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Oil. And kittens.

I’d like to write something about the oil spill: the greed and neglect of safety regulations and common sense that led to the explosion, the lack of contingency planning, the destruction of the ecology of an entire region, the tremendous potential long-term effects, the complete lack of viable and immediate alternative to oil.

But I can’t. So instead, you get kittens. I don’t mean to make light of anything involved in the oil spill, but sometimes black humor is all there is.

(Via Dangerous Minds)

For more serious and thoughtful consideration, I’d like to point you to Cherie Priest’s musings on the spill and on ways to help.

One last thing

If you only read one article about the Peter Watts case, it should be this one.

Well, I guess that’s something

Dr. Peter Watts, author and marine biologist, will not be going to jail. He is however a convicted felon now and will not be allowed to return to the United States from his home in Canada.

I’ve mentioned this before, if you need a refresher.

I’m relieved that Dr. Watts received a suspended sentence, and angry that he was convicted at all.

Three writing links for you, all on fiction things that I’ve been working on.

And finally, a bit of self-promotion that I should have put up here on Friday. My latest Science in My Fiction post went up Friday: Worldbuilding with real worlds. It looks like this will be the first in a series of worldbuilding ecology articles. Anything you’d like to see?

An Unfortunate Follow-up

I mentioned in December the unpleasant experience that Dr. Peter Watts, a science fiction author and biologist, had when trying to leave the United States. Dr. Watts was harassed and beaten by the US Border Patrol, then charged with assault.

The case went to trial. The assault charges were dismissed, but Dr. Watts was still charged with a felony, “failure to comply.” You see, he made the mistake of asking what the officers were doing instead of immediately doing whatever they said. Remember, this is after being hit in the head and face a couple of times – I’d be confused too. Dr. Watts is taking it much more calmly than I would. (The whole story, in his words.) The story has been covered many places; I’d recommend this and this, and maybe this.

I’d also recommend staying away from the Port Huron media.

Would you look at that?

Did they pass health care reform?


Despite the sparkly unicorns, it isn’t everything I wanted (where’s my public option???), but it gets rid of the most odious abuses in the current system: lifetime caps and pre-existing condition clauses.

Oh, and it saves the country money.

Edit: Couple of good links on the practical implications.

Five things

Five things make a post.

1. From Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station, Glenn Beck Killed My Father-In-Law. I’ve ranted about health care here before, but Jim does a much better job than I do. For one thing, his vocabulary and phrasing was honed by 20 years in the Navy. Do please read this.

2. Mars in 3D via Discovery News.

3. XKCD: geek humor, now with even more charts!

4. Oh, that explains it!

5. I have no thing five. I do have a large deadline that’s a month earlier than I thought, so I may (should) be scarce for the next couple of weeks. I’m also travelling a lot from late March through mid-April, so don’t panic if you don’t see much of me online, okay?

5a. It’s SPRING!

Rube Goldberg

Band OK Go wins the Internet.

(via Topless Robot)

Edit: Wired has an article on the making of this video, with videos of its own. It really was done in a single shot!

A miscellany buried in snow

Just a quickie, as I have to go shovel snow. Again.

Here’s one way to depict my day at work: a mousepath. Today was for numbercrunching.

You can get the mousepath software yourself (Mac/Linux, Windows – by Anatoliy Zenkov and picked up by me here).

Hey, guess what? Having a blizzard does not invalidate global climate change. Really. I’m certain of this.

David Brin provides some additional insight into why this has become such a contentious issue. This anti-intellectual, anti-expert bias may worry me more than any other recent societal shift in the US. (Marketing manifestation: all of those “discovered by a mom” ads. Because really, who better to manage your health than someone with no medical training whatsoever.)

Boing-Boing found a redeeming quality for My Little Pony: training future scientists.

The fictional year in review

In early October I started a Goodreads account. I’d had good intentions of keeping a list of things I’d read, but had not been particularly successful at doing it. I’m notoriously bad at remembering authors and titles, and I wanted something to help me keep track. Most of my fiction comes from the public library, so I don’t have the physical items to refer to. Goodreads has been just the thing – it’s quick and easy enough that I actually do keep track. The list includes everything I could remember reading in September.

Charlie Stross reminded everyone on his blog On my list (Sept-Dec 2009) there are nine books
published in 2009, eight of which are novels, and all of which are
SFF. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that of those nine, six are by
white males, three are by women, and one of the latter is by a person
of color. The male:female ratio quite different if all books I read in
the last third of 2009 (when I started the list) are included: 23 out
of 37 were by women, and 5 of those were actually multi-novel omnibus
editions. Overall diversity is still pretty low: only 2 of the 37,
both female, are known to me to be by non-white authors. (The caveat
is because it’s easier to guess gender than ethnicity from first
names.) The gender balance is fairly normal for me, a female reader of
SFF, but even that low ethnic diversity was due to an effort to find
new authors. Even with seeking out a diversity of fiction, I ended up with those low numbers.

I’m reading one Hugo-eligible novel right now, and have three more sitting on my stack, books I’d purchased earlier this year, all by women. One is by a non-straight author, the only example of GLBT diversity that I know exists in my recent reading. (Again, I do not know the personal histories of all the authors I’ve read this year.)

Anyone who follows online SFF discussion knows that the past year has been packed full of acrimonious debate on the role of racial, sexual, gender minorities in SFF authorship and fandom. I try to be diverse in my tastes, but even with explicit attempts to read a wider diversity of speculative fiction, my tally is still heavily skewed. It seems to be mostly availability rather than intent – the majority of what I read either catches my eye on the new book shelf in the library or gets good buzz from people whose recommendations I usually enjoy. Many of the books I read feature something other than straight white western European male protagonists (even if on another planet or fantasy millieu), but those are probably not in the majority.

No brilliant solutions, just another datapoint.

Good old USA

This sucks.

Canadian science fiction author Peter Watts was stopped by US Border Patrol agents on his way out of the US, beaten up, detained, all his things confiscated, then kicked out. In shirtsleeves. In December. In Ontario.

And he’s been charged with assault too.

Many people have discussion and commentary, including Peter himself.

People are putting together fundraising efforts to pay his legal expenses.

I’m embarrassed for my country. One person is harassed and beaten by US guards at the US border. He happens to be known internationally and his friends are willing and able to raise a fuss, and money. How many people without those resources does this happen to?