Friday, August 25, 2017

Voyager's Golden Record

Have you ever heard it?

Because talk about a click beyond. Please take this trip.

It is record of the gloriousness of our very planet, and the finest accomplishment of which humanity is capable. Not merely the sounds - all of which share some piece of Earth's magnificence - but the Voyagers, the record, the images. Sharing life.

Here, the official tracks, courtesy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory archive (not created by JPL).

Also, we need to make t-shirts that say, "Out there, our concepts of velocity become provincial." (Meanwhile, every sound on the record is provincial! Though some might disagree about The Laughing Man.)

Here is MIT's unofficial copy; for those of you who know what HiFi means, it brings with it the enjoyable pops and cracks of the albums we played on those. Which has an Earthling charm of its own.

PBS's as-usual wonderful special on the 40-year-old Voyager twins.

Collection - the Deconstructed Edition

The Atlantic has a splendid essay on being a fashion historian and costume curator. "There’s something transgressive about touching other people’s clothes—especially dead people’s clothes." An arresting conclusion: "dress codes and sumptuary laws are free-speech issues" ... This is a wonderful read sociologically, historically, personally, or just as an exercise in curiosity about the how-it's-done of historical curation and study. (The click beyond - Balenciaga - a designer I find fascinating, deconstructed, without breaking a single stitch.)

The first draft is for the writer. The second draft is for the editor. The last draft is for the reader.

Another Atlantic essay, this time from Tom E. Ricks, deconstructs (most literally/literarily) the process of an author fundamentally revising a book. On getting out of the way of the story; you can almost hear how much better the revision is than the original, in the way he talks about the process. Bonus - all the surprises, after the first one, are good ones.

Respect and responsibility are the two most important words in this article about the limitless ways people destroy artifacts in their bids to make every moment about themselves. Here is the question I have yet to see answered in any of the articles about this heedless piece of dolt-ery: have they contacted the family who orchestrated this defacement, and will there be any financial responsibility for them? If I walk in a store, "if I break it, I bought it." What is the responsibility when we break our own cultural history? The crossword-puzzle example after the headline lack-of-details makes me especially cross. (Personal bonus: I accidentally typed mement within the link above. Might be the the right word, in the end.)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

This is what I have

Right now, I am sitting on my little loveseat with Gossamer, as he sleeps. He's doing that cat thing, where he's got one paw up against my leg. Just touching me. I reach down and take one of his little back feet in my hand, and his body is utterly relaxed. There is trust with him so complete that having his foot grasped in his sleep doesn't even faze him.

Most people know, it's no small thing to get this level of trust with a puddy. And it's not just me that he trusts; this isn't just a bond between two creatures. This is a boy so secure in his safety in his world that he just doesn't worry about little things like a random touch when he is *asleep*. The most vulnerable possible moment. And his relaxation is that complete.

Penelope used to be the sort of pup who would wig out and bark if there was an unfamiliar car parked in the neighborhood when we took our walks. I mean, her back would go up, she was afraid of everything. And a bit of a protector, even then.

She is still wary of the unfamiliar, and will always be exciteable with new people. She is a dog. But the animal she is now, compared to the little baby bag of wiggles I adopted? She is magnificent, and I love her more all the time.

The things I am proud of in this life have always related to the people I love, and who are generous to love - and even respect - me in kind. It means the world to me that any animal I was ever blessed to live with felt safe like this. When Sweet Siddy La used to try to live in my armpit because she was afraid of storms ... this big, strong, brave girl - was turning to ME when she felt fear? I was the thing she trusted to keep her safe?

Holding a limp, warm cat's paw in your hand is so much more than a little gesture of affection on a Saturday afternoon.

Loving my pets. It's not just an "aww they're so cute" thing in my life. It is an honor. It is the deepest kind of pleasure.

It's also fun, pretty much every day of our lives. Little Poobahs.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


The surprisingly interesting history of the Slinky. Enslinkyment for all!

It is a curious truth that, when I hear the words "General Lee", they are words to me, more than a name - well, or they are the name of a car. Not of the man himself. (Take a look at the proportions, here, of car versus portrait for an understanding.) History distorts in this way all the time, perhaps most often at the hands of those with the intention to distort it. Still. Critical thinking is still possible - even if unpopular. Indeed, it may be our redemption.

The Atlantic has a canny and very wide-ranging/in-depth look at the deterioration of rationalism. Being American now means we can believe anything we want. In the opening paragraphs, there is an unfortunate tendency to sneer upon religion, but if you stick with the read, the historical points here are intriguing beyond ... well, belief. Caveat: there are some problems here. The religious flogging, of course. The statement (by a white male Boomer) that "by the 80s, Civil Rights seemed like a done deal." (That whole paragraph had me cackling/dismayed, and he restates the supposed reality of racial and gender equality in his conclusions.) Some of his statistics seem unsupportable by their mere lack of measurability ("Fewer than half of all Americans inhabit fact-based reality"). He makes more than one beautifully irrational statement in defending rationality, is what I am saying. Still, the background and organization and arguments overall touch on a LOT of things I have thought of saying myself, and never put forth this way.

"A profound interruption of the world as we know it" ... and I, for one, can't wait to see it! Who else is an eclipse nerd? Make with the clicky for some very beautiful artwork, and neato solar eclipse facts, especially about the animal world.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

the thing he loves

May I say ... something?

Oh it did annoy me when they called me Little Nell.

But when I told Chuckie he mustn’t—when he stopped, I found I missed it. Gruff old Chuck. And only I got to call him Chuckie. My duckie, my fellow. And just after I turnt twenty-one, he called me Missus, and I confided to him the secret, I had liked to be *his* Little Nell. He allowed then he would be my Chuckie.

Chuck had all the flattering words for me until we married, but the garrison must be obeyed, and once he'd dipped me and done me, he was off ... and I sighed relief.

My pain I could not feel.

I never let it be heard. But Charles. He frightened me. No idea the tiger I had gripped by its tail. And when his tail was limp, it was his fists grew hard. When he found he could not be hot, then he grew cold, and Regent's Park—a place *I* never saw—made itself my refuge.

He loved me little, but long enough to make me his claim to shame.

It was a lucky thing; perhaps still thinking me their Little one, mum and da opened up and let me come home. We called me Glendell.

But the claim. Twas a noose on me.

Would I have worn it without a sigh? Had I known?

Did we play only the roles playwritten for us, or was my life—was Chuckie's—such a dark disgrace? Perchance he found the honor in it, and maybe just as well. The Wilde might have meant that was redemption.

Where lies the collateral? To Chuckie's—to Charles'—propitiation?

What is the measure of his death to mine?

A ballad. And eleven inches. More than the tiger's tail.


He must have thought I might actually come. Summoned to Regent's Park, where I had not been permitted to darken the doorways an they called me Mrs. Woolridge, I sent instead the letter asking him to 

Beat my face and snap your fingers, thinking I will come for more? Not so long as there is a bolt-hole, and I will bolt under a labor of moles, if it is safe from your visitation.

Those men. They did not wish him married in the first place, and they encouraged his dissent against me in the second—she has been untrue, she is posting more than the mail, old boy—and in the third, my neck and a razor.

Monday, August 14, 2017


It is depressing how adamantly attached a certain type of person is to the idea that people of color never existed before the 1960s, except as slaves in America. Even Egypt is subject to the most bewildering whitewashing. And yet, here we are - arguing about a black person in a children's cartoon set in ancient Rome. Good Lord.

This post was begun before Saturday. I've taken out of it a more lighthearted link. These two will stand alone.

If we refuse to engage in the patient and difficult work of reconciliation ... If we sell away those with whom we disagree, what do we lose?

I love you, Mary. Thank you.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Mmmmmmmm! Palimpsest joy. Taking us back to the sixth century, no less. Speaking as an historical novelist writing in that period (indeed, the place and the people involved in Justinian's law itself), and having struggled with the dearth of contemporary primary resources: YAY!

Also, Palimpsest Joy would make a great name either for a band ... or maybe a porn star.

Oh, hey - speaking of pornography. I was having a "hmm" about how to frame this next link, but that may do nicely ... The Caustic Cover Critic has a good laugh for anyone who wants to see book covers NOT featuring that magical body part that might make Palimpsest Joy such a big star. It's technically SFW, but click at your discretion. But do click. The CCC is always worth it!

Another BOO from the cultural zeitgeist: hey, it's perfectly okay to ask female politicians discriminatory questions which are literally illegal in, say, the context of a job interview. (Prepare for the phrase "deliberately barren" to exist well past the 19th century, because it does.) Sigh.