I noticed - flitting past me on Twitter the other day - somebody eyerolling at, if not codfishing, some bloke's plaint that watching Dunkirk had made him realise that The Modern Man does not have these Manly Challenges To Rise To -
And being a historian, I thought that, actually, there have been long generations, at least in my country, where most men were not being called upon to take arms and fight, and the general attitude to the soldiery was summed up by Kipling in Tommy.
And that thing about Challenges to Rise To always tends to be seen in a context which leads to e.g. the Battle of the Somme, rather than to being a despised Conscientious Objector, a decision which history may read entirely differently -
Which possibly links on to that thing I also saw flit past me on Twitter apropos of alt-history narratives which allow the viewer to believe that they would be The Resistance, which reminded me of that nasty piece of work Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger going 'where are the good brave causes?', and really, one can think of a few relevant to the 1950s, not to mention, we do not, ourselves, envisage J Porter going off to Spain in the 30s.
And the whole notion of Heroic Actions and somehow, not here, not now.
And I thought, did not my beloved Dame Rebecca say somewhat to this point in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, and while this has the rhetorical universalisation and generalisation to which she was (alas) prone, it does seem relevant to this notion of some kind of masculine Rite de Passage:
All men believe that some day they will do something supremely disagreeable, and that afterwards life will move on so exalted a plane that all considerations of the agreeable and disagreeable will prove petty and superfluous.
As opposed to, persistently beavering away at the moderately disagreeable in the hopes that it might become a little more agreeable.
Dear readers, I have recently completed what I suppose, length-wise, amounts to a novella, i.e. long enough that I will be posting it in instalments.
It is set some 20+ years after Clorinda renounced writing her memoirs.
Content warnings: some character deaths, atypical behaviour while in the throes of bereavement, startling and unexpected revelations.
But some answers to questions about 'what happened to - ?'.
First episode coming shortly.
The microorganisms that reside in, on, and around our bodies influence almost every facet of our well-being. Part of maintaining microbiome health is maintaining homeostasis. Another is supporting diversity.
Our goal, then, is to improve our microbiological real estate in the many areas of the body that commensal and symbiotic bacterial like to put down roots—the gut, mouth, lungs, skin, reproductive organs, and so on. The average Primal enthusiast is well-versed with the role of food choices and smart supplementation (although research is always uncovering new wrinkles—more on this to come).
I thought I’d give a little attention to some of the other basic practices that can influence microbial diversity and homeostasis. There are more answers and nuances than I can cover today, but let’s start with some of the fundamentals.
Over the past decade, there’s been the odd study examining the link between exercise frequency, duration, and type and the microbial response to such in the body.
Studies in mice have shown considerable responses to exercise in the lab. A 2016 study placed mice on an “obesity-causing” diet and 6 weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The mice placed on the HIIT program had markedly increased microbial diversity within the distal gut, along with an increased Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes ratio. Perhaps even more importantly, the microbiome of the HIIT mice appeared to resist the typical adverse changes to the gut microbiota that occur with onset of obesity. In short, exercise stopped the poorer diet from degrading their gut microbiome.
An older 2013 paper showed that mice with free access to exercise experienced a significant increase in the number of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and B. coccoides-E. rectale. Other studies have demonstrated the microbiological effects of exercise on diabetic mice and mice subjected to PCBs. But that’s just in mice.
As far as the human microbiome goes, there’s a lot more research needed regarding exercise. Much of what we have to go on ties back to experiments on the Irish international rugby team, 40 of whom were investigated in the days leading up to the last Rugby World Cup. Somehow, researchers managed to get their hands on 46 other healthy men of similar brutish size, analyzing both groups regarding their dietary and exercise habits.
They found that the rugby players all had significantly more diverse microbiomes than men in the comparison group, with notably higher proportions of Akkermansiaceae—a bacterial family commonly linked to lower rates of obesity and metabolic disorders. Interestingly, despite the rugby players having significantly higher levels of creatine kinase, an enzyme associated with muscle damage, they all had lower levels of inflammatory markers than the control group, along with a much better metabolic profile. Correlation or causation? It’s hard to tell.
The waters are muddied further when we examine the role of diet in hardcore athletes. The Irish rugby team unsurprisingly ate considerably more protein (22% versus 15-16% in the control group) but also ate a lot more fruit and vegetables and had fewer snacks than their non-athletic peers. A follow-up study last year reinforced these findings, but there’s a lot more to be revealed.
Was it the increased exercise (or type of exercise) that brought about the improved microbial diversity, or their improved diet? My thoughts are that it was both, but watch this space for more scientific discussion of the diet-exercise-microbiome paradigm.
Managing Your Stress (or Not)
Of course you knew that stress would play a part in the health of your microbiome, but it certainly helps to have some research to back up the assumption. Currently, there’s an abundance of animal lab testing and a notable shortage of human studies. (Probably mostly on account of people not being keen to have their feet zapped or injected with carcinogenic compounds.)
An impressive study from January last year, however, took things one step further and examined the stress-induced changes to the microbiome of North American red squirrels in the wild. Using faecal glucocorticoid metabolites, an accurate marker of stress, researchers were able to confirm that increased stress in wild squirrels significantly lowered microbiological diversity.
This negative response, they postulated, was caused by a stress-induced activation of the immune system, increasing cytokine circulation, which in turn has a strong antimicrobial effect. The result, unfortunately, is an increase in host vulnerability to pathogenic invasion. Good one, stress.
Back in the lab, stress-induced microbial alterations continue to be the center of study. A 2011 study exposed mice to a social stressor called social disruption, designed to prime the innate immune system and increase circulating cytokines—much the same as the high-strung wild squirrels. The findings were textbook: “stressor exposure significantly changed the community structure of the microbiota, particularly when the microbiota were assessed immediately after stressor exposure.”
As far as species composition goes, the stressed mice showed a decreased abundance of bacteria in the genus Bacteroides and an increase in Clostridium. In simple terms, commensal-type bacteria were suppressed by stress and pathogenic-type bacteria were promoted.
Another mice vs. stress study elicited much the same results, with restraint stress causing a decline in microbial species richness and an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria. Researchers then tested whether this decline in microbial diversity had set the stressed mice up for increased risk of pathogen colonization by orally introducing the murine pathogen Citrobacter rodentium. Funnily enough, those mice subjected to stress were far more likely to come down with a bad case of the C. rodentium than their more chilled out peers.
Regardless of their often necessary role in your life, many medications can exert a considerable influence over the health and diversity of your microbiome.
In a 2016 study, the influence of several NSAIDs over the gut microbiome was determined during the course of 30 days in 155 adults. Interestingly, it was the type of medication, rather than the amount of medication, that influenced the gut microbiome the most. Aspirin users have markedly different numbers of Prevotella, Bacteroides, Ruminococcaceae, and Barnesiella species, while both celecoxib and ibuprofen users had larger numbers of Acidaminococcaceae and Enterobacteriaceae. The list goes on. Suffice it to say that the bacterial diversity in the gut microbiome strongly reflected the combinations of medications that people ingested.
A year earlier, researchers were examining the same relationship between proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and the human microbiome. PPIs reduce the production of acid in the stomach in a bid to prevent formation of ulcers, and are among the top 10 most popular drugs in the world. Incidentally, they’ve also been associated with an increased risk of intestinal infection.
Using a cohort of 1815 individuals (211 of which were PPI users), researchers were able to demonstrate a significant decrease in microbial diversity in PPI users, along with changes in 20% of the bacterial taxa. Curiously, there was an increase in bacteria associated with the oral microbiome, and a big step up in potentially problematic bacteria like Enterococcus, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and E. coli. Based on their findings, the study proponents didn’t have too much trouble explaining why PPI users were more prone to enteric infection.
The implications of these studies, and many more like them, reach far beyond mere infections and bacterial dysbiosis. When we consider that microbiomes like the gut play a critical role in the metabolism of most medications, the very way in which these drugs alter microbial compositions and lower diversity may reduce their efficacy or even render themselves toxic. It’s fair to say that plenty more work is needed on the interactions between medications and the microbiome.
I’ve actually already written about the considerable transfer of germs that takes place in just one bout of kissing, but science has since taken it one step further and suggested that our individual microbiomes may play an important role in that ever-elusive “chemistry” that draws people together.
How’s that? Well in this case, opposites very much attract. Studies show that we’re instinctually attracted to sexual partners whose microbiome is complementary to our own. And knowing what we know about the importance of microbial diversity, complementary means different. Thus, when two people with very different microbiomes engage in intimate relations, they diversify their respective microbiome.
Getting down to business, there’s some serious microbiological changes taking place every time we have sex. A 2015 study published in Research in Microbiology found that there was a significant decrease in the abundance of Lactobacillus crispatus after sex, along with a certain bacterial homogeneity between seminal and vaginal samples.
The microbial picture isn’t just more is better. Another study of 52 women found that those who partook in unprotected sex had a temporary increase in bacterial species associated with bacterial vaginosis. Over time, it appeared that their vaginal microbiome retained a remarkably similar composition, but those temporary post-sex increases in G. vaginalis and L. iners have led some to believe that unprotected sex is “bad” for the health of the vaginal microbiome.
But the issue may be more novelty related. Each new partner means a new microbial influence—for both men and women. That likely involves a period of microbial imbalance. Aside from serious infection (e.g. STDs), adaptations to a partner’s profile over time, one would imagine, would confer the benefits of microbial diversity and allow a shift back toward relative homeostasis in most cases. It’s a complicated but fascinating topic—maybe worthy of its own post sometime.
Living with Animals
Moving on to lighter matters, there’s plenty of research that points towards pets as a positive influence on our microbiome…particularly the furry kinds. A study published late last year investigated the effects of early-life exposure to household pets on 746 infants from 2009 to 2012. Along with participating mothers being asked to fill out questionnaires regarding their pet situation during and after pregnancy, infant gut microbiota was sampled at around 3 months of age.
Those infants that had been exposed to at least one furry pet (more than half the group) were found to be more than twice as likely to have a high abundance of Oscillospira and/or Ruminococcus bacterial species—regardless of whether they had received prenatal or postnatal exposure to fur-bearing pets. These species, incidentally, have been associated with a lower risk of childhood atopy and obesity. What’s more, pet-exposed vaginally-birthed infants with maternal intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis exposure (say that ten times) had considerably lower abundances of Streptococcaceae than infants who hadn’t been exposed to furry pets.
These findings, and plenty more besides, tie in nicely with what we know about Strachan’s hygiene hypothesis, which implies that children growing up in overly hygienic environments are more likely to develop allergic disease. Interestingly, there appears to be a curious tendency for older siblings to dampen that microbial abundance effect. Equally of note, breastfeeding may work synergistically with that positive pet-effect.
For those of us not exposed to pets during our developmental years, I strongly suspect that there’s still hope for your microbiome. Exposing ourselves on a daily basis to potential sources of microorganisms, furry pets included, should help to encourage microbial diversity and help your body stay truly Primal.
That’s it for me, folks. The research keeps coming, so look for more on this topic soon. In the meantime, share your questions and thoughts on the topic below. Thanks for stopping by.
The post 5 Non-Dietary Factors That Influence Your Microbiome appeared first on Mark's Daily Apple.
ANYWAY, before all that excitement, when I first called up my rec tag shortlist, I realized I had over a dozen that were either Avengers/Captain America or Wonder Woman related (or, in one case, both), so I decided to run with those and give them their own list. These are heavy on the Steve, Bucky, and Diana, not surprisingly, along with two from Antiope's POV. Also features significant appearances by Peggy, Tony, Pepper, Pietro, Wanda, Steve [Trevor], Donna Noble, and Bruce Wayne. Mostly fics as usual but one exceptional vid and a serendipitous art experiment also made their way in. There's 13 recs all together and the rec notes were written in order but you can, of course, pick and choose as you like. <3
( Onward to the Recs! )
How a guy who grew up poor and homeschooled went to university, got degrees, and overturned 150 years of scienfic knowledge of lichens.
A Haida Gwaii woman builds homes out of beach debris -- whalebone, cedar, glass, driftwood.
Germany has ended its century-long debate about its alphabet.
Zadie Smith on cultural appropriation, male critics and more.
Trump's lies and the Peace Corps.
Microsoft is attacking Putin's hackers.
And yes, even if you called before - call again.
[Yesterday, I posted part 1 of this article, describing what an eclipse is, how they happen, and where you have to go to see it. Read that first. But there’s still a lot to know! In today’s article, Part 2, I’ll talk about how to safely observe it, what science we can learn from eclipses, and then link to a lot of sites with more info.]
How do I watch it?
Watching an eclipse safely isn’t all that hard to do; you just have to be careful. I’ve seen a lot of misinformation out there, so I’ll try to be thorough here. I’m not a doctor (of medicine) but I’ve done some reading about this. I suggest doing your own as well.
First: Yes, looking at the Sun is dangerous. Duh. The light is very intense, and looking at the Sun for more than a moment can damage your retina. In general, the damage is localized to small parts of the retina, and you won’t go completely blind (but you can permanently damage those parts, creating black spots in your vision). This is called solar retinopathy, and in many cases —though not all— the damage gets better over time. You likely won’t go permanently, completely blind by looking at the Sun, but long term damage is certainly possible.
So why risk it? Don’t look directly at the Sun.
However, to be clear: Looking at the eclipse when it is total is safe; the Sun is completely blocked by the Moon and the corona is only about as bright as the full Moon. But the partial phases before and after totality are not safe to look at.
In fact, the moment when the Sun reappears at the end of totality (third contact) is the most dangerous time to be gazing at the Sun, because for a couple of minutes your eyes have been adjusting to the lower light level. Your pupils dilate, and a chemical called rhodopsin coats your retina, making it more sensitive to incoming light. That’s handy at night or when you enter a dark room, but once that flash of the raw surface of the Sun comes screaming in after totality it can do serious damage to your eye.
I suggest finding out exactly how long totality lasts at your location, and give yourself plenty of padding toward the end so that flash of sunlight doesn’t zap your retinae.
So then, how do you observe it?
You need to use properly filtered equipment to view the Sun safely. In general, home-grown filters are a bad idea. So do not use things like sunglasses, exposed color film (if you can even find that any more), DVDs, or mylar to look through. These all let through too much ultraviolet and/or infrared light, which can damage your eyes.
A good list of what to do and what not to do can be found at Fred Espenak’s Mr. Eclipse site.
Up until totality, when the eclipse is still partial, you still have lots of options. The easiest is to get a set of eclipse glasses. Lots of different kinds are available, and many are very inexpensive —they’re made of cardboard and have very dark filters to block most of the sunlight (generally 99.999% of it —the equivalent of an ND5 filter).
NASA has some info on this, and lots of reputable places sell them (I’m hearing that local places like camera stores and such are selling them too, and many public libraries are giving them away as well). See the links list below at the end of the post.
You can also use equipment like telescopes and binoculars but HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF SYZYGIES do not do this unless you know what you’re doing, and even then be very very careful! Telescopes and other optical aids are designed to bring lots of light into your eye, and if they are unfiltered or not filtered correctly the damage you do will be extremely bad. You could literally destroy your retinae.
Also, some department store telescopes come with a “sun filter” that attaches to the end of the eyepiece. These are extraordinarily dangerous! All that light from the telescope is being focused onto a small, dark piece of glass. It can heat up and crack or even shatter. You probably don’t want your eye next to an eyepiece that does that.
You want equipment that filters the light before it gets into the optics; either stuff that’s designed to look at the Sun, or that have filters that fit over the front end so very little raw sunlight gets in.
Celestron sells filtered binoculars; I have two pair they sent me and I like them. They’re useful for when there are big sunspots, too, but they can only be used to look at the Sun. Everything else is nowhere near bright enough to get through the filters. They also have other safe viewing equipment, too, like a small ‘scope, and filters you can fit over the end of a telescope.
Lunt is another company I’m familiar with and they have a line of observing equipment as well. You can find lots more companies online. Just be careful to make sure they are a solid company; scam artists are everywhere, and you don’t want to screw around with your eyesight.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can make yourself a pinhole projector, and all you need is a couple of pieces of stiff paper. Punching a tiny hole in one piece of paper (or poster board) can allow you to project a tiny image of the Sun onto the second piece. It’s crude, but it’ll work decently well for the partial phases. You can find more info on how this works and how to make one on Wikipedia.
If you have binoculars with no filters, you can also use them to project the image of the Sun on a piece of paper. Don’t look through them! Just hold them and aim them by hand. I’ve done this and it works pretty well (it helps to block one of the lenses so you’re only using the other one). I’ll note that this can damage the optics because you’re focusing all that light onto the eyepieces, so do this at your own risk.
As for me, I’m taking a group of folks into the wilds of Wyoming for the event, so I’m bringing lots of equipment. I have the binoculars I mentioned, as well as a small but heavily filtered telescope, a solar telescope, my 20 cm telescope with a filter, and lots of eclipse glasses for my guests. I plan on using all the filtered stuff for the partial phases, then just using my eyeballs when totality hits. I might use unfiltered binoculars or even a telescope for totality, but only for literally about one minute. I don’t want anyone near unfiltered equipment when totality ends.
So please, be careful! I want y’all to see this, but I want you to see it safely.
Besides the eclipse itself, what else should I look out for?
There are lots of other things to watch for during the eclipse besides seeing it directly.
Speaking of pinhole cameras, leaves on trees can have tiny holes in them, and act as pinhole cameras. If you look on the ground into a tree’s shadow, you might see the eclipse playing out replicated hundreds of times! My friend Anne Wheaton took a great photo of that for an eclipse in 2012:
Who knew a cool view of an eclipse could be had by looking down? Here’s a wonderful video of that same thing, too.
There are other effects to watch out for too. Ripples of light and shadows have been reported to move across the ground just before and after totality; this may be due to optical effects called constructive and destructive interference as the light from the Sun goes past the Moon. I don’t think it’s terribly well understood what causes it. I’m hoping to see it.
Also, the sky itself may put on a show, especially if you have decent horizons and hazy air. The deepest part of the shadow of the Moon is only about 100 km across or so, and so if you’re in a flat area, you can see from one edge of the Moon’s shadow to the other on the sky itself. Here’s a photo of that, one of my favorite eclipse shots, taken by the wonderful astrophotographer Tunç Tezel in Queensland, Australia:
What you’re seeing there is the edge of the shadow of the Moon darkening the sky itself! Where Tunç was standing the eclipse was total, but on the left and far right the eclipse was still partial, so the sky is brighter there.
What about taking pictures?
Speaking of which, taking photos of the eclipse is tricky. The Sun is actually very small in most cameras, so unless you have a decent telephoto you might not see much in the photos. Instead of going into detail, I’ve added a bunch of links below with tons more information.
In the meantime, if you do plan on taking photos, think about what happens during an eclipse and where you’ll be, and how that might make for interesting pictures. Fun foreground objects can help, as well as unusual perspectives. Be creative!
Or don’t. I have final piece of advice for this, and I really think you should heed it: If this is your first eclipse, consider not taking any pictures or videos. Instead, just experience it. I plan on limiting my own picture taking for this very reason. I’ve been through something like this before —a Space Shuttle launch back in 1997. A friend advised me just to watch instead of record it, and I foolishly ignored him. I missed truly experiencing the launch, and all I have to show for it is blurry video.
So just watch it. Be a part of it in the moment, instead of trying to capture it for later.
Oh, and hey: If you can’t travel, or it’s cloudy where you are, there will be lots of live streams online for it. Try Googling “eclipse live stream” and you’ll find approximately a bazillion of them. I have a list at the end of the post of a few that can get you started.
Is there any science to be done during the eclipse?
Eclipses are pretty well understood these days, so new discoveries are a bit rare. Professional astronomers may map the corona and look at the Sun’s surface features, but we have satellites that can do this 24/7 across the electromagnetic spectrum. They don’t need eclipses in space to do this! [Updated to add: Within hours of posting this I see that scientists at Southwest Research Institute will be using the eclipse to study the Sun's outer corona and the surface of Mercury! I'm glad to be shown wrong here.]
But that doesn’t mean there’s no science to be found here; there are still some things to be done, and some you can participate in!
For example, NASA is looking for people to participate in collecting scientific data by measuring cloud and temperature information during the eclipse. This is a great idea for students.
Google and scientists at Berkeley have created the Eclipse MegaMovie project, collecting thousands of eclipse photos from all along the totality path to create a single movie showing what the eclipse looked like all across the US. This is a pretty interesting idea, and I’m curious to see how it’ll work it.
And of course there’s always the unknown. We are entering a new age of eclipse viewing; millions of people are carrying around pretty reliable digital detectors with them, and even if some phenomenon is statistically rare, there are so many people watching that we may catch something weird. So here’s hoping!
And a final note: Science has helped us improve our ability to watch this eclipse. We now have elevation maps of the Earth more accurate than ever before. We also have so much data from lunar satellites that scientists can create a “shape map” of the Moon, modeling its 3D structure. Together, these can be used to make the most accurate prediction of where the shadow will fall than ever before! There’s even a cool video of it:
Isn’t that nifty? Science makes everything better. In fact, now that you’ve read all this (and thanks for that!) you have a far better understanding of eclipses than most people have had since the dawn of human history. Why? Because of science. Eclipses used to be feared, misunderstood. But now we know why they happen, how they happen, and so when you gaze upward in awe at this most wondrous astronomical event, you’ll know more about it, and have a better appreciation of it as well.
Enjoy it! And if you miss it, never fear: We get another one on April 8, 2024.
I can’t possibly cover everything about eclipses here; literally whole books have been written about it. In fact, I wrote the foreword for one called “Totality: The Great American Eclipses of 2017 and 2024”, written by Mark Littman and Fred Espenak. It’s really good, with tons of info, but also lots of personal stories about how people were affected by seeing an eclipse. I really recommend getting it.
There are lots of other books with general info about eclipses including their history and how we found out more about them. Search your favorite bookstore and you’ll find plenty. Sky and Telescope magazine has a list of books and guides, too.
Since I can’t include every bit of eclipse info, here are some sites with more. Even this isn’t an exhaustive list; but Google is your friend. Just have a care when searching! Not all information is equal, and make sure you’re reading something from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. Most science communicators I’ve seen have been doing a fine job, and you’ll generally get reliable info from science magazines, museums, NASA, and the like.
- Eclipse 2017
- The Great American Eclipse
- Sky and Telescope magazine
- The US Naval Observatory (includes technical data)
- Astronomers Without Borders
- Libraries giving away eclipse glasses
- AAS list of eclipse glasses and filters resources
Viewing safety information
- The Exploratorium
- Mr. Eclipse (Fred Espenak’s site)
- My own blog
- Celestron (with several videos)
- The American Astronomical Society
Apps and software
- AAS list of apps and software
- Map of the sky during the eclipse
- Totality: Big Kid Science app (I have this and it’s fun)
- Google/Berkeley Megamovie project
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This is the contact list for every Senator, with phone numbers, email and more.
Please forward this, link it, hand it to the postman to distribute, whatever will get the word out to whoever you want. This is about our lives.
No art right now, just meanings. The 78-card jeng-zai deck corresponds to the traditional Tarot but is specifically a hexarchate Tarot circa Kel Cheris' era. As such, upright sixes are all positive while upright sevens are negative, and the fours are lucky/unlucky.
This site is for entertainment purposes only: neither guarantees nor apologies are given for the accuracy or inaccuracy of any reading you may receive, and no responsibility is taken for any calendrical rot that may ensue. Hopefully you do not live in the hexarchate.
I decided to make use of being up early to do a chore that I've been putting off for months. I pulled all of the books I've already read off the shelves in bedroom (two shopping bags filled to the top) and consolidated the other books as much as I could. I've dusted some of the shelves. I don't know that the dust quite made it to the dust bunny stage, but I at least had dust mice.
I want to clear enough space that I can have one shelf for library books. Having them in six different places isn't conducive to remembering to read them. I also want space for my thumb splints and some place level to land my laptop over night when I've been using it in there before bed.
I need to figure out what to do with the jigsaw puzzles. I like puzzles, but we don't really have a place for me to do them. Setting up a card table isn't really feasible for space reasons, not unless I'm going to finish the puzzle in a single afternoon while I'm home alone.
Scott scheduled today as a vacation day so that he could deal with two medical appointments. The way work schedules things, that means he has tonight off. Their book keeping considers third shift to be on the day that it starts rather than on the day it ends. This is partly so they can say that third shift works M-F instead of Tu-Sa. At any rate, his first appointment is at 11 and the second at either 2 or 3. Right now, the plan is for him to shower and then try to nap for an hour before the first appointment.
We need to wash Scott's work clothes today, and I'd like to change the sheets and run a load of laundry for us and maybe for Cordelia. I need to shower, too, and I'd like to nap if I can. Oh, and it's trash day. Great fun.
Tomorrow, my parents will be in town briefly because my step-father has an appointment about that growth in his eye. They suggested that we go to lunch. I'm pretty sure that they were hoping to see Cordelia, but they never did much to build a relationship with her, so she's got zero interest. She'd go along if she had nothing else going on, but she's not going to skip part of her volunteering in order to see them.
Scott gave me a ride to and from my appointment yesterday. I wouldn't have asked, but I was feeling really miserable due to cramping. He took the opportunity to pick up an interlibrary loan book that had come in for Cordelia.
My psychiatrist suggested that I try to find some sort of online, at home work to earn money to help while we're financially strapped. I'm looking at that as a huge can of worms. There's not a lot I'm able to do because of not being able to commit to regular hours or even to a set number in a week. Also, most of the online work options aren't things I'd be good at or aren't things that my anxiety would permit.
I'm also concerned about the possibility that earning money, even sporadically, might affect my disability status with either Social Security or my long term disability insurance through my former employer. The LTD insurer is always looking for any hint that I might not be disabled. I might be able to work for a while before I wrecked myself, and that might well be long enough to lose the LTD insurance payments and the medical insurance that goes along with the money.
My writing might be marketable, but I think that would wreck me, too, because there'd need to be a lot of it, and I'd need to figure out how to sell it and work at making sure that people saw it and... I'd stay awake all night worrying that I had or hadn't done something that would just wreck everything. Also, the sort of writing that might bring in money within any sort of helpful time frame would likely be some sort of ebook porn short stories. I can write porn. Sometimes. I can even write it quickly. Sometimes. I just... I write dark and complicated, and sometimes, I can't write at all for days or even weeks.
My psychiatrist also said that, if I'm still exhausted the next time I see her, we can talk about stimulants because insurers will cover them for people with sleep apnea who have been using a c-PAP for at least two months. I'm not entirely optimistic. Provigil (modafinil) didn't help me at all, and I suspect that caffeine has more of a psychological effect for me than a physiological one. Well, if I've recently had caffeine, sleeping is harder because I have to get up to pee every twenty minutes, but I'm not sure that counts.
It's frustrating that she's the only medical professional I'm dealing with who understands that the things that the other doctors are worried about all derive at least in part from fatigue/exhaustion and from anxiety and pain making sleep difficult. And each of those things makes all of the others worse.
I did some edits on my second Pod Together fic yesterday, all things that my partner requested. I'm hoping that the changed text will be easier to read. I still need to do one check on the pronunciation of the name of a minor character. I think I remember how it was pronounced, but I don't want to rely on that.
I also wrote about four hundred words on chapter 7 of Auguries of Innocence. I need to go back to the early part of the chapter to lay some groundwork for the things that just occurred to me as necessary. It's all about a character who hasn't been in any of the previous chapters, so I don't need to tweak anything earlier in the story. (This is an advantage of using point of view characters who don't think the way that most people do, Draco because he's unmoored in time, and Luna because she never did.)
Read Ann Leckie's Provenance (in ARC. It's coming out on the 26th of September.) Spider mech, spider mech, does whatever a spider mech does. (Disconcert people, mainly.) This is in the same universe as the Radch trilogy, but in a different region and with different characters, voice, and tone. I have some friends who couldn't get into Ancillary Justice, wanted to like it but found it too hard going, and I would be curious if this one worked better as an entry point for them.
Leckie's repeatedly cited Cherryh as an influence, and if you think of the universe the Ancillary books are set in as like Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, a big canvas covering a lot of territory in time as well as space, then this book in relation to its universe is a bit like a railway junction. It opens some new routes, introduces some new important players, but the most important universe-scale historical events (as opposed to system-scale or planet-scale or individuals) are offstage.
To say more about voice and tone: the Radch books are in first person, and that person is Breq, who is... Breq. Over two thousand years old, and even if you consider the destruction of Justice of Toren as a kind of rebirth, by the point we meet her she's a hypercompetent badass who's been surviving on her own in her single body for nineteen years. Also she's not a human, so there's that.
Ingray isn't Breq. She's very much human (and has an entirely reasonable terror of AIs,) a lot younger (I don't think her exact age is stated, but early twenties would be my guess,) and infinitely less sure of herself. She's also spent her entire life to date having her head messed with by her shitty family. My first two impressions, right from the first three chapters of this book, were: one, you can really tell the author was spending a lot of time in airports when she wrote this; and two, Ingray has the sort of family life where the closer your geographic proximity to your relatives, the more difficulty you have with being a decent person. The rest of this book bore this out (I mean the family, although there were definitely more airport-equivalent scenes too.)
If you're one of the people who disliked Breq because she was "too perfect" (I disagree with you about her being perfect, but) you might find Ingray and her smaller scale problems (compared to entire empires and species) more relatable.
If the Radch trilogy is about personhood and the fight to be recognised as a person when you don't fit a society's definition of who counts as a person, then Provenance about growing into oneself not as a person (that was never in question for Ingray) but as an adult (a coming of age that, by contrast, Breq never had the luxury of needing.) And if the Radch trilogy is about resisting societal/systemic forces, Provenance is about resisting social, personal pressures (family and peers.)
Finished Aliette de Bodard's The House of Binding Thorns. And after this and Provenance I'd like a short break from books about difficult family situations, please! I liked this better than The House of Shattered Wings, but the tone was still bleaker than I usually go for. Characters I particularly liked: Madeleine, back from the previous book; Thuan the dragon prince, and Berith and Francoise the Fallen/human couple trying to manage outside the Houses. Grandmother Olympe, the elder of the community where Berith and Francoise live, was also pretty great. And I warmed more to Asmodeus than I did in the first book.
Unfortunately, I think I'm the wrong audience for this. The things The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns do well (decayed elegance, gothicism, Paris, fallen angels), they do really well, but they're not things I particularly love (I don't dislike them, they're just not my catnip.) So, like, I can't actually rave about these books, but I do want to wave them really hard at people who do love those things.
Some zines I ordered from Rooster Tails's Etsy store showed up, and he kind of threw in a bunch of queer fanart glossy note cards (maybe to make up for a delay, idk, I'm not complaining!) and they're so beautiful and I didn't know I needed a picture of Daria holding Jane's hand and saying "I hate you the least," or adorably cartoony Finn smooching Poe, or cartoony Gabrielle climbing Xena like a tree, but I definitely did need those things. Now I'm trying to decide whether to keep or send to people.
The zines are #my gender is..., three tiny A6 cardbound volumes made in response to answers people gave the author when he asked people to fill in the blank.
Mainlined 17776, which is web based multimedia rather than comics, but I'm putting it in this category because what everyone's comparing it to is Homestuck. It's about satellites watching football in an unimaginably future, but also post-scarcity/post-singularity anxiety and Millennialism (as in epochs, as well as as in snake people) and play as the ultimate point of human existance, and it's funny and elegiac and cool and reminds me of David Foster Wallace in some ways.
That said, it is worth talking about who's at the centre of this narrative. No, not robots. No, not humans. Americans. White, suburban, minivan-driving, 80s-and-90s-born Americans. So conflated with the essential nature of humanity that they don't even notice they're doing it. Even the probes are two American probes and one European (but not Russian) one. I mean, Mangalyan does exist, you know? And so does Chang'e 2 and Kirari. And Libertad I and Fajr and... I mean, not all of those are still in space, or left Earth's orbit, but they could. Not to mention that it's science fiction and at the present date JUICE is still in development, why not a future Ghanaian or Iranian satellite mission? Which is not even my point, my point is that the regressive fantasy that the humans fall back into when faced with the crushing boredom of their eternal lives is... the 1960s and 1970s but without the race riots or Stonewall or Watergate.
It's still a good story/multimedia work/thing, and I still enjoyed it. I just... that particular nostalgic fantasy makes me very tired sometimes. And no, not tired in a way that makes me want to give up on the weary work of human endeavour/struggle/progress to take refuge in looking back down at the things that are really important to us/humanity, i.e. a sport which people in my country don't play.
TV and Movies
Watched the first episode of Black Sails. Was unimpressed. I hear it gets better, though. Flint's fury at the stolen log page reminded me of this.
Gave my sister the Hamilton soundtrack for Christmas last year or her birthday this year (I forget which -- my gift-giving punctuality standards are seriously slipping at the moment.) Success: she's hooked. Very hooked.
Third week of hexarchate_rpg. So far haven't panicked and run away yet (me, not my character) so that's good.
Still playing Binding of Isaac. In one especially good run, I met Isaac's mother for the first time, and defeated her! Which meant that, next time I got to that level, defeating her led to having to climb into her womb and fight more monsters there. Which... is definitely a narrative choice a person could make.
Started playing Hexcells, a puzzle game; not to be confused with Hexels, a different puzzle game. The latter is like 2048 but in three directions not two; the former is kind of like a griddler/nonogram, but in three directions and its own specific language of clues. Played all the way through Hexcells, then started Hexcells Plus. Got the Perfectionist achievement for the original Hexcells. Then Hexcells Plus. Then started Hexcells Infinite, and am at 90% of that.
The problem with me and Hexcells is not the logic. I'm not super great at the logic, but with time and effort and occasional appeals to online walkthroughs I can succeed (usually by speaking the chain of logic out loud over and over because I can't hold the branches in my head long enough otherwise.) The problem is that that one of the achievements is to do all the games with zero (or only one) mistakes, and the way my brain works (or the way my working memory doesn't work) it's very easy for me to make one stupid error too many and ruin an hour of work. Which is really frustrating and upsetting. At least Hexcells Infinite lets you save your progress. The first two games didn't, so if you need a break before finishing the level, you have to leave the app open.
The compost bin is full. That took about three months to fill a 220L bin. I had to look up what one does once the bin's full. Leave it to cure for a month or so while starting a new bin, apparently. Or alternatively, lift the bin off the compost (it doesn't have a bottom) and set it down next to the compost, shovel whatever still looks like vegetable peelings and cat litter back into the bin, and use whatever just looks like soil to grow things. (But not herbs and vegetables, because this is cat litter compost, so it's contaminated with toxoplasmosis. This compost can nourish pretty flowers and Native Plants To Encourage Local Species.)
Baked scones. Also tried out a couple of recipes from my long backlog of bookmarked Recipes To Try Someday:
- Jack Monroe's Queen of Hearts jam tarts recipe. Not too bad given how seldom I make pastry. If you have fifty grams of butter and a scant cup of plain flour and some jam, this is an okay thing to do with those ingredients, but the scones were better.
- AoM Bratwurst Sandwich. This contains one thing I eat normally (mustard), one thing I've had decades ago but haven't cooked with (bratwurst), and two things I hadn't had before (sauerkraut, pumpernickel.) The bratwurst and mustard and sauerkraut were good. The pumpernickel... yeah, no, next time I make this I'll just use a dark rye.
I could have adapted to the flavour, but its lack of structural integrity meant that according to the Earl of Sandwich litmus test this is not even a sandwich. (i.e. "I pretend I am the original Earl of Sandwich. I have asked for non-bread foods to be brought to me inside bread, that I might more easily consume them one-handed while gambling. This does not enable my wretched regency habits. This is not what I asked for. I do not deign to grace it with the name of my house.")
This would fall apart in his hand, scattering boiled rye grains all over his elaborate necktie and playing cards.
Admittedly, the degree of difficulty was higher for me since I had to eat it one-handed while fending off a very interested black and white cat with the other hand.
Broke my daily meditation streak at 219 days. Very pissed off about it, in a not zen at all way. The last time this happened it was at 149 days. Forming habits is hard for me. (This is not a request for reassurance or advice. Especially not advice.) Took four days off meditating out of pique.
Have been fighting a lot these last few days. At first I thought Beatrice was the main instigator, but last night while she was aggressively licking Dorian, I saw him nip her.
He hasn't learned to lift the toilet lid yet, but it's hard for me to remember to leave it down since my already established habit was to close the door but leave the lid up.