Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Monday May 31, 2004. "It was nine o'clock at night and Tremaine was trying to find a way to kill herself that would bring in a verdict of natural causes in court when someone banged on the door." Martha Wells, The Wizard Hunters.

That beginning hooked me. A fantasy hero who's consciously suicidal is unusual.

The setting is also a bit unusual: an industrial society, rather than the standard medieveloid one.

Writing: Daily exercise -- Following the Rhymer's Trail.

"For all the ills that grow in Hell/ Light on the fruit of this countrie." I didn't realize I'd quoted those lines aloud.

"Don't worry," Maggie said. "These apples are organic. And pollution levels have gone down enough that even conventional food is safe. Well, at least as safe as in Earth."

I decided that if I wasn't going to eat the local food, then I had no business being in the restaurant.

I took an apple out of the bowl. "The woman tempted me."

It was good, though a bit sweet for my taste.

The waitress brought menus and glasses of water. "Would you like coffee, tea, or blood?"

I ordered tea. Maggie got coffee. I wondered if she would have ordered blood instead, if I hadn't been there.

The menu was in three languages, of which I recognized only English. I suspected that in the other two languages, the restaurant was called something other than "Fanny Hill's Garage."

The "local" section of the menu included blood sausage, black pudding, and other foods made from blood.

"For forty days and forty nights/ They waded in red blood to the knee," I quoted. "That's a continuity error; earlier, Thomas the Rhymer and the Queen of Elfland were on horseback."

"Marais Rouge isn't nearly that wide," Maggie said. "And I don't think there's any body of blood which is both that wide and shallow enough to wade in."

"But Thomas couldn't lie!"

Maggie looked at me. "Just in case you're not joking -- remember, there's only Thomas Rhymer's word that he couldn't lie."

***"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- I figured out something essential about the story. It would be really nice to know such things before I begin, rather than after I think everything necessary is finally in the first draft.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Sunday May 30, 2004 To DreamHaven Books, where I used up most of my trade-in credit.

On to Rainbow Foods, where cherries were on sale. Bought those, bought eggs (also on sale,
not as good a bargain as last week's sale price).

Then to Lunds, where I bought turkey wings.
From a post I made on rec.arts.sf.composition:

"'Character can be expressed through action and reaction' is probably a reasonable way of putting things. If character A is told to look after B's purse and loses it, you have one character; if they abstract a few small coins to pay an urgent debt, you've got another; likewise if they refuse to hold the purse at all.

"I think that's one of the reasons I find character reasonably intuitive: every time something happens, there's the opportunity to demonstrate somebody's character.

"Ditto dialogue, naturally."

And it's one of the reasons I find character unreasonably non-intuitive.

Let me unpack that: After I've zero-drafted a scene, I will notice that certain things a character does or says don't fit. And I have to work from what I intuitively feel does and doesn't fit to why -- that is, to the character's personality.

And whatever I've worked out before writing about the character's personality is -- at very best -- like Patricia's outlines[1]. Example: I'm certain the character is a kind of person who would carefully guard the purse. He refuses, till he finds out that it only contains silver coins.

That's when I find out about his copper phobia and his gold phobia.

(And this is something I've just figured out on a conscious level -- thanks for helping me figure out what the problem is!)

[1] Patricia C. Wrede; while she's usually "Pat" in Twin Cities sf fandom, she's usually "Patricia" in rec.arts.sf.composition. She never follows an outline anywhere near exactly
-- but she can't work without an outline to deviate from.

Writing: Daily exercise -- done, posted to this journal.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- a bit more added.
From an article on John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark (New Jersey) http://nytimes.com/2004/05/30/nyregion/30bishop.htm:

And while he prides himself on his intellectual heft as a canon lawyer, he is a devoted fan of "Star Trek" and spends his spare time working on a science fiction novel, "Space Hawk."

The book, which he is writing with his boyhood friend Gary K. Wolf (who wrote the novel that was turned into the animated Hollywood blockbuster "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"), tells the tale of a writer and a priest named Jasper J. Moyers, who are living on a space station in the year 2052, battling a Nazi war criminal who possesses supernatural powers.

"Remember in geometry, when you changed one postulate and the entire equation is transformed?" he says. "To me that's what science fiction is like. You change one variable and then there's the intellectual exercise of imagining an entirely different world."
Years ago, I encountered Spam made from beef rather than pork. The cans were labeled in Arabic on one side, which suggests this variety of Spam was intended for markets where pork
doesn't sell well.

I never figured out why it was in an Italian supermarket. I'm fairly sure Florence had no substantial Muslim population at that time.

Today, I found unicorn Spam in a small Minneapolis grocery. Carterhaw Foods is in the Wedge neighborhood; on 23rd, between Lyndale and Aldrich. (City maps don't show 23rd Street as existing there, and I can only find it after drinking two cups of catnip tea. I don't know if that would work for anyone else.)

The unicorns shown on the display poster are shorthorns, rather than the longhorns of European legend.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Saturday May 29, 2004. To Mercado Central, for corn tortillas. The ones sold there are fresher and lower in sodium than those available in supermarkets.

On to Savers thrift store. (Savers is an international chain, not tied to any one charity.)
I needed a teakettle, to replace one whose handle had broken.

Backtracked along Lake Street to Uncle Hugo's. Bought the Hartwell-Cramer best-sf-2003 anthology, and a couple of other books.

There are three year's-best-sf series. I've found David Hartwell's (now in collaboration with Kathryn Cramer) most to my taste.

To Steeple People thrift store. Among their free magazines was an old Scientific American with an article on platypuses; and another with an article on absinthe.

Across Lyndale to the Wedge co-op. I'd come for peanut butter made out of peanuts -- no added salt or added anything. I also bought a vegan pistachio-fig scone, and a couple of cheese samples.

The scone was good, but fell apart much too easily. I think that's a problem with vegan pastries in general.
Writing: Daily exercise -- done. I may expand it into an essay.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- did some idea-noodling on the background. Some is directly relevant to this story: the home society changing more than the colonial one.
(And I should probably read up again on the "fragmentation societies" theory: http://www.multiculturalisme.org/BiblioTableOfContentsLouisHartz1.htm )
Global Vineyard: Can technology take on a warming climate?
Recognizing that continued climate change may leave some renowned grape-growing regions too hot or too dry to support vineyards, growers may turn to new technology and techniques to produce consistently better fruit.
From Resource Shelf http://www.resourceshelf.com/
Military Intelligence--United States
Source: U.S. Army (via FAS/Secrecy News)
Full Text, Just Released (Unclassified), U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence
Secrecy News (compiled and edited by Steven Aftergood), has obtained a copy of this new document. From his newsletter, "The U.S. Army has issued a new Field Manual on intelligence that sets forth in detail the roles and functions of intelligence in Army and joint military operations. The new Field Manual (FM) 2-0 is 'the Army's keystone document for military intelligence doctrine.' With conceptual rigor, the manual proceeds from "the fundamentals of intelligence operations" to 'intelligence considerations in strategic readiness" and beyond.'" The document is a 3.2MB PDF; 211 pages.

Minnesota cracks down on underpriced gasoline
( PATRICK HOWE, Associated Press, 05/28/2004 03:06 PM CDT)

There's a law which protects local businesses from Unfair Competition, you see. On this issue, my position is the hardline libertarian one. Let businesses which can't compete go under -- small or large, local or national or multinational or multiplanetary. Among other things: no minimum prices, no minimum cab fares, etc.
From the India edition of Google News:
Improve quality or lose buyers, Russian experts warn Indian tea industry
Channel News Asia - 11 hours ago
GUWAHATI, India : Tea experts from Russia, which is a major buyer of Indian tea, told tea growers to improve quality or lose more Russian business.
Business India > Russia not to lift poor quality Indian tea New Kerala
India News: Russia not to lift poor quality Indian tea Keralanext
Indian Express - and 5 related

CMC plans to bid for US census projects
Sify - 21 hours ago
CMC Ltd plans to bid for multi-million dollar IT implementation for the census projects of the US and Canadian governments.
CMC to hire 500 pros Economic Times
CMC eyes US census project, to hire 500 Rediff
Financial Express

Friday, May 28, 2004

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 28-May-2004
New mouse species found in the philippines
Biologists have discovered a new species – or genus – of mouse in a national park on Luzon Island, 50 miles from Manila. The bright-orange animal has a large head, heavily muscled jaws and powerful teeth that can open hard nuts. It weighs 15 grams, and has a 3-inch body. It's [sic] whiskers are eight times as wide as its head, and a second set of "whiskers" arise from a patch at the back of each eye.

Public Release: 28-May-2004
Most of us are poor judges of our own abilities
If you believe you're a good driver or a lousy dancer, think again.
PA Political Observer: A month after a particularly divisive Republican primary, Bruce Castor has endorsed his victorious rival, Tom Corbett.

Tom Corbett Home Page
HOME PAGE. Tom Corbett,Space Cadet was based on characters in Robert Heinlein's juvenile novel SPACE CADET published in 1948. However ...
http://www.solarguard.com/tchome.htm - 12k - Cached - Similar pages
From Google News:
Boy, 14, 'posed as spy to arrange his own murder'
Independent - 4 hours ago
A schoolboy posed as a female British secret service spy in an internet chatroom to persuade a friend to try to murder him, a court heard yesterday.
Boy posed as spy on net to arrange his own death IrishExaminer.com (subscription)
Internet boy convicted of grooming his own killer Telegraph.co.uk
The Times, UK (subscription) - The Australian - BBC News - ITV.com - and 55 related
From the UK edition of Google News:
Spy device scheme for sex offenders
Financial Times - 1 hour ago
Satellite tracking and lie detector tests could be used to keep tabs on sex offenders and other criminals, David Blunkett, home secretary, said yesterday. The plan signals a significant extension in the use of surveillance for law ...
Liberty supports preventive lie tests Guardian
Plan to track sex offenders The Scotsman
Independent - Telegraph.co.uk - Reuters - New Straits Times - and 58 related

Internet surfers will be able to watch paint dry
Daily Times - 3 hours ago
Satellite channel UKTV Style is to stream a new reality show called Watching Paint Dry on the Internet. The show, which the television channel says could bring about the end of reality TV, will be available 24-hours a day on the web.
Watching paint dry is latest TV gimmick Reuters
We salute Web antidote to 'Big Brother' The Register
New Kerala - Telegraph.co.uk - Find a Property - Manchester Evening News - and 18 related
Friday May 28, 2004. Money in today's mail; an early withdrawal from my Thrift Savings Plan account. Also my replacement Social Security card, which I'll need for job-hunting.

I deposited the check at the Wedge's ATM, and bought a prepaid bus fare card. (So long as the weather is reasonably good for walking, I probably won't use buses often enough for a monthly pass to pay off.)

There were two alien plastic knives (Tupperware) in the free box at Steeple People thrift store. And I spent a bit under a dollar on kitchen stuff likely to be useful.

To HealthPartners Uptown, where I picked up allergy pills and made an appointment for my annual checkup.
Writing: Daily exercise:

In historical fiction, the early years of the 21st Century will be wonderful. In some versions, it will be kinder and simpler than "the present". In others, it will be a heroic age; when warriors fought bravely without having to fill out paperwork, and Judge Sawney Bean was the law west of Donner Pass.

One argument against this is that there's so much on record about the present. People will be able to know what it was really like. I don't think so. There are 1950s tv programs easily available; there are reams of books from the 1950s; there are microfilmed newspapers, historical accounts written by people who lived through the events -- and fiction gets the 1950s wrong.

For that matter, even the early Middle Ages generated a fair number of records.

Even factually-accurate historical fiction tends to say more about the time in which it was written than the time in which it was set.

George R. Stewart's The Years of the City is the biography of a Greek colony in southern Italy. It was written during the McCarthy era, and one chapter deals with something very much like McCarthyism. I don't think a similar novel written during any other time would have given as much space to that particular historical analogue. Greek homosexuality is presented as a symptom of cultural decay.

I think it would be possible to show a fictional future indirectly, using its view of our time as a mirror. Xena, Warrior Senator, perhaps?

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- I've now made it explicit: the heroine (?) has coldbloodedly chosen the protagonist as the man she intends to fall in love with.
Flying into a silent sky future
UK researchers in Cambridge are developing prototype quiet planes which could revolutionise our skies.
Interfaith prayer tonight in Provo

PROVO — The Utah County Interfaith Alliance Day of Prayer Service will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at the Community United Church of Christ, 175 N. University Ave. in Provo.

The group opted to hold a special service after it learned members of the LDS church would not be allowed to lead services at a National Day of Prayer Task Force event held earlier this month. Members of at least 10 different faiths, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will lead the services.
Contact: Kate Stinchcombe
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Could mice hold the secret to longer life?
Scientists from the University of Aberdeen, the Aberdeen-based Rowett Research Institute and the Medical Research Council (MRC) in Cambridge have made a major breakthrough in understanding how metabolism affects lifespan.

In a seven-year study of mice they found that those with the highest metabolic rate lived the longest, raising the prospect that the effect could be mimicked in humans.

Scientists have long thought that a high metabolic rate was linked to a shortened life-span. The present discovery turns this century old belief on its head and changes dramatically our understanding of the regulation of life-span.

Metabolism is the means by which nutrients are broken down to smaller building blocks and chemical energy, which are used to make new body materials and to do work.

The researchers discovered that the most metabolically active 25% of the mice studied, far from having shorter life-spans, in fact lived 36% longer than the least active. If the same effects are mimicked in humans then the finding would imply that a higher metabolic rate could add an extra 27 years to the average human lifespan.

When the muscles of the most metabolically active mice were examined, they were found to contain factors that increased their metabolism by making it less efficient.

Although the scientists do not yet fully understand how these factors work, it is suspected that while the [sic]make the metabolism less efficient, on the positive side they reduce the generation of toxic by-products called "oxygen free radicals".

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Thursday May 27, 2004. Yesterday, on a writing forum someone had looked at the task of creating a fictional world and gone "Yargh!!" Wanted advice on not being discouraged by the task of creating an entire world. My answer:

Yes. Create only what you need. And remember that you may not need to formally create anything.

Suppose you were writing a mystery story set in your own neighborhood, and in the present day. Let's say you're in Fredonia, Michigan. You don't have to know all about the town's history, except for a few things that might be relevant TO YOUR STORY. It doesn't matter that the man who made the stained glass windows for a certain church worshipped the Easter Bunny rather than Jesus; especially if none of your characters ever go anywhere near that church. It doesn't matter which bar in Toronto serves the worst hamburgers. It doesn't matter whether the mammoths which used to live in your neighborhood suffered from vitamin deficiencies. It doesn't matter what percentage of Fredonia's young men enlisted in the Union Army, or what dialects of German were spoken among immigrants in 1911.

All you need to know is enough to convince your readers that you know the place and the people. How much that is depends on the writer. Sinclair Lewis is said to have written character bios which included such details as their phone numbers. Near the other end of the spectrum, Ursula Le Guin wrote some very solid-seeming worlds without doing any conscious worldbuilding at all. (And in some of her later work, I think she did put in effort and it was worse than useless.)

In my case: I love working out all kinds of details before writing the story. But it turns out that the details which critiquers see as really solid are the ones I think up on the fly. The ones I've worked really hard on are often the least convincing ones.
Given an address in Paris (or one of several other French cities), you can use one of these websites to get a photo of the building and a local map. The instructions are in French.



From a post in soc.genealogy.jewish by someone looking for a similar URL for New York City.
Writing: Daily exercise -- Done, posted in this journal.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- Red grass or green for the lawn in the final scene? I made it a checkerboard pattern. And the final scene has been fleshed out.
"How Could They Be So Ungrateful?"

"I've worked so hard for this club -- and I wasn't elected to the board! How could the members have been so ungrateful?"

I've heard this in two sf clubs, in two metropolitan areas. It probably happens in other subcultures and other places.

My answer: People are elected to a board of directors to make decisions. They are not elected to do things. And I vote for the candidates who I think are most likely to make good decisions.

Here's some of what I look for:

Respect for members of the club. Including the ones they don't like, whose views they don't respect, who don't do whatever.

Works at being fair.

Candidates who I don't think meet these standards don't get my vote. No matter what other good qualities they might have.
From the New York Times:
In Latin America, a Cellular Need
An explosion in prepaid service has made cellphones available to millions of people in Latin America, and has sent use skyrocketing.

From the UK edition of Google News:
You can't give the dog a bone
ic NorthWales - 5 hours ago
Euro rules are being blamed by Ceredigion council for the clampdown after they wrote to butchers saying they are breaking the law if they offer dog owners any bones or fat.
Don't give a dog a bone The Times, UK (subscription)
Butchers can no longer give the dog a bone Ananova
Telegraph.co.uk - Glasgow Daily Record - The Mirror - BBC News

Porn Case Judge May Face Impeachment
Scotland on Sunday - 6 hours ago
The Irish parliament is due to consider two pieces of emergency legislation today that could lead to the possible impeachment of a judge acquitted of possessing child pornography.
Concern over Bills 'Being Rushed Through Irish Parliament' The Scotsman
Govt tables legislation to establish Curtin inquiry Ireland Online
RTE Interactive - Belfast Telegraph (subscription) - IrishExaminer.com (subscription) - Irish Times (subscription) - and 47 related

System converts smokestack heat to electricity
If it works, the technology would boost the efficiency of power
stations, drastically cutting carbon emissions

Industrial pollution may double twin births
A study of thousands of births near a toxic waste incinerator finds
a much higher rate of twins than in cleaner areas

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Wednesday May 26, 2004. As an experiment, I started a wiki at http://www.seedwiki.com. Search for "Writing Futures". Since it's a wiki, you should be able to add to it if you wish.

Mail: Uncle Hugo's sf bookstore and Uncle Edgar's mystery bookstore newsletter, June-August. Vampire mammoths -- interesting, but unfortunately that's not what The Mammoth Book of Vampires is about.
Writing: Story seed -- There's been a century of experiments to design better humans -- ones who will live naturally in whatever way their designers believe truly rational humans would live.

The evidence that this does not work includes such subtle hints as the natural pacifists who shot their way out of one experimental facility.

daily exercise -- The above story seed.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- Another scene fleshed out.
Public Release: 26-May-2004
New theory suggests people are attracted to religion for 16 reasons
People are not drawn to religion just because of a fear of death or any other single reason, according to a new comprehensive, psychological theory of religion. There are actually 16 basic human psychological needs that motivate people to seek meaning through religion, said Steven Reiss, author of the new theory and professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 26-May-2004
International Communication Association
Don't laugh -- research shows comedy gives candidates serious boost
Candidates can improve their popularity among a key segment of voters by appearing on late-night comedy shows.

Public Release: 26-May-2004
American Society for Microbiology 104th General Meeting
Birds use herbs to protect their nests
Researchers from Ohio Wesleyan University suggest that some birds may select nesting material with antimicrobial agents to protect their young from harmful bacteria. They present their findings at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

"To find out if plants brought into the nest might prevent disease, Ichida and colleagues tested twelve different volatile plant materials against feather-degrading bacteria. Results showed that several types of plant materials and extracts including usnic acid, ascorbic acid, yarrow, and two oak species inhibited the growth of a number of harmful bacteria."
Predicting disease using genomics

Moving towards individualized medicine with pharmacogenomics
From the UK edition of Google News:
Tolkien's Home Up for Sale
Scotland on Sunday - May 24, 2004
Lord of the Rings fans are being offered the chance to buy their own corner of Middle Earth as long as they have £1.5 million to spare.
LONDON : JRR Tolkien's house in Oxford up for sale New Straits Times
Hobbit's home on sale for '1.5m BBC News
Kansas City Star (subscription) - Zap2it.com - Guardian - Miami Herald (subscription) - and 87 related
American Society for Microbiology
Discovery of tiny microbes in ancient Greenland glacier may define limits for life on Earth
NEW ORLEANS – May 26, 2004 -- The discovery of millions of micro-microbes surviving in a 120,000-year-old ice sample taken from 3,000 meters below the surface of the Greenland glacier will be announced by Penn State University scientists on 26 May 2004 at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans, Louisiana. The discovery is significant because it may help to define the limits for life on Earth as well as elsewhere in the universe, such as on cold planets like Mars.

According to Penn State researchers Vanya I. Miteva, research associate, and Jean E. Brenchley, professor of microbiology and biotechnology, the majority of the microbes they discovered in an ice-core sample taken from the glacier were less than 1 micron in size--smaller than most commonly known bacteria, which range from 1 to 10 microns. In addition, a large portion of the cells appeared to be even smaller and passed through filters with 0.2-micron pores. The scientists are interested in understanding how microbial life can be preserved in polar ice sheets for hundreds of thousands of years under stresses that include subzero temperatures, desiccation, high pressures, and low oxygen and nutrient concentrations. Because the ice was mixed with the ancient permafrost at the bottom of the glacier, the microbes could have been trapped there for perhaps millions of years.

"We are particularly interested in the formation of ultra-small cells as one possible stress-survival mechanism, whether they are starved minute forms of known normal-sized microbes or intrinsically dwarf novel organisms, and also whether these cells are able to carry on metabolic processes while they are so highly stressed," Miteva says. Physiological changes that accompany the reduction of a cell's size may allow it to become dormant or to maintain extremely low activity with minimal energy.

"Many of these ice-core microbes are related to a variety of ultra-small microorganisms from other cold environments that have been shown to use different carbon and energy sources and to be resistant to drying, starvation, radiation, and other stress factors. Their modern relatives include the model ultra-micro bacterium Sphingopyxis alaskensis, which is abundant in cold Alaskan waters," Brenchley reports. She and Miteva are in the process of closely examining all the microbes they found in order to determine the identities and diversity of the species and to look for ones with novel functions.

The researchers used a variety of methods including repeated sample filtrations, electron microscopy, and a modified technique of flow cytometry to quickly reveal the number of cells and to estimate their different sizes, DNA content, and other characteristics. Miteva and Brenchley discovered cells with many different shapes and sizes, including a large percentage that were even smaller than filter-pore sizes of only 0.2 microns. "It appears that these ultra-small microbes often are missed in research studies because they pass through the finest filters commonly used to collect cells for analysis," Miteva says.

"Scientists believe these dwarf cells belong to the 'uncultured majority' because they are among the 99 percent of all microbes on Earth that have never been isolated and cultured for study. Obtaining such 'isolates' is necessary in order to describe a new organism, study its cell size, examine its physiology, and assess its ecological role. We now know just the tip of the iceberg of all the microbes that exist on Earth, and it generally is believed that a large portion of these unknown microbes are very small in size," Miteva says.

"A major challenge is to develop novel approaches for growing some of these previously unculturable organisms," Brenchley says. "At present, no single established protocol exists and little is known about the recovery of these stressed and possibly damaged cells from a frozen environment that subjects them to severe conditions for long periods." Some of the cells that Miteva and Brenchley were successful in cultivating required special conditions and up to six months to form initial colonies. The researchers discovered that these colonies grew more rapidly during further cultivation and that most continued to form predominantly small cells.

"Our study of the abundance, viability, and identity of the ultra-small cells existing in the Greenland ice is relevant to discovering how small life-forms can be; how cells survive being small, cold, and hungry; and what new tricks we need to develop in order to cultivate these small cells," Miteva says. "This study is part of the continuing quest by microbiologists to overcome the current limitations of our methods and to answer the big question, 'What new microbes are out there and what are they doing?'"


This release is a summary of a presentation from the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, May 23-27, 2004, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Additional information on these and other presentations at the 104th ASM General Meeting can be found online at http://www.asm.org/Media/index.asp?bid=27289 or by contacting Jim Sliwa (jsliwa@asmusa.org) in the ASM Office of Communications. The phone number for the General Meeting Press Room is 504-670-4240 and will be active from 12:00 noon CDT, May 23 until 12:00 noon CDT, May 27.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Tuesday May 25, 2004. To Pillsbury House, where I helped another volunteer learn the new program which tracks time dollars and volunteer hours. There was the slight problem that I haven't fully learned to understand it myself.

Email: Word from a relative who's tracing our genealogy; it looks like one famous ancestor may not be in our family line after all.

A message from someone who grew up around where I did, about the same time, but who to the best of his knowledge (and mine) I'd never met.

Mail: June Fantasy & Science Fiction; the All-American Issue. For me, the stories fell in the category of "Well written; I don't like it." Which is not the same as "Good; I don't like it."
Writing: daily exercise -- done.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- a bit more written.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 25-May-2004
Geophysical Research Letters
AGU Journal Highlights - 25 May 2004
In this edition: unexpected frequency of planetary wave reflection; Arctic sea ice loss results in decreased phytoplankton; carbon dioxide released from underground waterways may help explain earthquakes; ionospheric heating can modify the upper atmosphere; estimating underground fluid flow; an unexplained cold region deep below Poland; interpreting background seismic noise to map Earth's interior; volcanic eruptions may be seasonal; shadows on the ocean surface may help detect tsunamis; and more.

Public Release: 25-May-2004
American Thoracic Society
Study finds pregnant woman's asthma is likely to be worse if baby is a girl
Pregnant women with asthma who are carrying a female baby are more likely to experience a worsening of their asthma than pregnant asthmatic women carrying a baby boy, according to a stay presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in Orlando on May 25.

Public Release: 25-May-2004
American Thoracic Society
Eating some types of fish during pregnancy may protect baby from future asthma
Pregnant women with asthma who eat oily fish, such as salmon or trout, may help protect their children against developing asthma, according to a study presented at the American Thoracic Society International in Orlando. The study also found that children whose mother ate fish sticks during pregnancy might be at increased risk of developing asthma.

Public Release: 25-May-2004
Autistic children show outstanding musical skills
Specialist individual music lessons could hugely benefit children with autism, according to researchers Dr Pamela Heaton and Dr Francesca Happe at the University of London. The study, which was funded by ESRC, suggests that many children with this disorder have outstanding abilities in tone recognition.
Economic and Social Research Council

Tuesday May 25, 2004. Findforward's settings include one for looking up a person by name. If there is more than one person of that name, the results may be off:

Dan Goodman is guitar and vocals. Dan Goodman has been awarded a Theological Scholars Grant jointly administered and awarded by the Lilly Foundation and the Association of Theological. Dan Goodman is a former senior advisor in the Canadian Government's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Dan Goodman wrote: For what can make computers _really_ small, look up "quantum computers".

Thanks to Yoon Ha Lee http://www.livejournal.com/users/yhlee/
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 25-May-2004
American Society for Microbiology 104th General Meeting
White tea beats green tea in fighting germs
New studies conducted at Pace University have indicated that White Tea Extract (WTE) may have prophylactic applications in retarding growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus infections, Streptococcus infections, pneumonia and dental caries.

Public Release: 25-May-2004
June GEOLOGY highlights
Topics include: new evidence for an extended winter scenario following the K-T boundary event; atmospheric and tectonic forces that shaped Archean climate evolution; natural changes in the sea floor as a cause of coastal erosion; the relationship between Earth's rotational axis and low seasonal temperature ranges of the early Paleogene; evidence for a late Holocene earthquake in northern Puget Sound; and additional evidence for a Tacoma fault in Washington's Puget lowland.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Monday 24 May 2004. Nigerian Letters -- not just for third world countries anymore!



I wonder if there are any purporting to be from the US. (I'm not counting the joke ones.)
Posted on Mon, May. 24, 2004
Newbies dominate DFL convention
Pioneer Press

DULUTH, Minn. — The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has a new face. Or at least, lots of new faces.

The most remarkable thing about the DFL's otherwise unremarkable state convention here Saturday and Sunday was that an extraordinary two-thirds of the 2,700 delegates were attending their first state party gathering.

Veteran party activists with multiple conventions under their belts usually dominate such events.

Why all the newbies this year? State DFL Chairman Mike Erlandson attributed it to the anger at President Bush that drove 56,000 Minnesotans — five times more than usual — to the party's March 2 precinct caucuses. Many first-time caucus goers were elected delegates at the precinct level and had the drive and moxie to win state slots at their Senate district or county conventions.
Writing: daily exercise -- Done.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- I think all the bones are there, now; and the skin and flesh are getting there.
If you want good information, ask around - a lot
Large groups are more accurate than any expert. By John Freeman
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 24-May-2004
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London
Male susceptibility to disease may play role in evolution of insect societies
A higher male susceptibility to disease has helped shaped the evolution of social insect behavior say two scientists who have proposed a new model for behavioral development among the insects.
National Science Foundation

Public Release: 24-May-2004
Annals of Neurology
Left brain damage may make people more vulnerable to infection
A major immunological difference between the opposite halves of the human brain is now confirmed in a study in the Annals of Neurology. Researchers have found that damage or surgery to the left half of the brain may make a right-handed person more susceptible to being immunocompromised.

American Physical Society
Physics tip sheet #42
Improving communication with time reversal; making more money in noisy markets; and searching for supersymmetry with a celestial particle accelerator.

2) Exploiting Noise to Increase Profits
A. Traulsen et al.
Physical Review Letters (to appear)

The interactions between populations with different ambitions (shoppers and sellers, attackers and defenders, men and women) can lead to intricate and complicated dynamics as competitors struggle to adapt and gain an advantage. Researchers at the Christian-Albrechts University in Germany now find that it's not only beneficial for competitors to adapt, but it can also be helpful for them to adjust the rate at which they adapt. The researchers studied competition in numerical models that included random fluctuations, i.e. statistical noise. They found that flexible competitors who adjust their adaptation rate could improve their prosperity in noisy systems. The researchers suggest that their model may have important economic implications, potentially showing ways that competitors can increase their odds of success in noisy systems such as stock markets

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Sunday May 23, 2004. "Minnesota is the only place where you can have four seasons a week." Waitress at Java Restaurant, at least ten years ago.

Today's season was Fall -- chilly and rainy.

***The Java serves Egyptian food. (Is there, somewhere, an Indonesian restaurant called Pyramids?) And I'm reminded of a story from the area where I grew up: During WW II, someone who was in China ran into the Chinese cook from the Shamrock Inn in Ellenville.

Had the Shamrock Inn ever served Chinese food? I doubt it. During the 1950s, they advertised spaghetti -- that marvelous Irish delicacy.
Writing: daily exercise -- The cheapest teleport route from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.

Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love -- It's the right shape now; and has most of the right events. And in places, it's getting closer to the right words.
"Yesterday I wrote an 800 word introduction to a 200 word Harlan Ellison short story." Neil Gaiman http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2004/05/fraud-exposed-and-true-thing.asp
Summary: Titan, Saturn's hydrocarbon-rich moon, appears to host oil lakes and the raw materials for making organics. Those organics may serve as precursors to plastics, or possibly simple biomolecules. When the Cassini probe drops a payload beneath the moon's thick atmosphere at the end of this year, chemists will help interpretation of the data right alongside planetary scientists.
nature_science May. 23rd, 2004 04:34 pm Aspirin robs males of libido
Caution urged for pregnant women as rats bear frigid sons.
Via the Drudge Report:
Rumsfeld bans camera phones
From correspondents in London
May 23, 2004

MOBILE phones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported today.

Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US Defence Department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

"Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," it said, adding that a "total ban throughout the US military" is in the works.
Child sex clause gone - Goff
Stuff.co.nz - 4 hours ago
A clause that would have made it legal for some children as young as 12 to have consenting sex has been taken out of proposed legislation after a public outcry.
Public outcry prompts backdown on under-age sex MyTown Hawke's Bay
Sex at 16 too young - PM NZ City
TVNZ - Melbourne Herald Sun - New Zealand Herald - Washington Times - and 24 related
Telling people where I grew up:

If you're a canal buff, or a member of Janny Wurts's family -- I grew up along the route of the Delaware and Hudson Canal.

If you're a rock climber -- I grew up in the Gunks.

If you're an activist on either side of the gay-marriage issue -- I grew up near New Paltz, New York.

If you're knowledgeable about African-American history -- I grew up in the area Sojourner Truth was from.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Saturday May 22, 2004. Mail: Ad from DNA Publications for 1) The Fantastic Book Club. "We'll bring you the books that you want to read." Perhaps not. Roger Zelazny's six previously-uncollected Amber stories probably aren't worth my reading. And I'm not interested in Robert E. Howard's collected fight stories. Of the other eight listed, the only one which particularly interests me is the Lord Dunsany collection.

2) DNA's magazines. Of the five fiction magazines, two interest me -- but are nowhere near the top of my reading list. Chronicle is only the second-best print magazine covering the sf/fantasy field; and several webzines bring the news faster than either LOCUS or Chronicle (including the web version of LOCUS).
Elizabeth Bear [http://www.livejournal.com/users/matociquala/] gave her schedule at Wiscon, including: "I will be at a reading entitled Your Own Good ... on Saturday, from 10:00-11:15 a.m. in Conference Room 2 (our theme is second-person stories. I'll be reading 'The Chains that you Refuse.' [http://www.chizine.com/chains_refuse.htm])."

I read it, and was impressed. It's among the few second-person stories I've seen which work well.

Logically, it ought to be in a viewpoint which doesn't exist in any language I know of. At first, I thought it should be the one Alfred Bester used in "Fondly Fahrenheit":

"He doesn't know which of us I am these days, but they know one truth. You must own nothing but yourself. You must make your own life, live your own life and die your own death ... or else you will die another's." (... in original.)

But that's not quite it. And it's a minor detail.
Writing: Daily exercise -- Nonfiction again. "Politics: Getting the Tune Right." More on making (future) political activists sound right. Like yesterday's, this has been in the back of my head for a while. (If you're interested: to find yesterday's, go to http://groups.google.com, choose advanced search, and look for "Politics" in header of posts by me on rec.arts.sf.composition. Today's will probably show up tomorrow.)

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- A character who'd seemed unrealistically strong now collapses after several days of fending off sleep with jumpstart weed. Two other characters have come much more alive than before.

James telling how her sister tried to kill her has been in the story for a while. Now, someone mentions the little detail that James had threatened to kill her sister.
From an unsolicited email: "Bookman Publishing is already the only company in the industry contacting bookstore owners for our authors. Now, to learn even more about the retail book industry we have just purchased our first bookstore.

"This is not a website, it's a real store made out of bricks and glass. The Bookman Store is on the square in Franklin Indiana and will be open in June. All of our author's [sic] books will be sold there automatically.

"For the very first time ever, we can now guarantee that your book will be sold in a real store. As always, we will sell your book even if another company published it."

Friday, May 21, 2004

Friday May 21, 2004. In Creating Short Fiction, Damon Knight says that the conscious mind thinks in linear fashion and the unconscious mind thinks in webs of associations. (He calls the unconscious "Fred," but that's another matter.)

Not with me. I think consciously in webs of associations; and part of my non-conscious mind is far better at linear thinking.

Today, I woke up with the realization that something I'd excised from "Well Met..." belongs after all. Not where I'd placed it, but much earlier.

I woke up realizing that something I'd taken out of "Well Met..." because it didn't fit actually does fit -- but much earlier than where I'd placed it.

Of course, this meant I would have to move around or take out stuff which now came later.

***Did some financial stuff which will hurt me in about nine years.

***My first Turkish-language spam.
Writing: daily exercise -- nonfiction on getting political dialects right.

Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love -- Inserted a new scene. Brought three characters I'd excised back in. The one who isn't a spear carrier has developed a voice and a personality.

Made some of the needed changes farther up the line.

They Do Things Differently There -- Nothing today.

Killing Futures -- Nothing today.
Public Release: 20-May-2004
Beagles win first round in fight for reprieve from patenting
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has agreed to reexamine a patent on beagle dogs following a legal challenge filed in February by the American Anti-Vivisection Society and the PatentWatch Project of the International Center for Technology Assessment. In the challenge, the groups urged the Patent Office to cancel Patent # 6,444,872, which covers live beagle dogs and was issued to the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System in Austin, Texas.

Public Release: 20-May-2004
UU lays foundations for gulf police stations
University of Ulster expertise is shaping the public face of policing in Abu Dhabi, the centre of government and business life in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Want to know what Presidential campaigns your neighbors have donated to? Go to http://fundrace.org, and type in your zipcode. There are also city maps showing major-party donations for some cities, and a national map.

Want to know what political books your neighbors are buying? Go to http://www.topix.net,
and ask for news from your zipcode. It will bring in whatever local news there is, plus
old stories and sorta-local and state stories. It will also bring up Amazon's bestseller list for that zipcode. For the area I grew up in, which used to vote Republican:

Best-Sellers for Accord, New York
1. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
2. Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore
3. 3rd Degree by James Patterson
4. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
5. The Last Juror by John Grisham
6. The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 21-May-2004
Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance
Students fashion space suits for Mars
Three undergraduate students at the University of Alberta have designed a space suit for Mars and have published their ideas in the Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance.
Clubbers choose chip implants to jump queues

People signing up as VIP members of a Spanish nightclub are using under-the-skin RFID tags to get in and pay for drinks
11:12 21 May 2004
From Greg Morrow on rec.food.cooking:
Culinary History Timeline:
Social history, manners & menus

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Thursday May 20, 2004. I walked to Uptown. (In Minneapolis, that's a neighborhood but not a direction.) Rainbow Foods had a two-for-one sale on large eggs by the dozen; I expect to eat a lot of eggs for a few days.

***On my way home, I stopped in at DreamHaven Books. Spent some of my credit on used books;
Algis Budrys's Rogue Moon and A. E. Van Vogt's Empire of the Atom and The Wizard of Linn.

The Van Vogt book are hokier than his usual -- sword and starship novels based on Roman history. But they're fun to read; and I want to see what Van Vogt did to make them work.

The Budrys book is -- well, the man who likes dying again and again may be one of the saner characters.

There was a book signing in progress: "Adam Connell and E.E. Knight will be reading and autographing. Adam Connell is the author of the forthcoming Counterfeit Kings, a science fiction novel. E.E. Knight is the author of the Vampire Earth science fiction series, including Way of the Wolf and Choice of the Cat." Not well-attended, but neither of them seemed to mind.
Writing: From a post I made Wednesday night in rec.arts.composition:

"Today I started working out a story for which several scenes popped right into my head. I'm not setting them down till I've figured out the things which will determine whether or not they fit the real shape of the story.

"Crap -- it just occurred to me that a better way to use the basic idea would be to bring John Lilburne from his time to ours. Which is something I'm going to save till I'm prepared to do a good deal of historical research."

John Lilburne was a radical who lived in the time of the English Civil War. He quarrelled with every government of that period, and with most political and religious groups. (He didn't get along well with his wife, either.) "If there were but one man in the world, and that man was John Lilburne; John would quarrel with Lilburne and Lilburne would quarrel with John."

One of the more radical ideas attributed to him was that of vastly extending the franchise -- giving every Englishman above the rank of servant the right to vote. (I'm told that "servant" would include anyone who received a regular salary.)

***"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- Solved one large problem, I think. And I've set a deadline for finishing the story.

"They Do Things Differently There" -- Nothing done today.

Killing Futures -- Nothing done today.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 20-May-2004
Acoustical Society of America
Without words, bullfrogs communicate through stutters in their croaks
Short gaps in the croaks of a bullfrog's normal call likely convey messages, according to a new Brown study. Researchers recorded 2,536 calls of bullfrogs in natural choruses and found the stutter has a communication function and does not simply represent fatigue.
National Institutes of Health, Brown University

Four-winged birds may have been first fliers
A new study of Archaeopteryx supports the idea that the first birds were four-winged gliders, not two winged flappers

Smart glasses detect eye contact
Besides being useful in singles bars, the inventors say the system could play a key role in video blogging, a hi-tech form of diary keeping
Sabato's Crystal Ball, Vol. II Issue 23
(This email is in HTML format. If you cannot read it, visit

He'd better be Truman if he wants to win...
By Larry J. Sabato, Director, UVa Center for Politics
May 20, 2004
(Nearly) Every Girl Loved A Soldier – UU Research
18th May 2004

Predecessors of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment – the British Army regiment at the centre of abuse allegations in Iraq – had a much more positive interaction with the Irish civil population when posted here over a century ago, according to research by a University of Ulster academic.

Dr Neal Garnham, a senior lecturer in History at the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages at the Magee campus, probed how the East Lancashire Regiment – one of the units which amalgamated to form the current QLR – was received when it was stationed at Newry for more than five years in the 1880s and 1890s.

“As in Iraq, troops had a role to play in law enforcement, which meant that relations with the local population could become fraught”, he said.

But his research found that at the regimental headquarters in Newry the troops played a major role in local society and appeared to be well accepted by the local population:

• Regimental teams took part in a whole series of sporting contests including football, cricket and polo matches.
• The regimental band appeared at almost all the local fetes and public events.
• Men and women of all political and religious beliefs visited the messes in the local barracks.
• Soldiers were invited to join local social clubs and associations, turned out for local sports teams and brought much-needed money into the town.

But, according to Dr Garnham, there was an even more significant mark of the acceptance of the troops in the town at that time.

While the regiment was serving in Newry more than 10% of all marriages in the town involved local girls and soldiers from the garrison.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php, a bunch from New Scientist:
Public Release: 19-May-2004
Climate change heralds thirsty times
A new climate model suggests that as temperature rises with global warming, the world will be in shorter supply of fresh water. US researchers found that both precipitation and evaporation would significantly increase with climate change. So while greater rainfall will increase the flow of some rivers, evaporation will reduce the moisture content of soils in many parts of the world. The researchers say the net effect would be to take water away from where the people are.

Public Release: 19-May-2004
Are nanobacteria alive?
After four years' work, an American team has come up with the best evidence yet that nanobacteria – a possible new life form – do actually exist. The team isolated these nanobacteria-like structures from diseased human arteries and observed them self-replicating in culture. The particles have previously been implicated in a range of human diseases. Many remain unconvinced by the research though, dismissing it as "scientific nonsense".

Public Release: 19-May-2004
Cosmic dark age found in shadows
The earliest structures in the universe may be visible by the shadows they cast in the afterglow of the big bang. The objects have been hidden before now because they formed in the dark age before the first stars were switched on. Researchers believe that hydrogen gas absorbed radiation left over after the big bang and would have created shadows which astronomers should be able to detect today.
From USA Today, 5/19/04:
Louisiana: Baton Rouge -- Cajun gourmets battling the bulge can now get healthier versions of classic recipes on the state health department's Web site. The ''leaux-fat'' site is part of an effort to lower the state's obesity rates. The Web site address is www.oph.dhh.state.la.us/nutrition/cajuncooking/index.html.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Wednesday May 19, 2004. "Serial murder is boring" -- this discussion on rec.arts.mystery is about reading fiction, rather than the actual hobby.

Today I commented that I would find committing serial murder boring. Which happens to be true, so far as I know.

***To Pillsbury House, where I did data entry for the Community Barter Network and Pillsbury House's volunteer program.
"The Black Dog" is what Samuel Johnson and Winston S. Churchill called their depressions. I'm in a state which might be called "The Black Puppy," and am likely to be for a while.

I need to get a job, about six months ago. I don't like working regularly; I don't like temping with short assignments; and I strongly dislike job-hunting.
Writing: "They Do Things Differently There" -- Title taken from "The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there;" the opening of L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between. (The first line has been extensively used as a title; I've only found one use of the second line.)

In the very first stage of planning. The scenes my mind has come up with won't get set down until I'm sure they belong.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- Something about a major character is off, and I have to figure what it is.

Killing Futures -- Nothing done today.

Today's exercise -- done.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 19-May-2004
Historian identifies time when politicians were heroic and popular
New research from the University of Warwick reveals the celebrities and heroes of 17th century England were politicians. The study into ballads of the 1600s reveals that the Duke of Monmouth, James Scot, the illegitimate son of Charles II, was hailed as a hero in ballads, the equivalent of today's pop music, and despite his flaws, as the people's Royal he could do no wrong - very much like England's most recent darling, David Beckham.
From the American Name Society mailing list:
10 Worst Celebrity Baby Names
In honour of Apple Blyth Alison Martin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Tuesday May 18, 2004. Waking thought: Say there are a lot of people who are certain that the future will bring Heaven on Earth (or Heaven in Heaven). And the technology for suspended animation is reliable enough and cheap enough that at least the highest-income 20
percent of them could hibernate till their predicted dates for abolition of government, perfect government, the Rapture, or whatever they look forward to.

And the future will have to cope with a lot of disappointed idealogues.

***To the Minneapolis Social Security office, where I applied for a replacement for my long-lost card.

I had to go through a metal detector, and have my bag and side-pouches searched by the Homeland Security guards. I don't consider Social Security a prime target, but apparently someone does.

The actual process was easy. I got a letter which said my card would be mailed to me, and should reach me in about two weeks.

Which is a relief, because the photo ID I brought was a passport that may have been older than the clerk who processed my application.

To Mercado Central, to buy corn tortillas. They're cheaper and fresher than the ones supermarkets sell; and lower in sodium and fat.

***My former landlord, Basim Sabri, has lost in the US Supreme Court. Which means his Federal bribery trial can go forward.
Writing: Daily exercise done, posted to rec.arts.sf.composition.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- d_mn story morphed on me again.

Killing Futures -- a fairly important change to the background, which will probably affect the story considerably.
An Olympic score to settle: Who revived the modern games?
Revisionist historians are keen to explode the myth that the Olympic
revival was the brainchild of only one man. By Daniel Howden

By Philip Ball
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
520 pp., $27

Equations for traffic and marriage
Philip Ball argues that human behavior follows the laws of physics in surprising and illuminating ways
By Jonathon Keats

Note: Anyone interested in this might want to google on "econophysics" for another way of
applying the same assumptions.

CHENNAI: Accepting defeat, for the first time, to her three years of governance, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday reversed almost all her policies, which the opposition campaigned as "anti-people" policies.

These include the withdrawal of the anti-conversion law, withdrawal of cases against the government employees and her political rivals under TESMA, withdrawal of defamation cases against the media, restoration of free power to farmers, returning the egg to the noon-meal scheme and other common issues.

Note: The anti-conversion law fits neatly with Hindu nationalism; she appears to have been part of the Hindu nationalist coalition which was recently defeated on the national level, and had losses in various states. Trying to put opponents and insufficiently obedient government employees in prison is what might be expected of a petty tyrant, as is suing the media for defamation. Removing eggs from the equivalent of school lunches probably has something to do with their being religiously incorrect.

But I have no idea why she deprived the farmers of free electricity.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 18-May-2004
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
U of T study finds music teachers at risk of hearing loss
Noise levels music teachers are exposed to during teaching periods could damage the inner ear.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation
Monday May 17, 2004. Mail: Lofgeornost 75, from Fred Lerner. Account of a trip to Nova Scotia. Letters of comment on politics (British, US, and West Wing), comfort reading, other worthwhile reading. Article on Fred's involvement with information science.
Recap: Yesterday, during a discussion on "What's needed to start" in rec.arts.sf.composition, I realized that what I need to begin a story is a theme, a situation, and a viewpoint character, in that order.

Yes, one standard piece of fiction writing advice is "Don't write to a theme. Let a theme emerge from the story." But another is "The way you write best may break any and all rules you've ever heard of."

And one thing I've been saying in rasfc is "The way you write best might have nothing to do with what rationally ought to work best."

Today, someone asked how I develop characters. (And how I make them stick to the theme; hers keep doing things she hadn't planned for them.)

I thought it over. Roughly: I decide what they have to make decisions about during the course of the story. The character who has to make a certain decision will have traits which lead him (her, whatever) to be in a situation which will require making that decision.

***Done today: The daily exercise.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- Sketched out the final scene. Added notes in places where the viewpoint character needs to make important decisions.

Killing Futures -- Added a note on the viewpoint character's background, and how it impels him to make decisions where most people in his world believe there's only one choice.

Monday, May 17, 2004

In some ways, politics hasn't changed much in 400 years. Samuel Pepys, May 16, 1661 (by the Julian calendar; England had not yet succumbed to the Papist Gregorian calendar, in which the date was May 26):

...about 2 o’clock went in my velvet coat by water to the Savoy, and there, having staid a good while, I was called into the Lords, and there, quite contrary to my expectations, they did treat me very civilly, telling me that what they had done was out of zeal to the King’s service, and that they would joyne with the governors of the chest with all their hearts, since they knew that there was any, which they did not before.

One change: "zeal to the King's service" is no longer the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Note: I don't yet know what the Lords (of the Admiralty?) had been doing that they'd realized they could no longer get away with.

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 17-May-2004
Scents will not rouse us from slumber, says new Brown University study
Smells do not wake people, according to Brown University researchers who studied responses to the scents peppermint and pyridine – a common byproduct of fire. The findings indicate a significant alteration of perceptual processing as a function of sleep.
Grass Foundation Trustee Grant
From Google News:
US Army Says It Finds Shell with Sarin Agent in Iraq
Reuters - 25 minutes ago
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A small amount of the nerve agent sarin was found in a shell that exploded in Iraq, the US army said Monday in the first announcement of discovery of any of the weapons on which Washington made its case for war.
Roadside bomb containing sarin nerve agent explodes in Iraq WATE
Sarin nerve gas round explodes News24
580 CFRA Radio - Telegraph.co.uk - CTV - RTE Interactive - and 75 related

States Must Face Some Disability Suits, Court Says (Update2)
Bloomberg - 35 minutes ago
May 17 (Bloomberg) -- States can be forced to pay financial damages for failing to make courthouses accessible to the disabled, the US Supreme Court ruled.
High Court Upholds Rules in Disabilities Act Washington Post
High court rules in favor of disabled man USA Today
Washington Times - WATE - Reuters AlertNet - Guardian - and 66 related

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Sunday May 16, 2004. I went to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary with Pat Craft. I like looking at flowers and other plants (including poison ivy, of which there was at least the one labeled specimen). Pat also likes growing them, and knows a lot more about them than I do.

There were a lot of dead tree parts lying around, ranging from pieces of bark to large logs. Which, in a genuinely natural habitat, is how it should be.

For an encore, we went to the Peace Garden in Lyndale-Farmstead Park.
On predictions (continued): A while ago, someone explained to me that with nanotechnology, people wouldn't have to live in crowded places like Manhattan. I explained to her that very few people have to live in Manhattan.

Flying cars replacing ground-only cars is just around the corner. It was just around the corner decades ago. They've been built; they haven't sold well enough to continue being made. I don't think technology is the problem; I think people just don't want them.

Videophones replacing voice-only phones has also been just around the corner for decades. In the 1960s, AT&T was certain PicturePhones would sell. The only trace of them now is their use in the movie 2001.

Cell phones have been approaching closer and closer to being videophones. So I suspect that the day really is coming when most people own phones which can be used as videophones.
Whether they'll actually be used that way is another question.

Selling people what you think they want is much harder than selling them what they think they want.
Writing: I posted this to rec.arts.sf.composition:

'Something about reading this thread made me realize that what I need ("structure" may not be the right word) is: theme, situation, viewpoint character. In about that order of importance; but till I have all three, the story doesn't go anywhere.

'Did I mention that, till I realized this, I was certain that consciously working with a theme was a very bad idea?'

***Today's exercise: There were too many people in the way. I wouldn't have minded killing a few, or even all; if they had found their way to this room, they deserved to die. But I couldn't get a clear shot at the Entreator's Chair, particularly at the one spot (halfway down the right front leg) which I'd been told was most vulnerable, with them screening it from me.

There was only one thing to do. I handed the gun to someone who was nearer to the Entreator's Chair; the gun would tell her what had to be done.

"Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- the bones of the story are almost all there, now.

Killing Futures -- Tinkered with it a bit.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Saturday May 15, 2004. I got my first haircut in a long, long time. Got it from another Community Barter Network member at her home.

Deb did a good job -- both on the haircut and on the beard trim, which she didn't have experience with.

She lives in Linden Hills; a very nice neighborhood. Given my choice of Minneapolis neighborhoods, that's the one I'd want to live in.

***My neighborhood (EHFNA) had its annual neighborhood-wide yard sale today. I looked in on the two nearest sales which were still going when I returned from getting my hair cut. Picked up a few things from the free box at one of them.
The discussion at http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001856.html led me to this:
Why People Are Irrational about Politics
Michael Huemer

Abstract: I look for explanations for the phenomenon of widespread, strong, and persistent disagreements about political issues. The best explanation is provided by the hypothesis that most people are irrational about politics and not, for example, that political issues are particularly difficult or that we lack sufficient evidence for resolving them. I discuss how this irrationality works and why people are especially irrational about politics.
I've decided to do at least one writing exercise each day. Here's the first one:

The building was old, though not as old as it looked. Rather, as it would look to someone whose knowledge of history came from attending the Steam and Rocket Faire.

Two hundred years ago, an architect had designed an imitation of a mid-20th-century office building; one whose exterior was stone. The builders had decided to make it look as if it was made of wood. What kind of wood? A hodgepodge; one section appeared to be made of pine, another of mahogany, with what seemed to be maple between those two. Chalit wondered if some of the sections he didn't recognize might imitate woods which had never actually existed.

Inside, the lobby had several fireplaces along each wall. The fireplaces were also made of imitation wood -- at least, Chalit hoped so.
Writing: "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- Realized I hadn't set down what changes about the protagonist; set it down. Made some smaller changes.

Killing Futures -- Changed the time scale. Decided on an important place name.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Friday May 14, 2004. I've been thinking about failed predictions in science fiction -- particularly the ones which fail soon enough to embarrass the writer. And I think it's often the sensible predictions which fail.

Sensible political predictions: The US and USSR would continue to be Earth's two superpowers well into the 21st century. And they would continue to be the two leading powers in space.

Or perhaps the Japanese would dominate.

The Soviet Union is gone. The US looks less and less like a functional superpower. The European Union's space program already seems to be better in some ways than the US space program.

Sensible social predictions: It was obvious that cigarette smoking would continue to be respectable.

Computer networks were one prediction which came true. But it was taken for granted that the information they carried would be provided by corporations, governments, and large nonprofit institutions. A gossip columnist along the lines of Matt Drudge? Yes, but as an employee.

(More on this later.)
Writing: "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- The story has taken firm enough shape that I can work on getting the scenes right. Then will come getting the words right.

Killing Futures -- nothing done today.
Pointer from Juan Not-Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy
ROBERTS, Circuit Judge: It was a close thing, but Benedict Arnold’s bold plan to capture Canada for the Revolution fell short at the Battle of Quebec in early 1776. As a result, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must now decide when affiliates of Canadian utilities — utilities not subject to FERC jurisdiction — may sell power at market-based rates in the United States.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Thursday May 13, 2004. Good news from India -- a change in government. BJP, the party leading what had been the governing coalition, is a Hindu nationalist party seemingly dedicated to disproving the notion that only monotheists can be religious bigots.
I walked to Steeple People thrift store. Among the freebie magazines: February 1999 Scientific American, with an article by Benoit B. Mandelbrot: A Multifractal Walk Down Wall Street.

Across the street to the Wedge. Two pounds of organic carrots were a whole 20¢ more than Rainbow charges for conventional carrots; and they taste at least 20¢ better than conventional carrots.

To Rainbow, where I bought turkey giblets.

To Lunds, for turkey wings and eggs. Lunds had large eggs for ten cents less than Rainbow did -- and two cents less than Rainbow's medium eggs. Interesting, since Rainbow sells on low prices and Lunds is upmarket.

***I saw an "Army of One" bumpersticker, and wondered if any pacifist group had come up with "Army of None."
Writing: "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- the story is now closer to what it needs to be. I've added the audacious prediction that a few centuries from now, humans will still use drugs for non-medical purposes.

Killing Futures -- Needs a viewpoint character. So far, I've only got a job description.
From Google News, something I consider old news:
Documents Show US Relationship With Nazis During Cold War
New York Times - 40 minutes ago
WASHINGTON, May 13 - The American government worked closely with Nazi war criminals and collaborators, allowing many of them to live in the United States after World War II, and paying others who worked for West Germany's secret service, according to ...
Book says US ignored Nazi sympathizers International Herald Tribune
US Said to Embrace Alleged Nazi Allies Guardian
WAVY-TV - San Diego Union Tribune - Ha'aretz - CBS News - and 98 related
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 13-May-2004
Bird's eye views earth's magnetic lines
Migratory birds, as well as many other animals, are able to sense the magnetic field of the earth, but how do they do it? An article in today's (May 13, 2004) Nature reports evidence that the earth's magnetic field is sensed by light-absorbing molecules in the retina of a bird's' eye. Coauthor John Phillips explains.
Fetzer Institute, National Science Foundation

Public Release: 13-May-2004
Carnegie Mellon student develops origami folding robot
A Carnegie Mellon graduate student studying robotics has developed the first origami-folding robot as the subject of his thesis. Origami looks simple at first glance, but the movements required are quite complex. The project uses kinematics, the study of mechanisms, to determine how folding is done and how paper can be treated as a flexible and rigid material.

Public Release: 13-May-2004
Impact at Bedout: 'Smoking gun' of giant collision that nearly ended life on earth is identified
Evidence is mounting that 251 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs dominated the Earth, a meteor the size of Mount Everest smashed into what is now northern Australia, wiping out all but about ten percent of the species on the planet. A new paper published in Science by researchers at the University of Rochester claims to identify the crater made by that meteor.
NASA, National Science Foundation

Public Release: 13-May-2004
Physics Review Letters
The Universe, seen under the Gran Sasso mountain, seems to be older than expected
Some nuclear fusion reactions inside stars occur more slowly than we thought and, as a consequence, stars themselves, as well as galaxies and the entire universe are a bit older than expected. This is what comes out from the last results of Luna experiment (Laboratory for Underground Nuclear astrophysics), settled by National Laboratories of Gran Sasso and realized in cooperation by Infn and Ruhr University in Bochum (Germany).

Public Release: 13-May-2004
2004 Joint Assembly
Satellites see shadows of ancient glaciers
Great ice sheets covered Canada and the central and eastern parts of the United States 18,000 years ago. Today, long after the glaciers melted, an international research team led by Northwestern University geologists using the GPS satellites can "see" the land moving as the earth rebounds in response to the ice that once pushed the land down. They report that while sites in Canada are rising, U.S. sites south of the Great Lakes are sinking.
Handsome men evolved thanks to picky females
Male primates may have sacrificed their long faces and aggressive teeth for more placid looks to attract females

Computer chip noise may betray code
The noise emitted by computer chips could help code breakers decipher encrypted messages, according to preliminary research

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Wednesday May 12, 2004. Yesterday, I replaced the chair I used for typing with a three-legged stool/chair hybrid. It's turning out to be much better for my back and shoulders.

***I'd intended to walk to Pillsbury House. But it was raining, so I took the bus.

Data entry for the Community Barter Network and Pillsbury House's volunteer program was a bit more ... interesting than I'd expected. Someone had reset the program so that one thing I'd been doing was simpler -- once I figured it out.

****Writing: "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" I'd wondered where one major character had been sleeping for about a week. Today, I figured out that she hadn't been; she'd been depending on a stay-awake drug. Which explained some odd things about her behavior.

I've got to figure out how to know such things before I begin writing, rather than when I think I'm about done.

Killing Futures Tweaked a few words of the still-sketchy outline.
How I almost wrecked a $3.5 million car
General Motors' Hy-wire concept car used hydrogen fuel and has video-game-like controls. By Eric C. Evarts

Boom splits India's middle class
All the conditions are present to turn the country into an economic juggernaut. By Scott Baldauf

By 2020, moon cukes and other crops?
Greenhouses in space hold promise for making astronauts more self-sufficient and cutting costs for long missions. By Lori Valigra
From Google News:
Street fight in Dallas suburb organized on Internet
Houston Chronicle - 50 minutes ago
GARLAND - More than two dozen students are under arrest after a street fight involving rival high school gangs that police say helped organized [sic]the melee on the Internet.
Texas Police Arrest Students in Fight Guardian
Garland High School Students Among Arrests KXAN-TV
Fort Worth Star Telegram (subscription) - Dallas Morning News (subscription) - WFAA (subscription) - San Diego Union Tribune - and 25 related
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 11-May-2004
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
22-amino acid bacterium created by Scripps scientists
A team of investigators at The Scripps Research Institute and its Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology in La Jolla, California has modified a form of the bacterium Escherichia coli to use a 22-amino acid genetic code.
US Department of Energy, Skaggs Institute for Research, National Science Foundation, Canadian Institutes of Health, Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Public Release: 11-May-2004
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Orange, tangerine peels could be better than drugs for lowering cholesterol
A compound found in the peels of citrus fruit has the potential to lower cholesterol more effectively than some prescription drugs, and without side effects, according to a study by U.S. and Canadian researchers. The compound, isolated from orange and tangerine peels, shows promise in animal studies as a potent, natural alternative for lowering LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), without the possible side effects, such as liver disease and muscle weakness, of conventional cholesterol-lowering drugs.
USDA Citrus and Subtropical Products Laboratory, KGK Synergize Inc.

Public Release: 12-May-2004
Experiments reveal startling insights into lemur intelligence
Until now, primatologists believed lemurs to be primitive, ancient offshoots of the primate family tree, with far less intelligence than their more sophisticated cousins, monkeys, apes and humans. But at the Duke University Primate Center, with the gentle touch of his nose to a computer screen, the ringtail lemur called Aristides is teaching psychologist Elizabeth Brannon a startling scientific lesson -- that lemurs are, indeed, intelligent creatures.
Duke University Primate Center

Public Release: 12-May-2004
Chemical reaction in birds provides sense of direction during migratory flights
Migrating birds stay on track because of chemical reactions in their bodies that are influenced by the Earth's magnetic field, a UC Irvine-led team of researchers has found.
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Fetzer Institute

Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Irvine

Public Release: 12-May-2004
Human settlements already existed in the Amazon Basin (Ecuador) 4000 years ago (continued…)
July 2003 : discovery in Ecuador by IRD archaeologists of 4000-year-old structures indicating the presence of one of the first great Andean civilizations in the upper Amazon Basin, where their presence had not been suspected. The last discoveries (a tomb, ceramic bottles, medallions and necklace in turquoise and malachite) show that this site was used for ceremonial purposes and the importance of the people who were settled there.
Institut de Recherche Pour le Développement

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Tuesday May 11, 2004. I called a member of the Community Barter Network who offers haircuts, and made an appointment for Saturday.

I need the haircut (and beard trim) for job-hunting. I need a job because prices have been rising faster than my pension.
Writing: "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- still morphing.

Killing Futures A bit more to the outline/background.
Released: May 09, 2004
The Election Is Kerry’s To Lose
By John Zogby

I have made a career of taking bungee jumps in my election calls. Sometimes I haven’t had a helmet and I have gotten a little scratched. But here is my jump for 2004: John Kerry will win the election.
Dear Francis,

I am happily married and have 2 wonderful daughters, one blonde and one raven-haired. A knight recently visited our estate and was naturally impressed by their beauty, but I'm afraid that he hasn't expressed interest in only one of them, but in both. Perhaps this is suitable behavior in court, but here in the country it is considered improper to court one daughter with gold and rings, while yet loving the other above all things.
My daughters are good young ladies and don't fight with each other, but I can tell that there is tension between them. My raven-haired daughter, in particular, seems angered.
I fear that this will not end well.


Dear Wondering,

Although this may seem an impossible situation, take heart and trust to the familial bond: "blood is thicker than water" as they say.
Let your daughters spend some private, unchaperoned time together so that they can speak frankly to each other about their feelings. A good long walk together along the seaside should be all that's required to solve the problem. The fresh sea air is often good for clearing the head and making priorities clear. You might even find that they are able to decide who should have the knight in question.

Francis J. Child
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 11-May-2004
Acta Paleontologica Polonica
Penn researchers describe newly found dinosaur of the Montana coastline
Through the cycads and gingkoes of the floodplains, not far from the Sundance Sea, strode the 50-foot-long Suuwassea, a plant-eating dinosaur with a whip-like tail and an anomalous second hole in its skull destined to puzzle paleontologists in 150 million years. According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Suuwassea emilieae is a smaller relative of Diplodocus and Apatosaurus and is the first named sauropod dinosaur from the Jurassic of southern Montana.
Emilie deHellebranth; Penn's Research Foundation, School of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Animal Biology; and Penn Paleobiology Fund

Public Release: 11-May-2004
'Good guy' blood cells are now suspects in heart disease, diabetes
A team of researchers has opened a new frontier for platelets: They believe the platelet is the pivotal link between inflammation, heart disease and stroke – and may even be a key cell in the body that promotes diabetic complications, the origin of which remains unknown.

Public Release: 11-May-2004
Journal of Zoology
Mother lode of jaguars discovered in Bolivia park
Bolivia's sprawling Kaa-Iya Gran Chaco National Park, known for some of the world's highest densities of ticks, may now lay claim to another superlative: more jaguars than any protected area on earth.

Public Release: 11-May-2004
Small, frequent doses of caffeine best strategy for staying awake
People who take small amounts of caffeine regularly during the day may be able to avoid falling asleep and perform well on cognitive tests without affecting their nighttime sleep habits.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Monday May 10, 2004. It seems that recent Google improvements have made it easier to find and read mailing list archives. Including archives of Declutter, for which I'm list owner.

Decluttr's archives are now private rather than public. Unfortunately, I didn't make this change till after several former and current list members emailed me about the problem.

***Blogger has been changed, and the changes really are improvements. So I'll keep maintaining this web journal on both LiveJournal and Blogger.

Food: Cooked beans in a crockpot, with an onion and about a carrot and a half.

To Rainbow Foods, whose specials this week included 8 pounds of potatoes for 89¢. They also had turkey giblets (labeled "necks and backs") for 68¢ a pound. I love turkey liver, and it's not usually available.
Something I posted on rec.arts.sf.composition, in an attempt at explaining a point about writing techniques.

This beginning establishes the character:

John wakes up, makes himself breakfast, drives to work.

Toward the end of the workday, he gets news which starts him on the road to realizing his society isn't utopian.

This beginning establishes the character AND promises the reader that a story is coming:

Yesterday's wife snored. John hadn't gotten nearly enough sleep before the alarm bit him in the leg. He thought, briefly, of filing a complaint; decided it wasn't quite worth the risk of spending two or three days in jail for libeling the Department of Marriage.

He went to make breakfast, and found there were no eggs. Instead there was sardine-flavored tofu. The breakfast newsletter explained that the egg shortage was due to lesbianism and sedition among the chickens.

Driving to work was harder than it should have been; there were more bodies than usual in the street.

[The person this was meant for didn't see any difference.]

Writing progress: "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" -- I've decided to regard what I have as an outline, rather than the first draft I thought it was. I'm still adding and subtracting too much for it to be a genuine first draft.

I've set a deadline for getting at least the first draft done.

_Killing Futures_ -- Very basic outline underway.
From New Scientist (emailed newsletter):
Ticklish executives beware. Vibrating studs embedded in car seats will soon be telling luxury car drivers which way to turn next. Their purpose is to reduce the number of dashboard display and audio alerts that can distract drivers, says developer Jan van Erp at the TNO Human Factors lab in Soesterberg, Netherlands

Under a cover on the driver’s seat is a collection of studs - the same kind of that make cellphones vibrate - which are connected to the car’s satellite navigation system. "A vibration beneath your right leg tells you to steer that way," says van Erp. The driver can also learn a combination of vibrations that give more complex directions, such as "make a U-turn". An unnamed luxury car firm is developing a vehicle that will use the idea and will be launched in 2006.

From UK Google News http://news.google.com/news/en/uk/mainlite.htm
New Generation of Nurses 'Too Posh to Wash'
Reuters - 3 hours ago
HARROGATE, England (Reuters) - A new generation of nurses who are "too posh to wash" are threatening traditional nursing practices by refusing to perform basic tasks, the leader of Britain's nurses' union, Beverly Malone, said Monday.
Nurses cannot be too posh to wash BBC News
Nurses ' leader blows ' 1500 a month on taxis The Times, UK (subscription)
The Scotsman - Belfast Telegraph (subscription) - Guardian - Telegraph.co.uk - and 28 related
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Note the last line of this:
Public Release: 10-May-2004
Plant Physiology
Domesticated tree crops may be the 'future of forestry'
The trees of the future may stem from advances in gene discovery research at Purdue University that could lead to domesticated trees, the forestry equivalent of crop plants like corn and soybeans.
Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative, U.S. Department of Energy

And yes, the US Forest Service does conduct energy research.

Public Release: 10-May-2004
American Naturalist
Parent-offspring conflict in the evolution of vertebrate reproductive mode
In the May 2004 issue of the American Naturalist, Bernard Crespi and Christina Semeniuk (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC) explore issues of placental development. This work has important implications for human health and reproduction, as miscarriages are frequently caused by disruptions of placental development. The placentation provides useful models for understanding immunology and carcinogenesis, parent-offspring conflict apparently can favor the evolution of genes that promote cancer, and adult health increasingly appears to be 'programmed' during fetal development.
European cryptographers have figured out what intelligence service was blacked out of the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB: Egypt's. By determining the font of the PDB (Arial) and then counting the number of pixels in the blacked-out passages, scientists were able determine what words could possibly have been written in that exact space. Among seven possible matches, cryptographers ruled out "Ukranian" and "Ugandan" as implausible.

Download no evil ... Although the Taguba report on the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib is publicly available all over the internet, it still remains officially classified, much to the consternation of Senate staffers who rushed to download it last week, only to be told they were not allowed to do so, according to the WP. A staffwide e-mail to the Senate Armed Services Committee tried vainly to put the cat back in the bag:

Mike asks that if you have downloaded a copy of the classified report from the NPR website, please call OSS and advise them, and they will come by your office and pick it up.

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