Monday, October 20, 2014

Hello, SeaQuest.

Check this thing out. The SeaOrbiter is French (harking back to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea) and has twelve decks, six of which will be below sea level. The 22 person ocean laboratory will go out on three to six month voyages during which it will conduct oceanographic experiments and also psychological and physiological experiments set up by NASA.

A fleet of five is planned. We know little more about the oceans of our own world than we know about space, so I'm actually quite psyched about this.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires...

...which is the problem.

The forests in the eastern US are changing, and it's not climate change. And it's not a change for the better.

The forests are growing thicker and denser, which is damaging the understory - the plants that live on the forest floor. Which in turn messes up the entire ecosystem.

And yup.

It's because we prevent forest fires. In the west, fire prevention causes a build up of stuff that's supposed to burn off that can lead to far more dangerous firestorms.

Is it time to completely rethink how we manage forest fires? Is it time to accept them as inevitable, take precautions to protect (moat, local clearing, etc) our property - and possibly even to start fires in a controlled manner to prevent larger ones?

I've been thinking so for a while, but this new study is more evidence that we are doing it all wrong.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

So, how did kangaroos get to their "hop"?

...through walking. The sthenurines, the ancestor of the kangaroo, were bipedal walkers - similar to many dinosaurs.

Maybe. It's still controversial, but scientists are pretty sure that they didn't hop. Which makes sense. Hopping, after all, is a strange way of getting around, and isn't something that a quadruped would ever invent. A biped, however...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Utah State, Threats, And Gun Control

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a gun control fanatic. I don't have anything against responsible firearm ownership.

Tonight, feminist speaker Anita Sarkeesian was supposed to speak at Utah State - except that she received death threats. Now, it's not unlikely at all that the threats were all bark and no bite. Sarkeesian has been threatened before. The threat was reported to the university.

They decided it was safe to go ahead - but when asked, were told concealed weapons would be allowed in the auditorium.

What?

What?

It's now pretty much viral on the internet that Utah State doesn't care about the safety of Sarkeesian (who canceled) or the people who planned on attending her presentation.

Here's the thing, though.

Utah has some of the most permissive firearms laws in the country. And according to one regulation, the Uniform Firearms Law, certain entities are not allowed to have rules and policies against carrying firearms beyond the state restrictions (which only require a permit for concealed weapons). State public universities are one of them.

So, it's not that Utah State doesn't care about the safety of their students, it's that the law won't allow them to care. Again. Not a gun control fanatic here, but a university not being allowed to ask people not to bring their guns to an event after threats were received?

There's one amendment that should trump the second - and that's the first. Utah's gun laws have interfered with Sarkessian's right to speak, something government is forbidden to do.

This needs to change. I appreciate that Utah is a wilderness state and a place where carrying a firearm is often a good idea. But...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NASA's Jack O'Lantern

Check it out.

NASA has released a sunspot image from October 8 that looks like a Jack O'Lantern. To be fair, they cheated slightly - it's false color and they normally use yellow for it, but changed it to orange because somebody couldn't resist the seasonal connotation.

Other scientists decided it would be fun to name a newly identified snail species Aegista diversifamilia - in honor of same sex marriage. (Snails, as I hope most of you know, are all hermaphroditic).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Capclave Recap

Overall - very good. Saturday did demonstrate the downside of a con not large enough to take over the hotel, with an extremely noisy Bat Mizvah going on on the other side of an air wall from one of the panel rooms. This rendered the room at times almost unusable.

An excellent program, with not too much of the usual problems (panelists trying to turn it into a personal presentation, audience members trying to be on the panel). My only personal complaint was putting Doctor Who across from Alternative Sexualities. That elicited a loud groan when I saw the grid.

One point of organization. Please, Capclave, make sure your moderators know they're moderating before they get to the panel room. One person might have just been disorganized. Several indicate a communication problem.

However, I was very impressed.

Unfortunately, I also have to add a warning to con goers, especially female ones: Be wary of people who are wandering around the actual con area without a badge. I was harassed by an individual who had apparently removed his badge and proceeded to attempt to get me to leave the building with him. The con people handled the situation very well, but were unable to do anything about the man concerned - apparently he was so shocked to find a woman willing to make a scene rather than go along with him that he left and never came back. (To be fair, this could have been just typical con overfriendliness - some people think it's perfectly reasonable to touch and hug total strangers, but he did not give me good vibes).

Friday, October 10, 2014

World Fantasy Con

World Fantasy Con is about a month away and I know I've mentioned to some people that I will be attending the convention. (Because it's really convenient and thus isn't going to cost a fortune).

I am pleased to announce that I have been given the privilege of being on a panel. The panel is entitled "The Great Game in History and Fiction" - we'll be talking about the conflict between Britain and Russia in Central Asia during the 19th century and how its influenced fantasy - and might influence future work.

Also, attending members will be receiving a copy of Unconventional Fantasy: A Celebration of Forty Years of the World Fantasy Convention. This is so big it's going to be on a USB drive - lots of stories and some wonderful artwork.

I have been given the singular honor of having a work included in this collection. The selected story is "Water Demons," which first appeared in the Dagan Books FISH anthology - the few people who showed up to my readings at RavenCon and Balticon have heard excerpts from this story, which I consider to be my best fantasy story ever and also better than most of my science fiction. (Do I love this story too much? Possibly).