January 17th, 2013


[links] Link salad for a thirsty Thursday

The Acts of Whimsy cancer fundraiser and the Lakeside Kickstarter for the documentary about me, [info]the_child, and cancer are still live. Both have made goal, but additional support is always welcome. Please check them out if you have not done so yet. Note that the next unlock goal at $44,000 is [info]the_child's video, "How to Write Like My Dad".

Jay Lake on the Whole Genome Sequencing project — Waterloo Productions with a short video from me explaining the genomic sequencing that the Acts of Whimsy fund raiser is paying for.

Throne of the Crescent Moon and the use of God in epic fantasy — Some neat commentary from [info]ericjamesstone

Video of Nichelle Nichols describing the filming of Star Trek’s first interracial kiss (on American network television.) — Wow. (Via David Goldman.)

How to ice a cake — Hahahah. This one is sure to be a favorite with anybody whose gender orientation includes an interest in hot, shirtless men. (Via Lisa Costello.)

Bristling DixieUncle Walt thought Song of the South would be his masterpiece. Now it’s invisible. I remember seeing this as a kid. (Snurched from Cora Buhlert.)

Medieval helpdesk — German humor, with English subtitles. Hahah. (Via [info]lillypond, a/k/a my sister.)

“Meeting de Monaco - Mars 1912 - Le Canard Voisin” — A truly lovely photo from the early days of aviation. x planes is back from its holidays with a very nice series of images.

Operation Deep Sleep: or, dormant robots at the bottom of the seaBriefly, it seems worth mentioning that this vision of waking things up from slumber at the bottom of the sea reads like a subplot from Pacific Rim, or like some militarized remake of the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Japan's Philanderers Stay Faithful to Their 'Infidelity Phones'ads Attracted to How Outdated Device Hides Calls, Texts; Juggling Three Girlfriends. Wow… I'm not in the habit of linking to the Wall Street Journal, as they are only slightly more trustworthy than FOX "News", but this article falls outside of their range of reality distorting obsessions and in the realm of real, if weird, culture. (Snurched from Daily Idioms, Annotated.)

Complex behaviors driven by remarkably simple geneticsA mouse's intricate architectural tastes are the product of "modular" genetics.

Fecal transplants cure most cases of C. difficile, first clinical trial shows — I know this is serious stuff, but sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

A Vaccine Eliminated A Deadly Killer Of Infants. So Why Do Some People Fear It? — An article with a lot of detail on one specific strain of anti-vax lunacy.

Pregnant? That Might Get You Arrested — The unhealthy obsessions of the forced pregnancy enthusiasts in the so-called "Right to Life" movement have real, hard consequences for other people. Conservatism really is very much about punishing and controlling female sexuality.

‘There’s nothing mutual about it’: White evangelicals, privileged distress and grievance envySlacktivist Fred Clark is much kinder than I am able to be about Bible-based bigots and the pervasive politics of Christianist hate.

Global Warming Brings Earlier Spring FlowersHenry David Thoreau was one of the most iconic figures of the 19th century. The famous naturalist and poet wrote the book "Walden" about his years living at idyllic Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. Starting in 1852 and at different points throughout his life, he also created the first "spreadsheets of flowering dates" for many well-known flowers, including the wild columbine, the pink-lady slipper orchid and the marsh marigold. It must be tough to be a conservative and hold on to your moral certainties when every aspect of nature is cooperating with the liberal climate change hoax. Thank God for Rush Limbaugh and the GOP to tell good conservatives what to think. Clinging to ideological denialism is obviously much more satisfying than actually acknowledging an entire planet's worth of reality-based "facts" and "data".

Solving Global Warming Will Require Far Greater Cuts than ThoughtA new look at climate change implies that we’ll need energy breakthroughs as soon as possible. The longer our political and business cultures are trapped in global warming denialism, the harder the solution gets. Thanks conservative America for running the bills up so high and saddling future generations with ever-burgeoning costs. History will not be at all kind to you.

Roe vs. Wade at 40: Pew poll finds abortion not a key issue — I know it's too much to expect the forced pregnancy enthusiasts in the so-called "Right to Life" movement to back down from their continuous assault on women's health and sexual autonomy, but it's nice to see they're a losing demographic.

NRA knocks Obama on daughters' securityThe National Rifle Association released a video Tuesday calling President Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for being skeptical of armed guards in schools when his daughters receive armed Secret Service protection every day. Wow is this disgusting. Even taking the question at face value, it's stupid. Obama's kids need protection from precisely the kind of people who become NRA members. Stay classy, and illogical, conservative America. It's what you do best.

Portland judge lets loose with strong words -- 'We live in a gun culture' -- at manslaughter sentencing — People don't like the truth about guns. It challenges their comfortable self-image.

Obama to announce most expansive gun-control agenda in generations — Excellent. And no, executive orders are not a power grab. They're part of the system, one way for a president with an intransigent Congress to still govern effectively. Now, if only he'd gone far enough. Just like the ACA, half a loaf is better than none, but also just like the ACA, the entire country, regardless of voters' individual politics and personal beliefs, would be much better served if Obama had gone all the way.

Gun Murders vs. Terrorism by the Numbers — Some plain language statistics that every gun owner and conservative needs to see, and very few ever will. Few of those who do see will believe, because acknowledging the reality of firearms challenges too many of their cherished beliefs.

Les Insufferables — In which the Wall Street Journal demonstrates how utterly out of touch they are with the 99%. This graphic is laughably bizarre, but it's what the Manhattan high flyers are nodding in agreement over.

Republican Woes Go Far Beyond Poor Tactics and Weak Arguments — A fascinating squib from conservative commentator Daniel Larison. If party leaders sometimes deserve not to be trusted, perhaps the “debilitating lack of trust” isn’t solely a product of conservative myth-making. Perhaps it is a result of the leaders’ substantive errors and/or betrayals of principle. Put another way, perhaps current party leaders suffer from a lack of trust because they have done an abysmal job over the last ten years or so and have led their party to one policy or political disaster after another.

?otD: What are you drinking today?

Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (stress)
Hours slept: 6.25 hours (solid)
Body movement: 0.5 hours (stationary bike)
Weight: 221.2
Number of FEMA troops on my block enforcing disability rights: 0
Currently reading: The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks


[cancer] Pre-operative appointments

Yesterday I had two pre-operative appointments. One was with my surgical oncologist, the other was with a nurse-practitioner in the Pre-Operative Medicine clinic.

My surgical oncologist discussed possible alternatives to the surgery on 1/22, which mostly consisted of going off chemo and waiting a few months to see if the suspected new tumor developed into something more substantial. Given my doubling rates last summer, this seemed to all of us like a poor idea. We talked about the genetic testing, and they are prepared to fully support that, and will be working with Surgical Pathology to make sure the samples are correctly prepared and shipped to the lab where we're sourcing the work. We also talked about freezing additional tumor tissue should further testing be warranted. My surgical oncologist cannot guarantee that will happen, but they thought it perfectly reasonable and will talk to Surgical Pathology about that as well.

We reviewed my idiosyncratic issues, specifically my extreme digestive reaction to opiates, as well as my recently developed severe contact allergies to virtually all medical adhesives. I asked that the OR team use Duoderm for dressings, and coban where possible. They will work on an anesthesia and pain management plan that minimizes my opiate exposure, as we did on the last surgery. (Otherwise what happens is pathological constipation, which means I do a 'bounce back' hospital readmission, and have another one of the most unpleasant nights of my life.)

I was also provided with pre-operative instructions.

The only surprise to me in the consultation was the surgical oncologist's comment that my
liver had adhesions, and was stuck to both my colon and my stomach. This will lengthen the surgery, possibly by hours, as they work to trim away that scar tissue and free my liver so it can be extracted and examined. They will then work with the surgical pathologist to inspect my liver both visually and with an ultrasound scanner looking for any identifiable lesions. They plan to excise the two biggest tumors, and presumably the third one, though radiofrequency ablation may be used there. They will also be examining the fourth site for evidence of metastatic disease and taking whatever steps are required there. The goal is to eliminate all known disease sites and return me to NED (No Evidence of Disease) status.

My surgical oncologist spoke of the possibility that the fourth site was a testing artifact or some other interpretive error, but they didn't sound like even they believed that. I asked if it was possible this was a newly emerging tumor which was below the resolution of the MRI, on which there is no evidence. They acknowledged that could be the case. In other words, we're still where we have been since the test, and won't know more until after the surgery.

I should receive a call from the hospital schedulers on Friday with an arrival time for Tuesday. Given the probable length of the surgery (7 hours, perhaps, based on prior experience), I assume this will be another 5 am check-in or some such on the surgery date, 1/22.

Two hours after my consult with the surgical oncologist, I saw a nurse-practitioner in the Pre-Operative Medicine clinic. Nothing surprising happened there, and they have cleared me for surgery. They also provided pre-operative instructions, as well as a pair of informative brochures for my review. (My treating hospital has been on a big quality and customer service kick lately.) Amusingly, the two sets of pre-op instructions are slightly contradictory.

So that's all the print that's fit for new, for now. I don't expect any further information or action until we know the surgical outcomes, and I won't be in a position to comment on that for days after. I am planning to give the keys to both blogs to Lisa Costello, who will provide any significant updates while I'm incapacitated. Be nice to her in comments.


[politics|religion] Where should the rules come from?

Yesterday on Facebook, a conservative friend said, I suspect part of the issue is that most writers and artists of the last 150 years working in the fantastic field have been (more or less) refugees from religion, of one sort or another. To them, a more perfect (or at least more fun) world is a world where god and church... are just not present. God and church mean rules and we work in genres inhabited (more or less) by people who hate rules. On their persons. On their choices. On their thoughts and ideas.

(No link, because I don't want to accidentally create a dog pile.)

As it turns out, I somewhat mistook the context of my friend's remark, but I still wanted to repost what I said, because I think it may have some value. Below is a synthesis of several comments of my own:
I think you're oversimplifying terribly. I don't know a single liberal or atheist who doesn't believe firmly in the social contract, and the social contract requires rules. Frankly, from our point of view, it's conservatives who have been abandoning the rules in working so hard over these past decades to void much of the social contract.

As an atheist myself, and definitely a proud refugee from religion, I write about religion all the time in my fiction. See my entire Mainspring series, as well as my Green series, as well as a large percentage of my short stories, as well as Death of a Starship, whose protagonist is an Orthodox priest, and my yet-unpublished Sunspin, one of whose key characters is also a Christian priest. Portrayed with loving care and as much internal honesty and morality as I can manage, not with liberal snark.

To oversimplify on my part, the fundamental disagreement you're so casually alluding to isn't over the question of rules vs. no rules, it's over the source and meaning of the rules. I don't think any single faith should be the source of societal rules. How would you as a conservative Christian feel about living in a society based on rules drawn from the Sharia, for example? That's how I feel about living under Christian rules. Though in all fairness, the vast majority of the secular rules I favor and the Christian rules I presume you favor are in alignment.

In my personal case, I have a particular allergy to both Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, but I also work pretty hard to talk about religion fairly in my writing. I'm an atheist, but I'm not a fool, and religion is one of the defining human experiences/institutions.

Likewise, on the political front, the assertion that the US is a Christian nation is obvious religious fantasy when contrasted with the blackletter content of the Constitution as well as the writings of the Founders taken as a whole in context (as opposed to cherry picking 'gotcha' quotes). Nonetheless, it is an act of intellectual idiocy to deny that we are overwhelmingly a Christian nation in a cultural and historical sense. To me, freedom of religion means freedom from religion. That in turn is the single most important protection any particular religion or denomination or sect or individual faith-holder has in pursuit of their own religious freedoms.

To sum up, those of us who reject religion in our own lives are not the libertine1 anarchists of conservative fantasies. We're just people who think there are better ways than arbitrary faith in revelation to organize society. Better for everyone, including faith holders.

1. Well, okay, I personally am something of a libertine, but that's not the point here.