• A woman holding a happy lavender baby dragon in her arms
    sara reads the feed

    A vertex in fourth dimensional space, little pet critters, bittersweet knowing

    I’m feeling very accomplished. I finished the Alpha of Fated for Firelizards, so you can read the whole book on itch now if you want.

    I’ve also gotten back into the rhythm of walking my French Bulldog every day. Little dogs like this are so fussy, and don’t necessarily *need* to be walked all the time. A couple times playing each day will wear him out, especially since he’s old. But it’s nice getting out with him again — for both us.

    Spring is my favorite season. I love checking in with all the blooming plants on these walks.

    His stamina is growing too, which is good for an old man with crappy hips. I should probably make a point of lengthening his walks a bit in order to make him stronger. He’s turning nine this year, and I would love to keep him as long as possible.

    ~

    Salman Rushdie’s book says that he dreamed of being stabbed on stage only two nights before the attack. (NPR) Although it’s not an unrealistic dream for someone like Rushdie to have, I take this as apocryphal evidence of my theory: big events in time ripple backwards. We are only capable of experiencing the fourth dimension as a point (like how a dot on a paper can’t experience a three dimensional object), but the rest of time is theoretically always there, hanging around us where we can’t see. Why wouldn’t we feel a hard joggle in advance? Lots of people have premonitory experiences like this.

    ~

    One of my favorite things about history is how, looking as far back as we are capable, humans have basically always been humans. See: a fox buried with a family that likely kept it as a pet 1500 years ago. (The Guardian) I’m sure the fox was a great and terrible roommate, but that doesn’t stop humans from pack bonding with everything. It’s sweet.

    ~

    The Marginalian shares a couple definitions from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

    My favorite off their list:

    ÉNOUEMENT
    n. the bittersweetness of having arrived here in the future, finally learning the answers to how things turned out but being unable to tell your past self.

    I have been thinking about this unnamed sorrow lately because I, like everyone, am perpetually working on growing up. It really is bittersweet to have answers that would have helped me years ago.

    ~

    A technician mounted his own art in a German art museum without permission. (The Guardian) He got in trouble, but can we just acknowledge how that’s the most arty artist move possible? Good for him. I hope he takes his punishment and keeps going.

    ~

    Lawyers, Guns, & Money: Faculty salaries in American higher ed have drastically declined since 1970. “[F]ull-time faculty salaries in 2021-22 were just 4% higher than they were in 1970-71. ”

    ~

    The Space Force is planning maneuvers…in space. (Ars Technica) 1) I still think “Space Force” as a name is terrible (I probably wouldn’t like any name), and 2) asking in the most idealistic way possible, could we just not? Of course humans have to drag military crap outside our exosphere (apparently this is simulating fake war, according to Gizmodo via Quartz). But could we not, somehow, possibly?

    ~

    Adobe is offering payment for videos contributed to data sets. (Quartz) My personal baseline ideal for usage of AI in creative industries demands consent, compensation, and credit, and this covers 2/3 of that. Of course, this doesn’t address the massive ecological impacts of AI usage, or the way industries are using it to destroy artist jobs.

    ~

    If sleeping more flushes more junk out of the brain, I must have the most junkless brain on the planet. (Ars Technica) I’m basically a cat.

    Apparently Americans don’t sleep enough though. (Quartz)

    ~

    Brussels couldn’t handle the gay feminism of Love Lies Bleeding. (Variety) Homophobes were using violent heckles against the film, like during a rape scene, and then turned on queer audience members.

    The first walkouts began at around the 20-minute mark, while others from the queer community stayed in to push back against the audience commentary. Both parties confirm that some altercations turned from verbal to physical as tempers flared — though the question of instigation leads to predictably contrasting responses. Still, both would agree that the rise in hostility gave way to a similar rise in invective, leading to barbs with a hateful bite.

    “Once we stood up, we started hearing insults directed at us,” says an attendee who goes by Næ Palm. “It became something much nastier. Violent. We were overwhelmed, crying and we said to each other that this wasn’t normal.”

    Such heated language fueled a growing exodus – eventually seeing somewhere between 60 and 80 attendees regrouping in the cinema lobby. There, the young viewers began to push back en masse.

    ~

    Cannabis delivery workers in California are threatening a strike. (The Guardian) I hope they get everything they need!

    ~

    If you’ve got a gun in your household, the likeliest death to occur is death by suicide. (NPR) Self-injurious behavior with guns are statistically the highest source of gun-related deaths.

    ~

    Kathleen Newman-Bremang, a Black American writer, shares her experience with miscarriage on Refinery29.

    It’s hard to put the trauma of a miscarriage into words. It’s hard to explain the physical and emotional toll that losing a wanted pregnancy takes on your body and mind. One thing I can articulate is the rage I felt any time someone said, in an attempt to be comforting, “You know, it’s really common.” Grandparents dying is common. Cancer is common. Tragedy is common. And yet, people understand the social taboo it would be to respond to any of the above with a statement of the commonality of their grief. And the fact that miscarriages are more common for Black women isn’t comforting, it’s terrifying. It’s emblematic of larger societal issues — including a lack of adequate medical research — that Black people are disproportionately faced with this devastating situation.

    ~

    Panty hose is having a moment again. (Vanity Fair) I actually was expecting it to come back around, even though I only remember it being loathed in the early 90s. This isn’t how I expected it to be used, though — in cool high fashion ways. I’ve been expecting it to return because so many women feel pressure to be Instagram-ready, and pantyhose is the fastest way to sorta “airbrush” the texture out of legs that dare to have human features like veins, freckles, and scars.

    ~

    Donald Glover announced that he’s planning his last albums under the name Childish Gambino. (Variety)

    ~

    Canada has rightly ceded the titles for some 200 islands around British Columbia to the Haida Nation. (The Guardian)

  • A vividly red desert rose flower
    sara reads the feed

    Origin of Origin of the Species, blood and disease, and 20-somethingness in history

    I always find it fascinating how few (no?) ideas are truly original. We’re always building on some bits of knowledge some other human had somewhere else, at some other time, whether or not we’re aware of their distant contributions. Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was preceded by this French dude’s similar theses a century earlier. (The Guardian)

    In later editions of The Origin of Species, Darwin acknowledged Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, as one of the “few” people who had understood that species change and evolve, before Darwin himself.

    Thing is, I bet that humans knew this here and there for quite a while. Any communities involved in multigenerational animal husbandry probably had a pretty good idea of how evolution would later be regarded. It just wasn’t organized or proven in a way that the later scientific community could recognize.

    This just reminds me of a tangential story: When I was in high school, my biology teacher was *very* insistent on reminding us that evolution is only a THEORY and that theories can never become facts. (I grew up in a very religious white people town, but I truly didn’t understand how weird these sorts of interactions were until I reached adulthood.)

    Scientific fact is directly observable, he said. If you drop a ball, it will fall to the ground. We observe gravity directly. The actions of gravity are a fact, and gravity as the cause remains a theory, or something like that. We really can observe evolution occurring on a small scale — like fruit flies, with their short generations — but his point was 1) flies aren’t greater animals (meaning humans are special, according to his religion), and 2) even observing the changes doesn’t mean that evolution is the cause. For all we know, it’s God.

    I do appreciate the perspective I got from that time. I was really exposed to a lot of…stuff…that has not held up through my adulthood, but I value knowing how different people think.

    ~

    Here’s a YouTube video of newborn baby pygmy slow lorises, widely* acknowledged as the cutest animal on the planet. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is lucky enough to be tending these sweet nuggets.

    (*In my house.)

    ~

    In the past, my life was saved by blood donations. It didn’t occur to me that there are “blood deserts” (like food deserts) where supply is unavailable. Drone delivery and autotransfusion are options, but don’t completely close the gaps in demand. (NPR)

    ~

    Speaking of blood…

    Hemolymph, aka insect blood, clots very quickly. (Ars Technica) Turns out it basically congeals and gets sucked back into the body to clog the hole. That’s so cool.

    ~

    People rag on Madonna — mostly for aesthetic reasons — but she’s a beloved member of the queer community. She honored victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting at a recent concert. (Variety)

    ~

    Bird flu is showing up in dairies in more American states. (NPR) Time to switch to ultra-pasteurized.

    Also, NPR reports on a spike in measles.

    ~

    Engadget talks about flying drones developed to attach themselves to existing power lines in order to recharge. Although I don’t know enough about the subject to say if it’s a good idea or not, it does seem clever to arrange a way for them to use existing infrastructure. An alternative mentioned is placing charging pads around cities. Current flight time is limited to forty-five minutes or so, which makes me think we’d need a lot of pads. But we already have power lines all over.

    ~

    There’s Oscar buzz around Zendaya’s Challengers. (Variety) The cast has been looking tired on the PR circuit, but if they hope to land major noms, they’re going to have to keep at this a while. The Academy has a short memory. And you only win by campaigning. I hope they’re ready.

    ~

    We’re getting a fourth Bridget Jones movie. (Vanity Fair) Given the book it’s based on, I’m not surprised Colin Firth hasn’t been cast. I’m not actually opposed to another movie in the series — I’m so easy to please, I loved the third one too — but I don’t really want anything to do with the plot at hand so I might not see it.

    ~

    The Film Stage: Don Hertzfeldt and Ari Aster Collaborating on a “Big” Existential Horror Animation

    Can’t wait to see anuses bleeding on the big screen!

    ~

    Did you know many Renaissance portraits were multi-sided? (Smithsonian Magazine) I didn’t. These are actually a whole lot more interesting to me with the additional painting as context, as ambiguous as the context may seem out of its time.

    ~

    Jonathon Majors has to do court-ordered domestic violence therapy rather than jail time. (Variety) My initial reaction was vengefully negative, but I sat with that a minute and realized…this is probably the most constructive sentencing. DV-specific therapy could actually change his behavior profoundly. And I am broadly anti-prison, but that means I need to also apply that philosophy to things that specifically revolt me, like DV. So yeah, this sounds right.

    ~

    Quartz talks about “automation innovations” that were actually humans in disguise — what we call Mechanical Turks.

    The Mechanical Turk refers to a fraudulent chess-playing machine from the year 1770. It appeared to be an automated machine that could play a competitive chess match against any human. The machine was touted around the world for decades, amazing crowds as the first-ever automaton. However, it was later revealed to be an elaborate hoax, where a master chess player was hiding inside the machine.

    Even if the current AI movement isn’t operated by such Mechanical Turks, we do know that a lot of low-paid labor was employed in labeling data for use by algorithms, so there is some element of that at hand. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there’s more human labor involved than we realize.

    ~

    We’ve found more frescoes in Pompeii! (WaPo)

    The paintings recently discovered included references to figures from the legendary Trojan War between the early Greeks and the people of Troy in Western Anatolia around the 12th or 13th century B.C., which is featured in ancient Greek works such as the Iliad and Homer’s Odyssey, as well as Roman literature.

    The recently discovered artworks include a depiction of the Greek legendary figures Helen of Troy and Paris, the son of the Trojan king who is identified in an inscription by his Greek name, Alexandros. The images also show Cassandra, a figure from Greek mythology who could predict the future, and the god Apollo, who cursed her and left her unable to prevent the capture of Troy.

    ~

    Smithsonian Mag shared letters from a twenty-something in 18th century London, giving us a lil glimpse of his life.

    In his handwritten letters, Browne described his new job training as a clerk to a lawyer, Richard Rowlandson. He complained about working long hours, copying legal documents from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. In one letter, he expressed frustration with his father’s decision to apprentice him to his employer for five years, rather than a shorter training period. “I have Lost the prime of my Youth,” he wrote.

    Often, he asked his family for help, and “his concerns were not so different from those of today’s young people,” writes the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood. “Mainly: Please send money, everything is so expensive.”

    Browne wrote that he needed money to pay rent—and to purchase stockings, breeches, wigs and other items he deemed necessary for his life in London. “Cloaths which [I] have now are but mean in Comparison [with] what they wear here,” he wrote in one letter.

  • sara reads the feed

    Holes, taxation and the taxers, the anarchist history of Frank Herbert

    I’ve been stretching my earlobe piercings back out. I was up to 0 gauge, but I was annoyed by the jewelry and removed it for a few years. At that point I assumed they would shrink somewhat. I found some old 6g plugs that still fit loosely, so I got some 4g tunnels. Those also fit. They kept falling out in bed, though — so I ordered 2g tunnels. And you know what? They fit! It seems my earlobes relaxed around them again. I might be able to get back to 0g without seeing a piercer and progress my way up to 00g. Onward, if I like.

    0g is about the diameter of a pencil, which is a fun size. But I’m getting older which means I need to get weirder, and bigger holes in my body is cool. I’ve got three holes in my nose now, and three holes elsewhere on my body, and I’m trying to decide what’s next.

    ~

    I’ve been dying to see Monkey Man since its first trailer (the unedited one with the great takedowns), but I want to see it even more learning that hijra are key to the movie. (Variety) Dev Patel says it’s a story for the marginalized, and thus must include hijra, who are an underclass of third-gender people in India (to oversimplify it).

    ~

    The actress who portrayed The Unknown at the Glasgow Willy Wonka scam experience is getting more jobs, which is good. (Vanity Fair) One dude was behind the scammy bits; the employees were doing their best.

    I think there’s a good chance The Unknown becomes an enduring cultural character. Imagine being the sixteen-year-old who originated that…thing.

    ~

    Egypt invented taxation as we know it. (Smithsonian Mag) I actually just learned somewhat about Egyptian taxation from reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud with my 9yo. The mural he uses to describe sequential story told in art involves taxation of crops, anyway, and I don’t often think about taxation as a direct levy on assets rather than simply taking a percentage of currency.

    The Smithsonian article goes into the whole thing in fascinating detail.

    For most of its history, ancient Egypt levied taxes on goods, with officials collecting dues in the form of grain, textiles, labor, cattle and other commodities. The amount of taxes owed was often linked to agriculture, with a certain percentage of a field’s harvest earmarked for state-run granaries or administrative storage centers. Interestingly, taxes were adjusted for field productivity—a parallel to modern income tax brackets, with different categories established based on the amount of wealth incurred.

    “Fields were taxed in different ways, and the rate was dependent on the individual field productivity and the fertility and quality of the soil,” says Moreno Garcia. “But the government was determining the base tax rate dependent on the height of the Nile.”

    On Elephantine, an island in Upper Egypt, 19th-century archaeologists discovered a nilometer, a sprawling staircase used to measure the Nile’s flood levels. (Remnants of other nilometers can be found in the ancient city of Thmuis, on Rhoda Island and elsewhere in Egypt.) If the water rose above a marked line, it signaled flooded fields and a poor harvest; if it fell too low, that meant a drought and dying crops.

    ~

    The movie adaptation of Nightbitch is coming out in December. (Variety) I am eager to see Amy Adams going hog on raw steak and pooping on a neighbor’s lawn. Once it’s streaming, of course. Monkey Man might get me out of the house to the theater, but very few movies call to me that way anymore.

    ~

    The McDonald’s locations operated in Israel were donating food to the IDF. Apparently McDonald’s corporate didn’t like having such actions reflect on them when they weren’t the ones making the decisions (those locations are owned by a franchisee), so they’ve bought back all those McDonald’s. (NPR)

    ~

    The Apple Vision Pro is now compatible with some 8BitDo controllers, and I still don’t have one. :’) (Engadget)

    ~

    Denis Villeneuve is going ahead with Dune Messiah after all. (TSFKA Tor dot com) I feel lukewarm about it. Dune is kinda too interesting for Villeneuve? But I doubt they’d reach Messiah if it were done by someone who embraced its weirdness more viscerally.

    As The Transmetropolitan Review notes:

    Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, lived the happiest parts of his childhood in a failed socialist colony called Burley, located along the Salish Sea near the city of Tacoma, Washington. It was dreary and cold during the fall and winter, and back in the day, before Herbert was born, all the excitement was further down the sea in the anarchist Home Colony, a much more successful experiment in collective living. While the socialists of Burley struggled to replicate their small colony, Home grew bigger every year, even converting some of Burley’s socialists into anarchist defectors. […]

    Make no mistake, Home housed some committed, dedicated, and fervent anarchists, and some of them weren’t just homesteaders like Frank Herbert’s family, they were anarchist homesteader militants who smuggled dynamite, fomented uprisings in the coal fields of Vancouver Island, sheltered fugitives, shot at private detectives during strikes, and called for the death of capitalism. Beyond this, these anarchists were directly implicated in the 1910 bombing of the ultra-reactionary and anti-labor Los Angeles Times building, given they helped hide the man who supplied the dynamite, the anarchist David Caplan.

    Read the whole thing please, it’s a good one. Dune’s foundation comes from something strongly counter-cultural, opposed to empire in a real way that most people can’t relate to. Herbert was a deeply imperfect man. But it’s basically impossible to make a blockbuster — with the financing involved — that will be honest to its messaging.

    In the end, Frank Herbert’s Dune and Dune Messiah serve up some of the oldest anarchist propaganda, not only by commenting on the corrupting influence of centralized power, but by spending nearly 1,000 pages to reaffirm one of anarchism’s oldest slogans: no one is fit to rule, and no one deserves to be a slave.

    ~

    Dammit, George Santos just keeps making me laugh. (Vanity Fair)

    Given that LaLota was one of Santos’s biggest GOP critics, most people assumed the decision to try to unseat a former colleague had to do with revenge. But according to Santos, that assumption could not be further from the truth. The real reason he’s running for the First? Because it would put him in the suburbs, where he could realize an apparently longtime wish to own chickens.

    This dude belongs on a satire show like Veep, not in reality.

    ~

    From Gizmodo via Quartz: NASA’s Voyager 1 probe has been glitching for months and we finally know why

    NASA engineers pinpointed the cause behind the mission’s odd anomaly, and think they can help the interstellar probe make sense again.

    Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory believe the Voyager 1 spacecraft has been sending nonsensical data due to corrupted memory hardware in the spacecraft’s flight data system (FDS).

    The engineers are hoping to resolve the issue by finding a way for FDS to operate normally without the corrupted memory hardware, enabling Voyager 1 to begin transmitting data about the cosmos and continue its journey through deep space.

  • sara reads the feed

    Zzz, don’t criticize AI, and moonwalking

    What must I do to stop being so sleepy? I got blood work done recently and I seem to be fine. I’m just SO sleepy. All I wanna do is sleep.

    ~

    I’ve wondered what topic Apple didn’t want Jon Stewart to discuss on his show. Turns out it was AI. (Variety) Here’s the Ars Technica version of the article, and here’s the Gizmodo version. Everyone’s talking about Jon Stewart talking about AI now!

    He is anti-AI, and I recall Apple said they’re pivoting to AI development since quitting the Apple Car. We’ll see how that goes. I use a lot of Apple products, but I’ve been thinking about going full Luddite. Depending on their execution of AI, it could be what cuts me loose.

    ~

    Psyche talks about the near-universal experience of seeing our loved ones after they die. I experienced this strongly after the death of my cat Poe, though I haven’t seen Annie. I grew up with my mom talking about visitations from family after their death. I find it a little disappointing how scientifically/rationally/reductively Psyche (and most other sources) talk about this phenomenon, since I think humans are irrational spiritual beings, and this is a pretty solid example of seeing ghosts.

    ~

    NASA is looking for a company to design, build, and deliver a rover to the Moon that can be operated by astronauts under the extreme conditions present. (Ars Technica) I kinda want humans to leave the Moon alone tbh, but this is cool as heck anyway. I feel so conflicted as a SFF nerd who is also a curmudgeon.

    Our beloved NASA is also working on developing a Lunar Standard Time (The Guardian), and my whole household is transitioning to this once it’s set. 😉

    ~

    This NPR article about safer table saws is interesting to me, vaguely. Every time I’ve seen discussions on Reddit about these safety measures, I’ve also seen swarms of comments about how SawStop-like safeties are undesirable and make things *less* safe. So I’m just wondering…is that true? Is it popular sentiment among woodworkers? Or is this one of those weird things that has been a special interest for marketers/bots on Reddit?

    ~

    The Guardian: Everyone in Japan will be called Sato by 2531 unless marriage law changed, says professor

    I hardly think anyone needs to be concerned about married names in the 26th century (what do you think was the most common surname in the 16th century? did they use now-common surnames like we do?) but I still got a lil chuckle out of this article. Imagine Japan is like Barbieland. “Hello, Mr Sato! Hello, Mrs Sato!” everywhere you go.

    ~

    Amazon dropped its “just walk out” no-cashier technology (Engadget) because, surprise surprise, it was reliant on Mechanical Turks and thus not cost effective. I wonder how many Mechanical Turks are involved in the whole AI movement.

    ~

    Oklahoma really wants people to just get over the fact they’re killing imprisoned people so they can do it faster. (The Guardian)

    ~

    Homebuying is only for families with six-figure incomes these days, I guess. (NPR) I bought my first house in 2010 for $120k, and my income was around $40k a year…maybe a tidge less. It sucks to think how quickly young people like my young self have been shut out. Something’s gotta give.

    ~

    A clinical trial is attempting to grow new human livers out of lymph nodes. (Ars Technica) Even modest liver function (the article says 10-20%) could make a huge difference for people with liver disease.

    We get closer to a Star Trek future all the time. Doctor gave me a pill and I grew a new kidney! indeed.

    In the meantime, a dude in the USA received a pig kidney transplant and has gone home. (The Guardian) I really hope this works well for him.

    ~

    Lawyers, Guns, & Money talks the excess deaths toll related to COVID.

  • lichen on a tree
    sara reads the feed

    Timelessness, ice, and the anthropocene

    I’ve lost track of the days playing Stardew Valley. It’s funny…I’m sixty-five days away from cannabis, and I still have periods where I feel stoned, and life blurs away just like it did when I was using constantly. If I have a tv show on, if I play a game, time just vanishes utterly. It’s a miracle I’ve managed to walk my dogs and do the dishes and a couple other minor tasks. Otherwise, things have just slipped away.

    This is one of those things I hope will improve sooner rather than later, but (as I think I’ve said before) the brainfog may last up to a year as my system rebalances. Something something endocannabinoid system something. I could also say something about paying the piper. Anyway, a year of weird unbalanced junk is the price to pay for eight years of psychedelic experiences, probably, and it really does seem fair. I can only complain so much about something I did knowingly to myself.

    It’s nice to lose time *pleasantly* at the moment, because I’ve also been intermittently losing days to blind anxiety. This one is preferable.

    But I’d really like to have time back!

    ~

    I got a new countertop ice maker, though. I really cannot overemphasize how delighted I remain by the small things. Watching it work brings me Actual Joy.

    ~

    Here is a beautiful, haunting poem by Only Fragments.

    ~

    NPR shares photos from The Anthropocene Project, which show some of the mighty impact humans have had in shaping our world. I’m afraid the subject matter is mostly depressing. The photos are beautiful, though.

    ~

    Jails are really inventive about the ways they harm people. Here’s an Ars Technica piece about jails limiting face-to-face visits in order to earn more money from prison phone companies. It’s monstrous: there is no comparison to actually being able to see and touch and share space with people you love.

    ~

    Via Quartz, Gizmodo reports on scientists making super-fast broadband internet. We’re talking 301,000,000 mbps compared to the average USA broadband speed of 64-ish mbps (nice).

    The feat was achieved by using new wavelength bands that aren’t used in traditional fiber optic systems. The new wavelength bands are equivalent to “different colors of light being transmitted down the optical fiber.”

    The solution is remarkable because it does not require new infrastructure to drastically improve internet speeds, and could allow significantly faster internet speeds through existing fiber cables.

    Higher broadband speeds isn’t the only limiting factor in how quick your internet goes, mind. A lot of loading pages is dependent on hardware (your RAM, if I remember correctly) and other things. In order for us to eventually make use of this future possible speed, people will need better hardware too. Also, if higher speeds are available, you can bet files will get much larger, which also means a need for more storage. This is just layman commentary; I’ve observed the parallel developments of technology over my life, but I barely know what I’m talking about.

    I suspect faster rates will first benefit corporations and possibly academic institutions. I bet stock traders are salivating.

    ~

    Al Jazeera English shares “grief food” from three different cultures. Funeral potatoes are not included.

    AJE also talks about caste issues highlighted by food delivery services in India. This is the kind of thing my Anglo ass would never think of, so the perspective is interesting.

    ~

    This is another one of those Sara Reads the Feed posts where I’m unflagging a bunch of articles I flagged to share in my RSS reader. Sometimes what I find interesting is too depressing to dwell upon without elements of added interest. What I am omitting today involves unusual animal behavior from climate change, rising meningitis rates, microplastics in archaeological sites, American politicians openly supporting genocide, and more.

    Just because I read it and stuck it in my brain-box for consideration doesn’t mean I want it to land on my blog, necessarily. I reread these posts sometimes to find things I care about. I do try to counter the overwhelmingly shouty narrative of mass media by carefully picking what sticks.

    ~

    Well, this is literally destructive, but interesting nonetheless. The Tropicana in Vegas is getting torn down and replaced by a ballpark. (NPR)

    ~

    Kathryn Murdoch, related to that Murdoch, wants more focus on protopias rather than dystopias. (NPR) She points to Star Trek as an example. You can imagine me grimacing but also waving a little pompom. I’m skeptical of anyone who says “let’s imagine a rosier future!” who’s deeply vested in the systems that make our current-day not-so-rosy. People never seem willing to hurt their own position of power for the greater good.

    I don’t want to argue with the message, really. I know a lot of people focusing on hopepunk and grimbright for similar reasons. We have to imagine better to achieve it.

    ~

    In California, half a million workers are getting a $20 minimum wage now. (NPR)

    That’s incrementalism right there, which is definitely better than a sharp stick in the eyeball. However, I seem to remember inflation means we should be arguing for a minimum wage upwards of $24/hr.

    Maybe my current politics are “discontent with anything short of the best because I’m sick of a lifetime watching occasional, intermittent growth.”

    ~

    Sam Raimi isn’t working on a Spider-Man 4 with Tobey Maguire at the moment. (Variety) I guess I’d be there for it if he did, though. I still think his MCU movie had more interesting moments than a lot of the late-stage MCU.

    ~

    The Gen V cast is mourning the loss of Chance Perdomo. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this one for a couple days now. He was prominent in the Netflix Sabrina show, and I honestly loved Gen V. He’s just taken up a lot of real estate in my entertainment life. And now he’s gone. Twenty-seven is way too young.

    ~

    The Guardian talks about “Tory rebels” working with Labour et al to decriminalize sleeping rough. I am to USian to fully contextualize this, but…it sounds good? This is good, right?

    My city just added new laws to make being homeless more illegal, so I’m just glad to see *somewhere* trying to make things easier for our unhoused community members and neighbors.

    ~

    Dude, twenty-two people are still on the ship that hit the bridge in Baltimore. (Quartz) Still working. Keeping the whole thing running. Not going anywhere. It sounds like they’re doing well enough, but man, I wish they could be home with their families.

    ~

    Engadget talks about Gmail priming us to be the product online. I have been wondering if we shouldn’t expect Gmail’s freeness to last. The decline in Google as a search engine makes me think we’re getting to the part of the business model where they work on squeezing more profit out of the thing.

    ~

    This Refinery29 article on Cowboy Carter highlights something I find personally interesting.

    The four Black women country artists who appear on “Blackbird” are experiencing the kind of overnight attention they’ve long deserved, but wouldn’t have achieved at this level and this quickly, without the Beyoncé effect. In just 96 (ish) hours, emerging country stars Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts have seen their followers quadruple and their streaming numbers skyrocket. For the first time in history, six Black country acts (including Martell and Shaboozey) are featured on Spotify’s US daily top artists chart. These stats will have a tangible and extraordinary impact on these artists and on mainstream country music.

    I’ve heard a lot of criticism of Blackbird, but it’s important to a lot of women’s careers. The intention is important. Community responsibility remains part of Beyonce’s messaging.

    ~

    In archaeology news, a bunch of Roman curse scrolls were found in an English town. (Smithsonian Mag)

    They also found a Pompeii construction site, which is teaching us about the ways they built things.

    Aaaaand a medieval castle under a French hotel!

    In news about much more modern historical sites of personal interest to me, here’s a bit about Nevada’s ghost towns. Some are abandoned, some are living. They talk about Virginia City, my favorite local tourist trap ghost town. Hey, I like the candy stores.

  • sara reads the feed

    Not a good housewife, baby groundhogs and licky parrots, and expensive chocolate

    I think I used to keep my apartment very clean when I lived alone — now half a lifetime ago, when I was 18. It was under 700 square feet. I recall cleaning it every weekend, top to bottom, and being pleased with the results. I spent half my time outside the apartment between commuting to work and work itself. Often, I didn’t cook for myself. There was a mall food court across the parking lot. One big serving from Flaming Wok could keep me fed a full day, split across three meals.

    Of course I could keep it clean. Simplicity, low-mess, and limited space is easy to clean. It was important in such a dingy old apartment; it would have fast become bleak otherwise.

    At no other point in my life have I been as tidy. At best, I can keep one room in my house clean. Of course, now my house is almost three thousand square feet. I spend all of my time here. So does my eldest, our cats, and two dogs. There is also a younger kid (who is sometimes at school) and a spouse (who is sometimes at work) and a sibling (who is pretty self-contained).

    I grew up in a family where my mom felt obligated to keep things clean-clean. Although my siblings and I were expected to contribute to specific chores (like dishes or garbage), my mom did everything else, and took care of us too. It meant I didn’t learn how to deep clean from her. But I expected my spaces to be as clean as though I had a self-conscious mom around doing all the work.

    Expectations and reality have not aligned for me in a long time.

    Yesterday I spent a while cleaning — mostly the downstairs floors, some counters. It feels like I did nothing at all. The work was nice for my body though. My mood is better when I spend a bunch of time hauling things around and trying to keep stuff tidy, even if I don’t really dent the big-family ADHD chaos. Most of my publishing peers hire cleaners. I’ve never been comfortable having strangers in the house, nor do I like the way big households call for maintenance labor that is too-low-paid. But I also can’t afford a proper household employee anymore.

    So here I am, always feeling lacking, never quite doing enough, and mostly just shrugging it off. We’re not hoarders. We’re just not organized…or sterile. Should homes be sterile? If I have little mammal friends, is it realistic to think I should be able to eat off the floor the way my high school friend’s mom expected?

    ~

    Al Jazeera English: How US police are co-opting a law meant to protect victims of crime. A young pregnant woman was shot and killed by two police officers.

    Nadine’s anguish was compounded when she discovered that officials considered there to be three possible victims in the deadly incident: Young plus the two cops.

    That allowed the officer who fired the fatal shot to invoke a state measure called Marsy’s Law, designed to conceal the identities of crime victims.

    Criminal justice advocates, however, warn this is part of a dangerous trend in the United States, where police officers use Marsy’s Law to shield themselves from public scrutiny.

    “They were saying he was a victim?” Nadine asked incredulously. “He was the man with the gun.”

    ~

    NPR: Pricier Easter bunnies and eggs. Half-dipped Kit Kats. What’s up with chocolate?

    Spoiler alert: It’s climate change. We’ve known this is coming for a while.

    The world is facing the biggest deficit of cocoa in decades. Most cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, where extreme weather and changing climate patterns have upended crop harvests, which are forecast to fall short for the third year in a row.

    That means another year of higher prices for makers, sellers and, ultimately, eaters of chocolate. Chocolate bunnies and eggs are expected to be pricier this Easter and perhaps for some time to come.

    ~

    From the Guardian: Punxsutawney Phil and his partner Phyllis (omg cute) have unexpectedly had two baby groundhogs (OMG CUTE!).

    “When we went in to feed them their fresh fruits and vegetables, we found Phyllis with two little baby groundhogs. It was very unexpected, we had no idea that she was pregnant,” Dunkel said, adding that the club has not had a baby groundhog in over a century.

    ~

    BookRiot: How Public Libraries Are Targeted Right Now — It’s Not “Just” Books

    ~

    Balloon Juice: The Many Tragedies of the Baltimore Bridge Collapse

    I’m excerpting an excerpt here, but this is the main thing I learned from this post.

    The six victims of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse were all immigrants from Mexico and Central America, doing the kind of grueling work that many immigrants take on, when a container ship crashed into a support pillar at 1:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday (0530 GMT) and sent them plunging into the icy Patapsco River.

    ~

    In heart-refilling “news,” Smithsonian Mag has videos of parrots learning to play games on tablet using their tongues. Eeee!

    ~

    NPR shares a cool picture of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This is using polarized light, and the article compares trying to photograph Sagittarius A to taking a picture of a donut on the Moon from Earth.

    ~

    Semaglutide products are famously expensive. I’ve heard around $1000 USD per dose. It’s made insurers reluctant to cover it for weight loss (Ars Technica), and then it made producers get the drug approved for weight loss to limit risk of heart attacks and whatnot (NPR).

    Now we’re learning that it costs about $5 to make a single dose. (Quartz) Which means basically that the makers are wringing money out of us through insurers. Fun. Sounds like a pretty normal American medical industry scam.

  • sara reads the feed

    New Old Trek, dietary pop science, and healthcare

    I’m ready for it to be warm enough to put my plants outside. The amount of mealybugs I have is obnoxious, and there’s no better treatment than popping them out back to get eaten by predatory bugs. I was just looking at old posts on my Facebook, and I said this exact same thing last year. I don’t think I needed to release more predatory insects indoors; I seem to recall making it through to summer last year. Of course, my memory is crap, so what do I know?

    I promised myself I’d stop talking about my New Sober Life because going on and on about withdrawal is an extremely boring subject. But. I have been having rather strong anxiety the last couple weeks in fits and starts. My psychiatrist recommended I focus on improving my diet and exercise, and of course that is something I must do too; I’ve gotten very out-of-shape.

    But I think it’s also a side-effect of the withdrawal, based upon what I see in MJ recovery groups. I’m only (“only”) two months into sobriety. It’s fairly early, all things considered. I’m looking at a year-long withdrawal process (for reals!). 2024 is just gonna involve spurts of anxiety, periods of feeling stoned (like the last couple days tbh), and brainfog making me dreadfully forgetful.

    On the bright side, I do continue working a bit, and I hope I can keep at it. I am having a very hard time focusing on worky stuff but the desire is there, if not necessarily willpower or energy. I Want To Get Better.

    ~

    I used to hate the Abrams-spawned Trek movies, but the distance of time has given me fondness for them. I really like Chris Pine as Kirk. The fandom specific to those movies is endearing. Also, it’s easier to swallow “wrong” Trek when Trek has continued since. It was hard to accept those shallow, action-oriented Trek films when it felt like a rejection of most everything Trek had been until then, and I feared we would never get more of the Trek I like. We have gotten plenty more good Trek since.

    So it’s with that in mind that I continue watching NuTrek 4 development with curiosity. There’s a new writer attached. (Variety)

    It’s been awhile since the last movies, and Pine at least is in his Daddy Era, so I’d love if they skewed toward some Star Trek II aging-related plots.

    ~

    One study has linked intermittent fasting to heart disease-related deaths. (Smithsonian Mag) I used to spend a lot of time in diet circles, and what they would say in defense of IF is this: the study is self-reported, and self-reported diet studies don’t mean very much in isolation. This looked at people for eight years, and doesn’t seem to have controlled for lifestyle or many other factors. It doesn’t seem they even looked at whether people were fasting willingly or if it was brought about by other circumstances. You really have to wait for meta studies to draw conclusions.

    In diet circles, IF is regarded as a health panacea. They’ll point out that everyone does some degree of IF, since (almost?) nobody eats overnight when they’re sleeping, and that feast/famine is a “natural” eating pattern for humans. I’ve become increasingly skeptical of all the dietary magic bullets. I’m willing to believe it’s more dangerous than anyone says. I already think most restrictive diet patterns like keto and IF are less likely to be suitable for people with estrogen-driven hormone systems.

    Generally the best advice that seems to persist through the ages: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

    ~

    I really can’t just link every Psyche.co article, but I always enjoy the read. This one is about ways to think about time.

    We’re stuck with the past. But you can dress it up in different ways. Often, what happened in the past is affected in the future because ‘what happened’ depends on how things turn out. Whether some past purchase was a lucrative investment decision depends on what happens to the investment after the decision. Even if you reasoned really well, if your prediction didn’t pan out, you lose the money. If you met someone for a coffee and it turns out that this was the first meeting of the relationship that defines your life, then the coffee was a different kind of event than of a coffee meeting that leads nowhere and has no later significance. This needn’t be a failure of knowledge on your part. Whether or not it counts as a significant event in your life might hinge on how things go subsequently. There may be no clues that you can spot at the time. So there you are, sitting in a café, nervously reading an online magazine, unaware of the significance of the event you are waiting for – because there is no fact yet!

    ~

    Senator Ava Burch of Arizona did a brave thing: she announced both her pregnancy and abortion simultaneously on the Senate floor. (NPR) Hers was medically necessary due to a tragically unviable fetus. She’s had a lengthy history of miscarriage. Her story is one that more people find sympathetic, but she stands in defense of everyone’s abortion.

    “I don’t think people should have to justify their abortions,” Burch, a Democrat, told the chamber.

    “But I’m choosing to talk about why I made this decision, because I want us to be able to have meaningful conversations about the reality of how the work that we do in this body impacts people in the real world,” she said, in reference to the state’s 15-week abortion ban, passed in 2022. […]

    Burch, who is also a nurse practitioner, says the current law requires her provider to give a list of “absolute disinformation” as well as what Burch describes as an “unnecessary” ultrasound, plus counseling designed to change the minds of patients with viable pregnancies.

    “I was told that I could choose adoption; I was told that I could choose parenting, which were two things that I couldn’t choose,” Burch said. “And it was cruel to suggest that that was an option for me when it’s not.”

    Disinformation surrounding abortions is law in many places, and it’s simply cruel for the government to be involved in medical decisions like these. It’s the definition of personal.

    ~

    Puerto Rico is having an outbreak of dengue. Cows in Texas and Kansas have bird flu. (Ars Technica)

    I always think about how often I’ve heard that increased epidemics are going to be one of the hardest-hitting effects of climate change. I don’t know if that’s a factor here, but…I think about it.

    ~

    Scientists want parts of the Moon protected from private interests so that it can be used for scientific purposes instead. (Smithsonian Mag) I extremely do not like humans more aggressively marking off bits of our beloved space-rock for any reason, but I suppose scientific research is preferable.