April 2nd, 2013


[links] Link salad sees that morning mists are parting to reveal

The cover art of my German editions of Mainspring and Escapement has been nominated for the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis in the Beste Grafik category &mash; Which doesn't really have much to do with me directly, but is still pretty cool. Kudos to illustrator Max Meinzold.

Why Do We Hate Certain Words?The curious phenomenon of word aversion.

‘I’m Google’ by Dina Kelberman: A Visual Exploration of Google Image Search — A very cool digital art project. Direct link here. (Via [info]threeoutside.)

A Japanese medical blog reports on my Whole Genome Sequencing

End-of-life talks lacking between doctors, patients — I've already begun to have these conversations with my physician.

Cancer Drug That Shrinks All Tumors Set To Begin Human Clinical Trials — Huh. This is a treatment for primary tumors, not for metastases, so it probably isn't relevant to me personally, but it's still pretty damned cool.

Messenger RNAs Could Create a New Class of DrugsNew partnerships could help bring a novel class of biopharmaceutical to patients.

Steampunk iPad: 1922 — Another Shorpy classic. Hahah.

Scientists successfully create living embryo of an extinct species

Collision Course? A Comet Heads for Mars — Could have a significant impact on NASA programs there. (Via [info]threeoutside.)

Melt may explain Antarctica's sea ice expansionClimate change is expanding Antarctica's sea ice, according to a scientific study in the journal Nature Geoscience. This is what science does. It looks at contradictory evidence and tries to work out the contradiction. Ideology simply says, "If I believe this, it must be true", and ignores contradictory evidence. Guess which view is based in reality?

Oceans continue to warm, especially the deepsAltered patterns seen over past two decades. Amazing how the liberals can convince the entire planet to join in their climate change fraud. Any good conservative can tell you this is all wrong, no matter the evidence.

A New Map Of The U.S., Created By How Our Dollar Bills Move — Identifying functional regional boundaries through analysis of movements of paper currency. This is cool. (Via AH.)

1,200-year-old Egyptian text describes a shape-shifting Jesus — "Everybody need a mood lifter, Everybody need reverse polarity." (Via [info]shsilver.)

Google and white Christians’ search for ‘persecution’Christians will never be happy until they stop being the kind of people who, as TBogg put it, “can’t sleep at night because they can’t wait to see how the world will offend them the next day.”

Elite in China Face Austerity Under Xi’s Rule — Good luck with that. (Via my Dad.)

While GOP Elites Soften On Gay Marriage, Local Leaders Haven’t Gotten The Message — That's what happens when one of your political cornerstones is irrational bigotry with no objective or principled value. I see a principled opposition to abortion, for example, though it's sadly obvious most opponents aren't actually standing on principled objections. I see a principled stance in favor of widespread private gun ownership, though again it's clearly based on willful ignorance, promulgation of bad data and wholesale suppression of the reality of firearms in private hands. But opposition to gay marriage? Nothing but a combination of religious bigotry and personal ick factors. There simply is no principled opposition to be found, other than nicely rationalized versions of bigotry and ick.

New GOP plan: Guns for domestic abusersAs president Obama visits Colorado to discuss guns, state GOP launches fight to protect batterers' gun rights. Because nothing says compassionate conservatism like protecting a violent man's right to a firearm.

Jim Carrey: Fox ‘News’ is “A media colostomy bag… a public health issue” — Well, duh. The polling on how misinformed (strongly in the direction of conservative bias) FOX News viewers are is remarkably consistent. It's almost like media isn't liberal or something.

QotD?: Ever been to the Blue Mountains?

Writing time yesterday: 2.0 hours (WRPA, specifically critique)
Hours slept: 7.0 hours (solid)
Body movement: 0.5 hours (stationary bike)
Weight: 245.6
Number of FEMA troops on my block building solar arrays to undermine the American fossil fuel industry: 0
Currently reading: Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett


[process] On workshopping and critique: Nobody's born knowin' nothin'

I just finished a series of critiques for the Writer's Digest University online workshop I have been a part of. That's been interesting for me. It's been a while since I've critiqued new writers.

There's something I tell [info]the_child when she's worried about a social or academic situation. A very common complaint from her is that she doesn't know what to do, or how to do it. I often say, "Nobody's born knowing anything."

We all have to learn.

Now it is true that some of us have different profiles of raw talent than others. This points back to the "hand of cards" theory [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. That can confer some natural advantages to certain aspiring writers. But without the effort of acquiring, refining and directing one's skills, not to mention learning the infrastructure of writing — manuscript formatting, the importance of the narrative present, punctuation, etc. — those potential natural advantages are almost meaningless. Hard work trumps skill. Hard work plus skill trumps both.

So it was interesting to me, in this season of award nominations, to look at manuscripts and reflect back on a time in my life when I had trouble managing the verb tense on the page. Or keeping a point-of-view properly controlled. I can remember when the engine of story seemed an impossible beast with far too many parts and pieces. Not unlike how it was driving a car at sixteen. Brake and clutch and accelerator and steering and turn signals and wipers and peripheral awareness and looking ahead and and and...

I'm not talking about relatively subtle elements of writing like managing character speech registers in dialog or wrestling with the nuances of the past perfect tense. I'm talking about the basics of making a story comprehensible. Things I do today, almost a quarter century after I began my serious efforts at being an author, with an unthinking and automatic ease were once so very difficult to comprehend, let alone execute. And remember, it took me eleven years from first sitting down to serious professional critique before I sold a story.

Apparently I am a slow learner.

So it's valuable for me to workshop with brand new writers from time to time. Not only does that help me pay forward for all the help I can never pay back, but it also reminds me how far I've come. Like many people, I tend to automatically assume anything I can do with facility isn't hard for others. Yet this was all hard for me.

It's still hard, too, just in ways that are far more interesting to me. That's what keeps this business fun. You never get good at writing, you just get better. And nobody's born knowin' nothin'.


[cancer] Brooding about ambiguity

I used to think I enjoyed a high tolerance for ambiguity in life. That may or may not have ever been true, my delusions of adequacy notwithstanding, but it's certainly not true these days. Being a cancer patient is nothing but ambiguity.

Many medical issues have well-defined and well-understood progressions. If you get the flu, assuming you're in at least ordinary health, you will recover in a certain number of days with medical intervention, and in a longer number of days without medical intervention. The individual variation on those recovery curves is not profound. Likewise if you break a bone. Assuming at least ordinary health, an orthopedist can tell you about how long to heal, and what the long-term consequences will be.

Cancer is nothing but a numbers game. All an oncologist can tell you is that out of every hundred patients in your situation, a certain percentage will experience this disease course, another percentage will experience that disease course, a third percentage will experience a third disease course, and so on. The mechanisms of cancer are still so complex that it's quite difficult to forecast for individual patients, even those like me with common cancers which are well studied.

This cloud of unknowing can sometimes settle over me like the miasma of a fever swamp. Especially these days, since the January surgery made my prognosis so much worse. The graph of my tumor progression is frightening. I'm incurable now, which is the step before terminal. We know that next terrible step is almost surely coming, quite possibly in the next 2-4 months. But no one knows for sure. No one. Not me, not my oncologists, not Ghu themself.

It's impossible to plan ahead any more. Not as a parent looking at my child, not financially, not in my writing life, not to book vacations or travel or plan future family events.

And that drives me bananas.

There are days when I wish I had a terminal diagnosis. Then at least I'd know the outcome, and what would still be possible for me in the mean time.

I don't mean that seriously, I'm not suicidal. It's just that living with this adenocarcinomic gun to my head makes me more than a little crazy sometimes. As bad as knowing is, not knowing is sometimes worse. So I brood about ambiguity and wonder how to arrange my days and regret stories unwritten and life unlived even before my time.