those are enough to make me like him a lot.

This quote has very serious overtones - when I think of inaction in the face of injustice, especially.  But it also correlates well to "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission," which are words to live by when you're trying to get something done in a corporate setting.  That makes this an all-purpose quote.  Use it well.

22 April, 2011

It's the Apocalypse, Isn't It?

Sorry, but under the circumstances, Los Links shall have to wait until tomorrow.  Allow me to 'splain.  Or sum up.  After all, it's the apocalypse, and we haven't got much time.

The Gnus among you are probably already aware of Chris Mooney and his history of, how to put it nicely, being an utter fucktard when it comes to all matters framing and his habit of so rabidly hating the Gnus that he happily falls head-over-heels for lying, sockpuppeting sociopaths who tell him what he wants to hear.  And then spends most of his time deleting comments on his blog that a) would've shattered his dream or b) were the least bit critical of him.  And when forced to admit he's a dupe, snivels he couldn't possibly have known, even though all he had to do was listen to a few folks who were telling him that he's a dupe.  And that coming after a long history of blacklisting people (yes, plural) and being an utter fucktard.  I'd already written him off after the Great Frame Wars of 2009; the Unscientific America debacle just put paid to the whole thing, because here we had a man who obviously couldn't get a clue even when hit simultaneously by dozens of clue-by-fours, so by the time he'd got dicked by Tom Johnson, I'd been conditioned by his own actions to merely point and laugh when Chris Mooney appeared on the scene.

In fact, it took me years to unfreeze toward Sheril Kirshenbaum because she'd been so tainted by that whole affair.  Chris Mooney, though, never displayed any reason why I should give half a tug on a dead dog's dick about a single thing he said.  He'd killed his credibility a dozen times over and done bugger-all to get it back.  If I clicked on an unknown link and ended up on one of his posts, I'd experience physical revulsion, compounded after reading a few paragraphs. It got to the point that I couldn't stand to see his smarmy, smiling face, so I blocked him on Twitter just so his Colgate grin wouldn't show up in retweets and put me off my grub.

(And for those who think I'm being too harsh, just click a small selection of the links above and tell me where the rat bastard's ever proven himself trustworthy.  Criticism is fine, but deceit, blacklisting and endless whining, plus taking forever to make even a minor course-correction after being taken in by a con, all the while proclaiming Gnus the Enemy of All because they told him he can stick his framing where the sun don't shine - no.)

This has been a rather long introduction to the apocalypse.  You see, not five minutes after I'd become so fed up with seeing Chris Mooney's mug plastered all over my Twitter feed by the people who still, for reasons unknown to me, sometimes take him seriously, blocked his butt, here was this tweet from Bora:
I was waiting for this schism for years - Mooney leaving Nisbett behind: http://bit.ly/gvrmgW Good for Chris.
I couldn't help myself.  A schism between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum?  I had to see!  And, to my horror, I found myself cheering Chris Mooney on.  Because while I have no respect for Chris Mooney, I actively despise Matt Nisbett.  And Chris dispatches a particularly idiotic bit of Nisbettian dumbfuckery with aplomb.

Credit where it's due and all.  I decided I'd grab it for Los Links.  Look, just because I think a man is a shit-for-brains doesn't mean I can't appreciate a small spark of intelligence when it manifests.

But that is not why I believe it's the apocalypse.  This is:
Psych Evidence that Supports New Atheism http://bit.ly/esNCVw Mooney is really on a roll today, isn't he?
Oh, how that must have hurt him!  To have to admit, after so long kicking and screaming and howling that those evil, evil New Atheists would ruin absolutely everything ever, that he was actually not correct in this assumption.  Of course I had to click through to his bloody blog twice in one day.

You can tell it pains him.  He clings to his final remaining shred of plausible deniability, trying very hard to believe (without adequate evidence) that we are still icky and wrong, even though he was wrong:
In general, I believe what we know about human psychology runs contrary to the New Atheist approach and strategy. However, I do my best to follow the data, and here’s a study that suggest at least one aspect of their approach may work. The tactic finding support here is not necessarily being confrontational–that would tend to prompt negative emotional reactions, and thus defensiveness and inflexibility towards New Atheist arguments–but rather, making it more widely known that you’re actually there–as “out” atheists try to do...
Oh, Chris.  Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris.  Gather your crow recipes while ye may, because you shall be forced to eat a banquet's worth of it one day, and you have proven today might be man enough to swallow it.  After, of course, kicking and screaming and refusing to do so for too many years, but still.  At least there's the possibility you'll hold your nose and do it.  Bravo, sir.  Bravo.

But, despite this minute concession, he still misses the point by a country mile.  We must be forgiving, he's always had terrible aim.  But there's the fact that, for a subset of people, being confrontational does go a long way toward snapping them out of religion.  I'm sure some clever dick (or vagina) will do a study someday - perhaps already have done, for all I know, considering I'm not as well-read in the psychological literature as I should be - and prove even to Chris's satisfaction that he's full of shit.  But even saying he's not.  Let us be generous and grant him the conceit that shouting the truth at religious people without sparing their feelings never, ever works and only makes them dig their Sunday-shoed heels in.  He still misses the fucking point, even so.

Because, you see, New Atheism isn't about bringing the true believers into the bright light of reason.  It's about telling the damned truth without sugar-coating.  It's about breaking the spell.  And you do not, cannot, do that by treating religion with respect and deference.  If you treat religion as a thing to be respected, you end up with religion still thinking it's a thing that is entitled to respect.  And what does religion do when it and everyone around it believes it is entitled to respect?  It demands respect, it attempts to force itself on the masses, it insists all to bow and scrape to it, it bullies people and sullies science, science education, and secular government, and it basically runs around believing it owns the place.  Non-believers are treated as something nasty to be scraped off society's shoe.  And people who don't believe or don't believe all that much end up silent and cowed, because no one has told them in no uncertain terms that religion deserves no such respect, is due no such deference, and moreover needs to be ushered firmly out of the public square. 

We have no problem with doing so politely, but if it kicks up a fuss, we reserve the right to boot it in the arse.  And religion has a distressing tendency to kick up fusses.  Ergo, we apply the judicious toe to the nether regions.

There's also the bystander effect.  This atheist, for instance, would not be an out-and-proud atheist without the New Atheists.  I wouldn't be here in love with science and defending it against fundie fuckwits if it weren't for those evil, evil gnus.  I wouldn't even have understood there was a problem.  So no, standing up and shouting in believers' faces may not work directly on them all the time, but it sure as shit can be effective with people like me.

There's room for gnus and for the softer, fluffier, make nicey-nice with the believers sorts in the battle to keep creationist hands off our science.  Nothing in the rules says we can't use all of the tactics at our disposal.  And if the accommodationists would just stop sniping at gnus long enough, they might come to see the value in a good-cop-bad-cop strategy.

I will know that the apocalypse has truly come the day Chris Mooney realizes all that and apologizes for being such a massive shite to his fellow atheists.  Not holding my breath on that one.  I want to live.

But it's nice to see him take the first step on the long road.  We'll see how far he gets before he decides it's too far to walk.

21 April, 2011

Wellsprings of Inspiration Part I: Novels and How-To

Glacial Till asking about how I became a blogger and Nicole asking about my long-term writing goals got me to thinking about inspiration.

Inspiration doesn't always come standard.  There are times when the magma chamber's emptied, and there's a dormant phase before the volcano's ready to erupt again.  I've gotten used to those phases, resigned to them, one might say.  But I don't sit idle.  Magma chambers don't fill all by themselves.  There has to be a source.  And I'd like to talk about some of those sources.

We'll skip childhood, although I reserve the right to revisit the authors who set my feet on this road in some future musing.  And we'll just have a shout-out to me mum, who spent a good portion of her young life feeding stories to an insatiable kiddo.  Without her, we wouldn't be discussing writing, because I wouldn't be a writer.

Right, then.  We should start with Robert Jordan.  I hadn't planned on writing fantasy.  Hated fantasy, in fact, until a friend forced me to read The Eye of the World.  When I finished that book, I knew what I had to do.  I had to write fantasy.  And the later books in the Wheel of Time have kept me on that road.  Robert Jordan taught me the importance of building a richly-detailed world with vivid characters.  And because of him, I don't fear writing maclargehuge books.

Another Robert, R.A. Salvatore, planted my feet further along the fantasy road.  You wouldn't think that a series of books based on a roleplaying game would be all that special, but if you think that, you haven't read The Dark Elf Trilogy.  Fiction, I learned, and particularly fantasy fiction, was an excellent way of exploring the really essential issues, the ones too tough to face head-on.  And yes, Virginia, you can write a pulse-pounding sword battle.  I once stayed up finishing one of his books by candlelight because the power had gone out right in the middle of one of those battles, and there was no way in the universe I was going to just set it aside until the sun rose.  That's how intense he writes 'em.

Another friend foisted Neil Gaiman's Sandman on me.  Before I read Preludes and Nocturnes, I wasn't a comic book fan.  After, I was.  Spent an entire afternoon in Phoenix going from bookstore to comic shop in search of absolutely everything he'd ever written up till that point.  Neil Gaiman showed me the power of myth and how to weave it through stories, and why it's so very important to do so.

When I made the decision to write science fiction and fantasy, I decided that getting a book called How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card might be an excellent idea.  To this day, it remains one of the most valuable how-to-write books I've ever read.  And since that had been so good, I picked up Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead to see how well Orson practiced his preaching.  Pretty damned well.  Speaker for the Dead remains one of my favorite books of all time.

The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman taught me the value of a good anti-hero.  I still think it's one of the absolute best trilogies in all of science fiction and fantasy, and I feel very sorry for people who haven't read it.

Connie Willis blew me away.  Absolutely left nothing but scattered atoms behind.  One of my major goals is to become the kind of writer that writers like Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis read, because then I'll know I've made it.  I mean, we're talking about a woman who can tell you, the reader, something the narrator doesn't know when writing in the first person.  I didn't think anyone on earth had writing chops like that.  She also got me interested in science fiction per se, because in her hands, it's far more than just rivets.  She showed me it's possible to be funny and profound and tragic, sometimes all in the same page.  She's amazing.

Lynn Flewelling and her Nightrunner series showed me it's completely possible to write kick-ass, non-preachy gay characters.  I'm indebted to her for that.  And for the best brothel scene ever.  I love those books.  They make me feel that all's right with the world.

Terry Pratchett honed my humor skillz.  And showed me that it's possible to mix science and magic to excellent effect.  And created some of the characters I love most in this world.  Sam Fucking Vimes and Granny Bloody Weatherwax, people, that's all I'm saying.

Warren Ellis did things to my brain with Stormwatch and The Authority I'll spend the rest of my life sorting out.  His Jenny Sparks is one of the most hardcore female characters ever written by any author anywhere in the world.  And he did with superheroes what no one had ever done before: he dodged away from the tired old vigilante or forces-for-good wanker tropes and headed straight for, "We've got this immense power.  We're goddamn going to use it to make this world a better place.  Under our terms."

Which leads me to J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars, another superhero comic that went where no superhero comic had gone before.  That one forces you to face issues and questions and dilemmas that most superhero books are too busy beating up the bad guys to pause and consider.

And no comic book paen would be complete without mentioning Warren Ellis again: Transmetropolitan.  Killed my fear of taking characters to an extreme, that did.  And I want to be Spider Jerusalem when I grow up.

Back into regular books.... I love reading the gritty stuff, but I'm not particularly good at writing it.  What I really, really want to be able to do is write symphonies with words.  And there are a few authors who do a particularly fine job of that.

Robert Holdstock's Mythago books weave a peculiar kind of magic.  Incredibly haunting stuff.  Utterly mindbending.  And I had the bizarre experience of reading Lavondyss for a second time after years away, and it seemed like the entire book had changed.  I sometimes wonder: if I open the book again, what will I find?  What will it have become?

Patricia McKillip writes some of the richest, most lyrical books I've ever known.  Just read The Book of Atrix Wolfe.  That's all I ask.

And Guy Gavriel Kay.  Oh, reading him, it's like sailing a sea of sound and sensation.  It's like a voyage home through fantastic places.  When I read The Lions of al-Rassan, I knew, just knew, that was the way I wanted to write.  Not what, mind, just how.  I want my words to flow and dance like that.  I want to leave my readers with that feeling, a bit of delightful melancholy, a glorious uplift. 

But how to get there?

There was this one book on writing, the one single book I believe every aspiring author, no matter what genre, should read.  It's called Writing the Breakout Novel.  I almost didn't read it because the title sounded too much like that schlocky foolproof-method-for-writing-bestsellers! bullshit that's so often foisted upon the unwary.  But I picked it up, and read a few pages, and realized this was something altogether different.  It utterly changed my perspective.  Donald Maas isn't talking about a formula for flash-in-the-pan fiction.  He's talking about writing the kind of novel that endures for generations.  When I read that book, it forced me to reassess everything I'd ever planned to do, and put me on a new trajectory.  I was able to figure out what my stories were all about, really, at core.  And it gave me the patience to go back, strip everything down to the fundamentals, and start rebuilding from the ground up.

Finally (and you knew this was coming, didn't you?), J.R.R. Tolkien.  This is a nice transition from Part I to II, because I didn't like Tolkien until I'd seen Peter Jackson's masterpiece.  I mean, really, seriously, didn't like Tolkien at all.  But as you'll see, those movies got right down into my soul.  I saw on screen what I'd always hoped to do in print.  This led me to attempt The Lord of the Rings again.  This time, loved it.  But I didn't stop there.  I read other books by him: Tree and Leaf, Father Giles of Ham.  I read books about him: biographies, letters, essays by authors inspired by him, books on how he'd created Middle Earth.  I learned about his languages and his motives and all of the things he'd done to make that world come alive.  It was quite the education.  And that was when I went from being a two-bit hack to being someone who could actually begin to craft a story.

So there you go.  There's some of my major influences.  Next episode, we'll move on to the movies and television programs that have inspired me, some of which have filled the magma chamber to such a degree that we've ended up with VEI-8 eruptions.

20 April, 2011

Liesegang Banding: Automatic Art

So this one day, on Twitter, Callan Bentley posted this
The best Liesegang banding you will see today is here http://bit.ly/fgzbBO and here http://bit.ly/gFjQja.
Had no earthly idea what Liesegang banding was, but if Callan says it's the best, you know it's something good.  So I clicked through.  Do it.  Go on.

Amazing, isn't it just?  Made little lights go flash for me, because it turns out I've spent a lot of time surrounded by Liesegang banding.  It's all over the sandstones in northern Arizona, and we used to sell bits of it in our bookstore, coasters and bookends and such.  It's marketed as "picture sandstone." The patterns are gorgeous.  When I saw stacks of coasters at the rock shop near Gingko Petrified Forest State Park, I had an acute onset of terminal nostalgia and bought some.  Lovely!

One o' mah coasters.  Just look at that Liesegang Banding!
And now I know what caused those incredible patterns.  Well, sort of.  We haven't quite figured out the processes that cause Liesegang banding.  And by "we," I don't mean me and my cat, although the two of us don't quite understand it.  No, the whole scientific community is still scratching its collective head over the particulars.  But we've got some broad understanding.  It's not a complete mystery, just one of those mysteries that keep scientists happy and busy.

In the meantime, we get to look at the pretty results.  Imagine my delight when, in a Google search for Liesegang banding, I got led to none other than Brian Romans's very own blog, and this gorgeous field photo:

Liesegang banding, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada (© 2009 clasticdetritus.com)
I spent my teen years galloping over rocks very like those, magnificent Jurassic sandstones formed from ancient dunes.  I thought the pretty stripey colors, all of the yellows and mauves and reds and deep dark browns, happened at the beginning.  But no!  That came later.  First, you had your dunes, then you had your sandstone, and then along came groundwater, dissolving all those lovely iron-rich minerals like hematite, and precipitating it out.  

Then, after a great many years and a general dry-out, you get wildly-patterned formations like the above, and some bugger comes along to quarry them for things like this:

Mah other coaster.  I like the way the Liesegang banding resembles the dune fields the sandstone formed from.
It's not just sandstone that gets your Liesegang bands.  It can happen to tuff, too, and even man-made things like lime mortar (but only the Roman recipe stuff that's aged 14 years and similar).  All that's required is something suitably porous.  The phenomenon was first noticed in blotting paper by a man named Frederic Ferdinand Runge in 1855 - he was so taken by his "self-painting pictures" that he wrote the book on them.  But he failed to take the world by storm, so it was left to Raphael Liesegang, futzing around with photographic chemicals forty-one years later, to rediscover them.  In one of those wonderful scientific accidents that leads to discovery, he dropped a crystal of silver nitrate onto his gels and saw concentric rings form.  Instead of throwing the mess out, he wrote papers about it.

In nature, things aren't so neat as his concentric rings.  Liesegang bands appear as, of course, bands, but also rings, spirals, and spheres, oriented in various directions, with younger sets cutting across and sometimes dissolving older ones.

One of the most fascinating things about these bands is that they're formed by a self-organizing process: they don't need a template for their patterns.  They're not directed by something living.  They just happen.  All of that beautiful, artistic complexity is the result of simple, mindless processes.  I find that enthralling.  The power of physics, chemistry and geology to combine and form such patterns is amazing.

Wonderful ol' world, innit?


"Liesegang Banding."  James St. John, Ohio State University-Newark

"Liesegang pattern development in carbonating traditional lime mortars." Rodriguez-Navarro et al, Proceedings of the Royal Society, 2002

"A short history of 'Liesegang rings.'"  In Silico Ltd.

19 April, 2011

Goodbye, Our Sarah Jane

Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who played Doctor Who's Sarah Jane Smith, died of cancer today.  Russell T. Davies gives a worthy tribute to her here.  All I've got is this clip from YouTube that doesn't do her justice, and some fangirl memories.

She was brilliant.  So very brilliant.  I'd never known her - my obsession with Doctor Who begins with Series 1 - but the instant she appeared on the screen in "School Reunion," I didn't need my friend to tell me she was someone special.  You didn't have to know who she was.  She just blazed out from the screen.

It would have been such an honor to have gotten a chance to meet her.  I have to agree with Steven Moffat:
“Never meet your heroes’ wise people say. They weren’t thinking of Lis Sladen.”
We're all going to miss her terribly.  One of the best companions ever.  She was brilliant.

If scientists ever manage to build an actual TARDIS, I can guarantee there'll be one hell of a queue forming to go back to shake her hand.

Dana's Dojo: Sensory Deprivation and How to Avoid It

Today in the Dojo: Using senses other than sight in writing.

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. 
     -Anton Chekhov

I had a very strict routine when I left work in Tempe, AZ:  I punched out at lightning speed and race-walked through the parking lot to my car, threw my bags in the back, lit a cigarette, and tried to get my little car airborne.  I didn't pause for anything except traffic.  My entire focus was narrowed on one goal: get home in as few minutes as possible.  My only thoughts: will I get to the end of the road before the light changes?  Avoid the slow people on the freeway?  Find a parking space close to the house? 

One night, however, I stopped dead as I reached for the car door, frozen.  Not with cold, of course: this was spring in the Sonoran Desert, which meant air conditioners were already blasting.  I didn't know at first what had stopped me, until I took a deep noseful of the typically polluted, dry, acrid and unpleasant Phoenix air and smelled - orange blossoms.

18 April, 2011

Watch This. It's Terrifying and Important

This is how easy it is to steal an election:

(h/t via Suzanne)

People With No Understanding of Fantasy Probably Shouldn't Review It

I have now, like every other fantasy fan with tits on the planet, read Ginia Bellafonte's risible review of HBO's adaptation of A Game of Thrones.

I've spent most of the week now trying to determine which planet she's from.  I'm still not sure.  It hasn't got the same color sky as mine, and the fact that she seems to think rape, incest and other varieties of less-than-romantic sex are thrown in to Martin's harrowingly gritty books just to give the ladies something to love frankly concerns me.  I have to question the psychological health of a woman who thinks that's the sort of erotica women go for en masse.  But never mind that.  What's even more ridiculous than her bass-ackwards ideas of why GOT will have sex scenes is her insistence that Martin's epic is somehow about global warming.

Yes.  Really.  Here, for those who don't want to give her the satisfaction of another page view, is her take on the whole thing:
Here the term green carries double meaning as both visual descriptive and allegory. Embedded in the narrative is a vague global-warming horror story. Rival dynasties vie for control over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros — a territory where summers are measured in years, not months, and where winters can extend for decades. 

How did this come to pass? We are in the universe of dwarfs, armor, wenches, braids, loincloth. The strange temperatures clearly are not the fault of a reliance on inefficient HVAC systems. Given the bizarre climate of the landmass at the center of the bloody disputes — and the series rejects no opportunity to showcase a beheading or to offer a slashed throat close-up — you have to wonder what all the fuss is about. We are not talking about Palm Beach. 
I have to wonder why Blogger doesn't offer Comic Sans as an option, because any passages quoted from Ms. Bellafonte's review deserve to be in said font.  Who here has read Martin's series and thought it was about global fucking warming?   She obviously hasn't.  Read the series, I mean.  And after that bizarre last sentence, which upon fourth reading still makes no sense, she drops the global warming question all together and instead asks why the show's even on HBO.

Because, Ms. Bellafonte.  It is an epic series conducive to adaptation, popular with huge swathes of male, female and otherwise-gendered people.  It's such a gripping story that even those of us who hated it - literally hated reading it - had to keep reading, and are ready to beat George R.R. Martin bloody (sparing his hands and skull) if he once again delays the release of the next book.  Some people at HBO, David Benioff chief among them, believed in its potential and saw the project through.  And HBO stands to rake in the cold hard cash, because, and this is important, not everyone is a sneering, fantasy-hating, too-avante-gard-to-live genius-in-her-own-mind lackwit with culturally piss-poor female friends such as yourself, Ms. Bellafonte.

I mean, seriously.  Not one of your female friends could clue you in?  You have never met one single, solitary woman who would prefer The Hobbit over the latest navel-gazing based-on-the-author's-pathetic-excuse-for-a-life schlock offered up by book clubs that only seem to exist in order to make people who like good books cry?  Not even one?  Do you even leave your house?  Do you even talk to other women?  I have to wonder.

You apparently belong to that pathetic subset of the human population who think it makes them unbearably hip to bash fantasy at every possible opportunity.  You see armor and dwarves, and you're in instant sneer mode, too busy looking down your nose to look beneath, at questions of what it means to be human and what morality is and how twisted society can be that would make your hair curl.  Fantasy can be brutal.  Fantasy can be uncompromising.  And it can make us think in ways we never would have been able to think if the issues had been presented through any other medium.  Unfortunately, it can't get through to the likes of you, Ms. Bellafonte, because you seem to be operating under the assumption that this isn't something good girls should like.  Your fucking loss.  And believe me, it is a loss.

Upon rumination, I can only come to the conclusion that your review is the result of a pathological hatred of fantasy combined with a serious lack of insight into the vast majority of your fellow females.  It seems to me to be a cry for help.  You should meet some new people.  People like me and my lady friends, who think nothing of spending an evening geeking out over shows like Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, and (oh, yes) Game of Thrones.  Speak to women who would move to Middle Earth in one second flat if given half the chance.  Listen to women whose bookshelves groan under the weight of more fantasy tomes than can be listed in one small blog post.  Your sample size has been skewed by the fact your head has been firmly lodged up your posterior.  There are legions of female fans of fantasy and science fiction.  And two things you should have realized before penning something so incredibly stupid from start-to-finish:

1. We don't appreciate being told we don't exist.  And

2.  Trying to review a genre you're clueless about leads only to humiliation.

Keep this in mind the next time you plan to heap scorn upon a show you're reviewing.  Especially if HBO decides to do a Thursday Next series.  Because, while Martin's fans can be brutal, Fford ffans are just downright terrifying.

P.S. I get the impression from your article that you must have obtained a college education of some description.  Were I you, I'd be asking for my money back. 

For further entertaining dissections of one of the dumbest reviews in the history of television reviews, see:

George R.R. Martin's brilliant response (and delightful shout-out to his fangirls).

Annalee Newitz explains why the show's actually targeted at women only.

Geek With Curves demonstrates why you should not piss off someone whose next tattoo is inspired by Joss Whedon.

Margaret Hartmann demonstrates the art of the short, sharp smackdown.

And our own Stephanie Szvan digs in, plus bonus story!

I'm sure I've missed about five gajillion.  Pop your faves into the comments, and/or any ranting you feel moved to.  Epic length comments welcome.  We are talking about fantasy here.

17 April, 2011

My Cat Is Also a Doctor Who Fan

She's added hanging about with the Doctor Who DVDs to her usual rounds of sleeping on me, her paper, and the back of the couch.  Looks very smug about it, doesn't she?

Gather Round, Ye Aspiring Authors, For a Cautionary Tale

By now, you've all had a good laugh at Jacqueline Howett's expense, right?  It's been a few weeks since her flameout went viral.  If you missed it, go check out the comments on this review, wherein the self-published author with, shall we say, such unique grammar and spelling goes down in flames over a review that wasn't so bad, actually.  I mean, the reviewer could have eviscerated her book.  All he did was make some measured critical remarks about her technical issues.  She then proceeded to explode all over the comments section, alienating readers, agents and editors whilst providing endless entertainment for lookers-on.

Alas, she is not the only author who throws tantrums when things don't go her way.  And that brings me to the blood and bone of this post: if you can't take criticism, don't fucking publish.

Seriously.  I mean it.  Shop your shit around to your friends and family and leave it at that.  Don't present your baby to the world and expect everyone to love it as unconditionally as you do.  It's not going to happen.  Be realistic.  Even huge-name authors like Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, and John Grisham get bad reviews.  For every hundred people who worship their books, a handful hate them.  If you think you're going to be the exception to that rule, you are in no way ready for public consumption.

If you're willing to risk people saying mean things about your baby and decide to publish, you need to set your own expectations.  You will get bad reviews.  And the proper response to those is: "Thank you!  I appreciate you taking the time to read my book and share your opinion."

Really.  It is.  If you can't do that, either don't read the bad reviews, don't respond at all if you do read them, or don't bloody publish in the first place.  Have I emphasized that enough yet?

Bad reviews aren't that bad, really.  For every reader who's turned off, there's another who'll buy your book just because they want to see the train wreck for themselves.  And they might end up liking it, and telling everyone they know that the reviewer was a brain-damaged idiot, and then some of them will end up buying your book, and you're golden.  Why, then, make an absolute ass of yourself by throwing a screaming tantrum?  You'll lose far more potential readers that way.  Nobody wants to spend their money on a WATB.

An author really needs to have a thick skin.  All creative people do.  Not that all of us do, obviously, but it's best for all involved if you at least try to grow one.  Learn how to take criticism.  One bad review is just one person's opinion.  Don't take it as a personal attack.  And if dozens of bad reviews pour in, well, then it's time to do a wee bit of soul-searching, see what the common complaints are, and take a moment to stand back and assess yourself and your writing, because, much as you hate to admit it, they might be right.  You will never, ever improve as an author if you can't use negative and critical feedback to hone your writing skills.  And you'll never make it beyond vanity publishing if you lash out at anyone and everyone who says anything the slightest bit negative.

The truth is this: you don't have to publish your book.  If you do, other people are under no obligation to actually like it.  Deal with those facts now, before you're faced with negative feedback you weren't prepared for but should have expected.

Oh, and if your grammar and spelling are that atrocious, invest a few hundred bucks in a good freelance editor before self-publishing.  Your book and your readers will thank you.

16 April, 2011

Cantina Quote o' the Week: Hermann Langbein

The concept of a leader, a furehr, must never be accepted.  Blind obedience to a leader can never be adopted as a defining identity.  Everyone must accept responsibility for whatever he does.  Even in critical situations.  This is something that still applies today.

-Hermann Langbein
I was watching a documentary on Auschwitz or some such on the History Channel - I can't remember what it was, alas.  I just remember having it on, nominally paying attention, and being pulled to full awareness by the quiet, intense voice of a very intense old man.  His words hit me like a thunderbolt.  So I paused the program and wrote them down.

Listening to the survivors of death camps like Auschwitz is harrowing.  But they are memories we must not forget, and words we must not only hear, but take to heart.  There are some pieces of history that must never be allowed to repeat themselves.  Not if it's within our power to stop it.

15 April, 2011

Los Links 4/15

Another week, another collection o' superb posts.  Not that Yahoo wanted me to share them with you.  It ate my list o' links.  Every single one. 

But it's mostly back from the dead, and ready for perusing.

Big dust-up o' the week: The Templeton Prize.  Those of you who like to keep religion away from science, and those of you who aren't sure why the rest of us want to keep religion away from science, should have a look at the following:

Choice in Dying: Big Bucks, Big Splash, Small Puddle and The Betrayal of Reason.  Eric MacDonald unpacks the issues as only Eric MacDonald can.

Nick Cohen: Science has vanquished religion, but not its evils.  Absolutely no quarter given.  None deserved.

Why Evolution is True: The Guardian strikes back: Templeton and Rees are wonderful, Gnu Atheism is dead, in which Jerry Coyne takes a stick to some truly wretched pieces.

Japan's still in the news.  As it should be.

Georneys: On the Recent Japan Earthquake Sequence.  A guest post from Evelyn's friend Jean-Arthur Olive.  The new quake also caused Evelyn and her dad to continue on with their series of interviews after they'd planned to stop - the latest is here.

Highly Allochthonous: Earthquake location matters, part eleventy.  In which Chris Rowan explains why location matters so very much.

Nature: Shake-up time for Japanese seismology.  A scathing indictment of outmoded methods of thought.

I've got a ton, I mean an absolute ton, of great Science fare.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Good.  Cuz you may be here a while.

Ars Technica: Evolutionary analysis shows languages obey few ordering rules.  This one surprised me.

Bad Astronomy: A half century of manned space exploration.  Read this if you want an exploration call-to-arms.

Aetiology: Margulis does it again.  In which it is explained why one person who once got it right gets everything so very wrong.

Why Evolution is True: Lynn Margulis disses evolution in Discover magazine, embarrasses both herself and the field.  Jerry Coyne piles on.

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Justice is served, but more so after lunch: how food-breaks sway the decisions of judges.  This worries me.  It should worry you.

Chileana: The Laws of Fieldwork.  Hi-larious!

Looking for Detachment: Salt from Bonneville Salt Flats and A Tale of Two Trips.  Gorgeous, delicious, very salty photos!

Glacial Till: Meteorite Monday: My first meteorite!  She's a beauty. So cute!

UC Berkeley: Novel technique reveals how glaciers sculpted their valleys.  Fascinating stuff.

Oakland Geology: Mountain View Cemetery knocker, the big one.  Why, yes, there is some wonderful geology in cemetaries!

Agile: The scales of geoscience.  Like it from the first sentence: "Geoscientists' brains are necessarily helicoptery."

Smithsonian: When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? Not when you'd think...

McSweeney's Open Letters: Dear People Who Think They Have Found the Artifact that Will Change Archaeology As We Know It.  Just go.  Just read.  Don't drink anything beforehand.

Scientific American: Rock stars from coastal California's past.  Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes....

Dinosaur Tracking: Tracks of Giants Created Dino Death Traps.  No, seriously, they did.  I never knew that.

Julian's Blog: Rockfall impacts from the Christchurch 'Quake.  Reminded me of cars crushed in Oak Creek Canyon by falling boulders.  Sobering shite.

The Frontal Cortex: The Psychology of Architecture.  Excuse me, I've gotta go paint my walls blue.

Mind Matters: Why Johnny Can't Name His Colors.  You'd be amazed...

Reading the Washington Landscape: Wallula Gap and John Mix Stanley.  Excellent post on a unique place.

Pharyngula: Paul Nelson takes a stab at Ontogenetic Depth again…which makes me go stab-stab-stabbity-stab.  No one can destroy a total idiot with science quite the way PZ can.

Highly Allochthonous: Backyard science: isotope hydrology style.  Mother and daughter science, absolutely beautiful stuff!

See?  Told ya I had a lot o' science.  And that last link segues in rather nicely to Women's Issues.  Oh, have we ever got issues, ladies.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett: Flaming Out and Fighting Back.  No tenure for women who wanna be mommies.

Deep Sea News: For my grandmother, who was born at the wrong time.  Think of this, the next time you meet a prickly old lady.

Pharyngula: Your body isn't yours, it belongs to the conservative Christians.  PZ applies the smackdown to a lot of states trying to legislate away women's autonomy.

Which leads rather nicely into this week's Political junk.

NYT: Behind the Abortion War.  And if you don't think there's a war, you haven't been paying attention.

Guardian: Why fiscal conservatives care about Planned Parenthood.  Sense is made of the senseless.

TPM: Conservative Defects From Anti-Gay Group, Now Supports Same-Sex Marriage.  This one actually warmed my heart and gave me hope for humanity.  Minds can be changed when good people speak out.

The Washington Monthly: Come for the Radicalism, Stay for the Fuzzy Math and We're Not Supposed to Offer the Low-Wage Workforce for Foreign Companies.  This isn't how America should be, people, but the Cons want it to be even worse.

After that, I think we need some Medicine.

NYT: Giving Doctors Orders.  On the importance of not being afraid to speak up if something's wrong.

The Daily: Cheap Shot.  In which we learn that Andrew Wakefield, fraudster and fucktard, is pedaling deadly nonsense among the even more vulnerable.

Respectful Insolence: Yet another misleading alt-med cancer testimonial.  Here's why you shouldn't be impressed by "living proof" of woo.

On to Writing!

Women in Crime, Ink: The Publishing Industry Isn't Always That Great.  If you're still buying books published by Dorchester, stop it right now.

The Wellcome Trust: Take big, wonderful and startling ideas and make them comprehensible.  A good primer on science writing.

And, finally, a Miscellany.

Outside the Interzone: Heh.  This is northwest weather to a T.

Oatmeal: The 4 Seasons of Seattle Weather.  So is this.  Thanks, Helena!

Almost Diamonds: Skepticism Is a "How," Not a "Who".  And skeptics would do well not to forget it.

Brendan Riley: On Source Code and the ethics of the modern technological era.  Great discussion of morality, but spoilers.  You've been warned.

Right.  That should keep you lot busy for a few moments.